I mentioned in my Review of Afrika Korps and Desert Rats that I also picked up the Fog of War Objective Cards and the Desert Rats Command Cards. At $5 each how can you go wrong, right? I was a bit discouraged to say the least after my time with those books, but I cracked open the cards anyway. Quick summary Fog of War cards are awesome! Desert Rat cards, not so much.
Fog of War Objective Cards
So here’s the deal with the Fog of War Cards. If you use these, instead of capturing an objective to win the game, each card has an objective on it with a number of victory points associated with achieving that objective. You and your opponent agree to the number of victory point needed to win before you start. Battlefront recommends 8, but you can choose any number the lower the number the shorter the game and visa versa. You can use a shared deck or each player can use their own. Set up is like for Free For All mission but without placing objectives. Instead at the start each player’s turn, they draws three cards from the top of the deck, selects one of the three, and discard the other two. You can have up to 3 objective cards active. So each of your first three turns you will add another objective to your hand. After that a player only draws cards if he has less than 3 active cards (meaning he has achieved at least 1 objective in a previous turn).
From game to game the objectives you try for will change and you will have multiple small objectives to try for during the game. In addition, many of the objectives are hidden so your opponent doesn’t know what you are trying to achieve. I like this a lot. Historically, more often than not the enemy didn’t know for sure what the objective of their opponents was. Also companies were rarely given two somewhat random spots on a map and told to take one or the other. The objectives in the deck seem more realistic. They include objectives such as capturing a specific terrain feature, scouting a terrain feature, or attacking a specific enemy unit. I’ve only with them once so far, but I love them. I think these are likely to become a staple of Flames of War combat in my basement. Well worth it for $5. I hope the come out with additional decks as well!
Desert Rats Command Cards
These were far less impressive. With these cards you can add an ability, plus up, or option to one of your units for anywhere from 0 to 8 points, but usually 1 or 2. These cards seem to be the way battlefront has decided to add heroes, transports, variant troop types (guards, Australians, Indians, etc.), and optional upgrades like sticky bombs, In addition, there seem to be some cards that are just random bonuses. So if you want a Guards Motor Company instead of a regular Motor Company for 3 points your whole formation now has Last Stand 3+ or you can have an Indian Motor Company for 2 pts which get to reroll motivation for counter attacks. I suspect there are rules that say you can’t combine these cards to create a Guards Indian Motor Company (which didn’t exist) but I haven’t found them yet. Likewise you could take the John Currie and Pip Roberts cards to boost the Tally Ho and Last Stand Rating of your tank platoons.
Some of the first cards which caught my attention were the 0 point cards: Humber Armoured Car Squadron, Australian Divisional Cavalry Squadron, and New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Squadron. These cards allow you to build formations of these types, which as I mentioned yesterday in my Review of Desert Rats are missing from the book. Before you get excited, don’t. These cards tell you what goes in the HQ and which core platoons you have to take. No new platoons, no special rules, no national rules, no changes to Motivation or Skill ratings. So while they are better than nothing in regards to extra company options, it’s not by much. You also get the added benefit of adding some loose cards to your formation building options in addition to the multiple diagrams you need to use. Needless to say, I am not impressed. These seem like a sop to people like me who are complaining about the loss of these units as opposed to a well thought out and planned addition to the game. You know, “Just throw a couple extra cards in the deck, it costs next to nothing, and maybe it will shut them up.”
Some of the other cards that frustrated me were what I call the option cards. For example, for 1 Point you can give one gun or infantry platoon Softskin transports at build time. The card is not marked as limited so I can give transports to as many infantry and gun platoons as I like at 1 point a piece. So why do I need a card? I’m going to need the models. There are also no restrictions on which units I can give the transports to whether they had any historically or not. Since transport is added by a general card there is no info even regarding the type of model to use based on the unit being transported. No indication is even given from the stat block as to whether this is a wheeled, tracked, or half-track. So I guess Opel Blitzes can now pull my 88’s?
The Sticky bombs card is another example of a head-scratcher option. For 1 point I can buy this card, then at any point during the game I can play it and give ANY infantry or gun team of my choosing sticky bombs to use to attack tanks at that time. Why are sticky bombs a game time decision and transports a build time decision? Beats me. Seems like it would be easier to redirect some trucks dynamically to unit rather than having sticky bombs magically appear in their kit, but what do I know? The card itself is not marked as limited so theoretically you can have more than 1 of them in your list BUT, you are supposed to discard it after use and the deck only comes with 1 of these cards. So I guess you can have 6 in your list have to buy six packs of cards. Not gonna happen.
Adding sticky bombs to an infantry unit and some of these other cards I understand the theory behind but a lot of the cards are just random. Take the Lucky card. For 1 point you can buy this card and use it to reroll any single dice roll during the game. Why? Because RANDOM GAME MECHANICS! That’s why. There are a bunch of cards like that which do not really add anything relevant to simulating WWII combat. I don’t have a lot patience for nonsense like this.
I will give a special mention to the Dummy Minefield card. I like this one. It adds something new to the game that’s actually useful. It has historical precedent. And damn it could be fun. Bravo. The could have just put it in the book though.
I really dislike the command cards. I am not opposed to the idea of some options like the warriors, not having to be represented by models . If they are build options though, then put those in a book and Forces of War. If they are special actions I can perform during the game, then cards make a lot of sense. Don’t mix and match though. Whatever the cards are, they should at least be representative of something historically real not just a random game mechanic boost. To me that really takes away from the feel of the game. This is what differentiates a historical war game from something like 40K where the designers can just make stuff up. There also needs to be some better design involved. Why can’t I buy 2 sticky bombs if I have the points without buying more cards? More importantly why can I pick who has them and who doesn’t randomly in the middle of the game? There seems to be no rhyme or reason why some things are chosen at build time and others at game time.
In general, the cards seem like an add on instead of an integrated part of the design for 4th edition. Sadly, I really get the idea that someone at Battlefront said, “All the new games have cards, so we need to have cards too.” If that was the case, then the basic game should come complete in a box with models, tokens, cards, dice, rulers, templates etc. like the other games in the industry Battlefront seem to feel they are completing against with like Star Wars Armada from FFG does instead of as a random collection of stuff that you may or may not buy.
Not sure if I’m going to buy the Afrika Korps Command Cards. They’re only $5, but even at that price point I have mixed feelings.