Armored Brigade By Matrix/Slitherine       Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful dur...

Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



By




  



 
 Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful during this season of thanks. It is an adult sized toy chest filled with wargaming goodness for those of us who enjoy gaming a fictional World War III. The forces that you have at your fingertips never really fought each other. A lot of the actual weapons did fight each other, but mostly they were in the hands of different troops. Many of the Middle East conflicts had these same weapons in use. The sheer scope of this game is pretty amazing. I will have quite a few links at the end of the review because this game has had more buzz about it than any game for a good long time.

 The first thing you need to know about the game is that it comes with fifteen scenarios. This game is the ultimate sandbox for wargaming the last years of the 20th century in parts of Europe. The player has a tremendous amount of variables to use in making his various scenarios. From what I have read there will be DLCs with more player ready scenarios and possibly campaigns. The second thing you need to know is that this was a free download game for a long time. What you need to know about this is that this game in its core resembles the free game. In reality the game has come a long way since then. You can see by the list below what is actually included for the player to use in their scenarios. Below that you will see the seven nations that are included with the game.


 
  

 This will be my take on the AI. Yes, it may make mistakes that some (remember that word some) human players might not make. However, the idea that is floated about is that all human players will play better than any game's AI is completely wrong. A human player can sometimes be a terrible player of a game, be it chess, wargames, or poker. The only things that a human player does sometimes that an AI almost never does are these:

1. A human player sometimes makes some incredibly foolish, or if you will stupid, moves that take you by surprise. If an AI is not done right it will make stupid moves, but they will be logical stupid moves not illogical.
2. A human player will sometimes game the system by using bad or incomplete rules to win a game by completely non-historical or insane means. What I mean by this is games that allow a regiment of AA to take a city the size of Moscow. 

 The AI in Armored Brigade is done well enough to keep the average wargamer on his toes. It will not (no AI will) be competitive to a gamer who plays one game sixteen hours a day for a month or two. I will say if that is your life, you are not a wargamer, just a person in need of a new hobby or something. Most of us have only limited time to play our wargames. If we are lucky we might get in up to four or five straight hours in a week. I also suspect that many are like myself and play different games pretty much each gaming session we can cram in, meaning that most of us do not play enough of one game to find the AI's pattern in them. Are there games out there with bad AIs, yes. Is this one of them, no. The defense rests.



 So, the salient parts of the game are this. It is single player only (gasp from the audience). On the other hand, I have seen it posted in articles that as low as 10% of all gamers play multiplayer. It comes with only fifteen preset scenarios. I would have liked to see more, and maybe at least one campaign added. I am not a fan of the DLC model that computer games are heading in. I do understand the higher costs companies are dealing with and why the DLC model is probably necessary. However, that does not mean I have to like it.


Farthest Out Zoom

 On the plus side you have a robust AI. The mission generator is one of the best as far as ease and amount of variables a player can use for his scenarios. I do believe by all the buzz that we will be able to choose from a large amount of player made scenarios. Matrix/Slitherine has developed or been involved with a lot of videos to explain most of the game's rules etc. With these, any player who has any questions can get playing in no time, although I did find the game to be intuitive and started playing right away. The scope of the weaponry and troops goes from 1965-1991. With this game you have a very large sandbox for battles in the late 20th century in a lot of Europe. The maps can vary from extremely large to very small to represent any size combat that you want. As a player, you can send orders to different parts of your own force to help with micromanagement. As for the AI on your side please see above. If you are a micromanager, the game allows you to play that way also. It is an RTS, but I wish we would come up with a different moniker. RTS always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and brings visions of Command and Conquer to mind. Maybe we can call these games wargames played in realtime, WPIR instead. Visually the game is a wargame sort of in the mold of the Close Combat series of games. You can zoom in very far, but you will not see tanks done in 3D. You will see very well done top down views of tanks etc. One great addition is that of dummy objectives. This is a neat addition to the game.



Closest Zoom


 My esteemed colleague on the blog would like to see the following added:
Snipers
Engineers
Paratroopers
 So in wrapping up I am happy to endorse the game to anyone who wants my opinion. The only thing I can really knock the game for is not coming with enough scenarios or a campaign.
Game Trailer:
How to move units:
AB developer interview:

This is a link to the manual:

DDR faction video:
Here is a write up about night time operations:

Robert

Against the Odds #32 Birth of a Legend Lee and the Seven Days Against The Odds magazine  The name of this issue&...

Against The Odds #32 Birth of a Legend: Lee and the Seven Days Review Against The Odds #32 Birth of a Legend: Lee and the Seven Days Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



Lee and the Seven Days







 The name of this issue's game is 'Birth of a Legend Lee and the Seven Days'. McClellan (Little Mac), the Union general tasked with defeating Joe Johnston, the Confederate general in the Virginia area of the Civil War, decided to attack Richmond from the sea. Little Mac was a very good trainer and great with logistics, however he was almost squeamish about spilling his soldiers' blood. While one would think that was a good thing, in reality it was not. By not fighting anywhere near as hard as his army could, he had them in the field and camps much longer than they should have been. When you realize that the soldiers in the Civil War died mostly from disease, you start to understand. The game included deals with Lee's first campaign with the Army of Northern Virginia against Little Mac and the Army of the Potomac.





 I have reviewed a few ATO magazines and games, and have always been impressed with both. These are some of the articles:

Birth of a Legend
And the Data Shows: Stumblers at the Gates
Simulation Corner: Wargames as Historical Laboratory
Alert at Pearl Harbor

 These are all well written and are well supplied with pictures, maps, and inserts. The magazine always tries to tie in their articles with wargames on the subject. It helps to illustrate both the history and the games mentioned.



Counter Sheet


 For those who want to take a look at the rule book here is the link:
 The game itself, and the article, were in the running for three Charles Roberts Awards. That will tell you how highly it is thought of.


Confederate Counters Close-up


The game map has areas instead of hexes (involuntary shudder). On the other side of the argument, I have gotten used to cards being used in wargames and also block wargames. So I guess it is time to shelve my slight phobia of area movement games, even though my brain keeps repeating hexes, hexes, hexes. The map is very well done and you will have in your hand something no one in either army had at that time: an actual idea of where you are and where the enemy is. Any book or article on the Seven days never fails to mention that parts of Africa were better mapped out than this part of Virginia. It seems by my reading that even the locals were stumped at times in trying to guide either force.


Sequence of play:

Dawn Phase
Army Leader Activation Die Roll
Union Supply Train Relocation
Daylight Phase
Sunset Die Roll
Night Phase
End Phase

 One of the rules that might take players by surprise is about entrenchments. We have all heard about how entrenching was normal in the last years of the war. Actually the troops learned very early to dig in whenever they had the chance. 

 There are several optional rules that she also included. Some of these are:

Lincoln Sends Help
Union Siege Guns
Jackson Sleeps

 The game also comes with copious designer's notes.



Union Counters Close-up


 The game is leadercentric as it should be for the Civil War. Very few and far between are the instances that initiative was taken during the War without checking with superiors. However, when it did happen something either very bad or very good was in the offing. So while playing the Union Little Mac can stymie your best thought out plans, playing as the Confederate, Lee is your ace in the hole. Most of the time he is active during game turns. Going back to the first point, the game does allow for limited activation of units without leaders being present with the troops. Naturally if your commander is active and you have good leaders (did anybody say Confederates), you will have a lot more choices to make. Playing as the Union you must first decide if you are just going to play defensively or actually try to capture Richmond. Unfortunately for you, Little Mac does not help you to be bold in the slightest. Playing as the Confederate you must attack, but when and where? Do you take enormous casualties, as happened historically, or do you try to pry the Union Army off your front porch more subtly? As the Confederate, a draw will do nothing for you. You must either destroy or hobble the Union Army.

 So what is my take on the game? Well besides the areas instead of hexes (just kidding), it plays out pretty well historically. Which to me is the litmus test for wargames. Playing a game that the rules would allow any time period to be played on a map, is not my cup of tea. So, this game has passed the test with flying colors. The designer has to try and put the players in each commander's shoes, even if they don't fit or really want to walk or do anything. Little Mac's subconscious would have been a great piece of history to have on hand. His penchant for imagining victories and enemy hordes still escapes historians. Luckily, you as the Union player know that every Confederate soldier under arms is not on the other side of your picket line.

Robert

Compass Games Expo 2018  The date, November 11th 2018. The venue, the Red Lion Hotel situated in Cromwell Ct. The first thing y...

Compass Games Expo 2018 Compass Games Expo 2018

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Compass Games Expo 2018





 The date, November 11th 2018. The venue, the Red Lion Hotel situated in Cromwell Ct. The first thing you will notice is the Hotel itself is massive. It could, and does, accommodate an immense amount of meetings and conferences all at the same time. My wife and I wandered through it at first seeing conference room after conference room for various American Legions.

 After doing at last what any sane person would have done first, we got the actual directions to the Expo. My first look at the Expo was a little perplexing. It looked like it was situated in a hallway. I found out that was just the setup for Compass Games themselves and the Citadel Game Cellar (more on them later). So after taking care of getting admittance, I could then see a large room to the left that was for gaming. Compass Games plans to make this a yearly gathering and has assured me they are going to go for a larger part of the venue next year. Not that there wasn't enough space, they are just hoping to draw in a much larger crowd. It being on a Sunday morning that I went I am sure Saturday and Friday were much busier. The Expo's dates were from the 9th to the 12th of November.

 I had only two Compass games pre-Expo, and those were Sovereign of the Seas and Red Poppies. Well, thanks to Compass' great deals and my wife's permission, I now have three more. These are 1866-The Struggle for Supremacy in Germany, Nine Years-The War of the Grand Alliance, and the piece de resistance Night Fighter Ace. I will definitely be doing a review of Night Fighter Ace and possibly the other two if given the time. 

 The gaming tables had many Compass Games, but also several others. Also on hand were the almost finished products of a few of the upcoming games from Compass. Everyone was congenial and seemed happy to be there except my poor put upon wife. However, Bill Thomas from Compass Games took pity on her and engaged her in a non-wargaming conversation. She wasn't upset to be there, but there was almost a look of, not confusion, more of a quizzical look in her eyes (almost as if she'd encountered aliens). Having only known one wargamer for thirty-five years she had no idea there were others. She also might have been doing mathematical calculations in her mind, trying to compare the size of my eyes looking at the games to our checking account. 

 I did not have time this year to sit down for any gaming, but I am looking forward to it next year. This was my first gaming convention/expo ever so I really had no idea of what to expect. I have seen write ups about them, but didn't know exactly what I would be walking into. I was pleasantly surprised and believe I am hooked now. 

 I had mentioned Citadel Game Cellar earlier. They were there with a lot of games also with good sales for the Expo. They are situated in Groton, CT, and I believe the first time I went there I was eighteen years old. That is a lot of years ago. Once upon a time my idea was to have myself buried under one of their aisles. I never mentioned this to the owner (mostly from fear of being banned), or to anyone else, just in case. You can never be too careful of these things, although they should take it as a compliment because at another time I wanted to be buried under Yale's Library card catalog. 

 So here are some pics I took while annoying some players. My best to Compass Games and I hope this yearly event continues for a long time. Thank you 




Bill Thomas, His Wife, and my purchases




Pathfinder: Kingmaker  By: Owlcat Games, Paizo Published by: Deep silver Before playing any game, you probably do the obv...

Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Pathfinder: Kingmaker 

By: Owlcat Games, Paizo

Published by: Deep silver





Before playing any game, you probably do the obvious thing and watch a trailer. Some trailers don't show a lot of what's actually playable, but the trailer for Pathfinder: Kingmaker will not leave you disappointed, and will leave you, wanting more. 




Menu for creating your character
After starting up the game and obviously knowing it was an RPG, I was expecting a few customization options for my character, maybe a few different roles to choose from like 'wizard' or 'hunter', this game however, is very very specific. So much attention to detail, even before starting the game. There are over 20 classes to choose from and then inside each class was a specific role you could choose. I spent about 45 minutes just choosing which I wanted. The class I was instantly fascinated by was 'Barbarian' as you could then choose a role called 'mad dog' where you could have a companion. After selecting your class you choose your characters name and then add points to what you want their strengths to be (e.g. charismatic, stealth) and then you're off into the game.


You start off in Swordlord Jamandi Aldori's mansion, where your character and other adventurers of different classes and races have been summoned. The reason you have been summoned, in basic terms, is to try and claim the stolen lands, an unsettled region with no real ruler. All the adventurers are to be put into teams, and whichever team can take down the stag lord, a bandit leader who thinks he has the stolen lands and then defeat anyone else in their path, becomes the true ruler of the stolen lands. Before you're about to set off on your mission, the mansion is attacked and you're left to try and get out and save as many of the other adventurers as possible, however not many of the others are left and so only two teams are set up, your character being the leader of one of them.

Amiri
Linzi 

There are a few characters in the game that have a real charm to them, one of them being Linzi, an author who wants to write a book about a 'hero', and the person she has coincidentally chosen to write her book about is your character. She accompanies you on your journey and is one of the main players in your team. Another character that really stands out, and one of my personal favourites is Amiri. She's a Barbarian and when you first meet her at the mansion she seems a bit off, not liking many of the other warriors and is bit of a lone wolf. However, after you save the remainder of the people in the mansion, she requests to join your team. Her sarcastic dialogue just adds a good amount of humour to the game, mostly with her witty and pretentious comments towards being 'powerful' or enemies being 'easy' to defeat. 



In all honesty, this game is full of potential to do anything you want, there are so many side quests, things to collect, people to battle, places to visit. That you are left with hours of content. Playing about six hours of the game, I got absolutely nowhere with the story as there is just so much to explore and I kept getting distracted by all the new places and people, and saw it as a chance to collect XP, which you definitely need to do as Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a very tactical game, working off a board game engine. The board game elements are some of my favourite things about this game. There's a charming little board game animation when you travel on your quests and when you defeat an enemy on your path, the little board game piece is knocked over, just as it would be in a real board game. 

Travelling to different locations


Here's a quick summary of the things that Pathfinder Kingmaker has that I was majorly impressed with:

  • Diverse and endless story 
  • Vast characterization options 
  • In detail dialogue that really helps the story flow
  • Amazing characters that give the story lots of life 
  • EVEN more content with the DLC to open up new stories and other items
  • Lots of ways to level up your characters (Without having to just go through the main story)
  • Soundtrack that fits the feel of the game perfectly

One thing that would be really great to add, is a multiplayer feature, not necessarily so it becomes an MMO but just being able to link up to a friends game and go on quests together, it would be a nice touch. 

Pathfinder: Kingmaker stays true to the board game, using the dice-based system and rules. This means, you have to be very tactical at your approach towards certain things like traps, or attacking enemies because your attacks could end up missing or not doing as well as you hoped for.If you're not used to this type of game, it would probably be good to start out with one of the pre-made characters where all of the stats would be balanced instead of just choosing random ones that don't link together very well. However, I chose to make my own character and didn't feel like I was at any disadvantage, even not knowing all of the game mechanics very well at all, it's still a very thrilling adventure that you could spend hours and hours playing. 


For adventures in the Stolenlands, go buy Pathfinder: Kingmaker now on Steam .


Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by   Wargame Design Studio   Now that I have caught your attention, "...

Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


by










 Now that I have caught your attention, "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus". Or at least a few elves working hard on the above game. This would be Wargame Design Studio's third 'Panzer Battles' game. The first was 'Battles in Normandy' followed by 'Battles of Kursk Southern Flank'. These are both excellent games in their own right. Now they are going to be joined by their younger brother, North Africa. I have said this before in reviews, and I will probably say it again. I am not a big North African campaign fan, at least once the Germans show up. I do like wargaming the early battles with the Italians and British. There is however, one campaign that sets me to drooling like Pavlov's dogs and that is the airborne invasion of Crete. So this misnamed game has not only the early North Africa battles, but it also has the battles for Crete. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that it has battles from Crete!!!




Game screen showing terrain

 This is a list of some of the battles and operations included:

North Africa:
Compass
Sonnenblume
Tobruk
Brevity
Battleaxe
Crusader
Beda Fomm
Bardia
Sidi Barrani 

Greece:
Corinth Canal

Crete:
Maleme
Retimo
Heraklion
Galatas



Italian Division break down

The Panzer Battles games are meant to be the midway games between John Tiller's 'Panzer Campaigns' and their 'Squad Battles' games. Much like Goldilocks, many of us wargamers have found a sweet spot in this third helping from WGS and JTS. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the other games. It is just the 'Panzer Battles' games are small enough at times to wet that whistle, and large enough at others for those cravings. 



Different Nationalities in the game

 Now, we can get into the long running argument. The AI in John Tiller Software is no good. If you are still spouting off that mantra please crawl out from under your rock and take a look again at all of the games mentioned circa 2018 and not 2001. Just like every other game designed recently, or retrofitted, North Africa has been developed with a ton of players against AI scenarios that will fit anyone's bill. There are also a large number of games for people who only want to play by PBEM or Hotseat etc. There are plenty of demos for a wargamer to try now of the different JTS products, so do yourself a favor and come back to the light.


First Turn In One of The Heraklion Scenarios

 From the newer graphics to the battle sounds that will blow you away, (literally if you turn the sound up too loud in Panzer Battles Kursk), you would be amazed how these 'old' type of wargames play today. Yes, this based on a two dimensional map with hexes. No, this does not have cute tanks running through the desert wastes. Yes, this game is great and deserves all the praise it gets. The one thing about WDS is that they are constantly working on and upgrading many of the various JTS products. The only thing I would have liked them to add was more battles from Greece, both from the Italian and then subsequent German invasions. 



First Turn In One of The Maleme Scenarios





First Turn Corinth Canal Scenario


 Look for a review of this game once it has been released. So as a wrap up, it has tons of scenarios, many that are meant to be played against the AI. The sound and visuals are up to today's standards, and you can make your own or fiddle to your heart's content with the scenarios it comes with. It also has campaigns or separate battles both large and small. To top it all off, it has scenarios from Crete!

This is a link to an article about terrain in NA 1941:
 https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/11/01/north-africa-getting-started-terrain/

This is a link to an article about the Compass scenarios:
https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/10/18/north-africa-player-notes-operation-compass-scenarios/

This is a link to an article about the Italian forces in the game:
https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/09/28/north-africa-player-notes-the-italians/

Robert

Overview Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of ...

Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!




Overview

Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of England.  The original game was released in 2007 and owing to its popularity was reprinted in 2009 and in 2015. The 2018 Roxley edition eschews the drab-art of the original and provides gamers with the most lavishly produced game I think I have ever seen.

2-4 players take on the role of a Titan of Industry during the late 18th century in the industrial powerhouse of England, i.e. Lancashire. Through the game, players acquire Victory Points by building and using their industries and providing others with resources whilst expanding their own network of canals and rails.

Players compete with each other to fulfil the markets' demand for coal, iron and cotton at the same time as using the same coal and iron to expand their empire. The economic mantra of 'buying low, selling high' and the euro-gamers mantra of 'do what others aren't' are pivotal for success here.

Halfway through scoring the Canal Era
This version of the game was kickstarted by Roxley Games and as a frequent consumer of Kickstarter projects, I can honestly say that this was the best campaign that I've ever had the pleasure to be part of. I think Roxley have set other publishers the gold-standard of how to do a Kickstarter and I will consider backing any future campaign they run purely on the merits of this Kickstarter.

Gameplay

The game consists of approximately 16 rounds split over 2 eras. In each round, every player will take a turn of two actions by playing cards from their hand. Each round the player order will alter depending on how much money players spent during the previous round with the least amount going first.

On their turn, players will be doing 2 of 5 possible actions; attempting to sell cotton, building industries, building connections between towns and markets, taking a loan from the bank or developing their industry to get more bonuses when it is eventually built.

Handy Player Boards
The industries in which players can invest and use are (left to right in the image) cotton mills, ports, shipyards, iron works and coal mines. As you would expect each of them has different yet thematic attributes which provide a benefit to the owning player and often the other players as well.  Just as in the real world no industry will thrive without customers.

All of these actions and industries are played through the use of a hand of cards. The cards depict either a location on the map or a specific industry type.  Every action must be 'paid for' by discarding a card. The build action, however, requires the correct card to be used. For example, a player can place any industry into the specified location on the card, or the specific industry on the card into a location that is part of or adjacent to their own network.

Card Art Example
However, having the correct card to build an industry is far from the only consideration players have to think about when building. Some industries, require access to and the use of coal and/or iron in order to place them. Exhausting the resources of connected players may provide them with a larger benefit than building your own industry does to you. Your cards may lead you to focus elsewhere requiring a change of tactics. Money is also quite tight in this game and often you will not have enough money to build what you want without taking a loan first.

Constraining each player to two actions per turn does lead to some agonising choices, particularly around shipyards, that have very limited possible spaces on the board and iron works, whose market cycles far quicker than coal or cotton.  I nearly always wish that I could do a third action thereby, for example, preventing another player from building the iron works before I can afford it, or have access to coal in the right area and allowing me to fulfil the iron demand and 'flip' my tile.

Player tokens and flipped industries
Flipping a tile is done when it's resources are depleted. When you first build an industry a certain number of coal or iron cubes are placed upon the tile to show on-map availability of those resources. As they are exhausted the industry tile is flipped which will score Victory Points for the owning player at the end of the canal and rails eras and an immediate income bonus. Each industry is quite different from in this respect; shipyards flip immediately providing large amounts of VPs and little income. Cotton and Ports have no resource placed on them and are only flipped when the sell cotton action is taken.

Generally, earlier industries provide more income bonus and later ones provide more Victory Points. Striking the balance between building industries and developing them, i.e. getting access to the later industries is key.  However, another important source of Victory Points, especially in the Rail Era are the connections. Each industry tile at either end of a connection will score a Victory Point per connection. So a single rail link may be worth up to 7 Victory Points to its owner; there is normally a mad rush at the beginning of the rail era to build as many links as possible, primarily for this reason amongst others.


Halway through scoring the Rail Era
There are a plethora of difficult choices per turn for each player whereby you have to balance immediate tactical benefits with longer-term considerations, and the cards that you've got available with the actions/areas that your opponents are playing.

Components

I feel like I say this for most board games these days but truly Roxley has delivered a game with the most superb components I've ever seen. Granted the iron and coal are standard wooden blocks but this is entirely functional and does nothing to detract from the gorgeous art that permeates the rest of the game. The artwork on the board is second to none, likewise, the cards are similarly designed. I appreciated the industrial flourishes, littered throughout the game.

Flourishes aplenty
However, the best components in this game are the Iron Clays. These are the poker chips that are provided with the Deluxe edition of the game. They feel wonderful to touch and are the most tactile poker chips I have ever used. I normally substitute cardboard or (heaven forbid) paper money with poker chips in games and my generic chips feel and look terrible compared to these. Apparently, there is a Kickstarter for Iron Clays from Roxley later this year (or early next, considering we're almost in December) that I will definitely be backing to replace all of my chips.

More please!
The poker chips are only in the deluxe edition of the game which can still be ordered. The retail version features cardboard token for the money, and I'm sure they're functional and perfectly fine, but if you can and you're interested I would definitely recommend the deluxe version as these Iron Clays are something special. I even learnt to shuffle poker chips because I enjoyed handling them so much...

Criticisms

I wouldn't recommend learning this game with 3 new players or trying to learn where all 4 of you are new, you must have an experienced player to instruct.  I taught this to two of my group; they came over requesting a 'brain-burner' and this was a perfect choice.  It did take the best part of 3 hours despite only reviewing the rules for about 20 minutes or so before we got into it. However this isn't really a criticism as any more-complex game will suffer from a similar learning curve. However, don't think that this is overly complex as the rules fit into just 10 pages, the duration came from every player suffering similar 'hard decisions' as mentioned above.


I've played several games with less experienced players now and they thought that they were largely at the mercy of the cards they drew. There certainly is an element of randomness induced by the cards but experienced players should be able to manage and mitigate any 'bad cards' by strategising their hand and current opportunities. I've played the original game, and the excellent PC (also available on Android and IOS) many times and I don't think this is a valid criticism.  I would however, love to see a collaboration between Cublo and Roxley to update the app with Roxley graphics...

In most of my games with the Roxley Deluxe edition, we have run out of coal cubes by just 1. Especially at the beginning of the Rail Era when lots of coal mines have just been built in preparation for the Rail Era. I have also seen bgg forums suggesting they've had games where they had run out of iron cubes, which I find hard to understand how that is possible. However, this doesn't affect game-play as you can substitute anything else for the missing cube but one or two more coal cubes (maybe iron cubes as well) would have been nice.  This is a very minor nit-pick though.

App screenshot
Conclusion

All elements of this game play subtly different from each other, for example, the cotton market can be exhausted, whereas coal and iron will always be available in the market. Each industry tile has different rules regarding their bonus and utilisation, canal links and rail links have different rules regarding their building and coal and iron themselves have different rules to determine players access to them. These differences are all clever design choices to more thematically represent the industrial revolution in this medium-to-heavy Euro economic game.

The game is littered with hard choices and the ability to deny your opponents spaces and opportunities is rife, especially if you manage to pull off a last/first turn order combo effectively getting two turns on the bounce. You're constantly having to reevaluate your position with respect to your cards the available resources and it is certainly a brain burner that warrants its playtime and reputation in the hobby.

Despite the over-the-top production, I thought the price remained reasonable and for the retail version is an absolute bargain. It's not a game for everyone though, as there are lots of subtleties to grok before you're going to be competitive and there is a significant but-easily-surmountable-with-an-experienced-player learning curve.  The next time anyone requests a brain-burner, this is the game I'd recommend.

I'd like to thank Roxley Games and especially Paul Saxberg for providing the review copy of this game.

Publisher: Roxley Games
Players: 2 - 4
Designer: Martin Wallace
Playing time: 60 - 120 minutes
Deluxe version: Pre-orders still open for $75 + shipping
Retail version: Best price (delivered to UK) at time of review: £46.10