Ageod's The Thirty Years War   Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, and the Great Conde...

Ageod's The Thirty Years War: Review Ageod's The Thirty Years War: Review

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

June 2016

Ageod's The Thirty Years War: Review

                                                       Ageod's The Thirty Years War


  Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, and the Great Conde, oh my. It also has Tilly, Wallenstein, Horn, Pappenheim, and the Cardinal-Infante, plus the whole gang of kings and princes and generals that we love to read about.

 This is a Slitherine/Matrix/Ageod game of the Thirty Years War. The game has actually been released by the Ageod part of the gaming triumvirate. They have also released such titles as, The Wars of Napoleon, The Rise of Prussia, Revolution under siege etc..

 This war was caused by the Bohemians offering their crown from the head of the Catholic Hapsburg Ferdinand II, to the Protestant Frederick V of the Palatinate, a small part of the Holy Roman Empire. The empire was once described as neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Frederick V is called the 'Winter King', because that is how long his reign of Bohemia lasted.  The Bohemians, in a fit of religious rage, threw two of Ferdinand's councilors out of a window to land seventy feet below into a dung heap. Miraculously they both survived, thus proving that politicians, like cats, usually land on their feet.  This was the spark that set off the greatest conflagration since the reformation began. On the outside it was a religious war. In reality at times Catholic fought Catholic and Protestant fought Protestant, depending less on the states' religious views than their own policy.

 The war was a high mark in man's inhumanity to man. The devastation and desolation this war caused in central Europe affected it for the next few hundred years. The sack of Magdeburg was that centuries 'rape of Nanking'. The scale was smaller, but the savagery was just as intense. The woodcuts and printed sheets of the horrors were the first large propaganda outpouring to hit Europe.

 The Thirty Years war saw the change from completely rigid linear tactics to the reforms of Maurice Prince of Orange. It also was the watershed between countries moving from half trained militia and mercenary armies, to having fully professional standing armies. 

 Enough of the history, now let's get to the game. This review is of the 1.01 version.



  The game has three tutorials and five scenarios these are:

  Tutorials:

  1. Basic Rules
  2. Recruitment, Production, and Decisions
  3. Advanced Concepts and Tips

  Scenarios:

  1. The Bohemian revolt 1618
  2. The Danish Phase 1625
  3. The Paladins 1622
  4. The Swedish Intervention 1630
  5. The Thirty Years War 1618

  The scenario of the whole war, 1618-1648, is a whopping 369 turns.










 The player chooses to play either the 'Protestant powers' or the 'Empire'. You are the leader of your coalition and control diplomacy, economics, and of course your military.

 The map is of the whole of middle Europe, with some of the scenarios focusing on smaller portions of it.



 You are given four pages of options to tweak the AI and other parts of the game to your desire. For those not faint of heart you can also tweak the 'scripts' that the game runs on.








 This game, like all of the newer Ageod games, has the decision card system to help or hurt you and to add historical flavor. It is also dripping with historical events that further the historical depth of the game.

  Your forces' supply and attrition will be your main focus.  The troops under you will melt away like ice cream in the hot sun. As Spain was described during the Napoleonic wars "a small army is defeated and a large army starves". Your armies are much like a chained bulldog, formidable only in a small area and useless out of it. You will be continually juggling your meager purse between all of the different choices that you can or have to make. Mutual exhaustion between the contending forces at times, resemble the fourteenth round in a championship boxing match (oops showed my age), or for the uninitiated, the last round of any Rocky movie. The turns are in the WEGO mode, that is you and your opponent both decide on your moves and actions and then it is played out simultaneously on the map.

 Your forces have to be integrated with leaders, with that and all of the myriad of choices you have as a coalition leader for economic,etc. It is good to see that there are so many tutorials and also that they are set up not to overwhelm the new player with too much information at once.

 The game is a grand scale work of the Athena engine. For those of you who already own Ageod games, its purchase is a no-brainer. For the gamer who has not played any of their games, there is a bit of a learning curve to overcome, but well worth it in the end. The Athena game engine is particularly well suited for time periods where the action of armies is more fluid and not stagnant as in World War I.

 This screenshot shows the landing of Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, landing in the HRE in 1630.




 Hopefully,(hint hint, nudge nudge) Ageod is already working on another of the 'holy grails' of wargaming: an operational rendering of the English Civil War. The time period almost exactly overlaps the time period in TYW. You would get the added attraction of commanding the 'Winter King', Frederick V's, son Prince Rupert as a royalist commander. Oh, and while you're at it, The Campaigns of Marlborough.

 For The Thirty Years war game might I suggest a little light reading, specifically Thomas Hobbes 'Leviathan'. Removing my tongue from its firm position in my cheek. Try this, 'The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy', by Peter H. Wilson. If you are like me, and like pc and board games take a look at GMT games.



Robert

Game: Thirty Years War
Developr: Ageod
Publisher: Slitherine
Steam Release: 6/9/16
Review Date: 6/20/16


2 comments :

The Chosin Few from Victory Point Games An episode from the Korean War 1950 Despite approximately 100,000 British t...

The Chosin Few: Review The Chosin Few: Review

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

June 2016

The Chosin Few: Review


The Chosin Few






An episode from the Korean War 1950


Despite approximately 100,000 British troops fighting in the Korean War, many today in Britain would have little knowledge of that fact or of the war itself.  It is indeed, as many books on the subject proclaim, the Forgotten War.  Even for Americans who were by far the overwhelming number of combatants in the Korean war, this too is a little studied conflict in school.  A player of board wargames might have a greater chance of some acquaintance with the war and possibly this particular battle, but as an introduction to this review, a few facts wouldn't go amiss, I believe.  

Though the brief historical notes do acknowledge that it was a UN force, the battle as presented in VPG's The Chosin Few is totally an American one, albeit historically two British regiments and troops from the British Marine Commandos were involved as well.  Their failure to be included is purely a result of the nature of the game/simulation and the game's design.

At this early stage in the war in 1950, the UN forces had recovered from the initial devastating North Korean assault that was only halted at the Pusan perimeter at the toe of the Korean peninsular.  This reversal of fortunes had been achieved in September by the daring landing at Inchon by General McArthur.  The North Korean forces had been sent fleeing back and then pursued north towards the Yalu river.

Now massive Chinese forces were gathering to support North Korea and had begun to sweep south again, at times using the tactics that became notorious as the "human wave".  It is at this point that the battle of Chosin opens in November 1950.  It is best remembered as a desperate defence of The Few against the encircling hordes of the many enemy.  It is an immensely lopsided battle, with overwhelming Chinese forces surrounding and seeking to obliterate the small American contingent.  Most sources I've found give approximate figures of 120,000 against 30,000!  VPG's brief historical notes in the game booklet push the enemy numbers to 150,000.  However modern historians argue the niceties of these figures, no one disputes the huge disparity in numbers.

Perhaps because of this, VPG have cast the battle in their solitaire siege series of games.  However, this is no Rorke's Drift.  Ultimately, it was a battle of survival by holding out long enough until allowed to attempt to breakout and head towards what historically was an evacuation by sea of those who did survive. 

When given the opportunity to review this treatment of the battle, I was delighted.  From the old days of GDW's Yalu to its glossy remake by Compass Games, then via the Inchon landings first seen in a Simulations Canada design and a later magazine game issue,  the Korean War has held an interest for me, though I never ventured into the larger productions that encompassed the whole war.  Added to that was the recent appearance last year in Strategy & Tactics of Korean Battles designed by BrianTrain, which featured three battles, including the battle of Chosin.   That was my first reason to seize the chance to review The Chosin Few, the second my great enjoyment of Victory Point Games, particularly the Napoleonic 20 series.

I had no knowledge of how VPG had handled this conflict, but, from the size of the box, my guess had been at much the same level as the Napoleonic series I favoured.  On seeing, however, that it was part of the Siege Series, I immediately knew that I was likely to be in for something rather different.  I wasn't wrong.

The series ranges from very specific geographical battles [A Blood Red Banner takes us to the Alamo, while Zulus On The Ramparts is VPG's classic presentation of Rorke's Drift ] to very broad-brush treatments of strategic situations [Soviet Dawn gives us The Russian Revolution].  The Chosin Few is certainly geographically nearer their game on the Alamo or Rorke's Drift and, though the scale has moved from the micro-tactical to the operational, the overall picture still has a strong physical element. 

In brief, the game contents are a four piece jig-map that fits together very well, 25 cards, 25 small wooden cubes, 11 laser-cut counters and two standees and a 12 page rule book.  Being part of the gold series these all come in a sturdy "pizza" box with a  very attractive slip-cover.   So, let's cast a closer look over these items.

The folio size map  [11" x 17"] is a very striking relief map of the area in which the conflict took place.  Its steely grey colour and many rugged mountain reliefs well convey the bleak, inhospitable landscape in the depths of a brutal winter.  On very close inspection, you can also see a wealth of place names.




Superimposed on the map is a highly abstract system of location boxes to govern movement and combat, linked by a series of white or coloured arrows.  The beige ones are potential areas where the initial enemy forces will appear and the white ones are the confines within which the American units  can move, once set up.  Ah... the units!  The Chinese are represented by the 20 cubes and the American X Corps and the 1st Marine Division are the two oblong standees.  As you can see, a very high degree of simplification, which is certainly one aspect that may draw criticism.

Also on the map are three boxes: the top one holds the three Order cards, while of the two below, the left one contains the face down Activity Deck and the right one is the discard pile for the Activity Deck.  Above the Discard Pile are two columns to track the current strength of the Marines and the Army.  

So, how does this game play out.  First of all the three Order cards are stacked on top of each other.  These provide the basic sequential narrative.  Each is like a mini-scenario that has to be completed successfully in order to win the game.

The three titles are Almond's Instructions, Advance In Another Direction and Breakout.  Not surprisingly, these originally meant nothing to me, except that I knew that eventually the UN troops did manage to breakout.  Doing my research into the history did add to the feel of the game and I wish that more of that history could have been incorporated into the brief notes in the rule book.  It hides the feud between generals Almond and Smith,  the orders of the one that would lead to the disastrous situation and the actions of the other that would mean that some element of those soldiers did extricate themselves and survive.  On a totally different scale, how it reminded me of The Charge of The Light Brigade!

Almond's Instructions refers to General Almond who gave the orders for the troops [elements of X Corps and the 1st Marine Division] to move north to the area of the Chosin Reservoir - in game map terms to move from Location C to Locations A1 and B1, Advance In Another Direction  begins the attempt to extricate themselves from the potentially murderous encirclement - your two units have to move back to Location C!!  Finally, Breakout means to move both units from Location C to Location D4.

So, here is the first Order card with which the game begins.



 Like all three Order cards it contains a title, a starting date, the objective to be achieved, where to place the six Lines of Departure discs [to be discussed later], a pre-scenario action and the consequences of failing the scenario.

A typical mini-scenario then follows along these lines.  The End of Orders card is shuffled into the bottom six cards of the Activity deck.  Each Activity card is then turned up one at a time and executed until the End of Orders card is reached.  If at that point you've met the goal of the current Order card, move on to the next Order Card.

Using the details from the first Order card, below is the initial set up at the very beginning of the game.  The six circular discs are the Lines of Departure, numbered 1 to 6 where the Chinese forces will randomly  arrive and there in the centre are the two American armies.






Next you turn over the top Activity card on the Draw pile.



The New Activity line indicates that you randomly draw and place one cube in each of Line of Departure locations 2,3 and 6.  The Enemy Movement means that all red cubes move one location and then all purple cubes move one location.  This movement follows very simple A.I. - normally a cube moves from their existing location to an adjacent  location linked by a white arrow, unless there is a coloured arrow link that takes you nearer to a location outlined in the same colour as the arrow where one of the two American armies are.  If a cube attempts to move into a location where there is an Army, you immediately fire on it by rolling a d6.  Whatever the result, the cube always returns to the location it came from, but the effect on your Army is one of the oddest ways I have come across in a war game that a unit's strength can work. 

The Marines have one column on the board running from 3 - 6 and the Army has the other column from 4 - 6, with a neat little marker to show current strength.  If you roll equal to or higher than the current strength you are successful and your unit suffers no penalty, but if you roll less than the current strength then you take a hit and the marker moves up to the next highest number.  If your strength marker is on 6, any roll other than 6 is obviously a hit and you move your marker into the last box of all which contains the word Lose and that is exactly what it means.  For you the battle is over - you've just lost the game ! 

Finally, the Player Actions tells you how many points you can spend in your own section of the turn. 1 point allows you to attempt to eliminate a cube in an adjacent location, 2 points allows you to move one army into an adjacent location and 3 points allows you regain one point of strength for an army.  Perhaps, the single most important detail follows: for each Action point that you do not use, you can take an Aircraft marker that you can use in the next turn.  You only ever have the use of three aircraft markers and the ability to gain and use one or more will probably be the key to success or failure.  Of the three possible uses of an aircraft marker, Interdiction is by far the most important and probably the one you will choose to use most, as it stops all cubes moving from or into a location where it is placed.

When you look at the simplicity of what you are actually doing, how easy it all sounds.  What a small distance it is in game turns between those locations.  Yet how well nigh impossible it is to achieve those goals.  Victory conditions demand that neither of your two units is totally wiped out and that you achieve the goals of all three Order Cards.

You can continue on to complete the game if you fail either of the goals on the first two Order Cards.  You don't lose [haha], but neither do you win.  A draw?   In historical terms, failing Breakout, the third and final Order Card undoubtedly means that all your troops are either dead or prisoners.  I'm not quite sure what failing the earlier Order cards means, but achieving the final Order card means - I guess - some survived, but very, very few.  In game terms, as far as my experience goes, it means blimey, I can't believe I've been so successful! 

Why?  Because normally I die and die and die and .... [how did you know?] DIE.  This is one tough solitaire game to win.  BUT!  Is it enjoyable?  Is it a good game?  Is it a good simulation of the battle of Chosin?

To take the last first. No, I don't think it is a simulation, except in the very broadest terms.  Those 20 cubes really don't feel like anything resembling soldiers, but they do keep coming and coming and you desperately want to hold them back and eliminate some of them.  Two stand-up markers don't look much like your troops, but you really come to care for them and every hit they take and can you get them out of this trap becomes a life and death matter.  But, in simulation terms that's it.  Nearly, everything I learned came from reading outside the game.

Is it a good game?  That depends on how much control you like to have.  Nearly everything is randomly generated and so luck plays a huge part.  Which colour of cubes you draw combined with what colour of cubes move is probably the crucial factor in whether you win or lose.  Added to that is the luck of the dice when rolling in combat during enemy movement and finally the luck of how many action points you get to work with in your part of the turn.

Is it enjoyable?  Yes, yes, yes.  Every turn of the card is waited with bated breath - especially which coloured cubes will move this turn - blue, great I'm safe there are no blue cubes near me or they're under one of my Interdiction markers - purple, oh no [I could say something stronger], I've got 3 purple all able to move into my location.   Hurray I've fought them all off with very low dice rolls or I'm dying far too quickly, because I'm rolling high.

I'm going to make it - argh, the next card is the End of Orders card and one of my armies is one location from where it needs to be - I've lost again.

But it plays quickly.  An hour tops for the whole game easily covers it and often 30-40 minutes is more likely.  That's fortunate, because it is one of those games where you lose and immediately want to have just one more go.  I just hope you like losing a lot.




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Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory First from Ares , there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory .  If you know eit...

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

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

June 2016

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory



First from Ares, there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory.  If you know either previous incarnation of this game, you will have some idea of what to expect in Sails of Glory.  Moving from aerial dogfights in WWI, this game's subtitle spells out the shift back in time to the Napoleonic Wars and that time of British naval supremacy typified by the phrase "the Nelson touch".

So, it's lashings of rum and lashings with the cat o' nine tails,
hard 'a starboard, avast ye lubbers and "Every man expects!"
- sorry, got carried away there!

With Sails of Glory, Glory's the key word for me, as this is truly a glorious production from first catching sight of the evocative box artwork of a naval engagement at its climax: ships with billowing sails, wreathed in the smoke of thundering close-range broadsides.  Unlike its WWI counterpart, which began purely with cards representing the planes and only later did exquisitely painted models follow, Sails of Glory lures us immediately with four detailed and superbly painted warships.  These are on display through the clear protective cover, as they nestle in their moulded hollows that form part of the large plastic insert that holds all the game contents.



The box in all its Glory

Delving further into the box, you encounter a host of other quality components.  First of all, each ship comes with its own ship card with a full colour picture of the ship and its stats and an oblong plastic base into which fits a deep blue base card with bow, stern and full broadside firing arcs marked in grey, over which fits a plastic overlay that both protects the card and contains a hole into which the ship's locating peg fits.  It is simple, elegant, practical details like this that give the game its finished look of polished quality.

Having said that, there have been a few complaints that, though the ships' hulls, decks and masts [the latter a curious yellow] are beautifully painted, the spars [like the sails themselves] are left a plain white.  For me this was a minor detail, but if you're a miniatures aficionado it may irritate more and you may wish to paint those details.  Not being a dab hand with any sort of brush, I have been happy to let mine remain as received.



 Each ship also comes with its own individual deck of manoeuvre cards, a Ship Mat and its own Ships Log, both in very sturdy cardboard and attractively designed and coloured - more about these later.  Rounding out the package are a Wind Gauge, two separate Wind Indicators, one for each player, some terrain in the form of four full-colour islands and six reefs, two cardstock measuring sticks and shed-loads of damage markers and action markers.



The final essential item to mention is the rule book.  At approximately 27 cm x 15 cm, it is a curious size, with just over 60 pages that at first sight might seem surprisingly long.  However, DO NOT BE PUT OFF - these rules cater for both the absolute beginner to the player wanting a fairly detailed and accurate depiction of naval warfare in the Age of Sail with miniatures. Consequently they are divided into 4 sections:- Basic, Standard, Advanced and Optional.  Basic really couldn't get more ... er, well basic!  Despite taking up 16 pages of the rules, they are very simple, introducing four Phases : Planning, Movement, Combat, Damage and Reloading. 

So, why such length? Mainly because of the wealth of illustrative photographs to make each simple point abundantly clear. 



BASIC RULES

Planning


Though the terminology is suitably nautical, with words like Running, Reaching, Beating and Taken Aback introduced, understanding and determining which applies to your ship at that particular moment couldn't be easier. As mentioned earlier, each ship sits on a base card that indicates firing arcs, but the card is also edged in three different colours: red, orange and green.  Just line up the Attitude indicator with the central mast of your ship and look at which colour the indicator crosses.  In the Basic rules, you then choose a Manoeuvre card from the ship's individual deck of cards depending on what colour the Attitude Indicator passed through on the edge of the card.

Movement

Generally, you will place the Manoeuvre card in front of the ship and advance your ship until its stern touches the tip of the movement line on the card.  Sometimes [when your ship is Taken Aback], you will have to align the card with the stern of the ship and then follow the same procedure.  The only other thing to consider is whether two ships might collide.  If there is that potential, then a simple rule determines which ship moves first and then the other ship is moved until its base is in contact with the first ship.  Surprisingly neither ship takes any damage for colliding!  That really is it for Movement and Combat is even easier. 

Combat

Each side of the ship has a Loaded marker face down in its Broadside box and can fire once after Movement, if there is an enemy ship in range.  Use the measuring stick, which for this simplest level of the game refers purely to short or long range. Make sure there's nothing in the way - sorry you can't fire through your own ships or islands [what a surprise!].  Choose randomly from the appropriate lettered pile of damage markers [either A or B in the Basic game - they are also distinguished by colour, so it's really easy when setting up the game and the current strength of the ship firing tells you how many markers to draw. Allocate the damage to the enemy and, if the ships are close enough, there will be a round of Musketry fire following exactly the same process, but drawing from the pile of E markers.                     And REMEMBER  - all firing is simultaneous. 

Finally, turn the Loaded marker face up to show that you have fired this turn.

RELOADING

The last action of each turn is first to take any facedown Loaded marker from the Reloading box and move it back into its Broadside box.

Then move any face-up Loaded marker from the Broadside box, turn it face down and move it into the Reloading box.

You now know all that is necessary for playing the game at its simplest level and frankly the next stage Standard Rules add so little more that I would be tempted to say that most players will add these in immediately.

But, before moving on to this next stage, there is probably one question those of you reading this review are asking.  Where are these different markers for each ship placed?  Well that's where each ship's combined Ship Mat and Ship Log come in.

Below is a photo of such a combined display set up for the first turn of a Standard level game to begin.




The Ship Log seen here is for HMS Terpsichore and is made up of the three interlocking sections which sit inside the Ship Mat frame.  The top row is where you place damage markers allocated to the hull of your ship and the bottom row is for damage markers allocated to crew of your ship.  When either of those rows is full of damage markers, a ship surrenders and is removed from game play.  When one side has lost all its ships, the other side has won.  To quote that ubiquitous meerkat :
"SIMPLES!"

STANDARD  RULES


So, what does this next level add.  Instead of planning one Manoeuvre card each turn, you start the game by planning Turn 1 and Turn 2's Manoeuvre cards putting them into the slots on the Ship Mat.  On Turn 1, turn up the first planned  Manoeuvre card, carry it out. move the 2nd card into its slot still face down and plan your next  Manoeuvre card to go into the second slot.

Which Manoeuvre card can be chosen will depend on the ship's Veer capacity [the number in the photo next to the wheel symbol].

Remember collisions , well now two friendly ships colliding do damage to each other.  Strangely an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding don't do any damage.  Weird, that's one minor point I don't understand.  For me, it's House Rule time - an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding do damage each other.

In Combat, ship's can now choose between three different types of ammunition: Ball, Chain and Grape.  If you know your Hornblower novels [or more youthful players may know the TV series], one type's for the hull, one's for the sails and one's for the crew.  Each time you reload you can choose whichever of the three you like.  The final addition is that if your cannons fire directly through the bow or the stern of the enemy ship, then additional damage tokens are drawn.

Again, that's it!  I think you can see why my advice is just jump straight in with the Standard rules.

And so we come to the real meat of the rules...

ADVANCED RULES

Even here the physical length of the rules is only 6 more pages!  The most significant area of change is in Planning.  To the simple plotting of two manoeuvre cards is added the planning of crew actions and this is where the other 210 markers start to make an appearance in the game..  On the Ship Mat there are 4 spaces for placing concealed action markers.  As your ship takes hits on the Crew that number of actions will decrease.  A list of some of those actions will give you a flavour of what is introduced.  Raise/Lower sails, Pump Water, Load Left/Right Broadside, Reload Left/Right Broadside, Musketry Fire, Repair Damaged Rudder, Extinguish Fire etc.

All of these introduce new elements.  First of all the icons on the Damage markers at last play a part and, as you can imagine from some of the actions mentioned in the previous paragraph, damage now can be very specific: the mast may be broken, the rudder shot away, fire breaks out or the ship begins to let in water.  As the situation becomes tense, can you afford to load the guns or must you concentrate on putting out the fire first.

Next sailing your ship becomes more complex, as the Raise or Lower Sail actions introduce the fact that on the Manoeuvre card you choose, there are three different possible lengths of movement for your ship depending on whether your sails are set at Full, Battle or Backing.  On your Ship Mat you will now have a Sail Status marker to move along to show just how your sails are set.

That brief description gives you the gist of the these Advanced rules, but how you put them into effect does take considerable careful reading of these very compact additional rules.  For some, they may be a step too far and, if so, just go back happily to the Standard level of rules.  For others they will be just the extra depth required and hugely enhance the feel of this game.

If, like me, they are what you want, then a worthwhile bit of pimping your game is worth the time and effort.  At this level of the game your Ship Mat and Log can get fairly crowded and I'd strongly recommend making individual plywood templates to glue each Ship mat onto.  That way you can easily pick them up and put them on one side when you've completed your planning or added current new damage markers and not risk disastrous dislocation of the layout.

As you can see in the picture below a simple oblong of plywood, sanded and varnished is all you need to glue your display onto.



The final section of the rules are the Optional ones.  What I like about these are that they aren't just a final level of complexity.  Some can be used in conjunction with all three levels of rules.  Indeed, the very first Optional rule is just such a one: Let The Men Drink, this uses the Grog counter.  All it does is let you cancel a damage marker once in the game.  I'm sure those of you so inclined can make up an addition to this rule that forces you to swig something appropriate! [Do I hear some of you wanting this to be allowed to happen more than once in the game?  Or is it just my wishful thinking!]

Similarly, an Entanglement rule can replace the collision rule at any level of the game, as do Continuous Fire and First Broadside, with virtually no cost in effort.  However, a few provide substantial and significant new additions;  among these are Boarding and the use of Terrain.  The latter will allow you to use the reefs and shoals that come with the game, but if you want the full benefit which is the introduction of Coastal Batteries, then for a little more money you'll need to buy the Coastal batteries and terrain expansion.

Last but not least are the four generic scenarios [plus one solitaire], perhaps the weakest element in the package, as they are very straightforward.  Nonetheless, they do give you the typical main naval encounters.  Their titles are self-explanatory: In Shallow Waters, Force The Blockade, Against The Outpost and Supplies Are Coming.

Just in case you are left in any doubt, this game totally gets my thumbs up.  It is real value for money whatever your chosen level of play.  Excellent as an introductory level game and engrossing if you do want depth.  I have only one proviso.  As the game comes, you can only play two ships on a side,  so, only small engagements and fairly generic ones.  In one way this is no problem, as there are many additional ships that you can buy, but a single player would still be hard pressed to manage more than three ships, particularly if you are using the Advanced rules. 

For larger battles, I think the cardboard world of say Flying Colours has to be turned to, but for accessibility, feel and atmosphere and detail too, if you want it, this is my choice. 



[Voices echo eerily:  Now where's that Grog counter?.......Can't find a cat o' nine tails anywhere.....Where's that little guy with an eye-patch?...........Mind the - SPLASH!]
 
 
>

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Against the Tommies: History of the 26 Reserve Division 1914-1918 by David Bilton   For my first book review I've picked, by acc...

Book Review: Against the Tommies by David Bilton Book Review: Against the Tommies by David Bilton

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

June 2016

Book Review: Against the Tommies by David Bilton

Against the Tommies: History of the 26 Reserve Division 1914-1918 by David Bilton

 


For my first book review I've picked, by accident, a book that is rather tricky to review as it's really a photographic journal of the German 26th Reserve Division - photos that  were initially compiled by the divisions Staff Officers in 1920 as a commemorative record of service for veterans of the 26th Reserve Division. So you can imagine text is thin on the ground and heavy on photographs which leaves little for me to analyse or discuss in any real detail. Saying that I've really enjoyed reading it and I'm actually quite pleased I chose it to review as I would never have read it as I normally steer clear of photographic war books.

The 26th Reserve Division is a Division I'm rather familiar with. They played a major part on the first day of the Battle of the Somme 1916, defending a portion of the front line trenches and continued to fight through out the Somme offensive. With the 52nd Inf Division on their right flank, their trench line started just north of Beaumont Hamel tracing a line south past Beaucourt, St Pierre Divion on to the infamous Schwaben Redoubt, then on through Thiepval and finally ending just south of Ovillers, where the 28th Reserve Division took over. If you've read any books on the Somme then your bound to have read of their exploits in that particular battle. The German Army on the Somme by Jack Sheldon, and another favourite series of mine The Other side of the Wire Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Ralph Whitehead, cover the Division in great detail, making this book the perfect companion to these highly recommended books.

 


Against the Tommies follows the 26th Reserve Division throughout the War, it starts with them attacking the French in the Vosges, then they were invovled in what became known as the "Race to the Sea" as both sides tried to turn the flank. The sides eventually reached the sea and niether had been successful, the only course was to dig in. The Germans pulled back to the closest high ground and dug in, the Entente got as close as possible and also dug in. The War on the Western Front became a 450 mile siege with the continous line of trenches we are all familar with. In the winter of '14 the Division settled in the Somme district until the end of the Somme campaign and winter '16\'17. They then retreated to the newly built Hindenberg line and were involved in fighting around Arras. In the summer of '17 they fought at Passchendaele, otherwise known as Third battle of Ypres. In spring '18 they fought in Germany's last throw of the dice, the great March offensive, where Germany came close to victory, the British and Commonwealth troops were driven out of miles of their front line and the Portuguese force disintergrated in mass panic. The result being the Commonwealth and British forces had to retreat until they had their "backs to the wall". However, after several months of bitter fighting the offensive came to a halt. The Germans had fought themselves to a standstill from which they'd never recover for the duration of the War. Finally, there are a couple of photographs taken during Germany's general retreat and the last photograph entitled "home coming" is a picture of a town center with it's deserted streets, which I think says it all.

As the Division was in the Somme district for a prolonged period of time it really adds interest to the photographs as we can see the towns, villages, churches and chatuexs slowly blasted to rubble brick by brick. You can see how destructive modern warfare was to the landscape at the time. One early war photograph will show a typical picturesque countryside scene and then further along the book  there is a photograph of the same view taken later in the War; that picturesque scene is now like a barren lunar landscape as the weapons and detritus of War take their toll and seem to corrupt nature itself. In fact there are a few cases in the book where several photographs have been taken over a period of time - of  a particular church or chatuex -  as if to record the slow and devatstating effect of artillery as it turns a beautiful building to rubble.

 


The collection of 405 photographs is extremely wide ranging in subject matter and most have never been published before. Many are of the trenches and the typical you'd expect: group photos, explosions, casualties, captured weapons, POWs and arty emplacements etc. However, it also includes many interesting ones of work behind the lines. Photographs of charcoal collectors, butchers, bakery, setting up weather balloons, troops using a threshing machine, bottling soda water and other normally unseen logistical work. One photograph really stands out from any other photo from WWI I've seen. It's a picture of a young German soldier 14th Kompanie RIR 99 who has an open, innocent face with a massive smile that seems to go from ear to ear! His Company Commander is standing just to one side behind him showing, what seems to be a fatherly look that could say "daft sod". He looks so young, innocent and happy, which makes it so poignant as I know he is only weeks away from the horror that was the Somme offensive and I wonder if he survived the attack and even the War, I hope so.

There are also some photographs of downed planes, and it would be interesting to do some research  to see if you can indentify the squadron and if possible the pilots name. In one photograph the RFC pilot is standing next to his crashed plane and another photograph has a German pilot standing next to the wreckage of one of his kills.

The book is divided into three chapters. The first chapter covers the start of the War to Dec '16. The chapter starts with a brief summary of  each of the actions the division fought in during that period. The next chapter carries on from the last until the end of the War. Again, at the start of the chapter are brief summaries of the actions the division was in for that period of time. Next are three large scale maps of the areas the division was in. The final chapter is a list of dates and names of all the battles the Division was in and finally the figure of killed, wounded and missing Officers. You are also given another total for NCO's and other ranks that the division suffered during the War. The book is 174 pages and 405 photographs. I'd have paid more if the paper used had been photograph paper and been colourised as I think that would have added another level to the book. Still, I recommend it if your looking for an interesting and extensive photograph collection following a particular unit. It's a great companion book to Jack Sheldon's German Army on the Somme or Ralph Whitehead's Otherside of the Wire.

You can purchase Against the Tommies directly from Pen & Sword or from Amazon and any other large book store. Hardback edition retails at £19.99.


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HELP WANTED     One thing I'd do if I won the lottery is set up a new game development company specialising in boardgame conver...

Do you have the computer skills these designers are looking for? Do you have the computer skills these designers are looking for?

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

June 2016

Do you have the computer skills these designers are looking for?

HELP WANTED

 
 

One thing I'd do if I won the lottery is set up a new game development company specialising in boardgame conversions. I currently know of three superb board wargame designers wanting to convert their games to digital format and at present having no luck finding the people to help see through their plan to the end. I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. From my point of view there are countless games both board and mini's I'd love to see converted to the PC with fully working AI etc. One major advantage is that finally those 2 or more player games will be able to be played by those less fortunate than wargamers who have a circle of friends to play face to face. Yes we have VASSAL but I want to have all the rules being done by the CPU esp. for those monster games out there. Also make sure the game can be played online as well so we cater for everybody. I honestly don't think this will impact greatly on the boardgame sales as I believe those who enjoy the social face to face aspect will buy both. You'll be increasing sales all-round as finally you'll be selling to all those who never bought the boardgame due to lack of people to play against.

This page will have a list of current game designers and the name of their game that they want to see converted and are actively looking for coders etc. to get it done. So if you can code or have relevant skills that will help and are committed to getting the game converted then please contact  the designer of the game you'd love to work on. I'd see this as an excellent opportunity for students currently at University and studying game design, coding, graphics etc. or someone who is self-taught and really wants to get into game development. However only get in touch if you are going to be fully committed and don't expect payment until said game is released. If I had the skills I'd certainly get  involved.

The list is in no particular order.

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MILITARY MINIFIGS Custom Military LEGO is becoming very popular indeed. Some tanks costing a fair bit of money. I actually love...

MiniFig Reviews Coming Soon MiniFig Reviews Coming Soon

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

June 2016

MiniFig Reviews Coming Soon


MILITARY MINIFIGS




Custom Military LEGO is becoming very popular indeed. Some tanks costing a fair bit of money. I actually love it. It can be WWI or WWII themed which I'm obsessed about anyway but all wrapped up in nostalgia as it's also LEGO! Check out the Net. There are some HUGE warships out there that are very special indeed and some fantastic dioramas. Not only that YouTube has a fair amount of animated films.

So I've managed to get four companies who sell custom military LEGO agree to let me review their products. They are BrickManiaBrickArms, MiniFigs R Us, United Bricks and Little Legends. So expect to see reviews very soon!



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Good day to you all, hope you are well and enjoying the blog!  Anyway, I've just received an email from Thomas Gunn about two pi...

Thomas Gunn Custom pieces for clients. Thomas Gunn Custom pieces for clients.

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

June 2016

Thomas Gunn Custom pieces for clients.

Good day to you all, hope you are well and enjoying the blog!



Anyway, I've just received an email from Thomas Gunn about two pieces they have custom built for some clients. This is now part of their service. So below is a copy and paste of said email and some stunning pics of said pieces!

"Dear All

A quick 'Hello' and to introduce two new wooden Warbirds which we recently
made on a commission basis for two clients in the USA.

The first is the FW200 Condor a four engine maritime reconnaissance bomber
that served with the Luftwaffe and was also utilised as a transport
aircraft. In the anti shipping role the Condor could carry 900 kilos of
bombs and was later adapted to fire the Henschel Hs 293 guided missile.
Because of the lack of Allied aircraft available to intercept the FW200 in
the Atlantic, the Condor was able to sink a large tonnage of shipping during
the early part of the war and was dubbed 'the scourge of the Atlantic' by
Churchill.  With the introduction of CAM Hurricanes and other long range
aircraft the Condor was moved to the transportation role where it served
admirably, particularly on the Eastern Front.
With a wingspan over 107ft and a length of nearly 77ft this is the largest
1/30 scale aircraft we have made so far and as such will form an impressive
piece in any collection.

Our second aircraft is the Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber also known as the
'flying lighter' and 'cigar' due to its propensity to light up in flames
after being hit by enemy fire, mainly due to its lack of armour and self
sealing fuel tanks.  As a medium to high altitude bomber the Betty performed
admirably due to its high speed and long range, the battleships HMS Repulse
and Prince of Wales falling to its torpedoes/bombs during the early stages
of the war. 
Our version is the one used by Admiral Yamamoto who was ambushed by American
fighters during operation Vengeance in April 1943. Yamamoto did not survive
the attack after his aircraft crashed into the jungle, a post mortem showed
he had been killed by bullets from the American aircraft during the attack.
Yamamoto was thrown from the aircraft during the crash and was found still
in his seat, head bowed under a tree, still clutching the hilt of his Katana
by a Japanese search team the following day. 
The Betty was over 65ft long with a wing span of approximately 81ft which
also makes this a very large aircraft for those of you interested in where
you would find the space to store one!

We now have a second factory that can make bespoke custom pieces for our
clients and if any of the above aircraft appeal to you or you have one in
mind that you have been hankering after for a while, then drop us an email
and we will quote you for your unique piece.  As each custom piece now takes
4 to 6 months depending on size, its easy to pay for the item in instalments
which hopefully creates less of a strain on the wallet.

Our figure release will be on the 6th June as the 4th falls on a weekend, we
have some Kriegsmarine and a Fallschirmjager anti tank piece for those of
you who collect WW2 items as well as a new version of ROM004 Repel Cavalry.

Best wishes
The Gunn Team "














                                        

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Thomas Gunn Miniatures : The First Five      First I have to say I LOVE Toy Soldiers. I can spend hours just browsing the net de...

Thomas Gunn Miniatures Review Thomas Gunn Miniatures Review

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

June 2016

Thomas Gunn Miniatures Review


Thomas Gunn Miniatures: The First Five



   
First I have to say I LOVE Toy Soldiers. I can spend hours just browsing the net desperately hoping I win the lottery so I can go on a massive buying binge! It's probably the first thing I'd do in fact, once the heart rate had settled I'd be adding to my favourites all the links to the soldiers I was going to buy as soon as the money came through and high on my list would be Thomas Gunn and their excellent range. Now after receiving my first batch of soldiers to review Thomas Gunn has easy jumped to the top of the Toy Soldier makers that I'd be visiting. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't buy everything they had for sale! Now I'm not saying you need to win the lottery to start collecting toy soldiers, far from it and with Thomas Gunn the prices are very competitive, in fact cheaper on the whole compared to other major companies, yet easy matching if not beating them on quality.Thomas Gunn miniatures have been trading since 2009, which really isn't that long at all and is most likely the reason why you may not have heard of them, because it certainly isn't down to a lack of quality with regards to their miniature range, and I'll say here and now that the soldiers reporting for inspection passed with flying colours, and where dismissed with their heads held high, well would have held their heads high if they could, but they can't, because they aren't rea...oh you get the point. The Toy Soldier market is dominated by the famous and well established William Britain's, and next I suppose is King and Country. So it's not easy I'm sure trying to carve out a piece of the market for yourself. You certainly have to have a pretty special product range, which has to ooze quality to have any chance of turning collectors’ heads and getting them to make a move away from Britain's and King and Country. Thankfully Thomas Gunn has done just that, as I'd imagine by now if they hadn't I wouldn't be writing this review and we would be deprived of what is a first class range of miniatures covering a variety of eras and conflicts. In fact business looks so good I'll say here and now if you do have your eye on something, don't hang around, as the out of stock signs are a sad reminder of what I could have had if I hadn't been such an indecisive fool.
 
 
 


The first soldier up for review is ROM002A. Here we have a Roman legionnaire standing at the ready with the easy to recognise Imperial red shield. There are actually two other variants that are limited editions of just 100 each. One has the black 30th legion shield and the other the black 9th legion shield. You'll find all Roman legionnaires have these limited edition versions. Unusually for
Thomas Gunn they will keep producing the red shield variant for as long as there is demand. The detailing is excellent and can't be faulted. His Pilum (like a spear) is very sturdy considering how thin it is so no fear of easily bending it. It is very sharp so keep it away from children or the Romans will still be causing injury! He has his Gladius on one side and his Pugio on the other. The Romans skin tone is spot on and he is standing on a textured base. The shield is a work of art and the paint work is excellent all over, his armour looks excellent with good use of shading. This Roman will stand proud in any ones collection. He comes in a silver box and is meticulously padded so no fear of any damage in transit. He is priced at £32.50 and well worth the money. If you’re lucky enough to get a limited edition 30th or 9th legion then I'd easy see this as an investment that will increase in price over time.
 
 


 



Second soldier up for review is ROM005A. This time we have a Roman legionnaire marching in the second rank with his Pilum raised. Again it comes in three variants. The one I have has the imperial red shield but it also comes in two limited editions of 100 each one has the black shield of the 30th legion the other the black shield of the 9th legion. Again the detail is excellent. At his side are on the right his Gladius sheathed and on his left his Pugio. His Pilum is very sturdy for such a thin component. The paint work again can't be faulted. Skin tone is spot on, even his eyes are well done. His armour and helmet look great and shading has been done to good effect. Like the standing Roman he comes on a textured base and is a good solid weight. I really can't fault it at all. He is another Roman who will enhance anyones collection. Again the imperial red shield variant will be produced for as long as there is demand. He comes in a silver box and great care has been given to padding so he wont get damaged in transit. He is retailed at £32.50. Like the standing Romans see if you can get hold of one of the limited edition Romans if you’re not too bothered about what shield he has.
 
 

 


 
Third soldier is ROM006B. This Roman legionnaire is kneeling, all ready to repel a cavalry charge. Unlike the other two this one comes in only two variants, the first has the imperial red shield and the other is again limited to just 100 and has the black 30th legion shield. I'm lucky enough to be reviewing the 30th legion legionnaire. He has blue trousers where the other two had a tan coloured trouser. He also has long sleeves where the other two had short sleeves. He has his Galdius sheathed on his right hand side and his Pugio sheathed on his left. His Pilum is angled all ready for the charging cavalry and again it's very sturdy and sharp so I fear for the charging horse! Just like the other two the detailing is excellent with as much care given to his back as it is to his front. Helmet and armour are again excellent and painted very well indeed with all the details picked out. Skin tone again is excellent and shading has been done to good effect. His black 30th legion shield is as impressive as the imperial red shield and like a mini work of art. He stands on a textured base. He comes in a silver box and like the others great effort has gone into padding so he won’t get damaged. Its things like this that really show the passion these boys and girls have for their soldiers. Like the others he is retailed at £32.50. If you’re after one of the 30th legion ones then be quick!

 

 

 
The fourth and last Roman up for review today is ROM007A. This time it looks like we've gone to the frozen north to battle the Germanic barbarians! He is a standing legionnaire who is about to launch his Pilum into the barbarian horde and then hopefully be quick enough to unsheathe his Galdius for some bitter and violent close quarter combat. Or maybe after launching his Pilum the Romans quickly move into one of their famous formations...it's all down to your imagination. Unlike the other three this time he is clothed for some warmth. He has a long red, hooded cloak, long blue trousers and again has long sleeves. Like the others his Pilum is very sturdy and sharp. He has his imperial red shield raised yet the paint work on his armour behind the shield is just the same quality as if it wasn't hidden behind the shield. Shade work on his robe has been done to great effect and like the others he can't be faulted. Skin tone again is perfect and his eyes have been painted very well indeed. He has his Gladius sheathed on his right and his Pugio even though nearly hidden by his cloak has been modelled and painted to great effect. Its detail like this that shines through and you know you have a top quality solider in your hands. Like the previous soldier he comes in two variants the red imperial shield version that I have here or a 30th legion shield version which like the others will be limited to just 100. The imperial red shield version will be produced for as long as demand. So if you want a 30th legion version then I suggest you buy now! He comes in a silver box and like the others you can see great care has been given into padding so it won’t get damaged. He retails at £32.50.

 
 



The final soldier waiting for inspection probably feels abit out of place standing with the Roman legionnaires, however I'm sure they are far more scared of him than vice versa. We jump well over a thousand years into the future and standing before me is a Freikorps soldier. This is part of
Thomas Gunn's' excellent Great War range. We are actually in 1920 Germany and waiting for inspection is GW060A. The Freikrops had been around before WWI but came to prominence post WW1 as ex-soldiers joined up to combat the threat of the communist Spartacist league. Many major movers in the Nazi party had been in the Freikorps which is why it's seen as the beginnings of the Nazi party. This particular soldier is standing sentry, part of a series of three made and a further three in production. The version I have is wearing his old German Stormtrooper helmet and proudly wears his Iron Cross, another version is wearing the Freikrops helmet which has the skull and cross bone motif on it. He is also wearing his old Stormtooper late war uniform where again the other version has Freikorps markings. He also has a pistol on his left hand side in a holster, his old army canteen and spade attached to his belt and is holding a Bergmann MG (an unusual gun that I haven't seen before) . I'm trying to find some negative but I really can't. The quality of modelling is first class. The details are superb, right down to his moustache. Again skin tone is spot on (I compared him to a King of Country soldier and I have to say the K&C soldier looked very sunburnt in comparison). The paint work is faultless with all the details expertly picked out and great use of shading. To be honest he is my favourite out of the five, not because the others aren't as good quality wise but just because I'm interested in the period. They are even going to make a communist prisoner for the Freikorps soldiers on sentry duty! He stands on a textured base. I can't recommend Thomas Gunn enough and would love to collect the Great War range. He comes in a silver box and just like all the others great care is given to padding so he wouldn't get damaged in transit. He retails for the excellent price of £32.00 incl VAT! There is a Friekorps soldier holding a banner\flag who retails at £39.




 
 I have to say I've been very impressed with this first review batch of miniatures from Thomas Gunn. They far exceeded my expectations and they are on par if not even better than other major miniature makers. They are also sold at very competitive prices and are well worth the money. They have several ranges WWII, Berlin '38, Great War, African Wars, Foreign Legion, Napoleonic, French Indian War and finally Roman Empire. They also do top quality showcase pieces like WWI and WWII aeroplanes. I do hope we can form a ongoing partnership and I get to review more products in the near future. Thomas Gunn miniatures are an outstanding product to review and will certainly make the blog far richer.




 

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