War and Resistance in the Philippines 1942-1944. 2021. Author: James Kelly Morningstar. Naval Institute Press. 384 pages. ISBN: 9781682475690 The popular perception of the Philippines during the Second World War is shaped by a handful of key events – the surrender of Corregidor, The Bataan Death March, MacArthur’s pledge to return and of course, the actual return of US combat forces to the Philippines beginning in 1944. But between the bookends of General Wainwright’s surrender of Corregidor and General MacArthur’s return at Leyte was a period of over a thousand days during which the Philippine islands were occupied by the Japanese Empire. Conventional histories suggests that the Filipino people were a people without agency, led into resistance by a handful of American troops that took to the hills, with a s trickle of aid provided by the United States and motivated by the remote directions of General MacArthur from Australia. Dr. James Kelly Morningstar’s recent book War and Resistance in the Philippines 1942-1944 dispels that traditional interpretation and explores the...Read More
Smokejumpers. Publisher: Microgame Design Group. Designer: Kerry Anderson. Price $ 30.00 A recent addition to the game library was Smokejumpers published by Microgame Design Group and designed by Kerry Anderson. Smokejumpers is a solitaire game which pits the player against the threat of wild fires. It’s not a wargame in the traditional sense, but it feels like one with the player having to maneuver their units, build works and use the terrain to their advantage. We’ll get a full review out soon, but for now, we’ll tease you this short description. The cover captures the theme of the game. The bagged edition of the game includes a cover sheet (pictured above) with the key charts for fire growth on the back. In addition there is a player aid sheet and one (1) counter sheet with nicely die cut, double-sided counters. The game has a relatively compact footprint, though this can be expanded by combining two or more of the four mapsheets together. We’re waiting for someone to call in...Read More
Taranto And Naval Air Warfare in The Mediterranean, 1940-1945. 2021. Author: David Hobbs. Seaforth Publishing. 440 pages. ISBN: 978-1-5267-9383-6 Years ago, a professor encouraged us to attend as many seminars as possible. His reasoning was that while some seminars might be tedious and most would not be useful, occasionally, you’d encounter a seminar that was a valuable gem. This memory came to mind while reading David Hobb’s recent book Taranto and Naval Air Warfare in The Mediterranean 1940-1945. The book is a chronological history of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in the Mediterranean theater. In many ways Taranto is a sequel David Hobbs’ earlier books The Dawn of Carrier Strike. Taranto is an engaging story of the pilots of the Fleet Air Arm that conveys how, to paraphrase Churchill, so many owed so much to so few. But in this case the “so few” are the pilots of the Fleet Air Arm serving in the Mediterranean theater. By focusing on the Fleet Air Arm, David Hobbs provides a narrative...Read More
“The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.”―Julius Caesar – Caesar Rome vs Gaul Board Game
“Caesar Rome vs Gaul” Board Game Review. Publisher: GMT Games Designer: Mark Simonitch Developer: Mitchell Land Price $60.00 Passed Inspection: Easy to learn; fast game play; beautiful and useful components; printing is large enough for “mature” eyes to read; high replay value; easy to solo play (contrary to the low solo listing on GMT’s website); almost everything you need is on the game board; excellent value for the price Failed Basic: influence counters cover town names; subdued tribes don’t count towards victory points; no solo rules included; no zip lock bags included for the counters components Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul needs no introductions to most war gamers thanks in no small part to Caesar’s own writings on his campaigns. I first read Caesar’s Gallic Campaign book when I was fifteen years old and it brought ancient history to life in a whole new way for me. Now you can bring that same ancient history to life through this game! GMT’s Caesar Rome vs Gaul was released in the...Read More
From Biplanes to Ballistic Missiles — The Career of General Thomas S. Power. “To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of Strategic Air Command in the Cold War”. Book Review.
To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of Strategic Air Command in the Cold War. 2021. Author: Brent D. Ziarnick. Naval Institute Press. 312 pages. ISBN: 978-1-68-2475874 The National Museum of the United States Air Force has an impressive collection of artifacts representing the Cold War and the Strategic Air Command. The hulking airframe of a B-36 Peacemaker heavy bomber dominates the hall. The Peacemaker is flanked by the sleek lines of the B-47 Stratojet and B-58 Hustler jet bombers. The adjacent missile gallery houses the silent pillars of ballistic missiles that made up a third of the nation’s nuclear triad. But you can walk the length and breadth of the museum and not find a mention of General Thomas S. Power. It’s surprising as General Power led the Strategic Air Command through both the trying test of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the transformation of SAC into a strike force encompassing both the bomber and the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Dr. Brent D. Ziarnick aims...Read More
The Eagle and the Sun Duel at Okinawa in “Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ugaki’s Thunder Gods, and the Kamikaze War Off Okinawa”. Book Review.
Rain of Steel is an indispensable reference for understanding the Okinawa campaign. Moore’s book leaves the reader with a good understanding of how the scope of the campaign extended well beyond the waters surrounded Okinawa. Reading the book, the reader gains an understanding of how both the tenacious Japanese defense as well as the cost in lives and material, shaped US planning for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.Read More
Retro Review # 4 Ace of Aces Wingleader Game Review. Publisher: Nova Game Designs Game Designer: Alfred Leonardi Price: varies (EBay) Passed Inspection: Includes 24 different World War II fighters, easy to learn, can be played almost in real time, different levels of complexity Failed Basic: out of print so it can be difficult to find, not solo compatible Ace of Aces Wingleader is 33 years old this year and its World War I version is 41 years old as it came out in 1980. First gracing the shelves of your friendly neighborhood game store in 1988 (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 4, come with me in our fighter plane of the imagination and let’s take a closer look at the Ace of Aces Wing Leader game system. (The original Ace of Aces Retro Review can be read at: ...Read More
Remember to Always Be Bold – The Campaigns of the Tenth Assault Vehicle Flotilla. “By Stealth and Sea” Board Game Review.
By Stealth and Sea. Publisher: Dan Verssen Games. Designer: David Thompson. Price $72.00 Passed inspection: Quality components. Glossy rules and scenario book. Engaging gameplay that explores in detail a rarely covered aspect of the naval war in the Mediterranean. Failed basic: No faults with game play. A minor component fault with one warped game board. When I was a lad, Saturday afternoon B-movies were quite popular. One of these films was The Silent Enemy which depicted British efforts to defend Gibraltar against attacks from Italian frogmen on mini submarines. While it may seem like something straight out of a James Bond adventure, the exploits of the Italian “Decima Flottiglia MAS” (or the Tenth Assault Vehicle Flotilla) are firmly in the historical record. While the Italian Royal Navy struggled to compete against the British on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the air, it was beneath the surface of the Mediterranean Sea where the efforts of these Italian commando frogmen demonstrated how skill and determination lead...Read More
The Decline of the Luftwaffe As a Maritime Power. Lawrence Patterson’s “Eagles Over the Sea 1943- 45”. Book Review.
Eagles Over the Sea 1943-45. Seaforth Publishing. 2020. Author: Lawrence Patterson. 382 pages. ISBN-10: 1526777657 In Eagles over the Sea 1943-45, Lawrence Patterson focuses on the lens of maritime air operations to illuminate the decline of the Luftwaffe in the later half of World War II. While maritime air operations drive the narrative, Patterson also highlights the organizational challenges and personality clashes that contributed to the decline of the Luftwaffe. The time frame of this book tracks roughly with the change in the character of the broader war in which strategic momentum shifted to the Allies with Germany adopting a more defensive posture. It’s a case study in the economics of a global war in which Nazi Germany found itself “punching above its weight class” against the Allied economic powers which it was unable to match in terms of manpower, resources or industrial output. This volume completes Patterson’s history of Luftwaffe maritime operations begun with the prior book Eagles over the Sea 1935-42 which documents the growth and organization and...Read More
BG James Gavin’s leadership, both in planning and execution, was a significant factor in the success of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden and his successful leadership was possible due to a mastery of certain Mission Command principles. BG Gavin and his subordinates displayed disciplined initiative and risk acceptance during the execution of Operation Market Garden through their initial actions and during the gap crossings. Furthermore, BG Gavin’s leadership style was possible because his Paratroopers viewed him as a competent leader and Gavin had a strong, supporting mutual trust with his subordinate leaders. Gavin’s journey to commanding the 82nd Airborne Division began in 1924 when he enlisted in New York and served in Panama as a 155mm Gun Crewmember in the Coast Artillery. Gavin attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1929. He attended the Infantry School in Ft. Benning and held various positions as an Infantry officer, including his first command in Company K, 7th Infantry Regiment. Following command, he...Read More
“I have yet to hear anyone engaged in this work dying of old age” Jimmy Doolittle – High Flying Dice Games’ “September’s Eagles – The Thompson Trophy Air Races 1929 – 1939” Game Review
“September’s Eagles – The Thompson Trophy Air Races 1929 – 1939” Board Game Review. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh Graphic Design: Bruce Yearian Price $60.00 Passed Inspection: fun, fast and furious game play, 11 scenarios, solid game design, beautiful graphics, good for solo or multiplayer games, optional rules add to the challenge Failed Basic: the rule booklet needs to be a little bigger to accommodate older eyes High Flying Dice Games (HFDG) is known for high quality, low price games as well as for focusing on military topics not often addressed by other game companies. September’s Eagles goes in a different direction than past HFDG products. First, it is technically not a war game but a game focusing on air racing. Second, it is a boxed game as opposed to a game in a zip lock bag. Third, it can be played by up to 4 players. And fourth, it has a higher price point than other HFDG products. So, taken all together is September’s Eagles...Read More
Tiger Leader, Second Edition. Publisher: Dan Verssen Games (DVG). Designer: Rick Martin. Developers: Kevin Verssen and Dan Verssen. Price $89.99 Passed inspection: An updated version of the original Tiger Leader. Redesigned unit cards and counters. Solitaire campaign narrative. Failed basic: Second edition rules for cover don’t match the first edition tiles included in the game. Line of sight rule will cause a problem if read literally. In 2020, Dan Verssen Games (DVG) released Tiger Leader, Second Edition. One of the many solitaire games from DVG, Tiger Leader is set in World War Two and provides a narrative of combat from the perspective of an anonymous German military unit. The box art has been updated with new images In Tiger Leader, you lead a group of Wehrmacht soldiers into battle. The game includes multiple campaigns that span from the Polish campaign, into North Africa across Europe culminating in the Allied drive into Germany. Over the course of each campaign, you’ll endeavor to defeat your opponent while keeping your own troops...Read More
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.” — John Paul Jones, 1778 Devil Boats: PT Boats in the Solomons. Board Game Review
Devil Boats: PT Boats in the Solomons Board Game Review. Publisher: Compass Games Designer: Joe Carter Price $69.00 Passed Inspection: well researched, historically accurate, easy to learn rules, beautiful components, easily moded, strong narrative campaign, can easily add players. Failed Basic: printed errata sheet or revised rulebook did not ship with the retail version but are available for download. Devil Boats: PT Boats in the Solomons is the first wargame design by Joe Carter covering the summer and early fall of 1943 as the Allies launched the New Georgia campaign. PT boats played a key role in the Solomons attacking enemy supply ships, rescuing downed airmen or shipwrecked sailors, and supporting the Coastwatchers. Devil Boats is a solitaire game similar to the classic B-17 Queen of the Skies by Avalon Hill or more recent additions such as The Hunters / Silent Victory by Consim Press and B-29 Superfortress by Legion Games. Players take command of a squadron of four PT boats in a three-month campaign to destroy as much...Read More
If you asked a random reader about the Gallipoli campaign, they’d likely think of the Australian and New Zealand troops engaged in bitter combat with the Turks, or perhaps the French and British warships that tried to ‘force’ the Dardanelles, only to lose several ships to a Turkish minefield. Rarely would you have thought of how the war was being waged in the skies about those battlefields. There’s been a dearth of coverage of aerial operations in the Dardanelles, with much of what is accessible to be found in historical journals such as Over the Front, or Cross and Cockade International. Dr. Sterling Michael Pavelec aims to change this lack of coverage through his recent book Airpower Over Gallipoli: 1915-1916. The result of decades of research, Dr. Pavelec has created an indispensable reference guide to air operations over Gallipoli. A professional historian working with the military, Dr. Pavelec approaches the subject through the lens of how well the aerial campaign was integrated into both naval and land operations during...Read More
By Ray Garbee Chancellorsville 1863. Publisher: Worthington Games. Designer: Maurice Suckling. Price $75.00 Passed inspection: Fantastic introductory level game that will also appeal to seasoned gamers. An innovative approach to incorporating the fog of war that is critical to capturing the mind set of the commanders. Supports solo play by either side. A fast playing, easy to set up game. Failed basic: Units can feel almost generic when compared to a traditional board game approach. The solitaire bot for playing the Confederate player is unbalanced. At the start of May 1863, the Union was engaged in campaigns on two fronts. In the West, Ulysses S. Grant was in the midst of his latest maneuvers to capture the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In the East, the Army of the Potomac’s latest commander ‘Fighting Joe’ Hooker was about to embark on a campaign designed to encircle Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia – the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. With a numerical superiority, Hooker planned to ‘go around to the right’...Read More
If 2020 was a pretty crummy year for the whole planet, at least we had some great games come out to see us through our Pandemic isolation. I think a trend of 2020 that will continue is that more games will have optional rules for solo play. Enjoy this list of the top reviewed games of 2020 and let’s all look forward to a better and safer year in 2021. Cold Confusion: The Soviet Raid on Iceland 1985. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games.Designers: Paul Rohrbaugh. – AG Rating 95% Small, fast playing game of a hypothetical Soviet raid on Iceland during the 1980s. Good replay value with variable reinforcements and set up. Card deck provides for a good fog of war. This is an affordable game on a unique topic with a variety of elite troops, that is easy to play for a solitaire gamer. With all that going for it, yes – it’s a game that will appeal to cold warriors and solo gamers alike. It sparked...Read More
By Ray Garbee 1917/1918: Storm in the West. Publisher: GMT Games. Designer: Ted Raicer. Developers: Ty Bomba and Chris Perello. Price $49.00 Passed inspection: An excellent update to a proven design. Good coverage of a pivotal year in the war. Excellent expansion covering the ‘what if’s’ surrounding the strategic decisions on both sides. Failed basic: A solid design that’s had all the kinks ironed out over the years, there’s nothing to not like about this game! GMT’s recent release 1918/1919: Storm in the West dropped onto the game table in December. This is a game with a storied past, dating back to its initial release in 1992 with Command Magazine. 1918/1919: Storm in the West was Ted Raicer’s first game design and it was an immediate success, earning a Charles S. Roberts Award nomination. Its popularity inspired the design of a Plan 1919 variant which assumed a German defensive strategy in 1918 with an all-out Allied assault to win the war the following year. GMT’s release presents this classic magazine...Read More
The Mission – Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades Board Game Review. Publisher: White Dog Games Game Designer: R. Ben Madison Price $50.00 Passed Inspection: unique subject matter, fun and challenging, lots of repay value, I learned a lot about Christian history from this game Failed Basic: some rules need a little more explanation, map could be larger (fixed by the publisher), needs different victory conditions if you can’t play the main campaign all the way through (partial play victory points based upon what turn you ended on) In 2017, I had the pleasure of reviewing R. Ben Madison’s game “The Mound Builders” which was a solo point to point system exploring twenty six hundred years of the Mound Builders culture in North America. It was an excellent game design and helped me understand the culture of the original people who lived in my state of Ohio. (http://armchairgeneral.com/explore-north-americas-mound-builders-culture-game-review.htm ) Now Madison turns his attention to 1300 years of Christian history from the crucifixion of Christ...Read More
In Search of The Finnish Compromise. “All Bridges Burning: Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-18” Board Game Review
Game designer Vez Arponen tackles this competition to define the future in “All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918.”Read More
8th AIR FORCE Board Game Review. Publisher: Fortress Games Designer: Bob Phaneuf Price $65.00 Passed Inspection: easy to read map and counters, engaging game play, strong solo play, easy to learn, very challenging, many ways to win and lose Failed Basic: a little rule confusion as to Luftwaffe set up, would like to see an optional rule for historically accurate Luftwaffe squadron set up, I didn’t understand the use of Squadron counters. “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind. “ Marshal of the Royal Air Force Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris. “Offense is the essence of air power.” General H. H. ‘Hap’ Arnold, USAAF Box Cover 8th Air Force’s designer, Bob Phaneuf, himself, sent Armchair General a prototype copy of this fine...Read More