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  Rostov '41 Race to the Don by Multi-Man Publishing, The Gamers  Field Marshal von Rundstedt, in command of Army Group South, had the t...

Rostov '41 Race to the Don by Multi-Man Publishing, The Gamers Rostov '41 Race to the Don by Multi-Man Publishing, The Gamers

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

 Rostov '41

Race to the Don


Multi-Man Publishing, The Gamers

 Field Marshal von Rundstedt, in command of Army Group South, had the toughest assignment of the three Army groups in Operation Barbarossa. To Hitler he also had the most important assignment. Army Group South was supposed to capture the Ukraine and especially the Donbass. Then it was to capture the Soviet oilfields in the Caucasus. It didn't help that the Soviets that were fighting Army Group South were the most numerous and best equipped German opponents at the time of the attack: June 22nd,1941. The actual 'largest tank battle in WWII' had taken place at Dubno early in the campaign for Southern Russia. 

 The game comes with:

Standard Combat Series (SCS) rulebook (version 1.8)

Rostov ‘41 game-specific rulebook

One full color 22" x 34" map

280 counters

4 Scenarios

Box and dice

 This is the first part of the SCS Rulebook. It not only explains the games, but informs you on how to treat your opponent if need be:

"This series was designed for two reasons. First, it was meant to offset our other series which, by an order of magnitude, are much more complicated than the SCS. Second, it was designed to be a basic—read FUN—game which can be played at times when the others seem like too much of a good thing. These games are made for the “break out the beer and pretzels, and here we go” type of evening. While none of our games are designed with the beginner as their raison d’être, the SCS was designed as something the beginner would be able to was designed as something the beginner would be able to handle—as opposed to being devoured by. 

 I want to make the reasons behind a few things in this series known. First of all is our standard rounding rule. I have been forever pained by the “11 to 6? Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s only a 1 to 1 attack.” More importantly, watching players scrounge the map looking for a strength point or two to “make the odds break” is downright embarrassing. By making the “table break” happen at the 1/2 value, I hope to make players spend less time pre-calculating and more time just shooting from the hip. Its the shoot from the hip gun fight that is fun in wargaming, not the ravings of the accountant gone mad looking for each individual strength point. If your opponent starts to pre-calculate combats in this system (even after making it tougher on him), feel free to slap him silly! Sure, he can start scrounging for enough points to make that last 0.5, but only if you let him dodge around the Fog of War rule!"

 The map is fully functional and utilitarian in look. This is keeping with the whole SCS series. The games were meant to be easy to play and simple to figure out. It also helps that the terrain in the area is mostly steppe. The counters complement the map. They are 1/2" in size, and use the standard NATO symbols. The symbols are a bit small, but the numbers are easy to read.  The counters are the regulation Soviet brown and German gray and black (SS). Both of the Rulebooks are in black & white. The Series Rulebook is only eight pages long, while the Rostov '41Rulebook is also eight pages long. However, only three pages are for the actual Rostov '41 rules and the next four are the setup instructions for the four scenarios/campaign. The last page has the Terrain Effects Chart and the Combat Table Chart. All of the components match the style and price of the games in the SCS series.  

 You can play these four scenarios:

Fritz on the Don (Campaign), 14 Turns

Fritz on the Mius, 4 turns

Fritz Grabs Rostov, 7 turns

Soviet Counterpunch, 4 turns

 This is the Sequence of Play:

Initiative Player Turn

Reinforcement Phase
German Barrage Phase
Movement Phase
Barrage Phase
Combat Phase
Exploitation Phase
Supply Phase
Clean Up Phase

Non-Initiative Player Turn
The non-Initiative Player now repeats
the steps in order above.

Turn End
Advance to the next turn or end the game
if last turn of scenario.

There are also rules for:

Zones of Control
Terrain Effects
Unit Reconstruction
Disorganized Units (DG)

 The game plays as a free-wheeling affair. It is a standard size map, but the counter density is extremely low. The Series Rule that does not allow for your opponent to inspect your stack is a nice touch for some Fog-of-war. The Standard Combat Series was the brain-child of Dean Essig, and there are now over twenty games in the series. Rostov '41 was designed by Ray Weiss. The rules have no ambiguity in them at all. They are a model of rules for wargames, in both their being easy to understand, and their terseness. The Barrage rules (both Artillery and Air Strikes), are some of the most interesting ones in the game. The Soviet player can only use a barrage during the Barrage Phase. The German player can use his artillery in the German Barrage phase and the Barrage Phase. The German Air Strikes can be carries out in either Barrage Phase, but also in the Movement or Exploitation Phase. The German players' Air Strikes take precedent over anything else. This means that if the Soviet player is going to conduct a Barrage or Movement, the German player can interrupt him and use an Air Strike before the Soviet player makes his move or Barrage. The roll for Initiative decides how many Air Strikes each player has each turn. Each player rolls a six sided die (+1 to the Germans in a clear weather turn), and this decides who has the Initiative, The difference between each side's die roll is the number of Air Strikes the player with initiative receives.

 The game plays just like in any other Eastern Front game in 1941-42. The Soviet player must decide when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em. He must try and stop the German motorized troops from shredding and then encircling his front. Some cardboard sacrifices will have to be made. The German player does not have time on his side. First the Rasputitsa (mud season), and then the winter will throw a monkey wrench into his plans. The campaign game has only fourteen turns for the German player to take as many Victory Hexes as possible. He needs at least twenty-two+ to get a Decisive Victory. In this game the five hexes of Rostov are worth fifteen points, so the German player does not have to occupy too many others. However, leaving supplied Soviet forces behind him will cost him dearly in taken away Victory Points. 

 In summary, this is a great game with excellent rules. Thank you multi-Man Publishing for letting me review this game. I have a few other games in the Standard Combat Series that I have not given the time they deserve judging by Rostov '41.


Rostov '41 Race to the Don:

Other Multi-Man Publishing reviews.

Monty's Gamble: Market Garden review:

Monty's Gamble: Market Garden by Multi-Man Publishing - A Wargamers Needful Things

Last Stand: The battle for Moscow 1941-42 review:

The Last Stand : The Battle for Moscow 1941-42 by Multi-Man Publishing - A Wargamers Needful Things

Baptism by Fire review:

Baptism by Fire by Multi-Man Publishing - A Wargamers Needful Things

  St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International  Once again with a wargame, I find my history s...

St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins by War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International

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

 St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins


War Drum Games & Quarterdeck International

 Once again with a wargame, I find my history synapses at a loss. I was always more interested in the fighting for Caen during the Normandy Campaign. Oh, I have played many tactical battles about the American Hedgerow Campaign, but I have to admit I only know the history of the actual American breakout and and end run at a cursory level. This is, however, a very good thing. I would be very surprised if many grognards are not like me in this aspect. We acquire or get ready to play a game about a period or campaign that our knowledge is not up to snuff on. Then we grab every resource we can get our hands on to read up on it. This does not mean that we watch certain TV channels about it. One of them is a fanciful landing spot for aliens. The other should change its name to the Nazi memorabilia channel, but I digress. This is one of the salient points about wargames, even if we do not play them. They give us a chance to see exactly what the forces of both sides were faced with at the moment. In truth though, a wargame is a game/simulation and was meant to be played. So let us see how St. Lo measures up on both the game and historical levels. This is what comes with the game:

One 22" x 34" Mounted Map
400 die-cut playing pieces
One US Division Display Sheet
One US Artillery Display Sheet
One German Division Display Sheet
One German Artillery Display Sheet
Rules Book
Charts and Tables
One six-sided die

 The first thing we have to describe is the map. It is mounted, but that just tells half the story. It seems to be twice the thickness of other mounted maps. It will be able to deal with years of gaming. The terrain on the map is mostly the same. This is not the map's fault. This is hedgerow hell. There are a few villages throughout the map, but the most important features are the higher terrain. The higher terrain allows either side to use its artillery. The colors of the map fit the area nicely. The counters are large at 9/16" and come pre-rounded. So, you counter clippers can have a break with these. The Rule Book is twenty-eight pages long. All of the headings for the rules 1.0 or 5.0 etc. have excellent little historical reports and information at the start of them. For the history lover these little blurbs are worth the cost of the game alone. The Rule Book is in full color. It also comes with examples of play. The six Player Aid sheets are laminated. This is a great touch. I do not let food or anything near my games, but some people like to live life dangerously. The information on the sheets are pretty much self-explanatory. All of the Player Aid sheets are in English. The game pieces have been manufactured to the highest standard. 

The English version of the game is in full English

 The Sequence of Play is:

Weather Phase
Reinforcement Phase
Initiative Phase
Asset Phase (Does not take place on Turn 1)
Operations Phase
Recovery Phase
Artillery Rally Phase
Headquarters Phase

 The Player Notes and Historical notes are both well worth the read. The Player Notes start out as this for both sides:


 "You must except that the Americans assault will push you back. But remember, the American victory objectives are far behind your initial line., and the victory conditions require only that you hold those objectives for eight days. So you must plan to trade space for time. Back up and build strongholds. and cause the Americans as much frustration as you can. The game system offers you a number of subtle ways to do so."


"Tactically, try to drive deep and fragment the German Line. Your artillery, if it has good observation can be a shocking deadly weapon against retreating German units. Beware of letting small German units slip behind your lines. Usually, the best attack procedure is first to pin or disrupt the defender with barrage fire, and then to hit him with a deliberate or intensive attack. If you have achieved a high combat ratio, you can save time and also surprise the German player by omitting the barrage."

 The game is full of tactical flavor and rules representing:

Barrage Fire
Hasty attack
Recon (US)
Zones of Control

 The game is different than most other wargames on this scale, especially in the way that it handles Assets.

 The game play for both sides is as historic as it comes. The high ground on the map (which there isn't much of), becomes the main area of fighting between the Germans and the Americans. The high ground in this game, like reality, means that you can see the enemy and use your artillery and other assets against the enemy. Historically the American artillery was its premier force in WWII. It was able to rain death and destruction upon the Axis forces whenever given the chance. The Germans in the game are as usual for 1944-45 goal is to hang on longer than they did in reality. Playing as the Germans, you will be ground down turn after turn. You will need to play the game like you are playing Poker and know when to cut and run. The American forces will grind you down. Playing as the Americans, do exactly as was done in 1944 in this battle. Use your artillery to smash the Germans into a pulp, instead of charging headlong and losing your infantry in a blood bath. Playing as the Americans, you only have eight turns to win the game. There are no German Victory Points. Victory is determined by how many Victory Points the American player can amass. The American player gets eight points for having a unit with a line of supply in one of the St-Lo hexes. He must also try to capture as many German Depot hexes on the East side of the map as he can. Three of the Depot hexes are on the map edge one or two hexes from St-Lo, and are worth two points apiece. The others are spread out over the map, and are worth one point  apiece. In the games that I have played, victory has come down to the wire. Twenty-one or higher points means a Decisive US victory. Eight to ten points gives you a marginal German victory. The German player has to fight like Jersey Joe Walcott. Always retreat, but make the other player pay for each hex, and hit back hard when the opportunity arises.

 In summary, this is an absolutely great game that plays very historically, and the components are first rate. Thank you very much Quarterdeck International for letting me review this game. Apparently, Compass Games is now selling St-Lo instead of Quarterdeck International. Please check out the other many fine products on QI's site. They carry a great assortment of hard to find European and Asian wargames. Also look at the great line of games that Compass Games is now selling.


Quarterdeck International:

Compass Games:

St-Lo: Normandy 1944 The Breakout Begins:


  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


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.


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...


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


Great Battles of Small Units



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...


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




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.


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.


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”


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:






 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



Hidden Forces

Cavalry Charges



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.


Operational Studies Group:

Napoleon Games – Operational Studies Group

Napoleon's Resurgence:

Napoleon's Resurgence – Operational Studies Group (

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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 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:
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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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:
Playtime: 60 mins - 90 mins
Players: 1 - 4