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  Custoza Fields of Doom by Europa Simulazioni  Custoza and its fields were a crossroad in Italy for a long time. It was also essential to a...

Custoza Fields of Doom by Europa Simulazioni Custoza Fields of Doom by Europa Simulazioni

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

November 2020

Custoza Fields of Doom by Europa Simulazioni





 Custoza Fields of Doom


by


Europa Simulazioni





 Custoza and its fields were a crossroad in Italy for a long time. It was also essential to attack or defend the fortress system called the 'Quadrilateral' (composed of the four fortresses Peschiera, Mantua, Legnago, and Verona). The first battle in 1848 was decisive in the First War of Independence of Italy. The third battle took place during the Third war for Independence in 1866. Both battles were fought because Austria-Hungary was trying to keep control of its possessions in Northern Italy. Like many areas in Europe, because of Custoza's geography many other armies have traversed its fields also. The year 1848 saw the Hapsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary fight for its life against the tide of revolution flowing across Europe. The Hapsburgs were barely treading water, let alone able to deal with insurrections and invasions into the outer parts of the Empire. Finally with some semblance of calm in the inner empire Franz Joseph I, the new emperor, was able to send Field Marshal Radetzky to secure its Northern Italian provinces. Unbeknownst to many, the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 also saw Austria-Hungary fighting in Italy. Custoza was the scene of another battle in this war. Why do I mention two battles? Because the game allows the players to fight both of them. So, let us see what you get with this two for one deal. These are the contents:


Two 23"x34" maps

A rules booklet (the Italian version also contains a rule booklet in Italian)

3 sheets of large (5/8") counters

Charts and tables (both in Italian and English)

Two Dice

Boxed




  This will be my third review of a Europa Simulazioni wargame. I must tell you upfront that the game impresses me as visually as the first two did. Even the artwork on their game boxes are wonderfully done. The maps that come with the game are large and have big hexes to accommodate the large 5/8"counters. The maps are extremely well done. Another thing I like about Europa Simulazioni maps are that you do not have to guess what the terrain is in each hex. They make it very easy for the player that way. There is no need for quibbling if this hex is more forest or swamp etc. The counters are very colorful without being 'busy'. You get very nice looking counters, with small black and white portraits of the different generals. The two Player Aid cards are of thick paper and are done in large print. On one side of the first one is the terrain chart. The other side has the Assault Table and the Fire Table, along with the modifiers and the Cohesion Check Modifiers Table. The other Player Aid is 'The Objective Map'. This is used in the advanced game; more on this later. The Rules Booklet is thirty-two pages long and is in black and white. The rules only take up sixteen pages, and the rest is the different scenario setups, background history, and designer notes.




  The game actually comes with these scenarios:


Three smaller ones to learn the game (two from 1866, and one from 1848).

1848 Historical

1848 Free Set-Up

1848 Late Start

1866 Historical

1866 Free Set-up

So, you get eight scenarios from two different wars in one box. Not a bad package at all.




 The game allows a player to deal with almost every problem or tactical conundrum that faced all 19th century generals. The terrain helps with that, but the various scenarios really help to put you in their shoes. The Basic Game rules only take up twelve pages. There is enough in the rules for anyone who wants to play out a 19th century battle. Where the game really shines is with the addition of the Advanced Rules. These include:


Formation Status

On March Formations

In Reserve Formations

Fatigue

Command Collapse

Line of Communication 

Reinforcements

 There are also a few Special Rules that deal with Fortresses and Night turns etc.





 This is the Objective Map below.





 This is the Basic game Sequence of Play:

"1. Initiative Determination. Each Player rolls two dice,
 adding the Command Rating of the Overall
 Commander, if in play. The player with the highest
 total is the Initiative player. Re-roll on ties.
2. Engaged Formations Action Phase.
2.1 Command Step. Check the Command Status
 of all of the units, and mark the Out of Command
 ones (4.1).
2.2 Activation Step. Starting with the Initiative
 player, both sides alternate trying to activate one
 of their Formations (5.1). A failed attempt is
 considered an attempt. Both players can choose to
 pass, and to not try to activate a Formation, but if
 players pass three times in sequence (i.e. Player 1,
 Player 2, then again Player 1), the Phase ends and
 Formations which have not been activated cannot
 activate any more on the current GT.
 NOTE: Out of Command units can still move in
 their Phase (see Step 4.)
 Once activated, the Formation’s units that are In
 Command can act, Force by Force.
 NOTE: Remember, consider a single unit as a Force.
 For each Formation to activate, conduct the following
 steps:
2.2.a) Assault and Charge declarations
 Assaults and Charges must be declared at the
 beginning of the Activation, before any action,
 using the appropriate markers (see 6.1).
2.2.b) Forces perform Actions
 Each Force belonging to the Activated Formation
 can perform one Action, potentially causing
 Reactions (see 11) by enemy Forces. A Force can
 choose one action among:
- Movement (7.0) (including any Action implying
 expenditure of Movement Points)
- Fire (8.0) (Artillery or Light Infantry), including
 movement before firing, if Light Infantry (6.4)
- Charge/Assault, including the movement to
 perform it (9.0 and 10.0)
2.2.c) End of Activation
 Eligible Forces can Recover Status Levels and/or
 Exhaustion (see 13.6).
 Remove Assault/Charge markers.
3. Non Activated Formations Phase. In Command
 units of Non Activated Formations can Recover
 Status Levels and/or from Exhaustion (see 13.6).
 They must execute Withdrawal (see 12.0) if they are
 in a ZoR.
 The Initiative Player’s units move second.
4. Out of Command Units Phase. Out of Command
 units can move now, and Recover Status Levels
 and/or from Exhaustion (see 13.6).
 They must execute Withdrawal (see 12.0) if they are
 in a ZoR. If they are not in a ZoR and move, they
 must move closer to their Commander (4.1.1).
 Initiative Player units move second.
5. End of the the Game Turn Phase.
 Remove “Low Ammo/Out of Ammo” markers.
 Advance the GT marker one box on the Turn record
 Track."




  When using the above Objective Map in the Advanced Game, only the commander and his scout unit is shown on the large map face down. Every 'On March Formation' has it's marker placed on the above Objective map. One interesting rule is that at least half of his movement allowance must be on any type of road hex. The commander also has to be at least one hex closer to his destination after movement. The designer states that both "fair play and good sense" are to be used in conjunction with the above. They must grow grognards differently in Italy. 

 So, the game comes with eight scenarios and the inclusion of the Objective Map, and the free set-up scenarios mean that the gameplay in this box is almost limitless. 

 The designer states that at first the project was boring and predictable. Their answer: "Hence the radical decision: we reset everything and started gain with a completely new system. Without using predefined schemes,  and with the basic concepts of a) non-absolute control of formations and b) continuous action/reaction, the system that you find was born". Historically, in 1866 the cavalry of both sides were not used to their fullest advantage. Both sides groped about the battlefield trying to find each other. In these essentially Napoleonic battles I am sure that most grognards will do better. The games revolve around a unit's cohesion, and its ability to withstand the enemy fires and then use shock. In my eyes Europa Simulazioni has hit the mark with this game. As long as you are a fan of 19th century warfare, you should be a fan of this game. Thank you Europa Simulazioni for allowing me to review this unknown, but very welcome addition to battles of the 19th century.


This is the link to the English Rules:

Custoza-Rules-P1-2-Eng.pdf (italianwars.net)

This is the link to Europa Simulazioni:

Europa Simulazioni - Home (italianwars.net)

This is the Link to Custoza: Fields of Doom:

Europa Simulazioni - Custoza, fields of doom (italianwars.net)


Robert

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  The Last Stand The Battle for Moscow 1941-42 by Multi-Man Publishing  This game allows the players to simulate the last part of Operation ...

The Last Stand : The Battle for Moscow 1941-42 by Multi-Man Publishing The Last Stand : The Battle for Moscow 1941-42 by Multi-Man Publishing

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

November 2020

The Last Stand : The Battle for Moscow 1941-42 by Multi-Man Publishing




 The Last Stand


The Battle for Moscow 1941-42


by


Multi-Man Publishing





 This game allows the players to simulate the last part of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, or the Russian counterattack at the end of the year into the beginning of 1942. Moscow was not seen as an important goal for Operation Barbarossa by Hitler. It was, however, always seen as an integral part of the invasion of the Soviet Union by the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) the German Army's High Command. Indeed, Army Group Center under field Marshal von Bock was poised to strike at the city much earlier. However, Hitler had forced Army Group Center to release Guiderian's Second Panzer Group (later upgraded to the Second Panzer Army) to aid in the vast encirclement of 600,000 + Soviet troops around Kiev. But now at the end of September, the OKH had finally dragged Hitler into the idea of an attack on Moscow. This was to be called Operation Typhoon. Three Panzer Armies (Hoth's Third, Hoepner's Fourth, and Guiderian's Second), along with the rest of Army Group Center are to be unleashed toward the city of Moscow. Multi-Man Publishing is putting you in command of either the German or Soviet Armies in this last do or die struggle of 1941. The Germans were able to see the spires of Moscow before being pushed back. Can you do better than von Bock or Zhukov?






 The game was designed by Masahiro Yamazaki, who has also designed 'Stalingrad Pocket', and 'Red Star Rising', among many others. This is what comes with the game:

One 34" x 22" map
560 ½" counters
32 page full color rulebook
2 player aids






 This is the blurb from Multi-Man Publishing about the game:

Solitaire Rating: very good to excellent
Complexity: Medium
Playing Time: 3-10 hours
Scenarios: 3
Game scale: Units are divisions, turns are ten days, and hexes are 17.2 kilometers across.

 This is a straight up old school hex-and-counter wargame that someone in 1978 would be able to sit down and play. It is not card driven, or has blocks for the units. The map is very well done, and has many of the charts and tables needed for play on it. There are no ambiguous hexes, as far as terrain, and rivers are all on their appropriate hex sides. All of the different Soviet defense positions around Moscow are on the map and easy to see. The Rulebook is twenty-seven pages long, with an abbreviated sequence of play on the back cover. The Rulebook is in full color. It is also printed in very large print. This makes it very easy on us old grognard eyes. The rules are setup very well, and are easy to follow. There are three Player's Aid cards. Two are the same and have the CRT and the weather die roll (this is optional) etc. on them. The other Player's Aid card has the setup for Scenario Two on one side (The First Scenario Setup is on the map), and the reinforcements for all three scenarios on the other. The counters are well done and not too 'busy'. You can easily read the information on them. The Soviet counters come with both historical and unknown strength sides. This allows the players to start with the historical Soviet strengths or unknown. While not a work of art, the game is up to the usual standards I have seen in my other MMP products. The cover of the game and Rules Booklet is another story. This is a picture right off a Soviet propaganda picture from the Second World War. 

 The three scenarios are:

The German Attack - This is ten turns long.
The Winter Counteroffensive - This is six turns long.
The extended Game - This is twelve turns long.






 This is an abbreviated sequence of play:

A.) German Player Turn
 1.) Supply Phase
  a.) Weather
  b.) Reinforcement/Supply Placement
  c.) Receive Air Points
  d.) Combat Unit Supply Check
  e.) Isolated Attrition Check
  f.) Supply Unit Removal (Snow Turns)
  g.) Soviet Morale Chit Pull (if applicable)
 2.) Movement Phase
  a.) Unit Movement/Overrun
  b.) Supply Unit Consumption
 3.) Combat Phase
  a.) Resolve Combat
  b.) Remove Supply Units in Expend Mode
 4.) Soviet Reaction Phase (The Soviet Player is allowed to move  and overrun with eligible Mechanized units)
 5.) Exploitation Movement (all German units may move again with one half of their movement allowance)
B.) Soviet Player Turn
 1.) Supply Phase
  a.) Reinforcement HQ and Combat Unit Placement
  b.) Receive Air Points
  c.) Combat Unit Supply Check
  d.) Isolated Attrition Check
  e.) Red Army Morale Check
 2.) Katyusha Gun Phase
  a.) Katyusha movement
  b.) Katyusha Fire
 3.) Movement Phase
 4.) German Reaction Phase (Like the Soviets in his reaction phase, but with different parameters, the German player may conduct reaction move with his eligible Mechanized units).
 5.) Combat Phase
  a.) Ski Unit placement
  b.) Resolve Attacks
 6.) Exploitation Movement (identical to the German Phase)






 You can see by the above picture that both sides receive air points, and there are special rules for the Soviet Katyusha rocket weapons (Stalin's organs). As the German player, you have to strike hard and fast to have any chance of gaining victory. The German player is not going to be able to make up lost time and space in the latter part of the game. The Soviet player has to be ready to have his lines torn open again and again by the German Player. He then must throw everything available to try and stem the German tide, and pray for winter. The game can be played with the historical weather for each turn, or optionally by deciding the weather by a die roll before each turn. This makes a big difference in the game. If the German player is lucky on his die rolls the game is much easier because some of the various modifiers for Rain, Snow, or Frozen weather conditions will not hamper him. Supply for both sides is dealt with entirely differently. A German unit is in supply if it is eight hexes from a friendly map edge. Farther than that, it depends totally on its parent unit's German Supply Unit. For example, a Fourth Panzer Army unit cannot use a Supply Unit from the Second Panzer Army. This is an easy elegant way to show how tenuous the German supply lines became during the battle. The Soviet Units have to be five hexes from a friendly map edge, or within five, (or four for mechanized), hexes of a Headquarters Unit that has an unbroken line to a friendly edge. The German player can also use the Supply Unit to help with odds shifts in two combat situations. However, once he has done that he loses the Supply Unit and must build it up again. 


The Defenses Around Moscow



 The game does a great job at giving the German player the idea that it is now or never. He must bust through the line and get going to get to Moscow before his tank's oil freezes. He also must face what seems like a zombie apocalypse of Soviet Units. Time and time again, he must break through Soviets' defensive lines. The Soviet player is also faced with deja vu. He must carefully construct defensive lines one turn to see them torn to ribbons by the German Units the next. As the Soviet player you must get ahold of the idea of sacrificing units. You must play to save the units that you can to fight again, whilst also knowing which ones to use as speed bumps against the German advance. I believe the game puts both players in their historic commanders seats. As the German you get to see how easy with clear weather and just a month earlier it could have gone. Playing as the Soviet the player can visualize just how close the Soviets came to losing this battle. When the Soviet counterattacks kick in, both players get to change their respective strategic roles. The German player has to try and hang on by the skin of his teeth while the Soviet gets to try and wipe him out. The only thing you can ask for in a wargame is that it replicates history for the players, without being ugly as hell. Judging by those criteria the game definitely passes muster. Thank you Multi-man Publishing for allowing me to review this very good game. 

Robert

Multi-man Publishing:

Last Stand: The Battle for Moscow 1941-42:

 

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Cooper Island pits one to four players against each other to reclaim and settle their own peninsula in the Island of Cooper…  It is a heavy-...

Cooper Island by Frosted Games and Capstone Games Cooper Island by Frosted Games and Capstone Games

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

November 2020

Cooper Island by Frosted Games and Capstone Games


Cooper Island pits one to four players against each other to reclaim and settle their own peninsula in the Island of Cooper…  It is a heavy-weight Euro-smorgasbord of mechanisms: worker placement,  tile placement, engine builder and rondel with intricate interplay between how you score points and how the $*&# do you score points? (At least for your first few plays.)

Gameplay

The game plays out in punishingly-few-five turns.  Each turn consists of 3 phases, the Income Phase, the Worker Phase and the Clean-Up Phase.  Two of which are simultaneous and which give the game a surprisingly low downtime per player when you consider how much stuff you’ve got to think about on your turn.

The Harbour Master in the Second Round

There are only 8 action spaces for your workers to be placed onto, but you can also perform an almost unlimited number of five Anytime actions.  As your peninsula develops new spaces will be revealed on your player board giving additional bonuses and sometimes extra stuff for you to do.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as bewildered by a game on the first play as I have this one.  Working out how to score points was not even on my radar on my first playthroughs of this.


I came away from my first game (with a terrible score) with a numb brain and I had only just realised that my anytime actions were pivotal for any type of success in this game.  On my second play through my brain was hurting even more because I was trying to optimise my choice of actions spaces with the anytime actions that I had at my disposal.  However, I was still trying to do a little bit of everything and consequently didn’t receive too many points. 

A really close game - not my first

It wasn’t until the third play-through that I even considered trying to score points (instead of them just happening as a result of my actions) and actually have a strategy; which currently looks like - optimise to get more workers as soon as possible (by fulfilling Milestone Tokens) and then Settle and Build at the highest level possible… This could be utterly wrong, maybe exploring your peninsula or building statues is better… I still don’t really know how to do well.


The earlier you can get more workers the more benefit they will provide over the course of the game is an age-old, (well at least Agricola-old) strategy of building your engine.  However, you need to fuel that engine and your workers will need feeding, however, there isn’t the same level of jeopardy that you feel when you can’t feed you Agricola-family.  In this, you just receive an anchor token which prevents your ships moving around the peninsula.

2 Normal and 1 Special worker need feeding

So with 5 Anytime Actions, 8 worker Actions (each with their own bonus actions), 4 terrain types, 6 resource types, 18 unexplored hexes to fill, 8 sandbanks to visit, 5 ruins to explore/statues to build, 3 different types of buildings to construct and two different types of workers, 6 boats to build and a player-dependent number of Bay Water and Harbour spaces to visit; you’ll hopefully begin to understand how wide the decision tree you are faced with is at the start of the game.  However, finding good combos and synergies between your anytime actions and your workers’ actions is what makes this game tick.


The pace of this game is perfectly balanced. The first one or two rounds are much simpler, (you’ve unlocked fewer bonus actions) which helps new players to become familiar with the core actions and flow of the game and during the fourth and fifth round, your combos can be magnificent and convoluted.  Keeping track of a resource as it moves from a fourth level hex to pay for an action which gets additional bonuses and more market stock to pay for further bonus actions can almost feel like you’re doing the work, but it’s damn rewarding.

The end of a solo game - not too shabby  

The Income Phase is a simultaneous affair where you quickly take the income (shown by Terra Mystica hands) revealed on your player board.  Additional hands can be in play by building one of your Income Boats.  The standard income actions allow you to draw a double hex tile from the bag into your personal reserve and place a double hex tile onto your peninsula from your personal reserve.  The important thing to understand that any time you have actions to do (including your anytime actions) is that you choose the order of them, which adds another wrinkle to your brow when you’re trying to optimise actions.


Double hex landscape tiles and islet tiles form the core of your peninsula and they build up to an attractive looking board with nice, chunky card being placed on top of each other.  You can shim a mismatched terrain height by using one of your Anytime Cartographer actions (assuming you’ve got the necessary amount of Cartographer points).  Each time you place a landscape tile you’ll place matching resource cubes onto that tile. The height at which the resource cubes are placed determines their value.  However, once a hex is a Meadow hex, for example, it is always a Meadow hex you can’t change its hex type (unless you decide to place a settlement tile onto it). Building your landscape in this fashion (following all the tile placement rules) is like a 3d puzzle and could be a challenging game in its own right.

This looks great on the table

The Worker Phase is the core of the game and you only start with two workers to place onto the board.  Those two workers have a choice of 8 spots in the central island board to occupy.  Four of the actions will let you place additional landscape tiles into your peninsula (following the placement rules) and which gives resources.  The other four actions require you to pay resources you’ve just gained to build buildings, statues, boats, or supply some cargo which all have their own specific benefit and most importantly answer the first question of ‘how the $*&# do you score points?’.


Traditionally in worker placement games, a worker on a spot will prevent other players from taking that action.  Here, you just have to pay the player 1 resource to go on top of their worker.  This adds an unexpected boost often at opportune times.  I suppose it would be possible to determine the board state of another player to work out where they are going to place their workers, to maxims this boost to you, but my gameplay is so far from this level – I’m just gripping on to my ships pennants keeping up with my own game.  I just consider it a nice and often welcome surprise if it does happen to me.

The worker actions spaces / central island board

You can unlock special workers (the ‘square’ discs…) which provide a more powerful version of their action space.  However, to get these new workers, you’ll need to remove a normal worker but also unlocking additional victory points.  Deciding the optimum strategy of whether the new worker should be normal or special is well beyond the processing power of my brain.

The Clean-Up Phase is a blessed relief on the grey-matter, even though you have to start by feeding your workers.  It is another simultaneous affair in which you may get points and you reset your workers and market and move the round tracker.  There is a decision to be made to pay or not to reactivate an asset, however, in my experience, you only have one maybe two assets that even need reactivating and it’s nearly always worth it.  This is the easiest decision in the game.

A clear and easy to follow rulebook

This game plays in about 90 minutes to two hours.  If you all know the game 4 players can complete the game in under 2 hours which is a huge achievement for such a dense, crunchy (in a good sense) game.  Few games can provide the same level of challenge for four players in the same length of time as this does.

Components

Some of the components deserve special praise. The landscape hex tiles are deliciously thick and create a good-looking peninsula after the game.  The player colours are standard red, green, blue and black pieces and the resources are contrasting shades of brown – wood, purple – cloth, grey – stone, pink – food, and yellow – gold.  These pieces, resources, workers and buildings are all made of wood – which I prefer.

All good here

The rulebook does a tremendous job of conveying how the game plays.  Each section is colour coded to relate to the actions. This colour coding exists throughout the game i.e. on the player board so after reading the rules, you’ve got a good idea of how the game will play.  This is an amazing achievement for such a dense game.  The rules are contained in 27 pages of very well written text and copious examples littered throughout.  Although I did find one non-game affecting typo relating to page number references.


The player boards and central island board, at first glance, contain a dizzying array of icons, but as is the case with most heavy Euros, once you’re familiar with the actions themselves, the icons provide a non-textual and intuitive prompt for what is going on, and what you should be doing.  I thought the player board with its colour-coded sections, and icon design allows a returning player to pick the game flow back up very quickly.

A bit of a table-hog.  2 Player game

I was disappointed that there is no insert of any type in the box and similarly the two-piece player boards are made from quite a thin card stock.  However, these are just minor quibbles for me as I’ll end up 3d printing an insert for this and I understand that another 3 or sheets of board stock with different die cuts would have been much more expensive.

Criticisms

The only criticism I have is not really fair to level at Cooper Island, as it was designed to be a complex worker placement, is that it's a complex worker placement game.  You’re not going to have a good time introducing this to gamers more comfortable with Splendor and Ticket to Ride.  However, there is a place in the market and my collection for complex Euros like this.  If you buy this I am confident that you’ve already done your research and you’ll know exactly if this game is for you or not.

Conclusion

I really like this game, the huge amount of actions you have over five short rounds is impressive.  I appreciate the design and all its complexities coming in under 2 hours.  However, I don’t think it will see the light of day (or game night) at the moment – I don’t think I can face continually teaching it to lots of new players.  Maybe when life is a bit more settled and less crazy I’ll feel a need to train my brain after another relaxing day in the office (/s) and I’ll pull this out for some stimulation.  However, 2020 is not that year, my work has been manic of late and I just don’t feel up to Cooper Island but I look forward to the time when life is a bit more peaceful and normal and this will become a regular on my table.


P.S. The solo mode is fun and challenging (I’ve only beat the first difficulty level) but I feel less pressure when playing this solo and not teaching the game.


I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. This is in stock in many stores and you can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store who need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designer:  Andreas "ode." Odendahl

Bgg page:  https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/269511/cooper-island

Play time:  90 minutes

Players:  1-4

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