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Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences ...

Axis Football 2019 Axis Football 2019

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

Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences for several years now on PC. I had not played the series before this version, but I had heard good things about it. When the chance came along to review the newest edition, I had to jump on it like a fumble.

Axis Football takes a minimalist approach to things, and I mean that in a good way. Every menu and process in the game is clean, clear and streamlined to get you to the good stuff. There are no unnecessary frills, no long loading screens or needless cutscenes. Whether you are in the menus or in the game, everything moves along as fast as you can make decisions. I found this very refreshing, and it made it a breeze to knock out a game quickly. 

While the game offers a few modes of the play, it is clearly meant to be played in franchise mode. If you just want to play a quick exhibition game, the option is there, but really you'll want to jump over to the "full" experience as soon as possible. Franchise mode gives you a ton to think about between games. You are in charge of all team operations, and so you'll be deciding everything from who is starting this week, who the scouts are focused on, and whether there's money in the budget for new bathrooms at the stadium. 

The 2019 version of the game does a lot to expand this part of the experience. You have 16 different slots for various coaches, scouts, and coordinators, all of whom have their own stats and contracts to consider. The practice schedule of your team can be tweaked to focus on particular areas like tackling and special teams. The more intense your practices, the more points you can invest in different areas, but at the same time you run a risk wearing down team morale. That's another new thing in 2019, team morale, which is influenced by many of your decisions, and in turn influences things like contract negotiations and how fast your players develop. 

You'll also now have numerous financial decisions to consider, as I alluded to before. All sorts of facility upgrades are possible, like adding a sauna, upgrading the VIP boxes, or getting the field in tip top shape. Every one of these upgrades offers a benefit to your team, but most come with a hefty price tag. You'll need those funds for retaining star players and signing free agents. Go out and win, and the funds will come streaming in for those airplane tickets to every game. Until then, we're taking the bus. 

All the other sorts of sports sim management decisions you would expect to find are here. You'll need to manage your roster, decide who's starting on Sunday, and always be watching for those rising stars and the guys you just need to cut loose. Trading, drafting, scouting, managing contracts, free agents, and so on, it's all here and fairly detailed, without getting bogged down in minutia. Keeping with the minimalist style of the game, all of these actions are easy to accomplish, with just a couple of clicks being enough to get the job done, no matter what you are trying to do. The only screen I feel like the game is missing is some kind of comprehensive profile page for each player. Unless I just completely missed it, there didn't seem to be anything like this for players. You have to go to several different screens to get all the information (game stats, attribute scores, contract status, etc.) about a particular player. Oddly, the coaches do have a screen like this, where you can review a detailed profile with attribute scores, lifetime stats, and contract status all in one screen. I'd love to see the same for the players next year. 

Now let's get on to the actual games. At a glance, you can see that Axis Football is made by an independent studio, not EA. That said, the graphics have a certain charm to them and come with the benefit of loading quickly and running smoothly. The physics are a bit clunky and at times players will fall over in funny ways that might make you giggle. This was fine by me though, as I had a good time regardless. I used a Steam controller and it worked quite well with no adjustments to the settings. You can play with mouse and keyboard, but I wouldn't recommend it. 

Choosing plays is simple and there is a massive playbook to sort through, with apparently more than 2000 options on hand between offense and defense. If you don't know your dime package from your 4-3 defense, you can always "Ask Mike" for a suggestion. Before the snap you can call audibles and and shift players around. Controlling your player during the action works just the same as any football game since the days of Madden 64. Perfectly timed button presses will let you juke a defender or jump just in time for an interception. Not everything is great about this area of the game, unfortunately. Receivers always stop and stand still when catching the ball, rather than catching it in stride. Player hit boxes for tackling don't always seem to match up quite the way you expect them to. Players also regularly clip into each other and group up in odd looking ways. Overall, the actual game portion is adequate for what it is, a football game on a budget, but there is plenty of room for improvement here. 

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that the game obviously doesn't have an NFL contract, and so the teams are all fictional. They are also not structured like the NFL as a league. The teams are split into three tiers, and a team must earn their way up to the next tier, and reach the top in order to compete for the big championship. I really like this style of league, it creates an interesting narrative over multiple seasons of a low tier time rising to the top. If your hometown isn't represented by one of the 36 teams in the game by default, you can go to the editor mode and easily put it into the mix. If you must have the traditional NFL teams and logos, a quick trip to the forum will get you a link to a mod which puts them all into the game, with proper rosters and coaches.

So, is Axis Football 2019 worthy of your purchase? I think it depends on what you are looking for exactly. The franchise mode is deep and well done. There is always room for more "stuff" in that realm, and the 2019 version adds a lot to it. Everything in that mode makes sense and is easy to use, while giving you just about all the various options you could hope for. As for the actual gameplay, it isn't bad by any means, but it isn't amazing either. I had fun with it, but I'm a casual player when it comes to sports games. Hardcore Madden veterans might find a lot to nitpick there. That said, I really enjoyed leaning back in my computer chair, controller in hand, and playing a game each time I fired it up. More than once I pumped a fist in triumph on a great score, or sighed in despair, knowing the game had just slipped beyond my reach after a bad pass. 

- Joe Beard

Axis Football 2019 is available on Steam, PS4, and XBOX ONE

The Battle of Fontenoy 1745 by James Falkner  We all have favorite Wars, Generals, and Battles, well this one ch...

The Battle of Fontenoy 1745 by James Falkner The Battle of Fontenoy 1745 by James Falkner

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

The Battle of Fontenoy 1745


James Falkner

 We all have favorite Wars, Generals, and Battles, well this one checks the boxes on all three of my lists. Maurice de Saxe was not only a great general, but also one of the eighteenth century's greatest thinkers and writers on the subject of war. Some of the changes in armies that he wrote about were utilized by Napoleon and generals since then. 

 Maurice de Saxe, or more correctly Arminus-Maurice de Saxe, was one of 354 illegitimate children sired by Augustus II 'The Strong' of Saxony (if most people in Asia are related to Genghis Khan, surely a lot in Europe are related to him!). He was the first of only eight illegitimate children that Augustus would recognize. His life in warfare started at the early age of twelve when he went to war against France in the War of The Spanish Succession. Oddly enough, he rose to be a Marshal of France. His counterpart on the English side of the battle of Fontenoy was William Augustus, The Duke of Cumberland. He was the third child of George II of England. These two generals would be the head of each of the separate armies to clash at Fontenoy. 

 The book is misnamed by the author. It not only describes the actual battle of Fontenoy, but goes back in time to describe all of the events that led to The War of The Austrian Succession (also called the Pragmatic War, because of the Pragmatic Sanction). Maria-Theresa of Austria was the oldest living female offspring of her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. The Pragmatic Sanction was a treaty that most of Europe had signed that allowed a female to take over the Austrian Hapsburg Realms. In actuality, everyone was waiting for the death of Charles to either attack or defend Austria. First and foremost among them was Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick The Great). With the death of Charles the games began.

 The author describes in detail the coming of the war and the events that led to the Battle of Fontenoy. The book continues after the battle to show the reader the '45' and the meteoric career of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The author goes into the Duke of Cumberland's subsequent history after the battle of Fontenoy, and his fall from grace and gradual rise again. The part of the book on the actual Battle of Fontenoy does however, leave the reader wanting more detailed information about the actual battle. You do get the movements and attacks etc. of the units involved, just not to a depth I would have liked to see. If the book had been named more appropriately, my misgivings about the actual information on the battle would be lessened. It is still a very good book about an era in history that not much at all has been written about. Hopefully, that will change soon. Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review this book. It is an easy recommendation for someone who is looking for information on the War of the Austrian Succession, and not just because of the dearth of other sources.


Book: The Battle of Fontenoy 1745
Author: James Falkner
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

BATTLES FOR SPAIN from AVALON-DIGITAL This is a substantial package covering four major battles from the Spanish Civil War.  In e...


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


This is a substantial package covering four major battles from the Spanish Civil War.  In essence, this provides a conventional wargame format of area movement with the digital equivalents of the cardboard counters of the board wargames that I love.  Even in that world of physical components the number of games on the Spanish Civil war are relatively few, so I was very enthusiastic to have the chance to review Avalon-Digital's presentation, especially as three out of the four battles have received treatment in magazine games that I possess.

All four of the scenarios listed below can be played as either the Republican side or the Nationalists against the computer A.I.  Also it's possible to hot seat the first three scenarios by choosing player mode for both sides.  Though on the whole I prefer my two player games to be ftf over a real game board on my table, to offer this option is always an added bonus that I welcome. 

The only battle that doesn't follow this pattern is the final battle, the Ebro.  Here, it's notable that the size of this battle is such that a separate scenario has to be chosen for each side to play against the A.I. and no hot seating is available.

Guadalajara    1937
Teruel             1937
Merida            1938
Ebro                1938

Each scenario has its opening outline of the historical situation and then the next screen details your objectives for winning.

What I particularly like is that each scenario offers a significantly different situation.  In Guadalajara, the Nationalists are attacking to take control of a major road that runs from west to east.  They have to clear a specific portion of the road to win, while the Republicans have to hold on long enough until reinforcements arrive and then try to eliminate enough Italian units for victory.

At Teruel, it is the republicans who're on the offensive, attempting to take the city.  This is very much a battle of encirclement and staving in the defence.

The third scenario, Merida, was the only battle with which I was totally unfamiliar.  We're back on the Nationalist offensive, attempting to close a pocket.  Though sharing some similarities with the previous scenario in its element of encirclement, the nationalists here start from a position where they have far more ground to cover and do not have a focal point to capture.  As a result it plays out quite differently.

Finally, the Ebro is a massive battle with a front line running the whole way from north to south.  It is the major scenario in the foursome and the longest to play.  I've got to say my personal favourites are Guadalajara and Teruel because of their situations, but all four games offer substantial rewards.  In part, this is because the system offers what is the near perfect presentation of all that I look for in a board wargame, but translated into computer format.

Armour, infantry, artillery and air rules are there and even a nod to naval in the Ebro, though this is only in the form of boats for crossing the river! In addition, card play has a significant role without being overpowering.  Each turn you will have a number of cards that you may or in some cases must play.  For example, reinforcements come by card play and are the first phase of a player's turn, weather too tends to be a compulsory play and often there will be at least one card that you will choose to play as it either boosts you in some way or hinders your opponent.  

Typical instances are cards that allow a softening up bombardment or prevent some of the enemy units from moving.  Inevitably some cards will give you bonuses in attack or negative factors on your opponent.  These are features I love to see in games and work very well here to add to the replayability and the uncertainty of every game.

The game sequence is typical IGO/UGO and follows these familiar Phases.

Draw Cards
Naval Movement [Ebro only]
Air Movement [Offensive]
Land Movement
Battles [and possible Breakthrough]
Second Air Movement [Defensive]
End of Turn

Most of the game's computer functions are fairly logical and most can be picked up by trial and error. [I say this as someone who is not by nature led to understanding at a glance computer games.]  However, there is a very good online rules manual that comes to 81 pages which I took the trouble to download and print out.  It is hugely comprehensive to the point of over-repetition at times and lavishly illustrated with screen shots accompanying detailed examples.  Much is largely unnecessary, but it is an excellent back-up for getting into important aspects like combat.

The presentation of the latter on screen is very well executed with both sides units lined up, the Attackers on the left and the Defenders on the right, with a 10 sided dice occupying the centre.  A single roll is compared with each unit's strength and hits and routs duly allocated.  Most combat lasts two rounds, but weather and card play may limit you to a single round.

Here you can see a typical battle showing the details of the leader and the top of the screen and his units lined up below.  A single die is rolled when you click on it and provided the score is equal to or lower than a unit's fire power a hit will be scored or if a one a rout will be the result.  It's worth pointing out that the roll applies to both acting units and defending units.  So though you want to be scoring low, you're going to be taken hits too.  Hence the need to send in strength against weakness, as here where you can inflict up to five casualties as opposed to your opponents one. 
As this illustrates, breakthroughs can also be achieved, as here where the enemy has been totally eliminated.

Always one of the finest aspects, as with any computer war game, is that all the fine details of rule requirements and especially those for combat is handled without you having to do all the maths or check that you've remembered all the rules and any exceptions or special circumstances.  As a result combat flows very swiftly and smoothly. 

By contrast, movement is a much more cumbersome affair and here I would love to have seen the function that I welcome most in all my favourite computer battles, namely that highlighting a unit/s causes the map to illuminate where you can move to.  In Battles for Spain, when you click on an area containing your units, you have first to open an onscreen box to check what units you have.  This is a time-consuming process in itself, though usually unavoidable in games that allow stacking. 

But having to find by trial and error where units can move to does add considerably more time and effort to play.  Fortunately, except for the final Ebro battle, the number of stacks is fairly manageable and so not too onerous.  It is also exactly what I'm used to experiencing in the physical world of board wargames that I'm usually immersed in.

A much simpler phase of the game is the movement of your air units prior to Land Movement.  Rarely do either side have many air units, but I like the additional touch of detail that their inclusion gives and the feel of flying out to engage the enemy.  Air defence is also handled well, as at the end of your turn your planes are automatically returned to base and can then be flown defensively to areas which you judge are likely to receive attacks.

The game offers a nice sense of planning your attacks and making appropriate thrusts against weak points in your enemy's line.  The uncertainty of how your A.I. opponent will respond is a great factor in the game.  Though I certainly haven't played any scenario often enough to comment on replay value, just playing each scenario from both sides has provided more than enough enjoyment to make this a worthwhile buy.  For me just the opportunity to play out and experience these four major battles from the Spanish Civil war is frankly reward enough in itself and so it's thanks too to Avalon-Digital for providing me with that opportunity.

Below is a link to the company's website.


Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) was released a full six years ago, and has since received endless patches and updates, as we...

Command: Modern Operations Command: Modern Operations

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

Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) was released a full six years ago, and has since received endless patches and updates, as well as several DLC campaigns and stand alone scenarios. If you are unfamiliar with the game, I'll briefly describe it, but my primary purpose today is to discuss the upgrade to Command: Modern Operations (CMO). In short, CMANO is perhaps the ultimate sandbox for air and naval combat simulation. 

Well, if you don't mind that simulation taking the form, visually, of a map covered in simple icons, lines, and rings. It's what all those simple icons, lines, and rings represent that makes the game so fascinating. Essentially, every single aircraft, ship, submarine, and related weapon that has existed since the end of WW2 on up to the present day, and even a bit into the future, is realistically represented within the game. It's all there in a Wikipedia style database that has more specs and stats than you can possibly ever need. Between the official and community made scenarios, there are somewhere north of 600 scenarios on offer, and a powerful editor that you can use to whip up something of your own design. These scenarios depict some hypothetical and utterly fictional situations, but many recreate historical battles and events with a high level of detail. 

Although the graphics might be simple at a glance, the simulation is doing some serious work behind the scenes. Weapons only function within their real design parameters, aircraft burn fuel at variable rates depending on their speed and payload, the thermal layer and other underwater phenomenon are fully taken into account, and, most importantly of all, real world tactics and strategies are the order of the day. 

While some scenarios are straight forward affairs, many depict actions taking place over multiple days or across hundreds of miles, where you will need to take into consideration things like patrols, reconnaissance, SEAD strikes, mid-air refueling, changes in day/night, and the rotation of aircraft back to base for rearming and refueling. Many of the nitty-gritty details can be handled by the AI automatically; you just create missions and then assign units to them. However, if you really want to micromanage things, you can go in and manually direct the firing of individual weapons at specific targets. 

For some missions, like attacking particular buildings in an enemy base, you'll want to get in there and assign targets yourself. For other needs, like flying a CAP around the fleet, simply creating an appropriate mission and assigning the correct squadron to it will be all you need to do. How will you know which squadron is the correct squadron? Well, if you don't know your F-22's from your F-18's, or even if you do, you'll want to poke around in the in-game wiki a bit. Keeping Google open in the background might be a good idea as well. Needless to say, this is a game that will require some effort on the part of the player, but will reward you with an incredibly deep and varied experience.

Now, after much anticipation, the next iteration of the epic combat simulator is here in the form of Command: Modern Operations. This new version of the game completely replaces CMANO, but also comes with a price tag. This will lead many out there to wonder, is this worth the upgrade price? Alternatively, if you never pulled the trigger on the older version, is now the time to jump in? Read on to see what is new and improved. 

First up I will direct you to the official CMANO->CMO FAQ, which should answer a few questions you might have. Essentially, if you already own CMANO, you can upgrade to CMO for $40 for a limited time. While that is a considerable fee for an engine upgrade, one must consider that CMANO received non-stop updates for the past 6 years, and we can expect that same level of support for CMO going forward. Any extra content you might have purchased transfers over to CMO, and of course the absolutely massive trove of community built scenarios will still work in CMO. Just to give you an idea of how dedicated the fans are, and how easy the mission editor is to use, I'll point out that there are 476 scenarios in the official community pack, and that number steadily grows. Good luck ever playing all of them! 

I was a bit disappointed to see that the previously stand-alone campaigns, like Northern Fury, will no longer be available to purchase as separate mini-versions of the game, but only as DLC within CMO. I thought that was a great way to let people dip their toes into the Command world.  New players will now have to bite the bullet and drop $80 on the full game, or wait it out for a sale. 

Now, what exactly are you getting if you do decide to upgrade to CMO? Let's run down the list of new features, and I'll comment on my experiences with them since getting my hands on the game. 

New User Interface

CMANO veterans will immediately notice that the new UI is much easier on the eyes than that in the original game. The very generic and plain interface of the original has been restyled with a nice dark theme, some softer edges, and a splash of color. A new row of buttons along the top give you quick access to some of the most common commands and windows that you will need on a regular basis. Overall, the controls are the same as before, and you'll still be digging through menus at times, but this should ease new players into the game a bit better and give veterans a little quality of life upgrade. The bottom line is, the game now looks much more like a "game" and less like a piece of generic Windows software. For some players, this won't matter at all, but I very much liked the changes.

Besides looking different the UI now features a lot of new functionality. A much more useful message log now sorts messages into different categories to help you find what you are looking for, and hovering over an entry, for example "Enemy fighter X destroyed by missile Y" will now cause a text bubble to pop up on the map, showing exactly where that event occurred. Very useful in the case where you missed something important during a chaotic battle. Another nice update is that the pictures of various units and weapons are now automatically downloaded into the database as you pull them up. Previously, you had to go to the developer website and manually download a giant folder of images to stick in your game files. This doesn't really change the gameplay at all, but is certainly a better solution. Half the fun of the game is that you have access to ALL the toys from the past 70 years of warfare, you're gonna want to at least get a picture of what they look like. 

Tacview 3D Integration

Speaking of visuals, one major change found in CMO is that you can now integrate it with Tacview 3D Advanced to get a simple 3D view of what's happening on the battlefield. It's important to note that this is a separate software purchase. You do get a nice discount if you own CMO, but it's still almost the price of a AAA release. On the upside, the software can also be used with flight simulators like DCS World, so you could get some additional utility out of it if you are so inclined. A luxury item no doubt, but a very cool feature. For all of its complexity and depth, CMO still involves a lot of staring at simple icons and lines on a map. Having an extra window showing the action in 3D should bring things to life in a more dynamic way. I do not own the software, so I can't give it a review, but here's a shot of what it adds to the game.

New Map Layers

Continuing with the visual improvements, the game now includes some additional map layers that you can switch on and off as you please. Just as in CMANO, most of the time you will be looking at a Google Earth style globe that you can freely move around and zoom to wherever you desire. CMO adds a new higher resolution map where you can see right down to individual streets and groups of buildings. Unfortunately, I often had trouble getting the map to load as fast as one might hope for. Often, one "chunk" of the map would load in higher resolution, and then the areas around that chunk would stubbornly refuse to load in for a long time. I don't know if this was just due to my hard drive not being up to snuff, or an issue with the game engine. In the screenshot below, you can simultaneously see both the gorgeous high-res layer of the map, and imagine the frustration of sitting there waiting for the rest of it to load in. 

I also experienced another visual oddity where bits of two different layers seemed to bleed into each other at times. Hopefully a little more polish can resolve these issues. CMO also adds a few other layers that you can use if you prefer. One of these takes away the satellite imagery and replaces it with a cleaner, utilitarian style of map. I liked playing with this one on while operating in urban areas.

Improvements to Ground Forces

Besides looking nicer, the higher resolution terrain visuals also connect with improvements to the actual gameplay. The terrain on the ground is now represented in a far more detailed manner. Hovering your mouse around the map will display information which now includes a specific description of the terrain. Cropland, plains, mountains, jungles, urban areas, forests, swamps, and many more types of terrain are now modeled in the engine. While the description and the visual representation were not always exactly 1:1, it was shockingly close for a map modeling the entire world. 

This is important because a long requested update to one area of the game has arrived: ground operations. Of course, given the title of "Modern Air/Naval Operations," the inclusion of detailed ground combat was never promised, but could only make the game that much more interesting. While mobile ground units are still not a central part of the game, and most scenarios don't have any at all, future scenario makers will now be able to create much more interesting conflicts using them. All of that new terrain information comes into play, along with detailed line-of-sight data. Before, it didn't really matter if you drove some tanks through a swamp, or hid your infantry in dense jungle. Now it matters a great deal. While the developers have made it very clear that they aren't aiming to reach the fidelity of something like Armored Brigade or Command Ops, this is still a pretty nice leap forward.

Check out this Developer Diary for more details on the changes to Ground Ops

Under The Hood

Besides the updates to the UI and visuals, the engine itself has received a massive upgrade in terms of performance and modeling. Though I don't have any hard data, I can say with confidence that the game now runs along more smoothly than ever before, which is especially noticeable in the more complex scenarios. More specific updates include improvements to the aircraft dogfighting AI, the flight model, and even the modeling of G-Force effects on air crews. Other improvements to air combat include radar frequency agility and explicit doppler-notching. Do I know what these terms mean? Absolutely not. But they are now part of the simulation. A little research reveals that these are some advanced air combat maneuvers, the inclusion of which show just how insanely detailed and researched this game really is.

Quick Battle Generator

This is a great idea, but the first iteration is a bit anemic. The idea is to allow the player to jump right into some action, without the context of a larger scenario to worry about. Air, sea, and underwater engagements can all be created in just a few clicks. Unfortunately, the options and results are very limited. Basically, no matter what settings you pick, it's just a small handful of roughly equivalent units run smack into each other and you see who wins. Spending a short time learning how to use the editor would allow you to whip up far more interesting engagements in just a few minutes. I appreciate the thought here, but I hope this feature will be updated to, perhaps, generate simple scenarios like attacking an enemy base with several squadrons of fighters.

Other Changes

There are just so many minor changes and updates to the game that I don't want to drone on describing every single one, so I'll just rattle off a few more here. If you want the exhaustive list of changes, just follow this link to the developer's page and start scrolling. There is a lot to read about!

Expanded Tutorials - Self explanatory, but certainly this game needs all the tutorials it can get. Once you know how to create missions and get units into action, the game really isn't that hard to control, but getting over that initial hump can be intimidating.

Chains of War Features - The DLC campaign "Chains of War" had several features not included in the base game (loading/unloading cargo and amphibious forces, electronic/cyberwarfare, detailed aircraft damage modeling, and some high tech toys). All of that is now baked into the base game, and can be used by anyone for their own scenarios.

Realistic Submarine Communications - A cool new optional setting. Just as in real life, submarines that go deep underwater can no longer be easily tracked or communicated with, even by allied units. You won't even be able to see their exact location on the map, so you better think twice before assigning a mission. Just as in the real world, an ELF signal can be sent to request they come back to the surface to re-establish communications.

This covers many of the changes found in CMO, but definitely not everything. I'm probably underselling a lot of the changes in how the simulation is modeled, since I'm not enough of expert on what is being depicted to tell you just how accurately things were being modeled to begin with. What I can tell you, is that CMO takes what was already a great system, and makes it several notches better. There is simply nothing else out there like it. It's game where you can convincingly simulate a naval battle from 1950, an air-to-air combat in 1967, and a submarine duel in 1985 all within one unified system.

If you already own CMANO and didn't care for it, well, CMO probably won't change your opinion. It's a hefty update, but it doesn't fundamentally change the game in any way. If you loved CMANO and play it all the time, it's a must have. All new updates and content going forward will require CMO, and based on the past six years, we can expect there to be plenty more of both. If you never took the plunge but were curious, the release of CMO is a great time to jump in. Yes, the price is significant, but you will get a one of a kind experience with limitless content. 

- Joe Beard

Command Modern Operations is available directly from Matrix Games and on Steam.

Peloponnesian War  431-404 BC by GMT Games  The Peloponnesian War, which is really the apotheosis of Ancient Gr...

Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games

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

Peloponnesian War  431-404 BC


GMT Games

 The Peloponnesian War, which is really the apotheosis of Ancient Greek History, needs no introduction. Where else could you find Socrates while fighting at the Battle of Potidaea saving Alcibiades' life. Let alone the life of Alcibiades himself, one of the most successful Generals for both Sparta and Athens! The War was the culmination of Athenian and Spartan ambitions after the Greeks successfully defeated the Persian Empire in the Greco-Persian war. The Athenian Empire, quaintly called The Delian League, was by 431 BC growing ever larger. Sparta and Athens had already clashed once before, but the status quo was upheld. Now, this war would be to the death, or more correctly to the humbling of the loser.

 This game is a remake of  Mark Herman's 1991 Peloponnesian War. This was the first solitaire game that had the player switching sides, depending upon how well the player was doing at that moment. The player sometimes had to switch several times throughout the game. It also had the usual two-player and an optional multi-player setup available to play. For those of us who have the 1991 version, what would be the reason(s) to buy this new version? First and foremost - aesthetics. This new version's components are the usual top notch ones found in GMT Games. The second is that the original was produced twenty-eight years ago, so any kinks in its armor have been worked out. Third is a bit of a surprise that I will be talking about in a bit. let us have a look at the components:

Rules booklet
Play book
Mounted Game Board: 22x34 inches
2 Counter Sheets
1 pad of VP Record Sheets
1 Athenian Strategy Matrix
1 Spartan Strategy Matrix
2 Player Aid Cards
2 Six-sided Dice 

 The first thing we will talk about is to me the greatest part and selling point of the game. GMT Games has lied. The Peloponneian War not only contains the War from 431-404 BC, but comes with two extra special treats. These are only found if one reads the info on the back of the box. The Player also gets a scenario about the 1st Peloponnesian War which runs from 460-443 BC. Just like some TV ads: 'but wait there is more'. There is a third scenario called the fall of Sparta which goes from 400-362 BC, and shows the growth of Thebes to become the military powerhouse of the Greek peninsula. This allows the player to use counters representing Epaminondas and Pelopidas on the Theban side, and Agesilaus on the Spartan. For those of us who keep a copy of Plutarch's life always within in reach, this is a dream come true.

 This is the sequence of Play:

Political Phase [3.0] (not conducted on the first turn)
◦ Side Determination Segment [3.1] 
◦ Event Segment [3.2] 
◦ Delian League Rebellion Segment [3.3] 
◦ Leader Selection Segment [3.4] 
Strategic Planning Phase [4.0] (not conducted on the first turn) 
◦ Strategy Determination Segment [4.1] 
◦ Confidence Reset Segment [4.2] 
Operations Phase [5.0] 
◦ Player Side Initial Operation Segment [5.1] 
◦ Non-Player Side Initial Operation Segment [5.2] 
◦ Continuing Operations Segment [5.3] 
◦ Going Home Segment [5.4]
 Combat Phase [6.0] 
◦ Siege Determination Segment [6.1] 
◦ Battle Resolution Segment [6.2] 
◦ Siege Resolution Segment [6.3] 
◦ Going Home Segment [6.4] 
Rebellion Phase [7.0] 
◦ Continued Rebellion Segment [7.1] 
◦ Rebellion Expansion Segment [7.2] 
◦ Helot Rebellion Segment [7.3]
 Administration Phase [8.0] 
◦ Revenue Collection Segment [8.1] 
◦ Unit Construction Segment [8.2] 
Armistice & Surrender Phase [9.0] 
◦ Bellicosity Adjustment Segment [9.1] 
◦ Surrender Determination Segment [9.2] 
◦ Armistice Determination Segment [9.3] 
◦ End of Turn Segment [9.4]

 Even though this is a long and involved game, the actual rulebook is only 21 pages long. This includes the rules for solitaire play. The playbook is separated into two parts. The first is twenty-four pages long and includes the setups for each of the scenarios and the rules for two-player games. The second is twenty-two pages long and includes a background and history of the Wars included in the scenarios. It also includes an excellent 'The Game as History' section. This compares the game setup and play in each of the two-year turns throughout the Peloponnesian war scenario from 431-402 BC. The historical write up is a great refresher or introduction to those of us who do not dream of fighting as a hoplite.

 The components, as have been mentioned, are first class. The addition of a mounted mapboard is always an excellent touch to a wargame. The map is a point-to-point move type. I always prefer hexes, but this leads to the designer having to do a lot of extra work on movement. The two Strategy Matrix cards are also hard mounted on cardboard. The counters are thick and come pre-rounded. This is no big deal to me either way. I would rather spend the outrageous cost of buying a clipper on another game anyway! The pictures and info on the counters are easy to read and understand. The game strangely does not come with an AAA price attached to it. For a mere $65 US you can pick this up at GMT Games. This might be a nice price point for those of us who already have the first 1991 edition. 

 The game play in many ways can represent, or bring to life, the history of the age. If this isn't a plus in any historical game then what is? However, the game allows the player to do whatever strategy he feels like. It does not shackle the player to only play a certain way. Some games do that to make it feel 'historical', but not Peloponnesian War. What if Sparta decided on its own early in the war to implement a strategy like Alcibiades talked them into using only much later in the war. What if Athens instead of playing turtle decided to actually force a confrontation with Spartan hoplites? This one is not recommended, but hey its just a game. You do not have to worry about dying or being exiled if you lose a battle, let alone the war.

 Oddly perhaps, at least for me, we have to talk about the cover art on the box. Some appear annoyed at its non-historical look. The ships look much too large. The ship in the foreground looks like it is getting ready to ram the one you are looking from, and its sail is also up. Naturally the sail would be stowed and only rowing power should be used in battle. To me it is also a bit odd because the marines on your ship do not seem poised for battle, nor are there any projectiles in the air. However, if it is meant as a friendly ship it seems to be sailing much too close for comfort. I guess we will have to ask the artist Eric Williams just what is happening. To my way of thinking it could have a picture of a rusty nail on the cover and I wouldn't bat an eye, as long as the game inside was to my liking. 

 Leaders are very important to the game, and are a bit of a two edged sword for the player. Leaders are chosen randomly, and there is the rub. For every great leader you can pull there is an equally mediocre one waiting for your fingertips. Talents (money) is what makes the Peloponnesian War go round. This is the first war in history that we have records of how much it cost to wage war and send expeditions. Pericles had amassed enough talents to see Athens through a five year war. Once that money was drained the exorbitant taxes that Athens imposed on the Delian League went a long way to losing the war for them. The higher taxes they imposed, the more cities that revolted from the League. Sparta being essentially an agrarian society based on slave labor did not have the same problems putting an army in the field. The cost of running a naval war was ruinous to both sides. In reality Persian gold is what won the war for Sparta. The Persian gold is represented in the Event Segment as a large plus to Sparta if rolled. There is a possibility of Sparta getting 1000 talents added to their treasury by Persia. The game rules also give you a reason to invade Sicily if you are playing the Athenian. If the Athenian player can conquer all of Sicily it is worth 1000 talents to them.

 Playing as Athens you must try to use your naval assets to attack the Spartans and their allies where they don't expect it. You will also have to deal with numerous revolts from your 'Empire'. Try to douse those flames as quick as possible. This is not easy and you might end up playing whack-a-mole throughout the Aegean. The Spartan player has the advantage and it shouldn't take him twenty years to understand that Athens can't feed itself. Park your army right in front of Athens and then try to pick off the Athenian Allies and close off the northern Aegean to them. 

 One of the other questions is what if you already own 'Pericles' from GMT. First, consider yourself lucky, then understand that they are two entirely different games. The Pericles game is at least half devoted to the politics of both sides. This game is more devoted to the actual wargaming aspect of the war. Though both are great solitaire games, Pericles can also be played by one to four players, making it a good game if you can get a group together for game night. Peloponnesian War is a one to two player game.

 So is it worth it? Does a bear, never mind. Yes, Virginia it is worth every penny, even if you already own its sire. The addition of the two additional scenarios, especially the 'Fall of Sparta', make it incredibly easy to recommend this game to anyone. Show me where you can game the rise of Thebes in any game, except as tactical battles from the era. The history of Greece is in your hot little hands, especially when playing solitaire. Does Athens and its 'ahem' empire continue to grow or do the hoplites of Sparta bring an end to the glory of Pericles? Again, not to belabor the fact, does the Theban Sacred Band crush any Spartan that comes up against it or fall in glory as it finally did at Charonea? Here are some links to the game etc.:

Peloponnesian War:

Peloponnesian War Rulebook:

GMT Games:

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: