A little over two years ago, I reviewed the first volume of Old School Tactical. Just about everything that I said for Volume 1 remains true for Volume 2, so rather than rehash the things that I said before, I'm going to take a different approach and tell you why I think that this series of games is worth your time, especially if you enjoy hex and counter war games, and why I think Volume 2 is actually my favorite of the two, even though it has less content overall. If you've already played Volume 1 and enjoyed it, then you will certainly like Volume 2, but if you haven't played either, where should you start?
Both games are fun and worth your time. Both games are interesting squad-level (a mix of infantry and armored units) hex and counter war games that fit snugly in the middle weight category (balancing play-ability with simulation extremely well), and starting with either game is the correct answer. Volume 1 focuses on the Eastern Front of the war and the conflict between the Germans and the Russians. Volume 2 focuses on the Western Front, pitting the Germans against the Americans. Volume 2 has a huge 27x41 hexmap that is so massive that only a small portion of it is used for each mission, while Volume 1 has TWO different maps that size, and both games have a metric ton of counters for units, status effects, terrain etc. In truth, both games are the right place to start, as you can't go wrong with either.
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Volume 2 has 18 missions, two of which are solitaire, compared to Volume 1's 26, but overall I've found the missions in Volume 2 to be slightly more interesting. The missions in Volume 1 aren't bad, far from it, but most boil down to a competition to score the most Victory and Casualty points to determine the winner. Volume 2 still uses that same formula for many of its mission, but it has a bigger volume of missions with special objectives, which encourages players to replay the same missions over again as the opposing force to see if they can win the day. Another bright spot in the mission selection in Volume 2 are the aforementioned solitaire scenarios. While the AI system for the game is fairly rudimentary, as noted by the designer in the book itself, they are functional, and more importantly, easily adaptable to be used with many other missions, or simply for use in skirmishes or missions that you create yourself. I tend to enjoy playing 2 player wargames solo when I can't find an opponent, but having the option to play against the game when I do want to strictly focus on only one side of the conflict is always an excellent and welcome thing to have.
Another reason I prefer Old School Tactical Vol 2 over the original is that I'm simply more interested in the Western Front than I am in the Eastern Front. I'm not sure if that's bias because I'm American, courtesy of all of the World War II movies I watched with my dad as a kid that focused on the Western Front, or a combination of the two, but I have a preference (in any WWII game) to play as the American troops whenever I can, and Volume 2 lets me do that in every single mission (assuming my opponent agrees of course). Conversely, it feels more diabolical to play as the German army when fighting American troops than it did when facing off against the Russian troops in Vol 1, so I get more of a taboo thrill when playing as the Germans in Vol 2.
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There isn't anything game changing in Volume 2 that you didn't see in Volume 1. The ruleset is tweaked very slightly, but there isn't any new earth shaking mechanic that changes things up drastically, although I can't imagine that you wouldn't want to get both Volumes if you play and enjoy either. Even if you only played the included missions you still get a hefty 18 new scenarios with Volume 2, and the number of different skirmish battles that you can create if you have both sets is mind boggling. You could even combine the sets and create a massive 3 player free for all battle, and the maps are large enough that they could easily accommodate battles on that scale, even if you chose to use a ridiculous number of units on each side.
If you've never played a hex and counter war game I think this series is a great place to get your feet wet. The rules are complex enough to be satisfying, yet they aren't daunting, and the rulebook is extremely easy to reference thanks to a well laid out glossary. One of the really beautiful things about the Old School Tactical games is just how action packed they are. There really isn't any slog or downtime, and turns pass back and forth between players very rapidly. The combat calculations are easy, (yes, you have to calculate attack power vs defense etc.) and the dice driven combat is quick. It only takes a few games before you can rapidly calculate which column you should reference on the Combat Tables, and the results of the rolls are thematic, easy to read, and most importantly, they make sense.
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Ultimately, whether you decide to go with Volume 1, Volume 2, or both, Old School Tactical is worth your time and attention whether you are a veteran hex and counter wargamer or someone who is looking for a great place to get into the hobby. The rules are well laid out, strike a good balance between simulation and play-ability, and both games have a large amount of content, which borders on massive when combined together as a game system. There are expansions as well, so this system has some serious legs, and promises hours upon hours of strategic fun for anyone who invests in it. The rules, although slightly different between the two games, are such that learning one will teach you all you need to know to play either.
A note on “chrome”: Old School Tactical Vol. 2 has uniformly good components. The art on the board is interesting and evocative, the rules are well laid out and easy to reference, and the chits are all large and easy to read. The copy we were sent to review did have an issue with one of the punch boards being cut off-center, and so the upper left corner on some of our American units is hard to read, but thankfully the included reference cards hold all of the information for each unit, so it didn't keep us from playing, and Flying Pig Games are more than willing to send replacements if your copy has this issue.
The bottom line:
Old School Tactical Volume 2 is built upon the same system that made Old School Tactical Volume 1 so much fun. The main draw here is the setting change from the Eastern Front of World War II featured in Vol 1, to the Western Front, pitting the German forces against the American Forces during the latter part of the war. While Volume 2 doesn't have as many missions as its predecessor, the missions it does have are slightly more interesting overall, and it introduces a solitaire mode to the system. Whether you are a veteran wargamer, or a new player just looking to get your feet wet, Old School Tactical Volume 2 is a worthy purchase, especially if you have a keen interest in the Western Front of World War II. If you have already played and enjoyed Volume 1, then Volume 2 is a must-have, and if you are like me you'll be anxiously hoping that Volume 3 is in the works. No matter where you decide to get into this system, there is a ton of content available for it between Volumes 1, 2 and their expansions. This really is a deep, content rich series that will keep you busy for dozens of nights of wargaming goodness.
Get this game if:
You enjoyed the first volume of Old School Tactical.
You are interested in Squad level tactical games.
You are a fan of the Western Front of World War II.
You want a great, medium weight war game that works well as a two player game and as a solitaire game.
You want a robust system with a ton of content, and tons of options for expansions.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike hex and counter war games.
You don't like dice-driven combat.
The copy of Old School Tactical Vol. 2 used for this review was provided by Flying Pig Games.
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