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FINAL ACT The Dials!  The Dials! Ok, I ' ve got your attention.  Now, can the game hold it?  Well, this certainly is ...

FINAL ACT FINAL ACT

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

FINAL ACT




The Dials!  The Dials!

Ok, I've got your attention.  Now, can the game hold it?  Well, this certainly is something different.  On one [many?] levels, it appears a very simple, almost child-like tank game.  Simple in physical components, simple in the rules and simple in number of pieces.  Just seven tanks per side, a bare map of 12 x 12 square grid, a few pieces of terrain, oh ... and two control panels with THE DIALS!

Contributing most to the impression that Final Act is a youngster's game are the tanks - very basic wooden-block tanks that could easily come out of my two-year old daughter's play box.


As you can see, a wooden body, a wooden turret and a wooden gun.  The few pieces of terrain and obstacles are equally simple and blocky: three berms [earthen mounds] and a cardboard swamp and minefield.  That's virtually it.  The few other components are also wooden: these are the red flame markers to indicate a hit on the tank [that's the reason for the groove on the tank's rear, namely to slot the hit marker in] and black shell markers to place on the map to indicate where your shots land.

But there in the back ground of the picture is without doubt the star component: one of the Control panels with its celebrated set of dials. As you can see the quality of nearly everything is superlative.
Only the cardboard swamp and minefield look rather ordinary  among such well finished pieces.  Once again, I can't help drawing you back to the dials. 




Admittedly, dials have become something of an in-thing in the gaming world, from Glass House's production wheels to Tzolkin 's gears and, perhaps most recently Scythe's Combat dials.  But these really are the piece de la resistance. Though the pointers are made of plastic, they are solider than any others I've come across and, most important, already assembled and secured in quality machined,  metal units.

The map too is an attractive production with strong, vibrant earthen colours that are echoed in the orange and brown shading of the berms. 



It is very physically appealing, but an appeal to a fairly young age group rather than an adult market.  This seems a little at odds with the background of one of the designer's being a former Israeli tank commander.  Though he views the game as light to medium, I've found it to be ultra-light in depth and game play.

The rules do an excellent, clear job of explaining play, but are barely more than four pages long.  As you can see below, text is fairly brief, well-laid out and attractively illustrated.



But basically, it is a question of setting your upper row of dials to program each tank's movement, which is always one square into any of the three front or rear squares.  You cannot move directly to the squares to your immediate left or right.  At the same time, you program each tank's lower dial if you want to make a 90 degree turn.

Before you reveal and move your tanks, you place each tank's wooden shell in one of the square's of the tank's fire arc. In  the photo above, you can see several images of how terrain affects that fire display.  You then reveal your control panels and move your tanks.



If an enemy tank moves into a square that contains one of your shells, your opponent places a red hit marker in the groove at the rear of the tank.  If that tank later in the game takes a second hit, you place the marker on top of the tank's turret and it is killed.  In the basic game, the tank is removed from the map board, as an advanced rule the wrecked tank remains on the board as an obstacle.  Again, the fact that the latter is one of the four very simple "advanced rules" indicates the strongly introductory nature of this game.  The other three extra rules allow once per game for one tank to fire two shells, for one tank to repair by removing a shell hit and for a reduction in the number of tanks that can fire if specific tanks have been destroyed.

So, combat boils down to a game of "guesstimate".  You work out which squares your opponent's tanks can potentially enter and your shells can hit and then try to guess which ones he/she has chosen.  This factor alone [reinforced by the ultimate goal of the game being to get one of your tanks into the enemy's area designated Last Line of Defense] has led me to struggle to find players among my gaming circle, both of Euro gamers and wargamers, willing to give Final Act a try.  

Though the initial secret placing of terrain and tanks lends variety to each game and there is no doubt of the physical quality of the game's production, ultimately I've found reactions have uniformly been that this is a delightful product and excellent for introducing children to the fascinating world of wargaming, but with very limited appeal to an adult market.


Final Act is published by Tyto Games and can be pre-ordered on their website tytogames.com

































































Afghanistan '11, developed by Every Single Soldier and published by Slitherine, is the sequel to Vietnam '65. This new title ta...

Early Access Preview: Afghanistan '11 - Part 1 Early Access Preview: Afghanistan '11 - Part 1

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




Afghanistan '11, developed by Every Single Soldier and published by Slitherine, is the sequel to Vietnam '65. This new title takes the established formula of fighting an insurgency, while winning over the hearts and minds of civilians, and adds several new layers to it. The game is scheduled for release later this month on March 23rd, so I thought I would do a preview consisting of an AAR (After Action Report) to give you an idea of how the game plays. 


Scenario Selection Screen

In Vietnam '65, there were no distinct scenarios, only a randomly generated map which always asked you to complete the same set of general victory conditions. Afghanistan '11 includes an 18 mission campaign in which you must complete specific objectives in addition to the normal gameplay loop.


Scenario Briefing
For this AAR, I will be attempting the first mission after the tutorial, loosely based on the Battle of Lashkagar. Although the game is titled Afghanistan '11, the campaign begins at the start of the conflict. These scenarios are not detailed recreations of the events described, but the map design and objectives take their inspiration from the same type of challenges faced in reality. 


The Strategic Map View
 Above you see the strategic map, which includes tabs for a lot of useful information, and icons showing everything of importance in the field.  My objective for the scenario is to resupply the FOB (Forward Operating Base) in the middle of the map, with my main base of operations located at the star in the lower right corner. I must then keep the FOB intact and keep the hearts and minds score at 50 or better. (This score can usually be seen in the top-middle of the screen, on the left.) The other icons are villages spread across the area which I must try to keep friendly. The initial obstacle here is that my HQ is really far away from everything else. My plan is to greatly reinforce FOB Bravo and use it as a jumping off point to control the villages around it. 


The road from HQ (bottom right) to FOB Bravo (upper left).
I expect that a lot of IEDs will have been placed along the lengthy stretch of highway between my starting point and FOB Bravo. Luckily, the US forces can call in a Husky mine clearing vehicle to lead the way. The only downside is that it is a bit slow compared to the other vehicles. However, the rest of the convoy would get blown up without it, so we must make do.


The convoy sets out.
 I have a ton of political points available, so I deploy a fairly substantial force right off the bat. A large convoy carrying supplies, infantry, special forces, and an engineering unit, the Buffalo. I also send a Chinook ahead with heavy artillery for the FOB and send some Blackhawk-borne troops to visit the nearest village.

Political points are used for pretty much everything you do. Requesting reinforcements, building new FOBs or roads, and even moving units around costs political points. You have to balance between using enough to get the job done (so you can generate more points) and overstretching yourself to the point that your forces become ineffective, as you cannot do as much once you run out of points. This number can even go negative, so you have to be careful. 

Trouble ahead.
Before going any further, I use one of my special abilities, the UAV, to scout ahead. It spots three militia units on or near our planned route.  Militia spawn in undetectable caves in the mountains and proceed to place IEDs along roads and around villages. Although you can't stop them from spawning, if you attack them they will flee and abandon their bomb planting mission. Taliban units are much nastier and more aggressive, they will flee when attacked, but then regroup and continue their mission. Initially Taliban will only appear along the east map edge, representing the Pakistan border, but if you let the allegiance of a village slip away the Taliban will start spawning deeper into the area of operations.


An Apache attack generates mixed results.
 I take out the militia along the road with a powerful airstrike, another of my abilities which has a three turn cooldown. It also costs political points to use, if you run out it is no longer an option.  I request an Apache to help me take out the other militia units. While engaging the first group the Apache suffers some damage. This costs political points as the folks back home don't like to see American forces damaged or defeated. Being a rookie commander, I didn't notice that the Apache can make a long range attack, which would have been far safer.


Heavy Artillery. Look at that range!
 The rest of the journey to FOB Bravo is uneventful. The Husky clears several more IEDs, but no enemy infantry are spotted. Back at HQ, a special forces unit has finished training a new artillery company for the Afghan National Army (ANA). Your Special Forces units are not good in direct combat, and can't make village visits, but they do have several special abilities, which includes training ANA units. This saves you from calling in more expensive American units. At the HQ you can train artillery and APC units, and at FOBs they can train ANA infantry companies. The ANA troops are better for visiting villages, but aren't quite as good in a fight compared to the American infantry.  In some scenarios you will need to build up a sizable ANA force before reaching a certain turn when the US forces will leave and the ANA will have to fend for itself.


The FOB artillery can now cover the central region of the AO.
 Once my Buffalo engineer unit reached the FOB I had it build an artillery pit and maintenance yard. These upgrades are fairly expensive, but will be needed to make the FOB a hub for my activities here.

An opium field spotted north of the right village.
 While the ground convoy moved to the FOB, I had my Blackhawk continue carrying an infantry unit to the villages furthest north. The one on the right, up in the mountains, proved uncooperative and is leaning towards the local militia. The people in the village on the left were more helpful, and told us about the location of an opium farm back near the first village. Helicopters are much more expensive to operate than ground transports, but can get your troops around the map in a hurry. I was able to visit both of these villages in a single turn.


The Taliban shows up.
 Back at FOB Bravo, things become a touch hotter as Taliban and Militia forces move in. Some rapid artillery strikes send them running. I also send an infantry company south to the contact the nearby village, sweeping for IED's along the way. Clearing these explosives always makes the closest village favor you more.


More Taliban!
 Up north, my troopers take care of the opium field, and also spot a Taliban technical on their way in. The Taliban unit fled, but my UAV spotted them again. Another airstrike and the world is a safer place. Removing the opium fields helps you by cutting off funds for the Taliban, but also makes the associated village dislike you, since your forces just took away their only cash crop.


An ideal sight!
 On the next turn I send my Buffalo engineer unit south from FOB Bravo to build waterworks in the village there. These people are very appreciative and now fully support us. After re-supplying the Buffalo I will send it back to connect the road to this village. Building up the infrastructure of local villages like this will help you win the hearts and minds campaign, but also costs political points to build, and creates new targets for your foes.


Cast your vote.
 Election time eventually comes, and I must choose who the Coalition will support for President. The candidates will have various positions that make your life easier or harder. You can spend some political points here to ensure a victory, or just try to maintain order on the battlefield. The Taliban will also step up its efforts right before an election.



My second convoy runs into trouble.
 Several turns later, things have gone against me to some degree. Although I have won over a couple of villages, others have swung against me. I decide to send a second, smaller convoy out to the FOB in preparation for an expedition into the western half of the map. Another FOB there will give me a strong point to work from in that region. Unfortunately, my Husky stumbles into a Taliban unit and suffers some damage. The Taliban forces flee and the infantry patrol I send out to find them has no luck. My UAV is already engaged elsewhere.


My Chinook bites the dust.
 On the next turn, disaster strikes. My Chinook had just completed a mission to supply a village with U.N. aid (which pushes favor in your direction, and of course is all warm and fuzzy). On the way home it flew right over a Taliban squad that damaged it. Then, just out of reach of the HQ, it ran into another Taliban squad, which was able to shoot it down. This gave me a pretty severe political point loss, and now my options become more limited for the time being. I hadn't realized that the helicopters were so vulnerable when moving. My movements must be much more careful in the future.


The situation as it stands on Turn 11.
At the end of 11 turns, my situation is a mixed bag. I have lost political support at home, but not everything is bad in the field. I have the full support of two villages, and have a very strong position in the middle of the map. Several enemy units have been destroyed, and numerous IED's cleared. My planned move into the west should net me one more village there. I must work to win over the village between my FOB and HQ, since it is now spawning Taliban units, and they are throwing serious wrenches in my plans.

The elections will conclude next turn. Hopefully the Coalition friendly candidate will win, and the momentum will shift back to us.

Look for Part 2 very soon!

- Joe Beard







LEGEND : WINDS OF WAR 1934 - 1940 Though the title Winds of War may have deceived you into thinking that this will be a review o...

LEGEND : WINDS OF WAR LEGEND : WINDS OF WAR

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

LEGEND : WINDS OF WAR 1934 - 1940




Though the title Winds of War may have deceived you into thinking that this will be a review of the latest WWII game that I've received to cover, the true topic as you can see from the box art is far different.  Instead of battling Germans in the early war years, you're going to be battling your way round the many stages of the fabled Mille Miglia race or some of the most famous and legendary Grand Prix circuits, like Monza.

Billed as an expansion to Legend : History of 1000 Miglia, it can be played as a stand-alone game with its new, modified rules or by referring back to the original game.  The key difference is the newer, easier rules which I gather from a friend who owned the original were highly mathematical and considerably slowed the "game" down.  By this I really mean that the original was a finely tuned simulation perhaps more enjoyable to afficianados of the racing world than those just wanting a racing game.

At this point, I think it's appropriate to introduce you to the designer, Carlo Amaddeo, and his background.  It is as a games designer and founder of WBS Games that I first learnt of him, but his background as a graduate of UNCC as a Mechanical Engineer  with a major in Motorsports may tell you more about where this game is coming from. 

After watching him talk about all that he has designed on the Mille Miglia, you go away knowing that this is the passion of his life and a topic of which he has an encyclopaedic knowledge.  As someone who knows no more and possibly even less about the car racing world of today than the most average "man in the street", I wondered how I would fare with this new product.  One thing from my very early childhood I did remember was the name Mille Miglia and the glamour associated with that race and my fascination with the racing driver, Sterling Moss, and his astounding win in 1955 of the Mille Miglia.

My familiarity with car racing games is equally ordinary, starting in 1962 with a Christmas present of Waddington's Formula 1 and then leaping forward many years to a limited experience of formula De, then more recently Thunder Alley and just a few weeks ago Rallyman.


So, without more ado, let's peer under the bonnet of Legend : Winds of War.  The game comes in the size and type of box that I associate with Columbia Games and has the same sort of slip cover too.  The artwork on the front is stylised with a surprising pastel background predominating, though as a result the red racing car does surge out of the picture even more strongly.  On the back is a series of headlined informative paragraphs about features of the contents, one column in English, the other in Italian, while down the centre runs a series of pictures of the different types of cards contained inside.



Opening the box reveals what you see below on my dining room table!



The contents are dominated by the nineteen, magnificent, double-sided tiles that are used to from the many complete racing circuits or the various stages of the Mille Miglia itself.  These hexagonal tiles are beautiful, substantial in thickness and measure just under 16cm from side to side.  An amazing detail is that each is based on the real landscape of the race.



About half the track tiles are piled here!



And here's the rest.

Equally impressive though the card is much thinner, are the eighteen [again double-sided] car dashboards, allowing a choice from thirty-six famous models to race in - not surprisingly there are several Alfa Romeos, along with Aston Martin, Lancia, Bugatti, Maserati and  many more.



Apologies if I've left out mentioning your favourite.  What enhances these are the pictures of each car and that the background colour matches the original car's dashboard.  The final card of the same size as these is what's called the Race Chronograph, in other words the two dials that log the minutes and hours of each race.



By comparison the small cards are slightly disappointing in quality.  Of fairly thin card, they are matt finished and definitely benefit in appearance and durability from being sleeved.  What I do greatly like about them is the use of black & white photos from the era and that the Spare Part cards [for such things as water - no, not for the driver, for the radiator - tires, spark plugs etc] are reproductions of vintage advertising posters of the time.

Of the other types of card, there are five named, historical drivers featuring photos of each in his car [seen below]


and their corresponding stats cards, a deck of Event cards, a number of Mechanical Failure cards to help you remember what is currently faulty or damaged on your car and a small number of Tuning cards. 



So, though physical quality is a little under par, these cards score top quality for period and thematic style.

The cars are simple, small wooden models and, I'm sure that, like, others,  I'll invest in a few more realistic replacements and the final items are two sets of customised dice and twenty plastic, tyre-like discs on to which you have to [easily] apply a series of lettered stickers - these are the important Curve markers that will be explained shortly in more detail as I move on now to the rule book.


Love the customised dice - recognise the symbols!


Before doing that, there is one other item and task that needs to be mentioned.  This is a sheet of adhesive stickers that have to be peeled off and applied to the map tiles that have curves on them.  This is a fairly lengthy process and needs a little care and patience, following attentively at the accompanying sheet of diagrams that show you exactly where to place them on each relevant tile.  I assume that this is necessary either because the company had large stocks of the existing tiles or setting up new templates for printing the tiles with the brake lines on was too costly.  They do detract ever so slightly from the otherwise impressive appearance and quality of the tiles, but are a key development in the design of the game.

So, to the rule book.   It's a good product of glossy A4 apges that takes you though everything in a sensible order from components to game play to how to run the various different races, including a page of Racing Classes and a page for the 1000 Miglia Yearbook. 


It's worth noting that the picture is not of the rule book held on one of my clipboards, but a deliberate trompe l' oiel effect created for that page of the rule book!

It concludes with six and a half pages of very clear colour diagrams of each of the thirteen stages of the Mille Miglia, two diagrams of single complete circuit Mille Miglia races and then diagrams for eleven Italian circuits for famous races including Monza, Roma, Tripoli and a whole range of Coppa [Cup] races.  Each diagram lists the board tiles necessary to build the circuit and the relevant Curve markers for each individual curve. 


As I said at the beginning, this really is a labour of love and it shows, even down to the provision of the 1940 Mille Miglia circuit, as opposed to stages, as the race was run under somewhat different circumstances because of WWII. 

Text is fairly small and quite densely presented, but well-illustrated in full colour.  The opening Component section is clear and easy, explaining first the dashboards and the many items that they monitor [starting with speed in km/h and then engine, temperature, barkes, bodywork and tires].  The course tiles come next and the basic road identifiers; white dots for flat sections, red dots for uphill and black dots for downhill and finally those black lines that you've carefully applied turn out to indicate the beginning and end of the curves [i.e. bends].  All the cards and the Race Chronograph and how to use them are similarly straightforward. 




A good example of the well-illustrated text.

Moving on to what is called the Driving Academy, here we're introduced to the main body of rules and they will take all your concentration.  They are for the most part clear and backed up with very thorough examples, but there is a lot to take in and every word matters.  Though the final page of the rule book does contain the necessary charts, a separate Play Aid card with additional notes would make the eventual races that you run easier to deal with.

Initially simple movement, acceleration and braking get you off to a smooth beginning.  Standing Starts, Great Starts, Slipstreaming and Slopes aren't bad to follow, but the substantial and important section on Curves, which also covers Accidents, need nearly as much care to negotiate as the real thing.  I must admit that I felt just as I did when I started to learn to drive and thought," I'll never manage to remember all that's in the Highway Code and the things I've got to coordinate in driving the car will never become second nature."  Well, I've been a happy, confident driverfor many years now, but the details of Exceeding the Turning Speed and the ramifications of Head Straight, Emergency Braking and Hard Braking, Fast Exits and then Collisions and Accidents are not yet second nature.

Making my own Play Aid has greatly helped in starting to fix things in my head, but for me this is not a game I can take down and play without substantially refreshing my memory.  The essential actions are very simple: adjust speed, move your car accordingly, roll the dice, if necessary, and mark appropriate consequences on your dashboard display.  However, the complexities and sometimes confusion arise from the potential
choices of how you may affect, either to enhance or try to avoid dangerous consequences resulting from, those simple actions. All add to the focus on simulation rather than game that I feel this product aims for.

The final section of the rules explains the procedures for setting up each type of race and here there is an interesting variety of options to suit a variety of needs.  First and foremost, there is time.  for the shortest play time, the advice is to select a Grand Prix circuit.  Most of these are three-lap races, but obviously fewer or more laps can further temper your game to the time slot you have available.



The famous Monza circuit.



A closer look at this circuit's start and finish line.

Symbols on the game map and on the car that you are racing produce a provisional set of starting grid positions, with players able to vie to improve their position by rolling Challenge dice.  Such elements influence the atmosphere of the game and I like the ability to set up a Championship by choosing a series of circuits to be run in sequence.  Points are awarded for placing and prize money awarded too that can be spent on spare parts. tuning abilities and even such things as selling your car to buy another or bargaining with other players to buy drivers or cars.  If you wish to follow this idea, there is even a Championship Form that you can download from the WBSGames site.

Whatever type of race you prefer, you can choose between what the designer calls simulation or arcade mode.  The latter choice naturally tends to give you a quicker game, while the former gives a more detailed and historical experience.  Using the 1000 Miglia Yearbook page, you can decide on a year which gives you a range of cars to choose from and a maximum budget of lira that you can spend on creating your racing team. 



Cars are auctioned one at a time and the person who pays the least for his/her car then gets first choice of which driver they can hire to drive it.  If you know my liking for branching choices, then you'll appreciate my positive vote for this system.  Do you bid for a top quality car and end up having to race with a very average driver or aim for aim for a less powerful car with potentially a much better driver?  You then move on to buying tuning cards, followed by buying spare parts, again the priority of choice always goes from the person who has currently spent least to the one who has spent most.

However, if you go for the full Mille Miglia, then each car will be setting off at eight minute intervals and your opponent is going to be the clock.  Each stage of the race is run in sequence, with your time the crucial factor, as the winner is the driver who clocks up the fastest time to complete all the stages of the race.

I know the intention is hopefully to work through the years with new expansions and though Race games are not my chosen field of interest, I truly hope that Carlo Amaddeo is successful in his intention.  If so, I look forward to one day being able to emulate my childhood hero, Stirling Moss, as well as race with the likes of Fangio and Nuvolari!

My final conclusion is that Legend : Winds of War is definitely for the lover of car racing games and especially for those who want to learn about and experience a detailed simulation of this legendary race.  Though this may have introduced some simplifications to the original, it still remains simulation more than game.

So, if, like me, you favour a simpler and more dramatic form of racing then this may be not your best choice.



[Talking about simpler.  Next time, I shall be reviewing a game at the opposite end of the complexity spectrum.  In Meerkat terms, folks, "It's simples!"]





















































































































Torment: Tides of Numenera by inXile Entertainment The very start of the game after you have landed  Torment: Tides...

Torment: Tides of Numenera Review Torment: Tides of Numenera Review

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


by



The very start of the game after you have landed



 Torment: Tides of Numenera is the newly envisioned child of the game Planescape: Torment. Planescape: Torment was a story driven RPG with one of the best stories ever written for an RPG. Planescape : Torment is widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest, RPGs ever made. Let's take a look and see how its progeny measures up to the sire.




Character creation screens


 The first thing you should know is that there is going to be a lot of reading involved while playing the game. Of course, this was to be expected knowing the game's history and the fact that the game was touted as a thinking man's RPG, compared to just a hack 'n' slash one. 


The first appearance of the 'sorrow'


 The world of Torment comes alive with every step and piece of dialogue. NPCs are not just there just for mundane tasks to level your character up. They, and the world they inhabit, seem to be a living breathing place. All of the characters that you meet have their own stories, and most importantly, their own needs and wants. They will lie to you, (of course you can lie right back) and attempt to use you for their own ends.


an execution


 The game succeeds in creating a beautiful strange new world to explore. One of the big differences it has from most RPGs is the character's lack of knowledge: of himself or of the world he hurtles toward in the beginning of the game. The background story the player is given is minimal, and it is meant to be that way. You have no idea of who or what you are, let alone what your purpose is. Some gamers might be put off by the lack of: ' X fathered by Z, and is supposed to free the world from the tyranny of Y'.  Torment really brings you back to the age of exploration RPGs, compared to the spoon fed ones we have become used to. Every one of your actions count, from the beginning scene to the end. Thank goodness it is not the late 90s or you would have to keep a notebook to write everything down.



Here you can get flesh modifications


 This is definitely a first for me - an RPG that can be played through with no gratuitous violence. Torment is a bit like a Platypus, you really don't know where it actually belongs. The graphics are beautiful and the story is very compelling. Hours will slip away as you move your character through the world. If it was a normal RPG it would be excellent, but it is not normal. To play this game you have to forget all you have learned in the now 'cookie cutter' world of RPGs. Hit points, warrior class, and magic mean nothing inside this game. You will learn words like glaive, esotery, and fettles. The game and game play has as many choices to go through as a restaurant menu and more. Each encounter is a microcosm of the entire game. Do you fight, bargain, or just talk; choices, choices, and more choices. The game's flow chart must be amazing to look at. Normally an RPG's replay value is not that great, although I have played a few a couple of times through again. Torment's replayability is very high. 



Wandering through the first city


 The game's story is compelling to go through. You start the game hurtling through the abyss of space toward something, and there your in game choices begin before you even land. You find out that you are a 'cast-off' from the 'changing-god'. You were literally the last body that this 'changing-god' inhabited. The changing-god discovered how to be immortal by moving from one body to another. You are just one of many cast-offs who strangely become sentient once you are cast aside.  Your antagonist is the 'sorrow'. It is intent on destroying the changing-god and anything that he has touched, meaning you. You are presented with two NPCs who seem to detest one another. They are even worse than an old bickering married couple. Then it is off to the races. You will strive to understand what and who you are, while also trying to figure out where in this new world you belong. 


Underground

 Playing as a straight combat oriented character is not frowned  upon by the game, but I think you would miss a lot of the game's substance, nuances, and story lines. It has been stated several times that you can complete the game without any combat whatsoever. That I wouldn't know about, although I have used combat less in this game than any others. My natural tendency with some NPCs, especially threatening ones, is to cleave their skull. 

 To really try and explain the game would hardly do it justice. It would be like sitting through a lecture on a piece of art, instead of just admiring it. 

 This past year and the beginning of this one has proved to be awash in cerebral games. People who enjoyed Planescape: Torment, along with newbies, are in for a great ride.

 There is one other thing about the game we have to discuss. This was a Kickstarter game, actually the most backed one to the tune of four million dollars. The Devs changed some of the goals after the amount to reach them had already been met. I have included this link to a Q&A the Devs did with Eurogamer, so you can hear their side.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-01-31-torment-tides-of-numenera-apology-stretch-goals


Robert

WANTED: Someone based in Europe, with good English skills, and a love for board games!      We are looking for someone who currentl...

If you live in Europe then come join AWNT! If you live in Europe then come join AWNT!

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

WANTED: Someone based in Europe, with good English skills, and a love for board games!

 
 
 We are looking for someone who currently resides in Europe, loves boardgames, who plays regularly, has a good grasp of English, has some spare time and would like to write reviews for AWNT. We have a very relaxed philosophy here so you'll never feel under stress, nor, we hope, stop enjoying what you will be doing. If at any time you do feel things aren't right then we'd work things out. Things will probably start slowly and then build up to a rate you're happy with.
 
 All we can offer at the moment is to be able to keep what you review, gain contacts within the industry, help with the continued growth of AWNT and take it forward with us into a bright future.
 
 In all likely hood you'll also get the chance to review PC games, aswell as books. It's always your own decision on what you want to review. Also if you come across something that you like the look of and fits in with what we do at AWNT we can then see about getting you the chance to review it:)
 
 Sadly at the moment we are only looking for someone based in Europe. This isn't because we have anything against those from other countries (I mean, we already have three Americans involved!!). It's all down to the current cost of shipping from Europe to say the USA. So those designers in Europe maybe reluctant to then send review copies, of what can be pretty hefty games, to the USA due to the high postage cost. Our team currently in the States have the capacity to fulfil our needs regarding the USA market at the moment. If that changes, then we will call for new team members based in the USA or surrounding countries:)
 
 So, if you're seriously interested then email me, or use the blogs contact form. If you already have something written, that's out on the net for us to look at will be a help, but not at all necessary.
 
Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon:)
 
Jason
 
 

  Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front from Slitherine is a perfect example of how to take a winning formula and crank it up a few not...

Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front + Kursk Expansion Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front + Kursk Expansion

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Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front from Slitherine is a perfect example of how to take a winning formula and crank it up a few notches. The game, released in 2014, is the follow on to the original Battle Academy, a title which set the bar for this type of accessible, yet surprisingly deep tactical World War 2 gameplay style. 

In Battle Academy 2 (BA2) the player takes control of either the Germans or Russians in a series of scenarios fought out using turn-based combat on a map broken into a grid of squares. Locales vary from dense urban centers to wild forests and pastoral villages. Many of the maps are very detailed, with networks of roads and wheat fields, marshes and rivers, and other terrain types generating intriguing choices about how to formulate your strategy.

Although at first glance the graphics may appear fairly simple, there is actually a great amount of detail to the unit models, especially the vehicles. All of your favorites are here, from Tigers and T-34's to a smattering of half-tracks and AT guns. In the realm of infantry, there are riflemen, sappers, commandos, militia, mortars, machine guns, snipers, and more. For a title that some might initially deem to be a more casual wargame, there is a actually a lot of content.


Campaigns from several phases of the war are available, as well as a tutorial to get you started.

In the base game of BA2, there are four campaigns to choose from, two each for the Germans and Russians. These cover several time periods throughout the war, from Barbarossa forward. The Kursk expansion adds another two campaigns covering that massive battle, with the twist that units can be carried forward from one battle to the next. This was big plus for me, as I really like the idea of having a "core" force that I can try to keep alive through a series of battles. On the other hand, the base game campaigns are able to offer a wide variety of interesting scenarios, since they are all independent of one another, other than being set during a certain time period.

The scenario design of BA2 is probably some of the best I have seen in any wargame available. Many of them present you with a unique situation to work through. In one mission you have to deal with an immobilized, yet deadly enemy tank in a mostly open field. You only have infantry and a couple of light AT guns to work with. In another you are ambushing an enemy convoy at night with a force made up of partisans. In each scenario, there are primary objectives that you must complete, and secondary objectives that serve as special achievements. This adds a lot of replayability to the scenarios, since getting all of the extra objectives can be a challenge.  These objectives are often things like holding particularly difficult victory points, or minimizing losses of certain units. Some are more interesting, like finding and knocking out a hidden enemy outpost, or exiting units off the map mid-battle.


German motorized troops, and an awesome little Stug, arrive to press the attack.

BA2 controls quite well, using a simple interface to offer a multitude of options. Simply click on a unit and you will see how far it can move via lit up squares. Click on a space, or the unit itself, and a list of symbols will pop up showing you the options relevant to that space. For example, units can move quickly, or move less distance at a more deliberate pace. This is important, since (among other variables) tanks will have lower accuracy after moving fast, while infantry are less likely to be spotted when moving slow. There are many other options as well, including telling a unit to hold fire, having engineers throw smoke grenades, or ordering a unit to observe the area around it, extending its sight range for the round. Clicking an enemy unit will show the odds for whatever type of attack you can make. This is critical to tank duels, since you can see your chances both of scoring a hit, and scoring a kill. 

The tank combat in BA2 can be quick and deadly, or turn into a drawn out slugfest, depending on the situation and vehicles involved. Maneuvering to get at the flanks or rear of a heavy enemy tank can greatly increase your chances of knocking it out. At the same time, you want to keep your forward armor facing the enemy if at all possible. Even the most imposing steel beasts can be taken down by single lucky shot, or they might shrug off a dozen hits and keep rolling. Maximizing your odds is the key to winning tank battles. Usually you have enough forces that losing any one unit won't cost you the battle.


A potent force prepares to face the Ruskies.

Infantry units require tactical finesse to use effectively. Rush them forward mindlessly and they will get slaughtered. Use covering fire to suppress an enemy, then send in assault troops to overrun the enemy position and you can win with few casualties. Infantry are also highly effective against tanks and other vehicles in close terrain. They can disappear into almost any terrain feature on the map. Sending a half-track or tank on a long move through a village you have not cleared will lead to certain destruction.

You will usually have some special abilities on tap in any given scenario. These use a cooldown timer, so you must be careful about when you use them, but not so cautious that you miss openings while waiting for the perfect moment. These abilities include basic items like healing an infantry squad, promoting a unit, or dropping supplies. Sometimes you also get more explosive options, like calling for artillery and air strikes.


Several turns later, my heavy tanks wipe out enemy vehicles while Flammpanzers keep the infantry at bay.

While fighting, units can be promoted, gaining better stats and becoming more effective. Units that reach the highest rank can even get an extra attack each turn, which is very useful. Other special abilities can also be unlocked, like AT guns using more effective anti-tank rounds or infantry squads gaining a sniper shot.

Right at first, BA2 can be a somewhat frustrating game until you find the rhythm of how to play it. It demands a more deliberate approach to combat than one might presume. Once you figure out the finer points of line of sight, the ranges of different units, and the importance of paying attention to unit morale, the game becomes much more enjoyable. In my first playthrough of some missions I took heavy losses and wondered how in the world I was supposed to win. After playing further into the game, I can go back to those same scenarios and conquer them easily.


Did I mention the huge variety of units available? Here we see everything from partisans to Valentines.

The game offers a couple more ways to play outside of the campaign scenarios. You can also play semi-random skirmishes where you pick out a force and go against an AI force on one of the many different maps. The AI can almost always put up a decent fight, since it knows how to hide units in cover and will attack aggressively wherever you are weak. However, for a truly clever opponent you must go online. Fortunately, BA2 uses Slitherine's PBEM++ multiplayer model, which sets the standard for this type of turn based wargame with its asynchronous play. Once you join battle with another player, you simply play your turn and then go back to the multiplayer menu. If the other player isn't online, you are free to then join another match and play a turn in it. You can have several matches going in this manner, and you will receive a notification or email when it is your turn to play again. This is great for bigger battles especially, since you can play a little at a time, instead of sitting at the computer for two hours straight. If you don't want to fight another human, you can also team up against the AI in several cooperative scenarios.  Even though the game has been out for years, there are still quite a few people playing online, so you shouldn't have trouble finding a match.

I found that playing the game online was quite addictive. The co-op scenarios force you to communicate and use teamwork, while the larger PvP skirmishes give you a lot of freedom in terms of force composition and strategy. You never know what kind of units your enemy will be fielding, or how they will use them. Although the single player game is good, the online play is where the game really shines. Especially so because it is so easy to get a match going against any willing opponent. Compare to, say, Combat Mission, where you have to arrange a match outside the game, and need a third party tool to automate sending new turns back and forth.


Soviet infantry prepare to hold against the onslaught, while a improvised tank creeps forward to assist.

The game also comes with an easy to use editor, which other players have used to create a large number of custom maps and scenarios. This new content can be easily acquired from within BA2 itself. You just click on and download whatever suits your fancy, right there within the game. There are only a few single player scenarios available, but thanks to the efforts of a few community members, there are a couple dozen additional multiplayer maps to try out.

Something should also be said about the sound in the game. There are very good sound effects for every different type of weapon in the game, including big crunchy artillery shells and roaring flamethrower blasts.  Tank engines rev up and infantry shout in German or Russian as they are victorious in a fight, or find themselves running for their lives.

All in all, BA2 is a polished experience with no major flaws that I could uncover. I tried to think of something to criticize about the game, but really there is nothing bad to say about it, unless you are looking for a more realistic experience. This is not Combat Mission or a Graviteam Tactics type of game. Units tend to have arbitrary ranges that they can engage at, and even shorter ranges at which they are actually effective, which takes some time to adjust to. You'll also note the relative lack of artillery, in a warzone that was well known for massive amounts of it. It is treated more like a special ability than a regular part of your force. Along those lines, there's nothing realistic about being able to call in pin-point airstrikes anywhere you want to make an enemy go boom. However, realistic is not what this game sets out to do. It gives you all the different units you could want, and sets them loose in tactical combat that is just deep enough to make things very interesting, without bogging you down in unnecessary detail.

If you are looking for a fun tactical combat game set on the Eastern Front, that is accessible and comes with a ton of content, look no further than Battle Academy 2. If you want even more toys, and especially the linked campaigns, pick up the Kursk expansion.  


- Joe Beard


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