Sunday 30 July 2023

Upgrade for Old School Tactical Vol I (east front)

The Old School Tactical ‘Upgrade Kit’ for Volume I (East Front) arrived today on UK shores via Second Chance Games (UK). 

I think this post will only interest the small part of the blog audience that follows and takes an interest in the Old School Tactical system from Flying Pig Games. So please by-pass and no need to comment if that is not you.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post;

My starting position is that I am a completist for this series, so while I got this, depending on one’s budget I would start by saying that it is not essential for Vol I owners, but is a nice thing to have. I am grateful to FPG to putting the effort in to getting it out and I am pleased to have bought mine.

For those owning Vol I, the situation we are in came from the initial growing pains of the series. The core Vol I set was initially bundled with the Stalingrad module, which was a stretch goal on Kickstarter. 

This was fine at the time, but had a built in problem. In some areas the Core Volume I set and the Stalingrad module became a little integrated in fringe parts. Some of the scenarios need counters that were in the Stalingrad module and one scenario needed both some counters and the Stalingrad board to play.

This only really became an issue when Vol I sold out and Flying Pig reprinted the Core Volume I as a straight reprint in a stand alone form, without the Stalingrad module. Obviously the stand alone Vol I was now making references to game parts only found in the Stalingrad module, which had also gone out of print.

The cry went up that customers had bought a reprint, which had a couple of scenarios in it that could not be played and as a consequence, Flying Pig Games came to the rescue with a reprint of the Stalingrad module.

The situation I am in is that I have Vol I and a nicely boxed reprint of the Stalingrad module and it is being in this situation that makes the purchase of the upgrade kit a considered option. If you only have volume I, but not the much sought after Stalingrad module, then I think your compulsion or benefit to upgrade might be higher than mine was.

Anyway, what does the upgrade mean to me?

Updated Quick Reference Sheet - not long after publication, the Vehicle Combat Result table was tweaked slightly to make anti-tank fire a bit more deadly ….. and a ‘bit’ is all it is, but it took the results in a direction asked for by the fan base. 

I have always used the charts from Volume II (NW Europe), which had the updated table and Flying Pig Games did make it available as a download option for Volume I owners, but now with the upgrade. Vol 1 has its own corrected sheet (a pair of them in fact) and these are on heavier stock than the original ones in Vol 1.

Updated T34/85 data card - A few years ago, I posted an article about OST gun performance and wondered why the Soviet 85mm was not performing as well as I might expect. The Upgrade kit gives us a new T34/85 data card that better (in my view) represents the anti-tank penetration values of the 85mm, which has been tweaked so that the gun sits in a better relationship between, say, the German 75/48 and the German 88/56 tank guns. For anyone wanting to see my original article, here is the link

Updated Scenario book - the physical presentation of the scenarios has been changed to match all of the scenario books (Playbooks) that followed and some scenario errata has been sorted out. The ‘Cornered Cats’ scenario has been removed, this is the one that required the Stalingrad game board and the T34/85’s. 

Two new scenarios have been added. These are described as ‘Starter Scenarios’ and each is a 4 turn action, with a nice small order of battle. They look like they will do the job intended for them, while also giving the regular player a mid-week opportunity to roll some dice or even act as a refresher if they have spent a bit of time away from the system. 

All tactical warfare games have the potential to be complicated for the first dive in, though I feel in general, OST is the best tactical game at getting a good balance between playability / feel and simulation - obviously a personal view.

I have cut the ‘Cornered Cats’ scenario from my original playbook, laminated it and added it the new upgraded playbook, simply because I have the Stalingrad board.

Updated rules - the latest Version 5.65 is included. This is a small update to the recent V5.6 and notably has the new replacement Machine Gun ‘Sustained Fire’ rule in it. When I say small, I mean small compared to the rule sets that we have been using with Volumes II and III (Pacific), but as a replacement for the original rulebook in the earlier Volume I’s, it is a respectable upgrade, if only because it is better organised and easier to find your way around it.

One of the changes in accordance with the later rules is that ‘open topped vehicles’ are not described by the interior of the vehicle being marked as bright white (always a distraction to the aesthetic of the artwork). Instead the open top description is simply shown on the unit data card and the counter graphic can have a much more sympathetic and correct representation of the vehicle.

Data Cards and Luck cards - These have all been replaced with cards that hold the same information, but they seem slightly sturdier and have a sort of parchment texture on them. As mentioned, the T34/85 card has been amended, other than that they seem a straight replacement except that there are 9 additional Luck Cards, which have been nicely thought out and are most welcome.

Counters - all of the counters have replacements (well sort of). You get four frames and they have the new style of art (not hugely different from the old, but for example the German sniper is laying down rather than standing up and the Soviet sniper has a como cape. Overall the figures have more detail / better definition and look a little richer in depth of colour). 

My old counters are still looking good, but what is useful to me is the extra admin markers that you get, especially the Fired / Moved / Used counters. I have replaced all of my combat counters for the upgraded ones, but for the admin counters, I have simply added the new to the old, to create a bigger pool.

Above - On the left are original counters and to the the right, their new replacements.

When I say all the counters are ‘sort of’ replaced, the exact composition of the frames have been jiggled a little bit, so for example the Germans have one Captain less and one sniper less, but their Pioneer counters have been increased from four to six.

I have kept all of the old stuff bagged up to one side for emergency spares. An upgrade kit gives an excellent opportunity to replace worn counters, though I must say, my originals are still looking excellent, which speaks volumes of the quality of these pieces (plus I take good care of my games ….. no eating crisps and such like at my table!)

Finally, attached in a little baggie at the back of the kit holding 4 or 5 Soviet support weapons. My understanding is that these were missing from the 2nd Edition print run and have since been produced and made available and so they are also included here.

So, bottom line, this is a nice rather than essential purchase to the series. If you have Vol 1 but not the Stalingrad module, it may move higher up your ‘needs’ list. 

I’m glad I bought mine, there is enough here for me to see the benefit. I like having the latest rulebook in proper form, the updated T34/85 card, the 9 new luck cards, the reformatted scenario book with two new additions and it’s also nice to end up with plenty of moved / fire / used markers. The rest is eye candy, which as a regular player, I also appreciate.

Thanks to Shayne Logan for working tirelessly to expand this system and being on hand to answer questions and to Mark at Flying Pig Games for having committed the company to getting a good quality product out and for standing behind the series.