James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
First, a disclaimer. I helped develop this game. Mainly I proofread the rules and components, and gave occasional rules suggestions here or there. The design of the game is still Uwe's, and I did not design any of the firefights. I'm mainly going to attempt in this review to compare Storms of Steel (SoS) to Awakening the Bear (AtB), so that people who have played Awakening the Bear can know what to expect from this fabulous game, that I believe is a step up in every way from Awakening the Bear.

Components

Awakening the Bear was hailed by many for its beautiful, euro-quality components. In this regard, Storms of Steel will not disappoint.

Map Boards:
SoS comes with 4 map boards, rather than 5 that came with AtB. The SoS boards are slightly thinner than the AtB boards, but are still thick and sturdy, and much, much thicker than you will get from most wargame companies these days. Where I found my AtB boards would warp slightly, I have had no such issues with the SoS boards. Uwe has also cranked up the vivid scale on these boards. They are brighter and more colourful, and make the AtB boards seem dark and drab in comparison. The finish has been changed slightly. AtB boards had a heavy linen texture feel to them, which felt great but muddied the details a bit. SoS has a slightly smoother, glossier finish that makes the details stand out much better. On top of that, there simply are a lot more details on the boards. You can see things like little tractors in farm yards, and the details of the wheat, and the end result is that the boards are gorgeous. The maps are not as feature-dense as the AtB maps, but that is easily remedied with the included overlays.

Overlays:
While SoS comes with 1 less map board, it also comes with a sheet of double-sided thick cardboard overlays. These multi-hex overlays are a combination of hills, rivers, balkas, tank ditches, and a village, that can be placed anywhere on the map boards. This creates near-infinite variety in the maps, and the 3-D nature of the overlays sitting on the maps is actually quite nice with the hills in particular. The finish is practically the same as the boards, and they are just as beautiful as the map boards. They can slip and slide a little bit though, so you have to be extra careful not to knock the board or else you might have a village spinning in the middle of your map! Overall though, the overlays work quite well, and are a welcome addition to Conflict of Heroes.

Counters:
I think the counters are possibly where people will see the biggest improvement in the components. The counters have the same slightly smoother finish as the board, meaning the details of the unit pictures do not get muddied and are very clear to see. The unit graphics are also bigger and take up more counter space, making the details easier to see, and making it easier to distinguish between the various units. New information is seamlessly added to the counters, to account for new rules, and also to make the rules easier to remember. For instance, you no longer need to remember which units get a bonus in close combat, and which get a penalty. If the fire power has a white box around it, this means you get a penalty; otherwise, you get a bonus. This makes it easier to keep track of, and also means that they can do more complex units that say, get a close combat bonus vs soft targets but get a penalty vs hard targets. Also, new rules revolving around open topped vehicles and air / anti-air units get seamlessly integrated into the new units. You also get many more counters than in Awakening the Bear. There are more units and more unit variety.

Cards:
The cards are of similar stock to AtB. The graphics on them are improved, however. They look much more refined and professional. There are some new action cards, and also a new type of card, Veteran cards, which can add special abilities to your platoon or specific units.

The rulebook and firefight book:
Both the rulebook and firefight book are in 8.5" by 11" size, much easier to handle than the 12"x12" in AtB. They are also in thick 100 pound stock with a glossy finish, and look and feel great. They are probably the sturdiest rule books I've seen in a board game.

Player Aids and Tracking Sheets:
The summary sheet and tracking sheets are very similar to AtB, but updated of course for the new SoS rules and features.


Gameplay:

Storms of Steel changes a few rules, while also adding in some new units, fortifications, and terrain features.

Rules Changes:
The biggest rule change in SoS is that both players can have an activated unit at the same time. This creates a few different effects to the game, all of which are positive, in my opinion. For one, the game is now simpler and easier to learn. It is now much more of a "You Go I Go" game, which new players are more familiar with. The "You go until I want to interrupt you or until you pass and then I go until you want to interrupt me or I pass" method of AtB worked well but was different than many games and confused some people. Also, the game feels much more like it's running in real time. I'm not waiting for my opponent's unit to run across the map before I do the same with mine - they now move an act near-simultaneously. Defense machine fire is now more realistic as well. Where before, a defending HMG would have to use an expensive opportunity action to fire at an oncoming attacker, now it can activate and fire several times, making it much harder to charge at a machine gun.

New Units:
There are 3 types of new units: snipers, airplanes, open-topped vehicles.
* Snipers are hidden units that can fire while hidden and have a high probability of remaining hidden. They are very fun to use, and it's great to be picking off and harassing units with your opponent not quite sure where the fire is coming from.
* Airplanes are the biggest unit addition to the game. Personally, I do not like how many other games abstractly bring in air units and enjoy that I actually get to control the plane on the board. The planes can change elevation and can attack with machine guns as well as drop bombs and mines. They are very deadly but usually can only be brought in once or twice in a firefight. They are a lot of fun, and do not add many rules to the game.
* Open-topped vehicles are easier to hit by artillery and close combating infantry. I haven't gotten a chance to use them yet, but they do provide another step in realism, and the rules for them are pretty straight forward.

New fortifications and terrain features:
SoS adds new fortifications and terrain features. There are gun pits that add defense to your large guns, rivers that are difficult to cross, balkas that you can take refuge in, and fields that have varying covering effects depending on the time of year. All are great additions that add more detail and make you feel like you're fighting on a different landscape than AtB. A couple features are missing in SoS, such as light woods and walls, keeping the number of different terrain features to keep track of in one game a bit more manageable.

Feel of the game:
Despite being another eastern front WWII game with the Russians vs the Germans, the game actually plays quite different. The units in SoS are more lethal than in AtB - attack values on infantry are usually 4s and 5s, rather than the 2s and 3s in AtB. This means there's more firing from a distance, and less charging at your enemy knowing that they won't be very effective until you're close. In my games I've played so far, I would also say SoS is less forgiving than AtB. A mistake or two can cost you the game very quickly. I highly recommend that if there's any significant gap in experience, you give the player with less experience a CAP or two to compensate. Overally I very much like that the SoS gameplay feels very different than AtB. You won't feel like you're getting "more of the same", or that once you have SoS, there will be no reason to back and play AtB.


Firefights:

After playing through several of the firefights, I believe the included firefights in SoS are actually the biggest step up from AtB for several reaons:

Solo-specific firefights:
Out of the box, SoS comes with solo-specific firefghts, with "A.I." around how the enemy reacts. There will still be times when you have to make a choice about what the enemy does, but for playing solo, you will now feel like you are playing one side, rather than both. I tried out the first solo firefight and found it infinitely more fun than trying to play the game solitaire the old way.

More Variety:
Out of the box, SoS comes with 15 firefights, geared towards 1, 2, 3, or 4 players. This is an improvement over AtB, which initially came with 10 firefights, geared only towards 2 or 4 players. Also, there is far more variety in how the firefights are played. In AtB, the vast majority of firefights were simple setups where one side held a control hex and the other side was trying to take it. In SoS, things get mixed up a lot more, with firefights involving control markers that are being carried by units that you're trying to steal away (kind of like Capture the Flag), and a king of the hill firefight, where taking the control hex on a hill in the middle grants you the ability to call in off-board artillery on the next round. There's also a firefight where you have to try to drag an immobilized tank off of the map. Furthermore, several firefights have optional units that you can add or take out to change up how it feels. There is just so much variety this time around, and every firefight feels very different.

Faster-playing:
The firefights in SoS are significantly faster playing than AtB. I would say that at least the first 4 firefights can be played in an hour or less, and all but a couple firefights can be played in 2 hours or less, including the 4 player firefights. There is usually less set up time, as there are generally fewer hidden units, and you don't have to figure out where to place all your units at the beginning of the game. Also, the units are usually put right into battle at the beginning - most firefights do not have you spending the first round getting into position. Instead, you usually have combat occurring very close to the beginning of the game. I see this as a big plus, personally. I know that games aren't going to drag on, and multiple times now, after finishing a firefight, we've just turned the board around, switched sides, and played it again. I never found that doable or desirable with AtB, but it works quite well with Storms of Steel, and is great for testing out the balance of the game.

Balanced:
Speaking of balance, although I have yet to try all of the firefights yet, I have tried the first 4, and they seem very well balanced. Where the first few firefights in AtB are the most unbalanced, here they seem quite balanced, and often the side I think will have it the roughest ends up coming out on top.


That's it for my initial impressions. If it hasn't been clear yet, I LOVE this game. I think Storms of Steel makes some definite improvements over Awakening the Bear. If you liked Awakening the Bear, you will love Storms of Steel. If you passed over Awakening the Bear, then I say give the system a second chance and check out the newest volume in the ever-expanding Conflict of Heroes series.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill the Pill
United States
Oneonta
New York
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmb
Nice review. I'd add that the counters also have info on how well they fire at infantry or armor, rather than dividing by two if the unit didn't have the proper color. Allows for better values for infantry vs. tank combat, and also quicker play.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Fortune
United States
Louisville
Kentucky
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Question on the rules -

Does each player keep taking actions with his active unit until he runs out of APs or he is interrupted? Or does the turn pass after each individual action?

Thanks,
John
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DrFlanagan wrote:
Nice review. I'd add that the counters also have info on how well they fire at infantry or armor, rather than dividing by two if the unit didn't have the proper color. Allows for better values for infantry vs. tank combat, and also quicker play.


Good point! Yes, this particular rule changes gives more flexibility to unit values and also makes combat calculations easier.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
noblejohn wrote:
Question on the rules -

Does each player keep taking actions with his active unit until he runs out of APs or he is interrupted? Or does the turn pass after each individual action?

Thanks,
John


You only get one action per turn.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Carlton
Australia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice honest review, definitely re-kindled my impatience for the pre-release!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review.

Question: did the rule for opportunity fire against tanks change, so that you can interrupt in the middle of a single action, rather than waiting for the tank to move its full two or three hex move before firing? That was my least favorite aspect of AtB, since sometimes vehicles would pass by and get into cover before a defending unit could fire.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cleitus the Black wrote:
Great review.

Question: did the rule for opportunity fire against tanks change, so that you can interrupt in the middle of a single action, rather than waiting for the tank to move its full two or three hex move before firing? That was my least favorite aspect of AtB, since sometimes vehicles would pass by and get into cover before a defending unit could fire.


No that hasn't changed. Personally I prefer the rule as is (for the same reason you don't like it). I would say if there's a gap of only 50 metres, and a tank goes barrelling through the gap, it's realistic enough that another unit wouldn't have time to react to it. Also, it would add a new layer of complexity to the rules if someone was able to "interrupt" the other player in the middle of their turn.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Shawn Woods
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excellent review! This has helped sway my decision towards a future purchase of this game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ethan McKinney
United States
El Segundo
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Felkor wrote:

Overlays:
While SoS comes with 1 less map board, it also comes with a sheet of double-sided thick cardboard overlays.
...
They can slip and slide a little bit though, so you have to be extra careful not to knock the board or else you might have a village spinning in the middle of your map!


Get some Hold-It and use pin-head sized balls to hold the overlays in place. Hold-It won't damage maps at all, unless you leave it in place for four years.

Blu-Tac supposedly works about the same, but I haven't used it.

*Based on my testing by leaving counters set up on the map for Omega Games' Main Battle Area. I folded up the map and put it back in the box. In those years, one stack fell off and each bit of Hold-It left a small, light grease stain.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
elbmc1969 wrote:

Get some Hold-It and use pin-head sized balls to hold the overlays in place. Hold-It won't damage maps at all, unless you leave it in place for four years.


Thanks for the advice! I hope I didn't overstate the issue. We didn't have any problems with it, although I could see in some of the later firefights that use 4 or 5 overlays all on one or two maps, one bad slip of the finger and you could have things spinning around a bit.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher Hill
United States
Wilmington
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review James! Is it possible to play AtB under the Sos rules? Or are the new rules geared specifically to the new unit values in Sos and will thus skew results if playing AtB?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
kinga1965 wrote:
Great review James! Is it possible to play AtB under the Sos rules? Or are the new rules geared specifically to the new unit values in Sos and will thus skew results if playing AtB?


You can play the vast majority of new rules with AtB. If you search around BGG, you'll find I posted a list of rules changes and how to play AtB with the SoS rules. This list will get posted as a document on the Academy Games website soon. Or just download the SoS rules from the Academy Games website and apply what you can. The main thing to apply is the new simultaneous activation rules.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Albert Gao
China
Nanjing
Jiangsu
flag msg tools
mbmb
So, you mean this is a quicker game than Atb and a more accessible game than Atb?

That is really great,because the main reason I give up Atb is that there is more things to memorize when you step up through the scenarioes.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
camus_dvd wrote:
So, you mean this is a quicker game than Atb and a more accessible game than Atb?

That is really great,because the main reason I give up Atb is that there is more things to memorize when you step up through the scenarioes.



Yes, the game plays quicker (mainly due to the firefight designs), and there is less to memorize (because there is more information on the counters.)

Also, some of firefights have optional rules, which means you can play them in their simpler modes without as many rules, so instead of one firefight per section, there are multiple firefights you can play as you go through each section. This means you don't have to learn the rules so fast, and can play multiple firefights before advancing to the next section of rules.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jamey Philipp
United States
Muskego
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great job. Except now I have to go buy this.........:):(:cry:
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Helmut Apel
Germany
Darmstadt
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice and detailed review, James thumbsup Just received my Copy few days ago and i already love the look, feel and gameplay
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Meyers
United States
Frederick
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't understand this phrase of the review:

This makes it easier to keep track of, and also means that they can do more complex units that say, get a close combat bonus vs soft targets but get a penalty vs hard targets

What does this mean?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ben walker
United Kingdom
Norwich
Norfolk
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I presume it means that close combat penalties can now be modulated according to whether the given unit is attacking a 'hard' or 'soft' target, which makes an awful lot of sense to me. E.g. sticky bombs aren't much use against infantry!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Palmer
Canada
Ayr
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ben's correct. In Awakening the Bear, close combat modifiers were simpler - a unit either got a bonus or got a penalty - now units can have it be different based on the target, without any more rules to remember (in fact, there are fewer rules to remember.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.