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Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece A guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology by C. Jacob Butera Matt...

Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece: A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology by C. Jacob Butera and Matthew A. Sears Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece: A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology by C. Jacob Butera and Matthew A. Sears

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

Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece

A guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology


C. Jacob Butera

Matthew A. Sears

 Greece was the bassinet of the Western World. So it should come as no surprise that it is also the birthplace of Western warfare. The topography of Greece lent itself to mostly locked in city-states due to the mountainous terrain. This also meant that there would be battles galore over the small amount of flat arable land, and also access to the sea. A student of the military history of Ancient Greece will be well acquainted with the names of the different battles that make up each separate chapter on a separate battle.

 The book shows us the battles from as far back as the Greco-Persian Wars; Marathon, Salamis, and Thermopylae. The timeline of the book goes all the way to the Battle of Actium and the start of the Roman Empire. The authors have chosen twenty battles, from the myriad they could have chosen, to concentrate on. 

 The book starts with a small chapter on Greek and Roman land and naval warfare, then jumps right in to the individual chapters on the battles. The book is separated into four parts that show battles in different geographic areas of Greece. They are:

Part I: Athens and Attica
Part II: Boetia and Central Greece
Part III: Northern Greece
Part IV: The Peloponnese and Western Greece

 Each chapter follows the same pattern. There is a small introduction, followed by 'Directions to the Site', 'Historical Outline of the Battle', The Battle Site Today', and 'Further Reading'. The Further Reading starts with ancient sources and then follows up with modern ones. It even lists articles from different Journals. 

 The book is excellent, both for the beginner and old hand at Ancient Military History. For the beginner the information is exactly what they would need to get into the subject, and it also gives the needed information for the lucky traveler to Greece. For us old hats, I believe the best part is the explanation of the topography. So we can visualize exactly why it was necessary for this bit of dirt to be stained with the blood of brave men. 

 The book is almost 400 pages long. The pages are made with a glossy paper. It is filled with pictures of the different battles today and other ones that show items from the battle etc. All of the chapters have at least three if not more maps of the area the battle is located in. It also shows the forces moving to and engaging in the battle. I can recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in the subject. If you are not interested yet, you probably will be after reading the book. Thank you Casemate Publishers for letting me review another great book.


Book: Battles and Battlefields of ancient Greece: A Guide to Their History, Topography, and Archaeology
Authors: C. Jacob Butera, Matthew A. Sears
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

With It Or On It by Hollandspiele "With it or on it". This is what Spartan mothers would tell their...

With it Or On It by Hollandspiele With it Or On It by Hollandspiele

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

With It Or On It



"With it or on it". This is what Spartan mothers would tell their sons, meaning bring back your shield or die on the battlefield. This is an excellent name for a tactical battle game based in Ancient Greece. Quite a few games have tried to recreate hoplite warfare for the wargamer. Let us see what is in the box:

17" x 22" mapsheet
176 counters
8-page rulebook
16 page Battle Book
1 eight-sided die

 As usual, minimalism is the key word when describing a Hollandspiele game. This one seems to have more counters than their other games, but that is the only thing that differs. The counters are large at 5/8", and the artwork on them is workmanlike. They are done in a manner that makes it easy to distinguish the different types of units. Speaking of the units, there are only four different types. These are:

Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Light Horse

 You will notice the absence of archers, slingers, and javelin men. This is a design decision that we will get into shortly. The map is as plain as plain can be, and it is made up of squares, not hexes. There is also absolutely no terrain at all except clear hexes. The rulebook is only seven pages long with the CRT etc. on the back page. The Battle Book is larger, and is filled with the background history of the battles and the setups for each of the scenarios.  The historical write up about the background history and the battles is well done. These are the battles that are included:

Marathon 490 BC
Plataea 479 BC
Tanagra 457 BC
Olpae 426 BC
Delium 424 BC
Mantinea 418 BC

 You will notice that these battles are either from the Greco-Persian Wars or early in the Peloponnesian War. This game is designer Tom Russell's first game in the Swords and Shields II ancient series. Swords and Shields I was based on battles from the Middle Ages. 
This is the sequence of play:

1. Command Phase
2. Action Phase
  a. Skirmish Phase(s)
  b. Rally Phase
  c. Move Phase(s)
  d. Combat Phase
3. Victory Phase
4. Initiative Phase

 Now to the rules; these are exceedingly short and sweet, but a bit deceptive. The rulebook, although well written, has no examples of play. The game mechanics are so different from other ancient games that at least one or two would have been a good addition to the rulebook. Mr. Russell has done some very good videos about the game, and there will be links below. These were a godsend. Remember the lack of skirmishers? Well the design decision behind that is they are actually present on the battlefield, but not actually represented by cardboard units. All units have a skirmimish zone that extends three hexes in front of them. So when your troops enter the skirmish zone they must stop and take die rolls against their exhaustion (exhaustion is used instead of casualties in the game). Your command decisions, movement, rally, and combat are all given to your separate 'Wings'. These are units that are color coded the same. These are the commands that can be used for each wing:


 As you can see, you cannot move and initiate combat at the same time. The Strategos counter allows you to give one command for all of your wings. This however lowers your Rally Limit by one (each scenario has a Rally Limit listed for each side to begin with). The Bonus counter gives you a few different pluses, from combat to rally. Leaders are also handled quite differently from the norm. In each scenario, both sides are given a set amount of leaders for each wing. Thus, the player knows how many leaders he has in a wing. However, during setup the leader side of the counter is put face down, and the player sets up not knowing where they are. When a unit is picked by the player to suffer exhaustion due to the CRT, the counter is then flipped over to its obverse. At this time you might find that it just suffers losses, or routs (it was brittle to begin with), or find a leader underneath. I will quote from the rulebook on the rule for elimination and rout:

 "9.5 Elimination & Rout Units that are Eliminated are removed from play, scoring Victory Points (VP) for the opposing player; the opposing player should group these Units off to the side of the map in whatever way makes it convenient for them to keep count. If a Revealed Leader is Eliminated, its side's Rally Limit is reduced by one.
 Whenever a player's Unit or Leader is Eliminated as a result of Combat, it immediately triggers a simultaneous Rout Check for all Foot Units (not Horse) in all of that player's Wings. Units that fail the check are Eliminated; Units that pass the check are not.13 Units Eliminated via a Rout Check do not themselves trigger another Rout Check, but if multiple Units are Eliminated as a result of Combat, multiple Rout Checks will be triggered.

 To pass a Rout Check,  it must be adjacent to at least two friendly Units in the same Wing, or  it must be adjacent to at least one friendly Unit in the same Wing, that itself satisfies the first condition."

 So if you have a unit by itself that is eliminated (through exhaustion or poor play), it can take a whole slew of other units with it. This is a part of playing that seems very historically accurate, but is also extremely troubling for the player in question.

 I was fully prepared not to like the game, and in reading the rules I really didn't see how they could actually work. I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that they actually do work and the results seem to match history. I am not saying the battles all play out the same way, but the results seem to fit with the history we know about these battles, especially the fact that one minute you have a line of infantry and the next a routed wing. Thank you Hollandspiele for letting me review another great game. For those of you who may be put off by the lack of hexes, no terrain, and skirmishers please look at the rules and watch the videos. You might be as surprised as I was.

Here are the links to the games and videos:

With It Or On It:

AI War: Fleet Command came out just over one decade ago. It combined elements of many strategy genres to create an experience unlike any...

AI War 2 AI War 2

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

AI War: Fleet Command came out just over one decade ago. It combined elements of many strategy genres to create an experience unlike anything that has come before or since. Until now, that is. With the release of AI War 2, Arcen Games has created a title which takes all of the best elements of the original and attempts to streamline the experience into something far more accessible to the less hardcore players among us. While I found the original AI War to be fascinating, and enjoyed fiddling with it from time to time, I was mostly overwhelmed by the massive number of options and potential strategies the game offered. A half dozen expansions released over the years turned up that complexity by more than a few extra notches. 

Right off the bat, I can say that AI War 2 keeps much of the complexity of the original game, while being easier to learn and wrap your head around. That's even with most of the concepts and features from the expansions baked right into the base game of AI War 2. That's right, unlike some other developers out there, Arcen Games doesn't expect you to buy all of the same DLC again just because they moved their flagship title to a new engine. Here, all the goodies are in the game from the start, and I can only imagine what they have in the pipeline. Now, all of these mechanics have been tweaked and changed (for the better in my opinion), but they are fully represented. 

So, those unfamiliar with the original game may be asking, what the heck is so unique about this game? At a brief glance, you may just see what appears to be an RTS game along the lines of Sins of a Solar Empire, but that doesn't even scratch the surface of AI War 2. The premise of the game is simple. You are the leader of the last human stronghold, and a force led by a malignant AI controls every other system in the galaxy. Your goal is to find the system containing the AI overlord, and destroy it. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast! At the beginning of the game, the AI doesn't even care about your presence. It's actually busy dealing with some threat in a distant galaxy, and humanity is hardly worth its time. If you do nothing, the AI won't even bother to attack you with any significant forces. Unfortunately for you, sitting still won't get you anywhere. Initially, resources are not a problem, and in fact your home base will crank out a few dozen ships before you know it. Within a minute or two, you will hit the max number of ships your fleet can support, and that's it, no more ships for you until you get to work. 

Now, there are many options for expanding your forces, and this is where fun begins. An easy way is to spend some of your science points to upgrade one of the many technology categories. Each time you upgrade the tech level of a weapon type (and there are many), all ships that use it will get stronger, and you'll be able to build more of them. You only have so many science points to start, and getting more requires going on the offensive. Another way is to venture to an AI world where a certain type of building exists, and hack into it, allowing your starting fleet to support an entirely new "line" of spacecraft. This could be a few dozen small fighters, a handful of larger ships, or even a single unique vessel. Every line of ships you have is tied to a capital ship, of which there are several varieties. You begin the game with just one simple transport capital ship, and four or so lines of ships that assigned to it. What you'll really want to do is seek out additional capital ships and add them to your armada, as each one comes with several lines of ships already attached. To do that though, you'll have to conquer a system from the AI. So what's the big deal about that, we're here to defeat the AI, right? Now comes the big twist: every system you conquer from the AI doesn't weaken your foe, rather it becomes more dangerous.

Taking out key AI structures, such as the command posts that you must destroy to conquer a system, add a certain number of points to a number, the "AI Progress," that tracks how angry the AI is at you. As you accumulate these points, the AI will unlock new behaviors and ship types. At the start of the game the AI is, frankly, uninterested in your actions. Even taking a system or two won't prompt much response.  Before long though, the AI will begin sending attacks at your systems. For most of these attacks, you'll have plenty of warning in the form of a timer and description of exactly what is coming. Keep annoying the AI, and it will start using more advanced and sneaky behaviors. It will begin gathering larger and larger forces for its attacks, and will start to attack without warning whenever it senses weakness. 

In order to counter these attacks, you can use your fleets, but you also have access to an array of turrets, minefields, shields, local defense frigates, and other defenses. The number of these defenses you can build in each system is limited, but can be expanded in much the same way your fleets are expanded. Investing in relevant tech levels, finding special defensive capital ships, and capturing special buildings from the AI. Building up all of these defenses does come with a cost, they eat into your available resources: metal and energy. Metal accumulates continuously, and you generally won't run out unless you are constantly fighting and needing to replace ships, or working on a very big project (the really fun mid to late game toys). Energy is a fixed number, giving you a hard limit on what you can build. The primary way to get more energy is, you guessed it, conquering worlds from the AI. 

That's a lot of description of the game mechanics, and I'm really only hitting on the basics. Hopefully you get the picture though. To defeat the AI, you have to build up a large, powerful fleet of ships, but many of the actions you take in doing so will cause the AI to counter-attack with ever fiercer and trickier resistance. Keeping those two considerations in balance is the key to winning the game. Angering the AI by taking a world without due consideration is to be avoided at all costs. You'll always want to get something strategically valuable for your trouble, be it a new capital ship, a special energy generator that will massively boost your energy cap, or simply a defensible choke point for staging attacks deeper into AI territory. 

AI War 2 offers a multitude of ways to scale the difficulty and complexity of a given campaign to your liking. You can set up a campaign to your exact specifications, or choose from a variety of pre-built scenarios. This is another nice step up from the original, since now you have some easier scenarios that gradually increase in complexity, giving you something to cut your teeth on before facing the "real" game. Among the many options are how big the galaxy is, and how it is arranged. Since travel between systems is only allowed on specific tracks, this can radical alter how the game plays out. You can play on a more open map, where there are many options for moving around, or a map where there are distinct clusters of systems with only one path between each grouping, or a variety of other styles. There are multiple AI personalities, each with their own personality and approach to consider, and you can even face more than one AI at the same time. 

There are also a variety of other factions that are completely optional to include, but can make a huge difference in gameplay. A good one to include for beginners is the Human Resistance. These guys show up randomly to help you out in a fight, but then leave. Then there are the more complex Human Marauders. These guys will strike at you and the AI alike whenever they see an undefended system. They will even establish their own base and start to expand into neighboring systems if they can. This can work in your favor at times, but also throw a wrench in your plans if you aren't watching out. Beyond these options are all sorts of fun things: a roving swarm of space monsters, an unstoppable Devourer that cruises around eating ships, ancient alien structures that do mysterious and very bad things if awakened, and numerous others, each with their own unique mechanics. Throwing a mix of these into your game can make it far messier than a standard game, but also of course that much more interesting to solve. 

And that's really the appeal of AI War 2. There is so much going on that you are constantly deciding on short and long term strategy, not to mention tactical level fighting. It feels simultaneously like an epic scale RTS, a tricky puzzle, a rogue-like dungeon crawler, and a 4X grand strategy game all at once. For example, let's say there is a system you really want to take. It contains a "golem", a unique and extremely powerful capital ship that would really help you with winning the game. Trouble is, that's a higher level AI system (systems are ranked I-VII in difficulty) and it contains some special defensive structures, not to mention a large enemy fleet. There is a super powerful turret in the system that activates whenever you have more than X number of ships in the system. It's also invulnerable until you eliminate multiple other structures in the same system. Maybe you can brute force attack the system with your fleets, but you'll take a huge hit to your metal stockpile due to losses. And you know you'll need an obscene amount of metal to get that golem online after capturing it. Also, that really isn't a a great option anyway since you know the AI is planning multiple attacks on some of your other systems over the next few minutes. If you mass all of your fleets in one place it could lead to being overrun elsewhere. Maybe your defenses can hold out long enough, but maybe they don't. Do you risk it? Instead, you might comb through your fleets, identify ships that are especially good for knocking out structures, and assemble them together for this particular task. You can do reconnaissance on the target system to see what you are up against, and select ship lines that counter what the enemy has. (Select any ship and you can get a vast amount of nitty-gritty details to help you with this.) All the while you are thinking about this, you are also considering other paths, other choices, weighing the pros and cons to decide on the best option. Fortunately, you can pause the game at any time, so fret not! 

Although there is a ton to unpack with this game, I found it easier to get into than the original. There is a nice set of basic tutorials to get you started, but even better, there is an in-game wiki of sorts which includes tons of information for new and returning players. It has some handy strategy guides for basic and advanced strategies if you still feel lost after the tutorials. The other part of what makes the game easy to get into is the UI. This is a game where there is a lot of detailed information to be had when you want it, but also a UI that gives you all the essentials at a glance. Fleet strength is represented by a simple number, which gives you a good idea of whether you can easily outmatch an enemy fleet and how an idea of how dangerous an incoming enemy attack will be. Of course, that simple number doesn't always tell you the whole story. 

Besides streamlined gameplay and a more accessible introduction to its complex world, what else is new in this sequel? Well, obviously the game has received a substantial visual upgrade. Gone are the 2D sprites and top-down view, and here to stay are 3D models and prettier combat effects. Though these still aren't highly detailed ships, there are a massive variety of them, and often hundreds on screen at once. As the game goes on, entertaining little skirmishes will give way to truly epic clashes between massive fleets. The effects of lasers and explosions are individually very simple, but when there are dozens going off at a time, it makes for a pretty nice fireworks display. More impressive is that the game never slows or stutters one bit despite all the action on screen and numbers running in the background. 

I also can't say enough good things about the music in this game. In most strategy games I just turn the music down or even off, since it's so forgettable. Not so for AI War 2. The tracks have a good range, but much of it is hauntingly beautiful, suitable stuff for a desperate struggle raging across space. This piano piece in particular mesmerized me: 

I really don't have any bad things to say about AI War 2. It's a unique title, that for me has surpassed the original in most ways. Now, I'm not a hardcore player of the original, only a fan who wasn't terribly good at it. I'm sure there are folks out there who will miss some things about the first game that have been streamlined here, but for most players I think they will find AI War 2 to be an overall better experience that has only just begun it's life cycle. Multiplayer is planned for the game, but currently not live. If the game follows in the footsteps of the original, I imagine we can expect quite a few expansions and updates to come. In fact, there have already been four patches pushed out over just the three weeks or so since the game released, all of which included not just bug fixes and balance changes, but also significant changes to how mechanics work, entirely new special buildings to capture, and even a new AI trick or two. It's clear that the developers are really looking to please the player base by continuously improving the game.

This game probably isn't for everyone out there, since it does not follow the normal flow of most strategy games. However, if you are intrigued by the idea of fighting an enemy that only gets smarter and stronger the more you attack it, this is definitely a game worth picking up, especially at the very modest price of only $20.

AI War 2 is available on Steam, GoG, and the Humble store.

- Joe Beard

Compass Games Expo 2019 November 8-11 Red Lion Hotel Cromwell Ct. John Kranz and Carolynne Thomas (Bill's better ...

Compass Games Expo November 8-11 Red Lion Hotel Cromwell Ct. Compass Games Expo November 8-11 Red Lion Hotel Cromwell Ct.

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

Compass Games Expo 2019

November 8-11

Red Lion Hotel Cromwell Ct.

John Kranz and Carolynne Thomas (Bill's better half) 

 Fall is in the air in New England. That means the leaves are changing to pretty colors, and clogging everything known to man in the process. It also means the blue hairs are out in spectacular numbers. When it takes an hour for a ride that usually takes twenty minutes, you know you are behind a foliage gawker. Do everyone in New England a favor and stay home and look at pretty pictures of the trees on the web. But I digress. It is also time for the Compass Games Expo at the spectacular Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell Ct. Grognards come from far and wide to revel in the wargaming, camaraderie, and banter. The Red Lion Hotel is filled with any amenity that you can ask for. Through Compass Games you can also get a deal for staying there overnight or for the entire Expo. The Expo costs $20 for a one day pass, and $45 for the full four days. That is a very good bargain for the amount of gaming you can get in. This year the Expo actually increased in size to take over another large room for even more gaming. Santa hasn't forgotten us wargamers either. Compass Games had a sale for fifty percent off at the Expo (they also have a sale going on through their website until 1/31/2020).

These three are upcoming games

 Compass Games was started in 2004 by Bill Thomas as really just a hobby. He is an accountant by trade (you know the kind; they are always the party poopers: you can't afford that, etc). The first two games that Compass published were Silent War and Bitter End: Attack to Budapest 1945. About two years ago, Mr. Thomas decided to make Compass Games a full time endeavor. It was a labor of love for Bill (and his family at times), but now he wanted to make Compass Games a big player in the wargaming business. He has greatly succeeded in that effort. Compass Games has released a ton of new games over the last few years. These releases have also been mostly excellent wargames. Compass Games has really made large strides in the wargaming market, not only in volume but also in quality.

 Compass Games also had a few games on display that are coming through the pipeline soon. Dawn of Empire (Spanish-American War) and Napoleon's Eagles: Storm in the East (Borodino and Leipzig) just to name two. They have two games that I cannot wait to get my hands on. They are Pontiac's Uprising and Western Front Ace: The Great War in The Air, 1916-1918. Unfortunately those two are not going to be released until later in 2020. If you have not seen it or played it do yourself a favor and check out their game series Red Poppies Campaigns. The first volume was The Battles for Ypres, and the second volume was Last Laurels at Limaowa. The third volume is: Assault Artillery! which is due in the first quarter of 2020. I own Ypres. I think it is one of the best wargames ever. It doesn't hurt that the game comes with three full maps covering the same area in the different battles. 'Wipers' covers the battles of 1914 (Kindermord), 1915: the first German use of gas, and the horrific battle in 1917. You may want to also check out their series of games about the wars in Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries: Nine Years: War of the Grand Alliance 1688-1697, No Peace Without Spain, and A Pragmatic war.  Paper Wars is Compass Games magazine that is now up to issue 93. These contain reviews, but also come fully loaded with a wargame. I just received issue 93 today (my first), and I will be posting a review of the magazine and the game (Wagram) shortly on the blog.

 Here are a bunch of pics of the multitude of players at the Expo doing exactly what they like to do in their spare time. As you can see the grognards (grumblers) do not live up to their nickname. All I saw and dealt with were happy and friendly people. Strangely, I did not hear one argument about rules while walking around the Expo.

 Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As my head swirls with counters of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, we bid a fond farewell to the Expo and the happiest group of grumblers I have ever seen. It is back to the backyard to start filling bags with leaves again. Those of us with dogs will also know the adventure of unluckily finding land mines. The best you can hope for is that it is on a shoe and not in the pile of leaves that you just picked up to put in the bag.

 As an aside, Bill likes glazed and chocolate covered donuts, and despises Munchkins.

Link to Compass Games:

The Battles of Ypres:
My unboxing of Ypres:

My review of Night fighter Ace:


V-COMMANDOS: RESISTANCE from TRITON NOIR Back in March 2017, I reviewed a new game, V-Commandos , and a totally new system fr...


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




Back in March 2017, I reviewed a new game, V-Commandos, and a totally new system from this small independent company, Triton Noir.  I was greatly impressed by what I saw and played.  Unfortunately, I missed out on their first expansion,V-Commandos: Resistance, but not on the second expansion, V-Commandos: Secret Weapons which I was able to review in early 2018.

Now thanks to Triton Noir, I've got the chance to bring that missed opportunity to you with their reissue of their first expansion.  As my previous two reviews are too deep in the depths of our archives for me to provide an easy link, for those of you unfamiliar with the games and system or simply want to refresh your memories, we're republishing them all together.  

As before, like the core game, there is a duplicate set of cards and a duplicate rule book, one in English the other in French.  In terms of content and rules, both expansions follow an identical pattern.  Three new OPERATIVES are presented: the SABOTEUR, SPY and S.O.E. AGENT and five new OPERATIONS; named KNIGHTHOOD, CHECKERS, VICTORY, FLAIL and STEAM. 

A feature I've liked throughout is that these Operations are presented on double-sided pairs of cards.  Each pair gives the title of the operation along with its geographical location shown on a small map, a brief flavour-full piece of situation information, a diagram of the locations needed to play this Operation and finally specific conditions for some of the locations.  

I couldn't resist using this set as a illustration as it includes the Eiffel Tower and the note "This monument must not be damaged!"
What you may notice is that there may not be special instructions for every location involved in a particular Operation.

Finally the game contains a set of cards that show the specific layout of each location, as in these taken from Operation Steam.

The shaded areas are interiors and the unshaded are exterior locations.  Specific objects, enemy counters, alarm points and where your units and enemy units enter are all clearly identified

An important point is that this is an expansion and so the core game is needed to provide some of the parts you require.  Tiles and counters are essential from the core game and instructions are given for replacing core units with new ones. The latter are presented in  a separate rule book that also introduces new rules, usually linked to the new characters, the new enemy units and new items of equipment.   Something I really like is that each expansion has been designed to mix only with the core game, unlike some games where you need all the expansions plus the core game to create what you need. 

Considering the essence of stealth at the heart of the original game, the topic of Resistance had to be high on Triton Noir's list for inclusion.  As it's also a topic dear to my heart, I think this is marginally my preferred choice of the two expansions.  However, this is a purely personal reaction to the topic, as both expansions offer excellent additional value - high on atmosphere and action.

Whether there will be further additions is unknown, but if I can't have more of WWII, then on the horizon hopefully next year will be Triton Noir's foray into another secret world that of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood of Venice.  This should more than satisfy anyone's craving for skulduggery and lethal action and those of you who would have liked to see miniatures in V-Commandos will be more than pleased to welcome them in Assassin's Creed

V-COMMANDOS: SECRET WEAPONS If you are unfamiliar with the core game, I'd suggest looking at my original review , before g...


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


If you are unfamiliar with the core game, I'd suggest looking at my original review, before going any further.  Otherwise, read on.  Perhaps, because V-Commandos up to now has largely been available directly from Triton-Noir, the publishers, it has created limited impact on the gaming scene.  This is a great shame, as the quality of production is excellent and I really don't think there is another game out there quite like it.  However, I've just received the good news [which you can read here] that it will be imminently available in the UK both through retail outlets and as always directly online.
An initial glimpse inside the box!

If you know the core game or have read my previous review, you'll know that Stealth is the key word and a significant aspect of play.  Going in hard with all guns blazing with immediately draw down on you a rush of enemy reinforcements and all too likely failure of your mission. 

However, as an expansion, Secret Weapons provides a new set of Operations thematically linked that will bring you more than a fair share of high octane, explosive action this time.  This fact jumps out at you as soon as you look at the sections in the Rulebook on Additional Equipment and Special Units.  Panzerfausts, mortars and gas barrels do not make for a quiet time!

When you look at the Operations themselves and the buildings related to them the prospect of dramatic action gets even more certain.  An airfield and two U-boat bases, along with a V2 rocket site and attempting to guard a stolen V1 rocket until an RAF plane can land to recover it, while blowing up nearby V1 rocket launch ramps as a distraction will truly set alarm bells ringing.

The whole expansion follows exactly the same format as the original base game, which is essential for play.  Every facet of the game is added to, starting with three new Commando characters: the Butcher, the Intelligence Officer and the Mortar Gunner.  Once again each card that outlines their special abilities and weapons is double-sided with modified or different elements on each.  As before, you can judge which side's strengths suits a particular Mission and also adds to the variety of the action.  The Mortar Gunner is perhaps the most conventional of the trio and the Intel Officer [the rather femme fatale figure on the box and rule cover] the most original in her specialities.
Though a purely cosmetic detail, I like the touch of signalling the character's nationality by the national flag edging to each card.  So, we discover that the Intel Officer is of Polish nationality.

Along w
ith three new characters come three new weapons: two of them, the panzerfaust and the mortar, add a hefty bang to the action, but the third I like even more and that's the smoke grenades and their effect.  These add to the signature stealth element of this system as they cause large tiles [where you are always visible] to be treated as small tiles[where you usually are able to remain hidden]; a very simple way of creating the concealing effect of a smoke grenade, though logically one that ought to generate more enemy attention rather than less! 

The final new piece of equipment, gas barrels, is not technically a weapon, but once you blow one up it eliminates all units on a tile unless they are wearing gas masks.  This point brings us nicely to some of the new enemy units - nine regular German soldiers with gas masks.  How convenient!  These nine replace nine of the original regular soldiers in the core set.  Also added to the German forces are a number of paratroopers, the Fallschirmjagers.

Representing all these items on the playing area are plenty of new tokens, as well as plenty more additions to those already provided in the basic game.  In fact, two sheets worth.
In the countersheet above you can see this mix of the old and the new.  The latter are the circular counters for gas barrels [marked with skull and cross-bones], panzerfausts and gas grenades, as well as two Goliath-nests for the other special unit, the Goliath - a mini remote-controlled tank packed with explosives.  The addition to already familiar counters are the grey oblong open/closed door markers and truck markers that indicate enemy entrance positions, as well as a few +1/-1 Action Tokens.

Beside the counters, there are plenty more Event cards which continue to add more colour and unpredictability to the action too.
Equally impressive are 13 more double-sided tiles for indoor/ outdoor locations.  
The set of 13 new tiles on their outdoor side before being pressed out of the sprue.
There are 5 new Operations presented, as before, not by a scenario book, but by a set of highly atmospheric cards, with plenty of sensationally dramatic scenes on them, like this one.
Each Operation's information is supplied by a set of two cards: one card gives the name of the Operation, its date and a map of Europe to locate it geographically.   
On the other side is a diagram of the terrains involved in this Operation and how they link up.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it's important to remember that the word "terrain" is not used of the individual tiles, but to describe a location created from placing a number of tiles.  To illustrate what I mean take a look at the next picture, which is the reverse side of the map for Operation Chained Eagle.

Each of the four areas seen above are what the game calls a "terrain", which then has to be created from a choice of tiles.  So, the Hangar is assembled following the diagram on the appropriate card, which also gives you information on the actions that have to be taken to complete this element of the Operation.
The other card provides an overview of the Operation.
and its reverse side gives specific supplementary information for added components, actions or restrictions relating to each terrain. 
So, here we see that the Commandos at the Hangar get extra equipment, while the Fuel Depot is set up with two reinforcement entrances removed from the terrain and the Test Facility has the awesome information that certain tiles are removed turn by turn to represent the building being swept by fire and any units on those tiles, whether the enemy or your own Commandos, are eliminated!!

However, as you can imagine, creating even one of these terrains takes up several tiles and a fair amount of game space.  This is fine for small Operations with only one or two "terrains".  But in this expansion, even the three smallest Operations involve three terrain and the other two operations are of four and five terrains respectively.

This can be dealt with by setting up one terrain at a time, completing the action on it and then moving on to construct the next terrain and so on.  However, as all five Operations begin with two terrain side by side, but with no ability to move from one terrain to the other, you're far better setting up each of those terrains immediately and playing them in parallel.  For realism, this should be how the action is executed.

This last suggestion also leads me to a factor which may influence your decision to add it to your collection.  First, I judge that it is very much intended for cooperative play.  You really want to be running two teams of Commandos controlled by a minimum of one player for each team.  That's not to say that you can't take on even the largest Operation playing solo, but it will take a significant amount of time.  The second point really amplifies that last statement; even if you do game with two or more players, be prepared to expend several hours for these are substantial scenarios.

It seems to me that the only reason why you might decide not to take the plunge with this expansion is if you have no access at all to a group happy to play for several hours.  Even with my preference for solo play in this type of game, Secret Weapons certainly convinces me that for this game multi-player has its appeal too. 

Everything in the package deserves your full attention and appreciation of the quality and the immersive game play.   These are richly rewarding, narrative-producing Operations.  I can't wait to see what the next expansion, V-Commandos: The Resistance brings.

Once again thanks to Triton-Noir for kindly providing a review copy.