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Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront  So I was given Combat Mission Shock Force 2 to review. I was a...

Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront

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



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 So I was given Combat Mission Shock Force 2 to review. I was absolutely horrified. The last time I installed one of Battlefront's games my life changed. My ride to hell started out slow. First I bought one of their games, and then it came time to install it. Oh, I had read the different posts about Battlefront, but I figured how bad could it be. I mean if the game doesn't work I'll just get my money back, right? So it started. I couldn't get the serial to work. Then I opened the portal. You see, I just hadn't believed that any contact (be it phone or electronic) would place you in Battlefront's clutches. Much like the word Beetlejuice it opens the gates of hell. First my bank account was drained by those sly devils. It was kind of amazing because the card I used was not attached to it. Then I noticed their were a ton of flies in the house. Now, I was starting to get worried. Then I got the email from Battlefront about the serial. The moment I clicked on it to open it two draped figures appeared in my computer room. One announced himself as Mephistopheles, the other as Dante Alighieri. Okay now I started to panic. The flies were starting to get thicker. I cannot express in words the horrors I had to endure. I would need the skills of Lovecraft to even start to explain them to you. I can tell you that much like a country song, my dog died, and so did my pickup. I have never gotten the game to work, but after having a priest bless the CD case and wrapping it in garlic it is now buried safely in the backyard.






 So, now back to reality. I believe I have purchased at least eight different products from Battlefront in total. This does not count the different upgrades that I have also purchased. The work that goes into their games is pretty amazing and while it would be nice to get a bone from them now and again those coders have to eat too. I believe I had one problem with a serial number with an installed game, when their DRM was somewhat draconian. The problem was taken care of in one day by Elvis C., so I am at a loss over all of the hubbub at times. 






 So here we are with Combat mission Shock Force 2. I will admit that compared to the other titles I have purchased, the original Shock Force did not grab me and I did not play it much at all. Shock Force 2 is a different animal for me. Is it because of all of the upgrades to the engine in between, or is it just something battlefront did differently this time? I don't know. This version of the game is very engrossing to me. This is pretty amazing, because I am usually pretty blase about gaming after World War II. The visuals in all of the Combat Mission Game Engine 4 environments are pretty stunning.






 As far as game mechanics go I will go through the rundown, but if you are not new to wargaming, or haven't been living under a rock, it should be familiar. The game can either be played real-time or in WeGo 60 second segments. It is a tactical game that is played in the modern Middle East. Rather than rewriting it, I will list the games salient points from their website here:

  • Tactical warfare at battalion and below scale in a true 3D environment
  • Command individual vehicles, teams, and squads
  • Expansive simulation of "soft factors" such as Morale, Experience, and Leadership
  • Innovative systems portraying Fog of War, Spotting, Line of Sight, Command & Control, and Objectives
  • Unmatched realistic physics, ballistics, and battlefield effects
  • Fight in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, all of which realistically impact fighting abilities
  • Unique hybrid system for RealTime or WeGo (turn based) play
  • Full featured Editor for maps, scenarios, and campaigns
  • Quick Battle system sets up deliberate or randomized battles based on player specifications
  • Single player and head to head play, including Play By Email (PBEM)
  • Supported for the long haul with patches, upgrades, and expansions

 There is a demo you can try, and I will have a link to it at the bottom. If you want, you can also buy the game on a DVD and purchase a Combat Mission Game Engine Manual. The game can be bought with these modules:

Marines
British Forces
NATO




 For me, one of the big hurdles to get over is that this is not Grandpa's WW2. The lethality of modern warfare is shown in all of its potency. You cannot play the game as you would one of the World war II Combat Missions. Oh you could, but you will have smoking wrecks strewn about the battlefield in no time. These are some of the 'Special Features' Battlefront believes they have added to the game:


  • Detailed and realistic combat formation for the United States Army and Syrian Army
  • Two types of Syrian Unconventional Forces, Spies, IEDs, and VIEDs
  • One large campaign, a small training campaign, 20 standalone scenarios, and numerous Quick Battle maps.
  • On map mortars, mortar vehicles, drones, anti-aircraft fire, and other modern warfare features
  • Expanded arid combat environment, now including waterways, bridges, and other new terrain
  • Intricately detailed and highly realistic combat equipment for the United States Army and Syrian Army, including 41 vehicles and 35 assorted small arms and crew weapons.

  For the base game this is the TO&E:


US Army SBCT
  • Stryker Infantry Battalion
  • Stryker Infantry Battalion (MOUT)
  • Stryker Cavalry Troop
  • Stryker Antitank Company
  • Stryker Engineer Company
  • Supply Platoon
US Army HBCT
  • Combined Arms Battalion
  • Combined Arms Battalion (MOUT)
  • Armored Cavalry Troop
  • Engineer Company
  • Supply Platoon
Syrian Army
  • Republican Guard Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Republican Guard Tank Company
  • Republican Guard Recon Company
  • Tank Company
  • Reserve Tank Company
  • Static Tank Battery
  • Special Forces Company
  • Special Forces Engineer Platoon
  • Special Forces Antitank Platoon
  • Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Mech Infantry Battalion (BTR)
  • Reserve Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Reserve Mech Infantry Battalion (BTR)
  • Reserve Motorized Infantry Battalion
  • Reserve Infantry Battalion
  • Militia Battalion
  • Recon Company
  • Reserve Recon Company
  • Self-Propelled ATGM Platoon
  • Reserve Self-Propelled ATGM Platoon
  • Antitank Platoon
Syrian Unconventional Forces
  • Fighter Command
  • Fighter Groups
  • Combatant Command
  • Combatant Groups
  • Spy Groups
  • VBIED Group
  • Wire IED Group
  • Radio IED Group
  • Cell IED Group
  • Technical Group
  • Transport Group                





  • Vehicles, Weapons, and Support

    US Army
    • M1A1HC Abrams (Heavy Common)
    • M1A1HC SA Abrams (Situational Awareness)
    • M1A2 Abrams
    • M1A2 SEP Abrams (Systems Enhancement Package)
    • M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
    • M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV)
    • M7A3 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle (B-FIST)
    • M1064 Mortar Carrier
    • M1126 Stryker ICV (M2 50 cal)
    • M1126 Stryker ICV (Mk 19)
    • M1127 Stryker RV (M2 50 cal)
    • M1127 Stryker RV (Mk 19)
    • M1128 Stryker MGS
    • M1129 Stryker MCV
    • M1130 Stryker CV
    • M1131 Stryker FSV
    • M1132 Stryker ESV
    • M1134 Stryker ATGMV
    • M1114 HMMWV
    • M1114 HMMWV (M240B)
    • M1114 HMMWV (M2 .50 cal)
    • M1114 HMMWV (Mk 19)
    • M1152 HMMWV Expanded Capacity
    • M707 Scout Humvee
    Syrian Army
    • T-72M1V TURMS-T
    • T-72M1V
    • T-72M1
    • T-72M
    • T-72M (early)
    • T-62MV
    • T-62M
    • T-62-1975
    • T-62-1972
    • T-55MV
    • T-55-1974
    • T-55-1970
    • T-54B
    • BMP-2
    • BMP-2K
    • BMP-1P
    • BMP-1PK
    • BMP-1
    • BMP-1K
    • BRDM-2
    • BRDM-2 (AT-4)
    • BRDM-2U
    • BTR-60PB
    • BTR-60PBK
    • UAZ-469B
    Syrian Unconventional Forces
    • Pickup (PK)
    • Pickup (DSHKM)
    • Pickup (SPG-9)
    • Taxi (IED)
    • Pickup (IED)

     So, you can see that you have a ton of military hardware to play with, and this is just a list of what comes with the base game. There are other tactical games out and about, but for me the different Combat Mission games is what I always come back to. I could go on and on about what comes with the game and the modules, but your best course of action is to head there and check it out yourself. Remember there is a demo (somewhat strange in this day and age, but welcome) for you newbies or old hands to get some hands on time with the game.

     This is the link to the demo:
    https://www.battlefront.com/shock-force-2/cmsf2-base-game/?tab=demo
     This is link to the games main page:





    Robert
















Against the Odds Magazine #48 Apocalypse in the East and Balck Friday    ATO was unable to send me the #48 iss...

Against The Odds Magazine #48 Apocalypse in the East and Balck Friday Against The Odds Magazine #48 Apocalypse in the East and Balck Friday

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














 ATO was unable to send me the #48 issue magazine, but they were able to send me both of the games from it. One game is about the fighting on the Eastern Front in December 1942. The next game is about the Rise of the First Caliphate in the years 646-656 A.D.

 We will start with the smaller game first; this is the Eastern Front game. General Hermann Balck was one of only twenty-seven officers to receive the Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds of the RitterKreuz (Knights Cross). In the game, the Soviets were trying to capture the airfields being used to supply the German troops in Stalingrad. On Christmas Day 1942, Balck's Panzer Division almost totally destroyed a Soviet Tank Army. This game comes with:

8.5" X 11" Map
100 die-cut counters
Rule Book 
8.5" X 11" Page of Charts and notes



Balck Friday Map

 The sequence of play is:

Air and Artillery Unit Determination Phase
Supply Determination Phase
Operations Phase
 A. Fire Combat
 B. Movement Only
 C. Movement and Fire
 D. Entrench
 E. Rally
End Phase



Balck Friday Counters


 The game is based on a chit pull system. The designer calls the chits 'Formation Activation Markers'. There are rules covering supply, stacking, and reinforcements. The game is only thirteen  turns long. Play takes 30-60 minutes per game. I was able to get a few games in and I like the game and the rules. The game shows what the German Army was still capable of at that time. Even in a situation where they were heavily outnumbered, the Germans were still able to mete out a large amount of damage to the Russian Bear. The game mechanics show this, so a good German player, although in a tight spot, can still win the game outright. Victory is won by the accumulation of Victory Points. These are given for eliminated enemy units, as well as for control of various hexes. The map is sparse, but works well for the terrain the battles were fought in. The counters are easy to read and self-explanatory.







 Apocalypse in the East is a totally different animal. I have to give tons of Kudos to ATO for publishing this game. The early history of Islam is not a subject that we in the West know much about. The rise of Islam took place right at the same time that the Byzantines and Sassanids had fought each other to exhaustion. The wave of Islam was able to very effectively make use of religious and other cultural differences that affected both empires. The game takes place during the time of the third of the Rashidun (Rightly Guided Caliphs) Uthman ibn Affan (ibn means 'son of' in Arabic). So, let us get on with the game.



Islamic Counters

Byzantine Counters

 These are what come with the game:


Map - One full color 22"x34" mapsheet
Counters - 200 assorted full color die-cut pieces
Rules length - 12 pages
Charts and tables - 2 pages
Complexity - Low
Playing time - 3 to 5 hours
How challenging is it playing solitaire - Average
 The sequence of play is:
A) Administration phase
 Events Table Segment
 Generate Replacements Segment
 Maintain Fleets Segment
 Mode Adjustment Segment
 Attrition Segment
B) Muslim Sea Movement Phase
C Byzantine Sea Movement Phase
D) Byzantine Patrol Movement Phase
E) Muslim Land Movement Phase 
F) Byzantine Land Movement Phase\
Next Turn
 

 The Byzantine player wins if he controls Constantinople at the end of the game, or kills Mu' awiyah ibn Abi-Sufyan. The Muslim player wins the moment he captures Constantinople.

 Some people might be surprised (I know I was) about how much sea movement and warfare took place this early in the wars between Islam and Byzantine Empire. This age also saw the creation or remembrance of the terror weapon 'Greek Fire'. The exact recipe for this horrific weapon of war is lost to us, but scientists and historians working together have come up with several theories on the matter. Some historians believe that Greek Fire was the only thing that saved the Byzantine Empire at this time. The game comes with rules for its use.



Inset of the Apocalypse in the East map


 Sieges and assaults on towns/cities are a large part of the game. The Rulebook is well done and easy to read and understand. You are not lost in it trying to make up your own conclusions. The map is your normal magazine wargame type. It is highly functional, but maybe a bit dull or dark in the colors used. The counters for the most part are also well done, but some of the darker colors used on them caused me to have some problem reading some of them. One of the things that has always made wargaming magazines great is their courage in letting games from obscure periods see the light of day. I am sure some designers feel trapped in our sometimes 'Bulge or Gettysburg' world. Thank you Against The Odds for letting me review these two good, seemingly disparate, games.

Robert





  








Napoleon at Dresden: The Battles of August 1813 by George Nafziger   The 1813 campaign in Germany is probabl...

Napoleon at Dresden: The Battles of August 1813 by George Nafziger Napoleon at Dresden: The Battles of August 1813 by George Nafziger

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



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 The 1813 campaign in Germany is probably my favorite campaign to read about or wargame. I am also a big fan of the author George Nafziger. This is the second of a three volume series by him about the 1813 campaign. The first book is 'Lutzen and Bautzen: Napoleon's Spring Campaign of 1813'. You can see my review of the first book here:

 The book goes through four major battles of Dennewitz, Gross-Beeren, Dresden, and the Battle of the Katzbach. The smaller, but incredibly important Battle of Kulm is also described. Dr. Nafziger shows us how the Allies completely changed their strategy after the armistice that divided the two parts of the campaign. The Allies decided to swallow their pride and retreat if Napoleon himself was in command of the French troops in front of them. The Allies would then attack the other French Armies under one of Napoleon's Marshals. They neglected to follow this strategy at Dresden, and came close to losing the war along with that battle. 

 The author has added a large amount of paintings, portraits, and a plethora of maps. There are nineteen colored maps alone. There are two appendices, and the Order of Battle breakdown is a full sixty-six pages! The book itself is 258 pages long. The information inside is invaluable for a student of the campaign.

 The 1813 Campaign in Germany is full of missed chances on both sides, but especially on the French side. Dr. Nafziger fills his books with facts, figures, and deep insights into the moment of history he is describing. If you are looking for a book that is filled with personal accounts of the campaign, then look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a sweeping view of the campaign from strategic to tactical, this is your book. Thank you, Casemate Publishers, for letting me review this excellent book.

Robert

Publisher: Helion&Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Campaign of Nations by   Hollandspiele    It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles ...

Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele Campaign of Nations by Hollandspiele

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


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  It is the second half of the year 1813. Napoleon had won two battles earlier in the year, Lutzen and Bautzen. Both were empty victories for the French, having almost no cavalry. What cavalry they did have was mounted on any nag the French could find. The Allied had a large amount cavalry and they were well trained and mounted. Napoleon had agreed to armistice after Bautzen was fought. During that time the Prussians and Russians, with English money, had brought Austria and Sweden into the war. The Allies had also come up with a new plan: to run away like Monty Python from a battle with Napoleon, but to always keep moving forward in other areas and attack his Marshals. That is enough of the history. What about the game?



Counters

Rule Book



  I must admit up front that I am a fanatic about the 1813 campaign. Napoleon in Italy or Austerlitz, ho hum, but give me Lutzen, Bautzen, or Dresden and I am in wargaming heaven. So this game had better be good.


Cards

 Hollandspiele as a company has a policy of minimalism with its games. Not for lack of resources, it just seems to be their modus operandi. Designer John Theissen fits right into this way of thinking. I have played and reviewed his 'More Aggressive Attitudes', and it is a study in minimalism. To be a good wargame, you do not need to have a monster map and a thousand counters. What you need is a good background in the history of the campaign/battle and a rule book that reads well and makes sense. 


Victory Point Cards



 The game comes with:

  • 22" x 17" map
  • 88 counters
  • 27 Event Cards
  • 8-page rulebook
  • 1 six-sided die

 This is the sequence of play is:

1. Movement
2. Combat
3. Disruption Recovery
4. VP Check
 The French player always goes first.

 The Combat Phases are these:

1. Retreat Before Combat
2. Concentrate Forces
3. Reveal Combat Units
4. Coordination Check
5. Combat Odds Ratio
6. Combat Results Table Die Roll
7. Casualty Table Die Roll
8. Defensive Works Table Die Roll
9. Apply Results


Charts

CRT Etc.

 The Event Cards add some great flavor and turning points in the game. These events include:

Safe March 
Turns of Rest
Austrian Reorganization

 The game is won by winning battles, and by taking victory cities/hexes.

 The minimalism of Hollandspiele is noticeable in the map also. It is highly functional and easy to read, but is simple. The counters follow in the same vein. They are easy to read with NATO symbols, so the player has no trouble distinguishing them from one another.


Main Part Of The Map

 If the game is missing anything, it would be the first part of the 1813 campaign. The slightly different rules from the earlier game are to simulate Napoleonic Warfare. I believe that they work very well.  Playing as the French, you have to try and catch one of the enemy armies and destroy it and then the others. Playing as the Allies, stick and move until you can bring the French bear to tree. I have reviewed several Hollandspiele games, and to be truthful it is hard for me to pick a favorite. Going only by the content I think it might be this game, although Horse and Musket also grabs me because of the content. Thank you Hollandspiele for the chance to review another great game.

 This is the link to the Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era review: 
https://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2018/07/horse-and-musket-dawn-of-era-by.html

 This is a link to the 'More Aggressive Attitudes' review:
https://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2018/04/more-aggressive-attitudes-by.html

 These are both excellent games. More Aggressive Attitudes is about the campaign of Second Bull Run. Horse and Musket: Dawn of an Era is a compilation of European battles from roughly 1690-1720. All of the favorites are here: Poltava (BOO), Narva (YAY), Malplaquet, Blenheim, and many others. Hollandspiele is a small company whose games are very good and they are also priced well. So, do yourself a favor and look them up. Their catalog is growing all the time.

Robert




The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union June 22,19 41  by Craig W. H. Luther   J...

The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union June 22,1941 by Craig W. H. Luther The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union June 22,1941 by Craig W. H. Luther

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




 by







 June 22nd 1941; Hitler said of this day "the world will hold it's breath". This book is entirely about one day during World War II. This was probably the most decisive day of the war. Hitler's decision to attack the Soviet Union sealed his and the 1000 year Reich's fate, although at times during Barbarossa it seemed like the Germans were close to victory.

 The book starts with Hitler making his decision to attack the Soviet Union. It continues with the planning behind Barbarossa. The author shows that there was a fundamental difference in the thinking of Hitler and his General Staff. The General Staff's plan was always based on taking Moscow and then finishing the other operations. Hitler, however, had no interest in taking Moscow. He wanted to take Leningrad and the resources of Southern Russia. His thinking was to link up with Finland, but mostly he needed the oil and ores of Southern Russia.

 The author has filled the book with everything he could: facts, figures, and maps galore. From the build up of the German Army on the Russian (right under the Soviets' noses) frontier to the unleashing of Barbarossa, the book brings you all of the background and information you would want. It also has a good number of photos showing the action, troops, and military hardware during that fateful first day.

 The story of all three German Army Groups are shown (North, Center, and South). It also shows the day from the Soviet side as well. From the outside, it seemed that the Germans had the day all their way. However, there were signs that showed how brutal and difficult this invasion was going to be for the Germans.

 The book covers all of the ground from the highest strategy of the attack to the tactics used by the combatants. The book is interspersed with first person accounts of the fighting as well. The book is separated into the planning, and then has chapters on the actual fighting taking place within all three German Army Groups' territory. It then goes into the Air War. The next chapter goes into the different thoughts and actions taken by both High Commands after the first day. The author shows, through their letters etc., that the simple German soldiers already knew on this first day that their war was now different. The savagery and brutality of the Eastern front was apparent to all even during the first twenty-four hours.

 The book comes with numerous appendices and copious notes. It shows the war in the air, and on the ground. I can recommend it to anyone who is interested in the military history of the Eastern Front. Thank you Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group for the chance to review this excellent and well written book.

Robert

Publisher: Stackpole Books

Battle of Korsun by Yobowargames  Let us set the scene. It is 1944, and there is a German group of troops in an expose...

Battle for Korsun by Yobowargames Battle for Korsun by Yobowargames

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

Battle of Korsun

by

Yobowargames





 Let us set the scene. It is 1944, and there is a German group of troops in an exposed position in Russia. The Russians are smelling blood, and intend to cut off a large group of Germans. The 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts were tasked with cutting off an exposed group of German soldiers that were part of Army Group South. The whole debacle was engineered by Hitler's refusal to ever voluntarily give up a yard of ground in Russia, even if it meant whole armies would be sent to Siberia. By 1944, the Russians couldn't have had a better ally than him. Your job as the German player is to get out of Dodge. As the Russian player you are tasked with bagging the entire German force.

 So, let us now look at the game. First, it is a turn-based strategy game with each turn equal to one day. The version I played was on a PC on Steam, however, you can also play it on a MAC, IOS or Android. You can play only as the German player if you want to play against an AI. You can also play by email or hotseat. Now, back to the AI. It plays brutally with a capital 'B'. The Russian AI gets the first move against your forces in the western part of the map. When I say move, it is a euphemism for the destruction and devouring of your units. The AI also will go for the jugular and try for as deep a penetration as they can with their armor units. Your first look at the map after the Russian turn as the Germans will probably tempt you to end the game and shut down the computer. Just like Ronco, just wait there's more. After you try and move your forces away from the Russian tide, you will notice that you cannot move any of your units on the Eastern side of the map (unless you read the rules). So you have to endure a second bloodletting, usually as bad as the first. So, after two Russian moves your tattered forces are left to try and defend themselves and keep a line of supply open to the Southern part of the map. I have never juggled chainsaws, but I have seen it done and the task given you is almost as hard. Lance Craner is the person behind the game and he should either be congratulated or put away in a locked room. His sadistic tendencies toward we helpless gamers should not be overlooked by other game companies or the authorities. 


First Bloodletting


 The game is simple. There are no air units, and no supply to worry about, other than the German side keeping an open one to the South. The only real addition to the game is the effect of weather on movement, and it is just as deadly as the combat. Unless you want to play the Germans as salmon swimming upstream in molasses, KEEP YOUR UNITS NEAR ROADS. I also suggest that you keep whatever fetish you have around the house close at hand, be it a rabbit's foot or whatever.

 I have to apologize to Yobowargames. I did not like this game at first. No, I will rephrase this, I loathed it. I actually thought to myself after losing the second time, that I would rather go to the dentist than play this again. At least he has good meds, even if they do wear off. So, I did not play the game again for a long time. I was actually going to pay them for the review copy and be done with it. I finally forced myself to fire it up again. Did I enjoy playing as the Germans? No I still don't enjoy it because I am not a masochist. However, I can now appreciate the work and give kudos to how historically real this game is. In reality, some German units did make it out, but pretty much with only the clothes on their backs. The game truly represents the terrible position that the Germans were forced into.

 The game also has some other things up its sleeve. It is so simple that it is a great way to introduce newbs into the hobby. The game itself goes for $15 US on Steam, so it is also easy on the wallet. While you are there check out Yobowargames first game 'Kursk - Battle at Prochorovka'. They also have a tactical World War II game that is going to go into early access soon: 'Valor & Victory'.

Robert

Reynard  By Hyper Fox Studios There's one thing I love about indie games, they delve into the world of old school graphics and a...

Reynard Reynard

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

Reynard By Hyper Fox Studios



There's one thing I love about indie games, they delve into the world of old school graphics and aren't defined by the stunningly realistic mainstream games that we are all used to in this modern age. Reynard will give you a nostalgic trip back to the past with it's 32-bit game style and Legend of Zelda feel, this RPG/Dungeon Crawler isn't one to miss out on. 

You play as a little fox and when you first start the game you're greeted by his friend Hammlet who helps you through the tutorial (he's is a pig if you haven't already noticed the pun in the name) and he helps you find the ropes with his sarcastic but lovable dialogue. After you complete the tutorial at the start, Hammlet's wife Prascilla is kidnapped and all he seemingly wants you to do is go and save her, as every time you talk to him this is all he mentions. 




This game is filled with little secrets from the developers of the game. A lot of RPGs do this quite subtly by using a 4th wall break, however the developers and all of the team at Hyper Fox Studios decided to do it in a simple way. They placed a book inside your characters house, that is filled with the developers names, kind of like the credits at the end of the game, but this is a charming way to do it and it's great for RPG fans who love to roam around finding easter eggs or finding hidden secrets that have nothing to do with the story. 

The dungeon crawler aspect of this indie title is pretty much the same as most games with a similar sort of story and mechanics. However using the keyboard to move and shoot enemies with your arrows can be quite tricky if you haven't got the timing right, as they tend to come at you quite fast and it's easy to die in the dungeon if you're not paying attention.
There's plenty of things for you to destroy in the dungeon besides enemies, you can destroy pots (this reminded me of The Legend of Zelda a lot) which then reveal health items or other items you might find useful on your travels.





The music in this game is almost hypnotic, it's quite relaxing which is ironic considering it's all about searching dungeons, however it still fits in with the game completely. It can get a little tedious at times when it's played on a loop but it's a great soundtrack for the game nevertheless.

You really have to learn some tactics in the dungeons because sometimes when you go into the next room it can be filled with monsters and other times there's none at all (from the dungeons i've encountered in the game, it's filled with giant rats who just want to kill you). I find it funny the main character is a fox, because it's this cute little animal going off to save other animals/creatures. However, he's so distinctive in his role and you don't see very many 32 bit style dungeon crawlers with the main character being a fox, it just feels right. 

If you're someone who loves collecting, searching continuously, or is just a fan of RPGs then this is the game for you. Reynard is available to buy now on Steam.








Mage Knight needs no introduction as it has topped many 'best of' lists since its release in 2011. It has consistently been vo...

Mage Knight Ultimate Edition Mage Knight Ultimate Edition

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Mage Knight needs no introduction as it has topped many 'best of' lists since its release in 2011. It has consistently been voted the best solo game of all time and it is a game that was on my grail list of games to learn and play. This is Mage Knight Ultimate Edition which includes all of the expansions and additionally 5 extra cards on top of what has already been released.

You can view my unboxing video of this monster-sized box below: 



If you're not familiar, players take on the role of a titular 'Mage Knight' as they explore a fantasy realm, fighting monsters, looting artefacts, pillaging monasteries and besieging cities. The 'realm' is an unknown quantity before you start exploring and your knight will encounter a plethora of fantasy tropes during their quest. There are a total of 18 different scenarios in the Ultimate Edition, 11 from the base game and the remainder from the expansions. The goal of each game is to achieve the scenario specific objectives before time runs out. 'Time' is tracked by a day/night cycle of no more than 3 rounds which initially feels very restrictive. Each scenario can be played competitively, cooperatively or solo, some would argue it's best at one player (I think I'm in that camp too).  Your character will level up, gain abilities as they defeat monsters and interact with villagers and mages throughout the land which hopefully has prepared you enough to take on a city.
Arythea starting her journey

Gameplay

Once you're familiar with the rules, the game can be reduced to a brain-burning exploration puzzle with generous helpings of high-fantasy. It has a reputation for being a very heavy and complex game but I think this is unfair. I read the majority of the 'Learn to Play' booklet and then watched Ricky Royals excellent playthrough videos which completely prepared me to tackle the introductory scenario, First Reconnaissance. The core system of the game is not hard to learn, the complexity comes from a lot of specific rules for each type of monster, site, or terrain tiles, which will also change from day to night.  However these specific rules breath thematic life into this optimisation puzzle of a game.
Rules(s) books
Each day or night round will start by rolling a pool of mana dice and drawing an initiative card to determine which player goes first. There will probably be some bonus as well described on the card to make the choice of initiative card a little harder instead of 'I want to go first I'll pick number 1', number 6 (the highest initiative card has the greatest bonus. The role of mana dice locks those dice to one of 6 different colours of mana, which can be used once per turn by any knight to power their Deed Cards. After a mana dice is used like this it gets re-rolled back into the pool. Despite the rolls being random, the mana dice really requires a level of skill to use optimally, the best play will nearly always involve at least one mana dice, but finding the best use of mana can be tricky.

The game, or your knight's actions throughout the land, is primarily driven by the Deed Cards that you play. Each card has two effects and when played, affords your knight a certain number of points in either move, influence or combat attributes. These points are then available for your character to spend by performing the associated movement and/or action once per turn. All cards can be imbued with mana which allows for the more powerful effect of the card to be played. Any cards played are discarded at the end of your turn and you will draw up a new hand so that you can start planning your next go whilst your opponent is taking their turn.  I can understand why people say this game is the best solo; with multiple players, there is often a lot of downtime, or conversely too much pressure to move when you're searching (often in vain) for better actions.
The first City is revealed
As you generate points from the cards you can explore new terrain tiles. Each hexagonal-shaped tile has a variety of terrain types on it from countryside to mountain and forests to deserts, both of which have different movement costs during the day and night time. It's little tweaks like this, littered throughout the game, that makes this game notoriously complex. However, I didn't find one 'tweak' that didn't logically fit or feel thematically correct. For example, moving through a forest is much harder at night and moving through a desert during the night is much easier. I don't have personal experience of the latter but I've read enough books to have been told that many times.

As you reveal a new tile you will place tokens corresponding to any icons in terrains spaces. At the end of your move, you may be able to interact with whatever token is in the terrain space you've stopped at. Again each site has their own specific rules however you'll primarily be attempting to generate enough influence points to hire some units to aid you in your quest. Of course, there are many other options available to you which all depend on what type of token you've stopped at. You can plunder, attack, recruit, buy spells, train etc. etc. The list is fairly comprehensive and because of the number of different options you have, not just in token interaction, but route choices, ability options when you level up and combat actions, the optimal path can be hard to find.
Random components
Often, the tokens you place onto the board will be monsters, or interacting at sites will cause monsters to spawn. The base game has a large array of different monsters from several different monster types. the most common are the orcs on green tokens. However, The three included expansions add an almost bewildering amount of stuff for the new player. If you are a new player coming into the game with this version as your starting point, for the sake of your own sanity, please only play with the base game for your first foray or two. Tokens can cause multiple enemies to spawn or a conjurer who will summon even more monsters to attack in their stead. It's never a nice feeling to face three enemy spawns when you were hoping for an artefact from a dungeon. 
Ultimate Edition cards
The combat system of this game is ingenious. It took me several games to get my head around it, especially as with your first game or two you're not going to see the more advanced enemies with a variety of combat-effecting attributes. Each time your turn ends on a space with a monster you will fight. If you don't defeat them straight away, i.e after one round of combat, you will take wounds into your hand and withdraw. It is a rather binary affair, you've got one chance to generate enough block and attack points to defeat them else you lose the combat. The points are generated in exactly the same way as movement or influence points are, but it is the careful use of mana tokens, crystals and mana dice (yes there are three sources of mana to juggle) which will allow you to be successful. Each fight will start with a Ranged Attack in which you will get a chance to attack the enemy. These attack points aren't that common on your starting cards and without additional units to play this is not likely to succeed. Next, the enemy attacks the knight, which can be blocked using generated block points. If the enemies' attack is not blocked your knight will take wound cards depending on the strength of the attack and their armour. After you've blocked the enemies attack, it is finally your chance to kill the enemy. If you can generate enough attack points to defeat their armour, congratulate yourself. You've just gained some fame and maybe some influence with the local population.

Wolfhawk versus a Minotaur
There are, of course, a multitude of different attributes that can affect the simplistic combat described above but generally they all work on the concept of doubling or halving the required attack or block points. The rules call this 'efficiency' if your block is efficient against the type of enemy attack, e.g. a cold block is efficient against a fire attack, (makes sense right?) your block points are applied fully. If your block is inefficient you will need to generate double the number of block points to have the same effect. Again there are a lot of different combat attributes that use a similar mechanism, e.g. swift attacks need twice the amount of block to be defended against, which to my mind is efficiency re-skinned. If you can get your head around efficiency any combat will be a doddle, to resolve if not to be successful!

As you defeat enemies and level up, more powerful abilities and spells will be available to you. If you're really good/lucky you'll maybe get a powerful artefact. However, during the course of any one game, you'll only see a small, if not tiny, selection of all the possible cards that you could have. There is a tremendous amount of replayability. It is this replayability that reminded me of Magic Realm, in scope if not depth, however, this is still dwarfed by that much older game.  No other game (that I've played) comes as close to the breadth and depth of Magic Realm as does this. Any game that evokes Magic Realm in any aspect is doing alright in my book.


A very special version of Magic Realm
The rules necessarily allow players to take back their moves up until something had been newly discovered. What this means is that your turns will be littered with indecision and doubt as you stumble to make the right choice and you'll redo and redo a turn to find a route that works. If you like min/maxing, or suffer from Analysis Paralysis then this could just be the best cathartic game to gorge on your idecision; however please do it solo. The time between turns can stretch out to be loooong affairs when playing with just one other person, let alone one that enjoys AP. The box states 1-4 players, however, my patience is exhausted at 3 players and I've not even tried it at 4. *shudder* 

Components

Let me get this off my chest, the box is massive, it's far too big and I'm almost considering ditching it. It takes up an inordinate amount of space on your shelves and there is no reason for it to be so big. there is a good 3 cm empty space at the top of the box.
Let's crush it
The insert is perfect if all you want to do is transport the game to a buyer undamaged; for anything else i.e. playing the game, it is terrible. It falls far short of being useful and I have already ditched it in favour of plastic bags and elastic bands.  Wizkids have attempted to provide afunctional insert, there are card slots for individual decks and spaces for the dice etc. but the tokens are all in the same slots which is less than helpful considering the setup time of this game. A third-party insert is almost a must although none are on the market as of Jan 2019 - I am attempting to design my own.
Bottom layer revealed
There is a dizzying amount of content when you throw the base game and all expansions in together. We are spoilt with games offering 50+ scenarios in the box (Gloomhaven et al) and I think the vast majority of scenarios go unplayed in those games; at least by me and my game groups. Mage Knight (the base game) has 11 scenarios but the re-playability is off the scale. The terrain will be different the encountered monsters will be different, as will be the spells, abilities and artifcats that you collect. I would rather have replayablility with a wide variety of content than lots of different scenarios using the same content.
Knights and Citys
The miniatures come painted, and as someone who enjoys painting minis to quite a good standard, the quality is terrible. However, as someone with limited time to paint minis I am very grateful that they come pre-painted at-all and they're certainly good enough to get the job done, i.e. look good on the table. A factory paint-job will never match the quality or time that a hobbyist can put into their own miniatures so they get a thumbs-up from me.
The one standout area of the games' artwork and design is in the cards. Each card has unique artwork that is evocative of the card's effect and beautifully drawn to a similar quality of a Collectible Card Game. The rest of the tokens and terrain are fairly generic but it gets the job done and, more importantly, clearly conveys all necessary information (once you're familiar with all of the icons).

Criticisms

Huge unnecessary box.
Insert doesn't help a long game set up and is actively keeping me from playing more.
Long time between turns when playing multiplayer.

Conclusions

This game wont be for everyone, but I couldn't do anything but recommend it to every gamer I know. It presents players with so many different and difficult decisions every single turn and the pressure to advance is constant; the first turn is as important as the last. It never feels unbalanced and I always have a niggling doubt that I could have played a hand better. There is no right way to play, but there certainly is a variety of good ways to play. I wonder if the best plays will still be elusive after 20 plays. I still dread going up against a city or even delving into a dungeon. But the challenge is always rewarding and this is one game where I come away thinking about the next time or things I could have done better.
Ignore the ruins, the red City beckons, Fire Dragon needs dealing with first...great game.
I prefer this game solo, or at most with 2 experienced players (I now include myself in that bracket...), playing cooperatively. I tried it with three and I've tried it competitively and it was not as much fun for me. I lost heavily when I was playing competitively but I'd like to think that doesn't sway my opinion (much), I just found the down time untenable and the disappointment of being outwitted by another player quite unpleasant. Which is strange, beacuse normally I don't care whether I win or lose a game I just like to play. 

I enjoy playing and regularly losing at chess, but that doesn't bother me at all. Chess is an abstract that doesn't tell me a story like Mage Knight does. I am invested with the story in Mage Knight. I want my knight to succeed and defeat all the things. A game that conveys a story without presenting you with a written narrative is doing something right in my book. Mage Knight has that quality in spades, the mechanics tell a story, a good story story at that, and that is what is going to keep me coming back to Mage Knight as often as I can; just as soon as I can make a different insert.

PixelPLaybox.co.uk