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: 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 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.
I must admit to being a bit of a “Blockhead” when it comes to wargaming because blocks eloquently address issues of fog of war and step reduction in one simple design element. Blocks in the West, VentoNuovo Games’ Western companion to their Blocks in the East, borrows much from games that have come before it, such as Columbia games Eastfront and Westfront, yet offers a distinctly different tack while providing a more intricate and nuanced simulation of the Western and Mediterranean theater during World War II.
By Harvey Mossman
Republishing older designs has become very popular lately. I suppose it is nice to have these older games back in circulation especially for newer gamers who missed the golden era of gaming in the 1970s and 80s. However when an older game is republished, I do expect the designer to make improvements to the game including consolidating rules errata, refining the game system and updating the graphics. Paul Koenig’s Fortress Europe has done this and more. The first edition, called Fortress Europa, was designed by John Edwards and published in Australia by Jedko games in 1978. Avalon Hill reworked the rules and published the more well-known version in 1980 followed by a 2nd edition rules set. In PKG’s edition, we have a worthy successor to this classic.