Battles of The Black Cavalry
Hill 262 – Chambois: August 1944
Author: Paul Comben
Designer: Adam Niechwiej
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.
Now, 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.
Tactical games, of which this is very much one, often invite the presumption that they are going to be long on rules and time-consuming on procedures. However, before I actually received this game I quietly suspected that this might not be the case here, given that Festung Breslau had got an awful lot done with a very modest set of rules. If anything, the rules to Black Cavalry, which are of a series type covering more than one design (two others presently, one of which covers Polish campaign events of 1939), are even shorter. The system itself can take just a little getting used to, given some of its idiosyncrasies and a few passages where the English is not absolutely ideal, but for all that, someone who has this system grasped could teach it to another experienced wargamer in a handful of minutes.
by Paul Comben
Designer: Denis Sauvage
Publisher: Golden Games, Shakos
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.
by Russ Lockwood
DESIGNER: Mark G. McLaughlin
DEVELOPER: Fred Schachter
ART DIRECTOR: Rodger B. MacGowan
MAP, CARD, & COUNTER ART: Mark Simonitch
PRODUCERS: Gene Billingsley, Tony Curtis, Andy Lewis, Rodger MacGowan, Mark Simonitch
The great thing about a Weekday Wargame is that taking a full day during the week feels like such a treat. On Wednesday, Dec. 20, at around 11:00am, Marc, Rory and I gathered at Dan’s house for a day of gaming. Fueled by doughnuts, coffee cake, and other sugary goodness, we started with the GMT game Wellington.
This fantastic four-player game — admittedly a little long in the tooth now, but entertaining as ever — pits English and Spanish players against two French players (north and south, or as the counters are colored, blue and green).
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
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?
One of the early games in my collection was the Avalon Hill game of the American Revolution, 1776. The game was released in 1976 for the Bicentennial and was the main game on the subject matter at that time. I have played the game many times over the years and still find both the scenarios and campaign game a fun experience. While quite playable, one thing it lacked was leaders and named units. British Regulars, Tory Militia, Continental Army, Rebel militia and French all had their counter mix, which was quite normal for Avalon Hill designs of that era.
by Russ Lockwood
Designer: Florent Coupeau
Publisher: Vae Victus
We had been wanting to play this French import wargame, Orages a L’Est, for a while, so we finally cracked it open, popped out the counters (well, used a knife to cut out the counters), and set up the Turda 1944 game. Orages a L’Est actually has two games set in 1944, Turda, featuring a joint German-Hungarian counterattack against the Soviets and the Romanians near that town in Transylvania, and Tali-Ihantala in Finland. I picked Turda because it had a flat, featureless map, and, how many times can you say 1944 joint German-Hungarian counterattack?
By Russ Lockwood and Dan Burkley
Designers: Tony Curtis and Mark Simonitch
Publisher GMT Games
I last played this GMT game covering the battle of the Bulge with Dan back in 2013, at least according to the date stamp on my photo files. It’s been too long to this terrific game. You can probably blame Bitter Woods on that — bigger counters for squinty eyes and bigger hexes for fatter fingers…
Mind you, this is not a simple game. At its base, it is just move and then a combat CRT based on odds, but with chrome.
Nevertheless, we took to the gaming table after lunch and settled in for an enjoyable game of Ardennes ‘44. Each hex is 1.6 miles and units are battalions and regiments for the most part. Each day consists of a morning, afternoon, and night turns.
By Russ Lockwood
Designer: John Welch
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Oliver Cromwell, who boasted a head rounder than Charlie Brown, delivered the best line at Parliamentary Comedy Club: “The act of regicide was a cruel necessity.” Hence the title for a solitaire board game of the English Civil War pitting you, as a split Puritan personality called Parliament, against a host of Royalists in support of papists Chuckie and Chuckie the Sequel.
By Paul Comben
Publisher: VentoNuovo Games
Well, I have not got any lamps I can let go out, but I might just start a few alarm bells ringing – 1914 Germany at War, covering the opening months of conflict on the Western Front, uses much the same system as was seen in Vento Nuovo’s previous game, Waterloo 200.
Are there any bells ringing? Perhaps a few. Those of us whose first experience of the hobby was via the Avalon Hill “classics” will probably recall with an odd mixture of warm nostalgia and mildly cold shuddering the diverse titles which fell into that classification – diverse titles, but essentially the same game, blithely oblivious to period, technology, tactics, and just about anything else historians and gamers tend to think are rather important to getting things right.