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Official Call of Duty®: WWII Reveal Trailer Official Call of Duty┬«: WWII Reveal Trailer

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

April 2017

Official Call of Duty®: WWII Reveal Trailer


The latest DLC campaign for the ever expanding Order of Battle is, as the name suggests, entirely focused on the German navy in WW2.  Th...

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine Review Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine Review

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

April 2017

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine Review

The latest DLC campaign for the ever expanding Order of Battle is, as the name suggests, entirely focused on the German navy in WW2.  This is an interseting choice for the series, which began with Pacific theater campaigns that had a few naval combat scenarios, but has mostly focused on land battles since then. This is a great advantage of the modular nature of the game, which since its original release as Order of Battle: Pacific has morphed into Order of Battle: World War II. The game serves as a platform for campaigns ranging from wargame standbys such as the Blitzkrieg, to less well trod ground like Finland and China. In the case of Kriegsmarine, we are looking at something perhaps even rarer, nine missions focused from beginning to end on German warships, seaplanes, and, of course, the infamous U-Boats

For those unfamiliar with the base game, a quick overview. Order of Battle, in my mind, plays much like a more tactical rendition of Panzer Corps/General. The mechanics are much the same, combat takes place on a hex-based grid over a series of turns. Click a unit and you will see how far it can move, hover next to an enemy unit and you will see the combat odds. Every unit has an overall "health" number that starts at ten and gets whittled down (or blasted away) over the course of a battle. Units have a dozen or so other stats that effect how it will perform in combat against other unit types. There are numerous historical units available, including different types of tanks, infantry, aircraft, and naval vessels. In Kriegsmarine the focus is of course on various types of U-Boats, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. 

If you want to see exactly how the game looks in motion, here is a video of me playing through the second scenario.

One of the best features of Order of Battle is that you, the player, get to pick and choose most of the units which make up a "core" force that carries forward through the campaign. Other auxiliary units will be available to round out your roster in most scenarios, but this core force will make up the meat of your firepower. These units can gain experience over time, and even be upgraded to better versions as the war progresses. You will be tasked with deciding how to spend a limited amount of resources on purchasing new units, upgrading existing ones, or reinforcing those that inevitably take damage.

In Kriegsmarine, you will spend most of your points on naval vessels, with a smattering of aircraft to support them. Ground forces are not even available for purchase, only appearing occasionally in certain scenarios.  However, there is still a lot of room for decision making. There are various models of destroyers, subs, cruisers, and battleships available. Will you put numerous sneaky subs into the sea, or load up on the big heavies? As you might imagine, a good mix of everything will serve you well. You also have a limited number of slots for aircraft in each mission. I greatly preferred to dedicate these towards reconnaissance aircraft early on, but you can take fighters or bombers if you so choose.

A wolf pack prepares to strike.

Another way you can shape your force is by choosing specializations, which are permanent perks that you can invest in between missions. The points you have to invest here are very limited, and even if you get extra ones from completing secondary objectives, you won't have enough to get everything. This is a relatively new feature for the series, which was added in the Blitzkrieg campaign and now plays into the other campaigns as well. It adds a nice extra wrinkle to your strategy, letting you improve certain types of units or reinforcing your preferred tactics. In Kriegsmarine, you have a significant choice to make, do you dump almost all of your points into a single line that will unlock a few big and powerful warships, or do you spread those points around on lots of smaller improvements to your existing fleet. 

So, I've talked about the units that will make up your fleet and how you can customize it, but what sort of missions will you take on with them? The campaign spans nine scenarios, which each task you with a handful of mandatory and optional objectives. Completing the primary objectives is usually pretty straightforward and not that difficult on the default difficulty. However, the secondary objectives give you plenty of interesting challenges to chase after. Each success will earn you some type of reward, be it officers to assign to you ships for stat bonuses, additional specialization points, a free unit, or some kind of advantage in future scenarios. In many scenarios you will be hard pressed to complete all of these extra objectives in one go, but for those seeking some replayability, the challenge is there. 

Every scenario tasks you with a different sort of goal and circumstance. Direct naval combat is of course the order of the day, but your priorities are ever shifting and sometimes shaped by the geography. In several missions you will be hunting down merchant ships, but the situation will vary. For example, in one mission you are limited to only submarines, while in another you must avoid a powerful Royal Navy fleet while tracking down a few transports at a time. Some early missions have you assisting with amphibious invasions, but the actual fighting on the ground is limited. After these early historically grounded scenarios, and in order for the campaign to cover the entire war while being fun for the player, it quickly goes off the rails in historical terms. The German fleet in Kriegsmarine will not spend the war bottled up. It will win a string of victories and go on the offensive, taking out Allied warships by the dozen. I'll let you play the game and see for yourself, since these later levels tend to be the more elaborate missions. The highest praise I can give to the campaign itself is that I played through the whole thing in a matter of days, without ever losing interest or being bored. It definitely gave me that "just one more turn" feeling more than a few times.

There are several changes in mechanics from previous Order of Battle campaigns that were made to create a fuller experience here. Mastering these mechanics is key to keeping your fleet in good shape through the many large scale battles. The tutorial pop-ups explain them well for the most part, but I glossed over some while getting started and had to learn those the hard way. The balance between keeping your ships moving, to avoid being hit, while keeping the range to the enemy fixed, for better accuracy, turns the battles into a sort of a dance of death. The further a ship moves on its turn, the harder it will be to hit on the enemy's turn. Leaving any ship sitting still while enemies are about is nigh on suicidal, and even when you think you are safe, a torpedo armed aircraft or submarine might pop in to deal serious damage. The more cramped conditions of a few battles will have you pulling back your ships just to get some room to maneuver.  Other new mechanics include submarines with limited battery time under water before they must recharge, battleships having the ability to fire the "big guns" only on every other turn, and seaplanes, which are more flexible than other aircraft in this environment.

Most missions are on the open sea, but some are more cramped.

The only negatives I had with this campaign was the balancing of a few unit types. The single battleship I carried through my campaign never felt all that powerful, even after being upgraded and gaining experience. It seemed to be far more vulnerable to torpedoes and drew enemy fire like a magnet. Its special ability was only at times worth using, as it would sometimes do less damage than a regular attack. At the other end of the spectrum, I kept wishing the U-Boats were a bit more deadly, and thought maybe having a bonus to stealthy attacks would give them more bite. As it stands, they are there to pester the enemy at best, being slow, fragile when caught, and having only a mild capacity to deal damage. Even when used in a wolf pack, they could rarely take down an enemy ship before needing to run and hide from sonar equipped destroyers. Also, the U-Boats only get one scenario that really puts them in the spotlight.

My late game fleet, ready to set sail.

Overall, this campaign was much more enjoyable than I initially expected it to be. The naval focused scenarios from the Pacific campaigns in the original Order of Battle were not my favorite part of the game, so I thought it was a pretty bold move for The Artistocrats to make an entire campaign exclusively on naval warfare. That said, I was won over by the improved combat mechanics, the interesting setting, and the solid scenario design. If you don't want to take my word for it, you can actually play the first scenario for free in the Order of Battle: WW2 base game, which includes the original tutorial campaign and the first mission from every DLC campaign. Clocking in at only $10, Kriegsmarine is a fun excursion to a rarely portrayed theater of World War II and will give you some good bang for your buck.

- Joe Beard

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine is available directly from Matrix Games here or on Steam.

Developer: The Artistocrats
Publisher: Matrix Games/Slitherine


The Iran-Iraq War Volumes I and II by E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper, and Farzin Nadimi   There hasn't been many books on...

The Iran-Iraq War Volumes I and II by E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper, and Farzin Nadimi The Iran-Iraq War Volumes I and II by E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper, and Farzin Nadimi

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

April 2017

The Iran-Iraq War Volumes I and II by E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper, and Farzin Nadimi


 There hasn't been many books on this war. The fact that it was one of the largest wars of the 20th century seems to have been forgotten. The large forces involved, and the very large casualty list, shows it to be a war that deserves more space on shelves. We in the west view it as a small war fought over small pieces of boundary territory between Iran and Iraq, not the titanic struggle it really was. When Saddam Hussein launched this war, the political situation was much different than when he invaded Kuwait in 1991. A decisive Iraqi defeat of Iran would have caused a huge change in the balance of power in the Middle East. When the war was launched, most in the west did not have the mental image of Saddam Hussein the way he was subsequently viewed. In fact, as the book shows, he was able to buy a large amount of military weapons from the west. As far as the U.S. was concerned, Iran was enemy number one.

 The first volume starts with the stats and background behind the war itself. It was fought between 1980-1988, and is the longest uninterrupted conventional conflict of the 20th century. The western studies of the casualties put the amounts much higher than the Iranian official ones, and there is no official Iraqi list. It is very possible that the combined figure was close to 3,000,000 casualties, with more than 500,000 dead. Most of the war resembled WWI fought with modern weaponry.

 The first volume encompasses September 1980 to May 1982 and the battle for Khuzestan. The book goes on to show the bad blood between Iran and Iraq long before the war. The Shah of Iran spent a lot of his country's wealth in the 1970s buying western arms. Between 1974-1975 there was a war inside Iraq between the Kurds and the government forces. The Shah supported the Kurds in their insurrection. The border of the two countries was always a source of contention. It was set after the end of WWI by the Allies. After the Shah was deposed in 1979, and the subsequent chaos in Iran, Saddam envisioned a quick and easy war against a prostrate Iran. The stage was set with Iran having a large amount of western weaponry, but no way to get replacement parts. The Iraqi armory was equipped with a hodgepodge of Soviet and western equipment.

 The authors go onto show that Khuzestan was the home of most of the Iranian refineries, and therefore its wealth. Saddam quickly found out after the invasion that he had grabbed a tiger by the tail, and dared not let go. His dreams of easy victory evaporated over the desert sands. Next, we see the Iranians attempt to not only stop the invasion and reconquer their land, but also to crush Iraq and depose Saddam. As the book notes, U.S. intelligence stated "Iraq was fighting a limited war, while Iran was fighting a total one". The religious differences between Shia and Sunni only helped to pour fuel on the flames. Per the book: "The Iranian tactics bewildered even the best Iraqi officers" who were used to battle being a set piece affair. The swarming tactics of the Iranians left the Iraqis unable to cope.

 The Iranians were better able to deal with their casualties than the Iraqis. Iran as a political entity had existed for a few hundred years. The stitched together Iraqi nation was built at the end of WWI by the Allies. We are still seeing the folly of some of their decisions today.

 Volume 2 starts with a recap of the first two years of the war. The initial Iraqi invasion of Iran followed by the Iranian offensives is touched upon. The book then goes into the infighting at the government level in Iran, and whether to stop at the original border or to risk more international censure and actually invade Iraq. The decision was made to invade and attempt to topple Saddam. Iran was also hoping for a Shia revolt in Iraq, that never took place. This volume then continues to describe the seesaw battles that took place from June 1982-December 1986.

 The books themselves are large, and eighty pages long. They are full of pictures of the war, and also have a good amount of large colored side views of the of the different planes, armor, and other vehicles. These are excellent for model makers. The military and political history of the war is fascinating, and the books' writing only serves to make it that much better. These volumes are another score for Helion&Company. Volumes 3 and 4 are scheduled to be released in September of 2017.


Book: The Iran-Iraq war Volumes 1-2
Authors: E.R. Hooton, Tom Cooper, Farzin Nadimi
Publisher: Helion&Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers


In The Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos   I do have a confession of sorts to make, for some reason the hist...

In the Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos In the Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos

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

April 2017

In the Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos


 I do have a confession of sorts to make, for some reason the history of Sparta just never grabbed me like some other parts of Greek history. Oh, I knew the perfunctory facts about Spartan life, but besides its role in the Persian, Peloponnesian and Theban wars, I never really read more of its history than that. I remember reading about Agis and Kleomenes (the book uses a K instead of the usual Cleomenes), but they weren't the parts of Plutarch that I read over and over again. By the eras of the Diadochi and the first Epigoni, Sparta had ceased to be a major player in Greece. So in the histories of that period it is hardly mentioned. After its humbling by Antipater, it seems to just disappear.

 'In the name of Lykourgos' (Lykourgos is in essence the Spartan Solon), is an award winning book that brings to life the years 243-146 B.C. The book starts with the history of Sparta from its beginning to its preeminent place in Greece, and then its fall engendered by Thebes and Epamonidas.

 The real meat of the book begins with the ascent of Agis to one of the thrones in Sparta (there were two), and his attempt to bring Sparta back to its glory. The author shows here the differences between Agis's idea of what Sparta was in its glory years compared to the actuality. His short life and even shorter campaign to reverse time is eye opening for several reasons. The book also goes into the different ideas and reasons behind Agis's thoughts and those of his followers, who may have had other reasons to back him other than just admiring his plan. Like the Gracchi and other reformers, Agis and his companions were more than willing to cut corners or even completely go against the political system in place to force through his policies. The ideas in their heads and whether they were being pragmatic or were just misled about how the 'good old days' were, only they can tell us. With Agis's death it looked like the reform movement was killed in its cradle; that is until Kleomenes gains the throne. Strangely, Kleomenes father, in his role as co-king, was one of the most bitter enemies toward Agis and his reforming plans. So it is somewhat ironic that when Kleomenes comes to the throne he becomes the institutor of almost all of Agis's planned reforms. This is another historical tale of the lone warrior fighting against the changing times. The days of the city state controlling Greece's future were over. Still, Kleomenes came within an ace of bringing Sparta back to being a player on the world stage.

 Greece was now a pawn to be played with by the Macedonian kings, and the two leagues of cities: Aetolian and Achaean. Even this age was short lived with the shadow of Rome looming from the west. The author continues with the story of Sparta down to the Roman conquest of Greece. 

 This is an excellent book to learn not only everything about the Spartan government and way of life in its glory years, but also its tumultuous history as it fades from sight. 


Book: In the Name of Lykourgos
Author: Miltiadis Michalopoulos
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers


Wavre a Scourge of Waterloo DLC by   Slitherine / Matrix and NorbSoftDev  This battle fought on the same day as Wa...

Wavre a Scourge of Waterloo DLC Review Wavre a Scourge of Waterloo DLC Review

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

April 2017

Wavre a Scourge of Waterloo DLC Review


 This battle fought on the same day as Waterloo, June 18th 1815, sealed the fate of Napoleon and the First Empire. After beating the the Prussians at Ligny, Napoleon ordered Grouchy, the last man Napoleon would make as a marshal of France, to take the III and IV corps along with the 21st infantry and 4th cavalry division and make sure the Prussians could not interfere with Napoleon's battle against the English. Hearing the sounds of battle from Waterloo, Grouchy refused his subordinates' requests to 'march to the sound of the guns'. The Prussian III corps under Thielmann had only 17,000 men, but he kept Grouchy's 33,000 men occupied for the day. By not trying to attack the rear of the Prussians marching to Waterloo, Grouchy allowed those Prussians to tip the scales in the battle of Waterloo against Napoleon. Historians have had a field day from that day on as to whether Grouchy should have followed his orders or used his own initiative. I think this quote sums up the correct answer "After the battle the King can do what he likes with my head, but during the battle will he please allow me to use it"? (Friedrich Wilhelm Von Seydlitz answer to orders from Frederick The Great during the battle of Zorndorf).

 This new DLC finishes up the four battle set of Napoleon's campaign in Belgium in 1815. The main game is 'The Scourge of War Waterloo', and the other two DLCs are Ligny and Quatre Bras.
At this time there is no linked campaign between the main game and the DLCs. You fight each battle and its scenarios separately. Both 'Scourge of War Gettysburg' and 'Scourge of War Waterloo' have a large and very active modding community. So I am sure that is being worked on at the moment.

 There are five scenarios that come with the Wavre DLC. These are: 

 4:00PM French Army
 4:30PM Prussian Division
 4:00PM Prussian Army
 7:00PM French Brigade
 8:30 AM French Corps 

 One point in particular needs to be addressed right at the beginning. This is a command simulation, and sometimes the 3D representation in the game does not match the actual situation that is being portrayed on the map. Some people are nonplussed at the fact that they cannot seem to move and position their troops 'just so' on the battlefield. At times, there are also some strange movements of both sides of troops during a firefight or charge. These do not reflect the actual 'under the hood' calculations of the actual combat taking place. Once a budding computer general understands this point, the game becomes much more understandable and enjoyable.

 The game can be played in several different ways. You can play from a 'Gods point of view' meaning that you can travel with your mouse over the entire battlefield to see everything that is going on. The other way to play is in 'HITS' mode. This acronym stands for 'headquarters in the saddle' (do not get confused with John Pope here). What this means is that you can only see exactly what your computer general can see at any moment of time on the battlefield. While using this mode and the courier system that the game has, it is a very good representation of 19th century battle. While you might be driving the enemy before you from where you are positioned at the moment, both your flanks could be crushed and your troops fleeing on other parts of the battlefield.

 The AI in the game has always been one of the franchise's best selling points. It is tough, not only as an opponent, but also as an ally or subordinate. 

 The other great thing about the games is the visual representation. I am an old hex gamer, so to be able to see the sweep and sheer size of a Napoleonic battlefield in action is pretty amazing. NorbSoftDev has always made it a point to be as historically accurate with the actual battlefields and the OOBs, along with the actual troops' uniforms. 

 Victory conditions are based on geographical points captured or defended and also the casualties suffered by both sides.

 I want to reiterate that there is a brilliant group of modders that work on these games, and they have made a ton of scenarios for other battles and eras. Naturally, the mods cannot be as well done as NorbSoftDev's official DLCs, but some come very close.

 There is also a very large group of active people who play multiplayer with all of the games of the series. 

 So kudos to NorbSoftDev for finishing up the games needed to represent the Waterloo campaign. Now, get to work on my Eylau. A Napoleonic battlefield in a snow storm with a grand cavalry charge is in my dreams. Please see my other reviews of the main game and DLCs:


Designer: NorbsoftDev
Distributor: Slitherine/Matrix


I'm working on a review for the newest expansion to Order of Battle featuring the Kriegsmarine. Here's me playing the second sce...

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine - Gameplay Video Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine - Gameplay Video

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

April 2017

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine - Gameplay Video

I'm working on a review for the newest expansion to Order of Battle featuring the Kriegsmarine. Here's me playing the second scenario of the campaign, the invasion of Norway. Hope you enjoy! I know my microphone could have been a bit louder.  Please give some feedback if you like this kind of thing or would like to see different kinds of videos.

- Joe Beard


WOTR : WARRIORS OF MIDDLE-EARTH The first expansion for WOTR 2nd edition was Lords of Middle-Earth :    a small, but attractive pac...


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

April 2017



The first expansion for WOTR 2nd edition was Lords of Middle-Earth:  a small, but attractive package that introduced a slew of additional Characters, with their relevant Character card and attendant plastic figure.   Enjoyable though this was, I felt that to some extent the addition, perhaps like the package itself, was a fairly light-weight affair.

Now this second expansion WOTR: Warriors of Middle-Earth brings a much weightier and more substantial development to the game.  For me this has to be an essential buy simply because it deepens and extends the experience of gaming in the world of Middle-Earth.  the key word is Factions.  Both sides now find themselves with three additional Factions that they can bring to their aid and physically on to the map.

These forces constitute 48 new figures in six groups of eight: for the Fellowship the Dead Men of Dunharrow, the Eagles of the Misty Mountains and the Ents of Fangorn, while the Shadow ranks are swelled by the Corsairs of Umbar, the Hillmen of Dunland and the Broods of Shelob.

The new forces fighting for The Fellowship

Their Shadow opponents

Of these, my favourites have to be the Ents and the Corsairs, just for the sculpts alone.  Compared with the figures in WOTR 2nd edition, the plastic seems just a little harder and the shading of the blue and the red a touch darker and stronger, both these features make them a very good addition indeed.

The accompanying decks of cards are equally impressive matching the original game's cards in every way.  Six cards and three cards respectively for the Fellowship and the Shadow player are replacements for original Event cards, then both get six Call To Battle cards, but overtopping all these are the two new decks of 20 Faction cards, one for each player.

This is no cosmetic addition, but a really substantial development for the existing game.

All the good things before unpacking

Thus, a separate draw is made from the Faction deck each turn, with a player able to hold up to 4 cards from the Faction deck, as well as the normal hand size.  Similarly, when the appropriate conditions occur for a player's first Faction to be available, a special customised die is added to the player's dice pool.  Both of these details mean that the additional features supplement and extend existing game play rather than just including more options for what the existing cards and dice allow.

The new dice

Along with the neat, clearly explained, additional set of rules there are two copies of an equally well laid out Reference Chart which summarises not just the use of all the dice symbols in Warriors of Middle-Earth, but those in the main game and the Lords of Middle-earth expansion too.  I greatly appreciate these little touches that bring everything together for our convenience.

The excellent rules booklet and Reference card

For each Faction there is a large reference card too,  with a mood-setting illustration on the front side and a summary of their relevant rules on the back.

Two of my favourite illustrated Faction reference cards

Obviously with the addition of three Factions on each side, the total effect is approximately a balanced one.  However, from my limited experience so far, I think the edge goes to the Fellowship player.  In particular, the ability of both the Ents and the Dead Men of Dunharrow to sacrifice one of their units to roll dice in an unchallenged combat adds a definite extra bite to the Fellowship's military tactics.  Whether as a way of wearing down a Shadow army prior to a more conventional attack or sniping at smaller Shadow forces. it lends a more aggressive punch.

Added to that, just having Eagles in the game is enough of a boost for me!  With their range of four and ability to swoop to join a battle, it adds a little extra tension and uncertainty to all but the most lopsided of encounters.

For the Shadow player, the Dunlendings and the Spiders both have a little more manoeuvrability and as such seem mainly to provide handy cannon-fodder, while the Corsairs of Umbar are very useful in rapidly transporting other units to their destination [clearly with some limitations on which regions they may travel to].

All-in-all,  this is a fine expansion, well worth acquiring.  It adds greatly to the thematic flavour and immersive folk-lore while playing the game,  while adding genuine tactical and strategic decisions.


Oh, just one no-no.  On the front of the box is a slim packet containing two cards for [as you can see below] a Promotional Mini-Expansion.  If you choose to include them in your game, then may the wrath of Tolkien descend upon you!!  

The play of either card, if the conditions are right, allow you to win the game outright there and then.  Just don't blame me if your losing opponent [a] smashes you over the head with the map board [b] makes you eat all the plastic figures [c] never speaks to you again.   You have been warned!



Tempest, the Pirate Action RPG, is exactly what the name suggests. This game, previously available on PC and now ported to mobile devic...

Tempest Review Tempest Review

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

April 2017

Tempest Review

Tempest, the Pirate Action RPG, is exactly what the name suggests. This game, previously available on PC and now ported to mobile devices, puts you in the role of the captain of a ship in an open-world where you can sail about fighting other ships, completing quests (both mundane and legendary), or hunting for treasure. There are quest lines to explore if you are looking for a focused experience, but nothing holds you back from going wherever you please after the tutorial. Along the way you'll also need to manage your crew, buy and sell goods, and upgrade to better ships.  For a little $8 mobile game, there is a lot to see and do. Grab your eyepatch, strap on a peg leg, and let's set sail on this pirate adventure.

As you can see from the official trailer above, the game does look pretty nice, especially in terms of atmosphere and lighting. I played the game on an iPhone 5s, and it looks just like that while running perfectly smooth. All of the screenshots in this review were taken on my phone. The file size clocks in at 341 MB, so it won't take up too much space if you are constantly maxing out your file storage like I do.

Since this is a mobile game, how the controls work is going to be critical to whether I will enjoy it. In the case of Tempest, I can report that the controls work quite well, even with a lot of stuff jammed onto the screen.

The big arrows you see in each screenshot are how you steer the ship.  Simply touch one and the ship will turn in that direction. There are a variety of menus which are reached by tapping the icons along the edges of the screen. These menus let you manage your crew, inspect your ship's inventory and status, review your quests, or hoist a different flag, among other things. The camera can be spun, tilted, and zoomed at any time. During battle, the camera can be locked onto an enemy ship, which frees you up from needing to manage it. You will have plenty of other concerns to take up your time, between steering your ship into position, watching the direction of the wind, changing cannonball types, and of course firing the big guns.

A typical round of combat in Tempest has you and an enemy ship circling each other, attempting to get the enemy in your sights while staying out of theirs as much as possible. The blue strip in the screenshot above shows your line of fire. You need to hold the enemy in this lane so that your men can take aim. You can fire at any time, or wait for the circle to fill completely, which automatically triggers a full power shot. Engaging at long range makes this tricky, as you must anticipate the speed and direction of yourself and the enemy ship. Engaging close up is of course easier, but puts you at greater risk of taking heavy damage. 

The game starts you off with the basic age of sail attack options. You can load your cannons with standard cannonballs for hull damage, bars for sail damage, and shrapnel for taking out enemy crew. These different options come in a variety of quality levels, and your stocks are finite, so you need to keep an eye on inventory levels as you head into a big battle. Luckily, rusty old cannonballs are handed out for free at pirate ports. As you play the game, more exotic weapons like mortars and flamethrowers can be added to your arsenal.

There are also a variety of other upgrades you can add to your ship which give you more options for attacking and other advantages. For example, a very thematic item you can pick up early is the spyglass. Using this actually takes you into a first person telescopic view, where you can gaze at ships in the distance to gather information about them. 

As you sail around the game world you will visit ports belonging to a wide variety of factions. Your reputation with each is tracked, and like in most games, having higher rep will give you advantages with that faction, while dropping it too low can get you locked out of their ports entirely. The various factions all have some sort of bonus that gives you a reason to visit them and keep your reputation with them strong. Each faction also has a series of quests you can complete, which run along their individual theme. Completing these will boost your reputation and reap you some nice rewards.

You also gain a variety of personal reputations based on how you fight. These reputations colorfully describe your character, but also give you a bonus related to actions you take while playing. In my case I tended to fight at long range and flee from combat when needed. This gave me a bonus to accuracy and speed, respectively. These bonuses are earned and changed automatically as the game goes along. I thought this was a really cool idea that rewarded you based on your preferred playstyle. 

The game offers you a very interesting option in how you want to play it. You can travel around using the strategic map (see above), simply tapping on where you want to go and waiting a few seconds for your ship to arrive. Along the way, random encounters and quest events will pop up at the bottom of the screen. You can choose to engage these foes or pass them by. Most quest locations are clearly marked and you simply click on them to head that way. This is all very efficient and easy, but true sea dogs who want to feel the ocean spray on their face have another option (see below).

It is possible play the entire game without using the strategic map at all. You can sail around the entire game world while looking at your ship, or even zoomed in all the way to the deck. A map is available there at the helm with the same information as the strategic map. This is a cool option that adds to the immersion, especially when you want to do some peaceful sailing.

As I mentioned before, as captain of the ship you are also responsible for managing the ship's finances, cargo, crew, and officers. Crew management has two key factors. How many crewman of different experience levels you have, and where you put them. There are five different experience levels. You can always pick up more level 1 crew for free at ports, but skilled crewmen are limited and have a price. However, the crew you have gains experience and this can be spent to level up your men and make them more effective. Crewmen can also be wounded or killed in battle, which means you want to avoid lopsided battles where you might lose numerous experienced men. 

The second aspect to crew management is where you put these men. There are three sections of your ship: the guns, the deck fighters, and the sails. Each section can be boosted in efficiency by placing more men there, so you may want to shift men around as the situation demands. In practice, you don't have to mess with this too much, but it's something to always keep in mind.

Hauling cargo from port to port, buying low and selling high, is a classic open world mechanic that fits into Tempest nicely. Whether you are buying those goods legitimately, or taking them off the wrecks of your latest victims is up to you. Funds earned by combat and selling goods can be used to upgrade your ship in numerous ways. Stronger hulls and bigger cannons are on offer of course, as well as smaller upgrades and tweaks to customize your ship. Once you earn enough cash, you can even buy an entirely new ship. These range from quick sloops to triple decked battleships. 

I talked early on about how impressive the visuals were (considering I am playing this with smooth frame rates on a two year old phone) but something should also be said about the sound and music. The music is some of the best I have heard in a new game so far this year. It's exactly the kind of stuff you would expect from a good pirate movie and will have you feeling like Jack Sparrow going into the action. The sound effects are also very well done. The ship creaks as you change direction, the waves crash against your hull, and the cannons roar in battle. There is a lot going on in this regard, and I recommend playing with headphones on to get the full effect.

The game includes more fantastical elements as it progresses, including special artifacts, magical powers, and even sea monsters. I will let you discover those fun encounters on your own. The game also features co-op and PvP multiplayer, though I did not experience any of it during my playtime so far. This was likely because I spent most of my time playing before the game fully released. From everything I've read about the PC version of the game, these features are fun and seamlessly built into the gameplay. If you and someone else are sailing through the same part of the game world and enter a battle, there is a chance you will find yourself fighting along with, or against, that human player.

If any negatives could be said about the game, it would be that there are a lot of systems here, but none delve too deep. The gameplay loop is nothing new, you earn money in a variety of ways, then spend it to get bigger, better stuff so you can earn more money faster to buy more stuff. You've seen all this before. That said, everything here is as solidly constructed as the hull of Old Ironsides. The game delivers exactly the experience the developers set out to create. 

Clearly, this is a game with a lot of content and things to do. Considering the price, and compared to typical mobile game offerings, you get some serious bang for your buck with Tempest. There are no In-App Purchases or microtransactions to be seen. $8 gets you the full experience, which is a rare thing on these platforms. I wanted to try the game out on my iPad, but it kept saying the device was not compatible. Hopefully this has been fixed with the full release of the game, but even if not, the game works extremely well on the much smaller iPhone.

While in a lot of ways the game offers standard open-world gaming fare, it is done here with a high level of competency all wrapped in an appealing setting. I find that I don't game much on my iPhone, with unsatisfying titles arriving and then walking the plank shortly after, but Tempest has me rethinking that pattern. The short initial load time, impressive sounds and visuals, all on top of the fully featured gameplay, has earned it a permanent spot on my phone.

- Joe Beard

Developer: HeroCraft
Official Website:

Tempest is available on iOS and Android devices. 
The PC version is available on Steam.


Pyrrhus of Epirus by   Jeff Champion  The time of the Diadochi has always been one of my favorite eras of hi...

Pyrrhus of Epirus by Jeff Champion Pyrrhus of Epirus by Jeff Champion

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

April 2017

Pyrrhus of Epirus by Jeff Champion



 The time of the Diadochi has always been one of my favorite eras of history for reading and gaming. Forget Alexander; without the cast of generals he had around him, he might just be a footnote in history. Pyrrhus's life spans through the time of the Diadochi and Epigoni. As a youth he is fighting along side Antigonus and Demetrius in the largest battle of the Hellenistic period, Ipsus. Pyrrhus's life is definitely one that should have a movie made of it. His fortunes were always up and down, but his personal bravery and his generalship was never in question. Hannibal ranked him as either the greatest or second greatest general of the ancient world   (Plutarch recounts both in different places). Left adrift at the age of two to the fortunes of war, his battles for his patrimony and conquest are the stuff of legends. Out of all the kings at the time, he was the one that most people considered to be a true successor to Alexander, who was actually his second cousin. Pyrrhus's uncle Alexander Molossus invaded Italy, and fought the Romans as his nephew later would. Livy has Alexander Molossus saying at his death "that he fought men, while his other nephew Alexander waged war against women". On to the actual book.

 First, the book has something that all history books should have, maps, and it has eight pages of them. Some people who read history have an innate map system that allows them to be able to see in their heads where everything being written about is, and actual battle placements. Others have to keep cross-referencing while reading, which is a bit of a hassle. History books, and especially military history books, should always have maps and the more the better. Mr. Champion starts the book with a background history of Epirus. The biography continues with Pyrrhus's exile, his return and then his short tenure of king of Macedon. During his fight for the crown of  Macedon is where he gained his nickname 'the eagle'. Then Pyrrhus's life enters the best known part, his invasion of Italy and battles against the Romans. Unlike Hannibal, the Romans were actually debating whether to submit to Pyrrhus. If not for the old blind man Appius Claudius Caecus, a peace treaty would have been signed between Rome and Pyrrhus. What changes would have occurred in the rest of history if this had happened?

 His life continues with many victories against Carthage in Sicily. He then becomes embroiled once more in fighting Rome and then returns to Greece where his life is cut short in Argos by an old women wielding a roof tile, of all things.

 Mr. Champion does a very good job of showing all of the different accounts of his battles and Pyrrhus's history in general. Where there are conflicting accounts, Mr. Champion makes sure the reader is aware of them. History, as we know, is usually written by the victors. So most of the accounts of Pyrrhus in his struggles with Rome do not make sense if he lost battles or his casualties were as high as some state. Well-written and stuffed full of history of not only the man, but also his time, this book is very easy to recommend. Thankfully we live in an age where there are historians who are finally filling the blank spots in the great Hellenistic age. We can only weep at the many histories that Plutarch, etc. mention that have until now never been found.


Book: Pyrrhus of Epirus
Author: Jeff Champion
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers


Once upon a time there were only a couple of Warhammer 40k games for PC, and there was much lamenting this fact, until one day the wi...

Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf Preview Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf Preview

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

April 2017

Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf Preview

Once upon a time there were only a couple of Warhammer 40k games for PC, and there was much lamenting this fact, until one day the winds changed, and 40k games of various quality began springing up like Orks. Some of these new games were decent enough, while others were a bit of a mess. One thing is for certain, developers were forced to pair the theme of 40k with all sorts of interesting mechanics, simply to stand apart from the crowd. 

Into this crowded field of combatants steps Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf, a game which pairs the turn based tactical combat of XCOM with the deck building mechanics of Hearthstone.  Individual Space Marines travel about on a grid facing off against Chaos Marines and other heretics. Your Marines each have a deck of cards which are drawn from to form your "hand" of options. The cards can be played to attack, move, or activate some other ability. Once you play a card it's gone, so you have to balance what you need now with what you may want to do in the future. While this may seem odd to some, this card driven combat actually works quite well, and is even addicting. Completing scenarios and optional objectives will unlock more cards for you to use in your decks. There is also a light RPG system of leveling up the characters in your squad, allowing you to unlock various perks for each one. 

The cards represent all the different weapons you would expect to find on a 40k battlefield. Bolters of all types, melta guns, flamers, explosives, and various combination weapons. There are also the ever grisly melee weapons like chainswords, axes, power fists, spears, and more. For any given weapon, there are a variety of different cards which represent it, some with better stats and even extra abilities, like letting you draw another card when they are played. One important stat on every card is the "effort" value, which ties into the initiative system. Basically, using cards will increase your effort level for that character, then over time that number will decrease, and this constantly shifting value determines the dynamic turn order. Using the really cool and powerful cards will increase the number faster, which means an enemy using lighter attacks may get to go twice before you character acts again. Balancing this number is a critical part of the gameplay, as enemy units often out number yours considerably, and edging them out in turn order can be the difference between victory and annihilation. 

Some cards can also let you (and the forces of Chaos) pull off combo moves that will give some kind of bonus. These often have a requirement such as attacking an enemy from a specific range, or using a melee weapon, before they activate. Firing off these combos will help you be more efficient, which is important because the enemy squads will keep coming at you with no mercy during most missions. 

Another type of card is one that can be "equipped" on your character. These often give you an overwatch ability that can fire during the enemy's turn. Unlike most cards, these equipped cards stay around and can be "reloaded" by sacrificing certain other cards from your hand.

Each scenario gives you some sort of task, such as reaching a certain point on the map and defeating an enemy, saving a comrade, or simply holding out against waves of attackers. There are also optional objectives you can try to complete to earn bonuses. I was surprised to find myself playing the same mission several times over, trying to get the optimal outcome. The scenarios typically have your Marines facing a ton of enemies that spawn in at the most inopportune moments. This creates a challenge certainly, but can sometimes feel cheap, since you really have no idea when or where they will arrive. You may survive the fight the first time around, but will likely be unable to complete the bonus objectives until playing through again with a bit of foreknowledge about where and when attacks will come. 

To get the most out of your squad for a particular scenario, you may need to go back to the barracks and tweak your team. This includes changing up the cards in your deck, and switching out different perks for each squad member. You can invest a limited number of points in unlocking more perks for a given marine, or your primary character. You can also choose to send your main man into battle with a different armored suit. Scout, tactical (the standard), and terminator options are available. Each comes with advantages and disadvantages, and unique options in terms of cards, which will change up your strategy quite a bit. The scout armor, for example, has lighter defenses, but can move quickly and use sniper rifles.

Burning more than one enemy with the flamer is always satisfying.
Outside of missions, you can also spend resources to craft new cards and try to get better versions of each one. Much like other collectible card games, there's a drive to collect all of the "legendary" cards that will really beef up your deck. I've only tinkered with that area of things, so I'll save more details for my review in the future. Likewise, the game does have multiplayer, but I have not dipped my toe in that pool of chaos just yet.

I'll talk a bit about the graphics and sound for a moment. While the visuals are not going to blow anyone away, as this was originally a mobile game, they serve their purpose well enough. The animations are nicely done in particular, with especially meaty melee attacks that send blood flying. The sound effects are pleasing as well, better than I expected going in. I really enjoyed the music that I have heard so far. It's quite a moody and matches the grim dark tone.

You might have noticed that I mentioned this was originally a mobile game. Don't start backing away! The developers are well aware of the stigma that many such cross-platform games face, and they are deliberately setting out to make this version of the game take full advantage of being on PC. Obviously, the fact that they are taking their time developing the game for the next several months, instead of just shoving a port onto Windows and calling it good, speaks volumes on its own. They are accepting feedback from players, and want to make this the best version of the game out there.

While this game is still in very early access (I think I started at version 0.0.2 and it's now at 0.0.6), there is certainly enough solid gameplay here for anyone looking for some more WH 40k gaming. The combination of card driven actions and tactical turn based movement works better than anyone might expect. The game only costs $12 at the moment, so if you are at all interested you won't be risking much by giving it a shot. If you have your doubts, just keep an eye on the steady stream of updates coming from the developers. This week they made some big changes with weapon balancing, which I was playing with right before this review. This update alone increased my enjoyment of the gameplay quite a bit, since it made melee weapons a lot easier to engage with. 

I look forward to seeing how this game shapes up over the course of the year. The planned release date is sometime in Q4 of 2017.

Developer: HeroCraft

- Joe Beard


Part Two   THEATER OF OPERATIONS: The Game      Journey of the Reluctant Indie Dev     My wife and I were dealing with twin new...

Theater of Operations: The Game Part Two Theater of Operations: The Game Part Two

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

April 2017

Theater of Operations: The Game Part Two

Part Two


Journey of the Reluctant Indie Dev
  My wife and I were dealing with twin newborns plus a 2 year old, and a complete lack of meaningful sleep for months. In the wee hours of the night I would let my mind wander to my “happy place” to help keep my sanity. I am a life-long war gamer and my mind eventually wandered to “how would I create a campaign layer to the Combat Mission series of games?” by This is the genesis of Theater of Operations.

  I found myself continuing to think about my game concept even after I gradually started to get some sleep. I continued to tinker around with various concepts, and then one day I decided to try and make the game a reality. Here is the catch; I NEVER intended to be the person to actually develop the game. I am not a professional programmer (though I have done it before), nor am I in the industry (yet). I was happy to be a volunteer consultant for a company; all I wanted was credit and a free copy of the game! I tried time and again to “give” my game concept away. Every company I contacted had varying degrees of courtesy, but they all had the same basic answer of “no thanks because we have our own production schedule” and “come back when you have something to sell”.

  Steve at Battlefront has been surprisingly supportive of me and my idea, especially during the early days. BFC didn’t want to develop my game, but Steve encouraged me to take the reins and try to make it happen on my own. I had enough going on in my life, and this was NOT something I wanted to expend my energy on… or so I thought. I tried to forget about the project, but I found myself drawn back to thinking about it. My conscience wasn’t going to let me quit this project, so here I stand fully committed and motivated to make this happen.
  How was I going to make this happen? I started trying to find different resources and then one day it hit me. I have one of the largest research universities in the world in my back yard (Ohio State), and they became my primary focus for resources. I started getting research material at the library, and soliciting advice and ideas from faculty. Eventually I was directed to Professor Crawfis who teaches game design and development. After meeting with him, he started helping me find some local people that would be interested in joining forces with the project. This is how I met Mitchell and David. Another contact at the university connected me with John, and together we formed Buckeye Battle Group (BBG).

  The team was excited about the project, however we had no funding. Despite great interest and good intentions there was little meaningful progress in programming development over several months. Everyone had full time jobs, and the project was too complex to work on in a casual manner. After some time I accepted the fact that the only way to complete an ambitious project like ToO was to get enough funding to dedicate team members to the project full time. So I started researching different avenues to get funding. After a rather exhaustive search I concluded that crowdsourcing appeared to be our best bet.

 To avoid any confusion I want to stop here and say that the game name has evolved over the years. Currently our project is called Theater of Operations, however during our Kickstarter in 2015 the game was named Combat Operations: Overlord (COO).

  The summer and fall of 2015 was an exciting time for the project. I had a team, and we were working to get a Kickstarter prepared for the beginning of September. I had gotten to know JC of Real and Simulated Wars fairly well over the previous couple of years, and he was excited to try and help. After some planning sessions we decided to run a few segments on his blog about the game. My plan was to begin the Kickstarter after giving it a few weeks to garner attention. I was hoping that the forward momentum would help us reach our relatively modest development funding goal.

  The segments ran in Real and Simulated Wars as planned, and it got a lot of positive attention. My team and I also spent time on other forums to attempt to generate even more attention. Then something even more exciting happened; Rock, Paper, Shotgun picked up on my project and posted about it! Morale was high and we thought we might actually pull this thing off!

 Then came the reality check. The Kickstarter began September 1 (to coincide with the 1939 German invasion of Poland), and the first day went well. Despite the initial success I sensed that things were not trending in the right direction. Funding quickly flat-lined and I started to see a fair amount of less-than-positive feedback. There was plenty of constructive criticism to take note of, but some other criticism was rather obnoxious and baffled me with its angry tone. I soon figured out that much of the venom was fuelled by scepticism. Behind the scenes I tried to salvage the campaign with different measures, but after a week I felt like anything we did was going to be too little too late. There was a lot of time still left on the campaign (with potential donors still lurking), but I decided to end the campaign early, catch our breath, regroup and reassess.

 It sucks to fail, but I learned many critical lessons on many different aspects. The baptism of fire was the best source of accurate information I could have gotten. I got perfect clarity on what we needed to do. Furthermore, I made many new friends that were excited to provide positive support in a variety of ways. A perfect example is our forum on Before the campaign I was using a Google Group as a forum, but during the Kickstarter Asid of graciously offered me space on his forum. So yes, we failed to reach our primary objective, but the project still made a significant advance forward as a result.

 Immediately after the Kickstarter I took a deep breath and re-evaluated our approach. Perhaps the core lesson learned was attaining greater public confidence. Software development projects are met with greater scepticism with Kickstarter, and I had to address this. If we build greater public confidence then we have a much better chance at reaching our crowdsourcing goals. All I was showing in my Kickstarter was my game concept, what it wanted to achieve, some of the support we had, and some conceptual pictures. The public needed to see more since our team had no game production credentials.

  The obvious question now becomes “How are you going to attain greater public confidence?” There are a number of ways that we are addressing this. The first way is simply to continue to have a presence (i.e. our forum and website), and continue to market ourselves and our project. The best way is to actually produce something. As I mentioned earlier Theater of Operations is too ambitious with our current constraints, however we are currently working on taking a board wargame from a known publisher and creating a computer version. I can’t talk more about it yet because of where we are at in the process, but we plan to have something out before this fall.

  While the board game project diverts our programming attention away from ToO the potential benefits far outweigh the diversion. Ironically the board game project may lead to faster development of ToO for a couple of reasons. The board game will be easier to develop with a simpler scope, and it will give our team more experience and confidence when it comes to programming a complex game like ToO (more confidence, faster execution). Additionally, it will create a trickle of revenue. Accomplishing the board game project may open other immediate sources of funding that makes another Kickstarter completely unnecessary. Like Cicero said "the sinews of war are infinite money"! It is every bit as true for creating war games too!!

  As it stands now the ToO game design and algorithms are mostly complete and ready for formal beta testing. I am being brutally honest when I say that we are a long way off of any computer playtesting, because A LOT of code still needs to be developed before that can happen. The programmers indicate that once they can get through with building all the foundational programming for ToO, adding all the game algorithms should be relatively easy.

 Currently we are doing a ‘manual’ live play test of ToO. We are running a scenario that takes place in Normandy called Blue, Gray, and Bocage. I don’t want to mislead anyone, so I will reiterate that everything is being accomplished by hand at the moment. So I am using spreadsheets to track and compute results, and I create the visuals using Vassal. While some may scoff at the thought of doing this, I am getting great design information to adjust and tweak. So progress is currently being made in small increments, but it is progress nonetheless. Additionally, people can see the basic concepts in action.

  Our forum has gobs of information. I give updates, links to videos, insight to game concepts, and discussion on various aspects. This is also where we are doing our live play test. I encourage all that are interested to check it out and feel free to join the discussion.

The Core Team of BBG

  Matt McCoppin is the game designer for Theater of Operations and the ringleader/founder of Buckeye Battle Group. He has over 2 decades of military experience, and he is a lifelong war gamer. He enjoys most genres of gaming from historical to fantasy. He enjoys all mediums (computer, board game, or miniatures), and all levels of combat (strategic, operational, and tactical). He has been designing various games since he was 5 years old, but never tried to get one published…till now!

  David Hazlett is our lead programmer and is a cofounder of Paint BiNumbers Studios. His company mostly does consulting work in the gaming industry, and they work closely with Ohio State University researchers. Many projects they do are gamification of daily tasks or therapy. They have partnered with Games That Move You to develop a stroke rehabilitation video game using the Kinect to track a stroke patient's skeleton and have them do gestures to control game actions while getting their therapy at the same time. He is a foundational member of Buckeye Battle Group and has been working on writing the software needed to make our game a reality!

  Mitchell Arthur is a foundational member of Buckeye Battle Group, in fact he was the first programmer to join the team. He is currently a .NET web applications developer at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He has been passionate about gaming ever since he popped a 3.5" floppy into his computer with the title "The Oregon Trail" on it. The first strategy video game he can remember playing was Axis and Allies, and strategy games have consumed vast amounts of his time ever since. He started game development in 2012 with Unity 3.5 in a class at The Ohio State University. Ever since then, he can’t stay away from Unity and game development.

  John Rose is a foundational member of BBG, but he was too busy to give us a bio in time. So we will just say that he has been developing software for a LOOONG time (since the early ‘80’s).

  Lincoln Stanley has many hobbies that include reading, video games and working out. He enjoys all things technical, so he builds computers and websites when he can. He is a former soldier and worked as a linguist in military intel, so he tries to maintain his knowledge of foreign languages as well. He has degrees in Korean, History and Business Intelligence yet he works in finance…figure that one out! His love of gaming in general and historical strategy in particular is what gets him excited to be part of this project.

  “Pres" is a programmer for BBG. He has been playing computer wargames since the 80's, and he is an avid student of military history. He has always wanted to develop wargames, and he worked for a computer gaming company for a while to get some experience in the industry. Creating games has always been an interest, and now is a perfect chance to be a part of BBG.