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Julius Caesar by Columbia Games   This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. ...

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games Julius Caesar by Columbia Games

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

November 2018

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games


  This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. Every Ides of March, I drink a toast of something to the fact that he was assassinated at the foot of Pompey's statue. I am a teetotaler so nothing special. I consider Sulla the greatest Roman general followed closely by Pompey. Caesar is most highly thought of because of his own propaganda writings. Remember that Caesar was the head of his faction while Pompey was actually representing the legal Roman Senate and also had to take their views into account. Caesar had said Sulla was a fool for giving up his dictatorship. He was not a fool, but a Republican. I guess I should dispense with my personal views now. So the game is about the Roman Civil War between the Roman Senate and a megalomaniac (sorry I had to). The Civil War between Pompey and Caesar. Let us see what you get with the game.

Front And Back Of Box

Game Map(17"x 33" with 13 victory points)
63 Blocks ( 31 tan, 31 green, 1 blue)
Label Sheet (for the blocks)
Cards (27)
Dice (4)
Rule Book


 The map is the usual well done Columbia Games type we have come to enjoy with their block games. It is a map that is used to be gamed, and not be hung on the wall as art. The map does get a bit crowded at times with the blocks. However, for a small fee you can buy a PDF file of the map and have it printed out to pretty much any size you want. The labels are well done. They are aesthetically pleasing, and easy to understand and read. The cards are very well done and add some flavor to the game. There are twenty Command Cards and seven Event Cards in the deck. The rule book is only eight pages long. This is also standard fare for Columbia Games. Their games are meant to be played, not argued over. After one or possibly two games, you will have the rules down pat.

Stickers For The Blocks

  The game is card driven, and is played in these three phases:

Card Phase
Command Phase
Battle Phase

 The event cards are self explanatory. The Command Cards are read by the banners and medals below the banners. On each banner will be a number. That number is the moves a player can make that turn. The medals are the amount of levies that player can produce that turn. At the beginning of each year (or turn) of the game the cards are shuffled, and each player is dealt six cards. Both players then have to choose one card to discard, bringing their total to five cards each. Each player then puts down one card. If one player chooses an event card then he is Player one. If both players put down command cards then the player with the higher movement on his card is player one. When both cards have equal movement points then the Caesar player is player one. If both players put down an event card they cancel each other out and that turn/year is over. The event cards seem to be pretty overpowering compared to the command cards. One has to remember that if you play an event card that is all you can do that turn. No movement, or levies, can take place if you play an event card. 

 Your Navis(naval) units are incredibly powerful if you know how to use them. You can use three Navis units in adjacent sea areas to move your troops an incredible distance. The rule book gives an example of Caesar being able to move two legions from Rome to Antioch because the three seas (Mare Tyrrhenum, Mare Internum, and Mare Egypticum) all have Caesar Navis units in them and are friendly. You cannot conduct amphibious invasions as we think of today, but you can keep your enemy on their toes, and upset their plans with amphibious movement.                                   
 The historically important Roman roads are also very important in the game. A Major road allows four units to move together from city to city. A Minor road only allows two units to travel together. 

 The game even has rules for the Cleopatra unit (blue block). She can change sides numerous times during the war. 

 This is the map showing all of the places that troops can be levied by Brunoc from BGG.

 The battle rules are simple and yet full of strategy and chance. A unit that has the higher combat rating, an A against a B unit, is always the first unit on each player's side to roll for hits. If both sides have the same highest rated unit (both A's or B's etc.) the defender is the first to use his unit to roll for hits. A unit may only fire, retreat, or pass each battle turn. Retreats can only take place after one round of combat has happened. There are rules for pinning enemy units as well as to have reserves for your battles.

 Victory goes to the first player who can get ten victory points. Each main city is worth one point, with Rome and Alexandria being two each. You also get one point for killing an enemy leader.


 The game has been a favorite of people who play Columbia games since it was released. The rules are simple and easy to understand, yet the game is deep enough to keep you enthralled with it. The relatively quick play-through times make it easy for players to give it one more go. The game also lets the player try so many different strategies to try to get to ten victory points. Historically Pompey fled Italy and went to the East. Caesar then cleared out Pompey's legions in Spain, leading Caesar to say "I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army". Many historians feel that Pompey should have gone to Spain to fight with those veteran troops in a country that was difficult to campaign in, and that Pompey had fought in before (against Sertorius). One of the strategies I keep reading about for the game is for Caesar to capture Italy, but also to attack down the Adriatic coast to Greece, and capture Athens etc. I have noticed that not only does the map have the battles listed from the Caesar and Pompey Civil War, but it also lists the battles from after Caesar's death until Actium. I wonder if an add on was planned for the game at some time. The only two knocks on the game are the Octavian block in the Caesarean army and elephants being included in the game. Octavian was sick anytime he came anywhere near a possible battlefield, and I do not believe elephants were used by any Mediterranean nation after the Mithridatic Wars. I will have to check on that. I was wrong, Metellus Scipio used them at the battle of Thapsus. I assume these were the smaller North African variety that Hannibal also used.

 This a picture of all of the command cards posted by EndersGame on BGG.

 There are also many player made cards to replace the ones from the game. The ones I saw have excellent artwork on them.

 This is a fun and pretty furious game that will find its way back onto my table for many years.



Overview Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will qu...

Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers) Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers)

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

November 2018

Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers)


Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will quite a strange review as it will be impossible to review it without some minor spoilers - reader beware. Also, the nearly-unique selling point of this game is that every box, or at least the components within it are unique to that copy. My game will have a different mix of cards, terrain, explorers than any other Discover game. I find that individuality quite compelling.

In this game, you're given 5 different scenarios with which to explore, survive and ultimately reveal the underlying story of the game, your game. Scenarios 1-4 are fully co-operative and should be played in order, in which your characters/survivors are working together to reveal a mystery story whilst battling thirst, hunger and monsters. During these set-up scenarios, you're being drip-fed a story by revealed cards and objectives that lead to the final and fifth scenario which you can replay as many times as you would like

Each game comes with 2 different terrain types, I had the Badlands and the Island terrain types and 12 different characters, out of a possible 36, each with their own strength and weaknesses. Items, monsters and even the storyline are also variable between boxes. I shudder to think what steps were taken to try to balance the number of different possibilities.

If you're curious to see the contents of my game then you can watch my unboxing video (~9 mins).


The scenarios start with your characters waking up at a campfire of an unfamiliar land. Each particular terrain will have a different counter-mix and different cards. The placement of terrain is also randomised so if you're replaying a scenario and are trying to find a particular landmark and advance the story it will most likely not be in the same location.

The game itself felt well balanced.  you cannot just go for broke and fight every single monster or just search out landmark features. You'll need to care for your survivor making sure they've got adequate supplies of food, water and resources from which you can make useful items. If you're not careful then you'll likely take damage quickly and you will lose the game which will happen after you've taken 4 damage.  If your survivor is eliminated the remaining players keep trying to beat the game so you best have something to do whilst you wait.

The unknown awaits
A turn consists of a day and a night phase. During the day phase, you'll take actions up to your stamina limit or whenever you decide to stop.  Most actions cost 1 stamina and there are 10 different actions available to you. Each night you'll recover some stamina so that you can function again the next day. However, as you'd expect, during the night phase your survivors have to deal with some threats.

Whilst trying to survive you're trying to meet scenario objectives or 'stages', these are sequential, the first stage has to be complete before revealing the next and scenarios have 3 or 4 stages. Only the active stage is revealed to players. If you complete all stages, then you've won the scenario and can play the next.

You survivor will inevitably take damage as they explore the terrain, from monsters, dirty water, events or from the night terrors. Damage is tracked on a nifty tracker with 3 damage wheels and 1 stamina wheel. Damage can be either physical, poison, hunger or thirst but at the point where you need to take a 4th damage, you're done for and out of the game. You can spend resources, to recover from damage which you'll need to do very regularly.

Falling like flies
You'll encounter monsters quite regularly, you can normally avoid them if you want but they do provide relatively large numbers of resources, e.g meat and hides, so killing them is often in your best interest. The combat system is very simple, which is both a good and bad thing. You'll roll 2d12 and compare them against the numbers on the monster's card. If you beat the grey number with the grey dice you cause one damage to the monster, if you beat the red number with the red dice the monster hits you for one damage.  Combat can be altered by other survivors combat support cards, if they're near enough, or by the items you've crafted.

The game is driven by flipping resource tokens and investigating landmarks. Normally you'll flip a token and just reveal a resource of that type, however, sometimes you'll reveal a number which will require to draw the same number from the Exploration deck. Investigating a landmark will also require you to draw the corresponding numbered card from the Exploration deck. The 'story' is largely told through the stage cards and accessing the 'right' exploration cards. Some exploration cards have pre-requisites before you can flip them over or allow you to draw an exploration card 2 higher when resolving a token for example. This was a clever system and I thought, good design, similar to 7th Continent.

Rulebook and excerpt

After all players have used as much stamina as they want, night falls. The night phases get worse, the longer players hang around and as resources are of a nearly finite supply, eventually your survivors will succumb and lose the game. It's in your best interest to do things quickly, however, sometimes you'll find the right landmark on the very last tile, which can be hard to recover from.

The art on the box and the character cards has a nice clean aesthetic which reminded me of Herge's Tintin series. The cards are simple but nice and everything is of the excellent quality that we expect from FFG.  The cardboard wheels have stayed quite tight which is a good thing when you're tracking vital statistics...(nod to Underzo), you don't want them moving without intention which can be the case with similar components from other games. I would have preferred wooden meeples instead of the plastic but that is a trivial gripe.

Maybe expansion space?


The story did not come through as much as we'd like. Often we were left wandering and wondering where to go next. The narrative felt a little loosely tacked on and only revealed by two or three sentences before you're off and trying to complete the next stage. This may be indicative on the uniqueness of each box, the designer(s) would have had a torrid time crow-barring the story into every different version of the game box. I would like to know if the story in my box is the same for all other boxes that contain the Island and Badlands terrains.

The story could be better told if you were able to keep some knowledge or item bonuses from one scenario to the next. Instead, you've got a completely blank slate for each scenario making you feel like you're playing in a vacuum and your choices, or even win and lose, have no bearing on the subsequent scenario. 

Lots of goodness here
 The OCD gamer in me is worrying that maybe I don't have the best mix of components, I have to trust FFG, and I'm sure this is the case, that each game feels approximately the same and my game is neither inferior or better than all the other 'Discoverys' out there.

The fifth scenario plays a little differently from the first 4 and isn't really part of the story. But what it does try to do is done far better in other games. This game really is just 4 scenarios in one base box and I'm not sure you're getting gameplay value for money with this.


This game does lots of clever things that I like but a game about exploration and survival should tell a good story and this one fell a little flat for my group. I like the idea of a unique game box and the game underway looks lovely on the table. It plays in about 100 minutes, which is probably half an hour too long per scenario considering this game's complexity. I'm sure there is a very good game inside and I'm sure we will see other publishers try similar gimmicks, (a-la Keyforge) but I don't think we've reached the pinnacle of unique games design with this title.

I thought the damage mechanism was good, supported by a component of excellent quality, and I liked the simplicity of the combat system if not its' randomness.

I  would like to play another copy of Discover as I'm intrigued, how the designer managed to balance lots of the different elements in each game; are the stories different? do they link together in some way? etc.  Some game groups, or even couples, could really enjoy the open-ended nature of this game and will re-play scenario 5 again and again, but I don't want it to be my group. Sorry FFG.
This game has a huge distribution and you'll still be able to find it in almost every game store; find your nearest Friendly Local Games Store at

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1 - 4
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Playing time: 1-2 hours
RRP: £57.99


Overview Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a so...

Corsair Leader Corsair Leader

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

November 2018

Corsair Leader


Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a solitaire game and for those familiar with the 'Leader' series follows the tried and trusted formula that the earlier games, e.g. Hornet Leader, Apache Leader etc. built upon. The game was a successful Kickstarter campaign raising many times over its funding goal.

The game pits you as a Squadron Commander that has to manage resources, i.e. pilots and aircraft to successful meet sortie objectives i.e. destroying targets, over a campaign series of linked missions. Each target, be it a fuel depot or enemy bombers grants a number of Victory Points which are tallied and compared against a Campaign VP achievement table to determine how successful you were.

There are 15 campaigns in the box, which is a testament to a successful Kickstarter, as many of them were stretch goals. After choosing a campaign and then your starting pilots, you'll 'fly' a number of missions which all follow the same 5 phases of play.  The enemy, always the Japanese, will spawn randomly by a cup-draw mechanic, so no two missions will ever be the same. Each mission plays in about 20 minutes, sometimes much less, depending on the number of site and bandits i.e. the enemy, that appear to defend the target. 

If you're curious about everything you get in the box, watch my unboxing video below (~14 mins)


Each mission consists of a Pre-flight planning phase, the Target Bound Flight, Target Resolution, Home Bound Flight and Debriefing. During the first of these phases the target, your pilots and their armaments will be selected, you'll also place the 'sites' which are the enemy ground units. There were many little touches in this game that I appreciated the design of and this was the first; it makes sense to me that your Intelligence will be more aware of the relatively static ground defences prior to a mission.

During the Target Bound Flight, you'll place your aircraft in any the Pre-Approach areas on the mounted Tactical Display. You'll only know where the enemy aircraft, 'bandits', appear after this step, nicely simulating the unknown quantity of WWII PTO Air Combat namely, finding and being found by the enemy.  Another design appreciation moment came with the Event Cards which randomise an element of the Approach, Target and Home-bound phases, these cards serve to add some distinct flavour to each mission. 

With practice, you'll be through the first two phases in less than 5 minutes. The meat of the tactical game comes during the Target Resolution phase, which is repeated 5 times, during which you'll attempt to engage bandits, destroy sites and the target without taking too much damage yourself.

Engaging bandits was a mini-game in its own right, and in fact felt like a very distilled version of the dogfighting manoeuvring of Wild Blue Yonder, in fact, the two games share a lot of common dog-fighting terminology. In a dogfight, you'll attempt to manoeuvre into favourable positions to attack, and with any bandit or site, 1 hit will be enough to destroy it.  However, bandits are also manoeuvring to get into favourable positions against your aircraft determined by just two simple and quick-to-use tables on the mounted Dogfight Sheet.

Attacks, whether they're the enemies, your own, or whether the target is airborne or ground-based are resolved exactly the same way, by rolling 1d10.  Each counter has got Attack Number(s) clearly printed on the top which the die result is compared to. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the first Attack Number, that's 1 hit on your target. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the second number that's two hits and so on. This is easily remembered and plays quickly, I thought it was an elegant way to determine combat results.

Attack rolls and Manoeuvre rolls may be modified by your pilots' and the enemies Air-to-Air or Air-to-Ground abilities or their relative position to each other confers dice modifiers as well. Some pilots will also fly with a Gung Ho counter which can be used prior to a dice roll to consider it a natural 10 (always a good thing in this game - unless rolling for the enemy!)

Your aircraft won't be in a position to actually attack the Missions' target until the 3rd round at the earliest and you'll only have 3 attempts to destroy the target, which will require multiple hits (6 was fairly common) to consider it destroyed. Each target also has a different number of bandits and sites that must be drawn to defend it along with a maximum number of aircraft that are allowed to go on the mission. It wouldn't be much of a game if you could send every aircraft at your disposal on every mission, each target felt well balanced if not thematic. I managed to fly a mission in the 1945 Luzon campaign without meeting a single bandit - probably quite accurate... Destroying a target nearly always feels like an achievement, especially in earlier Campaign missions in which the bandit and site counter mix are more aggressive. 

The Home Bound Flight is where you'll attempt to rescue any of your 'downed' pilots and the Debrief is where you'll work out if any pilots have been promoted and how much stress they've accumulated, which should factor into your choice of pilot for the next mission. This strategic side of the game is also quite simple but more importantly, it's good fun. I enjoyed setting up my squadron and choosing the pilots, the experience they earnt over campaign almost gave me the same feeling of levelling up an RPG character which is unusual for a wargame.


My previous experience with a 'Leader Series' game was with a Print-n-Play of Hornet Leader. My first and current impressions of this game are that the components are of a fantastic quality which put my homemade components (which I am quite proud of) to shame. The counters punched out more cleanly than any other game I've experienced and there were no chit-pulls to speak of anywhere.


My biggest gripe with this game is with the rules. They're well written, easy to understand and nicely laid out but I didn't find them to be fully comprehensive.  There were a few edge cases during early plays of the game, specifically around dogfights, that were not covered.  Only after repeated plays, did I satisfy myself that I was playing it correctly, and that was achieved by following the Sequence of Play absolutely literally. 

The rules omit to mention anything about the Carrier and Island Operations charts that are included. I have assumed that these are optional parts of the game and I haven't tried them as there were very limited instructions on how to use them and references on them to counters that were not provided. I really like the thought behind them as there would be wildly different considerations for a Squadron Commander launching and recovering aircraft from an airfield or a carrier, but they feel a bit half-baked.

I found a few errors on cards that I have received which for the most part are of an excellent design and quality. Each pilot should have 3 double-sided cards to show their progression from Newbie, through Green, Average, Skilled, Veteran and to Legendary. however I have one pilot who can never be 'Skilled', his reverse side is for a different pilot, which is definitely a printing error. I checked and there are some more errata listed on the publishers game page and bgg discussions for it as well. However, it's good to see a publisher supporting their products; almost a necessity for wargame publishers.

After punching out the counters, I think I've organised and reorganised their storage 4 times. It should be a one-time-job but I was pretty jaded by the third time through. It would be nice if wargame publishers would add a section to their rules on efficient counter storage. Initially, I organised by aircraft types, then realised that a more sensible approach would also be organised by year, and then I realised I needed to factor in the Service (e.g. USAAF, USMC etc.) as well. To be told up front would be a boon, but at least I've now got lots of baggies which fit the box perfectly. This is a nice full box.


The Pacific Theatre is of particular interest to me and I'm grateful to own this solitaire take on tactical air combat in it. It plays quickly and has very high production values.  The overall mechanism is quite simple but gives a nice feeling of accomplishment after a successful campaign. 

Older games like B-17 feel like a purely random sequence of events to me with such little narrative I just never felt immersed. In this game, you're not just along for the ride. The Gung Ho counters and Special Options that you can spend, along with the levelling of your pilots as they progress through a campaign really add to the flavour and give you some tactical and strategic decisions which can make and break your missions. 

The game system overall, and which is shared with all the other 'Leader' games is little lacking in narrative. However, the elements mentioned in the previous paragraph alongside the Event Cards and my imagination provided enough of a story to enjoy my time flying a Corsair over the Pacific against the Japanese Navy and Air Force.  I certainly have enjoyed my time with this game and would like to thank Asmodee Distributors and Dan Verssen Games for sending this review copy.

If you didn't get in on the Kickstarter earlier this year, and if you did, why are you reading this?, it is still available and may even grace your Friendly Local Game Store's shelves. Find your nearest at

Publisher: Dan Verssen Games
Game Website:
Players: 1
Designer: Dan Verssen
Playing time: 90 minutes +
RRP: £86.99


Armored Brigade By Matrix/Slitherine       Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful dur...

Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine

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

November 2018

Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine



 Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful during this season of thanks. It is an adult sized toy chest filled with wargaming goodness for those of us who enjoy gaming a fictional World War III. The forces that you have at your fingertips never really fought each other. A lot of the actual weapons did fight each other, but mostly they were in the hands of different troops. Many of the Middle East conflicts had these same weapons in use. The sheer scope of this game is pretty amazing. I will have quite a few links at the end of the review because this game has had more buzz about it than any game for a good long time.

 The first thing you need to know about the game is that it comes with fifteen scenarios. This game is the ultimate sandbox for wargaming the last years of the 20th century in parts of Europe. The player has a tremendous amount of variables to use in making his various scenarios. From what I have read there will be DLCs with more player ready scenarios and possibly campaigns. The second thing you need to know is that this was a free download game for a long time. What you need to know about this is that this game in its core resembles the free game. In reality the game has come a long way since then. You can see by the list below what is actually included for the player to use in their scenarios. Below that you will see the seven nations that are included with the game.


 This will be my take on the AI. Yes, it may make mistakes that some (remember that word some) human players might not make. However, the idea that is floated about is that all human players will play better than any game's AI is completely wrong. A human player can sometimes be a terrible player of a game, be it chess, wargames, or poker. The only things that a human player does sometimes that an AI almost never does are these:

1. A human player sometimes makes some incredibly foolish, or if you will stupid, moves that take you by surprise. If an AI is not done right it will make stupid moves, but they will be logical stupid moves not illogical.
2. A human player will sometimes game the system by using bad or incomplete rules to win a game by completely non-historical or insane means. What I mean by this is games that allow a regiment of AA to take a city the size of Moscow. 

 The AI in Armored Brigade is done well enough to keep the average wargamer on his toes. It will not (no AI will) be competitive to a gamer who plays one game sixteen hours a day for a month or two. I will say if that is your life, you are not a wargamer, just a person in need of a new hobby or something. Most of us have only limited time to play our wargames. If we are lucky we might get in up to four or five straight hours in a week. I also suspect that many are like myself and play different games pretty much each gaming session we can cram in, meaning that most of us do not play enough of one game to find the AI's pattern in them. Are there games out there with bad AIs, yes. Is this one of them, no. The defense rests.

 So, the salient parts of the game are this. It is single player only (gasp from the audience). On the other hand, I have seen it posted in articles that as low as 10% of all gamers play multiplayer. It comes with only fifteen preset scenarios. I would have liked to see more, and maybe at least one campaign added. I am not a fan of the DLC model that computer games are heading in. I do understand the higher costs companies are dealing with and why the DLC model is probably necessary. However, that does not mean I have to like it.

Farthest Out Zoom

 On the plus side you have a robust AI. The mission generator is one of the best as far as ease and amount of variables a player can use for his scenarios. I do believe by all the buzz that we will be able to choose from a large amount of player made scenarios. Matrix/Slitherine has developed or been involved with a lot of videos to explain most of the game's rules etc. With these, any player who has any questions can get playing in no time, although I did find the game to be intuitive and started playing right away. The scope of the weaponry and troops goes from 1965-1991. With this game you have a very large sandbox for battles in the late 20th century in a lot of Europe. The maps can vary from extremely large to very small to represent any size combat that you want. As a player, you can send orders to different parts of your own force to help with micromanagement. As for the AI on your side please see above. If you are a micromanager, the game allows you to play that way also. It is an RTS, but I wish we would come up with a different moniker. RTS always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and brings visions of Command and Conquer to mind. Maybe we can call these games wargames played in realtime, WPIR instead. Visually the game is a wargame sort of in the mold of the Close Combat series of games. You can zoom in very far, but you will not see tanks done in 3D. You will see very well done top down views of tanks etc. One great addition is that of dummy objectives. This is a neat addition to the game.

Closest Zoom

 My esteemed colleague on the blog would like to see the following added:
 So in wrapping up I am happy to endorse the game to anyone who wants my opinion. The only thing I can really knock the game for is not coming with enough scenarios or a campaign.
Game Trailer:
How to move units:
AB developer interview:

This is a link to the manual:

DDR faction video:
Here is a write up about night time operations:



Against the Odds #32 Birth of a Legend Lee and the Seven Days Against The Odds magazine  The name of this issue&...

Against The Odds #32 Birth of a Legend: Lee and the Seven Days Review Against The Odds #32 Birth of a Legend: Lee and the Seven Days Review

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

November 2018

Against The Odds #32 Birth of a Legend: Lee and the Seven Days Review

Lee and the Seven Days

 The name of this issue's game is 'Birth of a Legend Lee and the Seven Days'. McClellan (Little Mac), the Union general tasked with defeating Joe Johnston, the Confederate general in the Virginia area of the Civil War, decided to attack Richmond from the sea. Little Mac was a very good trainer and great with logistics, however he was almost squeamish about spilling his soldiers' blood. While one would think that was a good thing, in reality it was not. By not fighting anywhere near as hard as his army could, he had them in the field and camps much longer than they should have been. When you realize that the soldiers in the Civil War died mostly from disease, you start to understand. The game included deals with Lee's first campaign with the Army of Northern Virginia against Little Mac and the Army of the Potomac.

 I have reviewed a few ATO magazines and games, and have always been impressed with both. These are some of the articles:

Birth of a Legend
And the Data Shows: Stumblers at the Gates
Simulation Corner: Wargames as Historical Laboratory
Alert at Pearl Harbor

 These are all well written and are well supplied with pictures, maps, and inserts. The magazine always tries to tie in their articles with wargames on the subject. It helps to illustrate both the history and the games mentioned.

Counter Sheet

 For those who want to take a look at the rule book here is the link:
 The game itself, and the article, were in the running for three Charles Roberts Awards. That will tell you how highly it is thought of.

Confederate Counters Close-up

The game map has areas instead of hexes (involuntary shudder). On the other side of the argument, I have gotten used to cards being used in wargames and also block wargames. So I guess it is time to shelve my slight phobia of area movement games, even though my brain keeps repeating hexes, hexes, hexes. The map is very well done and you will have in your hand something no one in either army had at that time: an actual idea of where you are and where the enemy is. Any book or article on the Seven days never fails to mention that parts of Africa were better mapped out than this part of Virginia. It seems by my reading that even the locals were stumped at times in trying to guide either force.

Sequence of play:

Dawn Phase
Army Leader Activation Die Roll
Union Supply Train Relocation
Daylight Phase
Sunset Die Roll
Night Phase
End Phase

 One of the rules that might take players by surprise is about entrenchments. We have all heard about how entrenching was normal in the last years of the war. Actually the troops learned very early to dig in whenever they had the chance. 

 There are several optional rules that she also included. Some of these are:

Lincoln Sends Help
Union Siege Guns
Jackson Sleeps

 The game also comes with copious designer's notes.

Union Counters Close-up

 The game is leadercentric as it should be for the Civil War. Very few and far between are the instances that initiative was taken during the War without checking with superiors. However, when it did happen something either very bad or very good was in the offing. So while playing the Union Little Mac can stymie your best thought out plans, playing as the Confederate, Lee is your ace in the hole. Most of the time he is active during game turns. Going back to the first point, the game does allow for limited activation of units without leaders being present with the troops. Naturally if your commander is active and you have good leaders (did anybody say Confederates), you will have a lot more choices to make. Playing as the Union you must first decide if you are just going to play defensively or actually try to capture Richmond. Unfortunately for you, Little Mac does not help you to be bold in the slightest. Playing as the Confederate you must attack, but when and where? Do you take enormous casualties, as happened historically, or do you try to pry the Union Army off your front porch more subtly? As the Confederate, a draw will do nothing for you. You must either destroy or hobble the Union Army.

 So what is my take on the game? Well besides the areas instead of hexes (just kidding), it plays out pretty well historically. Which to me is the litmus test for wargames. Playing a game that the rules would allow any time period to be played on a map, is not my cup of tea. So, this game has passed the test with flying colors. The designer has to try and put the players in each commander's shoes, even if they don't fit or really want to walk or do anything. Little Mac's subconscious would have been a great piece of history to have on hand. His penchant for imagining victories and enemy hordes still escapes historians. Luckily, you as the Union player know that every Confederate soldier under arms is not on the other side of your picket line.



Compass Games Expo 2018  The date, November 11th 2018. The venue, the Red Lion Hotel situated in Cromwell Ct. The first thing y...

Compass Games Expo 2018 Compass Games Expo 2018

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

November 2018

Compass Games Expo 2018

Compass Games Expo 2018

 The date, November 11th 2018. The venue, the Red Lion Hotel situated in Cromwell Ct. The first thing you will notice is the Hotel itself is massive. It could, and does, accommodate an immense amount of meetings and conferences all at the same time. My wife and I wandered through it at first seeing conference room after conference room for various American Legions.

 After doing at last what any sane person would have done first, we got the actual directions to the Expo. My first look at the Expo was a little perplexing. It looked like it was situated in a hallway. I found out that was just the setup for Compass Games themselves and the Citadel Game Cellar (more on them later). So after taking care of getting admittance, I could then see a large room to the left that was for gaming. Compass Games plans to make this a yearly gathering and has assured me they are going to go for a larger part of the venue next year. Not that there wasn't enough space, they are just hoping to draw in a much larger crowd. It being on a Sunday morning that I went I am sure Saturday and Friday were much busier. The Expo's dates were from the 9th to the 12th of November.

 I had only two Compass games pre-Expo, and those were Sovereign of the Seas and Red Poppies. Well, thanks to Compass' great deals and my wife's permission, I now have three more. These are 1866-The Struggle for Supremacy in Germany, Nine Years-The War of the Grand Alliance, and the piece de resistance Night Fighter Ace. I will definitely be doing a review of Night Fighter Ace and possibly the other two if given the time. 

 The gaming tables had many Compass Games, but also several others. Also on hand were the almost finished products of a few of the upcoming games from Compass. Everyone was congenial and seemed happy to be there except my poor put upon wife. However, Bill Thomas from Compass Games took pity on her and engaged her in a non-wargaming conversation. She wasn't upset to be there, but there was almost a look of, not confusion, more of a quizzical look in her eyes (almost as if she'd encountered aliens). Having only known one wargamer for thirty-five years she had no idea there were others. She also might have been doing mathematical calculations in her mind, trying to compare the size of my eyes looking at the games to our checking account. 

 I did not have time this year to sit down for any gaming, but I am looking forward to it next year. This was my first gaming convention/expo ever so I really had no idea of what to expect. I have seen write ups about them, but didn't know exactly what I would be walking into. I was pleasantly surprised and believe I am hooked now. 

 I had mentioned Citadel Game Cellar earlier. They were there with a lot of games also with good sales for the Expo. They are situated in Groton, CT, and I believe the first time I went there I was eighteen years old. That is a lot of years ago. Once upon a time my idea was to have myself buried under one of their aisles. I never mentioned this to the owner (mostly from fear of being banned), or to anyone else, just in case. You can never be too careful of these things, although they should take it as a compliment because at another time I wanted to be buried under Yale's Library card catalog. 

 So here are some pics I took while annoying some players. My best to Compass Games and I hope this yearly event continues for a long time. Thank you 

Bill Thomas, His Wife, and my purchases


Pathfinder: Kingmaker  By: Owlcat Games, Paizo Published by: Deep silver Before playing any game, you probably do the obv...

Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker

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

November 2018

Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Pathfinder: Kingmaker 

By: Owlcat Games, Paizo

Published by: Deep silver

Before playing any game, you probably do the obvious thing and watch a trailer. Some trailers don't show a lot of what's actually playable, but the trailer for Pathfinder: Kingmaker will not leave you disappointed, and will leave you, wanting more. 

Menu for creating your character
After starting up the game and obviously knowing it was an RPG, I was expecting a few customization options for my character, maybe a few different roles to choose from like 'wizard' or 'hunter', this game however, is very very specific. So much attention to detail, even before starting the game. There are over 20 classes to choose from and then inside each class was a specific role you could choose. I spent about 45 minutes just choosing which I wanted. The class I was instantly fascinated by was 'Barbarian' as you could then choose a role called 'mad dog' where you could have a companion. After selecting your class you choose your characters name and then add points to what you want their strengths to be (e.g. charismatic, stealth) and then you're off into the game.

You start off in Swordlord Jamandi Aldori's mansion, where your character and other adventurers of different classes and races have been summoned. The reason you have been summoned, in basic terms, is to try and claim the stolen lands, an unsettled region with no real ruler. All the adventurers are to be put into teams, and whichever team can take down the stag lord, a bandit leader who thinks he has the stolen lands and then defeat anyone else in their path, becomes the true ruler of the stolen lands. Before you're about to set off on your mission, the mansion is attacked and you're left to try and get out and save as many of the other adventurers as possible, however not many of the others are left and so only two teams are set up, your character being the leader of one of them.


There are a few characters in the game that have a real charm to them, one of them being Linzi, an author who wants to write a book about a 'hero', and the person she has coincidentally chosen to write her book about is your character. She accompanies you on your journey and is one of the main players in your team. Another character that really stands out, and one of my personal favourites is Amiri. She's a Barbarian and when you first meet her at the mansion she seems a bit off, not liking many of the other warriors and is bit of a lone wolf. However, after you save the remainder of the people in the mansion, she requests to join your team. Her sarcastic dialogue just adds a good amount of humour to the game, mostly with her witty and pretentious comments towards being 'powerful' or enemies being 'easy' to defeat. 

In all honesty, this game is full of potential to do anything you want, there are so many side quests, things to collect, people to battle, places to visit. That you are left with hours of content. Playing about six hours of the game, I got absolutely nowhere with the story as there is just so much to explore and I kept getting distracted by all the new places and people, and saw it as a chance to collect XP, which you definitely need to do as Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a very tactical game, working off a board game engine. The board game elements are some of my favourite things about this game. There's a charming little board game animation when you travel on your quests and when you defeat an enemy on your path, the little board game piece is knocked over, just as it would be in a real board game. 

Travelling to different locations

Here's a quick summary of the things that Pathfinder Kingmaker has that I was majorly impressed with:

  • Diverse and endless story 
  • Vast characterization options 
  • In detail dialogue that really helps the story flow
  • Amazing characters that give the story lots of life 
  • EVEN more content with the DLC to open up new stories and other items
  • Lots of ways to level up your characters (Without having to just go through the main story)
  • Soundtrack that fits the feel of the game perfectly

One thing that would be really great to add, is a multiplayer feature, not necessarily so it becomes an MMO but just being able to link up to a friends game and go on quests together, it would be a nice touch. 

Pathfinder: Kingmaker stays true to the board game, using the dice-based system and rules. This means, you have to be very tactical at your approach towards certain things like traps, or attacking enemies because your attacks could end up missing or not doing as well as you hoped for.If you're not used to this type of game, it would probably be good to start out with one of the pre-made characters where all of the stats would be balanced instead of just choosing random ones that don't link together very well. However, I chose to make my own character and didn't feel like I was at any disadvantage, even not knowing all of the game mechanics very well at all, it's still a very thrilling adventure that you could spend hours and hours playing. 

For adventures in the Stolenlands, go buy Pathfinder: Kingmaker now on Steam .