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SAIGON 75 from NUTS PUBLISHING ANNOUNCING THE FORTHCOMING KICKSTARTER Recently I was fortunate enough to receive a proto...


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





Recently I was fortunate enough to receive a prototype copy of this game to be launched on Kickstarter next week.  Consequently what I'll be sharing with you now is intended just to give you a flavour of the final finished professional production.  Above all the aim is for a swift playing game that can be completed in about an hour.  Quite an achievement and one which, for those of an older generation like me, has its acknowledged antecedents in  The Fall of South Vietnam from Yaquinto games.

Like that game and other companies more recent efforts such as Fire In The Lake and Hearts and Minds,  Nuts Publishing have gone for an area movement map.  For me this has always been my preferred way of treating the geography of this war when handled in its entirety, whether as a full blown simulation or a lighter treatment as here.

Though the prototype is on a simple paper map that needed to be assembled in four sections the final product is to be a mounted map and, if you've seen the quality of their paper maps from Urban Operations, I expect the standard for a mounted map to be very high.

For the components, like Fire In The Lake, the company have gone for solid wooden pieces.

However, considering the much lighter treatment and fast play-time there will be considerably fewer to consider!  As you can see from some of the prototypes, the dice are going to be customised with icons, a factor I've always enjoyed as in the Command & Colours series.  To round out the physical elements in the game will be a set of Event cards, which judging by these preliminary ones will certainly add to the thematic atmosphere of Saigon 75.

I've always been a fan of using period photos and these are just what I like in a game.  The current rules provide for using them in two different ways.  The way that they consider best when first learning the game is to start with a hand of three cards, play one each turn and draw a new card or the other way they suggest for players with more experience is to begin with a full hand of eight cards.  Personally, I like the first method as it adds a greater element of uncertainty as to what will occur and which player will ultimately be the one to play the Event.

There are a small number of colourful counters, some - those marked Quyet Thang -  to indicate NVA control, which is absolutely essential to victory, others are US airstrike markers.

At the moment the rule book is physically a very simple, black and white production with no examples or illustrations.  Though it certainly will not need the high quality illustrations and production values of the excellent rule and scenario booklets seen in Urban Operations, I'm still expecting a very attractive presentation.   Even as it stands, I found it very well organised and easy to understand, even without any illustrated examples.  So, no worries there.

As expected the North Vietnamese field both NVA Divisions and VC Battalions, while the South Vietnamese possess ARVN Divisions and an assortment of Ranger Battalions and Marine and Paratrooper Brigades along with a small contingent of River Patrol boats.  Despite its low unit density I was intrigued to see that both sides have to roll for the number of activations that they're allowed each turn, giving each player pause for thought as to where the focus will lie each turn.

All in all, this looks a smooth design, quick to learn, swift to play, but with its own distinctive features.  I look forward to seeing its progress on Kickstarter.

Once again, many thanks to Nuts Publishing for the chance to preview their upcoming game.

WW2 DELUXE: EUROPEAN THEATER FROM CANVAS TEMPLE PUBLISHING As quality of components has been a consistent thread in the majority...


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As quality of components has been a consistent thread in the majority of my reviews, I felt on pretty safe ground when I saw the word "Deluxe" in my current game's title.  Canvas Temple Publishing is a new undertaking that proclaims that it's "founded by Jon Compton and friends to publish games they want to publish without the pressure or angst of a publishing company trying to make a fortune."  Well, all I can say is that I'm glad they chose this as one they wanted to publish.  It's more than worth their effort and the quality shines out of it, especially the mounted map board.  

Apart from the large sized hexes to match equally large counters and the clear, but clear graphics, it stands out as the first eight-panel board that folds perfectly flat immediately on the very first play!  The subject is as obvious as the title announces and its treatment is at the opposite end of the monster spectrum of my recent review of Thunder In The East.  Here we've got the whole European war, West to East and beyond as far as Saudi Arabia and from the Nordic countries to the whole North African coastline.  As you can see the map is surrounded by a series of Sea Boxes that take you from America to the Persian Gulf

Just in case you don't want to play on this great mounted map, an identical gloss printed paper map is also included in the package.  Along with that is a large gloss card display for game set-up, plus three A4 sized gloss, double-sided scenario cards that allow you to begin the game from six increasingly later start dates.  Of these, three start dates will probably attract most attention Barbarossa, Overlord and Wacht Am Rhein. 

Set-up for the whole WWII 1939-1945

An important point to note about all these shorter scenarios is that you are still dealing in each scenario with the whole set of the European theatres.  So Wacht Am Rhein is not a focus on the Battle of the Bulge [you'd be fighting over a single hex!], but simply begins at that historical point.  With the low unit density and speed of play, even if the Barbarossa scenario had focused purely on the German invasion of Russia, it would have provided little more than a learning exercise for the system - and an interesting system it is.

Both the rule book and the double-sided player aid provide a thorough, detailed sequence of play, which appears to be exactly what you'd expect, but does contain some rewarding novelties.

Its essence is as follows:

Strategic Warfare
Axis Player Turn
Allied Player Turn
Armoured Action
End of Turn Adjustment

I'll outline the basics of each Phase with some comments on original or unusual features.

Strategic Warfare Phase

This begins with alternating player use of their air units to bomb cities, with any loss destroying a city's one production point ability.  Interception is allowed and results in air to air combat prior to the bombing attempt.  A notable rule is that units used now can still operate in later Movement and Combat Phases, whereas units used in those later Phases will be marked Ops Complete and unable to take part in next turn's Strategic Warfare Phase.
A very helpful example is given of key concepts
-above is the Convoy attack-
This is followed by an Axis Convoy attack in the Atlantic Box.  Initially the Axis fires and the losses are taken in Production Points.  Then both sides fire simultaneously and losses are taken in fleet steps, or air/submarine steps if they are present.  Here I feel a mite uncertain about being able to take losses from air units to avoid fleet losses.  However, it does provide further choice and decisions needing to be made which I always like as a feature in any game.  I also like the little detail that as the war progresses, the Allies improved ASW & Convoy ability is reflected by having the fleet combat occur before the Axis Convoy attack.  This means that if the Allies score more hits than the Axis, the losing Axis will have to withdraw and no Convoy Attack occurs.

Production Phase

This is a fairly standard process, with Production points being provided by each friendly city and applied to the relevant nation to upgrade [i.e. flip a reduced unit on the map back to full strength] or create a unit at reduced or full strength from a player's Force Pool. 

A few simple rules give an appropriate flavour to this process, such as Britain receiving 2 pts from overseas Dominions or US production being used purely for Lend Lease until they enter the war.  Minor powers' production is extremely limited, producing only a single point every Winter turn, and here it's important to point out that each year is made up of 4 turns with Winter being the first turn in each new year! Beware, this creates some confusing nomenclature, as a result e.g. the Wacht Am Rhein scenario begins technically in what is marked on the Turn track as "Winter 1945."

The meat of the game then takes place over the next three Phases:

Axis Player Turn

Allied Player Turn

Armoured Action

The basics are conventional, with Axis units moving and fighting, followed by Allied units moving and fighting.  Then in the Armoured Action section, the Axis move only their armoured units, but ALL Axis units have combat again.  This is mirrored by the Allies doing exactly the same, moving only their armoured units and then ALL Allied units having combat again.  Fortunately the low unit density makes what may sound a slightly lengthy process much quicker and easier than it seems.  

Also the limited terrain and its effects on movement and combat help to make both processes very straightforward.  However, despite the rules' overall simplicity, ease of understanding and application, there are some very interesting aspects.  The first being the single integrated Combat Table that has separate lines for each type of combat.

Just cross-reference the type of Combat with each player's total strength and both players simultaneously roll two dice, apply the hits and the player taking most hits retreats.  Should both players allocate applicable air and/or naval units to a land combat then separate Air v Air and Sea v Sea combat occurs first and surviving winning unit strengths are factored into the land combat.   Again the limited number of naval and air units make this a minor, but satisfying sub-process.

I also appreciate the fact that air and naval units do not actually move to the combat site but can be applied if in range.  Such units are then marked as Ops Complete and cannot be used again until the markers are removed in each individual Player Turn.  This achieves some interesting effects.  When the Axis player attacks any naval or air units they use will be unavailable for defence in the Allied Player's turn, but those Allied air and naval that defended will become available to attack on their own part of the turn at the expense of being unavailable on the following turn's Axis section.
A close look at some of the Allied Force Pool
Each player's identical movement part of their turn has its mix of familiar and not so familiar factors.  Simple movement factors coupled with the very limited terrain modifiers makes for ease of learning and execution.  What is most unusual is that all units [air, land and sea] can move in any order that you like within the Movement part of a turn, as well as employing normal movement, rail movement and amphibious assault where applicable.  Consequently, I'd strongly advise some simple practice of turning each unit to face a specific direction once it is moved to avoid confusion.

ZOCs too are slightly more unusual.  For land units they're perfectly normal, extending into all adjacent hexes, halting enemy unit movement, free to enter in the phase when all units can move, but costing +1 in the Armoured  phase.  But air and naval units project different ZOCs with different effects.  Naval ones extend three hexes, cause a special type of attack [a transit attack] whenever an enemy naval unit enters any of them and Naval ZOCs also interrupt the supply lines for all units in all hexes they extend into. 

Early Axis domination 

In what is generally a very straightforward set of rules the ramifications and intricacies of the different ZOC rules are probably the most complex element and have caused a few queries and uncertainties.  As is often the case, playing the game and using the rules tends to clarify their usage very satisfactorily.

On the other hand, occasions do occur when applying two different rules, do throw up some anomalous instances.  For those who demand absolute certainty this may cause problems or for  those who are simply rules-lawyers this may be a happy hunting ground!  As the latter type of gamer is generally one to avoid, enough said.

In the main then WW2 Deluxe lives up to many of its promises and expectations.  It does provide a fast playing game with its core of solid rules clear.  Though there are some uncertainties they tend to occur in more peripheral areas of minor importance.  As such this may not make it the best choice of game for a beginner, but for the experienced gamer it certainly provides a lighter experience of a massive topic that still manages to pack in many of the important historical factors of WW2 in the |European theatre.

The one thing I have wished for is a section of designer's notes, so often an element in many games.  Obviously not a requirement, but I'd have loved Jon Compton to share a few thoughts on the design. especially as among his many previous hats is that of editor of the magazine Fire & Movement, many of whose issues I still possess. 

Many thanks to Canvas Temple Publishing for providing a review copy and I look forward with great enthusiasm to the appearance of their next two WWII projects.  Both of them are topics that I think many of you will share my excitement for:  Admirals War which will cover the whole European and Pacific conflict at sea and Wacht Am Rhein, a perennial favourite.

RRP $79.95

Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid   Bonnie Prince Charlie, or 'The Young ...

Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid

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Culloden 1746

Battlefield Guide Third Edition


Stuart Reid

 Bonnie Prince Charlie, or 'The Young Pretender' if you like, and the last battle in Scotland to try and put the Stuarts back on the throne. Charlie's legend is based solely on roughly one year of his life. The culmination of which would be the Battle of Culloden, and his flight to the Isle of Skye. These are the end of the last time the Highlands, or at least some of them, rose for the Stuarts. It is also the last battle to take place in Great Britain

 Culloden cannot be looked at and dissected without the history of the year of 1745. One can make the argument that once the bulk of the Duke of Cumberland troops (and his bulk) had landed in Great Britain the gig was up for Charlie and his shoestring revolt. Therefore, Culloden was somewhat of a foregone conclusion. However, the attempt of Charlie to retake the throne for his father has passed down into myth. 

 This book is short at only 150 or so pages. However, it is one of the if not the best one on the battle itself. The book is filled with pictures. These are of the area as it is today along with many illustrations from the time. It is also full of maps. If there is one thing I want to change about military history books is the absolute need for maps, and plenty of them. With this book my personal crusade for maps is unnecessary. 

 The author spends the first twenty-six pages on the campaign leading up to the battle. After that the book takes on every aspect of the battle, and does it extremely well. The author walks a tightrope between all of the myths that have been built up on both sides of the battle. Charlie's almost successful campaign is the stuff of legends. However, his bad decisions , especially in appointments, has also to be looked at. The book does a great job of showing the reader the real history. It goes into the fact that the MacDonald's did charge, unlike some earlier books that follow the earlier accounts. As a bonus it is also a battlefield guide for those lucky enough to be able to travel to the area.

 My suggestion is buy this book, and put on the song 'The Isle of Skye' and have a great time reading a great book (that also has a lot of maps). I have read and reviewed a few of the authors other books. Do yourself a favor and take a look. 


Book: Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition
Author: Stuart Reid
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Hell in the Trenches Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War by Paolo Morisi    Arm...

Hell in the Trenches by Paolo Morisi Hell in the Trenches by Paolo Morisi

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Hell in the Trenches

Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War


Paolo Morisi

  Armies at many times do not get to choose the conditions and topography of where they fight. This was as true in WWI as in other wars. From the mud of Flanders, to the heat of the Near East, armies contended against each other. One of the oddest and roughest places to be fought over were the Alps between Italy and Austria-Hungary. It is absolutely amazing when the terrain is looked at that whole armies waged war on these rocky crags.

 This book is about the Italian Arditi and Austria-Hungarian Stormtroopers that fought over the above terrain. The book tells the story of both of these elite forces from inception to the end of the war. In doing so, the author also shows the reader all of the campaigns and battles that took place on this front. However, this is not all. Mr. Morisi also goes into all of the technical marvels that took place for both armies to fight a WWI trench campaign at these dizzying heights. The book is jam packed with pictures of the Arditi and Stormtroopers. It also has pictures that show how these armies actually fought at these altitudes.

 Both the Arditi and Stormtroopers were not copies of the German Stormtroopers. Both of these forces were thought up by intelligent officers on both sides of the wire at roughly the same time, while both sides were trying to break the stalemate of their trench battles.

 The author should be heartily congratulated on a book that is not only extremely well written, but is also about a very little known part of the Great War. The bravery and audacity of the Italian and Austria-Hungarian troops shows in every picture and almost every page. Mankind's ability to overcome nature is shown in the book to be absolutely astounding. The fact that both sides had to, at most times, use explosives and sheer manpower to cut their trenches into the very rock of these heights is mind boggling. 


Book: Hell in the Trenches
Author: Paolo Morisi
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games  The city enraged Hitler and he wanted the cradle of Bols...

Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games

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Leningrad '41


VentoNuovo Games

 The city enraged Hitler and he wanted the cradle of Bolshevism utterly destroyed. However, once his troops got there, he was so afraid of the house to house fighting in a city that he decided to surround it. So, Leningrad was forced to suffer a siege of almost three years. What went wrong, and could you have done better than von Leeb in 1941? This game was produced to answer that very question.


 This is a block wargame, just like all of VentoNuovo's games. The map is a beautiful piece of work (as are all of their maps). The map is divided into areas, and is large at 62cm x 84cm. This is the second game of this series on campaigns from the Eastern Front. Moscow 41 and Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga are the other two, soon to be followed by Kiev 41. The blocks are 15mm x 15mm, so they are smaller than most used in block games. Some areas on the map are small, so even with the smaller blocks there is congestion to deal with. The stickers are, again, small pieces of art that really should be larger to show them off. The whole game production exudes quality. The game comes with four full sized and thick full color players' aids. There is a five page historical analysis which is excellent all by itself. Here is a list of what you get with the game:

Heavy Cardboard Map 62cm x 84 cm
110 Wooden Block Units
124 PVC Stickers
100 Other Wooden pieces for initiative, Bombers, Defensive     Positions etc.
2 Lightly Laminated Player's Guides
3 Short Scenarios, and the Campaign Game


 This is the sequence of play:

Logistic Phase (2nd,3rd,4th,5th,and 6th Turns)
Impulse Phase (Combat, HQ Activation etc.)
Final Phase

Soviet Navy Counter

  The game itself is a challenge for both players. It plays almost exactly like Moscow '41 (a favorite of mine) except for the addition of the new terrain. The German player can, if he is good enough, take Leningrad. The Soviet player seems weak, but he can forestall his opponent's attacks, and slow him up to take the win. The game is very finely balanced between playability and history. All of the scenarios start after the Germans have already captured Riga. There are tactical HQs for both Zhukov for the Soviets, and Mannerheim for the Finns. Both can be game changers if used correctly.
Random reinforcement makes the game a very good solitaire game. Once you get closer to Leningrad, the terrain is heavily forested with some swamp. This means that the German player has to slow down regardless of the opposition. The German player can make good time through Estonia etc., but then has to slog through these areas along with tougher Soviet opposition. The German player also has to decide what he is to do with the Finns. Historically the Finnish troops only moved to take back what territory they lost in The Winter War in 1939, so they were really not much help to the Germans. The rules allow the Finnish troops to attack first in any battle (a nice touch). As the German player, you also have to decide whether to spend any resources to try and take Murmansk. So, the game comes with the chance to blitzkrieg, but also attack and defend in swamps. The varied terrain taxes both sides to play their best. As with the rest of Vento Nuovo Games this game is also very suitable for solitaire play. I will caution the German player that Leningrad looks a lot closer on the map then it will turn out to be.

Playtesting shots

 VentoNuovo has been able to take the simplicity of block games, and add in rules, while easy to understand, that represent the historical campaigns to a tee. So a player gets the best of both worlds. The game is easy to setup, learn, and play, but still be deep enough for us grognards. The formula is a guaranteed success, and it shows by all of their games' ratings by players. Thank you VentoNuovo for the chance to review Leningrad 41. Here are links to the game and company, and some links to other reviews I have done on their games. I cannot wait to do a review on Kiev 41.

Accessories you can buy

Vento Nuovo Games:

Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to t...

Treasure Island Treasure Island

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

Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to take on the role of a pirate hunting for Long John Silver’s treasure or Long John himself, giving out black spots and misdirecting the player pirates as much as possible.  It is a one-against-many game in the same vein as Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula but plays in a fraction of the time primarily due to the hidden treasure being in a fixed location; meaning the hunting pirates are able to quickly narrow down the possible areas each turn.


The game is played in a series of days in which the Long John player will manage the board upkeep and frequent daily events after which one of the hunting pirates will take one or two actions, normally consisting of moving and/or searching.  These actions are drawn on the map of the island which makes up the game board.  After a pirate has searched, the Long John player may give the searching player a hint token (!) or move the game into the next day.  
In full swing, Long John is about to escape...
It is bizarrely in Long John’s interest to give hint token to the hunting pirates as this will allow the play of some of their more helpful cards i.e. those that give less information to the other players.  Although the Long John player does have a miniature for their character it will only come into play near the end of the game and will mostly be locked in prison for most of the game.  The game for the Long John player is really one of Game Master and may not be as much fun for some players.

Only one player can win the game, which will be when the active pirate successfully searches for the treasure or the Long John player succeeds in getting to the treasure before any of the other pirates.  The focus of the players subtly changes depending on the phase of the game and is a nice mix of competition and cooperation.  Players are actively encouraged to lie about the hints that Long John has revealed to them, they’re pirates after all, but their actions on the board afterwards will probably betray them.
The hints quickly reduce the search areas
Long John also has a limited opportunity to lie to the players.  Whenever a hint card is played, Long John has to play an information token.  The information token will either indicate that the hint is genuine or a bluff which could mean the hint is false…but not always.  This is where the majority of the game is for the Long John Player – deciding which hints and information tokens to use.  However, they will only have access to two bluff tokens throughout the course of the game so must use them carefully.

Over the course of the game, Long John will give all players 7 hints, 2 of which will have bluff tokens.  However, the players can only see the information token if they use a once-per-game special action to reveal to themselves a single information token.  They are free to discuss it with the other players, they’re just not allowed to reveal it to anyone else.  This permits and encourages a bit of good-old-fashioned skulduggery between the players and will hopefully even things out, just a little bit, for the Long John player who in all likelihood will not often win this game.
Uh Oh, Long John loses again.
Instead of taking a normal action, (move and/or search) the players can also do a limited number of special and unique actions.  These are crossed off as they are used but they do enable private information to be collected by each pirate.  This information may never be shown to the other pirates but the players are free to lie about it.  This felt a bit redundant as a rule as any discussion by the active player was often assumed to be a lie.  In my game groups, we most often resorted to not revealing any private information as anything offered was considered a lie and only served to confuse the picture.  The only time this was not true was when a pirate looked at the information tokens – that often started some healthy debate around the table.  

A pirate’s private information is stored on a mini-map and mini is definitely the right name for it.  Visually impaired players, by any degree, beware.


This game follows the modern trend of absolutely gorgeous components.  The protractors are a unique game accessory that often got passers-by commenting.  The game comes with a variety of Perspex markers to indicate distance and compass directions which all look great.
Thematic bling
The art throughout the game is sumptuous and this is shown on the player screens and on the board (I’m a sucker for any type of map).  You also get a little treasure chest in which Long John will pass the searching pirate a clue or treasure token.  After a while, we stopped using the treasure chest and just passed tokens in a closed fist as it was less faff but we definitely felt that a little bit of the fun was lost doing that.  
The box insert is almost a bog-standard cardboard trench but in this, you get a liftable flap.  I don’t know what they intend you to store in there but I find it very useful and wonder why more publishers don’t have nearly as simple, but far more functional box inserts like this.
Loving that flap!


A lot of the components use a thin (but glossy) card stock.  I presume there are challenges (and expense) with getting the glossy finish onto a thicker card stock but I would prefer the card to be thicker. However, I haven’t noticed any fraying or damage as yet after half a dozen plays or so.  I do have some concerns over replayability after a higher number of plays but at the moment I’m still enjoying it and I know everyone that’s tried has had a good time with it, especially the hunting pirates.
Endgame private pirate scribbles
I’m not sure this game is balanced fairly for Long John Silver.  It seems that it is quite hard for that player, albeit they’re usually more experienced, to win.  I think the next time this hits the table I will try different starting locations for the pirates, i.e. maybe all starting on the same beach or 3d print some slightly smaller templates to use in the game.  However, never winning as Long John Silver didn’t necessarily bother me and this is a fairly unique and fun game to both newcomers and experienced gamers.
The rulebook is fine, despite what some naysayers say


I love the theme of this game and although there is very little plot from its namesake (black spots aside) the pirate theme and buried treasure game all shine through the components and simple ruleset.  Set-up is fairly quick and if the pirates are lucky, i.e. find the treasure, a game can be finished well inside the 45’ minutes on the box.  If the game goes into the endgame and Long John is trying to dig up his treasure then those games will, obviously, go a bit longer but no more than an hour (ish). 
Long John loses again...
I would describe this as a long filler, it can be a bit of a brain burner for the Long John player, who may try to balance the hints given to each player and the additional hints revealed throughout the game but you shouldn’t really be playing this if you’re attempting to work out every permutation.  It was designed to be played quickly and for fun and it succeeds at both.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, I would prefer something a bit heavier, but I know that it will hit the table regularly at one of my game groups and I will be happy to take part in it and try out my best pirate voice.

I would like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy and if you’re interested in purchasing this game I would recommend supporting your local game stores or game cafes, you can use this link to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Matagot
BGG Page:
Players: 2-5
Designers: Marc Paquien and Vincent Dutrait (Art)
Playing time: < 1 hour.

NORWAY 1940 FROM TRAFALGAR EDITIONS It's interesting that, following two famous Napoleonic battles, Trafalgar Editions turned t...


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

It's interesting that, following two famous Napoleonic battles, Trafalgar Editions turned to this seldom gamed battle from the early years of WWII.  Even more so, in that this represents a move towards a more familiar style of board wargame.  Gone, almost, are the measuring counters and miniatures-influenced systems of the previous two games and in comes more familiar area style movement and cardboard units.  I say almost, because there's still a single, simple measuring stick for air movement!
Just to prove it!
What also remains is the high standard of production.  I can't think of another game box where a simple, vivid white background has been used to better effect.  Unfortunately the camera cannot adequately reflect this or you wouldn't be able to see the picture!  It's complemented by three subtle grey images depicting the three military arms of air, land and sea.  But dominating in startling style is the use of dark maroon, grey and black to depict Norway while symbolising the ribbon against which the central iron cross stands out.

Inside the box, the superb double panel mapboard is equally stunning.  Though the use of a substantial part of the board area to display all the key charts has its definite uses, it does detract from the highly effective and striking map area.

Two of the main play aids that also act as screens for secret force allocation continue this standard of production.  They carry evocative scenes on the front and symbolic images on the two side panels.

Inside are printed reinforcement schedules and the displays [see below] that they screen provide information about the Naval Combat and Transports pts each side receives and a display of Task Forces for placing naval and land units on.

These displays are functional in simple black and white printing, but despite their seeming clarity, there are issues in understanding the information that they are meant to convey.  These problems I'll consider later, when I look at the rule book.

The final components are a fine range of units and markers in two sizes.  The die-cutting is first-rate, with every single one pressing out of the counter sheets perfectly.  All three military arms play their part in this game, with land and air units being substantially larger than the naval units.  In part, this is because the former two have more information to convey while naval units come in basic generic points that do not distinguish types of vessel.

Counters galore
The rule book is physically the best produced of Trafalgar Editions three games, but also the most complex and at times the most confusing.  It's a substantial design, partly because all three military arms are treated in equal depth and introduce some novel features.

A typical turn has five stages:

Weather Phase
Supply Phase
Naval Phase
Air Phase
Land Phase

The Weather Phase

A help to learning the rules is that not all of these Phases or some element of them occur from the very beginning of the game. For example, the Weather Phase is not needed until Turn 6.  From this point on a simple die roll with small modifications determines the weather in the three sea zones that run from north to south.  It's also important to mention that you need to be alert to the difference between a Turn and a Day.  Sometimes the rules will clearly state that something happens on a specific Turn [as Turn 6 above], but more often it will refer to a Day.  For example, the first German forces start on Day 7.  This refers to the actual date, in this case the 7th April, which is Turn 1 of the game.  So, be careful, it's easy to slip up as the Turn Track doesn't print the turn numbers, only the dates!

The Supply Phase too doesn't begin immediately, but only from Turn 7 when the Germans must start to check for land units being in supply and try to bring in supply by air or sea for units that are out of supply while the Allies simply trace to a city or port.  In contrast, air and naval units never need to check for supply.

The Naval Phase

It comes as no surprise that the Naval Phase is important right from the start, as the only units that form the Set Up are the Norwegian units most of which are land units with small numbers of naval units in the ports of Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen and Kristiandsand and a single German fleet of German naval combat points at sea transporting a single mountain regiment and a small quantity of supplies.

The essential Naval rules are fairly straightforward, but cover an interesting range of actions.  Features that I liked are that Task Force markers are used which have a detected and undetected side, as well as a number of Decoy Task Forces.  The first two turns' German Task Forces are predesignated with specific land units being transported by the accompanying Naval Combat points of ships and each task force has a pre-set destination port .  This is unusual, but the rules explain this simulates the historical fact that these early troops were transported by warship.

From then on the German player uses a pool of Naval Combat Points and Naval Transport Points to create their own Task Forces and selecting which German land units are shipped aboard the transports and where they will be sent to.  I love the concept of this and the realistic and immersive feel, but here I encountered the main problem referred to earlier in that the rules leave far too much to be deduced and worked out from cross-referencing scanty rules and charts with too little information.  That said, Trafalgar Editions were excellent in answering my flurry of emails to help me make sense and arrive at the correct game play.

By contrast, the Allied Player has a much more prescribed and clear set of reinforcement details on their chart.  Though it is here that the care needed to distinguish "turns" from "days" mentioned earlier has to be born strongly in mind, as well as a careful reading of the rules.  Once the problems encountered in this area had been solved, it was into the joys of composing the make-up of the Task Forces, trying to avoid detection or achieve detection using both their ships and air reconnaissance, naval combat and landings.  Thrown into this mix is a small number of submarines and once again the rules were disappointingly unclear and needed the company's help to discover that they are a free asset that can be brought into play when desired!

The Air Phase

A final point to take care noting is that the Naval Phase precedes the Air Phase, though the rules present them in the opposite order. Each player receives a fixed number of Air Points each turn in three separate types [Fighter, Bomber and Recon], while only the German player also gets Air Transport points too.  Like most of the rules, there is a lot of small detail to absorb and often record, though the recording element of the game is easily carried out by markers on a few simple displays.  

The explanation of the different missions, airfields both on the Norwegian map and in boxes representing Great Britain, Denmark and Germany, German Parachutists and the many various limitations and restrictions take up three and half pages making this phase as detailed as both the preceding Naval Phase and the Land Phase to come.  
Added to this is the need to remember that bombers can be used to attack fleets, directly bomb land units to hinder their movement and
be used as land support to boost combat arms effects in the land phase.  It is a comprehensive array and matches the equally detailed set of naval rules, which are longer than even those for the Land Phase.

Land Phase

In fact, the rules for this phase are about the simplest in the whole game, except for two factors: the use of the less familiar flag system for showing unit size and a highly innovative combat system. The former has made its appearance in a small number of games over the years and in itself isn't hard to become accustomed to.  The only drawback is more for older eyes, as they are printed very small!

Combat, on the other hand, is a very unusual affair and one that I've not encountered before in 43 years of gaming!  Units do not have fixed combat factors.  Instead each unit possesses a die-roll modifier and rolls a separate die [either D6 or D3, depending on the size of the unit] to which the modifier is then added.  The results are then totalled, along with additional Combined Arms modifiers.  The differential between the two players final totals determines the losers losses.  This makes for some surprising results and makes any attack where the number and size of units is fairly equal a very uncertain and hazardous undertaking.  This is very strange, as the majority of games where the odds are more or less even tend to produce small losses to both sides, with no potential at all for massive losses.

For a game at this scale, it is most unusual to find a combat system where the winner of a combat suffers no losses at all and this is one aspect of the game that I would love to know the designer's intentions and whether there is something specific to this campaign intended to be modelled.

Overall, I've found the game intriguing.  I like the fact that air, sea and land all play their part.  For the Allied player I would say that the naval element is crucial to their possibilities for victory, while the German player dominates on land and his/her success depends on getting the bulk of those land units ashore.  So, in a way the naval battle too is crucial for the German!

In concepts and systems too the game has many pluses in the broad picture, but I find the many, many small points and exceptions make for a set of rules that are hard to encompass without fairly frequent rule checking.  If these were a set of rules that would be suitable to model a wide range of WWII battles, then eventual familiarity would be acquired.  But as they seem suited specifically to this one specific campaign in Norway, I can foresee the same learning curve needing  to be climbed in future outings. 
Norway defended - let battle commence.

Once again thanks to Trafalgar Editions both for the review copy and kind support.