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Sherman Tanks British Army and Royal Marines  Normandy Campaign 1944 by Dennis Oliver  This book has surprised m...

Sherman Tanks British Army and Royal Marines Normandy Campaign 1944 by Dennis Oliver Sherman Tanks British Army and Royal Marines Normandy Campaign 1944 by Dennis Oliver

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


 This book has surprised me. I am a Duesenberg, and not a Ford Model T person. So the 'Model T' of tanks, the Sherman, has never impressed me. I knew it was rugged and dependable, but I also knew it was known as the 'Tommy cooker'. It was a perfect tank up until 1943. In the last two years of the war, its reputation went downhill. The Sherman armor was not up to snuff when playing with the German big cats: Panthers and Tigers. By 1943 the Sherman's short 75mm gun was also not powerful enough. Even with the issues mentioned above, the Sherman did have some good points. It was easy to drive, was fast, and could be repaired quickly. The Sherman was meant to be mass produced, and was it ever. It is the third most produced tank in history!(the most produced tank was not the T-34, but the t-54/55 if you include all of the Chinese models of it).

 The book starts with short history of the Sherman, and then goes into its use in British armored formations. This then segues into a history of each British armored division or brigade in the Normandy campaign.

 Then the book has twelve colored pages of front and side pictures of all different types and models of Shermans', including the model V with the 17 pounder gun. The author believes that the term 'Firefly' for this version was not used in WWII. These pictures are excellent material for all of us model builders.

 We get into the model section next. There are six different models showcased from world class model builders. The two that stick out to me are the Sherman Crab (this had a revolving bar with heavy chains attached to set off mines), and the BARV(Beach Armored recovery Vehicle). I am a sucker for armor oddities or tanks that had  very low production figures. The BARV is soon to be available from ROCHM Model for both Dragon and Tasca kits.

 Next in line is a rundown of all of the different kits in the 1/35 and 1/48 scale. The pages right after this are for all of the metal and resin add-ons that you can buy to trick out your next Sherman kit. The book ends with a few more pages of background on the different Sherman production models and some more history.

 This book, along with the one on Tigers I-II that I just reviewed, are great books for someone who wants a short history of these tanks that are filled with facts and pictures of them. Their obvious audience are modellers. For this group the books are of tremendous value. 


Book: Sherman Tanks British Army and Royal Marines Normandy Campaign 1944
Author: Dennis Oliver
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Do you fancy yourself a game designer, full of great ideas that you want to transform into a real product? Maybe you just need the right too...

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box Kickstarter The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box Kickstarter

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

Do you fancy yourself a game designer, full of great ideas that you want to transform into a real product? Maybe you just need the right tools to get started. Check out this Kickstarter for The White Box, which promises to give you the bits and pieces and advice that you need to turn those ideas into a prototype, and that prototype into a real game on the shelf.

I will be chronicling the use of this box to create a couple prototypes of my own later this year when it releases. If you want to try it for yourself, head over to the Kickstarter now, there are only a few days left.

- Joe Beard

Red Army Tanks of World War II by Tim Bean and Will Fowler   Red Army tanks of World War II; not pretty or stat...

Red Army Tanks of World War II by Tim Bean and Will Fowler Red Army Tanks of World War II by Tim Bean and Will Fowler

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


  Red Army tanks of World War II; not pretty or state of the art, but extremely effective nonetheless. 

 This book is a history of not only the Soviet Tanks of World II, but also a history of tanks in the Soviet Union before and after the war.  The book has a photograph or line drawing with specifications on each page.

 The book itself is split into ten sections. These are:

The birth of the tank arm
 Deep battle
Light tanks
Medium and fast tanks
The T-34
Heavy tanks
Late war tanks
Foreign tanks in Soviet service
Stalin's legacy

 The story of Soviet tanks starts with the Russian Revolution, and continues into the Civil War between the Whites and Reds (among  others of various shades also). The Soviets captured their first tanks, which were World War I surplus, from the various White forces. 

 You are then shown how the Army and government were behind not only buying other countries' tanks, but also wanted to develop their own types and factories. Strangely, the Germans and Soviets collaborated for a few years from 1927 on. The Germans were not allowed tanks by the Versailles treaty. This cooperation between the two countries may seem strange to us today, with our knowledge of the history soon to be enacted between the two.  At the time, it was a way for both armies and governments to work on tank development without any prying eyes.

 The next part of the book deals with the 'Deep Battle' Soviet concept. On the outside it pretty much seems like the first attempt by any army to develop what would later be called 'Blitzkrieg'. Two things happened to kill the idea and usage of "Deep Battle'. First was Stalin's purge of the Soviet Armed forces. Almost all of the officers who were involved with the creation of 'Deep Battle' or its usage were murdered or exiled to the Gulags. The second was the use of the Soviet tanks at that time in the Spanish civil war. Most European countries used this as a test bed for their different armaments. The general in charge of the Soviet expeditionary force came away with the idea that tanks were useless unless used in the infantry support role. This meant that both the Western Allies and the Soviets had reverted to a World War I usage of tanks, while the Germans who had little or no experience with their own tanks were free to work on their own ideas. 

  The book then goes into all of the different Soviet light tanks and their usage. Next, the Soviet medium and fast tanks are showcased. The importance of the 'Christie' tank and the convoluted story of its arrival in the Soviet Union is gone over in detail. The 'Christie' tank was actually made by a U.S. manufacturer, but his design, while revolutionary, was not take to heart by the Western Allies at the time. The opposite was true of the Soviet Union, which is obvious by looking at their subsequent tank designs.

 The T-34 is gone over next in complete detail from inception to its last usage. As is befitting of such a design, it occupies a large part of the book all on its own.

 Heavy tanks are brought to our attention next. The various multi-turreted monsters of the various nations, along with the Soviets, are gone through. They all look quaint in a way, and they make you wonder what the different engineers and designers were thinking. The story of the SMK tank shows how well the writers have gone into their subjects. When Stalin was presented with the original clay model of the SMK, a fight of sorts broke out. Originally the SMK was to be a three turreted design. To cut to the chase, and end the bickering, Stalin snapped off one of the turrets saying "Why turn a tank into a department store?". The book also shows how deeply Stalin was involved from the beginning with tank development and construction. Strangely, the designers were able to have give and take dialogues with the fearsome dictator. The book goes into all of the Heavy Soviet tanks, and also its tank destroyers. Among them are my favorites: the SU and ISU152. This monster was given the nickname 'zvierboy' or 'animal hunter' for its ability to take on German Tigers and Panthers. The lend lease American and British tanks are then shown, and likes and dislikes of the Soviet tankers to the different models are told.

 In 'Stalin's Legacy' we are shown the generations of tanks from WWII to the Cold War, and the resurgence of the 'Deep Battle' concept. An appendix follows that shows exactly how many tanks of what series were produced, and also gives some German versus Soviet tanks numbers in a few picked battles of the Eastern Front. 

 This book is easy to recommend to anyone who is interested in not just Soviet tanks, but also in their history and development.


Publisher: Amber Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Phantom leader for the PC by  Dan Verssen Games  This is a PC port of a boardgame from the same developer. In it you ...

Phantom leader for the PC by Dan Verssen Games Phantom leader for the PC by Dan Verssen Games

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


 This is a PC port of a boardgame from the same developer. In it you get the chance to play the United States Navy or Air Force in three different campaigns. They are:

1965 - This campaign takes place mostly in South Vietnam, and the gist of the campaign is to choke off munitions etc. coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

1967 - This campaign takes place in North Vietnam. As the U.S. player, you are allowed to attack only some targets. This was because of a strategy called 'gradualism'. In a nutshell, you are allowed to attack some targets while others are 'held hostage'. This was an attempt to bring the North Vietnamese to a peace conference.

1972 - This is Operation Linebacker. It also takes place in North Vietnam. In this scenario, you as the U.S. player can go for broke. You are attempting to punish North Vietnam so severely that they have no other recourse than to discuss a peaceful settlement to the Vietnam war.

 The game looks pretty simple for a PC game, and as usual looks can be deceiving. The graphics and play are not going to task anyone's computer. As mentioned it is a boardgame port, and unlike most of them is very true to the original boardgame.

 First you choose what campaign you will play, and then you pick which U.S. service you will command. The length of your game can be short, medium, or long. the shortest scenario is only two days, and the longest one is twelve days. The campaigns are listed on the left of the above pic. You can see that you will be evaluated during the scenario on a points system. The grades are as follows: Great, Good, Adequate, Poor, and Dismal.

  You are given a wide array of planes to use during your missions. They are:

Phantom II
F-105 Thunderchief
F-100 Super Sabre
F-104 Starfighter
A-4 Skyhawk
F-8 Crusader
A-6 Intruder
EB-66 Destroyer
A-7 Corsair II 

 You have only a certain amount of pilots of each rating that you can use. The ratings are:


 You might also get the chance to promote some pilots at the beginning of a scenario.

 This is the first screen of where you will choose your targets.

 This screen shows the targets from the deck that you are able to attack. 

 This screen is the actual one where your mission will take place. Notice the North Vietnamese assets set up in the middle of the page.

 You also have an event card deck that you can use.

 The rule book is accessible on every page. it is well written, and easy to follow.

 Here is a page from the rule book showing the North Vietnamese defenses you will meet, and the counters from the U.S. side.

 This is a shot of my planes during the setup of the mission.

  The great thing about the game is it is a very well done PC conversion of a boardgame. The only problem that I can see will be with straight PC users who have not played boardgames. What I mean by that is the game does not spoon feed you. A lot of PC boardgames do everything but play the game for you. With this game you will have to read the rules to understand better about what is happening game wise.

 The game has fairly short campaigns; as mentioned, some are only two days long. So pre-planning is a must, and sometimes a little luck with die rolls is also good.

 This game is more like a hardcore RPG or a management simulation than other wargames. In this game you do feel like you are in charge of these pilots. You have to manage and juggle the different pilots' stress, status, and their overall well being. Whereas in most games where you can just go for broke and attempt to win that hex before turn 10 (no matter what the cost in cardboard or computer lives), this time around your actual leadership skills are taken into account. The immersion factor is high because you have a name and  few individualized stats. You are not just ordering the 3rd battalion to take that town or whatever. Strangely, I like the game even though I do not seem to be good at it at all. Playing it does not make you throw your hands up in disgust though. You just fire it up one more time to see if this time you can actually get it  right. For you solitary players out there, this game is an easy one to give a recommendation to.


Tiger I and tiger II Tanks German Army and Waffen SS Eastern front 1944 by Dennis Oliver   The German big 'cats&#...

Tiger I and tiger II Tanks German Army and Waffen SS Eastern front 1944 Tiger I and tiger II Tanks German Army and Waffen SS Eastern front 1944

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


  The German big 'cats'; who would not be impressed by them? The total amount of these tanks that were constructed was not very much, but their influence on so many battlefields went far beyond mere numbers. There are so many stories of Tigers limping back to their own lines with shell marks on them too numerous to count. They were bent, bruised, and battered, but still capable of taking out any Allied tank. They are a mechanical marvel. All it takes is to watch some tanks go through their paces on the TV to see the difference. All the other tanks lurch and clank and sputter. The Tigers go through their paces like a Ferrari. Otto Carius said that you could steer it with one finger. Over engineered, certainly. Deadly in the hands of a veteran crew, almost certainly. 

 This book is a bit of a amalgamation. It is about the history of all of the Tiger tanks and their crews that fought on the eastern front in 1944, but it is also about Tiger I-II models.

 There are six different models of Tiger Is and IIs, and also a Sturm Tiger. All are from different world class model makers, and they are fantastic. They are enough to make you get your poorly made Tiger models and throw them away. The weathering and the detail is superb. The dirt and snow in the first models tracks are unbelievably realistic. There are also ten pages of excellent side shots of different Tigers for modellers to use in their builds.

 Then there are pages of the Tigers that are on sale from all of the different model companies. Dragon, Italieri, Tamiya etc, they are all here. Speaking of Tamiya, did you know that the company started out as a sawmill? They started a sideline business of wooden ships and airplanes. The side business did so well they closed down the sawmill. The book is filled with that fact and so many others. 

 After the model companies are listed, there are a few pages of specialist companies that build add-ons to enhance your model. Metal, resin, and brass - you name it, it is listed here. 

  The unit histories are usually about a page in length. The book goes on to state and show all of the changes the different Tigers went though during their three years of construction.

 From a technical standpoint the book is a winner. Throw in all of the unit histories and then add the modelling, and it is a superb book on the Tiger I-II tanks. This book is part of the Pen and Sword 'Tank Craft' books. The book is really a showcase of the modellers and their builds, and gives the rest of us a shot in the arm to up our game on our next Tiger tank.

 I will be doing a review of another 'Tank Craft' book: 'Sherman Tanks British Army and Royal Marines Normandy Campaign 1944'. I cannot wait to see what the modellers have done in this one.


Author: Dennis Oliver
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate publishers

Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943 by Graviteam   Graviteam Tactics ; a lot of gamers have a love and hate relationship wit...

Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943 by Graviteam Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943 by Graviteam

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


 Graviteam Tactics; a lot of gamers have a love and hate relationship with this stable of games. The games themselves are stellar, but the complaints in the past were always about the UI and the patching process. The appearance of these games on Steam took care of the patching problems. The UI has been worked on since the first release. Their original foray into this type of game was 'Operation Star'. This was a simulation of the battles between Germany and Russia in 1942. The game was successful enough to spawn a large amount of DLCs. The next release was 'Mius Front'. Much of 'Tank Warfare' will be familiar to anyone who has played 'Mius Front'. 

 So this is their third release using this format. 'Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943' is about the battles in Tunisia between the American Army and German Army. 

 The game is separated into two modes, operational and tactical. The Operational mode is turn based, and this is where you will make your plans for the coming battles. In this phase you can also resupply, repair, and refuel. The tactical phase is in real time, and it is where you will actually fight your battles in striking 3D. The vehicles, infantry, and terrain are majestically rendered. The amount of area for your battles is actually over 400 square kilometers. This is not some RTS without any history or reality to it. It is a battlefield simulation with all of the bells and whistles including:

  • Enhanced UI: functional interface of various panels, radial orders menu and other enhancements.
  • Interface appearance and customization: three variants of appearance are included, customizable unit markers (Wehrmacht, NATO, Red Army).
  • High replayability and advanced AI, which selects the best strategy based on behavior, not a predetermined script.
  • Advanced management of forces in the operational phase: reinforcement strategies and management of reserves.
  • Statistics keeping: performance of each unit is recorded (kills, losses, awards, etc.). After each battle, damages and condition of forces and vehicles, as well as telemetry are shown in the after battle statistics.
  • Battlefield simulation: realistic vision devices, smoke screens and flares, creation of trenches, explosion craters. Remnants of previous battles remain on the battlefield until the end of operation.
  • Realistic soldier behavior: each soldier has several essential parameters, such as experience level, stamina and morale, which influence their behavior and effectiveness.
  • Detailed weapon modeling and realistic ballistics: bullets and projectiles follow ballistic trajectories, taking wind, temperature and other parameters into account.
  • Advanced armor penetration: modeling based on ballistic histograms without simplifications of probabilistic methods, generation of secondary fragmentation fields takes into account many parameters, such as the change of the field shape in space, fragments and armor characteristics, armor thickness and damage conditions.
  • Complex vehicle damage system: engine, suspension, sights, weapons and targeting mechanisms can be damaged separately, affecting the combat capabilities.
  • Destructible environment: almost everything can be blown up and destroyed, from landscape surface and buildings to vehicles and enemy defensive installations.
  • Advanced control of the off-map artillery, featuring various fuse settings and shell types.
  • Formation and movement modes: lines and columns, movement by road and covertly, infantry following behind tanks, setting a delay, fire sectors, etc.
  • Automatic smoke screen laying: units set up smoke screens when enemy is spotted.
  • Dynamic change of the time of day, light sources and weather effects, influence the course of battle, visibility and area passability. 

 It is a bit of a mouthful to swallow at one time. Graviteam has endeavored to recreate World War II battlefields with as much reality and history as possible. They have also strived to do this with as much eye candy as you can imagine. The great thing is that even with the patch and UI hiccups, they have improved with each incarnation. In reality, they have succeeded more than most people  actually dreamed they could. It is pretty impossible to put into words what Graviteam has made possible for us grognards. I have become completely entranced while watching my troops take part in night time firefights. The game is modeled down to the headlights on the various vehicles. 

 The game has three campaigns/operations, two large and one smaller one. Of the two, there is one for the Germans and one for the Americans. There are a number of smaller scenarios to battle through. The battle editor is actually able to be used in two ways. First, as a standard editor, and secondly as a a 'Quick battle' generator. The tutorials are also well done and all inclusive. With their use you will be armed and primed in no time.

  There have been no statements as of yet about upcoming DLCs to round out the other nations that fought in North Africa such as the English and Italians. Judging by Graviteam's past history there will be plenty of them to go around. 

 We now have to address the pink and polka dotted elephant in the room. "Tank warfare' is a wargame. It is a historically accurate simulation of the 1943 Tunisia campaign. Yes, the battles in it do take place in real time. I think that giving it the moniker of a RTS game is highly deceiving. I have seen complaints and reviews knocking the game because it is not frenetic enough for the twitch crowd. "Tank Warfare' was built from the ground up as a simulator of World War II battle. In this it succeeds admirably. To try and compare it to 'Command and Conquer' etc. does a disservice to both. I think some people saw the term real time and just assumed it would be a normal RTS game. All I can say is welcome to my world. For the past twenty some odd years, my ears have perked up and my heart rate has picked up whenever I saw or heard the name Hannibal. My hopes would be dashed once again when I found out they were discussing a fictional serial killer and not Mr. Barca.

 The game setting on first glance may seem as empty and flat as a chess board and without any terrain features to help or hinder us budding generals. In this it is deceiving. On closer inspection  you will find that the terrain is nowhere near as empty as the first glance suggests. One of the best features of a lot of the maps is the large territory that you are given to use to approach battle. There is nothing more annoying than being given an excellent wargame system and then provided with postage stamp size maps to fight it out on. This increases the playability immensely. You can try out tons of different strategies given the amount of territory the game gives you to use.

 For those of you who, like me, have everything Graviteam has done, this is an instant purchase. For you others out there give it a try. You might just get hooked like we did.


Game: Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943
Developer: Graviteam
Distributor: Strategy First


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

Expeditions Viking by  Logic Artists   By Odin and Frey, send all archers (or anyone who uses long range weapon...

Expeditions:Viking by Logic Artists Expeditions:Viking by Logic Artists

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


 By Odin and Frey, send all archers (or anyone who uses long range weapons) to Hel's Hall. For that matter, throw in all healers too. Expeditions: Viking is one hard game, but it was built from the ground up with this in mind. You will lose plenty of battles, but just because you see your party writhing in the mud doesn't mean that you have lost the war.

 The game starts at your father's arval (funeral feast). You start to hate the man from the beginning of the game. He apparently never read "How to win friends and Influence people". No one has a good word to say about him except your mother. Everyone praises him as a warrior, but as a thegn he seems to have been the most hated man in Denmark, if not a larger area. Your life in the game would be a tad bit easier if he had made some lasting friendships. So from the minute of his death, everyone in a one hundred mile radius is gunning for you.

 This is probably the most historical part of the game. I doubt that in the Viking age, the transfer of power from father to son was easy. Your dad's people skills or lack thereof, has given you a heavy task. Your first job is to fight a man in single combat (holmgang) to see which of you will lead the clan. Actually, he is just first in line. It almost seems like there is a deli ticket machine in front of your long house. The choice you are given is to make it a straight up fight or use dirty tricks against him, including giving him a bad case of the 'runs' the night before combat. I say go for the tricks. In actuality, the Viking sagas are filled with stories and praise for men who used any dirty trick they could find. Warriors are praised for sure, but especially smart and underhanded warriors.

 The game continues in this vein. Within the first few days of your rule you are attacked at least twice, the second time by a large group of raiders intent on pillaging something from your village. This is the battle where you will learn to hate archers. The game tries to be as historically correct as it can be. Logic Artists should be praised for their efforts in this direction. However, the use of so many archers seems to not be historical. Bows etc., were used during the era, but mostly for hunting and not for battle. I cannot determine if Logic Artists planned to use them to balance the game or just drive up players' blood pressure.

 The game is hard, and it isn't all at the same time. I guess you could save before every battle and replay it until you have won each encounter. But as I have mentioned, a lost battle does not mean game over. The game is very akin to learning to ride a bike. In most games the second you fall off the bike you die and the game is over. In this game the bumps, bruises, and contusions of the learning process are still there with you. I think this analogy fits the game nicely. Remember the glee , and how proud you were when you were finally astride your charger, and able to put it through its paces? You sat there with a chipped tooth and various Band-Aids, but you were victorious. Expeditions: Viking gives you a little bit of that feeling.

 Like most good party based RPGs, the game makes you balance what you think is the right course of action against the feelings of your party members. You must pet and caress them, and call them George to get the most out of them. You are also responsible for the upgrading of their abilities or arms and armor.

 Logic Artists' previous game, Expeditions: Conquistador, and this game to a lesser extent, have been slammed over the inclusion of women warriors. To me it is pretty much a nonissue. I was surprised to see so many female conquistadors, but not so much in seeing Viking women defend their homes. At least in these games the women warriors are fully dressed. I think it is pretty foolish when I am playing a hardcore RPG, and the female character in my party is dressed in a chain mail bikini.

 The game is pretty much a more polished version of Expeditions: Conquistador. All of the mechanics of the first game are here, camping with your party etc. If you liked the first game you will enjoy this one even more. If you like to watch the quasi-historical Vikings show on the History channel this game is right up your alley.  

 Some people have reported bugs appearing in some of the quest lines. I have not experienced any as of yet, other than my poor play.
There is one 'glitch' or strange developer decision. The game comes with 4 levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Insane. For anyone like me who is getting pummeled in the beginning, check this setting. By default it starts the game at the Insane level.

Please see my preview of Expeditions: Viking and the Expeditions: Conquistador review.


Developer: Logic Artists

Official Call of Duty®: WWII Reveal Trailer Official Call of Duty®: WWII Reveal Trailer

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

The latest DLC campaign for the ever expanding Order of Battle is, as the name suggests, entirely focused on the German navy in WW2.  Th...

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine Review Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine Review

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

The latest DLC campaign for the ever expanding Order of Battle is, as the name suggests, entirely focused on the German navy in WW2.  This is an interseting choice for the series, which began with Pacific theater campaigns that had a few naval combat scenarios, but has mostly focused on land battles since then. This is a great advantage of the modular nature of the game, which since its original release as Order of Battle: Pacific has morphed into Order of Battle: World War II. The game serves as a platform for campaigns ranging from wargame standbys such as the Blitzkrieg, to less well trod ground like Finland and China. In the case of Kriegsmarine, we are looking at something perhaps even rarer, nine missions focused from beginning to end on German warships, seaplanes, and, of course, the infamous U-Boats

For those unfamiliar with the base game, a quick overview. Order of Battle, in my mind, plays much like a more tactical rendition of Panzer Corps/General. The mechanics are much the same, combat takes place on a hex-based grid over a series of turns. Click a unit and you will see how far it can move, hover next to an enemy unit and you will see the combat odds. Every unit has an overall "health" number that starts at ten and gets whittled down (or blasted away) over the course of a battle. Units have a dozen or so other stats that effect how it will perform in combat against other unit types. There are numerous historical units available, including different types of tanks, infantry, aircraft, and naval vessels. In Kriegsmarine the focus is of course on various types of U-Boats, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. 

If you want to see exactly how the game looks in motion, here is a video of me playing through the second scenario.

One of the best features of Order of Battle is that you, the player, get to pick and choose most of the units which make up a "core" force that carries forward through the campaign. Other auxiliary units will be available to round out your roster in most scenarios, but this core force will make up the meat of your firepower. These units can gain experience over time, and even be upgraded to better versions as the war progresses. You will be tasked with deciding how to spend a limited amount of resources on purchasing new units, upgrading existing ones, or reinforcing those that inevitably take damage.

In Kriegsmarine, you will spend most of your points on naval vessels, with a smattering of aircraft to support them. Ground forces are not even available for purchase, only appearing occasionally in certain scenarios.  However, there is still a lot of room for decision making. There are various models of destroyers, subs, cruisers, and battleships available. Will you put numerous sneaky subs into the sea, or load up on the big heavies? As you might imagine, a good mix of everything will serve you well. You also have a limited number of slots for aircraft in each mission. I greatly preferred to dedicate these towards reconnaissance aircraft early on, but you can take fighters or bombers if you so choose.

A wolf pack prepares to strike.

Another way you can shape your force is by choosing specializations, which are permanent perks that you can invest in between missions. The points you have to invest here are very limited, and even if you get extra ones from completing secondary objectives, you won't have enough to get everything. This is a relatively new feature for the series, which was added in the Blitzkrieg campaign and now plays into the other campaigns as well. It adds a nice extra wrinkle to your strategy, letting you improve certain types of units or reinforcing your preferred tactics. In Kriegsmarine, you have a significant choice to make, do you dump almost all of your points into a single line that will unlock a few big and powerful warships, or do you spread those points around on lots of smaller improvements to your existing fleet. 

So, I've talked about the units that will make up your fleet and how you can customize it, but what sort of missions will you take on with them? The campaign spans nine scenarios, which each task you with a handful of mandatory and optional objectives. Completing the primary objectives is usually pretty straightforward and not that difficult on the default difficulty. However, the secondary objectives give you plenty of interesting challenges to chase after. Each success will earn you some type of reward, be it officers to assign to you ships for stat bonuses, additional specialization points, a free unit, or some kind of advantage in future scenarios. In many scenarios you will be hard pressed to complete all of these extra objectives in one go, but for those seeking some replayability, the challenge is there. 

Every scenario tasks you with a different sort of goal and circumstance. Direct naval combat is of course the order of the day, but your priorities are ever shifting and sometimes shaped by the geography. In several missions you will be hunting down merchant ships, but the situation will vary. For example, in one mission you are limited to only submarines, while in another you must avoid a powerful Royal Navy fleet while tracking down a few transports at a time. Some early missions have you assisting with amphibious invasions, but the actual fighting on the ground is limited. After these early historically grounded scenarios, and in order for the campaign to cover the entire war while being fun for the player, it quickly goes off the rails in historical terms. The German fleet in Kriegsmarine will not spend the war bottled up. It will win a string of victories and go on the offensive, taking out Allied warships by the dozen. I'll let you play the game and see for yourself, since these later levels tend to be the more elaborate missions. The highest praise I can give to the campaign itself is that I played through the whole thing in a matter of days, without ever losing interest or being bored. It definitely gave me that "just one more turn" feeling more than a few times.

There are several changes in mechanics from previous Order of Battle campaigns that were made to create a fuller experience here. Mastering these mechanics is key to keeping your fleet in good shape through the many large scale battles. The tutorial pop-ups explain them well for the most part, but I glossed over some while getting started and had to learn those the hard way. The balance between keeping your ships moving, to avoid being hit, while keeping the range to the enemy fixed, for better accuracy, turns the battles into a sort of a dance of death. The further a ship moves on its turn, the harder it will be to hit on the enemy's turn. Leaving any ship sitting still while enemies are about is nigh on suicidal, and even when you think you are safe, a torpedo armed aircraft or submarine might pop in to deal serious damage. The more cramped conditions of a few battles will have you pulling back your ships just to get some room to maneuver.  Other new mechanics include submarines with limited battery time under water before they must recharge, battleships having the ability to fire the "big guns" only on every other turn, and seaplanes, which are more flexible than other aircraft in this environment.

Most missions are on the open sea, but some are more cramped.

The only negatives I had with this campaign was the balancing of a few unit types. The single battleship I carried through my campaign never felt all that powerful, even after being upgraded and gaining experience. It seemed to be far more vulnerable to torpedoes and drew enemy fire like a magnet. Its special ability was only at times worth using, as it would sometimes do less damage than a regular attack. At the other end of the spectrum, I kept wishing the U-Boats were a bit more deadly, and thought maybe having a bonus to stealthy attacks would give them more bite. As it stands, they are there to pester the enemy at best, being slow, fragile when caught, and having only a mild capacity to deal damage. Even when used in a wolf pack, they could rarely take down an enemy ship before needing to run and hide from sonar equipped destroyers. Also, the U-Boats only get one scenario that really puts them in the spotlight.

My late game fleet, ready to set sail.

Overall, this campaign was much more enjoyable than I initially expected it to be. The naval focused scenarios from the Pacific campaigns in the original Order of Battle were not my favorite part of the game, so I thought it was a pretty bold move for The Artistocrats to make an entire campaign exclusively on naval warfare. That said, I was won over by the improved combat mechanics, the interesting setting, and the solid scenario design. If you don't want to take my word for it, you can actually play the first scenario for free in the Order of Battle: WW2 base game, which includes the original tutorial campaign and the first mission from every DLC campaign. Clocking in at only $10, Kriegsmarine is a fun excursion to a rarely portrayed theater of World War II and will give you some good bang for your buck.

- Joe Beard

Order of Battle: Kriegsmarine is available directly from Matrix Games here or on Steam.

Developer: The Artistocrats
Publisher: Matrix Games/Slitherine