Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hellfire and Back - First Impressions

My copy of Hellfire and Back, the new early desert war supplement by Battlefront, arrived from Wayland Games this morning and I have barely put it down since. It has been just what has been needed to revitalise my Flames of War gaming as we come to end of our Crusader campaign.

At first glance I am really not keen on the cover artwork, something about the perspective seems out and it lacks a strong focal point. Inside however it is a different story, the usual mix of artwork, mini photos and period photos illustrate it throughout. If you have nothing else to say about battlefront you can not fault their presentation and the quality of their printed products.

I haven't really looked at the German lists so I will just focus on the British and Italian lists and all the extra stuff. First up, the Italians. As usual they are slightly the poor cousin with only 4 lists, but they are all really good. Organisation is different for the infantry as expected for pre AS42 lists, but seem accurate and balanced. Points have varied which is as expected as quality for troops in 8 million bayonets has also changed, much less veterans so this will change the way they play a bit. The other odd thing to have changed is the stats for some vehicles and guns. I'm not sure about the rational about this, but it is going to be confusing when you also use the same vehicles in mid-war with different values.

The British have many lists, split between British and Commonwealth forces and include the terrifying looking Armoured regiment, just by the sheer number of vehicle they will have with a gun quite capable of knocking out their Italian equivalents, even if their armour is considerably left. The rest of the forces cover the other armoured forces, 'jock' columns and infantry forces. The reconnaissance forces look interesting with their ability to move an opponents objective after deployment. This could make them a really viable force to play with.

The new rules primarily cover the fortification force that are available (1 for each nation) and how these work. The basic rules are basically the same as the rule book but they deploy differently. making little self-contained positions separated from each other, with reserves to arrive to support them. It will be interesting to see how these play, especially as with the Italians I can have a CCNN forces. The other rules are the motorcycle reconnaissance rules which I understand are the same as in blitzkrieg, and should change the way my motorcilisti troops play (although I will need quite a few more bases to make a force).

The final part of the book (aside from the historical background which I haven't read yet) is the terrain rules. These provide variable terrain types that you don't roll up unit you get close enough (I.e. in contact) to see what is actually there. The only thing that I feel is missing is rules for deploying the templates on the table, like in the main rulebook. I think we will be modifying the desert terrain chart there to incorporate these new terrain types.

Overall it seems to be a really good book. I would have liked to see a fuller set of terrain rules, and more Italian lists, but seems really good, and opens out a period of the war Luke and I really like and we are already talking about what we are going to add to our existing forces so we can do some Operation battleaxe battles. I would give the book a 4/5, pretty good, but not quite perfect! A battle report should be coming next weekend.

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