Battlestar Galactica - Starship Battles Starter Set by   Ares Games  I did watch most episodes when BG was o...

Battlestar Galactica - Starship Battles Starter Set by Ares Games Battlestar Galactica - Starship Battles Starter Set by Ares Games

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



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I did watch most episodes when BG was on the television the first time around. However, I was not that much of a fan, except for one part of the show. That was when Lucifer would say "by your command". Still to this day that voice send shivers down my spine. I always thought that Vincent Price had a scary voice, but Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith from 'Lost in Space') just drips evil. The gist of the books and series is that the Cylons (mostly robots) want to exterminate the last of the human race. So, in the game you're playing either a Cylon or human pilot doing your best in tactical battles during the war. I am sure I am butchering the BG universe for those of you who are aficionados.





 The first thing you will see when looking at the box is the absolutely amazing four minis that come with the game. You get two Cylon Raiders, a Colonial Mark II Viper, and Apollo's Mark II Viper. The craftsmanship that goes into these four is absolutely amazing. You will, (I know I did), examine them in depth with a magnifying glass. Let's see what comes in the box:
  • Rulebook
  • 1 Scenario Booklet
  • 4 Spaceships with Gaming Bases
  • 4 Control Panels
  • Maneuver decks
  • Pilot Cards
  • Spaceship Cards
  • Special Cards
  • Rulers
  • 2 Dice
  • Counters, Tokens and Markers


Apollo's Viper



The game is set up to have you up and shooting in no time. The Quick Start Rules start on page six of the rulebook and go to page twelve. For such a complex thing as warfare between starships in the vacuum of space, the rules are easy and elegant. The starships are treated just like WWI or WWII fighters, meaning that you have to aim your ship at the enemy in order to score a hit. There are no smart munitions to worry about. Nothing that can lock on and track you.  The steps that you go through in the quick start rules are:

1. Plan your movement
2. Execute your spaceship movement
3. Fire your spaceships weapons

 The hexagonal movement cards show the player the exact route the players' spaceships will move in following the players plans. You use a ruler, as in naval miniatures etc, to find the range and effectiveness of your fire. The control panel that is used for each spaceship is a very innovative approach for aerial games. With these there is no keeping track on the board or having to write all of your moves etc. down. 





 The Complete Rules start on page thirteen and go to page twenty. These rules only add to the complexity of the quick start rules. The Optional Rules go from page twenty to twenty-three. These add the following:

Aiming
Blank Maneuver Cards
Fuel
Three-Dimensional Space
Tailing


Cylon Raider
 
 The game is excellent from the moment you open the box. I know I raved earlier about the minis, but they are so good I have to continually say how incredibly impressive they are. The rules are very well written and walk the player through them in an easy manner. The game really shines when you use the Complete Rules, and then add in the Optional ones. There are a lot of these games to choose from. Do yourself a favor and at least check this game out. Ten to one you will end up picking it up. Thank you Ares Games for letting me review this excellent game.
 I know there is probably some sort of rule where I am not supposed to mention or, heaven forbid, post something from someone else's review in your own, but the writing and sentiment is so good I can't help it. Of course, I have always had a problem with rules. Not to mention the fact that I have worn through three copies of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Along with being completely jealous that I didn't think of it first. Here it is:


 "I'm raving about this game anywhere and everywhere I can, but admittedly I feel like Zarathustra come down from the mountain trying to convince people of the coming of the Uberspiel."
This is from Michael Barnes from his review:


Robert



 

Petersburg by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software   Petersburg; the name calls to mind the beginn...

Petersburg by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software Petersburg by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software

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


by










 
Petersburg; the name calls to mind the beginning of trench warfare. Although in actual fact, the troops on both sides had been using anything to dig themselves in for most of the war. It seems strange that no generals in WWI studied this campaign. The Battle of the Crater is usually, and sometimes the only part of the long siege like campaign that is written about. Taking a page out of the history books, some Union generals decided to dig a mine and blow up some of the Confederate works. The mine itself actually worked perfectly. The problem was the African-American U.S. troops that were trained and ready for the attack were exchanged for other troops right before the attack (this was for political reasons). The attack ended in a debacle for the Union troops. Once again I have babbled on. So, let us now talk about the game. Let's look at the game's contents:


Scenarios

  • 195 scenarios are included, and all can be played as either side, against the A/I or other human challengers. And 31 of these scenarios have been specifically designed to be played against the A/I, for a greater challenge for those players that are more experienced.
  • Most scenarios can be played against the A/I in a single day, yet others may take several days to complete, or even weeks. Just save, and continue later at your own pace.
  • For more fun, challenge another human, and play either face to face, or PBEM (Play by email)
  • Battles include: the assaults on Petersburg in June, Ream’s Station, the Crater, Globe Tavern, Peebles Farm, Burgess Mill, Hatcher’s Run, Fort Stedman, White Oak Road, Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks, and the final battles leading to and including Appomattox Court House.
  • Fight in normal conditions, or face you enemy using the added weather feature.
  • 3 campaigns are included. The early Petersburg battles, the later Petersburg battles, and the Appomattox Campaign battles.

A Shot Of The Battle Of The Crater


Features and Enhancements

  • All NEW graphics:
    • 3D hand drawn maps, and new 3D units, with individualized regimental flags.
    • Colorized leaders and unit files.
    • Traditional and refreshed B/W files are also an option.
    • New and improved 2D graphics, for both maps and units.
  • Scenario and Campaign editor: Build new, or improve existing battles and campaigns.
  • Many “What If” battles and maps, both large and small. Including the massive Petersburg Master map.
  • Added the Extreme Fog of War optional rule.
  • Greatly expanded and redesigned the Standard game engine Toolbar.
  • A true, large (4X) 2D map view.
  • Implemented dozens of new hot keys.


 This game finishes the series of John Tillers Civil Wars Battles. This game was the first game that was built from the ground up with all of the enhancements that Wargame Design Studio is bringing to the other battles (they are also updating some of the other John Tiller game series). The most striking feature of the enhanced games is their graphics. Many people have complained about the graphics bring dated in Tillers games, not really taking into account that some of them are almost twenty years old. Well, there should be no more complaints. You will even be able to see regimental flags when zoomed in. The next largest change is a toolbar that is twice the size and is color coded. For us old timers we can change it to the old toolbar if we choose. 

See The New Toolbar

 The scenarios are almost two hundred in number. There are many variations of the same scenarios. This is because the scenarios are all made with different play in mind. There are some meant to be played as one side or the other against the AI (this was another part of the games that had gamers wailing). Other scenarios are slightly historically changed or different in some way. The scenarios that were built to be played against the AI are very well done and more than a test for the solitaire player. There are also three different campaigns that the player can avail himself of. These are the same branching kind that we Tiller groupies are used to. There are new rules that include spiking guns, etc.

One Of The Closer Zoom Levels

 While it almost makes one sad that the series is finally complete, in other ways it gives me a glad feeling, especially for the fact that I was able to see it come to fruition and be on the right side of the grass. Unfortunately there is no PC demo of the Civil War Battles. There is, however, a free app for them that can be played on Android and other platforms. This will give a newbie a chance to see the system. 





 Thank you very much John Tiller Software and Wargame Design Studio for allowing me to review this excellent end to an excellent series. Especially now that they have all been worked on, and are new and shiny, by Wargame Design Studio.

 This is a list of the enhancements to the older series games, followed by a link to the updates:

For all that are wondering, here is what is included in these updates;

    Implemented Settings > Alternative Unit Symbols.
    Introduced the new Variable, Asymmetric, Turn-Based Victory Points System. [Available, but not really used yet.]
    Standardized weapon and movement values. Soon to be rolled out across prior and future titles
    Auto Defensive Fire has been adjusted so that artillery is set at "Min." This change will enhance play against the A/I, and will help conserve overall artillery ammunition supply levels. This setting can be changed by using the following hot key: Alt + F, or look under the A/I window during gameplay.
    Added to the Manuals Folder: Standard Toolbar Reference Guide
    Made the on-map elevation/coordinates/terrainmod font sizes a step smaller.
    Tweaked the in-game weapon descriptions.
    Fixed a damaged bridge crossing bug.
    Fixed a word-wrap bug in cp_start.exe.
    Implemented a true, large (4X) 2D map view, the new 2D Normal View, aka Zoom2D100. (Unlike before, where the largest 2D map view was achieved via software auto-magnification.)
    Greatly expanded and redesigned the Standard game engine Toolbar, now with 70 buttons. (The Classic Toolbar is retained.)
    Implemented: Settings > Toolbar > None/Classic Small/Classic Large/Standard Small/Standard Medium/Standard Large.
    Implemented dozens of new hot keys. Just about every menu option and game feature has been assigned a hot key. (This necessitated a number of hot key reassignments.)
    Hot keys are now documented in-game, in the menus, in the Status Bar and in Toolbar button tooltips.
    Reorganized the files and folders, such that everything is not stored in one big heap in the top-level game folder, rather is stored by file type and purpose in an expanded file folder hierarchy.
    Implemented a full-featured logging system, to aid in code development, debugging, and user support, among other purposes.
    Added the Extreme Fog of War optional rule. When Extreme Fog of War is in effect, the Visibility highlight only displays from friendly occupied hexes.  Also, for enemy units in obscuring terrain (e.g., Forest), enemy force counts will only display as XXX instead of, for example, 3XX.
    For artillery (and with the Manual Defensive Fire option toggled OFF), changed the Auto Defensive Fire default value from Max to Min.
    Implemented: Settings > Hex Highlights > Hex Outlines/Hex Shading.
    Implemented: Settings > Map Contours > Colors.../Widths...
    Implemented: Settings > Hand-Drawn 3D Map.
    Implemented: Settings > Unit/Leader Boxes > Color/No Color.
    Implemented: View > Map Elevation/Map Coordinates/Map Combat Modifiers.
    Implemented: View > 2D Map Slopes.
    New 3D hand-painted maps including settings toggle
    New 3D units (with customized regimental flags, etc.)
    New 2D terrain graphics
    Changed the brigade combat colors to display on counter edge (not on counter face).
    2D counter redesign including all counter symbology
    New unit card colorization for all formations including leaders (includes refreshed B&W images)
    Standardized naming in OOB's to be rolled out across prior and future titles


http://www.johntillersoftware.com/CivilWarBattles.html


Robert


 

Hello all! I took a break from gaming the last few months and explored some other hobbies. The one I settled on is something I've ...

Introducing: The Great Endeavors Podcast Introducing: The Great Endeavors Podcast

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





Hello all! I took a break from gaming the last few months and explored some other hobbies. The one I settled on is something I've wanted to do for a long time: host a history podcast. I couldn't decide on just one topic to cover, and so I started a show called The Great Endeavors, which will cover many of the amazing moments in human history in which people overcame impossible odds, advanced technology beyond what was thought possible, and explored the unknown. Each season of the show covers a new topic, and for the first season I chose to tell the story of the Space Race. If you're a fan of history podcasts, please give it a shot! 

iTunes

Spotify

RSS Feed

Website (Very much a work in progress)


The first three episodes, if you would like to listen right away:











If you have any questions or comments, please send them my way. The podcast is available on just about every podcast distributor I could find. If I'm not on your preferred podcast feed please let me know and I will get it added. Thanks!

- Joe Beard

Freedom - the Underground Railroad gives 1-4 players the opportunity to become abolitionists in the fight against slavery in 19th centur...

Freedom The Underground Railroad Freedom The Underground Railroad

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


Freedom - the Underground Railroad gives 1-4 players the opportunity to become abolitionists in the fight against slavery in 19th century America.  Loosely, it is a cooperative, pick-up-and-deliver game that not only presents players with a satisfying movement puzzle during each round; it does so wrapped up in a surprisingly elegant ruleset that takes under 10 minutes to teach.

One of the enduring images in my brain from my childhood schooling was the famous Brooke's slave ship diagram. The horrors of such an Atlantic crossing are unimaginable and the slaves' subsequent lives in America, unbearable to consider. However, in this game, all players are working together to help your cubes/slaves escape into Canada and freedom.

You can watch my unboxing video below, apologies for the rambling discussion prior to opening the box. Skip to 2:43 to actually get to the box opening.

Gameplay

The games plays out over 8 rounds in which players have to move slave cubes along 'the railroad' of interconnected cities whilst avoiding the slave catchers.  Each round has five phases, three of which are purely mechanical with no decision points. In the other two, the Planning and Action Phases, players are deciding which tokens to purchase from the intentionally-very-limited supply (Planning Phase), and which slave cubes to move and where (Action Phase).
Players start with 8 money. The Conductor's ability is almost essential.
The Planning and Action Phase are bookended by a beginning Slave Catcher Phase which consists of rolling 2 unique d6 to determine slave catcher movement, and the final phases in a round of the Slave Market phase and Lantern Phase, The Slave Market Phase hopefully fill up the plantations with slaves. I say hopefully because if there is no space on the plantation then slaves in the market are lost.  Losing slaves is inevitable in this game and even though it is a game and the number of lost slaves is a primary victory condition, it didn't feel nice to move those cubes into the 'slave lost' box at all. I have, however, no objection to the mechanic and it very abstractly reflects the brutal reality of the slaves' existence.

Each player also has a role with once-per-round special power and one ability that can be used once per game. The roles are all anti-slavery abolitionists and reflect the history of the actual underground railroad's terminology. The historical aspect of many Academy Games' games keeps me coming back to them, and the treatment of slavery in this is a fun way to learn about important history that still has ripples in modern society.
Halfway through a solo game. Not many slaves escaped so far...
I lost.
The game is challenging no matter what player-count and victory is never guaranteed. In all my plays of this game, the first 2 or 3 rounds pass as just a satisfying yet achievable optimisation puzzle trying to avoid the slave catchers and you are able to lose few slaves. New players could be fooled into thinking this is an easy game.  The last few rounds, however, are anything but easy. You ruthlessly may have to knowingly sacrifice one slave to save 2 or more from the slave catchers and inevitably there is not enough room on the plantations after the slave market.

If I haven't lost the game before turn 8 (I'd like to think my win ratio has been about 30%, but it's probably lower) then it is always a neck and neck race to save the required number of slaves whilst avoiding the game-ending slave-lost number.  The required victory conditions are different for every player count and the gameplay, in terms of difficulty, feels similar at all player counts. The game is finely balanced, players never romp to victory and the game engine is especially threatening from the mid-game onwards.
4 Player endgame ... we lost
The most unique aspect of this game, for me, is the manner in which the slave catchers move. A random Slave Catcher movement will happen at the beginning of every turn and if they ever land on a space containing a run-away slave then the slave is returned to the slave market. However, as slaves move northwards they may cause certain slave catchers to move one space along a predetermined path. This mechanism is an elegant yet difficult puzzle and really makes this game stand out.  It doesn't sound difficult on paper but you are forced to consider multiple moves ahead (no easy feat) to see which and when slaves should move.
A beautiful yet fiendish puzzle. You're going to lose slaves.

Components

Any 'elegant' game should have few rules, right? Well, this is just 8 pages which includes setup. The rules are excellently written, and after one or two rounds of your first game (20 minutes or so) all players will have seen and understood all the gameplay mechanics. There was only one edge-case which wasn't immediately resolved by turning to the rule book - regarding Northern fundraising, if you're interested.

The graphic design is fairly simple yet sympathetic to the period and theme of the game. The icons are all intuitive and the components themselves, I would imagine, lend themselves well to any sight-impaired gamer.

The board, tokens and components are all of an excellent quality and I found absolutely nothing to criticise production of this game.

Criticisms

The history geek inside me would have liked to have seen more historical 'fluff' on the cards and the board. Most cards have two or three lines of fluff at the bottom which wasn't satisfying enough for me. However, I do appreciate the design of the components and adding more text would have been detrimental to the look of the game.  You do get 2 pages of history in the rule book but not many gamers at game night are going to be exposed to that. 

The only negative aspect of this game for me, and this is purely subjective, is that it is a fully co-operative game. Although I have had fun playing this with a group, (it does play a bit long with a full complement of players) I prefer competitive games when playing multiplayer. Hence, I prefer to play this game solo, for the head-space. As with most co-ops, the solo rules are no different from the standard game and you can either play multiple characters or play in true solo mode (which is, in my opinion, harder and more satisfying) where you only play with one abolitionist.
Did I say you want to  have the Conductor in your team?

Conclusion

Slavery is not an easy topic to make into a game but it has been done excellently here. I would go so far as to say that this is one of my favourite solo games at the moment. If I don't have the time or energy for Mage Knight or a solo wargame and no other players around, then this is currently my go-to game. I can complete a solo game in approximately 50 minutes and the slave-catcher movement puzzle is rewarding.
Clear and short rulebook
I wasn't expecting the game to be as light as it is, but this doesn't detract anything from the gameplay which is simple yet still satisfying. The side-effect of being exposed to important history, events and people of the 'railroad' is gratefully received, and will hopefully serve me in good stead for pub-quizzes. 

I would recommend this to any person, whether they're a gamer or not, as either:  a fun game, an introduction to unique mechanics, an educational tool, a first step into cooperative board games, a challenging optimisation puzzle, an simple exploration of the Trolley Problem (apt no?) or a great solo game. It ticks all of those boxes.

Thanks to Academy Games for sending this review copy.

Publisher: Academy Games
Website: https://www.academygames.com/pages/freedom
Players: 1-4
Designer: Brian Mayer
Playing time: 1-2 hours

BATALJ is a simultaneous turn-based tactical game about 1v1 combat with each player leading their own custom built team of units. ...

BATALJ BATALJ

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







BATALJ is a simultaneous turn-based tactical game about 1v1 combat with each player leading their own custom built team of units. The title is the first game from studio Fall Damage and shows a lot of promise, but may need some more work to be given a full recommendation. 

BATALJ features combat that in some ways resembles the new XCOM games, where each of your units can move and do one action each turn. The twist is that each player chooses the movement and actions of each of their units in secret, and then once both players hit go, the action plays out. The units do not act all at once, however, instead they go in a specific order that is known to the players while choosing moves. This opens up some serious strategy calculations. Do you go for the sure kill, knowing your units can act before their hapless victim gets a chance to escape? Or do you try to predict your opponent's actions, hitting them where they least expect it? Of course, you might be totally wrong, and watch helplessly as your units whiff at empty air. You also need to think about future turns when making your choices. Different actions incur different amounts of delay, which is what makes the overall unit order get rearranged each turn.




 All of this action takes place in one of several small arenas, with three objective locations that the players must fight over. If you end a turn with more locations in your control, you get a point. 5 points wins the match. A location can be contested by both players, which means no one gets control of that spot. The really interesting thing to me was that control of more objectives only ever gives you one point. So, if you have control of one objective, and no one controls the others, you get one point. If you control two or even all three of the locations, you still only get one point. This creates the opportunity for a variety of strategies. You can try to use fast units to spread out and have a presence across the board, or you can move your units in a blob and try to crush whatever resistance they encounter, or a hundred other approaches in between. Each side gets some reinforcements at specific intervals, and depending on how the battle is going you might want to bring in a healer to fix up your hero, or a unit to counter whatever strategy the enemy is using. Everything, of course, depends on what units you have and what the enemy has. Being a novice, I just picked a variety of units and then figured out a strategy as I went!


There are three different factions of units in the game, each with a different theme and set of heroes. There is a default squad for each faction, but the real tinkering fun comes from assembling your own squads and thinking about how different units could work together to create some serious combat synergy. In my relatively brief time with the game I did not get into the nitty gritty details, but I did play several matches and studied the various abilities available to each unit. Each faction has a half dozen or so different unit types, and each of those units has its own set of two to four possible actions it can take during a turn. Many units also have passive buffs that shape their role on the battlefield. If you are a fan of MOBA's you will immediately feel comfortable with this aspect of the game. Most units have some kind of basic attack, and then either more powerful attacks or support type abilities. There are units to heal, units to take out an enemy's armor, units that can cloak, some that can fly, some have area denial weapons while others focus a ton of damage on one target. There is a lot of variety here and simply exploring what the various units are capable of will take some time.


So, it might sound like I have nothing bad to say about this game, but, unfortunately, we are about to get to that part. The actual gameplay is very solid, the problem is that you might have a hard time finding an opponent. BATALJ is meant to be a competitive game, focused on 1v1 matches between human players. The game has some lovely stat screens and battle logs, and promises that ranked play is on the way. However, it isn't clear whether the player base is there to support it. I was able to find several matches via the automatic matchmaking, but at times I was stuck waiting for a while with no opponent to be found. The forums aren't very busy, and Steam Charts shows that only a handful of people are playing at any given time. Normally, I wouldn't knock a game for having a small player population (some of my favorite games over the years are pretty obscure), but in this case, if you don't have a reliable supply of opponents, you can't really play the game. There is no single player mode to speak of. There is a tutorial against some bots, which I found enjoyable the first time through, but after that you have to go online.


I really, really hope the game finds a player base, because the developers seem enthusiastic and responsive to player concerns. Perhaps a few more updates and greater awareness will draw people into the game, but I fear it might be a tough sell without any kind of single player gameplay. Another option would be adding asynchronous matches as seen in Frozen Synapse. That would make it a lot easier to find and play a match, even with relatively few players out there. 


As it stands, I would like to recommend this game, but can only do so with the massive caveat that this is an online only game with a very small player base, which may or may not be around in a couple months. I hope this doesn't discourage the developers, because they clearly put in a lot of work into this and released a game that is fun to play and looks great. Hopefully they can find a path forward that will bring in the player base that this game needs. 


BATALJ is available on Steam
Developer/Publisher: Fall Damage


- Joe Beard

Heroes of the Motherland With the add-ons Dark July 43 - X-Maps for Dark July 43 by Lock 'N Load Publishing ...

Heroes of the Motherland with add-ons Dark July 43 - X-Maps for Dark July 43 by Lock 'N Load Publishing Heroes of the Motherland with add-ons Dark July 43  - X-Maps for Dark July 43 by Lock 'N Load Publishing

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












 An Argosy of wargaming goodness arrived on my porch a while ago. There is just so much that comes with Heroes of the Motherland that I have a real problem figuring where to start, and what to write about. I received not only HOTM, but also two add-ons for it. They are  Dark July 43: The Battles for Prokhorovka Third Edition, and also the X-Maps for Dark July. 



HOTM Counters


 The Eastern Front in World War II is probably the one campaign that has more games, tactical, operational, and strategic than any other. The types of weapons and troops you can use in this game span the depth and breadth of the war. Tanks that were built before the war to King Tigers and JS-2s are present for your gaming pleasure.




HOTM Maps


 LNL's premise for their tactical World War II era games is simple but breathtaking in scope. They have developed a core set of rules that span the years 1930-1959. This core set allows gamers to learn it, and then adds a few extra rules for each game. That means that gamers can game all of the conflicts and campaigns during those years with a single rules set. This has been tried in the past, but to my knowledge only for Ancient and Medieval gaming. The game scale is fifty meters wide to the hex. You play with squads, half-squads, and vehicle crews etc. 



Scenario

 The Core Manual is sixty-six pages long. However, do not be discouraged. It is written in large script and has many pictures and examples throughout. The Module Rules and Scenario Booklet really has only four pages of rules to learn. This is how encompassing the Core Rules are. They are also constantly being updated. The rules are up to version 5.0 now.

 The game comes with:

14 x Color Geomorphic  8.25 x 12.75 Maps.
5 x CounterSheets with over 550+ counters. 
1 x Color Core system manual featuring the latest v4.1 rules.
1 x Color Game Module rules,  Examples of play with 12 scenarios and One Campaign.
3 x 11 x 17 Player Aid Cards.
2 8 x 11 Player Aid Cards.
1 x Heavy Duty box.
 


HOTM Campaign


 The sequence of play is:

Rally Phase
Operations Phase
Fire Combat
Movement
Laying Smoke
Melee Combat
Administrative Phase


 I really like this system for tactical gaming. That does not mean that I do not own and like others. You can ask my wife. I think it is a losing proposition to compare games against each other. Much like a parent, you can find good and bad traits in your children, or a game's rules and mechanics. We are Wargamers, so we buy Wargames, many, many Wargames. Back to HOTM, the rules have been worked on to be streamlined and as easy to understand as possible. The setup of the rules and scenarios are done in a sequence to make it easier on the gamer to learn.

 The components that come with any Lock 'N Load game are some of the best on the market. The counters are extremely well done, and for those who cannot play without it, they come already clipped. Almost all of them fall out of the sprues with nothing extra stuck to them, or the need for cleaning them up. The maps are once again well done. They are on thick paper stock. Some people prefer mounted maps, but I can play on either surface without giving it a second thought. 









 The Dark July module adds in the seminal fight between the SS divisions and the Russian forces rushing forward to make sure that operation Zitadelle is a German defeat. The module is a bit misnamed because there is also a scenario about the Battle for Ponryi on the northern flank of Zitadelle. So this means you can see how effective Ferdinands really were. There are only two pages of rules that come with Dark July, and some are optional. This is what Dark July comes with:

1 x 34 x 22 Color Map.
2 x Color Geomorphic 12.75 x 8.25 Maps.
1 x Counter Sheet with over 80+ counters.
1 x Color Module rules, Examples of play with 6 Scenarios.
1 x 8 x 11 Player Aid Cards.


                              

                                  Dark July Counters


 The X-Maps add-ons that Lock 'N Load sells are worth every penny. The maps are the same as the ones that come with the module, for example Dark July. The difference is that the hexes are much larger. The standard maps in Dark July are 8.25" X 12.75". The X-Maps come in at 11" X 17".
So you get the same maps, but are able to play with less clutter, which is always a good thing. So if you do buy any of the main game's modules I suggest that you do invest in the X-Maps for it. The X-Maps for Dark July contain:

One Color Two Part 51 x 33 Map.Two Color 11 x 17 Maps.

One 11 x 17 Player Aid Card.






 Great system, great components (besides the lack of mounted maps, which again I could care less about), if you have any interest in the theater I think it is time and money well spent investing in HOTM. Thank you Lock 'N Load for letting me review all of this gaming goodness.

X-Maps Size

Robert

Fighting Formations Grossdeutcshland Division's Battle for Kharkov by GMT Games   The new histories show us t...

Fighting Formations Grossdeutcshland Division's Battle for Kharkov by GMT Games Fighting Formations Grossdeutcshland Division's Battle for Kharkov by GMT Games

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



by







 The new histories show us that Kursk was not the blood letting for the German Army that we were led to believe. The defensive battles after Kursk are really where the Wehrmacht was steadily depleted of machines and trained men. This add-on lets you game the Third Battle of Kharkov, but also a few of the defensive battles going into early 1944.


Box Contents


 This is a list of what comes in the box:

  • 1 back-printed 8.5” x 11” player aid card
  • 3 back-printed 22˝ x 34˝ mapsheets
  • 2 back-printed 22˝ x 17˝ mapsheets
  • a half sheet of die-cut counters
  • a 24-page Playbook 


Counters

 Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Division's Battle for Kharkov is an add-on to the original very well received game. The included battles show the deterioration of the German Army's quality and quantity. The game covers scenarios that show German victory and defeat historically. The original game was designed by Chad Jensen of Combat Commander game. This add-on was done by Bryan R. VanNortwick. The units that are added to the base game are:

  • The Soviet SU-76M “Suka” open-topped assault gun;
  • SU-85 tank destroyer;
  • T-34C;
  • T-26b light tank;
  • The German Mk VI Tiger I
  • PzIII M;
  • 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun;
  • Low quality troops representing GD artillerymen forced to fight on the front lines





Play


  This is a great addition to an already great game. Gamers have been clamoring for more in the series because it is so good. Hopefully we will see more Division battles start to show up as was originally planned. Thank you GMT Games for letting me review this product.

 This is a link to my review of the base game:

Robert

Overview Fury of Dracula is a one against many cooperative deduction game in which the team are trying to find and defeat the one who i...

Fury of Dracula Third Edition Fury of Dracula Third Edition

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Overview

Fury of Dracula is a one against many cooperative deduction game in which the team are trying to find and defeat the one who is playing Dracula.  To win, Dracula is attempting to prey on the weaker hunters and increase his influence throughout Europe.

The game is played out on a map board containing 70 locations in which Dracula can hideout and players can search and recover, amongst other things. The game has elements of deduction, bluffing and combat, all wrapped up in a deliciously-dark and thematic experience. 

You can watch my unboxing video of the Third Edition of Fury of Dracula from Wizkids below:



Gameplay

The game will be played over a series of rounds until either Dracula has been defeated/killed? (the players win) or he has achieved a total of 13 influence points (Dracula wins).  Players' primary method to defeat Dracula is through finding his current hideout, fighting and wounding him. Dracula can be quite vulnerable and will take significant damage when multiple hunters attack him. However, Dracula's influence comes from a variety of sources which also includes fighting hunters.  There is a delicate balance for both teams (the hunters and Dracula) to consider in this game.
Game ready to play
The game consists of a Hunter Phase and a Dracula Phase until the victory conditions have been met. During the Hunter Phase, players will all take a day action, and once the day is over, they will take a night action. Effectively each hunter has two turns in which to prepare for the Dracula phase, in which he simply moves to a new location. 

Every time Dracula moves, he places a new Location card i.e. where he's moved to, and an Encounter card onto his Trail. From the start of the game, the trail will grow from just 1 location to 6 locations indicating where Dracula has been and currently is. If the Hunters haven't found the first location placed it will slide off the board and the encounter card will 'mature'. A maturing vampire encounter card will cause Dracula's influence to increase by 2.  
'Learn to Play' book
Every time a hunter travels to a location which is on Dracula's trail, Dracula may immediately Ambush the hunter by revealing the Encounter card in that location.  This will discard the encounter card and prevent it from maturing later. If Dracula doesn't Ambush the players may surmise that it is a baby vampire and searching for it will prevent Dracula's influence increasing at a later date. However, Dracula has lots of opportunities to dupe the hunters in how he reacts to his trail being revealed. 

If the Hunters are ever in the same location as Dracula, they will have a combat round. Combat is resolved after the Hunter's Day actions have been completed and then again after Dracula's actions have been completed.  The timing of the combat rounds needs to be carefully considered for when players elect to supply, rest and move.
Three rounds of combat, Dr John Sewards combat card has been blocked by Dracula (matching icon) another combat round will begin.
Combat is resolved similarly by both sides; they take a certain amount of combat cards into their hands and reveal one card. If the icons on the revealed cards don't match then Dracula will perform his cards action, and then the hunter's action will resolve. If they match then only the hunter's card will resolve. Dracula will never stand toe-to-toe with a hunter for long though, eventually, he must escape from combat, unless he is going to defeat the hunter else he will lose the game

There are a myriad of extras rules that I could explain but this review would get far too long without actually reviewing the game.  The gameplay does suffer a little bit from a slow-burn at the beginning but once it gets going it is one of the most cinematic experiences I have ever had with a group of players playing a board game.  The tension inexorably ramps up to the endgame which, in my plays up to now, have always been very tense, due to the fact that Dracula or the Hunters had victory just within their grasp.
Where is he?
There is a fair bit of downtime for the Dracula player between his turns but as the Hunter players are openly discussing their plans it is not really downtime. In fact, it is a perfect opportunity to listen and goad the Hunters as they stumble around the board.  There is as much gameplay off the table whilst discussing plans as there is on the board. Many cooperatives have this feature but I have never played one in which I found myself pseudo-roleplaying my role just a little bit. That is a testament to the high-level of immersion that this game has.

Components

The fourth edition is printed by WizKids and comes with painted miniatures which as far as I can tell is the only difference between the third and this version.  

Any time a Hunter takes a supply action, a card is drawn from the item deck. During a day supply action, this is from the top of the deck where players will see whether it is a Hunter card or not. If it is a night action the card is blind-drawn from the bottom of the deck. If it is not a Hunter card then the card will be given to Dracula and may also resolve immediately. There is an element of push-your-luck as well in this action and it keeps the Dracula player involved even more during the Hunters turns. However, in my copy, the backs of the two card-types have vastly different colours so we needed to keep the cards very neatly stacked to prevent the Hunters from seeing which card type was on the bottom. 
Should be the same colour
The rulebook comes in two parts, a Learn to Play and Rules Reference which I do like. I think you can get up and playing much quicker by having rulebooks like this. The Learn to Play is very nicely illustrated with a large number of examples included.  The reference book is just dense walls of text but it is perfect for looking up edge cases not covered by the rules.  I can't think of any time that a gameplay question wasn't resolved by either the learn to play (most commonly this) or the Rules Reference (mostly just for clarification).

The artwork throughout the game and all components are nicely thematic and if you're a fan of the original novel or the vampiric-genre then you should appreciate not only the artwork but the chosen Hunters and their special abilities. Van Helsing is included and he is the Hunter's primary damage dealer; Mina Harker is also a hunter but should rarely be in combat against Dracula but her special ability lets her work together i.e. in the same location as another hunter, to quickly whittle down the possible locations of Dracula.
Cards and Components

I also had a printing error on the player's boards regarding their hand size, but this is easily remembered.

Criticisms

The game can drag for the first few turns. This is when Dracula is still building the Trail and there is little for the Hunters to work with without an element of luck. What makes this game really shine is tension, which is largely absent for the first 20 minutes or so. There's still plenty of things for all players to be doing, i.e. collecting item cards, getting tickets, incubating vampire babies etc. but in the first game I played with a new group they almost bailed before it got going. They were glad they didn't/I forced them not to.

The game does stay on the table for a while. If both the Dracula and Hunter players are familiar with the game, it will probably take the full three hours with both teams finishing within one point or so of each other. If one side doesn't know what they're doing it will probably still take three hours but finish much earlier in game-play terms i.e. early on week 2 instead of week 3 or later but after three hours have elapsed.

Conclusion

There is a reason this game has had three reprints after the original release in 1987. It is an excellent game that combines many popular boardgame mechanics into a finely balanced gameplay experience that plays best with 5 players.  It is also good with 3 players and playable with 2.  I didn't like it as much with 4 players though as one player is controlling more Hunters than another which unbalanced the game a little. 

Lots of games have tense endgame but I haven't experienced one as dramatic as this one. Often in a standard 'euro game' the tension comes from adding on your Victory points and bonus VPs on the score track at the end of the game. In this game (definitely not a euro game) the tension starts about 30 minutes in and steadily ramps up to the conclusion 2 and a half hours later.  It is an intense experience. I would even say that it is a high-stakes game...

The game arguably provides a more cinematic experience than going to the cinema and more suspense than any whodunit novel. It just may be a perfect blend of board-game where you're constrained by rules which tells a story without any narrative.  After you've played you will feel exhausted just as you would having traipsed across Europe for the last three weeks hunting and being hunted by Dracula.

Most game-stores will have a copy of this game in and even if you're not interested in this game, you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest game store.

Publisher: Wizkids
Website: https://wizkids.com/fury-of-dracula/
Players: 2 - 5
Designer: Stephen Hand
Playing time: 2 - 3 hours