Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front from Slitherine is a perfect example of how to take a winning formula and crank it up a few not...

Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front + Kursk Expansion Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front + Kursk Expansion

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

February 2017

Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front + Kursk Expansion





 
Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front from Slitherine is a perfect example of how to take a winning formula and crank it up a few notches. The game, released in 2014, is the follow on to the original Battle Academy, a title which set the bar for this type of accessible, yet surprisingly deep tactical World War 2 gameplay style. 

In Battle Academy 2 (BA2) the player takes control of either the Germans or Russians in a series of scenarios fought out using turn-based combat on a map broken into a grid of squares. Locales vary from dense urban centers to wild forests and pastoral villages. Many of the maps are very detailed, with networks of roads and wheat fields, marshes and rivers, and other terrain types generating intriguing choices about how to formulate your strategy.

Although at first glance the graphics may appear fairly simple, there is actually a great amount of detail to the unit models, especially the vehicles. All of your favorites are here, from Tigers and T-34's to a smattering of half-tracks and AT guns. In the realm of infantry, there are riflemen, sappers, commandos, militia, mortars, machine guns, snipers, and more. For a title that some might initially deem to be a more casual wargame, there is a actually a lot of content.


Campaigns from several phases of the war are available, as well as a tutorial to get you started.

In the base game of BA2, there are four campaigns to choose from, two each for the Germans and Russians. These cover several time periods throughout the war, from Barbarossa forward. The Kursk expansion adds another two campaigns covering that massive battle, with the twist that units can be carried forward from one battle to the next. This was big plus for me, as I really like the idea of having a "core" force that I can try to keep alive through a series of battles. On the other hand, the base game campaigns are able to offer a wide variety of interesting scenarios, since they are all independent of one another, other than being set during a certain time period.

The scenario design of BA2 is probably some of the best I have seen in any wargame available. Many of them present you with a unique situation to work through. In one mission you have to deal with an immobilized, yet deadly enemy tank in a mostly open field. You only have infantry and a couple of light AT guns to work with. In another you are ambushing an enemy convoy at night with a force made up of partisans. In each scenario, there are primary objectives that you must complete, and secondary objectives that serve as special achievements. This adds a lot of replayability to the scenarios, since getting all of the extra objectives can be a challenge.  These objectives are often things like holding particularly difficult victory points, or minimizing losses of certain units. Some are more interesting, like finding and knocking out a hidden enemy outpost, or exiting units off the map mid-battle.


German motorized troops, and an awesome little Stug, arrive to press the attack.

BA2 controls quite well, using a simple interface to offer a multitude of options. Simply click on a unit and you will see how far it can move via lit up squares. Click on a space, or the unit itself, and a list of symbols will pop up showing you the options relevant to that space. For example, units can move quickly, or move less distance at a more deliberate pace. This is important, since (among other variables) tanks will have lower accuracy after moving fast, while infantry are less likely to be spotted when moving slow. There are many other options as well, including telling a unit to hold fire, having engineers throw smoke grenades, or ordering a unit to observe the area around it, extending its sight range for the round. Clicking an enemy unit will show the odds for whatever type of attack you can make. This is critical to tank duels, since you can see your chances both of scoring a hit, and scoring a kill. 

The tank combat in BA2 can be quick and deadly, or turn into a drawn out slugfest, depending on the situation and vehicles involved. Maneuvering to get at the flanks or rear of a heavy enemy tank can greatly increase your chances of knocking it out. At the same time, you want to keep your forward armor facing the enemy if at all possible. Even the most imposing steel beasts can be taken down by single lucky shot, or they might shrug off a dozen hits and keep rolling. Maximizing your odds is the key to winning tank battles. Usually you have enough forces that losing any one unit won't cost you the battle.


A potent force prepares to face the Ruskies.

Infantry units require tactical finesse to use effectively. Rush them forward mindlessly and they will get slaughtered. Use covering fire to suppress an enemy, then send in assault troops to overrun the enemy position and you can win with few casualties. Infantry are also highly effective against tanks and other vehicles in close terrain. They can disappear into almost any terrain feature on the map. Sending a half-track or tank on a long move through a village you have not cleared will lead to certain destruction.

You will usually have some special abilities on tap in any given scenario. These use a cooldown timer, so you must be careful about when you use them, but not so cautious that you miss openings while waiting for the perfect moment. These abilities include basic items like healing an infantry squad, promoting a unit, or dropping supplies. Sometimes you also get more explosive options, like calling for artillery and air strikes.


Several turns later, my heavy tanks wipe out enemy vehicles while Flammpanzers keep the infantry at bay.

While fighting, units can be promoted, gaining better stats and becoming more effective. Units that reach the highest rank can even get an extra attack each turn, which is very useful. Other special abilities can also be unlocked, like AT guns using more effective anti-tank rounds or infantry squads gaining a sniper shot.

Right at first, BA2 can be a somewhat frustrating game until you find the rhythm of how to play it. It demands a more deliberate approach to combat than one might presume. Once you figure out the finer points of line of sight, the ranges of different units, and the importance of paying attention to unit morale, the game becomes much more enjoyable. In my first playthrough of some missions I took heavy losses and wondered how in the world I was supposed to win. After playing further into the game, I can go back to those same scenarios and conquer them easily.


Did I mention the huge variety of units available? Here we see everything from partisans to Valentines.

The game offers a couple more ways to play outside of the campaign scenarios. You can also play semi-random skirmishes where you pick out a force and go against an AI force on one of the many different maps. The AI can almost always put up a decent fight, since it knows how to hide units in cover and will attack aggressively wherever you are weak. However, for a truly clever opponent you must go online. Fortunately, BA2 uses Slitherine's PBEM++ multiplayer model, which sets the standard for this type of turn based wargame with its asynchronous play. Once you join battle with another player, you simply play your turn and then go back to the multiplayer menu. If the other player isn't online, you are free to then join another match and play a turn in it. You can have several matches going in this manner, and you will receive a notification or email when it is your turn to play again. This is great for bigger battles especially, since you can play a little at a time, instead of sitting at the computer for two hours straight. If you don't want to fight another human, you can also team up against the AI in several cooperative scenarios.  Even though the game has been out for years, there are still quite a few people playing online, so you shouldn't have trouble finding a match.

I found that playing the game online was quite addictive. The co-op scenarios force you to communicate and use teamwork, while the larger PvP skirmishes give you a lot of freedom in terms of force composition and strategy. You never know what kind of units your enemy will be fielding, or how they will use them. Although the single player game is good, the online play is where the game really shines. Especially so because it is so easy to get a match going against any willing opponent. Compare to, say, Combat Mission, where you have to arrange a match outside the game, and need a third party tool to automate sending new turns back and forth.


Soviet infantry prepare to hold against the onslaught, while a improvised tank creeps forward to assist.

The game also comes with an easy to use editor, which other players have used to create a large number of custom maps and scenarios. This new content can be easily acquired from within BA2 itself. You just click on and download whatever suits your fancy, right there within the game. There are only a few single player scenarios available, but thanks to the efforts of a few community members, there are a couple dozen additional multiplayer maps to try out.

Something should also be said about the sound in the game. There are very good sound effects for every different type of weapon in the game, including big crunchy artillery shells and roaring flamethrower blasts.  Tank engines rev up and infantry shout in German or Russian as they are victorious in a fight, or find themselves running for their lives.

All in all, BA2 is a polished experience with no major flaws that I could uncover. I tried to think of something to criticize about the game, but really there is nothing bad to say about it, unless you are looking for a more realistic experience. This is not Combat Mission or a Graviteam Tactics type of game. Units tend to have arbitrary ranges that they can engage at, and even shorter ranges at which they are actually effective, which takes some time to adjust to. You'll also note the relative lack of artillery, in a warzone that was well known for massive amounts of it. It is treated more like a special ability than a regular part of your force. Along those lines, there's nothing realistic about being able to call in pin-point airstrikes anywhere you want to make an enemy go boom. However, realistic is not what this game sets out to do. It gives you all the different units you could want, and sets them loose in tactical combat that is just deep enough to make things very interesting, without bogging you down in unnecessary detail.

If you are looking for a fun tactical combat game set on the Eastern Front, that is accessible and comes with a ton of content, look no further than Battle Academy 2. If you want even more toys, and especially the linked campaigns, pick up the Kursk expansion.  


- Joe Beard


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1 comments :

Cobi Block kits Jeep andHelicopter P-51 Mustang Sherman Tank  Model M4A1 The Jeep before the first build   I am ol...

Cobi Kits Reviewed Cobi Kits Reviewed

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

February 2017

Cobi Kits Reviewed






The Jeep before the first build



 I am older; not old, just older. When I played with blocks they were made of solid wood. These were essentially the same kinds of blocks that had been around for over a hundred years. Now, I am not talking about the square colored ones that were supposed to teach you letters and numbers; they were pretty useless for building anything. No, I am talking about plain wooden blocks that came in many different shapes and sizes. You could use these to build a city or a fortress, or at least a part of one (I didn't have an extensive block set). These plain blocks were used to try and replicate Karnak and other places I had seen in pictures. My blocks represented the ultimate escape from the doldrums of where I was to where I wanted to be. Yeah I know, I was a strange child. Inevitably I moved on. The blocks were put away much like Puff and his ilk. 
At the ripe old age of eighteen I began working at a toy store. One of my myriad of jobs was stock clerk. This was a mom and pop toy store. This was before chain stores made their arrival. I was given a carton of new toys to set up on the shelf. I opened the box and was presented with a revelation. It was a ship, and it was built entirely of small click together blocks. As I recall, one part of me was in awe, while the other part was disgusted. How dare they manufacture a new kind of block. The old ones were good enough for me, and all the way back to my grandparents' time. On the other hand, the ship did look awesome. It didn't have guns, and I believe it was a Coast Guard cutter, or something similar. Still, the ship and how it was put together amazed me. I was sorely tempted each pay week to buy it, but never did. My money went to more earthly pleasures. I regret not buying it to this day.








 I would watch my children, and then grandchildren, play with their little click together blocks. I would see them build pretty much anything under the sun. You would think that I would feel sorry for them, for they had been cheated of flights of fancy. No, that is not it at all. I feel cheated and can only think of what my imagination could have done with these newfangled blocks.






 Now I am presented with three brand spanking new Cobi kits. The first is a double set with a helicopter and jeep. The second set is of a P-51 mustang, and the third is of a Sherman tank model M4A1. The first thing that went through my mind was these kids are not touching my Cobi block sets. The little urchins have their own; these are mine. Remember, he who has the most toys before he dies wins.



The P-51 pieces at the unveiling



 I started with the Jeep and helicopter set. I figured I would work my way through the kits to work on the Sherman last. Jeeps, helicopters, and mustangs are okay, but hey, this is a tank.


 I tackled the jeep first. The directions were pretty clear cut, and time seemed to fly by as I assembled it. I am a fairly large man, but I really had no problem fitting the blocks together. The only problem I did have was the blocks fit together like they had been built by Incas. If I made a mistake it was a bit of a bear to get some of the blocks back apart. This is not a knock on the blocks. It only means that your finished work will not fall to pieces on the mantel or shelf. It is also not the block's fault that I failed to follow the directions. A small flat jewelers screwdriver helped me immensely with my foibles. The Jeep was together in no time, and it looks excellent. I was wondering how I would feel while essentially playing with a child's toy. To be honest, the sense of accomplishment was pretty much like what I feel when putting a model together. I will add one caveat: I do not paint my models. I love putting them together, but I cannot paint them to save my life. So essentially this was just like building a model, without the glued together fingers. The helicopter was bit more intricate, and if you made a mistake, it was sometimes several pages later that you would realize it. 


The Sherman being built


 Now that these two are together, I feel more confident of my 'blocking' ability. Next up would be the Mustang. I am a 'Thunderbolt' kind of guy, so the 'Stang' has never really impressed me. That being said, I do have one model and two diecast of Mustangs in my collection.The P-51 looks from the box to be the most 'toy' looking, and not going to the realistic end of the bar.  After putting it together though, I was pleasantly surprised. Once completed it looks very good in the flesh. I thought I was saving the best for last with the Sherman, but I could be wrong.


The P-51 in all its glory




 It turns out I was not wrong. The Sherman is definitely the best of the pieces. There is nothing wrong with the others at all, but the heft and look of the Sherman really impresses. 


Heavy Metal


 All in all, I am tremendously impressed; not just with the kits themselves, although they are pretty amazing! I am even more impressed by my sense of accomplishment in building them. The kits are really nice, but so is the actual building. One major plus is that if you happen to have urchins around they can also join in the fun. It is not the easiest thing to try and build a model with small hands helping. Been there, done that.

I would like to say thank you to Cobi for these very affordable and great kits, although my wife may not be holding you in such high regard. I see so many excellent kits in Cobi's World of Tanks lineup. The Maus is listed as coming soon. Take a look at the pictures of it:
http://cobi.pl/en/toys/world-of-tanks/panzer-viii-maus,art,9266.html 



All of the figures are very well done


 The kits have been been given a bad rap at times because they are not sturdy enough for little people to play with. The very nature of any small block building is the same: rough handling will cause the build to start coming undone. It is the nature of the beast. If you are looking for toy tanks and army men to play with outside in the dirt, don't look here. If you are looking for something exciting to build and look at and also to play with more gently inside the house, then these are for you. You can also pass onto your own urchins your love of history and engines of war while you are at it.


Robert

0 comments :

Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles Demo  Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. We have here in our hot little hands the wave...

Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles demo Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles demo

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

February 2017

Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles demo


 Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. We have here in our hot little hands the wave of the future (try not to say it like Howard Hughes, its a bit creepy). Wargame design Studio, with the backing of John Tiller Games, presents their new demo and shows what directions their 'Panzer Battles' games will be heading. Following on the heels of their 'Panzer Battles Normandy', and 'Panzer Battles Kursk the Southern Flank', they plan to branch out and take the game engine world wide. One of the areas of WWII that is highly under-gamed in the computer world is the land war in the Pacific. Specifically, we have a scenario about the American defense of the Tenaru river from the Japanese on Guadalcanal. Rather than rewrite it I will quote from their website:

"The Panzer Battles Demo will be a free product to introduce the game system to players both new and old.

The initial release of the demo will include battles from both the Eastern and Western Front, as well as the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres.

It is hoped that the there will be four to eight unique scenarios with the initial release of the Demo.

We already have additional actions under construction that are planned to be released as Downloadable Content (DLC) when ready.

Our aim is to turn this into a complete, free title with a range of interesting situations. We will be testing new theatres, nations and game systems before considering them for a full release title.

Here is an example of the French from 1940 who will join the Panzer Battles fray for the first time"




 Here are some American and Japanese  troops.





 Along with the Pacific land war, wargamers are always griping about the lack of games about the Med theater. Of course we as a subset of the population are often seen to be griping or grumbling about something, hence our nickname grognards. With the release of the demo and their future plans for it, we will now have two less things to complain about. There are eighteen scenarios in the demo, including two 'getting started' ones.


The Battle of Hannut zoomed all the way out


This one is zoomed in all the way


 Yes, this is a hex wargame with counters, and yes it is 2017. The internal combustion engine was around before Henry Ford, and last I looked it was still in use. Not because it is the only game in town, but because it works. If you put lipstick on a pig, all you have is a very pretty pig (cue the Deliverance music). 'Panzer Battles' has a great pedigree coming from John Tiller's many games. The scale fits snugly between the 'Campaign series', and the many 'Squad Battles' games. Hopefully the wargaming community will back the demo, and we will get flooded with games about the more obscure areas of WWII combat. There are plenty that  I can think of that computer games have not touched, or not in a long time.


Japanese attacking the Americans at another zoom level

 The four battles is the demo are as follows:

 The getting Started Scenario is Prokhorovka in Russia 1943

 Hannut in Belgium 1940

 Mersa El Brega in Libya 1941

 Tenaru on Guadalcanal 1942

 Bogodukov in the Ukraine 1943


 
 Robert

Note from Editor: This looks more like a full game release than a Demo! I'm praying that WDS get their hands on the Squad Battles source code. That series is about two features away from perfection!


5 comments :

In An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson offers a comprehensive telling of the 1942 invasion of North Africa by American and Allied forces.  Th...

Book of the Week: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson Book of the Week: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

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

February 2017

Book of the Week: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson



In An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson offers a comprehensive telling of the 1942 invasion of North Africa by American and Allied forces.  The reader bears witness to every phase of what happened, from the very top decision makers, down through the ranks of officers, and finally to the tip of the spear. Even though you know the end of the story, Atkinson is able to put you in the moment, wondering, alongside the men in command, whether their forces will be able to get the job done.

The book covers a fascinating moment in the history of WW2: The before, during, and after of the first major clash between American and German ground forces. We all know history of what happened later on, the Allies rolled over Europe and into Germany, but what happened before all of that? This book covers a time when the American army was untested and hardly respected. Coming off of years spent with almost no military at all, they were now entering the single most violent and massive conflict in human history. It was little wonder that enemies and allies alike had doubts.

Atkinson has crafted my favorite kind of military history here. We see things from every perspective imaginable in the conflict. The stories of numerous individual soldiers are told in gripping detail, while their officers struggle with the burdens of command, and Eisenhower, overlooking it all, is forced to spend most of his time playing politics. At every level, Atkinson is both informative, and a good story teller.  Although the book mostly focuses on the American army, a decent number of pages are devoted to their allies and enemies, so you get a very complete picture of things. 

This book actually pushed me over the edge into buying the wonderful game Command Ops, as I finished reading it with a strong desire to capture the feeling of commanding a large ground force in battle, giving orders and then watching them filter down the chain of command.

An Army at Dawn is the first in a trilogy which goes on to cover the war in Italy and Western Europe in the same style. While I have not read the other two books yet, they are high on my list. If you are at all interested in the topic, this book will have you turning pages deep into the night.

- Joe Beard




1 comments :

The Seven Years War by Oliver Keppelmueller  Once again we find ourselves trudging through the snowy landscape with ...

Seven Years War by Seven Years War by

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

February 2017

Seven Years War by



by


Oliver Keppelmueller





 Once again we find ourselves trudging through the snowy landscape with Prussian grenadiers. Old Fritz is in front, in his old clothes, with a few days of meals spattered on them.

 This game is absolutely amazing in that is a one man labor of love. The fact that one person coded this whole game is almost unbelievable, and he should be given kudos just for this. The game tries to do one better on a 'Total War' game by being historically accurate. Most games this ambitious have a multitude of programmers working on them, whilst little old Keppelmueller toils on alone. Let us see if the game is a stupendous victory or a stunning defeat.

 Just like the aforementioned series, this is a strategic and a tactical game. I was going to say wargame, but it is much more than that. It has wargame elements for sure, but it also has country building. It is almost as if the 'Europa Universalis' series and a 'Total War' game had an offspring. The games is much more to the simulation side than just a game of the Seven Years war. 

 The game was released in late 2015and has been continually updated since then. There have also been two DLCs released for it: a 'Battle Pack' which we will look at momentarily, and 'The Pomeranian War'. The author had some help and the Pomeranian war was actually done by llja Varha. In reality, the Pomeranian War did not include much actual fighting. It was Sweden's attempt to win back some of its Baltic possessions on the cheap, while Frederick was fighting for Prussia's existence. The PW DLC adds the chance to play the campaign as Sweden and possibly try and win back your Baltic empire. The PW also adds the following:


- new playable nation: Sweden
- 5 new campaign scenarios for Sweden, where you may attempt to lead the nation from 1750 all the way through the war, or go for historical goals in the two major operations of the war. Or maybe even restore the empire of the era of great power, ”stormaktstiden”, lost in the Great Northern War...
- two new national policies: Naval invasion preparations and mercantilism
- new nation specific historic events and march music for Sweden
- revised and expanded roster of Swedish military units
- bonus scenario for the French, with historical strategic goal of invading Britain in 1759


 The following pics are form the start of the battle of Kolin from the Austrian side.


 The battles are in 2 or 3D. You can zoom in and out with the mouse scroll. The troops in 3D do not equal an AAA release, but again this was one man's game. The actual battlefields and especially the topography is very good. The AI in the battles is good as far as going after the victory points. The only failing I have seen is that the AI uses it's troops non-historically. More than a few times the AI has charged uphill with cavalry at my Austrians who are steady in line and fresh. It appears that the AI uses its infantry and cavalry interchangeably. Charging into the fray with whichever is at hand. With the battle pack DLC you also received the ability to create your own battles. This in itself gives a big boost to the game and it's replay ability. Hopefully some modders will use this feature to create more battles and maybe some from different wars. I may still get to play a computer game as DeSaxe. The battle pack gives you these historical battles:



 The victor in battle is not just decided by casualties inflicted or taken, but also relies on victory points on the map. You either have to keep control of or capture them. You can see that North America is not only represented in the choice of battles, but also plays a large part in the campaign games, especially if you are playing England or France.

 Just as in other games like this, I tend to play the historical battles, and they are a game in themselves. I am not really a big fan of sandbox wars or battles, to me it usually leads to too many non-historical things happening. Of course to the sandbox aficionado, this is meat and potatoes. So the game has parts that will suit you, whatever your appetite.

 The full campaign game is more like a thesis for a doctorate in economics. The campaign game is so intricate that the game really does need a tutorial that holds your hand while getting the hang of it. There is documentation, and YouTube has a bunch of videos on it, but the average gamer might be put off trying to learn how to use the different nation building functions. It is a bit of a shame, because Mr. K has put a lot of work into it, and it is well worth the extra time to learn the campaign game's ins and outs. For those of us who are not into nation building we can just hand this off to our AI ministers, and continue with our wars. The campaign games are different for each nation and are as follows:









 In the 1750 campaign you are free to try and use any political or military strategy you can dream up before war breaks out. Prussia's need for Silesia and Austria's burning desire to have it returned will cause war to break out at sometime. Then when you add in the colonial policies of England and France you will see the world sitting on a tinderbox in the 1750s.

 The game as a whole is a diamond in the rough. It is uncanny that it is the work of one man, but it still could use some polish on the UI, for example. Mr. Keppelmuller has been continually working on his opus for a while now. I see no reason not to purchase the game with its DLC and be awed by its continued development. Of course, he is working on a sequel of the War of the Austrian Succession (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).


Robert


Game: Seven Years War
Developer: Oliver Keppelmueller





0 comments :

Just updated the WINGNUTS Sopwith Triplane build by Mike Norris over in the model making section. CLICK TO ARTICLE

Sopwith Triplane build updated! Sopwith Triplane build updated!

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

February 2017

Sopwith Triplane build updated!

Just updated the WINGNUTS Sopwith Triplane build by Mike Norris over in the model making section.

http://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2016/07/sandbaggers-wingnuts-build.html

CLICK TO ARTICLE

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Expeditions Conquistador by Logic Artists  This game is the first in the 'Expeditions' games series by Logic Artists....

Expedition Conquistador Review Expedition Conquistador Review

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

February 2017

Expedition Conquistador Review





 This game is the first in the 'Expeditions' games series by Logic Artists. As I play the game, I can hear Procol Harum in my head. In some ways, I feel like I am with Percy Fawcett and looking for the lost city of 'Z', or with a Pizzarro brother in search of El Dorado. Hopefully I won't go as mad as Aguirre in the jungle.



 You start the game with what appears to be be a choice, between Hispaniola or Mexico. Unfortunately Mexico has to be unlocked. You then choose a random name for your character and whether you will be male or female.



 You are then given eight points to add to your characters points in six different categories.



 You can then choose your followers from the following categories: Doctors, Hunters, Scholars, Scouts, and Soldiers. You have thirty-one, and you pick ten out of them. 

 When you arrive in Hispaniola your goods and followers are confiscated by the governor.





 You have to win his favor and also win a mock battle to win back some of your goods and followers.




 Once you have battled and won his favor, it is off to the jungle to explore.




  The mock battle and your side trips around the first town are made much simpler by a very helpful and inclusive tutorial and tips.



  The real crux of the game is in your companions. You must, like Indiana Jones, 'choose wisely'. Your whole game adventure is pretty much a balancing act. Each of your companions has his class (Soldier, Doctor, etc), but he also has individual traits: Racist, Proud, Aggressive, etc. Your followers will not just follow you blindly as in other RPGs. You must judge every action of your own against how each of your followers will react to it. Do you rashly charge into battle or approach it warily?







  Even setting up camp is an involved process. You once again have to balance the different camp duties against your followers traits.




 When it comes to battle it is on a hex grid, which is good. I am not really a fan of 'Battle boards' setup like a chess board, but I am getting used to them. I started gaming with hexes, and will probably end my gaming days that way. 




 Battles are hard; as a matter of fact, the whole game is. I do want to stress this, and the point is this is not a bad thing, but is very good. This game is not a time waster or a simple rock, paper, scissors game. You need to understand that this game really shines when you put enough into it. Along with this is there is really no correct answers or play in any situation. Most of the time it is similar to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. How do you lose, but not too badly?





 The graphics are well done. They are not ones that will put a super computer to shame, but are perfectly suited to the different game areas. The music is even better than the graphics.

 Sometimes before battles you can set traps. These are especially useful with tougher enemies.




 After this, I have staggered back yet again to replenish my supplies and choose who I will heal and who, well you get the picture.



 As others have mentioned, the game is trying to simulate an incredibly harsh environment.  For every Pizarro or Cortes there were ten failed expeditions that ended in starvation, disease, and the cannibals pot. Expeditions Conquistador manages to simulate the age and environment to a 'T'. It will hopefully be the first in a long line of 'Expeditions' games. The preview of 'Expeditions Vikings' was done a bit ago on the blog, and it is looking to raise the bar from 'Expeditions Conquistador'. 


Robert


Game: Expeditions Conquistador
Developer: Logic Artists 

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THE GREAT WAR published by Hexwar Hopefully you caught Jason's trailer for this computer version of Richard Borg's Comm...

THE GREAT WAR THE GREAT WAR

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

February 2017

THE GREAT WAR

THE GREAT WAR

published by Hexwar



Hopefully you caught Jason's trailer for this computer version of Richard Borg's Command & Colors The Great War, whose original board game I reviewed some months ago.  If you haven't  read that, I'd suggest a quick recap, as today I'm going to focus on how that translates to playing online. 

In the very simplest terms it is a direct translation from physical table top to computer screen.  Everything that you can do in the original you can do here.  When you first call up the game, it loads in seconds and there you are, as you can see above, with the exact same picture as the box art.  Should you not have the board game, the help button will bring up the rules booklet.  

Unfortunately, the print is so microscopic that you'll struggle to read it and, if you can manage to read it, you'll find that it is simply a condensed version of the board game's rule book, but with none of the many large colourful examples of play.   Though the rules are small print, there is a detailed and very clear set of large pictures of all the cards in the game.

What is missing is that there is absolutely nothing about the computer controls for playing the game online.  Admittedly, it is very easy to work out what you have to do, but a good knowledge of the C&C system certainly helps.

Click on Play followed by Start on the very first screen and a pop-up menu of Scenarios appears.  Select your Scenario, read the intro [purely informative], a further click of Play and you're good to go. 




The screen view is very clear and easy to scroll around, though you cannot obtain a complete view of the whole battlefield.  This is something I expect with most hex-based online war games, because their maps are often many hexes wide and deep, but with The Great War the dimensions are very limited.  So, I'd hoped for a more all-embracing view.



Apologies for the blurring, but here is a typical close up of a section of the battlefield.  Notice the appropriately cratered effect after several artillery barrages, the barbed wire and the Front line German trench.  The blue chevrons above the units signify basic infantry, while a clip of three bullets indicates a machine gun unit, as can be seen in the image below.






A neat feature is the orientation of the units.  So, the next picture shows a unit of British infantry that has advanced into the barbed wire, while next to them is a unit that has both taken casualties and just been forced to retreat.  This latter feature is purely cosmetic, as there is no modifier for orientation.  Still nice to see the distinction.






When it is your Turn to play, your hand of cards is displayed.  You can check each one before selecting and also review your Combat  cards as, where appropriate, one may be selected to be played in conjunction with your Command card.   This is one occasion where a brief run through of online instructions for play might have been useful.




Notice the slightly irregular line up, creating the effect of how you might arrange them when playing with the original physical components.   In close up below is one such card, identical in every way to the cards you would play with on the table. 


When you've selected the card you're going to play, the screen lights up those of your units that are valid for potential choice.  All you then have to do is click on each one that you want to activate and the hex that they are in will turn green.  I say "All that you have to do" but that is a little misleading.  It is at this point that the main flaw that I've come across in the game can crop up - selecting the unit.  Sometimes a single click may be enough, but sometimes I've had to click on a unit as many as ten times before the program agrees to select it. 

This doesn't just happen when you are selecting a unit for activation, it can happen for any and all of the occasions when you need to make a selection. Select a unit to move, select a hex for the unit to move to, select a unit to fire, select the hex to fire at - all these can bring up the attendant problem of repeated attempts being needed to be successful.  

I sincerely hope that this is a glitch that at some point a patch may be available to overcome, but it can be very wearing, because you do a vast amount of clicking in the course of a game!  On very rare occasions I have been totally unable to select a unit - when this has occurred, it seems to be a unit that is positioned on the edge of the board.

When a unit  is selected to move you will see all the hexes that it can move to and still fire coloured in white and those it can move to, but not then fire, coloured in green.  When you click on the destination hex, you'll see your little men run to it and, as with the board game, you move all your men first and then cycle through those who can still fire or engage in close combat. 

At this point, the game throws the requisite number of dice which tumble neatly across the board and many's the time you'll watch with trepidation as dice teeter backwards and forwards until settling onto one of their faces.  Will it be the necessary skull, if you are attacking in close combat or a more innocuous result?


When the dice have all come to rest, the results will be flashed on the bottom of your screen and if kills have been achieved a number of soldier figures will disappear from the targeted unit.


The use of Artillery is a particular visual favourite.  First, a very large targeting reticle appears above where the shells are going to fall and then gouts of earth appear and where appropriate the hex turns into that rich muddy brown with shell holes seen on earlier shots and, of course, if you have had a unit there soldiers disappear!

As in the original game, at the end of your turn, a new Command card will be revealed and added to your hand and then the next screen will present you with the choice of either two stars or an unknown Combat card.  For those who know the game, those stars are what fuel your ability to fire artillery and one or two other game functions.  Choose the Combat card and it will be turned from its generic side to reveal what you have drawn.

When the enemy A.I. takes its turn, you will see all the same things happening, except at an even quicker pace than you can manage. As always this is a strength of any computer version of a board game and with The Great War one of the other benefits is not having to set the board up and clear it away at the end of the game.

However, what has shown up for me after many repeated plays which hasn't happened with playing the board game is the similarity of each scenario and the repetitiveness of the experience.  I have no definitive explanation for this, other than that the effect of the simple variety of physical actions, [selecting a card to play, rolling dice, moving your plastic figures across a very attractive real board, holding the artillery template over the board, collecting tokens and, inevitably, the interaction with a ftf real human being] creates an experience greatly superior to doing little more than clicking on cards and clicking on units.

Nor does my preference for the physical board game result from  receiving the end of game screen message:


For me, The Great War fits an easy niche for when I want a swift, simple play of the board game and system that I really like, but have no ftf opponent.  But, if I want a thoroughly engaging computer experience of tactical warfare, then I would turn either to purely computer designs of WWII warfare or some of the excellent translations of WWII board games for the digital world.

However, notice that I've had to switch to WWII. So, it's worth adding that, for the moment, The Great War is the only game I have been able to find to provide a turn based tactical WWI experience of trench warfare online, the limited few other games that I have come across are all first person-shooters.












































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