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 Against The Odds: A Journal of History and Simulation Rome, Inc. Issue #53  Against The Odds magazine has had a great history so far as the...

Against The Odds: A Journal of History and Simulation, Rome, Inc. Issue 53 Against The Odds: A Journal of History and Simulation, Rome, Inc. Issue 53

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






 Against The Odds: A Journal of History and Simulation


Rome, Inc. Issue #53





 Against The Odds magazine has had a great history so far as the games that have come with the magazine, despite the fact that many wargamers slightly hold their noses up at 'magazine wargames'. Basically, if it didn't come in a three inch box it wasn't really a wargame.  Some of my greatest memories have come from playing magazine wargames, a few of them from games that came from ATO. Unfortunately, a lot of gamers look at wargaming magazines as teens look at Playboy magazine. They rip open the plastic just to find the game inside. A little like emptying the box of Cracker Jacks to find the prize. The articles that come with the magazines are just as important, if not more so, than the game inside. Yes, we are wargamers, but we were history nuts long before we found our first wargame (unless you were lucky enough to have a wargamer in the family). Here is a list of the written pieces that come in this issue:


The Whiff  of Grapeshot: This touches on the sweeping history of the issue's contents. This one also has a touching farewell to David W. Tschanz, a long time wargamer and contributing author. He also was a former editor of 'Cry Havoc'. Even while battling cancer he made sure to contribute an article on Marius's Mules.


Order of Appearance - Information on upcoming issues

Rome, Inc: The Roman Empire from Augustus to Diocletian, 27BCE - 286CE

 The Republic

 Julian Emperors

 Claudian Emperors

 Flavian Emperors

 Adoptive Emperors

 Antonine Emperors

 Severan Emperors

 Barracks Emperors

 Illyrian Emperors

 Appendix 1: Incorporating Rome

 Appendix 2: Bread & Circuses

 Bibliography

The above are all from the pen of Philip Jelley

On Guards : Who Guards the Praetorian Guards? - Philip Jelley

Gaius Marius and the Reform of the Roman Legion - David W, Tschanz

And the Data Shows:

  Good Pop, Bad Pop - This is Mostly About Some of the  Egyptian Pharaohs and Then Goes Into Louis XI, and Louis XIV of France - Ed Heinsman

Simulation Corner:

 War on the Installment Plan - This is About Resources/Money in Games - John Prados

The Fifth Columnist:

 In-Depth Book Reviews From Behind the Lines - John D, Burtt





So, you can see that there is a ton of history to read about between the covers of Issue #53. It is amazing at times the amount of nuggets that one finds in articles like these.


 The game that comes in this issue is Rome, Inc. This is a solitaire game that places the player as the CEO of the Roman Empire. Your job is to see the Empire through all of the tumults that can possibly happen during those years. Many times the threat to your plans will come from inside the Empire, and not from barbarians without. A good number of the Roman Emperors did not die in bed. You are sometimes stuck with an Emperor that you would probably like to get assassinated ASAP. This is what comes with the game:


Map - One full color 22" x 34" mapsheet

Counters - 280 full color 1/2" die-cut pieces

Rules length - 12 pages

Charts and tables - 2 pages

Complexity - Medium

Playing time - From 3 to 4 hours per scenario

How challenging is it solitaire? - Excellent

Design - Philip Jelley

Development - Dave Boe

Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey


 This is one of ATO's blurbs about the game:

"You decide where to allocate resources (capital spending), raise new forces (hiring), undertake prestige projects (public relations), pleasing the mob (shareholders), or even setting aside a reserve for a rainy decade or two. You’ll need to blend military expansion with careful administration, as well as intrigue, making the most of what you have each turn, just like any modern-day business.


ROME, INC. will give you a new perception of how war is a cost, business is a benefit, and empire is somewhere in between. It’s up to you to find a balance."





 So, a solitaire game on a period of history that I am all too familiar with. Not by my own choosing, probably eighty percent of the books written about Rome are in the Empire period. I much prefer the Republican Era, but it is not like I am adrift here. I have a liking for a few of the Emperors. One of my favorites was a Thracian named Maximinus Thrax. He was a giant of a man that was the first Emperor to not be of the ruling classes. In fact, he was a lowly soldier that worked his way to the top. I also know that having an Emperor with a 'C' starting your name was not a good thing. Hence, Caracalla, Commodus, and Caligula (I know it is not his real name, in fact it means 'little boots', but everyone knows him by it). You also get to deal with some 'baddies' (from the Roman point of view). Queen Zenobia, who was a much greater threat to Rome than Cleopatra was. She actually conquered a good amount of Roman territory. She is hardly known about at all, compared to Cleo. 





 As the game states, "The player, a CEO of this vast corporate empire, appoints consuls and governors, raises taxes, deploys legions, fleets, and auxiliaries to garrison provinces, and fights wars to expand the prestige and power of Rome." I would add, to also try and keep the Empire alive. However bad the 3rd century was for Rome, the 4th was much worse. So, the player gets a break in only having to last until Diocletian. The game goes from the first Emperor Octavian (the other name will not be mentioned), to the emperor Diocletian.  With murder, and mayhem galore for roughly 300 years. My favorite Emperor story is Octavian wandering about the palace beating his head on the walls shouting "Quintili Vare, legiones redde ( Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions).





 One thing about the game that you need to know is that it is a 'big' game. 'Big' in the fact that there is a lot to do, not in space. Myself, and others, have been amazed when we opened the rulebook, and saw what we had bought into. I had really assumed that it would be close to a beer and pretzel game than the simulation it turned out to be. If you are not looking for an in depth simulation of the period, then look somewhere else. I would liken it to any other deep empire building game, which instead of building an empire, you try and keep this one off life support. I would say remember what Kenny Rogers said "know when to hold them, know when to fold them",  keep an eye out for the next great Emperor, and then try and keep him alive as long as possible.





 The game/simulation shows exactly how tough it was to keep the Empire in statis, let alone to try and conquer more territory. You do not want to roam about your house like Octavian. 




  The game is very deep, and dare I say, excellent. It shows you in an extremely small footprint the history of Rome in the first three centuries. Naturally, after the beginning setups in each scenario it becomes the history of your Rome. You will, however, feel all of the pressures that were put on the empire at different times. The scenarios are:


27 BCE Scenario

70 CE Scenario

138 CE Scenario

222 CE Scenario

Any of these may be combined into campaign games.


 The magazine articles are top notch, and they only lend to the player's feeling that "he has chosen well". Thank you, Against The Odds Magazine, for allowing me to take this issue's game for a spin. Thank you also for all of the deep history of the Roman Empire that you have crammed into your magazine.


Robert

Against The Odds Magazine

Against the Odds (atomagazine.com)

Against The Odds Magazine Issue #53

Against the Odds (atomagazine.com)








Rarely have I been more excited to play a game than Paper Dungeons which is bizarre because it’s a small-ish game containing a dungeon adven...

Paper Dungeons by Alley Cat Games Paper Dungeons by Alley Cat Games

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


Rarely have I been more excited to play a game than Paper Dungeons which is bizarre because it’s a small-ish game containing a dungeon adventure-themed roll-n-write.  However, when I saw the box art I was smitten, they had me at ‘A dungeon scrawler game’.

Gameplay

Each game will see you and a number of your intrepid friends scribbling their journey through a dungeon, fighting minions, monsters, triggering traps, picking up treasure and moving around obstacles.  It will take a fairly accurate ‘30 minutes’ if playing with others to complete a single game although I’ve completed some solo adventures in under 15 minutes.


Each game will consist of just 8 rounds in which you will use 3 dice.  To start the round, you will roll a pool of 3 white and 3 black dice which remain freely available to all players no matter if they’ve been used or not.  These dice will dictate your actions for the round.  There are four main actions you can take with each dice, but the colour and symbol of the dice will limit your choices.


The actions are Level Up, Craft Artifact, Brew Potion or Explore the Dungeon.


Each player will start with an identical dungeon and a pretty much identical party of a Warrior, Wizard, Cleric and Thief.  There will be some minor differences between the colour of each of these, for example I might have a black Cleric and black Wizard and a white Warrior and White Thief.  I will only be able to level up my white Warrior if there is a warrior symbol on one of the white dice.


Crafting most artifacts can be done with any dice but you will need to burn two of your actions to complete it.  When you consider that you only have 24 discrete actions in a game there is a small trade off between using the dice for their affect or trying to generate combos.  In my experience with this game, it is always better to move at least one if not twice each turn than do almost anything else.


Any dice can be used for 2 movement, but there are 3 boot icons in the dice pool which allow you to move 3 squares.  This doesn’t seem like a big change, but I promise you that moving is the most powerful action in the game.  When you move, you’ll likely take damage but also gain rewards and moving is the quickest way to unlock the combos which are evenly dispersed throughout this game.


For me, there is a direct correlation between how fun a roll-n-write game is and how many combos you can do.  I don’t know why but I get a little kick each time my movement triggers a fight, which give me a reward, which lets me craft an artifact which gives me more potions…  That type of combo is fairly typical in this game, but unlike other roll-n-writes where the combos are usually towards the late game, they are available right from the beginning in this game.


The final action is to brew health potions.  These are critical for success as you will take damage directly to your party without them.  Damage is tracked alongside the combined level of your heroes and the more damage you take directly, the more score deduction you get at the end.  If you can assign that damage to potions there’ll be no impact to your score.  It is possible to die in the dungeon (the only game play effect is a -9 points) but I’ve never seen that happen.

This is not a big score...

My top tips for getting a big score, move lots, have plenty of potions and look for combos.  As you can see this is a fairly simple roll-n-write but with an applied theme that is far more successful than others of this ilk and heft, e.g. Welcome To or 30 Rails.


Seemingly the biggest difference between games will be in which monsters you meet and where any dungeon walls may be.  Each game will pit your party against a level 1, 2 and 3 monster. There are 4 of each in the base game and across a ‘campaign’ of 12 dungeons the monsters and extra walls are all that separate the dungeons.  Unfortunately, each level of monster is identical in strength and damage, so the difference quickly just feels cosmetic although it is certainly a nice cosmetic change.


However, before you start playing you will choose a secret objective and power; there will also be three public missions.  Not only do these help to set up your party but they also give a variable number of points based on how well you achieve the card.  These cards are a nice addition to the game as they do prevent every game from feeling the same (it still does get a little bit samey after a few plays).


Components

There are no gripes here, the components are all perfectly adequate.  I particularly like the artwork and iconography.  The prime engine of the game is driven by nice chunky 20mm dice – think King of Tokyo for comparison. Which are easily readable, even from across the table.  The publishers deserve some extra praise putting this into a sensible sized box.  There’s still some space left over but it’s not excessive, most of it is taken up by the game pads of 100 sheets. 


Criticisms

I was looking forward to playing the campaign (it’s a dungeon scrawler after all) but after the fourth or fifth mission I realised there was little beyond flavour text linking the missions together.  This minor flaw, the game stands alone in its own right, is compounded by the fact that monsters don’t change in strength.  Dungeon A of the campaign feels just as easy/hard as Dungeon L.  There doesn’t appear to be any progression beyond a cards-worth of story.  Each dungeon and monster are too similar in feel if not aesthetic.  This is partially mitigated by the objective, missions and power cards.


The other criticism I have after having played it close to 20 times is that it is too easy.  I have never seen a player die and it is rare for a player not to reach a monster’s room, which acts as an in-game timer of sorts.  When you’re playing with other players the highest score wins (duh!) and as you’re all playing with the same constraints this effectively negates this criticism.  I would like to see more jeopardy or tougher decisions.  I think I’ll suggest playing with one less round next time…

This is a much better score

This isn’t really a criticism but I’m over halfway through my pads, is that I’d like the publisher to release a pdf of the score pad to download and print.  Failing that I’ll be laminating my last 10 to be able to continue to take it to game nights.


Conclusion

I’ll always recommend this as a fun filler. At game nights it easily accommodates a wide number of players   If you like roll-n-writes and have played D&D then I think this will quickly become a favourite.  There’s a lot to like here.  The gameplay is quick, simple and most importantly it’s fun and has gone over very well with everyone I’ve introduced it too.  There isn’t a dearth of combos until you get to the late game which is an issue with some other roll-n-write games.  In this you have to find the combos right from the beginning of the game.


I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store, which need all the help they can get at the moment.


Designer: Leandro Pires

Bgg page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/291962/paper-dungeons-dungeon-scrawler-game

Playtime: 30 minutes 

Players: 1 - 8


 Indian Ocean Region South China Sea: Volume II by Compass Games  Compass Games has succeeded once again in putting me on the horns of a dil...

Indian Ocean Region, South China Sea: Volume II by Compass Games Indian Ocean Region, South China Sea: Volume II by Compass Games

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



 Indian Ocean Region

South China Sea: Volume II


by


Compass Games





 Compass Games has succeeded once again in putting me on the horns of a dilemma. This is a wargame about possible warfare breaking out in approximately 2025. I am not the keenest grognard on hypothetical conflicts. I also like my sea battles resolved by large caliber guns, and not Tomahawk missiles. So, please bear with me through this review.


 As was mentioned, the different hypothetical conflicts take place in 2025 in the region from the coast of Africa near Saudi Arabia to the Western coast of Thailand, and some of the island of Sumatra. This would include some hotspots such as the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden, etc. This means that some of the fighting is bound to be about the sea lanes that Middle East oil can take from those areas to the Indian Ocean. This is part of the blurb from Compass games that can describe the area and the tensions throughout the region:


"Although advertised as purely commercial ventures, China’s “String of Pearls” (a series of key ports) across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) gives her the option to assert sea control of that theater, and for good reason.  About 80% of the PRC’s oil transits the IOR before bottlenecking at the Strait of Malacca and then going on to terminate at ports in the PRC.  Even a Gwadar-Kashgar oil pipeline, designed to bypass the full-length IOR route, would still require some initial sea transport, followed by a vulnerable off load, and couldn’t carry the full load anyway.


Therefore, in a modern interpretation of Mahan’s observations, China has used “legislative methods…monopoly…(and) prohibitory regulations” all via diplomacy to secure its oil-toting sea lanes throughout the IOR.  Patient cultivation of relations with Pakistan over decades has delivered access to the updated, modern port at Gwadar, Pakistan.  Buoyed by Chinese land leases and development projects, Maldivian President Yameen has drifted closer to China while his opposition looks to India.  In Sri Lanka, China may have used “debt trap diplomacy” by forgiving debt to obtain certain rights to the port at Hambantota for 99-years.  How ironic, after regaining Hong Kong, China is now using tactics reminiscent of Imperial British mercantilists to gain Ceylon!  The confidential nature of certain aspects of these deals along with the close association of many Chinese firms to their military and government opens up the possibility of “dual use” facilities that might quickly transition from commercial to military applications."


 This is the pertinent information about the game:

• Complexity: 7 out of 10

• Solitaire Suitability: 6 out of 10

• Time Scale: 1 turn = between 3 and 7 hours

• Map Scale: 1 hex = 45 nautical miles

• Unit Scale: aircraft squadrons, pairs of ships/subs, land battalions

• Players: Best with 2 players but can be played with up to 3 players, or solitaire

• Playing Time: 2-4 hours depending on scenario


Game Components:

• Three 22x 28” map sheets

• Three Countersheets totaling 390 3/4″ counters

• Deck of 39 political cards

• Two player aid cards

• Rule/scenario book

• Two Dice

• Box and Lid


Game Credits:

• Designer: John Gorkowski

• Artist: Christopher Moeller




 This is Volume II of the South China Sea games. Here is a list of the Nations involved:

Asymmetric: Iran

                   Pakistan

                   Qatar

                   Somalia

                   Yemen

China: Peoples Republic of China (PRC)

            The String of Pearls

Indo-Am: Bahrain

                 India

                 United States

                 Diego Garcia

                 Australia and Britain

Symmetric Bay States: Bangladesh

         (Bay of Bengal)   Myanmar

                                      Sri-Lanka

Symmetric Gulf States: Djibouti

                                       Oman

                                       United Arab Emirates


 Asymmetric States include Nations that rely heavily on unconventional strategies and tactics. Symmetric Bay States are interested in Chinese investments, but are leery of giving them too much political power over them (per the designer). Symmetric Gulf States have a long history of trading with the Western nations.


 So, as you can see there is a ton of different conflicts that could arise between all of the different powers that are represented in the game. Political tensions are rampant in the area on both the land and sea.




  The game box is not that heavy, but it does come with a good amount material in it. The three maps, as they should be by the game's name, are mostly water hexes, with some of the various land masses around the Indian Ocean. The Maps are well done, even though most of them are blue hexes. The land war is really supposed to take a backseat to the naval and air fighting anyway. The counters on the map are huge. This is to accommodate the equally large counters at 3/4". I want to say one thing about these counters right off the bat. Once the plastic that held them in place was cut, the counters all jumped off the sprues. There was no problem with the cutting of them. The counters all come with a small picture of the designated weapon, and also very large numbers for movement, stealth, and defense, etc. They also are color coded for Transport, Littoral, and Deep Sea. There is a large number of different types which is necessary because of the different nations and tons of different weapons. The Rulebook is in full color, and large type. The game rules are only twenty-one pages long. This is followed by six pages of Play Examples, and then comes the seven scenarios that come with the game. The game also comes with two hard laminated Player Aids sheets. The production value of the components are what I have come to expect from Compass Games.


 Play is what you would expect from a game with weapons and munitions from 2025. The game adds extra depth by having some of the scenarios start with a 'Political Turn'. The political rules remind one of other cut throat games involving different nations trying to use political muscle to get what they want. The Political Turns are a combination of card play and negotiations. The Negotiation rules allow for up to a ten minute huddle for the different players to discuss their plans. There are never more than six Political Turns in a scenario, and sometimes there are less. Every time that the the Victory Track moves more than two or more spaces, the Peoples Republic of China must make an Armed Conflict die-roll. The die-roll is on a 1d6, and if it is a four or more then Armed Conflict erupts. The political aspect of the game is short but sweet, and does not really bog down play before the shooting starts.





 When the munitions start to fly is when most of us grognards really take notice in games, and this one is no exception. The lethality of modern munitions is quickly shown to the player who puts his forces in harm's way. The Air/Sea Engagement Sequence is this:


Anti-Air Strikes

Torpedo Strikes by Submarines

Anti-Ship Strikes

Anti-Submarine Strikes

Gun Strikes

Torpedo Strikes by Surface Units

Anti-Ground Strikes

This is then followed by the Ground Combat Phase.

 The Military Turn Sequence of Play is:

Air Movement Phase - Default Order

Sea Movement Phase - Default Order

LACM (Land Attack Cruise Missile) Strikes Phase - Default Order

Air and Sea Combat Phase - Default Order by Engagement

Ground Movement Phase - Default Order

Administration Phase - Simultaneous

Military Negotiations Phase  - Simultaneous




 Once again Compass Games has dangled a carrot, or a truffle (the chocolate kind) before my eyes, and once again I jumped in where Angels fear to tread. As usual, some people have mixed views about the game system. I think they are missing the point of the game system. With twenty-one pages of rules this was not supposed to be a deep simulation of modern air/sea warfare. While the political side of the game adds a lot to the complete picture, once missiles start flying it is not a game that is hard to learn. I think the operative word is 'game' when trying to describe this game. Luckily we have no real idea of the deadliness of today's sea weapons (two first world navies having at it), and the survivability of those platforms. If a person is looking for a deep simulation that will have you looking at dozens of charts to check how deep one missile has penetrated through a given destroyers hull, please look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you are looking to play some quick scenarios of a game about modern warfare please take a look at this game. I enjoy the game for what it is, and do not judge it by what it really was not supposed to be. The game has also been manufactured in the good ole USA.




 Thank you again Compass Games for letting me review one of your products. As a shout out to them, do not forget that they are having a gaming expo these five days 11/11-15 2021 at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Meriden Ct. I will hopefully be attending, possibly sans credit cards; this is still to be determined. I will be the one with the parrot and a wooden leg. They are also having a sale on their products right now until 1/25/22. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Kharkov Battles which looks to be very good. 

Robert 

Indian Ocean Region, South China Sea: Volume II:

Indian Ocean Region – Compass Games

Compass Games:

Compass Games – New Directions In Gaming






  Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City by Peter Harmsen  This is a different book than you usually read about the fall of Nanjing/Nanking....

Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City by Peter Harmsen Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City by Peter Harmsen

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





 Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City


by


Peter Harmsen





 This is a different book than you usually read about the fall of Nanjing/Nanking. This is really a military history of the fall of the city. I will amend that, it is actually a military history from the loss of Shanghai to the fall of Nanjing. Most books about the campaign really just gloss over the military aspects and are just about the horrific Japanese treatment of the citizens and soldiers left in Nanjing (The Rape of Nanjing). In actuality, you could probably write a book about the horrible crimes inflicted on the Chinese for every single day of Japanese occupation of parts of China.


 The Nationalist Chinese headed by Chiang Kai-Shek had tried to stop the Japanese invasion of Southern China at Shanghai. In doing so they had stopped the Japanese for a few months, in what is generally called the Stalingrad of the East. Unfortunately, the Nationalists had only a few divisions that were well trained and the equal of the Japanese troops. Oddly enough they had been trained by German officers. Those elite divisions were destroyed in the Battle for Shanghai. The author informs the reader of this background leading to the Battle for Nanjing. 


 The book goes from top echelon discussions of strategy and the war in general to stories about single soldiers on both sides of the war without missing a beat. You are shown how most Japanese strangely felt anger to the Chinese for not letting them take over their country. The book also shows the German (this again is odd considering their subsequent alliance with Japan), attempt at peace negotiations between the two powers. 


 The discussions between the highest Nationalists leaders about trying to fight for Nanjing, or just surrender the city, are shown to the reader. You get to see how the Japanese believed that once they captured Nanjing, the Chinese Capital, that the Nationalists would sue for peace. 


 Kudos to the author in being able to show us the top down view of the battles and still be able to tell the story of the individuals involved. The book does go into the hell of the the Rape of Nanjing, but it is not the book's focus. Inside you will find a good many maps that are very nicely drawn to help you to understand the campaign. There are also two different groups of photos showing the people and events in the book. Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review another excellent book from their stable. Please also take a look at the author's 'Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze'.


Robert

Book: Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City

Author: Peter Harmsen

Publisher: Casemate Publishers








Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem by Stanley Lane-Poole   This book was originally published in 1898. The Introduction is done by Dr. David ...

Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem by Stanley Lane-Poole Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem by Stanley Lane-Poole

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







Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem


by


Stanley Lane-Poole





  This book was originally published in 1898. The Introduction is done by Dr. David Nicolle, who also did some minor alterations on the book for this release. The book is about Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub. This is normally shortened to just Saladin. He represents a strange character in the history of the Crusades. For not only did the Arab world sing his praises, but the Crusaders also looked upon him as a just and gallant enemy. Most people do not know much about the Crusades, but if they have read or heard about them there are only two names they really know. These would be Saladin and Richard the Lionheart, unless they remember the character Balien from the movie 'Kingdom of Heaven' (he was an actual historical figure).  


 According to the author, Saladin was born in either 1137, or 1138. He also says that he was of Kurdish descent. Saladin was born into the turmoil of the Middle East after the First Crusade had won Jerusalem and lands in which we now know as Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. He spent some of his youth in Damascus.


 During this time in the Middle East, things were not so black and white as we have been lead to believe. There was animosity between the Franks (collectively what the Moslems called the Crusaders), and the indigenous population. However, there was also friendship and trade etc. going on between the two sides. The author recounts a story that Saladin was actually knighted by a Crusader when he was a young man.


 Saladin accompanied his uncle from Damascus to help in the conquest of Egypt from the Fatimids. His sovereign at this time was Nur-ed-din the ruler of most of Syria. The conquest of Egypt was the death knell of the Crusader States. Up until that time the Crusaders were able to play the different Moslem factions against one another.

 

 Through luck and force of character, Saladin eventually became ruler of all of the Moslem States surrounding the Crusader States. He tasked himself with the reconquest of Jerusalem and all of the the lands under the Franks. His campaign against the Crusaders ends with their terrible defeat at the Horns of Hattin. Saladin is then able to conquer Jerusalem and everything but a few cities and lands adjacent to the coast of the Mediterranean. The Third Crusade is then undertaken by the Europeans to take back Jerusalem. This then leads to the great showdown between Saladin and Richard coeur de lion.


 This book is about 120 years old. This history was written in a style that was heavily in vogue at the time. I have always liked the Harold Lamb style of  'telling the tale' of history type of book, as long as the facts are still the most important part of the book. This book is a wonderful and enjoyable read that holds to the facts, and yet still weaves a good tale for the reader. Thank you Casemate Publishers for letting me review this re-release of a classic.


Robert


Book: Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem


Author: Stanley Lane-Poole


Publisher: Fonthill Media


Distributor: Casemate Publishers


 Chancellorsville 1863 by Worthington Publishing  Chancellorsville is often considered Lee's masterpiece battle. He was outnumbered 2 to...

Chancellorsville 1863 by Worthington Publishing Chancellorsville 1863 by Worthington Publishing

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




 Chancellorsville 1863


by


Worthington Publishing






 Chancellorsville is often considered Lee's masterpiece battle. He was outnumbered 2 to 1 by The Army of The Potomac, led by Joseph Hooker. Hooker also was one of the few generals to put one over on Lee. Hooker's plan for the campaign was was a very good one, and more surprisingly it worked without a hitch. Then something happened to Hooker, not to the Army he led, only to him. He had managed to flank Lee's Army, and had 3/4's of The Army of The Potomac across the Rappahannock River ready to crush The Army of Northern Virginia between a rock and a hard place. Hooker had his Army positioned in the area that would later become famous as 'The Wilderness'. Lee's only chance to survive was to stop Hooker from leaving the area and entering the more cultivated land where the Army of The Potomac's numerical superiority would overwhelm him. For some strange reason that Hooker himself never really understood, he just stopped where he was and awaited Lee's riposte. One of Hooker's explanations was that 'he just lost faith in Joe Hooker'. Lee really only had 2/3's of The Army of Northern Virginia with him. Longstreet was out west with the other 1/3. However, Lee lost no time in trying to find a way to attack Hooker. Lee's boldness knew no bounds. Lee sent Thomas Jackson (Yes, Stonewall to most) around the open left flank of Hooker's Army. This left almost nothing in front of Hooker, had he decided to actually move forward. Whether it was Jackson's or Lee's plan we will probably never know. However, Lee was the commanding general so the blame or kudos rightly belong to him. Chancellorsville is a battle of so many what ifs. Had Hooker decided to move, had Jackson not been wounded by his own men, etc. The end of the story is that the Union suffered a defeat and the Army of The Potomac was pushed back across the river. We do know that Lee was not happy about all of his victories. He knew that he had to destroy the Army of The Potomac and not just send it packing to try once again in a few months. Porter Alexander always believed that the South's only chance of victory was during the Seven Days Battles, and that after that they had really no chance. So, let us see what is in the box:


Large mounted game board

Union formation activation cards

Confederate formation activation cards

Union bot activation cards (for solitaire play)

Confederate bot activation cards (for solitaire play)

Tactic cards

Confederate and Union reinforcement cards

2 x player screens for hidden movement (with player aid)

Cohesion cubes

Momentum cubes

Redoubt markers

5 x Dice

2 x Rules 




 The game has the same designer as Worthington Publishing's Freeman Farm. There are many similarities between the two, and many differences. I will have a link to that game's review below. This is what Worthington has to say about the game:


"Designed by Maurice Suckling.  Chancellorville 1863 uses many of the concepts from Freeman's Farm 1777.  What stays basically the same:


1.  Combat

2.  How formations are activated and the receiving of momentum cubes by the play of formation cards

3.  The use of leaders like Gates, Arnold, and Burgoyne --- now Lee, Jackson, and Hooker

4.  The use of tactics cards

What's Unique:

1.  Hidden movement -- the game uses minimaps that allow for some hidden movement and variable setup of some formations.

2.  More movement -- formations frequently move on the board and combat occurs when two formations of opposing sides end in the same location.

3.  Reinforcement by transfer of cohesion points between formations

4.  A card driven solitaire engine

5.  Formation cards allow for multiple formations to activate with major and minor activations.  Major allow two moves while minor allow one move.

6.  Prepared positions --- spend your activations to build redoubts.

Gamers who own Freeman's Farm and are familiar with it's concepts will be up and playing in 15 minutes.  And with quick setup and game play, gamers will be able to play multiple games in an evening."




 The Map has nice period detail in places, but its look is not something we are used to seeing (unless, you already have played Freeman's Farm). There are no hexes. The movement of the wooden pieces on it is decided by the player's actions, and by arrows that show where the piece can legally be moved. It is sort of reminiscent of point-to-point maps, but still different from them. All of the record keeping for the different forces involved are right on the map. The wooden blocks are well done and uniform in their shapes with no pieces of wood hanging off them etc. Each deck of cards is done differently, and there are six different decks. The cards are not flimsy at all. The Rulebooks (one for each player) are in large print and full color. They are twenty pages long. The rules for the game are only fifteen pages long. This is followed by some examples of play, and then a Historical Summary, and Designer Notes. There are also two screens for hidden movement in a two player game. The screens have some Player Aids on the player side and a some nice period pictures on their other side. The game as a whole is meant to be more functional than artistic. However, this does not deter the game from being eye pleasing. As a whole, it is a wonderfully produced game. It fits well into the rest of Worthington Games stable of games.




 The game is one of very few that actually has a bot designed to play both sides. Playing solo has never been a problem for me with almost any game, but to have it all in place for playing either side is a very nice touch. It also speaks to the designer's skill in designing the bots. 

 The battle does not lend itself to be developed into a game. The disparity of forces between the North and South is roughly 2:1. So, there has to be some way of adding the tentative nature of Joseph Hooker once his plan worked and he ended up on Lee's flank. Otherwise, each game would just be to see how long Lee could hold out against the onslaught. In almost every game I have played where there is such a difference in size between both sides, victory is almost always how long can you last compared to history. It is hard to imagine, but you have to remember Lee won this battle, and tried hard to annihilate as many Union troops as possible and not just push them back. Although how he would deal with a group of captured soldiers almost half the size of his army is anyone's guess.


 


 

  This is the Sequence of Play:


"Each player’s turn has the same phases:

1. Play Activation card from one of the three in your

hand and gain Momentum cubes for the card played.

2. Determine whether you are playing the major, minor,

or one of the free actions of transfer reinforcements

or build redoubt.

3. Pay Activation cost by reducing cohesion for the

activated formation.

4. If, as a result of movement, combat occurs, perform

combat.

5. After all actions have been performed, optionally

purchase one Tactics card, and refresh the tableau

with a new card.

6. Draw a new Activation card."


These are the game's Objective Locations:


"There are 3 objective locations on the game board:

Fredericksburg (location 13), Salem Church (location

22), and Chancellorsville Junction (location 18). They are

assumed to be Confederate controlled unless there is a

Union control marker in them. A Union formation does

not have to remain on the objective for the objective to

remain Union controlled. Once controlled, at the end of a

Union turn, a Union formation may move away from the

objective. However, if a Confederate formation occupies

a formation at the end of a Confederate turn, the Union

control marker is removed and control reverts back to the

Confederates."




 These are the Victory Conditions:


"The Union player must capture 2 out of the 3 objectives

on the board by the end of the game. An objective is

captured if a Union formation was the last to occupy it,

the formation does not have to remain in the location

(mark with a blue cube to show Union control).

If the Union player breaks 3 or more Confederate

formations they immediately win the game.

The Confederate player wins if the Union player does not win.

The Confederate player also wins the game immediately

if they break 3 or more Union formations."


 The final verdict is that the designer was able to take what should be a one-sided battle (in two-player, or even against a bot), and make it enjoyable to play. Not only that, he was able to design it so that every game you play is different. The cards and other actions make sure that no two games are alike. This means that players cannot come up with unbeatable strategies that always work, and force you to just put the game back on your shelf as a part of your collection. Even for grognards these are 'games' that are meant to be played and not gather dust. The ease of the game's setup means that two-players can get up and and playing within minutes. The games are also meant for relatively fast play, so that each player can have a crack at either side a few times on game night.

 Thank you Worthington Publishing for letting me review this fine game. below I will have some other reviews of Worthington Publishing games I have also reviewed. 


Robert 

Worthington Publishing:

Worthington (worthingtonpublishing.com)

Chancellorsville 1863:

Chancellorsville 1863 — Worthington (worthingtonpublishing.com)

Antietam:

Antietam September 17, 1862 by Worthington Publishing - A Wargamers Needful Things

Grant's Gamble:

Grant's Gamble a game by Worthington Games - A Wargamers Needful Things



ZERO LEADER FROM DVG At long last the wait is over and in some ways it was for me almost bound to be an anti-climax.  Why?  Well, this is th...

ZERO LEADER ZERO LEADER

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

ZERO LEADER

FROM

DVG

At long last the wait is over and in some ways it was for me almost bound to be an anti-climax.  Why?  Well, this is the latest in a series that has already a proven record of success from a company whose quality of components is superb.  How do you top what is already the top!?

Added to that is the fact that Corsair Leader [the Allied mirror image of Zero Leader] had already introduced the crucial new elements which tipped the balance to send it to the very pinnacle of my choice for a solo air game.  First of all both are set in WWII, a period which far outshines modern air warfare and that is obviously a very personal opinion, not a fact.  The only vague possibility for future additional excellence might be the path to... WWI!  I know you could argue that their Down In Flames does the job, but surely there might be a place for a Sopwith Leader or Richthofen Leader?

Anybody listening out there at DVG?  One can but dream and hope.

Ok back to reality.  I hardly need to say that quality remains supreme in all departments from the familiar abstract mounted map board to  counters and the massive number of aircraft cards.

The familiar abstract mapboard

A superb nine sheets of counters
Stacks and stacks of aircraft cards!

Rounding everything off is the consistently handsome rule book.  As always its apparent thickness is misleading.  First of all, of its 49 pages, only the first 34 are necessary to play the game.  The remainder cover optional rules, rules for the Ace expansion and the Rookie/Trainee Expansion, very welcome information on each type of Japanese aircraft, a 4 page crossover rules set for Zero Leader & Corsair Leader and 4 pages of charts relating to Target Destruction effects for both games.
Secondly, when you consider those essential 34 pages, the layout is so expansive and luxurious that  many other rule books would probably condense them down to half the number.  An amazing amount of white space is used to provide one of the easiest on the eye reads that you could ask for.

Even an example of one of the most detailed page is set out in two broad columns with double-spacing, as seen below.

The rules themselves follow a pattern that will be very well known to anyone who owns one of the Leader series that deals purely with air warfare.  So, what follows is very much aimed at those less familiar with any of this solo series. 
Most steps in this game are fairly quick and easy to execute, with one major proviso and that is the need for a very careful initial sorting of components.  This is particularly advisable for all the Pilot cards, which, I suggest, need to be grouped according to some system that you feel comfortable with.  No solution can cover all the multiplicity of year ranges perfectly.   So, my own preferred, personal choice is by plane type and then according to the earliest year in which a given Pilot first appears.
As in all this series, there are 3 double-sided cards for each Pilot taking them from Newbie to Legendary level which you need to keep grouped together.  
With Target cards simply keep them in numerical order, draw the numbers needed for a specific Campaign and make sure they get slotted back at the end of a game.  Event cards are a boon as they are always shuffled at the beginning of a game!
For the many counters, the most important to sort are Site, Bandit and Bomber counters by year.  Though not as necessary, sorting the pilot counters by plane type is very helpful, though small groupings by alphabetical order is a good alternative.  

With that out of the way, you can get down to play where your first task is to choose one out of the fifteen Campaigns on offer.  This is the identical number to those in the Corsair Leader game, though I was pleased to see a few different choices here.  Each Campaign can be played for a Short/Medium/Long duration.  As a starter, I'd suggest an Introductory Campaign such as Midway [a personal favourite] played for a Short or Medium duration.  Next you'll select the appropriate Target cards as numbered on the well presented Campaign Card.

Among the many other details on the card are the types of Japanese  planes involved and the types of Allied bandits and bombers, you may come up against.  
Next you will select from among the named Pilot cards for the appropriate plane types and the year of the Campaign and the number of pilots allowed in your Squadron.  The rule book supplies the latter information on the number of pilots as well as the typical experience composition for the appropriate year and Campaign duration.  So, continuing as an example Midway and a Medium duration, I would choose 10 pilots made up of the following experience levels - 1 Newbie, 2 Green, 4 Average, 1 Skilled and 2 Veteran.  It's also worth noting that all Pilots are also divided into two categories;  Fast and Slow.  This is important for combat, as will be discussed later.
These details will be recorded on the Player Log [either a photocopy of the one supplied with the game or a downloadable copy from the DVG site] along with the number of Special Option [SO] points for the Campaign that allow you to further fine tune your Squadron by using them to upgrade experience or acquire specific skills to assign to individual pilots or improve the quality of a plane.

Above is a partially filled in Log for a short Midway Campaign.  I tend to include the type of plane under the Pilot name.  Each letter to the right indicates the pilot experience level and the black dots indicate in the first column the current Cool quality of the Pilot and in the second column their aggression.  Apart from keeping the completed Logs as a reminder of a Campaign, they're very handy if you want to quickly assemble a squadron and you don't have time for making a lengthy choice of a new squadron.
The duration of a Campaign will tell you how many days the Campaign will last and on each day you will be able to fly at most one Primary Mission and, possibly, one Secondary Mission.  Though the longer the Campaign the more pilots you will have in your assembled squadron, one of the delights/dilemmas/pressures of the game is how may pilots you assign to a given Mission.  Obviously the harder the Mission the more pilots is a pretty obvious decision, but so many factors come into play that it is rarely an easy choice!
I'm now going to step you through the basic play Sequence.
PRE-FLIGHT
Draw target card[s] and select one primary Mission. Determine and place sites according to info on the Target card. assign Pilots to the Mission - later in the war you may have the option to select Kamikaze aircraft or Ohka pilots. Finally prepare for the Mission.  This mainly involves choosing the weapons [essentially the bomb ordinance allowed by your plane] and drop tanks for added fuel.  However, Situational Awareness counters and Samurai Spirit counters may be assigned if purchased or originally allocated as part of your Pilot's profile.  Both obviously provide special benefits.
TARGET-BOUND FLIGHT
Draw an Event Card and consult the top box.  



After the Event is resolved, you can even abort at this stage - but I've found making that choice is very rare, unless you are doing very well in a Campaign or conversely very badly!
You then place your aircraft counters on the mapboard in one of the Pre-Approach Areas.  You also have to choose the altitude of your plane [either High or Low], as unlike all the modern era Leader games you won't be able to change this later, unless you are a dive-bomber or a kamikaze!

Here's one occasion when I went for all planes in one Pre-Approach Area, but beware as you don't know the exact Bandit [i.e. enemy plane] composition in the Approach Areas yet.  So, the next step is to draw them and you may get lucky and find that some of your draws may be No Bandits - great!  On the other hand, there may be some nastier opposition than you expected - not so great! 
Finally, you draw another Event card and consult and execute the instructions in the middle box and then place the Turn marker in the 1 position.  You now have 5 turns in the next Phase in which to complete your Mission.

Mission Pilots weaponed up!
OVER-TARGET RESOLUTION
At this stage you have 5 turns in which to complete your Mission. Each turn follows the same sequence:
[1] Dive Bombers or Kamikazes dive to low altitude. 
[2] Fast Pilots may make one attack on a Site, a Bandit or the Target - the choice will depend on the plane's location, altitude, appropriate range and weapon.
[3] Sites and Bandits attack
[4] Slow Pilots may attack
[5] All Pilots may move
[6] Bandits move
What happens will depend on whether you are in a Pre-Approach Area, an Approach Area or the Target Area.  If in a Pre-Approach  Area, not much more than moving your planes into an adjacent  Approach Area or adjacent Pre-Approach Area is likely to happen. But once into an Approach Area or the Target Area things are guaranteed to heat up!
It is also here that the main complexity of play also increases and is the major difference between all the modern era Leader games and Corsair Leader and Zero Leader.  That's because we're in WWII and DOGFIGHTING comes into play!

As can be seen it even has its own special mounted chart.  Unengaged, Engaged and Positioning all play their part with a matrix of manoeuvres bringing a series of potential modifiers and choices into play.  Some of these will also depend on qualities inherent on the Pilot card or Skills purchased with SO points. The element of Dogfighting was the one I was most looking forward to in this and its companion game.  It adds greatly to the level of detail, but I must admit it does add significantly to the many small rules that you need to master to play the game well.  
Herein lies the major complexity of playing Zero Leader.  The basic stages and rules of the game are clear and fairly easy to grasp and retain without too much return to the rule book.  However, the many skills, qualities and attributes when combined with the modifiers on the Dogfight chart and how they affect them, allowing usage of some and not of others can lead to a much greater level of checking and rechecking that I've got things correct.
Regular play of the game obviously smooths the path, but this is not a game that you can easily lift down from the shelf for the occasional and infrequent session.  Play is engrossing and as always, a system which has named Pilots invests the action with an element of personal involvement as Stress levels mount, planes suffer damage and for some go down in flames.
Battling through the Bandits and the defensive sites in both the Approach Areas and the central Target Area, eventually you get a crack at the target itself which may range from a simple shore battery all the way up to a carrier.

And here are my heroes taking on those shore batteries
This will have taken at least two or three of your five turns and so you'll find yourself with at the most three turns to destroy the target to gain your main victory points.  Whatever degree of success you've had, however, the game's not over yet - there's still one last stage to work through.
HOME-BOUND FLIGHT
One last Event card is to be drawn and instructions on the bottom row of the card carried out.

 In what's called a debriefing section, the success of your mission and the number of VPs gained is entered on your Pilot Log.  The quality of your Recon and Intelligence abilities on the game board may be improved to give your future benefits in new missions. Stress gained by all your participating pilots is recorded.  Experience points may be gained, leading to possible pilot promotion; stress may be recovered from and finally your Maintenance Crews come into play.  Yes, you even have a chance to put in some repair work, mend damage that might have been taken and by rolling on a special table, you can even push your crews to additional work at the risk of them gaining fatigue and at the very worst making a mistake in their efforts.
The game may be played out on a very stylised and abstract mounted board, but a great amount of realistic detail of this brutal war is packed into Zero Leader.  Consulting your Campaign success at the end of a gruelling 6 day Long Campaign from the VPs you've accrued may sound anti-climactic, but I can tell you it's not.  There is a profound sense of satisfaction even if you've only achieved Adequate and just don't ask about what went wrong if the result is deemed Dismal!

Once again it's many thanks to Dan Verssen Games for providing my review copy and ... as a foretaste of my future reviews.  Next up will be a further venture into the Pacific war - this time in its entirety with Phalanx's new edition of Fire In The Sky and then it's back to DVG to review their production of David Thompson's most recent design, Soldiers In Postmen's Uniforms.


Publisher: Dan Verssen Games
Players: 1
Playing time: 90 minutes +
RRP: £87.95












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