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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!

World War One

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:



 MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios  Once again, I am playing a card-based wargame. As a child I preferred crap...

MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by Lombardy Studios

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

World War One

 MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War


Lombardy Studios

 Once again, I am playing a card-based wargame. As a child I preferred craps. My father owed me 100k by the time I was eleven. Instead of bedtime stories we would mostly play craps, but occasionally vingt et un or Poker. I always played five or seven card stud poker. They now call it 'Texas Hold-em' like they invented it. I never could stand 'joker' cards or getting more cards from the dealer. I guess I went off on a tangent there. Circling back, we have a card game from Messieurs MacGowan and Lombardy. If you haven't been trapped in a basement for fifty years, the names should sound familiar. Almost every one of the wargame covers that pop into your mind Mr. MacGowan has had his hand in it one way or the other. Mr. Lombardy is a game designer of great repute, or so he tells me. At some time in my life, I will get a copy of Streets of Stalingrad III and prove it to myself. That game is in grognards dreams just like Campaign for North Africa, and they both cost a down payment on a car. Here they have pooled their brains and artistry to come up with a card game that plays out the Great War. 

Some 4th graders enjoying the game earlier this year.

 This is what comes in the box:

200 poker-size cards denoting weapons and key personalities representing almost 20 nations

Rule for 2-players, solitaire, and the special expansion

Quick Play outline

1 Decks and Discard Mat

1 Battle Mat to keep track of turn winner and cumulative points

PLUS - cards and rules for a science fiction expansion with a direct link to the Great War

 This is what Lombardy Studios says about the game:

"MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War by award-winning game designer Dana Lombardy is a simple, fast-playing stand-alone (non-collectible) 2-player card game built around important weapon systems, commanders, and other historical aspects of this unprecedented industrial-scale war. Two 54-card decks feature colorized historical images and illustrations by game industry Hall of Fame graphic artist Rodger B. MacGowan. Icons, insignias, and game text on each card eliminate the need for complex rules. (Note to collectors: Nearly all of Rodger's exceptional WW1 illustrations appear on the cards.)"

 The card Battle Board is 11"x 17" in size. Nothing really fancy here: it just has the spots to put the different decks and used cards etc. The instructions come on a double-sided 8 1/2"x 11" sheet of glossy paper sheet. The instructions type size is the same as most books. There is a Game Overview, Cards, and Glossary double-sided sheet. Next, we have a double-sided sheet with the solitaire rules. One side has the basic game, and the other side has the Bonus and Joker AI cards and usage. The science fiction expansion rules are next on a double-sided sheet. It is based on Well's War of the Worlds. This adds a nice touch and gives the game more playability. last, we have an eight-page full color booklet that has the examples of play. Then comes the most important and beautiful part of the game: the cards. The 200 cards are all small pieces of artwork of people, places, and events from the Great war. I cannot say enough about how well they look. Just to have the pictures is worth the price of the game. The components are fine and more on the useful scale other than being artwork. To me, this helps showcase the cards even more. Look at the card below to see how good they look.

 The game is interesting in many ways. I have played a few card wargames, but they were usually about just one battle or a few planes battling it out. This game you can play out the whole of World War One.

 These are the Victory Conditions:

  The Basic Game ends after 10 Turns. Some scenarios have more or 
fewer Turns. The game also ends immediately if one side is unable to draw a Nationality card when required. See Section 3.4.
 3.2 At the end of the last Turn of the game or scenario, count the Battle Points 
(BP) of all enemy Nationality cards you captured and any friendly  Nationality 
cards still in your hand. You capture enemy cards when you have the highest BP total when a Turn is scored.
 3.3 Do not count the BP of any cards in your Nationality draw deck or discard pile. Do not count the BP of Neutral or Bonus cards.
3.4 When a player is required to draw a Nationality card and is unable to reconstitute the Nationality draw deck by reshuffling their discard pile the game ends immediately.
 3.5 Compare the two opposing sides’ BP total to determine the level of victory:
 A) MORAL VICTORY:  One side has 10 to 19 more BP.
 B) TACTICAL VICTORY. One side has 20 to 39 more BP.
 C) OPERATIONAL VICTORY. One side has 40 to 79 more BP.
 D) STRATEGIC VICTORY. One side has at least 80 or more BP.
 E) The game ends in a DRAW if a player has only 1 to 9 more BP than their opponent at the end of the game.

 The game is not really hard to learn. You just have to learn how the cards interact with each other. Meaning, your cards could lower or totally negate the cards held by your opponent. 

This video done by Mr. Lombardy is the best way to learn the game:

 The national decks are all marked as a normal card deck. So, you could play Poker or anything else with these beautiful decks. There are normally ten rounds/turns in each game. Each side can be the defender or attacker. At the end of the round, each player counts up his points on all his cards as does the attacker. The higher number wins the round.

 Thank you, Lombardy Studios, for letting me review this beautiful, fun, and quick game. The outstanding artwork by Mr. MacGowan and the period photographs etc. are the most striking part of this game. Too bad my father is no longer with us. I would have enjoyed our Poker or twenty-one games that much more.


Lombardy Studios (while you are there check all of the books and other games):

MacGowan & Lombardy's The Great War:

  Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts by Chris McNab    In building the Deadnought, the English actually shot themselves in the foot. This o...

Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts by Chris McNab Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts by Chris McNab

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

World War One


Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts


Chris McNab

   In building the Deadnought, the English actually shot themselves in the foot. This one ship with its 10 x 12" guns was a radical change from the 'Battleships' that came before it. Overnight it made every other ship in the world obsolete. Until then, the armaments on battleships were a hodge podge of different size calibers, with at most four main guns of roughly 12". The Dreadnought's speed of twenty-one knots also made it much faster than all the other battleships in the world. However, just like any other country, all of England's battleships were also made obsolete by the Dreadnought. This meant that every country was now in a race to build their own Dreadnought. It also started a Cold War of sorts between the German and English Navies. Germany saw her chance for her Navy to become just as strong as the British Navy. While this did not happen (England started a massive program of battleship building), it did give the Germans a chance to become a world naval power. 

 All of the above is shown to the reader by the author. The story of the development of the Dreadnought herself and her contemporaries and then onto the Super-Dreadnoughts is all here. The arguments of the type of boilers (coal or oil), and the amount and placement of the main guns, along with their massive increase in gun size, are all shown.

 This book is about an era of a few short years, roughly 1906 until 1918. In twelve years, the naval builders had gone from the Dreadnought to the Hood and Bayern classes. For anyone who is interested in the First World War at sea, or just these mighty ships themselves, this needs to be in your library. It is filled with facts, figures, and photos of all of the world's different capitol ships of that era. Unlike most books of this kind, it does not show the later battleships built during, before, and after World War II. The author does show us the history of the Battlecruisers but does not go into them in the detail that is shown with the Battleships.

 This is a large book, almost what you would consider a coffee table book. Unlike those books which are mostly eye candy, this book is a naval history connoisseurs' version of meat and potatoes. Thank you, Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review this very good book.


Book: Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts

Author: Chris McNab

Publisher: Casemate Publishers

The Great War: Western Front by Petroglyph Games Published by Frontier Foundry   Once again, we travel to the first part of the 20th century...

The Great War: Western Front by Petroglyph Games and Published by Frontier Foundry The Great War: Western Front by Petroglyph Games and Published by Frontier Foundry

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

World War One

The Great War: Western Front


Petroglyph Games

Published by Frontier Foundry 

 Once again, we travel to the first part of the 20th century for a look at a game. Oddly enough, it is not a boardgame but a computer one. There are tons of World War II games, both board and computer, but not many computer World War One games. I think you can count them using your fingers. So, why has Petroglyph Games decided to drop us into the mud, blood and frustration of the Western Front? Maybe it is because the field is rather thin, and they would stick out more, rather than designing the 1000th WWII game. The game has a campaign and allows you to play historical battles (historical battles in my eye should always be included in wargames). It also comes with a skirmish mode.

 Visually the game is stunning. The putrid treeless morass that was most World War One battlefields is present in the game. It is almost too correct looking for a game. Everything that was used to kill in WWI is also here. The game has artillery, tanks, gas, and planes plus a lot more. The uniforms are even correct. For the history lover or wargamer, it is history brought to life.

 As you can see by this statement about the game, it has a great pedigree:

"Revel in an authentic historical strategy game that captures the gravity and intensity of The Great War. Partnering with the Imperial War Museums, their expertise enables us to accurately portray these pivotal moments in history."

 If you are partnering with the Imperial War Museum for a game, you best have all your ducks in a row.

 The game keeps you on the edge of your seat. You need to add reinforcements to your beleaguered troops in the trenches. However, you also need to target the incoming enemy with your guns. How much time you have to do everything is the question. You can slow down the time. However, it is not a turn-based game, it is a real-time strategy game. Also, you can pause the battle whenever you want to catch a breather. Does it get a bit frenetic at times? Yes, if you let it and forget that you can take it slower. One of my bad habits with the game is forgetting that I can slow down and think more about things.

  You cannot forget that you are playing a WWI game. The defense has a great advantage over offense, if you are playing correctly. You will see your troops just disintegrate before the enemy trenches. If you are attacking and have 'rolling barrages' pounding on the enemy, you have to make sure that your troops are following them closely. How close? As close as you can get them without having them perish. As I said, use the pause button and look around. Also, be aware of your reinforcements and continually feed them into the meat grinder. 

It seems so easy to do when you look at this screen.

 This is a game where the player can get frustrated at times. Just take your time and use your head. This is an RTS, but it is a thinking man's RTS. Also, your troops are not all equals. You will have mediocre ones and you will have much better-quality ones. This is one game where going through the tutorial is mandatory. Do not just flippantly jump out of it and head toward a historical battle or campaign. You will end up dying quickly and possibly just leaving the game in your library, never to be played again. Trust me, the game is worth taking your time with. When you do direct a well-conceived assault for the first time, and it all goes as planned, it is a great feeling. It also looks great watching it on the screen. This game has tons of history built into it. 

Once again, I taste bitter defeat.

 The campaign game has even more than the entire other parts of the game. You get put into Haig's or Falkenhayn's shoes. It is up to you to run the entire Western Front. It gives you the choice of not only where, but also how, you are going to attack the enemy. This is what the game says about the campaign game:

"As Theatre Commander, experience enthralling turn-based grand-strategy as you direct the deployment of forces, perform research and carefully consider how you disseminate your resources. Alongside this, take up the mantle of Field Commander in dynamic real-time battles as you direct units to defeat your opponent, build trenches and perform direct assaults by sending your infantry over the top."

 Thank you very much Petroglyph Games and Frontier Foundry, for letting me review this beautiful game. Just remember that it is also deep and not just eye candy.


The Great War: Western Front


 The Lamps Are Going Out World War One: 2nd Edition by Compass Games  Let us first take a look at this bemedaled group photo on the cover. &...

The Lamps Are Going Out: World War One 2nd Edition by Compass Games The Lamps Are Going Out: World War One 2nd Edition by Compass Games

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

World War One

 The Lamps Are Going Out

World War One: 2nd Edition


Compass Games

 Let us first take a look at this bemedaled group photo on the cover.

"In May 1910, European royalty gathered in London for the funeral of King Edward VII. Among the mourners were nine reigning kings, who were photographed together in what very well may be the only photograph of nine reigning kings ever taken. Of the nine sovereigns pictured, four would be deposed and one assassinated.

Within five years, Britain and Belgium would be at war with Germany and Bulgaria. Only five of the nine monarchies represented in the photo still exist today.

Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians, King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia, King George I of the Hellenes and King Albert I of the Belgians.

Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George V of the United Kingdom, and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

There are several family relations in that picture. For instance, Frederik VIII of Denmark (bottom right) was the father of Haakon VII of Norway (top left), while Wilhelm II of Germany (top, 3rd from the right) was the first cousin of both George V of the United Kingdom (bottom center), and Queen Maud of Norway who was wife to Haakon VII of Norway and sister to George V of the United Kingdom – which made Haakon VII of Norway and George V of the United Kingdom brothers-in-law.

George V of the United Kingdom’s and Queen Maud of Norway’s mother was incidentally Alexandra of Denmark, sister to Frederik VIII of Denmark. This means that Frederik VIII of Denmark was also the uncle of George V of the United Kingdom.

George was a grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The funeral of King Edward VII was the last time all of the great European monarchs would meet before the First World War, the same war that would end most of the monarchical lines of Europe for good. Imagine, they all knew a war was coming, all knew it was going to be between them."

 Okay, now that you have ingested that blurb that would put an Ancestry.Com page to shame, here we go. The First World War, and its terrors, was for many years placed at the foot of Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The event that really sparked it off was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary during a state visit to Sarajevo. With hindsight, and historians poring over records, we now know that the assassination was fostered by certain groups in the Kingdom of Serbia. However, many diplomats thought that this incident would blow over, just as many others did in the preceding years. Back to Germany, and whether it was totally responsible or not. Historians now are torn as to just who was to blame, or was any one nation more to blame than others. The astute Otto von Bismarck had said "One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans" He did however, also say "The Balkans are not worth the life of a single Pomeranian Grenadier." British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey's quote "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time", is where the title of the game comes from. So, let us take a look and see what comes in the box:

1 22”x34” MOUNTED MAP

•    176 5/8” counters

•    100 Event Cards

•    20 Technology Cards

•    2 Player Aid sheets

•    1 Rules booklet

This is the information given about the game:

Product Information

•    Complexity: Medium

•    Solitaire suitability: High

•    Time Scale: Seasonal turns

•    Map Scale:  Variable-Sized Areas

•    Unit Scale: Field Armies

•    Players: 2-4

•    Playing Time: 4-6 hours

 As mentioned, the map is mounted (something which is happening more and more on the release of games, instead of an upgrade that you can buy separately), so kudos to Compass Games for this. It is an area map, and not a hex one. The map has areas from Scotland to the Ottoman Empire and Moscow in Russia. There is also a box on the left of the map for the fighting in Africa. While Africa was really a sideshow to the whole war, it is a nice touch to include that part of the war. The map is colorful without being gaudy, and I can read everything on it even without my glasses. There are not many maps I can do that with now. The Rulebook, Design Notes, and Player Aid Sheet are all in full color. The rules themselves are twenty-six pages long. Added to it are Designer Notes, and an Extended Example of Play. There is a separate booklet that has the 2nd Edition Designer Notes, and a description of all 100 Event Cards. There are also descriptions of the eight Optional Cards. The Cards all have a separate actual photograph from World War I on them, along with their information. I believe that anything that adds to a player's immersion in a game is a nice touch. The 5/8" counters are great for old hands and eyes. They also come pre-corner clipped for those who it matters to. Seeing as I have never clipped my counters I do not know if that is a good or bad thing to you clippers out there. Even though this is a game about World War I, which usually means high stacks of counters, the scale of the game makes that a non-issue. 

 This is the Sequence of Play:

Faction Sequence of Play

Players execute these phases in sequence for the current 

faction under their control.

A. Event Card Phase (5.0)

  1. Rebuild Event Deck (Spring Turn only)

  2. Draw Event Card

B. Movement Phase (6.0)

  1. Move Armies, Artillery and Tanks

  2. Redeploy Stosstruppen Marker (Germany only)

  3. Move U-Boats (Germany Only)

  4. Move Fleets (WA & Germany only)

C. Combat Phase (7.0)

  1. Resolve Naval Combat (WA & Germany only)

  2. Resolve Amphibious Invasions (WA only)

  3. Resolve Ground, Guerilla & Beachhead Attacks

D. Production Phase (8.0)

  1. Production Modifiers (8.2)

    a. Check Blockade Box (WA & Germany only)

    b. Resolve Events

    c. Resolve U-Boat Attacks (Western Allies only)

    d. Resolve U-Boat Attrition (Germany only)

    e. Receive Transferred Production

  2. Production Spending (8.3, by nation, least to most PP)

    a. Refit Units

    b. Raise New Units

    c. Construct Trenches

    d. Transfer Production

  3. Technological Advances (8.4) (WA & Germany only)

    a. Draw Bonus Technology Cards (by Event only)

    b. Research Technology

    c. Discard G1 Technology

E. Regroup Phase (9.0)

  1. Determine Air Superiority (WA & Germany only)

  2. Reset Heavy Artillery

 'Lamps' plays out in seasonal turns. There are rules for the following Special Combat Units:

Triple Entente Air Superiority
Western Allies Heavy Artillery
Western Allied Trenches

 The U-Boat War is a big part of the game, and just like in history a very big plus and minus for the Central Powers. Unrestricted U-Boat Warfare can really help to tilt the USA to join the fray against the Central Powers. So the CP player must decide whether it is worth it in the long run. The collapse of Russia is just as large an event in the war as the USA joining in. This again shows how the game plays historically, without tying the players' hands. The capture of Berlin or Paris assures an Automatic Victory. Other than that Victory Points are added up by both sides at the end of the Fall 1918 turn to decide the winner.

 The game rules are easy to digest, but it is not an easy game. It puts you in control of either the Entente or the Central Powers at the highest level. You control the destiny of your entire coalition, not just one country. The game is really meant to be two player, but it also plays well solo too. There are also rules to play it as a three or four player game. This is the 2nd edition, but according to the designer it is essentially the same. The game has had some tweaking done to it, and some cleaning up and clarification of certain aspects. Some of the event cards have also been changed. According to the designer, he really wanted to work on the Technology part of the game. Apparently, in the 1st edition, it was possible to have some strange play throughs as far as Technology each side can possibly get. In this edition the designer has made it easier for either side to catch up in Technology. There were apparently some games from the 1st edition that had technology very lop-sided on one side or the other, or at least the possibility of that happening in a game. The inclusion of the 'Rasputitsa' Card in the new edition helps to make the weather in Russia a much more potent and more of a monkey wrench to be thrown into either sides plans.

 I was fully prepared to not really take a shine to the game. I am much more used to having a WWI game with huge stacks of counters that look like man made mountain ranges on a map. A game that plays from this vantage point and with not many areas on the map is not one that I would usually look for. I was very pleasantly surprised in the game and game play. It is a much deeper game than I was suspecting after opening up the box. The game gives each side's player a lot of options. Yes, it does have a meat grinder feel to it with the land war. I am not sure why some people have mentioned this. A World War I game is supposed to feel like a meat grinder. It is the nature of the beast, or at least should be.

 Thank you very much Compass Games for letting me put 'The Lamps Are Going Out' through its paces. Please take a look at their whole line of games, especially the games based on the 'No Peace Without Spain' design. I have all of them and they are excellent, and there are more on the way.


The Lamps Are Going Out:

The Lamps are Going Out: World War 1, 2nd Edition – Compass Games

Compass games:

Compass Games – New Directions In Gaming

No Peace Without Spain:

No Peace Without Spain – Compass Games

Outside, the leaves have turned and begun to fall in droves, Christmas nears and that familiar music is in the air. On my computer scree...

Strategic Command: World War I Strategic Command: World War I

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

World War One

Outside, the leaves have turned and begun to fall in droves, Christmas nears and that familiar music is in the air. On my computer screen, I can only feel pity towards the counters representing hundreds of thousands of soldiers as I begin turn one of the campaign. They think they'll be home for the holidays, but I know there is only a long and difficult war ahead.

Strategic Command: World War I from Fury Software is the studio's second stab at the Great War. I enjoyed the original game  quite a bit a few years back, and the game has only been refined further since then. The most fundamental change that fans of the older game will notice right away is that the square grid is gone, replaced with more traditional hexes. Also, the game is much nicer to look at without a doubt. Beyond the visuals, the gameplay will be very familiar to fans of the series, to the point that you can jump in and play without bothering to check the manual.

For those approaching the series for the first time, here's a look at how the game handles. Strategic Command WW1 (SCWW1) is a grand strategy turn based game where you take on the role of leading either the Entente or the Central Powers in WWI. Unit density is kept to a minimum by using a corps as the standard unit size for infantry. Aircraft, artillery, and HQ units are around as well, but never in great numbers. On the sea things flip the other way, with individual ships each having their own, very valuable counter. The combat is, at a glance, similar to Panzer General and the like, with unit health being represented by a scale from 1-10, and the average combat knocking off 1-3 points from that total. Things aren't quite that simple though, as morale, supply, terrain, entrenchment, and more factors come into play to determine the odds. Still, the game keeps things simple, and it is a great place for less experienced wargamers to dip their toes into the deep end of the pool. 

As someone who likes to fancy myself a hardcore wargamer, but in reality never finds the time for the real monsters, the Strategic Command series is a perfect fit. SCWWI is no exception to that rule. The reason I enjoy the games so much is because they are just complicated enough to make you think hard about decisions, while keeping each aspect of the game simple enough that you can easily pick up and play a few turns a day without any need to consult the manual or go hunting for answers on the forums. I say that in terms of the mechanics of playing the game. When it comes to the actual strategy, well, I can always use a little more help. SCWWI actually delivers on that need right out of the box. 

Besides a manual describing how to control the game, there is also a lengthy strategy guide included for the full campaign. It goes over all of the quirks of the gameplay which are not readily apparent to the new player. Things like decision events, partisans, naval blockades, and how certain specific actions you might take will influence the game. Besides that, the guide includes broad strategies for each side, and specific tips for each individual nation. Skimming through this document is a good idea before you embark on the full campaign, since SCWWI, like the other SC games, contains a lot of scripted events that will fire on specific turns or under certain conditions. All of these events are listed in the strategy guide, with information about when they will fire and what the possible outcomes of each decisions will be. 

These events can be very powerful and important, sometimes giving you special new units, or allowing you to take a unique action that is otherwise unavailable. You can opt to take the historical path in each of these decisions, but you can also explore the "what-if" of an alternate choice. Many of these events can also have randomized outcomes, so history may take a different path even if you make the historical choice. For example, the Zimmerman telegraph just might work this time around, drawing Mexico into the war. Unlikely, but you never know! Some people might feel that this approach can railroad the game a bit, but I appreciate how it is used to handle things that happened historically, but would be difficult to replicate organically through game mechanics. 

Besides all of the combat occurring on the map, the player will also need to concern themselves with managing diplomacy, production, and research. All of these areas share one pool of resources (MPPs), and that same resource is also needed to repair damage to existing units, and to use railroads to move units great distances. This means you'll need to be very judicious in how you spend those precious points. Choosing to build a very expensive unit like a battleship, which will take many turns to complete, is not just a simple choice, but something you are actively building your entire campaign strategy around. Other long term decisions like influencing other nations to join your side, or focusing on aerial warfare over submarine warfare, are likewise not choices to be made lightly. No matter what you choose to do, your opponent will put up a stiff fight, and only by matching your choices with an effective strategy will you prevail. 

While the AI is prone to make the occasional odd move, and leaves itself open to attack from time to time, it will mostly put up a good fight. If you find the default settings too easy, it's possible to gradually turn up the difficulty, putting yourself at a disadvantage, though this won't necessarily make the AI play any smarter.  To get the ultimate challenge, you'll need to go online and find a human opponent. Although I didn't use the online function while preparing this review, it uses the same PBEM++ system as most Matrix/Slitherine turn based games. Using this system you can play asynchronously, completing a turn and coming back later when your opponent has played their turn. It might take quite a while to play a full campaign against another player, but I imagine it would be a thrilling experience. If you want to try a shorter match, there is a scenario included which begins the campaign in 1917, with the end nearing, but much tough fighting still to be done.

Overall, I have no real complaints about the game, though there are a few areas where improvements could be made. Naval combat continues to be the weak point of the series, as it is difficult to portray those battles on the same map and scale as the land combat. Some abstractions are forced upon the game due to the question of scale, such as ships entering specific zones in order to be teleported across particular areas.  Naval blockades involve parking units on specific hexes, which works but always feels a bit odd. The other main complaint I have is the lack of alternate scenarios. Only three scenarios total are included in the game, the full 1914 start, an alternate version where Italy switches sides, and the 1917 start. I don't recall if the original base game had many extra scenarios, but I really enjoyed all of the smaller scenarios included in the Breakthrough expansion. I was hoping to see some of those reappear here, but no luck. Perhaps they will come along in a DLC at some point.

Strategic Command: World War I is a solid entry into the series, and I can very comfortably recommend it to anyone who has enjoy the series before, and anyone looking for a good WWI strategy experience. I think Strategic Command strikes a near perfect balance between depth and fun.  Few other games can give you so many details and potential strategies to explore, while remaining mechanically simple enough that anyone could sit down and learn all of the mechanics in under ten minutes. 

- Joe Beard

Strategic Command: World War I is available directly from Matrix Games and on Steam.

Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot  Japanese battleships; the list of them is a long one: the Mika...

Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot

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

World War One


 Japanese battleships; the list of them is a long one: the Mikasa, Kongo, and the Nagato among others. Notice I didn't mention the Yamato or her sister ship the Musashi. They will appear in due time.

 The first Japanese battleships were built by ship building firms in Britain. For those of you who didn't know it, there was a close connection between Britain and Japan pretty much from the 1860s to the 1920s. Japan was seen by the British as a counterweight to Russia in the far east. Britain and Russia were inveterate enemies for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries. So to the British a strong and well armed Japan was a good thing to have next to the Asian continent. The above is pretty amazing given the fact that the British navy attacked the Japanese port of Kagoshima in 1863.  The British fleet burned it to the ground. This pointed use of a modern fleet was the last part of a wake up call to the Japanese if they didn't want to end up like China. The Japanese would have to join the modern world.

 By the 1870's the world had two undisputed leaders in land and sea warfare, Germany and Britain. The Japanese wisely based their fledgling Army on Germany's and their Navy on Britain's. Japan as an island did have somewhat of a seafaring tradition, but this was mostly of a coastal and fishing nature.

 In the beginning the Japanese had to start her Navy from almost nothing. She had no modern docks or shipbuilding facilities. So again, she naturally turned to Britain. Strangely, the British firms at the time were able to produce better or more battle worthy ships than the British Navy employed at that point.

 The book itself starts with a background history of Japan's sudden awakening to the outside world. It then continues with the birth and setup of the Japanese Navy. The first battleships brought to our attention are the Katori and the Kashima. These two were ordered in Britain from the 1903 Japanese Naval budget. These ships were based on the battleship King Edward VII. Oddly, though the ships were built in Britain, their armor was made by Krupp in Germany.

 The first battleship built in Japan was the Satsuma, although her armament and armor was purchased outside of Japan. The book then goes into how the world's navies were put on their ears by the advent of the British battleship Dreadnought. As a matter of fact, all battleships were then classified as either Dreadnoughts or pre-Dreadnoughts. That is how revolutionary her design was. 

 The book shows you the planning and building of Japan's only battlecruisers the Kongo, Hiei, Haruna, and Kirishima (these were updated in the 1930s to fast battleships). The first Japanese 'super- Dreadnought' to be built was the Fuso. The Battle of Jutland and the naval clashes during World War One caused the Japanese to come up with new designs. The design they came up with were for the Nagato and here sister-ship the Mutsu. They were arguably the 'best battleships' in the world from 1920 until the end of the 1930s. Some will immediately argue that position for the British Hood. However, she was in actuality built as as a battlecruiser and not a battleship. The Hood's lighter armor would be tested in 1941 and was found wanting.

 The book continues with the plans for Japanese battleships before and after the Washington Naval Treaty. This treaty was signed in 1922 by all of the major powers. It was supposed to have stopped the world-wide naval arms race that was happening at the time. It goes on to show the plans for the battleships that were either scrapped or converted to aircraft carriers. The Washington treaty had few clauses about aircraft carriers. Their usefulness in 1922 was not recognized as being worth limiting them.

 The book goes on with the planning of the three largest battleships ever made, the Yamato, Musashi, and the Shinano ( the Shinano was converted to a carrier after the Battle of Midway). It also shows all of the plans for even larger battleships, with the planning going to the year 1950. The year 1941 saw the age of the battleship come to a close. The last titans of the era, the Yamato class battleships and the USA's Iowas, never battled each other. In fact, both of Japan's super-battleships were both sunk by lowly airplanes.

 This is my second Kagero book and I am even more impressed than I was with the first one. The book is jammed with photos and even has double paged 3D computer generated foldouts of some ships. Visually stunning, and filled with all there is to know about Japanese battleships, this book is very easy to endorse.


Publisher: Kagero
Distributor: Casemate Publishers