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Posted on Oct 15, 2007 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Tide of Iron Review

By Bill Bodden

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Tide of Iron
By Fantasy Flight Games
Designed by John Goodenough, with
Christian Petersen and Corey Konieczka
$79.99 MSRP
Available now

Remember those glory days of wargaming, when you could devote an entire weekend to pushing thousands of counters around a massive series of maps? At that, you’d probably only get through a few turns over those two days, and be nowhere close to deciding who won. Times have changed; many of us, with family and job commitments, no longer have that much time to devote to a hobby, much less find another person who does to serve as an opponent. Fantasy Flight Games now introduces a straight-up wargame that can be played in under two hours, is packed full of plastic pieces, and will make wargaming accessible again: Tide of Iron.

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Tide of Iron is the wargame we all wish we’d had years ago. Packed full of plastic pieces depicting soldiers, trucks, tanks and more, Tide of Iron is like having Saving Private Ryan in a box. Battles are generally skirmish level, though later scenarios include enough forces for multiple command possibilities. The beginning of the turn, the "Action Phase," sees first player spend the turn activating individual troop bases or vehicles to move, attack, prepare for opportunity fire or any of a number of additional options. Then the second player has a chance to do likewise. The next phase involves the bookkeeping; the "Command Phase." Players, in turn, determine control of objectives; receive command/victory points; spend command points; and determine initiative for the next round. The final phase, the "Status Phase," sees players draw fresh strategy cards, if any are available to them; remove various status tokens, if appropriate; place units in Op Fire mode; transfer troops between squads of the same type or specialty; receive reinforcements if dictated by the scenario; and finally, advance the round marker and prepare for the next round of play.

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Tide of Iron components.

Activation is tricky; veteran gamers will be familiar with this game mechanic, but new players may be thrown by the inability to move everything in any given turn. Play tends to become a bit methodical under these conditions, but a little luck and some simple planning can make or break a player’s entire strategy.

The Scenario book offers six different missions, each with a clear diagram of the initial map, a list of each side’s forces, and any special instructions or rules for that scenario. A fair amount of time needs to be allocated to play this game; the set-up alone – putting all the little soldiers into their bases – can take upwards of an hour. Scenarios tend to be on a relatively small scale; a dozen or two bases and vehicles to a side, with soldiers grouped two or more to a base, is typical. The box is nearly two feet long and weighs in at over ten pounds. The majority of that weight is made up of hundreds of plastic pieces.

Fantasy Flight Games has been making a strong bid to be the game company to watch in the hobby game market. While Tide of Iron may not be the most brilliant game of military strategy ever, it is an excellent introductory wargame to teach people that strategy games are fun. The retail price on this baby is steep, but if you consider the price per pound, it’s entirely reasonable.

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Armor and infantry units.

At least one expansion is in the works, due out in the fourth quarter of 2007. Titled Tide of Iron: Days of the Fox, it brings the exploits of the German Afrika Korps and the British Eighth Army to your dining room table for a mere $49.95. Since it is an expansion, you’ll need the base game to use it most effectively, but heck, you’ll want the American troops from the base set around anyway just so Patton can finally go toe to toe with the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel.

Tide of Iron belongs on the shelf of any serious World War Two enthusiast, right next to its brother in arms, Squad Leader. Besides being an exciting game, it is an excellent small-unit simulation with considerable room to expand and customize. The molded pieces add interest to the tabletop, and it serves as an excellent bridge between the overly simplistic and the more challenging World War Two simulations. Well worth the load of cash to acquire it, Tide of Iron will be a gamer favorite for years to come.

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