Out of the box: A Ring of Hills

The first ‘new’ arrival of the New Year here in the swamp is the latest addition to LNL Publishing’s “Lock N Load” system, A Ring of Hills. I haven’t yet spent a ton of time with this one, but I have managed to poke around at it enough over the last week or so that I can offer up a few first impressions.

I’ve enjoyed playing the LNL game system since the release of the original “Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam” some years ago. It’s a bit more ‘cinematic’ than most squad-based tactical games, but it’s also comparitively lighter on rules and quicker to play. I placed my pre-order for Ring of Hills back in May, 2008 – so I’m quite pleased to see the thing finally land on the Big Table.

Map art comparison: Band of Heroes (top), A Ring of Hills

Map art comparison: Band of Heroes (top), A Ring of Hills

A brief caveat: A Ring of Hills (ROH) is NOT a complete game. It’s advertised as an ‘expansion pack’ for LNL: Band of Brothers and so it is. System markers and skill cards from Band of Brothers are required for play of ROH. The system ‘core’ bits in Forgotten Heroes (or Day of Heroes, for that matter) may also work, but since I own Band of Heroes I haven’t bothered to cross-check.

ROH takes the LNL system back into the territory I think it’s best suited to cover: ‘contemporary’ conflicts. Maybe it’s because the profusion of World War 2-era squad-based games invites too many comparisons or breeds too much familiarity, but to me the LNL system seems a better fit in the games set after 1945.  Nearly 30 years after the event the Falklands conflict is under-represented in board wargaming, and any game that competently addresses the topic automatically qualifies for a number of bonus points in my book.

The five geomorphic game boards are the same type of maps found in Band of Heroes – the notable exception being that each board has a central fold so that they fit in a standard sized game box. Graphically, the map art is a shade on the dark side – perhaps an effort to evoke the look and feel of the Falklands’ inhospitible quagmire of bogs, rocks and gorse. Something a little lighter might make terrain features easier to recognize, but with a few minutes’ study the dark tones don’t seem to inhibit play.

A Ring of Hills countersheet

A Ring of Hills countersheet

Counter artwork is quite good and easily readable. I always enjoy seeing how a game system presents a ‘new’ setting or theater of operations. The Falklands conflict has been a long standing pet topic for me, so I was especially keen to see the UK and Argentine orders of battle get the Lock N Load treatment.

Anti-tank guided missiles make their debut in this module, in the form of the Milan system that UK troops used to good effect against Argentine fortified positions. Fixed-wing air support also appears in both OOBs: Harrier for the UK and the Pucara turbo-prop for the Argentines. The man-portable Blowpipe air defense missile puts in an appearance. Some new armored vehicles are also included: Argentine AML-90s, British Scorpions and Scimitars. There’s also an Argentine warship, ARA Guerrico (a French-built Type A69 corvette).

Some modern-ish goodies in the OOB

Some modern-ish goodies in the OOB

The module includes 6 pages of exclusive rules. As a warning to the unprepared, one of the special rules is “British Marksmanship”, which allows British Parachute and Marine units to roll an eight-sided die (d8) for their attacks instead of the usual d6. No d8 is included in the module, so players need to scare one of those up on their own.

There are 12 scenarios in the box, and they cover a broad range of the ground actions fought during the campaign. Some of the scenarios are rather large and feature the major fights, but there are also smaller scenarios that deal with interesting, lesser-known engagements like Top Malo House and the Argentine landing on South Georgia Island (during which the aforementioned Argentine corvette can act as a magnet for British ‘Carl Gustav’ rockets).

Overall, it looks like a well-done package. It will hit the Big Table as soon as there’s an opening in the schedule.

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