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  St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International  Once again with a wargame, I find my history s...

St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International

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

Quarterdeck International

 St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins


War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International

 Once again with a wargame, I find my history synapses at a loss. I was always more interested in the fighting for Caen during the Normandy Campaign. Oh, I have played many tactical battles about the American Hedgerow Campaign, but I have to admit I only know the history of the actual American breakout and and end run at a cursory level. This is, however, a very good thing. I would be very surprised if many grognards are not like me in this aspect. We acquire or get ready to play a game about a period or campaign that our knowledge is not up to snuff on. Then we grab every resource we can get our hands on to read up on it. This does not mean that we watch certain TV channels about it. One of them is a fanciful landing spot for aliens. The other should change its name to the Nazi memorabilia channel, but I digress. This is one of the salient points about wargames, even if we do not play them. They give us a chance to see exactly what the forces of both sides were faced with at the moment. In truth though, a wargame is a game/simulation and was meant to be played. So let us see how St. Lo measures up on both the game and historical levels. This is what comes with the game:

One 22" x 34" Mounted Map
400 die-cut playing pieces
One US Division Display Sheet
One US Artillery Display Sheet
One German Division Display Sheet
One German Artillery Display Sheet
Rules Book
Charts and Tables
One six-sided die

 The first thing we have to describe is the map. It is mounted, but that just tells half the story. It seems to be twice the thickness of other mounted maps. It will be able to deal with years of gaming. The terrain on the map is mostly the same. This is not the map's fault. This is hedgerow hell. There are a few villages throughout the map, but the most important features are the higher terrain. The higher terrain allows either side to use its artillery. The colors of the map fit the area nicely. The counters are large at 9/16" and come pre-rounded. So, you counter clippers can have a break with these. The Rule Book is twenty-eight pages long. All of the headings for the rules 1.0 or 5.0 etc. have excellent little historical reports and information at the start of them. For the history lover these little blurbs are worth the cost of the game alone. The Rule Book is in full color. It also comes with examples of play. The six Player Aid sheets are laminated. This is a great touch. I do not let food or anything near my games, but some people like to live life dangerously. The information on the sheets are pretty much self-explanatory. All of the Player Aid sheets are in English. The game pieces have been manufactured to the highest standard. 

The English version of the game is in full English

 The Sequence of Play is:

Weather Phase
Reinforcement Phase
Initiative Phase
Asset Phase (Does not take place on Turn 1)
Operations Phase
Recovery Phase
Artillery Rally Phase
Headquarters Phase

 The Player Notes and Historical notes are both well worth the read. The Player Notes start out as this for both sides:


 "You must except that the Americans assault will push you back. But remember, the American victory objectives are far behind your initial line., and the victory conditions require only that you hold those objectives for eight days. So you must plan to trade space for time. Back up and build strongholds. and cause the Americans as much frustration as you can. The game system offers you a number of subtle ways to do so."


"Tactically, try to drive deep and fragment the German Line. Your artillery, if it has good observation can be a shocking deadly weapon against retreating German units. Beware of letting small German units slip behind your lines. Usually, the best attack procedure is first to pin or disrupt the defender with barrage fire, and then to hit him with a deliberate or intensive attack. If you have achieved a high combat ratio, you can save time and also surprise the German player by omitting the barrage."

 The game is full of tactical flavor and rules representing:

Barrage Fire
Hasty attack
Recon (US)
Zones of Control

 The game is different than most other wargames on this scale, especially in the way that it handles Assets.

 The game play for both sides is as historic as it comes. The high ground on the map (which there isn't much of), becomes the main area of fighting between the Germans and the Americans. The high ground in this game, like reality, means that you can see the enemy and use your artillery and other assets against the enemy. Historically the American artillery was its premier force in WWII. It was able to rain death and destruction upon the Axis forces whenever given the chance. The Germans in the game are as usual for 1944-45 goal is to hang on longer than they did in reality. Playing as the Germans, you will be ground down turn after turn. You will need to play the game like you are playing Poker and know when to cut and run. The American forces will grind you down. Playing as the Americans, do exactly as was done in 1944 in this battle. Use your artillery to smash the Germans into a pulp, instead of charging headlong and losing your infantry in a blood bath. Playing as the Americans, you only have eight turns to win the game. There are no German Victory Points. Victory is determined by how many Victory Points the American player can amass. The American player gets eight points for having a unit with a line of supply in one of the St-Lo hexes. He must also try to capture as many German Depot hexes on the East side of the map as he can. Three of the Depot hexes are on the map edge one or two hexes from St-Lo, and are worth two points apiece. The others are spread out over the map, and are worth one point  apiece. In the games that I have played, victory has come down to the wire. Twenty-one or higher points means a Decisive US victory. Eight to ten points gives you a marginal German victory. The German player has to fight like Jersey Joe Walcott. Always retreat, but make the other player pay for each hex, and hit back hard when the opportunity arises.

 In summary, this is an absolutely great game that plays very historically, and the components are first rate. Thank you very much Quarterdeck International for letting me review this game. Apparently, Compass Games is now selling St-Lo instead of Quarterdeck International. Please check out the other many fine products on QI's site. They carry a great assortment of hard to find European and Asian wargames. Also look at the great line of games that Compass Games is now selling.


Quarterdeck International:

Compass Games:

St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins:


278th Squadron "The Same 4 Cats" by Quarterdeck International I do not know why, but I absol...

278th Squadron by Quarterdeck International 278th Squadron by Quarterdeck International

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

Quarterdeck International

278th Squadron

"The Same 4 Cats"


Quarterdeck International

I do not know why, but I absolutely love Italian planes from right before and during World War II. I have flown them in every combat flight simulator that has been made, from the biplanes to the 2005 series of fighters and most of the bombers, including this one the Savoia Marchetti 79. This was usually shortened to just SM.79, or as the English called it "Damned Hunchback". The Italian nickname was Sparviero (Sparrowhawk). In this game you will be flying it in the 278th Squadron, nicknamed "The Same 4 Cats (I soliti 4 gatti). The plane, although of prewar design, was a very good torpedo bomber. It scored many hits against the Royal Navy in World War II.

 The game is composed of a Game Mat and several decks of small cards. These decks are:


 The game retails for $16, so understand these are small decks of cards made of thin cardboard. They all work fine except for one small snag, and it has nothing to do with gameplay. The Ship Cards are done in yellow and the small write up about the ship, not needed for play, is in a red that for me is very hard to read against the yellow background. Even with that slight blip it doesn't change or hurt the game one iota. 

 The rules are very simple. The player will play out ten missions with your SM.79 to try and torpedo a ship(s). So the Mission Card is pulled first. The Mission Card will show you if you have to add any cards to the Event Card deck for that mission. It might be more AA Cards or a Sun Card etc. Your plane will start out with seven Event Cards away from the ship. Now this is the tricky part, you can choose to release your torpedo between cards four through one. Of course, the closer you get the more you have a chance for a torpedo hit, or for you to turn into a fiery ball. On your way to the ship you have to deal with Event Cards that can help or hurt you ie. Sun Cards or AA Cards. Then when your nerves have had enough you let go of your torpedo and check to see if you have hit or missed the ship. You will have to make up 'Decks' of cards to figure out damage, hits, or what have you. The instructions will tell you exactly what cards will make up these Decks. So for example, the game will say to see if your torpedo hits, "make a deck of three Hit Cards and one Miss card". As I said, the rules are pretty easy. Your goal is to first, survive your ten missions and second, to torpedo ships and win medals.

 I am the worst pilot that the Regia Aeronautica has ever had. My abilities to miss a ship with a torpedo is only bested by my ability to attract AA fire. One problem that I have is that to increase my chances of getting a torpedo hit, I continually try to get as close as possible to my target. I should weigh the odds more and try from further away. My nickname in the Italian Air Force is 'Smoky'. I think it comes from my inner thought while playing 21 to always say 'hit me'. Either that or I believe that the ship will be damaged by the pieces of my flaming plane hitting it. 

 The game is simple to play, but it does have some thought behind it. The game is not just a time waster or card turner. You do have some control over the life of your plane. Thank you Quarterdeck International for letting me kick the tires in this fun, exasperating little game.

Link to the game:


Hitler Strikes North The 1940 invasion of Norway by Quarterdeck International  I will start with a question -...

Hitler Strikes North The 1940 Invasion of Norway by Quarterdeck International Hitler Strikes North The 1940 Invasion of Norway by Quarterdeck International

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

Quarterdeck International

Hitler Strikes North

The 1940 invasion of Norway


Quarterdeck International

 I will start with a question - why Norway? The answer lies in this quote: "If the mines of Lapland had ceased working, the blast furnaces of the Ruhr would have shut down too" (Rolf Karlbom). You could also add in the much larger threat to British sea lanes if the Uboats etc. could use Norway's ports. The hard part of the operation is that you are literally bearding the English Lion, or in this case, megalodon to come and take a bite. Scapa Flow, the British Royal Navy's main base, is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Norway. Germany's Navy was small and completely untried. Their ships were mostly newer than the British ones, but their worth in combat was an unknown factor. Without there being a naval part to the Invasion of Norway, the German plan was doomed to failure. 

 We will look at the components first. The maps are well done and easy to read. They are composed of most of Norway, the Northern tip of Scotland and some of Denmark. The counters are 5/8" and are also easy to read, but relatively plain. They come However, for the purist, they come with the corners already rounded. So, you can put your clippers away. The Player Aid Cards are in black and white on hardstock paper. There are supposed to be seven of them (1,2,3,3A,4,5, and one sheet that has Contact/Evasion tables). The only problem was that my copy did not come with #2. There is a copy of this sheet on the game's BGG page (I will post a link). So I just printed out that one card. This is actually a Chinese/English version. The Chinese Player Aid Cards are actually in color and laminated, and there are three of them. The problem with them is that the printing on them is very small, to fit all of the information on three double-sided PACs. The rulebook is in black and white, but the rules are succinct and easy to follow.

 This is what comes with the game:

2 x 22 x 17 inch maps
6 Player aids
216 Die-cut playing pieces
24 page rule book

 The game is interesting, because the German player rolls the dice to see what his goals are for the actual game. The player checks the die roll against the German Goal Determination Table (this is on the missing #2 card). The German Player's goal is either to exit Raiders into the Atlantic or to invade Norway. Strangely the German Player can choose to invade Norway if he rolls for Raiding. The Allied Player is only shown what his opponent's goal was at the end of the game. 

 This is the sequence of play:

5.1 Introduction of any Reinforcements takes place for both sides. Airfields adjacent to captured cities become German. Detach any destroyers at this time. Bardufoss and/or Weather roll if appropriate (See 9.51 & 15.0).
5.2 Movement.
Players may attempt to evade and/or divide up forces being shadowed (see 6.44).
Shadowed forces move and declare where they stop at and shadowing forces proceed with them.

5.3 German Air Reconnaissance Phase (see 6.22).
5.4 Mutual Search Phase. At night, only surface warships may call out a hex. Any sighted forces now proceed to evaluate the contact and if combat will occur (See 6.4).
5.5 Combat takes place. Combat occurs in the following order:
Submarine combat.
Surface ship combat at sea, followed by any combat with Coast Defense Batteries (EXCEPTION: see 9.21).
All ships on each side are revealed to each side (see 8.21).
All Gunnery is allocated before rolling dice.
Salvo Chasing is declared before gunnery combat (see 8.26).
Shielding is declared (see 8.27).
Gunnery Combat takes place.
Torpedo attacks are allocated and then executed.
Air combat.
Paratroop drops are now resolved (only in daylight). Check to see if any ports/airfields fall.
Norwegian and Danish warships are retreated if appropriate (See 9.31).
5.8 Complete the turn and move the turn marker forward one box.

 One of the game's greatest strengths is the amount of what ifs that can be played out in the game. There are Optional Rules including: The Bismarck and the Graf Zeppelin among many others. Luck plays a large part in the game, or actually die rolls. If the Royal Navy catches you with its big gun ships, it is usually lights out. The German Player must rely on his speed to get him out of trouble. One thing I was not aware of was the lackluster performance of German torpedoes in this campaign. The Luftwaffe, which became a large threat to the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, is not anywhere near as potent here. This is as it was historically so it fits right in. As you can see below, there is even a chance for the French Navy to get involved in the melee.

 The is the games second release. It was originally released in the 1980s. The original release was thought of highly by wargamers. It seemed to make an even larger splash when it was released in Japan. The game has had some large changes from the first edition. Many of these were added by the developer Jack Greene from co-writing a book called "Hitler Strikes North". The price of the game is worth it if only for this one paragraph from the designer Jack Greene: "These game rules are not to be picked apart by a rules lawyer. They are an attempt to use logic and historical understanding of the period and players should adopt the same attitude. Otherwise, play somebody else's game". This should be made a standard and stamped on the face of all game rulebooks.

 I was given this game to review and did not pick it. The Norway Campaign or the surface raiding campaign in WWII does not really interest me that much. Much to my surprise, the game actually grew on me and is a very good representation of the campaigns. I now know this because the game made me do a lot of reading and investigating into the campaigns themselves. Any game that can do that has already paid for itself in opening up closed minds. This one not only did that, but as a game plays very well. Because of time constraints I was only able to play it solo (you can play any game solo). Its nuances would make it work as a very good two player game. Thank you very much Quarterdeck International for allowing me to review it.

 I somehow missed an email from QI about the missing Player's Aid Card. They had let me know that it was MIA and had sent a replacement for me to print off. I just found the email after the review was posted. 

Here are links to QI and some of their games:


A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International   Quarterdeck Games (1981-1988) was a company I had heard and read...

A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International A Step To Victory by Quarterdeck International

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

Quarterdeck International

A Step To Victory


Quarterdeck International

 Quarterdeck Games (1981-1988) was a company I had heard and read about for quite a while. To be honest, I didn't know about their revival until recently. I had seen some of the naval games that had been made down through the years by Jack Greene, but for one reason or another I never picked one up. So, I am very proud that Quarterdeck International sent me two games to review. This one is on the Campaign for Bougainville from 1943-45. The game is very small and comes with this:

36 Counters
One sheet with Terrain Effects and Combat Results

 The map is 11" x 17". The game needs a six-sided die to play.

 The sequence of play is:

Allied Player Turn
Reinforcement Phase
Movement Phase
Combat Phase
Japanese Player Turn
Reinforcement Phase
Movement Phase
Combat Phase

 The rulebook is only seven pages long. As you can guess,  there are not a lot of rules to try and remember. The game is only ten turns long. If the Allies do not control any of the Japanese bases at the end of the game, it is a decisive Japanese victory. Other than that, both sides can accumulate victory points in various ways. Both players can 'rest' all of their troops by declaring the turn a 'rest' one. The Japanese Player cannot rest his troops after turn six. This represents the Japanese units being cut off from any supplies, especially food.

 The other usual wargame rules are also represented: zones of control, stacking, and movement cost for the different terrain. Combat is resolved by the Combat Results Table. The game rules follow the arrival and departure of the three different Allied forces. First the US Marines land and then are removed and replaced by the US Army between turns three to five. On turn six, all of the US troops are removed and the Australians take over. 

 This is not a game about blitzkrieg. Like all of the islands in the South Pacific, trying to get troops from one part of the island to another is a nightmare. Bougainville has a spine of mountains and hills through the center of the island. The fighting here was as bad as that on New Guinea. Half of the battle is against nature. The only real thing I can ding the game for is that the map does not show 'Hellzapoppin' Ridge. This could be because the game map is bilingual in both Japanese and English. This is a great little game. Replay is somewhat limited because of the limited terrain, although the friction of war can make it a somewhat different game each time you play. Thank you Quarterdeck International for letting me review A Step To Victory.

Quarterdeck International:

A Step To Victory: