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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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Posted in Leader Series, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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: , , , , , , | 1 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 »

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 »

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: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

World in Flames PC Game released!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on November 7, 2013

IMG_5266The game that was in the making for about 10 years is now available. World in Flames, famous monster conflict simulation on World War 2 now playable on your PC, rules enforced by the game and coming with three thick books. The price might be considered acceptable for what you get in the box depending on where you live (since you may strongly disagree on this if you are living in Europe, because the game can only be ordered as a physical copy, not as a download version. That means a lot of money for shipping and Custom then charges on top!)  BUT…at launch there’s no AI included and there’s no PbEM function!

A game like WiF will be difficult to handle anyway by an AI, but no PbEM is quite a showstopper – who’s gonna play this monster in realtime TCP/IP?

Both the AI and PbEM will be made available later we are told (AI will cost though, how much we don’t know yet) but we really think it’s the wrong decision to get the game out without such essential features.

For more information check out the official site!

World in Flames is Matrix Games’ computer version of Australian Design Group’s classic board game. Covering both the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations during World War II, World in Flames is global in scope while simulating each branch of service in detail. Land units are corps and army level, supplemented with specialized divisions. Naval units include individual counters for every carrier, battleship, cruiser, and light cruiser in the war. Using 1000+ unique bitmapped images, air units represent groups of 250 to 500 airplanes. With 6000+ unique units, 250+ countries, and a global map of 70,200 hexes, World in Flames is the premier World War II grand strategy game.

Harry Rowland, Game Designer of the original World in Flames boardgame, said: “ADG have produced some high quality games over the years but nothing compares to the top-notch components included in World in Flames: the computer game. It includes 24 full-colour maps, and 3 hard-covered books of over 600 pages, a real collector’s gem”.

Nine of the eleven scenarios from Australian Design Group’s World in Flames Final Edition are included, and they range from the small 5 turn Barbarossa offensive in Russia and the 5 turn Guadalcanal battle in the Pacific, through to the 36 turn Global War campaign which spans all of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. You can play either the Axis or the Allied side or take the role of one of the 8 major powers. Besides solitaire and head-to-head, you can play over the Internet. The last mode of play is for two players, Axis versus Allies.

In addition to the full set of rules from World in Flames, Final Edition, there are 58 optional rules. Australian Design Group’s expansion modules Ships in Flames and Planes in Flames are incorporated into the basic game, but the inclusion of other expansion modules, such as Mech in Flames, Carrier Planes in Flames, and Cruisers in Flames, depends on which optional rules are selected.

This simulation models national production from conveying raw resources to factories using rail lines and overseas pipelines for producing infantry, armor, naval, and air combat units. Because oil was so important during World War II, there are separate optional rules for synthetic oil plants and deployment of oil reserves to the front lines.

Game units represent armies and corps, aircraft carriers, naval task forces, and air groups that took part in World War II. Everything you need to re-fight the greatest conflict in history is provided in World in Flames. The players make the strategic decisions that decide the fate of nations. What forces to produce, where to commit them, when and how? No two games of World in Flames play the same, no strategy is foolproof, any decision may have unforeseen, long-term consequences.

If you want to change the world then World in Flames is for you.

 WiF_Map_Render

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Review: Blocks in the East (VentoNuovo Games)

Posted by Denny Koch on October 16, 2013

BITE_BoxGame: Blocks in the East – The Russian Campaign 1941-1945

Publisher: VentoNuovo Games
Published in: 2012

Designer: Emanuele Santandrea
Era and Topic: World War II / Russian Campaign 1941-1945
Components: Two 87×62 cm mapboards (double laminated), rules manual (scenario booklet incl.), 1 booklet (Germany Strategic Map, Scenario Setup Charts, Play-Example), 317 wooden blocks, 318 PVC stickers (laminated),
100 wooden cubes, 50 cylinders, 30 discs, 50 factories, 7 dice

Game Type: Block game

HFC Game-O-Meter: D bullet5


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 8
Rules: 8
Playability: 3

Replay Value: 7

Overall Rating: 6

PRO Colorful map; interesting combination of military and production / economics mechanics which leads to tough decision-making about where to spend the resources; great support by the designer; Rules 3.0 are solid and allow for an interesting, multi-layered game with a well-thought out sequence of play and combat sequence
CONTRA Practical issues when actually playing the game: hexes are far too small and become crowded, which makes it difficult to keep track of units and terrain; printing errors on the map; dice-fest (may be a “pro” for some gamers, though); vital information only available on the official website for download, not included in the game box, so internet access is a MUST

Introduction

We love block games! We really enjoyed games like “Richard III” or “Julius Caesar” and think of the design as elegant, efficient, and smooth. In addition, in a block game, the Fog of War (FoW) comes naturally without clumsy concepts like “concealment counters” or “hidden units”, where you have to remember the position of each unit all the time.

Block games are full of surprises, the block system is transparent, step losses are handled easily and naturally and the FoW aspect is great.

Box contents

Box contents

Because of our past experiences with block games, we were quite enthusiastic when we heard about “Blocks in the East“, a new block game by Italian game company “VentoNuovo Games.” Operation Barbarossa is always an interesting scenario, we greatly enjoyed the strategic depth and opportunities of conducting a Russian Campaign in games like “The Russian Campaign“, or “Totaler Krieg“.

Blocks in the East (BitE) is an interesting mix of various game concepts, put together into one game: first, it’s a block game, which means that units are not depicted by counters or miniatures, but by wooden rectangular blocks. A sticker on one side of the block contains all information about the unit; a unit is reduced in steps by rotating it 90° until removed from the map when the last step is taken, while the opponent only sees the black back side so he is often unsure about the strength of the enemy units.

Second, BitE uses a hex grid on the mapboard. This isn’t unique in block games – there are several others with a hex grid, e.g. “Euro Front”, “Athens & Sparta”, or “Texas Glory” – but (with good reason) most block games use an area or point-to-point movement system. Since blocks are somewhat massive, area or point-to-point-movement appears to be more suitable. In hexes, the exact position of a block matters, and hexes must be very large to avoid a crowded map. You can push more blocks into an area or align them around a point on the map, so we were curious how BitE solves the problem of overcrowding a hex with blocks. The idea of using a hex grid (which is great for counters) together with the use of so many wooden blocks and how this game would deal with this situation, fueled our interest in the game.

Last but not least, what we read about BitE sounded like an interesting light wargame / consim hybrid. There is a hex grid, the rules contain many options for additional chrome, there are basic consim concepts like ZOC, terrain, or supply. At the same time, there are no combat odds or CRTs (Combat Result Tables) but tons of dice to be rolled (as in Axis & Allies or Zombies!!!). The colorful map looked beautiful on all the internet pictures we saw and the game appeared to be modern and interesting enough, so we were happy when our copy arrived in the HFC Test Lab.

Game components and graphic presentation

Box, contents, and initial preparations

Sticker sheet

Sticker sheet

When the box arrived, we were surprised – the blocks were smaller than expected. They are significantly smaller than blocks from any games by Columbia Games. Well, we considered this as a plus because we thought this would certainly help in avoiding a crowded map.

Blocks

Before you can start playing, the stickers have to be applied to the blocks. The game contains a sticker sheet with the usual NATO symbols (there is also a special edition available which uses unit pictures instead of symbols). The blocks come in several colors, red for the Russians, black for the Germans, and several other colored blocks (white, green, blue) for minors and/or special units.

What we were missing in the rules (or on the sticker sheet), though, was information about which stickers belong to which blocks. Many of them were easy to assign – “normal” Russian and German units could be applied without problems. But we couldn’t figure out the meaning of some of the other stickers (informational ones, special units), and consulting the rule book didn’t help much because there is only a short list of game components which mentions which color belongs to which nation.

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Review: Sentinels of the Multiverse (Enhanced Edition, Greater Than Games, LLC)

Posted by Denny Koch on April 2, 2013

SotM_box

Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse (Enhanced Edition)

Publisher: Greater Than Games, LLC
Published in: 2011
Designers: Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, Adam Rebottaro

Game Type: Cooperative, fixed-deck Card Game
Topic: Superheroes vs. Supervillains
Contents: 578 cards (63 x 88 mm):

– 10 Hero Character CardsOFFTOPIC_rund– 10 Hero Decks of 40 cards each
8 Villain Character and Game Text Cards
4 Villain Decks of 25 cards each
– 4 Environment Decks of 15 cards each

Number of Players: 2-5 (meaning: 3-5 hero characters)

HFC Game-O-Meter: E bullet2


Our Rating (1-10):

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

Overall Rating: 8.5

PRO Very thematic; perhaps the most “superheroic” superhero game out there; unlimited combinations of super heroes, super villains, and environments ensure a very high replay value; easy to expand; cool universe; very diverse heroes (tanks, supporter, damage-dealer, deck controller…), villains and environments offer much variety; very simple rules but demanding gameplay; almost no setup time; well thought-out gamebox (deck dividers provide a perfect storage system)
CONTRA Hard to win with certain hero / villain / environment combinations; two players are required to take 2 heroes each or the game will be unbeatable; storage system doesn’t work with sleeved cards; some important info counters are not included in the game but have to be crafted by the players themselves

Introduction: What is “Sentinels of the Multiverse”?

Sentinels of the Multiverse” is a cooperative, fixed-deck card game based on a (non-existent) Comic book universe – it’s not Marvel, it’s not DC, but nevertheless – it conveys the authentic feeling of a rich, living, complex Comic book world.

SotM_quote

Uttering the inspiring quote while playing the card is fun!

Players take the role of a super hero. Each super hero has his or her unique back story, super powers, and own agenda. The “character card”, which shows the image of the player’s chosen character, is drawn like a comic book cover, and you can easily imagine that your hero is the hero of their own comic book series. In addition, you can even find different drawing styles for different heroes.

The hero’s fixed 40 cards deck consists of special powers, items, equipment, instant actions and you can find inspiring quotes from “Sentinels Multiverse” fictional comic books on the lower half of each card, together with a fictional reference to a non-existent comic book – which is quite nice and strongly reminds of references to other issues in Marvel comics.

Ra

Egyptian Sun God Ra is a damage dealer

In other words – Sentinels of the Multiverse (SotM) does a very nice job in “simulating” a Comic book universe. This works so good that it actually feels very thematic, very superheroic (it soon became for us the most atmospheric superhero game currently out there!). The fact that it isn’t based on Marvel or DC characters has one additional advantage: the designers are absolutely free in designing the characters. There are no limits, no restrictions on how to develop a certain character. That makes it much easier to design a “damage dealer” character, or a “deck control and support” character than in creating a Captain America or Green Lantern deck, where players have certain expectations what this character does – and does not. If you are a comic book fan, you will even recognize some of the most famous comic book heroes in SotM characters – some are obviously influenced by their “real” counterparts, but they are never a cheap copy (for example, we discovered aspects of Iron Man, the Punisher, Batman, or the Flash) .

Each SotM character, each Super Villain is very distinct and strongly differs from the other characters in the game. So playing a different character is an entirely new experience each time and you have to adjust your teamwork and tactics according to this character’s traits, strengths and weaknesses. Trying out a new deck without knowing what to expect, and finding out what it’s about, is really exciting.

Hero "Bunker" has a special armor which can switch between various "modes"

Hero “Bunker” has a special armor which can switch between various “modes”

The rule book tells the background story of “Sentinels of the Multiverse”. You will learn about the “Freedom Five” and their mission, about the Super Villains who plan to conquer or destroy the world. In the Core Game, there are four different arch enemies (varying in complexity levels). You can choose to fight Omnitron, the sentient robot factory, an Alien Warlord, Baron Blade, the mad scientist (who is somewhat inspired by Marvel’s Doctor Doom) or Citizen Dawn (with some similarities to Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). In addition, you can choose among four different environments where your game takes place, for example a hostile Mars Base, the Ruins of Atlantis, or Insula Primalis, an archaic tropical volcanic island with dinosaurs!

In addition, Greater Than Games began to publish little comic book episodes (the “Freedom Four annual #1”) in addition to the character biographies on their official Sentinels website which add some spice to the background story. If you want to learn more about the characters, the environments, and the back story, this website is highly recommended. After a while, you begin to believe that SotM is an existing, fully fleshed-out comic book universe. The official forum on the same website is also recommended; here you find in-depth strategies for all characters and a lively fan community.

The game can be expanded very easily by adding new decks, villains, and environments. Since all decks are fixed, you have to learn to play with what your hero has at his or her disposal. There is no deck building, no collectible element, and each character can (and must) be played out of the box. There are several expansions available which bring more complexity to the game by adding characters with very synergistic dynamics, who need much preparation time and optimized play.  New special rules can be included in decks very easily without inflating the very lean rule book.

In the Core game, the 10 super heroes play very differently and their decks offer varying complexity levels. Some characters are easier to play because they work quite straightforward. Other characters require preparation and the combining of various effects – Absolute Zero, for example, who had an accident in a sub-zero atomizer, has the special power of dealing fire or ice damage to himself. At first, this doesn’t make much sense, because a hero is incapacitated once his Health Points have reached zero. But over the course of a game, Absolute Zero learns to deal damage others whenever he suffers fire damage or to heal himself by suffering ice damage, so this leads to very nice synergistic effects.

Villains (handled by the game’s AI) also play very differently. They have a personality created by their special rules (elegantly included into their character cards and deck), and are all very dangerous and very serious opponents which are quite hard to beat.

Last but not least, each Environment (also handled by the game’s AI) is generally hostile (both to the players and to the villain), and surprises the players with dangerous events and interruptions which can’t be ignored and have to be dealt with while fighting the super villain, adding another danger level to the game.

Graphic Presentation and Component Quality

Unboxing the Basic Game

Unboxing the Basic Game

Sentinels of the Multiverse is shipped in a solid box with a plastic inlay which is optimized for storing all decks (even the first two expansions!), separated by their deck divider cards.

The cards are standard-sized, so they can be sleeved quite easily with default card sleeves. But watch out, if you sleeve your cards (as we did), you cannot use the storage system provided by the game box, because your cards become slightly too large. It would be perfect if the designers would have added just a few millimeters to their plastic holding inlay to satisfy all players who prefer to sleeve their card games.

The cards are strong and glossy, but since they are black, they are more prone to tear and wear than white cards (this was the reason why FFG printed their LCG cards on a white background as opposed to the black CCG predecessors). So sleeving the cards is highly recommended, regardless of the fact that the overall card quality is very good.

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Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Reviews, Sentinels of the Multiverse | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »