If you didn’t know, we loved The Last Hundred Yards! In fact, I loved it so much that it made the top spot in my Top 10 Games of 2019! post. Great game, with some really interesting and unique elements, and I feel that it is becoming one of my favorite tactical games. Not better than Combat Commander in my opinion, but it really gives it a run for its money! In the 2019 Monthly Update from GMT Games, The Last Hundred Yards Volume 2: Airborne Over Europe was announced and added to the P500. Since that time, I have contacted the designer Mike Denson and we have finished an interview on this very interesting looking follow up game in the series.
Grant: Now that The Last Hundred Yards is published what has been your impression of the response from the gaming community?
Mike: Overall, my impression is that the game has been well received and generally the feedback and reviews have been positive. I am very pleased with the excitement level of players that I have seen on Board Game Geek and other message boards. Very rewarding to see that.
Grant: Has the process of supporting the game taught you anything about the design or things you can improve or change in future games?
Mike: I learned that I need to do a better job of writing and editing of the rules. Its funny when you think things are clear but when they are read by others, there isn’t as much clarity. I believe that providing good and prompt support is critical to the success in any venture.
Grant: You recently finished up the design for Volume 2 Airborne Over Europe. What are your thoughts about finishing this design?
Mike: It feels good that its finished. It’s another completed step in the series. We’ve already moved on to the next modules so no rest at this point.
Grant: What elements or mechanisms do you believe you have been able to improve in this volume?
Mike: The rules for sure. Actually, the majority of the effort in this module was in the rewriting and clarification of the rules.
Grant: Why did you feel that a focus on Airborne was your next design challenge?
Mike: I felt it was the best way to introduce elite units and their behavior and tactics vs. regular units. One of the focus points of the games in this series is how small units behave and react on the battlefield. Providing elite units adds in new threats and will change how other units will react.
Grant: What about Airborne units during WWII was important to model?
Mike: Typically, the first thought, and generally how most other tactical games approach it, is that because these units are elite, they should have a better small arms (firepower) and cohesion (morale) value than regular infantry. But this is not necessarily always true. A good example is the US Airborne –– they used the same weapons (i.e. M1 Garand) and its doubtful elite units were any better shots than regular units and therefore it is hard to justify an increase in their small arms value.
As for cohesion, disruption of a unit in the The Last Hundred Yards does not mean it panics or routs but instead, when under heavy fire, will “go to ground“ and is temporarily out of action until it recovers (i.e. gets back in the fight). From a self-preservation perspective all units, whether regular or elite, will both go to ground when under fire. Therefore, in the The Last Hundred Yards the small arms and cohesion values are basically the same for both elite and regular units.
So, what’s the difference and how is it represented in the TLHY?
Leadership: Elite platoon leaders have Cohesion of 7 and as a result have a greater
impact on the effectiveness of units they are stacked with.
Initiative: Elite disrupted units are able to conduct a Limited Reaction to Recover after any enemy Call for Reaction regardless of whether they observe an enemy action or, are stacked with their platoon leader.
Coordination and Teamwork: Elite companies receive a favorable Coordination DRM of +3. This means that Elite Companies will successfully achieve Coordination 60% of the time vs. 30% for regular units substantially increasing the ability to envelop the enemy in an Assault.
Esprit de Corps: Elite units receive a favorable Recovery DRM when attempting Recovery and therefore increasing a unit’s chance of Recovery. In addition, an Elite disrupted unit will Rally on a die roll < 2 (< 3 if assisted by a platoon leader), vs. < 1 for regular units.
These subtle difference best characterize the quality and training of elite units. As you will see, Elite units are very powerful and fun to play.
Grant: What was your greatest challenge with this new volume?
Mike: Some of the missions were longer in duration and more complex with reinforcements coming in at different times. As a result, there were a lot more variables involved and therefore harder to balance requiring more time to playtest.
Grant: How were you able to inject the feeling of tension in dropping behind enemy lines?
Mike: I wanted to keep it simple so that players could get to the action quickly. At the same time I wanted players to experience some of the planning involved such as ––
where to land with minimal losses (i.e., avoiding woods, forest, water hazards, etc.); assembly areas close to a platoon’s objective and yet in a location safe from suspected enemy units.
Grant: What scenarios are included in the game? Which were your favorite to design?
Mike: There are four missions occurring during the D-Day operations of
which one is a night airdrop. These primarily deal with US Airborne actions in and around St. Mere Eglise and Carentan. The remaining six missions occur during the Market Garden operation. One is an airdrop and the others deal with actions of the 82nd
near Nijmegen and the 101st near Eindhoven. I don’t know that I can pick a favorite at this time.
Grant: Can you please show us some of the Airborne unit counters? What are their statistics and how did you go about fitting them into the parameters of
Mike: I am very pleased that Charlie Kibler is doing the counter graphics –– he does a great job. I have attached a copy of a proof of some of the new counters. See the response to question 6 regarding the characteristics of elite units.
Grant: What are some of the differences between the Allied Airborne units and the Fallschirmjäger?
Mike: Besides uniforms, there is no difference between the two. They are both elite units and display similar characteristics and behavior.
Grant: What sources did you consult to get the details correct? What is one source you would recommend as a must read?
Mike: I don’t have a list of sources. It’s a combinations of books, technical resources (i.e. field manuals, etc.) found on the internet, and the feel and experience of 50+ years of
wargaming. Warfare History Network.net is a great source for articles and magazines on warfare.
Grant: What rules are introduced for airdrop and night landings? What was challenging about these rules?
Mike: There are new rules regarding the planning, landing, and assembly of airborne units. In addition, we added night rules which are applicable not only to night landings but to other occasions as well. Both the airdrop and night rules are simple and straight
forward but give a player a good feel of the experience of both airdrops and night fighting. I will say that fighting at night is very interesting and plays very differently. I find them quite fun and challenging and I hope to have more night missions in the future.
Grant: What new terrain is introduced in this volume? What tactical advantage or disadvantages does this new terrain create?
Mike: New terrain includes marsh and tree-lined roads. Marsh is fairly self-explanatory
as you want to avoid it. Tree-Lined Roads are Blocking Terrain Features and are part of a new Enclosed Road rule which deals with firing and LOS along road hexes that include woods or buildings (i.e. Urban Roads and Tree-Lined Roads). Fire and LOS is limited when firing along an Enclosed Road.
Grant: How do players go about assembling Airborne units from a dispersed condition after a night landing?
Mike: Prior to mission start and as part of the landing plan, each individual platoon is assigned an assembly hex. Units, once on the ground, must maneuver or withdraw to their assembly hex before they can move on to their objective. In addition, a platoon’s assembly hex is treated as its FBE and therefore when withdrawing or retreating must do so toward their assembly hex.
Grant: Any additional armor or vehicles added in this volume?
Mike: Airborne operations were primarily infantry operations with little vehicle support due to limitations of aircraft’s carrying capacity at that time. There are a few new vehicles for the Germans and some Shermans for the British. There are no American vehicles.
Grant: What about new weapons? New artillery or aircraft?
Mike: No new weapons or aircraft in this module.
Grant: What is next in the series?
Mike: We are currently working on two new modules; Russian Front and Pacific Theater. I had hoped to do the Russian Front first but I suspect the Pacific Theater will be next
because most of the maps and counters are completed already.
Grant: Are you thinking about doing any other game systems covering other wars?
Mike: No, not necessarily a new game system but I am exploring adapting TLHY system to a company or battalion level operational game.
Thanks Mike for the insights into the design and what is new with the expansion. I can say that I am very interested and looking forward to pushing some elite units around the map to see how they differ.
If you are interested in The Last Hundred Yards Volume 2: Airborne Over Europe, you can pre-order a copy at the special P500 price of $39.00 on the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-831-the-last-hundred-yards-volume-2-airborne-over-europe.aspx