If you would like to see the game in action and hear my running commentary, check out this video. If you just want to read my thoughts in...

Foxhole First Look - Video and Article Foxhole First Look - Video and Article

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


If you would like to see the game in action and hear my running commentary, check out this video. If you just want to read my thoughts in written form keep scrolling. The written version is far more coherent, since I wasn't being shot at the whole time!







Foxhole is a new game just released to Steam early access that allows you to jump into a persistent online battlefield with up to 119 other players and duke it out in a large scale war in a WW1/WW2 setting. This game has more to it than just that, however. Players spawn into the game with only a pistol, 16 rounds of ammo, and a hammer. You may be thinking, what good is a hammer in shootout? Well, in this game, it's one of the most important items on the battlefield. If you want to get your hands on anything other than that pistol, you or someone on your team will need to get to work gathering resources and turning them into weapons of war.

The map is littered with villages and resource nodes for the two teams to fight over. Once a team secures a resource node, players can begin "mining" those resource points to gather raw materials. Those materials are then taken to a refinery to be refined, and then those refined materials can be used at a weapons factory to produce rifles, machine guns, and so on, as well as the various types of ammunition for them. Binoculars, trucks, grenades, and everything else must be produced in this way. Defensive structures like barbed wire, sandbags, and foxholes can also be constructed using these resources. Finally, that equipment must be picked up by other players or hauled to those at the front. Trucks can be built to transport finished goods to the combat troops, or used to speed up the transport of raw and refined materials back home. This means that in order for a team to really succeed, they will need at least a few players dedicated to this process. I'm not entirely sure that I would enjoy playing this part of the game for more than short sessions at a time, but it is fun to know you are helping equip your fellow players with good weapons and ammo. Your efforts have a real tangible effect on the game, which is more than the crafting in most games can say.

Communication is another key to success in this game. Looking at the map, you can only see which towns are controlled by which team, and your current location. You cannot see friendly or enemy players at all. The only way to know what is going on is to communicate with your team. The chat box will usually be a constant stream of requests for supplies and reinforcements at critical points in the field. You can also use voice chat to talk to other players near you. While this can be off-putting right at first, since you can feel very lost and alone, it quickly became one of my favorite things about the game. I often hear it said that the average soldier on a battlefield only knows what is happening in his immediate area. He has no way of knowing what is going on elsewhere or even who is winning the battle. That is very much the case here, since you can only see a short distance around you. Enemy and even friendly players are only visible if you have direct line of sight to them. At night this viewing distance shrinks even more. Strong communication from your team is needed for everyone to get a clearer picture of the overall battle.

The actual combat is tense and chaotic. The mechanics of shooting are simple enough, just aim at the enemy and shoot, but it's complicated by a few things. First, as discussed, strong manufacturing efforts back at HQ make a huge difference here, since the basic pistol or even rifle will leave you hopelessly outmatched if the enemy has machine guns and SMG's. Not to mention how the amount of ammunition available to you changes how willing you are to use suppressing fire freely or be stuck conserving rounds. Second, visibility is limited to what you can actually see. Often the firefights turn into blind shootouts with each side returning fire at where they think the enemy just shot from. Fire too soon and you give away your position. Fire too late and you may find yourself overrun. The latest Dev Blog shows off some bayonet action, which looks to be very effective if you can catch the enemy off-guard.

Taking all of this together, Foxhole is a game which many players may bounce off of at first, but it looks to have a very rewarding gameplay loop for those with the patience to learn how to the game world works and begin to manipulate it.  Materials must be gathered, supplies must be brought to the front. Trucks carrying those supplies must stick to the roads. So, let's say your team is trying to capture a village but the enemy won't budge. Instead of hammering away endlessly, you might gather up an organized squad and slip past the enemy to cut off their supply lines. Just as in real life, setting up a roadblock at a key crossroads could starve the enemy at the front of ammunition and the resource needed to even respawn there, allowing your fellow troops to overrun their position. The game offers a lot of these opportunities to use real tactics to defeat the enemy. Patrols and reconnaissance are needed to gauge the enemy presence in an area. An armored offensive is possible, but a concentration of effort and resources is needed to build and fuel such vehicles.  Not to mention organizing a unit of infantry to support them, and hold any ground taken.

Currently the game lets 120 people play on each server. There are several different maps that make up the overall game world. The hope of the developer is to eventually link all of these maps and servers together, so that hundreds or perhaps thousands of players are on one seamless battlefield simultaneously. This is an ambitious goal, but I am eager to see them reach it. Such a scale would really open the game up to strategic and operational levels of play. Organized groups of players and clans could coordinate large scale offensives and fight battles that last days or weeks. 

This is still the alpha version of the game, so there is much work yet to be done in all areas. That said, the game runs perfectly fine already. I've only played a few hours, but did not run into any bugs or crashes.

Foxhole is available on Steam early access, and you can find the official website right here: http://www.foxholegame.com/

- Joe Beard



The Armored Campaign In Normandy June-August 1944 by Stephen Napier   For this book, if I had to chose one word to...

The Armored Campaign In Normandy June-August 1944 By Stephen Napier The Armored Campaign In Normandy June-August 1944 By Stephen Napier

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



by








 For this book, if I had to chose one word to describe it that word would be 'painstaking'. The book has been deeply researched by the author to give us all of the pertinent and newest information about this campaign. It has plenty of maps and some handy charts so that the reader can follow along with ease. The author's findings are eye-opening at times, from the morale of the 7th Armored Division, and the fact that the Allies lost so many tanks that the replacement rate could not keep up. 

 While the book at times does take aim at Montgomery, it does state that his constant offensives kept the Germans off balance and unable to stage any large attacks of their own.

 On page eighty-two there is a chart comparing the six most used tanks in the Normandy campaign, although it does not list the actual versions. The chart, to say the least, is interesting. It shows the different tanks' road and cross country speeds. The odd thing is that it lists the Tiger as being one mile per hour faster than the Sherman in both cases. While this is contrary to many other written reports, it might well be true. I have seen countless videos of refurbished World War II tanks and I am always impressed by the Tiger. Its turning ability, acceleration, and speed seem to be better than most of the other tanks that are shown at Bovington, etc. So the numbers listed in this book could be correct.

 As any history of the Normandy campaign would, this book has a part on the attack of Michael Wittmann at Villers Bocage. The author not only shows Wittmann's real tally, he also shows that his charge into the town was not a very smart move. The author continues with the tale of the equally foolish and unsuccessful German panzer attack later.

 The book is just as good when dealing with the sweeping large picture, or coming down to the day to day details of each operation. This is somewhat rare in a book like this. Usually an author is able to either do one well, but not the other. This is not the case here. The small details that the author shows us are in a lot of cases only found in this book. For instance, the author tells a story about a German officer of some 88mm anti-aircraft guns being forced at gunpoint by a fellow German to help stop a British advance with his guns in the anti-tank role.

 The author also goes into the 'tank scandal' issue. The 'tank scandal' was played out in the British Parliament. The issue started because of British tankers writing home about what they perceived as their own tanks being inferior to the German ones. This issue was debated heavily in Parliament for a good bit of time. 

 The book is 400+ pages long. It takes the reader from the invasion on D-Day to the end of the fighting at the Falaise Gap. I highly recommend this book as the best and most encyclopedic tome on armored warfare in Normandy.


 Robert


Book: The Armored Campaign In Normandy June-August 1944
Author: Stephen Napier
Publisher: Casemate Publishers

Gettysburg: The Tide Turns by  Slitherine Games  Shenandoah Studios  This is the first time I wrote a review a...

Gettysburg: The Tide Turns by Slitherine Games Gettysburg: The Tide Turns by Slitherine Games

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



by 


Slitherine Games 

Shenandoah Studios





 This is the first time I wrote a review and had to chuck it all and start over again. In the beginning I didn't like this game. As a matter of a fact, I was looking to get out of writing the review. Some of it might have been snobbishness. After all, this is a game that started out as an IPAD game. I have never liked any IPAD/Android game that I have tried. They all seemed to be missing something. So when I started to play GTTT, I was looking at it through less than rose colored glasses. Even parts of it that should have felt good to me I disliked. Chit pulling for a game has been used for a long time to represent the vagaries and 'friction' of war. You have all these troops, but cannot use any of them this turn due to luck, and sometimes useless commanders. At first, when playing this game, it seemed maddening. I couldn't come up with a coherent plan, or at times save some of my forces from certain destruction. I was just about to give up on it when I started it up for one more try. I had just had a very good day at an Air museum and was in a unusually good mood. So I thought, what the heck let's give it one more try. I think I have mentioned before that sometimes it takes a while for a game to 'click' with me. I will go through the motions, but never really get absorbed in it, and just daydream between, and sometimes during, turns. So now I am happy to report that GTTT does have a method to its madness. It just took a much longer time than I am used to for me to 'get' this game.




 These are the main good to great points about the game:

The Map
Plenty of Fog Of War
AI





 As you can see the game comes with five scenarios, and a campaign game that can be played from either side North or South.

 The game does not actually have Fog Of War implemented as we are used to. You can see all of your opponents forces just like with a boardgame. In this case I am using the term Fog Of War to represent the fact that due to the chit pulling you have absolutely no say in what your forces can or cannot do for this turn. At times this a bit nerve racking and destroys all of your well made plans you made last turn. Because of this mechanic it is almost like every turn is a completely new game, and in some ways it is. 





 The map has to be one of the best looking Gettysburg maps I have ever seen on a computer. The terrain is well marked, and that helps immensely with planning your moves. With the chit draw process the game uses you will never know what, if anything, you can do on your next turn. So, as far as Fog Of War there is plenty to go around. The AI is brutal, simply brutal. It will attack and find your weaknesses. It might be too offensively minded for someone who is used to a Union computer side that plays like Meade.
 




 Some games' AIs are programmed to do one thing every game, or at least if the opponent does 'X', the AI does 'Y'. This is not the case with GTTT. The AI seems to react well to your different moves and strategies.




 The game has three different levels of difficulty. From reading on the forum from the developers the higher the level of difficulty just means how strong your opponents forces will be.

 GTTT comes across as a very simple game on a battle that has been gamed to death. However, under the hood there is a lot going on. To show you some of the rules that make this game better than your average one, let's take a look at the manual:

"11.2. Healing demoralized SPS
If a Unit spends a turn stationary and not engaged with the enemy,
then it will Heal a single demoralised SP at the end of the turn.
11.3. Rallying Units
During the full campaign game, there are a number of Night Turns.
During these turns, when a Formation is activated, any shattered
units with 2 or more demoralised SP make a test against their
Quality rating.
If the unit passes this test, then it will return to the map under the
player’s control with a number of SP’s healed. A higher Quality unit
is more likely to return from being Shattered and will also return
with more SP healed.
This is to simulate units fleeing the battle but being Rallied by their
commanders during the night hours."


 These rules, among others, along with the amount of scenarios, and the low price ($9.99) make it a easy for me to endorse the game now. Just take my advice, and before you hit the uninstall or refund button, give this game one more play through. I think you will be glad you did.

 

Robert


New England Air Museum Pictures  This is just a bunch of photos I took today including a pic of yours truly.  I actually go...

New England Air Museum Pictures New England Air Museum Pictures

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

New England Air Museum Pictures



 This is just a bunch of photos I took today including a pic of yours truly.


 I actually got to sit in the P-47s cockpit.







 They also have a large beautifully worked collection of models.


In the rear is a Japanese gunnery training device






Gnome Engine

The star of the museum a fully restored B-29


















 The cockpit of the P-47 was as roomy as I have read, but my head was sticking out and the canopy would never have closed even if the seat was as low as it could go.


Tokyo 42 is a quirky little game, from SMAC Games and Mode 7, that drops you into a colorful futuristic world and tells you to start mur...

Tokyo 42 Review Tokyo 42 Review

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



Tokyo 42 is a quirky little game, from SMAC Games and Mode 7, that drops you into a colorful futuristic world and tells you to start murdering others for fun and profit. You can leave any moral qualms about that behind, since everyone in this world is taking a wonder drug that allows them to be brought back to life almost immediately. This is fortunate for you character as well, since you will die...a lot.  The developers of Tokyo 42 describe it as "the lovechild of Syndicate and GTA 1" which I would agree with. I thought it had a strong Hotline Miami vibe as well.



The game sets you loose in an open world city where you can search for various terminals and characters offering assassination missions. There are 100 missions to complete, as well as dozens of collectibles scattered around the world, so expect to spend a good long time in this world if you are planning on doing everything. Most of the missions boil down to killing people, but in many cases there is some kind of twist to the action, or an interesting context for your extra-judicial murder sprees. As you complete these missions you will earn money and reputation, which lets you buy new gear and open up more missions, respectively. There is a story that ties this all together, but I won't spoil it, since it's interesting enough to enjoy as you go along. 


Visually, the game is very appealing. While the graphics are fairly simple in technical terms, the aesthetic is wonderful. The city is full of colorful buildings, peaceful natural areas, and strongly contrasting industrial areas. The game can be almost surreal at times, as you trot through the Utopian vistas, gunning down enemies while catching more than a few innocent civilians in your crossfire. The map world is quite large and it will take you some time to explore it all. There are waypoints scattered around the map which you can instantly teleport to once you activate them, so you won't have to be making long treks too often. The map is also covered in save points, one of which you can have active at a time. Usually there is one right next to where a mission starts, so if you die you can just tap a key and try again instantly.




The gunplay in Tokyo 42 is not perfect, but it is generally fun. You simply move the mouse where you want to fire, and a line will show if you have line of sight to that spot or not. Where this becomes less than perfect is when you are in a very vertical combat space. This is a bit of a double-edged sword for the game. It's very cool to have a shootout on some stairs on the side of a building, but it is less cool to think you are aiming at one spot, only to find you weren't quite aiming where you thought. With some practice this gets better, but you will have the occasional shot that will simply not go where you wanted it to go. The other hurdle here is dealing with the camera. On PC the Q and E keys are used to rotate the camera around, with 8 possible positions. This can be tricky in combat when you also need to be using WASD to move. You can also sometimes find your view completely blocked by a building. I suspect it works much faster and better with a controller. 

Mechanical issues aside, the combat is enjoyable. One hit kills are the rule for yourself and most enemies, so you have to smart as well as quick. Ducking behind cover and sneaking to a new location is often the better choice than charging ahead guns blazing. Speaking of guns, there are several classic options available. Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, grenades, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and even a katana make up your arsenal. Several variants of each weapon can be purchased, letting you customize your play style. Enemies come equipped with these different weapons as well, so you have to stay on your toes. Bullets from the various weapons travel at different speeds, so you need to time your shots with that in mind. You also need to keep that in mind for dodging all the enemy fire coming your way. You won't always be able to stay in cover, forcing you to dodge and aim at the same time to stay alive. Remember, one hit and you're dead. Fortunately, there are often checkpoints throughout the longer missions, so you don't always have to start all the way back at the beginning.



The open world nature of the game lets you approach many of the missions in a manner of your choosing. You can find a perch on a nearby building to snipe from, or sneak in and take foes out one by one with melee attacks. A couple grenades and a burst of machine gun fire can work wonders as well. Sometimes a mission will give you a specific condition for victory, such as killing in the target in a certain way. This can add a little extra challenge if it forces you out of your normal approach. There are also missions that put you in a more unique situation. A couple of memorable ones had me taking super long range sniper shots in one case, and killing enemy gangs while riding a motorcycle in the other. Needless to say, there is a ton of variety here. 

As I mentioned before, the open world contains numerous collectibles to be, err, collected. There are various skins and bonuses to be found in some tough to reach spots. A bit of puzzle solving and platforming ability will be needed to get them all. The world is also filled with fun little easter egg type moments to discover. The world between missions can also be hostile at times, especially as you proceed in the story and become the target of assassins yourself.



The game has a multiplayer mode which sounded like a lot of fun, but unfortunately I was not able to find an active match. It puts you into the open world where you can pretend to be a civilian, strolling around and gathering arms, then unleashing when you think you've found another player. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun even with just a friend or two.

Overall, I found Tokyo 42 to be a fun little assassination adventure. It isn't a must buy, but if you do like it, it will keep you entertained for a good long while. It's a very easy game to jump into and do a few missions if you don't have time for a longer game session. The action is solid, minus the occasional camera issue, the visuals are wonderful to look at even after hours of playing, and there are quite a few funny moments to discover, making this a charming game to just sit back and enjoy. 

Official Website: http://www.tokyo42.com/
Tokyo 42 is available on Steam and XBOX One (and PS4 in the near future)

- Joe Beard



URBAN OPERATIONS from Nuts Publishing Tactical level modern urban warfare!  This is not the first foray in to this territory...

URBAN OPERATIONS URBAN OPERATIONS

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

URBAN OPERATIONS

from

Nuts Publishing



Tactical level modern urban warfare!  This is not the first foray in to this territory by the designer,  Sebastien de Peyret.  The first was notable for being a solitaire offering.  A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue [2010] was the game in the second issue of Battles magazine, a magazine noted for its in-depth quality reviews.  Though the insert games have varied in their success, for me A Week In Hell was one of the real successes both in its system and its graphics quality. 

Nor is Urban Operations Nuts Publishing's first modern tactical urban game either, as a year after A Week In Hell appeared, Phantom Fury [2011] came on the scene.   This fully fledged boxed production which brought us forward to the battle of Fallujah in November 2004 shone again for its quality art and, I believe, another fascinating system for examining modern tactical warfare.  I say believe, because, unfortunately, I failed to secure a copy while it was still in print, but all that I've read and watched since about the game convince me that it should have been in my collection.

So, what does Urban Operations hold in store.  Well, first of all,  this new game designed by Sebastien de Peyret is simply overwhelmingly impressive in quality and quantity.  For the company, the leap from Phantom Fury to this is indeed a quantum one.  From a very attractive, but folio sized map, typical cardboard units and markers, one player aid and one rule book to ... 2 full size [72cm x 54cm] double-sided maps, with a slim river map [72cm x13cm] to join the maps together for some scenarios,  a small map with a series of bunker tunnels on one side and a sewer system on the other.  Innovative terrain elements integrate familiar hex movement with irregular shaped interiors of buildings, roof tops and the ability in some cases to leap from one to the next.  All giving the appearance of looking down from on high at this 3D seeming panorama spread below ...


... wooden blocks  and stickers to produce 156 units for the sort of fog of war familiar in so many Columbia games.  The components list for the game indicates 160 blocks.  My copy contained exactly 156 blocks, so no spares.   I know many companies like to add in a few extra blocks in case of irregularities in production.  All I can say is that every single block was in perfect shape, so no problems.

In addition, there are also four wooden cylinders for use on the map, so perhaps that's where the figure of 160 comes from. 



The adhesive sheets of stickers for your blocks


... 2 sheets of thick counters providing 199 markers.  These are the fine rounded-corner type that press out and don't have any little tags or need clipping.  [If you've read my previous review, you'll know that at times I've found clipping a few hundred counters quite therapeutic, but I confess I really am getting spoilt and starting to enjoy the ability to just press out a counter and there it is ready in all its perfection!]  


... decks of cards [144 in all] that are some of the best I've seen.  These range from cards for Event play in specific scenarios to the essential unit stats cards.


A typical unit stats card

... three Scenario booklets, one for Fulda 1985 [how that takes me back to early SPI days], one for Mogadishu and one for 4 battles scattered across the globe and modern history from Chechyna to where but Fallujah!  In all 16 scenarios and two of the booklets allow Campaign games to be played out linking scenarios together.


... linked to the Scenarios are 16 double-sided Scenario displays which give you all the set-up details and reinforcements for your troops, including a picture of each block and the Impulse Force that it belongs to.  An excellent touch is that when your infantry mount vehicles, you simply take the relevant infantry block from the map and place it on the depiction of the transport block on your display card.  Safe to say that like every other item in this game, the layout, use of colour and graphical quality is excellent.

The Scenario Display card for the opening scenario in the Mogadishu booklet.

... and as always a magnificent rule book.  It's a weighty 36 pages, plus 4 pages entitled "Urban Operations in a Nutshell".  The fact that this summary takes up four pages is a significant fact.  Store that detail away for future reference.  

So, far every item and aspect of this product was a stunning revelation.  On the physical side only the box containing the game could benefit from one thing - greater solidity.  Visually, like all else, it looks highly attractive and very similar -slightly shallower -  to the boxes for the Command & Colours series, but it lacks their all important thickness and rigidity for coping with a substantial weight of wooden blocks.

Be warned, a hand on each side of the box, preferably with fingers supporting under the box are advisable.  Do not try to pick it up single-handle by one corner and definitely DO Not store heavy games on top of the box.  All with have a rapidly down-hill deleterious effect.  You have been warned.

So far, I have nothing but admiration and praise for this game.  It looks fantastic and offers a stunning array of contents.  Now comes crunch time and the rule book.  Visually, it mirrors all that has gone before.  It's rich, resplendent and full of depth and detail.  BUT and it is a big but!  The guide on the box rates this at three and a half out of ten.  In other words low complexity to very light medium at the most.  The implication is light easily understood rules and fairly simple game play.  From my own experience, a rating of eight would seem or more accurate assessment and all the posts that I'm reading on the internet would seem to confirm that.

There is a depth of rules and detail that I would suggest moves this well into the high category.  To be honest, personally I welcome this level of detail.  Having tried Worthington's Boots On The Ground which covers virtually identical ground, I was disappointed both by the lack of depth and blandness of the game play.

First of all there is the range of units to consider from the customary infantry, tanks, armoured and un-armoured vehicles to support and logistics units.  The latter two form an important chain.  Support units can use the limited support [2 steps worth]carried by each platoon to help units who've lost steps in combat to recover them, while logistics units carry their own store of support that the support units can in turn go to replenish their meagre supply.  All this involves manoeuvring units in to adjacency; no simple rules here for a set number of supply points that can be used at the end of each turn to build up lost steps.



An example of a unit's stats card.
Indeed, it is probably the fact that the game's units come in the form of blocks that provokes assumptions that this ought to be an easy game to play.  After all, such games traditionally have only about 12 pages of rules.  Apart from that, combat with blocks has always tended to mean the number of steps on a block is the number of dice to roll and hits are typically on 6 or 5 & 6 depending on type of unit firing  and type of unit defending.  If that's what you were expecting, you're going to have to drastically revise those expectations.  

To show what I mean I'm going to look in some detail at Combat. This is one of the most complex elements in this game.  The steps on the blocks [all have three steps] merely indicate the operational state of the unit.  3 steps fully operational, 2 steps operational and 1 step poorly operational!   For combat you have to go to the unit type's stats card which shows the weapons that the unit possesses, the range of each weapon, the fire power at different ranges and on top of all that a wholly new concept Effect Points [hereafter abbreviated to EP] and a weapon's Area of Effect.

The T-72's stats card in its entirety

Focus for the moment on just its main armament:
the 125 mm gun
Just take a typical unit card for a Russian main battle tank the T-72 [cf. Rules of Play P9]. It has two weapons' systems: machine guns and its main 125mm gun.  I'll simply use the main gun as an example.  Each box indicates a range increment in Effect Points: the first box is always 1 EP [i.e. adjacency, the second box is 2-5 EPs and each subsequent box is 5 more EPs of range].  So, the main gun fires out to a range of 20 EPS with, you'll notice, a strength of 8 if the target is within the range 11-20. 

So, we've located our target, it's in LOS and falls in the correct range. Next the target block may do one of three things [a] withdraw, compulsory under certain circumstances [b] fire back [c] have an eligible friendly unit give covering fire.  If either of the last two choices are made that's when you get into using the numbers, looking up modifiers and rolling dice!  Not too difficult and I like some of the details, especially the die roll by each player that determines who gets a +1 bonus, but may also produce a critical hit that can go all the way to destruction!


Use the Play Aid to help guide you through mastering Combat

However, this individual combat isn't over yet.  Look back at the stats card and you'll also notice the strange red stripe symbols beneath certain range boxes.  At these ranges there is residual EP -  a single red stripe indicates a radius of 1 EP, two stripes indicates a radius of 2 EPs.  Any blocks or Population counters that lie within those residual EP ranges will also be affected and to find what that effect may be you'll need to look up a separate chart on P24 of the rule book.  A series of symbols will tell you the type of unit that can be affected and the colour of the symbol will tell you whether it is only friendly blocks that can be affected or both friendly and enemy blocks.

The final coup de grace for some might be that range isn't even counted in a simple ratio of 1 EP equals 1 hex, but needs a separate table as some terrain costs more than 1 EP to see through!  But for once don't despair.  All is not lost as, in reality, this table is a very simple: nearly all costs associated with walls, apertures and breaches are 2EPs, while other costs are 1EP.  Similarly, the Movement Cost table is far simpler than most games that include infantry and a range of different types of vehicle.  


The spread of excellent Scenario cards

I've detailed this largely because I think it will most strikingly and clearly reveal whether this game is for you.  If you were expecting a block game like Columbia's EuroFront series, then I expect not.  If you want something much meatier keep reading.  There is a considerable amount to take in.  How you approach this depends on whether you want to be totally overwhelmed or survive the experience to come through to achieve an understanding and real enjoyment.  

I strongly believe that the programmed method introduced to the wargaming world many years ago in the revered Squad Leader would have greatly benefited Urban Operations.  As it is, the rule book can be a daunting and intimidating prospect.  Never mind the breadth of ideas, the innovative nature of many of them adds to the task.  My advice is skim the rules to get an overall impression and then create your own programmed learning path.  Start with a simple scenario with low unit density and only infantry [Lead The Way, the first scenario in the Mogadishu Scenario book, is perfect - its title almost seems to be ironically shouting out "Hey this is the one to get started with!"]

This will introduce you to basic movement and firing/assault, while gaining familiarity with the blend of hexes and room areas and some of the issues of LOS.  This is better handled than in many games, though not without its uncertainties.  However, considering the issues of dealing with buildings, rooftops, apertures and breaches, much here is clean and well dealt with.  It will also introduce you to Population counters, again a relatively new element to contend with in gaming terms and how to use Support unit blocks.



The two double-sided, full size maps -
one typical of the Western world,
the other of the Middle East
Keeping to the Scenarios in this Scenario book turns out to be a very logical step.  The next Scenario, Alone In The Mog, adds nothing new and so on to Tiger Trap which primarily introduces armoured personnel carriers for your infantry and so rules on mounting and dismounting.  A single Logistics block and Command Post block add a little extra.

The scenario. Cavalry, extends your knowledge by one Anti-tank block [and an Engineer block if and when you move on to playing the Campaign game].  The fourth scenario, Good Morning, Lenin, has a single Sniper and in the very last scenario, Checkpoint Pasta, we are finally confronted by two Tank blocks and a Joint Fire block.
At last two Main Battle Tanks

Taken in this manner, a potentially steep learning curve starts to look a little more like starting on the nursery slopes until eventually tackling the dangers of off-piste skiing.  To continue the analogy, there will be plenty of falls along the way.

My first and a totally simple, practical one illustrates my point only too well.  Having neatly bagged up all my blocks, carefully labeling each bag with the relevant infantry platoon, tank platoon, escort platoon and so on, I discovered that each Scenario creates Impulse Forces [that operate together when activated] built up from units drawn from different platoons. 

So, now before I play a Scenario for the first time, I record which platoon bags I have to draw units from.  That way the next time the scenario is played I can quickly locate the right units and also quickly return them to the right bag at the end of the game.

However, the main spills and falls come from a lack of clarity and precision particularly where the rules are innovative. The game is already throwing up a fairly high rate of queries and uncertainties about rule meaning and interpretations.  [At times, this can come down to something as simple as uncertainty about unit set up in the Scenario I've recommended to start play with.]
The Scenario Booklet four the four individual scenarios

By all means use the questions and answers on forums like Boardgamegeek, but only when you absolutely need to.  Far too many people in the gaming world seem to want to throw up endless questions when they clearly have done nothing except READ the rules and have made no attempt to play a game.  Time and time again, you'll find that what appears difficult on the page starts to make sense as you play the game. Otherwise, you'll doom yourself to rules indigestion and potential abandonment of the system.

Sorry, I'll put my soap-box away, but I'm only too aware of how many people have been put off buying games in the past by too much questioning of rules in the abstract without getting down and trying to play the game.

To further round out the impression of this game, I'd also like to list just a few of the many successful aspects of Urban Operations.  So, in no particular order ... An easy, more realistic and concrete handling of "supply" through Supply and Logistics units on the map needing to move into contact.  Activation by platoon with a simple chain of command that affects the number of units within a platoon that may be activated.  The concept of three operational levels that diminish as you take hits, along with elite, veteran and recruit status that can mitigate or intensify the effect of hits.  

The explanation of LOS generally, but especially the handling of fire from apertures [mainly doors and windows] with unobtrusive map markings that avoid ambiguity .  The system for mounting and dismounting from vehicles, with straightforward marking by symbols on the stats cards of a transported unit's weight and a vehicle's capacity. 

The procedure for what are called 3D actions [e.g. helicopter reconnaissance, drones, mortar/artillery fire etc]which is dealt with through the use of Support cards - more interesting and visual than simple Air points, more abstract than actual units on the map, but a good comprise for an area that can be difficult [need I mention Advanced Squad Leader here!] 

Finally, Combat.  I know I've pointed out the complexities, but the eventual outcomes and the fact that the target has three possible options of response and the introduction of collateral damage through the idea of Weapon's Effect make it well worthwhile getting to grips with.

So, in respect of the rules, it is not a perfect product and I'd strongly recommend it first and foremost to experienced board wargame players .  Refer to the relevant section of the four pages of "Urban Operations In A Nutshell" when needed as you learn a rule to support your learning. But by going slowly and getting a firm grasp yourself, you will be able to introduce the concepts to others and, finally, the Scenario Fallujah will allow you to embrace this game solo.

Take the time, make the effort.  Despite the problems I've aired,  I genuinely think that this is currently the best modern tactical system for predominantly ground based urban operations.  Its scope is challenging and rewarding.  In my collection, a definite keeper.





Price 75 Euros