By Paul Comben
Just imagine for a moment that you want to experience some naval campaigns/battles in game format, but that the only material out there is Fear God and Dreadnought and Flattop. Or you want to re-fight the Napoleonic Wars, and have a straight choice between Empires in Arms…and nothing else. Fortunately, throughout the history of the hobby, games on particular subjects have come in all shapes and sizes – count those Battle of the Bulge games, or treatments of the battle for Normandy. Gettysburg has also been done more times than I care to count – games to fit on one small table, and games that require tables for the tables as well as the multiples of maps. And with all such subjects, you have not had to burn your brain with feats of comprehension if massive rulebooks and immense game play times are simply not your thing – alternatives are nearly always to hand. But until relatively recently, World War 2 squad combat, from Dunkirk to Iwo Jima, meant owning and learning some of the most involved and complicated systems in the hobby; and dear me, you had better learn them, as there was nothing much else out there for a long, long while.
I must admit to being a bit of a “Blockhead” when it comes to wargaming because blocks eloquently address issues of fog of war and step reduction in one simple design element. Blocks in the West, VentoNuovo Games’ Western companion to their Blocks in the East, borrows much from games that have come before it, such as Columbia games Eastfront and Westfront, yet offers a distinctly different tack while providing a more intricate and nuanced simulation of the Western and Mediterranean theater during World War II.
by Mitch Freedman
Game Design: Paul Fish and Hermann Luttmann
Here’s what you need to know before anything else. Games are what they are, and this is a solitaire game. You aren’t going to outwit an opponent, you aren’t going to cheat anyone but yourself. And your battle is not against a rigidly advancing foe who follows strict rules, but against the luck of the cards.
You also aren’t playing on a hex grid map, but marching up toward the coast on 10 tracks, following a string of boxes the same size as your unit markers. They move up the track in just one direction until you hit the coast, and even after you sail away you aren’t really safe from German attacks until you get to England. You can’t even throw new reinforcements into a key area and overwhelm the Germans. The best you can do is put your stronger units in good defensive terrain, flood some low lying boxes to slow the enemy advance, and – once a game – use some special markers to let the RAF rule the skies for a turn.
By Paul Comben
As I contemplated writing this article on Dave Schroeder’s massive divisional level treatment of the Great War, several contrasting images came to mind.
The first was of me, sitting in a railway carriage in the spring of 1998, reading the designer’s notes for The Schlieffen Plan and being utterly dismissive of the statement that this was but the first part of a series which would eventually cover the entirety of the First World War. I simply could not see it happening – I had just bought this game as a curiosity more than anything else, and prided myself on having far too much experience of how the hobby had been over years to take grandiose claims of massive things to come at face value.
The second image, or rather, set of images, were those photographs posted from games clubs where the series I was so certain was going to fizzle out after one or two titles, has been lovingly set up in all its stunning immensity by teams of keen players.
Strategy, Success and Failure in ‘Raid on Iran’
by Mark D. & Tony Stroppa
RAID ON IRAN, published by Steve Jackson Games back in 1980, has become one of my favorites over the last 30+ years. I don’t consider it a brilliant design or a showpiece of conflict simulation, but I do find it enjoyable, challenging and possessed of a depth that allows for virtually unlimited replay without getting stale. And that’s good enough for me.
By Harvey Mossman
Republishing older designs has become very popular lately. I suppose it is nice to have these older games back in circulation especially for newer gamers who missed the golden era of gaming in the 1970s and 80s. However when an older game is republished, I do expect the designer to make improvements to the game including consolidating rules errata, refining the game system and updating the graphics. Paul Koenig’s Fortress Europe has done this and more. The first edition, called Fortress Europa, was designed by John Edwards and published in Australia by Jedko games in 1978. Avalon Hill reworked the rules and published the more well-known version in 1980 followed by a 2nd edition rules set. In PKG’s edition, we have a worthy successor to this classic.
By Mitch Freedman
Designer: Frank Chadwick
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Days of Battle: Golan Heights cover art. Photos used with permission.
The first time you open Golan Heights and lay out the pieces – the starting position for all the counters is marked on the game board – you might be surprised at how simple it looks. There are just seven Israeli counters on the board – six armor battalions and one infantry brigade – to hold off about 20 attacking units. A separate board to hold reinforcements shows what day they come in, and while there are more Israeli reinforcements than Syrians, it looks like the chance of Israel holding off the attackers fits somewhere between slim and none. Continue reading
By Mitch Freedman
Designer – Jonathan Southard
Development – Ty Bomba & Chris Perello
XRT Games – 1993
As a battle, Antietam was a mess. It was a glorious mess, bravely and badly fought, and as the sun set it marked the end of Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland and cast a long, long shadow that reached all the way to the end of the Civil War.
It’s hard to know, even today, just how much weight to give to the battle of Antietam in the long chain of events which led to the end of the Civil War. It was a turning point – a big one – but great results can have many causes and what seems significant or inevitable now was not quite as certain or obvious right after the battle. Continue reading
by Harvey Mossman
The Flight of the Eagle is a set of rules that harkens back to early days of war gaming when Kreigspiel was done with generals positioned around large maps, pushing little flags or wooden blocks representing the maneuver elements of their army. Umpires would oversee the progress of the campaign and use complex procedures to adjudicate the results of battles. The commanders’ performances would thus be evaluated and a debriefing would follow to determine what went right and what went wrong in the campaign. Designer Didier Rouy and Pratzen Editions have taken this concept and applied it to the Napoleonic era. Using paper, pen, six sided dice and copies of 19th century maps, they have constructed a rule set whereby teams of players can fight almost any of the Napoleonic campaigns from 1805 to 1815 in an umpired setting.
Nearly 40 and Still Going Strong
By Mitch Freedman
Why would anyone want to read about a game that is almost 40 years old, let alone write about it?
Well, there are lots of answers. One of the best is that sometimes a game manages to give something that stays interesting no matter how long its been around. And while its not exactly fair to compare Bar Lev to Monopoly or Scrabble, it does have a cult following that has never died. On top of that, its innovative combat systems are still fun to play even today.
Besides, its not quite gone. You can still find copies of Bar Lev (designed by John Hill and published by Conflict Games in 1974) out in the world of E-bay Continue reading