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  Epic Battles by Historical Games Studio  This is a write up about the first game in the Epic Battles system by Donato Maglionico. The game...

Epic Battles by Historical Games Studio preview Epic Battles by Historical Games Studio preview

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



Epic Battles


Historical Games Studio

 This is a write up about the first game in the Epic Battles system by Donato Maglionico. The game and system looks to be a good one. It looks to be small enough for anyone to play and yet deep enough for us grognards.

 I have been playing at the historical simulation games and wargames since when I was a teenager.

I have been one of the founder of "Alea Iacta Est" a historical magazine which included a wargame designed by me. 

It has been the first Italian magazine that wrote about history and wargame. The wargames in AIE had carboard counters with rules also in English.

Epic Battles project was born from the wish to create a game system which can work well for any historical ages.

I made a great research work on historical sources studying books on tactics and military manuals written by both antique and contemporary authors.

I hoped to publish Epic Battles earlier, but the pandemic has been dramatically slowing down my plans and I had to weave again relationship with suppliers trying to handle the increasing costs of the raw materials.

Now Epic Battles prototype is ready and I hope to make it come true by way of crowdfunding that is going to start on kickstarter.

The official presentation at the Kursaal Center conference hall, San Marino May 6th 2023.

Epic Battles is the only wargaming rulebook that makes it possible to relive all the great battles fought from the dawn of history up to the beginning of the XX century, incorporating the development of tactics and weaponry throughout more than five thousand years of history.

In fact, the tactics the players will need to use to win the game are remarkably well aligned with the historical progress and limitations of the Armies that have written the course of history and with the terrain features of the battlefields on which they fought.

The rules - innovative to the world of wargaming - are intuitive, and easy to learn, understand and play - making any battle both a new and engaging experience.

Fornovo 1495

Setting up a game of Epic battles is really easy!

First of all, you have to select the battle you want to play from the historical booklet choosing one among the four proposals of Renaissance age.

The Scenarios’ booklet contains a short description of the historical background which the events took place. Each scenario also includes few special rules, provides the victory conditions, how setting up the terrain configurations on the map and how deploying the armies on the battlefield.

Once you assemble the game map, place on it the tiles that define the features terrain and, finally, deploy the armies. Now you are ready to start the battle.

In the volume of this wargame boxset, you are the Condottiero who has to lead his Renaissance army at the victory.

Close Combat

In Epic Battles you have to lead your army at the victory forcing the opponent's army at the withdrawal.

The core of your army is composed of combat units differentiated according to the tactical purpose they were used for and characterized by strength, combat value, morale, armour and manoeuvrability. In addition, some combat units may have superior skill to the average ones in the same class. This due to the specific training they have acquired.

Combat units sustain the bulk of the fighting, sometime they are asked to maintain a strategic position or, in others, to gain ground by pushing back the enemy.

They are organized in groups led by generals and typically they can move just by receiving orders from them. There are leaders who controls the units hierarchically and others who controls them directly, because there is not lower ranking general in their chain of command who can issue orders to that group of combat units. The geometrical shape and the colour strip on the counters of the combat units and leaders identify the group they belong to.

Information markers on the plastic stands of the game counters give the status of the combat units as well as the cohesion of the combat groups. Losses in the combat units strength also cause the reduction of the cohesion of the group they belong to.

You win as soon as a number of combat groups of the enemy army disband due to the casualties the combat units have suffered during the battle.

Scenario Booklet

Each game turn is divided in phases. Each phase may be divided in actions, or it may contain interrupts of the inactive player. Whenever a phase or action cannot be executed will be simply jumped.

Each game turn follows the following sequence:

1. Initiative

The players establish who has the initiative in that turn of game. Overall Commanders with the best command capability have higher probability to gain the initiative.

2. Number of orders available for each leader

The players roll the dice for the eligible Generals to determine the number of orders that each of them can issue. The number of orders a leader can issue in a game turn depends from his command capability. There are seven classes of command capability that go from incompetent general (the lowest) up to the legendary (the highest).

3. Spontaneous movements

The commanders inside the unit might issue an order as their personal initiative before a superior order comes. This represents the instinctive reaction of the combat unit due to the training received and it is triggered from something occurs on the battlefield.

Units that have moved as result of a sudden impulse without premeditation cannot move again neither if they receive orders from their generals.

For example, a colonel who lead an infantry line battalion could decide to deploy his men in square to resist at the incoming cavalry charge.

4. Command Activations and orders

The player who has gained the initiative decides if they want to activate one of own generals or letting that his opponent to do it. From that moment on, the two players take turn in the leaders’ activation up to all the generals have no more orders to issue.

The command activation starts when the activated leader issues an order and it ends as soon as the order is performed by the combat units.

The generals issue orders to the units moving them on the battlefield to engage the enemy. Combat units that have been charged from enemy might evade the charge if they are able to do it.

During the activation of a player, his opponent might try to steal the initiative to activate his general in his place.

5. Ranged Attack

The combat units equipped by ranged weapons that are not involved in a melee may target the enemy at distance or they might try to stop the enemy charge against them by the last volley of their weapons.

The effectiveness of attack depends from the ranged weapons of the attacking unit and from the protection of the target.

Each ranged weapon is characterized by rate of fire and piercing power. Higher is the rate of fire greater are the number of projectiles that reach the target while better is the piercing power better are the possibility to damage the target one time hit.

The morale of the combat units that are exposed for a long time to a ranged attack could be compromised and there is the risk that it could break down suddenly.

6. Disengagement from the combat

The combat units may try to disengage from a melee combat where they are involved if they are faster than those enemy. 

In this way, the light units that have moved close to the enemy to harass it by using long range weapons might attempt to avoid staying engaged in close combat whereas, heavy units involved in close quarters combat after attacking might decide to withdraw in order to crash with the enemy later in a series of violent waves.

7. Melee combat

The combats among the units will be resolved by area.

Once that has been defined the combat units engaged in a melee area each combat unit attacks only one enemy although it can defend from any attack. 

Combat units that are charged might try to stop the enemy charge against them by the last volley of their long range weapons with the risk, in this case, to be unprepared at the close combat if they do not have success.

The players identify if there are combat units that gain the impetus of the charge or which of them have a tactical factor superiority due to the effectiveness of the opposite weapons systems. Finally, the players establish how the terrain conditions the melee combat and if there are other tactical condition that affect the combat resolution. 

The combat units that have lost the area might be forced to do the cohesion test running the risk, if they fail, to retreat from the enemy.

The combat units that have won the melee might pursue the retreating enemy giving rise to a new fight that has to be resolved immediately.

The results on the involved combat units become effective as soon as all the foreseen actions in a melee area are solved. The combat phase ends when all the melee areas have been solved.

8. Reorganization, regroup and reorder

The units that have received an order of reorganization or regrouping might respectively recover their harmed morale or the ones in rout might try to rise their broken spirit coming back in fight. The eligible units recover a disorder point.

9. Update the time marker

The turn is over. The players move the time marker forward of 15 minutes.

Game Turn From The Battle of Fornovo

The game box includes:

Epic Battles Rulebook©, the only game system to live again all the historical battles up to the beginning of XX century. Cover artwork by Giuseppe Rava.

Scenario Booklet contains all you needed to play out four battles of the Italian Wars: Fornovo 1495, Agnadello 1509, Pavia 1525, Ceresole d’Alba 1544. Cover artwork by Paolo Maria Taddei.

93x65cm full-colour modular battlefield map. Hexagonal grid side 2 cm

full colour terrain tiles to ricreate the historical battlefield

199 full colour counters printed on both side (6,5x3,2cm). Generals portraits - Artworks by Paolo Maria Taddei. Warriors portraits - Artworks by Giorgio Albertini

Information markers (1,1x1,1cm)

full colour summary tables (Two folding out cardboards - 5 papers each)

50 plastic stands for counters in two colours

Time marker to mark the game turn.

10 Dice.

The Epic Battles map consists of a 24x18 hexes grid, it has been designed in modular blocks easy to assemble in order that even the huge battlefields could be obtained when the future expansions will come out.

Over the map the players will place the configurations tiles in order to define the terrain features where the battle was fought.

Epic Battles is the only rule system that makes it possible to live again the great battles of history, incorporating the development of the tactics and weaponry up to the beginning of the XX century.

Scenario booklet contains a short description of the historical background which the events took place as well an overview of the type of warriors who fought the Italian Wars. Each of the four proposed scenario includes few special rules in addition to how to set up the battlefield and deploying on it the armies.

Summary tables contain a short description of all the procedures used in the game making unnecessary to consult the rulebook every time. Indeed, the information you can find on them help the players in all the main phases of a turn making the game easier and faster.

Venetian Cavalry

The cardboard counters are printed on both sides, one side represents the front of the combat unit while the other is its back. In this way it gets a more realistic scene of the fighting on the battlefield and it is easy to identify the front from the rear of each unit. Put the counter into the base so that the picture portraying the front side is aligned with the vertical side of the base while its back with the oblique base side.  The oblique side of the plastic stand is used to carry the information regarding the current status of the combat units (their current strength and attrition points collected in the fightings) or the cohesion points of the combat group which that leader identifies.

The clock marks the historical time passing during the battle. Each game turn covers 15 minutes of real time. The scenario reports the time when the battle starts and ends. 

The first box set includes everything necessary to play four battles from the Italian Wars where the players put themselves in the shoes of the famous Condottieri who led their armies into the Italian battlefields during the Renaissance era. The four scenarios are the battles of Fornovo 1495, Agnadello 1509, Pavia 1525 and Ceresole D'Alba 1544.

The journey does not end there!

We have many other ideas to make this game even more remarkable and all this thanks to Epic Battles rulebook that is the unique framework of rules that covers five thousand years of history. One history, one rulebook to play the history!

Beside the initial box set, new scenarios will come that cover further historical eras. You could unleash the war chariots of the first civilizations or be at the head of the triumphant Roman legions. Moving forward in the time, you could order to your feudal knights to sweep out the enemy army or, why not, you could put the shoes of a Lieutenant Generals of the Napoleonic Wars who is in command of an Infantry Corps appointed to storm the enemy lines.

All these historical moments and even more can be simulated because Epic Battles rulebook allows to do that.

Soon the upcoming releases will allow to the players diving into the battlefields of all the ages and the next expansions will make to live again the greatest battles of the history as well. Indeed, the Epic Battles battlefield is modular, this allows to cover even the hugest battles just using more map tiles.

Stay tuned, the Epic Battles of the history are just started!

 Pavia,"All is lost save Honor" I cannot wait.

Historical Games Studio:

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Strategic Command WWII -- War in Europe Board Game Precursors Let's face it, certainly one of wargamers' most beloved si...

Strategic Command WW2 - War in Europe PC Game Review Strategic Command WW2 - War in Europe PC Game Review

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


Strategic Command WWII -- War in Europe

Board Game Precursors

Let's face it, certainly one of wargamers' most beloved simulations has been strategic command in World War Two, especially in the European theater. Some must admit cutting their teeth on Avalon Hill's 1974  Rise and Decline of the Third Reich or possibly its 1992 successor, Advanced Third Reich. In fairness, let's not forget Australian Design Group's 1985-2007 World in Flames series and also Decisions Games card-driven  Krieg! World War II in Europe and its successors in 1999 and 2011. Another recent entry that scores good marks is GMT Games' Unconditional SurrenderThere are other board-games. too, but these are those the reviewer finds deserving of memorable accolade.

That's Old DNA; Get on with the PC Stuff!

Fair enough, just giving a taste of where all this originally debuted. The purpose of this article is to review the most up-to-date PC title of the Strategic Command Series, the latest being released by Slitherine on November 17th, 2016. 

Interestingly, this is a PC game that has a development story of its own. Just like board game players, PC players want more detail, performance and better graphics as the years go by. 

These sequences are money-makers for the gaming companies and we don't begrudge this. Most recently, I had purchased the last version of this game from the previous publisher, Battlefront: Strategic Command WW2 Gold Bundle. Amazingly, just after that, Jason asked me to review games at A Wargamer's Needful Things, so before I had ever played this older version, I was in the thick of looking over Strategic Command, WW2 in Europe.

The original developer, Fury Software, has moved to work on with Slitherine/Matrix. Fury has been culturing this series since 2007 and have made a splendid choice to continue to do so with the new publisher. Fury's craftsmanship and TLC approach is enhanced in this new iteration of the game; I can attest through gameplay that you will see a devotional level of attention and detail.

Let's Take a Look at the Manual

Before you start your PC engines bent on terror and destruction of the AI enemy, you'll need to check out the gaming manual. The document has excellent structure and detail, so you won't get lost.

The thing is, the AI, even on the novice level, will put you through your paces and won't pull any punches. This is one game where you will want essential understanding regarding the mechanics of:  HQs, supply, morale, purchases, rebuilds, reinforcements, scripted events and combat mechanisms for land/air/sea. You'll find everything you need in the manual, and it's worth paying attention.
Trust me, you'll 'feel the need'!

This is a PC wargame with the complexity of Advanced Third Reich; you'll need to understand how the systems work, while the computer program takes care of the implementation. To put it another way: if you plunge into the game, as I did, with only rudimentary comprehension, the AI will spank you here, there and all over if you let it. I lost half the Kriegsmarine in the early parts of the game for lack of preparation, for example. 

Essential Elements in the Manual

Where to begin? The good news is the manual is comprehensive and well-organized; the bad news, if any, is that you can't afford to skip it. 
One of the first choices you'll make

One of your easier decisions is choosing unit icons: silhouettes or NATO? I started with the former but eventually switched to the less glitzy but more utilitarian NATO view (showing my age, no doubt). 

Note: there is a lot of information you'll be shown on these icons, and the symbol meanings are not immediately obvious. You'll need to refer to the manual to know why units are flashing or not, why some have white dots on them, etc. Honestly, I never mastered all of this while playing the game but I'm convinced it was detrimental not to have done. 
these predictions are very helpful but there's more to the story...

The reason I failed to explore the details thoroughly can be blamed on too-heavy reliance upon onscreen combat predictions to make decisions. Players familiar with Panzercorps (for a review, click herewill easily recognize this helpful, if not comprehensive, feature. 
A must read; put it alongside your copy of of Baron de Jomini

Keep in mind that combat is conducted by individual units. Therefore, to defeat an enemy unit, it's important to attack sequentially with powerful assaults. For example: medium bombers can first defeat entrenchment levels, tactical bombers (e.g. stukas) then reduce the strength of the enemy, panzer units attack twice to punch through, infantry armies attack more effectively than infantry corps, and so on. Since all hexes have a stacking limit of one for all types of units, organization on the ground is a major factor of success. For example, one infantry unit can attack, then move away and make room for the panzer unit to finish it off. I found the AI was very efficient at this ( esp. compared to me!). 
Don't skimp on the research funds or you'll find panzer IIs fighting Stalin tanks! 

Success is also dependent upon the research and level upgrades the player decides to purchase for unit types. There are a lot of decisions to make with difficult-to-foresee long-term impact on the game. When you do see it, it could be too late! 
There are plenty of detailed reference tables
Be mindful of your political aspirations then pony up!
Not only will you need to research for weapons, but other countries may or may not join you depending on how much money you spend to influence their direction. During my game, I was able to manipulate both Spain and Turkey into the war. The former was much more important to my Axis focus on the Western Allies as it enhanced the U boat war (easier repair and resupply) and set up the loss of Gibraltar thereby allowing my Italian fleet infiltrate into the Atlantic (Stay tuned for some images of the battle over Portugal!) 
Did you forget to read this? 

Yes, I did read the strategy guide and it's very useful to keep in mind, but the part I didn't read up on sufficiently was this:
These decisions are made throughout the game and significantly impact strategic direction

In the case of my game, I thought I had to figure out how to invade Norway with the Kriegsmarine; as a result, I lost a few ships before a decision announcement was made by the game that I could pre-pay for an invasion of Norway. 

Oh, really?? 

At first, I thought this was kind of hokey, because inevitably in most strategic games, the simulation of the Norway invasion is not a bright bulb in the design. 'Here we go again' crossed my mind. 

Later, I was sending stuff over for the invasion of Egypt when I received another strategic decision point, and was asked if I wanted to invest in the Africa Corps or not. I said 'dummkopf what does it look like I am doing' as I had send a panzer division, additional corps and other air units already! 

As it turns out, these are the game's mechanisms to simulate funding for alternative operations that you may not want to spend money on. 

Because I had loaded up on units in Africa, I swept the British from all of the middle east and with Spanish help, I took Gibraltar. On the negative side, Barbarossa wasn't so hot, due to my heavy investments in the U boat war, naval capabilities and efforts versus the Western Allies. The strategic choices are the player's to make, but don't think the AI won't do something to counter your decisions. Meanwhile, it's making decisions on special scripts as well!
It's a double feature!
Before going into examples of gameplay, I mustn't neglect to mention that the designers have provided a thorough guide on the ability to product your own simulations with their gaming engines. To be honest, I did not have time to fully explore this, but if this portion is anything like the rest of this high-quality product, I'm sure  MOD wizards will be very happy indeed!

Gameplay Analysis - Axis

Late 1940 Highlights

Readers, I started the analysis from late 1940 because there is plenty of coverage out there on how to handle the Axis for the Polish and French campaigns. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that transferring units across the front takes a lot longer than you might anticipate. Strategic operation is quite expensive and digs into the pocketbook every time it's used. So make sure to start marching those units in Poland back to France at the earliest opportunity because you'll feel yourself unprepared to launch an incisive attack on France. It took me too long to conquer both countries.
Occupied France

Early on, get used to making sure the partisan centers are occupied: compare above image with that below:
Partisan centers in France. Why these spots need to be occupied.  
U Boats 1940 
Late 1940: the U Boats start to prowl more freely once the French fleet is no longer a factor. Note how AI has sent some Light Cruisers in and were ambushed by the wolfpack. CLs aren't too bad against subs, but CVs and DDs are better. 

The U boat war is important for Germany. The player needs to get the subs out there using 'silent mode;' then, once on top of the (red) convoy lanes, put them in 'hunt' mode to sink the merchant ships. This is represented abstractly (as in most strategic WWII games) as loss of money (or MPPs). 

June 1941

North Africa. The Axis will go on to overwhelm Britain here, in spite of Colonial reinforcements

A lot of Axis units were placed in North Africa due to a scripted decision that brings in Rommel and buddies. As previously mentioned, I had already sent a bevy of  reinforcements as soon as Italy entered in mid-1940. All these assets proved too much for Britain and her Pacific allies -- but the AI put up a valiant fight.
Diplomacy: Germany invests heavily in Spain and Turkey; ultimately they both enter the fray! 

Malta had been a problem interdicting supplies to North Africa, consequently slowing down my attacks. In turn, an effort was made to bring Spain in, so as to cut off supplies to Malta.  Eventually, the Germans got close enough to Alexandria to have air units hunt down the British Fleet, and after a series of heavy battles with naval air units and the Italian navy, The British force was KO'd, including a valuable carrier. The Commonwealth forces put up a stiff fight and a lot of money points were spent repairing naval forces and sending reinforcements to the Africa Corps ground units. Consequently, none of that money made it to the Russian front. 

One note -- it's a bit too easy to repair fleet units. Even if down to one point, it takes just one turn (usually two weeks) to sail them to a port, one more turn to repair them to full capacity (depending on how close the port is to a full supply source or home waters) and then they are back in action at a full 10 strength points. Of all the systems in the game, the naval system seems to be the most arbitrary -- not that it isn't fun! That's the balance to be found -- boring naval battles or fun ones. A difficult design decision and I am not unhappy with how Fury has gone about doing this.
This strategic view shows the forces for Barbarossa and the mass of units serving Rommel!
Just before Barbarossa: above is the strategic view of the situation. Notice how the units icons are clearly indicated for each of the nations. Shown are German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian units on the East and Baltic fronts. A few Italian troops have made their way East.  The Russian are weak at start, but based on my experience, I hadn't enough quality German units facing the communist foe. You can see that The Italian fleet is cautiously positioned in the Taranto area.

1941 -- End of the Year

North Africa

Disaster in Egypt -- Demoralization for the UK

The U Boats

The small strategic dots in the water areas show U Boat packs threatening the commercial fleets of the Western Allies and convoys to Russia. Note that Spain has just entered the war. The Italian fleet is poised to enter the Atlantic. You can see  the weather areas, grey and white showing winter. 
Iberia with neutral Portugal and Axis Spain. 
Gibraltar will be taken and the Italian fleet unleashed! 

But in Russia....

Close approach to Moscow but that is as close as I'll get!

Due to lack of an HQ in the area (uselessly sent to Finland) I could not and never did capture Riga. It also took a long time to reduce Pripyat marshes, again, due to insufficient HQ support. The Germans needed at least two more HQs and probably about 10 more armies in Russia. But I had spent the money on U boats and North Africa. There are trade-offs, and the AI knows about them! 

September 1942 -- USA in the War

U Boats and Raiders terrorize the Atlantic

1942 started out grimly for the Western Allies. Readers can see the extent of U-Boat operations, including an Italian Caribbean raider in the lower left corner.

Italian and German surface fleets poised to intercept potential Allied operations in the area

Massive funds had been spent in the West and naval superiority (or at least parity) was achieved for the moment. But as a consequence, the war in the East is a bit frightening for the Axis because not enough effort has been devoted to handling that front properly. 

September 1942: Disorganized Germans pushed well back from Moscow and beyond Smolensk.

December 1942 -- The Hinge of Fate?

Stabilizing the Russian lines and fending off the invasion of Portugal!
Detail of bitter fighting in Iberia; Axis fleets searching for and finding Allied troop convoys: 
The Bay of Biscay is now known as Ironbottom Bay
The war in the East had started to resemble WWI fighting, with massive attrition casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, the Germans continue to send heavy forces to beat down the late 42 incursion into Portugal and Spain. Heavy tanks have been sent to counter USA armored corps in the south. But once again, the Germans fail to send enough HQs to the front -- evidently another will be needed in the south. Players need to take care of this -- supplies and support from nearby HQs can make all the difference. The Spanish performed poorly, even on home turf, until the Franco HQ was sent back from the Russian front in early 1943. 

April 1943

A good turn for Germany and friends!

1943 is a stabilizing year for the Germans as I finally get my act together on managing the Russian hoard, which is not to say they are fully leashed by any means. And in the West, some nice counterattacks sink the Hood and destroy some valuable American land forces. Note that this Combat Summary is received every turn something is destroyed -- of course, sometimes the news can be pretty bad!

More vicious fighting in Portugal. That carrier hovering north of Spain will be located next turn and sunk by wolfpacks returning from raiding the Atlantic! The Axis are able to cycle their naval units for repair in southern Spanish ports and specially built-up St. Nazaire in Brittany. This is devastating for the Western Allied AI as it struggles to get a foothold.

More Axis units fighting to control the channel. 
By now the WA have lost 5-6 carriers due to aggressive operations

In general, the AI does a fair job handling the naval units, but losses are a bit more random and dramatic than what is usually seen on land. Once the carriers expose themselves and fail to hide after some rounds of attacks, they are exposed to counterattacks by surface vessels or U boats in range. I'd say the AI suffered more than it gave in these battles. But it is fair to keep in mind that the Germans invested heavily in U boat numbers and repairs. Most definitely the Axis were fighting a western front strategy in this game. 

June 1943

WA invasion is in trouble. Many Western Capital ships have been lost. 
The WA can't get supplies or air units through,

Strong USSR forces can pound the minors. Romania is getting nervous! 

Gameplay Observations

Readers, due to time constraints and commitments, I needed to finish this review before completing the entire war, but I do feel as if I can make some valid observations about this fine computer simulation. 


First and foremost, the game and scripting (that is, decision events) build a sense of tension for the upcoming campaigns. Additionally, these provide some structure for novice players, such as myself. Note that I did play this on the novice level and felt sufficiently challenged by the AI. 

One could make the point that scripted events are also a kind of way for the designers to 'get away with' not simulating difficult aspects of the game. But this is not unusual in board games that cover the strategy of WWII. Norway is notoriously difficult to simulate. The designers decided to cover the invasion with an abstract decision to do so or not. If the German player decides to do it, the invasions of Norway and Denmark are automatically successful (don't waste time and resources doing a land campaign in Denmark like I did!). The same is true for a scripted decision -- or not -- to send Rommel to North Africa. While I haven't played the Allied side yet, I'm sure the same scripting is conducted in  various situations on their end. One I witnessed, that was not historical, was the British occupation of Irish ports to facilitate Atlantic operations. 

Finally, I must point out that one seriously enjoyable element of the game is how seamlessly intertwined game actions can be conducted. One can start moving around some subs, then move on to the east front, then make purchases or reinforcements, stop doing that and conduct diplomacy then come back to land attacks. Nothing is phased in any sort of rigid sequence of events. That's all handled by the program after the player pushes the 'end turn' key. 

Land, Air and Naval Systems

Obviously crucial to any simulation of WWII in Europe is how land maneuvers and combat are handled. The game avoids the mechanic of gathering forces for odds-based attacks, instead simulating combat as sequential attacks by individual units. I haven't made up my mind if I like this or not. It can be difficult to manage and predict how units are to be organized on the ground for an upcoming series of battle attacks to destroy enemy units for breakthroughs. My conclusion is that my inexperience is a factor. But not even the AI did much in the way of breakthroughs. Combat seemed to be more 'attritive' and 'WWI-ish' than what reminded me of the bulk of WWII maneuvering combat. Certainly, there were cases of attrition and stalemate in WWII, but I'd like to see that as more of an exception in this game. Perhaps with more experience playing, I would indeed be able to see more battles of encirclement than sequences of head-on attacks. 

The air war is simulated pretty well, but again, highly based on attrition and reinforcement. The sequence of how air attacks are handled is at first abstract and then later simply becomes a bit repetitive in how it is represented in a series of pop-up windows. More exciting would be a series of animation screens. 

The naval war simulation is likely to generate the most controversy. Naval units, like any other units, cannot stack. Therefore, it is impossible to represent the fleet as based in a single port, such as Scapa Flow or Taranto. One ship can be in a port, the others are going to be floating around at sea unless they find another haven. However, the fog of war makes up for this, as ships cannot be seen unless scouted by the enemy with air or other fleet units. And it can be a bad idea to get surprised at sea by running into a vessel, ambush is very possible. Personally, while I had my doubts about the naval system, in the end I rather enjoyed it. Moving a naval unit is fraught with tension! Will I discover an enemy carrier I can send my battleships after? Or will my sub run into a barrage of depth charges by finding a DD unit guarding the sea lanes? 

Overall, I'm very happy with the combat systems in the first playing of this game; I'm sure, as a newbie, I missed some very important nuances about all three forms of combat interactions. 

Production, Research and Diplomacy Simulation

These elements seemed to work well. Players should keep in mind that production is not immediate, nor are diplomatic results. The same is true for researching new capabilities. It's important to remember that for some research, the breakthroughs still require upgrading the units in the field to the better weapons! I definitely struggled with this trying to push to the East. You can't fight if you are upgrading and reinforcing. 

My only bone to pick with the game is that it's much too easy -- or seems so -- to reinforce naval units that have been severely damaged. They are back up and running withing a couple of turns, and this is simply not how quickly naval units can be refitted. I do think this is something for the developers to look at in the next go-round.

National Morale Level Simulation

Of all the elements, I found this the most murky. Perhaps I needed to read the manual on this in more depth. But why does Poland's morale stay on the display after it is conquered? Or France's? One thing the software does mostly well is get rid of or hide unnecessary data,  but not so this. Also, when your national morale level is, for example, 99,248, then a player gets an additional 300 +/- morale for sinking the Hood, well, so what?  It's shruggable. Why 300? Why not 1000? Plus the game doesn't tell you how much morale the British have lost by losing the Hood. This is one simulation area that could use a bit of fleshing out to become more meaningful for the player. 

Recommendation for Purchase

By all means! Especially if you enjoy strategic simulations of WWII, you won't be disappointed and the game feels as if it is highly re-playable. Take note that there is a more than moderately steep learning curve for this PC game. The manual is digestible, but not in one reading. This is a game that will take time to master, especially until multi-player is available (enabling teaching situations). Right now the quickest way to learn the game is to play it, in spite of the helpful videos out there. There is that much to take in, so if you are looking for beer and pretzels, this might be a bit much. Otherwise, enjoy the banquet! 

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Players Edition & Reforged DLC Review   I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm not...

Flashpoint Campaigns and Reforged DLC Review Flashpoint Campaigns and Reforged DLC Review

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Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Players Edition & Reforged DLC Review

I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm not long after it was first released. Though I'm not normally into modern warfare, I am massively into the WEGO mechanic. For those unfamiliar with this term, I'll explain. For years, most wargames followed the IGO/UGO mechanic, mainly because [pre digital wargames] IGO/UGO was the only way to be able to play a wargame between two players. Though some games did vary it a bit with initiative and impulses, on the whole one player moved/fired etc and then the other player would do likewise, hence I GO - U GO.  

However, wargames on a computer opened up whole new possibilities when it came down to wargame mechanics. So, we saw wargames played out in 'realtime' where the clock kept going and players (or yourself and the AI) simultaneously made their move; games like Close Combat followed this path. Also you still had wargames using the old IGO/UGO mechanic right up to this day.  In fact, it's still the most used mechanic. Then, along came Combat Mission with its WEGO mechanic. Here you and your opponent, be it another player or the AI, plot your moves and once happy and you've both clicked for the next turn the game would then, like a movie clip, play out in front of you for 1 minute as you watch, biting your finger nails, your pixeltruppen follow your plotted moves.

I fell in love with this mechanic there and then. I loved the tension it creates, plus in Combat Mission you could replay the turn as often as you like from all angles, so you'd never miss out on any action, unlike realtime games where you could miss out on all sorts as you're dealing with something across the map. So from then on, any game using the WEGO mechanic instantly gets my attention. IGO/UGO at lower scales feels a bit forced, REALTIME too fast and can end up a clickfest, where as WEGO fits the bill perfectly. This is why I purchased Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm. A purchase I certainly don't regret.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm is set during the Nineteen Eighties and the Cold War has gone HOT! The game is kind of a sequel, but more a major upgrade of a previous game called Flashpoint Germany, a wargame published by Matrix back in 2005 (whose scenarios became Red Storms DLC. See later in the review). The game features 20+ scenarios, in which you can play as either the NATO side, whose forces consist of USA, UK and West German, or play as the WARSAW pact  commander Soviet forces. Plus there are four campaigns, that's right FOUR campaigns, giving you the chance to play as one of the NATO nations or as the Soviets. In the campaign you have a 'core' force which gets carried over from one mission to the next, getting repaired and replenished between each scenario. You also get 20+ maps of central Europe, mainly focused on Germany and based on real world data.

 As mentioned at the beginning, the turn mechanic is WEGO with a very clever twist. The turn length all depends on your nations command, control and communication ratings which can be affected by electronic warfare and casualties. This is called your command loop and a major feature of the game is to get in your enemy's command loop, which means you can react more quickly, as you get the chance to issue more orders than the enemy.

NATO has the upper hand from the get go here. So, for instance, you as the NATO player have a 12 minute loop; this means twelve minutes of game time will move forward until you get the chance to issue orders again. Now, at the same time, the WARSAW pact player may have a 30 minute command loop and so has to wait thirty minutes. This means the NATO player has had two opportunities to move before the WARSAW pact player gets his second chance. As I'm sure you can see, over the many hours a scenario usually plays out in, this can have a massive effect on the outcome. Nail biting stuff!

The game has an extensive TOE for all sides based on their real life eighties counterparts. Add in dynamic weather, counter battery fire, air strikes, helicopters, mines, fortifications, obstacles, recon units, active FOW and NBC unit capability. Now why have NBC capability? I'll tell you why, not only does it have chemical weapons, there are also tactical NUKES!! That's right Nukes! Sounds like overkill..well I'll tell you this, the first time I nuked I still lost!!

I found the UI to be very good indeed. The player has lots of info at his fingertips and issuing orders is straight forward. The game has lots of player options that can affect the actual game and its difficulty or let you change the colour of things, like fire lines and unit highlight box etc etc. It's all well thought out and you can see the devs have really given some thought about the UI and what different players may want and so have given you the tools to change certain things to fit your taste. In fact, going further, the game is also mod friendly and if you check the forums you'll find lots of mods and user made scenarios out there, even ones set during WW2 or the swinging sixties! At the end of a scenario you get an AAR which breaks down how each unit performed, as well as issuing out awards to those units that stood out during the battle. I love this kind of immersion\chrome.

Now I loved the game and not that long ago to coincide with the release of its DLC a huge update came out upgrading the game to 'The Players Edition'. This update improved all aspects of the game and is the version you'll purchase if you buy the game today (It's actually just had another major update which adds a host of new features for instance a new Intel Map screen). Now I do have some quibbles with the game. I've always been suspicious of how units can spot and shoot each other across city hexes, plus I find at times Infantry could be a bit more difficult to kill, though it's a lot better in this respect than many other wargames out there where infantry are just endless canon fodder. Some of the issues raised in the forums will, the developers say, be ironed out in the next game/expansion in the series, Southern Front. Southern Front will, as the title suggests, cover the fighting further south. There is also talk of a WW2 game (yes please) at some point in the future.

I truly feel Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm will go down in wargame history as a classic of its time. I have no hesitation recommending it to all wargamers. So go read the forums and make that purchase!

As mentioned further back Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm has a daddy and the daddy was called Flashpoint Germany. Red Storm is bigger and better than its father but the scenarios its daddy packed where just too good not to upgrade with all the bells and whistles Red Storm can bring to the table. So to rectify this along comes Flashpoint Campaigns: Germany Reforged

The expansion includes 17 new scenarios plus 43 different variations with the original Flashpoint Germany maps totally redone for Red Storm. Not only do you get the four maps from Flashpoint Germany, you also get a brand new, extra large, map 'Eiterberg' - it's nearly twice as big as all other maps, so the player can create some huge battles.

If you love Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm then buying the expansion Flashpoint Campaigns: Germany Reforged is a no brainer.