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Holdfast Atlantic is one of two recent Kickstarter offerings from Worthington Games . They are both now available from your Friendly Local...

Holdfast: Atlantic Holdfast: Atlantic

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

Holdfast Atlantic is one of two recent Kickstarter offerings from Worthington Games. They are both now available from your Friendly Local Gaming Store, Holdfast Atlantic has an RRP of $70 or £69.95 ...

Holdfast Atlantic is a fairly simple Block wargame that comes with just 8 pages of rules which includes several examples of play. I don't ever remember playing a wargame with so few rule pages. Even my very dusty and unloved version of Risk has 9 pages of rules. (Okay they're printed on a much smaller pamphlet than these are)

For the veteran gamers amongst us, HF Atlantic is a re-skin of a classic Avalon Hill title, War at Sea. Unfortunately, I can't compare the two as I have never played the older version. But what I can say about Holdfast Atlantic, is that it is an engaging and surprisingly strategic offering, considering the 20 minutes it's going to cost you to read and understand the majority of the rules.

Each turn follows the same sequence of steps, whereby first the Allies, then the Axis player, move their ships into regions adjacent or within 2 regions of the ship's port of origin. This mechanism allows the Axis player to calculate some of the risks prior to the battle which cleverly negates the effect of their dwindling resources through the game.

The game lasts for 8 turns, and the player with the most Victory Points, gained by controlling sea regions at the end of a turn, is the winner; ties to the Axis player. After I was comfortable with the rules I found each game with a new player lasting about 2 hours. If you're both familiar with the rules then just over an hour is a realistic time to complete a game. For a wargame that recreates the Battle of the Atlantic, that is no mean feat. 

September 1939 ...
Aside from the naval fleets available, the two sides have slightly different units available to them. The Allies have Convoys, which are another source of VPs, and they also get Task Force blocks, which can be used to replace other ship blocks and allow the Allies to create decoy blocks. The Axis player gets U-Boat blocks which can ignore all moment restrictions that surface units are subject to. 

Initially, this U-boat movement caused me a few concerns, but I realised that it is just an abstraction of the hidden/unknown threat of U-boats in the Atlantic, and it is not an attempt to simulate submarine movement. The Axis player gets to place all his units with full knowledge of where the Allies are. They are then free to target those areas where they think the more vulnerable units are. This is another clever, yet simple way, to recreate the risk that must have been present for any Allied naval commander facing the U-boat threat.
Different units and markers to play the game
The asymmetry between the players makes this game for me. I think I prefer to play the Allies because it feels like there is a little more jeopardy: if the Axis player doesn't win, then that's historically accurate; if the Allied player doesn't win then he's lost. I still enjoy playing the Axis side though, trying to manage your resources against the stronger Allied units is a fun challenge and this game still feels well balanced.

I enjoyed the fact that the designers had put in most of the major combatants into this game or at least the more well-known participants of the Battle of Atlantic. Although I should say that the Axis get the Graf Zeppelin which is used in the air combat rounds. I assume this is to provide a little balance against the stronger Allied forces although it is not historically accurate. As the Axis player, I wasn't complaining.
The only WWII German carrier. The Graf Zeppelin was never operational
If you're familiar with Block Wargames then the familiar tropes are all here: rotating blocks to indicate health, each side's blocks facing away from your opponent, simple rules etc. and it really works well in the naval sphere. I really appreciate the little design touches that make the game easy for new-comers to pick up, e.g. the attack strength of a unit, i.e. how many dice you roll in an attack, is shown in a square, dice-like symbol; also the to-hit number is in a circle, i.e. the same shape as the health pips.

The game comes with three optional rules, I would suggest you start playing with them all included. They are simple to implement and provide a much better strategic experience. Amongst other things, they allow you to try to reduce your opponents repair capacity so you could plan a crippling naval battle and also an air raid in the same turn to reduce their shipyard industry. 
Brave Bomber Command crippling German dockyards
However the best-laid plans are never assured in combat and like many wargames, you will be chucking buckets-o'-dice. A large engagement of 3 rounds of combat (submarine, air, naval, retreat) could see each side rolling 50 dice (not all at once, mind). If neither side retreats you'll be plunged into another round of naval combat, whereby you may have another 30 dice to roll each. I don't consider this a problem but if you are dice-shy then maybe it's not for you.

Any new player will be familiar with the turn structure after 4 turns or so, I would have appreciated an on-map sequence of play as an aide-memoir, there is enough real-estate on the map to even provide two, one orientated for each player as they sit facing each other.
Start of combat phase: game turn 5
This game is simple, I even played a few turns with my 8-year-old, he got hold of the combat and all the mechanisms immediately and asked to play it again, but he didn't want to finish the game after the third turn. The strategy aspects and historical interest in the topic was quite a bit beyond him. There is a good amount of strategy involved which should provide even a veteran wargamer just enough meat to sustain him in between his games of Europe Engulfed.

This game is perfect for me. I have used it and will to use it to introduce my more casual gamer friends into the simpler side of wargaming in the hope that we'll have another convert to our hex and counter religion and I can convince them to try some ASL...(that hasn't happened yet)

I should mention that the component quality is top notch, although a company that got this simple formula wrong would have to be trying pretty hard. Worthington Games has published a very good introductory wargame with high-quality components. The blocks and mounted map look and feel great. 

Come back soon for some Holdfast Pacific action ...

Derby Worlds 2017 was held 7th and 8th October, just South of Leicester at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds. Demo game for The Battle...

Derby Worlds 2017 Derby Worlds 2017

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

Derby Worlds 2017 was held 7th and 8th October, just South of Leicester at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds.
Demo game for The Battle of Cerignola
I had no idea what to expect having never attended a miniature wargaming convention. I was going along to play a game of Magic Realm with some fellow bgg-ers.
A very special Magic Realm
I was immediately struck by how well attended the show was and therefore how healthy the miniature wargaming hobby is in the UK. Personal experience also backs up my theory that it is a buoyant hobby in the UK as I can readily find a local weekly wargaming club, the same can't be said of local board game clubs.
The Battle of Jutland (on a massive table)
If I had to guess there were probably 2,000 people in attendance on Saturday and the show literature advertised over 70 different traders on the day. Just over half of the space was dedicated to traders and demo games, and the rest of the hall was handed over to the dozens of different tournaments on offer. At the busiest time, there could have been upwards of 40 different tournament games going on.
Towards the tournament side of the hall
Another view of Cerignola
All of the demo tables were gorgeous and lavish productions of what a wargaming table can look like. I expect the reality is probably a little different if you looked in the attics and sheds of most wargamers.
First World War African battle
My game of Magic Realm, aside from being played on a phenomenally beautiful set, was a fairly typical Magic Realm affair i.e. I died on day 3. I failed 2 hide rolls and moved into a clearing with 2 Flying Dragons, a Tremendous Flying Dragon and to top it off, an Octopus was summoned at the end of my turn. That fight was never going to end well for my Berserker. I ended the game with a grand score of -30, for the uninitiated a score of 0 or higher is considered a win.
My Berserker dying
All in all, I had a great time, and could definitely recommend it for any UK gamer and if like me, you're primarily a board gamer, it is a fantastic introduction to the vast array of different rule sets, eras, scales and modelling possibilities that are readily available in the miniature wargaming hobby. I will definitely be going back next year.

INTERVIEW WITH DESIGNER & GAMES PRODUCER TRISTAN HALL   Our designer in creative mood ... or has he just spotted the tarantu...


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


Our designer in creative mood
... or has he just spotted the tarantula on the ceiling?

[A few months ago I was unfortunately away on holiday when Tristan Hall came to my local games store (Wargames, Southport) on its club night to demo his latest game design, Tears For Many Mothers.  More recently his own family commitments meant that the hoped for opportunity to meet and game with him at a local twice yearly gaming event went out the window.  So, thankfully there is at least the good "old" internet which gave me this opportunity at least to pose some of the questions that I'd hoped to ask face to face.]

The obvious and easy starter is - what was your path into the gaming world?

I always played board games as a kid, even when the rest of the family wasn't interested, I'd find ways to change the rules and play games solo if I had to.  But the first game that really blew my tiny mind was HeroQuest, which arrived one Christmas in my childhood.  The miniatures, furniture, dungeons, adventures and everything that game promised was everything I'd dreamed of at the time.  Of course, it's a little dated now.  I went on a hiatus from gaming in my teens and early twenties, but after I got married and settled down I rediscovered the hobby after finding the Arkham Horror board game in some murky corner of the internet a decade ago.  Since then I've collected hundreds of board and card games and never looked back -  a gamer for life!

Do you consider yourself more of a wargamer or more of a Eurogamer and why?

I love both, but I think that the most compelling thing for me in any game is the theme - that's what keeps me coming back.  Agricola is a beautifully designed game and I enjoy playing it, but if I have to choose between medieval farming and wiping the world clear of the freefolk with my armies of orcs, I'm generally going to lean towards the latter.  [I'll take that to be a nod towards being more of a wargamer!] That said, there is an elegance that deeply appeals to me and my favourite games tend to be those that merge elegant mechanics with a cool theme, like Eclipse and Archipelago.

Which games stand out for you on the way to deciding to design and produce your first game, Gloom of Kilforth?

I hold Vlaada Chvati [Through The Ages and Mage Knight - two of my all time favourite games] in high esteem and Richard Hamblen's Magic Realm breaks my brain just thinking about it and the ideas that these guys have developed into fully fledged beautiful games are an inspiration.  But generally I start with the theme and then try to imagine what mechanics best help deliver that narrative experience.

What were some of the other influences and reasons that led you to design and produce your first game, Gloom of Kilforth?

I wanted the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons, but didn't have the time or the inclination to pour through all the books, nor a regular group who would commit to an epic campaign.  So I tried to distil my favourite game elements and narrative vignettes from my favourite D&D campaigns and tunnel it down into one evening's play time.  At the time there was nothing else on the market that offered this because every fantasy adventure game was about killing monsters and stealing their treasure.  I wanted to experience the joy of exploration, meeting strange characters along the road and turning them into friends [or nemeses], going on cool quests, discovering ancient shrines and hidden temples, and then, yes, a little bit of monster-killin' an' treasure huntin' too.  To that end, I'm really satisfied with how Gloom of Kilforth turned out.

Tell us something of the trials and tribulations of being both a game's designer and its producer.

The buck stops with you, so you are responsible for every decision and not every single decision will please every single person, especially when you're supported by thousands of individual backers worldwide. [Gloom of Kilforth, like so many games today, was a Kickstarter project, as is its coming 2nd edition.] If someone else lets you down, it's also on you to take the lumps.  And crowdfunding is a very public platform so every decision you make is scrutinised for everyone to see, which can be hugely daunting.  But it's also hugely liberating and rewarding at the same time - whilst the backers have to trust you and what you're working to achieve, you're not beholden to the whims of external producers or publishing companies who have lots of other games to consume their attention alongside yours.  So you get to devote yourself entirely to your own creative projects and do everything you can to make them the best they can be for yourself and for the gaming community.  If you nurture your community so that they support you too, you develop this incredible symbiotic relationship where you can create beautiful things together. [If you've seen anything of the art work for Gloom of Kilforth, I think you will know what Tristan means and how top-notch it is in this field.*] 

Among your many decisions as the designer, why fantasy for your theme and why purely a card-based game?

I love card games, because you can put beautiful art [see above*] on the cards and build fantastic narratives through the images and through the gameplay... and while I love many different genres, fantasy has always been my favourite since I first saw Ralph Bakshi's Lord of The Rings [the first - animated - attempt to put Tolkien's epic on the movie screen in 1978] when I was a kid.  There followed a series of pivotal childhood moments - picking up the Fighting Fantasy book Island of The Lizard King from a charity shop because of the front cover, finding the D&D red box at a school sale and finally joining an RPG club at the local YMCA - that sealed the deal on my being a geek forever!

Is there a particular group of gamers or games club that have helped you with playtesting?

The gaming community on boardgamegeek has been immensely helpful over the years.  For example,  I tinkered with some scenarios for the D&D Adventure System games and built some adventures for the Lord of The Rings: The Card Game LCG that had tens of thousands of downloads and loads of positive feedback, which really helped me believe I could create something of my own from the ground up.  When I mentioned that that's what I was doing gamers from all over the world  started asking if they could play-test it and their feedback and support has helped shape Gloom of Kilforth into what it is today. [Yes, I think this benefit of comment from so many outside sources comes out clearly, as sometimes in-house products can suffer from the fact that a group of play-testers are so familiar with the product en route.]  The same thing happened with my current, second game, 1066, Tears to Many Mothers, which went down really well with the community and has started to pick up award nominations even before it has even been published.  Also, the Playtest UK guys at UK games Expo were very helpful too.

Personally, I discovered and was drawn to seek out Gloom of Kilforth after being hooked by the Kickstarter for your current design, Tears to Many Mothers.  Here you've turned directly to history and the almost legendary, but little gamed, Battle of Hastings.  What took you in this direction for your second design and why the title you chose for it?

Whilst a sequel to Gloom of Kilforth would have been the path of least resistance, I was determined to prove that I'm not a one-trick pony, so I wanted to make a completely different design and a 1-2 player head to head card game seemed like a great fit for an historical battle game.  The Battle of Hastings has always fascinated me- and no doubt thousands of other British school kids - since we were taught about it at school.  The events leading up to the battle were momentous and the outcome obviously had its impact on English history  for hundreds of years afterwards.  Both sides were so perfectly matched on the battlefield that it could have gone either way at any given moment.  The tragic story of King Harold, one of England's potentially most powerful kings, living out one of the shortest reigns and falling in brutal battle is utterly compelling too.  Capturing that narrative via the medium of a card game was too tempting an opportunity to resist. 

I also considered how cool it would be if, instead of memorising the statistics of a Pikachu or a Shivan Dragon when playing card games, what if they took away a little bit of history with them after playing too?  So, every single card represented in the game is based on a person, story or event from the time of the Battle of Hastings, even down to pulling character names from the Domesday Book.

And that very unusual title.  What's the story behind that?

Ah well, the title comes from a strange quotation I came across. In April of 1066 Hailey's comet was in its perihelion orbit and writers at the time said it was four times the size of Venus and shining with a light equal to a quarter of that of the Moon. Many thought it was an evil omen - including the aged monk, Eilmer, of Malmesbury Abbey, who wrote of the event:
"You've come, have you? - You've come, you source of tears to many mothers.  It is long since I saw you, but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country."

Which is where we get the title of the game.

In giving us some details of this game, other than the change from fantasy to history, what would you say are the major differences in your two designs?

They are very different - but, in a nutshell:  Gloom of Kilforth is an epic, sprawling, fantasy adventure game for 1-4 players with dice and hundreds of cards and tokens that can be played solo, competitively or cooperatively and takes about 50 minutes per player.  It delivers an immersive role-playing experience, whereas 1066, Tears to Many Mothers is a 1-2 player competitive card game that dynamically re-imagines the historical Battle of Hastings and can be played on your lunch break.

And, inevitably, my final question has to be what next when once we have 1066, Tears to Many Mothers in our hands?

  • Lifeform - alien terror in space with superstar designer Mark Chaplin
  • Sublime Dark - horror card game with campaign play
  • Touch of Death: A Fantasy Quest Game - the stand-alone expansion-sequel to Gloom of Kilforth
  • 1565, St. Elmo's Pay - the stand-alone expansion-sequel to 1066, TtMM

And the list goes on - we have such sights to show you...

Thanks, Tristan, for taking the time to answer all my questions in such depth and detail.  AWNT obviously wishes you continued success with all your projects and I hope that it won't be too long before I have the chance to meet up for some real ftf gaming.

To whet you're appetite further, I shall be reviewing Gloom of Kilforth in the coming weeks and showing you something of the superb art work mentioned here.

Waterloo The Campaign of 1815 Volume 1 From Elba to Quatre Bras by John Hussey   First things first, the ...

Waterloo The Campaign of 1815 Volume 1 From Elba to Quatre Bras by John Hussey Waterloo The Campaign of 1815 Volume 1 From Elba to Quatre Bras by John Hussey

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

Volume 1 From Elba to Quatre Bras


 First things first, the book's foreword is written by Hew Strachan who greatly praises the work. Next up is this praise, among others, from Andrew Roberts. "It will be decades before this book is superseded as the best account of those extraordinary events of 1815".

 Now that those two items have been gone over, I guess there isn't much left to say. After two heavyweights in the field declare for you it is pretty much a slam dunk. 

 With not even a flyweight's credentials, I will try to add my views on this excellent volume, and describe what the reader will see. 

 First off there are thirty-two very well done maps. Why books on military campaigns and battles don't have more or better maps like this one I do not know. There are also twelve tables. Some of the tables and maps are two pages large. This is a tome at 584 pages with a further 126 pages of notes and index. Just remember, this is only volume one of two. 

 The book starts out with how, according to the author, the Allies "lost the peace', and Napoleon safely ensconced on Elba. The author goes into every countries Machiavellian schemes, and their diplomats weaving their webs of deceit. Not forgotten is the master arachnid Metternich, and his attempt to turn back the clock to 1788.

 The book then goes into the plans of the Allied commanders to uproot Napoleon once and for all. Wellington's and Blucher's plans for the upcoming campaign are gone through minutely. The polyglot 'British' army and all of its disparate nationalities attempting to act as one is also gone into. Strangely, most of these commanders believed that Napoleon would stay on the defensive and await their disparate attacks. The author moves from geopolitical to battalion concerns and history effortlessly. 

 We are shown Napoleon's plan of attack into Belgium, and the reconstitution of the 'Grande Armee'. The battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras are gone into in minute detail. The book is interspersed with the actual dispatches and memoirs of the combatants. The author has used sources in four languages to tell this amazing story.

 There is not much else to add. If you are looking for a one volume history of Napoleon's escape from Elba to the twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny, this is it. I cannot wait for the release of Volume II, and the author's telling of the battles of Waterloo and Wavre.


Author: John Hussey
Publisher: Greenhill Books
Distributor: Casemate publishers

Field of Glory II by Slitherine Games and Byzantine Games   Hello again, Peabody and Sherman here, we will be going into th...

Field of Glory II by Slitherine and Byzantine Games Field of Glory II by Slitherine and Byzantine Games

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

Field of Glory II


Slitherine Games and Byzantine Games 

 Hello again, Peabody and Sherman here, we will be going into the wabac machine to help Lucius Tarquinius Superbus restore his crown, and to review Field of Glory II.

 To be upfront I am an ancient history freak, and would rather game and read about this period than any other.

 Just a caveat: these screens are based on the beta version of the game. Some last minute changes may take place.

 This game has been misnamed; it should not be Field of Glory II, but Field of Glory IV or V. The game is that much better than the original Field of Glory. I was not a fan at all of the older game, but I did only play it against the AI. The older game did have a large multiplayer base. The gaming system, which came from table top gaming, has a large following and has been used in gaming all the way to the Renaissance and beyond.

 The amount of ancient wargaming  in the game beggars belief. These are the campaigns:


 This is a list of the 'Epic' (historical) battles:

 The army list of the game for both editing and skirmishes is like the Energizer bunny it just keeps going. These are:

Ancient British 60 BC - 80 AD
Apulian 420-203 BC
Arab 312 BC - 476 AD
Armenian 331 BC - 252 AD
Armenian (Tigranes) 83-69 BC
Atropatene 320-145 BC
Atropatene 144 BC - 226 AD
Bithynian 297-74 BC
Bosporan 348-85 BC
Bosporan 84-11 BC
Bruttian or Lucanian 420-203 BC
Campanian 280-203 BC
Carthaginian 280-263 BC
Carthaginian 262-236 BC
Carthaginian 235-146BC
Carthaginian (Hannibal in Italy) 218-217 BC
Carthaginian (Hannibal in Italy) 216-203 BC
Carthaginian (Hannibal in Africa) 202 BC
Caucasian 320 BC - 476 AD
Dacian 50 BC - 106 AD
Galatian 280-63 BC
Galatian 63-25 BC
Gallic 300-101 BC
Gallic 100-50 BC
Germanic Foot Tribes 105 BC - 259 AD
Graeco-Bactrian 250-130 BC
Greek 280-228 BC
Greek 227-146 BC
Greek (Western) 280-49 BC
Iberian or Colchian 331 BC - 252 AD
Illyrian 350 BC - 25 AD
Indian 500 BC - 319 AD
Indo-Greek 175 BC - 10 AD
Indo-Parthian 60 BC - 130 AD
Indo-Skythian 95 BC - 50 AD
Italian Hill Tribes 490-275 BC
Jewish 167-64 BC
Jewish 64 BC - 6 AD
Kappadokian 260 BC - 17 AD
Kushan 130 BC - 476 AD
Libyan 220 BC - 70 AD
Ligurian 480-145 BC
Macedonian 320-261 BC
Macedonian 260-148 BC
Mountain Indian 492-170 BC
Nabataean 260 BC - 106 AD
Numidian or Moorish 220-56 BC
Numidian or Moorish 55 BC - 6 AD
Parthian 250 BC - 225 AD
Pergamene 262-191 BC
Pergamene 190-129 BC
Pontic 281-111 BC
Pontic 110-85 BC
Pontic 84-47 BC
Ptolemaic 320-167 BC
Ptolemaic 166-56 BC
Ptolemaic 55-30 BC
Pyrrhic 280-272 BC
Rhoxolani 350 BC - 24 AD
Roman 280-220 BC
Roman 219-200 BC
Roman 199-106 BC
Roman 105-25 BC
Saka 300 BC - 50 AD
Samnite 355-272 BC
Sarmatian 350 BC - 24 AD
Scots-Irish 50 BC - 476 AD
Seleucid 320-206 BC
Seleucid 205-167 BC
Seleucid 166-125 BC
Seleucid 124-63 BC
Skythian 300 BC - 50 AD
Slave Revolt 73-71 BC
Spanish 300-10 BC
Spanish (Sertorius) 80-70 BC
Syracusan 280-211 BC
Thracian 350 BC - 46 AD
Umbrian 490-260 BC

 There are a total of eighty-six types of historical units, and each type can have multiple variants. Battles can be as large as eighty units per side. However, the ability to play such large scenarios completely depends on your computer hardware.

 There are three tutorials:

 This is the multiplayer screen:

 This is the first screen when using the editor:

 The game is based upon the Pike and Shot and Sengoku Jidai game engine, which if you haven't picked them up, what are you waiting for? The core game has been updated constantly since release, and for Field of Glory II it has been even more enhanced. As mentioned, the original Field of Glory did have a large multiplayer fan base. The multiplayer for Field of Glory II is based upon the seamless multiplayer setup from Pike and Shot etc.

 The game plays like an ancient battle game. It is not a generic battle system where the Elephant unit is interchangeable with a tank unit. The game is immersive and you feel like you are leading an ancient army.

 Just like in the Sengoku Jidai add-on Gempei Kassen (The Gempei War), the developers have erred on the side of caution with their list of Epic (historical) battles (there being so few sources on the type of units let alone the numbers for the Gempei War battles that it comes with none). The developers have given us only twelve battles preset for play of each side (that does not include the battles in the campaigns). As we have seen, the army list is enough to let any imagination run wild. I am also positive that modders will be in full swing bringing us new historical battles; there are actually some in the works now.

 For those of us who have been waiting for a great ancient tactical game, the wait is over. For those of you still stuck in the mud of the Russian front, please explore a new horizon, and see how good this game really is.

 The following are screenshots of my feeble attempt to play the second tutorial. I eventually win in a messy and very unplanned way. The AI broke my right flank, but the battle had progressed so far on my left and in the center that it didn't help that much. I have actually been spending a lot of my playing time as Antiochus the Great at Magnesia versus the Romans.

 Per the tutorial's instructions, I have moved my lighter Italian infantry to my right and the broken hilly ground. My plan is to smash their right and center with my phalanxes and Elephants.

  My plan was working until my units were bunched up in the choke point between the hills.

 Having been playing the Magnesia scenario too much, I forgot that my heavy cavalry are not cataphracts. My right flank has crumbled.

  My one remaining Elephant unit and the phalanxes are the only things that pull my irons out of the fire.

  Two of the elephants have routed and have gone berserk. This was always the extremely fun part of ancient wargaming. One hex full of even your own berserk elephants can pretty much destroy your painstakingly created line.

 The following are three closeup screenshots of Antiochus The Great Army at Magnesia.

 The Matrix/Slitherine/Ageod lineup for the next few months is incredibly impressive. It looks a little like murderers row from 1927. You not only have Field of Glory II coming out on October 12th, but also these games coming up:

Operational Art of War IV - The name says it all.
Desert war - Who hasn't been clamoring for a desert war game?
Wars of Succession - Marlborough and Charles XII what more can you say?

 Everyone talks about the 'good old days' , but with the books and games (boardgames also) that are coming and have already been produced, this is the 'Age of The Grog'.


Can you just not get enough of leading Space Marines against the enemies of the Imperium? Then I have good news for you! The latest in...

Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf

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

Can you just not get enough of leading Space Marines against the enemies of the Imperium? Then I have good news for you! The latest in the endless march of Warhammer 40k titles has recently released and I'm here to tell you all about it. Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, developed by HeroCraft, attempts to stand out from the pack by offering up a fresh mish-mash of genres that work surprisingly well together.

Basically, this is a turn based tactical game that plays out on a grid, where each unit can take two actions per turn, much like XCOM. The twist is that each character takes actions based on cards in their hand. Most of these cards are weapons that have different attack patterns and damage values, from chain swords and power fists to heavy bolters, rocket launchers, plasma guns, and every other weapon you know and love from 40k. Most weapon cards can optionally be used to move your character. Once played, the card goes back into the deck. There are also other kinds of cards, such as dedicated movement cards which let you cover much more ground, healing cards, special weapons which can be permanently equipped and reloaded, and combo cards which give you some kind of bonus simply by staying in your hand.

For the enemy, the cards in hand are usually generic, and based primarily on whether they are ranged or melee fighters. You control your primary character and two fellow Space Marines chosen from a squad of five. Your allies have unique decks based on their class. There's a scout-sniper, a heavy weapons dude, a Terminator, and others. You can tweak their decks to a certain extent, but really their options depend on their class. Your primary character, however, can be fully customized with a 30 card deck chosen from dozens of options. This process feels very much like that of Hearthstone. You can open new booster packs of cards, or spend a currency to randomly generate new cards of a particular power level. Cards come in several tiers, from common to legendary. As you play the game you will unlock more and more cards to toy around with. Gotta' collect 'em all!

Now, one might think that you would simply put all the most powerful cards in your deck, but there is a trade off. Turn order in Space Wolf is dynamic. It changes constantly depending on how much "effort" the most recently active character built up with his actions. More powerful cards add a lot of effort to your character, and whoever has the lowest total gets to go next. So if you play two really strong cards in one turn, some of your enemies may actually get to take extra actions before that character goes again. There are, of course, cards that can help lower your effort faster and offset using a big powerful card. I found this system to be one of the better ideas in Space Wolf, as it gives you a good reason to consider whether you should take an action now, or perhaps delay it until later for greater results.

The tactical decision making is where the game shines. Positioning matters a great deal, since most weapons have a limited firing arc or distinct shape. Some examples include the sniper rifles, which have a very long range, but the arc is only one square wide, so you must be facing the enemy directly. The big power axes can one-shot KO most enemies, but can hit only the single square in front of the Marine wielding them.Other weapons do less damage, but have much wider arcs. The flamethrowers fire in a cone pattern, so you ideally want to engage a group of enemies from medium range to hit several at once. The battlefields of the game are often somewhat cramped, so you need to think ahead as your Marines move to engage. You don't want to have one standing in a spot that denies another a golden opportunity to do some damage, or even keeping one of your soldiers out of the fight entirely. You will need to press every advantage you can, since your Marines are always outnumbered, and often facing a seemingly endless flow of fresh enemies. If you allow too many foes to close within striking distance of your men, you will start taking damage much faster than the limited healing cards can restore it.

Despite being a game that is also available on iPad and Android devices, Space Wolf manages to look quite respectable on PC. The textures and models are simple, but well done, the Space Marines in particular. The huge variety of weapons all have appropriate attack animations and effects, though some are better than others. For example, the flamethrower spews out a ton of fire over a large area and looks great doing it, but the poor bolters only spit out a handful of rounds before going silent. It's a bit underwhelming really, but makes sense for game balance. The melee attacks, I am happy to say, all look quite good and result in blood spraying everywhere. This is 40k after all!

The area where this game struggles the most is scenario design. While the combat itself is entertaining, and there is a surprising variety of locales to fight through, the objective is pretty much always the same: walk through the level and kill enemies as they spawn in around you. Enemies appear here and there and everywhere, which removes any sense of overall strategy from the game. You have no way of knowing whether a new group is going to appear from a direction that makes sense thematically, or just materialize from the ether right next to your Marines. One mission looked to mix this up, by having you defend a Space Marine priest as he performed some sort of ritual, but then all of the enemies simply came running down a single hallway, two or three at a time. This defied the normal expectation in the worst way, it gave you a new objective, but still took away any strategic decision making. At the end of the day, this is a game focused on tactical combat. Kill the enemy faster than they can damage your men, and you will walk away the victor.

In addition to the twenty or so missions of the campaign, there is a survival mode, which you can watch me play here and PvP multiplayer. I tried a couple of times to find an online match, but it seemed no one else was on at the time. Looking at the leader boards, there are at least a few dozen dedicated players out there who have played hundreds of matches online, so I can only assume it works well.

Space Wolf is a good value for the price, you get a lot of places and people to fight, and lots of options for customizing your team. Anyone who is addicted to building decks of cards in Hearthstone or similar will love that aspect of the game. While the combat lacks variety in terms of strategy, it makes up for it with a nice spread of maps and enemy types. There are cultists, corrupted Imperial Guardsmen, Chaos Marines and even more supernatural foes to kill as you progress through the game. The survival mode is almost a game unto itself, since you will need to build a deck focused on long-term sustainability if you want to complete all of the waves. Finally, the online mode is there if you can find an opponent, which is where you would need some real strategy to win. If you are looking for a fresh take on the turn-based tactical genre, and especially if you like purging chaos, give Space Wolf a try.

Developed by HeroCraft
Available on Steam, iOS, and Google Play.

- Joe Beard

Messerschmitt BF 109 by Jan Forsgren  The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke 109, is sometimes called the ME 109, after the d...

Messerschmitt BF 109 by Jan Forsgren Messerschmitt BF 109 by Jan Forsgren

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


 The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke 109, is sometimes called the ME 109, after the designer Willy Messerschmitt. He was actually a designer at Bayerische Flugzeuwerke in the early 1930s.

 The BF 109 was the Luftwaffe's epee to the saber that was the Focke-Wulf 190. Most of the high scoring aces of the Luftwaffe flew in BF 109s, even when given the chance to switch to the FW 190.

 The choice for a contract as the newest Luftwaffe fighter for the BF 109 was not a done deal. As a matter of fact Field Marshal Milch, a high ranking Luftwaffe officer, had a long standing feud with Messerschmitt and his designs. One of Milch's closest friends was killed in an accident flying an early model of an older Messerschmitt design. Milch always held Messerschmitt responsible. The book shows that the fighter BF 109 was derived from the sport plane BF 108. Oddly enough, in warplanes at the time, the Supermarine Spitfire was designed right around the same time, and both planes' lifespan continued throughout the war and beyond. This shows how well made and upgradable the two designs were.

 The author goes into all of the different versions of the BF 109, from describing the fate of all of the different test frames to the BF 109 Kurfurst, ME 209, and the ME 309. A unarmed and specially fitted BF 109 actually held the world speed record for over thirty years.  He also doesn't shy away from all of the BF 109's faults. Although a great fighter, it was a difficult plane to master. Take offs and landings were especially dangerous. One of the BF 109's points in its favor was also its greatest flaw. The landing gear were attached to the fuselage and not the wings. This made replacing the wings, if damaged, relatively easy. However, that made the landing gear very narrow and was hard to taxi while on the ground. The plane also had a tendency to drop one wing when getting close to stall speed in landing, and it came with a real chance of doing a ground loop when taking off. The very narrow landing gear made both habits even worse. In this it should be equated with another excellent fighter, the US Corsair, nicknamed the 'Ensign killer'. Both were spectacular fighters, but both also needed to be flown by a skilled and alert pilot or disaster would ensue. Many BF 109s were damaged or destroyed before their pilots learned their temperament. Some planes are known for their docile flight characteristics; the BF 109 was not one of them. Many fighter pilots prefer a 'twitchy' fighter plane that needs constant attention than docility. For other examples, see the Sopwith Camel and the Fokker DR.1.

 Mr. Forsgren goes into every detail of the BF 109 from its inception to the last flights. The constant upgrading of the plane is shown as well as the attempts to make a Jabo (fighter bomber ground attack plane) out of it. The various upgrades in weapons from two small machine guns to the thirty millimeter cannon on some of the later models is shown. The author also goes into its use in the other Axis countries during the war, and its surprising appearance as a fighter used by Israel in its earliest battles.

 The book also comes with various tables and 120 pictures of the aircraft and different close ups of various parts of the designs. I can easily recommend the book to a newbie who is just starting to learn about the BF 109, but the book is also full of facts for the aficionados of the plane. As a matter of fact I liked the book so much, I am looking to get my hands on the author's book on the Ju-52. The Junkers 'Tante ju" has always interested me.


Author: Jan Forsgren
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Fields of Fire , designed by Ben Hull and published by GMT games is the best solitaire wargame and I think it could challenge any non-sol...

Fields of Fire 2nd Edition Fields of Fire 2nd Edition

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

Fields of Fire, designed by Ben Hull and published by GMT games is the best solitaire wargame and I think it could challenge any non-solitaire wargame for quality, immersion, fun, and challenge. 

There, I said it. I know that's only my opinion but in this case, I am pretty sure I'm correct. If you're still here and haven't rushed out to order it already then maybe you want to know why I claim such an accolade; read on ... (prepare yourself for a completely biased view of this great game)

I first discovered this game in the long dark days between the first edition and the newly printed second edition. There aren't many in my regular game group who entertain my wargame habit. In researching my drug of choice, I quickly discovered Ambush as a solo wargame. I promptly paid a benevolent stranger on eBay a princely sum and on completing the first scenario I was hooked. I went on to play the game out and wanting more. I had never played a game that told such a great story and in which you were so emotionally invested in the characters. However in Ambush, each mission is exactly the same, obviously, the outcome will be different, but all the events are preprogrammed to happen again. Ambush has little replayability value but it's a blast the first time around.

For my next fix, I found Fields of Fire; it came with a recommendation, 'if you like Ambush, you'll like this', and a warning 'you could go insane trying to understand the rules'. Unfortunately for me, the game was out of print and out of stock everywhere I looked. So I fired up Vassal and printed off the rules and got ready for an education.

As soon as I started scratching at the system I realised that there was something special here, and the myriad of player aids and unofficial rules available at the game page on board game geek made me think that I wasn't the only one who saw something great. I learnt the game over a week or so using some terrific examples of play and introductions that others had written, which for me, were invaluable for learning the game.

Fields of Fire puts you in the shoes of a 2nd Lieutenant in command of a rifle company of the US Armies 9th Infantry Regiment. This regiment, the 'Manchus' are one of the oldest and most decorated infantry regiments in the US Army. The game portrays their experience through WWII, Korea and Vietnam. There are not many war games that provide 3 different conflicts as part of the base game.

Instead of the traditional wargame hex map, you get a deck of terrain cards which are constructed, per the scenario setup, in front of you in order for you to analyse the terrain before you plan your strategy. There are different terrain decks for each theatre: WWII, Korea and Vietnam and each terrain area has specific attributes, like cover, combat modifier, trafficability, and burst effect. You need to plan to use the strengths and weaknesses of each card as your troops move up the 'map' to take their objectives.

The Normandy Terrain Deck, example cards

There are two distinct parts to this game, the planning phase and the mission itself. During planning you decide which of your 3 platoons will receive your allocated weapons and assets. 'Assets' are crucial for your success in this game and include signal flares, radios, runners etc, i.e. everything you may need to stay in command and communications with your subordinates. The quote below from Prussian General summarises my experiences with Fields of Fire quite succinctly:
"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" - Field Marshall Graf von Moltke
After you've decided on your plan of attack you then form up your troops in the staging area just off-map and start worrying about what's out there on the map and whether you're going to survive. The way in which each scenario plays out is largely driven by an Action Deck of cards, which contain a plethora of numbers which determine the results of your orders, your attacks, your skirmish results indeed any type of randomisation in the game is resolved by drawing an Action Card. I read one online commenter who claimed their Action Deck cheats. I empathise with them.

The action deck. Showing resolutions for events, orders, initiative, combat success and combat effects and random numbers(12)
The entropy caused by the Action Deck and the Terrain Deck changes the scenario so much that in playing through the same scenario twice, it feels completely different. But in none of them will it be easy, in fact in my experience it is often a brutal and savage experience in which you find yourself clinging onto your last vestiges of command whilst you vainly try to establish contact with your subordinate HQs. What this does is give this game, with 29 included scenarios, almost infinite re-playability.

There are some gamers that decry any randomisation and abhor dice, not something the typical wargamer shuns. However, there are no dice here. You do have the equivalent of a d12 on each Action card. With nearly every order, you're drawing another Action card. This means you're going to reshuffle that Action Deck a lot. They're typical inflexible GMT card stock, i.e. they don't lend themselves to easy shuffling but I've sleeved mine and it is a breeze to shuffle. I am not a 'sleever' per se; my Terrain Decks will not be protected, but the Action Deck will receive such heavy use I would recommend sleeving for protection and to aid shuffling.

Normandy Mission #1 set-up. Note the hills/stacked cards these will prove very useful in maintaining LOS and therefore comms with your subordinates.
One requirement of playing solo is integrity, it's easy to cheat when playing alone. But in this game, there are so many edge cases that crop up sometimes a referral to the rulebook in every single instance costs too much time. Given enough experience, (probably 3+ games) you know 90% of the game with just the Sequence of Play to jog your memory. I would recommend in those edge cases to just play through what you think is sensible and find the rule after the game, if still necessary.

In order for your units to make an action, they need to be given orders from a higher HQ, as determined by the Action Deck which is then modified by game conditions. Your CO HQ can then 'spend' them on any subordinate unit. This command hierarchy exists above and below your CO HQ and is a crucial part of this game e.g. your 1st Plt HQ cannot order a 2nd Plt unit, similarly, your 1st Plt HQ cannot order CO Staff. Where you attach machine guns, mortars and vehicle assets and how they may be commanded and from which terrain, should all be considered in the planning phase to increase your chance of success.

On some turns, you may find your CO HQ with very few commands and they are unable to order any of their subordinates because they are out of communication i.e. the subordinate cannot see or hear their commander giving them an order. If not in visual/verbal communication then they are left to their own initiative. However, if they see an enemy your units will never have to be ordered to open fire, that is automatic. Strangely for a tactical war game, you'll find yourself ordering 'ceasefire' more often than not in an effort to conserve ammunition.

The game system also allows for pyrotechnics to be used to signal your on-map units. Upon seeing a flare they will attempt to carry out the action that was assigned to that flare during the planning phase. Although a new player may be overwhelmed by the multitude of different options, I found my gameplay took an exponential leap forward when I learnt to use pyros proficiently.

When talking about a tactical squad level infantry combat game, I can't think of anything that is missing from this game. You have forward observers that can call in fire support, jeeps, tanks, helicopters, communications, ammo depletion. If I had to criticise the game, and I really don't want to, then maybe the vehicle segments are a little abstracted. However, that is probably a design choice because this isn't Panzer Leader or Check Your 6! whose focus is on armour and airborne battles respectively. This game's focus is firmly on the infantry battle, deep down at the tactical and company level and in that it excels.

The 'Manchus' in Vietnam
This tactical realism comes with a price. You have to manage the Volume of Fire and Primary Direction of Fire counters and all the other ancillary chits which are placed and removed each turn. There is a fair bit of counter management and sometimes, 3 hours into a tough scenario you cannot see the chits from the cards, figuratively speaking. I have found myself just staring at the map, and I'd like to say I was deciding what to do next to save my sorry situation, but the reality was I was just drained, not thinking, just staring. You could say this game had caused some cardboard-induced PTSD and I was diagnosed with the burden of command.

I find this game contains the most realistic version of the known unknowns and inherent fallibility of an infantry-man in hostile territory than any other game I know. Whilst playing this game I am nervous and yet hopeful. I have never commanded an infantry company and I hope my next comment does nothing to diminish the sacrifice or demean the jobs of those that have served in such positions, but this game is the closest a wargamer could get to the reality of 20th-century combat, albeit with the obvious exclusion of physical harm.

This game really does feel like a fight; against the enemy, of survival and against the system which is doing its utmost to win. The second edition has got some excellent player aids. For some strange reason, whether through design or just the rose-tinted glasses through which I view this game, I always seemed to pick up the right chart.

There is also another game in the works using the same system. Fields of Fire Vol 2. With the Old Breed which introduces the 5th Marines in WWII via Peleliu, Korea and Vietnam. It's currently on GMT's P500, which will be the cheapest price you could ever buy it for. 'Vol 2', As I understand it, is a complete game in its own right and you do not need to own Vol 1.

5th Marines moving inland on Peleliu

I didn't ever suffer use the first edition of the rules, so can't attest to their readability or clarity, which are notorious in bgg forums. I started with the unofficial rulebooks the gaming community had collaboratively put together which I thought were good to learn from and to refer to. The second edition's rules borrow a lot from those efforts and what we now have is an excellent rule book, although the game itself is quite complex I can't criticise the new rulebook. It has clarified several aspects which I found very useful.

Overall, the second edition is a glorious production with top quality components and worth every bit of its $75 price tag. Every wargamer who is inclined to play solo, either occasionally or predominantly and who can invest a bit of time would do well to pick this up. If you're willing to put a little bit of effort in, you won't be disappointed. The stories that are created on your table-top are more visceral and as close to what I imagine real infantry combat to be like than any other game I know.

If I had to choose one game to play for the rest of my life i.e. my 'desert-island game', it would be this one. I've been playing it for approximately 3 years and I still find it fresh and challenging and even now, I am looking forward to my next patrol.