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WINGS OF GLORY: BATTLE OF BRITAIN This game has a solid ancestry, first came Wings of War WWI and then WWII which morphed into Wi...


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


This game has a solid ancestry, first came Wings of War WWI and then WWII which morphed into Wings of Glory for both World Wars and its naval off-shoot Sails of Glory taking us back to days of wooden ships and iron men with Napoleonic encounters on the high seas [and my first review for AWNT].

Despite a significant number of additional planes for Wings of Glory WWII, its WWI focus has always seemed to draw greater interest, mainly I suspect because of the glamour of those early amazing machines with bi-planes and tri-planes and, of course, the Red Baron, Von Richtofen himself.

Image result for the red baron

I certainly understand and share that pull of the beginning of aerial warfare and the birth of the Royal Flying Corps.  But being born  five years after WWII, my childhood was filled with Spitfires and Mosquitoes, Stuka dive-bombers and Messerschmitts and the Blitz and the amazing story of Douglas Bader as recounted by Paul Brickhill in his book Reach For The Sky.   Not to mention the many Biggles books [including the one linked to here Biggles Defies The Swastika] that span both WWI and WWII. 

Image result for douglas bader

WWII Ace Douglas Bader

So, Ares Games latest addition to their oeuvre of aerial combat has an enormous appeal.  Wings of Glory: Battle of Britain like its predecessor Wings of Glory: WWII comes as a stand-alone package which can act as a starter set or bring a further set of planes to your table if you've already embarked on the WWII series.

For those of you familiar with the mechanics of play and typical contents, you may wish to fast-forward to my comments and conclusions.  As always, the quality of the contents represents excellent value for money, starting with the four pre-painted model planes: 2 Spitfire Mk1s and 2 Messerschmitt Bf109 E-3s, each with its double-sided console marked for the Basic game on one side and Standard/Advanced game play on the other.

Four consoles [Basic side]

Inevitably, and necessarily, there are sheets and sheets of markers.  Many relate to damage and speed and, of course, each plane comes with its own deck of manoeuvre cards as well as three special ability cards.

The rulebook text is an identical replication in a compact 44 pages of the original Wings of Glory: WWII as are all the diagrams, though many of the reproductions of cards from the manoeuvre decks are different. 

Rules Booklet and Scenario Booklet

The essentially simple system, yet with a surprising scope in its rules, remains one of the major draws of this game.  The Basic Rules occupy a mere 6 pages and are ideal for providing an intro-level game to the beginner or younger player.  Personally, I'd recommend including the 3 additional pages of Standard Rules right from the start.  They add virtually nothing in terms of complexity and everything in terms of appeal.

Instead of planning and playing a single manoeuvre card at a time, you start with your first and second card planned.  From then on it's play first card, move your second card into the first slot and plan next card.  Admittedly, I miss the more prolonged choice of three cards which must all be played in sequence before planning the next set of three that is a feature of the WWI game.  But, the greater responsiveness and manoeuvrability of WWII planes are reflected by this two card sequence.

Spitfires at higher altitude prepare to intercept.

The other two additions in the Standard Rules are the classic Immelmann turn and special damage tokens.  As you can see, hardly a difficult trio of developments.  Even the Advanced Rules only goes 4 pages further and largely develops movement concepts - bringing in High/Low Speed, Altitude and the accompanying ability to Dive and Climb - slightly trickier to handle, but nothing overwhelming.

A closer view of those Spitfires

Similarly, a nearer view of their target - the Messerschmitts

The Optional Rules bring in a wide range of elements that certainly add to my enjoyment of the game.  Just some of them include: the potential for airfields and landing and taking off: fuel: cloud cover; extended crew damage and [my favourite] Ace Rules, which bring in a wide range of special abilities and Rookies too.

The next part entitled Special Airplanes is obviously preparing the way for further models, covering as it does two-seaters and multi-engine planes.  Once again, all these include excellent diagrams and illustrations.

Just one of the many excellent illustrations

Finally,  there's a small section  on Ground Units.  In part, they provide targets for bombing and the wherewithal to fire back at the planes.  The latter anti-aircraft guns have a very personal appeal as my father served in the Royal Artillery in WWII, manning A/A guns around the British Isles from as far north as the Shetlands to postings along the coast and the English Channel during the period of the feared German invasion and the Blitz.

The whole is contained in a very compact, well designed package - with just ONE problem - getting those superb models out of their recesses!!

Excellent packaging, with one drawback!

If you haven't bought into this system yet, then Wings of Glory: Battle of Britain is the perfect starting point and I'd strongly recommend buying a copy immediately.  If you have the previous starter set Wings of Glory: WWII, but haven't extended the range of plane types, then this package still offers great value for money  just by giving you 4 more planes.  These alone bought separately would cost you at least as much as this whole  product and would give you only the planes and their manoeuvre cards.  Buying the new starter package adds four more plane consoles, shed loads more markers, obviously another rule book and a separate booklet with Battle of Britain scenarios.

If you want to develop your squadrons, then there's plenty to attract you and Ares Games were very generous in sending the four additional planes displayed above which include the Hawker Hurricane Mk1 and the Junkers JU87 B-2, better known as the Stuka Dive-Bomber.  All these come with their own sheet of decals to customise each plane if you wish.

A final item worth mentioning is the series of  battle mats that can be bought to enhance any of the Wings of Glory games.  I hope even my photos do them enough justice to encourage your adding them to your must buy wish list.

So, dare I say, " Chocks away and tally ho, old boy!"

The Mongol Conquests The Military Operations of Genghis Khan and Sube'etei  by   Carl Fredrik Sverdrup   Genghis...

The Mongol Conquests: The Military Operations of Genghis Khan and Sube'etei by Carl Fredrik Sverdrup The Mongol Conquests: The Military Operations of Genghis Khan and Sube'etei by Carl Fredrik Sverdrup

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


 Genghis Khan, (I will use the spelling the author uses on both his and Sube'etei's names. I have seen them spelled three or four different ways) not the greatest conqueror in my eyes. That should be reserved for Timur, but Genghis Khan's descendants ruled the greatest land empire the world has ever seen, thanks in a large part to the actions of Sube'etei The Valiant. 

 Within the first pages of the book we learn that the Mongol war machine was based on the Khitan one. The Khitan or Liao empire ruled half of what was to become Genghis's empire in the year 1000 A.D. The Khitans were a nomadic people who invaded northern China, and then were assimilated as the later Mongols and Manchus.

 Many times I have read that the Mongol way of war and their empire blossomed in a sea of nomadic tribes that only Genghis Khan was able to conquer, and then let loose on the world. So this part of the book is a revelation to me about another nomadic empire only a hundred years before the Mongols swept forth.

 The book itself is separated into two parts. The first part is on Genghis Khans military operations, and the second part is on Sube'etei's. This is a book we have been waiting for for a long time. It is a no-nonsense strictly military history of the early Mongol conquests.  Before this we have had to sift through either hero worship or damnation of the Mongol warriors. Did I forget that the book has maps? Twenty four of them to be exact. They go from the earliest campaigns of conquering other nomad tribes to Sube'etei's later campaigns in Europe.

 The book goes into all of the great Mongol victories, but also presents their defeats. Again, contrary to many earlier books the Mongols did not just spread like the plague across Asia. The were unstoppable under good generals and beatable under others.

 Here is an excerpt from the book to show the author's conclusion about the Khwarezm campaign:

 " The march on Bokhara has capture the imagination of Western historians and commentators like no other Mongol military manoeuvre. Liddell Hart held:'Rarely if ever, in the history of war has the principle of surprise been so dramatically or completely fufilled.' The manuever quite likely surprised and unbalanced Muhammad as well as other military leaders, but it was hardly critical for victory: the Mongols were too strong. Had they marched directly on Samarkand they would surely also have prevailed easily. Temujin (Genghis Khan's given name) gained a quick victory because his army was very large and because the the enemy fortresses failed to hold out for very long. Muhammad was not a popular ruler: by 1210 he had only recently gained control over Transoxiana, and could not count on the cities to really support him. Transoxiana itself was economically weakened after the recent wars. The political and economic weakness of Muhammad probably explains better than the Mongol siege capabilities why the cities fell as quickly as they did." 

 The author also shows the reality of the Mongol invasions and shows that cities that surrendered were not wiped from the map. The death toll has always been shown that the Mongols left a veritable wasteland behind their armies. This was most certainly not the case.

 At the end of the book the author has a chapter called 'Conclusions'. He compares the distance between campaigns for Alexander, Timur, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, and Sube'etei. They are:

Alexander-  6000 kilometers
Timur - 6000 kilometers
Napoleon- 4000 kilometers
Genghis Khan- 5000 kilometers
Sube'etei- 8000 kilometers

 He continues discussing the Mongol battles, doctrine of war, and siege capabilities, and their terror strategy.

 Appendix 1: Is a breakdown of the Mongol armies' units
 Appendix 2: Is a listing of all of the battles of the Mongols and their Allies from 1191 to 1242 A.D.

 This book is a treasure. The closest book I can compare it to would be Chandler's 'The Campaigns of Napoleon', and should be on every history lover's bookshelf.


Book: The Mongol Conquests: The military Operations Of Genghis Khan And Sube'etei
Author: Carl Fredrik Sverdrup 
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Hello everyone, today I'm introducing my new podcast "Skirmish Line" This podcast will bring you more the great content y...

Introducing the Skirmish Line Podcast Introducing the Skirmish Line Podcast

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

Hello everyone, today I'm introducing my new podcast "Skirmish Line" This podcast will bring you more the great content you expect from A Wargamer's Needful Things, delivered in a new way. I listen to a ton of podcasts, and have wanted to try doing it for myself for a long time. This first episode is rather short and I'm sure my delivery could use some work, but I hope you enjoy it! 

More episodes to come in the weeks and months ahead!

Roman Republic At War  A Compendium Of Battles From 502 To 31 B.C.  By Don Taylor  Part one of the book is an '...

Roman Republic At War: A Compendium Of Battles From 502 To 31 B.C. By Don Taylor Roman Republic At War: A Compendium Of Battles From 502 To 31 B.C. By Don Taylor

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


 Part one of the book is an 'Introduction to warfare during the Roman republic'. This short but well written preamble is necessary for the neophytes among us, as is the next section 'The Navy of the Roman Republic'. These two together are very good primers on Roman republican land and sea warfare. 

 The book itself is an alphabetical listing of all of the battles and some sieges from early Rome to the end of the Republic. The author lets us know which ancient sources he used. If a battle is not listed, it is because of a dearth of information about it.

 The listings in the book are not meant to be complete histories of each battle. They are at most two pages long, and as little as a small paragraph. A lot of the major battles are accompanied by maps that show how the action took place. The author stresses that he takes the ancient sources at face value and does not analyze or embellish the accounts. Where there are differences in the different ancient authors he lists them.

 After the introduction to Roman warfare there are two very helpful lists of all the battles in the book. The first is an alphabetical listing of the battles. The second is a chronological list that helps you to follow the battles through the myriad of Roman wars.

 There is one caveat for complete Roman newbies. The description of where the battles took place would be instantly recognizable to Roman eyes. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most 21st century English speaking people. The  good news is that maps of ancient Rome etc. are just a click away for most of us. So finding out exactly where each battle was fought is not that difficult.

 One of the book's assets is that you can see the progression of parts of Roman history through the tales of each battle. The civil war after Caesar's death is one example, and the war against Antiochus The Great is another.  This book will certainly lead readers to fill in the gaps by reading more Roman history. If that is all the book does it is certainly worth its weight, but the book is much more than that and is a great reference for old hands of Roman history. The maps are especially useful for understanding exactly what each side in the battles had to contend with.


Author: Don Taylor
Publisher: Pen And Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Had some free time this Saturday so I decided to provide you guys with a bit of Cold Waters gameplay! My mission was a success...until...

Cold Waters Gameplay Video Cold Waters Gameplay Video

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

Had some free time this Saturday so I decided to provide you guys with a bit of Cold Waters gameplay! My mission was a success...until it wasn't.  Watch on Youtube

You can also read my review here.

Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot  Japanese battleships; the list of them is a long one: the Mika...

Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot Japanese Battleships 1905-1942 by Miroslaw Skwiot

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


 Japanese battleships; the list of them is a long one: the Mikasa, Kongo, and the Nagato among others. Notice I didn't mention the Yamato or her sister ship the Musashi. They will appear in due time.

 The first Japanese battleships were built by ship building firms in Britain. For those of you who didn't know it, there was a close connection between Britain and Japan pretty much from the 1860s to the 1920s. Japan was seen by the British as a counterweight to Russia in the far east. Britain and Russia were inveterate enemies for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries. So to the British a strong and well armed Japan was a good thing to have next to the Asian continent. The above is pretty amazing given the fact that the British navy attacked the Japanese port of Kagoshima in 1863.  The British fleet burned it to the ground. This pointed use of a modern fleet was the last part of a wake up call to the Japanese if they didn't want to end up like China. The Japanese would have to join the modern world.

 By the 1870's the world had two undisputed leaders in land and sea warfare, Germany and Britain. The Japanese wisely based their fledgling Army on Germany's and their Navy on Britain's. Japan as an island did have somewhat of a seafaring tradition, but this was mostly of a coastal and fishing nature.

 In the beginning the Japanese had to start her Navy from almost nothing. She had no modern docks or shipbuilding facilities. So again, she naturally turned to Britain. Strangely, the British firms at the time were able to produce better or more battle worthy ships than the British Navy employed at that point.

 The book itself starts with a background history of Japan's sudden awakening to the outside world. It then continues with the birth and setup of the Japanese Navy. The first battleships brought to our attention are the Katori and the Kashima. These two were ordered in Britain from the 1903 Japanese Naval budget. These ships were based on the battleship King Edward VII. Oddly, though the ships were built in Britain, their armor was made by Krupp in Germany.

 The first battleship built in Japan was the Satsuma, although her armament and armor was purchased outside of Japan. The book then goes into how the world's navies were put on their ears by the advent of the British battleship Dreadnought. As a matter of fact, all battleships were then classified as either Dreadnoughts or pre-Dreadnoughts. That is how revolutionary her design was. 

 The book shows you the planning and building of Japan's only battlecruisers the Kongo, Hiei, Haruna, and Kirishima (these were updated in the 1930s to fast battleships). The first Japanese 'super- Dreadnought' to be built was the Fuso. The Battle of Jutland and the naval clashes during World War One caused the Japanese to come up with new designs. The design they came up with were for the Nagato and here sister-ship the Mutsu. They were arguably the 'best battleships' in the world from 1920 until the end of the 1930s. Some will immediately argue that position for the British Hood. However, she was in actuality built as as a battlecruiser and not a battleship. The Hood's lighter armor would be tested in 1941 and was found wanting.

 The book continues with the plans for Japanese battleships before and after the Washington Naval Treaty. This treaty was signed in 1922 by all of the major powers. It was supposed to have stopped the world-wide naval arms race that was happening at the time. It goes on to show the plans for the battleships that were either scrapped or converted to aircraft carriers. The Washington treaty had few clauses about aircraft carriers. Their usefulness in 1922 was not recognized as being worth limiting them.

 The book goes on with the planning of the three largest battleships ever made, the Yamato, Musashi, and the Shinano ( the Shinano was converted to a carrier after the Battle of Midway). It also shows all of the plans for even larger battleships, with the planning going to the year 1950. The year 1941 saw the age of the battleship come to a close. The last titans of the era, the Yamato class battleships and the USA's Iowas, never battled each other. In fact, both of Japan's super-battleships were both sunk by lowly airplanes.

 This is my second Kagero book and I am even more impressed than I was with the first one. The book is jammed with photos and even has double paged 3D computer generated foldouts of some ships. Visually stunning, and filled with all there is to know about Japanese battleships, this book is very easy to endorse.


Publisher: Kagero
Distributor: Casemate Publishers   Every once in awhile, wargaming gets a breath of fresh air. Burden Of Command is the newest game ...

Burden of Command by Green Tree games Burden of Command by Green Tree games

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

 Every once in awhile, wargaming gets a breath of fresh air. Burden Of Command is the newest game to give us a great big gulp. It is a leadership RPG that is based on historical World War II incidents. 

 In the game you take control of a unit and you are a Captain. I'll use their own synopsis of the game here:

 "You are put into the shoes of a Captain of a company of the fabled 'Cottonbalers', leading your men on and off the battlefield from morocco to Hitler's Eagle's nest. You must build respect, trust and battlefield experience to bring your brothers safely home."

 "We were guided by Professor John C. McManus and his book 'American Courage, American Courage Of The Cottonbalers: the only regiment to fight in all American Wars"

 The BOC team has stressed that reliving history will be a number one priority. They are striving to put you into command of a company as realistically as possible. 

 They should also get credit for picking the regiment that Matt Dillon (James Arness) served in.
 The mechanics of the games are as follows:

Psychology Focused-Morale, Stress, Experience, Trust, and Respect
Units gain Experience Across battles
Turn based
Single Player
Dynamic Events Cause Chaos
Limited Command Points Mean Every Decision Counts

 The inspiration for the game came from:

Band Of Brothers
Banner Saga
Crusader kings II

 As the developers ask, "Would you lose a mission to save their lives?". That seems like it deserves a pretty cut and dried answer of 'Yes'! Wait a minute, what if by losing that mission it now takes three times as long to take that town or patch of ground. It may be that your unit would have lost two men completing the mission. Now, the task has cost a total of eight men out of other units needed to complete the mission the next day. The sword of Damocles hangs not only over your head but your men's.

 As a commander in war you are literally asked to make almost God-like decisions. Who do you send to flush out that sniper? Is it a green kid to save your veterans, or do you send a veteran who may well save you and four other men later today or tomorrow with his nerve and experience?

  Again using a quote from the developers:

 "Leadership moment:
 In Sicily, Lt. Col. John Heintges stepped into the open to lure out an enemy sniper. He risked his life for his men. Would you?"

  Another part of warfare will also be a part of the game, and few others have even mentioned them. Civilians, those pesky little things that we never have to deal with. However in real warfare they are always a major concern. Those poor people who are just trying to live or flee for their lives. They block roads and upset timetables, etc. along with running through firing zones.

 Burden Of Command is shaping up to be a great new experience for us wargamers. It is on the path to being a genre bending game for both grognards and newbies. Please take the time to check out their website and all of the features of the game.




Bloody April  by Norman Franks Russell Guest Frank Bailey   As the book states, even those who have only a ...

Bloody April by Norman Franks, Russel Guest & Frank Bailey Bloody April by Norman Franks, Russel Guest & Frank Bailey

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


  As the book states, even those who have only a smattering of World War One knowledge have heard of 'Bloody April'. The month of death came about because of two things. First was the arrival of the new German fighter plane, the Albatross DIII. Second, the Allied offensive took place on the Arras front. The Allies not only had to battle the Germans, but the wind blew from west to east most of the time. With the allied offensive, it meant that the RAF and French Air Force had to  invade German air space with as many planes as they could get in the air. This was a recipe for, as the book puts it, "In many respects the relationship between the German fighters, Allied fighters and Corps aircraft would be akin to sharks among minnows in the coming battle"! 

 The book itself is a tour de force of scouring day to day flight and loss records of all of the combatants in the month of April 1917. The book lists weather conditions and much more for each day. Every day is gone through separately with a write up on the 'British front' and the on the 'French front'. After each write up for the day is a separate index of the day's losses and claims followed by actual Allied casualties.

 There are three appendices of the British, French, and German claims, followed by the known German casualties for each day.

 Most pages are filled with pictures of pilots that we have never heard of before. The pictures are accompanied by small biographies of each pilot.

 The book does not dwell on the why, but it is a true masterpiece of the who, when, and where. Nowhere will you find such an exhaustive book on the day to day events of the aerial war over the Western front in April 1917.

 Here are a few pages from the book: 

Allied casualty list

                                        German casualty list


Book: Bloody April 1917
Authors: Norman Franks, Russell Guest, & Frank Bailey
Publisher: Grub Street Publishing
Distributor: Casemate publishers

Update: Some of the issues I brought up here, with regard to launching missions in a certain order, being forced to launch supply craft f...

Carrier Deck Review Carrier Deck Review

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

Update: Some of the issues I brought up here, with regard to launching missions in a certain order, being forced to launch supply craft first, etc. were fixed via a patch about a month after release. You can see a video featuring the game and those changes using this link.

Carrier Deck tasks the player not with directly fighting the battles of a modern naval warfare scenario, but with managing the logistics of a very busy flight deck. Developed by Every Single Soldier and published by Slitherine/Matrix Games, Carrier Deck falls more on the lighter end of the gaming spectrum than what you might normally expect from those names. Unlike the turn-based Afghanistan '11, Every Single Soldier's other recent release, which focused on long term planning and carefully considered logistics, Carrier Deck requires the player to constantly shift their focus from moment to moment as each new threat pops up. 

Carrier Deck gives you a bird's eye view of the titular carrier deck, from which you click on the various aircraft to select them, then either click to send them to a different parking spot, or select what sort of mission you want the aircraft to be prepped for. You will be doing a lot of clicking, so make sure to warm up that clicker finger ahead of time. It's not quite Starcraft 2, but once a mission starts, don't expect to take a break until it ends. Each of the scenarios only lasts 10-15 minutes, but will demand your complete attention from beginning to end.

 The gameplay revolves around two areas of the screen. The actual flight deck and aircraft, rendered in modest but clear 3D graphics where you will be dealing with the units directly, and the bottom half of the screen where you will see everything that is happening out in the field. Threats will approach in four differently colored channels, representing air, surface, undersea, and land-based enemies. The enemy units approach from the right, and if they reach the left side, they will deal damage to your carrier. Your first problem is that the carrier group has a very short detection range into all the channels other than the land units. To extend your vision, thereby giving you more time to counter a threat, you will need to send aircraft out on reconnaissance missions. Dedicated recon units like the S-3 Viking offer better vision and longer loiter times, but are usually in short supply. In a pinch you can send out the workhorse F-18 Hornets as scouts, but will want to send something better as soon as it becomes available. Helicopters also occupy parts of your deck, specifically Seahawks and Chinooks.

Once a threat appears in one of the channels, you will need to ready an appropriate aircraft to deal with it, queue up the mission, then launch the unit. The actual combat is not your concern, and will always be successful. That all sounds simple enough, if you only needed to deal with one thing at a time. In reality, you will be dealing with many things at once, all the time. Carrier Deck is a bit like learning to juggle, and just as you get a handle on juggling three balls, someone throws in a fourth, then a fifth, a sixth, and so on. As you are sending units out on missions, others are coming back in to land. These returning craft need to be moved out of the way, then re-armed for another go. To complicate matters, units can sometimes return with damage, necessitating a trip below deck on one of the elevators, then back up. In addition to that, new units and supply transports often arrive mid-mission and must be worked into your current rotation. Tougher enemies must be hit by multiple aircraft, and occasionally a really tough enemy will require two different mission types to be flown in sequence.  Needless to say, there are a lot of plates spinning all the time. 

One thing I'm not crazy about is how the missions which are queued up must be launch in the order you created them, even if you have aircraft ready to launch for the second or third mission in line. This often seems pointless, since you can just cancel a less pressing mission then recreate it an instant later. To add to this frustration, the supply craft, which arrive periodically, take absolute precedence over all other missions by default. Even if an enemy destroyer is about to strike in a matter of seconds, and you have fighters primed and waiting on the catapults, you have to wait for that cargo plane to refuel, waltz over to the runway, and then take off before you can launch any other aircraft. I don't really understand the logic of this, other than making things more difficult.

To assist you with sorting through this multi-tasking challenge is the well thought out UI. The bottom half of the screen, with the various channels and sections showing queued missions and returning aircraft, tells you everything you need to know about the situation at a glance. To make mission tasking clear, everything is color coded. Air missions are red, surface is blue, submarine is yellow, etc. The aircraft themselves are highlighted in bright colors to indicate what mission they have been equipped for, matching the icons on the information screen below. Clicking on an aircraft shows all of the locations on the deck it can be moved to, holding down the mouse displays a radial menu with all of the missions it can be equipped for, again with clear color coding.

The game comes with a linear campaign consisting of a few dozen missions of increasing difficulty and complexity. Each outing throws a different combination of enemy and friendly forces at you, though the core gameplay loop remains mostly the same. You are scored based on how much damage the carrier takes and how many aircraft are lost (usually due to collisions on the deck). Simply surviving the mission will unlock the next one, but you can get some replayability out of returning to try for a perfect score when you fall short. Playing through the entire campaign will only take a few hours, as each mission can be completed in a matter of minutes. Perfectionists will need more time though, as getting five stars on every mission will inevitably require multiple attempts at the more difficult scenarios.

Additionally, there is a quick play mode which is basically more of the same at your chosen difficulty level, and a survival mode where the game will keep getting more and more difficult until you are overwhelmed. Whether you play these modes will depend on just how much more of the game you want after finishing the campaign. 

As mentioned, the graphics in Carrier Deck are not that spectacular, but it looks decent enough considering the price point. The various aircraft are nicely modeled and easy to distinguish from one another. The camera can be moved around to get a closer look at everything, but you will rarely have time to be ogling those Super Hornets. The radio chatter was done particularly well, with the aircraft reporting in using all sorts of squadron names. Between aircraft launching, requesting clearance to land, and enemy units being spotted, the radio keeps you informed and adds a bit to the immersion factor.

I didn't experience any major bugs while playing Carrier Deck, though I did have a couple of minor happenings such as an aircraft not changing to the correct color a few times, linked to changing its mission assignment multiple types in rapid succession. More annoyingly, I had to unplug my joystick and throttle from the computer, because the game was apparently pulling input data from one of them, which caused the camera to slide to one side and stick there. The game has already received a couple of patches, so I'm sure any other minor issues will be buffed out in short order.

I enjoyed my time with Carrier Deck, and appreciate it for being something completely different. This is not a detailed simulation of carrier operations, or really a wargame. It is a fast-paced management game with a war theme. Priced at only $10, you will easily get your money's worth of entertainment with one trip through the campaign.

- Joe Beard

Carrier Deck is available directly from Matrix/Slitherine and is also on Steam.

In the frigid depths of the North Atlantic, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine glides silently beneath the waves. The Cold War has...

Cold Waters Review Cold Waters Review

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In the frigid depths of the North Atlantic, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine glides silently beneath the waves. The Cold War has gone hot, and you are at the helm of a vessel that will make all the difference in how it plays out. That is the scenario presented when you fire up a campaign of Cold Waters, the newest nautical experience from Killerfish Games. The developers of turn-based WW2 naval combat titles Atlantic Fleet and Pacific Fleet, have switched gears by releasing a real-time submarine focused title set during the Cold War. 

Cold Waters occupies a happy medium on the sim-arcade spectrum, with all the appropriate bells and whistles you would expect in submarine simulation, presented in a streamlined and easily controlled manner. If you're like me, and most of your submarine skippering abilities were taught via Tom Clancy novels, you will feel right at home here. After playing through the series of interactive tutorial missions, you will understand all the mechanics of commanding your sub. The controls in Cold Waters are very easy to grasp. The sub is maneuvered using the keyboard (WASD to steer, surrounding keys to control throttle and ballast), and firing weapons is as simple as clicking on the map in the desired direction/range. There is also a solid primer on sub combat tactics in the in-game manual that you will probably want to review. Despite the informative tutorial, if you don't have much experience with post-WW2 submarine tactics, the school of hard knocks will likely dish out a few more lessons in short order. 

After completing the tutorials, your next stop will either be one of the preset scenarios or the dynamic campaign. The scenarios offer some good variety, starting with a simple 1v1 sub engagement, then increasing in complexity and difficulty until you are staring down entire enemy battle fleets. I tried out a couple of these to get started, but the bread and butter of the game is definitely the dynamic campaign.

Cold Waters offers two different time periods for the campaign. You can play in either 1984 or 1968. I mostly have played in the 1984 setting, since you get far more toys to play with and the combat is generally faster paced. For now, you can only play as NATO. In both settings you will have several different sub classes to choose from, all the classics are here. Once the campaign begins, you are presented with a series of news bulletins laying out the circumstances that lead up to war. This style of news bulletin will continue to pop up throughout the course of the campaign, keeping you up to date on the state of the conflict. Your successes and/or failures will directly influence these events over the course of the war. 

The campaign map also shows the state of the war, with icons indicating Soviet progress against NATO forces on the continent. A variety of other icons representing ships, aircraft, subs, and even satellites travel around in real time. Keeping track of all of this is a bit of a mini-game in itself, as you click on the map to have your sub travel at slow or fast speed to your chosen destination. Let an enemy air patrol spot your sub and you can expect an enemy attack sub to make a beeline in your direction.

Your movements on this map will be based on the missions you are assigned throughout the campaign. Most will have you moving to intercept or hunt down various enemy vessels. A more exotic assignment might have you dropping off commandos for a daring raid deep in enemy territory. Friendly reconnaissance units will occasionally reveal enemy positions and movements, and then you must use your judgement, and the intelligence from the mission briefing, to rendezvous your sub with its prey. One drawback with the game was that this screen can leave you feeling a bit like you are fighting the war all alone. Your lonely sub ventures out repeatedly to strike at the enemy, but no other friendlies seem to be in the fight at all. This leaves the conflict feeling a bit less "dynamic" than it might be if you could actually see the battle that is supposedly raging in the North Atlantic.

Once an engagement begins, we get to the meat of the game. Your viewpoint for the game is mostly from a third-person camera orbiting your sub or another object such as a torpedo. The only first-person view you will find here is when gazing through the periscope. If you are looking for the claustrophobic immersion you might remember from Silent Hunter III, you won't find it here. That said, I know I spent most of my time in Silent Hunter using the external camera anyway, but the omission does detract a bit from the immersion factor. Other items you will find on the screen include a tactical map and a multi-tab information panel. The map shows all the various contacts you may be seeing, and some detailed information about your sub and whatever item you have targeted. You can also pull up a full-screen map when needed. Over on the information panel you will find just about everything else you need. A panel for managing weapons, one for damage, one for water conditions, and one for sonar contacts. 

I found that most missions played out in three phases, which I dub the hunt, the attack, and the chase. 

During the hunt you will be stalking silently, listening for contacts and working to get them fully identified. In some missions you are there to destroy everything in sight, but oftentimes you will have a particular target that must be taken out or the mission will fail. Getting a positive ID of your target before engaging is a must, since you may only get one shot at it. During this time it is also smart to plan out your entire attack and exit strategy. Failure to plan ahead will regularly result in a poor performance once the action gets going.

Once you have your target and plan of attack, it's time to pull the trigger. Torpedoes and missiles are fired by simply selecting the weapon tube, configuring a few settings for the weapon, and then clicking on the map where you want it to go. Once that first shot is released, things get a lot more hectic. The enemy will now be actively closing on your position, but you will want to stick around long enough to confirm your target's destruction or let loose another volley if needed. 

Gradually the attack will shift into the chase in most circumstances. At the very least you will usually have enemy ASW aircraft dropping sonar buoys, then torpedoes and depth charges if they get a bead on you. Once you become the hunted, the tension really ramps up. You've succeeded in your mission , but now you have to get your crew out of the area alive. This stage is where I lost my sub 90% of the time.

After the mission, whether it was a success or failure, you will go back to the world map. You will soon get new orders, but may need to retreat back to your home port for repairs. The more success you have, the better the war goes, and vice versa. Eventually one side will emerge victorious, though I have yet to survive long enough to see that. 

Overall, the actual combat always left me satisfied. As you start out playing the game, each battle will usually leave you with some kind of lesson you can apply to future encounters. This is always a good sign in any game where death can come suddenly. Usually that death was your own fault, but it isn't a failure as long as you learn from it.

The graphics of Cold Waters work quite nicely. The various sub and ship models are detailed, and the water in particular looks great. The sound effects are also generally good, but one distinct feature is lacking in the audio department, there are no voiced lines at all. Reports of new contacts or weapon discharges are presented only as a line of text. The developers have promised to rectify this with an update, so I look forward to seeing how that adds to the experience.  The game loads up extremely fast and I did not encounter any major bugs or glitches. There were a couple of UI issues which have already been resolved in a patch.

Cold Waters is a submarine sim that I think will please many gamers interested in the topic. However, I know there is a crowd out there hoping for something a bit more hardcore, and this game may not be for them. Some of the finer points of sub combat are left out, for example, the towed sonar array on your sub is completely abstracted. Cold Waters is all about getting you into the action rapidly and often. Once in the thick of things, even the relatively simple mechanics will keep any player quite busy. Between maneuvering the sub, tracking enemy contacts, dodging torpedoes, and managing repair priorities, you will have white knuckles in no time.

What makes me enjoy and want to recommend Cold Waters is how it gives you a sense of being in The Hunt for Red October or similar fiction. Sometimes a scenario will play out simply, with you firing a weapon, destroying the target at range, and then skulking off into the sea. However, other times the battle can turn into a chaotic mess, with your sub maneuvering right next to an enemy sub, looking to get a perfect shot off while dodging torpedoes. In these moments the game really shines, as the simple controls let you stay hooked into the action. 

Killerfish Games are already busy improving the game, with a couple of patches out that have fixed several minor issues and added a couple of quality of life features. They promise to eventually add in voiced lines and a matching set of Soviet scenarios and campaigns. Extensive modding support is also on the agenda, so those looking for a more hardcore experience may need only wait for a mod or two to change things up.

At $40, I think Cold Waters is reasonably priced for being such a niche game. There simply aren't many games like this out there, and this is a very solid title with some more improvements on the way. I give it a strong recommendation for anyone looking for a fun submarine combat sim.

- Joe Beard

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Cold Waters is available on Steam for PC and Mac