I have been reading though a preview copy of Contact Front we received from Joe Veltre, owner of Gods Eye Games and a frequent contributor to History to Wargames. He knows that I have been on the lookout for a set of modern era rules that provides both the depth and complexity level that I am looking for. It’s a tough period to cover but I was interested to see how Carl Titterington rules takes on the complexities of the period.
My first impression of the book was the inside photograph of a group of soldiers (miniatures) patrolling though a poppy field. I could tell that Carl and his team had put the time into layout, miniatures and photo work. Visually, the book is on par with anything in print. The rules set out to create a feeling of immersion and Carl doesn’t pull any punches or offer any apologizes for doing so. The rules quickly get out of the casual war game box and head over to the training simulation box.
The rules use quite a few mechanics that I already familiar with and like.
The first is an order system; a process where the player roll dice and then add officers to determine how many units activate. It’s a fast and effective way to add a little pressure and command friction so players have to make choices about which units will move and shoot without being burdensome. The second mechanic is the two actions per unit, so each unit can shoot, shoot, or move and move or some combination of the two. Another mechanic I liked is pinning and in Contact Front if a unit is pinned it can’t activate unless one of your officers intervenes reducing the overall orders count.
Shooting can be one of three types, direct, suppressive or over watch. Direct fire is pretty simple, pick a target and roll a dice. This is where the rubber first hits the road; Carl is using two different dice to distinguish between Coalition troops and Insurgents. Six sided for Western troops and ten for Insurgents, I liked the way he approached this a quick and easy way capturing the training differences between the two without adding a lot of extra complexity. Suppressive fire is the second shooting type and done by sections. This is another mechanic I and again isn’t complex, add up the fire power of the squad, roll and consult the chart to see if the enemy unit is pinned. Finally there is over watch; it’s just direct or suppression fire in the other players turn. The game also includes calling for fires and vehicles, including helicopters and aircraft.
Mechanically the game moves fast, movement and shooting is straight forward but you will be flipping around looking for the right chart.
This is where the game carves out it’s niche and Carl’s doesn’t pretend he is doing anything else.
The first noticeable aspect of the immersive narrative is at the top of each section. Which is written in the voice a training officers. I’m sure it’s been done before but it’s a clever way to introduce the things.
In terms of game play the two sides have contrasting rules and mechanics. The first one is Insurgent forces use ten sided dices and Coalition forces use six. This shifts the dice probables to reflect different levels of training but players can still roll lots of dice, fast.
Coalition forces also have strict rules of engagements and SOPs they have to follow. Including what to do if a vehicle is destroyed and how to treat and care for wounded and dead soldiers. These mechanics has enough detail for handling these details while keeping the game moving.
The rule set includes a campaign game systems, several missions and a variable objectives generator.
Missions are provided to help players get started and integrate the variable objectives. The objectives are really the center of the game. Objectives divided into blue and red are kept secret during the game and they vary from making contact with the locals to hold the high ground.
Mission and objectives don’t have to be the same for both player. THis adds a level of replay and dynimics to the game.
The other interesting thing about the rule set is that support in also variable support.
Contact Front create a boutique gaming experience focused on the British in Afghanistan. The system reminds me of punjabi kadhi, mechanically reasonably simple, but with a lot is the spices flavor.
Besides using the different types of dices to distinguish between the two sides the rules go into great depth to create two separate and district forces linked by common a game mechanic. I like the idea of building the theme the sides and then building game mechanics.
For those of you interested in the minutiae of war gaming, these rules don’t delve into the differences between firearms, vehicles and other military equipment. These rules are about exploring the complexities of COIN operations at the platoon level.
The book gets players started out with US and British platoon TO&Es along with Insurgent lists. I have already heard there are supplements on the way to further expand the game.
If you are looking for a faster play, flavorful game that’s highly focused on creating the feel of a junior officers experience conducting counter insurgency operations on the ground check out Contact Front.