A Step to Victory: The Bougainville Campaign 1943-45. Publisher: War Drum Games. (English Translation and distribution: Quarterdeck International.) Designer: Yasushi Nakaguro. Price 11.00 Passed inspection: Colorful map is a clean, effective depiction of Bougainville. Counters are perfectly die-cut, colorful and easy to read. Rules are clear and to the point. A great game to introduce new players to hex and counter wargaming. Failed basic: Reinforcement rules are open to interpretation and could use clarification. Games covering the Pacific Theater tend to focus on either the naval battles or a handful of land battles like the Kokoda Trail, Guadalcanal or the Philippines campaigns. Glossed over in that perception are a number of ground battles and campaigns that were far less glamorous, but just as critical in prosecuting the war against the Japanese Empire. Yasushi Nakaguro has done a good job bringing one of these lesser known campaigns to the tabletop in the form of ‘A Step to Victory: The Bougainville Campaign’. The game was most recently re-published by War Drum...Read More
Jack Greene’s “Togo Dawn of the Dreadnought – Naval Battles of the Russo-Japanese War” Board Game Review. Publisher: Bonsai Games and Quarterdeck International Game Designer: Jack Greene Price $39 Passed Inspection – well organized, clearly written rules. An elegant system for ship to ship combat. Easy to learn. Excellent value for the price Failed Basic –gun combat results table needs an identifier for the columns and rows to help with identification, fleet sheets are slightly larger than 8.5 x 11 so can provide a challenge to photocopy for use “Certainly the Japanese navy had performed well, but its opponents had been weak, and it was not invincible … Tōgō’s victory [helped] set Japan on a path that would eventually lead her to the Second World War.” -Historian Geoffrey Regan “You are young, and it is you who will one day retrieve the honor and glory of the Russian Navy. The lives of the two thousand four hundred men in these ships are more important than mine.” -Russian Rear Admiral...Read More
Retro Review #2 Star Trek III. Publisher: West End Games. Designers: Greg Costikyan, John M. Ford, Doug Kaufman. Price: $16.95 (1985), $24.00 (current used) Passed inspection: Contains three distinct solitaire games. Captures the theme of classic Star Trek episodes. Gives you the opportunity to game out the Kobayashi Maru scenario from Wrath of Khan. Failed basic: The lack of thematic connection to the movie ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’ makes the game’s title feel a bit like a bait and switch effort. Some game play is weak with one of the games having little feel of specifically being set in the ‘Star Trek’ universe. Time travel is a common theme in Star Trek, so in today’s episode, we’re going to step back in time a few decades and revisit the crew of the starship Enterprise in the form of West End Games’ board game – Star Trek III. Back in the early 80’s, you couldn’t swing a Denebian Slime Devil in a game store without hitting a...Read More
Terminator Genisys: Rise of the Resistance Board Game Review. Publisher: River Horse Game Designer: Alessio Cavatore Price $84.99 Passed Inspection: Easy to learn, captures the frantic energy of the movies perfectly, beautiful components and minis Failed Basic: a few vague rules can lead to confusion I still remember with great fondness that day in 1984 when my good friend dropped by and asked me if I’d seen the new film called “The Terminator”. At that point I hadn’t as the film had only been out for one day and I was waiting for the weekend to see it. My friend, Anthony, said “good” and then set up a Car Wars role playing and car combat game for us to play which ran my character through the events of Terminator movie! Well my character and his tricked out Mad Max style combat car survived our encounter with futuristic cyborg and a few days later I saw the film, itself, and was completely blown away! When Terminator 2 rolled around in...Read More
Terror from the Skies: Bringing the War Home to the British. Compass Games’ Zeppelin Raider. Tabletop Game Review.
Zeppelin Raider. Publisher: Compass Games. Designers: Gregory M. Smith and Paul O’Grady. Price $79.00 ($59.00 sale price) Passed inspection: Captures the experience of taking a Zeppelin into action. Catalogs the risks and dangers faced by the commander and crew of the airships. Failed basic: Could have used a flow chart to walk through the mission steps. World War I is remembered for the innovation and industrialization that transformed war into the mechanized meat grinder it is today. Aerial warfare emerged as a new dimension by which one could project force while avoiding the traditional obstacles of land and water. While conventional airplanes lacked the range, reliability and payload to carry the fight deep into the enemy’s territory, Germany quickly recognized the military value of the rigid airship – and the role of the Zeppelin in military service took off. Which brings us to Compass Games’ new release – Zeppelin Raiders. Created by Paul O’Grady, Zeppelin Raider is a solitaire game that pus the player into command of a single...Read More
“I could never be so lucky again.” – Jimmy Doolittle ‘Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid’ Board Game Review
Enemy Coast Ahead – The Doolittle Raid Board Game Review. Publisher: GMT Games Game Designer: Jeremy White Price $60.00 by Rick Martin Passed Inspection – rich, dynamic game play, fully immersive, various levels of play, programmed rules, full campaign can be played in one day, great replayability, fantastic narrative, entire game (from planning to denouement) can be played in one day Failed Basic: needs an index, many chit draws makes one wish for a simple die roll table, mission security rules not as clear as I would have hoped “One of the pilots asked what Doolittle would do if his plane were hit. “Each pilot must decide for himself what he will do and what he’ll tell his crew to do if that happens,” he answered. “I know what I’m going to do.” A silence hung over the men before the pilot asked the logical follow-up. “I don’t intend to be taken prisoner,” Doolittle replied. “I’m 45 years old and have lived a full life. If my plane...Read More
“O God, Thy Sea Is So Great and My Boat Is So Small” ― John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage PT- 109” Board Game Review
Profile in Courage PT-109 Board Game Review. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games Game Designer: Rod Bauer Price $11.95 with unmounted counters or $17.95 with mounted counters Passed Inspection: Easy to learn, great fun to play, company is very responsive to questions, unique subject matter, nice graphics, good replayability, solo game Failed Basic: typos cause some confusion, the PT boat template isn’t used to its maximum effectiveness, needs a fuel tracking chart Profile in Courage: PT-109 is a terrific little solo game. It is a tactical look at the legendary operations of John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 during July and August of 1943 during the Japanese attempts to reinforce Munda in New Georgia. This boat, PT 109, became so associated with JFK that a swimming pool float toy of the 109 was produced in the 1960s (I know this because I still have my PT 109 swimming pool toy that I got when I was 4 or 5 years old!) American PT boat operations were predicated upon the relatively small...Read More
“1942” Publisher: Game Designers’ Workshop. Designer: Marc W. Miller. Price $17.00 – $75.00 Passed inspection: Fast-playing game, good introduction to hex and counter gaming while still offering challenging game play for veteran players. Good overview of the war in the Far East. Failed basic: Allied player is constrained into a passive defensive posture with limited decisions. “Retro Reviews” is a new feature here at Armchair General. Each Retro Review will look at a classic (or not so classic) game from yesteryear. So jump in your “way back machine” (or if you are like me, your Tardis) and check out 1978’s “1942”! Remember the movie “The Final Countdown”? You, know – the one where the USS Nimitz travels back in time forty years and (spoiler alert!) wrestles with whether or not they should change the course of World War Two in the Pacific? That movie was on my mind during my play through of GDW’s board game ‘1942’. Not only are the players also looking...Read More
“Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam…” Brett Myers’ “Dual Powers Revolution 1917” Board Game Review
Dual Powers Revolution 1917 Board Game Review. Publisher: Thunderworks Games Game Designer: Brett Myers, James Kyle and Keith Matejka Price $39.95 Passed Inspection: beautiful artwork and components, solo or two player, lots of historical information, easy to learn, player reference cards are provided, high replay value for a low price Failed Basic: some information on Petrograd and its suburbs would have been helpful as it forms the area of conflict on the map; rules are short but need an index “In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne of Russia. In his place, a conservative Provisional Government formed, representing the official authority of the state. Opposed to the newly formed government stood the Petrograd Soviet, an elected council of workers organized by socialist activists. Over the following months, an internal struggle for power and influence would dominate the country and spark a social revolution. In this state of dual power, or dvoevlastie, charismatic and powerful leaders would rise with the tide of public dissatisfaction...Read More
Westbound and Down: The Warsaw Pact drives into Southern Germany. High Flying Dice Games’ Land of Confusion 3: The Battle of Hof Gap. Board Game Review.
Land of Confusion 3: The Battle of Hof Gap. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games. Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh. Price $14.95-$19.95 Passed inspection: Fast-playing game, good introduction to hex and counter gaming while still offering challenging game play to the grognard. Failed basic: Colors on counters can be hard to read without direct light, needs examples of play If you look at war games, 1985 seems to be the year voted mostly likely to have started World War III. An increasing number of games set during this time frame are seeing print. Some are a nostalgic look back at vintage games of the war that never was. Almost all are variations of the same theme – the Soviets are westbound and down with the pedal to the metal. The goal – The Rhine river. Some games tackle the strategic level operation from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea. Other drill down to focus on the action across the regional battlefields across the Inter-German Border. Paul Rohrbaugh has taken...Read More
Fighting the Decisive Battle of Yesterday’s Future War. Gale Force Nine’s ‘Tanks: The Modern Age’, Tabletop Miniatures Game Review.
Tanks: Modern Age. Publisher: Gale Force Nine Games. Designers: Andrew Haught and Chris Townley. Price $24.99 Passed inspection: High quality model tanks. Well laid out rules. Accessible game for those new to table top gaming. Failed basic: The models are tied to the Team Yankee product line and as a result the game is currently missing some vehicles that are ubiquitous to the modern age such as the Bradley IFV or Apache attack helicopter. Some upgrade cards are only available by buying additional models. At the turn of the 20th Century, military power was measured in the size and number of cannon and cavalry that a nation could field. Times change and by the 1980’s artillery and horses had been displaced by the main battle tank (MBT). The armies of NATO and the Warsaw Pact faced off across the Inter-German Border, waiting for the other side to blink. Fortunately, while that war never happened, Gale Force Nine gives us a glimpse of what it might have looked like...Read More
“…we had no idea that France had tanks like that.” James Day’s “Panzer Expansion 4: France 1940” Board Game Review
Panzer Expansion 4: France 1940 Board Game Review. Publisher: GMT Games Game Designer: James M. Day and Fernando Sola Ramos Price $65.00 Passed Inspection: highly detailed but easy to learn, adds French and early German tanks, exciting solo rules which apply to all the Panzer/Main Battle Tank (MBT) games, super fun, adds Leaders to the World War 2 system Failed Basic: no British Expeditionary Forces, hidden unit/fog of war rules need clarification for solo use (one additional paragraph would clarify these rules), counters are a little too dark making it difficult to discern the front from the back of the tank or armored car, needs a rule and cards for fighters to escort or intercept the ground attack planes “After a while, a fourth tank appeared through the orchard. It was a real monster and we had no idea that France had tanks like that. We fired 20 shots at it without success. However, after a few more shots, we managed to knock off its track. […] a fifth...Read More
“Extradition doesn’t mean anything unless you can catch him.” Fighting A Very Personal War on Drugs. CMON Games ‘Narcos’ Board Game Review.
Narcos: The Board Game. Publisher: CMON Limited. Designers: Fel Barros, Renato Silva Sasdelli. Price $54.99 Passed inspection: High quality components. Well laid out rules. Captures the feel of the Narcos television show and the events that inspired it. Requires cooperative actions and deductive skills. Failed basic: Place name errors on the map suggest a lack of quality control and familiarity with the subject matter. “Imagine you were born in a poor family, in a poor city, in a poor country, and by the time you were 28 years old, you have so much money you can’t even count it. What do you do? You make your dreams come true.” – Steve Murphy, DEA In 2015 Netflix rolled out an ambitious television series telling the story of the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar. Eschewing a simple portrait of a vicious, drug dealer bent on achieving power at all costs, Narcos provided a more nuanced view of the man, his confederates and those who stood in opposition...Read More
“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” Forbidden Games’ Victory and Glory Napoleon Board Game Review
Victory and Glory Napoleon Board Game Review. Publisher: Forbidden Games Game Designer: Glenn Drover Price $79.00 Passed Inspection: Stunningly beautiful board and components, elegantly designed game, easy to learn, tough to master, solo rules included, fast playing, great fun for the whole family Failed Basic: very large footprint, needs a greater incentive to keep a good economy, the Event Cards could use flavor text explaining their historical significant. Victory and War Napoleon is, first and foremost, one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen and that beauty doesn’t just apply to the artwork – this game is pure elegance from its rules to its game play. This game should be played on a wooden table by candle light! The box is huge and stuffed to the gills with goodies. The components include: 10 page rule book 150 full color, beautifully illustrated Event and Campaign Cards grouped by decades 3 piece map board (total size when put together is 45″x36″,) representing Europe and North Africa from 1796 – 1815 Dozens...Read More
“Torpedoes Los!”. Compass Games’ ‘Raiders of the Deep: U-boats of the Great War 1914-18’ Board Game Review.
Raiders of the Deep: U-boats of the Great War 1914-18. Publisher: Compass Games. Designer: Ian B. Cooper. $99.00 Passed inspection: Great narrative based game of World War One U-boat operations. Game generates an excellent narrative of the combat patrols of your character. Includes RPG elements for leader and crew skill development. Covers the war from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Failed basic: Game play can feel ‘fiddly’ with the need to reference multiple charts and tables across each location in the patrol. Lacks a detailed tactical feel of maneuvering the U-boat to reach attack position against the target. About ten years ago I had a co-worker – Dave – ask me if I’d ever seen the movie “The Sound of Music”. Sure, I replied. So, Dave goes on to question one of the plot points – how was it that the children’s father, Georg Von Trapp, was an Austrian U-Boat commander when Austria is a landlocked state? I then spent the next 10 minutes explaining to background...Read More
Shark Island. Publisher: Upper Deck Games. Designers: Richard Launius and Pete Shirey. Price $39.99 Passed inspection: Great party game for those with an appreciation of killer shark movies. Quality game components. Engaging game play. Easy to digest rules. Failed basic: Players that are not fans of killer shark movies may not get some of the references and inside jokes embedded in the game. But just laugh along with the rest of us as we make seemingly random quotes and laugh hysterically. In 1975, Steve Spielberg’s movie ‘Jaws’ had its theatrical release. I remember it well as a 10-year-old child on vacation to the New Jersey shore. One night all the adults went out to the movies…and for the rest of our vacation, they all refused to go in the water. An enduring classic, ‘Jaws’ made a powerful impression on American culture to the point where parts of the dialog has entered our lexicon of pop culture phrases. Much like it’s not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls of...Read More
V Commandoes Board Game Review. Publisher: Triton Noir Game Designer: Thibaud de la Touanne Price $50.00 Passed Inspection: Rules and components are in both French and English, very high quality, logically laid out rules with full training courses, tons of replayability Failed Basic: the terrain tiles could benefit by having a unique identifier somewhere on them Triton Noir was founded in 2014 by Thibaud de la Touanne and is based in Montréal, Canada. V Commandos is their first game release and, man oh man, this game is a winner! V Commandos is a solo or cooperative game in which you send teams of commandos in to occupied Europe in order to fulfill various missions. This game puts you down in the dirt with each unit being one person or piece of equipment and each turn being a minute or two. You control the commandos and the game controls the German troops. The stunningly illustrated box includes English and French copies of: 1 rule book 1 training manual 37 event...Read More
‘Race for Manila: The Philippines Campaign.1941-42. Publisher: War Drum Games (Imported into the US by Quaterdeck International). Game Designer: Yasushi Nakagura (English Translation by Jack W Greene, Lawrence Ho and Lorricount Hall) Price $17.00 Passed inspection: Great choice for an introductory war game. Well executed map that conveys a sense of space and place. Easy to read counters. Best die cutting on counters that I’ve ever seen. Great insights into an oft-overlooked campaign. Failed basic: Tough game for an inexperienced US player if they choose the wrong victory conditions. The short game length makes recovering from mistakes very difficult. The American entry into World War II is defined for history by images of the shattered hulls of US Navy battleline in the waters of Pearl Harbor. To a degree the columns of smoke rising from the wrecks obscured the first real test of American combat arms in the war – the Japanese invasion of the Philippine Islands. Game designer Yasushi Nakagura brings that invasion to the...Read More
Over the Top and Into the Fire. GMT Games ‘Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble Board Game Review.
Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble. Publisher: GMT Games. Designer: Geoffrey Phipps. Price $105.00 Passed inspection: A triumph of quantitative design. Very detailed simulation of the early days of the Gallipoli campaign. Game mechanics feed the narrative depicting the nature of the conflict. Failed basic: The game design is bursting with a plethora of modifiers to account for the many dimensions of activities the player may perform. Large map footprint for the full game requires a ‘side table’ for all the charts and counter sleds. My initial introduction to Australian participation in the Great War came from Hollywood in the form of two films – The Lighthorsemen and Peter Weir’s 1981 move Gallipoli. The impression made by these films were of a high command unable to learn from past mistakes, the deadly reality of the modern battlefield and the profound waste of lives expended in the deadly intersection of these concepts. Now with Geoffrey Phipps’ game Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble you can glimpse some insights into...Read More
Gaming Holiday Buyers’ Guide 2018 2018 has been an amazing year for gaming! In 2017, we said that “maybe” we were in a second Golden Age of Gaming. Well after 2018, if anyone doubts that we are in a second Golden Age of Games then they haven’t been paying attention. Let me reiterate – WE ARE IN A SECOND GOLDEN AGE OF GAMING! This year has had some fun surprises. From the adventure, tactical combat, puzzle solving Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game to fantastic games playable on your cell phone such as Mideast 67 to some great ancients and aviation games to Martian invasions of the Earth, 2018 had it all! And while we at Armchair General are still playing catch up on some games that came out in 2018 and have gone unreviewed (shame on us), we hit a good selection of game genres in our reviews this year. But wait my friends, there’s more! 2019 will be positively smashing so look out! There is...Read More