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  Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing   The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese ...

Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing

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

 Across the Pacific


Pacific Rim Publishing

 The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese edition cover below.

 Games that portray the entire war in the Pacific seem to be rather easy to find. They are probably right after Waterloo, The Bulge, and the Russian Front games as far as the amount of them. Unfortunately, when there is a crowded field of games, some will be left behind. Not because there is something wrong with them, but just because the public's fancy was caught by other games. This game has some unique points to it, but before we go there, let us describe what comes with the game. Here is the lucre in the box:

36 by 48 inch map of the Pacific Basin from Pearl Harbor to Imphal, Dutch Harbor to Brisbane
960 die-cut back printed 5/8 inch counters
24-page rules booklet
24-page Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play booklet
Two 11 by 17 inch color back printed Order of Battle charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Unit and Carrier Air Groups Display charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Task Force Display charts
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Charts and Tables card

 The listed size of the map is somewhat misleading. When you start to open it up, it seems like you are opening up one of the Russian dolls. Each flap seems to lead to another folded piece. I actually measured it, because it really seemed larger than the stated size. The colors are plain, and there is no glitz whatsoever. However, it is fully functional, and there are no ambiguities about the hex terrain. The counters are large and very easy to read. Again, they are more functional looking than arty. The Player's Aids are fully in color and well done. The Rulebook and Player's Handbook are in black and white. The Rulebook is twenty-four pages long. The rules are naturally a bit more involved than some other games. You are playing out the entire Pacific War. The Player's Handbook is split into three sections Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play. To give you an example of the Historical Summary:

"Tokkotai is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgokiTAI, meaning "special attack corps" or "special attack unit". Tokko is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgo, "special attack". The Japanese usually referred to these special attacks as Tokko and to the units that performed the attacks as Tokkotai." 
This is how informative the Historical Summary is. The Naval counters are a combination of different ships, and do not represent just one ship. Here are some examples:

BB-1 - Fuso, Yamashiro
CV-3 - Zuikaku, Shokaku
United States
BB-10 Missouri, Wisconsin
CV-3 - Wasp, Hornet

 The designer Michaels Myers also wrote a book on the Pacific War. The name of it is 'The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat was not Inevitable'. After reading his Designer Comments I had to read a copy of the book for myself. It stands to reason that his ideas for the game came from his own ideas on the Pacific War. This comes from the Game Notes, and sums up the games premises:

"Across the Pacific questions the usual assumptions and allows players to test alternative strategies. For example, it is often assumed that Japan had no chance to win the Pacific War. The problems with this assumption is that (1) it assumes a kind of unproved historical determinism, (2) it undermines the problem-solving accomplishments of the Allies in the Pacific war, and (3) it neglects to take into account Japanese potential advantages. Such an assumption leads to wargames where the only interesting action takes place at the beginning or the end of the war. It is thought that the Allies could have done better in Malaya or the Philippines, but the main course of the war is assumed to be an ineluctable progress of the allies toward victory, whether that be occasioned by an invasion of Japan or atomic bombs."

 To use the designer notes again:

"The heart of the operational combat system in Across the Pacific is the creation and use of Naval Task Forces and Task Groups."

 The developer, Mark A. Kramer,  goes onto show all of the different strategies that Japan can use instead of the historical ones. 

Using the SSA regiment and an SNLF regiment to ensure the capture of Wake island on turn one. With the intention of capturing Guam on turn two.
Not splitting the IJN by trying to maintain two major bases at both Tokyo and Truk. 
Creating a Type-B Task Force in Tokyo to augment the carrier raid against Pearl Harbor, and using the guns to obliterate the initial USN deployment.
Invading and isolating New Guinea on turn one before the US and Australian troops can get there.
Go for an all out attack in China on turn one. It will make your conquest of southern Asia much more difficult, but will cut the need for keeping large forces pinned in China. It will also negate the Allied bombing campaign from China.

 So the designer has given you, as the Japanese and Allied player, a whole host of different strategies to try out. You are not even forced to attack Pearl Harbor. This is something that is usually a given in any Pacific war game.

 Each turn represents five months of the war. There are nine turns in total. These are the different scenarios you can play:

Across the Pacific - The Grand Campaign
Remember Pearl Harbor - This starts in May 1942 and assumes the Japanese acted historically. It ends in August 1945.
Midway - This lasts only one turn.
Guadalcanal - This lasts two turns.
The Rising Sun  - This lasts for one turn. It is a solitaire scenario with the player as the Japanese for the first five months of the war.

  As with any game that differs from the norm you have to put more effort into learning the rules. Two of the big rules or ideas in the game are 'Air Umbrellas' and CEL (Combat Effectiveness Level) for units. The Air Umbrella is a way for the player to keep a large area under his own air control. Historically, after 1942 the Japanese pilots were badly trained. The CEL rules in the game make it possible for the Japanese player to husband his good pilots, and get them into the good second part of the war airframes. POLs (Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants) are the supply markers of the game. Almost any player action will use up a POL marker. 

 I really like the game and it is a shame that it seems to have been lost in the shuffle in 2010 when it was released. The variable strategies for both sides is one of its main points. While the Kamikaze attacks are open to the Japanese player, there is also the possibility that you will not need them.  The limited postings I have seen on the game find that players do enjoy the game and its concepts. Thank you Pacific Rim Publishing for letting me review this sleeper of a game. They seem to have a wide range of products to take a look at.


Pacific Rim Publishing:

Across the Pacific:


  Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corp...

Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC

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


Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corps 2 shipped with a campaign covering all the headline battles for the German army in WW2, but now it is receiving a series of DLC that take a deeper dive into the war, and visit many smaller and less well known battles in a very lengthy grand campaign. The first DLC featured the Spanish Civil War, in many ways the warm up to WW2 in Europe where the various powers tried out new tactics and equipment. If you have already played through that campaign, you can carry your core force and heroes forward into 1939, or start fresh with a balanced force and several heroes to assign as you please.

Over the course of 15 scenarios you'll visit some of the less gamed battles of the war. While in real life many of these were small scale affairs compared to the later battles of the war, Panzer Corps 2 makes up for this by taking the quirks of the historical situation and offering up unique objectives for each scenario. In most cases you'll be offered up a straight forward objective that isn't too difficult to complete, but, critically, you'll also have at least a couple of bonus objectives that will appear tantalizingly within your grasp. Accomplishing one of those objectives will require only a bit more skill than normal, but taking on both at the same time will often demand some real strategy and perhaps even a few separate runs at the scenario. While you can finish the campaign without doing any of these, the game is far more fun, and more challenging, when you attempt them. In almost every scenario I found myself embarrassingly overstretched on my first attempt, thinking I had things in the bag just before an enemy counter-attack cut off my lead units and ravaged them. The rewards for going the extra mile are Commendation Points, which you'll be able to spend at various junctions to get special units and heroes. 

While some of the bonus objectives merely involve taking the primary objective and pushing deeper into enemy territory, others are very unique and fresh. For example, early on you'll invade Czechoslovakia. While you can just roll in and crush all resistance, the ideal way to win the battle is to occupy points all over the map without destroying a single enemy unit. You'll attack and push them back, but never hit them so hard that you wipe one out. As you can imagine, it becomes difficult to cut deep into enemy territory when you keep leaving viable enemy units in your rear. In a later mission fighting the French, you're tasked with capture a huge swath of objectives across the map, but ever so tempting is a heavily fortified city right next to your starting point, that you merely need to raid (simply touch the objective marker once) to complete a bonus objective. It seems so easy, it's right there, you can drive to the objective location on Turn 1, and yet you'll lose half of your force trying to take it directly, or burn through most of your limited turns attempting to encircle and siege the place.

Throughout the campaign you'll see Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Finland, and Denmark, offering quite a variety of locales and enemy forces. Your own units will of course not evolve too much over this time period, but you will get the chance to capture various enemy units and add them to your core force if you so choose. You'll also see your units grow in experience, awards which add perks to a unit, and gain more heroes. These heroes are used in Panzer Corps 2 to further customize a unit with special perks, which bend the normal rules of the game. Each unit can have up to three of these guys attached, letting you create some real powerhouses with the right synergies. 

At the end of this campaign you'll be edging over into 1940. No doubt we will be seeing Axis Operations 1940 in the coming months, where you can take your forces on to invade the rest of Europe. As I know a lot less about this period of the war than the latter portions, I'm very interested in seeing what locations and battles will be featured.

At just $10, Axis Operations 1939 is certainly worth your money if you are looking for some more Panzer Corps 2 action. While it doesn't break new ground, it offers more of the tried and true, but highly polished action of the core game. 

Axis Operations 1939 is available directly from Slitherine or your gaming store of choice.

- Joe Beard

 Normandy 1944 German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling   This is not a book for the...

Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling

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

 Normandy 1944

German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness


Niklas Zetterling

  This is not a book for the casual reader of history. This book is meant for readers who already have a background in military history, especially World War II history. The author's conclusions in some of the chapters of the book are sure to raise some eyebrows, and bring forth some harrumphs. Some of the book's chapters are:

German Terminology
German Combat Unit Organization
The Effects of Allied Air Power
German Tanks Employed in Normandy
German Losses in Normandy
German Combat Efficiency

 The first myth the author dispels is the 'Tiger' myth. Very few Tigers were actually employed in Normandy, and the chance of an Allied Soldier running into one was pretty slim. Reading some veteran accounts, every building and hedgerow was hiding a malevolent Tiger. The next dispelled myth is the effectiveness of Allied Air Power. Some books have been written to show that a German Soldier could not raise his head for fear of a P-51 or P-47 blowing it off. The truth, according to the author, is that while the Allied Air Forces did very well in destroying the French rail network, their contribution to the destruction of the German Forces was not nearly as significant as was once thought. As an example, the author shows that during the Falaise Gap debacle, at most three percent of the German Vehicles were destroyed from the air. This was during what could be described as a 'turkey shoot', from the Allied point of view.

 The author will probably get some pushback on his evaluation of German combat efficiency. The author uses his own calculations to deduce that German combat efficiency was greater than the Allies across the board. This amount would vary according to the training etc. of the German unit or units in each battle. One statement by the author is very telling to me. In it he states, "That during the summer of 1944 the Allies actually had a greater numerical superiority in Normandy than the Red Army had on the Eastern Front. Despite this, the Allies did not really make better progress than the Red Army. Few have questioned the superior combat effectiveness of the Germans over the Red Army."

 Most wargamers are also statisticians at heart. We tend to remember the actual OOBs of many battles etc. This book is a God send for those of us who are wired that way. To show two examples of what is in the book:

 On May 15, 1944 SS-Panzer Division "Das Reich" had 18 7.5 cm IG guns on hand.
On May 24, 1944 the same division received 8 Panther tanks

 Information like this is to be had in the book on every German division that took part in the Normandy Campaign.

 If you are a reader of history that lives on facts and figures this is a book for you. As far as the author's conclusions, this has been a battle that has raged over the last 75 years. I will leave it to each reader and his own deductions. All I can say, is that Mr. Zetterling goes out of his way with information to back up his conclusions. I recommend this to any history lover and especially wargamers and anyone who is thinking of developing a wargame or modifying an existing one. 

 Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review another one of your fine efforts.


  TYPE 7 by 3D ART LAB    We find ourselves back in a U-Boat in World War II. We are in a Type 7 U-Boat, the most produced type during World...

Type 7 by 3D ART LAB Type 7 by 3D ART LAB

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




  We find ourselves back in a U-Boat in World War II. We are in a Type 7 U-Boat, the most produced type during World War II. As the picture says, it is a solitaire and co-op game of commanding a U-Boat during the Atlantic Campaign. That it certainly is, but it is so much more than that. This is what you get in the kit:

1 rulebook

 1 mission book

 1 quick reference sheet

 1 in-game U-boat Type VII length 63cm

 1 magazine for 20 deck gun shells

 1 game board separated into 2 pieces, containing 5 range zones (0 - 4)

 1 second player token

 1 String for rigging

 2 support ticket boxes

 4 blue dice for roll tests

 4 status tokens, double sided with round edges

 6 red dice for target damage counting

 6 target disc holders

 7 crew tokens double sided

 8 crew panic tokens

 12 fuel barrels

 12 tech tokens

 12 Torpedo bodies – cavitation

 12 Torpedo bodies – electric

 12 Torpedo bodies – steam

 15 victory points

18 damage tokens with different effects (shaped like a sea mine)

 18 Torpedo warheads – below

 18 Torpedo warheads – standard

 20 deck gun shells - high explosive

 20 deck gun shells – standard

 20 target discs for 10 kinds of enemies (wooden discs)

 This project is a labor of love by 3D ART LAB. I actually studied running and programming CNC machines. So, I know the work that went into just the creation of the wooden sheets. This project is a sight to behold when you open the contents. I did not get the wooden box that it comes in, or the ammo box to store your components. It was so early in the process, that I just received the sheets for the U-Boat and the parts to play. I will add pics of what you will get if you order the Kickstarter project, and by the time I am done, you will order it. I did not do a count, but looking at the remnants there were roughly nine laser etched wood sheets. Yes, I said wood. The kit does resemble one of those wooden model airplane monstrosities that I believe you can still buy. These are the ones that you needed to glue together about 100 pieces just to make the wings. I said it resembled one of those kits, mainly because of the strength of the wood in this game/kit/life project. On those old kits you could sneeze and a spar would break. The wood that is in this kit is made from layers of laminated smaller sheets of wood pressed together. When you first open the kit and look at one or two of the sheets, the thought that comes to mind is that I am going to break half of this while disconnecting the pieces from the wooden sprue. Do not be worried, this wood is extremely strong. Even with my fat fingers, I did not manage to break anything. Remember I mentioned that this is both a game and a kit? The parts are laser etched through the sheets, except for a few places where the connection is still in place. The programming alone for all of the parts on the numerous sheets must have taken a long, long time.

The Ammo Box

 So, the first thing you will want to do is build the Type 7 U-Boat that comes along with the game. The first pic shows you what you will have once you are done building the U-Boat. Online, some of the people who have gotten the kit already have painted it U-Boat gray. To be honest, I like it either way. Because of time constraints I left it looking and smelling like a wood burning project. It is so simple to take apart and put back together, that I may change my mind and paint it in the end. About half the sheets that come with the kit are for the game and the other half are for the U-Boat. Some are used for both. The built U-Boat is really a tremendous piece of artwork, especially when you think back to the untouched wooden sheets before you started. As I said before, do not worry; this is not your grandfather's balsa wood. With this wood you could build a flying Mosquito or its compliment the TA-154. One of the scary things about the kit is when you look at the sheet of torpedo pieces. When you see that sheet, you will know you are in it for the long haul. Oh, did I forget to mention the two different deck gun shells? Yes, Virginia, you will have to pop out all of them and then assemble them. Santa's Elves will not save you now. The last time I got as scared as I did looking at the torpedo sheet was thirty years ago. My eldest daughter wanted some castle for Christmas. My wife and I were up until 3:00AM building that castle from hell. When you push out the first torpedo it seems like you are putting your life on hold. In actuality, I was quite surprised how easy it was and how the whole process took less than two hours. Sorting all of the different pieces took more time than actually removing and building them. I decided to remove everything from the sprues and sort them accordingly. You could for instance, just remove the U-Boat pieces, and put that together first. Then you could turn your hands to the rest of the game pieces. Looking at one piece of the U-Boat, the thought did come to my mind that this was not going to look good. I was afraid that 3D ART LAB had spruced up the ones you see on their website. When the U-Boat was about half finished I started to change my mind. Looking at the entire model when it was finished was like looking at it on their website. I am sorry to have doubted you guys. This model is awesome. So, let us recap. Yes, you will get scared when you see the total amount of etched sheets. Unless, your OCD is extremely strong. Mine is up there, but not that high. If you are like me, you will think you have gotten yourself into quite the chore for a Saturday. Mowing the lawn will start to look like a breeze. Take a deep breath, and suck it up and get started. I guarantee the work will be worth the effort. To put it together I did not even use any instructions. There are a lot of videos on 3D ART LAB's site that include playing the game and assembling the U-Boat. The next pics will show the 'showcase' U-Boat model.

 So, now I do have to mention one of the game pieces that I do not like. I understand completely that the laser etching process was at fault for my dislike. The 'Target Disc Holders' have to be popped out from their sprues. Then you have to pop out about fifty very small slider pieces that fit into the Target Disc Holders. Because of the laser etching, the heat was high enough to cause problems with the slider pieces. None of them were deformed or unusable. What happened was the heat from the laser burnt, and somewhat melted the sprue pieces between the slider pieces. So, when they came out some of the sprue was stuck to them. This required an exacto knife to trim the excess. It was only on about 15-20 of the pieces, but it was still a bit of a pain. These are the only parts that I had any issue at all with. I also understand that the reason it happened was because the parts are so small and close together. So it is not really a manufacturing fault. Next up, when you put the sliders in the Target Disc Holders they really do not sit that well in them. The slider pieces only stay in the 'track' because of side pressure. This again is because of the manufacturing process. With the pieces as they are there is no way to make a real track for them to slide back and forth on. Do they work, yes. Did they give you plenty of extras in case of problems, again yes. It would however, be nice to see the Target Disc Holder and the slider pieces designed a different way. Do please remember though, that they work as is. They could just be done better. 

 Update on the slider issue. The prototype ones I received are the first version. There is now a three piece slider that will come with the kits. This will have one piece on top of the wood and one on the bottom connected by a piece in the middle. So, that means my second gripe is taken care of. It also means that the designer is always looking at ways to improve the game. I cannot attest to if the etching will be better on these other small parts or not. Therefore I will leave in my first gripe, until proven wrong.

Target Disc Holder

 Let us go back to the whole kit for a moment. Just because I found fault in one piece out of a hundred in the game/kit does not mean the end of the world. The kit itself is a sight to behold, and the game pieces are almost all wonderfully crafted. Not to beat the phrase to death, but this truly is a monumental labor of love on the designers' part. 

The game all set up to play

 Now, on to the game. It is almost unbelievable that you also get a game with the U-Boat kit. An entire working well thought out game that you can play without even needing the kit itself. So, the designer/s not only had to figure out the laser etching for a thousand pieces, they also thoughtfully included a game in the box for you. This is a write-up from 3D ART LAB about the game:

 This is a rundown of your maiden voyage, if you survive:


The war just begins and the German fleet commander sends dozens of submarines out to hunt down their first vessels.

We have a great momentum in surprise and you have to deal with the enemy as much damage as you can.

All your crew is green. You are allowed to level up one crew member when you've destroyed the first cargo ship, destroyer or tanker.

In co-op mode both players allowed to level up one crew member after destroying a ship.

Destroy as much enemy objects as possible: Cargo ships and Destroyers count as 1 victory point, Battleships and Tanker 2 victory points.

But your first priority is to survive and to come back to the shipyard after this first mission.


4 torpedoes loaded in the launchers in front, 10 torpedoes in storage for reload. Steam, Electric and only standard torpedo warheads.

Deckgun 20 Shells. Choose between standard or high explosive.

1 support ticket

10 fuel


You did it! You survived your first mission and got noticed in your submarine.

The administration appreciates your performance commanding the ship and confirmed your permanent commanding position."

 As of right now there are 27 missions through 5 Chapters for the campaign. Most of them are fully fleshed out, but some of them are yet to be figured out by the designer. You have to remember that the project has not reached the Kickstarter phase yet, so some things are still up in the air. The game can be played and is almost as finished as the kit. So, the game is about 95% complete. The Rulebook is 11 pages long right now. It is in color. There are still some place holders in it for pictures of different parts of the game to be added. Do not be fooled, this is a full-fledged U-Boat game. This is not some hokey game stuck onto a excellent model, with the model being the big draw. Your crew starts out green, and with good game play on your part becomes veterans. There are also different officers that can be used to adjust your die roll chances during the game. Because the game takes place throughout the war years, you will also have the ability to gain technology. You will have to worry about fuel, and being spotted by aircraft. You also have a chance to call in a Wolfpack or some other assets to help you on your missions. I will leave links below for you to look at the game rules and some other things.

 This is a video unboxing done by 3D ART LAB. You get to see the excellent packaging of the kit:

 This is a video done by them of assembling the U-Boat:

 This is a video of assembling the Showcase U-Boat:

 Thank you 3D ART LAB for letting me review this extremely well done and thought out project. I am really in awe how not only the model kit, but the game really came from only one persons imagination. 





Kickstarter Page:

  Traders of the Air by Compass games  Once again, Compass Games has done it to me. They have sent me a Euro game that is set in a Steampunk...

Traders of the Air by Compass Games Traders of the Air by Compass Games

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

 Traders of the Air


Compass games

 Once again, Compass Games has done it to me. They have sent me a Euro game that is set in a Steampunk world. What, may I ask, is Steampunk? I have heard the word and I believe I have played a little bit in a computer game that was based on a pseudo steampunk world. So, off I go to gather more information on this here thing steampunk thing. Next up, a Euro game? I am a wargamer who is hidebound in many ways. I kind of swore I would never sully my hands with a Euro game. Well, now I am sullied. You can teach an old dog new tricks, as long as you pull hard enough on the leash and there are treats in the end (I have a rescue dog that one of its traits is listed as willful. I think it is a perfect match for me.) So, where Compass leads me with the leash I shall follow, although a bit begrudgingly. 

As an aside: "Steampunk is a retrofuturistic subgenre of Science Fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery".

 The game is for 2-4 players who represent steampunk guild traders on a far away planet. You buy and sell goods between different cities propelled on a flying steamship. You must also setup guild contracts at the different cities. To put it simply, you are trying to make the most money and establish as many guild contracts as possible to win. So, it is Capitalism in a pseudo 19th century world somewhere in the universe. 

This is what comes with the game:

Two game boards (backprinted on a single "sheet")

Eight guild mats (four of them backprinted)

One steamship

60 guild contract discs (15 each in four player colors)

22 sky dollar cardboard "coins"

78 cardboard goods markers

Two bags

One cardboard "compass" (used only for the variant)

Two rules booklets (English and German)

One start player marker 

 The components are the usual well done fare by Compass Games. The double-sided mounted map is sturdy and colorful, with enough room for all the players' markers etc. One side is easier to play than the other, and is recommended for your first games. The following are the different kinds of markers:

The Steamship and Start Player Marker

The Guild Contracts

The Goods Markers

The Sky Dollars

The above are either wooden colored chits or thick cardboard ones. Each player also gets a Guild Mat. There are eight generic mats, and on the back of each is a named Guild that has some enhancement to playing that Guild. The Rulebook is eight pages long and is in full color. It is filled with examples of gameplay. The rules are slightly more involved than Monopoly, so you will be up and playing in no time. Once you have the basic game down pat, you can add the named Guild Mats into play for a more interesting game. There is also an option to use a Compass Marker at the beginning of the game. This will decide if the steamship movement arrows to all of the cities follow the normal ones on the boards, or are reversed. Just a little something to make the game a little harder once you have learned it. 

 This is the Sequence of Play:

Income (every player gets three Sky Dollars each turn)

Replenish Goods Markers (At the cost of one Sky Dollar)

Actions (Move the Steamship, Purchase Goods, Setup Guild Contracts)

Taxes and Tolls (You can make as many Sky Dollars as you can each turn, however at the end of the turn no player can have more than three Sky Dollars, or three Goods Markers)

 As usual with something new, I was prepared not to like the game at all. I decided to bite the bullet and involve the family in playing the game. Normally when I mention playing a game (wargame), they roll their collective eyes or head for the hills. With this game they hesitantly looked at it, and checked it out like it was an alien artifact. Keeping with the dog theme, they were just sniffing it to see if it was a treat or something with a hidden pill in it. With the rules, we were playing in no time at all. It is a game where that tired phrase "easy to learn hard to master" hits the nail right on the head. It is true that I was not creating a Russian breakthrough or trying to stop one. However, the game is fun. Everyone has their own idea of what fun is. This game is able to bring the word into its barest meaning. With simple rules and lots of replay value, it is a fun game for the family or friends. This is also a good game for when the people at game night have become a little jaded over rulebooks etc. The Taxes and Tolls sequence is almost a reset of the game each turn. This means that every player is in the running until the very end. You do not have one player that is amassing a fortune, and even though the game is half over you know who will win.

 Every player is on the one Steamship. So, another key to good play is to move the Steamship at the end of your turn to a city that does not help your opponents. The Steamship can only move certain ways to each city. The routes you can take are shown on the board. Guild Contracts are worth a lot at the end of the game, especially if you have more than any other player in that city. The Player is always torn between using their contract, and losing it, or keeping it on the board. The choices for each player during each turn are almost endless. This is because, like Chess, the player has to be thinking what his opponent will be doing, or trying to do, after your turn. Then you also have to be thinking about what you will be trying to do during your next turn. It is very possible to make the wrong choice of actions, and then hamstring yourself on your next turn. The game retails right now for $39. For the components and the replayability of the game that is a steal.

 Thank you once again Compass Games for pulling me out of my safe space and making me revaluate my thinking on games. This is a great fun and easy game for everyone to enjoy, even for crotchety old curmudgeons like me.


Compass games:

Traders of the Air:

  Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you l...

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 Combat Mission: Shock Force 2

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


Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you least expecting to see in 2020? 

After many years of being competitors, two of the pillars of PC wargaming have established what appears to be a direct business relationship. Shock Force 2 is now available for purchase from a variety of digital stores across the net, including Steam and directly from Matrix's website. Other Combat Mission titles will follow, according to the press release. In addition to being available in new places, you can now expect Combat Mission titles to go on sale on a more regular basis, in line with Matrix Games titles. Battlefront has long resisted this sort of thing, preferring to sell exclusively from their own website, with price discounts few and far between. Matrix made the switch to Steam style sales several years ago and the decision seems to have paid off, with the prolific publisher dropping new titles and DLC's one after another. One can only hope this decision will lead to new cash flows for Battlefront, and more Combat Mission down the road.

I'll get this out of the way first thing: Yes, if you already purchased Shock Force 2 from the Battlefront website, you will get a Steam key for free. Now, on to one of my favorite gaming moments of the year: Downloading a Combat Mission title directly from Steam, then clicking play and watching the game fire up. No tracking down serial keys, no license activations or limits, just click play and go. Marvelous!

Shock Force originally released way back in 2007. After the critical acclaim of the first generation of Combat Mission titles, I and many others eagerly awaited this jump both to a completely different setting, and a new engine. If you were around then, you probably know how things turned out. The game was a mess on release, bugs abounded and a lot of momentum for the series was seemingly lost. Fortunately for everyone involved, Battlefront got to work and eventually hammered the game into a much better state. The next game in the series, Battle for Normandy, released in far better shape and was followed by several other games and modules over the past decade. Controversially, the past decade also saw four "engine upgrades" which improved the engine and made fairly significant changes to the visuals, performance, and more, for a nominal fee. I won't dive into the debate over these updates, but only point out that none of the updates applied to Shock Force. Being the oldest game on the engine, it was left behind for many years. In 2018, Shock Force 2 catapulted the game to the newest version of the engine, it also included touched up and tweaked versions of all the original scenarios, to account for the multitude of balance and mechanical changes in the intervening decade.

Although we covered Shock Force 2 back when it originally came out, I think the arrival of Combat Mission on Steam, after so many years of people yammering and arguing about it on forums, is worthy of taking the Strykers out for another spin around the battlefield. 

Like every Combat Mission title released after it, Shock Force attempts to model tactical combat down to the level of individual soldiers. The game can be played in two modes, either real-time with pause, or WEGO turns where orders are given and then the action plays out for one minute before you can take control again. Although I prefer turn-based for the WW2 titles, in Shock Force I've always been a fan of real time with liberal pausing. Given the more lethal nature of modern combat, a single errant order can get an entire squad wiped out in less than a minute, and when playing as the NATO forces you must almost always been extremely cautious about taking casualties. Unlike the WW2 games, the fighting here is often very asymmetrical. The NATO factions have all the nice weapons, vehicles, and well trained troops, but they are usually outnumbered and forced to take difficult objectives. The Syrian and other opposition forces range widely from units that represent ragtag militias, on up to mediocre regular army forces and the occasional elite unit. Given the wide variety of "red" forces available, there is also a huge amount of user made content out there depicting interesting red vs red scenarios and campaigns where the forces are more balanced in ability.

The stock scenarios and campaigns contained within the game depict a fictional NATO intervention in Syria to contain a civil war. As we all know, the civil war part was sadly destined to become a reality several years after the original release of Shock Force. Scenarios based on real events in Iraq and Afghanistan are not part of the game, but can be easily modeled using the units available. There's plenty of user made content depicting such actions if you are interested. 

Now, all of that aside, how does the game actually play? For veterans of the series who might have skipped Shock Force, you mostly know what you are getting into, with the primary differences from WW2 being that anti-tank guns are replaced with ATGM's and infantry combat is far more lethal with automatic weapons and urban combat galore. For newbies, what you are getting is something I still haven't seen bested by any other game. A detailed simulation that allows you to command realistic forces into modern combat scenarios just like those that have played out a thousand times in the War on Terror. Although infantry are controlled as squads and fire teams, each individual reacts independently of the others, spotting and engaging enemies, reloading, taking cover, or breaking. Vehicles are all controlled individually, with each crewman inside modeled in similar detail. Vehicles can be damaged in a variety of ways, losing their weapons, equipment, and mobility, being knocked out or simply exploded. 

Understanding exactly what kind of firepower you have and what you are up against is key to victory. A decades old BMP-2 with a 30mm cannon can wreak havoc on an unwary US mechanized platoon rolling down a road, while a single US rifle squad packing a Javelin can take out that BMP-2 from across the map without breaking a sweat. It's all a matter of maneuvering and positioning your forces correctly. Group selecting your best forces and sending them straight at the objective will never work in this game. Scouting, careful advances, focusing of firepower, and the occasional lightning fast assault are what will carry the day. 

While there have been plenty of gradual upgrades to the engine over the years, making the graphics and shaders easier on the eyes, as well as improving the AI and mechanics, some of the perpetual issues of the series remain. Ordering around a large force around can be fussy, with every single unit needing it's own specific waypoints for all but the most general of movements. LOS can be finicky as well, with units occasionally unable to see something because they are an inch out of position. It must also be mentioned that although the engine runs the best it ever has, it still has issues maintaining a smooth experience on larger maps, no matter how beefy your gaming PC might be. That said, if you're a fan of the series and missed Shock Force the first time around, Shock Force 2 is well worth your money. If you have the original you can upgrade to the new version for a moderate fee. 

There are three add-on modules available for the game, US Marines, British Forces, and NATO Forces. All three are quality products that I have played through over the years. The different sorts of equipment each nation has can really mix up your tactics. From the extremely heavily armed Marines to the light but mobile Dutch forces, there is a lot of fun to be had between all of the additional campaigns and scenarios. The add-on's are pricey at $35 a pop, but if you get them in the big bundle you can get a pretty good discount. 

I'm excited to see this new era for Battlefront, and I hope that it works out for them so we can see more Combat Mission in the future. Hopefully at some point they will be able to move to a completely new engine that leaves behind the lingering issues of the current one. Combat Mission still offers an experience that is unique and well worth a look from any wargamer.

Shock Force 2 - Now available on Steam!

- Joe Beard

  The Cornfield Antietam's Bloody Turning Point by David A. Welker   To anyone who has even the smallest amount of Civil War history rat...

The Cornfield: Antietam's Bloody Turning Point by David A. Welker The Cornfield: Antietam's Bloody Turning Point by David A. Welker

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

 The Cornfield

Antietam's Bloody Turning Point


David A. Welker

 To anyone who has even the smallest amount of Civil War history rattling around upstairs, they know the 'Cornfield'. Oh sure, you could say Miller's Cornfield on the Battlefield of Antietam, but you do not have to. They will know what cornfield you mean. Just like, mentioning the 'Hornet's Nest', you do not have to add at Shiloh. The cornfield at Antietam was one of the most contested plots of the Civil War. The amount of death and destruction inflicted in that small piece of land is almost unimaginable. The corn even halfway though the day was cut almost to the ground as with a scythe, as one veteran recalled.

 In this book Casemate has once again lied, and not just fibbed, by using a book title that does a disservice to the book. In actual fact, a full seventy pages (out of 268 pages) of the book is devoted to the Antietam Campaign and the military moves that led to the Battle of Antietam. 

 The cover of the book shows us the two main Confederate generals on this side of the battle, Lee and Jackson. The picture looks like they are half enshrouded in the morning mist of September 17th, 1862.    

 The author has given us eight pages of photos and pictures of before, during, and after the battles. He has however, done something much better than just showing us old daguerreotypes. The book has twenty-six maps! So that is roughly one map for every ten pages. Not only that, the maps are actually readable and not a copy of a copy of a smudged copy. You can easily use them to follow along with the writer's excellent prose. There are also two appendices. The first shows the entire order of battle for both sides with the commanders. The second shows the regiments with the most casualties and the most deaths by percentage that were in battle in or near the cornfield. The 1st Texas regiment of Hood's Division (actually in Longstreet's Corps), suffered 82.30% casualties that day. The 12th Massachusetts regiment of the Second Division (in Joseph Hooker's I Corps) lost 64.07%. 

 The book is one that should be on every shelf of anyone who has interest in the military history of the Civil War. The continual ebb and flow of both sides over the remnants of the bloody cornfield are of epic proportion. Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review this excellent addition to the history of the Battle of Antietam.


Book: The Cornfield: Antietam's Bloody Turning Point

Author: David A. Welker

Publisher: Casemate Publishers

 Moravian Sun December 2nd, 1805 Battle of Austerlitz by Acies Edizioni   The Battle of Austerlitz has a lot of games based on it. Not as ma...

Moravian Sun: December 2nd, 1805 Battle of Austerlitz by Acies Edizioni Moravian Sun: December 2nd, 1805 Battle of Austerlitz by Acies Edizioni

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

 Moravian Sun

December 2nd, 1805 Battle of Austerlitz


Acies Edizioni

 The Battle of Austerlitz has a lot of games based on it. Not as many as Waterloo as far as Napoleonic games (The Bulge of Napoleonic games), but a still a good number of them have been made. Even the newest of tyros to Napoleonic warfare knows at least something about it. It was nicknamed 'The Battle of the Three Emperors" (Napoleon, Francis I of Austria, and Alexander I of Russia). In reality it was not that much of a battle. Napoleon's Grande Armee was honed to a fine point, and his way of warfare was still unknown to most of Europe. On the French side, there was some doubt about Davout (The Iron Marshal) being to able to march his troops fast enough to be present for the start of the battle. Besides that fact, the French had everything in their favor. The Allied Coalition, number 3 out of 7, attempted to do a mirror image oblique attack of what Frederick the Great used in his battles. In reality, it became a parody of an attack by Frederick, much like the French at Rossbach. The Allies leisurely set up their attack, and slowly marched to attack Napoleon's right flank. Davout having appeared on time due to the incredible marching power of his 3rd Corps, 68 miles in 48 hours, was able to fend off the attacking Allies. Marshal Soult was then commanded to take the Pratzen Heights in the Allies' center, which they had thoughtfully left almost empty of troops. The battle was a foregone conclusion. Napoleon's Grande Armee destroyed the Allies, and the history of Europe was changed for the next nine years. So, let us see what Acies Edizioni has done with this famous battle.

 Here is what comes with the game:

One Game Map - 85 x 60 cm.

216 Counters  - 5/8" Sized

280 Counters - 1/2" Sized

Five Player Aid Cards

One Rule and Scenario Manual

Two Six-sided Die

 The game is designed by Enrico Acerbi. The game system is called "Vive La France - Empire", and has been used in the games 'Massena at Loano, and Wise Bayonets. I did a review earlier of Wise Bayonets, and the link will be below. Hexes are meant to be 450-500 meters and the turns represent one hour of time. 

 The components are well done as a whole. The map is a colorful, much like a traveler's map, representation of just the main area of the battlefield. The different terrain is easy to distinguish for the player. The unit counters are the 1/2" sized ones. They use the normal NATO designations, are easy to read, and the colors are pleasing, at least to my eyes. The 5/8" counters are used for the commanders and the administrative counters. The commander counters have a small picture of the commander in question on them. The administrative, rout, force march etc., counters are small, but still easily readable. All of the counters are easily disconnected from the cardboard sprue. As a matter of fact, most of them had popped out during shipping. The Rule Manual is in color and is done in large print, thank you. It is twenty pages long, but pages 16-20 are the scenario rules and a concise but well written Historical Background. The five player aid cards are full sized and in color. Four of them are double-sided with the fifth being a single page. All in all, the production quality is right up to par for what I expect of Acies Edizioni games. 

 The game comes with two scenarios:

Campaign Game - Begins at 07:00 on the 1st of December and ends at 18:00 of December 2nd

Battle game: Begins at 06:00 of December 2nd and ends at 16:00 at the same day 

In the Campaign Game scenario there is a Night Turn

 This is the Sequence of Play:

A. Command Phase

 1. Weather

 2. Orders

 3. Initiative and Priority

 3.1. Initiative Test Die Rolls to Change Orders

B. Action Phase

 1. Rally

 2. Reinforcements and Reconstituted Units

 3. Movement

 4. Bombardment

 5. Combat

 6. End of Phase

c. End of Turn Phase

 The game uses the term Efficiency in the rules, roughly the same way other games use the term Morale.

 Austerlitz is a hard game for a designer to make a game out of, simply because the two sides are so disparate in terms of efficiency, morale, and generalship. The Allies attack on his right flank, which is exactly what Napoleon wanted the Allies to do. It is almost as if Napoleon were in the Allied late night commanders meeting of December 2nd. This was the Napoleon of old with an undiluted and fully trained Grande Armee at his back. No one could have withstood the Grande Armee that day. The designer has made the game as historically accurate as possible. Therein lies the crux. How to make the game enjoyable for two players. The first obvious choice is for the players themselves to pick the less skillful of them to play the French. The Battle Scenario pretty much forces the Allied Player's hand as far as following the historical plan. However the addition of the Campaign Scenario mitigates the uneven playing field a bit. The Campaign Scenario does not force the Allied Player to do anything and so they are given a clean slate. It is true that the Allies are marching to the battlefield, and not set up and ready to attack. They are, however, given a full day without the French Player having Davout's Corps and some other troops. The Allied Player must use this extra day to its full advantage. How does the game play? In my eyes it shows exactly what the Allies were up against going at France's First Team. In some ways the Allied Player is really just trying to do better than his historical counterparts. The French Player can win, but should in my mind at least try to do as well as Napoleon or better to really consider the game 'won'.

 The game system does a good job of showing how Napoleonic battles were actually fought. They have been described as 'Rock, Paper, and Scissors' on a grand scale. The play centers around you giving 'Orders' to your different organizations, and how that either helps you or hampers you to deal with the developing battle. The chance to change or ignore the order originally given at the beginning of each turn gives a player the ability to possibly pull his irons from the fire. The game shows that command and control was not only the key to Napoleonic warfare, but could be the weak link in the chain during it. As the Allies, your Generals are pretty much 'fire and forget' weapons. They will usually not be able to adjust on the fly. The French Generals mostly have the ability to adjust to new situations and exploit them.

Thank you Acies Edizioni for letting me review this very good game about a battle that before this I had no real interest in. As usual, with a game about a battle or campaign I do not know enough about, I was forced to hit the books. This is the wonderful part of games that try to give the player exactly as it was historically, and not try to skew everything so that it is 'gamey'. 


Acies Edizioni:

Moravian Sun:

AWNT review of Wise Bayonets: