Review: Tigers on the Hunt: Kursk09 Feb 2017 3
Review: Tigers on the Hunt: Kursk
Released 09 Feb 2017
Our compatriot James Cobb reviewed the base game of the WWII board game sim Tigers on the Hunt (TotH) almost a year ago. Today, developers Siliconsoft Systems Inc. released its first DLC, Kursk. Even before reading James’ review, I, too, was immediately struck by the game’s similarity to (Advanced) Squad Leader and similar games. Yet, since there would be little point in repeating any more of James’ astute observations regarding the base game – in respect of which I agree – I will focus on actual campaign game play, which the original manual mentions but, until now, resembled a party-goer all dressed up with no place to go.
For example, the day-night campaign turn sequence is activated – at which I will have a closer look shortly – but first, my overall impression is that Kursk is not a ‘campaign’ in the traditional sense. That is, a player does not carry over a core force á la Panzer Corps, nor does it introduce new units or other content, enhancements, etc. (more on this in a bit as well). What we do have are three new, large ‘scenarios’ – one being VERY large. While the distinction may not be important to everyone, it has been noted, and we can therefore evaluate the DLC on its merits and not semantics.
WHAT HAVE WE HERE?
The TotH: Kursk Campaign consists of three files, starting with “Psel Bridgehead”, which weighs in at a hefty 48 turns; the second and third, “Slaughter of Prokhorovka” and “Bled White”, tally 36 and 44, respectively. (Despite the manual stating on p.36 “maximum 42”, this restriction has apparently been removed or increased.) Considering that the base game originally included 22 scenarios, which have since expanded to 28, totalling 218 turns combined, that alone is a fair bit of new content. (For the mathematically-challenged, it adds up to 128 new turns, or nearly 60%.) However, the campaign files are not chronologically contiguous; they deal with different sectors of the WWII German offensive code-named Operation Citadel (Unternehmen Zitadelle), during July and August 1943, specifically between 7th-13th July around the villages/towns of Oboyan, Prohkorovka, and Ponyri, in what is now Ukraine. Historical units are mentioned, including the infamous 1st and 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Divisions, ‘Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler’ and ‘Totenkopf’. However, no ‘new’ units or other content are offered, as is customary for DLC. For example, I found it a little disappointing not to see air power introduced, nor even obstacles and mines, all of which historically played a significant role in the modeled conflict. More on this later too, though.
Upon loading a file, the next thing one notices is the scale of the mapboards; the first and third require three ‘maps’ covering 29x32 hexes each, which surpasses all but three base scenarios. The gargantuan “Prokhorovka” boasts nine maps, expanding the field of play to 29x96 hexes! Even so, before starting any of them, I ran into a problem – albeit perhaps more of an annoyance – continued from the base game: I had to reset my desktop out of its native 2560x1080 resolution, as it’s not supported (2560x1440 is, but my computer doesn’t support that – yet!). 1920x1080 is available, but it renders icons and print too small for my eye (I’m with ya, James!). I found 1200x900 adequate, in that I could do without Jim’s Virtual Magnifying Glass, with the exception of the light blue Setup Zones.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
From there Kursk plays no differently from any base scenario, until one hits Night Turns. As mentioned above, players will recall from the manual that a day/night sequence kicks in for campaigns; Turns 1-8 constitute daytime, 9-12 night, and so on in a repeating cycle. Naturally, LOS is reduced at night – and it would be nice to be reminded of this, since, if you don’t keep track of the game turn, when your units suddenly can’t see more than two hexes in front of their virtual faces, it’s… disconcerting. A popup or icon, or perhaps some kind of shading or other indicator might be appreciated, even a turn or two prior, especially since the dynamics of the game change quite significantly. For one thing, many units will all at once be ‘unspotted’ and able to sprint from cover toward more desirable terrain or objectives. (Of course, the enemy can also sneak up on you this way…) The other notable difference is that, starting with the next Day Turn, units, weapons, ordnance, and immobilised vehicles automatically rally/repair, and off-board artillery is accessible once more. Other than this, plus the increased size/complexity of the scenarios, that’s about it for changes.
I hear you asking, Dear Reader, “Is it worth it, then?” to which I can answer a resounding “Maybe”. Kursk’s value depends on what you’re looking for; if three (mostly) bigger scenarios do it for you, then probably. If you, somewhat like me, expected a little more of a ‘Campaign’ DLC, then I get more hesitant on a recommendation. Added to the concerns mentioned previously, I would have expected a few enhancements and even some changes.
For future reference, here's my wishlist for the game In no particular order, with my reasoning:
Map labels/place names for villages and roads, and even certain hills and buildings (for immersion/historicity/realism)
Named leaders instead of ‘Lt B’, ‘Sgt C ID#’… (as above)
‘Rideable’ vehicles (as above)
Droppable weapons/ordnance (as above; why can’t a crew simply drop or leave a busted gun and/or move to an un-crewed or unpossessed one, especially those emplaced in a better position?)
Unit ‘Info’ somewhere, especially re: Movement Points total/remaining (How many for infantry to move into woods; for a vehicle to change its covered arc? I can’t find it! What about adding it to the TEF?)
Auto-scrolling the map to centre on off-board artillery strikes (during human and AI turns, so you can see what’s going on!)
Toggle-able unit markers such as First/Final Fire (which otherwise hide units beneath them)
Random ‘routing’ of Broken units (rather than leaving them under player control; I found it exploitive to control my own)
Another word for ‘Broken’ when dealing with weapons/ordnance/vehicles (how about ‘Damaged’, in order to better distinguish equipment from soldiers?)
Hex shading or a tooltip to indicate in/out of LOS (While acceptable for scanning a target hex or two, I find the Check LOS tool awkward to scope out optimal movement routes; what about simply clicking on two hexes with the tool activated, instead of having to enter coordinates?)
Single-key hotkeys for most of the above, plus toggling the hex-grid on/off, next/previous unit, hex centre dots, even Fire Range, Covered Arc, etc. (My mouse wrist gets sore from playing similar games, especially those without them, for extended sessions such as required by certain slave-driving editors!)
Other than the above, I am compelled to reiterate my chagrin when I encounter inadequately translated – or simply poorly written – material such as essentially all the text in the scenario descriptions and even the TotH manual. I’ll be quick to admit the writer’s English is certainly better than any attempts I could make in their own native tongue, but this is, after all, a commercial product. I found some text quite difficult to comprehend, but there you go.
Readers can come to their own conclusion as to Tigers on the Hunt: Kursk's value, considering statements such as this one, found in the TotH manual, Page 36: “Think of [a] campaign as [a] longer version of a scenario that goes one [sic] for [a] number of days” (Also a great example of how sloppy the editing is). Thus, are three long scenarios worth $14.99? Doing the math again, does $14.99 represent 60% of the base game’s price of $69.99? No, it’s actually only 21.42% – a bargain by many definitions!