Spotlight on Games > 1001 Nights of Military Gaming

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Dirk Henn light wargame on the Thirty Years War is actually a German publication (by Queen), the warlike attacks resolved by dropping wooden cubes in a "dice tower". Historicity is limited to a more or less correct map of Europe and each player taking forces in the name of one of the famous generals of the period. Initial map holdings are either pre-programmed without respect to history or done by a drafting mechanism. The most interesting feature is the ordering and allocation of player actions. There are ten different sorts, e.g. attack, harvest, tax, reinforce, construct, etc. Their order is random, and half known in advance. Then players use their province cards to secretly decide which province will do each. Depending on what is known, especially the timing of attacks, and how much the players are trying to accomplish, this can make for interesting bits of planning. Often the randomness upsets the best plan, however. Another troubling random element is delivered via the tower, in which many of one's cubes may get stuck, sometimes leading to incredible battle upsets, or even worse, exact ties which mean that not only is the province vacated, it loses all of its buildings, which is greatly to the benefit of those uninvolved. Then, even more strangely, those missing cubes will fall out of the tower later and show up in a completely unrelated part of the board. This is not totally weird for the setting as the heavy use of mercenaries during the period did see troops move about quite a bit, even between sides, but whether this much randomness is good for playability and planning is highly questionable. Actually, the theme might have worked even better in the Japan of the shoguns where secret troop transfers played an even greater role. There are admirably novel ideas, but there may also be too much chaos for some master strategists and too much length (set aside two hours) for others. Speaking of length, there are a lot more event cards than necessary; was it the original intent to play out the entire thirty years of the war? Strategically, realize that buildings play a greater role in victory than does combat, and that the mere taking of provinces willy-nilly will mostly just earn famine revolts. On the first round, players should try to expand into lightly-defended regions which offer high monetary and grain values, particularly if they have started without any region having at least six tax and five grain. They should consider not buying all the available reinforcements, especially the small one, but use the money to buy buildings in heavily defended areas. Future turns should be spent in careful study of potential buildings points earnings and the minimum required to enhance them. As in any game in which players can more-or-less freely attack one another, it's a good idea not to appear to be winning. Regarding the title, Wallenstein was the general in the employ of Austria so successful that he looked to be creating a kingdom of his own before his mysterious, untimely demise. [background]
Dirk Henn
War Galley
Operational wargame depicting naval battles during the Classical Greek and Roman periods. Most of the interest will be from Classical history fans and stems from the backgrounds given with the scenarios. As a game, there do not seem to be many different strategic approaches available and much of the game is more like riding along with events with a tactical decision or two along the way. The theme is stretched in ways one doesn't want to think about when the rules say things like "each ship counter actually represents four individual ships." The command and control rules are good insofar as they exist, but do not in reality seem to add much interest or difficult decisionmaking to the proceedings. [summary] [movement] [notes] [background] [scenarios]
Warlord Game
Obscure wargame set in an ill-defined medieval era and place. Almost a classical empire-building setup in which players start out fairly spread out and try to conquer neutral neighbors as efficiently as possible before trying to take out their opponents. Very susceptible to kingmaking situations without much chrome of the era.
Warlords - China in disarray, 1927-1945
Diplomatic wargame for up to seven. The influence of Diplomacy and its area movement and combat is plain. This basic system is supplemented by events (including non-player revolts), initiative and supply systems. Each faction has some special ability as well and combat includes dice. Players keep track of their statuses in secret on paper and the game depends on no errors being made, whether intentional or unintentional. Four different historical scenarios are included, some of which seem unbalanced as well as limited in strategy, but in any case, negotiation rules.
Warp War
Two player tactical space wargame (microgame) based on the novels The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and The Mote in God's Eye by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. Fairly extensible system included two types of ships with a considerable number of attributes including power, warp, beams, screens, missiles and racks for carrying system ships. Advanced rules feature technology levels, but perhaps the most interesting, if time-consuming feature is the diceless combat realized via simultaneously-revealed written orders orders which include a lot of possibility for bluff and outguessing. Might make a nice basis for a space campaign game.
Warrior Knights
Wargame set in a nonspecific medieval fantasy world depicted on a nice-looking 6x6 grid map. Players represent barons trying to control more than half the board's cities. Included are income, fate cards, movement, combat and assembly. Many players will be reminded of Kingmaker which was apparently an inspiration. There is plenty of chaos, particularly in the event cards, as well as the possibility for negotiation (and kingmaking). [summary]
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Waterloo [Treefrog]
The 1815 battle between Napoleon and Wellington and his allied forces at Waterloo may well be the most frequently simulated ever. This version features an area map and largish wooden pieces in the shapes of soldiers, horse riders and artillery pieces. There are three shades of blue for the French, red for the British, black and gray for the Prussians, orange for the Dutch and green for other allies. These are mentioned up front as they may well the source of much interest for this product's potential market. Another may be a novel method for determining how much a player may do in a turn. The opponent draws from a bag a wooden chit numbered from 2-5 (there are two instances of each). This is the number of actions the current player may perform, but which is not discovered until the quota has been filled. Actions are things like moving a force, moving to attack, firing artillery, re-grouping, reinforcement, etc. Each type of action requires expenditure of a disk in a particular one of three colors, these disks being allocated at the start of each turn. The France player receives a large amount, but the Allies only a few, more arriving with the Prussian forces around turn four. These ideas can make for good dilemmas, especially not knowing when the turn will end. Do you have time to make that attack and then re-group? Is it more important to fix your over-stacked areas or shore up a defense? Etc. On the surprising side is the rather involved sequence of seven steps needed resolve each combat. There is the defensive artillery phase, the cavalry vs. cavalry phase, the infantry vs. infantry phase, the cavalry vs. infantry phase, etc. all the way to the involuntary charge of successful cavalry phase. Some of these phases work fairly simply, e.g. roll a die for each firing unit and succeed on a 6, but at their heart they are very complicated with half a dozen modifiers needing checking for the attack table rolls and then nearly a dozen for the morale table should any hit be achieved. One never really gets accustomed to what these are and so these same tables must be checked again and again. Damage on infantry is taken in the form of cubes, six of them destroying a unit. These cubes can also be transferred to other friendlies in a nicely simple implementation of bringing in fresh forces. Cavalry has only two damage levels, being made to lie down when "tired" and then destroyed if hit again. Captured artillery is simply removed. There are leaders which enable moving units from more than one region at once, but have no other effect other than to be counted as a loss for victory point purposes. If no player achieves the necessary level of destruction, victory goes to the one reaching the town at the other's rear lines. Napoleon and Wellington do not appear on the board as such. Tactically, players will realize that strong points are difficult to take and the special skirmishing rules a good way to reduce them. Artillery tends to be weak and the best attacks employ a combination of horse and infantry. The randomness in the action allocations and dice results mean this isn't anywhere near a simulation and wildly skewed results are possible – in one playing the French won before the Prussians had even arrived. So it's puzzling that the players are belabored with such a complicated combat resolution system. It's as if the game can't decide what it really wants to be – maybe originally it was thought of as sort of a vehicle to play a game with one's miniature soldiers – and ends up unlikely to fully satisfy anyone. The later Gettysburg from the same publisher is called a sister game to this.
MMHM5 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 5)
Martin Wallace; Treefrog Games-2009; 2; 180 [Shop]
Way Out West
Game on the settlement of the Wild West by Britons Martin Wallace and Warfrog. Although the more-professionally-presented-than-in-previous-years outing poses as a nice, innocent society game, digging under its Western hardpan reveals a wargame, albeit somewhat abstracted, as cowboys ride around and shoot up the landscape, scarcely noticing the pusillanimous sheriffs. Nice features are the clever handling of the sequence of play which tends to drive the first player to be last, the restricted action choices and the interaction of the tiles in the cities. It is only unfortunate that shot dead is one of the Kramer principles, i.e. the rules permitting unfettered and unending attacks on a single player which can relatively easily drive him from any chance of victory. Thus, probably only of interest to the "V for Violence" set. With such nice systems, a better rudder is wished for future efforts. A summary card detailing the intricate payouts and victory point awards is sorely needed.
Martin Wallace
Wilson's Creek
One of the Blue and Grey American Civil War magazine wargames that SPI used to turn out regularly. This one features one of the earliest battles, Lyon vs. Price in Missouri. Basically an average entry in the system leavened by a special factor. In the battle, Lyon had sent his lieutenant Siegel to travel around to the enemy rear and attack at a crucial moment. In the game the players do not know for sure when Siegel will arrive and thus must practice risk management against that event.
Wings of War: Famous Aces
Multiplayer game of World War I air combat. The topic, at least at the dogfighting level, has been treated quite a few times over the years – going back to Richthofen's War – but this mostly cards cage is one of the simplest yet, save Aces of Aces, which only offers a one-dimensional view. This one is playable on any flat surface – like a miniatures games – and thus offers two dimensions. The third altitude is avoided by prohibiting planes from firing or crashing when their cards overlap. There is a nice feeling of programming as players allocate three of their movement cards each round. It might be even smoother if these cards were viewable from a stand a new one were added every round. The other thing the cards do is elegantly abstract away most of the annoying details of plane performance. If a plane is really good at turning it gets more turn cards. These cards are placed just ahead of a plane's position and then the plane is placed ahead of the position shown on the maneuver card. This allows some planes to turn ever so slightly more tightly than others or to fly faster than others, to such a small degree that it could never be reflected on a hex map. In this way one gets the feeling of facing a situation more true to that of the actual pilots. So players are less often thinking thoughts like "how many hexes away will I be?" than "which direction to I go to maximize my safety and chances to fire?" There is support for the Immelman maneuver and restrictions on impossible sequences of maneuvers, which is only a bit fiddly. There is an expansion game – Wings of War: Watch Your Back! – offering more planes as well. It seems the system could also be adapted for World War II aircraft. One questionable decision is the use of card drawing for damage resolution. This just seems much less dramatic than the rat-a-tat of falling dice, but a variant would be easy to devise. The main problem, of course, is that this is an elimination game and some will be out of it before it's over. A variant that ends the game when the first flier falls and awards victory to the pilot who has scored the most hits would address this. This product shows the typical Italian attention to the aesthetic and shoudl be quite satisfying to any fan of the genre as well as anyone who doesn't mind a quick elimination contest requiring plenty of intuition.
Witch Trial
Players represent lawyers in a "make the most money" game set in the Salem witch trials. A turn consists of either (1) drafting a Charge, Suspect, Evidence or Motion card according to a cost schedule similar to Vinci (actually it probably originated with Premiere), (2) matching a Charge to a Suspect to create a case or (3) defending the case. As the fee for defense is as negligible as the chance of its success, the latter is almost never done except in late game desperation. Instead a public defender is chosen at random, someone who will also save his cards for a lucrative prosecution. Thus the winner should be the person who is luckiest at drawing the cards he needs and in making the few dice rolls that determine the outcome of his cases. Sporting a large variety of humorous cards, really this is a closet party game meant to be played dramatically and for laughs, but when one considers that the outcome of many of these horrible trials was death, one requiring a sense of humor rather macabre to say the least. The prosecution rests. Made news in the Internet world when designer James Ernest had a trial of sorts himself at a pagan website.
Wiz War
Light wargame in which up to six wizards try to gather three enemy treasures and/or kill their opponents. The board is formed from the joining of a series of square mazes with rules by which one may "magically" move off one end of the board and on to another. Heart of the game is a very wide variety of cards which have very disparate effects. Luck of the draw is most of the game, but the effects can be quite humorous, although sometimes problematic if a combination arises that the designers have not yet considered. This is a problem shared with games like Talisman and Cosmic Encounter. [Jolly Games]
Wizard [Metagaming]
Wargame about wizards battling one another in an arena. The magical half of Melee is a generally clean spell system that works well, although a bit limited after multiple playings. Later expanded in Advanced Wizard, one of the components of the RPG The Fantasy Trip.
Wizard's Quest
Wargame in a fantasy setting is reminiscent of Risk. Additional features include terrain considerations, sorcerors and heroes. There is not a great deal of decisionmaking, but probably a reasonable introduction to war games. [analysis]
Wooden Ships & Iron Men
Wargame about tactical naval combat during the Napoleonic and neighboring ages. Fairly nice system for resolving some of the famous combats in detail. Some of the scenarios are huge and really require teams and many hours to complete. There is quite a lot of dice rolling involved. Sometimes given the joke sobriquet "Wooden Quips & Iron Puns."
World in Flames
Probably the best and most comprehensive wargame treatment of World War II. Borrowing directly the production system of Global War, it does a very good job of incorporating all the interesting history of the war on a worldwide map with, in general, a rather elegant system for doing so. The game is especially to be congratulated in being willing to consider unorthodox strategies not pursued in the historical conflict. Optional rules which permit more chrome are fun, but also problematic in that all combinations are practically impossible to playtest and because players must discuss extensively which to include. The myriad expansion kits feature the same unfortunate difficulty. The result is a rules set that is never stabilized and sometimes players feel that they have earned a degree in "World in Flames 101". The only semi-serious complaint about the system is that it is a better simulator of land and air conflict than of naval which often features unrealistic oddities, from the ways that oceans have been partitioned to the behavior of naval aircraft.
World War One
Probably the most compact simulation of the European part of the first World War ever published. Some of the smaller countries are represented by just a few hexes. The entire game actually centers around using up enemy resource points and most combat results are as boring since each side tends to lose the same amount in what ends up being a careful accountant's exercise with little to no flavor.
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