Among the multitude of Warhammer 40k games that have swarmed across gamers’ PC’s the last couple of years, only a few really stood...

Gladius - Relics of War: Tyranids DLC Gladius - Relics of War: Tyranids DLC

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



Among the multitude of Warhammer 40k games that have swarmed across gamers’ PC’s the last couple of years, only a few really stood out as interesting uses of the license. One of my favorites from last year was Gladius: Relics of War. This 40k take on the 4x genre was a streamlined and fast paced rendition of the classic 4X formula. Diplomacy was completely tossed out the window in favor of a massive roster of units, each with their own distinct tactical uses. If you aren’t familiar with the game at all, check out my review here for all the details. Now we have the first new faction DLC for the game, bringing an alien horde perfectly suited to the battlefields of Gladius: the Tyranids. While the DLC doesn’t change the overall structure of the game much, the Tyranids come with their own set of unique mechanics that are a masterclass in matching theme and gameplay.

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably familiar with the Tyranids already. These are the Zerg of the 40k world. Giant, nightmarish swarms of monsters that resemble a varied assortment of giant space bug dinosaur things. They’re all teeth and claws, plasma launchers and acid blood, controlled by a mind hive consciousness and numbering in the trillions. They feel no fear, no remorse, and only desire one thing: to consume all biological life everywhere they go. Sounds like some great new neighbors, right?




While the Tyranids have a number of fearsome and deadly units in their arsenal, they actually begin the game quite weak. The lower tier Tyranid units are cheap and many are fast, but they can’t venture too far by themselves. Remember that part about being controlled by a hive mind? Not all of the Tyranid units have a direct “synaptic link” to the hive. Every turn spent out of direct contact with the hive causes these units to lose health and they can even become feral if detached too long, causing the player to lose control of them. This means that you must keep a more powerful unit around that can act as a relay for the hive mind. I really liked how this forced you to make some tough tactical considerations. Use your big bads to spearhead an offensive, and you risk their destruction. Losing your link to the hive could cause an offensive push to completely disintegrate. Playing as the Tyranids involves a lot of expansion and contraction of your forces. Send some fast scouts out for reconnaissance, quickly pull them back to a synaptic linked unit, then concentrate your forces and move towards whatever goal you have in mind (i.e. consuming everything in your path). This makes playing the Tyranids tactically distinct from other factions. Each group of weaker units needs a synaptic unit as the core of their group, and they must all move together to be fully effective. Compare this with the Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard) who’s lowliest unit of guardsmen can at least be stationed alone in some remote corner of the map to watch over a flank. For the Tyranids, a grouping of units is almost always necessary for any task. The Tyranids do not hold ground very well, they must always be on the move in one direction or the other.



On the strategic level, the Tyranids have some distinct differences as well. Resources have been distilled down to just two things, biomass and influence. Biomass is the organic matter that the Tyranids melt down and turn into all of their fearsome creatures and buildings. You get this by stripping the land bare and building up certain base structures. Unsurprisingly, you always need more, more, more. You can also reclaim some biomass by bringing units back to base to be tossed back into the bubbling goo. While this sounds like a minor gimmick, it’s actually entirely necessary for smoothly switching gears between one tier of units and the next when you are running tight on resources. A situation I found myself in several times.

The other resource important for Tyranid strategy is influence. This is used to power many buildings and some key special abilities. You can burn through a lot of influence in a hurry by scooping up extra biomass anywhere on the map with the Malanthrope unit, or to keep units under control longer when they are away from the hive mind. Having just the two key resources for all of your production and abilities may sound simple, but it actually creates an interesting economic situation where you are constantly balancing one with the other, while trying not to simultaneously run out of both.

A great touch to the game is how the Tyranids actually change the appearance of the map around them as the game progresses. The expansion of your hives and the special ability of the Malanthropes literally strips the planet to the bedrock, removing all vegetation and any trace of life one hex at a time. Gladius isn't all that pretty to begin with, and the Tyranids do their best to make it look even worse.




Like the other factions, the Tyranids have a tech tree mostly focused on unlocking new units and then bigger and badder upgrades for them. You can choose to spread research around to give yourself a lot of options, or focus on upgrading one particular line of units quickly. I really liked the variety of units offered for the Tyranids. You of course have hulking monstrosities that you can load up with tons of weapons, but there are also incredibly fast units for hit-and-run tactics, a stealth unit, and a hero that can allow you to move units around underground. All of these options, with the general mix of units between cannon fodder infantry and the big stuff that could startle a Space Marine, give the Tyranids a great roster to choose your army from.

While the Tyranids may sound like an unstoppable faction ready to swarm over everyone else on Gladius, they are actually rated “Hard” (along with the Imperial Guard faction) and this was no lie. My first run at the game on normal difficulty ended with my being overwhelmed by two enemy factions and some neutral units at the same time. This was mostly my fault for trying to spread out too far, too fast. On my second run I took the difficulty down a notch to Easy. Around turn 200 I’m still alive, but it’s been a struggle most of the way. The enemy AI pulls no punches and the world itself is hostile to your presence.

Look at all that lovely biomass, ready to be consumed.


Lastly, I wanted to touch on the updates to Gladius overall since launch in July last year. A long series of small updates and tweaks has really polished what was already a solid experience. The most impressive is the enemy AI, which for me presented a serious challenge. In a big name 4X series which uses the same sort of hex-based combat and rhymes with Bivilaration, it has long been a common sight to see an AI make bone-headed moves with their units and waste them on futile attacks while marching right past much easier targets. Not so in Gladius. Here the enemy forces will swarm out of the fog of war if you venture near their territory, only to immediately pull back if you are able to heavily outnumber them. Enemy units routinely scout the edges of your territory, snapping up undefended strategic resource locations and prodding deeper where they can. The enemy will give battle when they have a large enough force, and then reinforce or retreat as the fight goes one way or the other. It was rare to get an easy kill on an enemy unit without extending your own forces into the no-man’s-land.


The Imperial Guard won't go down as easily as you might imagine.

As you can tell from my review, I really like the Tyranids expansion for Gladius. While the game has a had a couple small DLC since launch, this is the first addition of an entire faction and it has set the bar very high. The matching of theme and gameplay mechanics is top-notch and makes the Tyranids a fresh experience even for veterans of the game. I imagine we are guaranteed to see more factions added over time, and I hope they are all done this well.

-Joe Beard

Gladius: Tyranids is available directly from Slitherine and on Steam/GoG
Developer: Proxy Studios
Publisher: Slitherine

World at War Issue #62 Spanish Civil War Belchite & Teruel by Strategy & Tactics Press From Decision Games  ...

World at War Issue #62 Spansih Civil War:Belchite & Teruel by Startegy & Tactics Press from Decision Games World at War Issue #62 Spansih Civil War:Belchite & Teruel by Startegy & Tactics Press from Decision Games

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


by








 The Spanish Civil War has always intrigued me. Unfortunately, almost all of the books about it spend most of their type on the political history instead of the military history, especially all of the disparate groups on the Republican side. This is a bit strange because this War was used or looked at by the entire world to see what weapons, tactics, and strategy worked. Many countries came away with the wrong answers to the above questions. Some, particularly the Germans, came away with the correct answers to these military questions.

 Looking at this issue of World at War was a bit like going home, and a bit strange. It was like going to see your childhood home after it was entirely renovated. The visual look of the magazine is, in a word, stunning. Some of the maps are actually a full page in size. They are also well marked and easily read. The pictures in the issue are also very well represented. 

 The articles are very well done and full of normal information on the subject. They also have small insets that have incredibly interesting tidbits. I will give as an example of one. On December 31, 1937 four foreign correspondents were following some Nationalist units in a car. The car was hit by artillery and three of the newsmen were killed. The fourth was Harold 'Kim' Philby. Yes, that Kim Philby. I imagine the British government was not that happy he survived in retrospect.

                                          Some Counters



 
 
Strategy & Tactics Press is comprised of these four magazines:
   Strategy & Tactics
   World At War
    Modern War
    The new Strategy & Tactics Quarterly

 One thing that Decision Games has implemented that I think is excellent is that you can buy a subscription to get every single article that has been released over these many years. It does not include anything to do with the games, but that is still a stunning amount of military history. At $19.95 for 12 months, it is really a steal. You now get all of the articles from:
 Strategy&Tactics issues 1-300
 Modern War issues 1-19
 World at War issues 1-44



Teruel Map

 The articles in issue #62 include:
  
  The Spanish Civil War
  War Winner -  Allied Lend-Lease
  Operazione C3 -  The Italian Plan to Invade Malta
  Operation Causeway - Planned Allied Invasion Plan of Formosa-Amoy
  Observation post - Could the U.S. have won the Battle of Wake Island?
  Observation Post - Planed Swedish Invasion of Denmark
  Observation Post  - Russian Donkey the Polikarpov I-16



Belchite map
 The games included are of three battles from the Spanish Civil War: two in 1937,and one from 1938. The battles are Belchite, Teruel, and Alfambra. Both of the battles of Belchite and Teruel occurred because the Republicans were trying to take pressure off the Republican and Basque strongholds in the Northwest of Spain. The Nationalist forces had decided to conquer those areas after their failed attempt to conquer Madrid. Alfambra simulates the last battle for the city of Teruel in 1938.

 The battle areas are both somewhat small, with both of them fitting on a standard 22" x 34" map. One battle is orientated one way of the map and the other is the opposite. They both have their own turn record track etc. The maps are well done with terrain, roads, and towns easy to see and read. The games come with, naturally, a smaller number of counters. There are actually 180 of them. The game uses the 'Fire and Movement System' for its rules. 



CRT

 The Sequence of Play:

Movement Phase
Bombardment Phase
Combat Phase
Mobile Movement Phase - (only if the unit did not move in the Movement Phase)
Mobile Combat Phase
 The victory conditions in each game are as follows:

Belchite: You count up the amount of cities/towns that the Republican player controls on the Nationalist side of the front line, then subtract the number of cities/towns that the Nationalist player controls on the Republican side of the front line. If the number is seven or greater the Republican player wins.

Teruel: Whichever side controls the city of Teruel at the end of the game wins.

Alfambra: The Nationalist player must control any five hexes of the North-South road anywhere from hex 2505 to 1717 by the end of turn eight and still hold them at the end of the game.





Belchite Counters (Front)


  The rules are only sixteen pages in length, and the setup and separate battle rules take up four of those. The rules are in color and are well spaced and easy to read. The small maps and low counter density allows players to play multiple times to try out different strategies. Just as it was historically, the battles are a grind for territory. You are not going to be able to do any sweeping blitzkrieg moves (unless your opponent mistakenly allows it). The Spanish Civil War was mostly a replay of World War I with newer armaments. The rules and the units/terrain make the game historically accurate that way. This was why so many countries took away the wrong lessons from this war. The Soviets were very advanced as far as armored warfare for the time. However the Spanish Civil War had them rethink all of their ideas and that is why they fell so far behind the Germans by 1941 (among other reasons). 



Belchite Counters (Back)


 The wargames that have come out of Strategy&Tactics down through the years, and its offshoots, have given me tons of gaming pleasure. This issue is like many others in that respect. Strategy&Tactics has allowed the wargamer to game so many obscure wars and battles that we would have otherwise never seen on our tables. So, thank you for the chance to review this issue, and for all the other great gaming moments since I was a teenager.

Robert

Overview Arkham Horror Third Edition revisits the town of Arkham (again - are we getting bored of this world yet?) and pits players aga...

Arkham Horror Third Edition Arkham Horror Third Edition

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

Overview

Arkham Horror Third Edition revisits the town of Arkham (again - are we getting bored of this world yet?) and pits players against Lovecraftian apparitions and anomalies all the while managing their own health and sanity. Players take on the role of an investigator moving and fighting their way around different sections of the town trying to uncover clues, both in terms of gameplay and actual clue token to defeat the scenario. There are 4 scenarios in this game which all feel quite different from each other and even when replaying a scenario no two games are identical.

Thematically Arkham Horror sits between Eldritch Horror which deals with Cthulu infestation on a global scale, and Mansions of Madness which has you running about a building fighting the evil minions. Arkham Horror has you warding off evil on the scale of the eponymous Arkham town. Full disclosure though, I have not read, nor intend to read any of Lovecraft's books, I am aware of some of the lore but wouldn't describe myself as a fan.

This game has been on the streets for a few months now; FFG has had three cracks at getting this game right and because I haven't played the earlier versions I won't comment any further on the differences between them, but I will provide my thoughts of this as a stand-alone game. You can watch my unboxing video here: https://youtu.be/L5ynYkqkbJM.

Gameplay

Each round consists of four phases that repeat until the players either achieve the scenario objectives, or enough doom has infested the town to defeat the players. During the first phase, the Action Phase, players take turns to perform two actions. Anybody familiar with the majority of FFG rule-sets will be in familiar territory here (Move, Attack etc.).  Cooperative games often allow for self-determined player turn order and this is no different, however, once my group was familiar with the game if our characters were in different neighbourhoods (often the case) we went ahead and played our actions concurrently. This significantly sped the game up - after the obligatory group-think at the beginning of the turn. When players were in the same neighbourhood there was often a synergy of actions that required a little more thinking of who should go first for the best outcome.

After the players have all moved the monsters on the board will activate according to their own specific objectives. The different Monster types have different activation actions, some will run towards the nearest character, others are immobile and just fling doom around. The different monster behaviour, for me, helped to breath a lot of life into this theme. I wouldn't want to count the number of Lovecraftian games there are on the market but we [gamers] show no sign of being tired of it yet; at least we seem to be out of the Zombie-everything era.

After the monsters have activated available players (i.e. those not engaged with a monster) will have an encounter. The Encounter Phase is my favourite part of the game; the NPCs and events that you deal with during an encounter add tons of flavour into this game. You'll draw a specific card depending on where your character is in the town and read out a specific text depending on how many doom tokens are in the same neighbourhood as you. This will often result in taking a test of character. This is done by rolling a number of dice dependent on the particular attribute being tested. The attributes are familiar from the other Cthulu-universe games that FFG have pumped out e.g. Lore, Will, Intelligence, Strength etc. Your particular attribute score means you roll that number of dice, any 5 or 6 results (normally) means you've passed the test. 

The timing mechanism by which Events cards are added to the different Encounter decks is a brilliant piece of design and scales well for any number of players. Each time a clue is 'found', a Clue token is placed in the centre of the neighbourhood in which it was found. This will also add an Event Card to one of the top three cards of that Neighborhood's Encounter deck (each neighbourhood has its own). When drawing an Encounter card during this phase, there is a chance you may draw that Event Card which is the primary mechanism to advance the game and achieve scenario objectives.

The fourth and final phase is the Mythos Phase in which players will blind draw two mythos tokens from a bag. Each token will cause a specific effect (usually bad) for the players to deal with. This phase did tend to slow the game down a little bit but the resolution of all the effects was engaging enough to keep players attention, even if the interval between your last Activation and starting your next turn could be upwards of 15 minutes, a lot more with 6 players around the table.  It was often a relief, in more ways than one, when a blank Mythos token was drawn.

During the game, players will also acquire items, spells, and conditions which generally, help the players. These, along with each character special abilities, are a crucial tactical element to beat any scenario. On my first playthrough, I ignored these additional pieces and quickly lost. I played this way primarily to learn the basic mechanics before teaching one of my game groups. However, I got sucked into this learning game enough to push on until I lost my solo playthrough with two characters. When you play with all the rules (as is intended) all the scenarios felt 'winnable' but always challenging, in fact, I haven't ever won a scenario on the first playthrough, but they were all fun enough, and crucially, quick enough to try again on the same night.

The combat mechanism is very simple, players can attack any monster they are Engaged with, by rolling a strength test. The number of passes (5s or 6s rolled) is the number of hits applied to the monster. If the monster survives to Activate during the Monster Phase the player takes a number of damage and horror tokens that are shown on the bottom of the monster's card. There is no defence roll, you simply take the damage. Initially, I didn't like the simplicity of the combat but I realised this game is more than a typical 'kill all the things' monster game and combat is secondary.  This way, it is is very streamlined and doesn't detract from driving the scenario along; combat is actually just right for this game - this is not a fighting game. 

Although players can die, you are always able to re-enter play with another character, albeit with some scenario-effecting penalties. I like games that both kill player characters off with no chance to revive, which I think adds to the realism and jeopardy of your actions. I also like games that don't allow for player elimination. This game neatly straddles both of these requirements and it reminded me a little bit of Magic Realm; any game that does that is doing alright in my book.

Components

I hold FFG up as a company at the very pinnacle of component quality, if not design at all times (here's looking at you Discover), this game is no exception. The components are fantastic and you get a plethora of different card decks - even multiple types of the same decks. The rulebook(s) are very well laid and they follow the two-book method of many other FFG titles I am familiar with, amongst others. You get a 'Learn to Play' book which does exactly what it says, and a 'Rules Reference'. The 'Learn to Play' book is very well written and we had only a few occasions where we were unsure of a rule enough to warrant looking up the detail in the reference rule-book. 

The Neighborhoods are depicted on large hexagonal tiles which join together with small rectangular streets. The locking mechanism is a simple puzzle-piece, tabs and slots affair. I found that the tolerance of the cutting was so fine that when joined the pieces would not easily go together (or apart) and when prised apart caused some pulling away of the printed surface from the underlying card stock. This is both a pro and a con as you get a very firm game board at the expense that it might start to wear quickly.  But there is no denying the game looks great on the table and is beautifully illustrated throughout.

Criticisms

As with most FFG games there is an abundance of card decks and tokens to keep track of the game state and that of your player characters. Despite the relatively small footprint of the map elements of the game board you're going to need a massive table or be very organised to sit 5 or 6 players around this. It is a huge table hog. Obviously, all of these pieces are set up before the game and to give you some idea of how long setup takes, almost half of the rulebook (yes you read that right) is dedicated to Setup! I wish setup was a bit quicker if this game continues to find table time I will have to invest in a better solution than plastics bags to facilitate setup. 

Cooperatives often don't work well with either of my game groups as we tend to group-think which drags the game on a bit too long. This is our own fault and despite the streamlining of the game it did start to overstay its welcome near the end of a scenario. However, that didn't always stop us from re-playing it either because it does tell a good story and each play (aside from the major plot points) are quite different. It would be ideal if the playtime could be trimmed just a little bit more but I am at a loss to think of where there is any cruft that could obviously be lost. 

Conclusion

Apart from the first few turns of the first game, where we didn't fully appreciate the consequences of our actions, the game felt well balanced, i.e. easy to play but hard(ish) to beat. The play time on the box is largely accurate with most of my games straying up to 3 hours with 3 and 4 players. This is a highly polished and fun romp in the Lovecraft Universe. Gamers appear to still be eager for more Cthulu and whilst I appreciate the accomplished gameplay and immersive story, I'm not overly sold on the theme itself, which is no criticism of the game.  However, there's no denying the theme shines through throughout this game. I did enjoy my time with this game and would recommend it to any fans of cooperative games who are looking for something with a little more chrome than Pandemic. If you're a Cthulu fan then I would imagine this is a no-brainer game to seek out and play, if not to add to your collection.

Most game-stores will have a copy of this game in and you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest.

Publisher: FFG
Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/arkham-horror-third-edition/
Players: 1 - 6
Designer: Nikki Valens
Playing time: 2 - 3 hours
RRP: £59.99

Waterloo 200 by Vento Nuovo Games I can hear the groans now. Playing a wargame about Waterloo is like hearing ...

Waterloo 200 by Vento Nuovo Games Waterloo 200 by Vento Nuovo Games

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


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I can hear the groans now. Playing a wargame about Waterloo is like hearing 'Stairway to Heaven' on the radio in the 1970s. How many times do we have to do this? Well, it looks like we are going down the rabbit hole more time. This game from Vento Nuovo is just on the battle itself. There is no chance to make different earlier decisions than the principles already did. The ridge with the Anglo-Allied Army behind it is awaiting the French attack, and the Prussians are coming. It is now or never time. Napoleon had better forget about his piles and get this battle won. 










 I have to mention the box art. It is one of the best ones I have seen. If he wasn't leaving a path in the flora, I would say it was the ghost of Napoleon walking the battlefield. 













 Let us look at the basics of the game:

Each turn is two hours long.
One cm is approximately seventy meters
A game lasts five turns; from 11:00AM to 9:00PM.
Playing time is from one to two hours.

 These are the game components:

1x Mapboard 86 x 62 cm
1x 12 Page Rules Manual
121x PVC Stickers
116x Wooden Unit Blocks
30x Wooden Area Control Cubes
2x Rules Summary and Player Aids
1x Blue Wooden Initiative Disc
1x Yellow Wooden Turn Track Marker









 The victory conditions are:

The death of Wellington/Napoleon.
Ten units of either side are eliminated.
One side controls all seven victory areas (Mont St. Jean, La Haie Sainte, Chateau de Goumont, Papelotte, La Belle Alliance, Placenoit, and Rossome).









 The rule book is only twelve pages long. As with other block games from Vento Nuovo, this does not mean it is a beer and pretzels game. The game is easy to learn, but is full of Napoleonic flavor. You need to use the correct tactics to win. The map is the standard Vento Nuovo: well done, colorful, and easy to read. The blocks are small at 1.5cm. So this means that the stickers are also small. They are very well done, but are too small. You can see what you need to to play (the value). However, you cannot really appreciate these little works of art. Maybe Vento Nuovo will re-release the game with larger blocks and offer them for sale for owners of the original.








 How does it play? In a word-great. The rules are easy to understand like all of Vento Nuovo's games. However, they always leave you on the horns of a dilemma. What do I do now, or do I do nothing and wait? As the French Player you have three turns before the Prussians show up. So you have to win the battle or put a hurting on the Anglo-Allied Army in a hurry. Next question, do you go for the victory areas, or do you try to destroy ten enemy units? As the Allied player, you have to hang onto where you are, even by your fingernails if need be. Once the Prussians show up you can start breathing again. The Napoleonic player will then be placed between a rock and a hard place. Many historians believe that without the Prussian assistance, the Anglo-Allied Army could not win the Battle of Waterloo. The theme song for the Anglo-Allied Army should have been 'Hang on Sloopy'. The Napoleonic one is 'Now or Never'. The Initiative and Tactical Action phases of the game are pretty standard. The Initiative Disc goes from player to player once used. Tactical Action totally depends on how well your  Strategic Leader (Napoleon/Wellington/Blucher) is doing. Applying losses after a battle is a bit more complicated and seems to give some people trouble. This is the table to use to figure out your losses:

Black (Dots/Pawn/Cannonballs/Stars): 1 Hit
White (Dots): 2 Hits
Red (Dots/Leader Heart): 3 Hits
The strongest unit(s) must be reduced first.
The Leader's Heart and Red/White Dots may be used to shield other units of the same strength.










 There are rules to show the different armies' use of artillery. The French can add any number of artillery units to each battle. The Anglo-Allied/Prussians can only add a maximum of one artillery to each battle. The game also comes with ten Optional Rules to make the game more historical. These include:

Free Setup
Cavalry Charge
Grand Batterie
Scouting
Combined Attack
Morale
etc.

 Napoleonic warfare was a very large tactical game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. So a good Optional Rule to play with is Combined Attack. The attacker loss is decreased by one if he uses all three types of units (Artillery/Cavalry/Infantry) in an attack. Morale is also a large part of warfare in any age. So you can pick all ten to play with, or just your personal poison.







 So, even if it is a game about Waterloo it is still a good game. If you like this game you will definitely want to check out 'Bloody Monday' which is the Vento Nuovo game about the Battle of Borodino. 




Robert


The Iron Marshal A Biography Of Louis N. Davout by John G. Gallaher     This is a reprint of the meticulousl...

The Iron Marshal a Biography of Louis N. Davout by John G. Gallaher The Iron Marshal a Biography of Louis N. Davout by John G. Gallaher

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




by





 


  This is a reprint of the meticulously researched biography of Louis N. Davout by John G. Gallagher. It was first released in 1976. Fortunately for us it is a very good book for the simple reason that it is really the only biography in English of this Marshal of France. This is pretty astounding given that only one other Marshal under Napoleon, Massena, would be close to or in Davout's class as a general. Unfortunately for Napoleon, he relied less and less on Davout's generalship in the First Empire's waning years. One can only imagine what would have happened in 1813-1815 with a large amount of troops under Davout's command. Ah well, history is filled with what ifs. So how does the book rate as a biography? Please follow along and find out.

 The author starts, as usual, with the family of the biographical subject. He then continues with what is known about his birth and early years. Davout is shown to be a child of a family that was not rich, but was certainly more well off than most Frenchmen of the time. He is shown to have joined the Royal Army after a stint at the Ecole Royale Militaire at Auxerre, and the military academy in Paris. Even after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, his life still continued in the same manner for a short while. That all changed in 1790. The author shows that like all the other people of France, he had to pick a side: King or Revolutionary Government? Like most, Davout chose the latter. Gallaher informs us that instead of this being a calculated move on Davout's part, it was a choice made in Davout's heart. 

 We must remember that even though Napoleon created himself emperor, most of the laws and ideals that had occurred because of the revolution were still in place. This is something that is sometimes forgotten about when we discuss ex-revolutionary generals etc, who backed and actually supported Napoleon's rule.

 The author continues with Davout's life and tale through the early years of Napoleon's rise, with Davout also rising to become a Marshal of France. Unlike most of the other Marshals, Davout only increased his military skill with higher commands. The book goes on to relate his important role at Austerlitz, and his amazing victory at Auerstadt. His life is continued through the apogee and descent of the First Empire. 

 The book is written almost too well. The author really only places the facts upon our plate. You will find bits and pieces about how Davout got on with Napoleon and the generals and soldiers under his command. These are all based on written records. What you will not find is the author coming to his own conclusions about incidents in the Marshal's life. The book should be a boiler plate for other biographers. If it is missing one thing, it is the author's own assessment of Davout as a military leader compared to the other Marshals. However, given the way it was written, one could hardly expect it. I just wanted to see if my ideas matched the author's. Thank you Frontline Books and Casemate Publishers for the chance to review this not only wonderful, but needed book.



Robert
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Introduction Most readers of this blog will be aware of the Strategy & Tactics periodicals released throughout the year. Your FLGS ...

Strategy & Tactics #311 - Pacific Submarine Strategy & Tactics #311 - Pacific Submarine

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

Introduction

Most readers of this blog will be aware of the Strategy & Tactics periodicals released throughout the year. Your FLGS probably has some back issues in stock at any given time although you may have passed them by in the search for your next game. I am hoping that AWNT can feature regular reviews of these magazines as they are released; I will cover both the magazine and the included folio game that comes with a premium subscription.

I was fortunate to start with Strategy & Tactics issue #311 whose main article is a feature all about US Navy Submarine Operations in the Pacific which marries two of my prime interests of 20th Century Combat, namely the Pacific Theatre and submarine warfare. The history and combatants of the feature article are modelled for the included game, Pacific Subs.

The Game


The included game, 'Pacific Subs' is a solitaire simulation/game that allows the reader to model some of the tactical and operational considerations that a sub-commander may have had, or at least those detailed in the accompanying 'Pacific Subs' article. This marrying of article and game is a very effective way to explore some of the decisions and limitations that were imposed upon submarine crews of WWII. I always appreciate 'Designers Notes' in rulebooks and this magazine/game model takes that and amps it up.

I was taken aback at the quality of the components in this game, I was expecting PnP-grade components, but the reality is that they would not be out of place in any premium hex and counter wargame. The map and tactical display take up 3/4 of the (not quite A1) map sheet and there is a single counter sheet of 280 1/2 inch double-sided counters to play around with. Amazing! The quality of the components alone justify the $39.99 price tag not to speak of the magazine itself.



The rulebook does mention a few minor printing errors, most I could easily rectify however it says that they included 2 replacement counters in the plastic envelope; one for the Harbour - which was misprinted and a missing counter for the Submerged Timer. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find these additions. 

That the game designer and article author are the same, came as no surprise. The rules were neatly glued into the magazine with the glue that easily peels away and it left me with a pristine rulebook. The counters and map sheet come in their own plastic pocket which I will use to safely store the game components after I am finished playing.

I can't remember the last time I LoL'd (I apologise for using that as a verb) but I had a quick chortle about the rules for UHB's (Unnecessarily Hot Babes, or Undesirable Human Ballasts). However, after my first reading I thought I had a good enough handle on the Sequence of Play to attempt my first patrol as a newly promoted Lieutenant in the USN Sub-command. I still appreciated the support that is available online at http://strategyandtacticsmagazine.com/site/e-rules/ where you are able to download a detailed example of play which came in handy to resolve some minor issues.

Gameplay

Each scenario will consist of a number of different Actions which get resolved sequentially. The primary Action is Movement where you will expend fuel, move the boat counter (from 1 to 3 hexes) and determine what type of contact has been made in the new hex. In my experience, the move was normally just 1 hex as you attempt to skulk away from an enemy Escort or Flotilla.

Contact is determined by rolling a series of dice depending upon the features showing in the new hex. For example, if there is a shipping lane in the hex this will increase the chance of contact being made (makes sense) this is normally a stalking move and limited to just one hex. During the Contact determination you will roll an about a dozen dice, where 5 or higher means contact has been made by a Target (standard Merchant) a Tanker (higher reward at mission debrief), Escort (enemy combatant protecting a High-Value-Target (HVT), or an HVT itself. You can also make contact with a 'Rescue' indicating downed airmen or casualty evacuation from a beach hex. Although you're rolling a fair number of dice the outcomes felt well balanced i.e. you nearly always have a tactically sensible option - even if that is trying to run away...



After contact has been made the Tactical Display is used to determine the range and bearing from your boat. For me this was the most engaging part of the encounter; it really felt like the contacts were moving around the boat relative to the speed, depth and heading decisions you were making to get a good shot. 

This is one of the first sub-sim board games that doesn't abstract out the relative position and depth of the boat to the targets. I enjoyed this additional level of detail, and it is handled in such a way that doesn't slow the game down. 

I really enjoyed the game-play of this but I thought the rules could have been better with a few more examples of play. In many places you're left to interpret which arrows or tracks are being referenced but as with any game, familiarity makes this a non-issue. I am inordinately impressed that a game of this quality is possible (I hope consistently) every two months on the S&T publishing schedule. The minor printing errors and lack of detail in the rules book are almost understandable considering that major Wargame titles still suffer from this themselves with years of development.

Overall I thought this is an excellent game to explore the sub-combat/survival in the PTO. It won't be to everyone's cup of tea, but it was pretty much perfect for me. Subs - check, PTO - check.

The Magazine

Game-zine's have come a long way since I first experienced them back in the late 80s. With these magazines we get print quality that is indistinguishable from the premium titles you'll find on any newsstand e.g. New Scientist, National Geographic et al. The Magazine has 81 full-colour pages printed on nice thick paper stock. Of which 64 are packed with interesting content, in this issue, ranging from the Ancients Macedonian and Roman wars all the way through to the Pacific Theatre of WWII.



The feature article 'Pacific Subs' details some of the antics of the USN Submarine Force, including photos and attributes of all major types that were in use. The Author of the article, Christopher Perello, recounts some of the many considerations that faced submariners during WWII. Namely their own technical limitations, e.g. torpedo failures and the introduction of RADAR and Sonar systems to locate enemy combatants. The focus was clearly on the USN side as the Japanese submarine force is relegated to a few paragraphs at the end of the article. This was a shame as the Allied focus is very well written, in fact, all the articles are excellently written, I devoured the whole magazine in just two sittings, all of the articles were engaging and informative.

I must admit my knowledge of the religious struggle between Christian Europe and Islamic countries is limited to a school-grade level of awareness of the Crusades featuring white-tabarded knights with red crosses on their chest. My 'crusader' knowledge also has a smattering of Monty Python in my sub-conscious as well...however, the second article laid out some of the major impacts and battle successes that the Muslim armies of the 7th century had on the development and landscape of the Europe that we know today. It could be argued that Northern Europeans, and I still include the UK in that category... owe the relative dominance of their politics/economies to the highly successful Muslim invasions in Spain and Eastern Europe.


I have just finished watching Ken Burns' excellent documentary on the American Civil War so I was pleased to read the third article which recounts the exploits of Major General Sheridan's Cavalry Corps of the Union Army. As an outsider to America, it is obvious that there is a lasting legacy and reverence of the ACW. The author, Arnold Blumberg, has chosen a pivotal moment in the tactical development of the Union forces and how they deployed their Cavalry; shifting from a largely reconnaissance role to a major combat role. I am in awe of the bravery of soldiers throughout history, as they faced increasingly devastating firepower with nothing but their wits and lady luck to protect them. These technological changes are most evident in the ACW and WWI with the advent of the machine gun and artillery capabilities respectively.

The last major article focuses on one 'Fra Diavolo' early in the 19th Century i.e. Napoleonics. Now I'm familiar with the major Napoleonic campaigns but I had never heard of this one. I am no longer surprised when I read something I thought I had a good grasp on and it ever-so-gently reveals to you, you know nothing! Or at least a darn sight less than you thought you did. And I suppose that is where I think I will derive the most pleasure from this magazine, from learning details of minor and major skirmishes of events that I think I knew fairly well. Each major article, with the exception of the first - whose topic I really do know my stuff, was enlightening. The first too was an excellent read.



The back pages of this magazine include a diverse array of military snippets; for example the profiles of memorable U-boats and the tactical difference when the Roman Legion faced off against the Greek Phalanx. I am looking forward to reading the next issue and would like to thank Decision Games for providing this as a review copy.

Panzer Battles of North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio John Tiller Software   Wargame Design Stu...

Panzer Battles of North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software Panzer Battles of North Africa 1941 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!

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 Wargame Design Studios must be one of if not the busiest wargame coders at the moment. They have not only put out their three games based off the larger Tiller 'Panzer Campaigns', but are also upgrading what seems to be the entire older stable of the John Tiller Software stable of games. I have reviewed both of their other two efforts 'Panzer Battles Normandy' and 'Panzer Battles Kursk - Southern Front'. I was impressed by both games. The game play was great, but also the breadth of the games was impressive. These games come with a ton of scenarios, with many of these developed with the solo player in mind. 
  



 So now I am stuck in a quandary. How does one review only half a game? PBNA 1941 comes with everything you would expect, and tons more. It comes with scenarios from 1940 and the Italian invasion of Egypt. The other scenarios from North Africa are based in 1941 with the arrival of the Afrika Korps and that Rommel guy. This is probably the main attraction that will pull most gamers in. I, on the other hand, am on the opposite pole. Rommel schlommel; who cares about him? PBNA 1941 also has an ace in the hole for me, Crete and one battle in Greece. I do like gaming the 1940 Italian versus British campaign. It pits a 1940 military (British) against a 1936 equipped Italian army. What the Italians did not have in equipment or leadership they tried to make up for in bravery (contrary to some history books). Unfortunately, this did not equal out the playing field. So for you wargamers' sakes I have had to bite the bullet and play a lot of British versus the Afrika Korps scenarios. 







 So, first off what comes in the package? These are the scenarios:
  • Operation Compass, Dec 1940; The Battle of the Camps - 5 scenarios
  • Operation Compass, Jan 1941; The Battle of Bardia - 3 scenarios
  • Operation Compass, Jan 1941; The Battle of Tobruk - 5 scenarios
  • Operation Compass, Feb 1941; Beda Fomm - 5 scenarios
  • Unternehmen Sonnenblume Mar 1941; Cyrenaica - 9 scenarios
  • Siege of Tobruk Apr 1941; Tobruk - 8 scenarios
  • Greece Apr 1941; Corinth Canal - 1 scenario
  • Operation Brevity May 1941; Egypt/Libya Border - 8 scenarios
  • Unternehmen Merkur May 1941; Crete - 25 scenarios
  • Operation Battleaxe Jun 1941; Egypt/Libya Border - 10 scenarios
  • Operation Crusader Nov 1941; Egypt/Libya Border - 26 scenarios

  • Beda Fomm; variable scenario - 3 scenarios
  • Operation Brevity; variable scenario - 3 scenarios
  • Unternehmen Merkur; variable scenario - 4 scenarios







These are the features:

  • 115 Scenarios – covering all sizes and situations, including specialized versions for both head to head play and vs. the computer AI.
  • 8 Master Maps covering Greece, Crete and Libya and Egypt. The North Africa map contains over 1.23 million hexes. 55 sub maps are included. The North Africa map area is over three times bigger than the map included with Battles of Normandy.
  • 8 Order of Battles covering the evolving 1941 force mix for each side. The represented Allied forces include the British, Greek, Indian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Free French, Polish and Czech. The included Axis forces are the Italians, Libyans, Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.
  • Unit component, Order-of-Battle and Scenario Editors which allow players to customize the game.
  • Sub-map feature allowing any of the included maps to be "chopped" up into smaller segments for custom scenario creation.
  • Various map graphics with a new visual style to improve height perception. Fortifications and other icons are integrated into the game map.
  • Three different counter sets switchable in game including side on, top down and NATO symbols.
  • All new images for unit art for both sides, including infantry, guns and vehicles.
  • Exceptional Documentation including an 85 page 'Visual Order of Battle Guide' and 159 page 'Designer Notes & FAQ'. Both are included with the game. In addition, for optional download, 340mb digital version of thirteen planning maps.
Battles of North Africa 1941 provides multiple play options including play against the computer AI, Play by E-mail (PBEM), LAN & Internet "live" play, and two player hot seat.






 In reality, I could just copy and paste one of the other 'Panzer Battles' game's reviews and change the name. They are all take offs from a long line of tried and true wargames. This is in some ways true and other ways not. Wargame Design Studio really makes an effort to put you, the player, in the seat that the generals had in World War II. They also have continually tweaked the original engine to make it that much better. To be honest, for me the one thing missing is some scenarios about the planned invasion of Malta. I am not much for what-ifs, but campaigns and battles that came really close to happening I am okay with. 






  Corps, Brigade, Regiment, or Battalion, whatever you want to play for moment of gaming is here. You can also play three campaigns: Operation Compass, Operation Brevity, and Unternehmen Merkur. The last one is Operation Mercury and the Battles for Crete.



Lucky For Me


  We have not even scratched the surface of the game yet. I have checked out all of the editors to make sure they work, but have not had the chance to delve too deeply (time is the enemy of all men). The amount that you can customize in the game is very impressive, both in troops, maps etc. The game comes with Unit Component, Order-of-Battle, and Scenario editors.

  

                                      Order Of Battle Editor


 So what exactly is new and earth shaking about this release? Absolutely nothing at all, but isn't every new game supposed to have a 'catch' or some gimmick? No, no, it is not. For those of us, and some newcomers, who grew up on hexes and these type maps and units, these games are the end all and be all. They give us the ability to play on a map that would take up the dining room table and more. We can also get in a move or a full game anytime day or night against a competent opponent. These games are why we bought our first computers, and most of the other ones (except for when we want to kill orcs etc.). We Grognards have had countless hours of enjoyment from John Tiller games. Now, with Wargamers Design Studio we can count on many more. Did I mention this game has a campaign and scenarios from the Battle of Crete!!!

 So, if you absolutely have to see if you could do better than Rommel or his British counterparts in the early Desert War, then this game is for you. If you want to try your luck at commanding the 'Hunters From the Sky' it's in here also. If 3D and maps with trees blowing in the wind is your gaming taste, either look away or try a sample of Grognard Pie. I will be heading to the American Civil War next to try out WDS's Petersburg. Happy Holidays.

Robert