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THUNDER IN THE EAST from VICTORY POINT GAMES When I reviewed Nemo's War , I didn't think that Victory Point Games could su...

THUNDER IN THE EAST THUNDER IN THE EAST

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

THUNDER IN THE EAST
from
VICTORY POINT GAMES
When I reviewed Nemo's War, I didn't think that Victory Point Games could surpass the level of quality shown in that game.  In some respects I was right. It's hard to imagine that the quality of artwork, the thickness of counters, the superb mounted game board and the glossy rule book could be improved on.  BUT, Thunder in The East [TitE] has certainly moved the goalposts in other areas of VPG's output.  

This may be no surprise, considering that the game's designer is the legendary Frank Chadwick co-founder of GDW [Games Designers Workshop] back in the 70s when my boardwargaming days began.  Famed for an amazing diversity of games, perhaps two stand out: Traveller the iconic role-playing sci-fi and the Europa series covering WWII. 

There can be no doubt that Thunder in The East is a proud descendant of that series.  This first instalment in Frank Chadwick's intended magnum opus series titled European Theater of Operations [ETO] is massive, just as its designer's ambitious intentions are massive.  There have been some quibbles on the various forums over whether it is a "monster" game or merely a "mini-monster" - let's just settle for it's BIG, BIG, BIG!  To be precise 124 cm x 95cm or, as the back of the box surprisingly tells us in these metric days, 49 inches x 41 inches!

This superb map gives room to play out the whole of the WWII on the Russian Front from 1941-1944.  So, perhaps by the standards of 1973 when it took two massive games [Drang Nach Osten and subsequently Unentschieden] made up of 9 maps in total to cover the same geographic area and timescale, TitE is a not as physically daunting, but it still means that my camera couldn't do full justice to the map!

Let me say that I love the assembled maps, for the manageable size [I haven't had to have my arms forcibly extended], clarity of detail, colour blends and perfect alignment. There has been, in my opinion, undue criticism of the fact that the smaller south eastern map's colour match is slightly lighter.  I've found it neither any hindrance to play nor to the overall aesthetics of the game.

Unfortunately some copies have had misaligned counter printing which in our age of immediate reaction tends to produce intemperate online postings.  A simple request to VPG is the solution, not an online outburst.  From a range of companies over the years I've experienced everything from missing counters,maps and a rulebook as well as misaligned counters [in that last case, over 50% of the reverse of all my counters in the original Streets of Stalingrad].  It's rare that a polite request for replacements doesn't do the trick, even back in the days when an airmail had to wing its way to the USA, wait for a similar reply and then await shipping!  

My own copy, as with all the gamers I know who've bought a copy has been perfect and once more they are substantial with pre-rounded edges and great to look at.

Considering the number - 12 full sheets [plus a very small 13th sheet!] and the number that are combat units, I'm very grateful for the simple, large figures and even more so for the decision to have three sizes of counter.  More about those later.

However, it has to be said that this is not a game that can be managed without considerable devotion of space and time to the undertaking.  Even with my special boards covering 64 inches by 42 inches, I can accommodate only the maps, the two Faction Displays and the Air Display.  This leaves three further display sheets to be laid out, never mind the six further Player Aids [3 per player] that don't have to be spread out with markers on them, but contain a serious amount of double-sided information essential to play!


Just one double-sided play aid


Three display mats for markers
So, TitE is for those lucky enough to have a room or "significant" space where the game can be left undisturbed for a period of time or, like myself, willing to wait for the convention weekends or longer when this type of game frequently makes its appearance, often with two players per side.  I should point out that this sort of time scale [from one to several days] is needed just to play one of the six scenarios!  Should you be inclined to attempt the whole war on the Eastern Front, then book your holidays or be prepared and able to leave the game set up permanently to be returned to for weekly sessions. 

Having looked at the WHEN and WHERE of playing this game, we inevitably, we come to HOW.  In other words, the rule book and BOOK is what it is.  I have held and learned longer rulebooks, but rarely one of this quality.  In fact, it reminds me of many of my Osprey military books, except that the page size is much larger!  




It is high gloss with many examples and illustrations.  White space is used to great benefit, but much of the text is in a print size that my optician's form classes as the smallest readable!


Though this may cause some problems for aging eye-sight, a number of factors have been introduced to attempt to make this a workable document.  First is the simple and familiar decision to divide the rules into three sections: Standard [60 pages], Optional 13 pages and Campaign 15 pages.  In addition, a small number of both Optional and Campaign rules, colour-coded with yellow and orange backgrounds, are incorporated in the Standard Rules.  This is a great idea and is carefully explained.  



I just wish that, having established these essential colour codings,  the rules format hadn't then gone on to use a series of other coloured backgrounds purely to highlight features - e.g. overcast weather rules are printed against a grey background and mud rules against a brown background.  Another slight puzzle: why ZOCs and the Sequence of Play get labelled Big Ideas Part I may make some sense, but do Capturing Objectives and Weather Effects deserve to be considered as Big Ideas Part II?

There is a vast amount of information to be absorbed - another reason why playing in teams has its advantages.  Two heads or rather four are definitely better than one when it comes to remembering all the minutiae of detail.  Nevertheless, at the heart of the game, two basic ideas go a long way to grounding the weight of rules in a very manageable starting point.


Just over half the counters in TitE
This is where the concept of having three distinctive sizes of unit counter comes in.  This combines with an excellent stacking rule that allows a maximum of three units in a hex, with one of each type in total or any equivalent combination.  So, your choice is simple from the following:

1 large/1 medium/1 small 
2 medium/1 small 
1 medium/2small 
1 large/2 small 
3 small.

First of all this keeps the board very clean and clear despite a large number of counters.  No tottering stacks here, thank you, and counters are easy to distinguish, organise and physically pick up and move on the map.  The inclusion of large circular markers for HQs looks stunning and is another great help to game play.  Smaller conventional square HQ markers are provided for those who prefer them, but I like the ability to see at glance exactly where my HQs are! 

The second basic idea to help ease play is the limit on how many units can attack through each hex side.  Again ultra-easy - 

one Large + one Small 
or one Medium + one Small 
or two Small

In the past, I've watched players coping [or not coping] with high stacks and sorting through endlessly to find just what they need and consequently have been discouraged from participating in many another monster game.  TitE does not have that effect on me.  

Nevertheless, there are many rules to absorb and I'm not sure that having to declare all Combats first [including placing helpful little odds ratio markers], before executing any of them is one of my favourites.  I was also surprised to find that Air Combat needs seven pages of rules, while Ground Combat takes only four pages!  Certainly happy that the Ground Combat rules are so compact.  So, why make the air rules so lengthy and detailed?  Thankfully, the Naval rules come in the Optional section.


In fact, the rules in total are for me a mixture of pluses and minuses in their scale and scope.  All are well explained and thorough. Movement and Combat, the heart of the game, are succinct and excellent.  If only other areas could have been dealt with in the same way.  More than anything it is the thirteen pages of Logistics that seem disproportionately long.  Covered are such aspects as Supply, Repair & Recovery, Unit Substitution, Purchase with Repair Points, Building and Improving Pieces.  Familiar aspects from many games I've played and each does its job well, but there's a lot to step through.  At times I feel that the trees are slightly obscuring the forest.

However, the Reference Book is an excellent help in keeping me sane, while I negotiate the paths of the rule book.

Many games have an alphabetic glossary, but usually it is at most two or three pages long incorporated into the rule book. TitE's is 12 pages long in its own separate booklet and as wonderfully glossy as all the written material in this game.  Besides, nearly every single term has a small colour picture to illustrate it.  It's a great asset, as is the next item, the Scenario book.

This is a further substantial 40 pages leading through the six scenarios from Operation Barbarossa to Operation Bagration. In turn, each one details scenario length and starting weather, special rules and victory conditions and then starting set-up and is rounded off with additional deployment information for when using Optional rules or playing the Campaign game and finally ends with a detailed picture of the Economic Mat [again only used when playing the campaign game].


To turn to a practical note, over and above the depth of rules, are the dice in the game, ranging from normal D6s, special support dice related to Ground Combat and a set of yellow dice used as a very helpful visual aid on the map that assists in the identifying and executing of Supply.
Normal D6s and Special Combat Support Dice
Special Dice to aid Supply Logistics
The final element in the game play is a substantial deck of Event cards that I like, both for the additional historical details and potential uncertainties they always bring, but even more so for how they are used.  This is no simple sequence of turn a card over and apply its effects.  Both players have a hand of cards which they can use to play in the appropriate Phases of the game.  Just as I welcomed the three sizes of unit counter, I'm equally impressed by the idea of having three sizes of Event: Large, Medium and Small and how to combine them.
 You can imagine how this will be used!

Again great quality, with the bonus that I received the tuck-boxes to store the various cards in -  a very kind extra from VPG who, as always, I have to thank for their providing a review copy.

So, my final thoughts are that Thunder In The East is definitely a manageable monster; the six Scenarios step you through each stage of the Great Patriotic War with map and counters that are just beautiful to look at; excellent core rules for movement and combat and stacking concepts that all make for ease of play, while logistics and the air rules are perhaps over detailed.   

And not to forget that this is just the first step in the ETO series  - next up, though still in its playtesting stage, will be Vol II: The Middle Sea, where those Optional naval rules will become even more significant!



Diesel Brothers: Truck Building Simulator By: Code Horizon & Playway  Diesel Brothers is a hit American series about a group ...

Diesel Brothers: Truck Bulding Simulator Diesel Brothers: Truck Bulding Simulator

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

Diesel Brothers: Truck Building Simulator
By: Code Horizon & Playway 







Diesel Brothers is a hit American series about a group of truckers who fix up vehicles and do stunts. The American series has aired over 5 seasons since premiering in 2016 to audiences. However, today we won't be focusing on the TV show. Diesel Brothers: Truck Building Simulator has recently been released and is a game to show the fans what it's like to fix up trucks or to see what it's like to be a part of the Diesel Brothers crew. This game is essentially the show, as the title says but as a simulator game. Simulator games have become quite popular in the last couple of years. With titles like Goat Simulator, House Flipper, and Farm Simulator still being popular to this day. However, I haven't heard of a TV show doing its own simulator game so that's definitely quite surprising. 



Character Menu
This simulator has a whole range of things you can do. From choosing a rundown truck, changing the tires on it, replacing all of the parts, spraying the truck and so much more. You can also buy and sell your trucks at auction which is how you make a big chunk of your money in this game. It all seems quite tactical, you need to think about what truck will bring you the most profit once you refurbish it, once you've figured out which are the best trucks to buy, the money should just keep coming in.

There are lots of handy video tutorials for everything in the game, whether it's just selecting a character or for the more technical things like changing parts in your truck, they've got you covered if you get confused. Without the tutorials, the game is quite confusing. I found myself watching quite a few of them as I didn't understand how things worked. So that's one thing I'd recommend if you're planning on playing the game, watch the tutorials.

A negative about these tutorials (even though they're useful) is that you have to go back to the computer in your garage to watch them. It would be a lot easier if they were just in the normal menu where you could access them at any point when you needed to.


Repairing The Truck

One of the most satisfying things in this game is when you get to paint your truck.  Each part can be a different colour and it's so much fun spraying each one. It is quite time consuming but completely worth it, to see what your truck turns out like in the end.


Getting Rid Of Rust On The Truck Hood
As I said before, you make money by repairing and upgrading trucks. You can do this through free play mode, which is my personal favourite because there are no rules and you are free to customize in whatever way you'd like to. Or, you can do it through quests. Quests are essentially like missions/commissions and this is how you get more money and fans. The more quests you do, the harder they quests get. They start off very simple, as this is the sort of game you really need to take your time with to understand each little section. They ask you at first, to just spray the trucks, then as you go on they get more complex, with some quests asking you to replace and upgrade basically the entire truck. There's a real sense of fulfillment when you finish a truck. Knowing that you made something that looked old and horrible into something modern and new again, It feels like a great accomplishment, and I love it when games make me feel like that.



Spraying Truck Hood


Completed Truck
Diesel Brothers Truck Building Simulator is a very impressive and well-thought-out game. Putting the player in the shoes of one of the Diesel Brothers. If you're a fan of the show, or just love simulator titles, this is definitely the game for you. 


Here is a quick summary of all the features in the game that I enjoyed:


  • Wide range of trucks to choose from, so gameplay never gets boring.
  • Lots of customization options for trucks. 
  • Many different areas to explore.
  • Realistic sounds when you're spraying a truck or removing one of the bolts. 
  • Feels like you're in a Diesel Brothers episode (Great for fans of the show).
  • You don't have to be a fan of the show to play the game.

Diesel Brothers Truck Simulator is available to buy now on Steam



Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games      This is another game where I am entering uncharted t...

Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games

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

Victory: World War II Second Edition

by

Columbia Games



  




 This is another game where I am entering uncharted territory. I was a dedicated hex and counter gamer for many years. Within the last two years I have been shown the errors of my ways as far as block and area wargames. Now Columbia Games has sent me a huge bundle of the game and add-ons for their game Victory. Victory is not a historical wargame. I know I shuddered too when I realized it. Victory allows you to fight a sandbox World War II, and what a sandbox! Especially with the add on maps, you can create pretty much any type of map configuration you want. I haven't seen anything with this randomness except in computer games. Of course, I have to add that until this game I held my nose up over non-historical wargames. Guess what, once more I have had to adjust my thinking about wargames. Let us see what comes with the base game:

4 Geomorphic Maps
100 Wooden Blocks
Logistic markers
Game Rules
4 Dice

Add-ons I was sent:

Victory Blockset Orange
Victory Blockset WW2 German (Black)
Victory Blockset WW2 USA (Green)
Victory Blockset WW2 Soviet (Red)
Victory Dirty Dozen 12 Map Bundle (3-4, 7-16)

There are too many other add-ons to list that can be purchased to enhance the game. Here is the webpage:





 Like the rest of Columbia Games, it is a deceptively easy game to begin playing. The rules are only nine pages long, and that includes a page of Advanced Rules. Let us look at the sequence of play:


[1] INITIATIVE: Each player rolls 2d6. Highest total becomes Player Turn 1 for this Game Turn. Roll again to break ties for highest roll. 
 [2] MOVE PHASE: All players move, starting with Player-1, then clockwise in sequence.In turn, a player may move any/all unpinned units, but must make Strategic Moves (5.9) first. Hex control changes immediately
 [3] COMBAT PHASE: Each battle where Player-1 is the Attacker is fought to a conclusion in any sequence chosen by Player-1. Then resolve all battles where Player-2 is the Attacker, and so on. Reveal blocks only when a battle is fought. Aircraft involved in a battle, land after their battle ends.
 [4] SUPPLY & VICTORY CHECK: (Simultaneous)Check Supply of your units (See 7.0). Unsupplied Ground/Air Units immediately lose 1 step. Naval units ignore supply.• Determine if the game has been won by any player. Otherwise go to step [5].
[5] PRODUCTION PHASE (Simultaneous)Build with available PPs in supplied cities. 




Add on German, Soviet, and USA Stickers


 The game is one where both sides have exactly the same units and unit values (except for some of the historical units). I haven't played a game like this since Tactics II in the 1960s. I will tell you this, I had completely forgotten how tense and fun Tactics II really was. I always looked back at it as a quaint way to get into real wargaming. How wrong I was. The fact that you do not have a panzer unit with a strength of twenty-four or have to worry about your opponent having one puts an entirely new spin on wargaming. Oh sure, you could try to put all your tanks together, but that leaves the other player the chance to attack at numerous other points and possibly cut off your tanks. It is like a boxing match where both of the boxers have the same punch and strengths. So you are forced to play as well as you possibly can. I have included a link for the games FB page. There you can find user made scenarios, and some of them are historical in nature. As usual with a Columbia Block Game, the blocks have their different strength steps printed out on the block. This way you just turn the piece instead of looking for another counter. You can also handicap each player if needed by starting some of their units at a lower or higher strength.The built in fog of war that block games have is present as usual, although I have had no problem playing any of their games solo so far. 


 These are some of the unit markers used in the Advanced Rules:

Factories
Storms
Destruction Markers for destroyed bridges and canals
Airfields
Mulberries




Logistic markers


 This is the second edition of Victory: World War II. The 'elite' units, which have been tweaked and modified, are now included with the main game. I am a bit confused as to why there are not more reviews of this game, and not much postings or talk about the game either. It doesn't have many votes, but is very highly rated on BGG. As I mentioned, I had forgotten how much fun a sandbox game can actually be. Thank you, Columbia Games, for letting me review Victory, and for reminding me of my wargaming roots.



One of the Add On Maps You Can Buy

 This is a neat idea to take your Victory battles to a lower level:



Have an climatic battle taking place in Victory? Use Combat Infantry, Columbia Games’ tactical World War 2 wargame to play that battle out at squad level!




 
 This is the link for Columbia Games:

http://columbiagames.com/

 This is the link for the game:

http://columbiagames.com/victory/ 

This is a link to the Victory FB page where you can find user created scenarios:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/346333536011986/


 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… the thriving Empire of Lazax dominated the universe from their capital on Mecatol Rex, the ce...

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition Twilight Imperium 4th Edition

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


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… the thriving Empire of Lazax dominated the universe from their capital on Mecatol Rex, the centre of the galaxy. A great number of different races were part of their Empire, where trades and technology developments were flourishing under the peaceful rule of the Lazax.  As time passed, greed and apathy grew in the heart of the people which thrust the entire galaxy into a state of war.  The once mighty Lazax Empire was no more and the Lazax Emperor and his people were wiped out thrusting the entire galaxy into a war of succession, the Dark Years. The conflict raged and caused many civilisations to collapse and dwindle into a shadow of their former selves. Years later, as hope and pride started to return, the surviving races began to again aspire to the throne of Mecatol Rex and impose their rule upon the entire galaxy.

You are the leader of one of these races and you're competing to elevate your power and influence upon the entire galaxy and to occupy Mecatol Rex as Emperor once more.

You can watch my poor attempt at an unboxing video below:


Gameplay

The main objective of the game is to be the first player to 10 victory points.  'Just 10 !', I hear you say...well that paltry amount will still take the best part of 10+ glorious hours. These VPs come by fulfiling a variety of objective cards as the game progresses.  At the beginning of the game, public objectives are randomly selected and just two are revealed for the first round.  Each game will have five Stage I objectives (worth 1 VP) and five Stage II objectives (2 VP each). One more objective is revealed at the end of each round.
Ready to go...this game is a table-hog.
Each round has four phases, the Strategy phase, the Action phase, the Status phase, and in this case, the best has very much been saved till last, the Agenda phase.

There are eight different strategy cards in the game which are available every round to the players.  During the Strategy phase, players choose their strategy card and receive its benefits for the remainder of the round.  Each strategy card has an initiative number, and a unique primary and secondary ability. The initiative number of the card determines the turn order for the round and like many other games cards that weren't chosen has a bonus, in this case, a trade good placed on it for the next round.  I really like this mechanism as at some point those low initiative strategy cards are too tempting to turn down.  Adding a bonus onto unplayed cards also reminds me of one of my favourite gateway games that I introduce new players to 'modern' Euros - Puerto Rico.
All the strategy (cards) ...
There are many different types of objectives in this game and the gameplay between experienced players reflects which objective cards have been revealed.  I did find that during the first few rounds of my first game, I completely ignored the public objectives to my detriment.  When the revealed objectives require technology boosts or aren't combative, then you may wrongly surmise that most players will remain peaceful during the turn and try to improve their tech or other aspects of their civilisation to meet those objectives. However, players are also given one secret objective at the start of the game which score VPs in exactly the same manner as public objectives.  

The two main reasons I no longer play Puerto Rico with experienced players, is first I normally lose, but second, you can largely work out what your opponents will do by the board state, Puerto Rico is too prescriptive. The same definitely cannot be said here, there is no way, for me at least, to work out or even in some instances, understand what my opponents were doing.
The Winnu claim Mecatol Rex
During the Action phase, players take turns to do either a tactical, strategic or component action. A tactical action player activates a system (hex shaped tile) and moves their units into it. If there are enemy forces, a battle will ensue. If the battle is won by the invading force then their ground forces will start a ground battle on the planets which is a particularly bloody affair, ending only when one side is eliminated. 

A space dock in the system will allow you to produce units there.  When a system is activated by a player, they must place their command token on that system.  This prevents you from activating the same system later in the round. This mechanism is also found in Star Wars Rebellion and provide a measure of inter-turn strategy that must be considered when moving your forces around the galaxy. You can generally only move a unit only once in the round. 

Command tokens are used to do pretty much everything in this game and like all FFG games, this one comes with the standard plethora of tokens, only much more so!   However, these are a limited supply and you'll soon be crying out for more command tokens - using the secondary ability on other players strategy cards, that will be one command token please; want to increase the fleet size in a system, one command token.  You get the idea, give me more command tokens!
Space Lions player board.
During the Strategic action, the player plays their strategy card and uses its primary ability. Alongside the initiative numbers, the main purpose of choosing a particular strategy card is to get its primary ability.  For example, Strategy Card 2 (Diplomacy) prevents other players from attacking one of your systems and lets you re-use those planet’s resources again in the same round. After you’ve used the primary ability of your strategy card then all other players are given a choice if they want to use its secondary ability.  They must spend one command token and can revive two planes which they have previously spent on its resources. 

The Learn-to-Play book has a very handy chart in the back for new players to match up the best strategy card with their immediate tactics. Want to research more technology? choose Card 7.  Do you occupy Mecatol Rex? Card 8 should definitely be your choice. Every time I picked a strategy card my mind was doing gymnastics trying to work out the convoluted permutations of the secondary abilities for each other player. i.e. trying to minimise their bonuses effect to my empire.  I love the hard decision space this game gives you which is quite unlike any other I have tried.  Although I wouldn't recommend playing this with AP-prone players, for obvious reasons.
Rules, Learn to Play and the Lore Compendium. 
A Component Action is an action in which you can play an action permitted by the components (cards) in front of you. This may also be a race-specific ability.  This is a kind of an optional action and can be used to (smash your opponents) delay using your pass (ending your entire round) manipulating the player order and having the advantage of moving last in the round.  I really like games that allow you to manipulate the turn order to either move early and strike first, or react to your opponents moves. Whenever I manage to pull off such a move in any game; TI4, Empire of the Sun or any of the COIN games spring to mind, I get a huge sense of accomplishment. Although it is usually shortlived because I forgot to anticipate my opponents' next move.

After all players have passed in the Action Phase, players score up to one public and one secret objective, if possible in the Status phase.  One public objective is newly revealed, and players draw some action cards, collect and redistribute their command tokens on the command sheet etc. etc. Basically, you're getting the game board in a fit state for the next round. However, if someone occupies Mecatol Rec, then the Agenda Phase follows.
The battle for Mecatol Rex rages on.
If you've played Diplomacy you'll almost know what to expect in the Agenda Phase, blackmailing,  bribing, lying just like politics today...  The Galactic Council sits in session, chaired by the current speaker and each race is represented to discuss important issues in the galaxy. If you've seen Star Wars I, it's that, but much more interesting... An Agenda Card is drawn, and players vote Yay or Nay using their influences generated by their planets. There are many different agendas in the game, some seemingly irrelevant and some utterly devastating, easily changing the game.  Which is why the debate over and around the table can get so animated, especially when one player is struggling to get their 10th VP. The Ministry of Peace agenda, for example, allows a player to cancel their opponent’s aggression in their system one time.   Even if you are playing a weak race (not all races are created equal), or your planets are not very rich, you could still win the game by manipulating the vote in the Agenda phase. 

Combat is a surprisingly simple affair, you roll one 10-sided die for each ship in the space combat and if you roll greater than the ships combat value (shown on the faction sheet) it's a hit. Each hit kills an enemy ship which is chosen by the other player.  The big ships, dreadnoughts, flagships, and war-suns have the ability to sustain damage meaning they'll take two hits. However, you've got to destroy all of the fighters and frigates defending them before you get a chance to actually hit/destroy the big ships. It is very important to have many cheap fighters as fodder to protect big ships - again, this was not appreciated by yours truly in the first few rounds of the first game.  There are some nuances to this combat, for example, if the enemy has a lot of destroyers, your fighters may be wiped out in an anti-fighter barrage before the combat round begins, leaving your dreadnaught defenceless and an easy target. 
Everybody wants some.
In order to occupy planets, you'll need to bring ground forces with your vulnerable carriers. They are not powerful units (combat value: 9) but can be the most important in your fleet. If you win the space combat, you can land ground forces on the planet.  If the enemy has a planetary defence system (PDS) then they get shoot your troops before they land.  However, if you're Dreadnaught or War Sun have survived the space combat they can bombard the enemies ground troops beforehand.  These variable abilities require you to strategise over every move/destroyed unit and it provides a lot of fun, and also added intrigue in the Agenda Phase.  'You want to deal and you attacked me last turn! That's going to cost you, buddy!'.  Great fun.


Components

This game is a monster. Its box is rather bulky and contains tons of miniatures, cards, system tiles, various tokens and so on but the box is well designed and deserves the space it takes up.  The organiser is well thought out and functional, which is rarely a thing I say about FFG games. However, I really feel that this game is a beloved property of  Christian Petersen (FFG CEO) and it really shows in the fourth edition. A lot of care and attention has been paid to every single component. If you want to see an excellent making-of documentary check out Shut Up and Sit Down's Space Lions documentary.  If each player knows what they're doing setup can be completed inside 20 minutes, although you could argue that building the galaxy is an integral part of the game and not really setup.
It is done...
Each race has a Faction Sheet showing each unit’s parameters, race-specific abilities, and history of the race on the back. In the box, there is a lore guide which can be treated as a piece of Science Fiction in its own right.  This history was very well written and I enjoyed reading through it all.  The detail that has gone into the history shows the amazingly high level of production in this game. FFG normally have stellar production values and they've even surpassed those in this game.

You can (or you should) role-play during the game after reading the history and unique capacities of your chosen race. The seventeen races in the game are all unique and have strength and weaknesses.  For example, the space fish...are physically weak but very intellectual. They suffer -1 drm in combat, but develop technologies rapidly. Then there are the Hacan (space lions) who are purely motivated by trade. and gain trade goods (which is a kind of currency) easily, giving them the ability to build large fleets from the early stage of the game.  Trade goods are power.
The big box is full.
Each kind of shop has a distinctive miniature and the sculpts are excellent. There are fighters, destroyers, cruisers, carriers, dreadnoughts, a flagship, and war-suns. Their combat abilities are all listed on your Faction Sheet. Researching technology can improve units which permits you to place a tech card onto your faction sheet. This is a really effective way to see at-a-glance how powerful (or not) your fleet is.

Apart from unit upgrades, there are 4 categories of technology in the game, Biotic, Warfare, Propulsion, and Cybernetic. There are 4 levels of technology in each and you must research them in order.  One game takes on average 6 to 7 rounds and you will not be able to fully explore the tech tree in one game.  Planning my upgrades and deploying my fleets according is a great game which I enjoyed immensely, but so often ruined by my opponents. Developing Propulsion first and then upgrading your carrier so that it can move 2 hexes is a nice ability to move your troops out into the galaxy, or you may want to concentrate on Warfare techs and try to build a War-Sun early in the game with the ability to literally annihilate an opposing fleet.



Criticisms

The only criticism I can think of this game is that it takes a very long time to play.  It is difficult to find 3 or more opponents who don’t mind committing 6 or 7 hours in one go, but this game has such a reputation in the hobby that almost all gamers want to try it, at least once. But let me reassure you that those hours pass very quickly it is so much fun to play this game.  Afterwards, you will be exhausted but you will have created an amazing experience with your friends I guarantee will have built a stronger bond for sharing this experience.  Look for opponents, and go for it!


Conclusion

If I had to describe this game, I would say that it is seductive yet elusive. I want to play it more, I love the game, I want to try every single race, and experiment with every technology, but it's very difficult for me to get it to the table. I have a young family and losing 10 hours on a weekend so that I can move plastic and carboard counters across my kitchen table is not a position I can defend often. However, given the opportunity, the time and the right opponents, this game is always welcome at my table.  It tells a grand, epic story of battling races and powerful armies clashing across the stars. The mechanics are simple enough to grasp relatively quickly but the layers of strategy are very difficult to master. After 2.5 games (which represents over 24 hours of play time...) I feel that I understand the game well enough to be able to strategise but not effectively. There are so many racial combinations and variances from game to game that I'm relegated to a reactionary play style. 

This game won't be for everyone, but if you like wargames of any kind (if you're reading this blog then I can surmise you do) then you owe it to yourself to play one of the very few seminal games in this hobby. Track down a friend who owns it or plan a game at a convention, weekend gaming retreat (we all do that right?) You won't be disappointed.

Many game-stores will have a copy of this game in and you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person.

I'd like to thank Asmodee for sending this game and permitting me to review it; if only I could play it some more.  I would also like to thank my war-gaming partner of many years for helping me write this review.

Publisher: FFG
Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/twilight-imperium-4th-ed
Players: 3 - 6
Designers: Dane Beltrami, Corey Konieczka & Christian T. Petersen
Playing time:  Ha ha ha

INVASIONS: volume I I was delighted to learn of this new board game in the offing.  I was even more amazed and delighted when I disco...

INVASIONS: volume I INVASIONS: volume I

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

INVASIONS: volume I

I was delighted to learn of this new board game in the offing.  I was even more amazed and delighted when I discovered that its designer was no less a figure than Philippe Thibaut, renowned for Europa Universalis.

This awesome game first so light as a board game produced by Azure Wish and then in a computer adaptation that has now reached its IV incarnation.

Invasions: Volume I should prove to be an equally engrossing design and one that promises more to come.
To learn more about the game connect to the kick starter link here and to learn about AvalonDigital the company behind the game click here.

AUSTERLITZ 1805 from Trafalgar Editions Just a brief word Having seen the quality of Waterloo, great news is that Austerlitz is...

AUSTERLITZ 1805 in the pipeline AUSTERLITZ 1805 in the pipeline

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

AUSTERLITZ 1805
from Trafalgar Editions


Just a brief word

Having seen the quality of Waterloo, great news is that Austerlitz is next on the list for this game's system.  With the scope for wider-ranging  movement and hidden units, this is the perfect choice.

As a taste of what's come look no further than their Kickstarter video: Austerlitz 1805


WARFIGHTER PACIFIC from DVG It began with modern conflicts against drug cartels and insurgents across the globe and then moved...

WARFIGHTER PACIFIC WARFIGHTER PACIFIC

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

WARFIGHTER PACIFIC
from DVG


It began with modern conflicts against drug cartels and insurgents across the globe and then moved back to WWII, initially with the Americans coming up against the Germans.  Soon, single deck expansions reversed the roles allowing the player/s to field German units against the A.I. of American Hostiles.  In came Britain, Russia and Poland with different add-ons giving us more and morevaried equipment, units, actions events etc.

Still, the rules and principles of play remained very similar.  Then, there was talk of Warfighter taking to the future with a sci-fi variant, but for my part I'm glad to say that the latest incarnation has filled the glaring WWII gap and has given us Warfighter Pacific.

Inevitably, the rule book for the most part presents very little that we haven't seen before.  In fact the first 38 pages are well nigh identical, though I was very pleased to see that great care had been taken to consistently substitute different cards and examples in keeping with the Pacific theatre once again to copiously illustrate the rules.


Attention to details like that are what make DVG's products so appealing, as is the quality of all the components.  First class counters - five sheets worth - with rounded corners that press out with ease, combine with the series of decks of cards that both provide the combatants and drive the game functions so smoothly and finally there's the mounted playing board.



This latest one represents for me the best in the series.  Admittedly, still very similar to its predecessors, but once again the various card locations have been given a new set of images, just as the illustrations had been renewed in the rule book.  But best of all is the background scene.


The detail above on the right hand side of the board is very atmospheric, as can be seen in this closer view.



The few charts and deck locations have been streamlined to maximise the crucial space for where the terrain cards and hostiles will be placed, giving a very clean appearance to the whole. Yet again, an ensemble presentation.

For those unfamiliar with the system, I suggest a look at the link here to my original exploration of its processes, before returning to consider some of the specific points in the current Pacific theatre.



As always shed loads of lovely thick counters

As mentioned the bulk of the rule book covers the unchanged base rules; what I didn't expect would be the omission of the excellent final section which provided a play through of a complete 5 turn Mission.  For those new to the system I'm sorry that has not been included.  However, the main reason for that is a new section that covers the very different handling of Campaigns.

Up to now you, the player, have created your own Campaigns by choosing a selection of Mission cards and Objective cards to play out in sequence.  Now Warfighter: Pacific gives you a series of historical Campaigns, covering Wake Island, Makin Island, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Buna Station and Iwo Jima and two that take us back to the European Theatre, namely: Dunkirk and Market-Garden.

It also introduces the concept of Offensive and Defensive campaigns. Only one of the Pacific Campaigns is "Defensive" and only one Campaign features the Japanese as the Soldier Player.  Both of the European Theatre Campaigns, however, are Defensive.  Especially, with my personal interest- I've recently read Antony Beevor's "Arnhem" - Market-Garden is likely to be an early experience.

The following are the major new elements.  Each Campaign Display sheet has a map with Start Points indicated.  Offensive Campaigns list a series of Starting Location and Objective Cards to be used, while Defensive Campaigns list Starting Location and Mission Cards.    With Offensive Campaigns, a random Location card is drawn which is placed on the main game board in the first spot where a Mission card would normally have been placed and then a D10 roll on a chart gives you both the number of turns and the Location spot where you place the Objective card.

Defensive Campaigns work almost in reverse to the normal expectations.  A random Mission card is drawn and placed in its normal first spot on the game board, but the Starting Location card is placed where the Objective card used to be placed.  Your units are then placed on the Starting Location card and the objective is always to fight your way back to the Mission card! 

As with the first Warfighter WWII game, where you could play only as the American Soldiers versus German Hostiles, in Warfighter Pacific, you can only play as the American Soldiers versus Japanese Hostiles.  These Americans destined for the Pacific theatre of operations differ very little from their European comrades, except that many have the Hardy Hot ability.  For those of you unfamiliar with the overall games, this was a feature introduced through cards in some of the earlier expansion packs - except that then the ability was Hardy Cold to suit Campaigns fought on the Eastern Front.

As before, not all your soldiers will have this ability and so will struggle even more than their fellows to cope.  Incorporating fewer soldiers with the Hardy Hot ability is one way of making your game a tougher prospect!!  To match this many of the new Location cards feature … what else, but JUNGLE.  In fact, Hot/Moist/Light/ Heavy and Warm Jungle - oh and just Jungle too.

Lovely jubbly JUNGLE
Pitted against them are decks of Elite and Frontline Hostiles - for the toughest experience just use the Elite deck, for a moderately tough experience combine the decks.  Personally, I find Frontline units quite tough enough!  Once again as the initial Warfighter WWII did, even the single Campaign where you can play as the Japanese soldiers will only be possible by buying Expansion Deck 15 which contains the necessary cards for playing as the Japanese.

Fortunately with my review copy of the core game came a stack of many more expansions and so, if nothing else, I would recommend adding at the very least Expansion 15 to your collection, the contents of which can be seen below.  
However, among the other Expansions there are some that I feel I cannot conclude without a mention.  They are my personal favourites, plus ONE that isn't -  but which I suspect will be a favourite for many!!

For me Expansion #24 US Airborne, Expansion #36 Vehicle Pack and Expansion #43 Shore Invasions are a must have, especially the latter with cards appropriate both to the European and Pacific theatre of operations.  So, what's the one I really can live without, but many of you will immediately want?  Any guesses?

Expansion #42 UNDEAD

As they say "chacun a son gout" and I'm dead [sorry!] sure that it will definitely be to the taste of the majority.  So, kit yourself up and set off on your mission to take on even worse foes.

As always many, many thanks to DVG for supplying the review copies