Old School Tactical from Flying Pig Games is a tactical combat system that focuses on World War II to date. The game focused on the simulation of small unit combined arms engagements where historical units, weapons, armor and vehicles will duke it out on a beautifully crafted board full of hexes. During a turn, players will go back and forth using an Impulse Point System to activate units to either Move, Assault Move or Fire. The players will play through a predetermined amount of rounds and at the end, victory points and casualty points will determine which side is the victor.
The first volume in the series was Old School Tactical Volume 1 Eastern Front 1941/1942 and focused on battles between the Russians and Germans. Old School Tactical Volume 2 West Front 1944/1945 was a follow-up effort and focused on the titanic struggle in Europe following the D-Day landings in 1944 with battles between the Americans and Germans. Now the most recent volume in the series is Old School Tactical Volume 3 Pacific 1942/1945 and includes battles between the Japanese and their Special Naval Landing Force and the American Marine Corps.
In this series of Action Points we will NOT be touching on the base rules of the game but you can learn about the Impulse Point Activation System by reading our review on OST Volume 1 here: https://theplayersaid.com/2017/01/25/what-does-old-school-mean-a-review-of-old-school-tactical-vol-1-from-flying-pig-games/
I also wrote a series of Action Points covering OST Volume 2 and the Airborne Expansion that you can read to get more information on that amazing addition to the series.
Action Point 1 – various types of combat, including Fire Attacks, Fire Groups and my personal favorite, Melee.
Action Point 2 – take a look at the Impulse Point System that drives the action in the game as well as some of the more interesting aspects of the Old School Tactical: Airborne Expansion and the Airborne Units and Aircraft Loadouts, Flight Paths and Paradrops.
In this series of Action Points we will examine some of the new terrain, weapons and vehicles presented that are unique to the Pacific Theater of combat, examine the new playable faction the Japanese, taking a look at their new units including the Tank Killer and Sapper, and examine their very powerful Banzai Attack, take a look at the United States Marines and what makes them some of the most elite fighting men of the war, and finally take a look at the new Hell Bent Expansion and examine the scenarios available in this addition.
New Terrain Types
There are a total of 8 new Terrain Types in OST Volume 3 including Kunai, Palms, Palm Debris, Jungle, Jungle Path, Ocean, Beach and Airstrip. Let’s take a closer look at these terrains and the effects that they bring to combat in the Pacific Theater.
One comment before we go any further. The maps in OST are simply gorgeous. Big hexes. On board tracks for Impulse Points, Victory Points, Casualty Points. They are really nicely done…and big.
Here is a look at the map that comes with the base game.
And now the map that is included with the Hell Bent Expansion.
Kunai is thick grass that grows 1 to 2 meters in height. The terrain will degrade Line of Sight after a Fire Attack passes through two such hexes and will block attacks into that third hex. In the picture below, Sgt. Inoue located in hex DD22 and the Rifle unit in DD25 would normally not be visible to the HMG on the top of the hill but in this case the elevation eliminates the benefit.
The terrain costs 2 MP for foot to move through and 3 MP for wheeled but will cause a Bog Roll to be made with a chance to get stopped and hung up and 2 MP for tracked. While the terrain is not heavy or dense it does offer +1 Defense for units in the hex. This Defense bonus is mostly from the difficulty to see and target units in the tall grass.
What would a Pacific Theater game be without palm trees. Palms are widely spaced trees with no undergrowth. Similar to Kunai, Palms will degrade Line of Sight after a Fire Attack passes through two such hexes and will block attacks into that third hex. The terrain costs 1 MP for foot to move through and 2 MP for wheeled and tracked. While the terrain is not heavy or dense it does offer +1 Defense for units in the hex. Artillery does not cause airburst as the trees are not hardwood like those in the European Theater or on the Eastern Front.
Palm Debris are simply destroyed trees from things like Hurricanes, Tsunami or flooding that are littering the ground. Similar to Kunai and Palms, Palm Debris will degrade Line of Sight after a Fire Attack passes through two such hexes and will block attacks into that third hex. The terrain costs 2 MP for foot and 2 MP for tracked but will cause a Bog Roll to be made with a chance to get stopped and hung up. Wheeled vehicles simply cannot enter a hex with Palm Debris. The terrain does offer a +2 Defense for units in the hex so it definitely is a good terrain to use as a starting point when setting up defenders.
Jungle is extremely thick vegetation with many differing heights of tropical trees. Because of this difference in heights of the trees, the terrain blocks Line of Sight from all levels. It will cost 3 MP for foot units to enter and wheeled and tracked vehicles cannot enter a Jungle hex. Due to the dense vegetation and trees, the terrain offers a +2 Defense for units. Similar to Palms, artillery does not cause airburst. The other really interesting thing about the terrain on the maps is that the hex corners are marked with white to be able to easily distinguished. This was a really nice touch.
You will also notice in the picture above that there are trails that run through the Jungle and are referred to as Jungle Path. Jungle Paths cost a little less movement to use; 2 MP for foot and 3 MP for tracked with a Bog Roll. Wheeled vehicles still cannot use the Jungle Paths. The Paths are still really considered Jungle as they do offer a +2 Defense for units in the hex.
As this is a game focused on the Pacific Theater you would expect to see plenty of ocean and beaches. Ocean is a terrain type that represents the shallower water leading to shore. Not much time is spent on Ocean as there are no big Naval ships but only smaller landing craft used for amphibious assaults and landings.
The Ocean is usually only used as a lead up to the Beaches and has a movement cost of 3 MP for foot and 2 MP for wheeled and tracked; but they must be designated as amphibious vehicles such as an LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked). As you might have thought, due to no cover and having to swim or wade through, Oceans have a -2 Defense for units in the hex. Another interesting is that the center dot denotes whether a hex is Ocean or Beach hex. If the dot is in the water, it is considered Ocean while if the dot is on the beach it is Beach. A good example in the picture to the right is hex LL16 which is an Ocean hex.
Beaches are simply the exposed sandy ground located next to water. A Beach costs 2 MP for foot, 3 MP for wheeled and 2 MP for tracked, but both types will be subject to a Bog Roll. The terrain also adds a -1 Defense for units in the hex. Remember trying to run on the beach as a kid? Well, it is tough to gain your traction.
The Airstrip is just exposed runway on an airfield. As you know, typically these small airfields were built on long flat areas of small islands or atolls during World War II and were in the middle of sometimes hostile terrain such as Jungle. The Airstrip costs 1 MP for foot, 1 MP for wheeled and 1 MP for tracked. There is no Bog Roll, unless the vehicle strays off the Airstrip and enters an unfriendly terrain. As you might have guessed, there is no cover on a cleared Airstrip and the terrain offers a -1 Defense for located units in the hex. Units will not linger on the Airstrip but will sometimes be forced to cross over them as in the case below.
I have found that the terrain in OST Volume 3 really plays a major role in how you setup your attacks and defense. There are lots of tactical puzzles to unlock to find the most effective and efficient means to attack your enemy and that is one of the best parts of these tactical games. Now that we have covered the new types of terrain, let’s take a look at a few new Fortifications.
The fighting in the Pacific was brutal and a lot of that was caused by the types of defensive fortifications that the Japanese constructed, including bunkers, pill boxes, trenches and cave complexes. OST Volume 3 adds in two new fortifications that are worth taking a look at.
The Japanese used many natural and man made caves that were fortified for defense against the Americans. A cave is an excellent location to defend as there is typically only one way in and one way out and the cave is nearly impregnable to artillery and naval bombardment.
Units in a Cave gain +3 Defense but there is a maximum of 1 foot unit in a Cave, plus any support weapons and 1 attached Leader. As you would expect, vehicles may not enter Caves. There are some limiting factors for Caves but overall they are not that bad. Caves only have a covered arc of 1 hex. The red triangle on the counter is placed facing a hex side. Ranged fire can only be traced into or out of the Cave on that hexline. Below is an example lifted from the rules. As you can see, the red triangle in pointed toward hex S10 and therefore has a ranged fire line of S10, T10, U9, V9, W8, etc.
Adjacent enemy units can attack into the Cave with close attack and the unit inside can fire back. It costs 1 MP to enter or exit a Cave and the player will place the unit under the Cave counter when it is in the Cave.
Caves will collapse on a single D6 roll of 5 or 6 when attacked by artillery, airstrikes and satchel charges and there is a +1 to the collapse roll when a satchel charge is used. Units located inside are immune to attacks by artillery, mortars and airstrikes with the exception of Napalm. But collapse rolls are still made. Units inside a collapsed Cave are
destroyed. Melee occurs when an enemy unit moves into a hex containing a Cave.
A Trench is a fortification which remains on the battlefield and offers cover to troops to be able to fight from a standing position while minimizing their exposure to enemy fire. A trench adds +2 Defense to any foot unit in the hex with a Trench counter.
New Weapons and Vehicles
With each of the volumes in the OST Series, there are specific weapons and even some tactics (such as Banzai and Starshells in Volume 3) introduced to address the style of the front being covered. OST Volume 3 is no different and there are plenty of new things to explore and use in the Pacific.
The American 37mm M3 Gun and the M3 Stuart Tank both have the option of firing Canister Rounds at enemy foot units at short range. These acted much like a shotgun blast, firing ball bearings to shred enemy infantry. With the addition of the Banzai attack for the Japanese, as well as with the fact that the Japanese don’t have a Gut Check and won’t break or shake in reaction to enemy fire, this new weapon is very important and can be utilized to stop a Banzai charge cold.
Canister Round capability is noted by the underscored HE attack value on counters and can be fired at soft targets up to a maximum of 3 hexes away. The use of Canister Rounds needs to be declared by the US player when used and can be directed at units in 2 contiguous hexes in the weapons covered arc. Below you will see a graphic taken from the rules showing the firing arc of an M3 Gun. As you look at the graphic you will notice that the arc is out to 3 hexes and spreads out as it goes. With a coverage of 15 hexes, this weapon can be used to devastating effect.
When fired, all units in both hexes undergo the attack, and separate attack rolls are made against each target, which is a good thing as it takes out the chance of a bad roll ruining the attack. First, the HE Firepower of 2 listed on the counter is doubled to 4 and then the attack is made against each unit. I know the Firepower number isn’t great but it is better than most infantry units and targets everything in that firing arc. The Canister Rounds may not be fired through friendly units or into Melees from ranged. However, Canister Rounds can be used in Melee as long as at least one enemy unit is a foot unit.
Starshells were rounds fired from mortars and guns to illuminate the battlefield at night to provide more targets. Any unit in the same hex or adjacent to a Starshell counter is visible to all units in LOS and may be attacked by those units. Illuminated units are still limited to night visibility rules. The only limitation on the use of Starshells is whether they are available according to the scenario setup.
Starshells are placed at the start of a turn and last for that turn only and are removed at the turn’s end. At the start of a turn, the player declares how many Starshells are being used and places them on the board. Placement can be anywhere in the playing area and doesn’t require LOS to a target area. The process is pretty simple and starts with an unmodified D6 accuracy roll being made for each counter placed on the board. A roll of 3 or higher is accurate and the counter is left where placed by the player.
If inaccurate, a D6 roll is required for drift direction. A 1 is the hex directly North of the placed counter and follows clockwise around the counter with ascending numbers. This works very similarly to the artillery drift rules. Now a D6 roll divided by 2 determines the number of hexes the shell drifts. with fractions being rounded down. After this process, you will simply move the inaccurate Starshell counter to its new hex. Placement of Starshells has no Impulse Point Cost.
Napalm Air Strikes
In the latter stages of the war in the Pacific, napalm was introduced and used against the Japanese. As we all know, napalm is an incendiary mixture of gasoline and a gelling agent which when dropped by aircraft proved to be a devastating weapon. It costs a player 1 Impulse Point to carry out a Napalm Strike. Napalm Strikes affect only 1 hex.
3. Choose a target hex in LOS of a good order unit. Place a Napalm counter.
A Napalm Strike has some very interesting rules about its process. The attacking player now rolls a D6 to check for pilot quality. A roll of 1-2 and the pilot is considered Green. A roll of 3-5 and the pilot is Veteran. A roll of 6 and the pilot is an Ace. The reason that this matters, is each of these categories will now attack with a different Firepower. A Green pilot attacks with a Firepower of 6. A Veteran pilot attacks with a Firepower of 8. An Ace pilot attacks with a Firepower of 10. The Firepower used in the attack is the same against all target types. Napalm is an area effect weapon, so all units in the target hex are attacked. Separate attack rolls are made against each target in the hex.
Vehicles are hit automatically and resolve the attack against their flank Defense value, which is usually lower than their frontal Defense value. If the target hex contains a vehicle with riders, the vehicle and the riders are attacked separately. Defending units receive all modifiers for terrain and fortifications but Hedges, Stone Walls and Bocage provide no defensive bonus. Hexes with structures check for structure collapse after the attack on the units in the hex. As you can see, Napalm is a very powerful weapon and as such is not always available to the player.
As is the case with each of these new volumes in the OST Series, there are always new things to explore and play with. That is one of the things that I really like with the system; variety. Each scenario is different and there are always plenty of scenarios to play.
In Action Point 2, we will examine the new Japanese playable faction and take a look at their new units, including the Tank Killer and Sapper as well as the Special Naval Landing Forces, and examine their very powerful Banzai Attack.