Tanks for the great action

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 12 Jan 2016

War game: Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front has World War II vehicles and weapons galore. Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/TheStar.

One of my earlier “drivers” for my interest in boardgaming, was reading about wargames  such as Panzerblitz. From there, I would eventually learn to play Axis & Allies. I also pored through almost anything I could find about World War II.

So chancing upon the Kickstarter game Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front was quite a nice throwback for me. Having firmly entrenched myself in card gaming, imagine my joy in seeing someone make a non-collectible card game that could support two to four players, as well as feature a host of my favourite World War II vehicles and weapons. Cards representing Tiger Is, Wespes, Hummels and even the T-34 were quite the dream!

Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front was a sequel to Spearpoint 1943, which featured American and German unit cards, battling in the Italy front during that same year. You could say that an Eastern Front follow-up was pretty obvious from the get-go.

Shuffle and go

Spearpoint 1943 is played between two to four players, and revolve around combat between unit cards. In a standard two-player game, each player has decks comprising of unit cards worth 100 points. Each unit card will have a certain number of points. Generally speaking, the better the unit, the more expensive the points cost is.

Unit types include infantry, tanks/vehicles, artillery, aircraft, tank crew, artillery crew and pilots. Apart from unit cards, we also have Command and Damage cards.

In standard two-player games, the first person to score 51 points, wins the game.

Alternatively, if your opponent does not manage to deploy units for three turns straight, you can also score an Overrun victory.

Each player chooses four unit cards to start the game with. You also have three Command cards in hand.

The Hummel is great at striking enemy armoured units, but vulnerable against aircraft and artillery
Deploy and go

Each turn consists of Commitment, Combat and Draw. Spearpoint 1943 simplifies combat, by skipping deploy points and all that. Yup, you just put your units cards down, decide who or what goes into the “Front” lines or the “Rear” lines.

Some units can only Combat when they’re in the Front lines (tanks for instance), while others can go fight from Rear (artillery). Aircraft are not committed to any lines, since they are assumed to hover above everything in the battlefield.

A bunch of common sense rules apply when deploying: tanks, vehicles, artillery and aircraft all need their matching crew, so you won’t be able to put down a Tiger I unless you can also put down a tank crew with it.

Bombs away

Combat is where the bulk of the action occurs. First, starting with the active player, he targets one opposing unit. You just have to check for validity – your tank can’t target aircraft for instance, and you’re pretty much set.

When the targeting’s all done, each player checks for Initiative, by rolling a D10 die. Starting with the player that just won initiative, you then start making Attack rolls, which are usually a pair of D10 dice. Your unit generally needs to roll higher in order to score hits, with results of 19 or 20 or higher (sometimes you get bonus modifiers from Veteran Crew) resulting in instant destruction.

Upon scoring hits, you then check for damage resolution. This is the part where I spent the most amount of time honestly, as I reread the rules multiple times to make sure I got it right.

Credit to the game’s designer though, Byron Collins, for writing it clear enough so that me and my bunch got it right.

Units that are damaged, have to draw Damage cards. The cards have four sides to them to denote which type of unit gets the damage (Infantry/Crew, Tanks, Aircraft and Artillery). So, the stack of Damage cards have a variety of types of damage, depending on your luck of the draw. One successful hit deals one Damage card, and if your unit would take a second Damage card, it’s destroyed instead.

The end of turn is basically refreshing: units that are still standing have their remaining damage erased, and players make the choice of either drawing two Command or Unit cards, or one each.

Hits, mostly

Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front works great as a relatively fast combat skirmish game. I never landed a copy of Panzerblitz, nor did I ever find the time to print and mount my own copy of the game (you can download the game counters and rules for free on some sites, since the original copyrights have expired), so I found this Kickstarter game a great way to have tank battles under 30 minutes per skirmish.

If you need more “realism” and meat, you can run “campaigns”, which are essentially a series of scenarios based on historical battles. Yup, there’s a bunch on Kursk, which was pretty epic in real-life.

I suspect Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front works for a very niche crowd, and would not please the die-hard wargamers, but they’re not the target audience anyways. As a fan of Living Card Games, Trading Card Games and Deck-Building Games, this is a certified hit for me.

My Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front set came with the original Spearpoint 1943. The Eastern Front version is a significant improvement mainly because of the unit stats: all the ground units in the older game did not have anti-artillery combat stats, rendering them quite obsolete. If you had to pick one, I’d go with the newer game, though I do like the stock photo of the German infantryman in the original better!

And speaking of units, the game uses only stock photos, but the images really convey the gritty World War II look and feel. My favourite cards, the Tiger I, Wespe and Hummel, were pretty much my most favoured WWII armoured vehicles when I was growing up, so yeah.

Both Kickstarter titles cost me roughly RM200+ in 2014. With over a hundred cards per game, which are relatively decent in quality, in both the printed card stock, imagery and layout used, I’d reckon that the game’s pretty good value for money too. Spearpoint 1943 (US$30/RM130) and Spearpoint 1943: Eastern Front (US$45/RM200), as well as the special Heavy Weapons (US$20/RM90) expansion pack of 50 cards, are still available via special order on Byron Collins’ website.  

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