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 MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios  Once again, I am playing a card-based wargame. As a child I preferred crap...

MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios

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

November 2023

MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios

 MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War


Lombardy Studios

 Once again, I am playing a card-based wargame. As a child I preferred craps. My father owed me 100k by the time I was eleven. Instead of bedtime stories we would mostly play craps, but occasionally vingt et un or Poker. I always played five or seven card stud poker. They now call it 'Texas Hold-em' like they invented it. I never could stand 'joker' cards or getting more cards from the dealer. I guess I went off on a tangent there. Circling back, we have a card game from Messieurs MacGowan and Lombardy. If you haven't been trapped in a basement for fifty years, the names should sound familiar. Almost every one of the wargame covers that pop into your mind Mr. MacGowan has had his hand in it one way or the other. Mr. Lombardy is a game designer of great repute, or so he tells me. At some time in my life, I will get a copy of Streets of Stalingrad III and prove it to myself. That game is in grognards dreams just like Campaign for North Africa, and they both cost a down payment on a car. Here they have pooled their brains and artistry to come up with a card game that plays out the Great War. 

Some 4th graders enjoying the game earlier this year.

 This is what comes in the box:

200 poker-size cards denoting weapons and key personalities representing almost 20 nations

Rule for 2-players, solitaire, and the special expansion

Quick Play outline

1 Decks and Discard Mat

1 Battle Mat to keep track of turn winner and cumulative points

PLUS - cards and rules for a science fiction expansion with a direct link to the Great War

 This is what Lombardy Studios says about the game:

"MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by award-winning game designer Dana Lombardy is a simple, fast-playing stand-alone (non-collectible) 2-player card game built around important weapon systems, commanders, and other historical aspects of this unprecedented industrial-scale war. Two 54-card decks feature colorized historical images and illustrations by game industry Hall of Fame graphic artist Rodger B. MacGowan. Icons, insignias, and game text on each card eliminate the need for complex rules. (Note to collectors: Nearly all of Rodger's exceptional WW1 illustrations appear on the cards.)"

 The card Battle Board is 11"x 17" in size. Nothing really fancy here: it just has the spots to put the different decks and used cards etc. The instructions come on a double-sided 8 1/2"x 11" sheet of glossy paper sheet. The instructions type size is the same as most books. There is a Game Overview, Cards, and Glossary double-sided sheet. Next, we have a double-sided sheet with the solitaire rules. One side has the basic game, and the other side has the Bonus and Joker AI cards and usage. The science fiction expansion rules are next on a double-sided sheet. It is based on Well's War of the Worlds. This adds a nice touch and gives the game more playability. last, we have an eight-page full color booklet that has the examples of play. Then comes the most important and beautiful part of the game: the cards. The 200 cards are all small pieces of artwork of people, places, and events from the Great war. I cannot say enough about how well they look. Just to have the pictures is worth the price of the game. The components are fine and more on the useful scale other than being artwork. To me, this helps showcase the cards even more. Look at the card below to see how good they look.

 The game is interesting in many ways. I have played a few card wargames, but they were usually about just one battle or a few planes battling it out. This game you can play out the whole of World War One.

 These are the Victory Conditions:

  The Basic Game ends after 10 Turns. Some scenarios have more or 
fewer Turns. The game also ends immediately if one side is unable to draw a Nationality card when required. See Section 3.4.
 3.2 At the end of the last Turn of the game or scenario, count the Battle Points 
(BP) of all enemy Nationality cards you captured and any friendly  Nationality 
cards still in your hand. You capture enemy cards when you have the highest BP total when a Turn is scored.
 3.3 Do not count the BP of any cards in your Nationality draw deck or discard pile. Do not count the BP of Neutral or Bonus cards.
3.4 When a player is required to draw a Nationality card and is unable to reconstitute the Nationality draw deck by reshuffling their discard pile the game ends immediately.
 3.5 Compare the two opposing sides’ BP total to determine the level of victory:
 A) MORAL VICTORY:  One side has 10 to 19 more BP.
 B) TACTICAL VICTORY. One side has 20 to 39 more BP.
 C) OPERATIONAL VICTORY. One side has 40 to 79 more BP.
 D) STRATEGIC VICTORY. One side has at least 80 or more BP.
 E) The game ends in a DRAW if a player has only 1 to 9 more BP than their opponent at the end of the game.

 The game is not really hard to learn. You just have to learn how the cards interact with each other. Meaning, your cards could lower or totally negate the cards held by your opponent. 

This video done by Mr. Lombardy is the best way to learn the game:

 The national decks are all marked as a normal card deck. So, you could play Poker or anything else with these beautiful decks. There are normally ten rounds/turns in each game. Each side can be the defender or attacker. At the end of the round, each player counts up his points on all his cards as does the attacker. The higher number wins the round.

 Thank you, Lombardy Studios, for letting me review this beautiful, fun, and quick game. The outstanding artwork by Mr. MacGowan and the period photographs etc. are the most striking part of this game. Too bad my father is no longer with us. I would have enjoyed our Poker or twenty-one games that much more.


Lombardy Studios (while you are there check all of the books and other games):

MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War:


 Steel Beasts Professional by eSim Games  Steel Beasts: Simulator and Wargame A made-up conversation between the two designers of Steel Beas...

Streel Beasts Professional by eSim Games Streel Beasts Professional by eSim Games

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

November 2023

Streel Beasts Professional by eSim Games

 Steel Beasts



eSim Games

 Steel Beasts: Simulator and Wargame

A made-up conversation between the two designers of Steel Beasts Professional

About Design Principles

Nils Hinrichsen: When I joined Al Delaney some 25 years ago, we didn't spend much time defining development goals and writing specifications. We looked at examples that we liked, even more so at what we didn't like, and then tried to come up with a formula that would cater to our strengths as engineers with some professional military experience, to make something that we would like to play.

Five years into that, with Ed Williams on board, we decided to try and cater for the professional military training market, and from that point a lot of our development was driven by uncoordinated and short-term customer demand. Fortunately, much of that was of the more of the same type of development where the customers liked what was there, they just wanted to see their own vehicles added to it all.

Still, we need to somehow make sure that we're still following some overarching design principles, and we must keep in mind that military training actually means three distinct audiences crews of fighting vehicles, junior leaders learning the basics of tactics, and then the command posts of higher-ups for tactical training at the battlegroup level (with the support of dozens of low-level constructive operators).

These design principles have partially emerged over time, partially we are assuring adherence through our development processes and continuity in team composition, and there is of course also a more rigid intellectual element at work as well.

Ed Williams: Generally, when we think of a military based simulator, we think of a first-person view simulation of something, such as the user flying an aircraft, or driving a vehicle. We see what is happening at the ground level, and experience combat up close and personally, but the player has little or no perspective of the larger tactical picture, and usually has no influence on it either. In a simulation the player strives to become proficient at fighting, either learning how to operate their aircraft in all its functions and roles, or practicing their accuracy when they personally engage targets. 

When we think of a wargame, we think of a top-down view of a map, where the user is a commander, moving units around. We don't see what is happening at the ground level, but we do see the larger tactical or strategic picture which we usually have full control of. In a wargame, the conflict is not personal as the combat is not experienced, and instead it becomes more like a game of chess which abstracts a battle into a game of tactics and maneuver. When the knight takes the pawn, we aren't thinking about cavalry overrunning infantry, but instead we are looking to move our units to gain superiority over the enemy. 


Steel Beasts does something that few others do, it combines both a simulator and a wargame into one. The player can fight the battle from the map view, moving units around while the AI engages the enemy directly, or the user can jump into the vehicle and engage the enemy personally, experiencing both personal combat and the tactics involved in maneuvering larger forces. The player can also choose to fight the battle and concentrate very little on the map view, in certain well-designed scenarios. Most importantly, the player is not one person, but is instead a sort of driving force on the side, usually (depending on the scenarios restrictions) able to jump from unit to unit, manning all sorts of different types of vehicles, or jumping into infantry units to assist them with tactics.

Nils Hinrichsen: This description of Steel Beasts applies to the single-player experience. In a sense, that is also what you do in multiplayer network sessions; players usually take responsibility of more than just a crew position but rather multiple platoons, simply because the AI takes seamlessly over whenever you leave a unit and jump to the next to influence their actions. The exception being Steel Beasts as a crew training tool, whereby design the exercise is set up at a much smaller scale and students stay in that gunners seat because it is their new job now, and they need to learn it.

But with more players you can scale up the scope of an exercise from company team to battlegroup; some of our customers even use it at brigade combat team level with regularity.

About Scale

Ed Williams: What makes a great wargame is scale. In wargame design, if you don't get the scale right then the game simply doesn't work. Scale affects all aspects of a wargame, whether it is time (number of hours per turn for turn based game, for example), the size of the units on the map, and the distance involved. These are the most obvious things in wargame design when we think of scale, but it is far more complex than that. 

At the core of a well-designed wargame are calculations based on numeric values used to abstract everything. Most often this is in the form of combat values of attack and defense, but also range when it comes to the scale used for distance. The heart of a wargame are these values and how they are scaled between the combat units. If there is either an error in scaling or no scaling at all, then the wargame does not function the player will soon realize that it is not based in reality. In other words, it just doesn't feel right. 

The simplest way to demonstrate this is, let's say you are designing a World War II wargame at company level. One unit on the map represents a platoon of Tiger tanks, while another represents a platoon of 1942 era T-34 (not T-34/85) tanks. If the Tiger tank platoon does not have better defense and attack values than the T-34, then the player will immediately know that it is not realistic. On the other hand, the player would expect that the T-34 might have a higher speed. Then there is the range, where the Tiger would need to be better, able to engage the T-34 for a greater distance. However, if the distance scale of the game is wrong, such as too many meters per hex for company and platoon combat, then the Tiger will not have any range advantage possible since combat would all happen when the units are adjacent on the map.  Additionally, not only do the combat values have to based in reality, they have to also be scaled together, across the various available vehicles and infantry in the wargame, so that one particular type of unit is not in its own world, unrealistically superior or inferior than the rest in some way.  If you get any of these aspects wrong, you will get an unrealistic wargame at best, or a nonfunctional game at worst.

Nils Hinrichsen: There's also a user interface aspect to scale. It's absolutely necessary to give a human player adequate span of control for the task or tactical role he's supposed to fulfill. We have to rely on the map as the primary interface to give orders to your units, but our map is by design incomplete. It doesn't show you everything, and it doesn't show you everything in real time. There's a delay between things that happen and when they appear on the map. This forces a multiplayer audience to communicate verbally, it forces the audience to actually look at the 3D view of the terrain to recognize mobility obstacles that aren't represented on the map. There are command elements to give orders at the platoon level without ever having to use the map. There are 3rd person view positions just as there is the first-person view, depending on the scale of your task. 

And then there's a temporal aspect to scale. For a tactical exercise you want tasks to take as long as they do in physical reality. For crew training, you don't want to wait for that bag full of spent 30mm autocannon casings to be dumped; you want to know if the crew remembers that it's something that they have to do from time to time, but then you want to skip those wait times that are basically unproductive, lost hours in crew training.

At the same time, we clearly couldn't design Steel Beasts as something turn-based. So, you can't have a real-time game with responsibility for an entire mechanized company, reinforced by a tank platoon, forward observer, engineers, and air defense, plus supply train, without delegating tasks to the AI, and you can't have a successful game if the AI is not sufficiently competent.

Ed Williams: In simulations, scale is equally as important. In a similar way to the wargame design example between the Tiger platoon and the T-34 platoon, in a tank simulation the ammunition and armor performance has to be scaled properly. If the ammunition performance is too strong over reality, and the armor is weaker than reality, then in a tank simulation you end up with serious problems, which is obvious. What is not obvious is that when ammunition and armor between vehicles are not scaled properly against each other then you also end up with serious problems, since a particular vehicle or weapon may outperform similarly matched opponents.  

In Steel Beasts, over 20 years of development has allowed this scaling to be finely honed. Vehicles have armor models which model the varying levels of armor on the vehicle, and these armor values are held to a strict standard like what can be seen in wargaming design, where everything is cross checked and scaled relative to all the other vehicles. This means that players can be confident that no one vehicle is in its own reality, and they all perform on an equal level of representation in its performance. In a similar way, the ammunition data is also cross referenced and scaled so that one weapon system is not under or over performing compared to the others. Of course, in practice this is a constant never-ending pursuit of perfection and mistakes are made, but by using wargaming methods in design, a high degree of accuracy can be achieved. 

Nils Hinrichsen: Technological progress has helped, too. Microprose's M1 Tank Platoon was made for Amiga and the Intel 80 386 processor, and it had to squeeze these machines for all the juice their 250,000 transistors could deliver at 25MHz. We started Steel Beasts development work in the late 80 486 era which already was an advantage, and four years ago you could get a 16 core CPU at 4GHz with 7.6 billion transistors. While that doesn't directly translate to how much more you can do: That's about four million times as many instructions that can be processed in a given time than 30 years ago, for about the same price per computer as then. This is an enormous technological budget handed to all of us, allowing to solve some question of scale simply with brute force. We do not have to aggregate and disaggregate units as the player moves up and down on the command ladder. We can afford simulating every fire control system at the entity level even when running a brigade level exercise, raytracing the fragments of artillery shells as they explode on the battlefield. That simply was out of the question decades ago. I'm still stunned at what's possible these days despite daily exposure to the change since my first Texas Instruments 99/4A home computer in the early 1980s.

The Sandbox

Nils Hinrichsen: Steel Beasts isn't just wargame and simulation. It's just as suitable as a sandbox to set up a certain type of confrontation and then investigate events as they unfold. Case in point, the screenshots made for this article. A custom scenario was built in minutes to illustrate aspects of modern warfare with drones and loitering munitions as prevalent threats. I then ran the scenario in test mode, giving me complete freedom to move the camera and capture perspectives that wouldn't be accessible when playing by the rules where the player is deliberately constrained to information and actions available to him in the field as well.

One example shown in the screenshots is the "Libelle" anti-tank drone concept to transport a 155mm artillery shells EFP warhead and fly it to the target. This concept was developed as a part of the actual development of the weapon to illustrate how the user interface of the final product might look like. So, while it's not a real device just yet, the technological capability is absolutely there and will materialize eventually.

Steel Beasts players have used UAVs to call for artillery fire for about a decade now. Some TV pundits expressed surprise that drones would take over that role when it was pretty obvious, and not just in hindsight, if you just think of artillery observation balloons in WW1. As a result, no seasoned Steel Beasts player will stay much longer than two or three minutes in a given position because he just knows that, if spotted, he'll receive artillery fire after that time. So, the rules of the game how long it takes for a spot report to actual effect as it filters through the chain of command have measurable effect on player behavior; experts, I think, call that learning.


An infantry unit launches a drone in the morning for area


Eventually, a hostile tank platoon is spotted.

The chase is on.

Alas, it's too far away:

A new drone with longer endurance and range is sent, with thermal/Day fusion mode:

The  anti-tank  drone  arrives  over  the  target area, the engagement


What is this thing, and how big is it?

The operator selects the target, and fires.

After Action Review

The last shot is a reminder that you don't just get the desired effect

on  target,  but  that  fragments are also flying in other directions.

Steel  Beasts  simulates the velocity distribution of fragments, their

spatial  distribution,  and  their mass distribution based on accepted

models  (Gourney,  Taylor,  Mott), and raytraces the thousand heaviest

fragments in the near vicinity of the explosion, and uses statistical

methods to calculate effects on target for the remaining smaller


The drone war may be less exciting

than what traditional wargamers are looking for, but it's relevant for

today, and Steel Beasts has always been about high intensity combat in the contemporary operational environment.

 This is not a screenshot but illustrates the different drones, loitering munitions, and countermeasures. We had that artwork made for the 2022 edition of our collectible mousepads.

For your blog readers attending IITSEC in Orlando in four weeks, we'll be found between the STEM and the US Cyber Command pavilions.

Thank you, eSim Games, for this look at this spectacular and deep simulation. I have owned the game for years and there is no other tank simulation on the market. As far as simulations go, the only one that comes close is DCS, and both of them are used by armed forces around the world.


Steel Beasts Professional/eSim Games:

eSim Games – Vehicle-centric Combined Arms Combat Tactics and Gunnery Simulation


The Battle of KhalKhin Gol July - August 1939 by Princeps Games  For those of you who have never heard of the Khalkhin Gol, or Nomohan, camp...

The Battle of KhalKhin Gol July - August 1939 by Princeps Games The Battle of KhalKhin Gol July - August 1939 by Princeps Games

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

November 2023

The Battle of KhalKhin Gol July - August 1939 by Princeps Games

The Battle of KhalKhin Gol July - August 1939


Princeps Games

 For those of you who have never heard of the Khalkhin Gol, or Nomohan, campaign this is the most important battle that took place before the normal date given to the start of World War II (September 1939). In actuality, Japan and China had been fighting since 1931 and in full war mode since 1937. The Japanese had taken Manchuria away from China. They had installed their own puppet regime and called it Manchukuo. This comprised the entire Northeast of China. Abutting Manchukuo was the nominally free state of Mongolia. Japan wanted to force Mongolia into their sphere of influence. However, the big Soviet bear was watching. This showdown between the Japanese and Soviets is tremendously important. It may be one of the most important battles ever fought. The Soviets steamrolled through the Japanese forces and gave them a very bloody nose. The Soviets were partially commanded by one of the few generals in the Soviet Army who still had a pulse, Georgy Zhukov. The Japanese had up until that time been fighting a war between their own Navy and Army. The Army wanted to 'strike north' and attack the Soviet Union. The Japanese Navy wanted to 'strike south' toward the oil, rubber, and other commodities of the South Pacific Islands. The mauling that the Japanese Army received from the Soviet Army convinced the Japanese Generals to agree to the strike south proposition of the Navy. Imagine what would have happened in late 1941 if the Japanese had invaded the Soviet Union instead of going to war with the US and Great Britain etc. We know that in the final battle for Moscow in 1941, the Soviet Army units from Siberia turned the tide against the German invaders. If Japan had attacked the Soviet Union, it would have been faced with a war on two fronts and would have been unable to use their Asian forces to help stem the German tide. So, as you can see, a lot is riding on your shoulders, general, no matter which side you decide to play. Onto the game.

 This is what comes with the game:

1 Game Box - 14" x 11" x 4" 

1 Mounted Game Board - 34" x 36"

24 Calendar Cards - 2.8" x 4.8" 

18 Air Battle Cards 

16 Air Strike Cards 

The First Player Token 

1 Combat Result Table - 8.8" x 5.5" 

2 Player Cards - 8.8" x 5.5" 

2 Players'Aid Card - 8" x 4" 

1 Attack Modifier Chart - 8" x 4" 

5 Counters Sheets - Over 200 Counters

50 Sheets of Minimap - 6" x 4" 

1 Rulebook -6.8" x 9.6′′ 

45 Money Chits 2"x1" 

1 Die D8 

1 Die D10 

1 Die D12 

2 Dice D20 

 All of the Players Aid Cards are mounted like the map.

One side of the map

This is what Princeps Games has to say about Khalkhin Gol:

"The Battle of Khalkhin Gol is a beginner’s level wargame covering the WW2 border clash between Japan and the USSR at the very dawn of this global conflict.

It is a hex & counter game with unique battle mechanism, a lot of strategy and a number of features specific to the harsh conditions of the setting.

Khalkhin Gol is medium level complexity, with variable setup and random cards bringing effects to the game which offers great replayability.

Game duration is 2-4 hours and it can be played by 1 or 2 players age 14+.

The game uses unique battle resolving mechanisms from ‘March on the Drina’ and ‘Freezing Inferno’ but with many upgrades such as terrain and weather modifiers, usage of Combat Result Table and Technological-tactical improvements.

The Calendar with the most important events of the period as used in “March on the Drina” is also an important part of the game and here it comes upgraded – you have three cards for each round of the game so the effects the cards bring are different every time you play. This, combined with variable setup regarding to the units number, layout and strength and variable winning conditions make this game’s replayability value high.

The game has a beautiful twelve-folded mounted board with thick 20x20mm counters and a practical cardboard insert for storing your punched counters, markers and dice, which allow the players to store and move the game without having to worry that the components might get damaged."

Boxes inside the main box for storage

 This is a review of a preproduction copy of the game. Most of the parts are the finished product but some, like the rules, are not. It also does not have all of the great stretch goals add-ons.

 The map is interesting because it is two-sided. One side you might call the artistic wargame map side, and it is just that. It has a lot of color and is very well done. The other side, we will call the simple side, is a map that looks like an old Panzerblitz or even a Tactics II map. It is pretty much as plain Jane as you can get. However, both sides of the map work just fine. There is no ambiguity of the terrain in each hex. The only thing that each represents is the choice of the player/players at the moment of setup (Freezing Inferno also has the two-sided map choice). The Players' Aids are all mounted and easy to read. The fact that they are not just pieces of paper is a very nice touch. The counters are large and come pre-rounded. You can see below that the counters are easy to read. Three of the card decks are on the small side. However, they are very easy to read with large print. The Event Cards Deck are the size of playing card and have a good amount of historical information on each one. The card size allows the print on the Event Cards to also be nice and large. Then we come to another piece of the game that would be familiar to players of Freezing Inferno. This would be the small setup sheets for both sides. There are fifty for both sides and they come on a pad in which you tear off the sheets. This, along with the cards, makes for a ton of replayability. The components are definitely up to the high standards that Princeps Games have set for themselves.


Counter close-up

 If you have played their Freezing Inferno game most of the concepts will be known to you. That does not mean that you cannot start your gaming with Khalkhin Gol. While it may seem that there are many cogs and wheels working at the same time, the game is not hard to learn at all. It is a simple process that the rules work you through one by one. With all of the decks it may seem like a card driven game. However, it is not; it is just a card assisted game. Unlike most designers or game companies, (hint, hint), they have done excellent videos on YouTube to walk you through their games step by step. Perhaps the hardest part to understand are the Air rules. If the step-by-step version in the rules still gives you pause, once again I point to their video on YouTube about them. 

Soviet Cards
Japanese Cards

 These are the Victory Conditions:

"Victory Condition No.1: In order for the USSR to win, it must occupy 5 of the 9 checkpoints on the disputed territory (marked with white flag) and hold them until the beginning of the next round, while also controlling at least 4 of its 6 checkpoint on the Soviet territory. If this is not achieved by the end of the 8th round, the winner of the game is the player who controls Japan.

Victory Condition No.2: If the Soviet player takes control of the Nomonhan and holds it until the beginning of their next turn the Soviet player wins the game.

Victory Condition No.3: If the Japanese player takes control of the Tamsak-Bulak and holds it until the beginning of their next turn the Japanese player wins the game.

The game uses unique battle resolving mechanisms from 'Freezing Inferno', the previous game of Princeps Games studio, successfully funded on Kickstarter last year."

 This is a YouTube video about how the Air Battle System works:

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. The Players set markers on PPC
  2. Players take the appropriate number of units from the box
  3. Minimaps are filled and players place units on the board according to the minimaps
  4. A deck of calendar cards is formed
  5. Initial weather conditions are set
  6. Tactical progress boards are placed
1. A calendar card is revealed and effects that last a full round are applied
  2. Air Superiority Battle is Resolved
  3. USSR’s turn
  3.1. Actions with units (move, attack, regroup)
  3.2. The PPC marker is adjusted if a Check Point is captured
  3.3. The player takes as many PCs as indicated on the PPC
  4. Japan’s turn
  4.1. Move, attack, regroup units
  4.2. The PPC marker is adjusted if a Check Point is captured
  4.3. The player takes as many PCs as indicated on the PPC
  5. End of round
         1. A calendar card is revealed and effects that last a full round are applied
  2. The weather is adjusted
  3. Players replenish units on the board and buy new ones (only in round III, V, VII and VIII)
  4. Air Superiority Battle is Resolved 
  5. USSR’s turn
  5.1. Tactical progress is adjusted on the Player’s Card
  5.3. Actions with units (move, attack, regroup)
  5.4. The PPC marker is adjusted if a Check Point is captured
  5.5. A player takes as many PPs as indicated on the PPC
  5.6. Places newly formed units on the board (only in rounds III, V, VII and VIII)
  6. Japan’s turn
  6.1. Tactical progress is adjusted on the Player’s Card
  6.3. Actions with units (move, attack, regroup)
  6.4. The PPC marker is adjusted if a Check Point is captured
  6.5. A player takes as many PPs as indicated on the PPC
  6.6. Places newly formed units on the board (only in rounds III, V, VII and VIII)
  7. End of Round/Game

 Historically the Soviets' equipment and troops, mostly equipment, were far better than the Japanese material, except maybe in their air assets. You will be playing on the defense as the Japanese most of the time unless you get and play the right cards and some die rolls go your way, this could change. The Soviet Player may want to be more cautious than they were historically. As the Soviet player, you will more than likely start on the attack (this can also be completely up in the air if you are using the hidden setup maps). The Japanese are not equipped or have tactics to deal with armor battles in the Second World War. This is strange in that they were one of the few armies that embraced tanks and their mobility early on. When faced with the Chinese and the equipment that the Allied nations had in the beginning of the war it did not matter much. Against the Soviets, this was another matter altogether. The Soviets had not yet given up on the 'Deep Battle' strategy that they would hone to a sharp point in the end of WWII. 

 This is a very enjoyable game from both the game and history sides of the coin. I like Princeps Games because they do a lot of historical research, and it shows in their games. Then they are also able to make the situation into a good playable game.

 Thank you very much, Princeps Games, for allowing me to play this very good reproduction of the fighting in Mongolia in 1939. It achieves all Princeps Games was looking to produce with this game. It is somewhat quick playing, compared to many wargames, and gives the player a lot of choices in their tactics and strategy. Princeps Games has now produced March on the Drina, Freezing Inferno, and Khalkhin Gol wargames. The games are definitely some of the finest produced games out on the market.

 The KickStarter for KhalKhin Gol is here:

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol by Princeps Games — Kickstarter

It has already hit two stretch goals and is very close to the third.

You can purchase all three of Princeps Games wargames during this KS campaign (March on the Drina, Freezing Inferno, and Khalkhin Gol) for the unbelievable cost of only $160 in the US and Canada. The three games are a steal at that price.


Princeps Games:

Home - Princeps Games 

Khalkhin Gol:

The Battle of Khalkin Gol - Princeps Games

This is a review of Freezing Inferno that Polydor did for AWNT:

FREEZING INFERNO - A Wargamers Needful Things


  FROM FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES Just a few crucial preliminary points, in case this series is new to you.  Most important is that you will often...


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

November 2023




Just a few crucial preliminary points, in case this series is new to you.  Most important is that you will often find this game abbreviated to Descent Act II.  It is, despite its rather eye-watering cost, an Expansion and so owning Act I is essential for playing this game.  If you choose to read on, be warned that I cannot be held responsible for what may lead to an unfortunate hole in your bank balance!
First a little history (which may be skipped over by those who do own Act I).  The Descent lineage of games began with Descent: Journeys in the Dark - a relatively conventional, though excellent, fantasy cooperative quest style game with an active evil games master controlling and seeking to win by thwarting all the efforts of the good guys (I use the latter word as an all embracing gender term). Later came Descent: Legends of the Dark - Act I.  This was a monumental step forward in a similar mould to and from the same people who created Journeys in Middle Earth. (Another favourite of mine.) In other words, the marriage of a table top fantasy game with an app that not only fulfilled the role of dungeon/quest-master, but also controlled many other facets of the game.
Virtually anything, if not absolutely everything, that has been said about Act I can be said about Act II.  Supreme quality - check.  Amazing miniatures - check.  Massive narrative arc -check.  Zillions of tokens - well ok, not as many, because you already have all the ones from Act I, but some new ones.  Lots of cards - check. And so on…
Briefly too, we’re still inhabiting the world of Terrinoth and working cooperatively to accomplish a sequence of quests with the same six heroic characters as in Act I, using at most four out of the six characters in any individual quest.  It is a linear game in its time-line and order of play with each turn divided into a Hero Phase and then a Darkness Phase.
In this next section, I’m going to look at the physical contents of Act II and make some comparisons with Act I.  As is my custom, I’ll point out now that these are often opinions and your taste may differ from mine.  My first statement, however, should (fingers crossed) be agreed on by all.  The boxes that the games come in are well nigh identical, except for colour and title.  Very large, very heavy and looking as if the top section and bottom section have been separated by another box - which is a fairly accurate description of things!
Raising the top section and looking into the top layer, you find the most amazing three packages of miniatures.  
The miniatures in their recessed trays

One of which is absolutely awesome and then some!  The supreme agent of evil - a towering 10 inch (25cm) sculpture of striking detail - all alone in its individual recessed container.  Next to it are six brand new miniatures for each of the six heroes: Brynn, Galaden, Vaerix, Syrus, Kehli and Chance. Then there is a surprise seventh miniature, Indris, which introduces one of the new concepts in this expansion, namely Companions. Indris is the only Companion in Act II.  A Companion is explained as a separate type of figure from either heroes or enemies.  It’s controlled by a hero when they activate, but has an independent sculpt and a double-sided card just like a hero. Does this hint at future expansions with other Companions?  
Just my personal view on the heroic figures - I find them in general more finely sculpted than their matching ones in Act I and this level of detail is equally brought out in the 18 enemies they face off against.  These too are all outstanding, especially the fantastically named Dragon Hybrid Doom Caller with the equally fantastically massive bell that they carry on their backs.  

Dragon Hybrid Doom Caller

...and his mighty bell

As before, all the enemy figures come with bases that have room for coloured inserts so that you can distinguish between them when you have more than one of the same type appearing in a given quest.  For the inserts themselves you’ll need to use the ones from Act I.   
Just a few random views on both the heroes and their opponents.  I love the fact that in Act II, Brynn is swinging her mighty hammer and has exchanged her massive winged helmet (not one of my favourites) for a much neater piece of headgear (a winged tiara?)!  

Brynn and that immense hammer
Chance has, shall we say, stepped from the shadows and no longer sports a mask - an item I did like! - while  Kehli seems a little less chunky and both she and Chance are in even more dynamic poses almost seeming about to launch themselves from their bases. 
Kehli & Chance: a dynamic duo

Perhaps my favourite change is the new figure of Vaerix.  Now he sports not just his mighty spear which is slung on his back, but swings with great power his bell weapon.  

Still, the most significant change must be that Syrus and Indris, the phoenix, are no longer one bonded sculpt, as the short rule book tells us, “As Syrus’s mastery over elemental magic has grown, so has his bond with Indris …(who) can now move independently across the map.”
Syrus & Indris

Confronting them are the new forces of evil in all the glorious detail familiar from the figures in Act I.

Out of these four, all bar the vampiric figure have four copies apiece, while the Doom Caller has two, along with the smaller salamander/dragon.

Moving from the world created in plastic to that in cardboard, there is everything you might expect.  Starting once more with a new set of large double sided cards, one for each hero, you’ll find a similar change and one that, like the figures, I’ve welcomed.  Act I’s cards were for me slightly too cartoonish - these seem slightly more mature, more adult almost.  Each new Hero card features new abilities, increased health and improved statistics and additional Surge abilities.  Indris, though now an independent figure, is still very much bound up with Syrus and so, as a Companion, does not get their own large card, but a smaller playing card sized one.  This cannot be flipped in the way the hero cards can to reveal new attributes, but has a defeated side instead that affects Syrus.  

Brynn's new character card

The two substantial packs of cards cover the many new items be be revealed as the campaign progresses.   Among them are weapons and stacks of skills for our heroes, a variety of light, medium and heavy armour and a new type of card, Legends.  Each Hero has up to three of these Legend cards which may be unlocked based on decisions made or their performance in the various quests.  Though double-sided, you can choose only one side to be used in this current campaign and there are several other features of these cards that make them stand out and differ from previous familiar card use.  Typically the app has a handy tab that can be called up which shows the legends and skills that each hero has unlocked so far and can equip themselves with at the beginning of a quest. Added to all this is an assortment of cards for trinkets and consumable items.
All this information and the rules linked with them is covered in the compact 12 page booklet.  Each Hero is prefaced by a brief piece of atmospheric text and introduces one major new unique feature.  For Syrus, as I've explained, there is Indris as his Companion.  Chance possesses Umbra Tokens to help friends and elude enemies.  Kehli has acquired Contraptions that she can lay about the terrain, while Galaden brings Shroud Tokens in to playOver and above these specific Hero-related elements, there's a new status - Confused - that can be laid on their enemies by attacks and abilities, as well as a new feature that benefits enemies - Resistances - that will initially be unknown until they suffer damage from whatever they are resistant to.  Nor should you forget that all the rules and everything presented and unlocked in Act I carry over to Act II.
So, plenty of new twists and turns to add layers of depth to the ongoing saga and finally, of course, there's plenty of new terrain pieces.  Here's a comprehensive look at everything when constructed and for someone not gifted at assembling most things these went together with little problem and in remarkably quick time by a careful attention to the four page guide to construction.

Ladders, columns (in three sizes), a cart, a bridge, a couple of shrines an arch with two choices of bells (one for the Heroes to ring, the other for the Evil Ones!) and lurking at the left rear a statue that figures can physically be located on!  In the centre you can see the range of tokens and another new element: fire.  Rather like barricades in Act I, fire can play its part in adding to the damage caused by Heroes and their enemies alike.  I particularly appreciated the single piece fires that can be attached to other items of furniture.  Anyone for a spot of book burning!
Below you can see an impressionistic creation to allow you to see how some of this might work together.   Pay special attention to the large stone platform some of the forces of evil are standing on.  

This is not just a great item playing a single scenic part.  It can also be inverted to form a walled courtyard and then, at the end of a day's gaming, reverts back to being a very successful container for all the other terrain!

Walled courtyard or storage box!
Without giving away any detail, the beginning quest of Act II is a substantially long introduction and then the campaign settles down to sequences of similar length to Act I.  The system rolls on well polished wheels and, though I've been told the campaign is estimated to be slightly shorter in overall length than Act I, you should be more than satisfied by its length and the whole promises many more hours of game play.  What I find is a final incentive to buy is that all that is unlocked in Act II can potentially make an appearance through the wonders of the app, if you decide to return to Act I again.  

To feed you with the nightmare that awaits should you succumb to this game, here are three final shots to dwell on! 

Finally, I must express great thanks to Asmodee for providing me with this review copy and the opportunity to tread this absorbing path.