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  Dawn of Battle by Worthington Publishing  Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away; no that isn't it. The world was young once; nope...

Dawn of Battle by Worthington Publishing Dawn of Battle by Worthington Publishing

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

Tactical Wargame

 Dawn of Battle


Worthington Publishing

 Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away; no that isn't it. The world was young once; nope not it either. Let us try this: many years ago, when my body did not creak and moan with movement, there was a magical land called SPI (okay it was just a building that made games, but you get my drift). Simulations Publications Inc. in 1975 published a set of games called PRESTAGS (Pre-Seventeenth Century Tactical Game System). It offered the grognard a chance to simulate battles from the Egyptian New Kingdom until the late Middle Ages. It was amazing. For the price of one game, you could fight tons of historical or fictional battles from a few hundred or more years. The game system was an immediate success. The same idea was published by 3W (World Wide Wargames) in Strategy & Tactics issue 127 in 1990. This version was designed by the giants Jim Dunnigan and Albert A. Nolfi. Once again, the game was a big success. Since then, the formula has been tried by several different publishers with mixed results. I have been looking for a revamped version for many years. Then out of the blue I found out that Worthington Publishing was going to produce their own take on the idea of warfare through the ages. This design is a totally redone version of Victory Point Games 'Ancient Battles Deluxe' by Mike Nagel. Worthington Publishing was nice enough to send me a copy to review. I was as happy as the dog getting a biscuit on Quick Draw McGraw; it is a visual:

 Ancient Military History is by far my first love. So, any game that can simulate it is going to catch my eye. However, the game also allows you to fight battles right into the beginning of the Gunpowder Age. Let us see what comes in the box:

Hard Mounted 22” x 34” game board 

Three to five sheets of die-cut counters 

Two Player Aid Cards

80 marker cubes in two colors (red and yellow)

Two decks of 72 cards each 

Plastic bases for the stand-up leaders

Rules Book

Scenario Book

Counter Tray

 The components are well done and appear to be able to take years of gaming. The first thing you will notice about the game board is the dearth of any terrain except open. Most battles fought during this large amount of time were fought on open plains, so it is entirely understandable. The hexes are very large at over 1.5"s. If you wanted to you could play with minis. The Turn Record Track, Army Panic Track, and the obligatory Elephant Effect Table (Pachyderms can be tricky assets) etc. The counters are large, and it is very easy to read their information. They also have a picture on them denoting what troops they are. Leaders actually have plastic bases to stand in. There are eighty red and yellow marker cubes. These are all uniform in shape and size, so no weird pieces hanging off their sides. There are two packs of game cards with seventy-two cards in each. One deck is blue in color and the other is red. The two Player Aid cards are exactly the same with one for each player. They are full-sized and in color. The Rules Book is twenty-pages long. Only sixteen and a half are used for the actual rules. The last three and a half pages are dedicated to creating your own scenarios from history. The Scenario Book is forty-one pages long and comes with twenty scenarios. Each listing visually shows what units you need and comes with a good- sized map picture of where to place them. The game comes with a handy counter tray. So, the components are not stylish by any means, but are well done and completely utilitarian,

 This is a list of the battles:

 The designer has picked a few battles that you do not see many, if any, simulations of.

Various Cards

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. Remove Leaders

2. Receive Action Points

3. Determine Initiative

4. Place Leaders

5. Melee Combat

7. Turn End

 The game rules are simple but do give you all the bells and whistles of combat during the chosen age. The game is meant to be played by two players but can be easily played solitaire (as can almost any game). Leaders and morale are the two most important ideas in the rules, as it should be in the ages portrayed in the game. The counters are generic because they have to be. No one would want a game that had a separate set of immersive counters for a game that has twenty scenarios and they come from almost 3000 years of warfare. So, the game is not as immersive as some other games are. You will just have to use your imagination. The game is based on the cards and Action Points that the player picks or chooses to use. The cards add a ton of 'friction' to the game. You can really get lost in the counters of troops for so many centuries. There are also 'Camp' counters that represent your troops' quarters before the battle. To lose one's camp was a terrible sin. Many an army just disintegrated with the loss of their camp. This is just one more historical piece of ancient and medieval battles that is in the game.

This is a blurb about the cards:

"The game’s primary engine is comprised of an action deck used to determine command, the randomly determined outcomes of actions, and melee combat. Additionally, action cards provide special effects that players can use to enhance their units’ abilities as well as the narrative of the gaming experience. The action deck provides a unique means of resolving a battle in an experience that will never be duplicated."

 So, you can see that even though each battle can be setup the same, it does not mean they will play out the same.

 These are some of the generals you get to portray:

Antiochus the Great


William Wallace



Phillip II of Macedon


Brian Boru


Edward I

 The only real problem with the game is the sheer number of counters that come with it. It does come with a counter tray, but it is too small to deal with the tons of different troop types. The box is large, but because of the mounted map there just does not seem to be enough room. So, setting up the different scenarios is a bit of a pain. I think I will ditch the counter tray and go with zip-lock bags.

 Sample Scenario setup pages:

 Thank you, Worthington Publishing, for letting me review this excellent game.  As I mentioned in my last Worthington Publishing review, I had not really been able to tear myself away from this game to do a proper review on it. I would sit down in front of it and just forget about the review and setup another battle. Worthington Publishing is working on some additions to this game. This will add more battles and probably some terrain to simulate more tactical problems/choices for us armchair generals. The map has even been designed to be able to add another to one side to make for even larger encounters.

 This is a list of battles that Mike Nagel has all set for working with the original map:

BCE 717 - Che - Yen vs. Cheng
BCE 547 - Thymbra - Lydia vs. Persia
BCE 331 - Gaugamela - Macedonia vs. Persia
BCE 326 - Hydaspes - Macedonia vs. India
BCE 321 - Hellespontine Phrygia - Successors vs. Successors
BCE 301 - Ipsus - Antigonids vs. Seleucids
BCE 295 - Sentinum - Rome vs. Samnites
BCE 280 - Heraclea - Epirus vs. Rome
BCE 218 - Trebia - Rome vs. Carthage
BCE 217 - Raphia - Seleucids vs. Egypt
BCE 216 - Cannae - Carthage vs. Rome
BCE 206 - Illipa - Rome vs. Carthage
BCE 202 - Zama - Carthage vs. Rome
BCE 53 - Carrhae - Parthia vs. Rome
CE 1081 - Dyrrhachium - Normans vs. Byzantines
CE 1176 - Legnano - Holy Roman Empire vs. Lombards
CE 1177 - Montgisard - Crusaders vs. Ayyubid Sultanate
CE 1214 - Bouvines - France vs. Holy Roman Empire
CE 1244 - La Forbie - Khwarezmians vs. Crusaders
CE 1421 - Kutna Hora (Day 1) - Holy Roman Empire vs. Taborites
CE 1421 - Kutna Hora (Day 2) - Holy Roman Empire vs. Taborites

 These are what he has planned for Volume 2 with terrain tiles:

BCE 1457 - Megiddo - Egyptians vs. Canaanites
BCE 490 - Marathon - Greeks vs. Persians
BCE 479 - Platea - Allied Greeks vs. Persians
BCE 333 - Issus - Macedonians vs. Persians
BCE 217 - Lake Trasimeno - Carthaginians vs. Romans
BCE 197 - 2nd Cynoscephalae - Antigonids vs. Romans
BCE 168 - Pydna - Antigonids vs. Romans
BCE 57 - Sabis River - Barbarians vs. Romans
BCE 48 - Pharsalus - Populares vs. Optímates
CE 16 - Idistaviso - Germans vs. Romans
CE 315 - Cibalae - Byzantium vs. Rome
CE 451 - Catalaunian Plain - Rome vs. Huns
CE 955 - Lechfeld - Magyars vs. Holy Roman Empire
CE 1066 - Hastings - Normans vs. English
CE 1104 - Harran - Seljuk Turks vs. Crusaders
CE 1221 - Indus - Kwarazimids vs. Mongols
CE 1223 - Kalka River - Mongols vs Russians
CE 1346 - Crecy - France vs England
CE 1356 - Poitiers - France vs England
CE 1385 - Aljubarrota - Portugal vs. Castile

                                               Rifles in the Pacific                                                            by ...

Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing

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

Tactical Wargame

                                               Rifles in the Pacific


                                            Tiny Battle Publishing

 Tiny Battle is an apt name for the company that released this game. The game defies my attempts to pigeonhole it. It is a tactical game, but it is unlike any other tactical game I have played. It is a solitaire game of tactical warfare in the (surprise) Pacific. Let us first list what comes with the game:

Rule Booklet
Mission Briefing Booklet
Four Army Sheets (on two sides of 8 1/2" x 11" cards)
One Master Copy Unit Roster (on the back of the game's cover)
Three 8 1/2" x 11" Maps representing the varying terrain in the Pacific Theater
One Squad Examples Card (on the back of the Map Card)
39 1" Unit Counters
46 Administrative Counters
You will need to provide five six-sided die, and a container for random drawing counters

 The one inch counters are a godsend for these old eyes. The 'Map Cards' do not resemble any I have seen. They look much more like 'Battle Boards' I have seen in other games. So, you really cannot say if the 'Map' is an eyesore or a work of beauty. They are utilitarian looking, and do the job. The counters, on the other hand, are very well done, and did I mention that they are one inch. 

 The game sequence is pretty simple. This is what it looks like:
Mission Setup
Squad Selection
Mission Execution
End-Mission Briefing

 The Armies available are:
Japan - Both the Special Navy Landing Force, and Imperial Japanese Army
United States Marines


 The missions you can play are:
Jungle Patrol
Defend A River Bank
Capture A Bridge
'Wave Zero' - Amphibious Invasion
Demolition Squad
Destroy A Radio Station
Casualty Evacuation
'Line Of Fire' - Attack A Strong Position

 Other than the slightly weird (at least for me) setup of the game, in most ways it is a normal tactical game. Tanks, mines, close combat etc. are all here among all of the other usual rules. The tanks you get to use include Shermans, Cromwells, Stuarts, Type 96 (Ha-Go), and the Type 97 Medium Tank. The rule book is well set out, and is easy to read and understand. This is the second game in the 'Rifles' games from Tiny Battle. The first game is 'Rifles in the Ardennes'. 

 I have to be truthful and say it took a few games for me to get used to the game. It did begin to grow on me. If you are in the mood for a quick, easy playing game about tactical warfare in the Pacific then I can recommend 'Rifles' with no caveats. Thank you Tiny Battle Publishing for letting me review this interesting game.


Tiny Battle Publishing:

Rifles in the Pacific:

They are also publishing 'The Devil's To Pay' Hermann Luttmann's game on the first day of Gettysburg. I really like his games and especially the map look and style of his Gettyburg games. He designed 'Longstreet Attacks' about the second day.

Star Wars Legion is a two-player battle between the Imperial forces and forces comprising the Rebel Alliance (what else?).  I've pla...

Star Wars Legion Star Wars Legion

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

Tactical Wargame

Star Wars Legion is a two-player battle between the Imperial forces and forces comprising the Rebel Alliance (what else?).  I've played enough of the current catalogue of the seemingly never-ending release of Star Wars to be able to say I think this is my favourite at the tactical level (with a few caveats). 

Before I tell you why I think this is my favourite tactical Star Wars game, I've got to set some expectations. The Star Wars Legion box is a starter set for the rest of the system, it is far from the full SW:L experience.  This is a tabletop wargame with elements borrowed from board games that optimise gameplay; it isn't a board game.  To explain further, I would consider Imperial Assault to be a miniatures boardgame; SW:L is a miniatures wargame.

You can watch my unboxing video of the core set below:


A game, or battle, lasts for six turns in which all of your and your opponents will activate alternately with each other.  A full turn of the game comprises three different phases, (I told you it was like a board game), the Command Phase, the Action Phase and the End Phase.
Starter Battle setup
During the Command Phase, players choose one from a hand of 7 command cards to 'order' a number of their in-command units.  However, these command cards also determine the initiative for that turn. If you've chosen a command card with a high number of activations you've probably ceded the initiative to your opponent.  Because there are so few command cards in use, you can know what cards your opponent still holds in their hand and choosing a command card turns into a fun mini-game within a game.

Your commander will be able to order a small number of units directly by placing an order token next to that unit (assuming they're within order range). Units that don't receive an order token will have their order tokens shuffled and placed in a face-down stack. During the activation phase, you can elect to move a unit that has an order token next to it or pull from the randomised stack and activate whichever unit is drawn. 
Protecting the transmission dish
In the most basic terms, each activated unit can move and fire.  As you're moving after your opponent (except for the first activation of the turn) you should be able to react immediately to any manoeuvre.  However, if you've placed an order token next to units that are far from the action, you'll be reduced to hoping that you pull the right order token from the stack to react or cause your opponent the same dilemma. This may sound quite random but you can control it in a variety of ways and it actually plays out like another fun mini-game within a game. 

Your units are not just limited to just moving and attacking. In the learning battle, players can also, aim and dodge, but the full rules, allow for a plethora of abilities to be used. The abilities when used allow you to have more control over the timing or your units' activation, their movement or their abilities in combat.  These powers are mostly tracked through the use of intuitive tokens next to the unit which neatly avoids the ubiquitous lookup tables in many other wargames.  These abilities not only are evocative of the lore of Star Wars but make the tactical decision space far greater.

Father and Son dukin' it out

The movement system is nice and simple. You are given three movement rulers which hinge in the middle and you measure the unit's leader-figures movement. Every other figure in the unit is just placed somewhere within XXX of that figure. There is no need for unit trays or endless measuring of distance. I thought this sped up the gameplay compared to many miniature wargames I've tried and it lets you get on with the real battle.

When in combat your units roll a number of dice depending on how many figures there are in the unit.  The unit cards indicate the number of red, black or white dice a single figure rolls in attack or defence. The strengths of each dice colour are different and I was continually pleased with how thematic the units abilities and dice mechanics worked to fit into Star Wars canon. Once again this was quite a simple mechanic but when the full rules are used, your units may have more than one weapon type and can fire on multiple enemies. Although the gameplay is very accessible there are plenty of good tactical decisions to be made.  I particularly like the surge mechanic which is present in quite a few FFG games.
Stormtroopers rolling too well, they defended every single hit!
The starter battle is very easy to jump into even if you're both complete newcomers to the game or have never played a miniatures wargame.  And you know what? I thought it was a blast.  I've continued to play the advanced rules and built up to nearly a full army of Imperial and Rebels.  A full army is 800pts and when building your army lists visiting table top admiral is a must.  I've even put my 3d printer to good use producing terrain for the game.

I just wish there were more players of the game near me. I've only found one game store out of about 7 or 8 I've visited recently (I travel quite a bit for work) who is stocking SW:L product. Which is a shame because I think this game is a great example of what a tabletop wargame should be and it's set in the Star Wars universe. Win-win from me. Its largest rival in this space is probably Games Workshop's 40k behemoth, and for me, there is no question which is more fun. (hint: it's not the spacemarines)
500pt Battle to control the comms array


The game comes with a plethora of different tokens and figures to get going with the base game. It's almost expected that I would say that these components are up there with the best in the business as is the rest of FFG's output. However, I can criticise the miniatures, specifically the limited glueing surface (e.g. two boots) to their bases. I thought I was a fairly competent modeller and used the right type of glue but I've still had a few miniatures come unstuck.  Why can't all minis come on slotted bases?

Ubiquitous Learn to Play and self-printed Reference


The rest of the production of this game is top-quality, as ever from FFG, but there is lots to criticise here.  I think the delivery of the product to gamers has been poorly handled. 

The core game doesn't provide enough dice to roll just one hand of dice. Scooping up the misses and rolling again, or remembering the previous roll to add to the next is not what I want to be doing. My first 'expansion' that I bought was an extra set of dice.  Adding an extra 9 dice couldn't have been that cost prohibitive, could it?
Can you spot the Rebel sharpshooters?
The rules reference is not provided in the box. The Learn to Play book is there and it's excellent, but to progress onto the next stage you'll need to download and print out or use a screen to read the rules reference.  I know this is intended to be a living document so any print out will show its age, but wargamers have been adding errata corrections to manuals for as long as Star Wars has been around. You can't even buy the rules reference as a standalone product. However, they have used lots of links in the pdf and it's very easy to navigate. You just need to have a large tablet or laptop at the game table.

The scale of the miniatures does not match that of Imperial Assault, they are larger and, however, much better quality, but I think this aspect alone massively damaged Legion's launch. Imagine if all the Imperial Assault players woke up to find a new game, playable with their existing miniatures with just a purchase of some dice and card decks. I guarantee that the uptake of this would have been through the roof. The potential for future expansions would also have been massive as IA players realise that this game is a much better skirmish game than IA. This miniature scale decision could be viewed as quite cynical corporate greed and I think it may have stabbed FFG in the foot a little.

If you do eventually buy the expansions, and I heartily recommend SW:Legion with them, then be prepared for the amount of air you're buying.  The expansion box sizes far outstrip the amount of content you get. I'm getting a bit fed up with publishers making their boxes with no consideration to the amount of stuff that box will hold. It's not bad in the Core Box, mine is stuffed and it comes with an almost workable insert, but the expansions are ridiculous. What is more egregious is that I'm sure 90% of players will be ditching these expansion boxes straight away.

Looking at the prices for this in the one store, I found actively stocking it (luckily it's local) is the price model.  FFG know what they're doing with this IP and the level of players they can expect to invest and support the game, but the prices for the expansions feels fairly wallet gouging if you're not a regular miniatures gamer accustomed to skipping meals to pay for the next unit...


However, with all that said, these criticisms do nothing to detract from the gameplay. 


So I love the gameplay. There are some really great 'ah-hah' moments when you realise how to use your units abilities and how it fits thematically and I've only really scratched the surface; there's lots of game here to get your teeth into.  But there is lots to criticise as well. Thankfully very few of my criticisms are levelled at the gameplay, more at how FFG have handled the production and launch of this game.
Comms power generator captured by a severely weakened stormtrooper unit
Star Wars: Legion shares top-gong, with Star Wars Rebellion, for best game in the Star Wars universe, in my opinions, and is the most fun I've had playing a tabletop wargame.  Other games I've experienced which I'm basing this comparison on are: Lion Rampant, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40k, and Bolt Action.

Legion plays quickly and you have a plethora of tactical decision every single turn of when to activate and how to minimise the damage an unwanted activation could do whilst attempting to destroy your opponent's forces. 

That's a lot of stuff in the base box
Some people have described this as an incomplete board game, and that is unfair. It is firmly a miniatures wargame with a little bit of a board game in there, e.g. the use of tokens and command cards.  You're paying for the rules and some starter units which aren't provided by many wargame rulesets.

If Star Wars is your thing and you're either a tabletop gamer wondering what all the fuss is about with board games, or you're a board gamer, curious what the other side of your local game shop is all about, then I can recommend Star Wars Legion, it has a foot in both camps.

Now would be a great time to get into Legion as the support from FFG continues to grow and the Clone Wars core box sets are soon to be released alongside the multitude of expansions that will eventually come with the new factions. At the moment only B-1 Battle Droids and Clone Troopers have been announced but you get General Grievous and Obi-Wan Kenobi (of Mcgregor vintage) in the core box alongside two base units and a vehicle unit for each side.

This is a little hard to find in local brick and mortar stores but still widely available online and actively supported by FFG, I get the impression that it is much more popular across the pond than in the UK.  You can 
find your nearest FLGS at

Publisher: FFG

Players: 2
Designer: Alex Davy
Playing time: 1-2 hours

Overview Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal was released in 2016 and is a squad-level, tactical, hex and counter wargame. The Pacific ...

Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal & US Army Expansion Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal &  US Army Expansion

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

Tactical Wargame


Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal was released in 2016 and is a squad-level, tactical, hex and counter wargame. The Pacific Theatre of WWII holds a massive interest for me; despite my living a figurative stones throw away from a lot of European WWII history.  I am just in awe of the willing and persistent sacrifice of both sides' combatants in a theatre that arguably comprises the most bloody battles of WWII, Guadalcanal included. To say I was eager to review this game would be an understatement.

CoH:Guadalcanal focuses on the landings of the US Marines onto the strategically important island of Guadalcanal and their subsequent defence of the island and the vital airfield it offered to the Americans. This action was at an early part of the Pacific War and is the first major allied offensive against the Japanese who had been enjoying a string of victories as they successfully invaded large chunks of real-estate in the South Pacific.  I think it is useful for wargamers to understand the context in which any wargame is set and Academy Games have done a fantastic job setting-the-scene with a rule-book littered with designers notes and a three-page [campaign introduction] that describe the strategic situation in which the players cardboard chits find themselves.
Inside pages of rules and firefight book


The game contains 12 firefights that play out the Marines defence of Guadalcanal against increasing numbers of Japanese forces. The rule-book follows a programmed instruction method whereby players can read a scant 9-and-a-bit-pages of rules before playing the first fire-fight (I estimate that includes about 3 pages of examples and designers notes). 

If you are an experienced wargamer, there are lots of similarities to other rule sets that will enable you to be up and playing very quickly, for example the Line of Sight and blind hex rules were very familiar and the overall terrain defensive modifiers are almost exactly the same as in other tactical-level wargames. These similarities are all wrapped in a combat system and turn structure that is completely unique, as far as I can tell, to the Conflict of Heroes line. The rules are also very well written and littered with a plethora of gameplay examples, it was a rare case where I had to look up a rule in which either it wasn’t immediately obvious from reading the rule or there wasn’t a relevant example to clarify the situation.
The first firefight
Many good wargames reduce the IGOUGO problem by allowing an opponent to Op Fire a moving stack or react to a move. CoH completely removes the IGOUGO problem by alternating turns between players after every action is resolved. The players only have 1 active unit at a time and 7 action points to spend on that unit. The different actions cost a different number of action points and when they are all spent, or if a player decides to activate another unit, that counter is flipped to its 'spent' side. I really like this mechanism, it not only indicates which units have already moved (my memory is very grateful) but it removes any down time as you're only waiting for your opponent to make one action e.g. a single unit moves one hex, before it rolls back to you. It also means that as a player you're constantly having to evaluate whether your plans remains sensible in light of your opponents last move or whether you should adapt and activate a different unit, potentially losing Action Points.

All combat actions are quickly resolved by 2d6 modified by unit attributes and the environment. The combat system is very intuitive, easy to teach and if you're reading the rules by yourself, to learn. In essence you add the firing units Attack Rating to 2d6 for your Attack Total. The Defender adds any defensive modifiers from terrain to their Defence Rating. If the attack value is greater than or equal to the defence value that unit is hit. When a unit is hit another counter is placed face-down underneath which will affect the units attributes and available actions. Two hits on the same unit eliminates that unit. That's essentially it, although the action cards do add a nice layer of immersion.
The Action Cards
The combat system is really quick and I didn't feel that it was missing any crunch that we wargamers often yearn for. Attacking units use one of two Attack Ratings printed on the counter dependent on whether their target is a vehicle or personnel target. Defending units use one of two Defence Ratings printed on the counter depending on which direction the attack is coming from.  In my experience the direction individual units are facing is rarely modelled in wargames. Here, it is seamlessly integrated into the combat and adds a level of tactical consideration that I enjoyed e.g. should I activate this unit to turn and face the encroaching enemy and receive the best defence possible thereby losing my opportunity to attack with this other unit?

In overall terms of complexity this game is a little lighter (and maybe more fun?) than GMT's Combat Commander series, which does suffer a little with the IGOUGO problem. To stretch a bad analogy, if Advanced Squad Leader is like completing and filing your own tax return (some masochists enjoy it), Combat Commander would be like planning a monthly budget and realising that you've actually got money left over (always nice to see), CoH:Guadalcanal is like getting lucky after taking a punt at the betting shop (Let’s try that again…). In my face to face plays of this I felt like I was having more fun for a very similar level of enjoyment when compared to Combat Commander series.  If I did score games this game would get top marks for fun and also for the amount of [historical backgrounds] provided for each firefight. Academy Games have a reputation of releasing fun, educational games and in that they've excelled themselves with CoH:Guadalcanal.

Fully loaded box

One of my biggest dislike of many wargames, and I still play them so it's not that big, is that in a lot of them the players have a perfect knowledge i.e. the players can see all terrain and unit attributes and plan accordingly, there is no fog of war. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a wargame as long as the scenario is balanced, you're then playing against your opponents tactics and trying to mitigate the randomness of the dice. However, there is an extra level of immersion when you're fighting with fog of war modelled. CoH does a good job of this as your opponents do not know what effects their hits are having on your units and players can attempt hidden movement, or even setup hidden, in cover terrain. This is a very important tactic of the Japanese player and when it works it is, depending on your perspective, either a beautiful moment of bravery or an excruciating loss. Unfortunately, you're not provided with anyway to mark hidden movements but the rule-book recommends to print out maps from the Academy Games website to record hidden units on. You can also download all of the firefights and rule-books for the entire CoH system and expansions which I think is a good sign for the level of support that this game continues to receive.
Firefight 4 - Japanese have held out so far...
There are very clear differences between WWII-era military forces of America and Japan, their moral, funding, equipment, ethos etc. feel different in reality and should feel different when playing them in a game. In this game, and many others, I am always pleased to see those differences being part of the game system. Apart from the usual elements of Attack Rating and morale or Defensive Rating being different depending on the unit and nationality you also get a pool of hit counters specific to each nationality. I should highlight that in each firefight the Japanese player has to add from 1 to 5 'No Hit' counters into their mix. This is a great boon to the Japanese player effectively giving their unit an occasional additional hit, or more, before it is destroyed. This is a subtle yet very effective way of modelling the apparent bravery/personal disregard of the Japanese troops under a 'banzai charge' for example.

However, the biggest change to the CoH system is the addition of Bushido Points for the Japanese player. This allows the Japanese player to achieve firefight-specific objectives to get Bushido Points which give them more Command Action Points (CAPs) per round. CAPs are distinct from Unit Action Points and allow players to interrupt their ‘activation’ and use other fresh units to immediately react to their opponents actions.  This is a necessary escape from the on-rails Unit Action Point system and it gives players a real feeling of making important and timely tactical decisions.  The Japanese player should always have an eye on those point-awarding objectives.  The Command Action Points also permit easy balancing of the game when pitting players of vastly different experience of the game against each other, which I found really useful when introducing the game to newcomers and it is not often considered in wargames.
Command Tracks and Players Aid


The counters, which break the wargame mould of 1/2" and 5/8" counters, are a glorious 1" of real-estate to pick up and stack, as with all CoH games.  On a purely physical accessibility measure this wargame beats any other that I have seen. I can see wargamers with poor eyesight being able to play this when other wargames are no longer legible. Additionally, Academy Games have provided a hard plastic organiser in which to store all the counters. This is hands-down the best stock insert I have ever seen in a wargame; other wargame publishers should take note. There is more than enough room in it for all the counters from the base game and the expansion to be, not just stored, but even organised into nationality, unit type and even system counters by type as well. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, after the outlay in time and money of storing other wargames' counters.
Left to Right: ASL, Combat Commander, Conflict of Heroes
Best Insert Ever
The maps, of which you get 4, are satisfyingly geomorphic and depict the terrain in a photo-realistic style, the trees even have shadows!  Initially, I didn't like the artwork on the maps, thinking that it was just getting in the way and too busy, but these criticisms largely evaporated through game play. The only minor gripe with the components that did remain is that the hex sides and hex numbers sometimes were too dark to immediately discern them against heavy jungle hexes but this was not a significant hindrance.
Into Mirkwood

The Expansion

The expansion adds 5 firefights and several more units with which to play with. The first firefight of the expansion - The Last Banzai, The Fight for Henderson Field: The Second Night, picks up where the 11th firefight of the base game finished, i.e. at the end of the first night during the Fight for Henderson Field. This is a really nice touch and provides players with sense of continuity between the base game and the expansion. These two scenarios are however 4 player, behemoths and I couldn't arrange a 4 player game to cover the two firefights so we played two-player and still had a blast.
Some of the expansion components


In an ideal world I would have liked the expansions firefights and units to have been included in the base game as they feel like an integral part of the base game. The game is excellent without the expansion but the expansion’s firefights have to be printed from the Academy Games website. The OCD collector in me would have liked them to be in the same book or at least a book of the same paper and print quality as the base game’s firefight book. You only get a single page of paper introducing the new units and rules for mine along with a single punch-board of tokens which costs $25, this feels a little steep.

Prior to each round starting, which is made of any number of player turns, the players roll 2d6 for initiative which determines who is going first. This can be altered be spending Command Action Points but this mechanism felt a little arbitrary and I recall one player looking a bit annoyed that they had lost the roll six times in a row. C’est la Vie!


I really enjoyed this game, and not just for its theme. The combat system is simple yet it captures everything that I would want and it exposes the nuance in different fighting attributes of both forces whilst remaining balanced. It could almost be classed as introductory wargame but even a veteran wargamer would find a lot to enjoy in this system.  There are no game-slowing table look ups and your actions and decisions come around so quickly, sometimes it’s a relief when the Round ends and you can take a short breather; I want all my wargames to have this quality. I will still evangelise for Combat Commander, but now I may be inclined to offer this up as a more fun experience, i.e. less downtime, fewer rule look-ups and plays quicker than other tactical squad-level games.

I would like to thank Academy Games for the review copy of this game.

Publisher: Academy Games
Players 2 – 4
Designer: Uwe Eickert, Gunter Eickert, Dean Halley
Playing Time: 60 minutes to 120 minutes
MSRP: $90

You can currently get the Guadalcanal and US Army Expansion bundle from the Academy Games website for a sale price of $80.

Combat Leader Poland 1939  By  Minden Games   Good things come in small packages, or so we have been taught. This ga...

Combat Leader Poland 1939 Tactical Combat by Minden Games Combat Leader Poland 1939  Tactical Combat by Minden Games

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Tactical Wargame

Combat Leader Poland 1939 


Minden Games 

 Good things come in small packages, or so we have been taught. This game, compared to the hefty ones I have been reviewing lately, fits the bill. Easily sent in a mailing envelope, it is nonetheless filled with gaming goodness.

 This Minden game is about the 1939 German invasion of Poland. It is a tactical game where each hex is approximately seventeen yards across. Up to twelve friendly units can occupy one hex. There are 'fake' counters and German SS units. So the game does come with a lot for its small size.

 All of Minden games come in a zip lock manner much like a print and play game, with the counter and map being the same thickness. I have two confessions to make. The first is that I am not a fan of print and play games. I guess I just never liked the look and feel of not having a 'real' counter, whatever that means. The second confession is more a foible on my part than anything to do with the game. I decided to make my own counters to use with the game. All went well until it came time for cutting them. I found out that my cutting skills are extremely sub par. So when you look at the pictures of my game's setups, the lopsided counters do not come with the game. 

 The game is a study in minimalism. It comes with two map sheets, 8 1/2" x 11", and two counter sheets. It also comes with two small reference cards. The instruction booklet is only twenty-three pages long , with five of these dedicated to scenarios. You need to supply a deck of regular cards and a six sided die to play. 

 Play consists of six or less phases each turn. These are:

Player 1 phase
Player 2 phase
Initiative phase
Bonus phase
Rally phase
Phase Reverse phase

 Play is like many other tactical games. The first player can move or fire one hex of counters, then the second player may do the same. One caveat: the entire hex, no matter how many units are in it, must do the same. So, if you had a hex with six German units and you decided to have them fire, all of the counters in that hex must fire. The initiative phase is actually a die roll check against a table to see if a bonus phase or a rally phase is conducted. The bonus phase is essentially another round of phases one and two, and then another initiative phase. The rally phase is a morale check to see if any units can become unpinned. The phase reverse phase is to see if player one still goes first or becomes player number 2 etc. You start the scenarios with inverted units. The game also comes with designated 'squad leaders' and 'assistant squad leaders'. These have four movement points if they are face up. All other units have three movement points, unless they are moving with a face up SL or ASL. Once a unit is chosen to move by its owner or is subject to fire etc, it is turned over to its face. The 'fake' counters are then removed.

 The standard rules take up about eight pages. The advanced optional rules are another five pages. These include additional weapons, group movement, and demolition charges etc.

 The game is fast paced, and with its small footprint is great for gamers with limited space. Even playing with my distorted home made counters is fun. That is the reason we play, ......correct? I can recommend this game to other gamers, especially those on a budget. These Minden Games would have come in very handy when I was a new father with limited space and even more limited money.

 Minden Games Combat Leader games come in four flavors:

Combat Leader East Front 41
Combat Leader Volkssturm 45
Combat Leader Winter War
Combat Leader Poland 1939

 With an additional expansion module, and a solitaire module also available, the different games are all around the twenty dollar mark, plus or minus a few dollars.

 My apologies for the first two somewhat blurry counter pictures. They were the only ones I had left after my decision to finally, after five (almost six) decades of gaming, to try my hand at making my own counters.