We have been very pleased with the response of this Wargame Watch feature to date and appreciate all those who read it each month. As I have said in the past, I really enjoy putting these together and find myself subscribing to all the monthly newsletters and email updates that I can from various publishers. One of my new favorite hobbies is waiting for Thursday nights so I can watch Compass Games Live on Facebook as they usually announce at least 1 new pre-order game almost every other week.
This month, there are some really great titles in this post, from the usual suspects as always but also from some of the smaller indie publishers like White Dog Games (they are quickly becoming one of the most interesting small publishers out there with great looking games coming out almost monthly), Tiny Battle Publishing and High Flying Dice Games. I am pleased to show to you some great games that are sure to find their way to my table over the next year.
If you missed last month’s Wargame Watch, you can find it at this link.
1. Grand Tactical Series: Race for Bastogne from Multi-Man Publishing
Race For Bastogne is a Grand Tactical Series (GTS) game that covers one small corner of the history of the Battle of the Bulge during December 1944. On 16 December 1944, the Germans launched their great offensive through the Ardennes. The XLVII Panzer Corps attacked with the 2nd Panzer Division and 26th Volksgrenadier Division, reinforced by the Panzer Lehr Division. Defending was part of the 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division. It should have been a blitzkrieg through the thin defenses but stubborn resistance, the terrain, and the well-managed commitment of American reinforcements caused the German attack to fail to take Bastogne just as the 101st Airborne Division arrived. Even as German forces by-passed Bastogne to extend the “Bulge,” the 101st was hard pressed to defend the critical crossroads town.
Race For Bastogne simulates the German XLVII Corps attack across the Our River through the 110th Infantry Regiment, the delaying actions by Combat Command Reserve, 9th Armored Division, and Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division, followed by the defense of Bastogne by the 101st Airborne Division. The game covers the night of 15 December to the night of 25 December 1944. The German player initially commands three “divisions” and the American player two “divisions” on two maps laid end to end.
Race For Bastogne includes one Campaign Game and six scenarios; five of these use a single map (or portions of a single map), and the sixth uses both maps.
The components include:
• Grand Tactical Series (GTS) 2.0c Series Rules (40 pages, color)
• Race For Bastogne Exclusive Rules (60 pages, color)
• Rules Summary (8 pages, B&W)
• TRC/TEC set (2 cards, color)
• Divisional Charts set (5 cards, color)
• Off-Map Display & Turn Record Chart (2 cards, color)
• Two single-sided 22″ x 34″ maps (see a sample of the playtest map HERE)
• One double-sided 8-1/2″ x 11″ map
• Eight countersheets (5/8″) (see samples of the playtest counters HERE and HERE)
• Four 10-sided dice
This is a huge game and I am very intrigued, both by the battle itself and this treatment, but also by the fact that this game simply focuses on a small part of the overall offensive. I will be honest. With our lifestyle (Alexander has 2 kids and I have 5) and with our modest living spaces, we just don’t have the space to be able to setup a huge monster game and leave it for a month at a time. This one though looks to be more manageable and as such I am very interested.
If you are interested in Race for Bastogne, you can pre-order a copy from the Multi-Man Publishing website for the pre-order price of $120.00 ($160.00 retail) at the following link: http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/ProductID/361/Default.aspx
2. Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea: Volume II from Compass Games
The game Indian Ocean Region enables participants to play out possible future conflicts, circa 2025, from their political beginnings to military endings with the same game mechanics as used in the South China Sea game. Players assume the roles of nations or groups of nations and deal cards in multiple rounds of play each representing three to seven weeks to advance their separate agendas. Each card play might trigger armed conflict. If violence comes to pass, the time scale compresses to three to seven hours per turn and players deploy their military units to resolve matters by force. Those forces include: individual capital ships, pairs or triples of smaller vessels, squadrons of aircraft, and battalions of ground troops all waging war at the far end of logistical shoestrings.
If you are interested in Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea Volume II, you can pre-order a copy for the price of $65.00 from the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/indian-ocean-region.html
The game is expected to release in the 2nd quarter of 2019.
3. The Revelation War: The Coming War for the Middle East from Canvas Temple Publishing Coming to Kickstarter
Revelation War: The Coming War for the Middle East is a near-future what-if wargame that presumes the US continues its zigzag withdrawal from imperium into neo-isolation, leaving Israel alone to face a hostile coalition of Islamist nations plus Chinese and Russian ‘expeditionary forces.’ It’s based on the theories of current-day geo-strategist Peter Zeihan. He maintains the defining feature of these times is the voluntary US withdrawal from its former global imperium. That’s due to the fact newly exploitable (fracking) North American energy deposits, coupled with newly arriving manufacture-on-demand industrial techniques, is essentially turning our continent into an autonomous and self-sustaining economic unit. Therefore to go on spending vast sums of money on overseas military commitments – the main mission for which was to keep in place the global free-trade regime set in motion at the 1944 Breton Woods conference – is no longer cost efficient. With that withdrawal will come a whole range of regional wars, to be fought by the various powers for whom the areas abandoned by the Americans are their home territories. This game covers such a potential war in a near-future Middle East that’s been abandoned by the US.
There’s one large-hex 34×22” map, at 7.5 miles per hex, along with one sheet of 176 large-size (5/8”) NATO-style counters. Each of the seven turns equals one day of ‘real time.’
Playing time is about two to three hours and, though designed for two-players, it can easily be adapted for solitaire use.
The Kickstarter campaign is supposed to start in early September but I don’t have that information as of yet. I will add a link here to the Kickstarter page when it becomes available. I also have an interview with the game designer ready to post soon so look for that for more detailed information on the game.
4. Commands and Colors: Samurai Battles from GMT Games
I have never really played much C&C and don’t frankly feel that drawn to the system. But with this games release, I might be as I definitely have a soft spot for anything Japanese. In the August Monthly Update email from GMT Games came an announcement that this game would be added to the P500. The Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles game rules allow players to portray important engagements of Japanese history. The battles, included in the scenario booklet, focus on the historical deployment of forces and important terrain features in scale with the game system. The scale of the game is flexible and varies from battle to battle. For some scenarios, an infantry unit may represent an entire clan of soldiers, while in other scenarios a unit may represent just a few brave warriors.
The Command cards drive movement and creates a “fog of war” and presents players with many interesting challenges and opportunities, while the battle dice resolve combat quickly and efficiently. The Honor & Fortune game mechanic will task players to maintain a balance between these two important game elements. The Dragon Cards add an element of suspense and surprise that can bend the rules and instantly change the course of a battle. The battlefield tactics you will need to execute to gain victory, however, conform remarkably well to the strengths and limitations of the various Japanese unit types, their weapons, battle terrain, and written history.
So what makes GMT’s Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles game great? In a word, More! GMT’s C&C: Samurai Battles game has more scenarios, more units to deploy, additional types of Japanese units, a jammed-packed battlefield with more units and more terrain. And there are still more expansion materials already waiting in the wings.
First – there are more units and more unit types in the game. Yep, it will take some time to apply stickers to all the blocks, but doing so is a breeze, when compared to the time it took to assemble figures. When done, blocks are very durable and easy to store.
Second – the battlefield comes on a one-piece mounted map board. Not really any larger in that it still stands at 11 hexes deep by 12 hexes wide, but there are plenty of terrain tiles including new types of terrain, fences, ramparts, castle walls and more.
Third – more scenarios, which no doubt will be the most important feature for anyone who owns and enjoys the previous version of Samurai Battles from Zvezda. If all goes as planned, the game will have around 40 scenarios.
If you are interested in Commands and Colors: Samurai Battles, you can pre-order a copy for the P500 price of $55.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-724-commands-colors-samurai-battles.aspx
1. The Battle for Ramadi: The Final Assault on the City 22-28 December, 2015 from Tiny Battle Publishing
Highlighting the 1st of 2 solitaire games appearing on the list this month (I better be careful or I might just turn into a bonafide solo wargamer!), The Battle for Ramadi: The Final Assault on the City, 22-28 December 2015 is a solitaire wargame that depicts the climatic seven days of the assault on this key town. You are the commander of the Iraqi Security Forces, and must capture the Government Complex to secure the political victory, but your ultimate objective is to liberate the city and its inhabitants. You have elite Counter Terrorism Service troops supported by army, police and militia units. You can also call on Coalition air assets and special forces to give you the edge. Combat is brutal and unpredictable. The city is full of IEDs, ISIS fighters, and innocent civilians. You must plan carefully, take advantage of your freedom to deliver strikes against enemy territory at will, but also be warned that you can lose the game, even on the last turn, as your casualties mount and ISIS counterattack your exposed troops.
2. The Lost Provinces: The Thai Blitzkrieg in French Indo-China, January 10-28, 1941 from Hollandspiele
One of the things that I love about Hollandspiele’s games is that they definitely take chances. They take chances on quirky and obscure battles, on new designers and on topics that other game publishers wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. I admire Tom and Mary for that and they continue to put out very interesting games that are a little bit out of the norm. Such is the case with their newest offering called The Lost Provinces: The Thai Blitzkrieg in French Indo-China, January 10-28, 1941. An obscure battle? Check. Unique mechanics that are a bit out of the ordinary? Check. New designer? Hardly in this case as John Gorkowski has designed plenty of interesting looking games.
The shocking defeat of France in 1940 created a unique opportunity for Thailand to regain territory it had lost decades before. When Vichy France refused to give it back, fascist leader Plaek Phibunsongkhram launched a blitzkrieg attack in January 1941. The fighting stopped eighteen days later, and with Japanese mediation, Thailand won back her lost provinces.
This obscure conflict is the subject of The Lost Provinces. This is a simple, small, and soloable game that can be played in an evening with new wargamers and grognards alike. It often utilizes traditional mechanisms but with twists and nuances that make them fresh again. For example, combat strengths are compared, to arrive at odds ratios, but those ratios are expressed via a die roll modifier rather than a column on a CRT, which results in greater uncertainty about how a given battle might turn out.
The attacking Thai forces use army, artillery, and air power to bear along three separate thrust lines. The French forces are more concentrated and have the advantage of defending along interior lines. They’ll have to know when to retreat and when to make the Thai Player fight for every hex.
The game comes with a 22″ x 17″ map, 88 5/8″ counters, 1 Player Display Sheet, an 8-page rulebook and 2 six-sided dice.
If you are interested in The Lost Provinces, you can order a copy from the Hollandspiele website for the price of $35.00 at the following link: https://hollandspiele.com/products/the-lost-provinces
3. Gorbachev: The Fall of Communism from White Dog Games
If you enjoy a good solitaire game, you just might recognize the name of Ben Madison. I have played Mound Builders designed by Ben (and his partner in crime Wes Erni) and really enjoyed its portrayal of the struggle of pre-Columbian Indians to survive the Spanish Conquistadors while building up their civilization and protecting their culture and also heard really good things about Don’t Tread on Me also from White Dog Games. Following in the footsteps of these well designed solo affairs, Gorbachev: The Fall of Communism is also a solitaire strategy game that covers the collapse of the Soviet Union (1985-91).
The game puts you in the role of a trusted and close advisor to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. You help him manage the stunning changes that rocked the foundations of Communism and the vast Soviet empire during “the decade that shook the world”, when glasnost (candor, free speech) and perestroika (economic and political reform) became household words that defied decades of Cold War certainty.
At the same time, you must manage Gorbachev himself, with his frequent policy shifts, mood swings, and testy relations with allies and foes alike. You will appreciate that much of the chaos you face is Gorbachev’s fault in the first place.
“People” markers on five converging paths represent the political awakenings of the Russian people, the Baltic Republics, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Communist Party itself. The paths all meet in Moscow, where the danger of a coup exists if any of those People markers makes it that far. In addition, three tracks representing the Soviet economy, media and culture greatly impact the overall situation. A card draw determines which paths and tracks move against you this turn, and the number of “Efforts” which you earn that you can use to move them back in your favor (if the Effort die roll succeeds). The presence of Gorbachev himself gives you additional Efforts — but he is often on vacation!
Managing Efforts is key to the game, and you never have as many as you want. You can obtain more by calling in the KGB or gambling away your army in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, and your nuclear missiles, in disarmament deals: a short term strategy that can cost you victory points in the end. You can even abandon your Warsaw Pact allies to win Western goodwill (and more Efforts) as the Cold War comes to an end. Your success at disarmament will depend on how the US President views your policies, making the 1988 election — George H.W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis — important.
Each risky gambit is aimed at averting a military coup against you, which can end the game suddenly. Your success (or failure) in controlling the five paths of public opinion helps determine how many individual Politburo members are still on your side when a coup plot is hatched, so the better you play the game, the less chance the coup gets off the ground.
If you are interested in Gorbachev: The Fall of Communism, you can order a copy for the price of $46.00 from the White Dog Games website at the following link: http://www.whitedoggames.com/gorbachev
4. Nightfighter Ace: Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 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. Alexander and I got a chance to play through a few rounds at the WBC in July and really had a great time with the game, except for the fact that we were very unlucky and our guns jammed multiple times
If you are interested, Nighfighter Ace recently shipped out and you can now order a copy on the Compass Games website for $75.00 at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/nightfighter-ace.html
Another great month full of games! I am consistently taken aback by the rapidity of new game releases as well as the quality of those games and hope that this current “golden age of gaming” continues. Thanks for reading and let me know if there are any great looking games that you would have added to this list that we overlooked.