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 Mark H. Walker's '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires by Flying Pig Games  We are going to do things a little differently this tim...

Mark H. Walker's '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires by Flying Pig Games Mark H. Walker's '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires by Flying Pig Games

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

 Mark H. Walker's '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires


Flying Pig Games

 We are going to do things a little differently this time around. I am going to make this a three part look at this game. I am also going to start off with something that I have never done, which is an unboxing for the first part. The second part will be a look at the actual game play and the third will be a look at Alone in the Mountains: '85 Solitaire Expansion.

 The year is 1979 and the Cold War is in full swing. Some people in the Kremlin decided that it was a good idea to invade Afghanistan and put their own puppet government in place. Afghanistan had been a country that had been a tough nut to crack for many armies and governments for thousands of years. It was the map board used in the 'Great Game' by Russia and England in their attempt to conquer more of Asia in the 19th century. Afghans have a well-deserved reputation for being hard fighters and implacable foes. They also invented Polo and enjoyed using the heads of their enemies as the ball. This should clearly clue you in as to the mettle of the Afghans. 

 The back of the box says:

"'85: Graveyard of Empires is the second game in the Squad Battles series. Building on the mechanics introduced in '65 Squad Battles in the Jungles of Vietnam, Graveyard of Empires features tense squad-level battles between the Afghan Mujahideen and the Soviet Red Army in an exciting card-driven, hex-and-counter game."

 As an aside, if you haven't heard of or played '65 Squad Battles in the Jungles of Vietnam, do yourself a favor and look into that excellent game.

This shows some of the counters and a piece of a map from the game

  This is what comes with the game:

5 richly illustrated, 11” x 17” geomorphic game boards. 

4 lavish sheets of thick 1” and 1.375” counters. 

1 deck of 54 action cards, 4 Event Cards, 5 Bonus Victory Condition Cards. 

Full color rules and scenario booklet.

Player Aid Cards, 

Terrain Effect Charts.

A die.

A box to keep it safe and warm.

 I thought one-inch counters were big. These 1.375" ones, for aircraft, tanks, and other vehicles are massive. Yes, the hexes are quite large enough to not be dwarfed by those counters.

 Because of the size of the counters, there are only so many counters that come with the game. However, just like its older brother '65, this game is about Squad Battles and not large military actions. So, you have more than enough counters, and a good variety of them, to keep you playing for a good long time. 

 The game boards all fold out to give you their 11" x 17" full size. The landscape that the game represents is seen in in wonderful detail, if a little muted in color. They represent the different battlefields extremely well. 

 The Player Aids are 8.5" x 11" in size, and they are made of card stock. One gives you the Sequence of Play and a turn record track. The other is two-sided and has the Terrain Effects Chart on one side and the Range Modifiers etc. on the other.

 The Rule Book is 35 pages in length. It is in full color and is in nice, large, type for us aging grognards. It comes with plenty of example of the rules. The Rule Book also has all nine of the game's scenarios included in it; the ninth scenario was a Kickstarter exclusive. This does not seem like many. However, the game is card-driven so you have endless possibilities for a hand of different cards each time you play a scenario. Because of their small size, it does not look like it would be any trouble to make your own scenarios to add to the mix.

 The deck has 54 Action Cards in it. These have actions for both sides in the game on them. The cards are also used to determine hits on vehicles. There are also four event cards. The above says it comes with five Bonus Victory Condition Cards, although my game came with 11.

Action Card

 If you have bought or played any of the different games from Flying Pig Games, you will be excited about the care and attention that is given to the manufacturing of them. If for nothing else, you should look at the Flying Ham Steaks rendition of Hermann Luttman's 'A Most Fearful Sacrifice'. Yes, once again it is out of stock. I do believe that it will be reissued again and again as that magnum opus deserves. I had the pleasant experience of playing '65 more than a few times and by looking at '85's rules it looks like playing this game will be just as enjoyable. 

 Thank you, Flying Pig Games, for letting me take a look at and review '85 Graveyard of Empires. Stayed tuned on this same bat channel for the other two perusals of the game.


Mark H. Walker's '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires:

Flying Pig Games

  LIMITS OF GLORY: MAIDA 1806 FROM FORM SQUARE GAMES Just about a year ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to review a prototype of the f...


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




Just about a year ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to review a prototype of the first game in a new series by a new independent UK company, Form Square Games.  Recently I was able to update you on the final published edition of that game, Limits of Glory: Napoleon's Eastern Campaign. Now thanks again to Andy Rourke, the designer and founder of Form Square Games, I can explore the prototype of the second game in the series.  Like its predecessor, virtually all the components, bar the rulebook, are virtually identical in their excellent quality to what you will find in the final published game.

The system, as is to be expected for a series game, is identical in all its primary elements.  However, the historical campaign furnishes a situation that creates a whole different dynamic with some additional units that add a new level of interest and involvement in the naval side of the game.  In relation to the historical events, the key point to note is that this is not a game on the individual battle of Maida, but on the developing situation in Italy and Sicily.  

Map & Unit Displays, Combat Chart and Event Chart
In particular, British focus was on preventing the French from invading Sicily.  From the set-up instructions and opening Invasion Phase, this seems to be the game's intent as well.   The initial French forces are positioned on the north edge of the map, while various British, Russian, Neapolitan troops are scattered down the map.  The fact that the French cannot be activated until a roll on the Event table allows them to potentially invade Sicily reinforces the immediate impression that Sicily will be the crucial goal.  It therefore comes as a major surprise that the French total victory conditions are [1]to have more VPs than the Allied forces and  [2] to capture and control Gaeta, the very next area to where they initially set up! The rationale behind this will be discussed later.
First of all I want to separate out and discuss the various components that I have compressed into the single photo presented above, starting with the map.
At the top of the map is the Glory Track, where each Leader's marker is placed to record their Glory points.  As with the first game in this series, the map [and rule book] are handsomely illustrated with the political cartoons of Gillray and Cruikshank that are contemporaneous with the Napoleonic period. 

                               The Glory Track in detail
Each player has their own Command Chart that contains each Leader's two markers, until one is placed on the map and the other is placed on the Glory Track.  Below you can see the Command Chart for the French player.
The other two key Displays are the Combat Chart and the Event Chart.  Traditional concepts in most board war games, but given a wholly original and, as far as I'm aware, unique format.

For the moment I want to reiterate the main dynamics of the rules.  At its core, the simple foundational device is that everything is governed by seeking to roll either 5 or 6 on a D6 and Leaders' Glory points are spent to reroll dice.  The only Phase that departs from this principle is the Event Phase that begins each turn.
As in the first game in the series, it's handled by a Display board with events printed on.  Initially you roll a single die and ultimately will be rolling four dice and totalling their scores to find which Event has happened.  Some Events [marked with an R] may happen more than once, while others happen once only and then are covered by a new Event marker.  One of these announces the end of the game!  So much originality achieved with so little physical effort - the first of several concepts that have made this whole design and its designer, Andy Rourke, stand out for me.


Events Chart with the many future replacement events stacked at the top of each column that they will be moved onto

Following this comes Momentum, where each player rolls 4 dice and any dice rolls that do not achieve a 5 or 6 may be rerolled once by spending a Glory point from the Senior Leader's current total.  Each 5 or 6 provides a player with a Momentum marker which can be used to attempt to activate one area.  At best therefore, each player will get a maximum of 4 activations per turn - a factor that makes the game both swift playing and very interactive.
For Movement, an area is chosen to be activated. Each area contains a single number which tells you how many dice you roll to attempt to move units located there into an adjacent area.  A single roll of a 5 or 6 on any of those dice is a successful activation.  Should you roll no 5s or 6s, if you have a Leader in the area, you can choose to spend one of his Glory points for each die you want to re-roll.  For those areas where you can roll only one die failure is only too easy and you have to place one of your precious Momentum markers and the turn switches to your opponent!  Momentum markers are also placed, if you are the active player, when you lose a combat.  Movement is very simple and swift to carry out and is interrupted for Combat the moment you enter an enemy occupied area.  If the victor, you may continue to attempt to move on.
Combat, on the other hand, is by far the most detailed [though that is relative as it remains easier than in many other games] and highly original feature in the game, as the following example will show.   A French force with a Leader and 10 infantry units and 2 cavalry are attacking a British force with a Leader with only 4 infantry units and 1 cavalry unit  The first step is to total the combat values of your units, using the simple table below.  

As you can see the French have a strength of 14 pts and the British only 6 pts.  Both players start by placing their marker pawns on the appropriate column of the Combat Chart.

Now both players roll four dice and each player can use the Glory points of the most senior Leader in the area [or the Glory points of subordinate junior Leader at the player's choice] to reroll any dice that have not scored a 5 or a 6.  If you do choose to use a subordinate junior Leader, beware.  He has to roll for survival after the battle!
For the example, note very carefully that in the French Commander's box is the number 12 and in the British Commander's box the number 8.  This is crucial because if the French player's four dice do not eventually add up to 12, they can count none of their 6s and 5s as successes, whereas the British player's four dice only have to add up to 8 for any 5s or 6s to score.
Continuing our example, the French rolls 6,4,3,1 and the British player rolls 6,5,1,1.  The French player decides to spend three Glory pts to reroll the 4,3,1 and rolls 5,1,1.  The British player spends two Glory pts to reroll the 3 and 1 dice and this time rolls 5 and 3. So now the French dice are 6,5,1,1 and the British are 6,5,5,3.
Finally each player can spend Glory pts to make their opponent reroll successes.  The French player's Leader is getting low on Glory points and decides to spend only two Glory points to make the British player re-roll a 6 and a 5.  The British player also spends two Glory points to make the French player roll their 6 and 5.  The new rolls are 6 and 3 for the French player and for the British player 5 and 5.
So, the final results are French dice 6,3,1,1 and the British dice are 5,5,5,3.  Looking back to the Combat Chart, the French player's 4 dice total is only 11 and so not having achieved 12, the French player's single 6 is not counted as a success.  Whereas the Allied player's dice add up to 18, far more than the necessary 8 and so all three of his dice that rolled a five are successes and a final check on the Combat table shows that for each 5 rolled he inflicts 2 hits.  Consequently, the British inflict 6 hits and the French none at all. 
Please note that reading my example takes at least three times as long as actually rolling the dice and resolving the battle!!  The loser retreats and, in the example I’ve used, as the loser was the active French player, they would have to place a Momentum marker and the Allied player becomes active.
The construction of the Combat table is an ingenious way of factoring in differences between nations and the quality of their troops.  In this game, the British have by far and away the best units, far superior to their Russian and Neapolitan allies and the Calabrian guerrillas, but there are only a maximum of 14 British units, whereas the French who are the best in quality after the British possess the potential to have 45 units in the campaign!  
For me, these concepts are the crowning success of the game system's combat and the designer, Andy Rourke’s signature most original idea.  With any conventional combat system or CRT that I know the only way to achieve this is by boosting the British combat factors to ridiculously high levels or incorporating a mass of chrome rules. These considerations are highly important for the game’s success both as a game and in having the ability to simulate widely varying types of campaign, while retaining ease and speed of play.
As with the first game, sieges and uprisings play their appropriate part too and are handled largely in a similar manner, but with one or two neat little tweaks to reflect this specific conflict.  So too is there a naval aspect, but whereas in Limits of Glory: Napoleon’s Eastern Campaign this was highly abstracted and played a very brief role, in Maida 1806 it has been given a significant boost.  In come counters for gunboats, barges, frigates and 3rd rates and some glorious crew counters, but all with the addition of a surprisingly low number of easy rules.  I’ve greatly enjoyed their inclusion and the individuality they bring to the situation.   If, as the French, you're going to invade Sicily or, as the Allies, try to stop them, you're really going to need and make good use of these units.  A final touch that I like is that there are just about enough VPs on the mainland of Italy so you can just about win the game as the French without getting your boots wet, but you'll have the finest of margins for error.  So, you are pushed in a historical direction just as the French were, but you're not hog-tied to that path.  Just one more element in a game that I relish.

The nautical angle - a particular favourite

The attention to detail is magnificent!

The final component is the rule book which, as with its predecessor's proto-type, is a stark stapled black and white product which gives the bare bones of the rules with no examples or illustrations.  At the moment it allows you to play the game.  In its final production, I can say, with utter confidence, the quality will be outstanding and is the perfect complement to a product at the top of its game...and here's the rulebook cover for the first game in the series.  If you want to see inside and see more of the physical quality have a look back at my reprise via this LINK

For me Maida 1806 is even more of a cracker than the first in the series.  Look out for its launch on Gamefound at the end of July and running through August; I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Meanwhile if you didn't pledge for the first game, I believe you might still be able to find a copy in the UK from Second Chance Games. 

  Big Red One at Bloody Omaha – 2 books, 2 posters & solo / 2-player game by Lombardy Studios  This is a sneak peek at a new game and tw...

Big Red One at Bloody Omaha – 2 books, 2 posters & solo / 2-player game by Lombardy Studios Big Red One at Bloody Omaha – 2 books, 2 posters & solo / 2-player game by Lombardy Studios

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


Big Red One at Bloody Omaha – 2 books, 2 posters & solo / 2-player game


Lombardy Studios

 This is a sneak peek at a new game and two books/posters being released from Lombardy Studios. Next up is a small bio of the man himself, Dana Lombardy:

"In 1972 while still in college, I started my first game and book publishing company, Simulations Design Corporation. In 1979 I published my award-winning monster game design Streets of Stalingrad which has seen three editions up through 2002.

Since 2015 my new publishing company has specialized in military history games, books, and magazines.

I was inducted into the Charles S. Roberts wargaming Hall of Fame in 2022.

I currently have this crowdfund project – my sixth successful crowdfund campaign – running on BackerKit:

It funded in less than 4 hours.

As part of this project, there is a free downloadable print-n-play version of Bloody Omaha: D-Day Amphibious Assault™️ – a solitaire and 2-player board game:

It is not necessary to back or pledge to the crowdfunding campaign in order to download the game.

A limited number of ready-to-play copies of the printed playtest game are available here:

I am available for interviews and enjoy sharing my 50+ years’ of experiences in wargaming and military history.

You can view some of my seminars and talks on my YouTube channel:

My most recent interview was a tribute to my colleague and friend John Hill (designer of Squad Leader, Tank Leader, Johnny Reb, etc.):"

 The following is a number of pictures showing the different parts of the game:

 This is a picture of the award-winning artist Keith Rocco:

 This is a link to the items of Backerkit. It also has a video to watch about everything:

 I have been told that a preview copy of the game his heading my way for perusal. 


Thirty Years War by Wargame Design Studio   The start of the Thirty Years War is normally taken to be the Third Defenestration of Prague in ...

Thirty Years War by Wargame Design Studio Thirty Years War by Wargame Design Studio

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

Thirty Years War


Wargame Design Studio

 The start of the Thirty Years War is normally taken to be the Third Defenestration of Prague in 1618. I had not known about the other two defenestrations until quite recently. The first was in 1419 during the Hussite War and the second took place in 1483. Technically, defenestration means to literally throw out the window. It now also means to throw out of power abruptly. The 1618 occurrence was when the two Imperial Regents and their secretary were tossed out the window of Hradcany Castle in Prague. Although they fell from a great height, their landing in a pile of offal meant they escaped with no real harm. So, if you are visiting Bohemia my suggestion is to take a room on the first floor in case you upset the populace.

 The throne of Bohemia was then offered to Frederick V Elector Palatine (one of the electors of the emperor in the Holy Roman Empire). Because of the shortness of his reign, he was called 'The Winter King'. This, in turn, started the Thirty Years War, one of the first wars that involved most of the countries of Europe. While ostensibly a war of religion, it sometimes had Catholics fighting Catholics and Protestants against other Protestants.  

 The warfare that took place at the time is usually written as the dividing line between older forms, (not much changed from ancient times) and the newer gunpowder age. The push of the pike gradually faded under the weight of a matchlock's ball. Some of Europe's greatest generals fought during the thirty years span. These included Turenne, The Great Conde, Gustavus Adolphus, and Wallenstein, among others.

Some Campaign Screens

 So, let us see what Wargame Design Studio has to say about their game:

"At the start of the 17th Century, Europe was in turmoil. Although largely centered on Germany and, at least initially, considered by many contemporaries to be a religious rather than political conflict, the Thirty Years War was in fact part of a complex series of interlinked conflicts. Some of which, such as the Dutch revolt from Spanish rule and the lengthy military rivalry between France and Spain, had their origins in the previous century. This title will weave in and out of these various conflicts with a focus on the larger battles and more predominant characters such as Tilly, Mansfeld, Gustavus Adolphus and Wallenstein.

The Bohemian Revolt of 1618 leads the way with initial battles between the Catholic (Imperialist) forces and the mercenary led Protestant (Anti-Imperialist) forces at Sablat and White Mountain. With the failure of the Catholics to completely crush and demoralize the resistance, the Palatinate phase began which would lead to larger battles and stretch through 1623.

1625-6 would bring in a new phase with the entry of the Danish king Christian IV of Denmark aligning with other Protestant forces to challenge the Hapsburg Empire. Poor performance on the battlefield and loss of major leaders such as Christian of Brunswick emboldened the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand II to try and clamp down on the situation in 1629. This would spur the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, to enter the fray on behalf of the Protestant cause. This change would lead to the first defeat of Catholic forces under Tilly in more than a decade, at Breitenfeld in 1631. This would also see much larger actions taking place over the subsequent four years.

This ebb and flow would continue across the continent with new armies being raised and battles being fought in many areas of the continent. Civilian populations, commerce, and civilization itself would be shaken to the core for most of the region during this time and the effects of this conflict would be felt for generations to come. When the dust began to settle the "Holy Roman Empire" had been weakened beyond repair and the rise of the modern nation-state was solidifying."

Two zoomed in 3D Battle Screens

 This is a list of some of the battles:

Includes battles from all aspects of the war - major encounters to small skirmishes. 80 stand alone scenarios and 2 campaigns. A sampling would be:

White Mountain
1st Breitenfeld
Rain, the River Lech
1st Nordlingen
2nd Breitenfeld
2nd Nordlingen

 Their names shine out from the past. Lutzen, 1st Breitenfeld, Freiburg, and Rocroi where Frederick the Great and Napoleon, among others, read about and learned their craft. The war spans from the age of the Tercio until its fall at Rocroi to the Great Conde.

 There is a 'Getting Started' scenario along with four 'Bootcamp' ones to learn the game mechanics. In total, there are 75 actual battle scenarios. Many of these allow the player to play against the AI from either side. I have dreamed about a computer game that would allow me to fight as the Spanish against the French at Rocroi.

A zoomed out 2D Battle Screen

 Unless you were kidnapped by the Fae folk or have been lounging for a long-time underneath a piece of granite, you should know about The John Tiller games and Wargame Design Studio. Wargame Design Studio has released or updated (really done over from the ground up) a myriad of computer wargames. The list of their Game Series is as follows:

Civil War Battles (American)

Early American Wars

First World War Campaigns

Modern Air Power

Modern Campaigns

Musket And Pike (Which Thirty Years War belongs to)

Napoleonic Battles

Naval Campaigns

Panzer Battles

Panzer Campaigns

Squad Battles

Strategic War

 They also have ten demos that allow a player to test the water in almost all of the above Game Series.

 I am a solitaire wargame player at heart, and I would prefer to play that way with either a boardgame or a computer one. What Wargame Design Studio has been able to do with the AI battle/campaigns is really just amazing. Even if you are a person who does not like to play solitaire, they have you covered.  You can play their games the following ways:

Play by E-mail (PBEM)

LAN & Internet "live" play

As well as two player hot seat

A little closer in screen with the inset map.

 The game 'Thirty Years War' has really been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. We have had games about WWII, Napoleonic, and many others. However, the Musket and Pike Era has been almost completely ignored. You had to set up a boardgame if you wanted to play a battle from the age until quite recently. Wargame Design Studio's games were/are meant to transition the boardgame player to the computer with as little hassle as possible. Of course, there is a learning curve. What in life does not come with one? Thirty Years War, and all of their games (really simulations), is an involved game with many rules and a UI (User Interface) to master. I will say that learning to play one of their games is much simpler than trying to put together some plastic castle in the wee hours of the night before Christmas. The good thing is that the UI is used pretty much across the board with their games. If you learn one of their games, it is pretty easy to learn another. Just as I was finishing this review my phone alerted me to even more updates that WDS has released. It seems updates have been coming on almost a weekly basis. 

 As far as Thirty Years War, what can I say? I absolutely love the push of the pike and a failed cavalry charge. If you are a student of history, you owe it to yourself to pick up TYW. Books are now priced almost in the same range. or higher, than WDS games. For the maps and the setup of the armies alone it is worth the price of the admission, with the added attraction of being able to put you into your favorite general's saddle and boots they are priceless. 

 Now we have to talk about the downside of WDS games. They are addictive and once you have bought one you will want more. The other negative to WDS is this. They have not yet released a game about Marlborough's campaigns or the earlier wars of Louis XIV. I am also awaiting an Ancient Battles done with the new AI and UI.

 As I have stated before, I am an unabashed fanboy of the John Tiller games that started out almost 30 years before. Wargame Design Studio has taken all of the series of games to heights undreamed of when we were first playing them so long ago.

 They have also started to have a different game go on sale every week, although the standard price of $39.99 should make them easy to afford. It is almost half the cost of an AAA computer game and with what comes with it will keep you occupied/happy for years to come. 


Wargame Design Studio:

Thirty years War:

  1565 St. Elmo's Pay by Hall or Nothing Productions  It is 1565 and we are on the Island of Malta. Suleiman the Magnificent has sent an...

1565 St. Elmo's Pay by Hall or Nothing Productions 1565 St. Elmo's Pay by Hall or Nothing Productions

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

 1565 St. Elmo's Pay


Hall or Nothing Productions

 It is 1565 and we are on the Island of Malta. Suleiman the Magnificent has sent an armada filled with men to finally crush the Knights of St. John. Their full name was The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, hence the Hospitallers. The Knights had been forced out of Outremer, and then also the islands of Cyprus and Rhodes by the Muslims. The Island of Malta is their last bastion in the Mediterranean. Can the Knights survive one of the greatest sieges in history or will Suleiman add another piece to his huge empire? This is what Hall or Nothing Productions say about the game:

"Relive the Greatest Siege in History!

A vendetta spanning decades reaches its terrible and bloody crescendo!

Suleiman the Magnificent's 30,000 strong armada descends on the 500 beleaguered Knights of St John and the defending people of Malta, with the express purpose of wiping them from existence, and changing the course of European history forever...

1565, St. Elmo's Pay is an asymmetric, competitive, tactical card game, and successor to the award-nominated 1066, Tears to Many Mothers, with which it is fully compatible. Each player, as either Ottoman Turks or Knights of St John, musters troops and resources to overcome the various obstacles in their path before the two armies clash in an epic siege over three fronts on the tiny island of Malta: Birgu, Senglea, and the doomed fortress of Saint Elmo.

Every beautiful card in the game is inspired by a real person or event from the time. With a focus on quick, tactical play and a thematic re-imagining of the events of the time, the game is non-collectable, and there is no deck building required. Each player simply grabs their deck and shuffles, then play begins.

Note on title: When, after a relentless show of strength, the small fortress of St. Elmo's finally fell to the Turks they butchered the bodies of the Knights and floated the corpses across the bay to the remaining two forts to deter them from resisting further, lest they suffer the same fate. Instead, the Maltese forces chose to fight with 'the spirit of St. Elmo's'. When they eventually turned the tides against the Turks and chased them away the people of Malta chanted 'St. Elmo's Pay' - an expression they still use today to mean 'no mercy.'

 The game's components are what you would expect from a card/Euro game mixture. Like so many other games coming out of the UK now, it is a beauty to behold. This also goes for the minimalist approach to what you get in the box. The following is what comes with the game:

166 cards in two decks (+3 bonus promo cards for their game Shadows of Kilforth!)

40 red wooden teardrop shaped tokens

40 blue wooden teardrop shaped tokens

22 cardboard attribute modifier tokens

1 first player token

2 Rulebooks (one for full solo play!)

1 solo play resource dial


 The two-player Rulebook has full glossy print and is eight pages in length. It is filled with illustrations from the cards and has a good number of examples of play. The solo play Rulebook is also in full glossy print and is only four pages long. There is also a full-page card stock that on one side has the 'Foe's Turn Flow Chart' and on the other side 'Foe's Unit/Character Deployment Flow Chart'. The print on the Rulebooks and the player aids are nice and large and easy to read. The flow charts are not 'busy' and are easy to follow. The red and green wooden tokens are all uniform in size and have no cutting errors or flashing on them. The 'cardboard attribute modifier tokens' (what we would call counters :)) either have a cannon or a gold or black cross representing from -2 to +2 as an attribute. They are very large, and again, very easy to read. The solo play resource dial has a listing from Easy to all the way to King. These numbers have an effect on the resources on the foe's ready cards during play. The front of the dial has a nice illustration from the siege. As expected, the cards in the game are the main artistic part of the whole package. From the simple action cards to the Mustapha Pasha and Jean Parisot de Valette cards, the illustrations on them are magnificent. The three 'frontier' cards Birgu, Senglea, and St. Elmo have full-sized artworks on them. The game also comes with two card sized player aids. On one side is the Game Summary, and the other has the Battles Summary. The components are all very well done. The only quibble I have is that the writing on the cards is small. However, you would either get bland cards with large writing or the excellent artwork, so I choose the artwork. The three Shadows of Kilforth promo cards are also wonderfully rendered.

 It might seem at first glance that the game is a simple one that is pretty much based on the rock, paper, and scissors premise. As in, this card beats that one which in turn is beaten by this other card. Thinking like this does St. Elmo's Pay a great disservice. The game has both strategy and tactics in it and is very nuanced. It also plays very historically. By this I mean that the outcomes that happen during play could very well have happened in reality. The game is not based on the designer's fancy of how the siege played out. It is based on solid knowledge of the actual history and scholarship. The cards themselves drip history. The inclusion of cards of the different characters during the siege also helps greatly with the immersion factor while playing. When playing on the Muslim side you feel the loss of the Giant Basilisk or some of Turgut's Corsairs. The same holds for your units when playing the Knights. 

 Victory in the game is decided by:

Destroy two Frontiers of enemy troops at the Great Siege of Malta, or

Destroy their opponents' Leader, or

Have their opponent run out of cards in their card deck.

You can also check playing solo how well you have done with your victory points against the different level of opponent on the resource dial.

 One of the best features of the game is being able to play either side solo. This is not a glued on after the fact solo bot. The game was obviously designed from the ground up for solo play on both sides. This is a design feature that we should see in many other games.

 Thank you, Hall or Nothing Productions for allowing me to review your product. I am now looking forward to delving into your large catalog of other games. Some of them have really piqued my interest, especially after having played St. Elmo's Pay.


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  CUIDAD DE PATRIOTAS (CITY OF PATRIOTS)  FROM TRAFALGAR EDITIONS I expect that many, like me, first learnt about this bloody episode in Spa...

Ciudad de Patriotas (City of Patriots) Ciudad de Patriotas (City of Patriots)

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I expect that many, like me, first learnt about this bloody episode in Spanish history from the celebrated painting by Francisco Goya reproduced below.  
Tres de Mayo or The Execution
However, Goya's painting that relates most specifically to Trafalgar Editions' game depicting the Spanish uprising in Madrid during the Peninsular war is this second painting.

Goya's Dos de Mayo or The Fight Against the Mamelukes

Indeed the game's very short introductory scenario, designed to familiarise you with the basic game system, is entitled "The Charge of the Mamelukes."

To set the scene in its historical context, Madrid had been occupied by the French since late March 1808 and the Spanish king, Charles IV had been forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Ferdinand VII, but both were being held by the French in Bayonne. General Murat was in command in Madrid and appeared to be intending to move Charles's daughter and her children along with Charles's youngest son to Bayonne as well.  These actions were what sparked off this brief and bloody uprising on May 2nd [Dos de Mayo] 1808.  Quelled by the end of the same day, the spontaneous rebellion was followed on the next day by harshly repressive reprisals in which several hundred Spanish citizens (madrilanos) were rounded up and summarily shot, as immortalised by Goya's painting.
Cuidad de Patriotas presents the action of that day of rebellion in simple area-movement form with a brief set of rules and Trafalgar Editions' customary excellent quality.  So, it's with many thanks to the company for providing me with this review copy and giving me the opportunity to explore this unusual and highly individual event depicted with some equally individual features.  
The mounted map board vividly lays out the districts of Madrid in bold colours.  Each district is further divided into a number of neighbourhoods.  For a French victory, you need to control six out of the eight districts by end of the game's six turns, other wise it's victory to the Spanish player.  The quality of a French victory can range from Decisive to Pyrrhic!

Inevitably the Spanish player's task is, somehow, in the face of many more powerful French units, to delay and delay... and delay.  For the French player, it is constantly to move and attack.  Each district must have all its neighbourhoods cleared of Spanish units and occupied by at least one French unit, at which point it comes under permanent French control and cannot be re-entered by Spanish units or have their reinforcements appear there, nor do the French units have to remain there to maintain control. It's not so much a race of the hare and the tortoise as the steamroller and time!

As mentioned the components are of very good quality, especially the mounted board and the counters.  The latter have perfectly rounded corners and press out smoothly with none of the occasionally irritating side tags found in some games.

There are rule books both in Spanish and in English and the latter suffers slightly in being printed on plain white, A4 sized paper that doesn't quite match the smoother, glossy Spanish booklet.  The Play Aids are double-sided again to accommodate Spanish and English text.  The package is rounded out with an attractive, neat draw-string bag (a little small for its purpose), a pack of Command cards and a 10-sided die.

Though the basic rules are a bare six and a half pages long, there is quite a bit of originality to be embraced that takes them beyond the ease that might be expected for the suggested novice wargamer.  Also like many games that have fairly brief rules, you need to concentrate carefully in your reading.  The rules on Reinforcements are a good example of what I mean.  Their detailed explanation comes on page 11, five pages after the basic rules and is located after optional rules, designer notes and a full page table of Troop Composition.  Among them is the information that "the French player receives reinforcements from out of the city and from the accesses marked on the map."  This instruction can only be fully understood when you link it up with the overall information on page 2 about neighbourhoods "In some neighbourhoods there are flags with numbers and letters.  They are the barracks where the French and Spanish troops were stationed and are used to introduce reinforcements.  There are also French flags at the entrances to Madrid, they are entry areas for other French and some Spanish reinforcements."  Put these details together with the following play aid,

and the Order of Battle display cards (seen below) and you're nearly there for knowing exactly where to place most of your reinforcements.  Sometimes you will still need to locate the hard to find name of a road on the map board that some French troops arrive on to solve it.  I have to say it wasn't plain sailing!

Order of Battle Play Aids
When you've set up your units on these displays, the disparity in the forces is all the more striking.  First of all, more than half of the Spanish units are civilians and more than half of all the Spanish units have only a strength of one.  In total, they have 46 strength points.  In contrast, the French are all military units.  They have 32 units, but 11 of those are four strength and each can be broken down into 4 single strength counters.   These are essential both for the massive punch they have in combat and that they can be broken down in order to spread out to occupy the many neighbourhoods needed to gain control of six out of the eight districts that lead to victory.  In total, the French muster 90 strength points!

The shot above gives you a clear idea of the quality of the large counters - as mentioned earlier, not a marring side-tag in sight.
So there's the overview of the contents and a glimpse of the opposing forces.  Now to the sequence of play and the game's system.  


New random Event chits are drawn and each player plays one chit.
Place reinforcements.
Draw command cards.


Unlike the majority of area movement games, there is no variation in cost whatsoever between entering a friendly or enemy area or adjacent to an enemy area.  Movement couldn't be easier - 1 MP (movement point) per area.
Combat on the other hand is a different matter altogether. You only have combat within an area; there is no combat between adjacent areas.  Combat resolution begins with a very familiar simple differential between total attacker and defender strength points, with a few equally obvious modifiers for such things as unit type, card play and Event chits.  Roll on the Combat Table and apply the loss in points to the loser.  However, how those loss points are applied is distinctly unfamiliar and took some getting used to.  At first it seemed straightforward.  If all individual units are higher in value than the loss, then all losing units simply retreat 1 or 2 areas.  If the combat loss is equal to the strength of the weakest unit, then the unit is dispersed - i.e. removed from the board. If French the unit is automatically returned as a reinforcement on the next turn, if Spanish roll the D10 and a result of 6-10 it too automatically returns as a reinforcement, but a roll of 1-5 eliminates it.  Any other units are retreated.
However, any loss result greater than the strength of one or more units will cause some element of immediate elimination and possible dispersal and retreat.  I couldn't discern a simple, logical process to work this out, but had to rely on following the summary of results.  Fortunately, this summary is fairly short and with practice becomes familiar.  Bu it wasn't initially helped by the use of "scattered" instead of "dispersed" at one point and "retired" instead of "retreated".   Just a bit more focus in proof-reading would have avoided this.

Close up of the strongly coloured map board


(Note that the sequence of play printed on the back of the rule book labels this phase as REVOLT BOX).

Each player keeps a tally of combat points lost for units and characters (i.e. leaders) and these are called the player's Fury Points and at the end of the turn the French total is deducted from the Spanish total.  The result is called The Uprising Box and determines which player draws 3 Event chits and the other 2 Event chits at the beginning of the next turn.   Again all seemed very simple, as all of these scores are reset to zero at the beginning of a turn.  However, the second example in the rule book for this Phase contradicts the rules by stating that each player started a turn with +2 Fury Points which was added to that turn's casualties.  As this didn't seem to make any sense, I simply disregarded the example.

The basic rules end with the Victory Conditions.
An automatic Spanish victory occurs, if the French do not control at least 2 districts by the end of Turn 4 - an outcome I cannot foresee ever happening.
Otherwise, the French win, as stated earlier, if they control at least 6 out of the 8 districts.  If the French win, you determine the scale of victory which runs from Decisive to Pyrrhic with the proviso that if the French lose 22 or more points their victory shifts down a level meaning that a Pyrrhic level victory would shift to a Spanish victory!

Continuing on from the basic rules, there are a few optional rules that add a little more colour and detail.  They cover such things as cavalry charges and special French cavalry movement, officers and significant historical characters, unit support, further combat modifiers, French garrisons and fog of war for Spanish civilian units which are randomly drawn and set up face down.  Most are simple and easy ti introduce and personally I would choose to play with nearly all of them as standard.

The rules booklet is rounded off with something I always like to see, namely Designer Notes, a troop Composition Table and rather oddly only now do we get the rules for Reinforcement Placement and the Set-Up and Reinforcement Schedule.
The last neat touch is to present an historical narrative of the day, hour by hour, giving details along with the appropriate unit and where to place them. 

Well illustrated rules

To sum up, Cuidad de Patriotas is an essentially light and intriguing exploration of a brief and small. but significant event in the Peninsular War.  The game is very attractively presented in all aspects and the rules are generally short and comprehensive, with one or two grey areas that would have benefited from a little more detail and clarity.  With a maximum of six turns and a small unit count, it provides a swift game that can easily be played in a single afternoon or evening's play.

As always it's with many thanks to Trafalgar Editions for kindly providing this review copy and their rapid replies to my rare queries on a few rules.