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The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine  The game that comes along with this 2020 Annual from Agains...

The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917 by Against The Odds Magazine

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

Western Front

The Cruelest Month: Air War Over Arras, April 1917


Against The Odds Magazine

 The game that comes along with this 2020 Annual from Against the Odds magazine is about 'Bloody April'. In a war that saw so many bloody months, April 1917 saw the Royal Flying Corps (it would not become the Royal Air Force until April 1st, 1918) almost bleed out. British pilots' lives were counted in hours and days during Bloody April. This being the Holiday Season, one is reminded of Snoopy and the Red Baron song. Unfortunately for the British, the lines in the song "Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more, the Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score", are quite apt for Bloody April, if not for the Richtofen himself.  

 This is what ATO has to say about the game:

"The average flying life of an RFC pilot in Arras in April was 18 hours in the air. Our whole picture-- from movies like "Dawn Patrol" or "Aces High" -- of young men going straight from flying school into combat (and straight into the ground shortly after) comes from this six-week period, preparing for and supporting the "spring offensive."

Now, Paul Rohrbaugh's The Cruelest Month looks at this struggle, with the focus primarily on-air operations and ground battle abstracted (something like he did in Chennault's First Fight.) As the British player, you will marshal your limited numbers of fighters to help secure the skies for 2-seaters that would be better suited to training planes. As the German player, you will employ your well-armed modern fighters against waves of RFC planes that simply keep coming, regardless of how many you shoot down."

This is what comes with the Annual 2020 issue:

Maps - One full color 22" x 34" hex mapsheet

Counters - 176 full color 5/8" die-cut counters

Air Displays - 2

Rules length - 16 pages

Charts and tables - 2 pages

Complexity - Medium

Playing time - Up to 3 to 4 hours

How challenging is it solitaire? - Average

Designer - Paul Rohrbaugh

Development - Steve Rawling

Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey

Very nicely done counters and map

 As usual, this issue of ATO is filled with excellent articles from all ages of military history. These are:


The Arras Campaign, 1917 

 by Paul Rohrbaugh

Appendix 1: Dramatis Personae 

Appendix 2: Aircraft of Bloody April 


Some Other Plane Stories 

Rules of Play for The Cruelest Month: Air War over Arras 1917

 by Paul Rohrbaugh

Rules of Play for Backlash! An Expansion for The Lash of the Turk

by Andy Nunez


What if Britain and France had won the Dardanelles Campaign? by Matthew Adams


The Holy League invades occupied Hungary, 1685-99 by Andy Nunez


These are from 'Backlash' an add-on for "Lash of the Turk'


 As with any issue of ATO, you get a huge dose of history and a well-designed game. The Annual issues give you more of a dose than the normal issues. The articles that come with any ATO issue, at least the ones I have read, are as well written as a military history book. They should be, because a lot of the article writers have written their own books.

 At the end of the article, The Cruelest Month, are two appendices. The first, Dramatis Personae, has bios for Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard (the father of the Royal Air Force), Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Empire's troops in France, General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff, usually considered the brains of the Great General Staff for the second half of World War I, General Ludwig von Kalkenhausen, German general in charge of the defense of the Arras Front. Appendix 2 gives us the information on all of the aircraft on either side that fought the battle in the air. The next article, A Tale of Two Planes, is a deeper dive into some of the major aircraft from both sides and how they were used in Bloody April. 

Some of the two-part map

 Just so you understand, this is not a game of air-to-air combat above the fields around Arras. This game puts you in the general's seat of either side. Here is more information about the game:

"While losses in the air were puny compared to the thousands dying on the ground, those aerial actions had great impact on how things worked out on the ground. The Cruelest Month will give you a full selection of aerial operations, including balloon busting, ground attack, bombing, and the all-important photo-recon and artillery observation missions, plus the fighter dogfights that center around protecting or stopping all the others. You'll use a Air Battle Board for these fights, and your planes will interact with ground forces on a map of the Arras area.

On the ground, your gray-suited soldiers will face mines, tanks, and the newly adapted "creeping barrage," in trying to maintain your hold on key defense lines. Can you hold the line? For the British, your objective is not so focused on the big "breakthrough," but now working with the idea of biting off chunks of key landscape and holding it. Can you equal the magnificent Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge?"

English Air/Ground Display

 This is the game's Sequence of Play:

Random Event Phase

Airbase Construction Phase

Initiative Phase

Air Operations Phase

Ground Operations Phase

Supply Determination Phase

Regroup Phase

Allied reinforcement Phase

Victory Points Phase

 The victory levels are determined by subtracting the German VP total from the Allied VP total. The victory levels are:

19 or fewer VPs: German Victory

20-40 VPs: Draw

41 or more VPs: Allied victory (historic result)

 The victory points are received by either forcing your opponent to abort air missions or by losing air strength points. At the end of the game, you also get victory points for losing or gaining ground hexes, specifically for the Allies to take Vimy Ridge and parts of the Hindenburg Line or for the Germans to keep them in their control.

 The magazine itself is 53 pages. It comes with the articles listed above. It is its usual beautiful full color self. There is one full counter sheet for The Cruelest Month game. There is also a smaller counter sheet for use with the add on scenarios for ATO's earlier game, The Lash of the Turk. The counters for The Cruelest Month are 5/8" in size. The plane counters show an above view of each plane that is in that group. The counters are all very nicely done. The ground campaign counters are not little works of art like the plane ones. However, they are easily read and some, like the artillery, tanks, and balloons are made as well as the plane ones. There is an Airbase Display for each player. These are made of thin cardboard. You may want to copy them and use the printed sheets. The map is split into two separate sections. One is a map for the ground war and the operations of the air groups. The other contains the Air Battle Board for resolving aerial combats. Printed on the map are also the Turn Record Track, Game Record track, Random Events Table, and the Sequence of Play. All of the components are well done. Be careful when unfolding the map. I fat fingered it and ripped a small hole in it. Fortunately for me, where I damaged it has no bearing on the map's usefulness at all. 

German Air/Ground Display

  I very much like the game and its play. Please remember that you are not dogfighting separate planes but groups of them. This is an operational look at the air and ground war around Arras in 1917. If your play is bad enough you can call in reserves. However, like a lot of games, you will get penalized in victory points for doing so. The Allied player will also be penalized if there is clear weather, and he does not execute a bombing mission. This gives the German player a whopping +4 victory points. So, try to avoid this at all costs.

Another look at the counters

 This large annual edition is also filled with excellent information on other times and wars. The issue also comes with rules and counters for 'Backlash' a few scenarios to add to one of ATOs earlier games Lash of the Turk. The scenarios look interesting; however, I do not own that issue so I cannot give you a rundown of them and the game.

 Thank you, Against The Odds for letting me review this close look at Bloody April from a totally different view than the cockpit. 

 They also have a surprise for we grognards. ATO is doing a reprint of 'Stalingrad Verdun on the Volga' in an annual issue format. This game originally only came in a boxed version. It sold out incredibly fast and is now as rare as hen's teeth. This is what comes with the Ziplock version:

 Maps - One full color 17" x 44" hex mapsheet

Counters - 230+ full color 5/8" die-cut counters

Rules length - 24 pages

Charts and tables - 4 pages

Complexity - Medium

Playing time - Up to 3 to 4 hours

How challenging is it solitaire? - Average

Designer - Mikael Rinella

Development - Kevin Duke

Graphic Design - Mark Mahaffey

   Just a few pics to wet your whistle.


Against the Odds Magazine:

The Cruelest Month: Air War over Arras, April 1917:

Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga:



  Point Blank V is for Victory by Lock 'N Load Publishing  "I'm here, I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly!...

Point Blank V is for Victory by Lock 'N Load Publishing Point Blank V is for Victory by Lock 'N Load Publishing

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

Western Front

 Point Blank V is for Victory


Lock 'N Load Publishing

 "I'm here, I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! Feast your eyes on me! It's too good to be true, but I'm here! I'm here!"

(If you do not get the reference, I am sorry for your cloistered childhood)

 The fighting that occurred in western and northern Europe in 1944-1945 has had many games designed around it. D-Day has been especially covered by games at all levels and in all sizes. Point Blank V is for Victory is a new tactical game based upon the Allied and German troops that fought in the entire campaign. The game is meant for either one or two players. It does come with a solo 'bot' if you will. So, when playing it solo you do not have to try and be on both sides of the table. Let us take a look in the box and see if we are stuck in the hedgerows or gunning our tank in open fields.

All of the decks stow away beautifully

  This is from Lock 'N Load Publishing:

"Point Blank is a tactical squad infantry card game set in World War II Europe and is loosely based on the award-winning Lock ‘n Load Tactical game series.  Players do not need not be familiar with any of the Lock ‘n Load Tactical rules to play.  Point Blank is designed by Sean Druelinger and is a game that dares to be different, with new game concepts that give a whole new feel to tactical wargaming. 


Point Blank V is for Victory is for two players pitted against each other in situational combat scenarios.  There is also a solo option as well as partnerships in teams of two.  Each scenario presents the players with a unique situation involving squads of men, support weapons, leaders, and individual armored fighting vehicles.  The first game in the series will pit the forces of the USA against Germany just after the landings in Normandy (June 1944) through October 1944. Each player has victory conditions determined by the scenario in which to defend or take objectives, seek and destroy their opponent’s units, or one of many other different scenario objectives.


The game is played on an abstract map board made up of terrain cards in the game and managed through a distance system that accounts for the range to targets, line of sight, and defensive attributes. The player has units that start out on the map and gradually work their way towards their objectives by advancing through the battlefield all the while conducting combat actions against their opponent or defending their troops from return fire or whatever hell that awaits them. Players draw cards from a common action deck where they will play actions on their units on the map board. The game is an IGOUGO impulse system and turns are managed when the action deck is exhausted. (Some scenarios may require multiple deck exhaustion to finish the game). Actions in the game consist of Fire, Move, Assault, Rally, etc. The action cards contain dice icons on them to determine random results.

One of the unique features of the game is that it contains a deck of terrain cards that are not part of the action deck. As players change terrain they will draw a terrain card in which their moving units will occupy. Some action cards such as Recon helps players manage what terrain they occupy but your opponent may have other plans for your moving troops during their turn.  Two players can play a game in about an hour (depending on the scenario size) and if you cannot find an opponent then try the game solo system. 


Point Blank system has been called innovated, realistic, and yet extremely playable, and with solitaire play, and two-player options available we expect you will too."


Playing 'map' or mat for the cards

 The box that was delivered to me was a very heavy one. I knew enough about the game to know it did not come with mounted maps, so I was wondering why the heft? Well, it turned out to be the cards. You see, I believe there are almost 900 cards that come with the game. 

 Sean Druelinger, the designer, had done a write up for AWNT a bit ago about the game and himself. He is also the designer for Lock 'N Load's Tactical Series of games. According to him Point Blank is based on that series and the old Avalon Hill game 'Up Front'. I had seen things about Up Front down through the years, but I was not interested at all. At the time I was a very snobbish grognard and was only interested in hexes and hefty rulebooks. I would not play an area movement game, and the thought of cards being added to a hex wargame was an abomination in my eyes. Block games were another genre that would put my teeth on edge. I have now seen the light of these newfangled additions to my beloved hobby. However, this takes it one step further. You do not even need to use the map/mat at all. I believe I have done two different aircraft games that were just cards, but there was no terrain etc. In Point Blank everything is based upon the cards. So, let us see about this strange new animal (at least to me).

There are a lot more cards there than you probably think.

  This is what comes with the game:

119 x Mini Cards

698 x Poker Cards

1 x 32" x 38" Two Piece Map

1 x Core Rules Manual

1 x Scenario and Module Rules Manual 

9 x Double Sided 8.5" x 11" Player Aids

2 x Counter Sheets With Over 160 Counters

2 x 16mm Dice

Executive Producer:

David Heath

Game Design and Development:

Sean Druelinger

Game Art:

Shayne Logan

Some Cards

 This is the Sequence of Play:

1. Select a Scenario
2. Determine Sides
3. Layout the Battlefield
4. Deploy units
5. Draw Action Cards

2.2.2 Game Phases

1. Upkeep Phase – The phasing player
conducts upkeep tasks.

2. Impulse Phase – The phasing player
may conduct an action. There are
situations that allow more than one
action to occur from the play of a
card that includes multiple actions
or through the execution of a leader’s
Spend action (see Leaders 2.11).
Once a player completes his impulse
play passes to his opponent.

3. Turn End Phase – Check to see if the
Action Card deck has been exhausted.
If so, follow the turn end procedures
before impulse play begins

4. Victory Conditions Check – Check
to see if you have won the scenario
before impulse play begins again.

Terrain Card

 We will start out discussing the cards that come with the game. As mentioned, there are nearly 700 of the larger cards in six decks. The information needed to play on the cards is huge. These cards will have all your men and larger military equipment, such as: tanks, squads, anti-tank guns etc. They feel just like playing cards do. Then there are 119 mini cards. These encompass commanders, machine guns, PIATs, med kits etc. Even though these are smaller, the information on them is just as large as on the larger cards. Both sets of cards have a very nicely done picture of whatever they represent on them. They look like little portraits, especially the faces. The two-piece map is also well done. It is really only a background with muted colors, but it works well with the cards. It is large at 32" x 38" but if you have been a wargamer for any length of time you will have a table that can accommodate it. The counters are used for bookkeeping etc. You can also use the counters on the cards instead of using the map. These, like the rest of the game, are oversized and very easy to read. The coloring and design of them are up to the par of all the other components. The Core Rules Manual is ninety-four pages long. However, the type size is also huge (Do you see a pattern here?).  The rules go to page seventy-one with the rest being a breakdown of each terrain card and then the Solo Rules. The Scenario and Module Rules Manual comes with twenty scenarios and there is a section on building your own scenarios. At the end of the scenarios are the Campaign Game Rules. Both of the Manuals are in full color and made of glossy paper. There are five Player Aids that are made of hard stock, and they are double-sided. These are also in large type like the rest of the components. These give all the information for playing the game that you would need without having to look through the manual. The next four Players Aids are for playing the game Solo. These rules are done with an easy-to-follow flow chart method. These are also made of hard stock and in full color. 

Some of the Counters

 The cards represent everything you would find on a battlefield in norther Europe during WWII. The Allied cards represent both the U.S. and British and Commonwealth militaries. Here are some examples:

Germans - Marder I, Stug IIIG, Tiger, Panther, truck, halftrack, 75mm anti-tank gun, SS, Heer, and Luftwaffe troops.

Allied - M36, M20, Parachute Squad, Infantry Squads and Half-Squads, Sherman Firefly, Otter, and even a Tetrarch!

The smaller cards show - Satchel Charges, Radios, MG 42, Flame Throwers, and a slew of Commanders.

Mini Card Commanders

 So, you might be thinking: Is this game a behemoth in both size and rules? To be honest, you do need some table space for the game. In actuality it is an easy to play game, at least once you have the rules set in your head. Lock 'N Load says that most scenarios will take about an hour to play. Except for my first couple of dry runs, this seems to be about right. Playing Solo takes a bit longer, but it does in any game that has solo rules built in. The flow chart method for Solo Play does make it a lot easier to follow and play. I think that Solo Play should be included in most games. That way you can play your favorite game of the hour without having to round up a friend or more to play it. 

 As I mentioned. I have never played Up Front nor really ever had an itch to. Many people have compared Point Blank V is for Victory to Up Front and say it is the Up Front for the 21st century. If Up Front was anywhere near as fun to play as Point Blank, I am sorry that my rigidness stopped me from playing it. 

 I was at first a little put off by not being able to know the terrain in in front and around me. Then I put myself into the mindset of a Squad Leader at the time and it really made sense. You know your objective, at least most of the time, and you know what direction it is on your compass. Often that is about the amount of information you would be given. Oh, you know what could be out there between you and it, but you are only guessing. Unless you are extremely lucky you will not know what enemy force is out there until they open fire. Point Blank brings that guessing and Fog of War front and center. This is not a card game of tactical warfare in WWII. It is a tactical wargame that uses cards for play. There is a large difference. Remember that Point Blank uses a lot of the designer's Lock 'N Load Tactical Series as its bones. 

 The scenarios all have their own victory conditions. Many times, it is taking control of and holding a specific terrain piece. The turns all revolve around the Action Card deck. When the last Action Card has been played that is the end of that turn. The scenarios run from two, three, and four turns. So, for each turn you would have to use up all of the Action Cards. If you are not used to Lock 'N Load's Tactical Series games, you will have a bit of a learning curve. If you have played any of them the curve will be pretty short. It is not a difficult game to learn. That is, if you can get the idea of the Lines of Sight and movement and transpose that knowledge to the cards laid out on the table. I have played many of Lock 'N Load's Tactical Series games. However, I did have a problem in the beginning but not because of the rules. It was my own brain that was not getting it. Once I talked myself into the fact that the cards were the same thing as counters on a hex map, things went much smoother. I believe this was certainly a case of an old dog trying to learn new tricks.

 The game is big in components, and they are also visually striking. The muted colors of even the Rulebook pages gives a real sense of being in the rain, fog, and mud of a real battlefield. The visuals only help with the players immersion. Because the Rulebook is so large in size of type the rules themselves are not that long or hard to learn. There is no need of any die because the Action Cards have die values right on them on in the upper right hand. Yes, luck does have a place in playing the game. However, in any battle of whatever size, there is always some amount of luck. As von Clausewitz wrote:

 "The great philosopher of war, Karl von Clausewitz, coined the term: "Friction," he wrote, is "the concept that differentiates actual war from war on paper," those surprising things that happen during wartime that make “even the simplest thing difficult."

More Terrain Cards

 Thank you Lock 'N Load for letting me take this Maserati out for a test drive. I am now fully convinced that a ground wargame can be played with just cards. Not only that but said game can be totally engrossing for the player. It also helps that the manufacture of the cards etc. are of such a high quality. Great Game, Lock 'N Load. Keep up the good work. 


Lock 'N Load Publishing:

Point Blank V is for Victory:

  Death of an Army Ypres 1914 by Revolution Games  "The Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders was the most notorious and dreaded place in a...

Death of an Army Ypres 1914 by Revolution Games Death of an Army Ypres 1914 by Revolution Games

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

Western Front

 Death of an Army Ypres 1914


Revolution Games

 "The Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders was the most notorious and dreaded place in all of the First World War, probably of any war in history. Typical was this British infantryman's reaction on being told that his battalion was to go there: "I mentioned Ypres and he cursed the place. Rumors of what waited ahead of us had disturbed everyone." This was said between men who had just gone through the ordeal of the Battle of the Somme, where more than 50,000 British soldiers became casualties on the first day.

 From the autumn of 1914 to the autumn of 1918 Flanders was, in effect, a gigantic corpse factory. Hundreds of thousands died there for ground where gains were measured in mere yards. It was where, in 1914, the British professional army was virtually annihilated, though it had stopped the German drive to capture control of the English Channel." (Winston Groom in 'A storm in Flanders')

 The Battle of Ypres in 1914 has many times been described as the 'Death of the British prewar Army. The actual name of this game should be 'Death of Armies'. This is because the German Army was also bled white here. The Germans have their own mythology about the First Battle of Ypres. This is called the 'Kindermord', roughly the 'Massacre of the Innocents'. On November 10, 1914, the Germans attacked the town of Langemarck (hex 0813 on the map). The story that was told was that eighteen-year-old German soldiers clasped arms and sang the German National Anthem while they marched to their death. While the actual history has found this to not be correct, the battles for Ypres did turn the area into an abattoir for the German reservist troops. As an aside, the British troops called it 'Wipers'. This is a game I have been waiting to have in my hot little hands for a long time.


 This is what comes with the game:

22" x 34" Map

Exclusive Rulebook

Series Rulebook

2.5 5/8" Countersheets

3 Player Aids

1 Scenario Setup Sheet

Box or Ziploc Bag

1 Six-Sided Die (Boxed Version)

 This is a blurb from Revolution Games about the game:

"The Battle of the Marne signaled the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and of German hopes to win a quick, decisive victory. In turn, this triggered the Race for the Sea as opposing armies attempted to outflank each other. Then, in a final bid to gain the upper hand, both Allied and German Armies clashed in the First Battle of Ypres. On these fields, the British Expeditionary Force, the professional army of Britain, and the strongest on the Continent, was bled dry.

Death of an Army, Ypres 1914 is a brigade/regiment level simulation of the First Battle of Ypres. Players assume the roles of the commanders of the German and Allied troops as they desperately fight for this valuable position in the line."

 The map shows us exactly why this small patch of territory was fought over for four years. These small ridges, 200' or so in height, are the only high ground to be found in Flanders. With their control of them, the Germans were able to see everything going on in the Ypres salient. Not only that, but their guns were able to target the area, thus turning the salient into a deathtrap for the French and British troops that were stationed there.

German Counters

 The Map is nicely done even though it is mostly made up of clear spaces. There are some important features, such as the canal and the ridge that is almost in the center of the map. The area was also sparse as far as woodlands. The towns and woods that are there are mostly named and will be remembered by people who are familiar with the later battles such as Polygon wood. The map also has the turn record track on it. It is made of the normal glossy paper that we have come to know over the last few decades. The scale of the Map is 1,350 yards per hex. The counters are large and are easy to read. They use the NATO symbols. The counters might look a little busy to some. However, I didn't mind them at all at 5/8" size. Two of the Players Aids are exactly the same. These have The Combat Results Tables on one side and the Terrain Effects on the other. The third Player Aid is one-sided and has a Markers Reference sheet on it. The Scenario Setup sheet is double-sided and has the information for the game's three scenarios on them. The Great War Battles Series Rulebook is twelve pages long and is in black and white with large type. Last but not least, the Exclusive Rulebook is only four pages long. The components some might complain, are Plain Jane, but they are infinitely better than what we used to play with. They also help to keep the game's cost down. You may not get all the bells and whistles with them, but all of Revolution Games productions I have played do come with a lot of gaming, which is really what we are after anyway.

Allied Counters

 As mentioned, there are three scenarios. These are:

Battle of Langemarck  - October 20th until October 24th

Fabeck's Attack - October 29th until November 4th

First Battle of Ypres (Campaign Game) - October 20th until November 12th

 The game plays out in daily turns so the Campaign Game is 24 turns long.

 This is the Sequence of Play:

First Player Turn

The first player is the phasing player and conducts the following events in sequence.

Coordinated Combat Phase: the first player may conduct 
coordinated combat with his units against opposing units (see 6.0).

Movement Phase: the first player may move his units (see 7.0).

Hasty Combat Phase: the first player may conduct hasty combat with his units against opposing units (see 11.0).

Surrender Phase: the first player checks whether any of his 
isolated units surrender (see 12.4).

Second Player Turn

The second player becomes the phasing player and conducts 
the same sequence of events as described for the first player.

Markers and a few more German counters

 So, what is the verdict? Just like any other Revolution Games effort I have played, this game is a winner. Not only if you are interested in the game for its history, but also if you are looking for a great gaming experience. This is early in World War I so air power and even air reconnaissance is in its infancy. You do not have to worry about tanks or poison gas either. This is a straight of battle of king of the hill. One thing a player has to keep in mind is that casualties will mount up and usually mount up quickly. This is the maneuver battle that all of the generals were hoping for after the trench system was built. Artillery is king of the battlefield, as it remains for the rest of the war. You can attack without artillery, or not enough of it, but be prepared to pay the cost. All of the Victory Conditions in all of the scenarios are based on the capture or defense of the high ground. It is a simple concept, and they are right there for you to see. Your problem is getting control of them. It is a rough and tumble affair that simulates the horrific blood loss of the year 1914. One thing really good games have is an ebb and flow to each side. The reinforcements that come in for each side at different times help greatly with the 'what happened, I was winning last turn', feeling that you get in this game.

 This is a blurb from the Designer Notes:

"For Ypres 1914, I wanted to create a simple, fluid game that moves quickly -- sort of a Napoleon at Waterloo for the First World War. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way - simple, perhaps, fluid, not quite. There aren’t many innovative rules per se but one significant departure from most games is the reversal of the movement and combat phases. The decision to begin with a combat phase was intended to capture the general flow of the battle of the Great War. Most attacks were planned overnight and started at dawn of the next day. Generally, troops were positioned accordingly, often in plain sight of the enemy. After the initial attack, communications would falter, and the original plans would disintegrate. It then fell on the initiative on individual commanders leading smaller units to carry it on, with limited artillery support. The former reflects the co-ordinated combat and the latter the hasty combat procedure."

 I cannot wait for more games in the series.

 Thank you, Revolution Games, for allowing me to take this game for a spin. I will admit I was expecting a lot from the game. The books about the Ypres battles are some of my favorite reads. I was immensely happy that the game played out historically, and all of the outcomes were entirely plausible. While you are at their site, please take a gander at the rest of their games it is definitely worth it.


Revolution Games:

France 1944 The Allied Crusade in Europe The Designer Signature edition by Compass Games This game was firs...

France 1944: The Allied Crusade In Europe: The Designer Signature Edition by Compass Games France 1944: The Allied Crusade In Europe: The Designer Signature Edition by Compass Games

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

Western Front

France 1944

The Allied Crusade in Europe

The Designer Signature edition


Compass Games

This game was first released by Victory Games (let us have a moment of silence for the departed). Mark Herman was/is the designer of this game and a lot of others that are on your shelf. The first thing you will notice about the game is that it commits a grievous sin. Please sit down for this; the game does not include D-Day in it. I will let that sink in: a European Crusade game that does not include at least a D-Day scenario. There is also another shocker when it comes to scenarios, there is technically no Bulge scenario. This one, while being surprising, shouldn't really be too shocking. von Rundstedt, and even Model the ardent Nazi, thought it was foolhardy. von Rundstedt said of the Bulge, "Old Moltke would roll in his grave". So, we have a European Crusade game that starts after D-Day has been accomplished, and does not have a Bulge scenario either. What exactly do we get with this odd game:

• One mounted game map 
• One close-up Normandy game map • Two sheets of 0.65” rounded counters 
• Rules booklet • Playbook with example of play and designer’s notes • Two Player Tracks Aid Cards (identical) • One Turn Procedure Card • Allied Setup and Reinforcement Displays • German Setup and Reinforcement Displays 
• Two double-sided player aid cards (identical) 
• Four 6-sided dice (includes two custom combat dice) 

Product Information:

Complexity: 6 out of 10
Solitaire Suitability: 9 out of 10 (no hidden information)
Time Scale: Monthly turns
Map Scale: 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hex
Unit Scale: army-level HQs, infantry corps, armored divisions
Players: one to two, best with two
Playing Time: two to seven hours

 The designer has a very pertinent and somewhat funny story about the physical weight of boardgames, and how we judge them on that instead on what is actually in them. I confess that I too have been a weight checker on my boardgames. It might go back to Christmas presents; who knows? He does say that this edition has been graced with a very heavy mounted map to help offset any weight issues. The Mounted Map has been extremely well made and I believe it will put up with years of use. It is also very tastefully colored and tries, and succeeds, to hit the midpoint between art and usability. There is also the smaller Normandy Map that is used in the beginning of the Campaign Scenario. This has very large hexes to deal with the congestion of the bridgehead. The two sheets of counters match the map as far as looks. They are easy to read and pop out of the cardboard effortlessly. The one thing you will notice about them is that they are based on infantry corps and armored divisions, so there will not be that many on the board at all. This is the actual breakdown:

260 Playing Pieces
15 Headquarter Pieces (7 Allied, 8 German)
100 are Combat Units (54 Allied, 46 German)
145 Informational Markers

 The Rules Booklet is in full color and is very sturdy. It is twenty-four pages in length. The type is large and easy to read, and the booklet is full of illustrations. The Playbook is twenty pages long and is filled with examples of play and the scenario setups. The last page and a half are Designer's Notes and 'Reflections'. Like my other games from Compass Games that I have bought, the production values are very high. Let us now look at the scenarios included:

Falaise Gap: This is the training scenario
Market Garden: This scenario is not exactly the Market Garden Operation. In actuality it is much larger and includes the fight for all of France. This scenario is 4 turns long.
West Wall: This is the fight to get through the Ardennes and Hurtgen forests and ends after 9 turns. The Allies need at least 8 bridgeheads across the Rhine to win.
Scenario 4: VE Day: This is the Campaign Scenario. It is 11 turns long. The Allies need to capture 2 hexes along with Pilsen.

 The original game was apparently Mr. Herman's first time using supply to activate the player's HQ's. Each turn the players place Initiative Chits equal to the value of the Supply Points Committed  Marker. You also place the Administrative Chit into your chosen receptacle along with the Initiative Chits. If the player pulls an Initiative Chit he can then activate one HQ with it. After the player with Initiative makes his choices, the other player can choose to use his Reaction Points (these are accumulated each turn like the Supply Points). After all of the chits have been pulled there is a German and then an Allied Final Reaction Phase. The players determine if either side has won, and if neither side has the next turn is played.

 Combat, along with movement, are very different from the strict IGO-UGO using a sequence of play. The easiest way to show this is by the Rules Booklet itself:

"Movement and combat in France 1944 do not follow the system used in many wargames in which units move in a movement phase and then fire in a combat phase.
Instead, both movement and combat are captured in a system where time is broken down into increments, so that a unit may intermix both tasks. Faster units will be able to attack more frequently. Slower units will not have the luxury of moving and then combining their attack factors into combat."

 One key idea to embrace is that you can cannot switch between actions once you have chosen your 'Increment Type', meaning if you have chosen to pick Movement, you cannot attack with some units and just move with others.

 We will use the Rule booklet to illustrate this further:

"The actual Movement Point Expenditure Track is displayed below. At the beginning of your Initiative or Reaction Phase, after designating which of your units are under command and after placing Administration Movement markers, place your Movement Point Expenditure marker in any top row Increment of the Movement Point Expenditure Track (Increments #1-5 in the previous example). The numbers in the space you select specify precisely what you can do in the current Increment. If the tan increment box is clear (no number), your units may ONLY move: combat is not allowed in that increment. When the Movement Point Expenditure marker is in a clear tan box (no number), flip it to the “M” side. If the tan increment box contains a number (2+, 3+, 4+, 6), you have the choice of declaring a movement increment OR an attack increment. If you declare a movement increment, the Movement Point Expenditure marker should be on the “M” side. If you declare an attack increment, flip the Movement Point Expenditure marker to the “A” side.

 This is the concise explanation on the increment system:

"The purpose of the increment is to simulate a certain amount of simultaneity on the battlefield. The Increment system essentially prohibits you from spending the entire Movement Point Allowance of a single unit without spending at least a portion of the Movement Point Allowance for every other commanded unit, even if those other units do nothing.
 Time has passed while one of your armored divisions moved up the road, and that passage of time is being applied to each of your units."

 The whole process seems much harder then it is in actuality. One of the things it forces the player to do is to really think through what he wants to do. The Rules Booklet gives an extra piece of advice "Acquaint yourself with this track!" I wholeheartedly agree. It is the cornerstone of the game. The litmus test of any rule in any rulebook is "does it work" and secondly, does it make the player play historically, or for want of a better term, correctly. Yes, the increment system does work. You can see that in the fact that this game has been rereleased after first seeing the light of day in 1986! The designer is Mark Herman; need we say more? The game was originally released by Victory Games, who to my knowledge and memory never released a bad or even mediocre game. 

 Combat is equally different than in other games. You do not deal with a straight CRT to determine victory or defeat. In this game you use a 'Combat Matrix'. This again looks to be tricky, but is pretty straight forward in its use.

 Apparently the designer changed the combat results from a normal CRT in the original game to what you see here. The game's original CRT caused a lot of gnashing of teeth on the internet. Mr. Herman does believe they worked correctly, but mainly wanted to streamline the combat results and incorporate his new ideas on the Combat Matrix. Once again, Compass Games has taken an older game and recast it into their mold, meaning that they have given the game the red carpet treatment. The game map and pieces etc. all reflect the normal Compass Games manufacturing of these items. The game was an excellent choice to bring back to the wargaming community in this great fashion. The image below is an early design of the map for the complimentary game Russia 1944. This will hook up with France 1944 and is scheduled for 2021.

This is the link for Compass Games:

This is the link to France 1944:

 This errata was added to the box:
Since Mobile Combat is only possible in Clear Terrain, or a fortress or city on clear terrain when at least one of the units in that hex retreated into that hex, there is no terrain modifier for Mobile Combat. Terrain modifier applies only to Set-piece Combat. This clarification takes precedence over the rules.