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  FOR WHAT REMAINS : STREETS OF RUIN FROM DVG I  have to declare a special interest in this game as will become clear shortly.  ...

FOR WHAT REMAINS : STREETS OF RUIN FOR WHAT REMAINS : STREETS OF RUIN

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

September 2020

FOR WHAT REMAINS : STREETS OF RUIN

 FOR WHAT REMAINS : STREETS OF RUIN
FROM
DVG

I have to declare a special interest in this game as will become clear shortly.  Its designer, David Thompson, first came to my attention when Pavlov's House was still in the early stages of being produced.  What I saw of that design made me search out any information that I could find about this relatively unknown designer.  Amongst what I did discover was a long-standing design project nominally called Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse [STA] that immediately intrigued me and fired my imagination.  This was something I wanted to see happen!

Subsequently, in 2018, I was able to review Pavlov's House for AWNT.  This led on to the pleasure of an interview with David Thompson in which I raised the hope of one day seeing STA professionally published.  Back then the prospects of that seemed remote and highly unlikely and that I would now be writing a review of that very game design, with its new title For What Remains, a mere dream.

Reviewing Pavlov's House was followed in due course by reviewing Castle Itter and then to my immense delight news of the dream came true.  DVG had plans to produce For What Remains and so it's many, many thanks to DVG for their willingness to provide review copies of all three "core" boxes, plus the bonus pack of faction dice and the transparent templates for the various "big guns" in the game.

What came as an even greater surprise and a personal thrill was when I came to read in David Thompson's Final Thoughts in the game's Rule Book that my comments and wishes in that interview article had led to DVG asking to be shown the details of this long-planned design!  The rest, as they say, is history.

In this review , I'm going to focus on the system and the typical contents of all three boxes and in a subsequent review I'll look more closely at the other Factions and the continuing story that each game unfolds.  Altogether there are six Factions, with two factions presented per game. In Streets of Ruin, the Factions are the Freemen and the Combine.  

CONTENTS

12 Double-sided map tiles 
Rule Book
Campaign Guide
2 Faction Guides [one for each Faction]
An AI Reference Sheet for each Faction
An Ability Reference Sheet for each faction
10 Character Reference Cards 
10 AI Activation Cards
60 Character Counters
60 Action Tokens
2 Faction Action Tokens
2 Ability Tokens
4 Scavenge Tokens
1 EMP Artifact Token
2 Ability Templates
5 Dice
1 Action Bag

The quality of all the contents is excellent, with the Character Counters and their associated Action Tokens continuing the style and appearance of those seen in both of David Thompson's previous designs published by DVG.  They are substantial, strong, chunky pieces.




They are also remarkably clear and uncluttered, carrying solely the name of the unit, its abbreviated quality letter[Recruit, Veteran or Elite] and as there are two of each type of unit, a skull or radiation symbol to distinguish them.

Next come the 12 detailed, double-sided terrain tiles that you'll use to build up your battleground.  These are very thin card that have an almost plastic feel and flexibility to them and all the scenarios provided in the Campaign Guide are based on a 3 x 3 layout, though there is nothing to stop you creating your own scenarios with substantially different layouts.
There's been some discussion about this thinness and the fact that the tiles will slide about unless you either place them on a surface that gives sufficient drag or you cover them with plexiglass.  Personally, I like them as they are, as I would always overlay any game with plexiglass where the terrain is constructed from tiles.  One thing's for sure that the art work for this post-apocalyptic world  is superb creating totally the right atmosphere.  What I like even more is the way in which types of terrain have been depicted for both movement and levels. At the moment there is only ground level and higher terrain, but future tiles could easily cover several levels.

Like so much in this game the solution is remarkably simple and easy to understand.  A combination of different coloured edging surrounds either terrain that is impassable or at a higher level or difficult terrain, with 2 movement points being the cost to enter both of the latter two types.  For those with any colour vision problems, apart from the colours avoiding those that cause the most familiar problems, there is an identifying symbol also placed in one square of the terrain type.

This basic simplicity signals other features that place the game strongly at the entry level with the emphasis on ease of understanding, ease of recall and ease of play and a fairly swift action-packed encounter ensues.  This is reflected in each Rule Book that follows an identical pattern, but is not just an identical reprint!


The sequence is as follows - a pictorial guide to all the components and the game layout on your table: a 2 page narrative extract; brief statements about each of the six factions: the range of elements that characters can possess with explanations of how to read the counters and the Character Reference cards: how to set up and read the terrain: details for a simple learning scenario: a gameplay sequence and description of the four key actions [Ranged Combat, Area Combat, Close Combat and Movement] and a special section on what are termed Huge Characters.

What is most significant about all that I've just outlined is that, though virtually all the text is identical, the substantial number and size of illustrative examples are totally different in each Rule Book.  I admire this decision, as I'd expected what most series games do which is to include the same Rule book, examples and all.  Instead every single illustrated example draws purely from the Factions presented in that specific game.
So above, this is Ranged Combat in Streets of Ruin and you can see just how substantial the illustrated example is and this is typical of every example.  While below, you can see the same rule, but the tailor-made example from Blood on The Rails.
The information supplied up to this point in the rules allows you to play the five Scenarios, in each game's Campaign Booklet, as individual Skirmish Scenarios crafting each one to your own chosen number of Character points to make them as large or small as you want.  Obviously, it also gives you all you need to know to create your own Scenarios.

Each Rule Book next explains how to play the five Scenarios as a Campaign using the photocopiable Force Rosters to build your initial troops and personalise them by giving them names, if you wish.  As the Campaign progresses, you will gain points to spend on upgrading the quality of individual characters. This is followed by a Section detailing how to play the game solo - something essential in the current situation.

The penultimate part is a five page time-line for this post-apocalyptic world which I can best describe as alt-history.  I say this because the substantial back-story begins in 1957 and ends in 2035.  In its course, historical events and equally factual geographical locations are melded into a disturbing vision of what might have been.  It begins with the only too real series of U.S. nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site called Operation Plumbbob and especially one test called Rainier that was the first totally underground nuclear test.  This test opens a gateway to an alternate dimension called the Netherscape, more frequently referred to as the Basement.  From this point on we are firmly into the alt-history of planet Earth.

Personally, the details of this type of sci-fi/dystopia has very little influence on my enjoyment of a game, though I have travelled in the past through Warhammer 40k with my son and have quite a partiality for Deadzone 2 which bears some similarities to For What Remains.  But for those who value and appreciate the creation of narrative, this is sustained consistently through the counters, the tiles and the artwork of all the booklets and in particular in the Campaign booklet for each game.


In these, a finely detailed and crafted part of the story is played out, once again located in a genuine historical time and region - the massive Russian test site at Semipalatinsk.  David Thompson has certainly done his research, incorporating photographs and aerial reconnaissance pictures linked to the location of each Scenario in the three Campaigns to achieve a very realistic setting for these dramatic engagements.

Turning from the background and story, I want to consider the elements that make this game work so well.  Obviously, the simple and easy rules are the starting point, but more significant for me in valuing this game is the Activation system.  Each turn you will be able to place as many Activation tokens in the draw bag as you have units in the skirmish.  So with five units, five tokens will go into the bag, along with your opponent's tokens.  As a token is drawn, the unit can take one action.  This in itself produces the continuous thrill of anticipation, especially as the game progresses and which side and which unit is drawn to activate becomes more and more important! 

In addition each unit possesses 3 Activation tokens, so you can activate a unit up to 3 times in a turn, but only at the expense of other units not being able to be activated at all. The next consideration is that those Activation tokens used this turn are set aside and cannot be used on the next turn.  Right from the start you're faced with this simple, but vital decision: which units will you choose for potential activation and how often in a turn?

 Above you can see the square counters which are the units you place on the map, while below them are the corresponding Activation tokens for each unit.

Though the choice of Actions may seem very limited: just Movement or Combat, more variety comes from each character having one or more predesignated Special Abilities.  This aspect of the game relates to the quality of unit that I mentioned earlier.  As you'd expect, the better the quality the more Abilities a unit possesses.  

Typically, the Freemen Medic has the capacity to heal one hit for herself or heal one hit on an adjacent character.  The opposing Combine unit, the Harpi, has the same ability, but also improved movement through difficult terrain.  As you move to the increasingly stranger units in the other "core" games, those Abilities become equally stranger!! 

Instead of trying to crowd these distinctive differences into the Rule Book, they are handled through the individual Faction Guides. Each unit has a brief description that adds to the narrative element of the game, an explanation of any special ranged weapon [these usually involve area style effects with blast templates] with accompanying full page illustrated example and details of the Special Abilities and variations according to unit quality.

Also relating to the units, each type has its separate Character Reference Card which covers in chart form the different stats for Movement, Range, Ranged Combat, Close Combat and Defense and Abilities cross referenced with Unit Quality.  These I've found very easy to use, even when having to handle up to ten separate cards when playing solo.

Two Combine Faction Character Reference Cards
Which word "Solo" neatly takes us to the final rules section: Solitaire Play.  This too is handled initially in two very quickly assimilated pages and then in game play by a Reference Card for each type of unit.


These are very simple to use and provides a system that must rank as one of the easiest to understand and put into operation of any I've come across.  A simple die roll on the Reference Chart gives an A.I. unit its order which will be carried on from turn to turn until accomplished or some intervening event causes a change and the need to roll for a new action.  

Above all, it seems to generate just the same type of authentic game narrative as ftf place, as may be instanced by a typical example from one of my games.  An A.I. unit tasked to move and pick up the nearest scavenge unit was just about to reach its objective when it was hit by my fire.  Forced to roll on a different table for being hit, it rolled to move toward the nearest Harpi [which possesses the ability to try to heal it!].  Good thinking soldier! But, of course, the roll might have made it continue on to its objective.  In which case - brave soldier grits its teeth and forces itself to risk trying to carry out  its order

Obviously trying to remember exactly what each unit has to do may seem perhaps a little confusing.  Here I'd suggest a coloured cube as a marker on the Reference Chart is all you need to cover most situations.  Just occasionally, you may need to make the odd written note.  However, if you've laboured over the intricacies of the time-consuming flow charts of many bot supported games, this is a breeze.  So too is the mechanism for ramping up the difficulty of your A.I. opponent: for an easy game just allow the A.I. to add 1 extra Action token to the drawbag, for moderate add 2 extra tokens and for really difficult add 3 extra tokens.  May I suggest that you can adapt even this by varying the number of additional tokens from turn to turn.

Inevitably the question of price and the decision to produce three "core" boxes, rather one "core" and two expansions needs to be raised. Typical prices in rounded figures are $40 and £50 per game. Considering many board wargames weigh in at £60+, you'll spend far more [and I have] for games of less quality and far less "bang for the buck."  So, I have no hesitation in saying that buying one game is value for money.  For those who've expressed the concern that they might like the game enough that they'll want the other two games, all I can say is take the risk. 
Scenario 1 ready for some solo action!

To sum up, For What Remains is a major qualifier for introductory level skirmish gaming, while giving a life-time gamer like myself a great dose of action that can be off the shelf and on the table in minutes.  Face to face play is a wonderfully cat and mouse experience, where the more you play with the same opponent the more what happened last time is going to feed into how you play the next time.  Solitaire play is equally rewarding, easy to run and adaptable.   
A final close-up of the action

On top of that, this is a major sand-box design that has scope for considerable personal input.   It's already provoking, as I expected, enthusiasm to produce home-grown scenarios and couldn't be a better supported game, as David Thompson and team are some of the fastest responders to questions and suggestions from gamers that you'll come cross.   

0 comments :

  Brotherhood & Unity War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995 by Compass Games  I believe Compass Games is four out of four, for sending...

Brotherhood & Unity: War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995 by Compass Games Brotherhood & Unity: War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995 by Compass Games

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

September 2020

Brotherhood & Unity: War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995 by Compass Games





 Brotherhood & Unity


War in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995


by


Compass Games






 I believe Compass Games is four out of four, for sending me games about pieces of history I know very little. I had small children and had started a new job just when this war broke out. Although I know the bare minimum about the fighting, I do know the history or the area. So, that gives me at least a leg up in my research about the war.

 The Balkans have been a hotbed of European history since the Roman Empire was still intact. Many of us are aware that the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was the match that lit the fuse that started World War I. Thirty years before the war Otto von Bismarck had exclaimed "It will be some damn fool thing in the Balkans that sets it off.", referring to the start of the next European war. Winston Churchill made the statement "The Balkans produce more history than they can consume.".  The problems in the Balkans are numerous, but the two main ones are ethnic and religious. The three ethnic groups that live in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosniaks, Serbians, and Croatians. Bosniaks tend to be Muslim, Serbians tend to be Orthodox Christians, and Croatians are usually Catholic. The Ottoman empire ruled the area for hundreds of years, which is why Islam has a foothold there. We have seen throughout history how religious and ethnic diversity in a small area can cause bloodshed. The creation of Yugoslavia after World War I did not alleviate any of the long standing issues. World War II saw the different ethnic groups on different sides of the partisan war in Yugoslavia. With the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1990-1992 the fuse was once again lit. This is from the Designer's Short History of BiH:


"The war was characterized by bitter fighting, indiscriminate
shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic
mass rape – mainly perpetrated by Serbian, and to a lesser
extent by Croat and Bosniak forces. Events such as the Siege
of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre later became tragic
reminders of a conflict that should not have been fought in
the first place.
The Serbs were initially militarily superior due to the
weapons and resources provided by the ex-Yugoslav Army
(JNA), but they eventually lost momentum as the Bosniaks
and Croats created an alliance. As a result of the Serbian
atrocities committed at Srebrenica and Markale, NATO air
forces intervened in 1995 with Operation Deliberate Force
targeting the positions of the Army of the Republika Srpska.
The war was brought to an end after the peace negotiations
held in Dayton, Ohio and signing of the General Framework
Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on
14 December 1995.
It is presumed that more than 100.000 people died, and more
than 2 million people were displaced."



 This is the write up from Compass Games:

  • Complexity: 5 out of 10
  • Solitaire suitability: 5 out of 10
  • Time Scale: 1 year per turn, 2 months per action round
  • Map Scale: Point-to-point strategic level
  • Unit Scale: Brigades
  • Number of Players: 2 to 3
  • Suitability for Solitaire: Medium
  • Average Time to Play: 2 to 3 hours


 This is what comes with the game:

  • 1 22"x34" Mounted Map
  • 260 9/16" Counters
  • 96 Strategy cards (in 3 decks: Serbian, Croatian and Bosniak)
  • 3 Player aid cards
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Ten-sided die
  • 1 Box and lid set

 

  I have been buying and reviewing Compass Games for about three years now. I have seen some older remarks about the components of their games. If at one time they left something to be desired, that ship has long sailed. The games I have from them all have wonderfully manufactured components. This game is no exception. The map is especially thick and well done. The colors are vibrant and it is easy to read, with every table etc. that you need to play on it. It is a point to point movement game. The map also has an inset to deal with the fighting for Sarajevo. Does that city's name ring a bell? If not for a driver's wrong turn in that city, what might the 20th century history have been? But I digress. The counters are large at a size of 9/16". They are mostly plain, and use NATO symbols for the units. There are both standard and elite units in the mix. For control counters, there are either the separate areas' flags or heraldic symbols. These lend a nice change from the otherwise plain unit counters. The three decks, one each for Serbian, Bosniak, and Croatian player, each have the heraldic sign on the back. Each of the cards are very easy to read, and are also easy to understand how to use them. There is only one double-sided Player Aid, three of them, one for each player. The Player Aid is in full color and easy to read. The rulebook is setup a little different than most. It goes through the different game concepts in the beginning pages, along with the breakdown of what's what on the cards and counters. This takes up pages one through nine. The Game Setup and Sequence of Play start on page ten and run until page nineteen. Then you have two pages on how to play with only two players. The rule book continues with two variants and then goes into the Designer's Short History of BiH. Pages twenty-three to twenty-eight have notes on the cards of all three decks. Next is a large bibliography; thank you, I needed it. It also comes with an index, and a two page spread of both counter sheets back and front, just in case. As I said, the components are all what you would expect from a Compass Games effort.




 The game can be played as either a two-player or a three-player one. As a two-player, one player plays the Serbian forces, with the other player having control of both the Bosniaks and Croatians. In the three player game each player gets one of the sides of the conflict to play. This is the Sequence of Play:


Game Sequence: The game is played in turns, each
of which is subdivided into phases. Game Phases are played
in the following order:
1. Start of Turn Phase
Players draw cards, place reinforcements, and deploy
Foreign Units.
2. Action Phase
Players successively play cards to perform actions. This
phase ends when all cards have been played.
3. End of Turn Phase
Players check if Victory Conditions have been met, and
advance the Game Turn marker.
 Order of Play: Each Game Phase is played in the
following order:
• Turns 1-2: Serbian -> Croat -> Bosniak
• Turns 3-4: Bosniak -> Croat -> Serbian




 The normal game only has four turns to it. You can play a variant that extends the game by adding cards to everyone's deck, or you can play the variant 'Fight to the End' in which you just keep playing turns until someone surrenders or is defeated. Which player goes when each turn is set up in the rules. I did not try it yet, but I wonder if a die roll for who goes when will unbalance the game. It might give it a longer life on your table with not knowing where you are in the turn sequence, or it is possible that it was looked at in testing and was found not to work. The game itself, although dealing with anything but a straight up war, has many of the rules we are used to such as: stacking, movement, and reinforcement. The Serbian player starts out in a very strong position and can try to roll over his opponents in the first turns. However, this is where Foreign Attitude and NATO come in. If you are doing too well, you might just have to deal with some Thunderbolts and other air assets of NATO on your tail. This goes for all the players. So, like any good wargame, Brotherhood & Unity is a juggling game. If I am on a streak of good luck, do I keep pushing it, or sit back and dig in? The Foreign Attitude part of the game makes it that much harder to keep all the balls in the air. With a play time of two to three hours, it is perfect for game night and also doesn't need to take up the table except for those hours. As long as the cat or dog doesn't get involved, everyone should have space and time for the game. Thank you Compass Games for allowing me to review another winner from your stable. The game is extremely well produced and judging by other peoples comments they find the game just as enjoyable as I do.





 My apologies to the designer. I tried numerous times to find out how to put a caron above a C.

5 comments :

  Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing   The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese ...

Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing

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

September 2020

Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing





 Across the Pacific


by


Pacific Rim Publishing





 The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese edition cover below.



 Games that portray the entire war in the Pacific seem to be rather easy to find. They are probably right after Waterloo, The Bulge, and the Russian Front games as far as the amount of them. Unfortunately, when there is a crowded field of games, some will be left behind. Not because there is something wrong with them, but just because the public's fancy was caught by other games. This game has some unique points to it, but before we go there, let us describe what comes with the game. Here is the lucre in the box:

36 by 48 inch map of the Pacific Basin from Pearl Harbor to Imphal, Dutch Harbor to Brisbane
960 die-cut back printed 5/8 inch counters
24-page rules booklet
24-page Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play booklet
Two 11 by 17 inch color back printed Order of Battle charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Unit and Carrier Air Groups Display charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Task Force Display charts
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Charts and Tables card




 The listed size of the map is somewhat misleading. When you start to open it up, it seems like you are opening up one of the Russian dolls. Each flap seems to lead to another folded piece. I actually measured it, because it really seemed larger than the stated size. The colors are plain, and there is no glitz whatsoever. However, it is fully functional, and there are no ambiguities about the hex terrain. The counters are large and very easy to read. Again, they are more functional looking than arty. The Player's Aids are fully in color and well done. The Rulebook and Player's Handbook are in black and white. The Rulebook is twenty-four pages long. The rules are naturally a bit more involved than some other games. You are playing out the entire Pacific War. The Player's Handbook is split into three sections Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play. To give you an example of the Historical Summary:

"Tokkotai is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgokiTAI, meaning "special attack corps" or "special attack unit". Tokko is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgo, "special attack". The Japanese usually referred to these special attacks as Tokko and to the units that performed the attacks as Tokkotai." 
This is how informative the Historical Summary is. The Naval counters are a combination of different ships, and do not represent just one ship. Here are some examples:

Japanese
BB-1 - Fuso, Yamashiro
CV-3 - Zuikaku, Shokaku
United States
BB-10 Missouri, Wisconsin
CV-3 - Wasp, Hornet




 The designer Michaels Myers also wrote a book on the Pacific War. The name of it is 'The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat was not Inevitable'. After reading his Designer Comments I had to read a copy of the book for myself. It stands to reason that his ideas for the game came from his own ideas on the Pacific War. This comes from the Game Notes, and sums up the games premises:

"Across the Pacific questions the usual assumptions and allows players to test alternative strategies. For example, it is often assumed that Japan had no chance to win the Pacific War. The problems with this assumption is that (1) it assumes a kind of unproved historical determinism, (2) it undermines the problem-solving accomplishments of the Allies in the Pacific war, and (3) it neglects to take into account Japanese potential advantages. Such an assumption leads to wargames where the only interesting action takes place at the beginning or the end of the war. It is thought that the Allies could have done better in Malaya or the Philippines, but the main course of the war is assumed to be an ineluctable progress of the allies toward victory, whether that be occasioned by an invasion of Japan or atomic bombs."




 To use the designer notes again:

"The heart of the operational combat system in Across the Pacific is the creation and use of Naval Task Forces and Task Groups."

 The developer, Mark A. Kramer,  goes onto show all of the different strategies that Japan can use instead of the historical ones. 

Using the SSA regiment and an SNLF regiment to ensure the capture of Wake island on turn one. With the intention of capturing Guam on turn two.
Not splitting the IJN by trying to maintain two major bases at both Tokyo and Truk. 
Creating a Type-B Task Force in Tokyo to augment the carrier raid against Pearl Harbor, and using the guns to obliterate the initial USN deployment.
Invading and isolating New Guinea on turn one before the US and Australian troops can get there.
Go for an all out attack in China on turn one. It will make your conquest of southern Asia much more difficult, but will cut the need for keeping large forces pinned in China. It will also negate the Allied bombing campaign from China.




 So the designer has given you, as the Japanese and Allied player, a whole host of different strategies to try out. You are not even forced to attack Pearl Harbor. This is something that is usually a given in any Pacific war game.




 Each turn represents five months of the war. There are nine turns in total. These are the different scenarios you can play:

Across the Pacific - The Grand Campaign
Remember Pearl Harbor - This starts in May 1942 and assumes the Japanese acted historically. It ends in August 1945.
Midway - This lasts only one turn.
Guadalcanal - This lasts two turns.
The Rising Sun  - This lasts for one turn. It is a solitaire scenario with the player as the Japanese for the first five months of the war.

  As with any game that differs from the norm you have to put more effort into learning the rules. Two of the big rules or ideas in the game are 'Air Umbrellas' and CEL (Combat Effectiveness Level) for units. The Air Umbrella is a way for the player to keep a large area under his own air control. Historically, after 1942 the Japanese pilots were badly trained. The CEL rules in the game make it possible for the Japanese player to husband his good pilots, and get them into the good second part of the war airframes. POLs (Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants) are the supply markers of the game. Almost any player action will use up a POL marker. 




 I really like the game and it is a shame that it seems to have been lost in the shuffle in 2010 when it was released. The variable strategies for both sides is one of its main points. While the Kamikaze attacks are open to the Japanese player, there is also the possibility that you will not need them.  The limited postings I have seen on the game find that players do enjoy the game and its concepts. Thank you Pacific Rim Publishing for letting me review this sleeper of a game. They seem to have a wide range of products to take a look at.

Robert

Pacific Rim Publishing:

Across the Pacific:



 

1 comments :

  Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corp...

Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC

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

September 2020

Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC


 


Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corps 2 shipped with a campaign covering all the headline battles for the German army in WW2, but now it is receiving a series of DLC that take a deeper dive into the war, and visit many smaller and less well known battles in a very lengthy grand campaign. The first DLC featured the Spanish Civil War, in many ways the warm up to WW2 in Europe where the various powers tried out new tactics and equipment. If you have already played through that campaign, you can carry your core force and heroes forward into 1939, or start fresh with a balanced force and several heroes to assign as you please.



Over the course of 15 scenarios you'll visit some of the less gamed battles of the war. While in real life many of these were small scale affairs compared to the later battles of the war, Panzer Corps 2 makes up for this by taking the quirks of the historical situation and offering up unique objectives for each scenario. In most cases you'll be offered up a straight forward objective that isn't too difficult to complete, but, critically, you'll also have at least a couple of bonus objectives that will appear tantalizingly within your grasp. Accomplishing one of those objectives will require only a bit more skill than normal, but taking on both at the same time will often demand some real strategy and perhaps even a few separate runs at the scenario. While you can finish the campaign without doing any of these, the game is far more fun, and more challenging, when you attempt them. In almost every scenario I found myself embarrassingly overstretched on my first attempt, thinking I had things in the bag just before an enemy counter-attack cut off my lead units and ravaged them. The rewards for going the extra mile are Commendation Points, which you'll be able to spend at various junctions to get special units and heroes. 




While some of the bonus objectives merely involve taking the primary objective and pushing deeper into enemy territory, others are very unique and fresh. For example, early on you'll invade Czechoslovakia. While you can just roll in and crush all resistance, the ideal way to win the battle is to occupy points all over the map without destroying a single enemy unit. You'll attack and push them back, but never hit them so hard that you wipe one out. As you can imagine, it becomes difficult to cut deep into enemy territory when you keep leaving viable enemy units in your rear. In a later mission fighting the French, you're tasked with capture a huge swath of objectives across the map, but ever so tempting is a heavily fortified city right next to your starting point, that you merely need to raid (simply touch the objective marker once) to complete a bonus objective. It seems so easy, it's right there, you can drive to the objective location on Turn 1, and yet you'll lose half of your force trying to take it directly, or burn through most of your limited turns attempting to encircle and siege the place.



Throughout the campaign you'll see Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Finland, and Denmark, offering quite a variety of locales and enemy forces. Your own units will of course not evolve too much over this time period, but you will get the chance to capture various enemy units and add them to your core force if you so choose. You'll also see your units grow in experience, awards which add perks to a unit, and gain more heroes. These heroes are used in Panzer Corps 2 to further customize a unit with special perks, which bend the normal rules of the game. Each unit can have up to three of these guys attached, letting you create some real powerhouses with the right synergies. 



At the end of this campaign you'll be edging over into 1940. No doubt we will be seeing Axis Operations 1940 in the coming months, where you can take your forces on to invade the rest of Europe. As I know a lot less about this period of the war than the latter portions, I'm very interested in seeing what locations and battles will be featured.


At just $10, Axis Operations 1939 is certainly worth your money if you are looking for some more Panzer Corps 2 action. While it doesn't break new ground, it offers more of the tried and true, but highly polished action of the core game. 


Axis Operations 1939 is available directly from Slitherine or your gaming store of choice.


- Joe Beard



4 comments :

 Normandy 1944 German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling   This is not a book for the...

Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling

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

September 2020

Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness by Niklas Zetterling




 Normandy 1944


German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness


by


Niklas Zetterling




  This is not a book for the casual reader of history. This book is meant for readers who already have a background in military history, especially World War II history. The author's conclusions in some of the chapters of the book are sure to raise some eyebrows, and bring forth some harrumphs. Some of the book's chapters are:

German Terminology
German Combat Unit Organization
The Effects of Allied Air Power
German Tanks Employed in Normandy
German Losses in Normandy
German Combat Efficiency

 The first myth the author dispels is the 'Tiger' myth. Very few Tigers were actually employed in Normandy, and the chance of an Allied Soldier running into one was pretty slim. Reading some veteran accounts, every building and hedgerow was hiding a malevolent Tiger. The next dispelled myth is the effectiveness of Allied Air Power. Some books have been written to show that a German Soldier could not raise his head for fear of a P-51 or P-47 blowing it off. The truth, according to the author, is that while the Allied Air Forces did very well in destroying the French rail network, their contribution to the destruction of the German Forces was not nearly as significant as was once thought. As an example, the author shows that during the Falaise Gap debacle, at most three percent of the German Vehicles were destroyed from the air. This was during what could be described as a 'turkey shoot', from the Allied point of view.


 The author will probably get some pushback on his evaluation of German combat efficiency. The author uses his own calculations to deduce that German combat efficiency was greater than the Allies across the board. This amount would vary according to the training etc. of the German unit or units in each battle. One statement by the author is very telling to me. In it he states, "That during the summer of 1944 the Allies actually had a greater numerical superiority in Normandy than the Red Army had on the Eastern Front. Despite this, the Allies did not really make better progress than the Red Army. Few have questioned the superior combat effectiveness of the Germans over the Red Army."

 Most wargamers are also statisticians at heart. We tend to remember the actual OOBs of many battles etc. This book is a God send for those of us who are wired that way. To show two examples of what is in the book:

 On May 15, 1944 SS-Panzer Division "Das Reich" had 18 7.5 cm IG guns on hand.
On May 24, 1944 the same division received 8 Panther tanks

 Information like this is to be had in the book on every German division that took part in the Normandy Campaign.

 If you are a reader of history that lives on facts and figures this is a book for you. As far as the author's conclusions, this has been a battle that has raged over the last 75 years. I will leave it to each reader and his own deductions. All I can say, is that Mr. Zetterling goes out of his way with information to back up his conclusions. I recommend this to any history lover and especially wargamers and anyone who is thinking of developing a wargame or modifying an existing one. 

 Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review another one of your fine efforts.

Robert


2 comments :

  TYPE 7 by 3D ART LAB    We find ourselves back in a U-Boat in World War II. We are in a Type 7 U-Boat, the most produced type during World...

Type 7 by 3D ART LAB Type 7 by 3D ART LAB

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

September 2020

Type 7 by 3D ART LAB





 TYPE 7


by


3D ART LAB






  We find ourselves back in a U-Boat in World War II. We are in a Type 7 U-Boat, the most produced type during World War II. As the picture says, it is a solitaire and co-op game of commanding a U-Boat during the Atlantic Campaign. That it certainly is, but it is so much more than that. This is what you get in the kit:


1 rulebook

 1 mission book

 1 quick reference sheet

 1 in-game U-boat Type VII length 63cm

 1 magazine for 20 deck gun shells

 1 game board separated into 2 pieces, containing 5 range zones (0 - 4)

 1 second player token

 1 String for rigging

 2 support ticket boxes

 4 blue dice for roll tests

 4 status tokens, double sided with round edges

 6 red dice for target damage counting

 6 target disc holders

 7 crew tokens double sided

 8 crew panic tokens

 12 fuel barrels

 12 tech tokens

 12 Torpedo bodies – cavitation

 12 Torpedo bodies – electric

 12 Torpedo bodies – steam

 15 victory points

18 damage tokens with different effects (shaped like a sea mine)

 18 Torpedo warheads – below

 18 Torpedo warheads – standard

 20 deck gun shells - high explosive

 20 deck gun shells – standard

 20 target discs for 10 kinds of enemies (wooden discs)






 This project is a labor of love by 3D ART LAB. I actually studied running and programming CNC machines. So, I know the work that went into just the creation of the wooden sheets. This project is a sight to behold when you open the contents. I did not get the wooden box that it comes in, or the ammo box to store your components. It was so early in the process, that I just received the sheets for the U-Boat and the parts to play. I will add pics of what you will get if you order the Kickstarter project, and by the time I am done, you will order it. I did not do a count, but looking at the remnants there were roughly nine laser etched wood sheets. Yes, I said wood. The kit does resemble one of those wooden model airplane monstrosities that I believe you can still buy. These are the ones that you needed to glue together about 100 pieces just to make the wings. I said it resembled one of those kits, mainly because of the strength of the wood in this game/kit/life project. On those old kits you could sneeze and a spar would break. The wood that is in this kit is made from layers of laminated smaller sheets of wood pressed together. When you first open the kit and look at one or two of the sheets, the thought that comes to mind is that I am going to break half of this while disconnecting the pieces from the wooden sprue. Do not be worried, this wood is extremely strong. Even with my fat fingers, I did not manage to break anything. Remember I mentioned that this is both a game and a kit? The parts are laser etched through the sheets, except for a few places where the connection is still in place. The programming alone for all of the parts on the numerous sheets must have taken a long, long time.



The Ammo Box

 So, the first thing you will want to do is build the Type 7 U-Boat that comes along with the game. The first pic shows you what you will have once you are done building the U-Boat. Online, some of the people who have gotten the kit already have painted it U-Boat gray. To be honest, I like it either way. Because of time constraints I left it looking and smelling like a wood burning project. It is so simple to take apart and put back together, that I may change my mind and paint it in the end. About half the sheets that come with the kit are for the game and the other half are for the U-Boat. Some are used for both. The built U-Boat is really a tremendous piece of artwork, especially when you think back to the untouched wooden sheets before you started. As I said before, do not worry; this is not your grandfather's balsa wood. With this wood you could build a flying Mosquito or its compliment the TA-154. One of the scary things about the kit is when you look at the sheet of torpedo pieces. When you see that sheet, you will know you are in it for the long haul. Oh, did I forget to mention the two different deck gun shells? Yes, Virginia, you will have to pop out all of them and then assemble them. Santa's Elves will not save you now. The last time I got as scared as I did looking at the torpedo sheet was thirty years ago. My eldest daughter wanted some castle for Christmas. My wife and I were up until 3:00AM building that castle from hell. When you push out the first torpedo it seems like you are putting your life on hold. In actuality, I was quite surprised how easy it was and how the whole process took less than two hours. Sorting all of the different pieces took more time than actually removing and building them. I decided to remove everything from the sprues and sort them accordingly. You could for instance, just remove the U-Boat pieces, and put that together first. Then you could turn your hands to the rest of the game pieces. Looking at one piece of the U-Boat, the thought did come to my mind that this was not going to look good. I was afraid that 3D ART LAB had spruced up the ones you see on their website. When the U-Boat was about half finished I started to change my mind. Looking at the entire model when it was finished was like looking at it on their website. I am sorry to have doubted you guys. This model is awesome. So, let us recap. Yes, you will get scared when you see the total amount of etched sheets. Unless, your OCD is extremely strong. Mine is up there, but not that high. If you are like me, you will think you have gotten yourself into quite the chore for a Saturday. Mowing the lawn will start to look like a breeze. Take a deep breath, and suck it up and get started. I guarantee the work will be worth the effort. To put it together I did not even use any instructions. There are a lot of videos on 3D ART LAB's site that include playing the game and assembling the U-Boat. The next pics will show the 'showcase' U-Boat model.




 So, now I do have to mention one of the game pieces that I do not like. I understand completely that the laser etching process was at fault for my dislike. The 'Target Disc Holders' have to be popped out from their sprues. Then you have to pop out about fifty very small slider pieces that fit into the Target Disc Holders. Because of the laser etching, the heat was high enough to cause problems with the slider pieces. None of them were deformed or unusable. What happened was the heat from the laser burnt, and somewhat melted the sprue pieces between the slider pieces. So, when they came out some of the sprue was stuck to them. This required an exacto knife to trim the excess. It was only on about 15-20 of the pieces, but it was still a bit of a pain. These are the only parts that I had any issue at all with. I also understand that the reason it happened was because the parts are so small and close together. So it is not really a manufacturing fault. Next up, when you put the sliders in the Target Disc Holders they really do not sit that well in them. The slider pieces only stay in the 'track' because of side pressure. This again is because of the manufacturing process. With the pieces as they are there is no way to make a real track for them to slide back and forth on. Do they work, yes. Did they give you plenty of extras in case of problems, again yes. It would however, be nice to see the Target Disc Holder and the slider pieces designed a different way. Do please remember though, that they work as is. They could just be done better. 

 Update on the slider issue. The prototype ones I received are the first version. There is now a three piece slider that will come with the kits. This will have one piece on top of the wood and one on the bottom connected by a piece in the middle. So, that means my second gripe is taken care of. It also means that the designer is always looking at ways to improve the game. I cannot attest to if the etching will be better on these other small parts or not. Therefore I will leave in my first gripe, until proven wrong.


Target Disc Holder

 Let us go back to the whole kit for a moment. Just because I found fault in one piece out of a hundred in the game/kit does not mean the end of the world. The kit itself is a sight to behold, and the game pieces are almost all wonderfully crafted. Not to beat the phrase to death, but this truly is a monumental labor of love on the designers' part. 


The game all set up to play

 Now, on to the game. It is almost unbelievable that you also get a game with the U-Boat kit. An entire working well thought out game that you can play without even needing the kit itself. So, the designer/s not only had to figure out the laser etching for a thousand pieces, they also thoughtfully included a game in the box for you. This is a write-up from 3D ART LAB about the game:





 This is a rundown of your maiden voyage, if you survive:

"MISSION 1: THE MAIDEN VOYAGE

The war just begins and the German fleet commander sends dozens of submarines out to hunt down their first vessels.

We have a great momentum in surprise and you have to deal with the enemy as much damage as you can.

All your crew is green. You are allowed to level up one crew member when you've destroyed the first cargo ship, destroyer or tanker.

In co-op mode both players allowed to level up one crew member after destroying a ship.

Destroy as much enemy objects as possible: Cargo ships and Destroyers count as 1 victory point, Battleships and Tanker 2 victory points.

But your first priority is to survive and to come back to the shipyard after this first mission.

Setup:

4 torpedoes loaded in the launchers in front, 10 torpedoes in storage for reload. Steam, Electric and only standard torpedo warheads.

Deckgun 20 Shells. Choose between standard or high explosive.

1 support ticket

10 fuel

End:

You did it! You survived your first mission and got noticed in your submarine.

The administration appreciates your performance commanding the ship and confirmed your permanent commanding position."

 As of right now there are 27 missions through 5 Chapters for the campaign. Most of them are fully fleshed out, but some of them are yet to be figured out by the designer. You have to remember that the project has not reached the Kickstarter phase yet, so some things are still up in the air. The game can be played and is almost as finished as the kit. So, the game is about 95% complete. The Rulebook is 11 pages long right now. It is in color. There are still some place holders in it for pictures of different parts of the game to be added. Do not be fooled, this is a full-fledged U-Boat game. This is not some hokey game stuck onto a excellent model, with the model being the big draw. Your crew starts out green, and with good game play on your part becomes veterans. There are also different officers that can be used to adjust your die roll chances during the game. Because the game takes place throughout the war years, you will also have the ability to gain technology. You will have to worry about fuel, and being spotted by aircraft. You also have a chance to call in a Wolfpack or some other assets to help you on your missions. I will leave links below for you to look at the game rules and some other things.

 This is a video unboxing done by 3D ART LAB. You get to see the excellent packaging of the kit:

https://youtu.be/I9CW0hq8nXE

 This is a video done by them of assembling the U-Boat:

https://youtu.be/vRySxFejxGQ

 This is a video of assembling the Showcase U-Boat:

https://youtu.be/FYHYZOuoSGU


 Thank you 3D ART LAB for letting me review this extremely well done and thought out project. I am really in awe how not only the model kit, but the game really came from only one persons imagination. 

Robert

3D ART LAB:

http://www.3dartlab.de/

TYPE 7:

http://www.3dartlab.de/type7/index.html

Rulebook:

http://www.typevii.com/Type7-PrintVersion-V1.zip

Kickstarter Page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/3dartlab/type-7-solitaire-and-2-player-submarine-warfare?ref=bggforums





2 comments :

  Traders of the Air by Compass games  Once again, Compass Games has done it to me. They have sent me a Euro game that is set in a Steampunk...

Traders of the Air by Compass Games Traders of the Air by Compass Games

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

September 2020

Traders of the Air by Compass Games





 Traders of the Air


by


Compass games





 Once again, Compass Games has done it to me. They have sent me a Euro game that is set in a Steampunk world. What, may I ask, is Steampunk? I have heard the word and I believe I have played a little bit in a computer game that was based on a pseudo steampunk world. So, off I go to gather more information on this here thing steampunk thing. Next up, a Euro game? I am a wargamer who is hidebound in many ways. I kind of swore I would never sully my hands with a Euro game. Well, now I am sullied. You can teach an old dog new tricks, as long as you pull hard enough on the leash and there are treats in the end (I have a rescue dog that one of its traits is listed as willful. I think it is a perfect match for me.) So, where Compass leads me with the leash I shall follow, although a bit begrudgingly. 


As an aside: "Steampunk is a retrofuturistic subgenre of Science Fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery".


 The game is for 2-4 players who represent steampunk guild traders on a far away planet. You buy and sell goods between different cities propelled on a flying steamship. You must also setup guild contracts at the different cities. To put it simply, you are trying to make the most money and establish as many guild contracts as possible to win. So, it is Capitalism in a pseudo 19th century world somewhere in the universe. 




This is what comes with the game:

Two game boards (backprinted on a single "sheet")

Eight guild mats (four of them backprinted)

One steamship

60 guild contract discs (15 each in four player colors)

22 sky dollar cardboard "coins"

78 cardboard goods markers

Two bags

One cardboard "compass" (used only for the variant)

Two rules booklets (English and German)

One start player marker 



 The components are the usual well done fare by Compass Games. The double-sided mounted map is sturdy and colorful, with enough room for all the players' markers etc. One side is easier to play than the other, and is recommended for your first games. The following are the different kinds of markers:

The Steamship and Start Player Marker

The Guild Contracts

The Goods Markers

The Sky Dollars

The above are either wooden colored chits or thick cardboard ones. Each player also gets a Guild Mat. There are eight generic mats, and on the back of each is a named Guild that has some enhancement to playing that Guild. The Rulebook is eight pages long and is in full color. It is filled with examples of gameplay. The rules are slightly more involved than Monopoly, so you will be up and playing in no time. Once you have the basic game down pat, you can add the named Guild Mats into play for a more interesting game. There is also an option to use a Compass Marker at the beginning of the game. This will decide if the steamship movement arrows to all of the cities follow the normal ones on the boards, or are reversed. Just a little something to make the game a little harder once you have learned it. 




 This is the Sequence of Play:

Income (every player gets three Sky Dollars each turn)

Replenish Goods Markers (At the cost of one Sky Dollar)

Actions (Move the Steamship, Purchase Goods, Setup Guild Contracts)

Taxes and Tolls (You can make as many Sky Dollars as you can each turn, however at the end of the turn no player can have more than three Sky Dollars, or three Goods Markers)




 As usual with something new, I was prepared not to like the game at all. I decided to bite the bullet and involve the family in playing the game. Normally when I mention playing a game (wargame), they roll their collective eyes or head for the hills. With this game they hesitantly looked at it, and checked it out like it was an alien artifact. Keeping with the dog theme, they were just sniffing it to see if it was a treat or something with a hidden pill in it. With the rules, we were playing in no time at all. It is a game where that tired phrase "easy to learn hard to master" hits the nail right on the head. It is true that I was not creating a Russian breakthrough or trying to stop one. However, the game is fun. Everyone has their own idea of what fun is. This game is able to bring the word into its barest meaning. With simple rules and lots of replay value, it is a fun game for the family or friends. This is also a good game for when the people at game night have become a little jaded over rulebooks etc. The Taxes and Tolls sequence is almost a reset of the game each turn. This means that every player is in the running until the very end. You do not have one player that is amassing a fortune, and even though the game is half over you know who will win.




 Every player is on the one Steamship. So, another key to good play is to move the Steamship at the end of your turn to a city that does not help your opponents. The Steamship can only move certain ways to each city. The routes you can take are shown on the board. Guild Contracts are worth a lot at the end of the game, especially if you have more than any other player in that city. The Player is always torn between using their contract, and losing it, or keeping it on the board. The choices for each player during each turn are almost endless. This is because, like Chess, the player has to be thinking what his opponent will be doing, or trying to do, after your turn. Then you also have to be thinking about what you will be trying to do during your next turn. It is very possible to make the wrong choice of actions, and then hamstring yourself on your next turn. The game retails right now for $39. For the components and the replayability of the game that is a steal.


 Thank you once again Compass Games for pulling me out of my safe space and making me revaluate my thinking on games. This is a great fun and easy game for everyone to enjoy, even for crotchety old curmudgeons like me.

Robert

Compass games:

https://www.compassgames.com/

Traders of the Air:

https://www.compassgames.com/traders-of-the-air.html

1 comments :