A is for Abbreviated A2Z. My mammoth monthly news round-ups are on hold, but short, scattergun versions like this will appear from time to time.

B is for Buckley’s next battle book

Splendid! The history professor behind the ww2 gamebook I reviewed last year is working on a WWI sequel.

D is for Diesel diversity

‘Diesel’ no longer implies ‘diesel-electric’ in Derail Valley. Since this month’s massive, free ‘Simulator’ update, users of Altfuture’s easy-to-recommend Early Access rail sim have had access to diesel-hydraulic and diesel-mechanical workhorses too. Because the latter, the DM3, features a car-like manual gearbox, it should be a good option for those who find their fingers fidgeting and their mind wandering during long train sim sessions.

G is for Gunsmith Simulator gripes

Gunsmith Simulator has garnered relatively few red thumbs thus far, but as many of the complaints seem to come from World of Guns afficionados or folk with real-world gun maintenance/repair experience…

“The rest is a hodgepodge of nonsensical mechanics (cleaning rust off aluminium parts, milling a slide then not having to reblue it, but needing to blue parts that aren’t even made of steel, having to schlep a gas tank across the whole workshop every 4-5 bluing sessions…), horrendously bad UI decisions, needless animation transitions that cannot be turned off, and a very limited set of skills and guns to progress through. Did I mention the disassembly UI sometimes glitches out and you need to reload to get it working correctly again?” (Orcinus)

…it sounds like Noble Empire Corp still have rug underfoot.

J is for Jagged Alliance judgement call

Amiral Crapaud, the driving force behind Task Force Admiral, had to take drastic action recently to keep development of his groundbreaking PTO wargame on track. Finding himself head-over-heels in love with Jagged Alliance 3 (“Don’t believe what downers say in the forums, most of them haven’t gone far enough to realize that it is so much closer to its roots than it seems.”), he decided he needed to uninstall Haemimont’s creation in order to keep his mind on his own.

I know the feeling. Of the games I’ve reluctantly cold-shouldered for productivity reasons in recent years, Football, Tactics & Glory was probably the hardest to abandon.

M is for Misplaced colon?

Hopefully, my first taste of SGS Battle for: Stalingrad (sic) wasn’t a sign of things to come. I romped to victory in the game’s shortest scenario (Mamayev Kurgan) despite skipping the tutorial vids and playing somewhat haphazardly. Most of the Steam reviewers who’ve assessed earlier SGS titles seem content to overlook weak AI and dodgy balancing. Wearied by similar weaknesses in engine donor, Wars Across the World, I find I’m less forgiving.

O is for Orel outing

My penchant for cosy conflict sims means I’ve little experience of Wargame Design Studio’s 28-title Panzer Campaigns series. The demo-blessed range relies on one-kilometre hexagons and two-hour turns, and is set to grow later this year. Orel ’43 will be…

“…focused on Operation Kutuzov, the Soviet response to Army Group Center’s attack at Kursk in July 1943. Like Operation Rumyantsev against Army Group South, the Soviets viewed the attack as the continuation of the Battle of Kursk with the Russians moving to the offensive. The battle resulted in the fall of Orel and retreat of German forces, but not before a blunting of the Soviet armies involved.”

Judging by screenshots like the one above, a few of the 50-odd scenarios will be monsters.

R is for Revenge is sweet

A day after Curly lightened my Virtual Pool 4 wallet by ten grand I returned to the beach house for a rematch. This time Big C found himself sharing a table with a less intimidated, cagier, and luckier foe. Amazingly, I needed only three frames to secure an extremely gratifying win. Having proven myself as a pool shark (admittedly only at ‘normal’ difficulty level) I think I’m now ready to tackle VP4’s most challenging cue sport.


  1. I picked up The Armchair General last year on your recommendation- very excited for the sequel (prequel?) !

  2. Huh, SGS is at again, are they? As I understand, the issue is it is really difficult to make AI properly apply such a variety of cards intelligently, it is indeed an area that is difficult to conquer, it would be even if the cards were all there is to this game. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a competent AI in TCGs, if they work they are either PvP or the AI is a subject of different mechanics and does not use cards at all.

    However their way of resolving this problem provokes justified anger – not trying to make AI intelligent at all while making it play by the same rules, and repeating it again and again from title to title, sometimes promising the new AI that would even apply retroactively to previous titles is both silly and deceitful. I also really doubt “new smart AI” will ever come even for a single title, and there can be no truth to the promises of retroactive application of such an AI – one would need to rebuild such an AI for every deck, every map and every new subsystem. THe only thing they are likely to do is tailor the decks and gameplay the way that it would look like most random decisions by non-existent AI make *some* sense.

    It would not be as irritating if these games were clearly supposed to be multiplayer, but no they are not.

    I am really frustrated to be fooled by buzzwords and attractive themes so many times, to be honest.

    • I had assumed that they were best in multiplayer and have been enjoying XTRG’s PBEM video series of NATO Nightmare. What made you come to the conclusion the SGS games aren’t for multiplayer?

  3. ooh, I didn’t even know Jagged Alliance 3 was a thing. Now on my Steam wishlist.

    Gunsmith Sim hasn’t made it to that. I would probably play World of Guns more if it had a progression mechanic/career but it’s nonetheless set a high bar on ‘take guns apart and put them together again’ that I’m not convinced Gunsmith Sim can match, despite its different approach.

    • As it’s been reviewed by all (?) of the big sites, and I’ve rather missed the boat, it’s unlikely. I’d prefer to focus on games with lower profiles.

      • Fair enough. I’ve not found any other reviews that are quite as in depth as I would like, but in honesty I should probably just stop with the procrast and buy it.

  4. When I went to pick up a copy of Armchair General from Abebooks I received a bevy of recommended gamebooks for other conflict points by other authors than John Buckley. Has anyone ever taken a look at or head of any of these by Mike Wylie?

  5. “Jagged Alliance 3” is phenomenal. I am old enough to remember “JA2” and I have fond memories of playing it and this newest re-make is bringing those memories back, though in a modern, very good looking graphics. I had been suspicious of the game and watched many reviews online before I couldn’t hold any longer and bought it.

    I am puzzled as to nobody mentioning how genuinely funny this game is: there are jokes, innuendos, and even a spoof of the Nigerian Prince email spam that links back to the “JA2” world. I don’t think this game could have been produced in America (it was done by a Bulgarian company) because it was going to offend someone, “potentially”. This game deserves to a be a smashing success – it’s easily one of the best games of 2023 – certainly in top 3 (and we’re only half way through the year).

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