<![CDATA[Matthew Bartlett, Author Gettysburg Chronicle - Board Game Reviews]]>Mon, 21 Dec 2015 02:22:17 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Best World War II Game on the Market]]>Mon, 16 Mar 2015 11:30:50 GMThttp://www.gettysburgchronicle.com/board-game-reviews/the-best-world-war-ii-game-on-the-marketPicture
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear Operation Barbarossa 1941

Uwe Eickert

Academy Games, 2012, $79.95


Image courtesy of amazon.com

                The Conflict of Heroes series of games has been recognized as a one of the best in the industry.  Not only is this a fine war game but stands as a historical game as well.  Uwe Eickert, the designer of this game, has created an engine which redefines the genre of historical war game and the continuation of this series shows the strong roots which it has in the gaming community.  Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, is the first in the series and it showcases Operation Barbarossa and it’s belligerents: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  The game is aided by a firefight book which has sixteen of these scenarios each more challenging than the last.  What is realized when playing this game is the in depth nature of historical details along with the combat engine which makes this game shine.

                The first thing which should be mentioned is the quality of the components of the game.  The first thing I noticed was the large counters which were used for the units of combat and the obstacles which could come into play.  I’ve had to play many war games whose counters were so small that I needed a magnifying glass to see the numbers on the unit.  Here, in Conflict of Heroes, the counters are large enough that the numbers are quite easy to read and easy to move.  This change in the size of the counters was already a large improvement on the genre.  The next was the game boards.  They are gorgeously filled with terrain details and buildings giving the “above the battlefield” view a gamer always want from their game board.  It should be noted that one of the greatest strengths of the boards is the lack of fold marks when you open the board.  Because of this, the game boards will last quite some time instead of other games whose boards show signs of wear after time.  Lastly, the game comes with a deck of cards which can help to modify the game adding more historical theme to the game.  All in all, the components of the game are fantastic and should be noticed as some of the finest components in a war game in a long time. 

                As I played through the firefights, I noticed one thing above other war games which are scenario based.  While other scenario based war games allow time for a certain objective to be held, Awakening the Bear has timed scenarios and objectives.  Not only do the players have to obtain the objective, but they have to hold it as well until the end of the firefight.  The timing gives a strained sense of worry throughout the game.  Also, one of the more interesting parts of the combat system, was the casualty markers of the unit.  There is a stack of counters which have modifiers of a unit when hit by the enemy.  When they are drawn, the counter can tell the player how the unit has been wounded, whether it be an immediate killed in action tile, or a unit can be suppressed.  These tiles also give the game even more historical feeling as the game moves on.  As the game continues through rounds, there are reinforcements which may come into play.  On top of all of the gameplay, there is a great amount of flavor text at the beginning of each of the firefights to give the players some historical context as to the scenario in World War II.  The first page of the firefight book is even a full description of what the plans and history were behind Operation Barbarossa.

                Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear is an excellent game of World War II combat and is highly recommended to anyone interested in war gaming.  For someone who enjoys Civil War gaming, I found myself returning to this game again and again even playing through the firefight book numerous times trying different strategies every time.  Uwe Eickert should be praised for the game he has brought to the public.  Knowing there are many more installments of the Conflict of Heroes series, I know that the same quality of gaming is extended into those games as well.  This is an incredible game which should be on the shelf of every war gamer.

<![CDATA[A Great War Game of the Revolution]]>Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:43:07 GMThttp://www.gettysburgchronicle.com/board-game-reviews/a-lite-war-game-of-the-revolutionPicture
1775: Rebellion
Designed by Beau Beckett and Jeph Stahl
Academy Games, 2013
Area Control, Lite War Game

Image courtesy of amazon.com                

When it comes to historical wargames, and historical games in general, there are only a few which capture the feeling of the events of what the game is about.  1775: Rebellion is one of those games which truly encapsulates the theme and tension of a conflict such as the American Revolution.  This game is the second in the Birth of Freedom line which is published by Academy Games, a company known for their attention to detail and attention to historicity while at the same time continuing to make the game fun and engaging. 

                So what makes this game so much fun and historical?  There are multiple mechanics which aid in the theming of the game.  The first is the map itself.  The map showcases what many of the maps during the American Revolution looked like laying on the table in a war room or a map hanging in some of the halls I have seen in Williamsburg and Valley Forge.  Not only was the game board surrounding the colonies but even stretched into Canada, which did have some combat during the Revolution.  The second is the four player aspect of the game.  Many other games on the American Revolution usually deal with just a British player and an American player.  But here, in 1775, we see a player for the Continental Army, the Militia, British Redcoats and the Loyalists.  The turn order is different for every round by pulling blank dice with the color of your troops from a bag.  This gives the feel of randomness to the turn order which keeps the tension high.  This mechanic also gives the players a chance to strategize in the moment instead of planning as other wargames usually do.  For example, the loyalists could be the last player to go, but the first player to go in the next turn.  The components of the game are different but are completely thematic to the time of the war.  There are five colors of cubes used for troops: red for the redcoats, yellow for the loyalists, white for the militia, blue for the Continental Army and green for the Native Americans.  In order to use the natives, you have to be in control of the territory and the colony but they are useful in every way.  There are also two other colors which can be brought into play with cards but once eliminated are gone and cannot be brought back in for reinforcements.  They are purple for the French and orange for the Hessians.  These reinforcements for the colonists and the British give the game more theme added to a game with a heavy theme already. 

                One of the things which I really enjoyed with this game was the simplicity of combat.  There are certain wargames which use charts upon charts to figure out if there is even a line of sight for combat.  But here in this game, it is a simple roll of the dice.  That does give the game a feeling of chance, but there are also strategic maneuvers which have to be performed in order to gain the territories of the map.  Troops move around the board through a card system which is also a way in which the game can end.  Each deck has a Treaty card in it and the game can end when all four players play their treaty card.  The game can also end on round  8 and the winner is decided by how many colonies and areas of Canada are controlled by what player.

                I have introduced this game to many gamers and historians who could not stop praising this game.  I believe this game should be used in the classroom when teaching the American Revolution not only in the public school level but the university level as well.  Once again, Academy Games has proven that they can produce a game which is both enjoyable and educational.