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Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 by Columbia Games  Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. Y...

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43

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

Columbia Games

Combat Infantry:

EastFront 1941-43


Columbia Games

 Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. You would think that this has been gamed to death. In a way you would be correct. That is, there are only so many battles that took place to do games about. However, each designer also  has a separate take on how to make a game more (fill in the blanks; playable, realistic, or historical) in our playthroughs. So, even though it looks gamed to death it really isn't, not when you add everyone's different vision of how to properly game/simulate it. We still read every, or almost every, book that comes out about Stalingrad etc. So why not have different games on the subject? Then we come to the different types of games that each designer brings to the table. These can be designed to be fast paced and light to deep simulations. We Grognards are a fickle bunch. One minute we will be praising a game for its depth and the next we will be castigating another game because we have to spend a lot of time reading the rulebook. Just because a game does not give historical outcomes does not mean it is not fun or stimulating to play. Now the Eastern Front diatribe is over on to Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43.

 This is the second in the series Combat Infantry. The first took place on the Western Front and had the Americans and Germans going at it in 1944-1945. That game is an excellent game of tactical combat on that front. Games, and more importantly their rules, either work or they don't. The Combat Infantry games are block wargames which means they are simple to set up with usually less rules that their cardboard cousins. Notice I did not say 'less deep', just simpler. Chess is about as simple as you can get for ease of setup and rules, but never say it isn't deep. With block wargames there is no need for writing down a unit's stat, it's right there for you to see. At one time I was a firm believer that block wargames were not as 'worthy' as my counter heavy collection. I thought that they were fine for playing with your kids or trying to get someone interested in the wargaming hobby. I could not have been more wrong. Block wargames have become some of my favorite ones to play. 

 So, Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 is a tactical block wargame of the early years of the Russo-German war. its name is actually a misnomer because you do not just get to fight it out with infantry. Columbia Games has given you the whole gamut of tactical forces to try your luck with. As you can see by the list below, they have not left out anything. There is even Air Support included for your units.

 This is what comes with the game:

132 Wooden Blocks
22 Wooden Markers
1 Sheet of labels
2 Large Geomorphic Maps 16.5" x 22"
3 double-Sided Scenario Cards
4 Dice (D10)

 The game hexes are 100 meters wide and you get to play with units comprised of:

Rifle Squads
Machine Guns
Air Support

 The components of the game are what we have come to expect  from Columbia Games. The maps are very well done, especially if you like the color green or some of its shades. They have large hexes to accommodate the blocks. The labels are pretty simple, but the pictures on them, although small, are great looking little pieces of artwork. The blocks are, well, blocks. They are however completely uniform in shape. Yes, I have seen games where they were not. The rulebook is only twelve pages long. It is in full color and does have some examples of play. There are three double-sided scenario cards. These are of cardboard, not too thick, but pretty rugged. Now I can hear the howls: this game comes with six scenarios only! Yes, yes it does. However, do not let that be a stumbling block if you are looking to purchase it. The original game WestFront also came with limited premade scenarios. There were scenarios created for the game by players and the designer, and I assume for this one also. You do not have to wait for them. You can create your own with just a tiny bit of time and effort. The second to last page of the rulebook gives a breakdown of how to create scenarios for yourself. It also has a chart that gives unit values to each unit in the game. This allows you to make scenarios with X amount of points and then just choose them for each side.

 Normally, you will be the commander of either a Soviet or German battalion which is composed of three infantry companies. Then a company is broken down into three infantry platoons. Platoons are also broken down into three squads of infantry, and usually a heavy weapons platoon (mostly machine guns). The battalion can be made stronger by the addition of some extra assets such as tanks, artillery, and anti-tank guns. Leadership is very important in the game and you must keep your units in command range. If not, they must pass a morale die roll, and some assets cannot act at all outside of command range. The strength of your units is easily kept track of  by the block wargaming system. You usually start out with a unit at full strength and then turn the block to the next strength/step number if it suffers damage. Some of us gamers are very used to opportunity fire and suppression, among other things. These are among some of the other well known tactical rules in games that are not found here. I will list what is not in the game and why by the designer Tom Dalgliesh himself:

"Opportunity Fire
Opportunity fire is excessive in many tactical
games. WW2 Infantry and vehicles simply did
not move through open terrain without clinging
to every tiny bit of cover available, nor without
fire support to keep enemy heads down.
Defender first fire in Assault reflects opportunity
fire in close combat when it was most effective.
Suppression fire is handled by the step reduction
system. Units that take hits have less firepower
and are partially suppressed until they Rally.
Guns and tanks would have no difficulty
turning to fire in any direction given a 10-30
minute interval. Tanks did have thinner armor
in the belly, flanks, top, and rear and this is
allowed for by making them more vulnerable to
bombardment (6.6) and assaults (9.65).
Hard & Soft Targets
The armor class system reduces firepower
against armored targets. This eliminates the
need for separate hard and soft firepowers.
Status Markers
Status markers should not be missed. Cluttering
maps and units with markers such as "Used",
"Suppressed", or "Final Fire" is not necessary.
Units are upright, face-up, or face-down
depending on their action."

 The nature of block wargames lends itself to Fog of War, and EastFront does this particularly well. The only caveat to this rule is tanks. "Tanks are the exception. Veteran infantry could determine the location and identity of tanks just from the sound of their engines. Hence, tanks are revealed when they fire or move." The scenario that you have picked will state which player goes first. After the first turn a die roll determines who goes first. The active player can then activate one headquarter per company; "When commanding multiple companies, HQs are activated and resolved one by one in any desired order." The gameplay is fast and furious because of the design decisions made in the rules. I think the game is a great tactical one that gives you a lot of bling, but does not wrap you up in a cocoon of rules to play it out. After your first or second game there really is no reason to be perusing the rulebook anymore, unless you are extremely forgetful. Thank you Columbia Games for letting me review this great addition to the Combat Infantry stable. I hope the games will spawn either different areas or years during World War II. That way we can play in the Pacific or use airborne troops etc. I will have the link to my Combat Infantry: WestFront 1944-1945 review along with some others below.

Columbia Games:

Combat Infantry Series:

This is my review of Columbia Games Julius Caesar:

Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games      This is another game where I am entering uncharted t...

Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games Victory: World War II Second Edition by Columbia Games

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

Columbia Games

Victory: World War II Second Edition


Columbia Games


 This is another game where I am entering uncharted territory. I was a dedicated hex and counter gamer for many years. Within the last two years I have been shown the errors of my ways as far as block and area wargames. Now Columbia Games has sent me a huge bundle of the game and add-ons for their game Victory. Victory is not a historical wargame. I know I shuddered too when I realized it. Victory allows you to fight a sandbox World War II, and what a sandbox! Especially with the add on maps, you can create pretty much any type of map configuration you want. I haven't seen anything with this randomness except in computer games. Of course, I have to add that until this game I held my nose up over non-historical wargames. Guess what, once more I have had to adjust my thinking about wargames. Let us see what comes with the base game:

4 Geomorphic Maps
100 Wooden Blocks
Logistic markers
Game Rules
4 Dice

Add-ons I was sent:

Victory Blockset Orange
Victory Blockset WW2 German (Black)
Victory Blockset WW2 USA (Green)
Victory Blockset WW2 Soviet (Red)
Victory Dirty Dozen 12 Map Bundle (3-4, 7-16)

There are too many other add-ons to list that can be purchased to enhance the game. Here is the webpage:

 Like the rest of Columbia Games, it is a deceptively easy game to begin playing. The rules are only nine pages long, and that includes a page of Advanced Rules. Let us look at the sequence of play:

[1] INITIATIVE: Each player rolls 2d6. Highest total becomes Player Turn 1 for this Game Turn. Roll again to break ties for highest roll. 
 [2] MOVE PHASE: All players move, starting with Player-1, then clockwise in sequence.In turn, a player may move any/all unpinned units, but must make Strategic Moves (5.9) first. Hex control changes immediately
 [3] COMBAT PHASE: Each battle where Player-1 is the Attacker is fought to a conclusion in any sequence chosen by Player-1. Then resolve all battles where Player-2 is the Attacker, and so on. Reveal blocks only when a battle is fought. Aircraft involved in a battle, land after their battle ends.
 [4] SUPPLY & VICTORY CHECK: (Simultaneous)Check Supply of your units (See 7.0). Unsupplied Ground/Air Units immediately lose 1 step. Naval units ignore supply.• Determine if the game has been won by any player. Otherwise go to step [5].
[5] PRODUCTION PHASE (Simultaneous)Build with available PPs in supplied cities. 

Add on German, Soviet, and USA Stickers

 The game is one where both sides have exactly the same units and unit values (except for some of the historical units). I haven't played a game like this since Tactics II in the 1960s. I will tell you this, I had completely forgotten how tense and fun Tactics II really was. I always looked back at it as a quaint way to get into real wargaming. How wrong I was. The fact that you do not have a panzer unit with a strength of twenty-four or have to worry about your opponent having one puts an entirely new spin on wargaming. Oh sure, you could try to put all your tanks together, but that leaves the other player the chance to attack at numerous other points and possibly cut off your tanks. It is like a boxing match where both of the boxers have the same punch and strengths. So you are forced to play as well as you possibly can. I have included a link for the games FB page. There you can find user made scenarios, and some of them are historical in nature. As usual with a Columbia Block Game, the blocks have their different strength steps printed out on the block. This way you just turn the piece instead of looking for another counter. You can also handicap each player if needed by starting some of their units at a lower or higher strength.The built in fog of war that block games have is present as usual, although I have had no problem playing any of their games solo so far. 

 These are some of the unit markers used in the Advanced Rules:

Destruction Markers for destroyed bridges and canals

Logistic markers

 This is the second edition of Victory: World War II. The 'elite' units, which have been tweaked and modified, are now included with the main game. I am a bit confused as to why there are not more reviews of this game, and not much postings or talk about the game either. It doesn't have many votes, but is very highly rated on BGG. As I mentioned, I had forgotten how much fun a sandbox game can actually be. Thank you, Columbia Games, for letting me review Victory, and for reminding me of my wargaming roots.

One of the Add On Maps You Can Buy

 This is a neat idea to take your Victory battles to a lower level:

Have an climatic battle taking place in Victory? Use Combat Infantry, Columbia Games’ tactical World War 2 wargame to play that battle out at squad level!

 This is the link for Columbia Games:

 This is the link for the game: 

This is a link to the Victory FB page where you can find user created scenarios:


Pacific Victory Second Edition by Columbia Games   Columbia Games touts itself as 'the home of block wargami...

Pacific Victory Second Edition by Columbia Games Pacific Victory Second Edition by Columbia Games

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

Columbia Games


Columbia Games touts itself as 'the home of block wargaming'. With the amount of games and how long they have been producing them, who am I to argue? I have reviewed two of their games so far: 'Julius Caesar' and 'Combat Infantry'. Julius Caesar is a good game, and it has a large following. However, I think Combat Infantry is a great game and a blast to play. So, they were kind enough to send me the second edition of 'Pacific Victory'. I never played the first edition, so I cannot compare the two. I will look online and see other people's comparison and see if there are any good or bad things that there are a consensus about.

 So first let us look at what comes with the game:
  • Large 9 panel mapboard
  • 2 sets Rules v2.5, in color with improved balance and victory conditions
  • 8 6-sided dice
  • 132 wood blocks plus some replacements in four (4) colors:
    • orange: IJN, 66 blocks;
    • blue: US, 39;
    • brown: British, Indian, ANZAC, 17;
    • yellow: China, 10.
  • Block artwork is new.

 The game also comes with two rule books, which is an excellent idea. Now two gamers can read their own copy, so you do not have to waste your time copying the rule book. More games should do this.

Back Of The Box

 There is a campaign game and these are the additional scenarios:

1941: Rising Sun - 4 hour playing time
1942: High Noon - 3 hour playing time
1943: Setting Sun - 2 hour playing time

 The victory conditions are:
Pacific Victory is played until one
player gains a Decisive Victory, or until
completion of the Jun/45 Turn. At this
time, the Japanese player totals Victory
Points (VPs) and consults the table below:
JVPs Victory Level TPs
25+ Japanese Decisive 3
16–24 Japanese Victory ('45) 2
13-15 Stalemate ('45) 1/1
6-12 Allied Victory ('45) 2
0-5 Allied Decisive 3
Victory Points are equal to supplied
Production Points.
Tourney Points (TPs) can be used to
compare game results. 


 The game also comes with nine different optional rules. Some of these are:

 Japanese individual Infantry or Marine units can declare a Banzai attack. This increases the unit's firepower for one fire against a target unit. But the unit is eliminated unless it eliminates the target unit.
Fanatic Defense:
  Japanese Infantry or Marines have D2  defending any minor base, but cannot retreat.
 Submarines become their own target
group. They can be attacked only by
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) combat.
Allied naval units (except CV) have ASW
firepower of N2 and the Japanese have
N1. The firepower of Air units, Carriers,
and Submarines are unchanged.

 The game also covers the entire Pacific War. The game does come with rules so that the Chinese part of the war is removed. This makes for a quicker game.


 The map is large, and is relatively simple looking. However, this approach works well for the game. It is easy to read and figure out the different terrain. The large amount of blocks to sticker might be a problem for some people. I lucked out and lassoed my daughter into helping me. The stickers are very good looking. They  are also simple without any great embellishment. The blocks are the standard size, so they are easy to read and see at a glance what units you have where.

Map Closeup

 Each unit is marked with an  A,B,CD, or E. These represent where during a combat round a unit attacks. A goes first etc. If both sides have the same letter in the combat round, the defender attacks first. Battles can be fought for a maximum of three combat rounds. During a combat round a unit can either fire/attack or retreat. The blocks, as usual, are marked with dots on each side to show their strength at that moment. The number of dots also represents the number of die that the unit can roll during firing. In the lower right hand of the stickers is a list of numbers, for example  1-2-3. This corresponds to the die roll an enemy would have to roll for a hit. The numbers 1-2-3 would equal the die roll for attack by an Air, Naval, or Ground unit, A/N/G in the rule book.

Back Of The Rule Book

 I have played some monster games on the Pacific War. I have also played some much smaller and simpler ones that played very quickly. I would place this game in the middle of these two types of games. This game is able to be played in one gaming session, but it is also deep enough to keep players coming back for more. I am not a fan of light 'beer and pretzels' games. So be assured this is not one of them. The only real disagreement I would have with the designer (Tom Dalgliesh) is the choice of units and unit strengths. The battles are quickly played out in the game. So, you might even be able to get two games in on gaming night. This is a good game in that while it doesn't try to be a simulation of the Pacific War is still a good fun game for players. 

Counters Closeup

 As far as it being the Second Edition (with 2.5 version rules), people seem to only have good things to say about it compared to the first version. It has larger map, more leaders, and overall the rules have been tweaked to be even better.Thanks again to Columbia Games for letting me review this game. Now, get to work on the Eastern Front for Combat Infantry.


Julius Caesar by Columbia Games   This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. ...

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games Julius Caesar by Columbia Games

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

Columbia Games


  This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. Every Ides of March, I drink a toast of something to the fact that he was assassinated at the foot of Pompey's statue. I am a teetotaler so nothing special. I consider Sulla the greatest Roman general followed closely by Pompey. Caesar is most highly thought of because of his own propaganda writings. Remember that Caesar was the head of his faction while Pompey was actually representing the legal Roman Senate and also had to take their views into account. Caesar had said Sulla was a fool for giving up his dictatorship. He was not a fool, but a Republican. I guess I should dispense with my personal views now. So the game is about the Roman Civil War between the Roman Senate and a megalomaniac (sorry I had to). The Civil War between Pompey and Caesar. Let us see what you get with the game.

Front And Back Of Box

Game Map(17"x 33" with 13 victory points)
63 Blocks ( 31 tan, 31 green, 1 blue)
Label Sheet (for the blocks)
Cards (27)
Dice (4)
Rule Book


 The map is the usual well done Columbia Games type we have come to enjoy with their block games. It is a map that is used to be gamed, and not be hung on the wall as art. The map does get a bit crowded at times with the blocks. However, for a small fee you can buy a PDF file of the map and have it printed out to pretty much any size you want. The labels are well done. They are aesthetically pleasing, and easy to understand and read. The cards are very well done and add some flavor to the game. There are twenty Command Cards and seven Event Cards in the deck. The rule book is only eight pages long. This is also standard fare for Columbia Games. Their games are meant to be played, not argued over. After one or possibly two games, you will have the rules down pat.

Stickers For The Blocks

  The game is card driven, and is played in these three phases:

Card Phase
Command Phase
Battle Phase

 The event cards are self explanatory. The Command Cards are read by the banners and medals below the banners. On each banner will be a number. That number is the moves a player can make that turn. The medals are the amount of levies that player can produce that turn. At the beginning of each year (or turn) of the game the cards are shuffled, and each player is dealt six cards. Both players then have to choose one card to discard, bringing their total to five cards each. Each player then puts down one card. If one player chooses an event card then he is Player one. If both players put down command cards then the player with the higher movement on his card is player one. When both cards have equal movement points then the Caesar player is player one. If both players put down an event card they cancel each other out and that turn/year is over. The event cards seem to be pretty overpowering compared to the command cards. One has to remember that if you play an event card that is all you can do that turn. No movement, or levies, can take place if you play an event card. 

 Your Navis(naval) units are incredibly powerful if you know how to use them. You can use three Navis units in adjacent sea areas to move your troops an incredible distance. The rule book gives an example of Caesar being able to move two legions from Rome to Antioch because the three seas (Mare Tyrrhenum, Mare Internum, and Mare Egypticum) all have Caesar Navis units in them and are friendly. You cannot conduct amphibious invasions as we think of today, but you can keep your enemy on their toes, and upset their plans with amphibious movement.                                   
 The historically important Roman roads are also very important in the game. A Major road allows four units to move together from city to city. A Minor road only allows two units to travel together. 

 The game even has rules for the Cleopatra unit (blue block). She can change sides numerous times during the war. 

 This is the map showing all of the places that troops can be levied by Brunoc from BGG.

 The battle rules are simple and yet full of strategy and chance. A unit that has the higher combat rating, an A against a B unit, is always the first unit on each player's side to roll for hits. If both sides have the same highest rated unit (both A's or B's etc.) the defender is the first to use his unit to roll for hits. A unit may only fire, retreat, or pass each battle turn. Retreats can only take place after one round of combat has happened. There are rules for pinning enemy units as well as to have reserves for your battles.

 Victory goes to the first player who can get ten victory points. Each main city is worth one point, with Rome and Alexandria being two each. You also get one point for killing an enemy leader.


 The game has been a favorite of people who play Columbia games since it was released. The rules are simple and easy to understand, yet the game is deep enough to keep you enthralled with it. The relatively quick play-through times make it easy for players to give it one more go. The game also lets the player try so many different strategies to try to get to ten victory points. Historically Pompey fled Italy and went to the East. Caesar then cleared out Pompey's legions in Spain, leading Caesar to say "I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army". Many historians feel that Pompey should have gone to Spain to fight with those veteran troops in a country that was difficult to campaign in, and that Pompey had fought in before (against Sertorius). One of the strategies I keep reading about for the game is for Caesar to capture Italy, but also to attack down the Adriatic coast to Greece, and capture Athens etc. I have noticed that not only does the map have the battles listed from the Caesar and Pompey Civil War, but it also lists the battles from after Caesar's death until Actium. I wonder if an add on was planned for the game at some time. The only two knocks on the game are the Octavian block in the Caesarean army and elephants being included in the game. Octavian was sick anytime he came anywhere near a possible battlefield, and I do not believe elephants were used by any Mediterranean nation after the Mithridatic Wars. I will have to check on that. I was wrong, Metellus Scipio used them at the battle of Thapsus. I assume these were the smaller North African variety that Hannibal also used.

 This a picture of all of the command cards posted by EndersGame on BGG.

 There are also many player made cards to replace the ones from the game. The ones I saw have excellent artwork on them.

 This is a fun and pretty furious game that will find its way back onto my table for many years.


Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario  The Combat Infantry game from Columbia Games is meant...

Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario

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

Columbia Games


Home Made Scenario

 The Combat Infantry game from Columbia Games is meant to allow two players to play a battalion, and its assets against another enemy battalion. The game right now only features American and German troops. Further iterations are planned that will add other armies as well. The units you play with are based on rifle squads of 9-12 men, or machine gun or mortar teams of two to three men. The scale of the game is each hex is 100 meters. The time scale for each turn is roughly ten to thirty minutes per turn. Single tanks, air strikes, bunkers, and snipers etc. are also available at times to the player. I did a review of the game earlier that you can find here:

 This is going to be a walk through to making your own historical or imagined scenario for the game. The rules came with the ability for the player to make his own scenarios. It came with a Unit Value Chart that equates each side's weapons to each other. These help the player determine what forces each side will posses for his scenario. I have chosen to have a large American force attack a small thrown together German force during the battle of the Falaise Gap. The German force is desperately trying to stave off the Americans and give other units a chance to retreat. They are pretty much a forlorn hope. The German rearguard does still pack a punch, so the Americans can not afford to be rash. Slow and steady wins the race.

 The game takes a leap compared to other tactical games because it is missing the following: opportunity fire, suppression, facing, and hard and soft targets. However, the designer's arguments for them being missing are very well thought out. It also makes the game quick playing, but still be deep. The game has rules about stacking, hex control, river crossings, foxholes, and mines etc. Command in the game is as important as it was in real life. A big thing to remember is that the unit values when choosing your troops are per step and not per unit. The game does have rules regarding weather and night scenarios. The rule book is only 12 pages long. So remembering them is not difficult after a few play through. 

 In my scenario I did not choose to have either side to have any off- map artillery support. The Germans are trying to retreat theirs, and the Americans are pushing forward too quickly. So going back to the Unit Value chart, my German force is going to have a lot of already damaged units. The Americans are also going to have some beat up units due to breakdowns and previous contact. They will, however, have limited air support. The American player should win my scenario nine times out of ten due to the force discrepancy. However, I am going to skew the odds of winning by forcing the American player to get a victory quickly or not at all.

 These are the forces that the Americans have:
Platoon A
  Three Rifle Squads
  60 Mortar Attached
Platoon C
  Three Rifle Squads
  MG 30 Attached
Company Headquarters
  M4 -1 Sherman - One
  M4 -3 Sherman - Two 
  M10 - Wolverine - One
  P47 - Thunderbolt - One (Can only be used two times in the scenario)

These are the German forces:
Company Headquarters
  Rifle Squad - Two
  MG 34  - One
  Sniper  - One
  80 Mortar  - One
  PZ IVH  -  One
  Stug IIIB  - One
  Two foxholes

 For my scenario I am adjusting the rules so that instead of drawing Battalion assets they are already assigned to each side. 

 I am going to use a six-sided die to randomly pick how many steps each unit has. On a three step unit 1-2 is one step, 3-4 is two steps, and 4-6 is three steps. The Germans in the scenario are only getting one headquarters and that is a Company one. This is to represent the breakdown in their command during the Falaise Gap Operations. The American four step units can only be setup up as one to three steps. This is to represent losses, but also their supply situation.

 This is just a hypothetical situation, so I did not create it with certain hexes or map areas in mind (except of course not using beach hexes). I would suggest that you give the German player as much of a terrain advantage as possible. I would also play the German side in solitaire. When playing with two people I would give the Americans to the lesser player, if there is one. I designed the scenario to have only four turns. This was to help offset the preponderance of troops on the American side. I added the die rolls for steps at the last minute after I played through the scenario a few times (I adjusted each side's steps a few times). I find that it now adds the chance for the Germans to be much stronger and the Americans to be weaker to add a good amount of fog of war to the scenario.

 I have played a little fast and loose with a few game rules. However, I have not changed anything in the actual game mechanics. It is too good a game to fiddle with those. As a preamble I am not talking about this game, but games in general. With board games you own them and can play and fiddle to your hearts content. If you find a rule that you feels skews the game or actually hurts game play, change it. The internet is also crawling with tons of house rules for almost any game. Of course, if you are always playing against people, make sure both of you agree to the change. You can sometimes turn a head turning rule into one that makes much more sense. I will step off the soapbox now. Thank you Columbia Games for the chance to review Combat Infantry, and to do this little walk through. I will be reviewing their games Julius Caesar and Pacific Victory in the near future.

 For all of you budding scenario designers, there is a contest right now that Columbia Games is holding for Combat Infantry Scenarios. The prizes are pretty large. While you are there, check out some of their other products. This is the link:

The box in all its American 2-2-0 glory. The Last Spike is a simple economic game that plays in about 45 minutes. That time is accura...

The Last Spike The Last Spike

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

Columbia Games

The box in all its American 2-2-0 glory.
The Last Spike is a simple economic game that plays in about 45 minutes. That time is accurate for your first game and if every one at the table is familiar with the rules the game still plays in about 45 minutes... The rules are one of the simplest I have come across, almost as light as a party game which is a little strange coming from Columbia Games. This game serves as a very basic introduction to railway games, economic games or block games, take your pick, but you're not getting a comprehensive induction to either of those genres by playing this. However, don't think I didn't like it either, I did and it's in my 'games to take to game group bag' from now on; read on for my thoughts.

I have had this game for months waiting for a review but every time I'd pull it down, or take it to a game group, it wouldn't get played because the box is not as attractive as games from a triple-A publisher like Asmodee, or FFG.  The game, or at least my attempt to play it with both of my gaming groups, almost became a bit of a joke so I pounced on some unsuspecting house guests, neither of whom are/were gamers for my first play.  Even my wife (Queen of the non-gamers, at least that's what it feels like to me!) played it and spoiler alert... everyone enjoyed it. 
The quiet early game
My wife even went so far to say that although she thought she would hate it, primarily because of the drab brown box it came in, she would definitely play it again; that's a massive two thumbs up from me.  My gaming group were reluctantly subjected to this game the week after, on my insistence, and we played with a full complement of 6 players, which the rule book advises is not the ideal number of players (3-5 being optimum) and no real slow down in play was noticed. 

Your turn consists of playing one of the four track tiles in your hand, buying a city card and refilling your hand of track tiles back up to four.  There are a few exceptions to this for example if a track connecting two cities is completed by your track, the city will pay out to every player who has bought the connected cities cards, i.e. invested in that city.  The end of the game immediately happens when a continuous route from Saint Louis to Sacramento can be traced. This action will also bequeath a $20,000 bonus to the player who place the eponymous 'last spike'. 
City Investment Cards
Each track piece can only be placed in a specific spot, indicated by the coordinate on the tile and the matching coordinate on the board, e.g. B3 or Z1 etc.  This allows you to play a little tactically by holding back pieces that you know your opponents are waiting for, although this does severely limit your own hand from 4 pieces to 3, and you have to balance your satisfaction from denying your opponents a big pay day, with limiting your own opportunities. I think the longest I've held onto some track, hoping to cause an opponents bankruptcy (it never happened) was about 6 turns. 

Talking of money, you start with $35,000 denoted by white red and blue wooden discs ($1, $5 and $10 respectively).  Although I described this as an economic game it doesn't ever feel like you're going to run out after that first pay day. I have seen a player down to $4,000 as they had heavily invested in one city (not recommended by the rules) and it hadn't payed out in the early game.  I would have like to see a slightly tighter economic game, especially at higher player counts - it never felt like money was an issue and by the end of the game every one is as rich as Croesus. 
The train-robbing end game
The winner is simply the person with the most money, bearing in mind the $20,000 bonus for laying the last spike, at the end of the game. The end-game is where this game is best. During the early stages of the game it doesn't really feel like you're doing much as the board is relatively empty and your track lays don't feel like they have much consequence; other than looking to see which Cities are most likely to pay out earliest. However, the end-game feels very different; by then everyone has a firm grasp on all the rules (achieved by the second round) and is attempting to work out how to be the last player and getting the $20K bonus.  This is largely down to the tile draw but delaying tactics can buy you some time and sometimes the game.

Unfortunately that end-game tension does not have an early game comparison. The beginning of the game feels more like a full on cooperative game with no 'take that' present, yet in the last 10 minutes the game morphs into a hybrid between all working towards the same goal and doing their upmost to crown themselves winner, or denying others that chance. 

"Hunky Chunky ... Game Blocks"
Some would see the very simplistic game play as a negative but this game (in terms of game play alone) went over very well with my family, my pseudo-non-gaming-but-will-humour-him-if-necessary friends and my game group. The one resonant criticism that those groups all had was the components. They criticised the board, the box and even the counters which I don't think is particularly fair, but it does highlight that I think this game would be most enjoyed by a non-gamer who will probably not be enticed by the aesthetic of this game. The tired-but-have-got-time-for-one-more-game type of gamer (I fit nicely into that category on game night), can easily overlook those criticisms and in fact would champion small publishers releasing interesting games that maybe don't have the production quality of the big hitters.

The blocks are the familiar nice and chunky size of those in a block wargame and I have no issues with the stickers or cards.  However, I'm not a fan of the money, although it does its job, unmarked denominations feels a but under-produced. The board and box are fine, nothing more, although maybe not what you would expect these days. However, as a small publisher, I would rather Columbia Games continue to publish games with solid game play like this, than waste their money trying to match CMON's latest Kickstarter.
The box slip cover
I was pleasantly surprised by this game, the game play is very easy to pickup, and is the perfect game to play either at a game group whist waiting for another table to finish up, or to introduce the very basics of train, economic or even block games to someone. There is variable game play, as you progress through the game it gets progressively meaner and there certainly are some interesting tactical decisions to be made later on. The components are a bit of a mixed bag, I really like the blocks, I didn't like the money discs, and everything else was perfectly fine.

I would like to thank Columbia Games for sending this review copy of the game and also send my apologies for taking so long to convince my friends to play it... Somehow I don't think it'll take so long to get it back to the table now that they've tried it.

You can still pick up a copy of this at many online retailers or direct from Columbia Games if you want to support a small independent board game publisher directly for $39.99 which I think is a very fair price for the amount of wood in the box. They also publish the rules on their website here.