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WAR OF THE RING 2ND EDITION Some of you may feel that a review of War of The Ring 2nd edition [from now on standard abbreviation...

WAR OF THE RING 2nd Edition WAR OF THE RING 2nd Edition

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



Some of you may feel that a review of War of The Ring 2nd edition [from now on standard abbreviation WOTR] is a little unnecessary, but that was what I was  asked to undertake, before moving on to the expansion WOTR: Warriors of Middle-Earth.

In many ways, this request was like one I had back in the 90s when I was reviewing for the magazine, Games Monthly.  That was to tackle the original basic Squad Leader many years after it had been published and a whole raft of expansions had rolled out too.  I approached that with considerable trepidation expecting legions of devotees to be scrutinising in minute detail, looking for the slightest error or view contrary to their liking and with guns loaded and ready.

Still, I'm alive to tell the tale and ready to try my hand at WOTR.  After all, what's to fear this time, except for the odd orc, neurotic necromancer, irate dwarf or The Eye of Sauron. [Cue sound of reverberating thunder and sinister, mocking laugh.]

So, here goes!  Is there anyone other than babes in arms and very small children who do not have some good idea of the full story, if not from the real source Tolkien's classic trilogy, The Lord of The Rings, then at least from Peter Jackson's equally epic cinematic version?  My first encounter was back in 1965 aged 15!

Packing that narrative into a single game has been an equally monumental achievement and I defy anyone to refute WOTR's success. [vicious, nail-studded, orc club narrowly misses my skull - alright there's always someone out there won't agree!] 

So, it's dive in there with the playing board, a map of Middle-Earth.  Why the map? Well, partly because I'm fascinated by 'em, even down to reproducing by hand a vast  copy of the one from The Hobbit way back in my student days to hang on my wall!  But mainly because it's fantastic and the 2nd edition has tweaked and improved the original edition's one.  In fact, this board is in the main a scaled-down version of the Collector's Edition version.

I suspect that the map is the key aspect that will draw conflicting opinions between this second edition and the first edition.  I say this because I am myself torn between aspects of the two.  Though the original map's strong ochre colouring looks more like a Middle-Earth where Sauron has won, making me think of a post-apocalyptic desert, it does pack a strong, dramatic punch.  On balance, I prefer the new map [you might just have spotted the word "improved" |I slipped in earlier]. 

The predominantly verdant land with its dark green woods and now much more strongly contrasting region of Mordor seems a more accurate depiction.  The mountains stand out more and the various regions are better delineated and so easier to spot during game play.  My only wish is that Mordor had been made even grimmer and louring in its shading!

A series of boxes run down the left edge providing useful placement areas for besieged armies and, next to them, three, larger, very helpful holding boxes to accommodate sizable forces on the map.  This always tend to be a benefit in any game and especially WOTR with its huge supply of plastic figures, which grows even bigger with the expansion that I'll be reviewing soon!

The areas for holding the various key decks of cards are essentially identical to the original, but enlarged to take the new tarot-sized cards - love those.  A victory point track has been added at the bottom - useful, but always a target I've found for stray elbows and sleeves. [Not to mention those dice throwers who must insist on rolling them on or towards the game board.  Pet peeve of mine!]

The tarot-sized cards are superb.

On to those many, many plastic figures.  I look with deep envy at the glorious painted ones in on-line images and with even more envy at the set a fellow gamer plays with at conventions I attend.  I know it took him hours and nearly finished him off.

The Good

The Bad

And The Fellowship
[a little evil has crept in too, spot Saruman,
the Witch-king & The Mouth of Sauron]

I know that mine will never get quite the treatment I'd love to bestow on them.  Ultimately, my intention is to separate the various nations/races by colour [e.g. elves in green] to add to ease of play and spend some time on the special figures like those of the  Fellowship and, of course, Gollum.

Here he is! Dominating the Fellowship cards.
with apologies to James Cagney

The last selection of figures in light grey plastic are the Leaders of the various nations/races and Shadow leaders, such as the Nazgul.

Generally the casting is good, with decent depth of detail, but fairly soft plastic so that spears, bows, lances [and other long, sharp pointy things] tend to wilt and wobble.  Nothing that the old hot water bath and then into very cold water won't literally straighten out!  I have had a few problems distinguishing the regular warriors of Gondor and Rohan - there is a difference in size and which side their spears and shields are positioned, but on the board they become harder to distinguish.  I can also sometimes confuse the different mounted Leaders.  Both are minor issues and will soon be dealt with by the basic paint job I intend to give the different races/nations.

All in all, when on the board, even in this most basic form without any paint, they still look an impressive sight.

The opening set-up.

Here once more you can also see the new size and quality of the Character and Event cards for both sides.  As before, the game can be played as a two player or four player working in teams of two and I must confess to much preferring to play two-player.  However, this is very much a personal choice, mainly because I only tend to like such teaming of players on one side when there can still only be one winner.  So, Wars of The Roses by Z-man Games and Ragnar Brothers' Promised Land are both games I hugely enjoy, whereas WOTR is definitely a 2 player for my money!

All the counters and markers are of very sturdy cardboard and I particularly like the new square Army markers [which replace the former, smaller round ones] inscribed with elven script that can be used to replace large numbers of units that are then placed in the Army Holding boxes on the map.  Beside the few physical changes, overall there have been very limited minor changes and additions to the rules - why change what was very good in the first place?

Much to my surprise the one factor that has had some complaints are the Action dice - too light, not clear enough, being the main ones - and complaints about the ordinary six-sided dice too.  As the latter past complaints seem to bear no relationship to the dice that came with my review copy, either they have been changed because of the complaints or I was just plain lucky.  They are plain simple basic D6s!  Should there be any problem with the ones you get in your game, most gamers usually have a huge stock of dice that they can swop in at the drop of a hat.  Any issues with the Action dice seem purely to be a question of personal aesthetics, not a certifiable factual problem.  To trot out one of my favourite French phrases : chacun a son gout!

To your taste or not?  Just don't put them in your mouth to find out.

With the rule book I do not intend to go into great detail discussing the actual rules, as there are so many forums and videos that take you through them in great detail.  Safe to say, as a component the rules book itself, it is an all-round delight.  The tactile quality of the substantial, smooth, glossy pages makes it a pleasure just to hold in your hand.  Good sized print, well laid out on the page, effective use of bold for emphasis, additional artwork just for atmosphere and above all everything clearly and well explained. 

Though at the end of the rules, there is a full-page of what is headed as a "Summary", this is a little misleading.  It is not a summary as such, but simply a sequential index of the rules. In other words, it's not an index where you can look up a rule in alphabetical order.  To find what you want to look up, you need to know which section of the rule book to find it in or at the worst skim through the whole page to locate it.  As WOTR has a substantial number of rules, for a gamer approaching these rules for the first time, it's not the most useful format.

The front cover of the rule book.

As a lover of the Tolkien novels and, I've got to say the Peter Jackson films too, this is the game interpretation for me.  I have tried a number of the card approximations of the game, but none achieves the all-encompassing nature of this game.  Two reasons I suspect influence me - one I am first and foremost a board wargamer and second, a pure card version of a game, I fear, will never wholly satisfy me. 

Above all I find that WOTR is the only game that successfully and smoothly integrates the combination of armies manoeuvring and fighting with the singularity of the quest to destroy the One Ring.  Many years ago SPI attempted this with what was for its time an incredible product, but also a massive, unwieldy monster that was only partially successful.

What is it in WOTR that achieves this success?   For me, it is the perfect mixture of the following vital elements.  Conventional area movement, combat and sieges.  Character figures with functions that inevitably mirror the break-up of the Fellowship as individuals need to be sent to rouse the Free Peoples and bring them in to the war.  The separate journey of the Ring-Bearers with its hidden element and the accompanying Hunt for the Ring.  Just as in the books the One Ring binds them all, so  in the game the Action dice brings together all these elements.  The limitations and uncertainty of these Action dice and what potential Actions can be taken that turn combine with the Event cards that each offer a dual choice. This makes for the variety and multiplicity of choices in a game that I value highly in any game of substantial weight and is central to my enjoyment in playing the game.

It is a long game, but one that rewards the time you spend on it.  Should you want a similar experience, but a shorter one there is always The Battle of Five Armies to fall back on.  This is an excellent game using most of the elements found in WOTR, but just like reading The Hobbit is a lesser experience than reading the whole trilogy of The Lord of The Rings, so is The Battle of Five Armies in relation to playing WOTR a fine, but lesser challenge.

To conclude, I feel I must use the game's full title again to do it full justice.  WAR OF THE RING stands out, not just as the best evocation and recreation of the original work of literature it is founded on, but one of the best [I would claim the best] among the many games that have attempted to take a different genre and reproduce it in game form.

 [pub. Ares Games]

Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick    I must admit I have a fetish for military aircraft....

Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick Japanese Aircraft of World War II 1937-1945 by Thomas Newdick

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


 I must admit I have a fetish for military aircraft. I have bought every book I could on them, and I have also purchased almost every computer simulation of them I could. For some reason my fancy is tickled, especially by Axis aircraft of WWII. Mustangs were war winners and Spitfires are beautiful in a way, but give me a Macchi or a Nakajima and my eyes sort of glaze over. So I have more than my share of book compendiums like this one, but not like this one. Everyone of the compendiums of a certain war or country that I have purchased or read has left me a bit dry. Oh sure, they give you the speed, and altitude etc. of the plane, or in actuality one of the plane's variants. What they don't show you is what is in this handy volume of Japanese planes.

 The books several parts are divided as follows:

Land-based Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft

Land-based Fighters

Carrier Aircraft

Flying Boats and Floatplanes

Rocket and Jet-powered Aircraft

 It ends up with a 'Specifications and Data'  chapter which is split into these categories:

Types and Variants: Numbers built

Allied Reporting Names for Japanese Aircraft

Naming and Number System

Japanese Navy Air Service Short Designation System

Selected Technical drawings

 This book only shows planes that actually flew, and not planes that were still on the drawing board or in another development phase. There are six planes that are in the 'Technical Drawings'. They are as follows: Dinah, Tony, Zeke, Betty, Oscar, and a Frank. For those who do not know, boys' names were given by the Allies to Japanese fighters, and girls' names were given to their bombers. Notice there is no 'Zero'. The Mitsubishi A6M Reisen was actually called a Zeke by the Allies, and not a Zero. The 'Zero' came from the fact that it started its career in the year 2000 of the Japanese calendar. For the types and their variants there are listings for how many airframes were built no matter how few. The book also explains that there was a separate Army and Navy Air Force in Japan at the time. To further confuse the issue some Japanese naval Aircraft were only land based and not capable of carrier operations.

 The book itself is only 128 pages long, but it is packed with facts and figures about all of the Japanese aircraft. As a handy reference on Japanese warplanes, this cannot be beat. The fact that the specifications of all the major variants are given is more than worth the price. A note to the reader: these specifications are almost all from Japanese sources. When several fighters were tested in the U.S. during and after the war, they were given high octane fuel just like our own planes. The Japanese had only a very limited supply of this at the beginning of the war, and were never able to replace it. So the airplanes tested had higher speeds during our testing than would show on Japanese specifications. The book also goes into, in a limited way, some of the air munitions that were carried by these planes. 

 All in all, it is the best small volume of its kind that I have read, with more than enough information for the casual reader or plane aficionado. Hopefully the author is working on a similar book for Italian World War II planes.

  I couldn't resist adding this picture.

This is a Nakajima Ki-44 'Shoki' or 'Tojo'


Book: Japanese Aircraft of World War II
Author: Thomas Newdick
Publisher: Amber Books
Distributor: Casemate publishers

Warbirds: Blitzkrieg Review   Reviewing this game has been a learning experience on my part. It is a print and play game that also...

Warbirds Blitzkrieg by Warbirds Game System Review Warbirds Blitzkrieg by Warbirds Game System Review

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


Reviewing this game has been a learning experience on my part. It is a print and play game that also comes with a Vassal module built in. I had only dipped my toe at times down through the years into Vassal, so for this game I had to get into it down to the nuts and bolts. This game goes back to an earlier age where computers and all our new fangled doodads didn't exist. With all of our new games and plane simulations etc. why do we need to go back to a board game like this? The reason board games of any type are still around, and not only that are thriving right now is because of the game play. You will see during this review that this game is intricate, but fun, and that as a simulation of early WWII war in the air it works. You will have to read (shudder) and not just click a mouse. The game is fairly long on rules, but for gamer's who have played ASL or the original it is nowhere near as bad/good depending on your taste, and masochistic tendencies.

The game is based on what a pilot could do in in 4.1 seconds of real time. The length and breadth of the rules are because of the physical constraints of using one dimensional maps etc. to simulate everything a plane could do in three dimensions. In order to recreate dogfighting and ground pounding the player has to understand how the rules allow him to not only fly loops, but also do an Immelmann. The index of the rules takes up four pages (there are also a lot of optional rules to immersive yourself further). This is not to scare you off, but just to make sure you understand what you are buying into. The rules are sixty-one pages long, but it does have a lot of illustrations. After that there comes more rules for playing by PBEM, and then reference material, and then an alphabetical index. With the rules in PDF form it is very easy to have them open on a tablet or phone. So you won't have to print them off unless you want to. They are clearly written without ambiguities to argue over. The game rules are intuitive so without to much checking you will be up and flying and fighting in no time.

The game comes with twenty-four maps, and thirty three scenarios. The print and play version has very nicely done graphics, and the Vassal components are top notch.

The manual is well setup to learn all of the different things you need to know in an ABC method. The game is actual in two parts, there is a tactical part, and also an operational one. The tactical part is you flying your plane(s) over the different mapboards. The operational part is one where you are a flight commander, and are responsible for carrying out different missions. The operations part of the game has its own separate rule book.

Flight Ops Chart
Background on Air Warfare
The written material includes designers notes, and tons of background on air warfare.

 The rules are full of illustrations to show how they are to be utilized in the game.

Counters (Counters and Maps come in US and UK sizes)
More Counters
BF109E Data Card
The plane charts are a marvel all by themselves. By studying them you really get the 'feel' for the different planes.
Dornier Data Card
Dornier Data Card
 What you get for the price of $30.00 is pretty amazing. The fact that once you have the rules down they can be used in any of the other games in the series from WWI to the present is a tribute to how well the rules actually convey air warfare. I have started following along as some players use the PBEM system with the Vassal module. It seems to work pretty seamlessly.

 The games system started out as just a WWII addon for another flying game. The idea is just about twenty years old. Steve Pancrazio is the brain behind the games. Mr. Pancrazio has a background in engineering and aviation. He started playing board wargames in 1974, Avalon Hills 'Luftwaffe' to be exact. He decided to self publish his games in 2014, and the first one is called 'Canvas Falcons' and it has a good following on boardgamegeek etc. As I stated earlier, he was trying, and succeeded, in developing a flight game that could be used in different eras without having to learn a whole new set of rules for each new era. If you look at the rules for 'Blitzkrieg', and compare them to 'Canvas Falcons' you will not see too many differences. The next release will be 'The Battle of Britain' for which he is finishing the naval rules right now. After that it is on to 'Forgotten Wars', and then he will add a Zeppelin module for 'Canvas Falcons'. As a teaser there are aircraft data cards on the website for 'Forgotten Wars' one is a Mig-15 and the other an F-86.
  For those of you who want a physical copy there is the print-n-play version, which comes with the game. Their are more than a few good websites that can teach you how to make your own counters and maps, along with instructional videos.

 There is so much here that I really wanted to show, but cannot because of only having so much space.
Following are some shots from the Vassal version:


Company: Warbirds game System
Designer: Steve Pancrazio

Review of Tamiya 1/35 scale Sdkfz 251/1 Ausf D           After a long 30 year hiatus from building scale model kits I deci...

Review of Tamiya 1/35 scale Sdkfz 251/1 Ausf D Review of Tamiya 1/35 scale Sdkfz 251/1 Ausf D

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

Review of Tamiya 1/35 scale Sdkfz 251/1 Ausf D

After a long 30 year hiatus from building scale model kits I decided to begin the hobby again. This is my fifth build in six months and I have chosen a great kit from Tamiya, the Sdkfz 251/1 Ausf D for my review and build. (Hannoversche Maschinenbau AG) a German producer of steam locomotives, tractors, trucks and military vehicles in Hannover, Germany. The single most important and iconic military vehicle to be designed and built by Hanomag during World War II was the SDKFZ 251 half-track (commonly called simply "the Hanomag") with a total production numbering just over 15,000.

 Built to protect and transport the mechanized infantry, it was by far the most common German armoured troop-carrying vehicle of World War II, and a direct precursor to the APC's of today. In comparison to the most common Allied half-track of the war, the M3, the Sd.KFz 251 was slower and lower-powered but with thicker, sloping side armor that provided better protection; the flat-sided M3 was at one point panned as the "Purple Heart Box" for being unable to stop 7.92mm bullets at close range, while the Hanomag's sloping side armor deflected the .30-caliber bullets of the Allies with no similar issue.

  The kit was released in 1995 and retails for around $25 USD. Upon opening the box,the parts are the usual Tamiya dark yellow color. The kit includes 4 decently moulded figures and many extra's such as panzerschrek, grenades, grenade boxes and weapons. Very crisp moulding with no need to sand off left over seams from most of the parts.Main exception is small circle moulds which need to be sanded off the doors. Instructions are straight forward beginning with the torsion bar to attach to lower hull. I usually read the instructions fully and do not always follow them exactly in order especially with this kit as an interior fighting compartment is included and that has to be assembled and painted first before the upper hull can be attached.

I begin by cutting the roadwheels from the sprue,sanding where needed and painting them both sides with Tamiya XF 1 flat black paint. I plan on doing "hairspray" chipping. This consists of a base coat,in this case flat black. A lacquer coat,once dry a coat of any commercial hairspray, again allow to dry followed by the final coat. The final coat of Tamiya XF 60 dark yellow is masked with a drafting template purchased at the local art store to get  a perfect circle on the roadwheels, leaving the flat black color of the rubber on the roawheels. Once dry I will apply water and the hairspray undercoat has a chemical reaction to the water and I use an old toothbrush to chip away the final coat to reveal the black underneath.

Next work is done on the interior fighting compartment. Detailed dashboard is moulded nicely as well as steering wheel, gearshift, driver and passenger seats. The later style wooden slate type benches (early variants had leather seats)for the squad are here as well as rifle racks and stowage compartments. The floor is very nice detail a well.

Painting the interior I primed it with Testor's Model master flat oxide red. This is the primer color used on German vehicles before the primary coat was applied. The main coat for the interior was painted in Vallejo dark yellow with the exception of radios and seats. With the interior complete work on the upper hull began.

Upper hull glued on. I do not have a picture,but upper and lower hull were held together after glue applied with tape for a few hours. Next the interior was masked off and coat of dark yellow applied.
 Next a coat of Tamiya desert sand paint applied,followed by decals.
Roadwheels and tires put in place
I wanted to try something different for the weathering process.The great thing about building model kits today is the amount of advice,tips and tricks available online. Following these tips, decided to use oil paints for the weathering effects,rain streaks,dust,mud etc. Of course there are many products pre mixed and very costly. For the colors used I went with Naples yellow,raw umber,burnt sienna some white and black oil paints. Started with what is called a "filter" applied over the entire vehicle.This was Naples yellow thinned with enamel thinner. I do not follow ratio's,just mix until a thin consistency.This tones down the main coat. Next was Naples yellow again, blended into highlights to lighten area's of the vehicle most exposed to sunlight and natural light.


Next a pin wash was applied to small details such as bolts and weld seams,around storage boxes and locks. I used Vallejo black wash for this. Finally streaking effects were added with a mix of raw umber, burnt sienna and white.

Next chipping was applied with a small brush at various points on the vehicle where paint would chip off. Rule of thumb for me is if you can see the chips from 2 feet away,they are too much. Keep them in scale.

The final step was applying pigments to simulate dust effects. Again, instead of wasting money on a commercial product marketed specifically for model kits, I simply bought a set of oil pigments at the local art shop and made my own. I really enjoy doing things "old school".

Overall a very decent kit, though some would say dated, it still holds it own with kits made today. Hope you like my build.Comments and critique's are welcome.