Homefront Wargame Center

…supporting our hobby!

Welcome to the HFC – Homefront Wargame Center!

Posted by Denny Koch on March 21, 2010

Welcome to the HFC website!

This website is principally dedicated to Wargaming – board and card wargaming, and historical conflict simulations (for example Advanced Squad Leader). But since we are dedicated gamers, we aren’t afraid of looking beyond the borders of the wargaming world, so from time to time, you will also find postings about other games we play, for example Living Cardgames (Call of Cthulhu, A Game of Thrones),  Fantasy boardgames (Arkham Horror, Marvel Heroes) or even videogames.

In the course of transferring the contents from our old static website to the new format, we decided to drop some of the old articles (especially some very old and outdated reviews which will be rewritten from a fresh perspective). In addition, we added more contents and wrote new stuff and hopefully, this website will grow and prosper!

In addition, you will find many travel reports and pictures – we love touring historical sites, not only of recent history (Ardennes, Huertgen Forest, A bridge too far at Arnhem, The Bridge at Remagen…), but also medieval and ancient sites, for example the 2000 year old Imperial City of Speyer!

We hope you like the interactive, modern format and layout. You are cordially invited to leave comments, suggestions, share our articles, send in articles, or to share your own opinion on all topics with us.

Enjoy your stay :)

Denny & Andreas

This site is a member of the Wargaming WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

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Review: Battle for Stalingrad – The Epic East Front Battle Game (DVG)

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on July 2, 2014

Stalingrad_box_mockup200Game: Battle for Stalingrad – The Epic East Front Battle GameReview

Publisher: Dan Verssen Games (DVG)
Published in: 2014
Designer: Dan Verssen

Era & Topic: WW2/ Urban Warfare in Stalingrad
Game Type:  Card Game
Contents: 168 Full Color Cards, 1 Full Color Counter Sheet, 1 Full Color Rulebook 

Number of Players: 2

HFC Game-O-Meter: E

 


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 9
Playability: 8
Replay Value: 9

Overall Rating: 9

PRO Quick set-up, well written rules, many options despite using simple mechanics, fitting to the historical theme, both sides play differently, enthralling and tactical game play…
CONTRA  …that might be slowed down because some cards are not as clear in their meaning as they should be; Uranus cards can be crippling for the German player if no counter cards are in hand; a tracking sheet for combat would have been nice

Introduction

Many (if not most) wargamers who are interested in the World War II topic are particularly drawn to the fightings of the Eastern Front. The fierceness of the battles fought on that front, the gigantic scale of this Clash of Titans, the different style of the tactics used by the Soviets and the Germans, all this seems to create the background for a scenario that is ideally suited for wargames.

Fighting for Stalingrad on the gaming table!

Fighting for Stalingrad on the gaming table!

Today the name Stalingrad is directly connected to the senseless brutality of war and is the epitome of the war of slaughter fought on the Eastern front. When the Wehrmacht started the largest invasion in the history of warfare, Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, with more than 4 million soldiers, 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses along a front almost 3000 km long, the city of Stalingrad was rather unimportant – as General Field-marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist said:

The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the east. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us [Clark, Lloyd, Kursk: The Greatest Battle: Eastern Front 1943, 2011, page 157]

In the course of the later events of the war, it became a battle of prestige however – for both Hitler and Stalin – and this caused it to turn into one of the bloodiest battles of WW2. For over 5 months, the city saw extreme close quarter battles, soldiers fighting for single rooms in buildings like grain elevators, apartment blocks, factories, warehouses etc. or for other ‘strategic points’ like streets, staircases and sewers and both sides had high casualties to suffer. The nerve-wrecking close combat and man-to-man killing (which was called Rattenkrieg (rat war) by the German soldiers) was accompanied by the terror of artillery and air attacks that laid the city into ashes. The harsh winter weather, a lack of supply and ammunition because of a complete encirclement of the German forces in the city in the later stages of the battle, and the ability of the Soviet forces to bring in reinforcements eventually ended the Battle of Stalingrad and resulted in an total of about 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties.

Because of the fact that wargamers usually have the historical situation in mind and know a great deal of their era of particular interest, there is always the point of “how close and how accurate can a wargame be” in regard to the historical battle and how good it works as a game. The new DVG game we are reviewing here was announced with the promising words:

The Battle For Stalingrad puts you in the rubble-strewn streets as the German forces fight through one block of the city after another. The only hope for both sides is to secure the city before they run out of blood and food.

As the game unfolds, you’ll see one section of the city after another ground into rubble by your ceaseless fighting. As the city deteriorates, the amount of supplies generated for your men decreases. Supplies are the lifeblood of your army. Without them, you cannot move or attack, and you’ll suffer higher casualties in combat.

In the end, you’ll be scrambling through the ruins, as much in search of food as the enemy.

Let’s see if the PR announcement actually matches the game experience and what you can expect on your table :)

Presentation

Battle of Stalingrad (BoS) is a card game that comes in a very sturdy box that has a glossy finish, giving the feel of quality even before you open it. The first thing you see is the striking cover art done by Christian Quinot (who also did the great artworks for DVG’s Cards of Cthulhu game), evoking a feeling of desperation and chaos that seems rather fitting to the topic of the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

News from Warhammer 40k: Conquest – the Warhammer LCG

Posted by Denny Koch on June 6, 2014

WHK01-box-leftSince we are avid LCG players who own and play all LCGs (“Living Card Games”) by Fantasy Flight Games (like Call of Cthulhu, Game of Thrones, or Lord of the Rings) AND fierce Warhammer 40k fans, the announcement of a Warhammer 40k LCG was long overdue! Warhammer Invasion was nice, but we simply prefer Chaos, Space Marines, and Orcs over Dwarves and Elves, so Warhammer 40k: Conquest sounds like the game we have been waiting for!

After a period of silence, FFG published a new preview about the upcoming WH40k game, introducing the combat system of the game. On first sight, from all LCGs, the mechanics resemble the Call of Cthulhu LCG most.

An interesting difference to the other LCGs is the fact that all factions can cooperate with “neighboring” factions within a kind of faction wheel, named “Alliance Chart” and build a strike force with them.

The "Alliance chart" allows interesting combinations between factions

The “Alliance chart” allows interesting combinations between factions

We are still wondering whether the game will be different and innovative enough to set itself apart from the other LCGs, but we are optimistic. The game description looks interesting enough to fuel our curiosity and impatience!

Alas, the publishing date is still unknown.

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, News and Releases, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Warhammer 40k LCG | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WAR DIARY – a new wargame zine

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 22, 2014

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There’s a new wargame zine on the battlefield – War Diary!

The first issue covers some interesting topics and since there are a few ‘known names’ among the contributors War Diary might be worth checking out :)

A new wargaming magazine, but decidedly old-school in our approach.

We don’t publish any games, but then don’t you already pay enough for games you may never play?

Published quarterly, each print issue of War Diary features articles on military history, game play and variants, game reviews, commentary, and insight from game designers and developers.

Please join us.  One year subscriptions (four print issues) for $28.00.

SPRING 2014:

GHOST DIVISION: Rommel in France, 1940 by Dr. Michael Rinella

THE GRAND ALLIANCE: Expanding the Capabilities of the Western Allies in Barbarossa to Berlin by Lt. Col. (Ret.) John B. Firer

OPERATION HUSKY: An Analysis of Allied Landing Options in FAB: Sicily by Joel M. Toppen

E-GAMING: Opening Up the World of Gaming by Andy Loakes

WHATS IN A GAME: The Effects and Affects of Boardgames by John Poniske

GLOOM: A Game Review by John Poniske

THE GREAT GAME: History and Designer’s Notes by John Gorkowski

Game ON! A Discussion of the Game Publishing Industry and It’s Customers by Jeff Newell

 If you are interested go to their official website!

Posted in News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Victory in Europe by Columbia Games funded!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 22, 2014

Columbia Games has a new game in the pipeline called Victory in Europe and the Kickstarter Campaign has already reached the goal to fund the game. Now in the remaining days left you may still help to reach the stretch goals of the campaign to make the game even more interesting to play!

Victory in Europe is a strategic block wargame of World War II for 2 or 3 players that captures the entire war in Europe in a fast-paced experience. The game begins in late 1939 and ends up to six years later. Game time is 3-5 hours. Basically designed as a two player game there’s also the option to have the Soviets to be commanded by a third player. The game is card driven with the Allies and Axis each having their own deck and the possible actions are based on the different functions of the cards in play. Cards depict historical events or give a more general advantage in terms of maneuver. The game is designed with a historical flow of the war in mind but allows for new twists and turns based on the players decisions. To get an impression you can check out the rules synopsis here!

Some may question the need for another WW2 strategic level wargame since so many are already available that portray this gigantic struggle from different perspectives but most if not all of these games are quite lenghty when it comes to playing time and often use a lot of tablespace. So many players are still waiting for a historically accurate wargame on the strategic level that plays the whole ETO scenario in a couple of hours…Victory in Europe might be this game we are all waiting for! If you think that this game could be for you support the stretch goals on the official Kickstarter website!

As always Columbia Games products come with a money-back 30 day guarantee, that means if you don’t like the game just send it back to them and you’ll get a full refund so there’s no risk for you to back them!
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Designer Notes by Ron Draker

I have always enjoyed grand strategy games on WW II in Europe and spent many hours of my youth playing “Third Reich” and “Advanced Third Reich.” Some of you may remember SPI’s monster game on WW II with division-level units and spiral production charts. Oh those were the days when we had weekends to play. Now, however, I find I do not have the time or patience to learn 30 or 50 pages of rules with hundreds of exceptions. I prefer a game I can play in a long evening with minimal time looking up rules. I started thinking about designing my own WW II game back in 2002 and then learned that “Europe Engulfed” was in development.

Having discovered and fallen in love Columbia’s block games in the 1990s, I shelved my idea thinking there was no need since a playable block game was in development. When Europe Engulfed came out my friends and I played it practically non-stop and I still love the game, but I felt I still would like to see a game with less playing time and fewer exceptional rules. My goal was to take the things I liked most from Third Reich, EE, and other great WW II games and blend them into something new.

I started in earnest around 2005 and found my first design, while using fewer units, was still a monster game. I started with hexes, then went to areas, and then back to hexes. I had abstract concepts for managing the air war off map and intricate spiral production charts that would put SPI to shame, but the more cool things I thought I wanted in the game the longer the playing time became.

Through much trial and error and literally dozens of game mechanics and different maps, I feel I have finally succeeded in designing an enjoyable game that is playable in a long evening thanks to the help of Tom and Grant Dalgliesh at Columbia Games. To accomplish this goal of course, much of the chrome originally envisioned has fallen by the wayside. These are the trade-offs for the Holy Grail of a WW II grand strategy game playable in one sitting.

Setting the right victory conditions to make the game challenging for both sides is one of the harder aspects of designing a game. I decided to make conquest of Britain or the Soviet Union a game-ender to give the Axis player an incentive to go for the big win but there are many paths to victory. I hope you find the choices made acceptable and enjoy the game. 

VE-Map-KS2000-2

The map is of a unique oval design

 

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Christian Koppmeyer – R.I.P.

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 11, 2014

It is with deep regret and sadness that today we learn of the all too early passing of Christian Koppmeyer who passed away two days ago in a hospital at the age of only 52. Christian was one of the most active ASL players in Germany and hosted the well known ASL Grenadier tournament every year. We only knew him from email exchange many years ago but all those who have known him will remember his friendly personality and his dedication to our hobby, he was always willing to answer questions and help the newbies to become part of the wonderful world of Advanced Squad Leader. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Christian you will be missed but kept in good memory!

Rest in peace Christian…

 

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Posted in ASL, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Review: Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on February 27, 2014

Cthulhuconflict_boxGame: Hornet Leader - The Cthulhu Conflict

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2013
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Hypothetical / Cthulhu Myth / Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground warfare
Components: Expansion to Hornet Leader, Basic game required!
Game Type: Mixed: Board, counters, card-driven

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 8
Playability: 
7
Replay Value:
9

Overall Rating: 8.5

PRO Cthulhu! Hornet Leader! Both combined in one game!! Combining both games is a very cool and innovative idea. Can be played as a solitaire game or cooperatively. Great artwork, includes many elements from the Lovecraft universe
CONTRA Higher random element and more luck dependent due to Chaos caused by the Great Old Ones (which fits perfectly to the setting, but could be a turn-off for conservative Hornet Leader players because your careful planning and strategies can and will be destroyed within minutes)

Introduction

 Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!

As you may have guessed (for example from reading our Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game articles), we are Cultists. We love everything dealing with Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones. We play games like Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, the Call of Cthulhu LCG, or video games like Dark Corners of the Earth. And, of course, we watch even the most esoteric movies like the modern silent movie adaption of Call of Cthulhu.

The game can be played solitaire or cooperatively

The game can be played solitaire or cooperatively

So, you can image that we were very happy when Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict arrived in our HFC Test Lab!

We are also fans of DVG’s “Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations” game (which we play cooperatively, since despite the fact that it is marketed as a Solitaire game, it also works great as a Coop game). So when Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict was published as an (quite strange and unexpected) expansion to a down-to-Earth realistic Air combat warfare game, we got very excited.

Cthulhu Conflict isn’t a standalone expansion; ownership of Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations is mandatory because the game uses all material from the basic game and adds new rules, cards, counters, and markers to the mix.

This review will not deal with the core game mechanics and the gameplay sequence of Hornet Leader, so if you don’t know what this game is about and how it is played, you should read our extensive HL review first. It will give you a good overview about how the game works and what kind of game to expect.

It is assumed, both by the expansion and by our review, that you have basic knowledge of Hornet Leader and know how to play the core game. In this review, we will focus on the differences, how the expansion works, and how (good) the setting is portrayed in the game.

Like Hornet Leader, Cthulhu Conflict is scenario based, following the same choice options (game length, difficulty level) you already know from HL. In addition, the game is suitable for Solitaire play as well as 2-player cooperative gameplay vs. the paper AI. Both options work fine and coop games don’t need any adjustments to rules or gameplay. 

Game components and graphic presentation

The game is shipped in a box which is smaller and lighter than the Hornet Leader (HL) box. The HL box, of course, is a heavy monster full of cool stuff, and remember: you will use the contents of both boxes.

Box contents

Box contents

The box contains 56 additional cards (additional aircraft, new target cards, new event cards), 178 counters (bandits, sites, phobia markers), 4 Campaign sheets, and a full-color rule book. All components have the specific “HL look & feel” and fit to the main game seamlessly.

The game includes a Player Log Sheet, printed on a somewhat stronger paper. This serves as a master copy sheet and you can copy it at your local copy shop (or any photocopier at home or at work). There is no pad with several sheets in the box, so if you want to take the box to a friend, you should make sure that you photocopied enough player log sheets. If you don’t want to make physical copies, there is also a PDF version of the log sheet available from the official web site for free download, which can be printed out. The combination of adding a physical photocopy master and offering a digital download version is very user-friendly (adding a full pad with sheets would be the friendliest version, but this is, of course, a question of cost).

The overall production quality is, as usual with games published by DVG, very good. Especially the artworks are outstanding - in contrast to the usual technical images on the cards, the artworks (especially on the target cards) are true to the topic and very stylish with almost painting-like illustrations of creatures and places. The artist did a great job here to convey a very special, very dark Lovecraftian atmosphere.

Rules

The 12-pages-full color-rule book (which is also available as a free download from the official DVG website) doesn’t repeat the original Hornet Leader rules but refers to the HL rulebook for basic gameplay purposes. It details only the differences and rules changes as well as descriptions for new units and additional rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Leader Series, Misc. Fantasy games, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Web Grognard

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on February 24, 2014

“If you don’t know this website, you don’t know the wargaming hobby – period!”

Web Grognard

groglogo

The internet offers websites for almost any field of interest. There are also so-called “Link pages” for these fields, i.e. pages which collect addresses of all websites dealing with the respective topics. Such key pages are very important because they allow easy access to all sources of information in one location instead of forcing people to search the entire web where relevant information is often hidden in an informational chaos.

The wargaming hobby isn’t an exception to this rule; its key website in the internet where you can find everything related to wargames is called WebGrognard.

Grognard‘ is slang for someone who likes playing wargames, so this site is chock-full of information about The Hobby.

It’s subtitle the site for wargames on the web since 1995″ is an accurate description, because it actually is the number 1 resource website for wargaming – there isn’t any other website offering more information and data about almost any wargame ever published! This incredible project was created by three men: Alan Poulter, Eric Pass and Skip Franklin. The site was then run for almost 20 years by Alan Poulter updated each sunday to add even more information (sent to him via email) to the gigantic data amount already online since 1995. 13th January 2013 the final update was made by Alan and the site now has a new management being run by Mark D’Agosta.

Mark decided to bring the no.1 site for wargaming content into the modern era with a new and fresh design, a new server structure, a new “Search” feature to make it easier to find the games you like. Updates will now be continuous, posting shortly after they are received and approved which is probably the most important new feature. In addition to the existing RSS feed, you may now follow Grognard.com via Twitter or may subscribe for email notification and hopefully a Facebook page will be available in the future. Grognard.com “originals” are planned like the Head-to-Head video series. The idea is to have two or even more experienced wargamers engaging in a popular wargame with discussion, game and strategy analysis and actual game play depending on the focus of the episode. The first episode can be watched here!

If you enter WebGrognard, you will see an alphabetical list which leads to all wargames beginning with the respective letter: A includes A3R, Totaler Krieg can be found under T etc.. This allows comfortable and quick navigation if searching for information about a specific game without the need to scroll through endless stuff you don’t need. Once you found your game, there is another listing of all data available to this game. By clicking on the links you eventually reach your destination.

WebGrognard offers almost anything, for example reviews, articles about strategy, errata, Q&A, FAQ, rule variants, zine indices, links to individual websites about the games, the publisher’s website, computerbased game assistant programs (GAPs), Mailing lists, replays, scenarios etc.. The information isn’t limited to boardgames, but does also include computergames, magazines, game conventions, PbEM aids, datafiles for download, shops, RPGs, card games, miniatures, reports etc..

Grognard Challenge: map image 1

If you don’t find it on Webgrognard, it doesn’t exist!

The site depends on submissions for new material, so if you have an interesting article, strategy tip, player aid, link or file you’d like to share please contribute to make this great site even better!

Entries for the letter “A”. FAQs, Reviews, AARs, add-ons, card listings, rules summaries, tactics from various sources and even in foreign languages, are listed here

© 7/03 by HFC (www.homefrontcenter.de)

Posted in Wargaming in general | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2013 in review – HFC says ‘Thank You’

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on December 31, 2013

 

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in HFC, News and Releases | 3 Comments »

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2014

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on December 24, 2013

watermarkTo all our readers the HFC staff wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We are thankful for the time you spent on our site to read the articles, tour trips and reviews, leaving comments and hope you’ll continue to do so in the coming year. New games will hit the table, more tours to interesting historical sites and battlefields are planned and we are looking forward to sharing it with you :)

We are close to 200.000 visits and on average now have around 100 unique visitors per day, which we call quite a success in this niche hobby – Thank you all!

Stay healthy, enjoy the time with your family and friends and keep playing games!

Happy New Year & Happy Gaming,

Denny & Andreas

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Review: Phantom Leader Deluxe (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on December 23, 2013

phantom_boxGame: Phantom Leader Deluxe Edition

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2013
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: Vietnam War / Historical / Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground warfare
Components: 336 Full Color Cards, Full Color Rulebook, 2 Full Color Counter Sheets (2×176 – 5/8” counters), 8 Full Color Campaign Sheets, 1 11”x17” Full Color Mounted Tactical Display, 1 Full Color Player Sheet, 1 Ten-sided Die, 1 Full Color Player Log Sheet
Game Type: Mixed: Board, counters, card-driven

HFC Game-O-Meter: D 


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9.5
Rules: 8.5
Playability: 
9
Replay Value:
10

Overall Rating: 9

PRO Modern and stylish presentation; Suitable for beginners and veterans alike; components of high quality; solitaire game which also works perfectly as a 2-player cooperative game; much to decide and consider during a game; many randomized elements provide a high replayabilty; adjustable in game length and difficulty level; comprehensive and clear rules; easy to learn, but demanding and challenging gameplay; provides background information about friendly aircraft and weapons…
CONTRA …but still no information or design notes about enemy units; no hints about coop gameplay included in the rulebook

Introduction

We love aviation wargames like Thunderbolt Apache Leader (GMT) and Hornet Leader (DVG), especially since these solitaire games can also be played cooperatively by two players. And we are notorious for our special interest in coop gaming!

Phantom Leader Deluxe

Phantom Leader Deluxe

We were looking forward to playing Dan Verssen’s Phantom Leader Deluxe, a game portraying the Vietnam air war (actually beginning with the Cuban Crisis), part of DVG’s Leader Series, and when the game entered our HFC Test Lab, we were very happy to find out that this implement of the Leader Series works as excellent as a cooperative game as it does as a solitaire game – as do the other games of the Leader series, despite the fact that this additional option isn’t mentioned anywhere in the rules or on the game box.

Phantom Leader Deluxe is an update to DVG’s original Phantom Leader from 2010 (re-worked in order to adjust it to the standards set by Hornet Leader). So the new game version is adding more aircraft, the Cuba mission, making adjustments to the campaigns, adding more pilots for each aircraft type to choose from, more targets and more Event cards. All in all, more content and more options, so switching from the original Phantom Leader to the Deluxe Edition is certainly worth the money, if you are a fan of the game. There are tons of new stuff compared to the original version, and the new stuff isn’t just for show or chrome, but really adds to the experience and variety.

So what’s the game about? In Phantom Leader, you take command over a tactical fighter squadron. You can choose between playing as US Navy or US Air Force, which offer different aircraft types and pilots. All four campaigns come in two versions: as US Navy campaign and as US Air Force campaign, which doubles the tactical and strategical options, and lets you find out who does a better job.

The game includes four campaigns, starting with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, followed by the 1964 War in the South campaign, 1967 Rolling Thunder, and finally 1972 Linebacker. You don’t have to play the campaigns in chronological order, and in the basic game, they are not linked with each other. There is an optional rule which allows you to play them as a large combined campaign, though, but normally, you pick only one campaign at a time.

Each campaign consists of a variable number of “missions” (scenarios or targets you will attack), so you can play each campaign as a short, medium, or long campaign, as your time allows. In addition, you can adjust the difficulty level of the campaigns to your experience and play style. Since the flight missions are determined randomly, as are the enemies you will face in the combat area, this concept ensures a high replay value.

At the beginning of a campaign, you choose the members of your fighter squadron (you cannot choose aircraft which were not in use at the year the campaign takes place, of course). Then, you start with your first mission where you learn what your target is, where it is located and how heavily it is defended. You then get the chance to load your fighters with various weapons and gadgets. After the briefing, your squadron takes off towards the target. Random events (triggered by cards) as well as randomly placed enemy defensive units will make it harder for you to reach the target zone. Enemy units consist of various kinds of units – ground units like infantry, anti-air sites, and air units (enemy fighters which try to force you into a dogfight).

The target can by anything from a factory, a convoy, a shipyard, a base, a rescue mission...

The target can by anything from a factory, a convoy, a shipyard, a base, a rescue mission…

Once you managed to reach the target, you have to fulfill the mission objectives which are detailed on the current target card. Objectives vary, depending on the kind of target, and will sometimes surprise you.

After fulfilling the objective (usually by destroying a target or various targets), you will have to steer your fighters out of the combat area and back to base. If a fighter was shot down, there is a chance that the pilot survived, so you will also have the chance to rescue him in a Search-and-Rescue attempt. The last part of the mission is the debriefing step, where your performance and the pilots’ stress levels are recorded. Missions can be quite stressful, so it is possible that your pilots will be unfit for the next mission after returning to their base.

Since a campaign consists of several missions in a row, and you only have one fighter squadron, one of the main challenges of the game is to think about when to use which pilot – you always have to keep in mind that they could be shot down or suffer too much stress to be useful in the following missions. This adds a strategic level to the otherwise tactical gameplay of flying single aircraft into a combat zone where they will be attacked by enemy units and dogfighting other fighters.

In Phantom Leader, you don’t have to learn how to pilot an aircraft (your chosen pilots are perfectly capable of flying them without your assistance, so this isn’t your problem). You are the leader and mission commander back at the air base who tells each pilot where to fly, when to fly, and which loadout to take into combat. So if you find your fighter squadron horribly wrong equipped against the target or the encountered enemy units, and they are shot down or so stressed that they are sent into the med bay afterwards, this isn’t their fault – it’s yours.

A bad mission outcome and failure to achieve the mission objectives is almost always caused by bad planning, wrong equipment, and wrong decisions. And some bad luck, of course, because the game contains many random elements which change from mission to mission. You cannot influence which defensive units appear at the scene or which surprise events make your life harder. But you can influence bad luck in rolling your dice by choosing the right equipment, pilot constellation, and flight maneuvers.

Like in a RPG, your pilots gain experience points when flying on a mission, and have the chance to level up to the next higher skill level (at least in a medium or long campaign). Levelling up has significant impact on the various stats of a pilot.

Game components and presentation

The components within the heavy game box are of a very high quality (as it is with all games of the Leader series). The box contains a full-colored rulebook, a 10-sided die, lots of counters, cards, and markers. The overall game style is modern and visually appealing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Leader Series, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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