|Tac Air and Honneur et Patrie|
Tac Air is an old school AH game about the coordination of tactical airpower and ground forces. It is very much a product of its era. The setting is late Cold War near the border between East and West Germany with the VII Corps facing off against the Soviets. I have played the basic game several times now and it is quite exciting, especially when the aircraft - the real stars of the game - show up and wreak havoc on the battlefield. The game successfully highlights how airpower can be a real game changer if used correctly. One of the great things about the game is that you can not only target frontline units but you can (and definitely should) go for the softer targets to the enemy's rear. Quite often, it's more effective and easier to just hit an enemy's supply trucks with a single aircraft rather than send in an entire squadron to hit enemy tanks.
|Tac Air - Soviets push towards their objectives.|
In my first play of the basic game, however, there was no supply or enemy HQ to really worry about. This was just a slugfest between armor, helos, and infantry all for the sake of a little three hex town in West Germany, just a stone's throw from the inter-German border. Despite some stiff opposition from NATO tanks, the Soviets punched a corridor through a forest just north of the town. During the air phase, two MiG-29s wandered onto the battlefield and pounced a pair of A-10s going for a run at a platoon of T-72s. Two F-16s tried in vain to help them but had to abort as Russian SAM and AAA was too heavy. This kept the Americans away from the Soviet armor for much of the rest of the game and although the Soviets took some losses, they captured the three hex town by the end of turn 5, much to the alarm of NATO.
I broke out Honneur et Patrie this morning and I was immediately impressed by the quality of the product. HetP is an expansion for Lock 'n Load Publishing's "Heroes of the Gap". Based on a fictitious (of course) WW3 that happened in 1985, HetP adds in the French to the mix. HetP uses the map boards from "Heroes of the Blitzkrieg" so the player can battle it out in the West German countryside.
The scenarios are pretty nicely written and the variety of vehicles and weapons breathe new life into the game. Whereas the numerically superior but less well-equipped Soviets were up against powerful American M1 Abrams tanks in Heroes of the Gap, the Russians find themselves at a distinct advantage against the smaller French AMX armored vehicles.
|HetP - Plays nicely and looks good on your table, too.|
The real star of HetP, however, is the artwork. David Julien did a simply stunning job of bringing this expansion to life. The scenario booklet, in full color, features a picture above each scenario title that makes you want to jump in and start playing. Then there are the units themselves. The images of leaders, heroes, and squads are so vivid and colorful that they almost seem to jump off the counters and introduce themselves to you. It is a beautiful game and though I know it is an unfair comparison to a 25 year old game, it just goes to show you how far gaming art has come since the days of Tac Air. Not only do many people expect games to play well these days, they also need to look good while doing it.
The first scenario of Honneur et Patrie, called "First Blood", features a kind of meeting engagement between the French and Soviets in West Germany during the opening days of the war. The Soviet objective is to clear the area around a road intersection of any French troops or vehicles. The Soviets get 3 T-72s, some BTRs, and two platoons of soldiers to get the job done while the French get some light APCs, a tank, and about the same number of men to spoil the Russian plan. It's a smaller scenario that seems to favor the French at first - but when the T-72s entered on turn 3, they made short work of my French APCs while the two Soviet leaders managed to isolate and surround three squads on the southern part of the board and make short work of them. Things ended by Turn 6 with a stunning French defeat.
I'm looking forward to getting both of these games on my table once again. The advanced rules for Tac Air look like they add lots to the game - with artillery, weather, supply, and command to consider. Honneur et Patrie, I think, will take some time to get better with the French. Today, I discovered rather quickly that you cannot have the French fight like the Americans or you will lose badly.