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Warbanners, developed by Crasleen Games, is the latest game in a sub-genre I've covered a few times already this year: the turn-b...

Warbanners Warbanners

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

October 2017

Warbanners



Warbanners, developed by Crasleen Games, is the latest game in a sub-genre I've covered a few times already this year: the turn-based tactical combat game in a medieval/fantasy setting. The game offers fast-paced, yet detailed combat with a very clear and responsive UI. Outside of the combat, there is a light layer of RPG elements and party management to give context to the battles. There is nothing here that you haven't seen before, but it is all handled so competently that I think it is worth your time if you are into this kind of game. Now, let's dive into each section of the game in a bit more depth.



 In the campaign, which consists of 42 linked scenarios (some optional),  you command a small company of mercenaries, setting out to slay monsters and make some coin in the world. Unlike Battle Brothers, which focused on a sandbox world in the style of Mount & Blade, there is a linear story here, featuring your avatar Roderick. The story is the typical stuff of fantasy lore, there are necromancers raising undead, a mysterious cult, a war against orcs, elves feuding with dwarves, and so on, but it makes for good fluff to link the various missions together. You will often be given some kind of choice at a decision point in the story, and what you choose can change the shape of a coming battle, or have you avoid fighting at all. Many of these decisions will increase or decrease your "karma", which goes up as you do nice things, and down if you are a baddie. This doesn't change the game dramatically, but does lock away some options for your party if your alignment is one way or the other. 

The story moves along at brisk pace, and before you know it you will be caught up in the war against the orcs, which of course goes poorly for the humans and throws your party into some bad situations in the aftermath. I've not finished the whole campaign yet, but I think I'm about halfway through and can safely say that there is a good variety of mission types which force you to use different kinds of strategies. There are sieges, ambushes, desperate defensive stands and all out large scale battles where you have many allies and foes.


Managing your company consists of buying potions, equipping gear as it becomes available, and leveling up your experienced troopers. At the start you only have basic swordsmen and archers, along with your leader, but soon you gain access to additional fantasy archetypes. Dancers (basically rogues), mages, healers, knights, and so on. As you add in these more interesting classes, their abilities add much more complexity to the battlefield since they all have multiple special abilities and traits. The dancer, for example, gets bonus to flanking attacks and ignores enemy zones-of-control when moving. She can zip behind the enemy line and stab them in the back, inflicting bleeding damage as she goes and even has a limited ranged attack when needed. However, in return for all those perks, she has less health and can't take many hits.

As units level up, you can choose one stat boost from among three random options, so no two swordsmen will be the same after a few outings. Units can also gain new perks and abilities at higher levels. Another way to make a unit special is to give it one of the unique pieces of gear that are awarded after some missions. There are boots which can make a swordsman move like a dancer, a bow that increases an archer's range, and an item that lets a character attack in a 3-tile arc with each swing. 




Tactics play an important role in winning battles without losing a lot of units. Long term success in the campaign is much more assured if you can avoid losing any of your units in a battle. If they die, they must either be replaced with a fresh, level one newbie, or resurrected at a higher cost. Spending a lot of your limited cash on resurrections means that you won't be able to buy many potions, which are very helpful in certain situations, or hire the "assistants" which are essentially permanent buffs of various types. These assistants are people you hire to augment your mercenary band, but who don't actually fight on the battlefield. They do things like boost morale, unlock additional classes, or even give you a game-changing catapult in every mission. They are expensive but quite useful and you want to accumulate as many as you can afford. There isn't any way to get extra cash outside of completing missions, so for the entire campaign you are working with a very finite budget.

As you might expect, your forces are often outnumbered, so you will need to use the terrain to your advantage, creating choke points and kill zones when possible. Most every mission has the ultimate goal of killing every single enemy on the map, but how you go about that can differ a great deal depending on the circumstance and how you have built your army. I often used a tactic of holding a defensive line in one section of the battle, while punching through somewhere else and getting behind the strongest part of the enemy line. Potions, as I mentioned before, are very useful in this game and can help turn the tide of a fight. There are about a dozen different types, besides just health and mana potions. You can stun enemies, poison them, freeze them, or use other potions to buff your own soldiers. These potions cost cash, so you can't use them willy-nilly, but you will absolutely need them at times. One particular case was when I went up against the "boss" orc in a large battle. He was unstoppable in a straight up fight, able to kill multiple units in one turn, but toss a few potions at him and you can hobble him long enough to get in some attacks and wear him down.  Attack an enemy enough times and you can exhaust their stamina, which means even the nastiest warrior can't do anything on their turn. Every unit also has a morale value which goes up and down depending on how the battle is going, and other factors. Get an enemy to rout and they will be easy pickings.


All of this is tied together with a clean and efficient UI. When a unit is selected, all the hexes it can move to are highlighted, when colored numbers showing whether a unit will still be able to attack after they reach that destination. Unit stats and special abilities appear on the sidebar, along with any consumable items like potions they are carrying. It's all very straightforward, but works well and quickly. 

I really enjoyed the time I spent with Warbanners, and fully plan on going back and finishing the campaign even after I write this review. It's simply a good crunchy tactical strategy game that doesn't demand too much of your time to have a satisfying play session. I fully recommend this game to anyone looking for a solid tactical combat game with a classic fantasy theme. 




Official Website - https://warbannersgame.wordpress.com/

Warbanners is available on Steam.



- Joe Beard









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Fokker DVII The Lethal Weapon by Tomasz J. Kowalski Marek Rys   Peace treaties regularly have clauses about ...

Fokker DVII The Lethal Weapon by Tomasz J. Kowalski and Marek Rys Fokker DVII The Lethal Weapon by Tomasz J. Kowalski and Marek Rys

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

October 2017

Fokker DVII The Lethal Weapon by Tomasz J. Kowalski and Marek Rys





by













 Peace treaties regularly have clauses about types or groups of weapons in them, be they tanks, chemical weapons, etc. To my knowledge, the Fokker DVII, in the 'Conditions of an Armistice With Germany', was the only single weapon ever mentioned in a treaty. For those who do not know, Germany was forced to hand over all of their Fokker DVIIs to the Entente powers, although in reality many were not. Thank you to a reader for showing me my error, it was not in the 'Treaty of Versailles', just the preliminary armistice conditions.

 There is a myth or fact, which we will get to, that the Fokker DVII could fly upward and actually hang on its propeller for a short moment.  The authors discount the tale. However, that is not the end of the story. In Rhinebeck, N.Y. in the U.S. there is an aerodrome right out of World War I. They have aerial shows and even dogfights between the old birds. Some pilots and onlookers swear that, yes in fact, the DVII can hang on its propeller. I can see where people would ask the relevance of this maneuver, and think it was only useful in acrobatic shows. In actual fact, this would be a tremendous plus for the DVII in combat. When being trailed by an enemy plane, to be able to fly vertically for even the smallest of time would force your opponent to break off his attack, or risk going into a stall, due to the loss of airflow over the wings. The DVII could then turn and follow the opponent. 

 The author, Tomasz J. Kowalski has written twenty-three books and 1500 articles on aviation. This is his ninth book published by Kagero. This edition is in the same format as others in Kagero's 'Legends of Aviation in 3D'. A history of the airplane. filled with World War I photographs, is followed by computerized 3D views of the entire plane. These views also show the plane without its fabric skin, much like a 3D view of the human body sans skin and muscle. There are four full pages of computerized views of the machine guns and ammo holders alone.

 As mentioned, many nations after World War I received Fokker DVIIs. In the history section, even these planes are written about on a country by country basis. 

 For the modeller, aviation historian, or technical spec lover these books by Kagero are the end all and be all, though this book is not only for them. The World War I or aviation history tyro will find this book easy to get into. One very interesting bit of history of World War I aviation that the book shows is that planes built in Germany during the war were not carbon copies. You can see very real differences in planes manufactured by different firms. This, along with all of the other parts of the book, shows that if you have any interest in World War I aviation, or just aviation history, it belongs on your shelf.


Robert

 Book: Fokker DVII The Lethal Weapon
Author: Tomasz J. Kowalski and Marek Rys
Publisher: Kagero
Distributor: Casemate Publishers 

2 comments :

  The Battle Of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects by Valeriy Zamulin translated by Stuart Britton ...

The Battle Of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects by Valeriy Zamulin and Translated by Stuart Britton The Battle Of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects by Valeriy Zamulin and Translated by Stuart Britton

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

October 2017

The Battle Of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects by Valeriy Zamulin and Translated by Stuart Britton



by




translated by







 Here we are at Kursk again with another great book by Valeriy Zamulin. He is the author of sixty books and other historical works, mostly about the battle of Kursk. This book about the controversial and neglected aspects, digs deep into some interesting questions. Among them are:

Could the Germans have won the battle of Kursk?
Did Vatutin err?
With what forces did Model begin the battle of Kursk?

 No sane military leader expects to win an attack against dug in troops with less than a three to one advantage in men and weapons. The Germans planned this attack knowing they did not even have a parity in forces, and in some cases were heavily outnumbered. So why did they think they could win? 

 Mr. Zamulin goes into all the details of Army Group Center and Army Group South in the attack. He considers all of the variables and comes to the conclusion that if 'Operation Citadel' was launched earlier in April or May the Germans would still have lost. I believe that he is probably correct, but the answer lies not in numbers or trenches, but in hubris. Until 1943, the Germans trounced the Russians whenever the weather was warm. On the German side, I believe that they thought they lost in 1941 and 1942 to 'General winter', and not exclusively to the Russians. With the Japanese in the Pacific, the term was coined 'Victory Disease'. I think the German plan for Kursk showed that they suffered from the same virus.

 This book is standard fare for a Helion & Company volume, meaning that it is an excellent work with eight pages of colored maps and many pictures from during the war. The author is as meticulous with his writing as with his figures and statistics. Anyone looking for what actually happened at Kursk without the legends and stories should look no further than this work and the author's 'Demolishing the Myth'. These books should be required reading for anyone who wants to know the real truth about the battle of Kursk. In 2018 he will be publishing a third book about Kursk, 'The Forgotten Battle of the Kursk Salient',  about Army Group Kempf's offensive.


Robert

Book: The Battle of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects
Author: Valeriy Zamulin
Translator: Stuart Britton
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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REVOLUTION ROAD This June, I spent one of the most memorable vacations of my life in the States, ending with five days in Boston.  O...

REVOLUTION ROAD REVOLUTION ROAD

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

October 2017

REVOLUTION ROAD


REVOLUTION ROAD


This June, I spent one of the most memorable vacations of my life in the States, ending with five days in Boston.  One of those outstanding moments was walking the Freedom Trail, which starts at one end from Bunker Hill, and spending well over an hour in the Bunker Hill museum taking in all the information and talking to an engaging and highly knowledgeable Ranger.

Consequently, there was no doubt why I just had to review this very recent product from Compass Games, especially as everything that I'd seen and read about Revolution Road made me want to own and play these games.  Notice that latter point, these games.  Unlike Mark's recent experience with Sovereign of The Seas, which has an eye-watering cost, Revolution Road contains two games in one box for what I consider a very reasonable price [$69 in the US and £59.99 in the UK being the best I've seen].
Value for money - no doubt about it.

I was also more fortunate when punching out the counters in that I didn't experience the problem of paper tearing, though the physical quality and thickness is definitely average.  The artwork too is what I would call serviceable rather than artistic.  However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as there've been times when I've struggled with the artistic quality of counters designed to mirror Napoleonic uniforms, when just such clear, functional qualities would have been a blessing.

However, to return to the fact that there are two games here and not just two battles with different maps, using an identical system.  Each game has a different and distinctive rule book and, though there is substantial overlap in the  rules, the effect and gameplay are significantly different.  Bunker Hill is what I would call broad brush tactical, while Lexington to Concord is very much more at an operational level.   Though both are relatively low level in complexity, equally both repay careful reading and attention.  The latter, because it is fairly innovative and the former because it appears a very familiar type of system, but has its own specific individuality and idiosyncracies.

And it's Bunker Hill that I'm going to start with.  This is a battle little gamed other than in scenarios for generic type American War of Independence games, such as Worthington's Hold The Line.   The location of the battle is now a thoroughly tame, suburban area, but the Bunker Hill museum provides an engrossing wealth of detail with its dioramas and reproductions of paintings, some of which are used in the game's box and rules folders' art work.
One of the excellent images taken from paintings of the battle 

Regarding the map, I really like this presentation for several reasons.  First of all, the areas are very well defined and are both functional, clear and attractive.  The three crucial hills [from left to right Bunker Hill, Breeds Hill and Moulton Hill] stand out vividly, with the hill tops in dark brown and the slopes and the rare ridges in a lighter brown.  Most of the rest of the landscape is a pleasing green with the area of Charlestown in the bottom left easily identified. The areas of lighter blue water designate the potential Landing Zones for the British troops and the connected staging areas are clearly stated.


Despite most of the map being taken up by the playing area, there still remains plenty of space on the left to present all the necessary tracks for game functions without them either being crammed together or dominating the play area.  I particularly appreciated the display printed in the empty river area at top right that contains the chart of all the actions that both sides can take.  When combined with the separate play aid that explains all the actions, play is made very smooth. 

In this respect, I'd praise both games highly.  The rules are simple, clear and well explained and combined with the thoroughness and clarity of the play aids they make play very straightforward.  Too often you find games need the combination of the play aids and rules to work out the game in total.  Not here, the play aids really are just that: an excellent support to playing the game.  I'd go so far as saying that once you've read the rules and used the play aids a couple of times to play the game, you'll rarely need to use the rule book again other than to set up the pieces at the beginning of each game.
Just two of the quality double-sided play aids


It is moreover a swift game to play, as there is a maximum of ten turns and, during each turn, both players will be able to take at best only five Actions [give or take the occasional Reserve actions]. Each action can only be performed in a single area of the map and each area can contain only three units plus any number of leaders!  There are twelve different Actions in total and the British may chose from eleven of them and the Americans from nine of them.  

All the Actions bar one [namely Assault] are very quickly taken.  For example, Naval Move allows the British fleet marker to move from its current area to an adjacent one; Land Move allows units from one area to move up to three areas; Bombard allows you to fire the two artillery units, the fleet and the Copps Hill battery. 

Only Assault involves any degree of time and it is not an Action that you will undertake lightly or with any degree of success unless you can strike where the enemy is very weak or broken.  Move the units from one area into an adjacent enemy area.  The Attacker must have at least as many healthy units as the Defender has [don't forget the stacking is a maximum of three units per side in an area!].  If the Defender doesn't opt to retreat, if able to, he/she then gets in a free round of fire and, provided the Attacker still has as many healthy units as the Defender, rounds of simultaneous fire take place.  It's deadly!

Some of you may already be thinking that this is far too simple a game to suit them.  As I initially read the rules, that thought certainly started to form for me.  Be advised,  don't make any judgement until you've played the game and played it several times.

Though of low complexity, it is remarkably subtle and much of the subtlety comes from two details: [1] the fact that each unit can either move and later fire or fire and then later move and [2] the Reorganise the Line Action, whereby units in two adjacent areas that haven't yet moved can change places.  The interaction of these alone provide for surprising combinations. At its heart, Bunker Hill is a game of movement, fire and assault, as VPs largely come from eliminating units and leaders, with the values slightly favouring the Patriot player [i.e. the American revolutionaries]. 

In addition, the six hill-top areas provide 1 VP each for whoever holds them at the end of the game and finally the burning of areas in Charlestown produce 1 VP to the British player for every area above five.  Just this small detail adds a simple, but historical and effective side-show to the main military thrust with the potential, though uncertain, opportunity of the British gaining VPs at the risk of losing units to sniping.

Should you be short of an opponent or just fancying a quick solo session, solitaire scenarios are provided to play as either side against a bot.  As my only experience of bots so far has been in the celebrated COIN games, I was rather apprehensive, as I'd found them horribly complicated and time-consuming.  Not so here, like all the rest of this package, they are simplicity itself.  The only minor drawback is that the solitaire scenarios are shortened to Turns 5-10.

In just the same way, the second game too can be played equally effectively solitaire using bots and again with a shorter number of turns, namely Turns 8-12.  However From Boston to Concord presents an altogether different situation. The whole area that the Bunker Hill map represented now becomes one small area on the very eastern edge of this game's map which stretches the full length of the playing area, while various tracks and tables edge the top and bottom of the map.  However, my initial response to the map was less than favourable. The almost uniformly light brown terrain bordered by the dark brown background made for a very sombre and, I have to say, rather dismal prospect and, certainly for my eyes, not the easiest of reads for any informative writing on it!  

All I can say is that you shouldn't go by first impressions and that appearances can be deceiving.  Virtually all the information on the map is in icon form and very easy to identify.  Only the small letters "ha" [for Hidden Arms] and in some cases a number need a little care to find.  As I continued to play, even the initially dour colour grew more and more acceptable.  When I read so many comments about games that are based on a single play and can often be very dismissive, it's a reminder never to judge too quickly.   
However what surprised and pleased me most is that a rules set with significant overlap could yet produce such a different and distinctive game.  From Boston to Concord introduces a whole new dimension involving Night Riders, including the legendary Paul Revere, and the two key Patriot figures, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  The latter sadly serve as little more than objectives for the British player to pursue, whereas the three Night Riders play a critical role in the game. 

Their task is to ride to the many on-map settlements where Gather Markers are placed and use a Call To Arms action to flip the marker to its Muster side which activates the types of unit printed on the map under the marker. 

The Night Riders can also perform this task by permanently exiting a map edge, on which they can then start to activate Alert markers which also bring in more units for the Patriot player.  This is just one of several elements that gives From Boston To Concord its originality, as it is this mustering of units that provide the Patriot player the units to fight the British player with.  But don't imagine that either side will ever have large forces to play with - another factor that helps to keep playing time down.  For instance the British player has only seven 2-strength Regular units at start and gets another eight on Turn 9 and don't forget it's only a 12 turn game! 



Not too surprisingly, Lexington [a fair ride from Boston] contains a series of important counters: a Muster marker - note the tankard icon, as taverns, such as Buckman's and Munroe's were gathering points [!!]; a Hidden Arms marker; a leader, Brewer, [is that really just a coincidence with tankards and taverns?] as well as one of the three Night Riders [Prescott] and the two key Sons of Liberty, Hancock and Adams; and finally a Minuteman unit [green oval with black figure] plus an untried Militia unit.  A juicy target, but highly likely not to be there by the time the British troops struggle across the map to Lexington.

Returning to those famous Night Riders, a neat corollary to their main task is that every time a Night Rider performs his Call To Arms action, he has to roll for possible capture.  If captured, this brings in a further potential action - attempting to escape.  The British player earns VPs for getting captives back to Boston

Add in the conventional elements of movement, attack, assault and charge, plus more original Actions such as Hindering Movement and Hindering Muster, Ambush, Sniping and one of the most important for the British player, the Search Action both for Hidden Arms and for the leaders and Night Riders already mentioned and you can quickly see, with the limited number of Actions that you get per Turn, how each player constantly feels the pressure of time and choice-making!
Each turn one of these cards is turned up. In this instance, the Patriot player would get 4 Actions, the British player only 3. 

For me the success of this game is not just in this variety of unusual actions, but also partly because of the range of objectives to be pursued along with the particularly conflicting nature of the British objectives.  They have the task of marching their troops the length of the map to Concord, while at the same time attempting to capture individual historical personages, search for the hidden arms cached by the Patriot and prevent mustering from happening.  The first task tends to need the player to march as quickly as possible along the roads, keeping troops mainly together, while all the other tasks demand that troops spread out more thinly to cover as many locations as possible.  When you've only got SEVEN units for a substantial part of the game, as mentioned earlier, that's no mean feat. 

To conclude, my original reason for wanting to review Revolution Road, as I explained at the very beginning, was to play Bunker Hill,  but I hope what I've described will help you to understand why From Boston to Concord has become my favourite out of the two excellent games in the one box.  I sincerely hope Compass Games will continue this new line of departure with swifter, simpler, smoother games to play!


RRP – £69.99
Online Retailer – 365games.co.uk






















































































1 comments :

  My plate is a little full right now. It seems that Thanksgiving has already come. In the next week I will publish a review of Flying Pig...

Games and more games Games and more games

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

October 2017

Games and more games



 My plate is a little full right now. It seems that Thanksgiving has already come. In the next week I will publish a review of Flying Pig Games '65'. If you like to game the Vietnam war, pick it up. You won't be sorry.


 Minden games has sent me 'NavTac: Coronel and Falklands' to review for those of you who are into WWI naval games.




 I also received a huge care package from Worthington games. It was comprised of these games:

Holdfast: Eastfront
Grant's Gamble
Pemberton and Grant
Hold The Line: The American Revolution
Hold The Line: The French and Indian War




  Upcoming games will be:

 Flying Pigs Old School Tactical Volume II





 Lock and Load's 'A Wing and A Prayer' will also be landing.





 Turning Point Simulations has also agreed to let us start reviewing their games.

0 comments :

Dubno 1941 The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World war by Aleksei Isaev translated by Kevin Bridge ...

Dubno 1941 The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World War by Aleksei Isaev and translated by Kevin Bridge Dubno 1941 The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World War by Aleksei Isaev and translated by Kevin Bridge

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

October 2017

Dubno 1941 The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World War by Aleksei Isaev and translated by Kevin Bridge



The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World war

by




translated by Kevin Bridge






 Here we are again at Kursk in 1943: 'The Greatest Tank Battle'. Wait a minute, the name of the book is 'Dubno 1941, The Greatest Tank Battle of The Second World War'. Could we have been mistaken all along?

 Turns out, yes we were. In 1941, 800 tanks of the German Army Group South, and 3,000 tanks of the Soviet Red Army Kiev Special Military District collided into each other. The Germans were trying to get some running room to break out into southern Russia, while the Russians desperately tried to stop the German flood.

 The author and translator have done a fantastic job of bringing these little known battles to light. Many times the fighting in central Russia takes a front seat to the other two fronts in 1941. The Soviet forces were untried and faced German troops who had almost two years of war behind them.

 The Soviets forces were also hamstrung by two other factors. One, the paranoid psychopath Stalin had gutted the Red Army's officer corps in the purges of the preceding years. Two, the Red Army, which was actually technically ahead of the rest of the world in 1938 with their armored formations, had actually broken them up and changed direction after the Spanish Civil war. Due to the German armored victories in 1940, the Soviets were in the process of switching back to their pre-1938 ideas. So the Red Army was already fighting on its back foot and with one hand tied behind its back.

 The author's premise is that the Germans were able to deal fairly easily with the Soviet armor because the German armored (Panzer divisions) were combined arms units, and not just tank heavy units like the Soviets.

 The Germans had to deal with not only much larger numbers of men and machines. The newest Soviet tanks (T-34, KV-1) were technologically much more advanced than the German ones in armor and armament. The Germans were lucky that most of the Soviets' newest tanks had just been assigned to their units, so the crews were unfamiliar with them. This, along with the fact that all German tanks had radios and almost none of the Soviet tanks did, allowed the Germans to deal with the changing situations of battle. The Soviets, on the other hand, made battle plans before contact and then stuck with them come what may. A lot of people are not familiar with the adverse effects Stalin had on the first six months of the war. Stalin was just as foolish as Hitler with a rash of 'stand and die' orders early in the war. However, and a bit unbelievably, Stalin learned to trust his generals' judgment. We know how that worked on the German side.

 The author shows us that the southern part of the Soviet Army was the strongest and most able on June 22nd 1941. The author believes that the Soviet self sacrifice in these early battles enabled the Soviets to win the war. The author also makes a good argument that the frontier battles of 1941 were the swan song of the German infantry. He believes they were bled white, and that their capabilities just continued to grow worse as the war progressed. In the author's 'conclusion', he shows not only the Soviet mistakes, but also the German ones.

 The book also list some faults of the T-34 that I have not seen written up before. The T-34's clutch plates had a tendency to warp. Repairs on the main clutch plates rarely worked and the entire assembly needed to be replaced. The transmission itself was under undue stress having only three forward and one reverse gear. The German Panzer III had ten forward gears. The following is from a report of the commander of the 10th Tank division:

"A) The armor on the engine and on the tank body could be penetrated from a distance of 300-400m with a 37mm armor piercing shell. The vertical plates on the sides could be penetrated by a 20mm armor piercing shell. When cresting a ditch the tank digs in due to it being low set. Contact with the ground is insufficient owning to the relative smoothness of the tracks.
B) The driver's forward hatch caves in after a direct hit from a shell.
C) The tracks are weak and any shell would be able to break them."

 This book is filled with pictures from the battle, and also has a good number of maps to help the reader visualize the different actions. It is another superb Helion & Company volume to add to your collection.


Robert


Book:  Dubno 1941
Author: Aleksei Isaev
Translator: Kevin Bridge
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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Ogre is a turn-based game of strategy which has been around in tabletop form for 40 years. It was first released in 1977 and has been u...

Ogre Ogre

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

October 2017

Ogre



Ogre is a turn-based game of strategy which has been around in tabletop form for 40 years. It was first released in 1977 and has been updated with numerous editions since then. I've only been a boardgame fan for a couple of years now, so I didn't know much about Ogre going in to this review. I did take the time to check out the various tabletop versions, so that I would have an understanding of where this game was coming from.  From what I've gathered, this is a very faithful rendition of the classic Ogre boardgame, which is great for fans. At the same time, Ogre suffers a bit from the double edged sword which is strict boardgame-to-PC adaptations. However, any game which remains popular over the span of four decades has certainly got something going for it, regardless of how you are playing it.

Ogre succeeds unequivocally in one aspect, which is the presentation of playing a boardgame in a digital medium. The visuals are simple and clean, while giving the distinct feeling that you are looking at a hex-map covered in models, all set up nicely on a table. The game runs buttery smooth, which isn't surprising given the level of detail, but does make the presentation all the better. You want to feel like you are looking over a boardgame table, and smooth camera movement is key to that. While the units only have limited animations, they are adequate for the job, accompanied by equally simple explosions and other effects. The sound effects were rather less impressive, with most being extremely repetitive. On the other hand, I found the music to be surprisingly good for this kind of game. It's not Command & Conquer, but there are some decent techno/rock type of tracks to give the game some ambiance while you play.




Ogre, according to the lore, depicts a futuristic world where humanity does battle with each other using tactical nukes as the standard weaponry. This is because armor has advanced so rapidly that nothing else can make a dent. Even the armored soldiers are closer to nuke launching tanks than infantry, Starship Troopers style (the book, not movie). Deciding that wasn't enough death and destruction, the humans of this world invented the Ogre, an armored machine bristling with enough weapons to destroy a city or three, and piloted by an AI. As you might guess, the story of the game involves that AI going all Skynet and attempting to wipe out humans for good.

While the game features a variety of armored units for the human forces, like light/heavy/super heavy tanks, long range artillery, fast GEV's, and infantry, the Ogres completely dominate the battlefield and shape the gameplay. An Ogre can only be disabled by knocking out their dozens of tracks and each individual weapon, rather than being destroyed outright. The Ogre comes in a series of models, from I to VI, with the relatively small Model I Ogres requiring a dozen units or so to defeat, and the big bad versions able to take on entire armies alone. This creates a stark strategic difference between the Ogre and everything else on the battlefield: most of the other units can only fire once per turn, but their sheer numbers give them flexibility of movement, while the Ogre is often alone, but able to engage many targets at once.



Combat follows a set series of phases, where the player gets a chance to move and attack, and then the other side goes. Maneuvering around the Ogres, such that your units can get close enough to attack, while maximizing their chances of surviving the opponent's turn, is at the center of the game's strategy. The game seems extremely simple at first glance, but there is much more subtlety to the tactics than may first appear. I actually had to research some common strategies just to get through the first mission, but once I had a better understanding of the mechanics, a mission which seemed impossible became far easier. That isn't to say that the game throws you in blindly. There is a solid tutorial to start things off, where you learn about moving and attacking and so on. However, after that the ten mission campaign drops you straight into the deep end of the pool. If you are like me, several attempts will be needed for each mission before a winning strategy emerges. In particular, I enjoyed stacking my forces with the quick GEV's, since they get to move again after firing. This lets them zip in, take a shot at an Ogre, then flee out of range of its wrath. 



The UI for handling all of this moving and attacking is mixed bag. On the one hand, it is perfectly functional and clear about what you are doing. Click to select a unit, click a highlighted space to move, click to select a target, select the units you are using for the attack, click "Fire" to attack, and so on. The problem is that you are very often moving around quite a few units, and each one requires this slightly too lengthy series of clicks to function each turn. The movement animations are also a touch too slow, and you can't do anything else while they play. This makes moving a stack of five tanks from one space to another a real chore. If you were playing the tabletop game, you could just pick up a whole pile of units and, assuming they are all the same type, move them to another space in the blink of an eye. In the PC game, this could take a good thirty or forty-five seconds of clicking. The developers have been steadily sending out patches to address feedback, and I hope they will add in some means of speeding up this area of the game. 

The combat, while for the most part compelling, had some stumbles for me as well. There is a lot of good strategy here. How you position your units, what priorities you set for targets, and the composition of your force all matter a great deal. More than once I lost a mission and felt frustrated, but then immediately jumped back in with the thought "Well, what if I did it this way instead?" From what I've learned on my own, and gleaned from reading online, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy here. The simple question of "How does one kill an Ogre?" has all sorts of answers. With that said, the boardgame origins of the combat mechanics don't always feel right in video game form. Rolling the dice always introduces luck into a game like this, and you will see a lot of dice rolled in Ogre. Part of the strategy is balancing the odds. Do you go all in on one sure-thing attack, or do you make several lesser attacks, with the chance of destroying multiple targets? One aspect of the combat which drove me crazy though, was taking out the treads on an Ogre. Unlike the weapons on an Ogre, the treads are targeted by each unit individually, with a rather low chance to hit, and there are a LOT of them to destroy. Sometimes this boils down to watching fifteen units pew-pew at a weaponless Ogre for multiple turns in a row, slowly grinding away the treads until you win or run out of time, with no skill involved whatsoever. I'm sure a long time fan of the game could jump in here and tell me that I'm approaching it incorrectly, and they might be right!



If you want to flip things around and take command of the Ogre yourself, that is certainly possible. Besides the campaign, the game features skirmish maps which include several different generic scenarios. Some are balanced, while others involve lopsided forces, like a human army and a small Ogre defending against an extra dangerous class V Ogre.  While the AI is decent enough, and will give you fits in the tricky campaign, there is of course the option of online play against a human opponent, the sort of match that Ogre was originally designed for. I didn't get to experience this myself while playing the game for review, but it seems to be functioning based on reports from other players.



It feels almost wrong to render any kind of verdict on a game that is been enjoyed by thousands of players longer than I have been alive, especially after only spending a week or so with it, but here we are. Ogre will most certainly please fans of the tabletop game. Everything is here, presented in a very clean and functional digital wrapping. There's online play for beating up your distant friends, and a couple of modes for solo play that will keep you busy for many hours. For players coming into it strictly as a PC game, it may feel constrained in some ways. The luck of the dice which can turn the best laid plan on its head, and the at times clunky UI could drag down your experience. Despite those criticisms, there is a very solid core of strategy gaming to be found here. New tactical layers reveal themselves as you get familiar with the mechanics, and usually reward your improved approach with much better results. I think any fan of turn-based strategy gaming will find something here to sink their teeth into.

Developer: Auroch Digital
Website: http://www.sjgames.com/ogre/products/ogrevideogame/


- Joe Beard





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Twenty years ago I read the seminal work on Nazi Germany: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. I am glad I can now cr...

Rising Sun: The rise and fall of the Japanese Empire by John Toland Rising Sun: The rise and fall of the Japanese Empire by John Toland

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

October 2017

Rising Sun: The rise and fall of the Japanese Empire by John Toland


Twenty years ago I read the seminal work on Nazi Germany: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. I am glad I can now cross Rising Sun by John Toland off of my book-bucket list. Rising Sun is every bit as authoritative and detailed as Shirer's work and I consider it the Pacific companion to Shirer's earlier work. In fact, I think that the lineage between the two books is quite clear and I am almost certain that John Toland was inspired by William Shirer's book.

The Pacific Theatre holds a particular fascination for me. Despite the number of books and documentaries I have read and viewed, I found Toland's book to be the most well-explained and detailed analysis of the pre-war period I have experienced to-date. I must admit to struggling with the sheer volume of names and political shenanigans but in all, I learnt more from this one book than I did from nearly all of the others I have read combined.


Iwo Jima: D-Day
To the typical European* audience, the Normandy Landings of June 1944 are rightly reserved for our greatest remembrance of bravery and sacrifice. The European D-Day claimed approximately 4,000 casualties. In contrast, the Pacific Theatre records 126 separate D-Days, none at the scale of Normandy, but all told causing American losses of over 50,000 troops. The sheer lunacy and bravery, in equal measure, shown by those amphibious troops beggars belief of the modern-day observer. I know I'm definitely not made of the same stuff.

In reading this book I feel I have attended The University of the Pacific Theatre, although I would probably graduate with a measly third or two-two at best. I feel wholly unqualified to review this Pulitzer-winning magnum-opus. The sheer quantity of information, especially Japanese names, left me stumped on a few occasions ("Who was he again?") but I got more comfortable with it and was fairly fluent in my Togo's and my Tojo's (very different people) by the 600th page, or 2/3rds of the way through this half-a-tree book.
Marines on Tarawa
I was continually amazed at the sheer volume of research that must have gone into this book. Incongruously, there were several jarring sentences regarding soldier's genitalia which, aside from feeling out of place (it happened on several occasions), made me wonder 'how on Earth did he find that out?'.

In most books about the Pacific Theatre, the behaviour of Japanese soldiers is often held up as barbaric and our Allied 'heroes' are paragons of virtue. As Winston Churchill himself wrote, 'History is written by the victors' and this book does an excellent job of not just recalling those well-known crimes, but explaining and humanising them without excusing them. It also counterbalances that with some appalling accounts of actions of US forces which are not often mentioned in accounts of the Pacific Theatre.


Bataan Death March
I found the book to be very well balanced, some may find it has gone too far and is more sympathetic to the Japanese forces than they deserve credit; it came as no surprise to find out that the Author has a Japanese wife. Still, for me, it was fair and it introduced the concept to me that the war in the Pacific Theatre was long precipitated by the colonisation and subjugation of South Asian and East Asian countries by Allied powers. It certainly did come across that the inexorable decline into war, opposed (mostly) on both sides, was almost inevitable. 

During the war, many Asian nations, sought self-rule and viewed Tojo (the Japanese Prime Minister) as a figurehead of Asian power and a model of how to fight against their 'masters'. There did appear to be several senior Japanese politicians and military men so averse to give Hirohito, the Emperor, any bad news that the war continued in vain. Toland makes it quite clear that the Emperor attempted many times to extricate his country from a War Japan knew it couldn't win even before it started.
Hirohito
The author covers everything about the war in the Pacific in great detail, from before the beginning (it wasn't Pearl Harbour...!) to the very definition of the bitter end and it was enlightening the entire way through. Rising Sun, first published in 1970 has several disturbing parallels today which we, as the western world, need to re-learn from our own history. The author made me question whether my own prejudices, as fair as I think they are, are justified.

Apologies for getting all philosophical, but this is a weighty book, dealing with a heavy subject, not just that of war but also of national and personal identity. It shows how simple mistakes and misunderstandings can cause events to wheel out of control very easily, given the right heady-brew of personalities... 

I can recommend this book it to everyone, unfortunately, it's only going to appeal to a very small niche of society, although it has probably found a much wider audience in American and Japanese markets - I'm glad I've been in that audience. 


広島平和記念碑 - Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Thanks to Pen & Sword Publishing for providing this review copy. It's available on their website for £19.99

*I'm including Great Britain and Northern Ireland in that statement still...

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65 by  Flying Pig Games   Strangely, I approach the unboxing of the game with some trepidation. I had heard about...

65 by Flying Pig Games 65 by Flying Pig Games

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

October 2017

65 by Flying Pig Games

65


by 


Flying Pig Games





  Strangely, I approach the unboxing of the game with some trepidation. I had heard about WWI and WWII from my father and grandfather, but it was more like a history lesson in class. With the Vietnam War this was actually history I lived, I guess vicariously, through the TV. Growing up in the 1960s, the war was always there. My friends and I rarely, if ever, talked about it, yet its presence was still felt. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the news, and listening to the casualties of the day. Sorry to get so somber. The game and year just brought back memories; back to the game.



Training Aid


 I had reviewed Flying Pig Games Old School Tactical Volume I, and I was very impressed with all of the physical components. In '65, you will be pleased to find out that there is that same attention to detail and high standard of craftsmanship, with one big difference. The counters are extra large at 1" X 1.375", and so are the hexes on the mapboards. I cannot thank Flying Pig Games enough for this thoughtfulness. It is almost like they included a fold up walker in the box for us old grogs.





 The scale of the game is: squads or gun teams, individual tanks, and snipers. You also get hero or officer counters with bonus abilities. You receive three mounted maps at 11" X 17" to display the flora, etc. of Vietnam. Because of the increased hex size they show less of a battlefield than other games. However, it works just fine for the scale.



Action Counters etc.


 The 'training aid'/rule book is also top notch. Its size is also in a large enough font for even my wife to read (she edits for me, so rest assured I have been properly chastised). Being a card driven game, it is good to see that they are up to the other components' standards. The game is not only card driven it is all about the cards. There are no dice whatsoever needed for playing. So no plastic was harmed in the games creation.



Vehicles


 Sequence of play:

Deal cards: From the shuffled deck each player gets four action cards.

Determine initiative: Both players pick one card and compare the 'targeting number' in the lower left block. The player with the higher number wins the initiative, and discards his card. The loser gets to keep his card.

Impulse actions: You fill your hands back to four cards. If either player pulls an  'end turn' card, you lay it down (more on this later).

Play: Play cards and activate your units and all other actions.

Discard: The players may discard up to two cards. 

Do nothing and pass: When the scenario's prescribed number of 'end turn cards' have been laid out or both players pass. You then move to the 'reserve phase'.

Reserve phase: The player who won the initiative goes first. No cards can be played in this phase. The player who has initiative moves all his eligible units, and then the second players moves his. 

Clean up phase: Fired, moved, and ops complete markers are removed. All 'smoke 2' counters are degraded to 'smoke 1', and 'smoke 1' counters are removed. The shaken markers remain.

Stacking: No more than three units may stack in a hex. One hero, one vehicle, and two leg units only per hex.

 The previous was just a synopsis. 



Troop counters


 This being the first war where they were used extensively, the U.S. player has helicopter units. They have some unique properties in the game. They are hard targets when they are on the ground or hovering, and they are soft targets when moving. The game also comes with fortifications such as foxholes and bunkers. There are also units that can use satchel charges.



Action cards


 The game is completely card driven. Your unit's movement, etc. are all allowed by the cards you have and choose to play. The cards also give you the chance for off-board artillery strikes. Armor and armored personnel carriers are also in the counter mix for both sides.

 Some of the card actions are: 

Blood lust: You can rally or reconstitute one eligible unit. 

Fast move: The unit can get one extra movement factor.

Aimed shot: Add two to a unit's targeting on a hard target.

 Some scenarios come with the ability for each side to draw a 'bonus victory condition card'. If you draw a card with a condition that cannot be fulfilled (the other side has no hero, etc), then you draw another card.


Bonus Victory Cards


 The game play is tense and nerve wracking in a good sort of way. With the smaller scale, and also the small number of units, lady luck can destroy an excellent game plan in a second. 


 The movement, line of sight, and combat mechanics all feel correct for this time of conflict. 

 The rule book is only nineteen pages long, with another eight pages of scenarios (each scenario is one page). 

 The game also has these expansions that can be bought for it:

Hue city map
Alone in the jungle solo
USMC/ANZAC
Action cards



First Scenario Opponent Cards


 As far as the card pulling goes there are times that you will have to pass. Some of the cards are 'vehicle only cards' so if you get one or two in a hand, and you are only playing with leg units, that is a fourth to a half of your hand that turn. As a house rule, some have suggested removing the 'vehicle only cards' from the mix if you are playing with only leg units. This might have been a deliberate decision by the developers, so use at your own risk.



First scenario My Cards

 In this play example I have used my card for its 'Move' value, and moved my U.S. rifle squad three road hexes closer to the enemy.  





 My opponent then uses one of his card's 'Fire' value to engage my rifle squad with his sapper unit. When counting the range you include the firing units hex, but not the target hex.





 So this gives us a range of two. Then you calculate the firing unit's HEF (High Explosive Factor). This is a two for the sapper unit. Next, we calculate the range modifiers which total up to a '+1'.





 So we now draw three cards (2 +1) from the deck, and consult the 'HE" result in the lower right hand quarter of the cards.





  The first card gives us a 'Hit' on the U.S. rifle squad. When a unit receives a 'Hit' for the first time, a 'Shaken' counter is placed on it. The next card is also a 'Hit', so the counter is flipped to its reduced side. 





 The third card had no 'Hit' value for its action. This is lucky for me because a third hit would have eliminated my unit.


  The game plays well in solo mode also. The small footprint and amount of counters in scenarios means that you will not have to take up much space for playing. The game's average time for the scenarios is one to three hours. So you won't have to set it up and worry about small children or animals getting at it while you are at work. With the relatively small amount of rules and all of the player's aids (and ability to read them), makes the game a quick run through after the first few games. The developers were looking to make a fun quick game on Vietnam warfare, and they have succeeded admirably. 

 Congratulations on another great game, Flying Pigs.

 As Katherine Hepburn said in 'The Lion in Winter' "there will be pork in the trees come morning". I have always wanted to use that line.

Robert

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