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Posted on Nov 13, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Will Tyranny Fall or Rise! King & Assassins Deluxe Edition Board Game Review

Will Tyranny Fall or Rise! King & Assassins Deluxe Edition Board Game Review

King & Assassins Deluxe Edition Board Game Review.  Publisher: Galakta  Designer:  Lukasz Wozniak  Price $30.00 Passed Inspection:  fast playing, easy to learn, good replay value, nice artwork, excellent family friendly board game “The king has finally descended among his people, safe behind a shield wall of his so called ‘knights’ and sure of his immense authority. Walking among the crowd, he pays no heed to the shouts of rising anger, blindly believing that his subjects are too scared to act against his rule. Yet, there are shadowy forces ready to topple the throne and secret agents hidden among the throng who are more than willing to strike at the most opportune moment. The fate of the kingdom is soon to be decided… “ Box Art Kings & Assassins Deluxe Edition is a redesign of a 2013 release.  This new edition streamlines the game, adds 23 beautiful miniatures and features a double sided map board of a medieval village.  The game comes in an attractive and very sturdy box.  It...

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Posted on Nov 6, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Run to the Hills…or Stand on the Plains. “Plains Indian Wars” Board Game Review

Run to the Hills…or Stand on the Plains. “Plains Indian Wars” Board Game Review

Plains Indian Wars. Publisher: GMT Games. Designer: John Poniske. Price $65.00 Passed inspection: Quick playing game that provides an overview of the conflict between the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains and the United States of America.  Solid components with oversized cards that convey historical information regarding the period. Failed basic: Rules have a number of ambiguities that resulted in a number of clarifications. In conventional popular memory, the settlement of the American West was a story of European immigrants and Americans trekking into the empty spaces of North America. The Great Plains, mountains and the West Coast were the goals of hardy European’s enduring hardship and risk in a search was a better life. It was America’s ‘Manifest Destiny’ to expand westward, pushing civilization to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The American concept of the ‘frontier’ served as a demarcation between lands subject to the laws and policies of the United States and a ‘wilderness’ waiting to be defined, formalized, settled and civilized. That this wilderness was...

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Posted on Nov 5, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards Nominees are out – and it’s time to vote for the winners!

2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards Nominees are out – and it’s time to vote for the winners!

After some delays, the nominees for the 2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in Conflict Simulation Games have been published. You can see the list over on the CSR website. The awards are given in the following categories Best Ancients to Medieval Era Board WargameBest Early Gunpowder Board Wargame 1453-1793 ADBest Late Gunpowder to Pre-World War I Board Wargame, excluding American Civil War and Napoleonic TopicsBest Napoleonic Board WargameBest American Civil War Board WargameBest World War I Era Board WargameBest World War II Era Board WargameBest Modern Era Board WargameBest Science-Fiction or Fantasy Board WargameBest Solitaire or Cooperative Board WargameBest Magazine Board WargameBest Expansion or Supplement for an Existing Board WargameBest Board Wargame Playing ComponentsBest Board Wargame Map GraphicsBest Board Wargame RulesBest Computer WargameBest Cover Art In addition to the categories covering board games, there the media awards for Best wargame magazine and Best Game Review or Analysis Website, Webcast or Podcast.Best Individual Historical, Scenario Analysis, or Book Then there’s the individual awards Wargame of the YearJames F....

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Posted on Sep 22, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

An Ancient Cold War Goes Hot in Plague Island Games “Sparta!”

An Ancient Cold War Goes Hot in Plague Island Games “Sparta!”

Sparta! Publisher: Plague Island Games. Designer: Kris Van Beurden. Price $59.00 – 89.00 on kickstarter. This is Sparta! That classic line from Frank Miller’s 1998 graphic novels, still resonate. Sparta was a military superpower in its day, fielding a formidable army under capable leaders. But part of what fuels our continuing interest in Sparta were their opponents – Athens and Thebes. Plague Island Games is working to bring these conflicts to the table with Sparta! Designed by Kris Van Beurden and with development support by Stuart Tonge. Plague Island Games provided us with a demo/prototype copy of the game. While it’s not quite the finished production version, it’s really close to it. By way of comparison, Plague Island did the same thing with their first game 2 Minutes to Midnight, and the differences between that prototype and the final game were very minimal, so I expect the finished version of Sparta to be very similar to this prototype. The game board for Sparta! Sparta! Is a two-player game in...

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Posted on Aug 28, 2022 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Become a Knight of the Sky with “Wings of Glory the Digital Game” Computer Game Review

Become a Knight of the Sky with “Wings of Glory the Digital Game” Computer Game Review

Wings of Glory the Digital Game Review.  Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital  Based Upon Ares Games’ Miniatures Game  Price $14.95 Review by Rick Martin with comments by Ray Garbee. Passed Inspection:    captures the WW1 miniatures game feel and game play, solo or multiplayer modes, training scenarios, customizable airplanes and pilots, basic and advanced rules, easy to learn, nice music and graphics, available on multiple platforms, Dire Wolf is very good about listening to user comments and implementing patches as needed, great value for the price Failed Basic:  freezes up too often, no campaign mode, other issues As any reader of Armchair General knows, Wings of Glory, both in its World War I and World War II variants, is one of my all-time favorite game systems.  In my opinion, it is almost as perfect as an air combat game can get.  Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia created the game system back in 2004 and it’s been in print ever since.  It started out as a game where the airplanes were...

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Posted on Aug 14, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

What Counterinsurgency Looks Like in the Field – “Zurmat” Board Game Review.

What Counterinsurgency Looks Like in the Field – “Zurmat” Board Game Review.

By Ray Garbee Zurmat. Publisher: Catastrophe Games. Designer: Tim Densham.  Price $ 70.00 At Origins in 2021, Catastrophe Games had a demo copy of an upcoming game Zurmat, which depicted counter insurgency (COIN) operations of the Afghan war. Fast forward a year (well, nine months) and I picked up a copy of the recently released game from their booth at Origins 2022. Zurmat looks at counter-insurgency from the perspective of a Coalition military officer assigned to a district in Afghanistan. You have orders to build a secure space within which the residents will support the government.  Of course, this being a two-player game, the Taliban insurgents will be acting to achieve the opposite result in which the populace supports their efforts to build an Islamic state standing in opposition to the government in Kabul. Cover of the box The game description on the Catastrophe Games website sums up the game nicely; Zurmat pits the Taliban versus the Coalition, as players secretly add influence or decoys each turn, then taking...

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Posted on Jun 12, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

From the Halls of Montezuma to “The Shores of Tripoli” Board Game Review

From the Halls of Montezuma to “The Shores of Tripoli” Board Game Review

The Shores of Tripoli Board Game Review.  Publisher: Fort Circle Games  Designer:  Kevin Bertram  Price $60.00 Passed Inspection:   tense game play; easy to learn; a lovely game; solo or two players; excellent replayability; great value for the price; historical supplement included; very educational Failed Basic: Absolutely nothing After the Revolutionary War, American merchant vessels sailed the 7 seas but those merchant ships no longer could rely on the protection of the British navy.  Starting in 1785, the Barbary States (Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli) captured over a dozen American merchant ships and took their crews hostage.  In the late 1790s, the Barbary States “offered” to “control” the pirates if America paid a monetary tribute to their governments.  The US government refused to pay the protection money and Tripoli declared war on the US.  In 1801, Thomas Jefferson ordered the US Navy to send armed frigates to blockade Tripoli.  The war against the Barbary Pirates had begun and would be  a trial by combat for the US Navy and the...

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Posted on May 2, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Seeing the Elephant at Kasserine Pass. “Patton’s Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and Patton’s Rise to Glory”. Book Review

Seeing the Elephant at Kasserine Pass. “Patton’s Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and Patton’s Rise to Glory”. Book Review

Patton’s Payback : The Battle of El Guettar and General Patton’s Rise to Glory. Author: Stephen L. Moore. Publisher: Caliber. Price $ 30.00 Stephen L. Moore’s 2022 book, Patton’s Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and General Patton’s Rise to Glory explores a chapter of the US Army’s history that rarely gets as much attention – the battles of Kasserine Pass and El Guettar. These events are perhaps best known in popular culture from the opening act of the 1970 movie Patton. Moore’s book is a narrative of the events following the Allied landings in French North Africa. The story carries across the German push through Kasserine Pass, the following US Army counterattack and the collapse of the Axis troops in Tunisia. Moore focuses the narrative at the operational level on the events that impact the US Army’s II Corps, initially commanded by General Lloyd Fredenhall, but famously commanded by George S. Patton from March into April of 1943. Despite its title, the book is less directly about George...

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Posted on Apr 16, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Opening a New Front Against the Ottomans. “On to Baghdad: The Campaign in Mesopotamia & Persia, 1914-1918”. Board Game Review

Opening a New Front Against the Ottomans. “On to Baghdad: The Campaign in Mesopotamia & Persia, 1914-1918”. Board Game Review

On to Baghdad: The Campaign in Mesopotamia & Persia, 1914-1918. Publisher: Decision Games. Designer: Joseph Miranda. Price $49.99 Passed inspection: An engaging game of an obscure First World War campaign. Attractive hex map that showcases the theater while integrating most of the charts and tables around the perimeter. Large, legible counters. Failed basic: A handful of minor typos on counters and text, but the majority of these were caught and integrated into the text before the rules were printed.    Mention a conflict in Iraq and most folks will think of the recent 21st invasion and occupation by the United States and her allies to replace the Iraqi government and nominally secure the flow of oil. But a century earlier, another global power waged a multi-year war to take control of Iraq and Iran (Persia) in order to…secure the flow of oil. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s a campaign that first came to my attention via the book Wings Over Mesopotamia by Mark...

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Posted on Apr 10, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

A World War I Card Game with Incredible Art and Great Game Play!  MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War Card Game Review

A World War I Card Game with Incredible Art and Great Game Play! MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War Card Game Review

MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War Card Game Review.  Publisher: Lombardy Studios and RBM Studio  Designer:  Dana Lombardy  Art Director: Rodger B. MacGowan  Price $49.00 Passed Inspection:   solo or two player; great value for the money; beautiful artwork; easy to learn but challenging to master; includes a War of the Worlds expansion; includes a teaching aid to teach students about World War I Failed Basic:  I would have liked to see a little more clarity on what deck is where on the player’s mat, maybe some text to one side saying something like “Bonus Deck”. A Beautiful Box  MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War Card Game is a beautifully designed game with elegant game play created by the award winning game designer Dana Lombardy and featuring artwork by the legendary Rodger MacGowan.  It not only features new World War I themed art by MacGowan but also features reprints of much of his World War I game artwork for such publishing companies as GMT Games. So what’s in the box? ...

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Posted on Mar 8, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

In The Sailor’s Bookshelf, James Stavridis Tackles a Deep Subject – The Sea. Book Review.

In The Sailor’s Bookshelf, James Stavridis Tackles a Deep Subject – The Sea. Book Review.

The Sailor’s Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea. Admiral James Stavridis.  Publisher: Naval Institute Press.  Price $ 24.95 I’ve read a fair number of books the past few years. It’s made me realize that there are authors, there are good authors and then there are authors that have you devouring their book from cover to cover. Admiral James Stavridis book, The Sailor’s Bookshelf: Fifty Books to Know the Sea is squarely in this last category. Now this might be the strangest book review I’ve yet written, because it’s basically a book review about a book composed of… book reviews. Still with me? Good! If you are going to read one book this year, you would do well to read The Sailor’s Bookshelf. Similar in structure to Stavridis’s earlier book The Leader’s Bookshelf, The Sailor’s Bookshelf is a list of, as the subtitle states ‘…Fifty Books to Know the Sea….’. But this book is much more than just a list. Admiral Stavridis clearly conveys his appreciation of both the...

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Posted on Feb 28, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Never Give Up! Never Surrender! The Tin Can Sailors Have Their Finest Hour in ‘The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’. Book Review

Never Give Up! Never Surrender! The Tin Can Sailors Have Their Finest Hour in ‘The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’. Book Review

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary WWII Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour.  Author: James D. Hornfischer, adapted by Doug Murray. Drawn by Steven Sanders. Colored by Matt Soffe. Lettered by Rob Steen. Publisher: Dead Reckoning, Annapolis, Maryland. Price $ 29.95 James D. Hornfischer wrote the definitive book on the naval battle off Samar – The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. Published by Bantam Books in 2004, Hornfischer recounts the tale off an outgunned force of U.S. Navy sailors stoically enduring all that the Japanese Navy could throw at them in a daylight surface action. The battle should have been the big gun shootout the Navy’s battleship admirals had sought for years. Instead, a support group of escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts faced off against capital ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, including the powerful battleship Yamato. In the balance hung the fate of the invasion of Leyte.   You’d think it would make an epic movie, but sweeping naval battles...

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Posted on Feb 22, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

David Poyer’s Latest Book ‘Arctic Sea’ Updates the Modern Techno-Thriller. Book Review

David Poyer’s Latest Book ‘Arctic Sea’ Updates the Modern Techno-Thriller. Book Review

Arctic Sea.  Author: David Poyer. Publisher: St. Martin’s Press. Price $28.99 Arctic Sea is the latest installment in the 22-book series following the fictional exploits of U.S. Navy officer Dan Lenson.  If you’ve not read the prior books in the series, a brief recap of this near future history has resulted in the US and China having fought a short, nasty war. Both China and Russia are pushing for greater control of the world’s waters, including the thawing Arctic Ocean. On top of that, a pandemic is afflicting the world’s population and political differences in the United States have erupted into open conflict with an autocratic Federal administration intent on retaining power. If that recap comes across as horribly bleak, well, it’s tough to characterize this as the ‘feel good’ novel of the year. However, the book true to the events of the prior novels and Poyer conveys a plausible future in line with predictive science fiction works of the past. Reading Arctic Sea, I’m reminded of H.G. Well’s...

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Posted on Feb 19, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

GMT Games P500 Offering “Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare” Aims to Explores the Role of Submarines in the American Civil War.

GMT Games P500 Offering “Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare” Aims to Explores the Role of Submarines in the American Civil War.

By Ray Garbee Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare – P500 Campaign. Publisher: GMT Games. Designer: Ed Ostermeyer and Jeremy White.  P500 Preorder Price $55.00 After playing Nicola Saggini and David Thompson’s solitaire game By Stealth and Sea (DVG, 2020), I started to think about what other periods would lend themselves to a similar type of game. The challenge of using ‘bleeding edge’ technology where you were fighting your own equipment as much as the enemy was an interesting way to depict how warfighting can drive technological innovation (and to a degree, vice versa). In conversation with Matt, one of my long-time wargaming associates, we thought that a similar game covering the exploits of submarine warfare during the American Civil War posed similar challenges and would be an interesting topic. I resolved to pull together various reference books off the shelf and then we would sit down and start to envision what such a game would look like. Before we made any appreciable progress (well, I did have a...

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Posted on Feb 5, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

One book – hours of World War II adventures!  Bismarck Solitaire Book -Game  Review

One book – hours of World War II adventures! Bismarck Solitaire Book -Game Review

Bismarck Solitaire Book- Game Review.  Publisher: Worthington Publishing   Designer:  Mike Wylie, Sean Cooke and Grant Wylie  Price $29.95 Passed Inspection:  full solo experience, easy to learn but difficult to master, multiple skill levels as each scenario gets more challenging if played in order, multiple strategies  to win, good  A/I, the whole game is in the book – you just need a photocopier, dice and a pencil, perfect for trips or to pay in the car Failed Basic: would have loved an advanced game with more detail Worthington Publishing’s Bismarck Solitaire is, to put it simply, a brilliant game.  The game is a book and the book is the game.  The book is 58 pages with 4 pages of rules, 2 pages of example play and important game concepts.  The other 52 pages are scenarios, the game’s artificial intelligence charts (called “Event Charts”) and the history of the campaigns in the North Atlantic. Bismarck The artwork and graphic design work on the game are first rate.  Each scenario includes a...

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Posted on Jan 30, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

The Kriegsmarine threatens Britain’s Atlantic lifeline in GMT Games, “Atlantic Chase: The naval war in the Atlantic 1939-1943”. Board Game Review.

The Kriegsmarine threatens Britain’s Atlantic lifeline in GMT Games, “Atlantic Chase: The naval war in the Atlantic 1939-1943”. Board Game Review.

Atlantic Chase: The Kriegsmarine Against the Home Fleet. Publisher: GMT Games. Designer: Jeremy White. Price $85.00 Passed inspection: A multi-layered operational game covering maritime operations from 1939 through 1943.Extensive two-player and solitaire scenarios. Well laid-out rulebook(s) nicely cross-referenced with the play aid charts. Failed basic: “Failed basic” is an overly harsh term here. We could quibble over how specific ships are rated for firepower and if the effect of airstrikes is overstated or understated. But the biggest challenge is that Atlantic Chase is a radically different game from what traditional naval gamers are used to playing. The block format of the trajectories may be off-putting to old school hex and counter grognards. But work through the pain, folks – this is a great game! steamed for the Jutland coast into bad weather and stumbled upon our quarry. After a short exchange of gunfire, the Germans managed to break contact. In the morning, the storm had passed and the real battle began. Luftwaffe dive bombers and torpedo planes repeatedly struck...

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Posted on Jan 26, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

If You Want Cyber Peace, Prepare for Cyberwar. Book Review.

If You Want Cyber Peace, Prepare for Cyberwar. Book Review.

Cyberspace in Peace and War.  Author: Martin C. Libicki. Publisher: Naval Institute Press. 512 pages. Price $ 60.00 The headlines are dominated with the risk of cyberattacks against corporate and national entities. Is there a cyberwar looming over the horizon? Are you ready for cyberwar? How do you respond to a cyberattack? But hold on a moment – what exactly *is* a cyberattack? It clearly involves computers – but what is it and how does it fit into broader tactical and strategic operations? Would you like to know more? You can turn to Martin C. Libicki’s recent book Cyberspace in Peace and War (2021, Naval Institute Press).  Dr. Libicki’s tackles the subject of cyberwar with an eye towards educating the reader as to the various types of cyber activities and how they fit into modern concept of conflict. It’s a well-organized book that starts with a brief history of cyber-attacks. You get a good summation of the broad types of attacks along with numerous real-world examples that might jog...

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Posted on Jan 22, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Straight Shooter of Savo Island – The Life of Vice Admiral Willis Lee Jr. Book Review.

The Straight Shooter of Savo Island – The Life of Vice Admiral Willis Lee Jr. Book Review.

Battleship Commander: The Life of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee Jr.  Author: Paul Stillwell. Publisher: Naval Institute Press Price $ 37.95 The battle of Midway rightfully gets a lot of attention, but the Guadalcanal campaign marked the shift in momentum in the Pacific War. No longer just blocking Japanese attacks, at Guadalcanal the Allies began the series of offensives that would lead to victory in the Pacific. But Guadalcanal was far from a certain outcome and the series of naval battles in the waters of the Solomon Islands were pivotal in securing the island. In this environment, Vice Admiral Willis A Lee, Jr played a key role commanding United States Navy ships in action against the Japanese in November of 1942. He’d remain in command of elements of the fast battleship force until June, 1945. Against the plethora of well-known naval leaders like Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance, and Burke, Vice Admiral Lee blended into background, focused on accomplishing his assigned mission. Willis “Ching” Lee’s life has never been documented in...

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Posted on Jan 10, 2022 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Documenting Black Jack Pershing’s War. Book Review

Documenting Black Jack Pershing’s War. Book Review

John J. Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, 1917-1919, Volume 1: April 1917 – September 30, 1917.Author: John T. Greenwood (editor). Publisher: University of Kentucky Press. Price: $ 65.00 I’ll admit my knowledge regarding the United States military in the First World War is not a deep river. But you can argue that the Allied Powers may not have won the war without the declaration of war by the United States of America in April, 1917. The outbreak of war found the United States Army having to pivot from its recent ‘punitive’ campaign against Pancho Villa in Mexico to recruiting, training, equipping and transporting an entire army across the Atlantic into action in Europe. Fortunately, the country had a capable officer available for the task – John J. Pershing. General Pershing was faced with the intimidating task of transforming the US Army from a force engaged in counter-insurgency operations into a large standing force capable of waging modern war on a foreign battlefield. How General...

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Posted on Dec 30, 2021 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

The Best Games of 2021!

The Best Games of 2021!

2021 was a challenging year for most of us but at least some great games were released to help ease the pain.   Enjoy this list of Armchair General’s Tope Games of 2021!   Corvette Command Designer: Alan Eagle. Corvette Command creates a narrative of events in a way similar to the classic board game “B-17 Queen of the Skies”. Your escort vessel is tied to supporting the convoy (barring some random events) and moves across the sea zones. In each zone, you check for a number of events and try to repair damage. With a little luck, you’ll avoid the U-boats and make it to your destination. The game covers events for the two-year period from May 1941 through May 1943. This is a free print and play game that can be played in a small footprint with optional advanced rules that enable you to play a quick set up one-off game or a two-player game and introduce greater level of detail. There’s even a VASSAL module available (thank you Lee...

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