Modern Games

These have officially reached rock bottom on the popularity front, that is to say even dealers are knocking the prices down. The Harrogate Pirate (seen plundering the bring and buy at FIASCO) had a shelf of Fireteam (the WEG modern game) and Fulda Gap al at 5. I gave the least punched Fireteam a good home, Chris Jones in Middlesborough swears by it and thrashed me while explaining how it worked (evidently not too successfully). Also Any Ashton was overheard referring to a row of Next Wars on his books. Brian from Sheffield bought a Next War from B&B games for 30, in much finer condition than the copy I got at the MBW auction. Naturally it is those games which have least use re-creating the New World Order that are being disposed of most cheaply.

Dixie

Another collectable card is Dixie from Columbiia the block games people. I have seen the rules and odd cards but have not played it. The pictures are of the "sepia tinted print" look but hardly works of art. The cards represent unts and generals from 1st Bull Run, 200 differenet cards including 15 terrain and 23 special (fords, railways, sharpshooters). Yet again the cards are sold sealed so you will have to buy more than 200 (allegedly the Rebs are less common to stiff the good ol'; boys down Soutrh for more dollars or to reflect the political prefernces of gamers), expansion sets for other Civil War battles are promised.

Phaseline Smash

Keith Versey "I haven't played or bought many wargames recently. I've mainly dabbled with figure gaming using Firebase Games excellent Overlord Normandy rules. I did succumb to buying Phaseline Smash (GDW) in Virgin's cut price sale (4.99) wish I hadn't bothered though. GDW should include a bottle of asprins with every copy, it certainly made my head hurt. Thanks for advertising my games in ZOCo, thanks to your advert I managed to sell them all apart from RAF which I wasn't sorry about because although it is a very long game it is still full of atmosphere"

ZOCo, see adverts do work, Andy Daglish also sold some games through this humble rag some time ago. Talking of same;

Andy Daglish "I just read about the 1st US daylight bombing raid on Berlin, 9/3/44. The Luftwaffe put up maximum defense, including ME 110 nightfighters. The early mark of Mustang was the main escort (P-51B). Only 3 bombers were lost with all crew, mainly as a result of collisions. Head on attacks by fighters were extremely effective, four 20mm or one 30mm hit guaranteeing destruction. From the rear life was much harder and 20 x 20mm or 4 x 30mm hits were required. However rear attacks were much easier to line up than head on passes. Head on closing speed allowed only a 1/2 second burst as collision was a big danger. So real life saw fewer attacks than in B17 Queen of the Skies but were more vulnerable. To make a good game with 1 bomber this vulnerability had to be reduced but this went too far with B17. It is interesting that the Luftwaffe used the same tactics as the U-Boats, trying to overwhelm the bomber stream at 1 point at a time. Also the most important effect of this mission was to knock down so many Luftwaffe fighters."

Ellis Simpson "Your review saved me buying Ironsides. I have actually played games using Napoleon's Battles. To be fair to the manufacturer, I do not think that the material provided in the box by the way of counters is intended to be anything other than a temporary provision to allow gamers to try out the system. I thought it was adequate. I agree with you that there is a lack of chrome and that the line/square/column decisions with which Napoleonic gamers are fixated are missing. Regrettably I found the rules rather bland and what is worse the scales mean that you have to have a huge space available. Ultimately it was for me a disappointment."

ZOCo, the scale problem can be overcome by changing inches to cm and having fewer figures per base. I keep coming across gamers playing In The Grand Manner which is now back in print, having played it in Anglesey, seen it played in Halifax and seen the figures ready to play in Midlesborough. There must be something in the system although it should be noted that the Caernarfon and LLandudno boys will not touch it but stick to Battles for Empires.

I trotted up to Midlesborough to play Against the Reich and Franco-Prussian War (trashed both times). We tried out my recommendation of playing Franco-Prussain wart with the basic rules from Austro-Prussian War. This was a non starter because the new basic rules and old special rules conflict in so many places. Starting again with the original rules but errata on HQ chit gave a good game, the hidden stacks are work well when you have an attention span as short as mine. When playing the short game it is very difficult to get Germans adjacent to Paris before the last turn and hence win. The sheer distance makes it a long slog regardless of the need to slow down and trounce the Frenchies. The French bias is less pronounced with the long campaign but German wins are still rare.

Zittadelle. I do like the map which is split into northern and southern sectors. The combat rules split anti-tank and assault combat which seem logical to me. The best way of neutralising armour is with anti-tank units, tanks etc. Only 9 turns in the game which means it can be played in 1 sitting.. It seems to mirror the actual campaign, you have to be very aggressive to win as the German player.

Stalingrad Pocket is the 1st Gamers product that I have owned. I was very impressed with the overall production of the game, map, counters. I think the Standard Combat Series rules are a blast from the past but why change something that has worked for years? They seem to work well in this campaign but the subject is so popular it would probably sell no matter what games systems were used. I'm tempted to try Afrika because I do like this system, is it really as bad your review shows?

The 3rd game I received at Christmas was Victory's Across 5 Aprils. Unfortunately there were no counter sheets in my copy. I took it back to Virgin at Chester to exchange it for another copy which unfortunately they didn't have. So I asked for a refund but they refused and gave me a credit note for 24.99 to spend in Virgin. I wasn't very happy with this. Okay I probably will buy another game in the next few months but I think that customers should be given the option! Trust me for giving them such a plug in the last ZOCo."

Philip Ashworth

I haven't done much boardgaming recently, one game of Flattop and S&T's 100 Years War. In 100 Years War we only played the 1st scenario and almost inevitably made a few mistakes. We didn't use the feudal array rules so we both ran out of money and had lots of revolts. I was the French commander and eventually won by liberating Aquitaine and eventually invading England. Clearly the English player has to be more aggressive than in our game. Despite our mistakes it have some nice touches and I would try it again. I did feel the game lacked a few game aids, I found it a pain to keep adding up all the revenue points for the areas. It will be easily rectified by preparing a chart in advance.

Vae Victis

Vae Victis is entirely in French which may have put off Tim Cockitt but is otherwise well worth grabbing. It is printed on heavy weight paper with lashings of colour making Practical Wargamer look like the Socialist Worker. Vae Victis is roughly equally divided between board, figure and computer wargames with the some historical content thrown in for good measure. The publisher is launching a computer review magazine with CD in May (CyberStratege) so the computer output may drop. The French is pretty easy with the French gaming terms being so repetitive that they are picked up quickly enough. Each issue has a boardgame with a folio sized map and 120 or so counters which must be mounted. The whole is best compared to early Wargamers with a mix of reviews, history and a game except that the colour and graphics are stunning. The games are pretty basic (with the usual errata in later issues) and could be compared to Gamefix/Competitive Edge which has an even smaller map yet costs more. Each issue has at least 1 set of figures rules with more counters to cut out although in some cases more counters would have to be made to play these games as boardgames. An ASL scenario, usually requiring Croix de Guerre is also standard in recent issues.

Caliver Books have recent issues of Vae Victis at 6.50 but ZOCo says forget it. The publishers take plastic and even send the goods as well. Some recent back issues took about 3 weeks (1 week for postage and 2 for the paperwork to sit around while the locals play boules and drink absinthe) although all I have of 13 is a note saying it will be back in stock in May. All back issues (in theory including 13) are available for 39FF, subscriptions are 235FF (which is just 12 x 39). At current exchange rates that is between 4.50 and 5 a shot for issues that cost the publisher 10FF to post over. The boys to see are, Histoire & Collections, 5, avenue de la Republique, 75541 Paris Codex 11, Fax 01 47 00 51 11.

The newest modern (20th century) games I've played have been Columbia's Eastfront and Westfront

Gareth Simon

The newest modern (20th century) games I've played have been Columbia's Eastfront and Westfront. I'm not sure that we played Eastfront "properly" as it seemed closer to WW1 static warfare than fast-moving blitzkrieg warfare (except for the Barbarossa scenario). I don't know much about the Eastern front, mind you, so this might be correct. Westfront seemed rather unreal. Luckily I bought a cheap copy from Mike Siggins. If I'd paid full price I might have been very annoyed. (And Rommel in the Desert was such an interesting game and is still one of my all time favourites). I won't be buying anymore Columbia games sight-unseen, or without a couple of reviews first."

Keith Versey

I bought a copy of Avalon Hill's Smithsonian edition of Battle of the Bulge. It is very similar to Gettysburg and Platoon in rules and components, which are superb. It is aimed at the introductory level but the battle manual contains a wealth of optional rules which increase complexity. My brother who hasn't played a wargame in ages really enjoyed this one.

Mike Siggins

What I have played recently is Across Five Aprils (VG) and I wonder why I bothered. There is nothing inherently bad about it but it doesn't do a lot for the state of the art and certainly doesn't warrant the puffing afforded by Berg recently. The systems are clean enough, the rules are very good, the components okay but to draft a chit draw on to a quad system and rave seems a little over the top. The system is mildly chaotic due to the chit draw but I don't think that it achieves anything particularly historical but then this isn't my period. Where it does have a weakness is in the smaller scenarios (or flanks/fringes of the larger ones) where the loss of a unit can have a disproportionate effect on the game result. In Gettysberg and Shiloh this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem as in Pea Ridge, where key defending units have to hold up the rush. If on the other hand it is to be taken as a solid, beginner level game it has some merit but, for me, fails to be a worthwhile 2/3 hour quickie because the smaller scenario (Pea Ridge) takes this long and the large ones 5 or 6. What puzzled me on A5A, give the AH release of Stonewall Jackson (with Here Come the Rebels to follow) was the switch between Victory and AH branding policy. In the past Victory's range was slanted firmly towards the hardcore end of the hobby whereas AH might have been expected to release the basic games such as A5A."