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In this series of Action Points we are taking a look inside The Age of Iron and Rust expansion for Time of Crisis from GMT Games. The game is a lite wargame focused on the Crisis of the Third Century AD in the Roman Empire and uses cards and deck-building to move the action along.

In Action Point 1, we examined the tactical advantage provided by the Military card Spiculum. In Action Point 2, we took a look at two cards, the Senate card Triumph and the Populace card Demagogue. In Action Point 3, we examined two Populace cards designed to get your Governors into seats of power, including Mobile Vulgus and Ambitus.

In this final Action Point, we won’t be looking at any new cards. The expansion provided 9 new cards but also gave players an AI Bot to be able to play multi-player games when 3 or 4 players can’t be gathered. So we will take a brief look at the system and show you a bit about how it works.

Non-Player Faction

The AI Bot is supposed to be used by players to create a full faction 4-player game when you are missing friends at game night. Why have they gone to this effort when the game is a very serviceable and well designed 2-player game? Well it’s because it was really intended as a 4-player game and the true genius comes out of the design at the full player count.

The game provides 3 different Non-Player Faction mats that are supposed to simulate the actions of a human player and the contents of their deck of cards without using the actual cards. I was surprised by this as the game is focused on cards but it actually works out very well.

When it is the Bot’s turn, they will have a certain amount of points to spend in two areas of influence. This simulates very well what a human player typically does as they will normally choose two different colors of cards in their hand of 5 in order to get the most utility out of actions. The type of influence they will use will be determined by the mode box along the left side of the the mat that is selected for the Bot. One of these areas of influence will be denoted as your primary focus, which simply means it will provide more points to spend, and the other area will be denoted as secondary, providing less points to spend.

The designers took great care to develop this system so that each of the three Bots provided will have a very different focus for their desired area of influence. This focus can readily be figured out by looking at the top influence area on the mat. The three AI Bots are characterized as Emperors from the Year of Six Emperors (238 AD) – Pupienus & Balbinus prefer Senate Influence, Gordian III prefers Populace Influence while Maximinus Thrax prefers Military Influence (with a name like that were you expecting anything else?). The Bots will generally increase their available power in their preferred area the fastest and will therefore have more to spend on actions of that type and will use a focused strategy.

Bots will always take their turns first followed by the human players. They will be subject to Events and must roll for a crisis check just like other players. Then the work starts for each of the Bots. I say work because it can be a bit overwhelming to have to play more than one AI. One was very simple but get two in the game and it starts to require some focus.

Determine Available Influence

First thing to do is to determine how much influence an AI Bit has to spend this turn by following the table found on the left side of the mat above the Mode section shown above. The Players will first place the AI Bot’s mode marker for the turn according to the following priorities:

Pretty simple as you can see. You just follow the table down until you find what is the current situation facing the AI and the Bot will then follow a set of guidelines to take certain actions to address that concern.

On the first turn, we follow the table down until we see that the Bot matches none of the stated situations and then places its marker in Mode 1. Why is it doing this? Well it is typically only the case at the start of the game as there typically is nothing vexing them right away and being in Mode 1 will cause them to begin building their preferred influence. Senate will be his Primary influence and Military will be his Secondary influence. In the case of Maximinus Thrax, a cylinder is placed in the top box below its Senate pawn, showing that it will have 3 Senate influence to spend this turn. A second cylinder is placed in the bottom box below its Military pawn, showing that it will also have 2 Military influence to spend this turn. If the boxes chosen included the small circles with numbers you would also play an event. The events are listed on the AI player aid.

You then simply move the cylinders over to the Influence Point Track located on the right side of the mat in the number that corresponds with the value they were placed on. In this case, the Populace cylinder (Blue) gets placed in the 3 IP spot while the Military cylinder (Red) gets placed in the 2 IP spot. This simply means the Bot can spend as if it had 3 Populace IP’s and 2 Military IP’s. On to their priority sheet.

Spend Available Influence

Next, the Bot will attempt to spend all of its available influence using the AI Action Priority List on the AI instruction sheet. You will start at the top and proceed down the list going action by action, performing each one in order if the Bot meets the criteria and has enough available influence points to afford it. Subtract the cost of any action performed from the bot’s available pool and continue until you spend all available IP’s or reach the end of the list.

In the example used, Maximinus Thrax will attempt to place its available Governor in a province determined using Senate Influence and then will spend Military IP’s building a new Legion.

The trick to following the list of priorities is simply taking your time to examine the board and understand what each step is asking. Sometimes we found it was a bit confusing but overall we were able to use the Bots to have a great time. The Bot can be very aggressive and will typically do whatever it can to become the Emperor so once you have ascended to the throne be prepared to be attacked with impunity.

AI Buy/Trash Cards Phase

If you have played Time of Crisis you know that the game centers around improving your deck to get better and better cards with more impactful events and with higher Influence Point values. Players accomplish this by literally buying cards and tracking weaker ones to get them out of their decks. But remember, the AI Bot doesn’t use the cards but their actions are meant to simulate their decks. Instead of actually determining specific cards for the AI bot to buy or trash, the improvement of the bot’s deck is represented by determining if it can increase the value of one or more of its influence areas by moving the black cylinder to the next higher level. To do this, players will do the following steps in order at the end of the AI Bot’s activation (taken from the rules with some minor additional clarifying language):

• Any influence points the AI may have remaining are lost (just as they are for human players). Move all cylinders on the Influence Point Track to the 0 box.

• If the AI mode marker is on its +2 side, return it to its portrait side.

• Count up the AI bot’s available political points by counting the number of provinces it controls.

• In the top or its preferred influence area on the AI Bot’s mat, move the pawn one circle to the right if it can spend political points equal to the value in that circle. Subtract the political points spent from the Bot’s total to be spent this turn.

• If any political points remain, repeat this check for the other (non-preferred) influence area that is least developed. Ties will be broken in favor of influence that is located higher on the mat.

• If any political points remain after that, repeat this check for the third influence area.

• If the AI bot did not have enough political points to advance any of its three pawns, flip its AI mode marker to its +2 side. This is a form of a catch up mechanic that will give the AI Bot +2 political points to spend next round.

For example, at the end of its activation the Maximinus Thrax Bot has a total of 4 political points to spend. You will simply look at the top most or preferred Influence and see if 4 political points can get you an increase. The cost is located in the bigger circle at the top of the columns and as you can see it can purchase one slot in the Military Influence by moving a it’s black pawn from 0 to 2 and spending 2 political points. This leaves it 2 political points remaining and you then simply move down the column in order and see that it can purchase a 2 Senate Influence space for its remaining 2 political points. This Action simulates the purchase of cards by human players and will provide the Bot with more points to take actions in the next round as if they had purchased better cards.

Overall, this explanation of the Non-Player AI Bots in the game was woefully inadequate but does at least expose you to how it works, or should in theory. We found the Bots to be fun and a bit unpredictable at times which actually added to the theme of the game and its chaos as the Roman Empire was collapsing in on itself as everyone wanted to be in control. Whilst the methodology of the bots might sometimes seem suspect the outcomes of the AI are fairly reasonable. So just play their turn through before saying “why did they do that?!”

The Age of Iron and Rust expansion for Time of Crisis is a must buy for anyone that likes the basic principles of the game and simply wants more good cards and some other new mechanics that we didn’t really cover in our Action Points such as the different type of Emperors. The Non-Player AI Bots are also very useful when you simply want to fill out a game with 4-players and need a few Bots to beat you up. And honestly, that should be their primary use.

We recently posted our video review of the expansion and you can check that out here. Thanks for following along and I hope you have as good a time as we did with this expansion.

-Grant

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Last year, we posted an interview with Matt White, who is a very talented graphic artist and budding game designer, that focused on his artistic talents and love of tanks. He has since designed several very interesting small scale wargamers, with his most recent design being a World War II tactical wargame series for 1-2 players pitting the British Airborne versus the German Wehrmacht called Until the Bitter End. He now is embarking on the next entry in this series called US Airborne and the Kickstarter campaign starts on July 18th. We reached out to Matt and he was more than willing to share about his new design.

Grant: What is this new project you are Kickstarting? Is it an expansion for your previous successful Until the Bitter End? Do we need to own Until the Bitter End to play this game? 

Matt: My new game is the second game in the series of Until the Bitter End simply titled US Airborne. It is an expansion of the first game but also standalone so you don’t have to own or have played the first game.

Grant: Why did you decide to focus on the US Airborne in this expansion?

Matt: In the first game I focused on the British Airborne, and then through stretch goals I did further expansions for British Infantry and Fallschirmjäger (German Paratroopers) so the next logical step was the inclusion of the US Airborne. Plus I really enjoy drawing their uniforms – they have a lot of character!

Grant: Why do you feel the Print ‘n Play model is best suited for your design?

Matt: One reason is to keep the cost down for players – you just need to print out a few sheets of paper for the counters and a few sheets for the maps, stick them to card and cut out the counters. The whole game including components and maps can be printed out in around 10 sheets of paper. Another is that as a small self publisher it means I can focus on the art and design unrestricted by printing/manufacturing constraints.

Grant: What is Until the Bitter End about? What led you to design this game?

Matt: The game focuses on a small squad of troops, with every counter representing one single soldier. Most games I play a counter represents a squad or even more soldiers and I really wanted to make (and play!) a game where the focus was on the soldier.

Grant: What other games did you draw inspiration from for the design?

Matt: I don’t think there are any specific games but I guess there’s a bit of all the games I’ve played and enjoyed – I can remember playing the original Squad Leader at school so that will always be a reference.

Grant: What does the US Airborne expansion add to the game?

Matt: So aside from new counters for the US Airborne and all new counters for the German infantry the biggest addition is in the form of new maps and scenarios. Rather than introduce new rules and game mechanics for the soldiers I wanted to focus on more content in the shape of the maps and scenarios. I also wanted to create more narrative led scenarios where there is a story within the mission. This is my main focus.

Grant: What type of different units will be included?

Matt: The game includes 10 soldier counters for both the German Infantry and US Airborne. In the game the player randomly creates a skill for each soldier and that will help the player determine what that soldier is most proficient at.

Grant: As you mentioned, each individual unit has skills randomly assigned. How many different skills are there and what benefits do they offer?

Matt: There are 10 special skills in the game ranging from being a better shot, through to having improved medical knowledge. Each skill has a distinct advantage in the game.

Grant: How are the skills tracked across the various units? Is there a bookkeeping element to the game?

Matt: At the beginning of the game the player’s create their squad for the mission and jot down their roster. This would including naming their squad members and giving each one a special skill. The US Airborne already have a special skill and so get an extra skill! Bookkeeping is not required as it is really pretty straight forward.

Grant: Please give us a few examples of your great art. What is your inspiration for your unique art style?

Matt: I draw a lot of inspiration from a huge amount of areas, but mostly just observing light – I’m always drawn to super contrast and using colours for light.

Click to view slideshow.

Grant: How do you create your art? What is the process and what graphics tools do you use?

Matt: Because I have young children I cant really leave canvas and oils around so I create all my artwork digitally – I have a small mac laptop, which I can just close the lid when I am finished! I use a very inexpensive Wacom tablet and use Sketchbook which is a very, very simple drawing software. Working digitally means I can just save my work and pick up my laptop on an evening or Saturday morning and carry on where I left off. Also oils and canvas is very expensive!

Grant: How do players activate their individual units? Will each unit be activated each round or are the activations limited?

Matt: The game uses a chit pull system. For every infantry counter you place a chit for that side into a cup. For example if you are playing a game between four US Airborne Infantry counters and six German Infantry counters you place four Allied Chit Counters and six German Chit Counters into a cup. A player then blindly pulls a chit from the cup and that will tell you which side can activate an Infantry Counter. Once all Infantry Counters have been activated and given an action, which they have fulfilled then the turn is over.

Grant: What type of strategy does the chit-pull system offer for a tactical game? Why was it the best choice for your design vision?

Matt: I like chit-pull systems as I feel it helps recreate the confusion and unpredictable nature of combat plus I like the uncertainty in the gameplay. A best laid plan might not work due to this mechanic so you have to think more on your feet and as a gamer and designer I like that.

Grant: What are the basic actions each unit can take once activated?

Matt: An infantry counter can Run, Fire, Advance (which is a move and fire from the hip though less effectively), Charge (to get into Close Combat), Snap Fire (which enables the infantry counter to fire on a moving enemy infantry counter later in the game), Heads Down (diving for cover!), Clear Jam (which sometimes can be a result of combat) and Medical Aid (to help heal a Wounded counter).

Grant: How does the combat system work?

Matt: To carry out this Action follow these steps. First the player must declare their Infantry Counter that is firing and the enemy target. Next check the range and make sure the target is within range of the weapon being used. Then, if within range, check Line of Sight. Then determine any modifiers to the “To Hit” dice (these would include the target being in cover, etc. – normally if there are no modifiers the dice roll required is a 3). Then roll the dice determined by the firing weapon and check to see if the weapon jammed as a result. If a hit the next phase is to see if the enemy target is Wounded. Roll again with a six sided dice, normally requiring a 4. If the dice roll is achieved the enemy target is removed from play, if not it receives a Wounded counter which will effect it later in the game unless it can receive medical aid.

Grant: What are the various modifiers for fire attacks?

Matt: There are modifiers of a -1 to the firing dice such as the target being in cover, or having a Heads Down counter. Also there are potential penalties for the firing counter such as if it is Wounded, is Advancing and firing and if it is doing Snap Fire. So for example, if the target is in cover the firing Infantry Counter would require a 4 or more (normally needs a 3 to hit but with the minus 1 penalty the counter now needs a 3 to hit). In the game the penalties stack so if a target is in woods and the firing Infantry Counter has an Advance Counter then the penalty would be a -2 (-1 for the cover plus the -1 for the Advance Counter).

Grant: How do the Snap Shot and Heads Down Actions work?

Matt: Snap Fire allows any Infantry Counter to fire on any enemy Infantry Counter as it spends any Movement Points. This represents soldiers taking quick shots at fleeting movement of the enemy, though with a -1 penalty. Heads Down represents the soldier diving for cover and making the best they can in the natural cover they have giving them more cover.

Grant: How does the Bravery Point system work and why was this important to include?

Matt: Bravery Points are used by the player to force the opposing player to re-roll a dice against their activated Infantry Counter. This could be used against the opposing player if they have fired at your counter and hit, as using a Bravery Point will require them to re-roll that dice. If as a result of using the Bravery Point the re-roll is successful to the counter performing the Action then the Bravery Point is returned to the Bravery Point pool (and so therefore can be used again in subsequent Actions). If however the Bravery Point use was unsuccessful then the Bravery Point is lost for the remainder of the game. They add a really interesting dynamic to the two-player game making your opponent re-roll their dice!

Grant: As you mentioned, different types of weapons roll more than one die. Why is this the case and what does this represent?

Matt: For rifle weapons this is normally 1 dice, for submachine guns this is normally 2 and support weapons 3 or even more. This mechanic demonstrates the different fire rates and effectiveness at closer ranges.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? What different types of information are printed on them? Can you show a few closeup shots of the counters so we can see the amazing art?

Matt: I’ve deliberately kept the counters as simple as possible to have as little amount of stats and other information as possible.

Here is a look at the counter layout:

And here is a look at a full counter sheet:

Grant: How does the solitaire option work mechanically? How do players make the choices for the AI? Why does this work well?

Matt: For this game I designed it as a Solitaire game first and then adapted those rules for the two player game. So the two-player game shares some of the mechanics around shooting, combat, movement, etc. as the solitaire. Where the solitaire is very different is around the German AI. The AI system takes the player through a set of priorities of actions for the German side – so for example if there is a US Airborne Infantry Counter in the open that will take priority over those in cover when it comes to looking for a target. What makes this different is that the AI for the Germans is very aggressive – dont expect them to play a defensive AI – they will take the fight to the player.

Grant: How many maps come with the game? How many different scenarios are included?

Matt: Currently I have completed two maps – all hand drawn. There are different scenarios for the Solitaire and two-player game with an introduction scenario for each and then 5 additional scenarios for each game mode.

Grant: What is the price of the print and play? When does the Kickstarter campaign launch? 

Matt: The game is £5 and the campaign is looking to launch on 18th of July.

Grant: This is your 5th Kickstarter. What have you learned from your other three campaigns?

Matt: I’ve learnt a lot from each one! Biggest thing I have learned is that it takes longer to complete all the artwork than you think! Some pieces have taken weeks to do and in my games I try and include a lot of original artwork.

Grant: What are the stretch goals you plan to offer?

Matt: I want to focus on stretch goals that give new scenarios and maps, plus I have some ideas for some vehicles for the game – jeeps and halftracks and some scenarios that include those with some new rules.

Grant: When do you think it will be ready for fulfillment?

Matt: As you can see from the photos of the game the core game is done..

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Unboxing: Destroy All Monsters from CSL - The Players' Aid - YouTube

If you are interested in more information about the games in this series, or want to order one or all of the games, you can do so at the following link: https://www.consimsltd.com/shop/army-group-north

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In this series of Action Points we are taking a look inside The Age of Iron and Rust expansion for Time of Crisis from GMT Games. The game is a lite wargame focused on the Crisis of the Third Century AD in the Roman Empire and uses cards and deck-building to move the action along.

In Action Point 1, we examined the tactical advantage provided by the Military card Spiculum. In Action Point 2, we took a look at two cards, the Senate card Triumph and the Populace card Demagogue. In this Action Point, we will look at two Populace cards designed to get your Governors into seats of power, including Mobile Vulgus and Ambitus.

Mobile Vulgus

Mobile Vulgus is a Latin phrase that means “the fickle crowd”, referring to the changing nature, opinions and reactions of the general public or an audience, which is a derivation of the English word “mob”.  It literally denotes a movable public; or the unstable crowd and recognizes the inconstancy of popular taste and the ease with which clever politicians can influence the great mass of voters. In game terms, the support of the people can sometimes falter as easily as it can be encouraged.

As you know, Time of Crisis is a back and forth game that sees players pitted against each other for the control of provinces and ultimately a change in the player who wears the purple robes of Emperor and sits on the throne in Italia. This process is carried out as players play Populace cards to garner Influence points that are then used to Replace a sitting Governor. The problem with the process is the dice. Now, I know what you are saying. Typically, as long as you roll a 2+ on a d6 it is considered a success and garners you a vote but my luck dictates that I will roll multiple 1’s on a roll where you are looking for a number higher than 1. So, if you can somehow get the dice out of the equation, you are better off. Along comes the fantastically powerful card Mobile Vulgus.

Why exactly do I consider this card so good? Well, you don’t have to rely on rolling dice to get what you want…simple as that. The power is maybe not as efficient as I would like it to be, as you will have to take a Replace Governor Action later to seat your Governor, but it is guaranteed. First off, the card allows you to target a province in which you wish to Replace the current sitting Governor. You normally would play Populace cards to create a number of Influence Points that you would then use to roll 1d6 per point. With Mobile Vulgus you simply play a certain amount of Populace cards to create a total amount of Influence that allows you to overcome their current support level. In the picture above, you can see that the current support level for the Blue Governor in Gallia is at 2. You will also notice though that the Blue General is located in the Provincial Capital with a sizeable army. This army will add to the number of Influence points you will have to spend to reduce that support.

As we examine the Blue General’s stack of forces, we see that he has 3 units under his control, 2 full strength Legions (XIV Gemina and X Gemina) as well as a lone Militia. These 3 units will add to the amount of Populace Influence points that must be spent to effect the support level of the province. Because there are 3 units, we will add those 3 units to the current support level of 2 to bring our target to reduce to 5. In simpler terms 2 for the current support level + 3 for the units in the provincial capital. This then successfully reduces the support level to 1. Remember, that if using a normal Replace Governor action, you would have been rolling 5 dice (1d6 per Populace Influence point spent) and would have needed to roll 2+ and garner 7 votes (calculated by doubling the current support level and then adding in +1 vote needed for each unit in the capital). You couldn’t have possibly done that using only the two cards shown and would have had to play at least one more Populace card with at least 2 Influence points to get to roll 7 dice!

But you aren’t done yet. Mobile Vulgus states that you can target a province “any number of times during this turn”. We still have work to do and luckily still have cards in hand that will provide the necessary Populace Influence points. As shown in the picture above, the play of 5 more Populace Influence points (when you only needed 4) allows you to reduce the support level by 1 thereby leading to the Blue Governor being replaced with a Neutral Governor.

So goes public opinion which can change as quickly and as often as the waves of the sea. I really like that this card was added as it has provided additional options to players as they attempt to wrest away control of provinces from their opponents and increase their reach across the Empire as they attempt to ascend the throne to take their rightful place.

Ambitus

In Roman law, ambitus was a crime of political corruption where a candidate would attempt to influence an election through bribery. That theme is present in the game as players can attempt to buy additional votes when they are trying to get their Governors elected. I love the attention they gave to history and I also really like that the picture they used for the card shows a Roman coin with an image of a voter casting a ballot.

Ambitus is a very useful card when you just need that one or two additional votes to unseat a Governor. As I’ve stated earlier, you will need to gain enough votes to overcome double the current level of support plus 1 additional vote for each unit located in the capital aligned with the current Governor. In our example picture below, that means that 7 votes are needed; 4 once you double the current support level of 2 and then there are three units located in the Green General’s stack.

As you can see the dice have been determined, rolling 5d6 needing to tally 7 votes. The dice are rolled and show four successful votes (rolls of 2+) and you will also see that a 6 has been rolled which means you will get to roll 1 additional d6. We do so and roll a 4 for an additional vote but the player is still two votes shy of success with only 5.

As you can see from the 3 cards played that there are two Ambitus cards included. This is allowed as you can play 1 Ambitus and gain its benefit for each point of Influence you have spent. So with the two Ambitus cards the player will garner two more votes as the text of the card reads “Add one to the number of votes you gain from rolling the dice”. This will bring the total votes to 7 which is the amount needed to unseat the Governor and replace with one of yours from the Available Leaders Box.

I really have enjoyed exploring the different advantages offered by the new cards in The Age of Iron and Rust expansion. We have only covered 5 of the 9 new cards in this series and there are even more that offer new strategies and tactics, so I need to get this one back to the table soon.

In our final entry in the series in Action Point 4, we will take a look at the new solitaire non-player faction rules and how it plays.

If you are interested, you can read our written review posted in September 2017 for Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire, 235-284 AD and our designer interview with Wray Ferrell and Brad Johnson for The Age of Iron and Rust expansion.

-Grant

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We have done multiple interviews with John Poniske covering his great games over the past few years. Games including The Berlin Airlift from Legion Wargames, Plains Indian Wars from GMT Games, Blood on the Ohio: The Northwest Indian War, 1789-1794 from Compass Games, Revolution Road from Compass Games and The Devil Dogs of Belleau Wood from Worthington Games to name a few. He is a very thoughtful designer that isn’t afraid to tackle less gamed and somewhat controversial subjects and takes his time to do the research and get things right to carry the theme of the conflicts/situations he is portraying. When I saw that Decision Games was releasing one of his designs called Bleeding Kansas, I knew I had to reach out to him to get more information.

Grant: We haven’t really spoken to you since last July at WBC. I heard there have been some big developments. What is new in your life?

John: Two weeks ago I retired from teaching. I may return to it if a college position opens up, until then I will continue working on my designs, do a little fiction writing (Civil War themed) and tend to the odd job with Visiting Angels (a care organization that assists the elderly). Other than that, looking forward to a trip to China in October.

Grant: What have you been doing with your new found time? Designing more great games?

John: Top of the list is the lengthy Honey-do list that has grown over the past couple of years. Over the past two weeks I have undertaken the following: Heavy duty gardening, major bush trimming, tile work in the kitchen, game-room reorganization (ongoing), stripping and painting our spare bedroom, power-washing the house, deck & fence and coordinating contractor estimates for our church. Phew…I think that’s it, oh – besides design work on the side.

Grant: What is something you’ve always wanted to do that you’ll now get to do?

John: Two primary things. Increase my weekly workouts and write historical fiction – with a view to the Civil War.

Grant: What is the story on your new upcoming game from Decision Games called Bleeding Kansas?

John: I just received an advanced copy and am VERY happy with the production quality. The theme has niggled at me for a number of years, then a couple years back, it all came together in a single week. I worried over the controversial subject matter but was overjoyed when Doc from Decision Games gave me the thumbs up on it.

Grant: Where did the name for the game come from? What image does it convey from the historical happenings?

John: The name is a historic meme originated by the pre-Civil War media. It overstated the division and violence that existed in Kansas over the decision to let the state’s population decide its own rules on slavery. This in turn led to both slavers and abolitionists promoting migration to the region. This in turn led to intimidation and violence…but nowhere near the violence indicated by the name Bleeding Kansas.

“Bleeding Kansas” is a term coined by newspaper editor Horace Greeley to describe the bitter clash between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions. Both sides fought and spilled blood over Kansas joining the Union as a free or slave state.

Grant: What drew you to this topic to design a game?

John: I am fascinated by the American Civil War and this seminal conflict which fed the rising tensions in the U.S.. I also wanted to raise the consciousness of our gaming industry to the fact that the Civil War was more than organized units facing organized units. Sometimes the central issue was very disorganized

Grant: What challenges and opportunities did the subject present to you?

John: Oh my, that’s a can of worms. I’ll try to keep it short. 1) the very nature of the beast – someone has to play the pro-slavery side and I was not at all sure that was going to go over well. 2) What was the goal to be? Historically the goal was to have the territory’s population either approve of slavery or vote it down. I decided this was to be based on a series of elections which gave birth to an election track which came to double as an ancillary VP track. 3) Since fighting was only a small segment of the overall period I had to give the players a variety of things to do, a variety of choices. These choices include: Politicking, Skirmishing, Influencing, Movement, Cooperating, Destruction and Emigration. 4) But how do I tell the story? I decided to make this a CDG with each card giving a piece of the historic story and a limited number of the previously mentioned choices (Each also includes a contemporary drawing of the incident described). 5) Finally, there was the question of the emigrants that flooded into and through the territory. How to handle them? How to decide who stopped and who continued? How to decide whose faction they chose? I did this through the choices of Migration, Influence and Cooperation, and a static action that moves any uncommitted emigrant cubes West at the end of every turn until they leave the territory. Hmmm, that wasn’t too short was it?

Grant: What from history did you want to include and model in the game? How did you accomplish this?

John: First, I wanted to get across to players that it was less of a war game than a game of influence, a game of intimidation. I also wanted to indicate what role the government played through the administrations of Pierce and Buchanan and how politicians like Lincoln, Douglas, Sumner and Atchison helped shape the conflict. Second I wanted to make it clear that the end result was long in doubt and that for some time there were actually competing territorial governments working against each other. And ultimately I wanted to show how savage and underhanded both sides were. This was, after all, where John Brown earned his brutal reputation.

Grant: Why did you feel the Card Driven game mechanic was best for the design?

John: As I said cards are a beautiful platform to tell the historic story and share bits about the history in flavor text.

Grant: Why do you feel no one has designed a game on this subject before? Why are you doing so now?

John: That’s easy, slavery is a touchy subject. Why me, why now? Any creator, be he or she, a writer, actor, photographer or designer, will tell you – when the muse won’t let you go, you do what the muse wants.

Grant: The game plays with cubes on the map. What factions do the various color of cubes represent? Is this an area control aspect?

John: The cubes are brown/slavers, blue/abolitionists, black/federal army and white/emigrants. Yes, this is an area control game. The areas are Kansan counties.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the cards? What are the different symbols and what do they allow the player to do?

John: Each card has 2-3 symbols, a contemporary drawing related to the event, a description of the event itself and an identifying card number. The symbols themselves are as follows:

Colored Star – Choice of any Action – playable by faction only

Politics – Place a factional Political token on the election track

Skirmish – engage in a county battle. Casualties are always low.

Influence – attempt to sway migrants to your faction

Movement – Move any/all of your cubes from county to county

Destruction – Burn a town by placing a damage marker

Migration – Move all emigrants and add new emigrants

Cooperation – Choice of three different select actions:

1) Move the Troops cube to a county of your choosing; 2) Remove a damage marker from a burned town; or 3) Force an opponent’s cube out of a county.

Grant: How did you decide on the deck size of 53 cards? What is the Joker used for?

John: There is a single deck and its size has a boring origin story. I wanted to keep it to a standard deck size to reduce production costs. The deck is both symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical in that both factions have an equal number of colored stars affording each side an equal number of additional action choices. Also, each of the different actions occurs an equal number of times in the deck. It is asymmetrical in that each card gives players one or more choices. The Joker in the game is like the colored stars except that it affords both players a choice of any action – but only one action.

Grant: Why did you settle on having each card contain two symbols? Why not 3? Or 4?

John: Simply to avoid player angst and to speed the game along. Although an equal number of cards have colored stars as well – allowing players a third option.

Grant: Can you provide us a few examples of cards and help us understand how they are used?

John: How ‘bout the card example given in the rulebook? The Abolitionist player or Anti-Slavery (A.S.) player plays the John Brown card. He uses the Skirmish symbol (crossed weapons) to engage two brown Pro-Slavery (P.S.) cubes in Shawnee County where three blue A.S. cubes reside and where the Anti-slavery faction has two integral influence because of its capital. Both sides roll 1D6. The A.S. roll is a 5. The P.S. roll is a 4. The A.S. player adds 3 for his cubes, 2 for his capital and 5 for his die roll giving him a total of 10. The P.S. player adds 2 for his cubes to his die roll of 4 for a total of 6. The difference is 4 so the P.S. player must lose one of his cubes because the difference is greater than 3. The victor then moves the remaining P.S. cube North into Jackson county where the P.S. player has no other cubes. Finally, he places a Violence counter on the Election Track. For his second action, the A.S. decides to use Destruction (The Flames) to burn LeCompton and places a Destruction counter on the town. This removes one P.S. influence in the county. For this, he also places another violence counter on the Election Track. Thirdly, the A. S. Player uses his blue star to choose a Political Action and places a political marker on the Election Track. The A.S. player has placed three blue counters on the Election Track bringing the upcoming election ever closer and the A.S. player is three influence points nearer to winning the election and the two Victory Points that go with it.

Grant: What is the election track and how does it affect game play?

John: As you just experienced, politics and violence give the two factions influence in upcoming elections. The player who amasses the most colored counters during an election period wins two victory points. If the score is tied, both sides earn one victory point. If a player is able to play two political markers in the same turn he can remove all opposing political markers in that electoral period.

Grant: How do the elections occur in the game and what is the outcome? Why is this important?

John: Kansan territorial elections amounted to control. Elections were neither fair nor representative but elections were followed closely by the rest of the nation. They were in effect the national thermometer gauging slavery fever. Victory is based on county control augmented by election influence.

Grant: How did you incorporate the fraudulent election of 1855 into the design? Why was this important?

John: The election of 1855 was possibly the most crooked electoral process the nation has ever experienced. In this, the first Kansan territorial election, 5,000 “Border Ruffians” poured into the territory from western Missouri forcing the election of a pro-slavery legislature. The number of votes cast, exceeded the number of eligible voters in the territory. Still, Governor Andrew Reeder approved the election to end the violence and intimidation. This led directly to the establishment of an opposing abolitionist government in Kansas. How did I incorporate it – by allowing violence counters equal standing to political counters on the Election Track.

Grant: What is the Coordination Bonus and why is it important? What does this represent from history?

John: Any time you can prove your hand of three cards show six of the seven card symbols: Skirmish, Destruction, Politics, Migration, Movement, Cooperation and Influence, you can discard your entire hand to automatically receive one Victory Point. Note – The faction star is not one of the seven symbols. This represents the rising power of militia groups, both Pro and Anti-Slavery groups.

Grant: What was the Politital track originally a pyramid? What does this represent?

John: As a side note, the reason I originally configured the Political track as a pyramid was a nod to our only bachelor president, James Buchanan. He is the only U.S. President buried beneath a pyramid (of native Pennsylvania stone). I’ve visited the spot in Franklin County where I live – it’s…bizarre! I argued to have the track remain as I originally created it but the developers had other ideas.

The first point pyramid, later changed to a track, reflected the violent political furor over the race question in Bleeding Kansas. Each time a player uses one or more Skirmish, Destruction or Political card symbols, the same number of corresponding Political and/or Violence markers is/are placed on the current election track. A Political marker is placed for each Political symbol played. A Violence marker is placed for each Skirmish or Destruction symbol played. Players play their own faction markers and place them in the lowest numbered space in the current election track.

The Election track covers four elections – 1854, 1855, 1857, 1859. When a player’s marker is placed on an election space, an election is triggered.

  • The person with the most markers on the election track earns two bonus VPs, this is recorded on the VP track. If both players have an equal number of markers on the election track each player is awarded one VP.
  • Players then count the number of counties they control.
    • A Player who has a clear majority of force points controls the county.

Grant: The map covers both Kansas and Missouri but the game focuses on the state of Kansas. Why is this the case?

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Happy Independence Day to every one of our readers! You may not be an American, and you may call this Traitors Day, but you still have played a part in the great experiment as your ancestors fought, bled and died in some fashion to fight for freedom and liberty. I have always had a keen passion for the American Revolutionary War and have read dozens and dozens of boring historical biographies and takes on the reasons for the rebellion, the ways that the young Americans survived long enough to bring some strong allies in on our side and how we finalized the deal at a little place called Yorktown.

In this post, I wanted to share with you some of our gaming experience with wargames focused on the American Revolutionary War. We haven’t played all of the games on the subject, not even close, but we have played enough that we have a good cross section of the different takes on the situation and types of games to give you some insight into what we liked and didn’t like so much. I will be honest, I tend to gravitate more toward the Operational or Strategic level of games on this subject as they tend to deal with more of the issues central to the conflict such as support for the rebellion, supply, sea travel, courting allies, traitorous cabals (looking at you Thomas Conway), and wintering armies. Don’t get me wrong, you know that we love tactical games as well and I desperately want to get my hands on some of the Battles of the American Revolution Series games from GMT Games, but I just haven’t had a chance yet.

7. Saratoga 1777 AD from Turning Point Simulations

The game that brings up the rear in this ranking of Revolutionary War games we played doesn’t equate to the game not being interesting or a good representation of the American Revolutionary War period. The game deals well with the issues present during this era but is more of a tactical game than a game of the entire sweeping front of the struggle up and down the 13 Colonies. Saratoga 1777 AD is a medium weight wargame that is designed to play fairly quickly and provide some very interesting tactical choices. There were two parts of the game that I particularly liked, that felt really appropriate for a game covering the Revolutionary War revolving around Command and Control and Unit Morale.

First off, was the Command-Control aspect of the units. The first thing each player does at the beginning of their Command Phase is to check whether their Formation Commanders are in Command Span of their units. Most commanders have a Command Span of 2, which means that they can control units up to 2 hexes away from their location, not counting their own hex. This element is thematically spot on as communication was limited. If units are caught Out-of-Command, they will have an Out-of-Command marker placed on them and will be unable to activate that turn. Due to problems with terrain, the noise and fury of battle and lack of any formal communications system such as radios, Command Radius is an aspect that must be represented in any pre-modern wargame and Saratoga does a bang up job of accomplishing this thematic element.

The Commander in Charge units also have an Activation Rating that shows the number of Formation Commanders that the C in C can activate. As an example, the main leader for the British General Burgoyne has a 3, which simply means he can activate 3 different Formation Commanders, who in turn have their own Command Span and can activate units that comprise their formation. This is a great part of the game as the C in C has to be positioned so as to maximize the number of units they can activate and move each round. This is very problematic for the attacking British as they only have 1 C in C unit who has to move from side to side of the board during combat in order to activate units so that they can move into position to attack the Patriots. This slow and plodding movement felt very appropriate, albeit frustrating, especially taking into consideration such aspects as terrain, small one lane country dirt roads, narrow bridges and dense and thick forests.

The 2nd element that I thought was very well done was the Morale Table. Anytime a unit is flipped or destroyed (due to the accumulation of 2 Step Loss markers), they must make a morale check by rolling 2d6 and then checking against their current morale on the Morale Table pictured below. If they roll over the morale, they fail and become a Broken formation and must immediately Retreat one space away from the enemy. This then provides the attacker a free attack on the retreating units with adjacent phasing units, which is devastating.

I really enjoyed the makeup of the Morale Table as it takes into account the quality of the troops making the check. For example, if you look at the above picture, you will notice the British side starts higher and reduces a little more slowly than the Patriot side. This is reflective of the fact that the British troops were seasoned, battle hardened veterans who were professional soldiers as opposed to the relatively poorly trained raw Patriot forces.

Overall, this one is a good tactical entry into your experience with the Revolutionary War. The game is fairly inexpensive, looks great on the table and plays fairly quickly. The game includes two scenarios; Freeman’s Farm (September 19, 1777) and the Battle of Bemis Heights (October 7, 1777) so you will get two different setups with two very different challenges for both sides.

We wrote a full and in depth review of this game as well as a few Action Points to describe the action (Action Point 1 & Action Point 2). Finally, we also scored an interview with the designer Robert Markham that gave some good insight into the game.

For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Turning Point Simulations website: https://www.turningpointsimulations.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=13&category=1

6. 1775: Rebellion from Academy Games

I have played all three of the Birth of America Series Games from Academy Games including 1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War, 1812: The Invasion of Canada and 1775: Rebellion and all use a similar system of card play to activate units and perform actions. The game is a dudes on a map deal where players are trying to control key areas and cities. I really like this series as you can play it perfectly well with 2 players but it also allows for up to 4 players which involves some table talk and strategizing, which I really enjoy. 1775 is a game that families can play together, school aged children can use as a colorful and fun way to get into the history of the American Revolution, and couples can enjoy as a light war game. But, with all that in mind, wargamers can also enjoy for a quick play.

Each of the factions has their own specific color coded dice and cards that have done a good job of representing their strengths and weakness (those Patriot Militia flee often but come right back during the reinforcement phase). I enjoy these asymmetrical player powers. Their abilities create great decision making opportunities during all rounds of play. Players will have to ask themselves questions like Who should I take out with a hit? The stronger British troop or the weaker Loyalist Militia; knowing that the British have no flee results on their dice so you’ll never have more than four new British during the Reinforcements phase. It is a simple way to show the historic aspects of the opposing sides and give each side their own flavor.

The card play is very well done and requires some planning. You wont be able to move all of the troops that you want to or might need in a certain battle so you have to be aware of what is in your hand prior to your turn. The really cool element to the management of your cards is that you will have the one Truce card for each of your factions, which must be used wisely, as it can lead to the end of the game when you don’t necessarily want it to end. You see, once an alliance has played all of their factions’ Truce cards, the game will end at the end of that turn. Remember, you may have to play a Truce card from your hand if it is the only Movement card that you drew so you must be careful.

Overall I have really enjoyed 1775: Rebellion, the game play is solid, the components are beautiful and really bring the game to life, and the game length seems just right. The downsides are that there is a certain amount of luck as the dice can be very fickle and bad card draws may keep the more strategy minded heavy wargamers away but even they can enjoy the blend of Euro and thematic game mechanics and enjoy the gaming experience.

For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Academy Games website: https://www.academygames.com/pages/1775

5. Revolution Road from Compass Games

Remember I said that I liked games on the subject that delve into all of the aspects of the campaign…well, this one doesn’t cover all of them but it definitely takes a look at some of the major issues. Revolution Road is actually two games in one including From Boston to Concord and Bunker Hill. I have not had a chance to play Bunker Hill yet but really enjoyed From Boston to Concord.

From Boston to Concord from Compass Games allows players to simulate the events of April 19, 1775 and the events leading up to the famous “shot heard round the world!”. The British player commanding the forces of Lt. Col. Smith are tasked with reaching Concord and finding illegal arms cache spread throughout the countryside while also seeking to capture the prominent rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

The Patriot player must simply hinder the British from reaching Concord and harass them along their trip by using ambush and sniping to take out their forces. The Patriots will also send out Nightriders to raise the alarm ahead of the advancing British calling to arms area minutemen and militia to form and impede the British in their goal.

The game is card assisted and is played as players draw one card to determine their number of activation points for each round and then go about spending those points to take various actions designed to help each side meet their victory conditions.

Revolution Road: From Boston to Concord is such a fascinating game and really depicts the two sides very well in this literal David versus Goliath clash. I love how each side is assymetric and can win in very different ways. I also really like how it focuses on various issues outside of combat such as recruiting, capture of key rebellion leaders, and the differences in both sides’ combat style.

I wrote a series of Action Points last year covering the various actions that each side can take to accomplish their goals. Action Point 1 takes a look at how the Rebels raise units and escape capture, Action Point 2 looks at the British actions Search and Hinder, Action Point 3 delves into the bushwhacking tactics of the Patriots in Ambush and Snipe and in Action Point 4 we looked at the mechanics of combat, including the Attack, Assault and the very powerful Charge action for the British.

We still haven’t played the Bunker Hill game but it is on our list as it simply looks fantastic. You can check out our unboxing video to get a look at the components and our video review for our overall thoughts. You can also read our designer interview with John Poniske and Bill Morgal to get better insight into the design.

For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Compass Games website: https://www.compassgames.com/revolution-road.html

4. War in the South Scenario for Liberty or Death: C3i Magazine #30 from RBM Studios

You will see my thoughts about Liberty or Death later, but I really like the COIN Series and really have enjoyed my numerous plays of LoD. In fact, it is the COIN Series game that I have played the most (nearly 20 times) with about 80% of those solo plays. Suffice it to say, I love it. So when a 2-player scenario was bandied about a few years ago focused on the southern colonies, I became immediately interested.

War in the South focuses on the war in the southern colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia with Florida in as well although it wasn’t a colony. The game uses the 2-player eligibility track created by Brian Train for his COIN Series game Colonial Twilight and it creates a very interesting and tense mechanic to the game.

The game adds in some new leaders who fought in the southern theater including Augustine Prevost..

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The design and development team for An Attrition of Souls (designed by Scott Leibbrandt with art by Bill Morgal), which is an upcoming game to be published by Compass Games, is looking for playtesters!

An Attrition of Souls is a 2-player entry level wargame meant to cover the First World War in a 30-90 minute play time. The game uses a unique tile-draw system to determine reinforcements and the entry of neutral powers into the conflict. AAOS also features a novel combat system wherein both sides use the same die rolls to determine losses, simulating the horrific attrition of The Great War.

Playtesters will determine if any of the optional rules included in the design have unbalanced the game. If you are familiar with Vassal and are willing to play both sides solo or have a friend to play with, please consider helping out the design team.

If you are interested, Bill Morgal will provide testers with rules and a Vassal module. Interested parties can contact Bill at GamingGrognard@gmail.com

We are working to figure out a good way to post these type of announcements on the front page of our blog so keep an eye out and check back often for updates and new opportunities.

-Grant

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In this series covering the inside details and mechanics of the introductory level wargame Brave Little Belgium from Hollandspiele, we will uncover some of the interesting elements that make this game about the German invasion of Belgium in 1914 unique. In Action Point 1, we took a look at the very well done Chit Pull System that is used to activate units. In Action Point 2, we examined a few different types of Combat, including Combat in City Boxes, Siege Combat and Combat in Forts. In this final Action Point, we will look at the enigmatic Garde Civique hidden units.

Garde Civique

The Garde Civique or “Civic Guard” was a Belgian paramilitary militia which existed between 1830 and 1920. Created in October 1830 shortly after the Belgian Revolution, the Guard amalgamated the various militia groups which had been created by the middle classes to protect property during times of political uncertainty. Its role was as a quasi-military “gendarmerie”, with the primary role of maintaining social order within Belgium. Increasingly anachronistic, it was demobilised in 1914 and officially disbanded in 1920, following a disappointing performance during the German invasion of Belgium in World War I.

“The Parade of the Vigilant Patrol in Ghent” by Jules de Bruycker.

The Garde Civique were mobilized following the German invasion of Belgium on 4 August 1914. Their intended functions were to secure lines of communication, guard bridges and other installations, escort prisoners and maintain order outside the actual areas of combat. The German military authorities however chose to regard members of the Garde as irregulars and, as such, not under the protection of international law if taken prisoner. Demands were made that they be disarmed and disbanded. In view of the German shooting of Belgian civilian hostages during the early stages of the invasion such threats were taken seriously and on 13 October 1914 King Albert I decreed the dissolution of the Garde. Most of its younger members transferred to the regular Belgian Army.

I love how the design team were true to the history of this brave but underpowered civilian force who were simply thrust into the role of defending their country against the oncoming tide of trained German troops. The aspect of atrocities was incorporated into the design, as discussed in Action Point 1, and the feel of the Group was also incorporated with the method of setup as it is random and there never is a guarantee that the unit stationed in a particular City Box will be there once the Germans show up (as represented by a blank Counter once revealed).

Setup

The Garde Civique are represented in Brave Little Belgium by 12 counters that have a question mark on their visible side with either a blank opposite side or one of several units with different combat strengths. As shown in the picture below, of the 12 counters 3 are blank once revealed, 3 counters each have a combat strength of 4, 5 and 6.

The setup process for the Garde Civique is pretty simple and is randomized, partly because this is very thematic of the fierce and their capabilities, but also because it makes each game play slightly different creating a different challenge for both the attacking German player and the defending Entente player.

You will randomize the twelve Garde Civique face-down (showing their “?” side). For each counter, roll two dice and check the Garde Civique Setup Chart pictured below. You will roll the first die which will determine the row and the second die will determine the column. Then simply place the counter with its “?” side up in the indicated Box (if the roll is a 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 or 6-6, or None, put that counter back in the game box as it will not be placed). No peeking though as you are not allowed to examine the counters. Their strength is a secret even to the Entente player which is pretty cool in my mind. Two Garde Civique counters may be placed in the same Box, but if the roll would place a third, you then re-roll.

There is a variant that allows the Entente player to choose how they wish to setup the Garde Civique counters. The counters are still randomized face-down and cannot be examined. They may only be placed in the boxes listed in the Garde Civique Set-Up Chart. When using this method, the Entente player cannot place more than one Garde Civique unit within a single box. This variant does favor the Entente player so keep that in mind.

The picture above is a fairly typical example of setup and shows the Garde Civique Units pretty evenly distributed around the board. The Garde Civique are static units and cannot move so their true roll is to act as detours or speed bumps to the German advance. Remember that Combat is only one round so it is possible that one or two Garde Civique Units can delay a German Army a turn or two by simply surviving. If they happen to be placed within one of the Fort Boxes (in Namur with a roll of 2-3 or Liege with a roll of 1-4) they can be the difference between taking 2 or 3 rounds for the Germans to destroy the Fort. Remember, it is not really likely that the Entente player will defeat the German player by force of arms. Time and delay is how they will win.

I hope that this series has given you a good feel for the mechanics of Brave Little Belgium. The game is an excellent introduction to wargaming, sets up quickly and plays within an hour. But the game also offers some great strategic dilemmas for both sides. The Germans have to destroy the Forts at Liege and Namur and must get an Infantry unit across the Victory line and occupy one City Box in one of Valenciennes, Ath, Ghent or Antwerp. This can be done by taking a southern route toward Valenciennes, central route toward Ath or a northern route toward Ghent or Antwerp. None of these routes are easy but the German player must make good progress over the first few turns toward destroying the Forts and then must make their sprint to the Victory line. The Entente player must be good at hitting key choke points and slowing down the advance moving key units, such as the French 4th and 5th Armies, to attack German Units as they siege Forts or to bolster those defenses drawing out the siege. Finally, the powerful BEF can be used to dislodge a German Army once they have entered one of their target cities across the Victory line. Overall, a well designed game with simple rules that allows for multiple plays. Enjoy!

We also recently were able to post our video review of the game so check that out.

-Grant

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Lots of activity this month for sure on the wargaming front. Things have heated up as summer has progressed, even though it is not hot outside. We are already working hard to put our schedule together for the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) in Pennsylvania at the end of the month. We have tentative meetings set with Tom Holliday and Joe Chacon to get a look at The Greatest Day: Utah Beach from MMP, Joe Chacon to discuss Front Toward Enemy from MMP and Ryan Heilman to look at White Eagle Defiant amongst others (we definitely want at least half a day with our friend Greg Smith to talk about what ever he is cooking up). We are excited about this year and look forward to all the new games we will get to highlight in future Wargame Watch posts.

That being said, I think this edition of the Wargame Watch was the easiest one I have written this year as it just seemed to come together on its own. Overall the list has 15 games, 5 games from GMT Games, including 3 new pre-orders and 2 new release titles, 4 Kickstarter campaigns, a very cool looking Peloponnesian War hex and counter hybrid as well as a tactical game of the Greco-Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, two new PTO WWII games and…a partridge in a pear tree! Well, not quite, but there is variety for sure.

If you missed last month’s Wargame Watch, here is a link: June Wargame Watch

Pre-Orders 1. Watch on the Rhine: The Siegfried Line Campaign, 1944-45 from Canvas Temple Publishing Coming to Kickstarter

We have interviewed designer Ty Bomba about a dozen times and he makes games at a very workmanlike clip. When I saw this game announced on Facebook a few months back, I was immediately interested and reached out to Ty for more information. Watch on the Rhine: The Siegfried Line Campaign, 1944-45 is a two-player (solitaire adaptable) historical simulation of the final operations of World War II in northwest Europe.

From the Canvas Temple Publishing Facebook page, I found the following:

Scale: Each hexagon on the map represents 10 miles (16.2 km) from side to opposite side. The units of maneuver are almost all divisions or brigades or their ad hoc equivalents. There are two corps-sized units representing the First Allied Airborne Army when it’s used in paradrop operations. Each full game turn represents 10 days to one month of ‘real time,’ depending on the time of year.

I also found info that stated that stretch goals for the campaign will include a Cobra expansion and others. Here is a quote from Facebook from Canvas Temple Publishing on the game:

This will be one of our super-size games, designed specifically with us older grognards in mind, with large pieces, large hexes and big print.

We also have some very interesting ideas to expand the game via stretch-goals. These include adding a third map that would attach to the northwest quadrant of the base game’s two maps, thereby extending  play over to the base of the Normandy peninsula and providing an earlier start date (Operation Cobra). This would also include another sheet of counters. Another stretch goal would add Bohemia and Moravia and their environs, along with another two sheets of counters. Used in conjunction with the two base game maps, it will allow for the play of a “1938 Sudetenland Crisis Scenario” in which the French attack into Germany on the two western maps while the Germans drive against the Czechs and Soviets in the east. We have several others in mind as well.

We recently published an interview with the designer that gives some good insight into the design and the history of the campaign as well.

If you are interested in Watch on the Rhine: The Siegfried Line Campaign, 1944-45, you can secure a copy on the Kickstarter page at the following link (not live yet though): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ctp/1603313244?ref=2unapq&token=92811463

2. Freezing Death: Finnish Winter War 1939-1940 from Linden Lake Games Coming to Kickstarter Soon

In early 2017, we played a prototype copy of a CDG from a new Finnish designer called 1918: Brother Against Brother and really enjoyed the system and the interesting historically focused cards. That same publisher has now created another CDG focused on the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939-1940 at the outset of World War II called Freezing Death: Finnish Winter War.

From the game page we read the following:

The game is a two player wargame of the Winter War fought between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-1940 as well as preparations that lead up to the conflict.

The map is abstracted and shows three fronts where the main battles took place and where the Soviet player tries to advance their troops along while the Finnish players’ units, underequipped but more accustomed to freezing conditions, try desperately to stop them. The game also uses an Intervention Track that gauges the Western Powers deliberated intervention, and is manipulated with Event cards and die rolls and can be the source of victory points and an automatic victory for the Fins.

The game has more than 50 action cards (each with a unique historical picture of the era and are color coded by year for ease of play) that are at the heart of the game. Cards can be used either as action points to build units, move units or increase their strength or events. Events include Russian troops encouraged by vodka-rations, diplomatic efforts of worlds first female diplomat Madame Kollontai as well as sympathy Finland has built in the US in pre-war years by being the only nation not to default on its debts. The game is fully bi-lingual (English and Finnish) including two different decks of action cards and rules.

I don’t have a link to the Kickstarter page yet as it hasn’t been published, but it won’t start till later in the month, so I will update this post once it’s available. Here is a link to the Linden Lake Games game page for a bit more information and a look at the map and other items: https://www.lindenlakegames.com/english/freezing-death

3. Old School Tactical Volume III – Pacific War 1942/45 from Flying Pig Games on Kickstarter Now

We love Old School Tactical and have played Volume I (East Front) and Volume II (West Front) and had a great time with both of them. Now comes the series take on the Pacific Theater and I’m so excited! Why you might ask? I have always been drawn to a good PTO game as there are always interesting mechanics, such as amphibious landings, star shells, caves and Banzai charges, and there is something that I have always found interesting about the terrain of the Pacific (kunai grass, jungle, caves, swamps, and beaches that make for some interesting tactical challenges and disadvantages.

From the Flying Pig Games website, we read the following:

Old School Tactical Vol III brings the popular OST system to the Pacific Theater of World War II. Fight in the jungles and on the beaches against both the Imperial Japanese Army and Naval (Marine) units. Unlike other OST soldiers, the fanatical Japanese have no Gut Check number, preferring death to dishonor. The Japanese also come with the new tank-killer units and, of course, rules for the famous Banzai attack. The Americans answer with canister rounds for their Stuart tank, the famed Marine firepower and discipline, and plenty of armor and artillery support.

The game will ship with 16 scenarios, that include Alligator Creek (Henderson Field), Edson’s Ridge (Guadalcanal), In the Coconut Grove (Bougainville), First Clash (Guadalcanal), and more. New units include Chi-Ha and Ha-Go tanks, Japanese Sappers, Type 99 LMG, Type 92 HMG, Type 89 Mortar, and more. On the American side there are LVTs, flamethrower tanks, Marine rifle units, Army rifle units, 37mm ATG, to name just a few.

I included this picture of the proposed expansion called “Hell Bent” (if you have backed any of the other previous OST Kickstarters, you know that they have done expansions such as Stalingrad and Airborne) but I unfortunately don’t have any further details at this point on what it includes except that the cover simply nails it.

If you are interested in Old School Tactical Volume III – Pacific War 1942/45, you can secure a copy on the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/markhwalker/old-school-tactical-vol-iii-the-pacific-theater?ref=project_build

As of this post, the campaign is fully funded raising $27,858 of their $18,000 goal with 341 backers. The campaign will conclude on July 27th.

4. Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945 from PHALANX

PHALANX has been killing it over the past two years or so as they have really branched out into the wargaming realm with games like Hannibal & Hamilcar (2018), UBOOT (2018) and Freedom! (2019 Kickstarter). Now, they are dipping their toe in the mighty Pacific Theater of World War II and remaking one of the definitive games on the subject.

From the pre-order page, we get the following summary of the game:

Fire in the Sky: The Great..

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In this video I unbox the Deluxe Version of The Dark Valley, and look like a massive pleb by not knowing about Barbarossa to Berlin.

Unboxing: The Dark Valley (Deluxe Edition) from GMT - The Players' Aid - YouTube

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