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This is the second book in Gordon Thorburn's 'Luck of a Lancaster' series. The first follows the fortunes of an single ai...

More Luck of a Lancaster by Gordon Thorburn More Luck of a Lancaster by Gordon Thorburn

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

August 2017

More Luck of a Lancaster by Gordon Thorburn

This is the second book in Gordon Thorburn's 'Luck of a Lancaster' series. The first follows the fortunes of an single aircraft that managed to return successfully from 107 sorties. This book copies that formula and recounts the sorties of tail number EE136 WS/R 'Spirit of Russia'. Interestingly both aircraft were from No. 9 Sqn, a unit which exists to this day. I have subsequently learnt that of the approximately 7,000 Lancasters built, there were just 36 that survived more than 100 operations.

First things first, I read this book in two sittings. It's not a particularly long book (147 pages) but what there is, is gripping, exciting and it receives, from me, a book-lovers highest recommendation, 'I couldn't put it down'. It is a rare non-fiction book where I find myself reading long into the small hours and wanting to find out how the crew fared on their next sortie.

Pen & Sword Publishing have this book in stock for £15.99. 

I suppose I should say that my review of this subject matter may be more subjective than most. I have served in a very similar professional role to those depicted in this book, albeit their circumstances and risks they were willing, and in some cases eager to take are, for me, beyond comprehension.

The author cites No. 9 Sqn's Operations Record Book (ORB) frequently throughout the text and rarely expands the abbreviations. A typical entry might read:

"Unidentified T/E A/C passed stern of Lancaster
 to port, same height. RG opened fire..."

This isn't a big problem as your brain has been frequently exposed to ORB excerpts that by the second or third chapter it automatically substitutes in the expansion. Just be prepared to read lots of abbreviated excerpts - that's exactly how they were and still are written.

Sometimes in reading the text I found myself wondering whether the author was playing a bit loose with the facts as I couldn't square their [the bomber crews] experiences to my own understanding. For example, the book opens with a sequence from a personal diary which states:

"There were ninety of us, flying in a gaggle at about
twenty feet around Lincoln, over the Wash..."

Today, 250 ft is a hard bottom for the UK's Low Flying System and 100 ft on some ranges. This separation is maintained in all aspects, and generally the aircraft fly either in pairs or more often as a single aircraft. To have 'a gaggle' of 90 large aircraft at 20 ft beggars belief. I suppose this claim and other similarly astonishing revelations on nearly every page made this book a page-turner.

I have to take issue with the author when he claims (cites?) aircraft flying at zero feet!!! Now call me pedantic if you will, but that is not possible. The account goes onto say that due to some jostling within this 'zero foot' bomber stream an aircraft had to roll 90 degrees and it's wing was 'almost' touching the water. With a wingspan of approximately 100 ft those Lancaster's must have been flying somewhere greater than 50 ft ... either way it's ludicrously low.

The book made me stop and think for a bit when the author states, when referring to the aircrew:

"...these men who, whenever they flew, had to
obliterate their most basic instinct, that of 
self-preservation, so they could do their work."

Another pause-for-thought moment came for me, when the author equates the damage of German Cities by Bomber Command to British Cities. The civilian death toll must have been horrendous. I would have liked to see some balance, i.e. from German squadron log books or civilian accounts of the bombing raids in which our heroine was present. 

I'm of the opinion that although it was deemed a necessary evil at the time, the carpet bombing of civilian populations should make us more than a little uncomfortable. Unfortunately the book doesn't provide any opinion on the matter. Neither good or bad, it just tells the facts - I suppose that is the safest way talk about a potentially contentious subject.

Hamburg after Bomber Command and US 8th Air Force visited
As we follow the air-frame I realised that the author had almost imbued a sense of personality into EE136 WS/R and I found myself rooting for her as much as I did her crews. Spoiler - she survives for 109 operations before being declared U/S. However when a Bomber Command tour was 30 missions and the average life expectancy for those aircrews was around 15 missions, we can start to appreciate just how fortunate WS/R was.

The are several photo pages wedged into the middle of the book and I was shocked and a little saddened to see faces of predominantly very young men looking back. There are numerous accounts of aircrew whilst on the 20th sortie being shot down and killed, yet still being 19 years. Captains of 20 years old, were not uncommon.

WWII was a very different time and I am always reminded how grateful I should be and in awe of those who served every time I read a book like this. I can recommend this book to everyone, military aviation nut or not and at 147 pages, anyone can finish this book.


The title of this book gives the impression that it covers the escape attempts of captured military personnel during WWI. A more acc...

Voices in Flight Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I by Martin W. Bowman Voices in Flight Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I by Martin W. Bowman

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

August 2017

Voices in Flight Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I by Martin W. Bowman

The title of this book gives the impression that it covers the escape attempts of captured military personnel during WWI. A more accurate title would be "Airborne shenanigans during WWI", admittedly this is not as eye-catching a title; but what 'escaping' there is, is tucked up nicely in the last few chapters of the book. What you have to read to get to that point is however a fascinating insight into the personal exploits, predominantly of airmen - not soldiers, during the conflict. I enjoyed the entire book and was constantly struck by just how far we've come in 100 years of aviation [military] and in comparison what was considered acceptable then to today. For example during the first 5 days of the Battle of Arras, the author tells us that 75 aircraft were lost and 105 aircrew - a figure unthinkable today and sobering to consider.

When I opened this book my eyes felt assaulted by the walls of text on each page. This may sound like a silly criticism but the typesetting felt very cramped on the page. I'm sure the author is not to blame for this but it did look like someone had taken an un-formatted document file and bound it into a book. This did surprise me as no other book I have from Pen & Sword Publishing (P&S hereafter) has this style of typesetting. The publishing quality of my other P&S books is very high, maybe they had a page limit to fit this work into ...?

Each chapter opens with a short excerpt from a personal journal or what I assume to be official dispatches from the front or other such source. Then the author goes on to give the context and throughout each chapter reveals more of the personal account or event. I found this style of having two voices in a chapter engaging. The chapters finish with a note section, rather than at the end of the book which allows for much quicker lookup of the referenced material.

I am professionally aware of military aviation and have spent countless hours surrounded by pictures of old planes from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. There were more than a few occasions throughout this book which jogged old memories of reading medal citations contained within squadron display cabinets. I was very grateful to the author in fleshing out each account and providing the sources and more of the back story as much as he did. There were still many stories of which I knew nothing and I was surprised at the seemingly, ubiquitous role the formative RAF had in WWI.

The focus of each chapter is a different individual and in its entirety this book comprises a who's who of aviation legends; Immelmann, Handley Page, Richtofen to name a few. One name that stood out to me for all the wrong reasons and which takes the best British military officer's name I've ever heard, was Sqn Cdr Joseph Ruscombe Wadham Smyth-Pigott. It feels slightly cheeky to say that the character of Blackadder's Lord Flashheart came to mind several times through reading this book...

One of the most poignant chapters involves the story of Reggie Marix, who after capturing a German cavalry captain and confiscating his sword, offered the POW his pistol in order to end the suffering of his stricken horse; an honour that Reggie thought the German should still have. The chapter goes on to relate how the confiscated sword found its way back to the German many years later and is quite touching. This example, and several others throughout the book, hark back to the days of chivalry and honour which arguably has disappeared from modern battlefields.

I think this book would be enjoyed by a relatively wide audience, although convincing the wider audience of that would be a challenge. If you're not interested in military history then nothing on the cover suggests that a person that only reads biographies would also enjoy it. The book's focus is on individuals and their personal stories in which they are, to me at least, doing amazing things. It's not a historic retelling of the tactics or strategies of WWI but focuses right down at the lowest, human level. In our time, these gentlemen would be celebrities in their own right and lauded for their courage, tenacity and skill. The reader is free to draw their own conclusions to how the majority of today's 'stars' stack up in comparison.

If you would like to pick up a copy of this title, P&S currently (Aug 2017) have a sale on it. However I will just link to their store page and the RRP of £25.00. I highly recommend this book.


FIELD COMMANDER NAPOLEON Back to a leader and a period which is probably the most gamed outside of WWII: the Napoleonic wars.  Back ...

Field Commander Napoleon Field Commander Napoleon

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

August 2017

Field Commander Napoleon



Back to a leader and a period which is probably the most gamed outside of WWII: the Napoleonic wars.  Back too to a games company that I highly rate and to one of their signature solitaire series, the Field Commander series.  DVG [Dan Verssen Games] has always focused primarily on solo play and I cannot think of another company with such a consistent track record in this field.

Field Commander Napoleon is the third out of a quartet of games that began with Rommel, moved on to Alexander the Great and most recently came up to the C20th with Field Commander Nimitz that my American counterpart, Rob Peterson, is currently working on.  All employ outstanding art work, but I feel fortunate in Napoleon being assigned to me, both because of the leader himself and the magnificent treatment that this game has been given.

The cover art on the box is a sumptuous reproduction of one of the most famous equestrian paintings of Napoleon, David's Napoleon Crossing The Alps. Set against a rich, dark green frame, it provides what is for me the best box art in the whole range of DVG's games.  The box itself is just about the deepest too, a stunning 10cm or 4 inches deep and it needs to be to contain all that's inside. Namely, seven double-panel mounted map boards and a mounted Battlefield board and twelve sheets [the rulebook incorrectly lists only six sheets] of substantially thick and opulent counters.

The Russian campaign

All the games in this series are highly strategic and it may be argued that they handle their subject only lightly and with the broadest of brushes.  Here we span the whole of Napoleon's career in eleven Campaigns from the early Italian Campaign of 1796 through to the 100 Days of 1815.  En route via the various boards, we span so much history and territory, among them one of my favourites, the Peninsular, as well as the devastating Russian Campaign, two in Italy, two against the Prussians, the Egypt Expedition and more.

Though of fine quality and finish, you will see the marked similarities from this and other boards that I've included pictures of.  First of all the simple earthen hues and totally cosmetic touches of terrain that play no part in the game recur throughout, along with the repetition of the identical city icon.  Perhaps even worse is the use of much of the map to site all the critical information.  Special rules, starting forces and their location along with reinforcements, tables for rolling enemy orders and even the simple sequence of play cluster in the outlying geographical regions.

A favourite period, the Peninsular campaign

This makes for ease of play, but is offset by a uniformity and conformity that cannot help but make you feel that you are playing a very similar situation whatever country, whatever campaign, whatever year and even whatever the enemy.

Fighting in Russia, fighting in Spain or fighting in France and so on seems to make little or no difference.  I began to feel that I was solving a puzzle and learning very little about each Campaign.  Yes the Russian campaign has some very basic special rules about weather [and so it should], but by and large over the range of campaigns, Special rules are minimal.  

Other than the names changing and the configuration of where cities are, you gain no knowledge of why the campaign took place here.  Nor will you even follow anything like the path each campaign took, as will become clear when I deal with some of the basic rules.

Victory is almost entirely governed by city control and - to add to the lack of variety - all battles are played out on the one and only battle board.
The one and only battle board.

Attractively done, but no room for variation.  This aspect is for me the downside of the inherent and obviously intended simplicity of the whole game.  Visual compensation lies in the 512 military units.  So many, because each campaign has its own set of units marked with the campaign year.  
Half of the many hundreds of unit counters
They are the standard [and what a standard] thick, gleaming product with rounded corners that press out so easily, with none of the potential to leave fragments behind mentioned by Mark Hathaway in his most recent review.   These counters are characterised by their clarity of image and lettering/numbering: a letter for the Skill level and two numbers, one for Activation, the other Combat value.  Even to my aging eyes, these can be read across the table with absolute certainty in whatever light. 
A very small number of the counters all cleanly pressed out.

I particularly like the cavalry units that have a superscript Combat value, which means that if you roll low enough to equal or be lower than the superscript value you score two hits instead of one.  Added to the main forces of infantry and cavalry are static garrisons, fortifications and cannons.  

Arriving at the rule book, you'll find that the overall simplicity of design is mirrored in the rules.

I have no hesitation in saying that this is the most straightforward of all the rules sets not just for this series, but all the other series in the DVG canon.  The turn sequence is French Movement, resolve battles in all areas where there are Friendly and Enemy units, 2nd French Movement [but paying 1 supply point per Force, where Force means a single unit], resolve any battles resulting from this 2nd Movement, French Resupply and purchase of new units then Enemy units Movement, resolution of resulting battles and Enemy Resupply.  Even that list of steps makes it sound more complex and detailed than it is.

Of the 20 pages of basic rules, 10 are taken up by the Battle sequence.  Sounds as if it's going to be complex, but the length is largely because slightly more than half of them explain very clearly every single battle plan counter and insight counter used by you the French player or drawn by the solitaire system for the Enemy.  The game's strength does lie in this highly accessible and easy system, but so too does much of its limitations.

First of all tying victory almost wholly to city control means that history tends to fly out of the window, as bringing the enemy to battle and destroying the enemy army tended to be the goal far more often, especially for Napoleon. 
Mapboard for both the 1814 & 1815 Campaigns

Next the AI system for Enemy Movement produces a wholly arbitrary and random set of results.  All the units in one area have to be divided into stacks of three units and then each stack of units is rolled for separately.  The outcome - some stay put, some wander off away from the French and some advance towards the French.  This system is vital to break up the, at times, large and powerful enemy forces at start and, as we know from history, the various coalition forces that faced Napoleon were prone to some calamitous errors, but this is verging on the ridiculous.

In its way it does simulate the fact that Napoleon would manoeuvre to defeat his enemies piecemeal, but in many cases that would be achieved by his speed and use of interior lines to meet and overwhelm one force before it could unite with another.  Here it seems almost the reverse, that Napoleon waits to pounce when the united forces decide [on the roll of the dice] to wander away from each other.  Not to say that it doesn't make for an intriguing and interesting situation at times, but [to take a quote out of context] "Ce n'est pas la guerre!" 

Nor is battle very convincing on discovering that you, the French, can set up units in Line or Column, while the Enemy must always set up in Column [often a disadvantageous formation].  This may be intended to represent greater French flexibility, but as the Napoleonic army was famed for attacking in column, it is another point at which I scratched my head and wondered!

As always the rule book concludes with a very good, lengthy example of play.  With the simple set of rules, perhaps this is one occasion when it is less necessary, but still very welcome.

So, as I think you should be expecting, my conclusions are mixed.  Physically, a near perfect presentation.  Straightforward and fairly short rules.  Low complexity.  Ease of play.  But for me too random and, whether you start at his opening campaign or his closing one, too lacking in the feel of being either the Little Corporal or the Grand Empereur!


Box front Sovereign of the Seas is a strategic 2 player naval wargame set during a 50+ year period of almost continual European and ...

Sovereign of the Seas Sovereign of the Seas

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

August 2017

Sovereign of the Seas

Box front
Sovereign of the Seas is a strategic 2 player naval wargame set during a 50+ year period of almost continual European and British conflict. Naval power was the ultimate weapon and a large slice of British pride and its' maritime tradition was laid down during this era. I have never tackled the age of sail in a boardgame and I was very much looking forward to reviewing Sovereign of the Seas.

The first thing that struck me upon receiving Sovereign of the Seas was the weight of the box, or lack thereof. It retails for £124.99 and it would be remiss of me not to say up-front that this game, the components, their quality do not make up a 125 pound game. I think I appreciate the fact that Compass Games - the publisher, serves a niche market within a niche hobby, which serves to make their per-unit costs much more expensive than other publishers. However, I cannot justify the RRP they're asking for it in Britain. Apparently it's ~ $85 across the pond and even then it's a tough sell.

For your money you get 1 rule book, 1 paper map (split into 2 tri-fold sheets), 6 sheets of counters, 7 sheets of card and 2 five millimetre dice. I am no stranger to paper maps or counter sheets but at this price I would expect mounted maps that butt up against each other and counters that come out cleanly. What you get instead, is two overlapping maps that need to be laid just right, and some pretty tough counters to push out cleanly. After the first counter sheet with a few tears, (that's tears of paper, not tears of anguish) I decided to pull out my rotary cutter.  No more chit tags for me (^_^)

I never thought I would comment on the colour of a games dice but here they're red and purple and to me they clash badly - white and red dice would have been a much better (and nearly thematic) choice. You'll also quickly realise that you'll need about 12 d6 extra to play this game. Why they couldn't have included an extra 10 5mm d6 at this price is beyond me.

Prior to punching out the game I would recommend reading the rules and just punching out those necessary for whichever scenario you choose first. The rule book has 3 scenarios whose counter mix will be different per scenario. I made the error of initially sorting the counters according to nationality, I think a more efficient method would be by scenario, then nationality, YMMV. I've ended up completely filling the box up with plastic bags trying to come up with some sort of sensible mix of counters to ease the set up time; which could easily be upwards of 30 minutes.
First scenario. Setup, finally!
The game, like all Compass Games I have played, strives for historical accuracy. The counters are all, as far as I could tell using Wikipedia and my general knowledge, historical leaders and ships. I don't doubt that the relative strengths of the units are historically accurate as well. This was a nice touch and the scenarios themselves have specific rules (the scenarios call them conditions) that slightly tweak the game to reflect the historic situation. This attention to history helps to immerse the player in the game and the period, but unfortunately you're pretty cruelly ripped out of that immersion by the amount of counter handling, you need to do. 

Your starting count of anywhere between 20 and 60 ships, not to mention leaders and control markers, are divided amongst up to 6 squadrons. When those squadrons enter the same sea space they combine on the Squadron Disposition chart - a feat that requires you to move and reassemble your affected ships into the new Squadron and reassemble the stacks. When a squadron enters a sea space with an opposing force and successfully engages the enemy, you form a line of battle with your units opposite to the opponents line. This occurs off map and off any provided board. The scope for accidentally dropping or mis-stacking the units is, from personal sausage-finger experience, very large.

British and French line of battle
That re-stacking of counters doesn't include the amount of counter flipping you need to do. The game recreates the fog of war by allowing dummy squadrons and a hidden-until-successfully-found mechanism which means that during the course of your turn, if you're like me, you're going to forget which Squadrons have moved already and what Squadrons are where. I was constantly picking the counters up to inspect the Squadron name then its' stacks, at times it felt more like a memory game.

The rule book suggest sitting at opposite ends of the short length of the map. The distance between players doing this was large enough that my playing partners all agreed to not bother keeping our Squadron Composition stacks face down. There was no way we could have read the details on them at that distance; although we did sacrifice some intelligence of the possible size of your force; given away by the sheer number of units in a stack and the amount of stacks in your squadron.

The designer has kept most of the bigger ship counters off the map during play but there is still the potential for the sea spaces, particularly around the home ports to get very congested with counters. After three long plays of the game I still haven't found a suitable way to squeeze the necessary counters into the coastal sea spaces. Especially at the beginning of the scenarios when you purposely are starting in your home ports.

Average counter density
When you have the additional Force-pool and Squadron Disposition cards all laid out it starts to take up a tremendous amount of table space. Your arms will be flailing over the table reaching for counters a lot ... a war-gamers best friend, the trusty sheet of Plexiglas is, I'd go far to say, an essential bit of kit to play this game.

With all that said, I found myself impressed with the elegance of the core mechanics. This may not sound like an elegant game at all, but the core of it is very simple. Move, Search, Fight, Resupply, repeat. And yet in this simplicity it does feel like a grand strategic naval ship of the line game. (Over-stacking your line of battle against the enemy is a beautiful feeling) The rule set for all of these actions can be learnt in about 15 minutes and during the course of a game you follow the very good player-aids' flow chart so often it is quickly burnt into your brain. If only someone had taught it to me instead of trying to understand the rule book. 

Dice not included...Cdre Rodney aboard HMS Royal George is seriously injured but claims a resounding victory for British naval power.
The rule book attempts to follow the traditional wargame rule-book layout with numbered and nested paragraphs that we're usually so fond of. This rule-book sometimes leaves the reader with entire columns of text to explain a simple rule and it left me exasperated on several occasions when playing through solo. I'm sure there are much more simple ways to explain these rules. The 2 people I have taught this game too had no such difficulty with the rules (maybe it's just me), but I found the rule-book to be incredibly opaque for what is a simple and elegant game mechanic, despite the counter management issues.

You may think that I hate this game, but that is not the case. I really want to like it more and I did enjoy my time with it, but it feels more like a prototype than a fully fleshed out and honed design. I will play it and teach it to anyone who asks and I would suggest it to a Napoleonic wargamer who wants to try strategic sail ... but that's about as far as I can go. 

I don't think that a board game is the best medium for the designer's vision to shine. A computer version for example, would automate counter management and help with several graphic design issues. Around the map are Port Control Boxes, they are broadly adjacent to their geographic location but I found myself searching for the Port Control Box on the wrong side of the map on many occasions. Also, the French and Dutch flags are so similar yet the artist has decided to vertically align text on some of the games control markers that make distinguishing the two nationalities tiresome.

If you're curious and have a pocket that is no longer effective at holding money Sovereign of the Seas is available in the UK now. Online will be the easiest place to buy this game as it will not receive a large distribution... 

store locator to find your nearest board game retailer.


Ogre from Steve Jackson Games is coming to the computer     Key Info Title: Ogre Platform:  PC via Steam Steam Page:   stor...

Ogre Ogre

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

August 2017


Ogre from Steve Jackson Games is coming to the computer


Key Info

Title: Ogre
Platform: PC via Steam
Steam Page:
Release Date: October 5th, 2017
Official Website:
Developer: Auroch Digital & Steve Jackson Games
Publisher: Auroch Digital

All Trailers, Videos, Images, GIFs, and Press Releases

Everything we’ve released to support the game so far is kept here.

What is the Ogre video game?

Made in partnership with Steve Jackson Games, Ogre is Auroch Digital’s digital adaptation of the classic tabletop wargame.

Ogre is a turn-based strategy game set in the near future, where infantry, hovercraft, tanks, and deadly cybernetic behemoths called Ogres, do battle.

Ogre requires tactical precision and strategic planning, whether in the single player Skirmish and Campaign modes, or against opponents across the world in asynchronous multiplayer.

How does the game play?

Ogre’s straightforward rules and strategic depth are part of its genius, and the reason for its lasting appeal.

If you’ve ever played the original game, then rest assured that this video game adaptation is faithful to it. For those new to the Ogre universe, the basic structure is as follows:

Movement Phase
A player moves their units up to their maximum movement allowance, taking into account the various types of terrain hexes on the map such as craters, forests, towns, and so on. In this phase players can choose to perform Ram and Overrun attacks with their vehicles.

Disable Check
Units that are in Swamp, Rubble, or Forest terrains check to see if they have become immobilized. If so, they are unable to take part in attacks.

Fire Phase
All player units may attack their chosen targets. Players attacking with an Ogre choose which tanks, infantry, or other targets to fire upon; those going up against an Ogre unit attack certain parts of the Ogre such as the tracks or guns. Whether the attack is successful or not is determined by a table of possible results based on a die roll, modified by vehicle type, weapon class, and more.

Second (G.E.V.) Movement Phase
Speedy units called G.E.V.s (ground effect vehicles) then get to move again, making them nimble opponents.

Turn Ends
The player then passes the turn over to their opponent.

At the beginning of the player’s next turn, Disabled units have the opportunity to recover. The game then returns to the Movement Phase.

How faithful is this adaptation?

Very faithful! In 1977, Ogre’s clear rules made wargaming accessible to a wide audience. This digital adaptation takes that approach even further by automating a number of the processes and elements of administration in the physical game.

These changes increase the pace of the experience and make turns quick and effortless even for new players, while keeping the rich strategic choices that Ogre veterans expect.


What content can players expect to see?

The digital adaptation comes with a wealth of units, including: Light, Heavy, Superheavy, and Missile Tanks, G.E.V.s, Infantry, Marines, Howitzers, and Ogres (Mark I through Mark VI), plus Trains and Command Posts.

Players can play as either The North American Combine or The Paneuropean Federation, upon a variety of maps bursting with tactical opportunities.

A generous Campaign called Nightfall, specifically written for the video game, awaits commanders in single player, as does a Skirmish mode that allows players to setup games of Ogre with specific conditions. A tutorial is on-hand to teach new players the fundamentals of the game as well.

And when ready, players can take their skills online to compete against people around the world.

About Steve Jackson Games

Steve Jackson Games publishes Ogre, Illuminati, Munchkin, Zombie Dice, Chez Geek, and a lot of other board and card games. Its big upcoming project is Car Wars on Kickstarter. Follow us on, like us on, visit us on, and check out our game forums at

About Auroch Digital

Auroch Digital is the acclaimed Bristol-based games studio founded by veteran game designer Dr. Tomas Rawlings. For more information, visit, follow on, and like us on


Grouchy's Waterloo The Battles of Ligny and Wavre By Andrew W. Field   Marshal Ney, ('The bravest of t...

Grouchy's Waterloo By Andrew W. Field Grouchy's Waterloo By Andrew W. Field

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

August 2017

Grouchy's Waterloo By Andrew W. Field


 Marshal Ney, ('The bravest of the brave', Prince of Moscow, Le Rougeaud) was a singularly unlucky man. In 1813, he had the chance to fall upon the Allied rear at Bautzen. If he had, history might have been changed. In 1815 he was again responsible for letting an Allied army, the Prussians, off the hook at Ligny. He was also the only Marshal to be shot for treason for joining Napoleon in 1815. Ney ordered d'Erlon's corps back to Quatre Bras just as it was about to fall on the wavering Prussian right flank at Ligny. If d'Erlon was able to attack the Prussians, it may have sent their army fleeing. Instead, the Prussians were able to retreat in a more orderly fashion.

 Napoleon blamed Ney and the newly created Marshal Grouchy for his loss at Waterloo, and so have many historians. This book follows Marshal Grouchy through the battle of Ligny under Napoleon's watchful eye, and the battle of Wavre where he was left to his own devices. The reason I mention Ney is that his blunder had a tremendous effect on Grouchy's subsequent orders and mission. Napoleon's 1815 campaign was full of what ifs. He was able to drive a wedge between the the Anglo-Allied army and the Prussian one. Then he defeated the Prussians at Ligny on June 16th 1815, only to lose at Waterloo on June 18th. Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo was mainly caused by the Prussians being beaten at Ligny, but not routed. This is where the part of Grouchy in this history becomes so important. Grouchy was ordered to follow the Prussians and keep his sword in their back.

 The author, Mr. Field, has published three books (with a fourth on the way) on the 1815 campaign from the French perspective. They are:

Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras
Waterloo: The French Perspective
Grouchy's Waterloo (this book)
 This is the third in the series. The author gives us an excellent account of the two battles of Ligny and Wavre. If that was all a book on the subject had to do, it would probably would have been a much easier task for the author. Unfortunately for him, this campaign has been written about probably more than any other campaign in history. The arguments over this campaign and its battles and personalities have raged over the last two hundred years. The list of should, could, and would haves are almost endless.

 As mentioned, Ney and Grouchy are the favorite punching bags of historians and armchair generals. As the author shows, the questions about Grouchy start even before the campaign in Belgium began. Many, even at the time, questioned Grouchy's elevation to the Marshalate. We have, or at least we believe we have, all of Napoleon's orders to Grouchy. The book clearly shows them and what it entailed because of them. 

 The author shows that Grouchy did exactly as he was told per his orders, nothing more or less. The point of conjecture here is what Napoleon ordered compared to what Soult, his then chief of staff,  sent. Soult, although a fine general, was no Berthier. Why do accounts show Napoleon expecting Grouchy to show up on his right? Why did so many French officers on the right believe they were there to make contact with Grouchy? Was it all just wishful thinking? To me, the most telling part of what was expected of Grouchy is in the absence of a negative response from Napoleon, chastising Grouchy when troops showed up on his right at Waterloo. In the beginning, no one could tell if they were Prussians or French soldiers.

 As the author shows, the 'Grande Armee' of 1815 had nowhere near the mettle of the armies during the year1805 and others. Its  morale was actually brittle.

 Mr. Field contends that you cannot judge the orders and actions of officers of the 19th century with 21st century thinking. He asserts that in 1815 there was no leeway in orders. I am not wholly convinced by his arguments that this was unilaterally true. Napoleon's and Jomini's writings suggest otherwise to me. However, this might me be their own Monday morning quarterbacking. It is quite possible that Napoleon's undoing was his inability to clone himself when armies and battles grew larger. 

 This book, when taken by itself, is a great addition to the history of the campaign. When looked at in conjunction as the third volume of four on the campaign, these books are a treasure trove of information from the French perspective.

 I for one believe the 1815 campaign was decided, along with Napoleon's fate, when Marshal Berthier refused to rejoin Napoleon. If Marshal Berthier was chief of staff most, if not all, of the errors on the French side would never have been committed.


Book: Grouchy's Waterloo: The Battles of Ligny and Wavre
Author: Andrew W. Field
Publisher: Pen And Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers




Today I have a special treat, an interview with Johan Nagel, founder of Every Single Soldier, a studio which has brought us several ...

Interview with Johan Nagel from Every Single Soldier Interview with Johan Nagel from Every Single Soldier

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

August 2017

Interview with Johan Nagel from Every Single Soldier

Today I have a special treat, an interview with Johan Nagel, founder of Every Single Soldier, a studio which has brought us several high quality games in the last few years. Vietnam '65, Afghanistan '11, and Carrier Deck. He discussed with me the past, present, and future of his company. Enjoy!

AWNT: Tell us a bit about yourself, what was the path that led you into playing wargames and eventually into producing your own games?

I come from a military family, my father was a submariner, my brother an officer in the Army Special Forces and I was a Lieutenant in the South African Marines. I have been playing wargames and generally all sorts of board games since my early teens. I started with Squad Leader and progressed from there. I decided to leave the military as we were always going to win the battle war but lose the political war.

I am a lawyer by degree and went into banking, all the while keeping my interest in military history and especially strategy. Vietnam '65 was actually designed and played on a Commodore 64 (GWBasic) and then later on PC (using the Operation Flashpoint editor) as finding an opponent was always a challenge, especially with such a small community in South Africa.

A few years ago I decided to actually publish V65 and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process from design to actual development and decided to make banking part time and making military games full time.

AWNT: Could you tell us about the founding of Every Single Soldier? Did you and your team have a clear vision of what kind of games you wanted to make from Day 1?

ESS is actually just myself, I design, finance and produce the titles, all outsourced to studios both locally and internationally. ESS was actually created in the early 90's and was another military hobby of mine, casting and painting military chess sets and Anglo-Boer war artillery sets. Literally, every single soldier was handcrafted and painted by me, hence Every Single Soldier. I just kept the brand.

I always wanted to make games post WW2, I have played every battle in WW2 so many times I gravitated to modern conflicts , especially counter insurgency wars, having served in the SADF in the Angola border wars in the mid 80's. I was always very interested in the Vietnam war, partly because of the counter insurgency nature and the fascination with the development of airmobile warfare.

AWNT: Is there a dream game you would like to make one day, that you simply don’t have the resources for right now?

Fortunately after a successful 20 year career in banking, I have the resources to make the games I really want to without the fear of not being able to pay the bills :) I have so many games I would like to make, it's a matter of priority and finding the resources to make them that's the challenge.

Making games about the South African conflicts both in the 19th and 20th century doesn't make immediate economic sense but are what I really want to create, but [I] will save them for later, leaving the best for last, as I learn the trade of making and publishing games.

AWNT: What was the inspiration for Vietnam ‘65, specifically in terms of making a game that wasn’t just about combat, but required the player to focus on the Hearts and Minds aspect of the conflict?

The traditional, conventional wargame methodology of building up your army, crossing a border and then destroying your opponent was becoming a bit stale for me as well as being a model that could never realistically model modern conflicts. Not only did I experience counter insurgency war first hand, but have studied it, and the hearts and minds of the local population had to be a factor in the new model. Also a war without borders, Intel taking center stage and political objectives needed a new model. V65 was really a baby step in this direction, A11 expanded on it adding many new levels of complexity, it [is] still a part of the journey, there is a lot that can be added to the future.

AWNT: After developing Vietnam ‘65, how close was the original design to the final result?

Pretty close, but the original V65 (1990) had a lot more elements and was also played on a strategic map but then the player could assume the actual FPS character of any action at any time, thanks to the great Operation Flashpoint Editor, I still view this as the best version of the game :) The hard part was deciding what to leave out and how to keep as much simplicity in the model whilst capturing the essence of the conflict.

AWNT: After Vietnam ‘65, what led you to choose Afghanistan as the next conflict to explore with this system?

Afghanistan was a natural choice following Vietnam, the parallels are very apparent, albeit the terrain very different. This also gave me the opportunity to include elements left out of V65, for example the whole nation building (Vietnamization policy), political variables (elections and global events) etc.

AWNT: Was there any feedback that Afghanistan was too recent of a conflict to turn into a game?

Surprisingly no negative feedback on any scale was received, we had no more than a few posts in a few threads , so was very happy about that. I took great care to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the conflict was properly represented, being ex military myself I understand this, and had constant input from a number of serving US Army officers and NCO's throughout the process. The feedback for vets and serving has been overwhelmingly positive and this has really been the most gratifying part of the whole process.

AWNT: Afghanistan ‘11 expanded upon most of the mechanics in Vietnam ‘65. Were there any features or mechanics that you wanted to add but didn’t make the cut for whatever reason?

So A11 was an opportunity to evolve the model but certain elements were left out, mostly to keep the evolution of the model at a steady pace, as the model has a relatively steep learning curve and we need to keep this in mind when trying to get a larger audience. The civilian population and the subsequent interactions with them needs expanding, Intel needs to become more 'nuanced', unit experience needs to play a larger role.  The tactical part of the game, etc.

AWNT: Are you familiar with the COIN series of board games from GMT Games? The games Fire in the Lake and A Distant Plain are similar in some respects to Vietnam ‘65 and Afghanistan ‘11, respectively.

Very familiar with the series, in fact, I contacted them a while back offering to take the series to the computer realm, time will tell. Enjoy the series as it too is abstracted, just like my games are.

AWNT: After visiting Afghanistan and Vietnam, what is the next stop in this series?

Right now we are porting A11 to the iPad, then we will be publishing the British Army DLC for A11, new vehicles, campaign, uniform etc. Thereafter we are planning a USMC DLC and finally an ISAF DLC which would include a few vehicles from most of the top contributors to the conflict.

The potential for future stops could include an ISIS adaption and our very own Angola Bush war :)

AWNT: What was the spark that led to Carrier Deck? While still war-themed, it is a very different sort of game from your other titles.

As mentioned earlier, my interest in game development is not linear to counter insurgency wars, I have a number of game designs that have been 'percolating' in my head for many years, I was always interested in the battle of Midway and especially the finding and destroying opposing carriers. This coupled with my preferred style of making abstracted games as opposed to purely historically accurate games and that I prefer developing systems rather that recreating events in my game designs, CD was born. It's perfect for a game, it is process driven, involves awesome tech and is relevant.

AWNT: Do you have plans for more light, fast paced games in the vein of Carrier Deck?

Indeed I do, currently in development is His Majesty's Ship (HMS), completely different to all my previous games. Being raised as a Navy child, Captaining a ship was always going to be a boyhood dream. Once again, looking for a game that catch the's essence of commanding a vessel has proved hard to find, most 18th century games currently focus on 'sailing around your opponent trying to discharge cannons', similar to the traditional WW2 games where you stack your infantry ( Stregth 5 ) + armor (strength 8) and attack the enemy infantry (strength 4) apply modifiers etc, this is so not my type of game! I have played them to death and rather prefer to try capture the essence of the theater, including logistics, morale, etc. in an abstracted form. I create systems as opposed to outcomes, and when I get that unintended/unexpected result, I still smile (sometimes not) when I unexpectedly experience a crossover of a few of the systems in A11 and the result is both credible, plausible and entertaining.

As development of HMS has already commenced, I am currently working on a new fast paced game abstracting the present/future conflict for the dominance of the Arctic Circle. The game is currently in prototype and coming along nicely.

I have not totally forsaken the TBS genre and have completed a design doc on a game that captures the essence (abstracted of course :) of the period of 1860-1900 in South Africa (Anglo-Zulu + Anglo-Boer) and hope to get this into production before the end of this year.

I am really enjoying my new 'career' in game development and am aiming to publish around 3 titles a year, after so many long years in Financial Services, I have ton of games stored since my youth and now have the time and resources to actually realize them.

AWNT: Well, you sound like a very busy man, so I'll let you go. Thank you for your time!

ESS Official Website:

All of the games discussed can be found on Steam, the Apple App Store, and on

- Joe Beard