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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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.

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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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.

By Paul Comben

Designer:  Godfrey Bailey, Geoff Noble

Publisher: Legion Wargames

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Is there fun in total failure?

Some military ventures are simply wrong from the start.  Everything about them is inauspicious and ill starred, with calamity and disaster simply awaiting their cue to show themselves to full effect.

Colenso, the subject of Legion Wargames Redvers’ Reverse, is about as good an example of this as you can get.  A British army of over sixteen thousand men was meant to be lifting the siege of Ladysmith in the last days of 1899.  In their way were several thousand Boers with German rifles, a small number of German-supplied and German manufactured artillery pieces, a winding river the British had not positively identified the fordable regions of, and a fair amount of high ground overlooking the British low ground.

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By Michael Stultz

Publisher: Draco Ideas

Designers: Luis Alvaro Hernandez, Alvar Sanz

By the time the Romans established control of the entirety of peninsular Italy, the legions had faced and defeated the queen of the battlefield, the Macedonian phalanx, showing that they were equal to anything the ancient world could muster against them. The gaze of the Romans now cast south across the straights of Messina to Sicily. This would bring them inevitably into conflict with Carthage, the greatest naval power of the day, and the masters of everything from the African coast as far as the straights of Gibraltar, southeast Spain and Sardinia and western Sicily.

Part Two of A Review of Trafalgar Editions’ Game of Nelson’s Epic Battle

by Paul Comben,  Designer:Crisanto Lorente Gonzalez,  Publisher: Trafalgar Editions

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Trafalgar has a range of advanced and optional rules designed to add a higher level of detail to the process of an engagement in the Age of Sail.  Not quite all of these are relevant to restaging the famous battle of October 21st 1805.  In that context, to give the obvious example, the rules for shore batteries belong to other designer scenarios, or to what players may create for themselves.

What I want to do here, rather than progressing through the pages of the game’s rulebook saying “you can now add this or should be using that,” I will look at additional procedures where there is a significant change to proceedings compared to the relatively simple “move and fight” nature of the basic rules.

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By Michael Stultz

Designer: Bowens Simmons

Publisher: Mercury Games

Confederate forces invaded the United States of America in the summer of 1863 during the waning days of June. Just two months prior at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee’s army had defeated the Army of the Potomac, one of several defeats inflicted on the Union. Lee reasoned that now was the time for a bold strike that might win the war for the South, or at least, procure necessary victuals and potentially gain the recognition and support of one or both of France and England. The Confederate rank and file were confident and self-assured as they struck north in the waning days of June 1863. It was the high-tide for General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. The aim was simple: requisition supplies and disrupt Union invasion plans. Lee’s army desperately needed this in the face of an increasingly critical scarcity of food and basic material; and strategically, taking the war onto Northern soil would put the Confederates on the offensive outside their own territory. So, march they did. In the first three days of July, a momentous battle was fought where no one had planned to engage, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In those three days, two armies and two nations collided in violent combat. And in those three days, one nation died, another triumphed.

That’s the history. And if you want to replay history using scripted movements and positions, playing across a hexagonal grid, you will not likely enjoy Guns of Gettysburg, designed by Bowen Simmons and published by Mercury Games. But if you are looking for a unique design that takes you into the action of those three days, this is a candidate well deserving of your time.

A Review of Trafalgar Editions’ Game of Nelson’s Epic Battle

by Paul Comben,  Designer:Crisanto Lorente Gonzalez,  Publisher: Trafalgar Editions

Part One: Components and the Basic Game

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There is always a certain challenge facing designers looking to create games relating to the things men make to fight in – be it ships, be it tanks, be it aircraft, the challenge remains the same: just how much detail should be included?

by Russ Lockwood,   Designer: Dirk Vergauwen,    Publisher:  MDVC Games

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This Dutch wargame on the 1944 Arnhem campaign has a big 20×55-inch board, plastic troops, and a couple interesting mechanics. Four of us gathered to play this game: me (British/Polish airborne near Arnhem), Marc (British 30 Corp), Dan (US 82nd and 101st Airborne and supporting ground troops behind 30 Corp), and Rory (Germans).