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  Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games  This is the final Combat Mission game in the series, and its ...

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games

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

Slitherine Games

 Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall


Matrix/Slitherine Games

 This is the final Combat Mission game in the series, and its release will also coincide with the release of a DLC for Final Blitzkrieg. The Combat Mission series is one that has been one of, if not the, best tactical games on the PC for a long time. The different games have spanned the time from World War II to the present. 

 This is what Matrix/Slitherine Games has to say about the dual release:

"Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg (CMFB) follows the Western Allies through the battles along Germany's border and into the heart of the Reich itself. The game covers the October 1944 through January 1945 timeframe with a focus on the American sector of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Sturmtiger

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg allows you to revisit the famous battlefields along the German border, with the wintery Battle of the Bulge as its main focus. It was a time and place where the Wehrmacht was still highly capable at the tactical level, yet fairly evenly matched against the American forces arrayed against it. The mix of harsh weather in an unforgiving rugged environment ensured the fighting was challenging for both sides.

Two expansive campaigns offer two very different experiences. One focuses on American forces pushing into Aachen, the first major German city to fall into Allied hands. The other portrays the famous drive of Kampfgruppe Peiper deep into the American lines. Also included are one training campaign, 25 standalone scenarios, and multitudes of Quick Battle maps that will test your tactical acumen and give you easy access to the full range of weather, terrain, and forces from this period and place in time.

Close-up shot of a German 88


Tactical warfare at battalion and below scale in a true 3D environment

Command individual vehicles, teams, and squads

Expansive simulation of "soft factors" such as Morale, Experience, and Leadership

Innovative systems portraying Fog of War, Spotting, Line of Sight, Command & Control, and Objectives

Unmatched realistic physics, ballistics, and battlefield effects

Fight in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, all of which realistically impact fighting abilities

Unique hybrid system for RealTime or WeGo (turn based) play

Full featured Editor for maps, scenarios, and campaigns

Quick Battle system sets up deliberate or randomized battles based on player specifications

Single player and head to head play, including Play By Email (PBEM)

The final array of German heavy armor makes its first appearance in Combat Mission

American forces also have much improved armor, including the M36 tank destroyer

Organizational changes in the formations on both sides give even the most experienced CM player new tactical challenges and opportunities

The winter weather and forested terrain set the tactical experience apart from all other CM games

Three Regions within the game help set the mood with Dutch, French, and German accents

Expansive maps with 1m x 1m resolution allow for short and long range action across complex terrain

Buildings have explicitly simulated doors, windows, and floors

Weather and ground condition modelling systems allow for everything from dry sunny days to muddy stormy nights, with visibility and mobility dynamically affected by the conditions. Some Combat Mission games include the full range of Winter, Spring, and Fall weather as well

Line of Sight and Line of Fire are separately calculated, which means sometimes you can see something you can't shoot and sometimes you can shoot at things you can't see

Soldier posture (prone, kneeling, standing) affects everything including spotting, cover, and ability to engage enemies

The way a nation organizes its units has a huge impact on how they perform in combat, therefore great pains are taken to accurately portray formations as they are in real life for a particular point in time

Lighting affects combat in no small way in real life as well as in the game. The correct lighting conditions are simulated based on time of day, time of year, and weather."

Allied Forces 

 They are also having a sale right now on the other Combat Mission games:

The Matrix team is thrilled to inform you that this week, from January 15th to January 22nd, our entire franchise Combat Mission will be participating in the Midweek Madness Sale, off up to 50%. For example, you can now find Fortress Italy, Shock Force 2 or Battle for Normandy at half price.

Matrix/Slitherine Games:

Welcome to Matrix Games

Combat Mission sale:

Games on Sale - Matrix Games

  If you hear a rumor that long time wargame developer Battlefront is making a modern Combat Mission module about the place where you live, ...

Combat Mission: Black Sea Combat Mission: Black Sea

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

Slitherine Games


If you hear a rumor that long time wargame developer Battlefront is making a modern Combat Mission module about the place where you live, you might want to look into taking an extended vacation. I say that because both of their titles set in our time were developed based on smoldering conflicts that soon after turned into serious real life wars. First in Syria with Shock Force, and then in Ukraine with Black Sea. The key difference in each game of course being the intervention of conventional NATO forces, which in both cases was at least within the realm of possibility. If you wanted to see just what a NATO intervention in Ukraine might have looked like, then you are in luck, because Combat Mission: Black Sea is here to provide that experience.

Although originally released back in 2014, Black Sea is now joining Shock Force 2 on Steam and the Matrix Store, as Battlefront continues their venture with Slitherine of bringing the Combat Mission series to the largest games platform around. I wrote my take on Shock Force 2 and to some extent the Combat Mission (CM) series as a whole in an article a few months back. Today I'll try to focus on what sets Black Sea apart and why you might want to add it to your collection. 

As mentioned, Black Sea depicts the most modern conflict of any game in the Combat Mission series, a war in Ukraine involving a full on United States military intervention. That means peer-on-peer conflict with the best Russia has to offer, as well as scenarios involving the slightly less well equipped Ukrainian forces. This is a far cry from the mostly asymmetric scenarios in Shock Force, where the highly trained and well equipped US and NATO troops faced a challenge only because they were asked to accomplish difficult objectives while taking minimal casualties. The enemy forces in that game usually varied in quality from militia rabbles to poorly motivated regular Syrian army units. One can also make a comparison to the WW2 settings of the other CM games. There, the forces are evenly matched in terms of quality most of the time, as they are here. However, as deadly as a WW2 battlefield could be, infantry firefights mostly involved bolt action rifles slinging only a moderate amount of lead around, and tanks could often shrug off a hit or three. Not so in Black Sea. 

In Black Sea, everything on the battlefield is a glass cannon. Every unit is deadly when positioned correctly, and dead when not. Modern optics and thermal sites and other gizmos make any move in the open a potential death sentence. In this kind of highly lethal environment, information becomes king. If you can see the enemy first, you can eliminate him without risking your own units. Unmanned drones are present in many missions, providing you with intel about whatever part of the battlefield you task them to observe. If you can get eyes on, say, an enemy APC holding an intersection, you can then drop a burst of precision artillery rounds directly on it and open a gap in the opposing defense. The same can happen to your units just as easily.

In a way, playing a battle in Black Sea can feel like something of a game of chess. This isn't a WW2 situation where you hurl an entire infantry company or two into a slugfest over a village, then roll in some tanks to provide extra firepower, and maybe throw in an artillery strike over a general area. This is a game where you carefully position each asset you have to maximize its potential, and hope it isn't blown up in an instant by some unseen foe.

The assets you have in Black Sea include many of the same units we saw in Shock Force, but with new bells and whistles to reflect a conflict a decade further into the future. For the United States, we have Abrams tanks, Bradley's, and Stryker's of all models. The Russians have T-72's and T-90's and of course a smorgasbord of BMP's, BTR's, and so on. The differences between these vehicles in Black Sea vs Shock Force reflect the nitty gritty details that make Combat Mission games shine. Depending on the exact model in question, many of these vehicles have better optics than they had in Shock Force. Some also have Active Protection Systems which can destroy incoming anti-tank rockets, giving these vehicles a fighting chance on the modern battlefield. Being aware of whether your vehicles are equipped with one of these systems or not is essential to forming a successful plan. Another easily overlooked difference from Shock Force is how the playing field has been leveled during night combat. In Shock Force, the Western forces ruled the night with their night vision equipped vehicles and infantry. Now everybody has some kind of night vision capabilities, although quality still varies. 

For better and ill, Black Sea is also still a very similar game to Shock Force and the other CM titles. The interface is exactly the same, which may be frustrating for some, but cozy enough for those already acclimated to it. Quick Battles against the AI are even more underwhelming here than in the WW2 titles, as the generic moves the AI makes in this mode tend to get their units wiped out. Performance with the engine continues to be a mixed bag. While it remains impressive that Battlefront can model a 1:1 battlefield with such exacting detail and at a realistic scope, the engine is just barely up to the task. The framerate can wildly swing as you move the camera around in medium to large scenarios, no matter how powerful your PC might be. Continued updates to the engine have improved things over the years and also made the game look nicer, but at this point I think we would all love to see a jump to something completely new. Hopefully the partnership with Matrix and additional funds from Steam sales will get them there.

The base game comes with 21 stand alone scenarios as well as a campaign for each faction, plus a training campaign. This will keep you busy for a quite a while, as most scenarios are difficult regardless of which side you play, and the campaigns even more so as you must keep your units alive to fight in battle after battle. If you want even more Black Sea, there is also the Battle Pack which adds a new campaign for the Russians and US Forces, along with 6 more stand alone scenarios. For only $10 it's a good amount of content that will keep you busy for hours. There are also a couple dozen user made scenarios and at least one campaign available over at The Scenario Depot that you can freely download.

If you are already a huge fan of Combat Mission, then Black Sea is an easy recommendation. The shift to a very modern battlefield really does make the game feel fresh as you must adjust your tactics to the high-tech, high-lethality reality of a conventional war between two major powers. If you've been putting off the purchase because you didn't like Battlefront's DRM policies of the past and messing with manual patches, well, there's no excuse now. With the game now on Steam, you are only one click away from having the most up to date version of the game on any computer, any time you want it. If you are new to the series and unsure about which game to purchase, remember that Battlefront is great about providing demos for every game. The demo for Black Sea includes a training scenario and two full scenarios from the game, more than enough to see what you are getting into.

Combat Mission: Black Sea is available on Steam, the Matrix Store, and directly from Battlefront.

- Joe Beard

Thermonuclear war is the game about which it's been said that the only winning move is not to play at all. What would it look like if yo...


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

Slitherine Games

Thermonuclear war is the game about which it's been said that the only winning move is not to play at all. What would it look like if you had to play it out anyway? ICBM is a game which answers that question. Millions will die as eight global regions duke it out with every weapon of mass destruction in their inventory. 

ICBM is a real time strategy game from Slitherine with sparse graphics but a deep well of strategy to explore. At the beginning of the game you will be presented with a mostly empty map of the world. Eight regions, such as North America, East Asia, and Europe, are each outlined in their own color and dotted with targets, ahem, cities filled with millions of innocent civilians. In terms of military power, things start off completely even, with everyone building from the same relatively blank slate. Once the clock starts ticking, the player is given a wide open decision space in terms of what to research, what to build, and where to deploy it. Additionally, at some point alliances will form, which the player is free to enter into, or not, though isolationists will likely find themselves very, very alone once the nukes start flying. That's because alliances allow not just the sharing of vision, but also the sharing of technology, both of these things being absolutely crucial to gaining an edge over the enemy. 

At the start of the game it would be foolhardy to rush into conflict. ICBM is all about the slow burn as you build up forces and technology, shaping your strategy as you go. Radars must be built so that you can find targets to begin with, as well as defend against the enemy. Then you'll need to decide on what your offense and defense will look like. Do you want wings of bombers or fleets of subs? Maybe you'll attack from space, or a good old fashioned carrier strike force?  As you're building up, you'll likely find yourself skirmishing with neighbors. Maybe you catch their sub lurking off the cost and sink it, or maybe they notice your isolated radar site and take it out with an airstrike. Since everything you build costs you time that could have been spent building something else, you'll feel these losses. On top of that, this fighting adds tension to the game, since you never know if this is IT, or just another quick strike before things quiet down again. 

Once things do kick off, you'll quickly find out just how well or poorly you have planned, and also how well your enemies have done. Didn't bother patrolling your coastlines at all this game? Maybe there's a couple subs hanging out there ready to waste your infrastructure in a matter of seconds. Underestimate the enemy air defenses, and now your bomber wings got wiped out before reaching their targets? That's the ballgame folks. Just the same, the enemy will be running up against your defenses and maybe you've got some surprises for them too. This quick release of destructive energy is what all of the tension of the early game build up has been leading towards. ICBM even has specific mechanics to ratchet this moment up. 

One is the option to turn off a feature which pauses the game for every little semi-significant update (like spotting a new enemy unit) because once the full scale war kicks off, it's going to get hectic and there's no fun in stopping it every few seconds. Second, there is a tool for setting up large scale coordinated strike plans that can be set in motion with one click. Given enough buildup time you can find yourself in command of dozens or hundreds of weapons of mass destruction. The tool makes it easy to divvy up appropriate targets for them and even time the attacks to hit all at once. 

For long time strategy fans, you'll likely remember DEFCON from 2006, a game which certainly paved the way for this title. Where DEFCON was streamlined and colorful, ICBM is grayer and more complex. One could certainly enjoy both games, but I could also see someone greatly preferring one over the other. I appreciate the more complex and involved systems in ICBM, where you have a great deal of freedom in shaping your force composition, but while playing I was constantly reminded of how DEFCON managed to provoke a stronger emotional response despite it's more colorful and simpler presentation. Almost 15 years later, I can still vividly recall the ambient sounds in DEFCON which included distant alarms, doors closing, and someone crying in the background as the war played out on screen. ICBM feels much more sterile in terms of presentation. It's functional, but not much else.

ICBM offers a fun take on strategy gaming, especially if you can get online and play with a group. I could see friends taking multiple runs at each other using different strategies and styles. There is also an online ELO ranking if you want to get into serious competitive play. The AI does a good enough job, but of course will never be as creative or unpredictable as another human. 

ICBM is available from the usual online stores, as well as directly from Slitherine.

- Joe Beard

Something is Stirring, down in the Abyss. A submarine, the USS Salem, has a mysterious incident which leaves the crew scattered across the s...

Stirring Abyss Stirring Abyss

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

Slitherine Games

Something is Stirring, down in the Abyss. A submarine, the USS Salem, has a mysterious incident which leaves the crew scattered across the sea floor in diving suits. You awaken as one of the officers, and set to work finding other survivors from the crew and figuring out what happened. As you explore, it becomes apparent that this was no simple naval incident. Aggressive, monstrous creatures stand in your way, and nature seems to be corrupting in disturbing ways all around you. going on.

Just in time for Halloween comes a spooky strategy adventure from Sleepy Sentry and Slitherine Games. Stirring Abyss combines elements of XCOM and the Lovecraft mythos to create something quite different than anything I've seen before. As the leader of the surviving crew from the USS Salem, you'll go on a series of missions, defeating monsters and gathering resources as you unravel the plot. While you might glance at the screenshots and think that this game seems simple enough, there is actually quite a lot going on...beneath the surface. 

After coming to his senses on the sea floor, your starting character makes his way back to the USS Salem, which has suffered heavy damage. Fans of XCOM will immediately see the influence of the base building in that series reimagined here. Instead of building a base, you'll instead be pumping water out of the various compartments in the sub, and then spending resources to get things operational again. Some rooms have a pre-determined use, while quite a few can provide a benefit of your choosing. Stirring Abyss is very stingy with resources, forcing you to make hard choices about what rooms to bring online first. 

Stirring Abyss is actually stingy in a lot of good ways, constantly putting your team under a ton of...pressure. Crew members don't automatically heal between missions. Resources that you need for repairing the sub are also needed for crafting items and equipment. Power generated by the sub can be used for special abilities during the tactical phase, but needs to be conserved if you're going to keep pumping water out of the sub. During the tactical phase your team is closer to running out of air with each turn that passes. On top of all of that, the tactical combat itself is unforgiving, often pitting your team against overwhelming odds and demanding that you use all of their special abilities to good effect, or else. 

The tactical combat is relatively simple in terms of mechanics, but still very satisfying. There are three classes of characters: officers, scientists, and crewmen, each with a different set of options for unlocking new abilities as they level up. Additionally, each character you bring on board is unique, with a few custom traits of their own. Most combat early on consists of stabbing enemies with your handy diving knives, but eventually each character will have a variety of options for dishing out extra damage, hitting enemies with status effects, and supporting each other. Making this far juicier is that this is a game set in a Lovecraftian world, drawing much of its inspiration from The Temple, a short story about a German sub in WWI that meets a troubled end. After just a couple of missions you gain party wide supernatural abilities that you can fire off several times per mission. These include things like teleporting short distances and massively boosting your accuracy. A little further into the campaign you'll unlock a room in the sub where you can mutate your crew members and give them straight up crazy new "perks" like tentacle arms and giant claws. 

You'll need every advantage you can get, as Stirring Abyss pulls no punches with difficulty. Besides dealing with scant resources, you'll also need to keep a close eye on the hit points of your crew members. While there are a lot of ways to restore hit points (abilities, items, submarine features, and occasionally by killing enemies) almost none of them are free, and absolutely none of them will fill that health meter up in one go. This strategic concern translates to careful maneuvering during the tactical phase. Recklessly wading into a fight can put you at a disadvantage later on. Instead, you'll want to make full use of the options you have. You'll also need to learn how each of the many different enemy types operates. Most have at least a couple of special abilities that you'll need to work around. Besides health points, your crewmen also have a sanity meter which can be depleted by various events, like say, seeing a teammate get ripped apart by a giant shark-man monster. Suffering too much sanity damage can eventually render someone completely insane, which could cost you a veteran of many battles.  As units level up they can choose from new perks and abilities, depending on their class, as well as stat bonuses that increase things like damage resistance and critical hit chances. These upgrades are pretty straight forward, but to add some complexity there are also a large selection of party-wide bonuses to be unlocked over time. 

While the combat and XCOM elements are quite good, if relatively simple, what really makes this game sing is how it dives into its theme. The impressive music tracks are dark and foreboding, playing up the dread of a deep sea mystery and something unimaginable lurking in the darkness. The graphics, which still screenshots don't fully convey, charmingly draw from the well of 1950's era sci-fi and adventure art. Each mission carries the narrative forward, with lengthy discussions among the crew, detailed descriptions of the various horrors you come across, and the occasional choose-your-own-adventure style minigame. I don't want to spoil too much here, as the mystery of just what is happening is a big part of the draw to go from one mission to the next. 

As a fan of Lovecraft stories and someone who can't get enough XCOM style strategy games, this one was a very pleasant surprise when it popped onto my radar and eventually ended up in my hands. I haven't gotten too far into the campaign yet, as there was a bug (since ironed out in the release version) which tripped me up several times. Even so, there's no doubt in my mind that this game will hold your interest if you give it a shot. The story is fun right out of the gate, and the tactical combat is comfortable but challenging. I look forward to pursuing the mystery further and seeing just what sort of eldritch horrors are causing so much chaos in the briny deep.

Stirring Abyss is available on GoG, Steam and directly from Slitherine.

- Joe Beard

  Battlestar Galactica Deadlock recently ended its second and final season of DLC with a bang, and after playing through the campaign I'...

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Season 2 Finale DLC Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Season 2 Finale DLC

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

Slitherine Games


Battlestar Galactica Deadlock recently ended its second and final season of DLC with a bang, and after playing through the campaign I'm here to offer my thoughts. As the name of pack implies, "Armistice" is a series of missions leading up to the end of the First Cylon War. There are eight missions in the pack, and the campaign plays out in a mostly linear fashion. There are side missions for gathering extra resources and keeping the Cylon threat level down, but really you can plow ahead with the story missions, only pausing if you really need to.

Each mission comes with plenty of story dialogue before, during, and after the operation. Characters you've come to know throughout the lengthy campaign reach the end of their arcs along with the war itself. If you're a fan of BSG and have read up on the lore, you'll be happy to know that many tidbits from the mini-series prequel "Razor" are tied into the final missions here. The story ends on a rather somber note, as is appropriate given what happens later in the BSG world. As the player, you know that you have come up a bit short, and some of the characters seem to sense this as well. The Cylon "super weapon" hinted at throughout the story gets away, dooming mankind to the events seen in the opening hours of BSG the show. 

While many of the missions in the campaign boil down to wiping out the enemy fleet, many of them have some kind of objective to accomplish as well, and one towards the end even has a fun gimmick that forces you to manage your fleet much differently than normal. Given that this is the home stretch of the game, it's no surprise that every battle here is a massive slugfest between the best ships you can muster and hordes of Cylons. With just about every option in the game unlocked at this point, and plenty of resources to go around, you have free reign to organize your tactics as you see fit. I enjoyed trying out some of the various munitions I had ignored previously, and of course seeing how things would go if I equipped a nuke in every available slot (hint: things get messy).  

The turn-based space combat still holds strong after years of playing it off and on again. It always feels good to pull together a clean attack the knocks out one enemy ship after another while minimizing your own losses. You have to remain vigilant, as getting lax and allowing a ship to cruise head on into the enemy's guns or torpedoes can get it killed in a single turn. 

In addition to the Armistice story DLC, the finale also features the "Modern Ships" pack. These ships don't appear in the story campaign, but instead are available for skirmish and multiplayer modes. These ships fully tie the game into the era of BSG the show, featuring the sleek Cylon basestars of that era and the Mercury class Battlestars (like the Pegasus seen in the show). 

The game also received a free update for all users, the Daybreak Update which you can see all the details of here. Besides a number of quality of life and visual/performance improvements, the update adds a Photography mode for getting those nifty sci-fi screenshots, and new modes for multiplayer and bigger fleet caps.

I've been a fan of this game for years now, and it was great to play out the conclusion of the story. Fans of the show and fans of tactical combat games should certainly check it out if they haven't yet, as it really is so much better than one might ever expect from a TV show based game that came out many years after hype for the show died down. The developers, Black Lab Games, can be proud of what they've done here, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock and all of its content can be found at the usual storefronts, as well as directly from Slitherine Games.

- Joe Beard

  Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corp...

Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC Panzer Corps 2 - Axis Operations 1939 DLC

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

Slitherine Games


Axis Operations 1939 is the latest add-on for Panzer Corps 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. Much like the previous game, Panzer Corps 2 shipped with a campaign covering all the headline battles for the German army in WW2, but now it is receiving a series of DLC that take a deeper dive into the war, and visit many smaller and less well known battles in a very lengthy grand campaign. The first DLC featured the Spanish Civil War, in many ways the warm up to WW2 in Europe where the various powers tried out new tactics and equipment. If you have already played through that campaign, you can carry your core force and heroes forward into 1939, or start fresh with a balanced force and several heroes to assign as you please.

Over the course of 15 scenarios you'll visit some of the less gamed battles of the war. While in real life many of these were small scale affairs compared to the later battles of the war, Panzer Corps 2 makes up for this by taking the quirks of the historical situation and offering up unique objectives for each scenario. In most cases you'll be offered up a straight forward objective that isn't too difficult to complete, but, critically, you'll also have at least a couple of bonus objectives that will appear tantalizingly within your grasp. Accomplishing one of those objectives will require only a bit more skill than normal, but taking on both at the same time will often demand some real strategy and perhaps even a few separate runs at the scenario. While you can finish the campaign without doing any of these, the game is far more fun, and more challenging, when you attempt them. In almost every scenario I found myself embarrassingly overstretched on my first attempt, thinking I had things in the bag just before an enemy counter-attack cut off my lead units and ravaged them. The rewards for going the extra mile are Commendation Points, which you'll be able to spend at various junctions to get special units and heroes. 

While some of the bonus objectives merely involve taking the primary objective and pushing deeper into enemy territory, others are very unique and fresh. For example, early on you'll invade Czechoslovakia. While you can just roll in and crush all resistance, the ideal way to win the battle is to occupy points all over the map without destroying a single enemy unit. You'll attack and push them back, but never hit them so hard that you wipe one out. As you can imagine, it becomes difficult to cut deep into enemy territory when you keep leaving viable enemy units in your rear. In a later mission fighting the French, you're tasked with capture a huge swath of objectives across the map, but ever so tempting is a heavily fortified city right next to your starting point, that you merely need to raid (simply touch the objective marker once) to complete a bonus objective. It seems so easy, it's right there, you can drive to the objective location on Turn 1, and yet you'll lose half of your force trying to take it directly, or burn through most of your limited turns attempting to encircle and siege the place.

Throughout the campaign you'll see Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Finland, and Denmark, offering quite a variety of locales and enemy forces. Your own units will of course not evolve too much over this time period, but you will get the chance to capture various enemy units and add them to your core force if you so choose. You'll also see your units grow in experience, awards which add perks to a unit, and gain more heroes. These heroes are used in Panzer Corps 2 to further customize a unit with special perks, which bend the normal rules of the game. Each unit can have up to three of these guys attached, letting you create some real powerhouses with the right synergies. 

At the end of this campaign you'll be edging over into 1940. No doubt we will be seeing Axis Operations 1940 in the coming months, where you can take your forces on to invade the rest of Europe. As I know a lot less about this period of the war than the latter portions, I'm very interested in seeing what locations and battles will be featured.

At just $10, Axis Operations 1939 is certainly worth your money if you are looking for some more Panzer Corps 2 action. While it doesn't break new ground, it offers more of the tried and true, but highly polished action of the core game. 

Axis Operations 1939 is available directly from Slitherine or your gaming store of choice.

- Joe Beard

  Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you l...

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 Combat Mission: Shock Force 2

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

Slitherine Games


Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you least expecting to see in 2020? 

After many years of being competitors, two of the pillars of PC wargaming have established what appears to be a direct business relationship. Shock Force 2 is now available for purchase from a variety of digital stores across the net, including Steam and directly from Matrix's website. Other Combat Mission titles will follow, according to the press release. In addition to being available in new places, you can now expect Combat Mission titles to go on sale on a more regular basis, in line with Matrix Games titles. Battlefront has long resisted this sort of thing, preferring to sell exclusively from their own website, with price discounts few and far between. Matrix made the switch to Steam style sales several years ago and the decision seems to have paid off, with the prolific publisher dropping new titles and DLC's one after another. One can only hope this decision will lead to new cash flows for Battlefront, and more Combat Mission down the road.

I'll get this out of the way first thing: Yes, if you already purchased Shock Force 2 from the Battlefront website, you will get a Steam key for free. Now, on to one of my favorite gaming moments of the year: Downloading a Combat Mission title directly from Steam, then clicking play and watching the game fire up. No tracking down serial keys, no license activations or limits, just click play and go. Marvelous!

Shock Force originally released way back in 2007. After the critical acclaim of the first generation of Combat Mission titles, I and many others eagerly awaited this jump both to a completely different setting, and a new engine. If you were around then, you probably know how things turned out. The game was a mess on release, bugs abounded and a lot of momentum for the series was seemingly lost. Fortunately for everyone involved, Battlefront got to work and eventually hammered the game into a much better state. The next game in the series, Battle for Normandy, released in far better shape and was followed by several other games and modules over the past decade. Controversially, the past decade also saw four "engine upgrades" which improved the engine and made fairly significant changes to the visuals, performance, and more, for a nominal fee. I won't dive into the debate over these updates, but only point out that none of the updates applied to Shock Force. Being the oldest game on the engine, it was left behind for many years. In 2018, Shock Force 2 catapulted the game to the newest version of the engine, it also included touched up and tweaked versions of all the original scenarios, to account for the multitude of balance and mechanical changes in the intervening decade.

Although we covered Shock Force 2 back when it originally came out, I think the arrival of Combat Mission on Steam, after so many years of people yammering and arguing about it on forums, is worthy of taking the Strykers out for another spin around the battlefield. 

Like every Combat Mission title released after it, Shock Force attempts to model tactical combat down to the level of individual soldiers. The game can be played in two modes, either real-time with pause, or WEGO turns where orders are given and then the action plays out for one minute before you can take control again. Although I prefer turn-based for the WW2 titles, in Shock Force I've always been a fan of real time with liberal pausing. Given the more lethal nature of modern combat, a single errant order can get an entire squad wiped out in less than a minute, and when playing as the NATO forces you must almost always been extremely cautious about taking casualties. Unlike the WW2 games, the fighting here is often very asymmetrical. The NATO factions have all the nice weapons, vehicles, and well trained troops, but they are usually outnumbered and forced to take difficult objectives. The Syrian and other opposition forces range widely from units that represent ragtag militias, on up to mediocre regular army forces and the occasional elite unit. Given the wide variety of "red" forces available, there is also a huge amount of user made content out there depicting interesting red vs red scenarios and campaigns where the forces are more balanced in ability.

The stock scenarios and campaigns contained within the game depict a fictional NATO intervention in Syria to contain a civil war. As we all know, the civil war part was sadly destined to become a reality several years after the original release of Shock Force. Scenarios based on real events in Iraq and Afghanistan are not part of the game, but can be easily modeled using the units available. There's plenty of user made content depicting such actions if you are interested. 

Now, all of that aside, how does the game actually play? For veterans of the series who might have skipped Shock Force, you mostly know what you are getting into, with the primary differences from WW2 being that anti-tank guns are replaced with ATGM's and infantry combat is far more lethal with automatic weapons and urban combat galore. For newbies, what you are getting is something I still haven't seen bested by any other game. A detailed simulation that allows you to command realistic forces into modern combat scenarios just like those that have played out a thousand times in the War on Terror. Although infantry are controlled as squads and fire teams, each individual reacts independently of the others, spotting and engaging enemies, reloading, taking cover, or breaking. Vehicles are all controlled individually, with each crewman inside modeled in similar detail. Vehicles can be damaged in a variety of ways, losing their weapons, equipment, and mobility, being knocked out or simply exploded. 

Understanding exactly what kind of firepower you have and what you are up against is key to victory. A decades old BMP-2 with a 30mm cannon can wreak havoc on an unwary US mechanized platoon rolling down a road, while a single US rifle squad packing a Javelin can take out that BMP-2 from across the map without breaking a sweat. It's all a matter of maneuvering and positioning your forces correctly. Group selecting your best forces and sending them straight at the objective will never work in this game. Scouting, careful advances, focusing of firepower, and the occasional lightning fast assault are what will carry the day. 

While there have been plenty of gradual upgrades to the engine over the years, making the graphics and shaders easier on the eyes, as well as improving the AI and mechanics, some of the perpetual issues of the series remain. Ordering around a large force around can be fussy, with every single unit needing it's own specific waypoints for all but the most general of movements. LOS can be finicky as well, with units occasionally unable to see something because they are an inch out of position. It must also be mentioned that although the engine runs the best it ever has, it still has issues maintaining a smooth experience on larger maps, no matter how beefy your gaming PC might be. That said, if you're a fan of the series and missed Shock Force the first time around, Shock Force 2 is well worth your money. If you have the original you can upgrade to the new version for a moderate fee. 

There are three add-on modules available for the game, US Marines, British Forces, and NATO Forces. All three are quality products that I have played through over the years. The different sorts of equipment each nation has can really mix up your tactics. From the extremely heavily armed Marines to the light but mobile Dutch forces, there is a lot of fun to be had between all of the additional campaigns and scenarios. The add-on's are pricey at $35 a pop, but if you get them in the big bundle you can get a pretty good discount. 

I'm excited to see this new era for Battlefront, and I hope that it works out for them so we can see more Combat Mission in the future. Hopefully at some point they will be able to move to a completely new engine that leaves behind the lingering issues of the current one. Combat Mission still offers an experience that is unique and well worth a look from any wargamer.

Shock Force 2 - Now available on Steam!

- Joe Beard

There are games made by development teams numbering in the hundreds, with multi-million dollar budgets, and cutting edge graphics. These gam...

Shadow Empire Shadow Empire

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

Slitherine Games

There are games made by development teams numbering in the hundreds, with multi-million dollar budgets, and cutting edge graphics. These games are usually good fun, and feature impressive visuals and audio, professional writing and celebrity voice actors. Many are also largely forgotten within months or even weeks of release. Why? At their core, many of these games are rudimentary and derivative. They look and sound great, but at the end of the day they aren't all that interesting to play. Then there are games made by ambitious one or two person development studios. Games that push the boundaries of creativity and aren't afraid to not only ask "What if?" but to go ahead and make it a reality. Passion projects that would never get the green light from corporate. 

So what is Shadow Empire? It's a game that asks: What if you took a hardcore hex-and-counter wargame, set it in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world, added on detailed economic and logistics modeling, and threw in some Crusader Kings elements just for fun. It's a game with a research tree you would expect from a 4-X title, story elements you would expect from an RPG, and detailed budget allocation decisions you would expect from a city builder. It's a game that seriously has a lot going on, and will take some real effort from the player to put all the pieces in order. The game sports a hefty 350(!) page manual, to give you some idea of just how detailed this experience is going to be.

Now, at this point you're probably either thinking this game sounds amazing, or this game sounds terrifying. If you are in the latter camp, don't run off just yet, it's not all that scary. Shadow Empire (SE) is kind enough to let you start off small, and forgives you for ignoring many of the mechanics for at least a few dozen turns. That's because you start with very little in this game, and must work to accumulate the means to have much more than that. SE, like many other 4-X style strategy games, starts you off with one city, and a small military force. The world around you is a mystery to be explored and eventually conquered, but that world is a hostile one. The game gives off a vibe reminiscent of the classic Mad Max wasteland where there's no telling what might out there. It's a world of roaming bandits, weird religious cults, and the occasional battlemech. Check out my preview AAR for a detailed look at how the early game goes - Part 1 and Part 2. That run at the game came to a halt because of updates breaking my save files, but also because I realized I had done a very poor job of building  up my economy, having splurged all my excess resources on unnecessary military units early on. A bit more study of the manual was required to recognize and correct my mistakes. 

This is the thing about Shadow Empire which will either draw you in or push you away. The game has layers like an onion, layers which you won't even expect to find until you get there. On the surface you see a wargame. In some wargames you might be expected to build some roads to extend your logistical network and keep your units in supply. Okay, that's not too crazy, we can handle that. However, just building roads isn't enough, you also need to build transport hubs, truck stations, and supply bases. You'll likely need to micro-manage even further by tweaking how much supply is sent down a given road. If you're planning an offensive to the west, you can't afford to be sending precious supplies down the eastern road to some unit just sitting there idling. Now, what are these supplies we are sending  the troops? Just some generic "supply" points? Oh no, we are talking food and ammo and replacements. That food is coming from your farms, farms which are consuming water and require workers to operate, workers who have a morale level that can drop if things are going poorly at the front. This is a game that tracks and models far more than you might guess from a first glance. 

Like many wargames, your units in SE are organized into a detailed order of battle. Unlike many wargames, here you have a great deal of control over what that hierarchy looks like. It isn't enough to just put all of your units into one big army, because that will make you inflexible and limit your options. Having mid-level headquarters units allows you to have greater control over where and how supplies are doled out. It also allows you to apply "stratagems" to your formations, which can give them massive bonuses to different types of combat, but usually at a cost. For example, giving a boost to attack while lowering defensive values. You wouldn't want all your units weak on defense at the same time, you would want to stick that modifier on your blitzkrieg style formation out on the flank, while another formation holds the line in the middle. Your offensive formation can also be led by a character with a higher skill level at, you guessed it, offensive combat and leading motorized units. In fact, you will be staffing numerous positions in your military and government with characters. Characters who all have fully fleshed out RPG style stats, skills, and experience levels. On top of that, these characters all have opinions, they have factions that they belong to, perhaps even a cult. Every decision you make will influence how they feel about you, based on all of these things, and of course, how much you are paying them. 

The stratagems I mentioned above are made up of dozens of different "cards" that you can play to take a wide variety of actions. The stratagems are split up into several categories, like warfare, diplomacy, and bureaucracy. I found this to be a neat way of giving the player tons of additional options, without further complicated the game with more and more menus and buttons. It also limits your choices on any given turn, and rewards you for investing in a given facet of government, by giving you more of these cards to play over time. So, for example, if you want to conduct some diplomacy with a neighbor, you'll need to play a stratagem. You can't just open up the diplomacy menu and pick an option, you need the relevant card for what you want to do. Things like improving relations, asking for an alliance, or offering scientific cooperation. To get more of these cards, you'll want to form a foreign relations council, give it an adequate budget, select a leader from your pool of characters, and then wait for them to get back to you. This is just one of eight different councils you can form, each of which performs multiple tasks critical to your nation, and each of which needs a budget and leader. 

Now, so far I've described how the game has a ton of mechanics and details bordering on being a bureaucracy simulator. It is that to some extent, but it's a wargame and bureaucracy simulator set in a wild sci-fi world with a detailed back story. It's a world where you might stumble upon a super computer powered AI that your science team is scared to activate, or you might have a cult within your empire that asks you to help fund their very own super computer AI. You might think, why would I want to give funding to these fanatics? Oh look, my best general and most effective administrator are both members of the cult. Well, that complicates things a bit. Also, the cult is offering to give you free stratagems that boost your military formations by supplying them with priests who boost morale. There's no up front cost to doing so, and I can't imagine there would be long term consequences to such actions down the road! As you explore the world, you'll often come across relics from the past golden age of humanity. Facilities that can boost your economy, and machines of war which can single-handedly turn the tide of a conflict in the early game. What caused the end of that golden age anyway? I'll let you read the 15 page long backstory in the manual, but let's just say it involves mind controlling nano-machines motivated by the vengeance of a long dead emperor. This is the "shadow" in Shadow Empire. The shadow may be present on your world in any given game, and it might not be. How would you know?

Shadow Empire is an extremely ambitious project. One that may be too much for some players to enjoy, but I know others will revel in it. It's got everything you would expect from a hardcore wargame. I didn't go into too much detail about this, but it's all there. Endless stats, morale and combat ratings, flanking attacks, entrenchment, artillery support, and so on. The designer is the man behind the Decisive Campaigns series, after all. It's got detailed management layers and research trees for days, stuff that will pique the interest of any 4-X fans. Adding flavor to all of that is the fully fleshed out setting and detailed characters which wouldn't be out of place in a Paradox grand strategy game. The developer has made clear that he is dedicated to this game, and will continue to improve it after release. It's a game that requires some real commitment from the player as well, to get the full experience. I would be lying if I told you that I had even come close to mastering the game after a dozen hours of play. I was just beginning to understand the basics of all the different systems. However, the entire time I was playing, I didn't feel like I was wrestling with the interface, I was immersing myself in an engrossing experience, one where I was learning how to lead a small city-state in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Oh, and did I forget to mention, this game has a variety of nightmarish alien monsters that might show up and attack you? Yeah, it has that too.

Shadow Empire, developed by VR Designs, is available directly from Slitherine and looks to arriving on Steam at some future date.

- Joe Beard


Last year saw the release of Field of Glory Empires  from AGEOD and Slitherine. It represented a new chapter for AGEOD, best known for their...

Field of Glory: Empires - Persia 550-330 BCE Field of Glory: Empires - Persia 550-330 BCE

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

Slitherine Games

Last year saw the release of Field of Glory Empires from AGEOD and Slitherine. It represented a new chapter for AGEOD, best known for their deep, yet infamously difficult to get into, series of historical grand strategy games. Empires took most of their best ideas, added a few new ones, and combined it all with a much more user friendly interface. Another interesting twist was linking traditional grand strategy gameplay with the tactical battles of Field of Glory II. This allowed the player to assume direct command of any battle if they so chose, by launching FOG II, an entirely separate game, playing out the battle, then sending the results back to Empires. This was a bold decision that worked quite well, though you certainly wouldn't want to play out the majority of your battles this way, as it would take ages. All in all, I really enjoyed the game and how it encouraged the idea of civilizations rising and falling over time, allowing the player to "win" even after their glorious empire had faded into a has-been. 

The recent release of Persia 550-330 BCE, steps the game start further back in time, and as the title suggests, features the rise of Persia as a central highlight. The player can step into the shoes of Cyrus II, aka Cyrus the Great, and see if you can match his conquests. Although your neighbors at the start, Babylon and Media, are massive, they are old and worn down empires that have rotted from the inside. It won't take you long to overrun their lands, but after that you will find yourself facing stiffer resistance from the Greek city states. Lucky for you, this DLC also introduces some new features in addition to the new campaign.

Regional Decisions will be immediately familiar to any fans of the older AGEOD games. These are essentially bonuses or special powers that you can apply (for a cost) to qualifying regions. They represent all sorts of historical events and realities, but do so in a simple and abstract way that doesn't over complicate things. For example, you can invest resources in attempting to turn the Greeks against one another so they don't have time to ally against you. You can federate barbarian warriors on your borders to improve relations and sap their manpower, or you can invest in building up newly conquered lands. There are many different regional decisions, and all have a cost and potential benefit. Some are unique to certain civilizations, while others can be employed by anyone. This is a perfectly natural addition to the game that makes things more interesting without adding any additional complexity.

Another new feature adds a bit of randomness and replayability to the game. Impediments and Boons are, respectively, bad or good features of any given region that you may find as you go about painting the map your color. Things like an impenetrable forest or a bandit infestation which can slow down development in a region until you find a way to deal with the issue. Occasionally you can also find an especially good boon that makes a region far more important than it might be the next time you play the game. This feature isn't quite as meaningful as the Regional Decisions, but anything to mix up strategy and increase replayability is a win in my book. Both of these features are also added into the original campaign timeline, in case you were wondering.

Special effort was also made to add extra flavor to playing as the key nations of the time by giving them unique events, missions, and more, so that playing Persia won't feel anything like playing as Athens. So far, I've only played a campaign as the Persians, and I have to say it was a new experience compared to my plays of the base game as Rome, and then as various barbarian tribes. I happily found that, much like in Europa Universalis IV, playing as the big names and the little names of history can be fun in different ways. Playing as Persia was a delight. Finally, a chance to play as a rapidly expanding and wildly successful (for a while) empire not named Rome! That said, you can play this campaign as Rome if you wish, though you will be starting from very humble beginnings. Dozens of other tribes and empires are available to play as well, from the Picts up in the far North, to a still powerful Egyptian state, or perhaps you'll lead the Spartans in kicking people into wells all over the Mediterranean. 

Field of Glory Empires might not have dethroned the Paradox grand strategy games, but I maintain that it is still a very strong contender in the genre. As I discussed in my original review, the combination of multitudes of trade goods, semi-random construction options, and deep but accessible empire management make it a great choice for anyone interested in the genre. Being able to play out your battles in tactical turn based combat is a cool twist, though entirely optional. The Persia DLC seamlessly strengthens that gameplay with its additional features, and the timeline chosen is perfectly suited to the core theme of the game, the never ending balance between progress and decay.

Field of Glory Empires - Persia 550-330 BCE can purchased from Slitherine directly, or found on Steam.

- Joe Beard

Here's a link to Part 1 in case you missed it. The Kingdom of Graykeep has already plunged head first into a new age of progr...

Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2 Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2

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

Slitherine Games

The Kingdom of Graykeep has already plunged head first into a new age of progress, rapidly expanding its borders out from admittedly modest beginnings. As king, I have many decisions to make that will shape our future, but I am assisted by numerous advisors and staff. I plan to continue recruiting additional bureaucrats and using them to head new councils like one focused on foreign affairs, and another in charge of military research. The more funding we can provide to these councils, the more able they will be to provide me with stratagems, cards which I can play, at the cost of political points, to do things like improve diplomatic ties with a hostile neighbor, or change the tactics of individual military HQ's. Below you can see the world as we know it right now. There is much that is unknown to us, but we know that there is opportunity out in that darkness that exceeds the dangers.

Militarily, our situation is stable but still requiring my full attention. We face two points of contact with non-aligned rebel forces, and are being pressed by a minor power that has no respect for our expansion. Previously, I was able to secure basic diplomatic contact with my neighbors to the north, west, and south, and we all agreed to fix the borders in their current state. While future conflict is almost certainly still on the table, I feel comfortable enough to concentrate my forces to the east, where we have numerous active enemies, and several small towns up for grabs.

Amania (dark blue) makes a fatal error. Going beyond occupying the nominally unclaimed territory between us, they send their soldiers behind my lines, cutting off the bulk of my forces from supply just as we finish off the last of the rebels in the area. This will not stand! I have no choice but declare my first war. I had hoped to avoid this inevitability for as long as possible, at least until we had established a more robust economy, capable of replacing the losses we were sure to take. Fortunately, most of my forces still consist of militia, units which are able to replenish themselves without input from my government. On the downside, these forces are weak in terms of firepower. Our enemy appears to have two units of mechanized walkers to our single walker, but overall we have much greater numbers. 

First things first, I have my troopers breakthrough and take back control of the road leading back to Hawking, our capital. This will ensure my forces aren't soon starved for supplies. Then we begin working on turning the tables against the Amanians by cutting off a couple of their units and eliminating pockets one by one. Alas, the major power to the north, Zelaria, chooses this as an opportune time to shake us down for money. Their leader threatens war if we do not pay tribute. With their forces stationed on the border, immediately ready to attack my army from the rear if they so choose, I decide to pay the tribute that is demanded, and avoid a two front war. I've read that those never go well. 

Although it stings to lose a large portion of our hard earned cash, it will hopefully buy us time to deal with one enemy before facing another. My forces pounce on Amania forces and press them back. Unfortunately, their walkers are just as formidable as our lone steel beast, able to turn back entire companies of militia riflemen on their own. Our greater numbers soon tell, however, and we are able to isolate and defeat them piecemeal. The next turn, I notice that our borders in that area show only non-aligned rebel forces. Whether we have defeated them entirely, or if their rear was overrun by rebels, is unclear. The only thing that matters is that our front is secure and our forces can continue to advance and liberate more towns in the area. I order the expansion of our road network so that our supplies can flow to the front. With the foreign affairs situation relatively stable for the moment, more attention can be paid to internal matters. 

One matter , for example, is whether or not we should interact with an ancient AI computer found in some deep ruins back in Hawking. The machine predates all of our known histories and could give us some interesting revelations. It could cause us problems as well. In the spirit of boldness, I direct our scientists to turn it on and see what happens. The AI gives us a lengthy lecture on ethics, and then supplies the knowledge needed for us to produce more effective firearms. The ethics we take into consideration, the firearms we prepare for production.

Production, however, requires resources, and my advisors point out to me that we won't be able to build any of the nice new things they have been researching until we secure our own supplies of them. Namely, metal. Our militia army is fine for now, but if we want to build anything better, we need metal. Our dirt roads are fine for now, but if we want to build railroads, we need metal. If we want to expand our industrial base, again, metal. To that end I stop by the economic council meeting and direct them devote the vast majority of their funding to prospecting for resource deposits. The more passive approach I've taken so far has not yielded any results. I have the military continue to explore and bring more territory into our kingdom, hopefully increases the chances we will strike metal.

In the meantime I've begun buying metal on the limited open market. We have an excess of funds at the moment, since we aren't building much of anything (need metal!) and so buying it outright will get things moving for now.  I quickly learn that buying too much of one resource causes the price to sky rocket for a time, and vice versa, selling a large amount of food, something we have quite a lot of, causes its price to plummet. As a result, the amount of metal we can acquire at any one time is limited, but useful for finishing some construction projects we started long ago but never had the resources to complete.

There is one nice economic development, the first private construction pops up near the agricultural domes we built early on. A town to support the workers pops up on its own accord, and begins paying taxes. An excellent development indeed! 

Another internal matter comes across my desk. This one is a bit of a touchy subject. The Church of Syndic, by far the most popular cult within my kingdom, requests a hefty donation from the state to fund their ultimate project. They want to create some sort of super computer to solve all of our problems. Such cults are fairly common on our world, though each has its own objectives. Quite a few of my own staff are Syndic sympathizers, and they would be quite upset with me if I refuse, not to mention the church itself being cross with me. They point out that they have donated multiple priests to augment my forces by strengthening their resolve, at no cost at all to the state. In the back of my mind, I am wary of using such priests in our forces, I can't help but think that seeding too many of them among the companies might lead to some sort of insurrection. That said, they do greatly benefit the troops they accompany. 

I decide it is in the best interest of keeping everyone happy to make the hefty donation. That's money we could have used to buy more metal and other resources, but a kingdom is more than just buildings and roads, it must have a happy populace as well. Zelaria, our most powerful neighbor, is at it again with the demands for tribute. I can see their forces build up along our border at times, making everyone nervous. I tell them to shove off this time and the next. Not only because our forces now stand ready to repel any invasion, but also because I don't have that kind of money to spare at the moment.

Our investment in prospecting efforts finally pays off! A metal deposit is found in the southern region of the kingdom. Now I just need to order the construction of a metal mine and we will be in business! No more shortages, no more buying at exorbitant prices on the open market! We can really make some progress with a steady flow of materials. Oh, what's this? My construction chief is telling me that the site is too far away and outside of our logistics network. Apparently building such a facility in the middle of nowhere with no way to transport workers and construction equipment to the site is a problem. Ah, well, that makes sense. I consult the writings of my father (the game manual) and realize that I have indeed been neglecting the logistical side of things. Simply building dirt roads is not enough it seems. I order the construction of some transportation centers to get trucks on the road and supplies moving. Once again I'm forced to buy metal on the market to speed up the process. 

In the meantime, I look out across my kingdom. We have expanded further than I ever expected by this point. So far out in fact that our units can't be supplied and we begin losing contact with a few of them completely. Logistics really are important it seems! Being a king in this world is far more involved than simply ordering armies around. It requires management of trade, diplomacy, logistics, personal relationships, and more, in far greater detail than one might ever suspect. It looks like I've still got a lot to learn, but things are going quite well in the Kingdom of Graykeep. For now...

Shadow Empire is coming out soon from Slitherine Games. Stay tuned for more coverage of this fascinating title!

- Joe Beard