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Serbia '14 by John Tiller Software    Serbien muß Sterb i en (Serbia must die), this was the jingo phr...

Serbia '14 by John Tiller Software Serbia '14 by John Tiller Software

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

John Tiller Software

Serbia '14


John Tiller Software

 Serbien muß Sterbien (Serbia must die), this was the jingo phrase the Austro-Hungarians used in 1914. Conrad von Hötzendorf, the head of the Austro-Hungarian Army was responsible for all of the calamities that his own army suffered. His plan in 1914 was to crush both Russia and Serbia almost at the same time. The AH 2nd Army was to help with the Serbian invasion and then jump on trains and become part of the invasion of Russia. In actuality it gave almost no help in the Serbian invasion, and then was too late to stem the Russian tide. The Serbian invasion was considered to be a walkover by the AH Army. Unfortunately for them, it was an unmitigated disaster. The next two attempts by AH to invade Serbia ended almost exactly the same way. It was not until late 1915, and then with German help, that Serbia was finally conquered. So this is the background for the game. This is what you get in your handy little megabyte package:

"28 stand alone scenarios, 4 campaigns to choose from, as well as 4 "Grand Campaign" scenarios designed to play with France '14 and East Prussia '14.

Battles include:

Mount Cer
Syrmia Offensive
Macva Peninsula
Mount Jagodnja
Serbian offensive in Bosnia
Mackov Kamen
Drina Stalemate
Romanja Planina
Kolubara (the full battle, as well as separate A-H and Serb offensive phase scenario)
1st Beograd
2nd Beograd (1915)
Pozarevac (1915)
Timok (1915)
Bulgarian invasion of Macedonia (1915)
Krivolak (1915)
Kragujevac (1915)
Kosturino (1915)

Campaign scenarios consist of:

The 1st Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia (102 turns)
The 2nd Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, which includes a simultaneous Serbian invasion of Syrmia (131 turns)
The 3rd Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia (319 turns)
The massive 4th Austro-Hungarian and German invasion of Serbia (389 turns), which includes forces from Austro-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian forces against Serbian, Montenegrin, Russian, British and French forces.
A bonus small campaign/large battle scenario covering the ill fated Serbian invasion of Bosnia to "liberate" Sarajevo, which occurred between 2nd and 3rd Austro-Hungarian invasions of Serbia (278 turns)
Three Grand Campaign scenarios designed to be played along with Grand Campaigns scenarios for France '14 and East Prussia '14, which are intended to establish context and allow the player influence the outcome of the war across many different scenarios (102 to 389 turns)"

 Clicking on the pictures will enlarge them, and the info will be displayed in the upper left hand corner.

 There is not much to say about the above, except the usual exclamation used with a John Tiller game: Wow! With many games, board or computer, you would get one campaign to play out. The lists of them in a JT game is nearly endless.

 I am very late again with a review for a John Tiller Software game, but you have to realize it is all their fault. Oh, I could play a turn or two of the smallest scenario and say that I have played the game enough to do a review. Of course, I would be lying. Even though I have played the game a lot it still doesn't mean that I have even scratched the surface of it. When wargamers are looking to get the most bang for their buck, you could do no better than picking up any Tiller Software title. The other thing that Tiller Software does is lie. Look at this title, it says Serbia '14. So, you would think that you were getting only the battles and campaigns of 1914 in Serbia, when in actuality you are getting the entire campaigns and battles for Serbia until its fall. I again apologize for the lateness of the review, but please remember it is your fault not mine. 

 This is a blurb from JT about the game that lists other important things about the game:

"Game features include:

Game scale is 1 hex = 1 km, 1 turn = 2 hours, with battalion and company size units.
Scenario Editor allows players to customize the game and create new scenarios.
Sub-map feature allows the main map to be "chopped" up into smaller segments for custom scenario creation.
Multiple play options including play against the computer AI, Play by E-mail (PBEM), LAN & Internet "live" play, and two player hot seat.
Game engine changes that model the Montenegrin Army's irregular soldiers, Austro-Hungarian mountain troops, expiring objectives that put pressure on the attacker and allow the defender to fight a delaying action, river boats and monitors, and many other improvements.

A highly detailed Order of Battle, where the ethnic composition of every regiment in the Austro-Hungarian Army was researched to determine their unit quality."

  So we are always told that size does not matter. However, in computer wargaming that is just not the case. At all times, but especially now, we are looking to get the most for our money. This game is $39.95, as are pretty much all JT games. I dare anyone to find a better deal in the wargaming world. Now we will have to revisit the usual when talking about JT games. The cry from the wilderness will be, "but the AI is no good". Yes, twenty years ago the AI was less than stellar and it would have been relevant. That is far in the past and these games have "Come a long way Baby", for those of you who remember ads from the 1960s. If you are a player who plays one scenario to death over and over again you will find the cracks in the AI armor. However, if you have a life, you can easily play these games against the competent AI. As I have mentioned in other reviews, (some will be listed below), the player has the ability to edit almost everything he wants except the copyright. The knowledge that gets poured into JT games is only equaled by the time that they go through testing. So much goes into each JT game that I am tempted to believe they have a small army of monks, sworn to silence, that work into the wee hours each day toiling on these games. I am once again in debt to John Tiller Software for allowing me the privledge of reviewing one of their games. The only thing I could possible add, is if you have any interest in the campaigns for Serbia or World War I in general, please take a look at this game.

 If I sound like a parrot in my John Tiller Software reviews, I apologize. There is so much to talk about concerning these games it is hard to know where to start. I am also guilty of always trying to dispel the myth, at least to me, that these games have bad AIs. If I come over as a 'true believer' in my reviews, it is because I am precisely that.

This is a list of some of the extra files that come with the game:

"Designer Notes (PDF file)
Planning Map - 1st Invasion (PDF file)
Planning Map - 2nd Invasion (PDF file)
Planning Map - 3rd Invasion (PDF file)
Planning Map - 4th Invasion (PDF file)
Planning Map - Bosnia (PDF file)"

John Tiller Software:

Serbia '14:

Campaign Eylau-Friedland review:
Shenandoah Campaign review:


Wolfpack by John Tiller Software  We as wargamers have had a number of boardgames released on the subject. However, ...

Wolfpack by John Tiller Software Wolfpack by John Tiller Software

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

John Tiller Software



John Tiller Software

 We as wargamers have had a number of boardgames released on the subject. However, the computer simulation player has had a good amount of games released on Uboats and other nations' submarines. There have also been a good number of games that are for the Cold War and beyond. These games are probably the easiest to start with for a computer gamer. Usually you are only handling one sub, and the gamer only has a handful of choices. It is still a cat and mouse game with some options. The gist of the game itself is to get close enough to the merchants, or capital ships, to fire a torpedo at it that has a chance of hitting said vessel. While doing this you have to avoid the escorts. Pretty simple on the scale of what do I do in this game scale. If a merchant is sailing alone it is usually a goner, unless it is a Q ship. Then you just surface and hit it a few times with your deck gun until it surrenders. The real test for you, as a submarine captain, is attacking a convoy with escorts. I also think that a sea battle with only twenty units all told is a lot easier to program the AI than a land battle with 100 to each side. I own, or used to, almost every single submarine game that was released for the PC. So, let us make sure the batteries are full and head underwater to take a look at this new John Tiller Software game/simulation. let us read about the features:

 "50 scenarios ranging from small single submarine actions to massed wolfpack attacks.
Scenarios also highlight the role of air power, both land and air based.
Two campaigns are included, one on the career of the legendary ace Gunther Prien, and the other highlighting the changes in the Battle of the Atlantic from 1940-45.
Wolfpack uses a real-time game engine that can be run from 1x to 10x real-time and has the ability to pause.
Players can play each scenario against the computer A/I or using network play.
The British player has access to the full ASW arsenal, including Depth Charges, Depth Charge Projectors and Hedgehogs, while the Germans have innovative equipment like Snorkels and Homing Torpedoes.
A powerful Scenario Editor and Order of Battle Editor are included so that players can design their own scenarios of historical or hypothetical situations.
Shore terrain is included for Scapa Flow, the Kola Inlet, Gibraltar, Aruba and the North Carolina Coast."

 The first thing you will notice is that the game comes with fifty scenarios. The second thing that will catch your eye is that you get to play either the hunter or the hunted. That is correct, in this game you also get to play the escorts. While submarine games have abounded, I can think of only one other game where you could take on the role of a submarine hunter. There are a few games where it is part of a larger naval war or battle, but not ones that are based on separate scenarios about it. You can also see that you get to simulate the entire war, not just the early war, in which it was much easier to survive as a Uboat. Then, in the middle of the war, being in a Uboat was pretty much a death trap.

 The first notion that you have to get in or out of your head is that this is not Red Storm Rising. This is the 1940s. While the Germans do have rudimentary homing torpedoes at the end of the war, most of your time is spent with mark one eyeball, and a lot of guesswork. Another thing to keep in mind is that torpedoes fail at an alarming rate and are slow to reload. This is actually quite factual and I believe the German torpedoes were not much better than the American ones in the early years of the war. A lot of the early success of the Uboats was because the convoy system was not started up again immediately after the war started. Seeing as how this defeated the Uboats in world War I, the absence of the convoy system was idiotic. Many times the Uboats were able to catch single merchant ships and use their deck guns to persuade them to abandon ship. Which leads us back to your torpedoes, treat them as golden fish. Use them only when you are guaranteed of a hit, if they would only work correctly. This is much more of a simulation than a game so all of the problems of reality are here. It is much safer to approach a convoy at night, however your ability to search for the enemy at periscope depth is heavily curtailed. The early anti-submarine efforts also work the same way. The earlier in the war it is, the harder it is for an escort to find a submarine and destroy it. For those of you who cannot sit still, please pick another game. You will have a lot of times where you are just searching for the enemy. I can only state, use the faster times of the game's speed with incredible caution. Many times you will only be aware of enemy vessels by the firing of their guns at you using the faster speeds.

Scapa Flow

 The game graphics are those needed for a simulation of submarine warfare in World War II. There is no glitz or 3D to be found here. This is not to knock the game, it is just to let you know what you are buying into. The absence of anything on the map at most times means that this game does not even approach the visuals of John Tiller Software land simulations. You are not going to be aware of, let alone worried about, the thermal layer; see above. It is a slightly more in depth version of a cat and mouse game. The only difference here is that at any moment you can go from being the cat to the mouse. The audio of the simulation is superb. It is just as good as any other submarine game. The upswing of this is that it becomes one of your biggest assets that the game gives you. With repeated play, you can actually tell by listening how close the other ships are. It will also tell your speed and whether your periscope is up or down without even needing to look at the game buttons. One more thing to be aware of is that this is a planning game. Torpedoes have an effective distance of about how far you can throw a rock. You need to be precisely where that enemy ship is to even think about firing a torpedo at it. The good, or bad, thing about the game is that it follows history to a tee. In the beginning years both sides have many disadvantages. In the middle years of the war the Allied escorts have it mostly their way. Then at the end of the war the German advances in torpedoes and snorkels etc., swing the pendulum back again.

 This is a write up from the 'Getting Started' help file:

"As soon as the enemy is spotted, dive to periscope depth, and continue your approach. As the convoy zig zags you may need to adjust your course. Notice that you get different background sounds when you are submerged. This helps remind you if you are currently surfaced or underwater.While you are submerged, the pale green lines represent sound bearings to enemy ships, while the
bright green ones represent the enemy active sonar. From here, you'll want to maneuver your submarine to get into position to get a good shot at the enemy convoy. The closer the better... however, the escorts are looking for you! Take your shots and see if you can destroy the cargo ships and maybe an escort to boot...and then dive deep and run for safety. But how do I shoot? With your u-boat selected press and hold the Ctrl key and then right click where
you want your torpedo to go. A “fish” will launch and begin it’s course. Remember, your target is moving, so you don’t want to shoot where it is now, but rather where you believe it will be.
In my action I got very lucky with my first torpedo salvo and sunk the K class Corvette and started flooding on one of the merchant ships. From there I was able to sink two more merchants and then
square off with the remaining Frigate escort. I ended by hunting down the lame merchant ship and sinking her with my deck gun. A very successful ambush, but I exhausted my torpedo supply, which

would then force me to seek re-supply. If this had been a larger convoy I could be in real trouble now.."

 In the above picture my Uboat is at the upper right of the map, in the middle of the white circle. The white circle shows how far I can see. This is at night and I am at periscope depth. The large blue arc at the bottom of the Uboat is the range of the deck gun. The small arc not far at all from the Uboat is the range of the torpedoes. Yes, you read that correctly. How any submariners survived the war is beyond me. The 'K' on the screen is an escort. The 'AK' are merchantmen. This is early in the war so the escort would have to be parked on top of me to find me in the dark. 

 Thank you John Tiller Software for allowing me to review this great, but sometimes maddening game (in a good way). I do not know how many times I have redone the same scenario to try something different this time. The feeling you get when your plan comes to fruition and your attack works to a tee is something to be savored.

Wolfpack by John Tiller Software:

Please take a look at their Midway and Jutland simulations:


Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio  I am not really a student of ...

Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio

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

John Tiller Software

Shenandoah Campaign


John Tiller Software


Wargame Design Studio

 I am not really a student of 'Stonewall' Jackson's Valley Campaign at all. I have read some things about it, but was never really enthralled as I am with the history of the Army of Northern Virginia's Campaigns. I am also somewhat familiar with the 1864 Valley Campaign, but not enough to consider myself versed in it. Jackson himself remains an enigma to me and many others. His Valley Campaign of 1862 is considered the height of military science by some, even though he really did not face the cream of the crop as far as Union Generals and troops. The Union Generals during the campaign resemble the Three Stooges more than competent commanders. Jackson's subsequent almost uselessness during the Seven Days Battles has been excused by a lot of authors. Still, I do not know where he fits in the scheme of things. Was he the best of the Southern Generals or just great because of the opposition he faced? Sorry for the digression, now back to the pertinent subject.

 So, the game gives you two diverse campaigns separated by two years and thousands of dead on both sides. Both do have one striking similarity, and that is both were fought by Southern Generals to take pressure off the Army of Northern Virginia. In 1862, Jackson succeeded marvelously. In 1864, Jubal Early succeeded early (sorry) in the campaign, but was inevitably broken by the Union preponderance of strength in the end. Jubal Early is also an enigma as a commander. Quite possibly he lost Gettysburg for the South by whispering in Ewell's ear. Then again, in 1864 he was able to put a scare into Washington, which had a much greater effect than it should have. Early was described as his "bad old man" by Robert E. Lee even though he wasn't that old at all. His hair and stooped figure made him seem much older than he was. He was also the only person we know of that had a plate smashed over his head as a cadet at West Point. Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, of Gettysburg fame, was the plate wielder.

3D extreme zoom in of the Kernstown Scenario

 So what exactly is in this game. We know that it spans two different years of the Civil War, but what is behind door #2?
Here is the list:

"174 scenarios are included, and all can be played as either side, against the A/I or other human challengers.
Each major battle has three versions, 1) the standard, for playing head to head, especially PBEM and Hotseat. 2) Weather, for playing when Mother Nature is unpredictable, and 3) A/I, for playing against the computer. NOTE; all scenarios can be played against the A/I, but these scenarios are designed specifically for, and will provide a greater challenge for those familiar with this game system.
Most scenarios can be played against the A/I in a single day, yet others may take several days to complete, or even weeks. Just save, and continue later at your own pace.
For more fun, challenge another human, and play either face to face, or PBEM (Play by email)
Battles include: Kernstown, McDowell, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, New Market, Piedmont, Lynchburg, Monocacy, the siege of Fort Stevens, Cool Springs, Berryville, and the climactic battle of Cedar Creek.
4 campaigns are included. Each can be played with or without the added hardships of weather. Weather can be anything from a mild mist and fog, to muddy roads and torrential thunderstorms."

2D version of the same screen

 The games is classic John Tiller Software with a large dose of Wargame Design Studio mixed in. The visuals, like almost all of the John Tiller stable, are now much clearer and look nothing like when the other Campaign Games were released years ago. The speed at which they have been releasing games has now been put into overdrive. Where we used to wait all year for one or two releases we have seen four new games in the last few months. The enhanced games are still easy to get into if you haven't played one of the series for awhile. The amount of playtesting that goes into the games is probably the most for any computer game. The fact that now the AI is so much better than it was is also laudable. Some will argue that point, but most of us do not play one game to death so that we find all of the AIs weaknesses. I know I flitter through the games following whatever I am reading at the time. One thing that I have not mentioned is the excellent tie in the games have for reading history. For those books who have little to no maps on a battle, here it is in almost life size. You can follow along with the book through the different placement of troops and the important geographical points around the different battlefields. Because it is a game, you can then decide to try and do better than the historical Generals did when they had control. These are some of the enhancements that you get now-a-days from these games:

"A total graphics package:
3D hand drawn maps, 3D units, with individualized regimental flags.
Colorized leaders and unit files.
Traditional B/W unit, and leaders are also an option.
Improved 2D road graphics.
Scenario and Campaign editor: Build new, or improve existing battles and campaigns.
Many “What If” battles and maps, both large and small. Including the massive Shenandoah Master map.
Extreme Fog of War optional rule.
Objective hexes are now awarded points for each side. The number of points that can be earned are determined by length of time controlled, and its strategic importance for each combatant. Therefore, earned points are not equally distributed.
A true, large (4X) 2D map view."

Extreme zoom out of the same screen

 I will say that the opening paragraph notwithstanding, I have come to appreciate Jackson's ability in these battles somewhat differently. That leads me to another incredibly laudable point of the entire John Tiller stable. You can actually learn history, or at least grasp it that much more by playing these games. I have tried to play as many of the different scenarios as I could, but with 174 it is a lost cause. The Shenandoah Master Map is exactly as described: 'massive'. I will say that while I enjoy zooming in to the 3D to look at the graphics, I do spend most of my time playing on the 2D Map. I have done a fair number of reviews of the different Campaign Series games, and I am still impressed by the depth and sheer size of what you get for the price of a cheap dinner for two. I really cannot say enough about the gaming you will get for a mere $39.95. The Campaign/Scenario Editor is so large that you can get lost in it and never actually play the game. I will have some links at the bottom of other John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio games I have reviewed. I am sure I will have forgotten to mention some part of the game that you receive with your purchase, so the other reviews will help you to understand the breadth of just one of these games.

 So in recap, you get 174 scenarios, historical/and what if, that can all be played on either side against the AI. You also get at least one, sometimes a few, version(s) of each scenario that is meant to be played from the ground up against the AI. My favorite one so far is the Kernstown Battle from 1862. Thank you John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio for allowing me to review this, as usual, excellent package of history, posing itself as a game.

Campaign Shenandoah:
Campaign Eylau-Friedland:

Campaign Petersburg:

Japan '46:


Japan '46 by Wargame Design Studio & John Tiller Software  The invasion of the Japanese Home Islands st...

Japan '46 by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software Japan '46 by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software

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

John Tiller Software

Japan '46


Wargame Design Studio & John Tiller Software

 The invasion of the Japanese Home Islands started with Operation Olympic. The Allies now have bases on the southern part of Kyushu. Unfortunately, the Japanese show no more signs of surrendering than before the invasion. This, contrary to Saddam, is the 'Mother of all Battles'. The Japanese are fighting tooth and nail, as was expected, for every inch of the Home Islands. The Operation named Coronet is now about to begin.

 Wargame Design Studio has really taken off in the last two years. In the beginning, they released three games in a new series called 'Panzer Battles'. This would be 'Battles of Kursk Southern Front', and 'Battles of Normandy', followed shortly after by 'Battles of North Africa'. Then they took on the role of Hercules and started a long list of labors in updating, and nearly revamping, the 'Panzer Campaigns' series of games from John Tiller Software. Once they were done turning all of those games into a 'Gold Version', complete with many new scenarios and tons of updates and fixes (especially visually), they have now turned their sights into doing the same for the 'Civil War Battles' series.

 So just like any other John Tiller Panzer Campaign game, Japan '46 is massive. These series of games do have smaller scenarios for the gamer to play, but the campaign games are really the stuff of legends. If they were board games you would have your entire table filled and then some. You would also be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome from cutting apart all of the counters. The newer games, and the updates, are very solo playing friendly with the AI tweaked as much as possible. It is almost unbelievable the amount of game and information that you get when you buy one of these games. The historical write-ups and the designer notes are enough reading for long winter nights. If you are interested in tinkering, the games all come with an editor that pretty much can change anything but the name of the game. The series all go down to single guns and tanks when deciding on the variables for combat. The information on each army is exhaustive in its depth.

 Japan '46 is a continuation of the battles for Japan that starts right after the game Japan '45 (which if you haven't picked up, why not?). Except now you will be fighting in the Kanto plain, fighting for Tokyo and other major cities. On the Allied side you now have the French and Commonwealth forces to augment the US ones. The Japanese have four full Armies along with other forces and all the Naval and Air Forces that they have been husbanding until now. The game comes with 59 scenarios. These include:

The Invasion – March 1-5
The Breakout – March 6-10
The Linkup – March 12-17
The Battle of Tokyo – April 3-15
The Battle of the Kanto Plain – April 20-26

"The 59 scenarios range from small actions such as the “Counterattack at Choshi” (19 turns) to the huge “Operation Coronet” (608 turns) covering the entire campaign. The wide variety of scenario length and size will give the players a sense of the scope of the campaign. Weather conditions range from normal to mud. The game map accurately depicts the mix of terrain types that the Allies would have encountered during the operation."

 This is a list of some of the game features:
"Game scale is 1 hex = 1 km, 1 turn = 2 hours, with battalion and company size units.
59 Scenarios – covering all sizes and situations, including specialized versions for both head to head play and vs. the computer AI.
The master map covers the cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kagashima and the outlying areas to include minor islands (90,678 hexes) where Operation Coronet would have taken place.
The order of battle file covers the Allied and Japanese forces that could have taken part in the campaign with other formations added in for hypothetical situations.
Order-of-Battle and Scenario Editors which allow players to customize the game.
Sub-map feature allows the main map to be subdivided into smaller segments for custom scenario creation.
All new images for unit art on both sides, including guns and vehicles covering all of the forces of the Allied and Japanese armies involved in the operation.
Design notes which cover or include the production of the game, campaign notes, sources and a scenario list to include descriptions.
Japan ’46 provides multiple play options including play against the computer AI, Play by E-mail (PBEM), LAN & Internet “live” play, and two player hot seat.Some sample screenshots follows;"

 One kilometer hexes with two hour turns for the invasion of the center of Japan. I am not kidding when I say that you have bought yourself a game to get lost in. Wargame Design Studio has tried to give the player many more options of scenarios than the games had before (this includes all of the games they have updated from earlier in the series). As you can see above, you can play a nineteen turn scenario all the way to the 608 turn campaign game. These games are what you think of when you are making a list to be lost on a desert isle with. Hopefully along with your computer you have the use of a solar panel array for electricity. The visuals in the game are all up to the 21st century as far as wargames, and zooming in and out is mouse wheel based. The game play is essentially the same as it was, meaning that if you played a Panzer Campaign game a few years ago you would not be lost. You will be however, surrounded by new parts of the game and hopefully notice how they have become streamlined.  

 The fighting is the same that you would have encountered in Japan '45 (and I will include a link to my review of that game). As the Allies you are fighting a desperate foe who has dug in and is awaiting you. The irresistible force has met the immovable object. Think the battles of Tarawa and Iwo Jima etc. on a grand scale. Playing as the Japanese you must plan your strategy very carefully. You do not have the material might of the Allies. If you are going to try and strike back at the Allies, make sure that your timing is perfect. You cannot afford to waste your troops in Banzai charges. The city warfare of this new game brings home battles like Stalingrad to your computer. I hope you have as much fun playing this game as I have. To be honest I have never had a John Tiller Software game that I did not like. They did seem to be getting long in the tooth, but with Wargame Design Studios help they have been given a new lease on life. Thank you both Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software for letting me review another excellent game. 

Panzer campaigns Japan '45 by John Tiller Software  It is fall of the year 1945 and the Allies (United States) ar...

Panzer Campaigns Japan '45 by John Tiller Software Panzer Campaigns Japan '45 by John Tiller Software

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

John Tiller Software

Panzer campaigns Japan '45


John Tiller Software

 It is fall of the year 1945 and the Allies (United States) are determined to invade Japan. This is an alternate universe where there has been no Atom Bomb, and Japan is still refusing to unconditionally surrender. The U.S. has designed a plan to invade Japan called 'Operation Downfall'. The first part of the plan is 'Operation Olympic', the invasion of the island of Kyushu. That the U.S. troops will face fanatical resistance is a tremendous understatement. Even women and children have been semi-trained to fling the invader back into the Sea. The U.S. certainly has the firepower to inflict tremendous casualties on the Japanese people, but does it have the resolve to face the amount of casualties that will be inflicted upon it? Panzer Campaign Japan 1945 gives you the chance to game the outcome of Operation Olympic.

 John Tiller Software has been dishing out meat and potatoes to wargamers for twenty years. Yes, some of their games are that old. It is also true that the very core of the game is still the same. I can hear the groans now. "Oh this makes my eyes bleed",
"A computer game is old in six months", "How do you expect us to play the same old thing". I not only expect you to play it, but also to like it. We play boardgames that make these games seem like whipper snappers. They have been continuously updated down through the years to make the games still great, and not just ones that are played for nostalgia. The latest round of updates have definitely brought the games visually and play wise right back at the center of computer wargaming.

 These are the features of the game from the horses mouth:

Game scale is 1 hex = 1 km, 1 turn = 2 hours, with battalion and company size units.

44 Scenarios covering all sizes and situations, including specialized versions for both head to head play and vs. the computer AI.

The master map covers most of the island of Kyushu (87,720 hexes) where Operation Olympic would have taken place.

The order of battle file covers all of the forces that would have taken part in the campaign.

Order-of-Battle and Scenario Editors which allow players to customize the game.

Sub-map feature allows the main map to be "chopped" up into smaller segments for custom scenario creation.

All new images for unit art on both sides, including guns and vehicles covering all of the forces of the Allied and Japanese armies involved in the operation.

Design notes which cover or include the production of the game, campaign notes, sources and a scenario list.

All new game graphics including terrain, in game counters and 2D & 3D units as well as the toolbar icons.

All new sounds.

Japan '45 provides multiple play options including play against the computer AI, Play by E-mail (PBEM), LAN Internet "live" play, and two player hot seat.

 These are the scenarios:

Panzer Campaigns: Japan '45 Operation Olympic covers the entire campaign to take southern Kyushu from November to December 1945: 

The landing on Tanega-Shima - 1 thru 3 November 1945

The Invasion Phase - 4 thru 6 November 1945

The Breakout Phase - 7 thru 10 Novemeber 1945

The Linkup Phase - 14 thru 17 November 1945

The Final Phase - 19 thru 24 November 1945

Japanese Counterattacks - Mid December 1945

The 44 scenarios range from small actions such as the 6-turn, second day fighting at Ariake Bay to the super-large 283 turn "Take Kyushu" scenario. The wide variety of scenario length and size will give the players a stiff challenge! Weather conditions range from normal to mud. The terrain on Kyushu can be as much of an obstacle to victory as the enemy forces. 

 The game is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is looking for a Panzer General fix. This is a game where you will study the map longer than a Chess board before you make your move. These games are for the gamer who is in it for the long haul. The game play is meant to show how difficult it would have actually been to successfully invade the Japanese Home Islands. Playing as the Allies, you have to have your crowbar and C4 handy. You are not going to break a thin crust and then sweep your tanks for miles like Patton. This is Iwo Jima and Okinawa on a grand scale. As the Japanese player you are not going to be able to push the Allies back to sea. The Allies' monumental advantage in firepower etc. won't allow it. You are going to have to tenaciously fight for every inch of your homeland. The Japanese player will have to accept losses that would make the Eastern Front seem like a walk in the park. That said, this is what makes the game great. We play these for exactly the reasons mentioned. The long scenario will try you as much as playing The Campaign for North Africa. The good thing is that your cat won't mess up the counters and your wife won't give you evil sideways glances because her dining room table has disappeared. John Tiller Software games give you the ability to have that monster set up 24-7 just waiting for you to devote some time to it. 

 Without all of the updates to the games, and the tedious (I mean strenuous) play testing, I might slam the game also. I actually was a play tester for one of the Civil War games, and it is no joke that I had a kid go through High School before it was done. I had to drop out because it seemed too much like a job. The largest improvement to the games for me is the AI becoming so much better and the scenarios being much more solitaire gaming friendly. The early games were not really meant for solitaire playing except just to learn the games rules etc. They are now so much better in that regard. I know sometimes the AI will make a dumb move. So will Bill, that guy you play games with on Saturday nights (and so do you!). You can play the game if you want against human opponents. However, you can also now have a great solo game experience. The other new part to all of the games is the addition of an easy to use and unbelievably complete editor for anything and everything. You don't even need to play the game. The person who is into minutiae can fiddle for years on any aspect of the game.

 I have probably spent too much time writing about/defending the whole series of games that John Tiller Software puts out. It is just that they span so many eras that any wargamer can find something they would like to play in their repetoire. Japan '45 is an acquired taste. Some people enjoy gaming the Pacific War land battles and others find them a bit boring. I just suppose it comes down to a matter of taste. I normally do not like to play 'what if' battles unless they are based on what very nearly did happen historically. Had the A Bomb fizzled out (it was a very real question at the time), this invasion would have taken place. The Allies had drawn up all of the plans for the campaign and we know the Japanese dispositions for the campaign as well. So in this case, we are not entering the realm of make believe. It is much like gaming Operation Sea Lion, except that this is a grueling slugfest without an end. 

 Old yes (so am I, and I bet you are also), hell these are ancient for computer games. Just fire up a simulation from 1999 and see how much it resembles Pong. Enjoyable, you bet. Let us just hope that John Tiller Software keeps cranking them out for the next twenty years.

 Not only did I misspell campaigns in the title, but I forgot to mention anything about Wargame Design Studio. WDS is the brains behind all of the newest updates including this game and the Panzer battles series, among others. 

Link to the games page:

These are links to other Tiller games I reviewed:


Campaign Eylau-Friedland by John Tiller Software     I have been waiting for this with bated breath for so ...

Campaign Eylau-Friedland by John Tiller Software Campaign Eylau-Friedland by John Tiller Software

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

John Tiller Software



 I have been waiting for this with bated breath for so long that I should be a cadaver. All other battles, including my least favorite Waterloo, pale in comparision to Eylau, in my mind. The desperate battle in a snow storm is the stuff of legends. Augereau, who should have been on sick leave, is ordered by Napoleon to attack the Russians. In the swirling snow storm his corps is led astray into the belching mouth of numerous Russian artillery. His corps devastated, Napoleon then orders Murat to attack with all 10,000 of the available cavalry. The greatest cavalry charge in Napoleonic times then takes place. The Russian center is then sliced through. Numerous Russian units are ridden down or dispersed. Then the cavalry regroups in the middle of the Russian Army, and cuts its way back out. Now that would be something to see in CGI in a film. Then of course we have Friedland. The Russian general Count von Bennigsen loses all caution, and apparently his mind. He crosses a river into a bottleneck that not only has his army trapped by the river behind, but his two flanks are pretty much cut off from each other by the topography. He does this with Napoleon somewhere on the other side of the river. His attempt to sneak into the tiger cage works all too well. A rejuvenated Grande Armee proceeds to utterly destroy his army. Eylau is the first real time that Napoleon is held at bay by another army. It sent shock waves through Europe, until his completely lopsided victory at Friedland. The Russian troops who had earned a reputation in the Seven Years War as incredibly tough only add to their glory.

 So what comes in the game:


  • Twenty-two battles and over two-hundred and twenty scenarios, to include the battles of Eylau, Friedland, Heilsberg, Guttstadt, 1st and 2nd Ostroleka and Mohrungen
  • Tutorial scenario that helps the player learn the game system.
  • A wide range of scenarios which allow the players to command an entire army or just a few brigades.
  • A select group of campaign scenarios available for play as stand alone battles.
  • Bonus battles that add in forces that were not used in the campaign or standard scenarios.


  • The 1806 Winter Campaign - Includes the Battles of Pultusk and Golymin.
  • The 1807 Winter Campaign - Includes the Battle of Eylau.
  • The 1807 Spring Campaign - Includes the Battles of Heilsberg and Friedland.
  • The full 1806-07 Campaign - Covers the entire campaign in Poland.


  • Turn scale is either 10 or 15 minutes.
  • A Design folder includes files and information that will aid the customer in learning how to build their own scenarios.
  • A Terrain Effects Chart is included that helps the players determine the effects of terrain and the movement allowance of their units.
  • A Weapons Chart is included that allows the players to determine the range and effects of all weapons in the game.
  • Over sixty-two maps (to include submaps) are included covering the famous battles such as Eylau, Heilsberg and Friedland
  • Scenario and Campaign Editors.


  • New 2D Magnified view
  • Night turn length extended to 4 hours (240 minutes)
  • Maxium visibility range can be extended up to 180 hexes

I have had my say about the changes in the games since they came out. The graphics are totally updated and while not state of the art are still fully functional on 2D, and eye pleasing on 3D. I usually play on the 2D magnified view now, unless I need the big picture for a moment. As far as the AI, again I have pontificated enough about it. There are now many scenarios that were built from the ground up as single player ones. They are tough to win, and not because the computer cheats or has extra troops by the ton (this is the usual practice in computer games to try and make single player worthwhile). Napoleonic tactical warfare was a sophisticated game of rock, paper, and scissors. For those of us who are sticklers for historical battles down to the last musket and grenadier, this game delivers. The campaign games adds a little of what if for players who enjoy that aspect of a game. In a day and age when the amount of scenarios that come in a game can be counted on two hands, this game comes with over 220! To put that in layman's terms, that is enough to be stranded on a desert isle for a very loooong time.

 For those of us who suffer from enjoying reading an encyclopedia or a PDR (Physicians Desk Reference, yes I liked to read through it as a child), the game comes with all these extras:

Preview Documents

  • The Armies of Campaign Eylau-Friedland - pictoral display of the uniforms and soldiers of the various nations and minor allies which fought during the 1806-07 Polish Campaign.
  • The Battles of Campaign Eylau-Friedland - a listing of each historical battle in the game to include a jump map image, strength comparison and historical briefing.
  • Terrain Effects Chart - lists each terrain type and the movement costs for each troop type.
  • Weapons Effect Chart - lists all of the weapons in the game and their firepower value by range.
  • Parameter Data File Guide - breaks down each line in the PDT files and is for the customer in designing their own battles.
  • Situation Maps - helps the players understand the history of the campaigns in CEF and acquaints them with the locations where the battles were fought.
  • Order of Battle Guide - gives a detailed explanation of the units in the order of battle files.
  • Order of Battle Compendium - a PDF of all of the order of battle listings for the battles in CEF.
  • Campaign Eylau-Friedland Artwork - lists all of the units in the game and their location in the graphics files.
  • Leaderlist for Campaign Eylau-Friedland - lists all of the leaders in the game and their location in the leaders graphics file.
  • Turn Tracks - useful for the long battle and campaign scenarios.
  • Special Rules - used in the certain scenarios where certain restrictions need to be applied for more historically accurate game play.
  • NEW: Unit Listings for Campaign Eylau-Friedland - lists every unit's order of battle line entry for review by the players or in building new OB files for custom scenarios.

  So for those of us who are only happy when steeped in minutiae this is a game for us. For the casual gamer of Napoleonics, it has many shorter scenarios for your gaming pleasure. You can play by Direct-Play, Email, or Hot-Seat among others. I have been a fan of John Tiller games since they were first brought out by HPS (HPS Simulations). As I mentioned, the bar of the games keeps rising. Not only that, but all of the updates on the newer games are always implemented for the consumer on the older games. Imagine other companies updating almost twenty-year old software. Thank you, John Tiller Software for the chance to review my new favorite game of theirs.

This is a link to the game page:

A link to John Tiller Software:

A review of Petersburg from John Tiller Software:

A review of Panzer battles North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software:

Review of Panzer Battles of Normandy by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software:

Review of Panzer Battles Kursk Southern Flank by Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software: