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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!


by



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

Interview with Games Designer,  David Thompson Today, I’m going to be putting some questions to David Thompson , the games designer ...

Interview with Games Designer, David Thompson Interview with Games Designer, David Thompson

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


Interview with Games Designer, 
David Thompson

Today, I’m going to be putting some questions to David Thompson, the games designer currently best known for the superb solitaire game, Pavlov’s House.to learn something of his background, gaming thoughts and future designs.

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


I began my gaming life when I was about 10 or 11. I started with AD&D. At the time, AD&D was making the transition from 1st to 2nd edition. My brother and I had picked up the core rule books for 2nd edition, but the campaign setting info for the 1st edition of Forgotten Realms. We had no clue they were different editions - and we didn’t care! The game kept us busy for countless hours. We also dabbled with things like HeroQuest, but we always came back to D&D. RPGs were my primary gaming interest through my late 20s and into my 30s. I knew about some other tabletop gaming stuff - mostly things like miniatures (Warhammer and the Clix games specifically come to mind), but it wasn’t until I was married and had kids that I discovered “hobby board gaming”. 
Once I discovered everything that board gaming had to offer, I jumped into the deep end and never looked back.

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


Wow. Great question. My favorite game type is the Waro/Weuro (Wargame-Euro hybrid). But I would take that a bit farther and say that any political or historical game (including those with a war theme) and Euro mechanisms are my favorites (think games like Freedom: the Underground Railroad, 13 Days, etc). 
I spend more time working on wargame designs than Euros, but more time playing Euros (they are much easier to get to the table with my family).

Which games stand out for you on the way to deciding to design your own game?

A Few Acres of Snow (AFAoS) is probably my single biggest design inspiration, Halifax Hammer*be damned! [*a move credited with being an unstoppable game winner]  I love deck-building and deck-manipulation as a core mechanism; it allows for the ability to model all sorts of interesting things in an elegant way. AFAoS was one of the first to take deck-building and tie it to a spatial element. This influence can be seen in many of my designs (some that are still in development with publishers), but even my abstract strategy game War Chest owes some of its lineage to AFAoS.

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

My first game design has never been published, but gives a good idea about my path to board games in general and design specifically. About the time I got married and had my first child, I was looking to create a game that borrowed from some of my favorite game inspirations. I wanted to make a game that combined tactical elements from tabletop RPGs like D&D, gameplay from tactical RPG video games like Final Fantasy Tactics, and miniature tabletop games like Mage Knight (the original Clix game from Wizkids, not the board game). At the time I really didn’t know about board games, and there weren’t very many examples of board game / miniature game hybrids (now 1,376 of them are released every week on Kickstarter!). So, the result of this was a game I created called Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse. Over the years this design has been signed by a couple publishers but never actually made it to publication. The core design concept (a streamlined board game / minis hybrid) is no longer unique, which makes it a tough pitch these days, but it helped me discover the world of hobby board gaming and will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Your first professionally published game, I believe, was Armageddon, which was co-designed with Chris Marling and published by Queen games.  Can you give us some idea of that experience and your choice of topic? 

In 2014 I moved from the US to the UK. I landed in a village just outside of Cambridge, where there is an amazing designer and playtest community. One of the designers there is Chris Marling, and we instantly became friends. Chris had been working on a core mechanism for a game he called From the Ground Up. The conceit was a city-building game set in a post-apocalyptic setting with a unique sort of auction/area influence mechanic. We worked together on the game for a year or so. At Spiel 2015, we pitched the game to Queen. It was one of our first meetings of the con, and Queen signed it on the spot. It’s extremely rare to have a game signed on the spot by a publisher, so we were super happy. The next year, the game was released at Spiel. Queen pushed it big time at the con, with a huge roll out, including something like 40+ demo tables. To say the experience with my first published game was a positive one would be an understatement.

Your most recent game Pavlov’s House was a Kickstarter project published by Dan Verssen Games.  First of all, what was the experience of being part of a Kickstarter project like and secondly of working with DVG? 

I’m going to flip my response around, because I think it’s a more natural flow. 
Working with DVG has been both unique and great. It’s unique in the sense that I essentially did all the design, development, and art for the game. Dan and crew at DVG were responsible for working with the printer, fulfilling the game, and customer service. So, from a creative control perspective, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. Everything in the final game, for better or worse, is my fault! And Dan, Kevin, and Sarah at DVG had to work on all the stuff that I have zero interest in.
I was a collaborator on the Kickstarter, which meant I could modify the page, respond to questions, etc. Pretty much everything except change stuff like pledge levels. If you had to define the Kickstarter experience in a single word, the word would be “stress.” I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to the launch. I assumed a handful of people would be interested in Pavlov’s House due to it having been a fairly popular print-and-play project on BGG. But I had no idea it would get the support it did.


[Got to say that doesn’t surprise me, i.e. the huge support the game got - as I was one of those hooked from the very start by topic, mechanics and the company that was going to publish the game and, of course, inspired me to both review the game and then ask you to do this in-depth interview.]

But moving on. Is there a particular group of gamers or games club that has helped you with playtesting? 

There are a few different groups that I use for testing. Like I mentioned earlier, I lived near Cambridge for the last four years. Playtest UK is the world’s largest design and playtest group, and there is an extremely talented and active chapter in Cambridge. The designers in the group (folks like Brett Gilbert, Matthew Dunstan, Chris Marling, Trevor Benjamin, and more) are always gracious with their time, and provide amazing feedback. And there’s a core of great playtesters who will provide honest, critical feedback.
I also use my personal game groups, once a game is beyond the initial design phases. With these tests, I’m usually more interested in observing the group and gauging the play experience rather than looking for critical feedback.
And then there are remote testers who either create a print-and-play copy of the game or test the game online. I use Tabletop Simulator to both design and test games, and I usually make a playtest version available to those who want to test it for me. In the past I have also used Tabletopia and Vassal for this purpose. 
In the end, I get a good combination of critical feedback from designers and dedicated playtesters, in-person gaming groups, and blind playtesting using both physical and digital implementations.

What was it like to experience being at UK Expo 2018 demoing some of your games?  Any particular stories to tell there? 

I attended UKGE every year I lived in the UK (from 2015-2018). It has been amazing to see the convention change over time. It has grown so quickly, and is run so well. In prior years, I was primarily there to play games and pitch to publishers. In 2018, I was able to demo one of my new releases (Orc-lympics, published by Brain games), show off the pre-production copy of Pavlov’s House, and show off a prototype of a game I have that’s coming out within the next year or two from Phalanx (a post-Cold War political strategy game called Europe Divided). 
The single best experience from the convention was meeting up with Andrew Powell. I had met Andrew in person for the first time the previous year at UKGE. Prior to that, we had chatted online due to his interest in Pavlov’s House. Andrew became one of the most impactful testers for Pavlov’s House - so much of his input changed the game for the better. He also introduced me to a Facebook Group (Solitaire Wargamers) that has become an amazing support community for my designs, and ultimately led me to working with DVG on the game.

Your other game, War Chest, published this year is a very different, more abstract design.  What took you down this different road? 


The road to War Chest was a long, winding one. I mentioned earlier that its lineage can be traced back to influences like A Few Acres of Snow. Just around the time I was moving to the UK, I had started working on a World War 2 platoon-level deck
building game. After the initial design was complete, I began to develop it with a close friend and design partner (Trevor Benjamin). As we were finishing the development of that game, Trevor suggested the idea of boiling the game down to a MUCH more streamlined design and replacing deck-building with bag-building. The initial sketches of that concept still look very much like the final, published version of War Chest, though we iterated on it for a year, running countless playtests to ensure balance across all the different unit combinations. Despite its elegance as an abstract strategy game, it is extremely asymmetric and provides for a TON of possible unit combinations because you draft your group of unique units. I’ve never been happier with the final result of one of my games. AEG spared no expense with the production, using extremely high quality chips for the units, and the graphic design (by the super talented Brigette Indelicato) is elegant and beautiful.

Another recent design Castle Itter is currently in development too, I believe. Can you tell us something of the game and any details of its possible release? 

Castle Itter is based on an amazing WW2 story. If you’re not familiar with it, stop reading this now and go Google it. [I did – and I really recommend that those of you reading this do so too!] Prepare yourself for a story so amazing that people wouldn’t believe you if there wasn’t historical proof. In short, Hitler is dead and the war in Europe almost over, but remnants of the SS fight on. In the game, US tankers and infantrymen join with Wehrmacht infantry, an SS officer, French VIP prisoners, and an Austrian resistance fighter to defend a medieval Austrian castle against an SS assault. See - I told you it was unbelievable! Castle Itter was the design where I first created the tactical game elements that were also featured in Pavlov’s House. The game is being published by DVG and is set to launch on Kickstarter in early-to-mid November 2018.

Personally that’s fantastic news for me.  However, the game I really would love to see taken up by one of the major companies is the embryo design you mentioned earlier, Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse.   What are the possibilities of seeing that happening? 


Well, as I mentioned before, Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse was my first game design and my first love. I spent years (literally, about five or six years) working on the design. Over time it has been signed by a couple publishers but never made it to publication. I’ve made the entire game (three settings, six factions) available as free print-and-play files, and the game can be played for free on Tabletop Simulator. I’ve considered pitching it to publishers, but the market for hybrid minis/board games is so crowded these days that I’m not sure how much demand there would be for it. But I’ll never say never.


I don’t think I’d be a lone voice in saying I would love to see it snapped up.  I know what you mean about the crowded market, but everything I’ve seen of your designs makes me believe there’s still room for at least one more sci-fi tactical hybrid! 

Finally, I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to reply to all my questions and wish you every success with all your future projects.  



Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga by Vento Nuovo Games    Rattenkrieg; the word conjures up visions of hell on ...

Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga by Vento Nuovo Games Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga by Vento Nuovo Games

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



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 Rattenkrieg; the word conjures up visions of hell on earth. It speaks to us of enemies fighting and dying for yards or feet. Soldiers of both Germany and Russia collapsing exhausted meters away from each other, trying to get some sleep. Food or water, their thirst and hunger would never be able to be satisfied. It was death, plain and simple, with just a trickle of soldiers able to carry up supplies to the 'front lines'. Some houses had Russians on one floor and Germans on the next in a weird puzzle like creation. The battle has been called 'Verdun on the Volga'. This was because it was one of the few World War II battles that approached the desperate fighting for little or no gain as in the Western Front in World War I. In this review, we take a look at Vento Nuovo Games 'Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga'.


Back of the Box


 Let us first take a look at what you get with the game:

33" x 24" map of the city and it's environs
Over 130 wooden blocks and markers
More than 90 Russian and German Combat Units
Six, six-sided die
Two metal miniature planes
Rules for Solitaire and Multiplayer
Four Difficulty Levels
Two Red Draw Bags 



Rules Manual

 Like the two other games I have reviewed of Vento Nuovo's, the components are very well done. The blocks are smaller than their other games at 5/8". The map is the masterpiece of the components. It represents 30 km of the the Volga' with each hex being a huge 1.1km in size. It was made by piecing together different air reconnaissance pictures right before the storm hits the city. The area of play has 109 of these extra large hexes. The Germans control only four hexes in the beginning. The playing cards are also very well done. The are also easy to read with very well done pictures.
 The German Card Deck gives the player four different Leader cards to possibly play: Paulus, Hoth, von Richtofen, and Linden. As an example, the Hoth card gives the player the use of Combined Force Bonus and Blitz movement. 





 The Soviet Cards have three leaders: Chuikov, Zaytsev, and Khrushchev. The Chuikov card allows the Soviets to always perform Opportunity fire when defending and Soviet Hasty Attacks are now Deliberate Attacks.




The game offers FOUR different modes of play:

Solitaire (German player versus Soviet AI)
Cooperative (two German players vs Soviet AI)
Competitive:2 (German player vs Soviet Player)
Competitive:3 (two German players vs Soviet Player)




Dice etc.
 

 The game itself has only one scenario, but it does have some 'what if' changes to troops, etc. This will make it either easier or harder for each player or solitaire play. The game is big and the rules try to add as much history and flavor as they are able to. However, this is not a monster game in length or rules. Game play was designed with a one hour gaming session in mind. So this is a players game, not a stare at the board for an hour before each move. The rule book itself is only twenty pages long. It is in full color and uses large type so it is easy to read. The rules are explained well and are simple, yet let us use a word used to describe other VN games: elegant. The designer describes his long fascination with the battle of Stalingrad. He also goes into detail about the numerous sources he has used to make the game. 

This is the turn sequence of play:
1. Call for Reinforcements
2. Make One Long Movement
3. Make up to Two Short Movements
4. Make One Hasty Attack
5. Make One Deliberate Attack 

Blocks from both sides


 The Germans have a chance to win the game, just don't dawdle like they did once they first got to the city. L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace. Get to the Volga' as quickly as possible. For the Russians, it is the complete opposite. Do not waste your troops. Dig in and let the Germans come to you. Only counterattack when it is absolutely necessary, or you see that your enemy has made a mistake you can take advantage of. The game achieves its design in being a fast paced game that you could probably play though a few times on game night.

Wooden play aids


 These are the victory conditions for both sides:
German Decisive Victory:
A.The Germans control all six Soviet Spawn Hexes OR
B. There are no Soviet Units on the mapboard

Soviet Decisive Victory:
A. 10 German Units (each of the five Units marked 'R' count double) OR
B. Immediately when the last Card is drawn from the Soviet deck



Draw bags

 The game has so many different ways to play. You can play: Easy German Level, Easy Soviet Level, Impossible German Level. There are also additional rules that the designer recommends to play with. The game lists the solo mode as having a 'Soviet AI'. Unlike most games, this one can actually boast of this. Many times, games are built from the ground up as a two-player game, and then have a solo mode tacked on at the end. The short easy to understand rules will have you playing in no time. Your first few games will naturally take longer, but the later ones will be just as advertised. Vento Nuovo Games has been able to take a large complex battle and tame it to simple to follow rules. However, they have not made it a 'beer and pretzels' game. It is deep and full of historical flavor. 'Un bellissimo e bellisimo gioco'. Google translate gave me two different versions, so I hope it works. Unfortunately, all I know is Italian swear words.

Robert

Two Deaths at Amphipolis Cleon VS Brasidas In the Peloponnesian War by Mike Roberts   Ah, the Peloponnesian Wa...

Two Deaths at Amphipolis by Mike Roberts Two Deaths at Amphipolis by Mike Roberts

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


Cleon VS Brasidas In the Peloponnesian War

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 Ah, the Peloponnesian War; what would be a better day than to sit back and just read a book about it. What would make it better is to read a great book about it, like this one. Firstly, it is misnamed. The book goes back into history before the Peloponnesian War, and then continues with a full history of the war up until the duel at Amphipolis. The book then naturally goes through the history of the war in that period. What follows is an epilogue about what happened right after the death of both men.


 In the book, Brasidas is described as pretty much an unusual Spartan. He has many ideas that are not very Spartan in nature. He also appears to be rather quick thinking. This is another trait that the Spartans were not known for at the time. Cleon, on the other hand, shows up as a typical Athenian crowd pleasing type of politician. 

 Brasidas is really the main character in the book once he shows up in the war. The clash between Brasidas and Cleon is at the end of the book, right before the epilogue. Brasidas and his very un-Spartan ways of conducting war, and his successful campaign in the north of Greece to attack the Athenian allied cities there, is gone into detail. Brasidas is an explorer and a man who seems to love adventure. He has in many ways an Athenian outlook, and not a Spartan one. The Athenians were very lucky that Brasidas died when he did. They were also lucky in that no other Spartans were willing to take up his mantle at the time. 


 I have actually read this book about two times in the short time I have had it. This was mainly because it really gives the best information on the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. The book is also very clear and concise on the above history. I have read other books by the author and am looking forward to reading many more. Mr. Roberts co-wrote the two volume 'The Wars of Alexander's Successors'. He also wrote 'Hannibal's Road', a history of the Second Punic War in Italy. Do yourself a favor and pick up a book of his; you will not be let down. 

Robert
Author: Mike Roberts
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers
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