We love tactical wargames. The small units, moving around the board, trying to outflank their enemy. Always a very interesting experience. And even though there are a bunch of different systems out there, there is always a new designer that will add some new tricks to make a new experience. Such is the case with Assault Red Horizon 41, which is Volume 1 in a planned series of tactical level wargames in which players lead units into battle during Operation Barbarossa covering the period of June through October 1941. This game made my Top 10 Wargames of 2021! coming in at #3 and we really enjoyed our plays of the game and have been looking forward to the planned expansions. With the first expansion nearing publishing, we reached back out to the designer Wolfgang Klein to discuss what we could expect in the Tactical Air & Artillery Support Expansion.
We published a full interview with Wolfgang on the base game of Red Horizon 41 in late 2020 and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2020/12/22/interview-with-wolfgang-klein-designer-of-assault-red-horizon-41-from-assault-games-currently-on-kickstarter/
Grant: What is your new expansion for Assault Red Horizon 41 called? What is the focus of the expansion?
Wolfgang: Our new expansion is called: Tactical Air and (off board) Artillery Support. The expansion, (combined into the acronym TA/OAS for convenience), is an optional expansion that can be included with the base game. It introduces two new elements into the Assault Game System:
As well as infantry, artillery and vehicle units provided in the base game, players are now able to add in air and artillery support to fight their battles. The air and artillery support refers to:
Tactical Air Support (TAS)
Off-board Artillery Support (OAS)
Players are also able to use the blast values which were included on the unit cards of the base game, (ready for this expansion to become available).
Grant: How does this game fit into the existing structure of the system?
Wolfgang: The prerequisite for using this extension is, of course, that the players play with the optional rules of the Command Cards. Integrating the Tactical Air Support and Off-board Artillery Support into Assault Red Horizon 41 is relatively straightforward. This is done through the set of TA/OAS cards that are provided with the expansion. This extension can be easily integrated into any existing Red Horizon 41 scenarios. There is a corresponding description in the rule book.
These TAS/OAS cards are treated as Command Cards. They also have the same back as the Command Cards from Red Horizon 41. Before the start of a game, in the setup phase, the corresponding TAS/OAS cards are then shuffled into the Command Card Deck. This gives the Assault Game System a little more deck building character and strengthens the role of the Command Cards.
Playing these TA/OAS Command Cards in the game is very different from the other Command Cards. The Command Cards in Assault Red Horizon 41 can, for example, give bonus dice, improve certain unit characteristics or annoy the opponent with malice. A TA/OAS card starts a small mini-game, for example, the approaching fighter bomber that can also be repelled or artillery strikes with different fire modes.
Grant: Are there plans to continue adding these type of modular expansions?
Wolfgang: Yes, definitely. With the Assault Game System, we have created a very modular game that is just waiting to be expanded. If our players have noticed, we don’t have any trench and bunker positions in Red Horizon 41 as of yet. Features like weather and fog of war are still missing. But we can also add a lot more to the terrain – like destructible bridges, higher mountains and buildings. We are thinking about new campaigns, unit packs and new locations for campaigns but also leaders and commanders with appropriate skills and troops.
The goal is to allow our players to decide for themselves how complex they want the system to be so this leaves room for lots of additional content. That is why we will continue along this path of optional expansions.
Our players are also welcome to contribute their own ideas. For example, in our first errata document (to be found on the Assault Red Horizon 41 BGG page) we also have the chapter with optional rules. If there are good ideas for this, they will be examined and perhaps implemented in a new expansion or a new rule version.
Grant: What types of air and artillery support are included in the expansion?
Wolfgang: For TAS, we have integrated tactical bombers (Tupolev SB, Junkers 88A), ground attack (Iljuschin IL-2 “Sturmovik”), fighter-bombers (Polikarpov I-16, Bf-110C, Bf-109e) and dive bombers (Junkers 87D “Stuka”). Mortar batteries (120mm, 81mm), howitzers (152mm, 150mm, 105mm) and guns (76.2mm) are now available as OAS.
Grant: How did you ensure the new additions were historically accurate? What sources did you consult to include the various types of air and artillery support involved on the East Front?
Wolfgang: So with this expansion, it was important from a historical point of view that the weapon systems introduced were also available in the period where Red Horizon 41 is set. Erich and I like to research this in books, on the internet and also in digital wargames. In the meantime, our bookshelves contain a multitude of data sources and data lists on the various aircraft, artillery pieces, tanks and infantry weapons of that time. When it comes to the Order of Battle, I like to refer to George F. Nafziger or archive documents.
For example, I regularly use the two volumes Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-1945 by Fritz Hahn for researching German weapon systems like Artillery. Online I use various sources starting with Wikipedia or e.g. the Lexikon der Wehrmacht where a lot of information about Order of Battle, operational locations etc. is collected.
Grant: Why did you include the Blast Values on the base game’s unit cards? How are these values now used in the expansion?
Wolfgang: We had already included thoughts of this expansion in the design of Red Horizon 41. It was clear to us that we would also need this blast function at a later stage.
The Blast Value is intended to represent the explosive force of a specific caliber of weapon. That is why there are different dice depending on the size of the caliber. With this extension, it is now possible to bring down a building by firing at it with a corresponding caliber.
In the game the Blast Values come into play if, during a ranged attack, there was an attack roll with an uncancelled critical hit symbol. The active player now rolls the blast value dice from the TA/OAS command card or unit card. The defending player rolls the strongest terrain defense bonus die of the building as set out in the terrain chart.
Grant: What elements and components are included in the expansion?
Wolfgang: In this expansion we have included:
- 20 page TA/OAS Rule Set
- 2 double sided TA/OAS Player Aids
- 48 TA/OAS Cards
- Punch board Markers for Terrain Damage and Ruins Marker
Grant: Can you show us a few Tactical Air Support cards and explain how these assets are used?
Wolfgang: Here you can see a TAS Command Card for the Bf-109e in fighter-bomber configuration. The structure of the card is similar to that of the unit cards in Red Horizon 41. This map shows all the essential information on the use of air support. You can see here that this fighter-bomber arrives during the action phase and carries out its attack. The BF-109e has an advantage due to its agility and that is that a heavy air defense weapon has a more difficult time hitting this plane. The card also shows that the BF-109e flies two attacks. Historically, we simulate here the dropping of the bomb and a bombardment with machine guns.
Here you can see the Junkers 87D “Stuka” dive bomber. In contrast to the Bf-109e, it has only one attack but it is very powerful. The main focus of the Stuka is, of course, historically correct, the engagement of point targets such as armored vehicles. From the different blast cube color (green is weaker than red) you can see that the Stuka carries a much stronger bomb load. We have also given the Stuka its blood-curdling siren sound “Jericho Trumpets” as a special ability.
Grant: How do players use the TAS cards? How much hidden information is kept from the opponent when using them?
Wolfgang: If a player wishes to use Tactical Air Support during a turn, they must request it during the Planning Phase. They need to meet certain requirements to do this. Firstly, they must have a TAS card in their hand of Command Cards. Secondly, (if playing the optional Command Points), they must assign a Command Point to the TAS card. If they aren’t playing with the optional Command Points, they can just play the TAS card.
Either way, the card should be placed face down in front the player ready for that turn. This card should be visible to their opponent so they know that TA/OAS will be used against them this turn, but without knowing exactly what type of TA/OAS it will be.
After that the active player, who requested TAS, must identify the unit they wish to target and announce this to their opponent. This gives their opponent an opportunity to defend against the TAS.
If the TAS doesn’t suffer any damage or is not subject to any AA fire, then the active player needs to resolve the effects of its attack. This should follow the procedure listed below:
TAS Spotting: The active player must first perform a spotting roll for the TAS. For this the active player rolls a D6 on the TAS spotting table. This roll can be modified by Command Cards or special abilities of the TAS undertaking the attack. Vehicles in clear, road or bridge hexes. They are automatically spotted, and treated as if a Accuracy +1 has been rolled.
The spotting roll will either be a success, which means no modifier is applied to the TAS accuracy roll, or it will give a modifier to the accuracy roll. Players should make a note of any modifiers to be applied.
- TAS Accuracy: The active player must now roll a D6 for the accuracy of the TAS attack, applying any modifier received as a result of their spotting roll. The result of this roll is then cross-referenced with the status of the defending unit. This will tell the inactive player whether their unit will receive an additional defense die, and of which type, against the TAS attack. If the TAS Accuracy roll is a 1 or less, (after any relevant modifiers have been applied), and there is at least one friendly unit, (friendly to the TAS), in any of hexes adjacent to the hex of the target unit a friendly fire attack will take place.
- TAS Attack Result: To determine the result of the TAS attack, the active player rolls their attack dice as set out on the TAS card shown to the left. The defending player rolls their defense dice and the results got compared just as they would have been compared in Red Horizon 41.
- TAS Versus Buildings: If a target is located inside a building and a critical hit remains after the defense roll process is completed, a dice probe is made with the Blast Value. Depending on the result of this dice probe, the building may collapse or additional other effects may be triggered as a result of the roll.
Grant: What defense do players have versus TAS? How does this work?
Wolfgang: The best part of this expansion is that there is always a defensive opportunity for players to react to any attack resulting from a TAS/OAS card. The non-active player will always have an opportunity to interrupt the TAS before it attacks if they have an unactivated unit with a unit class of AA, which stands for Anti-Aircraft, and this unit is located within the range of this target hex. Here is a representative AA class unit.
The active player should allow a reasonable time for them to do this. If the non-active player cannot identify any AA unit or does not wish to use one, they should say “pass” and the attack commences. Once they have said “pass”, the non-active player can no longer interrupt. The range of the AA is the number of hexes from the AA unit to the hex being targeted by the TAS. For the range bands, (calculating whether the AA unit is firing at close, medium, or long range), players should use the unit’s range as stated on the unit card.
This is the range versus infantry and artillery, not versus vehicles, (if they are different). The non-active player may then activate an AA unit to attempt to repel the TAS. The non-active player can continue to attempt this until the TAS is beaten off, or they have no AA units left to use, or they no longer wish to attempt an AA attack roll. Any AA unit activated to do AA fire is given a Firing status marker and considered activated for the turn.
The Activation of AA units costs a Command Point. It is not a free action.
Once players have determined whether the AA unit is firing at close, medium, or long range, they should cross reference range with the Blast Value of the AA unit (stated on its unit card). This results in the attack dice the AA unit will be rolling against the TAS. The facing of the AA unit is irrelevant for AA fire.
Grant: Can you show us a few examples of Anti-Aircraft cards that are included?
Wolfgang: We have already integrated the AA units in Red Horizon 41 in preparation for this expansion. More cards will follow in the next expansions.
Grant: What happens when TAS attack is on a building? How does this get marked on the game board?
Wolfgang: Yes, if a target is in a building and a critical hit remains after the defense roll, a dice probe is made with the Blast Value. Depending on the result of this probe, the building may collapse or other effects may be triggered. If a building collapses the player marks this with one ruin marker on the map.
Grant: How is Off-Board Artillery Support different? What advantages does it have?
Wolfgang: The difference between TAS and OAS is that TAS does not require a spotter, but the target unit must first be sighted by the pilot, which can lead to inaccuracies or even friendly fire. TAS can also be repelled by AA units. OAS, on the other hand, is not. The OAS cards are somewhat stronger and have different fire modes, but they require an additional unit as a spotter to guide the artillery.
Grant: What different Off-Board Artillery Support modes are there? How does each function in the game?
Wolfgang: OAS is treated as indirect fire and has four different fire modes available for its two attacks. The owning player can decide, within certain restrictions, the fire mode for each attack. This means that a player may change modes between the first and second attack, (except fire for effect).
Fire modes available:
- Smoke screen: OAS can fire smoke shells to prevent enemy units from observing what their opponents are doing. Each OAS card has a number of smoke dice. These are rolled and can then place the Smoke Screen over a total of three adjacent hexes.
- Suppressive Fire: OAS fires suppressive fire by scattering salvos to stop as many enemy units as possible. This will inflict less damage points but make it more likely that a unit will be suppressed. Suppressive fire is applicable to: infantry units, tank riders, artillery units and unarmored vehicles. When resolving suppressive fire, the owning player performs suppressive fire on two adjacent hexes. This is done by them splitting their attack dice as equally as possible into two groups. The player must assign each of the two groups to one target field. In addition, he takes the die for the blast value to each group. If the firing unit does not have a blast value die, the player always adds one blue die. The strength of the dice, (strength is determined by their colour), that go into each group is entirely up to the owning player. Each hex will then be attacked using one of the groups of dice, (owning player’s choice). The player using the OAS can decide which of the two hexes it affects.
- Fire Support: This is treated as a normal ranged indirect fire attack using the attack dice set out on the OAS card, with one exception; it can be used as reaction fire. When used as reaction fire, it is triggered when moving unit enters a hex.
- Fire For Effect: Fire for Effect means the OAS is concentrating its fire for maximum effect having already identified the range etc… to the target. Although the OAS still has to be planned for in the planning phase, any OAS that wishes to do fire for effect does not receive a first attack in the support phase. Instead, it receives only its second attack, which must take place in the action phase. However, the benefit of fire for effect is that the owning player may re-roll two of the attack dice if they wish to. The spotting procedure must still be followed, so a unit will have to spot for the “first attack” in the support phase, (see design note). A spotter is not required for the “second attack”, as the range etc… is already established. Design Note: The first attack when using fire for effect with OAS, is the artillery firing a few exploratory shells to get the correct range to the targeted hex. Rather than bring in complicated rules for these exploratory shots, this is just abstracted out by not calculating any effects for it.
- Bombardment: If a player wishes to destroy a building or reduce some fortifications with artillery then it may undertake a bombardment. This is where the blast die comes into play again. The aim of the OAS is to attack the point target building – which can also be empty. If the attack roll contains a critical hit, the building can collapse. The special feature of the Bombardment mode is that the OAS player may repeat the Blast roll.
Grant: What are Crater counters used for? How do they effect the battlefield?
Wolfgang: The crater markers are used to visually represent damage to the terrain or buildings.
These terrain overlays have their own characteristics which are shown on the TA/OAS player aid. For example, infantry units on a free hex with craters now get a better defense bonus and vehicles are slowed down by craters
Grant: Can you show us a few Off-Board Artillery Support cards and explain how these assets are used?
Wolfgang: Below you see an OAS card called “Artillery Strike!”. In this case it is the support of a 105mm Howitzer Battery of the German Wehrmacht. This battery has good combat values against soft targets such as infantry or artillery. The Accuracy Modifier tells us that this battery has no loss of accuracy on the second artillery strike. Unlike the original Command Cards, OAS has an arrival time stated on its OAS card, not an activation time.
OAS is treated as conducting indirect fire like in Red Horizon 41 but the rules surrounding how their fire attacks are resolved is treated differently. Where there is any contradiction, the rules in the expansion take precedence. The main differences are as follows:
- OAS may conduct two attacks (salvos) during a game turn (exception: Fire for Effect)
- OAS always require a spotter
- OAS attacks (even when not firing smoke) automatically cause one smoke marker to be placed on the target hex (simulating a mixture of smoke and dust)
- Defender losses the weakest defence die against an OAS attack
The first attack by an OAS is always during the arrival time as stated on its OAS card. This will usually be the support phase.
The second attack can be conducted whenever a player decides during the action phase, including as a reaction fire. For the second attack the active player can also shift, (‘walk’), the attack from the targeted hex to any hex, up to a two hex distance. For each hex the fire is shifted, the accuracy roll gets -1 modifier.
If a player wishes to use Off-board Artillery Support during a turn, they must request it during the Planning Phase. They need to meet certain requirements to do this.
Firstly, they must have an OAS card that allows for Off-board Artillery Support (OAS) in their hand of Command Cards.
Secondly, if playing the optional Command Points), they must assign a Command Point to the OAS card. If they aren’t playing with the optional Command Points, they can just play the OAS card.
Either way, the card should be placed face down in front of the player ready for that turn. This card should be visible to their opponent so they know that TA/OAS will be used against them this turn, but without knowing exactly what type of TA/OAS it will be.
Arrival of OAS: If the OAS can do a second attack, the targeted hex for the first attack is marked with a waypoint marker. This will act as an aide memoire when calculating spotting for the second attack.
Spotting The Target for First and Second Attacks: OAS always requires a unit to act as an unactivated unit to act as a spotter for their attacks. A spotting unit can be Infantry or Artillery. Vehicles cannot spot for OAS. However, there is no spotting roll needed for OAS, as it is the hex that is being targeted, not the individual unit in it. The spotting unit must have a LOS that isn’t blocked, to the hex the OAS wishes to target.
Choose OAS Fire Mode: The player selects the firing mode of the OAS.
Accuracy Roll: After the owning player has decided the fire mode for their attack they must roll a D6 for the accuracy of the OAS. Some OAS units get an accuracy modifier for the second attack. Players should check the OAS card for this. The result of the accuracy roll can give the defending unit an additional defence die. If the OAS Accuracy roll is a 1 or less, after any relevant modifiers have been applied, and there are one or more friendly units in any hexes adjacent to the hex of the target unit a friendly fire attack will take place.
Determine Attack Result: To determine the OAS attack result, now the OAS player rolls his attack dice according to the OAS unit card. The defending unit receives all the normal defense dice plus modifications. In addition to the damage or destruction of units, the result can also be the destruction of buildings or terrain.
Grant: What scenarios are included in the expansion?
Wolfgang: We have designed four new scenarios for the expansion. They are all set in the period from June to September 1941, i.e. at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, and of course in the same timeline as Red Horizon 41. We have developed these scenarios primarily in order to be able to learn the TA/OAS expansion well.
One scenario, “Call in Support!”, is about the region south-east of Bialystock, where a German advance unit has to defend a village with a crossroads from a Russian counterattack. The German forces are supported by the Luftwaffe.
Another exciting scenario takes place in September 1941 about 20km south-east of Kamenskoje. There, a heavily beaten unit of the Mot. Division “Viking” has to hold a bridgehead over the Dnejpr.
Then there is another scenario where the German forces have to occupy an airfield and the fourth scenario is about the occupation of a village by the German Wehrmacht.
Grant: How were these scenarios designed to highlight these new TAS/OAS cards?
Wolfgang: Anyone who has already played Red Horizon 41 knows how close the scenarios are decided. For us it was clear that the TA/OAS expansion must be an important expansion of the tactical possibilities for the players in the Assault Game System. However, this also means that TA or OA support must not be present in every game turn (even this wouldn’t be realistic resp. history). TA or OAS may tip the scales in the battle, but not decide the battle for itself.
To come back to the question. We have defined three of the scenarios in such a way that there is a good probability of getting TA/OA support. And in the fourth scenario, the one with the “Viking” unit and the bridgehead, the success of the mission is clearly dependent on the use of TA/OAS. That is why we have built in a high probability of air and artillery strikes there.
Grant: When can players expect the expansion to be available for pre-order? When do you believe the product will be ready?
Wolfgang: The pre-order page is ready. Players can find it here: Webshop with pre-order page
My personal plan says that I would like to have this expansion available in the warehouse by the end of October or November 2022 at the latest. But to be honest, this can also be delayed, as we are of course dependent on the supply chain.
Grant: What other expansions are you working on?
Wolfgang: In fact, we work, at intervals, on different themes. The logical question is always what comes next?
At this point I would like to emphasize that the main burden of development is borne by my friend Erich, to whom I am very grateful, and me. Of course there are one or two temporary supporters, but in principle the design team consists of two men.
But I am already digressing from the question.
Since the beginning of 2022, we have been working on the theme of Sicily 1943 “Operation Husky” and the first things have already been implemented, such as locations, unit lists (order of battle) and values. Our artist Ingrid and her husband Michael are also already working on the artwork.
At the same time, we are thinking about how to further develop Red Horizon 41. After all, Operation Barbarossa has only just begun. There is a lot of different things we want to bring to our tables.
And if we look even further into the future, we have something very innovative and big planned – but I don’t want to reveal anything about that yet.
Grant: What are the tentative release schedule for these future expansions?
Wolfgang: If I answer specifically here, Erich will strangle me…. We can’t quite foresee the timeline for Sicily 43 yet. But we have already talked about trying to set something up at the end of 2023 to 2024. But you can find out more about that on various channels, e.g. Board Game Geek, our Assault Games website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or directly from me.
Here is a short introduction video about this expansion for your readers on YouTube:
Thanks for your time in answering our questions Wolfgang and thank you for your great tactical game. We wish you luck in your future design endeavors and we eagerly await our opportunity to call in air support and off board artillery on the battlefield!
If you are interested in Assault Red Horizon 41 Expansion Tactical Air & Artillery Support, you can pre-order a copy from the Assault Games website at the following link: https://www.assault-games.com/en/produkt/red-horizon-41-ta-oas-expansion/