Wildermyth Review

We were a bit late to this party, unfortunately. Somehow both Joe and I, both of us being big tabletop role-playing game fans, hadn’t played Wildermyth up until a short time ago. That was a mistake on our end. Wildermyth is an incredible game with some of the best character-based storytelling a tactics game has offered us since…. Ever, basically (I didn’t play Final Fantasy Tactics, don’t hate me).

So, what exactly is Wildermyth? It’s a tough question, as the structures that make it up are familiar, but in practice everything is just a bit different. There’s a map you can move members of your party around on, and they have a chance to happen into events illustrated in a sort of comic book/ fairy tale style, with your party’s characters placed there, with different dialogue depending on their personalities and relationships with other characters. That’s already a lot to take in, especially considering that there are branching dialogue options in some events.

The aforementioned map is divided into different provinces that can have buildings and resources that provide materials to your party between story chapters, and untamed wilds, where all sorts of nefarious enemies may lurk. Here, the game enters a turn-based tactics game, where you can throw present members of your party against the foe. It feels sort of like a fantasy XCOM, but that wouldn’t do the system justice, as it is its own unique beast. Your three base classes, warriors, hunters, and mystics, can acquire all sorts of crazy abilities that in any other game might make them feel overpowered. However, the balancing in Wildermyth is superb, and towards the end of a campaign, enemies can and will be absolute menaces to deal with, and your super soldier that’s been with you since the beginning can end up monster-chow.

The combat, to elaborate a bit further, is captured in a relatively familiar dual-action system, in the vein of XCOM. You can move your guy and then act, or move him twice as far, and use a “free action” during your turn. The system isn’t too complicated to initially understand, and its accessibility does the game great credit. This is a game that you can have your non-wargame-y friends play, even if you’re a glutton for punishment, things can get brutal on the higher difficulties.

In late-game battles, there’s a lot going on all at once

Each class has their own line of abilities that make them special, essentially boiling down to warriors hitting things and having melee overwatch abilities to hold the line, hunters are rogues that can sneak, lay traps, and ambush enemies, while mystics… well. Mystics are perhaps some of the most interesting magic users I’ve seen in a game like this. Rather than just blasting enemies with magic from their hands, magic in Widlermyth is centered around the environment, so your spellcasters will “interfuse” an object with their magic, and can then use their magic to make said object do a thing. If it’s a fire, they can throw the fire at enemies. If it’s a plant, they can have it grapple an enemy with vines. If it’s made of wood, they can have it explode on the enemy with a shower of splinters. The list goes on, but you can see that there’s depth behind the initially simple system.

In between these scraps, your characters will march around the procedurally generated country, rooting out monster infestations in some provinces, leading a defense against a horde of monsters in another. Every battle, every event has an opportunity to cause something new to happen, to fundamentally change your party members’ relationships with each other, or to change them physically. That’s where Widlermyth shines, in creating and telling these stories. Your starting warrior and hunter may fall in love with each other, giving them the ability to have higher crit chance if their lover is damaged in combat. They may, in between chapters of the story, have a child. Their child may become a rival of the party’s founding mystic, leading them on an ever-expanding game of one-upmanship. That child could then accept the blessings of story-telling spirits, giving them a fiery personality and the ability to shoot flames out of their hands to match. None of this is hypothetical, that’s all something that happened in one of my campaigns.

Another example, just because I love this particular character: take Garlad. He was the mystic, the spellcaster from my first campaign. His personality was somewhat sarcastic but romantic, and he had a hard time making friends with the other two members of the party. So when the wilds called to him, he accepted their call, and now he has a wolf head. Later, he happened into a storm, receiving a lightning leg for his troubles. Over time, this originally shy loner of a man was turned into a 40% bolt of electricity and 60% werewolf. His sarcasm and romance holds different meaning now considering that he is this outcast that can’t hold things very well, considering that one of his arms is living electricity and the other is a wolf claw. But he can shoot lightning out of his arm and claw people, so you win some, you lose some.

Our beautiful boy

These characters that you bond with over the course of the campaign can, upon completion of the campaign, appear in your other games, in a manner of Greek mythological figures or Arthurian knights finding themselves in many adventures, not just the first. I clapped with delight seeing Garlad appear in a later game, lightning and wolf parts all accounted for. I must admit I have a soft spot for games that highlight characters like this, that let you grow your own connection with them, and Wildermyth makes every character unique in their own way, either to start out with or through changes they undergo over time.

There’s a lot of thought that went into Wildermyth, and you can feel the love and effort that went into making each part of the game. It’s rare that I come across a game that doesn’t fall short in anything it set out to do, and Wildermyth does achieve everything it set out to do. Plus, it has great mod support, so the system looks to be quite flexible and has a burgeoning community around it.

I don’t have anything bad to say about Wildermyth. Wildermyth is a great game. Go play Wildermyth. That’s what I’m going to be doing right after I post this on the site.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

-Jack Trumbull

SGS Operation Hawaii: The Invasion of Oahu Review

Counterfactuals can be a lot of fun if done well. SGS Operation Hawaii is one of those interesting ones that takes a reasonable, if unlikely, premise and explores the what-if through its gameplay. The result is a tight, entertaining game that I really wish had a physical board game release!

Counterfactual: Invading Hawaii

There was talk between the Japanese Army and Navy about the potential of landing ground forces on Oahu, but never really within the timeframe of the December 7 1941 air attack on Pearl Harbor. SGS Operation Hawaii does a clever thing in positioning the landing as a small scale operation, carried out by only 2 regiments, to wreak as much havoc as possible in the limited time they can be supplied. There was never really the cooperation this kind of invasion needed between both branches of the Japanese military. The army was reluctant to do anything to support a Naval led Southward Strike, and the Navy had to fight tooth and nail for the army support it did get for its invasions in South East Asia. Operation Hawaii supposes that the army could be convinced to give up a regiment for what could be a forlorn hope. This is reflected in how Operation Hawaii lays out its objectives and the overall shorter structure of the game. The key is to destroy as many military instillations as possible as the Japanese player.

What Makes Operation Hawaii Stand Out

First and foremost, SGS games are great for their exploration of less well known military campaigns. Operation Hawaii, as a counterfactual exploring an interesting what-if, fits into that mold. There are plenty of well researched and reasonable cards in both sides’ decks that highlight the interesting confines of this potential campaign. From the Japanese potential use of ships of the Kido Butai to support attacks near the coast, to the US organization of citizens to dig trenches and build defenses, there are a lot of great cards that really sell the atmosphere.

There are also a good amount of strategic decisions for both sides to take at the beginning of the game. The Japanese player can choose where to focus their attack, and at the cost of victory points, how much support to commit to the attack. The US forces can choose their disposition (without knowing where the Japanese are coming from) and can influence their starting resources. There is a good bit of replayability as a result.

The actual action is fast and tight. There will be a lot of quick skirmishes followed up by a solid battle or two as the American forces form up to meet the Japanese attack. Therefore it becomes quickly apparent that this is a game of speed and deception. If the Japanese player can get around the US forces, they have a better chance of carrying out their objectives, if the US forces can react to and stop the Japanese, they can preserve their island and blunt the attack. It plays well.

Downsides

This is a shorter game, on average, than most of the other SGS titles I played. My first campaign took 3 hours and my second 2. I do believe there is good enough replayability to make it worthwhile, and as I see this as a digital version of a board game, the heart of it is multiplayer, but be warned about campaign length.

I also encountered a few bugs in my pre-release version. Sometimes enemy planes wouldn’t be grounded during rain turns when the game states they should be, and I was unsure if a couple cards failed to have the desired effect, or if it was merely a missing graphical indication. I did see, at the time of writing, that a decent sized patch has gone out for release, so I hope that these issues are resolved.

Final Thoughts

Operation Hawaii is an interesting, entertaining, and simple wargame that touches on a fascinating what-if and presents it in a playable fashion. I enjoyed both of my campaigns and will definitely play more. But buyers must be aware of the short time to play of each game. I think it’s worth it, but ultimately I can’t make that decision for you.

-Joe Fonseca

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

SGS Operation Hawaii is being released today. You can check it out here. LTAW was given a code for the purposes of this review. We get nothing if you click the link.

Combat Mission: Cold War Review

I know the Combat Mission series can be a little divisive these days. The engine is older and there are some known issues that seem to accompany every release. For my own experience though, I don’t think I can look anywhere else for the sort of detailed, engrossing, and (dare I say) realistic gameplay that Combat Mission offers.

The series stands out as dominating a unique corner of our hobby, and for that alone I have to give it props. That does, however, make it harder to admit that there were some significant issues with Combat Mission: Cold War.

Soviet Paratroopers advancing on a US Listening Post

How Does Combat Mission: Cold War Play

Combat Mission is a tactical wargame focusing on the (usually) Brigade level and down combat in either real time or WEGO turns. Players issue orders to squads, teams, and vehicles and attempt to carry out certain mission objectives.

Gameplay focuses a great deal of detail on fog of war and command and control issues. What units can see and hear is far more important than how well they can shoot or how much armour their tank has. To succeed at Combat Mission requires a good deal of patience, strong tactical thinking, and a decent understanding of Second World War/Cold War/Modern combat systems.

An M60. Watch out for its Shillelagh

What is different with Combat Mission Cold War?

This is both a positive and negative part of Combat Mission: Cold War. As with every new game in the series, Cold War uses the same engine under the hood to power the battles that play out on screen. The system is starting to show its age for sure, but it is no less pretty than most other wargames. In fact, I quite like how good Combat Mission games can look with large numbers of vehicles and units moving about and shooting. It’s definitely a simulation, so units may move a little strangely here and there, but you’ll see recognizable uniforms, weapon systems and armoured fighting vehicles.

The big difference with Cold War, is, well the Cold War. Taking placing mostly in 1979, but with scenarios through 1982, this edition of Combat Mission plays out a what-if scenario of a Soviet invasion of West Germany. There are three campaigns, one each from the US and Soviet perspective as well as a third campaign focusing on the National Training Center.

Scenarios are diverse and interesting, from platoon level attacks on Listening Posts, to full brigade assaults featuring butt-loads (official term) of T-72s, to little one offs like attempting to pull an engineer platoon and their escort out of a small town quickly being swarmed by Soviet troops. I personally had less fun with the NTC campaign stuff, because I’m simply less interested in simulating simulated training scenarios, but to each their own.

The best part of Cold War is getting to experience late 70’ss and early 80’s hardware. The game is set at a time when both sides had the material and opportunity to do real damage. Seeing my M60s struggle to dent the front armour of onrushing Soviet tanks, but also how quickly an ATGM or Shillelagh can stop the dead is sweaty fun.

A good defilade position…I hope.

It’s Not All Sunshine

I’ve been singing Cold War’s praises so far, because I genuinely had a good time playing the game. But it is not perfect. There are still some persistent bugs floating around that can get annoying. I’ve had some crashes to desktop during my gameplay time, which were the worst offenders.

I was also totally unable to get a game of PBEM++ to work. I tried several times with my co-host here Jack, and even tried with a nice gentleman from the Computer Wargames Facebook Group. Every time the game failed to load correctly, crashed, or failed to load and then crashed. It was a shame, because I was very much looking forward to the PBEM++ system that I use regularly with other Slitherine/Matrix Games like Field of Glory II. I did try to reach out on the Combat Mission Discord for help, but nothing really came of it. We’re going to keep trying, because I really want to experience multiplayer through PBEM++, but it definitely impacted my impression.

Finally, as mentioned above, this is the same engine as all the rest of the modern Combat Missions, so if you’ve got a problem with how those games run or how they model things, this version won’t change your mind. I still kick myself whenever I manage to get a squad to exit a building via the wrong door and it gets them lit up in a MOUT situation.

The smoke didn’t linger for the rearguard’s street crossing. RIP the poor engineer in the back there.

Final Thoughts

I guess I was super hyped up for this release. I did enjoy what I played, but I was a little deflated by the issues I encountered trying to get it to work with PBEM++. I still think this is a strong entry in the series, and the Cold War is a fascinating setting to explore. But if you’re not someone who is already on the Combat Mission bandwagon, this won’t do it for you, I can almost guarantee it. For those who do enjoy Combat Mission, as someone who has put good time into Shock Force 2 and Black Sea, there is a lot to like here, just be prepared for worse optics all around!

-Joe Fonseca

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A solid entry to the Combat Mission series. Nothing revolutionary, some annoying bugs, but a good selection of scenarios and wonderfully modeled gear. If you’re a fan, you’re a fan. If not, best not start with Cold War.

You can find the game here. LTAW was given a review copy of this game. We get nothing if you click on this link.

Field of Glory II Medieval: Swords & Scimitars DLC Review

Maybe I’m a simpler type, but when it comes to new DLC for games I already enjoy, I’m not looking for anything revolutionary or anything that might alter the core of a game I already like. I’m looking for good quality, well thought out additions that extend the life of the game I love, with enough content to justify the price tag.

With Field of Glory II Medieval’s latest DLC, Swords & Scimitars, I think that is exactly what you get.

What’s New in Swords & Scimitars

There is actually a lot of new content in this DLC. So much so that I have to admit that I haven’t tried it all. With 20 more nations, covering the major players of the Crusades on both sides, Byzantium, Southeastern Europe, and the Near East, 35 new units, 41 new army lists, 8 new scenarios and 4 new campaigns, you are not going to run out of interesting things to do for a long time.

I found the new campaigns enjoyable, with a special shout out to Saladin’s campaign. Sticking mostly to Western European armies and not being well versed in the original Field of Glory II, I had to learn an entirely new way of fighting using the Muslim armies. Their heavily armoured cavalry archer units and lightly armoured lancers make for an interesting core that requires different tactics from what I’m used to.

There are also some fun new additions allowing for greater permutations in random battles. Now armies can field historically relevant allies as part of their disposition. This adds quite a bit of variety, and while I haven’t seen it in multiplayer, it allows for some interesting recreations of historical engagements.

What do I think?

I wish I could get into more details, but aside from listing off the numerous games I’ve played and enjoyed with the DLCs contents, I think you’ll just have to take my word for it. If you like Field of Glory II Medieval, there is absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t like this DLC. The newly added campaigns and scenarios are fun, the new armies add different dimensions to the medieval mix, and the expanded content for skirmish and multiplayer modes add variety with new potential match ups.

I’ve already sung the praises of the Field of Glory series, and Field of Glory II Medieval specifically, so I’m happy to say that this DLC does exactly what is printed on the tin. It’s more of what you love in a decently priced package. Now off to the Holy Land with you!

-Joe Fonseca

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Swords & Scimitars doesn’t break the mold, but it doesn’t have to. This DLC pack adds a lot of great content that will keep fans going for quite some time.

LTAW received a review copy of this DLC. You can check out the DLC here. We get nothing if you click on this link.