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Another impressive collection from Thomas Gunn gets reviewed. It really is a great day when a parcel arrives from Thomas Gunn, ful...

Thomas Gunn latest releases. Thomas Gunn latest releases.

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

Another impressive collection from Thomas Gunn gets reviewed.


It really is a great day when a parcel arrives from Thomas Gunn, full of goodies to review for the blog. Every time I go to open one of those silver boxes the contents always exceed my expectations! As it's Thomas Gunn my expectations are high as well. This time was no exception.  Though the previous miniatures  I've reviewed have all been outstanding, this particular collection, from my perspective, is the stand out one so far. Some of you know I have an obsessive interest in WWI, so it will come as no real surprise why I love this set of new releases so much. I have a group of what can be WWI air crew or just soldiers relaxing in the rear areas which includes a real life footballer and another historical figure of a War artist. We also have a WW2 Royal Canadian Commando, WW2 ANZAC sentry and finally a WW2 Japanese SPG to review! All have been released this month, September '16.


The first miniature is a historical professional footballer from WW1. His name is Ben Butler and he enlisted into the Pals battalion 17th Middlesex which was also known as the first footballers'  battalion.  Prior to enlisting, he played for Reading and Queens Park Rangers. Sadly he never got to play professional football again as he was wounded by enemy shelling in 1916 around Lens and like many others in the 'Great War' died of his wounds. 

Rev. Samuel Green, a chaplain of Casualty Clearing Station No.22, recorded his impressions of the rugged centre-half: A great, big chap lies in this bed – a guard bulges up the blankets over his leg. ‘Well, Corporal, how are you now ?’ – ‘Bad. This leg is done in. No more football for me. I’m a ‘pro’ and play for…..’ I look at the papers and see his thigh is shattered – always dangerous, these wounds. However the danger is not immediate, and I shall have many more half-hours at this bedside. He fights for dear life for ten days, and then goes out. He has played the game. I doubt not that he has won. A fine fellow – may he rest in peace.’ May he rest in peace. He was wounded on 3rd May '16 and died ten days later. He was 29 and left behind Kate, his wife.


Ben sits on a crate holding his beloved football. The sculpt is a mini work of art. It really exudes character. The sculpture has to be applauded for catching so much and managing to tell a story. The pose he is in couldn't be any better. It's bordering on genius and it's easy to get into his mind, sat there on that crate. The detailing is superb and the paintwork faultless. It's not just another toy soldier I'm looking at, but a real person. This makes it even more poignant. He is most likely dreaming about his exploits on the pitch before the madness started. Also no doubt, hoping the War finishes soon, not only to get back to his Kate, but also so he can eek out a couple more years playing professionally before he retires.


At the ripe old age of 29, time isn't on his side, he thinks to himself. Well it's near the end of April and who knows the big offensive due any time soon might end the War and I'll be home in time for the start of the new season. The thought cheers him up. They go back to the front line the next day the 30th April.  "Anyone fancy a game?" he shouts as he gets up from the crate.


I love this miniature. Plus not only do we have Ben but we also have two other variants.  The first is Daniel Minogue. an Aussie Rules Footballer. Daniel was lucky and survived the War.



Next we jump forwards to WW2 and is Fritz Walter. He was drafted into a Luftwaffe unit, one designed to keep certain men out of too much danger.


Ben Butler comes in the usual Thomas Gunn silver box, and as standard for Thomas Gunn, great care has gone into padding, so the miniature doesn't get damaged in transit. Actually one of the boxes had taken an obvious knock, yet the miniature was safe and sound, surrounded with foam padding.





The next historical figure from WWI is war artist Muirhead Bone GW066A. With the first name of Muirhead it's obvious he was a Scotsman. He was commissioned an 'honorary second lieutenant' and sent to France in May'16 as the first Official British War Artist. He was sent to capture life in France with his pen and paper. Lithographs were the big thing back then and he produced two volumes and around 150 lithographs. After the War he was knighted and during WW2 did similar work. He died 21st October 1953.

 
Muirhead is in relaxed dress, even sporting what looks like a cravat tucked under his shirt, as he sketches an aeroplane. Over his shoulder is a satchel that no doubt contains the tools of his trade. The paintwork is faultless and again the sculpture has caught a very natural looking pose. Looking at his face, apart from sporting a moustache, you can also discern an intense concentration in his eyes as he takes in this new wonder of science before him, an aeroplane. He stands on a texture base which is standard for Thomas Gunn miniatures. He comes in a silver box and just like everything to do with Thomas Gunn miniatures care has gone into the foam padding to ensure he arrives at your home damage free.

There is also another war artist GW066B;  this time Australian War artist  George Lambert. He produced some excellent images of Anzac cove in Gallipoli.

 


Muirhead and George are limited to 100 each and retail at £32.



 


We move on from historical figures. Here we have The Orderly GW065A. Sitting outside (camp site or airfield) using a crate as a chair and putting his typewriter on a little campaign table, he has decided to do his typing outside today. Just finished his cup of tea, he lights up his second to last army issue cigarette. He glances over to see that war artist in deep thought looking at the Be2c that's sat outside its hanger, as one of the squadron's observers climbs out of the front seat.

This little set consists of four separate  pieces. We have the orderly seated on his crate, then we have the table, followed by the typewriter and finally his cup, so you can arrange as you see fit. I love the pose; you can tell he is enjoying that cigarette. The paint work is excellent, with great use of shading.  The table does look like it's made from wood, as the painter has done an excellent job replicating wood grain. I've just noticed on the base that they have used something to create little tufts of grass that look so realistic. It's a detail I haven't noticed until now, but it shows just how much work and thought goes into their miniatures. A sign of superb quality. Damn, I do love Thomas Gunn!

He comes in a silver box which is well padded with foam.

The Orderly also comes in a variant GW065B, a German version.


Both versions are limited to 100 and retail at £35.

 

The Tinker GW067A. This is another exciting little set that oozes atmosphere and is a diorama in its own right. The 'tinker' has grabbed the officer's wicker chair, whilst he is out on a long recon patrol.  Having put up the campaign table, he's decided to get some minor repairs done to the mess kitchen equipment, which had been damaged during the previous night as the pilots let off steam.  With a cigarette firmly gripped between his lips, he picks up his hammer and one of the pans, which needs a few dents hammered out, and goes to work. Funny, he thinks to himself, those pilots certainly got hammered last night, hehe, especially young Jones. I do hope he comes back safely today, being his batman has been very pleasant. Most likely the best officer so far. Not to say the other four had been bad in any way, just something about Jones reminds me of my son I suppose.  God rest his soul, god rest all their souls, though hopefully Cpt Waverly is a prisoner; I liked him.

 Altogether we have nine pieces. The first is the actual figure seated in a wicker chair. Then we have a campaign table, a hammer, large pot, pot lid, cup, two small pans and a large spoon. The hammer and one of the pans you slot into his hands. It really is a great set though be careful as it would be very easy to lose a cup or pan, as they are very small. This chap is busy repairing some kitchen equipment, with the obligatory cigarette in his mouth.  He is sitting outside and if you look closely you can see tufts of grass. Such amazing detail and little touches like this put a smile on my face.  Everything has been sculpted with great care even the little cups and pans. The wicker chair looks excellent. You'd think it was made from wicker, just as the campaign table looks to be made from wood. The paintwork is yet again faultless (honestly I do look for something to fault, just every little thing has been done to such a great degree I can't find anything). He comes in a silver box and great care has gone into the padding.

There is also a German variant GW067B. This time in German dress.

 The sets are limited to 100 and retail at £35.00


 


Following the 'Tinker' we have the 'Tailor' GW068A. Another impressive miniature. It's time to do some repairs to his service issue trousers. As the sun is out, he decides to get some fresh air rather than stay in the current abode, a hot, flea-ridden barn with barely enough light to find your boots in the morning, a typical enlisted man's abode whilst travelling around the French countryside. Grabbing his trusty little OXO box which contains his darning tools, he grabs a crate, finds the tear caused by barb wire whilst out in no man's land the previous night when out on patrol. He was one of the few who actually loved going out at night into no man's land, loved the adrenalin rush. In the early hours of the morning, his battalion had pulled out of the front line into the rear for a rest. Being a pre-war soldier, he had also learnt the art of smoking whilst never taking said cigarette out of his mouth until finished, keeping his hands free to do the important jobs.

This miniature is just one piece - so no need to worry about losing anything. I love the OXO box. A fantastic detail and I think you know by now Thomas Gunn is all about the detail. He is using what looks like a small set of scissors, though I could be wrong here as it may be some sort of darning tool I'm unaware of. There is a set of large scissors resting on his trousers. Like the others, the pose is very natural and realistic. The paint work is, and sorry I'm going to use that word again, faultless. Shading is excellent. The painting of the OXO box is perfect, for such a small part of the sculpt great care has gone into making sure you can read the word OXO Cubes on the box. You can see the concentration in his face as he works wonders repairing his trousers; he'll get lots more wear out of them now. He has what looks like a pencil behind one of his ears. Even the hobnails on the bottom of his boots have been sculpted. The base also has small tuffs of grass, something I love, small things please small minds - is that how it goes? He comes in the usual Thomas Gunn silver box with the miniature encased in foam padding. This is the final WWI miniature released this month and completes a great little set.

There is a German variant GW068B.


Both versions are limited to just 100 and retail at £32.





Now we move onto WW2. This time we have Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando CAN001. These Canadians had been specially trained for the Normandy landings. Their training was extensive as they had to be prepared for pretty much every conceivable circumstance the beach landings might throw their way: from controlling traffic, to removing obstacles, even driving Sherman tanks! Though their No1 job was to control the flow of troops and supplies during the first days of the invasion. They made sure everything was flowing up to the troops on the frontline, so those at the sharp end could keep on pushing off the beachhead and on into the French countryside. Here we have him standing to attention whilst on parade, just before they all set off for D Day.

He is wearing Canadian service battledress uniform with the R.C.N Commando insignia on his left and right shoulder. His rifle is slung over his right shoulder. He has his water canteen on his right hip attached to webbing and his bayonet is on his left hip. Two ammo pouches are attached to the webbing, one on each side of his waist. He is wearing a Mk2 helmet that has a camo net and some leaves added. The painting is top quality. Another excellent miniature from Thomas Gunn. There is one tiny thing though. The first slightly negative thing I've had to say across all the reviews so far. There is a tiny and I mean tiny bit of paint chipped of on his right shoulder where the RCN Commando insignia is. I told you that I do look in great detail for something to fault and this is the first time I've had something to say, which can't be bad. You do really have to look closely to notice it. I may have done it myself whilst handling it. I can't be sure. There is no variant this time. He comes in a silver box with the usual extensive foam padding. Limited to 100 he retails at £32.










Still with WW2 the next miniature is Australian Sentry RS044. He has a black and green insignia on both shoulders and I've tried to see if this is a specific Australian regiment of a standard Australian insignia. I have seen the same for a New South Wales regiment but couldn't be sure it was from WW2. He is wearing the easily recognisable slouch hat. Standing to attention, he has his rifle over his right shoulder. His canteen is attached to his webbing and sits at his right hip, his bayonet on his left hip. Two ammo pouches hang on either side of his waist. The paint work again is excellent. His brass buttons, belt buckle cap insignia, collar insignia and the buckles on his boots have all been picked out. He sports a fine moustache. He seems all set for future deployment, most likely somewhere in the Pacific. There is no variant. He comes in a silver box and is well protected with foam padding. Limited to 100 he retails at £32.





Last to be reviewed this time is one of Thomas Gunn's bigger pieces. A WW2 Japanese SPG (camouflage) RS035A which was released this month. The SPG is the Type 1 Ho-Ni - Japan's first self propelled gun of this type employed by the Japanese during WW2. It used the Type 967 tank chassis. The turret was removed and replaced by a 75mm type 90 field gun mounted on a cut out chassis. With 10 degrees of traverse and -5 to +25 degrees of elevation plus being able to traverse 20 degrees either side, it didn't have to turn to be able to engage the enemy, unlike say Germany's Stug. It carried 54 rounds of ammunition, but a major drawback was a lack of MG for defence, so was very vulnerable to close assault by infantry.

I really can't fault the modelling. It looks fantastic. Though I'm unfamiliar with this vehicle, I have no doubt it's historically correct right down to the number of rivets showing. This is the first large Thomas Gunn piece I've been able to handle and it doesn't disappoint. It's also very reasonably priced. The SPG comes with a Japanese miniature holding a shell. He's all ready to put it into the gun's breach. The miniature is of the usual high standard. Faultless paintwork, just like the SPG. You can place him on either side of the gun but I have him on the left hand side just like in the pictures. There is a variant, RS035B, which isn't camouflaged ,but comes in dark green Japanese army paint.


It comes in  a silver box and extensive foam padding. Both versions are limited to 100 and retail at £135.

Well I've come to the end of my third Thomas Gunn review. My enthusiasm for their miniatures just keeps growing and growing. I do hope you've enjoyed reading the review and do yourself a favour, get collecting! Until the next time!


COMPETITION TIME I'll soon be reviewing Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly and J Lambshead , recently ...

Win Tabletop Wargames Designers and Writers Handbook! Win Tabletop Wargames Designers and Writers Handbook!

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

COMPETITION TIME


I'll soon be reviewing Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly and J Lambshead, recently released by Pen and Sword publishing. In the mean time you can win a copy all for yourself!

So to win yourself a copy all you need to do is comment below this article and make a solemn promise that if you enjoy the blog you'll spread the word when ever possible:)

Last day will be 12th October! Winner announced 13th October.


 

Cobi : Three military sets reviewed. Before I start writing about the kits, I first must apologise to Cobi for the delayed re...

Cobi: Three military sets get reviewed. Cobi: Three military sets get reviewed.

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

Cobi: Three military sets reviewed.
Before I start writing about the kits, I first must apologise to Cobi for the delayed review. This was due to illness.


Cobi are a Polish company who make LEGO compatible kits. Two major differences to your actual custom LEGO sets is that the MiniFigs look different (when Cobi started out their Minifigs looked the same as Lego's, but I believe they had to change them) and the other is a substantial difference in the price, with Cobi being much better for your wallet. Their range is very varied ranging from popular cartoons through to military sets, including a license to make Tank kits based on the very popular multi player game World of Tanks.

 
 
The first kit I actually gave to my 15 year old daughter to build, as she expressed an interest in having a go. The kit was the Small Army Willys MB Jeep . The front of the box tells you how many bricks are in the set and how many MiniFigs. This set has 90 bricks and 1 Minifig. Also, on the back of the box, you'll find info\stats on the particular vehicle, as well as the Jeeps Browning M2 gun and the Minifigs' side-arm, his Browning M1918A2- BAR. Inside the box were several clear bags, each one containing the kit's bricks. A full colour manual and a sheet of decals complete the contents.

Freja told me she really enjoyed building the Jeep and found the manual very easy to follow. Apart from one or two slightly awkward bits, trying to make sure the bricks didn't pop off when doing another bit, she had no real problems in finishing the build in around 45 minutes. The Decals she left for me to do. I found a very good selection and they brought the Jeep to life. I did find, though, that one or two might have been better if they'd been put on the brick before building; for instance the dashboard was more tricky than it needed to have been, if added pre-build. Freja gave the build instructions and fun factor top marks!

The finished Jeep looks very good indeed and I'd happily recommend it to someone who normally just sticks to Lego military sets. Taking the price into account compared to a Lego custom Jeep you really can't go wrong. I have heard dissent on the Net about the actual Minifig designs but you can easily swap them out for a Lego Minifig and you wouldn't be able to tell they weren't made for each other. The Cobi Minifigs have actually grown on me, though maybe I'd like to see less smiley and more serious facial expressions.


 
 

The next set which I took on was the Supermarine Spitfire MK.VB. This is part of Cobi's Small Army WW2 range. The kit consists of 290 bricks and 1 Minifig.  The back of the box gives you the technical information on the Spitfire and also states the Minifig is an RAF pilot from No303 Squadron which was a squadron made up of Polish pilots who had managed to escape Poland during the German invasion. As Cobi is a Polish company it makes sense they chose this particular squadron. Inside you'll find several bags of bricks, a decal sheet and a full colour 25 page instruction booklet.
The Spitfire must be the first plane people think of when you mention aircraft from WWII, closely followed, I expect, by the P51 and the BF109. Not only did it look great and sound great with those merlin engines, it also helped win the Battle of Britain as it was a superb dogfighting plane. Taking on the German bomber escort of 109s whilst the Spitfire's fighting partner, the ever reliable Hurricane, took on the bombers. Who knows, things may have been very different if the marvellous Spitfire had never existed.  In fact, things might even be very different today, if that engineering marvel had never taken to the skies..

BF109 Cobi kit

The instructions were very easy to follow and I had no major issues with the build. I actually found it quite therapeutic. A benefit of the Cobi kits over custom Lego is that Cobi obviously can create what ever colour brick they need for a particular set, whereas the custom Lego builders are restricted to the colours Lego have produced over the years.  This means the Spitfire is resplendent in its camouflage colours. The Spitfire also has an undercarriage that can be raised and lowered and adjustable flaps. When finished, it sits upon a stand with name plate. Once the decals went on, like the Jeep, the plane gained its personality.



The finished Spitfire really does look good.  My only slight criticism is the frame below the propeller looks too box-like compared to the curve a Spitfire has on the underside of the front fuselage. Still, I'm very happy with the finished build and, like the Jeep, can easy recommend it to anyone into military Lego or military brick sets. Also, being Cobi, it comes with a very pleasing price tag, considering a custom Lego plane could set you back a couple of hundred pounds.




 


WW2 version
 

The final kit is from Cobi's World of Tanks tie-in range. The British Cromwell MK VII tank, which fought in WW2 and on through to 1955 when it was retired from British service.  This kit is the biggest of the three, consisting of 505 bricks and 1 Minifig. The back of the box as usual gives info on the tank as well as the Tank Commander's side arm, which is a Sten Gun. The tank is in its desert livery. As this is from the World of Tanks range it's not supposed to be a historical WWII tank. The decals that come with it aren't WWII themed. Which for myself was abit of a let down. However I understand why it doesn't have WW2II decals. Inside the box are several clear bags of bricks, a decal sheet and a 31 page, large format, full colour instruction booklet. On the back of the booklet you get two codes for the PC game World of Tanks; one gives you three days of a premium account and a couple of other WoT in-game goodies, the other code gives seven days of a Premium account and again in-game goodies.

I found the instruction booklet very easy to follow and like the Spitfire build an enjoyable experience with little to no frustrations. The tank looks great in its desert livery. The wheels and tracks move, the main gun will traverse up and down and the turret rotates. The two machine guns also move. The tank commander stands in his commander's hatch, all set to direct his tank through the battles ahead. Once the build was finished and the decals went on I was very happy with the end result. Though as mentioned I do wish there had been a couple of WWII specific decals to use.

I have to say the completed tank does look impressive. Also, for those who aren't keen on Cobi's Minifigs, I placed my Lego British Tank Commander in the hatch and he looked superb. So don't let that put you off. Cobi actually do a WWII specific Cromwell tank so if it's WW2 your after your best buying the WWII version, though this comes in green and not the desert colour scheme. The WoT version currently retails on Amazon for £27.90 and the WWII version £26.87. So what can't you love at that price! I will say, considering how much cheaper they are to actual Lego kits, you don't find a similar drop in quality. Far from it. They stand on their own against the custom Lego kits - yes the Lego kits will have that extra detail - but you honestly can't go wrong with Cobi either. So like the other two kits I have no qualms recommending this set. Get the WWII version if that's what your looking for:)

So that's it for Cobi for now. I hope I get to review more kits in the future. Cobi kits have a massive thumbs up from me! They have everything going for them, easy to follow instructions, great design and fantastic price plus compatible with Lego you really can't go wrong with their kits.










                                                       Antiochus The Great by Michael Taylor  Antiochus Megas is remembered by histor...

Antiochus The Great by Michael Taylor Antiochus The Great by Michael Taylor

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


                                                       Antiochus The Great by Michael Taylor



 Antiochus Megas is remembered by history as the loser at Raphia to the Ptolemies, and at Magnesia to the Romans. his storied life has been overshadowed by these defeats. His anabasis to the east, which followed Alexander's foot steps and won back the majority of the Seleucid lands, is all but forgotten. Michael Taylor's biography brings Antiochus and his times to life again. Even Hannibal has a walk-on part in the tale of Antiochus



                               The rump of the Seleucid kingdom left to Antiochus III


 Antiochus III Megas inherited the Seleucid throne as a teenager, after his older brother Seleuces was killed by his own mutinous army. The Seleucid kingdom was a shadow of its former greatness. All that was left to Antiochus was a rump of a few states in nowadays Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. The kingdom under his great-great-grandfather Seleuces I ranged from Thrace in Greece to the borders of modern day Egypt and India. Being a second son, Antiochus was not groomed for the throne. It is true he was given some schooling in the ability to govern, but certainly not to the extent his older brother was. As a teenage king he was surrounded by armed foes on all sides of his small inheritance. It was plain at the start of his reign that his gifts as a warrior, general, and administrator put him into the highest echelon of Alexander's successors, along with Seleuces I and the greatest of them all, Antigonus. He fended off most of his rivals by his early twenties. It is true that he lost at Raphia to Ptolemy IV, but the peace treaty between them was still advantageous to Antiochus. After removing his cousin (the usurper Acheaus) from the field, his spear-won territory was at peace.

                          The extent of his kingdom in 191 B.C.


 It was then that he set his sights on the east, and the lands that had broken away from Seleucid rule. In a testament to his rule, no enemy or usurper attacked the kingdom while he was away for almost a decade in the east. Polybius speaks of his personal bravery and generalship. Unfortunately, Antiochus' early years coincide with the second Punic War between Carthage and Rome. If this had not occurred at that time we might have much more information about these years from ancient authors. Mr. Taylor does an excellent job of piecing together the various snippets we do have to make a coherent tale of his life.

 Antiochus returns from the east to finally conquer Palestine and its environs from the Ptolemies. He next returns most of Asia Minor back to the Seleucid fold. With his invasion of Europe and the capture of Thrace, he now is king of almost all of the lands Seleuces I left to his descendants. Unfortunately, Antiochus now involves himself with Grecian politics, which arouses the ire of Rome. After a long campaign he is defeated by Rome and forced to give up all of his territories in Europe and Asia Minor. Not too long after, he is killed in Elam while despoiling a native temple. He was, however, able to leave his son a much stronger kingdom than he himself had inherited. 

  The author goes into the Seleucid kingdom in detail. He shows us its history up until Antiochus III, and describes the army and naval forces. The Seleucid economy and its dealings with the other countries on its borders are also gone into.

 The battle of Magnesia was much closer than is usually depicted. Antiochus was able to crush the left wing of the Romans and allies, before losing on his own left flank. The battle also is the first in which large numbers of armored cavalry, cataphracts, were first used. Some ancient authors have them riding down a Roman legion during the battle.

 Michael Taylor's biography of this all but forgotten conqueror is a well done and needed work to shed the light of day on this era of the Hellenistic kingdoms. 





 Robert


Book: Antiochus The Great 
Author Michael Taylor
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishing
Date of Review: 9/15/2016
 

  Firefight by Sean O'Connor     Let us get this out of the way right now, Firefight is not Close Combat. This is not a knock ...

Firefight fom Sean O'Connor Firefight fom Sean O'Connor

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




 

 Let us get this out of the way right now, Firefight is not Close Combat. This is not a knock on the game, but a factual statement. I have played most of the Close Combat games down through the years, and Firefight does some things that I have never seen in Close Combat. The game is aptly named. In Firefight, you can have long lasting offensive and defensive fire going on without suffering huge amounts of casualties. A British unit was under fire for five minutes of real time playing, and never suffered one casualty. Your troops in the game will search out and use cover as well as any I have seen in tactical games. 




 There are nine maps with eight scenarios you can use on all of the maps. There is no scenario editor, but the eight scenarios cover all of the years from 1939-1945 on the Western Front. So you get to play with a large amount of different troops and weapons. You hold down the right mouse button to scroll around the map. It has just been updated to version 1.1. One of the new new features is the mouse arrow showing the terrain height at that spot. You also get a summary at the end of the game now with a ranking between zero to three stars. You have the ability to zoom out to actually get red terrain height lines superimposed on the map. The artillery strikes are conducted by picking a spot with the left mouse button and holding it down until the mission ( high explosive or smoke) is selected. You will then see a circle with the words 'adjusting fire' in the spot. Spotting for artillery does not need a ground unit to be able to see the area. It works as if you are in a artillery spotting plane flying over the battlefield. Your guns will fire a few spotting rounds and then let loose a barrage of shots on the area, so your artillery strikes can be used up quickly if you are not paying attention to them. The only commands you can give your units is to move or fire. This doesn't mean they are sitting ducks while you are busy with another part of the battlefield. The AI in your troops, as well as the enemy, is very good.




 The sounds in the game are excellent. The sounds of the artillery strikes and regular weapons  just seem right. The only con is that you can only have the sound on or off. The con part of that is when moving your troops you will most likely get a shouted "MOVE" in your ear, which does get tiring after a while.




 This game started out as shareware in the 1990s and in some ways shows it's pedigree. It is a one man programming show, so do not expect to see a game released by a huge company. The visuals are fine for the game, but not up to some of today's standards. As a game for us grognards it is just fine. For someone who started playing wargames on a Commodore they look pretty good. The game right now is only $9.99 so it is a good bargain. The programmer has always been working on this labor of love, so it is possible to have more added to it in the future. A scenario editor would greatly expand its life expectancy on peoples' hard drives.

 This would be a great game for wargaming newbies to get into. The simple commands, and the fact that your troops won't die immediately with a boneheaded move on the players part, would make this an excellent first tactical wargame. The price tag adds to the attraction.

  One thing: for some reason I could not take a screenshot of the game's starting screen to show the different maps and scenarios. There are three for playing as the Germans, and five for playing the 
Allies.


  Robert



Game: Firefight
Programmer: Sean O'connor
Date of Review: 9/11/2016

                                                              Operation Barbarossa 1941                                                   ...

Operation Barbarossa 1941 Hitler Against Stalin by Christer Bergstrom Operation Barbarossa 1941 Hitler Against Stalin by Christer Bergstrom

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

                                                              Operation Barbarossa 1941

                                                      Hitler Against Stalin 

                                                               by

                                                      Christer Bergstrom 




 This will be approximately the thirtieth book I have read concerning the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Is there any reason to have another book on this subject? Haven't all of the different areas of the invasion been gone over with a fine toothed comb? Well, it turns out they haven't. This book is a tour de force on operation Barbarossa and all of its facets. It was released to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the invasion.

 Let us first look at the physical book itself. It is a large 'coffee table' like book. Its 300 pages are of high quality with over 250 photographs, many of which were never previously published. The author, Christer Bergstrom, has written twenty three other books on the history of world War II. His meticulous searching through the various countries' archives is apparent on every page.

  The book goes through the planning and different stages of the war up until the end of 1941. It does a fantastic job of telling the normal facts we are all well aware of that happened in operation  Barbarossa. This alone is worth the price of the book.

  Where this new rendition goes beyond all others in its field is where the author challenges, and proves, many of the items that we take as gospel in the earlier histories, and shows them to be false. Some of these myths are about the mass surrender of Soviet soldiers and the disparity between the casualties suffered on both sides. The book is a treasure trove of information about subjects that have never before been brought to print. It goes deeply into the partisan and anti-partisan part of the war. The author does not shy away from the many ugly facts about this time in history. He goes into detail about the Nazi 'cleansing' and the amount of cooperation that the Nazis received from some of the indigenous populations. There is even a part of the book that goes into the amount of rapes committed by the German soldiers. The author also shows in detail that the Axis armies actually outnumbered the Russian forces on June 22 1941.

 The appendices show a complete order of battle, and also both sides' armed forces structures. There is a listing of all the main armaments used by both sides in the war. There is also a comparison of the different lists of the axis losses during the campaign. 

 The book delves deeply into Finland's involvement with the war, and some not very flattering facts about their deportation to Germany of Russian prisoners of war, etc. 

 There are three haunting pictures included of young women brutalized before and after their murder for supposedly being partisans. Their beauty and innocence shine through in a very disturbing way. If anyone part of the book is its strongest, it is the tale and pictures of the horrible events that the Russian civilians had to suffer during the Nazi invasion. To those of us who are used to reading a more sanitized version of events, it brings to life that these could have been our daughters or other family members. The starkness of the text and photos show us the real human sufferings in this bitter war, and reminds us of what takes place in all wars. As Stalin said "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic". To those of us who are used to pushing cardboard or computer icons around the Russian front, it is really a must read to bring war and all its savagery and hatefulness to our eyes. To Russians, it is no wonder that the date 6/22/1941 is burned into their memories.

 While a few more maps for the separate encounters would have been a nice addition, the book in its scope tries and succeeds to bring to its pages the full story of the invasion. If you are going to have any book on your shelf about Barbarossa, this should be the one if you want to be informed about all of its different aspects. The photos themselves could have been a book about operation Barbarossa. The text with all of its tons of details of the day to day operations and human involvement is without a doubt the best covering of this campaign in print. Thank you Mr. Bergstrom for this effort, and thank you Casemate for realizing the book's potential. 


 Robert


Author: Christer Bergstrom
Publisher: Casemate
Review Date: 9/9/2016

 

                                                                                                                        The Dragon's Te...

The Dragon's Teeth by Benjamin Lai  The Dragon's Teeth by Benjamin Lai

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

                                               
                                                                        The Dragon's Teeth
               
                                                                    by

                                                            Benjamin Lai  


 



 This book is about the the armed forces of the People's Republic of China. It couldn't have come at a better time. With the tense situations we are now seeing in Asia, it is a perfect time to look at the armed might of one of the largest players. The subtitle says it is about the Chinese People's Liberation army, but in its pages you will find information about China's land, sea, and air capabilities.The author was born in Hong Kong and went to school as a naval architect. Then he joined the British Army reserves and served in a number of roles therein. So he is well versed in the different areas he discusses.

 The first part of the book is a short history of the Chinese communist party and the creation of the People's Liberation Army. Then it goes into the different actions that happened between China and other countries during the cold war period. Some of these actions and spying mission counter-warfare are pretty much unknown to the west. The author elaborates on the Chinese actions to stop the US U2 spying missions. He also goes into the different small conflicts between China and Vietnam. The other two thirds of the book are devoted to the Chinese armed forces as they are today, with some history of the different weapons programs thrown in.

 The appendices list every weapon in use at this moment in time, from rifles to rockets. Also included are all of the planes and ships used by China's armed forces. 

 This book also brings to light all of the Soviet Union/Russia arms dealings that have occurred over the many decades between the two countries. I was surprised to read this, knowing about all of the extremely bloody border clashes that have occurred between them over the years.

 The book has numerous pages that are actually gray in color that write about different weapon systems, or where events are gone over in detail. It goes into the change in China from relying on weapon systems bought abroad, to a full-fledged in house research and development establishment. It goes into great depth of how the Chinese are working toward a main battle tank for the 21st century. The book shows comparisons between the spending of both China and the US. While the Chinese are increasing their defense spending, it is nowhere near the amount that the US spends. The author also goes into some depth talking about the Chinese strategic thought and its actions in recent years.

 All in all, the book is a well written clear and concise history and appreciation of the Chinese armed forces. The appendices alone are worth the price of the book. There are also thirty-four pages of photographs of old and new equipment and people. This book fills a void that has existed in much of the west of the true Chinese capabilities at this point in time. 
      

  Robert


Author: Benjamin Lai
Publisher: Casemate
Date of review: 9/3/2016

 

                                                           Team Yankee by Harold W. Coyle     The historical fiction genre is not...

Team Yankee by Harold W. Coyle Team Yankee by Harold W. Coyle

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

                                                           Team Yankee by Harold W. Coyle





  

 The historical fiction genre is not one that I am well versed in. I usually like my history dry and full of actual facts, and not filled in with extras. However, there are a few historical fiction books that have really had a grip on me, and that I still reread from time to time. Allan Eckert's series of books on the colonial era are one example. Another was a book released in 1985 and is called 'Team Yankee'. It is a fictionalized account of World War III through the eyes of U.S. tankers in Germany trying to stop the Soviet onslaught. This is a review of the revised and updated version just released by Casemate Publishing. The book uses the strategic scenario from Gen. Sir John Hackett's book 'The Third World War'. 'The Third World War'  is another excellent historical fiction book.

 I will start with one caveat: this is a review of the physical book. There seems to be a lot of problems with the Kindle release of the book and its transcribing. Amazon has been working on trying to correct the issue.

  In this book you will see the war through the eyes of Captain Sean Bannon, and what he and his team experience through the first two weeks of WWIII. Bannon is in charge of Team Yankee, which is a tank company attached to the 3d battalion of the 78th Infantry. 

  The book starts with a Soviet attack in Europe. It really doesn't go into the background at all, but it doesn't need to. This book is really about low level combat, not sweeping strategic plans and options. It even goes into the effect the Soviet attack has on the wives and families of the American troops stationed in Germany. It was written by an actual VMI graduate who attended staff college and served with the tanks in Germany in the 1970s. 

  Captain Bannon is faced with the Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Germany that loomed over the US forces in West Germany for forty-five years. It is a tale of military muscle versus finesse. The Soviets would have a much larger force to use in their invasion, while Nato's available forces were much smaller. It shows (as do non-fiction books) that the US equipment and training was very advanced compared to the Soviet of the time. The different real wars around the world have always shown this when Nato and Soviet tanks, etc. have been matched up by other countries. The book provides maps of the different engagements to help the reader get his bearings on what is happening in the story.

  It is not only about warfare, but also shows the human side of war. The book shows the casualties, and sometimes the human frailties, that may not show up until put under a mountain of stress. You actually care about the characters and are proud of their exploits and saddened by their losses. The book has a few moments of seeing the war from the other side. You will not see many, but the book is really about the lives, battles, and sacrifices that the US company goes through.

  This book has been updated and re-released, with attention given to the historical plans and strategies that are now available to the author after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  Join me in reading about Captain Bannon and his troops' exploits during this 'what if' moment in time. Thankfully, most of us were completely unaware of how many times during this era that the ball  did almost fall. 

 The book is a product of the 1980s and shows it. It was a time that the people in the US started to have pride in the nation and the armed forces again. Therefore, the book might be a little 'gung ho' for some peoples' tastes. It is not meant to be a blueprint for history, but a plausible outcome for what might have been. In this the author succeeds wonderfully, and actually makes you care about Team Yankee and its soldiers.

  
 Robert


Author: Harold W. Coyle
Publisher: Casemate
Date of Review: 9/1/2016

 

ONUS ! by DRACO IDEAS Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus .  I knew it as meaning a burden o...

Onus by Draco Ideas: Review Onus by Draco Ideas: Review

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

by
DRACO IDEAS


Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus.  I knew it as meaning a burden or duty or obligation.  Not perhaps the most exciting title, though I had my image, whether of noble Roman or valiant Carthaginian, marching forth to do my duty or carry out the obligation that the burden of fate had laid on my shoulders.  Word from the designer has provided an even humbler perspective.  Onus in Latin conveys the idea of the weighty physical load carried by the ordinary marching legionary -  a heavy burden indeed.  So, here I am, metaphorical pack on back, ready to slog it down the road to death or glory at Cannae or Zama. 

[OK, secretly, I'm still the great Hannibal, braving blizzards and perilous Alpine passes with my elephants, on route for glorious victory at Lake Trasimene and Cannae]

The first thing to lift my weary soldier/reviewer's spirits is sight of the small, colourful box that the game comes in - that's not going to add much to the weight of the digging tool, spare kit, cooking utensils etc...  But, as they say, good things come in small packets. What a compact little war chest is to be found when you get inside the box! 

The war chest, opened, punched, bagged and repacked

[apologies for the quality of my camera work]


Hold on there, I'm getting a bit carried away.  Before I delve further into the components, just a few facts about what the game is about and why I'm so delighted to be reviewing it.

Giving its full title Onus! : Rome Vs Carthage helps.  What another game/simulation of the Punic war?  I still have the original Avalon Hill edition of Hannibal : Rome v Carthage and Punic Island Vol III in the Campaign Commander series, as well as several scenarios in my Command & Colours : Ancients, as well as Battleground : Second Punic War and am currently awaiting delivery in the next couple of weeks of my Kickstarter copy of Hands In The Sea.  So, why was I so pleased to receive such a small footprint game on this historical period and theme?

Well, the obvious answer is that I love all that comes under the umbrella title of Ancients and the Punic Wars, especially Hannibal, elephants and Alps! [Sorry, no Alps in a tactical game - compromises do have to be made.]  But, more than that, I had tried and failed [computer glitches!] to pledge to Onus! on Kickstarter and here I was being offered the chance of a copy to review the very game I had so wanted. 

The next reason was because the game offers the opportunity to fight a miniatures style game without all the problems of buying figures, painting them and storing them along with all the necessary terrain.  [Admittedly, terrain for Ancients battles does tend to be more minimal than for other historical periods.]  Even more important was the impression I had got from the Kickstarter advertising that here was a simulation using miniatures based rules that was accessible and easy to understand and was physically appealing too.

My final reason was that Onus was the first game produced by Draco Ideas and I had already greatly enjoyed playing and reviewing for A Wargamer's Needful Things a composite copy [original Spanish edition with basic English translation of the rules] of their yet to be published English edition of 2GM Tactics.  So, my expectations were high and especially my expectations of the rule book.  As this was going to be the key element for me, I'm going to break my usual pattern of starting with what I think of as a written unboxing  and instead head straight to the rule book.

I had read substantially about the original Spanish edition's rule book and, I confess, the impression given was not a flattering one. 


If you've read my review of 2GM Tactics, you'll know that Draco Ideas went for a cartoonish style of art work and, as you can see from the front of this game box, which is identical to the cover of the rule book, the same influence was there from the beginning.

However, just like 2GM Tactics, Onus's rule book is anything but cartoonish.  Small in size, but with a wealth of depth, it is a wholly serious product.  Print remains on the very small size with every page providing fairly dense text layout, but the main question would be how clear and comprehendible  they are.  The original Spanish rules had come in for some heavy flack regarding tone, which was seen as too chatty, with poor organisation and lack of clarity.  With no ability to read Spanish, I cannot comment on the validity of these complaints. 

What I can happily say is that these English rules bear no similarity whatsoever to that less than adequate picture.  Either those original comments were inaccurate or an excellent job has been done on improving them for the English edition.  First of all, the organisation of the rules is wholly logical, taking us through Set-Up and how to read the information on the unit cards, General cards and Order/Event cards.  A brief Game Sequence is followed by detailed sections on Movement, Charges, Ranged Attacks, Melee, Morale, Flight, the End of Turn and Victory Conditions. 

All is rounded out with brief sections on 3/4 player sessions, Solo play, five Scenarios and a simple Campaign linking the five together.  A very useful page of Golden Rules and a Modifiers Summary on the back cover are a great help, though I must admit that I did need to copy the Modifiers Summary page and enlarge it for easy reading!  There is even a two page Simplified Rules section that strips play down to very, very bare essentials, which could be highly useful for drawing younger gamers into the hobby.

Still, providing an organised rule book shouldn't be too hard a task.
Slightly more difficult can be making sure that they can be understood and then executed with relative ease.  I have to say that my past experience of miniatures rules, whether in the form of purely a rulebook intended for use with figures or in a professional games format like this one, has not been a happy one.  Even the simplest end such as the Strategos set by Philip Sabin or his ravishing Lost Battles boxed game ultimately left me too often confused and uncertain.  Certainly, I never achieved a level were I could largely just get on with the enjoying the game and not have multiple interruptions to check things, a situation that left me dispirited.

Thankfully, I can say that the rules for Onus! are clear, easy to understand and eminently workable.  In particular, Movement and Charges [consistently the most difficult aspect of figure games rules] are well explained with good, picture-illustrated examples.  Because you are moving over a table-top, not a nicely regulated, printed hex grid, and using the traditional measuring stick beloved of figure gamers, there will always be potential  for some uncertainty and argument, but that lies more with the gamer than the rules!  

However, this is the first time I've been able to  easily understand and achieve such things as how to extend either or both wings of a unit or envelop the flank or rear of a unit.  Charge rules in many, many games are the most complex and often awkward to explain and satisfactorily carry out.  Chalk up another successful detail in this game. 

Having once sat watching two miniatures gamers with a sheaf of rules spend a whole 10 minutes resolving one single melee with percentages calculated  endless modifiers added and subtracted and a final result of no losses to either side, I was glad to find melee too works smoothly with both Attacker and Defender throwing the same number of dice  according to the number of sections in contact. 

That's not to say that Onus! lacks the necessary refinements to cover details such as the benefits of the aforementioned movement against the flank or rear, as well as Attacker formation, cavalry v infantry, the presence of a general, broken status, previous wounds inflicted and more.  When you add the ability to throw in the effects of an Event too,  I was more than satisfied with this feature of the game.

I was very well pleased too with the moderate, but appropriate range of modifiers associated with the Melee section and the overall ease of application so that they were soon second nature and rarely needed any reference to the quick summary sheet that forms the back cover. 

I realise that the Battleground system has trodden a very similar path already, but having tried very hard to master Battleground : Second Punic War, here are the main reasons that Onus! has succeeded for me, where the other failed.

The simplest point was the much greater detail and clarity of the rules.  Battleground is sketchy, brief and too often hard to understand.  Next was the fact that the Battleground unit cards have to be marked with a dry-wipe marker pen to change stats as the game progresses.  Personally, I dislike having to write on any game components [even if designed for that purpose] and it is all too easy, when doing so, to get the ink on other elements.  Above all, lifting the cards out of melee contact and returning them successfully in position is a nightmare.

In Onus! these problems are avoided by the simple use of marker chits and I was amazed by the quantity and quality that could be packed into such a small box.


Just a small sample of the range included







And more

And more



As you can see an impressive array and those are only a proportion of the total provided.  I'm still not sure how they've managed to include so much physical material and how it still fits in the box even when I've bagged it up.

On top of that you've got all the unit cards: 30 Roman, 30 Carthaginian and 30 mercenaries.



A typical Punic [Carthaginian] Phalanx

Here's an idea of the range of Punic [Carthaginian] units: Libyan Spearmen, Punic Archers and Cavalry, Lusitanian Infantry, Armed Civilians, Punic Infantry and, what else but ... Elephants!   These are opposed by all the familiar Roman troops: Hastati, Princeps,Velites, Triarii and two different types of Equites while the Mercenaries bring more exotic elements like Celtiberian Infantry, Balearic Slingers and Numidean cavalry, along with a range of missile throwing machines.

Though there are generals, they are sadly few, but famous.


Whereas the number of dual Order/Event cards is  a very satisfying 72 and apart from the variety this provides, their dual use adds in that dilemma of choice that you may becoming familiar with recognising as a game mechanic popular with me.







The typical instructions on the Order half [yellow heading] of the cards are strongly reminiscent of the Command and Tactic cards in the Command & Colours system.  As the battlefield is not divided into sectors, there are no worries about only possessing cards that relate to sectors where you have no units, though I have found occasionally that I have a hand of cards where most of my Orders aren't useful to activate units to move or fire!  As the rules suggest, it's well worth marking those units that you intend to activate and, for once, that is not a type of marker the game contains.  Personally, I tend to use a small die, simple, clear and easy to remove once the unit has been activated and most gamers have more than enough extra dice to hand!

The Events on the other half of the cards [blue heading] are nearly all applicable to Combat in some shape or form and I appreciate  what they often add to the narrative of the game.  Suddenly discovering that your vulnerable enemy suffering a ranged attack has benefited from a Take Shelter card and has become much harder to hit or that an attack against you is strengthened by an additional and unexpected ranged attack give a great deal of flavour to my gaming experience. 

Inevitably Onus! does not have the extreme rapidity of play found in a treatment such as the Command & Colours expansions that make up the Ancients line and, if you've read my review of The Great War, you'll know how much I do enjoy those games.  But I have been well rewarded with a more detailed system that gives the right feel and visual effect of fighting a miniatures battle at a fraction of the cost in money, time and effort that buying  and painting figures and then finding a rules set that didn't drive me to distraction would have been.

I now have to worry about my flanks, about manoeuvring and not being able to move through friendly units without the cost of breaking my own units.  I can take into account formation changes and the particular benefits of certain types of unit and all without disappearing under a mountain of rules.

I was even more fortunate that Draco Ideas generously included in their package to me the Desert Battle mat which greatly enhances play.  Here the Carthaginians advance beyond the village/city [depending on whichever battle you imagine you're playing].



This gives a close-up impression of said village/city. 



Apologies that my camera work doesn't do full justice to this.

I hope in the not to distant future to be able to report back on the first two Expansions:  Onus! Greeks Vs Persians and Onus! Scenery & Fortresses.

[Meantime, a trip to the Iberian peninsular with old long nose himself, Sir Arthur Wellesley, in Espana 20 : Bussaco & Talevera looks on the cards.]







ONUS! Rome Vs Carthage

Normal price £27 approx.











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