It is very fitting that our first post of 2018 would be the January edition of our new in 2017 Wargame Watch series. This series, which started in June, has been a very successful one with our readers and has garnered 9,531 views or an average of 1,362 views per post. It takes a little time to put together, as I have to peruse several sites and then look at forums, game pages and even Board Game Geek to try and get a look at play test component pictures to use in the posts to give you as good of a feel for the game as is possible without having seen or even played the Pre-Order entries. So, as is usual in this month’s edition, we have a few really great entries that I suggest you keep your eyes on over the next several months. If you missed December’s entry, written by Alexander, you can check that out here. Onto the games:
1. Bear Flag Republic: California During the Mexican-American War from One Small Step
The first new game design in over 20 years from Jack Greene, so he must have had something great to come out of his extended hibernation! Bear Flag Republic: California During the Mexican-American War is a card-enhanced game for 2 players based on California in 1846-47 at the time of the Mexican-American War. The game map, which I couldn’t find a picture of, shows most of California, known as Alta (upper) California at that time. The object of the game is for the Californians to retain Alta California while the goal of the “Bear Flaggers” and United States troops and sailors is to seize the soon to be Golden State. The fighting itself was not particularly bloody and involved relatively small numbers of troops. There are two major historical events that influence the course of the game. One is the outbreak of the Bear Flag Revolt just before the formal Declaration of War between the United States and Mexico. The other is the rebellion of Southern California over the initial occupation by the Americans.
Notice the game says Card Enhanced and not Card Driven, but I do love cards being used in wargames, as they add a lot of historical material in the form of events to enhance the theme and learning that comes along with playing. The game takes about 2-3 hours to play and comes with only 1 counter sheet, a mounted 22×34″ full color map and a deck of cards.
If you are interested, Bear Flag Republic is currently up for pre-order on the One Small Step website for $62.95 at the following link: http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=113
2. Stalin’s Final War: What If the Soviet Union Attacked in 1953? from One Small Step
I really have found “What If” style wargames to be very interesting, recently having played and enjoyed Operation Icarus from Tiny Battle Publishing, and one of the best designers out there for the genre is Ty Bomba. Stalin’s Final War: What if the Soviet Union Attacked in 1953? is an alternative history What If style wargame intended to investigate the strategic parameters that would’ve been in place during the first 10 weeks of operations had that dictator lived long enough to put in motion his plan to start World War III in 1953. Had he lived, the most likely start date would’ve been one closely coinciding with the signing of the Korean War armistice in July (in order to achieve a surprise effect).
His main goal in starting such a war wouldn’t have been immediate global conquest; rather, in Europe he would’ve been seeking to seize or thoroughly wreck the Ruhr–then, as now, one of the world’s main industrial regions–or otherwise abort the still young Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) as an effective member of the Western alliance. In Asia, the then already long-sought conquest of the entire Korean peninsula would’ve been the objective, thereby putting Japan into what would’ve amounted to a geo-strategic vice given that the USSR already possessed Sakhalin Island to the north.
The game comes with two 22×34″ maps. One map covers West Germany and its immediate environs; while the other covers the Korean peninsula south from the Pyongyang-Wonsan “neck.” Each hexagon on both maps represents 10 miles (16 kilometers). The Communist units of maneuver are armies and corps, while those on the UN side are mostly divisions along with a few corps. Air power is represented abstractly, with counters and rules showing the effects of one side or the other gaining temporary air superiority above one or both theaters of operation. Each full game turn represents one week of ‘real time’ from late July to early October 1953. There are also two sheets of 9/16” full-color, double-sided, die-cut, thick counters, including 456 total. The game is rated with a Complexity: 6 out of 10 and Solitaire Suitability: 8 out of 10 and is designed for 1-4 players with high solitaire suitability: 8 out of 10.
I have reached out to Ty and we are working on an interview covering the game so there will be more information available later in January.
If you are interested, Stalin’s Final War is currently up for pre-order on the One Small Step website for $62.95 at the following link: http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=112
3. Nightfighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-1944 from Compass Games
I really enjoy games covering the air war in World War II and we have played and written about some of the best, including Bomber Command and Wing Leader: Supremacy from GMT Games, B-29 Superfortress from Legion Wargames and A Wing and a Prayer from Lock ‘n Load Publishing. In the upcoming game Nightfighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-1944 from Compass Games players will have the solo experience of a tactical level game which places you in command of a German Nightfighter during World War II. Each turn consists of several days, during which a combat mission will be flown from one of many bases in Europe, attempting to intercept incoming British Bombers. Nightfighter Ace is based on the popular, action-packed Hunters game system by Gregory M. Smith with a strong narrative around the pilot as you look to increase your prestige, earn skills, and rise in rank through promotion and receive awards. Pilots may use the experience gained to improve their odds of success by purchasing Major and Minor skills. As their prestige increases, they may request a transfer to other nightfighter bases in an attempt to get “closer to the action” or request a newer type of nightfighter. Awards and ace status help to narrate the player’s eventual goal – to become the top nightfighter ace of the war.
The system is packed with rich technical detail but without the complexity to capture the key historical facets of the night bombing campaign over Germany. In terms of nightfighters alone, there are 32 nightfighter models available to pilot. The families of nightfighters include:
- Bf110 (10 aircraft)
- Ju88 (5 aircraft)
- Do 215/217 (6 aircraft)
- He219 (10 aircraft)
- Ta154 (1 aircraft)
For each nightfighter, you will be tracking the date of availability, speed, area of operations based on originating base, individual weapon systems, electronic systems, damage, and crew status.
This game will be familiar to any who have played the likes of other games designed by Gregory Smith, such as The Hunters or Silent Victory published by Consim Press, as they generally use the same gaming system. The game system also lends itself very well to capturing the tense air defense over Germany. While Nightfighter Ace is designed as a solitaire gaming experience, additional options for play are provided for both multi-player cooperative and competitive gaming sessions.
If you are interested, Nighfighter Ace is currently up for pre-order on the Compass Games website for $75.00 at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/nightfighter-ace.html
The game is expected to be released in March 2018.
4. All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918 from GMT Games
I love the COIN Series of games and own 5 of the 8 volumes, with Volume 8 Pendragon on its way in the mail and Volume 1 Andean Abyss scheduled for a reprint in 2018. Over the past year or so, I have been watching with great interest VPJ Arponen who has done a lot of work for other COIN Series games by creating or updating their solitaire “Bots”. With this work, Vez has learned how to design games and now has his own title to offer to the world in All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918.
This new COIN offering is a step into the future of the system as it focuses on 1-3 players and uses the struggle during the Finnish Civil War of 1917-1918 as its backdrop. The 3 Factions in the game are the Reds, the White Senate and a non-violent option known as the Social Democratic Faction. The Reds seek to stage a working class revolt and then hold onto their gains, while the White Senate forces seek to reassert control and the non-violent Social Democratic Faction fights for the survival of the moderate left to enact political reform. You may remember that Volume IX Gandhi also has a non-violent faction and I am really interested to see how this works in the COIN system. Also, behind the scenes, the non-player elements of Russia and Germany will interfere in the conflict and provide military resources to the Senate and Reds respectively. The game also uses a newly designed Sequence of Play mechanic that will be a challenge for both veteran and new COIN players and should be the highlight of the design. I really can’t wait to give this game a try and see where this new volume takes us.
I love that the system is now taking into account different player counts. The games have always generally been designed for 1-4, but it is really nice to have different options as when a COIN is designed for 2 or 3 players, it really changes the mechanics and the way you have to play.
If you are interested in learning more about the game or want to go ahead and commit to purchasing for the special P500 price of $49.00, here is the link to the game page: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-675-all-bridges-burning-red-revolt-and-white-guard-in-finland-1917-1918.aspx
5. Thunder in the East: The Second World War on the Russian Front, 1941-1944 from Victory Point Games
I have been following this game for quite a while. In fact, we published an interview with the game designer Frank Chadwick in March 2017, which shares a lot of insight into how the game plays and the plans for the series into the future.
Rather than me talking about the game or sharing information from the publisher, this game is currently on Kickstarter and has about 24 days to go (as of January 1, 2018). Here is a link to the Kickstarter page where you watch videos and read to your hearts content: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/567823005/thunder-in-the-east/description
The game is a playable monster and looks very interesting. I especially love Victory Point Games counters and these particular counters look fantastic as always.
Thunder in the East is the first volume in Frank’s new ETO (European Theater of Operations) series and there is more to come in the future. If you didn’t know, Frank is one of the more venerated designers and has been around for a long time in the field so his experience, coupled with his very interesting ways of addressing design challenges are sure to make this game be a fantastic play experience.
1. Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga from Last Stand Games
One of the most gamed subjects of World War II, the Battle for Stalingrad is always a tactical and strategic puzzle that must be cracked. In Last Stand Games debut release, Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga is a huge game where designer Michael Rinella has continued to learn and adapt with his area-impulse system. With a setup time of less than 15 minutes, but a huge mounted, double map-board, players will have plenty of chances to try new approaches to the battle and explore new tactics and strategies and keep coming back for more. Three very different scenario situations give players the option to go for a game that might be complete in 3-4 hours or one that will probably take 8 hours, although there are VP checks along the way that could shorten things suddenly.
What is interesting about the design is that the game gives players “more” of the Stalingrad situation than they are used to, while reducing complexity as much as possible. What is meant by that? Well, the map tries to encompass more of the surrounding terrain on the approach to the city as shown in the huge map.
There are only a few different “unit types” that affect play, and there is no ‘spending’ of movement points from space to space in the traditional way, but an audacious (and lucky) attacker can move again and again. The battlefield area depicted includes zones to both the north and south of the city, which not only increases available options but also set up situations where both players must look to attack and defend, from an early point in the game.
But while the mechanics are streamlined, the game functions at a high level, offering a very different and more realistic modeling of German combat attrition and a much more accurate Soviet order of battle, based on most recent publications of post-Cold War Soviet sources.
If you are interested in learning more about Stalingad: Verdun on the Volga, or want to buy the game for $100.00, here is the link to the game page: https://www.laststandgames.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=1
2. Lion of Malaya: The Defense and Fall of Singapore from Tiny Battle Publishing
In our experience with games from Tiny Battle Publishing, we have found that they are affordable journeys into a variety of conflicts that we normally have not had the opportunity to game. These small poly bag games are affordable, ranging from $20-$30, and are simply chock full of high quality counters and maps. So, when I saw the release of Lion of Malaya in mid December, I knew that I would be adding this title to my wish list.
The thick, lush, wild jungles of the Malay Peninsula held an abdundance of some of the most sought-after resources of the Second World War. A staggering 60% of all the tin in the entire world lay beneath the tropical terrain, and 40% of the world’s rubber flowed through its trees. Its war machine starved by Allied embargoes, Japan set its eyes on Malaya both for these and other resources, and as a staging point for further invasions into nearby oil-rich countries.
Lion of Malaya sets the defending British Imperial and Commonwealth forces against the Imperial Japanese Army in an operational level game covering the Japanese invasion of Malaya and the advance to Singapore between December 1941 and February 1942.
Clever fatigue rules simulate the mounting exhaustion and dread. Nuanced air rules and the assignment of tank and anti-tank assets deftly emphasize their importance in modern warfare. The Commonwealth is in a desperate situation, but the game’s just as tough for the Japanese, who must win a total victory, or no victory at all. It’s WW2 gaming at its finest.
Originally published in Yaah! Magazine, Issue 6, this version of Lion of Malaya includes a number of clarifications and updates from the designer.
If you are interested in ordering a copy of Lion of Malaya for the very affordable price of $22.00, here is the link to the game page: https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/lion-of-Malaya
I know that I didn’t include as many games as I usually do on this list, but the ones that I did highlight are absolutely fantastic looking and I can’t wait to play many of them. I hope that you have enjoyed this series this year. I hope to come up with new ways in 2018 to share my love and passion about gaming with you. Wargame Watch is now one of our mainstay features and you can look forward to this series continuing monthly on The Players’ Aid Blog. I hope that you have a great 2018! Happy New Year!
I’m torn on Thunder in the East. I like the concept but I’m positive I will never have the table space for it. Maybe if I could just purchase a cheaper e-version that I can just VASSAL. I do have the Beta downloaded.
It is a monster and I have the same concern. I realize I may never live somewhere where I can setup this big of a game and leave it for a month to allow solo play.