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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: 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.

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Posted in Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

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.

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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.

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Posted in Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Leader Series, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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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Posted in Historical Games A-Z, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

MMP in preparation for the…eASLRB!!!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on August 23, 2012

 

One should check the actual date twice these days since it really seems like it’s April 1st for two days in a row now… 😉

Yesterday we heard about the reprint of Up Front – The Squad Leader Card Game, unbelievable as it is, it seems to be true.

And today Chas Argent part of the MMP team is asking for help on the wargame forums saying they need proofreaders for an electronic version of the ASL rulebook. Yep that’s right – the community for years tried to convince MMP that to publish the Big Tome in an electronic format where you can quickly search for a rule, would help a lot to make the game more accessible. They always rejected this because of possible copyright issues. So some folks out there went an extra mile by producing such an eASLRB for themselves… 😛

It seems that MMP has a different opinion about this now and this is really good news, so we can expect a professionally produced eASLRB in the hopefully near future.

You can find the announcement on the CSW and GamesSquad forums.

That’s like all ASL players rolled just …Snake Eyes!!! 🙂

 

 

Posted in ASL, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

New Hornet Leader Campaign: Libya 2011

Posted by Denny Koch on March 8, 2011

In view of the current events in Libya, DVG published a new Campaign for Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations: Libya 2011. In this scenario, the US sends a carrier task force to aid the anti-Gadhafi revolutionary forces in their conflict with the loyalist forces.

You can download the Campaign for free from the DVG website (PDF, 234 KB).

Posted in Hypoth. Games A-Z, Leader Series, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Lightning: D-Day!

Posted by Denny Koch on February 25, 2011

Game: Lightning: D-Day!

Publisher: Decision Games
Published in: 2004
Designers: Dan Verssen
Era: World War II, D-Day (Normandy invasion)
Game Type: Card game
Players: 2
Contents: 110 full color cards, Quick Play rules
Average Playing Time: 30 min

HFC Game-O-Meter: E


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 7
Rules: 6
Playability:
9
Replay Value:
5

Overall Rating: 7.5

PRO Very short playing time, almost no setup time: perfect starter, filler, or closer game; nice historical photos, small box and quick gameplay = perfect travel game, strategically challenging, tough time limit, amazingly high simulation value, very short rules…
CONTRA …which may be too short and imprecise for some players, artwork somewhat boring, not too much variety

Introduction

A card game about the Normandy invasion 1944

Lightning: D-Day! was the first game of the “Lightning Series” by designer Dan Verssen, a game series consisting of five very small and fast card games. Other games in the series are Lightning: Midway, Lightning: North Africa, Lightning: Poland, and the contemporary Lightning: War on Terror.

We own the game for several years now and we also had a small review on our old HFC website, but we recently “rediscovered” it and decided that this game is cool and needs a new review in our ambitious Operation Review Reset.

The Lightning games are famous for their speedy gameplay, very short rules (1 sheet of paper!), and low setup time. They can be played within 30 minutes, but they still offer a strategical challenge and are a tough nut to crack. Lightning D-Day isn’t an exception from this rule; the Allied player fights against a brutal time limit while the German player tries to slow him down and to make his advance as costly as possible.

As the name suggests, Lightning: D-Day! deals with the Allied Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944. One player controls the Allied forces (US, British, and Canadian units), the other player controls the German forces. There is no game board; the play area is defined by five beach cards which represent the historical landing areas (named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah beach by the Allies).

Gaining control over Omaha Beach is much harder than controlling the other 4 beaches

Both players control a fixed number of units or Forces per beach (3-4) which represent the historical units from both sides, for example the Canadian 3rd Inf., the British 7th Armored, or the US I Corps on the Allied side or the 21st Panzer, 352nd  Infantry on the German side. In addition, both players have draw decks of Action cards which heavily influence the combat. Action cards can lower or raise the attack or defense value of units (by representing bunkers, squad cohesion, artillery, the chaos of battle) or add special bonuses to a beach, for example by placing the famous 101st and 82nd Airborne there. Stragglers on the Allied side and reinforcements on the German side can further fortify a landing zone.

A game is played over 5 turns, each turn representing roughly one hour. Each turn, the conditions for the Allied player improve, representing his successful landing and advance on the beaches. After five turns, the number of beaches controlled by the Allied player is counted. The game outcome or victory level depends on the number of beaches in Allied hands. The Allies have to control at least four of the five beaches to achieve the historical outcome; less than four beaches mean a draw or a German victory.

Because of the time limit of five turns and the limited number of actions each player can resolve on a beach, one game doesn’t take longer than 30 minutes which makes the game a perfect starter, filler, or closer game on a game meeting when there isn’t much time left for a larger wargame or for “warming up” before moving over to the more complex games.

Despite being a small and fast card game, Lightning D-Day is challenging and requires strategical decision-making and planning in advance for both players.

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Review: Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on February 3, 2011

Game: Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2010
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Historical and Hypothetical / Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground warfare
Components: 330 Full Color Cards, 2 Full Color Counter Sheets (352 counters), 8 Full Color Campaign Sheets (Libya 1986, WWIII North Atlantic 1986, Iraq 1991, Israel Defense 2003, North Korea 2007, Taiwan Defense 2008, Russia 2012, Iran 2014), 11″x17″ Mounted Tactical Sheet, Full Color Player Aid Sheets
Game Type: Mixed: Board, counters, card-driven

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9.5
Rules: 7
Playability:
9
Replay Value:
10

Overall Rating: 9

PRO Awesome presentation; excellent production quality; heavy box crammed with cool stuff; historical and hypothetical scenarios; solitaire game which can be played as 2-player cooperative game; tough decision-making; interesting mix of tactical and operational gameplay; large variant of aircraft; world-wide missions; various adaptable difficulty-levels for beginners up to experts; Navy and Marines variants; lots of “chrome” adds to the atmosphere; rulebook includes background information about weapons and friendly aircraft…
CONTRA …but no information or design notes about enemy units; no hints about coop gameplay included in the rulebook; service years and aircraft type should have been printed on the counters for easy reference; only one log sheet in the game box


Introduction

We are big fans of Thunderbolt Apache Leader (GMT), so we were looking forward to Dan Verssen’s Hornet Leader – Carrier Air Operations, the latest game in DVG’s Leader Series.

Believe it or not, the "Solitaire game" Hornet Leader is one of the best cooperative wargames ever!

We are also notorious for our special interest in cooperative games, so we were really delighted when we discovered that Hornet Leader (HL) isn’t only an excellent solitaire game but also a very challenging 2-player cooperative game experience which requires much teamwork, planning, and tough decision-making.

In Hornet Leader, you are in command of a Navy aircraft squadron, stationed on an aircraft carrier. The game is scenario based and offers historical and hypothetical contemporary scenarios ranging from Libya 1986, Iraq: Operation Desert Storm 1991, Israel Defense 2003, North Korea 2007, Taiwan Defense 2008 up to WWIII North Atlantic 1986, Taiwan Defense 2008, Russia 2012 or Iran 2014.

Scenarios (“Campaigns“) come in various difficulty levels, ranging from introductory to expert. You can also “tweak” all scenarios if you want them to be easier or more challenging by adding “advantages” or “disadvantages”. In addition, you can choose to play each scenario as an US Navy or US Marines squadron which means that you have different aircraft at your disposal (because Marines carriers are smaller and operate closer to the shoreline) and different rules regarding the target zones of your attacks. You can also play each Campaign as a short, medium, or long campaign, depending on how much playing time you have at your disposal. Combined with the fact that you face different enemies each time you play the scenario, this system ensures a very high replay value.

There are different types of mission, you don't destroy targets day in, day out - sometimes, you also fly Search & Rescue Missions or protect your own fleet

The main objective of the game is to fly “Missions” where you destroy enemy ground units, for example tanks and convoys, stationary installations (Radar stations, factories) or fight enemy fighter squadrons or fleets. There is a large variety of available targets which have different special traits as well as variable numbers of protective ground units and/or fighters. Some are easy to destroy, some are tough nuts. Some can be destroyed in addition to a primary mission as a secondary target. Each destroyed target is worth a certain number of Victory Points, so you have to pick your targets carefully.

The game is an interesting mix of card game with a game board (“Tactical Display Sheet”) and counter system. Aircraft are represented by cards (and counters while flying a mission), their weapons are counters. Random events and the composition of enemy forces are determined by card draw, the main target is represented by a card, but you fight ground forces and enemy aircraft which are randomly drawn counters on the Tactical Display Sheet.

Coop gameplay isn’t much different from solitaire gameplay, except that each player commands their own aircraft. But you plan and fly your missions together (which requires much coordination and teamwork to be successful). This variant works great and is really challenging, so if you know another Hornet Leader player in your area, you should give it a try together. To be honest, in our opinion, Hornet Leader is one of the best cooperative wargames ever published

After intensive Hornet Leader sessions, we have to admit that we became enthusiastic HL fans. This is a very good game, it’s demanding, it’s very variable, it’s challenging, and it’s just fun to play. But more about that later…

Game components and graphic presentation

The heavy gamebox is crammed with cool stuff

Hornet Leader is a game with a very high heft factor: the heavy box is crammed with high quality components such as a mounted (!) map-board, various counter-sheets, card-packs, a full-color rulebook and more. This big gamebox isn’t a bluff package (like what you probably know from some other game publishers, big boxes filled with little stuff and much cardboard), here you get a heavy box full of cool stuff for your money.

The overall production quality is very good. The counters are of a thick, sturdy quality and with a nice glossy coating which gives them a very attractive look and a great feel. It’s not a problem to punch the counters from the counter sheets, they are accurately pre-cut without being too loose (so that they would fall out of their counter sheets during shipping).

The full-color cards are also of a very high quality and glossy. The artworks are really cool and add much chrome to the game. There are various types of cards – Aircraft, Target cards, and Event cards.

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