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  The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel   This book continues the trend in Cas...

The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356 by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel

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





 The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356


by


Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel





 This book continues the trend in Casemate Publications that I have mentioned before. To whit, never go by their titles. You would think that a book with a battle in its name would give you a little history before the battle and then end with the battle. This book actually gives the history of the entire Hundred Years War up to the Battle of Poitiers. It also gives a day by day journal of each day during the campaign. Then it finishes up with some of the events that happened after the battle. How the authors managed to get all of this in only 200 pages is pretty amazing. Because of the above, do not think that the history of the actual battle was given short shrift. The battle and the failed negotiations before it are gone into detail.


  I have never been much of a fan of the 'Black Prince'. I have always delved into the Hundred Years War before and after him. Because of this book I am now much more informed about his exploits and why he was considered a great general. Contrary to the usual history about the French, this book shows that they realized they had to come up with a plan to beat the English long bowmen. They didn't just haphazardly charge at the first Englishmen they saw. The book also shows how some Scots, fresh from fighting the English, were high up in the French war councils. The authors show that the Black Prince was brought to bay, much like Henry V, by the French maneuvering. 


 This is an amazing book that gives the reader everything he would want to know about the battle and the campaign. Thank you Casemate Publishers for allowing me to review this wonderful history narrative.


Robert

Book: The Black Prince and the Capture of a King Poitiers 1356

Authors: Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel

Publisher: Casemate Publishers



 CARENTAN Great Battles of Small Units from STRATEGEMATA This is the most recent game from Strategemata in this splendid series of small sca...

CARENTAN CARENTAN

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

 CARENTAN

Great Battles of Small Units

from

STRATEGEMATA



This is the most recent game from Strategemata in this splendid series of small scale engagements from WWII.  Previous games in this series featured Polish units[a link to my review exploring the system can be found at the end of this review], but inevitably Carentan is exclusively an American affair.  Even more than the first two, the focus homes in on an even smaller geographical area, resulting in a map that I find particularly interesting. 

In physical terms, the components remain the same adequate, but modest quality that I have commented on in my previous review of this series.  They are functional, but lack the gloss and glamour of the major companies.  Only the move to full colour box art and an artistic depiction of action and drama adds a brighter touch.

The contents are identical in every way - an approximately folio size map of predominantly green background, a brief eight page, plain paper rule book, including a substantial number of simple, minimal-looking, illustrative examples and  small thin counters.  Once again unit I.D. is in very small print and the important colour coding unfortunately uses too many similar shades of blue.  

At set up, these start out reasonably clear because of physical grouping, but as units become intermingled in the course of play I found that a good degree of care was needed to make sure that I didn't inadvertently activate the odd misassigned unit.
Plain eight page rule book

One of two counter sheets

Perhaps the strongest of the components are the card-based player aids, in particular the double-sided set-up display for the two scenarios.
 

The set-up display and turn track for the main scenario

I'd strongly recommend a look at my previous review of this system with its innovative elements - a link to which can be found here Black Cavalry.   If you do, you may wish to pass over the next section where I'll briefly recap the key features of the system and their defining originality.  

Most notable is the lack of any dice.  Instead you'll need to supply for yourself a standard pack of cards which are either drawn from the deck or played from your hand to resolve the various game functions.

Each player starts the game with a set number of cards in their hand and there will be very limited opportunities to replenish or exchange these cards as the game progresses.  I like this slight ability to control the outcome of a limited number of your chosen actions and the awkward decisions of which choices and when to take them.  

However, possibly the most important of your choices will be how many formations you decide to try to activate when you have the initiative. A single formation can be automatically activated for free, but a single formation rarely provides many units.  More than one formation means you'll have to pay for all, including the first one.  Activation costs also cover Artillery and Air Strikes.  

So, add up all your costs and draw a card - here's where a nice powerful 10 pt card in your hand may well tempt prompt use!
Fail to get a draw high enough to cover all your costs and you get none of them.  Push your luck takes on a whole new meaning.

This is one of my favourite features of this novel game system and it closely interacts with the next novel element.  In fact, this combination is the single strongest reason that I enjoy and value the game. Only the player with the current Initiative actively undertakes the turn.  The other player can only react.  This may happen in two ways.  

Initially, the first time an active unit moves into line of sight and fire range of an inactive unit, the player without the initiative may draw a card [no playing a card from your hand] to determine Defensive Fire.  The result from 0 - 3 will allow you to place a marker that shows how many fire attacks the unit may make this turn. Alternatively you may forego Defensive Fire and choose to wait until an enemy unit moves adjacent so that you can retreat one hex. 

The third major feature is the handling of Initiative, using the four card-suits, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades and a chit for each suit, with the German and American flag on opposite sides.  An initial pre-game card draw, usually of 3 cards at the beginning of the game establishes a starting set.  In Carentan, the Allied side of each Initiative marker will be uppermost depending on which cards are drawn. So if the 3 cards drawn showed a club and two hearts cards, the Club and Heart markers would be set with the Allied flag uppermost and the Spade and Diamond markers would be set with the German flag uppermost.  

As the game progresses, whatever card is drawn at the beginning of a turn to determine who has the Initiative, its marker is flipped to the reverse side.  Following our example from above, if a Heart was drawn, the Allied player would have the Initiative for the turn and the Heart marker would be turned over to show the German flag. As a result, on the next turn the four markers would now show only the  Club's marker for the American player and the other three suits' markers would all show the German flag and so the initiative draw would be much more likely to favour the German player.

For the rest of this review, I shall concentrate on the specifics of the situation in Carentan.  The major scenario is named Purple Heart Lane and covers 10th - 12th June 1944. Obviously the first consideration is the particular geography of the battle, which can be seen below.

 This is a very different situation from those covered in previous games in the series and a two page historical sketch gives an excellent summation.  It covers the importance for both the Allies and the Germans, the geography of the area and the course of the battle for the town. To the north extensive marshland and canals  made approach extremely difficult and slow.  From the east, the avenue of attack is still limited, though less so.  The map scale is much smaller and in the very centre lies the objective of Carentan, with a damaged railway embankment running from west to east.

Defending the town and area is the best German unit available in that area, the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment commanded by Friedrich von der Heydte [a name immediately familiar to anyone who has played any of the many games that cover the Battle of the Bulge!].

The very restricted terrain means that there is little room for manoeuvre, so each play-through offers little opportunity for variety of options.  It is a good, old-fashioned slugfest.  The Allies have to batter their way into Carentan and artillery is likely to play a more significant role than in previous games.  

The scenario plays out over 24 turns and I should also add that the American units that you can see are only the at-start units and the reinforcements that enter over the middle turns will more than double their final number.  Whereas this is all the Germans have to defend with, unless you add in the optional variant that may bring in up to 6 additional German units late in the game on turn 20!  It comes as no surprise that the Allied victory condition is to control all hexes of Carentan.  

However, the German victory condition isn't simply to prevent the American player from achieving their goal.  Specifically, the German player must control the road from Auverville on the south edge of the map to either of the two hexes where it enters into Carentan at 1111 or 1112.  I understand the historical logic of this, as it would have served the Germans little to hang on to a small portion of Carentan and not have a supply line/retreat avenue south.  However, it does make the German player's task even harder and makes me feel that at best the German might achieve a draw, which is the result if neither side manages to achieve their victory condition. 

For those who want a shorter playing experience, there is a scenario of 12 turns that covers the German counter attack.  The title for this one is Battle of Bloody Gulch [must admit this conjured up images of a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood Western shoot-out rather than a WWII battle!].  Here the Germans are on the attack with slightly fewer units than the Americans who also gain another six units very early in the scenario.  The layout can be seen below.

The only advantage the German player initially enjoys is that all the American units at the start of the this scenario are single step counters or on their last step.

Overall, though I miss the additional two, very brief scenarios of Black Cavalry, I really enjoyed the intensity of this head-on collision.  Counter density is slightly higher, but by comparison with the majority of hex and counter games, this is still a small game and this is emphasised by the essential design feature of activation which means that only a limited number of units will come into play in a given turn.  Above all, I recommend this fresh and innovative approach that is easy to learn and apply.  I certainly hope that further great  battles of small units will continue to appear.

Once more my thanks to Strategemata for their providing this review copy and their friendly commitment and support. 


WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW  FROM SLITHERINE This preview offers you an initial glimpse of the beta model of this latest Warhammer...

WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW

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

WARHAMMER 40K : BATTLESECTOR PREVIEW 

FROM

SLITHERINE


This preview offers you an initial glimpse of the beta model of this latest Warhammer offering from Slitherine.  At the moment what's offered is two Missions and a tutorial.  Though I found the latter clear and useful, I've been asked to focus my picture purely on the two Missions.

For someone like myself who hugely enjoy the Warhammer 40K games for the PC, this turn based exercise is what I've always been waiting and hoping for.  Whether with consoles or joysticks, keyboard or mouse, my lack of coordination and ability to function at speed has always meant a limited foray into real-time games.  Now I have the opportunity that perhaps I may make it through to the final encounter.  

Selecting a Mission brings up a basic planet image with the title of the Mission and its location.  Clicking on the Mission title [e.g. Rearm & Supply as seen below] takes you into the situation, with the familiar message and voice over introducing you to the narrative arc.]

Whereupon you see your various units.



Graphics remain fairly standard and show no great advance when  compared with the existing Warhammer 40K games I have for the PC.

You activate unit by unit, with each  having a number of action points.  A feature I like is that you can return to a selected unit provided you have APs left and resume using it.  This allows for a good level of interaction and combos of fire and movement and , of course, there is always Overwatch!

The iconography for the various actions that each type of unit can perform are not always clear or immediately obvious, but hovering over them brings up an explanation.  Consequently, I soon picked up an understanding.  However, what was confusing was the visuals for the combat effects for the different types of weapons.  Some seemed so similar that I was unsure whether I'd made a mistake in selection or whether there was an actual lack of variation in the graphics.

What I also noticed was that the various mouse functions and keyboard controls seemed much more responsive when I was working with the Tutorial than when I was playing the Mission.  In particular movement seemed woefully slow and though there was an icon for what appeared to indicate faster mode, it had no effect. 

The current two Missions you can try out in beta form

So a familiar picture in its early stages which I assume will develop to give a highly satisfying experience for those, like me, who prefer to inhabit the turn-based world of gaming whether with a physical board game or a PC one! 

Thanks to Slitherine for providing a temporary key to allow me brief glimpse into this ongoing production.


  Napoleon's Resurgence The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813 War of Liberation, Part I Lützen, Bautzen, Luckau, Kö...

Napoleon's Resurgence: The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813 Napoleon's Resurgence: The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813

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




 Napoleon's Resurgence


The Spring Renaissance of the Grande Armée, May-June, 1813


War of Liberation, Part I


Lützen, Bautzen, Luckau, Königswartha, Weissig





"He could pass none of his wounded soldiers without being greeted with the cry of Vive l'Empereur! Even those who had lost limbs or who would die a few moments later made him this last tribute. He responded to their cheers by uncovering his head to them."


 To discuss Napoleon's 1813 Campaign we have to go back to the 1812 Campaign in Russia. Although Napoleon did take Moscow, this did not force Tsar Alexander I to make peace. No, Napoleon's 600,000 man army was not buried in the snows of Russia. Typhus and malnutrition had pared the army down to about 1/4 its size before the first snowfall. The Russian winter and army finished the process of turning this remnant into a shambling mass of men that in no way resembled an army. Napoleon had left the remnants of this great army to its own devices and headed back to Paris. One of the greatest minds in history was hell bent on creating another Grande Armée and returning Europe to the status quo of 1811. Napoleon was faced with a superhuman task. While still fighting the 'Spanish Ulcer', he had to create an army from almost nothing. It is a tribute to his genius that he was able to do it. True, the new Grande Armée was mostly green conscripts, the 'Marie Louises', but it was an army nonetheless. In a tribute to his skills Napoleon was able to field a larger army than the Coalition against him in the first part of the campaign in Germany. This game is listed as the 'Library of Napoleonic Battles Volume VIII. It takes us through the battles that were fought before the armistice in the middle of 1813. I want to take a bit of your time and give you a short bio about the designer. This was written by John Best:


"Kevin Zucker was with SPI back in the 1970s. Like many who went on to "greatness" as designers under the tutelage of JFD, KZ initially served SPI in the capacity of Managing Editor, half-way between Dunnigan's R&D and Simonsen's Art Departments.

OSG was initially named Tactical Studies Group, and the name was changed relatively quickly, to avoid any clash with TSR. He left the company in September of 1979; the company remained active for a few more months.

KZ has remained active in wargaming during the entire period. He did work for AH for one year: 1980. It is interesting to hear him speak about the reasons he had for revitalizing the OSG brand name at this, seemingly unpropitious, point in time. "My grandfather, who farmed 80 acres in Iowa, had an old red & black 1948 Dodge pick-up. As a kid, I asked him why he didn't get a new one: 'Because everybody knows this is me.'" And it is interesting to consider the list of all the original OSG games. There were a dozen or so: Napoleon at Bay, Panzerkrieg, Rommel & Tunisia, Napoleon at Leipzig, Dark December, Bonaparte in Italy, Devil's Den and Air Cobra prominent among them.

The Napoleonic titles such as Napoleon at Bay and Bonaparte in Italy were pathfinding designs that for over two decades have been hugely influential on many members of the wargaming community. OSG did some WWII games too including the J. A. Nelson design, Rommel & Tunisia. By the standards of today, the 28 page rulebook is, I suppose, a mere bagatelle. But for 1978, the whole presentation gives the impression of somebody going for Big Ideas and Very Serious Stuff."





 Operational Studies Group now publishes Napoleonic Wars operational studies (who would have thunk it). I have a good number of Mr. Zucker's older games, and they are some of my favorites. This game's focus is on the 1813 campaign which is by far my favorite campaign to game and read about during the Napoleonic Wars.


 Let us take a look at what comes with the game:


2 Maps 34"x22"

1 Map 17"x22"

1 Map 11"x34"

2 Maps 11"x17"

2 Counter Sheets (560 die-cut player pieces)

2 Booklets (System Rules and Study Folder)

17 Player Aid Cards (TRC x 6, Initial Setup x 6, Casualty x 2, Combat Results, Reorganization, and Weather)

5 Resource Cards (Adding the Cards, Combat Tables, Sequence of Play, Victory Worksheet, List of Cards Removed).

2 Card Decks (50 cards each)


Map of the early 1813 Campaign.


 Normally I would go right into an appraisal of the components. However, because of this game having multiple battles, I will post OSG's synopsis of three of the battles first.


"LÜTZEN, STRUGGLE FOR THE FOUR VILLAGES, 2 MAY

With the death of Marshal Kutusov on 28 April, there was no further obstacle to the Tsar’s fervent dream of dictating peace from the Tuilleries. The Allies marched boldly across the Elbe, not knowing Napoleon’s plans, his strength, or his location. They took up a position astride the road to Leipzig, the Emperor’s presumed objective. After a string of actions at Halle, Merseberg and Weissenfels, the two armies met on the field of battle at Lützen on the 2nd of May.


BAUTZEN, THE GUARD’S MOMENT OF TRUTH, 20-21 MAY

The Russo-Prussian army was nearly 100,000-strong, but Napoleon outnumbered them, and Marshal Ney was approaching with 85,000 reinforcements. Napoleon had planned to pin down his enemies and then trap them with Ney's troops. But the Bravest of the Brave ended up coming in on the flank, not far enough to oblige Wittgenstein to redeploy, and so no deadly “hinge” was formed in the enemy line. The Russians were defeated, but Napoleon’s army was at the end of its tether, and the pursuit cost him more men than the enemy. The Bautzen map is one and one half map sections: 33x34”


LUCKAU, GATEWAY TO BERLIN, 6 JUNE

Bülow’s Prussian Corps of 30,000 men marched south from Berlin, threatening French Communications with Dresden. Oudinot’s XII Corps and Beaumont’s cavalry were at Hoyers- werda on the 28th of May when some of Bülow’s force stumbled upon them. By the time Oudinot caught up with them again on June 6th Bülow had concentrated most of his Corps at Luckau, driving the French back with a loss of 2,000"



The game, in truth, comes with five battles. These are:

Lützen

Bautzen

Luckau

Königswartha

Weissig

 The game also has two Mini-Campaigns and a Campaign Game.


 The components of the game are completely top shelf. The maps are beautiful. They are also easy to read and the terrain is not difficult to discern for each hex. They are a cross between a period map and a new wargaming one. This marriage works extremely well in my eyes. The counters are also up to snuff. They are 1/2" in size. Some of them are blessed with small portraits of the French and Allied commanders. Their size may put some people off in this age of 1" counters, but to a grognard the hex and counter size are completely normal. The stacking limit is up to five units in a hex with a leader. This sounds like it might make the game stack heavy, but in reality this is not the case. The System Rules Booklet is twenty-four pages long. It is mostly in black and white, but does have colored play examples, etc. The Study Folder Booklet is also twenty-four pages long. It is split in half between information about the battles and campaigns, and a wonderful Historical Notes section written by Mr. Zucker. These notes are a concise and well done history of this part of the 1813 campaign. The Player Aid Cards, and the Resource Cards, are either blank and white or one color. They are easy to use and completely informative. The game comes with two Card Decks (one French, and one Allied). The decks are smaller than regular cards, but are just as sturdy and laminated, more on these cards later on. All of the components are what you would expect from a company with such a life span and pedigree. 



 So, we have a bit of a different animal here than most. Not only do you get the battles, but you can also play out the campaign. I am trying to think of another game that I own or have played that has this. Many games do a chain of separate scenarios and make a campaign game out of them, and very well at that. However, I cannot recall having one that you could play either of them on the same map at the operational level. One other thing that the game has that no other one has is a separate Battle of Bautzen. The Battle of Lützen has a few games on it. I know, I have all of them. Bautzen, on the other hand, is a glaring black hole in the gaming world. This battle, had Ney not turned petulant, might have saved Napoleon's Empire. Had Ney not felt slighted by Napoleon, who gave him Jomini as his Chief of Staff, the history of Europe would more than likely be much different. The Allies were setup on the Bautzen battlefield with Austria close to their left flank. Tsar Alexander I was adamant that Napoleon wanted to crush the Allies' left flank and push them away from Austria. In actuality, Napoleon wanted Ney to crush the Allies' right flank and actually force them into Austria. Austria herself was still on the fence about joining against Napoleon and was not ready yet to intervene. This would have forced Napoleon's father-in-law to either become a belligerent before he was ready or to intern the Allies troops. If Ney had one wit of operational sense he would have come in behind the Allied right as Jomini begged him to do. Ney became like a stubborn five year old and followed Napoleon's orders to a tee. This only pushed the Allies back and allowed them to escape the battlefield. Ney had forgotten Seydlitz's famous answer to an order from Frederick the Great "After the battle the King can do what he likes with my head, but during the battle will he please allow me to use it?". Yes, you can tell that I am an aficionado of the Campaign of 1813. 




 So, how is the game/simulation? In a word, excellent. I do have many of Mr. Zucker's earlier designs so the rules and playing were probably easier for me than most. When you compare some of the older games, 1809 and Napoleon at Bay, to the newer ruleset you get a very good idea of how the Napoleonic games from operational Studies Group have matured into what they are now. The ruleset has been worked on during the years and this game's rules are from version 7.34.This is not an easy game. Meaning, I certainly wouldn't use it to introduce an Axis and Allies player to real wargaming. In fact there are rules about:


Zones of Control

Leaders

Command

Hidden Forces

Cavalry Charges

Vedettes

Supply

Baggage and Pontoon Trains

Road March 


 Along with many other concepts. As I mentioned earlier, the game can also be played with cards. This is OSG's blurb about them:


"Due to the chaotic conditions of war the actions of units and leaders were always uncertain. Opposing generals rarely knew where the battle was boing to be, nor who was going to be there. The cards make such doubts a part of the player's calculations."  


I think I forgot to mention that the game is supposed to be played with all units and reinforcements hidden. Until you decide to uncover that genie's bottle, you will have no way of knowing what is in front of you. The French Imperial Guard could be right over that next hill. My favorite battles are Bautzen (of course), and Lützen. However, the Campaign Game is my favorite of all the different scenarios to play. I have played it with and without cards based on my mood at the time. Many thanks to OSG for letting me review this, I hate to say game, simulation of Napoleonic warfare at almost the end of the Empire. If you grognards have played some of the older games you owe it to yourself to get one of these newer volumes.


Robert

Operational Studies Group:

Napoleon Games – Operational Studies Group

Napoleon's Resurgence:

Napoleon's Resurgence – Operational Studies Group (napoleongames.com)














878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game tha...

878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games 878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games

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


878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game that you appreciate the weight that those ‘s’s are lifting.  Yes, there are lots of Vikings, and yes they’ll be lots of Invasions, on most turns as it turns out. 


Incongruously the rule book states that it is the year 865 however there aren’t many people who could split such small hairs or understand the nuance between the years 865 and 878.  I am not one of them despite regularly falling asleep to the British History Podcast (BHP) which covered this period for me about 3 months ago.  (I’ve got quite a backlog).



However let’s get back to the game, which is a team-based game for 2 to 4 players.  One side takes on the two factions of the Angles (thank you BHP): the Housecarls and the Thegn. The other team takes over the Viking Norsemen and Viking Berserkers.  The game plays out over at most 7 rounds or until the conditions are overwhelmingly in favour of one team.


Gameplay


This game reminds me of a simple COIN game; there are asymmetric faction powers and the play order changes each turn and it is a (wait for it) … card-driven game.  Feel free to disagree with me. One of the simplest aspects of this game is how the turn order is decided – by drafting faction-coloured cubes out of a bag.  Unlike most variable turn order games, this is not predetermined completely at the start of the turn but revealed as the first phase of the next players turn.  This is such a simple design choice but adds a delicious amount of tension (and involvement) from the very beginning and it only ramps up throughout the game. If the ‘English’ defenders go first then their opportunity to react to the Viking invasion is stymied.  If the Vikings go first they can deny the English important reinforcements later on. A double whammy of both team factions going before their opponents can be an opportunity for either side.


On their turn each faction will receive Reinforcements, activate their Leaders (this is mostly for the Vikings as the English don’t get a Leader until the 5th Round), Move their armies, Fight in regions where there are both enemy and friendly troops and then draws cards back up to 3 cards. Each player completes that sequence until either the end of the 7th Round, Treaty cards or overwhelming force end the game.  Both treaty and overwhelming force require a certain amount of control markers to determine if the English or Viking team won.


The first Viking Reinforcement phase lands the Great Heathen Army (i.e. the Vikings) into Englaland. And you might be forgiven for thinking that there would be no way the defending factions (normally one or two defenders in a region), could deal with the invading horde of 17 Norsemen and 8 Berserkers during the first turn.  However, it always seemed to be quite finely balanced by the end of each round despite the Vikings having a seemingly overwhelming force.  The wise Viking player will not spread themselves too thin; there is a strong desire to rampage and pillage with their superior forces but they are quickly whittled down.  A good Viking player should prepare and plan for significant reinforcements in later turns.



The core of the gameplay is driven by the cards played by the active faction, which will either be an event card or a movement card.  The movement cards dictate how many armies and how far they can move.  Movement is a simple affair, there is no unit drop off or pick up, and armies must stop when in a region with the enemy.


The battle phase is streamlined and quick to grasp and another area where this game shines with its design choices.  Each faction is colour coded and has its own battle dice.  The controlling player will roll as many dice as they have units available in the battle.  The berserkers are the strongest faction but also the most fragile.  The Norsemen and Housecarl are equivalent and the Thegn are a bit battle shy.  Any time a battle occurs in a region containing a city then the Fyrd are raised which are basically cannon fodder and play an important role in protecting the stronger Housecarl and Thegn from absorbing too many hits early on.



The use of colour to differentiate the battle dice and different factions really help to streamline the battle phase and it can be taught and grasped in a few minutes.  The simple and quick playing battles present a real ebb and flow that you can see across the board as the Vikings invade and are pushed back, a little less, each turn. The event cards may add a little wrinkle here and there to the overall flow of the game but all their game-changing rules are clearly presented on the cards themselves.  


The active faction player is allowed to ‘command’ the pieces of their teammate and move them and battle with them freely.  However, any decisions where to apply the hits and, I would argue where to move them, should be freely discussed and agreed upon within your team.  It is this discussion space with your other team member that allows this fast-paced game to breathe and enhances the overall experience. I have played it with 2 players (with my son) and with 4.  Despite my son enjoying the game and asking to play it again, I am a bit disappointed that he has not experienced it with 4 players yet.  When lockdown eases hopefully I can remedy that situation.

Components

This review was written with the recently published second edition of the game.  The artwork across the cards and throughout the game is lovely.  I am also a sucker for maps, especially ones of England, and this one is beautifully uncluttered and functional. 



The rules are excellently written, and there is an abundance of examples and colours that at first glance looks confusing, but which are extremely useful when you’re reading to learn the game for the first time.  Because of its relative simplicity and presentation of the rules, I imagine returning to the game after a few months or more will be a very quick affair.


The leaders in the game come with Standees that tower above the army units.  They really serve to focus your attention, particularly for the English factions where there is a concentration of force, if it is not abundantly clear by the sea of black and red plastic surround them



My favourite part of the components has to be the Historical Overview at the back of the rulebook. I love Academy Games (and any other publisher that does) for allowing designers the space to add some context to the game they’ve designed.  There is also a line or two of flavour text on the cards themselves which is interesting to read. 

Criticisms

Academy Games have provided tiny miniatures in 15mm scale on little round bases.  Keeping these upright (and in line with my OCD tendencies) is more trouble than it’s worth.  At 15mm you can tell that they’re soldiers carrying axes and spears but beyond that, the detail is a bit lost.  The size isn’t the issue, any bigger and the map would drown in plastic, but I would have preferred simple cubes which can be easily formed into a good looking shield wall, but this is a minor complaint.



Another minor complaint is around the card art – I’ve already said that the art is lovely but I would have liked to see more unique examples of it.  Event cards with the same function and title have the same art.  Again, this is a very minor criticism and arguably it may be a design choice to keep consistency across cards that have the same effects. 


The most significant criticism I have is that the game feels quite different with just two players.  This is a shame because that is the only version my son has played. There is an added level of ‘je ne sais quoi’ with the full complement of four players.

Conclusion

I have read this game described as Risk+ but I think I would prefer the term COIN-lite. I understand the Risk+ comment but this is so much more than Risk.  If someone can handle the rules-complexity of Risk and enjoys the direct conflict in that ‘game’ then 878: Vikings can provide a much more rewarding experience in a much shorter time with marginally more rules.  I think that non-gamers suggesting a game of risk is pretty much apocryphal these days, but if you ever find yourselves in that situation, say no, go out and buy this (or any of Academy Games’ Birth of America series – 1812, 1775 or 1754) and insist that they try this instead.  However 878: Vikings is probably easier to get hold of due to the recent reprinting.


Although the rules are simple there is enough in here, especially with 4 players, to keep even the most experienced of Grognards entertained.  Even if they consider it as a simple 60-minute filler – my game of this went closer to 90 minutes plus a bit., I guarantee that they will enjoy it.  As will anyone else who has experienced any type of modern hobby games, or dare I say it again, Risk… 


With the almost constant Viking invasion forces, each turn really does feel like a battering against a meagre force of defenders that somehow seem to keep things on a knife’s edge throughout the entire game.  The game is finely balanced and seems to always come down to very small deciding factors that decide the entire game.  Being on the right side of that decision is where the best player (with wit and a small amount of luck) will find themselves.


I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.


Designers: Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeph Stahl
Bgg page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/204516/878-vikings-invasions-england
Playtime: 60 mins - 2 hours
Players: 2 - 4



Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I...

Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games Viscounts of the West Kingdom by Garphil Games

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


Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the final instalment of the West Kingdom trilogy (Architects, Paladins and now Viscounts). A series which I have immensely enjoyed and if I tell you that my biggest gripe with the series is that I can’t get my head around the thematic link between the game titles and what you’re actually doing in the games themselves, it might give you a clue a to how this review is going to do down…(spoiler I like it).


Viscounts is the most visually appealing of the three games coming with a central circular board and eye-catching 3-tiered castle in the centre of the board through which 1-4 players will be moving their single Viscount figure around the action spaces of the circular board, constructing buildings from their individual player board i.e. ‘building their engine’. As you build you’ll derive immediate and ongoing benefits on both the central board and your individual player board.

Gameplay

Each turn you’ll complete 6 distinct phases, however, the meat and potatoes, if you will, comes as you try to complement your Viscount’s new action space with the ever-shifting cards on your player board. Being able to optimise cards and actions across the boards describes a standard level of competence. What seems to be beyond me, certainly during the later stages of the game, is calculating the effects of your workers as they infest the castle – essentially only 3 workers are allowed in any section and the surplus is pushed into adjacent sections triggering further effects.



Once you’re familiar with the iconography (which is largely shared with other games in the series) your player boards lay out the phases in your turn which repeat in player order until the Kingdom descends into Poverty, achieved by players rinsing the Debt cards and revealing the Poverty card; or by being virtuous and fulfilling Deeds until the Prosperity Card is revealed. However, the Poverty card will reward the players with the most Deeds, and the Prosperity card rewards the player with the most debts so there is a nice see-saw effect of players collectively taking debts and deeds until the game ends.

You’ll start the game with three Townsfolk in your hand and each turn you’ll have to add one to your player board. This will then push the existing Townsfolk to the right until there are at most three on your board. What’s nice, or crunchy – depending on your point of view, is that some cards have immediate bonuses, some have drop-off bonuses, and whilst they are on your board they all provide extra icons for your primary actions. There’s an element of deck building as well as you add cards to your discard pile and discard cards later in the game.

Your primary actions are determined by the icons which are present on the Townsfolk cards on your player board and constitute the meat and potatoes of the game. You can Trade, Build, Mess around in the cool castle or Do Some Churchey stuff. Trade is where you get the resources required to do the other actions all of which give you victory points which is ultimately what we’re trying to do here, as ever.

There are three different types of resources for which you’re trading, Gold (okay), Stone (okay) and Ink Wells (wait – what?). Which allow you to take the VP-rewarding actions. The first, Build, requires hammer icons to build either workshops, trading posts or a guildhall. Each building type has its own unique piece (beeple?) and provides permanent bonuses as well as victory points - “So far, so Euro”.




The third action is to Place Workers in the castle. This is the centrepiece of the game and arguably what makes this game stand out to a passer-by (what’s one of those?). Each section of the castle has an effect to resolve as you place your workers and you will also bump other players workers (or your own) off the castle. As more workers litter the castle the combos you can build (i.e. free actions) is nice. In fact, I think it’s one of my favourite aspects of this game – my brain can’t work out what’s going to happen when I place 4 workers on the 1st tier but it’s always a nice surprise when I’m the active player and get to resolve the second tier and third tiers as well as bumping a few other players off the castle. However, these types of combos are only possible when there are a number of your workers (as well as others) already in the castle and won't happen much before the last 30 minutes or so.


The fourth and final action is writing a manuscript…which I’ll admit is a bit of a departure from typical worker placement games action spaces. These manuscripts often have an immediate bonus and endgame scoring points as well as having some very important bonuses for set collecting.

Finally, for the purposes of this gameplay overview, there is a virtue track. Criminals, as in the other ‘West Kingdom’ games are considered wild cards and their icons can be anything but using them does give you some Corruption. Corruption and Virtue are tracked separately on the virtue track and can give lots of Deeds and Debt cards. The castle and this virtue track are the two elements that make this game stand out, not just from the other West Kingdom games, but as a "it’s different from anything else and deserves a place in my collection"-type game.

I’ve not tried to describe every rule, there’s a plethora of other actions and rules I’m not going to cover but hopefully what I have done is given you a flavour of the game and why I like it. I’ve not even touched on strategies, that’s for another person to give but suffice to say I don’t think there’s any particular dominant strategy and you’ll do well by dabbling in a little bit of everything.

Components


The game comes in my newly-favourite sized box – i.e. one that fits the components perfectly with no extra space. I 3d-printed an organiser which did free things up a little bit but there is a massive amount of game in this deceptively small box.



The cards all have a lovely linen finish making them buttery smooth to handle. The wooden components are fantastic and the plastic castle is a nice touch. In an ideal world, the castle and board slot together easily and stay together but that was not my experience. However, this is a very minor gripe about some rather unique components.

Criticisms


The only criticism I have of this game is my lack of awareness of what a Viscount is. An architect designs buildings, Paladins are fighting monks, Viscounts – not sure, do they write manuscripts…? I just don’t have the familiarity with the term or the ability to link my in-game actions with a particular purpose of a Viscount. Maybe the designers’ adherence to the ‘West Kingdom’ trilogy (North, South and East as well) is providing too many constraints. I just don’t feel like I’m being a Viscount or my actions are anything to do with Viscounting…but that doesn't really detract from the excellent gameplay.

Conclusion


So with all that said, what do I think? The initial set up and cards provide a large number of variables and create a highly replayable game. I definitely want to play this again and again, however, as the UK is tentatively eyeing the easing of Lockdown in the next few months I expect that my groups' demands and appetites will be very wide and varied. Replaying the same title month on month or week on week is just not going to happen any time soon.




There is a lovely balance in lots of different aspects of the game and make it feels like it is in a constant state of flux. Any strategy you decide upon will likely have to be adapted turn by turn, in order to do well but any strategy (as long as you’ve got one will probably do alright). This is a testament to the balance of the game. I was initially enamoured of the castle strategy to win, and then the manuscript strategy and I’ve dabbled with the Building strategy (although not successfully). It is clear that the mechanics integrate together perfectly and there are multiple paths to victory.

In terms of the trilogy, I have liked each game more than the previous. And I started out liking Architects a lot. Maybe I suffer from a bit of cult of the new, but Viscounts is my standout game of the series.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.

Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Bgg page:  https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/296151/viscounts-west-kingdom
Playtime: 60 mins - 90 mins
Players: 1 - 4




  One Small Step by Academy Games     The Space Race: on the outside a scientific marvel; on the inside a propaganda and military powerhouse...

One Small Step by Academy Games One Small Step by Academy Games

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





 One Small Step


by


Academy Games




 
 The Space Race: on the outside a scientific marvel; on the inside a propaganda and military powerhouse for both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Those missiles grew bigger and stronger each day. The same missiles that had school children on both sides cower under desks. From Sputnik until the lunar landing it was not even twelve full years. Robert Goddard was one of the first rocket pioneers. The real dream of Werner von Braun was to put a man on the Moon. we will never know exactly how much we are indebted to Jack Parsons for his contributions to the effort. However, once President Kennedy threw the gauntlet down in front of the world the race was on. Both superpowers put their all into the effort to land a man on the Moon. This game from Academy Games allows the player to fill the shoes of either superpower in those heady days. Let us see what comes with the game:

1 Game Board
1 Beginner Map Overlay
2 Agency Boards (1 USSR, 1 USA)
46 Event Cards (12 for Era 1, 12 for Era 2, and 22 for Era 3)
19 Hazard Cards
14 Advancement Cards (Not used in Beginner Game)
12 Crew Mission Cards (6 USSR, 6 USA)
24 Satellite Mission Cards
90 Temporary Resource Tokens (10 of each kind)
54 Permanent Resource Tokens (6 of each kind)
12 Crew Markers (double sided, USA / USSR)
12 Satellite Markers (double sided, USA / USSR)
Bonus Tokens (21 Satellite, 10 Crewed Missions, 14 Media, and 9 Advancement)
3 Dice (1 Gray Agency Die, 1 Red Satellite Die, 1 Brown Crew Die)
4 Administration Worker Meeples (2 Red USSR, 2 Blue USA)
4 Engineer Worker Meeples(2 Red USSR, 2 Blue USA)
2 Summary Sheets (Beginner on one side, Advanced Game on other)
1 Rule Book
2 VP Track Markers (1 Red and 1 Blue Cube)
2 Media Track Markers (1 Red and 1 Blue Circle)




 Have no doubt about it, this is a Eurogame, and as such it shows it. Upon opening the box you will be presented with a cornucopia of items. Not only that, but the quality is second to none. Old hoary grognards have the wrong idea about Eurogames. To them they are all glitz with no substance. Guys I am here to tell you something that you may not have noticed. The word wargame actually does have the word game in it. 




 As mentioned, your eyes will be pretty much astounded at the components. The game board is only 22" square, but it seems much bigger. It is very nicely done, although at first glance it looks a little empty in some spots and busy in others. It is mounted, and feels like it will last for however much gaming you put it through. There are three counter/token sheets filled with beautiful and large tokens. They are also very thick and sturdy. The Beginner and Advanced Summary Sheets (Player Aids) are of cardboard, and like the rest of the game are eye-popping with color. To fit all of the game's actions, the Advanced Summary Sheets are done in small print. There is a lot to the advanced game so the sheets are busy, and because of the print size I do have to pick them up to get them closer to my specs. Naturally, the Beginner Summary Sheet is in larger print and much less busy. There are two sets of cards. Both are of very good quality. One is the normal size for game cards, and the other is a much smaller deck. However, the smaller deck can be read easily. The 'Meeples' are kind of cute in a way. The two Agency Boards are well set up and are not crowded. The Rule Book is twenty-seven pages long. It is the standard Academy Games Rule Book. By that I mean it is beautiful to behold and very well written. If you have problems understanding and following these rules, I would not blame the Rule Book. All in all, this game screams Eurogame, but a very well produced Eurogame. 




 I hate to tell Academy Games this, but even though I lived through the Space Race my interest in it was near nil. Now, give me a book or game about Alexander's Successors and I am in. So, this will have to be a very good game to pique and keep my interest. 

 Victory is won by how many points each side can accumulate. This is the Sequence of Play:

Phase 1 - Countdown
Phase 2  - Replenish
Phase 3 - Draw Cards
Phase 4  - Placing Workers
Phase 5  - Personnel
Phase 6 - Play Cards
Phase 7 - Launch Missions

 The game gives you both Administrator and Engineer workers. Each of these can only be used on their corresponding spaces. Personnel Cards have the different Astronauts' names on them. Along with them the cards also have some of the following:

Military Missiles
GPS
Cold War
Freeze-Dried Foods
Velcro
Satellite Research
Navigation Testing




  In a nutshell, this is a worker placement, and resource allocation game at its core. Having a Basic and Advanced version built in is very helpful for table longevity. It is a two to four player game. In the four player version two players are on the U.S. and two are on the U.S.S.R. sides. The missions that both sides have to fulfill are definitely a two edged sword. The tougher the mission the greater the gain for your side. The downside is that you do not want to fail missions. These setbacks have some real consequences to your attempt at everlasting fame. The game also has a Media track that is predicated on your successes and failures. The Beginner game is simpler, but that does not mean it is simple. This is a game that definitely has some meat on its bones. The advanced game is just that, advanced, or to be truthful very advanced. This is not a light Eurogame. It may not have tanks and hexes, but it is a deep thinking man's game. All through the game your choices are myriad, and unlike some games can have negative outputs for your side. Please remember that you are not just playing against yourself. There are hazards that both sides can add to missions to make them even harder than they were to begin with.



 
 Bottom line, this is not really a game I would recommend for a boardgame newbie. This is, however an excellent game for grognard to switch gears and learn to play. It is a deep game. Academy Games even touts it as a good game for teachers to help explain the Space Race to students. Please remember that this is a game about the entire Space Race. You as the player have to build your country's Space exploration history from scratch. Thank you very much, Academy Games, for letting me review this excellent game. The game has also come close to doing the impossible. It has managed to spark and interest in me to start reading about the history of the Space Race. If a game can do that, it has to be great.

 For you grognards out there who have been under rocks please take a look at their stable of 'Conflict of Heroes' games. It is a wonderful tactical series.

Robert

Academy Games:

One Small Step:

My review of Conflict of Heroes 'Storms of Steel Kursk 1943'
 

  Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas  We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to ...

Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas

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






 Frontier Wars


by


Draco Ideas




 We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to when we played with them. However, to introduce them onto our tables, where hex and counters reign, is another thing altogether. Some of us are elitists; I am guilty of this at times, where we long for just sixty to 100 page rulebooks and an Ardennes map where each hex represents fifty yards. You know, games where we will only get to play them once or a few times during our lives. I am here to tell you that I was wrong and so was our thinking on games. The smallest footprint game can have great gameplay. A game that is short enough to play four times in one evening can still be a great game. Can a grognard play a game that has plastic toy soldiers? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as he manages to rise above his stuffy thoughts on what a wargame MUST be behind. Chess is the world's oldest and most beloved wargame, and guess what it has: toy soldiers. We must also forget our rulebook mania. A simple game can be a great game, and guess what guys, it might just bring new blood into this elderly hobby. Face it people, we grognards are not getting any younger, and if we really love the hobby we will want it to continue to thrive. So, I am removing myself from the soapbox, and onto the review. 




Here is a blurb from Draco Ideas about the game itself:

"Frontier War" ("Guerra Fronteriza" in Spanish) allows you to take control of one of the four most relevant factions in World War 2.
Choose which role you want to take in the fray: United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Russia in games for 2 to 4 players.
Recreate battles of the largest military clash in history.
Learn how to manage your resources, make bold tactical movements with your troops: infantry, tanks, artillery and airstrikes.
Make alliances that meet your interests, but remember, your allies can stop being so at any time!
Fight Smart and never cease exploring your options, since the end of the battle can arrive at the most unexpected moment.
The game includes 100 fully detailed miniatures, a modular battle field for new and different games each play, as well as 90 cards that will make each game unique.
We’ve worked hard to give the game easy mechanics and a quick learning without losing a high tactical complexity, all of it within the frame of fast, dynamic games.
Are you ready?"



 This is what comes with Frontier Wars:

100 Cards

100 Miniatures

 30 Double-Sided tiles

 4 Army Boards

 3 Game Boards

 100+ Tokens

 Rules and Scenario Book




 In the basic game there are three sets of cards. These are: Attack Orders, Defense Orders, and Tactical Orders. These all have the same backs to them. On the front of the cards is their explanation and usage along with various photos taken during World War II. The action that the cards describe are straight-forward and do not need to be deciphered. There are four types of miniatures in the basic game: Artillery, Infantry, tanks, and airplanes. These are small, but very well done. For their size they are very robust. The tiles are hexagonal, and very large at almost 4" across. There are many different tiles to play the scenarios on. These are:

Neutral Tiles
City Tiles 
Airport Tiles
Strategic Point Tiles
Starting Tile
Water Tiles
Swamp Tile
Port Tile
Fleet Tile
Desert Tile

 Some of these give you extra Resource Cards, Victory Points, or increase your card hand limit. The Army and Game Boards are also large and easy to read. The Tokens are done in very thick cardboard. All of the components are built to last through many games. The Rules Book is thirty-one pages long. It is in full color and is done on magazine type paper. The rules only take up nine pages with a further two pages+ with Optional Rules. The game comes with thirty scenarios. These go from beginner to advanced. They are also from two to four players in size. Some are historical, while others are completely made up for the game. You get a very large bang for your buck with everything that comes with the game, and how well the parts were constructed.



 The game is easy to learn and play. I believe Frontier Wars is a great game in its own right. It also bridges the gap for new players from  simpler wargames, or just games, to more complex games. I mean, that is what we grognards are all about, isn't it? We entrap new players and then feed them a simple diet of beer & pretzels wargames. Slightly more complex games follow, until they start noticing hexes in their everyday life. Then when they least expect it we force them to play an entire weekend of Fire in the East or something similar. Okay, maybe other people do not do that, but I would love to have a dungeon full of hex and counter playing slaves. Enough of that. Frontier Wars is an easy to learn and fun wargame. This is the Sequence of Play:

 Turn Order
 Drawing Resource Cards
 Reinforcements
 Actions
 Tactical Phase
 Arms Race
 Upkeep
 
 Frontier Wars is a game that has a small footprint, is quick to play and learn, and most of all it is fun. Draco Ideas did add an expansion that includes France and Japan to the mix. You can also buy trucks with new rules for them. They were nice enough to send me the Solo Rules and the Weather Cards that add a lot to the game. These come with large double-sided fold out player aids that explain in simple terms how to use the Weather cards and play in solo mode. Any game that comes with a built in solo mode nowadays is sure to get my vote, especially if it is as easy to understand and play with as these are. Thank you Draco Ideas for letting me review this sleeper of a game that seems to have slipped under most peoples' radar. 

Robert

Draco ideas:

Frontier Wars: