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  Storm Above the Reich by GMT Games  In the last part of the decade before The Second World War, in-line engines for fighters were all the ...

Storm Above the Reich by GMT Games Storm Above the Reich by GMT Games

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

 Storm Above the Reich


GMT Games

 In the last part of the decade before The Second World War, in-line engines for fighters were all the rage. Before this was a time when the bomber could definitely 'get through'. Some of the bombers were actually faster than the fighters that were supposed to intercept them. Some of the countries that were soon to be embroiled in the war were still flying biplanes! At roughly the same time, the English Spitfire and German BF109 were being developed. These two designs were to revolutionize fighter aircraft. The one thing both had in common was that they were powered by in-line motors. These depended on a water-cooled radiator to keep the engine running at a safe speed. The only problem with an in-line aircraft engine is that one nick from the smallest caliber bullet on the water-cooling system leads to catastrophic failure very quickly. This would be analogous to your car's engine and the antifreeze. On the other hand, radial engines are usually air cooled; both types also use oil, for the most part. At the time, bombers were almost universally equipped with radial engines for the sheer power that they produce. The only problem with radial engines is the drag that they produce on the airframe. As a plus, radial engines can sustain a lot more damage and still fly compared to an in-line engine. All of the countries soon to be embroiled in the war were working on how to fit a radial engine to a fighter and still get excellent speed and maneuverability. The P-47 Thunderbolt or 'Jug' for Juggernaut is one that comes to mind for the Allies. In Germany Kurt Tank, a designer for Focke-Wulf, came up with the FW 190. When it appeared over European skies in 1941, the Allies were shocked to say the least. Its nickname of 'Wurger' or Shrike, also called the 'Butcher Bird', pretty much sums up how Allied pilots who had to fly against it felt. The amount of armament a FW190 was able to carry was also a leap ahead in the war. Even some of the early ones were able to carry four 20mm cannon MG 151/20E and two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns. This was when a good number of other airplanes were carrying two-four machine guns. The Butcher Bird was very soon living up to its name. It was also able to carry even more normal and some exotic armaments, but at a loss of speed and maneuverability. Storm Above the Reich is a solitaire game, with a two-player version built in (cooperative), of you taking charge of a Staffel of FW190s attempting to defend the skies above Europe against Allied bombers and their escorts. This is the write up from GMT Games:

"Storm Above the Reich is a solitaire game depicting a Luftwaffe squadron of Fw190s struggling to deter and destroy the relentless daylight raids over Germany during World War Two. The player’s individual aircraft, each represented by a stickered block, must confront the mighty “combat box” formation of the United States Army Air Force, a deadly terrain of B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. Like its counterpart, Skies Above the Reich, the game is a broad strokes depiction that presents the arc of the desperate air war. Stretching from late 1942 to early 1945, Storm Above the Reich follows that trajectory in a series of missions strung together to make a campaign. Each mission will take a half hour or more to play, while a campaign can last anywhere between 6 to 60 missions."

  This is what comes with the game:

one 17” x 22” map board (double sided)

one 22” x 34” map board (double sided)

one 8.5” x 22” off-map display panel

one 8.5” x 11” pad: Pilot Roster & Staffel Log (double sided)

two countersheets (one sheet of 1” counters; one sheet of 5/8” counters)

60 blocks

one sticker sheet

96 attack and continuing fire cards

four bi-fold player aids (11” x 17”, double sided)

one pursuit map (8.5” x 11”, double sided)

one interception map (8.5” x 11”, double sided)

one rule book

one situation manual

one advanced rule book

two 10-sided dice

 For those of you who have played Skies Above the Reich it will be a simple process to just jump into a Basic Game play through of this game. It is only when you get into the Advanced Game Rules and the Optional Rules will you need to read up on things. The Advanced Game Rules add one more part to the game; this is Vectoring. Vectoring is your flight from your airbase to the formation you are trying to intercept. When you are dealing with the 'Friction' of war it becomes obvious how much could happen between those times. Planes could develop engine trouble etc., or you could be set upon by enemy planes. This is a list of what could happen:

Escort - run into enemy fighters
Garble - a radio transmission to you is garbled
Malfunction - one of your fighters returns to base
Radio - you can either be rerouted or rendezvous with other fighters
Straggler - if you are playing the Advanced Game Rules you intercept a bomber that has been damaged
Weather - affects you in different ways

 This is what GMT Games says about Vectoring etc.:

"In Storm, you also get an expanded set of advanced rules that stretches a Mission to include the vector to the bomber formation where your fighters may themselves be intercepted by United States escort fighters. Will you devote some of your fighters to tackle American escort, leaving others equipped to attack the bombers? Will your Sturm 190s be able to fight their way through to the bombers or did you leave them vulnerable? And for those who already own Skies Above the Reich, in Storm you’ll find new Experte skills and green penalties, aft firing rockets for those Sturm 190s, as well as a feature exclusive to that fearsome machine – the “Aggressive Attitude” that augments its Determined Mode capabilities. Finally, the B-24 will be seen in Storm Above the Reich to fly a greater variety of formation patterns than in Skies, reflecting the USAAF’s experimentation with that heavy bomber."

Various results to your planes in the game

 The box is a big hefty thing. It is one of the four inch GMT Games boxes and it has some weight to it. It is filled to the brim with game components. The weight is mostly because of the two mounted maps. The maps are, as is the norm with GMT Games, a sight to behold. Even though they are mostly B-24 Liberators in different configurations the style is very nice. I also have an affinity for B-24s, so I might be prejudice. At first glance they might look 'busy' to the player's eye. However, having most of the tracks and information charts on the maps does speed up gaming, at least to me. You do not have to worry about having to find room for tons of tracking sheets along with the maps. The counters come in two sizes 5/8" and 1". The 1" counters for some reason look even bigger than other games I have seen 1" counters in. The blocks are used for the representation of the different airplanes in your flight. They are all the same size and do not have any jagged pieces coming off them. The cards are extremely well done and as a bonus are the same exact ones used in Skies Above the Reich. This might come in handy if you own the first game and have a wee accident. The Players Aids are all of rigid cardboard and have large print on them and are in full color. The game comes with two Rulebooks. The first one is sixty pages long and is in full color with very large print. The next one is the Advanced Rulebook and is thirty-six pages long. It is printed in the exact same manner as the other Rulebook. Taken as one piece at a time they are very well done by themselves. When you spread out the whole ensemble you just want to say thank you GMT Games. 

The four different maps

 For the neophytes to the game series, please do not be alarmed. Even if you have never played the first game you will be in the air in no time. By the amount of components and size of the Rulebooks you think you would be reading for a good long time before playing. This is not the case at all. The Basic game is very easy to get a handle on. The length of the game and the complexity naturally go up if you start using the Advanced and Optional Rules. In the Basic Game you are just trying to use your Staffel and its armaments to knock the bombers out of formation. In the Advanced Game you get the chance to try and gain more points and actually shoot down a lone bomber. If you do happen to own both games there are rules to combine both together. You can even have a Staffel of half BF109s and the other half FW190s. 

Pursuit maps of the single bombers

 The one thing about this game is that you have more of a choice of what extra munitions, called attachments in the game, you can add to your FW 190s. Of course, the more that you turn them into flying tanks the more they will fly like them. These are the planes you can purchase to add to help your Staffel in the sky:

MC202 - One of the best Italian fighters of the war.
BF110 - Two engine heavy fighter.
JU88 - Originally a medium bomber. It was also used as a heavy fighter along with everything else but a float plane.
IAR 80 - Romanian fighter.
Me 163 - The only mass produced rocket fighter in the world. In reality as dangerous to its pilots as the enemy.

 With the addition of Skies Above the Reich these two planes can be added to the mix:


 The attachments that you are allowed to use on your FW190s:


 The cable was pretty much what hung from balloons used in defense against air attacks. Starting in 1944 you can also arm half of your Staffel as 'Sturm 190s' this is short for Sturmböcke (battering ram). These FW190s will automatically be equipped with armor and cannon. You can also equip rearward firing cannons to your FW190s instead of forward firing ones.

Play Example

 How does it play, you ask? It is just as engrossing and fun as its older brother. One German ace describes the BF109 as a rapier, and the FW190 as a cutlass. The Germans were well aware how difficult it was to take down a B-17 or B-24 in formation truly was. It was perceived as being four times as hard as shooting down another fighter. You as the player will soon learn the same lesson. As great as the game is when only playing one mission, the Campaign game is where it really shines, and you will have to learn to think ahead. It does you no good if you have taken out four bombers, but your Staffel is almost all shot up, or down and you have wounded pilots. Your job is to get in there and do the job while still weighing the life of your pilots against success. Every action on your part does have a consequence for good or bad. 


 Thank you, GMT Games for letting me review another of your excellent titles. This is a wonderful new game in this series. If you liked the first game then you will really like this one, with the additions that have been made to the rules. 


Storm Above the Reich:

GMT Games - Storm Above the Reich

GMT Games:

GMT Games

Skies Above the Reich my review:

Skies Above The Reich by GMT Games - A Wargamers Needful Things

  Strategy&Tactics #329 by Strategy&Tactics Press Battle of Shanghai 1937  Here we are again doing a review of a magazine that is al...

Strategy&Tactics #329 by Strategy&Tactics Press Strategy&Tactics #329 by Strategy&Tactics Press

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

 Strategy&Tactics #329


Strategy&Tactics Press

Battle of Shanghai 1937

 Here we are again doing a review of a magazine that is almost as old as I am. I have mentioned before, as have others, that it is a wonderful thing to have had any wargaming magazines. They have the ability to give us conflicts that would never have seen the light of day on anyone's table. Because of their price point and manufacturing, we grognards are able to have the most varied and  rarely published battles/wars in history in our hot little hands. S&T has also had an enormous amount of their wargames republished as regular boxed games. This goes to show that even if it is a magazine wargame, it is still done damned well. I will not harp on the people who look down their noses at magazine wargames; well, just a little. All I can say is you are missing out on some great gaming by not accepting them as 'real' wargames. Even if you buy the magazines sans the wargame you are treated to a great amount of well written history. That history is also as wide ranging as you could imagine. Each article could be about something hundreds, if not thousands, of years apart. I have never opened a S&T magazine and not learned something I did not know before. I will start the review with the articles and then get into this issue's game. Here is a list of some of the articles:

The 1937 Shanghai Nanking Campaign (The history behind the game)

The "Corrupt Bargain": Presidential Election of 1824

Alexander and the Art of War: The Battle of Gaugamela

The Jordanian Arab Legion and the Battle for Jerusalem 1948

Hellenistic War Elephants (my favorite)

Human Trophies: Scalping in the American West

Sarkoy Landing: From the First Balkan War

 The articles are filled with little tidbits of history. The inclusion of the history of the 1824 Presidential Election is both a surprise and a treat. Decision Games has released a game about the subject. So, you can see that the history inside the magazine goes from Alexander to the twentieth century. The eighteen-page article on the Shanghai and Nanking Campaign is an excellent overview of the entire campaign with added insets about different parts of the campaign. The Maps are extremely well done and give the reader all of the necessary information to follow along with the written history. 

Eastern part of the Map showing the area around Shanghai




   The game itself is about a victorious campaign that was a complete failure. The Japanese were under the impression that after taking Shanghai this would bring the Chinese to capitulate. After that didn't happen the Japanese then thought surely if they took Nanking, then the capitol of China, they would surely throw in the towel. They could not have been more wrong. The battles in and around Shanghai were observed by the many citizens from around the world that lived in the 'International Settlement'. They not only saw the terrible fighting, but also saw the Japanese troops commit horrible atrocities. The Japanese, after taking Nanking, unleashed what is now called 'The Rape of Nanking'. The atrocities committed around Shanghai were just a warmup for the savagery that the Japanese troops inflicted on both the Chinese soldiers and civilians. The brutality of the Eastern Front in World War II is pretty much known to all. The  Second Sino-Japanese War and the previous fighting before it were of another level above it. Most of our biological weapons and how to use and defend against them come from their use by Japan in China. Even prisoners of war from all countries were used in the barbaric surgeries and bio weapon testing the Japanese did, much like 'Operation Paperclip', where German war criminals were secreted away by the western powers for their knowledge of warfare, chemicals, and rocketry. The Japanese soldiers who were guilty of the most horrible crimes were brought to the west without any repercussions. 

Play Example

 Enough of the history, the game is a two-player one with one side taking the Chinese defenders and the other the Japanese attackers. The Japanese Player has twelve turns to control all of the seven city hexes on the map. Any time they do so it is an automatic victory for them. If at the end of twelve turns the Chinese Player still controls any of the city hexes, they win. There are no partial or graduated outcomes here. Win or lose with twelve short turns to do so. The Chinese Player can get a Sudden Death Victory by capturing hex 3512, if on or after game turn eight the Chinese player can win by having a unit in a hex next to hex 3512. From game turns one through five the Chinese player loses automatically if they do not have a unit in a hex next to hex 3512. The Chinese are helped by, strangely enough, the Germans. The Chinese Nationalist Army was being slowly trained by German advisors. These troops are the strongest units the Chinese have. Historically, they were squandered in the fight for Shanghai. The Chinese Player will have to gauge when and if to use these units. 

Play Example

 These are the game components:

22" x 34" Map

Rule Set

170 5/8" Counters (There are six extra replacement counters for other games)

 The map is made of glossy paper. The terrain is easy to distinguish. Shanghai is in the lower Southeast of the map, with Nanking in the upper Northwest in one of the last hexes. It is marked with the various landing hexes for the different Japanese units. The counters are plain Jane, using NATO symbols. However, the counters work just fine for the game. No eye strain here. The Rule Set is sixteen pages long. It also has four pages of examples of play.  All the components are what we have come to expect from Strategy & Tactics in 2022. 

 The game is a good one with lots of options and strategies for both players to try. The rules make both players pay close attention to the battle for Shanghai. Historically this was a long and desperate battle for the city. Once, or if, Shanghai falls it becomes a race for the Japanese player to get across the map as quickly as possible. In the middle of the map is Lake Tai which is rather large. This means the Japanese units have to go around the lake to the North and South to capture all of the city hexes needed. The Japanese player has to make this a blitzkrieg on foot as much as possible. The Chinese player has to defend Shanghai for as long as possible to deny those hexes to the Japanese, and not automatically lose. Hex 3512 and its neighbors are where the toughest battles will play out for the first half of the game. The rules are clear and need no deciphering. Included in them are rules for artillery, aircraft, and Japanese amphibious landings. The game is touch and go for both sides unless Lady Luck deserts you. 

Play Example

 All in all, this is another great game in a long line of Strategy&Tactics games stretching back to my teenage years. Thank you Decision Games/Strategy&Tactics Press for letting me review this issue. I hope it continues in print for as long as I am on this earth. Decision Games have released a lot of solitaire games that have had really good writeups by players. Please take a look at them.


Decision Games:


Strategy&Tactics Issue 329:

  Bismarck Solitaire by Worthington Publishing   The Bismarck, and its sistership the Tirpitz, are engrained in our memories because of coun...

Bismarck Solitaire by Worthington Publishing Bismarck Solitaire by Worthington Publishing

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

 Bismarck Solitaire


Worthington Publishing

 The Bismarck, and its sistership the Tirpitz, are engrained in our memories because of countless books and a good number of movies. To be honest, I have never really understood the fuss. She was far from being the best battleship in the world when she was launched. She was really just a beefed up Bayern class (World War I German battleship) battleship. Her one claim to fame was that she sunk the British Battlecruiser the Hood. The Hood itself had taken on a mystique all her own in the years between the World Wars. The Hood was a beautiful ship, but she suffered from the same problem that all Battlecruisers did. To get their speed faster compared to battleships they had to have a lot less armor in places than a real battleship. The Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen (a Heavy Cruiser), had left Germany to disrupt the convoy lanes to England in the North Atlantic. Thanks to code breakers and a close watch on Germany, the English knew they had to set sail almost from the start. The English set to sea with:

6 Battleships
3 Battlecruisers
2 Aircraft Carriers
16 Cruisers
33 Destroyers
8 Submarines
Large Amount Of Patrol Aircraft

 On the morning of May 24th, 1941 the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen met the Hood and the British Battleship the Prince of Wales. The Hood was sent to her watery grave with only three survivors. The Bismarck was hit and lost some precious fuel. Through most of the hunt for the Bismarck, the English Cruisers dogged her every move. The one advantage the Bismarck did have was her speed. She was somewhat faster than most World War I Battlecruisers and a lot faster than most of the British Battleships. The Bismarck's demise came because of an attack by English Swordfish aircraft. These were biplanes that had the nickname of 'Stringbags'. One of their torpedoes hit the rudder of the Bismarck and jammed it. Now it could only steer in circles while waiting for the hounds to catch up. On May 27th, the English Battleships Rodney and King George V opened fire on the Bismarck. The Bismarck was only able to make some near misses on the Rodney, but the English shells turned her into a blazing wreck. Thus was the short operational life of the Bismarck.

 This game comes as a Booklet. The thinking behind this type of game is here in Worthington Publishing's words:

"We, like you, are frustrated by the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. We asked ourselves what could be done about it until things improve? We looked at our upcoming board game designs and tried to find one that could be converted to a portable style like a book and could be delivered quickly. 

Presto! The Bookgame idea was born. And BAM, our Bismarck Solitaire game was a great fit. We took the board game and modified it to work in a book format. Next we set it up within the Amazon book format. That way anyone worldwide can order it through Amazon which has the best delivery distribution network in today’s environment. And, if you are an Amazon Prime member, the shipping cost is covered by your membership, and it will be delivered to your door within days."

 This is a very good example of not only thinking outside of the box, but also shows some caring for their wargaming fans. Kudos to you Worthington Publishing. This is a writeup about the actual game from Worthington Publishing:

"The Bookgame Bismarck Solitaire puts you in command of the German ships Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, and U-boat support as they take on a determined Royal Navy that has one goal, Sink the Bismarck! You have 8 missions of varying objectives and difficultly. Each mission gives you 3 tries to best the Royal Navy. This gives you a total of 24 games. Some missions require you to find convoys, others expect you to sink a few British warships, while some just hope your ships can survive the sortie. They only thing you are required to provide is 2 dice, a pen, and a sense of daring adventure."

 So, what you get when ordering the game is:

One game Booklet

 It seems strange after doing so many reviews to just list one item as a component for a game. The Booklet is in full color. Each two pages give you the Charts and Events to play a game. As mentioned, there are a total of twenty-four games in the Booklet. The pages one through nine give you the Rules, Designer Notes, History, and a Training Cruise. All you need to add is a pencil/pen and two six-sided die. The Game Sets are also on a graduated scale of difficulty going from Easy, Difficult, to Hard. 

Back Cover

 So, let us look at the game play itself. Is it fun and enjoyable? Yes, Virginia it is. Does it give you a sense that you are playing a wargame? That too is a resounding yes. Is this just a gimmick? Hell no, it is a wargame with a lot more nuance than it should have for its size. You can also play it wherever you have space to roll two die. This game is meant for at home or in trains, planes, and automobiles. Thank you Worthington Publishing for letting me review this miniature classic. Thank you also for thinking of us wargamers during this stressful time. Please take a look at their other fine games and especially their line of Bookgames. These now include:



Worthington Publishing:

Bloody Verrieres: The I SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrieres-Bourguebus Ridges Volume I: Operations Goodwood and Atlantic, 18-22 July 194...

Bloody Verrieres: The I SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrieres-Bourguebus Ridges by Arthur W. Gullachsen Bloody Verrieres: The I SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrieres-Bourguebus Ridges by Arthur W. Gullachsen

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

Bloody Verrieres: The I SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrieres-Bourguebus Ridges

Volume I: Operations Goodwood and Atlantic, 18-22 July 1944


Arthur W, Gullachsen 

 Here we are again in the fields and hedgerows of Normandy. A ton of ink has been used to describe five battles in particular: Normandy, Kursk, Gettysburg, Waterloo, and the Bulge. It would almost seem like these five campaigns were the only ones to take place in history. On the Normandy campaign you also have two camps: the first by American authors that states that Monty was slow and not a great general, the second by British authors that Monty had planned out the campaign from the start and it all worked according to his plan. The problem with the second is that Monty planned some large-scale attacks on the German lines, as this book shows. The planning for them also included points to be taken far behind the German lines after the breakthrough. I am sorry to say you cannot have it both ways. If all he intended was a meat grinder, then why all the grandiose plans of attacks? The reason it was a meat grinder was because of the desperate defense the German units put up. As I have said before, you can admire their pluck and fighting ability and still wish to see a good lot of them hanged. This book shows the horrific battles that took place for one of the areas around Caen. No matter what Monty's plan, the British and Canadians showed how fierce in battle they could be.

 The two volumes are about five days of battle during the Normandy Campaign around the city of Caen. The author makes three assertions in this book and backs them up with facts. One, that Sepp Dietrich (commander of the I SS Panzer Corps), was not the inept fool that he is almost always described as. Two, that the 1 SS Panzer Division was instrumental in stalling Montgomery's Operation Goodwood. Third, that though the Germans in Normandy made a great defensive battle, it actually turned into a Pyrrhic victory for them. The reason being is that so many reinforcements etc. were sent to this part of the Normandy Campaign that other parts were denuded of the above. So, whether Montgomery planned it or not, the battle did go the way his supporters say he planned it. 

 This is an excellent work that adds to the history of the Normandy Campaign. It also gives the armchair historian points to ponder. Thank you very much Casemate Publishers for letting me review this book. I cannot wait to get my hands on Volume II.


Book:Bloody Verrieres: The I SS-Panzerkorps Defence of the Verrieres-Bourguebus Ridges, Volume I: Operations Goodwood and Atlantic, 18-22 July 1944 

Author: Arthur W, Gullachsen 

Publisher: Casemate Publishers

  Defending America Intercepting the Amerika Bombers 1947-48 by Compass Games  I have no problem with historical alternative history in game...

Defending America: Intercepting the Amerika Bombers 1947-48 by Compass Games Defending America: Intercepting the Amerika Bombers 1947-48 by Compass Games

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

 Defending America

Intercepting the Amerika Bombers 1947-48


Compass Games

 I have no problem with historical alternative history in games, as long as it doesn't go too far away from plausibility. This game is set in 1947-48, and England and the Soviet Union have both fallen to the Nazis and Japan has fought the US to a standstill in the Pacific. So now the Luftwaffe is attempting to bomb and recon the US with bombers from their historically accurate 'Amerika Bomber' project. One of the Amerika Bombers did fly in the war, but most were just projects or designs before the war ended. To intercept these bombers, you are given sixteen real or experimental planes to try and knock them out of the sky. These planes will be familiar to people who have read about the airwar that could have occurred if World War II had continued on past its historical ending. Compass Games also has a game called Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies. This is the exact opposite of the game we are looking at here. In it you are flying an Amerika Bomber and trying to evade or fight off the planes you will be flying in this game.

Back of the Box

 This is what Compass Games has to say about the game:

"Defending America is a solitaire, tactical level game which places you in command of an actual or experimental interceptor aircraft during a frightening look at what might have been in World War II. Each turn consists of one sortie, during which the player will fly a mission to intercept Amerika Bombers which are enroute to bomb the mainland of the United States. As the player progresses, he may choose to upgrade to even more advanced interceptors in this alternate history game. Defending America is based on the action-packed “Amerika Bomber” game and reverses the situation with the player attempting to stop conventional and atomic bomb attacks on the homeland. It builds a strong narrative around the pilot as you look to earn skills, rise in rank through promotion, receive awards and survive a dangerous year above the Atlantic Ocean and America.

The objective of the game is to conduct numerous sorties in the role of an interceptor pilot and rack up as many bomber kills as possible, with a special emphasis on preparing to stop atomic attacks. Pilots may use the experience gained to improve their odds of success by purchasing skills. Awards and technological advances via use of the technology track help to narrate the player’s eventual goal – to become the “Scourge of the Amerika Bombers” and end the threat to the United States from the air."


 So, let us see the games rundown, and look at what is in the box:

Complexity: 4 out of 10

Solitaire Suitability: 10 out of 10

Time Scale: Weekly turns (individual sorties, 4 per month)

Map Scale: Abstract

Unit Scale: Individual aircraft, weapon systems, specific crew members, and ammo rounds

Players: One (with option for two or more)

Playing Time: 60-90 minutes


One Counter Sheet of 9/16″ unit-counters

Eight Double Sided Aircraft Display Mats

Three Single-Sided Player Aid Charts

Five Double Sided Player Aid Charts

One Combat Display Mat

One Pilot Awards Display Mat

One Air Operations Map

Rules Booklet

One Logsheet

Two 6-sided, and one 10-sided die

Box and Lid

Mounted Map Board

 While the box does not weigh a ton or is splitting at the seams, there is still a ton of stuff inside. I have come to expect a pretty high standard of components that come with a game from Compass Games. You will be glad to know you will not be underwhelmed with these. The map board is mounted. It is not a large map, but for this game it does not need to be. It also has the Sequence of Play right on it which is always a great plus for wargames. All of the Player Aid Charts are in full color and the material used is similar to  poster board. These are easy to read and once you have played a few times you will have no need of the Rulebook; everything you need is on them. I know some people are put off by Logsheets, but these are set up differently than usual. Like most they look like an Excel spreadsheet. Unlike most, they actually have large enough spaces to actually write something down. My penmanship is horrendous, so I have to write larger than normal to figure out what I have written. The spaces on these sheets help me immeasurably. The counters are large at 9/16". So, you can read them and enjoy the well done pictures of the aircraft from above. The Rule Booklet is twenty-three pages in total. Twenty pages of that encompass the rules. The last three pages have the Designer Notes, and a synopsis of all of the aircraft you can fly. The back of the booklet has the nowadays obligatory index. The Rule Booklet is in full color, and the print is medium in size. I cannot read it without my glasses, but there are not too many things I can read without them. As mentioned, the components are manufactured to their high standards. 

US Navy Aircraft Display Mat

 From the Rulebook:

"The system is packed with rich technical detail based on proposed aircraft designs, but without the complexity to capture the key facets of a hypothetical strategic bombing campaign over America. There are 16 interceptor aircraft to available to pilot (both historical and experimental, USAAF and Navy) and six types of Amerika Bomber to shoot down. The aircraft are:

P-80, P-80B Shooting Stars

XP-61, XP-67, XP-81, XP-83

F-86 Sabre, F-89A Scorpion

F8F-1, F8F-1B Bearcats

FJ-1 Fury, FH-1 Phantom

F7F-3 Tigercat


F2H-1, F2H-2 Banshee

For each aircraft, you will be using the date of availability, speed, area of operations based on originating base, individual weapon systems, damage, and crew status.

Players are assigned to a land base if USAAF or an aircraft carrier if Navy/Marine, and conduct interception missions from there while Tench Class submarines stand by to provide “lifeguard” duty if required."

US Air Force Aircraft Display Mat

 This is a solitaire game. This means it pits you as an American pilot against the German bombers. It is played at the tactical level so it pits your single plane in combat against one bomber. Your job is to knock the bomber out of the sky, while still living to tell the tale. Some of these bombers will be carrying atom bombs, so many people's lives rest on your shoulders. You will be defending mostly the East Coast of the United States with some of the bombers able to fly as far in as Chicago to Miami in an arc. This is not a game of one off raids. You will be guiding your pilot through a sustained campaign against the bombers. Your pilot will also be able to gain medals and also become adept in air combat. A nice feature added to the game is being able to fly for the United States Marine Corps. The game also gives you the choice to play either a basic or advanced combat system. The advanced combat system naturally adds to the complexity and game time. I prefer the advanced combat, but to each their own. I am an aircraft nut, and I really enjoy reading about and playing with experimental aircraft from World War II. So, this game ticks off most of my boxes even before opening the box. 

Your Aircraft Position Chart Compared to The Amerika Bomber

 The game was designed by Gregory M. Smith. This alone should have you opening up your wallet. He has designed a good number of excellent solitaire wargames already, and has some in the making.

These are his games published by Compass Games:

Amerika Bomber

Interceptor Ace: Daylight Air Defense Over Germany 1943-44

Night Fighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany 1943-44

Zeppelin Raider: Imperial German Naval Airships

These two designs of his are coming soon from Compass Games:

American Tank Ace: 1944-45

Western Front Ace: The Great War In The Air, 1916-18

 The last game I cannot wait for it to be in my hot little hands.

 So, the round up is that Mr. Gregory M. Smith and Compass Games have hit another one out of the park. With our fast-paced lives and all that they entail, getting other gamers together is many times not feasible. To still be able to play great wargames by ourselves is a definite must in our hobby. While it is true that almost any game can be played solitaire, it is much easier for the player to have a fully built solitaire game from the ground up instead of trying to make some rules on your own, or waiting until an add on 'bot' is released. 

 Thank you, Compass Games for allowing me to review another great game from your stable. One thing prospective buyers should know is that Compass Games has almost 100% of its games manufactured in the good ole U.S.A. So, thank you again, and pretty please get to work on Western Front Ace. I do not know how much more I can last without it. Solitaire play and World War I in the air, you had me at Western Front.


Compass Games:

Compass Games – New Directions In Gaming

Defending America:

Defending America: Intercepting the Amerika Bombers, 1947-48 – Compass Games

Night Fighter Ace Review:

Nightfighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany 1943-44 by Compass Games - A Wargamers Needful Things

  Across the Bug River Volodymyr - Volynskyi 1941 by Vuca Simulations  The Germans launched Operation Barbarossa on July 22nd, 1941. They ha...

Across the Bug River by Vuca Simulations Across the Bug River by Vuca Simulations

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

 Across the Bug River

Volodymyr - Volynskyi 1941


Vuca Simulations

 The Germans launched Operation Barbarossa on July 22nd, 1941. They had split their forces into three main forces: Army Group North, Army Group Center, and Army Group South. While each of the three had their own Soviet forces to deal with, by far Army Group South was faced at first by the largest concentration of Soviet Military power. This Soviet concentration of power in the south of Russia has led some authors to believe that the Soviets were planning to strike into East Europe. Most historians do not agree with their assessment. So, Vuca Simulations have chosen to give us a sim/game about a small piece of the titanic struggle that was unleashed by the German Invasion. This is a piece of the Rulebook from Vuca Simulations that explains the situation at the start:

"The Situation
Early in the morning of June 22, 1941, the 
German army unexpectedly crossed the borders of Soviet Russia, thus launching Operation Barbarossa. One of the resistance points on the Molotov Line - the 2ndfortified area near Volodymyr-Volynskyi 
- found itself in the advance zone of Army Group South. 
The Breakthrough in this place was supposed to be done by III. Motorized Corps, element of 1st Panzer Group v.Kleist and by 
XXIX Army Corps, part of the best known German Army, the 6th.
At the outbreak of the war between Germany and Soviet Russia in the Volodymyr-Volynskyi region there were elements of 5th Army – 41. Tank Division of XXII. Mechanized Corps and 87. Rifle Division from XXVII. Rifle Corps – most of the remaining elements of both corps were far from the border. The situation was not improved by the fact that the 41st Tank Division was ordered to go to the Kovel area, north of Volodymyr-Volynskyi, where the main 
strike was expected. Only two tank battalions from 82nd regiment were left to support 87th Rifle Division in delaying the 
German advance."

 This is what comes with the game:

One rulebook
One mounted map board
382 large counters of which 181 are combat units
Four player aid charts
Full color setup charts
Full color reinforcements charts
Two ten-sided dice 

 This is the third game I have reviewed from Vuca Simulations and I am still surprised at the components and attention to detail that you find inside the box. The map is mounted and reminds me of a mural instead of a game map. The terrain is easy to see with no ambiguities. The counters are very nicely done with a lot of color. The only knock on them is that they are maybe too 'busy' and have smaller lettering and numbers on them than we have become used to now. However, you will not have any problem distinguishing the different divisions etc. that each counter belongs to. The four Player Aid Charts (two sheets, one chart on each side) are made of the same material as the mounted map. These are very easy to read, and the fact that they are not just flimsy paper is such a good idea. They are done in full color. The two Setup Charts/Reinforcement Charts are made exactly the same way. These are also very easy to read and are also in full color. The Rulebook is in full color and twenty-five pages long. It has a good number of play illustrations in it. On page twenty-one starts the Designer Notes, Historical writeup, and Developer Notes. There are also tips for both players. The Counters, Map, and Player Aids etc. are all extremely well done, and have become a Vuca Simulations trademark. It is amazing how small touches to the game components really make the player feel good about their purchase.

 This is the Sequence of Play:

"Across the Bug River is played in a varying number of game turns, 
depending on the scenario. 
A game turn usually consists of an Administrative Phase (Admin 
Phase), followed by the Operations Phase (Ops Phase), existing of 
a varying number of so-called Operations (Ops) Cycles. 
The first turn of scenario skips the Admin Phase as is indicated on 
the turn track. Therefore, the Ops Phase is explained in the rules 
before the Admin Phase.
The Standard Procedures are general rules, which apply at any 
time during each turn."

 As in all Barbarossa Campaign games/scenarios, the German player has to get from one side of the board to the other as quickly as he can. If he can inflict substantial losses on the Soviet player so much the better. The Soviet player is attempting to sacrifice troops to slow down the German juggernaut. For me, playing as the Soviets is always harder, because you have to always try and judge when to retreat and stop trying to inflict casualties on the Germans. My play style can almost always be summed up as "Il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace!". This has been attributed to both Danton and Frederick the Great. I am not sure who said it, but I have always liked the sentiment. So, my attempts to stem the German tide in games resembles a general who just got a call from Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvii ( No wonder he changed it. Hard to get a chant going with that name), or 'Koba' to his friends. 

 Air power is abstracted by interdiction points that are decided by a rolled die by the German player. These can be either a 0,1, or 2. This is an important rule of the game:

"8.1.2 Interdiction Level Adjustment
The German player rolls one die and consults the Interdiction Table to determine the Interdiction Level (0, 1 or 2) of the current 
game turn.

Interdiction Effects:
• The German player applies the Interdiction Level as an additional Initiative DRM.
• The Soviet player uses the Interdiction Level to determine Soviet Formation Activation Recovery levels.
8.1.3 Soviet Formation Activation Level Recovery 
The Formation Activation Level Recovery of Soviet Formation is 
not fixed, but based on the individual Formation Activation Recovery Rating and influenced by the Interdiction Level of the current game turn.
• The Soviet Player checks the Formation Activation Recovery 
Rating of his supplied formation and cross references this rating 
with the Interdiction Level on the HQ Recovery Table to obtain 
the result. 
This means that the Soviet player does not know the exact Interdiction Level and Recovery values for a given Recovery Segment during the preceding Ops Phase!"

 This really can make the Soviet player's heart skip a beat, and destroy all their well thought out plans. This is just one example of the 'friction' of war that is built into the game.

Not the final artwork

 This is a great, tense game that shows both the fragility of both the Soviets and German forces in the first days of the war. The game also shows that there are plenty of battles that Vuca Simulations can develop using the formula. So, a company does not have to make the hundred and fiftieth Kursk game to let players have a great romp on the Eastern Front. For those of you who have to have Tigers and Panthers in your force pool, either broaden your horizons or look elsewhere. The amount of Panzer IIs that were still being used in 1941 will astonish you. Ivan had to take a nine count in 1941, but rose again to victory. Mayhaps with you as a general you can do much better than your real counterpart, and not get sent to the Gulag or worse.

 Thank you Vuca Simulations for the chance to review another of your excellent games. I will also put some links below to the other two games I reviewed for them. 


Vuca Simulations:

Across the Bug River:

The Great Crisis of Frederick the II:

Crossing the Line - Aachen 1944: