Tag: Paul Comben

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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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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