second chance games

Search This Website of delight

  Leningrad The Advance of Panzer Group 4, 1941 W. Chales De Beaulieu Translated by Linden Lyons  W. Chales de Beaulieu was the Chief of Sta...

Leningrad: The Advance of Panzer Group 4, 1941 by W. Chales De Beaulieu translated by Linden Lyons Leningrad: The Advance of Panzer Group 4, 1941 by W. Chales De Beaulieu translated by Linden Lyons

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

October 2020

Leningrad: The Advance of Panzer Group 4, 1941 by W. Chales De Beaulieu translated by Linden Lyons


The Advance of Panzer Group 4, 1941

W. Chales De Beaulieu

Translated by

Linden Lyons

 W. Chales de Beaulieu was the Chief of Staff for Panzer Group 4 when it and its commanding unit Army Group North invaded Russia. Army Group North's main job was to take Leningrad, and hook up with the Finnish troops. The book was first published in German in 1961. This was part of the series "Die Wehrmacht in Kampf" Battles and Problems of the Second World War. These are being published in English for the first time. The series is edited by Matthias Strohn, Head of Historical Anlysis at the CHACR, the British Army's strategic think tank, and Reader in Modern war Studies at Buckingham University, and an expert on the German Army.  


The book is short at 133 pages, but does come with eighteen appendices. It was written by an army officer, not a writer, so that is how it reads. The author explains in great detail about all of the Panzer Group's actions, and more importantly why those actions were taken. 

 Incredible as it seems, on the 10th of July 1941 two-thirds of the way to Leningrad had already been covered by the Panzer Group. That means on that date only 300 kilometers were between it and the city. The author believes that the OKH is to blame for most of Army Group North's stops and starts in the coming weeks and months before it arrived before Leningrad. He believes that the Panzer Group could have been at the city on August 18th. 

 One surprising thing about the author's tale is his views on Field Marshal Manstein (Manstein was in command of Panzer Korps LVI that was part of Panzer Group 4). It is clear from the text that he is not a fan at all of his. He also takes him to task for some of his writings. He believes either Manstein's memory had failed or he simply made up some of his remarks about the charge of the Panzer Group to Leningrad. 

 Thank you very much Casemate Publishers for allowing me to read this refreshing look at one large part of Army Group North's history in 1941.


Book: Leningrad: The Advance of Panzer group 4, 1941

Author: W. Chales De Beaulieu

Publisher: Casemate Publishers


Something is Stirring, down in the Abyss. A submarine, the USS Salem, has a mysterious incident which leaves the crew scattered across the s...

Stirring Abyss Stirring Abyss

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

October 2020

Stirring Abyss

Something is Stirring, down in the Abyss. A submarine, the USS Salem, has a mysterious incident which leaves the crew scattered across the sea floor in diving suits. You awaken as one of the officers, and set to work finding other survivors from the crew and figuring out what happened. As you explore, it becomes apparent that this was no simple naval incident. Aggressive, monstrous creatures stand in your way, and nature seems to be corrupting in disturbing ways all around you. going on.

Just in time for Halloween comes a spooky strategy adventure from Sleepy Sentry and Slitherine Games. Stirring Abyss combines elements of XCOM and the Lovecraft mythos to create something quite different than anything I've seen before. As the leader of the surviving crew from the USS Salem, you'll go on a series of missions, defeating monsters and gathering resources as you unravel the plot. While you might glance at the screenshots and think that this game seems simple enough, there is actually quite a lot going on...beneath the surface. 

After coming to his senses on the sea floor, your starting character makes his way back to the USS Salem, which has suffered heavy damage. Fans of XCOM will immediately see the influence of the base building in that series reimagined here. Instead of building a base, you'll instead be pumping water out of the various compartments in the sub, and then spending resources to get things operational again. Some rooms have a pre-determined use, while quite a few can provide a benefit of your choosing. Stirring Abyss is very stingy with resources, forcing you to make hard choices about what rooms to bring online first. 

Stirring Abyss is actually stingy in a lot of good ways, constantly putting your team under a ton of...pressure. Crew members don't automatically heal between missions. Resources that you need for repairing the sub are also needed for crafting items and equipment. Power generated by the sub can be used for special abilities during the tactical phase, but needs to be conserved if you're going to keep pumping water out of the sub. During the tactical phase your team is closer to running out of air with each turn that passes. On top of all of that, the tactical combat itself is unforgiving, often pitting your team against overwhelming odds and demanding that you use all of their special abilities to good effect, or else. 

The tactical combat is relatively simple in terms of mechanics, but still very satisfying. There are three classes of characters: officers, scientists, and crewmen, each with a different set of options for unlocking new abilities as they level up. Additionally, each character you bring on board is unique, with a few custom traits of their own. Most combat early on consists of stabbing enemies with your handy diving knives, but eventually each character will have a variety of options for dishing out extra damage, hitting enemies with status effects, and supporting each other. Making this far juicier is that this is a game set in a Lovecraftian world, drawing much of its inspiration from The Temple, a short story about a German sub in WWI that meets a troubled end. After just a couple of missions you gain party wide supernatural abilities that you can fire off several times per mission. These include things like teleporting short distances and massively boosting your accuracy. A little further into the campaign you'll unlock a room in the sub where you can mutate your crew members and give them straight up crazy new "perks" like tentacle arms and giant claws. 

You'll need every advantage you can get, as Stirring Abyss pulls no punches with difficulty. Besides dealing with scant resources, you'll also need to keep a close eye on the hit points of your crew members. While there are a lot of ways to restore hit points (abilities, items, submarine features, and occasionally by killing enemies) almost none of them are free, and absolutely none of them will fill that health meter up in one go. This strategic concern translates to careful maneuvering during the tactical phase. Recklessly wading into a fight can put you at a disadvantage later on. Instead, you'll want to make full use of the options you have. You'll also need to learn how each of the many different enemy types operates. Most have at least a couple of special abilities that you'll need to work around. Besides health points, your crewmen also have a sanity meter which can be depleted by various events, like say, seeing a teammate get ripped apart by a giant shark-man monster. Suffering too much sanity damage can eventually render someone completely insane, which could cost you a veteran of many battles.  As units level up they can choose from new perks and abilities, depending on their class, as well as stat bonuses that increase things like damage resistance and critical hit chances. These upgrades are pretty straight forward, but to add some complexity there are also a large selection of party-wide bonuses to be unlocked over time. 

While the combat and XCOM elements are quite good, if relatively simple, what really makes this game sing is how it dives into its theme. The impressive music tracks are dark and foreboding, playing up the dread of a deep sea mystery and something unimaginable lurking in the darkness. The graphics, which still screenshots don't fully convey, charmingly draw from the well of 1950's era sci-fi and adventure art. Each mission carries the narrative forward, with lengthy discussions among the crew, detailed descriptions of the various horrors you come across, and the occasional choose-your-own-adventure style minigame. I don't want to spoil too much here, as the mystery of just what is happening is a big part of the draw to go from one mission to the next. 

As a fan of Lovecraft stories and someone who can't get enough XCOM style strategy games, this one was a very pleasant surprise when it popped onto my radar and eventually ended up in my hands. I haven't gotten too far into the campaign yet, as there was a bug (since ironed out in the release version) which tripped me up several times. Even so, there's no doubt in my mind that this game will hold your interest if you give it a shot. The story is fun right out of the gate, and the tactical combat is comfortable but challenging. I look forward to pursuing the mystery further and seeing just what sort of eldritch horrors are causing so much chaos in the briny deep.

Stirring Abyss is available on GoG, Steam and directly from Slitherine.

- Joe Beard


  FOR WHAT REMAINS: BLOOD ON THE RAILS   OUT OF THE BASEMENT from DVG In looking at the first of the three "core" boxes of For Wha...


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

October 2020







In looking at the first of the three "core" boxes of For What Remains, I was most concerned to give you a strong idea of the quality, systems and mechanics of this game.  In this continuing exploration, the focus will be on the background and player Factions covered in the course of all three games.

As I explained, the timeline behind the game begins in our known world in 1957 and culminates in the not too distant future of 2035.  Apart from providing a narrative arc solidly derived from historical events and places, this timeline is important in introducing us to the alt-history beings that emerged over the course of time to challenge our world and led to the post-apocalyptic landscape and future/present in which For What Remains plays out.

The history of 1957 did not just witness the first wholly underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the USA, but also opened a gateway to the Netherscape, an alternate dimension commonly called the Basement.  This provides us with some of the more eldritch creatures that you may find yourself controlling or battling against, especially in the third game, Out of the Basement.  A nice touch in the narrative is the explanation that infrequent chance alignments between the two dimensions had occurred throughout earth's history leading to many of the foul things temporarily emerging that led to our beliefs in demons, ghosts and monsters!  However, the most important and deadly beings encountered were the humanoid Nethermancers, possessed of telepathic powers.

It's no surprise to learn that while we were focused on the nuclear escalation above ground and the space race, the real race was taking place beneath our feet to unravel and take advantage of the creatures, minerals and powers of the Basement!  With echoes of the intentions of the Corporation in the Alien films, proposals to gene-splice human and Nethermancer DNA were proposed, but initially rejected.  

However, later events shifted attitudes.  In particular the growing influence of North Korea as a nuclear power linked with Algeria, Pakistan and Iran [make of that what you will!] and their alliance with the Nethermancers led to the formation of an opposing and counterbalancing World Alliance.  The bedfellows here are very familiar - the US, Canada, Australia and most of Europe, plus one very unexpected member, China.  

So, this polarisation of the world into two major antagonistic power blocks [I wonder why?] is postulated.  So far, so familiar, but in a very distorted image. By the way, it's not without some amusement/horror that the date reached in the timeline at this point is 2022!

Meanwhile within the World Alliance, a semi-clandestine group of the USA's Homeland Security, Department B [not the nicest bunch!],  grows ever more influential, culminating in the development of a humanoid race built out of a fusion of human, organic and mineral matters, named the Earthen.  These along with highly developed robotic systems piloted by humans and featuring cyborgs too [who will ultimately provide the game's Combine faction] become the frontline World Alliance forces in the growing confrontations with the denizens of the Netherscape and their human allies in this polarised world. 

At much the same time, Department B had established a Tactical Response Unit Echo whose members were being worked on to develop psychic powers in them. To further add to this lethal mix, a universal religious movement rises to condemn and blame both this dependence on technology and the world's abandonment of God.  Inevitably, a militant element develops out of this religious ground-swell and so are born the Soldiers of Light.  It is these two groups - the smaller off-shoots of the larger human alliances - that oppose each other in the second game. Blood on the Rails.  Though technically all are of human stock, the Echo faction members are signally unusual in their range of psychic abilities and also include a number of the strange hybrid human/Netherscape beings called chimeras.  While the Soldiers of Light, though themselves human too, have established domination over some of the beasts that have been mutated by the effects of the Basement.  

Soldiers of Light units from Blood On The Rails

The fifth faction is the Order of The New Dawn.  These creatures you will meet in the third game Out of The Basement and they will be battling in their scenarios against the Earthen faction, whose origins I outlined earlier.  The Order are almost entirely creatures of the other-world dimension, the Netherscape, though they too have an element of humans degraded and transformed by the effects of extended exposure to the Basement.

In the final period of the game's narrative history from 2022 to 2035, the clash between the two conglomerations of global rivals comes to a head with initially a major victory won by the Earthen against the creatures of the Basement.  However, the pyrric decimation of these winning forces leads them to turn against their human masters of the World Alliance.  Eventually, as time moves on, by 2030 a resurgence of the Nethermancers allied with North Korea looks to be on the point of total victory, causing the unleashing of all out nuclear weaponry leading to a world in post-apocalyptic ruin.

... and thus, we arrive at the "present" day -  an exhausted and depleted  world of splintered factions locked in a subtle and murderous interplay.  The Combine nominally rules with a repressive martial law over the varied remnants of mankind, fighting as often against humans as against Netherscape creatures, in particular the specific rebel faction, the Freemen. who make up the sixth faction. These confrontations provide the Campaign scenarios in the first game Streets of Ruin.

Having established the narrative setting for the games, this next section will explore the geographical landscape over which the various scenarios and their linking Campaigns are fought.  All three Campaigns are located in an area of Russia [physically about the size of Wales] called Semipalatinsk.  This is a real location in which between 1949 - 1989, hundreds of nuclear tests were conducted. 

Diagram of Semipalatinsk Region

A factor I drew attention to and praised in my initial review was how each Rule book, though inevitably containing parts that were identical, tailored the presentation and additional details and all illustrations to reflect the specific and original elements in each game.  These Campaign booklets show the same attention to the individuality of each game.  They all start with the same diagram of the area, but accompanied by totally different photos of the landscape, as well as individual aerial photos!  This adds greatly to the convincing feel of each game.

  Aerial shot from Streets of Ruin Campaign Booklet

This is matched in the text by starting with the same one page overall description, but then each booklet branches off into the very particular geography of this game.  Streets of Ruin takes us to the town of Kurchatov, while the second game, Blood On The Rails pinpoints the railyards on the outskirts of Kurchatov.  Finally, Out of The Basement moves south-west to area "G"  and the Degelen Mountain, where true to its game title, all the scenarios play out underground in the tunnels and dwelling areas established by the Earthen and infested with creatures of the Netherscape!

Location shot from Out of The Basement Campaign Booklet

After these open pages establish the background geography, each Campaign booklet then progresses through five linked scenarios  Because each game is meant to be able to stand alone, the first scenario in each game is identical in victory conditions, relying on a combination of your opponent's units and pick up scavenge tokens.  A gamer intending to buy all three games might feel this repetition a little unrewarding in novelty, as well as the fact that other scenarios spread across the three games have marked similarities.

However, when you consider the hundreds and hundreds of scenarios developed for the myriad boxed sets of ASL [Advanced Squad Leader], the number of scenario types probably boil down to about five  or six: [1]eliminate your opponent, [2]occupy more locations than your opponent, [3]attack/ defend a location, [4]get your troops from one side of the map to exit the other edge/prevent your opponent form doing so, [4]an ambush situation, [5]hold out until reinforcements arrive - which in itself is a variation of number 3 and [6] a rescue mission - which often mixes elements of several of these preceding stereotypical actions!  This in essence is what all wargames can be reduced down to.

What we have in For What Remains reflects just the same generic situations.  Like all wargames, what brings the differences are the particularities of varying units and varying locations, how to get the best out of the units at your disposal and their skills.  The final variety comes from the structure that the five scenarios in each Campaign build up in a sequence with two or three being linked so that the outcomes of one influence some factor in the next scenario.  

As with most skirmish style games, units divide into two over-riding basic characteristics - units that are best operating at range and those that flourish in close combat or at least close range.  The typical example of the first type is probably the sniper, of the latter perhaps a type of flamethrower operative.

Because of the scope that the other world/sci-fi element brings, we have several distinctly unusual skills and their combinations to enrich the game play and, of course, art work to match whether in the booklets or on the counters.

Death Vine from the Earthen Faction

Above is a typical illustration from one of the six Faction booklets.  Each booklet starts with a specific introduction to the Faction, followed by at least a single page dedicated to each type of unit with details of their particular skills and how each affects the rules.  With the much larger units [called "huge"], whose counters occupy 4 squares, there is a also a full page illustration to exemplify the rules for their weapon/ability.

Here's a typical example of a "huge" unit - in this case a dragooner from the Sons of Light Faction.

All together, each faction embraces 5 or 6 types of unit, usually with at least one in the "huge" category.  Typically these units cover such generic roles as Leader, Medic/Healer, Basic Combatants and Specialists.

Obviously the appeal of each game lies not just in the specific campaign. Even with just one of the "core" boxes, you have abundant map tiles and counters for you to create many skirmish encounters of your own and the ability to develop multi-player scenarios.  Investing in more than one set multiplies the potential enormously - especially for the multi-player involvement.  

Should the decision be taken to provide future material what I would personally love to see are encounters occurring at critical points in the timeline and finally, as I know others have suggested, the whole design is ripe for RPG treatment!

Anyone fancy being a Wraith as seen here on the box art for the final game, Out of The Basement?


 THIS WAR WITHOUT AN ENEMY FROM NUTS PUBLISHING Are the titles of games getting more obscure? Whatever the answer, the war cloaked behind th...


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

October 2020





Are the titles of games getting more obscure? Whatever the answer, the war cloaked behind this title is one that has received very few treatments by the board wargame world.  Its subject - the English Civil War.  

I came to hear of it early in its inception when it was first mooted as a new addition to Columbia Games' extensive and excellent series of light block games.  As most of these are numbered in my collection of games and have had extensive play, I was delighted at the prospect of one on the English Civil War.  I had one reservation though: would it just be a re-tread of their Richard III with different blocks?

This too was the problem for the game's designer, Scott Moore, as was revealed in his interview for AWNT, when he described his eventual move to develop the game.

 "... my move to Nuts Publishing gave 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."

At the time, I thought this was a brave decision and it's one that has paid huge dividends not just in terms of the content, but also in the quality.  Nuts Publishing, though a small company, has set the highest standards in all the varied components.  This is clear from a first glimpse of the daring box art;  the stark, dominating red cross set against the swirling, murky white clouds of battle smoke conjures up both the cross of St George, the symbolic flag of England, and the bloody funereal cross of death reminding us of the vicious slaughter of civil war. 

Here praise must go to the artist, Nicolas Roblin, and Scott's own words couldn't sum this praise up better.

"...the success of the final design was mainly due to his extensive research, passion and dedication - and, of course, natural talent ... the box cover illustration and the gorgeous map have attracted the most praise."

I couldn't agree more.  The strength of the map art can be seen, even from my photograph, in the rich forested areas and the mountainous terrain of Wales and the North. What my shot barely brings out is the 3D quality of the coastline and the superb depiction of the few, but crucial cities.

A closer look at the coast of Wales will give you a better idea both of the careful delineation of the coast, with the dark black lines showing where two areas are not adjacent. A similar level of detail is shown in the image of Bristol: the orange fortified border and numbers convey that this is a major city, sympathetic to Parliament with a VP value of 1 and a Siege factor of 4  [i.e. that you can assign a maximum of 4 blocks to Storming it.]

Inevitably areas can get crowded when occupied by the maximum number of blocks, a perennial issue with most block games.  For example Columbia's excellent Julius Caesar having a point-to-point map rather than areas frequently involves stacking your blocks. Presenting much more of a difficulty is the almost illegible print of the geographical names of the areas.  This is one of the rare moments when I'd swop the lovely design work for a touch of plain clarity.  A problem I haven't encountered, but I know others have commented on is some difficulty reading the localities on the blocks because of the font size. 

That said, what can be seen is that the continuing depth of research and appropriate art are equally notable in the images used for the unit stickers on the wooden blocks and the individuality of the illustrations on the cards. 

Each separate type of Event has its specific picture in keeping with the period.  These add greatly to the atmosphere of the game, as  the two I've singled out show.

All the other necessary contents maintain this high standard of work.  Two Play Aids, one for each player, a Battle Display and set up cards for 1642 and 1644.  Finally, two extensive glossy booklets, one for the Rules, the other a Playbook also signal that this game has developed a familiar system to a significantly greater depth.

The core is recognisably one of yearly Rounds with 6 player turns in each.  A hand of six cards is played one at a time by each player, with the higher value card determining who is the 1st Player in a turn.  Cards may also have Events on them.  This is an excellent and important development on previous games, which had very few Event cards and these allowed nothing but the Event to happen.  Scott Moore has introduced far more Event cards all of which include a reduced number of Action Points.  This is significant both in adding greatly to the historical atmosphere of the game and in introducing a whole series of varying effects.  Though I would say it is obvious which Phase of a turn an Event should affect, Scott has even added a helpful letter on the card to instruct you as to the exact Phase.

Parliament Set-up Card with blocks positioned
 Each Action point of value on the card [4 is the maximum] allows such familiar Actions as a Group Move, Sea Move, Muster or Recruitment.  The map is divided into Areas and movement has limits on how many units may enter an Enemy occupied area, depending on the type of border [Open/Mountain/River].  After the 1st Player has spent all their Action Points, the 2nd Player does likewise. 

After Actions comes the Tactical Phase when Battles - and possibly Sieges - occur.  Order of resolving Battles is determined by the 1st Player and Withdrawal From Battle may be attempted by the Defender to avoid battle.  If a Battle does occur then a very nice, though rather thin, Battle Display Card comes into play as this point and up to 3 rounds of combat may occur in each separate battle.

Finally Supply is checked, again  a very familiar process in these type of games, where the type of terrain in an Area determines how many units are in Supply, while those above the limit lose a point of strength.  Again this is a departure from the more commonly punitive removal of any surplus blocks to the recruitment pool.

As seen in the earlier photo, units are the standard blocks with Strength denoted by the number of "pips" [i.e. small circles] around the edge and rotated as a block takes hits.  Strength determines how many dice you roll in Battle, while the top right number on the block is its effectiveness which indicates what you must roll equal or less than to score a hit.  What is noticeably not part of the conventional figures on the blocks is an alphabetic letter that determines the order in which blocks fire.

This is just one of many factors that leads to examining just how much this game has developed and built upon a tried and trusted system.  For the moment we'll stay with how Battle is conducted.  Most block games have used the basic format, Defender's "A" blocks fire before Attacker's "A" blocks and so on through the alphabet, with usually the lowest rank being "D" blocks. Not in this game.  Instead, the new sequence makes use of a new variation of a Battle Display Board.

Though the use of Battle Displays has appeared in a few block games already, virtually all have been very simplistic affairs of opposing Left Wing, Centre and Right Wing, with victory depending on variants of which player manages to clear one or more sector of the enemy and occupy them. In This War Without An Enemy, the Battle Display is very different.  First of all, it is much more visually appealing with its aerial landscape view of woods, roads and defensive positions.

An example of how a Battle might initially line up
Each side has named areas for Firing Infantry, Engaging Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Reserves, while two special areas are reserved for Routing Cavalry and Pursuing Cavalry.  Already the key rationale and intent can be seen emerging: to give a more realistic feel and experience appropriate to this specific period of musket and pike warfare.  Artillery fires first and can only fire in the first Round of a battle.  Then, in turn, the Defender then the Attacker has to choose whether their infantry remains in the Firing Infantry area where they will now fire with a -1 penalty or move to the Engaging Infantry area where they will attack later after the cavalry phase, but without penalty.

This little touch of decision making gets a resounding cheer from me as does the whole process of Battle in this game.  Cavalry must attack cavalry, if both are present, and may possibly lead to routing and consequently the possibility of pursuit- the next excellent touch.  After the first round of a battle, first the Defender has the choice to declare a General Retreat and, if they don't, then the Attacker has the same choice.

The whole process, though giving a significantly more authentic feel, takes hardly any more time to carry out.  The final change is one more that I greatly appreciate.  Normally if the defender has not been eliminated or retreated by the end of three rounds of combat, the Attacker must retreat.  At last we've got a rule that makes much more realistic sense: the player who has most blocks remaining on the battlefield is judged to be the victor.  This makes the cavalry pursuit rule all the more important and realistic.  If your victorious cavalry have gone charging off after the defeated cavalry, then you may find your army has fewer blocks on the field than the enemy and you've lost the battle!  This is what has happened to me in my most recent game and in the battle I've just been reading about in an excellent military account of the English Civil War that I recommend at the end of my review. 

After Battle, if the area contains a Fortified City, there may come the chance of a Siege taking place.  Again despite Sieges having featured occasionally in previous block games, particularly Columbia Games' Crusader Rex, Scott Moore has introduced  substantially more options, including a genuine opportunity for the Defender to undertake a sally without the need to have a relief force involved.  Siege markers, Storming, including Bombardment, Fortified Defence and possibly the use of Events are all there.  You can choose to sit there with the odd spot of bombardment and watch your enemy wither through Siege Attrition, but typically that's a slow process.  So, trying to secure a breach and then storming offers the much quicker, but much riskier choice.  

This is one section of the rules that will take some careful initial reading to get clear, but the outcome is another rewarding part of the game.  This is especially true, since the road to victory points is almost exclusively the capture of cities.  Battles do not directly gain you VPs, though defeating and eliminating your enemy in the field will certainly be an important factor in your success.  Just don't lose too many troops yourself in the process!

So far, the changes I've described, significant though they are, have mainly been developments and a deepening of existing rules and concepts of block games, though these by themselves are substantial and greatly enrich  virtually every feature of the system.  The final addition is one that pertains specifically to historical elements of the English Civil War. 

This is the strongly Regional nature of the conflict.  I say that as a native of the predominantly Royalist favouring county of Lancashire, who lives only a few miles from the site of the siege of Lathom House in 1644.  The latter was notable for the Countess of Derby holding the castle for her husband, the Earl of Derby, and successfully organising its defence with 300 men to withstand a three month siege against 2,000 Parliamentarians.

The opening of the war viewed from the Royalist side
This aspect of the war was first strongly explored by that doyen of English Civil war games, Charles Vasey, in his celebrated CDG version, Unhappy King Charles. In This War Without An Enemy, the same ideas have been covered to achieve the same effects, but in considerably easier and simpler rules.  

Each Regional block has an identifying letter on a coloured background that matches its Region's distinctive coloured boundary.  Such units may move freely within those boundaries, but not outside unless led by or moving to a matching Regional Leader or a major Leader, such as King Charles or Prince Rupert for the Royalists.  Here, the Parliamentarians have a distinct advantage with four major Leaders.  Apart from the dire consequences if such troops lose their Leader when outside their Region, they cannot recruit new strength unless within their home Region.  

Moreover, sufficient control of Areas within a Region by either side brings in additional forces at the end of a year.  Finally, further extending the importance of locality is that some Areas have Loyalty icons, while Cities are outlined in either blue [Royalist] or orange [Parliamentarian] to indicate their Sympathy for the given side. Consequently, a few simple rules and this easy use of colour coding accomplish a pleasing level of historical feel to the game.

Altogether with this consistent developing and enriching of the rules, along with wholly new elements, the Rulebook is a much more detailed affair of 24 pages, as against the slender 8 pages of comparable block games.  The layout too in double columns incorporates much more text with relatively few illustrations.  At times, careful reading is needed not to overlook a telling detail or significant word.  On occasion a rule that was in an earlier draft has lingered on and a few points have needed clarifying.  However, support from the designer, Scott Moore and Nuts Publishing couldn't be better, with the fastest of responses to any questions posed.

With this significantly expanded depth to the game - and I wholeheartedly praise what has been achieved - there is one major omission that did surprise me.  There is NO index, not even of the simplest and most basic type!   A really good cross-referenced index would seem an obvious inclusion. [Still, the great wider world of enthusiasts  has already supplied that lack and so a very good index can be downloaded from the files on BoardGameGeek.] 

One of the few, but clear illustrations
Understanding the rules is also reinforced by what is becoming a more frequent addition to many games - namely, a Playbook. The first section plays through the opening two turns in detail.  The text is fairly densely presented in long paragraphs, but is supplemented with two large illustrations, one of which is full page.  The rest of the booklet provides a rewarding background consisting of four pages of historical material, five pages of biographical detail of the leaders in the game and finally six more pages explaining the historical detail of the Events on the cards.  All of this is a very good addition to both the game and the background knowledge that is so supportive of a period that is comparatively unfamiliar to the gaming world.

A good example of both the extensive text and a full page illustration in the Playbook

This is a much meatier addition to the block gaming circle of games and definitely more than the intro-level that many belong to.  It is certainly not a quick 2 hrs or less that some are.  However, there are two short introductory scenarios and a medium length one.  Besides that, Scott has provided a simplified version online at BGG.  However, all that has been added is so rewarding that I for one wouldn't want to lose any element of them.  Play is intense, gives a realistic feel for the English Civil War and has already provided many of those individual moments of narrative excitement.

I had very high hopes and great anticipation for the eventual release of this game.   I'm glad to say that This War Without An Enemy has lived up to those expectations and in so many ways has surpassed them.  The quality of presentation from Nuts Publishing and the rewarding detail without sacrificing playability from the designer Scott Moore have brought together a great combination of talents.  

As always many thanks to Nuts Publishing for providing the review copy.


Scott Moore's interview at Belloto Con in Spain - link here - much of the questioning is in Spanish, but all Scott's replies are in English!  Great insight, including detailed explanation of the Battle system.

All The King's Armies by Stuart Reid - an excellent narrative of the military aspects of the English Civil War.


  Men of Iron Tri-Pack by GMT Games Including the Games: Men of Iron, Infidel, Blood & Roses  This set of games is pretty amazing. It go...

Men of Iron Tri-Pack by GMT Games Men of Iron Tri-Pack by GMT Games

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

October 2020

Men of Iron Tri-Pack by GMT Games

 Men of Iron Tri-Pack

by GMT Games

Including the Games:

Men of Iron, Infidel, Blood & Roses

 This set of games is pretty amazing. It goes from the rebirth of infantry, to the acendency of the English longbow, and finishes with the armored knight having to deal with gunpowder weapons. The list of battles is very long and a delight to Middle Ages boardgame fans. This is what comes with the game:

Five double-sided 22x34” maps and one 11x17" map

Seven and one half counter sheets

One series rulebook

Three battle books

Eight player aid cards

Two ten-sided dice

 This is the list of battles:

"Dorylaeum – Northwest Anatolia, 1 July 1097 - The Crusader line of march, including the people’s Crusade and Peter the hermit, as well as all the great 1st Crusade Leaders, are “ambushed” by Kilij Arslan and his crack Seljuk cavalry.   

Antioch – Northern Syrian, 28 June 1098 - The exhausted, starving and depleted Crusaders – they had few horses left – have just taken Antioch and are now faced with a large Turkish army, under Kerbogha, sent to retake the city.   

Ascalon – Southern Palestine, 12 August 1099 - The Crusaders, having seized Jerusalem, turn south to fend off the suddenly active large army of the Fatimids, with their crack Mamluk heavy cavalry.   

Harran – Crusader Kingdom of Antioch/Edessa, 7 May 1104 - Baldwin II of Edessa seeks to maintain control of his little kingdom in northern Syria, something Soqman, Atabeg of Damascus, is not happy to allow. One of the first major Crusader defeats.   

Montgisard – Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, 25 November 1177 - Saladin attempts to destroy a small army from the Kingdom of Jerusalem with an army more than five times its size. Though there are only 400 knights, the Crusaders are led by the remarkable Baldwin IV, The Leper King. The outcome - one of the greatest Crusader victories. See if you can carry off this stunning upset!   

Arsuf - Ayyubid Kingdom of Jerusalem, 7 September 1191 - The classic battle between Richard I Lionheart and the Ayyubid Army of Saladin highlighting the major facets of each army in an unusual moving battle.

Falkirk - Scotland, 22 July 1298 - Wallace's great disaster, despite his massive schiltron. Good infantry is fine, but it needs support. The ultimate solitaire scenario. 

Courtrai - Flanders, 11 July 1302 - The Battle of the Golden Spurs. The Flemish shook the elite French army with one of the earliest displays of the power of solid infantry using defensive positions. 

Bannockburn - Scotland, 23-24 June 1314 - Robert the Bruce's famous triumph over a numerically superior, but literally bogged down English army. 

Crecy - France, 26 August 1346 - The first great battle of the Hundred Years War. It showed that infantry, supported by archers, could defeat the best knights in Europe. 

Poitiers - France, 19 September 1356 - The French fight dismounted this time and almost win. But the longbow, and solid English infantry prevail again. 

Najera - Castile, 3 April 1367 - The Black Prince goes to Spain with a marvelous combined arms force to further English plans of "expansion". 

Agincourt – Artois, 25 October 1415 – Henry V wins a mighty victory against the flower of French chivalry. 

1st St. Albans – Herefordshire, 22 May 1455 - Marks the first major engagement in the Wars of the Roses. Richard, Duke of York and his ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrians under Edmund, Duke of Somerset, who was killed during the battle. York also captured Henry VI and forced Henry to appoint him Constable of England  

Blore Heath – Staffordshire, 23 September 1459 - Greatly outnumbered Yorkist infantry used the longbow and a defensive position to drive off the Lancastrian Men-at-Arms. 

2nd St. Albans – Herefordshire, 17 February 1461 - The Lancastrians drove the Yorkists out of the town and then destroyed Warwick’s strangely deployed army, even when sturdily defended by hedges, caltrops and spiked netting. 

Towton – Yorkshire, 29 March 1461 - Easily biggest battle in the box and the biggest in the entire series. It uses over 200 combat units and, much like the actual battle, will probably take a long time to play. It is mostly crash and bash, with little room for maneuver, all fought in a blinding snowstorm!!  

Barnet – Greater London Area, 14 April 1471 - A classic battle of planned deployments, but overlapping wings, cries of treason in the lines, fog of war (actual fog), and the excellent use of reserves. 

Tewksbury – Gloucestershire, 4 May 1471 - A battle that shows one of the key terrain features of the battles in this era, extensive hedges and thick underbrush in otherwise clear fields. 

Bosworth – Leicestershire, 22 August 1485 - The best-known battle of the wars and the tragic (I think) death of King Richard III in a battle he should have won. Using the latest information as to where the battle took place, let’s see if you can cancel out the Tudor dynasty."

Falkirk Setup and Map

 This is a list of some of the historical commanders in the game:

"The great English King, Edward III and his son, The Black Prince, William Wallace and The Bruce, Captal de Buch.  Crusaders Stephen of Blois, Bohemond of Taranto, Raymond of Toulouse, Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the leper King Baldwin IV, Raynald of Chatillon, and King Richard I. Saracen leaders Kilij Arslan, Kerbogha, Atabeg of Mosul,  Fatimid Vizier al-Afdal Shahanshah, Soqman the Artukid of Diyar-Bakr and Aleppo, and Saladin. King Henry VI, Richard, Duke of York, King Edward IV, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, King Richard III, and Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (and founder of the Tudor dynasty)."

 The Men of Iron series was originally produced as four separate games:

Men of Iron
Blood & Roses

 This is another in a long line of GMT Games giving the gamer a big package of previously released separate games and/or add-ons that were produced after the original game was put out. In this case the Battle of Agincourt was only released in the C3I magazine. So, you get all the battles of the three games with the bonus one Agincourt, and for an excellent price. Please understand that this is not just a rehash of the older separate games. The tri-pack has all of the errata added in along with updated counters and maps.

 The maps are very well done, even if they are mostly empty or devoid of different types of terrain. Almost all Middle Age Battles, and Ancient ones, took place of flat featureless areas. The counters are smaller at 1/2" (except for the Agincourt ones that are 9/16"), but even my old eyes can read the names and data. The European leaders have their heraldic sign on their counters, while the Islamic leaders have a crescent moon on their counters. There are two of each of the player's aids for Blood & Roses, Infidel, and Men of Iron. Men of Iron and Infidel are both four pages, while Blood & Roses is six pages in total. Each game has its own full page Flight Turn Track and General Track on one full page. The Rules Manual is in full color, and is twenty-eight pages long. Each of the three games has its own Battle Book (in full color). These contain all of the setups for the different battles, along with some historical information, and any special rules for each scenario. All of the components are up to the GMT standard of excellence.

 I already own, and have played, the original release of Blood & Roses, and Arquebus the fourth title in the series. I really like the system and both games, so I was excited to see what this release was going to add. This is the sequence of play:

"A. Activation Phase
• If this is a Free Activation, choose a Battle, Army Activation
(6.1), Standard (15.2), or Pass (6.1). If Pass is chosen, the
non-Active player gets a Free Activation; the Time marker
may be moved (16.1).
• If a Standard is Activated skip to Phase D or move the
Standard and skip to Phase E (15.2).
B. Move/Fire Phase
During Army Activation, Activated units may only Move (7.0).
During a Battle Activation any or all units of the Activated
Battle may Move (7.0) and/or Fire (11.0).
• Place any replacement leaders (5.5).
• Before any unit is moved or fires, first the Non-Active
player plays any Battle Cry or Unsteady Troops Seizure
counters, then the Active player plays any Battle Cry or
Unsteady Troops Seizure counters (6.3).
• Before any unit is moved or fires check Command status
for all Activated units (5.2 & 5.3).
• A foot unit armed with missile weapons may fire only at the
end of its move. Light Cavalry Archers, Medium Cavalry
Archers, and Genitors units may fire before, during, or at
the end of their move. A unit may fire without moving.
• Each unit must finish its movement/firing before another
unit may begin to move/fire.
• The Non-Active player’s units may qualify for Reaction/
Return fire (11.2) or Counter-Charge (13.9) depending on
the Active player’s actions.
• After movement in an Army Activation skip to Phase E.
C. Shock Phase
During a Battle Activation, after all movement/firing for the
activated Battle is complete, Shock combat (12.0) and Charges
(13.0) may be initiated.
1. The Active player designates which of his units are
attacking which defending units, including Charges (13.0).
2. Pre-Shock activities:
a) One at a time, the Active player places each Charging
unit adjacent to its target. Any Reaction Fire caused by
this is resolved (11.2).
b) Roll for terrain-induced Disorder checks for attackers;
apply automatic terrain-induced Disorders.
c) Roll for Shock/Charge Reluctance (13.5).
d) Any Retreat Before Combat (12.2) by the defender is
e) The defender attempts any Counter-Charges (13.6) of
which he is capable.
3. The Active player resolves all his Shock and Charge
attacks, in any order he wishes. The Charge Table is used
as long as at least half of the units in an individual attack
succeeded in Charging (not Disordered by Reaction Fire
or Counter-Charged); otherwise the Shock Table is used.
Continued Attack (14.7) markers are placed and Advances
(12.4) are taken.
Exception: Attacks by a single attacker against multiple
defending hexes are resolved at the same time, and they are
considered to be going on simultaneously, with results (which
can be cumulative for the attacker) applied after both attacks
are resolved.
4. All Continued Attacks (14.7) are now resolved. Begin again
at Step 1, except that only units marked with Continued
Attack markers Shock and they must declare a Shock attack;
Charging and Counter-Charging are not allowed.
D. Rally Phase
During Battle Activation, Rally (15.0) any Disordered units that
did nothing for the entire Activation and that are currently not
adjacent to an enemy unit. If a Standard was Activated, Rally
(15.0) any Retired unit belonging to that army in or within one
hex of the Standard, and not adjacent to an enemy unit.
E. Continuation Phase
Make any Battle Flight rolls, and then any needed Pursuit rolls
(14.8 and 14.9). If the completed Activation was a Free Activation, both players make a Loss Check (3.0). If the game does
not end due to Loss Check, Pass or choose to Continue with a
Battle or Army Activation (6.2).
• This cannot be the Battle that just Activated, unless the
Active player has only one Battle.
• Army Activation can only follow an Army Activation. A
Battle Activation can follow Activation of a Battle, Army,
or Standard.
• The Non-Active player may attempt to Seize Continuity
(6.3). If so, he plays a Seizure Opportunity counter
and chooses one of his Battles to Activate. The Active
player may play a Seizure Negation (6.3) counter and the
Continuation attempt is then resolved, otherwise the NonActive player makes a Seizure DR attempt. If successful,
he Activates that Battle and proceeds from Phase B with
that Battle. If not, the Active player gets a Free Activation,
proceed to Phase A; this Free Activation may even be used
to Activate the Battle that just completed Activation.
• If no Seizure attempt occurs, make a Continuation DR attempt
(6.2). If successful, Activate that Battle or Army and proceed
from Phase B. If not, or the Active player Passes, the NonActive player gets a Free Activation and proceeds to Phase A"

 As you can see, there are no real 'turns' for each player. The first player can continue to activate his troops if he is lucky enough with his die rolls. The second player can attempt to stop him using a 'seizure counter' to begin activating his own units. However, the first player can also use a 'seizure negation counter' to stop the second player from taking initiative control. Victory in each battle is achieved by eliminating named leaders and enemy units. One very interesting Special Rule is that of 'Timed Engagement'. This is meant to make one side act historically and force them to attack within a certain time period, rather than maneuver about the battlefield. During many of these battles knights became 'fire and forget' weapons that just launched themselves at the first enemy they saw. This would include complete loss of brain function and force the knights to attack at the worst possible time and place. Roughly this equates to when a male elephant goes into 'musth' from a huge testosterone boost. The knights would only think of striking an enemy and being the first to do so. Hence, the wall of dead seen in front of the English archers in many of the Hundred Years War battles. 

Do you like Long Odds?

The individual Battle Books are amazing in the historical detail and all of the information needed for setup and play for each battle. There are also some funny quips added to the mix, "Say goodnight Gracie" being one of them. To say that I really like the series is a complete understatement. I think that this is one of the finest designs that Richard Berg ever came up with. I would love to have an ancients game using this system. I normally do not mention prices, but this game is a true steal at under $100. All three games were probably in the $70 range when released, so you really get some bang for your buck. Even if you do not know a York from a Lancaster these games will be an excellent addition to your collection. Easy rules, relatively short game times, and a small map footprint mean that you will have them on your table in no time. The choice of battles in Europe and Outremer is incredible in its scope. Thank you so much GMT Games for letting me review this new edition of this Berg masterpiece.


GMT Games:

GMT Games Men of Iron Tri-Pack:

Men of Iron Tri-Pack Rules:


  Battlestar Galactica Deadlock recently ended its second and final season of DLC with a bang, and after playing through the campaign I'...

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Season 2 Finale DLC Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Season 2 Finale DLC

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

October 2020

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Season 2 Finale DLC


Battlestar Galactica Deadlock recently ended its second and final season of DLC with a bang, and after playing through the campaign I'm here to offer my thoughts. As the name of pack implies, "Armistice" is a series of missions leading up to the end of the First Cylon War. There are eight missions in the pack, and the campaign plays out in a mostly linear fashion. There are side missions for gathering extra resources and keeping the Cylon threat level down, but really you can plow ahead with the story missions, only pausing if you really need to.

Each mission comes with plenty of story dialogue before, during, and after the operation. Characters you've come to know throughout the lengthy campaign reach the end of their arcs along with the war itself. If you're a fan of BSG and have read up on the lore, you'll be happy to know that many tidbits from the mini-series prequel "Razor" are tied into the final missions here. The story ends on a rather somber note, as is appropriate given what happens later in the BSG world. As the player, you know that you have come up a bit short, and some of the characters seem to sense this as well. The Cylon "super weapon" hinted at throughout the story gets away, dooming mankind to the events seen in the opening hours of BSG the show. 

While many of the missions in the campaign boil down to wiping out the enemy fleet, many of them have some kind of objective to accomplish as well, and one towards the end even has a fun gimmick that forces you to manage your fleet much differently than normal. Given that this is the home stretch of the game, it's no surprise that every battle here is a massive slugfest between the best ships you can muster and hordes of Cylons. With just about every option in the game unlocked at this point, and plenty of resources to go around, you have free reign to organize your tactics as you see fit. I enjoyed trying out some of the various munitions I had ignored previously, and of course seeing how things would go if I equipped a nuke in every available slot (hint: things get messy).  

The turn-based space combat still holds strong after years of playing it off and on again. It always feels good to pull together a clean attack the knocks out one enemy ship after another while minimizing your own losses. You have to remain vigilant, as getting lax and allowing a ship to cruise head on into the enemy's guns or torpedoes can get it killed in a single turn. 

In addition to the Armistice story DLC, the finale also features the "Modern Ships" pack. These ships don't appear in the story campaign, but instead are available for skirmish and multiplayer modes. These ships fully tie the game into the era of BSG the show, featuring the sleek Cylon basestars of that era and the Mercury class Battlestars (like the Pegasus seen in the show). 

The game also received a free update for all users, the Daybreak Update which you can see all the details of here. Besides a number of quality of life and visual/performance improvements, the update adds a Photography mode for getting those nifty sci-fi screenshots, and new modes for multiplayer and bigger fleet caps.

I've been a fan of this game for years now, and it was great to play out the conclusion of the story. Fans of the show and fans of tactical combat games should certainly check it out if they haven't yet, as it really is so much better than one might ever expect from a TV show based game that came out many years after hype for the show died down. The developers, Black Lab Games, can be proud of what they've done here, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock and all of its content can be found at the usual storefronts, as well as directly from Slitherine Games.

- Joe Beard


  God's Viking Harold Hardrada by Nic Fields  For an author to write about Haraldr Sigurðarson, normally called Harald Hardrada which me...

God's Viking Harald Hardrada the Last Great Viking by Nic Fields God's Viking Harald Hardrada the Last Great Viking by Nic Fields

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

October 2020

God's Viking Harald Hardrada the Last Great Viking by Nic Fields

 God's Viking

Harold Hardrada


Nic Fields

 For an author to write about Haraldr Sigurðarson, normally called Harald Hardrada which means hard-counsel or hard-ruler, is a difficult task. Mostly what we know about him comes from Norse sagas. Therefore, it is hard to tell the truth from hyperbole. Dr. Nic Fields has given himself a very hard task to present us with the historical Harold. From the battle of Stiklestad in 1030, where Harald was only fifteen, to the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, Harald blazed like a comet across the early Middle Ages sky. The chronicler Adam of Bremen called him the "Thunderbolt of the North". Let us take a look at what the author has given us.

 First, it is a large book, coming in at 366 pages. It is, however, not just a straight biography of Harald. His life is shown us throughout the pages, but the book brings a trove of many other things. The book is filled with the history of the Viking Age from the half-mythical Ragnar, to the death of the last real Viking Harald. The book also is packed with with facts about other parts of the age. It starts with a chapter named 'War', which shows exactly how Vikings fought, etc. The last chapter of the book, called 'He, her, hero, heroine' goes into the details of how Viking women shaped the age. The book is filled with various Norse kings and chieftains. It mentions Eiríkr Blóðøx (Eric Bloodaxe, a happy little sobriquet). The author describes him thus: "Norsemen were all warlike, but Eric Bloodaxe was a special case; he enjoyed homicide as a family activity". 

 The author also dispels some fallacies that we now take as gospel about events and people in the Viking Age. He shows that the 'Blood-Eagle' was just a literary license from the later writers of the sagas. Ivar the Boneless is also a victim of what the author calls "English literalism". In actual fact, the epithet 'boneless' is still used in Norway to describe a crafty, sly character, as in 'No bones, you can't hear him coming'. The Norse were well known for their tongue in cheek nicknames. They would use names like 'fatso' to describe a skinny person, and vice versa. 

 The book does not neglect Harald's life though. We see him as a fifteen year old warrior fighting beside his half-brother. Then we see his long journey through 'Rus' (modern Russia), all the way to the court of the Byzantine Emperor. He becomes a general and head of the Emperor's Varangian Guard. Varangian was the Byzantine word for the Northmen. We follow his return to Norway and the throne, to his twenty-year war to conquer Denmark. He finally falls at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the first and sometimes overlooked  invasion of England in 1066.

 The book goes into incredible depth about Harald and the age before and during his life. I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to really find out about the history of the Viking Age. Thank you Casemate Publishers for letting me review this needed and timely book.


Book: God's Viking:  Harald Hardrada the Life and Times of the Last Great Viking

Author: Nic Fields

Publisher: Pen & Sword

Distributor: Casemate Publishers