Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital | Fortified Niche playtest!

As the pod continues to cover the best hex and chit wargames in the market, we finally pay tribute to one of the modern greats. Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital is- well, the name’s self-explanatory. It’s tactical action on digital battlefields, baby!

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Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital screenshot: Soviet Armor faces off against a single Abrams
Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital is a game, sure, but really, it’s a platform. The main title – €3,99 at the time of writing – presents four scenarios: two from WW2, two from the Vietnam War. And that’s the promise right there: squad-level action from 1940s to modern day (the most current-day module deals with the Libyan revolution).
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital screenshot: start of the turn initiative roll grants initiative to the Soviets.
Naturally, Cassa and I immediately went for Heroes against Red Star, the “Cold War gone hot” DLC. Many others are also available, with actions as varied as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the French defense against the Nazis, the Falklands War and Somalia circa Black Hawk Dawn.
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital screenshot: some Soviet tanks, a smoke hex with particle effects and a single US ATGM team
If you’re familiar with Advanced Squad Leader, you’ll already know the main chits in play: squads, half-squads, leaders, heroes, single vehicles, and special weapons. However, instead the strict phase structure of ASL, the players alternate activating units. Want to use more than a single chit on your phase? You can command them as a stack (not recommended) or use an officer to activate all the hexes around them (the cool option). This way, the action is way more flexible and easier to understand.
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital screenshot: start of the turn initiative roll grants initiative to the Soviets.
Playing it digitally removes a lot strain that would come with the physical version. Look at that turbo stack, the result of my preparations to assault American infantry sheltered on top of floor the building with my Soviet troops on the first. Playing live, gravity would already be getting in the way. But digitally, I don’t have to care about stacking limits, stacking order, or anything else. Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s motto is “play the game, not the rules” and having a fully featured PC enables precisely that.
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital screenshot: Melee resolution screen
In general, Lock ‘n Load publishing is one of the rare wall-to-wall grog companies that seemingly love the player some much as to kiss them square on the lips. Unlike, say, grog PC game series Combat Mission, Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital is festooned with tool-tips. It has a line-of-sight tool and you can customize the interface. Outside of the game itself, you’ll get plenty of digital assets on their website, down to module-specific rulebooks. Wild!
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital: three very busy hexes with multiple types of chits.
That said, not everything is faultless in the land of Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital. The game went into Early Access in early 2020 and still hasn’t come to v1.0. I’m sure the plague bears some blame there and the updates are fairly frequent. But some technical issues persist, like game freezing during fire reactions, me seeing the other player’s interface sometimes, or the fact that you can’t interact with anything during the opposing turn. It would also be great if the phase auto-ended when my activated unit runs out of actions. The AI is also struggling: it insists on putting units into mega stacks and has no idea how to put infantry into transports.
Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital: three burning T-72s, one mildly annoyed Abrams.
In conclusion, Lock ‘n Load Tactical Digital is a great way to get some hex and chit action without meeting live. The game does the heavy lifting for you, and the developer seems very player friendly. Sure, scenario balance may sometime seem iffy (how is my detachment of 9 T-72s to win an assault against a combined arms force that features three Abrams tanks I can’t frontally pen at any range?) and some bugs remain, but the fundamentals are there and the fixes are coming. Now, make a World War 3 module set in 1959!

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