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DUNE from GF9GAMES SAND, SPICE, STORMS - with a just dash of treachery. There's nothing to beat old recipes.  At long last, th...


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

February 2020



SAND, SPICE, STORMS - with a just dash of treachery. There's nothing to beat old recipes.  At long last, the translation of Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi novel into board game form has achieved its resurrection or should that be its return from the Tleilaxu Tanks*. 
[*These are where your dead troops go and from where you can revive some in the course of the game.]

I first played the original Dune in 1980 when I ran a board game club in the school I taught at and one of the students brought back a copy from his holiday in the US.  I never achieved my own copy, though have toyed with the idea of buying Rex, a transmogrification of Dune into a Twilight Imperium setting.

However, thanks to Gale Force Nine, we can return to those glory days with a few additional optional extras.  Inevitably with the passage of time and the advances in production quality, the current game is state of the art standard.  Though if you look through the files on BGG you'll see many print and play [pnp] versions that match this professional treatment and show its source of inspiration.  

I have to say I hanker for the box art of the original that can be seen below.  There is just something more menacing about its gigantic sandworm, against which  the current art seems a little too clean and sanitised.  Still that's a very minor personal taste.

High Quality Scan of Original Box Front

I've no doubt that many will debate the art work that has been chosen for virtually all the components, perhaps none more than for the board itself.  Certainly there have been some exceptional and outstandingly colourful pnp versions running an amazing spectrum of tastes, but I love the more monochromatic effect here.

The essential simplicity is even more fundamental than in the original and makes identification of areas abundantly plain and simple.  Whether it will suit all tastes is unlikely, considering the imaginative pimping and blinging that has taken place in the past.  Ultimately, the same may be said of all the components and no doubt those who delight in creating 3D sandworms will want to supplement and refashion yet again.

So, here's a range of visuals starting with the lovely thick counters for the troops and individual heroes.

Next up are the battle wheels - with the inset position for potential placing of one of your named heroes.  Note the little additional touches, such as the marker for the Storm and the overlay for the Destroyed Shield Wall.  By and large, the direction of style has been to clarity and simplicity.

This can be seen again in the player shields that are presented in functional, bold outlines and colour fields.

Finally, you have six decks of cards, all maintaining the same clarity of purpose and use that characterises the whole product.  The two largest decks, the Treachery and Traitor Decks, signal a strong feature of Dune - this is a highly competitive game and definitely not for those who mainly like cooperation.  That said, there is one form of cooperation and that is Alliances, where you can link up with another player to try to secure a joint victory. But, be warned, there is every chance that such an Alliance may only be temporary.

All these excellent components are matched by the clearest of rule books that takes you, in succinct detail, step by step through each stage of the turn and if that were not enough you also have one of the best Quick Guides I've read.  Once familiar with the game, the latter should be all you need for future play.  Above all, it is really helpful for new players, both in sorting out what they need for the faction that they will be playing and for easy learning and reference prior to and during play.
  A glimpse of the excellent set of rules
A first look at the Sequence of Play gives the impression of a fairly detailed process with nine Phases.  However, this is very misleading, as all but three Phases take but a few moments to carry out, especially the final Mentat Phase which sounds wonderfully thoughtful.   The words "Declare a winner or take some time to evaluate their positions" -particularly those I've underlined - can only really apply to those afflicted with an extreme case of AP [Analysis Paralysis].  As Mentats are human computers in the novel, there is more than a touch of tongue-in-cheek at work in naming this Phase!  In reality, the Mentat Phase more or less means you check for a winner[s] and if not move on to the next turn.
Most of the game time is taken up by Phases 6 & 7 Movement and Combat.  Bidding can add a little to this, as does the making of Alliances, but the latter does not occur every turn.  
The game follows this sequence.
Storm Phase
Each turn begins with the movement of the Storm marker which destroys all players' troops in sand areas that the Storm marker passes over  along with any spice tokens in any territory passed over.   
Spice Blow and Nexus Phase
Card draw shows which region will have new spice tokens placed or the destruction of spice tokens, if the card reveals the dreaded monster sandworm, Shai-Hulud.  The latter card also heralds the Nexus action, which is the opportunity to break and form Alliances.
Choam Charity Phase
If you need this you're in dire straits, as you gain a little spice because you either have none or only one spice marker!
This auction phase is to buy treachery cards that range from a variety of weapons including poison and defence protection to rare special cards and a series of worthless cards.  This is a real gamble, as the cards are auctioned unseen, so you might buy a totally worthless card or hit one of the rare ones!
This is when you gain back a small number [up to three] of your troops from the Tleilaxu Tanks and one Hero if all of your Heroes have been eliminated.
Shipment and Movement
Off-map forces may land and limited movement may take place on the planet
This kind of speaks for itself and brings into use your Battle Wheel and Heroes.  Though imitated in various forms in more recent games, such as Scythe, as far as I'm aware this was the first appearance of such a system.  It's also the Phase when your Treachery cards can be played, as well as Traitor cards.  The latter cards are very powerful, as they immediately win you the battle, nullify any losses you might otherwise have incurred and bring spice token rewards too. 
Spice Collection
Again a very straightforward  action, as each player collects  available spice tokens from territories they occupy
Mentat Phase
As already mentioned very simple. Check for a winner/s and, if no winner, move on to the next turn.
A typical extract from the extremely helpful Quick Guide
All in all, the rules are very straightforward and their explanation couldn't be clearer or better presented.  Much of the game is swift. Combat is always a high point and can be brutal and often brings drama to the action, particularly from the play of Treachery and Traitor cards.  Alliances are made and unmade.  Spice tokens are vitally important as the "money" of the game, but a solo victory ultimately lies in conquering three of the planet's strongholds [or four for an Alliance victory].

This new updated iteration of such a great game adds in a few Advanced elements both in rules and components, along with Strategy and Faction tips, a Question & Answer section, Optional Alliance rules to cope with different player numbers and for shortening or lengthening the game as well as a brief synopsis of the novel [If you haven't read Dune, I'd strongly avoid this, buy the book and get reading]. 

A close-up of two of the Strongholds crucial to victory
For me, all that I've mentioned mark Dune as a great game to play. The visuals, the systems and the player interaction all work to create an atmospheric rendering that does great justice to a classic S.F. novel's story.  Nowhere more so than in the element that I've saved to highlight here at the end: namely, the asymmetric player powers and advantages.  Again, to the best of my knowledge, this was another first for the original game of Dune.

Playing as one of up to six factions drawn from the novel leads you to adopt distinctly different styles of play suited to your strengths and weaknesses.  Inevitably some are easier to play than others, especially if you are new to the game - none more so than the Bene Gesserit faction, which is the faction most frequently left out when you do not have a full table of six players. 

Getting those six players together is the one difficulty and play with a full complement can be a lengthy undertaking, but one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.  Four and five players too make for an excellent experience and this new outing for an old favourite comes with a number of simple alliance options to create shorter or longer plays.  I love the description for the last choice of option which comes with the caution "a more exotic game" under Possible Side Effect!  

If Dune, the novel, and Dune, the game, are unfamiliar to you, I suggest you start right now to find out the value of a stillsuit, the deadly danger of a gom jabber and the awesome power and menace of Shai-Hulud.

Many thanks to GF9 for realising my dream of once more revelling in this game and to Asmodee UK for kindly supplying a review copy.


Durchbruch The Austro-German Attack at Caporetto 1917 by Acies Edizioni   It is the Fall of 1917. Austro-Hungary...

Durchbruch The Austro-German Attack at Caporetto - October 1917 by Acies Edizioni Durchbruch The Austro-German Attack at Caporetto - October 1917 by Acies Edizioni

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

February 2020

Durchbruch The Austro-German Attack at Caporetto - October 1917 by Acies Edizioni


The Austro-German Attack at Caporetto 1917


Acies Edizioni

  It is the Fall of 1917. Austro-Hungary is hard pressed because of the immense losses of manpower on the Eastern Front earlier in the war. The Austro-Hungarians need Italy knocked out of the war as quickly as they can be. Either that or their whole army might crack, and if they fall Germany is right after them. The Austro-Hungarians cannot do it alone. They have needed Germany's help as long ago as 1914.  There had already been eleven Battles of the Isonzo, and Italy and Austro-Hungary were bleeding each other dry. The new Austro-Hungarian Emperor Karl I knew it was only a matter of time before one or the other country broke through on the Isonzo Front. He appealed to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Of course, he didn't run Germany at the time; Hindenburg and Ludendorff did. Ludendorff turned down the idea, but was overridden by Hindenburg. A relatively small force of German divisions was added to the mix for the attack. The attack's success has been attributed, at times, to the German Stosstruppen and their tactics. What isn't well known is that both the Italians and Austro-Hungarians had their own shock troops. The Italian troops were called Arditi, and the Austro-Hungarians were called Sturmpatrouillen/Jagdkommandos. The Austro-German attack at Caporetto broke the Italian Front wide open. It was at Caporetto that Erwin Rommel won his Pour le Merite. So the battlefield is mountainous and the Austro-German force must break through in a very short timetable. Ludendorff wants those divisions back for his spring offensive. I have always been very intrigued by the Battle of Caporetto and the Italian front in World War I, and have read everything I could get my hands on about it. How does Acies Edizioni's game stack up?

This is what you get with the game:

Two 23" x 33" Maps
Two counters sheets ( 5/8" counters)
Each Hex is 1" Wide
Six Full Sized Glossy Colored Player Aids
 Morale Check
 Combat Table and Modifiers
 Barrage Communications and Stacking
 Terrain Effects Chart
 Italian Army Setup
 Austro-Hungarian and German XIV Army Setup
Two Six-Sided Die

Every day is divided into two turns. The first day
has one more Preliminary Phase.
A hexagon on the map corresponds to about
1000 meters.
The unit counters represent infantry battalions/
regiments and minor units.

 The maps are spectacular. With the large hex size and the colors chosen they are very easy to read, and figure out what terrain is in each. The Player Aid sheets are likewise extremely large and very easy to understand. The counters are also very well done. They have a lot of information on each one, but are not cramped, and are easy to read. The Rulebook is in full color and is only twenty pages in length. Once again, the rulebook is up to the standards of the rest of the components. This is my first look at a wargame from Acies Edizioni and I am really impressed.

 The Rulebook seems small, but sometimes very good things come in small packages. 

The game comes with three scenarios:
October 24th Scenario (One Day Scenario)
October 25th Scenario (One Day Scenario)
Caporetto's Breakthrough Scenario (Campaign Scenario; It Lasts 10 Turns)
 Each scenario has the Austro-German Player adding up his Victory Points and comparing them to the Victory Conditions. He gains points for Victory Hexes and eliminated Italian Counter Steps, and loses them for each Counter Step he loses.

 Continuing with the Rulebook, the game has rules that deal with the following:

Making a Passage through No Man's Land and First Line Trenches
Bridge Destruction or Repair
Fog of War
Mountain units
Engineer units - These can make a Passage, Repair or Destroy Bridges
Machine Gun Companies
German Pioneer Units Gas Attacks
Assault Units and Rommel
First Turn German Bombardment
Dummy Markers used on both sides

 This is along with all of the usual stacking and Zone of Control rules etc.

 The game is based on the Chit Pull method. At the start of the game the Austro-German starts with four Chits (Corps), and the Italian starts with three. Once all of the Chits are pulled, then that is the end of one turn. This is the Sequence of Play:

1- Bridges - construction or demolition Segment
2- Command Segment
3- Artillery Segment
4- Movement Segment

5 - Assault Segment

There are many exceptions to the normal rules on the First Turn. Such as: 

All Austro-German artillery can fire in the Preliminary Phase.
Up to 20 Austro-German units can move and attack in the Preliminary Phase

The Austro-German player must pick one of three plans before the start of the Campaign Game. These are:
The Conrad von Hotzendorff Plan - Large
The Boroevich Plan - Limited
The Waffentreue Plan - This is the one that was chosen.

 So, how does it play? It plays extremely well, and in my eyes captures the history of the battle to a T. This does not mean that every game plays out the same with a guaranteed German victory. Far from it; the design allows either side to be able to pull out a victory. The chance for the German Player to try out the different plans also leads to an increase in playability and the longevity of the game on your table. Playing as the Germans, you should play 'hell bent for leather'. The German Player's advance and attack plan should be to ignore Italian strong points and go for infiltration first. The German Player must always be conscious that he loses a Victory Point for every step lost. Playing as the Italian Player you have to know when to cut and run. He must use every chance he gets to stay in front of the Austro-German Units and make them fight for any and every piece of ground he can. The German Player only gets a Victory Point for every ten Italian Player Steps lost. So, the Italian Player can afford to trade troops for time and space. The game comes with excellent components, and the designer has added all the rules that deal with everything that happened in this battle. My hat is off to Acies Edizioni. 

 There was some problems with the first Rulebook and Players Aids that had been sent out. In talking with the designer, what happened was that the printer was sent the first files and not the redone ones (none of us have ever done that :) ). So anyone who purchased the game was sent out the second edition rules ASAP. The 'living rules' are exactly the same as the printed second edition.

Acies Edizioni link:

Durchbruch link:

Living Rules link:



First Look at the Upcoming 'Fire and Rubble' the First Module for  Combat Mission Red Thunder  Th...

First Look at the Upcoming 'Fire and Rubble' the First Module for Combat Mission Red Thunder First Look at the Upcoming 'Fire and Rubble' the First Module for Combat Mission Red Thunder

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

February 2020

First Look at the Upcoming 'Fire and Rubble' the First Module for Combat Mission Red Thunder

First Look at the Upcoming 'Fire and Rubble' the First Module for 

Combat Mission Red Thunder

 This is just a quick sneak peek at some screenshots of what Battlefront has been hard at work on. It is called 'Fire and Rubble', the first module for their Red Thunder game. Red Thunder is one of my favorite of the Combat Mission stable of games, and I am very happy to see that it is finally getting some love. So without further ado, here are the screens, and at the bottom will be some links for Battlefront games. 

 It is looking good, and please Battlefront keep your excellent games and modules coming!

Combat Mission Red Thunder:

My review of the 'Rome To Victory' module for Fortress Italy:

My review of 'Shock Force 2':



 Interview with Scott H. Moore Designer of 'This War Without an Enemy' Released by Nuts! Publishing  Ple...

Interview with Scott H. Moore designer of This War Without an Enemy released by Nuts Publishing Interview with Scott H. Moore designer of This War Without an Enemy released by Nuts Publishing

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

February 2020

Interview with Scott H. Moore designer of This War Without an Enemy released by Nuts Publishing

 Interview with Scott H. Moore

Designer of 'This War Without an Enemy'

Released by Nuts! Publishing

 Please give us some biographical information about yourself.

I was born in Sheffield but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham. My brother and I played games like Monopoly, Risk and Campaign when we were really young kids, but it was Christmas 1982 that really converted me into a gaming geek: we got our first computer – a ZX Spectrum complete with The Hobbit adventure game – plus the Warlock of Firetop Mountain gamebook. By the age of 11 or 12, I was wargaming the English Civil War with 25mm miniatures, and playing Games Workshop games such as Talisman and Warrior Knights. A few years later I started roleplaying with AD&D, MERP and Warhammer RPG. When we were 16, a few friends and I joined the English Civil War re-enactment society as pikemen in Colonel John Fox’s Regiment of Foote.
Not long after I had gone to university to study Physics I more or less gave up on gaming, except for the occasional roleplaying session back home in the holidays. After graduating, I spent a year in Spain, then I did a degree in Optical Electronics in Glasgow and Hamburg. When I finally entered the world of work, it was as a market analyst. I lived in London for a while, briefly in Prague, and then over a decade in Budapest. It was there, about 20 years ago, that I got back into gaming when I discovered both euro games (Catan, Carcassonne) and modern wargames (Hammer of the Scots). The boardgaming scene was just taking off in Budapest at that time, so I had plenty of opportunities to experience the renaissance of the 2000s led by designers such as Reiner Knizia and Wolfgang Kramer. In contrast, Hungarian wargamers were few and far between (they still are). I was lucky enough to find a few willing victims who I could explore light and midweight contemporary wargames with – we played a lot of block games, Command & Colors and CDGs such as Hannibal and Paths of Glory. I also got to know the only ‘serious’ wargamer living in Budapest at that time – Stéphane Acquaviva (designer of Hungarian Rhapsody). We played through the entirety of Great Battles of History, he introduced me to some classic Napoleonic Games and I could sometimes persuade him to try a CDG or a game from the Musket & Pike series. But the main focus of our hundreds of hours spent during Sunday gaming sessions were the campaign scenarios from the various volumes of MMP’s OCS series.
Several years ago, I returned to Birmingham having changed career to work as a translator. The gaming scene is very strong here – one of the world’s largest tabletop gaming conventions, the UK Games Expo, is held here once a year and has really helped to create a vibrant gaming ecosystem in the city. I attend a few different boardgames clubs every week, so I get to play a wide variety of games: euros, cooperative games, wargames, and even traditional RPGs. As part of the Birmingham Game Designers group, I organise an event every two months where boardgame, wargame and RPG designers can playtest their games with the gaming public. We also have more focused designer meetings four times a month. 

What was your first game design?

When I was about 12 years old, I created an Asterix board game based on Talisman, though I never finished the artwork and it I probably tested it no more than once or twice. When I became a serious hobby gamer 20 years ago, I also began designing games again. Although I’m usually inspired by history, my first completed prototype was a 2-player block wargame called The Long Winter based on a section in the Appendices of the Lord of the Rings (Appendix A, II, The House of Eorl). I was never going to be able to get a game on that topic published, but a couple of ideas I developed for The Long Winter did eventually find their way into This War Without an Enemy.

Why the English Civil War?

As I’ve alluded to already, I’ve been intensely interested in this period of history since I was a kid. The first English Civil War, in particular, is a fascinating narrative, full of colourful characters, closely-fought battles, important sieges and more than one reversal of fortune. I began designing a strategic game on the war many years ago, but the publication of Charles Vasey’s Unhappy King Charles in 2008 put paid to that, as it fulfilled most of what I wanted my design to do. However, a few years later Columbia Games listed the ECW as a topic they were considering publishing a game on. By offering to design it for them, I could combine my love of both block games and the historical period.
In what way is your design for This War Without an Enemy  different than others?

As my game was originally designed for Columbia, it very much followed in the mould of games like Crusader Rex and Richard III. However, when I moved to a different publisher – Nuts! Publishing – I wanted to differentiate it from those earlier block games, while at the same time I realised that I had the freedom to increase the complexity level slightly and add in more historical atmosphere. I think there are three main areas where This War Without an Enemy differs from most other block games:
The card decks: I decided early on in the design process to have a separate deck for each player. As a civil war, both sides in the ECW were very similar to each other in many ways, so I wanted to tease out the differences – and introduce more asymmetry to the game – with specific event cards. There are too few cards in total for the player decks to be further split into early, mid and late war decks, and so I introduced a mechanism for adding and retiring cards from each deck. The cards in most card-driven block games provide either points to spend or, more rarely, an event. In TWWE, most cards have both. This allowed me to balance the cards and avoid the possibility of a player having an inherently good or bad hand of cards. Each card either provides a lot of points (4) to spend on movement and/or recruiting; fewer points (2) but a strong event; or something in between (3 points and a weaker event).
Assaults and sieges: although the battles during the ECW are far better known than the sieges, it was the latter that were more important for the outcome of the war. Victory in TWWE is mainly determined by capturing cities, and so the rules around this needed to be well thought out. You can take a city through storming (assault), which is risky but can be quick, or through a siege (blockade), which is slow but sure. The mechanism for storming is similar to that for a battle, but artillery plays a more important role – if you breach the walls using artillery (or Mining via an event) then the city provides a much less significant defensive bonus. Sieges are resolved by rolling a die and consulting a table – this determines any attrition for the defender and eventual surrender. Ports can hold out longer than inland cities and can be reinforced by sea.
The Battle Mat and battle resolution: this has probably been the most popular part of the game. Although I retained the basic mechanism from other block games, I added more historical chrome and more player decision-making (in most block games, the only significant decision during battles is if and when to retreat blocks). The Battle Mat is essentially a player aid that makes battles easy to resolve despite the increased complexity. There are specific rules for artillery and cavalry blocks that replicate their role on the mid-17th century battlefield (yes, Prince Rupert’s cavalry can end up pursuing their opponents off the battle field!). When it comes to infantry blocks, a player must decide every round whether to fire at a distance with the muskets (which is less effective but happens early on in the round) or engage at close quarters with the pikes (more effective but take place at the end of the round). I believe this extra set of decision points makes battles them much more interesting for players.

Is there anything in the game that you would haved liked to be different because you had to compromise, or perhaps some part of the design that gave you fits?

As I have mentioned already, my move to Nuts! Publishing game me the freedom to change my game beyond the confines of the Columbia system. So, in the end, I had full control over the design of the game and did not have to make any compromises. My aim with TWWE was to create a game that is easy to learn, plays in no more than 3 or 4 hours, and yet contains a lot of history. I hope I have achieved this. 
I did not have difficulties with any particularly part of the design process. Basing my game on an existing system meant that it was fairly easy to develop an initial prototype. When I later chose to change the game, it was more of an evolution of an existing game that was working well. The trick was to add more chrome and historical atmosphere without compromising playability. Perhaps the most challenging part of the game to get right – and this is something that really gives it the flavour of the English Civil War – was the regional aspect. While the main field armies of the King and Parliament generally campaigned across the centre of the country, there were virtually autonomous regional theatres of war in the north and southwest of England. Unhappy King Charles simulates this in various ways, but I wanted a simpler approach for TWWE. Essentially, most blocks belong to one of five regions of England and Wales. Each block can only recruit (add strength) in its home region and may not leave, or remain outside of, its home region unless ‘chaperoned’ by a Leader block. 

Anything else you would want to emphasize or add to?

Something that I haven’t mentioned yet is the artwork and graphic design of This War Without an Enemy. This was a long process for both the publisher and I, but eventually we were very fortunate to find Nicolas Roblin and persuade him to do his very first board game commission. Working with Nicolas was a very collaborative experience, but the success of the final design was mainly due to his extensive research, passion and dedication – and, of course, his natural talent. He spent days in a library just to find the period illustrations for the cards. But it is the box cover illustration and the gorgeous map art that have attracted the most praise from people – they elevate the look of the game beyond anything I could have hoped for when I first started designing it all those years ago.

Thank you



Panzer Corps 2 is just over the horizon! The long awaited sequel to one of Slitherine's biggest titles comes out ...

Panzer Corps 2 - First Look Video and Open Beta for Field Marshal Pre-Orders Panzer Corps 2 - First Look Video and Open Beta for Field Marshal Pre-Orders

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

February 2020

Panzer Corps 2 - First Look Video and Open Beta for Field Marshal Pre-Orders

Panzer Corps 2 is just over the horizon! The long awaited sequel to one of Slitherine's biggest titles comes out March 19th, and you can see a bit of gameplay in my video below. If you want to play the game yourself, then you are in luck. Those who pre-order the Field Marshal edition (includes first two DLC and other goodies) will have access to a similar beta version from Feb. 18th to the 20th. So if you loved the first game, go ahead and hop in, this one looks to be a winner no doubt. If you're curious, check out my video and others. 

Please Note: I had some kind of unexpected issue with my recording, which resulted in it looking quite laggy when moving the camera around quickly. This is not reflective of the actual game, which runs perfectly smooth. I'll try to fix it and get a better version out when I can.

- Joe Beard


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


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:



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



 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:

Iron Duke


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:

Emperor of India

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:



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



 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)
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)
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


 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: