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Sulla: A Dictator Reconsidered by Lynda Telford Sulla: A Dictator Reconsidered  by Lynda Telford

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

                                                                                   Sulla
                
                                      A Dictator Reconsidered

                                          By Lynda Telford 







                     

 Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix; his self written epitaph reads "no friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full".

  The truth about Sulla's life and exploits has always been there to be seen. It took a brave person like Lynda Telford to put it all down in writing. Swimming against the stream is hard enough. Fighting your way through two thousand years of history is quite another adventure, although the author's membership in the Richard III society may have helped her prepare for this struggle.

 Sulla: the name exudes anathema to most historians. All stories have to have a villain, and to most he fits the bill admirably. But does he? A soldier and general of the highest caliber, he was a dictator of Rome, the first dictator in Rome's long history not to have a time limit on his authority. He killed, outlawed, and even murdered. So he must be the demon we have read about. As I said, every story needs a villain and a hero. History has chosen the hero in our play, Julius Caesar, a man who refused to bow down to Sulla's will and divorce his wife. Technically true, but there is more to the story. Only two men bearded the old lion that was Sulla. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Caesar. Of the two, Pompey stayed in Rome, whilst Caesar ran to the edge of the Roman world after his slight tug on Sulla's mane.

  He was one of only eight Romans to win the coveted Grass Crown before it was sullied with Octavian's honorary one.

 To me, Lynda Telford's book is a milestone. It brings to life a principled man who should have had the acclaim of the Roman world in which he lived. Instead he was, and is, vilified for his choice of friends and lovers. He was principled, and he did have a reason for what he planned and carried out. He was a patriot who saw Rome falling from a republic to chaos in front of him. He was born just before the upheaval of the Gracchus brothers. The Gracchus brothers also had a plan, a good and true one. Their problem was that they were willing to flaunt all of Rome's laws to see it through. From their lives and deaths you see the fall of the Roman republic. Demagogues, money, and violence became the way of  politics in Rome. Sulla was trying to put an end to this, and to strengthen the senate, and return Rome to a land of its laws.

 The author has picked an incredible man for her work. She has also picked a huge fight with history. If Caesar is a hero, then Sulla must be a villain.

  Sulla is not only vilified for his actions, but also for his way of life. He is the only openly bisexual person in all of the famous men of Rome's historical record before the empire. I say openly because he himself stated that the male actor Metrobius was the love of his life. I think it is high time (as does the author) we look at his life without the blinders of previous centuries prejudices. 

 That I agree with the author's premise is very much a given. To me, Gaius Marius and Caesar were both heading Rome so that it might be ruled as a personal empire, naturally with them or their family as emperors. Sulla tried to put a stop to the violence and chaos of the last forty years. He wanted the republic back in all of its glory, and strong within its laws. The author shows Sulla warts and all. She does not make excuses for him, but tries to explain his actions. There are many people who disagree with her portrait. Caesar finally conquered in the end. His own plaudits of his career have been used to teach Latin for two thousand years. While Sulla, who became a dictator and then voluntarily gave up that power, is reviled instead of being praised as another Cincinnatus. Readers, please try and keep an open mind about the author's portrait of the life of the colossus that was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix.

 The author brings his life and times to us in it's full panoply. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has even the slightest interest in the history of the later Roman republic. Hopefully, she is hard at work on a biography of Pompey. In the meantime join me on every Ides of March, and raise a toast to Sulla and Pompey.

 Robert


Book: Sulla: a Dictator Reconsidered
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishing
Author: Lynda Telford
Review Date: 8/21/16

Old School Tactical by Flying Pig Games Review     While I own a fair number of board games, I have never done an unboxing, let a...

Old School Tactical by Flying Pig Games Review Old School Tactical by Flying Pig Games Review

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

Old School Tactical by Flying Pig Games Review 
 



 While I own a fair number of board games, I have never done an unboxing, let alone a review of one. My reviews up until now have been of digital wargames. So in a sense this is like coming home. My purchases of boxed wargames have mostly been of older games with a few newer ones here and there.

 I have not really been that much of a fan of tactical games, since in my youth we played a lot of what I call 'squad argument'. I don't remember that much playing, but I do remember a lot of arguing. Give a man with a pocket protector a set of wargame rules, and he turns into an armored warrior on the side of right. I am, however, an equal opportunity gamer. I'll give pretty much any game a try. I will do the unboxing etc. with the game components and also use a very well done vassal port of the game.

  Flying Pig Games is the board game company that has brought us Old School tactical. They also publish, among others, 'Night of Man' a tactical futuristic game, and '65' a game about the early battles in Vietnam. Yaah! magazine that is up to issue six now, is also published by them. It contains a game in every issue. They are also doing a kickstarter right now for Old School Tactical: volume II West Front.

 The game is (guess what) a tactical one about the eastern front battles in 1941 and 1942. It is important to remember that this is before Tigers and Panthers were around. In most scenarios with tanks playing as the German you will be undergunned, and under armored. The German antitank guns are woefully under powered and undersized. The PAK 36 that you will use in some scenarios was nicknamed the door knocker by German troops.



 First let's start with the box itself. The box measures roughly 11"x16". I do not have my postage scale handy, but I believe the weight is roughly 7-8 pounds plus or minus. It is certainly hefty enough for someone to start weight training with. It is also a piece of art all by itself. Just looking at, and feeling it you would believe that you have something special in your hands, and you wouldn't be wrong. The first thing you notice when opening the box is the size of the maps. It comes with two mounted maps. One depicts spring, summer, fall and the other winter. They are 30"x41" with one inch hexes. There was also a Stalingrad map for some of the tiers of the kick starter campaign, and it can be purchased as an expansion. It also comes with four six sided die. There are four counter sheets some 3/4" and others 7/8". The tanks, and artillery are shown top down with the infantry etc. being shown from the side. There are 18 'luck' cards, and 54 unit data cards. The tank and gun cards have a table that is used in deciding combat. The other unit cards are a great addition in having all of the info which is on the counters also in your hand, and easier to squint at. The rule book is well done and in full color, as is the scenario booklet. Two player aid cards are also included. All of the components are top notch. I have never seen a board game with this detail and craftsmanship.  



 Okay, so the game components are first rate. The next part up is the game play and the rules. I cannot stress enough on the actual game pieces, but if it sits on the shelf because the game play is terrible and the rules are unintelligible, what is it worth? Does the game play like a tactical east front game? Is there any immersion factor? 

  The manual is only twenty one pages long and is well written and easily understandable. It has color shots of the units and some illustration of game play inside.

 In the scenario briefing you will be given map coordinates. These are used for you to setup the four map edge markers that cordon off the field of battle that you will play in. The next listing is control  hexes; these are given a victory point amount to asses at the end of the game. Then comes the scenario turn length, special rules, and off board assets, air strikes and artillery. Next will be the victory conditions for the scenario and the setup for your and the enemy's forces on the map. Mostly that is listed as map edge or near this unit etc. There is a lot of leeway in most scenarios for the players setup. You aren't handcuffed into putting X unit into hex 41Y for the most part. The victory conditions are mostly in controlling certain hexes on the map. It is a large scenario book with 27 scenarios. The scenario booklet is well displayed with clear and concise info for the player to use. There is no ambiguity here. 



  The infantry counters have their stats displayed across the top of the counter. From left to right they are firepower, range, defense, and movement. The range is in white with all the others in black, with movement being the larger of the three in black. Crewed weapons counters show, starting in the left lower corner, that they are not allowed to move and fire. Next, in a clockwise manner, is the Maximum AP firepower. Across the top next comes HE firepower. Next in white is the maximum range, followed by defense and last is foot movement. Both crewed weapons and vehicles have a red triangle in the upper left corner to denote facing. Vehicles have more info than either of the other counters, and you also need the corresponding unit data card to decide combat. At the lower left corner in black is their secondary firepower followed in white by its range. Next in a clockwise manner is the maximum AP firepower. In line across the top is HE firepower followed in white with its range. In the upper right hand corner is the unit's movement allowance, and whether it is tracked or not. Right underneath movement is the unit's front defense, and its flank defense. Leader counters have no firepower (except in melee combat), and have their command range in a white circle.  The counters also show the attention to detail in this game's construction. The counters simply pop out easily, and I have not had to deal with chunks of cardboard stuck to them or use a razor knife at all. 



 The Player aid cards have the usual board game info. There is the terrain chart, turn sequence, artillery, air strike, bogged down, and rally info on one side of them. The other side has the infantry combat, and vehicle combat tables. 



  The turn sequence follows this format. The way your turns are counted is different from most games. If the scenario is for seven turns you start with the marker on seven, and count down. When you get to the number one for the turn marker and all of the impulse points are expended, then both players roll one die and add them up. If you get seven or greater, you both will get an extra turn. I like this, especially for the side that almost had a victory or captured that victory point hex. It gives you one more chance to complete your mission. Reinforcements are then added to the game map. You than can attach leaders and weapons. Then you get to roll for the various scenario rolls. These would be the chance for off board artillery etc. Then you have your rally and vehicle bog rolls. The players then both roll two dice for the initiative. High roll, as usual, wins. Then next part of the sequence is to roll for each side's impulse points. The number of die to roll is set by the rules of each scenario. Every action taken by your units costs impulse points. The game mechanic is to let one side use an impulse point and then to switch to the other player, unless there is a pass. The impulse point system in one way forces a player's hand. If you have less impulse points that your adversary you can choose to pass, and the other player continues with his turn. If you have the same or greater amount of impulse points, and don't want to use any on your units, you must expend one to pass. When both sides' impulse points are exhausted then that turn ends. A unit is allowed to move once and fire twice during a turn. The melee phase comes next. For melee to occur, a unit has to assault a hex containing an enemy counter. This costs one impulse point. You can choose to group move. This costs two impulse points, and you can also group assault for two impulse points. Unlike other games, you then just mark the hex and wait until all other movement and firing has taken place before deciding the effect of the assault. No terrain or fortification modifiers are used to resolve the melee. The melee results are usually bloody and quickly resolved. At times though, the melee can be unresolved and lock the combatants in the hex for the subsequent turns. During the following turns you are allowed to add other units to the melee. You are allowed to use opportunity fire against a unit the other player is moving. The opportunity fire rules add a tenseness to the game. Do you wait until the unit has completed its move, and possibly have a better chance at fire combat or miss your chance completely, due to line of sight? You announce it and then spend an impulse point for it. If there is no effect the enemy unit may continue its move. Then you add up the victory points from both sides. In some scenarios the victory points will not be tallied until the end of the game. You keep track of casualties for both sides on the casualty track. This is important, because for every five points a side loses to casualties, one impulse point will be deducted from the player's impulse point rolls.

  The game has an interesting 'gut check' rule. The  'gut check' number is listed in each scenario briefing. The player has to roll two die to check against any shaken/broken results on the combat tables. If the number rolled is the same or greater than the 'gut check' number then the shaken/broken result is ignored.



  Each scenario can also have hidden units added into the mix. These will not be found until an enemy unit tries to enter the hidden unit's hex. If a unit is in a structure hex, and it is attacked by heavy weapons ie. off board artillery or air strike etc., there is a check to see if there was a structure collapse. A light structure will collapse on a roll of a five or six, and a heavy structure will collapse on a roll of six. Line of sight is pretty straight forward, and can cause points to be deducted from the firing die roll.



  One luck card is drawn randomly at the start of the game. Unless the scenario rules state differently, the luck cards can be used during a players impulse, and do not cost any impulse points to play. Some cards can only be used for vehicles. If agreed to by the players, the manual states that in an infantry only scenario the vehicle cards can be kept out of the deck when choosing them. 



  The game is quick, easy, and relatively simple to play. It has a lot of nuances, but two players should be able to hash out the rules in no time and start playing. The play is relatively bloody, and resolved in a timely manner. You are going to be playing this game and thinking, not decoding the rule book.

  There is a free download available of the rules:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/xn13k359aqrw2qt/OST-rules%20ver5.25%20.pdf?dl=0

  A print and play version is available also for download. It retails for $25.00, but the game itself is a steal right now for $75.00. You would also be missing out on the extremely well made components of the game.

  The game is certainly not a simple one, yet it is also not a game where you get bogged down in the rules, and stultifies game play. This game, while not really being 'old school' in a technical sense,  is a very good thing. It allows the players to play and have a good time destroying their cardboard enemies. This game will not sit on the shelf with all of the other 'might have beens'.

 Looking at all the different comments around the web most people, like me, are very happy if not ecstatic about the game. There are a few posts about rule questions etc., but what game doesn't have them. Sometimes it is the reader's and not the writer's fault (see above). I would like to see some more scenarios that use a larger part of the map. With small maps it can get stale because the defender and attacker both know where they are going to set up and move toward. Larger map usage would allow both sides to try out numerous combinations of play. One could make house rules and make some scenarios larger on the map, and just add more to the scenario length. It doesn't have the postage stamp size maps that some games have, so that is definitely a plus.

  Robert

 Game: Old School Tactical
 Publisher: Flying Pig Games
 Designer: Shayne Logan
 Date of Review:

Transcript of Joel Billings  of 2by3 Games Interrogation      Good morning Mr. Billings, I hope you had a pleasant night. Now ...

Interrogation of Joel Billings Interrogation of Joel Billings

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

Transcript of Joel Billings of 2by3 Games Interrogation
 
 




Good morning Mr. Billings, I hope you had a pleasant night. Now to continue with our 'interview'. If it will help matters we can do a little role playing. I will go get my dentistry tools and ask you if it is "safe".

First some quick fire 'about you' questions.

Name? 

Joel Billings

Hair colour?

Brown
 
Eye colour?

Brown

Age?

58

Height?

6’3”

Single or in a relationship?

Married 27 years

Little Joels or..erm..Joelettes?

2 daugters, Melany 26, Jenna 23, 1 son, Alex 18 (about to leave for college, at which point all 3 will have gone to the dark side - Southern California - while my wife and I are in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Favourite food?

Mexican

Favourite film?

Das Boot

Favourite colour? 

Really? (mumbling between interrogators)

Favourite book?

Task Force Lone Bandit (my father wrote it, so I’m biased)

Favourite music genre and bands?

Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Elvis Costello (rock of the 70s, as my music life peaked when I was in college)

Favourite holiday destination?

Western Europe

Lucky Number?

43 (actually my wife’s, but it’s been my roller hockey jersey number for the past 20 years)

BF109 or Hurricane?

BF109

Sherman or Panzer IV?

Sherman

West front or East front?

It depends on the scale and/or battle, but I like them both.

Tactical or Operational?

Operational

Rommel or Patton?

I’m too much of an American to not pick Patton. My father took me to the movie Patton when it came out when I was 12. My uncle served in the 1st Division in Sicily and he had a mixed opinion of Patton. My dad was just happy that Patton didn’t go into politics.

Hmmm..interesting....Now we have a good idea from the ACME Lie Detector when your telling the truth we shall get on the real questions. Remember ACME Lie detector currently has a money back guarantee, that's how good it is!

 


What started your career with computer gaming in general, and specifically wargames?

I started playing wargames with Tactics II at the age of 7 in 1965. My father got the game from his brother (both WWII vets), and my father taught it to me. After that Gettysburg, and many other Avalon Hill boardgames followed. I loved it as my father got me interested in military history by the time I was in 2nd grade. I spent the next 14 years playing as many wargames (and some statistical sports games) as I could afford, while I eventually got a degree in Economics from Claremont McKenna College in the Los Angeles area. In 1979 when I graduated from college and saw my first personal computer (a TRS-80 at Radio Shack), I thought the time was right for wargames to be made on computers. I had a small amount of computer experience in college, and had programmed a very simple wargame for a BASIC computer class. I didn’t have the skills to do the programming myself, but I was lucky enough to be spending my summer after graduating working in Silicon Valley. Through the local wargame stores I found two programmers that were also wargamers and interested in working with me. At that point, I founded Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI). Had I not been in Silicon Valley, I don’t think any of this would have been possible. For that I have to thank my favorite college professor who had gotten me an internship at Amdahl that led to the summer job, and my uncle for letting me live in his house in Palo Alto that summer and for giving me encouragement to put off business school and start SSI instead.



What have been the major hurdles you’ve come across during your game development career?

Early at SSI since most of our games were in BASIC, we struggled with making the games run fast enough. Later on, the issues became that the games grew to be so complicated and time-intensive that testing them in a reasonable time-frame became very difficult. My major struggles weren’t so much in development of wargames though, as they were managing SSI as it grew and produced non-wargames. I enjoyed all kinds of strategy games, including statistical sports games, although wargames were my real passion. Many of the development people at SSI were big role-players (not me), so that allowed us to branch out into role-playing games generally and the SSI D&D license was the culmination of that effort. By 1990, wargames were no more than 25% of SSIs sales, so a lot of my time was spent on the business and not as much of my time went into game development. Two years after selling SSI to Mindscape in 1994, I decided to end my short lived executive career at Mindscape and go back to being a wargame developer at SSI. In 2000 the opportunity came up to partner with Gary Grigsby and Keith Brors and create 2by3 Games with the idea to focus entirely on developing Gary’s wargames. I had been developing Gary’s games since 1982 and his were always my favorite wargame designs, so it was a natural partnership. The challenge we’ve faced at 2by3 is how to continue making these ever increasingly complex games given their limited market. It wouldn’t happen without the group of volunteers that came from our fan community and have done all kinds of work needed to produce these projects (database, scenario, testing, programming and more).


Which game are you most proud off that you’ve been involved in?

That’s hard to say. Over the years, starting with War in Russia in the early 80s and ending with War in the East in 2010, Gary’s eastern front series of games have been very special to me. I was a huge fan of SPI’s War in the East monster board wargame when it first came out in the early 70s). Another game I am very proud of is the original Panzer General. As arguably the best selling personal computer hexagon based wargame of all time, it was a very special project created by an all-star group of employees at SSI in 1994. I think the many games in the Panzer General series, and the PG inspired Panzer Corps series put out more recently by Matrix, have introduced a lot of people to PC wargaming. I’m proud of War in the Pacific, given just how difficult it was to develop. Once released, I never wanted to see it again, but I was very proud of its release and subsequent improvement by the community with the release of WitPAE.

So War in the Pacific was the hardest to see to completion? Why was that?

Every ship, every plane, pilot, squad fighting in the entire Pacific. A game that played in daily turns executing ever airstrike for 4 years. It was massive. The only way it could be tested quickly was using the AI to play the AI, and even that took days. Having human players test it was very difficult. We had done massive games before, but this was the biggest by far.



What have been your low points and what have been the high points?

Getting to develop 10-15 games a year in the 80s was a lot of fun, although it was also hard work. Getting SSIs first game completed in 6 months, and then getting SSI to turn profitable within a year were big early high points. Later on, getting the Dungeons & Dragons license in 1987 and releasing many successful D&D products over the next few years were high points. Not being able to take advantage of those D&D products on the early consoles, and problems with completing the 2nd generation D&D engine, and the layoff that came because of it were low points. The sale of SSI was both a high and a low, and the early success of SSI within Mindscape, thanks in part to Panzer General and Steel Panthers was another high. Forming 2by3 Games in 2000 and getting to work with Gary on a day to day basis again as I did in the 80s was another high point, as were the release of WitP (more of a relief) and War in the East.

What advice would you give to someone who was contemplating designing\developing wargames?

Play a lot of games. Get involved with beta testing wargames. You may find you can talk to various game designers/developers and help out with various tasks aside from just testing. There is a difference between a programmer/designer and someone like me that hasn’t programmed since 1982. It’s hard for non-programmers to get to be designers, but it’s more possible for them to be a developer. However, I found that my basic knowledge of BASIC back when most of our games were programed in basic did help me deal with programmers, so I’d encourage developers to get some experience if they can with programming, if only at a very basic level.

How do you feel about the change from brick and mortar commerce to the new internet download version?

I’m very happy to see it go this way. It works for wargames, especially when we have a great distribution partner in Matrix. Most wargames are niche products and had an increasingly difficult time finding shelf space. Unsold gamers were returned, forcing prices down as inventory stacked up. Removing the middle man (retailer and often a distributor) means more for the designer and publisher. For downloaded products, the cost of the download is less than the cost of the box and docs, so that’s another advantage.

Do developers and programmers get a larger percentage of profits with the new model and the absence of overhead?

Yes, generally royalty percentages are higher than they were back in the 80s and 90s, and the percentage of the retail price actually received by the publisher is higher than it was in the brick and mortar days. That’s not to say you get rich making serious wargames, but the amount received per game sold is higher than it used to be.



Can you give us a brief run down on how SSI came into being and what are your feelings when you look back to that time?

I got the idea of making computer wargames in 1979 while working at a summer job in Silicon Valley between graduating from college and going to business school. When I was able to find two programmers also interested in making computer wargames, we started SSI. I did not plan on becoming a publisher, but once Avalon Hill said they weren’t interested in what we were doing, I had to figure out how to publish and distribute our first wargame when we finished it 6 months later. It was a great time, when personal computers were just getting into stores, and computer users were hungry for software. For me, it was great fun because once we started publishing our games, people started submitting games for publication. I got to work on a new game every month, and I got to work with some great designer/programmers. When I look back, I wonder just how everything came together, and how much we were able to do without any experience. Of course, when you’re young, you’ve got time and energy. It helped to have my sister running the production part of the company, and having my uncle available to provide business advice. In many ways it was a family business. At the same time, the people that joined our R&D department were all wargamers, so we had that in common. As the company grew, there was always a game going on of some kind, at lunch, or afterwork. Board games, miniature games, role-playing, you name it. When I met my wife in 1986, she described the company as a treehouse for gamers.

Was it a terrible blow to let go of SSI, or was it a relief at the time?

It was a bit of both. I knew that selling SSI to a bigger company would inevitably change the company forever. If it wasn’t for the increasing cost of development and the risks associated with that for a small company, I would have been happy to stay independent. However, with the gaming consoles coming in, the rising cost of development, and the increasingly hit driven business, the risks were too great. Once we decided it was time to become part of a bigger company, it then became a matter of finding a company that valued us. It took over a year, and two possible deals going south (EA and Spectrum Holobyte), before Mindscape came along. Since they had recently been bought by a big British conglomerate, it seemed as if there was a good chance for us to do well there. In fact we did very well for the first two years within Mindscape (partially because we were no longer shackled by the EA affiliated label distribution deal that was costing us a lot and partially due to some timely hit products). Unfortunately, Mindscape had its own problems, and I found I really didn’t enjoy the corporate management game and preferred working directly on the games.



 
You must understand that this mode of questioning is a means to an end. This isn't just an outlet for my salacious appetites. Some people believe that the heyday for computer wargames was years ago. My feeling is that we are in the golden age right now. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Thanks to Matrix and internet distribution, I’d agree that times are pretty good for computer wargames. Unlike boardgames, computer games are constantly changing due to changing technological capabilities. So it’s hard to compare a game from the 80s to one of today. There seem to be plenty of good games for people to spend time on.

Wargaming (both board and computer) is a hobby where the players are, to put it gently, aging. Do you see it this way, or do you feel there is actually new blood filling the hobby's veins?

Yes, I think a lot of our customers are aging baby boomers that started with hex based board wargames in their youth, and then got computers after college and moved their gaming to computers. Back in 1980 I found the average age of our customers was 23, and I was 22 at the time. Over the years, the average age of our customers kept going up. There was a wave of new gamers that came in during the 90s via games like Panzer General and Steel Panthers. Those games sold 5 to 10 times what any other wargame had sold. They were easy enough and good looking enough to attract some new gamers. Some of these people went on to play more complex wargames. Of course wargamers are outnumbered by other computer gamers, but some percentage of computer games manage to find computer wargames and get interested. I don’t have any hard data on our customers these days, but I’d bet for games like Gary Grigsby’s War in the East, the average age is probably near 50. I’d bet that the average age of Panzer Corps players is much lower. Hopefully games like Panzer Corps will continue to create new wargamers, although I do wonder how different wargames will be 10-20 years from now when the old guard that played wargames before computers came along are mostly gone.

What do you feel needs to be done to bring younger wargamers into the fold?

More games like Panzer General and Steel Panthers. Good looking, intuitive, easy to play games that are more accessible to non-wargamers. Is it fair to compare an author and a programmer? Both are in some way creating something new. A programmer/designer is like an author in a way, as game design is a creative process. Of course understanding high level programming is a barrier to entry for many would-be designers. At SSI back in the 80s we used to say that designs were a dime a dozen. The key was finding a designer that had the ability to program his design. Keith Brors was a great help in those days creating tools that Gary and other others used to make many of our early wargames. Without those tools, it would have been much harder for some of the designers to program their games. But fundamentally, it took a designer that could program to make a game happen.

Does a programmer suffer things like 'programmers block' etc?

I’m not really one to answer that as my only experience at programming was programming Pursuit of the Graf Spee back in 1981. I know that Gary often hits problems that require him to take a long walk on the beach to work out in his head. After taking that time, his mind manages to come up with solutions to the problem he’s trying to deal with.

Please hold still and stop squirming, and let the sodium pentothal do its work. You were involved with some wargame releases whose longevity boggles the mind.

Some in our hobby keep an extra old DOS computer just to play some of your games. The original SSI wargames are spoken about in hushed tones like the boardgame giant SPI, in our hobby.

There are four games from twenty plus years ago that everyone seems to want to have an updated version of. They are 'Age of Rifles', 'Battles of Napoleon', 'Great Naval Battles' and 'Steel Panthers'; you were involved with all of them in some way or another. Are you surprised at this fact, or when you saw the completed editions, did you know they were winners?

Games that have the flexibility to cover many different battles of a period are always more interesting (and popular) than those covering just one battle. AoR, BoN and SP, all fit that category. Of course SP was much more commercially successful than the others, but we knew all three were fundamentally good products that covered their subjects well and allowed players to simulate a wide variety of battles. It’s no surprise that people would like to see these games return in an updated form (I’d like to see them as well). GNB was special because it was a much better looking game than other wargames of its time and had a real time element. All 4 of these gamers were made by experienced designers that had a lot of experience making computer wargames and knew a lot about the subjects they were working on.

 

If you stop fighting, I will loosen the ropes a bit. This is hurting me as much as it is hurting you, you know. So, now to the elephant in the room. We have had '2 by 3 Games' ' Gary Grigsby's War in the East', now ' Gary Grigsby's War in the West', and ' Gary Grigsby's War in the Pacific: Admirals Edition'. There have been some mutterings on Matrix's forum about the schedule of upcoming games. If memory serves me, 'Gary Grigsby's War in the East II' and a compilation that will be 'Gary Grigsby's War in Europe' have been talked about. In the midst of these postings was a nugget called ' Steel Tigers', so just sit back, and I will get you some water and you can tell us all about '2 by 3 Games' upcoming schedule. Which future release are you most excited about working on, if any?



At the moment, we’re working on both War in the East 2 and Steel Tigers, and I’m equally excited by both. War in the East 2 is a continuation of the progress we’ve made with the WitE and WitW system, using the map we created of all of Europe that was used in WitW. Exactly how far we will take this system is unknown. We’d like to be able to ultimately reach a point where we can have games with Soviet, Axis and Allied units all fighting in Europe. Getting a game that allows this starting in 1943 would be easier than starting in 1941, and much easier than starting in 1940 or 1939. At the moment we’re relying on Gary for the AI programming while Pavel is doing 90% of the rest of the programming. I really like the changes we’ve made so far, and think this game will go a long way to providing an even more accurate simulation of the Eastern Front. As for Steel Tigers, we’re working closely with Matrix’s internal development team. It’s really a joint effort as the goal is to be every bit as state of the art with ST as SP was when it was released.

Steel Tigers is the one I’m really excited about. Will old Steel Panther players recognise it as a new Steel Panthers game, or will it look very different?

Steel Tigers will be a top down hex game with the same scale as the original Steel Panthers. However, the look and feel and interface will be up to today’s standards and should be very impressive. The original Steel Panthers looked as good as most AAA products circa 1995. We’d like Steel Tigers to be just as impressive relative to today’s games. It’s not 3D, but it uses 3D models to provide a great graphical look. The ability to play individual scenarios, linked campaigns and semi-random campaigns will be familiar to those that played SP. Of course Gary has added some new elements (like the ability to split infantry units), but fundamentally we want this to play as smoothly as SP did, but with the benefit of 20 years of improvements in graphics and interface.

Will you be aiming for historical accuracy and realism with detailed ballistic model and armour modelling, if not how will these things be modelled?

With Gary involved, we’re always aiming for historical accuracy and realism. When you realize that the combat in War in the East is being resolved in a shot by shot method that began with Steel Panthers (or even before), you know that Gary has a lot of experience making combat systems. His primary responsibility with ST is the under the hood code, so I have complete confidence that the game will be realistic.

No one expects these days for Steel Tigers to be released with all the Nations etc Steel Panthers was released with. Can you tell us what Nations will be in the first release?

I’m glad you asked. The effort it takes to create artwork for all the weapons is much greater these days than it used to be in 1995. For that reason alone, we realized early on that we needed to break SP into pieces. The first product will focus on the Eastern Front. We will have the Soviet Union, Germany, and most if not all of the Axis Allies that fought on the Eastern Front. If I recall correctly, we’re also including Poland. We fully expect to release expansions covering Western Europe and the Pacific, but for now, we’re focused on the Eastern Front.

Last question on Steel Tigers. What years will it cover?

It will cover battles from 1939-1945.

You’ve been very co-operative. Which upsets Mike as he still hasn’t got to use the nose tickler! In fifteen minutes the ACME Kidnap rope will automatically release you from the ACME kidnap chair, well that’s what it says on the box. Oh no not again...Mike, Run…sirens..Jay this way..no that way..no th(sounds of someone or something running into a wall,,more shouting fades into distance..sounds of victim getting themselves free)...TAPE ENDS

                            The War of The Spanish Succession by James Falkner     The War of the Spanish Succession was probably ...

The War of the Spanish Succession by James Falkner The War of the Spanish Succession by James Falkner

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

                            The War of The Spanish Succession by James Falkner





  
 The War of the Spanish Succession was probably the world's first world war. It was fought in areas as far flung as the Seven Years War, which it preceded by fifty years. The war was fought between the French, and Spanish on one side, and the English, Dutch, and Holy roman Empire. It also had bit parts played by the smaller players that Europe abounded with at the time.

 Our story begins with Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and Carlos I of the Spanish empire. Through his mother and father, he was the heir to both of these along with the Netherlands and more. His reign saw the house of Hapsburg become the world's greatest multi-national dynasty. The story continues until the late 1600s when Carlos II reigned over the Spanish empire. He was unfortunately childless and represented the last true Spanish Hapsburg. Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor), and Louis XIV (king of France) were both grandsons of Phillip III of Spain. They, with their children, had the greatest claim to the throne of Spain. There was a third candidate who was very important to our story (but who unfortunately for the the people of Europe and beyond) that died young. This was Joseph-Ferdinand Wittelsbach of Bavaria. He was the son of the Elector of Bavaria and the grandson of Leopold I. There were treaties in force between the major powers that would make Joseph-Ferdinand the king of Spain after the death of Carlos II. His death in 1699 turned Europe into a powder keg waiting to be lit by whomever had the will to strike the match. 

  Carlos II passed away, but before he did drew up a will. In it the Spanish crown was to be offered to a grandson of Louis XIV, the Duc D'Anjou. In the event that he or more to the point his grandfather turned it down it was to be offered to the Hapsburg Archduke Charles of Austria, son of Leopold I. 

  Louis XIV's and the Duc D'Anjou's (now Phillip V of Spain) acceptance of the crown struck the spark that turned into the aptly named War of The Spanish Succession.

  The book tells the story of the War, its military campaigns, political machinations, and final outcome. The war would see the rise of England to be a global power. It would also really be the last time the Netherlands was a top player in the world of European politics. France would be brought to the edge of ruin.  

 This being my first review of a book, I wanted to delve into the physical makeup of the book itself. I have some books that I have owned for twenty years that look as bad as some hundred year old newspaper. They are yellow and falling apart. I'm not just talking mass market soft cover books, but hard cover. The older mass market books are only fit for the inside of a reptile's cage. So what does go into the making of a 'good' book that will see you through the years? Well I am here to tell you don't start your search using book making. At best you will find a plethora of hits on 'la Cosa Nostra' etc. As far as the actual pages turning yellow, it is a process that is well known for making our lives more miserable, oxidation. Lignin is found in all trees to varying degrees. It is actually thought to be the reason that trees can grow to great heights. If too much Lignin is in the book's paper, it will oxidize faster. Some book pages are now bleached to make the pages more white. This can break down the page's cellulose and also cause oxidation to happen faster. Book bindings can be either sewn or glued. Suffice to say that in my delving into this arcane study I did find out one thing. The books that Casemate publishing brings to the public are built to last. So, leaving the actual makeup of the book aside, let us start on the Mr. Falkner's part of this endeavor. 

  Louis Le Grand was unlucky in the timing of this war. The Frenchmen that he ruled were still as courageous as they were at the beginning of his reign. The problem was, where were his generals? Turenne, Conde, and Luxembourg were all gone. Only two French Marshals, The Duke of Berwick, and the Duc de Villars were to shine in this war, but not as brilliantly as those older diamonds had.

  Marlborough was close to winning the war in 1709, but his casualties at Malplaquet caused his allies to hamstring him. The Dutch were always an anchor around Marlborough's throat, and even more so now. The political fighting between the Whigs and Tories in England sealed his fate. Louis XIV, with the help of Villars was able to fight on, and managed to broker a much better negotiated peace then was thought possible a few years ago. The author shows this and more in this well done history of the war.

  This book is a godsend for people who want to read about the history of the War of The Spanish Succession, but also the politics and warfare of the time. The author goes into all of the different areas of where it was fought. There have been a few books on Marlborough himself, and a few more about his battles. There have even been some on his entire campaigns, but none on the other parts of the war in recent years. To read about the actions in Spain and elsewhere, you have to spend hundreds of dollars, if not more, on some older books about the war and its personalities. There are some PDF and EPUB versions of these books, but the copying process has left them to be pretty much unreadable, at least to me.  

 This book is an overview of the entire conflict and does not go into the minutiae of the separate battles or sieges. For those, you will have to look elsewhere. However, it does fill the gap in a book that brings the entire war to your finger tips. The author has a solid grasp of the history and reports it in a well done no-nonsense style without any hint of bias. I find this refreshing in a book about this war. Most of the books I have read on the subject have a definite English bias, at least in the amount of information about each side in the war.

 So thank you Mr. Falkner, and Casemate, for this book. It brings to life the war and its battles, and campaigns, and is a great addition to anyone's library.

  Mr. Falkner has the following books (among others) on the history of the times listed with Casemate Publishing:

  http://www.casematepublishers.com/index.php/james-falkner-s-guide-to-marlborough-s-battlefields.html

 http://www.casematepublishers.com/index.php/marlborough-s-war-machine-1702-1711.html

http://www.casematepublishers.com/index.php/marshal-vauban-and-the-defence-of-louis-xiv-s-france.html

Robert

Book: The War of The Spanish Succession
Publisher: Casemate Publishing, Pen & Sword
Author: James Falkner
 Review Date 8/14/2016

                                                        Last Days of Old Earth Review   Hang on, wait a second. Why am I r...

Last days of Old Earth Review Last days of Old Earth Review

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

                                                        Last Days of Old Earth Review










  Hang on, wait a second. Why am I reviewing this game? I am a grognard whose pedigree goes back to the early days of board wargaming. I don't even read Sci-Fi; well, very little. The map isn't of Europe or anything I have seen before, and what about all of the strange units? What's up with them? Just as companies have to branch out like Slitherine has done into IOS, Android, and non-historical games to keep pace with, and sometimes create new markets. We wargamers should do the same. I know I used to look down my nose at a map that had "shudder" areas instead of hexes. I now play Ageod games all the time and love them. So please, people, step out of your comfort zone with games every once in a while and check out those beer and pretzel games, fantasy, and Sci-Fi games. So does Slitherine and Auroch Digital hit one out of the park to the ultaran nebula, or is this game the last spark of a super nova turned cold?

  Last Days of Old Earth was reviewed earlier here when it was still in early access. The game has changed since then, and also just received a very large update.

 In this turn based strategy game, you can play as the Skywatchers Clan or the Automata.

 The Skywatchers Clan are the last remnant of humans who live on Earth; not ours, but one that has been turned into a freeze pop. Playing as them, you are marching toward the equator, which is still warm enough to sustain some life.

 The Automata are a robotic race of sentinels that are in the way of the Skywatchers Clan on their trek to the equator.

 The only thing that confused me is that the Skywatchers clan is set on doing its Northwalk. Living in the northern hemisphere, it had me turning my head several times. This again is proof that people should think, look, and walk at times out of their comfort zone.

 In some ways, the game resembles a turn based RTS game. You build facilities and upgrade them. You explore the map looking for both resources and enemies. The map is a blank slate except for the few tiles that you can see at first. As far as similarities to RTS games, that is about it. At its heart it is a strategy game as much as any wargame is.

 The main difference is that it is turn based. So you have no need for frenetic map searching or finger clicking. It reminds me of the newer board games with its die rolls and cards to pull.

 The terrain is varied, and gives bonuses to the defender like a typical wargame. The units have all strengths and weaknesses that have to be used to used to attack or to defend against your enemy.

  You can build outposts which are military installations, and also build collectors on resource tiles.

 One place the game really shines is in terrain height. In this game it actually matters. You not only get the expected defense bonus, but your units can actually SEE farther on the map. This helps immensely with recon, attack, and defense planning.



 The other very well done part of the games is in its hero units. They have special abilities, and also have a set amount of units that they can command in armies.

You can garrison your HQ or your outpost or deploy your armies out of them. If you lose your HQ to the enemy, the game is lost. All of your installations have limits on the amount of units allowed to be present in the garrison. Units in installations can also be healed and repaired. There are a few units that can do this for your armies in the field.

 The game turn starts with a die roll to determine who wins the initiative. You can use your resources to buy more chances to win the die roll. Gaining the initiative not only lets you move first, you also gain more action points to use during that turn.

 Battles occur when units of both sides are in the same hex. You can choose to autoresolve it or move it to the field of battle. The field of battle is pretty typical in its look and usage. The front line is for units defending and attacking directly with the second line used for support units.






 The AI is very competent on both the field of battle, and the maps.

 The graphics at first seemed to me a bit cartoon-like (see above), but the maps and units grew on me. They are actually well done for the game's story line.

 Resources are the key to the game.You have to get moving on the first turn. For both recon and to search, find, and capture the different resource hexes on each map. Not only finding, but also defending your resources is really the crux of game play. If the enemy can take away your resources you will lose. Possibly a slow loss, but a loss nonetheless.

 The game comes with the ability to choose your units before you start with the ability to build your own 'decks' of them before battle.



 The game also has an adjustable 'sudden death' meter in the skirmish games. This is a good addition so the player doesn't have to destroy all of his enemies or capture the entire map to win that scenario. 

  


  To add to the player's choices, the game has some interesting features. A unit can go into stealth mode in a forest tile and become hidden. You can try to assassinate your enemy's heroes. Sabotage is also something you can do against your enemy and cut down on his supply. The game also has 'encounters' where the player's forces will move next to a tile that has a force that is not one of the two antagonists. The player has to choose on how his forces will react to this. It is possible to gain allies during one of these encounters.

 To sum it up, this game is an interesting title that really does have some depth if you take the time to play it. A lot of wargamers or grogs would look askance at it due to the story and graphics. This one will remain on my harddrive and I will definitely play it. In the beginning I was skeptical, but it has proved its worth.

  Robert

 Game: Last Days of Old Earth
 Developer: Auroch Digital
 Publisher: Slitherine
 Date of Review: 8/6/2016

Thomas Gunn: New Releases 'Stand To' for inspection!     This is the second review of Thomas Gunn miniatures and this time I ...

Thomas Gunn: Another first class collection stand for inspection! Thomas Gunn: Another first class collection stand for inspection!

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

Thomas Gunn: New Releases 'Stand To' for inspection!
 
 
This is the second review of Thomas Gunn miniatures and this time I present their most recent releases. We have a collection of Roman Legionnaires, Fallschirmjager and two sets that make a great little diorama of WW2 Aussies!  I was extremely impressed last time round. So had high hopes for this second collection sent to me for review. Read on to see if they lived up to my expectations..
 
First we have to go back to the days of the Roman Empire as we inspect the latest additions to join the ranks of Thomas Gunns Legionnaires.
 
 


 

 
 
As you can see from the pictures it's very doubtful this Legionnaire is going to aid you in any future battle soon. The poor chap has done a 'Harold' and taken an arrow to the eye. Typical of Thomas Gunns attention detail is that the Pilum is separate, as the unlucky Roman would have dropped it when the arrow hit. For the review I received both the Red Shield and the 30th Legion variant as seen in the pictures above. There is also a 9th Legion variant with the black shield and bull motif. The 30th Legion and 9th Legion versions are limited edition, so if your after one of those I'd be quick! The quality of the miniatures is excellent. The posture looks natural and the sculpting from head to toe can't be faulted. The painting is up to Thomas Gunns high standards, with all the details picked out perfectly and not even a spot of paint where it shouldn't be. Shading is well done as is skin tone. This is a rather gruesome miniature, but I love it! Top marks all round. He comes in a silver box and great care has gone into padding so he doesn't get damaged in transit. I'm sure he is happy about that, I expect even the slightest knock on the arrow is going to cause even more pain than he is already in.  He retails at £32.50
 



 

 

 
Here the Legionnaire is kneeling with Pilum raised all ready for the order to go into battle. For the review I received both the standard Red Shield variant as well as the black shield 9th Legion variant. It also comes in a 30th Legion version. You can see both the 9th Legion and Red Shield in the pictures above (the picture at the bottom shows all versions lined up). The figures posture is well sculpted and natural. The uniform, from Helmet to Sandals, is superbly detailed and not just the front but attention is given to all sides of the figure. Paintwork is of the usual high quality, shading is well done as is skin tone. What I've noticed is the uniformity in colour across all the Legionnaire miniatures which is important when dealing with uniforms. What else can I say? He is typical of Thomas Gunns extreme attention to detail across all aspects of the miniature. As usual 9th Legion and 30th Legion are limited editions so be quick if it's one of those you have your eye on. Would look great in any Roman diorama. He comes in a silver box and as usual great care has gone into the padding. To really appreciate how much care and attention Thomas Gunn go into their miniatures all you really need to do is look at the padding in a box. He retails at £32.50
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The last Roman Legionnaire to be inspected today is a Legionnaire who can either be seen as in reserve waiting to go into battle or on sentry duty. The shield comes as a separate piece so you can use it or not as you see fit. For the review I received both the Red Shield and the 30th Legion miniatures. Like other Roman Legionnaires he also comes in a 9th Legion version. The pictures above show both the Red Shield and the 30th Legion miniatures. The last picture shows the miniature in with ROM002 and ROM003 figures to show how the look good as a collection and would be an excellent choice for a Roman Diorama. Like all the other figures there is no drop in standard in both the sculpt and the paintwork. Thomas Gunn figures are ones you just can't stop looking at with a big smile on your face. Care and attention is given to all sides of the miniature which goes without saying for Thomas Gunn. Remember if you want the 30th Legion or 9th Legion they are limited editions!He comes in a silver box and is very well padded. He retails at £32.50
 

 Now we jump forward in time to WWII so we can review the next set of miniatures...

 






 
 
This is a special anniversary set of FJ020A - HMG Set (Normandy) that came in three different versions and is now sold out. As demand was great Thomas Gunn have decided to make another variant in a limited edition set of 100. I have to say this, if you only ever buy one Toy Soldier in your life I have no qualms at all in saying this is the one to buy, oh and be quick as it wont be around for long. We have two FJ manning a heavy MG 42, one FJ firing and the other  loading. It's hard to find words that do this miniature justice. The sculpt right down to the tiniest detail is perfect and the paint work is a triumph. Even the FJ shooting has one eye closed and the other open! They also come with their separate small arms weapon for you to place where you see fit. It's a miniature I'll always treasure and one that will be the first to get shown to anyone interested (or not). You wont find anyone that isn't impressed even if they have no real interest in Toy Soldiers. Seriously be quick and snap this one up before it's gone for good. It comes in a silver box and the usual care as gone into padding. This little marvel retails at £70.
 



 

 
 
This along with it's variant summer version is the last FJ set Thomas Gunn is going to make this year. Not until next year will we see anything new with regards to the FJ and apparently in a format not previously released by Thomas Gunn which sounds very interesting, however that's for another time. For the review I received the winter version which you can see in the pictures above. The winter version is a limited edition of 100 and the summer version limited to 80. They are wearing winter smocks\trousers and are taking aim. Shell casings are scattered on the floor after being ejected whilst firing. It's the detail I love from Thomas Gunn. The sculpt and paintwork are of the highest quality. I love how Thomas Gunn manage to get personality into the faces of their miniatures, no standard look here. They have also got across the feeling of cold especially with the frost effect on their helmets. Another superb miniature from Thomas Gunn. If your after FJ in winter uniform firing a HMG for your diorama, then look no further. Or if you just love collecting Toy Soldiers you can't go wrong putting this in your collection. He comes in a silver box and is very well padded as we have come to expect. He retails at £69.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here we have two Aussies who are laying down  an intense mortar barrage to help out a patrol deep in the jungle. This A version are dressed in fatigues worn in the 1940's during jungle warfare. There will be a B version that will be in early war battledress worn during desert fighting or the fighting in Greece early on in the war. The A version is limited to 100 and the B version will be limited to just 80. The posture of the two figures is alive and full of animation as the sculpture has done a first class job in capturing this intense and frantic moment. The faces of the two Aussies show not only the situation they are in but also the personalities of these two men. Just like the sculpt the paintwork can't be faulted and believe me I do try! The figures are separate as is the mortar. As you'll soon see the next set I review go hand in hand with this one to create a dynamic little diorama. They come in a silver box with the usual first rate padding. This excellent set retails at £75 and is well worth every penny.
 
 
 
 
 
 

The final set I get to review is another Aussie two piece set. Here we have an Officer desperately trying to hear what's being said on the radio as the cacophony of battle sounds all around in the hot steamy jungle. Whilst his  No2 sits patiently, all ready to write down the orders as and when they get relayed to him from his  Officer, when he finally manages to hear them! The set comes with two separate weapons an M1 and a Owen MG to enhance any diorama you put them in. Now talking about a diorama, have you noticed yet? We have the perfect companion piece to make an excellent little diorama, yes that's right the Mortar set reviewed above! As you can see in the last picture they all look wonderful together. Getting back to the set, just like the mortar set above the sculpture has captured the moment exquisitely. Each figure tells a story! The paint work is fantastic as you now come to expect from Thomas Gunn. They also wear the same jungle fatigues as the Mortar set above. A Japanese tank will also be released soon for the RS series and then like the FJ series the RS series comes to an end.

This set is limited to 100 pieces. Comes in a silver box and is fully padded. The set retails £75
 

 
 Being able to review Thomas Gunn miniatures is becoming the highlight for me with regards to running the blog. Opening each box is like a mini Christmas morning for me:) I really can't get  over enough how impressed I am with their miniatures. I honestly do try to find something to fault, but so far no matter how hard I've tried I can't find anything. So until the next set of Thomas Gunn miniatures that come in for review I bid you good bye! (Oh and if you like any of the miniatures above and they are limited edition, then be quick, you've been warned)

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