second chance games

Search This Website of delight

         

The Great War - Official Trailer The Great War - Official Trailer

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

 
 
 
 
 

In the grim dark future of the 41st millennium, there is only war. That war now spreads to the Knight world of Alaric Prime as the R...

Warhammer 40K: Sanctus Reach Warhammer 40K: Sanctus Reach

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




In the grim dark future of the 41st millennium, there is only war. That war now spreads to the Knight world of Alaric Prime as the Red Waaagh! led by Grukk Face-rippa invades the planet. Only the Space Wolves, the Norse themed chapter of the Space Marines, stand ready to defeat the hordes of Orks pouring across the surface. Sanctus Reach is a turn based tactical game depicting the campaigns fought in that war, at the scale of individual squads, vehicles, and weapons teams.

Sanctus Reach is the latest strategy title from veteran wargame publisher Slitherine, however, the developer is the rookie studio Straylight Entertainment. While I'm not privy to exactly how the Slitherine development process works, it is clear that Sanctus Reach draws heavily from other recent Slitherine productions. Fans of Battle Academy 1+2, Pike and Shot, or Sengoku Jidai will immediately feel at home in this game, as the controls and interface are very similar. Notably, this is the second Warhammer 40k title from Slitherine, with the first being WH 40k: Armageddon, which drew a great deal of its design influence from Panzer Corps, as opposed to Battle Academy. Now, enough with the pedigree, let's kill some xenos scum!


Space Wolves vs Orks. There will be blood, lots of it.

One thing is immediately apparent upon playing Sanctus Reach for the first time: this is, by a mile, the best looking 3D game that Slitherine has ever published. The units are highly detailed and smoothly animated, rivaling or besting those seen in screenshots for the upcoming Dawn of War 3. While the units will spend most of their time standing around waiting for their turn to fight, they will look fantastic doing it. The combat is also far bloodier than one might expect from Slitherine. Blood gushes out of units with each hit, and Orks often explode into chunks of meat when killed, accompanied by appropriately gruesome splattering sound effects. Think chunks of wet meat being thrown against a wall.

Speaking of getting into the fight, let's jump right into the meat of the game, the combat itself.  While there have been many recent titles set in the Warhammer 40k universe, none have really come close to depicted the table top game itself. No doubt Games Workshop is leery of letting a PC game exist which mimics the exact gameplay of their flagship product. Why would anyone spend a small fortune on models, paint, and rule books when they could just fire up a PC game that gave them the same experience? Having never played the table top game myself, I won't attempt to make a direct comparison, but certainly Sanctus Reach comes closer than anything else seen before. If the game spawns a series of DLC and expansions like Armageddon has, we could be looking at the go-to game for Warhammer 40k fans seeking a digital turn-based fix.

The combat in Sanctus Reach takes place on a square-based grid which stretches across bleak and ugly (in a good way) locales dotted with ancient ruins, dead forests, human military bases, industrial centers, and Ork encampments. Terrain can play a key role in strategy, as many objects provide cover from ranged fire, while others block line of sight entirely. With each faction fielding many melee focused units, careful positioning around various objects is critical to holding the line and keeping the squishier ranged units safe. Each side in this conflict actually has 30 different units available, each with a distinct role to play on the battlefield. On your turn, every unit can be activated in whatever order you choose. Each unit can attack twice, move a certain number of squares, and in some cases utilize a special ability. Once all of your units have been exhausted, your opponent gets a chance to go. This style of gameplay is a tried and true one, and it gets a few new tricks in Sanctus Reach. The facing of every unit can be adjusted before ending your turn, and you will want to do this carefully, as each combatant gets one free reaction shot against enemy units moving into its line of fire during the opposing player's turn. On your turn, you will be warned about these reaction shots by seeing the movement grid turn red in spaces where the enemy could get a free shot. Facing is even more important for vehicles, as their armor is usually weaker on the sides and rear. Helpfully, the facing of the hull and turret can be set independently for some vehicles.

Unit morale is a factor in the combat as well. An important early tactic for keeping the swarms of weaker Ork units at bay is to hit them with the flamethrower unit, which does good damage across a wide area but more importantly causes a massive drop in morale for any units caught in the flames. This makes it easy for your other units to mop up without much fear of reprisal. Morale matters less for the Space Marines themselves, however, since they will almost always die fighting long before they panic and run. I expect if there is an Imperial Guard campaign in the future, the player will have to pay much more attention to this value.


The Orks have all sorts of nasty toys on hand.

With all of the different unit types available for you and the enemy, you must be deliberate with each decision. Rushing a unit forward to finish off a foe could leave it vulnerable to being surrounded on the enemy's turn. On the other hand, setting up an ambush, with multiple units' reaction fire targeting a likely approach, could net you a free kill. You must always consider strengths and weaknesses of unit types as well. Meltagun infantry are awesome at taking down armored units and vehicles, but are completely useless in a close up brawl. Flamethrower units can send packs of Orks running, but hardly scratch even the lighter Ork vehicles. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of Sanctus Reach, fielding a balanced mix of units and utilizing them in the most efficient way possible. You will need to be efficient, because the Orks vastly outnumber the Space Marines in every scenario. Against these mobs of greenskins, sloppy tactics will get your force wiped out in a matter of a few turns. More than once I saw the first wave of the enemy approaching and thought that there was no way my little army of Space Marines would survive.  However, by employing solid tactics I could (usually) scrape out a victory or even turn the tide and mercilessly slaughter the fleeing Orks. The larger battles are particularly engaging, as you are often forced to spread your forces out to different hot spots at the same time. Choosing where to send your best units is always a challenging decision. Scouting units even manage to play an important role at times. Getting a couple of turns warning to shift your defenses, or knowing exactly how many units you will need to take a victory point, is always useful and could make the difference between victory and defeat.

This game achieves one thing in particular, something that is important in any strategy game, and that is feeling a sense of satisfaction when your forces are pulling ahead in the fight. In almost every mission of Sanctus Reach, you will be faced with large groups of greenskin units rushing at your brave Space Marines. There is tension and a sense of imminent peril in these moments. However, make the right choices, put your men in the right places, and you will be turning green Orks into red chunks left and right. What was once a deadly horde is now scattered and fleeing before your soldiers, and it feels great.

The game's AI does a good enough job leading its forces most of the time. That's not saying much considering the lore accurate tactics for Orks is to simply have them attack, attack, attack. However, you will find that the AI can give you a good run for your money if you aren't paying attention. It will focus on an exposed unit, or ignore a unit it can't really damage to rush past towards one that it can. At other times though, the AI seemed indecisive, and would have a few units uselessly meander around at the edge of a battle.

I found that there were a few balance issues in the build I was playing, but the developer notes indicated that they were still tweaking things, so I won't knock the game for that. In particular, the Ork Battlewagons seemed grossly overpowered, able to often kill entire Space Marine squads in one turn from a long distance, while being almost indestructible. I also encountered a few bugs and minor annoyances like the camera not being able to pan far enough to see the entire field at certain zoom levels and other minor UI glitches. These all seemed like small issues which could be cleaned up in short order. At no point did the game crash or show signs of anything less than silky smooth performance.

On the whole, I think this engine fits Warhammer 40k quite nicely. The combat is at that sweet spot of squad-level maneuvering where you get a bit of that X-COM tactical feel, but on such a scale that every battle feels like an important struggle. It also is granular enough for it to make sense that your hero units are running around on their own, using special abilities and taking on entire Ork squads alone. The system definitely has the flexibility to allow for the other factions of the 40k universe to make an appearance in the future. Other factions will necessitate different tactics, which will only enrich the experience on offer here. While Space Marines can hold their ground against most any Ork unit, an Imperial Guard army would need a lot more artillery backing up their lines of numerous, yet weak troopers. An Eldar army could be especially interesting to play, using hit and run tactics to pick off exposed units, without the need for the frantic mouse clicking and micro-management of an RTS. There are a lot of possibilities to be explored here. I expect that this game already has an extensive list of DLC and expansions lined up for production, and I think it will do well in the long run, but there are some rough edges that need smoothing out in the meantime.


The Space Wolves prepare to attack.

There were many instances in this game where I felt like a feature was done well in one way, but fell short in another. For example, when your Dreadnought units move, each step causes the camera to rattle just a bit, adding some real weight to the footfalls, but, those steps don't leave any kind of footprint on the ground or kick up dust. Many objects like walls and barriers can be destroyed by manually targeting them, but not even your flamethrowers can get rid of a dead tree blocking your line of sight. Melee combat has some impressive gore effects and Ork heads rolling on the ground, but the actual attack animations don't have that much variety to them. I realize this is an effort from a smaller studio, but everyone knows the fun of Warhammer 40k is 50% about the spectacle of over the top carnage. The ranged attack animations and effects are generally better, especially for the flamethrowers and explosives. Also, did I mention how good the blood and gore is in this game? It's really good, and you will see it often. Sound is certainly a mixed bag as well. Some weapons, like the missile launchers and flamethrowers, sound great, while others, like the meltagun or bolters, sound downright puny. There were also a couple of sound effects which seemed to be completely missing. The music is adequate, dark and moody, but as far as I could tell there were only a couple of tracks, or they all sounded exactly same.

There is one major feature of the game that I feel falls into this mixed bag category as well. The campaign structure itself. On the one hand, you get two lengthy campaigns with a lot of missions, but many of those missions are just random skirmishes. These skirmishes have no flavor to them really, which isn't that bad on it's own, but you are forced to grind through three of them between each story mission. I feel like there was so much more they could have done with these missions. Perhaps have the player choose two out of three missions, with each one offering some kind of bonus for the coming set-piece battle, or adding a unique unit to the available roster. Or, throw in some kind of gameplay altering rule change or unit limitation in a skirmish to force a change in tactics. As it stands, these missions are simply filler, there to lengthen the campaign and not much else. The unique story missions are much more interesting. These have you fighting through some kind of specific scenario, such as assaulting a fortress, escorting transports, or fending off an Ork ambush. Later in each campaign you get the chance to take on the big baddies of the Waaagh!


Actual screenshot from my PC. These are some good looking Space Marines!
One cool aspect of the campaign is that your units persist from mission to mission and gain experience. When they level up they become more powerful and can gain new abilities. This of course gives you an incentive to keep them alive and get as many kills as possible. I also liked how every unit has an individual name, letting you grow more attached to them over time as they purge xenos and live to tell the tale. As units grow in abilities, you gain a lot more options in how to fight. There are all sorts of grenades and other items that put different effects on enemy units, like stunning them or dropping morale. Units can also get buffs to attacking particular enemy unit types, like vehicles. As you face larger groups of enemies, using these abilities to the max becomes critical to your survival.

Now I must come to my single greatest letdown with this game: There is not nearly enough "fluff" for my tastes. You know, that part of any Warhammer 40k game or book where the characters talk about purging and cleansing and dying for the Emperor? You get only just a whiff of it here. The story is told through mission briefings that are, at best, one paragraph long, and seem to assume that you already know who the characters are and what they are doing. For example, the description for the first campaign describes your unit commander impatiently launching his forces towards battle on the planet below, then picking up a distress signal on the way down. Great, sounds interesting! Then you launch the first scenario, which has your forces defending a crashed Thunderhawk, with the objective to capture a nearby communications tower. How did we get here? I guess the ship was shot down, the game doesn't take time to explain. Why do we need to reach that communications tower? Because the mission briefing says so. Oh, okay, I guess. Do we get an explanation of the situation once the mission is completed? Nope, nothing at all. This pattern continues through each campaign. It feels like there is a story going on, but it is told through the briefest of dialogue snippets. Don't forget the three skirmishes between each unique scenario, which have no specific context at all, and spread the 40k butter far too thin.

The level design of the "set-piece" battles is often interesting, and the scale ramps up until you are fielding massive forces and wreaking havoc on the Ork horde with all sorts of fun toys, but, rarely does it seem to have much of an overarching purpose. I have to compare this with Warhammer 40k: Armageddon. As mentioned, this was another title published by Slitherine that came out a couple of years ago. One of the most well regarded features of that game was the lengthy and well voice-acted dialogue that occurred before and during missions. The tutorial campaign alone in that game was five missions long and used that time to introduce and develop various important characters, while building up tension towards the start of the actual campaign. Events would routinely occur in the middle of missions, potentially changing your objectives, with characters popping in to comment on what was happening, and sometimes even offering you a choice in how to proceed with the story. There are characters in Sanctus Reach, there is the extensive lore of the Space Wolves, and there is some kind of ongoing story about the battle for Alaric Prime, but it is all referenced in the barest of detail. In Armageddon, you really felt like your forces were fighting in a grim war to save the planet, with the story dictating your goals from mission to mission. I did not get that feeling from Sanctus Reach. The actual gameplay within the missions was fun, but at the end of each one you simply get a screen saying you won, with no narrative follow-up at all, then it's straight back to the mission selection screen. It's a very anti-climatic way to end even the most exciting of battles. Armageddon did it so much better, and any future campaigns for Sanctus Reach or its sequels should take a note from that playbook.

Okay, with that done, I would like to hit on a couple positive notes before wrapping up.


The Imperial Knight in its natural habitat, knee deep in Ork corpses and wreckage.
Multiplayer. I wasn't able to get in a multiplayer match of Sanctus Reach, but it works exactly the same as Battle Academy, which I have played online quite a few times. The game uses Slitherine's excellent automated PBEM system, which allows players to play without needing to both be on at the same time. You can set up a game and then wait for someone else to come along and accept your challenge. Then you take your turn and wait for the other player to take theirs, without needing to keep the game running if you aren't both playing at the same time. This means you can even have multiple games going simultaneously. Just log on at your convenience, play your turn for two or three or more matches, then log off and come back later.  In multiplayer you will get the chance to try out the Orks for yourself, which should offer a sharp change of pace from how the Space Marines handle. I really look forward to seeing how future content will expand this area of the game. Hopefully we will eventually get access to a few more factions like the Imperial Guard or other Space Marine chapters at the very least. The potential is there to some day have a game using this engine where the Tau, Tyranids, Eldar, Orks, Chaos, and more can face off in online turn-based matches. This could be the "killer app" for Slitherine if that happens.

Editor and Mods. It's hard to say at this point what people will make, but if Battle Academy is any indication, you can expect to see a lot of new maps for multiplayer and single player becoming available over time. On the mod side of things, even though modding is mentioned in the manual as being supported, I can't imagine that Games Workshop would allow people to run wild here. Too much freedom would let people create rules closer to the tabletop experience, or even add in new factions. I'm not sure what will be possible, but I look forward to seeing what people create.

Ultimately, what we have here is a very good game that forms a solid foundation to build upon. The bar has been set with excellent graphics and animations, the combat engine is a proven one that is flexible enough to handle everything the 40k universe can throw at it, and the publisher Slitherine has a well-earned reputation for supporting titles long after release.  Despite the disappointing campaign narrative (or lack thereof), I found that the tactical combat itself continued to grow on me the more I played.The multiplayer combat has the potential to be a serious draw for many players, especially as more units and factions are added to the game. Sanctus Reach is right there on the edge of being a runaway hit series if they can fill in just a few gaps.

- Joe Beard
Follow me @JBB33


(Note: This review was mostly based on the final beta version available before release, this was the version sent to me for review. The night before release, the Day 1 patch went live and I played a couple of missions with it. Although it did not radically change any of my opinions, it included a lot of small updates that polished the overall presentation, and gave a bit more OOMPH to some attack effects. Always a good thing in Warhammer! The balance also felt better. Two thumbs up for the first patch.)

Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 by  Matrix/Slitherine   This time around we have another Matrix / Slitherine game ...

Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 review Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985 review

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



by


 Matrix/Slitherine 


 This time around we have another Matrix/Slitherine game to review, and once again it is based on a John Tiller game. It seems you could throw the proverbial cat and hit one. Just a caveat - I do not endorse cat throwing. Some of the proverbs that have been handed down to us really make me wonder about our ancestors.

 Campaign ME is a tactical game on the squad or platoon level. It is based upon the Talonsoft game Battleground 10, and it was released in 1997. Campaign ME gives us scenarios from 1948 to 1982. The majority of the scenarios involve Israeli forces versus the various Arabic speaking countries around Israel.


General Features:
  • Numerous different platoon types; infantry, machine guns, mortars, artillery, trucks, halftracks, APC's, tanks, helicopters, landing craft, etc.
  • 3D art, 2D art and 2D NATO icons for all platoons.
  • Sound files for movement and weapons.
  • Armour facing of armoured vehicles.
  • Classification of hard and soft targets.
  • Classification of infantry combat capabilities.
  • Night vision for certain tank types.
  • Hidden Fire for certain unit types.
  • Clear and lay minefields.
  • Build Improved positions and trenches.
  • Lay light and medium bridges.
  • Day and Night transitions during the course of a scenario.
  • Ability to set Opportunity Fire against Hard, Soft, Other and Anti-aircraft platoons.
  • On-map thermometers for Action Points, Morale and Strength for all platoons in all map views.
  • Three Fog of War levels.
  • Desert and Mediterranean terrain classifications within the map editors.
  • Civilians.
  • Comprehensive manual.
  • Numerous display options allowing the customer to set up the game to their requirements/preferences


 The middle east during the cold war was a testing ground for various weapons systems of Nato and Warsaw Pact countries. The game allows you to go from WWII weaponry to almost state of the art. To be honest, I have always liked the campaign series of games and have bought every iteration of them. The work that Matrix/Slitherine, and The Campaign Series Legion has done on the various games has only sweetened the deal.

 The conflicts the game covers are as follows:

First Arab-Israeli War in 1948
Suez Crisis of 1956
Six Day War of 1967
War of Attrition
October War of 1973
Invasion of Lebanon in 1982
Algerian War of Independence
Egypt in Yemen
United Kingdom in Aden
Libyan - Egyptian Border War 1977

 There are over 130 historical and hypothetical scenarios. There are also four simplified 'boot camp' scenarios to help get the player up to speed.The game also comes with three linked campaigns. 

 The countries' armed forces that you are allowed to play are:

  France, United Kingdom, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Libya, Generic Pro-West and Generic Pro-East. Each of these countries have a fully functional Order of Battles, based on historical TO&E's, from Company to Corps level. Combined, there are well over a thousand unique platoons available.

Let us first take a look at the game's graphics. For us older Grogs who still or did at one time own the Talonsoft games, they are a sight for sore eyes. I always liked the game play on the older Talonsoft games, but the graphics were never to my taste, and I always had difficulty just looking at the map and distinguishing what each unit depicted really was. You could click on any unit you wanted to check, but this was time consuming, and not something the player should have to do. The game now comes with seven view modes. There are three 3D, and four 2D levels of zoom.







 As a solo wargamer I always liked the AI in the Campaign Series games. The Campaign Series Legion has worked hard to enhance the AI even more. They have tried to match the AI behavior to the year, nation, and scenario itself. As is the case with most wargame AIs, they do better at defense than in attack. That is not to say that I haven't been caught with my pants down by the AI. The AI's use of artillery in the game was also a strong point for me. Attacking or defending many times left me with a "what do I do now" look after my silicon troops were scattered after a bombardment.




 Because of the nature of modern warfare the game has four levels of height for helicopters:

Ground
Nap of the Earth
Low
High


 For those of you who like to tinker there are map, battle, and scenario editors. The map editor has forty-nine levels of elevation and no size limit, as long as your computer hardware is up to it.




 This game shows itself to be a keeper by its vast scale in time and conflicts. Instead of being a game with ten to twenty scenarios of the same battle, you get warfare from WWII to almost modern tanks and weaponry. you have even more to conjure up by using all of the editors. With their use you can match up pretty much any combination of East versus West.

 There is a 207 page manual (PDF) that comes with the game. It is very inclusive of whatever the player would need to know.



 The user interface for the Campaign series has been described as  clunky or non-user friendly. The series was, after all, coded twenty years ago. The newer game's user interface has been streamlined from the older versions.To sum it up Campaign Series Middle East is a good tactical game of the years of warfare it portrays. If you are interested in the progression of warfare from WWII to modern, or are just in a WWII rut then take a look at Campaign Series Middle East 1945-1985. I have been in touch with Jason Petho of the Campaign Series Legion, the developers of the game. In 2017 you can expect a Campaign Middle East 2.0 version.

 This was a review of the 1.02 version, the following is a rundown of the update:


FIXES
• Revised Linked Campaign Game Strength Point carry-over issue
• Revisions to the Unit Viewer (F3)
• Fixed several issues involving airstrikes
• Fixed another off board artillery bug
• Fixed occasional edmap launch crash bug
• Adjusted vertical positioning of 2D bridges and ford for engine, edit and edmap

ENHANCEMENTS
• Implemented Options  Mouse Wheel Zoom
• Implemented Options  Hex Contour Widths  1/2/3
• Implemented Options  Cursor  Small/Standard/Large for varying cursor sizes
• Implemented Options  Cursor  Enhanced for a frosted cursor
• Implemented Options  Details  Persistent, a toggle that indicates whether the Damage Report persists until click (or the Esc key is pressed), or vanishes after a delay automatically
• Added terrain feature: Ditches (hexside anti-tank ditches)
• Added terrain feature: Crests (hexside)
• Added terrain feature: Water Block (hexside)
• Added terrain feature: Industrial (hex, for desert terrain)
• Substituted a new engine toolbar, with new OP FIRE button, revised Climb/Descend buttons
• Revised Top of Stack/Bottom of Stack buttons
• Substituted BoxArt style command and results dialogs
• Substituted square nation flags for roundels in the Organization Editor
• Improved diagnostic logging
• For terrain and counter draws, set compiler option to optimize for speed
• Implemented ON_CYCLE as hot key (TAB) for faying hex’s terrain about available alternatives
• Elevation Delta now saved between sessions for engine, edit and edmap)
• All airborne helicopters flying in the Low or High flight zones now have a spotting capability, even if unarmed reconnaissance or transport

GRAPHICS
• Revised a few 3D terrain and vegetation tiles
• Revised 2D terrain and vegetation tiles
• Revised Iraqi 3D graphics
• Revised United Kingdom 3D graphics
• Special graphics and units that are amphibious have been given appropriate graphics
• Revised all 3D graphics with a muted look, allowing 3D units to stand out clearly against the terrain

DATA
• Updated Weapon.pdt file, revising existing information and adding new information for new units
• Updated 09,14,22,23,24,30 platoon.oob files with additions and corrections

SCENARIOS
o New Scenarios by Jason Petho:
o No Match for the 100 (Bir Gifgafa 1967)
o Tourney - Set A01 - High Noon
o Tourney - Set C01 - Hack and Slash
o Tourney - Set C02 - The Villages
o Tourney - Set D01 - Dancing in the Desert
o New Scenario by Jim Mays:
o Tourney - Set B02 - A Furious Charge
o New Scenarios by Alan R. Arvold (available in the mods folder):
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #1
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #2
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #3
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #4
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #5
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #6
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #7
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #8
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #9
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #10
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #11
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #12
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #13
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #14
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #15
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #16
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #17
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #18
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #19
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #20
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #21
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #22
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #23
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #24
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #25
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #26
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #27
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #28
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #29
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #30
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #31
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #32
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #33
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #34
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #35
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #36
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #37
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #38
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #39
o Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario #40
o Revised Suez Linked Campaign
o Revised all affected scenario/campaign maps with new Industrial terrain hex
o Scenario Modifications to:
o The Crossroads
o Off to Giddi
o Bootcamp 3
o Battlefields of Old
o Raid Into Libya
o Into the Ring
o A Taste of Sa’iqa
o Into Africa!
o The End in the Sahara
o Hot Knife Through Butter

MODS
We have included a number of user made modifications that may enhance your gaming experience. It is recommended to use the JSGME Modification Enabler Software that is included as part of the installation. See Section 16.3 for instructions.

• Alan R. Arvold Ode To Arab-Israeli Wars – This is a scenario set based on the Arab-Israeli Wars created by Alan R. Arvold.
• Ode to Arab-Israeli Wars – This is a 2D graphics modification by Petri Nieminen (aka Crossroads) to provide the players of the Ode to Arab-Israeli Wars scenarios an authentic look and feel when playing the scenarios.
• Alternate 3D Bases – This is a 3D graphics modification that simplifies the roundels in the 3D view, making them easier to distinguish against the terrain.
• Black 2D Unit Profiles – This is a 2D graphics modification that converts the coloured unit graphics to black silhouettes.
• Black Unit Info Box – This is a UI graphics modification that removes the background information when using the Unit List, making the unit information easier to read.
• MausMan 3D Graphics – This is a massive 3D graphics modification that converts all 3D terrain graphics to a smaller scale.
• NATO Icons w. Transp. Background – This is a 2D graphics modification for NATO symbols that removes all colour coding and just displays the black outlines.
• NATO Icons w. White Background – This is a 2D graphics modification for NATO symbols that replaces all colour coding with a white background.

MANUAL

The manual has been revised to 1.02 UPDATE standards. It has also been combed through; revising graphics and grammatical errors, in addition to incorporating comments from users (inclusion of 2D and 3D screenshots, for example).


Robert

Developer: The Campaign Series Legion
Publisher: Matrix/Slitherine
Date of Review: 1/15/2017

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! 


PixelPLaybox.co.uk