A2Z

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news. I could have scattered these topical tidbits throughout the week in the hope they’d make Tally-Ho Corner look lively and well-staffed. Concern for your LMB dabber persuaded me to glue them together and present them as a single Maksim Gorky-sized tract instead.

B is for Brinkmann’s Bridge

THC’s first communal Combat Mission marathon finished on Wednesday. When the prattle of submachine guns and the murmur of AFV engines subsided, the only Allied unit within spitting distance of the titular canal spanner was a Cromwell VIII, and that unsupported support tank was just one ill-judged move away from a 75mm AP or 105mm HEAT round in the mush or a Panzerfaust in the flank or backside.

Noting this and the fact that famed Luftwaffe air ace Bernhard ‘Der Sperber’ Brinkmann had got through 25 turns of torrid tussle totally unscathed, the GM decided the canny Comment Commanders deserved a TACTICAL VICTORY result. Well played, order issuers and thank you for your hard work and enthusiasm!

C is for Counting the cost

There’s no denying the Germans paid a high price for taking the bridge.

Almost as many fusiliers fell during the course of the battle as glider riders.

I was hoping inspection of individual kill tallies would help me assign the Unit of the Unpleasantness award, but, if anything, stats scrutiny made the task harder. Should one of the scrap’s deadliest units – the Panther (11 infantry, 1 Sherman, 1 Staghound) or the Cromwell (a dozen kills) – get the title? In the light of their natural advantages, I think not.

Should the award go to Best, the implacable British gunner, Belin, the gung-ho gong hunter, or Wilberg, the walking armoury, for individual elan? While all three undoubtedly deserve to be Mentioned in Dispatches along with 6 Squad, who silenced seven paras on the west side of the monastery without suffering a single casualty,  I’m reluctant to go further.

After long deliberation I’ve decided it would be a cruel injustice if communal CM’s equivalent of a ‘Man of the Match’ award didn’t recognise the fighting spirit, skilful synchronisation, and dogged determination of “The Easterners”.

In action from the outset, the three squads of 2nd Platoon eliminated 26 foes between them (37 if you include the victims of the HQ team and the two light mortars).

They secured the all-important bridge, and their presence in the white house during the last few turns probably saved Brinkmann’s bacon. Woikin, Griess, Hirsch, Meister etc… the honorary title is yours.

D is for Dock a Dragon 2

As this faithful online version of SpaceX’s training sim illustrates, persuading the Dragon 2 to mate with the International Space Station is far from easy.

E is for Extra time


Thanks to a patch released a day before Barbarossa, Unity of Command II’s second DLC, players of 2×2’s superb sequel are far less likely to experience FTF (Final Turn Frustration). In addition to completely reworking the tutorial, the update allows out-of-time field marshals to buy extra turns with Prestige.

F is for First-person wargaming?

It’s been four years since reader William Barnum wowed the Flare Path dragons with his outline of first-person general-em-up ‘Smoke and Thunder’. Prime & Load: 1776 isn’t the promised land William described, but it may well be the closest thing available at present.

G is for Ghostly goings-on

The winner of the inaugural DCS World International Film Festival is Top Gun meets Duel, and well worth a watch.

H is for Hand-wash only


What happens if you accidentally boil-wash a T-34? It turns into a T-50, the star of Typhoon Rising, the latest Graviteam Tactics expansion. Just 69 examples of this unreliable, expensive light tank rolled off production lines before the Red Army lost interest in the design.

I is for Implausible eels

Since THC reviewed Crash Dive 2, depth charges have gained potency, and destroyers have gained torpedo launchers. As the eels launched by Japanese ASW craft are capable of sinking subs lurking 100 feet or more below the surface, I’m not totally convinced the latter addition qualifies as an improvement. Any chance of a “realistic torpedo performance” tickbox in the next update, Panic Ensues?

J is for Jeju Uprising

Learning about the Jeju Uprising via a winsome, unflinching adventure game, sounds great. What a shame COSDOTS’ history lesson comes with a mandatory side-order of horribly contrived inventory puzzles.

K is for Kraken’s plans

Like VR Designs, Kraken Studios’ obsession with WW2 isn’t all-consuming. The makers of WarPlan (2019) and WarPlan Pacific (released yesterday) intend to use their hexy grand strategy engine for a fantasy wargame next.

L is for Long way off

Take this trailer with a big pinch of sulfanilamide. Sherman Commander is still at least a year and a half away. Before turning their attention to AFVs and their entourages and enemies, Polish dev Iron Wolf Studio have a promising North Atlantic destroyer sim to finish.

M is for M4 mythbusting

Hundreds of WW2 wargames and sims may be unfairly maligning the ubiquitous Sherman. As Wargaming America’s resident AFV expert, Nicholas Moran, explains in the above vid, the M4’s reputation as a “Tommy cooker” is based on misinterpreted data.

N is for Naked numbers

“Why are my men struggling to take that fort and bludgeon their way through that pass?” will be questions easily answered in upcoming WeGo/real-time wargame Attack at Dawn: North Africa. In addition to illustrating AaDNA’s simple order issuing system and feisty enemies, the embedded footage shows the title’s willingness to display military maths.

O is for Outlawed oddity

Automobilista 2‘s newest kerb caresser is a facsimile of a race car that generated controversy as effortlessly as it generated downforce. After Niki Lauda piloted a Brabham BT46B “fan car” to victory in the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, the type was swiftly banned by the sport’s governing body.

P is for Penis envy

Always wanted a Little Willie? Get Tank Mechanic Simulator! Generous DeGenerals plan to add free versions of the world’s first tank prototype and the Vickers Mark E (one of Little Willie’s neighbours at Bovington) to their AFV recovery/refurbishment game today.

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for R.I.P. John Tiller

The world of digital wargaming lost a legend this week. During a thirty year career in games design, John Tiller hexagonised more history than anyone in his field. His high-quality designs upset few applecarts, but never failed to entertain and educate. My favourite Tiller titles were products of the TalonSoft years. Those of you with extensive Squad Battles, Panzer Campaigns, or Civil War Battles experience may want to steer the uninitiated in other directions.

S is for Skirmish surprise

Firefight acquired a skirmish generator and better pathfinding in March. The unexpected update went down well amongst fans of tense Close Combat-style scrapping, but left longstanding shortcomings like sedentary enemies (currently, the player is always cast as the attacker) and absent multiplayer unaddressed.

T is for Textbook ditching

I suspect no-one watched the dramatic footage of TBM-3 Avenger N108Q ditching off Cocoa Beach, Florida, on April 17, with greater interest than realism chasers Drydock Dreams Games.

U is for Unconcerned

PBEM implentation issues mean Combat Mission: Cold War, the title I’ll probably use for the next communal CM game, now won’t be ready before June. Most of the BFC faithful are – I suspect – too busy enjoying Fire and Rubble, Red Thunder’s long awaited first module, to give a fig about the short delay.

V is for Volgogradian microfoxer

Fancy an all expenses paid trip to the (Caspian) seaside? Maestro Cinetik have donated four copies of the ace Cauldrons of War – Stalingrad to Tally-Ho Corner. I’ll be giving away three of these via the subscribers-only Sunday raffles. The fourth will go to the first person to send me (tim at tallyhocorner dot com) the names of the four streets I was standing in when I took these Street View snaps. (PRIZE WON)

W is for War in the wastelands


Armageddon Empires has finally made it to Steam! The 2007 version of Tim Stone Esq. will now explain why this news warrants an exclamation mark:

“Vladimir Kost, my ablest general, was assassinated twelve turns ago. Since his death, Kost’s Kommandos, the ragtag collection of men and mecha that single-handedly saw off the Xenopod menace, has suffered defeat after defeat. Now they huddle nervously in an abandoned missile silo waiting for the Mutant assault that will almost certainly finish them. Things look hopeless; I shouldn’t be smiling, yet I am. I’m smiling because I’m playing one of the best strategy games I’ve played in ages.

Oh, I’m also smiling because Valentine, my favourite saboteur, has just sneaked a briefcase nuke into the Mutant capital.

Welcome to Armageddon Empires, a rich, riveting post-apocalyptic mix of Civ-style TBS and Magic-style CCG. Newcomers Cryptic Comet might not know much about interface design (embarrassingly clumsy) or tutorial provision (go to http://snipurl.com/1v0fp for a decent primer) but the way they’ve blended warfare, economics, base-building, logistics, heroes, espionage and exploration, borders on the brilliant.

Every game begins the same way. You place a base on the edge of a randomly generated hex map, and pore over a hand of beautifully illustrated cards. With luck they’ll be some recon units there, speedy spider bots, dinos, buggies or bat-things (depending on your faction) perfect for probing the surrounding wilderness. A few turns further on and you’ll probably have some hero cards on the map. These named bigwigs, each with their own specialisms, lead armies, conduct research, and oversee the erection of the resource-harvesting buildings that fund all unit actions, and hand replenishment.

Often the best sources of manpower and materials are already occupied. Those deceptively drab landscapes in the screenshots are actually littered with exotic tribes, critters and structures. One turn your troops could be skirmishing with cultists in a canyon temple, the next they might be salvaging a nuke from a beached sub, or recruiting an itinerant scientist. Boredom never gets a look-in.

When factions meet the fun really begins. AI recon forces usually show-up first, then, maybe there’s an air-raid or two, or a visit from a sab or an assassin. Eventually large variegated armies arrive and you find yourself wishing you’d created more tactics cards (used to modify combat dice rolls) and built the lab that would have enabled weapons upgrades.

Then again maybe you get lucky. Maybe the CPU powers rip each other to shreds before stumbling your way. There’s no telling what’s going to happen. The turn of the cards, the plethora of unit types, and the colourful encounter system ensure a different experience every time. Only adventure and absorption are guaranteed.”

X, Y, and Z are xcised in the interest of punctuality

26 Comments

  1. I noticed Steel Division 2 is now on a decent sale on steam, worth picking up for a Close Combat fan?

    I did have the Wargame games in the same engine, but found the continual points count up and no great campaign an issue. It looks like the points are still an issue, I prefer wargames where you have troops to move around intelligently, not a constant stream of chaps to throw in a meat grinder.

    • I think the Steel Division games are great as further developments of the Wargame series formula, but the issues you bring up are still very much there. The points system is now organized around ‘phases’ which does somewhat help with the treadmill feeling; there are campaigns which are somewhat more refined then e.g. Red Dragon’s, but they are not particularly interesting. As a casual, SP-oriented fan of the genre, I still found them well worth picking up, but only on a deeply discounted package which included a healthy chunk of the (many, various) DLC add-ons.

      • Fair enough, that still seems to sit it squarely in the ‘maybe’ column!

        I love CC, i love Steel Panthers and then i’ve found it do hard to find anything else that hits my groove, even Unity of Command 2 didn’t work out for me for some reason, i think it’s the carrying over of forces between missions that makes it feel like every mistake is punished 3 fold.

        Got Suzerain on offer last week, great little political game.

        • Suzerain is just fascinating to me. So much world building, but never getting in the way of some excellent political maneuvering. I hope they keep making similar projects in the future

  2. Great column as always, thanks. One thing really bothers me though – the 55 killed to 27 wounded and 45 killed to 21 wounded , in total 100 killed to 48 wounded , inverted usual ratio during the war of twice or more the number of wounded to the number of killed. According to this article “A high ratio of killed to wounded suggests a war crime” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC28193/ (one of examples there : United States
    Second world war (Italy)2 1944-5 Wounded -76 351 Killed -27 953 - 2.7). I hope is a deviation from usual and not particular problem with Combat Mission in general. I do remember older CM getting it right.
    In Graviteam’s Mius Front it definitely feels right: in recent battle I had 1 killed , 8 heavy wounded, 13 wounded.
    I think we need to setup inquiry: what really happened at Brinkmann’s Bridge Tim?

    • IIRC in CM2 soldiers can die in-game. However, it also randomly gives a chance for any wounded soldier left on the field to become KIA. I wonder if that feature is pushing up the KIA numbers.

      Beyond that I’ve always found these numbers a little suspect. Across an entire front or even operational battle the number of wounded will likely exceed killed. However, I’m not sure that would be true in particular sharp fights. Essentially across an entire ~2 days of fighting wounded will exceed killed but for a 30 minute period of heavy fighting a platoon might be almost entirely wiped out.

      • Still , if platoon in heavy fighting is “entirely wipe out” it usually means say 5-6 dead, rest wounded and taken prisoners. It is familiar pattern in all wars. I think rarely would happen that most personnel would be killed, bar particular circumstances, ex. really heavy artillery barrage.
        Reading now Valley of the Shadow about Dien Bien Phu ,( recommending) , plenty of accounts of whole platoons , even coys , or for VPA battalions wiped out in close sharp combat , with lot of lead flying in very constraint space. Yet always seems this same rule -19 dead ,40 wounded etc. In fact the amount of wounded and inability to evacuate them become the major problem for French (and weakness which Vietnamese recognized and exploited )

        • Sounds to me like someone needs to be running some additional audits and comparisons with Battlefront as a whole? Do other combat missions over-estimate KIA vs other casualties?

          Ideally I’d love to see some sort of “logistics” slider in the scenario layouts that could affect the survivability of injured soldiers after the timer ends. Is the med tent just a quick ambulance ride away, followed by a flight to a hospital? Or are they cut off and relying on field treatment?

      • For some CM titles, if a wounded soldier can be attended to by a colleague they have an increased chance of survival for the end stats. I’m not 100% sure that applies to CMBN though.

        • It applies to all of their CMx2 engine games. SF2, BS, BN, FI, RT, FB, and CW

          • UN Weapons Inspector
            UN Weapons Inspector

            Yes , I remember now the buddy aid mechanic. Failure I guess on part of comment – commanders to order the first aid -) . Looks that the AI had this same problem too. Seems to excessive.
            Something to keep in mind next time?

          • IIRC WIA/KIA has no impact on score. A casualty is a casualty and the difference is meaningless (mechanically) except that you can recover weapons faster from dead soldiers.

  3. Thanks – very informative 🙂

  4. Congratulations to all the comment commanders on a well-deserved victory. A bloody but bravely battled belter, and magnificently narrated. Like all of the previous editions back on RPS, I shyly watched the fight from the sidelines, but a Cold War scenario will definitely tempt me to chip in with a few ill-advised orders next time!

    And thanks for highlighting Armageddon Empires – looks amazing and completely missed it the first time around.

  5. Great read, as always. I have always enjoyed A2Zs, they’re an incredibly efficient (and entertaining) way to keep up on sim and wargaming goings on.

    RIP, Mr. Tiller. I’ve spent quite a few hours pushing virtual counters around JTS’s various boards. Sadly, a lot of people seem to consider the hex & counter subgenre dated to the point of being unplayable, but I suspect it’ll always have a home on a corner of my hard drive and John Tiller has a good deal of responsibility for that. He will be missed!

  6. As of this morning, Combat Mission Cold War is now available (without multiplayer) at Battlefront’s webshop, though it won’t appear on Steam (via Matrix/Slitherine) until the multiplayer is ready. Buyers will get their Steam key then. Just tried the training campaign and so far it’s rather good!

    And that SpaceX sim is indeed difficult – they could take a lesson from Orbiter’s MFD approach to provide useful trajectory projections for better feedback. Without that it’s hard to see the results of manual manoeuvres until it may be too late to correct it.

  7. Tim,
    Would you please tell us, or link to an image, of the remaining British force around Brinkmann’s bridge? I’d like to see what some of those phantom contacts were, both in the southeast and west.

  8. Sad to hear of John Tiller’s passing, he was a real giant in the wargaming scene. Battleground Ardennes was I think one of the earliest proper wargames I played back in my early teens. I still recall the cheesy videos and sound effects fondly even if I completely sucked at the game and didn’t really understand what was going on. RIP.

  9. It is one of my regrets that Vic Davis never iterated on Armageddon Empires, beyond a DLC. That game really seemed to grasp how to pack flavour and theme into a very small package.

  10. I am well cheered to hear we have been granted a victory in our inaugural THC communal Combat Mission! It was the first time I dared to give some commands after sitting on the sidelines through all the RPS iterations, and it was a lot less intimidating than I expected. Thank you to the other commanders for your advice and support, and for enhancing the game with all manner of wargame knowledge and military trivia of the era. Big thanks to our GM, Tim, who managed to cut together a compelling narrative from turn to turn and diligently translated some of our hazier orders into something the game understands. Till next time, in a battle for the Rhine.

    • o7 Glorious victory, fellow comment-commander!

      Improvised medals for everyone! Congrats on the eastern squads getting men of the match too

      • Not a bad idea; I guess it would be something a lot like this:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faciat_Georgius

        Congrats to comrade victorians; I presume we’re half-entitled to wear laurel wreaths now, or wholly entitled to wear half a laurel wreath…

        May I add my voice to thank Tim for his consistent toil in knocking out the CCM on a bi-weekly basis. Is it just twenty more to go for a whole alphabet of alliteration?

  11. Tim, I would like to hear your thoughts on WarPlan Pacific, sometime down the track. Had my eye on that one for a while…

  12. Thanks for the kind mention as always Tim 😉
    It just so happens that I had planned to make the Saturday update about that very topic – this way if you want to see them sinking planes in motion 😛
    https://twitter.com/DrydockDreams/status/1388484686066814978

    On another topic entirely – condolences to all those who knew Mr.Tiller & will read this message. It is a big, terrible loss in deed. May he Rest in Peace.

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