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TIDE OF IRON

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

(Fantasy Flight Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-75 minutes; $79.95)

 

If you miss the pleasure of playing with those green plastic soldiers of your childhood then Tide of Iron is for you. Tide of Iron is a World War II squad level miniature game by John Goodenough, Christian Peterson and Corey Koniecza. When you open the box you will find it stuffed with pieces including numerous plastic soldiers, 12 thick map boards and numerous landscape tiles and markers. So after you have punched all the pieces and read the well organized and illustrated rulebook, you will choose a scenario (either one of the six which came with the scenario book or from Fantasy Flight’s Tide of Iron Homepage) which gives you all the information you need to set up a game.

On one side of the scenario sheet is a map which lists all the map boards you need, shows where any regular or special (mines, entrenchments, etc.) landscape tiles need to be placed on these boards, shows where the various objective point markers should be placed (green for American, Grey for German and Blue for neutral) and finally shows the starting area for both sides. The map side also lists in a sidebar the scenario length, starting player, how many actions each side has per turn, any scenario specific reinforcements and the type and number of special landscape tiles you need for the scenario. On the opposite of the scenario sheet, you have the name of the scenario and the objectives for both sides in the scenario. This is then followed by a setup section for the Americans then the Germans (the only two nationalities used in the game so far).tideofiron

Each setup section is broken into two divisions which use different colored game bases and an information column. For each division you have the number of bases and the number of squad figures you get. You might also get specialization markers (allowing some squads to have special abilities such as Anti-Tank), weapon squads (mortars or machine guns) and vehicles (light or medium tanks, half tracks or trucks) in some scenarios. How you build squads set this game apart from other miniature games of its type. In this game you can actually build squads anyway you like only limited by the number of bases you have and the number of figure you can put on a base.

Each squad base has four holes which you can place for men figure or two weapon squads or any combinations of the two. The finished squad has the combined firepower of the type of figure you put on the base. So, if you put four regular troops on a base, it will have a firepower of four since each regular man figure has a firepower of one. Then the squads can be further customized by assigning the specialization markers to the squad base (fit in a little slot in the back of the base). This allows a player great flexibility in assembling his troops to fit different fighting styles. For example do you try and create fairly balanced squads or make some heavy squads with a lot of weak squads? It all depends on the scenario and how you think you will defeat your opponent.

Finally there is an information column. This column tells you which strategy decks you get, how many strategy cards you start with and your initial deployment zones. These strategy decks which simulate the external off board resources you have to influence the battle are another interesting feature of this game.

Each strategy deck gives you various advantages. Decks such as reinforcements give you extra troops, Artillery decks off board artillery or Supply decks more actions for your figures. You use command points to activate these cards which are obtained by capturing and holding various objectives during the game.

After you have set up the board with all its relevant tiles and markers, you place assembled squads on your initial placement areas. Now you are ready to play the game. The player with the starting initiative will do one action for three of his squads and/or vehicles; then his opponent will do the same for three of his. Players then alternate until both sides have no more figures to do any actions with. Actions are such things as moving, firing or assaulting the opponent’s figure, putting units in opportunity fire, activating certain type of strategy cards or taking special actions if permissible. After each action, the unit is fatigued and cannot be used again this turn unless it is allowed to by a Strategy card.tideofiron2

Combat is fairly straightforward with the attacker rolling dice equal to his combat strength (with some modifiers). For each successful dice roll (depending upon range), they score a hit.  The defender does the same for his combat strength (along with terrain or armor defense bonuses). Each successful roll stops one of the attacker’s hits. For each successful hit, a figure is removed from the squad base. If all figures are eliminated then the opponent has won that base which can count towards his victory conditions. Also, instead of trying for a regular hit, you can try for suppression where successful hits degrade the functionality of a squad by causing it to be pinned, then disrupted or, if enough hits are obtained, eliminated from the game.

The next phase is the Status Phase and is done simultaneously by both players. In this phase players obtain command points for the friendly or neutral objectives they hold. If they control enemy objectives, they simply deny the opposing player these points instead of receiving them. These command points can used to purchase the use of strategy cards, to try and get initiative by placing them on your initiative card (the person with the most command points on a card gets the initiative) or banked for future turns.  Each player gets to draw one new strategy card from one of his assigned strategy decks, then fatigued tokens are removed from the board, pinned or disrupted units are upgraded one level (disrupted – pinned – fully functional), squads are placed on OP fire mode, adjacent squads of the same type can transfer men and command phase strategy cards are played. The turn then advances. The game ends when either one player fulfills his objectives or the game runs out of turns when usually the defender wins.

Overall I have had lots of fun with Tide of Iron. The assembling of the squads and the various strategy cards combined with a fairly straightforward move and combat system means games flow fairly smoothly after the first game or two. The well illustrated and indexed rulebook also helps considerably. Most of the flaws I found with the game are more to deal with the production of the game than the game system. First of all this is a very large and heavy game which can cause some portability and storage issues especially if any future expansions are planned.  The squad figures do not always fit that well in the squad bases due to excess plastic from the molding process which can be frustrating occasionally as one is assembling the squads. Also the truck figures were slightly warped. Finally the only terrain chart included with the game is on the back of the scenario book which means you tend to flip back and forth between the scenario and the terrain chart.

In order to win a scenario you have to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each squad piece and how the specialization skill work couple with good use of strategy cards. Knowing which pieces to suppress (such as machine guns) or when to do normal attacks on vehicles or regular troop squads also helps as does controlling command objectives in order to collect command points. So I recommend Tide of Iron to those players who like this kind of game but wish to have something more complex than Memoir 44 but not as complex as Squad Leader and can be played in an afternoon. An 8.5 out of ten for me (a nine if the component problem was not so frustrating) – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac


 

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