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 Warfare in the Age of the Crusades The Latin East by Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree, and John Cairns    This is a larger than usual bo...

Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, The Latin East by Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree, and John Cairns Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, The Latin East by Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree, and John Cairns

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

 Warfare in the Age of the Crusades

The Latin East


Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree, and John Cairns


 This is a larger than usual book in two ways. 1st, it comes in at over 300 pages. 2nd, and most importantly, its name is deceiving. I had imagined it to be just a book about the warfare of the time. Meaning that it would tell us the different composition of the armies of the period and the troops that were used etc. It actually does that amazingly well. However, it also gives an excellent military history of the period in question: from the First Crusade to about the year 1453 (the fall of Constantinople). 

 The book distinguishes itself from other military history books by having many clear and readable maps. It also has two glossaries for the reader, one being of important personalities, and the other of military terms used in the book. In the center is a group of full color pictures from either the period or later and nowadays shots of some of the areas mentioned. The book also starts out with 'Chapter Chronologies'. This is a write-up about every battle or campaign that happens during said chapter. This is very handy for the reader to keep track of the different goings on. It not only has everything listed about the current book's scope of history, but also some taking place around the globe.

 I cannot praise this book enough. Usually, my mind flits from one age of history to another and I have at least several books that I am reading at one time. Very rarely do I read a book straight through from cover to cover and this is one of them. The writing and information in the book make it a sheer pleasure to read. The book will appeal to someone like me that already has read a lot about the time period, but also to the neophyte to this period of history.

 The writers and publisher should be congratulated on this tour de force. I cannot wait to start reading its brother 'Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, Europe'. Thank you, Casemate Publishers, for allowing me to review this extremely well-done book about the warfare and history of the Latin Kingdoms in Outremer and more.   


Book: Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, The Latin East:

Warfare in the Age of Crusades - Casemate Publishers US

Publisher: Pen & Sword:

Search Results Grid - Casemate Publishers US

Distributor: Casemate Publishers:

Military History Books - Casemate Publishers US



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







  Red Strike Air, Land and Naval Combat in Europe 1989 by Vuca Simulations  When we last picked up Wolfram von Eschenbach's magnum opus,...

Red Strike by Vuca Simulations Part 1 Red Strike by Vuca Simulations Part 1

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

 Red Strike

Air, Land and Naval Combat in Europe 1989


Vuca Simulations

 When we last picked up Wolfram von Eschenbach's magnum opus, Parzival was wandering through the forest of other wargames looking for the Grail. According to the tale, he stopped at the castle of Vuca Simulations and spoke to the fisherman. Did Parzival find the Grail or was this just another false lead from Klingsor? Read on to see.

 This is from Vuca Simulations about the 'history' of the game:

Red Strike is a war game simulating a hypothetical clash between NATO and Warsaw Pact (WP) armed forces in Summer 1989. It covers operational land, air and sea warfare in Central Europe and the Northern Atlantic, while also keeping an eye on the strategic situation around the world.

Red Strike is a highly interactive game. Its detection and interception mechanisms allow for simultaneous actions and reactions from both sides. Having to constantly monitor the battlefield minimizes player downtime and maximizes their ability to recreate a very fluid “What if“ representation of a Cold War gone hot. The mechanisms can seem complex at first but will soon become second nature.

The rules that make Red Strike so interactive, also make it perfect for team play. Players can divide responsibilities between air, ground and possibly naval forces. The ground forces could be split by army/front or corps.

The crucial naval/air war over the North Atlantic can be played either as a standalone game, or as part of the Campaign Scenarios. As would have happened historically, its impact on the battlefield in Germany can be decisive; the interception and sinking of convoys carrying supplies and reinforcements making the difference between success and failure.

The greatest feature of this game is that it perfectly embodies the theory of the "Depth-Three-dimensional" combat theory of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and the "Air-Land Battle" theory of the US military."

The game in some of its glory

 I had thought that Vuca Simulations 1914 Nach Paris was the pinnacle of wargaming in both playing and artwork. Now along comes Red Strike and I have to eat my words. All you have to do is to check out the box. Like all of Vuca Simulations games it is a work of art all by itself. However, the size and heft of the game put it in another category. It is one of the few wargames where I am stumped as far as where to begin. The game is so big that it is only the second game I have reviewed in eight years that needs a two-part review. 

 This is what comes with the game:

24 Counter Sheets 3/4"!!!

82 Cards in two Decks

2 Operations Maps 46" x  34" Combined

1 Strategic Map 27" x 15"

24 Setup Sheets

2 16 page Player Aid Booklets

10 Air Base Sheets

5 Scenario Sheets (1-32"x 18", 1- 16"x 18", 3- page size)

1 56 page Rulebook

ADN  (pad ) sheet block 16 pages

2x10 sided die

This is a close shot of one of the Airbase Player Aids

 I have to add what is below so that you can see exactly what has gone into the designing of this game. How many games have a bibliography or one that is two pages long! This is straight from the designer Mr. Yes Rettel. If a game has had a longer time in design and incorporated more research, I would like to see it.

"Red Strike is based on the games Gulf Strike and Aegean Strike and uses many of the same mechanics. Mark Herman designed the Strike games as detailed, complex simulations. Red Strike, like its predecessors, is not for the fainthearted.

The game comes with this Rule Book and the Scenario Book. The Rule Book covers the entire game system and the Scenario Book contains everything needed to set up the game

Other games I took as reference to design this game:

G-SOF-G (S&T 220), NATO: The Next War in Europe (VG), 3


Fleet (VG), The Next War (SPI) and

above all the “Next War” series from GMT.

Internet links:


General / Cold War

Bidwell, Shelford—World War 3 A Military Projection Founded on Today’s Facts, Greenwich

House, 1983

Bishop, Chris—Firepower Air Warfare, Orbis Publishing, 1999

Cockburn, Andrew—The Threat, Scherz, 1983

Crawford, Steve—Kriegsschiffe und Flugzeugträger, Gondrom, 2000

Donald, David—Modern Battlefield Warplanes, AIRtime Publishing, 1994

Dunnigan, James F. and Bay, Austin—A Quick and Dirty Guide to War, Quill, 1991

Dunnigan, James F.—How To Make War, revised edition Quill, 1988

Edited by Vojtech Mastny, Sven G. Holtsmark and Andreas Wenger—War Plans and Alliances

in the Cold War—Threat Perceptions in the East and West, Routledge, 2006

Epstein, Joshua M.—Conventional Force Reductions, The Brookings Institution, 1990

Faringdon, Hugh—Strategic Geography—NATO, the Warsaw Pact and the Superpowers, 2


ed, Routledge, 1989

Friedman, Norman—The Fifty Year War, Naval Institute Press, 2000

Gaddis, John Lewis—The Cold War A New History, Penguin Books, 2005

Gunston, Bill and Hewish, Mark and Sweetman, Bill and Wheeler, Barry C and Taylor John

W.R—Air Forces of the World, Salamander Books, 1979

House, Jonathan M.—A Military History of the Cold War 1944-1962, University of Oklahoma

Press, 2012

Isaacs, Jeremy and Downing, Taylor—Cold War, Bantam Press, 1998

Jeschonnek, Friedrich and Riedel, Dieter and Durie, William—Alliierte in Berlin 1945-1994,

Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007

Krüger, Dieter—Am Abgrund?, Parzellers Buchverlag, 2013

Krüger, Dieter (Hrsg.)—Schlachtfeld Fulda Gap, Parzellers Buchverlag, 2017

La Guerre de demain, Tallandier, 1983

La paix surarmée Pour la Science, 1979-1987 (french edition of Scientific American)

La Stratégie Mondiale Bordas, 1985 (french edition of Atlas of Global Strategy, ed.Gra


ham Speake)

Leonhard, Robert—The Art of Maneuver, Maneuver-warfare Theory and AirLand Battle,

Ballantine Books, 1991

Miller, David and Foss, Christopher F.—Modern Land Combat, Salamander Books, 1987

Price, Alfred—Air Battle—Central Europe, Free Press, 1986

Stöver, Bernd—Der Kalte Krieg, C.H.Beck, 2007

Ware, Pat—Cold War Operations Manual, Haynes Publishing, 2016

Watts, Anthony J.—Jane’s Warship Recognition Guide ,HarperCollins, 2006

Winchester, Jim—Military Aircraft of the Cold War, Grange Books, 2006

World Air Power, Vol.1, Spring 1990, Aerospace Publishing Limited

World Air Power, Vol.2, Summer 1990, Aerospace Publishing Limited

World Air Power, Vol.3, Autumn/Fall 1990, Aerospace Publishing Limited

Zaloga, Steven J.—Duel 18 - M1 Abrams vs. T-72 Ural, Osprey, 2009


Behrendt, Hans-Günter—Flugabwehr in Deutschland, Miles-Verlag, 2021

Bolik, Gerd—NATO-Planungen für die Verteidigung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland im

Kalten Krieg, Miles-Verlag, 2021

Dorn, Wolfram—So heiss war der Kalte Krieg—Fallex 66, Dittrich, 2002

Eshel, David—The U.S. Rapid Deployment Forces, Arco Publishing, 1985

Ganser, Daniele—NATO Geheimarmeen in Europa Orell Füssli, 2008

Gehring, Stephen P.—From the Fulda Gap to Kuweit

Hughes, Wayne P.—Fleet Tactics, theory and practice US Naval Institute Press, 1989

Knobloch, von, Heinz—Bundesluftwaffe intern Motorbuch, 2008

Oestmann, Rainer—Handbuch für Unterführer, Walhalla Fachverlag, 2000

RAIDS n°24, Histoire & Collections, 1987

RAIDS n°31, Histoire & Collections, 1988

RAIDS n°34, Histoire & Collections, 1989

Walter, Uwe—Artilleristen, Aufklärer, Flieger, Infanteristen, Jäger, Logistiker, Pioniere und

Panzermänner, BoD—Books on Demand, 2018

Walter, Uwe—Die Strukturen und Verbände des deutschen Heeres (2. Teil), BoD—Books on

Demand, 2020

Walter, Uwe—Die Strukturen und Verbände des deutschen Heeres (Teil 1), Edition Avra, 2017

Walter, Uwe—Von Wölfen, Leoparden und anderen Raubtieren, BoD—Books on Demand, 2017


Clancy, Tom—Tempête Rouge Livre de Poche, 1986 (french edition of Red Storm Rising)

General Hackett, Sir John—The Third World War Macmillan, 1978

General Hackett, Sir John—The Third World War—The untold story Macmillan, 1982

Peters, Ralph—Red Army Pocket Books, 1989

Nuclear Warfare

Bernstein, Jeremy—Nuclear Weapons—What you need to know, Cambridge University

Press, 2008

Walmer, Max—Strategic Weapons, Prenticehall Press, 1988

Osprey Publications

Combat Aircraft—27 Air War in the Gulf 1991

Combat Aircraft—60 B-1B Lancer units in combat

Elite 10—Warsaw Pact Ground Forces

Elite 12—Inside the Soviet Army Today

Elite 16—NATO Armies today

Elite 26—Tank War—Central Front : NATO vw. Warsaw Pact

Fortress 36—US Strategic and Defensive Missile Systems 1950-2004

Fortress 69—The Berlin Wall and the Intra-German Border 1961-1989

New Vanguard 115—Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942-2002

New Vanguard 120—Scud Ballistic Missile and Launch Systems 1955-2005

New Vanguard 125—Huey Cobra Gunships

New Vanguard 134—Red SAM: The SA-2 Guideline Anti-Aircraft Missile

New Vanguard 138—US Nuclear Submarines: The Fast Attack

New Vanguard 152—T-80 Standard Tank

New Vanguard 158—T-62 Main Battle Tank 1965-2005

New Vanguard 2—M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank 1982-92

New Vanguard 85—M60 Main Battle Tank 1960-91

Wargame related

Allen Thomas B. War Games—The Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers

Rehearsing World War III Today Naval Institute Press, McGraw Hill, 1987

Dunnigan, James F.—The Complete Wargames Handbook, revised edition, Quill 1992

Perla, Peter P.—The Art of Wargaming Naval Institute Press, 1990

Warsaw Pact

Department of Defense Soviet Military Power, Prospects for Change 1989

Donald, David—Tupolev Bombers, AIRtime Publishing, 2001

Gervasi, Tom—Soviet Military Power—The Annotated and Corrected Version of the Pentagon’s

Guide, Random House, 1987

Gervasi, Tom—The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy Perennial Library, 1986

Glantz, David M.—Soviet Military Operational Art—In pursuit of Deep Battle Frank Cass, 1991

Gordon, Yefim and Dexter, Keith—Mikoyan MiG-21 Midland, 2008

Gordon, Yefim—Soviet Strategic Aviation in the Cold War, Hikoki Publications, 2009

Hoffman, Hans-Albert & Stoof, Siegfried—Sowjetische Truppen in Deutschland und ihr

Hauptquartier in Wünsdorf 1945—1994, Verlag Dr. Köster, 2017

Kopenhagen, Wilfried—Die NVA Land-, Luft- und Seestreitkräfte Motorbuch, 2006

La puissance militaire soviétique Bordas, 1984 (french edition of The Soviet War Machine

Salamander Books, 1984)

Lautsch, Siegfried - Kriegsschauplatz Deutschland - ZMSBw 2013

MccGwire, Michael—Military Objectives in Soviet Foreign Policy The Brookings Institution, 1987

Normann, Michael—Typenkompass Kampfflugzeuge der NVA 1956-1990, Motorbuch, 2010

Odom, William E.—The Collapse of the Soviet Military Yale University Press, 1998

Polmar, Norman—Guide to the Soviet Navy, 4th

edition Naval Institute Press, 1986

Suvorov—Inside the Soviet Army Macmillan, 1982

Sweetman, Bill—Soviet Military Aircraft Hamlyn, 1981

The Russian General Staff—The Soviet-Afghan War, How a Superpower fought and lost,

University Press of Kansas, 2002"

 This is a really amazing list on so many levels. It really shows the depth and detail that went into this design.

This is the Fulda Gap Scenario Map

 In another part of the booklets Mr. Rettel mentions that he has been working on this design since 2003. This is just one more in the list of superlatives that shows in the design. He is also completely correct in saying that the design is not for the faint-hearted. If you are a neophyte or someone who has just played block wargames, opening this box will come as a shock. This is the simulation side of our esteemed hobby. You might be inclined to look for the rule about pasta in the Rulebook. However, the game does not throw you into the deep end and hope you swim. There are many different sized scenarios that comes in this cornucopia. The naval and air portions of the game are simulations in their own right. The Operational Map has hexes of two different sizes. The smaller hexes are 28 kilometers across and the larger are 280 kilometers across. The game also comes with a Strategic Map. 

 Every land, air, and sea asset available to the NATO and Warsaw Pact Alliances is in the box. One thing about the game, there is a good amount of stacking of counters. I never really remember this being an issue when SPI and Avalon Hill released their monster games. I believe it has a lot to do with the now advanced age of some of our grognards. As far as stacking years ago, it was considered the more the merrier. 

 The price of the game at Vuca Simulations is $178 US dollars. Now before you get your knickers in a bunch, I think you should compare the normal sized games from other publishers and Vuca Simulations. Almost all wargame publishers now have prices for their AAA games right about or just under this price point, and sometimes over. This game should really be considered in the price per pound group of wargames. 

 This is a game that many grognards have been dreaming about. I'd bet after looking at it, many designers wish that it was theirs. Of course, you have to compare the 20-year gestation period of the game in the mix. Many will not like it because of the depth and the stacking and because it does not match the drapes. So be it, different strokes for different folks. If you grognards are lucky enough to have a gaming night where you have a few buddies who like games, this makes playing it that much easier. It would be just like the teams that played Campaign for North Africa. However, this game has all the eye candy and refinements that comes with a game that is almost 50 years newer than CNA. 

 The game comes with these scenarios:

10 Exercise Scenarios to teach you different parts of the system

Battle Scenarios:

 Fulda Gap - The one we know and love

 Berlin Blockade - Another one you have probably played

 North German Plains - The opposite of Monty in WWII

 Bavarian Option  - Southern Germany fighting

 Miami 1989 - North Sea naval scenario

 Valkyrie's Embrace - Invasion of Norway

Campaign Scenarios:

 99 Red Balloons - No preparations for war on either side

 We Didn't Start the Fire - Tensions rise slower given each side the time to call in more troops etc.

 Land of Confusion - Prolonged period of saber rattling before the Warsaw Pact attacks

 Two Tribes - Prolonged period of saber rattling NATO attacks


Part of the clash on the North German Plain

 I am overwhelmed, in a good way, that Vuca Simulations has sent me this monster of a simulation to review. I feel like a snake that now has killed its prey but cannot quite figure out how to swallow it. The detail and thinking, dare I say love, that has gone into the design is truly breathtaking. Please come back to read part two where I actually get to really play this big bad boy.

Robert Peterson

Vuca Simulations:

VUCA simulations - Premium conflict simulations from Europe – VUCASIMS

Red Strike:

Red Strike - 1989 – VUCASIMS

Across the Bug River by Vuca Simulations My Review:

Across the Bug River by Vuca Simulations - A Wargamers Needful Things

Donnerschlag by Vuca Simulations My Review:

Donnerschlag Escape From Stalingrad by Vuca Simulations - A Wargamers Needful Things

STALINGRAD ROADS   FROM NUTS PUBLISHING What's in the box Stalingrad Roads has been a game that I have been waiting for with great anti...


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




What's in the box

Stalingrad Roads has been a game that I have been waiting for with great anticipation and enthusiasm and, I confess, some trepidation about its eventual realisation, as it continually seemed to be coming...but not yet.  So, at last, with a resounding cheer, it's a reality and I must give a big thanks to Nuts Publishing for not just sending me a copy to review, but a bonus of the neoprene map...only the second one that I've ever owned.  Stalingrad Roads is the third in a series that began with Liberty Roads and was followed by Victory Roads.  These first two were published by Hexasim, another games company I greatly admire, though with them my focus has been on their excellent Napoleonic series.   
My knowledge of the first two Roads games is purely of their physical appearance which, in both cases, was lavish with vibrant colours on the map and counters. Nuts Publishing has gone for a much more austere map and counters that in their simplicity of layout and contrast of ochre and grey have a distinctly retro feel to them.
This is a major aspect that may divide players.  I’m certainly in the camp that favours the austerity of the pale wintery palate of the map that suits the span of November to March deep in Russian territory. With the counters I have mixed feelings, not so much for colour, but size. In fact, I found the multiplicity of badges on the units in the first two games distinctly distracting and one For those with the modern gaming taste for the larger and more lavish the better, they may be too small and too simple.  Nonetheless, they are totally practical and clearly readable with the standard three number sequence: attack strength, defence strength and movement.

In all other respects, the contents should be uncontentious.  The game contains a substantial number of double-sided Play Aids, all on thin, glossy card.  An item I wish all games provided is an identical terrain, combat and weather chart, one for each player.  Thumbs up to Nuts Publishing for that.  So much easier than passing one backwards and forwards across the table and much more appealing than one player having a photocopy.  
Both players have double-sided charts that explain the many individual Support markers each side may potentially have in the course of the game.  Three more contain set-up charts for the different scenarios and a final four combine a variety of functions.  One side of each presents a variety of other play aids, from holding boxes to player specific charts, while the others provide more set up displays and one contains a mini-map for the introductory learning scenario, Wintergewitter.
Wintergewitter mini-map

...and how it appears if played on the full map
The rulebook (partially seen above) is a similarly attractive, glossy product of 22 pages of rules, 4 pages of scenarios and a 1 page index. It’s very compact and functional and, though the print size is fairly small, I’ve found it easy to read.   Illustrations are limited, but focus extensively throughout the excellent, detailed examples of the central elements of Combat, Retreat and Exploitation.
The rules themselves are an interesting blend of the familiar and the unusual.  The core of the system is a fairly basic one common to even early hex and counter games of  the igo-ugo format with the Soviets having the first half of the turn and the Axis having the second half, founded on supply check, movement, combat and reinforcements and replacements.  

However, a level of added complexity derives from both players having a Support Phase as well as specific individual Phases.  These latter Phases apply mainly to the Soviet player and for that reason I would recommend that a more experienced player take the Soviet side at least for the first few games.
Combat and Weather Charts on back of the rule book

A number of points looked daunting, but in reality weren’t. The first such was the weather table and its rules.  My one complaint here is that the explanation of the lettered code used in the table is given in the reproduction of the chart in the rule book and on the back cover of the rule book, but not on the Play Aids - an odd choice!  When I saw that Snow and Mud are the only two weather conditions, I feared I might be in for a mass of complexity.  However, as Snow predominates, it has been largely been dealt with by factoring it into movement rates and other data on the terrain chart; as a result it turned out easy to handle.  Apart from obvious ground features, especially rivers, being dealt with through the weather table, so too is cloud cover which affects air support markers.  Both sets of conditions have handy tracks and markers on the map as reminders - a welcome help.

Explanation of Weather Effects on Cloud Cover and Rivers

Perhaps surprisingly, weather does not affect supply, though supply itself is handled in a novel and interesting fashion.   Apart from a direct trace of 4 hexes to map edge supply hexes, roads and rails are the key.  This is a familiar rule; what is unusual is that you check HQs first for being in supply and then those that aren’t are removed from the map.   They will return to the map in the Reinforcement and Replacement Phase which is the last Phase of each player's turn.  Unfortunately, as the rules don't clearly specify, it must be assumed that they return by the same process as unit reinforcements arrive.  In the final step of the Supply Phase all combat units are checked for whether they are within command range of an HQ on the map.  If not, then they are marked as out of supply. 
Close up on the Combat Table

The other intriguing feature is the Combat Results table.  Though it is the standard CRT with an odds ratio and 2D6 roll, unlike the very conventional single columns for each ratio with either an Attacker result or Defender result or a split result for each, there are three columns.  The first column gives step losses, strangely in the rules labelled under the heading Application of Attrition Results, but then referred to from then on by the more familiar phrase "step loss."  The second and third column respectively provide what are called Attacker Tactical Results and Defender Tactical Results.  At first sight, several of these look familiar - AR, DR, DR1, DR2, DR3 and Eng - but the last one Eng definitely does not mean the well known Engaged Result which normally is much the same as "no effect." Here the Attacker has to roll 2D6 again and apply only the Attrition Result i.e. more step losses.

And now for something completely different
On top of these are several new results: E, F, S and R.  Unlike "E" usually meaning Eliminated, here it means Exploitation and its effect is influenced by a surprising number of additional rules for a single CRT result.  It is a Tactical result only found in the Attacker columns and allows a limited number of units to make exploitation and attack moves in the Exploitation Phase that immediately follows the Combat Phase.  The number of Attacking units allowed to take part is changed by such things as whether an armoured attack had been declared and terrain.  Added to that, the type of units chosen may mean that some can only move, while others can both move and attack.  Again an interesting and new approach replaces what is usually handled by the standard, conventional Exploitation Phase of many games.  On the other hand, the F, R and S are all Tactical Results that can only occur for the Defender and mainly add extra choices between retreats and additional or reduced step losses.
The final and crucial development in the novel twists to well known war game tropes is the Support Phase - what I might call the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (well, ok the last adjective doesn't apply) of the rules.  The fact that it is given its own separate Phase and both players get a double-sided aid to explain the use of each support marker signals its importance.  First of all, there are far more potential Support Markers in this game than I have come across before in most games.  Then the Soviet Player has four separate Available Marker holding boxes, while the rules for Support markers take up almost a full page of rules and unfortunately several other Phases separately contain details that affect the use of Support Markers.  At this point when learning to play the game, I began to feel that a little less might have been a lot better.   When mastering the information about the markers and the rules that govern them became far heavier to memorise than the whole Combat process itself, I felt a little overtaxed.  However, though they do add quite a bit to the learning process and to the complexity of game play, they also add a lot of chrome and historical feel to the game which I enjoy and appreciate.

Just a few of the many and varied Support Markers
So far, I've concentrated on what I would call the expected generic areas of rules as well as some of the intriguing individualities of the "Roads" system.  The last part of the rules that I want to consider are those designed specifically to simulate historical elements of this campaign, Operation Uranus.  Considering that this was a major and crucial Soviet offensive, it's not too surprising to find in the Sequence of Play a Soviet Offensives Phase.   The Soviet Player starts the game with one Soviet Major Offensive marker and will gain two Minor Offensive markers as reinforcements.  The conditions for launching a Major Offensive are closely bound up with the Support Markers just discussed, though the player is at liberty to choose the moment of launch whenever those conditions are met. 
Also highly important is the Stavka Phase.  This covers rules for releasing Reserve units generally during the course of the game and none of these reserves could be more important or valuable than for release at the beginning of the Major Offensive!  The Stavka Phase is also vital for withdrawing units and rebuilding them.  So far, these are all areas of the rules that help to give the Soviet Player both their characteristic feel and specific punch for this campaign.  The final element of specifically Soviet rules should be equally familiar to students of this period of the war and that is Soviet Lost Momentum.  The negative effect of these rules is closely bound to the number of times Soviet HQs move - a good incentive for ensuring that your HQs stay in supply and so don't have to execute lots of movement to return!
The final special Soviet Phase is the grand sounding Operation Mars Progress Phase.  This is designed to cover how a parallel Soviet Offensive launched by Stalin in another sector might have impacts on Operation Uranus.  It couldn't be easier to apply, as it is abstracted into a simple 2D6 each turn, from Nov IV to Dec III.   Depending on the dice roll, the marker on the Operation Mars track will either stay still or move on the track.  Possible outcomes may be a Soviet Collapse or a Soviet Breakthrough.  If neither has happened by the Dec IV turn, this Phase no longer occurs.  
All in all, these rules work together very well with a minimum of effort and plenty of flavour, as do the brief rules on German Superiority and Major Soviet Successes.  The very last section to consider is the Fortress Stalingrad Supply Phase.  This can be declared by the German Player, if both hexes of Stalingrad are German occupied and these units are out of supply.  It brings with it a substantial level of extra rules and is cancelled if the German units in at least one Stalingrad hex regain normal supply and, of course, may recur if both hexes again are out of supply.  It is obviously highly historical and again strongly adds to the game's "feel."  Whether it is worth the extra complexity and rule commitment will, I think, be dependent on the individual players and I would suggest that players discuss its implementation.  I'd expect more experienced gamers to go for it, but less experienced might like to leave it out until they felt comfortable with the overall system.
Finally, there are the Scenarios which offer a very good range in both length and complexity.  Without doubt the Wintergewitter Scenario is truly "introductory", as the rule book says, aimed at getting to know the basic, underlying "Roads" system. 
The three shorter scenarios range from 3 to 7 turns and use a reduced section of the full map.
Operation Uranus - a 3 turn blast that sees the campaign kicking off, using part of the full map.  Be careful to note the reminder that you use the set up for the full campaign, except for those units whose hex placement is in red.  The rule book advises playing this, above all, to familiarise yourself with the rules that pertain especially to this game's situation and I would go along with this suggestion.  Its brevity allows you to learn and make mistakes and try it out again.
Operation Star and Gallop - seven turns.  This has the advantage again of fewer turns and units at their last gasp.  It also follows on from the fall of Stalingrad and so helps again to experience situation rules specific to this game without having to master the added depth of the Fortress Stalingrad rules.
Backhand Blow - 5 turns.  It too has the same advantages as Operation Star & Gallop and having encountered this in several games devoted wholly to this part of the war, I greatly relished having this to play as a scenario.  In my view a great bonus.
Finally, it's the main attraction, the full campaign game scenario:

On The Brink of Disaster.

Soviet forces poised to launch their envelopment

A substantial 17 turns.  Fairly modest on map counter presence at start, with plenty of reinforcements to follow for both sides.

Initial Soviet Set Up Forces

Inevitably the full campaign for me remains the major draw in any game, but it's always pleasing when there are several shorter scenarios, as here, which all provide a solid play session.

 SEKIGAHARA 1600 FROM SERIOUS HISTORICAL GAMES Since reviewing the first game in this series, Nagashino & Shizugatake ,  from Serious Hi...


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Since reviewing the first game in this series, Nagashino & Shizugatakefrom Serious Historical Games back in September 2022, I've been awaiting with great anticipation this second game in the Battles of the Sengoku Jidai series.  So, it's many thanks to Philippe Hardy, the designer and founder of Serious Historical games for providing me with this review copy.  

Before reading further, I'd strongly recommend reading the original review (link provided above) , if you haven't already done so to familiarise yourself with both the system and the historical period.  For purely an overview of the game system refer to Appendix A at the end of this review.

All the outstanding qualities of the first game are here on display in this second game, but on an even grander scale.   The battle of Sekigahara certainly deserves this expanded treatment.  It was the decisive conclusion of the period known as the Warring States or Sengoku Jidai and established Tokugawa Ieyasu as the supreme leader and Shogun, heralding in the Edo period.  Unsurprisingly Sekigahara has featured as a game in several Japanese magazines and boxed products.  It has also featured as one of three battles in the game, Tenkatoitsu, and in the highly regarded block game, Sekigahara: the Unification of Japan.  The latter is an excellent game and system in its own right, but its title covers a broad sweeping campaign, not focus on the battle that we have here.

Though the battles and scope in the first game of this series differs vastly from this second game, the mechanics of the game are identical.

With such a major battle, I'm delighted to say that what you see above is the superb two maps, each 33 inches by just over 23 inches making a magnificent 36 x 46 field of play.  With no overlap and an absolutely perfect match up between the two; it is a magnificent sight.
Stunning though it is, it does retain the same problem as the first game in the series, namely that the area identifiers are faintly printed and merge even more into the colour palate of these maps.  This and identifying the many different coloured "mons" (the symbols that identify each clan) on the unit counters makes set up a lengthy process.  Sorting into a counter tray or zip-lock bags is a must for speeding things up.  However, when completed the picture is striking!

This top-down view is deceiving as to the number of units involved.  When you consider that what you are seeing are predominantly stacks largely containing four units, that's quite a sizeable number of units that you are dealing with.  
This is a very different battle from the first two and produces a number of pros and cons.  From the very beginning, many of the units are in close proximity and the background colour of the two sides is very similar, according to the Scenario Booklet white and grey.  A more realistic description would be white and off-white, as this close-up makes clear.

The picture shows perhaps the most critical area of the map, where I've placed four red dice to mark the four areas that each give 5VPs for controlling them at the end of the game.   The top two areas start the game in the possession of the Ishida forces (positioned vertically) and the bottom two by the Tokugawa forces (positioned tilted to the left).  Obviously when playing a real opponent, each side is upside down to the other player's perspective - so, no problem.  Try to play solitaire and the best process I've found to deal with it is the diagonal positioning on one sides units.  However, the main factor about this game which makes solo play distinctly less user-friendly is reading the counters.  
First of all, each clan is distinguished by a coloured "mon" or symbol.  Here are four massively enlarged units.  The mon is the coloured image in the top right of each background banner.   These are four leaders who can be identified by the commander's paddle in the bottom left corner.

Then for all the other combat units, you have to be able to read the abbreviation of each type of unit (Te, Che, Ya, Yu, Sa and Ki) or identify them by their weapons and poses and this is roughly how you will see them on the map.

As soon as combat begins, and that is right from the start of the game, units rapidly acquire disruption markers (the first two counters illustrated below.)

One or more of these markers will regularly need to be lifted so that you can check which mon it possesses and what type of unit it is.  The low unit density and considerable amount of manoeuvring in the previous games made this a minor issue.  With this battle being of much higher unit density and close quarters conflict from the start, the process can become tiring when you're trying to handle both sides; so I don't envisage playing it too often solo.
That said, there are a number of factors that make it much less onerous for two players.  The first is that activation by division [ie. clan] alternates between players and most clans contain a low number of units and the attrition of combat losses adds to their reduction in numbers.  So, you're dealing with each player having to check these elements for a small number of counters at a time.  Low unit stacking rules is a benefit too, unlike many area-movement games that often allow ten units per area.
Next, the close proximity of units from the beginning of the game also works in your favour, as it makes pulling units out of combat to recover more difficult, adding to the likelihood of more rapid losses  and finally, each combat is resolved with a single Lead Attacking unit against a single Lead Defending unit. 

A close-up of the excellent map graphics

Other than that effect from the far larger number of units overall engaged in this battle, all  the other features of this system [outlined in the Appendix]continue to provide a smooth playing experience.  For me the elements that stand out are the constant involvement of both players, the interaction of the different types of unit, the very easy to remember terrain features and lack of extensive modifiers which greatly aids the combat system, the differing army stances from very aggressive to very diffensive that provide a small range of additional chits that can be used in combat and all of these can be embraced in a single, easy to read Play Aid.

So what creates the individuality of this battle.  First is the interaction caused by the disposition of the forces.  The Eastern Army, that of Tokugawa Ieyasu, holds the centre ground with a string of units stretching eastwards.  Because of his significantly better command range and central position, a large proportion of his subordinate clan leaders will be under direct control, making activation assured.  In contrast his opponent, Ishida Mitsunari, though commanding as substantial an army, begins personally located to the northwest.  Consequently, this position and his shorter command span means that, in the initial turns of the battle part of his main force will need to pass activation rolls in order to activate.  However, some of these are poised to strike the enemy's left flank.  What's more, Ishida Mitsunari  has a further potential enemy force to the rear of his enemy.    
However, this situation is even more imponderable than even the set-up I have described makes it seem. Making the battle increasingly more volatile and unpredictable is that both armies contain forces that may switch to fighting for the other side.  At the beginning of each turn, a roll must be made which is modified by each side's losses.  For quite a while,  the only outcome is that these potentially treacherous forces are mainly likely to remain inactive and play no part in the battle that turn, but as the battle losses pile up the chances of  defection mount.  Each side must also beware attacking such units prematurely, as this will guarantee their immediate alignment with the enemy!
So, the initial grouping of the forces provides a toe-to-toe struggle to secure the four key VP areas and destroy enough strength points to help bring some of the enemy forces over into your camp.  All in all this game has so far provided a very different, but equally enticing experience as the first battles in this series did.  I certainly feel that the series readily captures a very satisfying feel for the period.  


[A] Initiative Phase
Each Army has an overall Formation that can range from Extremely Defensive through Flexible to Extremely Aggressive and can be changed by a simple die roll against the Army Commander's Quality Level [QL].  Each Formation gives a player five tactical markers from which a random selection is made at the beginning of each turn, again using the Army Commander's QL.  The more Aggressive the more positive the markers, the more Defensive the more negative the markers.  This is such a neat idea.  It means that the Aggressive stances add benefits totally or mainly to attacking, while the Defensive stances correspondingly furnish benefits totally or mainly to defending.  Logical, but a neat way of  imposing its own constraints. 
Check whether divisional leaders are within range of the Army Commander and place isolated marker if not.
Determine which player has the Initiative and activates first
Check for possible arrival of reinforcements.
[B] Alternating Divisional Activation Phase
A chosen division is automatically activated if its leader is in command or has to role against the leader's QL if isolated [i.e. out of command].
Active units in command range of the division leader may be moved and charges are declared.
The inactive player may fire against any adjacent activated units.
Melee follows and is optional, unless a charge has been declared which makes a melee mandatory.
The inactive player may make a counter-charge where possible.
[C] Reorganisation Phase
Remove or attempt to remove disorganised markers.
Remove tactical and activation markers.
Check for victory at the end of the last game turn.

A range of the games markers
There are quite a few innovative rules in this game, but all are remarkably easy to learn and remember without frequent reference to the rule book.  This is a major reason why I like this system so much,  as too is the fact that they interact on a simple level to cover a whole series of features seen in similar games.
Take the zone identification number.  It will begin with the number 0/1/2 which takes you from the lowest height level on the map to the highest.  The next two numbers like all area movement games is purely for identification purposes; then the final number is a Roman numeral either I/II/III.
This latter number covers a lot of ground: first of all telling you how difficult the terrain is.  No surprises that the higher the number the more difficult.  Next the number is the base cost of movement  for entry and finally it determines whether a unit in it projects a ZOC.  A unit projects a ZOC only if it is located in a higher number  . So, a unit in III projects a ZOC into II or I, a unit in II projects a ZOC into I and, of course a unit in I never projects a ZOC.  It also affects charges as you can only charge into a zone I.  Finally the colour of the box the zone identification number is in tells you whether the zone blocks line of sight.

This close up of the zone containing Shizugatake Castle highlights  the attention to artistic detail, so harmonious with the Japanese background, as well as illustrating the practical zone designation.  It also reveals other typical factors that come into play such as the border between zones that affects movement cost and charges too.

Take care when looking at terrain, as exemplified by this tract of forest just below the castle.  Most terrain II is forest in these battles, but differing prefixed numbers show that the height of the terrain varies and the borders to a single zone of forest often vary too.  One side may be shown by a dotted line as a trail or path crosses it, while another may have a single or double line to show increasing difficulty and so increased cost and finally one side of the zone may have a broad line showing that it is impassable.  All visually very nice and all very easy to remember!
Combat too has several innovative and artful touches.  Only a single unit may attack from a zone or be attacked in a zone whether by fire or melee and each player chooses their unit.  Normally in melee there is only one round of attack, though there are conditions when a unit may fight a second round.  Results only affect the chosen attacker and defender, though one of the modifiers in a melee does reflect a limited combination of different types of units present in either the attacker or the defender's zone.  
The process of a combat couldn't be easier: take the differential between the strength of the two units involved and then add any applicable positive and negative modifiers.  The resulting number is finally added to a 2D6 die roll and applied to the appropriate Fire or Melee Table.  A key point to remember is that all modifiers are simply added together, they are not applied separately to the strengths of the units. Two states of disorganisation, step losses or quality checks are the possible results.  The only surprise for me was the lack of any rout result.  As well as my satisfaction with the overall simplicity of approach, I was very pleased with how rapidly most modifiers became second nature after only a few combats had been worked out.  One tip I'd suggest is that you make a simple numerical  scale on which to move a marker up and down as you apply modifiers.