Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar Translated by R. A. Maguire  The master does a critique o...

Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar translated by R. A. Maguire Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar translated by R. A. Maguire

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Translated by







 The master does a critique of an earlier great general. Napoleon's comments on the wars of Caesar are well worth the price of admission. The tidbits that are thrown in from his own time are just amazing. I have been reading military history about the Napoleonic era for about fifty years, and I have not seen these items. The other thing about this book is the absolutely staggering brilliance and memory of Napoleon's own mind. Remember, this book was dictated on St. Helena. There was no library or anything for Napoleon to consult except for his own encyclopedic brain. This next piece from the book will show what I am talking about. This is commenting on his own bridging of the Danube, and comparing it to Caesar's bridging of the Rhine. He then discusses the properties of cork for pontoons:

 "Cork weighs 16lb per cubic foot, water 70lb; each cubit foot of cork can carry 54lb. A pontoon made of solid cork would weigh 1,600lb, would displace 100' and could carry 5,400lb; taking away 1,000lb for the weight of the deck, made of planks and beams, leaves 4,400lb, which is enough to carry campaign vehicles. If this cork pontoon were divided into four floats, each of 25', they would each weigh 400lb and could carry 1,350lb. What advantages would come from a bridge made in this way! It could never be sunk by the impact of foreign bodies, or bad weather, or cannon fire. It would have the proper characteristics of a mechanism of war; durability, strength, and simplicity. A bridge so constructed could have one, two, three, four, five or even six floats supporting each pier, according to the number available, the width of the river and the requirement of the task. The wagons carrying the floats would no longer need to come to the river bank; such floats could be easily carried by hand for 200 or 400 yards."

 "Twelve pounds of cork can form a belt which fits under the armpits, which will keep a man afloat such that he can use his firearm. Several such belts, with the equivalent number of cork shoes and waterproof trousers, should be supplied to each company of pontoon sappers, to assist them in placing pontoons and to increase their security when working in the water on bridge construction."

  So you not only get Napoleon's comments about Caesar's campaigns, and what his enemies did, you are also treated to the master's musings on some of his own achievements. 

 Napoleon starkly dismisses the idea that Caesar planned to make himself a king. He states rightly that "The dignity of kings was a thing to be scorned and despised: the curule chair was higher than the throne. On what throne could Caesar have sat? On that of the kings of Rome, whose authority did not extend beyond the city's outskirts? On that of the barbarian kings of Asia, who had been defeated by men with names like Fabricius, Aemilius Paulus, Scipio, Metellus, Claudius and so on? That would have been a strange course to adopt. What? would Caesar really have sought stability, greatness and respect in the crown which had been worn by Philip, Perseus, Attalus, Mithridates, Pharnaces or Ptolemy, men whom the citizens had seen dragged along behind the triumphal chariot of their conquerors?"

 While it is true that most of these kings were not in Roman triumphs, I understand exactly where Napoleon is heading with this diatribe. Napoleon comments many times that Caesar was very lucky at times to escape some of his battles without losing. He makes it clear that he believed Caesar to be rash, sometimes to the extreme at times.

 The book itself is only 119 pages long including notes. This book was last published fully in 1836. It is high time it has seen the light of day. Thank you Pen & Sword.

Robert

Book : Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar
Author: The Master
Translator: R. A. Maguire
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

BLOODY STEPPES OF CRIMEA 1854 BY STRATEGEMATA As promised this review stands at the opposite end of the scale to my previous ...

BLOODY STEPPES OF THE CRIMEA BLOODY STEPPES OF THE CRIMEA

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BLOODY STEPPES OF CRIMEA 1854

BY



As promised this review stands at the opposite end of the scale to my previous one on The War of the Worlds.  This package from the Polish company, Strategemata, presents the three famous battles of the Crimean War and harks back in several ways to earlier products of the heyday of hex and counter simulations.

In part I was fascinated by the rarity with which this conflict has been gamed.  My first gaming encounter with this period was many years ago with GDW's Crimea [pub. 1975], a largely strategic game, but with an odd, and not altogether satisfactory, substrata to fight these individual battles.  However, my best experience was with SPI's Quad Crimean Battles [pub. 1978] containing four folio sized maps to fight all three of the battles offered by Strategemata, plus Tchernaya River.  I have to say that I played these battles repeatedly, as like all SPI's Quad games they were presented with a simple basic set of rules with  a few minor additions to reflect small individual elements of each battle.  

Bloody Steppes of Crimea couldn't be more different.  It comes with one full sized map with the Battle of the Alma on one side and Balaclava on the other, while Inkerman has its own folio size map.  These maps are glossy and on fairly thin stock.  As I tend to store virtually all my papers flat, the effect of refolding them doesn't tend to be a worry, but I doubt these would stand much folding.  The landscape depicted is largely bare.  Most notable are the colours used to depict the changes in elevation, with only a few other features, particularly the river that gives its name to the Battle of The Alma, but unfortunately, the hex numbering is very heavy and prominent, as can be seen in the photo below..


The maps particularly have a slightly dated appearance to them, but the muted colours work well with the strong, bright colours of the counters.  These are on the thin side which perhaps reflects their being the product of a small independent company.  However, in terms of detail and illustration they are clear with a wide variety of images and the key information of formation and numerical values easy to see and interpret.



They have been so strongly die-cut that about 70 had fallen out of their frames when I initially opened the box and this certainly caused problems of identifying the organisation of brigades and divisions that they belonged to.  At this point, Strategemata were extremely helpful in emailing me photocopies of the countersheets that helped me piece together the original layout of the counters.






Nevertheless problems are still compounded by the fact that there is no overall play aid that identifies the organisation of the units.  Instead each battle has its own separate Order of Battle and its a slow process putting together exactly which units are needed.  The colour bar at the top of some of the counters is a help and essential in play for identifying brigade level formations for activation purposes, but there are many units that operate at corps or army level that add to the complexity - and I'd strongly advise that this is a complex game system in all respects.  This is something I'll return to in my conclusion.

The rulebook is a substantial document and needs careful reading.  By and large the translation for the English rules is fluent, though occasional omission of words and questionable use of the intended preposition makes meaning at time a little unsure. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that small, but important points don't always occur in the main rule book, but in the short individual battle pamphlets.  For example, it is there that you will find which units are at corps or army level.  Even more significant is that some units have a counter that is used in one battle and replaced by a stronger/weaker one in a different battle.

The text is presented in double columns of small, dense text often in lengthy sentences and numbered according to the familiar case system using Roman numerals for the fifteen major sections labelled as Chapters with often as many as 54 subsections, but interspersed with separately numbered side headings.

As you can imagine there is a significantly large amount of reading and assimilating to get through, before you are anywhere near ready to start playing.  Though there are a reasonable number of examples, they are all in black and white and for the depth of rules  several more would have been very helpful.  My advice is to break out a small number of counters for each side and set them up on the Alma map to work through many of the rules.

As you do so, these are some of the key features of the game that you will encounter.  First of all a detailed Command system takes us from the supreme Commander down though Wing/Corps Commanders to Divisional and Brigade level with written orders to be followed.  There is a good degree of flexibility with many leaders able to roll against their own initiative to change orders.  Following the practice in many games with this type of system, a player needs to decide in advance whether to allow a senior leader to attempt to  change orders or wait and allow individual subordinate leaders to roll individually.

A feature I've always enjoyed in some games of this level is the presence of dispatch riders who operate on the turn track in covering shorter distances to transmit orders, but for longer distances actually appear moving across the map.  Alongside this is an intriguing idea that was new to me and that is that accompanying the order a specific vector of 60 degrees must be designated and a specific number of hexes that must be travelled by the leader in question.  Once that destination is reached by the leader the order automatically changes to a Defense order until a new order is issued. 

This information is handled on specific charts that accompany each individual battle.  On one side is the order of battle and the hex set-up for the units, on the other is a display for the strength of each unit and a display for each leader to mark the vector/distance and order.  Unless you're going to photocopy the chart and employ a pencil and rubber, I'd suggest you need to either laminate the chart so that you can use a dry-wipe pen or create your own separate display just for orders.

The chart for the battle of Balaclava
Along with this admirable element is the familiar and popular chit draw for selecting which formation is the next to be activated.  Again some nice tweaks have been added to how this system works.   Each side places a chit for each formation in play into a separate draw cup, but the player with fewer formations adds enough blank chits to match his opponent's total.  One side may not activate more than two formations in a row, the first is drawn randomly [except for the very first activation in a turn], while the 2nd one has to be chosen and rolled for.    

Even these early rules have some depth to them, but the picture that builds up as you progress at times feels formidable.  Any system that employs a variety of formations, as here, inevitably adds to the depth of rules.  By choosing unit strength charts rather than Strength points printed on the counters, one aspect of such complex systems is avoided and that is the use of a plethora of formation markers. Instead change of formation can be covered by simply flipping a counter to its appropriate side. The only exception is infantry entering square formation.  That is a real plus.

However, one downside of various formation types is inevitably a highly detailed movement chart which, even with repeated playings needs frequent referral.  Making things even more difficult is the fact that many of the basic costs as well as the additional costs for hexside and elevation change involve 0.5 of a movement point.  The difficulty is not just in remembering the cost, but the actual maths needed to carry out movement slows the game down considerably.
With a detailed movement chart comes a similarly detailed combat modifier chart based on terrain, plus modifiers for range.  Add on separate charts for Infantry Fire, Artillery Fire and Melee modifiers. And all this is after you've wrestled with the rules detailing how to conduct Fire, Melee [wonderfully titled Attacking With Cold Steel], Cavalry Charge and Counter-Charge, Visibility [oh no line of sight, as always is not an easy task] et al.

There is just so much to get your head round.  Exceptions because of formation, type of unit [e.g. skirmishers and French Zouaves]. effects of disorganisation and rout.  Everything familiar is here and much that is innovative. especially the lack of ZOCs and the ability of the enemy to react when a unit moves adjacent.

In consequence, you have a game that takes considerable time to accommodate mastering all the rules and gives one of the most highly detailed levels of play that I've engaged with.  As a result this is game that can take considerable time to play, depending on your choice of battle.  

If you feel that you can take on the challenge, I would suggest the Battle of Balaclava as your starting point.  It has the lowest unit density and the fewest additional rules.  Follow up with Inkerman, again low unit density and some fairly fragile British units supported by more powerful French ones , though with some of the more detailed additional rules.  Finally, the first major battle of the Crimean War, the Battle of the Alma should be tackled last.  Everything is in there and in large numbers that you can see below.


The Battle of the Alma



My conclusion is that this is a simulation very much for experienced hex and counter players - what in gamespeak are usually labeled as "grognards".  Having served 43 years in the ranks of historical board game players, I still found several concepts challenging to get to grips with and for complexity level I think a comparison with at least the La Battaille series is appropriate.  There is certainly little out there on the Crimean War and for depth and detail I doubt that it is likely to be rivalled or surpassed.  

Many thanks to Strategemata for supplying the review copy and for their very friendly support.  

Purchase cost in UK ranging from £47.99 to £54.99













White Star Rising Nations At War Second Edition by Lock 'N Load   "Macht Schluss mit dem Krieg, ihr...

White Star Rising Nations At War Second Edition by Lock 'N Load White Star Rising Nations At War Second Edition by Lock 'N Load

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White Star Rising


Nations At War Second Edition


by


Lock 'N Load 





 "Macht Schluss mit dem Krieg, ihr idioten" (End the War, or Make Peace, you idiots). This was said by Field Marshal von Rundstedt to lacKeitel, sometime after the Normandy invasion. This is the second game of the 'Nations At War' series by Lock 'N Load that I have reviewed (the first was 'Stalin's Triumph'). This game takes us to Western Europe and the battles range from the landings in Normandy to the end of the war.  The name is a bit of a misnomer because it also includes counters and scenarios for the British troops who fought during the same campaign. I liked the game system in the first game, so let us see how it translates to this side of the continent.



One Counter Sheet


 The counters, as usual from Lock 'N Load, are wonderfully done and come pre-clipped. They are a bit busy for their size, although the use of different colors should help all but the color blind. The four double-sided maps are not mounted, but are still well done. The rulebook and the Module Rules and Scenario book are done in full color with large print. The various Players' Aids are also well done and visually appealing. So let us look at what you get with the game:


Four Double Sided Seasonal Maps.

Four Counter Sheets with Over 350+ Counters.

One Color Module Booklet

Twenty-One Scenarios

One Core Game System v2.0 Manual

Two Unit Cost Sheets 11” x 17”

Four Player-Aid Cards 8.5” x 11”

 
Two D6 Dice


Maps



 The sequence of play is:

Operations phase: Players alternate pulling a marker from an opaque container. These can be Formation, Administration, Chaos, or End Turn markers.

Formation Impulse; If a Formation is activated this is the sequence:

 1. Unit Formation Marker removal

 2. Check Command Status

 3. Perform Rallies

 4. Perform Fire Missions: Mortar/Artillery

 5. Perform Operations: Movement, Assault, etc.
 



Players' Aids


 The meat of this chit pull system is the 'end turn' chits. There are always two, sometimes three, of these in the mix of the other chits. Once the second end turn chit is pulled, the game turn is over; do not pass go or collect $200 etc. So, the players have no way of knowing if all or any of their units will be able to do anything this turn. It is possible to pull the end turn chits one after the other as the first two chit pulls. In time limited, or scenarios where one side has a lot of terrain to cover, this means that one turn has just been lost. Another nice touch is the addition of a 'Chaos Chit' to the chit mix in some scenarios. Once the Chaos Chit is pulled, two six-sided die are rolled. Then you consult the Chaos Table to find out what event or result has been rolled. This is a nice way of adding even more fog of war into the game. The game also includes the use of 'Fate Points' by each player. Each scenario lists how many Fate Points each side has to use. As the rules state, " Fate Points can be thought of as currency and can be used to purchase an event that can change the game". These can be used from re-rolling one dice to being able to remove an 'Ops Complete Marker' from a unit. There are not many rules that apply only to this module. Most of the rules used are just the normal Second Edition Core Rules. This module only rules include:


 Bridge Demolition
 British Cruiser Tanks Extra Movement
 British Headquarters
 American tank Gyro Stabilizers
 American White Phosphorus Rounds (Willy Pete)
 German SS Fanatics
 German Mobile Assault 


 The Core Rules also deal with rules for these and more:

 Close Air Support
 Anti-Aircraft Units
 Mines and Mine Removal
 Leaders



Counters

                                Closer Counter View


  

   There is really not much more to say: The 'Nations At War' series from Lock 'N Load is a well done and thought out game. You really get the best of both worlds in these games, meaning that you are really playing a tactical game without all of the minutiae that come with tactical games. Not that there is something wrong with tactical games, just sometimes I know I am not in the mood for that many rules etc. There were some incidences when the second editions came out with problems with the printing, rules, and some counters. I did find a paragraph in the rulebook about 'Line of Sight' that still needs to be fixed. The spacing in it is non-existent for the most part. From what I have read, Lock 'N Load was quick about sending out new counters etc., and did their best to make things right. The rulebook that came with the game was version 2.0. On Lock 'N Load's website they have posted  a version 2.2. I will put a link at the bottom of the review. As I mentioned, I liked the first game I reviewed, 'Stalin's Triumph', a lot. This game is no different. I can easily recommend it to anyone who has a hankering to play a platoon size late World War II Western Front game. One of my favorite scenarios is 'The Hill of Death'. This is about the fight for Hill 112 in Normandy. Look for my forthcoming reviews of 'Heroes of The Motherland' and the 'Nations At War Compendium'.


 White Star Rising Second Edition Vassal Module:
https://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/white-star-rising-2nd-edition-vassal-module.237/

 White Star Rising Second Edition Clarifications & Corrections Version 2.2:
https://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/white-star-rising-2nd-edition-clarifications-corrections.234/

 Nations At War Core Rules Version 2.0 Clarifications And Corrections:
https://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/nations-at-war-core-rules-v2-0-clarifications-and-corrections.232/

 Nations At War Core Rules Second Edition:
 https://store.lnlpublishing.com/nations-at-war-core-rules-v2-0
 There is also a link to download them on the page.

 This is a link to my 'Stalin's Triumph' review:
 http://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2018/05/stalins-triumph-nations-at-war-game.html


Robert

Armageddon War Platoon Level Combat in the End War by Flying Pig Games    Where to begin; I guess I should stat...

Armageddon War by Flying Pig Games Armageddon War by Flying Pig Games

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Platoon Level Combat in the End War

by







 Where to begin; I guess I should state that invariably I play games and read books about historical happenings. That is not to say that I forgo what ifs as long as they are plausible. I usually steer clear of alternative history or, for want of a better term, imagined conflicts. The background story isn't really flushed out, but it seems plausible enough. 




 Armageddon War is based on a conflict that breaks out in the Middle East in 2028. To quote the rulebook," Geddon war has conflict between disorganized and poorly equipped militias, advanced weapon systems barely past the prototype stage in the hands of highly disciplined First World forces, and everything in between". So the player will be able to use a goulash of units from nowadays to some interesting possible future weapons. It is a platoon level game. So the scenarios run the gamut of small knife fights in urban areas to full blown battles of armor.

 The game comes in an oversized box with a bit of heft to it. This is what you get inside the box:
 Two mounted 22" x 33" full-color game boards
 Four sheets of 1" counters, One sheet of Action counters
 Full-color rule and scenario book
 Player Aid Cards
 18 colored dice



 

 The game comes with 16 scenarios. However, the game also comes with a whole list of the units and their comparable costs. So you can 'tweak' the 16 scenarios to your heart's content, or make new ones. Theses are some of the units you are able to use in these end of the world battles:
 Abrams M1A4
 Bradley M2A3
 Crusher (remote control)
 Armata
 BMPT
 Merkava M4
 Namer 2
 T-55A
 T-72M
 AH-64D Apache
 MI-24P 



 The maps are mounted, and visually are very well done. The hexes are oversized, as are the counters. The counters are in line with other games from Flying Pig Games, meaning that they drop out of the sprues if breathed on, and are small pieces of art. The players' aids and rulebook are also easy to read, understand, and strikingly colorful. The game turns are fifteen minutes per. So, one of the problems that the game designer had to deal with is that most of the weaponry could fire off its allotted ammunition in less than a third of a turn.



 The sequence of play is:
 Draw a Command Chit, and place it on the track
 Movement
 Fire Combat
 Close Combat


 You will have to take the designer's ideas of what the new weapon's offensive and defensive capabilities are. However, these are always what each designer believes, so there is nothing really new here. With other games the designer does have the real world statistics and usage to go by. The game has opened up a new avenue of research for me. I was pretty much in the dark about the weapons that have or are just coming off the drawing board. The Russian Armata tank is one of these. Who knew there was an actual tank with a turret that was fully automatic, and the tank only needs two people to run it.

 The game also has Advanced Rules that include:

Indirect fire
Off-board artillery
Limited munitions
Unguided rockets
Smoke/Dust
Snipers

  The game designer does explain that because of the lethality and range of these newer weapons that he had to adjust some things. The hexes on the map represent 150 meters each. The range of some of these weapons are theoretically bigger than the map. He also explains that the casualties are not just actual losses, but the loss of the unit's effectiveness. 




 So how does it play? Just as in the real world, the actual armed forces of the combatants have tremendous killing power. The militia forces cannot stand up to them, at least not in the open. The lethality of the weapons mean that the best laid plans of mice and men literally go up in smoke. The air units (helicopters and drones), have only one damage step. Ground attack aircraft are not actually represented on the map. Their offensive capabilities are represented by the off-board munitions. This was probably done to simplify the game, and not make the player also  have to deal with too many extra AA rules etc. This game differs from most tactical platoon level games by taking into account logistics. As mentioned, the units in the game could fire off all of their munitions in less than one turn. So this game system uses Logistic Counters to keep your units at full strength for fighting. These counters must be placed outside of any enemy's line of sight, and no farther than two hexes from a friendly unit. The Logistic Counters can move up to three hexes in a turn, but must end up in a hex that it could have been placed in originally. The game also has no CRT. All of the combat and defense is predicated by the dice. It is a simple way that some games have removed the style of play of, I have three to one odds so I will attack etc, method of play. It just adds that much more 'fog of war' to game play. You can still see if your attack will have any hope of success, but you will not be able to calculate it that well. This mechanic adds more of the 'friction' of warfare to the mix.





 I was fully prepared to not really enjoy the game. I really like Flying Pig Games components; I also really like the way their rules are done. Can you tell I like their games? The only problem being was that a conflict in the Middle East, and especially one that is in the future, was not something that grabs me for wargaming. I bit the bullet and dove in. I can state that I was very, very wrong. Once you get into the game and its mechanics, you will find it is excellent. The game has many innovations that just work really well. I have to thank them again for going with large 'old man' counters. No need for tweezers and a magnifying glass here. So, like me, if you are hesitant about the actual area and time of the conflict, you should look into and get the game just for the system and the game components.

 I will be doing a followup review on the solo expansion "Alone in the Desert'.
 To add to your experience you can also purchase:
 Armageddon War: Burning Lands Expansion
 Armageddon War Strategy Guide
 Armageddon War Special Dice


Robert



Rise Of The Tang Dynasty The Reunification of China and the Military Response to the Steppe Nomads AD 581-626 by Julian Romane ...

Rise Of The Tang Dynasty by Julian Romane Rise Of The Tang Dynasty by Julian Romane

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The Reunification of China and the Military Response to the Steppe Nomads AD 581-626

by






 For those of you who have read my reviews, you know that I usually just skim the introductions. In this book however, there is one page before the introduction that was very enlightening. The page is titled 'Technical Issues'. The author explains that there are these two different methods of translating Chinese:

Wade-Giles
Pinyin

 The older Wade-Giles was used under the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek ('Peanut' to 'Vinegar' Joe Stilwell). Under Mao, the different method of Pinyin was introduced. The author goes on to tell us that he uses Pinyin, and tries to use simpler English when translating. For instance, 'erudite scholar' could also be translated as 'accomplished scholar'. The writer goes onto state that "traditional China is an illusion. There are great literary traditions in China, along with great artistic, philosophical, and spiritual traditions, but there has never been a traditional China". The book continues to say that another impediment to our understanding is the fact that most Western commentators are uninterested and unknowing about military matters. This is from the land of Sun Tzu! The author continues to explain that his purpose is "to give a detailed picture of medieval Chinese warfare: to provide background to the structure of Chinese military development; and to illustrate how influences passed across the Eurasian 'World Island'".

 The book starts around 300 AD with the incredibly convoluted history of North and South China during the next few hundred years. Imagine ten different countries like England going through the Wars of the Roses at the same time. Dynasties change so fast that your head wants to spin. 

 It comes with eight color pages of personalities etc.. Unfortunately there are no maps at all to try and help the reader follow along. This is a list of some of the chapters:

 The House of Yang
 The Imperial State Weakens
 War for Guanzhong
 The House of Li
 Battles for the Heart of China
 Tang Victorious
 Imperial Consolidation
 Chronology of Chinese Dynasties (thank you)
 Chinese Military Handbooks
 Chinese Imperial Armies 

 These battles and campaigns for China include hundreds of thousands of troops. These dwarf the size of the armies in Europe until the 19th century. The author shows us that the horse lords of the Eastern Steppe were a constant problem to be dealt with.  We normally think of the Mongols, and possibly the Manchus, as the extent of the issue. There was a reason the Great Wall was built and maintained over a millennia.

 I have a great hole in my knowledge of history, and it involves the history of the Eastern Asian landmass. This book has helped to fill this void. I can easily recommend it to anyone who has an interest, or wants to develop one, in the history of China.

Robert

Author: Julian Romane
Publisher Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Moscow 41 by Vento Nuovo Games  In July 1941, Smolensk fell to Germany's Army Group Center. The Germans were a...

Moscow 41 by Vento Nuovo Games Moscow 41 by Vento Nuovo Games

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



by







 In July 1941, Smolensk fell to Germany's Army Group Center. The Germans were already two thirds of the way to Moscow. German Field Marshal von Bock was thinking he would be the one who would be the conqueror of Moscow. The only problem was that Hitler wasn't really interested in capturing Moscow, and Stalin might have something to say about it also. The game is a two player game (it also plays well in solitaire) about the second half of Operation Barbarossa. One player commands the Soviets in their desperate attempt to, if not stop, at least slow the German advance. The other player takes over the German troops trying to finish the Russian Campaign before the Russian allies 'Generals Mud and Winter' can come to their aid.


Map Portion and Blocks

 The first game I reviewed for Vento Nuovo Games was 'Bloody Monday' about another invasion of Russia one hundred and twenty-nine years earlier. Like the other game, Moscow 41 is a block wargame. In this game you get to fight over the same exact places, along with others, that were fought over in 1812. The Russian player has to trade blood and mileage to slow the German juggernaut. The German player also has to worry about the campaigns to the North and South of him, as the other two German Army Groups try to take Leningrad and Kiev.  So the German player does not act in a vacuum. As it was historically, Hitler's obsession with Kiev and Leningrad made Army group Center's job much harder, if not impossible, before the weather interfered. 


Close up of Soviet Units

 What do you actually get with the game? Here is the list:

 A heavy card-stock map that is 64cm x 86cm
 120 wooden blocks and the stickers for them
 100 other wooden pieces
 Two player Guides
 Two Setup and Information guides

 You can purchase the following for the game:
 Mounted Map
 Gore-Tex Map
 Metal Miniature Bombers
 Extra Blocks and stickers etc. 



Close Up of German Commander Units



 The game comes with four scenarios; these are:

 Beyond The Dnieper - July
 Operation Typhoon - October to December
 The Wehrmacht's Last Gasp - November  to  December
 The Road To Moscow - Campaign Scenario 



Germans ready to strike



 This is the sequence of play:

1. Logistics Phase
2. Impulses Phase
 A. Strategic Impulse
 B. Tactical Impulse
  A. HQ Activation
  B. Command Segment
  C. Combat Segment
  D.  Blitz Segment
  E. Deactivation Segment
  F. Exploitation Movement
 C. Pass
3. Final Phase


German Bombers helping in an attack


 The scale of the game is 1cm of the map equals 10km. The game turns represent one month. Besides the unit blocks there are also 'defensive lines' that are represented by rectangular blocks.



Soviet Order Of Battle


 There are two ways to win the campaign scenario. A 'Sudden Death' victory is if either player has seven victory points. There are five 'victory areas' (Smolensk, Tula, Orel, Voronezh, and Moscow), and two victory boxes Leningrad, and Kiev. The other scenarios have you either taking or keeping Moscow or two other locations on the map to decide victory.


German Order Of Battle


 The Logistics Phase can only be performed at the beginning of turn two ( there is no Logistics Phase on the first turn). You can either choose to activate your leader (Hitler or Stalin), or declare a Logistics Phase. The replacement and losses on the block units are done by the usual method of turning the blocks themselves clockwise or counter-clockwise to the appropriate strength on the block.







  The rulebook is only nineteen pages long, without the scenario information. It is in full color and large type. The player without the initiative disk is the first to setup his units at game start, but he is the first to decide what to do in the Logistics Phase starting on turn two. The player who has the initiative disk plays the first impulse of the turn. The player with the initiative disk can also decide if he wants to play a Strategic Impulse; this would include calling for reinforcements etc. There are also rules covering artillery fire, isolation, and Soviet anti-aircraft fire. The games rules are easy to understand and the player quickly becomes used to the sequence of play. With the shorter rules and the game being so visually appealing, you might think that you have bought 'Russian Front Lite'. In this you would be very mistaken. The game is actually very deep, and puts the player into the generals' historic shoes. The game attempts, and succeeds, in making almost every choice of the player a nail-biter. As the German, do you go full bore and hope your logistics hold? As the Soviet, in the beginning of the game you can really only react to the Germans. In the latter part of the game the Russian player has more options.




 The one word I have seen consistently in write ups about Moscow 41 is 'elegant'. I could not agree more. Vento Nuovo Games are not only made to high standards, but the rules are also very well done. I am really looking forward to reviewing 'Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga'. 

Robert 

We all know CMANO is a title for the more serious wargamer, with very minimal graphics that leave much to the imagination, and gameplay...

Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations Goes Pro Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations Goes Pro

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




We all know CMANO is a title for the more serious wargamer, with very minimal graphics that leave much to the imagination, and gameplay that assumes the player has at least a couple textbooks on modern air and naval tactics up on the bookshelf, and perhaps took some online classes at their local military academy. You think I'm kidding, but the big boys at the Pentagon and elsewhere are very much interested in using CMANO for their own wargaming. Specifically, a special "Professional Edition" of the game developed to meet the needs of military and government entities. (And no, you can't get your merely amateur wargamer hands on it).

See the full press release below:

The game is getting serious: How a commercial video game becomes a military asset.
Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) is a serious videogame, very much in the Matrix Games genre and was released for public sale in 2013. CMANO gives the Wargamer full tactical and operational level control of a conflict simulation, from a single 1-vs-1 dogfight, or naval skirmish all the way to theatre and even strategic-scale warfare. CMANO, developed by our Developer partner WarfareSims, was immediately recognised by our gaming community as a unique title and repeatedly voted Wargame of the Year (WOTY).
Since release, multiple DLC and expansion sets have been added and the very popular, yet controversial, Command LIVE series, based around evolving political and military events, has been a major success. Other examples of the realism of the series are Chains of War a battle set that explores conflict between China, the USA and their respective allies, taking place the near future.
The Command LIVE series of DLC’s, places you as Commander in the midst of a range of topical and newsworthy incidents, for example “DON OF A NEW ERA” kicks off when a violent demonstration against the Moldovan Government explodes, with the death of 27 protesters and the city under martial law.  The EU has declared support for the Moldovan Government, but Russia has come out vehemently in support of the ethnic Russian population. In “YOU BREXIT, YOU FIX IT!” It’s 23 August 2016, Europe is reeling politically and economically from the effects of the UK deciding to leave the European Union. Both the £Pound and the €Euro are near collapse. The Russian Federation exploits the situation and moves against the Baltic States.
Matrix has created a range of “CNN-like” news reports depicting the situations that players are confronted with in these highly realistic scenarios.

In 2015 Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work issued a startling directive:  “I am concerned that the Department’s ability to test concepts, capabilities, and plans using simulation and other techniques—otherwise known as wargaming—has atrophied”. Not surprisingly, Matrix took a call from the Pentagon and a new era began. The Military had recognised the value of Commercial off the Shelf Software (COTS). The cost savings and the attention to detail provided by around 1 million dedicated users, many of them serving or retired military personnel, play a major part in the testing and quality of the Command simulation.
The decision was not difficult and a team of military experts was dispatched to Epsom to evaluate Command, this resulted in further collaboration and the CMANO team were invited to visit the Pentagon.
Ongoing Validation and Verification of the Simulation has established its suitability for Professional use and this has resulted in a specialist Division of the Slitherine Group, Matrix Games LLC, being established to manage Military contracts.
The Command Professional Edition of the software has expanded significantly to specifically manage experimentation & statistical analysis, the creation and testing of new and experimental platforms & systems and Warfighter training, much of which is operated within a classified environment.

A number of prominent Government Agencies and military contractors are also using Command PE and last week Lockheed Martin’s Centre for Innovation in Suffolk, Virginia hosted a week long training session for key members from Government Agencies, specialist Contractors and representatives from various Militaries, gathered from around the globe to participate in a comprehensive week long training event.
The latest evolution and development of Command PE, whose advanced features are not available in the commercial edition, has rapidly progressed to suit the needs of the Military and substantial new upgrades were announced at the event. Command PE is now spearheading this innovative new business venture that has become an integral part of the physics-based research and experimentation of the defense sector.

"Turning a commercial off the shelf (COTS) video game into professional software is not a simple task", said JD McNeil, Chairman of the Slitherine Group. "We have spent the last three years collaborating with and accommodating the very specific needs of our Military clients. We are continually modifying and improving the software to fit their very specific needs. It's a fundamentally different development environment that requires a diverse approach to the range of issues to be considered. The Slitherine Group and its development partner WarfareSims are investing significant resources, developing what has become an integral part of our future growth".



- Joe Beard

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS from DVG With the last DVG game I reviewed, I spoke of how they had stepped into the multi-player world o...

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

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

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

from

DVG

With the last DVG game I reviewed, I spoke of how they had stepped into the multi-player world of light Euro-style games, but for me a little too light.  With this latest product, The War of The Worlds, we're back on the familiar ground of solo gaming, but still with a Euro-game feel.  

From my early childhood copy of H.G.Wells' novel, through the L.P. [yes I am that old!] of Jeff Wayne's soundtrack with Richard Burton as the narrator and the less than faithful films that have been made, the story has been part of my DNA.  So, it was great to have received this from DVG for my latest review, but I was a little apprehensive about how this seminal story had been handled as a game.

Two previous games had focused on the geography of the novel keeping setting in the limited environs of London and the south-east of England as a more or less conventional hex-based war game.  DVG have gone for a broad-brush strategy approach featuring the whole of the UK [and. as you'll see, potentially further!].

I've no hesitation in saying that from  the moment of lifting the game out of its, as always, safe and secure packaging I was hooked.  My first delight was the box graphics that promised a wholly appropriate Victorian feel to the game. London where some of the most violent moments in the novel take place  is immediately evoked by the central image of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, with people in panic-stricken flight from the Martian machines.

This authentic feel was instantly reinforced on unfolding the superbly presented game board [which my camera work does not do anything like justice to].
In particular, the picture does not bring out the rich wood-effect of the deep surrounding edge to the board with its stylish cogs and gears that have an almost 3D quality.  The five roundels along the top [four of which are also displayed on the box lid] will be used to hold the different waves of Martian machines [Tripods] and the magnifying glass in the bottom right corner serves as an enlargement of the capital city London to make game play easier when that area is inevitably invaded.  






This sort of attention to small details is admirable.  It's great to see these functional needs turned into further ways to reinforce the game's artistic appeal and reinforce the visuals of the original story. This emphasised on inspecting the four superb glossy counter sheets.  The Martian machines [the Tripods] are done in bold primary colours, while most of the rest are in a faded shade.  Favourite for me among so many are the individual counters for figures who featured in Wells' narrative: the Narrator, who tells the first-person account, and his wife, the curate he meets in the ruined building, the artillery man and so on.  Best touch of all is using both on the box cover and the counter an image of Wells himself for the Narrator!

Above I've gathered the counters for most of the individuals who can appear in the game through some of the random Event cards - more about the cards later.



The Thunder-Child battles the Martian machines.


The all-embracing conception of the art complements the theme perfectly.  Though Wells focuses the events in his novel on a small portion of southern England, we can see it as a microcosm for the whole world.  It certainly allows for this core game [The War of The Worlds: England] to span the whole of the United Kingdom and enterprisingly beyond to other editions subtitled East Coast America, France and Japan!  An option, called League of Terran Nations, is offered at the end of the rule book, which allows you to play multiple nations simultaneously.  Though I know that I'll never aspire to this challenge, it is a nice extra.  



The rule book is typically attractive and admirably laid out with plenty of illustrations and examples supported by a first class play aid [see below]. 


Three pages of component exposition and roughly one page of set-up brings you to a step-by-step explanation of each Phase of a turn.  Unlike most of DVG's solitaire games that demand substantial pre-planning that is very much a part of the game experience, TWoTWs has the simplest of set-ups that reflects the moderately low complexity of the game and its predominantly strategic level.

Three Handling machine counters begin the game on the map; one in Scotland, one in Wales and one in Leicester.  Leicester?  Very strangely the substantial Zones [that cover several counties] in England are named after various cities.  Next, Wave 1 of the Tripods is randomly placed according to a die roll [and that Zone's Production marker is replaced by a Devastation marker] - none of the possible locations are anywhere near where Wells' chose for them to land in his novel.  In fact the most likely arrival spot is Scotland.  Again, game mechanics designed to give you, the Human player, a chance of victory overcome the facts of the source novel.  The final item to roll for is the placement of the first Cylinder which will ultimately produce a subsequent Wave of Tripods.   

Once everything is set up, it's down to acquiring the rules to begin play.  Most of the stages in the play sequence are brief to read and equally brief to execute.  The A.I. for the Martian side is governed by die rolls and card draws and many of your own actions will be executed by rolling the same special dice that contain three green faces, two yellow ones and a single red one.

However, do read the rules carefully, especially as the sequence of Phases is quite unusual and contains small elements that may trip you up.  The sequence is as follows:





First up is the Production Phase where you gain points mainly to buy and place on the board the units and other items essential to winning the game.  A very simple action, but as always deciding what to purchase with your limited resources is the  problem.  Typical items are Infantry, Cavalry and Guns, but also rather oddly Harbours [which are randomly selected when purchased]. Imagine the scenario: I want to escape from Liverpool, oh sorry, sir, that Harbour hasn't been one of the lucky ones to be bought yet!   Like some other aspects of this game, a clever mechanic, but wholly unrealistic! 

The Battle Phase follows next.  Here there is a more to take in. The key point to have in the front of your mind is that this Phase only occurs when you have a Wave counter in the same main mapboard Zone as a Field Gun or Siege Gun.  This tripped me up initially. finding it strange not to have a Battle because you only have infantry or cavalry units.  It was equally strange to discover the roles these units play: Infantry are used for dice rolls to gain the all-important Earthworks that protect and conceal your guns, while Cavalry provide similar dice rolls to gain Battle Plans.  The latter as expected give you various advantages in the upcoming battle.

Should the Battle Phase thus occur units are shifted to a small tactical board.  It would have been an added richness if this had also been mounted, but the glossy thin cardstock is adequate.  The placing of the Tripods and their actions during the battle are governed by the draw of battle cards.  Inevitably there is a strong element of chance here, but not only is it essential to a solitaire game to have some sort of A.I., but it adds greatly to the tension of the game and the cat and mouse feel.
The right hand board is for use in the Battle Phase
The Tripods are randomly placed, according to card draw, in the top row.  You choose where to place any Human characters and units in the bottom row of hexes and your guns and any accompanying earthworks are placed in any of the hexes in the row above [marked with artillery symbols].  There are some strange peculiarities here that remind me that this is more a Euro-game than a war game. 

Why will the Tripods only fire at guns and only those that have been revealed by having all their earthworks stripped away?  Why do all the Human units cluster in the hexes on the bottom row and cannot move?  This is especially strange as all Human units in a hex that a Tripod enters are captured and gain the Martian side a victory point.  So, they just sit there hoping that the cards that move the Tripods send them on past without entering their hex.  It adds a great deal of tension, but there's little skill on your part whether your units live or die.  

A rare moment when the tripods were heavily outumbered


There are some inconsistencies too; for example, we are told that any guns in the bottom row hex are destroyed if a Tripod enters the hex, but guns set up on the row above.  Is this a hangover from an earlier rule that didn't get caught in proof-reading?  I've assumed that the rule is simply applied to the hex row the guns are set up in.  Also the rules occasionally omit or at best leave the player to make an assumption.  Typical of this is the instruction that the end of a battle comes when there are either no Human units on the board or no Tripod units.  What isn't made clear is that ultimately the Tripods will be forced by the movement instructions to exit the bottom edge of the board. 

I mention such points, as they have led to a range of uncertainties and questions.  Nothing major, but these small points do add up and an especial warning if, like me, you often look online to BBG [Boardgamegeek] for useful playthrough/how to play videos.  Though only 3 months old the video provided by Kevin and Dan Verssen contains many significant differences in the rules from what's there in the published game!

Having survived [or not] any Battles, you move straight on to the Devastation Phase where - surprise, surprise - a die roll is made in every Zone where there's a Wave marker.  This quickly and very abstractly will determine a variety of losses, including some or all of the following:  1 or 2 Human VPs, 1 Human unit and upto 5 Workforce, as well as creating a number of Refugees. The next Phase, Human Action, will pass just as quickly.  All Human units/Characters can move one Zone and Infantry instead of moving can roll either to see if they destroy a Tripod that hasn't yet emerged from a Cylinder or to place a Powder Keg.

The Escape Phase promises exactly what it says.  Any Refugees currently in a Zone with a Harbour roll to attempt to escape.  The first roll determines whether they are successful in fleeing with a two thirds chance of success.  Otherwise they stay put in the Zone, but if you think that having successfully fled the danger's over, it's not!  All it means is that you've successfully boarded a freighter to take you to safety.Now you roll again - 50% chance of making a clean get away, but if not you'll have to fight your way to safety against either one or two Tripods on the Naval Board.  

A Naval Battle has similarities to a Land Battle, though frankly is more enjoyable as you have to manoeuvre your freighters - and possibly a Warship or two if you can afford to buy them - from the top of the board to the bottom.  Meanwhile the Tripod is governed by the same card drawing and die rolling process as in a Land Battle to randomly move and fire on your ships.  It's enjoyable, but seems a rather prolonged process in order for you to gain usually at best one or two VPs or for the Martians to gain one or two VPs.

Rather oddly it's at the end of this Phase that you tot up how many VPs you've earned this turn, one point for every Refugee escaped and 1 point for every Production site not devastated.  As you start the game with 10 out of your 11 Production sites operable, that's a 10 VP start at the end of the first turn.  10 VPs turn into 1 Germ and 10 Germs win you the game - so, a simple bit of maths and it's  100 VPs for a win.  [Spoiler alert - avoid next paragraph, if you haven't read Wells' novel, The War of The Worlds, and you want to do so before playing the game].  

Why Germs?  Well, as a nod to the novel - the plucky British don't triumph against all odds, a deus ex machina, good old Mother Nature does the job - germs kill off the Martians!  So, let's turn VPs into germs and then if you win, hey presto, you can say the germs got them - though in game terms, it's escaping Refugees, killing Tripods and mainly having undevastated production Zones giving you VPs each turn that brings you out victorious.

So, back to our game.  Only two swift Phases left.  First the Martian Action Phase, which is far less dramatic than it sounds.  Another simple die roll for each Zone that contains a Martian Wave marker.  The possible results are as follows: the Wave moves to a different Zone [that's right roll the die to find out which one], the Wave gains an extra Tripod or part of the Flying Machine is built.  There is usually a one in six chance of the latter happening and if all four parts of the Flying Machine get built the Human player loses the game.  This single detail has so far been the most criticised aspect of the game, as a series of early bad rolls and you are toast.  In my most recent game, I was doing very nicely on 84 VPs, the Narrator's Wife had safely escaped [a nice thematic touch] with the Martians trailing on 54 VPs, when the fourth part of the Flying machine was built. Game over.

Just to prove how near I got!

The last task in this Phase is to roll for each Zone that has a Destroyed marker to see if it turns into a Red Weed Zone and add up Martian VPs. 2VPs for each destroyed Zone and 4 VPs for each Red Weed Zone.  Like the Human player, 10 VPs are turned into a Colonisation Point and 10 Colonisation points mean that the Human has lost.

The final Phase is the Assembly.  In every Zone where there is a Martian Handling machine and a Cylinder, roll the die and if the colour matches the colour of the Handling Machine, the Cylinder is replaced by the next numbered Wave marker.

The only other feature to mention is the deck of Event cards.  I really like how this is handled, as the deck is made up of Events labelled for every Phase of the turn, but the top card is only played when it matches the current Phase.  So, at least one Event card will definitely be played each turn, but the earlier the Phase that this happens the more likely it is that you will get the next card matching a later Phase in the turn and so on.  Some turns I've had a single Event card playable, at others up to four and once five!

A typical selection of the many Event cards that add greatly to the thematic element of the game.

So, final conclusions.  A fairly swift and easy game with some minor uncertainties in the rules that have largely been cleared up on BGG, but as yet no definitive Errata/FAQ published.  Components are excellent and greatly add to the flavour of the game.  A light game that depends heavily on dice rolling which brings in an equally heavy slice of luck. For me, it's not so much the luck element as the lack of major choices on the player's part that makes me want more control.  That said, there are often many micro-moments of decision that add to the already frequent tension generated by so many of the die rolls, especially as the game moves into its later stages.  DVG are obviously looking to widen their appeal and I think this game has a potential to hit the lighter end of the market, but for my own tastes I prefer their typical meatier historical war games.

Once again many thanks to DVG for supplying the review copy.


Standard Price
$59.99

£55.99

And my next review up will certainly cover a very heavy weight grognard's historical war game on three battles of the Crimean war!

So, look out for Bloody Steppes of the Crimea in a few weeks' time.