I've had a slightly turbulent relationship with hex and counter war games. I've played several of the simpler ones; A Victory Denied (MMP), Hells Gate (VPG), Nuklear Winter 68 (LnL), Arnhem (SPI), and one a little more complex, It Never Snows (MMP). Of these games only It Never Snows really impressed me, and thats a sprawling monster that takes 17 hours to play and really at least 4 players (http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/blog/post/review-it-never-snows/).
Most of these games I found to be a combination of the fiddliness of hex and counter war games, and a little too simplistic in terms of the strategy they offered to be worth the effort. Bloody Hell: Operations Goodwood and Spring bucks this trend.
This game is a two player Hex and Counter simulation of the British and Commonwealth forces fighting the Germans in Normandy in WW2. For those of you with some historical knowledge Operation Goodwood happened in the area around Caen and involved Field Marshal Monte launching a some what disastrous assault against German defences. The operation was followed up by operation Spring which is a second scenario and map included in the game. The games I listed earlier were all published by fairly major players in the war board gaming world, MultiMan Publishing etc, this game was desktop published by a
The game has components to match MMP or any other publisher, that is to say they are still cheapass for a boardgamer. The maps are gloss printed and decent paper, the chits were die cut and had clear art etc.
So whats the deal with this game? Why is it good? The thing with hex and counters is, because you save on miniatures, a mounted board etc, you can do things both big and detailed. You can have a big (relatively speaking) map, and lots of soldiers. If you have these two things, in a good hex and counter theres lots of room to manoeuvre. Good war games are all about manoeuvre. They are about flanking your opponent, cutting of their supplies, taking that key town, or hill, thats the geographical part, and its fun. The second thing hex and counters do well is give you lots of different units and give you interesting ways to combine their moves. So you can lay smoke with your artillery, suppress the enemy positions with your tanks from the flank and then move in your infantry. At least thats the plan, but then your artillery fires inaccurately, your tanks just get stunned or killed by enemy fire, and then your infantry gets bogged down in a war of attrition. Wargames are about creating beautiful plans and watching either the dice or your opponent destroy them, and then picking up the pieces. Bloody Hell gave me a enough pieces to play with, enough map space to play with, and just the right amount of rules detail to play with, to create this fun messy war that I look for in war games. The rules come in at about 8 pages and much of this will be bread and butter for regular war gamers, the game takes about two hours maybe three to run through. This is probably about the right weight of war game for me. A Victory Denied and Hells Gate were nice, but too simplistic, OCS Burma sits on my shelf unplayed because i just don't have that time at the moment.