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The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 campaign by George Nafziger       I first heard about the author through war...

The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 Campaign by George Nafziger The End of Empire Napoleon's 1814 Campaign by George Nafziger

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



 I first heard about the author through wargaming circles. His absolutely immense compendium of 'Orders Of Battle' (OOBs) were always discussed in gaming forums etc. I am not sure exactly when, but he released his magisterial list free for all to use. This was and is an absolute godsend to wargamers.

 The book, End of Empire, is a tome on the subject. It is so well written that at times it is frustrating. Let me explain. Mr. Nafziger writes so clearly about the events that it is hard to remain calm and non-committal while reading the book. You can easily follow the campaign, so the frustration comes when Marmont, Macdonald, or some other marshal of France, do not do what obviously needs to be done. Time and again, Blucher is on the ropes with Napoleon ready to deliver the knockout blow, when one of his Marshals lets him off the hook. You find yourself, at least I do, imagining what Massena or Davout could have done in the other Marshals' shoes. Do not even get me started with the allies. Their attempts to get to Paris are as embarrassing as watching Bumble Bees in slow motion trying to get back into the hive. The book shows exactly what transpired during Marmont's treachery. Ragusa (Marmont was the Duke of Ragusa) became as widely used in the 19th century for traitor as Quisling was in the 20th.

 The book delves deeply into the different generals and their thinking and reasoning, or lack there of. To me, the writing transports the reader to 1814 and keeps the reader in the grip of the story as well as any non-fiction work can. 

 The book is also liberally supplied with black and white images of the different generals and battles. It is also well supplied with maps so that the reader can follow along with the campaign easily.

 I am waiting, albeit impatiently I might add, for the rest of Mr. Nafziger's Napoleonic books to be released by Helion&Company.


Publisher: Helion&Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne    Why did the names of some of the worst Roman emperors start with ...

Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne Caracalla A Military Biography by Ilkka Syvänne

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


 Why did the names of some of the worst Roman emperors start with the letter 'C', as in, Caligula, Commodus, and Caracalla? I am not talking about the the emperors who only wore the purple for a short time, but those who at least had a few years in their reign.

 I am not a big fan of the Roman Empire; most of my reading is done during the period of the Republic. I have to say that this book is truly an amazing gold mine of military history and everything else you would want to know about the Roman army during this time.

 Caracalla, or more correctly, at birth Lucius Septimus Bassianus, and later Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus was described by Gibbon as "the common enemy of mankind". The author of this book cuts through 1800 years of slanted history to give us the real story of the man and his rule. The book even goes into the history before his birth and after his death. 

 This book has worked its way into the top five of my favorite books. For someone who has been reading voraciously for fifty-three years it is quite an accomplishment. The writing is superb, and it still amazes me what the author has packed into a little over three hundred pages. The book is also filled with pictures, some colorized, maps and diagrams. This is a one book encyclopedia of Roman history and military during the middle part of the empire. When you can take a subject that the reader normally doesn't care about and turn it into a page turner, that is something few authors have been able to do. Caracalla has been one of the poster children for despots for many years. To bring his story into perspective and help the reader rethink his views on a much maligned man is not an easy task. To be honest, the author does not try to make him a Boy Scout, but to bring the history of the time alive for the reader to judge for himself what he would have done in the same situation. Since Caligula, the emperor had been a marked man. Except for the time of the 'good' emperors - Trajan to Marcus Aurelius - the man in the gilded seat seems to have had a target on his head. Very few of the Roman emperors died in their beds, at least of natural causes.
Oddly enough, Caracalla's murder seems to be one of the very few where the Roman Army was actually upset over his demise. Usually they were in the plot thick as thieves.

 I cannot praise the book enough. From the illustrations to the diagrams that show how Caracalla tried to emulate the army of Alexander the Great, the information in the book is priceless. 


Author: Ilkka Syvanne
Publisher: Pen And Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers 

The Battle of Tours by Turning Point Simulations  Turning Point Simulations have decided to use Edward Creasy...

The Battle of Tours by Turning Point Simulations The Battle of Tours by Turning Point Simulations

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


 Turning Point Simulations have decided to use Edward Creasy's 'Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World' as a template to bring these different battles to wargamers. So they have developed a line of games called 'The Twenty decisive Battles of the World', adding some newer battles to the list. These game come in boxed or ziploc form. 

 The first game we will be looking at is the Battle of Tours. The battle took place in 732A.D. between the Franks and a Muslim army from Spain. This is the battle where Charles 'Martel' (the hammer) won his nickname and supposedly saved Western Christendom from the forces of Islam. Charles was the 'Mayor of the Palace' for the Merovingian King of the Franks. This victory, and others, allowed his son to become the King of the Franks and to start the Carolingian dynasty (Charles was Charlemagne's grandfather). 

 These games are smaller, roughly the size of a folio game. The map surprised me because it is actually hard backed and not just thick paper.  The art work on the map is also well done with the elevations etc. very clear. Unfortunately the rule book's pictures of the counters are much sharper and clearer than the actual counters. To me, the background is too dark or the lines of the actual units on the counters are too light. 

 The game rules are only nine pages long, and there is a further two pages of commentary. The back page of the rule book has all of the charts and tables needed for the game. It was designed by the long time and greatly acclaimed wargame designer Richard H. Berg.

 On the first turn, the Muslims move first; after that a die roll is used to determine who has the initiative. The die roll is added to the overall commanders' command range and the higher number wins the initiative.  

 The sequence of play is easy to follow, and is the following:

Determine Activation 
Move Leaders
Activated Units Move, and/or Fire
Activated Units Shock Attack
Inactive Units May try to reform

 The activation is of separate contingents on each side: Heavy Cavalry or Heavy Infantry etc. Each contingent must pass an activation die roll. One ten-sided die is used for the roll. The Muslims must roll a 0-4 and the Franks must roll a 0-5. Whatever contingent your leader is with gets to subtract -1 from the die roll.

 Leaders can actually die by fire or shock attack (this actually happened to the Muslim force). The Muslim Wagon Train unit cannot be attacked, but the die roll for the Muslim troops to try to reform is affected. The die roll has +1 added to it if the wagon train is within the movement allowance of a Frankish unit. It goes up to a +3 if a Frankish unit is adjacent to the wagon train. The wagon train was the Muslim booty from their traipse through Aquitaine.

 The following is a run through of a turn of the game. The ziploc version does not come with a ten-sided die, but the game has two different sets of 0-9 counters.

 The Muslims move first on turn one. The left contingent of the Muslim line has passed its activation roll and it is going to move and attack. The game represents eastern archer warfare well. The Muslim light cavalry/archer units can move fire and then move again. It costs one movement point to fire missiles. Both light cavalry fire and then withdraw. The Franks start in a shield wall so that gives a -2 to the roll, and the light cavalry are one hex away so that gives a +1 to the missile die roll. Both units fail to make a hit on the missile chart and move back from whence they came.

 The two Muslim heavy cavalry units will attack the end of the Frankish heavy infantry line. They get a +1 for having the Muslim leader present (Abd ar-Rahman) and a -1 for attacking heavy infantry. They get a 'disordered' result against the Frankish heavy infantry. The other Muslim heavy cavalry has to attack the other Frankish heavy infantry to its front. It gets an engaged result on the shock attack chart.

 Victory is determined by whichever side accumulates fifteen eliminated units first. There is a victory check at the end of each turn. The games play out much like a game about Hastings. The Frankish player has to know exactly when to break from his shield wall because of all of the defensive bonuses it gives. The Muslim player has to hope for good rolls for his light cavalry to cause disorder in the Frankish ranks that he can then take advantage of with his heavy cavalry.

 If you like the folio type wargames with simple rules and a small counter mix, then this game is perfect for you. I happen to like them, and this game, and I feel it does a great job of reproducing warfare in the eighth century in Western Europe. I believe these types of games have allowed wargaming companies to bring us a much larger amount of battles than would be available without this format. They are also good for the wargamer's wallet.


The Japanese Battleship Nagato by Dmitry Mironov   These books by Kagero on warships are subtitled "Super ...

The Japanese Battleship Nagato by Dmitry Mironov The Japanese Battleship Nagato by Dmitry Mironov

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


 These books by Kagero on warships are subtitled "Super Drawings in 3D", and believe me they are exactly that.The book starts with a short biography of the ship, but the book's main contents are piece by piece computerized drawings of the entire ship from bow to stern. 

 The book also comes with a separate black and white scale drawing of the Nagato. The ship is seen in 1:350th scale, while the main turrets are done in 1:200 scale, and the small guns etc. are done in 1:50th scale. 

 The Nagato was laid down in 1917, and for a few years she and her sister-ship Mutsu were arguably the toughest battleships on the planet. The Nagato's original bow was a problem in heavy seas, and it needed to be completely redesigned.

 The ship was updated at several times during its career. She was actually the flagship of the Japanese first battleship squadron, at least until the Yamato came along. The Nagato was bombed several times during World War II, but she was one of the few remaining Japanese capital ships to survive the war.

 The drawings in the book show the Nagato as she looked in 1944. The only thing I would have liked to see added would be to have a few cross section cut-away drawings of the inside of the ship.

 For the modeller and hobbyist, this book and Kagero's numerous other naval books are a gold mine of information. 


Book: The Japanese Battleship Nagato
Author: Dmitry Mironov
Publisher: Kagero
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Appren...

Light Apprentice Light Apprentice

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

After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Apprentice is a "comic book RPG" that has been available for tablets for a while and recently got a PC release. I thought this game was worth doing a quick review on because it tries out several neat ideas, though the final product left room for improvement.

"Comic Book RPG" perfectly describes the format of the game. The story is told through comic book style panels and dialogue bubbles that appear one after another. The game then seamlessly transitions into gameplay using the same comic book panels. Moving around and interacting with environments is done in the style of point-and-click adventure games. Click on a door and your characters will run through into the neighboring comic panel, which works really well. There are puzzles to solve, but they are mostly of the simple "find the missing gear and put it in this slot" variety. There are also a few secrets scattered around if you take the time to really inspect each scene. 

As with any comic book, the art style is important here. Light Apprentice succeeds in having a style all of its own, which can be beautiful at times. As someone who does enjoy reading comic books and graphic novels from time to time, I enjoyed this aspect of the game probably more than anything else.

As you explore the game world, you will often run into enemies that must be fought to progress through the area. These encounters are pretty basic turn-based combat endeavors. The key twist being that every action involves a simple quick time event that will determine how powerful your attack, healing spell, etc. is. These are very simple, as the game was originally designed for tablets. Each one is distinct and can feel somewhat rewarding when done perfectly. However, I wouldn't blame you for getting tired of them after a while.  Your characters begin with only a couple of options in combat, but over time gain quite a few different abilities. At the normal difficulty you will need to make use of your abilities efficiently or else you will have trouble with most encounters. You can't just spam basic attacks over and over and expect to have much success. In the campaign there is no opportunity to grind levels, which means some encounters were extremely frustrating until I discovered that it is possible to access a series of "quests" (basically just additional combat encounters) from the main menu. These let you fight various enemies and get more experience and loot. You will probably want to do these to make the main story line much easier to progress through. 

The story and dialogue is where the game lost me really. This feels and looks like a game for kids, which is fine, and something that I can take into consideration as I play. However, the way the game tries to convey it's message feels like I'm reading a political blog post written by a teenager. The game tackles the issue of environmentalism, which is something I praise it for since that is an important issue to me and uncommon in the gaming world. That said, the game is more than a little heavy handed in how it goes about this. After your character wakes up in a world of magic and monsters, you will be called upon to stop a greedy corporation from fracking for shale oil and polluting the local water supply. There's no metaphor here, that is literally the situation. For me, it's way too direct and breaks any sense of immersion in the world. Give me some kind of allegory that fits the setting, instead of shoehorning real world headlines into a fantasy universe.

Overall, Light Apprentice does a lot of interesting things. It has point-and-click adventure elements, a comic book style that is wonderfully adapted for gaming purposes, and a fresh theme. However, all of these elements are executed in a fashion which feels just a little too childish and simple for me personally. It's not a bad game by any means, but there probably is not nearly enough meat here for experienced RPG players. I hope to see the developer continue with this series and grow both as an artist and story teller. This game series is planned to have two more volumes, and I would be interested to see how those turn out.

Light Apprentice is available on Steam, and also on iOS and Android tablets.

- Joe Beard

Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a compani...

Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Legends of the Alliance

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

Star Wars: Imperial Assault (SW:IA) probably needs no introduction here, but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) have just released a companion app that allows full cooperative rebel play against the app-driven Empire. This review will cover both the game and the brand new Legends of the Alliance app.

As with nearly all FFG games, this is dripping with theme. In fact, the theme makes this game stand out above all my other dungeon crawlers. If you enjoy the Star Wars universe then I feel pretty confident that you’ll enjoy this game. It really does feel like you’re playing as a small group of rebel operatives launching guerrilla raids on Empire outposts. The Story Starts just at the end of A New Hope with the remnants of the Death Star crashing down onto Yavin 4.
3rd Mission of the traditional campaign game.

SW:IA was released in 2014 and it is pretty much a re-skin of Descent 2nd Edition. If you know that game, this one will take you about 1 minute to grok the elegant line-of-sight rules and appreciate the subtle difference between the Overlord player (in Descent) and the Imperial player in this game. In my playgroup, it felt like there was a little less downtime between players.

The game can now be played in three different ways, the standard PvE-like (1 vs many) campaign game - which is where my jam is. The PvP skirmish game or now, thanks to the app, as a fully-cooperative (or solo campaign) game. In the UK the game has an RRP of £92.99 which hurts just a little bit. However, the app is free and it provides a completely different campaign for rebel players to play-through.
You get four rulebooks, count 'em four!
To get the best experience of this game I feel like you need to have a dedicated group of regular players that are also willing to spend the next dozen game sessions or so bashing through this campaign. My group weren’t willing to play this exclusively so we’re only about halfway through the main campaign and the side missions that are interspersed with the story missions. I have also played it in Skirmish Mode which is arguably the most popular mode and as of last week, I have played two missions in the app campaign.

The rules recommend that you also have someone familiar with the game to play as the Imperial player. There is hidden content revealed only to the Imperial player at the start of every campaign mission. As a rebel player, this is a great way to immerse yourself in an almost RPG-like experience. The hidden knowledge also provides a true sense of jeopardy and suspense, although that is tempered by the knowledge these missions have been thoroughly balanced to within an inch of their life to make them winnable by either side. I recommend that you have John Williams playing in the background to add atmosphere.

In my group, only 1 person had played this before, in fact, he owns the game and several expansions. I didn’t know this before picking Imperial Assault up as he is a new to my group, but he was perfect to give us a run for our money as the Imperial player. In our campaign, the rebels have won more than they’ve lost but if there was a consistent trend of one side winning then the game might become unwinnable for the losing side.

Your characters gain XP and access to new equipment and allies as they progress through the campaign. Unfortunately for those wanting to play as Luke or Han Solo they only appear as ‘allies’, appearing only to assist during particular missions. The Imperial player is not left without their own allies or ‘villains’, which may enter play as the rebels progress… There are a total of 12 ally and/or villain tokens in the base box. You can, of course, buy all the miniatures for these extra 12 characters but they’re not provided in the base box.
Some of the components... can you spot the AT-ST?

Worryingly, the base box does come with an AT-ST miniature which is one of the best core-game miniatures I’ve ever seen. It is solid plastic, or at least it feels solid, and it sits approximately 12 cm (or 4” ¾ for those used to old money). I say 'worryingly' because as a rebel player it’s not come out to play in our campaign yet and I feel like we’ll be woefully underpowered when it does. Maybe Chewbacca will come out to help us? Either way, as a player and Star Wars fan I’m excited about the experience and intrigued by the lure of expansions.

Of course, if you want to play with all the goodies straight away you can make up your own army in skirmish mode. Players (just two) will each take a side and build their army using a traditional point-based system. This is done in secret and before both of you know what the particular mission will be. The mission is decided after the players have finished army-building by drawing a card from the Skirmish Mission deck. This make’s an enjoyable and fair mission but for the wannabe-tactician in me, I would prefer to know what my mission is before building and outfitting my force. I’m absolutely fine not knowing the enemy disposition, but not knowing my mission before I select my forces does feel a bit strange.
Everything but the insert

The box and components are all glorious but I do have one niggle with the production. The stupid trench insert FFG insist on using in their big-box games. I didn’t mind it in SW: Rebellion (there were two trenches), I could fit everything back in ‘the trench’ in Mansions of Madness but in this, there is no way all of the terrain tiles, miniatures, tokens and card decks are going to fit back into the box. In the end, I just gave up and ditched the insert. I’m sure 80% of gamers will do the same. “Why bother FFG?” Please, either make the box smaller and ditch the insert, or the trench wider so that it can hold all the components that are in the box after it has been punched.

As you can see from the picture above, once you've ditched the waste-of-cardboard-insert, you have room for lots of expansions...
iOS Screenshot

I’ve only played two missions with the app, but that wasn’t without some teething issues. I should caveat this with I tried this in the very first week it was released so I fully expect the problems I experienced to be ironed out. I initially attempted to run it on stock Android, albeit quite an old version and it hung on the splash screen. The app does say that if this happens. you should restart your phone. After restarting I could never start a mission, so I switched to an iPad which had no problem with the app.

If you’ve played the Road to Legend app, (for Descent 2nd edition) you know what to expect here. Legends of the Alliance is a slick and highly-professional app that makes an already great game even better, by allowing for solo play and fully cooperative modes. This may not be of interest to you but in this free app, it adds a completely new dimension to the game. If you own IA and didn’t know about the app, do yourself a favour and try it out. I am loving it so far and can see myself completing the campaign in it before my group finishes our traditional campaign game.

Another benefit is that the app allows me to play a 2 player game with my son, who is just a bit young to fully control a group of rebels against his merciless father to enjoy it fully. With the app, we get to play together and in the Star Wars universe so it gets two thumbs up from him. Although there are far fewer faux-tortured breathy “... I am your Father!” quips. (He didn’t laugh the first time, I’m not expecting a laugh anytime soon, but I won't stop doing it).

Unlike the Descent app, I don't think the app changes the missions or encounters based on your collection yet. FFG has said that they will be implementing that soon as you expand your collection those additional figures and items will possibly turn up in the app-campaign. This is a great feature which provides a great reason to pick up the base game and some (affordable to you) expansions. However, I should mention and warn those of us who suffer from a completionist disorder that you’ll be spending the best part of £1200 to complete your Imperial Assault collection. Buyer game collector beware!
Shut up and take my money!

The game comes with the expected plethora of tokens and different card decks, when it is all out on the table it is a bit bewildering for new players but the basic rules take about 30 minutes to fully explain (if you've got an attentive group) and after half a dozen or so activations there will be very few rules that require look up.
So many card decks
FFG do an excellent job of writing their rules these days and SW: IA is no exception. The game comes with a basic rules book that consists of 5 pages of basic rules and 1 page of advanced rules. There is a separate Rules Reference Guide that contains every single rule in an a-z format. Each entry has a super useful ‘Related Topics...’ at the end which lead to other sections. I wish all publishers did this. You also get a short Skirmish guide and a much more extensive Campaign Guide rulebooks.
My own token storage solution

I love Star Wars and this game is a fantastic implementation of a great combat system in a universe I would like to visit. I’ve often wondered how good (and long) a grand-strategy and tactical game in the Star Wars universe could play out with all the different and individually excellent FFG Star Wars games we have today.

For example, you could play Star Wars: Rebellion as your over-arching strategy thread; Break out X-Wing the Miniatures Game or Star Wars Armada (I prefer X: TMG) to resolve the space battles; Then break out SW: IA to resolve any ground battles; While dressed in your finest Rebel fighter gear (of course).

If anyone is interested in a very long weekend of Star Wars gaming, full of theme music and tired jokes then let me know...maybe the day after watching the imminent Episode VIII - Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

You can pick up Star Wars Imperial Assault from nearly any Friendly Local Gaming Store and just in time for Christmas...

Amazing fact: FFG own 17 different Star Wars game titles, take that EA! (I have no idea how many current Star Wars games EA have released)

VentoNuovo Games Some of the Stalingrad Map  VentoNuovo games is an Italian game company that opened in ...

VentoNuovo Games VentoNuovo Games

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

VentoNuovo Games

Some of the Stalingrad Map

 VentoNuovo games is an Italian game company that opened in 2012, and by the ratings on BoadGameGeek their games are all highly recommended. The games come with high end components, according to all of the reviews I have read. The maps look both easy to read and well done as far as the art work. They have a Kickstarter campaign going on right now for their newest game 'Stalingrad: Inferno on the Volga'. The game is either a solitaire or two players as Germans against the Soviets. Naturally, a human can also play the Soviet side. If playing solitaire, they call the Soviet side an AI. The map for the game is supposed to be the most authentic Stalingrad map ever. It was taken right from the Luftwaffe's reconnaissance photos. Here is a link to their Kickstarter page:

This is a link to their web page:

The Luftwaffe Over Germany Defense of the Reich  by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller   This book has a ton of...

The Luftwaffe over Germany Defense of the Reich by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller The Luftwaffe over Germany Defense of the Reich by Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller

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


 This book has a ton of information on the daylight defense of German skies during World War II. The authors toiled ten years to bring this excellent history to us. It is filled with facts and figures, but also has 160 photos and numerous maps and diagrams. One of the main points, if not the most, that the authors show us is that before the start of the war Germany gave no thought to defense against bombers. The high command seemed to believe in all of the writing between the two wars that said that "the bomber would always get through". Germany's strategy was to hit first and hardest and let defense be damned. Unfortunately for them, the small pin prick daylight raids up until the beginning of 1942 were dealt with easily by the small slapped together air defense that they had at the time. This led the high command to believe that they did not have much to worry about as far as daylight bombing. The appearance of the U.S. Eighth Air Force would prove them wrong.

 The book continues to show how the off the cuff arrangements for daylight air defense were progressively upped until most German fighters were brought back to Germany to help defend their nation. The various personalities and their successes and failures are shown us, such as Goering, Galland, and Milch etc. The authors have also used many first person accounts to show how the air war over Germany was experienced by the Luftwaffe. The book is filled with many tidbits; one explains that the B-24 bombers had to fly in formation a few thousand feet lower than the B-17 bombers. I had always wondered why the B-24 with its larger payload was not more extensively used in Europe. All of the different steps in the technology war over the skies of Europe including radar and planes are shown by the authors. The gradual loss of the air war by Germany is described, and the desperate measures the Luftwaffe was forced to use. Ramming and the near suicidal use of the Me-163 are gone into. 

  Looking for a better book on the German air defense of the Third Reich in daylight during the war would probably be a useless endeavor. The authors have shown that it was a much closer battle than is usually shown to us. The personal accounts show exactly how much the German fighter pilots were wary of taking on American bomber streams, and for good reason. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who has an interest in the air war over Germany from 1939-1945.


Book: The Luftwaffe Over Germany Defense of the Reich 
Authors: Donald Caldwell and Richard Muller
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

The Operational Art of War IV by   Slitherine and Matrix Games    "It's here, it's here, let the b...

The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games The Operational Art of War IV by Slitherine and Matrix games

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


 "It's here, it's here, let the bells ring out, and the banners fly; feast your eyes on it, it's too good to be true, but it's here." With a little help from Bugs Bunny's genie, I am pleased to announce the arrival of 'The Operational Art of War IV'. TOAW has been with us for almost twenty years. Originally designed by Norm Koger and released by Talonsoft in 1998, this is the fourth (actually more) in the series. The game is a throwback to the times when a gamer would buy the entire battles of Napoleon or Civil War instead of just one or a few. The game shipped with more than 200 scenarios, but the release of new and older ones ported over to the updated engine is growing each day. These scenarios have been released in just the last few days:

Franco-Prussian War
Bitter Victory Sicily PO version (AI)
Coral Sea 1942 PO version (AI)
Bocage Hell  - Normandy at 1 km a hex
Europa 1947

 To go into the reasons that a person who owns TOAW III would want to buy the new version, I will let Slitherine and Matrix games give us a short run down, and then post a link to a discussion. The store page has these items listed:

"New naval warfare features

  • The modeling of ships has been improved. Instead of treating ships as a single piece of equipment, like a gun or a squad, they are now treated as complex systems that incur damage in combat. Ships have new armor, durability, accuracy, speed, and agility parameters.

  • Embarked units no longer employ their own strengths in defense. Naval combat now evaluates attackers’ Anti-Naval strengths as individual shots/planes – employing their shell weights to determine armor penetration and resulting damage.

  • Sea Interdiction can now be employed by aircraft, ships, and coastal guns. Ships subjected to sea interdiction fire counterbattery back (or, in the case of carriers, counterstrikes). 
New Supply system

  • There is now an intermediate supply state that falls between “Supplied” and “Unsupplied”. It’s called “Overextended”. A new parameter called the Overextended Supply Threshold has been implemented. That is the location supply value below which locations are overextended. Units in such hexes will function somewhat between how supplied and unsupplied units function. The result will be that it will be much more difficult for units to press on at red-lined unit conditions from such locations.

  • Motorized unit movement over improved roads can be set by the designer to be less than one MP per improved road hex (for example, ½ MP per hex). If optioned, this affects supply in that supply lines traced over improved roads will extend proportionately further than over other terrain, like regular roads. Note how this would especially affect desert scenarios.

  • The limit of 50% unit supply recovery per turn has been lifted. 
Other game features

  • Range Limits: Ranged units can have their nominal ranges player limited. This can be used to tailor bomber ranges to match fighter cover ranges or to make units with multiple range equipment operate within the range of the shortest-ranged equipment. The DBR will reflect the modified range.

  • Deployment Recovery: Ranged units retain their deployment states after combat and ground assaulters can recover theirs if a planned combat is canceled.

  • New Bridge Destruction Rules: There is an option to limit bridge hexes (for destruction purposes) to locations where the road feature graphically crosses the river feature.

  • Combat Report Review. Combat reports are saved in the pbl/sal files for review by both players during their player turns.

  • Adaptation of Matrix’s PBEM++ system."

   This link will take you to a post by 'Curtis Lemay' from the Matrix games forum that has a more in depth list of the game changes that are too numerous to list in this review:

  This is a post from one person who designed a scenario for the game 'Oberst_Klink':

"Well... $39 gets you... 72 cans (12fl.oz) of Milwaukee's Best in WV (at least when I was there), excluding the pills for reducing acid reflux. Now, seriously. The additional features (see Bob's reference) are more than worth it. As for me, I don't care about the UI; I want the inner works (under the hood?!) to be better than those of its predecessor. And they are. If I compare how the AI acted at my Tutorial '41 and now...woooo! The friggin' bugger even gave me a hard time! And I created the scenario to be a... walkover? As for me; I rather skip heartburn after 72 cans of MB's :)"

  To understand my take on the game, you have to know two things. I really have no interest in the North African WWII campaigns at all, and especially the later Tunisia campaign. I have read about both, but neither, especially the latter, has really caught my attention. For no particular reason, I fired up the 'Kasserine 43' scenario from the first screen. To be honest I was overwhelmed by the amount of the other scenarios to choose from. I fully expected to play one or two turns and then switch to a WWI scenario. The UI changes and the whole game presentation seems to be different in a new and exciting way for the better. I am now on the eighth turn of 'Kasserine 43' and I couldn't be more engrossed or happier. I have owned every iteration of the game that has been released. I have also played board wargames since the 1960s and computer ones starting in the very early 1980s. I have not been so engrossed by a pure wargame in many a year, and never by a scenario that I don't even enjoy reading about.

 I have taken Kasserine, and with four turns left I have an overwhelming victory, but the Free French and now the English are coming in as reinforcements. I think I have shot my bolt, and now I need to hang onto to the different victory point hexes I have. 

  Just as in history, the Kasserine attack was really just a spoiling one, and never had the forces needed to turn it into much more than that. I am pretty sure that my forces are now heavily outnumbered and even if I win this fourteen turn scenario, it will not really change the campaign one bit.

 I have no intention of wasting my troops with an attack, but I wanted to show the 'Combat Planner' screen. It is a godsend, and feels like having a chief of staff to turn to. 

 So my first fully played through game/scenario about the North Africa campaign is over. The Allies in the end did not have the overwhelming might I thought they would have, but still I was on the defensive. In this day and age where every minute of our lives count, it is still amazing to me that this game pulled me into a historical campaign that I never read about anymore. My gaming is almost always commanded by my reading. I read about a particular historical campaign, and then open up a game that deals with it. What might get the book publishers happy is that I am thinking of picking up a book about Kasserine. For a game to be able to have that impact, and not the other way around, is pretty amazing to me.

 This is a tiny scenario compared to the rest of the gaming goodness that is included with the game. Here is a screenshot of a much larger one that you can get lost in. This a shot of the 'Barbarossa 1941' scenario:

 This is a shot of the above scenario's bigger brother 'FITE II'. Fire in the East is the monster of monsters eastern front scenarios that comes with TOAW IV. Please, someone work on getting this beauty an AI.

  This is a screenshot of one of my favorite scenarios, the 1918 German offensives.


  This is a zoomed out shot of the Pacific War at 25 km per hex.

  This is the same scenario zoomed into New Guinea. 

   If you have never bought into the franchise, now is your time. For less than dinner with a friend, you will get enough gaming greatness to last a lifetime. For those of you like me who have every single one of the TOAW games and the old manuals it is well worth the money to invest again in the games future.

 I haven't even touched upon the new and vastly improved naval warfare. This part of the game has made Pacific Ocean scenarios and Mediterranean ones actually enjoyable. The AI in all of the scenarios I have tried seems to play much harder than I remember. The dedicated team that worked on updating this already great game to the level it is at now should be congratulated. I, for one, say thank you.


Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson     Within the first chapter of this book, the author shows us the...

Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras by Paul L. Dawson

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 Within the first chapter of this book, the author shows us the two most important reasons for the failure of the 1815 Belgian campaign. First, the French Army had some royalist officers and men who defected to the Allies. The amount of these defections are usually glossed over in other books on the campaign. Second, without Berthier as Napoleon's chief of staff, the Imperial headquarters seems to have been run in a very sloppy manner. Officers did not know where all their troops were, and many messages between the different staffs seem to have been missed. While not a competent field general, Berthier deserves to be listed as one of the best chiefs of staff ever. His not returning to serve under Napoleon in 1815 is probably one of the key reasons for the failure of the campaign. As far as the desertions, the author states that four Carabiner officers deserted on the field of Waterloo.

 The author does a very good job of detailing the performance of Marshal Ney from the 15th to the 18th of June 1815. He shows that Ney was handicapped by a lack of staff when he was appointed to the command of the left wing of the French Army by Napoleon on June 15th. Mr. Dawson shows how unnaturally timid Ney was on both the 15th and 16th of June. He goes on to show how nearly maniacal Ney became on the field of Waterloo. Unfortunately, we have only the written orders from the campaign, but the accompanying verbal orders have been argued about for more than two hundred years. In the author's eyes, among others, Ney lost the campaign by ordering d'Erlon's 1st corps away from the edge of the Ligny battlefield to help Ney at Quatre Bras. Of course, some of the blame also rests on d'Erlon for following Ney's order and not Napoleon's.

 The book shows the battle of Quatre Bras in all of its details and changes of fortune from French to Allied throughout the battle. The charge of Kellermann's Cuirassiers is explained by the author to be not as suicidal as is sometimes written about. The book comes with a one page colored map of the battle, and seven pages of colored photos of the different places on the battlefield today.

 The author shows that Ney unequivocally was sent, and received, a message from Napoleon that made it plain that Napoleon intended Ney to be part of a 'manoevre sur les derrieres' (move onto the rear) of the Prussian Army at Ligny. Ney's capture of Quatre Bras was supposed to be a movement to forestall Wellington being able to move to help the Prussians. As the book shows, Ney was hardly the best Marshal for Napoleon to have picked to have a ? command. His track record in 1813 should have precluded him in this command, but Napoleon had only so many Marshals to choose from.

 Whilst Ney was nicknamed by Napoleon 'the bravest of the brave' (look at his exploits leading the rearguard from Russia), he was not the smartest of the smart. If Davout or Soult had been in charge of the left wing, they probably would have captured Quatre Bras, and d'Erlon would have helped crush the Prussians at Ligny, thus making the Prussian Army unable to intervene on the field of Waterloo. Ney was the only marshal charged with treason after the second fall of Napoleon. This brave man was sentenced to death, and shot by firing squad.

 Ney's supposed comments at his execution were " Soldiers when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ...soldiers,fire!"


Book: Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras
Author: Paul L. Dawson
Publisher: Frontline Books
Distributor: Casemate Publishers