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John Tiller's Panzer Battles of Normandy Review    The name John Tiller is well known to any wargamer during the last quarter c...

John Tiller's Panzer Battles of Normandy Review John Tiller's Panzer Battles of Normandy Review

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

July 2016

John Tiller's Panzer Battles of Normandy Review

John Tiller's Panzer Battles of Normandy Review


 The name John Tiller is well known to any wargamer during the last quarter century. His litany of games include the series 'Squad Battles', 'Panzer Campaigns', 'Napoleonic Battles', 'Civil War Battles', ' The Campaign Series', and even more. The game companies he has worked with are 'Talonsoft' and 'HPS Simulations'. For a few years now he has been on his own with 'John Tiller Software'. One of the more amazing things about this litany of games is that is is continually being updated all through the years. I just started playing a WWI mod for the Campaign series that was just released. This shows the longevity his games have. So we should expect the highest quality and gaming from a release of his. Let's see how his newest release 'Panzer Battles Normandy' stacks up. See, we are wargamers and I used the word stacks, I know, I know, sorry.

  Panzer, the word invokes a picture now, probably of a Tiger tank. Once it used to invoke fear. The word is short for 'Panzerkampfwagen'. All compound German words have to have an acronym. If they didn't you'd have a stroke trying to pronounce them; just look up the actual German word for FLAK,which stands for fliegerabwehrkanone, gesundheit. Mark Twain in his essay 'The Awful German Language' poked fun at their words with "some German words are so long that they have perspective".

 Panzer Battles Normandy is the younger brother of Panzer Battles Kursk. This new series is meant to allow the player to indulge in scenarios as counter heavy as the Panzer Campaign series or much less with it's smaller scale. The scale is 250 meters per hex and thirty minutes time per turn, where the Panzer Campaign scale was 1 Km per hex and two hour turns. Squad battles scale is 40 meters per hex and ten minute turn times. It has mouse wheel zooming for ease of use and eyesight.

  The master map has almost 400,000 hexes. The full Normandy map that comes with the game is so large I cannot do it justice with this image. Scrolling the entire map is only recommended for people who are looking forward to carpal tunnel syndrome. The stacking limit for a hex can be found when right clicking on the hex info area of the screen, by default it is on the upper left of the screen. There is a maximum stacking limit along with a road movement stacking limit.

 It comes with two campaigns and a total of ninety-three scenarios. The scenarios range from small battalion size to large where you are in charge of an entire corps.

•June 6th; D-Day Landings 14 scenarios
•June 7th; Hitlerjugend's counterattack 2 scenarios
•June 11th; Operation Perch 3 scenarios
•June 13th; Villers Bocage 2 scenarios
•June 13th to June 14th; Carentan 2 scenario
•June 22nd; Cherbourg 3 scenarios
•June 25th; Operation Martlet 2 scenarios
•June 26th to June 29th; Operation Epsom 4 scenarios
•July 4th; Operation Windsor 1 scenario
•July 11th; St Lo 4 scenarios
•July 18th to July 19th; Operation Goodwood 6 scenarios
•July 25th; Operation Spring 2 scenarios
•July 26th to July 29th; Operation Cobra 3 scenarios
•July 30th to August 5th; Operation Bluecoat 7 scenarios
•August 7th to August 8th; Operation L├╝ttich 3 scenarios
•August 8th to August 9th; Operation Totalize 4 scenarios
•August 11th to August 12th; US 3rd Army breakout 2 scenarios
•August 19th; Falaise gap 1 scenario
•4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards Campaign 5 scenarios
•2nd Armored Division (US) Campaign 18 scenarios

 For those of you who like to mod, you can use the unit components, order-of-battle, and scenario editors.

 There is even a campaign editor added to the game. I will post from the campaign editor 'Help File'.
 "A Campaign consists of a series of Situations. Each Situation offers each side in the Campaign a list of Choices. Each side picks one of these Choices not knowing what the other side has decided. After each side has selected their Choice, then the selections are cross referenced to arrive at an Outcome. An Outcome consists of a Scenario in a Module and 5 other Situations associated with the 5 possible victory conditions that can result from a battle: Major Defeat, Minor Defeat, Draw, Minor Victory, and Major Victory. In addition, an Expected Value is associated with each Outcome for use by the A/I (Artificial Intelligence). The Scenario is fought by the two sides and the Allied victory condition resulting from this battle is used to determine the next Situation according to the 5 Situations associated with the Outcome. This process is repeated and continues until a Terminal Situation is reached which represents the resolution of the Campaign."

 It sounds rather over the top, but the help file walks you through it step by step, and the way that the editor has been setup with its drop down menus is much more intuitive in reality.

  With the amount of editing that can be done, and the fact that you can chop up the huge master map into any size bits you want, we should be inundated with used made scenarios. I wouldn't be surprised to see a William the Conqueror or Viking raid scenario (just kidding). In reality you can edit pretty much anything you want. In this day and age of computer wargaming, it's like a breath of fresh air. To be more precise it's like a breath of older air. The modding capabilities remind me of games from twenty years ago.

  You can play against the AI, PBEM, and LAN and internet live play, along with two player hot seat. PBEM is not my cup of tea, but I have read all about the process and the comments from users and it seems pretty seamless.

  Besides the user manual download, there are five other excellent downloads for your use. This is the list.

•Designer Notes (149 page 15MB PDF file)
•Planning Maps (88 page 203MB PDF file)
•Getting Started Guide (42 page 9MB PDF file)
•User Manual (102 page 2MB PDF file)
•Summer Map (190MB PNG file)
•Visual Order of Battle (136 page 68MB PDF file)

  The game itself is pretty much what you would expect from a John Tiller wargame. You can see that their pedigree stretches back to board wargames. The Tiller system for most of his games revolves around a unit quality system that grades a unit from 'A' to 'E', with 'A' being the best. Movement, casualties, and combat lower the unit on the scale. Just as in real warfare, resting your units at times is essential for your cyber troops.

  Engineering units can do the following: Bridge operations, clear mines or rubble, lay mines, and damage bridges or anti-tank ditches.

  Air units are either combat or recon. You can call in airstrikes against a particular enemy unit, and you can also use heavy bombers to carpet bomb an entire hex, as was used by the Allies at several times during the campaign.

  Playing as the Germans, be prepared to keep your head down and learn to deal with the overwhelming power of the Allied air forces, land, and naval gunfire. When playing as the Allies use the same, and use your preponderance of material compared to wasting your troops.

  The smaller scenarios are perfect for the John Tiller neophyte to sink his teeth into. All of the John Tiller wargames are higher on the complexity scale. The Panzer Battles games with their smaller scenarios and counter count are tailor made for the tyro who wants to get further into our hobby than 'Axis and Allies', etc. To help newbies and to also speed up your turns, you can turn on the 'firing AI' for your forces and leave the shooting to them.

 Do not expect to have your way against the AI as the Allies or Germans. I have tried numerous times to replicate Michael Wittmannn's achievement in the battle of Villars-Bocage. For those who have forgotten, it was Wittmann and six other Tiger tanks and a handful of other forces against an entire British Armored division. The British had found the German left flank hanging in the wind and might nave been able to end the Normandy campaign much sooner. The British had stopped on the road for a 'spot of tea'. Wittman's gunner Bobby Woll made the comment,"they are acting as if they've won the war already." Followed by Wittmann's retort "we're going to prove them wrong." The Germans attacked and stopped the 7th armored (the desert rats) cold.   

 Whilst I admit I am not a lady of the evening concerning graphics, I am getting on in years and the prescription for my glasses is not getting any better. The newer map graphics that have been touted by JTS, and the graphics overall are much improved from the earlier games. It is much easier to distinguish elevation just as advertised.There have been some great visual mods done for the older Tiller games, and no doubt some more will be made for this one. It would depend on your personal likes and dislikes. For me, the graphics are their best yet, and I really don't see any need for improvement, but this is of course just my personal take on the matter.

 The only addition I would like to see is a campaign for some of the German forces. A campaign based on the book 'Grenadiers' would be a great way to understand the amount of material and forces that the Allies needed to use to pry the Germans out of Caen would be excellent. Thankfully, with all the editing ability that JTS put into the game, I think we will see that sooner rather than later.

  If this game is to your liking, and it will be if you are a wargamer, then head back online and buy Normandy's older brother 'Panzer Battles Kursk'. While there, take a gander at the rest of the excellent wargames for sale.  

 For anyone who has not looked at the John Tiller games for a while, the original DRM is long gone and it is a much simpler system of just adding your serial.

  Now for my pet peeve. Who else gets annoyed at an announcer when they read off 'Panzer tank'. Congratulations, you just made yourself sound like a three year old by saying 'tank tank'.


Game: Panzer Battles Normandy
Developer: John TillerSoftware
Software Publisher: John Tiller Software
Review Date: 7/24/16


2GM TACTICS from Draco Ideas   First of all what's with the title 2GM TACTICS ?  Well, if you saw WWII TACTICS , you wouldn't...


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

July 2016



from Draco Ideas

First of all what's with the title 2GM TACTICS?  Well, if you saw WWII TACTICS, you wouldn't be asking the question and that's exactly what the title of this game means.  Instead of our English adherence to the good old-fashioned Roman numerals II, Spanish uses 2 and Guerra Mundial [World War or technically War World].  If this were French, it would be La Deuxieme Guerre Mondiale.  However, that leads me to my main problem, namely that this is in some ways an anticipatory review, as 2GM TACTICS is currently only available in its original 2015 Spanish edition.  So, my comments will be based on the latter's physical components and the current English translation of only the basic rules.

Though the company have said that the latter will be improved for the final published edition, I've got to say that language-wise there is very little to fault either grammatically or idiomatically.  In fact, I've read plenty of professional rule books, where English is the native language  that are far less accurate in spelling and punctuation!  Oh, those dreaded apostrophes! [And I'm not just talking about the fact that Brits and Americans don't always see eye to eye on spelling the same word.]

When I received the package from the delivery service, my initial reaction was what a heavy weight for such a comparatively small parcel.

If you've watched the Kickstarter video, you should have a very good idea of the essential contents:  approx. 220 cards, of which 18 are terrain cards, while all the rest are split between two decks, one for the German side and one for the American.  What gave the game box its heft though were the 16 oblong, double-sided map tiles.  This is a feature that I really like, as virtually all previous card-based attempts to simulate part of WWII, such as The Last Crusade or Nuts! have simply relied on cards for everything - units, equipment and terrain.  Instead Draco Ideas have included a modular board that is assembled into a 4 x 3 grid oftiles that creates a playing area that is slightly larger than 27 x 18 inches.  so, a final map board is created that is larger than the standard 22 x 17 inches of a typical folio game and capable of considerable variation in its permutations of terrain.  This is an excellent design feature, especially for the basic game which the company have chosen to call Battle Royal and this basic game will have to be the main focus of my review, as this is the only section of the rule book as yet translated into English.

But, before I explore those basics in more depth,  I want to bring to your attention the rest of the extremely attractive, substantial and well produced rule book, albeit in Spanish.  though of small format, it is from front to back cover a substantial 60 pages.. All the rules for playing the game come in just the first 20 of these pages.  So, what remains in the other 40 pages?  How I wish my education had taken place in more recent years, when Spanish is as often offered as a foreign language option as French in our schools!  Why? Because those pages contain all the scenarios. [Grinding of teeth and suppressed sighs.]  First of all comes a set of eleven individual stereotypical ones such as Blitzkreig, Supplies, The Village and The Rescue to tantalise and whet my appetite, followed by two historically based ones, Arracourt and Monte Cassino.  Then - and these are what make me wish my life away until 2017, when the full English edition of this game will appear [thank goodness that the Kickstarter has already reached double the necessary amount or I might be out in the streets rounding you up to sign up]  -   there are a series of Campaigns, beginning with the Normandy landings through to The Battle of The Bulge.  In all, four Campaigns: Operation Overlord, Operation Cobra, Operation Market-garden and The Ardennes, with each campaign containing from five to seven scenarios.  Here is just the first Campaign.

To use the famous quote "I'll be back", hopefully to provide a more extensive review next year of this aspect of the English edition.

So, what does the basic game give you?  Essentially, a point-based system similar to several other card versions of warfare in WWII and in the basic game your sole objective is always to reach your opponent's HQ and destroy it.  As already mentioned, I like the fact of a modular board created from tiles .  To my surprise the boards are connected by figure of 8 shaped pieces to stop them moving about.  Here are just four of the sixteen tiles with their connecting pieces

Once assembled, they look like this.

Don't worry, if you are wondering whether the outer edge of the final layout has unsightly holes.  There are pieces provided to fill them.  Just don't be like me and in my haste to get started, didn't realise their purpose and threw some of them away.  Fortunately, there are an excess number of the connecting pieces which when cut in half exactly do the job.  Anyway, I've only got to wait till next year and I'll have a completely new English set!!

Personally, I would have preferred the tiles to have been simply straight-edged.  But, as I always go for laying plexi-glass over modular terrain to prevent shifting, that's largely an aesthetical point.  My other minor concern is how well the cardboard connectors will stand up to the wear and tear from assembling the map.  Apart from the few games I've played, I've also tested them out by simply assembling the tiles repeatedly.  The indications are that they do stand up well to the job.

However, for many gamers a more significant decision point will be the choice of graphics for the many cards that are the essence of the game, as Draco Ideas has gone solidly for a comic book look in its inspiration.  If you've watched the Kickstarter promotional video you will know what I'm talking about.  If not, the cover of the illustration of the game box at the start of my review and the samples included below should help you get a good idea.

As you can see the infantry cards are graphically the closest to cartoon style.  Though there is a small amount of necessary text [just visible on the Bomber card], as you can see they are largely icon driven for game play and these are succinctly and clearly explained in the rules.

My personal taste is for the use of historical pictures, as used in The Last Crusade [1995] or Panzer General : Assault [2010].  On the other hand the latter game proved a huge disappointment when I bought it, because of its bland and simplistic play and it cost me nearly three times the price of 2GM Tactics.  So, just as I heavily invested in Heroes of Normandie despite its graphic style not being my personal favourite, so 2GM Tactics offers more than a superficial look at the cards provides.

To return to the rule book, I've already commented on the accuracy of the current draft, but what I'm even happier about is the clarity of the rules.  They are well organised and well sequenced taking you through the essentials of the game in logical order and above all make sense at a first reading.

Though a few more illustrations would have been nice, as the text is quite dense to fit so much in, there is a good balance of examples for each important point and so far I've not picked up an example that seems to contradict the rules.  Now that is something that happens all too often in far more expensive products.  If the extensive scenario section, referred to earlier, that makes up two thirds of the rule book is as tight as this, I shall be very satisfied next year when I get my hands on the completed English edition.  [By the way, if the rule book is not yet set in stone, one small language point I would love to change is Shooting; please, please, please, could we have Combat or at least Firing instead?]

To give you some idea of what seems original for a game at this level, I'd like to list just a few instances that I particularly like:-

Supply: instead of the normal rule governing what a unit can or cannot do when it is in supply or out of supply, here the distance your troops have advanced towards the enemy HQ and the continuity of the supply line determines how many extra Action Points you get to operate with that turn.  A neat touch! 

Suppression: not the result of a die roll, but the fact that more than one unit has targeted the same unit.

Covered Movement: just the fact that, in an essentially easy and fast playing game, such things as infantry gaining cover from moving with vehicles gets included.

Additional Equipment: the combination of both cards and counters to represent additional equipment along with a distinction between equipment that is deactivated or not deactivated when used. 

Specific cards for historical Generals: including good ole George Patton and Erwin Rommel - another reason for me to long for the translation of the Campaign material!

Terrain: integral terrain on the map tiles plus additional cards such as trenches, bridges, bunkers and landing craft [for the existing Operation Overlord Campaign and The Sword Campaign that is one of the unlocked Stretch Goals], buildings.

These to me are some of the bells and whistles on a very solid set of rules that take this game beyond previous games of this scale.

All in all, this is a well designed package that in the Spanish version got things right and so, perhaps not surprisingly, has almost doubled its Kickstarter funding, with 20 days to go.  Expansion packs that bring in the British, Italians and Russians are already underway and form part of the varying  pledge levels on Kickstarter.

Even if you just buy the simple English edition, you're getting not just a basic generic fast playing tactical card game of WWII with lots of flavour and colour, but a surprisingly varied set of rules for its small footprint and the potential for a much more extended experience through the wealth of Campaigns.

Hasta La Vista!

[Pardon the cheesy ending, but I really do hope to see you later, when I return next year with a review to take in all that my typical English lack of foreign language ability has not been able to cover.]

Kickstarter Link click HERE



  Hello All, Well today saw the birth of our Forum. At the moment it's still rough around the edges and you may see new sub forum...

Forum now OPEN! Forum now OPEN!

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

July 2016

Forum now OPEN!


Hello All,

Well today saw the birth of our Forum. At the moment it's still rough around the edges and you may see new sub forums opened up in the future.

So take a look and if you fancy say hello!

Military MiniFig community in particular now has a dedicated forum to go to:)

Big thanks to Asid of Dogs of War for the kind use of his forum and server space.

Just scroll down to find our patch. Also check out other parts of the DoW forum!



Hello to you all,   I'd like to announce that A Wargamers Needful Things will be getting a forum! A place where you can all discu...

A forum!! A forum!!

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

July 2016

A forum!!

Hello to you all,

I'd like to announce that A Wargamers Needful Things will be getting a forum! A place where you can all discuss the articles published here to your hearts content. Or just chat about the particular blog section you have an interest in! The forum will have a section for Game reviews, Minifigs, Toy Soldiers, Books, Model Making and finally a General section. Hopefully a re enactment section will open when the re enactment section opens on the blog.

Hopefully sooner rather than later I will post some more details as well as the link to the forum.

AWNT will then have a Blog, Facebook page and a Forum. Not sure if I'll do twitter though:)

Thanks for your time


AWNT team.


News summary   Just writing a quick note to tell you all about who has recently come on board and agreed to have their products ...

A quick update A quick update

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

July 2016

A quick update

News summary


Just writing a quick note to tell you all about who has recently come on board and agreed to have their products reviewed by our little team.
Casemate Publishing (Book Reviews)
Tradition of London (Toy Soldiers\Miniatures)
Consim Press (Boardgames)
Sean O'Connor (Firefight PC game)

Edvesium Games (Europes largest Game and Toy supplier. They deal with Fantasy Flight Games for instance)
I have also sent out feelers to many other companies covering all areas of the blog.
So far feedback has been great both from you the readers (we are nothing without you) and the companies we deal with. I'm hoping this is just the start and we can announce more big names in the future.
If you are a Game Designer, Developer, Publisher (books and games), Toy Soldier company, MiniFig company, Model Kit company or any other business that would fit in with the blog and you'd like us to review your current\future products then please get in touch at 
If you know someone who maybe interested then please contact them and give them my email address. Or you can just send me their contact details and I'll do the rest. THe more variety we have the better the blog will be.
Thanks for reading
AWNT team


A selection of MiniFigs R Us parts line up for inspection. This time we have a selection of Torso's and legs rather than complete Mi...

MiniFigs R Us: Review MiniFigs R Us: Review

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

July 2016

MiniFigs R Us: Review

A selection of MiniFigs R Us parts line up for inspection.

This time we have a selection of Torso's and legs rather than complete MiniFigs. We have a good selection of WWII US Army torso's and a few German torso's with the odd legs thrown in:)

First up with have an US Army WWII Infantry Torso M1. Excellent print work and colour choices.  Front has ammo pouches and back has rucksack and canteen. Retails $6.00

Here we have US Army WWII Infantry Torso Bar. Now at first glance I looks just like the US Infantry Torso M1. However close scrutiny shows the ammo pouches are slightly bigger on this torso the Bar torso. This is the kind of detail MiniFigsRUs are going into here with these MiniFigs. Great Print Quality as well. Retails $6.00

Here we have US Infantry Torso Medic. Instead of ammo pouches he has two large pouches for his medical gear. Also has the Red Cross on his left arm. Excellent details and print quality again. Retails $6.00

The last US Infantry torso is for Infantry Thompson. This time his pouches are for his Thompson machine gun. Like the others great colour choice and superb print quality. Retails $6.00

 Here we have a German WWII Winter Poncho MP40. Great detail and print quality. Ammo pouches for his MP40 sub machine gun.  Really loving MiniFigsRUs work so far. Retails $6.00

German Luftwaffe Flak Crew. You wont find many Luftwaffe Flak Crew uniforms I'm sure so snap this one up! Essential for any Flak diorama. Excellent historical details. Can't be faulted. Retails $6.00

German DAK K98 (Olive). Another fine piece. This time we are out in the African desert with the Afrika Korps. Maybe Rommel himself we inspect this uniform at some point! Though no worries as the uniform will pass with flying colours. Great details including the Iron cross ribbon and Corporal rank insignia on left arm. He is all set to go fight in the African heat (well once he gets his head and helmet!). Retails $6.50.


Muddy Gaiters! Here we have a set of muddy gaiters. Perfect for any MiniFig fighting in muddy terrain! Can't be faulted. Retails $5.00

So that's the first MiniFigsRUs review. Really enjoyed them. My love for military MiniFigs keeps on growing. Can't wait for future MiniFigsRUs releases! Go check out the website. They have some excellent US Airborne Torso and Legs sets! They also do custom Minifigs where you can submit your design to them. So you could have your Dad or yourself as a MiniFig! I'd like to have Steiner and his platoon from Cross of Iron! That would be to much..may have to save my pennies!!


PHANTOM LEADER DELUXE VIETNAM AERIAL COMBAT GAME FROM DAN VERSSEN GAMES Prior to Phantom Leader Deluxe , my experience of air w...


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

July 2016






Prior to Phantom Leader Deluxe, my experience of air war games was fairly limited.  Or, perhaps what I should say is that the number of games simulating the war in the air that I liked was very limited.  First and foremost was John Butterfield's original solitaire RAF and its solitaire and two-player remake of the same name and the very light, but enjoyable Wings of Glory.  Other than those two, most other air games had left me cold, often because the mechanics were so convoluted and distinctly user unfriendly.  Some, like Avalon Hill's Flight Leader, I confess I just found boring.

Perhaps, by now, you're wondering why I agreed to accept this particular review.  Mainly, it was because of the publisher, Dan Verssen Games [hereafter DVG], who produce top-notch quality games that I have particularly experienced through their Field Commander series.  Secondly, I had heard very positive things said about the whole Leader series of air games.

"one sumptuous, deep, glossy box"

Phantom Leader Deluxe certainly did not let me down on the question of quality.  One sumptuous, deep, glossy box surpassed even my expectations based on my experience of Field Commander Alexander and Field Commander Napoleon.  The contents no less so, especially the thick, high quality counters that, with their rounded corners, just press out perfectly with no dog-eared corners to laboriously trim off.  Considering the sheer number of counters, that's one big chore out of the way, even for someone like me who can find counter-clipping therapeutic!

"high quality counters"

But it's the stunning packs of cards that blow you away.  First of all there are separate packs for ten different USAF aircraft and nine Navy aircraft.  Not surprisingly, considering the title of the game the number of Phantoms predominates, but add in evocative names like the F-101 Voodoo or the F-102 Delta Dagger and all together you have seven new types of aircraft included in the Deluxe version.  In total there are 19 types of aircraft and 90 aircraft, with each of those aircraft having a different named pilot with three separate double-sided cards that take him from Newbie all the way to Ace.  So, if you've done your maths that's 270 cards in the box just to cover the aircraft - all in full colour with the plane set against a steely blue sky and the key stats in the bottom section of the card.

"the number of Phantoms predominates"

Above you have a typical average USAF F-4 Phantom with the pilot whose call-sign is Smokes with his array of information.   A vast spectrum to choose from with small gradations of ability in the modifiers for ATA [Air-to-Air] and ATG [Air-to-Ground] targets and all affected by whether the pilot status is OK or Shaken, as is his speed.  The guy up there, as you can see, is SLOW whatever his stress level!. 

This degree of choice of aircraft and pilot and then the range of armaments that each plane can carry has led to a few criticisms of detail overload.  As someone with NO modern [or at least relatively modern] knowledge of aircraft, seeing that we are primarily in the period of the Vietnam War, I can sympathise.  But, if you are really so concerned, you could choose just to fly phantoms or use the rulebook's optional rule for how to draw a random set of aircraft.  I certainly would not be put off buying this game, because it contains too much

Beside having so many beautiful aircraft cards, there are cards for Targets and Events.  Here  is the very first target that I came up against - the Barracks.

The card provides details of the enemy aircraft [Bandits] and enemy ground sites that you will come up against.  At first sight that doesn't look too bad, but there are four approach areas, one in each of the compass points, so that's eight potential enemy sites and four bandits and three more sites and two bandits in the centre where the target is!!  The card also tells you how many VPs, Recon pts and Intelligence pts you'll earn depending on how many hits you land on the target.

Much of this involves new additional rules for the Deluxe version.  In the original, it was destroy/fail to destroy your target, as pure and simple as that and VPs or no VPs.  I really like this development that allows for degrees of success.  [Hollow laugh ... on this first mission I scored no hits on the target, lost two out of my four planes and the other two came back so stressed they immediately had to be rested!  Please don't ask if I've got any better.]

And here are my valiant fellows; call signs Jagger, Misty, Smokes and Digger.  The centre two are the planes that went down and the outer two are the ones that survived.

Before I comment on the rule book, there is one last type of card to show you - Events.  During a mission three will be drawn - one Target-Bound, one Over-Target and the last one Home-Bound.  Each card has three sections and you apply the appropriate text according to which stage of the mission you are at.

As you can see, Bandits was my Target-Bound card and Forward Air Controllers my Over-Target card.

And so to the Rulebook.  A very nice product in full colour and glossy paper. One major surprise and drawback is that there is no index.  In part, this may be because the rules, after explaining all the components, take you through the sequence of play step-by-step in the chronology of how the game plays.  As thorough and clear as these rules are,  like any set when you are first learning and playing with them, you will certainly need to check and refer back.  An index should be a requisite part, if only for ease of play, and as the back page of the rulebook is used merely to advertise many other DVG games, this was an unnecessary omission.

An initial skim through quickly established that methodical planning would be the early part of the game.  First up is your choice of Campaign map and there are 8 to choose from, three set at different periods of the Vietnam war ranging from 1965 - 72 and one set during the Cuban Missile  Crisis of 1962.  Each Campaign has a separate USAF and Navy copy with varying targets and the possibility of playing Short, Medium or Long Campaigns.  This wide range of scenarios and variable targets, plus the range of aircraft and pilots make for great replay value.

Then on to selecting the pool of aircraft and pilots that will be available during the campaign.  The longer the campaign, the more pilots you will select for your pool, as a Short campaign typically involves four days and up to twelve days for a Long campaign.  Each day begins with drawing two target cards to choose from and the choice is not just a simple "which do I fancy having a go at."  Each target comes with a political cost that is marked on the Political track on your Campaign card. so that you may find you don't have enough political points to go for either target.  Consequences being that you may have a day of rest or spend some of the Special Ops points that come with a Campaign to buy other targets to choose from.

Rolling Thunder 1967

Here's the typical start of a Campaign, the first day's target has been chosen, the Political points cost marked on the appropriate track and the Target marker placed on the mini-map.  Notice the other two Tracks are for Recon and Intel- both of these may be affected favourably by the degree of success achieved in missions flown during a Campaign.

Then it's move to the core of the game's action and the mounted board on which it will be played out.
This display is clear and totally functional, with a very helpful Turn sequence on the right-hand side and locations for the Target cards and Event cards.

You now have five turns in which to move from the entry point of your flight path to its exit point diametrically opposite where you entered.  Once more this is a detail I like and, I would say an improvement on some of the other Leader games, as you have to do more than just get to the target and drop your bombs.  Now you have to make your exit too!  Your aircraft don't all have to appear at the same Entry point, but if they enter at different points then their Exit points will be also be different.  There is some latitude here, as an aircraft can leave by an area adjacent to its Exit point.

Each of the five turns starts with combat or in this game's term Aircraft Attack Sequence.  If your aircraft is Fast, it will fire before the enemy does: if Slow, the enemy will fire first.  Though there is a good number of aspects affecting fire, I found them very easy to remember and use.  Perhaps the most obvious and important is Altitude.  Many of the Sites you will come up against can only hit you if you're flying at Low Altitude - so, just fly over them at High Altitude.  The next is range; often you can get in a shot before the enemy because you have better range, but beware those enemies that can fire at range, I've found them deadly.

Add in the possibility of Suppression and Evasion, Soft targets and Radar targets, AtA and AtG weaponry, changing altitude and you get a very good narrative and atmospheric feel to the heart of this game.  With named pilots, I felt far more of an RPG effect than in most war games I play.  Each roll, especially when the enemy has you in his sights, is a tense moment.  As with any solitaire game, an iron will is needed to accept the die and see your aircraft tumbling out of the sky.

It's Not Over Until The Fat Lady Sings!

You've not finished yet.  I love the final sequences after the mission has been flown.  Remember those planes I lost on my first mission flight out, well, they're not necessarily gone for ever as there is a Search and Rescue Phase with a 50/50 chance of survival.  Both mine did survive, but as always there is a stress cost.

And then comes Debriefing, with hopefully some element of VPs, Intelligence pts and Recon pts depending on the amount of damage scored on the Target.  As your Intelligence improves, the number of targets you can choose from for a Mission increases, while Reconnaissance reduces the number of Sites and Bandits you will come up against in later Missions. 

In this final phase of the game, the last factor and for me is the effects of all those Stress points piling up on your pilots.  Now you have to assess the following: who can continue to fly, who must be rested [above a certain level and you are grounded until those stress points have been reduced], the effect of MIA [Missing in Action] pilots on all your other pilots stress levels.  You don't lose buddies without it having an impact on you. 

You can even Transfer highly stressed pilots out of your team and get a replacement.....but have you guessed what's coming next.  Sure, a new pilot to the team, can you rely on him - consequences, a bit more stress for each of your existing team!!

One final tip before my round-up.  The Campaign Log for recording your Missions and pilot progression will take a lot of bashing if you try to use it to record changing Stress levels during a Mission.  So, making a simple chart for each Mission's pilots that logs the ongoing stress accumulation is well worth the few minutes it takes to knock one up on the computer. [it also adds to the RPG element, I've talked about.]

So, what are my final thoughts and conclusions?  At the start, I gave you my reasons for taking on this review.  Am I glad that I did make that decision.  Above all, I've had a great time playing this game.  More than anything, I've been surprised how much I've enjoyed the preparation and planning stage.  I had thought I'd find this a tad tedious and would want to hurry through, but I now feel this is an integral and enjoyable part of the whole game experience.

I still consider myself very much a newbie and am a long way off knowing what aircraft are best for a particular job and what armament.  But, the rule book has a very detailed Section on each aircraft and each weapon that repays the time spent on repeated reading through.

As to flying the Missions and the whole campaign shebang, love every minute of it.  Never thought I could be rooting so much for an aircraft card with its call sign Digger and whether it would make it through its mission.  Phantom Leader has been a great experience and one I can thoroughly recommend to you.

[Schnell! Schnell! Das Boot.....Torpedoes away.  Dive! Dive!

Having been allowed to take to the skies with Phantom Leader there are rumours that I may be allowed to sink beneath the waves with U-Boat Leader and its American counterpart Gato Leader.

However, until that is confirmed, perhaps you'd like to dip into one of my own collection and march with me in a couple of weeks to the Somme, where you'll be up to your neck in muck and bullets, with Richard Borg's The Great War.]


Sopwith Triplane Build. (Updated 20th Feb 2017)    

Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris WingNuts build Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris WingNuts build

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

July 2016

Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris WingNuts build

Sopwith Triplane Build. (Updated 20th Feb 2017)



New Model Making Section    Hello and welcome to the latest section of the Blog. Here you will be able to follow talented, mod...

Welcome! Welcome!

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

July 2016


New Model Making Section


Hello and welcome to the latest section of the Blog.

Here you will be able to follow talented, model kit makers as they build their latest masterpiece, turning a few sprees of plastic into a jaw dropping scale model. One day I will give it a go myself, though I always worry I'll ruin something as soon as I put paint on it!

I also hope at some point we can review new kits that will be hitting the shelves near you.

I hope this becomes a popular section of the blog.




Steve Smith Wargame Vault Interrogation  Steve Smith runs Wargame Vault . I’m sure most wargamers have browsed the Wargame Vault w...

Steve Smith Wargame Vault Interrogation Steve Smith Wargame Vault Interrogation

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

July 2016

Steve Smith Wargame Vault Interrogation

Steve Smith Wargame Vault Interrogation

Steve Smith runs Wargame Vault. I’m sure most wargamers have browsed the Wargame Vault website if not made a purchase or two or five or ten.. For those who don’t know Wargame Vault it’s rather unusual for a wargame online store. They deal mainly with rulebooks for miniature wargames or print old classic wargames long out of print in their original boxed format. Take the classic Upfront, a game many consider the greatest board wargame ever released. The actual game can be bought in separate parts, so the games card sets are separate purchases as is the rulebook which can be bought in either a PDF version or printed. I purchased Upfront from them myself but at the time the rulebook was PDF only, however recently they have released a printed version which I jumped at. The best way for you to understand how they work is to go visit the website yourself. Whilst there I’m sure you’ll find something that takes your fancy. So with that in mind in another expertly carried out covert operation we managed to kidnap Steve Smith, take him to a secure location and start out interrogation!

The following is a transcript of our "chat" with Mr Smith, recorded on our special ACME interrogation recording device.

First we will fire a round of quick fire questions at you…what the wires..lie detector of course.. Pardon…funny that last one sat there said there was no need for all this aswell, but we will be the judge of that!! Now remember no lies..oh and we have ways of making your talk!!

Name? Steve Smith

Age? 55

Current whereabouts? Northern Indiana, USA

Favourite TV program? Archer

Favourite Music genre? Metal/Rock

Favourite band\musician? Many! Metallica, Judas Priest, Queensryche to Static X and 5 Finger Death Punch!

Favourite Film? Dune

Favourite period of history? WWII

Favourite Superhero? Deadpool

Favourite colour? Blue

Favourite animal? Dogs

Lucky number? 26

Spitfire or P51? P51

Panther or T34? Panther

BF 109 or FW 190? FW 190

Patton or Rommel? Patton

Interesting, very interesting. Now be good, answer the questions and all will go well!

What was your profession pre Wargame Vault and what year did you start up the business?

Well, like many folks in the wargame business I have a day job as well as a job in the hobby. I know most wargamers think us guys in the wargame business live like rock stars, but sadly it's not true! I am a machinist in my day job.

As mentioned in the introduction Wargame Vault is pretty unique in the way it runs compared to other wargame shops on the net. I’d love to know what sparked the initial idea and how you went about setting it all up to become the successful business it is today. So could you give us a run down on how you came by the initial idea and then turned that idea into a viable business, including the highs and lows of the process and if there were any hurdles you had to overcome?

Well, it actually wasn't my idea, I just fell into it! Wargame Vault is actually an offshoot of DriveThruRPG/RPGNow. These sites were owned by and run by several guys including Steve Weick, Mike Todd and James Mathe. They had been successfully running digital download sites since 2001 for RPG rules and such, way before downloading anything was cool. As time went on they were getting more and more wargaming material loaded up, and being mainly RPG/Larp folks they weren't familiar with the material, manufacturers or the unique genre that wargaming is.

At the time (2007) Sean Patrick Fannon was employed as Publisher Relations for RPGNow. Sean and I had worked together for GAMA running the GAMA Trade Show and the Origins Game Convention, and he knew that I had been into wargaming for many years. So, when they decided that they needed a separate site for Wargame downloads they needed someone who knew the ground, and Sean brought up my name. They offered me the job and I took it! Nine years later it's still the best job I've ever had.

Starting out was a bit rough at first, selling wargame authors and publishers on the idea of selling games without printing them! We acquired Mongoose's Wargame Downloads website at the launch and gained a good number of titles, and when we kept sending out royalties checks to publishers every month others began to take notice. Also, downloading content became more commonplace, even among grognards! Our goal has always been to have every wargame ever made to be available on our site, so I just kept bugging authors and publishers thru emails and at shows and conventions and we eventually became the largest digital wargame publisher on the net.

If someone was thinking about starting up an online wargame store what advice would you give and is there anything they really need to watch out for?

Do you have any pointers that might set them in the right direction? I would say get the best IT/Technical people you can. If your site doesn't work right nobody will use it. We have been very fortunate in having some great folks on staff writing code for us and fixing technical issues, guys like Mike Todd, Chuck Childers and others who really know what they're doing. Also, customer service is incredibly important, as is knowing what you're selling. 

My introduction was a rather poor attempt to explain how Wargame Vault works. So what’s best is if you could explain what Wargame Vault does and how it works including who can use it and what the costs and terms are etc?

How we work is really very simple. Authors and publishers make an account and upload their titles to their "storefront" on our site. They can use about any format they like, but PDF works best. They can also set up titles to be printed on demand and sent to customers anywhere in the world thru our print houses in the U.S. and U.K.
We can handle about anything, books, cards, cardstock terrain and minis, board games, 3-D printing files, audio books, PC games, etc. The authors set their own prices and margin and what they choose to offer on the site. There are no out-of-pocket costs, as we engage in revenue sharing. We only make money if a title sells. When a title sells the publisher gets 70% or 65% depending on whether they are an exclusive digital publisher with us or not. We get the remainder.

We handle the storefront, site upkeep, digital storage, security watermarking on pdf's, real-time bookkeeping, tax forms, limited advertising, printing and shipping for printed titles and royalty payout thru Paypal or check. We also can digitize products for folks who have a hard copy but not a digital copy of a work, which is great for long out of print titles made before electronic means were available. We pretty much handle everything except the actual creation of the title.

How does your service work for the publishers?

Probably the best part of our service for publishers is the ease of use. Once titles are loaded they really just need to cash out thru Paypal! For publishers and authors that use our print service, they do away with minimum orders thru traditional printers, no warehousing, no shipping and no cost to sell their products. Customers place their order, we print it and ship it, the author gets paid royalties. Simple!

Where are you based?

We are truly a "virtual" office. I'm in Indiana, our servers and tech folks are in Georgia, Florida and I don't know all where, our Publisher Relations folks are in Illinois, Wisconsin, Georgia, the boss lives in Canada! We all work from home, wherever that may be. I've worked with some people for almost a decade and never actually met them. Publishing has changed over the years!

What formats do you support?

pdf, jpg, epub, mobi, html, stl, audio, video, print

How do you pay royalties?

We pay royalties by Paypal that can be cashed out at any time or at the end of the month automatically, or by check at the end of the month.

What options do publishers and authors have on our site?

Publishers can be as active as they wish. They can spruce up their storefronts in any number of ways, run sales, update rule sets, load new ones, remove others, advertise on the site using our virtual currency, or use us for crowd-funding fulfilments. Or not. They are in control of how they want to use our service and offer their products.

What’s been the most popular rule set\product you’ve sold?

We've had lots of great selling publishers. Rottenlead has sold well, Ivan at Nordic Weasel cranks out great stuff all the time, Admiralty Trilogy Group, Amarillo Design Bureau, Dave Graffam Models, Ganesha Games, MicroMark Army Lists, Mongoose, Steel Dreadnought Games, Osprey and many others have sold very well. But likely the best seller recently has been the one you mentioned earlier, the previously out of print Avalon Hill game Up Front and it's expansions released by Wizards of the Coast. We will continue to try to bring back old AH products in print format as we are able.

What era is the most popular?

From WWII to the present has been the most popular, but then there are a lot of WWII games out there too!

What era is the least?

The War of Jenkin's Ear doesn't sell particularly well.

Do you have a favourite rule set? If so which one is it and what makes it stand out for you?

I don't really have a favorite, I'll play anything!

What’s your favourite era to game?

WWII and ancients.

Do you play digital wargames? If so any favourites?

Rarely play digital games, but I have played a bit of Hegemony which I think is a great game.

As some will already know it’s not just Wargame Vault but you also have DriveThruRPG as well. DriveThruRPG runs exactly the same way. So if you enjoy your RPG’s as well then there’s double the reason to go check out the website!

And not just the RPG sites! We do have DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, but also DriveThruCards, DriveThruFiction, DriveThruComics, and DNDClassics. If it's gaming or Geek related we want to offer it!

You’ve been very cooperative! I see a very successful future for you!

Thank you for the opportunity, and I wish the same for you!

[Bob, tell me that’s not sirens…well what is it then…what! said it wasn’t sirens…aaarrghh..Steve we shall contact you soon about recruitment into our organisation..but first we have to Bob run!!] (sounds of someone running into something, loud clattering sounds, faint cursing..tape ends)