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our old static website to the new format, we decided to drop some of the old articles (especially some very old and outdated reviews which will be rewritten from a fresh perspective).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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Visiting Battlefields: The Battle of Tolbiac

Posted by Denny Koch on June 20, 2015

The battlefield

The battlefield

It’s time for a new “Vising Battlefields” report!

This time, we didn’t travel the Ardennes or visited another WWII battle site (which was the focus of our previous battlefield tours), but we traveled far back in time into the year 496 AD.

We were on our way to the city of Zülpich (once a Roman vicus named “Tolbiacum“, dating back to the 1st century BC) to visit the Roman thermae (baths), which are still in excellent shape and very well presented in the “Museum of Bathing Culture”.

On our way through the plains of the Zülpicher Börde – an area strongly dominated by agriculture and the Rhenish brown coal fields -, we came upon a large field with a striking granite stele. This stirred our interest and we pulled over to investigate the place. Close to the country road was a bronze plate and we learned that this was the original site of the Battle of Tolbiac, the famous battle of Clovis I (German: Chlodwig I) and his Franks against the combined tribes of the Alamanni (whose leader is unknown).

This was one of the decisive battles in late antiquity because it was the main reason why the Franks converted to Christianity – thus opening the way for Charlesmagne and his deep impact on European history some centuries later. Clovis’ victory led to the foundation of the Merovingian Frankish Empire.

The Location

The battlefield is located between the villages of Langendorf and Wollersheim North of Bundesstraße (Federal Highway) 256, close to Zülpich and about 60 km East of the German-Belgian border.

The public baths in the Roman city of Tolbiacum

The public baths in the Roman city of Tolbiacum

Zülpich, or Tolbiacum, was located in the Roman province of Germania inferior at an important Roman crossroads – similar to the Belgian town of Bastogne – because all major Roman roads met here: The Via Agrippa, connecting Trier (Augusta Treverorum, the second largest city in the Roman Empire, therefore also called Roma Secunda) with Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensum), as well as roads to the Lower Rhine to Xanten (Colonia Ulpia Traiana) via Neuss (Novaesium), to Bonn (Bonna) and Jülich (vicus Iuliacum).

Because of its strategical and logistical importance, Tolbiacum flourished during Roman times and was an important location for hostels, horse changing stations and trade. The public baths (Thermae) were very luxurious, especially in these remote parts of Germania inferior. Today, they are among the best preserved Roman baths North of the Alps and well worth a visit!

During the 5th century, the entire region suffered under repeated German invasions where German tribes from the areas East of the Rhine raided the cities and villages of the Western provinces. Eventually, Rome withdrew from this area, and combined German tribes advanced into these lands (which were originally inhabited by a local Celtic population like the Eburoni, who were eradicated by Iulius Caesar during the Gallic War, or the Treveri, who dominated the areas between the Eifel, Moselle, and Ardennes region for centuries) as well as Rome-loyal Germanic tribes like the Ubii.

The Battle of Tolbiac

Map of the Battle of Tolbiac

Map of the Battle of Tolbiac

The year of the Battle of Tolbiac (German: Schlacht von Zülpich) is not undisputed – most sources date it back to the year 496 AD, but there are also sources which claim that the Battle was fought in 506 AD. The battle is also known as the “Battle of Conversion” (German: Bekehrungsschlacht).

It was fought between the united Ripuarian Franks (led by Sigibert of Cologne) and Salian Franks (led by Clovis I) against the attacking Alamanni, a confederation of several Germanic tribes. Since the Alamanni repeatedly raided the lands of Sigibert, he eventually called on Clovis I for help.

It was the second battle of Clovis I against the Alamanni forces; the third battle in Straßburg eventually led to the end of the Alamanni Empire.

Whether the plains near Zülpich were the actual battle site is also disputed; some researchers claim that the location was too far in the North for the Alamanni. Others argue that the Alamanni used the old Roman highways between Metz, Trier, and Cologne for their attacks against the Franks (who were also in conflict with the Visigoths under Alarich II at this time, so that the Alamanni probably considered them to be a weakened target). So Zülpich, as a Roman crossroads town, was likely on their route.

The

The “Chlodwig-Stele” marks the battlefield site

Not much is known about the battle, except that the Ripuarian Franks suffered heavy losses.The main account of the battle was written down by Gregory of Tours,  a Gallo-Roman historian, bishop of Tours and leading prelate of Gaul. He is considered to be the main source for Merovingian history.

The battle was desperate, and finally Clovis I began to pray to the Christian God – the God of his wife Clotilde – after his gods apparently didn’t answer. His prayer was quite pagan, though: according to heathen custom of “do ut des” (“I give, so that You will give”), he made a special deal with the Christian God: if the Franks were victorious in this battle, he would convert to Christianity and let himself be baptized.

According to Gregory of Tours, the Alamanni leader was killed by an axe just in the same moment, and the remaining Alamanni fled the battlefield. The Franks followed them, killing the fleeing Alamanni until they surrendered.

This story closely resembles the conversion of Constantine the Great during the Battle of the Milvan Bridge.

After their defeat, the Alamanni left the Ripuarian kingdom and withdrew to the South. Clovis I respected the Ripuarian claim on the territory, but demanded their assistance in fights against the Visigoths later in return for their help against the Alamanni.

Conversion of the Franks

Clovis I delivered on his promise. He was baptized in Reims on Christmas in 496 AD (this date was firmly attested by Gregory of Tours and in a letter by Avitus of Vienne who congratulated Clovis on his baptism).

The baptism of Clovis

The baptism of Clovis

In contrast to the Romans, where conversion or belief in a specific deity was a personal matter, the conversion of the Germanic leader had impact on his entire tribe, so his men soon followed their king’s example.

Since Clovis I converted to the orthodox Athanasian Catholicism (in contrast to most other Germanic tribes who followed the Arianian Catholicism), the Franks seamlessly coexisted with the local Gallo-Roman inhabitants and the local clergy, who also were Athanasian Christians. This eventually led to assimilation and peaceful merging of the Franks with the local population. It also empowered Clovis I to undertake crusades against the Arian Christians (who were considered heretics) and to Christianize and so win new territory, so his conversion to Christianity was tied to a strong gain in power – and he certainly never regretted his conversion on the battlefield… this God had certainly delivered ;-)

Visiting the Battlefield today

Since the battlefield is located in a rural area, you can simply park your car next to the field. There are no signposts, but you cannot overlook the granite stele which is widely visible from the highway.

A small path leads across the battlefield

A small path leads across the battlefield

A footpath across the field leads to the granite stele, which serves as a Memorial of the battle. A bronze plate contiguous to the road informs about the site (and the stele) – unfortunately, the text is only in German. It reads: “Clovis stele. Battle near Tolbiacum (Zülpich), Franks vs. Alamanni 496. Stele created by Ulrich Rückrieh, donated on September, 18th, 1999 by Manfred Vetter and Henrik Hanstein”.

As the text suggests, the stele was built by sculptor Ulrich Rückrieh, who also built more steles around the city of Düren. The Clovis stele, which is made of solid granite, is several meters high. It was gifted to the city of Zülpich by the “Manfred Vetter charity foundation for Arts and Culture” and financed by Professor Hanstein, who paid a symbolic price of 100,000€ for the monument with one condition: The money had to be spent for a specific purpose – for the installation of the Museum of Bathing Culture, thus for the conservation and presentation of the ancient Roman baths of Tolbiacum.

The bronze plate

The bronze plate

So the granite monument contributed to the preservation of the Roman heritage of Tolbiacum while serving as a memorial on a battlefield site – a good deal!

The entire area of Eastern Gaul / Germania inferior is full of Roman heritage sites, temples (especially for the Gallo-Roman Matronae, but also temples for Mercury, Apollo-Grannus, Lenus-Mars, Sirona, Epona etc.), Roman industrial sites like millstone quarries, iron smelting factories, civilian sites like baths, villages, villae rusticae (Roman rural estates), and last but not least, military sites like castles, forts, and fortifications. So traveling around western Germany and visiting Gallo-Roman places is a worthwhile alternative or addition to visiting WWII sites and highly recommend!

Some of these places are UNESCO world heritage sites, and many are among the best preserved or largest North of the Alps.

Wargame?

The Battle of Tolbiac in a 19th century painting by Ary Scheffer

The Battle of Tolbiac in a 19th century painting by Ary Scheffer

The battle of the Franks under Clovis I against the Alamanni was a key moment in European history and the beginning of the rapid spreading of Christianity all over Europe.

Our question to our readers:

Does anyone know of a wargame or scenario about this decisive Battle of Tolbiac? Since there isn’t much knowledge about the battle, the size of the participating armies or even the name of the Alamanni leader, it’s certainly difficult to design a game of this battle (at least without improvising or without assumptions and well-educated guesses about how this battle would have been like). But nevertheless, there are so many wargames about exotic and unknown battles, for example in magazines or published by companies like SPI, who were not fazed by uncommon locations and eras, that there may be a small chance!

If you know of a wargame or (scenario within a game series) dealing with this specific battle (or, on a larger scale, of the battles between Franks / Alamanni / Visigoths in the 5th, early 6th century), leave us a comment!

Posted in HFC On Tour, Historical Sites, Visiting Battlefields | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Up Front or – the never ending story?

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 5, 2015

144825The wargame community is again in high hopes for a new Up Front because the news is out that Wargame Vault has permission to do at least a strict reprint of the original game. So it seems that rights-holder Hasbro (owner of Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill) is aware now (after the Valley Games Kickstarter desaster) that the demand for this classic wargame is there and has allowed Wargame Vault to digitally re-master the second edition of Up Front and to offer it through their card printing program.

Folks already discuss the news in forum postings and wonder whether this is a hot deal or not so have in mind that in fact what you get here is a pure reprint of the game, so no new rules, no errata worked in and still the original graphics on the cards. It’s a kind of print on demand model and for about 50 bucks you get the game you want to play and that’s fine – given that Up Front in very good condition (or even mint/new etc.) can easily cost you 100 USD or more you might even call this a hot deal indeed.

Still, even with this strict reprint of the game and the proclamation that Wargame Vault has the permission of the rightsholder Hasbro to offer this there seems to be some legal issues regarding these rights –

Rodger MacGowan who was the artist of the original design is suprised to see this offer on the Wargame Vault website since Hasbro has never contacted him regarding the use of any of his Avalon Hill artwork or logo graphic designs which simply means they don’t own the rights to use it…

I don’t think it’s impossible to sort this out and they don’t offer the gamebox for exact the reason that they don’t own the rights of that artwork but since they use it on their website to offer the game it doesn’t seem to be good business manners and they use his logo design on the backs of the cards which clearly is violating his rights…so all is not cut and dried yet.

It’s a shame that  Up Front, this alltime classic and innovative game design is so often in the news lately…but always with a bad taste. It deserves to see the light in a modern new style so new gamers can see for themselves why the old grogs adore this gem of a game so much but it can be doubted that this will happen anytime soon.

Until then this reprint is the only option you have if you don’t want to hunt down the game on ebay etc. and here’s what you get for your money:

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New HFC policy regarding Kickstarter campaigns & reviews

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on February 13, 2015

To all whom it may concern, please take a few minutes to learn about some changes regarding our support of Kickstarter campaigns and reviews based on sent in games by publishers/designers.

gamer-tagThe HFC started as an accompanying website for a small gaming club, publishing reports of our activities and  game reviews in German. After the club fell apart, we changed the site first into a wargaming website, publishing news and reviews in English. Later, we changed it into what it is now – a gaming & history blog where we share our thoughts with the community about games we play (wargames and non-wargames), battlefields and museums we visit and what we think about stuff that happens in the gaming world.

We were happy to see that many readers like our site, we managed to reach even more gamers via Facebook, and even though these days more and more (board)game reviewers use Youtube as a platform for video reviews, it appears that some people still prefer written reviews.

The HFC is known (some say notorious) for long and very detailed reviews, giving the reader as much insight into a game as possible (including information on how the game works, the Sequence of Play etc. – something some people don’t like because they think these information can be found in the rulebook, but we don’t agree with that and consider the ” game engine” a main part of the game and therefore of the gaming experience – and a review is all about the game experience!), spicing it all up with some nice photos, so folks get a good basis to decide whether to buy the game or not. In order to write these reviews, we have to learn and play the games in question and we don’t write reviews based on only a few game sessions… so, all in all, it takes quite some time in total until a review is finally published.

We take our reviews very seriously and don't write them until we got a solid impression and played a lot of games!

We take our reviews very seriously and don’t write them until we got a solid impression and played a lot of games!

Over the years, we were happy to see that game companies and designers wanted us to publish reviews of their new games and they sent them in. For us it was no question that these games were put on the table before any other games we wanted to play, in order to bring the review online asap. The more readers we got, the more games we received in this manner and the less we were able to play the games we bought and had on our shelf waiting to be played.

Crowdfunding was an interesting idea, first used by video game designers and independent game publishers, and it is now a chosen platform for boardgame/wargame publishers as well. Wargaming is a niche hobby and many companies are rather small, so this is a good way for them to get the money needed for publishing games people want to play. If everything works out well, it’s a win-win situation for all involved. There’s always a certain risk that a game is not what the players thought it would be, but still it’s a great way to allow smaller companies to stay in business.

That was the reason why we supported Kickstarter campaigns, started by wargame companies, by advertising them on the HFC site, to let people know what is in the works and how they could help to make it happen that a certain game is actually published. Usually, the deal was to get a copy of a game at release, so we were able to see if the game we supported before it was even available, was any good and worth the money. Since we were very restrictive in whom we supported this way, it usually turned out to be a good game, so everything was fine. Except that we had even more games in the pipeline to play and review (we were not forced to review these games, because we got them in exchange for the support of the Kickstarter campaign that made it possible to publish it, but still… we thought we should bring these games on the table before any other games…).

Travelling to battlefields and historical sites is also an important part of our hobby

Travelling to battlefields and historical sites is also an important part of our hobby

Today, more and more games are crowdfunded, it seems to have become the norm (at least with the smaller companies and these are the majority in the wargaming hobby), so in order to support these games, more and more announcements had to be written, because a new game was always trying to get crowdfunded, thus eventually landing on your gaming table.

And this is where we are now.

Since we are not satisfied with the current situation, we decided to change our policies for the future. The point is: we don’t want to turn the HFC website into a sort of “advertising blog” – and that’s an impression one might get if more and more of these crowdfunding campaigns are started – if they are from companies we trust, why not help them out with their new game, if we did help them with their last? So, again, a new announcement is online.

In addition to that, we see that Real Life (and two other blogs we run) lately got us under some real pressure, job, family, health problems, i.e. things that need attention before games do, so we got less and less time to play games and write reviews. And when we did, despite our tight time schedule, we thought the games in the “review copy pipeline” should come first. Eventually, we were stuck between all that.

232_Engineer_WWII_posterWe are “mood players” by heart, that means we watch a movie, or read a book, or visit a museum or historical site, and then are in the mood for a certain topic and then we play a game about this topic. That’s our motivation to play wargames or it used to be… we didn’t do this anymore, because we had no time left. So, we realized that the HFC had slowly turned into a kind of “job” we had to do because of the “review copy/Kickstarter campaign deal” instead of being a fun hobby project, where we tell others about the games we play and share our impressions.

So, in the end, we decided we had to change some things in order to clear the way for more content in the future and to get back in tune with the hobby character of our site!

This means, we won’t do any crowdfunding campaign ads anymore, not because we don’t trust the companies we supported in the past or wouldn’t wish them success, but because it begins to seriously change the character of our website. And to send in a game does not mean that we will automatically publish a review. We were not forced to do this, we know that, but we forced ourselves to do it.

We dedicated our sparse time to learn these games first, over other games we were interested in. We played them for a long time in order to give you a fair judgement, not a hasty review after only a few games, as some other reviewers do. Last but not least, we spent much time writing extensive reviews, pondering over each aspect of the game, so in the end, all our time we usually spent with wargaming and blogging about wargames, was consumed by review copies, while a ton of games we bought, sat on our shelf, watching us with sad eyes.

Learning and playing new games takes time... currently, we are enjoying WH40k conquest, where we just divided the factions among us

Learning and playing new games takes time… currently, we are enjoying WH40k conquest, where we just divided the factions among us

Lots of articles about other aspects of gaming, or about our travels to historical sites, were neglected because there was always a game waiting to be learned, played, and reviewed. Not that we didn’t enjoy this – most of the games we reviewed were really cool, some were even awesome. But this is about the freedom of choice what to play when and what to write, and we just don’t have enough time or manpower to play the games we buy or want to play at a given time, write articles about all kinds of wargaming-related topics, and learning, playing and reviewing “officially” sent in games – at least not in the quality and elaboratedness we expect from ourselves and which had become our trademark.

We want to be fair with you and share our thoughts about the decision – the wargaming community is small and gamers and publishers, designers and reviewers are in the same boat, because we all want to see these games and the hobby flourish.

What does this mean for you as a game publisher/designer?

If you think it would be cool if we write a review about your game – by all means, send it in! Chances are quite high that we are curious and will check it out… and if we like it, chances are even higher that we will publish an in-depth review – if we don’t like it at all and find serious flaws, chances are also quite high that we write a review… but a game sent in as a review copy does not guarantee you a published review! If you are ok with that, feel free to support us with a copy of the game you published/designed.

"HFC - back to the roots" means: Finally time for ASL again!

“HFC – back to the roots” means: Finally time for ASL again!

This way we hope to be able to bring some of the games on the table we wanted to play but didn’t have the time for, and that might be a new game-kid on the block or an oldie but goldie! So, future reviews will be based on what is landing on our gaming table and that can now again come either fresh from a publisher, or dusty from our shelf, depending on our mood and current interest in a given topic, era, or setting. You can also expect articles about other wargame-related stuff.

So you may rest assured that getting back into the “mood gaming” we started with (and which we deeply missed recently) and running the HFC as a hobby site – as a hobby, not a job -, will still bring you the reviews you like to read here :)

We just wanted to let you all know about our thoughts and hope you’ll be still with us as readers, friends and supporters.

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Tiger Leader – new solitaire & coop WWII board game!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on October 31, 2014

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DVG has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to fund a new game in the well known and popular Leader series. The game was eagerly awaited by fans of the series and funded in the first 24 hours! So the Tiger engine is already running full speed, but there is still time left for you to back it up to get even more convenient map tiles and other improvements that will be announced as new stretch goals for this campaign soon. By backing the game you may opt for the base game or for the game including 136 miniatures to add to your gaming experience!

Tiger Leader being the latest game in the Leader series is therefore based on an extremely polished and great working game system fans know from Hornet Leader, Phantom Leader, Thunderbolt-Apache Leader and U-Boat Leader. Check out the links to our reviews to see what we mean, these games are great for experienced wargamers and new players alike.

Campaigns take about 30 minutes to set-up, and each battle can be resolved in 15 to 30 minutes, game play time total is usually depending on your own style, which is one of the advantages of true solitaire games –  you can play whenever you have time, at your pace. But what makes the Leader games so special and what we always stress as one of the aspects that make them so outstanding is the fact you can bring a friend to the table and play cooperatively! Sit down, divide up your forces and plan with your fellow commander how to get the job of the mission done :)

Tiger Leader includes dozens of German vehicles and infantry types and includes 5 Allied Nations that you battle against: Poland, France, United Kingdom, Russia, and USA. The battlefield units for each nation have unique stats that reflect that nation’s combat capabilities. The game is played on a map that allows for always changing terrain and combat situations keeping the experience fresh and the replay value high.

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Components announced so far:

240 Full Color Cards

2 Full Color Counter Sheets

3 Full Color Sheets of MOUNTED Terrain Hexes 

22” x 17” Full Color MOUNTED Tactical Sheet

11″ x 17″ Full Color Head Quarters Sheet

1 10-sided die

To back up the game, get more detailed information and to see a funny video explaining the game to you go to the official Kickstarter site –> HERE

As always with DVG games, you can expect high quality stuff inside the box reminding us of the famous quote by Heinz Guderian….

Nicht Kleckern, sondern Klotzen!

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Review: Cards of Cthulhu (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on August 12, 2014

CardsofCthulhu_boxGame: The Cards of Cthulhu

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2014
Designer: Ian Richards
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Hypothetical / Cthulhu Myth
Components: 8 Investigator cards, 8 Follower cards, 10 Item cards, 8 Cult Gate cards, 4 Minor Horror Cult cards, 4 Major Horror Cult cards, 4 Unspeakable Horror Cult cards, 60 Minion Cult cards, 7 Custom Cthulhu Dice, 4 8.5″ x 11″ Cult (player) boards, 10 Metal Custom Cthulhu Coins, 1 player help sheet
Game Type: cooperative card game (1-4 players)

HFC Game-O-Meter: Ebullet1


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 8
Rules: 8
Playability:
7
Replay Value:
6.5

Overall Rating: 7

PRO Cthulhu! Can be played as a solitaire game or cooperatively. Great artwork. Very simple and fast game for the Cthulhu quick bite. Fast game play, almost no setup time.
CONTRA Very high random element: game can be unbeatable or a stroll in the park. Very simple mechanics without surprising elements (like special events). Not all required information are printed on the cards, which unnecessarily forces the players to refer to the rule book during a game. All cults have the same cultist types, which appears somewhat generic.

Introduction

 Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!

As we already mentioned in our Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict review, we are Cultists. We are avid fans of Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones, so we love playing games about the Cthulhu myth. It’s always interesting to see how a game approaches the topic and how it deals with the signature features of this universe: Great Old Ones, gates, minions, cultists, investigators. There is a vast plethora of Cthulhu games on the market, monster games like Arkham Horror, quick and fast games like Elder Sign, or the Call of Cthulhu LGC.

So – when we played the new “Cards of Cthulhu” game in our HFC Test Lab, the most interesting question about “Cards of Cthulhu” was: is the game bringing any new angle or unique feature to the topic?

Why do we need another Cthulhu game and what sets the game apart from the other games?

Cards of Cthulhu is a quick, very simple game. It can be played as a Solitaire game as well as with 2-4 players who play the game cooperatively vs. the paper AI. Both options work without any adjustments to the rules. Each player assumes the role of an Investigator. The goal of the game is to fight 4 cults whose cultists try to awake a Great Old One by opening gates and raising minor, major and unspeakable Horrors. The time limit is set by the card deck; if the cultists don’t manage to overrun the world before the deck runs out, the players win.

The game was designed by first-time designer Ian Richardson and published by Dan Verssen Games (DVG). It was a Kickstarter game where all stretch goals had been reached by the backers, so the game offers some nice bonus features like mounted boards and metal coins.

Game components and graphic presentation

Box contents plus Bonus pack

Box contents plus Bonus pack

The game is shipped in a sturdy, solid box with cool Cthulhu artwork on the cover.

The box contains 10 Investigator cards, among which players choose their character. The other cards are shuffled into one large deck, containing all types of playing cards like Cultists, gates, Minions, items, Followers. The cards are of a good printing quality, but appear to be somewhat thin. Since we sleeve all our card games, this wasn’t a problem at all.

Generally, the illustrations on the cards are quite thematic and true to the topic. What we didn’t understand, though, was the simple fact why the Investigators and the Followers have the same illustrations. We know that each character is meant to be a “generic archetype” and not “Susan Miller, the journalist”, so that’s the explanation why each character can appear as an Investigator as well as a Follower. So you can “be” the Priest and at the same time recruit the Follower “Priest”. But to us, it would have been more atmospheric if each Investigator was a unique character with a unique picture. Playing a character and then getting the exact copy with the same illustration as a Follower simply felt awkward.

In addition, there are 4 mounted cult boards, representing one cult each (the Cults of Cthulhu, Arwassa, Chaugnar Faugn, and Yog-Sothoth, respectively). During our first game, the boards warped heavily and tended to turn around on the table when we touched them, but the warping was entirely gone when we unpacked the game for the second time. Since then, the boards remained plain and didn’t warp at all anymore.

There is also a Help Sheet which offers quick rules reference for the players. We always appreciate help sheets, regardless of how simple a game is (and Cards of Cthulhu is certainly one of the easiest Cthulhu games out there) – it serves as a rules reminder and is especially helpful when you didn’t play a game for a while and want to return it to the table without re-reading the entire rule book.

The game contains three types of special dice, Health dice, Body dice, and Spirit dice. These dice are used for combat resolution. The black dice are nicely done, but one of our players had slight problems in distinguishing some of the numbers, which are printed next to a colored tentacle-shaped object. Other players didn’t have any issues at all, so this doesn’t appear to be a general problem.

The currency within the game is “Experience” which is represented by golden metal coins. These were added as a Kickstarter stretching goal and we thought them to be really cool. Pure cosmetics, but much more evocative than counters.

3 types of special dice are used to resolve combat

3 types of special dice are used to resolve combat

Besides the full-color rule book, the game also contains an artwork book, which illustrates the origination process of many illustrations with comments and explanations by Cloud Quinot, the artist (who also did the artworks for Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict).

The overall production quality is, as usual with games published by DVG, very good. Especially the artworks are very atmospheric and true to the topic with painting-like illustrations. As in Cthulhu Conflict, the artist did a great job to convey a very special, very dark Lovecraftian atmosphere.

There is also a “Cards of Cthulhu Bonus pack” available which includes 7 more Cthulhu dice and 10 more coins. This is helpful if you play the game with more players, so players won’t have to share the dice – and you can never have enough coins. But the Bonus pack doesn’t include any additional cards, or rules, it isn’t a game expansion! So whether additional dice and coins are important enough for you to buy this expansion, is a matter of personal preference (you could also share your dice among all players and use coins of your local currency).

Rules

The 24-pages-full color rule book is very comprehensible with lots of illustrations, examples, and short, clear instructions. Only the first 15 pages are rules, though. After the rules section, you will find a sample game, and several Cthulhu short stories by renowned professional authors (you can download the rulebook here on the official DVG website)Read the rest of this entry »

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

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: , , , , , , , | 10 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. 

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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 »

 
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