Unusually for him he asked for a hex grid (well, offset squares) and brought along a set of rules written by someone else. This is a big deal for Chris. Well, slightly less than you might expect, as the rules were "Hexblitz" by Bob Cordery, which he has written about a lot on his blog (although I'm sure he doesn't need the plug from me).
Chris had a copy as Bob had sent him one as he credits Chris very nicely with inspiring the rules quite a lot. So, being Chris, he'd read them through once or twice and decided we didn't need to play all of them, at least not at first.
We were joined by Phil for this game. He took the Germans, and I took the Russians (on the promise they had some armour).
None of us have played Hexblitz before, although we have played Megablitz, to which it owes a debt, and also a number of card driven systems (such as Op14) which it also draws upon. The actual rules in the book are quite short, - no more than 5 or 6 pages I'd guess, together with a more lengthy battle report explaining how it all works. It retails for the princely sum of £3.99 plus postage, so it won't break the bank.
The Russians are to the right, the Germans to the left. They have occupation of the town. I have to throw them out.
At this point we're almost free-kriegspieling it. We're using the movement rates, but we're going IGO/UGO until we get closer. This might have been because Chris hadn't worked out how important it was to follow the turn sequence, especially when you get close together. Chris isn't big on turn sequences.
The red pins represent strength points. That unit with the white square on its base is one of my recce units that has come off worst in a confrontation with one of Phil's.
Phil is rushing his armour forward to support the town's defenders. Chris' scratch built Soviet Cities look really effective and are handing for putting troops in too.
I'm adopting a broad front approach, trying to envelope the Germans on both flanks. Troops in Hexblitz are in one of three modes, - Moving, Stationary or Dug In. This is a stepped process, - you can only go from one stage to the next. You can't go straight from Dug In to Moving, for example.
The first real clash. This is when I discovered that German units have way more strength points than Soviet ones. Our lack of following the turn sequence is starting to cause a few issues at this point, as it isn't clear who is allowed to attack what and how often.
Currently we're remembering what state units are in. Except when they Dig In, when they get one of my ubiquitous pieces of wooden trench parapet.
There's a bit more confusion over on the right centre. Phil points out it would be easier if we had status markers. So we plunder the Trebian counter box.
A quick application of markers. Move means Move, Form means Stationary and Hold means Dug In. You place your marker for the next turn face down, so when they're turned over you can tell from the previous turn's marker that no one is cheating.
We also dealt out playing card tokens as well, to determine the order of movement. I think we're now playing above 90% of the rules as written. I got a nasty shock in this attack, as the chances of hitting a target go from rolling a 5 or 6 in the open, with one d6 per strength point to needing either double 5 or double 6. That's a big jump for one turn's digging in, and caught me quite by surprise.
Using the playing cards sorted out a number of problems, but also confused me a bit. In some card driven systems if you are attacked and beaten you get driven back and lose your card/activation for the turn. It seems that doesn't happen in Hexblitz.
We've played the equivalent of about 12 game hours by this point. I've had a few successes, but the advance has stalled. I've inflicted a goodly mount of damage, but really need to regroup now I know how things are supposed to work.
Once we got this running properly it was an interesting yet simple system. As we aren't using Bob's sized hexes nor his sized bases we have a stacking issue we need to resolve. Bob's approach is that if it fits in the hex, it's allowed. That's okay if basing and hexes are consistent, but I fear that's not the case for us. There's also something about recce units being allowed to sit on edges/corners to look into more squares that we need to follow up on.
If Chris wants to persist then there's mileage in this yet. The group consensus was that it shows its origins in a solo wargaming tradition which is why the playing cards are central, randomising unit move sequences. I think we were also using a much larger playing area than Hexblitz is normally used for, and if so we need to keep better track of time. We had logistic units on the table, but with the way we were playing their importance was minimised. They'd be more important if we were playing over several days and keeping track of where we were.
If we'd done this before COW, I'd have picked up a copy from Bob in person.