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THE GREAT WAR Command & Colours After my successful venture into the clouds and, for me, the less familiar realm of aerial warf...

The Great War: Review The Great War: Review

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

August 2016

The Great War: Review


Command & Colours

After my successful venture into the clouds and, for me, the less familiar realm of aerial warfare with Phantom Leader, this next game brings me back to a period which I am much more versed in, namely WWI.  Not so many years ago in terms of board games, the period was still comparatively unrepresented and, though Ted Raicer's ground breaking Paths of Glory in 1999 stimulated the interest of designers and gamers alike, the period of The great War remains very much the poor relation in comparison with the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and WWII.

When it has been gamed, the level has been predominantly strategic or operational, with only a rare few treating the tactical sphere.  Step in the doyen of tactical systems, Command & Colours, created by Richard Borg [and there's a system I am totally at home with].  First I marched with Lee & Grant on the ACW battlefields in the original BattleCry and its more recent excellent remake and upgrade.  Then came Memoir 44 and here I fought from the hell of Stalingrad and the burning sands of North Africa to Normandy and beyond with add-on after add-on, including the immense 9 maps of the Normandy beaches and the paratroop landing sites.  Most recently Samurai Battles took me to the exotic conflicts of Japan, perhaps best known from the films of Kurosawa.

While stepping out with the many plastic soldiers of these games, I was equally involved with marshalling the wooden blocks for the GMT treatment of the same system.  I began with Romans & Carthaginians and quickly acquired the first expansion Greece & Eastern Kingdoms, if only to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great.  I've fought the Barbarians and the Civil Wars of Caesar and Pompey.  This time I wasn't quite so all-embracing in my need to own everything - and so never acquired the Imperial Romans or Spartans.

Then the Napoleonic Wars beckoned and the drum and fife led me over the hills and far away to Spain in the first expansion and later to Russia and Austria, though not yet to the Prussian expansion and more recent additions.  Once again poor old WWI lagged behind, but eventually in 2015, there arrived The Great War.

Perhaps it's no surprise for the war that is so linked in our minds with WWII that the physical treatment has followed the path of Memoir 44 and given us plastic figures rather then wooden blocks - especially as the publisher is PSC [the Plastic Soldier Company].  Also considering the latter producers, it does mean that the figures come in six sprues and so need detaching. 

What a furore that stirred up!  There have been many complaints about this and the quality of the figures and I must admit that, despite care and the use of the appropriate clippers, a few of my figures did end up sporting what look more like shotguns than rifles with bayonets.  If you aren't familiar with using the right tools then the number of shortened guns may rise, but comments indicating the loss of all or part of a limb suggest to me that totally the wrong sort of cutting tool has been pressed into service!  In particular, I wouldn't recommend any sort of knife, however sharp.  Once set up, it has been hard for me to spot any of my slightly shortened rifles.

Here you should be able to notice, but later on the map I think you'll find it more difficult.

The other feature is that the machine gun figures do need assembling and gluing - again a very minor job that took little time and effort, though I'd suggest using tweezers to hold one part as you glue it to another [there are only three separate bits!]  Once put together they look very effective, though storing them separately is to be recommended both for ease of finding and to avoid any damage. 

Having said that, if you are at all familiar with Zvesda plastic figures which were used in Samurai Battles which really do need tricky assembly and have very fine and easily broken weapons, these PSG figures are sturdy and moulded as a single unit, except for the machine gunners.  A single storage box contains all my models, allowing the three sets of four figures that make up each machine gun unit and mortar unit to be kept separate from the bulk of the infantry and so very easy to identify for set up purposes.

A final point about these models is the variety of poses; unlike Memoir 44's identical infantry, there is a good range of different stances, as well as the special Bomber figure [an infantry man throwing a hand grenade] that acts like markers do in some of the other C&C games to identify a special unit.

A gloriously well-filled box!

From plastic we move to cardboard.  The double-sided board is excellent.  First of all the title The Great War is discreetly placed at each opposing edge and not splashed across the centre of the board in large letters, as the word ANCIENTS was!  Secondly, one side is a strong green and the other an all too appropriate brown that conveys those deadly muddy landscapes.  It is also deeper than the typical C&C board with 12 hexes by 11 hexes, making for an almost square board, but divided as is essential by the familiar dotted lines into the usual three sections: Left Flank, Centre and Right Flank.

Additional terrain pieces are more limited in variety than usual with a few building hexes, eight hill and nine forest hex overlays and then a plethora of trench hexes that you will certainly be placing a good number of in all scenarios.  Added to these are oblong pieces that have wire on one side and shell craters on the other.  Most scenarios begin with a preliminary round that will turn quite a number of hexes in the No-Man's-Land between the two armies into such shell holes.  All are of very thick, strong card and my single wish is that the wire/crater terrain had also been hex-shaped, as inevitably the four figures that make up each infantry unit tend to be slightly more difficult to move onto the oblong pieces and also tend to fall off the edges.

With all my C&C games, I prefer to lay a sheet of plexi-glass on top of the board once terrain tiles have been set up to avoid them shifting during the game play.  With The Great War, I'd very strongly recommend this practice or you will almost certainly find your trench lines regularly shifting and needing readjusting unless you have a very light and dexterous touch.  [Stop muttering that I must have ten thumbs!]  Added to that, the overlays for wire and the inevitable craters then sit comfortably on top of the plexi-glass, as seen below - hence the slightly blurred effect from the reflection.

Scenario 4 Loos

The British Advance on the Hohenzollern redoubt

Above you can see a small section of what is a typical lay-out.  As a brief aside, before I continue with the description of the contents of the game.  That image of  a solid line of British infantry advancing on a thinly held sector is very deceptive.  It is one you will repeatedly see in most of the scenarios, but what happened in this particular game in question is also one you will encounter frequently.  Some of those units will make it to the enemy trenches.  The ones that do will have taken losses and several won't get there at all.  Those two German units plus one of those hurrying from the back lines actually held on until the end of the game!

Rounding out these substantial terrain pieces are the circular Victory medals familiar to all the C&C games [Ok, I know that in some of them they are square shaped], two hexagonal artillery templates, lots of square HQ markers and several Reserve Artillery markers.  The need for these latter items and their use constitute some of the features that give The Great War its distinctive flavour, especially when compared with its big brother, Memoir 44.

Victory Medals - round not square!

As always there are packs of essential cards.  In this case, a Command deck and a Combat deck.  the former will be familiar to anyone who has played any other C&C game.  The Command deck is the engine that drives the whole game, containing the standard Section cards that designate how many units and in which section[s] they can be activated. and the Tactics cards that allow for special circumstances, such as a number of units in adjacent/linked hexes to be activated, imitating the card that your opponent has just played or the rare replacement card that allows you to gain back a soldier or two.

However, the Combat deck introduces a new element that I think is essential to the successful simulation of this war.  You are allowed a maximum of five Combat cards in your hand and each scenario will determine how many you start with and the basic rules explain how you gain more during the course of the game.  A single Combat card may be played in each Player turn, most often in conjunction with your Command card. 

Most of all, these Combat cards add so much to the feel of the game, as just a few titles will show:  Butt & Bayonet, Gas Attack and Trench Raid.  But none could be more evocative of those early jerky film footages we have once more become so familiar with this year or the last few moments of Blackadder Goes Forth than the card Advance Over The Top.

Even the rather sombre colouring of the cards both back and front with the slightly faded sepia images and small, thin lettering play their part in getting the atmosphere right.

The key twist to using these cards is that generally you have to pay for the cost of playing a card with HQ tokens and, like any good innovative rule, it presents tense decisions, as HQ tokens are also the essential element to calling in Reserve Artillery.  Which is the most pressing need at the moment?  Pay for a Combat card to hopefully tip the balance at a crucial moment or pay one HQ token per artillery die and it's rarely worth rolling less than 3 dice for artillery?  Such difficult choices are a prime element for me in most successful games.

The new and significant HQ counters

What else is new? 

To be expected is the machine gun unit, already mentioned in connection with assembling figures.  What was unexpected was that its range is only one hex more than that of an ordinary infantryman!  But, fire two machine guns at the same target and you add the dice together, a simple and effective way of achieving the benefit of cross-fire.

Perhaps, even more unexpected is the lack of on-board artillery units [though there are still a few mortar units]. Instead, the Reserve Artillery is an off-board token with a designated maximum fire power for the scenario and, as explained, each point of power equals one die and has to be paid for with an HQ token.  Another clever feature is the accompanying artillery template, a satisfyingly chunky piece, the size of a map board hex. 

Off-board Reserve Artillery Tokens

and Artillery templates

In a very simple mechanic, it achieves the effect of accuracy, scatter and intensity at one go.  Place the template [whose hex sides are numbered 1 to 6] on, or rather hold it above, your target hex and roll the dice.  Each die roll achieves a hit on the corresponding adjacent hex, but any doubles or more also add that number of hits on the target hex.  Achieve 3 hits on the target hex in this way by rolling the same number three times and any terrain defence modifier is negated and, after resolving fire, a crater marker is placed.

However, those hits do not mean automatic kills.  You still need to roll the ordinary Combat dice for each hit to see what the shelling has achieved.  Obviously some will have fallen into empty hexes and it's just possible that the Combat dice aren't smiling on you today either.  But, be warned: close your infantry units up for the Push and you can guarantee that those artillery shells will come raining down on their plastic heads!

On to those same Combat dice - something old, something new here:

Old : an infantry symbol kills an infantry figure [but also New, as you then deduct a number of infantry kills for the hex's terrain modifier], a flag symbol causes a push back [retreat a unit one hex, for any of you who are experiencing the Command & Colours system for the first time!].

New: a Burst symbol [looks like an explosion] immediately kills a figure, a Skull symbol only kills in certain circumstances and a Star symbol earns you one of those crucial HQ tokens.

Victory remains the same as in all C&C games: each Scenario tells you how many Victory medals win the game and the first to reach that number is the immediate winner.  Each unit killed earns you a Victory medal and many Scenarios award them for taking and holding geographical objectives as well. 

Inevitably, for a set of scenarios that focus entirely on trench warfare, one side is always going to have more units and be on the attack while the other has fewer and is on the defence.  What then stops the player on the attack from sitting back and pounding the enemy with his Reserve Artillery power, until a portion of the line is weak enough to be assaulted? 

The Great War has taken the decision to force the pace by allowing the Defender [in 13 Scenarios, the Germans and in only one Scenario, the British!] to play a Reconnaissance card and instead of the normal ability to take two cards and choose one, the player can simply take the normal single replacement card and a Victory medal as well.

This I accepted and adapted to fairly quickly, but my friend and opponent in all things wargaming was far less sanguine about the rule and felt it was an artificial solution.  So far, I haven't encountered any complaints on the main internet sites I frequent, such as Consimworld or Boardgamegeek.

Of more concern to me has been the similarity of the Scenarios, as indicated above.  As yet, I haven't tired of playing what are very similar situations, because they've all provided tense situations with a very effective feel of the WWI trenches and, of course, there is the expansion that provides TANKS!!!! 

But, in discussing the Scenarios, I'm rushing on rather to the last part of the rule book.  In total, cover to cover, it runs to 52 pages of A4 and is a handsome, glossy  production.  But, don't be worried by the length.  18 pages cover the 16 scenarios and another 10 explain terrain, Command cards, Tactic cards and Combat cards - all with a great deal of elegant white space!  4 pages describe the components and 2 the Set-Up.  In all, a mere 10 pages cover the rules themselves, with an additional 5 focusing on all the new elements.

Initially, I found it slightly more difficult to grasp everything and the first game did involve quite a lot of checking and referring back to the rules.  In part, I think that was as much due to the extensive knowledge I have of so many other C&C games getting in the way of mastering the new ideas.  After a few sessions, I soon found that The Great War is easier to play and remember than virtually any of my other many C&C games, with rarely any need  to turn to the rule book.

Having hesitated from buying the game, because I wondered whether I really did need another C&C game, I can safely say that I'm glad my craving for just one more got the better of me.  Add it to your collection too.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.


U-BOAT LEADER from DAN VERSSEN GAMES As hoped for, having soared to great heights gaining my pilot's wings over Vietnam in Phan...

U Boat Leader by DVG Games Review U Boat Leader by DVG Games Review

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

August 2016

U Boat Leader by DVG Games Review


As hoped for, having soared to great heights gaining my pilot's wings over Vietnam in Phantom Leader, I have been allowed to sound the chilling depths of the North Sea and Mid-Atlantic with U-Boat Leader.  Having surprised myself with the amount of enjoyment I gained from an air war simulation, I had little doubt that a topic I have always liked, namely submarine warfare, would immediately appeal.  Being part of a series, I was not surprised to find that there are many similar features to both games.  But would that make for disappointment or would two totally different environments be capable of being successfully simulated by similar mechanics?  Before solving that key question, let's take the traditional peak inside the box at the physical components.

Once again quality stands high on the agenda ranging from the same deep strong box with its beautiful artwork, counters of even greater richness and thickness and visually first-class cards.  For me, the sombre brown, shading to sepia of the illustrations of ships seen through the periscope lens and the faded writing are perfect for conjuring up the period and ambiance of the game, but they may evoke different responses, especially if striking colour is more to your taste. 

What has definitely caused a degree of concern and complaint has been a number of significant production errors.  None of them prevent you from playing the game, but they do raise questions.  Above all, virtually all the cards depicting the surface ships [Merchants, Escorts and Naval] have been printed on the front as Merchants.  DVG has an excellent record on customer care  and they have been swift to reassure buyers that complete new decks will be supplied, but this will take at least a couple of months.

In the meantime, in practical terms of playing the game, this can swiftly be sorted out by comparing the ship counters with the cards and the correct three decks created.  But to save you time, the Escort cards are those numbered from 86 -100 and the Naval cards are those numbered 101-112.  The simple process of using sleeves with different coloured backs is a further quick way to make sure that you don't have to go through the process of sorting at the beginning of each game.  Having been a gamer since 1976, it's no big deal for me, but I can quite understand and sympathise with those for whom this is a very off-putting factor.

The problem seems to stem from the printers, but even more disconcerting is that the main play aid [labelled Help Sheet], which contains important rule sequences, wrongly contains the old Combat routine instead of the new 2nd edition ones.  Again the mistake can be easily overcome by referring to the rule book, but as one of the main criticisms of the 1st edition was the simplistic and unsatisfying Combat rules, there must have been considerable focus on this element.  So, this mistake really should not have been allowed to get through.  I'm hoping that like the cards this will be corrected for those who have already received the game, though so far I am unaware of any pronouncement from the company on this.

[This is the mounted board Help Sheet.  The incorrect Combat Sequence is in the bottom left corner and as you can see the central pile contains all the Escort cards wrongly printed as Merchant cards and to their right are the Naval cards, again, apart from the two I've put on top of the pile, wrongly printed as Merchant cards.]

These drawbacks will sadly deter some from ever buying the game and will cause many to justifiably wait until they are sure all has been put right.  However, my personal major disappointment is the Tactical Display Board on which all the direct action between submarines and the vessels that they encounter is performed.  As it stands, it looks the part, but small is definitely not to be considered good here.  This central focus of the game takes the form of a sonar display and the quadrants are barely large enough to hold more than two ship/submarine counters, as the picture below shows. 

the Tactical Display Board contained in the 2nd edition

Considering that in Phantom Leader [PH from now on] the equivalent board is twice the size and excellent in every respect, I was puzzled about this reduction.  Fortunately, I received, along with my review copy of the game, the U-Boat Leader and Gato Leader Ship Miniatures and Battle Board package.  As the Tactical Display Board in this expansion is exactly the size of the board referred to above in PH, I strongly feel that this should have been a basic part of the 2nd edition production.  It certainly transforms the whole experience - as the identical set up on the larger board [shown below] reveals.

the Tactical Display Board contained in 
the U-Boat Leader and Gato Leader
Ship Miniatures and Battle Board package

All that now follows establishes that both PH and U-Boat Leader follow similar effective paths in all other respects.  4 Campaign cards take us from the early years in The Battle Begins [Sept 1939 - May 1940] on into the Axis domination of The Happy Times [June 1940 - May 1941] and up to the period of parity and then the gradual British upturn in The Hunted [June 1942 - June 1943]. The fourth Campaign is, for me, something of an unknown sideshow taking us to the Caribbean and the American coast in Operation Drumbeat [Feb 1942 - June 1942].  I'm not sure whether this was an eye to the American market, though Gato Leader which takes us to the Pacific war with American submarines will certainly satisfy that desire.

My first four submarines set up ready to start
 a Short version of The Happy Times Campaign

Each Campaign contains the ability to play at Short, Medium and Long length.  The length of campaign determines the number of SOs [Special Operation] points that you receive and the number of patrols each submarine must make.  SOs are mainly used to buy your submarines.  In PH your aircraft was designated by its call sign [e.g. Digger]: in U-Boat Leader, each submarine has an historical U-boat commander's name on the card.  I liked the call signs and feel that being able to sally out with such characters as Gunther Prien makes play even more immersive.  You can buy each submarine card at one of four levels, Green to Ace, as against the six levels of pilot in PH.

Above are the cards for those first four submarines.

If you have your own copy of PH or have read my review of that game, you will quickly see that U-Boat Leader is marginally simpler and easier to play at each stage that I'm now going to take you through.

The Strategic Segment especially is much quicker than the equivalent procedures in PH.  Choose your submarines and spend the few SOs you may have kept back after putting your submarine group together on such things as Special Missions such as Raider or Air Searches and Supply ships.  That's more or less it.  There is none of the lengthy deliberation on what types of ammunition and missiles you need, as each sub card tells you how many torpedoes you have in store and ready loaded and whether it has a gun capacity for surface firing.  Torpedo capacity may vary, but all subs with guns get 6 potential shots!  Place your subs in whatever ports are available and you're ready to sail on to the Operational Segment.

Close up of the submarines in port ready to sail
in the Operational Segment on the Campaign map.

To my surprise I rather missed the more complex decision making of PH.  On the other hand, I did like being able to get down to the action quicker and here there is a major difference, as your U-boats have an Operations Segment where each moves individually on the Campaign map from sea area to sea area drawing and resolving Event cards as they do so.  Though a simple process, I like the extra dimension of deciding how far you're going to move and finding out what happens as you keep pressing on.

When you have moved all your subs, you then change to the Tactical Segment and once more sub by sub roll to see if you make contact with the enemy.  The possibility is from zero to three contacts, with each contact giving you the opportunity to draw a Convoy card.   When you have drawn a Convoy card reduce the Contact marker by one.  The size and composition of the convoy may vary and, if you don't like what you see you can always decide to abort that encounter.

A close up of the Tactical Display with two Merchants identified.

One has taken damage, the other so far is unscathed.

If you do decide to tackle the convoy, then in some cases you may be able to form a wolfpack, if you have chosen to move more than one sub to the same sea area and the pickings look particularly rich.
With the Convoy card accepted, you set out the enemy ship markers according to their positions on the Convoy card.   Often there will be a number of merchant ships with one or two escorts, on the Tactical Display.  As yet your targets are unidentified and so their markers are those with question marks on.  Then you  place your sub/s on the outer most ring of the display.

You move your subs one space if submerged and two on the surface, while very simple and easy mechanics govern the movement of enemy ships.  As these come within range, you'll draw an appropriate card which will identify the ship and you will place its named marker on the display.  This whole part of the game is engrossing with all relevant features taken into account through very accessible rules.

And so the heart of the game is under way.  Decisions, decisions!  The element I always appreciate in a game.  Attack on the surface, so that you can use your gunnery as well as torpedoes and become a more easily identified target by any Escorts.  How many torpedoes to launch at one target to improve your chance of hitting?  How do you react to being attacked?  Always loved Silent Running and Crash Dives in warfare?  They're both simple options that you can go for.

At this point the following familiar and in most cases identical elements from PH kick in.  Your subs indicated on their card as aggressive fire first, then the enemy and then cautious subs. OK and Shaken status play their part as does Stress.  The different hit numbers on the enemy ships determine the amount of damage your die roll inflicts on them, up to and including sinking them outright.

What has greatly improved the game is the introduction of damage chits to be drawn randomly for the enemy attacks on your subs.  Overall, this works very, very well, with only one slight concern on my part and that is the almost nil chance of Merchant ships inflicting damage and the seeming lethality of Escorts. 

It does mean, of course, that you try to keep the Merchant ships between you and the Escorts, but as the Escorts can both sail through and fire through the Merchant ships, this isn't too easy.  I must admit that here I feel that a house rule might come into being for me, limiting the ability of Escorts simply ploughing straight through the Merchant ships.  As things stand at the moment, once the Escorts start firing, it's time for my subs to cut and run to fight another day.

Once your subs are off the display, that particular encounter is finished and there is the opportunity to reload torpedoes and attend to other housekeeping elements.  However, it does not necessarily mean that your current sub is finished with.  If you still have a Contact level remaining you may draw another Convoy card and the Tactical cycle begins again or if you have an enemy ship on the verge of sinking you can spend a Contact point, fire off a torpedo or gun if on the surface to guarantee that it does settle beneath the waves and add to your VP and Experience point tally.  These ideas get another thumbs up from me. 

Just some of the high quality counters contained in the game.

This continues until all your subs have been activated or you do not want to activate any more.  However, all is still not quite done, as you still have to return to a port passing through the sea areas necessary to do so and drawing Event cards as you do so.  This constitutes one Patrol.  Finally, you reach the Refit Segment with such items as promotion of U-boats if gained, Stress recovery and torpedo reloads.   If playing a Short Campaign, you'll now determine the success level, as your subs only undertake one Patrol; if a Medium or Long Campaign, you will prepare for another Patrol and off you go again. 

All these elements are handled in the rule book with excellent clarity and in the appropriate logical progression familiar from DVG's solitaire games.   Components are clearly explained, as are all the different cards, followed by the Set Up instructions.  Next come the rules for the various Segments I've talked you through, a short historical section on different types of U-boats and a very helpful three page example of play.  This latter part is standard in all the DVG games I've played and is thankfully becoming a feature of other companies' rulebooks.

In terms of game play, I can thoroughly recommend the experience of playing U-Boat Leader and would suggest that it is an easier starting point than the many solitaire air warfare games produced by DVG.  For those of you who are hesitant because of the production problems needing to be rectified, you could always move straight to Gato Leader, which covers the Pacific war from the periscope lens of the American subs.  Hence the title. 

Obviously, the appeal is solidly aimed at the US market, but everything in the box is spot one with none of the slip-ups to be corrected in U-Boat Leader.

As the only difference in the rules are very, very minor, a separate review would be a pointless repetition and so, I hope, in a few weeks' time to take you instead through a detailed AAR of a Short length Campaign from play of Gato Leader.  Until then, beware the enemy above!



Rule   The   Waves By Naval Warfare Simulations  Editor Comment: No idea why but this review isn't showing when you browse the ...

Rule The Waves by Naval Wafare Simulations Review Rule The Waves by Naval Wafare Simulations Review

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

August 2016

Rule The Waves by Naval Wafare Simulations Review


Editor Comment: No idea why but this review isn't showing when you browse the review section. So added it to the Intel section aswell

 Okay, I played Steam and Iron with the campaign expansion, and I thought that anything a warship enthusiast could want was in it. Boy, was I wrong. I think I just saw a kitchen sink float by. Rule The Waves is not a game, it is a lifestyle. If you want it to be, that is. You can go as deep into this game as you want to. It is almost intimidating when opening up the game. Where to start and what to do? Thankfully NWS has thrown in a lot of help for the budding Tirpitz in you. The start of the game is still a few years before the advent of the Dreadnaught changed the entire naval race. The ships you start with resemble those in the Russo-Japanese War, not WWI. 

 You can start the game as one of eight countries. These are:

England, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Japan and the US. You can also click on 'Custom nation'; this allows you to also pick CSA, CSA2, Spain, Spain2.

  Each country has its own research advantages, and it also has some disadvantages listed. One of the disadvantages is the size of the naval guns your country can build compared to others. 

  You can choose to use the historical fleets of each nation and its resources, or make it more of a sandbox game and manually build your existing fleet. This doesn't mean you will be able to start churning out Yamatos immediately, though. All of your ship's designs will have to be researched, including tonnage and gun size etc. You will also have to make sure that your docks are capable of holding the behemoths you plan to build.

  The next screen will show you the fleet you built or the historic legacy fleet you own.

  For the warfare part of the game, it plays out in the same way as their earlier games: Steam and Iron, and the Russo-Japanese War. One thing about the warfare aspect, it does not play out historically. You are leading your country and its naval forces to an all new alternative history. So don't think that you have X numbers of years until World War I starts. You will be dealing with all sorts of provocations and problems that show up on the international political scene. You might have planned to have your navy ready for a war in 1908, and it breaks out in 1906. Just as in your home finances, there is always a price to pay. You have a naval budget to work with. That leads to all sorts of quandaries. Do you spend your money on your fleet facilities to finally build that battleship you always wanted, or just build more of the ships that you already have the research for?


This is the ship design screen where all of us budding Tirpitzes and Fishers will run rampant.  

  Building your ships is also a game of one or the other. Do you build an armored giant with pea shooters or do you build a gun platform made of paper? It's all up to you what ships your navy has to use in its wars. You will also have to build your fleets of submarines and forts.

  A massive fleet is only as good as the sailors that man it. Training is another piece that fits under the wide brim of your admiral's hat. It's also expensive and needs to be budgeted for.

   This screen shot shows that I am getting really close to ending up in a war with the US. The 'tension' bars are in yellow, green, and possibly a color you would see in a diaper.

  Naval actions can take place all over the world. You can end up at war with a nation on the other side of the globe. As naval chief of staff you will also have to direct your countries intelligence efforts against the other powers.  You do not want to find out about Britain's game changing battlecruiser as it slides down the slip. This game has made the naval world of 1900 yours to conquer. How far into the future do plan for your navy? Is it only until the next war breaks out or are you actively searching out the newest torpedoes, and what about the crazy Wright brothers? Do they actually have something that a navy could use at some point in time? The game has endless possibilities for replay. You can try every build or size, and shape navy and ships that you have ever imagined. Some of the ships you start out with will be equipped with rams, and by the time your game is nearing its end, planes will be flying over your forces.

  For the actual game mechanics of the warfare you will wage, please see my review of Steam and Iron. I wanted to focus on all of the new elements that Rule the Waves brings to the table. Just as a quick rundown: big gun battles, mines, torpedoes, submarine, and antisubmarine warfare etc. are included.

  So the game is everything that Steam and Iron was and so much more. For me, whose knees buckle at the site of a triple turret, it is heaven brought to earth in zeroes and ones. We can only hope that NWS can bring WWII naval warfare to life, and to make it as manageable a game as this one.
  For all of you budding naval enthusiasts out there, here is a question. As a child you saw the 'Sound of Music', and watched a family escape the Nazis. What does that family have to do with this game?


Game: Rule The Waves
Developer: Naval Warfare Simulations 
Review Date: 8/27/2016


Wargame Design Studio       A new wargame studio has been set up by the folks behind the recent Panzer Battles games.   We wi...

Wargame Design Studio Wargame Design Studio

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

August 2016

Wargame Design Studio

A new wargame studio has been set up by the folks behind the recent Panzer Battles games.
We wish them good luck and hope they continue to make new wargames to keep us entertained long into the future. I also hope we get to see some unique designs and features in some of their future games.


Mike Norris Sopwith Triplane build has just been updated!   Click title to go to article!

Sopwith Triplane Build Update Sopwith Triplane Build Update

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

August 2016

Sopwith Triplane Build Update


Click title to go to article!


Brickmania: German Panzer III Review     Military Custom LEGO has really taken off and is getting more and more popular by the da...

Brickmania: Panzer III Review Brickmania: Panzer III Review

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

August 2016

Brickmania: Panzer III Review

Brickmania: German Panzer III Review

 Military Custom LEGO has really taken off and is getting more and more popular by the day it seems. If I'm typical of the person who has fallen for this, then it's the mix of nostalgia coupled with an obsessive interest in WWI and WWII that makes it such a potent mix. Brickmania are at the forefront of this hobby, making the top range connoisseur kits. They cover WWI right up to the present day.

Brickmania was started all the way back in 1999 by designer Daniel Siskind. In 2000, when he released his first design (one of the first to do so), he came into contact with a small but well connected adult LEGO community. The kit was a medieval blacksmith shop and was an instant success. He followed it up with a whole line of medieval village kits. As word got out and his fans grew he started getting inundated with requests for military and train themed kits. Then with more than a dozen successful kits released including one that was taken on by LEGO officially in 2002 Dan announced he was leaving the custom LEGO scene to follow other interests. As a goodbye present he released a magazine with all the instructions for his released kits. That seemed to be it....

Until in 2008 when a publisher contacted Dan to see if he wanted to author a book about military modelling and LEGO. That is when he found out his previous kits had gained a massive following, alongside a booming market for military custom LEGO! So, by 2009 Brickmania was again alive and well. A year and a thousand kits later Brickmania was booming and has continued at a meteoric pace ever since. They have even opened two shops, one just recently opened. I wonder if we will see Brickmania shops across the globe at some point. I'd love to see them open over here in the UK!

First I shall come clean. I was offered the new Apache Longbow for review. However, I so wanted a WWII tank as the first kit to review that I asked for the Panzer III instead, to which they agreed. To those who would have preferred me to have reviewed the Apache, I apologise whole heartedly. It does look an awesome kit, and pretty darn big one aswell! If I get the chance to review more Brickmania kits I will not interfere and take what is offered.


So now the introduction is over lets move on to the kit, a WWII German Panzer III, that has blitzkrieged across the Atlantic (yes I know, seems abit unrealistic, just go with it) and then invaded my flat, pushing on deep into living room territory, until finally I have it locked in my scissor scopes! OK, OK..Brickmania Panzer III kit is here to be reviewed, just trying to add abit of flair to the review, I shall get on with it. Anyway, it couldn't have done all that as it needs to be built first, plus it would have sunk, most likely. Sorry, OK, alright,  yes I shall get on with it..

The Panzer III medium tank started the War as Germany's main medium tank. This tank was supposed to take on all tanks from all nations. It was the tank Germany relied on in an anti tank role supporting the short barrel Panzer IV designed for an anti infantry role. During the War against Poland and then France it held its own, though training, plus all tanks having radio comms, helped them along the way. However, not far into the invasion of Russia, it came up against the formidable KV-1 heavy tank and the T34 (many say the best tank of the war). The Germans soon realised the Panzer III gun couldn't match either of those tanks and it took superior tactics and skill to be able to manoeuvre and then take these Russian tanks from the side or rear. Soon the Panzer IV was given a long barrel gun and became the main medium tank but the Panzer III carried on, constantly being upgraded, with each new version given a letter at the end. The last Panzer III version [the Panzer III N] was made in 1942 and was given a short barrel and moved into an anti infantry role, though Panzer III's continued to fight across the battlefields of Europe right until the end of the War. Around five thousand seven hundred were built from '39-'43.

The kit comes in the now standard Brickmania white box with the kit name and picture on the front and side. There is also a five star system for skill level needed to build the kit. The Panzer III is classed as Intermediate and has three stars. This is also shown on the front of the box. Nothing too fancy here. Does the job. When opened, you are presented with three zip lock bags filled with LEGO bricks, one large zip lock and two medium sized ones. The kit has 501 bricks in total. You also have a 30 page gloss finished instruction book which is well illustrated, I found it easy to follow, a major plus obviously. The one thing that did disappoint was the lack of any detail sheet, esp. considering the price I'd have thought a decal sheet wouldn't be to much to expect. Again though, this was the only minus point I came across, and something I think should be considered by Brickmania for possible future kits. I will go buy some though:)
Though I was a touch nervous with regards to building the Panzer III, I actually really enjoyed the process. I felt far more invested in the end product than if I'd just gone and bought a pre built one or say a die cast model of a tank. There are some fiddly aspects but nothing that caused any major headaches. Plus as the tank slowly came together I could see how much thought must have gone into its design. Having to use LEGO pieces already made and not actually making the pieces from scratch for the specific purpose of building a Panzer III it started to dawn on me why the kits don't come cheap. By the end of the build, as I marvelled at its details and how historically correct it looked, I fully understood the reasons behind the price tags. To be able to design these kits and be restricted to LEGO bricks that have already been made for most likely totally different type of builds must take an awful amount of time and I assume frustrations. Add on then having to try and find the bricks and source enough of each type to be able to create a line and we can say the Panzer III must take many man-hours to produce. So, as I said you can see why these kits cost as much as they do. Also it seems it's not just me that can justify the price as the sets seem to sell out fast, and with many kits now passed into the archives people aren't afraid to spend on them, and why not? They look fantastic! I do have to warn you though. Each kit is limited in how many are made. The Panzer III was limited to just 100. Some kits are limited to just 50. So you can't hang about if you want one. It also means they become collector pieces. As for the price I can't remember how much this Panzer III cost as it is sold out and no longer has a webpage, however I remember it being roughly around $290.

The finished model stands proudly on the shelf  where I put all my favourite miniatures. It has a rotatable turret and you can elevate the gun. The Panzer III comes with a German Panzer commander all kitted out in the black Panzer uniform and proudly sporting an Iron Cross. The print work on the MiniFig is excellent. The commander stands in the commanders hatch. As he stares  across the endless, flat  Russian Steppe, an overwhelming feeling of melancholy falls upon him. It's difficult for him to see where the steppe ends and the sky begins.  "There is no end to this forsaken country" he mutters to himself. Pointing forwards he yells "Move out". "When will this end...." he mumbles.. 

I believe Brickmania are using new tracks, I can't comment on what came before but the ones here look superb, time consuming to link together, but well worth it! The Tank uses all grey bricks on the whole which is perfect for the German Panzers especially in the first half of the War, when they were all grey before they started using that yellow colour. I believe the Allied tanks do suffer in the colour respect though as LEGO haven't made any green LEGO pieces that could be used to build them. So those too are grey in colour. Nevertheless, the WWII desert kits do come in yellow (see Panzer II kit below), LEGO as we know have made lots of yellow bricks, which is perfect for Brickmania!

Sadly, I have to end the review with bad news. It seems the Panzer III has now sold out (see I told you they sell like hot cakes). There is currently a DAK Panzer II for sale though. I expect to see a Panzer III return at some point in the future along with all the Axis and Allied tanks of WWII.

I do hope we can continue to review Brickmanias excellent kits. They are a flagship company in the world of military custom LEGO. If we do get to review more kits in the future, then I can't wait:) So, fingers crossed I get to chat to you again about another Brickmania release! Until then, Happy Building!

Retail Price of Panzer MkIII $170

Just heard it will be re released sometime this year!


 GUNN WINGS OF WAR AUGUST 2016 RELEASE         Dear All This month we have two all new iconic 1/30 scale wooden aircraft...

Thomas Gunn Newsletter Thomas Gunn Newsletter

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

August 2016

Thomas Gunn Newsletter


Dear All

This month we have two all new iconic 1/30 scale wooden aircraft models from
WW2 that were considered the backbone of the Luftwaffe bomber force and saw
action throughout the war in every theatre. With production normally taking
60 hours to make each model, these really are one off master pieces with
full interior detail and authentic markings as standard.

The Heinkel 111 was designed by Siegfried and Walter Gunter in 1934
ostensibly as a civilian passenger liner, but in reality the aircraft was
intended to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium bomber.  The mainly
glazed Plexiglas nose of the HE 111 gave it a very distinctive and easily
recognised look, almost akin to a giant wasp or bee.  During the early
stages of the war the HE111 performed well but like many German aircraft its
weak defensive armament was exploited by the RAF during the battle of
Britain. Casualties amongst bomber crews were particularly high but with no
suitable replacement the HE 111 soldiered on until the end of the war as a
strategic bomber, transport aircraft, glider tug and was even used as an
experimental variant to launch the V1 flying bomb whilst airborne. Various
airforces operated the HE 111 including the Spanish, Romania, Turkey and
China amongst others. The last ones were retired by the Spanish in the
1970's who made a licence built variant, with some of these featuring in the
1969 film 'The Battle of Britain' directed by Guy Hamilton. 
The HE 111 was over 59ft in length with a wingspan of 74ft, this makes for a
very impressive looking model in 1/30 scale as the attached photos will

Armament consisted of 7 x 7.92mm machine guns with a 2000 Kilo bomb load
carried internally, further ordnance could be carried externally. Our model
features markings of a Luftwaffe aircraft from Kg53 as it would have
appeared during the battle of Britain 1940 with an initial batch of 5
aircraft being available at a cost of $1200 each plus postage and packing.
Comes free with Luftwaffe pilot and lady with umbrella as per the photos.
We will make another batch of aircraft where payment can be made over 6
months if the demand is there, please contact us by email for details. 

WOW089 Dornier 17 also known as the flying pencil was a twin engined light
bomber designed to be able to outrun enemy fighters. Making its combat debut
in the Spanish Civil War, the Dornier was liked by its crews but was
considered inferior in performance to the HE 111. The DO 17 usually had a
crew of 4 all housed in the same compartment and comprised of a pilot,
bombardier and 2 gunners to help defend the aircraft. Production ended in
1940 with the DO 217 replacing the DO 17, however surviving examples carried
on serving until the end of the war in various guises.  Our model is one of
the most well known Dornier 17's that took part in the Battle of Britain. On
26 August 1940 5K+AR was taking part in a raid on RAF bases at Debden and
Hornchurch when it became separated from other unit members. A Boulton Paul
Defiant is thought to have intercepted it with one of the engines being
disabled, forcing the pilot Willi Effmert to make a crash landing on the
Goodwin Sands. Two of the crew survived and were imprisoned for the duration
of the war. 5K+AR lay underneath the waves for nearly 60 years before it was
discovered. In 2010 it was raised from the sea bed and is now being restored
by the RAF Museum and will be the only complete example in the world once
restoration is complete. The DO 17 was nearly 60ft in length and with a
wingspan of 59ft and once again makes this a very distinctive  looking model
in 1/30 scale. We have an initial batch of 5 aircraft being available now at
a cost of $899 plus postage and packing, a further batch will be made
available with payment over 6 months if the demand warrants.  Please note
FJ029 policeman or LUFT021 pilot with fox will be supplied free depending on
availability and preference. 

That's all for this month folks, we may have some British WW1 aircraft at
the end of the month and will advertise these as and when we can. If you no
longer wish to subscribe to our newsletter please reply typing 'UNSUBSCRIBE'
in the header title and we will remove you from our mailing list.

Best wishes
The Gunn Team


Tradition of London: French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column Napoleonic Wars Review       This is the first set sent to...

Tradition of London: French Grenadier Napoleonic Review Tradition of London: French Grenadier Napoleonic Review

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

August 2016

Tradition of London: French Grenadier Napoleonic Review

Tradition of London: French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column Napoleonic Wars Review

This is the first set sent to me for review by Tradition of London. Tradition of London have been trading for over 50 years and though there have been ups and downs including in 2012 the closing of the London shop they are still going strong. Their soldiers are still made in Nottingham, England but they have a base in Stockholm, Sweden where all the soldiers are dispatched from.
Over the years Tradition have supplied many museums as well as special editions including Carlton Television for the Sharpe Series. Other notable customers have been The Tower of London, Mary Rose and the National Army Museum.  
Tradition of London sell a wide range of Toy Soldiers in various scales. They also sell white metal kits for those brave enough to build and paint their own. The Kits come at a very reasonable price, for those with the skills (or those wanted to gain the skills) they excellent value for money. They also sell Del Prado, King and Country, Steadfast, W Britain, Bravo Delta and CBG mignot figures plus miniatures for wargames and other items like paint and books\magazines. They also have the envious claim to the largest stock of Toy Soldiers you'll find. So pretty much something for everyone.

The set I received for review I couldn't have chosen better myself. They show off the different styles of Toy Soldier on the market when you compare them to my previous Thomas Gunn reviews. Thomas Gunn soldiers are your perfect example of the modern toy soldier, where as the set I received from Tradition of London show of the high gloss traditional toy soldier, little changed since Victorian times. Which considering they are Napoleonic suits them perfectly. The set is 54mm French Grenadiers of the Guard, Head of Column.

Example of presentation box. Not this actual set though.

The set comes in a lovely red presentation box with Tradition of London's motif in gold on the front. Straight away it struck me as the perfect present for anyone into Toy Soldier or the Napoleonic Wars. On the side of the box is a label saying "Hand Made Traditional Style Toy Soldiers Made in England. French Grenadiers of the Guard. Napoleonic Wars - Toy Set 768". Lifting the lid and then removing a layer of padding you then finally lay eyes on your collection. Quality hits you instantly. You know you have a special set here and something to show off as often as possible. Set into a layer of padding are eight soldiers, their gloss paint shining out. You instantly have a fantastic set to create a diorama of marching French grenadiers.  The set consists of one Officer with sword drawn, one Standard bearer, two Sapeurs, two Sergeants and finally two Drummers. Only the most physically powerful soldiers were chosen to become a Grenadier and would lead assaults on the field of battle, even leading the way through breaches during siege warfare. So you are looking at the best France can offer and all kitted out they do look like fine specimens!
This set in all it's finery

The Officer  is leading the troops with his Infantry Saber (Briquetes) drawn and held upright. The Grenadiers had be a formidable sight so they wore tall bearskin helmets with a red plume to give them a taller appearance. Though the Officer here is clean shaven many wore moustaches or beards, again to give them a more war like appearance. The Officer doesn't carry any back pack. He does appear to be wearing some sort of medal. He is wearing black boots, white breaches, white vest, white gloves, blue coat with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white cuff flaps, red  turnbacks and pocket piping. He is also wearing white gloves. He is marching and stands on a green base. He is painted in Gloss and really does have an authentic Toy Soldier appearance, perfect for the era he represents.
The Standard bearer again is marching and stands on a green base. He is wearing a similar uniform to the Officer expect this time he isn't wearing black boots with tan tops. Wears bearksin cap with red plume. His coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels and red turnbacks and pocket piping. He is wearing black boots and white gaiters. He also has a red shoulder belt designed for the end of the standard pole to fit into so he can march with just one hand holding onto the Standard. The standard has a bronze eagle on the top and a blue pole. Cravet Red, white and blue with gold embroidery and fringe. Like the Officer he has gold epaulettes. Again he is clean shave, however you can see the end of some glorious side burns sticking out the bottom of his bearskin helmet. The actual standard has been hand painted it looks fantastic.  Again he really oozes the era he is from. The Gloss finish is perfect for this line.
Next come the two Sapeurs (Sappers). First thing you notice is that these two sport a fine beard. It was compulsory for all Sappers to grow a beard in the French Army (for a long time you had to have a moustache in the British Army). Plus Sappers wore the grenadier uniform. On both upper sleeves they have the crossed axe and grenade badge, the symbol of the Sapeur. These strong men with fine facial hair marched together and close to the band and Standard bearer. A corporal and four privates where chosen from a Grenadier battalion to become Sapeurs. Here they are marching with their Axe (issued to all Sapeurs) over their right shoulder and their Charleville Musket over their left shoulder. Wear bearskin cap with red plume.  The coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels and red turnbacks. They also wear white gauntlets that reach their elbows plus a long white apron that goes from their waist to half way down their shins. They wear red and gold epaulettes. On their backs they carry a calfskin knapsack with a rolled great coat on the top. They also carry an ammunition pouch as well as their infantry Saber and bayonet scabbard. A Bicorn is folded and tied to the Knapsack. They have white cross belts with brass grenades and buckles. They also wear black boots with white gaiters. Again the gloss finish is perfect and look very authentic.

The two Sergeants wear a very similar uniform as the Standard bearer. However they sport a fine moustache. They also carry their Charleville musket but this time they have their left arm folded across it and it is in an upright position with bayonet attached. They have their Sergeant stripes on their left upper sleeve. They wear red and gold epaulettes. Wear bearskin cap with red plume. They are wearing dark blue coat with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white flaps, red turnbacks and pocket piping. White waist coat with brass buttons and white breaches. White crossbelts. On their backs is the standard issue calfskin Knapsack with a rolled up great coat on top. Below the Knapsack is an ammunition pouch\box. Their Bicorn het is also folded flat against the Knapsack. Again they have the Infantry Saber and bayonet scabbard attached to their belt. Black boots and white gaiters. Two fine French grenadier sergeants you'll be proud to own.

Finally we have the two drummers. These two wear the standard Bearskin cap with red plume. They also sport a well groomed moustache. The coat is dark blue with dark blue collar, white lapels, red cuffs with white cuff flaps, red turnbacks. Mixed red and gold epaulettes. White waistcoat with gilt buttons. They have black boots and white gaiters. On their backs is a calf skin Knapsack with rolled great coat on top, white straps. Bicorn folded and tied to knapsack. White crossbelt. Infantry Saber scabbard attached to belt. The drum is brass with blue hoops bearing white grenades. White cords and sling. White drum carriage with brass stick holder and grenade. White apron.  Black boots with white gaiters. Black drum sticks. Two fine drummers and round of this set beautifully.

More examples of superb sets.

I'll admit that I'd probably never have bought this set as old style gloss finish soldiers didn't appeal to me. However I'm now a convert. They appeal in a different way to the modern looking matt finish soldiers out there. They arouse a nostalgic feeling the others don't and in away when in their presentation box give them an authentic look, like you're looking at a set of toy soldiers from a hundred years ago or more. This makes them special and as I said appeal in a different way to the highly detailed, perfectly sculptured modern figures. That's not to say these don't look great and they are very well sculpted. Never thought I'd feel this way to be honest. So this set has added a whole new area for me to get excited about! I said at the start I couldn't have picked a better set to review after the two Thomas Gunn reviews. A set that shows off the brilliance of the gloss finish toy soldiers, in all their old fashioned glory. I can't think of any Toy Soldier collector or anyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars that wouldn't beam from ear to ear if they received this set as a birthday or Christmas present! The set retails at £129.76. Worth every penny!

I hope we can continue to review Tradition of London excellent range in the future. If so I can't wait for the next parcel to arrive from Tradition of London!