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8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games    When viewing the newsreels and photos of what was left of Germany after the bombing campaign,...

8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games 8th Air Force 2nd Edition by Fortress Games

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


8th Air Force 2nd Edition


Fortress Games

 When viewing the newsreels and photos of what was left of Germany after the bombing campaign, it is hard to believe anyone was alive, let alone living in those wastelands. A few of the bombing missions against German cities had a much higher death toll than the atom bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Let us be honest though, the Germans were desperately working on aircraft and munitions that would do the same to us. London itself was bombed pretty badly during the blitz. The Allied aircrews who flew and fought over Germany had some of the highest rates of casualties on our side during the war. The flak from the German defenses filled the air around the bombers. The German fighter pilots who had to go up against the US bomber formations also had a short life span. Shooting down an Allied four engine bomber was worth four points, while shooting down an Allied fighter was worth only one (this was in their calculations that added up to their various medals). So, this game is about putting you in command of the 8th Air Force. You are tasked with destroying the German ability to manufacture weapons and move them. At times, you will also need to help the Allied ground formations in their battle toward Berlin. Historically, in the beginning of the daylight campaign, the Allied losses were staggering. Early in the campaign the fighter escorts that you have available have very short ranges. This changes as time goes by, with  the new fighter aircraft that will help you in your task. Might I suggest a watching/rewatching of the movie Twelve O'clock High before or during your game time.

Back of the box

 This is what comes with the game:

 The game comes with the 28″ x 22″ mounted gameboard, 2 player aids (the calendar/bombing campaigns aid shown below), 18-page rules manual loaded front to back with examples, 2 dice, and 290 laser-cut thick, sturdy game counters representing almost 150 USAAF and Luftwaffe Groups/Gruppen, plus plenty of reinforcing squadrons, and dozens of strategic and tactical targets.

 This is what Fortress Games says about the game:

"In 1943, the US Army Air Force (USAAF) began a strategic bombing campaign with a small but growing number of aircraft. By 1945 it had, for all practical purposes, swept the German air force (Luftwaffe) from the skies, and was bombing targets throughout the shrinking Third Reich almost with impunity. But getting to that point was no easy task…

You, as commander, 8th Air Force, have a very full plate! Early on, ensure victory in the Battle of the Atlantic by bombing submarine bases in western France, then support the eventual Allied invasion of occupied France by bombing railroads and river crossings throughout France and western Germany. Failure in these critical bombing campaigns is not acceptable. Long-term, you’ll need to pulverize Germany’s aircraft factories and oil facilities to reduce the Luftwaffe’s aircraft production and support and win the war by blasting Germany’s heavy industry. There will be more challenges along the way, from providing heavy support for the D-Day invasion and Normandy breakout, to suppressing the demoralizing V1 and V2 attacks on England, to assisting your Soviet ally by attacking German army staging areas in the east. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe is developing advanced jet and rocket technology that may tip the tide of the air war if you have not crippled their industrial capacity."


Mounted map board

  I was surprised to find that the game has a mounted map. It follows the gaming industry trend, but I was not expecting one from a new, smaller company. The map is somewhat different, as the view is from Great Britain south toward the European Continent. So, finding the different areas to bomb is a little confusing at first. It is an area movement map. As you can see, from above the map takes a minimalist approach instead of being arty (although there is a nice piece of artwork at the bottom). All in all, it is a nicely done map that once you get yourself oriented it is a breeze to play on. The Rulebook is nineteen pages long. It also is a bit different than normal. The front and back pages are not only card stock but also laminated. This gives them another point in the plus column. The Rulebook is in full color and the pages look like magazine pages, but they are definitely thicker than them. There are two single sided player aid cards that are in full color and are made of card stock. Most of the pages are very easy to read and well-spaced. The Calendar portion of one page is a bit busy, but the Rulebook explains exactly what you are looking at. Now we come to the counters. There is a small sheet that explains that these are laser cut and need to be cleaned off with a moist towel or rag. This allows them to be thicker and denser according to the sheet. They do seem to be. I have dealt with these counters before and take the time to clean them. It is definitely worth your while. There are roughly two and a half sheets of large 5/8" sized counters. The counters a very well done. They have a nice top-down view of all the different planes on them. The game management counters information is large enough to read in low light. The whole ensemble has great production values. My hat is off to Fortress Games.

Page from the Rulebook

 The game has you leading the entire daylight bombing campaign against Europe from Great Britain. So, this is from a strategic viewpoint instead of the single plane or squadron games we have seen recently. You have a chance to get some help from the RAF Lancasters night bombing each turn. 

 This is what Fortress Games has on the first page of the rules:

"This game is designed to be learned this way:

  1. Skim over the directions;
  2. Set up the game;
  3. Play, following "The Turn" section which walks you through the Turn phase by phase.
  4. Lots of examples throughout will help you"

 I find the above funny and excellent at the same time. A game company who knows how we actually learn a game and sets the rules up accordingly. Of course, this takes away the hour or so of complete stumbling that we do searching through rules. 

 So, how does it actually play, and does it live up to its designer's ideas? While it is not as immersive as some games can be it does have many good points. The rules look like they have been streamlined (it is, after all, the second edition). With this game the play is the thing and not a lengthy setup time or delving through rules to find the one you might have missed. The game also comes with some optional rules for people who like to bend history a bit. One allows the Germans to get a group of ME163 fighters. The other one, which is more plausible, is that the Germans get jet aircraft earlier in the war. This might seem like a game breaker, but you have a die roll to see if the USA's own jets make an early appearance. The rules are simple and so is the setup, but the game is far from easy or a 'light' wargame. There is a lot of thinking that has to go on in a player's mind. You have to figure out a way to hurt the German war effort without destroying your 8th Air Force in the process. The player is also given "Bombing Campaigns" which are orders from SHAEF to assist the ground war or take out the V1s for example. You have to decide on how to use your replacements (in this game called 'Refits' and 'manufactures'). Do not forget to assist in the Bombing Campaigns or you could find yourself out of a job. As an example of the game's depth, there are four ways to lose the game and only one way to win. Once you scratch the surface of this game you will find it much larger and deeper than the box it comes in. Everyone knows good things come in small packages and this game is a prime example. The game has been compared to AHs Luftwaffe which should make most grognards ears perk up. Unfortunately, I have to admit in 57 years of wargaming I never played it or owned it. I have heard it whispered about in hushed tones now and again. So, that is something to think about.

Missions detail

 Thank you, Fortress Games, for allowing me to review this game. While my own tastes go toward less abstracted games, this one plays well and gives you the feel of the bomber campaign. The added optional rules for adding more German and actual Allied jets puts a new spin on the historical campaign. To anyone who is interested in the 8th Air Force's bombing campaign or just wants a good solitaire gaming experience, I can highly recommend this game. They also have a game about the 20th Air Force and Superfortresses over Japan.


Fortress Games:

Fortress Games – The Art of Wargames (

8th Air Force:

8th Air Force, Second Edition! – Fortress Games (

 LANZERATH RIDGE FROM DVG Here we have the latest in David Thompson's Valiant Defence series, Lanzerath Ridge .  Though retaining a soli...


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





Here we have the latest in David Thompson's Valiant Defence series, Lanzerath Ridge.  Though retaining a solid core, each one introduces some new nuances or variations.  In this case along with a new artist, Nils Johansson, a major difference is the move away from the constricted location of a single building to a slightly more expansive terrain.
As before, a period of considerable historical research lies behind the transfer of this knowledge to a game and the gaming table.  As with Castle Itter, I and many others have been treated to another little-known episode, but this time drawn from a very famous and often gamed WWII battle.  In this case, we are treated to a very small, but very crucial encounter on the first day of the Battle of The Bulge.  Having played many Bulge games and still owning several such treatments of the whole campaign, it was a pleasure to be introduced to a location, the said Lanzerath Ridge, and the equally brief, but significant delaying action that took place there.  
Once again, I'm indebted to DVG for not only providing this review copy of the game, but as they have so often done in the past provided bonus material.  In this case, the Companion narrative booklet, that is becoming a familiar and very welcome addition to David Thompson's designs.  This is a very substantial 40 pages. replete with several maps, photographs and aerial shots.  All complement a thorough narrative of the engagement and its aftermath, plus extensive appendices detailing the honours the individual men received - sadly many years after the war.
The physical game reflects all the high qualities that are the familiar and expected features of DVG production and the artistic elements of all the Valiant Defence series.

First off is the mounted map.  I'm uncertain how much the differences lie with a new artist or the fact that we're being treated to the much more expansive terrain of woods in winter.  I like it very much.  It has an almost monochrome effect and successfully creates a chill wintry scene for me. I also enjoyed having the linear set up with the American soldiers on the north side and the Germans on the south.  A very different feel than the previous games, though I'm glad to say that the strain of where your men are and where you're going to move them to and what they are going to do still generates the same high degree of tension.

As can be seen your troops, the individual soldiers retain the identical features - headshot, name, numerical information, key letter coding for specific skills/attributes and a colour code to differentiate the three squads.  The German enemy units are significantly smaller than usual and that was a little disappointing, except for the four full size MGs. The rest of the counters are generally very small and for once I've taken advantage of the range of coloured blocks supplied as an alternative form of marker.  Normally, I've not wanted to do this as I've liked both the quality and consistency of visual appeal given by the cardboard markers.  Here though I've found the cubes indicating dispersed status and to mark the five men you choose to activate in each Defensive Phase stand out much more clearly and considering the amount of usage that those five Activation Markers are going to get, I think those five green wooden blocks will be absolutely essential.
In all other respects the components match the consistently high standards of DVG games and all David Thompson's previous games.  Four substantial player aids detail all the actions you and your A.I. opponent will take.  This saves a substantial amount of rule referencing in the rule book and helps to rapidly fix them in your head.  The rulebook itself carries on the same qualities of clarity and ease of understanding of all the previous games in the series.

The above example of play, providing step-by-step details of the A.I.'s Assault process, as well as the following extract of one your own Major Actions as the Defender, are perfect examples of the blend that provides such an easy walk through of the rules.

The presentation of the rule book provides yet another of the underlying formats that allows a gamer to move easily from game to game in the series.  Without doubt Pavlov's House, the first in the series, stands a little apart because of its attention to what best can be described as a pyramid of the tactical, operational and strategic feel of a battle. 
In contrast, the last three out of the four games in the series have had the closest links by focusing in on the tactical feel, with Castle Itter undoubtedly the simplest in terms of rules and game play.  Lanzerath Ridge lies somewhere in the middle of the three in terms of complexity, but follows more closely in the footsteps of Soldiers in Postmen's. This is immediately seen from its division into four waves of attack with four distinct decks of cards. 

The first wave of attackers is a mix of fallschirmjagers ranging from 1 - 3 strength points, along with several 3 strength leaders and a smattering of MG42s.  This and the second wave which adds mortars to the attack, I have found relatively easy to cope with.  However, with the third deck, the pressure is really ramped up with significantly more mortar and MG cards starting to bite into your defenders and whittle them down, along with the Disguised Forward Observer card which is displayed at the beginning of this third Attack Phase.  Finally, with the fourth attack you are hit purely by soldiers and a very different sort of game plays out.  This is because of the change of your objectives through two new cards, Deny Equipment and Make Contact, which are placed face up at the beginning of the attack.

Essentially your aim is to get as much equipment and as many of your men off the map and onto those two cards respectively!  I've found this stage immensely exciting and rewarding, but as mentioned the tension and strain is there all the way.  
Apart from the variations in pace and objectives giving this game some of its distinctive features, they also show one of the ways in which David Thompson works the historical facts in so smoothly.

There are several other matching elements that echo the previous game.  One is the Tactical Deck that offers two extra levels of increased difficulty. I love this latter addition, at the expense of making me feel even more inadequate a player!!  Another is the feature of an obstruction to hold up the progress of the German attackers along each track.  In SiPU, these were barricades, in Lanzerath Ridge, they are fences that have to be breached.  I like the additional touch of flavour in that beyond each one there is a further obstacle, a hand grenade that will take out one of your attackers.
Besides being variations on the gaming system they help to introduce and build up each game's narrative individuality.  
Nowhere is this more so than the development of victory conditions for this most recent game.  First of all, there is the out and out failure that can occur at the end of any of the first three Attack Phases, if even one Attacker unit occupies a Defender combat position or at any time if the Defender's morale drops to zero!  If you reach Attack Phase 4, but don't complete it, you do at least earn a draw.  However, if you survive to the end of Attack Phase 4, then a variety of factors bring you VPs that will reward you with anything from a Minor Victory and the award of the Bronze Star to an Epic Victory and the Distinguished Service Cross.
I may never manage an Epic Victory, but I've no hesitation in citing Lanzerath Ridge as an epic addition to the Valiant Defence Series.

  Keep up the Fire The Boxer Rebellion by Worthington Publishing   This quote has been attributed to Napoleon “Let China sleep. For when she...

Keep up the Fire: The Boxer Rebellion by Worthington Publishing Keep up the Fire: The Boxer Rebellion by Worthington Publishing

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


 Keep up the Fire

The Boxer Rebellion


Worthington Publishing

  This quote has been attributed to Napoleon “Let China sleep. For when she wakes, the world will tremble”. It is in the movie 55 Days at Peking (1963 movie about the same history as the game). Nowhere can the quote be explicitly attributed to him. However, some of his sayings on St. Helena do come close and have the same gist.

 The year is 1900, and China has begun to awake. At this moment China is akin to a prostrate beef cow who is being carved up still alive by the European powers and Japan. China had been ruled by the Dowager Empress Tz'uhsi or Cixi for almost forty years. The 'secret' Chinese society ' Righteous and Harmonious Fists', hence the 'Boxers' had been around for a few years. The Boxers original reason for existence was to overthrow the Qing/Manchu dynasty of China, while also expelling the foreign devils. They were especially against the Christian Missionaries, much like the North American Indian movement the 'Ghost Dancers' (active around the same time). The Boxers felt that by doing certain exercises they would make themselves impervious to weapons. Around 1898, the Chinese in government who agreed with the Boxers about the foreign powers came to an agreement with them. In return for a truce against the Qing dynasty, the Imperial forces would be used to help the Boxers rid China of the hated foreigners. So, this is the backdrop to the situation and game. The Boxers and the Imperial Army have attacked the Foreign Legation compound that is close to the Forbidden City of Peking. They have also broken the railway and pushed back a small force of foreign troops that were on their way to the Legations. 

 The game starts here, or should I say games. This is a solitaire game where the player has two different objectives. The first is to hold out in the Legation Compound as long as possible. The second is to march a new, much larger, foreign contingent from the port city of Taku to save the people in the Legation Compound. 

The Legation Compound Game Board

 This is what comes with the game:

Rule book

Large hard mounted tactical game board of the Legation

Smaller hard mounted strategic map for relief column

Deck of Action/Event cards

Counter sheet

Battle Archive

1 die

Tray for components

 The beautiful box illustration looks to be taken right out of a still of shot from 55 Days at Peking. The game comes with two mounted maps. The first is a 22" x 17" map of the Legation Compound and surrounding areas. The second is an 8 1/2" x 17" map of the Relief Column trek to Peking. Both maps are very nice looking with period piece artwork. The counter sheet is small and contains only forty counters/tokens. However, the counters are very large. They have some nice artwork on them and are extremely easy to read. I can almost read them without my bifocals. The Rulebook is twelve pages long, including the Designer Notes and Historical Notes. The rules themselves take about just over ten pages. The Rulebook is in full color. There are two separate card decks of twenty-four cards each. One is used with the Legation Map and the other with the Relief Column one. The cards have either four or five parts to them. They have the title of the card, such as "Hold That Line Soldier", then an explanation of the card's use. Command points are also shown on the cards. Next up is a small, but very evocative and immersive picture or photograph of the events at the time. The bottom of the cards have a historical footnote about the siege and what happened on different dates. Due to the normal size of the card, the historical footnotes are small. The Battle Archive is a small booklet where you can keep track of your victories or defeats. This is a very nice touch that has found its way into other Worthington Publishing games. Opening the box, I was a little taken aback by the small number of components inside. The siege of the Legation has been in my mind since I saw the movie as a small child. My small disappointment with the number of components was totally erased by the game play. 

 This illustration of the Sequence of Play is a perfect player's aid for the game.

 The Victory Conditions are spelled out in this illustration.

 This game sets a precedent with me. I almost never look at reviews or anything about a game I am going to review. I had to look at some with this game. I was afraid that, even though the rules are simple, I was somehow playing the game wrong. I could not win for the life of me in the beginning. I take that back. I wasn't just losing - the game was spanking me. I swear I saw the boards light up with glee every time I lost another one. Do not get confused here. It is not that the rules make the game unwinnable. It is just that you have to play really well, with some luck, to win it. This really makes sense in the historical situation the Foreign Powers in the Legation faced. It is pretty much a miracle that they survived the siege. So, to show that, the game is meant to be hard to win. The rules are very simple, and they all make sense. If you are scratching your head over these rules, it is time for a new hobby. 

 Each game plays out entirely different than the one before. You have to choose very carefully about your actions. Simple rules, but the game is deep with many choices.

Random Cards

 This is an excellent and quick playing game about the siege. The table space it takes up is minimal, but it is not really an issue because of the relatively short time it takes to play. The game can also be played with a team of friends playing against the game's AI. In effect, just like the different powers had to play nice with one another to live through the siege. Thank you, Worthington Publishing for allowing me to get frustrated with this game, originally. My next review for them will be 'Dawn of Battle'. That review has had to wait on me, because I really just want to play it and not review it. 


Keep up the Fire:

Keep Up the Fire! Deluxe — Worthington (

Worthington Publishing:

Worthington (

Tiger Leader The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG)   "Tyger, Tyger burning brig...

Tiger Leader: The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG) Tiger Leader: The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

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


Tiger Leader

The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game

2nd Edition


Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

 "Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
 in the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake)

 Yes, it is a different Tiger, but the response of its enemies is pretty much the same: sheer terror. The amount of Tigers that Germany built compared to the totals of other tanks on each side was quite small. However the Allied soldiers would see them behind every house or large bush. Reading the Allied and Soviet reports, they destroyed 10,000 German Tigers. Germany actually constructed only 1,347 Tiger I's and 489 Tiger II's. Yes it is actually a Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B., not a Tiger II. However, not all wargamers have as much OCD about things as others do. Before we get pigeonholed, we have to remember that you will be in charge of a German Panzerkampfgruppe (Battle Group). You will not only have tanks under your command, but almost every other German land combat unit. It will also be a long time before you see or even dream about Tigers if you play the early campaigns. You may even start the game with Panzer I's. these were no better than any other machine gun equipped tanks from the mid 1930's. So, what does DVG actually give you in the box:

Enemy Units include units from the Polish Army, French Army, British Army, Russian Army, and the American Army.
240 Full Color Cards
440 Full Color Counters
12 2.5" Terrain Tiles
1 22"x 17" Mounted Display
1 11"x17" HQ Sheet
1 Player Log Sheet
1 Full Color Player Aid Sheet
1 10-sided die

 All of the DVG games I have played have four things in common:
1. Everything in them is large and easy to read.
2. When possible they fit everything including the kitchen sink in the box for the player to use.
3. They are all excellent solitaire games
4. Mounted map boards

 I could simply end the review here and say why are you bothering to read this, then tell you to go out and go buy it, case closed. However we have to conform to the standards, so here goes. The map board is well mounted; not a surprise there. The 'hexes' on it are almost as big as the bases for miniature wargame units. In reality they are actually 2.5" wide. The counters are 5/8" in size, and very easy to read. Your counters only have numbers at the bottom, to use in conjunction with the unit cards. The enemy counters have their designation, for example infantry, etc. They also have their Armor Piercing and High Explosive ratings on them. The cards are separated into six decks: Event, Unit, Special Condition, Objective, Battalion, and Leaders. The rulebook is only twenty-two pages long. It is also in full color, and is in large type. Examples of play are scattered throughout it. The one Player Log Sheet needs to be copied. I am not a big fan of manual record keeping. However, in this game it makes sense. DVG has given us so much in the box already that some of it would have to be removed to replace the manual record keeping. The twelve Terrain Tiles are double sided. Their use gives the game extra depth and replayability. 

 These are some of the German units you will be playing with:

Tiger Leader includes the following units:
Panzer I
Panzer II
Panzer III
Panzer IV
Tiger Tank
Panther Tank
King Tiger Tank
Armored cars

 Naturally you will be fighting some of the above and more in your solitaire quest to survive the war. This is a list of the campaigns you are able to fight in:

The Invasion of Poland 1939
The Battle for France 1940
The Battle for North Africa 1941
The Invasion of Russia 1941
The Battle for North Africa 1942
The Fight for Italy 1943
The Fight for Russia 1943
The Days of D-Day 1944
The Final Days in Berlin 1945

 The game has been revised a good bit in this Version 2 release. Let me clarify that. If you own only the original Tiger Leader, there have been changes to the game to make it closer to Sherman Leader in the rules. If you already own Tiger Leader and the upgrade kit, the changes are mostly in the artwork. The upgrade kit fixed the issues that people found with some non-historical rules.

 The game is both Card and Die driven. The main driving force behind the game is Special Option (SO) points. These are given to you to use from the Objective Cards. You will purchase your units with SO points. The Leader games from DVG are not supposed to be a highly detailed simulation of whatever they represent. They are a commander lite simulation of the historical conflict that takes place in their area of focus. They are also eminently fun and great games. Just like any other wargame, people can argue about the different numbers given to each unit in the game. It is really a pointless exercise because each person has his own view of what they should be. When you purchase a wargame you are seeing the designer's thoughts on the effectiveness of each unit. I do have an idea, though. If you do not agree with the designer, then try your own. It is a boardgame that you have purchased. Feel free to fiddle with them as you see fit. However, realize that your own numbers might make the game totally unbalanced. There is a reason the designer used his numbers, and it is because play testing showed which ones represented reality in the designer's mind. 

 The game also comes with Optional Rules to enhance gameplay. There are three of them:

Battlefield Heroics
Flank Attacks

 For Tenacity you can decide to extend a battle by one turn, at the cost of each participating Commander gaining one extra stress point. For Battlefield Heroics, if a Commander's unit is destroyed, he can take over from a KIA, Unfit or wounded Commander from the same type of unit. Flank Attacks take place with a die roll at ranges of 0 or 1. Tenacity and Battlefield Heroics also cost one SO point for each week of the campaign that the rule is used.

 The game tries to be as user friendly as possible. The Sequence of Play is shown right on the top of the mounted map. This is the sequence:

Campaign Set-Up
Select Campaign Card
Select Objective Card
Draw Battalion Cards
Buy Units
Select Commanders

Start of Week
Special Condition Card
Assign Units

Event Card
Place Turn Counter
Place Terrain Tiles
Place Friendly Units
Place Enemy Units

Fast Move and Attack
Roll for Enemy Movement
Enemy Actions
Slow Move and Attack
Advance Turn Counter

Event Card
Battalion Status
Record Commander Stress
Record Commander Experience Points
End of Week

Move Battalions
On Leave
Adjust Special Option Points
Priority R&R

End of Campaign
Campaign Outcome

 The game's rules are easy to understand and the fact that almost all of what needs to be done each turn is right on the map makes it that much easier to remember. The big difference in DVG solitaire games is the fact that you are playing campaigns and not separate scenarios. Many players win games by totally exhausting their troops to win one scenario. If they were forced into a battle again with the same troops, they would quickly lose the second battle. Tiger Leader and its brothers are commander games. The player is forced to deal with fatigue, loss, and all the other problems that a real commander is faced with. If you go into the first scenario with guns blazing you will quickly lose the campaign. The player has to deal with the battle at hand, but also keep looking at the long haul. You must win every battle, and also have a strong force left to fight all of the rest. This game has been tweaked to be even better than its first iteration. Tiger Leader has excellent gameplay and components, not much more can be asked of a wargame. If you are interested in WWII European Theater land combat acting as a commander, then this game is for you.

 DVG was nice enough to send me three expansions with the base game. These are:

Tiger Leader Expansion #1 Blitzkrieg
Tiger Leader Expansion #2 Panzers
Tiger Leader Terrain Tile Pack #2

 This comes with new:

Campaign Cards
Situation Cards
Special Condition Cards
Event Cards
Enemy Battalion Cards
Commander Cards
Enemy Battalion Counters

 This comes with these new items:

Vehicle Cards
Infantry cards
Vehicle Counters
Infantry Counters

 Among the new Vehicle Cards are one for a late war E-50 and E-100

 This set comes with these new tiles:


 You can also purchase a Neoprene mat to play on, and Tiger leader Terrain Tile Pack #1.

 These serve to make this excellent game even more so. Thank you very much Dan Verssen Games for allowing me to review Tiger leader 2nd Edition. I have reviewed about six of their games, and they just keep upping the bar with each new release.


Dan Verssen Games:

Tiger leader 2nd Edition:

CASTLE ITTER FROM DVG A little more than a year after the appearance of Pavlov's House ,  David Thompson has put his excellent ...


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


A little more than a year after the appearance of Pavlov's House,  David Thompson has put his excellent solitaire system to equally good use in this second game, Castle Itter.  Before I say anything else about its implementation, something definitely needs to be said about the historical facts that give rise to the game's sub-title; The Strangest Battle of WWII.  For me and I'm sure for many others, there may be other strange battles of WWII, but I think this certainly ranks as one of the strangest and one of the least known!

It's May 1945 near the small Austrian Tyrol village of Itter and, in almost classic Hollywood movie terms, a small group of assorted German and American soldiers, a handful of French political prisoners and an SS officer seek to hold out against an SS force until an American relief force arrives.  Nor were these any old political prisoners - of them two were former prime ministers of France and one was Charles de Gaulle's sister according to the research that I've done.  I say this because the named French counters that the game gives us differ to some extent from those in online documentation, particularly in the omission of de Gaulle's sister.  Also the fact that only one defender died in the battle, though that was the commanding Wermacht officer, may indicate a less than last ditch defence.  However, don't let that deter you from enjoying this thoroughly taught and engrossing game.  

If you're new to this site, I'd strongly recommend a read of my review of Pavlov's House, as I shall be making a number of comparisons between the two games.  The first is in the scale of each game as represented by the marked difference in the playing boards.

Here we have the three panelled board for Pavlov's House, which moving left to right takes us from the tactical to the operational scope of the game. In contrast, Castle Itter remains purely on a tactical scale and it's very much as if we simply took and expanded the left hand panel and added the German movement tracks from the central panel.  

Consequently, we have a much more intimate game concentrating on the various areas of the castle and its approach on the right via the Gate House and its lone defending tank, the most curiously named Besotten Jenny!

This change of scale brings in many differences.  Most obvious is that there are fewer rules and fewer options for you the player to choose from.  Instead of drawing a hand of cards each turn containing a variety of actions and having to juggle where you consider the main threats currently to be coming from across three locations, you can take five actions from among four choices: fire to eliminate an enemy counter, fire to place suppression markers, move from one area to another or turn a unit counter back to fresh from exhausted.

The result is a much quicker game to learn and a much quicker game to play.  It took several plays of Pavlov's House and constant referral to the Play Aid to get to know what the choices written on each card offered you.  Here you will have memorised your actions and the enemies after a single play.  But, DO NOT think that this makes the current game inferior.  Both are intense struggles.  Both demand that you prevent an enemy unit from reaching and breaching its objective building, though there are other ways to lose in Pavlov's House!

Though the terrain is obviously abstracted to a certain degree, there is far more sense of place here, as a glance at the board reveals.  Initially at set up, there are only German attackers, one rifleman in each of the twelve starting locations, and the five French prisoners lodged in the cellar, which in real life would be below the castle, but here is placed in the bottom left corner.
In the picture above, the rest of the game's physical components can be seen.  Above the board are the various markers: Action Tokens, Command Tokens, Disrupted Tokens, 1 Load Token [for loading the tank's main gun!] and Suppression Tokens.  Below it on the left are the range of SS counters [lots more riflemen, scouts, sturm troopers, machine gunners and mortars].  In the centre are three reinforcements for the defenders, to their right the German wermacht defenders and then on the far right the American defenders.
A closer look at the main part of the castle

Every single item is substantial from the glossy mounted board to the large, thick individual counters.  As with Pavlov's House, many of the defenders are named and, in a touch that contributes to the atmosphere of the situation, have special attributes identified by a capital letter.   Some of the rank and file German defenders have low morale which is offset by the presence of an officer in the same location.  Four of the five French prisoner defenders can inspire others in the same location by adding a die to their attack value.  Those Americans marked with a T for tank can make use of several special locations [mainly on the tank itself] that significantly boost attack and suppression dice, while the senior Wermacht officer has the sacrifice ability to die in the place of one French defender who becomes a casualty. 
Most of the Defenders
Once again these unit counters are of a very satisfying size and robustness which makes both for ease of handling and ease of reading the information on them.

The rule book is a model of clarity and personally I'm pleased with the decision to move to an A4 format which makes for ease of handling.  It's a glossy well laid out product with numerous full colour examples to support every detail of the game from set up, explanation of counters and cards and every action that can be performed.

It is a very straightforward game to get into.  A turn involves the five actions taken by you, followed by drawing three cards from the German deck and carrying out the instructions on them. The first four turns are swift and particularly easy for you the defender as each turn you must use each of your five actions to place one of your defenders on the board and perform an action with them.  At this early stage of the game, this will mainly be placing suppression markers.  
The curiously named tank, Besotten Jenny, fully crewed

From then on the fun and thrill of the game is deciding on what five actions to take and then awaiting the resolution of each of the three German cards which must be drawn and executed one by one.  Your two aggressive actions are firing at a single enemy unit or placing suppression markers that can be used to fire at an enemy unit only when it is first placed on the board.  

Once one of your units has taken an action, it is flipped to its exhausted side and it then takes an action simply to turn it back to its active side again.  Moving a unit within a location is a free action thus allowing the chosen unit to do something else, but moving from one location to another is a complete action.  Soon some of your men are going to become disrupted and, yes, it takes an action just to remove a Disrupted marker.

You have a few units that have the special Command ability to perform three actions on other units that occupy the same location.  Mainly these will be used to remove a Disruption marker or refresh an exhausted unit.  But such affected units are marked with Command markers to show that you can't then use them in the same turn.

Always there are more actions needing to be taken than the five you are allotted and as the various SS units begin to encroach nearer and nearer on their allotted paths to the castle, the tension is ratcheted up.
Here are some of your worst enemies.  The machine gunners and mortar teams cannot advance to take the castle, but remain on starting points for the opportunity to lay down fire when the appropriate cards are drawn, while the Sturm units are the most difficult to kill of your opponents that will be advancing down the avenues of attack!

All the SS actions are governed by the turn of three cards each turn.  These cards are a range that mingle the introduction of units that can advance and those that are stationary, but can fire along with a variety of actions directed to suppress units, damage the fabric of the castle or seek to destroy your one and only tank.
All these involve dice rolls that often seem to have a mind and will of their own!   As these rolls are based on two D6, with the expected range of 2-12, laying down suppressive fire on areas 6-8 is advisable particularly early in the game.  But typically always expect the unexpected.  Having built up just such a defensive shield against those areas, I was subjected to a series of low rolls of 4s and 5s that had the enemy units streaming in on the opposite side of the board.

I've had the tank survive all rolls against it and at other times seen it brew up along with a full complement of soldiers destroyed with it.  My leading German officer has been sniped at and killed as my first casualty, while a terrace full of soldiers has come through unscathed.
Here is one of my more ignominious defeats, as the SS breach the castle. Technically you lose immediately 1 unit makes it into the castle, but I couldn't resist seeing how bad the effects of the killing card play was and, as you can see, three units have breached my defences, with two more lined up behind them.

All in all, I've found Castle Itter a fast playing, nail-biting experience, very easy to learn and highly rewarding to play.  What's more, should you find it easier to survive than I do, there is an excellent Tactical deck of cards that can be introduced that turns the screw from merely difficult to insanely impossible!  Don't say you haven't been warned.

I've no hesitation in recommending this as an addition to anyone's collection and count Pavlov's House with Castle Itter as a perfect pairing. 

Field Commander Alexander by  Dan Verssen Games   A madman wears the crown, and everyone around him, courtier...

Field Commander Alexander by Dan Verssen Games Field Commander Alexander by Dan Verssen Games

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Field Commander Alexander


Dan Verssen Games

 A madman wears the crown, and everyone around him, courtiers, generals, even concubines are not safe from his murderous drunken outbursts. He believed himself at one time to be the son of a God, but now he thinks himself a God. He is distrustful of the soldiers who won him the crown of the world. A besotted paranoid maniac; this is what Alexander has become. If someone didn't kill him out of self-preservation it would be amazing.

 This game shows the campaigns of Alexander in four scenarios, from the earliest battles when he had just gotten the crown, to his conquest of much of the known world. From Chaeronea to his hardest battle at the Hydaspes, his battles and campaigns are here. I want to thank DVG for adding in the siege of Tyre. Sieges, if represented at all in games, are usually just a die roll. The game is a solitaire one where you fill the shoes of the half mortal Alexander. This is what comes with the game:

4 11"x17" Campaign Maps
1 Counter Sheet
1 Six-sided die
1 Player Log sheet

The four Campaigns are

Granicus - 338 BC to 334 BC
Issus - 333 BC to 332 BC
Tyre - 332 BC
Gaugamela - 331 BC to 323 BC

First Counter Sheet

 This is the sequence of play:

  Advance Turn Counter
  Refit ( -2 Gold per Refit )
  Enemy Orders
  Enemy Operations
  Scouting Roll
   ( If roll > Forces suffer hits
   if roll < Forces lose Gold)
   Move Army
   Battle / Intimidate
    Gain Glory
    Raze or Govern
  May Repeat
  Gain Gold
  Spend Gold and Glory

Granicus Map

 This is the newest reprinting of the game, although there doesn't seem to be many changes between the versions. The main game mechanic is for you, playing as Alexander, to win gold and glory. In each campaign these can be used to continue your conquering ways. Glory points can be especially helpful because they allow you to buy Insight Counters and Advisor Counters. These are some of them:

Insight Counters
Anticipation - Play before the enemy 
 draws Battle Plans. Enemy does not 
 Draw any Battle Plans for this battle.
Courtesans - May play after seeing an
  intimidation roll. Add 4 to the roll.

Advisor Counters
Aristander (Seer) - After seeing each 
 Enemy Orders for roll, you may add 1
 to the roll.
Parmenion (General) - The enemy 
 receives 3 fewer Battle Plans in battle.

Issus Map

 Another major game mechanic is to accept or shun a prophecy when you move into an area that has an oracle. You must decide to accept or shun it before turning over the counter to see the actual prophecy. The number on the Prophecy counter is how many turns you have to complete the prophecy. Completing it on time means that your Alexander gains 1 Glorification, and just a smidgen more madness. Failing to complete it means that you have to drop 1 level of Glorification or remove an advisor for the rest of the game. If you cannot do either, you lose the game. There are 1- 8 Alexander counters. Each one measures his Glorification level, one being the lowest and 8 representing full blown psychosis. Just ask Kassander.


Player Log/Battle Board

 The game comes with one player log that you can copy to use over if you want to keep track of different campaigns you wage. The player log also has information about Battle Plans etc. At the bottom of the Player Log is the battlefield, which is more like a battle board. You line up yourself and your enemy's forces in two lines. "Arrange them from left to right in order of the highest to lowest speed". Both Alexander and his enemies have Battle Plans they can use. Depending upon the situation and the Alexander player's use of gold etc, this will determine the amount of Battle Plans both sides have. You resolve any Pre-Battle plans first, and then get down to business. The battles are set up so that the two heroic leaders (if an enemy leader is present) will have a go at each other. The only slightly strange rule is that only the Alexander unit in his army can attack the enemy leader. The enemy leader unit can attack other units in Alexander's force. Once the leaders have begun to attack each other, they must continue to attack each other until the end of the battle. As Alexander you can choose to retreat from battle (to your everlasting shame). However, unlike in history, this does not necessarily mean it is the end of the war.

Tyre Map

 This marks my sixth review of a DVG solitaire game. Just like the others, the components are very well done, as are the rules. Field Commander Alexander seems to have more immersion than the others I have played. You as the player want to win, but you are also pitting yourself against the Great One's record. As almost any general before you since 323 BC, your victories and pace of conquest is measured against Alexander. Hopefully you don't also get a good dose of megalomania in the bargain. Thank you DVG Games for letting me review another great game.

Dan Verssen Games:

Field Commander Alexander: