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SHERMAN LEADER from DAN VERSSEN GAMES A good starting point would be with my earlier review of Tiger Leader , as clearly there...





A good starting point would be with my earlier review of Tiger Leader, as clearly there is much in common!  Identical size and quality of box...identical... identical.  As Sherman Leader is almost the mirror image of its predecessor, this is all to be expected.  Certainly no slipping of quality control - all my usual praise for the physical components can be echoed here.

The map board on which virtually everything takes place is identical[give or take about 1 cm!], except that rather than German field-grey, the overall colour is American olive drab.  [Note that "drab" is not a criticism, but the technical colour palette name]. 

The terrain overlays are slightly less glossy;  marginally, I think that I prefer them, yet prefer the older terrain art work for the snow-bound tiles of the Bulge Campaign.  By historical necessity, some of the campaigns included in the previous game cannot be part of this package when focusing on the American side of WWII.  North Africa, Italy, the Normandy Campaign and Germany obviously feature, but in come three Pacific campaigns: the Philippines 1942, Saipan 1944 and Okinawa 1945.  To accompany the new Pacific Campaigns, we have new jungle terrain and a separate Battalion Deck for the Japanese.  These are identified on the front of the cards by appropriate symbols and pictures.

The Leader cards feature artwork in muted colours, while the illustrations on the cards with scenes and equipment from WWII remain the black and white type found in Tiger Leader.  We already know that some people liked them and some didn't - I did.  So, presumably there's still the difference in taste now  - and I still like them.  No surprises there!

As before, oodles of high quality counters and cards, all very familiar, as is the whole sequence of play.  So, for those of you familiar with the Leader series and especially with Tiger Leader you may wish to skip over the next sections.

First choose a Campaign and then select an Objective card.   These will determine the range of units that will be involved.  This particularly affects the range of tanks that you will be up against.  I like this attention to detail, as equipment for a campaign can only be chosen from the historical period during which they were operational.  At least with the Germans I had become familiar with what to expect, but the Japanese forces, especially their tanks have been a whole new learning experience.  Obviously the location of a Campaign affects the dominant terrain, again the jungle of the Pacific Campaigns is the new element for me personally to familiarise myself with. 

In game terms, the combination of Campaign and Objective is most significant in producing SO [Special Option] points, which are the purchasing power for the troops you stock your campaign with and to buy a few sundry benefits.  Your units range from basic infantry, including machine gun and mortar teams, through armour and light armour to anti-tank, half-tracks and artillery.  You can also buy trucks and scouts, but these don't appear as counters on your map.  Instead, trucks help in reducing the SO cost of attacking enemy battalions in specific locations on the Tactical Display Sheet, while scouts allow you to extend the standard number of 5 turns in a battle.  Both can be absolutely essential buys at times.

Before purchasing your units, you must randomly draw Enemy Battalion Cards up to the Campaign’s value. There are three types of battalion: Assault, Supply and Command and you must always select them in the order to 2 Assault, 1 Supply and 1 Command.  I’ve often thought it might be a good idea if some Campaigns had modifiers to the Objective Cards to reflect special historical circumstances.

These will be the total number of enemy Battalions that you will face over the course of a typical campaign which will last from 3 to 5 weeks.  Each week, you will make the choice of which of these Battalions you will fight and the number of them that you destroy by the end of the campaign will determine your level of success.  

Next you buy [using your OPs points] your unit cards and then you choose the correct type of Commander card for each type of Unit card (from the four basic categories: Infantry, Armour, Light Armour and Artillery). The Skill Level from Recruit to Ace and the number of each that you are allowed is given on the Campaign card. The earlier the Campaign, the less likely that you will be able to choose any Veteran or Ace Commanders, while gaining Experience points as the Campaign progresses will allow you to upgrade their Skill levels.

There is a photocopyable Roster Sheet to fill in all the essential
details and then it’s off to choose which enemy Battalion you’re going to fight in your first week and which of your units you decide to assign to combat each Battalion.  

Here is the typical layout for an encounter in one of the pacific campaigns.. At top right you can see the display on which the enemy battalion counters will be displayed, showing the various locations from Enemy Breakthrough to Friendly Staging area.  The nearer these are to your own troops, the fewer Ops points you will need to spend in order to engage with the enemy.

Once you've made your choice of Battalion to fight, you place your own units on the map and then draw the appropriate types of enemy units as shown on the Battalion card and according to random dice rolls place them on the map.   As mentioned earlier, most battles last 5 turns with the ability to extend the length is you've purchased scout cars.

In a turn, each enemy unit will activate according to dice rolls on the Tactical Movement chart printed on the bottom right of the play board.  Those of your units that have a Fast Commander will move and fire first, while those which have a Slow Commander will move and fire after the enemy units!   The earlier in the war a Campaign is the more likely that your Commanders will be Slow.  Again, as the Skill of a Commander is upgraded the change to becoming a Fast Commander will tend to occur.

A few tweaks have improved the game play, but only in what I would consider very minor ways.   For those who found fault with Tiger Leader, I do not think that they will find any changes that will significantly change their view.  Personally, I was well pleased with all elements of the former game and considered the rule book to be even easier to digest than those for the many Leader series games that concentrated solely on air warfare.  Sherman Leader maintains that clarity and ease of reading with continued excellence in graphical layout and consistent high quality illustrations, as seen in just a couple of examples laid out below.

One of the major features of these two games that I like is the marrying of Commander cards to unit cards, with the reality that a unit may lose its Commander in battle or that the unit may be destroyed while the Commander survives.  Obviously, for many the delight of Sherman Leader is the fact that this game places you in the role of directing the Allied forces that previously you could only fight against.

For those of you already owning Tiger Leader, there is the added value that the Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit comes as part of the package and a lovely substantial addition it is with 4 full sheets of counters, 6 supplemental sets of cards and a complete new rule book. Personally, I was fortunate to receive a bonus of the WWII Tank Leader Commander cards expansion pack.  These cards add a superb new element to both games giving you a set of enemy Commanders who will be randomly drawn and allocated to each enemy Battalion.   These cards give your enemy units bonuses and abilities.  For those of you who like a tough fight, the going just got tougher!  Though it's intended that these be randomly drawn, who can't be enticed by the thought of coming up against Erwin Rommel or Heinz Guderian or even, when playing the Germans, encountering Bernard Montgomery.  My only complaint is that, amazingly, I cannot take on General George Patton!! 

So, all in all, a total thumbs up to this latest addition to the many great Leader games.

Thanks again to DVG for providing the review copies.



  1. My only complaint, is you did not put a link to the game on DVGs website to make it easier for folks to look and possibly buy. In all of my game reviews I have links to the game for that purpose, to make it easier for the reader.