Band of Heroes 2nd Edition – Board Game Review
Band of Heroes 2nd Edition. Board game. Lock ‘N Load Publishing, LLC. $59.99.
Passed Inspection: Extremely high quality game with stunning map and counters and a very well written rule book. Task cards and event paragraphs provide replay value to scenarios. Plenty of examples help with the learning curve.
Failed Basic: No rules for creating your own scenarios and balancing units. The rules need an index. Combat can be overly complex with too many steps to determine results.
Units such as leaders, chaplains, medics and heroes can help to turn the tide of battle.
Lock ‘N’ Load has become one of the premier publishers of high-quality board war games, and every game they release is usually a cause for rejoicing amongst the board war game fans. Lock ‘N’ Load’s latest release in their World War 2 line is actually an update of their venerable Band of Heroes game from 2005. Rules have been clarified and some other errors corrected.
Published in a glossy, heavy cardstock box, Band of Heroes the 2nd Edition comes complete with over 480 double-sided, pre-scored counters, 16 scenarios, 16 skill cards to augment your heroic single-man characters, six geomorphic maps, a 2nd edition rule book of the Lock ‘N’ Load tactical combat rules, a colorful player’s aid chart and two six-sided dice. The game packaging itself is a stunning work of art and would be just fine standing on your game shelf – but not playing it wouldn’t be any fun, now would it?
The game simulates tactical combat during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. Each unit is either a squad of eight to ten people, one person (a hero, officer, chaplain, medic, etc.), a heavy weapons squad such as a .50-cal MG or an anti-tank gun, or a vehicle such as the Stug III assault gun or a Sherman tank. Each hex on the map equals 50 meters and each turn represents two to four minutes.
Each unit is rated for firepower, morale, movement and in some cases leadership, armor, armor-piercing and high-explosive power. Units compare their stats and then, if a hit is determined, the outcome is cross-referenced on the combat results chart.
The game system gives each player the chance to do something with every move – none of this I move, you move, I attack, you attack – one player moves or attacks with a unit or stack of units and then the other player reacts and moves or attacks. The fast flow keeps all the players hooked into the game.
One of the interesting tenants of the Lock ‘N’ Load game system is that the game is not only a representation of squad and vehicle combat, but individuals can also make a difference. Units such as leaders, chaplains, medics and heroes can help to turn the tide of battle by inspiring their troops or by healing wounded squad members or rallying shaken ones. In one game I played, a medic raced between positions to try and help his fallen team mates who had not only run into a mine field but also into the fire of a German machine-gun team. His tending of wounds helped several squads rally and fight back. Eventually, they overran the machine-gun nest and dealt with the troops manning the gun.
Band of Heroes is recommended for one to two players, but I have played with as many as four and found it a great time. I also played a solitaire version of the scenario "Flash … Thunder!" in which a lone paratrooper whose stick was scattered during their air drop tries to "click clack" his way through the early morning hours of June 6th. Each turn he has a chance to find more members of the 101st Airborne – or, perhaps, run into patrolling German soldiers. In fact, when I played, the hero of the 101st ran into a shot-down P51 pilot and tried to lead him to safety, as well as find the other paratroopers. Unfortunately, the P51 pilot was captured by Lt. Koch and his squads of the 91st German Infantry. Sadly, my hero couldn’t rescue the wounded pilot and had to form up with the rest of his men and leave the town. This solo scenario was just as enjoyable and immersive as any computer game.
What adds so much to Band of Heroes are the Special Scenario Rules, the skill cards that modify the abilities of individual characters, and the Miscellaneous Events built into the game. The downed P51 pilot mentioned above was one such Miscellaneous Event and added a subplot to the "Flash … Thunder!" scenario.
Band of Heroes is not without its flaws. The game could use an index; having to look up a rule during game play can take some time even with the help of the table of contents. Combat seems to be somewhat too complex with too many references to statistics and tables. The game system would also greatly benefit from a "units values or points table" to help players create their own balanced scenarios.
Nonetheless, these are only minor complaints. Band of Heroes the 2nd Edition belongs on the bookshelf in every war gamer’s library. But just remember, don’t just admire the beautifully designed game – take it down and play it, again and again!
About the Author
A college film instructor and Executive Director of Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc., an organization which rescues old movie theaters, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal profession, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War 1 and 2 gamer who can remember war games that came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!