This article originally appeared in Pyramid #13
Hunters from the Sky
Published by The Gamers
Designed by Dean Essig
Price: $39.00Since my earliest days as a wargamer, the World War II invasion of Crete has fascinated me. At the risk of showing my age (or youth, depending on your perspective), I bought Avalon Hill's Air Assault on Crete when it first came out; I was in the eighth grade. When I heard that two Crete games were coming out in 1994, I couldn't wait. Well, I finally got my grubby little hands on Hunters from the Sky. I have not been disappointed.
Hunters from the Sky is The Gamers' sixth installment in their Tactical Combat System line. For those not familiar with The Gamers' approach, each of their games is part of a system, and each game comes with a series rulebook and a game rulebook. The series rulebook provides all the necessary core rules, and the game rulebook provides scenario-specific rules and guidelines unique to the individual game. In general, each new version of the system is fully compatible with the previous games, so a gamer who already has an older game in a series can buy one of the newer games and use the new rules with the old game.
The scale for all TCS games is 20 minutes per turn and 125 yards per hex. Counters represent individual vehicles (except for troop carriers, which represent enough vehicles to haul a platoon), infantry platoons, MG and mortar sections, and individual artillery pieces. For non-vehicle units, losses are taken in steps, with each platoon having five steps, each section having two, and each artillery piece having one.
Units are rated for attack, range, morale (for infantry-type units), and defense (for vehicles and some heavy weapons). In addition, each unit is rated by firer and target type. Firers come in two types: point and area. Point fire represents shots aimed at individual targets, such as tanks. Area fire represents a volume of fire delivered into an area to attack an infantry-type unit. Point weapons can also attack as an area fire unit Target types come in three flavors: point, area and both. Point and area are self-explanatory; both refer to those units that present a large enough target to be taken out by a single round, yet are also susceptible to area fire. Examples of "both"-type targets include trucks (can be disabled with small arms) and artillery pieces (kill the crew, kill the weapon).
Perhaps the system's biggest strength is an extremely intuitive game flow. Though certain activities, such as air strikes and commands, must occur in specific phases, the "meaty" actions: movement, suppression fire, and the like, are executed in any desired order during the action phase. With but a few restrictions, a player can move some units, fire others, then move the remaining units. Artillery fire can be called at any point in the action phase. In addition, the opposing player can fire "overwatch" in response to overwatch triggers, such as movement and fire.
The action/overwatch interaction makes for logical and satisfying game play. For example, the Commonwealth units may hold a vital hill. The Germans can't move up the hill withouth drawing fire from the defenders, so they call artillery and have some units lay down a suppression fire. If successful, the Germans can move some units up the hill and overrun the Commonwealth positions. If the suppression is unsuccessful, the Germans will probably be slaughtered.
As a testament to the game's logical and intuitive flow, I played Hunters from the Sky with my younger brother, who was a SAW gunner in an infantry unit. Though he had no idea how to play the game, he knew small unit tactics. By describing to me what he wanted done and what units he wanted to be moved or fired, he was able to quickly kick my butt. Few games are realistic enough that knowledge of real-world tactics is more important than knowledge of the game system.
I cannot recommend Hunters from the Sky enough. The components are beautiful, the game play intuitive and the overall package magnificent. And this much-improved rules version can be used with older games in the system with a minimum of difficulty. This game's a winner.
Article publication date: June 1, 1995
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