Retro Review # 3 Ace of Aces Game Review. Publisher: Nova Game Designs Game Designer: Alfred Leonardi Price: varies (EBay or limited copies reprinted by Flying Buffalo Games) Passed Inspection: Easy to learn, can be played almost in real time, each set covers different time periods of military aviation, can almost fit in your pocket, different levels of complexity Failed Basic: out of print so it can be difficult to find, a few errors in the pages, early World War I planes are somewhat unbalanced, not solo compatible Ace of Aces is 39 years old this year. First gracing the shelves of your friendly neighborhood game store in 1980 (for me it was the Tin Soldier in Dayton, Ohio), Ace of Aces has not lost any of its allure and, like a fine wine, seems to get better with age. For Retro Review number 3, come with me in our biplane of the imagination and let’s take a closer look at the Ace of Aces game system. As stated...Read More
75th Anniversary D-Day A Millennials Guide – Book Review Anthology edited by Jay Wertz, Monroe Publications. 2019 315 pages Soft Cover $19.99 ISBN 9781732631502 It is a sad truth that the youth today, in aggregate, know less about history than any other generation for the last 100 years even though they have access to more research material than almost any generation in history thanks to the Internet. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s October 3rd, 2018 report, just one in three American citizens would pass the United States Citizenship Exam which focuses on American history and civics. This is a cultural crime and must be rectified in the immediate future if we are to have any semblance of an educated citizenry by the mid to late 21st Century. Monroe Publications and Jay Wertz hope to rectify some of this deficiency by the release of the new soft cover book entitled the “75th Anniversary D-Day A Millennials Guide”. The book is comprised of an introduction plus 23 chapters...Read More
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” ‘Sails of Glory 2018 Ship Pack Expansion’ Miniatures Game Review
Sails of Glory 2018 Ship Pack Expansion Miniatures Game Review. Publisher: Ares Games Game Designer: Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini Price $13.00 to $20 depending on the ship Passed Inspection – beautiful, fully built and painted ships ready to set sail using the Sails of Glory game system Failed Basic – not a single thing “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” When the legendary Rear Admiral and computer scientist (think COBOL) Grace Hopper made this statement in which she was re-quoting John G. Shedd , she was not talking about sailing ships from the 1700s and 1800s but her statement is completely apropos to ships of that time period which is the focus of Ares Games’ brilliant Sails of Glory. In late 2018, Ares released 12 new ships for the game. With the addition of these ships, the total number of ships available is now 58 ships including ships of the line, frigates, sloops and merchantmen. Each fully painted and assembled...Read More
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
The Problem with Hexagons – an article about war gaming design by Dr. Ezra Sidran, the designer of The Universal Military Simulator
The Problem with Hexagons By D. Ezra Sidran, PhD General-Staff.com Hexagons are ubiquitous in wargames now (indeed, both Philip Sabin’s War: Studying Conflict Through Simulation Games and Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming feature hexagons on their book covers), but this wasn’t always the case. My first wargame – the first board wargame for many of us – was Avalon Hill’s original Gettysburg (by the way, $75 seems to be the going price for a copy on eBay these days). No hexagons in Avalon Hill’s original Gettysburg. Remember how the map contained the original starting positions for the Union cavalry and out posts? From author’s collection. The American Kriegsspiel by Captain Livermore (circa 1882) only had a map grid for estimating distances. We also have a map grid in General Staff to facilitate estimating distances but you can turn the map grid on or off. Plate 1 from The American Kriegsspiel by Captain Livermore. This image is from GrogHeads wonderful blog post on Nineteenth Century Military...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
Open Panzer PC and Android Computer Game Review. Designed by Nicu Pavel. Based upon Panzer General II. Price 0 – Totally Free! Passed Inspection: great selection of units, works on any platform, tons of scenarios and campaigns, great fun and free Failed Basic: some bugs, some scenarios are completely unbalanced and unwinnable, no multiplayer, needs comprehensive rules, can only play from the German side, no zoom feature NOTE: I played this game on both a PC and on an Android phone thus, the review is based upon that platform. It is also available for iOS systems. Panzer General was a groundbreaking game when it was released in 1994. It was simple, almost a beer and pretzels game, but addictive and fun. Strategic Simulations followed it up with multiple sequels one of which sold in excess of 100,000 units! Sadly, Strategic Simulations is no more but Panzer General lives on and now it’s free thanks to Nicu Pavel. Open Panzer is a multi-platform version of Panzer General. It is...Read More