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 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW FROM  PHALANX At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just...

1941 RACE TO MOSCOW 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW

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

 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW
FROM 
PHALANX
At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just launched their Kickstarter . The only surprise is that it's taken five years to launch this elegant sequel, in terms of real time, and prequel in terms of WWII.  Both games are interesting hybrids of the war gaming and Euro gaming stables.  Personally, both for topic and for game play, 1941 Race to Moscow is immediately more to my preference.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the games, they offer a three player game that can also be played two player and solo.  For Race to the Rhine, the rivalry between Patton and Montgomery is a well documented fact and to provide a third player by including General Bradley is not wholly inappropriate.  However, Race to Moscow has an even more immediately easy and logical division by simulating the three-pronged invasion of Operation Barbarossa by Army Groups North, Centre and South.

In broad terms the two games, as might be expected, share very similar features.  The map board is covered in a series of oval-shaped point to point areas, linked by coloured arrows.  The colour of the arrow determines which player/s may use that connection.  In contrast to the portrait orientation of Race to the Rhine [RttR], Race to Moscow's orientation is a landscape one. 


This change has made little difference in the number of areas each player has to fight their way through to reach their respective goals of Leningrad, Moscow and Rostov.  What I think is a greatly improved feature is the background of a geographic map instead of the bland, plain tones of RttR.  This gives a stronger war game feel, with a sense of real armies manoeuvring over terrain that grows steadily more inhospitable. 



This is reinforced by the second improvement which is the change from the all-wooden blocks to tank and infantry armies, aircraft and navy, trucks, trains and the variety of three supplies [food, fuel and ammunition] all being rendered in plastic.  Understandably, those who regard wooden pieces as aesthetically better may not share my view.  However, though my review copy [for which once again many, many thanks to Phalanx] is a prototype, I think everyone would agree that most of the components are already of an impressive quality.


A minor detail I'd recommend, to help make recognition clearer, is that the tanks used for each of the panzergruppes either be distinguished more obviously by size or by a different shape of base just as the Field armies are.

I particularly like the three supply elements: food, ammunition and fuel and the trains and trucks that transport them.  All of these can be seen in the next picture, along with the Southern Army's aircraft and cardboard aircraft and HQ markers.
Identical to RttR, each Army has a card with spaces for up to six supplies and marked with its own specific initial load.  Field Armies begin with three ammunition, a single fuel and two food supplies, while Panzergruppes carry three ammunition and three fuel at start.  As is appropriate, Field Armies are much slower, moving only a single space at a time [unless they spend a food supply to move an additional area], while the panzers can move up to three spaces.


Each player has their own deck of Pursuit cards, while all three share the single Soviet deck.  Unlike RttR, each player has to fight their way from the start through a line of spaces containing Soviet markers.  As an Army enters such a space, it has to draw and reveal a Soviet card; all of which will have icons showing what supplies the player must spend to defeat the card.  The stronger the enemy the more supplies you have to spend to do so, but the more likely you are to gain a victory medal whose acquisition will contribute to one of the two ways of winning the game.  A conquered space also then gains a control marker of the appropriate player's colour: black for Army Group North, white for Army Group Centre and brown for Army Group South.


The front line of Soviet markers

Beyond this front line, you are more likely to enter a space that doesn't contain a Soviet marker.  In this case, a player draws a card from their own Pursuit deck of eighteen cards.  With these, you'll encounter a mix of minor losses or gains or historical events [the latter essentially serve as no effect cards!].

Each player's goal for an automatic victory is to be first to take control of their Objective city, as mentioned at the beginning of my review.  Rather oddly, each player can win an automatic victory by taking Moscow, which seems a little hard on the player of Army Group Centre for whom capturing Moscow is the one and only auto win!

If nobody succeeds before the last Soviet marker is placed on the board, then victory is determined by who has gained the most victory medals by that point.  I like the dynamics of this, as each player balances gaining medals against making progress towards their automatic win condition.

A major part of this effective system of checks and balances is that as the final phase of a player's turn, they must either remove another player's control marker [this must be chosen as the first priority, if possible] or place a Soviet marker on the board.  If  this latter is what you have to do, at first the logical thought is simply to choose a placement that will hinder an opponent.  [By the way if you're playing solo, there's only one person to affect and that's you!]

However, though you may well be slowing an opponent down, you're also giving them the slim chance to gain another victory medal.  Besides, what you do to others will undoubtedly be done back to you - retaliation is definitely the name of the game here!

Also you must remember that the game will end if all Soviet markers have been placed on the board.  As the game begins with only six markers not on the board and by the end of a full turn, up to three new markers may have been placed on the board, it's obviously essential that a fair degree of attacking areas containing Soviet markers must happen.  A corollary to that, of course, is that a player who's in the lead may actively seek to end the game this way.  So there is a constant interaction between players, as part of what I've called the checks and balances of Race to Moscow of game play.

So far, I've concentrated on the aspects that create the atmosphere of a war game with a sequence of conflicts.  However, just as the battles have to be won by expending your precious supplies, all the other possible actions you can choose from focus on replenishing those supplies and transporting them to your armies as the frontline advances.  This is no mean feat and will tax you to the limit.


Army Group Centre begins to haul supplies forward

It also adds just as much both to the tension of game play and to the overall sensation of waging a military campaign.  This is no dry exercise in resource management, but a dynamic part of fuelling your attacks and advances.


The railhead from which to gain more trains


The one major element I haven't so far referred to is the rule book.  This is slightly harder to assess mainly because, as a prototype copy of the game, it comes as a simple A4 paper booklet in black and white.  Overall, it does an adequate job of presenting a clear set of rules with a reasonable number of examples and illustrations.  However, the latter pictures being black and white are nowhere near as clear and helpful as ultimately the coloured versions will be.  Currently, the major lack was the excellent section that explains all the pictorial symbols on the many cards in play.  I certainly had no problems interpreting most of them, but that's said from 40+ years of board war games.

So some of my following judgements are based on the contents and quality of the glossy and lavishly illustrated rule book for RttR.  First of all, that contained a thorough section elaborating on all those symbols I've referred to in the previous paragraph.  Secondly, the rule book for RttR contains some of the most extensive and clearly detailed examples of play I've come across.  For a newcomer whether to war games or Euro games, this made learning the game a very easy step by step process.   Consequently, I'm fully expecting the quality and accessibility of Race to Moscow's rule book to replicate this same high standard.  

A minor point is that the decision has been made to move to an A4 format for the final version rather than the larger square format familiar in several of Phalanx's games.  Personally I prefer the A4 format, as do many of my gaming friends, but as always that is a matter of personal taste.

Overall, this is a game that I want to play because of its visual appeal, its topic and its game play.  I can enjoy a solo session as well as a two-player one, but the full highlights of this game for me will always come from the contest of all three players.




Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo Games  The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part...

Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games

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




Kiev '41

by

VentoNuovo Games





 The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part of their Barbarossa attack (the invasion of the Soviet Union) in 1941. The strongest elements of the Red Army are deployed here below the Pripyat Marshes. Even a few books have been written that put forth the idea that Stalin was getting ready to attack into Poland, Romania etc. If so, that would explain the huge amount of soldiers, planes, guns, and tanks to be found in the Southern area. The German intelligence before Barbarossa was either non-existent or denied, again depending upon what book you read. The commander of the German Army Group South, von Rundstedt, was in for a rude awakening as far as Soviet might. Contrary to most histories, the largest tank battle on the Eastern front was not at Kursk in 1943, but around Dubno in 1941. The Germans were faced with what seemed like the zombie apocalypse. No matter how many Soviet tanks or soldiers they destroyed, more seemed to rise from the ground itself in front of them. The German Luftwaffe was the only part of the German war machine that successfully completed most of its task. The Soviet Air Force was almost completely destroyed, mostly on the ground, during the first month of fighting. This allowed the Luftwaffe almost free reign to assist the German ground forces in the South for a few months. Enough of the background; you are given the task to defend Mother Russia, or as the German commander to kick the rotten door in. The only thing is the door has been reinforced by iron bars behind the rotten facade. On to the Game!






 This is the third part of VentoNuovo Games trilogy of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The other games are Leningrad '41 and Moscow '41(they also released a game on the Stalingrad Battle - Stalingrad Inferno). Kiev '41essentially uses the same rules and precepts of the other games. The rules have been continually updated, but if you have played either of the other two games you will be up and playing in no time. The timeline of the game is from June to December 1941. It comes with five scenarios. These are:

1. Les Preludes - July 1941
2. The River - August to the end of September 1941
3. The Pocket - September to the end of October 1941
4. The Snow - November to the end of December 1941
5. The Southern Struggle Campaign Game - July to the end of
     December 1941





 The map is a large card stock one of the Southern area of operations in 1941. The map goes from Tarnopol in the Northwest, to Maykop in the Southeast, and from Constanta in the Southwest, to Novi Oskol in the Northeast. The map (86cm x 62cm) is colorful and is like a cross between a glossy and flat finish. You do have a choice of buying either a Mounted Map or a larger (103cm x 77cm) Gortex Map. The normal map is just as good looking as the other maps that VentoNuovo produces, and I have almost all of their games. It is an area map, and for the most part you will have enough room in each area for both side's units to be in. There are some choke points that you will have to squeeze the units in if you have large scale battles in them. The blocks are small at 15mm x 15mm, which is almost too bad. The reason being is that the stickers are very well done and a pleasure to look at, especially if you invest in the Icon Stickers. I realize that the size of the blocks is so you do not need a map that takes up an entire table. You have to make some adjustment somewhere. All of the components are up to the usual great standard of VentoNuovo Games. The player's aid cards are all card stock and done up the same way as the map. When you open the box you will be happy if not delighted with what you find. This is what comes with the game:



 1. 1 Mapboard (heavy stock, laminated 86x62 cm)
 2. 1 Rules manual
 3. 2 rules Summary and Player's Aids
 4. 151 PVC Stickers
 5. 2 Orders of Battle/Scenario Setup Aids
 6. 56 Wooden Markers: 1 Weather Forecast Marker (yellow
      cylinder); 1 Initiative Disc (large green disc); 2 Weather 
     Markers (white discs); 4 Soviet Supply and Control Discs 
     (1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 light blue, 1 blue); 13 Artillery Fire
     Markers(squares, 2 blue, 4 black, and 7 red); 20 Area
     Control Markers (cubes, 10 red, 10 black); 5 River
     Crossing Markers (blue cubes); 10 Out of Supply Markers
      (white cubes);

 7. 112 wooden Block Counter Units (black, blue, brown, green, 
      tan, and red blocks)
 8. 8 Luftwaffe Bombers (8 black discs)
 9. 2 Soviet Fleets (red plates)
 10. 4 Dice 









 This is the scale of the game:

Map: 1:1,000,000 (1cm = 10Km)
Unit Size: Axis Corps/Divisions; Soviet Armies/Corps/Divisions
Time: 1 turn = 1 Month
Players: 2 Players, with excellent solitaire suitability







  Sequence of Play

1. Logistics Phase (2,3,4,5, and 6 turn)
2. Impulse Phase (player with the initiative first)
    Bad weather Check (2nd impulse of October)
    Supply Check (always)
    HQ Activation Segment (TI only)
    Command Segment (always)
    Combat Segment (TI and SI only)
    Blitz Segment (TI only)
    HQ Deactivation Segment (TI only)
    Isolation Check (always)
    Exploitation (playing the Initiative Disc after a TI)
3. Final Phase

 I will use their own words to describe a turn:

"A Turn is made up of a variable number of Impulses, from a minimum of two, up to unlimited. When a new Turn starts, the player with the Initiative plays the 1st impulse, followed by the other player, and so on.
  A player may:
a. play a Strategic Impulse (SI) or
b. play a Tactical Impulse (TI) or
c. Pass
After two consecutive Passes (by the two players. one per player), the Turn ends and a new one begins."








 The game mechanics of the series is a lot different from what you have been used to in Eastern Front games. In other games there is a sheet where you place all of your reinforcements and they come automatically at the appointed time. In these games the reinforcements are randomly drawn from the Reinforcement Pool in a number equal to the player's Logistics Value. A lot of people might call this heresy. However, the one mechanic that this does enforce is complete randomness to every single game. It also makes it easier to play it solitaire. You will have no idea of what you are going to pull, or more importantly, not pull from the Reinforcement Pool. You check for reinforcements during the logistics phase, or you can use the Initiative Disc. There are Logistic Phases on turns 2,3,4,5, and 6. You have to choose to activate your Supreme Leader (Hitler or Stalin) to be able to draw reinforcements or replace steps on the HQ or unit blocks. Your Logistics Value is calculated by the Supreme Leaders points and your non-exhausted HQs along with enemy losses etc. Each block unit is also color coded as far as their strength. They can be either black, white, or red. Depending upon the unit's color, the cost for Replacement Points is different (1 for black, 2 for White, 3 for Red). One part of the rule is that, say you have 6 as your Logistic Value after calculating it. You then have a total of 6 for HQ regeneration, AND 6 for replacement points, AND 6 for reinforcements, not just 6 for all three. The weather will also affect your Logistic Value. For example, a snow turn will halve the Axis Logistic Value once you have added it up.  The Initiative Disc is pretty much a Nuclear Option for the player controlling it. Using it allows the player to 'play a Strategic Impulse', and 'play an Exploitation Movement after a Tactical Impulse'. This can easily be a game changer. The only problem being is that once used, the enemy player now gets control of the Initiative Disc to use at his discretion. This is also a big change from most games where initiative is determined at the beginning of each turn. So, the big question is, do I just hoard the Initiative Disc and not use it for fear of what my opponent can do with it, or risk using it?





 And the verdict is (drum roll please), another winner from VentoNuovo Games. This game, while using the mechanics of its older siblings, is in most ways a lot tougher nut to crack, at least in the beginning. The player will get to see exactly what Amy Group South was up against during Barbarossa. The components are second to none (especially if you avail yourself of the more expensive options). The gameplay is as usual a winner (when you have a winning combination, why change it). The addition of all of the randomness in the games, as mentioned, lead to each game being different. It also lends itself to solitaire play. This is a great selling point in this day and age. Thank you VentoNuovo for allowing me to review this game. Owners of the first two in the Barbarossa trilogy will be pleased to know that work is being done to make all three playable together. What a monster that will be!




 A whole slew of YouTube videos about the game:

VentoNuovo Games Kiev '41:

Robert


The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand  Louis XIV,...

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand

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




The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715

Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV

by

Rene Chartrand





 Louis XIV, the Sun King, is usually the king that comes to mind when we think of France. It is hard to believe that less than eighty years separate his reign from the French Revolution. The opulence of the Sun King's reign to the convulsions of 1789 seem a world apart. The book is an overview of the history of the army, wars, and campaigns during his reign, along with the history and make up of his various guard units.


 The author takes us from the youth of Louis XIV through the 'Fronde' (Civil Wars in France in the 1640s) uprisings to Louis taking over the actual rule of the state. The French National Army was the first in Europe to be put on a professional basis and not just a militia called up when needed. Some individual armies  (Gustavus Adolphus, Cromwell, and Wallenstein) were professional, but the different European states did not have national standing armies.


 These are the book's chapters:

Young Louis XIV
Into Personal Rule
Foreign Intrigues and Adventures
The Sun King's Blitzkrieg
The Army's Command
Senior Officials and Officers
The World of Chivalry
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dedans du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dehors du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Infantry
Other Guard Units

 The book is over 200 pages long. It is filled with pictures of the various battles and commanders of the age. The thirty pages of colored plates are a gold mine of information for the miniatures crowd. Short biographies of all of the higher commanders during Louis' reign are also in the book. There is also an abridged history of all of the Sun King's various Wars, Civil and otherwise.

 A quarter of the book is taken up by the actual guard units of the Sun King. These not only look at the weaponry, uniforms, and organization of the different units, but also give information of the actual battles they fought in. These were not just dress up soldiers, but were actually used in most of the campaigns of Louis XIV. The list includes the Musketeers (with the real D'artagnan), Swiss, and Scottish Guards to name just a few.

 I can easily recommend the book as both a primer and an information bonanza for people looking for more information on the Sun King's military. The information on the different Guard Units is priceless. Thank you Casemate Publishers for another excellent book to review.

Fokker DR. I 'Red Baron' by Cobi

Fokker DR. I 'Red Baron' by Cobi Fokker DR. I 'Red Baron' by Cobi

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




Fokker DR. I 'Red Baron'

by

Cobi




Pub battles: Gettysburg by Command Post Games   The game we will be looking at is an adaptation, or a descendant, ...

Pub Battles Gettysburg by Command Post Games Pub Battles Gettysburg by Command Post Games

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



Pub battles: Gettysburg

by

Command Post Games





  The game we will be looking at is an adaptation, or a descendant, of the original Kriegspiel. The game information will have to come second to perhaps fulfillment of a long time dream.




 This is a picture of a 'light pull chain' defending a valley, and in the mid 1960's to me it was state of the art for wargaming. I collected every one I could to add to my growing army of them. As you can see, with the bed covers formed just so, you can create any terrain you want. You can also form your army units (chains) in any shape possible. They can also represent any army from ancient times to the 20th century. They can be armed with firearms or sword and shield; it does not matter. Why, you ask, am I bringing this up? Because I have been looking for a game that reminds me of wargaming with my chains, and I think I finally have one in Pub Battles: Gettysburg. To be more exact, I think all of the Pub Battles games will do. So, on to the game.





 The Pub Battle games all have a few things in common. First, they are relatively easy with only about four pages of rules. Second, they do a good job of showing how units had to march and fight historically. Third, they are beautiful beyond compare. The maps are all period ones that have been enhanced by Command Post Games to be easier for players to use. The map not only looks good, it actually feels good. You wouldn't be surprised to see it come out of a museum case. It is rolled up when you receive it, however it flattens right out without adjusting or counter-folding by the player. The map is more of a time machine than just a wargaming map. It allows your mind to wander when playing so you actually believe that you have Hood, Hancock, and Meade around the table with you. The counters, while really only wooden rectangles, have the same effect. Once they are on the map it feels like von Moltke is in a chair nearby looking on approvingly. 





 This is what comes in the game tube:

Pub Battles Rulebook 
Pub Battles Gettysburg Rulebook
Six small die and one large (all six sided)
24"x24" Paper map (you can order a canvas map, and per 
  Command Post Games one is being used in a museum exhibit)
Six small Light Chain Pulls (coincidence?) to be used to calculate
  Rates of March. You can also get wooden ones.
Black and Gray rectangular, and square blocks 
Myriad of stickers for the above





 I will post this write up from Command Post Games:


  • Units realistically sprawl out in road column, resulting in delays, snaking and traffic snarls.
  • Baggage Trains add to the traffic and congestion problems. They have to be protected but also need to be kept close to the action to properly supply the troops.
  • Realistic, chaotic move sequence. Your troops don’t move when you want them to. You don’t know when exactly when your troops or the enemy will move. As the commander, you can only try to speed them up or slow them down. If that fails, you have to react quickly with contingency planning.
  • Chaotic move sequence also results in massive re-playability. You will never see a game open and develop the same way twice. However the timing works out, you must adapt to the situation at hand.
  • Realistic Fog of War: blocks hide exact unit strength and type. You can also hide your reserves off board. This forces players to realistically screen and probe. You can never be certain as to how close you are to breaking the enemy. Are they out of reserves or can they still reinforce their line? Where are they strong? Are they massing for a counter attack?
  • The detailed narrative generated by the tense game play makes for great solitaire games.
  • Combat and movement models are based on accurate, military, combat data from the period: Kriegsspiel.
  • Optional rules for multiplayer team play.
  • Optional written orders are both fun, easy to implement and very realistic. These are great to use with multiplayer teams. They also greatly enhance solitaire games.
  • Sophisticated and deep strategy. There are tons of decisions to make every turn. Every one of them must be weighed against possible advantages / disadvantages to you and the enemy. Players must consider how the timing of moves will impact other commands and the enemy. 




 The game looks to be easy, but that is deceptive. The addition of the different optional rules make it both deeper and more historical. Please one favor though, rules lawyers do not apply. This is a game where you and your opponent will need to be gentlemen and come to agreements over movement and the battles. The one thing about this game is that it will get crowded with pieces in different places. On a Gettysburg map that is going to be the 'fish hook'. The rules are very clear, but because of the compression effects on the units it sometimes gets a little hazy as to exact unit placement. When that happens, it can either be a rules fight fest or a friendly compromise on the issues that may arise. Remember that its forbearer Kriegspiel did have umpires. 





 There are probably over a hundred board games on the Battle of Gettysburg, so why another. Well that is exactly the point. It has never had the Command Point Games treatment. So, even an old jaded campaigner will look at the battle through fresh eyes. The game is simple, but in its own way it brings to life the problems of command in that era. The price point for the game is not cheap. However, were you to be able to hold the components in your own hands and feel the quality, you would immediately understand. There are a lot of stickers that need to be applied, so keep that in mind. They are also harder to apply correctly on the rectangles than when you are putting stickers on a block game. Someone who is a stickler (sorry) for having things just so will need extra time and more patience than usual with setting up this game. 

 Gettysburg allows you to play all three days as separate games, or a campaign with night turns. You also get three what-if scenarios. First, Jackson was not killed at Chancellorsville. Second, Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, but arrives in time for the battle. Third, J.E.B. Stuart is present at the opening of the festivities. Victory conditions are cut and dried. A Player receives one Victory Point for every enemy piece destroyed. The player with the most points wins. There are a few Gettysburg only rules. These are:

Treat all creeks as Streams.
All Cavalry are dragoons: they roll only 2 dice.
Both Confederate and Federal HQs have a rating of 3.

 This is the sequence of play:

1. Place all Command Chits in a cup.
2. Pull a Command Chit randomly from the cup.
3. Move pieces from that Command
4. Repeat Steps 2 & 3 until cup is empty.
5. Resolve Combat between all enemy pieces in contact.
6. Start a new Turn.





 So, how does it play? It is a lot of fun, and strangely very deep, in a very historical way. With the game being a chit pull one, you will never know what to expect to be able to do or what your opponent can do. The main rule to keep in mind is listed in bold "Move where the majority of the piece can fit". The piece is in one type of terrain: the type under the " majority of the piece". HQ pieces move first and then you determine command ranges There is an optional rule where Baggage Trains can be added. These really add to the historical flavor especially in their uncanny ability to clog roads. The designers suggest that after you get the rules down to add 'Optional Hidden Reserves' to the mix. For example, the pieces of a corps if in reserve would be hidden in their HQ unit. As long as the HQ unit is not spotted by the enemy they can lay in wait like a rattler waiting to pounce. To find an entire corps pop up over a ridge that seemed safe is extremely disconcerting. There are also rules on multi-player with special rules dealing with teams that try to cheat, so beware. Thank you Command Post Games for allowing me to review this almost hidden gem of a game.

Command Post Games:

https://www.commandpostgames.com/

Robert

Paper Wars Volume 93 The Journal of Modern wargaming by Compass games   This is my first look at Compass Games Paper ...

Paper Wars Volume 93: 'The journal of Modern Wargaming' by Compass Games Paper Wars Volume 93: 'The journal of Modern Wargaming' by Compass Games

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

Paper Wars Volume 93

The Journal of Modern wargaming

by

Compass games



  This is my first look at Compass Games Paper Wars. There are not too many games on the battle of Wagram, so that is why I gravitated to this issue. The 1809 campaign in Central Europe being one of my favorites to read about and game. 

  The magazine is of high quality paper and naturally is in full color. It is put out by Compass Games, so all of the articles and add-ons are about their games. It starts with a run down of all the newest releases and updates from the company, and also gives you background about Compass Games. This is a sample of the contents:

Brief Border wars
Amerika bomber
The Korean War
Once We Moved Like The Wind
Demyansk Shield
Wagram 1809



Back of the magazine


 There are also three historical pieces by Sean Chick :

Ogoula Tchetoka And Ackia
Seccessionville
Operation Solstice

 The first is about the battles between the French in New France Louisiana and the Chickasaw tribe. The second is about a very looked over battle during the Civil War. The third is about the last German offensive on the Eastern front in World War II.



 I went to the Compass Games Expo, which is held every November in Cromwell, CT right around Veteran's Day, and my eyes were bigger than my wallet. I bought five games, yes five; they were fifty percent off, much to my better half's chagrin. The reason I mention this is that the magazine has two add-ons for 'A Pragmatic War' (This is the third in a series. The first two were: 'No Peace Without Spain', and 'The Nine Years War'). These three have become some of my favorite games. The first adds Colonial Warfare to A Pragmatic War. The second adds solitaire rules. These are hard to come by for most Card Driven Games. The magazine continues with a lot of information about the Expo, and also has the obligatory ads for their games. The write up and pictures of 'Amerika Bomber' Evil Queen of the Skies (sounds like a 70's schlock movie!) make my salivary glands work overtime. This is based on 'B-17 Queen of the Skies', and allows the player to fly one of five highly advanced German bombers in 1947-48 (in reality these never left the drawing board). This is a solitaire game. Speaking of solitaire games, do yourself a favor and look up 'Interceptor Ace' and 'Night fighter Ace', both excellent solitaire games by Compass.




The above two pics are from the game page


 The wargame in the magazine Wagram 1809 has only ten pages of rules. There is also a four page historical write up about the battle by the game's designer Ty Bomba. I will use his words to describe the game:

 "This is a two-player grand-tactical simulation (easily adapted for solitaire play) of the battle that is generally considered to have been napoleon's last great victory. Both players have the opportunity to attack and defend, but the main burden of the offensive is on the French player"
 "Each hexagon on the map represents 400 meters (438 yards) from side to opposite side. The units of maneuver are brigades, divisions, and two corps. Each full turn represents two to four hours of real time."





 The map is your standard size at 34"x22". The area of Deutsch-Wagram is just north of the area of the horrific battle of Aspern-Essling that preceded it. The colors of the map make the difference in terrain hexes easy to see. There are 228 9/16" counters, but because you will only use one 'step' at a time to represent each unit, the map does not become crowded with them. The counters are your standard fare magazine wargame ones, if a little thin. All of the tables and charts are on the map so you do not have to keep looking them up, or copying them from the magazine. 

 Wagram was a two day battle of incredible tenacity on both sides. When someone would denigrate the Austrian Army in later years, Napoleon would invariably answer "Then you were not with me at Wagram". The Austrian army was pushed back, and probably would fare poorly in another battle, but for two days gave as good as it got. The area of the battle does not allow for sweeping movements. This is a straight up fight between two juggernauts. The rules help to make this a very historically played game. As in reality, luck and a quick decision by the commanders is what will win the battle. It was designed by Ty Bomba, what else is there to say. Clean rules, that are laid out in an easy to follow and logical pattern. There are rules for creating a French 'grand battery', along with making a French 'Grand Square'. Both of these do not have to be chosen by the French player, but are useful and historically true for the battle. Just as in the Aspern-essling Battle, the Austrians are trying to cut the French off from the Danube River. Doing so will result in an automatic win for the Austrians.





  This is the sequence of play:

I. Phase Sequence Declaration Step
II. Alternating Actions Movement or Combat Phase
III. Movement or Combat Recovery step
IV. Alternating Actions Combat or Movement Phase
V. Combat or Movement Recovery Phase
VI. Night Turn Recovery Step (Turn 5 only)

1. France Decides move first
2. France and Austria alternate moving one unit
3. Move recovery
4. France and Austria alternate attacking with one unit
5. Combat recovery

 The games I have played have all come down to the wire. None of them were an easy win for either side. The rules simulate each army's weaknesses and strengths.


  I received word from the designer that future Paper Wars will include two battles from The Crimean War: Alma and Inkerman. Paper Wars is more of an 'inhouse' magazine like 'The General' was for Avalon Hill, which is fine for those of us that do like Compass Games and have invested in them. Magazine games were once looked upon as just 'fluff' to entice the buyer, and not 'real' wargames. That view has long been proven wrong. Most of them could easily be turned into boxed games, with a little attention to detail and upgrading the components. 

Compass Games Paper Wars:

https://www.compassgames.com/paperwars.html

Robert

Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences ...

Axis Football 2019 Axis Football 2019

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Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences for several years now on PC. I had not played the series before this version, but I had heard good things about it. When the chance came along to review the newest edition, I had to jump on it like a fumble.


Axis Football takes a minimalist approach to things, and I mean that in a good way. Every menu and process in the game is clean, clear and streamlined to get you to the good stuff. There are no unnecessary frills, no long loading screens or needless cutscenes. Whether you are in the menus or in the game, everything moves along as fast as you can make decisions. I found this very refreshing, and it made it a breeze to knock out a game quickly. 

While the game offers a few modes of the play, it is clearly meant to be played in franchise mode. If you just want to play a quick exhibition game, the option is there, but really you'll want to jump over to the "full" experience as soon as possible. Franchise mode gives you a ton to think about between games. You are in charge of all team operations, and so you'll be deciding everything from who is starting this week, who the scouts are focused on, and whether there's money in the budget for new bathrooms at the stadium. 


The 2019 version of the game does a lot to expand this part of the experience. You have 16 different slots for various coaches, scouts, and coordinators, all of whom have their own stats and contracts to consider. The practice schedule of your team can be tweaked to focus on particular areas like tackling and special teams. The more intense your practices, the more points you can invest in different areas, but at the same time you run a risk wearing down team morale. That's another new thing in 2019, team morale, which is influenced by many of your decisions, and in turn influences things like contract negotiations and how fast your players develop. 

You'll also now have numerous financial decisions to consider, as I alluded to before. All sorts of facility upgrades are possible, like adding a sauna, upgrading the VIP boxes, or getting the field in tip top shape. Every one of these upgrades offers a benefit to your team, but most come with a hefty price tag. You'll need those funds for retaining star players and signing free agents. Go out and win, and the funds will come streaming in for those airplane tickets to every game. Until then, we're taking the bus. 


All the other sorts of sports sim management decisions you would expect to find are here. You'll need to manage your roster, decide who's starting on Sunday, and always be watching for those rising stars and the guys you just need to cut loose. Trading, drafting, scouting, managing contracts, free agents, and so on, it's all here and fairly detailed, without getting bogged down in minutia. Keeping with the minimalist style of the game, all of these actions are easy to accomplish, with just a couple of clicks being enough to get the job done, no matter what you are trying to do. The only screen I feel like the game is missing is some kind of comprehensive profile page for each player. Unless I just completely missed it, there didn't seem to be anything like this for players. You have to go to several different screens to get all the information (game stats, attribute scores, contract status, etc.) about a particular player. Oddly, the coaches do have a screen like this, where you can review a detailed profile with attribute scores, lifetime stats, and contract status all in one screen. I'd love to see the same for the players next year. 


Now let's get on to the actual games. At a glance, you can see that Axis Football is made by an independent studio, not EA. That said, the graphics have a certain charm to them and come with the benefit of loading quickly and running smoothly. The physics are a bit clunky and at times players will fall over in funny ways that might make you giggle. This was fine by me though, as I had a good time regardless. I used a Steam controller and it worked quite well with no adjustments to the settings. You can play with mouse and keyboard, but I wouldn't recommend it. 


Choosing plays is simple and there is a massive playbook to sort through, with apparently more than 2000 options on hand between offense and defense. If you don't know your dime package from your 4-3 defense, you can always "Ask Mike" for a suggestion. Before the snap you can call audibles and and shift players around. Controlling your player during the action works just the same as any football game since the days of Madden 64. Perfectly timed button presses will let you juke a defender or jump just in time for an interception. Not everything is great about this area of the game, unfortunately. Receivers always stop and stand still when catching the ball, rather than catching it in stride. Player hit boxes for tackling don't always seem to match up quite the way you expect them to. Players also regularly clip into each other and group up in odd looking ways. Overall, the actual game portion is adequate for what it is, a football game on a budget, but there is plenty of room for improvement here. 


One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that the game obviously doesn't have an NFL contract, and so the teams are all fictional. They are also not structured like the NFL as a league. The teams are split into three tiers, and a team must earn their way up to the next tier, and reach the top in order to compete for the big championship. I really like this style of league, it creates an interesting narrative over multiple seasons of a low tier time rising to the top. If your hometown isn't represented by one of the 36 teams in the game by default, you can go to the editor mode and easily put it into the mix. If you must have the traditional NFL teams and logos, a quick trip to the forum will get you a link to a mod which puts them all into the game, with proper rosters and coaches.


So, is Axis Football 2019 worthy of your purchase? I think it depends on what you are looking for exactly. The franchise mode is deep and well done. There is always room for more "stuff" in that realm, and the 2019 version adds a lot to it. Everything in that mode makes sense and is easy to use, while giving you just about all the various options you could hope for. As for the actual gameplay, it isn't bad by any means, but it isn't amazing either. I had fun with it, but I'm a casual player when it comes to sports games. Hardcore Madden veterans might find a lot to nitpick there. That said, I really enjoyed leaning back in my computer chair, controller in hand, and playing a game each time I fired it up. More than once I pumped a fist in triumph on a great score, or sighed in despair, knowing the game had just slipped beyond my reach after a bad pass. 

- Joe Beard

Axis Football 2019 is available on Steam, PS4, and XBOX ONE