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SHIPS OF THE LINE : TRAFALGAR from TRAFALGAR EDITIONS Having dallied at Waterloo with this company's most recent ga...

SHIPS OF THE LINE: TRAFALGAR SHIPS OF THE LINE: TRAFALGAR

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

SHIPS OF THE LINE : TRAFALGAR

from

TRAFALGAR EDITIONS




Having dallied at Waterloo with this company's most recent game, I've now returned to their first production from which the company takes its name.

Despite, its title specifically containing the word Trafalgar, the assumption with naval games tends to be that they will be of a more generic type. But this really does give you the battle of Trafalgar, with a set-up map in colour to denote the positions of all the ships and two and a half pages of stats.  It was this factor that first intrigued me as to how so many ships would be handled, especially as all that I'd seen and read about this a game suggested a miniatures treatment not unlike Waterloo 1815, except with plastic model ships.


Here they are en masse, red British, blue French and yellow for the Spanish.  These are accompanied by sets of three masts and sails for each ship.  There is a substantial amount  of work to be done here if you are going to move beyond the simple basic form.that you see below.


There is also one more physical problem that I have encountered that is illustrated here too and that is the masts.  First of all the size of everything is small -from tip of the bowsprit to stern, each ship is a mere three and a half cms long.  So, handling is a delicate affair, with the masts as the obvious point to pick the ship up by, but these are meant to remain simply pushed into the small retaining holes in the deck.  There is an excellent reason for this: namely that combat can cause individual masts to be damaged and laid to one side of the ship or the other as seen in the picture.  Rules cover this, including the effect on the ship's speed and the ability to carry out repairs later. 

The concept is first rate - very visual, very emotive, but - for me - very impractical.  I've met with a series of problems. Unpainted I've found some masts too loose and some too large to fit into the holes.  Consequently, masts topple, ships can't be picked up safely by their masts. Just fitting all three masts into a ship without causing one of them to fall out has eluded me. Solutions have been suggested, including using microscopic amounts of blu-tac and infinitesimal enlarging of the holes - none of these have I found adequate in dealing with the problem.  Painting the ships simply added to the number of ships and masts causing me problems.

Finally, to add to these physical difficulties is the stability of the ships themselves.  They easily fall over, especially when you are manoeuvring so many in close proximity to each other.  Excuse the pun, but all is definitely not plain sailing.  For me the solution has been to adopt two modifications: the first is to base the ships that gives them immediate stability and makes them easy to pick up and move and adds a further level of visual appeal.  It also allows you to fix the crucial adhesive flags [seen below] that display the ships nationality and the all important number for identifying each ship.

The second is to glue the masts permanently onto the decks.  This latter action  may come as heresy to some gamers, but it instantly removes all the physical problems and the use of small numbered counters [borrowed from the many other games I own] is a simple substitute to keep track of damaged masts.

Here you can see what I mean thanks to the efforts of Clay Stretch  who has courteously allowed me to use his photograph displaying his far superior ability in painting and mounting the ships in the manner that I've chosen to do.

This concern is the only one that I have about the contents of the game.  As with Waterloo 1815, the physical components are very  nicely done with a vast array of markers and a superb set of player mats that present all the ships in the game with their related tracks on which to mark everything from hull damage to type of shot be loaded in the cannons.
As you can imagine with the playing area plus the room needed to display all the ship displays, the footprint for this game is rather large.  Not having a convenient games room, it takes my dining-room table fully extended to 1600 mm x 1010 mm to accommodate everything.

With the number of ship displays comes a fair amount of book keeping, though handled very attractively and elegantly as illustrated by the one above.  When playing the basic game, this involves very little per ship, but grows in complexity with the inclusion of the advanced rules.  What surprised me, as this was the first of Trafalgar Editions games, is that the rule book is far better than the one for Waterloo 1815.  The layout makes better use of white space, layout and font size, adding greater clarity to a set of rules that in themselves are very clearly explained. Complementing this is a separate booklet of examples with ample, if rather hazy, colour shots that takes you step by step through three turns of the basic rules pitting 4 ships per side.  These basic rules consist of initiative, combat and movement.
A page of the very useful Examples Booklet

As with Waterloo 1815, movement is measured using small in increments of 1 UM standing for 1 Unit Marker.and, as I find with most naval games, this is extremely easy to handle, there being no considerations of terrain to take into account.  Inertia, drifting, movement against the wind and the effect on speed because of compass bearing relative to the wind  are covered well and for any that want a very simple start elements can be omitted.  The one factor left out is changes both to wind direction and wind strength, which is understandable given the period of hours over which the battle plays out.  However, to my satisfaction I quickly found that the Advanced Rules section included just that possibility and its minor effects coming in to play.

 Combat too is delightfully straightforward.  A basic to hit number depending on range and if successful, roll on a damage table which gives Hull damage on rolls from 1-5 while a 6 lands a critical hit.  Typical here are such hazards as a wounded officer, the rudder shot away, fires and damage to a mast.  Boarding, grappling, ship surrender and capture all feature with straightforward economy of explanation and clarity giving a very playable set of basic rules.  
As always a shed load of markers, plus the firing template

In the Advanced Rules are many small extras that I think many players will have little difficulty adding in almost from the start including collisions - highly likely with the many ships and especially if you can muster separate players for the French and Spanish ships.  Variations in the wind I've already mentioned and is a must for me to use as is the option for different kinds of ammo loads covering the familiar grape-shot, chain shot and double rounds.  Though not needed for the play of the game's battle, Trafalgar, I was pleased to see the inclusion of harbours and coastal batteries too, as I'm certain many of you will want just those very rules for your own scenarios.  In fact, what I love to see from Trafalgar Editions would be some small expansions with other ship mats and scenario details.

All in all Trafalgar 1805 is a very good addition to Napoleonic naval warfare with a strong touch of the miniatures world without some of the more complex and at times baffling elements that I've encountered in dense many paged rule books.  The only downside for me has been the physical difficulties with the ships and masts already covered and I know that Trafalgar Editions are planning a set of resin ships which may just help,me out.

Once again many thanks to Trafalgar Editions for the review copy and my apologies for the gremlins which every so often play havoc with the physical layout of the text!

Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division by GMT Games   Fighting Formations ...

Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry division by GMT Games Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry division by GMT Games

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





by










 Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Infantry Division was supposed to be the start of an ongoing series of wargames at platoon and squad level. It was released in 2011 and the series was only added to in 2018 by an add-on named Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Division's Battle for Kharkov .One of the main pulls of the series was that it was going to spotlight different combat units from both the Axis and Allies. Its design was pretty innovative and people have been waiting for other releases. The game was designed by Chad Jensen, which should speak for itself. 



Box Contents



 Let us have a look at what comes in the box:

4 back printed 22" x 34" maps
5 die-cut counter sheets
2 Player Aid Cards 8.5" x 11"
55 Playing Cards
1 Track Display, 2 sided
24-page Series Rulebook
64-page Playbook
10 dice
10 wood cubes
1 wood pawn

The scale, as mentioned, is platoon and squad. Each hex is 75 meters across. The turn time is five minutes.
Some Cards

 It's coming up on the holidays, so it seems appropriate to open up this heavy box, and see what is stuffed inside. Stuffed is the right word for this game box. I do not know if you could incapacitate a burglar by hitting him with it, but you could sure stun him. First the box itself; some people were put off by the understated cover art. I actually kind of like it. It definitely says to me that here is a wargame, and not a Euro etc. The maps are very well done, and it is easy to distinguish terrain. They also have over sized hexes at 1.5" by 1.5".  The counters are a bit subdued in color, like the box. However, this also makes them easy to read. It also helps old eyes that the infantry counters are also large at 5/8" by 5/8". The tank and artillery counters are even larger at 1 1/4" by 5/8". The information markers are the usual counter size.These counters do show a side view of the weapon in question instead of top down. Some people have stated that they would have preferred to have top down views, but I think that would make them harder to distinguish from each other. The cards are very well done, and easy to read and understand. The ten die are different colors to help you with picking the correct numbered ones. The pawn and small wood blocks are red and not fancy. You also get enough small plastic counter bags for probably two games. 




Game play Picture



 The game's complexity is listed as a six, while the solitaire suitability is listed as a five. Myself and others have found solitaire gaming to be higher in reality. As mentioned, the rules are very innovative. The game borrows on the designer's earlier games, but are not a copy of them, and go to a new level. This does not mean that they are obtuse or hard to understand. It helps that the rule book has eighteen full page, and in color, examples of play. The game comes with ten scenarios, and one introductory one. Two scenarios are half-map size, six are full-map size, and two are double-map size. It is good to see a tactical game not only played on small maps.



Players Aid Card


 I'll try to explain the game's mechanics. Rest assured that I will probably make it sound harder than it is. The game play revolves around the 'Order Matrix', seen below. The scenario information will tell you where the red 'Order Cubes' are to be placed. The red pawn shows which side has the initiative and its placement is also shown in the scenario information. You can see that the Order Matrix has numbers descending on both the German and Russian side. Likewise, the initiative track is numbered with zero being in the middle of the track, and has ascending numbers going both right and left. To start a turn, the player with the initiative gets to pick an orders cube equal or less than where the red pawn is on his initiative track. Here is where it gets a little tricky. Let us say the German player has the red pawn on on number 7 on the initiative track. He then can choose to use the red cube on the order matrix that has 'Sniper' next to it. The German player then moves the red pawn toward the Russian direction of the initiative track seven spaces (it would now be at '0'). The German player can then perform the order on number 7 the 'Sniper' order, or he may choose to do any of the orders below 7 all the way to #1. Whatever he chooses as an order, he must always move the red pawn the number of the red cube that he chooses. In explanation, the German player has taken the #7 red pawn, but only chooses to do the 'move' order that is next to the #3. He still must move the red pawn the 7 spaces toward the Russian side of the initiative track, even though he has only used the #3 order. The results of these innovative rules are that a player is constantly trying to use orders, but he will also be trying to keep the red pawn on his side of the initiative track. So the player is forced to juggle between what he wants to do and what he doesn't want the other player to do.  



Order Matrix


 The turn sequence is:

The player with the initiative performs any order 
At the end of every order players check to see if the turn ends
Whoever has the initiative performs the next order
If no cubes are left on the Order Matrix the turn ends
Advance the turn forward one space
Check for 'Sudden Death' (where it is placed is in the scenario
   information)
Remove depleted Smoke Markers
Sniper Activity (the player with the sniper marker attempts to 
    destroy one of the other players 'Command Markers')
Regroup (flip Command Markers per the rules etc.)
Reinforcement
Reseed (each player rolls one die10 for each of the ten red 
     order cubes for the next turn)


                                        Counter Closeup




 The game also give each player, depending on the scenario, Command Markers.  These may be placed at any time during the turn by either player. These markers have two sides; one is named 'Mission Command', the other 'Tactical Command'. When placed the Mission Command side is used first. During the Regroup Phase of the turn, all of the Mission Command Markers on the board are changed to their Tactical Command side. Both sides of the Command Markers drop the initiative cost to activate the players' units. 









 The wargaming world was surprised and very happy with this very innovative game in 2011. The only thing that has led to any gripes was the lack of follow up games on other famous fighting units. The 2018 add-on for this game (soon to be reviewed), was the only new piece added to this gaming stable since it first came out. It is very surprising, seeing as the game is very good and was very well received. There is so much more I can talk about in regards to this game. It has air strikes, entrenchments, close assaults, and so much more. The play of the game flows very well for a tactical game with this much inside it. The rules are easy to follow and it plays  much simpler, in gaming terms, than a tactical game like this usually does. Thank you GMT Games for the chance to review this great game.

Robert

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games   This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. ...

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games Julius Caesar by Columbia Games

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



by









  This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. Every Ides of March, I drink a toast of something to the fact that he was assassinated at the foot of Pompey's statue. I am a teetotaler so nothing special. I consider Sulla the greatest Roman general followed closely by Pompey. Caesar is most highly thought of because of his own propaganda writings. Remember that Caesar was the head of his faction while Pompey was actually representing the legal Roman Senate and also had to take their views into account. Caesar had said Sulla was a fool for giving up his dictatorship. He was not a fool, but a Republican. I guess I should dispense with my personal views now. So the game is about the Roman Civil War between the Roman Senate and a megalomaniac (sorry I had to). The Civil War between Pompey and Caesar. Let us see what you get with the game.



Front And Back Of Box


Game Map(17"x 33" with 13 victory points)
63 Blocks ( 31 tan, 31 green, 1 blue)
Label Sheet (for the blocks)
Cards (27)
Dice (4)
Rule Book




Map


 The map is the usual well done Columbia Games type we have come to enjoy with their block games. It is a map that is used to be gamed, and not be hung on the wall as art. The map does get a bit crowded at times with the blocks. However, for a small fee you can buy a PDF file of the map and have it printed out to pretty much any size you want. The labels are well done. They are aesthetically pleasing, and easy to understand and read. The cards are very well done and add some flavor to the game. There are twenty Command Cards and seven Event Cards in the deck. The rule book is only eight pages long. This is also standard fare for Columbia Games. Their games are meant to be played, not argued over. After one or possibly two games, you will have the rules down pat.




Stickers For The Blocks
  

  The game is card driven, and is played in these three phases:

Card Phase
Command Phase
Battle Phase


 The event cards are self explanatory. The Command Cards are read by the banners and medals below the banners. On each banner will be a number. That number is the moves a player can make that turn. The medals are the amount of levies that player can produce that turn. At the beginning of each year (or turn) of the game the cards are shuffled, and each player is dealt six cards. Both players then have to choose one card to discard, bringing their total to five cards each. Each player then puts down one card. If one player chooses an event card then he is Player one. If both players put down command cards then the player with the higher movement on his card is player one. When both cards have equal movement points then the Caesar player is player one. If both players put down an event card they cancel each other out and that turn/year is over. The event cards seem to be pretty overpowering compared to the command cards. One has to remember that if you play an event card that is all you can do that turn. No movement, or levies, can take place if you play an event card. 

 Your Navis(naval) units are incredibly powerful if you know how to use them. You can use three Navis units in adjacent sea areas to move your troops an incredible distance. The rule book gives an example of Caesar being able to move two legions from Rome to Antioch because the three seas (Mare Tyrrhenum, Mare Internum, and Mare Egypticum) all have Caesar Navis units in them and are friendly. You cannot conduct amphibious invasions as we think of today, but you can keep your enemy on their toes, and upset their plans with amphibious movement.                                   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
 The historically important Roman roads are also very important in the game. A Major road allows four units to move together from city to city. A Minor road only allows two units to travel together. 

 The game even has rules for the Cleopatra unit (blue block). She can change sides numerous times during the war. 

 This is the map showing all of the places that troops can be levied by Brunoc from BGG.








 The battle rules are simple and yet full of strategy and chance. A unit that has the higher combat rating, an A against a B unit, is always the first unit on each player's side to roll for hits. If both sides have the same highest rated unit (both A's or B's etc.) the defender is the first to use his unit to roll for hits. A unit may only fire, retreat, or pass each battle turn. Retreats can only take place after one round of combat has happened. There are rules for pinning enemy units as well as to have reserves for your battles.

 Victory goes to the first player who can get ten victory points. Each main city is worth one point, with Rome and Alexandria being two each. You also get one point for killing an enemy leader.
 


                                                  Cards


 The game has been a favorite of people who play Columbia games since it was released. The rules are simple and easy to understand, yet the game is deep enough to keep you enthralled with it. The relatively quick play-through times make it easy for players to give it one more go. The game also lets the player try so many different strategies to try to get to ten victory points. Historically Pompey fled Italy and went to the East. Caesar then cleared out Pompey's legions in Spain, leading Caesar to say "I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army". Many historians feel that Pompey should have gone to Spain to fight with those veteran troops in a country that was difficult to campaign in, and that Pompey had fought in before (against Sertorius). One of the strategies I keep reading about for the game is for Caesar to capture Italy, but also to attack down the Adriatic coast to Greece, and capture Athens etc. I have noticed that not only does the map have the battles listed from the Caesar and Pompey Civil War, but it also lists the battles from after Caesar's death until Actium. I wonder if an add on was planned for the game at some time. The only two knocks on the game are the Octavian block in the Caesarean army and elephants being included in the game. Octavian was sick anytime he came anywhere near a possible battlefield, and I do not believe elephants were used by any Mediterranean nation after the Mithridatic Wars. I will have to check on that. I was wrong, Metellus Scipio used them at the battle of Thapsus. I assume these were the smaller North African variety that Hannibal also used.

 This a picture of all of the command cards posted by EndersGame on BGG.




 There are also many player made cards to replace the ones from the game. The ones I saw have excellent artwork on them.

 This is a fun and pretty furious game that will find its way back onto my table for many years.


Robert
 

Overview Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will qu...

Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers) Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers)

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



Overview

Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will quite a strange review as it will be impossible to review it without some minor spoilers - reader beware. Also, the nearly-unique selling point of this game is that every box, or at least the components within it are unique to that copy. My game will have a different mix of cards, terrain, explorers than any other Discover game. I find that individuality quite compelling.

In this game, you're given 5 different scenarios with which to explore, survive and ultimately reveal the underlying story of the game, your game. Scenarios 1-4 are fully co-operative and should be played in order, in which your characters/survivors are working together to reveal a mystery story whilst battling thirst, hunger and monsters. During these set-up scenarios, you're being drip-fed a story by revealed cards and objectives that lead to the final and fifth scenario which you can replay as many times as you would like

Each game comes with 2 different terrain types, I had the Badlands and the Island terrain types and 12 different characters, out of a possible 36, each with their own strength and weaknesses. Items, monsters and even the storyline are also variable between boxes. I shudder to think what steps were taken to try to balance the number of different possibilities.

If you're curious to see the contents of my game then you can watch my unboxing video (~9 mins).


Gameplay

The scenarios start with your characters waking up at a campfire of an unfamiliar land. Each particular terrain will have a different counter-mix and different cards. The placement of terrain is also randomised so if you're replaying a scenario and are trying to find a particular landmark and advance the story it will most likely not be in the same location.


The game itself felt well balanced.  you cannot just go for broke and fight every single monster or just search out landmark features. You'll need to care for your survivor making sure they've got adequate supplies of food, water and resources from which you can make useful items. If you're not careful then you'll likely take damage quickly and you will lose the game which will happen after you've taken 4 damage.  If your survivor is eliminated the remaining players keep trying to beat the game so you best have something to do whilst you wait.

The unknown awaits
A turn consists of a day and a night phase. During the day phase, you'll take actions up to your stamina limit or whenever you decide to stop.  Most actions cost 1 stamina and there are 10 different actions available to you. Each night you'll recover some stamina so that you can function again the next day. However, as you'd expect, during the night phase your survivors have to deal with some threats.

Whilst trying to survive you're trying to meet scenario objectives or 'stages', these are sequential, the first stage has to be complete before revealing the next and scenarios have 3 or 4 stages. Only the active stage is revealed to players. If you complete all stages, then you've won the scenario and can play the next.

You survivor will inevitably take damage as they explore the terrain, from monsters, dirty water, events or from the night terrors. Damage is tracked on a nifty tracker with 3 damage wheels and 1 stamina wheel. Damage can be either physical, poison, hunger or thirst but at the point where you need to take a 4th damage, you're done for and out of the game. You can spend resources, to recover from damage which you'll need to do very regularly.

Falling like flies
You'll encounter monsters quite regularly, you can normally avoid them if you want but they do provide relatively large numbers of resources, e.g meat and hides, so killing them is often in your best interest. The combat system is very simple, which is both a good and bad thing. You'll roll 2d12 and compare them against the numbers on the monster's card. If you beat the grey number with the grey dice you cause one damage to the monster, if you beat the red number with the red dice the monster hits you for one damage.  Combat can be altered by other survivors combat support cards, if they're near enough, or by the items you've crafted.

The game is driven by flipping resource tokens and investigating landmarks. Normally you'll flip a token and just reveal a resource of that type, however, sometimes you'll reveal a number which will require to draw the same number from the Exploration deck. Investigating a landmark will also require you to draw the corresponding numbered card from the Exploration deck. The 'story' is largely told through the stage cards and accessing the 'right' exploration cards. Some exploration cards have pre-requisites before you can flip them over or allow you to draw an exploration card 2 higher when resolving a token for example. This was a clever system and I thought, good design, similar to 7th Continent.

Rulebook and excerpt

After all players have used as much stamina as they want, night falls. The night phases get worse, the longer players hang around and as resources are of a nearly finite supply, eventually your survivors will succumb and lose the game. It's in your best interest to do things quickly, however, sometimes you'll find the right landmark on the very last tile, which can be hard to recover from.
 
Components

The art on the box and the character cards has a nice clean aesthetic which reminded me of Herge's Tintin series. The cards are simple but nice and everything is of the excellent quality that we expect from FFG.  The cardboard wheels have stayed quite tight which is a good thing when you're tracking vital statistics...(nod to Underzo), you don't want them moving without intention which can be the case with similar components from other games. I would have preferred wooden meeples instead of the plastic but that is a trivial gripe.

Maybe expansion space?


Criticisms

The story did not come through as much as we'd like. Often we were left wandering and wondering where to go next. The narrative felt a little loosely tacked on and only revealed by two or three sentences before you're off and trying to complete the next stage. This may be indicative on the uniqueness of each box, the designer(s) would have had a torrid time crow-barring the story into every different version of the game box. I would like to know if the story in my box is the same for all other boxes that contain the Island and Badlands terrains.

The story could be better told if you were able to keep some knowledge or item bonuses from one scenario to the next. Instead, you've got a completely blank slate for each scenario making you feel like you're playing in a vacuum and your choices, or even win and lose, have no bearing on the subsequent scenario. 

Lots of goodness here
 The OCD gamer in me is worrying that maybe I don't have the best mix of components, I have to trust FFG, and I'm sure this is the case, that each game feels approximately the same and my game is neither inferior or better than all the other 'Discoverys' out there.

The fifth scenario plays a little differently from the first 4 and isn't really part of the story. But what it does try to do is done far better in other games. This game really is just 4 scenarios in one base box and I'm not sure you're getting gameplay value for money with this.


Conclusion

This game does lots of clever things that I like but a game about exploration and survival should tell a good story and this one fell a little flat for my group. I like the idea of a unique game box and the game underway looks lovely on the table. It plays in about 100 minutes, which is probably half an hour too long per scenario considering this game's complexity. I'm sure there is a very good game inside and I'm sure we will see other publishers try similar gimmicks, (a-la Keyforge) but I don't think we've reached the pinnacle of unique games design with this title.

I thought the damage mechanism was good, supported by a component of excellent quality, and I liked the simplicity of the combat system if not its' randomness.

I  would like to play another copy of Discover as I'm intrigued, how the designer managed to balance lots of the different elements in each game; are the stories different? do they link together in some way? etc.  Some game groups, or even couples, could really enjoy the open-ended nature of this game and will re-play scenario 5 again and again, but I don't want it to be my group. Sorry FFG.
 
This game has a huge distribution and you'll still be able to find it in almost every game store; find your nearest Friendly Local Games Store at http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/.

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/discover-lands-unknown/
Players: 1 - 4
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Playing time: 1-2 hours
RRP: £57.99

Overview Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a so...

Corsair Leader Corsair Leader

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


Overview

Corsair Leader is the latest game from Dan Verssen Games which covers the airborne-antics of the Pacific Theatre.  It is a solitaire game and for those familiar with the 'Leader' series follows the tried and trusted formula that the earlier games, e.g. Hornet Leader, Apache Leader etc. built upon. The game was a successful Kickstarter campaign raising many times over its funding goal.

The game pits you as a Squadron Commander that has to manage resources, i.e. pilots and aircraft to successful meet sortie objectives i.e. destroying targets, over a campaign series of linked missions. Each target, be it a fuel depot or enemy bombers grants a number of Victory Points which are tallied and compared against a Campaign VP achievement table to determine how successful you were.

There are 15 campaigns in the box, which is a testament to a successful Kickstarter, as many of them were stretch goals. After choosing a campaign and then your starting pilots, you'll 'fly' a number of missions which all follow the same 5 phases of play.  The enemy, always the Japanese, will spawn randomly by a cup-draw mechanic, so no two missions will ever be the same. Each mission plays in about 20 minutes, sometimes much less, depending on the number of site and bandits i.e. the enemy, that appear to defend the target. 

If you're curious about everything you get in the box, watch my unboxing video below (~14 mins)



Gameplay

Each mission consists of a Pre-flight planning phase, the Target Bound Flight, Target Resolution, Home Bound Flight and Debriefing. During the first of these phases the target, your pilots and their armaments will be selected, you'll also place the 'sites' which are the enemy ground units. There were many little touches in this game that I appreciated the design of and this was the first; it makes sense to me that your Intelligence will be more aware of the relatively static ground defences prior to a mission.

During the Target Bound Flight, you'll place your aircraft in any the Pre-Approach areas on the mounted Tactical Display. You'll only know where the enemy aircraft, 'bandits', appear after this step, nicely simulating the unknown quantity of WWII PTO Air Combat namely, finding and being found by the enemy.  Another design appreciation moment came with the Event Cards which randomise an element of the Approach, Target and Home-bound phases, these cards serve to add some distinct flavour to each mission. 


With practice, you'll be through the first two phases in less than 5 minutes. The meat of the tactical game comes during the Target Resolution phase, which is repeated 5 times, during which you'll attempt to engage bandits, destroy sites and the target without taking too much damage yourself.

Engaging bandits was a mini-game in its own right, and in fact felt like a very distilled version of the dogfighting manoeuvring of Wild Blue Yonder, in fact, the two games share a lot of common dog-fighting terminology. In a dogfight, you'll attempt to manoeuvre into favourable positions to attack, and with any bandit or site, 1 hit will be enough to destroy it.  However, bandits are also manoeuvring to get into favourable positions against your aircraft determined by just two simple and quick-to-use tables on the mounted Dogfight Sheet.

Attacks, whether they're the enemies, your own, or whether the target is airborne or ground-based are resolved exactly the same way, by rolling 1d10.  Each counter has got Attack Number(s) clearly printed on the top which the die result is compared to. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the first Attack Number, that's 1 hit on your target. If you've rolled greater than or equal to the second number that's two hits and so on. This is easily remembered and plays quickly, I thought it was an elegant way to determine combat results.

Attack rolls and Manoeuvre rolls may be modified by your pilots' and the enemies Air-to-Air or Air-to-Ground abilities or their relative position to each other confers dice modifiers as well. Some pilots will also fly with a Gung Ho counter which can be used prior to a dice roll to consider it a natural 10 (always a good thing in this game - unless rolling for the enemy!)

Your aircraft won't be in a position to actually attack the Missions' target until the 3rd round at the earliest and you'll only have 3 attempts to destroy the target, which will require multiple hits (6 was fairly common) to consider it destroyed. Each target also has a different number of bandits and sites that must be drawn to defend it along with a maximum number of aircraft that are allowed to go on the mission. It wouldn't be much of a game if you could send every aircraft at your disposal on every mission, each target felt well balanced if not thematic. I managed to fly a mission in the 1945 Luzon campaign without meeting a single bandit - probably quite accurate... Destroying a target nearly always feels like an achievement, especially in earlier Campaign missions in which the bandit and site counter mix are more aggressive. 



The Home Bound Flight is where you'll attempt to rescue any of your 'downed' pilots and the Debrief is where you'll work out if any pilots have been promoted and how much stress they've accumulated, which should factor into your choice of pilot for the next mission. This strategic side of the game is also quite simple but more importantly, it's good fun. I enjoyed setting up my squadron and choosing the pilots, the experience they earnt over campaign almost gave me the same feeling of levelling up an RPG character which is unusual for a wargame.

Components

My previous experience with a 'Leader Series' game was with a Print-n-Play of Hornet Leader. My first and current impressions of this game are that the components are of a fantastic quality which put my homemade components (which I am quite proud of) to shame. The counters punched out more cleanly than any other game I've experienced and there were no chit-pulls to speak of anywhere.




Criticisms

My biggest gripe with this game is with the rules. They're well written, easy to understand and nicely laid out but I didn't find them to be fully comprehensive.  There were a few edge cases during early plays of the game, specifically around dogfights, that were not covered.  Only after repeated plays, did I satisfy myself that I was playing it correctly, and that was achieved by following the Sequence of Play absolutely literally. 

The rules omit to mention anything about the Carrier and Island Operations charts that are included. I have assumed that these are optional parts of the game and I haven't tried them as there were very limited instructions on how to use them and references on them to counters that were not provided. I really like the thought behind them as there would be wildly different considerations for a Squadron Commander launching and recovering aircraft from an airfield or a carrier, but they feel a bit half-baked.

I found a few errors on cards that I have received which for the most part are of an excellent design and quality. Each pilot should have 3 double-sided cards to show their progression from Newbie, through Green, Average, Skilled, Veteran and to Legendary. however I have one pilot who can never be 'Skilled', his reverse side is for a different pilot, which is definitely a printing error. I checked and there are some more errata listed on the publishers game page and bgg discussions for it as well. However, it's good to see a publisher supporting their products; almost a necessity for wargame publishers.

After punching out the counters, I think I've organised and reorganised their storage 4 times. It should be a one-time-job but I was pretty jaded by the third time through. It would be nice if wargame publishers would add a section to their rules on efficient counter storage. Initially, I organised by aircraft types, then realised that a more sensible approach would also be organised by year, and then I realised I needed to factor in the Service (e.g. USAAF, USMC etc.) as well. To be told up front would be a boon, but at least I've now got lots of baggies which fit the box perfectly. This is a nice full box.


Conclusion

The Pacific Theatre is of particular interest to me and I'm grateful to own this solitaire take on tactical air combat in it. It plays quickly and has very high production values.  The overall mechanism is quite simple but gives a nice feeling of accomplishment after a successful campaign. 

Older games like B-17 feel like a purely random sequence of events to me with such little narrative I just never felt immersed. In this game, you're not just along for the ride. The Gung Ho counters and Special Options that you can spend, along with the levelling of your pilots as they progress through a campaign really add to the flavour and give you some tactical and strategic decisions which can make and break your missions. 

The game system overall, and which is shared with all the other 'Leader' games is little lacking in narrative. However, the elements mentioned in the previous paragraph alongside the Event Cards and my imagination provided enough of a story to enjoy my time flying a Corsair over the Pacific against the Japanese Navy and Air Force.  I certainly have enjoyed my time with this game and would like to thank Asmodee Distributors and Dan Verssen Games for sending this review copy.

If you didn't get in on the Kickstarter earlier this year, and if you did, why are you reading this?, it is still available and may even grace your Friendly Local Game Store's shelves. Find your nearest at http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/.

Publisher: Dan Verssen Games
Game Website: https://www.mcssl.com/store/danverssengames/corsair-leader
Players: 1
Designer: Dan Verssen
Playing time: 90 minutes +
RRP: £86.99

Armored Brigade By Matrix/Slitherine       Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful dur...

Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine Armored Brigade by Matrix/Slitherine

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



By




  



 
 Armored Brigade is out and wargamers around the world are thankful during this season of thanks. It is an adult sized toy chest filled with wargaming goodness for those of us who enjoy gaming a fictional World War III. The forces that you have at your fingertips never really fought each other. A lot of the actual weapons did fight each other, but mostly they were in the hands of different troops. Many of the Middle East conflicts had these same weapons in use. The sheer scope of this game is pretty amazing. I will have quite a few links at the end of the review because this game has had more buzz about it than any game for a good long time.

 The first thing you need to know about the game is that it comes with fifteen scenarios. This game is the ultimate sandbox for wargaming the last years of the 20th century in parts of Europe. The player has a tremendous amount of variables to use in making his various scenarios. From what I have read there will be DLCs with more player ready scenarios and possibly campaigns. The second thing you need to know is that this was a free download game for a long time. What you need to know about this is that this game in its core resembles the free game. In reality the game has come a long way since then. You can see by the list below what is actually included for the player to use in their scenarios. Below that you will see the seven nations that are included with the game.


 
  

 This will be my take on the AI. Yes, it may make mistakes that some (remember that word some) human players might not make. However, the idea that is floated about is that all human players will play better than any game's AI is completely wrong. A human player can sometimes be a terrible player of a game, be it chess, wargames, or poker. The only things that a human player does sometimes that an AI almost never does are these:

1. A human player sometimes makes some incredibly foolish, or if you will stupid, moves that take you by surprise. If an AI is not done right it will make stupid moves, but they will be logical stupid moves not illogical.
2. A human player will sometimes game the system by using bad or incomplete rules to win a game by completely non-historical or insane means. What I mean by this is games that allow a regiment of AA to take a city the size of Moscow. 

 The AI in Armored Brigade is done well enough to keep the average wargamer on his toes. It will not (no AI will) be competitive to a gamer who plays one game sixteen hours a day for a month or two. I will say if that is your life, you are not a wargamer, just a person in need of a new hobby or something. Most of us have only limited time to play our wargames. If we are lucky we might get in up to four or five straight hours in a week. I also suspect that many are like myself and play different games pretty much each gaming session we can cram in, meaning that most of us do not play enough of one game to find the AI's pattern in them. Are there games out there with bad AIs, yes. Is this one of them, no. The defense rests.



 So, the salient parts of the game are this. It is single player only (gasp from the audience). On the other hand, I have seen it posted in articles that as low as 10% of all gamers play multiplayer. It comes with only fifteen preset scenarios. I would have liked to see more, and maybe at least one campaign added. I am not a fan of the DLC model that computer games are heading in. I do understand the higher costs companies are dealing with and why the DLC model is probably necessary. However, that does not mean I have to like it.


Farthest Out Zoom

 On the plus side you have a robust AI. The mission generator is one of the best as far as ease and amount of variables a player can use for his scenarios. I do believe by all the buzz that we will be able to choose from a large amount of player made scenarios. Matrix/Slitherine has developed or been involved with a lot of videos to explain most of the game's rules etc. With these, any player who has any questions can get playing in no time, although I did find the game to be intuitive and started playing right away. The scope of the weaponry and troops goes from 1965-1991. With this game you have a very large sandbox for battles in the late 20th century in a lot of Europe. The maps can vary from extremely large to very small to represent any size combat that you want. As a player, you can send orders to different parts of your own force to help with micromanagement. As for the AI on your side please see above. If you are a micromanager, the game allows you to play that way also. It is an RTS, but I wish we would come up with a different moniker. RTS always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and brings visions of Command and Conquer to mind. Maybe we can call these games wargames played in realtime, WPIR instead. Visually the game is a wargame sort of in the mold of the Close Combat series of games. You can zoom in very far, but you will not see tanks done in 3D. You will see very well done top down views of tanks etc. One great addition is that of dummy objectives. This is a neat addition to the game.



Closest Zoom


 My esteemed colleague on the blog would like to see the following added:
Snipers
Engineers
Paratroopers
 So in wrapping up I am happy to endorse the game to anyone who wants my opinion. The only thing I can really knock the game for is not coming with enough scenarios or a campaign.
Game Trailer:
How to move units:
AB developer interview:

This is a link to the manual:

DDR faction video:
Here is a write up about night time operations:

Robert
PixelPLaybox.co.uk