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Tornio '44 by Miku Games  This is totally new ground for me. I knew that Finland had in 1944 concluded a peace...

Tornio '44 by Miku Games Tornio '44 by Miku Games

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

February 2020

Tornio '44 by Miku Games




Tornio '44

by

Miku Games





 This is totally new ground for me. I knew that Finland had in 1944 concluded a peace treaty with the Soviet Union. I was under the assumption that the Germans left Finland, because without Finnish support their presence would be untenable. What I had no idea about was that the Finns actually fought the Germans to remove them from Lapland. They did this under pressure from the Soviet Union. Peace was concluded between Finland and the Soviet Union on September 4th 1944. One of the terms of the treaty is that the Finns had to get rid of all Germans in Northern Finland before September 19th. The Germans and Finns were unwilling to fight each other, so a secret retreat plan was hatched between them called Autumn Maneuver. The Soviets were beginning to get suspicious after two weeks and demanded that the Finns begin hostilities with the Germans no later than 08.00 hours on October 1st. This is a game about the Finnish amphibious operation to attack the Germans in Tornio and Kemi. The action takes place between October 1st thgrough the 8th. Who says you cannot learn anything playing wargames?

 This is what comes with the game:

1 Rules Manual
2 Identical Playing Aide Cards
2 Order Of Battle Cards (Finnish & German)
1 Countersheet (228 die-cut Counters)
1 map (84 x 59.4 centimeters / 33 x 23 Inches)
2 Regular Six-Sided Die

Unit Scale: Companies & Batteries (100-250 Men)
Time Scale: 12 Hours Per Game Turn (Daytime & Nighttime)
Map Scale: 1 Kilometer (0.62 Mile) Per Hex
Playing Time: 6-10 Hours

 Miku Games is a one man labor of love. This is actually their/his fourth game. The first three were called the Finnish Trilogy and consisted of:

Volume 1 - The Winter War 1939-1940
Volume 2 - The Continuation War 1941-1944
Volume 3 - The Lapland War 1944-1945





 The first two were the Finnish against the Soviets and the third was the Finns against the Germans, as we see in this game. The most unfortunate thing about doing this review is that these three games are sold out and will never see a reprint. In fact their are only so many copies of Tornio '44 left, and after they are gone so is Miku Games. This is an incredible shame. If the Tornio '44 game is any indication the other three games would have been excellent. I know that for a one man designer/company the Tornio '44 game is incredibly well done. Let us look at the components.

 The counters are large at 5/8", and done in NATO style. The are easy to read the information on them is very large. There is only one thing that took me aback. You have to get it through your head that the Finnish units are the light gray/almost blue ones, and the German Army are green, with the Waffen SS units in dark gray.They do not pop out of the sprues like some newer games, but the printing is spot on and you can easily cut them. The map is a real beauty. The hexes are large and the terrain is easy to see for each hex. The Player Aid Cards and the Order of Battle Cards are done in full color and also very easy to read. The rulebook is sixteen pages long. The rules take up the first eleven pages, and there are also a few optional rules for players. These deal with Antitank Capability, Antiaircraft Defense, and Support Units, among others. The Historical Summary/Designer Notes are two pages long and extremely well done. There is an index on the last page; these are always very helpful with rulebooks. It also has the map on one page, and both sides of the countersheet on another.

 This is the sequence of play:

6.1.1 [0] Initiative Check: Determine which player has the first Player Turn (as Player 1) & reset the VP Diff. marker [29.3]. 
[1] Player 1: Initial Phase: 
1a: Determine the Weather [12.0] (in each Player Turn) (not in Game Turn 1A); 
1b: Check the Supply status [13.0] (not in Game Turn 1A); 
1c: Remove or Reduce Broken Levels, if in supply [23.1]; 
1d: Place Nationality markers [8.1]; 
1e: German Player Turn: Attempt Demolitions [15.0]. 
[2] Player 1: Movement Phase: 
2a: Reinforcements may arrive - see OOB Card [16.2]; 
2b: Move any number of units [17.0]; - Overruns are allowed [19.0]. 
[3] Player 1: Combat Phase: 
3a: Resolve any Air Strike [20.0] (not in Game Turn 1A); 
3b: Resolve Attacker Indirect Fire Support [21.0]; 
3c: Resolve Defender Indirect Fire Support [21.0]; 
3d: Resolve all Combat [22.0].


[4] Player 1: Exploitation Phase: 
4a: Move any number of Combat Units half MF - not in combat or enemy ZOC [25.0];      
 - Overruns are allowed [19.0]. 
Player 2: Repeat all Phases [1]—[4] above (play all Phases & sub-phases) and proceed to 6.1.2 Nighttime (B) Game Turn. 

NIGHTTIME (B) GAME TURN [27.0]:6.1.2 
[0] Initiative Check: Determine which player has the first Player Turn (as Player 1) & reset the VP Diff. marker [29.3]. 
[1] Player 1: Initial Phase: 
1a: Remove or Reduce Broken Levels, if in supply [23.1]; 
1b: Place Nationality markers [8.1]; 
1c: Place 1 RP on an unbroken Combat Unit on a road or railroad hex [14.0]; 
1d: German Player Turn: Attempt Demolitions (with at least -1 DRM) [15.0 & 27.3].
[2] Player 1: Movement Phase: 
2a: German Player Turn: Reinforcements may arrive - see OOB Card [16.2]; 
2b: Move any number of units half MF. Restricted Road Bonus [17.0, 27.1 & 27.3]. 
[3] Player 1: Combat Phase: 
3a: Resolve Attacker Indirect Fire Support  (with at least -1 DRM) [21.0 & 27.3]; 
3b: Resolve Defender Indirect Fire Support (with at least -1 DRM) [21.0 & 27.3]; 
3c: Resolve all Combat (subtract at least 1 odds ratio) [22.0 & 27.2]. 
Player 2: Repeat all Phases [1]—[3] above (play all Phases & sub-phases) and proceed to 6.1.1 Daytime (A) Game Turn.





 The rules are pretty much standard, although stacking is generous at ten units of any kind per hex. There is Advance After Combat, and also an Exploitation Phase for all Combat Units (not Support Units). There is one rule that I do not think I have ever seen in a wargame. This has to deal with 'Intoxicated Units'. Apparently the Germans built up two large caches of alcohol to help them during the long northern Finnish nights. If Finnish units move through or end their turn on one of these hidden markers they automatically become affected and an 'Intoxicated' marker is put on them. Not only that, but the next turn the marker is flipped to its 'Hangover' side. I am assuming that the Germans had stockpiled any drinking alcohol from the surrounding areas, and once one of them was found by the Finns, it leads to a party to end all parties. 

 This is from the designer notes:

"The rules are fairly mainstream. The most unique feature is the combat mechanism. I wanted to create something that did not have a standard Combat Results Table, but Instead gives the owning player more freedom in how to take his losses. The game focuses almost solely on combat actions. I wanted to include a feature where units could be both physically and psychologically exhausted, but only for a short period of time. The bizarre rule about the alcohol depots is used since they played a major role in the battle."

 As you may have noticed, each player does a weather check. This is because the weather can change so quickly in the area. It is possible that the Germans used the alcohol depots historically, as they are used in the game. It is more like a rule that you would find in an RPG, but it happened historically and adds a little color to the game. The Germans are trying to skedaddle it out of Finland to get to Norway. The Soviets expected the Finns to actually capture the Germans before they got away. The Finnish troops need to capture both the bridges at Kemi intact. The German Player will be trying to blow both those bridges. Victory points are awarded for both Victory Hex Points and German losses, as well as exiting from the map. The historical Summary says this:

"Who won? Both sides failed in their objectives as the Finns failed to take the bridges at Kemi in one piece and the Germans failed to push back the Finns from the Tornio area and open up the road to the north."

 If you have a very good game, and the action portrayed has never been in a game before, you should have a winning combination. Now, unfortunately, for the bad news. It looks like Miku Games will be closing up shop at the end on 2020. I really wish that this was not the case and that we would see many more games from them. The designer/developer/artist Mikael "Miku" Grönroos brought four games to the wargaming community. Tornio '44 was apparently and unfortunately the last one. I would love to have been able to have gotten my hands on one or all of the other three games he did on Finland from 1939 to the end of the Second World War. I wish it was possible for him to connect with another gaming company to re-release his games, and possibly design a few more. Thank you, Miku Games, very much for not only letting me review this very good game, but also for teaching me some new things along the way.

Miku Games:
https://mikugames.com/

Robert


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Heart of Leviathan Wave 1 Expansion by imageStudios  I did a review of the game (link will be at the ...

Heart of Leviathan: Wave 1 Expansion by imageStudios Heart of Leviathan: Wave 1 Expansion by imageStudios

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

February 2020

Heart of Leviathan: Wave 1 Expansion by imageStudios




Heart of Leviathan

Wave 1 Expansion

by

imageStudios







 I did a review of the game (link will be at the bottom), and frankly fell in love with it. It is a miniatures game made relatively simple for dolts like me. I have played naval games where it takes thirty minutes to check to see if any of your fire has hit the other ship. There are times that I want to play at that kind of depth. At other times, I want to play this game. Dice rolls have taken the place of slide rules in Heart of Leviathan. This is not 'dumbing down'; there is enough WWI naval fluff to appeal to any budding admiral. This is a review, more like a paean of praise, about imageStudios first expansion to the game.


This how the ships came in the game

These are the plastic boxes the expansion ships come in


A look at the packaging

 The Wave 1 Expansion gives the tabletop admiral four more battleships to destroy with big guns. The original game I was sent also came with four battleships, two for the German and two for the English:

English
Iron Duke
Benbow

German
Konig
Markgraf


Building Instructions
Captain Cards and Turrets etc.


 This expansion flushes out the two navies, so that you have eight battleships in total to wreak havoc with. In the expansion you get:

English
Marlborough  
Emperor of India

German
Kronprinz
Grosser Kurfurst


The Cardboard Ships and extra game pieces


 One thing you must know is that the miniatures, although beautiful, come unpainted. They also come with the funnels, turrets etc. unattached. The ships also come with some other metal pieces to make them look that much better. These are cranes, boats, and masts. If you are so inclined you can make them look as great as you are able to. I have seen pictures online of people who have added smoke trails from the funnels. I will tell you right off the bat I am not that kind of modeler. Actually, I never paint any models that I make because I am so bad at it. However, for these ships I have made the exception and with the help of my artistic son I am trying to make them look as good as I can. You can also buy small magnets to put underneath the turrets to make them functional. I will have a link for them also below. You also need to know that to play the game you do not even need the miniatures, and that there are two different thick cardboard, extremely well done, ship pieces for each ship in the game. These are from a bird's eye view perspective.




 Unfortunately, my free time has not been anywhere near what I need to have finished my ships. The Iron Duke is the sleeker longer ship and the Kronprinz is the one that looks like it has a BMI problem.



Front and Back of the Ship Command Placard


 So now you will have four battlewagons apiece to glide across your table/ocean. Future expansions will include Cruisers and even submarines. Each battlewagon goes for $28.95. In the world of miniatures this amount is pretty low, especially with the add-ons that come with each ship. Thank you imageStudios for letting me review this excellent expansion to Heart of Leviathan. Now get cracking on the next expansion.

Heart of Leviathan:

Wave 1 Expansion:

My Heart of Leviathan review:

Magnets:

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Combat Mission Fortress Italy Rome to Victory by Battlefront  So, Winston Churchill has made his second gre...

Combat Mission Fortress Italy: Rome to Victory by Battlefront Combat Mission Fortress Italy: Rome to Victory by Battlefront

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

February 2020

Combat Mission Fortress Italy: Rome to Victory by Battlefront




Combat Mission Fortress Italy

Rome to Victory

by

Battlefront





 So, Winston Churchill has made his second great mistake. In World War I it was the forcing of the Dardanelles. In World War II it was attacking the 'soft underbelly' of Europe. The only problem was he didn't look at a topographical map. Physically, Italy is a defender's dream and an attacker's nightmare. From the spine that divides the campaign into two separate pieces to every other known natural obstacle, Italy has it. The Allies have been slogging up the Italian peninsula since invading Salerno and jumping over from Sicily in 1943. The campaign was supposed to have taken Rome already or diverted huge amounts of German soldiers and arms to the Peninsula. Instead, the Germans have been able to defend this natural fortress with minimal forces. Battlefront has already put out one add-on for Fortress Italy, that was Gustav Line. So, this is the second add-on for this game. Let us see how it looks and plays.




 Fighting in Italy is much different than the plains of Russia or other places the Combat Mission has gone. From the soaring heights of Monte Cassino (my favorite battles in Fortress Italy), to the beaches of Salerno, it is one big wrestling match in the mud. The campaign is much like the bocage in Normandy, except that it never really ends. Each day it is one more ridge or valley for the Allies to try and pry the Germans loose of. We will start with a list of the new equipment you get with RTV:

Brummbar (late)
Brummbar (mid)
StuG IIIG (late)
StuG IV (early)
StuH 42 (late)
StuH 42 (latest)
Wespe
Hummel
Panther A (late)
Panzer IIIM (flame)
Pz IV J (early)
Tiger I (latest)
Hetzer (late)
JPz IV (late)
Allied (United States, India, Free France, Brazil, and South Africa)
Note: Equipment available will vary with nationality.
M7B1 Priest
M24 Chaffee
M4(105) (early)
M4(105) (mid)
M4A3(76)W (early)
M4A3(76)W (improved)
M10 GMC (late)
M18 GMC
Bofors 40mm SP
Kangaroo (Priest)
Kangaroo (Sherman III)
Churchill Mk V
Churchill Mk VII
Churchill Mk VII Crocodile
Churchill NA75
Churchill AVRE
Sherman IB
Sherman IC Firefly
Sherman IC Firefly Hybrid
Sherman IIA
Sherman VC Firefly
M4 Sherman Crab
Achilles
Archer

M4A1

 This list, coupled with the list of new formations (Waffen SS, Heer, Luftwaffe Field Division, together with new forces from the seven countries that compose the Allies), makes a pretty large amount of new material to use in the base game. You also get two campaigns and fifteen stand alone battles. The campaigns are:

First Blood at Cellene
Operation Encore




 So now we get to the meat of the argument. A lot of Wargamers, if not all, love freebies. On the other hand, coders and their families like to eat. Please let me make one thing clear, owners of wargame companies do not drive Maseratis, unless their wives are wealthy. This is a niche group, that is part of another niche group. It is a lot like those Russian dolls. The cost for RTV is $35. This is also the cost for Gustav Line. The main game by itself goes for $60. Right now you can buy the entire ensemble for $95. That is a lot of gaming for probably two dinners out with the wife. If you are bringing some older children it is probably less than you would spend for the dinner. If you are extremely lucky, it is just about three tanks of gas. The amount of gaming YEARS you will get out of the game is simply amazing. But, you say, Battlefront charges for upgrades. Yes, you could get the 4.0 upgrade from Battlefront for all five of their games for $25. Could most of us afford to buy Battlefront's entire catalog at one time? Absolutely not. We can, as I have, buy one for a birthday or Christmas etc. for a few years running. So, the price point on all games is a personal opinion. I would like to end my tirade at Speakers Corner with: coders and their families like to eat.

 So how does it play? The good thing is if you picked up one of the first Combat Mission games about twenty years ago you would not be adrift in the game. You would however, be simply amazed at how far all of the parts of the game have come. Visually it is not 'stunning'; it leans more toward the workman than artist. You would not take a screenshot of RTV, or any of their games, and print it and hang it on a wall (unless you were very lonely or divorced). On the other hand, the forces under your control, and more importantly under the AI, go about their job following orders like you would expect World War II soldiers would.




 The game itself is, as was mentioned, based on the Italian Peninsula. The fighting here is much more akin to the Pacific Island battles than thrusting Panzers or T-34s on the steppe. You can play all the old ways you have become used to down the years. This is a synopsis written by Battlefront, but it is right on the money:

"Tactical warfare at battalion and below scale in a true 3D environment
Command individual vehicles, teams, and squads
Expansive simulation of "soft factors" such as Morale, Experience, and Leadership
Innovative systems portraying Fog of War, Spotting, Line of Sight, Command & Control, and Objectives
Unmatched realistic physics, ballistics, and battlefield effects
Fight in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, all of which realistically impact fighting abilities
Unique hybrid system for RealTime or WeGo (turn based) play
Full featured Editor for maps, scenarios, and campaigns
Quick Battle system sets up deliberate or randomized battles based on player specifications
Single player and head to head play, including Play By Email (PBEM)
Supported for the long haul with patches, upgrades, and expansions"

 So, if you are interested in tactical wargaming during World War II, this is your heaven. If you are looking to see exactly what the two sides had to deal with in Italy on the tactical level, again this Bud's for you (for that I might get a year's supply or sued). There really isn't that much to say. If you have ever enjoyed a Combat Mission game then what are you waiting for. If you played one and hated it, you will argue with me until the end of time (we grognards are good at that). But before you do, let me fire up RTV again to play while I am countering your arguments. Thank you Battlefront for the chance to review RTV, and for all of your games and updates down through the years.

Link to Rome to Victory:

Robert


1 comments :

Carthage's Other Wars Carthaginian Warfare Outside The 'Punic Wars' Against Rome by Dexter Hoyos ...

Carthage's Other Wars Carthaginian Warfare Outside The 'Punic Wars' Againt Rome by Dexter Hoyos Carthage's Other Wars Carthaginian Warfare Outside The 'Punic Wars' Againt Rome by Dexter Hoyos

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

February 2020

Carthage's Other Wars Carthaginian Warfare Outside The 'Punic Wars' Againt Rome by Dexter Hoyos




Carthage's Other Wars

Carthaginian Warfare Outside The 'Punic Wars' Against Rome

by

Dexter Hoyos





 This book is a treasure trove of information, not only about Carthage's 'other wars', but about the city and its government etc. The author has debunked some very long held ideas we have about Carthage and its history, especially its history of warfare. We envision Carthage as the British Empire of its time, with no one really able to deal with its naval supremacy. To quote the author:

 "Carthage's prowess at sea was in fact less accomplished than usually assumed by either ancients or moderns. For lengthy periods, it did not fight naval wars even if it kept up naval patrols around Libya's coast. The potential naval operations along Italy's coasts which its two early treaties with Rome envisaged, were, it seems, theoretical: none is recorded in practice. Although the Greeks and Romans did tend to view Carthage - retrospectively - as the western Mediterranean's great naval power, when wars came its fleets seldom had unmatched superiority over their rivals. Nor did a sea battle decide any of its non-Roman wars, unlike the Battle of the Aegates in 241 which lost its first war against Rome and, with it, western Sicily."

 The story of Carthage's wars, even before the Romans, seems to give us a list of chapters from Plutarch's Lives. Dionysius, Timoleon, Dion, Agathocles, and Pyrrhus, among others, all appear in the story of Carthage's attempts to keep its grip on western Sicily. The author shows that really only two times was Carthage the instigator in an attack on the Greeks in their conclave in Sicily. 

 The only problem we have following the history of Carthage deals with nomenclature. The amount of Hannos, Magos, and Hannibals strewn throughout the years of Carthage's history is a bit daunting. One wishes that they had a larger pool of names to choose from for their leaders. 

 This is a book that anyone who has any interest in the time period should possess. The author wipes away the years in between us, to show us exactly what happened and why. The amount of revolts and fighting with the indigenous Libyans was an eye opener for me. The book shows that the history of the western Mediterranean that we thought we knew is not correct at all. The area never had the settled spheres of influence that looks so neatly arranged on maps. The history was much more vibrant and changing than we imagined. Thank you Pen & Sword and Casemate Publishers for the chance to review this very enlightening book.

Robert

Author: Dexter Hoyos
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

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The Space 4X, it calls to strategy gamers like a siren song, leading game developer after developer to take a stab at creating &quo...

Astra Exodus Astra Exodus

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

February 2020

Astra Exodus






The Space 4X, it calls to strategy gamers like a siren song, leading game developer after developer to take a stab at creating "the" definitive space 4X to rule them all. Some games stick to the Master of Orion 2 model and try to further refine it, while others branch out into new directions, but most bill themselves as being something new and innovative. That's practically a necessity in a world where we've seen dozens of new space 4X titles come and go in the past decade. Astra Exodus is taking a bold step by intentionally labeling itself as a "retro-inspired" strategy game that will remind you of the older classics, with a splash of the new, and a hefty dose of pixel art and a color palette that screams 90's fashion. Seriously, this game is not afraid of being colorful.



Now, if you've had your fill of MoO 2 style games over the years and aren't interested in another take on that kind of game, Astra Exodus is probably not going to do anything for you. However, I imagine there is a sizable audience out there that finds the likes of Stellaris and Galactic Civilizations III to be a bit overwhelming, with endless mechanics, charts, and menus to sort through. Maybe you are indeed looking for something very akin to the classics, but with some modern spice in the mix. Astra Exodus may be just the thing for you. 


Astra Exodus is a single-player only affair, with two ways to play. There is the standard sandbox mode where you can pick one of 8 different factions and try to dominate the galaxy, or the story campaign where you will lead humanity in their quest to learn more about their past and the exodus from Earth. The campaign serves as something of a tutorial, starting you off with very small maps and weak opponents, and gradually cranking up the heat. Like the majority of 4X games, the story serves well enough as window dressing for the various scenarios, but isn't particularly riveting. The primary draw of the game will of course be the more open sandbox mode. 


The mechanics of the game are comfortably familiar. You've got star systems to explore, planets to colonize, ships to design, buildings to construct, technology to be researched, and leaders to be recruited. There are a variety of resources to keep track of, and money to be taxed and spent. Most of this works the way you would expect it to, with a twist here and there. Raising taxes brings in more revenue per turn, but decreases morale which in turn reduces the generation of other resources. You need cold hard cash for a lot of things, including the rushing of new construction. However, you also need all of those various resources to get your war machine up and running. As the population on a planet grows, you can allocate the "units" of population into different tracks, so as to boost the production of food, or speed along construction. 

Exploring and colonizing new worlds will bring in more of everything, but high quality worlds are a few and far between. You can research various terraforming projects to make worlds more habitable, but that too comes with a trade-off. One unique mechanic in Astra Exodus is that the tech tree is semi-randomized and split into numerous different fields of study, such as weapons or economics, etc. Within each field, you will have techs available for research, but can only choose one, leaving the other two locked out for the rest of the game. Then you get another three to choose from. While somewhat arbitrary, this limitation is interesting in that it forces you to potentially try new strategies and builds for your empire depending on what options you have available. I like this, as one of the biggest complaints of traditional 4X games is that the tech trees can be very boring and lead to the same choices every match.


I could go on describing more of the mechanics of the game, but like I said, this is a deliberately "retro" take on the 4X, and so most of it is stuff you have seen before. The diplomacy side of things is pretty standard, with the benefit of AI factions that are actually willing to make fair trades with you. This is one way you can get those technologies you missed out on, by swapping with other factions. The internal economics of your empire is pretty standard as well, you build mines to get more metals, high-tech farms to get more food, and so on. The one area where this game really does shine and even do things a bit better than some more contemporary games is the battle system. 

Astra Exodus does allow you to design your ships, and in this game there is actually more to it than just jamming the best stats possible into each ship. That's because the combat plays out like an RTS, with range, facing, and the speed of your ships actually making a difference. I always love any game where you get to handle space ships turning to bring undamaged armor to face the enemy, or racing in close to use short-range, but high damage weapons mounted on smaller ships. Astra Exodus has that and it works really well in my experience so far.


The game does have a quite a few issues, though none are major they add up to enough to drag the game down. The UI is clunky in places, requiring more clicks than necessary to get in and out of where you want to be. It's single player only, so you can't have a match with friends. The campaign missions can be a bit of a slog at times. The graphics will certainly not be everyone's cup of tea. Frankly, the $30 price tag is hard to swallow when more other, far more substantial games can be had for about the same price. It's enough that I can't really give the game a recommendation unless it is exactly what you are looking for: a new take on the old style of 4X space games. I think as an iPad game this would be great, but on PC there are just too many other options that have a lot more to offer.



That said, this product is the result of the efforts by Atomic Kaiser, a one-man game studio in Uruguay, and I really don't want to discourage him from continuing game development. Astra Exodus does a lot of things right, it's just that a lot of it has been done before and I'm looking for something different. However, you might be seeking a retro experience, and in that case Astra Exodus is certainly worth a look.

Astra Exodus can be found on the Slitherine store and on Steam.

http://www.astraexodus.com/




- Joe Beard








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Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth by Mike Ingram  To start with, we must discuss the books title. It is so te...

Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth by Mike Ingram Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth by Mike Ingram

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

February 2020

Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth by Mike Ingram




Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth

by

Mike Ingram





 To start with, we must discuss the books title. It is so terribly named for a book with this much information. You would expect a book of about 100 pages just on the Battle of Bosworth. In actuality, the book is almost 300 pages long and is filled with the history of not only England during the entire War of the Roses (and after), but also France, Scotland, and Brittany. Not only that, the book also does a very good job of discussing the weapons and warfare of the period mentioned. The easiest way to show this is to give a list of the book's chapters. They are:

The War of the Roses
Weapons and Warfare in the Reign of Richard III
Richard: Duke of Gloucester
Henry Tudor
France, Brittany and Henry Tudor
Richard: The King
Rebellions
Preparations
Invasion
The Battle of Bosworth Field 22 August 1485
King Henry VII
Epilogue

Appendices
I finding the Battlefield
II Finding Richard
III Order of Battle


 We must now turn to some 'facts' and not some historical conjecture. First, Richard did not kill the 'Princes in the Tower'. There were more than a few writers at the time who detested Richard. None of these accuse Richard of the Princes' death. Second, Richard did not poison his wife Anne. This point is also brought home by the absence of accusations in the above authors. Most of the lurid stories come from after Henry Tudor is made king. Third, Richard was not 'crookbacked'. He certainly suffered from scoliosis, but no man with the body deformities he is claimed to have (again after Henry Tudor's crowning), could wield the weapons he is known to have used in various battles. I will add that the Princes did not escape the Tower, and were then raised by wolves or Irishmen (Which would be worse? This point is my own). All the other 'facts' are gone through in the book and discarded because of the light of history having been thrown on the subject.

 This book, having brought us the historical Richard, would be enough for the author to sit back and enjoy his laurels. However, he is not done by a country mile. His writing about the War of the Roses is good enough for a small book on its own. The added parts on the weapons and warfare of the age are equally excellent. 

 Now we come to the heart of the matter, the actual Battle of Bosworth. The author gives us almost an hour by hour account of the invasion of Henry Tudor, and all of the moves each side made before the battle. The strangest part of the book to someone who has read a good amount about the battle is the author's take on the Stanleys. In most every account, it is said that William and Thomas Stanley stayed aloof from Henry Tudor's forces, and that they only decided on treachery at the last act of the play. The writer shows us many accounts from the time that Richard's and Stanleys' men were already fighting each other even before the battle. This means that there was no way for Richard to be surprised at their attacking him and not Henry Tudor. This is one of many excellent historical detective points that the author makes in this work. The savage attack of Richard into the men around Henry is also shown the reader. So too, unfortunately, is the postmortem of Richard and the death of the last Plantagenet.

 The book itself is filled with illustrations from the time period and also now-a-days. From pictures of the various combatants to actual cannons used at the time, the book is rife with them. There are also several pages full of colored plates, and the actual pictures taken of Richard III's skeleton. The maps of the actual battle are also very well done. Thank you Helion & Company and Casemate Publishers for letting me review this excellent book. This book is a thorough history of the times before Richard's rule and slightly afterward.

Robert

Author: Mike Ingram
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers



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Wars Across the World: Spain 1936 by Strategiae Avalon Digital  I had reviewed the base game and its ...

Wars Across the World: Spain 1936 by Strategiae and Avalon Digital Wars Across the World: Spain 1936 by Strategiae and Avalon Digital

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

February 2020

Wars Across the World: Spain 1936 by Strategiae and Avalon Digital




Wars Across the World: Spain 1936

by

Strategiae

Avalon Digital







 I had reviewed the base game and its scenarios (link will be at the bottom), and I was very impressed with some things about the game. This is the one game where you can play battles from ancient times to nowadays. Scenario designing across such a huge swath of time is a pretty huge undertaking. In games like these, we are used to some scenarios being great whereas some are not so. It is so much in the hands of the designer of the scenario. The one thing that I was not really impressed with in the game was the AI on several of the scenarios I played. I had been assured after the review that work was continually being made on the AI. So I was asked if I wanted to review the scenario Spain 1936. Instead of just a battle, this will be the entire Spanish Civil War. So, if the AI was going to stumble, this was a perfect scenario to test it on. Let us see how much, if any, it has improved and how good WAW does on a large war scenario.





 A quick synopsis of the war is that the Nationalists (Fascist) are fighting the Republicans (Communist, Republicans, and Anarchists etc.). Neither side has a real government at the start and they are both starting from scratch. Both sides do have parts of the Spanish Army, but the Nationalists have a leg up on the Republicans because of Franco's Spanish Moroccan veterans. These will be flown in from Spanish Morocco by JU 52s (Auntie Jus or Iron Annies). Speaking of which, the Spanish Civil War was used as the test bed of almost everything military in World War II. The Nationalists had the support of both Mussolini and Hitler, hence the JU 52s. The Republicans were supplied mostly by the Soviet Union, although they did get recruits from around the globe, along with some very well known authors. Enough of the history, let us go back to the game.





 As I had mentioned, there is a bit of anarchy on both sides in the beginning. The Country is split up into chunks of territory belonging to both sides. Playing as either side, you have to decide which areas you definitely want to keep control of and which you can let go. You are not going to be able to keep it all. Playing as the Republicans, you have to keep the coast so that you can get your supplies from the Soviets. I forgot to mention that the Spanish navy is also split between the two sides. So there is a naval component to the game.





 The game is turn based with area control and movement. It is not a card driven game, but it is augmented by cards that each player has. Some of them can be real game changers, and others just increase odds in battle or movement or some of your forces. The game is not just an Axis and Allies clone and is much deeper than it would seem at first. The rulebook is 116 pages long, so that should give you some idea. The scenarios do not seem 'cookie cutter' in that a tank is just an elephant in the 20th century battles etc. Play is fast and the somewhat small amount of forces (compared to a monster game) enables you to play maybe two scenarios in a gaming session. The price of most of the scenarios is $2.99, with a few larger ones being $4.99. Spain 1936 is the most expensive at $7.99. So you can see a little will go a long way. I was remiss in my first review and did not mention a free scenario about Innsmouth in 1928. Being an alumnus of Miskatonic University, I don't know how I missed it.





 Call me impressed, the game's AI seems to have come a long way, or perhaps just a ton of work was put into this scenario. The AI seems to be much more aware of itself and also of your moves. When I played before, in some scenarios it seemed that the AI was totally oblivious to your moves and its imminent danger. I will be honest and say I played mostly as the Republicans and not very much as the Nationalists. The Republicans are really the underdogs here and I almost always play the underdogs in games. So the scenario is by far the best I have played. I will need to revisit the ones I played earlier and see how much improved they are. There has also been made available a free download of a scenario editor that comes with some preset battles in it. You can now change what you want, and even create your own if you are so inclined. Thank you Strategiae and Avalon Digital for letting me review this very good add on to your game.

My review of Wars Across the World:
https://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2019/11/wars-across-world-by-sas-strategiae.html

Robert

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BATTLES OF THE BLACK CAVALRY HILL262 - CHAMBOIS from STRATEGEMATA My experience up to now of this small Polish war games company ...

BATTLES OF THE BLACK CAVALRY BATTLES OF THE BLACK CAVALRY

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

February 2020

BATTLES OF THE BLACK CAVALRY

BATTLES OF THE BLACK CAVALRY
HILL262 - CHAMBOIS
from
My experience up to now of this small Polish war games company has been of their Art of War in C19th through reviewing Battles of the Bloody Steppes covering three battles of the Crimean War.  So, I was very pleased to be given this opportunity to explore their series Great Battles of Small Units.

This is the fourth game in the series and I must confess that I hadn't paid too much attention previously because of the relatively obscure nature of the battles covered.  Battles of the Black Cavalry had already involved the earliest days of September 1939, but this second game to feature the Black Cavalry transports us forward to August 1944 and provides four scenarios set in the actions of the Allies to close the Falaise Gap.

As with other Strategemata games the production values don't match the quality of the major publishing companies.  The single, glossy paper map is quite thin, but printed on both sides.  Its size is approximately standard folio.  The counters [of which there are a good few] are very thin and small.  They sit well in the good size of hex, but the very small numbers printed on them, especially Gun/Armour factors and unit designations can be a trial to read.

Their flimsiness also makes picking them up or adding and removing markers delicate and at times frustrating work.  Play aids too, such as the scenario cards and terrain chart, are on barely more than glossy paper.  



Player aid for one of the two introductory scenarios

Finally, the rule book too is fairly light weight with a mere 8 pages of which six cover the rules and the final two contain examples of key rules.  So initial impressions of the physical side of the contents left me with some reservations.

However, reading the rules and playing the scenarios creates a very much more positive impression.   First of all the rules introduce a system containing a number of very interesting concepts.  The first and perhaps most important is the use of a deck of ordinary playing cards [which perfectly acceptably you will have to provide for yourself] to regulate and introduce a mixture of control and randomness into the game.  This is an element not unfamiliar from some miniatures rules and systems.  [An excellent instance being To The Strongest - a superb set for conducting Ancient warfare!] However, I haven't previously encountered this in board wargaming.  Here all court cards count as 1 pt, while all other cards have their face value.

From the outset, these cards govern everything, including who will have the Initiative and play the turn.  This latter rule stands out for me as a leading innovation and one I have certainly never met with before.  There are four Initiative markers, one for each of the four suits in a pack of cards: Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades.  On one side of the marker is a flag to denote the German player, on the other a flag for the Allied player.


Illustration of the Initiative markers and accompanying rules

A pre-game card draw will determine which suits will determine each side's potential starting Initiative.  From then on, each Turn begins with a card being drawn, the suit determines the Initiative player and the Initiative marker for that suit is turned over to the opponent's side.  Thus a rhythm is established that overall evens out, but can throw up surprises and causes each player to focus very carefully on what he/she needs to do when they have got the Initiative.

What is even more novel is that only the player with the Initiative gets to directly activate their units with a choice of actions from Movement/Improving a Position/Fire and Rally.  However, and this is the third original idea, the non-Initiative player's units have a limited reaction ability.  Each unit can either move away one hex when an enemy unit comes adjacent or, at the point when an enemy comes into range and line of sight, can"roll" [i.e. draw a card] to see how many reaction pts the unit gets.  This will allow the unit from 1 to 3 Defensive Fire opportunities. 

This sets up a highly interactive system that benefits defenders well dug-in on good defensive terrain, especially when the Initiative player has to cross open ground.  It also creates a fairly fast flowing pace to each turn, with the opportunity for reaction, but without an overcomplex set of rules and conditions. .

What I like even more about the use of cards instead of dice is that each player starts a Scenario with a a limited hand of cards, with rare Random Event opportunities to refill or exchange some of those cards. In a variety of cases, a player will have the opportunity to play a card rather than randomly draw one.  

Nowhere can this be more crucial than when you have the Initiative, as your first decision is always how many formations you are going to activate.  To activate a single formation is free  and guaranteed.  To activate more than one formation, then each formation costs 2pts and each support weapon costs 1 pt unless it is stacked with a unit from its formation, an Artillery strike costs 2 pts and an Air strike similarly costs 2 pts.  You must first announce what you are attempting to activate.  Obviously then you can use one of your precious cards in your hand to guarantee success, but if you choose to risk a random card draw and don't pull a card that will pay all your costs, then you forfeit all activation!  

Lots of tense moments here, especially if you have a lot of nice court cards in your hand which count as 1 pt - and remember you can only ever play one card.  So, perhaps you'll be saving those high point cards for activation purposes in crucial turns, but they're equally useful in Fire and Close Combat.  

Fire is very straightforward with each unit firing separately.  It involves simply the play or draw of a single card plus double the unit's firepower compared with the defending unit's morale added to its terrain cover.  If the Attacker scores higher, the Defending unit is disorganised and, if twice the Defender's score, then the unit takes a step loss as well.  Gun/Armour factors add a few more twists too,  though their main problem lies in the minute size of the print on the counters!

Close Combat involves a more complex combination of cards, drawn randomly/played from hand, both face down and face up.  This takes a little thoughtful reading, but help is at hand as a substantial amount of the two pages of examples is devoted to a very clear sequence illustrating these particular rules.

By now, you're probably thinking that the many cards in a deck that are only worth one point serve mainly to clutter your hand or are lurking to be drawn randomly just when you don't want them.  Well. at times it does seem just like that, but be assured they can and do play their part.  When you need to remove a disorganised marker by rallying, a score lower than your morale is required - what better time then to play a 1 pt card.

But wait, you'd just had one of those rare random event chances to discard some cards and all those 1 pt cards had been traded in.  Such is the agony and ecstasy of decisions in this game.


Random Events linked to certain cards

Considering that all this, plus chrome such as random events,  mines and destroying objects as well as Air & Artillery strikes is covered in just six pages is a major achievement, especially counting the degree of innovation I've outlined.  You'll need to read the rules carefully as they are close packed and occasionally, in the early stages of learning and playing the game, I was left thinking that's what I've got to do, but where exactly did I read it.

However, the scenarios provide a very good range that help greatly in getting a feel for the rules.  They start with two very short scenarios that introduce basic rules and can be played in about an hour.  Despite their brevity they not only help to embed the rules, but are genuinely fun to play and mirror the situations that you'll meet in the two major scenarios:  namely, taking or holding an objective and getting units across and off map to win. 

Here you see one of the large scenarios and one of my favourites.  Note "large" is a relative term as it can still be played in about 3 hrs.  What you get is a small Polish force defending a hill, but needing to move some of that force to block the advance path of the German units that will be trying to cross the map from south west to north east and exit the map.


Here's the map itself with the hill to the north and the crucial narrow spur of the hill running down the length of the map.  The next image shows the very short, but rewarding small scenario that plays out on part of that map, as a mixed American/Polish force seeks to thwart the exit of a ragtag group of German stragglers.


The well grouped Allies from only two formations are easy to activate, while the strung out German forces from several formations and with unstacked support weapons demand more careful handling.

So, all in all, this is an innovative and accessible system backed by scenarios that play well, but the presentation would be greatly enhanced above all by a physical upgrade to the counters.  That said, Last Vikings, the next Strategemata game that I shall be reviewing at a later date, does exactly that with some gorgeous counters.

As always, a big thank you to Strategemata for kindly providing the review copy.









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Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945 Wing leader Expansion Nr 2 by GMT Games  First things first, this is an expansi...

Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945 by GMT Games Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945 by GMT Games

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

February 2020

Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945 by GMT Games




Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945

Wing leader Expansion Nr 2

by

GMT Games





 First things first, this is an expansion for Wing Leader Supremacy; it is not a stand alone product. I must confess that I am a late convert to airwar boardgames. I never played Luftwaffe or any other of the tried and true greats. I do remember playing a rather simple game called Dogfight when I was a kid, but that was it. I am, however, a certified airwar simulation and plane nut. I must own almost every computer game involving planes ever produced. That, along with reading every thing I can get my hands on about airwar and planes, you can see I am no neophyte to the genre. I think I had an innate belief that a 2D representation of planes in combat would not be able to convey flight in anyway close to reality. That is until I bought Wing leader Supremacy. I was incredibly surprised at how the game played and showed air combat. So, I am late to the party, but I am fully on board with the concept now. 





 This is what you get with this add on:

1 x Campaign rules and scenario book
1 x 11 x 17” campaign map
1 x countersheet
3 x sheets of Aircraft Data Cards

1 x Campaign player aid sheet




 Here are some of my favorite planes from the new mix:

Ki-100-Ia - This was KI-61-II airframe matched with a radial engine. This adhoc measure was a very good fighter.
Ki-44-IIa Shoki (Tojo) This was designed as a fast bomber interceptor. The Ki-44-IIb carried 40mm cannon.
Ki-45-KAIa Toryu (Nick) Twin engine fighter Toryu  means 'Dragon Slayer'.
P-47N Thunderbolt One of the fastest piston engine fighters.
Me 163B-1 Komet Only rocket engine aircraft to see action.
Hs 129B-2 Heavily armored attack aircraft. Had an armored 'bathtub' around the pilot like attack aircraft use presently.
He 177A-5 Greif Germany's only operational heavy bomber. It had an unusual arrangement of two engines running one propeller.
La-7 Lavockin bureau late war fighter. It was a match for most German planes at low altitude.





 So beyond the new planes, you also get twenty-two scenarios to try them out in, from protecting Japanese factories from the 'duck whales' (Japanese code for B-29s), to ground attacking in the Kuban. The expansion also comes with three Swedish planes. These were supposed to be used in an operation on May 18th 1945. Scenario E10 has German regular fighters and two different 'wunderwaffen' planes. This would be the last sortie of the Me 163 Komets, and added to the mix are some Me 262s. Among the twenty-two scenarios you will find ground pounding from several countries, to Kamikaze attacks against British Carriers. From the air above Tokyo to the plains of Russia, they are spread around the globe. You will get to fly HE 177s along with HS 129Bs for the Germans. The Kamikaze scenario has KI-48-IIa's attacking the carriers and DDs. The scenario is meant to be played solitaire by the British Player. He has Seafires, Hellcats, and Corsairs to try and stop them. One of my favorite scenarios is to go hunting as the Germans in a JU 87G-1; this was the first model I ever built.




 The next part of this add-on is the biggest. This is a full campaign called 'Fortress Rabaul'. The campaign takes place in late 1943 just before and after Bougainville was invaded. Rabaul was considered the 'Gibraltar' of the Japanese Empire. By this time there were few capitol ships in its harbor, but still tons of smaller warships and merchant ones. The rules for the Rabaul campaign take up the first thirteen pages of the rulebook.




 The Allied Player is the attacker and he decides if he will raid, and if he does, what to attack. He can choose to attack either the airfields or the harbor. This of course depends on the weather and if an actual raid can occur at this moment. The American Player starts the ball rolling by declaring a raid. He must decide if he is attacking the port or the airfields. Once he has chosen that, he must decide if he is using medium or heavy bombers. The American Player can choose to have fighter escorts or not on this raid. If the weather is listed as 'poor', then he rolls a die against the 'Poor Weather Table' to see if the raid is aborted, or the fighters abort. The Japanese Player then has to determine if he is going to sortie against the raid. The Japanese Player then sets up the sun marker and cloud cover by die rolls (this follows the sequence that is used for playing all of the separate scenarios also). The Japanese Player then sets up his FLAK (two heavy and one light) on the map. If it is a port raid after November 1st he also sets up two heavy cruiser units. The campaign has some special scenario rules that show the various usage of different aircraft by that time in the war. B-25s can either normally bomb, or skip bomb. They can also carry parafrag bombs. Some B-25s were also equipped as heavily armed strafing planes. The heavy bombers are B-24Ds. The aircraft used in the campaign are as follows:

Japanese - A6M5
American - P-38, B-25, B-24




 It would be nice, and you can make it a house rule, to be able to use other planes that were available at the time. The campaign game lasts a total of twelve turns. These each represent a single day. When the weather allows, the American Player can raid Rabaul. This is approximately a third to a half of those twelve days. The campaign is won by the ability to suppress, or not, the Japanese airfields and fleet. The campaign starts on October 24th. The campaign victory or loss is situated around the date of November 1st. This is the date of the Bougainville invasion. If the Japanese airfields are undamaged or only slightly damaged by that date, the American Player loses a CVP (Campaign Victory Point). On that date, if the Japanese cruisers are undamaged or only slightly damaged the American Player loses 1 CVP for each cruiser. The American Player must amass seven CVP to win. A total of five or six is a draw, below that it is a Japanese victory.

 To me, the campaign game add on is just the icing on the cake. The new planes and scenarios are the main course. I do have to point out one fact. 'Eagles' is listed as an add-on for Wing Leader Supremacy, however, four of the scenarios do require you to have Wing Leader Victories 1940-1942. To compensate for that I will say that there is a good sized online presence for the games, and you can download a good number of other scenarios. I will put the link to them below. All in all, a great add-on to an excellent game. Thank you GMT Games for letting me review it. This is a 'Damn Fine!' production. I am not lying, it says it on the back of the rulebook.

Wing leader Supremacy 1943-1945 link:
https://www.gmtgames.com/p-549-wing-leader-supremacy-1943-1945.aspx

Wing Leader Eagles 1943-1945 link:
https://www.gmtgames.com/p-679-wing-leader-eagles.aspx

Wing Leader Victories 1940-1942 link:
https://www.gmtgames.com/p-673-wing-leader-victories-1940-1942-2nd-ed.aspx

Wing Leader Blitz 1939-1942 link:
https://www.gmtgames.com/p-612-wing-leader-blitz.aspx

This is at the Printers, Win Leader Origins 1936-1942 link:
https://www.gmtgames.com/p-778-wing-leader-origins-1936-42.aspx

Link to tons of planes and scenarios and rules version 2.2 by the designer:
www.airbattle.co.uk/w_downloads.html

Robert






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