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The CGC's Game Reviews

Game Reviews Dept.,

Vietnam by Victory Games Review of A Classic
Axis & Allies: War At Sea Counter Strike Commentary
Twilight Struggle
Axis & Allies: War At Sea
Arkham Horror
Battle Lore
Flames of War
Command and Colors
Ticket to Ride
Carnage & Glory
Combat Mission 2 Replay: Barbarossa to Berlin
Defender of the Crown
Alexander the Great, Overdone
D-Day Axis and Allies
Lord of the Rings Risk Trilogy
Total War
Nemesis of Rome
European Strategic Command
Parting Shot Dept.,

Read other reviews and game updates at


Vietnam by Victory Games
Review of A Classic
By James Sulzen

I played the VG Vietnam campaign game twice back in the 80's (assuming there was not an Avalon Hill version I played instead, or some such). Here's a description from Web-grognards that seems dead on to what I remember:

The two times I played, switching sides, I got badly beat both times, but then the guy I was up against was a real tough competitor, we left it set up and played at his house over a period of several weeks, and he was definitely into tooling out games, so all-in-all I didn't feel too badly about being whomped. :)

I thought it was quite a good game in the usual Victory Games high-quality game-design tradition. It gave a very good sense of the operational problems, with, as I remember it, most ops involving a few counters representing battalions. The Viet Cong in particular do a lot of scurrying around, trying to duck US forces and build influence in remote areas. US helicopters preclude any province being really remote, but there's too much ground to use airmobile operations over more than about 20-30% of the country, so for both sides, the game is a resource-management problem in competition with one's opponent.

Obviously there are a lot of abstractions such as politics, pacification, morale, logistics, and the like, but still, they did a good job. Unfortunately, the campaign game in particular is a major commitment and the rules are moderately complex, say two-to-three times what's involved in say Great Campaigns of the ACW, to give you something to calibrate it against. The shorter scenarios no doubt are more approachable, but I can't really say. Myself, I would have reservations about attempting anything but a smallish scenario on a Friday night, and even at that, I'd have my doubts, unless they compartmentalized the rules better than I remember (the two of us were young, dumb, and strong, back then, so we just jumped into the campaign game without doing any of the smaller scenarios). Your mileage of course might well vary. James


Axis and Allies: War At Sea
Counter Strike Commentary

The commentaries for this review are based on the event and after action report:; Tarawa The Decisive Battle CTGame club, June 9, 2007

Commentary Review by Byron Bond

I had the opportunity to stop by the club to say hello, and watched a bit of the game, and even 'consulted' a bit with the IJN players. There's been a lot of back and forth recently about the pros and cons of WaS, so it was very interesting to see the game in action.

I am definitely in the 'simulation camp' when it comes to naval wargames, but I can also appreciate a good game when I see one, and I can vouch that Mark's players had a good time. I should note here that some of those players are regulars at my SK5 or Admiralty games, so these are guys who can appreciate the finer points of ballistic tables and armor ratings.

Here are some of my off the cuff *impressions* of the game -; I say impressions because in one hour of observing you can hardly claim to be an expert. (Ok - actually, we all know of gamers who claim to do just that!)

First - I am not going to discuss the scenario played. Mark's goal was to set up a framework for play, not teach history, or to even reflect a might have been. It was am interesting set up, with specific goals, and player decisions mattered, so Mark's scenario was successful.

The models look good from normal table distance. I think they must be around 1/1800 scale.... and I would hazard that scale between ships is not kept to strict accuracy. Up close the models look bad to my eye between the heavy castings and the colors used, but on the table from 3-6 feet they look fine, and the colors and schemes chosen by Hasbro make it easy enough to identify classes. Are there lots of errors in the models and paint jobs? Sure, and I'm not even going to belabor them, because from what I saw it did not seem to matter to the players. I'm guessing that this is the effect Hasbro was looking for - that mix of major identifying characteristics and ease of manufacturing that looked ok, and still resulted in affordable models. (The deck markings on Akagi stand out as unusually sharp and impressive.) When you see a group of them on the table, they look very nice indeed at normal gaming distance.

I think the decision by Hasbro to produce the airplanes at about twice the scale of the ships was a good one, actually. Scale quibbles aside, I have considered moving to 1/1200 scale A/C for my 1/2400 naval games for the same reason - ease of identification and handling.

The game play is odd, and when I think about it, it's because the game is an odd blend of tactical combat and operational results. It LOOKS tactical because you are maneuvering individual ships around, and firing guns one platform at a time, but the map scale and results are decidedly at a higher scale.

The gameplay results in reasonable operational outcomes (as can be seen from Mark's AAR below) but you really need to be able to 'let go' of tactical concepts in playing it and just accept the large scale outcome. Oddly, board naval gamers have been doing this for years, and it is the rule of the land in Napoleonics minis, but naval mini gaming seems to focus on the detailed tactical actions. In the game I saw, several unusual (to say the least) 'events' occur, that individually make you raise your eyebrows and roll your eyes, but the OUTCOME, as a whole, seems to be ok. For example - the very; unusual IJN DD vs USN Sub interaction I saw. I absolutely agree with Warren that at the tactical level, the game was all wrong and out of whack. But, as Mike Smith said, if you just accept the result as an outcome of an *engagement* over a period of time and not a ship vs ship duel, it is acceptable, and could even be rationalized. I also noted that the gameplay encourages one capital ship per box. But each box is 5000 yds long, which strings out a line about 5X what they should be, and creates some very unhistorical gunfights....and attendant decisions! I believe the 'stacking rules' (and the mere thought of the need for stacking rules in a miniatures game makes me wince) allow for more than one capital ship in a box, but certainly that would detract from appearances, and most gamers seem to want to put the ships in neat lines anyway, so that leaves the ground scale problematic and pretty much unresolvable. (Again, on a board game, no one would question the need/ability to put multiple heavies in the same hex/box/square - but this is supposed to be tactical miniatures.)

I guess when all is said and done, my take on the game is that it would be a huge mistake to try and learn WW2 naval tactics from it, but that it does well in creating reasonable results for a given operation. The specific actions that lead to those results are often odd in isolation, but when abstracted out into the whole, create a not unreasonable outcome. MORE importantly, however, was that it was obvious that all the players had great fun, and I am always in favor of games where whoops and cheers result from key die rolls. The game definitely had that, and it moved along with great sweeping arcs of movement, so I can see why it is popular. I don't think I'll be buying any of the ships, but next time you run the game Mark, I'll probably jump in. When you see folks that engaged in a game, you just want to play.

Good job Mark - good game!


GM Commentary by Mark McLaughlin

If anybody in our club knows naval, it is Byron.; And he hit this right on the nail.; He "got" the game and what it is all about.

...and why I have been putting so much energy and effort (and cash) into this game in the last two months.

My thanks, also, for the kind words about how i ran the game and how much fun the guys had playing it.


A GM Review By Andy Z,

In my opinion Mark's games are always fun, creative, easy to play and crowd strirring.; In all miniature games there are the conflicting schools of realism and playability. It is a balance where true success is chimeral. There is also always a time and scale realm which cannot be accomadated without sacrifice on one part or the other. During the game, anamolies will occur, but as long as the end results fit into an accurate what if, and the ending feels right, you have probably achieved a workable balance.

I believe a game needs the following:

1. Reasonable facsimile Models
2. Clearly defined and achievable victory conditions
3. Multiple Decisions on the part of the players
4. Workable Mechanics (does it flow smooth and feel right)
5. Games which are fought to conclusion with a plausible result.
6. A feeling of having had fun .

I spent a lot of time associated with SPI, the crusader of Simulation Gaming. You notice that they are not here any more.

Mark is a highly successful Board Game Designer; he also runs great miniature games. Although our design concepts sometimes differ, I realize when playing his games that I will always have fun, and the results in toto will often reflect a plausible realistic outcome. If anamolies occur during the game, it is a; price well paid. Thank you Mark for your continuing efforts on behalf of the club.

Regards, Andy

GM Commentary by Mark McLaughlin

Andy's 6-point checklist for running a game should be mounted and framed and pasted on the website, on the newsletter and hung on the wall during meetings.

If anybody in the club knows how to put on a game, it be he....


Counter Strike Commentary

by Brandon Musler

- I did not watch or participate in "Tarawa - War at Sea at the CGC" and am only commenting from general experience.

First - I am not going to discuss the scenario played. Mark's goal was to set up a framework for play, not teach history, or to even reflect a might have been. It was am interesting set up, with specific goals, and player decisions mattered, so Mark's scenario was successful.

; - If we stipulate up front that the most important criteria for evaluation is "having fun" then this is beyond dispute. That said, I think if a game purports to be historical -- no matter how beer and pretzels in nature -- it ought to teach things that can be validated. "Aerodrome" and "Battlecry" are examples of games that have their pretzels and eat them too...

The models look good from normal table distance.

; - I agree. Some wouldn't. That's to taste. Does it really matter? You could use almost any scale models (or even counters) to play with this rule set AFAIK. A&A WaS is actually a board game not a miniatures rule set. Rulers and tape measures are completely unnecessary.

I think the decision by Hasbro to produce the airplanes at about twice; the scale of the ships was a good one, actually. Scale quibbles aside, I; have considered moving to 1/1200 scale A/C for my 1/2400 naval games for; the same reason - ease of identification and handling.

- I agree that Hasbro got the aircraft stands right. They could have even gone bigger IMO.

The game play is odd, and when I think about it, it's because the game is an odd blend of tactical combat and operational results. It LOOKS tactical because you are maneuvering individual ships around, and firing guns one platform at a time, but the map scale and results are decidedly at a higher scale.

- Precisely. And this is where my objections arise. For example, there are ship facing rules (that impact firepower) which are wholly inappropriate to the distance/time scale. It gives the ILLUSION that those decisions would matter when in fact they should not.

The gameplay results in reasonable operational outcomes (as can be seen from Mark's AAR Tarawa: The Decisive Battle: CTGame club, June 9, 2007) but you really need to be able to 'let go' of tactical concepts in playing it and just accept the large scale outcome.

- The games I have witnessed and read about do not ressemble historical outcomes. Mark has repeated documented wholesale ship slaughter...but again, it can be argued that's what players require to have fun. So be it...

But, as Mike Smith said, if you just accept the result as an outcome of an *engagement* over a period of time and not a ship vs ship duel, it is acceptable, and could even be rationalized.

If RATIONALIZED is the operative word, I completely agree. But I've been considering this aspect of MANY miniatures games for years now and I adamantly disagree with the assumption that line of reasoning proves anything. HOW things are done IS THE very ESSENCE of a game. The end result is the tail, not the dog. Arguing "it all comes out in the wash" is sophistry. We could just roll one die against a table with 10 stipulated outcomes and call it accurate but it wouldn't teach you much about HOW or WHY, would it? (I know, I know...also because we couldn't put our 'toys' out on the table for everybody to admire...) More likely, the plain truth of the matter is that most miniatures rules sets ARE abysmal. If you mistake every step in the proof of a theorem but somehow come out with a right result should you be given full marks? If you think "yes" then we can't continue with a logical discussion... which is precisely the hope of people who argue that "alls well that ends well" and "well, we had fun"...i.e. it ends the debate (which, I confess is usually a GOOD outcome at the club...but that doesn't illuminate ANYTHING...it just makes it possible to "get on with it.")

(Again, on a board game, no one would question the need/ability to put multiple heavies in the same hex/box/square - but this is supposed to be tactical miniatures.)

- Operative word being "supposed." A&A WaS is simply an underdeveloped OPERATIONAL game that won't stick to its knitting. The silly decision to mate an operational scale with a tactical rule set needs to be pointed out occassionally...or in my case at every possible opportunity. (I'm so glad Warren was there to froth in my stead!)

MORE importantly, however, was that it was obvious that all the players had great fun, and I am always in favor of games where whoops and cheers result from key die rolls. The game definitely had that, and it moved along with great sweeping arcs of movement, so I can see why it is popular. I don't think I'll be buying any of the ships, but next time you run the game Mark, I'll probably jump in. When you see folks that engaged in a game, you just want to play.

- OK. But let's not confuse the argument. Nobody -- not me or anybody else -- has ever tried to ban AA from the club or doubt people would enjoy playing in Mark's bread and circusses scenarios. Large scale? Toys? Oodles of 6 sided dice? All definite crowd pleasers. If I didn't anticipate people would find the game fun I wouldn't give it top billing in the newsletter. I just want people to understand that AA WaS is about as valid a TACTICAL simulation of WW2 naval warfare as Matt's BUG's games are likely to be of interstellar combat. And personally I find Matt's use of terrain a whole lot more interesting...


GM Counter Point Response by Mark McLaughlin

One would think that brandon is not overly fond of war at sea, even as modified with the house rules (half of which are the designer's own suggestions for how he plays the game with real wargamers)

He did, however, to his great credit and my appreciation, actually play the game -- all day, at my house, last month.

Good sport that Brandon.

As a cartoon I saw in the new yorker last month noted, "well, dear, we may not be the salt of the earth, but we are definitely the salt of the upper west side."

That said, and with great respect and fondness for my esteemed and great friend, for he is both that and more, let me do a counter point to his counter strike.

('Twere this 1975, and 'twere he and I on saturday night live, I might be tempted to begin with Dan Akroyd's famous if less than polite opener when responding to Jane Curtin, but, as we are pals, I would never, ever do that...I might think about it, but for both an irishman and a new yorker (upstate, tho, at least that's where i was born) I shall exercise that restraint which a jesuit education imparts.

First, as to the scenario. It was a "what if." I am very fond of "what if" I read a lot of alternative history, both novels and more speculative works (everything from Harry Harrison
to Newt Gingrich, and from Peter Tsouras to Mackinlay Cantor)

- I felt my Tarawa COULD have happened. Maybe it MIGHT even have happened. Surely somebody, somewhere THOUGHT it could have happened....and anyway, it was
interesting to see how it could have turned out if it had occurred.

It is much the same situation as Leyte, but a year earlier. Could the Japanese have put together 4 fleet carriers, three light carriers and 6 assorted battlewagons, plus escorts into a strike? They did that and more at Leyte.

Only in late 1943, they might actually have stood a chance. You can quibble with the actual choice of ships (I did that bit with Akagi surviving Midway, Shinano and Hosho and Mogami being ready because, well, they are cool ships and I just got the models for them this week...Furuta 1:2000 models to be exact (not war at sea 1:1800 but close)...and I made up the stats. same with the Fighting Lady....I had an antique pre-ww2 metal ship on my shelf, paint all worn and chipped--and realized the other day that, heh, it is the pre-war Lexington, complete with 8" guns...so I painted her up.

Again, I could have chosen just about any mix of carriers to come up with the sides, but, well, I have these....and, like most miniature gamers, I like what I play with to be recognizeable as such.


Here we had an American fleet, dispersed into screening forces, carrier task forces, bombardment and support forces, with scout planes and subs on the look out on a wide arc.

Here we had a large Japanese fleet, which the players were allowed to organize as they wished....and which they did so BRILLIANTLY I might add.

The Japanese divided their carriers into two groups, thus hoping that if one group was spotted one escape spotting -- unfortunately, both were spotted. Both were even caught with planes on deck. The americans, however, with two juicy targets, tried to go for both -- they split their forces and thus faced twice the cap, twice the aa and dropped a lot less bombs and torpedoes on target...sending the Hosho down, planes on deck was a good thing, but not great.

The Japanese divided their battlefleet in two -- not always a good thing, but here it worked. They used the weaker part as bait. And it worked. It drew the attention of the americans. It drew it so much that not only did the Americans pull off every ship they could from the bombardment and screen forces, they even pulled the escorts away from the jeep carriers and pealed the flagship away from the carriers to go after the Jap battlecruisers.

And the Japs? They not only stayed at long range, they even pulled back, feigning retreat, thus pulling the Americans farther and farther away from Tarawa, and encouraging the Americans to rush pell-mell, piecemeal, in their eagerness to engage, lest the Japs "get away."

In doing so the Americans learned some valuable lessons. 1. Battleships that rush off without destroyers and crusiers to help them will have difficulty fending off air attacks
2. Battleships that stay at long range survive longer, and get to shoot at more targets, including targets that either cannot shoot back or which shoot back poorly.
3. Battleships that not only close, but close bow on, as if to ram, into the midst of an enemy fleet of battleships, cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers, will take a lot of punishment from all sides....and will also take a lot of fire from torpedoes. Such battleships, especially when already damaged by aircraft, tend to sink.
4. They also learned that if you come bow-on at someone's broadside, they shoot quite a lot better than you do.

--And these are lessons War At Sea, not my house rules or my scenario, hammers home.

The Americans also learned that just because you think you found everybody doesnt mean you stop looking --- the Japanese big battlefleet snuk by nicely, just like they did at Leyte, and this time they came in right BEHIND the Americans, closer to Tarawa and the American invasion ships than the Japanese did at Leyte.

All was not roses for the Japanese, however,

They learned, again from the War at Sea rules, that if you keep a lot of fighters on cap over your carriers, your carriers live...but that if you send your bombers out without escorts, they tend not to come back.

The japanese lost 7 out of 9 attack squadrons that way....including all of their torpedo bombers. And this to the two squadrons of wildcats flying cap from the jeep carriers over the main map.

Another valuable lesson was learned in the sub-destroyer engagement.

1. US Gato subs are very good.
2. Japanese destroyers, especially Kagero-class, are not very good at ASW (the Japanese do have sub-chasers that are quite good, but those are small trawlers, and are not going to be found at sea with fast carriers or battlecruisers)
3. Two Gato vs 4 Kagero is not an even match, especially if:
a. The Americans see you and you don't see them.
b. The Americans get off the first shot and hit one of your DDs, thus bringing the odds more in their favor and
c. Even though your destroyers are crap at ASW, they can keep the subs tied up long enough for the carriers you are protecting to get away, out of range, and thus will never be caught by those subs.

In the game, the Kageros have an ASW of 3. (A Fletcher is a 5, a geary is 6). You can put two destroyers in a box, but only one sub. So the destroyers always have that advantage. While the sub gets torpedoes, it gets one die less when firing at destroyers than when firing at bigger ships -- as the destroyers are harder to hit.

The subs lose another die if the destroyers have attacked them, and, as was the case with one of the subs, yet another die if you are crippled (warren did manage to cripple one gato).

Also, to hit with a torpedo you need to roll a 6. The ASW of 3 means 3 dice -- which score a hit on 4 or 5, two hits on a 6.

The Americans got very, very lucky with their torpedoes...they got two hits, sunk two DD.

The Japanese were very, very unlucky, yet still managed to cripple one Gato

And the Japanese accomplished their mission -- they engaged the subs while the carriers got away....and then the two surviving destroyers sped off, to go back to their primary mission - guarding the carriers.

So, I think everybody actually did learn somethings, and a lot of things. Some things they probably already knew, other things they might not have. People who did what they should have done, won. Those who did not, did not.

The Japanese won, and I think they know why. The Americans lost, and I think they know why.

Everybody had to make a LOT of decisions, decisions about how the fleets were organized, what they did, who and how they attacked and, just as important, when the hell to get out....the Japanese, for example, figuring that the Americans had more carriers and lots more planes, decided not to even try to attack the us carrier task forces -- Warren figured superior numbers of fighters and AA would slaughter any strike he launched....He did not know he faced even numbers, but he made a decision based on what he thought he knew....which is what an admiral has to do.

War At Sea is very much more an admiral's game than a captain's game. It is simple, it is elegant, and it is decisive .. but it is not simplistic...there is a LOT of meat in the game. It may not be to everyone's liking (what game is?) but it is a good game, and it is fun -- it is the most fun I have ever had with naval miniatures.


Counterstrike II by Brandon Musler

Mark, > ('Twere this 1975, and 'twere he and I on Saturday night live, I might be tempted to begin with Dan Akroyd's famous if less than polite opener when responding to Jane Curtin....

Let's make a deal. You can address me as "you ignorant slut" anytime you like IF you first promise not to posit Newt as a good source of alternate history. And I would add that anybody who thinks this "debate" is placing a terrible strain on our friendship doesn't know you or I very well. Besides, the best response to a thrown gauntlet is always another round of gaming...

first, as to the scenario....

Byron declared this topic out of bounds. I heeded him. Any PRIOR comments that may have been made about its unliklihood are therefor heresay (since they did not originate with me...hint, hint.)

> In doing so the Americans learned some valuable lessons. 1. battleships that rush off without destroyers and crusiers to help them will have difficulty fending off air attacks....

True as far as it goes, but capital ships require protection from all manner of torpedo bearers: subs, DDs/TBs/PTs, and yes, aircraft.

2. battleships that stay at long range survive longer, and get to shoot at more targets, including targets that either cannot shoot back or which shoot back poorly.....

Yes, it is a good idea to take advantage of the relative strengths of one's weapons.

3. battleships that not only close, but close bow on etc....

I feel it imperative to point out that it's difficult to close 'stern on,' especially with French battleships and the Nelson class.

4. they also learned that if you come bow-on at someone's broadside, they shoot quite a lot better than you do....

The dice being even, yes, and in my eyes this is the most valid lesson you cite.

> The Americans also learned that just because you think you found everybody doesnt mean you stop looking....

This is an OPERATIONAL lesson. My reservations concern the tactical depiction in the game.

All was not roses for the japanese, however....

Chrysanthenums then?

They learned, again from the War at Sea rules, that if you keep a lot of fighters on cap over your carriers your carriers live...but that your bombers tend not to come back....

I believe this is called a "trade-off." Not sure it is specific to just naval gaming...

Another valuable lesson was learned in the sub-destroyer engagement.

I'm weak on subs. I'm sure what you say is true. HOWEVER, it's more true that American submariners made a greater contribution to the war effort by changing their doctrine to sink commerce assets. Exactly when this occurred in the war I don't know, but I don't recall too many American torpedo successes in largescale combat operations...possibly because early on said torpedoes didn't work very well.

So, i think everybody actually did learn somethings, and a lot of things.

Perhaps, but this is a relative question. Investing equivalent resources, would they have learned more or less from another naval game? Remember, Byron did stage a very large scale (in terms of players,) very successful, SK5 engagement at the club none too long ago. So it would seem it's possible to have your beer and pretzels and consume them too...or something like that...

Your ignorant naval game slut,

- Brandon

Twilight Struggle

By Alan Moon

TWILIGHT STRUGGLE is my all-time favorite game. It is a brilliant first design by the team of Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta. It takes the card-driven genre of games like WE THE PEOPLE, HANNIBAL ROME VS. CARTHAGE, and WILDERNESS WAR to its highest peak. Every game is different and the game gets better and better as become more familiar with the individual cards. You are surprised as hidden combos are revealed game after game. Every turn is filled with tension as you try to figure out the best way to play the hand of cards you've been dealt. Gaming simply doesn't get any better than this.

Twilight Struggle - A Design Gem

By Matt Thrower (article from the http://www.boardgamegeek.com/)

This is the latest in my series of "design gem" reviews where I highlight my favourite games. Twilight Struggle is an attempted simulation of the cold war between the US and thye USSR (duh!) published by famed wargames publisher GMT games. Which is kind of odd, really since whether or not TS is a wargame is a moot point, as you’ll discover in the following review. It follows an adaptation of the card-drive wargames system as employed by a number of other famed titles such as Paths of Glory and Hannibal. Which brings us nicely on to


As always in my reviews I encourage anyone who’s interested in the game to download a copy of the rules (freely available here on the geek) rather than relying on a shaky and incomplete rules summary. However, I do think it’s valuable to summarise roughly how the card driven system works.

The basic system of play is gaining influence in a country. If the amount of influence you have exceeds that of your opponents by the “stability number” of the country then you control it and it becomes more difficult for your opponent to overturn that control. Some countries are designated as battleground countries where control is particularly important. Regions (Europe, Africa etc) are “scored” when a scoring card is played – at this point the countries controlled by each player in the region are compared and the most powerful player will score some victory points. Players must also watch the DEFCON level, which degrades when military action is taken in battleground countries – if DEFCON drops to 1, the active player automatically looses! The game can also end early if one player makes it to 20 victory points.

The game spans ten turns, and each turn players are dealt a hand of cards. The cards each have an event on them, which is associated with the US, USSR or both, and a numerical operations value. Each round the players take turns playing a card which they may play either for its ops value or, if the event is associated with the side playing the card, the event. Ops can be used directly to add influence to countries, or to reduce your opponents’ influence (realignment rolls) or to try and do both at once through a coup, or to try and get a technological edge in the space race. The latter three are all played out through use of a dice roll. Events usually also change influence in specific countries but can also change other factors like victory points, the cards in your or your opponents hand and so on. In a neat twist to the usual card system if you play an event associated with an opponent the event happens anyway, but you still get the operations value from the card. Coups are the nearest thing you get to combat in this game and they're abstracted down to the level of a single dice roll, which is why this can't be classified as your average wargame. But I think this mechanic suits the fact that this is above even operational level - this is a global simulation.

The events are really the key to this whole system. A few are generic events that can keep happening (“east European unrest” for example) but the majority depict specific events that happened during the cold war (Fidel Castro coming to power in Cuba) – these are marked with a * and are removed from the game once played. Thanks to this system, and the excellent historical notes included in the rules, the players can quickly gain a real feeling for the history behind the cold war in a much more direct and engaging fashion than that provided by more traditional war game systems like hex-and-counter.

The actual game rules span a mere 8 pages and are simple and intuitive. Theres a couple of “gotchas” (the rules for free coups from events for example) but you should have these down by the end of your first game. Whats not so clear from the rules is that knowledge of the 100+ event cards in the game is essential to good play. The events are often complex and can affect a bewildering array of specific countries (one card can have effects in several unconnected countries in eastern Europe) and it takes quite a lot of time to learn what the various events do and plan around whether or not theyve been played accordingly. So the game is not as simple as it first appears – this is not something you can just drop in to for casual play.

Game Play Problems

There are a few issues with Twilight Struggle. Firstly the game obviously has some random mechanics – the cards you get dealt are crucial and theres dice involved in sorting out some of the operations. This might put some people off. There are moments when it can be an absolute killer though – the deck is usually reshuffled at the end of turn 2, and if a scoring card reappears for a region where one player has a huge advantage this can totally throw the game.

You should also be aware that there is a perceived bias toward the USSR player in the game. The level of this bias is a point of hot debate amongst fans of the game but its undeniable that the soviets have the advantage in the early game and this can lead to the game ending before the US can pull back in the mid-late game. Its also generally accepted that the US requires more skilled and careful play to win than the USSR who can kind of blunder through with a few powerful event cards. If you feel this is a problem then it can be ameliorated by granting the US a couple of extra victory points at the start of the game the suggested setup for tournament play has the players bidding an amount of US VPs for the right to play the USSR.

Game Play Brilliance

You might be wondering why I chose to outline the problems with the game before I talked about where the design succeeds. Theres a simple answer I wanted to get them out of the way so I could tell you that in my opinion, whatever you might think of the potential issues with the design should be set aside in light of the fact that this is once of the most intense, exciting and strategically engaging games Ive ever played.

The game works on a whole number of levels. In the first instance youve got a careful job of hand management. Almost inevitably some of the cards youve got will impact on other cards (you might have events in Europe alongside Europe scoring) so you need to plan carefully when to play each card. Youll also undoubtedly have some of your opponents events youd really rather not have happen and then youre left with the question of whether youre better off playing them to get them out of the way or whether its really too catastrophic in which case you can play one per turn on the space race where no events happen but the card can then reappear to haunt you later in the game and theres the question of which card to blast in to space as well. Do you play your own events as events or as operations? You can usually carry one card over to the next round which will you choose? The questions youll be asking as you sort through your hand are endless and even a bad hand full of your opponents events leads to all sorts of decisions about disaster management. Then youve got the tension of riding out the turn to see whether your opponents plays require you to rethink your carefully planned turn.

The decision making in hand management alone would be enough to make this a serviceable game. But theres a whole other dimension when you play a card for operations as to what you&re going to do with those points. There are never, ever enough for you to be able to do everything you need to do in a turn so you need to prioritise, and you better get it right because if your opponents gets control of certain countries before you then you can be locked out of whole regions of the game! You can&t just place influence though if you don&t play a coup each round you&re penalised victory points and you mustn&t forget the space race either and trying a realignment roll is always a tempting possibility. But in each case you&ve got to balance taking the risk of invoking the dice against the certainty of placing influence points. Personally I&m entirely comfortable with the level of randomness involved it adds a great deal of excitement and anticipation to the game and rarely seems to overcome experience or skilled play.

Thanks to the events there&s also a variety of creative ways you can use the cards to get ahead. If DEFCON is at 2 it&s possible to use certain cards to try and force your opponent into starting a nuclear war, thus loosing the game. There are times when it&s actually advantageous to you to allow an opposing event to go off because it improves board situation for you overall.


I&m a multiplayer games man. I like the chaos that having multiple opponents brings to the table, I enjoy the chance to negotiate or even just chat about the game as we play. I thought two player games were okay but I&d never come across one that I&d split up a bigger group just to get the chance to play. Until I played Twilight Struggle that is, a two-player game that kicks many of my multiplayer favourites in the teeth, hard.

This is a game that has the potential to satisfy everyone. There&s the careful and non-random placing of influence to satisfy the analysis freaks. If you&re an adrenaline junkie then there&s lots of dice to roll and the anticipation of a new hand of cards each turn. There&s creative strategy to engage the wargame fans amongst you. Really, unless you have big, big problems accepting random factors or hidden information in a game then you&re probably going to like this a lot.

My final rating? The full ten - and I don&t give out tens lightly. This is the best new game I&ve played in several years and you should play it too. If you&re not convinced head on over to http://acts.warhorsesim.com/ get yourself an account and I&ll give you a game I&m always looking for more plays. You&ll soon see the light, even if it&s the baleful light of the mushroom cloud.

Axis Allies: War At Sea

By Mark McLaughlin

Tonight, my pals bob and ed and james came over. We did the new axis and allies war at sea. What a great fun game! Muuuuuuch better than the land version of their collectibles. Same basic system, but for a naval battle it makes sense.

Lot of flavor to it as well, and some nice subtleties.

We did three battles:

A100 point per side convoy escort in the med, with the British and americans trying to get to malta. no battleships, no submarines -- a real small ship action (the British did have Ark Royal, otherwise nothing on the board bigger than a cruiser -- and that was the Bolzano).

Italians turned back the convoy.

We played that on the basic map (two panels that come with the basic game -- the other fights we did on a double-size map, ie four panels)

Second game was 200 points a side. Japanese vs Brit-American. Japanese had a carrier with escorts coming in from one corner, and the Yamato with a destroyer and land based air from the other. The Americans had the Iowa and escorting cruisers and destroyers, the British had Hood and an escorting crusier and destroyer. Americans and Brits had land based air.

A mighty fight. the Yamato went down, but took Hood out with her last salvo. The Japanese carrier fled after the tone and other escorts went down.

Third game was another med convoy run. 140 points a side. Americans, British and French, with the La Gloire cruiser their biggest ship, land based air and six liberty ships. They had to get three off the board. Germans and Italians had destroyers, stukas, a wolfpack of subs, a torpedo boat squadron, a surface raider and Graf Spee.

The Spee went down to allied air power. All of the allied destroyers went down. All of the stukas died. At that point, we as the allies had only airplanes left to hunt subs (a pby, fairey swordfish and devastators) flying every other turn. Ed and Bob managed to sink two of the six liberty ships before we got their last sub.

We had a LOT of fun! So much so, that we are ordering another case of 12 boosters to split up, and I am ordering a second starter set (to get more maps, a second set of rules and more ships from that too).

A light, easy, fun game.

As when I did Mage Knight, I found a place that sells singles, not just boosters, for the collectible miniatures games. Strike Zone has them, and has decent prices.


Bob also told me that James at Fanstasy Realms gave him a 20 percent discount on the War At Sea sets - as long as he paid cash. Now that was a shocker.

War At Sea
A Ship by Ship Comparison

By Mark McLaughlin

I decided to write up a simple table showing all the ships and planes, by type, and how they stack up.

For my fellow WaS gamers, I offer this as a Memorial Day gift. Think of the time I spent on it as paying homage to the men and women who fought and died for us, especially in that conflict.

For those who are not, or not yet, or may never be WaS-- think of it as a mental exercise, yet another example of how a game designer (Richard Baker of Wizards of the Coast in this case) rated ships and planes of WW2 against each other.

It is a nice little reference piece for everything from setting up scenarios to seeing how the ships and planes compare to each other...Which will also be useful for making our own cards for ships that the game does not yet cover. (IE there are guys on the forums who have made ship cards using photoshop for classes of models not yet released)

I know that many real naval warriors may find some of this too generic, but i think they have tried to put in enough special rules for certain ships or variations in gunnery etc to give each ship some character.

For those who do not have the rules, PTs is the point cost to buy the ship, also its victory point value if sunk.

Gunnery of 18-18-17-15 on the Iowa for example means that many dice at 0,1,2 and 3 hexes (extended range, in her case, extended range 5, means she would use the last number, 15, at ranges 4 and 5) second line is secondaries, third, if present, as in Richielu and the Germans, is tertiaries.

AA, ASW are the number of dice for that. To is Torpedo, and 2-1 means 2 at range 0, 1 adjacent etc.

Armor is the number of hits an enemy ship or plane has to score in a salvo/attack to inflict one hull hit. Vital is the number needed to blow her up in one shot. Hull is the number of hits you take before you sink (1 less than that is cripple)

Speed is 2, uniform for almost all ships, although some have slow-1 or slow-2 as special, meaning they have to roll to get a second space move.

Aircraft that have AA are when firing against other airplanes, gun is for straffing...otherwise they have bombs and torpedoes.

The 1a on hull for aircraft means if they are hit but not hit so as to equal vital armor, they just abort.

Most pieces have a special rule or two, most of which may be self explanatory (extended range, torpedo defense etc)

Ship by Ship Comparisons

Arkham Horror
A board game that delves into the eldritch terrors and unspeakable horrors of H.P. Lovecraft&s Mythos

by: Marc Shayed
Review Editor

Arkham Horror is a board game of terrors from the ‘Mythos& created by H.P. Lovecraft from Fantasy Flight Games. This is a game that any fan of the tales of Lovecraft and his contemporaries can enjoy. Set in the cursed town of Arkham, the investigators must pit their wits and skills against the other-worldly and alien beings that plan to assault and destroy our world. Will they win the day, or will they be driven mad and end up as patients of Arkham Asylum or worse with they be devoured by the beings they fight against?

From the website:

The town of Arkham, Massachusetts, is in a panic. Horrific and bizarre events have begun to occur with increasing frequency—all seeming to point towards some cataclysmic event in the near future that may spell disaster for everyone. Only one small band of investigators can save Arkham from the Great Old Ones and destruction!

Too cool for words

There is a lot to this game. Lots of cards, rules, and tokens, and going in to the minutia would take, a lot more space than I have for this article. However, this game is set up a lot like a few other games that have tackled similar genre but have seemed to take it to another level. Players each get a player sheet (Investigator Sheet) that lists the stats, skills, and equipment for the characters. This for the most part is pretty straightforward. One very cool innovation is that the character&s skills are not a set number. Characters during their turn can change their skills, ignoring one to increase another. An example is Speed and Sneak skills. There are on opposite tracks, so if one is raised (say to increase your speed to move further on your turn) then the opposite trait is lowers (in this case Sneak is lowered making it harder to evade). This makes players decide how they are going to act in each situation.

The basic idea of the game is that players are investigating the happenings around Arkham. The board is set up almost like a labyrinth of roads and locations that the players must move along to go from place to place. In these places, the players may have some kind of encounter, such as a cultist or monster attacking them. Players either evade or do combat with the challenge. As the game progresses to other dimensions begin to open up, causing monsters to spill forth on to the streets of the legendary town. The investigators have to work together to explore the gates, close the gates and seal them, for if too many open, then the Ancient One arrives and the final battle begins. It is the goal of the investigators to never let it get that bad.

To keep the tension of the game (and to help motivate uncooperative players into cooperating), there is a Doom Track and a Terror Track. The Doom Track is on the Ancient One&s sheet. This shows the investigators how close they are to having it burst through into the world. The Terror Track is a little different. While the Doom Track can have points added and subtracted by the player's failures and successes, the Terror Track can only be added to, never subtracted from. So as the Terror level in Arkham goes up, shops begin to close, Allies begin to leave, and eventually the town is so over run with monsters that there is no longer a limit on the number of monsters that can wander the town.

In the end, this is a tough game to win (as is very appropriate for the genre). The deck seems very much stacked in the favor of the Ancient Ones. That is not to say that players can't win, it just requires the players to actually try to work together to win. Saying that, and noticing that the game lists the number of players as I did try a solo adventure. This was a good use of an hour and a half, and I lost when Azathoth showed up. Oh well. That's the way the mind crumbles.

Again from the website:

Arkham Horror was originally published by Chaosium, Inc., almost two decades ago. This new, updated edition features stunning new artwork and graphical design as well as revised and expanded rules from the game's original creator, Richard Launius! No fan of the Cthulhu mythos will want to miss this opportunity to acquire this classic Call of Cthulhu boardgame!

As a huge fan of Lovecraft, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I never had the chance to play the classic game that this game is based off of. So I really cannot draw a comparison. What I can say is that this game has done the genre right. The feel of the game, the artwork, even the gameplay plays into that feeling of cosmic hopelessness that is seen throughout the Lovecraftian tales. While you may never actually beat the Ancient Ones, you can set their plans and the plans of their minions back a few years.

So what does Marc really think?

Ok so I am a fan of horror games, and I have seen a bunch. This one is definitely on the top of the list for games. The game can occupy plenty of players, has a great look, a great price and with the number of different characters and Ancient Ones to use it has enough variable to its set up and game play that it will be sure to keep the attention of the players for a long time to come.

When trying to describe this game to other board game fans that like games with this type of theme, I have found myself calling it:

A fusion of Twilight Creation's When Darkness Comes Third World Game's The Testimony of Jacob Hollow, with a little of the Hasbro's Clue but more involved, and much more complicated.

The set up for the game is extensive, and will take a while to separate all the decks and get the game ready to play, but the pay off for play is significant, so the set up time really is not an issue with this game. Where this game comes up short, enough to rob it of a perfect score, is in the rules. There are a few instances where the rules being described do not match the picture being shown, or the rules are a bit too wordy and awkwardly describe a situation that could have been fleshed out in 1 sentence as opposed to a paragraph or two.

However, the game plays well, looks great, is a great value, and above all it is fun. I am happy to give Arkham Horror a very high recommendation.

Above all I suggest you judge for yourselves. Check out Fantasy Flight Games and their new board game of investigating eldritch terrors and unspeakable horrors Arkham Horror at their website http://www.FantasyFlightGames.com and of course at all of your local game stores!

Arkham Horror

From: Fantasy Flight Games

Type of Game: Board Game of Mythos Terrors

Game Components Included: Game Board, 24-page rulebook, 16 Investigator Sheets, 16 Investigator Markers and plastic stands, 5 six-sided dice, 196 Investigator Status Tokens, 198 Investigator Cards, 8 Ancient One Sheets, 20 Doom Tokens, 180 Ancient One Cards, 60 Monster Markers, 16 Gate Markers and 14 other miscellaneous markers

Retail Price: $ 49.95 (US)

Number of Players: 1 8 (although 3-5 is recommended)

Player Ages: 12+

Play Time: 2-4 hours

Item Number: VA09

IBSN: 1-58997-210-8

Email: ffg@fantasyflightgames.com

Website: www.FantasyFlightGames.com

Review Score: 9 out of 10 points (4.5 stars)

Battle Lore

By Mark McLaughlin

My pal Ed paid a visit last month and we warmed up with the expansion pack for Richard Borg&s Command and Colors Ancients game from GMT. As is our habit now we played using my 15mm Ancients miniatures as a substitute for the game&s standard issue wood blocks fighting Platea twice and an Alexander&s successor battle as well.

Those were appetizers however because Ed came packing Borg&s newest design, this one from Days of Wonder, the company that published Memoir &44. Thinking of Data&s next-gen cousin at the fringes of the universe when you hear Borg and BattleLore in the same sentence makes you akin to Rick Blaine who traveled to Casablanca for the waters, i.e. misinformed. BattleLore is more like Pulp Fiction in that it gets all medieval on you a**. Yes, this time it&s KNIGHTS (although not necessarily saying nee or searching for the Holy Grail. That said, Battlelore is chock full of men at arms, archers, mounted sergeants and knights, banners, thick cardboard for terrain etc

There are a bunch of historical battles included and, for those with a taste for it, a dab of fantasy on the sidebut the latter is strictly optional. We sampled Agincourt (twice,) something set in Spain, another in Aquitaine and then in the fourth battle we tried a smattering of fantasy. Infusing magic or lore" into the proceedings means adding 1, 2, 3 or even all 4 extra mini-card decks. We opted for relatively tame brew no killer cards, just things like slow an enemy unit, launch a long-range attack (think catapults), ignore hits or add dice. Still, it was fun and different. There are a couple of pure fantasy scenarios and also some dwarf, dragon and spider pieces you can add too. You should try BattleLore as a medieval wargame first but the card decks do inject surprise and uncertainly. I really liked the slick toys too

Flames of War

By Paul Goldstone

After two years of intensive play testing and work, Flames of War has finally been released. And it was worth the wait. Flames of War is marketed as a fast and fun wargame, set in World War Two, using 15mm high toy soldiers and tanks. And the game lives up to the hype. Turns seem to fly by, and the pace of the action is fast and furious. There is a lot of detail to the various armies and weapons, but the core rules are very simple indeed. Every tank or infantry team has two ratings - skill (veteran, trained or conscripts) and morale (fearless, confident or reluctant). Turns are alternate, and will be familiar to anyone who's played Warhammer. Movement is simple- infantry move 6", tanks move 12", but can bog down if they are crossing difficult terrain. For shooting you roll the number of dice equal to the rate-of-fire of the weapon - anything from 1 for a big gun, to 4 for a machine-gun. The dice score you need to hit is based on the target's skill rating. If the target are infantry in hard cover you have to then make a firepower roll, depending on the weight of the shell you fire, ranging from 2+ for a heavy howitzer shell, to 6 for a bullet. If the target is a tank the tank makes an armour save depending on its armour. If a platoon is reduced to half strength they have to start making morale tests or run away.

That's pretty well the core rules, but there are lots of add ons to give flavour to different weapons and armies. The main thing is that the rules are easy to understand - that, and the thrill of commanding some really cool tanks, is why the game seems to be attracting quite a few younger recruits to the club. The presentation is magnificent, and fully equal with anything Games Workshop has produced - and, indeed, the style of Flames of War owes a great deal to GW. Beginning the book is a section introducing the game, with loads of inspirational colour photos which show off the wonderful toys designed by Evan Allen, Battlefront's chief sculptor.

The main body of the rules is beautifully laid out, though I find the photos and interest pieces keep detracting my eyes from the actual text. Nevertheless, the writing is admirably clear, and Phil Yates, the author, should be congratulated. Then there are the army lists (or Intelligence Briefings) for US, German, Red Army, British and Italians. These continue the extremely high standard of presentation. The lists are similar in style to Warhammer army books, and anyone familiar with 40K or Warhammer will be able to understand the armies very quickly indeed. The Intelligence Briefings look like they'll create reasonably "realistic" armies - a player can field a mighty Tiger tank if he wishes, but it costs a whopping 490 points!

I do have some criticisms of Flames of War. Air attacks are absolutely devastating yet don't pin the target down, which seems a bit strange to me - I'd prefer air attacks to be a little less destructive, but have the effect of forcing the enemy to take cover. Many low velocity howitzers seem to possess very high anti-tank factors (i.e. stubby 75mm guns have the same anti-tank factor and range as a Pak38 long barreled anti-tank gun). British players will wonder what they did to annoy the rules designers - the proud regiments of Yeomanry and gallant Hussars are rated as reluctant trained (oh the shame - even Italian tanks are better!). The legendary 25-pounder (regarded as one of the finest field artillery pieces ever made) is the worst field gun/howitzer in the game (bizarre but true - the pride of the British army is the worst field gun in service in Flames of War! I can hear the screams of rage from Steve Castle already!). Light AA guns (such as Bofors guns) are versatile, hard hitting, a good range and with a high rate-of-fire - especially for their points cost. Watch for British armies with lots of Bofors guns and no 25-pounders.

But I'm being captious - these rules as a whole are very good. The overwhelming feeling I get from Flames of War is that this is a fun, exciting game. A sense of enthusiasm and enjoyment with the hobby permeates every page of this book. I was pretty sceptical about Flames of War, but I've really enjoyed the games I've played, and now with these very cool rules, I have to admit I'm a convert.

Command and Colors Ancients is Excellent

By Mark McLaughlin

Command and Colors is a new game by Richard Borg from GMTGAMES
Rather than put stickers on back and front of 345 blocs, however, we used my 15mm painted lead, and for that we needed a slightly larger board -- the hexes in the memoir 44 hard mounted board are a little bigger.

Ed came down yesterday. we used the big desert board from memoir 44 expansion and my 15mm ancients (the javelin and auxillias I needed that chris sent on loan arrived an hour before Ed.)

We played six games (3 scenarios, twice, each taking the romans in one round and the carthaginians in the other.)

Did the trebbia twice -- carthage won both did the gracchi slave army battle twice -- romans won both.

Did the ambush of scipio twice -- each side won once.

The rules play out very nicely --- very ancients feel to it.

There are a lot of different troops types (slingers, javelins, archers, auxillia, medium, heavy and warband infantry, plus light, medium and heavy cavalry, elephants, chariots, ballistae and generals.)

Very nice rules for light and horse evading, elephents going bezerk, warbands being more fragile than regulars, presence of generals both in battle and for command and control (there are cards that let you move a general and X number of units in hexes that are linked to him by a physical chain of units.)

Ed went on line last night to order the expanison pack which, a few weeks after the game's release, is already in the mid 300s....

Ed -- who has 10,000 miniatures -- is planing to buy a huge host of painted 15mms in the flea market at cold wars this weekend....And will pick up a few odd bits that i need (mostly light cavalry.)

Good game...maybe the best of the lot, rulewise....A little more complex than the others, of course, because of so many different troop types, but you catch on real fast.

I mean, we set up and played six games is five hours....

Command and Colors
Comprehensive Review

By Tom Vassel

There are many games that I have seen people talking about long before they are released, but none so much as Commands and Colors: Ancients (GMT Games, 2006 - Richard Borg). Richard Borg's light wargaming system that he introduced in BattleCry and then advanced in Memoir '44 was finally being produced by a war game company. This caused a level of excitement, as people were wondering if Mr. Borg would add a bit of complexity to the system to satisfy those who thought Memoir was too "light". For me personally, I loved Memoir - it being in my top ten games - and was certainly eager to play another game using the same system. Then, over a year ago, I heard that GMT was going to be using cardboard standups in the game, and that simply doused my interest in the game, as I really liked the high production values of Days of Wonder (producers of Memoir '44.).....for the complete article go to http://www.thedicetower.com/reviews/candcancients.htm

Ticket to Ride -Europe

By Brandon Musler

Alan R. Moon's original Ticket to Ride game won the prestigious 2004 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year,) award and was an instant sales success for its publisher, Days of Wonder as well. The first Ticket to Ride is a railway route building game set in North America. Players race to connect destinations before they are blocked. Longer routes score more points. Color coded cards drive the action. You get the pictureand if you don't, your eight year old can explain it to you after playing once. My kind of game.

Given the success of the original Ticket to Ride, I figured its successor Ticket to Ride Europe would be more of the same, with the exception of the town names. After all, if your sales locomotive ain&t derailed, why reroute it? But Days of Wonder, to their credit, did dare to improve the original recipe while sacrificing none of its fundamental appeal.

Ticket to Ride Europe is still aimed at amusing 2-5 players aged 8-80 for an hour or so. It still has oodles of colorfully rendered train car cards and plastic toys. The subtle period art work is still stuck in the nooks and crannies surrounding the satisfyingly thick, heavy, folding play map. If anything, the graphic treatment is even more appealing than its processor. But there are more substantive improvements to the rules as well.

One difference the experienced player will quickly notice is a new type of Destination Card. Besides the basic Destination Cards, every player is now dealtand must keepone of six blue colored Long destination cards. These specify 20 plus point cross continent connections that force lines to intersect, thereby increasing player interaction. The more players in the game, the greater the impact these mandatory routes will have on game play.

Two other enhancements are the addition of ferries and tunnels. Claiming a ferry requires players to expend one or more of the Special (rainbow colored) cards. Coming up with them adds a bit of spice at game end as players scramble to cross water obstacles (such as the English Channel) to reach the corners of Europe (like say, London.)

Tunnels are a clever way of depicting the difficulty in traveling seemingly short distances on a continent burdened with multiple mountain ranges, and their effect on play is significant. Tunnel routes are outlined in heavy black for good reasonthey can be your undoing. The mechanic is devilishly simple. Any time a player attempts to claim a tunnel route of any length, three cards are flipped over from the card deck. For each of the three flips that are either Specials or match the color of the card set being played, the players must expend an additional matching card. If they don&t hold enough in reserve, they lose their turn. Thus a simple three card jaunt can suddenly cost as many as six cards of the same color.
While occasionally very frustrating, tunnels enhance the game in two ways. First, they introduce the element of chance into the game, increasing its replay value. Second, when players have the bad luck (or planning) to fail to build a tunnel, they tip their hand, thus giving opponents an opportunity to block the route. Vulnerability creates conflict and because turnabout is fair play, rivalries arise.

Tempering this new element of competition are train stations. A train station (which has its own plastic toy) allows its owner to piggy back on one of the competition&s routes to connect citiesbut at a steep cost. There are only three available per player. Building them takes a turn, plus one or more cards, and players must also forfeit four points per train station in play at the end of the game. So they should generally be employed only as a last resort.

Ticket to Ride Europe is a worthy successor to the North American version. At the price of a slight increase in rules complexity it delivers more decisions and interaction between players, plus better replay value. This tradeoff is not only logical for a sequel but well justified in terms of adding fun. Designer Alan Moon and Days of Wonder should be rewarded with a golden spike.

Borodino 2002: Of March Routs and the Great Redoubt

Submitted by Brandon Musler, CGC Member (bmusler@att.net)

For the complete story and after action report, go to the Musler Archives

Check out the Carnage and Glory newsgroup carnageandglory2@yahoogroups.com

The 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Borodino was commemorated in early September with an enormous historical miniatures (25mm) recreation at JodieCon: Borodino 2002. Over 100 miniatures enthusiasts gathered at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia to stage the epic battle of 1812 as the Russian Army tried again to defend Moscow from the tender mercies of Napoleon and his Grande Armee....

...There is no doubt that the overall JodieCon convention was a triumph due to the considerable logistical planning, expertise and hard work of Pete and Jodie Panzeri as well as the volunteerism of the HMGS faithful. But Borodino 2002, the wargame, played fast and true primarily due to the Carnage & Glory II moderated system.

Carnage and Glory II brings three distinctive innovations to Napoleonic miniatures, all of which improve play dynamics by helping gamers appreciate friction and fog-of-war. CG2's chief innovation is its built-in assumption that army morale and fatigue are the key determinants of battlefield performance. Far from a "bolt-on" afterthought, successful leadership is primarily a function of how efficiently these factors are managed. Low-key computer moderation, the second innovation, makes it possible to keep track of the myriad variables impacting morale. Not removing figures when casualties are incurred is the 3rd innovation. The interaction of these ideas improved historicity and streamlined the gaming during Borodino 2002.

Carnage and Glory II is, at heart, a morale management system. Its primary unit of measure is the human heart. Muscle endurance (human and equine) is a related consideration. Mammals are not machines. As they grow tired, their capacities diminish and determination wavers. Napoleon tacitly recognized this with his comment that 'morale is to material as 3 is to 1'. Gamers accustomed to commanding mechanized armies often learn it the hard way -- after pushing their men and horses too far, too often. Carnage and Glory II models and measures the limits of leadership by punishing those who fail to husband available muscle energy and morale.

Computer moderation, especially a "black box" approach, offers many benefits. Foremost is the offloading of calculation and endless recalling of minutia. The system prompts players to consider modifiers and remembers past events accurately. This not only enables a genuinely morale-based system, but it's invaluable when gamer fatigue sets in after about four hours of real-world playing time. By doing the math, it drastically reduces friction between opposing camps over whether a modifier was factored correctly. Moreover, it abstracts the role of Game Master (GM) away from each individual player and makes them think in terms of general tactics. This dynamic manifested itself at Borodino 2002 where most arguments were about appropriate tactics (amongst allied players), instead of across the table, between opponents.

The practice of not removing casualties (lead stands), combined with computer moderation, creates an element of uncertainly from which miniatures gaming benefits. Historically, when men in the front ranks fell, their place was quickly back filled, continually presenting a full line to the enemy. With black powder smoke and dust covering the battlefield, even a general situated on a hill would have a hard time discerning unit casualties precisely, never mind communicating them to subordinate commanders below. So, it is important to offset the computer's 'perfect' memory with players' fallible (and often convenient) recollections. The fog-of-war aspect incites the hyper-aggressive to ask too much, and the timid too little, from their troops. Best of all, when you beat somebody, they can't blame it on bad dice because they never threw any. If they beat you, on the other hand

Other Observations

CGC members Tom Cusa and Frank Lubarti served alongside Nigel Marsh and Dave Bonk as able GMs these guys were integral to the success of Borodino 2000. They worked every minute of the battle and attended pre- and post-session meetings besides. At Borodino 2000 the GMs provided an absolute minimum of granular data. This was disconcerting to those accustomed to seeing every modifier, and result, spelled out -- as in other Napoleonic rule sets. Some diecast grognards found it difficult to accept the uncertainty inspired by CG2, at first. This is because the role of the GM in CG2 is more akin to a soccer referee than an American football official. Bear with me here.

Americans expect referees to be intrusive -- stopping games frequently and not restarting play until the infraction and violator are identified, remedies discussed, and an accounting of the incident delivered up to all players. Indeed, in many games far more time is devoted to dealing with technical distractions than actually playing. The GM mechanics of Carnage and Glory II produce a very different experience in spirit and practice.

Carnage and Glory II is designed as a fast-paced game with few interruptions. Players request a GM service (change formations, fire unit), rather than the GM overseeing their activities, per se. Because Carnage and Glory II does the bookkeeping, GMs are free to apply their understanding of history and precedent rather than apply modifiers by rote. Minor miscues can be overlooked if the GM considers them to have marginal impact. The GM can also "play through" trivial transgressions, especially if doing so negates the opponent's advantage, like when a maneuver technically stretches the rules, but allowing it will exhaust the army that is artificially extending play boundaries. In other words, the GM can let you do dumb thingsif you insist.

It is especially easy to fall prey to obsessive rules lawyering and neglect surrounding context in a heated contest. Rather than argue, most players prefer to "get on with it" after they realize the extra turns afforded by smooth Carnage and Glory II game play influence final results far more than any one isolated situation or modifier. As a general rule, players focus on "the bigger picture" better. If not, a GM can render an argument moot by entering his decision into the computer and continuing, leaving bitter enders to debate in the wake of a progressing game. With 50 players per side facing off all weekend, this helped move things right along.

Of course, GMs like Bonk, Cusa, Luberti and Marsh strive for uniformity of interpretation as strenuously as us players strove for command excellence. Everybody did their best and the inevitable human variations were in keeping with the pre-industrial eccentricities of the Napoleonic battlefield. Carnage and Glory II enabled an exploration of line tactics on a gaming scale never before possible. It was a glorious experience!

For further convention information visit www.jodiecon.org and for a more detailed accounting of Borodino 2002 game events check out The Great Redoubt Newsletter available there. A complete description of Carnage and Glory II is available on http://home.att.net/~npmarsh/index.htm.

Wellington Lives!

By Mark McLaughlin
We made it. GMT put Wellington on the p500 list the other day. I want to thank all of you who playtested, commented or otherwise cheered for this next step in The Napoleonic Wars line. I could not have done it with out your help and support. All of you, and many others whose addresses i do not have, have made this long foray into the Napoleonic era a very enjoyable experience. I hope to see some of you at GMT east in April, Historicon in July and WBC in August...and, off course, a few of you in between at Connecticut game club and at my house.

Thanks again.

Sign up for your copy of Wellington on the Project 500 list of new games and save $$$. go to http://www.gmtgames.com

For four players in an evening or an

Game designer Mark McLaughin (Left) and developer Fred Schachter (right)
at a CGC playtest of Wellington, Brian Smalls (center) contemplates his turn.

GMT Press Release

In adapting his award-winning* The Napoleonic Wars system for the Peninsula War, designer Mark G. McLaughlin creates a furiously paced, card-driven and battle/siege-intensive strategic/operational game of Wellington's campaign to drive the French from Spain and invade France itself. With a maximum three turns in length, with sudden-death endings possible - and quite common when one side is "on the ropes" - at the end of the first or second turns, Wellington is a game easily played to conclusion by two, three or four players in an evening or an afternoon.

In adapting his award-winning* The Napoleonic Wars system for the Peninsula War, designer Mark G. McLaughlin creates a furiously paced, card-driven and battle/siege-intensive strategic/operational game of Wellington's campaign to drive the French from Spain and invade France itself. With a maximum three turns in length, with sudden-death endings possible - and quite common when one side is "on the ropes" - at the end of the first or second turns, Wellington is a game easily played to conclusion by two, three

Unlike The Napoleonic Wars, Wellington has simpler diplomacy rules and no naval units. Players can therefore focus their attentions in a traditional "blood guts" wargame environment having access to more cards in their hand than TNW and hence more game action. An alternate 1813-Start scenario provides for an even quicker and more intense "historic" game of the end of the French empire in Spain.

The full game begins in the spring of 1812, with the armies of Napoleonic France masters of continental Europe. Even as their emperor prepares for his epic invasion of Russia, Napoleon's marshals gather their forces for one final campaign to subdue the last pockets of resistance to imperial rule. One man stands between them and their conquest of the Spanish Peninsula, an English general named Sir Arthur Wellesley, better known to history as the Duke of Wellington.

The few but tough British troops led by their superior general begin the game concentrated outside the walls of the French-held fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, the gateway leading from Portugal into northern and central Spain, to the great prize that is Madrid. The large but poorly led Spanish armies are hanging on in their southern coastal fringes and Basque Country to the north, while guerrilla forces harry the French from enclaves throughout the Peninsula. Two grand French forces, the Army of the North and the Army of the South, are scattered across the country in numerous garrisons trying to hold on to the fiefdoms that Napoleon has promised his marshals, his viceroys and his brother, Joseph, to whom he has given the crown of Spain.

Two, three or four players representing the British, Spanish and the French armies of the North and South fight their foes and compete with each other to gain glory in the conquest, defense or liberation of Iberia. Each of the four Powers is very different from the other three in terms of leaders, national abilities, strategic position, goals and abilities per the cards in their possession. In addition to a large common deck that includes a broad mix of regular, battle, response, and both optional and "Must Play" event cards, each of the Powers has a mini-deck of Home Cards particular to their nationality. These may confer special tactics such as interceptions from two Duchies distant, weapons or abilities for that Power to allow it a better chance to win a battle or siege, raise or move forces, or affect the course of the broader world-wide war, with its consequent impact on the Spanish theater.

Just as Wellington and his contemporaries had no foreknowledge of the forthcoming disasters that would cripple the Napoleonic Empire, neither do the players know in advance what will happen outside of Spain. Will Napoleon invade Russia at all, and if so will he win a glorious, war-ending victory that will free up armies for the Spanish front? Or will he meet the disaster that actually befell him and then later in Germany, forcing the emperor to draw his best troops out of Spain for other theaters. Will British and Spanish colonies rebel, or the Americans enter the fray, or the British government falter, thus reducing forces available to Wellington and his allies in their epic struggle?

With so many variables, no game ever comes close to playing the same twice. With an extensive tutorial booklet to walk players through the game system, Wellington is a glorious, always entertaining, changing, unpredictable and highly enjoyable game of The Napoleonic Wars in Spain. It challenges players' wargaming skills. Its variables can be mastered, or at least successfully coped with, as greater experience with the game system is gained hence the challenge and the enjoyment of a well-crafted game.


One 22 x 34 map
Three countersheets
110 Strategy Cards
Four "Headquarters" setup and layout cards
One Player-aid card
One Rulebook
One Historical Commentary/Players Notes/Tutorial/Examples of Play booklet.

Designer: Mark McLaughlin
Developer: Fred Schachter

Special Note: If more than 900 pre-orders are received before we give this game the green light, the prices will automatically be modified to those listed below. You now have the ability to not only decide if we produce the game but at what price we sell it. Retail Price: $59
P500 Price: $40

* The Napoleonic Wars (published by GMT in 2002) received the Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Pre-World War II Boardgame. It also earned its designer the First Annual Alexander Award for Creativity in Boardgame Design.

Combat Mission II Barbarossa to Berlin Replay

By Brandon Musler

I&m writing this piece for all you Steel Panthers (SP) fans who have not yet tried out Battlefront&s Combat Mission (CM) series. This isn&t intended as a full blown comparison or review. It&s simply a taste of playing this superb computer game.

Combat Mission I Beyond Overlord was way ahead of its time. The CM environment took everything that was good about Steel Panthers World at War (except its excellent campaign system which provides a quasi-RPG faç) and added another dimension. The basic idea was to build a WW2 simulation using a 3D CAD/CAM engine. You get not just an overview, but 7 different (360 degree) viewing angles including nose in the mud, which is where your troops will spend lots of their time. It&s not that SP didn&t handle line of sight (LOS) adequately, but more that CM takes terrain out of the realm of abstraction and makes you feel it in your bones. Failing to do so, you will lose, big time. Maybe that&s why the developers call themselves Big Time Software.

Besides improved graphics and well over 100 Eastern Front scenarios (including mini-campaigns) Combat Mission II Barbarossa to Berlin fixes a few niggling problems with its predecessor, as well as upping the ante by adding capabilities and tactics specific to the Russians. The AI already equal to or better than SP also improved a great deal. As PC horsepower has increased this game has really come into its own. It&s all I have been playing on my computer lately, and if I don&t give 100% effort, I get my butt kicked black and blue, especially when playing as the Hungarians, Rumanians or Italians. BTW, a CM Mediterranean version including North Africa, Italy and Sicily is due out next. Here I played the Russians.

Replay of the Totenkopf Scenario

It&s August 1941 and an invading kampfgruppe from the Totenkopf regiment has advanced behind Russian lines in Estonia to cut the Narwa to Riga road. Elements of this SS formation set up a solid defensive position in the woods on the reverse slope of a hill where they could interdict a crucial Russian supply route. The Soviets sent in an attack with (3x) B10 armored cars, (2x) T-26s, (3x) BT-7s and lots of regular infantry to dislodge them. The dug-in defenders mostly recon elements are badly outnumbered but they do have support elements including (2x) PSW 222 armored cars and (3x) 37mm PaK 36 anti-tank guns. The Germans also had haphazard 81mm mortar support that fell like meteors all over the battlefield, but never supplied much focused firepower. More on why later.

Had it been visible to me, Totenkopf&s defensive perimeter would have perfectly illustrated the Wehrmacht&s defense doctrine in 1941. Given time, the Germans tend to set up like this: infantry elements dug in on the edge of the woods in two or three deep foxholes with MGs, anti-tank rifles and 50mm mortars in support. Nothing unusual here except maybe the forward placement of HQ elements. The key factor however is where they put the anti-tank guns, which are always on the extreme flanks, not in the middle of the line. If the Germans can site intersecting lines of fire, they occasionally place their antitank guns semi-forward, but if not, then recessed on the flanks. The latter was the case this time.

Out in front of the main forest on the German left flank there were some additional woods. They deployed infantry forward into this copse which they defended aggressively throughout the game...counterattacking any and all efforts to occupy it. Their heaviest deployment, however, was on their right flank where they had a sizable hill bordered by a swamp. These heights overlooked the big wheat field in the center of the battlefield. The Germans sited two out of three of their three antitank guns up there. Once the action commenced, taking out those hidden guns out was to be my primary focus.

I noticed the road embankment (which bisected the battlefield) gave good enough cover to act as a base from which to launch my assault. My troops reached it with minimal resistance. I placed most of my armor in a hull down position behind the embankment. After that was set up, I advanced the Russian infantry across the blacktop in bounds.

The SS responded violently to this first foray. As soon as the infantry spearheads crossed the road the German armored cars (ACs) came after them. Too aggressively. They were ambushed by my hull down armor. The German crews were nonetheless quicker on the draw. They managed to take out a BT-7 (which, upon later reflection may have been a concealed 37mm antitank gun because the ‘fog of war& option was on) and a T-26. Russian numbers eventually told. One PSW 222 burned in the wheat field and the other AC got its main 20mm gun blown off...so it retreated to the edge of the woods where
its crew bailed out.

I decided to cool my heals in front of the German left flank after taking heavy fire from the small woods there. I was content to return vast quantities of small arms fire in hopes of suppressing them, a decision that was to come back and haunt me later.

Now it was my turn to be aggressive and get ambushed. My main assault was on the German right. It faltered when, after discovering and suppressing a 37mm gun, I ventured out with my surviving T-26 and (3x) B10 ACs. The second expertly hidden 37mm gun knocked out a B10 outright and disabled another while still yet sending the last T-26 scurrying away with a shell through one turret (they have two turrets with a machine gun in each!). This setback showed me that my infantry had to advance and establish a base of fire at the center of the battlefield in the wheat field. I would surely lose if I attacked either flank again without first establishing a crossfire.

This I did mass allowing the Russians to keep advancing in the face of the German MGs but of course the leading motorized infantry units watered the motherland with their blood. Still, my main trouble was time. Half way through the game now, I was panicking (as is my custom) because I couldn&t see a way to crack the Nazi line. OTOH the German maneuver elements were burning, most of the perimeter had revealed itself, and their antitank guns had been spottedalbeit the hard way.

I had to bust a move. Some of my infantry spilled out of the center wheat field into a small adjoining woods on the left. From there they managed to move forward to a position where they could mortar and machine gun the antitank guns up the hill...enough to suppress them. The recon elements on the German left flank had a large killing ground in front of them and were fighting for every foot of it, but finally I identified a narrow avenue of approach that would shield the BT-7s from the 37mm on that flank. I threw caution to the wind and charged. BT-7s are fast which helps but the lead tank took repeated hits. Eventually I realized it wasn&t the 37mm gun but 7.92mm antitank rifle fire, which can pierce the turret, but can't destroy the tank. Even so my crews were panicking and so I had to stop and wait for the infantry to catch up and hunt the antitank rifles down. The winded Russian infantry made their way up eventually, worse for wear and very low on ammo.

As soon as the Russian infantry reached the advanced woods, the AI reacted decisively. Germans sallied forth from the foxholes on the main perimeter, time and again. They paid dearly though because the Russian infantry were up in the wheat now and also because although the disabled B10 had a single, narrow field of fireit was sited for opportunity fire on the field which the Germans had to cross in order to counterattack.

Some of the Germans made it forward. Now the infantry closed in on one another in the woods in front of the German left. Numbers were about equal. Some of the SS resisted from their original foxholes, but the Russians had the 45mm tank guns to dig them out. The Russian infantry, down to virtually no ammo assaulted with only grenades. At one point they bayoneted the German mortar spotter and used him as a sandbagbecause they had no better choice.

When the BT-7s came out from behind their nook behind the woods they would face the antitank guns...so I scattered them in three different directions. German gunners got one and another ended up in a hollow where it remained as a fire platform, but the third broke free like a fullback into the middle of the battlefield. In short order it took out the lynchpin of the German perimeter -- a tripod mounted MG34.

Meanwhile on the opposite flank, after an extensive small arms fight, the Russian infantry managed to wipe out one 37mm gun crew with mortar and machine gun fire. They took the other crew (who were subject to intense fire the entire battle, but still took only two casualties) prisoner. The way was finally clear for the last two AFVs a shot up T-26 and the last mobile B10 armored car to turn the German right and penetrate the foxhole line on the lip of the main woods.

The scanty German reserves had counterattacked on the far flank and their center was now dominated by a roving BT-7, not to mention the Russian infantry in the wheat field. The remaining maneuverable SS troops couldn't quickly reinforce. The game was about 3 turns past the minimum scenario turns (the number in a CM scenario is variable to prevent humans from gaming& the victory conditions) and thus I had (briefly) seized the center of the German woods. Alas, a final desperate German advance (really a crawl&) on the next and final turn (my troops had only hand grenades and pistol ammo to resist it, here again) managed to reestablish their presence in the center, leaving the day in doubt. It was a 50-50 draw...but a very satisfying one because I had all but given up half way through.

This was first and foremost a learning experience. From an operational perspective, I should have concentrated my forces on one flank to avoid confronting all of the German antitank guns. Tactically speaking, the BT-7&s speed, when used properly, makes it a useful if not imposing weapon much like the latter day American Sherman. In 1941, never despise 20mm guns or even antitank rifles. My B10 armored cars, despite being wheeled vehicles, were better armored and armed than the machine gun only& T-26 tanks...something I will remember when selecting targets for my 37mm guns next game.

In fact, I would love to play the scenario again from the German side. I wonder if I will be able to extract another draw. My advantages will be an understanding the terrain and knowing the enemy force mixso I don&t plan on losing those two PSW 222s as quickly. But I'm sure the Russian AI will attack more efficiently (it makes good use of terrain, even while attacking) because after a lifetime of reading about Ostfront, I'm still learning from this game. Even though a replay, it should be a challenge and a lot of fun to boot. This was early-WW2 action at its very best. Anybody who enjoys Steel Panthers should try it!

Alexander the Great, Overdone

By Mark McLauglin

I have been in an Alexander the Great tizzy. First, finished the Thrones and Patriots scenario (really liked it when in India my army deserted and just said it was going home, right in the middle of the battle..but i won anyway)

Second, have become an alpha tester for a wonderful turn-based alex the great computer game. It uses painted lead soldiers as the units. You use the mouse to point and clik to give orders, then the computer moves both sides simultaneously -- you see the stands of troops crossing the board (which is also made of real wargame terrain) as if being pushed. When they fight, a rotating sword marks the units engaged, then a hand of god comes down and removes dead figures.

So far they have Thebes, Granicus and Issus in the alpha version, and are making upgrades on the units, their look and the morale system, largely based on my input. It is a lot of fun. You do alex's battles in the historical order. You have to win to advance. Like Panzer General, tho, units promote, lost units can be rebuilt but at lower morale etc.

Here is the website:

--I have watched my "In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great" video (pbs, Michael Wood), read my Plutarch's
"Life of Alexander," purchased Arrian and Curtius' histories (both are romans, but they had access to original documents long since destroyed, like the memoirs of Ptolemy, etc)...and a couple of Alexander novels...plus gone thru my history/wargame texts.

Coming right after Troy and all those Troy tv specials, I'm in a hoplite kind of mind....

But, just to show you that I have other interests as well, I got the new Axis and Allies, the new Axis and Allies D-Day and the new Trilogy edition of Lord of the Rings Risk.

So, if anyone is up for a board game....

D-Day Axis and Allies

By Mark McLauglin

(New Axis and Allies adds in the units from Axis and Allies Europe and Pacific -- ie destroyers, artillery -- and some of those rules, plus has a new map -- with many areas you can't go, like the Himalyas, deep Sahara etc -- and a lot of the old optional rules (like kamikazes, russian winter etc)

The D-day one is Axis and Allies pieces and just the Normandy invasion...allies have 10 turns to take three big cities. Neat rules and cards, and it looks like it will play well (you have reinforcements that you roll for to arrive, instead of buying units)

Lord of the Rings Risk Trilogy

By Mark McLauglin

Lord of the Rings Risk adds the lower board and some more toys and cards to the earlier version. Unfortunately it does not have the real kicker bonus i saw in the UK...that expansion set came with a Battle of Gondor stand alone board game...sort of like the battle cry miniatures on a board game we all play.

Defender of the Crown is back.

By Mark McLaughlin

That old commodore 64 game i played to death in the early 80s, with the sword fights, jousts, archery and catapults and little strategic game thrown in is now on the pc.

On the plus side, the graphics are of course amazingly better. the game still has the great amusement of the old one...like being in robin hood and ivanhoe movies -- and with lots of nice little cut scenes and movies.

Cinemaware was the first computer game company to use lingerie in a wargame (the princesses you rescue will, ah, reward you -- quite pg of course, with curtains and silhouettes etc, more like men in tights than anything else robin hoodish). Maid marion in particular has blossomed. ahem.

Delightful game. a little frustrating at times, trying to sword fight just right, hit the damn wall with the catapults where and when you need to, and the archery is a little hard...but what the hell, it is fun and pretty and a nice little sorbet course between<BR>
real games.

Total War: Napoleonic Wars and Nemesis of Rome

By Mark McLaughlin

That Napoleonic Wars Total War is still got me hooked the mod you download for free ontop of the Medieval Total War viking expansion set we all bought).

Also got Nemesis of Rome...sequel to Celtic Kings. Not bad. A real time strategy game where you concentrate on the military, as you cannot build any new buildings and do not send peasants out scrounging for things (you can spend gold and food to get more peasants, assign them to strongholds, cities, towns and villages, where they make you more gold and food, the only resources). It has a nice role-playing feel to it too, as it is all about leaders (like warlords) and, well, its got romans.

Ya'll know what a sucker for romans I am. Not Rome Total War (due in October/December) but, heh, for now...

It's Good to be Roman

by Marcus Gregorious Maximus of the Famiglia McLaughliani,
beloved of the senate and people of Rome and dictator for life of the republic, circa 200 BC:

I am playing bar none the best computer game of Rome I have ever played.

The Civilization Call To Power 2 game, which came out two years ago, had, you may recall from an article I did, a great Alexander the Great scenario. It beat the pants off the regular civ game.

Well, the Rise of Rome scenario I downloaded off the net (took minutes) and unzipped and put in the Civ Call To Power 2 files (minutes) is even better than the Alexander scenario.

The game began with Rome and four latin cities. 140 turns
later, I have the whole boot up to the Alps and have taken six barbarian cities from the Germanic tribes of what would be Switzerland and Serbia. I sent three legions (i.e. armies -- you can put 12 units in an army) and was doing great -- until I met the
Marcomanni. Instead of just sitting in their town and waiting, they attacked. We fought three turns of swirling combats, Rome lost a full legion and then laid siege, bombarded and took their town -- but only after three turns of bombardment with catapults and two turns of multiple assaults (ringed it with three legions - as I brought up a reinforcing legion) and literally hit it one-two-three
from each direction twice (attack with one legion, retreat, then the second legion in the same turn hits and retreats then the third hits and runs). It took two turns to wear him down but finally got through the triple level walls and ballista towers to take the

Of course, there are more german cities....

While catching my breath in the Balkans, more barbarians came down from the north to raid northern Italia and my Balkan conquests. My northern Italian legion has been running back and forth to track them down before they burn too many farms (the barbarians
burn tile improvements -- they only attack armies and cities if they have more troops, and I keep cities well garrisoned).Then the balkan floodgates broke.

Turns out ANOTHER German tribe sent a large army south into the Balkans...I hit it and lost half a legion, and then found their big city. Unfortunately, Goths are now showing up -- with mounted armies that are faster, better armored and backed by better horse archers than anything I can field -- fortunately they
still come in threes and fours, but it takes a force almost as strong as a legion to beat them...I tried doing it with just the mounted elements of a legion and got my clock cleaned.

My typical legion has four heavy infantry units (legions, elite legions called strategos or elite hoplites) with two heavy cavalry -- this is the front line. The cavalry will attack from the wings if no one is in front. The second line (support fire) is archers, peltats, mtd archers, scutari and catapults. The mix depends on the job. A "siege" legion has six catapults and six heavy infantry. This is very powerful but moves slow and is of less use in a field battle. I try to mix one of those with two field legions to march side by side as an army.
With the balkan front in danger, I rushed units from the Italian cities to the Balkans -- first batch got ambushed by roving Germans. Second found the alpine pass into Yugoslavia blocked by a small barbarian army, fortified in its camp. My north Italian legion will be going there to clear the pass in the next two
turns, after having just defeated a raiding party of mounted Gauls.

Now just so you do not think I have forgotten your favorites, my biremes kept getting blasted by Cilician and Sardinian and Sicilian pirates. I won one fight in the Adriatic, but the remnants of that fleet are now blockaded in Ravenna ( Venice). my Sicilian fleet is blocking the straits of Messina, finally, and my
Tyrennian sea fleet is busy up and down the coast protecting ports and fisheries from the pirates (they hit, pillage, burn them and run).

To push them back I decided to invade Sardinia. It took a long time to get a fleet together (wanted to research triremes and build them before risking a sea move aboard merchantmen). Well, what a fight! Not only was Sardinia a fortified town, but the pirates
have fortified the beaches with small armies and put patrols around it at sea. When I finally fought my way ashore and cleared a path to the city, the damn Carthaginians showed up.

Seems the AI had the same idea! I took sardinia, but as soon as I did it was hit by Carthage (I think the AI had ordered an attack on the pirate town, but I pre-empted it by taking the city first).

Now I find Rome at war with Carthage.

Rather than wait, I landed two legions outside Carthage itself.
...and I thought the Macromanni were aggressive. I have been attacked so many times that I have my two legions fortified side by side literally on the beaches with their backs to the sea, while I sent the fleet back to Rome to pick up the legion I was building in central Italy. When that legion is delivered, the legion in
southern Italy, which has been throwing pirate land raiders back into the sea, will also go to Carthage.

So, my three legions in Germany are about to be joined by a fourth (clearing the alpine passes) that will take over security in the Balkans.

My two legions in africa are about to be joined by two more.

this will totally denude Italy, so I have to start raising at least two more legions (north and south) or else suffer barbarian ravages.

all the while of course tyring to build shrines, theaters, arenas and other city and tile improvements to keep my people fed and complacement (three cities have already gone into disorder, so had to make some workers into entertainers and station bigger

I am a "city state" govet -- a special step between barbarian confederation and monarchy (barb confed is one step above tyranY). At the moment I am researching elephants, as I think it will need them....

...See why I like it? Wonderful scenario. Best civ game I have ever played, best game of civ I have ever played...

Oh, and Philip of Macedon sent me an envoy and is demanding tribute...
and Ptolemaic Egypt is apparently in the game. Tho quiet for 150 turns, it now seems they have in the course of a few turn built two wonders and are on the way to a third ... and I don't have the tech to outpace them on those.

Still, I know have war elephants and advanced triremes, took the capital of Carthage in a fight where my three legions built camps to surround and bombard the city while they built camps to surround
and bombard my army. I finally took the city, landed a fourth legion and broke out. In the Alps I am fighting one space at a time up a narrow pass to reach a key barbarian city (the one spawning hordes of raiders). And I just met the Dacians...and promptly
convinced one of their cities to not only rebel but join me, thus earning the enmity of yet another foe.

Damn it is good to be Roman. Read other reviews and game updates at By Mark Mclaughlin www.wargamer.com

Review: European Strategic Command

By Mark Mclaughlin Read other reviews and game updates at www.wargamer.com

Last night I downloaded and played TWICE in 2 hours the demo for European Theater Strategic Command.

What a hoot! I can't wait to buy this one. The demo is May 1940 - May 1941 WW II Europe. It took me 7 minutes to download on my DSL line, self-extracting unzip to program files, then clicked on the rules folder to open and print out the 15pp of BIG type rules, then on to the .exe icon to run the game. Loading is seamless and fast

Imagine the ease of Axis and Allies Europe with some of the nuances of Third Reich. Units are infantry armies and corps, tank corps, air fleets (all are generic but you can build separate strategic bombers), and several varieties of naval squadrons (BB, CA-DD, CV, Sub) as well as HQ units.

Spend money on new units or research. Spend money to reinforce units that don't move (ships usually have to be in port to reinforce). Spend money to transport units from port (you don't build transports, you just pay to turn a ground unit into a transport, which disappears once you unload).

The map is a hex map but you can turn on or off the overlay. Turns last one or two weeks (depending on weather). You click on a unit and either attack an adjacent unit or move and then attack. (Units that attack without moving do better, but do not move after fighting). Air units can attack air, sea, land units or cities, but may face interception from enemy air
units. Air units next to each other provide escorts.

It's really simple. 15 pp BIG type rules you can read in a bathroom break

You can declare war on minors and some of the minors will join you depending on how well you are doing. (In the first game my nazis invaded Yugoslavia, at which point Hungary joined the axis. When I conquered it, Romania joined. When I attacked Greece, Bulgaria joined. When Russia attacked me, Finland joined in the second game. As the allies I held on in France through November 40...and if I had not tried a stupid invasion of Denmark would have held longer...at which point Yugoslavia had a pro-allied coup and joined me.

It is not a great game, but it was fun, easy, diverting and offers a lot of options at start as to setting political levels, inclusion of partisans etc...much like Axis and Allies.

The AI was pretty good. They defend well and attack better...which is usually the reverse in many games.

The demo is free and fun to play. It ends in May 1941, however,.if the nazis do not attack Russia before that, Russia will, in the demo at least, attack Germany in May 1941...In the real game that attack has more to do with how many German units are on the border etc, but for the demo the designers wanted to show at least one turn of the war on the eastern front.

It will be available online later this summer for $25 to download, but for now, what a free kick

I also ordered Legion and Napoleon's Invasion of Russia from Chips and Bits. www.Strategyfirst.com has the preview of legion. A turn-based strategic area movement game of the Roman empire, with fast tactical battles --- but the tactical battles are not click fests--you deploy troops, pick a tactic and start and that is about all you get to do. Some city building and sieges as well.

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia

By Mark McLaughlin
review is on www.wargamer.com

The campaign game is menu-driven: You get a situation and make a choice. That may or may not bring on a combat...the choices continue and will eventually result in some big battles, but your decisions set the stage for it...and losses carry forward.

Tactically it is the same guy (Hiller) who did the Napoleonic Battleground games, but apparently much refined. The strategic AI is supposed to be good on both sides, but the tactical AI supposedly is much stronger on defense than offense...Thus making the best games as the player invading Russia it also has lots of scenarios, historical and hypothetical, some do it your self stuff etc.

Go to www.wargamer.com for a review of Napoleon and other interesting games.

I have heard good things about the new Austerlitz game too, but it is just that one battle (same guys who did Gettysburg, Antietam and Waterloo on the computer, but only the first had the campaign...the rest were just battles and scenarios, which I liked but which lacked the drama of the campaign system in Gettysburg).

Read other reviews and game updates at By Mark Mclaughlin www.wargamer.com

Parting Shots Dept.,

"And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword,
ready to do what a hero can."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning