Awhile back I talked a bit about Tide of Iron, Fantasy Flight’s entry into the world of World World II squad combat. Overall I’m a big fan of the game as it abstracts enough elements to make the game playable but really hits the sort of cinematic feel you would expect from a game with such gorgeous components. While the plastic army men look great, I really dislike how they plug into their bases. The concept is solid: you have circular bases with four peg holes and you stick your army guys in to build up squads. Unfortunately the pegs have a lot of extra flashing, are poorly shaped and just don’t fit into the bases nicely. It might sound a little silly if you haven’t played but honestly my friends and I found the pieces such a pain to deal with that it was enough to make us often choose something else over Tide of Iron.
One day I was poking around the Litko website looking at all their awesome laser-cut components and discovered you can get custom bases in a wide variety of materials. What really caught my eye were the flex magnets that have sticky backs. I immediately thought of Tide of Iron when I saw those and finally got around ordering some to start my work. Along with the 25mm flex magnets I picked up 200 #6 steel washers and some super glue.
I started by using an X-Acto knife on a cutting pad to hack the pegs off all the army guys. You could also probably use fingernail clippers or something else; I just grabbed the knife and went to it. Chopping those pegs off was wildly satisfying! Then I stuck all the flex magnets on the bases which was just as easy as you’d expect. Finally I glued washers on the bottoms of all the army guys. My bottle of super glue had a brush which was nice and a small dab was all I needed. Press each washer for 15-20 seconds to make sure it bonded, let dry and a glorious magnetic army arose!
It took me roughly an hour per army which wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. If you are a perfectionist the 25mm bases are about one or two millimeters too large and overhang the top of the base just a bit. You could cut them down I suppose but it doesn’t bother me so I just left them. I was far more concerned with speed over aesthetics! Mostly I was impressed at how well the super glue bonded. There’s not much surface area touching between the army guys and the washers, especially on the officers (had to set them forward a bit more) but it was more than enough for the glue to really grab on. At first I was concerned the washers might easily plink off and need frequent re-gluing but that seems like a non-issue!
We managed to get a game in the other night to test drive the new magnetic armies and I’m really pleased with the results. All the guys now stand upright which makes counting out your starting units easier. The figures now have a little extra weight to them which I find satisfying and the magnets are just strong enough to hold the figures in place while moving the bases around but weak enough to easily remove the figures and not repel each other. I think the magnetic bases greatly increased our enjoyment of the game! If you own Tide of Iron and have a couple of hours to spare I’d really recommend magnetizing your set.
I also picked up the hard-cover designer series scenario book some time back and have flipped through it a few times but haven’t really had a chance to play any of the scenarios. This time we finally gave one a shot and it was easily the most fun I’ve had with a Tide of Iron scenario. To date many scenarios have been attack/defend style which – while probably historically correct – aren’t particularly exciting for the defender. You still need to prioritize your targets but typically have less movement options to make and just hope you roll well. Looking through the book there are a few scenarios in the book that have some points on the board that you need to hold to win (king of the hill style). We tried one with three points with each side starting near one of them and the third was more in the middle. You win if you hold all three at the end of any round or if you hold two at the end of the fourth round. This was great fun as each player had interesting tactical decisions to make; the Americans started with many more troops but had no reinforcements while the Germans had fewer starting troops but got more as the game progressed. It pretty much came right down to the wire and was serious fun.
Unfortunately I think that is the only scenario from the book I’ve had a chance to play. It looks like there is a really nice variety of scenarios, though, and I noticed at least two others that had a similar layout and goals which gives me hope. I’ll come back with more thoughts later once I get to try out more scenarios but so far it seems like the book is well worth the money. There are some mistakes in (be sure to check out the FAQ and errata) it but there’s a lot of great information from the scenario designers and they seem to be pretty creative. If you enjoy Tide of Iron the book seems to be a great addition and I’m hoping we see more of these down the road.