Academy Games, 2012, $79.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
The Conflict of Heroes series of games has been recognized as a one of the best in the industry. Not only is this a fine war game but stands as a historical game as well. Uwe Eickert, the designer of this game, has created an engine which redefines the genre of historical war game and the continuation of this series shows the strong roots which it has in the gaming community. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, is the first in the series and it showcases Operation Barbarossa and it’s belligerents: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The game is aided by a firefight book which has sixteen of these scenarios each more challenging than the last. What is realized when playing this game is the in depth nature of historical details along with the combat engine which makes this game shine.
The first thing which should be mentioned is the quality of the components of the game. The first thing I noticed was the large counters which were used for the units of combat and the obstacles which could come into play. I’ve had to play many war games whose counters were so small that I needed a magnifying glass to see the numbers on the unit. Here, in Conflict of Heroes, the counters are large enough that the numbers are quite easy to read and easy to move. This change in the size of the counters was already a large improvement on the genre. The next was the game boards. They are gorgeously filled with terrain details and buildings giving the “above the battlefield” view a gamer always want from their game board. It should be noted that one of the greatest strengths of the boards is the lack of fold marks when you open the board. Because of this, the game boards will last quite some time instead of other games whose boards show signs of wear after time. Lastly, the game comes with a deck of cards which can help to modify the game adding more historical theme to the game. All in all, the components of the game are fantastic and should be noticed as some of the finest components in a war game in a long time.
As I played through the firefights, I noticed one thing above other war games which are scenario based. While other scenario based war games allow time for a certain objective to be held, Awakening the Bear has timed scenarios and objectives. Not only do the players have to obtain the objective, but they have to hold it as well until the end of the firefight. The timing gives a strained sense of worry throughout the game. Also, one of the more interesting parts of the combat system, was the casualty markers of the unit. There is a stack of counters which have modifiers of a unit when hit by the enemy. When they are drawn, the counter can tell the player how the unit has been wounded, whether it be an immediate killed in action tile, or a unit can be suppressed. These tiles also give the game even more historical feeling as the game moves on. As the game continues through rounds, there are reinforcements which may come into play. On top of all of the gameplay, there is a great amount of flavor text at the beginning of each of the firefights to give the players some historical context as to the scenario in World War II. The first page of the firefight book is even a full description of what the plans and history were behind Operation Barbarossa.
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear is an excellent game of World War II combat and is highly recommended to anyone interested in war gaming. For someone who enjoys Civil War gaming, I found myself returning to this game again and again even playing through the firefight book numerous times trying different strategies every time. Uwe Eickert should be praised for the game he has brought to the public. Knowing there are many more installments of the Conflict of Heroes series, I know that the same quality of gaming is extended into those games as well. This is an incredible game which should be on the shelf of every war gamer.