Aug 032012

1989cover[1]1989: Dawn of Freedom from GMT Games

By Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Designers – Jason Matthews, Ted Torgerson

Art – Donel Hegarty, Rodger B. MacGowan, Leland Myrick, Mark Simonitch

GMT games provided a copy of this game for review purposes

Twilight Struggle… I’ve never played it, but I’ve read enough and spoken to other gamers to know you can say no more as GMT’s giant of a game about the Cold War set the bar very high in terms of card driven war games. So what next? Well, a new take on the Twilight Struggle system is available in 1989: Dawn of Freedom, a 2- player game for ages 12+ (I would recommend 14+) focusing on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

I was very interested to try this game out, having watched the events on the news when they all happened. It was quite a time, I must say.


This game maintains and delivers the high standards of production that you would be used to if you have previously played a GMT game.

You get –

  • 2 countersheets with mostly the SP counters and other markers
  • Rules booklet
  • 22″ x 34″ map depicting Eastern Europe and the Balkans
  • 2 player aid cards
  • 110 strategy cards
  • 52 Power struggle cards
  • 2D6

1989map-final-72The quality of all of the components is first class and a pleasure to use in the game. The size of some of the print on the cards is a bit small but readable.

The map shows the different countries and the boxes representing all of the cities where the fight for control takes place. It’s gorgeous!

The cards are sturdy and will survive much shuffling. There are three decks covering the Early, Middle and Late parts of 1989 and a Power Struggle Deck. The images depict many of the events of the time and give a strong sense of the struggle. Fascinating stuff and a joy for history buffs. Some of the events favor the Communists, some the West. The rules are laid out pretty well and there are example illustrations as well as more information regarding the historical events represented by the Event cards. Excellent!


1989: Dawn of Freedom, is not an entry-level game and may overwhelm new gamers but if you play with an experienced gamer, you will quickly be able to get into the flow of the game. Your first play, in particular will be a bit slower and I’d say that you need to set aside 3 hours minimum but its a very absorbing time as you will find yourself reading the cards to gain an understanding of the historical events. So its on the one hand, a game and on the other a history lesson.

The process is involved, but after a couple of turns, it is reasonably easy to follow. The key to understanding the gameplay is the Event Deck. It is really the heart and soul of the game.

From the rules:

In 1989: Dawn of Freedom, the players will recreate the momentous revolutions of 1989. One player is the Communist. He will need to use a wise combination of crackdowns, concessions, and reforms to try to hold onto power. The other player is the Democrat. He will try to use the leadership of intellectuals and the street protests of the students to generate a critical mass of opposition to the regimes in order to launch a revolution. Both players will try to swing the workers to their side. At the start of the game, the Communist holds power in each country. The Democrat will attempt to topple the Communist from power through the resolution of scoring cards. The longer the Communist holds power in a country, the more points he scores. The player most successful in advancing his cause wins the game.

The players set out their starting Support points in various locations (its all about support points) and prepare the 3 Strategy decks (early. middle and late year).

The turn sequence –

  1. Deal strategy cards – each turn, players draw strategy cards up to a hand of 8 cards – You start with the Early year cards and as the game goes on you will add the Middle and Late year cards
  2. Play Action Rounds – each player takes an action which comes from playing a card’s event which could be beneficial to either side, or using the value of the card to place support points (operations).
  • You will usually have 1 extra card to choose from each turn. Just make sure you do play any scoring cards or you will lose. The asterisked Event cards do go out of the game if the event takes place.
  • There are some interesting choices and some tough choices to make as you will be playing cards for ops points that your opponent will benefit from the event.
  • Placing Support points is very important and you will need to consider where and when to place your SP’s. You will want to place enough to take control of certain locations before your opponent does but its a tricky balance as you can’t be everywhere and spreading yourself too thin may backfire. Early in the game, the advantage is with the Communist player and they will have more opportunities to build up strength however the momentum will shift and if countries come under Democrat control early, the Communist player will be up against it for sure.
  • You can also play 1 card per turn on the Tienanmen Square Attempt table. This is a good way to use a card that would normally benefit your opponent, delaying the opportunity for the benefit to take place until the card is recycled later.
  • Various event cards will also give victory points
  • When Scoring cards are played, a Power Struggle takes place resulting in one of the players having control of a country. The Power Struggle is a separate mechanic using the Power Struggle cards, comparing cards played first as attacker and then possibly as defender, basically to see if you can outwit your opponent by playing a card they can’t match. For me, this is the clunkiest part of they game and slows things down too much. I would have preferred this to be simplified using a table with die rolls and modifiers. I think it would have kept things moving better. I find the use of the cards adds an unneeded layer of complexity and time.

3. Make extra support checks (if applicable) – these are used to try and reduce the support available in a country for either side

1989cardsamples4. Verify held cards – Very important! You must play country scoring cards in your hand on the turn they are drawn or you automatically lose! Playing these cards will determine how much power is available to each player and who takes control of the country.

5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve Party (if applicable) triggers the game end

6. Advance turn marker

7. Calculate final scoring (after turn 10)

Victory Conditions

  • Automatic Victory
    takes place if a player reaches 20 victory points or if a player is holding an unplayed score card at the end of a turn
  • If the New Year’s Eve Party card is played, this triggers the end game and a final Power Struggle takes place and the player in the lead wins
  • If neither side has achieved the above, then Final country scoring takes place with the leading player winning

Did it work for me?

To me a mark of a superior game, at least for me anyway, is that I become even more curious about it and I keep thinking about it. 1989: Dawn of Freedom does this for me in abundance. This is a game that gives the players a very rich experience. At first glance, it almost seems like the mechanics dominate, but as you start to see the story unfold, it really brings the game alive and the pressure and tightrope walking impacts both players. There’s loads of historical information on the cards and in the rulebook and its fascinating, riveting stuff. It brought back my remembrance of following events on the news.

I found that the game process was relatively comfortable although it took me a while for it to click as to where I needed to focus my SP build up. After a few turns I felt pretty comfortable. Having said that, I found the Power Struggle process a bit laborious and it felt like it could have been simplified. going through the Power Struggle cards and selecting which to play almost felt a bit like an unnecessary game within a game and stalled the momentum of the strategic picture too much. If this had been simpler, maybe a die roll against a Power Struggle table, would have worked better and made the whole turn more streamlined. It’s not a major problem really but I would it to have been done differently.

Having said this, I still wholeheartedly give 1989: Dawn of Freedom a huge thumbs up. And I say this, never having played Twilight Struggle which I am now looking forward to very much. The strategic scope, the war-game-like feel where you are playing Power Politics is very compelling and successfully gives you a real feeling for the situation. I would certainly think that Twilight Struggle fans would enjoy this game.

Can’t wait to play it again!

Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

This is not a family game

Jun 172012

mb_cover_frontfull[2]By Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

From Victory Point Games

Designer – Steve Carey

Art – Tim Allen

Victory Point Games provided a copy of this game for review

The latest in the States of Siege Series of games brings Steve Carey’s design skills to an interesting aspect of the 2nd World War in the Mediterranean. Having set such a high standard with We Must Tell The Emperor, my expectations were high for Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942.

In this solitaire game, you are in charge of the Commonwealth forces and are tasked with maintaining the beleaguered island of Malta while supporting Allied efforts to interdict the Axis war efforts in the Med which will have an impact upon the war in North Africa.The games system plays the Axis forces against you.


mb_mapAnother typical Victory Points release with their standard production. Within their parameters, they surely make the most of space and resources. You do get a lot in a small package. The map is on cardstock, and shows the operational area for the game. There is a lot there but it makes good use of the space and it is relatively easy to negotiate. And it looks very good.

The counters and markers are die-cut cardboard and look really good and thematic.

The cards, which are the heart of the game system, are small but give you the information you need in a nicely laid out format which is easy to follow.

mb_countersfrontThe rules are 8 pages, which is really something special considering the depth of the game content.


A card driven game, Malta Beseiged: 1940-1942, as other games in the series,  relies on the Event cards to drive the game. These cards are divided by colour into 3 different Epochs or stages of the conflict, each of which provides an increasingly difficult set of circumstances to deal with. The cards, which are nicely laid out, provide the following information –

  • The Headline – which is the main event for the turn
  • Advancing Unit – Which Axis forces are advancing and thereby creating a greater threat
  • Resource gains and losses
  • Die roll modifiers
  • Actions – these are the number of actions available to you to take
  • Historical flavour text

The sequence of play is as follows:

Headline phase – pull the next current event card

Military phase – Move Axis armies, and naval and Air units

– ULTRA Escort attempt – the Allied ULTRA intelligence can really be helpful

– Battle Stations – Flip Active Axis Fronts

– Conduct each battle

mb_samplecard4[1]Resources phase – Adjust resource markers, and add new fortifications to the Holding Box

Orders phase – You may attempt to expend the ULTRA marker to gain intelligence, then perform the allowed number of Attack,  Support, Fortify, Resource, Raid, and/or ULTRA Actions. You can also expend Supply points for extra Actions. You will certainly need to do this.

Housekeeping phase

A – Check for Convoy arrival

B – Determine if the game is over

C – Refresh map

D – Turn Ends

As with other games in this series, its a case of following the steps and although it sounds like a lot to do, after the first couple of turns it all moves pretty smoothly and quickly. The Axis AI which is revealed with each new card puts you under considerable pressure and puts you in a situation of having to choose, sometimes between the lesser of too evils, hoping for the best.

The information you need is ready to hand and very accessible, and the feel of the game is Operational with an interesting mix of land, sea and air threats and the ever present Rommel moving across North Africa.

mb_samplecard2[1]Did it work for me?

Boy this is a tough game to win but its terrific. Steve Carey’s previous effort, We Must Tell The Emperor remains a Victory Point Games best seller and Malta Besieged: 1940-1942 is at the same standard of tension, playability, frustration (this is a good thing…) and clever design. Some nice wrinkles such as the ULTRA intelligence and the convoys mark this game as a unique theatre of warfare. The history revealed through the flavour text is interesting and the feel of impending doom is never very far away. But you always feel that you just might crack it and when you get beat up, you just want to have another go.

I do marvel at VPG‘s ability to squeeze so much into a small package. The map is very busy, and may look overwhelming but it works well. The counter artwork is excellent. Yes, the scope is quite as grand as the War in the Pacific but this game really brings out the challenges and importance of the War in the Med and the desperate scrape the Allies found themselves in. It clearly illustrates the problem that Malta created for the Axis and why the Allies needed to hang onto it to disrupt their operations. There are very few games covering this theatre of operations and particularly covering the varied operational issues and Malta Besieged: 1940-1942 brings it all to life in a playable way. Fans of the States of Siege system will not be disappointed and if you haven’t tried out any of these games, this is an excellent entry point.

Another absolute winner for Victory Point Games!

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 9 out of 10

Family friendly? No, its a war game and solitaire

For more information –

May 042012

wiz-war_coverBy Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Designer – Tom Jolly, Kevin Wilson

Artwork – Philip Dickenson, Christophe Madura, Denis Medri, Dallas Mehloff, Brian Schomburg, Wil Springer, Peter Wocken, Ben Zweifel,

Special thanks to my sponsoring retailer Spinning Dice Games for providing a copy of this game for review purposes

A number of years ago, I was introduced to Tom Jolly‘s original version of Wiz War,  and although very much an old school production, it was mean & nasty and yet, great fun. I never managed to find a copy and lo and behold,Fantasy Flight Games shows up with their version. Very excited, I couldn’t wait to get to see what they did with this classic! A game about wizards duelling in a maze, trying to zap the other wizards and/or steal their treasure and with what amounts to a sudden death victory as soon as the winner gets 2 victory points? Brutal, in your face, combat magic, no holds barred? A card set which is always different and can be played by combining different schools of magic, seeking the optimum mix, or in a chaotic way (my preference) where you never know what to expect comes bolting out of your magic ability? That sounds like FUN to me!


It should come as no surprise that the production quality of Wiz War is top notch as par for the course for Fantasy Flight Games. Loads of vibrant colours, solid boards and components, very nice plastic miniatures, quality stock cards with excellent artwork and a very good rulebook, with excellent illustrations and examples. This is the quality of production Wiz War deserved.

In this game for 2-4 players age 14+, you get:

  • a rulebook
  • 4 Double-sided Sector boards (one side is the classic board from the original game and the other is a new board for this 8th edition) They are interchangeable and depict the maze areas where the wizards do battle. Nothing extraordinary or intricate or ornate but not bland either. Just right for purpose I’d say.
  • 4 plastic wizards and 4 coloured bases
  • 5 plastic Transformed wizard figures, very nice too! (love the werewolf)
  • 4 Life dials to track wounds, which can add up pretty fast
  • 137 cardboard markers, tokens which indicate various things about what has happened to the wizards or what they have done in terms of spells, punching holes in walls,  as well as treasure tokens and portals
  • 168 Magic cards representing 7 Schools of magic – the Cantrip school (white or black) contains spells known to all wizards. The other 6 are specialist areas that the players choose for their wizards including Alchemy, Conjuring, Elemental, Mentalism, Mutation, and Thaumaturgy – There is nothing really new or unusual here but you have to remember that this is the 8th edition of the game so its kinda like the DADDY.
  • 1 Four-sided die
  • 4 plastic portal stands

And it all looks great!


The set up is ok although I would recommend bagging everything separately beforehand to save time. Your wizard starts in the centre of a sector, your treasures are set up in their alloted spaces, the portals which are used to move speedily to different areas are set up and everything is off-board. There is variable board set ups according to how many players.

Wiz War is a relatively straghtforward game. The object is to score 2 victory points to win. 1 point comes from killing an enemy wizard and 1 point comes from each time you bring an enemy treasure back to your home base. It’s emphasis is simply on knocking 7 bells out of each other and grabbing treasures and as such, the process is simply followed:

1. Time passes – The player reduces the duration of each of his temporary spells by one turn and discards any expired spells

In order –

  • Resolve spell effects of cards which resolve “as time passes”
  • Remove energy – remove one energy token from each maintained spell
  • Remove one stun marker from your wizard

2. Move and Cast – Move your wizard up to 3 spaces (plus an optional speed boost), cast any number of neutral spells and attack one enemy. In any order (even mixed…) you may:

  • Move and spend movement points (3 usually but can be “boosted”) – you can also move through portals which is a very nifty way of transporting across the labyrinth. Objects can be picked up and dropped as well as created, thrown, damaged and destroyed.
  • Make one attack – there some awesomely fun magic attacks available to you. You can also “punch” an enemy wizard in your square or an adjacent square
  • Play/Use Magic cards – there are a number of other spells available to you such as counter-spells, energy (play any number of these  to boost speed or boost other spells). Some spells come with an energy value which can be used as solely an energy card if you want to. There are also item cards which may come in handy. You can use any number of Neutral spells in a turn. Lots of interesting things happen in each school of magic.

The magic cards all have different effects and some have various requirements in order to use them such as target range, duration and Line of sight. They can also be used against different targets as explained on the cards. Hat tokens are used to identify which wizard is targeted by spells. They are also placed on objects to identify which was placed by a wizard.

Wizards can be stunned, and also damaged, losing life points from their starting total of 15. If their life points reduce to zero, they are kaput.

3. Discard and Draw – The player may discard any cards from his hand. Then if he has fewer than 7 cards in his hand, he may draw up to 2 cards from the Magic  deck (hand limit is 7)

The rules are pretty well written and organized. the process is simple in structure and it moves quickly, even with reading all of the cards in your hand and making your choices. I was very happy with the Igo/Ugo system and moving through the cards. You will slow down as you agonize over which spells to play but I wasn’t bothered by this. I enjoyed reading the spells and looking at the art which all brings the theme out well.

The card system has a chaotic feel but to me this suits the mood of the game. I can imagine battling wizards in a labyrinth is very chaotic in any case.

For a relatively simple game, there is a lot to learn in Wiz War as the cards are at the heart of the game engine and there are a lot of them. You aren’t learning how to play the game but how best to play the cards as depending upon the mix of cards at hand, things keep changing and you have to act on the limitations of your hand. Having said that, its simply a case of reading the details on the cars which are clearly written and tell you what you need to know. The interesting thing lies in the choices you will look to make as you decide which spells to use and how and when to use them.

Did it work for me?

I am very pleased with Wiz War. Yes it is rather old school in terms of the simplicity and structure of the system but I like that. If you hate randomness, this is not a game for you. Each player chooses schools of magic (which limits the randomness to a degree) and can specialize and that’s a great way to get to know your schools and card powers and this speeds up the game but I actually just like to shuffle them all together and make it all more random and crazy. The cards have a sense of humour, not obvious and too silly , like Munchkin, but just amusing enough. I really like the way the spells are described.

I love the way no 2 games will play the same as the board set ups can change and the cards will continue to change. The new board type adds to replayability. You are always left with new options and the back and forth sense of punch/counter-punch keeps things sharp. Down time is minimal really as even when you are reading the cards and choosing how to play them, it doesn’t take too long. I can see where this game could take too long if you aren’t aggressive and prepared to take risks. In fact, I think that the best way to play Wiz War is to be constantly on the offensive and taking the fight to your enemies. If you try and play cleverly, trying to out think your opponent, it will slow things down to a crawl and not be half as much fun.

Play it with a “go for it” mentality, throwing everything you can at the enemy wizard(s) for the best fun. It’s kill or be killed and there is only 2 victory points in it. The game could use more of a back story to deepen the theme but when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter. Its kinda like a first person shooter mashup with capture the flag. Its not a game of finesse but of wild and wooly action.

This is a marmite game. Euro game fans will probably hate it. We Ameritrashers will probably like it and those of us old school types will love it. Its simple, makes sense, and is a good romp. It looks pretty good too. And its good for lots of replays. I’m a happy camper. This is the Wiz War version the gaming world needs.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Not a family game per se. Can be ok for 12+ I think but they may grow impatient with all the card reading.

For more information go to –

You can buy this game from:

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support the hosting costs of this website and our podcast.

Thank you for your support.

Apr 172012

fang_boxcoverBy Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Designer– Jason C. Hill

Graphic design, Art– Jason C. Hill, Jack Scott Hill, Matthew Morgaine, Christian Bian, Gael Goumon

Music -Mary Beth Magallanes

Woohoo! I do love the Indiana Jones films, King Solomon’s Mines and pulp adventure stuff in general. The cliffhanger element has always been great fun and the clarity of goodies vs. baddies has always been very satisfying. Interestingly, there have been some board game attempts to capture the feel of this type of genre. One of my favourites is AEG’s The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac which is great fun but limited to escapades within an ancient temple. There hasn’t been a game which gives you the epic global feel of the pulp adventure, until now, with Fortune & Glory from Flying Frog Productions, a game for 1-8 players age 12+.


fang_gameboardFirstly, this game is VERY BIG! The folks at Flying Froghave pulled out all the stops to produce a huge game to match a huge adventure. The price is big too so be warned, you will pay around £70 but I have to say, you get a LOT for your money. I was really struck by the quality of the production of this game. The components are simply gorgeous and the look and feel is that of a very high standard which leaves most other games behind.

You get:

  • A full colour rulebook – which is laid out very well with sections adding more to the game as you go along as there are a number of ways to play the game. You also get a 4-page quick-start guide.
  • A huge, beautiful game board with icons for locations, terrain, cities, ports, seas and spaces for movement are clearly outlined
  • A CD soundtrack of original music
  • 16 6-sided dice
  • Lots of Card decks for Allies, Gear, Enemies, Nazis, Events, Cities, Artifacts, Adventures, Locations, Dangers, Villains, Common items, as well as Game summary cards, Enemy reference cards
  • Events – are special bonuses that Heroes get during the game to help themselves or hinder other Heroes (in the competitive game)
  • Cities – a mix of good and bad things that occur when you visit a city
  • Gear and Allies – are upgrades that help Heroes
  • Enemies and Nazi Enemies – are encountered during adventures
  • Artifact and Adventure cards – the core engine of the game, these are usually drawn together as they work together to represent the sought after artifacts that are the objects to the heroes success. The artifact cards are the items to be found, and have a Fortune value which is the worth of the artifact. The Adventure cards give the Dangers Value that shows how difficult it is to find by virtue of how many dangers you will need to overcome to collect the artifact. 4 of these are set out and are available to be recovered.
  • Locations – provide random locations on the board
  • Common items – can be purchased in a city by spending Glory pieces
  • Dangers/Cliffhangers – double-sided cards that provide the dangers to be overcome. The front shows the danger which can be overcome through die-rolls against skill values that the Heroes have. If failed, the danger becomes a cliffhanger (on the flip side of the card) and if this is failed, the Hero is KO’d.
  • Villains (Advanced rules, Cooperative game) –  these ramp up the challenge as you will have these baddies not only there to fight, but thy are seeking to beat you to the artifacts too
  • Villain events – bonuses for the villains
  • Hero Character and Vile organization records – each individual Hero and Villain has their own information record with relevant information, skills, abilities wounds and defense
  • Plastic gold pieces and crystal blue fortune pieces
  • 3 die-cut counter sheets
  • Plastic heroes
  • Plastic Nazis, Mobsters and Temples
  • Plastic villains and a Zeppelin!
  • Hero character sheets
  • Vile Organization record sheets
  • Tactics/Outpost charts
  • Zeppelin record sheet

Is that enough for ya? Yep a LOT of stuff, stuffed into a large box and all of it, yes, ALL of it, is quality. The cards are almost too sturdy as they are a little hard to shuffle but otherwise, they are lovely to look at. The cards and records are nicely laid out and clear to read. The board and minis are minis_villainsgorgeous. The artwork incorporates photos of actors which really brings the game story to life. This game has a lot to take in, to touch and use. Very tactile and an Ameritrasher’s dream. Brilliant!


So Fortune & Gloryis a sumptuous feast for sight and touch. but what is the experience?

The Basic Game – is the core framework for all the versions that can be played

This a good place to start of course as you have the core structure of play. This is the default Competitive game where all the Heroes are competing with each other across the world, hunting for artifacts to be the first to collect 15 Fortune and return to their starting city.

The game round is as follows:

Initiative phase– players roll a die to determine the first player. any previously activated cards are set to be used once again.

Move phase– All the heroes move, starting with the first player. If a hero enters a space with an enemy henchman, their move ends and they must fight.

Adventure phase– Adventures depend on your location. If on a land or sea space without an artifact, you may still have an Event take place or even be attacked by Enemies. If you are on an Artifact location, you take on each Danger associated with that Artifact by drawing a Danger card, in turn through rolling skill tests. If you pass, you proceed to the next and so on. If a Danger is failed, your turn ends and the Danger card is flipped over to its Cliffhanger side, leaving you in an even more dangerous situation for next turn.

I love this element of the game as it really captures the essence of the pulp adventure which is the “Cliffhanger” in an elegant and simple way. and you have to sweat it out until the next turn to see if you pass. Genius!

minis_soldiersAs you overcome dangers, you may take wounds or decide to cash in and get the glory for dangers overcome so far. In this case you may decide to Camp Down. This ends your Adventure phase and then you can heal and also cash in the dangers overcome for Glory points.Next turn you can carry on from where you left off. Useful, but in a race against other players you may decide to Press On and risk everything on trying to get the artifact as fast as possible.

Once you recover an Artifact, you collect the Glory for any dangers overcome this turn.

If a hero is KO’d, they discard any Danger markers collected, losing any progress made toward recovering an Artifact leaving them to start all over if they want to pursue that same Artifact.

City spaces are a place of interaction, where you draw a City card. Some Dangers may take place and the tests passed and if not, the Cliffhanger must be passed. Then, if not KO’d, you can interact with the City by selling Artifacts, buying gear and allies and healing wounds.

End Phase

  1. The Zeppelin Moves (not used in the basic game)
  2. Villains Adventure (not used in the Basic game)
  3. Check for Victory – Any Hero that is in his starting city having collected 15 Fortune, wins the game.
  4. Replenish Artifacts – There are always 4 Artifacts in play at any one time so if any were recovered , they are replaced by new Artifact and Adventure cards.
  5. Heroes Recover – Any KO’d Heroes stand up and are able to rejoin the game.

minis_heroesThere is further detail in the Basic Game rules covering Dangers and Cliffhangers, Fights with Enemies, Enemy Henchmen, Events, and Heroes on the same adventure.

I hope you like to roll dice as you will be doing a lot of that for the tests and fights. Yes there is a lot of luck here but this is reasonably balanced with the choices as to movement, how much risk to take, etc. In my mind Luck makes  the world of the pulp adventure tense and unpredictable and that is as it should be.

For greater depth, you then can add rules for Deep Jungle, Temples, which can collapse on Heroes, Adventure card special text, Flying between cities, The Zeppelin, and Villains. These rules add greater depth of theme and a very nice increase to the challenges you face.

Then, if that isn’t enough, there are rules for a Cooperative Game, a Team Game and a Solitaire Game.

The Coop Game adds a Villains Phase where you now have baddies not only fighting your team but capable of recovering Artifacts. The Vile Organization has Outposts and the baddies are a far greater presence as you work together to recover Artifacts with this ominous Vile Organization posing a growing threat to your chance of winning.

The Team Game combines the Competitive and Cooperative versions.

The Solitaire Game allows you to play with 1 Hero or multiple Heroes and plays like the Cooperative Game.

I found that the game process took a bit of time to understand and the rules are laid out in a way that facilitates this. Pretty soon, I was able just rely on the information on the cards and record sheets. There is a fair amount of information here but its all accessible and using the many card decks soon becomes intuitive. The game phases are few and there aren’t really any subsets to them so its actually a fairly easy game to play but you will need a couple of plays to get the flow. Once you’ve played through the point of recovering your first Artifact, it all comes together pretty well.

game_countersThis isn’t a good game for new gamers who I think may feel overwhelmed and I do think age 12+ makes sense.

Did it work for me?

Fortune & Gloryis right up my alley. I love the pulp adventure genre a la Indiana Jones and it looks and feels fantastic. The strong story feel, filled with different adventures, dangers, and Mobsters and Nazis as well as different artifacts to recover is really fun and interesting. There is rarely a dull moment in this game as even in cities, all kinds of dangers lurk. This is very much an action/adventure film in a box and it all works admirably.

For me, the randomness of the dice rolling, and cards, adds a lot of uncertainty and this makes a lot of sense in this genre where the best laid plans can quickly fall down, leaving our hero in a dangerous situation and that just adds so much fun to the game. If this was a game where you can plan out a strategy, try and out think your opponents, it would just slow the story down and knock the fun out of it. The game flow is a grand mix of just enough mechanics, leaving the results of adventure and conflict to fate and luck, but subject to choices you make as to which skills may be best to test against as well as which adventures to take on and how far to push your luck in staying the course. Most of all, the Cliffhanger mechanic is pure genius.

It’s not easy to win but very satisfying on all counts. I really can’t fault it other than to say than I actually think that more than 4 players would be too much. Yes, it may play that many but I think that it would be just too much for my taste as it would slow the game down too much. I need to have more plays and experiment to comment for sure but I think that I just wouldn’t care for it. Also, there is a lot to do to set up and this takes a bit of time which means its not a quick decision to take it out for a play and you also need a large table to play as there is a lot of components and cards and it needs the room. So this will limit how often it gets played as it needs more of a commitment and prep.

game_charactercardsFortune & Glory, is not a game for everyone. I would suggest that it is definitely worth playing if you are an Indiana Jones/Pulp Adventure fan. This game really brings the whole genre to life in a fun and exciting way. If you aren’t a fan, or you really don’t like luck and randomness, you may want to give this a pass.

As for me. I can’t wait to play again!

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Its not a family game really. More for experienced gamers.



If you have enjoyed this review, please consider supporting the ongoing costs of this website by donating a small amount of money.

Thank you for your support.

Mar 052012

uboatcover[1]Review – U-Boat Commander from DVG Games

By Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Designer – Dave Schueler

Art – Val Nunez

A copy of this game was provided by DVG games

No, I don’t like being convide in close spaces which means I would have never volunteered for the submarine service although I surely tip my hat to those who did and continue to do so. I just don’t know how anyone could do it, but they certainly did. The Battle for the North Atlantic during World War II was typified by the German U-Boats hunting for convoys, and causing havoc until the Allies were able to develop parity and greater numbers and resources. Although I don’t know a lot about the history of that expect of the war, I know enough to have a sense of what went on. Films like Das Boot, certainly the best submarine film I’ve seen, give a view from the German side of the conflict, and it was certainly harrowing for the sailors to say the least.

When it comes to playing war games, I’m a land lubber really. The only submarine game I’ve ever played was the old SPI game, Wolfpack  so it was certainly interesting to see how things have moved on in the design and development of submarine games with U-Boat Leader. I’m not a tactical fan either but I can see the attraction for war gamers who enjoy playing at that level of conflict. So I went into playing this game a low level of interest. I did some checking and the DVG Leader series of games is pretty well regarded so I thought that at least the pedigree of U-Boat Leader was good.

uboatboxbackWhat you have here is a solitaire game, for age 12+, which means it will be a systems anchored approach to playing it. In other words, the system was the thing as in may solitaire games and a good solitaire system shouldn’t be something you are fighting with, in fact the more seamless it moves from stage to stage, allowing the story to command your attention, the better.


Inside the sturdy box you get –

  • 165 full colour cards – representing Merchant ships, Escort ships, Naval ships, U-Boats, Events
  • 264 die-cut cardboard counters representing U-boats, other ships, torpedoes, and other bit and pieces
  • 4 campaign sheets
  • 2 player sheets – Tactical Display and Help Sheet
  • a 10-sided die
  • 1 Player log sheet

The components are pretty typical war game fare and are very functional. The information is laid out for you, the solitaire gamer in a way that you can get a hold of easily enough and thankfully, they are presented in a concise way without tons of tables, charts, etc. The artwork is very effective and accessible and I found it all very appealing. There have been some comments about the lack of mounted Tactical Display and Help sheet and I would have to agree that for the price, that would be a reasonable expectation, although, I have no real problem with them being on sturdy cardstock.

U-Boat Leader includes the following type of U-boats:

  • Type IIB/C coastal submarines
  • Type VII A/B/C Atlantic submarines
  • Type IX A/B/C long-range submarines
  • Type XXI Elektro-boat

U-Boat Leader includes four campaigns covering different stages of the Battle of the Atlantic:

  • The Battle Begins: covering operations at the start of World War II to about mid-1940.
  • The Happy Time: covering the period from mid-1940 to mid-1941 when the U-boats and wolfpacks dominated the seas.
  • Operation Drumbeat: covering operations off the American coast and in the Caribbean in early 1942.
  • The Hunted: covering the time period when the tide starts to turn against the U-boats.

The campaign structure makes things manageable  and allows you to pick up and play in short time settings. Very nice.

UBoat sheets_Layout 1.qxdGameplay

As a solitaire game, U-Boat Commander has a system that takes you through each campaign. Dave Schuelerhas put things together in a reasonably easy to follow set of rules, which at first, seemed a bit much, but were actually fine for me to go through and get playing. I haven’t played any other games in the DVG Games Leader series so I can’t compare, but from what I’ve read, this game fits in well alongside the others in the series.

Helpfully, the rules start by giving you the lay of the land by walking you through the components.

The important Campaign Sheets are divided into areas and you place your U-Boats in these areas and move between them. They also provide information on Ports, Patrolling, Number of movement cards you can draw, Number of enemy contacts, Searching, and special Missions.

The Help Sheet holds the Merchant, Naval and Escort Ship cards to make things nice and accessible.

The Tactical display is cool as this is where the tense action takes place as you resolve combat using U-Boat and ship counters as well as torpedoes in status counters to reflect you tactical decisions.

The U-Boat cards give you information on U-Boat ID, Captain, Class, Years in service, Special Ops cost, Skill rating, Experience, Special Abilities, Crew Stress

Event cards indicate what happens as a U-Boat moves during the relevant year Campaign year.

Convoy cards show the ship types the U-Boat encounters as well as how to deploy them, the type, and any special conditions.

Merchant, Escort and Naval cards detail the ships in the convoys. Details include – Name and type, Tonnage, Speed, Victory Points, Experience cards, Torpedo and U-Boat Gun Hit numbers, and Surface Attack numbers. Escort Cards also have Detection values and Surface and Submerged Attack numbers.


You start by choosing a Campaign sheet from which you will choose the Campaign length, how many Patrols you will make, how many Special Operations points you have. You will also set up the card decks and Select your U-Boats.

uboatcard[1]Sequence of Play

Strategic Segment – You may Expend Special Operations Points on Air Search, Supply ships to refit (reduce stress), Intelligence to improve Contact results, Priority R&R  (to reduce crew stress), Advanced Torpedoes, Radio Call to try and form  a Wolfpack. You may also assign Special Missions – To place Mines , Attack enemy units, Aid a German Surface Raider.

Operations Segment – Very simply, this is about moving your U-Boats across the Campaign map (resolving Event cards and Special Missions) and then you can choose to end your patrol once you enter a Port box.

Tactical Segment – During the Contact phase, for each U-Boat you determine if there is a contact, and then, the number of them. Then you draw a Convoy card to see what the contact is. If you don’t choose to retreat, you set up the convoy and your U-Boat on the Tactical display. Then you can see if you can form a Wolfpack!  Combat is resolved through movement on the Tactical display, revealing targets, dealing with Escorts before they get you, firing torpedoes to hit enemy shipping, firing with your deck gun, causing enough damage to sink the enemy, dealing with their counter measures by taking evasive actions, etc. There’s more but you get the picture.

The Post-Combat Resolution Phase is where you Add Stress to surviving U-Boats (I really like this as it talks to the human element which tends to be missing from these types of games), Reloading Torpedoes, Recording experience points, Recoding Victory points. If there are Contacts remaining, you can do nothing, return to the Contact phase and have another go for different Contacts, Re-Attack the Convoy  or take one last shot at a heavily damaged ship (which will be a juicy option if you’ve taken out the Escorts),  or end the phase for that U-Boat, choosing another to carry on with.

During the Refit Segment, you can promote U-Boats to the next experience level (so there is a progression which gives you more of a stake in your U-Boats’ survival), determine if you have reached the patrol limit for this Campaign, Recover Stress, restock in Port, Reload at sea, and reset the Campaign map markers.

Lastly, you have the Campaign outcome where you add up your victory points to see how you’ve done.

On top of all this, there are optional rules for different types of U-Boats, Snorkel, and Linked campaigns.

Yes, there is a lot here, but it is reasonably followed as you track through the rules phases. Its all explained pretty clearly, with some supporting example illustrations. Interestingly, and to the credit of the design, unlike many other war games, no one aspect of the rules is complex or difficult to follow in its own right. On top of this, the mechanics reflect the feel of the U-Boat war rather than the technical effects which to me, makes it very playable and not a simulation exercise. A very successful of a design for feel approach by Dave Schueler.

Did it work for me?

Having said up front, that tactical games aren’t really my thing, I found that I enjoyed U-Boat Leader for a number of reasons.

First, it’s actually not purely a tactical game. Yes the tactical aspects are there when you get into the fight but this is a stripped down view and approach which I appreciated. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with very technical aspects and not simulating being a U-Boat captain but gave me enough for my level of tolerance. Also, you have the operational and strategic aspects of the war and campaigns which broaden the picture nicely and make things very interesting indeed.

Next, the rules were pretty good to go through to play the system. I didn’t feel that I was struggling and it came together for me without too much effort. The rulebook is done rather well and reasonably user friendly which helped me learn the game.

Third, the information I needed was readily available through the cards and Player aids. I didn’t have to refer to myriads of charts and subsets of rules. U-Boat Leader was easier than I expected it to be, if I’m honest, although it by no means is an easy game that I would recommend to newbies. I would say moderate complexity is accurate as you do need to invest the time to familiarize yourself with how the system works.

Overall, this is as deep as I would care to go with this type of game. A very interesting experience which was enough to give me a feel for the key aspects of this aspect of the War in the Atlantic without burning my brain up and worse, boring me with the technical details found in more simulation-type games. I found it to be just the right mix in depth, strategy, and most importantly, fun, and it all comes in this very nice game from DVG Games. A nice production and a good alternative for those who like me, don’t like tactical simulations.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10

Family friendly?

Nope, its a solitaire war game

For more information, go to –

Feb 152012

ninja-boxBy Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Review – Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan from AEG

Designer – Frederic Moyersoen

Art – Conceptopolis, Llyn Hunter, Yutthapong Kaewsuk, MuYoung Kim, Jorge Mutar, Florian Stitz

AEG provided a review copy of this game

At last year’s UK Expo, i was introduced to AEG’s War of Honor, which was  my first experience in the world of L5R or Legend of the 5 Rings, which has a huge fan base who play the collectible card game. Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan, is set in the L5Runiverse and focuses on the Scorpion Clan’s Ninja’s. I was really interested when I first heard about the game and finally got me a copy of this game for 2-4 players, age 12+.

The basic idea is that the Ninja player(s) sneak into a castle, avoid, outwit, kill, guards, complete 2 secret missions and “get out of dodge”. I loved the sound of this very sneaky game and having played other AEGquality games, couldn’t wait to get stuck in.


As expected, the components, and artwork are very nice in deed. The board shows the castle grounds with places to place sentries and patrols. It looks great.

The plastic models are very nicely done (love the drunken guards) and give you a good sense of the world of L5R.

Good quality strategy cards with excellent art work as usual from AEG, with nice flavour text to build the atmosphere.

Nicely done Mission cards which are secretly chosen to keep the Guards player(s) in the dark, so to speak.

Also included are privacy screens and a pad of private maps.


The ninja and traitor must find the locations where they can complete their 2 missions, then exit alive before dawn breaks (the 20th turn). The guards seek to stop them.

The Intruders can be played by 1 player or 2 (one take this ninja, the other takes the traitor. The Guards can also be played by 1 or 2 players.

At the setup –

One mission is randomly drawn for each intruder.

There are 2 strategy card decks. The Intruder chooses 8 of 12 cards and the Guards choose 24 of 36. All of which provide the players with various options. The cards include –

For the Guards

– Awaken, Kenjutsu (weapon) Patrol Listen, Patrol Search, Sentry Listen and Sentry Search

For the Ninja

– Kenjutsu, Rope, Secret Passage, Shadow walk, Shuriken

For the Traitor

– It was a cat, Kenjutsu, Potent Sake, Rope, Secret Passage

The Intruder cards can only be played once. The challenge for the Intruder is to be very selective with a few cards. The Guards need the larger number of cards to try and isolate the Intruders and zap them.

Guard figures are placed on the board in icon spaces.

The Guard player takes one of the private maps and keeps it for tracking searches, allocating sleeping guards, mission goal locations, traps, and hidden sentries. The Ninja player takes aprivate map as well to track his moves and locations of hidden guards, traps, , hidden passage, etc.

ninjamissionGame process

Alert phase – The Guard player draws cards based on the current Alert level, and then the Alert level drops (the cards in their hand are put aside temporarily). Drawn cards can be played. Alert levels range from None to High. The higher the Alert, the more cards are drawn by the Guard player. Any or all cards can be played, with a limit of one card per sentry or patrol. Non-played cards go into the Guard player’s hand.

Listen cards are used to hear the intruders and raise the Alert level. Guards hear Intruders based on proximity to the Intruders.

Search cards and/or Awaken cards are use to  try and locate Intruders. Obviously if they’ve been heard, it narrows down the search. Guards can move up to 2 zones. Patrols move as a group.

Guards phase– Guards can play up to 2 cards from their hand. But only one per sentry or patrol

Guards Patrol phase – Guard patrols are moved along the red patrol track

Intruders phase– The Ninja Traitor make secret moves, tracked on their private map. Strategy cards can be played any time during the phase. If they do not kill the Guards when entering a zone, they must reveal themselves.

The Intruder can search two zones per Intruder per turn. Of course, this gives the Guards a chance to detect them. If a Mission zone is searched, the Guard player advises which zone letter they had assigned to the zone. If it is a letter that corresponds to a Mission card, the Intruder player shows the relevant card to the Guard player.

There are rules for detection of the Intruders, combat, terrain, the Secret Passage, and for playing with 4-players.

It took a few turns to understand how it all worked and by then the turns did speed up. The rules are reasonably clear, with illustrated examples which are very helpful; its just a case of learning how the process hangs together. You definitely get a sense of the theme of sneaking into the castle and defending/searching. So on that level it works pretty well.

Did it work for me?

itwascatninjacard1My friend Tony and I have spoken a number of times about our experience playing Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan. To be honest, we both have mixed feelings about it which are articulated well by Tony below:

Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan lives up to the very good production values that AEGhas come to embody: some lovely miniatures (cool drunken guards!), the usual great L5R artwork on the cards, and good board design. It has to be a said that the theme of feudal Japan is going to suck me in every time!

It took a couple of turns for me to properly get my head around the rules, but once we had got into the groove, the pace of the game was pretty good, and the length of the game felt about right. (I thought it felt a bit too long – Mark)

The game has strong similarities to the classic ‘Scotland Yard‘, and – even more so – the more recent ‘Nuns on the Run‘ (the latter particularly in relation to the listen/noise mechanism). Not surprising in the case of ‘Nuns’, given that the designer is the self-same Frederic Moyersoen (of Saboteurfame). With such a good lineage from those earlier games, the basic mechanism of the game – the infiltrators sneaking round mostly invisibly on the board whilst the guards dash about trying to discover the infiltrators – is pretty solid and works well. There are some neat little tweaks that I liked and thought improved the experience overall for the infiltrators, e.g. the secret tunnel that can be used to quickly move from one area of the board to a completely different one (great for using to penetrate to and/or escape from the heart of the fortress quickly), and the handy special cards that aid your sneakiness (‘It was a cat’, ‘Rope’, etc) and/or silent deadliness (‘Kenjutsu’ or ‘Shuriken’).

So the basic foundation of the game I thought was a good one, and some real thought had gone into meshing the theme well with the mechanics. Having played as the Intruders, I did have one major concern, which was the significant luck factor in whether or not you successfully find your target somewhere in the two inner castles. In the game we played, I think I searched 90% of the zones in each of the two inner castle areas before being forced to flee, and on both occasions the target was in the last zone in the area I had not had a chance to search. (and I was able to just plant Guards on the zone once it became obvious where Tony had to go – Mark). A rare instance of bad luck perhaps, put something that rather soured the experience of what otherwise seemed a very well put-together game. I’m sure there must be a way to try and iron out this obvious (if small) risk, which becomes more of an issue if you think that the opposite could also be true – a ‘first time lucky’ guess at the zone to search by the infiltrators could bring the game to a very rapid and unfulfilling end for the guards (yes, if Tony had discovered the right zones early, I would have felt frustrated – Mark).

ninja-card-web-217x300My general attitude to luck in games is that I like a little: too much and it’s just a game of chance (and it’s too much of an investment of time to be that), but too little and the same person will win every time. What the best games have is mechanisms to allow you to reduce the chance and/or impact of luck going against you. The problem for me with this game was that there didn’t seem to be anything of that nature in the game in relation to the target locations. Perhaps to help the infiltrators zero in, some sort of pointers should be introduced at one or two points during the game, maybe automatically, or maybe at some sort of opportunity cost. Conversely, to help the guards, perhaps if the target mission is revealed before a certain number of turns have passed, the infiltrators should be assumed to have made a mistake in their haste to penetrate the castle and should pay a cost, e.g. lose a random one/two of their valuable cards, or have their secret tunnel automatically be discovered and blocked, to make their escape harder?

Overall, I think this game may have suffered a bit from my high expectations – I REALLY wanted it to be great – but I’ve tried to take that into account in this assessment. I don’t think the game currently is great, but neither is it bad. It’s a great looking game with some good mechanisms, that for me is just let down by the one minor – but potentially fatal – flaw of the risk of bad luck spoiling the experience as a whole. So currently a 6 out of 10 for me. Find those tweaks that can smooth out the sharp edges of extreme luck and I could see this easily going to 8.” Tony (Tulfa on BGG)

For me, I think that Tony has hit the nail on the head. The luck factor is just so strong and therefore, could make for swings in results and frustration. Playing the game, the mechanics and the theme is fun. I liked the tension, the theme, the level of frustration as I tried to hunt Tony down and exasperation as my Guards got zapped. Eventually, it became obvious where he had to go which made it a bit of an anti-climax. Trouble is, its just not as satisfying as I had hoped because of the luck factor and therefore, disappointing. Having said that, I do expect that with numerous plays, the luck will even out somewhat and the extreme search results will not be the norm.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6.5

Family friendly?

Well, it could be but its definitely a hobby game.

For more information go to –