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Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by   Wargame Design Studio   Now that I have caught your attention, "...

Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 by Wargame Design Studio

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


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 Now that I have caught your attention, "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus". Or at least a few elves working hard on the above game. This would be Wargame Design Studio's third 'Panzer Battles' game. The first was 'Battles in Normandy' followed by 'Battles of Kursk Southern Flank'. These are both excellent games in their own right. Now they are going to be joined by their younger brother, North Africa. I have said this before in reviews, and I will probably say it again. I am not a big North African campaign fan, at least once the Germans show up. I do like wargaming the early battles with the Italians and British. There is however, one campaign that sets me to drooling like Pavlov's dogs and that is the airborne invasion of Crete. So this misnamed game has not only the early North Africa battles, but it also has the battles for Crete. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that it has battles from Crete!!!




Game screen showing terrain

 This is a list of some of the battles and operations included:

North Africa:
Compass
Sonnenblume
Tobruk
Brevity
Battleaxe
Crusader
Beda Fomm
Bardia
Sidi Barrani 

Greece:
Corinth Canal

Crete:
Maleme
Retimo
Heraklion
Galatas



Italian Division break down

The Panzer Battles games are meant to be the midway games between John Tiller's 'Panzer Campaigns' and their 'Squad Battles' games. Much like Goldilocks, many of us wargamers have found a sweet spot in this third helping from WGS and JTS. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the other games. It is just the 'Panzer Battles' games are small enough at times to wet that whistle, and large enough at others for those cravings. 



Different Nationalities in the game

 Now, we can get into the long running argument. The AI in John Tiller Software is no good. If you are still spouting off that mantra please crawl out from under your rock and take a look again at all of the games mentioned circa 2018 and not 2001. Just like every other game designed recently, or retrofitted, North Africa has been developed with a ton of players against AI scenarios that will fit anyone's bill. There are also a large number of games for people who only want to play by PBEM or Hotseat etc. There are plenty of demos for a wargamer to try now of the different JTS products, so do yourself a favor and come back to the light.


First Turn In One of The Heraklion Scenarios

 From the newer graphics to the battle sounds that will blow you away, (literally if you turn the sound up too loud in Panzer Battles Kursk), you would be amazed how these 'old' type of wargames play today. Yes, this based on a two dimensional map with hexes. No, this does not have cute tanks running through the desert wastes. Yes, this game is great and deserves all the praise it gets. The one thing about WDS is that they are constantly working on and upgrading many of the various JTS products. The only thing I would have liked them to add was more battles from Greece, both from the Italian and then subsequent German invasions. 



First Turn In One of The Maleme Scenarios





First Turn Corinth Canal Scenario


 Look for a review of this game once it has been released. So as a wrap up, it has tons of scenarios, many that are meant to be played against the AI. The sound and visuals are up to today's standards, and you can make your own or fiddle to your heart's content with the scenarios it comes with. It also has campaigns or separate battles both large and small. To top it all off, it has scenarios from Crete!

This is a link to an article about terrain in NA 1941:
 https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/11/01/north-africa-getting-started-terrain/

This is a link to an article about the Compass scenarios:
https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/10/18/north-africa-player-notes-operation-compass-scenarios/

This is a link to an article about the Italian forces in the game:
https://www.wargamedesignstudio.com/2018/09/28/north-africa-player-notes-the-italians/

Robert

Overview Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of ...

Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition Brass: Lancashire Deluxe Edition

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




Overview

Brass: Lancashire is the latest version of Martin Wallace's classic game set during the industrial revolution of England.  The original game was released in 2007 and owing to its popularity was reprinted in 2009 and in 2015. The 2018 Roxley edition eschews the drab-art of the original and provides gamers with the most lavishly produced game I think I have ever seen.

2-4 players take on the role of a Titan of Industry during the late 18th century in the industrial powerhouse of England, i.e. Lancashire. Through the game, players acquire Victory Points by building and using their industries and providing others with resources whilst expanding their own network of canals and rails.

Players compete with each other to fulfil the markets' demand for coal, iron and cotton at the same time as using the same coal and iron to expand their empire. The economic mantra of 'buying low, selling high' and the euro-gamers mantra of 'do what others aren't' are pivotal for success here.

Halfway through scoring the Canal Era
This version of the game was kickstarted by Roxley Games and as a frequent consumer of Kickstarter projects, I can honestly say that this was the best campaign that I've ever had the pleasure to be part of. I think Roxley have set other publishers the gold-standard of how to do a Kickstarter and I will consider backing any future campaign they run purely on the merits of this Kickstarter.

Gameplay

The game consists of approximately 16 rounds split over 2 eras. In each round, every player will take a turn of two actions by playing cards from their hand. Each round the player order will alter depending on how much money players spent during the previous round with the least amount going first.

On their turn, players will be doing 2 of 5 possible actions; attempting to sell cotton, building industries, building connections between towns and markets, taking a loan from the bank or developing their industry to get more bonuses when it is eventually built.

Handy Player Boards
The industries in which players can invest and use are (left to right in the image) cotton mills, ports, shipyards, iron works and coal mines. As you would expect each of them has different yet thematic attributes which provide a benefit to the owning player and often the other players as well.  Just as in the real world no industry will thrive without customers.

All of these actions and industries are played through the use of a hand of cards. The cards depict either a location on the map or a specific industry type.  Every action must be 'paid for' by discarding a card. The build action, however, requires the correct card to be used. For example, a player can place any industry into the specified location on the card, or the specific industry on the card into a location that is part of or adjacent to their own network.

Card Art Example
However, having the correct card to build an industry is far from the only consideration players have to think about when building. Some industries, require access to and the use of coal and/or iron in order to place them. Exhausting the resources of connected players may provide them with a larger benefit than building your own industry does to you. Your cards may lead you to focus elsewhere requiring a change of tactics. Money is also quite tight in this game and often you will not have enough money to build what you want without taking a loan first.

Constraining each player to two actions per turn does lead to some agonising choices, particularly around shipyards, that have very limited possible spaces on the board and iron works, whose market cycles far quicker than coal or cotton.  I nearly always wish that I could do a third action thereby, for example, preventing another player from building the iron works before I can afford it, or have access to coal in the right area and allowing me to fulfil the iron demand and 'flip' my tile.

Player tokens and flipped industries
Flipping a tile is done when it's resources are depleted. When you first build an industry a certain number of coal or iron cubes are placed upon the tile to show on-map availability of those resources. As they are exhausted the industry tile is flipped which will score Victory Points for the owning player at the end of the canal and rails eras and an immediate income bonus. Each industry is quite different from in this respect; shipyards flip immediately providing large amounts of VPs and little income. Cotton and Ports have no resource placed on them and are only flipped when the sell cotton action is taken.

Generally, earlier industries provide more income bonus and later ones provide more Victory Points. Striking the balance between building industries and developing them, i.e. getting access to the later industries is key.  However, another important source of Victory Points, especially in the Rail Era are the connections. Each industry tile at either end of a connection will score a Victory Point per connection. So a single rail link may be worth up to 7 Victory Points to its owner; there is normally a mad rush at the beginning of the rail era to build as many links as possible, primarily for this reason amongst others.


Halway through scoring the Rail Era
There are a plethora of difficult choices per turn for each player whereby you have to balance immediate tactical benefits with longer-term considerations, and the cards that you've got available with the actions/areas that your opponents are playing.

Components

I feel like I say this for most board games these days but truly Roxley has delivered a game with the most superb components I've ever seen. Granted the iron and coal are standard wooden blocks but this is entirely functional and does nothing to detract from the gorgeous art that permeates the rest of the game. The artwork on the board is second to none, likewise, the cards are similarly designed. I appreciated the industrial flourishes, littered throughout the game.

Flourishes aplenty
However, the best components in this game are the Iron Clays. These are the poker chips that are provided with the Deluxe edition of the game. They feel wonderful to touch and are the most tactile poker chips I have ever used. I normally substitute cardboard or (heaven forbid) paper money with poker chips in games and my generic chips feel and look terrible compared to these. Apparently, there is a Kickstarter for Iron Clays from Roxley later this year (or early next, considering we're almost in December) that I will definitely be backing to replace all of my chips.

More please!
The poker chips are only in the deluxe edition of the game which can still be ordered. The retail version features cardboard token for the money, and I'm sure they're functional and perfectly fine, but if you can and you're interested I would definitely recommend the deluxe version as these Iron Clays are something special. I even learnt to shuffle poker chips because I enjoyed handling them so much...

Criticisms

I wouldn't recommend learning this game with 3 new players or trying to learn where all 4 of you are new, you must have an experienced player to instruct.  I taught this to two of my group; they came over requesting a 'brain-burner' and this was a perfect choice.  It did take the best part of 3 hours despite only reviewing the rules for about 20 minutes or so before we got into it. However this isn't really a criticism as any more-complex game will suffer from a similar learning curve. However, don't think that this is overly complex as the rules fit into just 10 pages, the duration came from every player suffering similar 'hard decisions' as mentioned above.


I've played several games with less experienced players now and they thought that they were largely at the mercy of the cards they drew. There certainly is an element of randomness induced by the cards but experienced players should be able to manage and mitigate any 'bad cards' by strategising their hand and current opportunities. I've played the original game, and the excellent PC (also available on Android and IOS) many times and I don't think this is a valid criticism.  I would however, love to see a collaboration between Cublo and Roxley to update the app with Roxley graphics...

In most of my games with the Roxley Deluxe edition, we have run out of coal cubes by just 1. Especially at the beginning of the Rail Era when lots of coal mines have just been built in preparation for the Rail Era. I have also seen bgg forums suggesting they've had games where they had run out of iron cubes, which I find hard to understand how that is possible. However, this doesn't affect game-play as you can substitute anything else for the missing cube but one or two more coal cubes (maybe iron cubes as well) would have been nice.  This is a very minor nit-pick though.

App screenshot
Conclusion

All elements of this game play subtly different from each other, for example, the cotton market can be exhausted, whereas coal and iron will always be available in the market. Each industry tile has different rules regarding their bonus and utilisation, canal links and rail links have different rules regarding their building and coal and iron themselves have different rules to determine players access to them. These differences are all clever design choices to more thematically represent the industrial revolution in this medium-to-heavy Euro economic game.

The game is littered with hard choices and the ability to deny your opponents spaces and opportunities is rife, especially if you manage to pull off a last/first turn order combo effectively getting two turns on the bounce. You're constantly having to reevaluate your position with respect to your cards the available resources and it is certainly a brain burner that warrants its playtime and reputation in the hobby.

Despite the over-the-top production, I thought the price remained reasonable and for the retail version is an absolute bargain. It's not a game for everyone though, as there are lots of subtleties to grok before you're going to be competitive and there is a significant but-easily-surmountable-with-an-experienced-player learning curve.  The next time anyone requests a brain-burner, this is the game I'd recommend.

I'd like to thank Roxley Games and especially Paul Saxberg for providing the review copy of this game.

Publisher: Roxley Games
Players: 2 - 4
Designer: Martin Wallace
Playing time: 60 - 120 minutes
Deluxe version: Pre-orders still open for $75 + shipping
Retail version: Best price (delivered to UK) at time of review: £46.10

Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario  The Combat Infantry game from Columbia Games is meant...

Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario Combat Infantry by Columbia Games Home Made Scenario

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


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Home Made Scenario






 The Combat Infantry game from Columbia Games is meant to allow two players to play a battalion, and its assets against another enemy battalion. The game right now only features American and German troops. Further iterations are planned that will add other armies as well. The units you play with are based on rifle squads of 9-12 men, or machine gun or mortar teams of two to three men. The scale of the game is each hex is 100 meters. The time scale for each turn is roughly ten to thirty minutes per turn. Single tanks, air strikes, bunkers, and snipers etc. are also available at times to the player. I did a review of the game earlier that you can find here:


 This is going to be a walk through to making your own historical or imagined scenario for the game. The rules came with the ability for the player to make his own scenarios. It came with a Unit Value Chart that equates each side's weapons to each other. These help the player determine what forces each side will posses for his scenario. I have chosen to have a large American force attack a small thrown together German force during the battle of the Falaise Gap. The German force is desperately trying to stave off the Americans and give other units a chance to retreat. They are pretty much a forlorn hope. The German rearguard does still pack a punch, so the Americans can not afford to be rash. Slow and steady wins the race.









 The game takes a leap compared to other tactical games because it is missing the following: opportunity fire, suppression, facing, and hard and soft targets. However, the designer's arguments for them being missing are very well thought out. It also makes the game quick playing, but still be deep. The game has rules about stacking, hex control, river crossings, foxholes, and mines etc. Command in the game is as important as it was in real life. A big thing to remember is that the unit values when choosing your troops are per step and not per unit. The game does have rules regarding weather and night scenarios. The rule book is only 12 pages long. So remembering them is not difficult after a few play through. 






 In my scenario I did not choose to have either side to have any off- map artillery support. The Germans are trying to retreat theirs, and the Americans are pushing forward too quickly. So going back to the Unit Value chart, my German force is going to have a lot of already damaged units. The Americans are also going to have some beat up units due to breakdowns and previous contact. They will, however, have limited air support. The American player should win my scenario nine times out of ten due to the force discrepancy. However, I am going to skew the odds of winning by forcing the American player to get a victory quickly or not at all.



 These are the forces that the Americans have:
Platoon A
  Three Rifle Squads
  60 Mortar Attached
Platoon C
  Three Rifle Squads
  MG 30 Attached
Company Headquarters
  M4 -1 Sherman - One
  M4 -3 Sherman - Two 
  M10 - Wolverine - One
  P47 - Thunderbolt - One (Can only be used two times in the scenario)

These are the German forces:
Company Headquarters
  Rifle Squad - Two
  MG 34  - One
  Sniper  - One
  80 Mortar  - One
  PZ IVH  -  One
  Stug IIIB  - One
  Two foxholes



 For my scenario I am adjusting the rules so that instead of drawing Battalion assets they are already assigned to each side. 



 I am going to use a six-sided die to randomly pick how many steps each unit has. On a three step unit 1-2 is one step, 3-4 is two steps, and 4-6 is three steps. The Germans in the scenario are only getting one headquarters and that is a Company one. This is to represent the breakdown in their command during the Falaise Gap Operations. The American four step units can only be setup up as one to three steps. This is to represent losses, but also their supply situation.



 This is just a hypothetical situation, so I did not create it with certain hexes or map areas in mind (except of course not using beach hexes). I would suggest that you give the German player as much of a terrain advantage as possible. I would also play the German side in solitaire. When playing with two people I would give the Americans to the lesser player, if there is one. I designed the scenario to have only four turns. This was to help offset the preponderance of troops on the American side. I added the die rolls for steps at the last minute after I played through the scenario a few times (I adjusted each side's steps a few times). I find that it now adds the chance for the Germans to be much stronger and the Americans to be weaker to add a good amount of fog of war to the scenario.

 I have played a little fast and loose with a few game rules. However, I have not changed anything in the actual game mechanics. It is too good a game to fiddle with those. As a preamble I am not talking about this game, but games in general. With board games you own them and can play and fiddle to your hearts content. If you find a rule that you feels skews the game or actually hurts game play, change it. The internet is also crawling with tons of house rules for almost any game. Of course, if you are always playing against people, make sure both of you agree to the change. You can sometimes turn a head turning rule into one that makes much more sense. I will step off the soapbox now. Thank you Columbia Games for the chance to review Combat Infantry, and to do this little walk through. I will be reviewing their games Julius Caesar and Pacific Victory in the near future.

 For all of you budding scenario designers, there is a contest right now that Columbia Games is holding for Combat Infantry Scenarios. The prizes are pretty large. While you are there, check out some of their other products. This is the link:
Robert
 

Overview [This is a spoiler-free review] Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game pits you against a pre-determined story where you and...

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

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

Overview
[This is a spoiler-free review]

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game pits you against a pre-determined story where you and your gaming buddies uncover clues, deduce events and find evidence to prove your theories across 5 inter-linked cases.

The game is more structured than Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, coming with a board and some pieces to track the flow of time and abstractly, your location. Each case has a deck of mostly double-sided cards which may provide more leads for your investigators to follow and hopefully will gradually reveal the crime. Your decisions determine which cards i.e. evidence are revealed to you.



At the end of the game you must 'write' a final report. This consists of answering a number of multiple choice questions about the case which determine your final score. This is automatically done by the Antares Database, which is a major resource for finding case information, matching evidence and tracking your progress through the 5 cases.

Gameplay
A few years ago I remember there being much more of a fuss made when boardgames required the use of a companion app to play. I think those concerns have now either disappeared or succumbed to the onslaught of technology. This game doesn't provide an app as such but it does require an internet connection to access the Antares Database. It is also very useful to search online for the context of significant events and places that are revealed to you.



This hybrid use of real-world information and game information provides you with a real sense of being a police investigator and cleverly immerses you into the story that unfolds through each case.

Prior to starting play each player and the unused consultant investigators will pool their abilities which can be used once per day, these abilities often will allow you to 'dig deeper' or press someone in an interrogation. This may reveal a major plot point or be a dead-end, the decision of what to do is up to the players to discuss.  However, any decision to act upon the current card must be made before any other card or activity is done.  This provides a real sense of jeopardy to your decision; if you don't do it then you'll probably never know what could have been revealed.



When you do collectively decide to 'dig deeper' you often will read a new card or turn the relevant card over onto the back-side. As you progress through the case any cards you've read are kept out of the deck, these cards can be reviewed at any time however you're not allowed to read the back-side of cards unless you've been explicitly told to e.g. by digging deeper.  Those you're allowed to fully read are kept to the left of the board and those you can only partially read to the right.

Although this is nowhere near a legacy-style game, the cases are linked by a single story arc and the evidence and clues you find in earlier cases do affect later cases.  This is handled by the use of plot cards being added to later cases which are reviewed prior to starting the next case (if you've revealed any).


End of Case I

The rulebook recommends the use of mind-maps and white-boards to keep notes of important clues. I thought a piece of paper would be fine, I was wrong.  Keeping notes is a vital part of this game, and the notes from an earlier investigation will also help in later cases. This really helped me to feel part of a detective squad with the other players, normally I had just 1 other player with me but for the 4th and 5th cases I played with 3.

Unfortunately, if you've not played the earlier cases you're not going to feel as involved as the cases all build upon each other. However, the newcomer to the fourth case still enjoyed it and came back for the fifth case so it can be done but I would recommend, as does the rules, that you play the cases from 1 to 5 with the same group of people.



The final thing I want to say about the gameplay is that your actions all have a time cost associated with them. Revealing a new card often entails travelling to a new location on the board which always costs an hour and the card themselves have a variable time cost as well. This quickly eats into your work day which is tracked on the board and completing 3 or 4 actions in a day will necessitate overtime, tracked through stress tokens.

All of these gameplay elements are very simple, easy to understand and thematic. It's very easy to explain to others, in fact, I think the best explanation may be to just start playing, new players will quickly pick-up and take-over the mechanics as they're so well designed to stay out of the way as much as possible. This game is friendly to non-gamers as much as it is to gamers and although I've played it through, I'm keen to introduce it to some of my family who do not play games regularly.


Components
To show you how excellent the components are, the only criticism I have for them is that the 'evidence bags' the case cards are meant to fit into are very snug and could lead to damaged cards if you're not careful. The rest of the components are all top-notch.

The artwork across all the cards, boards and rule-books have a thematic CSI-feel to them. The rule-book and case-book are clear and well laid out. I had no issues with the story-writing (which has been raised in other forums) nor did I have any rules questions - it's a mechanically very simple game but the challenge is all in the story. 


Criticisms
You won't like this game if you're not comfortable reading in front of others. There is a fair bit of text to get through and each player, in my experience wanted to see the cards and read any text for themselves, not necessarily immediately, but on some decision points everyone wanted to read the text. This trait could/does slow down gameplay with more players.

It is a bit challenging to drop in and out of this game as a player; you realy should keep the same group of players together for 5 sessions to really get the most out of the game. My recommendation is that 1-3 players is the sweet spot.  I did play the first case as a solitaire experience to understand the gameplay before I replayed it with my friend and two heads are definitely better than one in this game.




Once you've played the game 5 times, you're done. You can't really recreate the same experience as you already know the answers or will be prompted to remember crucial plot points without investigating them. The severely constrains its replayability.


Conclusion
This is an excellent addition to the detective story-telling genre of games. I personally preferred it over Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective primarily because it is more structured in terms of gameplay and the hybrid mix of the database and internet-use really added to my sense of being an Antares Investigator. Although if you've got that earlier game as a frame of reference I would say that this is an easier game.

The value of this game easily matches the price of the box and I would readily recommend this game to anyone with a consistent but small group of players.

This game is crying out for expansions and I am pleased to see that there are expansions in the works. The first has already been announced by Portal Games involving 3 new cases, linked as the first 5 were, but as I understand it completely separate from the first 5.

I would like to thank the distributors for sending this game for a review.  

Publisher: Portal Games
Players: 1 - 5
Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Playing Time: 90 minutes +
MSRP: $50
Best price at time of review: £33.99 delivered to UK

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