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Stalin's Triumph Nations At War by Lock 'N Load Publishing  Stalin's triumph is a platoon level game, a...

Stalin's Triumph A Nations At War game from Lock 'N Load Publishing Stalin's Triumph A Nations At War game from Lock 'N Load Publishing

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

May 2018

Stalin's Triumph A Nations At War game from Lock 'N Load Publishing



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 Stalin's triumph is a platoon level game, and it is part of Lock 'N Load Publishing's 'Nations At War' series. Stalin's Triumph is about the battle of Kursk on the Eastern Front in July 1943. For those familiar with the battle, the names Ponryi and Prokhorovka are well known. The game has scenarios from both sides of the Kursk cauldron dealing with the attacks of the German Army Group South and Army Group Center. This is good because some games center on the part of the battle that took place in the south and give only lip service to the  violent clash in the north. It also gives the player a chance to use Ferdinand tank destroyers (these were named after Dr. Porsche). Besides those you get a plethora of armored vehicles to command. Tigers, Panthers, and Panzer IVs are here along with T-34s, Churchills, and the SU-152 (the beast slayer). The German player can also use FlammPanzer (flamethrower tanks) and Goliath remote controlled demolition vehicles. Air support, which played such a crucial role, is also in the mix. The game includes 'Fate Points' and battlefield chaos to represent the 'friction' of the battlefield.




 The game comes with:

Stalin's triumph: Module And Scenarios Booklet
Nations At War: Second Edition Core Rules 
Five Counter Sheets
Six 11" X 17" Geomorphic Maps
Fifteen Scenarios
Three Scenario Campaign On The German Division Das Reich
Two Six Sided Die
A German And Soviet Unit Point Cost Sheet: to design your own       scenarios
Terrain Effects Chart
Rule Summary Sheet
Chaos Table Sheet
Player Aid Sheet
Online you can also find these aids:                                                   
  A Free Vassal Module
  Stalin's Triumph: Clarifications And Corrections Volume 2.2
  Nations At War: Clarifications And Corrections Volume 2.2
  Nations At War: Compendium Volume 1
  (I will have some links at the bottom of the review)





 The counters are your typical Lock 'N Load ones, meaning that they are well done and pop from the sprues with minimal effort and cleaning up. They might be a little on the 'busy' side with all of the information included on them. The coloring of the German counters is a bit foreboding and adds a nice touch. The maps are functional with easy to distinguish terrain. They can be mixed and matched to make plenty of different terrain sets which can only add to the life of the game. The scale of the game is roughly 150 meters to each hex. The Platoons are approximately 40-60 men, 3-5 tanks, and 3-5 gun teams. Each turn is meant to be anywhere from 5-15 minutes of real time.






  This is the turn sequence:

Operations phase: Players alternate pulling a marker from an opaque container. These can be Formation, Administration, Chaos, or End Turn markers.
Formation Impulse; If a Formation is activated this is the sequence:
 1. Unit Formation Marker removal
 2. Check Command Status
 3. Perform Rallies
 4. Perform Fire Missions: Mortar/Artillery
 5. Perform Operations: Movement, Assault, etc.





 The game includes the following actions that the player can do:
   Mine Removal/Placement
   Assault
   Opportunity Fire
   Ranged fire
   Fire Smoke
   Battlefield Chaos Rules
   Fate points: These are used to be able to reroll die throws or raise    or lower die throws etc.

These are additional rules:
   Anti-Aircraft units
   Close Air Support
   Support Weapon Placement
   Leaders




 One interesting rule addition is the ability of your forces to use 'overwatch'. This is something that is missing in a lot of games, especially as it was and still is a common practice in war. 




  So it comes down to why buy into Lock 'N Load's 'Nations At War' games? One reason is that they are actually listening to players and are constantly updating and revising the rule system (not just on these but all of their games). The physical quality of their components are some of the best on the market. It would have been nice to have mounted maps, but that would have added a large sum to the actual cost and also to the shipping. A mounted map is a nice touch, but what I usually do with games without them is to put a sheet of plexiglass on top to stop any movement. It also acts as the map's protector. Many of us learned this trick when we were Padawans. The rules come in at thirty-five pages, but the printing is extra large and is in color. So it is easy to read and understand with old Grog eyes. I know we are not getting old, just aging like fine whiskey. The standard set of rules also makes it so you can pretty much hop from one game in the series to the next without the time consuming learning or teaching. As others have mentioned, the 'chit pull' system for operations is a great way to keep the fog of war going and to help make these games very solitaire friendly. In this day and age a way to play solitaire is almost a mandate in any game. 'On your game table' longevity is enhanced by the fact that the game has rules for anyone to create their own scenarios.
 



 The game series has more of a randomness to its 'chit pull' than a lot of other games. In this series it is possible for a turn to end before you can pull a chit to activate some or one of your units. Most games vary the time when you can activate all of your forces on one side, but you can usually activate all of them during a turn. Not so in this game. You may really need that tank platoon to attack that bridge, but instead it just sits there for a turn. It may seem maddening in a game, but just read almost any book about any battles and you will see the same thing in history. You can, if you have the 'Fate Points' to spend, use two of them to be able to put the marker that you just drew back into the cup and choose again.

 I like the game and look forward to playing others in the series. Tactical games are an odd lot. Players either buy into the designer's choices to try and represent space and especially time. I think the game mechanics in this game work and work well. Apparently in the first counters that were made, there was an error on the SS Tiger counters. This was fixed very quickly and the copy of the game I have all is good.




Robert

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A Naval History Of The Peloponnesian War by Marc G. Desantis   I love books, but once in awhile you will come ...

A Naval History of The Peloponnesian War by Marc G. Desantis A Naval History of The Peloponnesian War by Marc G. Desantis

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

May 2018

A Naval History of The Peloponnesian War by Marc G. Desantis



by









 I love books, but once in awhile you will come across a book like this that is very memorable. The Peloponnesian War was one of the seminal conflicts in the history of the Western World. It is hard for us to imagine, but Athens was able to bloody the nose of the Persian Empire. This is after the events of the last Persian invasion of Greece. In the process, she gained numerous allies in her fight against the Persians. Athens had a chance to lead, and did for a bit, a crusade against the Great Kings. Unfortunately in her hubris Athens started to look at her allies as conquered people belonging to an Athenian Empire. Without this, Sparta would never have been able to fight a war to 'free the Greeks' from Athenian despotism. In a nutshell, this is the cause of the war. There were many other smaller reasons that also made the Peloponnesian War seem inevitable. It might also have been possible that if the Greeks had not fought each other to exhaustion, that Macedon would still have remained a backwater. 

 This book is filled with everything a history lover would like to know about the era. From its in depth delving into the monetary cost and upkeep of the navies, to the actual tactics used by both sides during the war, it is all here. The actual history of the trireme is shown to the reader. The author also goes into the day to day maintenance of the ships; from why too dry ships were slower, to the Teredo Navalis (shipworm), it is in the book. How many talents Athens had on hand at the beginning of the war is shown. Then it is broken down to show how long this surplus would last under wartime conditions. On hand cash, is shown to be as important in warfare then as it is now. The reader will see how the massive funds, although dribbled out to Sparta, of the Persian Empire helped to tip the scales against Athens. 

 This war has had many books written about it. In actuality Thucydides, an Athenian general, wrote the first history of the war. The book we are looking at is one of the best on the subject, but also one of the best books about any war. As the author points out, Greece's coastline is actually longer than Italy's. So almost all of the fighting took place fifty miles or less near the Aegean or Ionian Seas. This was a well written and fascinating book on ancient warfare. From the physical problems that the rowers themselves endured (read for yourself), to how the Corinthians strengthened their bows, it is in this book. I am looking forward to reading more from the author.


Robert

Book: A Naval History of The Peloponnesian War
Author: Marc G. Desantis
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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Check Your 6! from The Lordz Game Studio brings the air combat board game of the same name to the digital world. Although the board gam...

Check Your 6! Check Your 6!

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

May 2018

Check Your 6!




Check Your 6! from The Lordz Game Studio brings the air combat board game of the same name to the digital world. Although the board game includes many expansions covering various theaters and eras, this initial release for PC focuses on the classic Battle of Britain clashes between the RAF and Luftwaffe. Check Your 6! uses a we-go turn-based system where each side plans out the orders for all of their aircraft and then hit go to see what happens. However, it's quite a bit more complicated than just that, as we will see. 

When planning your movement for a turn, there are multiple factors to consider: where your aircraft is now, where you want it to be on the next turn, or three turns from now, and of course where the enemy aircraft are. Movement includes steering left and right, altitude adjustments, fancy maneuvers, and the ever critical speed. Climbing will slow you down, and diving will similarly speed you up. Going faster isn't always the best option, and so one must think ahead when setting a course. Sharp turns can also slow an aircraft to a dangerous point, forcing you to be judicious with such maneuvers. Mastering movement is a critical part of every engagement; unless you get your aircraft into the proper position, you will have no chance of taking a good shot and doing some damage.


When attacking an enemy, several variables are thrown together to give you a percentage chance of success. The angle and speed of the aircraft involved play a role, as well as the distance between them. It's quite difficult in this game to get anything resembling a sure hit unless you are able to maneuver perfectly into position behind an enemy. Often you will be forced by circumstances to take lower percentage shots and hope for the best. Assuming an aircraft is hit, there are all sorts of things that can happen next. Simple hull damage, engine damage, crew casualties, a fire starting, or no damage at all. These variable results can make for some moments worthy of cheer, as well as frustration when things don't go your way. 

The 18 scenarios available can be played from each side, and all of the ones I played were at least partially based on some sort of real life sortie. You reward for winning a scenario is a nice text blurb describing the real historical result of the action. Otherwise the scenarios are not linked in any way, and you can play them in any order. On the plus side, these scenarios feature much more than simple fighter vs fighter combat. Often one side must defend some kind of objective on the map like a bridge on the ground or bombers in the air. Variable placement of units for each side means that a given scenario could play out somewhat differently from one attempt to the next. 


There are numerous different aircraft available for each side, and each one has it's own strengths and weaknesses. I know we all want to command a full squadron of Spitfires at every opportunity, but sometimes they just aren't available and you have to make due with what's on hand. Adding a little variability among similar units is how each pilot has their own experience rating. Better pilots essentially "move" last, and so get a chance to adjust their initial orders after seeing if an enemy zigged or zagged.

Check Your 6! takes a few hours to really give you a good feeling for the flow of air combat. There is a tutorial which explains the controls well enough, but doesn't give you enough time to really understand how to conduct a dogfight. Thus, I found the game frustrating at first, but then grew to enjoy it a bit more as I gained some experience. You must be able to foresee how running your fighter at full throttle means it will overshoot that bomber it was trying to get behind, or how sharply climbing to meet the foe will leave your guys with no speed remaining to make a sharp turn. I certainly learned these lessons via the school of hard knocks.

The flow of the combat can be bogged down a lot when you are tweaking movement and facing, and considering the future positions of a dozen different aircraft, but I imagine there are more than a few players out there looking for the exactly that level of control.



The game won't dazzle anyone with it's graphics, animation, or sound, but for a board game to digital conversion it looks okay for something that will probably be ported to iPads and the like before long. One thing I found odd were the blurry ground textures, especially in missions where you are attacking ground targets.


Overall, I can't really give a broad recommendation for the game, though fans of the board game should be pleased and if you are really interested in turn-based combat and WW2 aviation, you'll probably enjoy it. That isn't to say that Check Your Six! is a bad game by any means, it simply suffers the common fate of many physical-to-PC conversions, in that games which feel dynamic and immersive on a table can feel a bit clunky and slow on the PC. 


Check Your 6! Can be purchased directly from Matrix Games or on Steam.



- Joe Beard




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Pericles by  GMT Games   Pericles, oh Pericles, why oh why did you lead us to this point, oh Pericles? Pericles is ...

Pericles by GMT Games Pericles by GMT Games

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

May 2018

Pericles by GMT Games

Pericles


by


 GMT Games 





 Pericles, oh Pericles, why oh why did you lead us to this point, oh Pericles? Pericles is said to have been the guiding force behind the greatness of Athens and its empire. According to Thucydides, he was also the person most responsible for the Peloponnesian War in Athens. Conversely, had the Athenians followed his advice and played their cards cautiously during the war, they could really not be beaten. As an example, see the Athenian expedition to Sicily. Even suffering the effects of a plague that twice rampaged through Athens, and also killing Pericles, the Athenians were still doing well in the war.



Back of the box



 The game is a bit unusual in that it can be played as a four, three, or two player, but also has rules to play it solo. This is a great mechanic that means the game can be played for game night or when you cannot find anyone. I think more games should have this many options. 


Player shields that also include game info


 Physically the game weighs in at more than four lbs. The box is roughly the size of the old 'soap box' game boxes from SPI. It contains the following:

Four Player Shields - Two Athenian: Aristocrat, Demagogue
                                   Two Spartan: Agiad, Eurypontid (Spartan  
                                                          Kings' families)
Pericles rules Of Play Booklet
Pericles Playbook
One Sheet Of Counters
Two Athenian Player's Aid Cards
Two Spartan Player's Aid Cards
One Phormio Decision Chart
One Phormio Athenian And Spartan Strategy Matrix
Three Card Decks  -  Athenian, Sparta, and Aristophanes 
One Six Sided Die And One Twenty Sided One
190+ Various Wooden Pieces


Play map


 The map is beautiful as well as functional. Two thirds of it is a map of Greece, along with small insets for Persia and Sicily. The other third is for the Spartan and Athenian political play. The game itself is the second in the 'Great Statesman Series' ( the first was the highly regarded 'Churchill') designed by Mark Herman. The complexity is listed as a six. Naturally with solo rules it is rated a nine on the 'solitaire suitability' chart. The cards are very interesting and informative. The 'Aristophanes' cards all have a play of his listed on the top of the card. He was naturally a playwright, but he also fought in one of the wars. The counters are 1/2" and are easily readable and well done. They also come with the corners pre-rounded. The colors of the wooden blocks are bright, and the pieces themselves are precision cut with none that are misshapen, etc. These blocks represent the various bases, along with naval and land forces of the different leagues and cities. The play aids are also nicely done and easy to use. They are invaluable with a game of this size and, I don't want to say complexity, but there is a lot going on for the players to keep track of. The rule book is only twenty-four pages long. It is in color and has many examples of play and record keeping. The play book is forty-four pages long. The contents are as follows:

Scenarios, Solitaire and two, three, or four player rules, a full thirteen pages of play examples, five pages of 'Card Personalities' (this is a short bio of important people in the game), Strategy guide, and finally Designer Notes.


Spartan Player Aid Card



 The game is played in six year turns. The game is interesting because it includes the issue of each side's 'Assemblies'. You are not put in the position of a ruler or omnipotent eye in the sky. This part of the game really shines. The political infighting in the different cities was almost as intense as the actual warfare between them. There are twenty-three historical scenarios to choose from. These run the gamut of small one turn scenarios to 'The Suicide of Greece 460-400 BC' one. Just as in the actual history of the war, there is a chance for plagues to affect play. Alcibiades (the man who helped defend Socrates at the Battle of Delium) even gets his own wooden counter. What more could you ask for in a game about ancient Greece? If I made the game out to seem too complex, in truth it really isn't. All of the books and aids pretty much hold your hand while getting your feet wet in this great game.

 I will use the game rules posted on GMT's website (the link is posted below) to show the sequence of play: 


" • Aristophanes Card Segment (5.1)
◊ Reveal and resolve the next card from the Aristophanes
deck (and optionally read the play quote out loud in your
best thespian voice)


• Political Cards Segment (5.2)
◊ If player has his Entourage available, discard 0-3 Entourage
Cards (5.21)
◊ Refresh hand to 9 cards, or 6 cards if Entourage used for
Brain Trust option (6.31)
◊ If hand size of 9 create new Entourage of 3 cards (5.23),
else use all 6 cards dealt (6.31)
◊ Add Faction Leader card to 6 cards to create a 7 card hand


• Boule Segment (5.3)
◊ If Hostages available, Controlling Faction has the option
to place War/Peace issue on other City-State’s Opposition
Faction track two space (5.33)
◊ Controlling Factions pick one issue (2 space, 5.32A), except
Ostracism and War/Peace issue (5.32E), which is placed in
the center (zero space).
◊ Opposition Factions pick one issue (1 space, 5.32B), except
Ostracism and War/Peace issue (5.32E), which is placed in
the center (zero space).
◊ Controlling Factions pick three issues (zero space, 5.32C)
◊ Opposition Factions pick two issues (zero space, 5.32D)


 Assembly Phase (6.0)
• Starting with the Controlling Faction each City-State sequentially
conducts six debates (6.11, 6.14)
Political Phase (7.0)
• Oration Honor is determined (7.1, Honor 10.0) and Controlling
Faction is determined (7.2)
• Strategy Board Segment (7.3)
◊ Controlling Factions reveal 7th card and receive Strategy
Board Strategos
◊ Opposition Factions reveal 7th card and receive Strategy
Board Strategos


• Political Issues Segment (7.4)
◊ Resolve all non- military, league, diplomatic, and oracle
isues in the following order: War/Peace (7.41, 7.42), Games
(7.43), Citizenship (7.44A), Colony (7.44B), Krypteia
(7.45A), Agoge (7.45B)
◊ Determine if the status change from War to Peace ends the
game (see Scenario instructions)

• Theater Issue Award (7.5)
◊ All Factions substitute their military, diplomatic, league,
and oracle won Assembly issues for their corresponding
Faction colored marker plus their two rumor markers


Theater Phase (8.0)
• Theater Issue Placement Segment (8.3)
◊ In Honor Order (8.1), each player sequentially places facedown
one military, diplomatic, league, oracle or rumor
marker on one of the twenty Theaters and potentially Persia
◊ The placement of a second marker in a Theater or Persia
creates a stack of markers hereafter referred to as a LIFO
(last in, first out) queue (8.31)
◊ Continue sequence until all issues are placed in Theaters
or Persia


• Theater Resolution Segment (8.5)
◊ Reveal and resolve issues (Diplomatic 8.51, League 8.52,
Oracle 8.53, Military 9.0) one at a time to completion in
Honor Order
◊ A player must reveal one marker from his side that is at the
top of any Theater queue
◊ A player who has no markers from his side available to be
revealed passes his turn to the next player
◊ A player who passes still takes his next turn in the Honor
sequence and a player can pass multiple times
◊ In all cases the marker belongs to one of the players and
in all cases the owning player resolves the issue revealed,
regardless of who revealed it
◊ All Theater queue markers must be resolved
◊ After all Theater queue markers have been resolved, move
to the end phase


End Phase (11.0)
• Victory Determination Segment (11.1)
◊ Automatic Victory Determination (11.11, 11.12, 11.13)
◊ If last turn of scenario, determine winner (11.14); otherwise
continue
• Maintenance Segment (11.2)
• Redeployment Segment (11.3)
• Resolve Will of the Assembly (11.4)
• Start new turn"


 It seems like an overwhelming mouthful at first, but like many great boardgames the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. 



Counters


 
 The game is one of the very few on BGG that has a rating of over 8 (8.10 to be exact), and also has a good number of voters. The game is that good and deserves every decimal point. I will admit to have not had the pleasure to play it in four player mode, but solo and two player are also great gaming fare. The amount of background of history and actual personalities stuffed into the box is an Ancient Greek geek's dream. You should be able to get a credit or two for college for playing the game. Certainly there have been some corners cut in the mechanics of the game compared to real life, but after all it is meant to be a game to be enjoyed. The game plays out, if you use the correct strategy, as the war did. Sparta is the heavyweight on land, and Athens is the heavyweight at sea. It is almost like two fighters, one in an earthen ring and one in a pool beside it. Athens must harass and disturb Sparta by raiding. Sparta desperately wants to come to grips with its enemy. The only way they can is through their different surrogates. Each city of Ancient Greece is up for grabs in this melee. Athens is a super power with an Achilles heel: its citizens' stomachs. Athens cannot feed itself without imports. Sparta has two problems of its own. The first is 'Helots'. These slaves are always on the verge of rebellion. The second is that there are only so many actual Spartans. Their killing off of their own and the extremely hard process to adulthood in Sparta meant that there were never enough full citizen male Spartans.


Examples of the three decks


 Pericles hits the sweet spot between a wargame and a political game. It also represents the fight for honor that the leading citizens of both sides felt was so imperative. It somewhat resembles the race through the Cursus Honorum of the Roman Republic except that it was much less regulated in the Greek city states. Totally wiping out your opposition, be they demagogues or aristocrats, happened much more frequently in Greece than in Rome. For all our love of the Greek civilization and what it brought us, it was a rough place. 

 Phormio is the name of the bot or AI that you play against in solo games. Some people have suggested that playing solo is really just a way to learn the mechanics in parts of the game. Others have had an enjoyable time playing solo and still do. While I agree it is a good way to learn the game, it will still give you a run for your money. The design along with all of the components are all top notch. It looks like I will have to pick up the game 'Churchill' soon.


 My hat, or pileus, is off to the designer and GMT games for this excellent portrayal of this period in history. The games I have played have pretty much all come down to the wire. So much can happen that, just like in Chess or any good wargame, you always have to have a plan B,C, or D ready to put into play. I must thank the designer for another bit of gaming greatness. It seems (among many others) he was involved with designing 'The Art Of Siege', my favorite wargame of all. So if you have any interest in the age at all, or just want to play a cutthroat wargame, pick this game up. For anyone who is having trouble with the rules or just wants to play well, Mr. Herman has posted some excellent Youtube videos on the game. The only problem I have seen mentioned with the game is to find people who have enough time and commitment to learn and play it. Of course, that is where the alternate number of player rules comes in.


Play blocks

 This is a link to the final rules:
https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/gmtwebsiteassets/pericles/PericlesRulesFinal.pdf

 This is a link to the final Play Book:
https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/gmtwebsiteassets/pericles/PericlesPlaybookFinal.pdf

 This is a link to 'Just Ask Phormio ; or How to Teach Pericles By Mark Herman:
http://www.insidegmt.com/?p=17470


Robert


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BARBARIANS: THE INVASION from TABULA GAMES In essence, a worker placement and resource management game.  Just that your workers a...

BARBARIANS: THE INVASION BARBARIANS: THE INVASION

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

May 2018

BARBARIANS: THE INVASION

BARBARIANS: THE INVASION

from


In essence, a worker placement and resource management game.  Just that your workers are barbarian champions and Domination Points are your "rose by any other name" i.e. Victory Points.  One avenue to gain them is by conquering lands in the world of Fenian - not quite sure what Irish gamers will make of that choice of name.  Still, as a student of W.B.Yeats' poem The Wanderings of Oisin and the stories of  Cuchulain and the mythos of the Red Branch Cycle, this world of warchiefs and gods & goddesses fits perfectly into the images presented in Barbarians: The Invasion.  However, on a more accessible note, just by glancing at the box art seen above, I'm sure most of you will immediately associate the theme and art work with the character created by Robert E. Howard, namely Conan the Barbarian. 

In fact, the whole physical creation of this game impacts immensely to the benefit of this product in so many ways, but for one feature and that is directly linked to my reference to Conan the Barbarian.  The card art and wonderful array of miniatures  strongly echoes the graphics so familiar both in the many books of Conan's adventures and even more so the films of Arnold Swarzenegger.  Bulging muscled warriors and berserkers and scantily clad female warriors and goddesses. 

It is the latter that has drawn disapproval from some gamers and may influence ultimately your own choice of this game.  In total we're talking almost exclusively about seven cards out of a vast array and several miniatures in each players set of figures.  Sensibilities may have changed in recent years, but nothing here seems out of line with images from computer games/comic book heroes and the current appetite for their T.V and cinematic interpretations .

What is unquestionable is that in total this is an awesome product and project.  Admittedly I have been fortunate to receive the Iron level Kickstarter package to review.  From the start I had followed the progress of this game and been amazed by what I'd seen and read. For many months, both the games I've received for review and those I've bought myself reflect the quality of modern production and each seemed to lift the bar ever higher. Barbarians: The Invasion has certainly pushed that bar up several more notches. 

On lifting up the lid, I was bowled over - another cornucopia, as item after item was lifted from the box!  How did so much  get crammed in here and you'll certainly find it's not easy to packing it all back.  For a start, I've abandoned the insert.  
This is just the top level containing the miniatures and the decks of cards.  Below lies the item which has caused the most excitement from the very beginning - the volcano!
This brings the concept of the rondel to new heights - in this case literally, as you will see in later shots, because it is a 3D plastic construct with three levels that can be rotated both clockwise and anti-clockwise.  Sitting snugly at each level are the thick cardstock  inserts on which your Barbarian "meeples" will be placed each turn. 

Below them lay the individual player boards on which you will track your five inert resources: food, wood, iron. stone and gold and your human troop resources: archers, berserkers and raiders.
Lurking beneath the player boards, you can just about see one of three map boards of Fenian; the basic board, plus two alternative map boards.  Below is a close look at two of the boards you can choose to play on.
On the right is the basic game's portrait-oriented board, on its reverse is a landscape oriented alternative board that focuses on the northern regions and to the left in the picture above is the other alternative board.  Copies of the rule book come in four different language booklets, besides English.  Initially I was overwhelmed by the sheer scope and multiplicity of pieces - you will need a fairly substantial amount of room to lay everything out, but my standard dining-room table has proved well able to host the full four-player game.
This demonstrates the full panoply of contents that will be on your game table, though not set up quite as it would be for actual play. [Notice - one of the figures in my picture was about to find that this barbarian world is flat and you can fall off the edge!]

Nor are the rules as complex as at first they may seem to be.  The core is the Action Phase when each player in turn places one of his three "workers" - Barbarian Champions - to gain resources, buy cards and, of course, go to war. The first Phase, Maintenance, couldn't be simpler, simply collect the requisite resources from as many building cards as you have the ability to use.  The final, appropriately named, End Phase is equally straightforward as you choose those benefits/avoid penalties that you can afford to pay for.

The rule book itself I found clear and well organised with the mechanics easy to understand, but initially there have been some uncertainties and contradictory interpretations.  Largely, this was because of the strong dependence on a profusion of symbols both on the game board and on the cards.  Intended to help language independence, they would have benefited immensely from a fuller play aid than the back of the rule book provides.  

M
astering and remembering the many symbols needed to understand the actions, along with the interplay between the various boards and tracks may seem daunting on an initial explanation.   Frankly, after a couple of plays I found that this all falls into place and becomes easy to remember. 

What remains slightly more difficult is the use of colour in the production.  It certainly adds to the dark image of a mythic barbarian world, but it can make it a strain being able to see clearly the multitude of icons on the volcano that tell you what action you have chosen.  This is not a game to be played in poor lighting!  By contrast the alternate side to the rings on the volcano which is used with the Hunt Expansion is much more readable.


A closer look at the main board with the volcano in place

Equally, the similarity in colour between the backs of the various terrain cards has caused problems.  I hasten to add that none of these are insurmountable issues: printing a simple play mat for the terrain cards with the location and colour printed on needed just a few minutes spent on the computer and I've found that, after a few plays, recognising the icons on the volcano becomes much easier.

Leading the many substantial qualities of the package is first and foremost the volcano which is at the heart of the game and the focus for your Actions.  Placing your first Champions on the topmost ring and then descending step by step with each subsequent Champion is quite unlike any other game I've experienced. 
The 3rd Era has just begun

Do not be deceived by anyone who claims that a set of little wooden meeples and cubes of wood for marking your resources is all that's needed.  I say that as a gamer who is largely indifferent to bling and what in so many games is often a tacked-on theme.  In Barbarians: The Invasion the theme is reinforced by every aspect of the game and the sight of the barbarian miniatures as they start to throng the volcano is part of the strong visual pleasure and experience.  Even more so when you've invested some time in painting the miniatures, as subsequent pictures, like the next one, will reveal.

There is a vibrant richness to all the elements which  is strongly emphasised when all the cards are laid out for use, as again you can see from the photo taken from one of my four-player games at a recent convention.  It's worth noting that even including the explanation needed for three players who'd never played before everything was finished in just on three hours.

Game play is engrossing with the interaction of so many branching elements.  Everything begins with the all important choice of actions on the volcano.  These may lead directly to gaining the resources with which you can buy troops when taking the War Action on the map of Fenian or pay for the Warchief and God cards that supplement and aid various aspects of the game. 

Other actions help your personal markers advance on one of eight tracks [four Barbarian Tactics tracks and four Barbarian Knowledge tracks ].  The former reduce the number of battles you have to fight when trying to conquer one of the regions on the map and the latter support a range of benefits including your resource collecting, defence against the penalties of a lost battle, the ability to use from 1 to 4 buildings and how far out into the island worlds of Fenian you can voyage.
Another glimpse of the volcano,
with the Knowledge & Tactics Tracks to its right 
These are just some of the many diverse aspects that add both to the originality and the way the game draws you in and keeps your attention.  I particularly like the range of small, additional benefits and bonuses that accrue in many different ways, such as: some of the actions on the volcano, being first or second to reach the end of one of the eight tracks just discussed and especially through the bonuses granted by the Warrior and God cards. 

However, I'm sure that for many it is the fighting of battles that stands out and here this game has come up with a set of highly original concepts. First of all, you will be trying to conquer territory in the islands that make up the realm of Fenian.  At the beginning of the game, each region will have a random counter placed face-down and then all are revealed showing the colour of one of the four clans and its Domination value [i.e. VP value].
In a 3-player game, some of the regions have already been conquered as indicated by the players' individual banners.

To conquer the territory and place your faction's banner there, you will face a war made up of a number of battles. How many battles you have to fight will depend on how far a player has advanced on the Tactics track of the attacked clan [the maximum is 6 the minimum is 2].  Each battle is determined by drawing a card from the terrain deck corresponding to the region you are attacking.  To win the war and take control of the region and gain the VPs, you must win half of the battles [rounded up].

Already I hope you can see the originality of ideas and there are more to come.  Each type of terrain card shows which of three types of warrior [archer/berserker/raider] you will have to fight and also which of the three types is most likely to be encountered. Before you reveal any of the cards, you have the opportunity to spend combinations of resources to buy troops for the battle.    
Your player board [seen above] handles all this efficiently and easily.  On the left are the tracks to record your resources and on the right the superb miniatures that track the number of troops of each type that you have. 

Once you've purchased the troops you want, each battle card is turned over one at a time and you decide whether to spend the troops needed to defeat each individual turn of the card.  As you can imagine there is a whole little meta-game involved here.  

Do you take the war action early and face many battles in order to grab high point scoring tokens, but face draining loss of troops and the additional consequences of losing some battles or do you spend actions in the early part of the game to advance your Tactics tokens so that you face fewer battles later in the game.  Do you gamble on buying fewer troops to conserve resources for the many other purposes that they can be used for?  You also need to think about advancing the Knowledge track that allows you to attack more distant islands or the Defence track that helps you avoid the penalty of losing a battle. 

These are just some of the pressures, choices and decisions you face when contemplating the War Action.  At the same time, you have plenty of other decisions crowding in on you. The need to be buying among other things building cards that will give you extra resources in the Maintenance Phase and provide end game bonuses or Warchief and God cards that also give a variety of aids and additional abilities.  Regarding the God cards, there have been some criticisms of their powers being unbalanced and the fact that one is randomly given to each player at game set-up has drawn comments about the detrimental effects on the game.  All I can say is that from a series of 2, 3 and 4 player sessions, none of the players has felt there was any evidence of this problem and, as has been pointed out by other reviewers, a simple house-rule modifying their play or distribution at the start can easily be instituted. 

T
hough conquest and the end game bonuses on the building cards provide the main source of those game winning Domination points, there are many other sources for small incremental gains throughout the game.  These latter should not be overlooked or considered insignificant.  This is a game that rewards attention to the diversity of options and another reason why I rate it so highly.

And don't forget that if you want even more options, you can turn to the Hunt Expansion with new figures and cards or the other two Fenian map boards, whose configuration changes the avenues of conquest. 

All in all, Barbarians: The Invasion provides a multi-layered experience - starting with the variety of combinations and interactions of the effects of placing the players' pieces on the volcano and the ability to rotate levels of the volcano.  This is deepened by the interplay of using the many cards that can be bought and then crowned by the fascinating mechanics of the War Action.

It is a game that plays equally well with two, three and four players - a rare factor in many games.  Though I like to get in the full complement of players if possible, every two-player confrontation has been a real duel!  And finally, you can enjoy an equally riveting solo play. 

Personally, this is a game that has had and will continue to get many plays.  At conventions where I've introduced it, merely setting it up has drawn eager players and claimed the attention of a steady stream of passers keen to know more.  Another "keeper" in my collection and to entice you I'll end with just a few more pictures of the painted miniatures.  Good slaying!


The production line starts here!

The banners of conquest control.

Resource Markers

The Champions of the Green Player

The Champions of the Blue Player

Many thanks to Tabula Games, the indie games design studio, for the review copy.   This is a name to look out for.




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What do your hear? Nothing but the rain! Good news for fans of Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, a new DLC has been announced for rel...

New DLC Announced for Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance New DLC Announced for Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance

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

May 2018

New DLC Announced for Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance


What do your hear? Nothing but the rain!




Good news for fans of Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, a new DLC has been announced for release in the near future! The Broken Alliance will add several new ships to the mix, and integrate new missions and a new subplot directly into the existing campaign structure. Here's the official description:

Tensions are rising during the First Cylon War.
Anti-Caprican sentiment threatens the Quorum alliance. Discontent and pessimism spreads throughout the colonies. While politicians and diplomats frantically negotiate to keep the alliance together, Colonial Fleet receives a strange request from Aquaria. It’s the start of a chain of events that could change the tide of the war…

New Quorum campaign

“The Broken Alliance” presents players with 8 new story missions that are integrated seamlessly into the single player campaign, and linked together into a brand new plot that explores the intricate maze of Colonial politics. New characters enter the fray, disrupting old pacts and forging new partnerships. The Broken Alliance expands the lore of the Battlestar Galactica universe, and brings a new story of intrigue and backstabbing to Deadlock.

New ships

The expansion comes with four brand new capital ships and two new squadrons, bringing new functionality and tactics to the First Cylon War.

Minerva-class Battlestar – The precursor of the Mercury-class Battlestar, the Minerva is a new addition to Colonial Fleet that concentrates artillery, firepower and life support into a compact hull. Although it has less staying power than other battlestar classes, the Minerva’s versatile gun placements and expanded missile capabilities have provided it with a reputation as a devastating capital destroyer.
Celestra-class resupply ship - The Celestra class is a Colonial research ship that uses a suite of drones to apply ablative armour plating to friendly units. A resupply depot has been retrofitted into the hangar, allowing Raptor crews to make supply runs mid-mission to fleet cruisers and battlestars.
Assault Raptors – Assault Raptors are an aggressive variant of the trusted Colonial utility vehicle. The external rocket pods on these ships are capable of significant anti-capital support, and the crews are trained in live combat support, at the expense of their usual ECM suites.

Argos-class Basestar - As Colonials continue to push fighter space supremacy as a force in the war, the Cylons continue to reply with their intent to overwhelm with numbers. Larger than the Cerberus and Basestar Mk I, the Argos contains an overwhelming array of hangars and missile tubes, but hosts little in the way of self-defense.
Hydra-class resupply ship - The Hydra is a Cylon resupply ship equipped with repair drones that are launched and attached to friendly units. Despite having no armaments of its own, the Hydra has a complex Fire Control system that is heavily integrated with its Tech Bay. This system allows it to coordinate missile strikes with nearby friendly units, significantly increasing the efficiency of the Cylon’s deadly missile tactics.
Scorpion Sentry – The Scorpion is a defensive sentry drone with high calibre guns and pin-point accurate anti-missile capabilities. Although they excel at area control, they are unable to operate until they have been stabilized after moving.




I'm personally very excited to get a chance to cover this DLC. I'm a huge BSG fan and always enjoyed the political infighting just as much as the space battles. I started a fresh campaign to experience how the DLC fits into the game, and as you can see in the above screenshot, I've just reached the point where the new story line begins. Expect more coverage soon!

- Joe Beard


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Against The Odds magazine #42 With The Game: A Thunder Upon The Land: The Battles of Narva and Poltava   This will be a...

Against The Odds Magazine Issue #42 With The Game: A Thunder Upon The Land: The Battles of Narva and poltava Against The Odds Magazine Issue #42 With The Game: A Thunder Upon The Land: The Battles of Narva and poltava

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

May 2018

Against The Odds Magazine Issue #42 With The Game: A Thunder Upon The Land: The Battles of Narva and poltava



The Battles of Narva and Poltava







 This will be a two part review. the first part will be about the magazine itself, and the second part will be about the game 'A Thunder Upon The Land'. 

 I love food, a picture would prove it. However, if given a choice between reading and eating, food for the mind or soul wins every time. Wargaming magazines have been around for about fifty years or so. They have usually been filled with pretty pictures, but we really do read them for the articles. To think of Jim Dunnigan wandering about in his pajamas and a pipe in his mouth is a bit disconcerting. He is, however, our Hefner (I know S&T started earlier, but it really took off under him). 




 This is my first Against The Odds magazine. I have to save I am mightily impressed. Physically, the magazine is impressive. The maps are especially well done and extremely informative. I have been reading about Charles XII of Sweden for fifty years, so I was very surprised to find new information about him in the background article. I learned that unfortunately Charles XII was an object of hero worship by the Third Reich. The other articles are just as well done as the article about the game history. This will not be my last copy of ATO by a long shot, and I can recommend it to any wargamer.





 Magazine wargames have always gotten a bad rap for some reason. I have never understood why. Some of my favorite games, and gaming moments, have come from them. The rules of this game are sixteen pages long. Physically, they are of the same high quality as the rest of the magazine. One excellent part of the rules is that you can take out the two middle pages of the magazine and have a players aid sheet for both players. There are actually two separate tactical games included. One is the Battle of Narva in 1700, and the other is Poltava in 1709. The map is two sided and is large at 22" x 34". I can say it is one of the best magazine maps I have ever seen. The colors and drawings are extremely well done. The counter colors are vibrant, and they are easy to read. The counter attachment to the cardboard sprues and the left over cardboard on the counters is the only thing about the game that is middle of the road.  







 Narva is either looked at as a master stroke, or the luck of a madman. Poltava is described as a bad piece of luck, or the comeuppance that Charles XII deserved. I believe that Poltava could very well have turned out differently had Charles not been wounded before the battle. Charles had the very bad luck not to have been killed by the bullet that shattered his foot. If he had been killed, his unbroken string of victories would be looked at differently, and Poltava would have been blamed on others.





 The Russian Army that you either command or fight with in Narva is nowhere near the Russian Army of Poltava. So the game shows the progress of the Russian military through the years of the Great Northern War.




 Tsar Peter I was very busy in his reign. He almost single handedly pulled Russia from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. he did this by literally pulling his nobles by their beards as they were kicking and screaming. 

 The game sequence is as follows:

Initiative Determination phase (on turn one of both games, this is by default the Swedish player)

Activation Phase
  Command Activation Segment
  Out-of-Command units Segment

End Phase
 Replacement Segment
 Recovery Segment
 Victory Determination Segment

 The game comes with zone of control, facing, and command rules. Morale and disruption also play a big factor. These are pretty much what you would expect in a tactical wargame of the early eighteenth century. 


Narva Map


 The player with the initiative uses an AM (Activation Marker) to activate units that have a LOC (Line of Command) to its command leader. This LOC has to be four hexes long, counting the units hex, but not the leaders one. The rest of the AMs are put into a container to be pulled randomly. There is also a 'High Command' AM that is available to each side in the Battle of Narva scenario, but only on the Swedish side at Poltava. This will allow certain listed units to activate once more even though they may have done so with their normal activation marker. In the replacement phase, a unit that does not move or take any other action and is within command range of certain command units, allows the unit to be flipped back to its original strength. The recovery segment is where units that are disrupted or routed can attempt by die roll to rally. Victory is determined by capturing certain hexes, or by unit step loss or leader elimination. 


Poltava Map


 The game has rules for cavalry charges and counter charges. Infantry charges, a Swedish favorite, are also represented in the game. One rule that sticks out is that infantry can form square. From my reading, I believe that historians are still arguing about when the infantry square came into being, so I was a bit surprised about the rule. The game also comes with many optional rules. You can add volley fire to the mix and use it to increase your chances on combat results. There is also a 'Swedish Desperation' optional rule. If the Swedish player has the initiative and is losing the game, he can make a die roll on the 'Desperation Attack Table'. This will show you how many desperate attacks the Swedes can make that turn. One unit in an attack has its attack factor doubled for the attack, but suffers disruption immediately after it. One optional rule that is not really represented is having Charles XII not wounded at the time of Poltava. There is an optional rule to have him appear in the Poltava battle but he does not turn up until turn four. Charles was actually dragged around the battle in a litter, but was not really able to influence the outcome at all. The Swedes saw him as a good luck charm. His military skill and Swedish morale could very well have turned the tide at Poltava.

 The rules for the most part are easy to read and understand. The designer Paul Rohrbaugh has been very helpful to people with rule questions on BGG. 

 The games play out much like in history. At Narva the Swedes attacked in a snow storm, and they were not even supposed to be near the Russians. Charles broke most of the rules of warfare at the time, and in doing so won a spectacular victory. On the other hand, the Russian Army at Narva is brittle and the rules for that scenario help to make it a historical battle. Poltava is thought by some to be completely unwinnable by the Swedes according to most historians. As the Swedish commander, you have to fight through a line of redoubts and then actually attack a fortified Russian camp; and did I mention the Russians have plenty of artillery? Even with Charles able to conduct the battle, it is a very hard task. Under the historical conditions with both Swedish commanders hating each other it is almost impossible. I like these two games. One of the big reasons is that the designer did not fiddle with history to make it more 'gamey', and to give each side a level playing field. The optional rules, if you choose to use them, do add a little more historical flair to the games, but also make it a bit easier at times on both sides. 




 Unfortunately, the battles of Charles XII and his generals have not really been made into too many games. The most produced game of this war is usually Poltava. I will admit that being of Swedish descent I have always had a love and hate relationship with the battle. For the longest time it was the only battle that you could game, but the situation is a desperate Swedish attack into Russian field works with really no other option. With the Battle of Narva, the Swedes can decide exactly where and when they will attack. The treatment of both battles in this game are first rate, and anyone who is interested in the time period should check them out.

 
Robert



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