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1914 Glory's End/When Eagles Fight by GMT Games  This game box actually contains two separa...

1914 Glory's End/When Eagles Fight by GMT Games 1914 Glory's End/When Eagles Fight by GMT Games

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





1914 Glory's End/When Eagles Fight


by


GMT Games




 This game box actually contains two separate games. Ted Raicer originally designed both for (sob) Command magazine. I don't have many of the Command magazines, but the few I have I keep pristine and they are some of my prized possessions. Mr. Raicer was like a prophet in the wilderness when he started designing WWI games. No one was interested in WWI; it was all static trench warfare without any room to maneuver or use any finesse. Oh, how wrong we were. World War I is actually one of my favorite eras to wargame, especially the Eastern Front. There you have sweeping and swirling campaigns. The first game, '1914 Glory's End', is about the first campaign on the Western Front of WWI. So it is about the German army's swing through Belgium to outflank the French and take Paris. This culminates with the 'Race to the Sea' and the 'Kindermord Bei Ypern' (The Massacre of the Innocents at Ypres). While history has taught us that the German reservists were actually closer to middle age, they were still massacred in droves. The second game, 'When Eagles Fight', represents the entire war on the Eastern Front. The chaotic nature of the first and second years of the war come through loud and clear.

 This is what is in the box for Glory's End:

One 34"x22" Map
Two countersheets
Two Player Aid Cards
One Pad of Roster Sheets
One Rules Booklet
One Mini-map 

 This is what you get for When Eagles Fight :

One 34"x22" Map
Two Countersheets
Two Player Aid Cards
One Rules Booklet
Two dice 

 GMT has done a complete overhaul of the original games. Not that the original versions were bad, but usually everything can be improved upon.

 Per GMT the difference from the Command version of 1914 Glory's End:

"The game scale is 9.5 miles per hex and three days per turn. The campaign game runs a full 30 turns, but the new edition will include not only a previously published mini-scenario on the Battle of the Marne, but a short ten turn campaign scenario covering the decisive opening weeks of the war. In addition the campaign games can be played in historical or free set-up versions."

 This is from GMT about the differences in When Eagles Fight:

 "But the new edition of When Eagles Fight is more than just a reprint of the original version. The Random Events Table has been exchanged for a system of random events chits allowing for more events. The effects if the Germans do not launch a Verdun offensive in France-which sometimes threw off the balance of the original design- have been revised. Changes in the stacking rules after 1914 more accurately reflect the effect of trenches on the course of the campaigns. And the map now contains the rail lines removed by Command from the first edition. The game also includes a short alternative-history scenario in which the bulk of the German army goes east rather than west in August 1914."



                       

 This is the Turn Sequence for 1914 Glory's End:

I. Allied Player Turn A. Reinforcement & Replacement Phase (Not on Turn 1)
 B.  Entrenching Phase (Turns 10-30 Only)
 C.  Command Control Phase (Not on Turn 1)
 D. Strategic Movement Phase (Not on Turn 1)
 E.  Operational Movement & March Combat Phase
 F.  Prepared Combat Phase
 G. Attrition Phase (7.12)
 H. Allied Victory Check Phase (Not on Turn 30*) *  On Game Turn 30 make one mutual victory check at the end of the turn, adding in all conditional VPs at that time.
II. German Player Turn
 A. Reinforcement, Replacement & Withdrawal Phase (Not on Turn 1)
 B.  Entrenching Phase (Turns 10-30 Only)
 C.  Command Control Phase (Not On Turn 1)
 D. Strategic Movement Phase
 E. Operational Movement & March Combat Phase
 F. Prepared Combat Phase
 G. Attrition Phase (7.12)
 H. German Victory Check Phase (Mutual Check on Turn 30*)

 This is the Turn Sequence for When Eagles Fight:

The Russian Player Turn is the first each Game Turn. Exception: When play begins, the Russian Player Turn of Game Turn 1 is considered to have already taken place, so play begins with the “Central Powers Regular Movement Phase.”
 I. Random Events Phase (From Game Turns 5 to 24)
 II. New Units & Withdrawals Phase A. Russian  • Reinforcements  • Replacements  • Withdrawals B. Central Powers • Reinforcements  • Conversions  • Replacements  • Withdrawals III. Strategic Movement Phase
 A. Russian
 B. Central Powers
 IV. The Russian Player Turn
 A. Russian Regular Movement Phase
 B. Russian Combat Phase
 C. Russian Attrition Phase
 V. The Central Powers Player Turn
 A. Central Powers Regular Movement Phase
 B. Central Powers Combat Phase
 C. German OberOst Combat Phase
 D. Central Powers Attrition Phase
 VI. Victory Check (Game Turns 2, 6, 11, 15, 20, 24) 




 Both games are listed as a '4' on GMT's complexity 'Meter'. So, they are both easy to get into for the player, and a good step up for new gamers from introductory games. Yet, both still have all the bells and whistles that Grognards love, such as Forts, Cavalry, Strategic Movement, Sea Movement, etc. 

 In 1914 Glory's End the German Player, just as in real life, has to smash through Belgium and its forts as quickly as possible. The German player has a timetable that has to be met if he is to take Paris. The German Player is given the historical choice of invading Belgium or not. If the German Player does not invade Belgium, Britain is kept out of the war for now. If the German Player reaches 20 Victory Points, then Britain does declare war. So you have to juggle the pros and cons of invading Belguim. I think most of us budding generals will choose to follow Schlieffen's thoughts on the matter. The Alied Player must delay the German Player as much as possible. The game shows how the original distribution of the French forces leaves the German Player a small window of opportunity in Northen France. The Allied Player has to play for time until his forces can be moved into Northern France to stave off defeat. The start of trench warfare on the Western Front is very effectively shown by the game's rules.

 When Eagles Fight gives the armchair general the chance to fight the entire war on the Eastern Front in World War I. This game is a strategic one instead of operational like it's brother. In 1914 the roles are reversed in Northeast Germany. The German Player must play for time and avoid being crushed by the 'Russian Steamroller'. In the South the 'Central Powers' Player must decide what to do with the Austro-Hungarian army (although I doubt anyone could do as badly as Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf it's commander for most of the war). Luckily for the Central Powers Player he does not have to worry about Serbia, other than not being able to move the 2nd Austro-Hungarian Army on turn one. The Central Powers Player does have to worry about the Italian Front after turn seven. The game's Random Events are full of opportunities or disasters that both players must work around. The Russian Player is hamstrung by ammunition shortages, just like in reality. The Russian Player has to decide if and when he will go on the defensive and what to do on the German and Austro-Hungarian part of the Eastern Front. Luckily for the Russian Player, the game's rules show the lack of cooperation between the Central Power's armies. The Russian Player is hamstrung by ammunition shortages, just like in reality. The Russian Player also has to worry about the threat of revolution depending upon how the war is going for them. 




 The games do unfortunately come with the maps printed on each side of one sheet. This means that unless you copy one of the maps you can only setup one game at a time. The maps are, however, done in typical GMT Games fashion, meaning that they are very well done with all the tables etc. at your fingertips without making the map look too 'busy'. The counters are your typical 5-6-4 type using NATO symbols. They are 5/8" and are very easy to read, even for old eyes. The Player Aid Cards are also very well done. The components are all up to GMT Games standards.

 These games were one of the few that we could play about World War I when they were released. We now have a multitude of games we can play on the war. Some are much more complex than these two games but I think both games have withstood the test of time, and are still two of the best in depicting their different fronts and scales. The Random Events for When Eagles Fight are only that, and do not dive into the realm of fiction or non-plausible as some games do. Do yourself a favor and pick up this great bargain of two great games for really the price of one. Thank you GMT Games for allowing me to review both of these games.


Robert

Today we've got an early look at the beta build for Close Combat: The Bloody First. The series goes 3D under the direction of Matri...

Close Combat - The Bloody First Preview Video Close Combat - The Bloody First Preview Video

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



Today we've got an early look at the beta build for Close Combat: The Bloody First. The series goes 3D under the direction of Matrix Games, and I'm excited to give it a spin. Check back in a couple weeks for coverage of the final product, releasing on October 3rd.

(Sorry about the audio on this video, I forgot to adjust settings and so my voice is drowned out by much of the shooting. You aren't missing much, just my ramblings.)





RICHARD III digital from  Avalon-Digital I've been a constant fan of Columbia Games ' many block games and was a daily onl...

RICHARD III - DIGITAL RICHARD III - DIGITAL

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

RICHARD III digital
from 
Avalon-Digital

I've been a constant fan of Columbia Games' many block games and was a daily online player of Hammer of The Scots with other gamers worldwide, when Columbia hosted their own site for play.  Sadly they chose to close that some years ago.  When I discovered that Avalon-Digital were in line to produce four of my favourite Columbia games: namely Hammer of the Scots, Julius Caesar, Crusader Rex and Richard III, I was hyper when I got the chance to review the first of the four that they are working on.



Being from the UK it was a double bonus that their first choice was Richard III.  At this point I should point out that I've been playing with a beta  model that is still in the process of being finalised.  Also its original physical version demands a very asymmetrical style of play from the two sides, so I was intrigued to see how well they would cope with this.  


For those of you unfamiliar with this game and many of the similar games produced by Columbia, its system uses an area movement map.  In this case broadly covering the Wars of the Roses, it features most of Great Britain.  In its original physical version, the units are wooden blocks to which adhesive labels designating the major lords who took part in these wars have to be affixed on one side, thus creating a simple but effective fog of war.  Around the edges are a series of pips that indicate the number of dice that are rolled in combat and an alpha-numeric value [e.g. A1, B3, C2 etc] that shows the number or less to be scored to achieve a hit and the letter conveys the order of precedence for firing.

In the case of Richard III, the game plays over three Rounds that represent a period of three Campaigns.  Each Round a player is dealt 7 cards and each player plays one at a time simultaneously and their value determines both initiative and how many areas can be activated and/or new blocks introduced on to the map.  Among these cards are a few that introduce special Events.  Victory is achieved by having the most nobles on the board by the end of the game or by eliminating all five of one player's potential claimants to the throne.

In essence the digital version is recreating all that the physical game covers both in what you see and how it plays.  Inevitably, though the map is identical, the reduction in size to a computer screen or tablet makes for several difficulties. The first is in distinguishing both the names of the areas and the colour of the boundaries between them; the latter being very important for deciding how many units may cross a border and whether they may continue movement or cease movement.  Though there have been suggestions that the ability to zoom in will be part of the final game, the copy I'm working with does not have that facility.  This is something I judge to be ultimately essential to ease of play.

The other factor here is that the map also has heraldic shields printed in the areas that show where nobles may be placed on the map when recruited.  Currently, this is physically impossible to see at all clearly, but the problem is avoided by potential areas lighting up when you place your cursor over the block you want to select.  That's fine, but it does mean that in the early stages of a Round you can spend rather a lot of time cycling through the blocks to check where they might be placed.   Also there is no take-back facility.

For those who prefer [especially when playing solitaire against an A.I.] to be able to way up multiple options that may be a feature that they will object to not having.  However, as one who tends to be a little impatient of those who suffer from excess Analysis Paralysis, I'm more than happy with the current process.

What is totally satisfactory is the combat sequence which is handled very effectively and certainly cuts out the sort of potential mistakes that can be made in a game with real physical components and opponents.  No getting the order of battling with units wrong, no having to remember which units have the special ability to conduct a charge or roll for treachery and no problem of remembering which units are reinforcing a battle or what happens on the odd occasions when the Attacker becomes the Defender. 
Instead you have a clear display, as seen above, showing which unit currently may fire and what its other options are.  When there is a choice of unit to attack it will also indicate those choices.

As in the original game, you will also have the option where to move your units to if you are defeated and have to retreat or where you can regroup to, if you are victorious.  The computer also rolls the dice for you - no cocked dice on a computer screen - and allocates hits totally accurately.  This is an excellent part of the program which speeds up immensely what tended to be the parts of the game that took up most time.

All in all, the game plays out swiftly and with no technical glitches.
However, there are currently two drawbacks.  The first is that at the end of a Round, nobles follow a set of rules for where they have to return to on the map.  This can be every important for your intended plans for the next Round, but at the moment the computer doesn't just decide for your opponent, but also returns your blocks too.  This is a very important element that needs to be returned to the player's active control.

There is one final concern and it is a major one; the quality of the A.I. for all its actions whether moving, moving into a combat situation or introducing new units to the board.  So far, playing either side multiple times I have won every single game and nearly always by substantial margins.

So, at the moment, the program has the potential to be a success and as a lover of these games I hope that ultimately the A.I. will be developed to the level needed to give a genuinely challenging opponent.














Fantasy General II revisits a classic title, over 20 years old, and hurls the series into the 21st century. How does the style and set...

Fantasy General II - Invasion Fantasy General II - Invasion

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





Fantasy General II revisits a classic title, over 20 years old, and hurls the series into the 21st century. How does the style and setting hold up, and how have the advancements in game design over the past couple of decades been used to improve over the original? 


The original Fantasy General, as the name implies, and as you may already know, is direct re-theming of Panzer General, the game that launched a thousand spiritual sequels. The core gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Panzer Corps, Order of Battle, Warhammer 40k: Armageddon, or any number of other games featuring turn-based combat on a hex grid, in which the player carries over units from mission to mission in a lengthy campaign. Sound familiar? I'm sure you've played something like it before. While Fantasy General II does not break any innovative new ground overall, it does offer a very satisfying rendition of this gameplay style.


Fantasy General II picks up 300 years after the events of the first game, which focused on the "Shadow Wars" which ravaged the land, leaving a shattered world fought over by numerous factions. This is especially true for the various barbarian clans of the west, who have been set against themselves by the powerful Empire of the east. No one has been able to unite the clans for many years, and they instead squabble among themselves. As the player, you take on the role of Falirson, son of Falir One-Eye, who is the chief of your barbarian clan. While the game opens with some simple missions where you fight and raid other clans, before long you are swept up in a high fantasy story of mysterious wizards, forest dwelling witches, and trolls galore. 


One aspect I love about the game is how it gives you plenty of chances for some light role-playing via choose-your-own-adventure style choices. These pop up both in and out of battle, and almost always have some kind of tangible effect. Choices that benefit you in the immediate moment can sometimes have consequences down the road in a different mission. What would be a simple, meaningless dialogue choice in most games, can sway the morale of your entire army in Fantasy General II. 


The writing and story are well done overall, avoiding the common pitfalls of such games by skipping on cliche, over the top characters and instead offering a set of characters who are grounded and speak in a realistic tone, given their circumstances. Important characters and even your own troops will speak up to offer valid points about what they think you should do or say when faced with a dilemma, and sometimes choosing what you believe is "right" will be met with sharp consequences.


In addition to hero units like the protagonist, your army is yours to create and customize as you see fit. Units you recruit are retained from mission to mission and gain experience in battle, allowing them to level up and become more powerful over time. You begin with just two unit choices, young barbarian warriors that are either male or female. These raw recruits then proceed up one of the two class trees as you scrape together the resources and cash needed to make the promotions. These can be tough choices, as you only get a very limited number of these resources (weapons, armor, and mana) and you have a need for just about every type of unit. 


The various unit types you can field all have advantages and disadvantages, special traits, and distinct roles in combat. There are shock troops, skirmishers, soldiers with shields for stopping ranged attacks, mounted warriors and ranged attackers of your own. Units can pick up special items over the course of battles, and use these to further specialize themselves. For example, an early item you get is a magic ring that makes the unit holding it fight better in forest terrain. While that might sound like a minor thing, there are numerous small tweaks like this which make all of your units feel unique. Your various individually named squads can also pick up permanent perks from one-time events hidden away here and there in the campaign, making them feel like they have a bit of history to them. It can really hurt to lose a unit that has been with you since the beginning, and has accumulated multiple boons. I'll be honest, I've reloaded more than once in order to save such a unit.



The campaign is a sprawling 30+ mission affair that will take quite a while to work your way through. Though I have not finished it entirely, I can say that so far the missions offer a good amount of variety. Some have you escorting a character through hostile territory, others task you with defending against invading hordes, and of course many involved you attacking enemy positions and defeating their army. Many areas of the map are covered in fog, and hide secrets well worth seeking out. Ancient ruins, caves, and more can be explored by your troops in order to find treasure and items. Temples give your entire army a buff as long as you hold them, and mana pools offer a steady supply of mana points for your magic users. There are also usually villages scattered around the map that can replenish your losses mid mission. 


One neat thing is this game is how casualties work. Every unit has a health bar. This starts off filled with green, but after combat sections will turn red. These are "wounded" soldiers which can be restored by having the unit spend its entire turn resting. Sometimes though, the red sections will be lost as well, these units are "killed" and cannot be restored except by visiting a village or replenishing them between missions. I really liked this mechanic, as it forces you to choose between pushing your forces hard, or slowing down to let them rest and be replenished. There is another mechanic which puts pressure on you to complete missions as quickly as possible, essentially the longer the battle goes on, the more civilians who flee the area, leaving no one around to tax after the battle. Without funds, you can't upgrade your units or buy new ones.



So, what about complaints with the game? This is one of those games where there really aren't any glaring flaws to discuss, but the experience overall probably won't blow you away. It's a fun, satisfying game, but not unlike games you have played before. With at least two expansion packs promised in the future, I suspect we will see even more variety in units and perspectives in terms of the story in due time. The core game will certainly please anyone who likes this sort of gameplay and wants a fantasy version of it. It's one of those games you can load up in under a minute and find yourself having a fun time just like that.  I look forward to seeing where they take this series in the future. 

Fantasy General II is available directly from Slitherine as well as on Steam and GoG.

- Joe Beard




THE LORD OF THE RINGS:  JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE-EARTH from FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES A new all-time favourite! There have been many gam...

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE EARTH THE LORD OF THE RINGS: JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE EARTH

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

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: 
JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE-EARTH
from
FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES

A new all-time favourite!
There have been many games that I have been enthusiastic about both in the 43 years I've been playing board wargames and in the more recent period that I've been reviewing for A Wargamers Needful Things.  But this is something special.

I have rarely spent in the past so much time playing any one game, as I have in the few weeks since receiving my review copy from Asmodee to whom I can only say a massive thanks.  This is a system I am going to be totally hooked into.  

First of all I want to make clear that this is not a game attempting to get you to play out or recreate specific scenes from either The Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit [whether you're thinking of Tolkien's original novels or Peter Jackson's films].   Nor is it a game that allows you to play out individual adventures as stand alone episodes.  This is a campaign formulated in a sequence of adventures pure and simple. The other absolutely crucial factor is that it is specifically an app-driven game that cannot be played in any other way, but before exploring that core part of the game, you need to have a good idea of the more traditional materials that you will be playing with.

Like many fantasy games involving exploration, your map board will mainly be made up of a series of tiles of different shapes and sizes that will be laid out as you travel the land.


Just a few of the many terrain tiles, plus our six heroes

Occasionally, your adventure will play out on a more conventional set of one or two boards described as Battle Map tiles [seen in the image below].  On these, terrain pieces will be set out such as bushes, boulders, tables, barrels, fire pits, statues, the walls of buildings or streams.  Such moments in your campaign tend to be the major confrontations.

Critical though these episodes are and often involving one or more powerful figures, I enjoy just as much and sometimes more the exploratory adventures where the map grows and your mission develops and branches.

Some have expressed their wish that the game had used tiles that represent specific locations drawn from the Tolkien oeuvre, such as the Prancing Pony or the Barrow Downs.  To achieve this would frankly be impossible, as it would need a mammoth set of tiles that would probably fill several boxes! To me this seems both illogical and highly constraining. To conjure up the multiple locations that emerge over the course of the campaign would be impossible except by using just such a generic set of double-sided tiles as the game does provide.

There is a wide variety of different sizes and configurations that build up to create an evocative landscape, such as the one below.
While we're discussing the terrain, I'd strongly recommend that you sort the tiles according to their numeric order at the beginning of each adventure for ease of finding and to maintain the smooth flow of the narrative.  

Here the app provides one of its best roles.  Each adventure - called a Chapter -  begins with you being instructed on the placing of a limited landscape, created from usually one to three tiles with a slight mist encompassing the direction(s) in which the land will develop as you explore it.  Text and voice describe what you can see and also you're shown where to place such things as exploration/ encounter/threat tokens and the minions of evil themselves.  A banner headline will also state your current objective.

Now you have an idea of how the land lies and what it looks like, I'll  move on to the figures in the landscape.  Surprisingly, the six heroes that you can choose from seem the weaker element in the physical casting of the models.  All tend to have broader, solider plains, as seen with Legolas and Aragorn here.

On the other hand, this did make them much quicker and easier to paint.


By contrast the enemies that they encounter are substantially more detailed as even a quick black undercoat and light brushing of white demonstrates.


Though I shall be going on to a complete paint job, even with such a basic preliminary coat the figures are beginning to take on more identity.  Though the range of enemies is relatively limited, which has raised some queries, I've been more than satisfied with all I've got in the core box.  The one thing that you can be sure of is that there will be more, much more to come in expansions. 


Nonetheless, there's plenty to engage with as illustrated on the contents page below.
In addition to the components I've already considered is a substantial range of cards that cover identical sets of Basic Skills for each character, plus each Hero's own personal set and a set of Role skill cards.  At the moment there are six roles offered, just as there are six heroes.  Very oddly, the one obvious missing role is that of wizard, just as the one missing Hero is Gandalf.  Definitely some complaints have been vociferously forthcoming about that omission! 

These cards form the heart of each Hero's play deck that provide the key mechanic for all the different tests that will have to be made during the course of a turn as well as an ever changing tableau of abilities that will help and augment your Hero's actions.  These sets of cards will slowly evolve over the course of the Chapters, partly through potential purchases and upgrades bought with Experience Points and Lore during the interim between Chapters and partly through Items awarded in the course of a Chapter.  

In addition at the beginning of the whole Campaign, each Hero draws a random Weakness card which serves as a minor encumbrance to clog up his/her play deck and more of these will be added occasionally, mainly as the result of unsuccessful tests.

On the opposite side will be found the Damage and Fear cards that will also build up; this time from such things as enemy attacks or a Hero finding themselves in darkness during the Shadow Phase which can best be considered as the time for evil to strike back.  These do not go into the play decks but are positioned near each Hero's character card.  Reaching your assigned capacity for Damage or Fear leads to a Hero testing for a Last Stand.  Failure in this dire situation will bring doom on the whole party unless they can accomplish the Chapter's objective before the next Shadow Phase.

The final items in the box are two superb booklets.  The first is the slim Learn To Play booklet.  Abundantly illustrated, it is one of the clearest and easiest set of rules that I've read.
A quick read through and you really have all the basics you need to play the game.  Backing it up is a much more substantial booklet - titled the Rules Reference.
Again this works perfectly to give you an alphabetic explanation of all the terms you might come across, primarily on the many cards, but also through the app.  Though the booklet does have an excellent index, it is really unnecessary as it is so quick and easy to find whatever word you want. 
Above you can see a typical extract from the extensively well-illustrated basic rules, while below is one of the excellent examples, in this case of the all-important use of testing.


So, eventually we come to the APP.   This vital part of the game has been developed to perfection.  First of all it is a very easy interface to work with - far easier to navigate than many another computer interface I've experienced.    Here is that all-competent games master you always wanted when in the past you were forced to draft in either the least reluctant player or the most easily lent on or, dare I say it, the megalomaniac member of your group who just loves cackling evilly!  

At last we have one who narrates the narrative text in suitable tones, doesn't make mistakes[very few glitches have so far been encountered] and handles so many of the mechanics of the three-phases of the sequence of play.


A typical screenshot on my ipad


Many games have sought to overcome that very problem of the neutral games master by turning the role into the highly aggressive one of being the evil overlord.  In Journeys in Middle-Earth, the app virtually drives everything.


This has led to two interlinked complaints.  The first is the amount of inputting, the second is that all you do as the active player is shuffle your card deck and turn over cards making the game dull and repetitive.  Both criticisms neither do any justice to the game nor relate to the amount of excitement and enjoyment I've experienced while playing the game.  

First of all, the interaction with the app is very positive.  It provides plentiful atmospheric text, which whether playing solo or as a group, can be enjoyed aurally.  The on-screen visuals complement what you see physically in front of you in the form of all the components I've described.  


Legolas encounters two marauding orcs 

However, more than anything, consider what it replaces at its very simplest: namely,  a multitude of charts that would have to be referenced, endless modifiers and their accompanying rules learnt and then dice rolled, followed by more rules for the outcomes.  By comparison, the inputting you have to do becomes a quick and easy part of the whole experience.  

You, the player, have the pleasure of physically building the map, placing the items to be explored and interacted with, the characters to be met and spoken to and, not least, the enemies to be targeted and fought with or evaded, deciding what paths you will take through the land and which Heroes will undertake what task.  All the while drafting your deck to make best use of the skills that your card draw allows you to prepare.  
Legolas confronts a goblin hunter


Your whole focus is on what's happening instead of having your head buried in rules and endless charts.  Hence the swift and smooth flow of the experience.  Having played and enjoyed in the past solitaire games like the much praised and revered Ambush with their sleeves of written events to be checked as you moved from hex to hex, there is no way that such methods could be used to achieve the complexity of plot lines in each Chapter of  Journeys in Middle-Earth.

I tested out the potential for diverging storylines by playing out the opening Chapter four times and was very pleased with what I discovered.  The first thing was that each time played the map differed in its development.  Next, though certain events did have to occur in order to complete a Chapter, the locations and order might change, incidental characters [what are often termed NPCs -i.e. Non-Player Characters] might change, along with many other elements.  

A dangerous place to be
More than anything, a factor I highly relished was that all tests are not a simple question of Pass or Fail, though some are.  Instead for many you input the number of successes and the app gives you the result which will change according to the degree of success.  The same will often be true of combat, as you input the number of hits. Both these lead to frequent agonising choices, as you decide whether to influence the outcomes by spending some of the cards that are  currently in your character's display or whether to spend some of your inspiration tokens to affect the  random cards that you draw from your play deck when testing. 

At other times you will be conversing and interacting with characters, trying to gauge which response might be the best choice in the circumstance: outright aggressiveness, helpfulness, simple kindness or a neutral tone.  This is especially true of the Chapter where your goal is to uncover a spy!!

Meanwhile as damage and fear mounts and one or more of your Heroes moves inexorably towards having to take a last stand test, the tension is screwed tighter.  This is augmented by the fact that each Chapter has a timing mechanism called the Threat level that increases each turn during the Shadow Phase [a few actions will even decrease the Threat level].  Reach the end of the Threat line before you've succeeded in your mission and you're defeated.

The painting begins!
Perhaps strangely, defeat does not mean your character is out of the game or that you have to return to the very start of the whole campaign.  Instead you will continue on to the next Chapter with your character restored to health.  This is a feature I've met with in both computer games and some fantasy board games.  I still remain uncertain as to my final response to this element in any game, but here I think it is essential [until when/if the game is developed for it to become possible to replay single episodes].

However, as I've already made clear, I've had so much in depth fun, excitement and absorbing adventure from this game purely from this first Campaign that the minute a second Campaign became available to buy, that's exactly what I've done, as well as buying the Middle-Earth game-mat to set everything out on.

So my next crucial decision will be whether I set out on this first Campaign again with a new combination of characters and new roles or plunge into the second Campaign.  Whichever I decide, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the first steps on that famous road that goes on for ever and get a copy of The Lord of The Rings: Journeys In Middle-Earth. 


Approx. cost £68.35

Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele    "Hail, Antony's Legions". Thus began a fif...

Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele Antony and Cleopatra by Hollandspiele

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Antony and Cleopatra


by


Hollandspiele 











 "Hail, Antony's Legions". Thus began a fifty plus year love of Ancient Rome, and then all of Ancient History. It also started a love of brunettes, but I digress. Was Antony so besotted with love that he lost all of his strategic and tactical sense? Was Actium inevitable or just a fluke? Hollandspiele has allowed us to kick Octavian's butt (we don't use that other name, he is always Octavian). Enough about the history and brunettes, how is this new game?







 This is what comes with the game:


  • (1) 22" x 34" map
  • (88) 5/8" counters
  • 12-page rulebook
  • 4-page Player Aid
  • 2 Player Display Sheets
  • 20 Province Cards
  • 1 six-sided die


 If you have been following the blog you will know that I love Hollandspiele's games, especially ones designed by John Theissen. His games have a small footprint as far as counters go. However, even with a small amount of counters he is still able to give the player a multitude of choices, both strategic and tactical. This game is no exception to the rule. 








 The map is not overly colorful, but I really like it. It has large hexes to help with the amount of counters which could be in one of them. The counters are your standard Hollandspiele's fare. Not the prettiest, but totally useful? The cards are very well done and the most artistic of the components. The rulebook is in black and white. It is set up very well and is easy to read and understand. Setup is easy.







 This is the sequence of play:

Each side adds up their respective Resource Points. The higher total is the first player.

Random Events Phase
 A. Storm Check
 B. Invasion Check
First Player Turn
Second Player Turn

This is a Player Turn:
A. Reinforcement Phase
B. Defection Phase
C. Movement Phase
D. Combat Phase
E. Attrition Phase

 The Western Player also has a Phase called 'Troubles Phase'

The Combat Phase has these Phases:
1. Attacker Declaration
2. Retreat Before Combat
3. Odds Calculation
4. Combat Results Table
5. Losses, Retreats, And Advances







 The only rule that I have a problem with is this one. Both Antony and Octavian give a favorable shift in Land Combat. For Antony it's totally understandable. Octavian couldn't tell one end of a pilum from the other. If anything, troops commanded by him should get a minus shift. Agrippa gives a favorable shift for Naval Combat for the Western Player.







 
The Western (Octavian) starts with eight 'Experienced' legions, with three more as first turn reinforcement. The Eastern (Antony), starts with six 'Experienced' legions, with one as a first turn reinforcement. However, the Eastern player also has four regular legions at the start. The Western Player can also reinforce his troops with eight experienced legions from the Off-Map Garrisons. If the amount of legions Off-Map goes below eight, the Western Player has a 'Troubles' Phase. This represents invasions or rebellions that occur Off-Map. If either of this happens the Western Player cannot take any more Off-Map reinforcements until the Off-Map number of 'Experienced' legions reaches eight again. The naval might of the Eastern player is pretty daunting for the Western player. These are the separate naval forces:



Western Player

Light Squadrons - six

Transports - one



Eastern Player

Heavy Squadrons - six

Light Squadrons - two

Transports - three



 So you can see that the Eastern Player can effectively strike where he wants to. It takes two turns to build Squadron reinforcements, all other units only take one turn.






 The game plays and feels very historical. You do not feel that you are moving troops and ships from a generic point in time. The game is won by Prestige Points. You gain or lose points by losing/winning battles or if your capital is captured. If you or the other player has five or more points than the other player, the higher player can try to cause the lower players troops or a province of his. This is something that happened frequently in all of the Roman Civil Wars.







 I am very impressed with the game. The player is given so many choices in the game. Offense, defense, what do you choose? If you do play badly or are getting bad rolls, it is hard and takes a good player to pull your irons out of the fire. Thank you, Hollandspiele for letting me review a great game on one of my favorite subjects. Now, get to work on the Civil War between Sulla and Marius. Of course, I will take Pompey Magnus versus Caesar (it is so hard to write that name).



Robert
PixelPLaybox.co.uk