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WARFIGHTER WWII MEDITERRANEAN & NORTH AFRICA FROM DAN VERSSEN GAMES Thanks to the generosity of DVG , the Warfighter series has become ...


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solitaire and cooperative system





Thanks to the generosity of DVG, the Warfighter series has become a corner stone of my games collection.  They began with the original foundation, The Tactical Special Forces Card Game, and its many subsequent expansions including the massive Footlocker and continued with Warfighter WWII.  Once more DVG were kind enough not just to provide me with a review copy of the core game, but the Ammo Box Expansion, [an equally enormous equivalent of the initial modern series' Footlocker] along with a stack of the many expansion decks, only to be followed by the WWII Pacific game!  All of this can be charted through my series of reviews, links to which can be found at the end of the review of this current addition.

And what an addition for which I must extend huge thanks to DVG for once more giving me the opportunity to review them. Not just the two main new editions to the Warfighter WWII canon, Mediterranean & North Africa, but a further 20 expansion decks.  [For a detailed look at the core system I would refer you specifically to the links to my first review of the Warfighter system and the review of Warfighter WWII at the end of this article.] What follows is the briefest of outlines for anyone who is totally new to this system. I would sum it up as follows.  It is essentially a tactical game of solitaire or cooperative play.  Played on an abstract board.

All missions, objectives, locations, friendly and enemy units, equipment and many skills and abilities are represented by cards.  Along with these, there is a wide range of cardboard counters representing physical items ranging from ammunition, grenades and satchel charges to canteens of water and bandages and markers for such things as suppression and killed, the identifying number of each of your soldier units, the number of individual actions each possesses, wounds etc, etc. 

The image above gives you a picture of the game in full flow. Everything is handled by the decks of cards that you see down the left edge of the board and the information on the cards and, of course, plenty of D10 dice rolling.  It may look daunting, but after just a few turns you'll be immersed in a game that consistently produces nail-biting action narratives!  However, for the player unfamiliar with this game, I would strongly recommend buying the core Warfighter WWII game because of its excellent rule book.
The reason I advise this is because these two new games both contain the new massive, compendious Warfighter Universal Rulebook

The 100 page Universal Rule Book

This is an attempt to bring together everything in one all-encompassing rule book that will bind together what exists, what has just been published [Warfighter Fantasy] and what lies in the future [possibly Sci-Fi, possibly Vietnam, possibly WWI].
In his introduction, Dan Verssen attributes the inspiration for this to... you, the players of this series, and your insatiable desire for more and more Warfighter! I certainly welcome such a compendium of rules and I've tried to provide an outline at the end of my review of what has swollen the initial core book to this mammoth volume.  However, as many others have already commented, I hope that this is not what will now appear in every new game.  I personally think that this should have been offered as a stand-alone purchase for all who would like it.  I have consistently praised the previous rule books for their accessibility and clarity when learning the game and ease when checking back on a rule.  The new all-embracing rule book has the first two strengths, but it does not ease initial learning or help in checking rules when you have to locate it among so many pages. 

Typically, while playing Missions from both the Mediterranean and North Africa boxes, I have largely relied on my earlier core WWII rule book, with only occasional reference to this new Universal Rule Book for a few very specific points,

For me, the most significant novelty is contained in the Warfighter Mediterranean game and that is because it is the first to handle an Axis nation, the Italians, as the main player and the Hostiles are Allied troops, specifically the British. Perhaps because of this I have been drawn to this game and this has been reinforced by the topics in several of the Expansion Decks.  Like all the preceding Decks, they contain the expected mix of new Soldier and Hostiles cards, added Skills, Equipment, and most important of all are those Soldiers, Missions, Objectives and Locations related very specifically to an historical event or location.  For me, three Expansion decks stand out.
Expansion Deck #82: Raid on St. Nazaire 
Expansion Deck #76: Crete 1
Expansion Deck #77: Crete 2
The first of these will need the Warfighter Europe core game too, but the deck contains 7 Objective Cards, 8 Missions and 13 Locations that are specific to the famous raid on St. Nazaire along with a number of Soldier cards for specific British participants who you will be playing.  
The two Crete Expansion Decks purely relate to the Warfighter Mediterranean game and both naturally introduce a similar combination of Missions, Objectives and Locations relating to the battle for Crete.  Along with them and a major plus for me, Crete 1 includes several named New Zealand soldiers for you to play while Crete 2 brings in German airborne soldiers, parachutes, gliders and supply cannisters.
Obviously, I am biased as to my choices, partly by being a Brit, but I suspect many like me will be drawn to the two Crete decks. A long sequence starting with Avalon Hills' Air Assault on Crete and SPI's Descent on Crete have given me a life time's fascination with the campaign.  However, I restrained my impulse to turn straight to these expansion decks in order to give the Mediterranean box a proper airing.   Inevitably, the basic preparation for every session remains the same: choose your Mission and Objective and build up a suitable selection of Soldiers and their skills and equipment and then the meat of the game follows as you fight your way towards the Objective.

My leading Soldier, armed and dangerous!

Nevertheless, this game whichever core box you may be playing, never fails to deliver.  A typical example was the play of the same scenario twice.  The first play saw some of the worst possible locations turning up for the slog to the objective and a devastating array of the most powerful British hostiles.  Half way through I knew there was no possibility of victory, only more of my soldiers dying!  A quick reset with exactly the same selection of soldiers met with a wholly different experience.  Easy locations to enter and initially light resistance saw my force surge ahead... until the sudden appearance of a Sherman tank at the provincial viaduct threatened to bring this to a crushing halt.  Fortunately, obstructing terrain blocked this killing machine's sight to its target and a fortuitous turn of an air support card and high rolling dice achieved its elimination and allowed me to move on and eventually achieve my goal.

Turning to Warfighter North Africa, all the same qualities naturally are repeated.  They start with the pleasing fact that just as the Pacific board was imprinted with  a wholly appropriate background scene, so too does the North Africa board reflect its desert terrain.  Not only is the background one of sweeping sand dunes, but the fore-grounded figures are British soldiers in a sandbagged emplacement.  

The colouring too ranges from sand to light tan and on to darker brown and the crowning touch is the familiar Desert Rats image identifying where your Mission card is placed!

The vast range of photos on the cards as always add to the historical setting of each core box.  This continues to be reflected across the whole range of different card types.  For example, Location Cards, such as Wadi, Salt Pan, Camel Bushes and Coastal Road.  How many of us have fought up and down, attacking and retreating along that very coastal road in many another North Africa game?  Event Cards like Oasis, Mirage and Heat Haze; the Cauldron Mission Card; the Benghazi Handicap Objective Card - all emphasise where we are for this game.  However, it is perhaps to be expected that the Expansion Decks are what dive deepest into the desert war.
Here are just a few of those location setting scenes taking you closer and closer to the action.

Just as I thrilled to the many Mediterranean Expansions that brought more history to the game, so too with Warfighter North Africa.  I expected to have a major toss-up between which of two groupings won my praise.  On the one hand there is the group consisting of Desert Rats and Vehicles Desert Rats matched by Afrika Korps and Vehicles Africa [why the change of spelling?] Korps and on the other hand is the grouping of the Battle of Bir Hakeim, the Battle of Bardia and the Battle of Damascus.  [What - no Battle of Tobruk?]  Not forgetting two other significant Expansions: Gurkhas and Long Range Desert Group.  Glad to see both of those getting a look in.
To be honest, in the first grouping I was disappointed with the Desert Rats Expansion, as 43 out of the 55 cards were Frontline/Elite British Hostiles!  I really hadn't expected to spend my time fighting against the Desert Rats rather than with them..  Even the Afrika Korps deck consisted of just over half the cards being German Hostiles, though this was compensated for by having 18 German Soldier and 2 German vehicle cards.  The two co-related Vehicle decks were almost identical in that, out of 55 cards in each, 45 were composed of two types of cards, anti-vehicle and vehicle.  I was intrigued by these, as though these type of cards and the concepts/rules related to them had featured in four earlier Expansion Decks, they were not an area that I'd previously explored.  These latest Decks certainly will be getting plenty of attention from me this time round.
The essence of their use is that you can buy Vehicle cards for a Mission just as you would Soldier cards.  They introduce a series of new concepts and the anti-vehicle cards form a new Hostile deck that a card must be drawn from for each vehicle you have in your group when you come to the Hostile Reinforcement Step. 
Much as I'm going to enjoy that strong element, my personal taste for adding more historical details to my Missions means that the three Expansions covering named Battles ultimately won my favour.  Bir Hakeim and Damascus both introduce French Soldiers and specific French weaponry and all three battles include a mix of historical features in Mission, Objective and Location cards, as well as generic elements relating to desert warfare.  Even more interesting is that Damascus includes as many French Hostiles as it does French Soldiers and finally Bardia to my delight brings in the Aussies.  I can envisage quite a bit of my time being spent digging into all three of these Expansions, as well as considerable research reading.  Heading the list will be Damascus which is a battle I'm totally ignorant about. 
Just as I was pleased to see nationalities such as the French, Australians and New Zealanders making an appearance, it was equally pleasing to find a whole Expansion focused on the Gurkhas. It cam as no surprise that most of the cards are fairly equally divided between the Gurkhas as Soldier cards and as Hostile cards.  With their reputation of service in the British army, I'm expecting to find them a daunting force whether I'm playing with them as my mission group or I'm the Axis group fighting against them.
So there you have, it a positive feast of material for a system that continues to grow and grow and grow.  Heading for the future my personal vote would be for Vietnam.  Meanwhile I have so much now that I suspect it might take considerably longer than WWII lasted to play the vast combination that I can marshal. 

LINK 1 for Warfighter review
LINK 2 for Warfighter WWII review
LINK 3 for Warfighter WWII Pacific review

Appendix 1: new elements and expansion of existing elements introduced in "Warfighter Universal Rule Book"
A 2 page introduction.
Skill Cards expanded to a full page.
Engage in Hand-to-Hand Combat becomes Striking Counter
Deploy the Decks omitted.
Select Your Mission has been substantially expanded from half a page to ten pages.  The core books only refer to Standard Missions covered by a specific game.  This refers to types of Mission cards found throughout various expansion packs.
Introduction of Team Soldiers.
Melee cards appear to have been renamed HtH [Hand-to-Hand] cards.  In sequence of Play HtH becomes Engage In Striking Combat.
Section on Armor Cards and Shield Cards included relating to new  Warfighter Fantasy release.
The inclusion of details on doors/beneficials/obstacles/traps expands section on Placing Location Cards
In Soldier Attacks there has been a small addition of Shadow elements.
Hostile Cards section includes the introduction of Double Reticles and mainly 2 extra pages relating to Warfighter Fantasy.
Hostile Turn slight amplification.
11 pages devoted to Shadow war
6 pages devoted to Private Military Contracts
5 pages devoted to Warfighter Fantasy.

Appendix 2: Expansion Decks specific to the Mediterranean Core Game
Exp #71 Royal Italian Army
Exp #75 Operation Tombola
Exp #76 Crete 1
Exp #77 Crete 2
Exp #78 Battle of Rimini
Exp #79 Gothic Line: Fortification
Exp #80 Italian Partisans
Exp #81Italian Airborne "Folgore"
Exp #82 Raid on St. Nazaire [needs Warfighter Europe Core Game]
Exp #83Savola Cavaleria
Exp #86 Vehicles Italian

Appendix 3: Expansion Decks specific to the North Africa Core Game
Exp #69 Long Range Desert Group
Exp #70 Afrika Korps
Exp #72 Battle of Bardia
Exp #73 Battle of Bir Hakeim
Exp #74 Battle of Damascus
Exp #84 Vehicles Africa Korps
Exp #85 Vehicles Desert Rats
Exp #87 Gurkhas
Exp #88 Desert Rats