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WATERLOO 1815 :  NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLE from Trafalgar Editions If my previous review Bloody Battles of T...

WATERLOO 1815 : NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLE WATERLOO 1815 : NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLE

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

WATERLOO 1815 : 

NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLE


from



Trafalgar Editions




If my previous review Bloody Battles of The Crimea took us to a seldom gamed conflict, here we are back in the thick of one of the most famous and frequently gamed battles of history.

What I found intriguing was how two games both aiming for a tactical representation of conflicts separated in time by a mere 40 years can take such distinctly different paths to simulating the combination of infantry, cavalry and artillery tactics.  From solidly hex and counter routines, we turn in Waterloo 1815 to that granddaddy of wargaming: the kriegsspiel blocks.  Their origins were in military training for Prussian and German officers and the traditional blue and red suits well for the two armies at Waterloo.

Perhaps the best known, recent manifestations of this format have been Rachel Simmons' Napoleonic games on Marengo and Austerlitz [and the ACW game Guns of Gettysburg].  However, these latter games did little more than use the blocks with a whole slew of innovative ideas on how to manage terrain and engage in combat.  Trafalgar Editions' product is much closer to its historical origins.  

Its dynamic box art depicting Ney's cavalry charge in the last hours of Waterloo has an immediate visual impact.  Opening the box reveals a very good mounted map in two sections providing a splendid impression that focuses attention on the basic contours of the landscape.


The four key fortified locations immediately stand out [even in my somewhat faded photo!] as do the string of hamlets and villages.  In muted shades of green it serves to create an excellent image reminiscent of the historical map sketches typical of the period.  Each player has an A4 cardstcock copy of the map with the set-up for their units printed on, while the Allied player has an additional copy to be used for the optional hidden deployment variant.  It is small bonuses like this that testify  to both the quality and care taken by Trafalgar Editions.



The blocks themselves are plain wooden ones to which adhesive labels have to be applied to opposite sides and this is a lengthy process that needs considerable care.  Personally, I've never had concerns about these sort of tasks, but I am aware that for some it can be off-putting.  The task is particularly fiddly  because the blocks are the slim rods typical of the game's kriegsspiel influence and the labels fit exactly to the blocks' different sizes that identify the three arms of infantry, cavalry and artillery as well as leaders.  I soon found that trimming the merest sliver off the end of the labels made a surprising difference to ease of application, but you will still find it a lengthy process.



However, the results look magnificent, once completed and the units have been deployed on the map.


The central focus of the battle




A closer look at the Allied deployment
The choice for one side to show the unit in line and the other side in column works admirably, making formation changes an easy element of the game.  Nevertheless there are markers needed to indicate such things as disorganisation and rout, as well as the single step loss that units can take before they are eliminated.  This combination of slender blocks and cardboard markers has definite drawbacks and makes for potential problems, especially when units come into contact for melee or are picked up to change formation or move.  It's very easy to start a cascade of markers and to displace units, especially when the supersize infantry square marker is placed!.

Though it adds to initial preparation time and  then time checking when playing the game, I've found it worth the effort to create roster sheets for the units on which the markers can be placed.  Moving from the aesthetics and practicalities of the map and units to the engine that drives them, namely the rules, these are very much drawn from a miniatures-influenced world.  But before looking at them in more depth, I have to say that I struggled with the very small print-size and the equally small examples of play, all in black and white.

Fortunately you can download a copy of the rules from BGG [BoardGameGeek] and these proved very serviceable and especially helpful in allowing me to make notes directly on to them, while I've been working on playing the game and preparing this review.  Unlike many gamers who are perfectly happy to annotate and highlight rule books, I just cannot bring myself to do this.

My first surprise and slight disappointment was that there is no orders system and that essentially we are in an igo-ugo format, where one player moves and attacks and then the other player does the same.  Leaders provide little more than a morale boost to the unit they are attached to.  However, the fairly close proximity of the units and the very obvious historical aim of both sides to ultimately survive and annihilate the other really renders an orders based game unnecessary.

As for the lack of such things as chit-pull systems and initiative die rolls that tend to be de rigeur in so many current board wargames, these were soon forgotten in the simple pleasure of manoeuvring the wooden units and enjoying the visual delight of the experience.  If you look at the handy reminder of the turn sequence below, you'll also see the typical intermeshing of attacker and defenders' actions that mean that both players are engaged in the action throughout the turn.

It was interesting to find that Combat [i.e. hand to hand combat/cavalry charge] is the end of a player's turn and that a player reorganises at the beginning, attempting via a morale test to recover from Disruption or Rout while automatically recovering from being Shaken.  Rather surprisingly a player also attempts to disengage from hand to hand Combat in the Rally Phase.

The Artillery Defensive Fire Phase and the following Artillery Fire Phase is an excellent rendering of the artillery duels familiar in the Napoleonic period.  This fire is conducted by units at range from the enemy and is a very straightforward process.

Movement follows with all units that you want to come into contact with the enemy having to decide whether to engage them in melee at the beginning of their move.  I like this element of planning and decision making so simply built in.  By these means preparation for both melee and cavalry charges are handled smoothly and then executed after the next Phase which is Musketry Fire.  Movement itself is carried out using a series of small cardboard measuring sticks called UMs [standing for Unit Movement].  


French units in line formation about to make a simple movement forward
In essence a good idea, as they can be laid in sequence allowing a flexibility of gradual turning that the old style rigid measuring sticks of miniature gaming always made so difficult.  I've found them most useful for the wider sweeping moves of cavalry or the arrival [timely or not] of the Prussians.  However, as the armies rapidly close in battle, you're more likely to be using them to check infantry firing distance.

Just as the artillery fired before movement, infantry now engage after the movement phase in musketry fire with the Defender's Phase again preceding the Attacker's Phase.  A very good idea is that Defending artillery can decline to fire shot in the Artillery Phase in hopes of firing more deadly canister during the Musketry Phase.  Such fire takes place between units that are within half a UM or in contact, but not marked for subsequent melee .  

Finely, musketry fire between units that are in contact and marked for melee is the fore-runner to executing the melee or what the game dramatically calls bayonet assault.  Overall, fire and combat is well conceived with a definite logic and verisimilitude.  As units approach, there is the decision whether to engage in musketry duels and for how long or plunge in swiftly to attempt a bayonet assault.  Whatever you decide, the fire and combat chart is remarkably easy to use with each dice result's outcome being contained on a single line, with the non-highlighted result being applied to fire combat and both non-highlighted and highlighted being applied to melee.  This is a method that I've not experienced in any other game and works very well.



Similarly, movement whether at close quarters or over greater distances is easy to accomplish and the game has probably one of the simplest terrain charts with minimal detail.   

Central to all these elements of the game is morale and unquestionably morale is the heart of this game, being the stand-out feature on infantry and cavalry blocks.  Virtually all other data is on separate small, handy Army cards for the Allies, Prussians and French.  These give tables of modifiers for all three types of units referenced by such things as formation, full-strength and half-strength units, infantry in squares, unlimbered artillery etc.

So far so good, only the organisation of the information in the rule book brings an element of complexity and difficulty.  In part, I think this is because of a real desire to be thorough, but the outcome is that details tend to be repeated or amplified and sometimes aren't quite where you might have expected to find them.  

A good example of this is the section on the capabilities of the three different arms: infantry, cavalry and artillery.  Understandably we get quite a significant amount of information about such things as line and light infantry, guard infantry elite and, of course, the French Imperial guard, as well as three types of cavalry and foot and horse artillery.  But there is also considerable depth supplied in the section on artillery dealing with canister fire, artillery concentration and line of sight which you would expect to find appearing in later sections of the rules.
Shot and canister templates
The outcome is a game that has quite a substantial amount of detail to master, yet surprisingly easy systems to apply for all the most important and essential factors of a Napoleonic simulation.  Initially I did not worry too much about acquiring some of the finer details differentiating varieties of unit type, but focused on just mastering the basics of the three arms.

A further help is having the patience to play through the two additional mini-scenarios that are presented on very attractive glossy card.  Both provide partial elements of the big picture with small unit density and a limited play area.  




Scenario 1: The Prussians Are Coming in fact gives an object lesson in what the French player is likely to face in the later stages of the game and a good exercise to prepare  for that.  Scenario 2: Attack on the Allied Centre is another good lesson both in learning the rules and experiencing a focal point in the big picture.


Scenario: zooming in on La Haye Sainte

I know how hard it is to hold back from plunging in to the whole shebang at one fell swoop, but it is worth applying yourself to these smaller sections so that when you do move on to the full scale battle, you should be ready to gain maximum enjoyment with minimum rule checking.


Allied right flank about to undergo bayonet assault

As is expected with any game today, there are a selection of additional elements.  For me cards introducing Random Events always appeal. I know the old style Random Events tables used to do a very acceptable job, but the very attractive artwork of cards, plus there extra flexibility in using them is always an added draw. 



A very small section of Optional and Advanced rules complete the rules, among which I rather like the introduction of messengers allowing for a multiplayer session which may be as simple as a three-player game with the great commanders, Wellington, Napoleon and Blucher or extending to additional players acting as Corps commanders.


Messengers for multi-player participation
There is  a very substantial set of counters to mark the various states such as Disorganisation, Shaken and Routed and many other elements.  As these are all in Italian, there is an early acclimatisation needed.  By and large there is a fairly obvious correspondence, but perhaps a simple capital letter might have served better.

All in all, this is a strong addition to one of the most famous and much gamed  battles.  The rules do take time to be comfortable with, but working through them with either a few units or using one of the mini-scenarios is well worth the effort.  The visual aspect of playing the game is excellent and the designer has married elements of a miniatures system with a boardgame approach with an ease of execution and clarity of systems.  This a game to be enjoyed.

I would like to thank Trafalgar Editions for providing my review copy and I look forward to exploring soon their equally fascinating take on the most famous naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars - what else, but the company's namesake: Trafalgar.








Skies Above The Reich by   GMT Games    "Against twenty Russians trying to shoot you down or even twe...

Skies Above The Reich by GMT Games Skies Above The Reich by GMT Games

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



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  "Against twenty Russians trying to shoot you down or even twenty Spitfires, it can be exciting, even fun. But curve in towards forty Fortresses and all your past sins flash before your eyes" ("Fips" Phillips 200+ victories).

 This is only one of the myriad of quotes from various German fighter pilots about the fear that engulfed them facing the Flying Fortresses. The USAF decided that daylight bombing would allow precision attacks on German industry. This also meant that that the Luftwaffe was able to throw everything they had at the American bombers. This sets the stage for GMT's new game, Skies Above the Reich.


One of the Map Boards

 The first thing you notice when it is delivered is that it's in a large 3" box that weighs a good deal. Upon opening, you find it contains a cornucopia of gaming goodness. The box is filled to the brim with booklets and charts and two mounted maps. It is a solitaire game that can also be two player (both playing the Germans). Played as a single player game, you are in command of a Staffel of German fighters trying to stop your country from being bombed to dust. The game starts in 1942 and ends in 1945. 


A collage of all four Map Boards



  Where to begin with this Santa sized box of wargaming? Let us list what you actually get:
Boards: 22x34, 17x22 (both double sided)
Pursuit Maps: 2 @ 8.5x11 (double sided)
Roster & Log Pad: 8.5x11
Stickers: 8.5x11 sheet
Blocks: 50 black, 12 blue
Cards: 24 Nose, 24 Tail, 16 Oblique, 32 Continuing Fire
Countersheets: 1 @ 1 inch counters, 1 @ 5/8 counters
O Map Panel: 8.5x22
Player Aids: 1 @ 11x25, 2 @ 11x17
Rule Book
Advanced Rule Book
Situation Manual
Two Dice (ten sided, one red, one black)



Some action from the game

 This is the sequence of play for a mission:

Move - Fighters enter, exit or move from one box on the periphery 
   of the Formation Map to another.
Return - Fighters shift from a Return Box to a High/Low Position  
   Box, or from an Evasive Return to a Return Box.
Escort - Skip this phase unless escort markers are present, or arrive
   this turn.
Recovery - Check each fighter to determine if the hit is trivial or 
   severe.
Blast & Flak  - Fire rockets, drop bombs, and Ju88/ME410 may 
   fire cannon; then, if Near Target, check for flak. 
Cohesion  - Check each element for cohesion.
Attack  - Skip this phase unless one or more fighters are in an
   Approach Box. There are several steps to this phase.


Another GMT picture of game play

 As mentioned, the game also comes with advanced rules for you to delve into. The base game is about your fighters trying to knock down Flying Fortresses or just knock them out of the formation. The Advanced Game is where your fighters will attempt to destroy bombers that have been knocked out of formation. The game uses four maps to show the difference in the Flying Fortress formations during the years of World War II. Map 1 is the easiest to deal with and shows how the Allies experimented with bomber formations. Map 4 comes into play after Flying Fortresses were equipped with 'chin turrets'. Until this time the favorite attack of Luftwaffe fighters on these bombers was to attack straight at their noses. The chin turret made these attacks much more dangerous for the German fighters.


This is a collage of the Advanced Game Map Boards


 These types of games have a bit of a double-edged sword to them. You actually play with named units/counters instead of just 'pilot A' or Bf109_, fill in the blank. So, you are bound to get attached to the different pilots. At least I do in a game like this. In Wargames I do not get attached to divisions or corps, but in games with individual soldiers etc, I do, especially if I am playing a campaign and have to husband them through different battles. You will have some of your pilots get lucky to survive numerous battles only to fall at the last minute or just when you thought they had made it safely through another B-17 formation. 



Counters

1" Counters

 The rulebook is fifty-eight pages long, but don't let that scare you. It is written in large letters and every page has an illustration or two on it. The rules are very well done and hold the player's hand while teaching the game to them. The rulebook, situation manual, and the player's aids are very easy to read and absolutely full of play examples. The map boards are also very well done and 'clean'. There is a lot of information on them, but it is not jumbled up or seem too close to each other. The components just seem to be very well thought out, along with being very well done visually. Even the artwork on the box is excellent. Some of the counters are 1", so these are easy on old eyes. The counters are done to the standard of the rest of the game. I have older GMT games that were nicely done, but this game blows them away as far as visually and component wise.


Front of the Card Decks


Rear of the Card Decks


 Game play is very easy to get into. After your first mission, you will probably only have to glance at the rulebook every now and again. The game is set up so that you play out campaigns. Each campaign is a season. You can play campaigns of one season or up to seven. You will use the Mission Set-Up Table to start the campaign and to set-up each mission. Then you will use the Situation Manual to set-up each mission. You will either roll die or us the Staffel Commands to determine various things about the mission such as sun position etc. So with this game you get the best of both worlds. It is a deep game with a lot of options and heavy thinking for the player, but it also plays quickly and cleanly. The game's use of a die roll for Mission Type and Operations Points helps to keep the player always guessing and thinking. Do you add armor or cannon to your Staffels planes, or do you try to have your auxiliary planes drop bombs on the Fortress Box? The availability of escorts for the Fortresses also increases dramatically with time.  To give you an idea of how tough the war becomes, we will use this example. In 1942 you are given six Experten (Aces) for your Staffel. In late 1944 you are given eight green pilots to start with. Your pilots that survive and are lucky also get to grow through the game. A pilot earns Experte Skill points from successful missions. These can then be used to buy, at a cost of five per, skills such as timing, aim, luck, and break anywhere. On the other hand, your green pilots are penalized by one of these three: erratic, panic, and zeal. You can spend three Experte Skill points to remove the penalty during the game. The game also uses four decks of cards. Three of these are for different attacks: Nose, Tail, and Oblique. The fourth one is for Continuing Fire. These are as well done as the rest of the game. The cards are easy to interpret and there is little actual reading to be done on them. The game has blocks, that you have to sticker, to represent your Staffel's planes and auxiliaries. One thing about the game, you do have to keep a written log. You have to fill in a 'Pilot Roster' log, and a 'Staffel Log'. I am not really a big fan of these. However, I understand why you have to, and I admit that it does give you a sense of filling out the paperwork of a Staffel leader after each mission. There is so much in this game that I am only touching on a few points, and I feel as if I am only scratching the surface. I have been waiting for this game for a long time. It is a hackneyed expression, but in this case is very true.



Log Book

Situation Manual

1/2 of the Turn Record Track and Fate Boxes

Stickered Plane Blocks



 This is an excerpt from the rulebook:
" Although a staffel was likely to conduct hundreds of “missions” in any of the Seasons depicted in this game, scrambling into the air more than once a day when the action was particularly desperate, Skies Above the Reich condenses that action in order to present an impression of that bloody history. Here we reduce the life
(and probable death) of a staffel into a game box.
We only present a part of that “life.” A staffel would have endured a variety of missions, not just bomberbusting attacks like those depicted here. We kindly ask the player to suspend disbelief just a little and forget about missions to intercept enemy escorts or missions to protect ground-attack bombers, or other mission
types that would have occupied your staffel from time to time. For those enthusiasts who demand to see the eroding effects those missions would have had on his staffel, they are welcome to partake of the Staffel Erosion Table. You can find it on the back of this Rule Book. It is intended to be used after tallying points at the
conclusion of each Mission, but if you choose to use it for your campaign, know this: it will make your campaign harder. The Luftwaffe lost the war, the ceiling over the Reich caved in, and over the course of a prolonged campaign the results of the Staffel Erosion Table makes that fact clear."

Offical box art from GMT Wild Blue Yonder is a WWII aerial combat game from GMT Games. The game has been resurrected from the plethor...

Wild Blue Yonder Wild Blue Yonder

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


Offical box art from GMT
Wild Blue Yonder is a WWII aerial combat game from GMT Games. The game has been resurrected from the plethora of rules and campaigns that the Down in Flames turned into. The designer, Chris Janiec, has spent considerable effort in consolidating the rules and updating the entire game. Unfortunately, I  never had the privilege of playing the long-out-of-print Down in Flames games but from a cursory examination on ‘the geek,’ it appears there were 20 different expansions and add-ons, indicating how popular this game is/was amongst its audience.

As ever, I have absolutely no issues with the quality of components in games published by GMT Games. They are all (cards and chits) of an extremely high, industry-leading (in my opinion) quality. You get four decks of cards that are made from the resilient and inflexible card stock that GMT usually uses. The cards are all stored in the plastic insert, (the first I’ve ever seen in a GMT box) which has such deep wells and close fitting wells that getting the decks out with my ol’-sausage fingers, proved problematic. I resorted to just tipping the box out as carefully as I could to retrieve all of the cards.


The contents of the box

Unusually for a tactical wargame, you’re not limited to just two players. You can accommodate 8 players and you also don’t have to have the same number of players on each side either. I have only played it with two but I expect that anything up to 6 players would be great fun when playing the dogfights. You can achieve strength parity with uneven player numbers by equating each side’s total Balance Value that is printed on each Aircraft Card.

There are really two games in this box. The first is a quick to teach and moderately simple tactical dogfighting game. The other is a relatively complex resource management campaign game that has some dogfighting. Okay, there’s arguably a lot more dogfighting in the campaign games but the rules overhead outside of the dogfights seems to take more time than the core of the game, i.e. bombing targets or destroying enemy aircraft.
Action Cards
If I had to relate the two games to my military experience, the more-simple dogfighting game feels like a gash-shag pilot on a squadron attempting to stay out of trouble, without a care in the world; other than being shot down occasionally!  The campaign game feels like you’re the Squadron boss managing the entire squadron’s resources and trying to appease the higher-ups with a good performance to win the campaigns, whilst still jumping in the cockpit at every opportunity.

I preferred the dogfighting game, over the campaign games but I can’t deny there’s an awful lot of game in the campaigns. You get twelve campaigns in the box, I’ve only played 3 of them and only one to completion…(The solo Buzz-bomb campaign). The campaigns come in two flavours, Land and Progressive which each have their own campaign rules and then each campaign has campaign-specific rules as well. To say that I played my games without any forgotten rules would be a vast exaggeration.
The beginning of an early War dogfight.
The reason I preferred the dogfighting game, other than that there are far fewer rules to remember, is that it is the best attempt at representing aircraft in a dynamic and contested 3D environment that I have experienced. This game is far more abstracted than others e.g. Check Your 6! or even Star-Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game (Wings of War/Glory et al) which represent more accurately the combatants own position on a map; Wild blue Yonder models the relationship your aircraft have with the enemy at any given time. Perversely, I think that it is this abstraction which makes it feel more realistic. After all, dog-fighting pilots are trying to outmanoeuvre one-another, not the ground.

The system accommodates for altitude changes, ignored in X-Wing (there is no up or down in space) and an optional rule in Wings of Glory, by simply preventing any engagement between aircraft at different altitudes. You must choose at the start of your turn whether you climb, descend one step of altitude or stay at the current altitude. If your enemy isn’t at the same altitude then that round of the game will pass with no combat between the opposing aircraft. Although once you're locked into combat there are mechanisms to make it costly to either withdraw or escape from the fray.
The Messerschmitts have positional advantage
In fact, there are mechanisms that cover nearly every conceivable aspect of aerial combat. They all are quite simple to implement but because there are so many, I often forget which aircraft attribute is being modified for different circumstances, i.e. height change, leader loss, following etc. If there's one thing missing from this game it would be a good player-aid reference card. My play did speed up but I found myself continually referring to the rulebook to see how my card draws were affected or my hit rating.

All in all, I think this is one of the best dogfighting games that uses historical combatants. The gameplay feels like a Collectable Card Game, where you're facing off against an opponent with asymmetric decks, tapping cards and using resources.  I imagine it would be easy(ish) to tempt a die-hard CCG-er into trying this bonafide wargame based on the gameplay alone. I can't say I've tried that yet as I don't have any hardcore Magic or Android Netrunner players in my groups but to me, it felt like previous games that I've had of Magic, albeit slightly simpler - unless you ventur into the Campaigns.
The Hurricanes fight back
If you're a bit of a 'spotter' or like WWII wargames and don't have a good dogfighting game in your collection then I would heartily recommend this. The base game is very accessible and there are so many different campaigns that start adding extra rules in as your own familiarity with the system increases that there will be new experiences and fresh challenges for a long time playing this game. 

I've played few tactical wargames that allow more than 2 players and when they do, you're just dividing different areas of the battlefield amongst the players on one side. That has never really increased my enjoyment of a game, although it certainly does add more enjoyable social elements. In Wild Blue Yonder that division makes much more sense and significantly increased my enjoyment of the game. With 2 or 3 to a side, it felt like we were part of a Squadron and the game shone.

I would like to thank GMT Games for providing this review copy of Wild Blue Yonder and Chris Janiec for consolidating the system to (probably) its best edition yet.

World in Flames Deluxe Collectors Edition by Australian Design group Review Part One   So, this game is like a ...

World in Flames Deluxe Collectors Edition by Australian Design Group World in Flames Deluxe Collectors Edition by Australian Design Group

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


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Review Part One






  So, this game is like a kid getting a life-sized chocolate rabbit for Easter. We are going to have to gnaw on this critter for a while. This beast comes with 1600 counters for the basic game! We do not have as many of these monster games as we once did. It seems like we do not have the time or the space anymore for them. This is the  end all and be all of games, especially with all of the add-ons, about the entire Second World War. This not only throws in the kitchen sink, but also adds in the plumbing and the bathroom sink to boot. A word of warning, this is not for the newbie. If a newbie were to just see the contents of the box they would run away screaming to their Risk box. This is grognard territory. Hoary old and gray grognard territory. Sorry, but that is what most of us are :). We will have to go back in time a bit to underscore exactly what you get within this fifteen pound game box:

1) Four Large (574mm x 830mm) full-color hard-mounted maps of the world
2)One (297mm x 420mm) full-color hard-mounted map of the Americas
3) One (297mm x 420mm) full-color hard-mounted turn record chart
4) One (297mm x 420mm) full-color hard-mounted Task Force display
5) 4800 (12.7mm x 12.7mm) full-color counters of all of the armies, navies, and air forces of World War II (Including Planes in Flames, Ships in Flames (Including Cruisers in Flames, Convoys in Flames, and Carrie Planes in Flames), Divisions in Flames, and Territories in Flames).
6) Full-color rule book
7) Full-color campaign book
8) Five x A3 full-color games charts
9) Two ten-sided die





 This is a link to my unboxing:



  Now we have to get a few things out of the way. I am not someone who sets up a board game and analyzes every move or combination to figure out the best strategies to win within the system or rules. I try to play historically, as much as I can, any game that I am playing. The other point is that my gaming habit is almost always driven by my reading, and I am a voracious reader. So, I might have an ancients game on the table one week and a World War II naval game the next. I know there are more than a few World In Flames aficionados that have analyzed every move and have had the game up for years on end. My apologies to these people right off the bat. I could never equal your knowledge of the game. I am just not put together that way. World in Flames is one of those games that some people do get caught up in and have sometimes built there lives around. So with that out of the way what are the scenarios you can play in World in Flames? Here is the list:

 There are five one-map campaigns ranging from:

Victory in the West: May/June 1940 - Jan/Feb 1941, to
Battle of the Titans: The Russian Campaign: May/Jun 1941 -
 May/Jun 1945     

 There are four two-map campaigns ranging from:
  
Fascist Tide: War in Europe Sep/Oct 1939 - May/Jun 1945
Rising Sun: Tojo's War: Jul/Aug 1937 - Jul/Aug 1945

 There are six four-map campaigns ranging from:

Missed the Bus: The end of the beginning: Jul/Aug 1940 - Jul/Aug
  1945
Decline and Fall: Allied Ascendancy : May/Jun 1944 - Jul/Aug
  1945
If you have the add-ons Days of Decision, America in Flames, and
  Patton in Flames there are a few more scenarios to add to the mix:



 It has been about six years since I played World in Flames and that was the fourth edition. So, we are going to take baby steps and start with the one-map campaign Victory in the West. Germany is already at war with France and the Commonwealth. To get down to gaming we have to envision the situation the Allies and Germany are in. The Maginot Line covers almost all of the border of France and Germany. Historically the Western Allies sent the bulk of their better forces into the Low Countries when Germany attacked them. This resulted in Manstein's famous 'sickle cut' that chopped the Allied forces in half. No one in their right mind is going to play that gambit in a wargame, unless they are forced to by the rules. This game starts before the invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands and also gives both sides freedom of setting up their counters/units where they want (mostly). What usually happens in most games that replay this campaign is pretty much a hoplite shoving match or a repeat of World War I on the Northeastern French border. This is pretty much the introduction scenario. It really only deals with land and air units, with very little naval units or rules (for my second part of the review I will play the campaign for Guadalcanal).




 So we have to start by setting up the map and units. The map is the one piece that has Western Europe on it. The units, well that is a bit of a different story. Because the game pretty much gives a player the chance to set up his units anyway and where he wants, it is  more involved than most games. Most games have hex wxyz printed on the unit so you know where they were set up historically. This game separates the units of a country by the year. What this means is there might be too many units for a given year for say Germany in this scenario. The scenario calls for two armored units, but there are actually four in the counter mix. There are also two that are being built and will be available later in the year for Germany. Now, this seems simple. Unfortunately the units have different strengths and movement numbers listed on them. You actually have to read both the rulebook and Campaign and Players Guide to find out how to deal with this situation. Then you will see that in this case the owning player simply draws them out of a cup chit style. I assume that the missing other units are actually defending on the Soviet border. I would have liked the setup to say, and think it would be easier, that x, say forty-five, infantry strength steps are needed in Western Germany for this scenario. Although in this instance it might lead to cherry picking by the owning player, because said units have different movement speeds. So I do think that setup could have been handled differently, and possibly easier. As of now, you check the Campaign and Players guide for the scenario and then cross-check the list for setup in the back of said book. You will have to remember to check that against anything about setup in the actual rulebook. Let's go back to the actual scenario. Now because the scenario is very dependent victory point wise on Paris, there is not much incentive to defend the Low Countries. Paris is worth three victory points whilst Amsterdam, Brussels, and Antwerp are worth five total. This is compensated by the following cities being worth one victory point each Lille, Lyon, Marseilles, and Metz. So if the Western Allies player can keep the Germans at the French border in the North, he will have seven to five victory points to start with. It is only tilted more to the Allies' non-intervention because the Western Allied player receives points for delaying the game to the Jul/Aug turn to the tune of this amount per turn: Jul/Aug - one victory point, Sep/Oct - three victory points, Nov/Dec - six victory points, Jan/Feb 1941 - ten victory points. You do also get points for destroyed HQs and armored and mechanized units. Thus you can see that the German player has his work cut out for him. It is possible that Barbarossa would have to be postponed or forgotten about if the casualties in Northern Europe are too high for the Germans. In retrospect I think this helps the Allies a lot in the bigger campaigns. Sacrificing French manhood to bleed the Germans more than France was willing at the time would be the opportune strategy for the Western allies player in the longer games. Now there is one rule that I really like that is important here. That is, units of different countries even if they are allied cannot stack together. There is also another rule that does help the German side of the equation. The Commonwealth Lord Gort can only command two units in France. So the scenario description does recommend that you put your Commonwealth units into Belgium. This allows you to have two units in both Belgium and France with the caveat if your Commonwealth units are pushed back into France, any units above two will have to be eliminated. Realistically the French nation had lost so much blood in World War I, it was inherently not ready for another blood bath on its Northern border. I think that a house rule could be added that if France loses x amount of units something happens. Perhaps the loss of another unit picked by the French player to represent morale loss?



 So what are the main points we are taking from this game and scenario? The scenario is tough for both sides. Setup, Setup, Setup is the biggest rule of thumb on both sides of the border. The Germans not only have to get to Paris, they have to get there fast. This is 1940 and the Luftwaffe is as strong as it ever was. You have a whole Air Force that is built to destroy and hamper enemy ground units; use it. The Allied player has to stop them at the border of France and fight for every hex to the teeth. The game complexity for this scenario and the other one map ones I have set up and played or set up and looked at is about the same. They are no harder or more intricate than others in the same ilk of game. I think there is the rub. I have not played a real monster game in a while. I am probably making the rules and setup seem harder than they really are. The scope of the game means that the rules etc. have to have the same sort of scope. By design, World in Flames is meant to make you think and possibly pull your hair out, if you have any left. The rules are long and the Campaign and Players Guide at times is somewhat arcane, at least to me. This is one of the games that I recommend that you get a cup of coffee or three, and set aside a few hours to read through the rules before you even think about cutting a counter out. This is not a knock on the game; we have longed for this game, and dreamed about this game for exactly this reason. Tune in to the same bat time and same bat channel for my third part of the World in Flames Deluxe Collectors Edition review.


Harry's setup of Victory in The West

  The above is from the Vassal mod for World In Flames that is on Australian Design Group's website. Here is the link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y93vgnnoxxdltin/WiF%20CE%20Fall%20of%20France%20Vassal%20scenario.zip?dl=0


Robert


PAVLOV'S HOUSE from DVG Pavlov's House has become an iconic and mythic episode in the siege of Stalingrad during what the...

PAVLOV'S HOUSE PAVLOV'S HOUSE

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PAVLOV'S HOUSE

from

DVG
Pavlov's House has become an iconic and mythic episode in the siege of Stalingrad during what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War and is almost as celebrated in the gaming world.  I'd already gamed the situation through a Lock 'N Load scenario and an adaptation of the ASL scenario.  So, from the time that the possibility of a game of this epic defense was mooted and appeared in print and play format, I had been keenly waiting a professional publishing.  That DVG [Dan Verssen Games] became that very publisher meant for me the expectation of an outstanding treatment.

When my review copy arrived recently, unboxing did not disappoint those high expectations and many thanks to DVG for giving me the opportunity to explore this package,  The cover art by David Thompson, who is even more importantly the designer of this great game, is immensely effective and wholly in keeping with the subject.  The bullet and shell pocked brickwork with a superimposed part of a stylised Russian soldier's helmeted face in monolithic concrete couldn't be more appropriate.  Not only does it convey an implacable defense, but seems to leap straight from the ranks of Soviet propaganda posters.

The game board is just as striking and innovative.  In three panels, it moves from left to right on the micro-tactical level to the wider operational  one on the right.  The centre panel reminded me strongly of elements familiar from Victory Point Games' Siege Series and the battle for Pavlov's House has certainly gone down in the annals of siege situations.


Mapboard prior to set-up
On the left panel is a representation of the interior of the house, with various locations, in the centre are the avenues of attack for the German troops in the near vicinity [9th January Square panel] while to the right is the broader situation [the Volga panel] that impacts on the total scene.


Pavlov's House


9th January Square

The Volga
Game all ready to start
Matching the quality of the boards are the many counters, especially the fighting units.  All are substantial, glossy items that press out cleanly with ease.  Only one feature initially worried me and that was the array [59 in all] of modern faces that stared out at me from the counter sheets and the many distinctly non-Slavic features and names on the counters.  Thankfully, I soon realised that these were the product of the special backing campaign and thus extras that were in no way intended for most of us to play this simulation.
Modern names and faces

Instead, for all of us there are 34 essential single-man counters with historical names and faces [where still available from the archives].  
The 34 historical soldiers
On the German side, units are generic infantry and armour - note that there is an error in the rulebook which states there are 62 of them - the total is in fact 39.  Added to these are 99 circular markers that cover a wide range of eleven functions from Action tokens to Anti-aircraft tokens.  If by any chance you somehow don't want to use these quality pieces, there are an equal number of suitably coloured wooden cubes to use instead.  So, if you want to have to remember that a white cube is First Aid etc that's up to you.  I much prefer the visual and easily understood effect of the cardboard tokens.
Generic German Counters

Being in essence a solitaire game, there are several decks of attractive cards.  The core of them are the Soviet and German decks, with additional Tactic cards and Support Cards for more detailed and difficult levels of play.  I hasten to add that this is "difficult" in the sense of winning, not understanding!

This factor leads me perfectly to the rule book.  For those who have at times complained about the clarity of rules in parts of DVG games [an aspect I've often disagreed with], these rules are excellent.  They are not as extensive as many in the Leader, Field Commander or Warfighter series and are clear and thorough, with some of the best illustrated examples of every element of the game that I've seen from any games company.

An overview of the turn presents you with an elegant simplicity of three Phases: the Soviet Card Phase, the Wermacht Card Phase and the Soviet Counter Phase.

In the Soviet Card Phase, you draw four cards and use them to perform 3 Actions [in the right circumstances 4 Actions]. Each card has 2 different Actions on them.  So, a typical turn will provide a maximum of 8 Actions to choose from, but there are restrictions as you cannot choose both of the Actions on a single card.  In addition, your deck of 28 cards is seeded with 3 Fog of War cards that have no Actions on them.  Consequently sometimes your choices will be slightly more limited and, as the game progresses, up to 4 more FOW cards may be added to your deck.
A sample of the dual-use Soviet Action Cards
As the game lasts for a maximum of 21 turns, your Soviet Deck will have been cycled through completely twice before the end of the game.  Initially some choices may not be viable as the units or necessary tokens may not yet be available to perform them and, as the game progresses, the states of Suppression, Exhaustion or Disruption will prevent other choices.  In case you think that this may make the game rather limited, it doesn't.

It simply adds to the rampant tension throughout the game, as there are three sudden death conditions whereby you lose:- if a Wermacht Counter advances beyond the end of its track on the central board, if there are no Soviet units  left in Pavlov's House and if you place a 2nd Disrupted Token in the 62nd Command Post location on the right hand map section.  Even if you survive to the end of the game, you still have victory points to add up to see your level of success or failure from Epic Victory to Major Defeat!

I love this aspect of the game, as it means that you have to pay attention to your actions on all three sectors of the mapboard.  This is also essential, because what you do in one sector will directly impinge on what you can do on other sectors.  [If you don't want any advice at all, I suggest you skip over this short section in brackets.  Two tips then - early in the game I suggest [1] you make sure that you get more food into Pavlov's House and [2] you position some anti-aircraft guns.]
A rush of German units and Pavlov's House falls!
Moving on to the Wermacht Phase, this is much simpler and easier, as there are no choices to be made.  You simply draw three cards, one at a time and carry out the Action on each one.  At first this will need you to refer to the rule book until you become familiar and easy in executing them, but it's surprising how soon that happens and how easy it is using the rule book.   The Actions are the following: Attack Defender, Suppress Defender, Attack Building, Bomb Stalingrad, Place a Wermacht Unit and Assault.
Some of the Actions on the Wermacht Cards
Included in the Wermacht Deck are three special cards called Resupply.  When one of these occurs, the Soviet player must feed his troops in Pavlov's House and any that cannot be fed are eliminated.  If you cannot feed any of them [i.e. there are no Food Tokens in Pavlov's House], then they all die and you LOSE immediately!  Once this has been done, the card is turned over to its Storm Group side which allows the Soviet player to launch a major Assault in a later Soviet Card Phase, if the necessary card and circumstances allow.  If successful, you gain the card and its VPs towards your score at the end of the game [if you survive that far!].  Whether successful or not, you run the risk of any or all of your units that you assigned to that Assault failing a die roll and ending up in the dead pile.

A very good point is that the Storm Group  card remains on the board until either you decide to launch the Assault or it is replaced when the next Resupply card turns up. The only aspect of this I don't like is that you know exactly when each of these cards will occur.  However, this is an important feature for your planning and creates another of the fine points of tension in the game as you struggle to get food into Pavlov's House while time ticks away.

The last Phase, the Soviet Counter Phase, allows you to move three men within Pavlov's House and then carry out three Actions.  Most Actions result in the man becoming Exhausted [a simple flip of the counter to its shaded reverse side].  As it takes an Action to flip a man back to his active side, you need to build up a team of combatants and make careful use of the few special personages [obviously Pavlov is one of them] who can spend one Action to flip three other men back to active.

There are so many good features in this section of the game.  Here are just a few to whet your appetite. Two men with the same attribute, located in the same position and with the necessary weapon counter - e.g. machine-gun/anti-tank weapon or mortar - are needed to fire each of these type of weapons.  A man with the Forward Observer attribute is needed to fire an artillery unit that has previously been positioned on the Volga sector of the map.  The need to bring men into the house with a range of skills.  The utter simplicity of the Line of Sight rule - there are three colours of location in the house for the Soviet units and a matching three colours of location for your German units.  Match colours and your man can see the German unit and fire.

Should you eventually find this all too easy and romp through the basic game as victor [oh yeah, who're you kidding?] or you simply want to see how difficult you can make the task.  Then you can introduce one or both of two other decks of cards.  The first deck contains the Operational Support Cards [only 8 of them].  These abstractly introduce some of the other famous locations in the Siege of Stalingrad, such as the Barrikady factory or Mamyev Kurgan.  These provide you with victory points, but at the cost of removing specific tokens from your stock, if you meet specific requirements.  This very neatly and simply simulates the demands of battle elsewhere that make your task even harder here at Pavlov's House.
Half the Operational Support deck
The final cards [30 in number], the Tactics Deck, introduce a whole new level of pain.  For the Veteran Level of play you turn up the top card each turn and apply its effects to that turn and then discard at the end of the turn.  For the Elite Level[ aka insanely difficult!], you turn up two tactics cards per turn and apply their effects.  You have been warned!
A sample of the Tactics Cards
If all this weren't enough, you are offered three other options.
[1] Play a two-player cooperative game, with one player handling the Soviet Card Phase and the other the Soviet Counter Phase.
[2] Play a two-player competitive game with one player Soviet and the other German.  If you choose this variant, the German player must use the Tactics Deck and draws four cards from the German Deck at the beginning of the game and chooses which three to use and in which order, while the one card not used is kept in hand. On all subsequent turns, another three cards are drawn and the same process repeated.
[3] A three player game, with two Soviet players and a German one.

All in all, this is a fantastic package with so many options.

Finally just a few thoughts and suggestions on how to learn the game.
[1] Skim through the rule book to gain an overall impression of the types of Action both sides can take, but don't try to absorb at this point how exactly to go about taking each Action.  This I feel is particularly true of the Soviet Card Phase.
[2] Familiarise yourself with what sectors of the board each Soviet Action relates by looking at both the Soviet cards and the relevant section of the rule book.
[3] Use the rule book and mapboard to become familiar with what you can do with Soviet units in the Soviet Counter Phase.
[4]  Set the game up and draw your first four Soviet cards.  Choose three Actions and carry them out by referring to the rule book.
[5] Move on to the Wermacht Card Phase and as you draw each card refer to the rule book to execute the Action.
[6] In the Soviet Counter Phase look more closely once again at the rule book for the choices and carry out three Actions.
The well designed play aid for the Soviet cards
After several turns following this pattern, you should be getting a good feel for the game and begin to be able to use the very good play aids that summarise Soviet and Wermacht Card Actions.  I would also suggest that an even easier and swifter way to learn is if you can play with a friend so that one of you takes the Soviets and the other the Germans and then swop roles.  That way you can focus attention on one side's rules at a time.

By now you should be well aware of my liking for this game.  I rate this as one of DVG's best games, ticking all boxes for quality of all components, one of their very best rule books, ease of rule assimilation, very good play aids and highly immersive, tense game play.  Overall I still personally give the edge to the  Warfighter series, but the ease of set-up and being straight in to play probably means that it will hit my table more often.  For those who tend to fight shy of the preparatory planning in many of DVG's games, I suspect Pavlov's House is going to hit the sweet spot perfectly.

There can be no other conclusion than this should be in your collection.


US price $59.99 from DVG

UK price
£54.99








Longstreet Attacks A Game of the Second day at Gettysburg by Revolution Games   It's July 2nd 1863 in a t...

Longstreet Attacks by Revolution Games Longstreet Attacks by Revolution Games

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


A Game of the Second day at Gettysburg

by









  It's July 2nd 1863 in a town in Pennsylvania; its only claim to fame is that it is a crossroad for several of the major roads in the area. The early concentrated attack that General Lee was hoping for this day was not going to happen. The afternoon hours were ticking by. Longstreet does not seem to have ever wanted to attack at Gettysburg. Was he suffering the 'slows', or did he actually believe that the best course for the Army of Northern Virginia was to fight on the defensive? No one knows for sure. There have been millions of pages written about this battle and about this particular day of the larger battle. This was probably the closest Lee ever came to inflicting a large defeat on the Army of the Potomac on Union soil. Would it have crushed the Union? Highly doubtful, the defenses around Washington were very impressive. Even a half routed Army of the Potomac could have held off the ANV until the Union could  call in reserves from everywhere. Would Lincoln have been reelected after a defeat like that? 






 So enough of the history. Let's look at the game and see what you get with it:
Rulebook
One Union Aid Sheet
One Confederate Aid Sheet
Two CRT, Cohesion Test Tables, and Terrain Key Sheet
One Turn Record Track, and Victory Point Sheet
One 22" x 34" Map
Two Counter Sheets, Counters are 5/8" in size





 This is the sequence of play:
1) Command Decision Phase
2) Both players choose event chits and setup draw cup 
3) Artillery Phase
  a. Union Artillery Step
  b. Confederate Artillery Step
  c. Both sides alternate steps 'a' and 'b' until both sides have       
     activated all units or passed
  d. Artillery Rally/Rebuild Phase
4) Chit Draw Phase
  a. Held Event Chit Step
  b. Draw Chit Step
5) Brigade Activation Phase
  a. Orders Step
  b. Fire Combat Step
  c. Movement Step
  d. Close Combat Step
  e. Rally Step
  f. If any chits remain in the Draw Cup, return to Phase 3. 
     Otherwise, go to Phase 5.
6) End Turn Phase
  a. Held Chit Play Step
  b. Victory Point Awards Step
  c. Broken Track Adjustment Step
  d. Brigade Activation Markers Reset Step
  e. CSA Attack Coordination, USA AOP Reinforcements



It's the Map, it's the Map, it's the map

The rulebook is plain black and white. It is thirty-two pages long. The rules themselves are twenty-one pages long; the rest is the different scenario setups. It is well set out and easy to read. The counters artwork is very well done. However to me, the map makes them pale in comparison. The map is one of the best looking ones I have seen, and I have seen a lot. The map is very different from most. For one, it is very busy. Most maps look pretty spartan for the player to be able to differentiate from different heights and terrain. This one is very colorful, almost like a painting done of a map. The height differences on the map and hex-side slopes are also very easy to distinguish. Each hex is approximately 140 yards across. One strength point equals about fifty men or a single gun. Each game turn represents twenty minutes. Two of the Players' Aids are in black and white. The other three are in color. For roughly five hours of fighting on one part of a large battlefield, this game comes with a bunch of scenarios to choose from. These are:


The Round Tops - Six Turns
The Whirlpool - Ten turns
Assault on Emmitsburg Road - Nine Turns
Hammerin' Sickles - Fourteen Turns
Sickles Follows Orders - What If Scenario  - Fourteen Turns



No introduction needed

 This is the second Hermann Luttmann design I have played, and I have been impressed by both of them. This game is part of the Blind Swords System that is also used in these other two games by Revolution Games:

Stonewalls's Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain
Thunder in the Ozarks: The Battle of Pea Ridge 


 Here is a link to the rulebook:

 http://www.revolutiongames.us/Gettysburg-LA/LA_Rules_Booklet.pdf



 This game has been rated very highly by many of its players. The depth and amount of rules do not make it a good game for a tyro, or to try and get someone interested in wargaming. On the other hand, the grognard will find it to be an excellent game on a subject that usually is just a scenario in larger games about the Battle of Gettysburg. The relatively small map and space needed means a wargamer can easily find a place to play it. The rules are very clear and walk the reader through the rulebook. The counter density is not too bad. You will have some congestion because of the very nature of the terrain. There has been talk of one of the follow up games to be on the Battle of the Wilderness. If it happens, it will be one of the few games I buy into before release. Great effort, wonderful artwork, and it is based on a tried and true formula. What more could you ask for in a game?


Robert


 


 
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