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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Review of Escape from Colditz

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on November 19, 2016

I was privileged to receive a copy of Escape from Colditz about a month ago from Osprey Games, a division of Osprey Publishing, who is famous for its series of military history books. I was pleased to be able to finally test play the game with some friends at Broken Sentry Games, a new store in Grand Forks. It was a great time as we navigated the rules and planned our moves. I chose to be the German guards and prevent the escape.

History of Colditz Castle

The game is actually a reboot of a version of the game, with the same title , that appeared in 1973. It is based on the real story of Oflag IV-C, a German POW camp in Colditz Castle that housed Allied officers that escaped from other camps. Several attempts to escape the prison were unsuccessful, but a few were, including Pat Reid, who was one of the designers of the original game.

Several tunnels and bed sheet ropes were constructed to attempt to help prisoners escape. One unique story is that prisoners constructed a glider, named the “Colditz Cock,” from various materials in the camp, which had a wingspan of roughly 32 feet and was to be launched via a pulley system on a runway made from tables. Though the real glider never flew, a replica was built and flown.

Game Components

Osprey outdid itself in the quality of the game pieces. The box art is stunning and the board is quite nice, including the logo being printed on the underside, something I have not seen before.9781472818935

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In addition to the box and board, the other components of the game are quite nice. The cards are sturdy and have nice artwork on them. The pawns represent the nations represented (Americans, British, Dutch, French, Germans, and Poles), more specifically Allied prisoners of war and their German guards.

Another fun thing with this game are the surprises hidden among the game components. There are several replicas of artifacts related to the real history of the POW camp, including a postcard from a prisoner to their family, a Red Cross care parcel, a German Wanted poster for escaped prisoners, and a leaflet urging Allied prisoners to cease escaping. The biggest surprise is hidden in the box and I will not give it away, as you will have to get the game to find out, but it will be worth it.

Rules and Game Mechanics

The rules are pretty straightforward. POW pawns are set up in the white-shaded area of the central courtyard of the castle in a specific way, based on the number of players. The game supports 2-6 players and our play test consisted of four of us, which I felt was a nice balance to grasp the workings of the game.

Each round ends with the German player, with each player rolling dice to determine available movement points, which allows the player to move any number of its pawns up to the die roll. If a player rolls doubles, they may re-roll and add that total to their double roll. Further, if a player rolls a total of five or less, they may draw either an Opportunity Card (Allied players), or a Security Card (German), which can be used during their turn to bring about various events that can aid an escape attempt, or hinder it.1118162019

Allied players navigate the castle, attempting to gather their items needed for their escape kits and equipment to help in the actual escape from the castle, all while trying to avoid arrest and being thrown in solitary confinement, or being shot. Once outside the camp perimeter, the POWs attempt to reach one of several targets on the board that signal a successful escape. The game ends when either two pawns of one nation successfully escape, or the countdown marker reaches the eagle (zero rounds left) and no escapes have succeeded.

The game seems to progress fairly quickly and the cards can affect play in many fun and unique ways. Further, you can feel a little rush when a pawn attempts an escape and the player is attempting to reach a target, or stop an escape.1118162158

One unique aspect of the game is that the rules from the original 1973 version are included in the rule book to allow one to experience the original style of play, which includes “Do or Die” cards that offer the chance of a player getting out by making a break for it. However, there is great risk, as if that player fails, all its pawns are “killed” and removed from the game.

Criticisms

There is much to like about this game, from its relatively simple mechanics and rules, to its beautiful components. That said, there are a couple criticisms I have on the game. First, the circular spaces that pawns move and land on are a bit too small and tight, which can create a cluttered situation on the board in some regards. Coupled with that are the size of the pawns themselves, which are easy to slip out of one’s fingers and slide a bit easily on the board, which can knock other players’ pieces from where they may have been. Slightly larger spaces on the game board would alleviate this issue, as well as perhaps putting a surface on the bottom of the pawns to prevent them from sliding on the board as easily would also solve this minor problem.

The other has to do with the number of rounds in a game, which the rules suggest starting at 50, with an option of starting at 40 if players are more experienced. Given our game took over 3 hours (despite it being our first time), it seems that 50 rounds might be a bit much and the board has marks for up to 70 rounds. That said, like the issue of board spaces and pawns, this is a minor issue that does not significantly impact my feelings on the game overall.

Final Thoughts and Ratings

Escape from Colditz is a great game with a unique and exciting theme that will appeal to a wide variety of gamers, from those into historical games, to those who enjoy strategy with a twist. Osprey did an amazing job on this reboot of a classic and it’s one that you should have in your game collection.

Ratings:

Components-5 stars (an awesome board and game components with the addition of replica artifacts and a wonderful surprise too)

Rules and Mechanics-5 stars (relatively simple and easy to learn, plus the optional 1973 rules are a nice touch)

Design-5 stars (beautiful artwork and game play)

Price-5 stars (At $65, you definitely get your value with this game.)1118162220

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Posted in Game Review, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin-Wargaming World War II on the Eastern Front and Beyond

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on September 7, 2015

Chambers, Andy. Bolt Action. Vol. 10, Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015. 112pp. Illustrations, Photographs. $29.95 (Paperback), $15.95 (e-book and PDF).

Wargaming is a growing hobby, coupled with a resurgence in tabletop gaming, that is popular across the world, but particularly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in the U.S. There are many periods represented in both historical and fantasy, and even more options for rules and miniatures, allowing players to dream of elaborate tables, with flocked terrain and immaculate buildings, as well as beautifully painted miniature soldiers and vehicles.

One such game, Bolt Action, allows players to simulate squad-level combat in World War II. Created by Warlord Games and authored by Rick Priestley, of Warhammer fame, Bolt Action offers players a multitude of options for recreating World War II fights in miniature. In addition to the main rulebook, one option for Bolt Action players seeking to take on the Eastern Front is the book Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin, written by Andy Chambers.

Ostfront takes players from the Far East conflict between the Soviets and Japanese to the Winter War, the various operations that revolved around Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet counter-attack that led to the capture of Berlin. Available armies include German forces, Finnish, Soviet, and Japanese, while theater-specific rules provide interesting opportunities for varying scenarios, including night fighting, mud, ice, and snow.

The book does an excellent job of discussing the intricacies of the individual scenarios, including objectives and various vehicle options. It covered the background history of the broad campaigns and the specific battles.  Featuring exquisite artwork that is customary for Osprey-published works, this book is a must for those who seek to game with German and Soviet forces. It is important to note that it is not a stand-alone set of rules, but a supplement to the main Bolt Action rules.

Having played Bolt Action, I’ve enjoyed the mechanics of the game and the smaller, squad-based, scale. This book is one of several theater-specific supplements that allow players to customize their gaming experiences even more than with the main rules. A well-organized, beautifully-illustrated book, Ostfront will delight gamers seeking to either take on the Soviet Union, or defend the Motherland at all costs. For experienced players seeking to expand their Bolt Action offerings and go in a different direction by fighting the Soviets versus Japan, or Soviets versus Finland, Ostfront should be on your shelf next to the main rulebook.

For more information on the game, please visit their webstore and check out this video.

You can also watch a demo game here.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Book Reviews, Conflict, Other military history, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

KVRR Fox Fargo Moorhead – WW II Collection On Display At UND

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on February 5, 2013

KVRR Fox Fargo Moorhead – WW II Collection On Display At UND.

A local news story about an exhibit I put together on the 164th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the North Dakota National Guard and served in the Pacific as part of the Americal Division.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, American Military History, Conflict, US Army, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Radioman: An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific

Posted by William F. Sauerwein on September 14, 2010

Radioman:  An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific by Carol Edgemon Hipperson.  Published by Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Minotaur of New York, copyright in 2008.

Review by William F. Sauerwein, 1SG, US Army (Retired).  B.S., Historical Studies from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIUE) in 2004.

This book proved truly informative and provided several experiences seldom explored in World War II history.  I thoroughly enjoyed the “oral account” of an individual sailor, without the psychoanalysis (or “psycho-babble”) of an academic with a Ph. D.  The book covers the life of a young man coming of age during a bleak time in our history, the Great Depression.  He survived that and then, like the rest of his generation, endured the sacrifices required for winning World War II.  Radioman further reveals that even during the national mobilization of World War II individual Americans still worked toward their individual goals.  It also reveals the harsh lessons and sacrifices of ignoring the threats of “rogue nations” and ignoring military readiness in the face of these threats.  An entire generation of Americans sacrificed, on the battlefields and the home front, for preserving this nation.  Today those remaining of that generation die from the infirmities of that sacrifice and “old age,” taking their experience with them.  We, the heirs of what they fought and died for, owe them the respect of learning from their experiences, and heeding their warnings.

The book covers the adult life of Ray Daves, originally from Vilonia, Arkansas, near Little Rock.  It begins a timeline in June, 1936, a time of steadily increasing tensions in the world.  Sixteen-year-old Daves typified the experiences of a generation of young Americans, who faced an uncertain future.  He embarked upon the world after quitting high school following his sophomore year, the “tenth grade.”  Describing himself as the “renegade” of the family’s seven children he expressed dissatisfaction with his future on the family farm.  As a “farm boy” myself, I fully understand the longing for life beyond the cornfields.

Daves recounts his life in an America that the majority of Americans today do not understand, even given today’s situation.  He states that Americans then did not call it the Great Depression, instead labeling it “hard times.”  During these times everyone focused on their families and sacrificed their individual dreams for helping their family survive.  While today’s youth put off adult responsibilities as long as possible, Daves’ generation lacked that luxury.  Older children, like Daves, quit school and took whatever jobs available, even if it took them far from home.  The phrase “jobs that Americans won’t do” did not exist at that time, something today’s “entitlement mentality” cannot comprehend.  As Daves reveals, married men also journeyed far from home for any job and sent their families the money.

The first stop in Daves’ journey took him into a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp in Idaho.  He describes the CCC as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) “New Deal” programs.  The historical notes identify the CCC as FDR’s first and most popular program and the first organized attempt at preserving the environment.  Daves explains the hard work they performed in the parks and forests, building irrigation ditches for farmers and work on the infrastructure.  When a Baptist youth group from Spokane, Washington conducted a church service at the camp Daves met his future wife, Adeline.

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Posted in 20th Century Military History, American Military History, Conflict, US military, US Navy, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of “Everyman’s War”

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on June 29, 2010

This evening, I watched the independent film “Everyman’s War”, which deals with World War II. This film, put out by Virgil Films, Inc. and One Eighty Films, Inc. tells the story of several soldiers in the 94th Infantry Division, including Don Smith, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. It received the award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2009 GI Film Festival, which lends great credibility to director Thad Smith’s project.

The film begins with a stirring, but jolting scene from the 94th’s participation in the Battle of the Bulge, near Nennig, Germany, in January, 1945. It shows Don Smith attempting to evade German forces, while seeking to reach headquarters and make them aware of the dire situation for his men, who are facing down the 11th Panzer Division. It then fades to a now elderly Smith reflecting upon his service, while reading a letter informing him that one of his comrades recently passed.

It proceeds to 1943 in Kansas, where a Robert Fuller leaves his family farm for the Army. Other characters that will later interact with Smith are introduced at home, including colorful Angelo Benedetto, who was forced into the Army to avoid prison, and carried his criminal ways to the service, much to the chagrin of Corporal Starks, who became a mentor to Don Smith. German-American Karl Heinrick, faces down bigotry and suspicion to prove himself a loyal and proud American. The impression is given that Smith and most others in his squad are drafted.

The focus on the film is on Don Smith, who was working in a mill in Oregon, while seeming to attend college (he mentioned studying when not working), before the war. He begins a love interest with Dorine, but has to report before he can solidify a relationship. Fuller, Smith, and Benedetto all meet Corporal Starks, a married man from New York, who will become a father while overseas.

The combat for these men begin in northern France in late 1944, protecting coastal batteries in the wake of the D-Day invasion. Benedetto continues criminal activity, which eventually lands him in trouble. Smith and Starks create a strong bond of friendship, which is shattered when Starks is killed, thrusting Smith into leadership, which he proves himself adept at. As the men enter the winter of 1944 and the eventual Battle of the Bulge, the squad is joined by Heinrick, who is brought in as a replacement.

The men enter the town of Nennig to relieve comrades. Smith and his squad in M Company soon face attack from the 11th Panzer “Ghost’ Division, which inflicts casualties, forcing Smith to seek the command post to save his men. In the process his is wounded, but returns to duty several weeks later, only to find most of his buddies are not there, either dead, wounded, or captured. Smith encounters some of the horrors of post-war Germany, including a prisoner taking his life in front of Smith. Smith attempts to piece together what he experienced and saw when he returns home as well as in old age.

This is a story that will touch veterans’ hearts, as they may be able to relate to Smith. Viewers will appreciate the sacrifice of those who fought in World War II. The battle scenes were well-done, and the back-stories on each character exemplified the diverse nature of the American army during the war, ranging from the average men in Smith and Fuller, to those using the military to escape punishment (Benedetto), to those seeking to serve to prove themselves in a time of tribulation (Heinrick). You appreciate the bonds formed by the men, and the heartbreak they suffer, as they lose friends and witness the horrors of war. Based on the true actions of the 94th Infantry Division in Europe, I strongly recommend Everyman’s War for your viewing and give it my seal of approval.

Click here to order Everyman’s War

Posted in 20th Century Military History, American Military History, Conflict, US Army, US military, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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