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FLASHPOINT GERMANY: First Impressions...

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Anonymous
January 28, 2005 9:53:55 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

[NOTE: The following is based on limited play of a few scenarios, and I
haven't read the manual; I never read the manual until I've played
enough to have questions to answer. Interpolate accordingly...]

I was wondering how many years it would be before I said this, but Major
H and TACOPS finally have a little competition for the "hearts and
minds" of gamers who approach the topic as I do. TACOPS is, of course,
the Gold Standard of battalion-based tactical wargames, and it's the
game that FLASHPOINT GERMANY should be rightly measured against.

For my money ($35), FG holds up very well. So far.

What the FG design models is late-1980s-era high-density armored combat
between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Not jungle combat in Vietnam, not
desert warfare in Sinai, not amphibious assaults in Cuba. What the
designers have done is fairly singleminded; they've kept in everything
that's central to armored/mechanized warfare, and thrown out everything
else.

Some people will dislike this.

For instance, there's no separate infantry counters. The game behaves,
for all intents and purposes, as though the six M3 fighting vehicles in
an armored cavalry platoon are the *only* component of that unit. When
all six M3s are destroyed, the unit "disappears." I see that this
design decision has come under some fire, but on reflection, it seems
perfectly reasonable, given the context of the actions being played out:

(1) At the scale of the game (500 meters per gridsquare), this is the
way mechanized infantry fights. They ride in their tracks, dismount to
defend or assault, and get back inside. The infantry doesn't dismount
and go off to fight one battle, while the MICVs ride off in another
direction. TACOPS allows you do "interesting" things: like leaving the
"legs" behind in a "suicide spotter" role, but FG requires a unit to
fight and move as a unit.

(2) This is not the kind of combat where dismounted infantry is
decisive - or even all that useful. The fields and towns of The Federal
Republic and positively *crawling* with T-80s, Challenger IIs, and
attack helicopters. A platoon of US Marines with their M-16s and hand
grenades would last about one "tick" of the combat resolution bar. This
game models battles that are going to be decided by
"Who has a tank company in Arschenfeld," not, "A special forces team
stealthed their way into town."

(3) How useful are leg units in a TACOPS scenario that models armor-
heavy combat, anyhow? Not very. In big-armor TACOPS games, the
infantry just gets chewed up offhandedly by the-popguns-that-can't-
shoot-at-tanks-anyway.

All in all, I was a little disconcerted at first, but once you get into
the design and flow of play, you'll find that this is a complete non-
issue. But if you're the type who'll end up pining away for the things
that FG *doesn't* model, then you should look elsewhere, or await a
subsequent title in the series.

Anyhow.

The game scale is 500 meters per grid-square. I thought I would dislike
the fact that the game uses squares rather than hexes or pixels to place
units, but at this scale, and considering that they've paid careful
attention to movement rates and terrain in the design, this is another
area where the designers avoided an issue that's probably more trouble
than it's worth.

Maneuver units are sections, platoons, and companies, with the overall
unit being modeled probably a battalion or regimental combat team.

The turn scale is interesting. It's a WEGO design, with both sides
issuing commands to their units during the orders phase, and then both
sides executing their moves under computer control simultaneously during
the execution phase. A new wrinkle is that the turn length is variable,
from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. I haven't played with this at all, and
mention it apropos of nothing. The execution phase is divided into a
series of "ticks" where units execute their orders and carry out combat.

The graphics are boardgame-standard. NATO symbols or hardware
silhouettes on colored counters atop rather a nice full-color map with a
handpainted look. The interface is clean and simple; map, subordinate
display panels, status bars, menu.

THINGS I THINK ARE COOL.

(1) The game keeps a running log of *everything* that happens, which
you can print out at the end of the game. AAR aficionados should be
positively overjoyed at this "why-doesn't-everyone-do-this" feature.
Chrome of the brightest kind, this.

(2) There's a command delay built into the fabric of the game. Want to
carry out a prepared assault? The units won't even move out for 30
minutes - if you're NATO. Warsaw Pact units can take longer.

(3) You can play with command limits in place, such that a player can
only dole out X orders per turn. Or you can turn this off.

(4) The game keeps track of how many orders you're giving, in the form
of "radio traffic" bars on the status line. Get too Byzantine in your
orders - or forget to keep your headquarters units moving - and you'll
soon find that those big Russian guns off to the east will give you a
personal hotfoot.

(5) There's a scenario editor, to include a scenario generating
feature. Haven't played with this, but it's nice to see it included.

(6) Digital download product, so no copy protection (license code
only...) and no having a #&^%ing CD to drag about to play. Thanks,
Matrix; some people (IE, me) think this is worth real money.

(7) The TacAI programming that moves my own units hasn't made me rip
big wads of my hair out, and I'm quite honestly a pathological pisser
and moaner on this topic. Does this mean the TacAI is as good as in
HTTR? The jury's still out, but I have played enough to think that it
must be *pretty* good, just on the basis of the gruntin' and groanin'
I'm *not* doing while I watch the TacAI move and fight my units during
the WEGO phase.

(8) This game seems amazingly free of troubles, quirks, issues, and
other hassels. For a v1.0 product - even for a v3.0 product! - it's
refreshingly clean and problem-free.

THINGS THAT DIDN'T IMPRESS ME.

(1) There's only about two dozen scenarios included, including British,
West German, and American NATO forces, and the Usual Suspects on the WP
side. The fact that there's a scenario editor - and generator - tends
to mitigate this.

(2) There's only four maps that ship with the game, and the scenario
generator doesn't include a mapmaker. I've heard rumors that a mapmaker
is going to be released, however, and - being that this isn't HPS - it's
probable that it won't be a $50 standalone product. If the designers
are smart (and it looks like they are), they'll just give it away.

(3) I haven't see the PO/AI do anything really brilliant yet, but thus
far I've played only as NATO, and the AI-as-WP really hasn't got many
strategies available outside of, "Take this mongo mass of T-80s and BMPs
and squish any enemies foolish enough to appear in your path." I'm not
sure this is inappropriate for a WP tactic, either.

SO, IS THIS GAME ANY FUN? DOES IT BEAR ANY RELATION TO REALITY?

Yes. I'm having a blast, and the game appears to reflect well the
realities of armored warfare; when I do something right, I'm rewarded
with lots of disappearing red units, when I screw up, my own little
green squares tend to evaporate with alarming swiftness.

For example. Last evening I fired up a game of "Meeting of Titans," a
meeting engagement that pits a US Armored Cavalry Squadron against a
Soviet Guards Motor-Rifle Regiment. The Americans are arrayed in
echelon down a highway northwest of a large town, while the Soviets have
taken the town and are preparing to exploit westwards. The USA wins if
it can shove the Russkies back without getting too bloody a nose.

I decided to send A Troop south to hold along the main road, while B and
D Troops advanced through a secondary road over the high ground
separating me from the town/Russkies. I send my few helicopter assets
to scout along the intervening hill and harass any enemies detected. C
Troop (offboard on turn 1) I held in reserve.

A Troop quickly encountered mechanized infantry forward echelons, and,
assisted by a barrage or two from my artillery battery, drove them back
and inflicted heavy losses, but at the cost of three M1s and a Bradley
knocked out.

The Russians seemed to be exploiting faster than I expected, though, and
I decided to halt the advance of B and D Troops and set up an ambush. I
arrayed B Troop in defilade along both sides of the road, and D Troop to
screening posture in the center, ordered to stage a fighting retreat
when the Russians appeared.

The idea was good tactically, but I had the "L" key function set to off,
and wasn't able to check the LOS of my units. Unfamiliarity with the
map and graphics meant that my setup was less than optimal in terms of
setting up this "fire sack" position. Still, the Russians were moving
motor-rifle units up the road, and my retreating screen exacted a toll
for their progress, and they were then caught from my units flanking the
road. Stunningly heavy losses for the Red Army on this road, against
the loss of only two Bradleys. Souring the success somewhat was the
fact that I left two Cavalry platoons in place for too long, and Russian
artillery quickly blanketed the area, knocking out *three* crucial M1s.

In the south, my scouting helicopters soon located a mass of Soviet
Guards advancing along both sides of the highway, and managed to snipe a
half-dozen BMPs from the periphery. The choppers were forced to retreat
after Russian SAM carriers appeared and shot down one of my AH-1s.

The Russian mass soon encountered my hastily dug-in tanks and mech
infantry, and their losses were heavy. Again, though, I was hampered by
a quasi-ignorant setup due to unfamiliarity with terrain mapping, and my
own units came under heavy Russian missile fire and started taking
losses. American unit quality and defensive advantages were too much to
overcome, though, and the Soviet advance quickly petered out, and then
was driven back, routing towards the town.

At this point, the Soviets had suffered two sharp rebuffs, and I decided
to keep them backpedaling by simultaneous assaults to clear the two
roads into town. I combined the more-or-less combat worthy B Troop and
the badly-used remnants of D Troop for an attack eastwards along the
north road, and sent A Troop along with the remaining three helicopters
down the southern route. C Troop, still uncommitted, I retained as a
reserve.

Now the shoe was on the other foot though, and the Russians were in a
position to await my attack from hastily scrabbled-out positions. I
suffered heavy losses in clearing the approaches to town, but - again -
US unit superiority was telling, and my units were able to get the drop
on the Russians again and again. Also, the Russians were generally
beginning to fold from overall losses and morale.

By the time I committed my reserve to crush the last Russian defense,
the writing was on the wall. Decisive victory, but losses a little too
heavy under the circumstances.

This is all pretty good stuff, though, and my overall impression is that
this game is an *excellent* blending of realistic tactical problem-
solving and wargaming fun. Tonight we'll be testing out the head-to-
head capabilities built into the game, but I can't imagine it'll be any
less fun to play against a human opponent.

Matrix has another winner on their hands. Only time will tell if it
eventually encompasses the scope that TACOPS takes in, but there's
easily $35 worth of wargaming value in this game.




--
Giftzwerg
***
http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000521.html
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 3:18:43 AM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

Giftzwerg <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> wrote in
news:MPG.1c649a9ebb90056298a149@news-east.giganews.com:

<snip very nice AAR>

You should post this in the MatrixGames FPG forum - they'd love it

but "Arschenfeld" - really :) 

Tought no-one would spot it - right ?

Greetz,

Eddy Sterckx
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 3:18:44 AM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

In article <Xns95EDC5312DA7eddysterckxhotmailco@67.98.68.43>,
eddysterckx@hotmail.com says...

> You should post this in the MatrixGames FPG forum - they'd love it

<shrug>

They must be up to their Arschenfeld's in AARs, given the logging
facility built into the game, eh?

--
Giftzwerg
***
http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000521.html
Related resources
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 3:30:49 AM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

Thanks for the great AAR

Kevn
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 9:08:52 AM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

Thanks, Giftzwerg. Glad you are enjoying it, great AAR. Meeting of
Titans is one of my favorites.

Regards,

- Erik
January 29, 2005 4:09:29 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

Excellant AAR. I second everything mentioned. I am having a blast with
this one.

Other features I enjoy.

I like the limited staff rule. Depending on what the time slice for the
turn is set too and what size HQ is commanding your force you can only
give so many orders to units. I choose the 10 minutes perturn for the
second tutorial and the WP side. With the HQ being a BN I could only
give one order perturn. Takes awhile to get your Bn moving. I love good
C2 features in games.

Arty rules. One off my favorite is to assign an Arty unit to Direct
support to a line unit. The unit then calls the fire when it needs it.
However since it is dedicate to a DS role you don't need to make sure
that its not off firing in some unimportant sector of the battle field.

Engineers intergrated into the line units. In modern combat you would
not see individual En units running around the battlefield. Giving the
capabilities to the line units works great.

Speed of play, it is very easy to finish a scenario in a limited amount
of time. Game plays out very quickly and decesively.

Some features I'd like:

Battle damage assements from air strikes, with the chance of bad
assements of course can't trust Pilots ;) .

Increase the SOP choices, especially the targetting options. One of the
NATO doctrines I would like is the option to target the funny stuff.
It was SOP to shot at command vehicles (easy to spot by the number of
antenie), engineer bridging vehicles and mine clearing(great way to stop
an attack) and AA vehicles. Choosing this option would increase the
chance to loss C2 and the AA/Eng cabalities of the unit.

Great game!

John
January 29, 2005 7:46:16 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

"Giftzwerg" <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:MPG.1c649a9ebb90056298a149@news-east.giganews.com...


<snip usual great aar stuff from Giftz (just for you Jab)>

Now, are you seriously implying that this game, which is $15 less
expensive, is better than Battleground Fulda Gap '85 ?

<sarcasm mode off>
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 9:04:30 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

In article <3oUKd.539$6k.6585@eagle.america.net>, jp@hotmail.com says...

> Now, are you seriously implying that this game, which is $15 less
> expensive, is better than Battleground Fulda Gap '85 ?

FG does easily exceed my oft-stated criteria that goes, "Is it $35
better than a free scenario for TOAW that covers the same topic(s)?"

--
Giftzwerg
***
http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000521.html
January 29, 2005 9:04:31 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

"Giftzwerg" <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:MPG.1c65e08d24b6d2a498a14f@news-east.giganews.com...
> In article <3oUKd.539$6k.6585@eagle.america.net>, jp@hotmail.com says...
>
> > Now, are you seriously implying that this game, which is $15 less
> > expensive, is better than Battleground Fulda Gap '85 ?
>
> FG does easily exceed my oft-stated criteria that goes, "Is it $35
> better than a free scenario for TOAW that covers the same topic(s)?"
>
> --
> Giftzwerg
> ***
> http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000521.html

Never paid much attention to this until now........hmmm, no campaign ?
Anonymous
January 29, 2005 9:08:50 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

In article <seRKd.19428$7k7.17176@fe03.lga>,
CombatNOSPAMEngineer@charterNOISP.net says...

> Some features I'd like:
>
> Battle damage assements from air strikes, with the chance of bad
> assements of course can't trust Pilots ;) .

One thing I'm not exactly clear on is the game-end log that details
losses. I'm finding that far more units are "surviving" than appeared
to be available to either side at the end of the game.

For example, in last nights game, a Blues & Royals tank unit was reduced
to 1 Challenger tank very early in the game, yet the end-game log
reported "3 of 4 survived."

Could it be that "KIA" != "destroyed?" Are there "mission" kills?

--
Giftzwerg
***
http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000521.html
Anonymous
January 30, 2005 4:33:22 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

John wrote:

> When it was first announced they said that the CD version would be
about
> two weeks after the download version. So you have a week+ to go
still.

.... but if you *really* want it sooner there's always the option to
move to a cable-enabled area :) 

Greetz,

Eddy Sterckx
Anonymous
January 30, 2005 11:04:20 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

In message <MPG.1c649a9ebb90056298a149@news-east.giganews.com>,
Giftzwerg <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> writes
>
>[NOTE: The following is based on limited play of a few scenarios, and I
>haven't read the manual; I never read the manual until I've played
>enough to have questions to answer. Interpolate accordingly...]
>
Good report. This and other posts has got me looking forward to a new
game for the first time in months. Does anyone know when this is likely
to be available on CD in Europe. I can't find any reference to this on
the Matrix site, but it is only available as a download. If anyone has
posted the info I have missed it. At the speed of my local exchange (or
string-in-a-tin-can as it is technically known) and download would take
me a little under 26 hours, so I am keen to know when I can buy a hard
copy, so to speak
--
John Secker
January 30, 2005 11:04:21 PM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

John Secker wrote:
> In message <MPG.1c649a9ebb90056298a149@news-east.giganews.com>,
> Giftzwerg <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> writes
>
>>
>> [NOTE: The following is based on limited play of a few scenarios, and I
>> haven't read the manual; I never read the manual until I've played
>> enough to have questions to answer. Interpolate accordingly...]
>>
> Good report. This and other posts has got me looking forward to a new
> game for the first time in months. Does anyone know when this is likely
> to be available on CD in Europe. I can't find any reference to this on
> the Matrix site, but it is only available as a download. If anyone has
> posted the info I have missed it. At the speed of my local exchange (or
> string-in-a-tin-can as it is technically known) and download would take
> me a little under 26 hours, so I am keen to know when I can buy a hard
> copy, so to speak

When it was first announced they said that the CD version would be about
two weeks after the download version. So you have a week+ to go still.

John
Anonymous
January 31, 2005 12:45:18 AM

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.war-historical (More info?)

In message <AlcLd.21339$Er3.4665@fe03.lga>, John
<CombatNOSPAMEngineer@charterNOISP.net> writes
>John Secker wrote:
>> In message <MPG.1c649a9ebb90056298a149@news-east.giganews.com>,
>>Giftzwerg <giftzwerg999@hotmail.com> writes
>>
>>>
>>> [NOTE: The following is based on limited play of a few scenarios, and I
>>> haven't read the manual; I never read the manual until I've played
>>> enough to have questions to answer. Interpolate accordingly...]
>>>
>> Good report. This and other posts has got me looking forward to a new
>>game for the first time in months. Does anyone know when this is
>>likely to be available on CD in Europe. I can't find any reference to
>>this on the Matrix site, but it is only available as a download. If
>>anyone has posted the info I have missed it. At the speed of my local
>>exchange (or string-in-a-tin-can as it is technically known) and
>>download would take me a little under 26 hours, so I am keen to know
>>when I can buy a hard copy, so to speak
>
>When it was first announced they said that the CD version would be
>about two weeks after the download version. So you have a week+ to go
>still.
>
OK, thanks.
--
John Secker
!