Bloody Hell – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Beautiful maps, components and well-written rules, all produced on a limited budget. High solitaire playability. Great fun and high replay value. Counter tray, die cut counters and a die is included.
Failed Basic: Some rules need clarification. Assault rules and armor facing rules seem counterintuitive. The boxed set needs to be enclosed in a large zip lock bag so that it holds together better.
Discovering games from new, small companies such as High Flying Dice Games (HFDG) is one of the greatest joys of my career as a game reviewer. I previously reviewed HFDG’s Pearl Harbor game Day of Infamy, which comes in a zip-lock bag and costs under 10 bucks. It took me back to the good old days of wargames that came in plastic zip-lock bags, plastic bubble packs or small cardboard boxes and cost $2.99. In addition to its low-cost, no-frills games, HFDG offers a series of boxed games that come complete with counter trays, die cut counters and dice. Bloody Hell is the flagship of this new Professional Series and, although more expensive than HFDG’s series of zip-lock games, it is well worth the price.
Bloody Hell covers two British and Canadian operations during the Allied attempt to break out of the Normandy area. The first is Operation Goodwood, which was conducted from the 18th to the 20th of July 1944 when British and Canadian troops tried to push their armored forces through layers of defending German infantry and armor. The operation cost the Allies many casualties and seriously crippled the British armored forces for the short term, destroying almost two-thirds of the British tanks allocated to the operation.
The second operation covered by the game is Operation Spring, a Canadian attack that took place from July 25th to 27th, 1944. That operation succeeded in pulling German forces away from the unfolding American Operation Cobra that finally succeeded in allowing the Allies to break out of the Normandy beachhead.
Bloody Hell is an operational level game where each unit is one to twenty vehicles or a battalion (300 to 1,200 men) of infantry or artillery. Each hex is 300 meters across and each turn is one hour.
Each game turn follows an interesting format. First, players roll to determine the weather, which tends to be either rainy or overcast (as is historically accurate), but sometimes the Allies get lucky and the storm clouds clear, allowing for tactical air support.
Initiative is determined by dice roll, then the units are activated based on a chit draw. Each force has its unit standard on a chit; the German chits are placed in one cup, Allied chits in another. Chits for random events are also added to the mix for each side. Random events include extra turns for battalions, snafus that can upset even your best-planned attacks. There’s even a Wittman Strikes event, which allows the famous panzer ace Michael Wittman to activate and help out his 1/101st SS Panzer Company teammates.
Each player takes a turn pulling chits from the cups. A unit chit allows that unit to move or attack. A random event chit affects the player’s turn as indicated by the event.
Unit movement can be influenced by weather, terrain and the units ability to “double time” its movement. If you double time, that unit may not attack and is more vulnerable to damage if it is attacked.
Ranged combat is based on a comparison of the units’ Fire Combat Factor combined with modifiers and a die roll. Close Combat is based on the units’ Close Combat Values, which are compared and then a die roll is made on the Close Combat Table. Artillery and air attacks are very easy and eloquently handled as well.
In fact, ease of use is the main feature of this game, but some rules do need clarification. In the course of the game, it’s easy to forget that each unit has a separate Close Combat rating and doesn’t just use a Fire Combat Factor test as ranged attacks do. Also, more rules should have been encapsulated on the charts which would lead to less page flipping.
The armor counters show a side silhouette of the tank with the front of the tank facing to the right of the counter. For determining armor facing, the top of the counter is considered the tank’s front; flank attacks can be made across the sides of the counter (the front and rear of the silhouette) and rear attacks across the bottom of the counter). I found this to be confusing, as my mind kept defaulting to the front of the silhouette as being the front of the armor units themselves. I found this counterintuitive (no pun intended).
The box itself is plastic and encases the counter tray. When the box is supposedly closed, it has a tendency to come open and spill counters out, which necessitates using rubber bands to keep the box together. I would have preferred the box lid to fit a little tighter and the whole thing contained within a large zip-lock bag.
Nonetheless, Bloody Hell is a bloody impressive game and bodes well for High Flying Dice Games other Professional Series game releases. The game plays great as a solitaire experience and is a blast with two people as well.
Armchair General Rating: 87 %
Solitaire Rating (1 is low, 5 is high): 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)!