Tide of Iron
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Word War II was the greatest mobilization of fighting men and machines that the world has ever seen; tanks and soldiers combined into a veritable tide of iron that changed the world. Now the largest and deadliest conflict in history comes to your tabletop in Fantasy Flight's game of World War II squad-level tactics!
Tide of Iron feature hundreds of detailed plastic figures, including soldiers, tanks, and other combat vehicles. The game rules focus on realistically simulating squad-level combat, but are streamlined enough to appeal to casual board gamers. Tide of Iron features a modular game board on which up to 6 players (divided into 2 teams) can test their tactical prowess in dozens of scenarios.
Tide of Iron joins the ranks of Fantasy Flight's runaway hits Twilight Imperium, Descent, and World of Warcraft in the epic sized box. With a box two feet wide and over ten pounds you know its full of World War II action!
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Scenario Guide
- 216 Plastic Figures
- 48 Squad Bases
- 2 Player Reference Sheets
- 12 Map Boards
- 28 Map Overlay Pieces
- 20 Dice
- 1 Round Track
- 1 Round Marker
- 2 Victory Point Markers
- 110 Cards
- 1 Initiative Token
- 88 Activation Tokens
- 32 Damage Tokens
- 36 Condition Tokens
- 24 Specialization Tokens
- 6 Victory Objective Markers
- 24 Command Objective Markers (various values)
- 16 Control Markers
- 51 Command Tokens (in 1s and 5s)
- 8 Concealed Squad Markers
- 16 Transport Markers
- 16 Off-Board Indicator Tokens
- 38 Fortification, Obstacle, and Cover Markers
- 1 Target Token
- 1 North Directional Marker
Average Rating: 4 in 3 reviews
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Tide of Iron is a bit of a departure for Fantasy Flight as they are a company that is primarily releasing fantasy-themed games. One has to carefully peruse their catalog to locate a game that does not involve some type of fantastical creature or theme. Tide of Iron, however, brazenly departs the realm of fantasy and instead concentrates on a brutally historic topic: World War II.
What is the same are the high production standards that characterize their games. Tide of Iron is an impressive sight, filled with over two hundred highly detailed miniatures, including regular and elite infantry, machine gun and mortar crews, leaders, tanks, trucks and half-tracks. Twelve different double-sided boards can be arranged in a large variety of ways, and over two-dozen terrain overlays customize the layouts even further. The end result is a game that not only presents an attractive picture, but also offers players seemingly infinite potential in terms of possible scenarios and variations.
After selecting one of the six scenarios included in the game, players customize their squads based on the units provided by the scenario. Fantasy Flight points with great pride to what they consider a gaming innovation: the “base” method of forming squads and tracking their casualties and current strength. Miniatures snap into plastic bases, allowing players to custom-design their squads to support their strategies. As a squad takes casualties, individual units can be removed from the bases, which also reduces their strength without the need for cumbersome markers that clutter the board. This is clever, although it is a bit fiddly having to snap units in and out of the bases.
Game play follows a specific sequence, with players alternating actions as dictated by the scenario.
Action Phase. It is during this phase that most of the action and decisions are made. Players activate squads to perform various possible actions. Once activated, a squad is usually fatigued, and can perform no further actions during that turn. So, choosing which action a squad will perform is critical. Actions are generally movement or firing, although combinations can be performed, but usually at reduced firepower. Squads can also be ordered to sit-tight and prepare for enemy movement, at which time they can fire in an effort to halt an enemy advance. Much of the 40- page rulebook deals with these actions, as they are at the heart of the game.
Each action has its advantages, and a skillful commander must coordinate these actions amongst their squads in order to achieve the scenario’s objectives. Often it is wise to advance units quickly so they can partake in bloody close assaults and grab valuable territory, while other times it is advantageous to launch long-range attacks with mortars and machine gun units. Strong and bold military tactics will often spell the difference between a glorious victory and an ignominious defeat … and you make the decisions!
Combat is handled in a fairly quick and relatively easy manner, but line-of-sight to the target must be established before an attack can be launched. The rules regulating line-of-sight can be difficult, with terrain and elevation factors playing a factor. If an attack can be made, the range and firepower of each unit must be examined. A number of dice equal to the units’ cumulative firepower are rolled. The firepower can be increased or decreased depending upon the range, with adjacency causing the firepower to be doubled, while long-range attacks cause firepower to be halved. Other units within line-of-sight of the target that have not yet been activated may join in the attack, but their firepower is likewise halved. The defender rolls a number of dice equal to its “cover” benefit, which is derived from terrain and any fortifications such as trenches or pillboxes, as well as its armor, which is generally only applicable to vehicles. Depending upon the type of attack being conducted, hits are scored on rolls of 4 – 6, while the defender blocks hits with rolls of 5 or 6.
Attacks can be either “normal” or “suppressive”. Normal attacks eliminate units from the targeted squad, while suppressive attacks cause a squad to become “pinned” or “disrupted”. These conditions prevent a squad from performing any actions, and if disrupted, last for a subsequent turn. Leaders present in the same hex have the effect of reducing these effects. A player must choose which type of attack he is launching prior to rolling dice, and the decision is often critical depending upon a player’s objectives.
Command Phase. Another aspect of the game involves the strategy and operations cards. As dictated by the scenario, each player receives a specific number to begin the game. Each card provides the specified benefit, but can only be activated by paying the required command cost. Command points are earned by controlling certain hexes on the board, which often drives a player’s actions and assaults during the course of the game. Players draw a new card at the end of each round, but must usually choose between various types of cards. Again, this forces players to make critical decisions.
Initiative – which player moves first – can be vital. Players spend command points to gain the initiative. Command points are generally scarce, so there is conflict between spending them on the valuable strategy cards and on the struggle for initiative. Initiative is determined at the end of the Command phase.
Status Phase. This is the “clean-up” phase, wherein players draw new strategy cards, remove status tokens from the board, place units in “opportunity fire” mode, receive reinforcements, etc. If the victory conditions or end-game conditions listed in the scenario have not been achieved, a new round is conducted.
There is more than I’ve described here, with rules covering leaders, armored units, area attacks (mortars, off-board artillery), squad specializations (flamethrowers, engineers, anti-tank and medics), terrain, fortifications, minefields, smoke and more. In spite of an acknowledged effort to create a fairly simple squad-level based conflict game, Tide of Iron is quite involved and fairly complex. It clearly takes its inspiration from Avalon Hill’s revered Squad Leader, a highly detailed game system that is widely hailed as the definitive simulation of squad-level combat. That game, however, is highly complex, and involves hundreds of pages of detailed rules covering just about every aspect of combat.
Compared to Squad Leader, Tide of Iron is, indeed, easier to understand and play. But, be warned: it is still quite a bit beyond the norm in terms of complexity and detail. There is an abundance of rules to digest and understand. Even with years of “war gaming” experience and armed with a well-written set of rules, I was frequently forced to consult the rules during the course of play, which causes the game to bog down and drag. Only with repeated and regular play will the rules be learned to a sufficient degree to allow games to flow smoothly and quickly. Tide of Iron is not for the casual gamer.
However, for gamers who are ready to step beyond Axis & Allies and similar games, Tide of Iron offers the next logical step. It offers a decent degree of combat simulation, yet it is not too complex to overwhelm. The combat system is fast and fairly easy to understand, and the game is filled with important decisions that test the players’ armchair general skills. Players are free to implement various strategies and tactics, yet none are foolproof as the uncertainties of combat are fairly represented by the roll of the dice. Fantasy Flight promises to intensely support the game system with expansions and new scenarios, all in an effort to provide more and more detail and options and prevent the game from growing stale. That is good news for fans of conflict simulation games, who will find much to like in Tide of Iron.
Knowing from friends that this game was rule intensive didn't dissuade me from picking up this game, though I didn't realize how detailed the rules were. this isn't my first rodeo, but I still had to take plenty of time to learn these rules, but in the end, I was immensely satisfied with the experience that this game provides.
I love pieces! And this game does not disappoint with the abundance of armor and infantry pieces and great cardboard tokens. This game reminds me a lot of an older game "Panzer General" but it's not a clone at all.
The first interesting concept is unit customization. you can choose who is in the squad and, if the scenario has it, what specializations they posses, such as medics, anti-armor, flamethrowers etc. this adds a lot of depth and character to the game that i feel defines a lot about this game.
The combat system is simple, though it still takes in to account terrain, distance from target, and how well entrenched the enemy is. And you can choose from standard fire to suppressive fire, which allows you to make key decisions, such as kill your enemy, or make it so they can't react to your advance of the rest of your soldiers. A 5 star combat system.
There is a copious amount of material I could cover, but I'll leave it on this. A LONG game (taking a few hours at best) with a great combat system to make this game a strategy intensive, and wholly gratifying experience. I'd strongly recommend this game for anyone who has the patience to learn the rules and teach them to others. Worth buying!
I think it’s safe to say that Tide of Iron (Fantasy Flight Games, 2007 – John Goodenough) is one of the most anticipated games of 2007. It seems to be the culmination of a dream that many gamers have had for a long time – a solid wargame with beautiful components (including plastic pieces). Of course, a game of this magnitude is certainly going to fall under heavy scrutiny. There is the chance that heavy wargamers will probably not be satisfied with the quality of the wargame, while gamers who prefer lighter fare may find the rules to be too overwhelming. Coupled with the gigantic enormity of the undertaking (the massive box will dominate any shelf it’s on), Tide of Iron certainly has a lot to live up to!
I’m not a wargamer, although it seems to me that I play a lot of light wargames these days. So I was curious myself to see what my reaction to the game would be – wondering if it the plastic pieces and beautiful scenery would ease me into what seemed by description to be a heavier game. But I honestly found the game fairly easy and enjoyable! It may not be as accessible as other light wargames, such as Memoir '44, but it is the first tactical wargame that I’ve played that I had quite a bit of fun with. The rules weren’t overbearing, and the game allows one to ease into them in the scenario book. Tide of Iron is easily expandable, but the base game itself allows for hundreds of possible interesting scenarios.
1.) Components: The game comes with a massive amount of pieces, including 216 plastic figures and hundreds of tokens and cards. However, the box, which is the one of the largest available on the market right now, could easily hold all the components in half of it. I assume the larger size is to allow for the large amount of expansions promised by the company. The plastic figures themselves are very nicely designed (actually begging to be painted, I think), and are large enough to be easily handled on the board. The tokens for the game are all very clearly printed, and most are easily definable with no language dependence. There are piles of tokens that are needed for the game – but surprisingly enough, the game still feels a lot less “fiddly” than other games with piles of counters. The entire affair – from the board to the plastic pieces to the scenery – really brings each battlefield to life.
2.) Board: Each scenario takes place on a map created from twelve or less double-sided boards that fit together to form a hex grid. Each board has a variety of scenery printed on it, but there are also twenty-eight double-sided overlay pieces that can be used to modify the boards. This is a very effective, quick way to build a huge variety of scenarios. My boards were slightly warped, but Fantasy Flight has announced that they will be delaying the production of the game until the boards are fixed – so this is a non-issue.
3.) Rules: The large rulebook has forty-seven pages and is chock full of illustrations, examples, pictures, and the like. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the rules, but only because of many of the concepts I’ve dealt with in other games. The game certainly takes no chances on newcomers not understanding the rules, however, and explains everything in great detail. It’s a wonderfully put together rulebook – with terms explained, and the sections clearly delineated. Whenever I was confused about a rule, it was fairly easy to look up. Two reference sheets are also included in the game, which cover enough of the basic rules that I was able to use them for the majority of the game rather than constantly consult the rulebook. As to teaching new players, the game comes with some basic scenarios that allow a player to ease into the game. While not for everyone, I really do think most of the rules are intuitive.
4.) Men and Tanks: I certainly like the feel of little soldiers on the board. It’s reminiscent of the times I set up all the plastic army soldiers as a child, and now there is a solid rules set to back it up! The tactical feel of the game is rather intuitive, and the feel of the troops moving across the field certainly comes through because of the aesthetics of the game. I remember hearing about the Advanced Squad Leader starter kits, and the excitement that tanks might someday be added to the game. With Tide of Iron, the tanks are there from the beginning, and they certainly add something to the table! In fact, I often found myself concentrating on the tanks as the main part of my battle force. Still, the combat squads are also incredibly important, and each piece has a different “feel”. Especially the German Tiger I tank – what a powerful vehicle!
5.) Scenarios: I was slightly disappointed that only six scenarios are included in the game, although there is work on a program to design your own – and I expect dozens of them to show up on the internet shortly. Still, the six scenarios included are completely different – each with a unique feel. I’m fairly certain that they aren’t perfectly balanced – but that’s something that doesn’t bother me much, and I like asymmetrical games anyway. The scenario book is very helpful explaining how to set up each mission; but between the large amount of pieces needed for a game, along with a decent amount of customization, setup takes a good amount of time – maybe up to thirty minutes.
6.) Squads: Any game that allows me a degree of customization always makes me happy. The scenarios allow this to a degree, both with cards and the squad themselves. Each scenario gives a certain amount of troops that can be put in different combinations on the squad bases. There are mortar troops, machine gunners, leaders, and more – and can be combined in several different ways – hopefully for maximum effect. I will say that the removing of a troop from a squad can severely affect the performance, helping drive home that aspect of the theme. Each squad also has a place at their base, which allow a token to be placed in, giving them another feature – such as flamethrower or anti-tank. Now, honestly, you can only mix and match so much in each scenario, but the ability to have that slight degree of customization adds more replayability and gives the player a feeling of more control.
7.) Cards: Tide of Iron is NOT a card driven game. Yet there are some cards involved that help give it a unique feel – one of the strongest points of the game. There are some Operations cards, which players may receive at the beginning of a scenario, allowing them to have a special ability, or showing the effects of weather, etc. However, more importantly are the Strategy card decks. There are several of these decks included with the game, such as Morale I, Ground Support I, German Reinforcement I, etc. The scenario will dictate which decks each player uses, and how many cards they start the scenario with. For example, in the Crossroads scenario, the Americans get the American Reinforcements I and Artillery I decks, and start with four strategy cards, which can be drawn from either or both decks. These cards are placed face up in the player’s play area and can be activated over the course of the game to give the player special abilities. The decks’ cards will typically have the abilities to match the name of the deck (i.e. the Reinforcement deck brings in extra troops, the Artillery deck bombards the board, the Supply deck upgrades troops, etc.) These cards are not game-breakingly powerful, but they are important enough that a player cannot ignore them and add yet another bit of customization to a player’s army.
8.) Command Objectives: In each scenario, there are several command objectives scattered over the board – some for the Americans, some for the Germans, and some for either player. If a player controls any of these points at the end of each game turn, they will receive command tokens equal to the sum of the number on the objectives they control. These command tokens can be used to purchase new strategy cards to use on future turns, or to take the initiative on future turns. They also often correspond directly to victory conditions, making them invaluable. They give each scenario a bit of focus, and much of the battle will center on taking and holding these points.
9.) Actions: I really am not fond of games in which a player can move their entire army, then the next player goes, etc. Tide of Iron takes care of that by giving a player a certain amount of actions per turn (usually three) that a player can take before passing to the other player. The game comes with piles of fatigue markers that are used to mark units that have already moved and/or fired. When taking actions, players can move a unit, fire with that unit, prepare OP fire with the unit, fire AND move (although penalties apply), assault with a squad, use one of their Strategy cards (most have a one time use), or take some other action. This helps keep the game flowing and keeps downtime to a minimum, since players are only moving at most three units on their turn. I thought that this gave Tide of Iron a faster pace and was another high point of the game for me.
10.) Wargame stuff: Line of site, OP fire, suppressive fire, combined attacks, assaults and more are all included in the rules – but all are fairly intuitive, especially to people who have used them in the past. I especially enjoyed that tanks are rarely destroyed in one shot – but, instead, take damage and still have some capabilities. OP fire is also heavily used in the game, and terrain has a huge bonus for defenders, meaning that a player cannot ignore it. The actual combat system is fairly easy –one that involves a lot less stats than many games – one player rolls both offensive and defensive dice, making combat quick and simple. The game certainly rewards strategy and punishes tactical mistakes – as I have found out to my chagrin!
11.) Other games: I have received a lot of questions about Tide of Iron’s comparison to Memoir '44 and Combat Commander: Europe. The Memoir comparison is made because both games are based on World War II and have plastic figures. But honestly, that is where the comparison should end, because the games have a completely different feel. Memoir is a card driven game that simulates large battles in a slightly more abstract way. Tide of Iron is more nitty-gritty, causing one to care about each troop and vehicle under their command and taking a more hands-on approach. It’s more complicated, longer, and will appeal to those who want a lot of realism involved in their games. After much thought, I think I like Memoir better, if only for it’s simplicity – but it’s really hard to compare the two at all. Combat Commander: Europe on the other hand is much close in feel. The main differences between the two are that Combat Commander doesn’t have all the pretty bits, uses cards more heavily, and emphasizes squads and leadership more. Really, I’m not sure it’s worth having both if you are simply looking for a fun, tactical WW2 game. While CC: E is an excellent game, I think I am swayed towards Tide of Iron if only because it has much better components, a high “toy” factor, tanks, and was a bit simpler.
12.) Expandability: If you watch the video about Tide of Iron at the Fantasy Flight website, which also gives a brief overview of many of the game concepts, they mention that they are planning expansions to the base game. This is also emphasized by the large space available in the box. I think that is a great idea, if only because the game has so many options that can easily be added to it – more scenarios, more strategy card decks, more units, etc.
13.) Fun Factor: Tide of Iron was very enjoyable to me, if only to watch my plans unfold on the battlefield. It wasn’t as rip-roaringly fun as other light wargames (such as Memoir), but could possibly be much more satisfying. I say this because the game lends itself to a story setting – as you care about each and every unit on the board. The rules complexity is about the upper limit of what I’m interested in; and while they were explainable, they will cause the game to be played in fewer situations. Most of my enjoyment of the game comes from the shear variability, the cool pieces, and how much the game feels like an exciting war scenario.
I am someone who is always interested in miniature games – although the price is usually the main factor that chases me away. Tide of Iron is certainly not an inexpensive game – although one does get a TON of stuff included in the price, but it has the feel of a miniatures game – with a very tight, excellent rules set. It isn’t necessarily for the casual gamer, although most people could easily be taught the basic concepts, and the game explains itself after only a few turns. It’s a beautiful visual feast for the eyes; and while perhaps not the definitive squad combat game available, it’s much more enjoyable for people like me who aren’t really interested in heavy games such as Squad Leader. I look forward to the direction that Tide of Iron takes in the future and will enjoy several games of it meanwhile (although I expect to lose them all!)
“Real men play board games”