Valor & Victory Digital Review

As mentioned before, Valor & Victory is my current favourite squad level board wargame. It’s basically Squad Leader’s laid back and easy going little brother, and I’m finding myself more and more drawn to that kind of game when it comes to an afternoon of wargaming with friends. Maybe it’s the pandemic? Who knows?

In Valor & Victory, there are only a handful of rules to hammer down before diving in, but the system is robust enough to capture the fire and movement feel of WWII squad level tactics: Machine guns can wreak havoc and create fire lanes, pinning is essential on the assault, tanks can provide amazing support but can also fall victim to close infantry attack and AT guns. It’s not the most detailed game, and not the most accurate simulation, but it manages to convey what it should in games that take around 45 minutes for the experienced player. So, you know my feelings going in. That said, I’m not 100% sold on the digital version.

Valor & Victory Basics

Valor & Victory is a tactical game in which both players control leaders, squads, teams, AT Guns, and vehicles from the US, UK, and Germany fighting over geomorphic hexagonal boards representing Northern France. Each nation has a few types of squads at their disposal. The US for example has infantry, Rangers, and Airborne, each with slightly different profiles. Squads and teams can be equipped with heavy weapons and explosives that further specialize units.

Each scenario has one of three objectives: Capture key hexes, eliminate enemy units, or exit units from the board at certain spaces. The variety is there and its nice to see how far the game can take these victory conditions. But keep them in mind, they’ll become important to my frustrations with Valor & Victory.

On a given turn, one side performs a suite of actions before the opponent does the same. The command phase allows for rallying, joining and breaking down of squads, and the transfer of equipment. The Fire phase is for firing, and precludes later movement. Then movement, which can be interrupted by enemy reaction fire. Then enemy defensive fire, in which units that didn’t react fire can shoot. Then there is a final assault-move phase in which every friendly unit can move one hex. If this brings them into an occupied hex, an assault occurs.

Whether or not fire hits comes down to the roll of two dice. The total firepower of all the selected units in a hex is calculated, the dice are rolled, and the result is cross referenced to see how many casualties are taken. One casualty can be converted into a pin, but the rest need to be taken as losses.

Overall its a great system, especially on the tabletop. The simple calculation works to keep the game flowing, and there is just enough granularity to make interesting tactical choices the name of the game. On the PC though, the simplicity hurts the overall package, highlighting some of Valor & Victory’s biggest problems.

Valor & Victory Digital is…Good…If You All Make it Good.

There is a lot to like about the system, and the digital adaptation has promise, but the issue is that it depends entirely on how the community reacts to the launch, and how committed they are to mutliplayer and to scenario creation.

Here’s Valor & Victory’s goods:

The game is authentic. If you want a digital, multiplayer version of Valor & Victory that lets you play with friends across the country. You’re in luck. It does that and does it perfectly. The included scenarios are fun with friends and overarching system does what the V&V does, but it does automate some things like casualty application and defensive fire that some might want control over.

The scenario editor is great. Really, it’s fast, intuitive, and you’ll be cranking out modified ASL scenarios in no time. If the community steps up we could have a treasure trove of interesting scenarios in no time. Editors can set victory conditions, add history, deploy units and equipment, and choose from all of the included map boards in a variety of layouts.

Here are the not goods:

The AI is not great. In multiple games that I played, they barely moved. Or when they moved they did so haphazardly, dancing back and forth between positions. When the AI is tasked with taking objectives, they very rarely make decisive efforts to cross open ground, preferring to stand in cover and fire. Reasonable move to make, I suppose, but not when doing so will lose you the game. The AI is also a little wonky with its target selection. You can very easily bait anti-tank weapons to fire at infantry if they’re closer/more exposed than tanks.

The AI is better at defense, when the game becomes an exercise is how best to minimize casualties as you push towards objectives. The AI lacks a good deal of the reactive ability of a human opponent, and while I get it, AI is difficult, I was still saddened to see them put up such light resistance.

Valorous, Not Quite a Victory

The core is good! Really! If you’re going to play with friends, and if you’re going to engage with the scenario creator, Valor & Victory is great. If you’re looking for a single player board game experience, its not stellar. There is potential for updates, I believe, but I’m very optimistic to see what fans of the game will do with the resources available to them when they get their hands on it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Valor & Victory has a solid foundation built upon a great boardgame, and the included multiplayer and scenario editor are worth checking out. The AI is not great, which limits single player enjoyment.

Here’s the link to the game, We make nothing if you click on this.

At the Height of Battle: Quick Rules Review

A little while ago my wife and I actually managed to get our new miniatures from MT Miniatures onto the tabletop for a little skirmish. We haven’t really had the time to do any proper research into any historical engagements during the Imjin War, so we stuck with the tried and true method of dividing our forces and going in for the kill.

At the Height of Battle is a relatively simple rule set covering naval actions in East Asian waters in the middle ages. The starter kit that we purchased (unboxing here, painting here) had ships for the Imjin War, Japan’s fateful attempt to invade China through the Korean Peninsula.

I love simple, easy to play rulesets. I find that I have more fun when I have to worry less about granular details, especially given how busy I am these days. So bear in mind that I have that bias going into the explanation.

At the beginning of each turn both players work out the command phase, which handles morale, sinking ships, and other housekeeping. Then its on to the activations. At the Height of Battle uses a set of three cards per side that act as an initiative deck.

When your side’s card is drawn, you are free to move and fire with each unit under your control. Units are divided into squadrons with a flagship. There are rules to keep squadrons together, which help keep games looking fairly accurate, and highlight the chaos when a flagship is taken out of the action. Movement is either done by sail or oar, (or in some special cases by paddle) and is a simple system of pivoting by degrees and moving in inches. The wind must be taken into account when using sail movement, but we found that it was often more economical to use oars.

When it comes to shooting, ships have both heavy artillery, representing major armaments like catapults and cannons, and light artillery representing small arms. Each ship can fire its heavy artillery only once a turn, but can fire small arms each activation. Both have different bonuses to the opposed die that makes up combat, and successes will deal different amounts of damage, with heavy artillery more likely to deal significant damage.

It’s a good system, but we ran into one snag during our test games. Ships took “crew casualties” far too often. After the first “crew casualties” result, which halves boarding ability, further “crew casualties” results don’t do anything. So we found that almost every ship took this initial hit and then slapped at each other with boarding actions until one side took the win at the opposed die roll. Our proposed house rule is to continue halving boarding ability, rounding down, until it hits zero, for each subsequent “crew casualties” result.

When a fleet has taken half casualties, they roll for morale, given the rating of their commander, and might be forced to flee. There are plenty of other rules for ground batteries, shallow waters, capturing enemy vessels, etc. Everything you’d like to see in a quick play naval rule set.

Overall we had fun, and with the minor adjustment to crew casualties, we think we’ll be playing this one again in the future. Now I just need to do some research, and go back for more ships!

Joe

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Good, clean ruleset that offers a fun and light wargaming experience, with some minor tweeks to make it work better for us. As a complete package, At the Height of Battle is a great buy to dip your toes in miniature naval wargaming.

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New Unit Pack For Warhammer 40k: Gladius – Relics of War

Well, isn’t this something special! Warhammer 40k: Gladius – Relics of War is adding new units to the 40k 4x game via a “Specialist Pack,” adding… specialists. Each faction gets a unit from this, and they all do wildly different things, from functioning as support units to being straight-up ‘eavy ‘itters, boyz. Here’s what Developer Proxy Studios has to say about the new units:

Astra Militarum – Ratlings
Sniper infantry unit that can move after shooting.
Though less resilient than their human comrades, Ratlings are naturally excellent shots. It is said that Ratling marksmen can take the head off a heretic from over a kilometre away. Coupled with their knack for staying out of harm’s way, this makes Ratlings formidable snipers who can take a surprising toll upon superior enemy forces.

Chaos Space Marines – Dark Disciples
Infantry unit that increases the defenses of Chaos units.
Dark Disciples carry profane accoutrements of their masters’ worship and parrot the fell words spoken in his baleful prayers. Many such disciples have been augmented to better serve in their role–their skin stretched out and inked with grim litanies, or their mouths fitted with Daemon-touched vox-grilles to project their voices into the warp. Amidst the din of combat they join their Dark Apostle’s chants, crying out for the Chaos Gods to manifest their blessings.

Craftworld Aeldari – Warlock
Psyker infantry unit that can teleport around the battlefield and cleanse their foes.
When the Warlocks of the craftworlds join their minds, the fate of worlds can hinge upon their actions. As true sons of Khaine, these militant psykers will plunge into combat at the slightest provocation. Witchblades and singing spears are swung in graceful arcs, leaving coruscating webs of energy behind them as the Conclave carves through the ranks of their adversaries. They do so with joy in their souls, for of all the seers of the Eldar hosts, the Warlocks are the fiercest and most violent of all.

Necrons – Canoptek Wraiths
Extremely mobile infantry unit that passes through terrain and enemies with equal ease.
Canoptek Wraiths flit across the battlefield like the spectres of the restless dead. Using their dimensional destabilisation matrices, these strange constructs are able to phase in and out of reality at will. This unique technology means that, though no more than mindless drones, Canoptek Wraiths have manifold uses in war. Fortifications are no obstacle to a Wraith, and they are able to pass more or less undetected even through the midst of the foe, making them exceptional spies and assassins both. Furthermore, Canoptek Wraiths make effective terror- troops, appearing as if from nowhere to strike at vital targets in the enemy’s midst. Here, swirling through the panicked gunfire of the foe, the Wraiths flicker rapidly in and out of phase with reality, shots and blades passing harmlessly through their indistinct forms.

Orks – Kill Bursta
Super-heavy vehicle with a big kannon and transport assault capacity.
Kill tanks are an Ork heavy tank design based around the twin Ork loves of speed and extreme violence. The Kill Bursta’s main gun is an immense, wide-bore siege mortar mounted in the centre of its forward hull, much in the manner of a Space Marine Vindicator, only much, much larger! The huge rocket-boosted ordnance launched by the bursta gun, while appallingly short ranged, is powerful enough to blast a hardened bunker or defensive bastion to smithereens, and has been observed in direct fire shattering Imperial super-heavy tanks in a single shot, based as much on luck as good judgement by its gunners.

Space Marines – Devastator Centurion
Very bulky infantry unit with massive armaments.
Devastator Centurions pound their enemies with a remorseless, relentless rain of fire. Bloody havoc is wrought upon anything that falls within the Centurions’ targeting reticules. The pilots’ marksmanship is augmented by the grim machine spirits of their warsuits, decimator protocols guiding servo-assisted recoil absorption and oracular auto-targeting to ensure the Centurions maintain a punishing rate of fire. Return fire is a futile gesture, akin to flinging stones at a fortress, for should the enemy launch an assault in an attempt to silence the Devastator Centurions’ guns they must contend with the suits’ massive strength and the pilots’ skill at arms.

T’au – Krootox Rider
Sneaky infantry unit with both ranged and close combat capabilities.
Surging from the undergrowth with their rifles blazing, the warriors of the Kroot Carnivore squads fall upon their victims with feral shrieks. In their midst lumber massive Krootoxes, gunners perched upon their backs as they direct sawing bursts of heavy fire into the foe.

Tyranids – Venomthrope
Infantry unit with poisonous attacks and a protective spore cloud.
The Venomthrope serves as a living chemical weapon dispenser for the swarms of the Tyranid hive fleets. Its whip-like tentacles drip with a multitude of alien poisons. Indeed, so potent are these toxins that it is believed that a Venomthrope’s very touch means certain death.

It’s always nice to see games still get some love from devs several years after launch. I personally haven’t played Gladius, but it is in Joe’s words, “a fun game,” and I trust his judgment. You can find the unit pack here, and the base game on Steam here.

-Jack Trumbull

Field of Glory 2: Medieval: Reconquista Review

The 11th Century to the 13th Century. A very tumultuous time in the Iberian peninsula and North Africa, as Christians and Muslims fight each other tooth and nail for the lands that now make up Spain and Portugal. Elsewhere, the Byzantine Empire expands its influence to Italy, battling the Papal States and other, smaller kingdoms in a bid to “reconquer” what had been Roman land, and that the Byzantines view as their own. Simultaneously, Norman adventurers, harkening upon their Viking heritage, arrive in Italy, looking to make fortunes and claim titles for themselves. 

Field of Glory 2 is, as we’ve talked about before, an excellent turn-based wargame, pitting mid-medieval era units against each other in big bloody battles that seem to always turn into hellish melees. While this is not always the case for the period, it’s very fun to play! And delightfully, Reconquista gives us more to play with in the period. Mentioned above are the hotspots featured in the DLC, but what’s particularly exciting (other than the fact that I get to play as the Byzantine army, who are incredibly cool in the period) is that there are a whole 20 new nations and 45 new army lists in this DLC. Holy crap, Slitherine!

You can find the full list of army lists on the Steam page, but there are several army lists here that have may differences from their northwestern European counterparts. For starters, yes, heavy cavalry is still king, but you see more variances on it than you would up north. Several of the Arab tribes have access to camelry (yes that is the real word) units, which are excellent anti-cavalry units, because as we all know, horses are terrified of camels. As a fun effect, the camels can also disorder friendly cavalry units as well, so any camelry heavy armies should make sure to keep their dromedaries and their horses a healthy distance from each other.

The Arab armies also typically have access to massed archer units, which can rain down much larger quantities of arrows than their Christian counterparts. Curiously, some of the Arab spearmen units had a description saying “mix of spearmen and archers” but the unit was 100% spearmen with no ranged element. I’m not sure whether this is intentional, to represent the cooperative nature of the Arab archer elements in the army, or if it was an oversight. A bit disappointing, as the Byzantines do have infantry units with ranged elements built in. You can quickly see why my army of choice was so feared in the period, with units typically able to whittle down their opponents a fair amount before any engagement even occurs, though the fact that half the unit has the “bow-capability” tag means that they aren’t the best in prolonged engagements.

I could continue to talk about the Byzantine army list for the rest of this review, but I would be doing the DLC a disservice if I didn’t bring up the new campaigns and battles. There are 4 new campaigns and 8 new battles in the Reconquista DLC, seeing action in Iberia and Italy, with loads of different combatants. The campaigns follow the careers of El Cid (Spanish for “The Cid”), Frederick II Hohenstaufen (the Holy Romans loved invading Italy), Muhammad II of Granada (founder of the last Muslim state in Spain), and the Norman de Hauteville clan (the aforementioned Norman adventurers). I haven’t played through each campaign yet, but there is a lot of variety with what scenarios you encounter and the maps you see.

I still have a particular fondness for the dynamic campaign tool of FOG2M, as it enables the player to follow a narrative and make decisions in between battles, and it continues as my favorite piece of Reconquista. As far as i can tell, Reconquista did nothing to change it other than to add some biomes and the army lists from the DLC, but being able to set up a 9 battle campaign where you take your Byzantine army against Andalusians and fight off Lombard reinforcements from seizing a fort you took on the previous campaign step is some marvelous gameplay. Especially nice is the fact that the new army lists also play nice with the time warp lists, so you can have your 550 BC Achaemenid Persians fight your 1200 AD Byzantines for the glory of Asia Minor.

So, should you get this DLC? Definitely. Reconquista adds a lot to the base game of Field of Glory 2 Medieval. None of the base components of the game are changed, but that’s perfectly fine; if it ain’t broke, etc. $20 for an expansion can seem a bit steep, but with the sheer amount of content in the DLC, you will definitely find something in here that tickles your fancy if you’re a fan of the base game. Do yourself a favor and grab this.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

-Jack Trumbull