Monday, 6 August 2012

Point Blank WW2

This Sunday Kelvin and I got together to play some WW2. It has been a long, long time since I played WW2. Getting on for nearly two years. We played Point Blank, which is a derivative of Disposable Heroes from Iron Ivan Games, which I've played a couple of times. PB uses the DH mechanics, but zeroes in from platoon level to squad level, where you have to activate your soldiers on a man-by-man basis.

In PB each squad has an assigned number of activation counters based on the Guts score of their squad leader - usually a sergeant. This gets eroded as the squad takes losses. Each counter can be used once per turn to give a soldier three action points which can be used to move, shoot, climb walls, throw grenades, etc., in any combination. You can even activate the same soldier more than once.

We played with two squads each, Germans (Kelvin) versus Soviets (me), Eastern Front 1945 (some of the Germans were toting StG 44s). I've managed to expand my urban battlefield, and it was looking pretty nifty. Could easily be the suburbs of Berlin, April 1945.

The scenario was loosely based on one in the rule book, transplanted from Normandy to Berlin. Five buildings were nominated as tactical objectives. Units scored +5 VPs for each. Two were relatively easy for each side to claim, with the remaining trio in a contested zone. We would also score VPs for inflicting losses on the other side.

Battlefield at start - from the German side

Kelvin was fast out of the stocks, running one of his squads across an open square to seize one of the central buildings before I could get to it. This was a sound move. A Soviet LMG managed to set up on a roof top and demonstrated what can happen to soldiers in the open in a WW2 game, killing one German and scattering the squad.

Germans making a dash for the target building.

By this stage the Germans had claimed one building, while the Russians had two. I then went on to occupy a third, but this was really my high point in the game. I only had one soldier in this building, and I was having constant problems keeping my men inside the zone of command of the NCOs. You don't have enough tokens in this game to do everything, and you need some to help rally shaken troops (remove pin counters) and bring up additional men.

Germans on the roof facing one Russian squad

The Germans used a side alley to sneak up on one of the Russian-held buildings and got a lucky hit on the defender, before storming in. After that, they held on grimly. I finally decided to storm the building - mainly to test out the close combat rules - which proved pretty deadly. I lost both soldiers in the storming party, including the squad leader, with two Germans KIA as well.

A Russian tries to lay down covering fire.

On the other side of the table, two Russians had managed to get across a street next to the central target building held by the Germans. However, at this point Kelvin took the critical decision to site one of his MG42s on the roof of the house, laying down heavy fire and preventing any more Russians from crossing the street. This was so potent that both my squad leaders on this side of the board were hit. The Soviets simply could not get any more men over to support the two privates and so they had to storm the building on their own.

Close quarter fighting - a Russian corporal makes a bid for his Order of Lenin.

In close quarters combat the bolt action Mosin Nagant rifle is nowhere near as good as an StG 44 handled by a German corporal.

"Knock, knock! Anybody home?"

By this stage in the game I was running out of options. Both Russian squad leaders were dead/wounded. The Germans were ensconced in two buildings, with an MG42 in each. I had one activation counter per turn for one squad, and three for the other, so in terms of momentum they were pretty well spent. We had set a 10 turn limit for the game and this seemed to work fairly well. Kelvin won the game 26-14. I have to say I suck at WW2 games - I have yet to be on the winning side for one.


Point Blank plays very similarly to DH, and anyone who knows their DH will find much that is familiar with PB. We both found grenades to be very ineffective in this game. Soldiers were regularly lobbing grenades into buildings and getting hardly any result from it. Because we were fighting in a built up area, most soldiers in buildings had high cover modifiers that could soak up suppression results, and even made MG fire relatively useless. A full round of firing from a Soviet LMG against an enemy occupied house would equal 12d10 and you'd be lucky to get a suppression result out of that.

Soviet rifle squad moves into position.

Most of the casualties suffered came when soldiers were out in the open, frequently as the result of opportunity fire. You need to stay alert in this game, as you have to be aware of where your fire lanes are and when enemy soldiers cross them, so that you can Snap Fire them. I think a house rule should be introduced that once a move is declared you can't take it back - i.e. if an enemy declares Snap Fire as you move a soldier, you can't change your mind and reduce his move/change direction. Fighting in built up areas is inherently risky, and that's part of the risk.

My other Soviet squad.

We played an infantry only game, as I didn't want to make it too complicated. I wonder whether tanks and/or off-table artillery would make a difference? One can be tempted to simply park LMGs in good positions and then spend the rest of the game blasting away in the hopes of getting a lucky shot. Storming a house directly seems to be the way forwards in urban battles, but also bloody. You need to gather enough troops together to do it - one or two is not enough. At this level, you probably get one chance per squad to storm one building in a game.

PB introduces differences in training and experience, which don't exist in regular DH. We played with trained squads on both sides, so there weren't major differences here.

The only other thing I'd say is that PB probably should be restricted to one squad per player if you want a fast game. We had time to spend almost five hours on it, but with one squad a piece it is playable in less - say two hours if you are familiar with the game? I might play it again with one squad per side. You could also play it as a multi-player game, with each player controlling a single squad.


  1. I seem to have much better luck with modern or near-modern warfare!

    I liked this game, and the granular nature wasn't as cumbersome as I'd first feared. I think I do prefer the abstract elegance of Force on Force, but I'd still play this again.

  2. Good to see the old scenery getting out on the table from time to time... suppose I ought to do *something* with the British Para platoon I've partially painted.

    I'm surprised about grenades being ineffective; along with SMGs they were about the only reliable way of conducting house-to-house fighting in WW2. Personally I'd see the modifier increased if the grenade is lobbed in through a window or door - the percussive effect contained in a room is much greater.

    What I ultimately disliked about DH is that it didn't have any reducing stats for tiredness etc - troops just sprint about all day long with stopping for a breather. Does PB accommodate this?