After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Appren...

Light Apprentice Light Apprentice

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



After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Apprentice is a "comic book RPG" that has been available for tablets for a while and recently got a PC release. I thought this game was worth doing a quick review on because it tries out several neat ideas, though the final product left room for improvement.


"Comic Book RPG" perfectly describes the format of the game. The story is told through comic book style panels and dialogue bubbles that appear one after another. The game then seamlessly transitions into gameplay using the same comic book panels. Moving around and interacting with environments is done in the style of point-and-click adventure games. Click on a door and your characters will run through into the neighboring comic panel, which works really well. There are puzzles to solve, but they are mostly of the simple "find the missing gear and put it in this slot" variety. There are also a few secrets scattered around if you take the time to really inspect each scene. 


As with any comic book, the art style is important here. Light Apprentice succeeds in having a style all of its own, which can be beautiful at times. As someone who does enjoy reading comic books and graphic novels from time to time, I enjoyed this aspect of the game probably more than anything else.


As you explore the game world, you will often run into enemies that must be fought to progress through the area. These encounters are pretty basic turn-based combat endeavors. The key twist being that every action involves a simple quick time event that will determine how powerful your attack, healing spell, etc. is. These are very simple, as the game was originally designed for tablets. Each one is distinct and can feel somewhat rewarding when done perfectly. However, I wouldn't blame you for getting tired of them after a while.  Your characters begin with only a couple of options in combat, but over time gain quite a few different abilities. At the normal difficulty you will need to make use of your abilities efficiently or else you will have trouble with most encounters. You can't just spam basic attacks over and over and expect to have much success. In the campaign there is no opportunity to grind levels, which means some encounters were extremely frustrating until I discovered that it is possible to access a series of "quests" (basically just additional combat encounters) from the main menu. These let you fight various enemies and get more experience and loot. You will probably want to do these to make the main story line much easier to progress through. 


The story and dialogue is where the game lost me really. This feels and looks like a game for kids, which is fine, and something that I can take into consideration as I play. However, the way the game tries to convey it's message feels like I'm reading a political blog post written by a teenager. The game tackles the issue of environmentalism, which is something I praise it for since that is an important issue to me and uncommon in the gaming world. That said, the game is more than a little heavy handed in how it goes about this. After your character wakes up in a world of magic and monsters, you will be called upon to stop a greedy corporation from fracking for shale oil and polluting the local water supply. There's no metaphor here, that is literally the situation. For me, it's way too direct and breaks any sense of immersion in the world. Give me some kind of allegory that fits the setting, instead of shoehorning real world headlines into a fantasy universe.



Overall, Light Apprentice does a lot of interesting things. It has point-and-click adventure elements, a comic book style that is wonderfully adapted for gaming purposes, and a fresh theme. However, all of these elements are executed in a fashion which feels just a little too childish and simple for me personally. It's not a bad game by any means, but there probably is not nearly enough meat here for experienced RPG players. I hope to see the developer continue with this series and grow both as an artist and story teller. This game series is planned to have two more volumes, and I would be interested to see how those turn out.

Light Apprentice is available on Steam, and also on iOS and Android tablets.


- Joe Beard









Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a compani...

Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance

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



Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a companion app that allows full cooperative rebel play against the app-driven Empire. This review will cover both the game and the brand new Legends of the Alliance app.

As with nearly all FFG games, this is dripping with theme. In fact, the theme makes this game stand out above all my other dungeon crawlers. If you enjoy the Star Wars universe then I feel pretty confident that you’ll enjoy this game. It really does feel like you’re playing as a small group of rebel operatives launching guerrilla raids on Empire outposts. The Story Starts just at the end of A New Hope with the remnants of the Death Star crashing down onto Yavin 4.
3rd Mission of the traditional campaign game.

SW:IA was released in 2014 and it is pretty much a re-skin of Descent 2nd Edition. If you know that game, this one will take you about 1 minute to grok the elegant line-of-sight rules and appreciate the subtle difference between the Overlord player (in Descent) and the Imperial player in this game. In my playgroup, it felt like there was a little less downtime between players.

The game can now be played in three different ways, the standard PvE-like (1 vs many) campaign game - which is where my jam is. The PvP skirmish game or now, thanks to the app, as a fully-cooperative (or solo campaign) game. In the UK the game has an RRP of £92.99 which hurts just a little bit. However, the app is free and it provides a completely different campaign for rebel players to play-through.
You get four rulebooks, count 'em four!
To get the best experience of this game I feel like you need to have a dedicated group of regular players that are also willing to spend the next dozen game sessions or so bashing through this campaign. My group weren’t willing to play this exclusively so we’re only about halfway through the main campaign and the side missions that are interspersed with the story missions. I have also played it in Skirmish Mode which is arguably the most popular mode and as of last week, I have played two missions in the app campaign.

The rules recommend that you also have someone familiar with the game to play as the Imperial player. There is hidden content revealed only to the Imperial player at the start of every campaign mission. As a rebel player, this is a great way to immerse yourself in an almost RPG-like experience. The hidden knowledge also provides a true sense of jeopardy and suspense, although that is tempered by the knowledge these missions have been thoroughly balanced to within an inch of their life to make them winnable by either side. I recommend that you have John Williams playing in the background to add atmosphere.

In my group, only 1 person had played this before, in fact, he owns the game and several expansions. I didn’t know this before picking Imperial Assault up as he is a new to my group, but he was perfect to give us a run for our money as the Imperial player. In our campaign, the rebels have won more than they’ve lost but if there was a consistent trend of one side winning then the game might become unwinnable for the losing side.

Your characters gain XP and access to new equipment and allies as they progress through the campaign. Unfortunately for those wanting to play as Luke or Han Solo they only appear as ‘allies’, appearing only to assist during particular missions. The Imperial player is not left without their own allies or ‘villains’, which may enter play as the rebels progress… There are a total of 12 ally and/or villain tokens in the base box. You can, of course, buy all the miniatures for these extra 12 characters but they’re not provided in the base box.
Some of the components... can you spot the AT-ST?

Worryingly, the base box does come with an AT-ST miniature which is one of the best core-game miniatures I’ve ever seen. It is solid plastic, or at least it feels solid, and it sits approximately 12 cm (or 4” ¾ for those used to old money). I say 'worryingly' because as a rebel player it’s not come out to play in our campaign yet and I feel like we’ll be woefully underpowered when it does. Maybe Chewbacca will come out to help us? Either way, as a player and Star Wars fan I’m excited about the experience and intrigued by the lure of expansions.

Of course, if you want to play with all the goodies straight away you can make up your own army in skirmish mode. Players (just two) will each take a side and build their army using a traditional point-based system. This is done in secret and before both of you know what the particular mission will be. The mission is decided after the players have finished army-building by drawing a card from the Skirmish Mission deck. This make’s an enjoyable and fair mission but for the wannabe-tactician in me, I would prefer to know what my mission is before building and outfitting my force. I’m absolutely fine not knowing the enemy disposition, but not knowing my mission before I select my forces does feel a bit strange.
Everything but the insert

The box and components are all glorious but I do have one niggle with the production. The stupid trench insert FFG insist on using in their big-box games. I didn’t mind it in SW: Rebellion (there were two trenches), I could fit everything back in ‘the trench’ in Mansions of Madness but in this, there is no way all of the terrain tiles, miniatures, tokens and card decks are going to fit back into the box. In the end, I just gave up and ditched the insert. I’m sure 80% of gamers will do the same. “Why bother FFG?” Please, either make the box smaller and ditch the insert, or the trench wider so that it can hold all the components that are in the box after it has been punched.

As you can see from the picture above, once you've ditched the waste-of-cardboard-insert, you have room for lots of expansions...
iOS Screenshot

I’ve only played two missions with the app, but that wasn’t without some teething issues. I should caveat this with I tried this in the very first week it was released so I fully expect the problems I experienced to be ironed out. I initially attempted to run it on stock Android, albeit quite an old version and it hung on the splash screen. The app does say that if this happens. you should restart your phone. After restarting I could never start a mission, so I switched to an iPad which had no problem with the app.

If you’ve played the Road to Legend app, (for Descent 2nd edition) you know what to expect here. Legends of the Alliance is a slick and highly-professional app that makes an already great game even better, by allowing for solo play and fully cooperative modes. This may not be of interest to you but in this free app, it adds a completely new dimension to the game. If you own IA and didn’t know about the app, do yourself a favour and try it out. I am loving it so far and can see myself completing the campaign in it before my group finishes our traditional campaign game.
Whoops!

Another benefit is that the app allows me to play a 2 player game with my son, who is just a bit young to fully control a group of rebels against his merciless father to enjoy it fully. With the app, we get to play together and in the Star Wars universe so it gets two thumbs up from him. Although there are far fewer faux-tortured breathy “... I am your Father!” quips. (He didn’t laugh the first time, I’m not expecting a laugh anytime soon, but I won't stop doing it).

Unlike the Descent app, I don't think the app changes the missions or encounters based on your collection yet. FFG has said that they will be implementing that soon as you expand your collection those additional figures and items will possibly turn up in the app-campaign. This is a great feature which provides a great reason to pick up the base game and some (affordable to you) expansions. However, I should mention and warn those of us who suffer from a completionist disorder that you’ll be spending the best part of £1200 to complete your Imperial Assault collection. Buyer game collector beware!
Shut up and take my money!

The game comes with the expected plethora of tokens and different card decks, when it is all out on the table it is a bit bewildering for new players but the basic rules take about 30 minutes to fully explain (if you've got an attentive group) and after half a dozen or so activations there will be very few rules that require look up.
So many card decks
FFG do an excellent job of writing their rules these days and SW: IA is no exception. The game comes with a basic rules book that consists of 5 pages of basic rules and 1 page of advanced rules. There is a separate Rules Reference Guide that contains every single rule in an a-z format. Each entry has a super useful ‘Related Topics...’ at the end which lead to other sections. I wish all publishers did this. You also get a short Skirmish guide and a much more extensive Campaign Guide rulebooks.
My own token storage solution

I love Star Wars and this game is a fantastic implementation of a great combat system in a universe I would like to visit. I’ve often wondered how good (and long) a grand-strategy and tactical game in the Star Wars universe could play out with all the different and individually excellent FFG Star Wars games we have today.

For example, you could play Star Wars: Rebellion as your over-arching strategy thread; Break out X-Wing the Miniatures Game or Star Wars Armada (I prefer X: TMG) to resolve the space battles; Then break out SW: IA to resolve any ground battles; While dressed in your finest Rebel fighter gear (of course).

If anyone is interested in a very long weekend of Star Wars gaming, full of theme music and tired jokes then let me know...maybe the day after watching the imminent Episode VIII - Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

You can pick up Star Wars Imperial Assault from nearly any Friendly Local Gaming Store and just in time for Christmas...

Amazing fact: FFG own 17 different Star Wars game titles, take that EA! (I have no idea how many current Star Wars games EA have released)

VentoNuovo Games Some of the Stalingrad Map  VentoNuovo games is an Italian game company that opened in ...

VentoNuovo Games VentoNuovo Games

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

VentoNuovo Games





Some of the Stalingrad Map









 VentoNuovo games is an Italian game company that opened in 2012, and by the ratings on BoadGameGeek their games are all highly recommended. The games come with high end components, according to all of the reviews I have read. The maps look both easy to read and well done as far as the art work. They have a Kickstarter campaign going on right now for their newest game 'Stalingrad: Inferno on the Volga'. The game is either a solitaire or two players as Germans against the Soviets. Naturally, a human can also play the Soviet side. If playing solitaire, they call the Soviet side an AI. The map for the game is supposed to be the most authentic Stalingrad map ever. It was taken right from the Luftwaffe's reconnaissance photos. Here is a link to their Kickstarter page:


This is a link to their web page:

The Luftwaffe Over Germany Defense of the Reich  by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller   This book has a ton of...

The Luftwaffe over Germany Defense of the Reich by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller The Luftwaffe over Germany Defense of the Reich by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller

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



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 This book has a ton of information on the daylight defense of German skies during World War II. The authors toiled ten years to bring this excellent history to us. It is filled with facts and figures, but also has 160 photos and numerous maps and diagrams. One of the main points, if not the most, that the authors show us is that before the start of the war Germany gave no thought to defense against bombers. The high command seemed to believe in all of the writing between the two wars that said that "the bomber would always get through". Germany's strategy was to hit first and hardest and let defense be damned. Unfortunately for them, the small pin prick daylight raids up until the beginning of 1942 were dealt with easily by the small slapped together air defense that they had at the time. This led the high command to believe that they did not have much to worry about as far as daylight bombing. The appearance of the U.S. Eighth Air Force would prove them wrong.

 The book continues to show how the off the cuff arrangements for daylight air defense were progressively upped until most German fighters were brought back to Germany to help defend their nation. The various personalities and their successes and failures are shown us, such as Goering, Galland, and Milch etc. The authors have also used many first person accounts to show how the air war over Germany was experienced by the Luftwaffe. The book is filled with many tidbits; one explains that the B-24 bombers had to fly in formation a few thousand feet lower than the B-17 bombers. I had always wondered why the B-24 with its larger payload was not more extensively used in Europe. All of the different steps in the technology war over the skies of Europe including radar and planes are shown by the authors. The gradual loss of the air war by Germany is described, and the desperate measures the Luftwaffe was forced to use. Ramming and the near suicidal use of the Me-163 are gone into. 

  Looking for a better book on the German air defense of the Third Reich in daylight during the war would probably be a useless endeavor. The authors have shown that it was a much closer battle than is usually shown to us. The personal accounts show exactly how much the German fighter pilots were wary of taking on American bomber streams, and for good reason. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who has an interest in the air war over Germany from 1939-1945.


Robert


Book: The Luftwaffe Over Germany Defense of the Reich 
Authors: Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

The Operational Art of War IV by   Slitherine and Matrix Games    "It's here, it's here, let the b...

The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games

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



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 "It's here, it's here, let the bells ring out, and the banners fly; feast your eyes on it, it's too good to be true, but it's here." With a little help from Bugs Bunny's genie, I am pleased to announce the arrival of 'The Operational Art of War IV'. TOAW has been with us for almost twenty years. Originally designed by Norm Koger and released by Talonsoft in 1998, this is the fourth (actually more) in the series. The game is a throwback to the times when a gamer would buy the entire battles of Napoleon or Civil War instead of just one or a few. The game shipped with more than 200 scenarios, but the release of new and older ones ported over to the updated engine is growing each day. These scenarios have been released in just the last few days:

Franco-Prussian War
Bitter Victory Sicily PO version (AI)
Coral Sea 1942 PO version (AI)
Bocage Hell  - Normandy at 1 km a hex
Europa 1947


 To go into the reasons that a person who owns TOAW III would want to buy the new version, I will let Slitherine and Matrix games give us a short run down, and then post a link to a discussion. The store page has these items listed:


"New naval warfare features

  • The modeling of ships has been improved. Instead of treating ships as a single piece of equipment, like a gun or a squad, they are now treated as complex systems that incur damage in combat. Ships have new armor, durability, accuracy, speed, and agility parameters.

  • Embarked units no longer employ their own strengths in defense. Naval combat now evaluates attackers’ Anti-Naval strengths as individual shots/planes – employing their shell weights to determine armor penetration and resulting damage.

  • Sea Interdiction can now be employed by aircraft, ships, and coastal guns. Ships subjected to sea interdiction fire counterbattery back (or, in the case of carriers, counterstrikes). 
New Supply system

  • There is now an intermediate supply state that falls between “Supplied” and “Unsupplied”. It’s called “Overextended”. A new parameter called the Overextended Supply Threshold has been implemented. That is the location supply value below which locations are overextended. Units in such hexes will function somewhat between how supplied and unsupplied units function. The result will be that it will be much more difficult for units to press on at red-lined unit conditions from such locations.

  • Motorized unit movement over improved roads can be set by the designer to be less than one MP per improved road hex (for example, ½ MP per hex). If optioned, this affects supply in that supply lines traced over improved roads will extend proportionately further than over other terrain, like regular roads. Note how this would especially affect desert scenarios.

  • The limit of 50% unit supply recovery per turn has been lifted. 
Other game features

  • Range Limits: Ranged units can have their nominal ranges player limited. This can be used to tailor bomber ranges to match fighter cover ranges or to make units with multiple range equipment operate within the range of the shortest-ranged equipment. The DBR will reflect the modified range.

  • Deployment Recovery: Ranged units retain their deployment states after combat and ground assaulters can recover theirs if a planned combat is canceled.

  • New Bridge Destruction Rules: There is an option to limit bridge hexes (for destruction purposes) to locations where the road feature graphically crosses the river feature.

  • Combat Report Review. Combat reports are saved in the pbl/sal files for review by both players during their player turns.

  • Adaptation of Matrix’s PBEM++ system."

   This link will take you to a post by 'Curtis Lemay' from the Matrix games forum that has a more in depth list of the game changes that are too numerous to list in this review:



  This is a post from one person who designed a scenario for the game 'Oberst_Klink':


"Well... $39 gets you... 72 cans (12fl.oz) of Milwaukee's Best in WV (at least when I was there), excluding the pills for reducing acid reflux. Now, seriously. The additional features (see Bob's reference) are more than worth it. As for me, I don't care about the UI; I want the inner works (under the hood?!) to be better than those of its predecessor. And they are. If I compare how the AI acted at my Tutorial '41 and now...woooo! The friggin' bugger even gave me a hard time! And I created the scenario to be a... walkover? As for me; I rather skip heartburn after 72 cans of MB's :)"


  To understand my take on the game, you have to know two things. I really have no interest in the North African WWII campaigns at all, and especially the later Tunisia campaign. I have read about both, but neither, especially the latter, has really caught my attention. For no particular reason, I fired up the 'Kasserine 43' scenario from the first screen. To be honest I was overwhelmed by the amount of the other scenarios to choose from. I fully expected to play one or two turns and then switch to a WWI scenario. The UI changes and the whole game presentation seems to be different in a new and exciting way for the better. I am now on the eighth turn of 'Kasserine 43' and I couldn't be more engrossed or happier. I have owned every iteration of the game that has been released. I have also played board wargames since the 1960s and computer ones starting in the very early 1980s. I have not been so engrossed by a pure wargame in many a year, and never by a scenario that I don't even enjoy reading about.



   
 I have taken Kasserine, and with four turns left I have an overwhelming victory, but the Free French and now the English are coming in as reinforcements. I think I have shot my bolt, and now I need to hang onto to the different victory point hexes I have. 





  Just as in history, the Kasserine attack was really just a spoiling one, and never had the forces needed to turn it into much more than that. I am pretty sure that my forces are now heavily outnumbered and even if I win this fourteen turn scenario, it will not really change the campaign one bit.




 I have no intention of wasting my troops with an attack, but I wanted to show the 'Combat Planner' screen. It is a godsend, and feels like having a chief of staff to turn to. 




 So my first fully played through game/scenario about the North Africa campaign is over. The Allies in the end did not have the overwhelming might I thought they would have, but still I was on the defensive. In this day and age where every minute of our lives count, it is still amazing to me that this game pulled me into a historical campaign that I never read about anymore. My gaming is almost always commanded by my reading. I read about a particular historical campaign, and then open up a game that deals with it. What might get the book publishers happy is that I am thinking of picking up a book about Kasserine. For a game to be able to have that impact, and not the other way around, is pretty amazing to me.




 This is a tiny scenario compared to the rest of the gaming goodness that is included with the game. Here is a screenshot of a much larger one that you can get lost in. This a shot of the 'Barbarossa 1941' scenario:




 This is a shot of the above scenario's bigger brother 'FITE II'. Fire in the East is the monster of monsters eastern front scenarios that comes with TOAW IV. Please, someone work on getting this beauty an AI.




  This is a screenshot of one of my favorite scenarios, the 1918 German offensives.


 


  This is a zoomed out shot of the Pacific War at 25 km per hex.



  This is the same scenario zoomed into New Guinea. 


 
   If you have never bought into the franchise, now is your time. For less than dinner with a friend, you will get enough gaming greatness to last a lifetime. For those of you like me who have every single one of the TOAW games and the old manuals it is well worth the money to invest again in the games future.

 I haven't even touched upon the new and vastly improved naval warfare. This part of the game has made Pacific Ocean scenarios and Mediterranean ones actually enjoyable. The AI in all of the scenarios I have tried seems to play much harder than I remember. The dedicated team that worked on updating this already great game to the level it is at now should be congratulated. I, for one, say thank you.


Robert 

Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson     Within the first chapter of this book, the author shows us the...

Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson

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



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 Within the first chapter of this book, the author shows us the two most important reasons for the failure of the 1815 Belgian campaign. First, the French Army had some royalist officers and men who defected to the Allies. The amount of these defections are usually glossed over in other books on the campaign. Second, without Berthier as Napoleon's chief of staff, the Imperial headquarters seems to have been run in a very sloppy manner. Officers did not know where all their troops were, and many messages between the different staffs seem to have been missed. While not a competent field general, Berthier deserves to be listed as one of the best chiefs of staff ever. His not returning to serve under Napoleon in 1815 is probably one of the key reasons for the failure of the campaign. As far as the desertions, the author states that four Carabiner officers deserted on the field of Waterloo.

 The author does a very good job of detailing the performance of Marshal Ney from the 15th to the 18th of June 1815. He shows that Ney was handicapped by a lack of staff when he was appointed to the command of the left wing of the French Army by Napoleon on June 15th. Mr. Dawson shows how unnaturally timid Ney was on both the 15th and 16th of June. He goes on to show how nearly maniacal Ney became on the field of Waterloo. Unfortunately, we have only the written orders from the campaign, but the accompanying verbal orders have been argued about for more than two hundred years. In the author's eyes, among others, Ney lost the campaign by ordering d'Erlon's 1st corps away from the edge of the Ligny battlefield to help Ney at Quatre Bras. Of course, some of the blame also rests on d'Erlon for following Ney's order and not Napoleon's.

 The book shows the battle of Quatre Bras in all of its details and changes of fortune from French to Allied throughout the battle. The charge of Kellermann's Cuirassiers is explained by the author to be not as suicidal as is sometimes written about. The book comes with a one page colored map of the battle, and seven pages of colored photos of the different places on the battlefield today.

 The author shows that Ney unequivocally was sent, and received, a message from Napoleon that made it plain that Napoleon intended Ney to be part of a 'manoevre sur les derrieres' (move onto the rear) of the Prussian Army at Ligny. Ney's capture of Quatre Bras was supposed to be a movement to forestall Wellington being able to move to help the Prussians. As the book shows, Ney was hardly the best Marshal for Napoleon to have picked to have a ? command. His track record in 1813 should have precluded him in this command, but Napoleon had only so many Marshals to choose from.

 Whilst Ney was nicknamed by Napoleon 'the bravest of the brave' (look at his exploits leading the rearguard from Russia), he was not the smartest of the smart. If Davout or Soult had been in charge of the left wing, they probably would have captured Quatre Bras, and d'Erlon would have helped crush the Prussians at Ligny, thus making the Prussian Army unable to intervene on the field of Waterloo. Ney was the only marshal charged with treason after the second fall of Napoleon. This brave man was sentenced to death, and shot by firing squad.

 Ney's supposed comments at his execution were " Soldiers when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ...soldiers,fire!"


Robert

Book: Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras
Author: Paul L. Dawson
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Honoring Those They Led by Mark C. Yerger and Leslie K. Fiorenza    This book is very different than what I had e...

Honoring Those They Led by Mark C. Yerger andd Leslie K. Fiorenza Honoring Those They Led by Mark C. Yerger andd Leslie K. Fiorenza

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



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   This book is very different than what I had envisioned by its title. I assumed it would just be a litany of German World War II awards with a list of the recipients, and maybe some short bios of some of the different awardees. This book is much more than that. In this book, you will not find aces or Uboat commanders. It is strictly about German field commanders. Some of the names will be familiar to some, and some will not. Keitel, Halder, and Runstedt's careers are described in the book. It also shows the decorations they were awarded, and for what reasons they became bemedaled. The careers of Herbert Gille, Hans Hube, and Martin Grase are also shown to the reader. A chapter is also dedicated to the Spanish commanders of the 250th Infanterie Division. 

 As to be expected, the Knights Cross (Ritterkreuz) and its variants (oak leaves, swords, and diamonds in order of rank), are detailed in the commanders' lives. The German Cross in Gold, and when its recipients received it, is also delved into.

 If you are looking for a list of the different World War II German medals and their recipients, look elsewhere. If you are looking for short biographies of German Army and SS, mostly Army/Heer and the late war time period and the medals awarded them, then look no further. The book is also illustrated with many actual examples of the various awards' written certificates. The authors have liberally supplied the book with pictures of the awarded men. Most of the pictures are formal portraits of the officers, and many are of them receiving their awards from Hitler. Nine German Army commanders were awarded the highest (at the time) version of the Knights Cross with diamonds, along with two SS commanders.


Robert

Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

A Wing And A Prayer Bombing The Reich by Lock 'N Load Publishing   The introduction in the manual starts ou...

A Wing And A Prayer Bombing the Reich by Lock 'N Load Publishing A Wing And A Prayer Bombing the Reich by Lock 'N Load Publishing

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



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 The introduction in the manual starts out "A Wing and a Prayer Bombing the Reich is an easy, fast playing solitaire game placing YOU in command of a squadron of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers stationed in England during World War II, starting from 1942 through the end of the war." Let's see how close this statement is when actually playing the game.





 The first thing I want to mention is that this review is based on the new version 2.2 manual. 'A Wing and a Prayer' is actually both a solitaire, and a two player game. The player commands the aforementioned squadron of Allied bombers (you can also choose B-24s) during the Second world war. With solitaire play, the dice and cards determine what the enemy flak and fighters do. When playing the two player version, the second player takes over the German forces. 




 The map is of northern France and Germany, and uses a point  to point movement system to get your bombers over the target. As the errata in the manual shows, there is still a problem with the spelling of four cities on the map. I have to stress that this is the only place where the errors occur and it does not affect game play in the least. 




 The components, including the map, are very well done as far as quality of the items and the art work. The map is actually 19" x 25". The counters are sized 1" square, and uncluttered with only four numbers on the bomber counters in the corners. There are three counter sheets for a total of 189 counters. The counters also come with clipped edges for us sticklers. The game comes with seven full sized player aid cards. The tables and writing in the manual and the other components are large and easily read. In the back of the manual there are six pages of logs etc. that can be photocopied, and they can also be downloaded from Lock 'N Load's web page.




 The manual itself is well written and thirty-two pages long. With it and the player aids, one should not have to keep referring back to it for rule clarifications. 




 Like other games about the bombing campaign your job as commander, as in real life, is to manage your crews against the damage you can inflict on targets. Your crews will face flak, fighters, and weather.




 There has been some postings about games like this 'playing themselves'; they feel the player does not have enough input into the game once the mission starts. The answer to that has also been posted. That pretty much was what it was like for a commander in the bombing war. Just like the game, you were given a target and picked the crews and the flight pattern. Beyond simply scrubbing the mission because of losses or weather, there was not much else to do. Your goal in the game is to keep enough crews to make sure the next missions get done.
  




The sequence of play, for single player, is:

Adjust the mission turn counter
Mission deck - add or subtract to mission deck due to year
New escort fighter types -  check on the mission turn track to see if   new fighters are available
War progress events check - check the mission turn track for these
Target for today - Draw a mission card
Target cloud cover - roll die for this check
Assign bombers and crews
Coordinate escort - check mission card

Once you are aloft this is the sequence:

Move bomber formation -  to next hex
Lead bomber and formation adjustment - adjust bomber                   formations if necessary
Loose formation check -  formation can be loose or tight
Damaged aircraft checks
Escort fighters range check - check your hex against the escorts range
Escort rendezvous site check
Flak site attack check  - if Flak is present in hex
Formation event check - check for formation events
Conduct air combat 
Repeat the above until you get to the target hex
Conduct bombing run
Return to base- repeat the above sequence until back at your base hex
Land aircraft

Once your planes have landed:

Clean up - reset board etc. for next mission
Victory points
Damaged bomber replacement and repair
Crew experience and recovery
War progress
Game end


 


  I will go through a mission turn next.




  The board is all setup and the next step is to choose the target for today's bombing run. The mission will be from 1942 to make it simple. The mission turns seem like the player has a lot to remember, but the game is simpler than it looks as far as having to keep track of things. Naturally, your first few turns will take longer until you get the process down pat.

 The following pics show the game map, formation card, and the squadron briefing card setup for our first mission. Thanks to Lock 'N Load I was able to download and print another squadron briefing card. The first one was lost in a small coffee flood. 




 This mission is going to be over Meaulte. I have six B-17s to use. The game starts you off with one crack, two veteran, and nine green crews. The green crews are not named as the veteran and crack crews are. My crack crew is naturally 'Memphis Belle', and my two veteran crews are 'Hell's Angels' and 'Jack the Ripper'. For escorts in 1942 you have P-47s that have a range of six. I have four escorts available due to lucky rolling. You also roll and check for 'fighter aces' with your escorts, and also with enemy fighters. Unfortunately I rolled no fighter aces for my escorts. Nothing has happened over the two channel spaces, and luckily over Lille the die roll for a flak attack came up nil. 




  Now we get to the bombing mission itself. You first check the mission card for the flak rating of the target. In this case Meaulte has a rating of fourteen. So then we check the 'combat table' to see how many one die rolls we roll against each bomber to check for flak damage. In this case it is three rolls, and each roll of six indicates damage. I have lucked out once again, and suffered no incoming flak damage. Remember this is still early in the war and I am not making a bomb run against deep enemy targets. I still have to check on 'egress' flak after our bombing run and also see if enemy fighters attack my bombers. The roll for enemy fighters puts one FW-190 in the air against us, and it is also piloted by an ace. We can use two interceptors against him and our luck is still holding out. The FW-190 is destroyed. 




 Now we get into the bombing run itself. Unfortunately, because of only six bombers and the fact that Meaulte is under heavy cloud cover, the bombers score only two hits and inflict no damage. The egress (thank you P.T. Barnum) flak does no damage either. Our trip back home over Lille again and then over the channel is uneventful. 





  The game to me is an excellent representation of the bombing campaign. Once your target and crews were chosen there was not much else to do but hang on tight and pray. The players' choices  before the mission starts are the largest factor in how your mission will go. Of course, with this many die rolls to check each time you move into a new hex, lady luck does have a large part to play in it. There are also die rolls that can give you a 'lady luck' counter to be used during your flight. I have not had a chance to play it as a two player game. As the German player you have the chance to increase the flak attacks, and you are in charge of your interceptors. You are not allowed to change history by, for example, building more ME-262s, or building them sooner. Actually both sides pretty much play exactly the hands that history dealt the people whose shoes they are filling. This is my first Lock 'N Load boardgame, and I have to say I am impressed.  I have played a lot of their different digital games like 'Command Ops' etc. down through the years, and have really enjoyed them. The AI in them is amazing. 


Robert

Command: Shifting Sands is the latest stand alone expansion for the massively detailed naval and combat simulator that is Command: Moder...

Command: Shifting Sands Command: Shifting Sands

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



Command: Shifting Sands is the latest stand alone expansion for the massively detailed naval and combat simulator that is Command: Modern Air/Naval Combat (CMANO). Developed by Warfare Sims and published by Matrix/Slitherine, CMANO is a powerful simulator that lets the player explore detailed scenarios depicting air and naval combat of every stripe since WW2 to the present and even a little beyond. Just about every ship, aircraft and submarine that has ever been built is in the game database. The primary drawback is that CMANO has a hefty price tag. There also isn't a demo, so to give curious players a chance to get their hands on the gameplay without too much of a hit to the wallet, the developers have put out several stand alone campaigns. The other two, Chains of War and Northern Inferno, featured hypothetical conflicts. Shifting Sands, on the other hand, features the numerous historical battles between Israel and its not so friendly neighbors over the course of several decades. While you won't have access to the full CMANO database, you do get to play with toys from a few different technological time periods. In several cases these scenarios depict the historical first use of some new weapon or tactic.

As mentioned, Command is a real-time simulation of air and naval combat, calculating for just about every variable you could imagine. Real time as in the game literally ticks by one real second at a time unless you speed it up. Direct ground combat is depicted to a much lesser degree, though there is no shortage of targets on the ground and things like anti-aircraft units shooting back at you. The game sacrifices a great deal in one area to make its extremely broad scope possible, the graphics. This is a game involving a lot of map staring, as simple icons representing units move around and fire little dots at each other. What the game lacks in cinematic visuals it more than makes up for with some serious number crunching going on under the hood. This game includes more details than I could possibly discuss here, but just to name a few: terrain, weather over a ground target, the temperature of the water at various depths, airspeed and weight with regards to fuel consumption, realistic time needed to rearm and refuel aircraft, and the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow all play a factor. Okay, maybe not that last one. The key point being that the developers have attempted to include just about every significant factor involved in the operations depicted. You very well may need to do some homework to fully understand what is happening in the game. Fortunately, Command makes it easy to at least get started.



Shifting Sands comes with several training scenarios, and a newbie player will be wise to go through them all more than once while keeping the manual open in another window. This will get you familiar with the core mechanics, however it won't teach you much about how to conduct a large scale complex operation on your own. There are a few great sets of videos on YouTube which can help in that regard. This is the mark of a truly great wargame: the game gives you all the tools you need to simulate a realistic battle scenario, but requires you to actually develop and employ realistic tactics to succeed. Simply launching every aircraft you have and throwing them at the enemy won't get you very far at all. You will need to analyze the situation and deploy your units with a degree of precision if you want to make a good showing. Learning all of these tactics and stratagems is part of the experience of playing the game, and shouldn't scare anyone away. I think most people buying a game like this do want to learn about those sorts of things, and the game will reward you for it.

The mechanics of the game might look overwhelming at first, but really you can get started without delving too deeply into the dozens of options and functions available. As the commander, your job isn't to micromanage every unit and weapon. The AI can do a decent enough job as long as you give it the right orders. This is done simply by choosing an area or target for a mission and then assigning units to it. There are default mission types set up for just about everything you might need, from anti-submarine warfare to air superiority ops. Within each mission, you can tweak all the finer points. Do you want aircraft to launch in flights of two or three aircraft each? Do you want your ships to investigate and potentially engage targets out side of their designated patrol zone or should they stay put? You can also set the rules of engagement and behavior for the AI at the unit and mission level, and also general orders for your entire side. These settings tell the AI how to act in various situations so that you don't have to manually intervene constantly. 



Once you have a grip on the basics, the game lets you go much deeper. For example, a ground strike mission can be built by the player selecting exactly which aircraft in a group will target which buildings and with what weapons down to the exact number of bombs dropped. You can also plot a course and set altitude and speed. Taking control like this will let you pull off much fancier maneuvers and likely see better success in the more complex scenarios. And Shifting Sands will give you more than a few complex scenarios to deal with. 

The campaign starts off with a little taste of naval action during the Suez Canal Crisis and then a solid air combat scenario that requires you to perform recon, attack, defense, and air superiority missions all at once but is still manageable. After that, it's off to the races with scenarios such as Operation Focus, the opening move of the Six Day War in which the Israelis historically destroyed almost the entire Egyptian air force. The naval scenarios tend to be much less complex, due to the smaller numbers of units involved, but are still made interesting because one major error could cost you the win. This is also an area of the world that has a ton of civilian shipping, making it tricky to pick out foes until they are either dangerously close or already firing at you. That said, the aircraft focused missions are the star of the show here. While you can play through the campaign in chronological order, you can also just pick out the scenarios you are most interested in from the list. The only difference when playing the campaign is that you must reach a certain score threshold to unlock the next mission. This should serve as a good challenge for even experienced players, since simply coming out ahead in a scenario is not enough to hit that score. You will need to accomplish all or most of your objectives while avoiding taking too many casualties.



There are also a few interesting "what-if" scenarios that round out this pack. One gives you a chance, as the Israelis, to use nuclear weapons in a last ditch effort to hold the line. Another puts you in command of the US 6th Fleet on the day the USS Liberty was attacked by the Israeli military, and in this scenario the United States responds very harshly. These are great examples of what can be done with Command system. not only can it simulate events that did happen historically, it can be used explore all sorts of hypothetical scenarios that might have played out. Of course, to access the hundreds of community scenarios that have been made over the past few years, you'll need to buy the full version CMANO. I think Shifting Sands serves as a great entry point for those curious. It's also a decent buy for veteran commanders. They get 17 well made scenarios to add to their collection, and can continue to support the develop of the system overall.

So, if you are looking for a detailed air and naval combat simulator, and don't mind the minimal graphics and sound, you really can't do better than Command. The game has been continuously updated since its release about three years ago, and Shifting Sands benefits from all of those updates. This is a great way to try out the system and see if it's for you, without plonking down $80 or waiting for a big sale. Though if you like Shifting Sands, I highly recommend getting CMANO, it's a game that you could spend years tinkering with and learning new things from. There are so many community scenarios available that the average gamer would take a lifetime to play them all. Definitely some serious bang for your buck.

Matrix Store: Link Here
Developer Website: http://www.warfaresims.com/
Command: Shifting Sands is also available on Steam.


- Joe Beard


P.S. I had to borrow my screenshots for this review from the official page, since my normal means of capturing them didn't seem to agree with Command and came out rather useless. I had some really good ones too!