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V-COMMANDOS from Triton Noir A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations. ...

V-COMMANDOS V-COMMANDOS

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

V-COMMANDOS

from Triton Noir


A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations.




Hopefully you've seen the appetiser for the game and the linked contest to win a canvas picture of one of the stunning pieces of artwork from the game. Stunning sums up many aspects of V-Commandos.  The box art, which like many games is replicated on the rule book cover, sets the mood and game flavour admirably.  The comic book element inevitably took me back to childhood copies of the paperback series of Commando comic books and even W.E.Johns' Gimlet series, which featured one that I read entitled King of The Commandos.

Like Heroes of Normandie by Devil Pig Games, this is certainly Hollywood's version of WWII, but I'm glad to say that Triton Noir, the publishers of V-Commandos, have not gone the whole hog [no pun intended] for the total cigar-chomping cartoon style that Devil Pig opted for.  In fact much of the card artwork makes me think that the Noir from this company's name has had the stronger influence.


These Tarot-size cards could so easily have just been plain backed, but the choice to go with these scenic pictures adds substantially as always to the atmosphere of the game.  Equally effective are the many tiles that are used to build up the terrain for each scenario.


Here are two of the sheets of tiles [in this case, small and medium size] that you'll use to build up the terrain.  At this point, it's worth explaining the meaning of the word "terrain" in this game.  Terrain is a geographical playing area made up of several tiles - in some scenarios, the whole playing area may constitute as many as five terrains.  

In some cases, you will find your commandos having to split up in order to achieve objectives on different terrains; in others, you may have to work your way through a sequence of terrains achieving your objectives as you move from terrain to terrain.

Here is, chronologically, the first scenario, Operation Time Pencil.  The name on the map card of Bruneval and accompanying historical photo of the radar station easily identifies this first scenario as based on the Bruneval Raid in February 1942.

 The playing area is made up of three terrains: the Forest, the Radar Station and the Villa.  As you can see, each terrain has specific instructions relating to it, for this individual scenario.


Below are the cards for each of the three terrains, showing you how to lay out the tiles.  The darker panels with black edging are room tiles and the pale panels with faint grey edging are open tiles.



The next picture shows how you might build up the tiles to create the Radar Station.  The two lorry markers show were German reinforcements arrive and the two blue triangles indicate the location of the Commandos' Objectives explained in the Scenario cards.


In creating the terrain, you're free to use whichever tiles you wish, provided that they are appropriately open tiles or building tiles.  The one aspect that has drawn some criticism is that there are scenarios that involve as the terrain such areas as a battleship, a shipyard and dock, and bridges.  None of the tiles remotely resemble these and so you do have to employ what the old "willing suspension of belief ".  In other words, you've got to pretend that the tiles in front of you are a battleship etc. 

I can understand the limitations of the tiles might not be able to recreate some of those, but I would have thought at least a range of tiles could have been produced that would at least include enough to build a credible bridge!  Frankly, though, that is the only detail that doesn't match the otherwise excellent features of this game.

So, on to considering some more of these excellent features.  Certainly, the very good quality, circular, cardboard discs that represent the many single-man figures in the game are high on that list.  I had imagined buying and painting some commando figures [of which there are many fine products on the market], but soon decided that I much preferred what you see here.


These are your five commandos, drawn from different nationalities and with different attributes.  This base set comprises a scout, an officer, a sniper, a sapper and a medic.  My immediate reaction was to lament the absence of the French Resistance and hoped that Triton Noir would soon produce an expansion to remedy that lack.

You can guess my delight to find that just such an expansion is already available.  [I have yet to discover whether it might also contain some tiles that make a bridge!]

Equally effective are the many German soldier counters.  Here are the ordinary regular infantry, nicely done in different poses, some with helmets or caps and even a few bare-headed.  Small attention to varied detail like this is a big plus for me, instead of just churning out a generic image.


Added to these are a few regulars with sledgehammers [oh yeah!] and some special guys [identified by the black edge to the counter] and a few dummies.  Note that the number of white cube markings show the number of dice rolled when these units fire at your commandos.


Among the many other smaller tokens are equipment for the commandos, spotted tokens, 20 doors [open on side/closed on the other], the lorry tokens mentioned already that indicate where German reinforcements enter, objectives and alarms [crucial to all scenarios] and open/closed trapdoors.

Before we come to the reading material - the rules - there remain the 5 large cards, one for each of your commandos


and a handsome deck of Event Cards.



What amazed me was that the game contains dual sets of all the large cards and Event cards along with separate rule and training books in both English and French!

There isn't a single item that falls short of the highest standards of production and the rule book is no exception.  The 24 pages are more like glossy, thin card with a very durable and substantial feel.  They are easy to read and follow with plenty of illustrated examples and accompanying artwork. 

It's very well organised, taking you through the three Phases of the game: Event, Commando and German.  These are followed by information on Commando Selection and Commando Health - no, they don't have to have travel injections, it's about getting injured, critical condition and, gulp, elimination!  The good news [especially if you are playing a cooperative game] is that, if your commando dies, another commando is drawn from your reserves to rejoin the scenario.  Your new commando will have some initial limitations [like, no equipment], but you know how resourceful you are!

There are also sections on Equipment and Escorting a Character that occurs in some scenarios and one of the longest sections, called Play An Operation is on the process of setting up an Operation [i.e. scenario]

The rules pause at three points to direct you to the training manual that provides three mini-scenarios to help fix in your head the section you've just gone through.  Though very simple, I would strongly recommend following the format, as I found them very effective in achieving their intended goal of consolidating learning the rules.

At the very heart is the concept of STEALTH.  A commando counter will automatically be flipped to its stealthy side when entering a small tile where there are no German units and commandos may always enter a medium sized tile in stealth mode by using up two of their three Action pts.  However, commandos must always flip to their visible side when entering a large tile.

Whenever a commando in stealth mode enters a tile with enemy units on or vice versa, each commando must roll one die per enemy unit to see if they are spotted.  Roll 1 or 2 and you're spotted.  Though not wholly necessary, it's a nice touch that the twelve dice provided are customised with a partial eye symbol on the 1 and 2 faces.


Attention to small details like the dice all add to the sense that care has gone into producing a quality game.  Attention to detail is also a prominent factor in the rule book.  As I read rules, I have a bad habit of thinking, "... but what if?"  I failed to break this bad habit, as I went through the rules for V-Commando and each time the answer to my "What if?" was a few paragraphs later or clear in an example.  It was an object lesson in being more patient in my reading and testimony to just how good these rules are.  They are thorough, without being burdensomely lengthy, and easy to follow.

I mentioned earlier the value of using the three training scenarios, but that value is in helping you fix the rules in your head so that you have minimal reference to the rule book later, not because you need them to understand the rules, as is often the case with some rules sets.  What impressed me most was the section on the German A.I. that runs the Enemy Phase of the game.  Moving and shooting in games where your opponent is A.I. determined are often hyper complex and encyclopaedic in length.  In part, this is because the rules in V-Commando are well pared down. 

Remember stealth, well if your commando is in stealth mode, he can't be seen or shot at.  If visible, he is seen and able to be shot at, if he's on the same tile as the German unit or an open adjacent tile or a room tile that has an open door.   No arguments about line of site.   Movement is governed by equally straightforward rules that depend on only two factors: if any commandos are visible, then German units move one tile towards them by the shortest route - if all commandos are stealthy, then German units move one tile in the compass direction displayed on the Event card currently drawn for that terrain for this turn.

Perhaps this random factor may not suit some people, but, hey, this is the movies, haven't you seen the Germans in films from The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen to the more recent Inglourius Bastards rushing around while the good ole Brits or Americans sneak about, just out of sight from them?

Finally, the rules take us to Play An Operation.  In all other games that I own or have played, this would form part of a separate booklet that would also contain all the Scenarios.  Triton Noir have decided to go with the novel idea of providing the nine scenarios in the form of pairs of high quality, double-sided, cards.  This decision has added enormously to the already very satisfying ambiance of the game.

The first of each pair of cards names the Operation with an accompanying map and, on the reverse of the card, a background to and the objectives of the Operation.




The second card in each pair shows the terrain to be set up for the Op on one side and, on the other side, any Special rules that apply to a specific terrain and/or the initial Set-Up.   So to continue with the example of Operation Time Pencil, three terrain will be needed and each terrain has its Special rules, but in this case there are no Special rules relating to initial Set-Up.


Finally, the necessary terrain cards are placed out on your gaming table and the requisite tiles chosen to build up each terrain.


As you can imagine, with the biggest Operations involving five separate terrains, there aren't enough tiles to lay out all the terrains at one go.  The format for handling all the Operations is that the tiles for each terrain in the left most column are laid out.  Then, when the objectives have been completed on each of these terrains, the terrain card is flipped over to show completion and the terrain tiles are removed and the next column's terrains are built from the necessary tiles.

This whole process is, as far as I'm aware, wholly original.  The combination of the two pairs of cards for each Operation allows for great variety as, for example, though you may be operating in forest terrain in several Operations, the differing Special rules and objectives created for that forest terrain imbues the scenario with its own qualities. 

The cards are also a fantastic design feature for those who will soon want to create their own favourite Operations.  My own personal wish immediately turns towards Holland as, though a couple of the Operations included in the game involve bridges, neither are influenced by that epic bridge at Arnhem.  For others who like bridge scenarios, their goals might take them instead to Remagen. 


However, that's just a dream for the moment, as the nine provided in V-Commando will certainly task your skills.  Each terrain of an Operation forms its own mini-puzzle to be solved with the vagaries of the dice ready to throw a spanner in the works.  Just in case you turn out to be a prodigy of success, all the Operations contain one Veteran Special rule.  Once you have played Operations with the Standard set of Special rules, you can add in the Veteran Special rule which adds additional difficulty and always increases the number of German reinforcements you will have to face!

As a game that can be played cooperatively, it has a good RPG feel and, especially gaming with friends, it can be great to discuss what actions each commando will take and what order they'll activate in.  Outcomes and die rolls all become that bit more tense.  But, by preference [and perhaps sheer greed], I can't help saying that solo play is my favourite.  I just want to be the guy organising my team of commandos.

So, by now, I doubt that you need to be told that for me V-Commandos is an out and out winner in every category. And, please, if you need to ask the question [as has been asked on at least one game site] what does the V stand for in the game's title, just think Winston Churchill!  In fact, if you do need to ask the question, perhaps running a commando might not be your best choice yet!

Good luck and keep Stealthy!!!!

Does anyone else think the Queen looks like Cersei? Crusader Kings may be familiar to readers of this blog from a computer game of th...

Crusader Kings Crusader Kings

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

Does anyone else think the Queen looks like Cersei?
Crusader Kings may be familiar to readers of this blog from a computer game of the same name.  Free League Publishing and Paradox Interactive have tried to distil the essence of the long, expansive, crunchy computer game into a much shorter a play-in-an-evening board game.  Have they been successful? Read on…

The title ‘Crusader Kings’ is a bit of a misnomer for this game.  The whole Crusades aspect of the board game is largely abstracted away into a progress track at the bottom of the board.  What this game should be called is Family Fortunes – Medieval edition.  Your prime focus is making babies, marrying off your heirs and spares and expanding into rival territories, through subterfuge or direct conflict.

Four Player set up

At the start of the game, each player is given a historical family and King to rule over, for example, The House of Normandy led by William the Conqueror.  Managing your King and their children and siblings’ Traits (positive and negative); i.e. making sure your Dim-witted daughter marries the Lustful Son of an opponent, differentiates this game from the crowded medieval Europe dudes-on-a-map archetype.

Gameplay

The game is played over three Eras, each comprising three Rounds, which again have two turns…  This is fairly standard fare for most Euro gamers but is a bit of a departure from a wargamers UGOIGO experience.  In a turn, one Action Card per player is resolved and it is the selection and playing of these cards (during a Turn) which really drives the game forward.  The game will normally end after 18 turns for each player or if any player reaches the Jerusalem space of the crusade progress track before then.
The Crusade Track in all its glory...
The slowest part of the game, but arguably the most important, is the beginning of each round, where each player attempts to make a marriage for a member of their family and chooses two of the eight action cards in their hand to play on their turns.  They must also choose the order in which they’re played during the turn, which does have significant consequences.  Once all players are familiar with the different actions there is little down-time between your turns as every other player's Action card may also affect you in some way.  

Your starting King and family will have specific traits, but thereafter every character in the game, has a randomised trait that is either positive (green trait – example: Strong, Honest, Pious, Scholar etc.) or negative (red trait – example: Imbecile, Deceitful, Lunatic, Lustful etc.) which will gradually feed into your trait bag and are used to check whether any attempted action throughout the game is successful or not via a Trait Check.
5 Player - 2nd Era, things are getting busy

Trait Checks are the unique selling point of this game and provide the jeopardy and a lot of the story which this game tells.  A Trait Check is where a player draws traits from their bag hoping to draw a green (success) trait in order to complete the chosen action.  Every action also has a Critical Trait – if that particular trait is drawn during the check then a green trait is actually treated as a failure and red as a success. 

For me, the addition of Critical Traits provides thematic immersion and also an element of strategic thinking.  For example, if am attempting a Build Action which has Critical Traits of Humble (Green) and Ambitious (Red) and I draw any green except Humble I am successful and can plonk a castle down in a territory I control. If I draw Ambitious, which on any other Trait Check would fail, I can still build my castle as it is the Critical Trait for Build.
Invest to draw an extra Trait.  Lucky that a Critical Trait (Deceitful) was drawn

Aligning marriages to reflect the traits and critical traits that you want to further your families influence is where the strategic piece comes in.  Often you are desperate to make sure your ruler has an heir that any marriage will do, but it is a sweet feeling when you’re able to snag first player (by successfully crusading) and marry an available partner with the Cruel trait.  Although this is a negative trait it is considered critical for Crusading and Invading and you can choose more of those actions in future knowing you’re more likely to succeed.

I like games where I don’t have absolute control of the units in my command.  It seems fitting to me that even if I order something to happen in my territories, it doesn’t necessarily occur.  I wouldn’t appreciate this aspect in an economic game but where I am trying to control a lunatic son or imbecilic daughter as part of my dynasty it feels apt.  Often in this game, it is the memorable failures that develop the story of your dynasty more than an automatic Tax action for example.
Child  #1 needs to die

During each Era, every player will play 6 of their 8 actions cards.  The action cards are drawn from 5 decks and there are a specified minimum and maximum number of draws for each deck.  For example, you can’t just draw 8 Realm cards that allow you to Build/Develop on your turn.  The only mandatory card draw is at least one from the Crusade deck (which incidentally is a good way to kill your Drunkard King in favour of his Brave son).

Aside from the Crusade Deck, the other Action Card decks are the War deck (moving and invading with your army), Intrigue Deck (Plotting and Overthrowing other players control of territories), the Realm deck (building castles and giving your dynasty additional powers) and finally the Tax deck, which are the only action card which don’t require a Trait Check and provide the main source of income in the game. 
The box all packed up. Game will start in 30 minutes...
Each Action Card also has an event which will be triggered after the chosen action has been resolved. Generally, the events on the Realm, Intrigue and Tax cards are bad for the acting player or good to the other players.  Whereas the Crusade cards events are generally good for the acting player and bad for the others.  However, the risk of going on a crusade shouldn’t be underestimated. Your ruler could easily be killed triggering a succession, or crisis if there is no heir (a terrible outcome for your dynasty).
The 5 Action Decks
There are a variety of pitfalls in this game for the novice player and it does definitely reward repeated plays.  The game manual has even gone as far to advise new players not to crusade without an heir – which was something I didn’t appreciate on my very first teaching play through and immediately failed on a crusade.  I learnt not to do that again and we all agreed to reset the board state.  Don’t be like me, a Succession Crisis is not something you can come back from.
4 Player Initial Setup
In my very unsuccessful attempt to play the computer Crusader Kings II several years ago, I realised how important Casus Belli was in order to attack another kingdom.  The same is true in this game and War is an exercise in politics and logistics before actual combat, which is unfortunately abstracted out of the game to a quite disappointing Trait Check.  Albeit one in which the affected player(s) will invest in an attempt to sabotage the check.  In the plays I’ve had of the game, direct conflict almost seems like an after-thought.

The game provides six scenarios, the first five loosely describe a chronology of some of the notable crusades from history.  The sixth scenario is a tournament scenario designed for four players whom each starts with Casus Belli against another player.  This is designed for more direct conflict and succeeds to an extent but resolving battles feels almost as light as vanilla-Risk and consequently unsatisfying.
Rules book - is a little loose

Components

This game has come through a successful Kickstarter campaign and subsequently, all of the components and art look top quality.  I think the board and card art aesthetic is spot on.  The player boards are of normal card stock but are perfectly fine. The miniatures, although they are almost superfluous, look good albeit a bit large for my tastes.  And you get 6 good-quality drawstring bags in individual player colours. The level of quality in components is largely indicative of most Kickstarters these days in all but one area…
Lots of tokens and bits to play with

The tokens throughout the game were impossible to get out of the counter sheets without some tearing.  Some of the counter sheets were better than others but I had a distinct problem with two of the five sheets.  Even in the good sheets there was some tearing.  This was disappointing but I’ll put it down to a bad batch – glue running out, or punch out tool needed sharpening as the cause. As the rest of the components, even the insert, were of a high quality.

The rules provide a bot player to use when playing with fewer than 3 players.  Although I am pleased to see the inclusion of a bot for solo or 2 player use, due to the light tactical element and story-driven narrative I can’t see myself using or enjoying playing against the bots.  I just don’t think there’s enough mechanically to justify the time.  The game is best with three of four other opponents around the table and I hope that I can explore a bit further in those circumstances.

Criticisms

Mechanics are a little loose for my tastes and the combat is a bit disappointing.  I really like the theme and the story is, as other reviewers have suggested, really where this game shines.  The publishers have by necessity condensed the crunch and tactical weight of the computer game down into 2-½ - 3 enjoyable hours that can be easily finished in one sitting. 

The main strategic element of this game is building your trait bag.  This is a fun element and significantly drives the narrative, e.g. choosing the right spouse and murdering the wrong spouse to find a more suitable match but the strategy is limited in other areas of the game.  The crusades are more of a game timer than a viable strategy, although a successful crusade does provide additional powers.
Nice bags
The miniatures feel a little tacked on as well.  I imagine these were a stretch goal of the Kickstarter campaign, but in reality, the Control Tokens -represented by a large cavalry miniature serves to distract a little from the foot-soldiers of your actual army.  

Conclusion

This is a game that borrows my favourite mechanic from a wide variety of other games and remixes them into an enjoyable but less-coherent experience.  It takes the dual-natured action cards from Gloomhaven, the bag-building and chit-pull mechanic from Quacks of Quedlinburg, the pre-programmed movement from Colt Express and the theme of medieval European wars from so many other games.  If I had to pick a favourite element from those games then Crusader Kings has borrowed them all but unfortunately, it’s not quite the sum of its parts. 
Uggh - tear down is a right pain
The narrative arc that is played out is as good, and often as funny, as any I have experienced playing board games.  I will come back to this game and will enjoy subsequent plays of this for the story and inter-relationships that happen between mine and my opponents’ dynasties.  However, if I’m looking for a crunchy, tactical, bewildering experience that I experienced when faced with the computer game then this isn’t it but I am looking forward to seeing what the next video-game to board-game adaption is.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a plethora of board games be converted into digital form and come with companion apps, it is not so common for a computer game to make the transition into the cardboard world.  From recent memory, we’ve had Doom, XCOM the most successful mover has been This War of Mine.  However, I think we’ll continue to see more fusion between the two formats and I’m excited to see what that blending will look like in 5 years time.

Publisher:  Free League
BGG Page: boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/253574/crusader-kings
Players: 3-5
Designer: Tomas Härenstam
Playing Time: 3 hours


Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae  Wars Across the World is as hard to pin down as it is to herd Jello ...

Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae

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





Wars Across the World

by


SAS Strategiae






 Wars Across the World is as hard to pin down as it is to herd Jello or cats. It is certainly not Risk, but it is not as deep as other computer wargames either. The player uses cards, but it is not a card driven game. I guess I will just have to list the different aspects of the game and let the reader decide what this Jabberwocky is.




 We will start with the first thing you notice about the game, and that is the number of scenarios you can play. There are some battles here that have not even been done in board wargames, let alone computer wargames. Unless I counted wrong, right now there are thirty-nine scenarios or wars you can play (They call them all wars, but some are only battles while some are campaigns). These also go from the Ancient World to Modern times. So, you can see there is a lot of bang for your buck in this game. 





 The User Interface is very well done, and as long as you read the rules and play the tutorials you will not be at sea with it. The maps and colors are very well done with vibrant colors. It is extremely easy to look at your units and tell exactly what is going on at any moment. The music (which in most games I turn off), is actually pretty good and I don't mind at all listening to it while playing. The cards that you pull and use during the game are well thought out and remind me of  some of the best done boardgame ones. In all of the scenarios I tried, you could also play either side in the conflict. This is missing in a lot of games.





 The game is played just like most wargames in sequences. This is the sequence of play (not every scenario uses them all, naturally):

Card Draw
Reinforcements
Supply
Economic Phase
Naval Movement
Air Movement (Offensive)
Land Movement
Battles
Return to Base and Second Air Movement (Defensive)
Sieges
Construction Delivery
End of Turn





 Movement is done by areas. Supply is abstracted and mostly deals with the control of areas. This works fine for the scenarios of the last few hundred years, but doesn't make much sense in the ancient scenarios. There are numerous different types of terrain. The scenarios themselves from the maps to the units seem to be very well researched. Some scenarios play much better than others, and this is to be expected. Sometimes scenarios in wargames are just going to be one-sided. 




 Unfortunately we will have to deal with the bad now. The terrain is used in some scenarios to channel and hog tie the players' actions. In one example, Wellington with a small force sat right in front of Brussels in the woods. I couldn't use at least two thirds of my units to attack in this large area that certainly would have accomodated them. So, I was forced into a whack-a-mole situation with throwing dribs of units each turn into the fray. I understand the design decision behind the area rules in the game, I just don't agree with them. The AI has three levels of competency according to the game. Unfortunately, I really didn't see much difference on any of the settings. Some of the AIs moves are questionable to say the least. Take for example Waterloo: the AI used that choke point by Wellington excellently. However, the Prussian Army was never really used in the game by the AI at all. 




 The game has many good points to it, and the fact that you can play multiplayer and email seems to mitigate the AI troubles. It is deceptive in that the game is much deeper than it looks at first glance. Its main draw will always be the incredible amount of wargaming you can get on the cheap with the game. If you are looking to play it against another human, it is very easy to recommend it to the wargamer. If you are looking to play against the AI, I unfortunately cannot give it my full recommendation. From all of my reading the AI has gotten better, and the developer is still working on it. One thing that people complain about is the cost. With the base game and the add on scenarios the price is just under $100. While that seems like a lot, remember that would give you almost forty scenarios with which to play. That is the same price that one boardgame costs, which many times is about one battle. Here is a link to the game:



Robert

The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323-281 BC Volume I: Commanders and Campaigns by Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts ...

The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323-281 BC Volume I: Commanders and Campaigns by Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323-281 BC Volume I: Commanders and Campaigns by Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts

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





The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323-281 BC


Volume I: Commanders and Campaigns

by

Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts





 Their names resound down through the ages: Perdiccas, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Antogonus 'Monopthalmus' (the One-eyed, the greatest of them all). You also have a large supporting cast that includes  Cassander, Antipater, Demetrius 'Poliorcetes', with even Pyrrhus making an entrance. These are the wars and campaigns of the Diadochi (Successors) for the realm that Alexander left on his death. Alexander had famously said that he wished he was able to see the 'funeral games' which would take place after his death. This is about those very funeral games.

 The book was one of the first in 2008 of a spate of books on the Hellenistic period after Alexander's death. This book and Volume II are still two of the best on the subject (I am doing a review of the newly released paperback copy). The authors gave themselves a tall order. They wanted to do an overview in the time period of almost fifty years since Alexander's death. They also wanted to show the military aspect of that time period in greater depth than other books had to date. Luckily for us they succeeded beyond the readers hope. From the first breakout of hostilities between the various 'Satraps' to the assasination of Seleucus, the full history of the era is included.

 The various dealings and double dealings between the different power players are shown. The book's main area of expertise is on the military history of the period. From Perdiccas's invasion of Egypt, to the ultimate battle royale of the Diadochi at Ipsus, the panoply of the times is painted for the reader. The history of the different successors to try and reconquer the entire empire, and the final realization that no one man was able to actually do this is shown. The fact that Alexander was probably the luckiest general ever to have this many great to very good generals under him is also shown to the reader. 

 If you have any interest in the Hellenistic period, as far as historically and especially militarily, this is the first book that should be in your library. However, it is written in a style so that even the novice to the time period can follow along easily. 

Robert

Book: The War of Alexander's Successors 323-281 BC Volume I: Commanders and Campaigns
Authors: Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers




 

WarPlan by Matrix games     WarPlan is a slight misnomer, although hopefully all countries and generals hav...

WarPlan by Matrix Games WarPlan by Matrix Games

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





WarPlan

by

Matrix games





  
 WarPlan is a slight misnomer, although hopefully all countries and generals have them. They are almost always chucked out the window after the first contact between enemy forces. As Clausewitz wrote, "Friction is the concept that differentiates actual war from war on paper", and those surprises that make "even the simplest thing difficult". Though your plan for the next campaign might be completely sound, it is still at the mercy of the enemy, weather, and your own commanders etc. About the game's cover, why Rommel? Bradley is totally understandable as a general. However, looking at the scope of the game, maybe it should have been Marshall? There are so many choices for the Germans instead of Rommel. This game is a strategic and operational one of World War II in the European Theater. The first question is why? There are so many that have been done, and a few that are very good. Let us look at Matrix's blurb to see what you actually get on your computer screen:

 "WarPlan is a game designed and coded by Alvaro Sousa, from Kraken Studios, creator of Strategic Command 2 products (Assault on Communism, Assault on Democracy, Brute Force, Strategic Command 3 Image Importer).
Developer Kraken Studios places their emphasis on games that are easy to use, hard to win. WarPlan employs one of the best interfaces to lower micromanagement as much as possible so players can focus on playing and thinking.
SCALES
The game's scale is massive, covering 70 different potential countries, in a map large 30 miles / 50km per hex using a Peters map scaling (which better represents real distances). The land scale is 15k - 60k men, air scale is 300-400 aircraft and naval scale is 2 capital ships + support ships.
COMBAT SYSTEM
Combat takes place on Land, with multihex attack based on operation points allowing for multiple moves and attack tactics allowing for frontline breakthroughs, on Air, where you can attack selected targets and may automatically support land attacks, and on Sea, where fleet and raider modes affect detection. Night action, Surface, Sub, and Carrier combat are available. Use the Zone of control to restrict the movement of the enemy.
20 different units with 15 different attributes, 17 different technological advancements, 5 different specialties. Each country has their own units with their own attributes. Additionally, units can be impacted by: Breakdown - Land units can be split or reformed, corps may detach a division, armies may split, Formation – Small formations may be grouped into larger ones, Generals - Each player comes with their own generals that affect combat, mobile attack, and retreats, Support pool Units - 11 different support types. Naval units stack in fleets. 1 land, 1 air, 1 fleet per hex. Land units have the capacity of having a specialization. This is an attachment of equipment, elite trained units, or gear. With advancements, this allows for 120 different land unit configurations.
COUNTRY MANAGEMENT
Production takes into account oil, manpower, logistics, strategic resources, trade agreements, convoy zones. The system allows you 17 different advancements and each unit has at minimum 2 advancement choices. You can have 47 different unit configurations. The supply system is based on cities, rail, ports, headquarters, and distance from railways. The supply system more accurately represents the North African Campaign. From a diplomatic standpoint, players may declare war, influence, attempt a coup, or negotiate a surrender. Each country has a loyalty score and an entry-level. Actions in-game may alter the entry and loyalty of various countries.
MAP
The map is Hex based, with 15 different types of terrains subdivided in to sizes with each different features including motorized and non-motorized movement, airfield capacity, and defensive bonuses; 12 different resource types, 5 different strategic resources. Realism is enhanced by the presence of Fog of War, with detection levels that determine information of units. Moreover, 5 different weather conditions make the whole gameplay more challenging."






 Well that is a bit of a mouthful. Let's take a look under the hood and see how many of the above statements hit the mark.

 One of the really big differences with WarPlan compared to other games is the inclusion of a working interception/interdiction mode for the units. Supply in the game is also innovative, as seen below.









 The map is large, actually very large. I really like this in games. It makes the sweep and size of the operations come to life. Of course for every plus there is a minus in computing. The larger the map means more units and decisions. So, a large map with a lot of units make it much more difficult for a designer to create a competent AI. The map itself tends more toward functionality instead of artistic beauty. This is fine, because I am going to play it, not take a screenshot of it for my wall. You can easily tell one terrain from another. If your old eyes are having a problem, there are numerous levels of zoom available for the budding general. The counters also tend toward function and are easily distinguishable from one another.
 




 The game comes with six scenarios: 1939, 1940,1941,1942,1943, 
and 1944. These scenarios start not at the beginning of the year in question, but at the date where important operations are going to take place. Thus, in 1943 the date the scenario starts is July sixth. The player does not have to wait until the middle of the year for the Battle of Kursk or the Normandy Invasion to take place. Conversely, this means that the player does not have the chance to change anything before these operations take place. The game is strategic in scope at all times so it does not have scenarios that condense the map and allow the player to play out separate important battles in WWII. This is not a knock on the game, but I do like it when games include them as a choice.  






  Okay, so now we come to the crux of the game. How is the AI, and how effective is it? With most polls showing that eighty to ninety percent of players only play computer games solo, the AI in games is a big deal. So how is this one? It is a bit of a mixed bag. The AI on the operational scale is very good. It will defend and attack with units in a very competent manner. On the Strategic side, not so much. However, with the game being situated in the European Theater of WWII, there are much more times for the AI to shine rather than not. The designer actually has stated that he really likes to work on the AI routines of the game. So this bodes well for future upgrades of the AI to make it that much better.







 One of the game's strongest points is its attention to supply. Unlike many games of its ilk in this one supply actually matters. Most other games abstract it or only really use it for the construction of new or replacement units. In this game, supply matters at all times. For the Axis player, it means that you will have to pay much more attention to supply than you are usually used to. It also means that the game plays more historically correctly than most others. In this game, you cannot make non historical or ludicrous decisions. Take North Africa; because of the lack of supply historically the amount of troops in North Africa had to be on the small size. Some other games allow you to build a huge Panzer Armee to conquer the Middle East. In this game, supply forces the player to play within historical limits. If there is one thing I love about the game it is this. Sandbox games are all well and good, but only if they make sense historically. 






 The rulebook is over 100 pages long. So you know this is not a 'lite' or 'beer and pretzels' game. The rulebook is laid out well and allows you to instantly look up whatever you need. The fact that Matrix allows you to download the full manual helps immensely. Putting it to your phone or tablet allows you to play and look up  the rules at the same time. It also comes with an editor that allows the player to change almost anything he wants. You could also create your own scenarios pretty much from scratch if you wanted to.



1939 Start

 The naval war in strategic games are usually the weakest part of the game, especially because it is usually abstracted to an incredible degree. When I play these games I usually ignore the naval aspect completely. In this game the naval war actually means something, and though it is still somewhat abstract, it makes sense. 



Trying to Save Army Groups Center and North

 So what is the final verdict? I would say two thumbs ups. For the minutiae lover it has all of the bells and whistles. For the player who only has time to get in a few turns before dinner or bed it is a good game also. The designer is already talking about what he wants to implement in WarPlan II. Do not let this make you  think that this game will be abandoned; it has already been upgraded once and the designer is involved as much as he can be with any questions or problems. Thank you Matrix for allowing me to review this excellent game. It is especially good for a first time endeavor, and I look forward to many other games from Kraken Studios. Below will be some links.


Matrix Games:
https://www.matrixgames.com/

WarPlan:
https://www.matrixgames.com/game/warplan

Robert

My favorite Warhammer 40,000 strategy release of last year continues to expand in the form of a new small DLC and a fresh patch for the ...

WH40k: Gladius - Fortification Pack WH40k: Gladius - Fortification Pack

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



My favorite Warhammer 40,000 strategy release of last year continues to expand in the form of a new small DLC and a fresh patch for the full game. Gladius, the 4X title (with a heavy emphasis on the eXterminate portion) is all about building up your war machine and then engaging in non-stop war until you've conquered the map. The Fortification Pack is a new DLC for the game which adds a powerful defensive unit into the roster for each faction. At just $5, this isn't a DLC that's going to radically change the game, but if you've enjoyed it so far, it's a cheap way to bring some fresh options into the mix. Released along with the DLC is the version 1.4 update which focuses on balance changes and bug fixes. It's good to see this enjoyable game continue to receive polish and new content on a regular basis. 


So, what exactly are you getting in this new pack? Six new units, one for each faction, that will come into play in the mid and late game. The units are all defensive in nature, with some being buildings and some being mobile units that protect their allies. From the official description:

Space Marines - Aquila Macro-Cannon
Macro-cannon Aquila Strongpoints are massive fortifications, often used as bastions in Imperial defensive battle lines. Each consists of a munitions silo, topped by a large turret that houses the huge macro-cannon that gives the strongpoint its name. The munitions silo allows the Aquila Macrocannon to fire special "Quake Shells," each of which measures several Terran feet in length and has a powerful charge that causes the shells to reach hypersonic velocity when the Macrocannon is fired.

Astra Militarum - Void Shield GeneratorVoid shields are normally localised force fields reserved for protecting the monolithic Titans of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but static generators can be erected to serve as an aegis for other targets of vital import. The largest Void Shield generators can even project an invisible bubble of power across a large area of the battlefield, sheltering both troops and strategically vital battlefield locations by absorbing or deflecting the energy of incoming munitions.


Chaos Space Marines - Noctilith CrownNoctilith Crowns are brutal edifices raised up by the Chaos Space Marines to weaken the very foundations of reality. Crafted from the mysterious material known as blackstone, these vast psychic resonators thin the veil to deadly effect, shielding your own units and damaging enemy psykers. 



Necrons - Gauss Pylon The mysterious Necron defence turrets, designated as 'Pylons' by those who originally encountered them, were first recorded on the uncharged world of WDY-272. Rising suddenly from the desert sands, the Gauss Pylons opened fire without warning and with devastating effect, tanks and armoured carriers burning as the crescent-shaped weapons tore through the unsuspecting Imperial Guard column whilst resisting all return fire.


Orks - Big MekEspecially talented or popular Mekboyz will soon attract a following, lording it over a growing gang of underlings. A Mek with this much clout is referred to as a Big Mek, and can prove indispensable to the local Warboss with his knowledge of shokk attack guns, force field technology, and tellyporta rigs.


Tyranids - BiovoresA Biovore is a squat, bloated creature -- yet no less deadly for all that. Deep within its lumpen form, the Biovore nurtures a clutch of Spore Mines -- living bombs that blanket the enemy in acids, poisons and shrapnel-sized pieces of chitin. Biovores thump forward in battle, bony protrusions on their fore-limbs anchoring themselves into the ground as they release their vile payload in a single shuddering spasm.



While I haven't had time to play through multiple campaigns to try out all of these units, they clearly add some fun new options to the game. Who doesn't like building giant artillery cannons and shield generators? If you've enjoyed Gladius in the past like I did, this seems like a no-brainer. 

If you haven't had a try at Gladius yet, it's 50% off right now if you buy directly from the Matrix store. The game is definitely worth your time at $20 if you want a relatively simple, war focused 4X steeped in 40k grimdark-ness

If you already have Gladius, the Fortification Pack can picked up in the usual places - the Matrix/Slitherine store, Steam and GoG.


- Joe Beard





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