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                Gary Grigsby's War in the West                            By                           2by3 Games   ...

Gary Grigsby's War In the West with the DLC Operation Torch Review Gary Grigsby's War In the West with the DLC Operation Torch  Review

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

November 2016

Gary Grigsby's War In the West with the DLC Operation Torch Review

                Gary Grigsby's War in the West


       2by3 Games


 Gary Grigsby's War in the West; what a lineage this game has to look back on. One of the reasons I bought a computer was to play 'Bomb Alley'. His first game is listed as 'Guadalcanal Campaign', and it came out in 1982. Thirty-four years later we are still playing wargames programmed by him. Looking at his list of games, I am trying to total up the amount of hours I have played all of them. I think I'll stop that, because it might add up to more time than I spent with my children; maybe I should make him an honorary  family member.

 War in the West, with the 'Operation Torch' DLC, is a massive undertaking.  Unlike the older 'War in the East', this game has to simulate a larger amount of area and the inclusion of both a very large ground and air war. In 'War in the East', the map was 25k hexes; WITW comes in at 36k hexes. 

 Every type of air or ground unit that saw combat in the European theater of war is present. Paratroop drops and armored assaults  along with amphibious invasions are replicated.  

  The air war in WITW is a game in itself, with a few scenarios just for the air war. You can issue orders and even command the bombing campaign against the Axis. That is on top of being able to run the entire tactical Air Forces of the Allies. For those of us who are still employed  or are not yet living as hermits, you can also let the AI issue all of the separate orders. The gamer gives directives to his AI air marshal, and he fills in all the minutiae.

 The naval war was being lost by the Axis in 1943 with the invasion of Sicily. The naval war in the game is abstracted and is mostly used by the Allied player to order amphibious landings on the continent. Playing as the Allies, the huge armadas of air and sea are at your disposal.

 Playing as Germany, once Italy is knocked out of the war, you will be filling the shoes of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)  . There is one hitch: you must also keep your eyes on the eastern front and its needs. The war with Russia is still going on while your troops are battling the western allies. While it is all fine and good to stop the allies on the beaches, it will be pointless if Berlin falls behind you. The game uses the 'Eastern Front Control Option' to deal with the Russian front. It can be utilized in the longer scenarios. If you are using the EFCO, the war ends when Berlin is captured or until early August 1945. Units can be moved to and  from each front and also be pulled from the battle line for refit.

 This is a good time to discuss 'victory conditions'. Playing as the Germans, it is pretty much an unattainable goal of complete victory. You are up against too much of everything everywhere to be able to pull your irons out of the fire. The person playing the Germans is trying to do better than the historical outcomes at any given time. This is not a game where you start in 1936 and can change your country's strategic options in the coming war. You will be put in the Allied or Axis shoes mid-war and will have to play with the cards that you were dealt. I only mention this because some players don't like games where they cannot have a complete and utter victory, instead of just winning on points. I like to play games where I start in desperate situations, so to each their own.

 This is the scenario list: 

 The game includes 3 main campaigns and 7 smaller scenarios:
  • 1943 Campaign - 3 July 43 to 3 Aug 45 (109 turns)
  • 1944 Campaign (May Start) – 11 May 44 to 1 Aug 45  (64 turns)
  • 1944 Campaign (D-Day Start) – 30 May 44 to 6 Aug 45  (62 turns)
  • Air Campaign – 1 May 44 to 28 May 44  (4 turns)
  • Operation Husky – 3 July 44 to 20 August 45  (7 turns)
  • Salerno to Rome 43-44 – 9 Sept 43 to 28 June 44  (42 turns/multiplayer only)
  • Battleground Italy – 10 July 43 to 4 May 45 (95 turns)
  • Breakout and Pursuit – 25 July 44 to 9 Oct 44  (11 turns)
  • Westwall – 17 Sept 44 to 10 Dec 44  (12 turns)
  • Bulge to the Rhine – 16 Dec 44 to 10 Mar 45  (12 turns) 

 With the addition of the 'Operation Torch' DLC you gain these scenarios:

  • Torch to Tunisia (10 Nov 1942 - 26 Jul 1943 - 37 turns)
  • Battle for Tunisia (Feb 1943 – June 1943 – approximately 20 turns)
  • Rommel Attacks (Feb 1943 – March 1943 – approximately 6 turns)
  • Operation Dragoon (8 Aug 1944 - 18 Sep 1944 - 6 turns)
  • Operation Diadem to the Gothic Line (11 May 1944 - 27 Sep 1944 - 20 turns)
  • Breaching the Gothic Line (25 Aug 1944 - 4 May 1945 - 36 turns)
  • Weakest Link (13 Sep 1944 - 10 Feb 1945 - 20 turns) is an air only campaign covering the attacks on the German oil and fuel industries
  • Pointblank Directive 1944 (16 Jun 1943 - 5 Apr 1944 - 42 turns) is an air only campaign covering the early strategic bombing efforts by Bomber Command and the US 8th Air Force
  • 1945 Campaign (16 Dec 1944 - 4 Aug 1945 - 33 turns) starts with the Battle of the Bulge and covers the entire western theater of operations.
  •  The 4th Supreme Command (3 July 1943 - 4 Aug 1945 - 109 turns) is a hypothetical Grand Campaign that assumes Hitler had been assassinated in March 1943, and that the Axis armies were in a better situation in the summer of 1943.
 The hypothetical campaign is not that far-fetched. There was actually a bomb on board Hitler's plane on that date; unfortunately it malfunctioned.

 For those of us who like to game  the Italian campaign it is here in a big way. You can play from the invasion of Sicily to the fight for Rome itself. If you are a battle of the Bulge fanatic it is here also, but be aware that you are running the entire front in western Europe, not just the small area where the Bulge was fought. 

 As the Allied commander you get to choose where and when you will invade.  The game is an empty canvas  that you can use to make your own decisions. Playing as the German high command you can decide to fight on the beaches as Rommel wanted, or to gather a huge armored fist off the beaches to throw the allies into the sea, as Rundstedt wanted. As the German player you have no idea of what will happen. You have to try and make educated guesses on what the Allies are going to do.

  This is not only a large game it is also a complex one. As the commander for the entire western front you are responsible for not only warfare, but also logistics. There are many things you will want to do each turn, but do you have the resources to pull them off? In complexity it would fit right between 'War in the East' and another Grigsby title 'War in the Pacific'. You can play against  the computer, hotseat, or multiplayer. With new updates, the multiplayer options have changed and now include 3 and 4 player games. You can also have 2 player cooperative against the AI.

  The audio component of the game is top notch. The obligatory sounds for battle, etc. are great, but where it really shines is the background music. On most games the first thing we do is usually try and shutdown the background music; I've actually played the various .wav files to just listen to them.

 To sum it up, the game works as a simulation of land and air combat in the second half of WWII. It is complex, and you will probably be a bit overwhelmed at first. It does come with a manual, over 300 pages long, a living manual ( for all the changes in its many updates), and a players handbook that comes with many one page guides to help you along the way. All of the manuals, etc. have printer friendly versions included. There are also a few videos included to help the newbie along the way.

 One other thing we have to discuss is the price. Yes, it is a digital download of  $79.99 US for the base game and another $19.99 for the DLC. To put it into perspective, a three hour night out with a friend will run anywhere from $50-100 US or even higher depending upon your taste. This game is going to give you literally hundreds of hours of playing time. It is money well spent.  

 Of course, a few days after I had written the above, the Matrix/Slitherine holiday sale kicked in. The base game is now just $39.99 and the Operation Torch expansion is only $9.99. Pick this game up now. It was worth it at almost $100; it is certainly worth it at only $50.


Game: Gary Grigsby's War in the West
Developer: 2by3 Games
Distributor: Matrix/Slitherine Games
Date of Review: 11/21/2016

Editor Comment: Go check out our interview of Joel Billings!



Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Players Edition & Reforged DLC Review   I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm not...

Flashpoint Campaigns and Reforged DLC Review Flashpoint Campaigns and Reforged DLC Review

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

November 2016

Flashpoint Campaigns and Reforged DLC Review

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Players Edition & Reforged DLC Review

I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm not long after it was first released. Though I'm not normally into modern warfare, I am massively into the WEGO mechanic. For those unfamiliar with this term, I'll explain. For years, most wargames followed the IGO/UGO mechanic, mainly because [pre digital wargames] IGO/UGO was the only way to be able to play a wargame between two players. Though some games did vary it a bit with initiative and impulses, on the whole one player moved/fired etc and then the other player would do likewise, hence I GO - U GO.  

However, wargames on a computer opened up whole new possibilities when it came down to wargame mechanics. So, we saw wargames played out in 'realtime' where the clock kept going and players (or yourself and the AI) simultaneously made their move; games like Close Combat followed this path. Also you still had wargames using the old IGO/UGO mechanic right up to this day.  In fact, it's still the most used mechanic. Then, along came Combat Mission with its WEGO mechanic. Here you and your opponent, be it another player or the AI, plot your moves and once happy and you've both clicked for the next turn the game would then, like a movie clip, play out in front of you for 1 minute as you watch, biting your finger nails, your pixeltruppen follow your plotted moves.

I fell in love with this mechanic there and then. I loved the tension it creates, plus in Combat Mission you could replay the turn as often as you like from all angles, so you'd never miss out on any action, unlike realtime games where you could miss out on all sorts as you're dealing with something across the map. So from then on, any game using the WEGO mechanic instantly gets my attention. IGO/UGO at lower scales feels a bit forced, REALTIME too fast and can end up a clickfest, where as WEGO fits the bill perfectly. This is why I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm. A purchase I certainly don't regret.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm is set during the Nineteen Eighties and the Cold War has gone HOT! The game is kind of a sequel, but more a major upgrade of a previous game called Flashpoint Germany, a wargame published by Matrix back in 2005 (whose scenarios became Red Storms DLC. See later in the review). The game features 20+ scenarios, in which you can play as either the NATO side, whose forces consist of USA, UK and West German, or play as the WARSAW pact  commander Soviet forces. Plus there are four campaigns, that's right FOUR campaigns, giving you the chance to play as one of the NATO nations or as the Soviets. In the campaign you have a 'core' force which gets carried over from one mission to the next, getting repaired and replenished between each scenario. You also get 20+ maps of central Europe, mainly focused on Germany and based on real world data.

 As mentioned at the beginning, the turn mechanic is WEGO with a very clever twist. The turn length all depends on your nations command, control and communication ratings which can be affected by electronic warfare and casualties. This is called your command loop and a major feature of the game is to get in your enemy's command loop, which means you can react more quickly, as you get the chance to issue more orders than the enemy.

NATO has the upper hand from the get go here. So, for instance, you as the NATO player have a 12 minute loop; this means twelve minutes of game time will move forward until you get the chance to issue orders again. Now, at the same time, the WARSAW pact player may have a 30 minute command loop and so has to wait thirty minutes. This means the NATO player has had two opportunities to move before the WARSAW pact player gets his second chance. As I'm sure you can see, over the many hours a scenario usually plays out in, this can have a massive effect on the outcome. Nail biting stuff!

The game has an extensive TOE for all sides based on their real life eighties counterparts. Add in dynamic weather, counter battery fire, air strikes, helicopters, mines, fortifications, obstacles, recon units, active FOW and NBC unit capability. Now why have NBC capability? I'll tell you why, not only does it have chemical weapons, there are also tactical NUKES!! That's right Nukes! Sounds like overkill..well I'll tell you this, the first time I nuked I still lost!!

I found the UI to be very good indeed. The player has lots of info at his fingertips and issuing orders is straight forward. The game has lots of player options that can affect the actual game and its difficulty or let you change the colour of things, like fire lines and unit highlight box etc etc. It's all well thought out and you can see the devs have really given some thought about the UI and what different players may want and so have given you the tools to change certain things to fit your taste. In fact, going further, the game is also mod friendly and if you check the forums you'll find lots of mods and user made scenarios out there, even ones set during WW2 or the swinging sixties! At the end of a scenario you get an AAR which breaks down how each unit performed, as well as issuing out awards to those units that stood out during the battle. I love this kind of immersion\chrome.

Now I loved the game and not that long ago to coincide with the release of its DLC a huge update came out upgrading the game to 'The Players Edition'. This update improved all aspects of the game and is the version you'll purchase if you buy the game today (It's actually just had another major update which adds a host of new features for instance a new Intel Map screen). Now I do have some quibbles with the game. I've always been suspicious of how units can spot and shoot each other across city hexes, plus I find at times Infantry could be a bit more difficult to kill, though it's a lot better in this respect than many other wargames out there where infantry are just endless canon fodder. Some of the issues raised in the forums will, the developers say, be ironed out in the next game/expansion in the series, Southern Front. Southern Front will, as the title suggests, cover the fighting further south. There is also talk of a WW2 game (yes please) at some point in the future.

I truly feel Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm will go down in wargame history as a classic of its time. I have no hesitation recommending it to all wargamers. So go read the forums and make that purchase!

As mentioned further back Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm has a daddy and the daddy was called Flashpoint Germany. Red Storm is bigger and better than its father but the scenarios its daddy packed where just too good not to upgrade with all the bells and whistles Red Storm can bring to the table. So to rectify this along comes Flashpoint Campaigns: Germany Reforged

The expansion includes 17 new scenarios plus 43 different variations with the original Flashpoint Germany maps totally redone for Red Storm. Not only do you get the four maps from Flashpoint Germany, you also get a brand new, extra large, map 'Eiterberg' - it's nearly twice as big as all other maps, so the player can create some huge battles.

If you love Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm then buying the expansion Flashpoint Campaigns: Germany Reforged is a no brainer.


Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead A Review     First I need to apologise to Pen...

Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook

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

November 2016

Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook

Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead

A Review

First I need to apologise to Pen and Sword regarding the delay in reviewing this particular book. It's partly down to ill health but also if I'm honest with myself I've found this particular review difficult to start as the book isn't normally the sort of thing I'd read so was nervous about reviewing it. I'm out of my comfort zone:)


Now onto the book. The authors come with excellent credentials and are easily qualified to write a book like this. R Priestly created the world renowned Warhammer and Warhammer 40K system for Games Workshop. Dr J Lambshead designed the computer wargame Fredrick Foresythe's Fourth Protocol which was the first icon driven game and was also the editor of Games & Puzzles and Wargame News. He has also written a number of books for Games Workshop and Osprey. Finally he is the author of SF&F novels published by Baen Books. So with their experience you know you're in good hands and in this book they share this experience which can only help any of you out there who fancies designing a game yourself or help you with any tinkering or modifications you want to do with a current system.

The book is divided into nine chapters with a References section and finally an Index at the back of the book. The first chapter is an introduction that lasts twelve pages and eases you into the book. The next chapter talks about scale. The scale of a wargame is of vital importance in how the game will play and effects everything. Next comes a chapter on "The Language of Design". This deals with wargame and design jargon for example talks about "LOS" or line of sight. Following this is a chapter called "Alea Iacta Est", the famous line supposedly said by Ceaser, translated "The Die is Cast". So,  it doesn't need to much working out to know this chapter deals with Dice and randomness with in a wargame design. Chapter five "Presenting a Games Rules" is self explanatory. How many wargames have you played that have had rules that only an enigma code breaker could decipher? So it's an important aspect of any game design. Also talks about tables, not an actual table like the one you'll be playing on but tables in the rules. Chapter six "Skirmish Games" talks about skirmish wargames. Chapter seven "English as She is Writ" kind of goes hand in hand with chapter five. Again dealing with how to convey your system and rules to the player. Chapter eight "Expanding the Rulebook". This chapter deals with creating expansions to your core rule set. For instance adding new armies etc. The final chapter "Campaigns as Wargames" deals with creating campaigns for your rule system.

The book is full of photographs and is very well written as you'd expect from a book that talks about how to write rules. It's also full of useful information for those contemplating designing a tabletop wargame. Not sure how relevant it is for those wanting to design a hex wargame, but several of the chapters would be useful. I'd also say it's aimed at those who have little to no experience in designing a wargame, well it's certainly of more use to them. Saying this it wouldn't hurt for anyone be it novice or experienced in giving it a read. I say this because so many wargames come out and then forums are full of players totally confused by the rules. I think until you've actually tried you don't realise how difficult it is to convey to others your new game solely by the rulebook and what you've written. So maybe some of the chapters in this book would be of use to even a published wargame designer. Please don't expect a book that really goes into great detail and depth and covers every aspect under the sun. At 149 pages it should be apparent this book doesn't do that. It's more an overview with helpful advice of what the authors consider the main aspects of tabletop wargame designing. Aspects which will be relevant to pretty much all types of wargame systems. Your not going to come away with knowledge that's going to make you design some new innovative award winning game. It's just helping relative newbies dig decent foundations to their game design. If your looking for more than that then your prob best looking elsewhere.

The book is 149 pages not including the Reference and Index. Priced at £14.99 it's also not that expensive for such a niche book and wont break the bank. Certainly cheap enough to buy to see if it has any useful info for you as you start out on your game design. I would certainly appreciate it if I was about to start out on a tabletop wargame project.

Published by Pen & Sword it's available in all good book shops!


Drive on Moscow  What is it about the 'Barbarossa bug'? Wargamers seem to have an itch that can never be scratched when it comes...

Drive on Moscow PC Game Review Drive on Moscow PC Game Review

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

November 2016

Drive on Moscow PC Game Review

Drive on Moscow 

What is it about the 'Barbarossa bug'? Wargamers seem to have an itch that can never be scratched when it comes to simulating moves and battles on the Eastern front in WW2. It seems there is enough on this subject; does the gaming world want to do with yet another battle across the plains and steppes of Russia? Yes, of course! The Eastern Front was and remains the mother of all battles that we have never seen the like since. 

In salutation of that truth, Shenandoah Studio and Slitherine) have demonstrated precisely how to please us. Ted Raicer's Drive on Moscow is a true gem and you are most encouraged to give it more than just a try and it's a good value to boot. 

The studio has arranged game content to be about the exciting and volatile battles of maneuver and counter-attack that occurred during the final thrust to capture Moscow before the end of 1941. Yes, that means the game calendar skips over the initial stages of Barbarossa; nevertheless, players won't mind, because they will keenly experience the critical period from October to December, as the Germans recognized the urgency of defeating their foe before the depths of harsh winter arrive. On the other hand, the Russians thought they had a breather and hadn't expected a late season attack at their heart of the nation; thus, they are disorganized and unprepared for battle in the beginning. 
The Germans have some decisions to make; they can't do it all
Massive initial attacks allow panzers to flow forward blazing; the landsers mop up thousands of isolated troops as they struggle to keep up with mechanized elements. Russian cavalry will nip at German supply lines. Indeed, over-extended German forces will run out of fuel and can immobilize at the worst time. A diminished Luftwaffe will still pin down Russian troops who can only find time to regroup when the Rasputitsa arrives, slowing the Wehrmacht to a crawl. But frosty weather is around the corner, allowing the Germans one final push through the forests surrounding Moscow! Then they better dig in, because with the deeps snow come the Siberians and Russian tank corps. 

The experience of Drive on Moscow is truly engaging and the flavor of each campaign varies sufficiently from playing to playing. The AI is robust enough to be frustrating in early attempts,  and other reviews have praised the PvP element.


The author had to struggle through some personal biases while working on this review. I've a grognard attitude about board wargames but a casual attitude about computerized variety. What that means to me is that, for the latter, I don't have a need to look under the hood for underlying combat charts, realism rational movement tables, supply rules and so forth. All of us know these make a wargame distinct from other games, but I figure I've done enough mastery of tomes like the Advanced Squad Leader rule book for board games -- let the computer handle that stuff. 

I find it necessary to share my biases to help the reader understand how and why I approached this review with some trepidation, exacerbating the fact that this is my first review for A Wargamer's Needful Things. So, let me get the negatives and biases off my chest; I'm sure some will recognize them within themselves, too. 

First, the author doesn't care for area movement in wargames. Hexes, give me hexes; I grew up on hexes and eat them for breakfast. I'm talking about Avalon Hill's  Battle of the Bulge, Afrika Korps, Panzerblitz and the like, produced in 60s and 70s. Truth be told, this is exactly why I didn't go for Shenandoah's  Battle of the Bulge when it came out last year (2015). I'll be purchasing that game now, you take it to the bank! 
hmm the areas of battle do not look digestible, Sir!
Next, the impulse movement system felt strange at first. I grew up on IGO-UGO. But in this, players activate units in one area, moving/attacking into different area(s) and/or staying inside the one they start in. Once that area is activated, it's done, and so are any units that didn't (or forgot) to move. Now, there are many latter-era wargames that use this method, but I'd never felt comfortable about them (e.g. Breakout: Normandy).

move these guys, too! (Unless you want them to camp for a few days).
Finally, we all know rough terrain is going to have an adverse effect on combat, but in this game it's abstracted by being forced to blow up the cities or trees before inflicting damage.  It's an okay mechanism as far as the outcomes, but I'm used to 'defense is doubled' or 'column shifts' for this sort of effect. However, for the casual gamer, it's just fine as far as simulating results, but my grognardish left-handed brain didn't want to wrap around this notion right away.  
see how the exploding pop-up highlights and animates each combat

Learning the Game

Shenandoah does a very good job making it easy to learn the game while providing a design that is not-so-easy to master. That's exactly what a casual player is looking for. Grognards who want to check out the systems and rationales can find them easily in the manual, so they can get that 'yep this is a wargame' feeling. 
You want charts? You got charts!

Not only does the game come with a comprehensive and eye-pleasing on-line manual, but the in-game main menu allows options for a step-by-step tutorial or a basics of play summary (for those who don't want to read manuals nor suffer the pace of tutorials). Gameplay effects of rules interactions are not described in entirety, which is a good thing, because it makes the game harder to master.

During most calendar turns, players alternate impulses that can vary in length from 0-18 hours, depending on the weather. This time variability is a huge factor affecting outcomes in different replays of the same campaign.

better fix this one, methinks! 
Note: impulses are confusingly called turns during gameplay, which is absolutely not helpful in learning the game, even if the manual gets it right. 

Calendar turns during 'offensive' weather last for 72 hours and 120 hours in 'nasty' weather. This does seem counter-intuitive until one realizes that movement in bad weather is often significantly restricted, particularly for the Germans. 

It should be mentioned that the online manual is comprehensive and  easy to read and includes tips of play. 

User Interface 

The UI is very easy to use and highly informative about game play and events. It's better than many I have seen out there and is especially kind to the eyes of older gamers. However, there are a couple of minor design factors that may need to be addressed.

First, I would have to say that an aesthetically appealing and informative interface is just fine, but the menu screen is overly large. For example, when you hit the 'supply' option on the menu, you'll be forced to drag the map around to see what's underneath. Making this menu smaller in size would render this unnecessary. We've all seen these PC games with miniaturized heads-up displays causing bloodshot and eye-strained squinting... but... I really don't need to see this UI from across the room.
Get used to moving your map around to see under the overlarge interface
The other minor gripe with the UI is this small panel in the corner. As you can see, this includes the the redo button (top) and the menu button (bottom). Yes, the redo button is fantastic and essential because you can test all your moves to get an idea of success probabilities -- an absolute necessity to have at your fingertips. Likewise the menu button. Unfortunately, the designers have inexplicably made it impossible to minimize or turn off this panel. As a result, it's often blocking units/areas hidden underneath, particularly the top left zone of the map.
This UI can't be minimized and is glued opaquely over the map corner.
The get-around is to play with the zoom until you can see the units underneath.
The last glitch (not pictured) with UI involves not being able to see all the zones on the left side of the map when applying reinforcements or air interdiction. That's very annoying if you want to do something over there in either of those phases. It's possible to manipulate visibility, I think, by zooming in and out, varying the resolution or changing from windowed to full-screen, but that shouldn't be necessary to manipulate.


The graphics of the maps, units and animations are quite pleasing. The map changes in hue and color for different weather conditions such as clear, mud, frost and snow. Battle animations create tension; it's very well-designed. I can use 640 x 480 up to 1920 x 1080 resolutions. 
A satisfying destruction!

AI Effectiveness

One of the reasons I play more computer games is that gamers in SE England seem to love all sorts of miniatures games rather than my favorite board games. Solitaire is okay, but not great for some games at all. Computer games with good AI are a substitute for real-life competition. However, we all know that many games come with atrocious AI. Honestly, Stephen Hawking can say what he wants about robots taking over, but I don't see that happening with some of the AI evident in these computer games. 

Drive on Moscow's AI is very adequate to learn the game and to get up to speed on how the various play elements work together. It took me a while to realize that the AI likes to nip at supply lines; keeping them open makes all the difference in (especially the German) offensives. 

AI Zhukov tries to cut the lines. Note the cav unit pinned down by air interdiction (outline in blue).

Key points to keep in mind when playing the AI (or a human counterpart):

1) As previously mentioned, once an area is activated, all units within are considered to have activated. Use them or you'll lose them for the calendar turn. Trust me, you'll want that firepower as far forward as possible and the AI will know you left them behind.

2) Cut off supplies. Being out of supply puts enemy units dead in the water and unable to defend as time goes on. The AI is somewhat spotty about securing supply lines as time goes on. 

3) Players can activate units in the rear to reinforce an existing battle; doing so will also activate any units in that area that are yet to be activated. This is a good way to keep up the momentum as units get strung out making sure supply lines are safe. The AI taught me this trick. After I kept losing Operation Typhoon to Konev, I watched the AI play as Halder, and learned alot. 

4) The Germans do need to make a robust try at Kursk and Voronezh by calendar turn three. Keep in mind that the German flank on the south is 100% secure once these are taken (unlike the northern sector). Seizing these two cities prevents the Russians from placing reinforcements in them. It will feel like your Panzer corps are floating in outer space up there, but the AI has no good way of taking these cities back. Kursk is a must, and Voronezh is not far behind because of the +1 VP you get per turn. You won't get Bryansk as quickly, but the security you'll get in the south is worth it. 
Turn 2 Breakthrough at Kursk

Post- Kursk Exploitation
Finally, by using the Turn 3 prepared offensive, Voronezh falls.
This is necessary because the Russians will reinforce the city
if the offensive is not used. Note Orel, to the Northwest, still needs to
be taken but the Russians are too busy elsewhere to defend it at the moment. 

5) Look for chances to take Moscow, especially during your October offensive.  Often the AI under-defends the capital.  if you can make a breakthrough, you can march into the city for an instant win! 

 Gameplay Excitement

You'll have fun with this, especially for casual players. You'll know the nuts and bolts of the game are sound. You'll cheer with joy at crushing wins and moan when the dice fail you in defeat. Sometimes the panzers will roll over hill and dale, crushing Russians left and right on the fast track to Moscow. German tank commanders will especially enjoy blowing holes with the free offensives on turns 1-3 and 11. 

But watch out! Suddenly the AI will order a Militia unit into the open and somehow it will shoot your Panzer corps right up and into the dead pool (say what?!). Nothing is certain, just probable. Watch out for those Russian cavalry units, they are tough. And yes, the Germans cannot afford elimination -- each unit counts as a VP for mother Russia. 

You'll probably start as the German player because who doesn't want to do that, right? But hear me, you'll want to play the Russians very quickly; the AI will show you tactics needed to be successful in the game (especially for Operation Typhoon, which is hard enough to win as the Germans). Don't be daunted if it seems like Typhoon is impossible for the Axis. It's not -- but it will take a few tries! The Voronezh gambit is finally what put me over the top.

But the game on full campaign mode seems more satisfying. Truth be told, I didn't try the two 'middle' scenarios before writing this review. I'm sure they are worth a shot, too.

This badge on Steam is not so easy to get.

In conclusion, casual players are likely to be more than satisfied and happy with this game. The technical backbone has enough crunch to satisfy grognards too, although those who are looking for deep detailed game structure will probably pass. I've yet to try PvP but other reviewers find it quite satisfying. I know a guy who loves area board games -- I'll see if he wants to give it a go. Enjoy! Marc Hanna.


Under a Blood Red Sun By John J. Domagalski   This book was tailor made for those of us who, when we were kids, watched 'Mc...

Under a Blood Red Sun by John J. Domagalski Under a Blood Red Sun by John J. Domagalski

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

November 2016

Under a Blood Red Sun by John J. Domagalski

Under a Blood Red Sun


John J. Domagalski

  This book was tailor made for those of us who, when we were kids, watched 'McHale's Navy' and the movie 'They were Expendable'. We were also shown and taught about the exploits of President Kennedy and the PT-109. The PT boat was part of us growing up. Sure, 'McHale's Navy' was a comedy, but it did show what these small, almost shark-like, fast boats could do. This book is about the men and actions of Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, based in the Philippines. They  were almost the only navy ships and sailors the U.S. had on hand when the Philippine Islands were invaded by the Japanese in 1941. This book is about their fight at long odds and their greatest achievement in bringing General Douglas MacArthur to safety, on orders from the president. Their 560 mile trek through Japanese patrolled waters to get MacArthur and other generals to safety was a long nightmare of bad gas and close calls.

  PT type boats were used by all of the major naval combatants in WWII. It was designed to give a small ship a mighty punch. Armed with two to four torpedoes and machine guns, these featherweights packed a heavyweight punch. A torpedo hit, especially one in the right place as in the Bismarck, could seriously compromise even a battleship.

 They were only six little ships to take on the might of the Japanese invasion force. All six of the ships were eventually lost to enemy fire. Their end was almost a foregone conclusion, but the battle they put up before being lost is the stuff that legends are made of. One of the problems that the U.S. Navy suffered with in the beginning of the war was with faulty torpedoes. The PT boats did score hits on vessels, but unfortunately the Japanese war records show no loss of ships.

 Their commander was Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley. His story, and the crews that fought with him, was front page news in 1941 and into the war years. Sadly, their fight against an overwhelming enemy has been relegated to the bottom of piles of old newspapers if remembered at all. They deserve to be remembered just as much as the 'Tin Can Sailors' from Leyte. The author, John J. Domagalski, should be thanked for bringing the brave men and their tough little boats back into the limelight. 

 The heroics of the PT boat men helped to award Lieutenant Bulkeley the Congressional Medal of Honor, among other medals, and he was touted in the U.S. early in the war as one of our first heroes. He went on to have a long career after the war and was retired as a Vice Admiral.

 The movie, 'They Were Expendable', also had some strange history to it. Robert Montgomery, who was tapped to play the part of Bulkeley, was also a PT boat skipper during WWII.


Book: Under a Blood Red Sun
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Author: John J. Domagalski
Date of Review: 11/18/2016


T he Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 Volume 1 by Quintin Barry     The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 set Europe on a course of dea...

The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 Volume 1 by Quintin Barry The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 Volume 1 by Quintin Barry

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

November 2016

The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 Volume 1 by Quintin Barry

  The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 set Europe on a course of death and destruction for seventy-five years. The French loss engendered the revenge seen in World War I, which in turn brought on the vengeance of World War II. You might tie the Franco-Prussian War to the collapse of Europe from its dominant place in world politics, due to the above.

 In order for Germany to be united, the War had to happen. The smaller German states would never have rallied around Prussia if there was still a powerful outside nation to play them one against the other. The defeat in 1866 of Austria-Hungary set up Bismarck for his final challenge: to defeat France and then unify Germany over her prostrate form. Had Bismarck not taken Alsace-Lorraine as one of the spoils of war, maybe France would not have seethed so long and hard with the idea of revanche.

Helmuth von Moltke the elder

 The Franco-Prussian War was brought on by a telegram, helped by Bismarck's artful editing, before it was released to the press. The Ems telegram was made to look by Bismarck to be a French ultimatum for assurances that the crown of Spain would not go to a Hohenzollern.

 Mr. Barry, in this first volume about the war, goes into all of the different sticks laid on the proverbial camel's back from 1866 until the aforementioned telegram. He also goes into the building of the Prussian Army, and especially of its general staff under Moltke the elder. The book shows all of the different strengths and weaknesses of both the France and Prussia and her allies' armed forces. The technological superiority of the French Chassepot rifle had almost twice the effective range of the Prussian needle gun. It also explains how the French also misused their 'secret' weapon, the Mitrailleuse, which was the world's first effective machine gun, although it was much closer to a Gatling gun in its actual operation. The Prussian steel breech loading cannon, and their more effective use by them in 1870 compared to 1866, is shown to the reader.

Napoleon III

 The book goes into all of the battles on the frontier, and shows how the French gave better than they received through most of the engagements. The French, with a determined and centralized command structure, might have been able to at least bloody the Prussian nose enough to give Moltke pause. Unfortunately for them, the French soldiers' magnificent fighting was thrown away time after time by their generals. The near suicidal attacks by the Prussian and German soldiers on the French at Spicheren, Weissenburg, and W├Ârth pushed the French relentlessly back out of some excellent defensive positions. This was only after the French had inflicted large casualties on their attackers.

 The encirclement battles of the siege of Metz, and the final battle of the first part of the campaign Sedan are told to the reader along with all of the might have-beens had the French been able to work as an army instead of just as separated units.

 In the beginning of the book there is an interesting memorandum written by Moltke on the subject of the possibility of Austria entering into the war on the side of France:

  "If the political situation brings about a war of France against Prussia then the attitude of Austria will be either decidedly hostile or at least very doubtful. Should we oppose one half of our army to each of these two powers, we would be superior to neither. Therefore the first thing to be considered is: against which enemy will we in the start assume the defensive with minor forces, in order to advance offensively as strong as possible against the other?"

 Seeing that Schlieffen was tutored in the great general staff under Moltke, is it possible that this is where the 'Schlieffen Plan' actually comes from?

   The book was published by Helion and Company and distributed by Casemate Publishing. It includes seventy-four black and white pictures and also has seventeen maps of the campaign and battles.


Book: The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 Volume 1
Author: Quintin Barry
Publisher: Helion and Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishing
Date of Review: 11/12/16


Combat Mission Road to Eindhoven Part 1 AAR by Ian Leslie  

Combat Mission Road to Eindhoven Part 1 AAR by Ian Leslie Combat Mission Road to Eindhoven Part 1 AAR by Ian Leslie

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November 2016

Combat Mission Road to Eindhoven Part 1 AAR by Ian Leslie

Combat Mission Road to Eindhoven Part 1 AAR by Ian Leslie



Part 2 of Road to Eindhoven Combat Mission AAR by Ian Leslie. Enjoy.  

Combat Mission Allied AAR Road to Eindhoven Part 2 Combat Mission Allied AAR Road to Eindhoven  Part 2

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

November 2016

Combat Mission Allied AAR Road to Eindhoven Part 2

Part 2 of Road to Eindhoven Combat Mission AAR by Ian Leslie. Enjoy.



Allied AAR of Battlefronts superb Combat Mission Beyond Normandy game. AAR by Ian Leslie  

Buying the Farm Combat Mission Allied AAR Buying the Farm Combat Mission Allied AAR

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

November 2016

Buying the Farm Combat Mission Allied AAR

Allied AAR of Battlefronts superb Combat Mission Beyond Normandy game. AAR by Ian Leslie



Wasteland 2 Director's Cut by InXile Entertainment  Wow, can it really be almost thirty years since the first Wastelan...

Wasteland 2 Director's cut Wasteland 2 Director's cut

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

November 2016

Wasteland 2 Director's cut


 Wow, can it really be almost thirty years since the first Wasteland came out? 1988 is a large milestone for me; it is the year that I was exactly half the age I am now. What a difference in the world and games from then to now. I haven't replayed the original Wasteland It just wouldn't be the same. I just want to be left with the memories of wandering the first Wasteland and losing a large chunk of my life to the incredible story and game play.

  Oh well, back to the present. It seems strange, but it almost seems that despite the years as I fire up Wasteland 2, I am back in the wasteland without any amount of time passing in between. Oh sure, the graphics are much better, but we expect that in games now. It is sort of remembering an old TV show in color in your mind when you know it was only in black and white.

 I chose to go with a preset party instead of using all of the different options to choose your parties looks and abilities. It being my first of probably many run-throughs I have no idea how important each skill is or might be. 

 The second thing I do is something so stupid and newbie-like that the game should just shut down in disgust. Your party starts at a funeral for Ace, who is another ranger, and general Vargas gives you a quest to complete what Ace was working on before he bought it. I then choose to do the idiotic. Instead of searching every inch of the ranger station for anything and anyone, I gleefully traipse out into the wasteland with my party. I then decide to make mistake number two. Instead of following the quest and starting my adventure where the general told me to go, I branch out. You get two distress calls on the radio one from Highpool and the other from the Ag Center (agriculture). I choose to go the the Ag Center. I'll not bore you with my constant death and the fact that my all of my party is now poisoned by monstrous spores. Suffice to say my party staggers out of the Ag Center and then I finally come to my senses and return to the Ranger Center. After picking it clean and adding a new member to my party, I head back to the Ag Center.

 The funny thing is, I know how to play RPGs, whether first person or top down like Wasteland 2. I have thousands of hours in them and know that you should search every area with a fine toothed comb, looking for that last tin can. I really think I had temporary insanity because of all of those hours I played in the original Wasteland. It was so much like going home that the ever-present dangers of the wasteland seemed insignificant compared to being out in the desert with my party again. I waited so long to play Wasteland 2 that I just wanted to be out in the new areas etc.

 So, is the game different? Of course; what or who wouldn't be different after almost thirty years? Is it hard? You betcha. Will you lose yourself in the game play? Again, a resounding yes. The hours of play will shoot by as you try to open one last door or decipher another clue.

 I promise the reminiscing is over. At the start of the game, as mentioned, you have the ability to hand pick every aspect of your parties characters. The other route is to pick a pre-made party. it is your normal RPG character creation setup. You can choose to start making a character into  an armored anchor for the rest of the group, or create a stealthy more 'brainy' character. As far as the game goes, again like all RPGs, save and then save some more. You never know what or who is lurking over the next ridge. On your way to your quest objectives there can also be chance encounters. You can choose to fight every time and build up your points to level up your part members or try to avoid them. In your wanderings, you will  also uncover different oases. Use them. The small deviation from your route and the chance of an encounter is worth the risk. Wandering about the wasteland without a full canteen of water is hazardous.

 The UI in the game is functional, and you have all the info you need at your fingertips. I'm one of those gamers whose motto is "manuals be damned". So I know that the UI is pretty intuitive and easy to catch onto. The maps and routes to your different quests are well done and easy to follow. You can decide to pick an easier route through irradiated territory or take the scenic route. The whole game can be played from the stealth or 'bull in a china shop' angle, or any sort of in between. In the beginning, as with any RPG, pick up every item you can. You have a stash at the Ranger Center to keep all of your items that might be needed at a later time. Hoarding in real life is very bad, but in RPGs it is essential. You'll never know when you need that artificial leg.

 The different characters that can join your party are an interesting lot. If your leadership skill is too low they will go rogue on you during encounters. They do have different reasons for being with you or helping you on quests, so remember that they might not always be there.

 The voice acting is good. I only had one problem and that was with a character that can join your party during one quest. The character in question sounds like either you or she are on quaaludes when she is talking. For the most part you will be reading most of the interactions between your party and others. The story line is pretty good with some very good moments of twists and turns. You are sometimes allowed to take whatever action you want, but like most RPGs, some actions cannot be taken, no matter what homicidal thought is running through your brain. Unlike other RPGs, I have not found a 'useless' skill yet. All seem to have some benefit to having or a hit for not having a particular skill. Alarms, lock picking, and your various weapon skills are self explanatory. You can also be a 'smart ass' or a 'hard ass' in some conversations which will open up whole new dialogs for you to explore. 

 So, to wrap it up, where does Wasteland 2 stand? Is it an also ran or the proud offspring of its grand old dad? In my eyes Wasteland 2 can hold its head up with the rest of the family. Indeed, it is much better than most of the originals off shoots.

 AMD cards had a problem running Wasteland 2 when it was first released, and to be honest I was getting CTDs trying to play it. I am happy to announce after updating my video drivers I have not had any problems running the game since then.

 After all of my death and near death experiences, I restarted the game and instead of using default characters, I chose to make all four of my own. Now that I have a feel for the game and how I want to play it, deciding to start over and build the characters the way I want was a no-brainer. A few other tips: make sure you reload after every encounter; also, throw some skill points into bladed or blunt weapons. Ammo is like gold, so it is best to conserve it at all times. One point about the game, a lot of it is in making choices. You will not be able to do everything and save everyone. Time is also your enemy; it is not like some RPGs where you can return to a quest line at anytime and everything has stayed still while you did a few others.

 Here's to wandering another wasteland when Wasteland 3 gets released. I know I, and many others, will be happy to be out with new Ranger buddies.


 Game: Wasteland 2 Director's Cut
 Game Developer: inXile Entertainment
 Date of Review: 11/11/2016