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The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing  The first day of Gettysburg was a...

The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing The Devil's To Pay! The First Day at Gettysburg by Tiny Battle Publishing

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




The Devil's To Pay!

The First Day at Gettysburg

by

Tiny Battle Publishing




 The first day of Gettysburg was a great Confederate victory, but also a great failure. Lee had wanted to attack the Army of the Potomac as it was strung out on the roads trying to catch the Army of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately for Lee, he had the Army of the Potomac right where and how he wanted it, but he didn't know it. Both A.P. Hill's and Ewell's Corps converged on the town of Gettysburg almost by design. The Federal Army was straggling bit by bit into the Confederate forces. While it is true that Hill's Corps was roughly handled in the morning, in the afternoon the remnants of several Federal Corps were streaming toward the heights to the east of Gettysburg. Once the Confederates were poised beneath the heights, where the Federal troops were expecting the next attack, nothing happened. To history's amazement, the blow never fell. This is the story of the 1st day of the Battle of Gettysburg. So, let us look at Tiny Battle's take on it using the 'Blind Swords' system to game it.


  This is another game designed by Hermann Luttmann. I have seen some strange postings about this game. So, let us try to straighten this out right now. The company is called 'Tiny Battle' for a reason. The games they sell are 'Tiny Battles'. You see, there seems to be a theme here. This is the third game I have reviewed for them. It is by far the largest or theirs that I have reviewed. However, the game is 'tiny' compared to other games I own. It is also good to remember that good things come in small packages.



 This is what you get with the game:

1 - 17” x 22” map 
176 – Counters
3 – Player Aid Cards (1 Union and 1 Confederate) 
Multiple six-sided dice (Black, white and red)
1 – Full-color rulebook
1 -box

 This is the sequence of play:

1. Advance the Game Turn Marker
2. Command Decision Phase (Pick 2 Events + Randomize 2 events)
3. Special Artillery Phase (Fire Combat/Move 8MPs/Rally)
4. Chit Draw Phase
5. Activation Phase (Order/Fire/Movement/Assault/Rally)
6. End Phase






 
 The map was designed and drawn by Rick Barber, and if you are familiar with the game 'Longstreet Attacks', it looks very much like it. The hexes are 250 yards wide. The map is very colorful and makes it easy to see each hex's terrain, while still keeping its unique charm. The counters are strange and are a mix of high grade and low grade material. They are a bit 'busy' and the color choices make it a bit hard to read some of them. They do seem to be coated unlike any other counters I have seen. They feel almost like a thin coat of clear plastic is on them. However, in more than a few of them the top layer of the front of the counter is pulling up away from the rest of the counter. Strangely, the backs of the counters do not seem to have this problem. The Player Aids are well done, but again a bit small and busy, in keeping with the Tiny Battle theme. While reading this, keep in mind the words 'Tiny battle'. You could easily scan and redo the Player Aids to a larger size if necessary.





 I will use this snippet from Tiny Battle to describe the system:

 "Units are multi-counter brigades, with each strength point representing about 100 men, and these brigades are organized in
groups of regiments as they were deployed at the battle. The system is a new version of the Blind Swords system, with this implementation emphasizing ease-of-play and accessibility while maintaining the popular spirit of "historical chaos" represented by the other games in the Blind Swords family. This system utilizes a unique chit-pull mechanic that will keep players on their toes and engaged throughout the entire game."

 There are two scenarios that come with the game. The first is the 'Tutorial Scenario' that is named 'Ewell be Coming 'Round the Mountain (But not Early Enough), I love their quips. This scenario is only four turns long from 3:00-5:00PM. The "Main Scenario' called 'An Unexpected Encounter' is the full first day of fighting.





 I am a big fan of the Blind Sword system. So, in that regard there is not much else to say. I feel that it gives you, to quote Tiny Battle, the right amount of "historical chaos" for a nineteenth century battle. You and your opponent's plans will be in shambles at times, and just when you are ready to strike at his jugular, the moment slips away. 

 The rules are well done, and if you are used to the system you can start playing immediately. The only real problem I see with the game is the counters if they get too much playing time racked up. Other than that, it is a good representation of the first day of Gettysburg. Thank you Tiny Battle for allowing me to review another of your games.

Game Link:
https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/the-devils-to-pay-the-first-day-at-gettysburg

Robert 






Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith , an award winning artist who focuses on images of ...

An Interview with Russell Smith An Interview with Russell Smith

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



Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith, an award winning artist who focuses on images of the Old West and early aviation, particularly World War I aircraft. A rough transcript of our conversation follows.

JB: To start off, tell us a bit about your background, what started your interest in art, and how did you get to where you are now?

Russell: Art was the one thing I've always been good at. Even in elementary school, in third grade, I was drawing noticeably better than a lot of the kids around me. You know when you're good at something, you tend to keep doing it, because you get recognition for it, and I enjoyed doing it.

Then when I got into college, I majored in art, and about that time I saw the work of Robert Taylor, and I just, I loved airplanes as a kid and I thought, "Wow!" if someone can make a living painting airplanes, that's what I want to do. So I started doing it on the side, and worked day jobs for about ten years, and then finally back in 2001, I went full time with it.



JB: So, you did something else in there before you went full time with it. What was the moment when you thought, I can do this full time and make it work?

Russell: Well, I was working in the printing industry for about ten years. I was single at the time, and so I was kinda pushing myself on a pretty hard schedule. What I would do was, I would get up at 6:30 in the morning, go to work, work until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Come home, maybe run a couple miles and eat some dinner, and then I would go in the studio, and work until maybe one in the morning. Drinking a lot of coffee obviously. I was pushing myself pretty hard, and not getting a lot of sleep, especially towards the last couple of years. In the last couple of years, I was doing to the point that my performance at my job was starting to go down, because I was sleep deprived. 

At one point I just finally thought, this is ridiculous, I can't keep up this schedule. I either have to give up the art or give up my day job, and there was just no way I could give up my art. Because that was my dream, to be a full time artist. I had just enough work, that I figured it would keep me going for just a little while. I decided I would give it a year, and then if it wasn't working out after a year I could look for another job. Then one year turned into two, then two turned into three, then after three or four years business really picked up, and I haven't looked back since. I joke with my wife, you know, if this ever did tank and I had to go back and get a job I don't what I would do. Twenty years on I'm not really qualified to do anything other than be a full time artist.


Russell Smith - Biography


JB: So the two subjects that you focus on mainly are the old west, and early aviation, a lot of World War I aircraft. Tell us, why those two topics?

Russell: Well, of course, I've loved airplanes since I was a kid. That started when I was seven years old and my dad bought me a model of a B-25. I've just loved airplanes ever since. I built a whole bunch of different models when I was a kid. Then when I got a little older that started translating into art. That interest has always been with me and I've always been a history buff. I like looking up the history of these people, the pilots, the planes, and translating those stories onto canvas.

As far as the old west, I love that too, it's a bit more recent subject that I've been painting in, just because for a long time the airplanes kept me so busy that I didn't have time to delve into these other interests of mine. With the old west stuff, it's really more the mythology. The idea of the old west. I guess it's the stories and ideas you get from the books and movies and legends and all that. I love that stuff. I'm not as much into the historical details with the old west as I am with the aviation subjects. Part of that is just because I've been doing the aviation subjects so long, I know the historians, I've studied it, I know what I'm doing with that. Whereas, I can loosen up the belt a little bit with the western stuff. It's almost like that lack of knowledge gives me a bit more freedom to have fun with it. I can explore that mythology and those legends and get that onto canvas.



JB: Can you tell us about the process of how you go from an idea to the finished product, step-by-step, what does that look like?

Russell: Each painting is a little different. I do commission work, so sometimes it's the client telling me what they want, so I go from that and build a composition around it. Other times, it's just an idea that pops into my head. One painting in particular, that I did several years ago of Eddie Rickenbacker's SPAD was actually inspired by a piece of western art that I had seen. It was a picture of a guy on a horse, with a bunch of dust behind, and I thought, if I took that rider and horse out, and put an airplane in there, that would be a really cool scene. So that's kinda what I did. 

Once I get that idea, I'll do some small thumbnail sketches, kinda flesh out of the idea, and give it a little more to breath and get it out of my head. I'll work through a number of sketches until I find what I want. Then it's a matter of doing more detailed drawings, some figure drawings, doing perspective drawings of aircraft. I'm working on a western train robbery scene where I had to do a perspective drawing of the train. Basically getting the finer points down, making sure everything is right, making sure the drawing is right, before ever going to canvas.

Then once I get the image transferred to canvas, it can take a couple of weeks for a small painting, to a couple of months for a large painting. It can be time intense. I'm not the kind of artist that can work straight through on one painting and get it done. I just get burned out after a certain point. I usually have two or three paintings at different stages of completion just sitting around the studio. When I get to a stopping point on one painting, maybe I get bored with it or just reach a point where there isn't any more I can do with it at the moment, I'll take it off the easel and I'll put another painting up and I'll work on it. So there's always work in front of me.

I did an interview with a local newspaper a couple years back where the interviewer asked what I do when I get artist's block and I said I don't really have that problem, because I've got a lot of ideas backlogged that I want to get to, and I've always got a painting waiting to go up on the easel. So, I never really have a problem with artist's block or anything like that.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he ever likes to experiment with new styles or techniques, or explore new subjects.


Russell: It's interesting, the western art market and the aviation art market are typically different from each other in that the folks who are interested in aviation are usually historians, pilots, and technical minded folks who are very detail oriented. Typically in that market they want nuts and bolts, they want rivets. Whereas, in the western art market, the subject is more organic. You're not dealing with aircraft, you're dealing with horses and people and landscapes. You can loosen up and be a little more creative with that. With your brush strokes, with your compositions, your whole method of painting. 

But, I don't want to have two different styles of painting. So what I'm trying to do is, I'm trying to introduce some of that looseness, some of that stuff I deal with in the western art, back into the aviation art, to give it something a little different, to help it stand out from other work in that aviation market. Which is typically really detailed and tight. I think it's really working, people tend to like it.




JB: Next, I asked Russell about the day to day life of a full time artist, and what his normal schedule looks like.

Russell: Well, I've got two small kids, and so a little bit of my day is killed by playing Mr. Mom at home, and running kids to and from school, and playing referee when they get into arguments. I try to keep my day scheduled. If I don't do that, if I don't stick to a routine, I won't get anything done. My attention span is really short and a lot of artists tend to be ADD in that way. A lot of times during the week I'll even eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, just to kind of keep a routine. I'm going to eat at this time, I'm going to run at this time. I just have to keep my day really structured. 

I get up before the kids are up, just to give myself time to wake up. Once I've got them up and out the door, I'll come in here and I'll work for about three hours, maybe go running. Then I've got to go pick one up from pre-school and I'll bring her back and I'll put her in the house and let her do her thing, and I'll come back in the studio and I'll work another four hours. So that's a typical day, I try to stay focused and not get on Facebook, or get sucked into social media, or things like that. That's always a trap you fall into, and suddenly realize you've killed thirty minutes you could have been painting.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he had any favorite pieces that he has painted, and whether any had a deeper story he wanted to share.

Russell: Oh wow, you know, I heard Billy Joel once say, when someone asked him a similar question about writing songs. He said that they're all like your children, but some of them grow up to be doctors, and some of them grow up to be slobs.

Yeah, there are a few that I'm really proud of, and some that I look back now and think "I could have done a better job with that." There's some aviation pieces, like a couple of my Richthofen pieces, one in particular called God of the North Wind which is of a black tri-plane. Then on the other hand there is this western train robbery scene I'm working on that I think will be really cool when it's done.



[Here I lost a bit of the recording, as somehow both of the devices I was using to record with stopped working for different reasons. First time doing a phone interview, lessons learned.]

JB: I next asked Russell if he had any advice for aspiring artists, especially those looking to make it a full time career.

Russell: (First he discussed how it's important for a full-time artist to understand art as a business, and how to stay in business, and how that is a skill many artists are lacking)

The other thing I would say, is don't do it unless you are absolutely committed to it. It's a hard business, a very competitive business. There are times when you are rolling in business and things are great, and other times when suddenly you hear crickets chirping and wonder what's going on. You gotta be able to ride out those highs and lows, and have a tough skin here. But if you're devoted to it, and it's what you love doing, then by all means do it. Just understand that it's not going to be a walk in the park at times, it's gonna be hard. You'll have to ride out the low points and wait for the high points.


JB: So what do you do for fun? Many people might have art as their hobby, but you do that full time. Do you have other things you enjoy doing?

Russell: It's funny, a lot of artists, I'm finding out now, their idea of fun is going back in the studio and working more. But you know I try to get out, I try not to live in my cage all the time. I try to get outdoors and go hiking. I've got a buddy who is a pilot that I'm going flying with tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, this is like a seven day a week job that is all consuming if you let it be. Sometimes I let it be a little too much, so I try to get outside. I try to go running to get some blood pumping, get some activity to refresh my brain and just reboot every now and then. 

JB: Since you're a fan of the old west, I've gotta ask what is your favorite western movie?

Russell: Oh that's a hard one. I love Tombstone, and 3:10 to Yuma is a good one. Actually there was a scene in 3:10 to Yuma that inspired a painting I did a couple of years ago. A lot of times I'll watch these movies and I'll see a frame, not necessarily that I want to copy, but it's an effect. Or like, this one in particular, there was a stagecoach coming around a curve with some dust behind it, and I thought that would be a cool painting if I put some guys on horseback chasing it. The thing about western movies is they kind of come and go. They'll have a couple good ones come out and then nothing for a while, then a couple more good ones will come out.



JB: You mentioned you like history a lot, do you have any books that you're reading or that you really like?

Russell: Oh boy, that's a hard one to say. I've got a whole bunch of books in my studio. I've got bookshelves full of history books, and they're stacked up in the corners. Most of them are aviation books, but I've got a pretty respectable collection of western books going now. The irony is that most of them I don't end up reading. I only read them if I have to, if I need to research a subject. Most of them remain unread for a long time.



JB: Next, since we are primarly a gaming website after all, I asked Russell if he plays any games or has an interest in war and strategy games.

Russell: You know, I try not to, because I know if I did, I would get addicted and it would steal a lot of my studio time. We don't own a Nintendo or anything like that, for that very reason. I know if we did, I would get nothing done.



JB: A lot of the games we cover are on historical topics, and usually have really detailed art on the cover, have you ever done a box art or anything like that?

Russell: I haven't done any box art, but I have done a lot of book covers, for World War I titles. I've got several publishers I work with. It's fun to do those, because you've gotta kind of think outside the box. Instead of just painting a painting, you have to think about where the title is going to go, what kind of image is going to sell the book, and how big it's going to be. It's fun to work on them, but they're a little constraining at the same time.



JB: If anyone wanted to contact you about doing a commission or anything else, what is the best way to reach you?

Russell: Through my website, Russell Smith Art.

JB: Thank you for your time, it's great speaking with you.

Russell: Thank you 


- Joe Beard



Outside, the leaves have turned and begun to fall in droves, Christmas nears and that familiar music is in the air. On my computer scree...

Strategic Command: World War I Strategic Command: World War I

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



Outside, the leaves have turned and begun to fall in droves, Christmas nears and that familiar music is in the air. On my computer screen, I can only feel pity towards the counters representing hundreds of thousands of soldiers as I begin turn one of the campaign. They think they'll be home for the holidays, but I know there is only a long and difficult war ahead.

Strategic Command: World War I from Fury Software is the studio's second stab at the Great War. I enjoyed the original game  quite a bit a few years back, and the game has only been refined further since then. The most fundamental change that fans of the older game will notice right away is that the square grid is gone, replaced with more traditional hexes. Also, the game is much nicer to look at without a doubt. Beyond the visuals, the gameplay will be very familiar to fans of the series, to the point that you can jump in and play without bothering to check the manual.



For those approaching the series for the first time, here's a look at how the game handles. Strategic Command WW1 (SCWW1) is a grand strategy turn based game where you take on the role of leading either the Entente or the Central Powers in WWI. Unit density is kept to a minimum by using a corps as the standard unit size for infantry. Aircraft, artillery, and HQ units are around as well, but never in great numbers. On the sea things flip the other way, with individual ships each having their own, very valuable counter. The combat is, at a glance, similar to Panzer General and the like, with unit health being represented by a scale from 1-10, and the average combat knocking off 1-3 points from that total. Things aren't quite that simple though, as morale, supply, terrain, entrenchment, and more factors come into play to determine the odds. Still, the game keeps things simple, and it is a great place for less experienced wargamers to dip their toes into the deep end of the pool. 



As someone who likes to fancy myself a hardcore wargamer, but in reality never finds the time for the real monsters, the Strategic Command series is a perfect fit. SCWWI is no exception to that rule. The reason I enjoy the games so much is because they are just complicated enough to make you think hard about decisions, while keeping each aspect of the game simple enough that you can easily pick up and play a few turns a day without any need to consult the manual or go hunting for answers on the forums. I say that in terms of the mechanics of playing the game. When it comes to the actual strategy, well, I can always use a little more help. SCWWI actually delivers on that need right out of the box. 

Besides a manual describing how to control the game, there is also a lengthy strategy guide included for the full campaign. It goes over all of the quirks of the gameplay which are not readily apparent to the new player. Things like decision events, partisans, naval blockades, and how certain specific actions you might take will influence the game. Besides that, the guide includes broad strategies for each side, and specific tips for each individual nation. Skimming through this document is a good idea before you embark on the full campaign, since SCWWI, like the other SC games, contains a lot of scripted events that will fire on specific turns or under certain conditions. All of these events are listed in the strategy guide, with information about when they will fire and what the possible outcomes of each decisions will be. 




These events can be very powerful and important, sometimes giving you special new units, or allowing you to take a unique action that is otherwise unavailable. You can opt to take the historical path in each of these decisions, but you can also explore the "what-if" of an alternate choice. Many of these events can also have randomized outcomes, so history may take a different path even if you make the historical choice. For example, the Zimmerman telegraph just might work this time around, drawing Mexico into the war. Unlikely, but you never know! Some people might feel that this approach can railroad the game a bit, but I appreciate how it is used to handle things that happened historically, but would be difficult to replicate organically through game mechanics. 

Besides all of the combat occurring on the map, the player will also need to concern themselves with managing diplomacy, production, and research. All of these areas share one pool of resources (MPPs), and that same resource is also needed to repair damage to existing units, and to use railroads to move units great distances. This means you'll need to be very judicious in how you spend those precious points. Choosing to build a very expensive unit like a battleship, which will take many turns to complete, is not just a simple choice, but something you are actively building your entire campaign strategy around. Other long term decisions like influencing other nations to join your side, or focusing on aerial warfare over submarine warfare, are likewise not choices to be made lightly. No matter what you choose to do, your opponent will put up a stiff fight, and only by matching your choices with an effective strategy will you prevail. 



While the AI is prone to make the occasional odd move, and leaves itself open to attack from time to time, it will mostly put up a good fight. If you find the default settings too easy, it's possible to gradually turn up the difficulty, putting yourself at a disadvantage, though this won't necessarily make the AI play any smarter.  To get the ultimate challenge, you'll need to go online and find a human opponent. Although I didn't use the online function while preparing this review, it uses the same PBEM++ system as most Matrix/Slitherine turn based games. Using this system you can play asynchronously, completing a turn and coming back later when your opponent has played their turn. It might take quite a while to play a full campaign against another player, but I imagine it would be a thrilling experience. If you want to try a shorter match, there is a scenario included which begins the campaign in 1917, with the end nearing, but much tough fighting still to be done.



Overall, I have no real complaints about the game, though there are a few areas where improvements could be made. Naval combat continues to be the weak point of the series, as it is difficult to portray those battles on the same map and scale as the land combat. Some abstractions are forced upon the game due to the question of scale, such as ships entering specific zones in order to be teleported across particular areas.  Naval blockades involve parking units on specific hexes, which works but always feels a bit odd. The other main complaint I have is the lack of alternate scenarios. Only three scenarios total are included in the game, the full 1914 start, an alternate version where Italy switches sides, and the 1917 start. I don't recall if the original base game had many extra scenarios, but I really enjoyed all of the smaller scenarios included in the Breakthrough expansion. I was hoping to see some of those reappear here, but no luck. Perhaps they will come along in a DLC at some point.

Strategic Command: World War I is a solid entry into the series, and I can very comfortably recommend it to anyone who has enjoy the series before, and anyone looking for a good WWI strategy experience. I think Strategic Command strikes a near perfect balance between depth and fun.  Few other games can give you so many details and potential strategies to explore, while remaining mechanically simple enough that anyone could sit down and learn all of the mechanics in under ten minutes. 

- Joe Beard

Strategic Command: World War I is available directly from Matrix Games and on Steam.







 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW FROM  PHALANX At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just...

1941 RACE TO MOSCOW 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW

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

 1941 RACE TO MOSCOW
FROM 
PHALANX
At last a follow-up to the successful Race to the Rhine [pub. 2014], as Phalanx Games has just launched their Kickstarter . The only surprise is that it's taken five years to launch this elegant sequel, in terms of real time, and prequel in terms of WWII.  Both games are interesting hybrids of the war gaming and Euro gaming stables.  Personally, both for topic and for game play, 1941 Race to Moscow is immediately more to my preference.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the games, they offer a three player game that can also be played two player and solo.  For Race to the Rhine, the rivalry between Patton and Montgomery is a well documented fact and to provide a third player by including General Bradley is not wholly inappropriate.  However, Race to Moscow has an even more immediately easy and logical division by simulating the three-pronged invasion of Operation Barbarossa by Army Groups North, Centre and South.

In broad terms the two games, as might be expected, share very similar features.  The map board is covered in a series of oval-shaped point to point areas, linked by coloured arrows.  The colour of the arrow determines which player/s may use that connection.  In contrast to the portrait orientation of Race to the Rhine [RttR], Race to Moscow's orientation is a landscape one. 


This change has made little difference in the number of areas each player has to fight their way through to reach their respective goals of Leningrad, Moscow and Rostov.  What I think is a greatly improved feature is the background of a geographic map instead of the bland, plain tones of RttR.  This gives a stronger war game feel, with a sense of real armies manoeuvring over terrain that grows steadily more inhospitable. 



This is reinforced by the second improvement which is the change from the all-wooden blocks to tank and infantry armies, aircraft and navy, trucks, trains and the variety of three supplies [food, fuel and ammunition] all being rendered in plastic.  Understandably, those who regard wooden pieces as aesthetically better may not share my view.  However, though my review copy [for which once again many, many thanks to Phalanx] is a prototype, I think everyone would agree that most of the components are already of an impressive quality.


A minor detail I'd recommend, to help make recognition clearer, is that the tanks used for each of the panzergruppes either be distinguished more obviously by size or by a different shape of base just as the Field armies are.

I particularly like the three supply elements: food, ammunition and fuel and the trains and trucks that transport them.  All of these can be seen in the next picture, along with the Southern Army's aircraft and cardboard aircraft and HQ markers.
Identical to RttR, each Army has a card with spaces for up to six supplies and marked with its own specific initial load.  Field Armies begin with three ammunition, a single fuel and two food supplies, while Panzergruppes carry three ammunition and three fuel at start.  As is appropriate, Field Armies are much slower, moving only a single space at a time [unless they spend a food supply to move an additional area], while the panzers can move up to three spaces.


Each player has their own deck of Pursuit cards, while all three share the single Soviet deck.  Unlike RttR, each player has to fight their way from the start through a line of spaces containing Soviet markers.  As an Army enters such a space, it has to draw and reveal a Soviet card; all of which will have icons showing what supplies the player must spend to defeat the card.  The stronger the enemy the more supplies you have to spend to do so, but the more likely you are to gain a victory medal whose acquisition will contribute to one of the two ways of winning the game.  A conquered space also then gains a control marker of the appropriate player's colour: black for Army Group North, white for Army Group Centre and brown for Army Group South.


The front line of Soviet markers

Beyond this front line, you are more likely to enter a space that doesn't contain a Soviet marker.  In this case, a player draws a card from their own Pursuit deck of eighteen cards.  With these, you'll encounter a mix of minor losses or gains or historical events [the latter essentially serve as no effect cards!].

Each player's goal for an automatic victory is to be first to take control of their Objective city, as mentioned at the beginning of my review.  Rather oddly, each player can win an automatic victory by taking Moscow, which seems a little hard on the player of Army Group Centre for whom capturing Moscow is the one and only auto win!

If nobody succeeds before the last Soviet marker is placed on the board, then victory is determined by who has gained the most victory medals by that point.  I like the dynamics of this, as each player balances gaining medals against making progress towards their automatic win condition.

A major part of this effective system of checks and balances is that as the final phase of a player's turn, they must either remove another player's control marker [this must be chosen as the first priority, if possible] or place a Soviet marker on the board.  If  this latter is what you have to do, at first the logical thought is simply to choose a placement that will hinder an opponent.  [By the way if you're playing solo, there's only one person to affect and that's you!]

However, though you may well be slowing an opponent down, you're also giving them the slim chance to gain another victory medal.  Besides, what you do to others will undoubtedly be done back to you - retaliation is definitely the name of the game here!

Also you must remember that the game will end if all Soviet markers have been placed on the board.  As the game begins with only six markers not on the board and by the end of a full turn, up to three new markers may have been placed on the board, it's obviously essential that a fair degree of attacking areas containing Soviet markers must happen.  A corollary to that, of course, is that a player who's in the lead may actively seek to end the game this way.  So there is a constant interaction between players, as part of what I've called the checks and balances of Race to Moscow of game play.

So far, I've concentrated on the aspects that create the atmosphere of a war game with a sequence of conflicts.  However, just as the battles have to be won by expending your precious supplies, all the other possible actions you can choose from focus on replenishing those supplies and transporting them to your armies as the frontline advances.  This is no mean feat and will tax you to the limit.


Army Group Centre begins to haul supplies forward

It also adds just as much both to the tension of game play and to the overall sensation of waging a military campaign.  This is no dry exercise in resource management, but a dynamic part of fuelling your attacks and advances.


The railhead from which to gain more trains


The one major element I haven't so far referred to is the rule book.  This is slightly harder to assess mainly because, as a prototype copy of the game, it comes as a simple A4 paper booklet in black and white.  Overall, it does an adequate job of presenting a clear set of rules with a reasonable number of examples and illustrations.  However, the latter pictures being black and white are nowhere near as clear and helpful as ultimately the coloured versions will be.  Currently, the major lack was the excellent section that explains all the pictorial symbols on the many cards in play.  I certainly had no problems interpreting most of them, but that's said from 40+ years of board war games.

So some of my following judgements are based on the contents and quality of the glossy and lavishly illustrated rule book for RttR.  First of all, that contained a thorough section elaborating on all those symbols I've referred to in the previous paragraph.  Secondly, the rule book for RttR contains some of the most extensive and clearly detailed examples of play I've come across.  For a newcomer whether to war games or Euro games, this made learning the game a very easy step by step process.   Consequently, I'm fully expecting the quality and accessibility of Race to Moscow's rule book to replicate this same high standard.  

A minor point is that the decision has been made to move to an A4 format for the final version rather than the larger square format familiar in several of Phalanx's games.  Personally I prefer the A4 format, as do many of my gaming friends, but as always that is a matter of personal taste.

Overall, this is a game that I want to play because of its visual appeal, its topic and its game play.  I can enjoy a solo session as well as a two-player one, but the full highlights of this game for me will always come from the contest of all three players.




Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo Games  The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part...

Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games Kiev '41 by VentoNuovo games

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




Kiev '41

by

VentoNuovo Games





 The Germans have come a cropper against the Soviet Union in the southern part of their Barbarossa attack (the invasion of the Soviet Union) in 1941. The strongest elements of the Red Army are deployed here below the Pripyat Marshes. Even a few books have been written that put forth the idea that Stalin was getting ready to attack into Poland, Romania etc. If so, that would explain the huge amount of soldiers, planes, guns, and tanks to be found in the Southern area. The German intelligence before Barbarossa was either non-existent or denied, again depending upon what book you read. The commander of the German Army Group South, von Rundstedt, was in for a rude awakening as far as Soviet might. Contrary to most histories, the largest tank battle on the Eastern front was not at Kursk in 1943, but around Dubno in 1941. The Germans were faced with what seemed like the zombie apocalypse. No matter how many Soviet tanks or soldiers they destroyed, more seemed to rise from the ground itself in front of them. The German Luftwaffe was the only part of the German war machine that successfully completed most of its task. The Soviet Air Force was almost completely destroyed, mostly on the ground, during the first month of fighting. This allowed the Luftwaffe almost free reign to assist the German ground forces in the South for a few months. Enough of the background; you are given the task to defend Mother Russia, or as the German commander to kick the rotten door in. The only thing is the door has been reinforced by iron bars behind the rotten facade. On to the Game!






 This is the third part of VentoNuovo Games trilogy of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The other games are Leningrad '41 and Moscow '41(they also released a game on the Stalingrad Battle - Stalingrad Inferno). Kiev '41essentially uses the same rules and precepts of the other games. The rules have been continually updated, but if you have played either of the other two games you will be up and playing in no time. The timeline of the game is from June to December 1941. It comes with five scenarios. These are:

1. Les Preludes - July 1941
2. The River - August to the end of September 1941
3. The Pocket - September to the end of October 1941
4. The Snow - November to the end of December 1941
5. The Southern Struggle Campaign Game - July to the end of
     December 1941





 The map is a large card stock one of the Southern area of operations in 1941. The map goes from Tarnopol in the Northwest, to Maykop in the Southeast, and from Constanta in the Southwest, to Novi Oskol in the Northeast. The map (86cm x 62cm) is colorful and is like a cross between a glossy and flat finish. You do have a choice of buying either a Mounted Map or a larger (103cm x 77cm) Gortex Map. The normal map is just as good looking as the other maps that VentoNuovo produces, and I have almost all of their games. It is an area map, and for the most part you will have enough room in each area for both side's units to be in. There are some choke points that you will have to squeeze the units in if you have large scale battles in them. The blocks are small at 15mm x 15mm, which is almost too bad. The reason being is that the stickers are very well done and a pleasure to look at, especially if you invest in the Icon Stickers. I realize that the size of the blocks is so you do not need a map that takes up an entire table. You have to make some adjustment somewhere. All of the components are up to the usual great standard of VentoNuovo Games. The player's aid cards are all card stock and done up the same way as the map. When you open the box you will be happy if not delighted with what you find. This is what comes with the game:



 1. 1 Mapboard (heavy stock, laminated 86x62 cm)
 2. 1 Rules manual
 3. 2 rules Summary and Player's Aids
 4. 151 PVC Stickers
 5. 2 Orders of Battle/Scenario Setup Aids
 6. 56 Wooden Markers: 1 Weather Forecast Marker (yellow
      cylinder); 1 Initiative Disc (large green disc); 2 Weather 
     Markers (white discs); 4 Soviet Supply and Control Discs 
     (1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 light blue, 1 blue); 13 Artillery Fire
     Markers(squares, 2 blue, 4 black, and 7 red); 20 Area
     Control Markers (cubes, 10 red, 10 black); 5 River
     Crossing Markers (blue cubes); 10 Out of Supply Markers
      (white cubes);

 7. 112 wooden Block Counter Units (black, blue, brown, green, 
      tan, and red blocks)
 8. 8 Luftwaffe Bombers (8 black discs)
 9. 2 Soviet Fleets (red plates)
 10. 4 Dice 









 This is the scale of the game:

Map: 1:1,000,000 (1cm = 10Km)
Unit Size: Axis Corps/Divisions; Soviet Armies/Corps/Divisions
Time: 1 turn = 1 Month
Players: 2 Players, with excellent solitaire suitability







  Sequence of Play

1. Logistics Phase (2,3,4,5, and 6 turn)
2. Impulse Phase (player with the initiative first)
    Bad weather Check (2nd impulse of October)
    Supply Check (always)
    HQ Activation Segment (TI only)
    Command Segment (always)
    Combat Segment (TI and SI only)
    Blitz Segment (TI only)
    HQ Deactivation Segment (TI only)
    Isolation Check (always)
    Exploitation (playing the Initiative Disc after a TI)
3. Final Phase

 I will use their own words to describe a turn:

"A Turn is made up of a variable number of Impulses, from a minimum of two, up to unlimited. When a new Turn starts, the player with the Initiative plays the 1st impulse, followed by the other player, and so on.
  A player may:
a. play a Strategic Impulse (SI) or
b. play a Tactical Impulse (TI) or
c. Pass
After two consecutive Passes (by the two players. one per player), the Turn ends and a new one begins."








 The game mechanics of the series is a lot different from what you have been used to in Eastern Front games. In other games there is a sheet where you place all of your reinforcements and they come automatically at the appointed time. In these games the reinforcements are randomly drawn from the Reinforcement Pool in a number equal to the player's Logistics Value. A lot of people might call this heresy. However, the one mechanic that this does enforce is complete randomness to every single game. It also makes it easier to play it solitaire. You will have no idea of what you are going to pull, or more importantly, not pull from the Reinforcement Pool. You check for reinforcements during the logistics phase, or you can use the Initiative Disc. There are Logistic Phases on turns 2,3,4,5, and 6. You have to choose to activate your Supreme Leader (Hitler or Stalin) to be able to draw reinforcements or replace steps on the HQ or unit blocks. Your Logistics Value is calculated by the Supreme Leaders points and your non-exhausted HQs along with enemy losses etc. Each block unit is also color coded as far as their strength. They can be either black, white, or red. Depending upon the unit's color, the cost for Replacement Points is different (1 for black, 2 for White, 3 for Red). One part of the rule is that, say you have 6 as your Logistic Value after calculating it. You then have a total of 6 for HQ regeneration, AND 6 for replacement points, AND 6 for reinforcements, not just 6 for all three. The weather will also affect your Logistic Value. For example, a snow turn will halve the Axis Logistic Value once you have added it up.  The Initiative Disc is pretty much a Nuclear Option for the player controlling it. Using it allows the player to 'play a Strategic Impulse', and 'play an Exploitation Movement after a Tactical Impulse'. This can easily be a game changer. The only problem being is that once used, the enemy player now gets control of the Initiative Disc to use at his discretion. This is also a big change from most games where initiative is determined at the beginning of each turn. So, the big question is, do I just hoard the Initiative Disc and not use it for fear of what my opponent can do with it, or risk using it?





 And the verdict is (drum roll please), another winner from VentoNuovo Games. This game, while using the mechanics of its older siblings, is in most ways a lot tougher nut to crack, at least in the beginning. The player will get to see exactly what Amy Group South was up against during Barbarossa. The components are second to none (especially if you avail yourself of the more expensive options). The gameplay is as usual a winner (when you have a winning combination, why change it). The addition of all of the randomness in the games, as mentioned, lead to each game being different. It also lends itself to solitaire play. This is a great selling point in this day and age. Thank you VentoNuovo for allowing me to review this game. Owners of the first two in the Barbarossa trilogy will be pleased to know that work is being done to make all three playable together. What a monster that will be!




 A whole slew of YouTube videos about the game:

VentoNuovo Games Kiev '41:

Robert


The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand  Louis XIV,...

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV by Rene Chartrand

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




The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715

Volume I: The Guard of Louis XIV

by

Rene Chartrand





 Louis XIV, the Sun King, is usually the king that comes to mind when we think of France. It is hard to believe that less than eighty years separate his reign from the French Revolution. The opulence of the Sun King's reign to the convulsions of 1789 seem a world apart. The book is an overview of the history of the army, wars, and campaigns during his reign, along with the history and make up of his various guard units.


 The author takes us from the youth of Louis XIV through the 'Fronde' (Civil Wars in France in the 1640s) uprisings to Louis taking over the actual rule of the state. The French National Army was the first in Europe to be put on a professional basis and not just a militia called up when needed. Some individual armies  (Gustavus Adolphus, Cromwell, and Wallenstein) were professional, but the different European states did not have national standing armies.


 These are the book's chapters:

Young Louis XIV
Into Personal Rule
Foreign Intrigues and Adventures
The Sun King's Blitzkrieg
The Army's Command
Senior Officials and Officers
The World of Chivalry
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dedans du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Units Au Dehors du Louvre
The Royal Guard: Infantry
Other Guard Units

 The book is over 200 pages long. It is filled with pictures of the various battles and commanders of the age. The thirty pages of colored plates are a gold mine of information for the miniatures crowd. Short biographies of all of the higher commanders during Louis' reign are also in the book. There is also an abridged history of all of the Sun King's various Wars, Civil and otherwise.

 A quarter of the book is taken up by the actual guard units of the Sun King. These not only look at the weaponry, uniforms, and organization of the different units, but also give information of the actual battles they fought in. These were not just dress up soldiers, but were actually used in most of the campaigns of Louis XIV. The list includes the Musketeers (with the real D'artagnan), Swiss, and Scottish Guards to name just a few.

 I can easily recommend the book as both a primer and an information bonanza for people looking for more information on the Sun King's military. The information on the different Guard Units is priceless. Thank you Casemate Publishers for another excellent book to review.

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