Agincourt fans rejoice! Field of Glory 2 Medieval has now unleashed its newest DLC upon us and I’m very pleased to say that the army lists and time periods covered in Storm of Arrows are some of the most fun and interesting armies to come out of the venerable engine.
MY KINGDOM FOR A LONGBOW
Storm of Arrows extends the time period of the game from the 1300s up to the mid- late 1400s for several of the big Western European army lists. You know the gang, England, France, Scotland, the four different Germanies available. The core of the game is the same, and these army lists are pretty recognizable to a player of the base game.
However! Where once there were scant few knights, there are now more plentiful mounted men at arms, fully plated and perhaps the most terrifying unit to come across in open terrain. Where once there were defensive spearmen and maybe a heavy weapons unit or two, we now see dismounted men at arms, units of halberdiers and billhooks ready to annihilate any cavalry that test them on unfavorable ground. And of course, my dear longbow units.
The longbow units are my personal favorite to come out of Storm of Arrows, as they represent the gradual shift from heavily armed and armored cavalry dominating the field to trained, ranged infantry being the star of the show. While knights and such are still the stars of the show, longbowmen are proficient at cutting through heavily armored enemy lines, and are proficient at fighting in melees to boot. Some of them can even plant stakes, granting themselves a small fortification to defend from and frustrating eager cavalry approaches.
Supplementing my very fun bow boys are handgunners, which, to my knowledge, is the first time we’ve seen firearm- equipped infantry in the game. These units are essentially skirmishers, filling a similar role to slingers or light archers, but those handgunners, similarly to the longbows, punch big holes in enemy armor. Truly, a great equalizer.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that several of the army lists now possess serious artillery, either in the form of bombard-esque cannons or in smaller field guns. These pieces are slow to move and maneuver, but they have excellent range and can devastate enemy lines either on attack or defense.
A NEW TYPE OF WAR
Storm of arrows brings the game into the late medieval era, and the way that battles are fought feels different than engagements with earlier armies. Many armies now have more varied or at least more plentiful ranged options, and the now relatively common artillery makes the old “walk at the enemy in a straight line” tactic less viable. This isn’t a change in game mechanics per se, but it’s very interesting seeing the system, the AI, and human opponents react to these more modern armies. If you’ve enjoyed Field of Glory 2: Medieval, you will get a kick out of this DLC.
Mare Nostrvm is a WEGO game of tactical naval combat from the early Classical era to the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic, developed by Turnopia and published by Slitherine in 2017. It’s a subject that has seen almost no realistic portrayal in PC gaming, though there have been representations on the tabletop (Trireme and War Galley, most notably). The game has a core of well thought out systems and an opinionated, unforgiving take on the difficulty of commanding fleets during the era. For a certain type of wargamer it’s a great buy, but it’s not meant for everybody (nor was it meant to be), and it does suffer from the common wargame problem of not being particularly welcome to a newcomer.
One thing to note – the game is just battles, there is no linking campaign. Gamers who enjoy tactical games for their own sake, read on. Those who require a Total War or even Ultimate General style campaign to put everything in a personalized context should pass.
The game depicts all the hazards and excitement of naval warfare of the era – boarding, ramming, flaming projectiles, the corvus, raking oars, ships getting trapped in sinking wreckage, general chaos and confusion. These systems are well thought out in the sense that their general concepts are explained in the concise (31pg) manual, but both manual and game are fuzzy on the actual math. For example, a ship with a high ram rating and a well-trained crew moving at high speed (enabled by well rested rowers) has an elevated chance to successfully ram a ship that is grappled. But when your ship succeeds or fails to ram the enemy – you won’t know exactly why. There is nothing like the combat log in the Field of Glory games, which, while it doesn’t give an exact % chance for every occurrence, does break down all the factors that went into the result. This leaves prospective admirals to learn by practice and gut feel – no doubt the more realistic approach, but not necessarily something everyone has (or should have) the patience for.
In addition, the WEGO format is full minute long turns. This means it is often very difficult to give precise orders, and a fair amount of educated guesswork goes into what the enemy is going to do. I think this was a purposeful design decision, to force players to recognize just how important keeping reserve squadrons or holding back portions of squadrons can be. Just as the first volley was the deadliest in gunpowder warfare, your attacks in Mare Nostrvm are always most effective when conducted by well ordered squadrons with fresh rowers, full crews of marines, crisp oars, and a commander who hasn’t gotten himself killed yet. Players who incline toward bulling ahead will bounce off this model hard, but I can’t entirely blame them – these concepts can only be learned through trial and error, the game doesn’t really try to explain them.
Speaking of commanders, they play a key role in the game. Units outside of command range are basically useless. They cannot be given orders by the player and spend their time trying to get back into command range. They will defend themselves, but keeping your squadrons organized is crucial. Commanders can also give special bonuses. If a commander is killed, another ship will take command of the squadron with a reduced command radius.
The combination of initially inscrutable mechanics with a hefty dose of RNG means that players who play wargames for the satisfaction of creating the perfect plan should stay away from Mare Nostrvm. It *is* possible to come up with a strong plan that gives you a Major Victory in game, but chaos, confusion and luck all have quite a bit to say. More than the minutiae of turn-to-turn combat, a player will be successfully thinking in terms of squadrons – which to keep in reserve, how many turns it will take to reorganize a squadron that is scattered from ramming attempts, boarding actions, and, you know, being on fire.
Graphics and sound get the job done. Compared to most wargames, the ship models and rotating camera view are a treat. Compared to any AAA title well… let’s just say Mare Nostrvm was a largely one man indie show, so that’s not a fair comparison.
Wargamers who enjoy the gradual loss of command and control as a battle continues, who don’t mind or even appreciate the influence of the unpredictable, who can look past stylistically consistent rather than high fidelity graphics and have an interest in the era (even if they haven’t read their Thucydides – yet) owe it to themselves to check out Mare Nostrvm. Normally it sells for $19.99, but it often goes on sale for as little as $5.99 – the cost of a craft beer at a nice bar, or 2-3 regular ol’ beers at a dive. Mare Nostrvm should entertain the right type of wargamer for much longer than either.
This is getting harder and harder to do. Valor & Victory, as I’ve said many times before on this blog…and to whoever will listen, is one of my favourite squad level tactical board wargames. I liked it so much, in fact, that I purchased a properly made up copy from the designer rather than stick with the free print and play.
That means I was genuinely excited to hear that Valor & Victory was getting a Steam release from Slitherine and Yobowargames. Unfortunately, my review of the base game was not entirely positive. While I liked seeing one of my favourite rulesets on the digital tabletop, I was put off by some clunkiness, bad AI, and the fact that Valor & Victory’s simplicity, while a boon on the tabletop, was unnecessary for PC.
Out for a walk to Stalingrad
Fast forward to now, and the game’s first DLC is making its way to Steam. This DLC covers the battle for Stalingrad and some surrounding engagements. This comes in the form of 13 new maps and 14 new missions and, of course, the Soviet Union as a playable faction.
It is great to see a pile of new troops and vehicles enter the fray and if I was able to purchase this expansion for the board game, I would in a heart beat. The content is interested and quite varied from heavily built up maps to more normal fare.
Scenarios are also good, with more than one clear path to victory and some entertaining set ups. Early missions will see the Soviets hard pressed to defend against a determined German attack, but it makes it all the more satisfying when it happens!
Content, Yes. Fixes, no.
One of my biggest problems with Valor & Victory Digital was the AI. It can defend reasonably well, given that the smaller scale means less movement is necessary, but it has a very difficult time attacking. More than once I was horrified to see the enemy break through with vehicles, and, instead of push on to the objectives, simply drive around to try and shoot at peripheral units.
I am also afraid to say that some of the things that frustrated me, like no option to alter the speed of dice rolls or to impact reaction fire, are still present and accounted for. I also ran into some bugs with the camera failing to scroll correctly and with some visuals hanging up.
I will stand by my initial reaction to say that multiplayer, as a substitute for the physical multiplayer of the boardgame, is still where the game shines. That and the potential for creative gamers to make interesting scenarios using the built in tools. But when the core AI is less than challenging and there are some continued niggling issues that gnaw at my enjoyment, I’m not entirely convinced this is worth the time.
An Unnecessary but Mostly Welcome Addition
While core gameplay remains the same as the base game of Valor & Victory, I was happy to see some more game features make their way from the tabletop to the digital adaptation in a free accompanying update. Some key missing features like support artillery, snipers, and air power are very welcome. It is nice that they are going to be included for free alongside the DLC.
But that begs the question, is the DLC necessary? If you’re interested in the Soviet counters and the new maps, then yes, but if Valor & Victory didn’t excite you the first time around, there is nothing substantial enough to change that opinion.
Finally, I’m just sad that I feel I have to give this DLC, and the Valor & Victory digital system as a whole a less than positive review. I love the board game, and maybe that is influencing my take here, but there are some sloppy feeling issues that very well could have been resolved between release and now. Content is all well and good, but, like the first tie around, I’ll be sticking with the board game now that my time reviewing the digital adaptation is finished.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Some good new content will please fans of the game, but longstanding frustrations remain, keeping this from being a must buy. There are better games out there.
This is a game I’ve been waiting on for a long time. Having heard about its development years ago, I kept it in the back of my mind because it seemed like it would be right up my alley. Operational combat in Vietnam from the 1940s to the 1960s. Campaign Series: Vietnam promised a lot of content, and I was content to wait for it’s arrival. It took a while to finally arrive, but all’s well that ends awesome.
What Kind of Game is Campaign Series: Vietnam?
I suppose I’m relatively young in terms of the wargaming crowd, so it might not come as a surprise that I hadn’t ever played a Campaign Series game before, nor was I familiar with the series’ heritage at Talonsoft. I do have a boatload of John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio games though, so to my unknowing eyes, Campaign Series: Vietnam seemed like a polished JTS game right out of the gate. It’s not far from the mark, but there are some noticeable differences.
Vietnam is an operational wargame in either 2D or isometric 3D with counters representing platoons, teams, special units, leaders, and multiple vehicles. A traditional IGO-UGO system with reaction fire, players and the AI alternate activating their forces and spending action points to move, shoot, assault, or perform special actions. Vietnam has dozens of scenarios ranging from the French-Vietnamese War of Independence, the South Vietnamese Civil War, and the American War. The game ends its date range in 1967, and I hope this only means that DLC will be forthcoming.
‘Operation’ is the Word
This is a tactical game, in that players are controlling platoons and teams as they maneuver them around a map to complete objectives, but the scope of many of the scenarios in Vietnam really highlight the special operational limitations and expectations that accompanied the war, especially during American scenarios. To my mind, including such difficulties elevates the gameplay to something more than the simple (albeit excellently implemented) tactical combat.
Victory points are not just tied to controlling objectives, but also fulfilling special objectives, inflicting disproportionate losses, and obeying certain rules of war. For instance, many scenarios penalize you for indirect fire into villages, towns, and city hexes. There are civilians going about their business that may or may not be enemies. There are IEDs and hidden minefields. Some scenarios even touch on difficult topics like forced relocation.
Bringing the scope of the game inline with the unique experiential factors that made the Vietnam war stand out in Western consciousness is much appreciated and elevates the game to new heights.
Good Thing the Core is Rock Solid Too
After running through the tutorials to familiarize yourself with the hotkeys and general control, playing Campaign Series: Vietnam is a breeze. There are so many ways to customize the visual experience, all of which can be toggled on the fly, that I never felt I was making a mistake in control or blundering because of hidden information. Things are generally easy to control, produce satisfying results, and are backed up by the manual. The only thing I wish the tutorials covered better was command and control and supply, both of which require a quick read to confirm percentages.
The game is also appreciably difficult. The AI is quite good in my experience. My first attempt at Silver Bayonet’s landing at LZ X Ray resulted in my getting totally overrun. The NVA came on hard and fast and exploited my piecemeal entry to punch holes in my perimeter, encircle my limited improved positions, and then hammer them with arty when they finally fixed me. It took me a couple tries to really get the landing down and supported well.
I did notice a few bugs in my pre-release version of Vietnam. In one scenario the map labels failed to materialize at all. In another game the air strike icons did not go away after the successful strike, leaving me paranoid every time I wandered a unit through the hex. Small bugs, but they were there.
I’ve grown accustomed to the looks of JTS/WDS and now Campaign Series wargames. I find they have a certain charm to them, but they are nothing exceptional or very modern. I will say that Campaign Series: Vietnam is the only one from any of those series that will actually switch to the 3D view on occassion. It is far more readable than previous entries. The UI is easily navigable and I’m glad the decision was made to break the tool bar into multiple tabs.
As for the audio, its the same collection of motor noises, gun shots, and explosions this time supplemented by some ‘Vietnam-movie’ sounding music. It’s fine, again, but I turned it off fairly quickly.
Final Thoughts: Time to Run Through the Jungle
Campaign Series: Vietnam is excellent. The core gameplay is solid, the appreciation of the unique factors of the conflict are well represented, and there is a reasonable learning curve. The vast amount of content will keep players going for quite some time, and I can’t imagine a better Vietnam War game on the PC right now. Go check it out!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
An excellent wargame with a classic style and tons of content. Definitely worth your time.
Mobile games aren’t frequently where you’d think to look for a decent wargame, but, as it turns out, one of my favorite wargames to release recently is in fact a mobile exclusive game. Blitzkrieg Fire is a literally pocket- sized game covering the western front of good ol’ WW2, and I’ve found it simple enough to pick up and play for short bursts, which is something more wargames would strive for. In fact, it’s likely the best mobile wargaming experience you can get on your phone.
The game is relatively simple to understand. Like its older sibling, Pacific Fire, Blitzkrieg fire doesn’t let you directly control combat. Instead, you take your units, generally division-sized army units, squadron-sized air forces, and small fleets of ships, and shuffle them between points on your scenario map. If there are enemies there, your forces will begin fighting. If not, they’ll begin entrenching, making it tougher for the enemy to oust your army. The game uses a pleasing WEGO system (both sides make orders on a turn and the orders are executed at the same time), making for a relatively realistic look at the highly mobile warfare of the period.
In terms of the combat, there are some calculations going on behind the scenes to determine combat, taking into account things like aerial bombardment, naval bombardment, entrenchment status, morale and experience of units, etc… The list goes on, and while it’s not very hard to understand the game at a base level, there is a fair amount going on “under the hood,” so to speak.
The game comes with over 20 scenarios, some with a smaller focus, such as the Battle of France or the Winter War, and others cover the entire Western Front, starting in a specific year of the war. All of them can be played as either side, and there is a nice mixture of scenario goals to achieve for victory. For example, in the East Africa scenario, the Allies need to capture a specific set of Axis-held cities, while the Axis can win by seizing a fewer number of Allied cities or simply surviving to the end of the scenario, being in an initially disadvantageous position.
Blitzkrieg Fire should be commended specifically for the inclusion of scenarios that aren’t just “it’s El Alamein” or “Normandy again,” as us wargamers have all been there and done that. Seeing scenarios set in East Africa or the Balkans adds nice variety to a war that was global, but we somehow constantly only see small slices of. Cheers to the dev team on that front!
Overall, there frankly isn’t a ton more to say about Blitzkrieg Fire. It’s a charming game with a decent UI and good animations that fits into your pocket. It can be simple or very difficult, depending on the scenario or the difficulty you set it for, and it’s easy to understand. Best of all, it’s pretty cheap, meaning you can have easy access to what I consider the best mobile wargame out there for about the cost of a sandwich… a cheap sandwich at that. If you play games on your phone and you have even a passing interest in wargames, I recommend Blitzkrieg Fire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
It’s rare that a hex and counter wargame truly surprises me. I, like many of you, have been playing these types of games for years, and know what to expect from our niche genre. There will be familiar mechanics around movement, unit composition, statistics, combat odds, and supply lines. There will be detailed rules, long campaigns, short scenarios, archaic multiplayer systems and decent game editors.
And then there’s Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Offensive.
Ardennes Offensive not only shakes up the formula by adding some fascinating depth to movement, fog of war, and combat, but it also manages to introduce these fresh gameplay features in a package that is both chock full of information, but also beautifully presented and manageably learnable.
How Does Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Offensive Play?
Set during the so-famous-it-needs-no-description Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes Offensive offers two grand campaigns covering the full battle, and several smaller scenarios focusing in on major engagements like St. Vith and Bastogne. Turns are broken up into Morning, Mid-Day, Evening, and Night. Each hex represents a kilometer, and, in this iteration, units are calculated at the squad level, with individual weapons and stats tracked.
Ardennes Offensive uses the same base mechanics as found in previous Decisive Campaigns games (though this is my first one) as well as the stellar Shadow Empire and interesting sandbox Advances Tactics. The game is presented through a central map with unit, hex, and special information appearing on the sides and bottom of the screen. Turns are IGO-UGO, but with a new and well implemented system of interrupting fire that can halt units in their tracks. attacks are coordinated based on the defending hex, with two types of attack available: Ranged, which brings in mortars and artillery, and direct, which involves choosing the attacking units and the determination of the attack. Supply and traffic play significant roles, just as they did in the actual battle, and moving too many units over the same road in a turn will add additional movement costs to following units.
Overall, it may sound like fairly standard stuff, but Ardennes Offensive adds so many little things to the formula that make it pop.
The Little Things that Make it Pop
I need to start with my favourite part of Ardennes Offensive: Fog of War. This is the first wargame that actually gave me spooky vibes while playing. You cannot trust your eyes in Ardennes Offensive, as you cannot be 100% certain of a hex’s ownership unless you’ve got me sitting squarely in the hex.
This may sound annoying, but it doesn’t feel that way in practice. You’ll see indicators near the frontline representing sounds of unknown origin reported by your supply units as they deliver goods to the front. You’ll see a supposed frontline cobbled together from your limited understanding of enemy movements. You’ll be able to set up, and fall into, ambushes along key roads. At night, visibility is reduced to almost nothing. It is an excellent and atmospheric system that sells the initial chaos and subsequent unease of the Battle of the Bulge.
Visually and auditorily, Ardennes Offensive is simply amazing. I have low expectations for most wargames, but the artwork on unit and hexes are wonderfully detailed with a painterly quality. Hexes are readable and easy to navigate. Units are identifiable right from the get go with their most prominent component showing on the counter face. But the best part are the little details. As the time of day shifts, the background for each unit card will change to reflect the overhead light. These wonderful little bits of finesse add so much to the experience. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. There is a somber and haunting collection of tracks to accompany gameplay in Ardennes Offensive. The music is great and perfectly fits the mood of the battle. Night turns especially, with the reduced visibility, the changed map graphics, and the haunting music add up to become one of the most immersive hex and counter games I’ve ever played.
I have only one bad to say about this game. It crashed on me more than once. I’m seeing that patches are already on the way, and I can probably blame this on my advance copy, but I do feel the need to report that it happened. Honestly though, don’t let that stop you from trying this one out.
I was so pleasantly surprised by how tight a package Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Assault was, I had trouble articulating it for this review. This is an excellent addition to the world of digital hex and counter wargaming and the new standard for what can be done visually and auditorily to make modern wargames feel modern without losing the mechanical charm we all love. There is plenty of content, the AI does a solid job, the game is learnable, and everything is wrapped up in a nice package. A must play.