By Eric Baker
This month starts with a “What if?” board game. Island of Death: the Invasion of Malta, 1942 from Avalanche Press is only $20.00 and takes four hours at most to model one of the great “never happened” battles of World War II. Malta was perfectly positioned to disrupt the Axis’s supply lines to their troops in Africa. Both the Italian and German commands designed a series of different assaults to capture the island, but neither the Italian Operation C.3 or the German Operation Hercules ever actually launched. IoD takes those plans, plus the Allied defense orders, and puts them together for board game done on the scale of companies and battalions on a map where each hex equal a mile.
The mechanics of IoD are the same as those used in Avalanche’s Red Steel but this game plays much faster because the conflict is contained on the rather small space of Malta. The rules include two scenarios and several variants. There are units for infantry, artillery, and tanks, plus air and naval support. Tanks are mostly an after thought in the strategy simply because there were so few of them. Infantry tells the tale of the battle, although the player who keeps their artillery well supplied and out of harm’s way will fight at a big advantage. The British player defends with regular troops and the King’s Own Maltese Regiment. The Axis player attacks with German and Italian paratroops and commandos as well as Italian air landing troops.
Groove Games has issued a PC title about an island assault that really did happen. World War II Combat: Iwo Jima is the next game in their series of first person shooter titles that attempts to put the player in the action of the war. As in the other games, the setting and situation are drawn from the actual events of what was the Marines’ largest amphibious assault of the war. The ten levels combine not only the desolate terrain and the dug in enemy of the real Iwo Jima, but also the “flavor” of the battle with explosions, sirens, and aircraft adding to the closer in noises of the combat. The included weapons the player will handle over the course of the game are the KA-BAR Fighting Utility Knife, M1911 .45 Colt, M1 Garand, M1903A4 Springfield, Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), M1 Thompson Submachine gun (“Tommy” Gun), Mk2 Pineapple Grenade and the M2-2 Flamethrower.
A game we’re anticipating, but haven’t yet been able to play is First Battalion from Dreamcatcher Interactive. This PC game will put the player in charge of either a US, Russian, or German battalion. The game will combine elements of first person shooters, strategy games, and roleplaying games, apparently allowing players to level their characters between battles, construct orders of engagement, and actually fight in the battles either on foot or driving a vehicle. There will also be a 32 player online mode that presumably will have more of the tactical elements and fewer of the strategic ones.