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 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW FROM  PHALANX At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just...


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

December 2019


At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just launched their Kickstarter . The only surprise is that it's taken five years to launch this elegant sequel, in terms of real time, and prequel in terms of WWII.  Both games are interesting hybrids of the war gaming and Euro gaming stables.  Personally, both for topic and for game play, 1941 Race to Moscow is immediately more to my preference.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the games, they offer a three player game that can also be played two player and solo.  For Race to the Rhine, the rivalry between Patton and Montgomery is a well documented fact and to provide a third player by including General Bradley is not wholly inappropriate.  However, Race to Moscow has an even more immediately easy and logical division by simulating the three-pronged invasion of Operation Barbarossa by Army Groups North, Centre and South.

In broad terms the two games, as might be expected, share very similar features.  The map board is covered in a series of oval-shaped point to point areas, linked by coloured arrows.  The colour of the arrow determines which player/s may use that connection.  In contrast to the portrait orientation of Race to the Rhine [RttR], Race to Moscow's orientation is a landscape one. 

This change has made little difference in the number of areas each player has to fight their way through to reach their respective goals of Leningrad, Moscow and Rostov.  What I think is a greatly improved feature is the background of a geographic map instead of the bland, plain tones of RttR.  This gives a stronger war game feel, with a sense of real armies manoeuvring over terrain that grows steadily more inhospitable. 

This is reinforced by the second improvement which is the change from the all-wooden blocks to tank and infantry armies, aircraft and navy, trucks, trains and the variety of three supplies [food, fuel and ammunition] all being rendered in plastic.  Understandably, those who regard wooden pieces as aesthetically better may not share my view.  However, though my review copy [for which once again many, many thanks to Phalanx] is a prototype, I think everyone would agree that most of the components are already of an impressive quality.

A minor detail I'd recommend, to help make recognition clearer, is that the tanks used for each of the panzergruppes either be distinguished more obviously by size or by a different shape of base just as the Field armies are.

I particularly like the three supply elements: food, ammunition and fuel and the trains and trucks that transport them.  All of these can be seen in the next picture, along with the Southern Army's aircraft and cardboard aircraft and HQ markers.
Identical to RttR, each Army has a card with spaces for up to six supplies and marked with its own specific initial load.  Field Armies begin with three ammunition, a single fuel and two food supplies, while Panzergruppes carry three ammunition and three fuel at start.  As is appropriate, Field Armies are much slower, moving only a single space at a time [unless they spend a food supply to move an additional area], while the panzers can move up to three spaces.

Each player has their own deck of Pursuit cards, while all three share the single Soviet deck.  Unlike RttR, each player has to fight their way from the start through a line of spaces containing Soviet markers.  As an Army enters such a space, it has to draw and reveal a Soviet card; all of which will have icons showing what supplies the player must spend to defeat the card.  The stronger the enemy the more supplies you have to spend to do so, but the more likely you are to gain a victory medal whose acquisition will contribute to one of the two ways of winning the game.  A conquered space also then gains a control marker of the appropriate player's colour: black for Army Group North, white for Army Group Centre and brown for Army Group South.

The front line of Soviet markers

Beyond this front line, you are more likely to enter a space that doesn't contain a Soviet marker.  In this case, a player draws a card from their own Pursuit deck of eighteen cards.  With these, you'll encounter a mix of minor losses or gains or historical events [the latter essentially serve as no effect cards!].

Each player's goal for an automatic victory is to be first to take control of their Objective city, as mentioned at the beginning of my review.  Rather oddly, each player can win an automatic victory by taking Moscow, which seems a little hard on the player of Army Group Centre for whom capturing Moscow is the one and only auto win!

If nobody succeeds before the last Soviet marker is placed on the board, then victory is determined by who has gained the most victory medals by that point.  I like the dynamics of this, as each player balances gaining medals against making progress towards their automatic win condition.

A major part of this effective system of checks and balances is that as the final phase of a player's turn, they must either remove another player's control marker [this must be chosen as the first priority, if possible] or place a Soviet marker on the board.  If  this latter is what you have to do, at first the logical thought is simply to choose a placement that will hinder an opponent.  [By the way if you're playing solo, there's only one person to affect and that's you!]

However, though you may well be slowing an opponent down, you're also giving them the slim chance to gain another victory medal.  Besides, what you do to others will undoubtedly be done back to you - retaliation is definitely the name of the game here!

Also you must remember that the game will end if all Soviet markers have been placed on the board.  As the game begins with only six markers not on the board and by the end of a full turn, up to three new markers may have been placed on the board, it's obviously essential that a fair degree of attacking areas containing Soviet markers must happen.  A corollary to that, of course, is that a player who's in the lead may actively seek to end the game this way.  So there is a constant interaction between players, as part of what I've called the checks and balances of Race to Moscow of game play.

So far, I've concentrated on the aspects that create the atmosphere of a war game with a sequence of conflicts.  However, just as the battles have to be won by expending your precious supplies, all the other possible actions you can choose from focus on replenishing those supplies and transporting them to your armies as the frontline advances.  This is no mean feat and will tax you to the limit.

Army Group Centre begins to haul supplies forward

It also adds just as much both to the tension of game play and to the overall sensation of waging a military campaign.  This is no dry exercise in resource management, but a dynamic part of fuelling your attacks and advances.

The railhead from which to gain more trains

The one major element I haven't so far referred to is the rule book.  This is slightly harder to assess mainly because, as a prototype copy of the game, it comes as a simple A4 paper booklet in black and white.  Overall, it does an adequate job of presenting a clear set of rules with a reasonable number of examples and illustrations.  However, the latter pictures being black and white are nowhere near as clear and helpful as ultimately the coloured versions will be.  Currently, the major lack was the excellent section that explains all the pictorial symbols on the many cards in play.  I certainly had no problems interpreting most of them, but that's said from 40+ years of board war games.

So some of my following judgements are based on the contents and quality of the glossy and lavishly illustrated rule book for RttR.  First of all, that contained a thorough section elaborating on all those symbols I've referred to in the previous paragraph.  Secondly, the rule book for RttR contains some of the most extensive and clearly detailed examples of play I've come across.  For a newcomer whether to war games or Euro games, this made learning the game a very easy step by step process.   Consequently, I'm fully expecting the quality and accessibility of Race to Moscow's rule book to replicate this same high standard.  

A minor point is that the decision has been made to move to an A4 format for the final version rather than the larger square format familiar in several of Phalanx's games.  Personally I prefer the A4 format, as do many of my gaming friends, but as always that is a matter of personal taste.

Overall, this is a game that I want to play because of its visual appeal, its topic and its game play.  I can enjoy a solo session as well as a two-player one, but the full highlights of this game for me will always come from the contest of all three players.


Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo Games  The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part...

Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games

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

December 2019

Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games

Kiev '41


VentoNuovo Games

 The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part of their Barbarossa attack (the invasion of the Soviet Union) in 1941. The strongest elements of the Red Army are deployed here below the Pripyat Marshes. Even a few books have been written that put forth the idea that Stalin was getting ready to attack into Poland, Romania etc. If so, that would explain the huge amount of soldiers, planes, guns, and tanks to be found in the Southern area. The German intelligence before Barbarossa was either non-existent or denied, again depending upon what book you read. The commander of the German Army Group South, von Rundstedt, was in for a rude awakening as far as Soviet might. Contrary to most histories, the largest tank battle on the Eastern front was not at Kursk in 1943, but around Dubno in 1941. The Germans were faced with what seemed like the zombie apocalypse. No matter how many Soviet tanks or soldiers they destroyed, more seemed to rise from the ground itself in front of them. The German Luftwaffe was the only part of the German war machine that successfully completed most of its task. The Soviet Air Force was almost completely destroyed, mostly on the ground, during the first month of fighting. This allowed the Luftwaffe almost free reign to assist the German ground forces in the South for a few months. Enough of the background; you are given the task to defend Mother Russia, or as the German commander to kick the rotten door in. The only thing is the door has been reinforced by iron bars behind the rotten facade. On to the Game!

 This is the third part of VentoNuovo Games trilogy of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The other games are Leningrad '41 and Moscow '41(they also released a game on the Stalingrad Battle - Stalingrad Inferno). Kiev '41essentially uses the same rules and precepts of the other games. The rules have been continually updated, but if you have played either of the other two games you will be up and playing in no time. The timeline of the game is from June to December 1941. It comes with five scenarios. These are:

1. Les Preludes - July 1941
2. The River - August to the end of September 1941
3. The Pocket - September to the end of October 1941
4. The Snow - November to the end of December 1941
5. The Southern Struggle Campaign Game - July to the end of
     December 1941

 The map is a large card stock one of the Southern area of operations in 1941. The map goes from Tarnopol in the Northwest, to Maykop in the Southeast, and from Constanta in the Southwest, to Novi Oskol in the Northeast. The map (86cm x 62cm) is colorful and is like a cross between a glossy and flat finish. You do have a choice of buying either a Mounted Map or a larger (103cm x 77cm) Gortex Map. The normal map is just as good looking as the other maps that VentoNuovo produces, and I have almost all of their games. It is an area map, and for the most part you will have enough room in each area for both side's units to be in. There are some choke points that you will have to squeeze the units in if you have large scale battles in them. The blocks are small at 15mm x 15mm, which is almost too bad. The reason being is that the stickers are very well done and a pleasure to look at, especially if you invest in the Icon Stickers. I realize that the size of the blocks is so you do not need a map that takes up an entire table. You have to make some adjustment somewhere. All of the components are up to the usual great standard of VentoNuovo Games. The player's aid cards are all card stock and done up the same way as the map. When you open the box you will be happy if not delighted with what you find. This is what comes with the game:

 1. 1 Mapboard (heavy stock, laminated 86x62 cm)
 2. 1 Rules manual
 3. 2 rules Summary and Player's Aids
 4. 151 PVC Stickers
 5. 2 Orders of Battle/Scenario Setup Aids
 6. 56 Wooden Markers: 1 Weather Forecast Marker (yellow
      cylinder); 1 Initiative Disc (large green disc); 2 Weather 
     Markers (white discs); 4 Soviet Supply and Control Discs 
     (1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 light blue, 1 blue); 13 Artillery Fire
     Markers(squares, 2 blue, 4 black, and 7 red); 20 Area
     Control Markers (cubes, 10 red, 10 black); 5 River
     Crossing Markers (blue cubes); 10 Out of Supply Markers
      (white cubes);

 7. 112 wooden Block Counter Units (black, blue, brown, green, 
      tan, and red blocks)
 8. 8 Luftwaffe Bombers (8 black discs)
 9. 2 Soviet Fleets (red plates)
 10. 4 Dice 

 This is the scale of the game:

Map: 1:1,000,000 (1cm = 10Km)
Unit Size: Axis Corps/Divisions; Soviet Armies/Corps/Divisions
Time: 1 turn = 1 Month
Players: 2 Players, with excellent solitaire suitability

  Sequence of Play

1. Logistics Phase (2,3,4,5, and 6 turn)
2. Impulse Phase (player with the initiative first)
    Bad weather Check (2nd impulse of October)
    Supply Check (always)
    HQ Activation Segment (TI only)
    Command Segment (always)
    Combat Segment (TI and SI only)
    Blitz Segment (TI only)
    HQ Deactivation Segment (TI only)
    Isolation Check (always)
    Exploitation (playing the Initiative Disc after a TI)
3. Final Phase

 I will use their own words to describe a turn:

"A Turn is made up of a variable number of Impulses, from a minimum of two, up to unlimited. When a new Turn starts, the player with the Initiative plays the 1st impulse, followed by the other player, and so on.
  A player may:
a. play a Strategic Impulse (SI) or
b. play a Tactical Impulse (TI) or
c. Pass
After two consecutive Passes (by the two players. one per player), the Turn ends and a new one begins."

 The game mechanics of the series is a lot different from what you have been used to in Eastern Front games. In other games there is a sheet where you place all of your reinforcements and they come automatically at the appointed time. In these games the reinforcements are randomly drawn from the Reinforcement Pool in a number equal to the player's Logistics Value. A lot of people might call this heresy. However, the one mechanic that this does enforce is complete randomness to every single game. It also makes it easier to play it solitaire. You will have no idea of what you are going to pull, or more importantly, not pull from the Reinforcement Pool. You check for reinforcements during the logistics phase, or you can use the Initiative Disc. There are Logistic Phases on turns 2,3,4,5, and 6. You have to choose to activate your Supreme Leader (Hitler or Stalin) to be able to draw reinforcements or replace steps on the HQ or unit blocks. Your Logistics Value is calculated by the Supreme Leaders points and your non-exhausted HQs along with enemy losses etc. Each block unit is also color coded as far as their strength. They can be either black, white, or red. Depending upon the unit's color, the cost for Replacement Points is different (1 for black, 2 for White, 3 for Red). One part of the rule is that, say you have 6 as your Logistic Value after calculating it. You then have a total of 6 for HQ regeneration, AND 6 for replacement points, AND 6 for reinforcements, not just 6 for all three. The weather will also affect your Logistic Value. For example, a snow turn will halve the Axis Logistic Value once you have added it up.  The Initiative Disc is pretty much a Nuclear Option for the player controlling it. Using it allows the player to 'play a Strategic Impulse', and 'play an Exploitation Movement after a Tactical Impulse'. This can easily be a game changer. The only problem being is that once used, the enemy player now gets control of the Initiative Disc to use at his discretion. This is also a big change from most games where initiative is determined at the beginning of each turn. So, the big question is, do I just hoard the Initiative Disc and not use it for fear of what my opponent can do with it, or risk using it?

 And the verdict is (drum roll please), another winner from VentoNuovo Games. This game, while using the mechanics of its older siblings, is in most ways a lot tougher nut to crack, at least in the beginning. The player will get to see exactly what Amy Group South was up against during Barbarossa. The components are second to none (especially if you avail yourself of the more expensive options). The gameplay is as usual a winner (when you have a winning combination, why change it). The addition of all of the randomness in the games, as mentioned, lead to each game being different. It also lends itself to solitaire play. This is a great selling point in this day and age. Thank you VentoNuovo for allowing me to review this game. Owners of the first two in the Barbarossa trilogy will be pleased to know that work is being done to make all three playable together. What a monster that will be!

 A whole slew of YouTube videos about the game:

VentoNuovo Games Kiev '41:



The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand  Louis XIV,...

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand

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

December 2019

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715

Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV


Rene Chartrand

 Louis XIV, the Sun King, is usually the king that comes to mind when we think of France. It is hard to believe that less than eighty years separate his reign from the French Revolution. The opulence of the Sun King's reign to the convulsions of 1789 seem a world apart. The book is an overview of the history of the army, wars, and campaigns during his reign, along with the history and make up of his various guard units.

 The author takes us from the youth of Louis XIV through the 'Fronde' (Civil Wars in France in the 1640s) uprisings to Louis taking over the actual rule of the state. The French National Army was the first in Europe to be put on a professional basis and not just a militia called up when needed. Some individual armies  (Gustavus Adolphus, Cromwell, and Wallenstein) were professional, but the different European states did not have national standing armies.

 These are the book's chapters:

Young Louis XIV
Into Personal Rule
Foreign Intrigues and Adventures
The Sun King's Blitzkrieg
The Army's Command
Senior Officials and Officers
The World of Chivalry
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dedans du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dehors du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Infantry
Other Guard Units

 The book is over 200 pages long. It is filled with pictures of the various battles and commanders of the age. The thirty pages of colored plates are a gold mine of information for the miniatures crowd. Short biographies of all of the higher commanders during Louis' reign are also in the book. There is also an abridged history of all of the Sun King's various Wars, Civil and otherwise.

 A quarter of the book is taken up by the actual guard units of the Sun King. These not only look at the weaponry, uniforms, and organization of the different units, but also give information of the actual battles they fought in. These were not just dress up soldiers, but were actually used in most of the campaigns of Louis XIV. The list includes the Musketeers (with the real D'artagnan), Swiss, and Scottish Guards to name just a few.

 I can easily recommend the book as both a primer and an information bonanza for people looking for more information on the Sun King's military. The information on the different Guard Units is priceless. Thank you Casemate Publishers for another excellent book to review.