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 SEKIGAHARA 1600 FROM SERIOUS HISTORICAL GAMES Since reviewing the first game in this series, Nagashino & Shizugatake ,  from Serious Hi...

SEKIGAHARA 1600 SEKIGAHARA 1600

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

2024

SEKIGAHARA 1600

 SEKIGAHARA 1600

FROM

SERIOUS HISTORICAL GAMES



Since reviewing the first game in this series, Nagashino & Shizugatakefrom Serious Historical Games back in September 2022, I've been awaiting with great anticipation this second game in the Battles of the Sengoku Jidai series.  So, it's many thanks to Philippe Hardy, the designer and founder of Serious Historical games for providing me with this review copy.  

Before reading further, I'd strongly recommend reading the original review (link provided above) , if you haven't already done so to familiarise yourself with both the system and the historical period.  For purely an overview of the game system refer to Appendix A at the end of this review.

All the outstanding qualities of the first game are here on display in this second game, but on an even grander scale.   The battle of Sekigahara certainly deserves this expanded treatment.  It was the decisive conclusion of the period known as the Warring States or Sengoku Jidai and established Tokugawa Ieyasu as the supreme leader and Shogun, heralding in the Edo period.  Unsurprisingly Sekigahara has featured as a game in several Japanese magazines and boxed products.  It has also featured as one of three battles in the game, Tenkatoitsu, and in the highly regarded block game, Sekigahara: the Unification of Japan.  The latter is an excellent game and system in its own right, but its title covers a broad sweeping campaign, not focus on the battle that we have here.

Though the battles and scope in the first game of this series differs vastly from this second game, the mechanics of the game are identical.


With such a major battle, I'm delighted to say that what you see above is the superb two maps, each 33 inches by just over 23 inches making a magnificent 36 x 46 field of play.  With no overlap and an absolutely perfect match up between the two; it is a magnificent sight.
Stunning though it is, it does retain the same problem as the first game in the series, namely that the area identifiers are faintly printed and merge even more into the colour palate of these maps.  This and identifying the many different coloured "mons" (the symbols that identify each clan) on the unit counters makes set up a lengthy process.  Sorting into a counter tray or zip-lock bags is a must for speeding things up.  However, when completed the picture is striking!

This top-down view is deceiving as to the number of units involved.  When you consider that what you are seeing are predominantly stacks largely containing four units, that's quite a sizeable number of units that you are dealing with.  
This is a very different battle from the first two and produces a number of pros and cons.  From the very beginning, many of the units are in close proximity and the background colour of the two sides is very similar, according to the Scenario Booklet white and grey.  A more realistic description would be white and off-white, as this close-up makes clear.

The picture shows perhaps the most critical area of the map, where I've placed four red dice to mark the four areas that each give 5VPs for controlling them at the end of the game.   The top two areas start the game in the possession of the Ishida forces (positioned vertically) and the bottom two by the Tokugawa forces (positioned tilted to the left).  Obviously when playing a real opponent, each side is upside down to the other player's perspective - so, no problem.  Try to play solitaire and the best process I've found to deal with it is the diagonal positioning on one sides units.  However, the main factor about this game which makes solo play distinctly less user-friendly is reading the counters.  
First of all, each clan is distinguished by a coloured "mon" or symbol.  Here are four massively enlarged units.  The mon is the coloured image in the top right of each background banner.   These are four leaders who can be identified by the commander's paddle in the bottom left corner.


Then for all the other combat units, you have to be able to read the abbreviation of each type of unit (Te, Che, Ya, Yu, Sa and Ki) or identify them by their weapons and poses and this is roughly how you will see them on the map.


As soon as combat begins, and that is right from the start of the game, units rapidly acquire disruption markers (the first two counters illustrated below.)

One or more of these markers will regularly need to be lifted so that you can check which mon it possesses and what type of unit it is.  The low unit density and considerable amount of manoeuvring in the previous games made this a minor issue.  With this battle being of much higher unit density and close quarters conflict from the start, the process can become tiring when you're trying to handle both sides; so I don't envisage playing it too often solo.
That said, there are a number of factors that make it much less onerous for two players.  The first is that activation by division [ie. clan] alternates between players and most clans contain a low number of units and the attrition of combat losses adds to their reduction in numbers.  So, you're dealing with each player having to check these elements for a small number of counters at a time.  Low unit stacking rules is a benefit too, unlike many area-movement games that often allow ten units per area.
Next, the close proximity of units from the beginning of the game also works in your favour, as it makes pulling units out of combat to recover more difficult, adding to the likelihood of more rapid losses  and finally, each combat is resolved with a single Lead Attacking unit against a single Lead Defending unit. 

A close-up of the excellent map graphics

Other than that effect from the far larger number of units overall engaged in this battle, all  the other features of this system [outlined in the Appendix]continue to provide a smooth playing experience.  For me the elements that stand out are the constant involvement of both players, the interaction of the different types of unit, the very easy to remember terrain features and lack of extensive modifiers which greatly aids the combat system, the differing army stances from very aggressive to very diffensive that provide a small range of additional chits that can be used in combat and all of these can be embraced in a single, easy to read Play Aid.


So what creates the individuality of this battle.  First is the interaction caused by the disposition of the forces.  The Eastern Army, that of Tokugawa Ieyasu, holds the centre ground with a string of units stretching eastwards.  Because of his significantly better command range and central position, a large proportion of his subordinate clan leaders will be under direct control, making activation assured.  In contrast his opponent, Ishida Mitsunari, though commanding as substantial an army, begins personally located to the northwest.  Consequently, this position and his shorter command span means that, in the initial turns of the battle part of his main force will need to pass activation rolls in order to activate.  However, some of these are poised to strike the enemy's left flank.  What's more, Ishida Mitsunari  has a further potential enemy force to the rear of his enemy.    
However, this situation is even more imponderable than even the set-up I have described makes it seem. Making the battle increasingly more volatile and unpredictable is that both armies contain forces that may switch to fighting for the other side.  At the beginning of each turn, a roll must be made which is modified by each side's losses.  For quite a while,  the only outcome is that these potentially treacherous forces are mainly likely to remain inactive and play no part in the battle that turn, but as the battle losses pile up the chances of  defection mount.  Each side must also beware attacking such units prematurely, as this will guarantee their immediate alignment with the enemy!
So, the initial grouping of the forces provides a toe-to-toe struggle to secure the four key VP areas and destroy enough strength points to help bring some of the enemy forces over into your camp.  All in all this game has so far provided a very different, but equally enticing experience as the first battles in this series did.  I certainly feel that the series readily captures a very satisfying feel for the period.  
 

APPENDIX A

[A] Initiative Phase
Each Army has an overall Formation that can range from Extremely Defensive through Flexible to Extremely Aggressive and can be changed by a simple die roll against the Army Commander's Quality Level [QL].  Each Formation gives a player five tactical markers from which a random selection is made at the beginning of each turn, again using the Army Commander's QL.  The more Aggressive the more positive the markers, the more Defensive the more negative the markers.  This is such a neat idea.  It means that the Aggressive stances add benefits totally or mainly to attacking, while the Defensive stances correspondingly furnish benefits totally or mainly to defending.  Logical, but a neat way of  imposing its own constraints. 
Check whether divisional leaders are within range of the Army Commander and place isolated marker if not.
Determine which player has the Initiative and activates first
Check for possible arrival of reinforcements.
[B] Alternating Divisional Activation Phase
A chosen division is automatically activated if its leader is in command or has to role against the leader's QL if isolated [i.e. out of command].
Active units in command range of the division leader may be moved and charges are declared.
The inactive player may fire against any adjacent activated units.
Melee follows and is optional, unless a charge has been declared which makes a melee mandatory.
The inactive player may make a counter-charge where possible.
[C] Reorganisation Phase
Remove or attempt to remove disorganised markers.
Remove tactical and activation markers.
Check for victory at the end of the last game turn.

A range of the games markers
There are quite a few innovative rules in this game, but all are remarkably easy to learn and remember without frequent reference to the rule book.  This is a major reason why I like this system so much,  as too is the fact that they interact on a simple level to cover a whole series of features seen in similar games.
Take the zone identification number.  It will begin with the number 0/1/2 which takes you from the lowest height level on the map to the highest.  The next two numbers like all area movement games is purely for identification purposes; then the final number is a Roman numeral either I/II/III.
This latter number covers a lot of ground: first of all telling you how difficult the terrain is.  No surprises that the higher the number the more difficult.  Next the number is the base cost of movement  for entry and finally it determines whether a unit in it projects a ZOC.  A unit projects a ZOC only if it is located in a higher number  . So, a unit in III projects a ZOC into II or I, a unit in II projects a ZOC into I and, of course a unit in I never projects a ZOC.  It also affects charges as you can only charge into a zone I.  Finally the colour of the box the zone identification number is in tells you whether the zone blocks line of sight.

This close up of the zone containing Shizugatake Castle highlights  the attention to artistic detail, so harmonious with the Japanese background, as well as illustrating the practical zone designation.  It also reveals other typical factors that come into play such as the border between zones that affects movement cost and charges too.


Take care when looking at terrain, as exemplified by this tract of forest just below the castle.  Most terrain II is forest in these battles, but differing prefixed numbers show that the height of the terrain varies and the borders to a single zone of forest often vary too.  One side may be shown by a dotted line as a trail or path crosses it, while another may have a single or double line to show increasing difficulty and so increased cost and finally one side of the zone may have a broad line showing that it is impassable.  All visually very nice and all very easy to remember!
Combat too has several innovative and artful touches.  Only a single unit may attack from a zone or be attacked in a zone whether by fire or melee and each player chooses their unit.  Normally in melee there is only one round of attack, though there are conditions when a unit may fight a second round.  Results only affect the chosen attacker and defender, though one of the modifiers in a melee does reflect a limited combination of different types of units present in either the attacker or the defender's zone.  
The process of a combat couldn't be easier: take the differential between the strength of the two units involved and then add any applicable positive and negative modifiers.  The resulting number is finally added to a 2D6 die roll and applied to the appropriate Fire or Melee Table.  A key point to remember is that all modifiers are simply added together, they are not applied separately to the strengths of the units. Two states of disorganisation, step losses or quality checks are the possible results.  The only surprise for me was the lack of any rout result.  As well as my satisfaction with the overall simplicity of approach, I was very pleased with how rapidly most modifiers became second nature after only a few combats had been worked out.  One tip I'd suggest is that you make a simple numerical  scale on which to move a marker up and down as you apply modifiers. 

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8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games    When viewing the newsreels and photos of what was left of Germany after the bombing campaign,...

8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games 8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games

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

2024

8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games




8th Air Force 2nd Edition


by


Fortress Games




 
 When viewing the newsreels and photos of what was left of Germany after the bombing campaign, it is hard to believe anyone was alive, let alone living in those wastelands. A few of the bombing missions against German cities had a much higher death toll than the atom bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Let us be honest though, the Germans were desperately working on aircraft and munitions that would do the same to us. London itself was bombed pretty badly during the blitz. The Allied aircrews who flew and fought over Germany had some of the highest rates of casualties on our side during the war. The flak from the German defenses filled the air around the bombers. The German fighter pilots who had to go up against the US bomber formations also had a short life span. Shooting down an Allied four engine bomber was worth four points, while shooting down an Allied fighter was worth only one (this was in their calculations that added up to their various medals). So, this game is about putting you in command of the 8th Air Force. You are tasked with destroying the German ability to manufacture weapons and move them. At times, you will also need to help the Allied ground formations in their battle toward Berlin. Historically, in the beginning of the daylight campaign, the Allied losses were staggering. Early in the campaign the fighter escorts that you have available have very short ranges. This changes as time goes by, with  the new fighter aircraft that will help you in your task. Might I suggest a watching/rewatching of the movie Twelve O'clock High before or during your game time.



Back of the box


 This is what comes with the game:


 The game comes with the 28″ x 22″ mounted gameboard, 2 player aids (the calendar/bombing campaigns aid shown below), 18-page rules manual loaded front to back with examples, 2 dice, and 290 laser-cut thick, sturdy game counters representing almost 150 USAAF and Luftwaffe Groups/Gruppen, plus plenty of reinforcing squadrons, and dozens of strategic and tactical targets.




 This is what Fortress Games says about the game:

"In 1943, the US Army Air Force (USAAF) began a strategic bombing campaign with a small but growing number of aircraft. By 1945 it had, for all practical purposes, swept the German air force (Luftwaffe) from the skies, and was bombing targets throughout the shrinking Third Reich almost with impunity. But getting to that point was no easy task…

You, as commander, 8th Air Force, have a very full plate! Early on, ensure victory in the Battle of the Atlantic by bombing submarine bases in western France, then support the eventual Allied invasion of occupied France by bombing railroads and river crossings throughout France and western Germany. Failure in these critical bombing campaigns is not acceptable. Long-term, you’ll need to pulverize Germany’s aircraft factories and oil facilities to reduce the Luftwaffe’s aircraft production and support and win the war by blasting Germany’s heavy industry. There will be more challenges along the way, from providing heavy support for the D-Day invasion and Normandy breakout, to suppressing the demoralizing V1 and V2 attacks on England, to assisting your Soviet ally by attacking German army staging areas in the east. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe is developing advanced jet and rocket technology that may tip the tide of the air war if you have not crippled their industrial capacity."

 

Mounted map board


  I was surprised to find that the game has a mounted map. It follows the gaming industry trend, but I was not expecting one from a new, smaller company. The map is somewhat different, as the view is from Great Britain south toward the European Continent. So, finding the different areas to bomb is a little confusing at first. It is an area movement map. As you can see, from above the map takes a minimalist approach instead of being arty (although there is a nice piece of artwork at the bottom). All in all, it is a nicely done map that once you get yourself oriented it is a breeze to play on. The Rulebook is nineteen pages long. It also is a bit different than normal. The front and back pages are not only card stock but also laminated. This gives them another point in the plus column. The Rulebook is in full color and the pages look like magazine pages, but they are definitely thicker than them. There are two single sided player aid cards that are in full color and are made of card stock. Most of the pages are very easy to read and well-spaced. The Calendar portion of one page is a bit busy, but the Rulebook explains exactly what you are looking at. Now we come to the counters. There is a small sheet that explains that these are laser cut and need to be cleaned off with a moist towel or rag. This allows them to be thicker and denser according to the sheet. They do seem to be. I have dealt with these counters before and take the time to clean them. It is definitely worth your while. There are roughly two and a half sheets of large 5/8" sized counters. The counters a very well done. They have a nice top-down view of all the different planes on them. The game management counters information is large enough to read in low light. The whole ensemble has great production values. My hat is off to Fortress Games.


Page from the Rulebook


 The game has you leading the entire daylight bombing campaign against Europe from Great Britain. So, this is from a strategic viewpoint instead of the single plane or squadron games we have seen recently. You have a chance to get some help from the RAF Lancasters night bombing each turn. 

 This is what Fortress Games has on the first page of the rules:

"This game is designed to be learned this way:

  1. Skim over the directions;
  2. Set up the game;
  3. Play, following "The Turn" section which walks you through the Turn phase by phase.
  4. Lots of examples throughout will help you"

 I find the above funny and excellent at the same time. A game company who knows how we actually learn a game and sets the rules up accordingly. Of course, this takes away the hour or so of complete stumbling that we do searching through rules. 

 So, how does it actually play, and does it live up to its designer's ideas? While it is not as immersive as some games can be it does have many good points. The rules look like they have been streamlined (it is, after all, the second edition). With this game the play is the thing and not a lengthy setup time or delving through rules to find the one you might have missed. The game also comes with some optional rules for people who like to bend history a bit. One allows the Germans to get a group of ME163 fighters. The other one, which is more plausible, is that the Germans get jet aircraft earlier in the war. This might seem like a game breaker, but you have a die roll to see if the USA's own jets make an early appearance. The rules are simple and so is the setup, but the game is far from easy or a 'light' wargame. There is a lot of thinking that has to go on in a player's mind. You have to figure out a way to hurt the German war effort without destroying your 8th Air Force in the process. The player is also given "Bombing Campaigns" which are orders from SHAEF to assist the ground war or take out the V1s for example. You have to decide on how to use your replacements (in this game called 'Refits' and 'manufactures'). Do not forget to assist in the Bombing Campaigns or you could find yourself out of a job. As an example of the game's depth, there are four ways to lose the game and only one way to win. Once you scratch the surface of this game you will find it much larger and deeper than the box it comes in. Everyone knows good things come in small packages and this game is a prime example. The game has been compared to AHs Luftwaffe which should make most grognards ears perk up. Unfortunately, I have to admit in 57 years of wargaming I never played it or owned it. I have heard it whispered about in hushed tones now and again. So, that is something to think about.


Missions detail


 Thank you, Fortress Games, for allowing me to review this game. While my own tastes go toward less abstracted games, this one plays well and gives you the feel of the bomber campaign. The added optional rules for adding more German and actual Allied jets puts a new spin on the historical campaign. To anyone who is interested in the 8th Air Force's bombing campaign or just wants a good solitaire gaming experience, I can highly recommend this game. They also have a game about the 20th Air Force and Superfortresses over Japan.


Robert


Fortress Games:

Fortress Games – The Art of Wargames (fortress-games.net)

8th Air Force:

8th Air Force, Second Edition! – Fortress Games (fortress-games.net)

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 The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology German Flak Rockets and the Onset of the Cold War by James Mills   This is the mos...

The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology by James Mills The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology by James Mills

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

2024

The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology by James Mills




 The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology


German Flak Rockets and the Onset of the Cold War


by


James Mills




  This is the most technical book that I have ever read from Casemate Publishers. It goes through the tentative steps that the UK and the US made toward SAMs (Surface-To-Air Missiles), before and during World War II. The real crux of the book is the Allied and Russian scouring of Germany after the war for technology and designs of the German SAM programs. Much like Operation Paperclip (the US grab for German scientists, whether they were war criminals or not), this is a story of who is able to grab who and what before another country finds it.


 To tell this story, the author takes us back from the end of the war to the German designs and testing that took place before then. As usual, with the German Wunderwaffen programs, it is a tale of too little and too late, which is a tremendous blessing for the Allied and Russian Air Forces. It shows how the Germans were going in so many directions at once. They were working on both guided and unguided munitions. 


 The main part of the book is taken up by the story of the UK and US attempts toward producing a SAM. Then it goes on to show how each of these nations combed Germany for scientists and technology from the German projects. The US Nike SAMs came out of the collaboration between the scientists. The book then shows how France also got into the race to find information. Then the author goes into his conclusions about this hidden part of history (until now). Next, there are an extensive number of Appendices which also includes a look at the Russian attempts to appropriate the knowledge for themselves. 


 This is not an easy book to read. That does not mean that it is not engrossing. It is much more for history readers that are also military tech lovers. This is not just a strict book of who did what and when they did it. There is a tremendous amount of 'how' that are in these pages.


 Thank you, Casemate Publishers, for allowing me to review this deep and interesting book. It tells a tale that needed to be added to the military history of World War II and its direct aftermath.


Robert

Book: The Origins of Surface -To-Air Guided Missile Technology: German Flak Rockets and the Onset of the Cold War

Author: James Mills

Publisher: Casemate Publishers

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  414 BC Siege of Syracuse by Worthington Publishing  The man named Alcibiades looms over the Siege of Syracuse in 414 BC even though he was...

414 BC Siege of Syracuse by Worthington Publishing 414 BC Siege of Syracuse by Worthington Publishing

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

2024

414 BC Siege of Syracuse by Worthington Publishing




 414 BC Siege of Syracuse


by


Worthington Publishing




 The man named Alcibiades looms over the Siege of Syracuse in 414 BC even though he was not even present. In point of fact, Alcibiades and his actions are the main points in the last war between Athens and Sparta to rule the Greek world. 



Alcibiades: a Roman copy of an earlier Greek work. With the head tilt and the face, it looks like it could be Alexander.



  The different wars for the control of Greece between Sparta and Athens are coming to a conclusion. One of the two is going to be the hegemon of Greece (although do not tell Thebes that). Alcibiades and his supporters came up with the brilliant idea of conquering Syracuse in Sicily. They claimed that the Syracuse was a major ally and impediment in their war against Sparta. Nicias was a conservative politician who spoke against the attack on Syracuse. Athenian democracy being what it was, Alcibiades and his group were able to get enough votes in the assembly to make the excursion a reality. The invasion force was voted to have three generals in charge, Alcibiades, Nicias (who wanted nothing to do with it), and Lamachus (a general with little political clout). The stage was set for the greatest overseas undertaking by a Greek city. 


 Athens had a number of Hermai, statues of Hermes, all over the city for good luck. On the night before the expedition was supposed to set sail, many of the statues were either destroyed or defaced, depending upon the source. Alcibiades and his friends were accused of the act. He demanded to be put on trial, but this was not done, and he sailed with the expedition. After the expedition left, enemies of Alcibiades had charges brought up against him and because of his, and his friends' absence it was passed. A fast-sailing vessel was sent to catch up to the expedition and bring him back for trial. Alcibiades somehow caught wind of this and fled to Sparta. So, the expedition was now headed by Nicias who wanted nothing better than to go home to Athens. However, the size and expectations of what the expedition could accomplish would have meant his immediate arrest and trial if he ordered it to go home. This sets the stage for the Athenian siege of Syracuse. Alcibiades helps the Spartans and their Syracusan Allies by giving them information and some great ideas. Meanwhile, the Athenian expedition is led by a man who has no heart in it and becomes increasingly unwell during the siege.



 This is what Worthington Publishing has to say about the series and this game itself:

"Syracuse 414 BC - The Athenian army lays siege to the great city of Syracuse.

Malta 1565 - The Turks versus the Knights of Malta in the last battle of the Crusades at the dawn of gunpowder.

Quebec 1759 - The siege that won North America for the English.

The Great Sieges game series highlights command decisions for players against a solitaire game engine opponent. They have been designed for easy set up and quick game play. Game unit placement is shown on the game board and units are wooden markers representing troop and ship formations. 

Each game was developed for solitaire play. In 414BC Siege of Syracuse and 1759 Siege of Quebec there is also a two-player version of the game.  Both sides require you to make great decisions based on good strategy, keep your wits about you when orders do not turn out well, and press on to victory.


The Game Map


All three games use a common set of rules for game play, but each game has its own set of unique rules related to specifics of those individual sieges.

Play Solitaire as Athenians and 2 player version too!

Unique to 414 Siege of Syracuse:

New rules for constructing walls and counter walls.

Solitaire Cards are divided into 2 decks to represent 2 Epochs of the lengthy siege.

Aggressive Commander Orders have been replaced by Leader cards that allow high risk/high rewards decisions by players.

As the Athenian side you win the game in two ways:  

Complete your siege walls around the city AND have a ship in a blockade space.

Or reduce the morale of Syracuse to zero.

As the Syracusan side, victory is achieved by: 

Holding out until the siege ends (all cards have been played).

Or the Athenian morale is reduced to zero.

Highlights of 414 BC Siege of Syracuse:

The Athenian player must keep up attacks and deal with Syracusan reinforcements that come into play.  They must also construct siege walls to choke off the city and fend off counter attacks by the city army.   As Syracuse builds counter walls the Athenian must destroy them if he expects to encircle the city.

The Syracusan side is playing for time.  It must defend the city against attacks by land and sea.  Its forces must sally out of the city to drive the morale of the Athenian side down.  Further, as the progress of siege walls is advanced by the Athenian side, Syracuse has the ability to build counter walls to slow down the progress."




 This is what comes with the games in the series:

Each game includes:

Box

Hard Mounted Game Board

2 sets of troop markers (one set per army)

2 sets of solitaire cards (one set per army) *Only 1 set of solitaire cards in 414BC Syracuse

Command Decision Cards

2 Field Order Books (one per army)

Rule Book

Custom plastic storage tray

Dice

Complexity: 3 of 10

Solitaire Suitability: 10 of 10

Playing Time: 30 to 60 minutes

Players: 1-2


Two cards

 The components are as follows. The map is not a hex or area movement one. There are places where you can put your walls, troops, and ships. Worthington has released a few of these games. They include the other Great Sieges games and Freman's Farm etc. The map is stylized because of just having the placement areas. However, the map is colorful and incredibly easy to read all of the different things on it. It is also mounted, which seems to be a feature of all of Worthington Publishing's games. You get pieces that represent either troops, ships, or walls. These are just rectangles etc. that are color coded for each side. The Rulebook is full color and is only 12 pages long. The solitaire rules take up the first nine pages and then there is about two pages of the two-player rules followed by Historical Notes. The Rulebook is easy to read and very simple to understand. The Field Order Books are made of card stock and fold out to be 11"x17" in size. These are also in full color and are easy to read. They also come with a small version of the map in the center. The different card decks are the real artwork that comes with the game. Most of the cards come with a nice piece of artwork dealing with ancient battles. The information on them for play is very easy to read. As you can see, the components pass muster easily.


 The sequence of play is very easy for the single player game. It follows the Worthington Publishing KISS thoughts on game rules. It is as follows:

Select one order to play.

Reveal the solitaire counter order card.

Resolve the action portion of the solitaire counter order card first.

Apply the results of your order using the solitaire counter order card portion.

Repeat the above.


Two more cards

 The game might seem a bit strange to some people because it does not have the usual siege tactics we are used to. There are no rams or other siege engines at play. One has to remember that this is 414 BC. The only siege techniques that are known are to surround a city and starve them out. This is why it is crucial to the Athenian player to complete his walls around Syracuse. This is also why it is imperative for the Syracusans to build their counter walls. The Athenian must also have a ship unit blockading Syracuse. There is no real turn length to the game. If the solitaire cards run out so has the Athenian time to win. These are the victory conditions:

The Athenian player wins if:

You complete all eight segments of your wall and have a ship in a blockade space. 

You reduce the Syracusan morale to zero.

The Athenian player loses if:

You run out of cards in the solitaire deck.

You also lose if your morale reaches zero.


 I did not have the ability to play the two-player version, but the solitaire game is a blast. Because of the rules, it plays quickly and easily from one phase to the next. Worthington Publishing has the game length as 30 to 60 minutes and that seems right on the money. The way the game is structured some things have to be simple and a real ancient nut like yours truly, might want more meat on its bones. However, there is enough history and plausibility built into the game to keep even me really happy when playing. Thank you, Worthington Publishing, for allowing me to review this very well thought out game on one of my favorite parts of history. With this game and 1565 Siege of Malta, (my review is linked below), my siege gaming appetite is definitely assuaged for now. 


Robert


414 BC Siege of Syracuse:

414BC Siege of Syracuse — Worthington Publishing


1565 Siege of Malta review:

The Siege of Malta 1565 by Worthington Publishing - A Wargamers Needful Things


Worthington Publishing:

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The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine  The game that comes along with this 2020 Annual from Agains...

The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine

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2024

The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine




The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917


by


Against The Odds Magazine





 The game that comes along with this 2020 Annual from Against the Odds magazine is about 'Bloody April'. In a war that saw so many bloody months, April 1917 saw the Royal Flying Corps (it would not become the Royal Air Force until April 1st, 1918) almost bleed out. British pilots' lives were counted in hours and days during Bloody April. This being the Holiday Season, one is reminded of Snoopy and the Red Baron song. Unfortunately for the British, the lines in the song "Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more, the Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score", are quite apt for Bloody April, if not for the Richtofen himself.  


 This is what ATO has to say about the game:

"The average flying life of an RFC pilot in Arras in April was 18 hours in the air. Our whole picture-- from movies like "Dawn Patrol" or "Aces High" -- of young men going straight from flying school into combat (and straight into the ground shortly after) comes from this six-week period, preparing for and supporting the "spring offensive."


Now, Paul Rohrbaugh's The Cruelest Month looks at this struggle, with the focus primarily on-air operations and ground battle abstracted (something like he did in Chennault's First Fight.) As the British player, you will marshal your limited numbers of fighters to help secure the skies for 2-seaters that would be better suited to training planes. As the German player, you will employ your well-armed modern fighters against waves of RFC planes that simply keep coming, regardless of how many you shoot down."


This is what comes with the Annual 2020 issue:


Maps - One full color 22" x 34" hex mapsheet

Counters - 176 full color 5/8" die-cut counters

Air Displays - 2

Rules length - 16 pages

Charts and tables - 2 pages

Complexity - Medium

Playing time - Up to 3 to 4 hours

How challenging is it solitaire? - Average


Designer - Paul Rohrbaugh

Development - Steve Rawling

Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey


Very nicely done counters and map


 As usual, this issue of ATO is filled with excellent articles from all ages of military history. These are:


THE CRUELEST MONTH:

The Arras Campaign, 1917 

 by Paul Rohrbaugh

Appendix 1: Dramatis Personae 

Appendix 2: Aircraft of Bloody April 

A TALE OF TWO PLANES by Kevin Duke

Some Other Plane Stories 

Rules of Play for The Cruelest Month: Air War over Arras 1917

 by Paul Rohrbaugh

Rules of Play for Backlash! An Expansion for The Lash of the Turk

by Andy Nunez

THE TRIPLE ENTENTE TAKES THE DARDANELLES:

What if Britain and France had won the Dardanelles Campaign? by Matthew Adams

A FURIOUS BACKLASH:

The Holy League invades occupied Hungary, 1685-99 by Andy Nunez

THE ROLE OF RACE IN PACIFIC WAR PROPAGANDA by Sam Sheikh


These are from 'Backlash' an add-on for "Lash of the Turk'

 

 As with any issue of ATO, you get a huge dose of history and a well-designed game. The Annual issues give you more of a dose than the normal issues. The articles that come with any ATO issue, at least the ones I have read, are as well written as a military history book. They should be, because a lot of the article writers have written their own books.

 At the end of the article, The Cruelest Month, are two appendices. The first, Dramatis Personae, has bios for Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard (the father of the Royal Air Force), Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Empire's troops in France, General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff, usually considered the brains of the Great General Staff for the second half of World War I, General Ludwig von Kalkenhausen, German general in charge of the defense of the Arras Front. Appendix 2 gives us the information on all of the aircraft on either side that fought the battle in the air. The next article, A Tale of Two Planes, is a deeper dive into some of the major aircraft from both sides and how they were used in Bloody April. 


Some of the two-part map


 Just so you understand, this is not a game of air-to-air combat above the fields around Arras. This game puts you in the general's seat of either side. Here is more information about the game:


"While losses in the air were puny compared to the thousands dying on the ground, those aerial actions had great impact on how things worked out on the ground. The Cruelest Month will give you a full selection of aerial operations, including balloon busting, ground attack, bombing, and the all-important photo-recon and artillery observation missions, plus the fighter dogfights that center around protecting or stopping all the others. You'll use a Air Battle Board for these fights, and your planes will interact with ground forces on a map of the Arras area.

On the ground, your gray-suited soldiers will face mines, tanks, and the newly adapted "creeping barrage," in trying to maintain your hold on key defense lines. Can you hold the line? For the British, your objective is not so focused on the big "breakthrough," but now working with the idea of biting off chunks of key landscape and holding it. Can you equal the magnificent Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge?"




English Air/Ground Display


 This is the game's Sequence of Play:


Random Event Phase

Airbase Construction Phase

Initiative Phase

Air Operations Phase

Ground Operations Phase

Supply Determination Phase

Regroup Phase

Allied reinforcement Phase

Victory Points Phase


 The victory levels are determined by subtracting the German VP total from the Allied VP total. The victory levels are:


19 or fewer VPs: German Victory

20-40 VPs: Draw

41 or more VPs: Allied victory (historic result)


 The victory points are received by either forcing your opponent to abort air missions or by losing air strength points. At the end of the game, you also get victory points for losing or gaining ground hexes, specifically for the Allies to take Vimy Ridge and parts of the Hindenburg Line or for the Germans to keep them in their control.


 The magazine itself is 53 pages. It comes with the articles listed above. It is its usual beautiful full color self. There is one full counter sheet for The Cruelest Month game. There is also a smaller counter sheet for use with the add on scenarios for ATO's earlier game, The Lash of the Turk. The counters for The Cruelest Month are 5/8" in size. The plane counters show an above view of each plane that is in that group. The counters are all very nicely done. The ground campaign counters are not little works of art like the plane ones. However, they are easily read and some, like the artillery, tanks, and balloons are made as well as the plane ones. There is an Airbase Display for each player. These are made of thin cardboard. You may want to copy them and use the printed sheets. The map is split into two separate sections. One is a map for the ground war and the operations of the air groups. The other contains the Air Battle Board for resolving aerial combats. Printed on the map are also the Turn Record Track, Game Record track, Random Events Table, and the Sequence of Play. All of the components are well done. Be careful when unfolding the map. I fat fingered it and ripped a small hole in it. Fortunately for me, where I damaged it has no bearing on the map's usefulness at all. 


German Air/Ground Display


  I very much like the game and its play. Please remember that you are not dogfighting separate planes but groups of them. This is an operational look at the air and ground war around Arras in 1917. If your play is bad enough you can call in reserves. However, like a lot of games, you will get penalized in victory points for doing so. The Allied player will also be penalized if there is clear weather, and he does not execute a bombing mission. This gives the German player a whopping +4 victory points. So, try to avoid this at all costs.


Another look at the counters


 This large annual edition is also filled with excellent information on other times and wars. The issue also comes with rules and counters for 'Backlash' a few scenarios to add to one of ATOs earlier games Lash of the Turk. The scenarios look interesting; however, I do not own that issue so I cannot give you a rundown of them and the game.


 Thank you, Against The Odds for letting me review this close look at Bloody April from a totally different view than the cockpit. 


 They also have a surprise for we grognards. ATO is doing a reprint of 'Stalingrad Verdun on the Volga' in an annual issue format. This game originally only came in a boxed version. It sold out incredibly fast and is now as rare as hen's teeth. This is what comes with the Ziplock version:


 Maps - One full color 17" x 44" hex mapsheet

Counters - 230+ full color 5/8" die-cut counters

Rules length - 24 pages

Charts and tables - 4 pages

Complexity - Medium

Playing time - Up to 3 to 4 hours

How challenging is it solitaire? - Average


Designer - Mikael Rinella

Development - Kevin Duke

Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey





   Just a few pics to wet your whistle.


Robert

Against the Odds Magazine:

The Cruelest Month: Air War over Arras, April 1917:

Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga:


 


 

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