Welcome back to our newest feature on the blog called Wargame Watch, where I will try my best to give you a heads-up on some of the newest wargame offerings out there, or at least that I am becoming aware of, as sometimes they slip through my virtual grasp! There are a lot of great looking games coming out, which still amazes me as there just seems to be so much interest and activity right now that you have to wonder when, if ever, it will come to an end, and due to space constraints and time, I will be unable to cover all of them in this post. Here is a look at recently(ish) announced pre-order games as well as those that have recently been released. The order is not important in the post as this is not a ranking. These are just games that I am interested in and want to point out to you. If you missed the first entry in the series from June, you can read it here followed by the 2nd entry in July. Onto a look at the games:
1. Kharkov Battles: Before & After Fall Blau from Compass Games
A follow up effort to Fall Blau: Army Group South June-December 1942, Kharkov Battles: Before & After Fall Blau uses the Fall Blau basic rules to cover the Second & Third Battles of Kharkov. The game focuses on large units (mainly German divisions and Soviet corps) that have Combat Ratings which pull a strength chit for combat. The CRT used for combat keys off the defender’s terrain and uses column shifts for extras like air support, combined arms, fortifications, etc. I really enjoy wargames that use this method as a base for the CRT as it makes a lot of thematic sense to me. Combat results have some mandatory step losses, but the rest rely on a player’s choice on either taking step losses or retreating. Advances after combat are along the Path of Retreat for non-mech units, but mech or cav units may deviate which gives a lot of flexibility and can make fit some pretty interesting maneuvering. Support Points are used to allow German supply to reach units for mechanized movement and attacks during their turn. Support (for Axis attacks) is traced simply through a number of hexes to an HQ and then a number of hexes to a road which leads to the source. Supply is just a general trace to a source. I also enjoy more simple treatments for supply. Sometimes wargames make this element more difficult than is needed simply to seem more self important.
Generally, this game seems to have a shorter playtime and smaller space requirements than its predecessor making it an easier intro into the system used by Fall Blau. Included is a revised Terrain Effects Chart which should ease reference fatigue for either game. An additional map is included which is made to mate with the Fall Blau maps, allowing players to combine the two games into one “Grand Campaign” to be played into March 1943. Also included are extra counters and reinforcement charts to allow for this possibility. There are four scenarios within the game: three independent and one which requires Fall Blau to play. I am looking forward to this game as it follows up an excellent title in Fall Blau and makes it such that you can enjoy the games together. I also really enjoy Eastern Front games that are not simple simulations but that allow for some ingenuity and use of tactics by players to possibly come out with a different than historical result. If interested, you can preorder the game on the Compass Games website at the following link for $52.00: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/kharkov-battles.html
2. Blood on the Ohio The Northwest Indian War 1789-1794 from Compass Games
Blood on the Ohio presents the late 17th century struggle between a coalition of Indian tribes led by Little Turtle and the nascent American Army to determine control of the then Ohio territory. Known as the Northwest Indian War, Little Turtle’s War and Washington’s Indian War, this was the first major challenge to President Washington and his army following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Spanning from 1785 to 1795, the conflict grew out of a dispute over territorial boundaries following the war, aggravated by settlers flooding across the Ohio to claim Ohio lands then in possession of Native American nations.
The Miami and Shawnee were the principal tribes involved but in time they created a loose alliance with numerous other tribes and together they dealt the U.S. the worst defeat by Indians in the history of our Indian Wars. Washington sent three separate expeditions against them. The first two were handily defeated. The third and final expedition, led by General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, ended the conflict with his victory at The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.
This design is similar to King Phillip’s War, also designed by John Poniske, and published by Multi-Man Publishing in 2010. It uses point to point movement, using a three dice simultaneous battle system with variable reinforcements on both sides, special action points, alliances and treaties, and frustratingly undependable American militia. The American army operates out of forts, the Indians out of villages. Every two turns both players enter into winter quartering, which in effect resets the board. Destroyed Indian villages are relocated while additional forts and settlements may be built as the game progresses. Indians have the option to raid which is a quick and simple mechanism that adds color to the game. The action is hardly battle-line simple. Engagements are widespread and chaotic with surprises at every turn. Four scenarios are included – one per historical expedition with a campaign game that encompasses all three. Low counter density with quick and tense game play and simple rules which are intuitive and easy to learn. I love a game about this time period in history and also have really come to enjoy John Poniske as his designs also take a fresh and new look at ways to carry out a wargame.
For more information about the game, as well as a deeper look at the design and components, you can read our interview with the designer John Poniske. If you are interested, you can pre-order the game for $46.00 on the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/blood-on-the-ohio-the-northwest-indian-war-1789-1794.html
3. Dunkirk: France 1940 from Worthington Games
Dunkirk: France 1940 is a block wargame designed by Doug Bryant. The game allows you to refight the German invasion of France, and the low countries in May and June of 1940. Doug has been designing and playtesting the game for over 2 years and has included some innovative concepts into the game. Before the game begins, the German player picks a strategy card that has various goals for him to attain for victory so each play will be different. Each player has a hand of cards that add to battle, reinforcements, and other elements that occurred or could have occurred during the game. The game is not card driven, but card enhanced and the design is chit driven. The Allied and German armies are broken up into their larger commands, chits are placed in a cup and drawn during the game turn. When a chit is drawn, the command for that chit is activated for movement and combat. Victory is determined at the end of the game if the Germans can attain the goals on their strategy card, and for the Allies if they can prevent the Germans from reaching their goals, which will not be known. Interesting!
I am a big fan of block wargames as it creates a lot of tension with the fog of war as you simply do not know the power of the forces you are attacking. I also really enjoy chit pull games as they add a neat level of difficulty that mimics battlefield confusion and disorder. All in all, this game looks very interesting and is one that I might find myself owning.
If you are interested, the game is still on Kickstarter and can be purchased for $65.00 at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1456271622/dunkirk-france-1940
4. Army Group Narwa from Revolution Games
Army Group Narwa is a previously produced game by 3 Crown Enterprises that will be receiving an update with new art, testing, and development. Army Group Narwa simulates the continuation of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive of January 1944, the Soviet Estonian operation pushed the front westward to the Narva River, aiming to thrust deep into Estonia. Stalin’s main strategic goal was a quick recovery of Estonia as a base for air and seaborne attacks against Finland and an invasion of East Prussia. The German answer was a stout defence for the possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus. Army Group Narwa is a board game depicting this event in time. The Soviet units established a number of bridgeheads on the opposite bank of the river in February. Subsequent attempts failed to expand their toehold. German counter attacks annihilated the bridgeheads to the north of Narva and reduced the bridgehead south of the town, stabilizing the front until July 1944.
Army Group Narwa covers the first three months of the Narva Bridgehead campaign where each turn represents one week. The game has fairly simple mechanics and can be taught in 30 minutes but that doesn’t mean the game is simple or has no depth. While the rules are simple the strategy will be more of a challenge even for the more experienced players. It is built around the same system of rules that shaped Konigsberg ’45. The game features a chit-pull system telling you which armies can activate. This is the main reason that I am interested in the game as I truly love the difficulty and sometimes even frustration or having the enemy in your sights but not being able to pull their activation chit to fire. This design mechanic brings a little bit of confusion and chaos to the game and I really like games that use it. I also like that the chit pull system makes the game very solo-able as sometimes you just can’t find an opponent and must play yourself. Plus, the updated map and graphics look really good.
If you are interested, the game can be preordered for $36.00 on the Revolution Games website at the following link: http://www.revolutiongames.us/
5. Königsberg from Revolution Games
Königsberg, originally produced in limited quantities by 3 Crown Enterprises, but now being rejuvenated by Revolution Games who will be updating this fine game with new art, testing, and development. Covering the Soviet attack in East Prussia in 1945, the game handles the first 20 days of the attack starting on the 13th of January 1945. The 3rd Belorussian Front, under command of Cherniakhovsky, launches an attack into the northeast of East Prussia while the 2nd Belorussian Front, commanded by Rokossovsky, one day later starts an attack from the south east. However, Army Group Mitte, under the command of Reinhardt, puts up an astonishing defense desperately pushing the Soviets back. Time however is on the Soviet side and when the defense finally crumbles there is nothing left to withstand the Soviet troops to ravage the country.
Similar to the other offering on this list from Revolution Games Army Group Narwa, Königsberg is easy to learn yet a challenge even for the most experienced players. It is built around the same system of rules that have shaped both Plan West and Army Group Narwa. The game uses a chit pull system telling you which armies get to be activated each turn and each of those turns is two days and the game has 10 turns.
If you are interested, the game can be preordered for $36.00 on the Revolution Games website at the following link (just scroll down under Army Group Narwa): http://www.revolutiongames.us/
6. Front Toward Enemy from Multi-Man Publishing
I love that box cover. Simple, evocative and clean. In Front Toward Enemy, players explore intense company- and platoon-level battles from the perspective of a company commander, using a fast-playing system that provides the feel and unpredictability of small unit combat. Front Toward Enemy is a simulation that recreates tactical engagements during the Vietnam War at the scale of 50 meters per hex and five minutes per turn. Units represent fire teams, heavy weapon sections, leaders, vehicles, and helicopters. Eight scenarios with set-up options recreate twelve missions that typified company-level engagements during the Vietnam War, including airmobile insertions, assaults on fortified positions, and classic search-and-destroy operations, among others. Suffice it to say, this is tactical baby, my favorite type of wargame because I truly feel in command and in charge of what transpires.
Rules cover all of the elements associated with combat in Vietnam: helicopter gunships, armored vehicles, artillery support, snipers, sappers, civilians, booby-traps, medics, evacuation of the wounded, prisoner interrogation, tunnels, hidden caches, and more. Winning doesn’t always mean holding the objective if the cost in casualties is too great. Sudden combat in difficult terrain causes command and control to quickly break down. A chit-pull system means command and control is erratic, and volume of fire is rewarded, but results are fickle. The unforeseen occurs, ranging from non-combat injuries to interference from higher headquarters to so-called “friendly fire”. Immediate action drills, staying close, and the ability to move and act as a coordinated unit ensure survivability in this environment. I also like the look of the early graphics, which are being done by rising star Nicolás Eskubi, with whom we did an interview earlier this summer. I know that this game has been on pre-order for about a year now but I wanted to highlight it here, not so much as a new pre-order offering, but as a good game that simply needs a few more orders to get printed (currently sits at 472 orders and needs 68 more to reach the print goal of 540).
If you are interested in Front Toward Enemy, you can preorder the game on the Multi-Man Publishing website for $48.00 at the following link: http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/ProductID/318/Default.aspx
1. Holland 44′: Operation Market-Garden from GMT Games
Holland 44′: Operation Market-Garden is a 2 player game depicting the Allies’ combined ground and airborne attack in the Netherlands in September 1944, which was code named Operation Market-Garden. The game starts with airborne landings on September 17th and continues until September 23rd. The Allied player must try to rush his ground forces forward as quickly as possible to relieve the beleaguered airborne divisions that landed earlier and attempt to capture and secure a bridge across the Rhine River to allow for a further invasion of Germany. The goal of the Allies was to secure these bridgeheads in order to bring an end to World War II by Christmas 1944, but as you know, the best laid plans of mice and men….
Most units in Holland ’44 are battalions, but there are some company sized units included. The game uses system very similar to Ardennes ’44 and Normandy ’44, also designed by Mark Simonitch, and players that are familiar with the these systems will have now concern learning the game. The really interesting part about the campaign, and which is used extensively in the design, is the trouble that the Allies had with the terrain of the Netherlands, including many river crossings, flat polder and bridge building.
If you are interested, you can check out our interview with designer Mark Simonitch to get more insight into the system, its design as well as a look at some of the components and counters to be used.
You can still pre-order the game on the GMT Games website, as shipping isn’t supposed to occur for another week or so, at the following link for only $35.00: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-600-holland-44-operation-market-garden.aspx
2. Dynasty: The Era of the Five Dynasties from Hollandspiele
Dynasty: The Era of the Five Dynasties is a multi-player game that recreates the power politics and military struggles of tenth century China. One player begins the game as the Emperor, defending the realm from Khitan raiders, providing flood relief, and collecting taxes, so as to maintain the Mandate of Heaven and continue to rule. The other players are provincial governors seeking to weaken the Emperor’s grasp on power and take it for themselves.
What’s unique about this game is that the Emperor has a completely different set of actions and a completely different turn structure than his opponents. When one of the governors is able to overthrow the Emperor, he assumes that role, while the disgraced Emperor now finds himself a governor, and must scheme to retake the throne – alongside the other players. Actions taken by the players include military expansion, army building, the collection of taxes, and the purchase or play of event cards.
Petty warlords, rebellions, and natural disasters enter play via event cards, and create the chaotic tapestry upon which your struggles for power are woven. Not only must you deal with one darn thing after another, but you must work to turn them to your advantage. Every action you take has its cost, and creates opportunities for the other players.
Throughout the game and at the end, players will score Victory Points for their accomplishments – and earning a VP every turn as the Emperor, because staying in power for any length of time in the Five Dynasties era is an accomplishment! – and the player with the most Victory Points wins the game.
Tom always does these great little YouTube overview videos so check this out to get a little more information about the game and how it plays: https://youtu.be/39FuOjR_cqw
If you are interested in the game, you can purchase it for $50.00 from the Hollandspiele website at the following link: https://hollandspiele.com/products/dynasty-the-era-of-the-five-dynasties
3. Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-1962 from GMT Games
Colonial Twilight is the latest release in the COIN Series from GMT Games and was shipped earlier this month. I still haven’t received my copy due to some changes that were required with the event cards but should have it any day now. The game, designed by the incomparable Brian Train, is focused on the the tangled web of military and political actions comprising the French-Algerian war of 1954-62. The insurgent Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) must build massive and enduring popular support for its cause, and organize to assume power when Algeria finally gains its independence. The Government, representing both the colonial authorities and France’s military leadership, must engage the nationalist insurgency decisively while striving to preserve the support and commitment of the civilian government and society. Players will enter the “heart of darkness” as they use military, political, and economic actions and exploit events to build and maneuver forces to influence or control the population or otherwise achieve their aims along the twisting route to independence.
This instalment is the first to be designed specifically for two players and uses a new initiative track to give pause as players choose their actions for that turn. They must consider carefully just what they want to do, and how much of it, before the initiative will slip from their fingers. Also, a full solitaire system enables solo players to test their skill against a devious game-run enemy. I am really looking forward to playing this one as I love the COIN Series but also because I have a great interest in this time period and love counterinsurgency and asymmetric games. Great fun!
If you want to buy the game, you can order it from the GMT Games page for $75.00 at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-548-colonial-twilight-the-french-algerian-war-1954-62.aspx
Thanks for checking out Wargame Watch where we looked at another slate of really interesting looking wargames. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and gained some insight into the type of games that I enjoy playing and am anticipating. If you can think of a game that is worthy of being added to this watch, please leave it in the comments. Until September, get out there and play some great games!