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Competition Time! A CHANCE TO WIN THE LATEST STRATEGY HIT CIV VI!              All you have to do is comment in the co...

Two chances to win Civ VI Two chances to win Civ VI

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

Competition Time!

A CHANCE TO WIN THE LATEST STRATEGY HIT CIV VI!

 
 
 
 

 
 
All you have to do is comment in the comment box at the bottom of this article (say what you what as long as it's not offensive) and promise to spread the word about the blog when you have the chance, plus don't forget us during your browsing sessions:)
 
Closing date will be 1st Feb. Winner announced on the 2nd Feb:)
 
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

Edit: One thing. If you're coming up as "Unknown" then you will have to leave your name in the comment box otherwise I have no name for the draw:)


A SECOND CHANCE TO WIN!!

There is a post about the comp on our Facebook Page. Now if you also comment there and share the Facebook post your name will go in the draw twice!!

High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel By Victory Point Games  Before this game arrived, I did some d...

High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel by Victory Point Games High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel by Victory Point Games

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



By




 Before this game arrived, I did some digging on BoardGameGeek and found these other games about trials:

 'Trial' - 1971
 'Jury Trial' - 1996
 'The trial of The Century' - 1996 - really this is a spoof 
 'Nuremberg: Trial of The Century' - 1999
 'Trial Lawyer' - 1975
 'The Trial of Socrates' - 2009



 Other than the Nuremberg and Socrates trial games, there are no other famous trial games. There isn't one about Louis XVI or Charles I, for example. So the pick of the trial that sent Louis Riel to the hang man seems an odd choice. That is, if you are looking at it from non-Canadian eyes. For the Metis (mixed Native American and French-Catholic ancestry in Canada) and other western Canadians, the name Louis Riel is probably pretty well known. He was, and continues to be, a polarizing figure in Canadian history. The stranger fact about Mr. Riel is that his very sanity was, and is in the game, a very large part of the trial and his legacy.




 To give you some background information, Louis Riel was one of the founders of Manitoba and a politician in 1869 who was a leading person in a small rebellion of the Metis against the mostly English ancestry central Canadian government. It was effective enough to force the government to agree to a compromise about land rights, called the 'Manitoba Act'. Mr. Riel then fled Canada and lived in the U.S. for about fifteen years until a new powder keg of Metis grievances exploded in Saskatchewan. He came back to Canada to fight against the government forces, but this was not 1869. The railroads enabled the government to bring large numbers of actual troops and Mounties to crush this rebellion. During the years in the U.S., there was some question about his sanity, and how much of a grip he actually had on reality, along with some religious mania. I am just condensing his much greater history and that of the western expansion of the Canadian government to give the reader some background. Before the board game, I had no idea whatsoever about the man and his cause, and it opened up a whole new historical vista for me to explore.


 So enough about that; how is the game? Victory Point Games, who call themselves 'The Little Game company That Could' is the producer of this game. Wargamers might be more aware of their Napoleonic '20' series games




 The box is small, but the components are well done, with one caveat. I did have two counters that had one side of their printed face start to come off at a corner. This might have been my fault, as I did not use a razor knife to take them out. The first few came out so easily and with really no cardboard excess that I didn't think I needed to use one. Victory Point Games even includes a small napkin to deal with any left over charcoal on the counters.






 The components are as follows:

 50 Trail cards
 12 Juror cards
 1 Game mat
 2 Player aid cards
 1 counter sheet
   These include: 18 religion, 18 Language, and 18 Occupation markers
 The rules book 






 You can either play historically or you can add 5 'What If' variant cards to the deck. As with most games, when you set them up you will put the 'current round' marker on the game mat to show what round of play you are on. Then you take the 'evidence of guilt' and  'evidence of insanity' markers and put them on the '0' space on their tracks.

 The rounds are as follows:

 Jury selection
 Trial in Chief ( part one)
 Trial in Chief (part two)
 Summation 
 Deliberation

Start of the Game


 Jury selection is a very important part of the game, but it is not as cut and dried as most of us think. I will use two quotes from the designer to illustrate this. He is also a practicing attorney, so he should know.

 "The goal of jury selection is not discovering whom you want to keep on the jury, but whom you wish to excuse from it".

 "Remember your goal in jury selection is to sneak onto the jury those who, after the Trial in Chief cards are played, should be the most inclined to support your cause (Prosecution: English, Merchant, Government Worker, and Protestant; Defense: French, Farmer, and Catholic). Don't let the starting values of the various aspects fool you during Jury Selection! It is where they end the trail that matters, and there will be a lot of  of cards played between Jury Selection and Deliberation. Examine the deck, look at your Trial in Chief Events on them, and play to your cards' Event strengths!" 

 Each of the first three rounds both sides are dealt seven cards. You are able to use five and keep two for the last round. So you will be using a total of fifteen cards during the first three rounds, and saving six for the summation round. 

Game Mat and six juror cards


 You start with twelve jurors and both defense and prosecution use their five cards to find out as much as they can about the jurors. Are they French Canadian farmers or English government workers? Then both sides pare down the jurors until there are only six left. 

 The cards are a mini-history lesson by themselves. At anytime during the first three rounds you can ask for a 'Mulligan'. The only downside of this is you get one less card than you would normally. So if you kept two cards and asked for five, you would only get four and so on.

 You are able, by use of the cards, to lock both jurors and the religion, ethnicity, and their avocations' aspect tracks. Locking the jurors to your side is a very strong way of play. In the deliberations part of the game, a locked juror can sway others that he has something in common with. This can produce a snowball effect on the jury. 

A French Canadian Farmer juror card about to be locked for the defense


 If, at the beginning of the deliberation phase, the evidence of guilt marker is not at least in the number box two or higher, the prosecution has not proven its case and the defense wins. If the evidence of guilt marker is in the number two box or higher you continue with the deliberation phase. The evidence of insanity marker helps to sway the jury to the defense. If it is at a zero or a one, nothing happens; for each number over one you move the aspects marker toward the defense. After the deliberation phase, it is a simple process of adding up the guilt value of each juror. The aspect tracks influence the guilt value in a plus or minus way. If the guilt value is a combined score of 99 or lower the defense wins. If the score is 100 or above the prosecution wins.

 Once both parties have the rules and sequence order down pat, the game really only takes between thirty minutes to an hour. Where it really shines is the ability for replay. One would think that a historical trial would become rather stale after a few play-throughs. In reality, all of the different cards and the strategies that a player can use keeps it fresh. The use of  'What If' variant cards also helps to keep the game from getting stale. The game, while being both small and short, means that the gamer doesn't have to take up much space with it or leave it up for any long period of time. For a two player game that is going right now for $20.79, you cannot go wrong. In the 'Publisher's Note', Alan Emrich writes that he would like to see games made of other famous trials, with a list of them. I concur wholeheartedly with his ideas and most of his trial suggestions.



 Robert


 Designer: Alex Berry
 Publisher: Victory Point Games 
 Date of Review: 12/21/2016
 
 




Enduring the Whirlwind The German Army and The Russo-German War 1941-1943  By  Gregory Liedtke  I can hear the mu...

Enduring The Whirlwind by Gregory Liedtke Enduring The Whirlwind by Gregory Liedtke

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


The German Army and The Russo-German War 1941-1943 

By 






 I can hear the muttered groans: "another eastern front book". Just wait a minute, first because the book is fantastic, and second because it is not just another history. The author has spent a lifetime studying the eastern front, and not only that, he has come up with a new thesis. He challenges the etched in stone belief that the Germans were swamped by the Russians and could not keep up with the material and manpower losses. That should have perked up your ears.

 To begin with, the book is a treasure trove of information. It is not for the casual reader, or for someone looking for an overview. This book is a historian's goodie bag of minutiae about the German army and the first two years of the campaign in Russia. There are notes and references on almost every page. The bibliography is a full twenty-six pages! You will get the history of the OstHeer in the different operations during this two year span. The book not only shows the toll taken on the German Army, but also shows the terrible losses of men and materials that the Russians had to try to replace in that span of time.

 This is the first book of a new series called 'The Wolverhampton Military Studies' brought to you by the University of Wolverhampton. To quote from the series editor "With everyone of our publications we want to bring you the kind of military history that you will want to read simply because it is a good and well-written book, as well as bringing new light, new perspectives, and new factual evidence to its subject." With this first book in the series, they have succeed admirably. 

 The first chapter of the book goes back in time to show the state of the German armed forces in 1919, and its tremendous growth spurt from 1933 on. It also shows the tremendous in-fighting between the rival services. All of this growth was based on a resurgent Germany to be ready for a major war in the mid 1940s. Hitler's miscalculation of the effect his invasion of Poland would have on the western allies is crucial to understanding that in reality the German armed forces where not ready at the time for a large war. Having bluffed and been able to conquer on the cheap until June 1941, you can see that in no way was Germany ready for a war on the scale it fought in Russia. 

 The details of the book show that contrary to other histories, women were used in the work place at a higher level than the Allies at times. The surplus of armaments on hand were usually greater than their losses at most points. One thing the book brings out is even when the equipment was available in Germany, it was usually sitting by the rail heads unable to be shipped to where it was needed. The shortage of railways and of trains was felt from the beginning of the War in Russia until the end.

 The author has shown that between June of 1941 and July of 1943, the Germans were able to mostly make up for their losses on the eastern front. The author's hypothesis can be summed up in the last lines of his 'Conclusion': "In short, the German Army was able to generate forces of prodigious strength three times in the space of two and one-half years. If these efforts were ultimately insufficient to produce victory between June 1941 and July 1943, the root cause of Germany's failure during the Russo-German War reside elsewhere." He is able to show that the German Army was sufficiently staffed and equipped by the start of the Battle of Kursk. There are only two points I would like to make on this assumption. The death and wounding of so many veteran soldiers in the first two years of war certainly had an impact on the Heers ability to function. Being able to fill a manpower shortage is not the same as still having the core elements of your army's 'old hands' at whatever post they filled. The other point is that many authors have shown that Kursk itself was not a bloodbath of armor and men for the Germans as was once believed. They have shown that the defensive battles after Kursk were the real blood-letters of the German Army in 1943. I would like to see the author continue and do a book on the German losses from July 1943 to may 1945, and be able to see what he is able to glean about the actual Germans' ability to replace the losses in this time period also.

 All-in-all, it is an excellent and well written book that lives up to the editor's ideas for this new series of military history books. I cannot wait for more in the series to be released. Thank you Mr. Liedtke and Helion&Company for this great read.


Robert 


 Author: Gregory Liedtke
 Publisher: Helion&Company
 Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Strategic Command WWII -- War in Europe Board Game Precursors Let's face it, certainly one of wargamers' most beloved si...

Strategic Command WW2 - War in Europe PC Game Review Strategic Command WW2 - War in Europe PC Game Review

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


Strategic Command WWII -- War in Europe



Board Game Precursors

Let's face it, certainly one of wargamers' most beloved simulations has been strategic command in World War Two, especially in the European theater. Some must admit cutting their teeth on Avalon Hill's 1974  Rise and Decline of the Third Reich or possibly its 1992 successor, Advanced Third Reich. In fairness, let's not forget Australian Design Group's 1985-2007 World in Flames series and also Decisions Games card-driven  Krieg! World War II in Europe and its successors in 1999 and 2011. Another recent entry that scores good marks is GMT Games' Unconditional SurrenderThere are other board-games. too, but these are those the reviewer finds deserving of memorable accolade.

That's Old DNA; Get on with the PC Stuff!

Fair enough, just giving a taste of where all this originally debuted. The purpose of this article is to review the most up-to-date PC title of the Strategic Command Series, the latest being released by Slitherine on November 17th, 2016. 

Interestingly, this is a PC game that has a development story of its own. Just like board game players, PC players want more detail, performance and better graphics as the years go by. 

These sequences are money-makers for the gaming companies and we don't begrudge this. Most recently, I had purchased the last version of this game from the previous publisher, Battlefront: Strategic Command WW2 Gold Bundle. Amazingly, just after that, Jason asked me to review games at A Wargamer's Needful Things, so before I had ever played this older version, I was in the thick of looking over Strategic Command, WW2 in Europe.

The original developer, Fury Software, has moved to work on with Slitherine/Matrix. Fury has been culturing this series since 2007 and have made a splendid choice to continue to do so with the new publisher. Fury's craftsmanship and TLC approach is enhanced in this new iteration of the game; I can attest through gameplay that you will see a devotional level of attention and detail.


Let's Take a Look at the Manual

Before you start your PC engines bent on terror and destruction of the AI enemy, you'll need to check out the gaming manual. The document has excellent structure and detail, so you won't get lost.

The thing is, the AI, even on the novice level, will put you through your paces and won't pull any punches. This is one game where you will want essential understanding regarding the mechanics of:  HQs, supply, morale, purchases, rebuilds, reinforcements, scripted events and combat mechanisms for land/air/sea. You'll find everything you need in the manual, and it's worth paying attention.
Trust me, you'll 'feel the need'!

This is a PC wargame with the complexity of Advanced Third Reich; you'll need to understand how the systems work, while the computer program takes care of the implementation. To put it another way: if you plunge into the game, as I did, with only rudimentary comprehension, the AI will spank you here, there and all over if you let it. I lost half the Kriegsmarine in the early parts of the game for lack of preparation, for example. 


Essential Elements in the Manual

Where to begin? The good news is the manual is comprehensive and well-organized; the bad news, if any, is that you can't afford to skip it. 
One of the first choices you'll make

One of your easier decisions is choosing unit icons: silhouettes or NATO? I started with the former but eventually switched to the less glitzy but more utilitarian NATO view (showing my age, no doubt). 

Note: there is a lot of information you'll be shown on these icons, and the symbol meanings are not immediately obvious. You'll need to refer to the manual to know why units are flashing or not, why some have white dots on them, etc. Honestly, I never mastered all of this while playing the game but I'm convinced it was detrimental not to have done. 
these predictions are very helpful but there's more to the story...

The reason I failed to explore the details thoroughly can be blamed on too-heavy reliance upon onscreen combat predictions to make decisions. Players familiar with Panzercorps (for a review, click herewill easily recognize this helpful, if not comprehensive, feature. 
A must read; put it alongside your copy of of Baron de Jomini

Keep in mind that combat is conducted by individual units. Therefore, to defeat an enemy unit, it's important to attack sequentially with powerful assaults. For example: medium bombers can first defeat entrenchment levels, tactical bombers (e.g. stukas) then reduce the strength of the enemy, panzer units attack twice to punch through, infantry armies attack more effectively than infantry corps, and so on. Since all hexes have a stacking limit of one for all types of units, organization on the ground is a major factor of success. For example, one infantry unit can attack, then move away and make room for the panzer unit to finish it off. I found the AI was very efficient at this ( esp. compared to me!). 
Don't skimp on the research funds or you'll find panzer IIs fighting Stalin tanks! 

Success is also dependent upon the research and level upgrades the player decides to purchase for unit types. There are a lot of decisions to make with difficult-to-foresee long-term impact on the game. When you do see it, it could be too late! 
There are plenty of detailed reference tables
Be mindful of your political aspirations then pony up!
Not only will you need to research for weapons, but other countries may or may not join you depending on how much money you spend to influence their direction. During my game, I was able to manipulate both Spain and Turkey into the war. The former was much more important to my Axis focus on the Western Allies as it enhanced the U boat war (easier repair and resupply) and set up the loss of Gibraltar thereby allowing my Italian fleet infiltrate into the Atlantic (Stay tuned for some images of the battle over Portugal!) 
Did you forget to read this? 

Yes, I did read the strategy guide and it's very useful to keep in mind, but the part I didn't read up on sufficiently was this:
These decisions are made throughout the game and significantly impact strategic direction

In the case of my game, I thought I had to figure out how to invade Norway with the Kriegsmarine; as a result, I lost a few ships before a decision announcement was made by the game that I could pre-pay for an invasion of Norway. 

Oh, really?? 

At first, I thought this was kind of hokey, because inevitably in most strategic games, the simulation of the Norway invasion is not a bright bulb in the design. 'Here we go again' crossed my mind. 

Later, I was sending stuff over for the invasion of Egypt when I received another strategic decision point, and was asked if I wanted to invest in the Africa Corps or not. I said 'dummkopf what does it look like I am doing' as I had send a panzer division, additional corps and other air units already! 

As it turns out, these are the game's mechanisms to simulate funding for alternative operations that you may not want to spend money on. 

Because I had loaded up on units in Africa, I swept the British from all of the middle east and with Spanish help, I took Gibraltar. On the negative side, Barbarossa wasn't so hot, due to my heavy investments in the U boat war, naval capabilities and efforts versus the Western Allies. The strategic choices are the player's to make, but don't think the AI won't do something to counter your decisions. Meanwhile, it's making decisions on special scripts as well!
It's a double feature!
Before going into examples of gameplay, I mustn't neglect to mention that the designers have provided a thorough guide on the ability to product your own simulations with their gaming engines. To be honest, I did not have time to fully explore this, but if this portion is anything like the rest of this high-quality product, I'm sure  MOD wizards will be very happy indeed!


Gameplay Analysis - Axis


Late 1940 Highlights

Readers, I started the analysis from late 1940 because there is plenty of coverage out there on how to handle the Axis for the Polish and French campaigns. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that transferring units across the front takes a lot longer than you might anticipate. Strategic operation is quite expensive and digs into the pocketbook every time it's used. So make sure to start marching those units in Poland back to France at the earliest opportunity because you'll feel yourself unprepared to launch an incisive attack on France. It took me too long to conquer both countries.
Occupied France

Early on, get used to making sure the partisan centers are occupied: compare above image with that below:
Partisan centers in France. Why these spots need to be occupied.  
U Boats 1940 
Late 1940: the U Boats start to prowl more freely once the French fleet is no longer a factor. Note how AI has sent some Light Cruisers in and were ambushed by the wolfpack. CLs aren't too bad against subs, but CVs and DDs are better. 

The U boat war is important for Germany. The player needs to get the subs out there using 'silent mode;' then, once on top of the (red) convoy lanes, put them in 'hunt' mode to sink the merchant ships. This is represented abstractly (as in most strategic WWII games) as loss of money (or MPPs). 


June 1941


North Africa. The Axis will go on to overwhelm Britain here, in spite of Colonial reinforcements

A lot of Axis units were placed in North Africa due to a scripted decision that brings in Rommel and buddies. As previously mentioned, I had already sent a bevy of  reinforcements as soon as Italy entered in mid-1940. All these assets proved too much for Britain and her Pacific allies -- but the AI put up a valiant fight.
Diplomacy: Germany invests heavily in Spain and Turkey; ultimately they both enter the fray! 

Malta had been a problem interdicting supplies to North Africa, consequently slowing down my attacks. In turn, an effort was made to bring Spain in, so as to cut off supplies to Malta.  Eventually, the Germans got close enough to Alexandria to have air units hunt down the British Fleet, and after a series of heavy battles with naval air units and the Italian navy, The British force was KO'd, including a valuable carrier. The Commonwealth forces put up a stiff fight and a lot of money points were spent repairing naval forces and sending reinforcements to the Africa Corps ground units. Consequently, none of that money made it to the Russian front. 

One note -- it's a bit too easy to repair fleet units. Even if down to one point, it takes just one turn (usually two weeks) to sail them to a port, one more turn to repair them to full capacity (depending on how close the port is to a full supply source or home waters) and then they are back in action at a full 10 strength points. Of all the systems in the game, the naval system seems to be the most arbitrary -- not that it isn't fun! That's the balance to be found -- boring naval battles or fun ones. A difficult design decision and I am not unhappy with how Fury has gone about doing this.
This strategic view shows the forces for Barbarossa and the mass of units serving Rommel!
Just before Barbarossa: above is the strategic view of the situation. Notice how the units icons are clearly indicated for each of the nations. Shown are German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian units on the East and Baltic fronts. A few Italian troops have made their way East.  The Russian are weak at start, but based on my experience, I hadn't enough quality German units facing the communist foe. You can see that The Italian fleet is cautiously positioned in the Taranto area.

1941 -- End of the Year

North Africa

Disaster in Egypt -- Demoralization for the UK

The U Boats

The small strategic dots in the water areas show U Boat packs threatening the commercial fleets of the Western Allies and convoys to Russia. Note that Spain has just entered the war. The Italian fleet is poised to enter the Atlantic. You can see  the weather areas, grey and white showing winter. 
Iberia with neutral Portugal and Axis Spain. 
Gibraltar will be taken and the Italian fleet unleashed! 

But in Russia....


Close approach to Moscow but that is as close as I'll get!

Due to lack of an HQ in the area (uselessly sent to Finland) I could not and never did capture Riga. It also took a long time to reduce Pripyat marshes, again, due to insufficient HQ support. The Germans needed at least two more HQs and probably about 10 more armies in Russia. But I had spent the money on U boats and North Africa. There are trade-offs, and the AI knows about them! 

September 1942 -- USA in the War

U Boats and Raiders terrorize the Atlantic

1942 started out grimly for the Western Allies. Readers can see the extent of U-Boat operations, including an Italian Caribbean raider in the lower left corner.


Italian and German surface fleets poised to intercept potential Allied operations in the area

Massive funds had been spent in the West and naval superiority (or at least parity) was achieved for the moment. But as a consequence, the war in the East is a bit frightening for the Axis because not enough effort has been devoted to handling that front properly. 


September 1942: Disorganized Germans pushed well back from Moscow and beyond Smolensk.

December 1942 -- The Hinge of Fate?

Stabilizing the Russian lines and fending off the invasion of Portugal!
Detail of bitter fighting in Iberia; Axis fleets searching for and finding Allied troop convoys: 
The Bay of Biscay is now known as Ironbottom Bay
The war in the East had started to resemble WWI fighting, with massive attrition casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, the Germans continue to send heavy forces to beat down the late 42 incursion into Portugal and Spain. Heavy tanks have been sent to counter USA armored corps in the south. But once again, the Germans fail to send enough HQs to the front -- evidently another will be needed in the south. Players need to take care of this -- supplies and support from nearby HQs can make all the difference. The Spanish performed poorly, even on home turf, until the Franco HQ was sent back from the Russian front in early 1943. 

April 1943

A good turn for Germany and friends!

1943 is a stabilizing year for the Germans as I finally get my act together on managing the Russian hoard, which is not to say they are fully leashed by any means. And in the West, some nice counterattacks sink the Hood and destroy some valuable American land forces. Note that this Combat Summary is received every turn something is destroyed -- of course, sometimes the news can be pretty bad!

More vicious fighting in Portugal. That carrier hovering north of Spain will be located next turn and sunk by wolfpacks returning from raiding the Atlantic! The Axis are able to cycle their naval units for repair in southern Spanish ports and specially built-up St. Nazaire in Brittany. This is devastating for the Western Allied AI as it struggles to get a foothold.

More Axis units fighting to control the channel. 
By now the WA have lost 5-6 carriers due to aggressive operations

In general, the AI does a fair job handling the naval units, but losses are a bit more random and dramatic than what is usually seen on land. Once the carriers expose themselves and fail to hide after some rounds of attacks, they are exposed to counterattacks by surface vessels or U boats in range. I'd say the AI suffered more than it gave in these battles. But it is fair to keep in mind that the Germans invested heavily in U boat numbers and repairs. Most definitely the Axis were fighting a western front strategy in this game. 


June 1943


WA invasion is in trouble. Many Western Capital ships have been lost. 
The WA can't get supplies or air units through,

Strong USSR forces can pound the minors. Romania is getting nervous! 

Gameplay Observations


Readers, due to time constraints and commitments, I needed to finish this review before completing the entire war, but I do feel as if I can make some valid observations about this fine computer simulation. 

Overall

First and foremost, the game and scripting (that is, decision events) build a sense of tension for the upcoming campaigns. Additionally, these provide some structure for novice players, such as myself. Note that I did play this on the novice level and felt sufficiently challenged by the AI. 

One could make the point that scripted events are also a kind of way for the designers to 'get away with' not simulating difficult aspects of the game. But this is not unusual in board games that cover the strategy of WWII. Norway is notoriously difficult to simulate. The designers decided to cover the invasion with an abstract decision to do so or not. If the German player decides to do it, the invasions of Norway and Denmark are automatically successful (don't waste time and resources doing a land campaign in Denmark like I did!). The same is true for a scripted decision -- or not -- to send Rommel to North Africa. While I haven't played the Allied side yet, I'm sure the same scripting is conducted in  various situations on their end. One I witnessed, that was not historical, was the British occupation of Irish ports to facilitate Atlantic operations. 

Finally, I must point out that one seriously enjoyable element of the game is how seamlessly intertwined game actions can be conducted. One can start moving around some subs, then move on to the east front, then make purchases or reinforcements, stop doing that and conduct diplomacy then come back to land attacks. Nothing is phased in any sort of rigid sequence of events. That's all handled by the program after the player pushes the 'end turn' key. 

Land, Air and Naval Systems


Obviously crucial to any simulation of WWII in Europe is how land maneuvers and combat are handled. The game avoids the mechanic of gathering forces for odds-based attacks, instead simulating combat as sequential attacks by individual units. I haven't made up my mind if I like this or not. It can be difficult to manage and predict how units are to be organized on the ground for an upcoming series of battle attacks to destroy enemy units for breakthroughs. My conclusion is that my inexperience is a factor. But not even the AI did much in the way of breakthroughs. Combat seemed to be more 'attritive' and 'WWI-ish' than what reminded me of the bulk of WWII maneuvering combat. Certainly, there were cases of attrition and stalemate in WWII, but I'd like to see that as more of an exception in this game. Perhaps with more experience playing, I would indeed be able to see more battles of encirclement than sequences of head-on attacks. 

The air war is simulated pretty well, but again, highly based on attrition and reinforcement. The sequence of how air attacks are handled is at first abstract and then later simply becomes a bit repetitive in how it is represented in a series of pop-up windows. More exciting would be a series of animation screens. 

The naval war simulation is likely to generate the most controversy. Naval units, like any other units, cannot stack. Therefore, it is impossible to represent the fleet as based in a single port, such as Scapa Flow or Taranto. One ship can be in a port, the others are going to be floating around at sea unless they find another haven. However, the fog of war makes up for this, as ships cannot be seen unless scouted by the enemy with air or other fleet units. And it can be a bad idea to get surprised at sea by running into a vessel, ambush is very possible. Personally, while I had my doubts about the naval system, in the end I rather enjoyed it. Moving a naval unit is fraught with tension! Will I discover an enemy carrier I can send my battleships after? Or will my sub run into a barrage of depth charges by finding a DD unit guarding the sea lanes? 

Overall, I'm very happy with the combat systems in the first playing of this game; I'm sure, as a newbie, I missed some very important nuances about all three forms of combat interactions. 


Production, Research and Diplomacy Simulation


These elements seemed to work well. Players should keep in mind that production is not immediate, nor are diplomatic results. The same is true for researching new capabilities. It's important to remember that for some research, the breakthroughs still require upgrading the units in the field to the better weapons! I definitely struggled with this trying to push to the East. You can't fight if you are upgrading and reinforcing. 

My only bone to pick with the game is that it's much too easy -- or seems so -- to reinforce naval units that have been severely damaged. They are back up and running withing a couple of turns, and this is simply not how quickly naval units can be refitted. I do think this is something for the developers to look at in the next go-round.


National Morale Level Simulation

Of all the elements, I found this the most murky. Perhaps I needed to read the manual on this in more depth. But why does Poland's morale stay on the display after it is conquered? Or France's? One thing the software does mostly well is get rid of or hide unnecessary data,  but not so this. Also, when your national morale level is, for example, 99,248, then a player gets an additional 300 +/- morale for sinking the Hood, well, so what?  It's shruggable. Why 300? Why not 1000? Plus the game doesn't tell you how much morale the British have lost by losing the Hood. This is one simulation area that could use a bit of fleshing out to become more meaningful for the player. 

Recommendation for Purchase

By all means! Especially if you enjoy strategic simulations of WWII, you won't be disappointed and the game feels as if it is highly re-playable. Take note that there is a more than moderately steep learning curve for this PC game. The manual is digestible, but not in one reading. This is a game that will take time to master, especially until multi-player is available (enabling teaching situations). Right now the quickest way to learn the game is to play it, in spite of the helpful videos out there. There is that much to take in, so if you are looking for beer and pretzels, this might be a bit much. Otherwise, enjoy the banquet! 


Sanctus Reach Trailer!     Click to go to Steam page

Sanctus Reach Trailer. Looks like it will be a huge hit! Sanctus Reach Trailer. Looks like it will be a huge hit!

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

Sanctus Reach Trailer!

 
 

Click to go to Steam page



'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 by R Nicol book review Reading so many military history books covering WWI and ...

'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 book Review 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 book Review

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'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 by R Nicol book review




Reading so many military history books covering WWI and WWII I started to notice one company in particular never let me down. Every book I read that came out under their name I enjoyed from start to finish. Infact many I'd have happily placed in my top ten book list and those that didn't wouldn't be far off. This company is Helion. Though they fall under Casemate (who also publish great reads) if I see a book that looks interesting and then I note it's published by Helion it becomes a definite buy. So if a book has caught your eye, but maybe you're in two minds check to see who publishes it. If it's Helion then I say buy it! So when I noticed this book was published by Helion I knew I had to read it! I had to review both volumes for the blog!

Unlike my colleague and AWNTs other book review Bob, I love books that that take it down to the soldier in the frontline level. Were Bob likes his books about Strategy and the big picture, I prefer books that take me down to a trench and the individual soldier, describing what he witnessed and felt, introducing me to his comrades. In a strange way I feel reading these books (fair to say mainly memoirs) help keep these soldiers alive, even though sadly many you get to know will die during the course of the book. So 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & 2 looked like it would be a winner, WWI (my obsession), Helion and promising to take me down to the trenches with the Scots Guards sounds perfect, surely it must be a winner....



Funny enough though I've read alot of WWI books I haven't read any that are based around a particular regiment rather than an individual soldier. Actually I tell a lie, the excellent series by Jack Sheldon "The German Army on\at...." and the superb "The Otherside of The Wire" by Ralph Whitehead (more on that later) are along similar lines but covering a German Army\Corps, were this two volume set covers a renowned British regiment. "The Otherside of the Wire" By Ralph Whitehead (Helion) is actually my benchmark when it comes to in-depth research by an author. This series easy has a place in my top ten books of all time. Ralph's research into the soldiers mentioned in the two volumes currently released is amazing, the best I've read so far and I thought no one could do it any better. 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again I hoped would be just like "The Otherside of the Wire" but this time looking at a British unit. So everything is in the books favour, will it come close to "The Otherside of the Wire"..

Well, as soon as I started reading I knew this was going to be something special. The book starts with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, about to leave the UK and then follows them as the cross the channel and head towards their first engagement and the battle of Mons, it then stays with them through the long retreat and then finally the counter attack and the battle of The Marne. It soon becomes apparent how much research the author has done. More or less every soldier mentioned in it's pages, esp those that die or are wounded in any actions mentioned (if wounded it says if he gets sent back to the frontline or not) have their background described, were they lived, when they signed up, their previous job, who they are married to, who their parents were, if he had any children, if he had been in any trouble whilst in the ranks, even down to any tattoos he has and where and what they are of! I love this sort of detail! The author has used not only the regiments diary but also letters sent to loved ones and any interviews taken after the War. At one point I was reading extracts from a letter written by a Officer, during which he has to break off from writing due to a barrage. He then continues to finish the letter. A couple of paragraphs later this same Officer is killed and you find out the letter was taken out of his pocket and sent to his loved one with any other personal articles he had had with him when killed. He had just been told his wife was expecting another child. It's this sort of detail that brings it all home. For me makes it all real and keeps these men in living memory. The second chapter then goes to the 2nd Battalion who crossed later than the 1st. It follows them through the first battle of Ypres, a terrible baptism of fire. The third chapter then goes back to the 1st battalion and describes their experience of "The First Battle of Ypres". The two volumes continue in this way going back and forth between the two battalions, yet it never gets confusing and is very easy to follow. Volume 1 goes from 1914 to July 1916 and the start of the battle of the Somme.



Volume 2 carries on were Volume 1 finished right through to 1919. A slightly smaller book than Vol 1 it doesn't let you down. I'm sure after finishing volume 1 you'll want to get Volume 2 as soon as possible. R Nicol hasn't let the men of the Scots Guards down and this book is a fantastic testament to their deeds through "The Great War". If any member of your family actually fought with the Scots Guards during WWI this is more than just a must buy..you HAVE to buy it!

Now did R Nicol manage to uphold my feelings about Helion and did he infact come close to "The Otherside of the Wire", what I consider to be pretty much the perfect military history book? Well yes and no. Yes I still see the name "Helion" as a mark of a good read but coming close to "The Otherside of the Wire"? A tough ask and I have to say he didn't just come close, he matched, if not over took Ralph's work in my top ten list! I mean achievement. I have no hesitation in recommending this superb series. It had everything I want in my history books in spades, with a cherry on top! It definitely goes in my top ten if not top five books of all time. Again Helion didn't disappoint. Helion must be the jewel in Casemates crown! It will be a long time, if ever, before I forget the men of the Scots Guards and their experience of WWI which is all thanks to R Nicols superb research and writing skills. If you're like me and love books that take you down to the frontline and the experiences of the soldiers and officers in the line then this two volume set is a must buy. Even if WWI isn't really the conflict you're interested in I still say buy it as I'm sure once finished it wont be the last book you read on WW1. Only if you prefer the more dry books which look at the bigger strategy etc (yawn) like my colleague Bob should you look elsewhere. If you check the book reviews on the website by Bob you'll most likely find the type of book that appeals to you reviewed there. One thing I will say is that Helion also publish the type of book that appeals to those like Bob as he too has been impressed with their offerings!

So "'Till The Trumpets Sound Again" Vol 1 and Vol 2 by R Nicol impressed me no end. Very few things will I whole heartedly recommend for people to spend their hard earned money on. I certainly don't want to do a review that entices someone to buy it on my word and then not  be happy. However every now and again something comes along where I have no doubts what so ever in recommending to people and this is one of those times. If you enjoy the same sorts of books that I do then it's a no brainer...buy it! It's everything I want and more when it come to a military history book. R Nicol should be very proud! It's books like this that in recent times has made me go for the hardback edition rather than the soft back. I like to keep my books in good order. I once let someone borrow a book of mine and when it came back to me it looked like it had actually gone through the War..never again! 

 With in the pages of this two volume set are the reasons why I became obsessed with WWI, devouring book after book on the War. Those like me will under stand what I mean by this. I hope after reading these two books that maybe one or two other people will understand what I mean and also become obsessed with WWI. That might even be you!

Until the next time...happy reading!

21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division A Review The author, Angelo Caravaggio, has ...

21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division 21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division

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21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division

A Review



The author, Angelo Caravaggio, has put together a detailed historical account and explanation for the Normandy performances of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division and it's commander, Major General George Kitching. The book endeavors to explain and examine critical factors that have lead previous historians to conclude that neither the commander nor the division performed up to battlefield expectations. 

Those readers who enjoy precise descriptions of commander functions and military definitions will be pleased with the in-depth research the author has undertaken to explore just what happened in those 21 days in Normandy. In fact, nearly 100 pages of the 289-page book are devoted to appendices detailing historical information about operational plans/instructions, conference notes, operational intentions, strength returns, chapter notes, an extensive bibliography and of course a thorough index. 

While analyzing such comprehensive information not everyone's cup of tea, Mr. Caravaggio no doubt found it necessary to include this as a means of bolstering his case that the 4th Armoured Division and General Kitching had been unfairly treated in previous accounts of the relevant Normandy actions. War plans Totalize and Tractable were unevenly applied during the race to close the Falaise gap; to a certain extent, the 4th was blamed for some of the failure to ensnare the thousands of Germans who did escape; albeit abandoning most of their equipment in the process of beating a hasty retreat.



The Commanders



from the book: Canadian Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Guy Simonds (left)
and 4th Canadian Armoured Commander Maj. Gen. George Kitching

The author does a convincing job recounting the various challenges faced by Kitching during the series of Normandy battles: a) training in brigade structure initially and, unlike other armoured divisions, not having time to change/train with the new and more flexible task force structures before the major operations designated Totalize and Tractable; b) losing valuable training time by being forced to waterproof all tanks, which turned out to be an unnecessary waste of valuable time; c) the mediocrity and/or lack of experience of Kitching's brigade commanders; d) the ongoing personal friction between Simonds and Kitching; e) the complex yet ill-considered design structure of both operations, resulting in compressed frontages for armoured maneuvering and subsequent inability of the following infantry brigades to support tank operations; f) the inflexibility of scheduling carpet bombing that leading to attack delays and g) language barriers and operational differences between the 4th and the Polish Armoured Division during the Falaise end-phase. 


The Attack Plans

from the book: complicated operational plans, in this case, Totalize
One of the main hindrances was the command structure forced upon subordinate units. Field Marshall Montgomery rigidly expected that orders and plans were to be followed precisely, thus limiting spontaneous field decisions. Further, Simonds was a bit of a micromanager in the sense that he did not give his division commanders reign to determine their own battle plans but instead took it upon himself to issue the detailed orders from Corps level. 

As mentioned earlier, the 4th Canadian Armoured also suffered from the less flexible pre-invasion brigade structure, which confounded combined operations between tank and infantry elements. Notably, during actual operations, many of the initial brigade commanders were early casualties; new commanders were forced to assume command on the spot. According to the author, this actually helped the various formations succeed because the training at those levels had been very good; the new leaders were forced to improvise tactics that were more spontaneously task-force oriented. If we are to accept the conclusions of the author, the 4th did  fight with much more cohesion and success than history gives it credit. Nevertheless, due to the overall inability of the Canadian Corps to achieve a closure of the Falaise gap, Kitching was relieved as the commander for negligence, ostensibly due to personal conflicts with others in combination with the failure to achieve operational goals. Someone had to be found as a scapegoat in this situation. 

21 Days in Normandy could appeal to the harder core military history enthusiasts who appreciate detailed acronyms, comprehensive explanations of commanders' duties, extensive tables of order and equipment, copies of actual orders and information of similar ilk. More time could have been spent engaging in narratives about the actual fighting, but that is, of course, a matter of preferential bias. The reviewer considers that this book will be especially attractive to enthusiasts of Canadian operations in the Normandy battles; those who are already familiar with the previous reputations and actions of the formations under scrutiny here

To all of whom this appeals, I think you will tremendously enjoy this book! -- Marc Hanna


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