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Monday, December 14, 2015

My night with Team Yankee and the Battlefront Crew

By Mitch Reed
On Friday 11 December I decided to head up to Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie Maryland for the Team Yankee demo that was put on by the folks at Battlefront.  To be frank with the readers, I was not 100% sold if this new line was something I would be into, however I went in with an open mind and really wanted to see what Team Yankee is all about.

Slated to start at 6:30PM, the folks were a bit delayed by the traffic we have here in the Baltimore-Washington DC area.  The delay gave me the opportunity to speak with the 5-6 gamers who were waiting for the demo to begin.  I asked them if they were excited for this new line and why; it was obvious to me that if they were attending the demo they had some excitement for the game.  The "why" question got me some different answers: mostly those with the desire to see how the rules worked and the desire to use them with 6mm game scale. I have heard this before, and WWPD has covered “Fate of a Nation” games done in the 6mm. 

John-Paul's Box of Goodies 
The first to show from battle front was John-Paul Brisigotti the CEO of the Battlefront group.  John-Paul placed a box on the table to show the crowd which now reached about 15 the new models for the game.  The box had a bunch of painted M-1, and T-72 tanks and a few HIND helicopters. I was struck by the size of the tanks, they looked bigger than the King Tigers (they are 2” longer and 2” shorter than a KT in actuality) in my collection.  The helos looked huge, John-Paul stated that the helos for Team Yankee will be in 1/100th scale and aircraft like the A-10 and Frogfoot will be done in 1/144th scale like in Flames of War.

HIND at 1/100 Scale 

While I snapped pictures of the models, Lonnie Mullins and Brian Sayman showed up with some more models (M-113s and Cobras) and were ready to start the demo. While I waited to get into a game I had some time to speak with John-Paul about the new line.  I mentioned that I looked over the new Team-Yankee book and it struck me that it was not Flames of War “modern” but a separate gaming line that did take a lot of its core rules from Flames of War, to which John-Paul agreed.
John-Paul explained that venturing in this period was a “labor of love” to the development team because of their desire to have a game that covered this period and for their interest in a hypothetical WWII conflict.

The development team went “line by line”, and reviewed the characteristics of FoW and decided whether or not it belonged in Team Yankee.  The D6 and some of the core mechanics from FoW made the cut with the rest of the rules being unique for Team Yankee.  It was the desire of the developers to not create a game with the depth of FoW that has a ton of unique rules and which required extensive FAQs for gamers to understand them.  One thing that is new are the unit cards, which gives you all the data on your units, John-Paul explained how this works for Team Yankee while doing the same for FoW would require about 200 cards for a late war list.
T-72 on a hill
In our conversation, John Paul explained some of the differences of modern war as compared to WWII; with the example being that modern armies leveraged technology and instead of developing a different weapon for every situation, they used the Swiss-army knife approach and built weapons that could do many different things.  In fact the talks I had with John-Paul and Lonnie showed me how deep they understood the doctrine of modern war, it was very impressive and showed how much this project was a labor of love; heck I HAD to learn warfighting doctrine and I do not think it stuck with me very much in comparison to these two guys.

Good comparison of the M-1 and T-72
After watching a quick game I sat down with Lonnie to try it out.  We did a 30 point game which featured my five T-72’s and two HINDs against his three M-1s and two Cobra helicopters. I asked him what did he feel was a good sized list to play this game with and he stated that 100-150 is ideal because you get the feel of a combined arms force.  These guys really did their homework!
Tanks with the Hind thrown in for comparison 
Even with a small force list on the table, two things stand out very clear.  The first is how they captured the lethality of modern war; things die fast on the table.  My T-72s had no issue knocking out 1 M-1 and bailing another in the first turn.  My HINDs joined in and caused another tank to bail.
 So your stuff will die quickly if you expose it to enemy fire. This causes the game to run at a quick pace and you have no time to recover for bad decisions.
The second was how the rules really simulate battlefield maneuver. In looking over the rules, units can move tactically or make a dash move to cover a lot of space in the movement phase, they can also be given orders to make a “Blitz” move before the movement step or a “Follow-Me” move after moving.  Units that did not move can also perform a “Shoot and Scoot”, where they can move after they fire if they did not move in the movement phase. Of course these extra moves are not automatic and require a die roll.
Lonnie explained how devastating air power is in the game, however it can be neutralized by abundant and well placed anti-air assets that can protect your force.  Despite the rumors, tanks can only use their main guns against helicopters while they are on the ground to disembark troops.

So what did I think?  Well I assume that Battlefront was either tweeting or posting pictures during the event because over the next two days I have already gotten two emails from local gamers asking “how was the game.”

First of all I have to dispel one preconceived notion I had before Friday; this is not a modern version of Flames of War, this is a standalone game that while it shares a lot with FoW, it should not be directly compared to it.  Based on its own merits I would have to say that this is a very good game, the rules are tight, and I like how it plays

Breaking my own rule above, I do want to make some comparisons with FoW.  I like some of the rules developed for Team Yankee, for example, you can fire artillery on a spot not an enemy unit.

You can also pre-plan an artillery strike before you deploy your forces on the table.  Artillery can also shoot different types of ammunition such as mines and bomblets.  Along with these rule changes I like how smoke is done, they got this right, where it can be fired on a spot and is placed in a line rather than in a square.
 Gamers get ready for the demo 

A few of the gamers I spoke with hoped that Team Yankee would be a preview of FoW 4.0, I hate to say that this did not come up when I spoke to any of the guys from Battlefront.  I wouldn’t bet the farm on this being a preview, I feel the new rules were created just for the modern battlefield and in my long talk with John-Paul he was clear on how Team-Yankee is a unique standalone game.  Some of the aspects of Team Yankee just wouldn’t work with FoW, such as the data cards.
 They brought these great mats for us to play on 

M-113's still unpainted, these are the same models from the Vietnam collection 
Team Yankee has a real unique feel in comparison to FoW; it does feel a bit more abstract and “arcadey” than FoW.  Before this may scare some folks off, let me point out that this game represents a conflict that never happened, so developers have a bit more freedom than a game which represents a historical conflict.  I have worked on a few modern period games and I agreed with John-Paul when he brought this point up.  This game explores a “what if” and delivers the player some insight on how WWIII may have gone down.  
 John-Paul running a demo  
The heart of the game, the cards

Another issue I spoke with the guys from Battlefront about is how many players feel there is a “meta” with certain games.  I never agreed with FoW having a “meta” based on the latest book, and Team Yankee, where the forces are near equal in capability should not have a Meta as well.
 Lonnie talks about the game; beware!  He plans to field a massive Soviet horde

The two new box sets, ready for the store shelves

So final verdict: Team Yankee is a great game and a must if you have been dying to play a game like FoW in the modern period.  While liking Team Yankee is one thing (I got the book), playing it may be another.  Part of this may be due to the success of FoW; do I have the desire to buy a new line?  Over the last four years I have built up a huge collection of WWII FoW and now I feel so burnt out of painting yet another line to play a game that not many others in my area will play.  I saw this with the Great War line, I love that period but finding others to play has been difficult and even now I have the new French and American forces on my workbench without any clue as to when (or if) I will paint them.
My set up for the demo

As for the future, I like what I heard from John-Paul; over time new Team Yankee forces such as the British, Germans (East and West), Poles, Danes and Canadian lists will be released and the team at Battlefront seems to be dedicated in making this line a success.
 Lonnie running a game using his hand for an arty strike, no models were hurt in this demo! 

 Artillery Template, this one is cardboard

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