First Looks

Star Trek: Attack Wing — First Look

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Star Trek Attack WingWe picked up WizK!ds’ latest Star Trek: Attack Wing and a couple booster packs and thought we’d relay our impressions. WizKds licensed the same FlightPath game engine used by FFG’s X-Wing game. As a result, the rules are essentially identical but with different terms. This is of course good and bad. If you like X-Wing you will probably like ST:AW. If you didn’t you won’t. Whether or not the similarity is a turn off or not is certainly just a personal preference.

The game does have its differences from X-Wing. Each ship has a captain and add-ons such as weapons and crew. These are themed to Star Trek and give a unique flavor to the game. Those combined with the different ship models do give a bit of a different feel from X-Wing. But where we think Wizkids missed an opportunity is in not making the game feel more different. One easy example would be slowing movement down a tad and utilizing more fire arcs. Currently, the game essentially has the same feel as X-Wing with respect to maneuver and fire. Most weapons fire forward and a few special ones fire all around or aft. To us it seems like some sort of power usage mechanic could have been added to give players the choice of reinforcing shields, powering weapons or increasing speed but this was not really done.

Huge starships should not feel like fighters, right? Of course the problem with this opinion is that in the movies and even many of the TV episodes the ships are often shown flying around like fighters. So whether Star Trek ships should properly feel like fighters or naval ships is up for debate. A few TV and movie moments feed the naval ship impression but it probably really comes more from follow on games like Star Fleet Battles and of course just the size and general operation of the vessels in general. But if you fall into the naval ship camp the game will perhaps disappoint a little.

Ok, how about the miniatures? Well, again, comparing with X-Wing is hard to avoid. Both games utilize the same flying stands. The miniatures themselves are also roughly the same size but the scale is far different. The original Star Trek Enterprise is roughly 289m long and the A-Wing is around 12m long. In game scales both are about the same size. Of course Star Trek ships vary widely in size unlike Star Wars fighters. The Enterprise-D is three times the length of the original Enterprise and the new alternate Enterprise is supposedly even larger than that. Worse the Romulan D’deridex class ship is twice the size of the Enterprise-D. This large variance in size shows up in the game but perhaps not in the best way. Whereas X-Wing has the standard fighter size along with the somewhat larger ships and the new, probably ponderous, huge ships, Star Trek: Attack Wing instead has an almost ridiculously tiny 1.5″ Enterprise (smaller than an A-Wing) and a 3″ Enterprise-D. Of course this scale (somewhere around 1/3000 or so) does allow them to do the even larger ships, such as the Sovereign-class, without really even getting to the size of a Millennium Falcon but for some reason they chose to make the Romulan D’deridex a little smaller than the Enterprise-D. So if they mean to take advantage of the scale they seem to have already missed the opportunity. In addition, to choose a scale that puts one of the most iconic ships at 1.5″ in size seems perhaps unwise. The situation also does not help convey the feeling of fighting battles with large warships either. Perhaps the real tragedy is that one can not help but wonder what might have been if they had done the original Enterprise at 3″ and the larger ships similar in size to X-Wing’s Millennium Falcon. The price point would have been higher but I suspect fans would have been happier. Moreover, players are likely to field smaller fleets than in X-Wing so larger models, and a bit more game detail, would probably be a better choice.

Size aside, the miniatures themselves also suffer a bit in quality compared to the X-Wing miniatures. Physical quality does seem to be at least as good but the paint jobs exhibit no weathering at all, which then gives them more of a toy like appearance. But for those willing to do a little paint work themselves they could look very nice. But we do think they look better in person than they appear in photos and videos so that’s a plus. Even better, some of the models indeed are quite nice such as the Klingon Gr’oth.

Additionally, Star Trek fans have a number of good miniature options that could be used to replace the official miniatures if one wanted larger miniatures. There is the Starline 2500 line for original era and the AMT models for the classic and newer generation of ships. Both of those lines scale together somewhat closely depending on the model. Of course with the AMT 1/2500 scale ships the Enterprise-D is around 10″ long, which may not be ideal to say the least. There are also Hero Clix ST:Tactics models that are identical to the Attack Wing miniatures but pre-painted and based on the Clix bases. So no help with scale there.

If you are a Star Trek fan you might want to give the game a look. The Dice Tower has a nice review of the game with which we agree. If you are a huge X-Wing fan and want something a little different but that you already basically know how to play it could be worth a shot as well. It is really not a bad effort it just seems to fall a bit short of where it could have been and suffers a bit from direct comparison to X-Wing. But use some different models and add a few house rules and it could be a quick fun Star Trek game that is a lot lighter and faster playing than most out there.

Star Trek: Attack Wing Review

Star Trek Attack Wing: Federation/Cardassian Review

Star Trek Attack Wing: Romulan/Klingon Review

Also see our look at Star Trek: Fleet Captains. and look at Star Trek ship miniatures.

[Updated: 27SEP13]

Battle of the Bulge: iPad Edition — First Look

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Battle of the BulgeShenandoah Studio’s released their first iPad game from their Kickstarter campaign. Battle of the Bulge: The Simulation  Game for the iPad is a light operational-level wargame about the Battle of the Bulge designed by John Butterfield.

The good news is the game plays as good as it looks and as good as all of the Kickstarter supporters hoped. It is definitely on the light side for a wargame but offers enough nuance in strategy that it keeps you playing as you try to see how different approaches will work. The game includes two scenarios, a shorter three-day Race to Meuse and the full campaign game. You can play both from either the Allied or Axis side and against two types of AI opponents. The AI is quite good and I lost dozens of games of Race to the Meuse as the Germans until I finally realized I should push in the North. Maybe it isn’t possible to win running down the center or the South but it sure is fun to try. The AI doesn’t seem able to successfully defend against a northern thrust in the Race to the Meuse scenario but does give a good account of itself. The campaign is challenging from either side. You may win an early victory but you probably won’t think it was easy. But if you tire of fighting against the AI you can play a real opponent face-to-face or go online against others.

Bulge iconThe presentation of the game is outstanding and perhaps best of all the game includes all the normal wargame rules and charts that the game uses. It is quite easy to play the game without reference to the rules but if you are curious how things are working this is a very nice, and welcome, addition.

There is also nice historical detail provided on the battle day by day that is there for those who want to read it but does not get in the way of the game.

If you like operational wargames give the Battle of the Bulge a look. It is a great game and great example of how good the iPad can be as a gaming platform.

PocketTactics has a nice review of the game. Three Moves Ahead has an insightful discussion of the game in Episode 200.

[Updated: 12JAN13]

Dust Warfare — Review and Musings

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Dust WarfareWell the boys over at the D6 Generation do it again with an outstanding review of Dust Warfare (skip to 2:22 to get right to the review). Along with Romeo Filip, from BattleFoam, they go over the rules, models and gameplay of Fantasy Flight Games’ new sci-fi 28mm tabletop wargame Dust Warfare. They then follow that up with an interesting interview with Mack Martin, co-designer of Dust Warfare.

Your powers are weak, old man.

Russ’ Jedi Mind Tricks won’t work on us this time! Well ok…maybe we did buy the rulebook and some minis but…err…just for review! Overall we probably agree with Craig the most. The rules do look very good but the printed book is a tad expensive. Thankfully FFG released a PDF version of the rules at half the price. As iPad fans we thought this was a great move. We also found some of the original comics via ComiXology on the iPad or even better directly with the Dust Comic app (iPad and Android). We can’t say the stories are all that great but the art and overall world are quite amazing. The general background fluff in the rules is also very well done.

Dust Tactics Lt Panzer WalkerAs the guys discuss, the vehicle models are outstanding but the infantry troops have some issues. The un-armored troops pivot at the waist. This allows for some varied posing options but also causes them to look a bit odd. Many players will want to cut them apart and glue them. Also, while they are not as bendy at the ankles as Romeo claims,  a few of the running figures are perhaps just a tad so but not really enough to matter. The Zombies may be what Romeo is referring to as they are quite bendy but unlike plastic or resin not really fragile. Of course the majority of the weapon barrels we have seen are bent and this is a problem. The armored troops are very beefy but also have the bent weapons and even the beefier weapons on the regular troops are often bent. But the detail on the figures is impressive and this is perhaps the problem. Because the figs are so nicely detailed most folks will want to paint them but then you have to deal with the bent weapons. Leaving them just primed is a shame but certainly better than bare metal/plastic we suppose. Of course as Russ demonstrated in one of his Twitter posts just some quick touch-ups can make the figures look pretty darn good.

Frankly we’ve given up on 25/28mm+ ‘army scale’ games. This scale is simply too big for larger scale actions in our opinion. For skirmish games it works out great but as soon as you get above about a platoon 28mm just gets odd especially when vehicles are included. A standard gaming table is just too small to adequately accommodate the movement and weapon range differences between infantry and vehicles except in the most constricted terrain. This is quite noticeable in Dust Warfare where you have these great walker vehicles but they are only moving 6″-12″ and firing, at most, 36″ and more often under 24″. This just seems odd especially when next to troops moving at least as fast and firing out to 16″ or so. This game should have been done in 15mm. But the walkers are so nice, as are many of the troops, that we are tempted to at least do some smaller battles with them — perhaps vehicle heavy forces with just a few squads of infantry. But of course for those who like company-plus sized battles in 28mm Dust Warfare gives you quite a tactically interesting system combined with mostly nice miniatures.

Our first thought when we saw the miniatures was that we could use them for something else. The most obvious choice would be to use them for Incursion. They scale pretty well. The armored troops fit in just fine. The unarmored troops are perhaps a tad tall compared to Incursion figs. Of course the Dust Tactics minis are such a good deal it is easy to replace all of the Incursion figs with them. The armored troopers especially could easily fit into almost any sci-fi setting such as Space Hulk and the like.

Another idea is to use the rules with 15mm troops. Flames of War infantry would work perfectly. In Dust Warfare each ‘squad’ is essentially a section/team which is exactly what a FoW troop stand represents. Being WW2 there is plenty of variety to choose from that would fit right in. 15mm sci-fi troops could be used for the armored troops such as those from Blue Moon Manufacturing. The Orion troops are great proxies for the Allied Heavy Ranger units. One would just need to make some minor adjustments for using stands versus individually based troops but this is trivial. Of course there is also nothing stopping one from basing 15mm figures individually and playing the rules straight up. The big advantage to 15mm, besides cost savings, is now you can easily have larger scale battles.

FoW M5 StuartUsing 15mm vehicles makes even more sense. Perhaps add 6″-12″ to larger weapon’s ranges to better represent appropriate range distinctions between man-packed and vehicle mounted weapons. Clockwork Goblin is starting to make some 15mm vehicles that are almost perfect for games of Dust Warfare. Their Konflikt 1947 line includes WW2-era power armor, walkers, and Tesla powered tanks. You can of course easily proxy regular WW2 minis such as the M5 Stuart tank for the M2 Series Walker but trading tracks for legs is no fun. Other 15mm options to consider are: The Rebel Minis Vipers and HAMR suits make great choices. The ARC Fleet Walkers from Critical Mass Games along with the various Protolene Battlesuits give you more options. The various walkers from Ground Zero Games are also useful. The OrcTank HABAT is a nice proxy for the Allied M6 Series Heavy Walker. The Project Slipstream infantry and vehicles are also well suited. With just a bit of thought it would not be that hard to come up with suitable 15mm proxies for all of the walkers in Dust Warfare.

So overall it looks like Fantasy Flight Games has a hit on their hands with Dust Warfare. We look forward to seeing how the rules and the universe expand.

Don’t forget to get the latest FAQ as well as other play aids from FFG. Also don’t miss Russ’ painting video, the official FFG Dust Warfare video and check YouTube for tons of Dust Warfare/Tactics videos. The blokes over at Beasts of War have a video Just what is Dust Warfare? and they have an interview with co-designer Mack Martin as well. Bell of Lost Souls also gets in the act with some good info and video with The Tectonic Shift – Dust Warfare Arrives. BattleTactics.TV has some nice looks at the various miniatures. Also for the truly deep pocketed there is always the Dust Tactics Premium version. Finally be sure not to miss Paolo Parente’s Dust site.

Below we have a selection of comparison photos showing the Dust Tactics figures compared with AT-43, Incursion, and Games Workshop miniatures. Briefly, they fit well with AT-43 and Incursion but not so well with GW because the Dust minis are more realistically proportioned. Even the light walkers for Dust are well over an inch taller than 40K Dreadnoughts.

Also see Dust Warfare — Revisited and Dust Warfare Resources.

[Updated: 29MAR13]

Breakout: Normandy Deluxe Edition — First Look

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Breakout: Normandy L2 Design Group surprised a lot of folks by producing a new version of the classic Avalon Hill wargame Breakout: Normandy. Breakout: Normandy has been out of print for a few years now but is still a very popular game and still sees a regular tournament at WBC. Breakout: Normandy is a board wargame covering the first month of the Normandy campaign in WW2. It is an area movement game based on the system debuted in Storm Over Arnhem and recently seen in Monty’s Gamble.

The new L2 version of the game is known as Breakout: Normandy Deluxe Edition and was produced with the support of Don Greenwood the game’s original designer. Breakout: Normandy was one of those classic games that basically got everything right from the start. It was also originally produced with very nice components. So what does the new Deluxe Edition provide different from the original? Thankfully, besides simply getting the game back in print, not much. The map is 10% larger to accommodate the new 3/4″ counters and incorporates the first week of reinforcement displays. The map itself is the typical L2 heavy foldout stock. The counters are slightly larger but otherwise unchanged. The real change is in the rulebook. The rulebook is all new and is in full color and very attractive. The new rulebook incorporates all official errata to the original game and a few minor rules changes.

Breakout: Normandy ArtDon Greenwood describes the new rule changes in the excellent included designer’s notes. He has focused on the fact that after thousands of plays it became apparent that the Germans have a slight advantage in the game. He also does not like some of the tactics that have resulted. To address those he jettisoned the Victory Point for holding the Advantage. “To compensate the Allies for this loss as well as to address their earlier balance problems, Naval Bombardment Impulse join Air Bombardment Impulses in being ‘free’–which added a staggering 12 Impulses a game to the Allied ledger…. To complete the Allied Aid package, Weather Changes…were made less likely by eliminating their occurrence during air and naval bombardment. And lastly, players can no longer guard against weather changes by using the now non-existent End of Day dice roll modifiers.” That’s it.

If you are a Breakout: Normandy fan you will want this edition if only for the new rulebook. If you never played the game before and you have any interest in WW2 you should give the game a look. Highly recommended.

Combat Mission: Beyond Normandy — First Look

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Combat MIssion: Beyond released Combat Mission: Beyond Normandy in mid-May. We have had a chance to spend a little bit of time with it since then. For those who have been waiting for a redo of the classic CM the good news is the worth is not only over but was well worth it. The game delivers the play that Combat Mission fans would expect. The new graphics engine is very nice and rivals that of third-person shooters from just a few years ago. The game engine seems equally as solid and our initial games have gone well with no glaring issues.

CM Normandy - ShermanThe detailed spotting and artillery rules are probably the only major changes that veterans will notice right from the start. Otherwise players will be able to jump right in and feel at home. As with the modern-day CM titles both the play and pause and turn-based play options are included. For old and new players alike there is a detailed manual that does a good job of explaining the rules and even includes an introductory walk through to get players into the action quickly.

Scenario selection is good but not great. The game includes 21 scenarios and five campaigns. Hopefully scenario packs will be forthcoming. Of course there is a battle generator as well as a full blown scenario builder included so players are certainly not stuck for new adventures by any means and fan built scenarios will certainly be on the way.

If you have any interest in WW2 tactical combat this is a must get title. And now even Mac owners can get in on the action. Well enough wasting time here we’re gonna get back to it!


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Battles of NnapoleonFor some odd reason or another we recently picked up a number of Napoleonic warfare titles. We haven’t played any of them yet but thought you might be interested in some initial impressions. Please note that we are not generally players of Napoleonic games nor consider ourselves students of Napoleonic warfare. So these comments will be most useful to those with a similar mild interest in the period. Read the rest of this entry »

Naval Thunder: Battleship Row — First Look

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We finally got around to grabbing a copy of Steel Dreadnought Games‘ new World War Two naval miniature rules Naval Thunder: Battleship Row along with the first expansion Bitter Rivals. Battleship Row is based on their naval system debuted in their World War One ruleset Naval Thunder: Clash of Dreadnoughts. While Clash of Dreadnoughts fell just shy of beating out Mongoose Publishing’s Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts as our favorite quick-play naval rules, Battleship Row is the set that sends Victory at Sea to the bottom. Read the rest of this entry »

Babylon 5: ACTA 2nd Edition — First Look

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Mongoose Publishing has released the second edition of its space combat miniatures game Babylon 5: A Call to Arms. Unlike the previous edition there is no boxed set. The game comes as two separate hardcover books, the main rulebook and the Fleet Lists book. My copy of the main rulebook had an odd binding problem and the pages are somewhat wrinkled when opened. The main rulebook is 123 pages and includes a couple pages of ship counters in the back. The book is 100% black and white and of poor quality; the pages are laid out with the intention of some sort of color background but in the actual grayscale printing the result is a very dark page that thus makes the black text hard to read. Worse are the graphics that are almost all too dark. Read the rest of this entry »

Combat Mission: Shock Force — First Look

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Battlefront released its new modern-era, tactical combat game Combat Mission: Shock Force. The game is the successor to the excellent Combat Mission World War Two titles. It improves upon those games in almost every way and if you have played any of the earlier titles you will feel right at home with CM:Shock Force. You will need to spend some time with the manual even if you are a veteran of the earlier titles because there are a number of new elements to the game that are not readily apparent.

The game includes a new real-time option as well as the traditional turn-based system. I still do not like the real-time option because no matter how good the AI is it still does dumb things. In addition, even with pause, you cannot be everywhere at once. This is not just an issue with command but simply in seeing the action unfold. With the turn-based system you can always see what happens. In real-time mode you often miss things while you are occupied elsewhere. Moreover, the highest realism setting, annoyingly, removes your ability to issue orders while the game is paused. Real-time does not equal more realistic for a tactical wargame.

Minor issues aside, if you like the subject matter you will enjoy the game and CM:SF does introduce some seldom seen concepts in wargaming such as unit specific spotting. Hopefully they will redo the WW2 titles with the new engine soon.

The Wargamer has a nice After Action Report and review of the game.

The v1.03 update is available.

Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #3 — First Look

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ASLSK#3ASL Starter Kit #3 from Multi-Man Publishing is now available. As the name suggests, it is the third — and I believe final — game in the introductory line of Advanced Squad Leader games. ASL is generally considered the premiere wargame of WW2 tactical combat. ASL also has one of the largest and most complex set of rules of any wargame. The Starter Kits were designed to ease players up to the full ASL rules. They have generally succeeded better than anyone anticipated. Read the rest of this entry »