1944: Race to the Rhine- board game.

With three run throughs of the boardgame under my belt now I thought I’d offer up a few observations of the game.

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1944: Race to the Rhine  by Phalanx Gamesis a wargame who’s main focus is on logistics rather than the intricacies of combat. The game is set after the Normandy breakout and the fall of Paris in 1944. Three players (full disclosure time- all three games I’ve played have been three player I know that there are rules for playing solo or with 2 players but I don’t know what they are) take the roles of the Army commanders Montgomery, Bradley and Patton; each with their own ‘path’ to the Rhine.  Each player has three or four wooden blocks which represent their subordinate Corps, wooden counters are also used to indicate what supplies each Corps is carrying (fuel, ammo or food) as well as the path that the logistics trucks take to resupply the subordinate units. The winner is the first General who pushes a Corp block across the Rhine, if all the German units are deployed before that happens the winner is the General who has earned the most medals.

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When a player takes a turn, they can perform two actions: move a Corps, move supplies, take trucks or take supplies. Once all the trucks have been used the game pauses and the logistics trucks are reset.  Movement is point to point and a card is drawn for each point entered. One deck is used for ‘unoccupied’ areas and is unique for each player whilst a common deck is used for areas with a German presence. Cards may indicate a German formation, a historical event that is used to change the weather or interactions with the local populous. Combat is deterministic and is just a case of having the right resources to beat the Germans. The hard part of the game is ensuring that the right resources are there where they need to be at the right time. Once each player has finished their two actions they place a counter, starting with anywhere adjacent to Dusseldorf, and working outwards from there. Of course, the placement of these counters can be used to hinder the progress of your rivals.

Each of the Generals has their own special abilities, this combined with the different starting loads for Corps as well as the hazards along each available route makes for a different game strategy for each General. Some of the basic decision that you have to make are similar, do you push forward straight away, or do you load up with what you think you might need… Montgomery’s route has the channel ports to consider, clearing them is difficult but supplies can be brought in from them once they have been taken; If Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary is cleared it is an even bigger bonus. Similarly, Patton can draw on supplies from Allied forces advancing from the South (post Operation Dragoon) once he has advanced sufficiently far. Air power is simple but effective when it is used carefully. Likewise, the use of Airborne assets, needs careful handling. If used badly they might cost you the game but you can still try for your own Operation Market Garden.

Deciding when to push forward and when to consolidate and bring up supplies are the key decisions in the game, keeping and eye on how your rivals are doing means the pressure to keep going piles on. The game is a great blend of euro style mechanics married to a strong military theme. There are very few flaws in this game. The only one that is really apparent is the game-y way you can stich up your rivals by placing the German counters- rather ahistorical, I’d have preferred a random or semi- random guided placement bot.

 

Regardless, it is a minor quibble, I highly recommend this game.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Assorted games from recent weeks.

As much as I’ve been busy beavering away in the shed making kits and painting I have been getting quite a few games in too. I’ve not done a battle report in a while for the simple reason that trying to take photos at meaningful points in the game comes third to a) playing the game and b) having a laugh with my mates, the latter is the best reason for gaming imo.

Nonetheless I have taken some ‘happy snaps’ as it were of a few recents evening’s gaming so thought I’d put them up here:

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First up we have the old Milton Bradley game Battlemasters from 1992. Done in conjunction with Games Workshop as an entry level game it comes with a rather nice printed plastic mat.

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Paul had found a cheap copy in a charity shop so he took it up to the games club and gave it a run through that evening. It plays quick so we managed to get two full games in. The above photo gives you some idea of how the random card cannon mechanisms works.

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The second scenario saw the ‘evil/ chaos’ army attempting to force a river crossing to take out a fortified tower. It seemed to be a quite a tall order for them to do that given that the ‘Empire’ army was at full strength.

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I ran a nice little 6mm 5core: Brigade Commander game for Evan and Bill that saw Bill’s 1980s British defend a section of the German countryside from Evan attacking Soviets. You can’t beat a bit of 1980s Cold War what if? gaming to stir nostalgic memories of the 1980s. I really should get a CD of 80s music to go with these games.

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The twist in the scenario was that the Soviets faced a large flanking counter attack that they weren’t ecpecting. Here Evan tries to reposition his troops in the face of approaching British armour.

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Here a MIG 23 from the VVS tries to halt the encroaching Chieftans threatening to overrun the Soviet HQ. The game ended in a bloody draw.

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I have managed to get a couple of games of the French expansion of The Great War board game. The op[ening games are based around the battles for Verdun. The first game seemed a tough ask for the defending French. I played the game twice in an evening with Paul swopping side: on both occasions the French were decisively beaten.

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I played the second of the new scenarios with Evan. Again we played it twice, again the French were beaten both times. Evan played as the Germans the first time. Veteran gamer that he is he quickly indentified the the weakpoint in my defences and went for it winning comfortably. After we swopped sides I looked at the board and couldn’t come up with a better plan so copied his shamelessly for much the same result.

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I dug out my modest fleets of Russo- Japanese War ships for a naval battle with Paul. We could have probably done with a bigger table as this turned out to be the naval equivalent of a knife fight in a telephone box.

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Here Paul’s Russian battleship is trying to ram my battleship squadron, having crossed his ‘T’ I gave him little option. Fortunately he bounced off my side armour and a lucky critical hit roll sunk him. A fun game, I need to add to my collection though before I can play the war as a campaign as I intend to do at some point.

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Finally with have the recent Too Fat Lardies’ tank skirmish ruleset What a Tanker. Evan ran the game for Bill and I, I had three BT7s and a T28 facing off against a STUGIII, Pz38t and a PzII. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing around the table Bill whittled me down for the win. I’ve mixed views on the game (I think the games set in the early war don’t work, for boring mathematical reason, due to the game design) but that aside it was one of the most enjoyable evening gaming I had had in a long time.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

The Great War: The French Expansion Kickstarter has arrived.

The Great War is a game inthe Command and Colours family by Richard Borg which I got into when it was first kickstartered (is that a verb now? I kickstarter, you kickstarter, we all kickstarter?) a few years ago. The Great war as a conflict can be tricky to game, especially the Western Front in its trench warfare phase; whilst low level games of trench raiding may work gaming the actual attacks across the no man’s land can be problematical.*

Richard Borg has made a very fun game that uses managing two hands of cards to allow you to ‘enjoy’ the frustrations of the war. It is very difficult to set up a good run of things, tanks break down all the time and you never have enough artillery but when you can coordinate everything it is very satisfying. As a result when the 3rd, French, expansion (based around the battle of Verdun, was announced I backed it straight away.

I picked it up from the Post Office on Saturday and got it opened up.

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The main box with the modest extras I got, I managed to restrain myself and not go overboard with buying everything this time.

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The back of the box telling you what you get.

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The contents- lots of scenarios, a full set of figures for the French and extras for the Germans and British.

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The figures again separated by type.

One nice feature is that this exapansion adds loads of specialists to the mix (spotters, officers, extra ammo carriers, flamethrowers… that kind of thing) as well as rules to add them into the previously published scenarios. By using a list to see how many to add into each game and then cross referencing a table to see what was available in each year of the war you have, for the first time, a personal choice in the make up of your force in a scenario.

Talking of scenarios: I’ve played this game at least 20 times now and am yet to repeat a game. Now with this expansion bringing the number of different scenarios up to 62 I reckon I’ve still got about a hundred game left at least before I repeat myself (I’m counting playing the same scenario from different sides as different games).

In other news, and featured here because she sat in the box the game expansion came in, I’d like to introduce my new cat: Ticker.

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I had been with out a pet for a couple of years after my last cat Mickey (huge b&w Tom) had to be euthanised after developing tumours and was waiting until a cat needed a home came along. Ticker was the cat of a friend of a friend of my Mu7m’s who sadly passed away and she needed rehoming. She has been a little timid and standoffish but she is partly, or probably mostly, siamese and I’ve heard they can be like that and take a long time to bond so I’m giving her plenty of space and affections while she settles in.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

*Though not impossible see Martin Rapier’s work here: http://tgamesweplay.blogspot.com/2018/08/amiens-1918-2.html

Bargain price game mats.

Given the quality job Pix Art Printing clicky did with the game maps for my recent Case Blue megagame I decide that I put some more business their way. Several years ago I bought a few game maps from Wargames Vault clicky with the intention of printing them out onto paper and assembling them as a jigsaw. This didn’t work so well for various reason… but now there is Pix Art I decided to send them there to be printed. Using MS Publisher I added all the images together into one massive file and then waited for a special offer to be on to maximise my savings.

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In the End I got a 130cm by 350cm vinyl at printed for £30 including delivery from Italy.

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I got a 120cm square wasteland mat that will be ideal for any game set in the Middle East/ North Africa, as a point of comparison the going rate for a comparable sized mat by itself seems to be about £25.

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This 120cm by 60cm costal strip will be great for ampibious landing be it in WW2 or the Dark Ages, the textures should work for both 20 and 28mm sized figures.

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I added a few maps from my Print and Play board game collection- here we have maps for the Russo- Japanese War, WW1, fictional WW3 and right up to date with the War in Donbass.

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A slightly smaller urban mat- should be useful for some of the 40K figures I’ve painting recently.

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Finally I printed the map for use in Brian Train’s free urban COIN game: Maracas clicky

 

All in all I’m really pleased with this. They should last for ages and as they are easy to roll storage isn’t a problem either.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

Chile ‘ 73- Board game review.

I noticed on Saturday on Brian Train’s blog [clicky] that he has released a new game “Chile ’73” [clicky] and it was available as a print and play edition from Wargames Vault for a very reasonable $8.99 (price I bought it at) [clicky] so I bought myself a copy and got printing.

 

Unfortunately I’ve had a viral infection in my ear that effected my balance, cognitive abilities and motor skills (much better now though) so I made a bit of a hash of assembling the components, not everything is straight or wrinke free. No worry I thought: if I like the game enough I’ll print the pages out again and have a better go at it.

 

I decided to run through a quick game on Monday evening with Paul [clicky]  , as I know he is working on a coup/ Juntas inspired megagame at the moment, and see what we made of it. The game is based around the 1973 coup against President Allende, events which ultimately lead to Pinochet becoming President (spelt d- i- c- t- a- t- o- r in his case). Other than that I know nothing about the events that are being simulated so I can offer no opinion on how well the game works in simulating history.

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Chile ’73 is a game of two halves:  pre and post coup. Players, 2 or more no upper limit is specified, start by deciding which faction that they want to play and also which hidden agenda they want to follow, this matters only with 3 or more players as it determines who on the winning side claims overall victory. In the pre coup turns players  get 3 actions try to amass forces on to their side by drawing randomly from a cup (your own faction is easier to recruit), moving units on the map or collecting/ using action chits. The action chits can be used to thwart opposing player actions, spy on them or saved for later.

This continues until one player (me in our playthrough) decides the time is right to launch a coup. If there was more than just the two of us players would have to declare which side to support but in a 2 player run through Paul defaulted to the loyalist position, also in a 2 player game they have a 50/ 50 chance of getting the remaining units onto their side. From now on the game is a fast playing urban combat game that continues until only on side remains in play. In our run through my coup attempt was succesful due to superior numbers but I paid a heavy price from Paul’s air attacks. The placement of units in the pre coup phase is important as it is possible to convert some civilian units to armed units if key areas are held. Likewise keeping hold of an aiport is vital if you want some air support (something I neglected to do). In the case of two or more players on the same victorious side a victory points table is consulted to see who can claim overall victory.

All of the mechanisms are simple enough but give you enough choices and create the right thematic atmosphere. There are a few negatives though, there are a few ommissions in the rule book, stacking limits for units in a city area aren’t defined clearly but it can be inferred from a rule on staelmate that it is three. A few of the counters don’t have the correct backs on the sheets provided but it isn’t too muchof a problem. Fortunately these can be rectified and updated files posted on wargames vault. I think that we didn’t get the most out of the game with only two players, with more the pre coup phase wouyld be more interesting as you would be trying to work out other players agendas through the employment of action chits, that combined with the greater uncertainty of possible allegiances would make for more tension. Likewise competing with a ‘team’ for overall victory would add an other level of play.

EDIT- Ignore my comments onthelack of stackinglimits- I was writing bollocks- my illness addled brain missed the rules even though they are clearly marked; as the rules designers has pointed out inthe comments below.

The question is will I be printing it out again. The answer is yes, my current thining is to blow the board up twice as big and the counters one and a half times the size to facilitate a multiplayer game. I’m looking forward to a game with at least 5 of us….

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

New Years Eve game-athon.

Last weekend for NYE my friend Simon came up for a weekend of gaming. We tried to fit as many in as possible and in that regard we did pretty well.

Starting things off on Saturday we played a ‘Cold War goes Hot’ game of 5core: Brigade Commander. Bill had an early finish from work so he brought round a late 1980s British armoured  brigade which he has been working on recently. I decided to umpire so I gave Simon a reinforced Soviet Tank regiment and a pair of Mi24 Hinds. The game went back and forth, with heavy losses on both sides.

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An overview of the table.

The battle swung back and forth with heavy casualties on both side although all of the helicopters survived until the end of the game which is unusual in itself. The brace of Hinds found their role as a QRF. Simon used them to plug the gap when ever Bill’s Challenger tanks opened up a hole in his lines.

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Russian tanks and mech infantry take cover in a wood.

Brigade Commander is a great game imo. It plays really well and is easy to pick up with everyone I’ve shown it too being really favourable to it. I’ve plans to try a large multiplayer game of it soon -ish so watch this space….

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A pair of Hinds covering the tank company in the wood.

Later on that evening Simon and I looked at Nuts! publishing’s Urban Operation boardgame. It started off life being developed as training aid by a serving French Officer before being released as a commercial project. Being a block game it adds a nice bit of fog of war combined with nice chunky playing pieces. The use of generic blocks combined with unit cards allows a large range of scenarios and campaigns to be included. We decided to look at a one off game based around the Russian attack into Grozny in 1996.

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My initial defending positions as the Chechen player.

 

The game handbook suffers a little in its translation and the jargon heavy military style of the rule books could also be looked at for the civilian market but it does provide a good playable modern warfare simulation. It can be frustrating to platy as the rules punish mistakes quite harsly but I suppose that is the point. FIBUA  has never been described as easy. However, the forces in a scenario do provide you with the tools you need to win… as long as you use them wisely.

The next morning, suitable fortified with a fry up we looked at ‘War Plan Orange’, a C3i magazine game that takes GMT’s Empire of the Sun board game of WW2’s pacific war, trims it down and sets it 10 years earlier. It is quite a heavy game requiring a lot of careful planning to get your fleets in the right position.

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Simon’s IJN fleet spreading across the pacific, with suitable reading material to hand.

My luck was not with me. I won the unimportant encounters but 5 of my 6 attempts to take central pacific islands were rebuffed. In the end I ran out of time in the game to either retake territory of inflict an attritional victory. That said I really enjoyed the card driven mechanics and look forward to a second game. Also I’ll keep an eye out for Empire of the Sun too.

Following a trip to WW2 in the pacific we went right up to date and looked at a print and play game that I had made from Yaah! magazine (it was the one I featured in my tutorial a bit back). The game is set around the Russian separatist attempts to take Donetsk airport from the Ukrainians in 2014. For a magazine game the rules were very well laid out and played nicely without the errors that tend to creep into these things.

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The separatists force their way into the airport buildings.

About halfway through the game I had to break off and get some food on te go. Fortunately Chris had turned up so I delegated the defence of the airport to him. With beginners luck and a few judicious decisions he completely pulled around the course of the defeat I had been staring into and won the game. Finding my carefully placed ATGM that I had forgotten about and using it effectively seemed to turn the tide, that and rather aggressive moves with BTR80s. Another game to revisit soon.

After tea and with some beer/cider/whisky we set up another GMT game: Andean Abyss. The first and in some ways the simplest entry into the popular COIN series. Four factions battle for control of Colombia in the late 90s/ early 00s.

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Mid game, FARC are ascendant with two areas designated as FARC zone so no-go areas for the government. 

Playing as a threesome Simon took the government forces, Chris the AUC and myself the FARC. The drug cartels themselves were run through the games flow charts- something that always provides a tough game. Mid game we all called a truce to beat them so we wouldn’t be beaten by a game mechanic. In the end both Simon and I were over our victory conditions but as he was over by the bigger margin the victory went to him.

As the night was still young we dragged out my favourite ‘fun’ game then a laugh: Twilight Creation’s Innsmouth Escape.

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Trying to rescue trapped students from hordes of deep ones.

The human player, me in this instance, has to navigate the board trying to rescue the requisite number of students before escaping the board. The game uses a nice hidden movement mechanic and the waves of re-spawning deep ones generate a tension as you always seem to lose more health than you can heal. In the end I had rescued enough people but was killed before I could exit the board.

On Monday Simon and I had enough time for one final game. We decided upon returning to the naval theme and getting my 1/2400th Russo Japanese ships out. Taking the Japanese I had 2 battleships with 3 cruisers and 3 destroyers to Simon’s 3 battleships and the same number of cruisers and destroyers. My collection is pretty small still so rather than fight out a particular historical battle I just pulled together what I thought would make an interesting game.

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Destroyers may get a lucky hit with their torpedoes but they don’t last long when under the guns of bigger ships.

The rules we used were ‘Tsushima’ from A and A game engineering. Fast playing bckets of dice style rules that give a nice fast game. The opening stages of the game where you move by counters provides a nice tense mini game where you try to jostle for position.

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Right at the end of the game Simon got a critical hit on the bridge of my flagship… even though the battle had gone in my favour the fate of my avatar had to be determined. We gave me a 50% chance of death and a 50% chance of heroic scarring… the dice were kind and after a painful recovery I have some impressive battle damage to show off around Tokyo.

 

On the subject of the Russo- Japanese Naval War I picked up White Bear and Red Sun rules/ campaign system in the Wargames Vault sale, so when I’ve got more ships in my collection I’ll look at running a campaign on the conflict.

All in all a cracking few days gaming- we managed to get seven different games in.

Simon has put his thoughts on four of the games over on his blog, have a look here:

http://lestradesgame.blogspot.co.uk/

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A busy few days: Recon show, Necromunda, The Great War and Wargames magazines.

Last weekend I, with Paul, flew the flag for Pennine Megagames by taking the demo version of ‘Harrying of the North’; it is a simple map movement and battle board participation game.

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The Normans have to hoover up supplies whilst Saxons under Edgar the Etheling try to stop them. It is mainly to show off the combat mechanisms I plan to use in the future megagame. Be honest about it, whilst the game works, it take too long for what would be available in a megagame turn so it needs streamlining more. However, with Fall Blau on the horizon I am devoting my energies into that. I plan to take a demo version of it to the Hammerhead show at Newark and possibly Chillcon in Sheffield. Pleasingly the paper figures that I cut out seemed to be very popular with the punters at Pudsey. Given how little time they took to construct I’m really pleased with how they turned out.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my sense of nostalgia had been tweaked by Games Workshop’s reissue of Necromunda. Well my friend Jonathon has a copy so I popped round to have a game.

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Having got such fond memories of the original and gaming in my teenage years I was hoping that it lived up to the hype.

I quickly came up with a Goliath gang and got on with it, I’m pretty sure a few of the subtleties of the rules were missed but it was good to get a feel of the new version.

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The production quality is outstanding, as it should be for such a company, and the new figures are miniature works of art. My choices for the gang weren’t ideal and as the Escher were so very good at ranged combat I took heavy casualties until I got into close combat. Still it was a learning experience and I know what I’d do differently next time.

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I’m really tempted to get the game- sadly running out of space means I may not. I’d love to make a detailed vertical board for it but the question is where to put it… I guess I really should sort out my shed. It may be the impetus I need. Either way I may start with a Goliath gang of my own for a starter; it shouldn’t be too hard to find space for ten figures.

I also played a quick game of PSC’s The Great War with Evan. Given the kickstarter I mentioned has been funded it was good to get it on the table again. The scenario we chose to play was based on the famous action of a tank named ‘Fray Bentos’ at Passchendaele:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/10358335/WW1-The-siege-of-Fray-Bentos-at-the-Battle-of-Passchendaele.html

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My Germans, despite getting off to a good start, failed to achieve much. Aggressive infantry backed up by the immobile but still shooting tank completely outclassed me. Another game I’ll do better at next time….

I also picked up two of the three big wargaming magazines, it is not something I often do but they both had articles that looked interesting, the differences between the two are quite marked though.

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Wargames Illustrated has by far the better production but the depth of the articles left something to be desired: the Russo-Japanese one, whilst featuring some lovely photos was a bit shallow so to speak. The campaign on the fighting in Prussia in WW2 was interesting but could have done with some better editing. Great eye candy though but little in I’d refer back to later beyond the campaign.

Miniature Wargames has undergone a few changed from when I used to buy it; it looks far more professional now. It always had the best articles in but was often let down by poor photos. Under new owners and editorship that has changed. The reason I bought the magazine was that it featured an article on the Warsaw battle 1944 by Jim Webster, he is much under rated as a games writer in my opinion. I’ve always found his writing to be worth the price of admission alone. His ideas on gaming urban warfare are no exception and something I’ll try out on my own table top soon hopefully.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.