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Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC - AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito      Megas Alexandros is dead, more...

Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC - AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC - AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito

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

December 2019

Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC - AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito

Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC - AD 30


Gabriele Esposito


  Megas Alexandros is dead, more then likely poisoned by one or more of his closest generals. Alexander had put to death a good number of his father's old guard and the ones that were left were feeling very insecure. There had also been several plots on Alexander's life. It is possible that Alexander died a natural death, but even so the Macedonian generals probably did not shed many tears.

 This book describes probably my favorite period of history: the Age of the Diadochi (Successors) of Alexander. It is the time from Alexander's death to the Roman conquest of the Hellenistic States. This was the age of the Macedonian Phalanx. This time period also saw the first large use of elephants in war outside of the Indian Peninsula.

 The book starts with the father of Alexander, Phillip II, forming Macedon into a military state, and the reforms that he put into place to make the Macedonian Army the greatest in the known world. It then goes into the story of Alexander and how he used the army to conquer a large chunk of the that world. From there it goes into the history of the Wars of the Diadochi, often referred to as Alexander's Funeral Games. The names of the various contenders, Antigonus, Cassander, and Ptolemy are well known to most people. This takes up the first third of the book.

 The next part of the book goes into the history and the Armies of the different monarchies that evolved from Alexander's Empire. The Antigonid (Macedonia), Seleucid (Asian), and Ptolemaic (Egypt) monarchies' Armies are gone into in detail. All of the various wars between the realms are also described in the book. Their final fall at the hands of Rome are also discussed. The smaller nations such as Pontus and its king, Mithridates the Great, are gone into by the author. Mithridates' sole claim to fame is being the mole for many years in a Roman version of whack-a-mole.

 The book is adequately supplied with maps. The book's greatest asset is that is liberally filled with color photographs of all of the different troops that were used in the various armies. These are a treasure trove for miniature gamers. The different arms and armor of the period are reproduced as well. As a primer for the history of the times it is an excellent book. For the wargamer it serves as a valuable resource. Thank you Casemate Publishers for letting me review this book.


Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers


Tank Duel Enemy in the Crosshairs by GMT Games  Tanks in battle; this is what has drawn a lot of us into warg...

Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs by GMT Games Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs by GMT Games

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

December 2019

Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs by GMT Games

Tank Duel

Enemy in the Crosshairs


GMT Games

 Tanks in battle; this is what has drawn a lot of us into wargaming. Remember the pictures and info of the tanks on the back of Panzer Blitz? What is the first thing we all do with a tank wargame? We check the stats of all the different vehicles to see if they match what we believe. If the numbers are different than what we believe we almost invariably let out a little harumph, and scoff a bit at the designer. When a post is made online about the stats that a tank should have, or which tank is better, you might as well just sit back and enjoy the fireworks. To question someone's stats on their favorite tank is worse at times than insulting their mother! So, let us open up the game and let the fights begin.

 The first thing you will notice is the weight of the game. My scale has it coming in at about six pounds. You can tell by the design on the front that this is a game about Russian and German tanks in conflict. The front picture is somewhat strange. It has the commander of a T-34 pointing at a commander of a Panther, and both of these are standing halfway out of their hatches. The Russian commander is just pointing and the German is looking at him with his arm draped over his hatch mounted MG 34. It is a very well done painting of both tanks. It just leaves the viewer wondering if they are playing 'tag' or something else. The game is for one to eight players. The best part of the game for these long winter nights is that it comes with a 'Full Solitaire System'. No need for us to fiddle or wait until some half baked solitaire system is posted somewhere. This is what comes in the box:

● 129 Battle Cards (100 base Battle Cards, 1 Game End Card, 1 Shuffle Card, and 27 Alternate and City Battle Cards)
● 21 Damage Cards
● 6 On Fire Cards
● 6 Broken Cards
● 6 Anti-Tank Gun Cards
● 8 Anti-Tank Infantry Cards
● 30 Other Cards (15 Scenario Cards, 7 Road/Hill Cards, 4 Solo Move Cards, 2 Infantry Advance Cards, and 2 Deep Mud/Snow Storm Cards)
● 10 Robata Cards
● 4 Reference Cards
● 16 double-sided tank boards
● 3 sheets of counters
● 8 player aids
● 1 Solo player aid
● A Rulebook and Playbook

 The game components are 'marvelous, simply marvelous', and come in Corinthian Leather. Sorry, just a joke showing my age. The Rule Booklet is twenty pages long and is in full color. There are many insets to help the player deduce how to play this beast of a game. The Play Booklet is fifty-two pages long and is crammed full of goodies. The first eighteen pages of the Booklet contains a very well done tutorial on how to play the normal game. There are then three pages of Advanced and Optional rules. These include Anti-Tank Guns, Radios, and Infantry. The next thirteen pages are for the scenarios that come with the game and suggestions for creating your own, or modifying the existing scenarios. The Solitaire Rules for the game start on page thirty-six. The solitaire component in the game is called 'Robata'. There is then a five page Solitaire Play Example. The Booklet ends with three pages of Designer Notes. The Player Aid Cards are well laid out and give the player exactly what information he needs at his fingertips. The Tank Boards have an aerial view of the tank that they are showing. They are large enough for the player to keep track of everything from crew to terrain, and also a penetration table for the main gun. The Tank Boards are as thick and durable as a hard mounted map.

 These are the tanks that you get to play with:


T-34/76 M40
T-34/76 M43
KV-85 M43
T-34/85 M44
SU-100 M44
IS-2M M44



 The question that pops up is why these tanks? Usually with games you get a range of tanks from a certain year or years of the war. This is a smattering of tanks from the middle years of World War II until the end. The biggest gripe a German tank lover will have is where is the Konigstiger? The Soviets get to use the largest beast that actually prowled on their side with the IS-2M. Why then was the King Tiger not invited to the party?

 This is the sequence of play:

1.Draw Phase [6.0] Players refill their hands to their Hand Size [4.2.7].
2. Initiative Phase [7.0] Players bid for Initiative.
3. Tank Phase [8.0] - In Initiative Order: Administration Step [8.1]    a. Discard Active Tank’s Initiative Card.
   b. Score scenario specific VPs.
   c. If the Active Tank is in Smoke, perform a Smoke Check.
   d. If the Active Tank is On Fire, perform an On Fire Check.
   e. If the Active Tank’s crew is Broken, perform a Morale Check.    f. [Optional] Button Up or Open Hatch [17.3.4].
  Action Step [8.2] The Active Player resolves one Tank Action       [8.3] and any number of Field Actions [8.4], in any order they choose.
  Discard Step [8.5] The Active Player may discard one Battle Card  from their hand or, if the Active Tank’s Range counter is in a red box, they may discard two Battle Cards.
4. Reinforcement Phase [9.0] If any tanks have been Eliminated [12.7], their controlling player prepares a replacement tank.

 The best word to describe playing this game is 'suspenseful'. Which side will spot the other first? After I have missed my shot, will I be able to get another one in before my opponent zeroes in on me? Do you worry about the Anti-Tank Gun or the enemy tank first? Do I bet on my crew being able to pass the morale check or do I discard the four Battle Cards to automatically rally my crew? You feel a real sense of accomplishment when you have played your cards correctly and turned imminent defeat into victory. If it could happen on the ground during a tank battle on the Eastern Front in WWII it is included in the game.

 Theses are the scenarios:

1. Merging Forces
2. Hold the High Ground
3. Capture Hill 818
4. Break Out of the Pocket
5. Establish a Bridgehead
6. Streets of Steel
Robata can be used in six of these scenarios.

Historical Scenario 1: Fog of Counteroffensive
Historical Scenario 2: Hungary for Oil
Robata cannot be used with either of the Historical Scenarios.

 There is also a good primer on making your own tank matchups. The tanks are listed by year and also by size. A 'Suggested Tank Matchup' chart is also included. These were chosen by the playtesters. The 'Notes about the Historical Scenarios' in the Play Book is a must read. I like this quote from it: "Crafting a historical CDG drama in the language of Mike's (Mike Bertucelli) Tank Duel is like composing a haiku poem, albeit armor plated."

 There are a few kinds of cards that come in the decks these are:

 ● Battle Cards, which are shuffled to create the Battle Deck [4.2].
 ● Damage Cards, which are shuffled to create the Damage Deck [4.3].
 ● Broken and On Fire Cards, which indicate which tanks are Broken and/or On Fire [4.4]. 
● Anti-Tank Gun Cards, used in certain scenarios [17.1].
● Anti-Tank Infantry and Infantry Advance Cards, used with optional Infantry rules [17.3]. 
● Scenario Specific Cards, used as Scenario Objectives or for scenario specific rules. 
● Robata Cards, used when playing with the optional Solitaire Rules.

 This game is very good from a technical aspect, and it is also a blast to play. Some games fit into either category. You can have a game that while it may not be easy to play or is very involved, it does give the player an accurate description of the warfare portrayed. Then, you can have games that while abstract or completely ahistorical are still fun to play. This game hits the spot on both meters. The best tactical games make the gamer, for want of a better term, 'feel' for the cardboard men under his control. Tank Duel is one of those games. You do care about saving your tank crew, and not just because of points or whatever. This is one of those games where, win or lose, both players want to try one more scenario late into the night. The game also has endless possibilities for add-ons. I can easily see trying to hunt a Char B1 with a Panzer II. Hopefully sales are great enough to flesh out tank on tank warfare from the Spanish Civil War until the Vietnam War. With a little (probably a lot) of work, we may even see M1 Abrams and T-80s going at each other at some point. Thank you GMT Games for letting me review this excellent game and making my holidays that much better. Now excuse me, my Tiger is being hunted by an IS2 and my crew is already a bit rattled.


Tank Duel:



Deep Blue is Days of Wonder’s 2019 family game. In the game, two to five players are competing to recover the most treasure from the wr...

Deep Blue Deep Blue

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

December 2019

Deep Blue

Deep Blue is Days of Wonder’s 2019 family game. In the game, two to five players are competing to recover the most treasure from the wreck sites that make up the gameboard.  Deep Blue is primarily a simple push-your-luck game of drawing the right coloured gems out of a bag.  But where this game differs is that your opponents will be involved in nearly every decision that you, as a dive leader will make.


Players are acting as the captain of two treasure-seeking ships, all of which start in the Harbour space.  After setup, there will be a total of fourteen wreck sites randomly placed across the board that you and your opponents will have the opportunity to explore.  The wreck sites are split into six basic and nine advanced wreck sites.  Basic wrecks will start the game face up, so all players know which immediately accessible spots could be the most helpful.  Advanced wrecks start face down and the game will end after four of the advanced wrecks have been revealed which contain the sunken city.
4 player early game
Players can do just one of four actions on their turn: Recruit, Sail, Rest or Dive.  The first three actions are quick and simple to complete, even in a five-player game your turn comes back around relatively quickly.  However, the Dive action is the meat of this game and does interrupt the normally rapid turns, during a dive each player may also be able to participate and each bag-pull will cause a flurry of actions.  Downtime doesn’t really exist in this game.

Each player starts with four starting crew cards in their hands and must play one or more cards each turn to commit an action (except resting which returns spent cards to your hand).  Each crew card has icon(s) that dictate what that card can be used for.  For example, crew cards with propeller icons allow you to sail, money icons allow you to recruit more crew; and then there are the oxygen, creature and gem icons which only are used when diving.  After you’ve used any card it will go to your rest area on your player board. 
All the icons
Additional crew are recruited from the market which is down the side of the board.  Newly drawn crews in the market will always go to the most expensive spot ($4) and the market will gradually fill in the least expensive slots as crews become cheaper.  Whenever a new crew card is placed in the market an extra (good) gem may be placed in the treasure bag.  Switched on players should pay attention to those crew that add to the bag as they probably won’t stay in the market for long.

Push your luck games tend to be multiplayer solitaire events without additional mechanics.  In Deep Blue, the player interaction primarily comes when diving, although there is some during the recruit actions as well.  When you take the Dive action, all other adjacent ships may rush to the wreck and ‘share’ in the spoils.  After each gem pull, whether good or bad, each player in the dive can play cards to increase their reward, or prevent them surfacing early (and losing points).
A dive in progress
Dives finish when the Dive Leader chooses, or when they can no longer cancel out the bad gems drawn from the bag.  Blue (oxygen)and black (trident) gems are considered bad; after the first-drawn warning of each, each player must defend against them by playing a card or using the inherent defence of your ship's location, with an equivalent black or blue icon.  Nearly half the starting bag is bad gems that will cause you to surface early unless you’ve bought extra crew or your ship’s location on the wreck tile has those defensive icons.

As Dive Leader you will get an extra bonus and will likely score more victory points than other players. However, if you’re forced to surface early you will lose all the points that you would have got from the drawn gems.  Players that are able to defend when the dive leader fails would still get the points from gems.  Pushing when you have more defensive icons available than your opponents and knowing when to rest (often) is crucial for success.  A well-played dive could net the dive leader over 50 points quite easily.  However, the final scores for each player will likely be different due to the crew cards that they were able to play during the dive.
Quality components
I enjoyed the ability to indirectly mess with your opponents that this game permits during the dives.  Diving also prompts a lot of over the table pleading with the Dive Leader to stop the dive early.  As your crew increases and players get familiar with the diving mechanics/probabilities you’ll be earning upwards of 200 points per game.  Although I have seen quite large gaps in scoring from first to last, whether that was down to poor skill or good luck, I’m not sure.


Very little needs to be said here. The game’s components are all of excellent quality and I particularly like the little ship meeples.  This is a simple family game and the cartoony artwork throughout reflects the typical family audience that this game would appeal to.  The actions and particularly the icons the permit them are simple and easily understood. After two rounds any adult player will need no further guidance.
A well thought out insert
I often ditch provided inserts or make an alternative insert for most of my games.  There is no need for that here, the insert is great in almost every respect and the little treasure chest each player gets to store their victory point in is a nice touch.  The only criticism of the insert is that they’ve provided slots for the victory points.  No ones got the time to stack dozens and dozens of chips into these slots, mine are just thrown into a baggy.


The game is a little simple for my tastes and I think relies on luck just a little too much.  There are obviously ways to mitigate bad luck (black and blue gems), but as you’re building a communal bag of gems throughout the game every other tactical player will be wanting the same crew to mitigate bad pulls or enhance good gems.  

There are no apparent scaling or rule changes for 2 or 5 player games.  The board felt a bit empty with 2 players.  In a 5 player game, there weren’t enough available defensive options and the crew deck seems to run out very quickly.


There’s an easy comparison to make with Quacks of Quedlinburg but this game is far simpler.  I imagine this would make an ideal Christmas gift for a non-gamer family.  It’s not that expensive and it plays quickly, if you’re stuck looking for a fun gift that may convince friends there’s fun to be had beyond the Christmas pain and suffering of Monopoly then this just may be that game.  The rules are easily understood and I’ve even had a 6-year-old playing it.
The last sunken city tile
I would recommend it at four or five players but beware with five new players it may just start to drag a bit. When a game is this light the last thing you want is it for it to outstay its welcome.  The published game length is fairly accurate at 45 minutes.

There are some tactical decisions to be made, e.g. finish the dive early to deny your opponents even more points, keep pushing to exhaust cards, rushing to dives to move further into the advanced wreck sites etc. but there’s not really enough here to keep me coming back for more.  The Captain’s Log cards do alter the gameplay and help to an extent but I didn’t find any of the rule alterations particularly interesting and I don’t think this will keep the attention of any gamers beyond one or two plays.

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending out this review copy for the website.

Publisher: Days of Wonder
BGG Page:
Players: 2 – 5
Designers: Daniel Skjold Pedersen & Asger Harding Granerud
Playing Time: 45 minutes


La Guerra Di Gradisca 1615-1617 by Europa Simulazioni  I am ashamed to admit it, but this war is totally unkno...

La Guerra Di Gradisca 1615-1617 by Europa Simulazioni La Guerra Di Gradisca 1615-1617 by Europa Simulazioni

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

December 2019

La Guerra Di Gradisca 1615-1617 by Europa Simulazioni

La Guerra Di Gradisca 1615-1617


Europa Simulazioni

 I am ashamed to admit it, but this war is totally unknown to me. So, to make it easier on you I will quote from the game's 'Historical Notes':

"The War of Gradisca 1615-1617" is a low complexity game on a subject little studied by professional historians and even less treated in simulation games. The causes of the conflict lie in the ancient rivalry between the Republic of Venice and the uncomfortable neighbor from the Habsburg house, Austria. There were many open questions between the two contenders: the alleged failure to support the defense of Christian Europe from the Turk, the definition of the eastern borders of the Republic, the possession of key fortresses on this border line, with Gradisca in the first place. Last but not least was the problem of the Uskoks, pirates of Catholic faith in Habsburg service, who for a long time had disturbed the merchant routes of Venice in the Adriatic Sea."

 This is what comes with the game:

  • A 23"x33" map (based on an ancient map of Friuli)
  • A rules booklet (both Italian and English)
  • 1 sheet of large (5/8") counters
  • A deck of 36 Event Cards
    (for the Advanced Game)
  • Six dice
  • Boxed

 All of the components are very well done. The map, as described, is a period one of the area. It is roughly of the same area where Italy and Austria-Hungary fought the Isonzo and Caporetto campaigns. As far as looks go, it would work well as living room accent, sans the wargaming extras. The information blocks on the map (eliminated units, etc), are in both Italian and English. The turn record track is only in Italian, but even I could figure it out in a moment. The 5/8" counters are your standard wargame counters, except for the art. The illustrations on them match the period map well and they are little works of art. The information counters are in Italian, but the rulebook explains what they are in both languages. The rulebook is in both languages, and the English part is eight pages in length. It is a low complexity game so the rulebook is easy to follow and understand. It has also been written by someone who obviously has a good command of both of the languages. It is not written like the instruction manual for a bookcase or some other piece of furniture you might have to put together. You do not have to struggle to decide what English words each sentence is missing, nor does it use syntax like Yoda.

 This is the sequence of play:

"Every turn consists of the following steps:
 a) A Command marker is randomly drawn from the opaque container (see Rule 5)
 b) Units of the selected Command are activated and /or cards are played a. At this stage, the opponent can play in turn  cards, under the conditions written on the cards themselves  The drawn Command marker is then placed on the map in the section "Played Commands" ("Comandi giocati")
 c) The sequence from step a) is repeated until all Command markers have been drawn
 d) When all Command markers have finished, check if some area has combat units in excess (Rule 9), and then move the current turn marker to the next box on the Time Line.
 e) If the Game Turn marker has gone beyond the End of Game marker, the game is finished and Victory Points are counted for both players to determine the winner. Otherwise all Command markers are placed again in the container and a new Game Turn begins from Step a).
 The game is anyway finished at the conclusion of Turn  Mar.-Apr. 1618."

  At first glance, the game seems to be one in the 'beer and pretzels' range, like Risk with incredible period pieces and maps. Take, for example, the rule that artillery can fire from one area into another. In actuality, while the game is of low complexity it is a lot deeper than what it seems.  There are also two and a half pages of Advanced rules that make it a deeper and more historical game. These add the ability to have multiple rounds during combat. Some more advanced rules include 'Army Morale', and most importantly Supply rules. Having Sappers and miners (Guastatori), Forts, and Cernide (conscripts), the game really has the ability to transport you to the early seventeenth century. The player even has the ability to counter-mine the other player's mines when he has a Guastatori unit in his fort/castle that is being attacked. You don't feel that the pieces could be tanks or whatever on just an old map. The game's whole ensemble takes the player back in time. The game is not card driven, but it does have the obligatory, at least now-a-days, cards that add to the play. The card rules are a bit different than other games. Some cards are marked 'Mandatory' and must be used at the first opportunity by the player, even if they lead to adverse effects. Other cards are marked as only being able to be used at a certain date etc.

 My wargaming is usually predicated on my reading. In this case it is not so, mainly because there really does not seem to be any books about this war in English. This is too bad because this war is really the swan song of the Lion of St. Mark. Soon after this, Venice leaves the group of power players on the world's stage. Besides the components, which I love, the game is very good. It definitely gives the player a taste of maneuver and fortress warfare of the time period. Thank you Europa Simulazioni for allowing me to review Gradisca. I have two of their Napoleonic games, The Invasion of Russia 1812, and 1813 Napoleon's Nemesis. They are both beautiful and excellent games. I am really looking forward to playing more Europa Simulazioni Games.

Link to Europa Simulazioni:

Link to Guerra Di Gradisca:
Links to the Napoleonic games:


The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing  The first day of Gettysburg was a...

The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing

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

December 2019

The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing

The Devil's To Pay!

The First Day at Gettysburg


Tiny Battle Publishing

 The first day of Gettysburg was a great Confederate victory, but also a great failure. Lee had wanted to attack the Army of the Potomac as it was strung out on the roads trying to catch the Army of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately for Lee, he had the Army of the Potomac right where and how he wanted it, but he didn't know it. Both A.P. Hill's and Ewell's Corps converged on the town of Gettysburg almost by design. The Federal Army was straggling bit by bit into the Confederate forces. While it is true that Hill's Corps was roughly handled in the morning, in the afternoon the remnants of several Federal Corps were streaming toward the heights to the east of Gettysburg. Once the Confederates were poised beneath the heights, where the Federal troops were expecting the next attack, nothing happened. To history's amazement, the blow never fell. This is the story of the 1st day of the Battle of Gettysburg. So, let us look at Tiny Battle's take on it using the 'Blind Swords' system to game it.

  This is another game designed by Hermann Luttmann. I have seen some strange postings about this game. So, let us try to straighten this out right now. The company is called 'Tiny Battle' for a reason. The games they sell are 'Tiny Battles'. You see, there seems to be a theme here. This is the third game I have reviewed for them. It is by far the largest or theirs that I have reviewed. However, the game is 'tiny' compared to other games I own. It is also good to remember that good things come in small packages.

 This is what you get with the game:

1 - 17” x 22” map 
176 – Counters
3 – Player Aid Cards (1 Union and 1 Confederate) 
Multiple six-sided dice (Black, white and red)
1 – Full-color rulebook
1 -box

 This is the sequence of play:

1. Advance the Game Turn Marker
2. Command Decision Phase (Pick 2 Events + Randomize 2 events)
3. Special Artillery Phase (Fire Combat/Move 8MPs/Rally)
4. Chit Draw Phase
5. Activation Phase (Order/Fire/Movement/Assault/Rally)
6. End Phase

 The map was designed and drawn by Rick Barber, and if you are familiar with the game 'Longstreet Attacks', it looks very much like it. The hexes are 250 yards wide. The map is very colorful and makes it easy to see each hex's terrain, while still keeping its unique charm. The counters are strange and are a mix of high grade and low grade material. They are a bit 'busy' and the color choices make it a bit hard to read some of them. They do seem to be coated unlike any other counters I have seen. They feel almost like a thin coat of clear plastic is on them. However, in more than a few of them the top layer of the front of the counter is pulling up away from the rest of the counter. Strangely, the backs of the counters do not seem to have this problem. The Player Aids are well done, but again a bit small and busy, in keeping with the Tiny Battle theme. While reading this, keep in mind the words 'Tiny battle'. You could easily scan and redo the Player Aids to a larger size if necessary.

 I will use this snippet from Tiny Battle to describe the system:

 "Units are multi-counter brigades, with each strength point representing about 100 men, and these brigades are organized in
groups of regiments as they were deployed at the battle. The system is a new version of the Blind Swords system, with this implementation emphasizing ease-of-play and accessibility while maintaining the popular spirit of "historical chaos" represented by the other games in the Blind Swords family. This system utilizes a unique chit-pull mechanic that will keep players on their toes and engaged throughout the entire game."

 There are two scenarios that come with the game. The first is the 'Tutorial Scenario' that is named 'Ewell be Coming 'Round the Mountain (But not Early Enough), I love their quips. This scenario is only four turns long from 3:00-5:00PM. The "Main Scenario' called 'An Unexpected Encounter' is the full first day of fighting.

 I am a big fan of the Blind Sword system. So, in that regard there is not much else to say. I feel that it gives you, to quote Tiny Battle, the right amount of "historical chaos" for a nineteenth century battle. You and your opponent's plans will be in shambles at times, and just when you are ready to strike at his jugular, the moment slips away. 

 The rules are well done, and if you are used to the system you can start playing immediately. The only real problem I see with the game is the counters if they get too much playing time racked up. Other than that, it is a good representation of the first day of Gettysburg. Thank you Tiny Battle for allowing me to review another of your games.

Game Link:



Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith , an award winning artist who focuses on images of ...

An Interview with Russell Smith An Interview with Russell Smith

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

December 2019

An Interview with Russell Smith

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith, an award winning artist who focuses on images of the Old West and early aviation, particularly World War I aircraft. A rough transcript of our conversation follows.

JB: To start off, tell us a bit about your background, what started your interest in art, and how did you get to where you are now?

Russell: Art was the one thing I've always been good at. Even in elementary school, in third grade, I was drawing noticeably better than a lot of the kids around me. You know when you're good at something, you tend to keep doing it, because you get recognition for it, and I enjoyed doing it.

Then when I got into college, I majored in art, and about that time I saw the work of Robert Taylor, and I just, I loved airplanes as a kid and I thought, "Wow!" if someone can make a living painting airplanes, that's what I want to do. So I started doing it on the side, and worked day jobs for about ten years, and then finally back in 2001, I went full time with it.

JB: So, you did something else in there before you went full time with it. What was the moment when you thought, I can do this full time and make it work?

Russell: Well, I was working in the printing industry for about ten years. I was single at the time, and so I was kinda pushing myself on a pretty hard schedule. What I would do was, I would get up at 6:30 in the morning, go to work, work until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Come home, maybe run a couple miles and eat some dinner, and then I would go in the studio, and work until maybe one in the morning. Drinking a lot of coffee obviously. I was pushing myself pretty hard, and not getting a lot of sleep, especially towards the last couple of years. In the last couple of years, I was doing to the point that my performance at my job was starting to go down, because I was sleep deprived. 

At one point I just finally thought, this is ridiculous, I can't keep up this schedule. I either have to give up the art or give up my day job, and there was just no way I could give up my art. Because that was my dream, to be a full time artist. I had just enough work, that I figured it would keep me going for just a little while. I decided I would give it a year, and then if it wasn't working out after a year I could look for another job. Then one year turned into two, then two turned into three, then after three or four years business really picked up, and I haven't looked back since. I joke with my wife, you know, if this ever did tank and I had to go back and get a job I don't what I would do. Twenty years on I'm not really qualified to do anything other than be a full time artist.

Russell Smith - Biography

JB: So the two subjects that you focus on mainly are the old west, and early aviation, a lot of World War I aircraft. Tell us, why those two topics?

Russell: Well, of course, I've loved airplanes since I was a kid. That started when I was seven years old and my dad bought me a model of a B-25. I've just loved airplanes ever since. I built a whole bunch of different models when I was a kid. Then when I got a little older that started translating into art. That interest has always been with me and I've always been a history buff. I like looking up the history of these people, the pilots, the planes, and translating those stories onto canvas.

As far as the old west, I love that too, it's a bit more recent subject that I've been painting in, just because for a long time the airplanes kept me so busy that I didn't have time to delve into these other interests of mine. With the old west stuff, it's really more the mythology. The idea of the old west. I guess it's the stories and ideas you get from the books and movies and legends and all that. I love that stuff. I'm not as much into the historical details with the old west as I am with the aviation subjects. Part of that is just because I've been doing the aviation subjects so long, I know the historians, I've studied it, I know what I'm doing with that. Whereas, I can loosen up the belt a little bit with the western stuff. It's almost like that lack of knowledge gives me a bit more freedom to have fun with it. I can explore that mythology and those legends and get that onto canvas.

JB: Can you tell us about the process of how you go from an idea to the finished product, step-by-step, what does that look like?

Russell: Each painting is a little different. I do commission work, so sometimes it's the client telling me what they want, so I go from that and build a composition around it. Other times, it's just an idea that pops into my head. One painting in particular, that I did several years ago of Eddie Rickenbacker's SPAD was actually inspired by a piece of western art that I had seen. It was a picture of a guy on a horse, with a bunch of dust behind, and I thought, if I took that rider and horse out, and put an airplane in there, that would be a really cool scene. So that's kinda what I did. 

Once I get that idea, I'll do some small thumbnail sketches, kinda flesh out of the idea, and give it a little more to breath and get it out of my head. I'll work through a number of sketches until I find what I want. Then it's a matter of doing more detailed drawings, some figure drawings, doing perspective drawings of aircraft. I'm working on a western train robbery scene where I had to do a perspective drawing of the train. Basically getting the finer points down, making sure everything is right, making sure the drawing is right, before ever going to canvas.

Then once I get the image transferred to canvas, it can take a couple of weeks for a small painting, to a couple of months for a large painting. It can be time intense. I'm not the kind of artist that can work straight through on one painting and get it done. I just get burned out after a certain point. I usually have two or three paintings at different stages of completion just sitting around the studio. When I get to a stopping point on one painting, maybe I get bored with it or just reach a point where there isn't any more I can do with it at the moment, I'll take it off the easel and I'll put another painting up and I'll work on it. So there's always work in front of me.

I did an interview with a local newspaper a couple years back where the interviewer asked what I do when I get artist's block and I said I don't really have that problem, because I've got a lot of ideas backlogged that I want to get to, and I've always got a painting waiting to go up on the easel. So, I never really have a problem with artist's block or anything like that.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he ever likes to experiment with new styles or techniques, or explore new subjects.

Russell: It's interesting, the western art market and the aviation art market are typically different from each other in that the folks who are interested in aviation are usually historians, pilots, and technical minded folks who are very detail oriented. Typically in that market they want nuts and bolts, they want rivets. Whereas, in the western art market, the subject is more organic. You're not dealing with aircraft, you're dealing with horses and people and landscapes. You can loosen up and be a little more creative with that. With your brush strokes, with your compositions, your whole method of painting. 

But, I don't want to have two different styles of painting. So what I'm trying to do is, I'm trying to introduce some of that looseness, some of that stuff I deal with in the western art, back into the aviation art, to give it something a little different, to help it stand out from other work in that aviation market. Which is typically really detailed and tight. I think it's really working, people tend to like it.

JB: Next, I asked Russell about the day to day life of a full time artist, and what his normal schedule looks like.

Russell: Well, I've got two small kids, and so a little bit of my day is killed by playing Mr. Mom at home, and running kids to and from school, and playing referee when they get into arguments. I try to keep my day scheduled. If I don't do that, if I don't stick to a routine, I won't get anything done. My attention span is really short and a lot of artists tend to be ADD in that way. A lot of times during the week I'll even eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, just to kind of keep a routine. I'm going to eat at this time, I'm going to run at this time. I just have to keep my day really structured. 

I get up before the kids are up, just to give myself time to wake up. Once I've got them up and out the door, I'll come in here and I'll work for about three hours, maybe go running. Then I've got to go pick one up from pre-school and I'll bring her back and I'll put her in the house and let her do her thing, and I'll come back in the studio and I'll work another four hours. So that's a typical day, I try to stay focused and not get on Facebook, or get sucked into social media, or things like that. That's always a trap you fall into, and suddenly realize you've killed thirty minutes you could have been painting.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he had any favorite pieces that he has painted, and whether any had a deeper story he wanted to share.

Russell: Oh wow, you know, I heard Billy Joel once say, when someone asked him a similar question about writing songs. He said that they're all like your children, but some of them grow up to be doctors, and some of them grow up to be slobs.

Yeah, there are a few that I'm really proud of, and some that I look back now and think "I could have done a better job with that." There's some aviation pieces, like a couple of my Richthofen pieces, one in particular called God of the North Wind which is of a black tri-plane. Then on the other hand there is this western train robbery scene I'm working on that I think will be really cool when it's done.

[Here I lost a bit of the recording, as somehow both of the devices I was using to record with stopped working for different reasons. First time doing a phone interview, lessons learned.]

JB: I next asked Russell if he had any advice for aspiring artists, especially those looking to make it a full time career.

Russell: (First he discussed how it's important for a full-time artist to understand art as a business, and how to stay in business, and how that is a skill many artists are lacking)

The other thing I would say, is don't do it unless you are absolutely committed to it. It's a hard business, a very competitive business. There are times when you are rolling in business and things are great, and other times when suddenly you hear crickets chirping and wonder what's going on. You gotta be able to ride out those highs and lows, and have a tough skin here. But if you're devoted to it, and it's what you love doing, then by all means do it. Just understand that it's not going to be a walk in the park at times, it's gonna be hard. You'll have to ride out the low points and wait for the high points.

JB: So what do you do for fun? Many people might have art as their hobby, but you do that full time. Do you have other things you enjoy doing?

Russell: It's funny, a lot of artists, I'm finding out now, their idea of fun is going back in the studio and working more. But you know I try to get out, I try not to live in my cage all the time. I try to get outdoors and go hiking. I've got a buddy who is a pilot that I'm going flying with tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, this is like a seven day a week job that is all consuming if you let it be. Sometimes I let it be a little too much, so I try to get outside. I try to go running to get some blood pumping, get some activity to refresh my brain and just reboot every now and then. 

JB: Since you're a fan of the old west, I've gotta ask what is your favorite western movie?

Russell: Oh that's a hard one. I love Tombstone, and 3:10 to Yuma is a good one. Actually there was a scene in 3:10 to Yuma that inspired a painting I did a couple of years ago. A lot of times I'll watch these movies and I'll see a frame, not necessarily that I want to copy, but it's an effect. Or like, this one in particular, there was a stagecoach coming around a curve with some dust behind it, and I thought that would be a cool painting if I put some guys on horseback chasing it. The thing about western movies is they kind of come and go. They'll have a couple good ones come out and then nothing for a while, then a couple more good ones will come out.

JB: You mentioned you like history a lot, do you have any books that you're reading or that you really like?

Russell: Oh boy, that's a hard one to say. I've got a whole bunch of books in my studio. I've got bookshelves full of history books, and they're stacked up in the corners. Most of them are aviation books, but I've got a pretty respectable collection of western books going now. The irony is that most of them I don't end up reading. I only read them if I have to, if I need to research a subject. Most of them remain unread for a long time.

JB: Next, since we are primarly a gaming website after all, I asked Russell if he plays any games or has an interest in war and strategy games.

Russell: You know, I try not to, because I know if I did, I would get addicted and it would steal a lot of my studio time. We don't own a Nintendo or anything like that, for that very reason. I know if we did, I would get nothing done.

JB: A lot of the games we cover are on historical topics, and usually have really detailed art on the cover, have you ever done a box art or anything like that?

Russell: I haven't done any box art, but I have done a lot of book covers, for World War I titles. I've got several publishers I work with. It's fun to do those, because you've gotta kind of think outside the box. Instead of just painting a painting, you have to think about where the title is going to go, what kind of image is going to sell the book, and how big it's going to be. It's fun to work on them, but they're a little constraining at the same time.

JB: If anyone wanted to contact you about doing a commission or anything else, what is the best way to reach you?

Russell: Through my website, Russell Smith Art.

JB: Thank you for your time, it's great speaking with you.

Russell: Thank you 

- Joe Beard