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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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Verdun Steel Inferno by Fellowship of Simulations    This is just going to showcase some of the beautifully don...

Verdun: Steel Inferno by Fellowship of Simulations Cards Verdun: Steel Inferno by Fellowship of Simulations Cards

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Verdun Steel Inferno


Fellowship of Simulations


 This is just going to showcase some of the beautifully done cards that come in the game. The game has smashed it's KS goals, but only has nine days left.

This is the best picture I have ever seen of him. Usually he looks emaciated.


Panzer Corps 2 is just over the horizon! The long awaited sequel to one of Slitherine's biggest titles comes out ...

Panzer Corps 2 - First Look Video and Open Beta for Field Marshal Pre-Orders Panzer Corps 2 - First Look Video and Open Beta for Field Marshal Pre-Orders

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


Panzer Corps 2 is just over the horizon! The long awaited sequel to one of Slitherine's biggest titles comes out March 19th, and you can see a bit of gameplay in my video below. If you want to play the game yourself, then you are in luck. Those who pre-order the Field Marshal edition (includes first two DLC and other goodies) will have access to a similar beta version from Feb. 18th to the 20th. So if you loved the first game, go ahead and hop in, this one looks to be a winner no doubt. If you're curious, check out my video and others. 

Please Note: I had some kind of unexpected issue with my recording, which resulted in it looking quite laggy when moving the camera around quickly. This is not reflective of the actual game, which runs perfectly smooth. I'll try to fix it and get a better version out when I can.

- Joe Beard

Damnation: The Gothic Game is a last-person standing game of killing your friends.  Throughout the game, you will probably find yourself...

Damnation: The Gothic Game - Preview Damnation: The Gothic Game - Preview

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


Damnation: The Gothic Game is a last-person standing game of killing your friends.  Throughout the game, you will probably find yourself cackling with glee as you submit your friends to the fiendish rooms and traps littered throughout the Vampire’s castle.  Of course, everyone will be trying to do the same to you so don’t laugh too quickly.


There are some simple mechanics to this game which reflect the game’s original printing nearly 30 years ago. Move aside roll-and-write; roll-and-move and player elimination are alive and well if this game is anything to go by. Generally, I don’t like either of these dated mechanisms but the designer of this game has taken sensible steps to reduce the annoyance factor of both.  The new design has added an abundance of features and variation to the game to keep fans of the original and modern-gamers appeased.
6 unfortunate souls - ready to die
The roll-and-move irritation is actually turned into a welcome decision space by two of the game's mechanisms; a hand of up to five action cards, and your character’s talents.  The cards can be played during your turn for a variety of effects and each player has access to four talents which may allow them to affect their movement.  Of these talents, two will be common to all players (these common talents allow you to roll an additional movement die or to re-roll a die) and the other two talents will be unique to that character (some also affecting movement).   Together, the cards and talents give you lots of immediate decisions every turn to mitigate a ‘bad’ roll.  Although after multiple plays of this the only bad rolls are those in which your opponents are controlling your movement.  Don’t let this happen.
The Gentleman, about to not be gentle
Once you’ve used a talent you must discard a talent token, you start with three.  During the game, you will recover talent tokens but you can never have more than three tokens and you can never have more than one token on a talent, ready to use. All players have a unique inherent talent which could be used each turn if applicable without spending a token.  I haven’t played enough to see if the characters are all balanced but in the majority of the games, I have had the player who ends up controlling the Vampire is favoured – more on that character later.

It’s a rare thing to play a game with player elimination these days; even if you’re obviously losing and there is no chance to catch-up, a lot of games require you to limp along making weight.  Not so in Damnation: The Gothic Game.  This game outright wants to kill you, apparently there are 49 different ways to die … but I guarantee that if you are the first to die you won’t be looking to join another game, you’ll stay and watch the rest of the carnage unfold.  Not only does the game play in about 60 minutes but it’s so much fun watching instadeath happen to the snivelling git who caused your own untimely demise.
The Aristocrat is walking a dangerous path
During a players turn two d6 are rolled, the first indicates the number of spaces your character can move (a natural 6 allows an additional movement roll to be made) and the second is a ‘castle die’ which can land on 1 of 4 unique faces.  The first is a castle, which allows you to draw a card into your hand or as an immediate event; the candle face allows you to move an extra space – it’s surprising how often that extra space can be tremendously helpful; a trap face, which prevents you moving past any trap during your movement – a lovely sight for your opponent if they have the power of adjacency…and finally a blank face after which nothing happens.
Move 8 (exploding 6) and draw a card
If you end your movement on a space adjacent to another character, or within range of one of your weapons (cards in hand) you can choose to control the movement of that character on their next turn or attack them.  As tempting as it is to constantly attack all the things, the power of adjacency is really where the serious damage can be done.  Moving a character into a trap or slide space is a delicious feeling.  It could either mean instadeath or even better, a slow demise into the depths of hell as they try in vain to escape their doom <Mwah hah ha>
Can you see the Grim Reaper?
Most rooms have some unique rules that apply if a character enters them.  In general terms whenever a character enters a room not only will they be safe from anyone declaring the power of adjacency or attacking them but they will also draw a card from that room’s specific deck of cards.  This could either be an immediate event, an action for later use, or a weapon.  These cards and their inherent humour are really what make this game stand out for me; each deck is themed to the room and the art and flavour text are great, but most importantly their effect on the overall gameplay is a huge positive.
There are lots of cards to enjoy
Just when players are starting to get comfortable with the game's rules, the game will pull the rug out from under your feet after a players death in which a Deathknell card is revealed.  These cards alter the fundamental rules of the game so that each game is never boring or feels the same.  I haven’t seen any ‘game-breaking’ cards in the Deathknell deck, each one I have seen has caused some amusement and then often another quick death followed by another Deathknell card reveal - rinse and repeat.  Once players start dying, it’s often a case of who can hang on the longest and you won’t need to hang around for long!
Every piece of art is unique
However none of that talks about the Vampire, at the start of the game everyone is just your average scum-bag looking to kill every other scum-bag in the castle.  The first scum-bag that enters the Vault will become the vampire and will start mercilessly preying on the rest of the players.   The vampire just has to end their movement on another scum-bags’ space to bite and kill that player.  However this power comes with a great vulnerability, the vampire only has six turns in which to hunt before he needs to return to his coffin.  There are lots of lovely thematic touches like this littered throughout this game which complement the art and feel of this gothic horror world.
Vampire doing his thing
With a full complement of 6 players the game will take a little over an hour.  However, it does reward repeated plays.  On my first two plays of this (with different groups) everyone was initially quite timidly exploring the castle without following the core-ethos of the game, i.e. attempting to kill your friends as quickly as possible.  Just exploring the castle in itself was quite a fun game (due to the card art and flavour text) but nothing like the cut-throat brutality of players who know what to expect and are familiar with the rules and are looking to kill you from the first turn.
Nobody's dead yet
I had a four-player game of this with 3 new-to-the-hobby gamers and we were all playing inside 15 minutes.  I may have missed a few rules out as I was learning myself but it’s not a long teach despite the variety of general rule exceptions.  Once players are familiar with the game a turn will generally be finished inside 20 seconds at the most.  There is already very little downtime for any player and even less if you’ve claimed the Power of Adjacency over an opponent.
The current crop of visitors
I would recommend this for gamers and non-gamers.  It’s easy for non-gamers to grasp the more traditional roll and move mechanic but there's enough here to keep your generalist gamer happy too.  It won’t appeal to many self-confessed Grognards nor anyone with a delicate temperament. If you can’t see the funny side of being kicked when you’re down (figuratively) or have been known to flip a table or two because of a bad roll or an event killing your character, then move on, you won’t like this game. 


I have only played on a prototype prior to the Kickstarter launch and I have no doubt that some of the components and content will change.  However, the thing that most struck me about these components at this stage of development was the art throughout the game.  Every card has unique art and there are lots of cards in this game.  The art also has a very distinct and consistent style across all components, which was not something I was expecting to see of a prototype.  The artists have done a fantastic job.
A difficult, but worthwhile room to enter


The only criticisms that I have not already addressed (i.e. roll-to-move and player-elimination) is one of scaling and a lack of rules reference. The game suggests 3 to 6 players. I would recommend a minimum of four.  At three players the castle feels a little empty, unless there are 3 tortured souls hanging around the table to see the rest of the gruesome death action, (watching their friends’ characters die).  This is a similar feeling I get when playing a league match of blood bowl, often a non-playing coach will attend pitch-side to see all of our respective failed rolls, injuries, deaths and laugh.  As long as you approach this game with the same humour you’ll be in for a good time.  At four or more players the game shines.

The lack of a rules reference meant I was regularly looking up the unique rules of rooms when characters entered them.  I'm sure that knowledge will come after 3 or 4 games but it was a common request to either have an on-board legend for each room or player-aid.  I feel a bit miserly even commenting on this as it is a prototype and I'm sure the designer will want to address this for the final design.


Damnation: The Gothic Game is a self-published production coming to Kickstarter at exactly the right time in its development.  Blackletter games are very much an indie games company taking on the behemoth of the modern board gaming market and they have every reason to be proud of their first game.  It’s often hilarious, mostly bloody and full of surprises.  Go take a look at the Kickstarter page when it launches on October 24th.

Publisher: Black Letter Games
BGG Page:
Players: 3-6
Designer: Kris Rees - redesign of The Gothic Game
Playing time: 1 hour (ish)

Today we've got an early look at the beta build for Close Combat: The Bloody First. The series goes 3D under the direction of Matri...

Close Combat - The Bloody First Preview Video Close Combat - The Bloody First Preview Video

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


Today we've got an early look at the beta build for Close Combat: The Bloody First. The series goes 3D under the direction of Matrix Games, and I'm excited to give it a spin. Check back in a couple weeks for coverage of the final product, releasing on October 3rd.

(Sorry about the audio on this video, I forgot to adjust settings and so my voice is drowned out by much of the shooting. You aren't missing much, just my ramblings.)

If you're curious about  WarPlan the new strategic level WW2 game from Kraken Studios and Matrix Games, look no further than the v...

WarPlan - First Look at Beta (Video) WarPlan - First Look at Beta (Video)

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


If you're curious about WarPlan the new strategic level WW2 game from Kraken Studios and Matrix Games, look no further than the video below. I give the game a quick spin, going through the various menus and invading a bit of Poland. 

Please note that the game is still in beta!

- Joe Beard

Preview of Armored Brigade by Matrix Games and Veitikka Studios  It is big and it is beautiful, and it ...

Preview of Armored Brigade by Matrix Games and Veitikka Studios Preview of Armored Brigade by Matrix Games and Veitikka Studios

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


Preview of Armored Brigade


Matrix Games


Veitikka Studios

 It is big and it is beautiful, and it is all dolled up to come to your home in a short while. I believe it was Ty Bomba who said "Nato, Nukes, and Nazis" sell wargames. By the amount of gamers that want to wargame a possible World War III, I believe he is right. In lieu of a box cover I have used this pretty painted pachyderm.

Main Menu Screen

 I have had the privilege bestowed upon me by Matrix Games and Slitherine to take the soon to be released Armored Brigade for a spin. To sum up the game in one word, it is 'excellent'. The game play and components added are exactly what you would want and expect from a Cold War gone hot land game. Each side's night fighting capabilities etc. have been factored in. However, the greatest part of the game are the abilities that the game gives you when you generate your own missions. First,we have the maps; you can make your own or use any size that come with the game. These can be from as small or as large as you want. One of the very interesting parts of the game is that neither side knows exactly where all of their objectives actually are. The years that the game can model the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces are from 1965-1991. You have four preset choices for your forces: Armored, Mechanized, Infantry, or Dynamic, although you can pretty much mix and match for any force you want for both sides. So, you can see that the player gets to play with a vast amount of choices to make any mission you can envision. Unlike many other World War III games, this does include Finnish forces.

 At the moment there are no campaigns, and few scenarios that you can jump right into. As we mentioned, the mission generator is pretty easy to use, so you will be up and firing in no time. In talking with the developer, campaigns will be added as DLCs later on. This game is meant for single player only right now.

 Just remember that these screen pictures are still of a preview version and they could change.

Here is the link to the trailer:
Fulda Gap Map

 I had downloaded and played the free version a few years ago and it was a good game. Now it has really grown up. The game has been described as a cross between the Close Combat Games and Command Ops. I think that hits the nail right on the head. The following Twitch stream of the game is all encompassing. Just so you know, it is over 2 1/2 hours long. About half of the video is on how many choices you have in generating a mission. Yes, there is that much stuff to play with. The other half is actual game play. Here is the link:

 Armored Brigade also has dynamic weather which you can see in this video: 

Warsaw Pact Setup For The River Crossing Scenario

This Is A Close-up Of The Above Scenario


Conclusion U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together...

UBoot:TBG a Kickstarter Preview UBoot:TBG  a Kickstarter Preview

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



U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together in a fun, tense and immersive board game experience. If you like games: that make you think, that require lots of player interaction, that are stressful (in a good way) that are asymmetric, where your actions determine your entire experience, that are based on real military history, then this cooperative wargame from Phalanx Publishing is well worth taking a look at.  (Kickstarter Preview page)

I don't normally start reviews with my final thoughts, but if you’re interested to see if you’ll like this game, read on. The first thing to mention is that this game is entirely reliant on a mobile app and my review is based on a prototype edition of the game so any art or components pictured, are subject to change. The prototype does, however, feel very advanced and has custom miniatures in 1/72 scale that represent the 32 submariners (2 work shifts of 16 crew) under the player's control. There is also a U-Boat model that serves as a crew position reference as they ‘mobilise’ around the submarine.
Close up of the U-Boat model
I will attempt to describe the most significant rules and features of the game to let potential Kickstarter backers judge for themselves whether it’s for them or not.

Game summary

In this game, up to 4 players, take on the role of U-Boat Officers during WWII. Players choose to be either The Captain, The First Officer, The Navigator or The Chief Engineer. Each of these positions has a very different, yet equally important, role in making sure the entire crew returns home safely, hopefully with some destroyed enemy shipping to their name. To carry out their particular role each player controls a set of four miniatures which each have their own set of abilities. Effectively managing where the miniatures are in the boat at any given time is crucial to this game i.e. having the right amount of abilities in the right compartment.  This will involve so much discussion among all players, all the time, I would say this is a hybrid cooperative/social/thematic war game …
Setup at the start of a mission
There are no rounds or traditional game-play phases in this game; it is a ‘real-time’ sandbox where your crew will have to react to events and conditions that are triggered either through the mobile app or card draws. In order to react to any event, each player has to move his miniatures around the U-Boat model/board to the correct compartment to carry out any particular order. However, no-one can move their players until they are ‘mobilised’ first by The Captain. (The official Core Rules video is here.)


Mobilisation allows all players to move all of their miniatures to any compartment in the submarine, (unless it has been flooded). Each mobilisation is paid for by the Captain by advancing a token on the Order Track. Once the Order Track token can go no farther the Captain must advance a token on the Morale Track to pay for any mobilisations. The Morale Track is a measure of how tired and fed up your crew is. The Order Track does get reset after every other watch (huge relief) but the Morale Track is only reduced through certain events and The Captain’s cards.
The Order and Morale Tracks
Once all players have finished moving their miniatures around the boat, The Captain can issue an Order. Again, these must be paid for by advancing a token on either the Order or Morale Track. There are consequences for The Captain pushing the crew too hard; too many orders in a short space of time will cause command and control issues. When the Morale Track token lands on certain spaces an Event Card is drawn. These are nearly always negative consequences and ultimately could lead to a mutiny and the Captain being relieved of his command. 
 The official Captain rules video is here.


Each player, including the Captain, carries out the orders, by using the abilities of the miniatures under their command, after they’ve been mobilised to the right compartment. For example, to alter course the navigator must have two miniatures with the helmsman icon in the control room; to change speed the Engineer must have two miniatures with the telegraph icon in The Engine Room etc.  In all, there are a total of 17 distinct orders that the players cooperatively attempt to resolve.
The Captain's Player Board
However, responding to orders only describes half of your actions as an Officer on board the U-boat. You will also have unique tasks that you must do in your own play area. The Captain is managing crew morale through his hand of cards which allows them to issue orders and mobilise the crew.  The First Officer is controlling the mobile app and announcing events such as shift changes as well as looking after the health of the crew.  The Navigator is plotting courses and target intercept vectors as well as making sure the crew have enough variety in their diet. The Chief Engineer is attempting to keep the boat from sinking (too far) through repairing leaks and environmental conditions.
Oh dear, things are not going well!
This sounds like a lot of things to be managing, and it is, but the designers have used a time dilation feature on the app to provide some much-needed breathing space. This allows a dynamic passage of time, which gives players just enough time, if you respond quickly, to an event before the next issue crops up. This doesn’t stop issues from piling up if you just ignore them or don’t prioritise them appropriately. Sometimes feeding the crew is not as important as putting out a fire in the Torpedo Room. However as you’d expect, things are much more frantic with an enemy nearby.  The level of player engagement, whether that’s in transit mode (sped up time) or attempting to get a firing solution (near real-time) is spot on, in my opinion.  It’s just enough to keep things suspenseful without being exhausting.

Crew Figures

Prototype Miniatures
 Your miniatures, however, will get exhausted. Each time a miniature’s ability is used one of its activation spaces is blanked off by a token. Each sailor has two different abilities; this means that the dedicated repair miniatures (The Chief Engineer’s) or the dedicated observer miniatures (The Navigator’s) may not be available for their primary duty. Any other figure can perform an order for which they do not have an ability icon but they will be less effective doing so. You will have to blank off two of their activation space for one order. Each miniature only has 3 abilities to start with, so you should attempt to minimise this inefficiency.  This is easier said than done as you’ll constantly have to decide whether it’s worth the exhaustion of one submariner (not so bad) or mobilising the entire crew so the miniature with the right ability can move, and in so doing, advancing the Morale Track to a card draw space (bad) but completing the order (good).
Thanks Cap'n
Each miniature will recover one activation space on a watch changeover - announced by the mobile app and repeated for all to hear by the First Officer. The watch changeover will cause all players to flip their crew panel to reflect the new watch, which has subtly different abilities from the earlier watch, and hopefully more available abilities i.e. they’re more rested. The miniatures remain where they were and now represent the new watch. They have in effect, taken over the corresponding submariners’ task from the earlier watch.  Some events and mobilisations will cause the miniatures to take damage which is resolved by drawing a Health Condition card.  These cards have a strip of icons on them which indicate the effect and treatment.  Each of these Health Condition effect icons will also blank off the activation spaces of the affected miniature, effectively removing them from taking any part in the rest of their watch or until they receive first aid.

Player roles - The First Officer

First-aid is administered by The First Officer. Every Health Condition requires a specific treatment from the First Officers medical supplies. For example, a ‘Severe Burns’ condition wounds and exhausts that miniature and it requires three medical supplies to treat; syringe, ointment and bandage.  Health Conditions also consider the mental aspects of U-boat service, with exhaustion, depression and insomnia all making an appearance. If a miniature ever receives a second wound card they are KIA and no longer available for that watch.
First Officer's Player Board
The First Officer will be working like a one-armed paper hangar managing the mobile app, making sure the right people are aware or remember certain conditions and administering first aid from their supply of medical tokens.

The mobile app provides several first-person views, from the bridge looking through the observer’s binoculars and through the periscope, when at periscope depth, for enemy disposition and torpedo targeting. Whilst surfaced you can use the sextant which will report the grid square the U-boat is in. All of these will require the right miniature in the right compartment to legally access the screen. The integration between what you do on the board (U-boat model) with your miniatures and the app is very well thought out. The official First Officer rules video is here.
An exciting view for the crew...

Player roles - The Navigator

Every day the crew must eat.  In fact, food is one of the primary considerations in managing the morale of the crew.  As mundane as this sounds, it is absolutely right to represent this and the mini-game the navigator has to complete each day can have a significant effect on the Morale Track and can be surprisingly strategic.  The navigator has a supply of Food Tokens with which to prepare a meal every day, which dwindles over time. In essence, The Navigator is attempting to combine ingredients together, with some constraints. For example, having eggs and meat adjacent to one another allows ham omelette to be made with no discernible effect on morale. A casserole, requiring meat, eggs and onions, adjacent to one another, will lower the Morale Track by 1.
Navigator's Player Board
On top of this, The Navigator is responsible for Strategic and Tactical Navigation. Strategic Navigation is simply getting the U-Boat to the right area by plotting a bearing on the Strategic Map – as long as you know where you are.  Tactical navigation is completed by using the attack disk and the shipping tokens on their Player Board map. Reported contacts’ relative position should be plotted and updated (as well as possible) to minimise periscope Orders. The Attack Disk is then used to calculate the best intercept vector for the optimum Torpedo firing point. This was my favourite position as it pretty closely resembles my military experience. The official Navigator rules video is available here.

Player roles - The Chief Engineer

Aside from diving, surfacing and changing speed the unique task of the Chief Engineer is to repair the boat. The VII C, as evidenced by this game is a leaky bucket! There may be times where there are no repairs to manage but when there are you will probably have to coordinate those with not only your miniatures but those of the rest of the players as well. Repairs normally will consist of having the right miniatures, with the right abilities in the affected compartment. However in the most serious of repairs, the Hull Breach you will have a small technical puzzle to complete.  I can’t really comment on the puzzle as it wasn’t included in my prototype.
Chief Engineer's Player Board
As well as the four miniatures position, The Chief Engineer also manages the positions of the two toolboxes around the boat. If some events, i.e. ‘check electrics in crew quarters’ are ignored, they will ultimately develop into an Environmental Condition. These will require one of the supplies within the toolbox to effect repair – much like the First Officers medical supplies.  The toolboxes must be carried by a mobilised sailor into the affected compartment in order to start repairs.

Repairs (and observing), unlike any other order, take time. When a miniature is repairing something one of their activation spaces is blanked off by a special repair activation token. These are coloured green, orange and red to correspond to maintenance, failure, or major failure, which could take a different amount of time and/or number of sailors to repair. The official Chief Engineer rules video is here.
This is not going to end well

The mobile app

I know there’s some ill-will in the board game community towards app-driven games but I don’t share that opinion.  The app in this game helps with your immersion (… anyone?) and integrates more with the game here than in any other app driven game I have tried (Mansions of Madness, Imperial Assault, Descent 2nd Edition).  The app provides some of the events (Morale Track provides the rest), it tracks your world position, it generates enemies, it gives a first-person view and adds an authentic feeling soundtrack. German is definitely the best language in which to bark orders!
My U-Boat credentials
This take on submarine warfare is more immersive than any computer sub-sim I’ve played (see above pic) albeit it’s not as complex. However, through playing the Silent Hunters and Dangerous Waters of this world, I think they are missing a crucial element; when I play them I don’t feel like I’m working together with a crew.  From my military experience, the crew or the people you have around you are what makes or breaks your mission.  In U-Boot: TBG, because there are four of you working together; it really feels like (as far as a game is able – let’s get serious!) you’re a crew on board a military submarine.

In most areas, the designers have got just the right amount of complexity to keep the game enjoyable and realistic at the same time. I would struggle to describe it as a simulation, in my head, they are not fun and usually end with your instructor giving you a less-than-pleasant debrief. However, I think the designers want to implement different levels of complexity within the app that you can try for more of a challenge.

Gameplay Experience

During our missions we’ve experienced amongst other events, compartment fires, leaks, electrical conditions which all divert your attention from sinking enemy vessels. We were advised to check the electrics in a compartment, we ignored that because we didn’t want to have to mobilise the crew again. Unfortunately, it turned into an electrical failure and again it was ignored. Finally, it turned into a hazard causing damage to all miniatures in that section, and any miniature that needed to mobilise through that section. Things were not going well. This seemed to cause multiple lighting failures all over the boat and we had three compartments with no lighting. At this point our First Officer suggested that we turn off the lights in the room we were playing in (we didn’t). A few chuckles were had when Toilet Cleaning was required in the crews quarters.
That's one trigger-happy crew...
On one mission we found a lone merchantman and sunk him for 2500 GRT. We then decided to go and visit Scotland, not a good idea – we were hit by multiple mines and eventually sunk. On our next mission (everyone wanted to play again), we found a small convoy. Everything got very hectic after this as we were nursing several leaks, and electric motor repairs, which led to a fire just as we were lining up on the leading destroyer. Unfortunately for us, at Periscope depth, we were distracted by all the mechanical issues and we were rammed and sunk by the enemy. In hindsight, we should have gone for the merchantmen at the back.  As ever, discretion is the better part of valour. We had such high hopes after discovering the convoy as well!

Future Development

The app is by no means perfect but I wouldn’t expect it to be at this stage. Several things haven’t been fully implemented and I’m sure that through further development the designers will add more content. For example, we were alerted to a patrolling plane but this was only an engine overhead sound, we ignored the second one and nothing seemed to happen. The deck guns aren’t implemented yet so we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. We received a new message from HQ, but couldn’t read it because the enigma machine hasn’t been implemented either.
The Hydrophone
If I have one quibble with the current gameplay, it is that the TDC screen feels a little simplistic, it’s a case of flood the tube and fire. That is probably not going to satisfy the Silent Hunter aficionados out there. I would like to see more complexity, as an option for experienced players, added to the app.

Things that are currently missing, which could be implemented are the ability to work in conjunction with other U-Boats in wolf packs, maybe even over the internet with another group of players…  The prototype only has one patrol mission in the North Sea and after playing it four times I’m ready for some more variety.  I would like to see different types of missions, namely escort missions, rendezvous missions, troop insertion missions, specifically targeted vessels, risky transits from one base to another i.e. going through the Gibraltar Straits or the English Channel, to name a few. I would also like to see a campaign mode covering the rise and fall of the U-boat in WWII. Maybe this will add experienced submariner crews with bonus abilities from successful missions. I have no idea how some of that would be implemented but from what I’ve seen so far I’m sure the final product will meet most of my expectations.

Kickstarter project

In my opinion, this project has come to Kickstarter at the perfect point in its development. It is a project close to what I think Kickstarter was originally intended.  It’s not a polished CMON product offering masses of miniatures as stretch goals nor is it a completely finished-already Queen Games Kickstarter. This is a small(ish) publisher taking on a brilliant (in my opinion) and well play-tested prototype from dedicated designers that needs more development. The game is brimming with potential and is already good value for money at £65. This will only get better as the Kickstarter campaign progresses and more elements are implemented through further design.

The designers and publishers have been very active on the games bgg page, so if you've got a (hunter) killer idea or must-have feature then get in touch with them through the game forums at bgg.

The Kickstarter campaign is currently due to go live on the 22nd January 2018.