January 6, 2021

To the Green Fields Beyond

TGBF won the Charles Roberts Award in 1978 for Best 20th-century Game. It is operational scale: 1,250 yards per hex (1.1 km), with 17 one-day turns for the full game. Shorter scenarios are provided, including a 3-day British attack scenario that is excellent for solitaire play. The designer, David Isby is also known for his game Soldiers (SPI 1972) covering tactical WWI combat in 1914 - before trench warfare became the norm.

TGFB has a touch of The Marne about it. Both games have a double player-turn, unit disruption in combat, and "leapfrog" withdrawals by units locked in enemy ZOCs. These methods have been refined somewhat in TGBF. And there the similarities end in a big way with the addition of artillery and tanks.

For infantry, cavalry, and tanks the double player-turn boils down to fight1-move1-fight2-move2, but units that fight are not allowed to move in the immediately following movement phase. This structure allows a unit two actions per turn: move1-move2, move1-fight2, fight1-move2, or fight1-fight2 (this is confirmed in the Designer's Notes).

For artillery units, the "fight" parts of the turn can be either barrage or combat support.

Artillery rules (9.0) do not explicitly state the firing limitations of artillery units, i.e. how often they can use their barrage factors. Here's the gist:

  • An artillery unit may use its Barrage Strength once per Barrage Phase (or Combat Phase if firing direct support). That's twice per Player-Turn.
  • It may also use its SOS Barrage Strength once in each Enemy Combat Phase - twice per enemy player-turn.
  • A hex may be the target of up to four barrages per Barrage Phase: 1 Rolling + 1 Drumfire + 2 Interdiction (per official errata and rule 9.52).

The Battle of Cambrai ("kam-bray") saw the first use of tanks in battle, but it was artillery that dictated whatever "success" was achieved. TGBF distills WWI artillery to a playable level with just enough logistical bookkeeping to show its limitations and the need for planning each turn. 

And the tanks? The game shows how fragile they were but also how they could overrun neutralized enemy infantry to create a breakthrough. However the tanks themselves did not have the speed or reliability to exploit their own success. This role was relegated to the cavalry, which had been sidelined for most of the war, waiting for a breakthrough. Could these early tanks provide it?

Download TGBF vassal module.

The main map is just the hex-grid area of the original printed map. Hex numbers have been erased, replaced as mouse-over information on each hex. Several charts were printed on original game-board: Terrain Effects, Combat, Barrage, Air-to-Air, and Supply. These have been included in the module under a Charts component.

Supply points are incorporated as a dynamic property on each supply unit, and displayed in the top right corner of the game-piece.

Units are vassal game-piece images that look similar to the counters in the printed game. The background color of the British units has been changed from orange to khaki (which is the Urdu word for "mud" - appropriate for WWI). Cavarly, tank, and stoss units have color-coded type symbols distinguish them easily from the infantry. 

The terrain key is a game-piece in an At-start Stack and is minimized when the module loads. To toggle the full-size terrain key, use the right-click option, or keyboard command Ctrl-K.

December 21, 2020

Barbarossa: vmod

In the 1960's the only game about the Russian front of WWII was Stalingrad, by Avalon Hill. Jim Dunnigan designed Barbarossa as SPI's answer to Stalingrad. As a new game company in the late 1960's SPI had to offer direct alternatives to games from the the original (and only) commercial wargame publisher at the time. 

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December 20, 2020

The Marne: vmod

The Marne (SPI 1972) was designed by John Young - it depicts the culmination of the German advance in 1914 and the Allied counter-attack. There are four things about this game that bear mentioning.

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December 19, 2020

Franco-Prussian War vmod

The Franco-Prussian war was (apparently) a prime example of a military campaign where neither side had the slightest amount of intelligence about the enemy prior to contact. Fog of war is essential to the situation.

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December 10, 2020

Arnhem: vmod

From the SPI Westwall quad. A small game that captures the essential features of the Market-Garden airborne operation. 

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