Game Name: Toe-to-Toe – Nu’klr Combat with the Rooskies
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Designer: Chris Taylor
Artist: Tim Allen
Playing Time: 15 Minutes per Mission
Genre: Light, solitaire Cold War wargame
Retail Price: $14.95
Toe-to-Toe Nu’klr Combat with the Rooskies is #8 in Victory Point Games Battlesson series. A Battlesson series game “provides an introductory-level war and strategy gaming experience just right for beginners to this fascinating hobby. They are perfect learning / teaching tools for ‘new recruits’ to wargaming, in addition to serving as a handy tool for experienced wargamers to teach new players.” In the case of Toe-to-Toe, there is a sheet included that describes the method for building game prototypes that is pretty informative.
The game itself reminds of a sort of B-17: Queen of the Skies – light type game. Fans of the original B-17 will feel some of the same action in this solo enemy bombing game. I did say light though, it doesn’t have the same depth of B-17, but it is after all an introductory level game.
The theme for Toe-to-Toe is different than B-17 of course. In this game, the cold war has escalated to the point where WWIII has started and the bombs are being dropped. Your mission is to fly your B-52 into Russia and nuke various strategic targets.
The map is set up to resemble the display of the cockpit of your B-52 on the lower half, while the upper half shows the map and the spaces your aircraft must move through to get to its target. There are four separate scenarios that you can play as single missions, or play all together as one long campaign. The scenarios range from easy to difficult, and are color-coded as such on the map.
I really like the map actually. It is full color and richly detailed. There are spots to keep track of everything you need to in the game, including damage, victory points, altitude, fuel, and the location of your B-52. The map is simply an 8.5” x 11” sheet, so it only takes a small area to play the game.
To begin, you set up all of the counters on their correct spaces, and place your B-52 in its home base location for the mission that you are playing. You select your bomb payload from the available bomb markers, up to a total of 60 megatons. Dropping the higher yield bombs will net you the most victory points of course, but you also have to plan out your targets on the board in advance as each mission has several. There is your primary target, plus one or two secondary and tertiary targets, each worth varying victory points. You can plan to attack all of them, or save the big 50 megaton bomb for your primary target, which will get you a x5 multiplier for your victory point score.
Carrying extra bombs has other benefits. As you take damage along the damage track, you will need to discard various components at certain spots along the track. This is to represent different components going out or getting damaged. You can use one of your extra bombs to satisfy the toll of the damage, thus saving your chaff, flares, and fuel for their intended usage.
After your B-52 is loaded and ready to go, you set up random defense tokens along each point on your route to target. As you move to these spaces, you will flip over each token to see what the Rooskies have waiting for you. The board also has defenses printed right on each space as well, and you will need to get past all of the defenses to advance to the next space.
The Rooskies have both MiG’s and SAM defenses to harry you along the route. Their attacks will vary depending upon the space on the board, and your aircraft’s altitude. If you are at high altitude, it is more difficult for the SAM’s to hit you, but they do more damage when they do. At low altitude, the threat from SAM’s and MiG’s is low, but you burn one fuel for every space you move. You only get nine fuel to start, and if you run out you will end up ditching the B-52 wherever and hoping that your crew survives.
The attack and damage from the Soviet defenses are right on the board, based on the current threat level. For example, if the threat level is high, a SAM can hit you on a roll of two or higher on 1d6. The threat is raised and lowered by various events and tokens, and you’ll usually find yourself at high threat before long.
During each turn, you will adjust your altitude (if you desire) and move your B-52 one space along the route. Then you flip over the token on that space and deal with both the defenses on the token, and those printed on the board. In some cases the token will have you draw a card from the event deck, which you hold onto until after all defenses are resolved.
Your B-52 does have some defense against the Soviet attacks. Flares and chaff can reduce the chance for a successful Soviet attack. In the advanced game, you can also choose to equip your B-52 with an AGM-28 Hound Dog, or several AIM-7 Sparrows, which provide their own measure of protection. These are limited resources though, so use them sparingly.
If your aircraft survives the Soviet defenses, you flip over and read any event card that was drawn. In most cases bad things happen, but there are some good things. Targets of opportunity may surface, where you can score some quick victory points if you have an extra nuclear bomb laying about.
After surviving all of this, if you are over a target, you may drop one of your bombs. There are rules for calculating the success and victory points scored for that bomb drop, then you start a new turn and continue to the next space.
Play continues until you either return to your home base, or crash. You then score your final points and determine the final score. It will take 41+ points to score an overwhelming success on your mission.
The game is fast. You can get through a mission in 15-20 minutes, and probably play an entire campaign in less than 90 minutes. The game is enjoyable, after several missions I have both succeeded and failed. My greatest success was the bombing of Moscow, which netted me over 50 victory points, however my B-52 crashed and everyone was killed, so the victory points were scooped up by some General back at home base.
As I mentioned, Toe-to-Toe is a light game, and is obviously introductory. As a player of B-17: Queen of the Skies, I enjoy the greater depth and personalization available in that game. Missing is the angst as your pilot gets riddled with bullets and your landing gear is shot off as you slide into base on your belly. Here you drop your payload and roll a die to see how effective it was, the higher the better. Toe-to-Toe also has a generic damage track, which counts down and you crash when your aircraft hits zero.
Toe-to-Toe meets its intent however, it is meant as an introductory game and fully meets those expectations in that context. At $14.95, it is well worth it and might be fun to play to gear yourself up for an evening of Twilight Struggle. I’d really like to see a two player version just for that purpose. It is thematic, there is no doubt.