"In The Trenches: Devil Dogs" is a game of WW I tactical combat. Its a hex and counter game, set in the last year of the war between U.S. Marines and the German Army on the Western Front. It is one of two "Base Sets" for the game system. There are 4 other "Batttle Packs" with additional scenarios at this writing. In order to play any of the other expansions you will need this base set or "In The Trenches: Doughboys".
What you get: 3 great looking maps, one for each of the scenarios included. One of a hill with entrenchments, a forest with entrenchments, and what looks like the same forest, blasted all to hell. The counters are clean and functional, using NATO symbols for infantry and silhouettes for machine guns and mortars. A 20 page rulebook, a turn record sheet and a quick reference sheet.
How it plays: The three scenarios included involve US marines assaulting the Germans in entrenched positions. Turns are made of "rounds" in which players roll 2 d6 to determine who goes first. The difference between these rolls determines how many orders may be given during that round. This creates a lot of variability and randomness typical of any battlefield.
Orders can be given to individual platoons, or to entire formations made up of four platoons. Ordering a formation has the drawback of one less movement point for all of the platoons within it. This can be important when assaulting a position, particularly if one has few orders that round. Moving or firing, exhausts units with two commitment levels: "Engaged" or "spent". A fresh unit that moves or fires (cant do both in the same round) becomes "engaged" and can only fire or engage in close combat thereafter. "Engaged" units may fire at half strength, but are "spent" afterwards and can do nothing but engage in close combat.
A single turn is composed of a random number of rounds and ends when both players roll the same initiative roll or when both players are out of options. At the end of the turn all units return to "Free" status and may start over.
In any round the player who isnt moving may use "reaction" fire against any enemy moving within range. This increases their commitment level by one (either "engaged" or "spent") but can be deadly to anyone trying to close in for close combat.
My opinion The game is about medium complexity, anyone familiar with hex and counter wargames will have no problem picking this up quickly. The scenarios all play in about 30-90 minutes. The game captures WW I infantry fighting without a lot of rules, but what is there is very nuanced, and will take a few plays to fully appreciate. My only complaint is a small one, this game gives you three scenarios which always pit the far more numerous marines vs the defending Germans in different positions. The marines do not have any support equipment, (mortars or machine guns). although the rules cover things like Cavalry charges, tanks and barbed wire, they play no role in this game. Also there are tons of counters which just aren't used. These rules and additional counters do get used in the additional expansions.
Its hard to fault a game with an admission price of $12, but to fully appreciate the system, one will need to buy one of the expansions. What you get with this base set is a bit of a tease, for potentially better things to come. I can't comment on that since I havent played any of them yet. But since I bought all of them, I'll be playing them and offering reviews here. What I see in this game looks very promising.