Another month has come and gone and there are yet again more good quality games being offered by wargame publishers. I know. Shocking, right? A publisher, in an attempt to make money and keep their doors open, making new games for us to salivate over, take out second mortgages or max out credit cards so that we can add them to our ever-growing collections (you know wargamers are notorious for having dozens and dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of games on their shelves) and play great consims of historic battles. It is simply awesome! In this month’s edition of Wargame Watch, we will dive into several new wargames that are coming from both big publishers as well as the little guys that keep churning out hits. If you missed last month’s Wargame Watch, you can check it out here.
1. Raiders of the Deep: U-Boats of The Great War, 1914-1918 from Compass Games
I am a visual person and a sucker for truly great covers. When I saw this cover, I was immediately taken. Raiders of the Deep: U-Boats of The Great War, 1914-1918 is based on The Hunters designed by Gregory Smith and published by ConSim Press. The game is a solitaire only, tactical level game placing you in command of a German U-boat during WWI. Your mission is to destroy as much Allied shipping as possible, while advancing your crew quality, increasing your Commander rank, and attempting to survive until the Armistice and the end of the war. This game is the first dedicated boardgame covering WWI U-Boat warfare and is sure to be something that we should all experience.
The object of the game is to carry out a series of patrols in the North Atlantic. The success of each patrol is determined by the total tonnage of ships sunk, which will result in possible promotion and crew advancement, and in receipt of the highly coveted Pour le Mérite award. Just as in the real historical U-boat war, the game system involves a great deal of chance but ultimate success rests on the decisions you make during your career. These type of solo games have the capacity to be truly engaging and deep thematic experiences if played with the proper mindset that places you in the situations depicted. As a Commander, you will begin to care about each of your crewmen and have a desire to see them advance in their skills and abilities, mainly due to the fact that this will increase the odds for success at your difficult missions, but also because if you are immersed in the narrative you will begin to develop an emotional connection. I know it sounds weird but I assure you it can happen.
There are 19 different U-Boat models to choose from and here is a look at an example of one of the cards used to track each of the subs which tracks damage to areas of the ship, . If you are interested in Raiders of the Deep: U-Boats of The Great War, 1914-1918, you can preorder a copy on the Compass Games’ website game page at the following link for $75.00: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/raiders-of-the-deep.html
The game is expected to be ready as of February 2018.
2. 1918/1919 Storm in the West from GMT Games
I have said it before, but World War I has never been a war that I was really that interested in. I think the main reason for my lack of interest was an incorrect, pre-conceived notion I held that the war was nothing more than a large muddy stalemate with little in the way of excitement such as maneuvering, tactics, etc. I thought the war was simply fought in trenches and was characterized as slow and plodding. I have since found out that my perception was not totally accurate. I also experienced a really well done World War I game from GMT Games. You probably have heard about it. Fields of Despair: France 1914-1918 designed by Kurt Keckley.
1918/1919: Storm in the West is designed by one of the greats in the industry who has designed such games as Paths of Glory, 1914: Glory’s End/When Eagles Fight (also both focused on World War I) and The Dark Valley. Storm in the West is a remake of a game published in Command Magazine in 1992. The game covers the last 9 months of World War I and includes Ted’s follow up design Plan 1919. The game includes many elements that help to make the game more playable than a traditional continual slogging trench battle, as there are tanks, cavalry and air support. The game features, at least for the 1918 scenario, a vast number of highly trained trench warfare specialists in the form of Stosstruppen. The game is marketed as being simple to play but not simplistic and states that it can be played in one session, which to me usually means 4-5 hours or so. I am definitely interested in this game and see it as a bargain as it comes with 1 1/2 counter sheets and a back printed 22×34″ map.
If you are interested, here is a link to the game page on the GMT Games website where you can preorder 1918/1919: Storm in the West for the special P500 price of $30.00: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-670-19181919-storm-in-the-west.aspx
3. Down In Flames: Locked-On from Dan Verssen Games
I really enjoy aerial dog fight games, especially those that contain Jets and missiles. Down In Flames: Locked-On from Dan Verssen Games brings the award-winning series into the jet age and features aircraft as far back as the Korean War in the 1950’s, including the F-86 Sabre, through modern aircraft like the F-15 Eagle!
Locked-On is a stand-alone card game that uses a unique Action/Reaction card mechanic that simulates the maneuvers aircraft perform in combat. The thing that I really like about the game concept is the Action/Reaction element, where if you have the right cards in your hand, you can evade your opponent and even escape certain death and destruction from a missile that has locked-on to you. Each mission starts with an assignment of points that each player can spend to choose their aircraft. These aircraft list the amount and type of missiles they are equipped with, and players place counters to show those missiles. There are also various flight status counters that show the various capabilities of the aircraft, such as radar, and then cards are dealt to each player based upon the performance rating of the chosen aircraft. From there, you fight it out. Games are pretty simply and play in 15 to 30 minutes.
The game currently is on Kickstarter and has about 8 days left so if you are interested in ordering a copy of Down in Flames: Locked-On for $50.00 visit the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/11606594/down-in-flames-locked-on
The game is expected to be available in March 2018.
1. Rifles in the Ardennes from Tiny Battle Publishing
I saw this one late in October on the Tiny Battle Publishing Facebook page and was immediately hooked. A solitaire game covering one of the most gamed, involved and complex offensives of late World War II? Where do I sign up?
Rifles in the Ardennes is designed by Gottardo Zancani and is a solo only game that covers various scenarios during one of the greatest offensives of the Germans during World War II in The Battle of the Bulge. The design uses a very unique and stylized track, rather than a traditional board, to display the units and keep track of the action. A simple solitaire system allows the recreation of small combat engagements typically consisting of between five to ten units per side over 8 different scenarios. Blind chit draws and die rolls, combined with artfully crafted charts, create an impressive “artificial intelligence,” giving the game a true fog of war element.
I really like that the system that Gottardo designed is generic enough that it can be customized and used to replicate other engagements and campaigns during World War II, or any other military conflict for that matter. I am not a huge solo gamer but when backed in a corner and short of a human player, I will definitely be interested in this system.
If you are interested in a copy of Rifles in the Ardennes, here is the link to the game page on the Tiny Battle Publishing Site which can be ordered for $28.00: https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/rifles-in-the-Ardennes
I have reached out to the designer Gottardo Zancani and he is willing to do an interview with me so look for that over the next few weeks.
2. The African Campaign Designer Signature Edition from Compass Games
I have a penchant for World War II operational level games, particularly in lesser gamed ones. Not that North Africa hasn’t had its share of games both good and bad, but this one looks really good. Designed by one of the best in the business John Edwards, this has been given the royal treatment by Compass Games and looks really appealing. The game has been remastered and updated with new errata with a smattering of new optional rules and variants. This two-player game allows players to explore the key elements of the Desert War, beginning in December 1940 with Wavell’s first offensive, Operation Compass, against the Italian forces of Marshal Graziani, and culminating in December 1942 when the Americans landed in Rommel’s rear, thus sealing the ultimate fate of the Afrika Korps. The game also has a new and larger map (17″ x 50.75″) and larger 5/8” counters to deliver an optimal play experience. I’ve seen several unboxing videos of this one on social media and I am really interested now.
If you are interested in a copy of The African Campaign, Designer Signature Edition, you can order a copy on the Compass Games website at the following link for $40.00, but hurry as the price will most likely increase after the initial barrage of preorder games are released: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/the-african-campaign-designer-signature-edition.html
3. Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of North Africa from Lock ‘n Load Publishing
Keeping with the North African Theater, we will next take a look at Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of North Africa. Recently, I obtained a copy of Heroes of the Pacific and played with my gaming partner Alexander. I must say, the Lock ‘n Load Tactical Series has got it going on as the counters are fantastic, the maps are interchangeable to offer many possibilities for new randomly generated scenarios and the game play is really fun, engaging and offers some really great tactical abilities such as Low Crawl, Assault Move, Air Support, etc. I really enjoyed our play and cannot wait to dive into some additional scenarios.
In Heroes of North Africa, players can control the Italians, including paratroopers from the rugged Folgore Division, and Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps to take on the resolute British Eighth Army. The Free French and Americans also get into the action. The battles start in 1940, with a few in East Africa, and Sidi Barrani, Egypt, and continue up to El Alamein and the Americans’ first taste of combat during Operation Torch, in November of 1942. Heroes of North Africa has the most components of any game in the series to date.
If you are interested in a copy of Heroes of North Africa, here is a link to the game page on the Lock ‘n Load Publishing website for $99.00 (I know that the price is up there but the counters make it worth it.): https://store.lnlpublishing.com/heroes-of-north-Africa
4. Holland ’44: Operation Market-Garden from GMT Games
Holland ’44: Operation Market-Garden is an operational level game that covers the entire action across the whole of the operation set during September 1944. The action includes troops from the 101st and 82nd Airborne, to the British 1st Airborne with their Polish attachment. Meanwhile, XXX Corps has to fight it’s way up Hell’s Highway to attempt to support the beleaguered paratroopers as they desperately try to prevent the Germans from blowing key bridges that will slow the Allied advance ending in disaster. Everything from the campaign is included in this game, from traffic problems, to paratroop drops, to those tough and hardened SS Panzer divisions to create a very deep and rich thematic experience.
I own a copy and have played the first 3 turns of the short scenario and really like what I am seeing up to this point. I have a sneaking suspicion that this game will go down as another Simonitch classic. It uses mostly a battalion scale series of units on two full counter sheets so there’s a ton of room in this game for maneuvering, support and an opportunity to re-write history. The front cover artwork is fantastic and the price is very reasonable for such an ambitious game.
If you are interested in a copy of Holland ’44: Operation Market-Garden, here is a link to the game page on the GMT Games website for $55.00: http://www.gmtgames.com/p-600-holland-44-operation-market-garden.aspx
We did an unboxing video for this game last month and you can check that out to get a good feel for the components
Whew! A good list with some really great games. I love doing this Wargame Watch entry on a monthly basis as it really helps me to focus in on new games and to do my research and homework so I am able to intelligently share them with you. I don’t get to play all of these games, as I don’t have the money to buy them all nor the time to play them all, but it is still satisfying to take a look. Until next month, have a great time playing games!