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  The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele   The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legio...

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele

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


 The Grass Crown



  The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legion or the entire army. Some of the Romans honored with it are: 

Quintis Sertorius

Scipio Aemillianus

Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Felix)

Publius Decius Mus (received two Grass Crowns)

 The Grass Crown continued through the whole of the Republic to be thought of as the greatest achievement of a Roman. That is, until it was sullied and thrown in the mud when it was given to Octavian for being Caesar's heir or throwing up the most in his tent during a battle (sorry, just a bit bitter). This is why Hollandspiele chose the name The Grass Crown for their second game in the 'Shields and Swords Ancients' series. The Grass Crown is about battles during the Roman Republic.


 This is what comes with the game:

17" x 22" Mapsheet

(3) Countersheets

28-page Rulebook

12-page Battle Book

A Brief and Digressive (But Mostly Accurate) Military History of the Roman Republic, With Jokes, a 28-page supplement

(2) eight-sided dice

 This is the Hollandspiele write up about the game:

"This second game in the Shields & Swords Ancients series recreates ten battles spanning nearly three hundred years of Roman history. As was the case with the first game, With It or On It (2019), The Grass Crown is a fresh, innovative taken on familiar material. The primary unit of maneuver is a "Wing" which itself consists of ten or so individual counters. Losses can be resolved by flipping the individual unit that was attacked, or by flipping any unit adjacent to it. Unrelenting pressure in the right places can prompt a Rout Check, causing the line to collapse. As the result of a single attack, multiple units can find themselves in your dead pile.

This simple but compelling theme sees many variations thanks to special rules that chart the evolution of Roman warfare, and contrasts them with the rigid Greek Phalanx, the sophisticated army of Hannibal, and the ferocity of the Gauls.

The ten battles are: Heraclea, Asculum, Trebbia, Zama, Pydna, Second Citra, Vercellae, Pharsalus, Thapsus, and Munda."

The three counter sheets

 So, we have two battles with Romans against Pyrrhus. Then two with Romans versus Hannibal. The next two battles are of Romans versus Jugurtha in North Africa, and then against the Cimbrians. The group of ten is rounded out by three battles of Caesar versus the Republicans (Pompey, and Cato etc.). I understand the choice of battles, but I would have preferred to have one where Sulla is in charge and not just an underling to Marius (wow, that puts a bad taste in my mouth). The battles show the Roman Legions against a wide variety of different enemies. They face phalanxes, barbarians, and then other Romans, with various allies. I would also have liked to have Magnesia in the group, but it is essentially another battle against phalanxes. The game is also setup like the almost fifty year old SPI PRESTAGS games. Meaning, that with some reading you can come up with forces to play out any battle you want from these eras. 

 The components are your typical Hollanspiele ones. This means that we are going more for functional, rather than pieces of artwork. The map is a terrain free green one, made up of squares instead of hexes (more on this later). The counters are large at 9/16", and are both color and alphabetically coded. They are not 'busy' at all, and are very easy to read. The Rulebook is twenty-eight pages long and the insets are in color. The Battle Book is twelve pages long, and has the setups for the different battles. The last page of both the Rulebook and the Battle Book has the Sequence of Play, Combat Results Table, and other reference material. The Military History of the Roman Republic is twenty-eight pages long and is worth the price of the game alone. The illustrations in the book were done by John Leech (1817-1864). He was known for his work in the magazine Punch. They were originally used in the book 'The Comic History of Rome' published in 1851. They, and the writing, are hilarious. While the author, Amabel Holland, has her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek, it is nonetheless an accurate history. I read a history book of Rome by Isaac Asimov, and it is just as informative and entertaining as his book was. The components are all up to snuff. So, what about the game itself?

 As was mentioned, this is the second game in the 'Shields & Swords Ancients' series. After a while I fell in love with the first design. The non-use of hexes threw me at first, but it made a ton of sense in the end. You cannot expect phalanxes, or legions, to operate as 21st century skirmishers. 

  The first game, 'With It or On It', was about battles in Greece before Alexander the possibly Great. So, besides two battles that had the Persians in them (Plataea and Marathon) it was phalanx versus phalanx battles. The designer explains that the rules had to be increased for this game because of the difference between battlefield tactics and changes compared to the older battles in the first game. This game does show the growth and change that took place in the legions between the time period shown. Marius's Mules are much more competent and deadly than the Roman Armies faced by Pyrrhus, and possibly Hannibal. Rome was an eclectic society one all levels. Be they Gods, or battlefield tactics. The manipular legion though can be placed at the feet of Roman intellect, and it enabled them to rule most of the known world. 

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. Command Phase

2. Action Phase

    a, Skirmish Phase

    b. Rally Phase

    c. Move Phase

    d. Combat Phase

3. Victory Phase

4. Initiative Phase

  There is way more to this game than meets the eye. When you first open the box, you might be thinking that this is a beer & pretzels game. In no way, shape, or form, is this one of those. One of the best things about the scenarios and the rules is that you can see the progression of Roman battlefield tactics, and their actual formations. I absolutely love it when a game can teach a player something. This does not mean that the game is just a boring rendition of history. There is just enough friction of war put into the mix to make the battles seem fresh each time. I admit I am a sucker for anything that games the Macedonian phalanx against the Roman legion. This game lets you play out those encounters to see the strength and weakness of each of those formations.

 One of the many innovative rules deals with 'brittle' units. When checking in combat if a unit receives an exhausted result the owning player must turn one of his units, or that one, to its reverse side. If it has two stripes, it is a brittle unit and is immediately eliminated. Just when things seem to be going your way a bit of friction will reduce you to a Nervous Nellie.

 I want to say thank you very much to Hollandspiele games for letting me review this, and other, games. I want to especially congratulate Amabel Holland for her design acumen and her sense of humor. This series of games is a must own for anyone who has the ancients bug. I see on BGG that an expansion is already planned with more battles and different units. Please take a look at all of their games, but especially the 'Horse & Musket' series. You will find many battles that have never been gamed before.




The Grass Crown:

The Grass Crown – Hollandspiele

With it or on it:

With It Or On It – Hollandspiele

With It Or On It by Hollandspiele "With it or on it". This is what Spartan mothers would tell their...

With it Or On It by Hollandspiele With it Or On It by Hollandspiele

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


With It Or On It



"With it or on it". This is what Spartan mothers would tell their sons, meaning bring back your shield or die on the battlefield. This is an excellent name for a tactical battle game based in Ancient Greece. Quite a few games have tried to recreate hoplite warfare for the wargamer. Let us see what is in the box:

17" x 22" mapsheet
176 counters
8-page rulebook
16 page Battle Book
1 eight-sided die

 As usual, minimalism is the key word when describing a Hollandspiele game. This one seems to have more counters than their other games, but that is the only thing that differs. The counters are large at 5/8", and the artwork on them is workmanlike. They are done in a manner that makes it easy to distinguish the different types of units. Speaking of the units, there are only four different types. These are:

Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Light Horse

 You will notice the absence of archers, slingers, and javelin men. This is a design decision that we will get into shortly. The map is as plain as plain can be, and it is made up of squares, not hexes. There is also absolutely no terrain at all except clear hexes. The rulebook is only seven pages long with the CRT etc. on the back page. The Battle Book is larger, and is filled with the background history of the battles and the setups for each of the scenarios.  The historical write up about the background history and the battles is well done. These are the battles that are included:

Marathon 490 BC
Plataea 479 BC
Tanagra 457 BC
Olpae 426 BC
Delium 424 BC
Mantinea 418 BC

 You will notice that these battles are either from the Greco-Persian Wars or early in the Peloponnesian War. This game is designer Tom Russell's first game in the Swords and Shields II ancient series. Swords and Shields I was based on battles from the Middle Ages. 
This is the sequence of play:

1. Command Phase
2. Action Phase
  a. Skirmish Phase(s)
  b. Rally Phase
  c. Move Phase(s)
  d. Combat Phase
3. Victory Phase
4. Initiative Phase

 Now to the rules; these are exceedingly short and sweet, but a bit deceptive. The rulebook, although well written, has no examples of play. The game mechanics are so different from other ancient games that at least one or two would have been a good addition to the rulebook. Mr. Russell has done some very good videos about the game, and there will be links below. These were a godsend. Remember the lack of skirmishers? Well the design decision behind that is they are actually present on the battlefield, but not actually represented by cardboard units. All units have a skirmimish zone that extends three hexes in front of them. So when your troops enter the skirmish zone they must stop and take die rolls against their exhaustion (exhaustion is used instead of casualties in the game). Your command decisions, movement, rally, and combat are all given to your separate 'Wings'. These are units that are color coded the same. These are the commands that can be used for each wing:


 As you can see, you cannot move and initiate combat at the same time. The Strategos counter allows you to give one command for all of your wings. This however lowers your Rally Limit by one (each scenario has a Rally Limit listed for each side to begin with). The Bonus counter gives you a few different pluses, from combat to rally. Leaders are also handled quite differently from the norm. In each scenario, both sides are given a set amount of leaders for each wing. Thus, the player knows how many leaders he has in a wing. However, during setup the leader side of the counter is put face down, and the player sets up not knowing where they are. When a unit is picked by the player to suffer exhaustion due to the CRT, the counter is then flipped over to its obverse. At this time you might find that it just suffers losses, or routs (it was brittle to begin with), or find a leader underneath. I will quote from the rulebook on the rule for elimination and rout:

 "9.5 Elimination & Rout Units that are Eliminated are removed from play, scoring Victory Points (VP) for the opposing player; the opposing player should group these Units off to the side of the map in whatever way makes it convenient for them to keep count. If a Revealed Leader is Eliminated, its side's Rally Limit is reduced by one.
 Whenever a player's Unit or Leader is Eliminated as a result of Combat, it immediately triggers a simultaneous Rout Check for all Foot Units (not Horse) in all of that player's Wings. Units that fail the check are Eliminated; Units that pass the check are not.13 Units Eliminated via a Rout Check do not themselves trigger another Rout Check, but if multiple Units are Eliminated as a result of Combat, multiple Rout Checks will be triggered.

 To pass a Rout Check,  it must be adjacent to at least two friendly Units in the same Wing, or  it must be adjacent to at least one friendly Unit in the same Wing, that itself satisfies the first condition."

 So if you have a unit by itself that is eliminated (through exhaustion or poor play), it can take a whole slew of other units with it. This is a part of playing that seems very historically accurate, but is also extremely troubling for the player in question.

 I was fully prepared not to like the game, and in reading the rules I really didn't see how they could actually work. I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that they actually do work and the results seem to match history. I am not saying the battles all play out the same way, but the results seem to fit with the history we know about these battles, especially the fact that one minute you have a line of infantry and the next a routed wing. Thank you Hollandspiele for letting me review another great game. For those of you who may be put off by the lack of hexes, no terrain, and skirmishers please look at the rules and watch the videos. You might be as surprised as I was.

Here are the links to the games and videos:

With It Or On It:

Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele    "Hail, Antony's Legions". Thus began a fif...

Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele

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


Antony and Cleopatra



 "Hail, Antony's Legions". Thus began a fifty plus year love of Ancient Rome, and then all of Ancient History. It also started a love of brunettes, but I digress. Was Antony so besotted with love that he lost all of his strategic and tactical sense? Was Actium inevitable or just a fluke? Hollandspiele has allowed us to kick Octavian's butt (we don't use that other name, he is always Octavian). Enough about the history and brunettes, how is this new game?

 This is what comes with the game:

  • (1) 22" x 34" map
  • (88) 5/8" counters
  • 12-page rulebook
  • 4-page Player Aid
  • 2 Player Display Sheets
  • 20 Province Cards
  • 1 six-sided die

 If you have been following the blog you will know that I love Hollandspiele's games, especially ones designed by John Theissen. His games have a small footprint as far as counters go. However, even with a small amount of counters he is still able to give the player a multitude of choices, both strategic and tactical. This game is no exception to the rule. 

 The map is not overly colorful, but I really like it. It has large hexes to help with the amount of counters which could be in one of them. The counters are your standard Hollandspiele's fare. Not the prettiest, but totally useful? The cards are very well done and the most artistic of the components. The rulebook is in black and white. It is set up very well and is easy to read and understand. Setup is easy.

 This is the sequence of play:

Each side adds up their respective Resource Points. The higher total is the first player.

Random Events Phase
 A. Storm Check
 B. Invasion Check
First Player Turn
Second Player Turn

This is a Player Turn:
A. Reinforcement Phase
B. Defection Phase
C. Movement Phase
D. Combat Phase
E. Attrition Phase

 The Western Player also has a Phase called 'Troubles Phase'

The Combat Phase has these Phases:
1. Attacker Declaration
2. Retreat Before Combat
3. Odds Calculation
4. Combat Results Table
5. Losses, Retreats, And Advances

 The only rule that I have a problem with is this one. Both Antony and Octavian give a favorable shift in Land Combat. For Antony it's totally understandable. Octavian couldn't tell one end of a pilum from the other. If anything, troops commanded by him should get a minus shift. Agrippa gives a favorable shift for Naval Combat for the Western Player.

The Western (Octavian) starts with eight 'Experienced' legions, with three more as first turn reinforcement. The Eastern (Antony), starts with six 'Experienced' legions, with one as a first turn reinforcement. However, the Eastern player also has four regular legions at the start. The Western Player can also reinforce his troops with eight experienced legions from the Off-Map Garrisons. If the amount of legions Off-Map goes below eight, the Western Player has a 'Troubles' Phase. This represents invasions or rebellions that occur Off-Map. If either of this happens the Western Player cannot take any more Off-Map reinforcements until the Off-Map number of 'Experienced' legions reaches eight again. The naval might of the Eastern player is pretty daunting for the Western player. These are the separate naval forces:

Western Player

Light Squadrons - six

Transports - one

Eastern Player

Heavy Squadrons - six

Light Squadrons - two

Transports - three

 So you can see that the Eastern Player can effectively strike where he wants to. It takes two turns to build Squadron reinforcements, all other units only take one turn.

 The game plays and feels very historical. You do not feel that you are moving troops and ships from a generic point in time. The game is won by Prestige Points. You gain or lose points by losing/winning battles or if your capital is captured. If you or the other player has five or more points than the other player, the higher player can try to cause the lower players troops or a province of his. This is something that happened frequently in all of the Roman Civil Wars.

 I am very impressed with the game. The player is given so many choices in the game. Offense, defense, what do you choose? If you do play badly or are getting bad rolls, it is hard and takes a good player to pull your irons out of the fire. Thank you, Hollandspiele for letting me review a great game on one of my favorite subjects. Now, get to work on the Civil War between Sulla and Marius. Of course, I will take Pompey Magnus versus Caesar (it is so hard to write that name).


Horse & Musket Volume III: Crucible of War by Hollandspiele  This is the third volume in the Horse & Mus...

Horse & Musket Volume III: Crucible of War by Hollandspiele Horse & Musket Volume III: Crucible of War by Hollandspiele

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



 This is the third volume in the Horse & Musket game series. The first, 'Dawn of an Era', is needed to play the series (the second volume is 'Sport of Kings'). As with every Hollandspiele game I have played, minimalism is the key word. Don't think that this means that game play is compromised; it's far from it. The minimalist approach means that instead of a fifty to sixty page rulebook, you get only the real meat in these wargames. 

 The game is a tactical one that gives the players various battles from the 'Age of Reason'. In this instance, the battles start in 1755 at Monongahela in North America , to 1762 at Freiburg in 1762. As you can guess the main subject is the Seven Years War. A few of the battles take place in North America, but most take place in central Europe. The exception would be Plassey on the sub-continent of India. The game comes with the following:

An updated set of Scenario Special Rule cards
A sheet of counters with new units and markers
Volume III specific Player Aid with charts

 The markers that are unique to Volume III include 'Woods markers', 'Fortified Town', and 'Square markers'. 

 The game components are just like every Hollandspiele game I have played. They are fully functional, but are not the fancy hand drawn maps etc. that sometimes come with games from the Age of Reason. The map is a blank slate that you add tiles of water, woods, and towns etc. to. The colors are muted, but still pleasing to the eye. The counters are a bit different. These have vibrant colors, and the portraits of the commanders are first rate.The counters themselves are very well made and seem thicker and sturdier.

 The new additions/revised rules for this volume take up just about a full page. These include:

Delayed Bayonet Charge
Movement Cadence marching
Artillery Fire Vs. Charges

 These are the Optional Rules that can be used with Volume III:

Nationality Rules (use these from Volume III, and not the ones that came with the earlier games)
Volley Fire

 This is the sequence of play:

1. Player A rolls and determines random action points available to the command action points and stored action points for his total.
2. Player A spends his action points one at a time and performs allowable actions in any order he wishes.
3. Check victory
4. Player B rolls and determines random action points available to the command action points and stored action points for his total.
5. Player B spends his action points one at a time and performs allowable actions in any order he wishes.
6. Check victory
7. End turn - move turn marker ahead one space on the turn record chart and go to Step 1.

 As you can see, the game play adds the fog of war to both sides with the random action point rolls. The player must also consider when and where to actually spend theses points. Do you wait and see how your defense is holding up on this turn, or do you start your counter-attack now? Like all great wargames the Horse & Musket series does a stellar job of putting the player in the shoes of the generals from this time period. The game also has enough chrome to make you believe you are fighting in the 18th century and not a stamped out WWII era game with different names for the units. 

The leaders Montcalm, Wolfe, Friedrich der Grosse, Daun, and the battles of Leuthen, Kolin, Minden are all here along with a great many more. To see what I mean about the minimal approach, let us look at the Battle of Leuthen. This battle was one of the larger ones from this time. The Prussians have only eight pieces on the board, not counting leaders. The Austrians have a total of thirteen counters that you to have to order around like a good cardboard general. So, just like all of Hollandspiele's games the player can concentrate on his strategy, and not his manual dexterity. The battles of the Prussians against the Russians are my favorites. 

  Hollandspiele is a relatively new company, but it already has a large catalog of games for many tastes, from straight wargames to political simulations. They have quickly become one of my favorite publishers and a big thanks to them for letting me review this volume of Horse & Musket.

 Here are the links to the other volumes:


Campaign of Nations by   Hollandspiele    It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles ...

Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele

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



  It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles earlier in the year, Lutzen and Bautzen. Both were empty victories for the French, having almost no cavalry. What cavalry they did have was mounted on any nag the French could find. The Allied had a large amount cavalry and they were well trained and mounted. Napoleon had agreed to armistice after Bautzen was fought. During that time the Prussians and Russians, with English money, had brought Austria and Sweden into the war. The Allies had also come up with a new plan: to run away like Monty Python from a battle with Napoleon, but to always keep moving forward in other areas and attack his Marshals. That is enough of the history. What about the game?


Rule Book

  I must admit up front that I am a fanatic about the 1813 campaign. Napoleon in Italy or Austerlitz, ho hum, but give me Lutzen, Bautzen, or Dresden and I am in wargaming heaven. So this game had better be good.


 Hollandspiele as a company has a policy of minimalism with its games. Not for lack of resources, it just seems to be their modus operandi. Designer John Theissen fits right into this way of thinking. I have played and reviewed his 'More Aggressive Attitudes', and it is a study in minimalism. To be a good wargame, you do not need to have a monster map and a thousand counters. What you need is a good background in the history of the campaign/battle and a rule book that reads well and makes sense. 

Victory Point Cards

 The game comes with:

  • 22" x 17" map
  • 88 counters
  • 27 Event Cards
  • 8-page rulebook
  • 1 six-sided die

 This is the sequence of play is:

1. Movement
2. Combat
3. Disruption Recovery
4. VP Check
 The French player always goes first.

 The Combat Phases are these:

1. Retreat Before Combat
2. Concentrate Forces
3. Reveal Combat Units
4. Coordination Check
5. Combat Odds Ratio
6. Combat Results Table Die Roll
7. Casualty Table Die Roll
8. Defensive Works Table Die Roll
9. Apply Results


CRT Etc.

 The Event Cards add some great flavor and turning points in the game. These events include:

Safe March 
Turns of Rest
Austrian Reorganization

 The game is won by winning battles, and by taking victory cities/hexes.

 The minimalism of Hollandspiele is noticeable in the map also. It is highly functional and easy to read, but is simple. The counters follow in the same vein. They are easy to read with NATO symbols, so the player has no trouble distinguishing them from one another.

Main Part Of The Map

 If the game is missing anything, it would be the first part of the 1813 campaign. The slightly different rules from the earlier game are to simulate Napoleonic Warfare. I believe that they work very well.  Playing as the French, you have to try and catch one of the enemy armies and destroy it and then the others. Playing as the Allies, stick and move until you can bring the French bear to tree. I have reviewed several Hollandspiele games, and to be truthful it is hard for me to pick a favorite. Going only by the content I think it might be this game, although Horse and Musket also grabs me because of the content. Thank you Hollandspiele for the chance to review another great game.

 This is the link to the Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era review:

 This is a link to the 'More Aggressive Attitudes' review:

 These are both excellent games. More Aggressive Attitudes is about the campaign of Second Bull Run. Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era is a compilation of European battles from roughly 1690-1720. All of the favorites are here: Poltava (BOO), Narva (YAY), Malplaquet, Blenheim, and many others. Hollandspiele is a small company whose games are very good and they are also priced well. So, do yourself a favor and look them up. Their catalog is growing all the time.