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878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game tha...

878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games 878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games

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

March 2021

878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games

878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game that you appreciate the weight that those ‘s’s are lifting.  Yes, there are lots of Vikings, and yes they’ll be lots of Invasions, on most turns as it turns out. 

Incongruously the rule book states that it is the year 865 however there aren’t many people who could split such small hairs or understand the nuance between the years 865 and 878.  I am not one of them despite regularly falling asleep to the British History Podcast (BHP) which covered this period for me about 3 months ago.  (I’ve got quite a backlog).

However let’s get back to the game, which is a team-based game for 2 to 4 players.  One side takes on the two factions of the Angles (thank you BHP): the Housecarls and the Thegn. The other team takes over the Viking Norsemen and Viking Berserkers.  The game plays out over at most 7 rounds or until the conditions are overwhelmingly in favour of one team.


This game reminds me of a simple COIN game; there are asymmetric faction powers and the play order changes each turn and it is a (wait for it) … card-driven game.  Feel free to disagree with me. One of the simplest aspects of this game is how the turn order is decided – by drafting faction-coloured cubes out of a bag.  Unlike most variable turn order games, this is not predetermined completely at the start of the turn but revealed as the first phase of the next players turn.  This is such a simple design choice but adds a delicious amount of tension (and involvement) from the very beginning and it only ramps up throughout the game. If the ‘English’ defenders go first then their opportunity to react to the Viking invasion is stymied.  If the Vikings go first they can deny the English important reinforcements later on. A double whammy of both team factions going before their opponents can be an opportunity for either side.

On their turn each faction will receive Reinforcements, activate their Leaders (this is mostly for the Vikings as the English don’t get a Leader until the 5th Round), Move their armies, Fight in regions where there are both enemy and friendly troops and then draws cards back up to 3 cards. Each player completes that sequence until either the end of the 7th Round, Treaty cards or overwhelming force end the game.  Both treaty and overwhelming force require a certain amount of control markers to determine if the English or Viking team won.

The first Viking Reinforcement phase lands the Great Heathen Army (i.e. the Vikings) into Englaland. And you might be forgiven for thinking that there would be no way the defending factions (normally one or two defenders in a region), could deal with the invading horde of 17 Norsemen and 8 Berserkers during the first turn.  However, it always seemed to be quite finely balanced by the end of each round despite the Vikings having a seemingly overwhelming force.  The wise Viking player will not spread themselves too thin; there is a strong desire to rampage and pillage with their superior forces but they are quickly whittled down.  A good Viking player should prepare and plan for significant reinforcements in later turns.

The core of the gameplay is driven by the cards played by the active faction, which will either be an event card or a movement card.  The movement cards dictate how many armies and how far they can move.  Movement is a simple affair, there is no unit drop off or pick up, and armies must stop when in a region with the enemy.

The battle phase is streamlined and quick to grasp and another area where this game shines with its design choices.  Each faction is colour coded and has its own battle dice.  The controlling player will roll as many dice as they have units available in the battle.  The berserkers are the strongest faction but also the most fragile.  The Norsemen and Housecarl are equivalent and the Thegn are a bit battle shy.  Any time a battle occurs in a region containing a city then the Fyrd are raised which are basically cannon fodder and play an important role in protecting the stronger Housecarl and Thegn from absorbing too many hits early on.

The use of colour to differentiate the battle dice and different factions really help to streamline the battle phase and it can be taught and grasped in a few minutes.  The simple and quick playing battles present a real ebb and flow that you can see across the board as the Vikings invade and are pushed back, a little less, each turn. The event cards may add a little wrinkle here and there to the overall flow of the game but all their game-changing rules are clearly presented on the cards themselves.  

The active faction player is allowed to ‘command’ the pieces of their teammate and move them and battle with them freely.  However, any decisions where to apply the hits and, I would argue where to move them, should be freely discussed and agreed upon within your team.  It is this discussion space with your other team member that allows this fast-paced game to breathe and enhances the overall experience. I have played it with 2 players (with my son) and with 4.  Despite my son enjoying the game and asking to play it again, I am a bit disappointed that he has not experienced it with 4 players yet.  When lockdown eases hopefully I can remedy that situation.


This review was written with the recently published second edition of the game.  The artwork across the cards and throughout the game is lovely.  I am also a sucker for maps, especially ones of England, and this one is beautifully uncluttered and functional. 

The rules are excellently written, and there is an abundance of examples and colours that at first glance looks confusing, but which are extremely useful when you’re reading to learn the game for the first time.  Because of its relative simplicity and presentation of the rules, I imagine returning to the game after a few months or more will be a very quick affair.

The leaders in the game come with Standees that tower above the army units.  They really serve to focus your attention, particularly for the English factions where there is a concentration of force, if it is not abundantly clear by the sea of black and red plastic surround them

My favourite part of the components has to be the Historical Overview at the back of the rulebook. I love Academy Games (and any other publisher that does) for allowing designers the space to add some context to the game they’ve designed.  There is also a line or two of flavour text on the cards themselves which is interesting to read. 


Academy Games have provided tiny miniatures in 15mm scale on little round bases.  Keeping these upright (and in line with my OCD tendencies) is more trouble than it’s worth.  At 15mm you can tell that they’re soldiers carrying axes and spears but beyond that, the detail is a bit lost.  The size isn’t the issue, any bigger and the map would drown in plastic, but I would have preferred simple cubes which can be easily formed into a good looking shield wall, but this is a minor complaint.

Another minor complaint is around the card art – I’ve already said that the art is lovely but I would have liked to see more unique examples of it.  Event cards with the same function and title have the same art.  Again, this is a very minor criticism and arguably it may be a design choice to keep consistency across cards that have the same effects. 

The most significant criticism I have is that the game feels quite different with just two players.  This is a shame because that is the only version my son has played. There is an added level of ‘je ne sais quoi’ with the full complement of four players.


I have read this game described as Risk+ but I think I would prefer the term COIN-lite. I understand the Risk+ comment but this is so much more than Risk.  If someone can handle the rules-complexity of Risk and enjoys the direct conflict in that ‘game’ then 878: Vikings can provide a much more rewarding experience in a much shorter time with marginally more rules.  I think that non-gamers suggesting a game of risk is pretty much apocryphal these days, but if you ever find yourselves in that situation, say no, go out and buy this (or any of Academy Games’ Birth of America series – 1812, 1775 or 1754) and insist that they try this instead.  However 878: Vikings is probably easier to get hold of due to the recent reprinting.

Although the rules are simple there is enough in here, especially with 4 players, to keep even the most experienced of Grognards entertained.  Even if they consider it as a simple 60-minute filler – my game of this went closer to 90 minutes plus a bit., I guarantee that they will enjoy it.  As will anyone else who has experienced any type of modern hobby games, or dare I say it again, Risk… 

With the almost constant Viking invasion forces, each turn really does feel like a battering against a meagre force of defenders that somehow seem to keep things on a knife’s edge throughout the entire game.  The game is finely balanced and seems to always come down to very small deciding factors that decide the entire game.  Being on the right side of that decision is where the best player (with wit and a small amount of luck) will find themselves.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeph Stahl
Bgg page:
Playtime: 60 mins - 2 hours
Players: 2 - 4


Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I...

Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games

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

March 2021

Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games

Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I have immensely enjoyed and if I tell you that my biggest gripe with the series is that I can’t get my head around the thematic link between the game titles and what you’re actually doing in the games themselves, it might give you a clue a to how this review is going to do down…(spoiler I like it).

Viscounts is the most visually appealing of the three games coming with a central circular board and eye-catching 3-tiered castle in the centre of the board through which 1-4 players will be moving their single Viscount figure around the action spaces of the circular board, constructing buildings from their individual player board i.e. ‘building their engine’. As you build you’ll derive immediate and ongoing benefits on both the central board and your individual player board.


Each turn you’ll complete 6 distinct phases, however, the meat and potatoes, if you will, comes as you try to complement your Viscount’s new action space with the ever-shifting cards on your player board. Being able to optimise cards and actions across the boards describes a standard level of competence. What seems to be beyond me, certainly during the later stages of the game, is calculating the effects of your workers as they infest the castle – essentially only 3 workers are allowed in any section and the surplus is pushed into adjacent sections triggering further effects.

Once you’re familiar with the iconography (which is largely shared with other games in the series) your player boards lay out the phases in your turn which repeat in player order until the Kingdom descends into Poverty, achieved by players rinsing the Debt cards and revealing the Poverty card; or by being virtuous and fulfilling Deeds until the Prosperity Card is revealed. However, the Poverty card will reward the players with the most Deeds, and the Prosperity card rewards the player with the most debts so there is a nice see-saw effect of players collectively taking debts and deeds until the game ends.

You’ll start the game with three Townsfolk in your hand and each turn you’ll have to add one to your player board. This will then push the existing Townsfolk to the right until there are at most three on your board. What’s nice, or crunchy – depending on your point of view, is that some cards have immediate bonuses, some have drop-off bonuses, and whilst they are on your board they all provide extra icons for your primary actions. There’s an element of deck building as well as you add cards to your discard pile and discard cards later in the game.

Your primary actions are determined by the icons which are present on the Townsfolk cards on your player board and constitute the meat and potatoes of the game. You can Trade, Build, Mess around in the cool castle or Do Some Churchey stuff. Trade is where you get the resources required to do the other actions all of which give you victory points which is ultimately what we’re trying to do here, as ever.

There are three different types of resources for which you’re trading, Gold (okay), Stone (okay) and Ink Wells (wait – what?). Which allow you to take the VP-rewarding actions. The first, Build, requires hammer icons to build either workshops, trading posts or a guildhall. Each building type has its own unique piece (beeple?) and provides permanent bonuses as well as victory points - “So far, so Euro”.

The third action is to Place Workers in the castle. This is the centrepiece of the game and arguably what makes this game stand out to a passer-by (what’s one of those?). Each section of the castle has an effect to resolve as you place your workers and you will also bump other players workers (or your own) off the castle. As more workers litter the castle the combos you can build (i.e. free actions) is nice. In fact, I think it’s one of my favourite aspects of this game – my brain can’t work out what’s going to happen when I place 4 workers on the 1st tier but it’s always a nice surprise when I’m the active player and get to resolve the second tier and third tiers as well as bumping a few other players off the castle. However, these types of combos are only possible when there are a number of your workers (as well as others) already in the castle and won't happen much before the last 30 minutes or so.

The fourth and final action is writing a manuscript…which I’ll admit is a bit of a departure from typical worker placement games action spaces. These manuscripts often have an immediate bonus and endgame scoring points as well as having some very important bonuses for set collecting.

Finally, for the purposes of this gameplay overview, there is a virtue track. Criminals, as in the other ‘West Kingdom’ games are considered wild cards and their icons can be anything but using them does give you some Corruption. Corruption and Virtue are tracked separately on the virtue track and can give lots of Deeds and Debt cards. The castle and this virtue track are the two elements that make this game stand out, not just from the other West Kingdom games, but as a "it’s different from anything else and deserves a place in my collection"-type game.

I’ve not tried to describe every rule, there’s a plethora of other actions and rules I’m not going to cover but hopefully what I have done is given you a flavour of the game and why I like it. I’ve not even touched on strategies, that’s for another person to give but suffice to say I don’t think there’s any particular dominant strategy and you’ll do well by dabbling in a little bit of everything.


The game comes in my newly-favourite sized box – i.e. one that fits the components perfectly with no extra space. I 3d-printed an organiser which did free things up a little bit but there is a massive amount of game in this deceptively small box.

The cards all have a lovely linen finish making them buttery smooth to handle. The wooden components are fantastic and the plastic castle is a nice touch. In an ideal world, the castle and board slot together easily and stay together but that was not my experience. However, this is a very minor gripe about some rather unique components.


The only criticism I have of this game is my lack of awareness of what a Viscount is. An architect designs buildings, Paladins are fighting monks, Viscounts – not sure, do they write manuscripts…? I just don’t have the familiarity with the term or the ability to link my in-game actions with a particular purpose of a Viscount. Maybe the designers’ adherence to the ‘West Kingdom’ trilogy (North, South and East as well) is providing too many constraints. I just don’t feel like I’m being a Viscount or my actions are anything to do with Viscounting…but that doesn't really detract from the excellent gameplay.


So with all that said, what do I think? The initial set up and cards provide a large number of variables and create a highly replayable game. I definitely want to play this again and again, however, as the UK is tentatively eyeing the easing of Lockdown in the next few months I expect that my groups' demands and appetites will be very wide and varied. Replaying the same title month on month or week on week is just not going to happen any time soon.

There is a lovely balance in lots of different aspects of the game and make it feels like it is in a constant state of flux. Any strategy you decide upon will likely have to be adapted turn by turn, in order to do well but any strategy (as long as you’ve got one will probably do alright). This is a testament to the balance of the game. I was initially enamoured of the castle strategy to win, and then the manuscript strategy and I’ve dabbled with the Building strategy (although not successfully). It is clear that the mechanics integrate together perfectly and there are multiple paths to victory.

In terms of the trilogy, I have liked each game more than the previous. And I started out liking Architects a lot. Maybe I suffer from a bit of cult of the new, but Viscounts is my standout game of the series.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Bgg page:
Playtime: 60 mins - 90 mins
Players: 1 - 4


  One Small Step by Academy Games     The Space Race: on the outside a scientific marvel; on the inside a propaganda and military powerhouse...

One Small Step by Academy Games One Small Step by Academy Games

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

March 2021

One Small Step by Academy Games

 One Small Step


Academy Games

 The Space Race: on the outside a scientific marvel; on the inside a propaganda and military powerhouse for both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Those missiles grew bigger and stronger each day. The same missiles that had school children on both sides cower under desks. From Sputnik until the lunar landing it was not even twelve full years. Robert Goddard was one of the first rocket pioneers. The real dream of Werner von Braun was to put a man on the Moon. we will never know exactly how much we are indebted to Jack Parsons for his contributions to the effort. However, once President Kennedy threw the gauntlet down in front of the world the race was on. Both superpowers put their all into the effort to land a man on the Moon. This game from Academy Games allows the player to fill the shoes of either superpower in those heady days. Let us see what comes with the game:

1 Game Board
1 Beginner Map Overlay
2 Agency Boards (1 USSR, 1 USA)
46 Event Cards (12 for Era 1, 12 for Era 2, and 22 for Era 3)
19 Hazard Cards
14 Advancement Cards (Not used in Beginner Game)
12 Crew Mission Cards (6 USSR, 6 USA)
24 Satellite Mission Cards
90 Temporary Resource Tokens (10 of each kind)
54 Permanent Resource Tokens (6 of each kind)
12 Crew Markers (double sided, USA / USSR)
12 Satellite Markers (double sided, USA / USSR)
Bonus Tokens (21 Satellite, 10 Crewed Missions, 14 Media, and 9 Advancement)
3 Dice (1 Gray Agency Die, 1 Red Satellite Die, 1 Brown Crew Die)
4 Administration Worker Meeples (2 Red USSR, 2 Blue USA)
4 Engineer Worker Meeples(2 Red USSR, 2 Blue USA)
2 Summary Sheets (Beginner on one side, Advanced Game on other)
1 Rule Book
2 VP Track Markers (1 Red and 1 Blue Cube)
2 Media Track Markers (1 Red and 1 Blue Circle)

 Have no doubt about it, this is a Eurogame, and as such it shows it. Upon opening the box you will be presented with a cornucopia of items. Not only that, but the quality is second to none. Old hoary grognards have the wrong idea about Eurogames. To them they are all glitz with no substance. Guys I am here to tell you something that you may not have noticed. The word wargame actually does have the word game in it. 

 As mentioned, your eyes will be pretty much astounded at the components. The game board is only 22" square, but it seems much bigger. It is very nicely done, although at first glance it looks a little empty in some spots and busy in others. It is mounted, and feels like it will last for however much gaming you put it through. There are three counter/token sheets filled with beautiful and large tokens. They are also very thick and sturdy. The Beginner and Advanced Summary Sheets (Player Aids) are of cardboard, and like the rest of the game are eye-popping with color. To fit all of the game's actions, the Advanced Summary Sheets are done in small print. There is a lot to the advanced game so the sheets are busy, and because of the print size I do have to pick them up to get them closer to my specs. Naturally, the Beginner Summary Sheet is in larger print and much less busy. There are two sets of cards. Both are of very good quality. One is the normal size for game cards, and the other is a much smaller deck. However, the smaller deck can be read easily. The 'Meeples' are kind of cute in a way. The two Agency Boards are well set up and are not crowded. The Rule Book is twenty-seven pages long. It is the standard Academy Games Rule Book. By that I mean it is beautiful to behold and very well written. If you have problems understanding and following these rules, I would not blame the Rule Book. All in all, this game screams Eurogame, but a very well produced Eurogame. 

 I hate to tell Academy Games this, but even though I lived through the Space Race my interest in it was near nil. Now, give me a book or game about Alexander's Successors and I am in. So, this will have to be a very good game to pique and keep my interest. 

 Victory is won by how many points each side can accumulate. This is the Sequence of Play:

Phase 1 - Countdown
Phase 2  - Replenish
Phase 3 - Draw Cards
Phase 4  - Placing Workers
Phase 5  - Personnel
Phase 6 - Play Cards
Phase 7 - Launch Missions

 The game gives you both Administrator and Engineer workers. Each of these can only be used on their corresponding spaces. Personnel Cards have the different Astronauts' names on them. Along with them the cards also have some of the following:

Military Missiles
Cold War
Freeze-Dried Foods
Satellite Research
Navigation Testing

  In a nutshell, this is a worker placement, and resource allocation game at its core. Having a Basic and Advanced version built in is very helpful for table longevity. It is a two to four player game. In the four player version two players are on the U.S. and two are on the U.S.S.R. sides. The missions that both sides have to fulfill are definitely a two edged sword. The tougher the mission the greater the gain for your side. The downside is that you do not want to fail missions. These setbacks have some real consequences to your attempt at everlasting fame. The game also has a Media track that is predicated on your successes and failures. The Beginner game is simpler, but that does not mean it is simple. This is a game that definitely has some meat on its bones. The advanced game is just that, advanced, or to be truthful very advanced. This is not a light Eurogame. It may not have tanks and hexes, but it is a deep thinking man's game. All through the game your choices are myriad, and unlike some games can have negative outputs for your side. Please remember that you are not just playing against yourself. There are hazards that both sides can add to missions to make them even harder than they were to begin with.

 Bottom line, this is not really a game I would recommend for a boardgame newbie. This is, however an excellent game for grognard to switch gears and learn to play. It is a deep game. Academy Games even touts it as a good game for teachers to help explain the Space Race to students. Please remember that this is a game about the entire Space Race. You as the player have to build your country's Space exploration history from scratch. Thank you very much, Academy Games, for letting me review this excellent game. The game has also come close to doing the impossible. It has managed to spark and interest in me to start reading about the history of the Space Race. If a game can do that, it has to be great.

 For you grognards out there who have been under rocks please take a look at their stable of 'Conflict of Heroes' games. It is a wonderful tactical series.


Academy Games:

One Small Step:

My review of Conflict of Heroes 'Storms of Steel Kursk 1943'


  Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas  We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to ...

Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas

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

March 2021

Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas

 Frontier Wars


Draco Ideas

 We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to when we played with them. However, to introduce them onto our tables, where hex and counters reign, is another thing altogether. Some of us are elitists; I am guilty of this at times, where we long for just sixty to 100 page rulebooks and an Ardennes map where each hex represents fifty yards. You know, games where we will only get to play them once or a few times during our lives. I am here to tell you that I was wrong and so was our thinking on games. The smallest footprint game can have great gameplay. A game that is short enough to play four times in one evening can still be a great game. Can a grognard play a game that has plastic toy soldiers? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as he manages to rise above his stuffy thoughts on what a wargame MUST be behind. Chess is the world's oldest and most beloved wargame, and guess what it has: toy soldiers. We must also forget our rulebook mania. A simple game can be a great game, and guess what guys, it might just bring new blood into this elderly hobby. Face it people, we grognards are not getting any younger, and if we really love the hobby we will want it to continue to thrive. So, I am removing myself from the soapbox, and onto the review. 

Here is a blurb from Draco Ideas about the game itself:

"Frontier War" ("Guerra Fronteriza" in Spanish) allows you to take control of one of the four most relevant factions in World War 2.
Choose which role you want to take in the fray: United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Russia in games for 2 to 4 players.
Recreate battles of the largest military clash in history.
Learn how to manage your resources, make bold tactical movements with your troops: infantry, tanks, artillery and airstrikes.
Make alliances that meet your interests, but remember, your allies can stop being so at any time!
Fight Smart and never cease exploring your options, since the end of the battle can arrive at the most unexpected moment.
The game includes 100 fully detailed miniatures, a modular battle field for new and different games each play, as well as 90 cards that will make each game unique.
We’ve worked hard to give the game easy mechanics and a quick learning without losing a high tactical complexity, all of it within the frame of fast, dynamic games.
Are you ready?"

 This is what comes with Frontier Wars:

100 Cards

100 Miniatures

 30 Double-Sided tiles

 4 Army Boards

 3 Game Boards

 100+ Tokens

 Rules and Scenario Book

 In the basic game there are three sets of cards. These are: Attack Orders, Defense Orders, and Tactical Orders. These all have the same backs to them. On the front of the cards is their explanation and usage along with various photos taken during World War II. The action that the cards describe are straight-forward and do not need to be deciphered. There are four types of miniatures in the basic game: Artillery, Infantry, tanks, and airplanes. These are small, but very well done. For their size they are very robust. The tiles are hexagonal, and very large at almost 4" across. There are many different tiles to play the scenarios on. These are:

Neutral Tiles
City Tiles 
Airport Tiles
Strategic Point Tiles
Starting Tile
Water Tiles
Swamp Tile
Port Tile
Fleet Tile
Desert Tile

 Some of these give you extra Resource Cards, Victory Points, or increase your card hand limit. The Army and Game Boards are also large and easy to read. The Tokens are done in very thick cardboard. All of the components are built to last through many games. The Rules Book is thirty-one pages long. It is in full color and is done on magazine type paper. The rules only take up nine pages with a further two pages+ with Optional Rules. The game comes with thirty scenarios. These go from beginner to advanced. They are also from two to four players in size. Some are historical, while others are completely made up for the game. You get a very large bang for your buck with everything that comes with the game, and how well the parts were constructed.

 The game is easy to learn and play. I believe Frontier Wars is a great game in its own right. It also bridges the gap for new players from  simpler wargames, or just games, to more complex games. I mean, that is what we grognards are all about, isn't it? We entrap new players and then feed them a simple diet of beer & pretzels wargames. Slightly more complex games follow, until they start noticing hexes in their everyday life. Then when they least expect it we force them to play an entire weekend of Fire in the East or something similar. Okay, maybe other people do not do that, but I would love to have a dungeon full of hex and counter playing slaves. Enough of that. Frontier Wars is an easy to learn and fun wargame. This is the Sequence of Play:

 Turn Order
 Drawing Resource Cards
 Tactical Phase
 Arms Race
 Frontier Wars is a game that has a small footprint, is quick to play and learn, and most of all it is fun. Draco Ideas did add an expansion that includes France and Japan to the mix. You can also buy trucks with new rules for them. They were nice enough to send me the Solo Rules and the Weather Cards that add a lot to the game. These come with large double-sided fold out player aids that explain in simple terms how to use the Weather cards and play in solo mode. Any game that comes with a built in solo mode nowadays is sure to get my vote, especially if it is as easy to understand and play with as these are. Thank you Draco Ideas for letting me review this sleeper of a game that seems to have slipped under most peoples' radar. 


Draco ideas:

Frontier Wars:



  Saladin by Shakos Games  His correct name is Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, but we in the West know him as just Salah ad-Din or Sa...

Saladin by Shakos Games Saladin by Shakos Games

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

March 2021

Saladin by Shakos Games



Shakos Games

 His correct name is Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, but we in the West know him as just Salah ad-Din or Saladin. Once this brilliant man became leader of both Egypt and Syria, the Crusaders' days in Outremer were numbered. In fact, after he took back Jerusalem, the Crusaders were left with only a small strip of land on the coast. One of the reasons that the Crusaders had been as successful as they had was because the potentates of Egypt and Syria were mostly busy fighting each other (sometimes with Crusader help), instead of the Crusaders. The three way power structure helped the nascent Crusader Kingdoms when they needed it most.

 This is a brand new series by Shakos Games. So, I will let them speak for themselves about it:

"This series will present for each opus a legendary medieval leader and two battles highlighting them. Saladin, first opus in the series, is a game intended to recreate the famous battles of Hattin and Arsuf where Saladin was opposed to the crusaders troops of Guy de Lusignan and then those of Richard the Lionheart. In Saladin take over one of the armies that fought each other. Order your horsemen to harass the crusaders ranks or launch a devastating charge with your heavily armored knights. Saladin is an epic game designed for history and strategy fans.

Will you be able to lead your men to victory ?

Saladin is a historical wargame for 2 players. Having chosen one of the two battle scenarios and set up the game, each player, in turn, will order one of their Banner. They will make them fight in order to disorganize those of their opponent. For this it will be necessary to spend Order tokens, the number of which will decrease at the beginning of each turn. The player who will manage to preserve the cohesion of their troops by retaining the precious Order tokens will be declared the winner."

Arsuf Map

Hattin Map

 The box it self is a small one. It measures roughly 9"x7". You know what they say about small packages. Let us see what comes in the box:

 1 Double Sided Mapboard
 28 Banner Cards - 14 for both the Ayyubids and Crusaders
 4 Leader Cards - 2 for each Battle
 115 Wooden Bars (Lances) - 59 for the Ayyubids, and 56 for the Crusaders
 26 Wooden Order Tokens - 13 for each side
 1 Shield Wall Marker for the Crusaders
 1 Fire Wall Marker for the Ayyubids (for the Hattin scenario)
 6 Combat Die - 3 for each side
 1 Rulebook


 The mounted mapboard is 11 3/4"x16 1/2", give or take. As you can see, the mapboards are a bit busy looking. The scenes and terrain are done in a pseudo-medieval looking style. However, given the style of the game it works quite well. The wooden tokens are well done and look uniform. The cards are very large at 2 3/4"x4 3/4". The Leader Cards are very nicely done, and have a picture of each leader on one side. The Rulebook is twenty-three pages long and is extremely colorful and easy to follow. 

 "The Sequence of Play:

A turn is divided into four phases:

• Chaos

• Initiative

• Activation

• Redeployement


Starting with the player with the initiative, players will chain activation in turn or pass. A player can pass only if all their Banners and Leader cards are on their Ordered side. A player who has passed can no longer take activation, their opponent will then be able to perform several successive activation until they pass. Upon activation, the player activates a Banner or their Leader.

Activating a Leader

By activating a Banner the player must in order:

1. Choose an Action on their selected Banner card.

2. Spend the necessary Orders.

3. Choose a valid target for this Action.

4. Ask if the targeted Banner performs a Reaction, if possible. In this case solve the effects of the Reaction and proceed to step 7. A Banner that performs a Reaction remains on its Deployed side.

5. Simultaneously apply the effects of the Action to the targeted Banner and the acting Banner by rolling the indicated Combat dice if needed.

6. Move the Lances on the game board if there is a status change of the Banner.

7. Turn the Banner card on its Ordered side if it was on its Deployed side. Leave the card on its Ordered side if it was already on that side.

Activating a Leader

By activating a Leader the player must in order:

• Choose on their Leader card one of the available Actions.

• Apply the effects of the Action.

• Turn the Leader card on its Ordered side."

 Normally I have the ability to take longer with a game, for research and play, than I have had to inspect this one. This one is going into KickStarter in just a few weeks, so Shakos Games asked me to take a look at it before then. I was surprised at the size of the game, and the way Shakos games had implemented it. I had reviewed their Napoleon 1807 (link will be below), and I was very impressed with how they had combined the flash of a Euro game with a very deep wargame. So, I was expecting to find a large game with a lot of panache. However, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover, especially with wargames, so I dove right in. Saladin is very deceiving as a game. Its small footprint and setup makes you think that you are getting a simple beer & pretzels game. The game, in reality, is much more nuanced than that, and much deeper. It is simple enough for Shakos Games to tout it as a learning tool. They describe the game as follows:

"This game is designed to act as a fun and highly instructive working model of historical events. Engaging with the game will encourage any child to understand why certain important events occurred, as well as what may have happened if different decisions had been made. Easy rules and attractive components will help the younger player ease into the educational and sociable pastime of historical gaming. Enjoy the game!" 

 I really couldn't agree more. I love truth in advertising. Thank you Shakos Games for letting me take the game out for a spin.


Shakos Games:

Shakos | Historical board games


Saladin | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

My review of Napoleon 1807:

Napoleon 1807 La Campagne de Pologne by Shakos Games - A Wargamers Needful Things