Dawn's Early Light: Red Hammer review

05 January 2016
redhammer-32702.jpg Dawn's Early Light Red Hammer
Experience the Cold War in this fun and simple wargame... with plenty of explosions

Designed by Peter Bogdasarian, published by Lock ’N Load Publishing – RRP $44.99 (approx. £29.00)

It’s May 1985 and Operation Red Hammer has begun! The Soviet First Tank Army crosses the border into Germany and strikes into the Eisenbach Gap, seeking to rip open the belly of NATO’s defences. American and German troops scramble from their bases to try and delay the Soviets, for if they get through they would drive all the way to the Rhine. Over two thousand tanks will meet in the decisive engagement of the war. It’s a ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ scenario of the sort that Lock ‘N Load Publishing have become the masters of. This time, we’re pushing battalions of tanks around…and it’s a lot of fun.

In terms of physical components, Dawn’s Early Light: Red Hammer is on top form. The rulebook and the maps are on highly quality paper, and the artwork is evocative, without ever becoming too ‘busy’. Everything is easy to read and interpret. The counters are on very good quality cardboard, with a good thickness to them. The artwork eschews the conventional NATO symbols in favour of fully realised illustrations of the tanks and support vehicles that they represent. Some people prefer NATO symbols, but personally, I think these look great. This is an action movie of a game, and this adds to the immersion. The game uses a very interesting initiative system. Players roll off at the start of each turn, and then enter a simple – but engaging – little psych-out minigame, combined with the players having to decide whether they want to go first with fewer units, or go second and launch everything.

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For the most part, Dawn’s Early Light: Red Hammer doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table. The movement and combat rules won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s played a handful of wargames before (and this is far from bad news – these things are tried and tested for a reason!), but this initiative system really does add a unique little twist to the proceedings. The game comes with seven scenarios, which are varied and interesting enough to keep you playing for some time – plus you could probably invent your own if you wanted to. That’s the great thing about “what it?” military situations!

If you’re already at fan of Lock ‘N Load’s World At War setting, you’ll dig this too. If you’ve yet to try Cold War Gone Hot gaming, then this is a great point to start with. It’s focused, it’s simple to get your head around, and there are plenty of explosions! What’s more, a game is fully teachable and playable inside 2-3 hours, which means you can wrap up an entire battle in one evening! Man, I wish more wargames could do that… (Brad Harmer-Barnes) 


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