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.
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: Dave LeLacheur
Publisher: Compass Games
To create a global WWII wargame like Blitz! A World in Conflict (Compass Games, $84, released November 2015) means you have to think big — really big. That requires some compromises in terms of physical components and mechanics.
Space proved one concern. If you want to battle across the world on a 3-foot by 2-foot map, you’re not going to model every scrap of terrain or every unit that took part. Risk has a variety of global versions, although not a WWII version that I’m aware of. The most popular WWII wargame of a global type, Axis and Allies, simplified all units into one-hit wonders (OK, battleships are two-hit wonders). Forget the nuances we came to expect from reading about WWII — the game was materialschlact and luck at its finest. It took a long afternoon to play. The successor A&A versions, where you butt the Europe version up against the Pacific version, added a little more nuance, but not much. It also took 12 to 14 hours to fight the entire war.