READY FOR INSPECTION!   It's been to quiet in these parts for my liking so it's with great pleasure I get to review three new...

Three United Bricks MiniFigs reviewed Three United Bricks MiniFigs reviewed

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

January 2017

Three United Bricks MiniFigs reviewed

READY FOR INSPECTION!

 
It's been to quiet in these parts for my liking so it's with great pleasure I get to review three new United Bricks MiniFigs kindly sent to us for closer inspection!
 
We have a mixed little lot standing to attention on AWNT's specially built parade ground. I've just been informed there was nearly fisty cuffs between our little heroes today due to communication problems. Well what do you expect when you have an American a Scot and a German! I do believe it was over todays date, read on and you'll understand why there maybe some disagreement over it. Coupled with the obvious language and accent issues I'm not sure why I didn't see this happening. So I've called in two interpreters an American who can speak and a  German who can speak English. The Scot can actually speak German and understand American but no one can understand him! I do know he didn't take kindly to being called English by the German and a Scotch by the American! All very complicated! Anyway onto business!
 
 
First in line and looking perfectly turned out is our DAK MG Soldier. DAK or better known as the Afrika Korps was the German expeditionary force sent to Africa to help strengthen the Italians, who more than likely would have been in trouble as the Italians were woefully equipped for War on any of the fronts and remained so throughout the conflict. I'm sure most people have heard of the Afrika Korps enigmatic leader Erwin Rommel. Many books have been written about the battles between Rommel's Afrika Korps and the British 8th Army.
 
 
 
 He is wearing, with pride I can see, his Afrika Korps uniform. He is one of Rommel's finest. The DAK uniform is the perfect colour for desert warfare. He is well prepared to man the MG with an ammunition bandolier across his shoulders. As per usual with United Bricks the printing is top quality, nice and clear and highly unlikely to wear off with handling. Judging by his smile I reckon he is fighting out there in the desert during the height of Rommel's powers, or he came out on top in the earlier..shall we call it a heated difference of opinion..ahem! Maybe the look on the other two faces will give us a clue!
 
He retails at £8.50. You can also purchase three other DAK torsos an Officer, MP40 soldier and a KAR soldier.
 
Next up is a rather upset looking US Admiral! Maybe the German did end up getting the upper hand? Or maybe we are dealing with a hard headed, no nonsense US Admiral. The kind that defeated the Japanese Navy in the Pacific. Looking at him, you'd even say defeated the Japanese single handed.
 
He looks very smart in his all white uniform. Though there is less printing compared to the DAK uniform what looks top quality. Also the more stark Naval uniform is reflected in his retail price.
 
He retails at £6.50.
 
 
Last to be reviewed is our Scot! Still smarting from being called a Scotch and even worse English he is also confused about why on earth the American and the German insist they are fighting in the second War, when he is still fighting the first one! Yet no matter how often he tried to explain it didn't seem to register, it's as if he was talking in an alien language! Anyway eventually things got heated and when the Admiral laughed when the German called him English..well what else did he expect other than a Scottish Kiss, or should he say Scotch Kiss!
 
So that explained we have hear a  WW1 Scottish soldier resplendent in his kilt, as he belongs to one of the famous Scottish Regiments, though he could just as likely been an Englishman in say the 1/8th Kings Liverpool Scottish battalion. One of several battalions within British regiments that are designated Scottish. As I said though this particular fine specimen is in a Scottish Regiment.
 
His tartan kilt is excellent and a great touch. He is wearing the Brodie helmet which troops starting wearing from late 1915 onwards. Again the printing is excellent quality and really can't be faulted. I also love his very WW1 moustache, plus the raised eyebrow really adds character!
 
 
He retails at £9.00 and is my favourite Minifig out of the three!
 
So that's it from United Bricks for now. Head on over to their website and check out many other figures aswell as a great selection of WW2 vehicles, including tanks!

 

 

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THE BOOK OR BOOKS OF THE WEEK OR MAYBE BI WEEKLY, WHO KNOWS?         Hello everyone! With any luck this maybe become a regular fe...

Book of the Week! Book of the Week!

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

January 2017

Book of the Week!

THE BOOK OR BOOKS OF THE WEEK OR MAYBE BI WEEKLY, WHO KNOWS?

 
 
 
 Hello everyone! With any luck this maybe become a regular feature. Each week or maybe bi weekly a AWNT team member takes a turn in recommending a book or even a set of books chosen from their book shelf. The book doesn't have to be a new release or even something they've just read. It doesn't even have to be historical. It could be fiction or non fiction, educational, scientific, a graphic novel, anything except porn..sorry to disappoint:)
 
 So I'll kick start this new and exciting (ahem) feature off with a series of books I've just recently got into. It's a series of novels set in WW2. We are transported to the East Front and follow a squad of Axis soldiers who come from different Axis nations plus one Hiwi (Russian volunteer). The author does a decent job in convincing the reader that this set up could possibly exist under the circumstances they find themselves in. The first book I bought was the paperback omnibus of his first set of novels, Bloody Stalingrad, that follow the squad during Stalingrad and the subsequent encirclement. Then as I was given a Kindle Fire for Xmas I went and bought the next omnibus, Rise of the Bloody Phoenix,  which consisted of the next two novels this time focussing on the 2nd battle of Kharkov. Also waiting in the wings is the next book, Bloody Citadel, which is yet to be published which appears to centre around Kursk.
 
 
 
 I'm normally pretty dubious about all these self published novels you now find on Amazon. Especially historical novels were far to often you'll come across glaring historical issues that make you throw the book away in disgust (this has happened on more than one occasion). However I'm obsessed over Stalingrad and certainly didn't want to miss out on a possible gem so I took a chance and bought the trilogy. Thankfully Andrew (the author) has done his research and it shows. Yes like many war novels liberties are taken and truths possibly stretched abit but I've not come across anything that has ruined the book or read any startlingly obvious historical errors (I see a book on sale that follows the SS in Stalingrad, that sort of thing annoys me).
 
 The author at times has a habit of being a touch repetitive and yes he isn't the most accomplished writer I've come across, however I can forgive him these minor indiscretions because he has done an excellent job in getting the reader invested in the main characters. You really do warm to them and want to spend time in their company, routing for them has they battle through the harsh winter conditions of the East Front.
 
 
 
 I actually can't think of many, what I'd consider, truly great war novels (The Red Horse is an epic tale of the Italian war experience, written by an Italian veteran of the East front. He has also wrote an account of his experiences during the retreat across the steppes). I can think of quiet a few really enjoyable war novels and  even more absolutely dire ones. Andrews books easy sits in the really enjoyable category. It's a typical War novel in many respects and it doesn't profess to be anything else. Maybe if you have little interest in the East front you may not view it in the same light as I do, however if you do have an interest and enjoy films like Cross of Iron (the book is very good aswell) then it wont disappoint.
 
 So if you own an E Reader go buy the books so far. Defiantly worth the money:) Even the paperback of the Stalingrad omnibus is worth the price, well I don't regret paying for it.
 
So that concludes my BOOK OF THE WEEK OR MAYBE BI WEEKLEY HOPEFULLY COULD BE MONTHLY... feature. As you can see from the excellent title you may, possibly, see another team member pick a favourite book or two or maybe more if they pick a series....yeah OK I'll shut up..bye!

 
STOP PRESS: I'm sure many of you have seen the excellent German war film Stalingrad? Well I've just discovered the actual book the film was based off. At first I thought the author had just seen the film then wrote the book, however after abit of research I found out it was originally released pre the film in Germany. The book is called Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death by C Fromm

STOP PRESS AGAIN: Below is a list of other recommended East Front fiction. In no particular order.

1. Cross of Iron
2. The Forsaken Army
3. Stalingrad by T Plievier
4. Pavlov's House
5. The Kindly Ones
6. The Red Horse
7. Siege
8. Scar of Honor
9. Black Cross
10 Into the Gates of Hell Stug Command '41
11. Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun (Book three of a trilogy that follows a Fallschirmjager unit. The other two books are set during the para drop at the fort Eben-Emael in Norway and the second book at Crete)

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A superb WW2 LEGO animation   by the Brick Dictator !

1941 Lego World War Two Battle of Brody 1941 Lego World War Two Battle of Brody

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

January 2017

A superb WW2 LEGO animation


 


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BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD From the moment that I received Battle for Stalingrad [BfS], it's been an up and down experience. At...

BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD

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

January 2017

BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD

BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD



From the moment that I received Battle for Stalingrad [BfS], it's been an up and down experience.

At first sight it looks like a classic DVG game - the usual lovely glossy box in a dark and sombre black and steely blue with evocative illustration on the front.  But, wait a minute - Russian soldiers advancing down what looks like a vast, open road in the face of tanks in Stalingrad?  Close quarter combat, rubble, dodging in an out of buildings - well perhaps somewhere, at some point this empty boulevard might have been seen.  After all it's only atmosphere [isn't it?] - but, hang on, those Russian soldiers look nothing like any picture of  a Russian WWII soldier I've ever seen!  Tight-fitting, modern clothing and even more obviously modern helmets.  OK, suspend judgement for the moment.



What period did these soldiers come from?



Next the physical box itself.  Heft the box, much lighter and slightly shallower than usual.  Go on, open it.  Open it!  DVG boxes are noted for their quality and snug fit, so much so that they can be a bit tight to open, but this was a wrestling match.  I was seriously concerned that I'd damage the box and even now after repeated extractions, it's no easy matter to separate the two halves.  At last inside was ... a significant amount of empty space filled by a cardboard insert that nearly reaches the box lid, with a shallow, narrow trough down the centre containing three packs of cards, on top is one sheet of counters and a rule book.  A typical DVG rule book in quality of paper and lay out, but 8 pages of rules and 2 and a half pages of a sample game is amazingly brief.  A very slim rule book indeed.  No mounted board, no card displays.

This really is a departure from the expectations associated with most DVG games.  First of all it is 2 -player only, unlike the predominantly solitaire games that DVG are noted for.  Its components consist of a set of ten cards that give you famed locations from the Battle for Stalingrad, a small deck of Force cards for each player and a much larger deck of Action cards for each player too.  The single sheet of counters are Rubble and Ration markers and what look like a small number of control markers, but are in fact Heroic Medals, earned by destroying all the enemy forces in a battle and controlling the location; such a medal is awarded to one of your own unit cards to strengthen its abilities.

So far, so uncertain.  Next for the cards - DVG are good at getting cards right and these are as right as right can be.  Every single one of the 168 contains a reproduction of an historical photo.  Even considering that, where there is more than one of the same card [e.g. the five Russian reinforcement cards], the same photo is duplicated, the game is almost worth having just for the cards to look at!  Also, that road those reinforcements are motoring down is sooo wide I've got too revise my view on some of the box art too!






The broad boulevards of Stalingrad?



The ten terrain cards that you will be randomly choosing from to form your five target locations cover all the most famous sites: the Grain Elevator, Pavlov's House, the all-important high ground of Mamayev Kurgan, the Red Barricades Factory and so on.  In how many tactical games have I fought over Pavlov's House, but to actually have a photograph to aim for is something else. 



Every card tells a story - it's that house!





I particularly like the inclusion of the two airfields, Pitomnik and Gumrak, that were so important for German supply, especially the inclusion of Gumrak airfield [which now lies under part of Volgagrad International Airport] and was the last of the seven airfields to be retaken by the Russians.  Finally each of the 27 Force cards also has its own individual picture.




Another of my favoured locations.




One of my major concerns was the lack of any mounted board.  Instead, the layout of the cards forms the playing area in a five card by five card grid.  The top row is the Russian Perimeter Area and the next row is the Russian Control Area, the centre row is where you place five of the ten building cards randomly selected, the 4th and 5th rows mirror the Russian layout but this time for the German player.  If this sounds familiar, it will be if -like me -you possess the game, Hell of Stalingrad, published by Clash of Arms in 2009.

Obviously, this feature of the cards creating both the playing area and the forces involved has been used in many other games, especially the fantasy genre of games.  Here the format is at its simplest and slickest and the fact that it is so simple is not a criticism.  It means that the few pages of rules are quickly and easily assimilated and all the focus is on playing the game and not thumbing through endless pages to check.  Consequently, this is a game that can be put on the table after a considerable period of time and you'll still be ready for play almost immediately.

So, how does a typical game play out.  First randomly select your five objective location cards - obviously, if you wish to, there's nothing stopping you choosing your favourite locations. [Can't help wanting to sneak in Pavlov's House.]  The Russian player then selects 11 pts worth of Force Cards [costs range from 1 to 4] and places them in any of the Perimeter or Control zones.  As a player wins by controlling all five locations at the end of their turn and the German player will take their turn first, I would say that it's important that the Russian player mainly occupies Control zones.  The Russian player also draws 10 Action Cards.



One of the strongest of the German Force cards


Then the German player selects 9 pts of Force Cards and draws 5 Action Cards.  He/she then deploys their Forces in any of their Perimeter zones.  Each Zone can hold up to three Force Cards [except for Pavlov's House, where each side can field only one Force.]  It's especially important to remember that, when a Force Card is first placed, it has a specific number of Rations marked on the card that are placed with it.  These Rations fuel so much of what happens in the game and represent far more than the basic meaning of "ration". 



A typical starting lay-out


First of all, to move a Force from one location to another costs a Ration.  Each Force that wishes to attack must also spend one Ration.  As you can imagine your supply of rations will soon be depleted and a single fresh Ration token can be gained at the beginning of your turn by each of your Forces, only if it is in a Perimeter zone or controls a Location card.

There are a limited few other ways of gaining rations, such as playing a Raid Action card to steal 2 rations from the enemy to give to your own troops.  Played at the right time this can be a life saver or the means to put just that extra bit of pressure on the enemy.

A feature of the game that I find very appealing is the fluidity of your turn.  Movement, Combat, buying Force cards, playing Action cards can all be combined and repeated in any sequence you wish, Forces can be moved and fight and move and fight again.  All this is purely dependent on how far you wish to deplete your rations and Action cards. 

Equally important, and again I would consider it a strength of the game, is the variety of uses for the Action cards.  They can be played for their text or used to buy new Force cards; they are played in Battle to add to your Fire power or subtract from the enemy's Fire power.  It is the age old dilemma: you will want them for everything, but can only choose one use! 



One of the many Action Cards


A knowledge of the cards is important, but a couple of games should have you well aware of the range and potential.  On the Russian side, the six Action cards that relate to Operation Uranus will often play a significant role.  They all come with a play cost for the Russians, but with a far more powerful harmful effect on the German player which is permanent, unless the German player pays an even more painful higher cost to remove them from play.




One of six important Operation Uranus cards

Play at the right time can be crucial to Russian victory



Play balance has had some criticism, but the number of those who believe the Germans have a lock on winning seems about the same as those who think the Russians have a similar lock on winning.  So that's one sort of balance, in a way.  For myself, I'm perfectly happy, having had victories and defeats playing both sides.

Initially, I found the game rather repetitive and drawn out, but I would strongly recommend persevering, as I've found the game really has grown on me.  One of the reasons for this is the Combat system, one of the game's strongest elements.  It is highly interactive with both players able to continue to add in cards to increase their own fire or decrease their opponents.  When both players have ceased this exchange of fire, a final unknown Action card is turned up from each player's deck and its modifier applied.  This last minute uncertainty is an effective touch. 

It is rare for both sides not to take some losses.  The number of hits inflicted can be reduced by one for each ration that you are willing to spend and every unit that retreats from the battle to its rear Perimeter zone cancels another two hits.  Despite this, when faced with possibly about 15 hits, wiping out three enemy forces is certainly achievable.  Occasionally, both players may find their forces wiped out. 

While on the topic of combat, I would strongly recommend either downloading Nagato Fuyibashi's excellent little chart for tracking hits for both sides from the Battle for Stalingrad site on BGG or creating a simple one of your own.  It really does make remembering the numbers easy and the battles swift to play out.

For those who believe purely card based games are just about hand management, that may be how you will perceive this game too.  But give it a try.  As you desperately try to cling on to a position or throw the last few points on your Action cards into overwhelming the defence or when you cannot decide whether you can afford to abandon 6 rations in order to cancel a particular Operation Uranus card,  I hope you'll get the same sense of tension and narrative feel as I do from playing Battle for Stalingrad.

 













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Rorke's Drift a New Perspective by  Neil Thornton  The Title of the book pretty much sums this book up in a nutsh...

Rorke's Drift by Neil Thornton Rorke's Drift by Neil Thornton

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

January 2017

Rorke's Drift by Neil Thornton



by 




 The Title of the book pretty much sums this book up in a nutshell. For those of us who thought we knew the story of Rorke's Drift and how and why it was fought, and also the story about all of the Victoria Crosses that were won there, we might be in for a bit of a shock. 

 The Zulus destroyed a camp and killed over 1,300 British soldiers and their African allies at iSandlwana on January 22, 1879. A few hours after that the Zulu Undi regiment crossed the Buffalo river into Natal. The Undi regiment was kept in reserve during the battle, so the warriors' blood was up. Prince Dabulamanzi, the Undi regiment's commander, decided to cross the river against his king Cetshwayo's orders. The next British encampment of any size would be Rorke's Drift. When Lord Chelmsford came back to his destroyed camp at iSandlwana, he could see the fire in the distance from the battle at Rorke's drift.

 For those of us who have had the pleasure to see it, the 1964 movie 'Zulu' starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker encapsulates all of our thoughts about the battle. The only thing is that, as usual, the movie version of a historical event is not really historical. Although to be honest, this movie stays closer to the truth than many others. The real story of Rorke's drift does have all of the makings for a movie blockbuster. You have cowardice, bravery, and a desperate defense of about twenty to one odds or better. 

 The book starts with the actual history of Rorke's drift and why it was there and it's various uses before that fateful day. It started out as a trading post owned by Jim Rorke at a crossing place of the Buffalo River. Strangely enough its next incarnation was as a missionary post and chapel owned by the Church of Sweden, no less. The British negotiated the rental of it for their invasion of the Zulu's lands. It was used by the British as a supply depot at this time. The fact that it was stuffed with supplies for the army was an extremely good stroke of luck for the British soldiers stationed there. The tons of mealie bags and biscuit boxes that were stored, were the makings of their impromptu walls and fortifications besides the little bit that the Drift had to offer itself. 

 The Drift was awash with escapees from the massacre at iSandlwana before the battle. Almost 500 African allies and British soldiers were there. The appearance of the Undi regiment caused a panic and only 155 soldiers, mostly of B company of the 2/24th regiment, stayed to defend the Drift. 

 The book goes into minute details of the actual defenses that the soldiers built, and who was where at what time during the battle. The exploits of John Chard and Gonville Bromhead, and all of the other heroes of the battle are described in detail. For more than 10 hours, the 3,000+ Zulus attacked the Drift and its 155 defenders. A lot of the time the fighting was down to bayonet against assegai. The defenders and attackers had nothing to say about their enemies, except to mention their bravery. 

 The book first sets the scene and then goes into the battle itself. It then goes on to describe the battle's aftermath. Next it goes into a long list of the 'Gallantry Recipients' with a short biography and the stated reasons for their awards. To many, the book's part of 'Unjust Criticism' will be the most interesting. Apparently many, including the new area commander Sir Garnet Wolsley, did not think much of the heroes of the Drift, and didn't even think some of them deserved their medals!

 The stirring epic of the defense of Rorke's Drift certainly needed this book to separate fact from fiction. Hopefully the author is at work on a book about the battle of iSandlwana with this much detail.


Robert

Book: Rorke's Drift A new Perspective
Author: Neil Thornton
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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The Great War - Official Trailer The Great War - Official Trailer

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

January 2017

The Great War - Official Trailer

 
 
 
 
 

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In the grim dark future of the 41st millennium, there is only war. That war now spreads to the Knight world of Alaric Prime as the R...

Warhammer 40K: Sanctus Reach Warhammer 40K: Sanctus Reach

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

January 2017

Warhammer 40K: Sanctus Reach




In the grim dark future of the 41st millennium, there is only war. That war now spreads to the Knight world of Alaric Prime as the Red Waaagh! led by Grukk Face-rippa invades the planet. Only the Space Wolves, the Norse themed chapter of the Space Marines, stand ready to defeat the hordes of Orks pouring across the surface. Sanctus Reach is a turn based tactical game depicting the campaigns fought in that war, at the scale of individual squads, vehicles, and weapons teams.

Sanctus Reach is the latest strategy title from veteran wargame publisher Slitherine, however, the developer is the rookie studio Straylight Entertainment. While I'm not privy to exactly how the Slitherine development process works, it is clear that Sanctus Reach draws heavily from other recent Slitherine productions. Fans of Battle Academy 1+2, Pike and Shot, or Sengoku Jidai will immediately feel at home in this game, as the controls and interface are very similar. Notably, this is the second Warhammer 40k title from Slitherine, with the first being WH 40k: Armageddon, which drew a great deal of its design influence from Panzer Corps, as opposed to Battle Academy. Now, enough with the pedigree, let's kill some xenos scum!


Space Wolves vs Orks. There will be blood, lots of it.

One thing is immediately apparent upon playing Sanctus Reach for the first time: this is, by a mile, the best looking 3D game that Slitherine has ever published. The units are highly detailed and smoothly animated, rivaling or besting those seen in screenshots for the upcoming Dawn of War 3. While the units will spend most of their time standing around waiting for their turn to fight, they will look fantastic doing it. The combat is also far bloodier than one might expect from Slitherine. Blood gushes out of units with each hit, and Orks often explode into chunks of meat when killed, accompanied by appropriately gruesome splattering sound effects. Think chunks of wet meat being thrown against a wall.

Speaking of getting into the fight, let's jump right into the meat of the game, the combat itself.  While there have been many recent titles set in the Warhammer 40k universe, none have really come close to depicted the table top game itself. No doubt Games Workshop is leery of letting a PC game exist which mimics the exact gameplay of their flagship product. Why would anyone spend a small fortune on models, paint, and rule books when they could just fire up a PC game that gave them the same experience? Having never played the table top game myself, I won't attempt to make a direct comparison, but certainly Sanctus Reach comes closer than anything else seen before. If the game spawns a series of DLC and expansions like Armageddon has, we could be looking at the go-to game for Warhammer 40k fans seeking a digital turn-based fix.

The combat in Sanctus Reach takes place on a square-based grid which stretches across bleak and ugly (in a good way) locales dotted with ancient ruins, dead forests, human military bases, industrial centers, and Ork encampments. Terrain can play a key role in strategy, as many objects provide cover from ranged fire, while others block line of sight entirely. With each faction fielding many melee focused units, careful positioning around various objects is critical to holding the line and keeping the squishier ranged units safe. Each side in this conflict actually has 30 different units available, each with a distinct role to play on the battlefield. On your turn, every unit can be activated in whatever order you choose. Each unit can attack twice, move a certain number of squares, and in some cases utilize a special ability. Once all of your units have been exhausted, your opponent gets a chance to go. This style of gameplay is a tried and true one, and it gets a few new tricks in Sanctus Reach. The facing of every unit can be adjusted before ending your turn, and you will want to do this carefully, as each combatant gets one free reaction shot against enemy units moving into its line of fire during the opposing player's turn. On your turn, you will be warned about these reaction shots by seeing the movement grid turn red in spaces where the enemy could get a free shot. Facing is even more important for vehicles, as their armor is usually weaker on the sides and rear. Helpfully, the facing of the hull and turret can be set independently for some vehicles.

Unit morale is a factor in the combat as well. An important early tactic for keeping the swarms of weaker Ork units at bay is to hit them with the flamethrower unit, which does good damage across a wide area but more importantly causes a massive drop in morale for any units caught in the flames. This makes it easy for your other units to mop up without much fear of reprisal. Morale matters less for the Space Marines themselves, however, since they will almost always die fighting long before they panic and run. I expect if there is an Imperial Guard campaign in the future, the player will have to pay much more attention to this value.


The Orks have all sorts of nasty toys on hand.

With all of the different unit types available for you and the enemy, you must be deliberate with each decision. Rushing a unit forward to finish off a foe could leave it vulnerable to being surrounded on the enemy's turn. On the other hand, setting up an ambush, with multiple units' reaction fire targeting a likely approach, could net you a free kill. You must always consider strengths and weaknesses of unit types as well. Meltagun infantry are awesome at taking down armored units and vehicles, but are completely useless in a close up brawl. Flamethrower units can send packs of Orks running, but hardly scratch even the lighter Ork vehicles. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of Sanctus Reach, fielding a balanced mix of units and utilizing them in the most efficient way possible. You will need to be efficient, because the Orks vastly outnumber the Space Marines in every scenario. Against these mobs of greenskins, sloppy tactics will get your force wiped out in a matter of a few turns. More than once I saw the first wave of the enemy approaching and thought that there was no way my little army of Space Marines would survive.  However, by employing solid tactics I could (usually) scrape out a victory or even turn the tide and mercilessly slaughter the fleeing Orks. The larger battles are particularly engaging, as you are often forced to spread your forces out to different hot spots at the same time. Choosing where to send your best units is always a challenging decision. Scouting units even manage to play an important role at times. Getting a couple of turns warning to shift your defenses, or knowing exactly how many units you will need to take a victory point, is always useful and could make the difference between victory and defeat.

This game achieves one thing in particular, something that is important in any strategy game, and that is feeling a sense of satisfaction when your forces are pulling ahead in the fight. In almost every mission of Sanctus Reach, you will be faced with large groups of greenskin units rushing at your brave Space Marines. There is tension and a sense of imminent peril in these moments. However, make the right choices, put your men in the right places, and you will be turning green Orks into red chunks left and right. What was once a deadly horde is now scattered and fleeing before your soldiers, and it feels great.

The game's AI does a good enough job leading its forces most of the time. That's not saying much considering the lore accurate tactics for Orks is to simply have them attack, attack, attack. However, you will find that the AI can give you a good run for your money if you aren't paying attention. It will focus on an exposed unit, or ignore a unit it can't really damage to rush past towards one that it can. At other times though, the AI seemed indecisive, and would have a few units uselessly meander around at the edge of a battle.

I found that there were a few balance issues in the build I was playing, but the developer notes indicated that they were still tweaking things, so I won't knock the game for that. In particular, the Ork Battlewagons seemed grossly overpowered, able to often kill entire Space Marine squads in one turn from a long distance, while being almost indestructible. I also encountered a few bugs and minor annoyances like the camera not being able to pan far enough to see the entire field at certain zoom levels and other minor UI glitches. These all seemed like small issues which could be cleaned up in short order. At no point did the game crash or show signs of anything less than silky smooth performance.

On the whole, I think this engine fits Warhammer 40k quite nicely. The combat is at that sweet spot of squad-level maneuvering where you get a bit of that X-COM tactical feel, but on such a scale that every battle feels like an important struggle. It also is granular enough for it to make sense that your hero units are running around on their own, using special abilities and taking on entire Ork squads alone. The system definitely has the flexibility to allow for the other factions of the 40k universe to make an appearance in the future. Other factions will necessitate different tactics, which will only enrich the experience on offer here. While Space Marines can hold their ground against most any Ork unit, an Imperial Guard army would need a lot more artillery backing up their lines of numerous, yet weak troopers. An Eldar army could be especially interesting to play, using hit and run tactics to pick off exposed units, without the need for the frantic mouse clicking and micro-management of an RTS. There are a lot of possibilities to be explored here. I expect that this game already has an extensive list of DLC and expansions lined up for production, and I think it will do well in the long run, but there are some rough edges that need smoothing out in the meantime.


The Space Wolves prepare to attack.

There were many instances in this game where I felt like a feature was done well in one way, but fell short in another. For example, when your Dreadnought units move, each step causes the camera to rattle just a bit, adding some real weight to the footfalls, but, those steps don't leave any kind of footprint on the ground or kick up dust. Many objects like walls and barriers can be destroyed by manually targeting them, but not even your flamethrowers can get rid of a dead tree blocking your line of sight. Melee combat has some impressive gore effects and Ork heads rolling on the ground, but the actual attack animations don't have that much variety to them. I realize this is an effort from a smaller studio, but everyone knows the fun of Warhammer 40k is 50% about the spectacle of over the top carnage. The ranged attack animations and effects are generally better, especially for the flamethrowers and explosives. Also, did I mention how good the blood and gore is in this game? It's really good, and you will see it often. Sound is certainly a mixed bag as well. Some weapons, like the missile launchers and flamethrowers, sound great, while others, like the meltagun or bolters, sound downright puny. There were also a couple of sound effects which seemed to be completely missing. The music is adequate, dark and moody, but as far as I could tell there were only a couple of tracks, or they all sounded exactly same.

There is one major feature of the game that I feel falls into this mixed bag category as well. The campaign structure itself. On the one hand, you get two lengthy campaigns with a lot of missions, but many of those missions are just random skirmishes. These skirmishes have no flavor to them really, which isn't that bad on it's own, but you are forced to grind through three of them between each story mission. I feel like there was so much more they could have done with these missions. Perhaps have the player choose two out of three missions, with each one offering some kind of bonus for the coming set-piece battle, or adding a unique unit to the available roster. Or, throw in some kind of gameplay altering rule change or unit limitation in a skirmish to force a change in tactics. As it stands, these missions are simply filler, there to lengthen the campaign and not much else. The unique story missions are much more interesting. These have you fighting through some kind of specific scenario, such as assaulting a fortress, escorting transports, or fending off an Ork ambush. Later in each campaign you get the chance to take on the big baddies of the Waaagh!


Actual screenshot from my PC. These are some good looking Space Marines!
One cool aspect of the campaign is that your units persist from mission to mission and gain experience. When they level up they become more powerful and can gain new abilities. This of course gives you an incentive to keep them alive and get as many kills as possible. I also liked how every unit has an individual name, letting you grow more attached to them over time as they purge xenos and live to tell the tale. As units grow in abilities, you gain a lot more options in how to fight. There are all sorts of grenades and other items that put different effects on enemy units, like stunning them or dropping morale. Units can also get buffs to attacking particular enemy unit types, like vehicles. As you face larger groups of enemies, using these abilities to the max becomes critical to your survival.

Now I must come to my single greatest letdown with this game: There is not nearly enough "fluff" for my tastes. You know, that part of any Warhammer 40k game or book where the characters talk about purging and cleansing and dying for the Emperor? You get only just a whiff of it here. The story is told through mission briefings that are, at best, one paragraph long, and seem to assume that you already know who the characters are and what they are doing. For example, the description for the first campaign describes your unit commander impatiently launching his forces towards battle on the planet below, then picking up a distress signal on the way down. Great, sounds interesting! Then you launch the first scenario, which has your forces defending a crashed Thunderhawk, with the objective to capture a nearby communications tower. How did we get here? I guess the ship was shot down, the game doesn't take time to explain. Why do we need to reach that communications tower? Because the mission briefing says so. Oh, okay, I guess. Do we get an explanation of the situation once the mission is completed? Nope, nothing at all. This pattern continues through each campaign. It feels like there is a story going on, but it is told through the briefest of dialogue snippets. Don't forget the three skirmishes between each unique scenario, which have no specific context at all, and spread the 40k butter far too thin.

The level design of the "set-piece" battles is often interesting, and the scale ramps up until you are fielding massive forces and wreaking havoc on the Ork horde with all sorts of fun toys, but, rarely does it seem to have much of an overarching purpose. I have to compare this with Warhammer 40k: Armageddon. As mentioned, this was another title published by Slitherine that came out a couple of years ago. One of the most well regarded features of that game was the lengthy and well voice-acted dialogue that occurred before and during missions. The tutorial campaign alone in that game was five missions long and used that time to introduce and develop various important characters, while building up tension towards the start of the actual campaign. Events would routinely occur in the middle of missions, potentially changing your objectives, with characters popping in to comment on what was happening, and sometimes even offering you a choice in how to proceed with the story. There are characters in Sanctus Reach, there is the extensive lore of the Space Wolves, and there is some kind of ongoing story about the battle for Alaric Prime, but it is all referenced in the barest of detail. In Armageddon, you really felt like your forces were fighting in a grim war to save the planet, with the story dictating your goals from mission to mission. I did not get that feeling from Sanctus Reach. The actual gameplay within the missions was fun, but at the end of each one you simply get a screen saying you won, with no narrative follow-up at all, then it's straight back to the mission selection screen. It's a very anti-climatic way to end even the most exciting of battles. Armageddon did it so much better, and any future campaigns for Sanctus Reach or its sequels should take a note from that playbook.

Okay, with that done, I would like to hit on a couple positive notes before wrapping up.


The Imperial Knight in its natural habitat, knee deep in Ork corpses and wreckage.
Multiplayer. I wasn't able to get in a multiplayer match of Sanctus Reach, but it works exactly the same as Battle Academy, which I have played online quite a few times. The game uses Slitherine's excellent automated PBEM system, which allows players to play without needing to both be on at the same time. You can set up a game and then wait for someone else to come along and accept your challenge. Then you take your turn and wait for the other player to take theirs, without needing to keep the game running if you aren't both playing at the same time. This means you can even have multiple games going simultaneously. Just log on at your convenience, play your turn for two or three or more matches, then log off and come back later.  In multiplayer you will get the chance to try out the Orks for yourself, which should offer a sharp change of pace from how the Space Marines handle. I really look forward to seeing how future content will expand this area of the game. Hopefully we will eventually get access to a few more factions like the Imperial Guard or other Space Marine chapters at the very least. The potential is there to some day have a game using this engine where the Tau, Tyranids, Eldar, Orks, Chaos, and more can face off in online turn-based matches. This could be the "killer app" for Slitherine if that happens.

Editor and Mods. It's hard to say at this point what people will make, but if Battle Academy is any indication, you can expect to see a lot of new maps for multiplayer and single player becoming available over time. On the mod side of things, even though modding is mentioned in the manual as being supported, I can't imagine that Games Workshop would allow people to run wild here. Too much freedom would let people create rules closer to the tabletop experience, or even add in new factions. I'm not sure what will be possible, but I look forward to seeing what people create.

Ultimately, what we have here is a very good game that forms a solid foundation to build upon. The bar has been set with excellent graphics and animations, the combat engine is a proven one that is flexible enough to handle everything the 40k universe can throw at it, and the publisher Slitherine has a well-earned reputation for supporting titles long after release.  Despite the disappointing campaign narrative (or lack thereof), I found that the tactical combat itself continued to grow on me the more I played.The multiplayer combat has the potential to be a serious draw for many players, especially as more units and factions are added to the game. Sanctus Reach is right there on the edge of being a runaway hit series if they can fill in just a few gaps.

- Joe Beard
Follow me @JBB33


(Note: This review was mostly based on the final beta version available before release, this was the version sent to me for review. The night before release, the Day 1 patch went live and I played a couple of missions with it. Although it did not radically change any of my opinions, it included a lot of small updates that polished the overall presentation, and gave a bit more OOMPH to some attack effects. Always a good thing in Warhammer! The balance also felt better. Two thumbs up for the first patch.)

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Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 by  Matrix/Slitherine   This time around we have another Matrix / Slitherine game ...

Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 review Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 review

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January 2017

Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 review



by


 Matrix/Slitherine 


 This time around we have another Matrix/Slitherine game to review, and once again it is based on a John Tiller game. It seems you could throw the proverbial cat and hit one. Just a caveat - I do not endorse cat throwing. Some of the proverbs that have been handed down to us really make me wonder about our ancestors.

 Campaign ME is a tactical game on the squad or platoon level. It is based upon the Talonsoft game Battleground 10, and it was released in 1997. Campaign ME gives us scenarios from 1948 to 1982. The majority of the scenarios involve Israeli forces versus the various Arabic speaking countries around Israel.


General Features:
  • Numerous different platoon types; infantry, machine guns, mortars, artillery, trucks, halftracks, APC's, tanks, helicopters, landing craft, etc.
  • 3D art, 2D art and 2D NATO icons for all platoons.
  • Sound files for movement and weapons.
  • Armour facing of armoured vehicles.
  • Classification of hard and soft targets.
  • Classification of infantry combat capabilities.
  • Night vision for certain tank types.
  • Hidden Fire for certain unit types.
  • Clear and lay minefields.
  • Build Improved positions and trenches.
  • Lay light and medium bridges.
  • Day and Night transitions during the course of a scenario.
  • Ability to set Opportunity Fire against Hard, Soft, Other and Anti-aircraft platoons.
  • On-map thermometers for Action Points, Morale and Strength for all platoons in all map views.
  • Three Fog of War levels.
  • Desert and Mediterranean terrain classifications within the map editors.
  • Civilians.
  • Comprehensive manual.
  • Numerous display options allowing the customer to set up the game to their requirements/preferences


 The middle east during the cold war was a testing ground for various weapons systems of Nato and Warsaw Pact countries. The game allows you to go from WWII weaponry to almost state of the art. To be honest, I have always liked the campaign series of games and have bought every iteration of them. The work that Matrix/Slitherine, and The Campaign Series Legion has done on the various games has only sweetened the deal.

 The conflicts the game covers are as follows:

First Arab-Israeli War in 1948
Suez Crisis of 1956
Six Day War of 1967
War of Attrition
October War of 1973
Invasion of Lebanon in 1982
Algerian War of Independence
Egypt in Yemen
United Kingdom in Aden
Libyan - Egyptian Border War 1977

 There are over 130 historical and hypothetical scenarios. There are also four simplified 'boot camp' scenarios to help get the player up to speed.The game also comes with three linked campaigns. 

 The countries' armed forces that you are allowed to play are:

  France, United Kingdom, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Libya, Generic Pro-West and Generic Pro-East. Each of these countries have a fully functional Order of Battles, based on historical TO&E's, from Company to Corps level. Combined, there are well over a thousand unique platoons available.

Let us first take a look at the game's graphics. For us older Grogs who still or did at one time own the Talonsoft games, they are a sight for sore eyes. I always liked the game play on the older Talonsoft games, but the graphics were never to my taste, and I always had difficulty just looking at the map and distinguishing what each unit depicted really was. You could click on any unit you wanted to check, but this was time consuming, and not something the player should have to do. The game now comes with seven view modes. There are three 3D, and four 2D levels of zoom.







 As a solo wargamer I always liked the AI in the Campaign Series games. The Campaign Series Legion has worked hard to enhance the AI even more. They have tried to match the AI behavior to the year, nation, and scenario itself. As is the case with most wargame AIs, they do better at defense than in attack. That is not to say that I haven't been caught with my pants down by the AI. The AI's use of artillery in the game was also a strong point for me. Attacking or defending many times left me with a "what do I do now" look after my silicon troops were scattered after a bombardment.




 Because of the nature of modern warfare the game has four levels of height for helicopters:

Ground
Nap of the Earth
Low
High


 For those of you who like to tinker there are map, battle, and scenario editors. The map editor has forty-nine levels of elevation and no size limit, as long as your computer hardware is up to it.




 This game shows itself to be a keeper by its vast scale in time and conflicts. Instead of being a game with ten to twenty scenarios of the same battle, you get warfare from WWII to almost modern tanks and weaponry. you have even more to conjure up by using all of the editors. With their use you can match up pretty much any combination of East versus West.

 There is a 207 page manual (PDF) that comes with the game. It is very inclusive of whatever the player would need to know.



 The user interface for the Campaign series has been described as  clunky or non-user friendly. The series was, after all, coded twenty years ago. The newer game's user interface has been streamlined from the older versions.To sum it up Campaign Series Middle East is a good tactical game of the years of warfare it portrays. If you are interested in the progression of warfare from WWII to modern, or are just in a WWII rut then take a look at Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985. I have been in touch with Jason Petho of the Campaign Series Legion, the developers of the game. In 2017 you can expect a Campaign Middle East 2.0 version.

 This was a review of the 1.02 version, the following is a rundown of the update:


FIXES
• Revised Linked Campaign Game Strength Point carry-over issue
• Revisions to the Unit Viewer (F3)
• Fixed several issues involving airstrikes
• Fixed another off board artillery bug
• Fixed occasional edmap launch crash bug
• Adjusted vertical positioning of 2D bridges and ford for engine, edit and edmap

ENHANCEMENTS
• Implemented Options  Mouse Wheel Zoom
• Implemented Options  Hex Contour Widths  1/2/3
• Implemented Options  Cursor  Small/Standard/Large for varying cursor sizes
• Implemented Options  Cursor  Enhanced for a frosted cursor
• Implemented Options  Details  Persistent, a toggle that indicates whether the Damage Report persists until click (or the Esc key is pressed), or vanishes after a delay automatically
• Added terrain feature: Ditches (hexside anti-tank ditches)
• Added terrain feature: Crests (hexside)
• Added terrain feature: Water Block (hexside)
• Added terrain feature: Industrial (hex, for desert terrain)
• Substituted a new engine toolbar, with new OP FIRE button, revised Climb/Descend buttons
• Revised Top of Stack/Bottom of Stack buttons
• Substituted BoxArt style command and results dialogs
• Substituted square nation flags for roundels in the Organization Editor
• Improved diagnostic logging
• For terrain and counter draws, set compiler option to optimize for speed
• Implemented ON_CYCLE as hot key (TAB) for faying hex’s terrain about available alternatives
• Elevation Delta now saved between sessions for engine, edit and edmap)
• All airborne helicopters flying in the Low or High flight zones now have a spotting capability, even if unarmed reconnaissance or transport

GRAPHICS
• Revised a few 3D terrain and vegetation tiles
• Revised 2D terrain and vegetation tiles
• Revised Iraqi 3D graphics
• Revised United Kingdom 3D graphics
• Special graphics and units that are amphibious have been given appropriate graphics
• Revised all 3D graphics with a muted look, allowing 3D units to stand out clearly against the terrain

DATA
• Updated Weapon.pdt file, revising existing information and adding new information for new units
• Updated 09,14,22,23,24,30 platoon.oob files with additions and corrections

SCENARIOS
o New Scenarios by Jason Petho:
o No Match for the 100 (Bir Gifgafa 1967)
o Tourney - Set A01 - High Noon
o Tourney - Set C01 - Hack and Slash
o Tourney - Set C02 - The Villages
o Tourney - Set D01 - Dancing in the Desert
o New Scenario by Jim Mays:
o Tourney - Set B02 - A Furious Charge
o New Scenarios by Alan R. Arvold (available in the mods folder):
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #1
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #2
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #3
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #4
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #5
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #6
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #7
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #8
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #9
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #10
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #11
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #12
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #13
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #14
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #15
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #16
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #17
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #18
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #19
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #20
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #21
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #22
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #23
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #24
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #25
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #26
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #27
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #28
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #29
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #30
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #31
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #32
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #33
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #34
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #35
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #36
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #37
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #38
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #39
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #40
o Revised Suez Linked Campaign
o Revised all affected scenario/campaign maps with new Industrial terrain hex
o Scenario Modifications to:
o The Crossroads
o Off to Giddi
o Bootcamp 3
o Battlefields of Old
o Raid Into Libya
o Into the Ring
o A Taste of Sa’iqa
o Into Africa!
o The End in the Sahara
o Hot Knife Through Butter

MODS
We have included a number of user made modifications that may enhance your gaming experience. It is recommended to use the JSGME Modification Enabler Software that is included as part of the installation. See Section 16.3 for instructions.

• Alan R. Arvold Ode To Arab-Israeli Wars – This is a scenario set based on the Arab-Israeli Wars created by Alan R. Arvold.
• Ode to Arab-Israeli Wars – This is a 2D graphics modification by Petri Nieminen (aka Crossroads) to provide the players of the Ode to Arab-Israeli Wars scenarios an authentic look and feel when playing the scenarios.
• Alternate 3D Bases – This is a 3D graphics modification that simplifies the roundels in the 3D view, making them easier to distinguish against the terrain.
• Black 2D Unit Profiles – This is a 2D graphics modification that converts the coloured unit graphics to black silhouettes.
• Black Unit Info Box – This is a UI graphics modification that removes the background information when using the Unit List, making the unit information easier to read.
• MausMan 3D Graphics – This is a massive 3D graphics modification that converts all 3D terrain graphics to a smaller scale.
• NATO Icons w. Transp. Background – This is a 2D graphics modification for NATO symbols that removes all colour coding and just displays the black outlines.
• NATO Icons w. White Background – This is a 2D graphics modification for NATO symbols that replaces all colour coding with a white background.

MANUAL

The manual has been revised to 1.02 UPDATE standards. It has also been combed through; revising graphics and grammatical errors, in addition to incorporating comments from users (inclusion of 2D and 3D screenshots, for example).


Robert

Developer: The Campaign Series Legion
Publisher: Matrix/Slitherine
Date of Review: 1/15/2017

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