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Heroes of North Africa by   Lock 'N Load Publishing  This is the largest game in the Lock 'N Load tact...

Heroes of North Africa by Lock 'N Load Publishing Heroes of North Africa by Lock 'N Load Publishing

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

March 2018

Heroes of North Africa by Lock 'N Load Publishing



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 This is the largest game in the Lock 'N Load tactical series yet. It is about the desert war from 1940-1943: North Africa WW II Rommel, Cruewell, Montgomery, O'Connor, Graziana, and Gariboldi plus lots and lots of sand. For your gaming pleasure LNL has brought you the forces of Italy, Germany, Britain, France, and the US. Let us go through a checklist of what comes with the game.






 Large box -  check, seems like the holidays
Counters large and easy to read -  check
Large easy to read colorful manuals - check, LNL standard fare
Mounted maps - Nope, none here; these are paper maps, but there
   is a ton of them and they are well made





 The game comes with the following manuals and player's aids:

LNL Tactical World War II Era 1930-1959 Core Rules Manual 
  Version 4.1
Heroes of North Africa: Module Rules and Scenarios
Heroes of North Africa: Rules Reference Card
Heroes of North Africa: Player-Aid Card
Heroes of North Africa: Skill Reference Card
Heroes of North Africa :Sequence of Play, and on the other side  
  Weapons, Ammo, and Targets
The Turn Record Track also has some information on it.






  Most of the scenarios are ones in which the English are fighting the Italians. The game comes with twenty scenarios, but your imagination and history can come up with many more. There are three I saw that had Germans and Italians fighting as allies. There are even a few with US troops fighting Vichy French troops. Most of the scenarios only use one map piece, but there are a few that use two. There is only one scenario where three map pieces are used. There are actually six 8.25 X 12.75 single sided maps, and six double sided 8.25 X 12.75 maps. The hex size is fifty meters across. This is tactical warfare up close and personal. There is not much room, if any, to maneuver, and sweeping encirclements are not happening. 







 There are six sheets of 700 plus counters. The counters come in three sizes. The largest is for vehicles, including tanks, and the next size down is for artillery pieces. The troops and markers are the smallest and most numerous of the counters. Unfortunately, the counters are a mixed bag as far as getting them off the sprues. On two of the counter sheets, the counters popped out like they had been buttered. One of the sheets was tough to get them out without damage, and then they had cardboard flanges stuck to their middles. The other sheets were average as far as undoing the counters. 






 This is a link to the turn sequence aid:

http://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/lnlt-rule-sequence-guide.101/

  This is a link to the World War II Core Rules:

http://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/lnlt-world-war-ii-era-core-rules-final.94/

 The rules are what you would expect from a detailed tactical simulation. It even has rules to simulate the Italians' lack of supply and sometimes indifferent training. This is not a knock against the Italian armed forces in WW II. It was unfortunately the truth for them. Some of their forces were elite troops that you will have your hands full with, and all fought to the best of their ability. No matter how under-gunned and under-armored the Italian tanks were, they continually were in the thick of the North African fighting. The Italian army was very well equipped to fight a war in 1936. However, by 1940 and later most of their equipment was outdated. The amount of scenarios will show how much fighting the Italian Army was involved with.




 



 This is my first foray into the LNL 'Heroes' series of tactical games. It seems like LNL is trying to supplant a game which shall not be mentioned as our 'go to' tactical wargame (don't you hate buzz words?). As mentioned, these core rules are for tactical gaming for the years 1930-1959. LNL has a plethora of games issued and forthcoming in this series. 





 The Italians are brittle, as they should be. The British are stolid, and the US troops are green. The German troops and equipment are better than most, at least in the early years, unless an armadillo of a British Matilda crawls slowly into view. With the core rules and separate modules rules, on the outset it looks like a player would be overwhelmed. With the player's aids and the turn sequence clearly delineated it helps to ease the player's learning curve. I have to thank LNL for printing everything  in large easy to read type. The play examples are well thought out and also help you learn the ropes. The line of sight rules are a bit lengthy and are probably the hardest part of the game rules to get right. The game does not have many votes, but its 8.44 rating on BGG I think is spot on. With the small area of play the battlefield Carnage adds up fast. Very few games now give you this much gaming in one box: Panzer IIIs and IVs, Crusaders, Valentines, and early Shermans along with French Renault 35s and of course a lot of the Italian tanks to name just a few of the pieces. The map pieces along with all of the counters for bunkers etc. give the player the ability to play out any scenario, historical or not. 

 Below is a setup for the scenario 'Mon Cheri I'. Italian armor is trying to break through dug in Free French forces.







 This is a link to a print and play mod that adds units and more to Heroes of North Africa:

 http://forums.lnlpublishing.com/resources/heroes-of-north-africa-desert-raiders-print-and-play-mod.226/


Robert

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Today I'm happy to share an interview I had with Kevin Buster, who you will likely recognize as Agrippa Maxentius from his prolifi...

An Interview with Agrippa Maxentius An Interview with Agrippa Maxentius

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

March 2018

An Interview with Agrippa Maxentius





Today I'm happy to share an interview I had with Kevin Buster, who you will likely recognize as Agrippa Maxentius from his prolific Youtube channel where he posts gameplay videos of numerous war and strategy games.


Tell us a bit about your background, what led you into playing so many wargames and other historically themed games?

You know, since I was a young child "about 4" I was obsessed with strategy in general. My family made regular trips from the U.S to Portugal and I remember the former airline "TWA" had diagrams of maps in all of their on-board magazines. I remember taking pens and drawing potential "alternative history" countries and leading fictional armies to attack one another. At about the age of 8 my father got a PC and I discovered "Panzer General" and "Civil War Generals 2" I was completely hooked. I had always been partial to history, and remember watching "The Longest Day" over and over at a young age, I must have seen that film 30 or 40 times. I enjoy the genre, I see it on a sort of "Grander" scale and often find myself actually imagining how my attacks would look in real life, or how for instance a fictional country I am leading in a Grand Strategy Title would be, how daily life would be for the civilians etc.


Why the name Agrippa Maxentius? Is it in reference to a particular historical figure or figures?

My favorite "Military" figure was always Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, particularly because he was loyal to no end, but also because he was of fairly common blood and still managed to achieve an extremely high position in his field. Sadly this name was taken, so I went for the whole Jungian duality of my most loved General "Agrippa" and my most hated Roman emperor "Maxentius". If I had a nickel for every time someone referred to me as Agrippa "Maximus" I'd be a rich man.





Tell us the story of how you got your start in making videos and how that has progressed over time.

When I was fairly young my family moved up to New York and I ended up joining a high school that specifically focused on Drama, Musical Theater etc. I found myself getting a lot of roles and soon started doing some commercials, student films and theater work at a pretty young age, but soon lost interest and sort of just drifted around not doing much for a few years. I remember sitting down with a friend and watching "Krebs" on YouTube, a fellow that did let's plays of "Company of Heroes" matches and I really enjoyed them. It didn't click at first, but after a year or so I decided to mix my drama background and my interest in such games, I figured "I can do this if I try hard enough". After that, I started getting paid for my voice work and so in the end I considered it a good trade.


You’ve covered a ton of historical periods, what is your favorite?

Definitely the Cold War, particularly the conflicts in Angola both pre and post colonial. The Vietnam War is also a big deal to me, my father was a 1st Lieutenant in the 577 Corps of Engineers so I think I got that interest from him. I'd also have to say the period in between WW1 and WW2, particularly the Spanish Civil War. The 20th century in general is definitely my favorite time period for conflicts.


While we’re on the topic of favorites, do you have a particular game or series that you enjoy above all others?

There are so many great games out there, for me to narrow it down to one single game would really be a travesty. I can certainly give some games that come to my mind as the most accurate depictions of war, or a war like environment but admittedly these all come with their own positives/negatives. (Graviteam Tactics, Decisive Campaigns Operation Barbarossa, Ultimate General Civil War) truth be told this list could go on for quite a bit.




How do you decide which games you will do videos on? Is it a matter of personal preference or which game you think will be more popular?

That's a great question, especially with the way YouTube is changing and seemingly disallowing advertisements for videos that focus on controversial subjects. Initially I started the channel as a hardcore strategy channel, that is to say we didn't stray from controversial wars and conflicts and in many ways we continue not to. I have tried to go for some more mainstream strategy games, but the community is nowhere near as receptive as with the more hardcore titles "Graviteam Tactics, Close Combat, Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943". Ideally i'd like to draw in a more mainstream audience with a well known title and slowly convert them to pure wargaming, but the experiment has been spotty at best.


I know that Youtube has made a lot of changes in the recent past that shook up things for content creators. Could you tell us more about how those changes have affected you and your channel?

I would say that the changes made especially initially affected smaller wargamers like myself very significantly. I saw an immediate hit to my income, dropping about 50% as most of my videos were deemed "Not Advertiser Friendly" after requesting a review copy most of these videos have been reinstated, but that leads me to ask the question "Why were they demonetized in the first place?" The problem still continues, and since I get most of my video views in the first 24 hours, even after the video has been "Deemed advertiser friendly" I've lost most if not all the revenue I could have claimed for it.




What does your weekly schedule look like? I know plenty of our readers would love to get paid to play games all day. Is it more work than one might imagine?

Generally speaking one major benefit to being a Youtuber or working for yourself is having the ability to pick your own work hours. That sounds a lot better than it actually is. On a productive day I'll typically wake up and read the news, occasionally I'll crank up a documentary relating to a conflict in the past and try and generate some ideas for a new series. There are a ton of videos that I have put 1-2 hours of work into and then simply scrapped, so generally when you're seeing 10 minutes on screen you have to keep in mind the many hours snipped away during the editing process. YouTube is a lot of work, people don't understand the difficulty in trying to play a game and provide entertaining commentary at the same exact time. Your brain is working overtime, and trying to multitask while struggling with all of the conflicting information. You may be in the middle of a fight, discussing a similar conflict that occurred during the actual war when suddenly an enemy tank shell rips through your men. What do you do now, do you suddenly put your story on hold and focus on the action, do you switch to the action and potentially risk forgetting the story you were just telling moments ago? Then comes the editing, initially I found editing to be a real pain but as with most things, over time it just becomes a small part of the overall process.

As for those wishing to get their main paycheck from YouTube I would only say "Have a second job, and be prepared for a long and arduous road that may or may not lead anywhere".


Are there any mediums that you have used to reach people besides video? Have you done written articles or podcasts or anything else?

I've done a number of voice work bits, primarily commercial voice work for larger companies. I haven't merged into any other areas as of yet but I would certainly like to. I'm not sure I would be very adept at a "History" podcast, to be honest with you I often learn a lot more from my subscribers than you can even begin to imagine. I would however love to narrate a historical novel of some sort in audiobook form, and I am always open to a fun podcast with fellow strategy gamers. I tend not to take myself too seriously, if I make a mistake I'll often laugh at myself for it, and despite my mistakes I am not too critical of myself. Overall I think the goal is to have fun, and to entertain people while doing it.


Regarding your commercial voice work, where might we have heard some of it?

I've done a number of the trailers for the Order of Battle series, Burma Road and Kriegsmarine come to mind, but these aren't the only ones. I've also done tutorials for "Wars of Napoleon" "Carrier Deck" as well as "Battle of the Bulge" most of which can be accessed in game, many of these if not all can be found on YouTube. Outside of Slitherine I have done voice work for Franks Deli Mustard, Delta and even Coreg heart medicine. Most of these played on radio stations in the American Northeast, I have the files but no link to any sort of radio station clip. If anyone is interested, you can always reach me at agrippamaxentius@gmail.com and I can shoot you over my commercial demo reel. I continue to provide streaming services as well but haven't put the same focus into finding voice gigs as I have into building the channel, however I am always open or business and do plan on furthering that career.


So, you worked directly for Slitherine for a while, now you're back out on your own. What was that like and how does it feel to be independent again?

This is true, I worked as the Public Relations Manager for Slitherine and now work independently from home, however I still have a close relationship with the company and continue to produce streams for them as well as provide tutorials/voice work whenever needed. Slitherine/Matrix will always have a special place in my heart, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at the company and consider it a valuable learning experience. I think anytime you move from an office environment to a home office environment there are going to be a certain degree of positives and negatives, at home you have a degree of freedom which can't be found in an office, but at the same time you aren't surrounded by a team of professionals who are capable of assisting you when you are having a work-related issue. Also the staff at companies like Slitherine are just the best, that includes the management, being in a work environment with people who share similar interests is always rewarding. Money wise, unless you give it a lot of time and effort do not expect to be pulling in a larger check by working for yourself, a lot more work for a lot less gain if you go the independent route.


This question is a bit heavier, but it's something I ponder for myself from time to time, so I'm always interested to hear another person's take on it: We have fun playing games that depict conflicts where real people died in awful ways, and countless survivors came home scarred by the things they saw and did. Do you ever feel conflicted about this juxtaposition of experiences?

No, not at all, not for a moment. I do feel that the juxtaposition Is an important one to consider, without a doubt most wargamers have reflected on this in the past. We have to be able to differentiate between venerating war and outright promoting it. I feel that reflecting and being entertained by re-living these wars in a virtual world is very different from actually wanting to be in them. One thing that helped me come to terms with depicting recent conflicts are the many subscribers on my channel who are current or ex-military veterans, who assure me that they appreciate the content I provide. I do my absolute best to present a gray picture of war in all the content I provide, simplistic terms like "Good Guys/Bad Guys" have no place in most wars, if anything I believe wargames help to educate people about the horrors of war. Context is also important, if you're passing on wargaming as a hobby to your children for instance, make sure to provide relevant context about the conflict they are fighting, reassure them that a game is one thing, but real conflict is entirely different. This is such a fascinating question and I really could go on and on about it but I think I have made my point. For the record I do find war to be abhorrent and something that should be avoided if at all possible.


What games are coming up this year that you can’t wait to play?

“We: The Revolution" and hopefully the upcoming Close Combat just off the top of my head.





What are your short and long term goals for you channel?

Short term I would love to get some more ideas for strategy titles to take on, and in general just get a feel for what people really want to see. While I get most of my views from certain games, once you play the same game over and over your commentary tends to become quite stale and you end up running out of topics to discuss. My dream would be to find a more mainstream strategy game that really generates enough interest to draw in larger groups of people to the channel, but also one that the hardcore wargamers can enjoy. Long term I would obviously love to become one of the premier strategy channels on YouTube, as big as legends like Arumba and Quill18. If I was able to generate those views my goal would be to give a percentage of that income to either charities helping disabled military veterans, or children affected by war. Lastly I want my more obscure and controversial coverage of conflicts such as the "Chechen War" to not only be sources of entertainment, but perhaps also assist in educating people about wars they may have never even heard about. If anything I think the worst thing we can do to the fallen is forget about them entirely.


Thank you for your time Kevin, this was a really interesting niche of the hobby to learn more about!

If you are interested in seeing more of Kevin’s work head over to his Youtube channel by simply clicking this link. He adds new videos on a regular basis, playing a variety of great games!


- Joe Beard

3 comments :

Hold The Line: The American Revolution The French & Indian War Expansion Set by Worthington Publishing   It i...

Hold The Line The American Revolution and The French & Indian War Expansion Set by Worthington Publishing Hold The Line The American Revolution and The French & Indian War Expansion Set by Worthington Publishing

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

March 2018

Hold The Line The American Revolution and The French & Indian War Expansion Set by Worthington Publishing



by







 It is finally here, my boyhood dreams from fifty plus years ago have been fulfilled. We have a real wargame with plastic toy soldiers. Yes, there have been a few attempts before with this formula, but none have succeeded as well in my eyes as 'Hold The Line'.






 The maps is 21.5" by 34.5" across. It is a plain map, but the game comes with a ton of geomorphic hex tiles to represent pretty much any battle of the era. I like the artwork on the geomorphic hexes. To some they might seem plain, but to me they fit the period, and are highly functional. 





 Yes, these are plastic soldiers. So there will be some bayonets or flag standards that droop or bend the wrong way. As has been written, you can fix this by immersing them in hot water if you choose to. These were not, and are not, supposed to be fancy miniature toy soldiers. If they were, very few of us would be able to afford the game. These are the same plastic soldiers we played with fifty years ago. These soldiers work fine with the game, in my mind.  As you will see in the pictures, I did not bother fixing any drooping. 






 This is a remastered edition of the 'Hold The Line The American Revolution', so it comes with a whopping thirty-four scenarios. From the Minutemen to Yorktown, and from Quebec to South Carolina, and everywhere in between. These scenarios range from tiny to the largest battles of The American revolution. 






 The rule book is twelve pages long. Instead of cards or chit pulling, the game works off 'action points'. Each side has X amount of action points listed in the scenario notes to use each turn. At the start of each player turn, the player will roll a six sided die to see how many more points he will have to use.

1-2 Die Roll - 1 AP
3-4 Die Roll  - 2 AP
5-6 Die Roll  - 3 AP

 Every action of the player costs action points. Units move by the expenditure of one AP. As long as a leader is with a unit that is activated, the leader can move with the unit for no cost of APs. Infantry and dragoons accompanied by a leader can move one extra hex, for the cost of one AP. Fire combat costs one AP, and close combat costs two APs. 






 The game sequence is:

Player A rolls for extra action points
Player A performs his actions, movement, fire, etc.
Check for Victory
Player B rolls for extra action points
Player B performs his actions
Check for Victory
End Turn






 The line of sight rules are straight forward, and easy to understand. If something is in the way, there is no line of sight. There are rules for the Leaders to be able to rally troops, and the game also comes with some advanced/optional rules to enhance play. The player has the ability to play a campaign. These are linked scenarios, with as little as two battles, the largest being four battles. 





 One thing that has caused some players a problem is the amount of die to roll if a unit has sustained casualties. It is always three die no matter how many pieces the unit is missing. Most infantry start the game with four pieces per unit. The missing pieces represent mostly morale loss by the unit. 

 The following will be some pics of my Battle of Germantown playthrough.





 The game plays much faster than I expected. The regular infantry, which is usually most of each force, only moves one hex per turn, unless you have a leader present or are using the optional forced march rule. This, along with the low action points that each side has, made me think that it would be a few turns before the mayhem began. While the first turn was just movement on both sides' part, after that the the combat came fast and furious. The British were racking up a lot of Patriot morale losses with their die rolls, and it looked to be an easy victory for them. However, the next two turns the tables completely turned, and it was the Patriots who were rolling high numbers and causing large damage to the British units' morale. Here is the action on turn eight. The morale/unit losses are about equal right now.






The Hold The Line French & Indian War expansion set/add on comes with four sheets (two front and back) of added geomorphic hexes. The new tiles include boats and deep water hexes for playing out amphibious operations. The expansion set comes with, now wait for it, French and Indian plastic soldiers, but also includes green ranger soldiers. The French & Indian War expansion gives the player another thirteen scenarios to play. That means with both the base game and add on you get forty-seven scenarios. Most of the new scenarios are naturally during the French & Indian War, but you also get two from Pontiac's rebellion and another two from the American Revolution.






 I like the game and can easily recommend it to other gamers. The rules are easy to understand, and the game gives a good representation on the warfare of the American Revolution. The only rule I do not like is that dragoons cannot initiate close combat. I understand why the rule is in place. I just think that Banastre Tarleton would have an objection to it. With so many scenarios available, and the absolutely unlimited option to play out any scenario you can dream up, the game and its expansion set are worth every penny.

 Worthington Publishing also has Hessian and Highlander plastic soldiers for sale to add some historical flavor.



 Robert













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Here's a first for AWNT, a Nintendo Switch game review! Aperion Cyberstorm is a twin stick "bullet hell" shooter in which ...

Aperion Cyberstorm Aperion Cyberstorm

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

March 2018

Aperion Cyberstorm



Here's a first for AWNT, a Nintendo Switch game review! Aperion Cyberstorm is a twin stick "bullet hell" shooter in which you fight off an endless stream of neon colored enemies with your equally endless stream of bullets. While the genre is an old one, Aperion attempts to mix up by giving the player lots of customization in terms of ships and attack patterns. You can also play with up to 4 other friends if you have the controllers handy.


Aperion Cyberstorm's campaign sends you through a long series of rooms in which you fight off a huge number of enemies before moving on to the next room and doing the same thing again. At the end of each "world" you fight a massive boss. There's some sort of story tying it all together, but it's difficult to follow and not all that interesting. What you're here for is blasting a bunch of aliens and spaceships, and that's exactly what you will get a heaping helping of. One of the game's best strengths is the wide variety of enemy mechanics you will have to deal with. You'll find yourself adapting constantly from room to room as new enemies types appear in different combinations. There are big tough enemies, super fast little ones, enemies that shield others from damage, and enemies that blow up and turn into more ships. You'll also have to deal with the occasional environmental hazard like slippery ice or burning lava.


As you fight enemies and explore the occasional nooks and crannies of the world, you'll gain experience, gems, and upgrades. At certain intervals you'll be able to customize your setup a bit. There are a bunch of different ships, each with slightly different stats and shooting patterns. You can also pick from among several power up abilities, like a super rapid fire cannon or wide shotgun blast. These power-ups recharge often enough that you can use them multiple times in each room, while also picking up random temporary boosts (like freezing or burning damage) that can be found floating around mid-combat.  Ultimately, I couldn't find that any one strategy was particularly effective compared to another, the customization is mostly up to your personal preference.


The gems that you collect from destroying enemies and exploring the world can be used to upgrade your special powers, letting you give a boost to any of the ones that you particularly like. These upgrades make the power-up last longer and recharge faster, something you will definitely need as the game progresses and you find yourself facing meaner and more numerous enemies.

Although the mechanics of the game clearly have a lot of work and love behind them, the art design and sound are a bit less impressive. I didn't really enjoy how the entire game seems to take place in a series of caves, with black being the predominate color on screen at all times. Despite everything in the game being some flavor of neon, it always feels way too dark for my taste. The sound effects, something you will hear non-stop in this sort of game, could have used some more work. Many of them feel one notch removed from the original Asteroid. The music, on the other hand, was enjoyable throughout the game.



While the game has solid mechanics and gameplay, none of it is particularly original or inspired. The game can also get a bit repetitive, as there are only a few rooms with an objective other than killing wave after wave of enemies. You've probably played something exactly like this before, and it's probably been done better and with more style. However, for the low price point you will get many hours of engaging gameplay.  Although the game is available on PC, I would strongly  recommend getting the Switch version if you can, it's a perfect game for chilling on the couch and blasting away at limitless enemies.

Aperion Cyberstorm is available on PC, Wii U, and the Switch.

Official Website


- Joe Beard











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878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION from ACADEMY GAMES This comes hot on the heels of its parent game and those of you who Kickstarted the...

878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION 878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION

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

March 2018

878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION

878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION
from
ACADEMY GAMES

This comes hot on the heels of its parent game and those of you who Kickstarted the package will already possess it as part of the deal.  In all, the expansion provides nine possible additions to the basic game that can be added, in any combination desired.
A preliminary glimpse of all nine

These nine are:
   [1] War for Land and Gods
   [2] Kingdoms
   [3] Kings
   [4] Runes and Prayer
   [5] Relics and Holy Sites
   [6] Legends
   [7] Epic Battle Events
   [8] Viking Ships
   [9] Legendary Leaders
In physical terms, you get a new set of dice, more cards and counters and the rule book to explain their use.  Just reading the rule book, you will pick up a whole slew of information both historical and legendary.  In itself I enjoyed this simple pleasure, along with gazing at the familiar quality of the components.

As a package I'd view it mainly as a box of miniature delights to be dipped into as fancy and mood takes you.  Most provide extra thematic colour, while two, I would suggest, make significant changes to the focus of the game.  Mentioning colour also draws me to some of the pure delight in the artwork such as the Rule book's cover.
and this small insert of  a Viking.

However, delving into my "chocolate box" of gaming delights, I'm going to start with the last of the nine, Legendary Leaders, as this adds a coda to a brief comment I made in my initial review of the core game.  This was the fact that a single female character, Lagertha, was mentioned in the pen portraits of Leaders and, as I expected, here she appears as a potential variant.  From the little that I've been able to glean about the historical figure  I'm not even sure I'd dignify her with the title leader and her role in the game perhaps reflects this.  She does not appear independently, but can be chosen to accompany the arrival of one of the other leaders.  She appears with a meagre three units of her own, but can have as many of the accompanying leader's troops transferred to her cards you wish.

In essence, it allows you a two-pronged attack, but with a pair of weaker armies.  For me, it's an interesting added possibility with possibly its most powerful use coming in an end run where snatching an extra city may turn the tide.

The older, somewhat grimmer figure of Ragnar Lodbrok can be chosen as your first Viking leader to replace the original Card A "Halfdan's Great Heathen Host".  Ragnar comes with an equally mighty force and an additional Battle benefit.  Choose him and your start to the game should get off to an even more forceful opening - that is, of course, if you are playing the Vikings!

Expansion 8: Viking Ships might be considered almost as an item that should have been in the game from the very beginning, as a Ship maker is placed to mark the Shire where the invading Army lands each turn and allows movement of Viking armies between such sites.  As with the majority of these expansion elements, there is an appropriate corollary that benefits the English player.  If any English forces can occupy such a site with no Vikings present, the ship is burnt and the Viking player has to remove two of his units to the Fled Space on the map.  So, the Viking gets more manoeuvrability from the ships, but then has to decide can units be spared to guard them!  Nice touch - like this one a lot!

From a choice that I would simply add permanently to my game to the one I find least appealing: Expansion 3: Kings.  Another touch of flavour and a very simple addition.  Four Event cards named after four historic regional Kings - one randomly dealt to each faction and held as a bonus Event card that can be played once during the whole game.  This obviously is very easy to implement. Yet though the rationale that some English kings helped/appeased the Vikings while others stoutly resisted is certainly true, that they are randomly distributed means that the Viking player may get the benefit of a King who opposed them, while the English player may get the benefit of an appeaser!  For historical reasons not my favoured choice of expansion, but here the four are for your viewing.
Like the previous one, most of the others add, to a greater or lesser degree, elements of uncertainty which may or may not be to your personal persuasion: a factor I discussed in reviewing the main game.  Expansion 5: Relics and Holy Sites is even more colourful with two tiles of each type being randomly drawn for a game.  As some of the English tiles can be used if captured by the Vikings while none of Viking ones can be used by the English, this choice inevitably favours the Viking player. 
All the new tiles

Expansion 6: Legends introduces cards with goals that either help the Vikings to remove control markers from the VP track or the English player to add them.  Once more this tends to strengthen Viking play, as each Viking Leader draws a card on his arrival, while the English player can hold only one at a time.  This can easily be levelled up by allowing the English player to keep more than one at a time, but it seemed strange that an already strong Viking hand is further improved by this feature.


Expansion 7: Epic Battle Events is a more even handed deck with many of them affecting Battle dice rolls on both sides. As the Viking battle dice tend to be more powerful than the English, this in fact results on average in a very marginal benefit to the English. 
However, from these new cards, only  three are added to the main Fyrd Deck and as three more are added only if the Fyrd deck is completely run through, the reality is that a relatively small number will apply to any given game. 

Linked to the previous expansion is Expansion 4: Runes and Prayer as this too affects Battle.  Again I think this choice may divide opinion. The additional ability to influence battles will undoubtedly appeal to some players, while others may prefer the existing elegance of the existing core dice and system.  I confess that I currently veer towards the latter view, but will explore further plays using the prayer and rune dice. 
Above are the Prayer & Rune Dice and below the cards you can place them on to activate different Battle effects.

My penultimate exploration will be Expansion 2: Kingdoms.  This will surely appeal to those who wanted a little more geopolitical history in the way that the ruling of the country was divided.   Considering the colour-coding of the map, I think it's fairly clear too that at least this part of the expansion was a planned introduction from the very beginning.  It is an easy and enjoyable choice for inclusion.

I have deliberately left the first Expansion until last, as for me it is the most substantial and significant.  War for Land and Gods introduces an alternative goal for victory.  The key difference is that 14 Church tiles are placed on the map and the Vikings win by destroying all 14 churches.
The Church Tiles
Viking Forts & Settlements
I am not convinced that the explanation that England is converted to paganism is in any way a valid historical one, nor one that the Vikings themselves ever contemplated.  Nevertheless, I find it brings an attractive physical addition, especially in its conjunction with Viking Fort and Settlement tiles.  But for me, its main appeal lies in the need for the Viking player to destroy all 14 churches to win, while they lose if they have not achieved this by the time the Treaty of Wedmore is activated.  This makes the Viking task much more difficult and introduces considerable time pressure and is a must for those who think that the Vikings have a strong edge in the victory stakes or wish to balance the chances of a less experienced player against a stronger one.

All in all, a fascinating "pick and mix" selection to choose from.  I wouldn't recommend swallowing the whole bag full at one go, but then I'm sure if you venture on this expansion the temptation to do so will overcome you at least once.  Happy indigestion!!








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The Battle of the Metaurus by Turning Point Simulations      The year is 207 B.C. the place is along the banks of...

The Battle of the Metaurus 207 B.C. by Turning Point Simulations The Battle of the Metaurus 207 B.C. by Turning Point Simulations

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March 2018

The Battle of the Metaurus 207 B.C. by Turning Point Simulations



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 The year is 207 B.C. the place is along the banks of the Metaurus River in northern Italy. Hannibal has run rampant through the Italian peninsula since 218 B.C. This battle was picked by Sir Edward Creasy as one to add to his famous book The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, has lost Spain to Scipio, soon to be Africanus, and is on his way to reinforce Hannibal and finish the war. The Romans have found out about Hasdrubal's whereabouts and have succeeded in hoodwinking Hannibal, and have slipped away to attack Hasdrubal's army. The Romans are led by Marcus Livius and Gaius Claudius Nero. Nero has marched almost the entire length of Italy post haste to be part of the battle. The Romans succeeded in destroying Hasdubal's army and ending Hannibal's chances for a victory.

 This is what you get with the game:

One 11” x 17” mounted game-map
200 die-cut mounted counters
8 page Rules Booklet





 The game comes in a standard folio series size ziplock bag. The game is part of TPS' "Twenty Decisive battles of the World' series of games based on Creasy's book with additional battles added. As stated, the map is mounted, which is a very nice touch that TPS includes in this series. For this price and size you almost always get a paper map with a game. The map is also well done with the rivers, streams, and heights well defined. It is a typical closed hex map. You have to supply a ten-sided die, or use the 0-9 chit counters supplied for both sides.




 The counters are of a gray background for the Carthaginians, and a red one for the Romans. The background doesn't drown out the counter illustrations, and the morale rating and movement allowance are very easy to see. The Carthaginians have one elephant counter, and that also comes with the prerequisite of the possibility of the elephants going berserk. The ancient battles that have elephants always have that extra fog of war: who are these behemoths going to trample, friend or enemy? The game rules also throw the Hasdrubal player a curve ball with his newly raised Celtic Gauls. The Gauls may or may not follow their orders, and to top it off they have low morale ratings.  In a change from most ancient games there are no missile troops to command. The sources only mention a few slingers on the Carthaginian side, and the hex size (200 yards) precludes it.








 Just as it was historically, the Carthaginians have less troops than the Romans. The Romans also have better troops with higher morale ratings. The Carthaginians do have a slightly better position to start in. 

 The rules can be looked at or downloaded here:

https://www.turningpointsimulations.com/cw3/Assets/Rules/TPS04_Metaurus_Rules.pdf

 The sequence of play is: 

1. Determine Initiative
2. Change Orders
3. Undertake Player Turn
4. End of Turn/Winner Determination 

Player turn sequence
1. Movement
2. Combat
3. Reform


 The initiative is decided by a roll of the die or pull of the chit. The higher number wins, and ties are redone until there is a winner. There is no stacking allowed at any time. Naturally status markers do not count toward stacking. There are six Roman legions and each can be issued commands separately. The Carthaginian player has four separate unit groups to give commands to. These four units are all infantry. The Carthaginian cavalry and elephants do not require you to issue them orders. 





 The orders you can give the legions or groups are:

Stand and defend
Move
Move to attack
Attack -  this does not need an order chit
Reform

 As in most depictions of ancient battles this game has a facing rule. The facing can be disregarded during movement, but the counter has to face one of the vertices of the hex at the end of movement. It also does not cost movement points to change facing. Attacking an opponent's flank or rear gives the attacker a bonus on the combat results table. Terrain also gives the attacker either a bonus or a minus when deciding the die roll on the combat results table.

 The games victory conditions are straightforward. The Roman player has to eliminate nineteen Carthaginian units (Light Infantry and Elephants do not count) before he loses 12 of his own units. If the Carthaginian player can exit twenty units off the south edge of the map before the Roman player can eliminate nineteen of his units, the Carthaginian player wins.




 The only sort of odd rule for setup and play is that all of the numbered half-hexes on the map edges are fully playable. The game was designed by the venerable Richard H. Berg, so you can be sure the rules are intelligible, and all make perfect sense. 

 The small footprint and counter amount makes this a great game for people who need a small footprint, and cannot leave a game up except during play. The Carthaginian player is faced with very long odds to either win straight up or get twenty of his units off the south edge. I would suggest that the player with more experience play the Carthaginians. The optional rule about the chance of the Gauls under Hasdrubal having to pass a die roll check for movement or attack can also be ignored to give the Carthaginian player more of a chance. In my play-throughs, the Romans invariably win most of the time. The victory conditions have been modified to make it harder for the Romans to win, but still being able to win as the Carthaginians is not an easy task. The decision to go with greater hex size and remove missile combat makes this a quick playing ancients game. For any gamer interested in a fast playing low complexity wargame, here it is. I actually stole "fast playing and low complexity" from the rules book, but it is very apt. 

Robert

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