A Test of Mettle – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: High solitaire playability. Great fun and high replay value.
Failed Basic: Some rules confusion. Rules needed one more editing pass to catch some typos. Box doesn’t hold together.
A Test of Mettle is another game in High Flying Dice Games’ (HDFG) new “Professional Edition” of war games. These games feature higher quality components and a box with a counter tray included, as opposed to the “zip-lock bag” games usually released by HDFG.
A Test of Mettle covers three battles on the Western Front from 1944. The first is “Patton’s Finest,” which is the July 4, 1944, battle of Arracourt. The second is “Revanche!” which covers the July 1944 engagements of Free French 2nd Armored Division forces at the Battle of Dompaire. The last of the battles is called “Tough Hombres” and covers the September 8 night and day fighting of the TO Division (made up of Texas and Oklahoma national guard forces) as they attempted to hold Patton’s left flank against a German counterattack.
The game features attractive, die-cut, full-color counters, three nice-looking maps, rules for each battle, a handy card stock terrain effects chart, a die and a box that incorporates a counter tray.
A Test of Mettle is a company-level game where each unit is ten to twenty vehicles or artillery and each infantry unit is approximately 150 to 200 soldiers. Each hex is a third of a mile across and each turn represents from 45 minutes to one hour and a half.
Each turn of the game follows an interesting format, beginning with a dice roll to determine the weather.
Initiative is based upon a chit system. Each force has its unit standard on a chit. The German chits are placed in one cup, Allied chits in another. Each player takes a turn pulling chits from the cups, and the unit drawn can move or attack. I did have a problem trying to figure out which tank counters belonged to which unit so I had to fudge the game a little by allowing armor to move or attack in place of another formation. This could have been explained a little better.
Unit movement can be influenced by weather, terrain and the unit’s ability to “double time” its movement. If you “double time,” that unit may not attack and is more vulnerable to damage from being attacked.
Ranged combat is based on a comparison of the unit’s Fire Combat Factor combined with modifiers and a die roll. Artillery and air attacks are very easy and elegantly handled as well.
In fact, elegance and ease of use are the main features of this game. If the game mechanics themselves have any flaws, it’s that some rules do need clarification. Also, more rules should have been encapsulated on the charts to reduce page flipping. Additionally, a few typos crept in to the rules, and an editorial note “… check the spelling on this …” was inadvertently left in the final published version.
The types of armor available require different tactics depending on whether you are leading a tank or tank destroyer company into combat. Tank companies include M-4 Shermans, M-3 Stuarts, M-18 tank destroyers, M-7 Priests, and M-8 armored cars on the Allied side. The German’s armor includes Panthers, Pz IVs, Jagpanzer IVs, Stug IIIs and halftracks, but no Tigers.
The box is plastic and incorporates the counter tray. When the box is supposedly closed, it does have a tendency to come open and spill counters out. This necessitates the box being rubber banded together. I would have preferred the box lid to fit a little tighter and the components contained within a large zip-lock bag.
The game itself features very easy but tension-filled play. The seesaw between both sides allows each battle to be played again and again without the same events occurring each time. A Test of Mettle offers very good solitaire play, with the activation system adding nice surprises to the flow of the action.
A Test of Mettle is fine game for both the beginning and the advanced wargamer to enjoy. An average game only takes about three hours to complete, making it great for a rainy afternoon.
Armchair General Rating: 85 %
Solitaire Rating: 4
About the Author A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!