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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Festung Breslau: A BoardgamingLife Review of Strategemata’s Game of Hitler’s Fortress City Under Siege

By Paul Comben

Designer: Adam Niechwiej

Publisher: Strategemata

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During the October and November of 1944, the newly raised contingents of National Socialist Volkssturm gathered in halls and in city squares across Germany, collecting a variable mix of old rifles, foreign rifles, armbands and panzerfausts, swearing oaths and then parading with determined zeal for the benefit of the newsreel cameras.   The largest assembly was in Berlin on November 12th, where, in a constant rain and under leaden skies, thousands of men in their civilian jackets or overcoats, and not a few with medals from the last world catastrophe proudly on display, marched past the stern-faced and saluting Joseph Goebbels.  At the same time, two hundred miles to the southeast, many thousands more gathered in Breslau’s Schlossplatz, and were led past the spectating multitudes, mainly women, and boys, by their Gauleiter, Karl Hanke.

Such manifestations of the nation’s will were meant to create an air of imperturbable resolution and invincibility, and yet the Volkssturm’s performance over the coming months of crisis would often fall short of the desired ideal.  Breslau, in many respects, was the exception.  In Breslau Hitler had a fortress city that actually did what it was meant to do.  Invested by Red Army forces following their advance across the Vistula in January 1945, Breslau then resisted enemy attacks for a longer period than the Soviet forces that had defended Stalingrad, and the city garrison was still fighting even as their Führer was putting an end to his life on April 30th.

In the pages of his diary, Goebbels would highlight the role of a dedicated party machine led by a determined Gauleiter for the city’s prolonged resistance.  Certainly, those factors played a part, but they never were the whole story. Other factors can be found in other books; but then, if you want an actual working model of the siege, to get to the nub of the hows and whys, where else should you turn but to a bona fide military simulation of the event in question.  So, is Festung Breslau such a game, and just who exactly is Strategemata?

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878 Vikings: Ragnar Comes a Callin’ – A BoardgamingLife Review

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by Russ Lockwood

Designer Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeff Stahl

Publisher Academy Games

I’ve enjoyed the variety of Academy Games’ war games (1775 and 1812), having played most of them multiple times with multiple gamers. Each game is generally close, with the balancing mechanism of cards and dice blessing and cursing player actions with equal aplomb.

In general, the four-player games are more exciting than the two-player games because who knows what your enemy might do on any given turn — or worse, what your ‘ally’ might do on any given turn.

So, along comes 878 Vikings, a two- or four-player game of the Viking invasion of England. The $75 boxed game has the usual components you expect that justifies the price. Academy also has a $50 expansion that adds more dice, cards, and cardboard counters.

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“This One’s Going to Take Careful Timing!” A Boardgaming Life Review and Analysis of Vento Nuovo’s Bloody Monday

By Paul Comben

 Designer: Emanuele Santandrea

 Publisher: VentoNuovo Games

 

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(N.B. Blocks are shown exposed in photos for illustrative purposes)

Yes, the title quote is from the film Waterloo, and the game is about Borodino, but the quote, nevertheless, is entirely apposite and appropriately Napoleonic.  Bloody Monday is a game very much about timing – timing and unit movement/placement; timing and the ordering of attacks; timing and the waiting game; timing and the implied sense of having not too much time to do anything.

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Pericles – The Peloponnesian Wars

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by Harvey Mossman

Design: Mark Herman

Publisher: GMT games

“We will leave this war to our children “, King Archidamus’ prophetic retort to the Spartan assembly at the opening of the 2nd Peloponnesian war sounded the alarm that the conflict would be generational. His compatriots did not agree and thought an easy victory would be had, yet the war lasted 27 years, cost thousands of lives and fundamentally changed the Greek civilization. How do you simulate such a cataclysmic event? Wargame designers have tried for years to simulate this tragic epic. Now, acclaimed designer Mark Herman brings us a fresh perspective on both the 1st and 2nd Peloponnesian wars, seamlessly meshing the politics of the polis with the wider military conflicts in a unique design that captures the challenges of the era.

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