The newest entry in the WWII Operation Whitebox (OWB ) product line was just released and this one takes the game in a whole new visual direction. OWB: Tactical is designed to take the “theater of the mind” experience of OWB and bring the firefights and combats alive in a new and exciting visual way. Who doesn’t love moving miniatures or digital tokens around in their games? Get that same visualization with supplemental rules that fit seamlessly into the original game.
The following is taken directly from the Foreword of the book. The combat rules presented in the WWII: Operation WhiteBox core rulebook take place mainly in the “Theater of the Mind”. This means that the Referee sets the scene and decides whether or not a character is capable of a certain maneuver, action, or attack. The following Tactical Combat rules are designed for groups who prefer a more visual representation of combat, particularly those who play online. These rules supersede any conflicting rule found in the Personal Combat or Vehicle Combat section of the WWII: Operation WhiteBox core rulebook. The Tactical Combat rules presented here are not meant to mimic the complexity of a true wargame. Instead, the focus is on small unit actions involving a squad of enemies and/or a handful of vehicles battling it out in a single playing area—the kind of combat most commonly encountered in WWII: Operation WhiteBox.
As with its big brother and namesake, Operation Whitebox, is a very nicely done product. The layout makes for easy reading which is good for my aging eyes. The art selections used through out the book are thematically appropriate and are used to good effect to illustrate various concepts. The art pieces themselves are not commissioned pieces, save for the cover, but rather snippets taken from an online virtual tabletop, most likely Roll20. Don’t let that dissuade you in any way, they are visually attractive.
During noncombat encounters, the game plays out as a traditional OSR roleplaying game using “theater of the mind”. The PCs interact with NPCs and the world around them, resolving conflicts and adjudicate situations with die rolls or good old-fashioned roleplaying. During this portion of the game experience, no visual aids are needed. Hence the concept of “Theater of the Mind”. Where things change slightly is when combat occurs. The referee or game master breaks out the grid map and seamlessly switches to the Tactical Combat rules. Character and vehicle miniatures are placed on the map and Tactical Combat Rounds are utilized. This phase of the game can be played in three dimensions on the tabletop with miniatures and terrain or on any number of online virtual tabletops using art images of terrain and enemies.
The integration of the visual tactical rules is seamless; gamemasters can easily switch from “theater of the mind” to visual imagery and back with little to no interruptions to the gaming experience. For me, having played the original game several times using “theater of the mind” only, I am excited about the ability to seamlessly transition into combat scenes that will present my players with more lifelike realism. As written, OWB: Tactical Combat only enhances the existing combat rules. That being said, this supplement does add some rather simple rules. These are namely in the way movement is addressed for both infantry units and vehicles. Some of the OWB combat rules that were in the original OWB rule book are duplicated here to make a solid comprehensive supplement.
Smart and practical supplement
Simple and seamless integration into the existing game
Great for online gamers who utilize virtual tabletops
Well laid out and easy to read and digest
Not particularly innovative, but rather down dirty and straight to the point
Not a supplement for everyone
Does add a new layer of rules for referees and players to learn
For me, this supplement is a no-brainer. I’m wargamer at heart in addition to my love of roleplaying games. So, this books helps me scratch both itches at once. I’ll be honest, this is not for everyone, but if you’re playing Operation Whitebox already or thinking about taking the plunge into historical roleplaying games, this is at least worth checking out. What little in the way of rules complexity it adds to OWB really only requires a minimal effort to learn and implement at the game table. Since I don;t have any WWII miniatures and mainly run OWB games online through Roll20, I see lots of value and potential for those that play on virtual tabletops.
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