The Conflict of Heroes series is designed as a fast playing and simplified combined arms tactical wargame. But please don’t be fooled by my use of the word “simplified”, because this game has strategy and depth and really was a joy to play. In the game, and especially in Awakening the Bear!, players control individual squads, consisting of infantry, heavy weapons teams, vehicles and tanks, to play out the various tactical engagements that characterized the Eastern Front of World War II. In this Action Point, we are going to take a look at the Activation System.
Player Track Sheet
I really liked the Player Track Sheet in the game as it was very colorful, acting as a mnemonic device regarding the proper use of various Action Points (AP) and Command Action Points (CAP). The sheet contains the basic information that is necessary to track during the game, including the current round, any VPs that have been scored from the elimination of enemy units, Command Action Points and Action Points. We will talk about these in a little more depth later. The board was clearly laid out and I liked that it was big as my old eyes didn’t have to squint to see the tiny font.
Onto the meat of this post, the Activation System. The system used is really very simple but has some twists that create a mini-economy of sorts that the players must manage and manage wisely. A round simply consists of a series of alternating player turns. These turns consist of either paying the appropriate APs and taking an action, such as Move, Attack, Rally, Play a Card, Hide and Hasty Defense, pay 1AP or CP and Stall (simply do nothing and surrender your turn to the other player while not losing that unit’s remaining APs) or Pass after all of your units have used their Action Points.
Each of these actions will cost a number of Action Points (APs). The key is that the Active unit has to either spend all of their APs before moving to activate another unit or they will sacrifice their remaining APs. This is one of the keys to the system and is really cool as it creates somewhat of a mini-economy that you have to manage properly in order to get the most out of your units. What I mean by this is that you have to try to utilize all of, or at least most of, that unit’s APs before moving onto another unit or you will find yourself taking less actions than you opponent. And usually in a tactical game, taking less actions leads to you losing the fight.
This mini-economy system also creates some “cat and mouse” games between the players as your enemy may abandon a currently activated unit to instead activate a unit across the board, that is threatening an objective or other units, and you must then make a decision about how to react. You can use limited a limited Opportunity Action with another fresh unit, but understand that will be it for that unit as it will be marked Spent after the Opportunity Action is taken, or you can sacrifice any remaining APs on your currently activated unit to activate a unit across the board to deal with this new threat. This back and forth misdirection can be effective if properly executed but it is also risky as you will be sacrificing your own actions to force your enemy to take actions that they don’t necessarily want to.
Let me show you a simple example of how these activations work. As you can see on the Player Track above, when I choose a fresh unit to activate, I move the AP marker to 7 APs on the green Action Points track. This means that the currently activated unit has 7 APs to spend for various actions. In this example, please refer to the picture of the situation below. I just decided to activate my Russian MG Team counter located in hex J12. I simply move the AP counter to 7 APs and can now take my alternating action. I first want to get this unit into firing range so I decide to move it up into the Woods (Heavy) found in hex H12. Movement will cost APs and to tell how many, you will have to look in the upper right hand corner of the counter to the red number. The MG unit costs 2APs to move, thematically because there are two people and they are moving a heavy MG with ammo. But that is not the only cost for movement. Some terrain costs additional APs to enter and the Woods (Heavy) will add +1AP to the movement cost. So, this action will cost the Russian player a total of 3APs (2AP for the printed movement cost + 1AP for the Woods (Heavy) terrain = 3AP). The player will simply move the AP marker down from 7AP to 4AP to account for the cost of that move and then the turn will flip to the other player to take their first action.
After this movement, the players Player Track Sheet will look like this:
After the enemy player takes their turn, we revert back to the Russian player’s turn with 4AP remaining. Now that the MG unit has Line of Sight to the German units after moving up (in its previous location the Woods were blocking that Line of Sight and therefore the unit couldn’t fire on the Germans), with this turn they will make an Attack.
Once again, we look at the unit counter to determine the cost for firing and see in the upper left hand corner (red circle) the cost for fire, which in this case is 3AP. Taking a look back at the Player Track Sheet, we remember that we still have 4AP to use so this action is doable. The Russian player decides to fire on one of the three German units located across the meadow in the woods. I won’t go into details at this point about the Attack procedure, but typically you will look for the unit that is most hittable and fire on that unit. In this case, due to cover and the existence of a Hasty Defense on the middle unit, the Russian player decides to fire at the German Rifle unit on his far left, as it is in Woods (Light), which only offer +1 DM to their defense. The Russian player pays the 3AP to fire and rolls well and inflicts a hit on the German Rifle (once again we will cover combat and how it works in the next Action Point). Thus their Player Track Sheet will look like this at the end of this activation.
The alternating activation switches to the German player who does an Attack on the Russian units in the woods with a miss so then, with only 1AP remaining, the Russian player has a decision to make regarding this unit.
Notice the blue Command Action Points (CAP) located above the Action Point track. These are special points that can be used for a few different actions. A player can spend up to 2 of these points in an Attack to increase their Attack Value by 1 for each such point spent. I like to do this when an Attack is very important and I feel like that added +1 or +2 will make the Attack hit. These Command Action Points can also be used in concert with available APs to take an action. With only 1 remaining AP, the Russian player can really only pivot in their hex, but this would gain no benefit at this point as all of the enemy units are located within his Line of Sight and field of fire. So, they can choose to simply waste that AP and decide to move to another Fresh unit to activate, such as the Rifle unit adjacent to the Activated MG unit. But, they can use the 2CAP to supplement their existing 1AP to generate another Attack from the MG unit. They decide this is a wise course of action and use up their 1 remaining AP along with the 2CAP to generate one more Attack on the Germans. At this point, the Russian MG unit is flipped over to the Spent side and its activations are done. On the Russian player’s next activation, they will simply choose another Fresh unit to activate and start the process all over again.
The only thing that we didn’t cover here were Opportunity Actions. On the other player’s turn, you can take an Opportunity Action with a Fresh unactivated unit. An activated or Spent unit cannot take an Opportunity Action. The player can interrupt the activation of the enemy to take one action such as an Attack, Movement, Rallying, etc. This Opportunity Action doesn’t cost APs to use, but after the Opportunity Action is completed, that unit will be marked as Spent and cannot activate normally to take up to 7APs worth of actions. This is another part of the mini-economy as you must gauge whether one opportune action, that will basically spend that single unit, is worth it or not. Great decisions in this simple yet well designed activation system.
I hope that this look at the Activation System used in Conflict of Heroes Awakening the Bear! 2nd Edition was interesting and that you can understand the way this system operates. In our next Action Point, we are going to take a look at an example of combat, including the use of Action Cards.