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NORWAY 1940 FROM TRAFALGAR EDITIONS It's interesting that, following two famous Napoleonic battles, Trafalgar Editions turned t...


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

July 2019


It's interesting that, following two famous Napoleonic battles, Trafalgar Editions turned to this seldom gamed battle from the early years of WWII.  Even more so, in that this represents a move towards a more familiar style of board wargame.  Gone, almost, are the measuring counters and miniatures-influenced systems of the previous two games and in comes more familiar area style movement and cardboard units.  I say almost, because there's still a single, simple measuring stick for air movement!
Just to prove it!
What also remains is the high standard of production.  I can't think of another game box where a simple, vivid white background has been used to better effect.  Unfortunately the camera cannot adequately reflect this or you wouldn't be able to see the picture!  It's complemented by three subtle grey images depicting the three military arms of air, land and sea.  But dominating in startling style is the use of dark maroon, grey and black to depict Norway while symbolising the ribbon against which the central iron cross stands out.

Inside the box, the superb double panel mapboard is equally stunning.  Though the use of a substantial part of the board area to display all the key charts has its definite uses, it does detract from the highly effective and striking map area.

Two of the main play aids that also act as screens for secret force allocation continue this standard of production.  They carry evocative scenes on the front and symbolic images on the two side panels.

Inside are printed reinforcement schedules and the displays [see below] that they screen provide information about the Naval Combat and Transports pts each side receives and a display of Task Forces for placing naval and land units on.

These displays are functional in simple black and white printing, but despite their seeming clarity, there are issues in understanding the information that they are meant to convey.  These problems I'll consider later, when I look at the rule book.

The final components are a fine range of units and markers in two sizes.  The die-cutting is first-rate, with every single one pressing out of the counter sheets perfectly.  All three military arms play their part in this game, with land and air units being substantially larger than the naval units.  In part, this is because the former two have more information to convey while naval units come in basic generic points that do not distinguish types of vessel.

Counters galore
The rule book is physically the best produced of Trafalgar Editions three games, but also the most complex and at times the most confusing.  It's a substantial design, partly because all three military arms are treated in equal depth and introduce some novel features.

A typical turn has five stages:

Weather Phase
Supply Phase
Naval Phase
Air Phase
Land Phase

The Weather Phase

A help to learning the rules is that not all of these Phases or some element of them occur from the very beginning of the game. For example, the Weather Phase is not needed until Turn 6.  From this point on a simple die roll with small modifications determines the weather in the three sea zones that run from north to south.  It's also important to mention that you need to be alert to the difference between a Turn and a Day.  Sometimes the rules will clearly state that something happens on a specific Turn [as Turn 6 above], but more often it will refer to a Day.  For example, the first German forces start on Day 7.  This refers to the actual date, in this case the 7th April, which is Turn 1 of the game.  So, be careful, it's easy to slip up as the Turn Track doesn't print the turn numbers, only the dates!

The Supply Phase too doesn't begin immediately, but only from Turn 7 when the Germans must start to check for land units being in supply and try to bring in supply by air or sea for units that are out of supply while the Allies simply trace to a city or port.  In contrast, air and naval units never need to check for supply.

The Naval Phase

It comes as no surprise that the Naval Phase is important right from the start, as the only units that form the Set Up are the Norwegian units most of which are land units with small numbers of naval units in the ports of Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen and Kristiandsand and a single German fleet of German naval combat points at sea transporting a single mountain regiment and a small quantity of supplies.

The essential Naval rules are fairly straightforward, but cover an interesting range of actions.  Features that I liked are that Task Force markers are used which have a detected and undetected side, as well as a number of Decoy Task Forces.  The first two turns' German Task Forces are predesignated with specific land units being transported by the accompanying Naval Combat points of ships and each task force has a pre-set destination port .  This is unusual, but the rules explain this simulates the historical fact that these early troops were transported by warship.

From then on the German player uses a pool of Naval Combat Points and Naval Transport Points to create their own Task Forces and selecting which German land units are shipped aboard the transports and where they will be sent to.  I love the concept of this and the realistic and immersive feel, but here I encountered the main problem referred to earlier in that the rules leave far too much to be deduced and worked out from cross-referencing scanty rules and charts with too little information.  That said, Trafalgar Editions were excellent in answering my flurry of emails to help me make sense and arrive at the correct game play.

By contrast, the Allied Player has a much more prescribed and clear set of reinforcement details on their chart.  Though it is here that the care needed to distinguish "turns" from "days" mentioned earlier has to be born strongly in mind, as well as a careful reading of the rules.  Once the problems encountered in this area had been solved, it was into the joys of composing the make-up of the Task Forces, trying to avoid detection or achieve detection using both their ships and air reconnaissance, naval combat and landings.  Thrown into this mix is a small number of submarines and once again the rules were disappointingly unclear and needed the company's help to discover that they are a free asset that can be brought into play when desired!

The Air Phase

A final point to take care noting is that the Naval Phase precedes the Air Phase, though the rules present them in the opposite order. Each player receives a fixed number of Air Points each turn in three separate types [Fighter, Bomber and Recon], while only the German player also gets Air Transport points too.  Like most of the rules, there is a lot of small detail to absorb and often record, though the recording element of the game is easily carried out by markers on a few simple displays.  

The explanation of the different missions, airfields both on the Norwegian map and in boxes representing Great Britain, Denmark and Germany, German Parachutists and the many various limitations and restrictions take up three and half pages making this phase as detailed as both the preceding Naval Phase and the Land Phase to come.  
Added to this is the need to remember that bombers can be used to attack fleets, directly bomb land units to hinder their movement and
be used as land support to boost combat arms effects in the land phase.  It is a comprehensive array and matches the equally detailed set of naval rules, which are longer than even those for the Land Phase.

Land Phase

In fact, the rules for this phase are about the simplest in the whole game, except for two factors: the use of the less familiar flag system for showing unit size and a highly innovative combat system. The former has made its appearance in a small number of games over the years and in itself isn't hard to become accustomed to.  The only drawback is more for older eyes, as they are printed very small!

Combat, on the other hand, is a very unusual affair and one that I've not encountered before in 43 years of gaming!  Units do not have fixed combat factors.  Instead each unit possesses a die-roll modifier and rolls a separate die [either D6 or D3, depending on the size of the unit] to which the modifier is then added.  The results are then totalled, along with additional Combined Arms modifiers.  The differential between the two players final totals determines the losers losses.  This makes for some surprising results and makes any attack where the number and size of units is fairly equal a very uncertain and hazardous undertaking.  This is very strange, as the majority of games where the odds are more or less even tend to produce small losses to both sides, with no potential at all for massive losses.

For a game at this scale, it is most unusual to find a combat system where the winner of a combat suffers no losses at all and this is one aspect of the game that I would love to know the designer's intentions and whether there is something specific to this campaign intended to be modelled.

Overall, I've found the game intriguing.  I like the fact that air, sea and land all play their part.  For the Allied player I would say that the naval element is crucial to their possibilities for victory, while the German player dominates on land and his/her success depends on getting the bulk of those land units ashore.  So, in a way the naval battle too is crucial for the German!

In concepts and systems too the game has many pluses in the broad picture, but I find the many, many small points and exceptions make for a set of rules that are hard to encompass without fairly frequent rule checking.  If these were a set of rules that would be suitable to model a wide range of WWII battles, then eventual familiarity would be acquired.  But as they seem suited specifically to this one specific campaign in Norway, I can foresee the same learning curve needing  to be climbed in future outings. 
Norway defended - let battle commence.

Once again thanks to Trafalgar Editions both for the review copy and kind support. 


T ime for another gameplay video featuring some early game scenarios from the upcoming Fantasy General II ! You may...

Fantasy General II - First Look Gameplay (Video) Fantasy General II - First Look Gameplay (Video)

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

July 2019

Fantasy General II - First Look Gameplay (Video)

Time for another gameplay video featuring some early game scenarios from the upcoming Fantasy General II! You may remember the original Fantasy General from way back in the 90's, a spin-off of the genre launching Panzer General. The series is back and looking more three-dimensional than it once did. I was lucky enough to get an early build of the game and wanted to share it with you, so far it's looking pretty sharp!

- Joe Beard 


The newest DLC for Gladius is out, and it brings the Chaos Space Marines to the fray. I haven't had enough time with the game yet t...

Chaos Space Marines DLC for WH40K Gladius - Gameplay Video Chaos Space Marines DLC for WH40K Gladius - Gameplay Video

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

July 2019

Chaos Space Marines DLC for WH40K Gladius - Gameplay Video

The newest DLC for Gladius is out, and it brings the Chaos Space Marines to the fray. I haven't had enough time with the game yet to give a full review, but I wanted to share some gameplay if you wanted to see how they handle in the early turns.

- Joe Beard


A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International   Quarterdeck Games (1981-1988) was a company I had heard and read...

A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International

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

July 2019

A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International

A Step To Victory


Quarterdeck International

 Quarterdeck Games (1981-1988) was a company I had heard and read about for quite a while. To be honest, I didn't know about their revival until recently. I had seen some of the naval games that had been made down through the years by Jack Greene, but for one reason or another I never picked one up. So, I am very proud that Quarterdeck International sent me two games to review. This one is on the Campaign for Bougainville from 1943-45. The game is very small and comes with this:

36 Counters
One sheet with Terrain Effects and Combat Results

 The map is 11" x 17". The game needs a six-sided die to play.

 The sequence of play is:

Allied Player Turn
Reinforcement Phase
Movement Phase
Combat Phase
Japanese Player Turn
Reinforcement Phase
Movement Phase
Combat Phase

 The rulebook is only seven pages long. As you can guess,  there are not a lot of rules to try and remember. The game is only ten turns long. If the Allies do not control any of the Japanese bases at the end of the game, it is a decisive Japanese victory. Other than that, both sides can accumulate victory points in various ways. Both players can 'rest' all of their troops by declaring the turn a 'rest' one. The Japanese Player cannot rest his troops after turn six. This represents the Japanese units being cut off from any supplies, especially food.

 The other usual wargame rules are also represented: zones of control, stacking, and movement cost for the different terrain. Combat is resolved by the Combat Results Table. The game rules follow the arrival and departure of the three different Allied forces. First the US Marines land and then are removed and replaced by the US Army between turns three to five. On turn six, all of the US troops are removed and the Australians take over. 

 This is not a game about blitzkrieg. Like all of the islands in the South Pacific, trying to get troops from one part of the island to another is a nightmare. Bougainville has a spine of mountains and hills through the center of the island. The fighting here was as bad as that on New Guinea. Half of the battle is against nature. The only real thing I can ding the game for is that the map does not show 'Hellzapoppin' Ridge. This could be because the game map is bilingual in both Japanese and English. This is a great little game. Replay is somewhat limited because of the limited terrain, although the friction of war can make it a somewhat different game each time you play. Thank you Quarterdeck International for letting me review A Step To Victory.

Quarterdeck International:

A Step To Victory:



Field Commander Alexander by  Dan Verssen Games   A madman wears the crown, and everyone around him, courtier...

Field Commander Alexander by Dan Verssen Games Field Commander Alexander by Dan Verssen Games

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

July 2019

Field Commander Alexander by Dan Verssen Games

Field Commander Alexander


Dan Verssen Games

 A madman wears the crown, and everyone around him, courtiers, generals, even concubines are not safe from his murderous drunken outbursts. He believed himself at one time to be the son of a God, but now he thinks himself a God. He is distrustful of the soldiers who won him the crown of the world. A besotted paranoid maniac; this is what Alexander has become. If someone didn't kill him out of self-preservation it would be amazing.

 This game shows the campaigns of Alexander in four scenarios, from the earliest battles when he had just gotten the crown, to his conquest of much of the known world. From Chaeronea to his hardest battle at the Hydaspes, his battles and campaigns are here. I want to thank DVG for adding in the siege of Tyre. Sieges, if represented at all in games, are usually just a die roll. The game is a solitaire one where you fill the shoes of the half mortal Alexander. This is what comes with the game:

4 11"x17" Campaign Maps
1 Counter Sheet
1 Six-sided die
1 Player Log sheet

The four Campaigns are

Granicus - 338 BC to 334 BC
Issus - 333 BC to 332 BC
Tyre - 332 BC
Gaugamela - 331 BC to 323 BC

First Counter Sheet

 This is the sequence of play:

  Advance Turn Counter
  Refit ( -2 Gold per Refit )
  Enemy Orders
  Enemy Operations
  Scouting Roll
   ( If roll > Forces suffer hits
   if roll < Forces lose Gold)
   Move Army
   Battle / Intimidate
    Gain Glory
    Raze or Govern
  May Repeat
  Gain Gold
  Spend Gold and Glory

Granicus Map

 This is the newest reprinting of the game, although there doesn't seem to be many changes between the versions. The main game mechanic is for you, playing as Alexander, to win gold and glory. In each campaign these can be used to continue your conquering ways. Glory points can be especially helpful because they allow you to buy Insight Counters and Advisor Counters. These are some of them:

Insight Counters
Anticipation - Play before the enemy 
 draws Battle Plans. Enemy does not 
 Draw any Battle Plans for this battle.
Courtesans - May play after seeing an
  intimidation roll. Add 4 to the roll.

Advisor Counters
Aristander (Seer) - After seeing each 
 Enemy Orders for roll, you may add 1
 to the roll.
Parmenion (General) - The enemy 
 receives 3 fewer Battle Plans in battle.

Issus Map

 Another major game mechanic is to accept or shun a prophecy when you move into an area that has an oracle. You must decide to accept or shun it before turning over the counter to see the actual prophecy. The number on the Prophecy counter is how many turns you have to complete the prophecy. Completing it on time means that your Alexander gains 1 Glorification, and just a smidgen more madness. Failing to complete it means that you have to drop 1 level of Glorification or remove an advisor for the rest of the game. If you cannot do either, you lose the game. There are 1- 8 Alexander counters. Each one measures his Glorification level, one being the lowest and 8 representing full blown psychosis. Just ask Kassander.


Player Log/Battle Board

 The game comes with one player log that you can copy to use over if you want to keep track of different campaigns you wage. The player log also has information about Battle Plans etc. At the bottom of the Player Log is the battlefield, which is more like a battle board. You line up yourself and your enemy's forces in two lines. "Arrange them from left to right in order of the highest to lowest speed". Both Alexander and his enemies have Battle Plans they can use. Depending upon the situation and the Alexander player's use of gold etc, this will determine the amount of Battle Plans both sides have. You resolve any Pre-Battle plans first, and then get down to business. The battles are set up so that the two heroic leaders (if an enemy leader is present) will have a go at each other. The only slightly strange rule is that only the Alexander unit in his army can attack the enemy leader. The enemy leader unit can attack other units in Alexander's force. Once the leaders have begun to attack each other, they must continue to attack each other until the end of the battle. As Alexander you can choose to retreat from battle (to your everlasting shame). However, unlike in history, this does not necessarily mean it is the end of the war.

Tyre Map

 This marks my sixth review of a DVG solitaire game. Just like the others, the components are very well done, as are the rules. Field Commander Alexander seems to have more immersion than the others I have played. You as the player want to win, but you are also pitting yourself against the Great One's record. As almost any general before you since 323 BC, your victories and pace of conquest is measured against Alexander. Hopefully you don't also get a good dose of megalomania in the bargain. Thank you DVG Games for letting me review another great game.

Dan Verssen Games:

Field Commander Alexander:



Rule the Waves II by Naval Warfare Simulations      So the first thing you need to know is that you only have ...

Rule the Waves II by Naval Warfare Simulations Rule the Waves II by Naval Warfare Simulations

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

July 2019

Rule the Waves II by Naval Warfare Simulations


Naval Warfare Simulations


 So the first thing you need to know is that you only have two scenarios to pick from, 1900 and 1920. The second thing you need to know is this is a sandbox game from beginning to end. This is so sandboxy that you might need to empty your sneakers out when done playing. This is not a bad thing, just something you should know up front. There are no built in World War I or World War II scenarios in the game. You are dropped into the shoes of your country's Naval Chief of Staff. Everything, absolutely everything, is in your control. The other part of the job is that if you screw up, there goes the job and game. You can build any force you want, within restraints, but if it doesn't function in the battles you will need to fight, then off with your head. 

 For those of us who stare at spreadsheets Monday through Friday, this may seem like a strange game for us to pick. You will be looking at spreadsheets, a lot of them. Just like in the real world, the biggest constraint to your naval dominance is cash, cold hard cash. Without it you cannot build a minesweeper, let alone a super-battleship. So let us say you want to build that 80,000 ton behemoth. Well the first catch is that your dock size only accommodates 40,000. So you had better start building, but of course construction costs money. Next up, you want to have it carry 20" guns; great, but your country only has researched up to 16". Then you have to research 17" through 19" before you even start  researching 20" ones. Hopefully you see where I am going with this.


 Before you get the wrong impression, I really like the game. Yes, it is a study in office politics, negotiations, and those dreaded spreadsheets. However, once you have the screens under your belt the actual game story starts to flow. Remember this is your Navy, not King's or Yamamoto's, yours. You have every reason to be proud of all of the ships that you have rolled off the docks (or not, if they are all duds). What do you do when you are in that Admiral's chair? Do you go for big guns, or do you throw the dice only on air power? If I haven't made it clear yet, it is all up to you. It is possible to let your computer subordinates help you in many ways, such as designing ships etc. but where is the fun in that?

Country Selection Screen

 Some countries, such as Britain, Japan, and the United States, have deeper pockets and give you a better starting position out of the gate than say Austro-Hungary. That is not to say you can't win with other countries, but your vision for your Navy can be visualized much quicker with some nations.

New Game or Saved Game Screen

 As you can see, the player can have nine saved games at the same time. You can however, write over any of them at any point in time. I might as well bring up the dreaded DRM of the game right now. Yes, it does have an ET phone home part of the process to it. It is incredibly easy to use the process and I had no problems whatsoever. It does not phone home (like another naval game that shall not be mentioned) every thirty seconds or so.

Main/Ship Screen

 This screen is what you will call home for a lot of the game. It is also the screen where you can view your new super-dreadnoughts or your rusty old scows. This is also the screen where money juggling will become an art. Why exactly do you have twenty year old ships still in your fleet? Is it worthwhile to upgrade them in any way, or do you simply scrap them for there steel? If you do scrap too many your government might ask some questions. You will also have to keep track of your tonnage in different areas of the world. Don't forget that you have to have your flag flying in many different ports. Gunboat Diplomacy may be derided now, but in the game's time it was one of the main reasons for your fleet to be in existence. 

 On the right of the above screen you will see how your country is doing diplomatically with the other countries in the game. You can see that I have five countries in the green, which is where you want them.The baby 'blank' color (why oh why that color!) is where you will be heading toward a confrontation. Many things could happen along the way though.

Ship Design Screen

  To many players this is the heart of the game and why they bought it in the first place. Is your next design a war winner or the next Vasa? Ship design can also be constrained by following the rules of the different naval treaties that were in force during the game's time frame.


 In the screen above you can see that I am at war with France. Once that happens, windows will pop up to see if you want to battle it out with the enemy's force. In this case I have two light cruisers and the enemy has a battle cruiser and two light cruisers with six destroyers. If you decline battle the enemy is automatically given the specified amount of Victory Points. Although, as in this case, "discretion is the better part of valor".

Aircraft Type Screen

 You can fight real battles or even take your fleet out on exercises. Speaking of which, this is one place where I will knock the game. Of course it could be me, but I have never been able to cancel a fleet exercise once it has started. By the way, fleet exercises cost money also. 

 So is the game a boring dud or a direct hit from a 16" shell? It is a direct hit as long as you take the time to put some effort into it. This is not a game that you can play halfheartedly while watching the Bears (I am a Packers fan but when Football teams' names come up, I can never forget SNL's "da Bears"). Take your time and slowly get into the cold water of the North Atlantic or wherever you have chosen to run roughshod over your country's naval history from this moment on. Some players tinker for hours on end on the ship design screen. Others let the computer take up that task to get into the thick of battle. Who cares, as long as it is fun for you, and this game can definitely be fun, as long as you let it.

Rule The Waves I review:

For more info on the tactical side of the game please see these reviews:

Steam and Iron The Russo-Japanese War

Steam and Iron The Great War With the Campaign Expansion