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I first learned many of the details of the First Barbary War  from Ian Toll's excellent book Six Frigates , which was one of the best hi...

The Shores of Tripoli The Shores of Tripoli

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


I first learned many of the details of the First Barbary War from Ian Toll's excellent book Six Frigates, which was one of the best historical works I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It was quite the tale of a scrappy young nation deciding it was better to fight the local bully than to pay him tribute. Now Fort Circle Games has released their first board game, which captures this moment in history with a very elegant and simple design. The Shores of Tripoli is a strategy game for two players that can easily be played in under an hour. 

One player takes the side of the Americans, the other takes on the role of the Pasha of Tripoli. Each gets a hand of cards, but the actions that each player can take after that are almost entirely different. The American player has powerful frigates that they can freely move around the map, but these are very limited in number in the early phase of the game. America seeks to build up forces in the region, blockade the Barbary corsairs in their harbor(s), and potentially build an army on land. The Tripolitan player is racing against time to send their corsairs out on raids and gather all 12 gold coins before being overwhelmed. They can also win by managing to destroy 4 American frigates over the course of the game. Both players will feel stretched thin, and wishing they could take just one more action throughout the entire game. 

Sometimes things come down to a climactic battle!

The game is split up into 6 rounds each representing a year of time, and 4 turns within each year, with each player getting one action per turn. At the end of each year, the players draw more cards to refresh their hands, and potentially receive reinforcements. That means that, at most, there are only 24 actions to be had in a game of Shores. Therefore, every single action you take carries weight, and there is precious little margin for poor moves. At the same time, the game is so brief that if you do screw up, you won't have to wait long to get it over with and try again!

The cards each player has come in three flavors. Cards which let the player take a moderately powerful action, and then can be put in the discard pile to come back around later. Cards which trigger a unique event that can only fire once per game, and finally cards which can add on an extra twist to other specific events or battles. All cards can also be discarded to take a minor action (building a new small ship for both players, moving two frigates around for the US player, or going raiding for the Tripolitan player). On each turn, a player must either play one of their cards for an event, or discard one to take an action. There is also a hard hand limit, and so one must think carefully about cards they may want to hang onto for plans down the road.

While I haven't fully explained the rules, there isn't much more than that to the rulebook. Players move satisfyingly chunky ship pieces around on a relatively simple map, where there are really only a handful of spaces that are used throughout the game. Combat is resolved via very simple rules and rolling big handfuls of dice. The game can even feel very luck based at first. However, after just a few plays, another level to the strategy emerges. There are not that many cards in each deck, and every single one will filter through the game at some point. With many of the most powerful cards being one use only and very specific in their function, strategies begin to build around guessing which cards your opponent has in their hand at any given time, and noting which cards they have already played. It's definitely a game that benefits from familiarity and repeated plays.

The game includes a solo mode in which you play as the Americans against a Tripoli bot who will mostly play sensible moves, but is predictable. That said, you will still need to play very smartly if you want to find a path to victory. I lost twice to the bot before finally winning on the very last turn of my third game. While I would not recommend buying this game to only play solo, it's nice that there is a satisfying opponent in the box. 

It shouldn't be very difficult to find a live opponent for The Shores of Tripoli, as the rules are extremely simple to teach, and the game can be played in a casual manner as one learns, while still having fun. Neither player can roll over the other without extreme luck, and the quick turns keep the game moving at a good pace. My wife, an occasional board gamer at best, and certainly no wargamer, was able to defeat me on her first attempt! 

If you are looking to learn more about the conflict, this game is a great place to start. Each of the unique event cards is based on either events which actually happened or very much could have happened. Besides the rule book, the game comes with a historical supplement which offers a great deal of context for the design of the game and the cards. One nice bit of fluff in the box is a copy of the letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to Yusuf Karamanli just before the war broke out.

The Shores of Tripoli is a charming game that could fit right in on any gamer's shelf. The mechanics are simple, the game plays fast, and each side offers a unique approach. The American player will need to be active, moving ships around, attacking when the time seems right, and trying to find the balance between covering ground and spreading themselves too thinly. The Tripolitan player is racing the clock, weighing risk and benefit with each raid, all while looking for openings to exploit. If you are at all interested in the historical conflict depicted, I heartily recommend The Shores of Tripoli. 

The game can be ordered directly from Fort Circle Games or from other vendors on the web. 

- Joe Beard

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:

INVASIONS VOL. I from W ISDOM O WL This was a game that I have been waiting to review for a long time. A magnum opus from Phili...


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



This was a game that I have been waiting to review for a long time. A magnum opus from Philippe Thibaut. a legend himself as the designer of Europa Universalis, and a long time in gestation - I expected something spectacular.  

Its arrival promised well when I opened the package to find not just the huge game itself, but the two expansions from the Kickstarter. It is stunning to look at.  A vast box and magnificent mounted map board with a number of important tracks unobtrusively edging the play area. Nine sheets of equally impressive counters representing all the major historical players and many, many minor ones are divided into four player factions: Romans, Persians, Goths and Huns.

These counters are the typical thick, rounded-edge Euro-game format that simply press out of their frames with no tags to be dealt with.

Here you can see just a few of those sheets, along with the two books, one of rules, the other labelled Appendices.  Barely glimpsed, still in the box are, 33 full colour cards supplying information on those many tribes and nations that play a very small to impressively large part in history and the game.

Definitely a major player!

Five A4 size player aids, each of 4 pages in length, repeat some of the details covered on the smaller cards, along with a wealth of information necessary for game play and a final sixth player aid contains information on the Events and Calamities introduced through a variety of cards.  What surprised me was that turning to the Appendices book, I discovered that this was a compilation of all six of the Player Aids.  

This is a massive game of astonishing quality that I suspect has had layer upon layer of detail and information gradually build up in the course of its development, but the more I tried to peel back those layers the more disconcerting and overwhelming the task became.

I had expected depth and detail and a need to work slowly through the rulebook.  I had assumed there would probably be a number of smaller scenarios to help build understanding and acquire enough comfortable familiarity with the parts to eventually tackle the whole campaign.  There are smaller scenarios, but you'll need to go online to download them, as the boxed game and the thick booklet entitled Appendices simply give one Scenario: the full Campaign for 4 players.

To be frank, the six Scenarios provided online look remarkably like something that really should have been there from the start.  Below is the shortest intended for two players, a mere one turn and not including all the possible Phases.

As working step by step through these shorter scenarios seems the sensible way to approach such a vast amount of information, I assume cost more than anything determined their not being included as a prerequisite of the package.

Even with them downloaded, it is still an uphill battle.  For me. one of the basic obstacles to coping has been the decision to number all thirty-one sections of the rule book in Roman Numerals.  It may be in keeping with the period, but it would have been easier to think Section 18 that's Movement, rather than XVIII - ah, that's Movement.  What's more these cross-references come thick and fast, usually accompanied with a subsidiary letter [e.g. XVIII.J], so there is a constant backwards and forwards checking, checking, checking.

Looking at the Sequence of Play in the Rule Book everything looks beguilingly straightforward.  The sequence of play has a well known trajectory from probably the first such game, Decline and Fall [1972] through the various iterations of Conquest of Empires, History of the World, plus A Brief History of the World and History of The Roman World and so on.  All of these, I should add include very little of what Invasions covers and do so by comparison in the most cursory way.

Broadly the game divides into four major Phases, starting with the TIME PHASE. What in most of these games involved no more than acquiring a new nation and a new set of units at the beginning of a specified turn mutates into a substantial section entitled the Status of Nations  This seems straightforward enough as there are only three statuses: Barbarian, Kingdom or Empire.  Then you discover that some nations are inactive and don't need to go through the usual activities of nation and don't earn VPs, but then you learn that they may become a client, federate or vassal.  At this point they do have the potential to earn VPs.  There are also Raider nations who do even less, but some may settle down and become inactive while others later become normal active nations.

You have to take into account the Aging of a Nation, the differences in play of a Kingdom as opposed to an Empire both of which count as being civilised, along with the fact that Barbarian nations will at some point become civilised and transition into Kingdoms.  Throw in the fact that differing religions also play their part along with heresies and you begin to see the depth and complexity involved.

Every step of the way is fraught with substantial detail that is given in a list of bullet points containing information that is typically presented in a sequence of short phrases which are cross-referenced to another section of the rules.  A typical example would be the rules on Nomads which, we're initially told in the first of seven bullet points, are a special type of Barbarian.  Among five of the remaining bullet points there are ten references to other parts of the rules.  Below is a picture of the typically densely texted pages with very little in the way of illustrations.

The sheer extent of detail in the Rule book alone is enormous.  On top of this each player has his/her separate Player Aid with a significant extra set of Additional rules and a minute breakdown of all the different possible victory point  scorings of each of the various tribes and nations that they will control in the course of the game.  There is a also an individual card sheet [33 in total] covering either one or several of these peoples.  Attractive though they are, they only include some of the most basic points included, but by no means all that are on the 4 page Player Aids.  So, once again it's back to checking between one source of information and another to make sure that you've got all the information you need.

So far, we've barely advanced any distance into game play.  Next comes Reinforcements  including units and two types of Leaders, who arrive with accompanying displacement of previous occupiers. Consult the timetable for these, though Civilised nations primarily have to purchase reinforcements rather receive according to a schedule.

Events covers card draw and play, plus possible raids and income from caravans!  Of importance to these and many other points in the game is Province and Area control.  Considering the huge span of years covered by the game, it's to be expected that fixed boundaries cannot be delineated on the map, instead you have a very small image on the relevant player aid card to refer to.  Most of these are fairly clear, but add another detail to check and work out

Oddly the final part of this first PHASE, Diplomacy, doesn't get covered until almost the very last page of the rules [SectionXXX], and appears to be a very simple process of card play, until you realise that you need to master the several, immediately preceding sections on Alliances, Clientele, Foedus and Submission [Vassalage] in order to execute the card you play.

The second major PHASE is the ADMINISTRATION PHASE, which takes in the play of Administration cards, Income and Purchases and Revolts. By and large, it provides some of the easier, quicker and more accessible rules with Income the lengthiest part.

Then the third PHASE brings us to the inevitable MILITARY PHASE, which encompasses the Movement and Combat rules. With the complexity and scale of detailed reference and sub-reference that I'd met so far, I approached this next stage with some trepidation.  I was pleasantly rewarded to find that this Phase is without doubt the easiest and clearest to deal with.  There is an alternative choice of rules called Advanced Combat.  These I personally didn't choose.  My main reason for missing out the latter was not because of added depth or length [Advanced Combat is an even shorter set of easy, clear rules], but because they do away with the very nice specially designed combat dice.
Must admit I'm a sucker for such touches and the rules provide two and a half pages covering 5 detailed examples of play.  Fortified Cities, Sieges and Naval Movement and Warfare do add quite a few more rules, but as with the essential Combat rules they are, by and large, a simple sequence and lack the convoluted sub-references, exceptions and multiple variations that made the first PHASE of the game such an endurance test.

Finally on every 3rd Turn, you come to the 4th PHASE SCORING.  Now that does sound nice and easy, but it really isn't! First of all, some form of scoring takes place every Turn, but what makes it so convoluted is the variety of scoring possibilities for each player and for each different historical group that come under their control in the course of the game.  Where I to focus on just learning a single one of the four player factions [Romans, Persians, Goths and Huns],I cannot imagine ever mastering an awareness of exactly when, where and how I would gain my victory points for that particular faction.

All in all, there is just too much information to comfortably handle.  So many rules, so much detail, so many exceptions, so many differing presentations of the information through differing play aids and on top of that too many inaccuracies and contradictions.  Many of the latter are fairly minor, but they all add to the problem of getting to grips with this game.

Through BoardGamegeek, the company is working extensively to support and clarify the many questions and requests for clarifications that have been raised.  Living rules are available and work seems to be underway to produce a simplified level of play.  I sincerely hope this comes to fruition, otherwise for many this beautifully lavish production will languish unplayed.

As always many thanks to WisdomOwl for providing the review copy

RRP 99 euros

Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games  I have been looking for a game to replace or better Avalon Hills &...

Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games Napoleon and his Marshals by Two Generals Games

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



 I have been looking for a game to replace or better Avalon Hills 'War and Peace'. I believe I might have found it. This game has incredible detail, and seems so far to play out historically. By that I mean that it wouldn't play the same if you were using tank units or foot soldiers.  

 The first thing you should know about this game is the packaging. You get a rolled up map in a circular tube. Then you get the counters in a small plastic wrapped bag. The next thing you receive is a small plastic case that you would usually keep washers or small screws in. So after separating the counters it has its own little case for them. What you do not get is the rules or scenarios. These are downloaded from the company's website. This is also nice, and is something a lot of companies are doing now so you can peruse the rules and scenarios before you buy the game. 

 We will look at the actual physical pieces you get now. The counters are 5/8 of an inch square. They are mostly your typical strategic game counters with just strength and their movement factor listed. The counters are physically different than any I have ever seen. They seem to have some plastic or something added to them to make them almost pliable. It also seems to make them more durable than the usual cardboard ones. The map is also different than normal. It almost feels and rolls up like it is made of leather. I assume it has gotten the same treatment as the counters. Whatever it is, I love it. When you spread it out it flattens immediately so there are no folds etc. It almost seems like you are unfolding a map from the period. I have not tested it, nor will I, but I believe the map would survive a drink being poured across it. As far as looks, the map is a standard hex map of Europe. This map goes from the French Atlantic coast to the border of Russia, and from the top of Italy to Denmark. The map's size is 23" x 30". The colors of the map are so much more vibrant than any other I have seen. There are maps just as beautiful out there, but none that pop out at you like this one. I assume this also has to do with the manufacturing process. 

 The rules are long at seventy-nine pages. This might make some people pause. However I believe most of us have tablets or phones that it can be downloaded to. As mentioned, you do not get the rules or scenario booklet with the game. If this was to save money to make the counters and map better, then it worked.

  The unit counter types in the games are as follows:


 Forts are also in the game, but they are shown on the map.

The map

 The games turn mechanics are a bit different from the norm. There are six two month strategic turns (Jan-Feb). Within the six strategic turns are six operational turns for each strategic one. This is not just an operational game, but a strategic one. So in effect you are running your entire country or countries' war and peace efforts (in the campaign game). As a king or emperor you have to decide your country's production, replacements, and policy, and also mobilization and demobilization. Each strategic turn, the phasing player may purchase 'Command Points' which are used to activate leaders, units, or other actions. Movement and combat take place during the operational turns.

The outside of the counter box/tray

 Supply and lines of communication are important in the game. As a matter of fact, they take up four pages of the rule book. Lack of supply and attrition can kill your armies much quicker than losing battles.

 Leaders and their various abilities, and the rules of what they can do is another important part of the game and rule-book. Leaders affect activation, movement, combat, reinforcement, and also have special abilities. Napoleon has the ability to 'split' the coalition armies that he is fighting into their separate national units. Wellington can remove disruption on British units that suffer it during battle.

The inside of the counter box/tray

 As I mentioned, the rules and scenarios are a download only, but that means anyone interested in looking at them can peruse them at their leisure.The rules for combat are unique and quite involved. There is a CRT, but there are no dice rolls. First the attacker figures out the defender's losses and then the defender checks on the attacker's losses. They both take place at the instance of combat. Meaning that the defender doesn't take casualties, and then checks on the attacker's losses after his losses are deducted. So if both the attackers have a combat number of twenty, twenty would be where on the CRT you would check for casualties to both (terrain etc. are also added in). The leader with a stack can 'protect' or absorb losses. So the higher the number of the leader the easier to absorb losses. In this, the French have an ace up their sleeve until the latter years of the Napoleonic conflict. I am making it seem more involved then it really is. I will include a link to both the scenario rules and the rule-book at the bottom.

 So what we are looking at is a game that tries to recreate the Napoleonic years in a game format. The following is a list of the scenarios and the 'game set' you need to play them:

1805 Introductory Scenario - (solo, or two players; requires only basic set) Napoleon attacks Austria in 1805, culminating in the Battle of Austerlitz in which he decisively defeated Austria and Russia.The French can follow the Danube(historical), attack through Bohemia, or come from Italy. Will Austria fall back to join the slow Russians and risk losing
most of its production, or stay forward and risk losing most of its army?
1805 - 1807 Campaign Game - (requires only basic set)
France must be prepared to take on three opponents at once (Russia, Austria and Prussia), plus a fourth one (Britain) that finances the others. Napoleon must nimbly defeat each one at a time, or risk facing them all together.
 2-France, All other nations
3-France, Austria/Britain, Russia/Prussia
4-France, Britain/Russia, Austria, Prussia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1809 Scenario - (requires only basic set)
Austria has completed Army Reform and increased the size of its army and is ready to take on Napoleon again, but without Prussia or Russia to help.
2-Franceand Russia, All other nations
     3-France, Britain/Austria, Russia(only recommended if the optional       rule for full Russian participation is included)
1807-1810 Scenario - (requires basic set plus Peninsular War set
and expansion maps are optional) Napoleon must deal with the "Spanish ulcer" and a resurgent Austria at once.
2-France, All other nations
3-France, Britain/Prussia, Austria/Russia
4-France, Britain/Prussia, Austria, Russia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1811-1814 Scenario - Zenith and Nadir(requires all games in set)
France is victorious everywhere but Spain, and that is encouraging Russia to resist once again. Can Napoleon defeat the Russians once and for all while handcuffed in Spain, or will he try to defeat Spain before Russia can liberate Germany and get Prussia and Austria as allies?
2-France, All other nations
3-France, Austria/Britain, Russia/Prussia
4-France, Britain/Russia, Austria, Prussia
5-France, Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia
1812 Scenario -The Patriotic War
(requires basic set plus expanded maps)
Napoleon puts together his largest army ever to defeat his biggest continental rival. But can LaGrande Armee repeat its successes in such a large nation against a foe that is prepared to fight it?
    1813-1814 Scenario - German and French Campaigns  (requires basic       set or add on Peninsular War)
Following the loss of most of his army, Napoleon must scramble to retain his client states, and rebuild his army. Can he hold the now united Coalition off long enough to achieve the impossible yet again?
1815 Scenario (requires basic set and Peninsular War set)
Can Napoleon retake France and return it to glory? Or will he face another Waterloo?
2-France, All other nations
1807/1809-1814 Peninsular War Scenarios (requires basic set plus Peninsular War set) A long scenario, starting in either 1807 or 1809, with a small number of units, the players will have to face the limitations of a small war in a poor nation with terrible terrain for campaigning and a long sea coast that favors Britain's best asset-the Royal Navy.
2-France, Britain & allies
1805-1815 Campaign Game (requires basic game and all expansions)
The entire French Napoleonic Wars, from 1805 to 1815. Up to 396 operation turns and 66 Strategic Turns. Expect to play
for 130 hours or so. That's about 32 weeks if you play 4 hours once a week. Play tests averaged about 4 months.
2-France, All other nations (the Coalition)
3- France, Russia, Britain/Prussia/Austria.
Alternatively, Russia with either Prussia or Austria, Britain with either Prussia or Austria
4-France, Britain, Russia, Austria/Prussia

The counter setup for the 1805 scenario

 As you can tell, I am very impressed by the game's components. As far as the game play I am somewhat impressed. This might be because as a person who has rolled a die for most of the last fifty years on a CRT, new things are hard to learn. I have played other games that do not use die rolls for the CRT, but those have made the function of combat in these games relatively easy. Combat in this game was a bit hard to get a grasp on until I worked through a few examples for myself. The rule-book does have examples and I probably just needed hands on to get the gist of it. As I mentioned at the beginning, I was looking for a replacement for a tried and  true friend. I am not sure I have met the replacement as added another good friend to my table. The game has so much more to offer (marching to the guns etc.), than I can mention in this small space. Please take a look at the link below.


I take a very first look at the new 4x strategy game from Proxy Studios and Slitherine, Warhammer 40k: Gladius - Relics of War. This...

Warhammer 40k - Gladius First Impressions Warhammer 40k - Gladius First Impressions

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


I take a very first look at the new 4x strategy game from Proxy Studios and Slitherine, Warhammer 40k: Gladius - Relics of War. This one takes 40k to a new genre, the 4x. Take a look!

Wartile, developed by Playwood Project and recently released into Early Access on Steam, is a game not quite like anything I have...

Wartile Preview Wartile Preview

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


Wartile, developed by Playwood Project and recently released into Early Access on Steam, is a game not quite like anything I have played before. The fresh take on tactical RPG combat has you moving detailed figurines of various Viking warriors around a static, yet beautiful diorama battlefield. The deliberate effect is to give the feel of playing a board game, with all the advantages of being a digital game. 

Combat takes place in real time, but each figure can only be moved once every three seconds or so. Standard attacks are made automatically once an enemy is in range, while special abilities can be activated by dragging the relevant card from the player's "hand" onto the target. This design creates a sort of controlled frenzy, where the player only needs to take a couple of simple actions every few seconds, but must be constantly thinking ahead. Positioning of units makes all the difference, with relative height, flanking attacks, and leveraging the terrain in your favor all factoring in to making sure your fighters prevail.

Each fighter under your control belongs to a particular class. There are damage dealers, shield bearing tanks, spearmen who can attack from two spaces away, and more to come. Putting each figure in the appropriate place is critical to keeping them alive, as you are often outnumbered. A tactic I exploited early on was holding a narrow pass with my shielded warriors, while my spearman attacked freely from range. Whenever there is room you will want to keep your men moving, getting behind enemies to get a flanking bonus to each attack. Enemy figures will keep moving as well, adding tension to the melee. 

As mentioned before, you have a hand of cards, independent of the individual characters' abilities, that let you activate special powers at any time. This deck of cards can be customized before starting a scenario, and is then dealt out randomly, two in hand at a time. Using these abilities depletes a limited supply of points, which must be recharged over the course of the battle. Early cards include healing, boosts to damage, and a trap which can placed on the map. As you complete scenarios, more cards are unlocked and can be mixed into your deck. Playing these cards at the right time, and only when needed, is another factor the player must keep in mind as a battle unfolds. 

Between scenarios the player can spend gold to purchase new figures and other things, as well as customize the figures he has. Armor and weapons can be equipped, as well as small bonuses to stats that can be swapped around as you like. Like any RPG, the further you get into the campaign, the more variety of options you have for customizing each character. You can make your figures into glass cannons, tanks, or balanced fighters. As characters level up you can add more stat bonuses, and they can be reset at any time, so you are free to try new strategies as you go.

It is certainly worth mentioning again how lovely this game looks. While the environments lack any animation, this actually works wonderfully. The whole thing has a very hand crafted feel to it, channeling those detailed battlefield dioramas you see in museums. I especially liked the crashing waves frozen in time and other cool details spread across each stage.

One thing I hope to see changed is freeing up the camera a bit more. There may have been an option I was missing, but I constantly found myself wishing I could tilt the camera more, so that I could take in beautiful landscapes from more angles.

The game also has a multiplayer mode, which I haven't tried yet, but expect will certainly force you to adopt more imaginative tactics. While the AI will give you a good challenge, it won't throw too many curveballs your way in its current state. Most of the surprises come in the form of sudden events which add new enemy figures to the board, usually in prime position to outflank your warriors.

Despite being in early access, I did not encounter any bugs or glitches during my first few hours of playing Wartile. I was happy to see that, despite the impressive visuals, the game runs perfectly smooth and loads almost instantly on my machine. There are a lot of positive things happening here, and I look forward to seeing more content added to the game over time. It's always good to see someone take a new approach to game design and aesthetic. This could have been a bog standard turn-based combat game, but instead it steps out, through visual design and game mechanics, into uncharted territory and that makes it a welcome breath of fresh air.

Official Site:
Available Now on Steam Early Access

- Joe Beard

ONUS ! by DRACO IDEAS Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus .  I knew it as meaning a burden o...

Onus by Draco Ideas: Review Onus by Draco Ideas: Review

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



Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus.  I knew it as meaning a burden or duty or obligation.  Not perhaps the most exciting title, though I had my image, whether of noble Roman or valiant Carthaginian, marching forth to do my duty or carry out the obligation that the burden of fate had laid on my shoulders.  Word from the designer has provided an even humbler perspective.  Onus in Latin conveys the idea of the weighty physical load carried by the ordinary marching legionary -  a heavy burden indeed.  So, here I am, metaphorical pack on back, ready to slog it down the road to death or glory at Cannae or Zama. 

[OK, secretly, I'm still the great Hannibal, braving blizzards and perilous Alpine passes with my elephants, on route for glorious victory at Lake Trasimene and Cannae]

The first thing to lift my weary soldier/reviewer's spirits is sight of the small, colourful box that the game comes in - that's not going to add much to the weight of the digging tool, spare kit, cooking utensils etc...  But, as they say, good things come in small packets. What a compact little war chest is to be found when you get inside the box! 

The war chest, opened, punched, bagged and repacked

[apologies for the quality of my camera work]

Hold on there, I'm getting a bit carried away.  Before I delve further into the components, just a few facts about what the game is about and why I'm so delighted to be reviewing it.

Giving its full title Onus! : Rome Vs Carthage helps.  What another game/simulation of the Punic war?  I still have the original Avalon Hill edition of Hannibal : Rome v Carthage and Punic Island Vol III in the Campaign Commander series, as well as several scenarios in my Command & Colours : Ancients, as well as Battleground : Second Punic War and am currently awaiting delivery in the next couple of weeks of my Kickstarter copy of Hands In The Sea.  So, why was I so pleased to receive such a small footprint game on this historical period and theme?

Well, the obvious answer is that I love all that comes under the umbrella title of Ancients and the Punic Wars, especially Hannibal, elephants and Alps! [Sorry, no Alps in a tactical game - compromises do have to be made.]  But, more than that, I had tried and failed [computer glitches!] to pledge to Onus! on Kickstarter and here I was being offered the chance of a copy to review the very game I had so wanted. 

The next reason was because the game offers the opportunity to fight a miniatures style game without all the problems of buying figures, painting them and storing them along with all the necessary terrain.  [Admittedly, terrain for Ancients battles does tend to be more minimal than for other historical periods.]  Even more important was the impression I had got from the Kickstarter advertising that here was a simulation using miniatures based rules that was accessible and easy to understand and was physically appealing too.

My final reason was that Onus was the first game produced by Draco Ideas and I had already greatly enjoyed playing and reviewing for A Wargamer's Needful Things a composite copy [original Spanish edition with basic English translation of the rules] of their yet to be published English edition of 2GM Tactics.  So, my expectations were high and especially my expectations of the rule book.  As this was going to be the key element for me, I'm going to break my usual pattern of starting with what I think of as a written unboxing  and instead head straight to the rule book.

I had read substantially about the original Spanish edition's rule book and, I confess, the impression given was not a flattering one. 

If you've read my review of 2GM Tactics, you'll know that Draco Ideas went for a cartoonish style of art work and, as you can see from the front of this game box, which is identical to the cover of the rule book, the same influence was there from the beginning.

However, just like 2GM Tactics, Onus's rule book is anything but cartoonish.  Small in size, but with a wealth of depth, it is a wholly serious product.  Print remains on the very small size with every page providing fairly dense text layout, but the main question would be how clear and comprehendible  they are.  The original Spanish rules had come in for some heavy flack regarding tone, which was seen as too chatty, with poor organisation and lack of clarity.  With no ability to read Spanish, I cannot comment on the validity of these complaints. 

What I can happily say is that these English rules bear no similarity whatsoever to that less than adequate picture.  Either those original comments were inaccurate or an excellent job has been done on improving them for the English edition.  First of all, the organisation of the rules is wholly logical, taking us through Set-Up and how to read the information on the unit cards, General cards and Order/Event cards.  A brief Game Sequence is followed by detailed sections on Movement, Charges, Ranged Attacks, Melee, Morale, Flight, the End of Turn and Victory Conditions. 

All is rounded out with brief sections on 3/4 player sessions, Solo play, five Scenarios and a simple Campaign linking the five together.  A very useful page of Golden Rules and a Modifiers Summary on the back cover are a great help, though I must admit that I did need to copy the Modifiers Summary page and enlarge it for easy reading!  There is even a two page Simplified Rules section that strips play down to very, very bare essentials, which could be highly useful for drawing younger gamers into the hobby.

Still, providing an organised rule book shouldn't be too hard a task.
Slightly more difficult can be making sure that they can be understood and then executed with relative ease.  I have to say that my past experience of miniatures rules, whether in the form of purely a rulebook intended for use with figures or in a professional games format like this one, has not been a happy one.  Even the simplest end such as the Strategos set by Philip Sabin or his ravishing Lost Battles boxed game ultimately left me too often confused and uncertain.  Certainly, I never achieved a level were I could largely just get on with the enjoying the game and not have multiple interruptions to check things, a situation that left me dispirited.

Thankfully, I can say that the rules for Onus! are clear, easy to understand and eminently workable.  In particular, Movement and Charges [consistently the most difficult aspect of figure games rules] are well explained with good, picture-illustrated examples.  Because you are moving over a table-top, not a nicely regulated, printed hex grid, and using the traditional measuring stick beloved of figure gamers, there will always be potential  for some uncertainty and argument, but that lies more with the gamer than the rules!  

However, this is the first time I've been able to  easily understand and achieve such things as how to extend either or both wings of a unit or envelop the flank or rear of a unit.  Charge rules in many, many games are the most complex and often awkward to explain and satisfactorily carry out.  Chalk up another successful detail in this game. 

Having once sat watching two miniatures gamers with a sheaf of rules spend a whole 10 minutes resolving one single melee with percentages calculated  endless modifiers added and subtracted and a final result of no losses to either side, I was glad to find melee too works smoothly with both Attacker and Defender throwing the same number of dice  according to the number of sections in contact. 

That's not to say that Onus! lacks the necessary refinements to cover details such as the benefits of the aforementioned movement against the flank or rear, as well as Attacker formation, cavalry v infantry, the presence of a general, broken status, previous wounds inflicted and more.  When you add the ability to throw in the effects of an Event too,  I was more than satisfied with this feature of the game.

I was very well pleased too with the moderate, but appropriate range of modifiers associated with the Melee section and the overall ease of application so that they were soon second nature and rarely needed any reference to the quick summary sheet that forms the back cover. 

I realise that the Battleground system has trodden a very similar path already, but having tried very hard to master Battleground : Second Punic War, here are the main reasons that Onus! has succeeded for me, where the other failed.

The simplest point was the much greater detail and clarity of the rules.  Battleground is sketchy, brief and too often hard to understand.  Next was the fact that the Battleground unit cards have to be marked with a dry-wipe marker pen to change stats as the game progresses.  Personally, I dislike having to write on any game components [even if designed for that purpose] and it is all too easy, when doing so, to get the ink on other elements.  Above all, lifting the cards out of melee contact and returning them successfully in position is a nightmare.

In Onus! these problems are avoided by the simple use of marker chits and I was amazed by the quantity and quality that could be packed into such a small box.

Just a small sample of the range included

And more

And more

As you can see an impressive array and those are only a proportion of the total provided.  I'm still not sure how they've managed to include so much physical material and how it still fits in the box even when I've bagged it up.

On top of that you've got all the unit cards: 30 Roman, 30 Carthaginian and 30 mercenaries.

A typical Punic [Carthaginian] Phalanx

Here's an idea of the range of Punic [Carthaginian] units: Libyan Spearmen, Punic Archers and Cavalry, Lusitanian Infantry, Armed Civilians, Punic Infantry and, what else but ... Elephants!   These are opposed by all the familiar Roman troops: Hastati, Princeps,Velites, Triarii and two different types of Equites while the Mercenaries bring more exotic elements like Celtiberian Infantry, Balearic Slingers and Numidean cavalry, along with a range of missile throwing machines.

Though there are generals, they are sadly few, but famous.

Whereas the number of dual Order/Event cards is  a very satisfying 72 and apart from the variety this provides, their dual use adds in that dilemma of choice that you may becoming familiar with recognising as a game mechanic popular with me.

The typical instructions on the Order half [yellow heading] of the cards are strongly reminiscent of the Command and Tactic cards in the Command & Colours system.  As the battlefield is not divided into sectors, there are no worries about only possessing cards that relate to sectors where you have no units, though I have found occasionally that I have a hand of cards where most of my Orders aren't useful to activate units to move or fire!  As the rules suggest, it's well worth marking those units that you intend to activate and, for once, that is not a type of marker the game contains.  Personally, I tend to use a small die, simple, clear and easy to remove once the unit has been activated and most gamers have more than enough extra dice to hand!

The Events on the other half of the cards [blue heading] are nearly all applicable to Combat in some shape or form and I appreciate  what they often add to the narrative of the game.  Suddenly discovering that your vulnerable enemy suffering a ranged attack has benefited from a Take Shelter card and has become much harder to hit or that an attack against you is strengthened by an additional and unexpected ranged attack give a great deal of flavour to my gaming experience. 

Inevitably Onus! does not have the extreme rapidity of play found in a treatment such as the Command & Colours expansions that make up the Ancients line and, if you've read my review of The Great War, you'll know how much I do enjoy those games.  But I have been well rewarded with a more detailed system that gives the right feel and visual effect of fighting a miniatures battle at a fraction of the cost in money, time and effort that buying  and painting figures and then finding a rules set that didn't drive me to distraction would have been.

I now have to worry about my flanks, about manoeuvring and not being able to move through friendly units without the cost of breaking my own units.  I can take into account formation changes and the particular benefits of certain types of unit and all without disappearing under a mountain of rules.

I was even more fortunate that Draco Ideas generously included in their package to me the Desert Battle mat which greatly enhances play.  Here the Carthaginians advance beyond the village/city [depending on whichever battle you imagine you're playing].

This gives a close-up impression of said village/city. 

Apologies that my camera work doesn't do full justice to this.

I hope in the not to distant future to be able to report back on the first two Expansions:  Onus! Greeks Vs Persians and Onus! Scenery & Fortresses.

[Meantime, a trip to the Iberian peninsular with old long nose himself, Sir Arthur Wellesley, in Espana 20 : Bussaco & Talevera looks on the cards.]

ONUS! Rome Vs Carthage

Normal price £27 approx.