Going for playability
I have spent the past couple of years selling and buying, trying to shape this collection to meet specific playing demands and as 2023 ends that has mostly been accomplished.
Firstly, I have selected one series system for each of the major periods that interest me, so for example, Great Battles of History will manage all things ancient and Men of Iron will manage all things medieval.
Secondly, there are some independent titles that I want to own, simply for their own sake or equally compelling reason. These are listed on this page.
The point is that overall, the number of different rule sets and systems that I had has been massively curtailed and what is left sits at the ‘playable’ end of the spectrum.
Cobra from Decision Games
This latest edition of the game is here simply because Cobra was the first boardgame that I was exposed to and played.
It was stumbled across in a game store, which itself was stumbled across and it was a moment of magic, from which a life long hobby emerged.
The original game was published in issue 68 of the S&T magazine in 1977.
TSR later did a boxed version and expanded the game out to include a second map that would allow for the D-Day invasion to be played as a pre-game before Cobra.
This edition that I have was published in 2019 and is also the two map version. It includes a nice booklet about the campaign. So basically, this is a nostalgia purchase.
The Russian Campaign
Originally published by Avalon Hill and accepted by gamers at the time as part of the Avalon Hill ‘Classics”.
It had a small mounted board and half inch counters and my memory of it is that it was the only game that I have stayed up until 4 AM to complete play.
This year GMT re-released it as a deluxe game, it now has bigger counters and larger hexes and is a collaboration with the original designer.
The original rules are there in full, but there is also an advanced optional section for all the rules and variants that have been published in magazines etc since the original’s release.
It is a players game.
Napoleon’s Last Battles
This was originally an SPI game, that covered the four engagements (Waterloo, Wavre, Ligny and Quatre Bras) that made up the last 3 days of fighting of the Waterloo campaign 1815.
The 4 small maps could all be linked to cover the entire battlefield, allowing for a campaign scenario.
I have the 2015 edition, the maps are in two pairs, Waterloo / Wavre and Quatre Bras / Ligny, but they can still play as single battles or be mated up for the campaign game.
Another players game that is just a joy to own. The counters in the re-issue vibrant, while the maps give a nod towards the pastel hues of the original - all very nice.
This is looking at Army Group Centre during the 1941 German campaign in the Soviet Union - Operation Barbarossa and the drive on Moscow.
It is a Bomba design, so we see the Move / Fight - Fight / Move options in the Sequence of Play and detailed supply rules, both Bomba trade marks.
I have not punched this yet, but it deserves an early visit to the table.
There are a huge number of Barbarossa games out there and at one time or another, I have owned many of them. Whether this one is THE ONE and can earn a place in the collection - only time will tell.
Stalingrad - designed for solo play
This has been attracting a lot of positive reviews and my own games dealer went out of stock twice before I could buy my copy.
It is an Area Movement game, the sort where units go spent and get flipped when used for that turn.
As a solo game, the German is the active player and the Soviets are played by the system.
At the start of play, the Soviets are placed face down, so that their attributes cannot be seen until ‘used’, a sort of ‘Untried Units’ rule.
This is published by Revolution Games and is described as volume I, so it looks like it might become a series.
EDIT - Manila has just been announced as the next game in the series. I have put a write-up of a recent playing over on the blog.
This is a Bulge game from Worthington Publishing, using Area Movement.
The game starts on 16th December, which is typical for a Bulge game and ends on the 25th, which is not too typical.
The result is that the Germans are spared that crunch moment that most Bulge games deliver, when they are pretty much forced from the offensive to go onto the defensive and fight off powerful Allied attacks - so this is less of a ‘game of two halves’ than the typical Bulge.
You could also argue that thus, the Allies are robbed of their chance to push the Germans back in a counter-offensive.
Overall it works as a game of the Germans trying to exploit avenues of approach and the Allies trying to close those routes down.
It is a buckets of dice game, but the dice are specialised with armour hits and infantry hits (and blanks) shown on the dice.
There are 3 optional scenarios that the Germans can choose at the start of play, with each having their own victory conditions - a good way to keep the Allies in the dark.
The Bulge (was called the Red One)
This was an original SPI game. then this issue came out. It was a Bomba re-design.
Since, a boxed version has been printed, which goes back to the original game, but unfortunately has a half sized map and small counters.
So I will be sticking with this, which is a full map with oversized counters.
The game has only 5 pages and can be a fast play game. Units are given very big movement allowances, which means the game is driven by the Allies needing to ensure that all road routes are closed down, while the Germans are looking for that gap, which can be exploited, with a unit that penetrates, often having enough movement left to exit the map and win!
This is a solitaire system covering the English Civil War at the strategic level and is the deluxe re-make by Worthington Publishing.
The original was produced by Victory Point Games.
It has a 26 page rulebook, which is well illustrated and is strewn with design notes and has extended examples of play. it sits at a slightly higher complexity level (just due to the number of variables in the game) than I would normally be drawn to, but this looks rather compelling.
What I would like to explore is whether this system would make a good campaign manager to produce battles that could be played on the table with figures.