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Preview of Lock 'N Load Tactical Digital by Lock 'N Load Publishing  Here we are very lucky to h...

Preview of Lock 'N Load Tactical Digital by Lock 'N Load Publishing Preview of Lock 'N Load Tactical Digital by Lock 'N Load Publishing

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

Preview of

Lock 'N Load Tactical Digital


Lock 'N Load Publishing

 Here we are very lucky to have the best of both worlds, the digital and boardgame, and able to choose which we would rather play at the moment. There is a time for boardgames, even solo, and a time for the computer to lend a helping hand. I have reviewed and liked the tactical series from L'NL and was a little wary of how the digital version would turn out. I have also reviewed some of their 'Nations at War' series of boardgames and really liked them. So I was very pleased to find out that the digital version of them was excellent. I was wary about the Tactical series in digital, because lightning very rarely strikes twice. So, was L'NL able to put it in a bottle and use it for this game series also? The answer is an unequivocal YES! The game plays pretty much exactly as the boardgames do. The AI is also as good as the one in Nations at War Digital. The game will becoming out on Steam very soon. The L'NL Tactical base game comes with four scenarios from their Heroes of Normandy game and two from their Heroes of the Nam game. They are releasing two scenario packs of the aforementioned games with twelve scenarios each when the game launches. The scenario packs will be add-ons that you will have to purchase separately. They are also working on adding the rest of the Tactical series games as other add-ons to the base game. The tentative release date is 4/2, so keep your fingers crossed.

This is the link to L'NL Tactical on their site:

Oftentimes, you hear the term "tried and true" thrown around when discussing various game mechanics and styles of play. T...

Panzer Corps 2 Panzer Corps 2

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

Oftentimes, you hear the term "tried and true" thrown around when discussing various game mechanics and styles of play. There may not be any flavor of strategy gaming more tried and true than that which was epitomized by the classic Panzer General released in 1994. Many, many war and strategy games have drawn from its simple, yet effective style of turn based combat. Just about every type of setting from fantasy, sci-fi and real history has gotten the Panzer General treatment at some point.  If you aren't familiar with this sort of game, here's the quick version. Hexes, IGO-UGO turns, resource points, units which gain experience and are carried forward from mission to mission, and the ability to upgrade those units over time to bigger and meaner versions of themselves.

One of the most prominent of these successors was Panzer Corps from Slitherine, which stuck closely to the original setting of WW2, while updating everything about the game from the visuals to the number crunching going on under the hood. The game was obviously quite successful, as it spawned an almost never ending supply of official new campaigns and user made scenarios. Now Panzer Corps takes another leap forward in the form of a brand new sequel.

Right off the bat, Panzer Corps 2 is visually the prettiest thing Slitherine has ever released. Caught somewhere between trying to appeal to the wargaming crowd and the mass market, the publisher has put out many games over the years that were "just okay" when it came to visuals. With Panzer Corps 2 I think they can confidently say that they finally have a truly great looking game to show off. Not just on the technical side of things, but in terms of pure style. Panzer Corps 2 has got style in spades, even compared to many mainstream games. The entire package, from the menus, the unit models, the UI, the new strategic view, and most especially the map itself, looks sleek and polished. The colors really pop off the screen, with a perfect level of contrast and lighting that makes pretty much everywhere you fight look beautiful, be it green forests or arid deserts. The unit models all look great, being realistic enough, but with just a touch of style to smooth the edges, matching the look of the trees and mountains around them. The developers clearly were proud of the models, as you can zoom in as close as you like to check them out. I could go on, but you get the idea, this is a visually appealing game whether we are talking mainstream or wargames. 

Now, how about the gameplay, are we looking at a massive leap forward there as well? Well, the short version is that if you loved the previous game, this is a no brainer to purchase. If you hated the first one, you probably won't find a radically different experience here. If you were in the middle, read on, as there are a lot of nice tweaks across the board that improve the experience in many ways. 

Often, when a sequel to a game with a lot of DLC comes out, users find themselves feeling like the sequel is quite anemic in terms of content compared to the fleshed out previous game. They might also be concerned about the expectation of buying a lot of the same DLC all over again. (*cough* The Sims *cough*). With Panzer Corps 2, while I have no doubt DLC is on the way, the initial experience is quite beefy. The campaign only lets you play from the German side of the war, but features more than twice as many possible missions as the Panzer Corps 1 campaign. You can play the war from start to finish, or jump ahead to the operations of Barbarossa, Kursk, North Africa, or Italy. While playing the full campaign, you will often get chances to choose one branching path or another, offering different experiences on a second play through. In addition to a bigger campaign, Panzer Corps 2 also comes with a tutorial campaign, several tactical puzzles, some large standalone scenarios (Crete, Fall Weiss, a couple fictional ones) and a random skirmish generator. I found the random skirmish generator to be a fun alternative to the campaign, giving you a chance to experiment with all sorts of units and tactics while not worrying so much about being efficient across multiple missions. It also lets you set up chaotic free for all battles between every faction in the game, something you certainly won't experience in the normal missions. Not to mention all of this can be done in multiplayer matches as well. 

I feel like a key missed opportunity here was not including some kind of mode akin to the Advance Wars series, where you fight over resource producing towns and unit producing factories. As far as I can tell, you get a starting set of units, initial resource points to spend as you please, and that's it. This makes for fierce but brief battles, which is fun but there's room for more here. I would have loved a mode where you start with perhaps only a couple basic units, and then gain resources each turn depending on which objectives you hold, leading to an escalation over time of more expensive units appearing on the battlefield. Just a thought, if developers or modders are listening!

The mechanics of the game have been tweaked in a lot of minor and significant ways, although the core experience will be readily familiar to fans of the genre. Generally speaking, Panzer Corps 2 does a lot of things that give the player control over their experience and I love this aspect. When starting a campaign, you can choose a preset difficulty setting, or fine tune things in some interesting ways. For example, as in many turn based games, there is an undo button for those times when you misclick or just flat out make a bad move. Here, you have a ton of options about how this feature works. You can limit yourself to only so many "undos" per turn, or per mission, or none at all, or unlimited. You can change how revealing the map works, how random the combat results are, whether supply and weather are a concern, and how many commander trait points you get (more on that in a moment). You can also crank the difficulty way up in different ways, or switch on Ironman mode. 

The game also gives you new options in how to shape your force to match your play style. At the beginning of the campaign, you can customize yourself as the commander. You get a couple of points to put into perks like extra mobility for tanks, or making enemy units deteriorate faster when you cut them off from supply. You can also choose some negative options like getting new units later, or not having access to artillery at all. Selecting these negative traits gives you more points to spend on the positive ones. This system is great, as it can really let you change up how you play the game on different campaigns. There is also a new system for specializing your units over time. After every mission you will get a new "hero" which you assign to a unit, and each unit can have up to three of these guys. Heroes don't give flat stat bonuses, which are always boring, but instead gives the unit an interesting perk. Some examples are one that gives the unit a large experience bonus when it takes losses, and another that causes any enemy unit attacked to lose all of its movement points for the turn. This in turn makes for fun choices about how to best utilize them and eventually combine 2-3 perks in one unit.

So now we've hit on many of the supporting elements of the game, but what's new and improved about the core of Panzer Corps: the combat? While the heart of the gameplay remains the same, numerous of changes have been made which add some much needed nuance to your battles. I won't list out every single change, but to suffice to say many changes have been made to make the experience more enjoyable, flexible, and minus a few of the frustrating aspects from the previous game. I will go into some of the things that were highlights to me, and made the combat much more engaging than before. One huge change is to the way supply works. It is now very similar to Order of Battle, in that certain cities and other spots on the map serve as supply hubs, and your units must be able to trace a path to them to stay "in supply." If cut off from supply lines by the enemy, a unit will quickly become less effective and then completely helpless. This is a great change, and opens up a lot of tactical decision making about cutting off enemy units instead of fighting head on, and deciding how risky you want to be when racing units ahead of your main force. 

Direct combat has been changed with a more detailed system for suppression and accuracy. Units will now often take suppression "damage" which reduces their attack capabilities for the turn. Some units like artillery and anti-aircraft batteries will not do much direct damage, but will inflict a lot of suppression, indirectly protecting friendly units and softening up targets for attack. Accuracy is a new stat for units, determining how many of their shots actually hit in each attack. This value can be influenced by many factors, including the presence of an adjacent recon vehicle or aircraft. This makes recon units that much more useful in combat. There are actually many such adjacency bonuses that will influence how you shape and deploy your force. Having combat engineers on hand will let other units ignore some of the enemy entrenchment level, anti-tank units can now provide supporting fire from behind the front line, and having friendly units in flanking positions makes an enemy easier to attack.  

Another welcome change is how aircraft work. No longer do aircraft wander the battlefield for numerous turns, waiting to run out of fuel. Instead, they now can only operate within a certain range of their assigned airfield, and will return to base at the end of each turn. This feels much better than the old system, and gives each side a certain area of the map in which they can or can't project air power. Capturing airfields is more critical than ever, as doing so will allow you to bring your aircraft forward to continue supporting your advance. 

There are many other changes I won't go into detail about, but all of them add up to make the experience of playing Panzer Corps 2 feel more polished and fun than ever before. The more nuanced combat model, the inclusion of unique perks for your commander and heroes in individual units, and the gorgeous, slick visuals combine together to make for a fresh beginning for a long standing series. A lot of these changes will go a long way towards addressing the chief complaint that many had about the first game, which is that it felt more like a puzzle you needed to solve than a true strategy game. Although I haven't made it all the way through the full campaign, I have yet to hit a point where I felt like continuing was impossible due to choosing the wrong unit mix along the way, or that a given scenario had one "correct" way of playing it. The many small changes have made it such that things are far more flexible, both on and off the field of battle.

Overall, I find Panzer Corps 2 to be a significant step forward from the previous game. Lessons have been learned both from that game and the success of other games in the genre over the past decade. Take those positive changes in design philosophy, along with some new ideas, and a fresh coat of paint, and you've got yourself a real winner. I think most anyone who enjoys this kind of game at all will enjoy Panzer Corps 2, and even some critics of the first title will be won over by the improvements. 

Panzer Corps 2 is available on Steam or directly from Slitherine.

- Joe Beard
Follow me Twitter at @_AWNT_ or email me at

  Wings of the Motherland The Air War Over Russia 1941-1945 by Clash of Arms Games  I knew of Clash of Arms...

Wings of the Motherland The Air War Over Russia 1941-1945 by Clash of Arms Games Wings of the Motherland The Air War Over Russia 1941-1945 by Clash of Arms Games

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

 Wings of the Motherland

The Air War Over Russia 1941-1945


Clash of Arms Games

 I knew of Clash of Arms Games because of their exquisite Napoleonic games. I have ones from the Napoleonic Operational series, namely Jena and 1807: The Eagles Turn East. I also own a copy of la Bataille de Ligny from their Tactical Napoleonic series. They are also famous for their 'Battles From the Age of Reason' series. From the latter, I'm extremely fortunate to have gotten  a hold of The Battle of Fontenoy (one of my Holy Grail games). So, I was a little surprised at how little I knew about the rest of their stable of wargames. This is my first foray into a top down two-dimensional flight game since I played Dogfight in the 1960s. This review is about the fourth game from their 'Fighting Wings' series.  The other three would be:  

Over the Reich - 1994
Achtung Spitfire - 1995
Whistling Death - 2003

 There were also a few add-ons made. I had played the computer versions of Over the Reich and Achtung Spitfire (these were released by Avalon Hill), but never have I seen the boardgames. 

 This review has to be both an unboxing and a regular review, simply because of all that comes with the game. I usually do a list from the manufacturer of what comes with the game, and then do a write up about the different contents, but in this game there is so much that comes with it. I will do the list, but I will go through the items in greater depth than normal. This is what the box says you get:

280 Aircraft Counters (1/2" square)
280 Ground Unit Counters (1/2" square)
70 Ship and Play Aid counters (1/2"x 1")
2 Game Maps (34"x22", front and back printed (4 maps total)
1 Game Rules Book (80 pages)
1 Game Rules Supplement Booklet (16 pages with play examples)
1 Game Scenarios Book (120 pages)
1 Aircraft and Ship Data Card Book (60 pages)
1 Play Aids Booklet (32 pages)

 So if you have been keeping track, that is 308 pages of different books and booklets to peruse. That is simply mind boggling even for a deep wargame/simulation. The massive scenario book is much more than that. It starts out with a brief history of the War. Then it goes into the different aircraft the Soviets and Germans used during the war. There are no 'exotics' or planes that could have been listed here, The ones you are given are going to be the run of the mill planes that carried the air war on their backs. There are:

Soviet Fighters - 11
Soviet Bombers - 9
German Fighters - 5
German Bombers - 6
German Auxiliary Types  - 5

 There are no ME-262s or anything like that. You do not get to fly 190 Doras or ME 109 Kurfursts either. The amount of scenarios is pretty mind boggling. Here they are:

Training - 2
Introductory - 9
Standard level - 150!
Ground Attack Introductory - 10
Ground Attack Standard Level - 40
Ship Attack Introductory - 3
Ship Attack Standard Level - 20
Mission scale Scenarios - 6

 Once again, for those keeping track, that is 240 scenarios to play through. The Scenario Booklet itself is in black and white with a few pictures of planes throughout. The book is so large it actually has a normal book spine to it. At the back of the book is a few pages of designer notes and play tips. The information in it is incredible, and that is over and above the actual amount of scenarios in it. 

 The Rules Book, as they call it, is so large that it has a three page index. These are a few sentences from the beginning of the Rules Book, and they are worth printing:

"Read the basic Rules of each chapter first. Skip any advanced Rules and continue reading until instructed to play a solitaire 'Training Scenario'. When finished, return to where you left off and continue until you complete all Training Scenarios."
"Be Patient, Have Fun! Do not expect to learn everything in a single sitting. Take your time. This is a game, so enjoy yourself as you strive to master the techniques and tactics of World War II aerial combat. Good Luck and good hunting!"

 Even before you take to the skies in Training Scenario I you will learn about the following:

Counter Positions
Counter stacking Limits
Aircraft Collisions
Aircraft Movement
Fractional Value Table
Stalled Flight Procedure
Spin Procedure
Slatted Wings Effects
Wing Flap Effects

 Along with more than just a few more rules and information needed to take to the skies, the first Training Scenario has you flying both a MIG-3 and a Bf 109E-7U1. The Bf 109's moves are written out in the book, and your aim is to try to get and keep the MIG-3's gun arc trained on the Bf 109. The Rules Book is in black and white, but it does have a good number of play examples in it. By the end of the Rules Book you will be level bombing, firing rockets, and also taking on enemy Naval assets. It seems like the size of the Rules Book would overwhelm you, but just take the designer's advice and "Be Patient, Have Fun!' to heart. You will be going back to the book a lot to make sure you have everything right the first time you fly or try something new. After that, I promise it should become second nature to you. This game comes with the 3rd Edition Rules Set, by the way.

 The Play Aids Booklet is filled with table upon table, and also play examples to help you fight your way in the clouds. The two Rules Supplement Booklets are even more helpful for a fledgling pilot. Their play examples are also in 3D so that you can more easily visualize your aircraft and the enemies in a 3D world. 

 The Aircraft and Ship Data Card Book is exactly as it sounds. It is filled with the data the player needs to be able to fly his aircraft in a historical manner. Each plane, or different plane type, is given its own full page write up of its performance, firepower, and power/speed charts etc. The booklet also has the various ships', from battleship to sub chaser, information.

 The counters are small, but because there is nothing that needs to be read on them (all the information is on the data cards) their size is not a handicap to the player. On them are top down illustrations of each plane in question. For someone who has read a lot or played flight simulations the aircraft are easily discernable from each other. The various ground assets that you will try and destroy are also well represented on the counters. The tanks and some other counters do have information printed on them along with the top down view. They are a little small, but even I can read them, so that counts for something.

 The maps are extremely well done. They represent city, field, and also water on their four sides. The color is a bit muted and is mostly of a green and brown mixture. The size of them allows the players to have more than enough room to fight in any style. You can 'Boom and Zoom'; you are not forced to fight turning battles.

 This is the Sequence of Play, Combat scale:

Initiative Phase - Initiative Rolls
Tailing Friendly of Enemy Aircraft
Sighting & Blind Arcs
Movement Phase
Combat Phase Action Steps
Breaking Off From Combat

 This is a rule heavy game so to help you with different aspects there are a number of Logs in the Game Rules Book that can be copied. These are:

FW OP-Scale Mission Logs
Simple Movement A/C Flight Log
Ship Damage and Move Log
FW A/C Flight Log Sheet

 For anyone who questions the price tag put on the game, I believe the above statements should clear that up. Yes, it is worth it, and we haven't even discussed the gameplay itself. As with any Clash of Arms Games that I have purchased, the proof is in the detail and artwork of the components. You will find that here, along with a massive amount of  player information etc. No wonder the game took so long to actually get to the printer. 

 As I mentioned in another review, I was a late comer to the various 2D games that covered air war. I never really understood how a designer could give you the feeling of 3D flight in a 2D world. I am now totally convinced that I have cheated myself out of a lot of excellent game time by thinking that way. The designer of this series not only portrays it, but he takes you by the hand and only spoon feeds you what you will need at that moment to start to understand the system. I will say one thing, and that is that this system will only be worth it to someone who wants to take the time to learn it. You cannot, as a newbie, just set up the game and take to the skies to start shooting things down. Actually, I take that back. You could learn about just that part of the system in a short period, but you would be cheating yourself out of the whole ensemble of flight that COA has given you. So how is the game? C'est magnifique!. For an aviation junkie like myself it is an excellent experience in gaming. As far as its depth, if you can learn the intricacies of some Napoleonic games and tactical ground games of the Eastern Front you can learn this system. I am actively looking to get my hands on a copy of 'Whistling Death' to start enlarging my library of the Fighting Wings games.

 Thank you Clash of Arms Games for letting me review, once again, another excellent product. I have had a blast taking it through its paces. Please keep up the excellent work. For those of us Grognards who only know you by your Napoleonic games, take some time and peruse the rest of their games.

Clash of Arms Games:
Clash of Arms Games Wings of the Motherland:
I couldn't resist adding this one:

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 by Columbia Games  Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. Y...

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43

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

Combat Infantry:

EastFront 1941-43


Columbia Games

 Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. You would think that this has been gamed to death. In a way you would be correct. That is, there are only so many battles that took place to do games about. However, each designer also  has a separate take on how to make a game more (fill in the blanks; playable, realistic, or historical) in our playthroughs. So, even though it looks gamed to death it really isn't, not when you add everyone's different vision of how to properly game/simulate it. We still read every, or almost every, book that comes out about Stalingrad etc. So why not have different games on the subject? Then we come to the different types of games that each designer brings to the table. These can be designed to be fast paced and light to deep simulations. We Grognards are a fickle bunch. One minute we will be praising a game for its depth and the next we will be castigating another game because we have to spend a lot of time reading the rulebook. Just because a game does not give historical outcomes does not mean it is not fun or stimulating to play. Now the Eastern Front diatribe is over on to Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43.

 This is the second in the series Combat Infantry. The first took place on the Western Front and had the Americans and Germans going at it in 1944-1945. That game is an excellent game of tactical combat on that front. Games, and more importantly their rules, either work or they don't. The Combat Infantry games are block wargames which means they are simple to set up with usually less rules that their cardboard cousins. Notice I did not say 'less deep', just simpler. Chess is about as simple as you can get for ease of setup and rules, but never say it isn't deep. With block wargames there is no need for writing down a unit's stat, it's right there for you to see. At one time I was a firm believer that block wargames were not as 'worthy' as my counter heavy collection. I thought that they were fine for playing with your kids or trying to get someone interested in the wargaming hobby. I could not have been more wrong. Block wargames have become some of my favorite ones to play. 

 So, Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 is a tactical block wargame of the early years of the Russo-German war. its name is actually a misnomer because you do not just get to fight it out with infantry. Columbia Games has given you the whole gamut of tactical forces to try your luck with. As you can see by the list below, they have not left out anything. There is even Air Support included for your units.

 This is what comes with the game:

132 Wooden Blocks
22 Wooden Markers
1 Sheet of labels
2 Large Geomorphic Maps 16.5" x 22"
3 double-Sided Scenario Cards
4 Dice (D10)

 The game hexes are 100 meters wide and you get to play with units comprised of:

Rifle Squads
Machine Guns
Air Support

 The components of the game are what we have come to expect  from Columbia Games. The maps are very well done, especially if you like the color green or some of its shades. They have large hexes to accommodate the blocks. The labels are pretty simple, but the pictures on them, although small, are great looking little pieces of artwork. The blocks are, well, blocks. They are however completely uniform in shape. Yes, I have seen games where they were not. The rulebook is only twelve pages long. It is in full color and does have some examples of play. There are three double-sided scenario cards. These are of cardboard, not too thick, but pretty rugged. Now I can hear the howls: this game comes with six scenarios only! Yes, yes it does. However, do not let that be a stumbling block if you are looking to purchase it. The original game WestFront also came with limited premade scenarios. There were scenarios created for the game by players and the designer, and I assume for this one also. You do not have to wait for them. You can create your own with just a tiny bit of time and effort. The second to last page of the rulebook gives a breakdown of how to create scenarios for yourself. It also has a chart that gives unit values to each unit in the game. This allows you to make scenarios with X amount of points and then just choose them for each side.

 Normally, you will be the commander of either a Soviet or German battalion which is composed of three infantry companies. Then a company is broken down into three infantry platoons. Platoons are also broken down into three squads of infantry, and usually a heavy weapons platoon (mostly machine guns). The battalion can be made stronger by the addition of some extra assets such as tanks, artillery, and anti-tank guns. Leadership is very important in the game and you must keep your units in command range. If not, they must pass a morale die roll, and some assets cannot act at all outside of command range. The strength of your units is easily kept track of  by the block wargaming system. You usually start out with a unit at full strength and then turn the block to the next strength/step number if it suffers damage. Some of us gamers are very used to opportunity fire and suppression, among other things. These are among some of the other well known tactical rules in games that are not found here. I will list what is not in the game and why by the designer Tom Dalgliesh himself:

"Opportunity Fire
Opportunity fire is excessive in many tactical
games. WW2 Infantry and vehicles simply did
not move through open terrain without clinging
to every tiny bit of cover available, nor without
fire support to keep enemy heads down.
Defender first fire in Assault reflects opportunity
fire in close combat when it was most effective.
Suppression fire is handled by the step reduction
system. Units that take hits have less firepower
and are partially suppressed until they Rally.
Guns and tanks would have no difficulty
turning to fire in any direction given a 10-30
minute interval. Tanks did have thinner armor
in the belly, flanks, top, and rear and this is
allowed for by making them more vulnerable to
bombardment (6.6) and assaults (9.65).
Hard & Soft Targets
The armor class system reduces firepower
against armored targets. This eliminates the
need for separate hard and soft firepowers.
Status Markers
Status markers should not be missed. Cluttering
maps and units with markers such as "Used",
"Suppressed", or "Final Fire" is not necessary.
Units are upright, face-up, or face-down
depending on their action."

 The nature of block wargames lends itself to Fog of War, and EastFront does this particularly well. The only caveat to this rule is tanks. "Tanks are the exception. Veteran infantry could determine the location and identity of tanks just from the sound of their engines. Hence, tanks are revealed when they fire or move." The scenario that you have picked will state which player goes first. After the first turn a die roll determines who goes first. The active player can then activate one headquarter per company; "When commanding multiple companies, HQs are activated and resolved one by one in any desired order." The gameplay is fast and furious because of the design decisions made in the rules. I think the game is a great tactical one that gives you a lot of bling, but does not wrap you up in a cocoon of rules to play it out. After your first or second game there really is no reason to be perusing the rulebook anymore, unless you are extremely forgetful. Thank you Columbia Games for letting me review this great addition to the Combat Infantry stable. I hope the games will spawn either different areas or years during World War II. That way we can play in the Pacific or use airborne troops etc. I will have the link to my Combat Infantry: WestFront 1944-1945 review along with some others below.

Columbia Games:

Combat Infantry Series:

This is my review of Columbia Games Julius Caesar:

Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 by GMT Games  Fighting hardware; I am not sure why, but ever since I can...

Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 by GMT Games Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 by GMT Games

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

Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942


GMT Games

 Fighting hardware; I am not sure why, but ever since I can remember I have been mesmerized by military craft. Airplanes have always been a favorite of mine. Oh, I like the looks of some non-military aircraft, especially the oddities like BeeGee racers etc., but show me an aircraft with weapons and I am hooked. Strangely, if you follow the Blog, you will have noticed that I did a review of an add-on for the Wing Leader series before the actual game. The review I did was on Wing Leader: Eagles 1943-1945. This is an expansion to Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945. So, now I get to review the game that started it all, Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942. As I mentioned  in the Eagles 1943-1945 review, I am a late comer to the two-dimensional aircraft games. I am a rabid fan of any flight simulators (military) and have bought everyone that has ever been produced. However, I could never grasp how you could get an approximation of flight in a two-dimensional world. I am here to tell you that I was completely wrong and that the games I have played so far in the genre have been excellent. So, let us see first what you get in the package:

1 x Rulebook (UPDATED to living rules v2.2)
1 x Scenario Book (UPDATED with new scenarios and expanded by 8 pages)
2 x Air combat player aid (UPDATED - to v2.2)
1 x Bombing player aid (UPDATED - to v2.2)
2 x Wing Displays
1 x Map (UPDATED - this is the same art as the Supremacy map, but non-mounted)
5 x Aircraft data card sheets (UPDATED)
2 x Countersheets (140 counters, 1 x 0.5”)
1 x Countersheets (280 counters, 0.5 x 0.5”)
1 x NEW mixed sheet of aircraft data cards and counters (4 ADCs and over 40 counters)
1 x NEW Battle Board (Same battle board as appeared in Supremacy)

2 x 6-sided dice  

 The first thing you will notice about the game is the weight. I know enough about games to know that the weight really means nothing as far as gameplay. However, there has always been, since the soap box SPI days, something in my brain that lights up with a hefty game box. Call it nostalgia or whatever you want, but it is still there. The map is basically a big piece of graph paper with large squares on it. It is a pleasing shade of blue, but that is really all there is. At second glance, you will see that there is a tiny bit of terrain across the very bottom of the map. The weight of the box is from the 420 counters, and especially the five sheets of extremely well done Aircraft Data Cards. These are the crux of the game, and because of that reason GMT Games took a lot of care in their production values. The counters are not slouches either, and represent the usual GMT Games standard of excellence. They represent side views of the respective aircraft and are little works of art. The Players Aid Cards are also up to the usual GMT Games standards. They are both large and very easy to read and discern. Please keep in mind that this is a review of the Second Edition, so all of the pieces have been updated to Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 style. The rulebook is now updated to the Wing Leader living rules. The rulebook itself is printed in magazine fashion and is forty-seven pages long. It is fully colorized and is filled with pictures and examples of play. The scenario booklet is thirty-two pages long. These run the gamut from fighter interception to bombing runs on land and sea. You have MC.202 and SM.79-II (I love the Italian planes) to play with alongside so many others. From the steppes of Russia to the Pacific Ocean are the scenarios you are given to play.  So, the pieces that make up the game are all  extremely well done quality wise. However, we all know that does not mean that a game is worth its salt. Let us now look at the gameplay.
 The Wing Leader games deal with air battles on a larger than  normal size. The units in the game air squadrons or flights, and not individual aircraft. As mentioned, this is not a top down view of aerial warfare, but a side view one. It took me a little bit to get used to, but I am fine with it now. The one thing on the map that seems pretty innocuous, but in reality is very important is the placement of the sun in the upper left hand corner. The rules go into depth to help you realize the importance of the old adage 'beware of the Hun in the sun'. This is the sequence of play:

"Each turn is divided into a number of phases, which are played in order: Set-up Phase. Set up squadrons that enter play this turn in their entry square or on the map edge next to their entry square [5.3.1, 8.4.1]. Squadrons taking off set up in their airfield or carrier square [13.7]. Place a Vector marker for each intercept squadron entering play [9.2.4] (roll for height errors [13.1]).

Tally Phase.
 The raider player does the following in any order: squadrons attempt to tally enemies [7.2] (any squadron with a tally must drop that tally before rolling a new one [7.2.2]); unalerted squadrons become alerted if warned by radio [7.1, 9.4]; wing leaders issue orders [9.5.5]; fighter-bombers that tally must immediately jettison their bombs [15.2.4]. After the raider player has completed all tallying, alerting, and issuing orders, it is the defender player’s turn to tally, alert, and issue orders.

Movement Phase.
 Squadrons move [8.0] and, during movement, can jettison bomb loads and drop tanks [, 13.2] and make bombing attacks [15.3]. Escorts react to enemies attempting to move into the same squares as bombers [10.4]. Resolve barrage fire flak attacks [14.2.3].

Combat Phase.
Resolve direct fire flak attacks [14.2.4]. Resolve bombing attacks [15.4], after which remove Bomb Load markers from targets. Resolve air combats in an order determined by the raider player [10.5]. Jettison bomb loads and drop tanks following combat [, 13.2, 15.2.4].

Administration Phase.
Squadrons roll to escape [11.0]; the raider player rolls first, then the defender. Place or change vectors for squadrons under GCI control [9.2.4] (roll for height errors [13.1]). Place Escort mission markers on eligible squadrons []. Change escorts to sweep [, 15.2.2]. Place/remove flak Barrage markers [14.2.2].

 End Turn.
The turn ends; move the Turn marker up one space. Proceed to the Set-up Phase of a new turn. Continue playing turns until the game ends [12.0].
 Having come to the game with no preconceived idea of how a two-dimensional air warfare game was supposed to work, I had no baggage to interrupt me in learning the game. For example, I have never seen how a rule about the sun is supposed to work in a game like this. It is really not that hard of a game to learn. When your planes are flying before contact the game buzzes right along at a swift pace. When the furballs start flying then you not only have a lot more to think about, but also keep track of. The scenarios are well written out and unambiguous. Your fighters have to intercept the bombers that are going to attack your ships etc. Then like a good little game you are left to your own devices, following the rules, of course, to bring this about. The sun is not the only natural barrier to your goal. Almost all of the scenarios have some cloud cover. These can be just one wispy layer of clouds to a dense cloud cover to hide your enemies. However, like in real life, both sides can use the clouds to their advantage. 
  The designer, Mr. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, also goes out of his way to support his games. On his website link below, you will find all new scenarios and Aircraft Data Cards for all different aircraft that were not in the official releases as of yet. He also has a good number of new scenarios for the different years of the war. So how does it play? Very well; the rules do not lead you to endlessly flip through the rulebook or search for answers on the web. The fact that this is the second edition with other games and add-ons being released only helps the rules to be that much tighter. The slow pace of the game up until enemy contact only helps to build the anticipation. It seems like a complicated game, but when you break it down step by step it soon becomes very easy to get the hang of. The rules give you a very good historical feel of the actual capacity of the aircraft in both flying and fighting. Thank you GMT Games for allowing me to take this fighter bomber for a spin. I look forward to their add-on coming up that adds even older planes to the mix Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942. I only hope that the series can be adapted to World War I air combat.

GMT Games:

Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942:

Wing Leader series:

The designers website:


Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio  I am not really a student of ...

Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio Shenandoah Campaign by John Tiller Software & Wargame Design Studio

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

Shenandoah Campaign


John Tiller Software


Wargame Design Studio

 I am not really a student of 'Stonewall' Jackson's Valley Campaign at all. I have read some things about it, but was never really enthralled as I am with the history of the Army of Northern Virginia's Campaigns. I am also somewhat familiar with the 1864 Valley Campaign, but not enough to consider myself versed in it. Jackson himself remains an enigma to me and many others. His Valley Campaign of 1862 is considered the height of military science by some, even though he really did not face the cream of the crop as far as Union Generals and troops. The Union Generals during the campaign resemble the Three Stooges more than competent commanders. Jackson's subsequent almost uselessness during the Seven Days Battles has been excused by a lot of authors. Still, I do not know where he fits in the scheme of things. Was he the best of the Southern Generals or just great because of the opposition he faced? Sorry for the digression, now back to the pertinent subject.

 So, the game gives you two diverse campaigns separated by two years and thousands of dead on both sides. Both do have one striking similarity, and that is both were fought by Southern Generals to take pressure off the Army of Northern Virginia. In 1862, Jackson succeeded marvelously. In 1864, Jubal Early succeeded early (sorry) in the campaign, but was inevitably broken by the Union preponderance of strength in the end. Jubal Early is also an enigma as a commander. Quite possibly he lost Gettysburg for the South by whispering in Ewell's ear. Then again, in 1864 he was able to put a scare into Washington, which had a much greater effect than it should have. Early was described as his "bad old man" by Robert E. Lee even though he wasn't that old at all. His hair and stooped figure made him seem much older than he was. He was also the only person we know of that had a plate smashed over his head as a cadet at West Point. Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, of Gettysburg fame, was the plate wielder.

3D extreme zoom in of the Kernstown Scenario

 So what exactly is in this game. We know that it spans two different years of the Civil War, but what is behind door #2?
Here is the list:

"174 scenarios are included, and all can be played as either side, against the A/I or other human challengers.
Each major battle has three versions, 1) the standard, for playing head to head, especially PBEM and Hotseat. 2) Weather, for playing when Mother Nature is unpredictable, and 3) A/I, for playing against the computer. NOTE; all scenarios can be played against the A/I, but these scenarios are designed specifically for, and will provide a greater challenge for those familiar with this game system.
Most scenarios can be played against the A/I in a single day, yet others may take several days to complete, or even weeks. Just save, and continue later at your own pace.
For more fun, challenge another human, and play either face to face, or PBEM (Play by email)
Battles include: Kernstown, McDowell, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, New Market, Piedmont, Lynchburg, Monocacy, the siege of Fort Stevens, Cool Springs, Berryville, and the climactic battle of Cedar Creek.
4 campaigns are included. Each can be played with or without the added hardships of weather. Weather can be anything from a mild mist and fog, to muddy roads and torrential thunderstorms."

2D version of the same screen

 The games is classic John Tiller Software with a large dose of Wargame Design Studio mixed in. The visuals, like almost all of the John Tiller stable, are now much clearer and look nothing like when the other Campaign Games were released years ago. The speed at which they have been releasing games has now been put into overdrive. Where we used to wait all year for one or two releases we have seen four new games in the last few months. The enhanced games are still easy to get into if you haven't played one of the series for awhile. The amount of playtesting that goes into the games is probably the most for any computer game. The fact that now the AI is so much better than it was is also laudable. Some will argue that point, but most of us do not play one game to death so that we find all of the AIs weaknesses. I know I flitter through the games following whatever I am reading at the time. One thing that I have not mentioned is the excellent tie in the games have for reading history. For those books who have little to no maps on a battle, here it is in almost life size. You can follow along with the book through the different placement of troops and the important geographical points around the different battlefields. Because it is a game, you can then decide to try and do better than the historical Generals did when they had control. These are some of the enhancements that you get now-a-days from these games:

"A total graphics package:
3D hand drawn maps, 3D units, with individualized regimental flags.
Colorized leaders and unit files.
Traditional B/W unit, and leaders are also an option.
Improved 2D road graphics.
Scenario and Campaign editor: Build new, or improve existing battles and campaigns.
Many “What If” battles and maps, both large and small. Including the massive Shenandoah Master map.
Extreme Fog of War optional rule.
Objective hexes are now awarded points for each side. The number of points that can be earned are determined by length of time controlled, and its strategic importance for each combatant. Therefore, earned points are not equally distributed.
A true, large (4X) 2D map view."

Extreme zoom out of the same screen

 I will say that the opening paragraph notwithstanding, I have come to appreciate Jackson's ability in these battles somewhat differently. That leads me to another incredibly laudable point of the entire John Tiller stable. You can actually learn history, or at least grasp it that much more by playing these games. I have tried to play as many of the different scenarios as I could, but with 174 it is a lost cause. The Shenandoah Master Map is exactly as described: 'massive'. I will say that while I enjoy zooming in to the 3D to look at the graphics, I do spend most of my time playing on the 2D Map. I have done a fair number of reviews of the different Campaign Series games, and I am still impressed by the depth and sheer size of what you get for the price of a cheap dinner for two. I really cannot say enough about the gaming you will get for a mere $39.95. The Campaign/Scenario Editor is so large that you can get lost in it and never actually play the game. I will have some links at the bottom of other John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio games I have reviewed. I am sure I will have forgotten to mention some part of the game that you receive with your purchase, so the other reviews will help you to understand the breadth of just one of these games.

 So in recap, you get 174 scenarios, historical/and what if, that can all be played on either side against the AI. You also get at least one, sometimes a few, version(s) of each scenario that is meant to be played from the ground up against the AI. My favorite one so far is the Kernstown Battle from 1862. Thank you John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio for allowing me to review this, as usual, excellent package of history, posing itself as a game.

Campaign Shenandoah:
Campaign Eylau-Friedland:

Campaign Petersburg:

Japan '46:


I'll be honest, I've watched so much of Battlestar Galactica that I occasionally hear the sound of the DRADIS sca...

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Ghost Fleet Offensive Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Ghost Fleet Offensive

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

I'll be honest, I've watched so much of Battlestar Galactica that I occasionally hear the sound of the DRADIS scanning for Cylon contacts in my dreams. It's no surprise then that I can never get enough of content related to that show and universe, and BSG Deadlock continues to feed that hunger many years after the show has come and gone. Not only did Black Lab Games and Slitherine deliver a far better core product than I think anyone would have predicted, they have relentlessly updated and expanded the game for more than two years post release. The newest DLC, Ghost Fleet Offensive continues the second "season" of the game's story and content.

The 10 mission storyline continues the enjoyable blend of politics, intrigue, and warfare that you know and love from BSG. A brief amount of time has passed since the end of the last DLC "Resurrection" and you remain in command of the Galactica itself. Like in the previous campaign, this DLC uses a smaller version of the strategic map from the original game. This streamlines that portion of the game to the point of simplicity, which some may like and others not so much. The focus here is primarily on the story missions, with smaller side missions to gather extra funds and experience in between. You still need to manage resources, build ships, research tech, and keep the Cylon threat level under control, but there isn't the balancing act of defending a dozen worlds and spreading fleets across a large map. The story missions themselves are good fun and tell another piece of the Battlestar Galactica saga, the story of the Ghost Fleet, which was featured in the short Blood and Chrome series. Essentially, you'll be going on a deep strike behind Cylon lines, looking to strike a crippling blow to their war machine.

In addition to the new campaign, this add-on brings in several new ships, more toys for the toy box! For the colonials, there are two new ships. First, the Orion class frigate, which is able to use stealth tech to sneak in close for hit-and-run attacks. Second, the Defender support ship, which can send marines over to friendly ships to defeat boarding parties and boost their sub-systems. The Cylons also get a new ship, the Medusa, which can power up other Cylon ships around it and provide extra point defense cannons to take out your missiles and torpedoes. The Cylons are also packing some new heat in the form of virus mines that can disrupt your ships' systems, and cluster nukes that, well, you can imagine. Radiological Alarm! As with all the other DLC for Deadlock, more variety makes for more replayability and new tactical possibilities. 

Even if you don't pick up Ghost Fleet, you'll benefit from the continued development of Deadlock in the form of the free Fleet Admiral update. The most practical changes come in the form of UI tweaks and quality of life updates.  There is also the titular new Fleet Admiral difficulty level if you really want to challenge yourself. Some other nice enhancements are new portraits for your officers and the ability to choose the flagship of your fleet. 

For the price, Ghost Fleet offers a fair amount of new content, though it isn't game changing. There may be some players who aren't interested in the more linear campaign style here, and are waiting for some more of that open ended strategic gameplay from the core campaign. If you're like me though, you are deep enough into this game world that you'll want to pick this up just to keep up to date with the story and expand your ship roster even further. I give this DLC a solid recommendation and even more so recommend the core game if you have not picked it up yet. I think it continues to be a hidden gem mixing tactical space combat with an enjoyable strategic layer.

Ghost Fleet Offensive can be found on Steam and directly from Slitherine.

- Joe Beard 

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