Best Wargaming 2014 - Top 10
Lawrence Hung
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This list is created to recount my wargaming experience, the best and fabulous moments, in 2014. Yes, I created this list very late, mostly because I was dragged by the busy business and the lack of determination to compile it. I don't know if anybody still is interested in something in the past but I feel the urge to do it for completing my ego and record of history. I spent some more time to analyze them and try to put where they are really due. It's because I played many pure wargames in 2014 and they are all competitively good. Some of them like Flying Colors, Battles of Westeros, Sparta versus Athens, France, 40, I am Spartacus, Anima: Beyond Good and Evil, etc. They deserve to be mentioned honourably even though they are not the best ten for the year but could have really been contenders in any other year.

They are not necessarily the new games produced in 2014, which sometimes I find the new ones, while afresh, might have the advantages in this sort of best listing in the year. So you may find some classic games, complex monsters or some simpler ones here. In 2014, I focused more on WWI and WWII wargames. WWI, being the Centennial event, should be recollected in time for its importance as such. No matter what, they are the games that I actually played, enjoyed and selected after some deep thoughts sinking into them. They are admitted in the list, not easy, because I hold high standards and I would rank them in a comprehensive way, from the core game system inside, to the graphics on the counters and maps, to the overall packaging of the box on the outside. In other words, there are a number of factors in my calculation of the best 10. If the game is value-for-money in my view, certainly it would be given extra mark. The factors are subjective, of course, because no one is exactly the same in taste. However, let's move on and see if you would recall some great moments and memories, and echo some of my observations of the year.
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1. Board Game: A Victory Denied [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:2339]
Lawrence Hung
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A Victory Denied covers the Battle of Smolensk 1941. Both sides engaged their elite units, the German 2nd and 3rd Panzers, 9th Army and the Soviet Corps of the 13th Army, Elite and "Protivovozdushnoy" (POV) Divisions, right before the city of Moscow, in a gigantic engagement to bring decisive result to the campaign.

The random command chits drawing determine the tempo and strategies in the course of the war, and as the sequence of play is actually randomnized by the drawing chits of supply and reinforcement phase, rendering no two games play the same, and thus no game plan should survive when the next chit is drawn.

The game has some very cool historical features, smoothly integrated with the base system in a silky way. For examples, Timoshenko reinforcement arriving on turn one with his superior attack capability (with one beneficial shift on CRT during attack) and Guderian's higher flexibility in command over 2nd Panzer Group (his command chit can be activated any time after drawing any command chit from the cup, i.e. trumping any command chit). German units in Minsk Pocket can arrive at the battle earlier at the risk of escaping Soviet units from the pocket, subjecting the German units to heavier fire combat DR+1 temporarily until the next reinforcement chit. A VP chit is also taken from the German Victory Chit Box but if there is none, the Soviet immediately win. It means that the German cannot release any units from the pocket prematurely without taking at least one victory city hex first.

I quite like the unit differentiation between the mechanized and non-mechanized units in the game. Mechanized units have both attack and defense strength while the non-motorized/ mechanized units have a single combat factor only. Naturally, the former would have higher attack value than the defense. Units are also identified by colors with different command activations when the corresponding command chit is drawn. But the scheme of colors for the two German Panzer Corps has been subject to constant criticism because of non-indistinguishable between the two.

A unit can be activated when it is in command of its HQ within HQ's command range, counted in number of hexes. Nothing can interdict such command range, not even unbridged major river. The German panzer units are activated as long as they are within three hexes to each other. German non-motorized units can only be activated when the 9th Army command chit is drawn and within command range of an HQ. The Soviet units, on the other hand, are activated when they are within the command range of the HQs. An HQ can also be activated by another HQ within its command range. As the Soviet units are not required to be within specific HQ's command range for activation, and they can be activated any number of times in any one turn, they can be congregated in one giant force for movement and attack.

A unit can be in a state of full effectiveness, out of command, out of supply (only attack value halved) or isolated (both attack and defense value halved). The status of individual units on the map tax the players' strength and intelligence in operational planning and execution. The gameplay becomes more interesting and lengthens its life with variable victory points for capture of the cities. The Hitler Directive Table comes in turn 6 to determine if the Fuhrer is going to be distracted from capturing Moscow by other war objective going on elsewhere, historically to the south. There is a possibility that four German motorized units (meaning Panzer corps) when Hitler is distracted.

Aside from the normal cumulative terrain shifts, German Stuka can shift two columns for German attack or defense. Attack below 1:1 is not possible and the maximum odds is 10:1. The attacker rolls a die but it is interesting to note the German rolls a six-sided die while the Soviet rolls a ten-sided die. A roll of 10 would add one Soviet elite unit to the combat, subject to Soviet stacking limit of two units, and recalculate odds. More variability is therefore expected of the Soviet. Majority of the combat results are number of step losses, ranging from one to four. Retreat results are one or two hexes.

Overall, a highly playable, enjoyable and very alluringly terse wargame. I absolutely love it and recommend it to WWII wargamers. Operational wargame at its best.

Overall score: 8.38
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2. Board Game: 1914: Glory's End / When Eagles Fight [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:4520]
Lawrence Hung
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Reprint and update of the old Command games by Ted Raicer. 1914: Glory's End, old Command magazine game, GMT dual pack new edition. 1914: Glory's End plays, in my view, much better than Ted's another design on the same campaign - Grand Illusion. Glory's End is more traditional and thus more classic than Grand Illusion. It is WWI well done right and a game luminous of retrospection in itself. Both map graphics and counters art have been improved to box edition standards. It is a pleasure to play the game with these upgraded components.

While I am reading John French's book of "1914", the game 1914: Glory's End echoes a lot of what I read from the book. John French, being the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, gave a vivid and detailed account of the Allied forces and operations in the beginning of the campaign in the Western Front. And I feel that 1914: Glory's End is finally a game that gives WWI its due, and rightly so.

1914: Glory's End has a scale of mostly Corps sized units, 9.5 miles to the hex, 3 days per turn. Each Corp has four steps as it represent 30,000 to 55,000 men. Both map graphics and counters art have been improved to box edition standards. It is a pleasure to play the game with these upgraded components. I would try to outline briefly the pros and cons (not as much as cons by themselves but game mechanisms employed at points for discussion with a WWI game) of the game in a bulletin below:

Pros:
1) A short Historical Campaign Scenario is provided with 10 turns to complete. It can be completed in a day session (and faster if the player is abide to the time limit rule - each player is allowed 10 minutes to complete his turn). German wins if he has placed Paris in Danger (an area outlined to be threatening France capital closely enough) and obtained 25 VPs by capturing key cities and eliminating Belgian Army, and each German unit being adjacent to a Paris hex at turn 10. The short campaign reflects the strategic objectives of both sides realistically and competitively.

2) The game discovered to me that there are multitude of strategic decisions to be made by the decision makers, and the players in this case of gaming. Each decision should not be made lightly as a mistaken one might cost the entire wing to collapse.

3) The lack of ZOC encourages the players to play the game historically in a frontline manner to block any hole in between. Defense deployment is of vital importance to prevent breakthrough. Otherwise, a completely surrounded unit can be eliminated right away when there is no retreat way out according to the retreat compass.

4) A bloody CRT ensures both sides suffering from typical WWI unaccountable casualties. At odd 1-1, there are chances of 2/2 loss points to both sides. A loss point can be satisfied by retreat, which is particularly useful, if played well, for French tactical withdrawal.

5) Strategic Movement, a rule which constructs the railroad transfer of troops en mass, allows to transfer a unit from one town to the next, as long as it is not adjacent to any enemy unit. One of the cleanest rule that is done right for WWI (while it is not done right in Port Arthur, another Command magazine game).

Cons:
1) Command Control problem is a bit random as both sides have a phase in which to roll a die. A dieroll result of six would yield command control breakdown to three stacks of units, determined by your opponents as to which are they. It might be too abstract to some WWI guru as you surely can't find the same realism on command structure like that in 1914: Twilight in the East.

2) The whole campaign requires 30 turns to complete, approximate you need three whole days devotion to it. Entrenchment begins on turn 10, when the short campaign is about to finish. So if you just play the short campaign, you won't see the picture of trench warfare so engraved in people's memory about the war.

3) Artillery is virtually not existent at this scale. It is not represented as attachment unit as in some other game. It can be rationalized with the scale but if you are looking for its representation, it is not there.

4) The fact that there is no ZOC made the game prone to fluidity of enveloping movements by the German player, who has the initial advantage by numbers in Belgium and north of France. It seems a bit ahistorical when the German units flow freely around Allies units like water at a non-believable speed. But this is more a design for effect decision to render the game easier to play in a historical manner. I am fine with it.

5) The rules on Defender Retreat as satisfaction to loss point and March Assault could have been expanded more to explain the true intent with examples. As of now, some scruples still remain as to whether each loss point can be satisfied by one-hex retreat as an alternative to a step loss, and whether a unit beginning in a hex adjacent to enemy can perform March Assault.

Glory's End is an excellent wargame on operational level warfare during WWI; this time on the Western Front. If you are looking for something classic with meaty gameplay on one map, alongside Tannenberg 1914 on the eastern front (see below), these are the two I recommended as a pair to round out your WWI collection.

Overall score: 8.23
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3. Board Game: Victory in Vietnam [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:7418]
Lawrence Hung
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One map strategic treatment on Vietnam. An ambitious and unabated design. With just one single 11x17 inches map, the price is quite on the high end for its components. The strength of this game is the ability to play out the whole war within 3 hours. Another alternative would be Decision Games' Winged Horse, which covers the entire war as well with a standard magazine wargame in an extension. I have the Schutze Games second edition. Although the game comes in folio, it is really a full strategic level wargame with chromes and orderliness like a box game.

The sequence of play is easily digestible, despite the many steps for what essentially a strategy game. It incorporates events, commando, strategic bombing, reinforcement and firebase movement in Strategic Phase. It is a phase mainly where the airpower game is played out.

Then both players perform their own Land Phase with different types of movements and combats. "Reactionary" movement is possible during the enemy player Land Phase, that the units can move out of their current location by one hex to the adjacent, whether it is a battle hex or not. Reaction chits are placed for indicating the redeployment. The designer emphasized this is a "key tactic" for the game and so players do have to pay attention to this game mechanism. Airmobile and Airborne Paratroop units can also perform reaction movements. The Disruption Removal (i.e. supply check) and Victory Point subtraction for Communist units coming out of the underground complete the Land Phase.

The End of Turn Phase deals with the counter-insurgency aspects of the Vietnam War and administrative clean-up. Search and Destroy and Pacification operations are resolved. VPs are adjusted and checked for game end. Ports may be upgraded and Tactical Nuclear Weapon markers and air unit's Strat Flown markers are removed. You hear it - nuke power is here.

I have not completed one game in full with Victory in Vietnam. But I already feel the power this "small" game projects. It has all the desirable elements of a box wargame with only a fraction of its cost, loading in gameplay, but double the enjoyment and fun. Indeed, it is a very fine wargame with sufficient details to wonder with. It has so many sensible strategic choices to make and each decision you make may alter the course of your game and campaign. Plus, it is perfectly solo-friendly, despite primarily it is designed for two highly educated players. For a strategic treatment on the Vietnam campaign, by far this is the BEST one I have played (well, as I still have to find the time to play that monster Victory Games' Vietnam, 1965-1975). Victory in Vietnam is a very realistic wargame built on a very solid game system.

Overall score: 8.15
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4. Board Game: White Death [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:4661]
Lawrence Hung
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The early GDW wargame on the WWII eastern front...the first truly operational eastern front battle game to me. I still have the game in my warehouse but I played the newer Japanese edition with the same old GDW rules (I can't read Japanese anyway except Kenji of course). I have read the rulebook from head to toes, including the excellent designer notes, after so many years of owning the game. The game components are simply awesome: beautifully illustrated map, with a lot of varied terrains, and counters, of detailed OOBs, and some very clearly depicted holding boxes on the player aids, etc.

On the whole, a very nice operational-tactical WWII system there, one that still fares well even by today's standard. Some very nice features like AFV units, morale check upon losses, artillery and line of sight, bunkers, special unit capabilities, weapons abandoning, etc. organically composed to emanate the historical flavour. Definitely a WWII wargame I want to go back to for many years to come.

Overall score: 8.08
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5. Board Game: Afrika Korps: Decision in the Desert, 1941-42 [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:6739]
Lawrence Hung
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People who know me know that I very much like operational level on eastern front on the one hand, on the other, campaign in North Africa where Rommel fought brilliantly. He is my idol in military. To recreate his decisions in the desert, what a marvellous time it would be.

Afrika Korps: Decision in the Desert, 1941-42 is a game of chit-pull activation-markers based system, harnessing some of the supply problems. I have a good time with chit-pull based system in 2014 and it rises rapidly to become a popular and likeable system for uncertainty and risk management in military games. In this game, it means that when you pull one of your enemy chit, his units may get activated ruining your plan of attack. On the other hand, you may have back-to-back movements and punch. The event markers are now called "Bulletins" markers, very fun!

The map is made up of two pieces the player should cut out across the center of a standard size of map - first time I ever do that for a magazine game. It is a joyful to look at as compensation.

Combat is divided into two types: assault and mobile, the latter requires at least one attacking mechanized unit. Losses in mobile attack have to be satisfied by mechanized unit first. Attack is mandatory so long the activated units start the phase in enemy ZOC. Both sides can commit support or combat shift by air strafe, naval bombardment, combined arms (armor and infantry attacking in the same time but US doesn't have this benefit while the Italian only on the defense), terrain, offensive supply, flak, etc. The CRT is somewhat unusual in that after dividing the total attack factor with the defense, the result is multiplied by 100 to arrive at a % column on the CRT. But the process is quick to resolve anyway, without the rounding of remaining factor.

Overall, I really like the game very much, considered especially Afrika Korps is only a magazine game. Everything is so blended, without all the rules overhead, that gives a lot of decisions back to the players. Replayability value is so high that I can foresee different game every time. Interactivity between the two players is extremely high. I haven't seen such kind of elegant wargame design for a while. When compared to Shifting Sands, I like this game even more with a lot more realism that lives out the options, risk and opportunities that are facing off the Germans and the British. Once again, my hats off to the designer Joseph Miranda. And I wish I could have played this game earlier. The best bang for the bucks I spent for magazine game in 2014 (despite it is not a 2014 but a 2010 game). Alongside with A Victory Denied (see above), I have some of the very best moment of WWII operational warfare experienced in 2014.

Overall score: 8.00
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6. Board Game: A Victory Complete: The Battle of Tannenberg, 1914 [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:6548]
Lawrence Hung
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Victory Complete is the MMP edition of 3CG game "Tannenberg 1914". Cool box cover and functional map art. With update edition like this, there are unavoidable transformation errors: 3 misprinted counters, trouble with the railhex across the border after new map beautification, minor rules omissions on split advance path, attacker always suffers the combat result first, etc. They can be small distractions but if you are not indulged in them, and aside from MMP reluctance to put up the final edition rulebook on the internet for easy download, Victory Complete is a very fine strategic-operational level wargame overall.

Again, chit-pull system shines here again, as if 2014 was a year of the chit-pull. The system is adaptive to the command problems experienced by both sides during WWI - that no supreme commander would know which next divisions would act at the time you want them to. A well coordination and communication among the divisions are nothing but close to impossible, let alone to mention the rivalries between the two Russian army commanders. This game not only teaches me a lot about WWI, but is also highly fun to play and to out-think, out-maneuver your opponents.

Overall score: 7.92
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7. Board Game: Clash of Giants II [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:2982]
Lawrence Hung
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A satisfying operational level WW1 game series so far by Ted Racier...Now gone east, the Clash of Giants II turns to the Campaigns of Galicia and First Ypres. The second one has gas attacks so notoriously knonw. SLA Marshall wrote: "The unusual length of the war, its barbarisms and atrocities, the flood of maimed and mutilated individuals turned back to society, the submarine sinkings, the starving civilians--all of these things are less shocking than that vast armies were raised, maneuvered into annihilation, and acieved nothing through their deaths." This system really CAN recreate this sort of things. For those initiated, 1914 by John French gave a good account of the first campaign in Ypres, sub-divided into several phases. A great companion read for this game.

Back to the game. The Campaign of First Ypres sees the German on the offensive towards Osten in Belgium and Dunkirk in France, generally described as the Flanders area where the so-called "Race to the Sea" took place. And they say they will go home before the leaves fall.....

The rules of Clash of Giants are quite short and smooth in terms of the basic game system. The Battle Book gives more detail accounts of the two campaigns covered in the second installment of the series. One distinguished change is the use of "ACM" markers, Army Command Markers, commanding all units by the zones on the map. All units within the zone when the ACM is picked shall be activated. This is basically chit-pulling system that is so popular later by the MMP's "Victory" series (Victory Lost, Victory Denied, Victory Complete). The unit is mostly division and some brigade in size, with independent Cavalry on both sides, where each hex is 1.3 miles apart. Given the zone-based activation (instead of commanding by Army or Corps like that in Victory Complete), the movement can be exercised at times with a large trunk of units in the zone.

Unit crossing the zone boundary to a new zone is therefore designated a "Done" marker for not moving again if the new zone is not yet activated. A few units are not allowed to cross their own boundary and the Germans cannot go into Zone D before turn four, respecting Belgium's neutrality. Conversely, Belgian units can only retreat according to the retreat compass directions and may never attack German units during turn 2 to 5. In Ypres, the Allied enjoys Strategic Rail Movement (up to four units) for moving units from one town/ urban hex to the next. They can entrain and detrain in the enemy ZOC, and thus make attack immediately - a rather different treatment compared to other games. A turn in CoG represents two days and the newly arriving units should be deployed to battle in haste and in no time under such circumstances.

Combat is voluntary and takes place when the attacking units are in the enemy ZOC. No combat (i.e. entering eZOC) is allowed on the first turn in Ypres and so both sides just maneuver into position. Combat results determination in CoG is quite different from other traditional wargame, in that the CRT is used to determine a DRM to a dieroll against individual unit's "TER", Tactical Efficiency Rating, and "Attack Loss Limit", the maximum no. of attacking units that may be affected by a single combat. Add spice to the fun of eating, some German New Reserve units are subject to random TER determination as universities students are mobilized to join the Army. For each unit, modified dieroll result exceeding the unit's TER would cause the unit a step loss. A quick look at the OOB revealed that the Germans are largely rated one TER higher than the Allied in general. The difference between the modified dieroll and TER of the defending units also causes the defending unit to retreat that no. of hexes, up to a maximum three. Retreat through non-cavalry eZOC is not allowed unless negated by a friendly unit. However, the rule doesn't clearly state what happens if it is forced to retreat through eZOC but an elimination of the unit is implied in 12.82 Retreat Direction.

Supply is quite straightforward by tracing a path free of enemy units and their ZOC (again, negated by friendly unit in the ZOC) to the supply source. The first five hexes can be traced to any directions but afterwards it has to be in the directions of the Retreat Compass. OOS unit loses its ZOC, suffer -2TER, -1MA, and receive no replacement. An interesting concept of "Emergency Withdrawal" is introduced whereby a fully supplied unit can negate eZOC and allow other friendly units moving through it according to the directions of the Retreat Compass. The unit is "holding the door" for an orderly withdrawal.

The role of cavalry in this game is limited probably due to the scale. They are normally used to perform screening, flanking movement to harass enemy supply line, as they cannot stack with other infantry units and they cannot attack enemy infantry either, nor in a combined attack. When attacked, cavalry units have only TER of 1 helplessly. They can, however, retreat before combat by two hexes. A special Allied Flood phase is added to the sequence of play. Belgium can open the gate to flood the Belgian flood plain if it controls Nieuport. Flooded hexes cost the unit's entire movement to enter and it may not attack out of such hexes.

Overall, all the features in the system mix in well and convey a strong sense of realism to WWI. Much better than Ted's other design Grand Illusion. Clash of Giants is one of the best accessible operational level WWI system by far in my book.

Overall score: 7.69
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8. Board Game: Clash of Empires: The Battle for France 1914 [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:7422]
Lawrence Hung
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Grand strategic treatment of WWI by Kerry Anderson back at the old 3W days, which was then well-received by the gamers. I have been wanting to play this magazine game for 28 years but no luck to find any opponent. At last I can have a chance to play it in 2014!

A characteristic feature of this game is the tiny dot point to point map movement system. This is something done long before the Ted Racier's storm of WW1 games. So a due credit should be given to Kerry Anderson when the subject had not been so popular when the game was first originally issued.

The game rules are very clean and elegantly written. Most units are division corps size as infantry corps can move one space (dot) to another and cavalry corps can move two. Army Headquarter can contain unlimited number of units and it serves as one major fog-of-war rule for by hiding the units being placed off-map on a display. The individual units on the map are also hidden from the other players by flipping over. This can be the major inconvenience of the gameplay for a magazine game but then the design is way ahead of Columbia's block game system which conveys a sense of fog-of-war in the same manner. In fact, there is a very high degree of similarity between the two, rotating the unit counters for denoting step losses arising out of combats.

The replacement system is interesting as the number of replacement steps available is determined by a dieroll, ranging from 2 to 5 steps replacement, which can be used to "rotate" back the unit or creating new unit in home country from the eliminated units previously. OOS units cannot receive any replacement, nor units in invested fortress either. They cannot conduct rail movement in their respective home country also. The Allies can rail movement three units while the German two per turn.

Combat is done when units from both sides occupying the same city. In the tradition of block game system, the number of dieroll that a player should roll equal to the total strength of all the units participating in combat - rolling six to hit for every step loss. Cavalry, as always, can retreat before combat.

Fortress and trench are two terrain types that can modify the number of attacker's dieroll by one or two less "per unit", depending on the strength of the fortress, or by one if attacking the trench. Both cannot be combined with one another. Woods reduces one dieroll less per unit. Attacking across ridge up slope is susceptible to first losses inflicted by the defender, while normally combat results of step losses should be applied simultaneously. Fortress can impede supply trace unless "invested" by at least one enemy unit remaining outside of such fortress. The enemy units can also pass through invested fortress. Trench can only be dug starting from turn 11. Supply can trace through enemy trenches. Trenches are removed once the hexes are left vacant with any friendly units and hence change of trenches for use by another side is not possible.

"Belgian coast was England's frontier." Hmm...great to know that. Anthony deployed deployed all his German forces down south along the French border and decided not to violate the Belgian neutrality. A very bold and nice experiment. The end result was a draw although we completed only nine turns. After digging and entrenchments deep into both sides own back, and after almost all French in the north were transported by rail to the south, we called it a day because the war began to be a matter of grinding and attrition to both sides. A large trunk of French territory was occupied by the German armies but not enough VPs to garner a German operational victory.

A genius feature of the game is that the designer allows the players complete flexibility of initial deployments, as long as they are within their own national boundary. The feature demonstrated the designer's confidence in the game's ability to offer authentic strategic choices in the commanders' mind. The player can forsake the German thinking of seeking decisive battles in Marne, race to the sea of English Channel or drive on Paris for immediate victory over France. Rather, the player can place all the units to the south for grasping the territory sufficient for operational victory. At the same time, the French is therefore not "scripted" to history with the offensive Plan 17. The level of flexibility in this game offers longevity of re-playability for what might have been an otherwise stalemate WWI game.

All in all, Clash of Empires is a great little gem, shining rarely, among the Wargamer magazines. A recommended game for every WWI strategic level wargamer.

Overall score: 7.69 (Neck-to-neck to Clash of Giants II!)
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9. Board Game: BattleLore (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:138]
Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
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While I have some experience with the game's first edition, I am no familiar with the game system other than that it is a deriative from the Command and Color game by Richard Borg. However, the second edition is completely redesigned by Robert Kouba and hence I should look at it from a new perspective. After the game, I counted what I like about the game:

1) It is what I like Command and Color as a simple basic wargame system with all the chromes I wish they could have been added in modeling the ancient warfare.
2) More rules flexibility in adapting the rules to a fantasy world, bending the rules as the designer likes.
3) The units of the two sides, Daqan the more mobile and Uthuk the more bloodthirsty, are characterized by different movement, combat rates and health points and scenario specific rules vividly. Some special abilities like pursue, poison, massive, etc. pertain to only specific side.
4) The creation of a scenario and both sides objectives are entirely built by combining players' own choosing of one out of three scenario cards, yielding some interesting conflicting objectives at times.
5) Winning combat earns lore points, which are in turn used to trigger the unit's abilities or pay the cost of using "magic" on the lore cards.
6) Range combat and line of sight, blocked by hills, forest or buildings, are handled neatly like the archer units in the ancient.
7) Weak unit, those remains with only one figure on the board, has a fewer chance to score a hit in combat, ignoring the cleave dieroll result.
8) Hidden deployment cards, including decoys, are placed on the mapboard initially conveying a sense of fog of war in the beginning of the game.
9) Players can compose their respective army of a total of 50 muster points or follow the army cards suggestion. A player can choose to muster five extra army points if he decides to deploy a command tent. The tent, however, would add victory points to the enemy if it is captured by him. This flexibility in composing an army adds further uncertainty on what you might expect.
10) Victory is not limited to beating units up now with move varied types of victory points to earn, spicing up the strategies taken to win the game.

Overall, I like the game as much as the first edition. It's very quick to set up a game. I am sure I will find another to play it again. My interest in the game Battles of Westeros which utilize the same engine to the world of Game of Thrones heightens.

Overall score: 7.62
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10. Board Game: Cuba Libre [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:490]
Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
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Well, it has Che in it, hasn't it? Che is the icon just like Candice in the Hunger Game. Hmm...finally the COIN series hooks me while I pass the first one Andeas Abyss. Physical components of the game are the usual high quality from GMT, to a standard that one would say that the components as contained in deluxe edition. Sturdy box, thick for usage in a long time to come and colorful cubes representing forces of the four factions. 4 player aids summarizes all the factions' available actions (COIN operations and special activities and how to perform them), the victory conditions. They facilitate the game a lot easier as the players can look at a glance what the players can do and what they cannot. There are also two identical player aids for solitaire AI routines in flowcharts. Another player aid summarizes dieroll results, randomizing the determination of spaces on the map for the event or AI decisions to call for. The mapboard is mounted, something you don't usually see nowadays for wargame.

The rulebook is a very nice colorful presentation. It's absorbingly detailed but flows with the go on the sequence of play, though on some occasions some terms and concepts might not have been explained well enough. But they are easily overcome as the rules are not that long, with standard magazine game rules of 16 pages only. The index at the back of the rulebook certainly helps. A set-up table is also included at the last page for quick set-up and play. A very big plus is that there is a playbook inside the game, giving you further insights into the game with tutorial gameplay in conversational s(AH) style, the rise of revolution in Cuba and why it succeeds in an article, design notes and background to the card events. As rare as gaming revolution that not many games have done before, these additional materials adds to the package much more value. Cuba Libre is not a difficult game at all to learn.

Historicity is very high as each faction plays to its unique abilities and different paths to victory according to the historical context. The Syndicate are gangsters operating casinos on the island, looking for opening as many casinos and as much money (resources) as possible. They are short on men and so their cash can be taken away by Government skimming and rebels' attacks. They look vulnerable like bystanders but all that matter to them is business. The Government is always busy fighting and controlling the growth of the rebel forces and there are two factions, Directorio and July 26 on the opposite side. US support to the Government is gone very soon in the beginning of the game and so the Government has to turn to the Syndicate for resources and funding. It has to garner support from the population but the event cards at times topple the Bastista government. The government has manpower more than any other but there is a whole lot of pressing issues on the Government.

The Directorio is interested in competing with the Government by expanding the control over the population on the one hand and with the July 26 by expanding its bases into different spaces and regions. Directorio has to strike a fine balance between the two factions by tactful manipulations, subversion (adding resources and neutralize the population support level) and ruthless assassinations (eliminate other units without the need of dieroll). July 26 has almost the exact same operations and special abilities of the Directorio, except that its manner is more restraint with no assassination but kidnap to take money from either Directorio (closing the casino) or Government (the Government has to pay for civilian hostage, right?). The amount of money taken from kidnap could be quite random from time to time with result of a dieroll. July 26 starts from the southern part of the Cuba island and has to, step by step, infiltrate north and expand its influence. It takes time to grow strong enough and to reach Havana, the capital in the northern part of the island, and hence it has to survive the game long enough by the test of the propaganda cards (four in the deck).

Playability level is extremely high. Not only that you can play different faction each time but also the one-player solitaire version. It almost guarantees you a lifetime of choices to make and enjoyment to indulge in. The game looks like a Eurogame on the surface with the cubes moving on and off the board like worker-tile placement game. There are some dice rolling to resolve conflicts but nothing major. Players have to focus on their general strategy on the board while reacting to the changing circumstances and happenings out of the events. The sequence of the players taking turn is determined by the random draw of the event cards, knowing it how does it go one turn in advance. To the more serious wargamer in the traditional sense, it is not a military game but a light, fun "political" game that can be completed in three to four hours. Many times I saw the Syndicate won and July 26 the harder side to win - none that I saw. This seemingly unbalance in the factions likelihood to win and the fact that the game can be heavily influenced by the sequence of the card play are two points to deduct from my rating. No matter what, Cuba Libre will give you a broad-brush picture of what actually happened more than 50 years ago.

Overall score: 7.62 (Again, this game is tied with Battlelore Second Edition!)
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