MY GAME REVIEWSAll games rated on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being "Get this out of my sight! Be gone!" and 10 being "You're the besht game -- hic!-- I ever played." The actual scale goes like this:
0: Execrable (a.k.a. Battalion Combat Series)
1-2: Congratulations! You've just wasted your money. How many pizzas and 12-packs can you buy for $50-$70. That's what you just threw away!
3-5: For aficianados of the subject matter only. Just keep in mind that you might not play it much -- or at all -- especially those on the lower end of the 3-5 scale.
6: Worth owning, but not great. Set up, admire, play a turn or two, put away. Still glad you bought it, though...for some reason.
7: High production values. A couple weekends worth of play here. Worth the expense, but happily forgotten. Next!
8: Recommended for people who like to play -- rather than just collect -- games. (See 3-7.)
End of Empire (Compass):
Battles from the Age of Reason: Kolin (Clash of Arms):
An updated reprint would have this one approaching perfection. Until then, you pretty much have to play this one on Vassal. Even so, the maps are just Fugly. I got my copy in 1996 and it is woefully dated.
Battles from the Age of Reason: Lobositz (Clash of Arms):
Battles from the Age of Reason: Prague (Clash of Arms):
Play balance may be a problem. Still, highly recommended, despite my misgivings.
Battles from the Age of Reason: Fontenoy (Clash of Arms):
La Bataille de la Moscowa (Clash of Arms):Sacre Bleu! I believe I have just found my Grail game. Overall, this is a wonderful depiction of Napoleonic warfare. Gameplay is lots of fun and very detailed. 10 stars, where it counts. But....I'm marking off 1/2-star for ergonomic issues/nationality differentiation/unit identification; and another 1/2 for a rather uninspired command-and-control system that has Corps leaders with nothing to do but dodge cannonballs; and one more for not including the Reglement XXX rules and instead shipping with a stripped down version (known as Marie Louise or something). This is also an excellent production (despite rather thin paper maps) whose producers are clearly enthused by the period. (Even though I suspect the publisher may be running on fumes at this point...just sayin'.) Highly recommended. My criticisms are made out of love.
Great Battles of the American Civil War: Dead of Winter (GMT):
Good game system rules marred by shoddy game module design and an even shoddier physical production. Lots of inexcusable errata, both in the Battle Book and counters, and even glaring typos on the map! ("Nashvills." Are you kidding me?) At least GMT has the decency to sell this 4-mapper for the cut-rate price of $30. This makes it worth picking up. As far as the game module goes, the surprise attack rules are contrived, to say the least, seemingly heaped onto the opening turn of the game to achieve a desired result. When you start overturning game system rules to achieve an historical outcome, you know you've got problems. Most likely not unrelated, something also needs to be done about the omniscience of the player. Sounds like a fun challenge, actually. But apparently the game's designers and testers just weren't up to it. Sad, because, you know, this ain't rocket science...
Next War: India Pakistan (GMT):
Despite my admiration for the game and its obvious awesomeness, I somehow lose interest in this one every time I set it up. Final rating pending my being able to actually play it all the way through.
Battalion Combat Series (The Gamers):
Here's a minimalist abstraction for you. Roll a 1d6. On a roll of 1-5, the Allies win the Battle of the Bulge. On a roll of 6, the Germans win. That's pretty much the level of this game. (Oh, and maybe the worst rulebook I've seen in many years. Yes, that means it's awful. Yes, that means no index. Yes, that means avoid this turkey at all costs!)
Operational Combat Series: Tunisia (The Gamers):
"Cardboard units have no needs (or feelings) when you choose not to use them...they sit on their hands and watch."
This is not a review of Tunisia, but the words of OCS designer Dean Essig criticizing every other game that is not his. (To be frank, every game I've tried that "bothers about it" is way better than this!) Actually, I can think of no game more deserving of these criticisms than his own, OCS in particular. Only in OCS do the majority of units "sit on their hands and watch." Talk about projection!
Despite this, Tunisia is actually a pretty good game, especially the opening moments in the rough terrain of the north. The game system itself, however, is highly gamey, unrealistic and at times downright silly. But if you must have one of these, Tunisia is better than BTR (see below). Just know that the designer seems to be a big-league fruitbat.
Operational Combat Series: Beyond the Rhine (The Gamers):
By overthrowing many of the fundamental precepts of the game, "official" optional and house rules really hurt the perceived veracity of the OCS game design. It makes you wonder how sound the game design is to begin with. OCS's explicit supply system turns out to have been a can of worms, after all. Supply points are now being used the way politicians use the tax system -- not to raise revenue but to encourage/discourage certain behaviors. "Do X and it'll cost you double the number of SP." Well, does X cost that many SP in the real world, or doesn't it? Does artillery ever get used in the real world or doesn't it? Does artillery react on a dime in the real world, or doesn't it? In the end, it seems that every underlying principle of this game design is negotiable. The BTR module itself is poorly designed to fit the game system and scale. Too many small units that did not operate independently are included as independent units, resulting in their misuse and often leading to ridiculous situations. A low-quality battalion has the same ZOC properties as an entire division, yet this is not taken into account in the module design. At this scale, a battalion could block a road or a rugged pass or man some pillboxes, but in most cases would not be able to dominate its own hex, much less neighboring ones. This is what happens when grognard fanboys take over the design of games from their original creators (happens in the computer gaming world, too, only worse). In play, one becomes dubious after about 2 turns, a feeling which only intensifies as one continues to play.
Operation Mercury (GMT):
Unit/ground scale mismatch. Game devolves into immobile masses of units hitting each other. For a mostly company-level game, the ground scale should be reduced by half or more. Naval and air game has great potential. I'd love to see it in a more balanced setting (at sea, the British dominate this one). Many great concepts marred by the fatal, fundamental flaw.
Fornovo 1495 (Compass):
Needs maybe another year of development, design and testing. As released, it plays more like a puzzle than a game. Not a fun puzzle, either. You're basically trying to solve various stacking issues. Yes, really. There are some great concepts here. The artwork and overall production values are high -- as is the price for a stand-alone obscure and not very interesting battle. I'm going to guess the "Order of Arms" series ends here. It does for me, whatever the case.
Lion of the North (GMT):
Hurtgen: Hell's Forest (Decision):
Barbarossa: Kiev to Rostov (GMT):
One final note: The 1D10 is a MAJOR failing of this game, and, indeed, all of Vance von Borries' games. Every combat -- and I mean EVERY combat, regardless of odds -- can be a stunning success or a dismal failure. "We're sure to capture this hill...barring a sudden tornado or something... D'oh!" 2 points come off the final tally. A real pity.
Roads to Moscow (GMT):
I'm starting to think I just don't like the new-age world of big hexes and big counters. I find them hard to handle and less attractive. You end up with less playing area, too, in terms of overall hexage. (I like 6mm minis over 28 for that same reason.)
Also, I find the scenarios uninspired; i.e., boring as hell. Head-on bludgeoning along a single supply route. VvB seems to be just milking some research he did for his Eastern Front Series.
I'm sure there's a good game here, it just fails to interest me in the slightest. If you're going to make me choose between Nazis and Commies, you're going to have to do better than this!
Chariots of Fire (GMT):
On To Paris! (Compass Games):
10/10 (without the leader problem)
1/10 (as published)
Washington's Crossing (Revolution Games):
Interesting game design cannot overcome half-assed production. Beautiful map and decent counters, ugly and poorly-designed leader track, black-and-white charts, barely-a-step-above photo-copied rules manual (mostly un-illustrated). And that's it. Needs more play aids, more informational markers. Unacceptably mediocre in this day and age. If you're going to pour, pour boldly. Or not at all.
Advanced Squad Leader (AH/MMP):
What can I say? It's Squad Leader, the overly-complicated Rube Goldberg Machine of wargaming. I still have the very rulebook I bought in 1985. I've pretty much played this one out, but I'd never give up my rulebook, and that's saying something.