How the West Was Saved BoardgamingLife Review

by Paul Comben

Designer Stephen Pole

Publisher: Strategemata:

Game Simplicity Meets the Historically Complex

Other than knowing when it took place and what the overall outcome was, I must admit I had very little previous knowledge of the Russo-Polish War of 1920. Reading through a few introductory texts did, however, confirm one thing that I had suspected was very much the case with this conflict – that it was an incredibly complex, one might even say wild, mix of military and political events flashing into focus, then to some extent disappearing, only to be replaced by further variations of the same.

For those gamers who have looked in its direction, the war did receive a first authoritative treatment via the design, White Eagle Red Star, originally published by GDW, and then having a revised version released by Compass Games just a few years ago. Physically that revised version is a rather large game and not necessarily one that all gamers will be able to readily accommodate. Alternatively, there is Strike of The Eagle from Academy Games – perfectly valid, beautiful, and clever, but as a dice-less block game, perhaps not massively solitaire-friendly.

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Hard Knocks: Alsace 1945 Scenario 1

A BoardgamimgLife After action Report

by Russ Lockwood

DesignerBrian L. Knipple
ArtistPeggy Gordon, Terry Moore Strickland
PublisherAvalanche Press Ltd.

                I bought this Avalanche Press wargame of WWII — covering attack and counterattack in southeastern France circa late 1944-early 1945 — a few years ago in an HMGS flea market. It looked good, it was small, and it was unpunched. Since then, I carried it around from time to time to open gaming at concentions and basements, but never quite found the time to pop out the counters — until a recent Tuesday afternoon.

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House of Normandy: The BoardgamingLife Review

Author: Paul Comben

Designer: Tom Russell

Publisher: Hollandspiele

A Look at Hollandspiele’s Game of ‘The Anarchy’ in the UK

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In 1066, as we all know, William the Conqueror took his kingly ambitions to England, won the Battle of Hastings somewhere near where it is meant to have taken place, and then started making every Saxon’s life a complete misery. It began with his own bloody and vindictive brand of repression, continued on with ‘Fitz This’ and ‘de Something That’ lording it all over the green and pleasant, and then, some fifty years after his death in 1087, things took another and even nastier turn.

This is the bit that not a lot of English people know about – the period of our history known as ‘The Anarchy.’ True, England is not all the UK, and in the Twelfth Century that very concept was still centuries off, but what happened in those years drew in much of mainland Britain as well as its nearest continental neighbour. Dynastic tussles, the age-old story of who was entitled to what because of what title they had, and who did not want to miss out on the main chance, led England into a prolonged era of civil war and political machinations. At its centre were two figures – King Stephen and his familial rival (cousin), Matilda – both of whom felt they had the better claim to the nation’s throne.

This is the bit that not a lot of English people know about – the period of our history known as ‘The Anarchy.’

Hollandspiele’s game covers four battles from the period – Tinchebray, which was fought in Normandy, and might be seen as an early scene-setter for all the fractious and violent dispute that would occur between England and France over the centuries to come; The Standard, where the Scottish King David, keen to help his niece, Matilda, in her claim as well as helping himself to a slice of the English north, lost big against a smaller and ad hoc English host; Lincoln, where Stephen might well have thought: ‘With friends like these…’; and Wilton, which historically was another example of Stephen’s less than wonderful luck when it came to being in the right place at the wrong time.

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The Last Vikings – A BoardgamingLife Review

The Last Vikings
The Swedish Army at Kliszόw 1702 and Fraustadt 1706

Author: Paul Comben

Designer: Sławomir Łukasik
Publisher: Strategemata

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Here and there around the passages of arms there are events that the board wargaming hobby has not devoted a great deal of attention to. The Great Northern War, and indeed many of the battles of the late 1600s and very early 1700s, irrespective of what war they belonged to, are a case in point. It is not a matter of complete oversight, but rather one of rather sparse coverage. We are, at least in certain cases, in the region of battles a broader audience has never actually heard of or has willingly passed by even if it has. And to my mind that is something of a pity as one of the most interesting aspects of the study of military science is when the practice of arms enters a phase of notable transition.

This certainly applies to the battles presented here, and to the era in general. In a time of military evolution, finding the balance between firepower and shock, and within both disciplines, the optimum use of the weaponry available, is very much part of the story. And inevitably, armies that were shaped by varying perspectives on leadership and what we might broadly call national temperament came up with an assortment of methods – some of which were to prove rather more effective than others. In the book Destructive and Formidable by David Blackmore one can trace the gradual evolution of the battalion firing practice that was a keynote of Marlborough’s army. Other nations came up with their own ideas – or, for better or for worse, simply stayed with what they already had. With regard to the game we are studying here, Brent Nosworthy’s The Anatomy of Victory, analysing method from across the continent, is featured topmost in the supporting literature’s bibliography.

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Six Empires A BoardgamingLife Preview

 

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Six Empires is a 2-6 player game of military and diplomatic strategy set in Europe, North Africa, and the New World in the year 1714. Each player controls of one of six empires, each with its unique flavor and play style. In addition to the playable empires, there are 17 independent nations, and any empire which is not controlled by a player remains in the game as a non-player empire.

Military forces are be made up of army and navy units, which are divided into six different types.

units

When moving around the map, your army units may move 1 space per turn, and your navy units can move three spaces per turn. Your navy can also transport your armies across oceans, and provide vital support for your attacks on port cities.

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Battles of The Black Cavalry: A Boardgaminglife review

Battles of The Black Cavalry
Hill 262 – Chambois: August 1944

Author: Paul Comben

Designer: Adam Niechwiej

Publisher: Strategemata

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Some readers may recall an article I wrote for this site around fifteen months ago featuring another game by the same company, Festung Breslau.  That design covered the 1945 siege of the German city, in which Polish forces under Red Army command played a far from insignificant role.  My review was very largely positive, given the character of a relatively simple system in relation to the nature of a bitter street fight that lasted throughout the last months of the war in Europe.
pic4530019Now, the same designer, Adam Niechwiej, has approached a very different subject, one that presents Polish forces fighting alongside the Western Allies in the struggle to close the Falaise Pocket.  This is, arguably, one of the most controversial episodes from the 1944 campaign – many believe that no German forces should never have been allowed to leach out the pocket and thus live to fight another day.  Blame is often assigned to various figures and formations for a lack of verve – but one thing that we can be certain of is that the Poles themselves did all they possibly could.

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1916 Verdun – Campaign of Attrition A BoardgamingLife review

 

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by Paul Comben

Designer: Ray Weiss

Publisher: Conflict Simulations LLC

Some readers of this article may recall that I spent time last summer playing the old Conflict Games design, Verdun: Dagger at The Heart of France. I posted my turn reports on the Vintage Wargames page over on Facebook. This was a design I had first played shortly after its publication in 1978, and forty years on, I had to report that my feelings about the game had not really changed much. It was certainly interesting, and after its own fashion it was probably fairly faithful to its theme. Its main fault, at least in my opinion, was that it was all a bit too literal – there was lots of artillery at the battle, so the game gave you lots of artillery units, and by the time they had all been squeezed onto the playing surface, those same units came to resemble cars parked around Wembley Stadium on FA Cup Final day. Everything became a vast repetitive exercise in counting up factors, and it was hard to distinguish a design philosophy moving the game forward. In short, it just was what it was.

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Toulon 1793 A BoardgamingLife Review

By Michael Stultz

Publisher: Legion Wargames LLC

Designer: Andy Loakes

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Recently, the Maine Historical Wargamers’ Association held its annual convention. Primarily a miniatures event, there are those blasphemers like me who prefer to battle on a map with cardboard pieces. Thankfully, the Association is happy to accommodate the grognards by making space available for us in a corner where we may huddle over our cardboard minions in deep contemplation. As is my custom, I usually host a game or two each year. This year, the simulation I brought to the table for my willing comrades in arms to play was Legion’s Toulon, 1793. A fascinating subject that I don’t believe has been the subject of treatment before, one that reminded me of the SPI game, the Art of Siege, or AH’s Siege of Jerusalem—two of my early favorites. Toulon was the battle that generally ushered Napoleon onto the European stage, and while rather obscure when compared against his later victories, it was here that Napoleon attracted attention and formed friendships and loyalty that would come to serve him in the years ahead.

Usually when one thinks of Napoleonic battles, what comes to mind is a combined arms battle that involves climactic cavalry charges, artillery bombardments, large formations of infantry marching into position for the assault, and a battle of maneuver. There is none of that in Toulon. This is siege warfare. Battle is methodical and development slow. There are no hugely bloody clashes. Playing this game is an exercise in planning and patience. Grab a cup of Earl Grey, hot (thank you, Captain Picard, for that enduring memory), and enjoy the experience for victory is the reward of careful resource management and thoughtful development of position. But, time is not eternal. Each player, especially the French, will be up against the clock and limited resources as they strive to defeat the Allied forces.

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Napoleon 1806: The Boardgaminglife Review

by Paul Comben

Designer:  Denis Sauvage

Publisher: Golden Games, Shakos

 

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Napoleon’s 1806 campaign in Prussia was one of those occasional examples in military history where two culturally similar nations, armed with much the same sort of weaponry, and this in the hands of more of less similar numbers of men, managed to produce entirely different results. To be blunt, from beginning to end, this campaign really wasn’t close. One tempting comparison (involving much the same combatants, broadly speaking) was the German offensive against France in the spring of 1940. One side (no two guesses which) had the modern method to match the modern weapons, and a daring plan to match the method and the weapons. The other side (narrowed down to a choice of precisely one) thought they were still fighting their last war, and thus had no relevant method, no daring plan, and not that many commanders who would have looked out of place posing for one of Mister Fenton’s photographic portraits in the Crimea.

It was largely the same story in 1806 – just with the roles reversed. Napoleon was the modern military thinker with an army nearing peak performance. By contrast, Prussian leadership was obsessed with the doctrines of Frederick the Great (in 1806, the best part of half-a-century past their best) and the higher tiers of its automaton army were thoroughly overpopulated with aged fossils with no inclination to think or fight other than how it had all been done decades earlier.

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