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PAVLOV'S HOUSE from DVG Pavlov's House has become an iconic and mythic episode in the siege of Stalingrad during what the...

PAVLOV'S HOUSE PAVLOV'S HOUSE

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

August 2018

PAVLOV'S HOUSE

PAVLOV'S HOUSE

from

DVG
Pavlov's House has become an iconic and mythic episode in the siege of Stalingrad during what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War and is almost as celebrated in the gaming world.  I'd already gamed the situation through a Lock 'N Load scenario and an adaptation of the ASL scenario.  So, from the time that the possibility of a game of this epic defense was mooted and appeared in print and play format, I had been keenly waiting a professional publishing.  That DVG [Dan Verssen Games] became that very publisher meant for me the expectation of an outstanding treatment.

When my review copy arrived recently, unboxing did not disappoint those high expectations and many thanks to DVG for giving me the opportunity to explore this package,  The cover art by David Thompson, who is even more importantly the designer of this great game, is immensely effective and wholly in keeping with the subject.  The bullet and shell pocked brickwork with a superimposed part of a stylised Russian soldier's helmeted face in monolithic concrete couldn't be more appropriate.  Not only does it convey an implacable defense, but seems to leap straight from the ranks of Soviet propaganda posters.

The game board is just as striking and innovative.  In three panels, it moves from left to right on the micro-tactical level to the wider operational  one on the right.  The centre panel reminded me strongly of elements familiar from Victory Point Games' Siege Series and the battle for Pavlov's House has certainly gone down in the annals of siege situations.


Mapboard prior to set-up
On the left panel is a representation of the interior of the house, with various locations, in the centre are the avenues of attack for the German troops in the near vicinity [9th January Square panel] while to the right is the broader situation [the Volga panel] that impacts on the total scene.


Pavlov's House


9th January Square

The Volga
Game all ready to start
Matching the quality of the boards are the many counters, especially the fighting units.  All are substantial, glossy items that press out cleanly with ease.  Only one feature initially worried me and that was the array [59 in all] of modern faces that stared out at me from the counter sheets and the many distinctly non-Slavic features and names on the counters.  Thankfully, I soon realised that these were the product of the special backing campaign and thus extras that were in no way intended for most of us to play this simulation.
Modern names and faces

Instead, for all of us there are 34 essential single-man counters with historical names and faces [where still available from the archives].  
The 34 historical soldiers
On the German side, units are generic infantry and armour - note that there is an error in the rulebook which states there are 62 of them - the total is in fact 39.  Added to these are 99 circular markers that cover a wide range of eleven functions from Action tokens to Anti-aircraft tokens.  If by any chance you somehow don't want to use these quality pieces, there are an equal number of suitably coloured wooden cubes to use instead.  So, if you want to have to remember that a white cube is First Aid etc that's up to you.  I much prefer the visual and easily understood effect of the cardboard tokens.
Generic German Counters

Being in essence a solitaire game, there are several decks of attractive cards.  The core of them are the Soviet and German decks, with additional Tactic cards and Support Cards for more detailed and difficult levels of play.  I hasten to add that this is "difficult" in the sense of winning, not understanding!

This factor leads me perfectly to the rule book.  For those who have at times complained about the clarity of rules in parts of DVG games [an aspect I've often disagreed with], these rules are excellent.  They are not as extensive as many in the Leader, Field Commander or Warfighter series and are clear and thorough, with some of the best illustrated examples of every element of the game that I've seen from any games company.

An overview of the turn presents you with an elegant simplicity of three Phases: the Soviet Card Phase, the Wermacht Card Phase and the Soviet Counter Phase.

In the Soviet Card Phase, you draw four cards and use them to perform 3 Actions [in the right circumstances 4 Actions]. Each card has 2 different Actions on them.  So, a typical turn will provide a maximum of 8 Actions to choose from, but there are restrictions as you cannot choose both of the Actions on a single card.  In addition, your deck of 28 cards is seeded with 3 Fog of War cards that have no Actions on them.  Consequently sometimes your choices will be slightly more limited and, as the game progresses, up to 4 more FOW cards may be added to your deck.
A sample of the dual-use Soviet Action Cards
As the game lasts for a maximum of 21 turns, your Soviet Deck will have been cycled through completely twice before the end of the game.  Initially some choices may not be viable as the units or necessary tokens may not yet be available to perform them and, as the game progresses, the states of Suppression, Exhaustion or Disruption will prevent other choices.  In case you think that this may make the game rather limited, it doesn't.

It simply adds to the rampant tension throughout the game, as there are three sudden death conditions whereby you lose:- if a Wermacht Counter advances beyond the end of its track on the central board, if there are no Soviet units  left in Pavlov's House and if you place a 2nd Disrupted Token in the 62nd Command Post location on the right hand map section.  Even if you survive to the end of the game, you still have victory points to add up to see your level of success or failure from Epic Victory to Major Defeat!

I love this aspect of the game, as it means that you have to pay attention to your actions on all three sectors of the mapboard.  This is also essential, because what you do in one sector will directly impinge on what you can do on other sectors.  [If you don't want any advice at all, I suggest you skip over this short section in brackets.  Two tips then - early in the game I suggest [1] you make sure that you get more food into Pavlov's House and [2] you position some anti-aircraft guns.]
A rush of German units and Pavlov's House falls!
Moving on to the Wermacht Phase, this is much simpler and easier, as there are no choices to be made.  You simply draw three cards, one at a time and carry out the Action on each one.  At first this will need you to refer to the rule book until you become familiar and easy in executing them, but it's surprising how soon that happens and how easy it is using the rule book.   The Actions are the following: Attack Defender, Suppress Defender, Attack Building, Bomb Stalingrad, Place a Wermacht Unit and Assault.
Some of the Actions on the Wermacht Cards
Included in the Wermacht Deck are three special cards called Resupply.  When one of these occurs, the Soviet player must feed his troops in Pavlov's House and any that cannot be fed are eliminated.  If you cannot feed any of them [i.e. there are no Food Tokens in Pavlov's House], then they all die and you LOSE immediately!  Once this has been done, the card is turned over to its Storm Group side which allows the Soviet player to launch a major Assault in a later Soviet Card Phase, if the necessary card and circumstances allow.  If successful, you gain the card and its VPs towards your score at the end of the game [if you survive that far!].  Whether successful or not, you run the risk of any or all of your units that you assigned to that Assault failing a die roll and ending up in the dead pile.

A very good point is that the Storm Group  card remains on the board until either you decide to launch the Assault or it is replaced when the next Resupply card turns up. The only aspect of this I don't like is that you know exactly when each of these cards will occur.  However, this is an important feature for your planning and creates another of the fine points of tension in the game as you struggle to get food into Pavlov's House while time ticks away.

The last Phase, the Soviet Counter Phase, allows you to move three men within Pavlov's House and then carry out three Actions.  Most Actions result in the man becoming Exhausted [a simple flip of the counter to its shaded reverse side].  As it takes an Action to flip a man back to his active side, you need to build up a team of combatants and make careful use of the few special personages [obviously Pavlov is one of them] who can spend one Action to flip three other men back to active.

There are so many good features in this section of the game.  Here are just a few to whet your appetite. Two men with the same attribute, located in the same position and with the necessary weapon counter - e.g. machine-gun/anti-tank weapon or mortar - are needed to fire each of these type of weapons.  A man with the Forward Observer attribute is needed to fire an artillery unit that has previously been positioned on the Volga sector of the map.  The need to bring men into the house with a range of skills.  The utter simplicity of the Line of Sight rule - there are three colours of location in the house for the Soviet units and a matching three colours of location for your German units.  Match colours and your man can see the German unit and fire.

Should you eventually find this all too easy and romp through the basic game as victor [oh yeah, who're you kidding?] or you simply want to see how difficult you can make the task.  Then you can introduce one or both of two other decks of cards.  The first deck contains the Operational Support Cards [only 8 of them].  These abstractly introduce some of the other famous locations in the Siege of Stalingrad, such as the Barrikady factory or Mamyev Kurgan.  These provide you with victory points, but at the cost of removing specific tokens from your stock, if you meet specific requirements.  This very neatly and simply simulates the demands of battle elsewhere that make your task even harder here at Pavlov's House.
Half the Operational Support deck
The final cards [30 in number], the Tactics Deck, introduce a whole new level of pain.  For the Veteran Level of play you turn up the top card each turn and apply its effects to that turn and then discard at the end of the turn.  For the Elite Level[ aka insanely difficult!], you turn up two tactics cards per turn and apply their effects.  You have been warned!
A sample of the Tactics Cards
If all this weren't enough, you are offered three other options.
[1] Play a two-player cooperative game, with one player handling the Soviet Card Phase and the other the Soviet Counter Phase.
[2] Play a two-player competitive game with one player Soviet and the other German.  If you choose this variant, the German player must use the Tactics Deck and draws four cards from the German Deck at the beginning of the game and chooses which three to use and in which order, while the one card not used is kept in hand. On all subsequent turns, another three cards are drawn and the same process repeated.
[3] A three player game, with two Soviet players and a German one.

All in all, this is a fantastic package with so many options.

Finally just a few thoughts and suggestions on how to learn the game.
[1] Skim through the rule book to gain an overall impression of the types of Action both sides can take, but don't try to absorb at this point how exactly to go about taking each Action.  This I feel is particularly true of the Soviet Card Phase.
[2] Familiarise yourself with what sectors of the board each Soviet Action relates by looking at both the Soviet cards and the relevant section of the rule book.
[3] Use the rule book and mapboard to become familiar with what you can do with Soviet units in the Soviet Counter Phase.
[4]  Set the game up and draw your first four Soviet cards.  Choose three Actions and carry them out by referring to the rule book.
[5] Move on to the Wermacht Card Phase and as you draw each card refer to the rule book to execute the Action.
[6] In the Soviet Counter Phase look more closely once again at the rule book for the choices and carry out three Actions.
The well designed play aid for the Soviet cards
After several turns following this pattern, you should be getting a good feel for the game and begin to be able to use the very good play aids that summarise Soviet and Wermacht Card Actions.  I would also suggest that an even easier and swifter way to learn is if you can play with a friend so that one of you takes the Soviets and the other the Germans and then swop roles.  That way you can focus attention on one side's rules at a time.

By now you should be well aware of my liking for this game.  I rate this as one of DVG's best games, ticking all boxes for quality of all components, one of their very best rule books, ease of rule assimilation, very good play aids and highly immersive, tense game play.  Overall I still personally give the edge to the  Warfighter series, but the ease of set-up and being straight in to play probably means that it will hit my table more often.  For those who tend to fight shy of the preparatory planning in many of DVG's games, I suspect Pavlov's House is going to hit the sweet spot perfectly.

There can be no other conclusion than this should be in your collection.


US price $59.99 from DVG

UK price
£54.99








3 comments :

Longstreet Attacks A Game of the Second day at Gettysburg by Revolution Games   It's July 2nd 1863 in a t...

Longstreet Attacks by Revolution Games Longstreet Attacks by Revolution Games

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

August 2018

Longstreet Attacks by Revolution Games


A Game of the Second day at Gettysburg

by









  It's July 2nd 1863 in a town in Pennsylvania; its only claim to fame is that it is a crossroad for several of the major roads in the area. The early concentrated attack that General Lee was hoping for this day was not going to happen. The afternoon hours were ticking by. Longstreet does not seem to have ever wanted to attack at Gettysburg. Was he suffering the 'slows', or did he actually believe that the best course for the Army of Northern Virginia was to fight on the defensive? No one knows for sure. There have been millions of pages written about this battle and about this particular day of the larger battle. This was probably the closest Lee ever came to inflicting a large defeat on the Army of the Potomac on Union soil. Would it have crushed the Union? Highly doubtful, the defenses around Washington were very impressive. Even a half routed Army of the Potomac could have held off the ANV until the Union could  call in reserves from everywhere. Would Lincoln have been reelected after a defeat like that? 






 So enough of the history. Let's look at the game and see what you get with it:
Rulebook
One Union Aid Sheet
One Confederate Aid Sheet
Two CRT, Cohesion Test Tables, and Terrain Key Sheet
One Turn Record Track, and Victory Point Sheet
One 22" x 34" Map
Two Counter Sheets, Counters are 5/8" in size





 This is the sequence of play:
1) Command Decision Phase
2) Both players choose event chits and setup draw cup 
3) Artillery Phase
  a. Union Artillery Step
  b. Confederate Artillery Step
  c. Both sides alternate steps 'a' and 'b' until both sides have       
     activated all units or passed
  d. Artillery Rally/Rebuild Phase
4) Chit Draw Phase
  a. Held Event Chit Step
  b. Draw Chit Step
5) Brigade Activation Phase
  a. Orders Step
  b. Fire Combat Step
  c. Movement Step
  d. Close Combat Step
  e. Rally Step
  f. If any chits remain in the Draw Cup, return to Phase 3. 
     Otherwise, go to Phase 5.
6) End Turn Phase
  a. Held Chit Play Step
  b. Victory Point Awards Step
  c. Broken Track Adjustment Step
  d. Brigade Activation Markers Reset Step
  e. CSA Attack Coordination, USA AOP Reinforcements



It's the Map, it's the Map, it's the map

The rulebook is plain black and white. It is thirty-two pages long. The rules themselves are twenty-one pages long; the rest is the different scenario setups. It is well set out and easy to read. The counters artwork is very well done. However to me, the map makes them pale in comparison. The map is one of the best looking ones I have seen, and I have seen a lot. The map is very different from most. For one, it is very busy. Most maps look pretty spartan for the player to be able to differentiate from different heights and terrain. This one is very colorful, almost like a painting done of a map. The height differences on the map and hex-side slopes are also very easy to distinguish. Each hex is approximately 140 yards across. One strength point equals about fifty men or a single gun. Each game turn represents twenty minutes. Two of the Players' Aids are in black and white. The other three are in color. For roughly five hours of fighting on one part of a large battlefield, this game comes with a bunch of scenarios to choose from. These are:


The Round Tops - Six Turns
The Whirlpool - Ten turns
Assault on Emmitsburg Road - Nine Turns
Hammerin' Sickles - Fourteen Turns
Sickles Follows Orders - What If Scenario  - Fourteen Turns



No introduction needed

 This is the second Hermann Luttmann design I have played, and I have been impressed by both of them. This game is part of the Blind Swords System that is also used in these other two games by Revolution Games:

Stonewalls's Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain
Thunder in the Ozarks: The Battle of Pea Ridge 


 Here is a link to the rulebook:

 http://www.revolutiongames.us/Gettysburg-LA/LA_Rules_Booklet.pdf



 This game has been rated very highly by many of its players. The depth and amount of rules do not make it a good game for a tyro, or to try and get someone interested in wargaming. On the other hand, the grognard will find it to be an excellent game on a subject that usually is just a scenario in larger games about the Battle of Gettysburg. The relatively small map and space needed means a wargamer can easily find a place to play it. The rules are very clear and walk the reader through the rulebook. The counter density is not too bad. You will have some congestion because of the very nature of the terrain. There has been talk of one of the follow up games to be on the Battle of the Wilderness. If it happens, it will be one of the few games I buy into before release. Great effort, wonderful artwork, and it is based on a tried and true formula. What more could you ask for in a game?


Robert


 


 

0 comments :

Age of Belisarius A DLC for Field of Glory II by Slitherine Games   Justinian was an emperor that did not deser...

Age of Belisarius a DLC for Slitherine's Field of Glory II Age of Belisarius a DLC for Slitherine's Field of Glory II

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

August 2018

Age of Belisarius a DLC for Slitherine's Field of Glory II

Age of Belisarius


A DLC for Field of Glory II

by

Slitherine Games





 Justinian was an emperor that did not deserve his wife or his generals. This new DLC from Slitherine is for their smash hit Field of Glory II. The Roman empire had risen on their heavy infantry. After Byzantium, or Constantinople if you prefer, became the second and then the only capitol of the empire. Their new enemies required the Romans to rethink their reliance on infantry. Justinian dreamed of reconquering the lost provinces of the Western Roman Empire. This would have only been a pipe dream if he did not have the services of the generals Belisarius and Narses. Belisarius only lost one battle, and that was forced on him early in his career. 





 So let us look at what you get with this DLC:
  • 11 new named factions: Avars, Byzantines, Franks, Gepids, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Slavs, Turks, Vandals, Visigoths, Welsh.

  • 17 new units: Byzantine Lance/Bow cavalry, Veteran Byzantine Lance/Bow cavalry, Byzantine Flankers, Dismounted Armoured Noble Lancers, Dismounted Noble Lancers, Dismounted Armoured Horse Archers, Sabir Foot, Indian Light Horse (javelins), Indian Light Foot (javelins), Bedouin Cavalry (lancers), Bedouin Light Horse (lancers), Bedouin Foot, Pre-Islamic City Arab foot, Bulgar Cavalry, Bulgar Light Horse, Spearmen (Dark Age), Raw Spearmen (Dark Age).

  • 29 new army lists (which expands the total number of army lists to 166).

  • 6 new Epic Battles: Dara 530 AD, Tricamarum 533 AD, Taginae 552 AD, The Volturnus 554 AD, Bukhara 557 AD, Raith 596 AD (each playable from either side).

  • 37 new Quick Battles (each playable from either side).

  • Expanded Field of Glory II Custom Battles module now includes all 166 army lists from Immortal Fire, Rise of Rome, Legions Triumphant and Age of Belisarius. (Purchase of the appropriate DLCs is necessary to access them all).

  • Expanded Field of Glory II Sandbox Campaigns module now includes all 166 army lists from Immortal Fire, Rise of Rome, Legions Triumphant and Age of Belisarius. (Purchase of the appropriate DLCs is necessary to access them all).

  • 4 new historically-based campaigns:

o   Belisarius

o   Clovis I of the Franks

o   King of Kings 2 (Sassanid Persia)

o   Rise of the Avars





 The base game of FOG II has been updated continually since its release. One excellent choice that Slitherine has made is that all of the upgrades for the base game are available to the player even without buying all of the planned DLCs. So the only thing a person would miss out on would be the new troop types, battles, and campaigns from each DLC.





 As far as the DLC, there is not much to say. The game is the best game as yet released for the computer dealing with tactical ancient warefare. The DLCs just make the experience that much better and wider in scope. If you are interested in early Byzantine or later Roman Empire tactical battles, this is what you have been waiting for. If you haven't picked up the base game, why not! It is as good as everyone has said. The Age of Belisarius DLC is worth its price tag and much more.





 
One of the big additions in this DLC to the game is cavalry units that can dismount and fight on foot. The sandbox feature has also had an upgrade. Now you are able to pit any of the armies that you have in your stable against any other one you own. This is not only in the Custom Battles, but also the Custom Campaigns. So join the fun and try to recreate the Roman Empire. This time you do not have to worry about Justinian becoming jealous and removing you from command. The next DLC that is coming for FOG II goes in the other direction in time; it is the Rise of Persia. I cannot wait to be able to command Assyrians.







Robert

0 comments :

Red Dragon Blue Dragon Against The Odds #45   I have reviewed one other ATO magazine ( http://www.awargamersneedfulthi...

Red Dragon Blue Dragon Against The Odds #45 Red Dragon Blue Dragon Against The Odds #45

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

August 2018

Red Dragon Blue Dragon Against The Odds #45










  I have reviewed one other ATO magazine (http://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2018/05/against-odds-magazine-issue-42-with.html). Once again the ATO magazine is a real stunner. The articles are all well done and very interesting. The game in this issue is about the campaign for China during the latest Chinese Civil War in 1948 and 1949. This was the last real showdown between the Nationalists (Kuomintang, GMD) and the Communists (PLA). The game rules use GMD and PLA to differentiate. The background history article is fascinating reading. One of the facts I was not aware of is how many American advisors in China were actually more on the side of the Communists than the Nationalists. This did cost them later when they all seem to have been caught up in the McCarthy era anti-communist purges after returning to the US. From a purely armaments point of view, the Nationalists should have won. Unfortunately for them, the Communists were able to successfully fight for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.



Back of the boxed version



This is a list of the articles:



Red Dragon Blue Dragon
On Guards: The "China Hands"
Sowing The Wind: The National Air Races 1929-1939 
The Fulda Gap Sandbox: Comparing a Hobby Wargame and a 
  Computer Simulation from the Cold War Era
And The Data Shows On The Move: Kingdoms In Exile
Long Spear, Short Legs: Operational Limitations and 
  Wintergewitter
The Power Of Airpower
Designing 'Dueling Eagles'
Simulation Corner    

 As you can see the articles are varied, and they are also well interspersed with pictures and maps. 



Map from the Nationalist side



 The game is an operational one about the Battle of Huai-Hai. This was a fight for the center of China. The Communists had pretty much overrun the North, and the Nationalists had the South. The Communist party had decided that they were ready to capture the strategic city of Xuzhou. The Nationalists have tanks and air support. The Communists are armed with a jamboree of weapons from the Nationalists themselves to captured Japanese ones. Make no mistake, in these battles the Nationalists are the underdog.




Counters Front



 The map is scaled to twenty kilometers per hex. The game is played in one week turns. The units are mostly Nationalist Corps and Communist Columns. These are anywhere from 15,00-40,00 men. The rules call the PLA Columns Corps for ease. Artillery units represent 36-54 pieces. Armor Battalions are 18-30 tanks. The GMD air units equal roughly 40 aircraft. The actual map portion is small, but it is well done. The small map size allows all of the extras, like the turn track etc, to be on it. The counters are your normal magazine sized counters, but they are well done and easy to read. 


 Nationalist defection is one of the pivotal parts of the game. The Battle for Xuzhou has been described as the Gettysburg of the Chinese Civil War. The soldiers on both sides of the battle came to about a million men. Oddly enough, considering Korea and Vietnam, the U.S. refused to get involved. So let us look at the game play.



 Sequence of play:

Weather Phase
China News! Phase
Interdiction Phase
GMD Movement Phase
  Reinforcement and Replacement Segment
  FDP Relief Check Segment
  GMD Movement Segment
PLA Movement Phase
  PLA Reinforcement and Replacement Segment
  PLA Movement Segment
PLA Combat Phase
GMD Combat Phase
Turn End Phase



Counters Back

 One of the most interesting and innovative rules had to do with one of the events that can happen when checking the China News Table. This is the PLA Political Offensive. This Political Offensive lasts for three turns. During these turns the PLA can move but not attack. They are allowed to do POPAs (Political Offensive Propaganda Attacks) against the GMD units. These propaganda attacks can cause the GMD units to defect. This propaganda offensive actually happened historically. It was caused by a tremendous amount of casualties suffered by the PLA, and the fact that the Communist hierarchy (Mao) wanted to win an ideological war. Historically this was followed by the US shutting off aid to the GMD. This was really the last nail in the GMD coffin. The flight to Taiwan was the next step for the GMD after the battle of Huai Hai.



'China News Table'

 There is also an explanation of the seeming change in the names of Chinese cities and areas in the last fifty years. The difference is that the older names we were used to reading were from the Wade-Giles system of translation. The newer Pinyin system is the reason the names changed. So Peking was Wade-Giles and Beijing is Pinyin. The author of the game's background piece shows both to help the reader.



CRT etc.

 In all ATO games there is a side that has their back up against the wall. As mentioned, in this game it is the Nationalist/GMD. Historically the amount of troops that defected from the GMD was large. So playing as the GMD, you have to be ready for anything. It is a tough side to play. The victory conditions are fortunately skewed a bit to help you. The PLA must get a sudden death victory or annihilate the GMD forces. A sudden death victory is if the PLA occupy Xuzhou with a supplied PLA unit on turns one through three. Do not get me wrong, the game does not all go the PLA's way. When the Political Offensive shows up, the PLA player is pretty much hamstrung. As the designer puts it "The Political Offensive can really wreck what seemed to be a victorious PLA campaign. The PLA player needs to be ready for it; it will happen. This means making hay while the sun shines; do not think that you can afford to take a 'slack turn' just because you are ahead (Unless the Political Offensive has already occurred!)"

 All in all, a great issue, and a pretty good game about a very unknown (to the West) campaign. The background history of the campaign is stellar.


Robert



                   

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Mark Walker\ Crowbar Interview Transcript  AWNT received a package containing two tape recordings of what appears to be the in...

Interview with Mark Walker Interview with Mark Walker

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

August 2018

Interview with Mark Walker

Mark Walker\Crowbar Interview Transcript





 AWNT received a package containing two tape recordings of what appears to be the interrorga..sorry interviews, of two people. Below is the transcript of the first recording. Though not all was clear we have done our utmost to record as precisely as possible what is being said on the tape.

Interview of Mark Walker.


 Mark Walker first of Lock n Load boardgame fame and now the man behind Flying Pig Games needs little introduction within the Wargaming community. His games, mainly at the tactical scale, cover a wide range of conflicts (both historical aswell as sci-fi) are well loved and well known. This man of many gifts is also a prolific author of a genre he has made his own, it’s military fiction crossed with the supernatural.

Now onto the transcript…

Hello Mark, please don’t panic. Let me quickly explain. We tried, oh we tried to do this the proper way Mark. We really did. Not only did we send you an email requesting an interview we also messaged you on that facethingymajig. We waited, yes, we waited three days!! Nothing. So this was our last resort Mark. So now, all you have to do is answer a few little questions and we will put you right back where we, er, picked you up from. OK.What’s that..oh sorry (background..”he still has tape on his mouth, take it off you cretin….”). Painful tearing sound. Sorry about that, now OK to start? One thing, just ignore the wires. You’re connected to ACME 1555 1\3 lie detector, just so you know. OK here we go.

Name?

Uh? Mark (base line stick with it)


Age?

As young as I feel on any given day. In general, my wife claims that I’m a large nine-year old.


Current Location? 

South-central Virginia.



Favourite TV program?

 Castle Rock



Favourite Music genre? 

Alternative Rock



Favourite band\musician?

Plimsouls



Favourite Film?

Sucker Punch


Favourite period of history? 

Tomorrow



Favourite Superhero?

Forever Carlyle



Favourite colour?

Blue over tan, like the beach.



Favourite animal? 

Dog



Lucky number?

8



Hurricane or BF109? 

P-51 Mustang. (clever)



WW2 or Vietnam?

WW3 (like it, leftfield)



Werewolf or Vampire?

Katarina (interesting)



Tactical or Operational?

Tactical (me too)



Patton or McArthur

Patton




Excellent! That’s the levels sorted, sorry I mean the, we know you better, part done.



When did you first get involved with wargames and at what point did you decide to make a career out of it? 

First game I played was TAHGC’s Gettysburg when I was 9. Decided to make a career of it in 2006 when I opened LNLP.



How difficult was it to get off the mark with your first product? Trying to get this website out there to the communities that would be interested has been the hardest part by far with regards to AWNT. I imagine trying to make a living out of your venture adds the pressure ten fold with regards to getting your name out there. 

It was difficult. I remember the first screen shot I posted of a village in Forgotten Heroes. It was on Consimworld. Some smart ass said, “Where’s the cocktail waitress.”



What was your first successful game design?

I’m not sure any of my designs have been successful. My first published designed was Lock ‘n Load.



Looking back at your game releases what if any are your standout games? Not necessarily from a profit viewpoint but more from a personal view and why is that?

Dark War RPG, because it’s my first RPG and the game everyone wants to play when they come over to my house. Of course, Lock ‘n Load was a lot of fun too. Strange thing about that game was that it worked right away. Some games, like ’65, take quite a while to make click. I like ’65 and Night of Man because of the way they play. The card-driven mechanism makes them feel bigger, richer than a typical tactical game. And World at War? Geez but I love me some WW3 gaming.



Your games go from historical through to WW3 horror and lots in between! Do you have a favourite with regards to the design process?

Not sure I understand this question, but… if you mean a favourite era/genre, it would be military horror. Like Dog Soldiers.  (great film)



What scale is your favourite to design for? I’d love to see man vs man scale, does that scale ring your bell so to speak?

Well, Dark War is man vs man/woman/beast/demon. I guess that squad-level is my favorite scale, but platoon-level is a close second.



What’s your thoughts on Solo games? Many struggle with regards to finding an opponent so solo wargames suit them. Have you thought about designing solo only boardgames?

Although I didn’t design it, we have an excellent solo wargame, Crowbar! The Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, on Kickstarter right now. I like solo wargames, or I guess that I mean that I like the idea of solo wargames, but I find it difficult to find time to solo game. It’s when I get together with friends that I make myself sit down and game.


When did you first come across Herm Luttman and the Crowbar! Tabletop game?

I’ve known Herm for a few years. He suggested Crowbar! To me and I said, not yes, but hell yes. If Herm designed a game about dog poop, I’d publish it. Fortunately, Crowbar! Isn’t about dog poop, it’s an immersive game about the Ranger’s assault on Pointe du Hoc. It’s a push-your-luck type game. The longer and harder you push your luck, the greater the chance for a big fall.



The KickStarter has done extremely well. How pleased are you and Herm about how successful it’s been?

Very pleased and I think there is a good chance to unlock more stretch goals as we approach the finish. It’s exciting stuff.



As mentioned earlier I have an interest in Solo wargames and for me there is always room for solo tactical wargame. What was it about Crowbar! That grabbed your attention? Did the Solo aspect have any say? 

I love the way that Herm puts story into his games. I had played In Magnificent Style and I loved the game.



Will we see expansions or new standalone releases? If so I do hope we get to play as the Germans..pref in Stalingrad pretty please? 

Sure, there are expansions included in the Kickstarter, and yes you get to play as the Germans. 😊 (colour me excited!)



DO you have any tactical advice for the future players of Crowbar?

Don’t push your luck too far! 😊



Finally it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Just sit tight I’m sure the good men about to burst in are now expert at untying people strapped to a chair..(loud smash) been tickety bo..must dash..bye…(sounds of footsteps and cursing fades into distance. Possibly Marks voice thanking someone and something about unhinged and need treatment..tape ends)



Crowbar the tabletop game has just had a very successful Kickstarter. I highly recommend you go check it out. Mark hasn't let us down yet, and he hasn't dropped the ball on this one either!



Good luck to Herm and Mark!


Coming soon Herm Luttmans interrogation!


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Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar Translated by R. A. Maguire  The master does a critique o...

Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar translated by R. A. Maguire Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar translated by R. A. Maguire

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

August 2018

Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar translated by R. A. Maguire



Translated by







 The master does a critique of an earlier great general. Napoleon's comments on the wars of Caesar are well worth the price of admission. The tidbits that are thrown in from his own time are just amazing. I have been reading military history about the Napoleonic era for about fifty years, and I have not seen these items. The other thing about this book is the absolutely staggering brilliance and memory of Napoleon's own mind. Remember, this book was dictated on St. Helena. There was no library or anything for Napoleon to consult except for his own encyclopedic brain. This next piece from the book will show what I am talking about. This is commenting on his own bridging of the Danube, and comparing it to Caesar's bridging of the Rhine. He then discusses the properties of cork for pontoons:

 "Cork weighs 16lb per cubic foot, water 70lb; each cubit foot of cork can carry 54lb. A pontoon made of solid cork would weigh 1,600lb, would displace 100' and could carry 5,400lb; taking away 1,000lb for the weight of the deck, made of planks and beams, leaves 4,400lb, which is enough to carry campaign vehicles. If this cork pontoon were divided into four floats, each of 25', they would each weigh 400lb and could carry 1,350lb. What advantages would come from a bridge made in this way! It could never be sunk by the impact of foreign bodies, or bad weather, or cannon fire. It would have the proper characteristics of a mechanism of war; durability, strength, and simplicity. A bridge so constructed could have one, two, three, four, five or even six floats supporting each pier, according to the number available, the width of the river and the requirement of the task. The wagons carrying the floats would no longer need to come to the river bank; such floats could be easily carried by hand for 200 or 400 yards."

 "Twelve pounds of cork can form a belt which fits under the armpits, which will keep a man afloat such that he can use his firearm. Several such belts, with the equivalent number of cork shoes and waterproof trousers, should be supplied to each company of pontoon sappers, to assist them in placing pontoons and to increase their security when working in the water on bridge construction."

  So you not only get Napoleon's comments about Caesar's campaigns, and what his enemies did, you are also treated to the master's musings on some of his own achievements. 

 Napoleon starkly dismisses the idea that Caesar planned to make himself a king. He states rightly that "The dignity of kings was a thing to be scorned and despised: the curule chair was higher than the throne. On what throne could Caesar have sat? On that of the kings of Rome, whose authority did not extend beyond the city's outskirts? On that of the barbarian kings of Asia, who had been defeated by men with names like Fabricius, Aemilius Paulus, Scipio, Metellus, Claudius and so on? That would have been a strange course to adopt. What? would Caesar really have sought stability, greatness and respect in the crown which had been worn by Philip, Perseus, Attalus, Mithridates, Pharnaces or Ptolemy, men whom the citizens had seen dragged along behind the triumphal chariot of their conquerors?"

 While it is true that most of these kings were not in Roman triumphs, I understand exactly where Napoleon is heading with this diatribe. Napoleon comments many times that Caesar was very lucky at times to escape some of his battles without losing. He makes it clear that he believed Caesar to be rash, sometimes to the extreme at times.

 The book itself is only 119 pages long including notes. This book was last published fully in 1836. It is high time it has seen the light of day. Thank you Pen & Sword.

Robert

Book : Napoleon's Commentaries on the Wars of Julius Caesar
Author: The Master
Translator: R. A. Maguire
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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BLOODY STEPPES OF CRIMEA 1854 BY STRATEGEMATA As promised this review stands at the opposite end of the scale to my previous ...

BLOODY STEPPES OF THE CRIMEA BLOODY STEPPES OF THE CRIMEA

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

August 2018

BLOODY STEPPES OF THE CRIMEA

BLOODY STEPPES OF CRIMEA 1854

BY



As promised this review stands at the opposite end of the scale to my previous one on The War of the Worlds.  This package from the Polish company, Strategemata, presents the three famous battles of the Crimean War and harks back in several ways to earlier products of the heyday of hex and counter simulations.

In part I was fascinated by the rarity with which this conflict has been gamed.  My first gaming encounter with this period was many years ago with GDW's Crimea [pub. 1975], a largely strategic game, but with an odd, and not altogether satisfactory, substrata to fight these individual battles.  However, my best experience was with SPI's Quad Crimean Battles [pub. 1978] containing four folio sized maps to fight all three of the battles offered by Strategemata, plus Tchernaya River.  I have to say that I played these battles repeatedly, as like all SPI's Quad games they were presented with a simple basic set of rules with  a few minor additions to reflect small individual elements of each battle.  

Bloody Steppes of Crimea couldn't be more different.  It comes with one full sized map with the Battle of the Alma on one side and Balaclava on the other, while Inkerman has its own folio size map.  These maps are glossy and on fairly thin stock.  As I tend to store virtually all my papers flat, the effect of refolding them doesn't tend to be a worry, but I doubt these would stand much folding.  The landscape depicted is largely bare.  Most notable are the colours used to depict the changes in elevation, with only a few other features, particularly the river that gives its name to the Battle of The Alma, but unfortunately, the hex numbering is very heavy and prominent, as can be seen in the photo below..


The maps particularly have a slightly dated appearance to them, but the muted colours work well with the strong, bright colours of the counters.  These are on the thin side which perhaps reflects their being the product of a small independent company.  However, in terms of detail and illustration they are clear with a wide variety of images and the key information of formation and numerical values easy to see and interpret.



They have been so strongly die-cut that about 70 had fallen out of their frames when I initially opened the box and this certainly caused problems of identifying the organisation of brigades and divisions that they belonged to.  At this point, Strategemata were extremely helpful in emailing me photocopies of the countersheets that helped me piece together the original layout of the counters.






Nevertheless problems are still compounded by the fact that there is no overall play aid that identifies the organisation of the units.  Instead each battle has its own separate Order of Battle and its a slow process putting together exactly which units are needed.  The colour bar at the top of some of the counters is a help and essential in play for identifying brigade level formations for activation purposes, but there are many units that operate at corps or army level that add to the complexity - and I'd strongly advise that this is a complex game system in all respects.  This is something I'll return to in my conclusion.

The rulebook is a substantial document and needs careful reading.  By and large the translation for the English rules is fluent, though occasional omission of words and questionable use of the intended preposition makes meaning at time a little unsure. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that small, but important points don't always occur in the main rule book, but in the short individual battle pamphlets.  For example, it is there that you will find which units are at corps or army level.  Even more significant is that some units have a counter that is used in one battle and replaced by a stronger/weaker one in a different battle.

The text is presented in double columns of small, dense text often in lengthy sentences and numbered according to the familiar case system using Roman numerals for the fifteen major sections labelled as Chapters with often as many as 54 subsections, but interspersed with separately numbered side headings.

As you can imagine there is a significantly large amount of reading and assimilating to get through, before you are anywhere near ready to start playing.  Though there are a reasonable number of examples, they are all in black and white and for the depth of rules  several more would have been very helpful.  My advice is to break out a small number of counters for each side and set them up on the Alma map to work through many of the rules.

As you do so, these are some of the key features of the game that you will encounter.  First of all a detailed Command system takes us from the supreme Commander down though Wing/Corps Commanders to Divisional and Brigade level with written orders to be followed.  There is a good degree of flexibility with many leaders able to roll against their own initiative to change orders.  Following the practice in many games with this type of system, a player needs to decide in advance whether to allow a senior leader to attempt to  change orders or wait and allow individual subordinate leaders to roll individually.

A feature I've always enjoyed in some games of this level is the presence of dispatch riders who operate on the turn track in covering shorter distances to transmit orders, but for longer distances actually appear moving across the map.  Alongside this is an intriguing idea that was new to me and that is that accompanying the order a specific vector of 60 degrees must be designated and a specific number of hexes that must be travelled by the leader in question.  Once that destination is reached by the leader the order automatically changes to a Defense order until a new order is issued. 

This information is handled on specific charts that accompany each individual battle.  On one side is the order of battle and the hex set-up for the units, on the other is a display for the strength of each unit and a display for each leader to mark the vector/distance and order.  Unless you're going to photocopy the chart and employ a pencil and rubber, I'd suggest you need to either laminate the chart so that you can use a dry-wipe pen or create your own separate display just for orders.

The chart for the battle of Balaclava
Along with this admirable element is the familiar and popular chit draw for selecting which formation is the next to be activated.  Again some nice tweaks have been added to how this system works.   Each side places a chit for each formation in play into a separate draw cup, but the player with fewer formations adds enough blank chits to match his opponent's total.  One side may not activate more than two formations in a row, the first is drawn randomly [except for the very first activation in a turn], while the 2nd one has to be chosen and rolled for.    

Even these early rules have some depth to them, but the picture that builds up as you progress at times feels formidable.  Any system that employs a variety of formations, as here, inevitably adds to the depth of rules.  By choosing unit strength charts rather than Strength points printed on the counters, one aspect of such complex systems is avoided and that is the use of a plethora of formation markers. Instead change of formation can be covered by simply flipping a counter to its appropriate side. The only exception is infantry entering square formation.  That is a real plus.

However, one downside of various formation types is inevitably a highly detailed movement chart which, even with repeated playings needs frequent referral.  Making things even more difficult is the fact that many of the basic costs as well as the additional costs for hexside and elevation change involve 0.5 of a movement point.  The difficulty is not just in remembering the cost, but the actual maths needed to carry out movement slows the game down considerably.
With a detailed movement chart comes a similarly detailed combat modifier chart based on terrain, plus modifiers for range.  Add on separate charts for Infantry Fire, Artillery Fire and Melee modifiers. And all this is after you've wrestled with the rules detailing how to conduct Fire, Melee [wonderfully titled Attacking With Cold Steel], Cavalry Charge and Counter-Charge, Visibility [oh no line of sight, as always is not an easy task] et al.

There is just so much to get your head round.  Exceptions because of formation, type of unit [e.g. skirmishers and French Zouaves]. effects of disorganisation and rout.  Everything familiar is here and much that is innovative. especially the lack of ZOCs and the ability of the enemy to react when a unit moves adjacent.

In consequence, you have a game that takes considerable time to accommodate mastering all the rules and gives one of the most highly detailed levels of play that I've engaged with.  As a result this is game that can take considerable time to play, depending on your choice of battle.  

If you feel that you can take on the challenge, I would suggest the Battle of Balaclava as your starting point.  It has the lowest unit density and the fewest additional rules.  Follow up with Inkerman, again low unit density and some fairly fragile British units supported by more powerful French ones , though with some of the more detailed additional rules.  Finally, the first major battle of the Crimean War, the Battle of the Alma should be tackled last.  Everything is in there and in large numbers that you can see below.


The Battle of the Alma



My conclusion is that this is a simulation very much for experienced hex and counter players - what in gamespeak are usually labeled as "grognards".  Having served 43 years in the ranks of historical board game players, I still found several concepts challenging to get to grips with and for complexity level I think a comparison with at least the La Battaille series is appropriate.  There is certainly little out there on the Crimean War and for depth and detail I doubt that it is likely to be rivalled or surpassed.  

Many thanks to Strategemata for supplying the review copy and for their very friendly support.  

Purchase cost in UK ranging from £47.99 to £54.99













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