By Eric T. Baker

At a cost of only $20, Avalanche Press’s new board game Defiant Russia: the War Against Nazi Aggression is a terrific value and an excellent introduction to the hobby of tabletop wargaming. The game portrays Germany’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. At a scale of 45 miles to the hex, the 17×22 inch map displays all of the western Soviet Union and still fits easily on any table. The 140 counters represent the actual historical units of the war at the corps level.

At about 90 minutes per game, DR is very fast playing. Its rules favor simplicity over exact historical modeling—there are only a few simple charts and tables to track. Players from age 10 and up, even ones with no experience with table top wargames, can sit down and easily recreate the German drive to take Moscow and the Soviet’s bitter resistance.

The latest table top simulation from Columbia Games is actually a classic revamped and brought back into print. This new edition of Rommel in the Desert is faithful to the original, but it features revised rules and new artwork for the labels, map, and supply cards. The game models the desert war between the Germans and British in North Africa during World War II. In the game, as in the historical campaign, there is no real front. The conflict is one of maneuver. Players have to guard their supply lines while simultaneously trying to cut the other player’s.

The game’s supply system is card driven. The units are represented by 100 wooden blocks rather than by the flat counters of games like DR. The advantages of blocks are two fold. For one, players can only see the labels on their own blocks, creating a fog of war that more accurately simulates real-life battle. For another, each block has information on four sides, allowing them to represent the unit at four different states or strengths, as opposed to the only two states that the standard flat counter can show. The blocks combined with the map, cards, and rules allow for a detailed game that is hassle free and fun to play.

On the computer side of the street, Gearbox Software, whose credits include work on Counter Strike and Halo, have released Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, a first person tactical shooter game based on a true story. “First person tactical shooter” simply means that the game’s point of view is out of the eyes and down the rifle sights of Sergeant Matt Baker. However, the player can also issue orders to Baker’s squad of computer controlled paratroopers who fight along side him. This game combines twitch accuracy with tactical know how in a manner made popular by the Ghost Recon series of games.

BiA recreates the famous airdrop that preceded the invasion at Normandy. In that drop, Sergeant Baker and his squad of 101st Airborne Paratroopers were scattered over the French countryside. Throughout the game, players find themselves experiencing the eight-day invasion of Normandy from a ground perspective. The player faces the choices that Baker did, balancing the lives of his men with the success of their mission. All of the action is served up under historically accurate circumstances re-created from Army Signal Corps photos, aerial reconnaissance imagery, and eyewitness accounts.

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