Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blood & Iron review

Blood and Iron is the issue game in Command Magazine No. 21 in 1993.It's a straightforward wargame in the classic style. Two evenly matched armies go toe to toe on an odds-based combat results table, using an IGO-HUGO turn sequence, with combat factor/movement factor units that exercise zones of control. Units are brigades for both armies, every turn represents one hour of fighting and every hex represnts 500 meters of actual ground.

In usual Command Magazine fashion the game hangs some special chrome rules on its basic standard wargame structure to provide a reasonably authentic portrayal of the decisive battle of the 1866 war between Austria and Prussia.

The 1/2-inch unit counters are functional and easy to read. The anachronistic NATO-style unit symbols are color-coded to designate which Army (Prussian 1st, 2nd or Elbe; Austrian North, Saxon or optional South) the unit belongs to. The background colors are based on the traditional uniform colors of the two sides, field grey for the Prussians and white for the Austrians.

The most important chrome rule has to do with leadership. The Prussian leaders are assumed to be efficient and competent, allowing the whole Prussian army to operate without command problems unless completely cut off from friendly lines. The Austian side is a different story. The fractious and politicized Austrian high command is depicted with a leader counter for every corps, and the Army leader Benedek. In order for Austrian units to operate at full effectiveness they must be within command range of their corps leader (2-4 hexes) and that leader has to pass a command control check on a two-dice roll (usually a 7 or less, although some poor leaders need a 5 or less). In addition, if the command roll is high enough (usually a 12, although for one leader its 11 and another it's 10) the [i]Prussian[/i] player gets to move that corps!

Victory is assessed through accumulated victory points. Most are scored for eliminating enemy units, but some geographic points are also worth points to one side or the other.

The game includes scenarios for the historical battle (either the morning only or the whole day); an earlier start (5 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.); or an Austrian offensive. In addition, there are two variants presented. The variants assume the Austrians sent their best general (Archduke Albert) to the key front instead of wasting him in Italy and add either him alone, or him and his South Army, to the Austrian OB.

Set up is semi-free deployment off a list, taking about 20-30 minutes. The 5-turn morning battle can be easily played in an evening, while playing the longest 16-turn early start scenario may take two evenings or a sSaturday afternoon to finish.


(Yes) for Wargamers: A good, solid, old-style battle game.

(No) for collectors: Nothing special

(No) for Eurogamers: An old-style hex-and-counter battle game.

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