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  The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel   This book continues the trend in Cas...

The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel

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

April 2021

The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel





 The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356


by


Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel





 This book continues the trend in Casemate Publications that I have mentioned before. To whit, never go by their titles. You would think that a book with a battle in its name would give you a little history before the battle and then end with the battle. This book actually gives the history of the entire Hundred Years War up to the Battle of Poitiers. It also gives a day by day journal of each day during the campaign. Then it finishes up with some of the events that happened after the battle. How the authors managed to get all of this in only 200 pages is pretty amazing. Because of the above, do not think that the history of the actual battle was given short shrift. The battle and the failed negotiations before it are gone into detail.


  I have never been much of a fan of the 'Black Prince'. I have always delved into the Hundred Years War before and after him. Because of this book I am now much more informed about his exploits and why he was considered a great general. Contrary to the usual history about the French, this book shows that they realized they had to come up with a plan to beat the English long bowmen. They didn't just haphazardly charge at the first Englishmen they saw. The book also shows how some Scots, fresh from fighting the English, were high up in the French war councils. The authors show that the Black Prince was brought to bay, much like Henry V, by the French maneuvering. 


 This is an amazing book that gives the reader everything he would want to know about the battle and the campaign. Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review this wonderful history narrative.


Robert

Book: The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356

Authors: Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel

Publisher: Casemate Publishers



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 CARENTAN Great Battles of Small Units from STRATEGEMATA This is the most recent game from Strategemata in this splendid series of small sca...

CARENTAN CARENTAN

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

April 2021

CARENTAN

 CARENTAN

Great Battles of Small Units

from

STRATEGEMATA



This is the most recent game from Strategemata in this splendid series of small scale engagements from WWII.  Previous games in this series featured Polish units[a link to my review exploring the system can be found at the end of this review], but inevitably Carentan is exclusively an American affair.  Even more than the first two, the focus homes in on an even smaller geographical area, resulting in a map that I find particularly interesting. 

In physical terms, the components remain the same adequate, but modest quality that I have commented on in my previous review of this series.  They are functional, but lack the gloss and glamour of the major companies.  Only the move to full colour box art and an artistic depiction of action and drama adds a brighter touch.

The contents are identical in every way - an approximately folio size map of predominantly green background, a brief eight page, plain paper rule book, including a substantial number of simple, minimal-looking, illustrative examples and  small thin counters.  Once again unit I.D. is in very small print and the important colour coding unfortunately uses too many similar shades of blue.  

At set up, these start out reasonably clear because of physical grouping, but as units become intermingled in the course of play I found that a good degree of care was needed to make sure that I didn't inadvertently activate the odd misassigned unit.
Plain eight page rule book

One of two counter sheets

Perhaps the strongest of the components are the card-based player aids, in particular the double-sided set-up display for the two scenarios.
 

The set-up display and turn track for the main scenario

I'd strongly recommend a look at my previous review of this system with its innovative elements - a link to which can be found here Black Cavalry.   If you do, you may wish to pass over the next section where I'll briefly recap the key features of the system and their defining originality.  

Most notable is the lack of any dice.  Instead you'll need to supply for yourself a standard pack of cards which are either drawn from the deck or played from your hand to resolve the various game functions.

Each player starts the game with a set number of cards in their hand and there will be very limited opportunities to replenish or exchange these cards as the game progresses.  I like this slight ability to control the outcome of a limited number of your chosen actions and the awkward decisions of which choices and when to take them.  

However, possibly the most important of your choices will be how many formations you decide to try to activate when you have the initiative. A single formation can be automatically activated for free, but a single formation rarely provides many units.  More than one formation means you'll have to pay for all, including the first one.  Activation costs also cover Artillery and Air Strikes.  

So, add up all your costs and draw a card - here's where a nice powerful 10 pt card in your hand may well tempt prompt use!
Fail to get a draw high enough to cover all your costs and you get none of them.  Push your luck takes on a whole new meaning.

This is one of my favourite features of this novel game system and it closely interacts with the next novel element.  In fact, this combination is the single strongest reason that I enjoy and value the game. Only the player with the current Initiative actively undertakes the turn.  The other player can only react.  This may happen in two ways.  

Initially, the first time an active unit moves into line of sight and fire range of an inactive unit, the player without the initiative may draw a card [no playing a card from your hand] to determine Defensive Fire.  The result from 0 - 3 will allow you to place a marker that shows how many fire attacks the unit may make this turn. Alternatively you may forego Defensive Fire and choose to wait until an enemy unit moves adjacent so that you can retreat one hex. 

The third major feature is the handling of Initiative, using the four card-suits, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades and a chit for each suit, with the German and American flag on opposite sides.  An initial pre-game card draw, usually of 3 cards at the beginning of the game establishes a starting set.  In Carentan, the Allied side of each Initiative marker will be uppermost depending on which cards are drawn. So if the 3 cards drawn showed a club and two hearts cards, the Club and Heart markers would be set with the Allied flag uppermost and the Spade and Diamond markers would be set with the German flag uppermost.  

As the game progresses, whatever card is drawn at the beginning of a turn to determine who has the Initiative, its marker is flipped to the reverse side.  Following our example from above, if a Heart was drawn, the Allied player would have the Initiative for the turn and the Heart marker would be turned over to show the German flag. As a result, on the next turn the four markers would now show only the  Club's marker for the American player and the other three suits' markers would all show the German flag and so the initiative draw would be much more likely to favour the German player.

For the rest of this review, I shall concentrate on the specifics of the situation in Carentan.  The major scenario is named Purple Heart Lane and covers 10th - 12th June 1944. Obviously the first consideration is the particular geography of the battle, which can be seen below.

 This is a very different situation from those covered in previous games in the series and a two page historical sketch gives an excellent summation.  It covers the importance for both the Allies and the Germans, the geography of the area and the course of the battle for the town. To the north extensive marshland and canals  made approach extremely difficult and slow.  From the east, the avenue of attack is still limited, though less so.  The map scale is much smaller and in the very centre lies the objective of Carentan, with a damaged railway embankment running from west to east.

Defending the town and area is the best German unit available in that area, the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment commanded by Friedrich von der Heydte [a name immediately familiar to anyone who has played any of the many games that cover the Battle of the Bulge!].

The very restricted terrain means that there is little room for manoeuvre, so each play-through offers little opportunity for variety of options.  It is a good, old-fashioned slugfest.  The Allies have to batter their way into Carentan and artillery is likely to play a more significant role than in previous games.  

The scenario plays out over 24 turns and I should also add that the American units that you can see are only the at-start units and the reinforcements that enter over the middle turns will more than double their final number.  Whereas this is all the Germans have to defend with, unless you add in the optional variant that may bring in up to 6 additional German units late in the game on turn 20!  It comes as no surprise that the Allied victory condition is to control all hexes of Carentan.  

However, the German victory condition isn't simply to prevent the American player from achieving their goal.  Specifically, the German player must control the road from Auverville on the south edge of the map to either of the two hexes where it enters into Carentan at 1111 or 1112.  I understand the historical logic of this, as it would have served the Germans little to hang on to a small portion of Carentan and not have a supply line/retreat avenue south.  However, it does make the German player's task even harder and makes me feel that at best the German might achieve a draw, which is the result if neither side manages to achieve their victory condition. 

For those who want a shorter playing experience, there is a scenario of 12 turns that covers the German counter attack.  The title for this one is Battle of Bloody Gulch [must admit this conjured up images of a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood Western shoot-out rather than a WWII battle!].  Here the Germans are on the attack with slightly fewer units than the Americans who also gain another six units very early in the scenario.  The layout can be seen below.

The only advantage the German player initially enjoys is that all the American units at the start of the this scenario are single step counters or on their last step.

Overall, though I miss the additional two, very brief scenarios of Black Cavalry, I really enjoyed the intensity of this head-on collision.  Counter density is slightly higher, but by comparison with the majority of hex and counter games, this is still a small game and this is emphasised by the essential design feature of activation which means that only a limited number of units will come into play in a given turn.  Above all, I recommend this fresh and innovative approach that is easy to learn and apply.  I certainly hope that further great  battles of small units will continue to appear.

Once more my thanks to Strategemata for their providing this review copy and their friendly commitment and support. 


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WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW  FROM SLITHERINE This preview offers you an initial glimpse of the beta model of this latest Warhammer...

WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW

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

April 2021

WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW

WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW 

FROM

SLITHERINE


This preview offers you an initial glimpse of the beta model of this latest Warhammer offering from Slitherine.  At the moment what's offered is two Missions and a tutorial.  Though I found the latter clear and useful, I've been asked to focus my picture purely on the two Missions.

For someone like myself who hugely enjoy the Warhammer 40K games for the PC, this turn based exercise is what I've always been waiting and hoping for.  Whether with consoles or joysticks, keyboard or mouse, my lack of coordination and ability to function at speed has always meant a limited foray into real-time games.  Now I have the opportunity that perhaps I may make it through to the final encounter.  

Selecting a Mission brings up a basic planet image with the title of the Mission and its location.  Clicking on the Mission title [e.g. Rearm & Supply as seen below] takes you into the situation, with the familiar message and voice over introducing you to the narrative arc.]

Whereupon you see your various units.



Graphics remain fairly standard and show no great advance when  compared with the existing Warhammer 40K games I have for the PC.

You activate unit by unit, with each  having a number of action points.  A feature I like is that you can return to a selected unit provided you have APs left and resume using it.  This allows for a good level of interaction and combos of fire and movement and , of course, there is always Overwatch!

The iconography for the various actions that each type of unit can perform are not always clear or immediately obvious, but hovering over them brings up an explanation.  Consequently, I soon picked up an understanding.  However, what was confusing was the visuals for the combat effects for the different types of weapons.  Some seemed so similar that I was unsure whether I'd made a mistake in selection or whether there was an actual lack of variation in the graphics.

What I also noticed was that the various mouse functions and keyboard controls seemed much more responsive when I was working with the Tutorial than when I was playing the Mission.  In particular movement seemed woefully slow and though there was an icon for what appeared to indicate faster mode, it had no effect. 

The current two Missions you can try out in beta form

So a familiar picture in its early stages which I assume will develop to give a highly satisfying experience for those, like me, who prefer to inhabit the turn-based world of gaming whether with a physical board game or a PC one! 

Thanks to Slitherine for providing a temporary key to allow me brief glimpse into this ongoing production.


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  Napoleon's Resurgence The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813 War of Liberation, Part I Lützen, Bautzen, Luckau, Kö...

Napoleon's Resurgence: The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813 Napoleon's Resurgence: The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813

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

April 2021

Napoleon's Resurgence: The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813




 Napoleon's Resurgence


The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813


War of Liberation, Part I


Lützen, Bautzen, Luckau, Königswartha, Weissig





"He could pass none of his wounded soldiers without being greeted with the cry of Vive l'Empereur! Even those who had lost limbs or who would die a few moments later made him this last tribute. He responded to their cheers by uncovering his head to them."


 To discuss Napoleon's 1813 Campaign we have to go back to the 1812 Campaign in Russia. Although Napoleon did take Moscow, this did not force Tsar Alexander I to make peace. No, Napoleon's 600,000 man army was not buried in the snows of Russia. Typhus and malnutrition had pared the army down to about 1/4 its size before the first snowfall. The Russian winter and army finished the process of turning this remnant into a shambling mass of men that in no way resembled an army. Napoleon had left the remnants of this great army to its own devices and headed back to Paris. One of the greatest minds in history was hell bent on creating another Grande Armée and returning Europe to the status quo of 1811. Napoleon was faced with a superhuman task. While still fighting the 'Spanish Ulcer', he had to create an army from almost nothing. It is a tribute to his genius that he was able to do it. True, the new Grande Armée was mostly green conscripts, the 'Marie Louises', but it was an army nonetheless. In a tribute to his skills Napoleon was able to field a larger army than the Coalition against him in the first part of the campaign in Germany. This game is listed as the 'Library of Napoleonic Battles Volume VIII. It takes us through the battles that were fought before the armistice in the middle of 1813. I want to take a bit of your time and give you a short bio about the designer. This was written by John Best:


"Kevin Zucker was with SPI back in the 1970s. Like many who went on to "greatness" as designers under the tutelage of JFD, KZ initially served SPI in the capacity of Managing Editor, half-way between Dunnigan's R&D and Simonsen's Art Departments.

OSG was initially named Tactical Studies Group, and the name was changed relatively quickly, to avoid any clash with TSR. He left the company in September of 1979; the company remained active for a few more months.

KZ has remained active in wargaming during the entire period. He did work for AH for one year: 1980. It is interesting to hear him speak about the reasons he had for revitalizing the OSG brand name at this, seemingly unpropitious, point in time. "My grandfather, who farmed 80 acres in Iowa, had an old red & black 1948 Dodge pick-up. As a kid, I asked him why he didn't get a new one: 'Because everybody knows this is me.'" And it is interesting to consider the list of all the original OSG games. There were a dozen or so: Napoleon at Bay, Panzerkrieg, Rommel & Tunisia, Napoleon at Leipzig, Dark December, Bonaparte in Italy, Devil's Den and Air Cobra prominent among them.

The Napoleonic titles such as Napoleon at Bay and Bonaparte in Italy were pathfinding designs that for over two decades have been hugely influential on many members of the wargaming community. OSG did some WWII games too including the J. A. Nelson design, Rommel & Tunisia. By the standards of today, the 28 page rulebook is, I suppose, a mere bagatelle. But for 1978, the whole presentation gives the impression of somebody going for Big Ideas and Very Serious Stuff."





 Operational Studies Group now publishes Napoleonic Wars operational studies (who would have thunk it). I have a good number of Mr. Zucker's older games, and they are some of my favorites. This game's focus is on the 1813 campaign which is by far my favorite campaign to game and read about during the Napoleonic Wars.


 Let us take a look at what comes with the game:


2 Maps 34"x22"

1 Map 17"x22"

1 Map 11"x34"

2 Maps 11"x17"

2 Counter Sheets (560 die-cut player pieces)

2 Booklets (System Rules and Study Folder)

17 Player Aid Cards (TRC x 6, Initial Setup x 6, Casualty x 2, Combat Results, Reorganization, and Weather)

5 Resource Cards (Adding the Cards, Combat Tables, Sequence of Play, Victory Worksheet, List of Cards Removed).

2 Card Decks (50 cards each)


Map of the early 1813 Campaign.


 Normally I would go right into an appraisal of the components. However, because of this game having multiple battles, I will post OSG's synopsis of three of the battles first.


"LÜTZEN, STRUGGLE FOR THE FOUR VILLAGES, 2 MAY

With the death of Marshal Kutusov on 28 April, there was no further obstacle to the Tsar’s fervent dream of dictating peace from the Tuilleries. The Allies marched boldly across the Elbe, not knowing Napoleon’s plans, his strength, or his location. They took up a position astride the road to Leipzig, the Emperor’s presumed objective. After a string of actions at Halle, Merseberg and Weissenfels, the two armies met on the field of battle at Lützen on the 2nd of May.


BAUTZEN, THE GUARD’S MOMENT OF TRUTH, 20-21 MAY

The Russo-Prussian army was nearly 100,000-strong, but Napoleon outnumbered them, and Marshal Ney was approaching with 85,000 reinforcements. Napoleon had planned to pin down his enemies and then trap them with Ney's troops. But the Bravest of the Brave ended up coming in on the flank, not far enough to oblige Wittgenstein to redeploy, and so no deadly “hinge” was formed in the enemy line. The Russians were defeated, but Napoleon’s army was at the end of its tether, and the pursuit cost him more men than the enemy. The Bautzen map is one and one half map sections: 33x34”


LUCKAU, GATEWAY TO BERLIN, 6 JUNE

Bülow’s Prussian Corps of 30,000 men marched south from Berlin, threatening French Communications with Dresden. Oudinot’s XII Corps and Beaumont’s cavalry were at Hoyers- werda on the 28th of May when some of Bülow’s force stumbled upon them. By the time Oudinot caught up with them again on June 6th Bülow had concentrated most of his Corps at Luckau, driving the French back with a loss of 2,000"



The game, in truth, comes with five battles. These are:

Lützen

Bautzen

Luckau

Königswartha

Weissig

 The game also has two Mini-Campaigns and a Campaign Game.


 The components of the game are completely top shelf. The maps are beautiful. They are also easy to read and the terrain is not difficult to discern for each hex. They are a cross between a period map and a new wargaming one. This marriage works extremely well in my eyes. The counters are also up to snuff. They are 1/2" in size. Some of them are blessed with small portraits of the French and Allied commanders. Their size may put some people off in this age of 1" counters, but to a grognard the hex and counter size are completely normal. The stacking limit is up to five units in a hex with a leader. This sounds like it might make the game stack heavy, but in reality this is not the case. The System Rules Booklet is twenty-four pages long. It is mostly in black and white, but does have colored play examples, etc. The Study Folder Booklet is also twenty-four pages long. It is split in half between information about the battles and campaigns, and a wonderful Historical Notes section written by Mr. Zucker. These notes are a concise and well done history of this part of the 1813 campaign. The Player Aid Cards, and the Resource Cards, are either blank and white or one color. They are easy to use and completely informative. The game comes with two Card Decks (one French, and one Allied). The decks are smaller than regular cards, but are just as sturdy and laminated, more on these cards later on. All of the components are what you would expect from a company with such a life span and pedigree. 



 So, we have a bit of a different animal here than most. Not only do you get the battles, but you can also play out the campaign. I am trying to think of another game that I own or have played that has this. Many games do a chain of separate scenarios and make a campaign game out of them, and very well at that. However, I cannot recall having one that you could play either of them on the same map at the operational level. One other thing that the game has that no other one has is a separate Battle of Bautzen. The Battle of Lützen has a few games on it. I know, I have all of them. Bautzen, on the other hand, is a glaring black hole in the gaming world. This battle, had Ney not turned petulant, might have saved Napoleon's Empire. Had Ney not felt slighted by Napoleon, who gave him Jomini as his Chief of Staff, the history of Europe would more than likely be much different. The Allies were setup on the Bautzen battlefield with Austria close to their left flank. Tsar Alexander I was adamant that Napoleon wanted to crush the Allies' left flank and push them away from Austria. In actuality, Napoleon wanted Ney to crush the Allies' right flank and actually force them into Austria. Austria herself was still on the fence about joining against Napoleon and was not ready yet to intervene. This would have forced Napoleon's father-in-law to either become a belligerent before he was ready or to intern the Allies troops. If Ney had one wit of operational sense he would have come in behind the Allied right as Jomini begged him to do. Ney became like a stubborn five year old and followed Napoleon's orders to a tee. This only pushed the Allies back and allowed them to escape the battlefield. Ney had forgotten Seydlitz's famous answer to an order from Frederick the Great "After the battle the King can do what he likes with my head, but during the battle will he please allow me to use it?". Yes, you can tell that I am an aficionado of the Campaign of 1813. 




 So, how is the game/simulation? In a word, excellent. I do have many of Mr. Zucker's earlier designs so the rules and playing were probably easier for me than most. When you compare some of the older games, 1809 and Napoleon at Bay, to the newer ruleset you get a very good idea of how the Napoleonic games from operational Studies Group have matured into what they are now. The ruleset has been worked on during the years and this game's rules are from version 7.34.This is not an easy game. Meaning, I certainly wouldn't use it to introduce an Axis and Allies player to real wargaming. In fact there are rules about:


Zones of Control

Leaders

Command

Hidden Forces

Cavalry Charges

Vedettes

Supply

Baggage and Pontoon Trains

Road March 


 Along with many other concepts. As I mentioned earlier, the game can also be played with cards. This is OSG's blurb about them:


"Due to the chaotic conditions of war the actions of units and leaders were always uncertain. Opposing generals rarely knew where the battle was boing to be, nor who was going to be there. The cards make such doubts a part of the player's calculations."  


I think I forgot to mention that the game is supposed to be played with all units and reinforcements hidden. Until you decide to uncover that genie's bottle, you will have no way of knowing what is in front of you. The French Imperial Guard could be right over that next hill. My favorite battles are Bautzen (of course), and Lützen. However, the Campaign Game is my favorite of all the different scenarios to play. I have played it with and without cards based on my mood at the time. Many thanks to OSG for letting me review this, I hate to say game, simulation of Napoleonic warfare at almost the end of the Empire. If you grognards have played some of the older games you owe it to yourself to get one of these newer volumes.


Robert

Operational Studies Group:

Napoleon Games – Operational Studies Group

Napoleon's Resurgence:

Napoleon's Resurgence – Operational Studies Group (napoleongames.com)














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