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'85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires  by Flying Pig Games  The aeronautical porcine is at it once again. This time they take us to Afgh...

'85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires - A Squad Battles Game by Flying Pig Games '85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires - A Squad Battles Game by Flying Pig Games

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

'85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires 


Flying Pig Games

 The aeronautical porcine is at it once again. This time they take us to Afghanistan in the 1980s. This is when the USSR tried their hand at pacifying that country. For Russia to have control of Afghanistan had long been a part of their strategy. England and Russia played the 'Great Game' for it during the 19th century. Now the USSR tries to see if they can do better than the Tsars. This is the second game in their Squad Battle Series. The first was '65 Squad Level Combat in Vietnam, which has earned some very deserved kudos from the wargaming public.

  This game is on Kickstarter right now. It has already almost doubled the first pledge hurdle. Now it is working on its stretch goals.

 "’85 Graveyard of Empires is the second game in the Squad Battles series. Building on the mechanics introduced in ’65 Squad Battles in the Jungles of Vietnam, Graveyard of Empires (GoE) features squad-level battles between the Afghan Mujahideen and Soviet Red Army in a card-driven, hex and counter game."

  "GOE introduces card-activated events, immersive helicopter rules, more tactical decisions, new powers and abilities, and of course beautiful counter and game board art. The counters are 1” or larger (for the vehicles) and the game board hexes are huge. Included are counters for Mujahideen RPG and RPD teams, rifle squads and heroes, as well as captured T-55 and BMP armored fighting vehicles. The Soviets respond with Spetsnaz, line rifle squads, heroes, Hind-24 attack helicopters and several types of AFVs, such T-55, T-62 tanks, BMPs, BTRs, and more."

 To add to the game, you can also buy an add-on that allows you to play solitaire.

 "Alone in the Mountains is a solitaire expansion for '85 Graveyard of Empires. Utilizing an updated version of the same solitaire system used in Night of Man and '65 Squad Battles in the Jungle of Vietnam, Alone in the Mountains comes complete with a full sheet of counters, a new map, rules, solitaire action cards, and 6 solitaire scenarios for Graveyard of Empires. All that for only $45."

 The soaring swine have some of the largest and beautifully made games in the wargaming world. I urge you to take a look at this and all the others they have to offer.


'85 Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires -A Squad Battles Game by Mark H. Walker — Kickstarter

A Most Fearful Sacrifice 2nd Edition/Reprint | Flying Pig Games

Old School Tactical | Flying Pig Games

Bohemund of Taranto Crusader and Conqueror by Georgios Theotokis   This is a very informative book on not only the man himself, but also the...

Bohemond of Taranto: Crusader and Conqueror by Georgios Theotokis  Bohemond of Taranto: Crusader and Conqueror by Georgios Theotokis

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

Bohemund of Taranto

Crusader and Conqueror


Georgios Theotokis 

 This is a very informative book on not only the man himself, but also the age he lived in. As far as the man, we do not have many books at all about him in any language. So, this volume is more than welcome.

 The book is filled with information that is not known to many. For example: his birth name was actually Mark. Because of his size at birth, he was given the sobriquet of 'Buamundus Gigas' the name (Gigas means giant) of a mythical giant whose story is lost in the ravages of time, according to the author. He was of Norman extraction (Normannorum being the Latin term for Northmen). Many of the later generations of Normans had sailed for the new and different world of Sicily and Southern Italy. His size had continued to grow apace of his contemporaries, so it was quite easy to pick him out in a medieval crowd. 

 The author goes into great detail of how the Normans ended up in these sunny Mediterranean lands. The book continues with Bohemond's family and how his famous father Robert Guiscard had divorced Bohemund's mother when he was just a child. Even though this made Bohemund technically a 'bastard' it does not seem to have lessened his worth at his father's court. 

 The largest part of the book is dedicated to his different dealings with and invasions of the Byzantine Empire. This may surprise some people because of the large role that he played in the First Crusade. You would think that the Byzantines would want him as far away as possible from their lands, instead of letting him march an army close to their capitol. The author describes in detail what happened during the First Crusade and how in the first years Bohemond's military astuteness was one of the main reasons that the crusaders were successful.

 Most of what we know about him was written down by a Byzantine princess named Anna Komnena. She was the first born of Alexios I Komnenos, the Byzantine Emperor. She does let her venom come through toward him at times. At other times it is plain that she begrudgingly admired him. 

 The author has done a fine job of showing the reader the life of this truly giant man. Thank you, Casemate Publishers, for letting me review this very informative book and shining the light on Bohemond's life. His life and adventures would match or surpass any of his Viking forebearers.


Book: Bohemond of Taranto: Crusader and Conqueror 

Author: Georgios Theotokis

Publisher : Pen & Sword

Distributor: Casemate Publishers

  Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications  "Starvation Island", "Island of Death&q...

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943 by War Diary Publications

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

 Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943


War Diary Publications

 "Starvation Island", "Island of Death", or simply hell were among its many epithets. As bad as the conditions were for the American Marines/Soldiers, unbelievably the Japanese had it worse. The Japanese were forced to resort to cannibalism during the end of the battle for the island. Most everything rusted and your clothes would rot while you were wearing them. Contrary to some reports, the Japanese were not highly trained and acclimated to fighting in the jungles of the South Pacific. It was as much a shock to them as it was to the American forces that were on the island. Even being on the troopships before seeing the island was a misery. This is where our wargaming takes us with this game.

 The game was designed by Mike Nagel, and he also did the art, using the 1966 release of Guadalcanal from Avalon Hill Game Company as a template. It was not really taken up by the wargaming community as many of the Avalon Hill games were. In fact, I had played and knew about almost all of Avalon Hill's games and had never seen or heard about this one until reading about this game. 

What comes in the box

 This is from the publisher:

"Deluxe Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field is a grand tactical game on the efforts of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army to capture and hold the island of Guadalcanal during the beginning of the island-hopping campaign to push back the Japanese empire.
Errors in strategy and logistics at large made this effort extremely difficult for the Marines, as they held on to the island in the face of Japanese onslaught with dwindling supplies.
Players experience huge swings of fortune from one side to the other and back again as the battle for the island unfolds. Critical to the efforts of both sides is the capture and holding of Henderson Field, an air strip whose control dictates air superiority and the ability to land supplies and much needed reinforcements.

The game includes a huge 17” by 55” map, provided in easily printed letter- and tabloid-sized sheets (8.5x11” and 11x17” respectively, this is for the Print-N-Play form of the game), that covers the northern extents of the island. Combat units are mostly battalions, with a smattering of regiments and companies, representing infantry, armor, and artillery. There are also specialized units such as engineers and LVTs that aid in the maintenance or destruction of Henderson Field as well as movement across the difficult jungle terrain.

The basis for Deluxe Guadalcanal is the original Guadalcanal game published by The Avalon Hill Game Company in 1966. The project began as an effort to create an updated version of the original game’s map, providing some tweaks here and there for accuracy or playability. Once completed, it was not that much of an effort to also create a new, colorful set of counters (including new informational markers) that simplifies play. It was then a short, additional step to rewrite the rules in a manner that incorporates some of the “advanced” rules, some new rules and mechanics, and known errata to create a new, cohesive rules set of under twelve pages."

The Map in all its glory

 This is the component list:

352 laser-cut counters

2 19" x 27" full-color map sheets

2 player aid cards

9 special event cards

16-page rulebook

6-sided die

Close-up of the map and the tables and turn track

 The map is pretty big. Because of the actual terrain, it will never be thought of as a piece of art. However, it shows the island's topography as it actually was. It is a long and relatively thin map, although most gamers will have a place where it will fit. The Rulebook is in full color and is made of glossy paper. It is only sixteen pages long but has a good number of play examples. The type used in the Rulebook is nice and large and very easy to read. The game comes with two players aid cards that are on glossy hard stock. These have all the tables and the Sequence of Play on them. There is also a glossy hard stock one-sided sheet for the Optional Reinforcements Setup Chart. The counters are big and have the usual NATO, or what we have come to call NATO, markings. They are very easy to read and really pop out against the map. The cards are sturdy if a bit plain. They have a picture from the box on one side and the event side is really just type. However, matching the rest of the components, the type is nice and large.

 Sequence of Play:

Random Event

U.S. Victory Points

U.S. Naval Bombardment

U.S. Reinforcements

U.S. Artillery Supply

Guerilla Action (only the U.S. player)

U.S. Movement

Japanese Artillery Fire

U.S. Artillery Fire

U.S. Combat

Japanese Random Event

Japanese Victory Points

Japanese Naval Bombardment

Japanese Reinforcements

Japanese Artillery Supply

Japanese Movement

U.S. Artillery Fire

Japanese Artillery Fire

 I think the game is a very good one and is quite a testament to its original forefather. This is what was said about its first iteration:

"Although innovative in many ways, GUADALCANAL was a failure as a design and as a seller. The huge mapboard was virtually wasted as 95% of the action took place on 20% of the mapboard. GUADALCANAL was discontinued after having sold only 27,000 copies. Its failure left AH with the impression that the Japanese were poor “box office” subject matter for years to come."

 I think most wargaming companies today would jump for joy if they sold 27,000 copies of a game. The designer has added victory points for controlling the different village places on the map. This means that the whole map is really now in play. The game still has Henderson Field as its focal point. The whole reason both forces were in this jungle hell was the airfield. The original was also labelled 'very complex' by Avalon Hill. I think the game now is much closer to a medium complexity. This is even with the bells and whistles that the designer has added. The game play is still largely based upon each side's reinforcement schedule. Both players are also compelled, just as in reality, to deal with the lack or surplus of artillery supply. The naval war is abstracted. The air war and forces are not explicitly mentioned, but I believe those forces are added into the different sides' artillery strength. The rules also allow Japanese units to go into Stealth Movement. They can remain in that mode for three turns maximum. For each turn they remain hidden, and not detected by U.S. forces, they get to multiply their movement points. So, if a Japanese unit has been in Stealth Movement for two turns, they would multiply their movement points by two. When moving they can only move into jungle hexes and each of those cost four movement points. There is an optional rule to allow U.S. units to also use Stealth Movement.

 Thank you very much War Diary Magazine for allowing me to review their first published wargame. One can only hope that the endeavor is crowned with glory, and they publish many more.


  These are the two latest volumes of War Diary Magazine:


MEETING TRIUMPH AND DISASTER:  The Italian Campaigns in East Africa and Greece by Paul Comben

THE FALL OF CRETE:  The Games by Andrew McGee

CRETE:  The Battle by John Burtt

GUADALCANAL:  Updating a Classic by Michael Nagel

ROADS TO LENINGRAD AND MOSCOW:  Con-Z House Rules by Clair Conzelman


FRONT TOWARD THE ENEMY:  A Review by Arrigo Velicoga

PASS IN REVIEW:  Capsule Reviews by John Burtt and Hans Korting

The Coming Issue:


War Diary Magazine:

Guadalcanal: The Battle for Henderson Field, 1942 - 1943:

 SONG FOR WAR FROM INVICTA REX GAMES Look out for this new simulation on the whole of the Mediterranean conflict in WWII - the first game la...


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


Look out for this new simulation on the whole of the Mediterranean conflict in WWII - the first game launched by a new company, Invicta Rex Games.

Look out too for a special review exploring this stunning project here on A Wargamers Needful Things next month.

  SGS PACIFIC D-DAY and SGS OKINAWA from STRATEGY GAME STUDIO Strategy Game Studio have a long legacy of successful games which for me repli...


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







Strategy Game Studio have a long legacy of successful games which for me replicate everything I want in a board wargame. The majority, though not all, cover WWII.  So, it is with great thanks to Avalon Digital for giving me the opportunity to review their latest two games. This duo takes us to the island hopping battles of the Pacific.

My focus will be mainly on Pacific D-Day because this offers a magnificent five island battles.  In historical order they are:
Tarawa       November 1943
Saipan        June 1944
Tinian        July 1944
Peleliu       September 1944
Iwo Jima   February 1945
Several of these battles I'd already directly experienced on my gaming table in the tried and trusted  hex and counter form of Decision Games D-Day At ... series, which covers all but the battle for Tinian.  I was very aware of the Death Ride Series too covering at least one of the island landings, Tarawa, and in ways that take detail [and cost!] to astronomical levels.
I was intrigued to find out what SGS's approach would be. Like many of their previous games, the maps are area-based ones and for these operational battles that choice seems both obvious and ideal.  In particular, it makes the games very playable without sacrificing all the elements I want and expect in these situations. The combination of land, sea and air that WII Pacific actions involve is a great draw.  However, being invasions, the sea and air elements are more stylised with two boxes, one for US Carriers and one for US Battleships.  So, as must be expected, no searching for the enemy's fleets or battles between them.
Instead, each invasion will reflect its historical nature of American troops making beach landings supported by gunnery fire from the battleships and aircraft strikes from the carriers.  

A typical opening screen shot from the first conflict -
the landing on Tarawa.

Though this may sound like a recipe for repetition, there is plenty of variation to keep you engaged, as I was to discover!
Before considering this aspect of the package, however, it's important to look at the game system and sequence of play.  There is a fairly extensive rules section that you can refer to, but as this is largely generic rather than covering specific elements of the rules particular to these conflicts, I found little reason to turn to it at any point.  I say this with great appreciation after the experience several years ago of a 50+ page online rule book that needed far too much reference to to make sense of what I should be doing.
My first victory on Tinian
[still haven't figured out what 15% refers to!]

For the absolute beginner, the five short video tutorials should be more than enough to get started and, though an infrequent player of computer wargames, I launched in quite successfully without reference to them.  In fact, it was only later that I checked them for purposes of this review. They cover in order:
[1] Region Inspection
This is more useful than it sounds, as it covers not just the physical terrain along with such things as stacking, but also how to examine units and structures [e.g. bunkers].  Much of the time this knowledge won't add significantly to your play, but at key moments, such as preparing for a major battle it can be worth exploring the extra information.
[2] Air Movement and Rebase
Possibly the most useful, especially for the novice, though a few turns should see you dividing your planes and naval artillery into potent groups and sending them to their targets smoothly and efficiently.
[3] Land Movement and stack splitting
This is mainly helpful in making you quickly effective in splitting up large groups.  Playing the game, however, is best for discovering which units can't venture into some types of terrain or without other types of unit accompanying them.
[4] Stacking is as functional and obvious as in most war games whether digital or manual.  Moving your units will quickly teach you the fairly obvious facts about the limitations of infantry only moving into mountainous terrain in small numbers!
[5] Battle
The is the longest of what are all short and succinct learning videos and much of what you learn will be fairly obvious on playing your first battle.
So let's launch into a typical game turn. I'll focus on playing as the US player, though the option is there to play either side.  It's just that my limited forays into being the defending Japanese player have largely been monumental failures.  The computer A.I. does a far better job than I've been able to muster when trying the Japanese side..

Here's me getting an early trouncinging as the Japanese!

Each battle opens with a Turn 0 when both sides get a selection of cards to choose from; one of them is always the Historical set up and that has been my standard preferred choice.  Other choices primarily give you extra reinforcements/increased air or naval power - all at the expense of negative VP costs.  It's worth noting that the Japanese A.I. always seems to take some of these optional boosts.
Then it's into the following TURN SEQUENCE.  Note that the game doesn't use exactly the same terminology in every Phase I have used here for familiarity's sake. 

Just like many of my favourite board wargames, each turn begins with a single card draw.  Most can be saved to play when you want, but a few [edged in purple] must be played immediately.  They're the typical mix of good and bad.  Here's just a sample: bad weather preventing your carrier aircraft from taking off or restricting ground unit movement, a reinforcement card that you can delay playing to gain VPs, a very good range of combat support benefits.


Slightly misleading in its title, as what you are doing is sending these units out to locations where they will take part in Combat in a later Phase.  Note that both types of units can be placed in areas where you intend to move land units or can be sent to soften up targets by themselves.  
Typically you'll have 10 air units and 9 naval bombardment units at the start of battles.  Generally, this will diminish as the game progresses, but with some naval reinforcements and cards that restore an aircraft or two.
Main decisions choices here are as to allocating in small or larger groups and whether to have air and naval units target the same area.

Above you can see the two on-map boxes at a typical point later in a game, where I've divided my naval bombardment units in the USN Battleships box into two stacks of three units and my aircraft in the USN Carriers box into three groups of three.  A simple drag and drop process to first set up the groups can be followed by a further drag and drop process to direct them to their land target areas.  By and large this a simple, fast and fairly intuitive process.  
The screen will show the path you're tracing, indicating by colour whether it is allowed or not, while text will show whether aircraft will encounter AA fire and a symbol whether your destination is legal.  Occasionally, I've encountered minor glitches, such as a left click suddenly doesn't have any effect, but a right click does or, occasionally, a unit might not show a glowing outline to show that it's being immediately allocated to a group.  But trying again eventually will get you there and I've never had any hang-ups/crashes resulting from any of my actions - not even when one air group seemed to be settling, thankfully temporarily, into a weird weaving backwards and forwards pattern.
For the USN, these are mainly Battleships. Land reinforcements largely come by card play and are rarely substantial and are limited to highlighted beach landing areas.
As with most games this will occupy most of your playing time.  It includes all the usual features, terrain costs, effect on combat, stacking allowed, impassable to certain types of unit, effects on supply etc.  No surprises here and, of course, none of the accidental errors associated with playing games on your table top.  The one omission that I'd like included is the take-back function present in most of the computer war games I play.  So, the zoom-in/out facility comes in handy here to check key destinations.  What makes this system so playable is both the choice of area movement and a relatively low counter density.  I've given up on several hex and counter computer war games purely because of the tedium of pointing and clicking to move massive numbers of units, turn .. after turn ... after turn ... zzzz.
This probably is the Phase I'm most conflicted about.  First of all a screen appears listing all the combats you've set up and you then click on each one in whatever order you wish to resolve them in.  Typically these range from four to ten battles.  Consequently the Phase moves very fast - you can also adjust the speed at which they play out. 
At the start of each individual battle, you and the A.I. have the opportunity to play one or more cards to affect the outcome.  Only playable cards will be highlighted, quite often this may be a single card.  Your decision is more often whether to play the card now or use in a later battle or wait until a later turn in the game.  Don't forget you're only drawing one card per turn and not all of them affect combat.  You are guided a little in your decision by a bar at the bottom of the screen which indicates the percentage chance of winning the battle for each side.

The choice of battle card at the beginning of a battle.
Once a battle has been chosen, all the units appear and all that's left to do is click on the tab at the bottom of the screen to activate each step of the battle.  This is essentially Bombard, followed by Fight.  As each unit fires, the number it rolls flashes up superimposed on the unit.  Any hits scored are automatically allocated by the computer.  A battle lasts three rounds maximum and the only choice you have as the attacker is when the screen offers the opportunity to click on a white "Retreat" tab.
My main ambivalence about the process is not knowing the rationale behind how hits are allocated on the enemy and the fact that you have no control over the hits allocated to your own units.  Also puzzling have been the occasions when the enemy has suddenly retreated or routed.  Nice when it happens, but I'd like more understanding of why; still it could be argued that that's a realistic factor of war.  Similarly, sometimes you'll get the opportunity for some pursuit fire and occasionally a breakthrough occurs with the opportunity for some units to advance and, if they enter an enemy occupied area, create another battle.  This ability to Breakthrough is the one I've struggled most to implement successfully.  Sometimes the method has worked, sometimes it hasn't.  After Combat, a screen appears detailing all the results. 
These are usually just one or two build points per turn.  Each point restores an infantry unit to full strength, while two points are needed to restore armour units.  Consequently, they are best saved in the early stages of a battle and applied to units that are on their last strength point or two. The strength of a unit is shown by the number of white SP dots; as a unit takes hits, this is shown by the dot turning grey.  Tracking losses is therefore a simple and clear process.

Once you, as the active USN player, have taken your turn its over to the Japanese A.I. whose turn will zip by in seconds.  Even when the A.I. is playing the USN, their turn is remarkably fast!

Another glimpse of me playing the Japanese

Over and above the game play which is smooth and fast [up to you whether you want to slow down the Combat section], graphics are simple, clear and the zoom facility  enhances visual examination well.
So far, I've played through three out of the five battles and all three have proved very different experiences.  Tinian, my first victory, went down to the penultimate turn of its 19 turns and so far seems the easiest.  As the shortest battle, it was a good starting point.  Next up was Tarawa, which initially was an abject failure as my progress was so slow that the invasion got cancelled - oh, the shame of it!  By comparison when I moved on to Saipan, the landings were an easy cake-walk.  Ashore with little opposition which was overwhelmed on the first turn and the coastal road looked like a beckoning highway! But if my experiences are an accurate reflection of the battle just wait till you start having to winkle the Japanese infantry out of the mountains.  Not only are they a tough nut, but they have some bite back if you're not careful - you're going to need those replacement points.
I've barely dipped my toes into the waters of SGS Okinawa, as this is a completely separate game purely on the one battle.  It was historically the last major one of the US island campaign and deserves its individual treatment, especially when you consider that more American troops were involved than in the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches! Not surprisingly it's a much larger undertaking than any of the individual battles in Pacific D-Day and has two scenarios: the full 40 turn campaign and a moderately shorter 31 turn scenario, the Shuri Line.  So, in a few weeks I hope to bring you a closer look at what has happened there.

However, if you haven't had enough of the Pacific yet, my next review will be focusing in detail on the naval war with Vuca Simulations Task Force Carrier Battles in the Pacific

  3 in 1 Medieval Weapon 30001 by JMBricklayer  So, for this build we are going back a bit in history. Some people may look at the three wea...

3 in 1 Medieval Weapon 30001 by JMBricklayer 3 in 1 Medieval Weapon 30001 by JMBricklayer

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

 3 in 1 Medieval Weapon 30001



 So, for this build we are going back a bit in history. Some people may look at the three weapons you can make and simply write them off as a child's toy. I suggest that you take a long look at the three different modules. 

 This is what JMBricklayer has to say about the model:

"The design of our 3-in-1 model kit is inspired by the elements of warfare in the medieval period. This model kit not only has a rich historical background but also has a variety of interesting ways to play, which can take you on a journey through the retro history and culture of the medieval period and appreciate the wisdom of the ancients. Build three magnificent kits – a Ballista (a huge crossbow), a Bombard (an early type of cannon), and a powerful Catapult.

Block model’s overall color scheme retro, will let you have a feeling of immersion in the medieval era. And the body is solid, the appearance of a high degree of restoration, and exquisite design, the outer contours of each wheel, and the front part of the vehicle have a unique light blue sickle-type decoration, that plays a defensive role, but also embellishes the appearance. You can take home research to discover more playable details."

 The first build I chose to make was the 'catapult'. To be entirely correct it is one form of a catapult. The Romans called it an 'Onager' which means 'wild ass', the reason being the machine has so much torsion power that when it hurls a projectile the onager actually jumps when the hurling arm hits the crosspiece. 

 The many little pieces that JMBricklayer has built into the kit are pretty amazing. It comes with wheels that have scythes attached to them. There are chain pieces that also help to immerse the builder into another age. You can see by the picture above that they are pretty large models. 

 There is only one thing that I do not like about the build. It comes with seven different well marked bags of bricks. However, instead of only having to use the 1st bag, and then so on, it actually tells you to open all seven of the bags before building. Because the kit has only 568 pieces it is not as bad as it could be. Just make sure that you leave yourself enough room for spreading them out for the build.

 The build itself is straight forward. With the small round connection pieces, it is better to look carefully at them and separate them into their distinctive shapes. This is not a build I would recommend for outside use (I wouldn't really take any block toy outside). However, it will stand up to firing its payload in all three modes without a problem. 


Oddly enough, when building one of these kits you are not on edge at all about it. When building models, I was always afraid to put too much or not enough glue etc. The painting gave me over the top anxiety (which is probably why they came out so bad). Doing a block kit actual makes me calm for some reason. I think it is because I really cannot do anything to ruin the kit. I might put the wrong piece in but fixing that is usually fairly easy. 

 Thank you, JMBricklayer for allowing me to review this interesting and well-made kit. This kit is the perfect size for someone to start in the hobby. 


  A Victory Awaits Operation Barbarossa 1941 by Multi-Man Publishing   Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, took place o...

A Victory Awaits: Operation Barbarossa 1941 by Multi-Man Publishing A Victory Awaits: Operation Barbarossa 1941 by Multi-Man Publishing

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

 A Victory Awaits

Operation Barbarossa 1941


Multi-Man Publishing

  Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, took place on June 22nd, 1941. Many people do not know that Germany was incapable of fighting a long war. This is because of having limited natural resources, and especially oil, to fuel their economy, as well as their armed forces. Hitler had decided to attack the Soviet Union to procure all the oil etc. that Germany needed. After the abysmal showing of the Red Army against Finland in 1939/1940. The German High Command thought that it would be relatively easy to conquer the European parts of the Soviet Union. 

 This is what this game is all about. As the Germans, you have nine turns to get from one side of the map to the other, taking as many victory points as you can along the way. The Soviet player has to throw his forces at the German meat grinder to try and slow, if not stop, their forward motion.

 This is a blurb from Multi-Man Publishing about the game:

"Famed Japanese designer Tetsuya Nakamura, who created A Victory Lost, Fire in the Sky, A Most Dangerous Time, and What Price Glory?, returns to the East Front with A Victory Awaits.
Using a lightly modified version of the A Victory Lost system, the game covers Operation Barbarossa from June 22 to mid-September. Game play features the same chit-pull mechanics used in AVL, with 10 one-week turns. Players can play either the full campaign game, or the Army Group North, Army Group Center, or Army Group South scenarios. Each of the scenarios plays on a single map, or play the full campaign game on all three maps!
This design was originally published as a series of three games in Japan: Fierce Fight! Leningrad Blitzkrieg, Fierce Fight! Smolensk Blitzkrieg, and Fierce Fight! Kiev Blitzkrieg. The game also includes rules for multiplayer (four to eight players) and a series of optional rules. The rules have been expertly translated into English, with detailed assistance from the designer.
On the wide steppes of the Soviet Union can you emerge victorious from the opening blows of the Russo-German war?"

 So, the pedigree of the game is clearly shown. The fact that it was a trio of magazine games (boo, hiss, eye rolls) makes no difference whatsoever to me. Some of my best times in wargaming were had with magazine games. The way the game is setup you have the ability to play the full first part of Barbarossa, or you can play a scenario of each German Army Group (North, Center, and South).

 This is what comes with the game:

Three maps
Three countersheets
15-page full color rulebook
4 player aid cards
2 dice
box and lid
Solitaire Rating: Excellent
Complexity: Low
Playing Time: 3-15 hours
Scenarios: 4

Game scale: 
Each hex is about 10 miles (16 km).
Each turn is 10 days.
Units: Divisions.

Part of the Middle Map and Army Group Center's Attack

 This game is a bit like Barbarossa on $5 a day. You will get the full panoply of the immense invasion cut down to its bare bones. The Rulebook is only fifteen pages long. The actual rules for the game are only a little over ten pages. Then come some optional rules, the scenarios, and it also has rules for playing with up to eight people. The rulebook is in full color. Unbelievably, it has enough space to have a good number of rules examples included in it. There are two full color hard stock Player Aid Cards, one for each side. These both have the terrain chart on one side with the CRT and Sequence of Play on the other. The other two Player Aid Cards are for the four of the games separate scenarios (Leningrad, Kiev, Smolensk, and the Campaign Scenario). I am torn as far as the counters go. At first glance, I thought they were a little garish. I believe these are the deepest hues ever used for counters I have seen. They have grown on me. There is no problem reading the information on the counters. The counters do not use the 'NATO' designations that we are used to. I want to say that the designation shapes are from German sources from WWII, but I could be completely wrong.  You are also given alternative counters that show a silhouette of tanks and mechanized units instead of the rectangles and quadrilaterals. The maps are very well done. Each hex terrain is easy to see, and the artwork of the maps is plain to see. You are given three maps: Leningrad, Smolensk, and Kiev. These represent the areas of action for the German Army Group North, Center and South. So, other than the color choice on the counters, the games components pass muster.

This is part of the Northern Map

 This is the Sequence of Play:
 Game play proceeds using the following sequence. Once through the sequence comprises one game turn. After nine complete game turns, the game ends and victory is determined.

(1) Selection Phase. Each player secretly selects which of their command chits will be put into the cup for this turn. The command chits are mixed together into a single cup.
(2) Command Phase. One command chit is drawn blindly from the cup. The owner of the chit becomes the active player. The active player enacts the command chit (7.0).
(3) Activation Phase. If required by the command chit, the active player activates the appropriate HQ unit and any other eligible units (8.0).
(4) Operations Phase. Activated units may move and attack.
 • Movement Segment. The active player may move his activated units (9.0).
 • Combat Segment. The active player may attack enemy units with his activated units (10.0).
 After resolving steps 2-4 above, if any command chits remain in the cup, return to step 2 (Command Phase). If no chits remain in the cup, proceed to the End Phase.
(5) End Phase. Advance the turn marker into the next space on the Turn Track. Any Axis units in that space are moved to the Axis Available Box.  Return to step 1 (Selection Phase) and begin the new turn (6.0).

Part of the Kiev Map

 The game does not have separate air units. The two Air Forces strength has been built into the ground forces strength. As mentioned, this game was based upon boiling down all the extraneous rules and thoughts that are in almost all other Eastern Front games. As the German, you do not have to worry about rebuilding railroads either. That rebuilding has also been built into the system. 

 The supply rules are also different than most Eastern Front games. In all of the scenarios, the German player does not have to check if his units are in supply until turn four. As all the scenarios are nine turns, that means that he has almost half the game to run rampant on the Soviet player. 

 The game is only nine turns long. As the German player you have to get moving and keep moving. One thing to keep in mind is that destroyed Soviet units will come back to haunt you. The rebuilding of destroyed Soviet units is one of the few standard rules of Eastern Front games that is in this game. However, Soviet units that are starved out by lack of supply do not come back to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, the German player, later in the game. So, as the German player you must hit the Soviet Union like the Road Runner. Put the Soviet units into sacks and then tighten them. Then you will not have to worry about them rising from the grave.

 The Soviet player is completely caught on his back foot. Time is generally on your side in Eastern Front games, but not this one. So, you must always be worried about if and when you strike back at the invaders. You have to be very careful not to attack and then find those same units out of supply. Of course, there are times where you just have to dig in and take those unit losses.

 The game is built on the chit pull system. There is even a chit pull for supply. So, neither side will know where the next blow will fall. This a fast-paced game even if it is actually a mini-monster. The sheer size of this part of the Soviet Union is what puts it into that category. If you have the area to play the full campaign, that is excellent. However, do remember that you can play three different one map scenarios.

Part of the Leningrad Map

 Thank you, Multi-man Publishing for allowing me to review this game. Mr. Nakamura has added another excellent game to his stable. My apologies to MMP for my tardiness with this review.

 Multi-Man Publishing has games about battles and campaigns all over the globe and from many different time periods. These games go from real monsters to much simpler easy to learn and play ones. They have numerous series of games to choose from. These include, among others:

Standard Combat Series
Operational Combat Series
Tactical Combat Series

 When looking through my collection earlier this year, I was surprised to see how many of their games I actually owned.


Multi-man Publishing:

A Victory Awaits:

 FITNA from NUTS PUBLISHING Modern or   hypothetical modern warfare raises more uncertainties and qualms in wargaming circles than more fami...


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




Modern or hypothetical modern warfare raises more uncertainties and qualms in wargaming circles than more familiar traditional conflicts of the past.  I understand those concerns, but question why such issues don't trouble non-fiction and fiction writing that explores the same ground.
Certainly, FITNA with a sub-title Global War in the Middle East explores through its eleven Scenarios both very recent historical conflicts from 2012 - 2018 and speculates on the potential conflicts that might occur.  
The early historically based scenarios take us from the civil war in Syria through the fight against Islamic State and Russian intervention and the complexities of problems in Turkey and into the collapse of Islamic State.  From that point on the remaining scenarios explore possible developments in differing regions of the Middle East culminating in a full campaign game involving six players.
The scope of these scenarios allows play ranging from two-players up to that final six player finale, while including several three or four player scenarios that can easily be handled by just two players as well.  Consequently the game offers very good value with such a diverse and accommodating range of player count.
I have to admit that I was drawn to this game mainly for reasons that lie outside its geographical, political and military subject.  First it had been well recommended as a surprisingly swift playing and easy to understand game and second that the publisher was Nuts Publishing, a company that I have a high regard for.  
The first reason particularly drew my attention, as in the past nearly all the games on modern conflicts had turned me off with lengthy, and highly complicated rules with interminably long turns and often lengthy periods of inactivity as my opponent/s took their turns.
The Designer's Notes section of the rulebook clearly sets out his aim:
 "I conceived FITNA with two principal ideas in my head: to create a simple, fluid game to allow players, even beginners, to concentrate on their strategies and the search for alliances." 
So how has this been achieved?  Well, it's pitched at the grand strategical level with a point-to-point map, with a simple, short basic rule set and a card-driven motor.  

The suitably barren map in very muted colours covers Kuwait, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as parts of Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey.
With bi-monthly turns, there's no worry about detailed terrain charts - a simple one movement point moves you one box on the map. Airmobile capacity and strategic movement allow greater distances to be covered, but with equally simple, brief rules for doing so and a very limited capacity.  
A surprisingly short rule book, only16 pages in total, proves to have a basic core system covered in a mere 5 pages.  In outline, each player in turn performs the following sequence of Phases, with a maximum hand size of four cards.
The active player can play as many cards as they like.  If they play a reinforcement card, it can be played to take either a single batch of reinforcements or for replacements [i.e. upgrade 2 units on the map/return one eliminated unit.]
Check supply for all players.
The active player chooses 1 or 2 cards to play for their Operation Points [OPs] and then has to announce how many points will be spent on movement and how many on combat.
Each OP spent allows 2 units to move.
Offensives [i.e. Combat]
Each OP allows you to make one offensive with a single stack usually of up to 3 units.
Strategic Movement
A single supplied unit may be moved any distance from one friendly controlled space through friendly controlled spaces to another friendly controlled space.
Adjust Cards
Draw back to  4 cards in hand.

These rules governing the core of the game are refreshingly straightforward and swift to execute.  Whatever way you divide your OPs, there are only going to be three broad outcomes: mainly units moving with little combat, little movement and more combats or a balance of the two.  None of them involves the sort of numbers that will make a player's turn lengthy.
Any "complexity" to the game lies in the many small differences in a particular nation or faction's restrictions or allowances to the rules.  Typically such elements are the varied supply sources for the many nationalities/factions or Scenario specific details or exceptions.
What I've found is that if you handle these on a scenario by scenario basis as you come to play them, they are easy to assimilate into your game play.
The range of nationalities and factions in themselves make for a very colourful and diverse range, as seen in the three sheets of counters.

Be warned, these counters were so well punched that at least thirty or more fell out as I eased them ever so carefully from the box!  Frankly that's no problem, as they are so well colour coded - other than I wanted to be able to give you the neat, tidy picture shown above.  As I prefer to bag my counters, I also found the combination of background colour and colour-bar along the top counter edge very helpful to this task.  

For me, much of the "feel" and direct enjoyment of the game comes from the wide range of cards, that are divided into two decks: Events and Assets.  In particular, the inclusion or omission of specific Event cards help to create the appropriate historical parameters and, I suspect, for many of us provide previously unknown insights into the complex tangle of middle eastern conflict.  Because of the small hand-size [only 4 cards], the choices never become overwhelming and an aspect I like in CDG games is the constant tension between what you want to achieve on your turn and what you want to hold back for reaction in your opponent's turn.

Just a small sample from the all-important cards 

Another aspect that recommends the game to me is the handling of reinforcements and replacements.  First of all, these can only be accessed by play of a Reinforcement card and this brings your first choice whether to take a batch of pre-designated reinforcements or opt for replacements.  Normally an initial choice with be a batch of reinforcements, as choosing replacements allows either the return of only a single eliminated unit or the flipping to full strength of two reduced units. The strong point of  this element of the game system is the uncertainty of when you will draw a reinforcement card.  This lack of a totally predictable arrival is always a valuable feature.  [I think here of how many Gettysburg games suffer from knowing exactly where and when those reinforcements will arrive, so that units are being shuffled in the right direction to counter them, even before they arrive!] 
Supplementing game play are six player aids.  All have one side identical, carrying the Sequence of Play, the Combat Chart and explanation and finally actions that influence the International Tension level.  The reverse sides carry the set-up information for the final two scenarios, the major multi-player ones involving 5 or 6 players.

The Scenario Booklet opens with what is billed as a short two-player tutorial scenario Scenario.  In that it has a limited number of units and the play area is restricted to Syria, as seen below, it is definitely a good starting point.  However, don't think that it is a mere learning exercise.  It focuses on the early stages of the Syrian civil war and is the foundation for the four historically based scenarios

The set-up can be seen above, with one player controlling the Syrian army [brown background] and 2 Hezbollah units  [light green background] and the other elements of the Free Syrian army and Sunni and Shia militias [purple background], while Isis [black background] and Kurdish Peshmergas [yellow background] may come into play through card use. 
The map above displays the northern area of the game map which extends down to the Persian Gulf on the south edge, as seen below.

Along the map edges are the different Force Pool Holding Areas where you set up your Reinforcement batches, as well as the Turn Track and International Tension Track.  The latter is especially important for the introduction of some of the most powerful cards in the game along with the potential intervention of Russia and the USA.

However large or small the scenario you are playing, the footprint for the game, especially when engaged in the big multi-players, remains refreshingly compact, as the standard sized map encompasses all you need, other than each player's A4 player aid.

Nuts Publishing have achieved a remarkably accessible and playable game of a major modern conflict, largely overlooked by the western-centric American and European gaming world.  For that and for providing my review copy many, many thanks once again.