The Dark Sands (GMT Games)

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Ted Racier’s The Dark Sands (TDS) – The war in North Africa 1940-42 (GMT Games), is an Operational Level ground combat game that focuses on December, 1940-to-1942 December, in the North African theater. TDS is driven by Chit-Pull mechanics that provide variability to the simulation.

Initial thoughts

North Africa: “The Map”

Set up of Scenario #1: Operation Compass

The Dark Sands (TDS) map is rather interesting, there are two map sheets with each segment broken up in between the center map.

The West and East sections are broken up and scaled at 9 miles to the Hex. The Central map, 4.5 miles to the hex.

The way Ted designed this is almost as if you’re double clicking in, and out of the map to areas that cover vast swaths of where the battles revolved around. The sheer scale of the North African theater, the focal area’s around 1940-42, and the heavily featureless terrain around those main points of effort make it a balancing act when designing for play-ability of various operations. He did well with that.

I really like the terrain features depicted in TDS. The roads and bottlenecks create a very interesting situation for combat, I also found interesting; TDR gives you the opportunity to maneuver around these bottlenecks at the price of the games supply line rules that can cause mass-casualty scenarios for you in the face of combat. When, where, and how to strike is what makes the game addictive.

Gameplay: As so far, my initial gaming experience with TDS has been the Compass scenario, which I found to be a “figure it out” scenario – which is a good thing for me since I picked up the book and just went at it and pushed some cardboard.

What I did find is that the game in a traditional sense, has a feel I am familiar with, which made it fast to pick up and play.

The fun part, Chit Pulling: This made the game a bit more dicey (no pun intended) which I appreciate when I have a decent amount of knowledge around the North African theater of ww2 – it created some variability which I appreciated.

The Supply mechanics: My opinions of supply are more conjecture due to not playing TDS enough to really dive in deeper on it, but here we go – I am still analyzing the supply mechanics and will make a cogent judgement call on it at some point.

My case around why I like supply so far – Reading accounts of the initial 2 years of combat in North Africa, the British had their share of poorly orchestrated operations, head-long attacks that peter out due to not only supply, but lack of momentum (and eventually center of gravity) due to numerous elements. *You name it: AT trenches, out maneuvering, obstructing terrain, strict doctrine (that was not made for desert warfare), and poor experience in night operations, most of all – inflexibility of supply lines/movement.*

In TDS supply is rather strict/inflexible around maintaining a overland supply – GLOC/SLOC (Ground/Supply line of Communication). Being that eZOCs obstruct supply (4.5mi/hex) I am in a minor mental battle about it. In some accounts, and games supply is unobstructed even if an eZoc obstructs an unoccupied hex.

The distance per hex. 4.5 miles a hex in the desert may seem like a short distance in an featureless setting, but is it?

I would think that maneuvering through a 4.5 mile hex that is in a eZOC should still allow an armored force supply but who am I…I wasn’t there and from my perspective TDS did a decent job abstracting a lot of the complexities of supply in this tightly packaged game.

Units: The depiction of combat units in this game is well sized, not only physically, but also by unit scale.

Scenarios: There are 4 major scenarios in this game.

  1. Compass
  2. Sunflower
  3. Crusader
  4. Gazala

Each scenario scales up, providing you with some core concepts to help you build into a well oiled TDS fighting machine.

Overall, my initial reactions to this game, and my cardboard pushing so far to understand some of the mechanics has been rather positive, familiar, and fresh all at the same time. I will play through Compass one last time and proceed with a Crusader DAR post to follow to share my thoughts and deeper critique on this game.

To those who have not purchased this game, both new to wargaming, and experienced grogs, I would advise purchasing it asap. It is a great addition to the MTO collection.

Tune in next blog around TDR for the DAR on the Crusader scenario!







Game of the Week – Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 – 25th Anniversary Edition (GMT Games, 2016) – Game Mechanics

RMN – Great article.

RockyMountainNavy Gamer

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Silver Bayonetis a substantially updated version of the original game that first appeared in 1990. Designer Gene Billingsley calls Silver Bayonet “my first published game” even though it appeared alongside two sister titles, Air Bridge to Victory and Operations Shoestring(which I talk previously talked about here).

According to GMT Game ads, Silver Bayonetis an operational game that features, “innovative combat resolution, integrating maneuver combat, close assault, artillery bombardment, gunship rocket and air support into one easy to use system.” All that certainly sounds like alot. So just how does it work?

SilverBayonet25-ban1(RBM) Courtesy GMT Games

To explore this question and learn the game I followed the advice in the Standard Scenarios portion of the Rule Book. The part I focused in on was this passage:

The scenarios are numbered in chronological order. To play them in an order that gradually adds…

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GMT Games – South China Sea

So first and foremost, thank you Harold Buchanan for taking the time about 2 weeks ago to play through a game of his new release: South China Sea.

What is Flashpoint: South China Sea?

Flashpoint: South China Sea is a game that depicts past, present, and near future territorial disputes, pitting the United States and the Chinese in a race to conquer the surrounding countries, and sea lanes of the South China Sea, all the while keeping the balance of social, economic, and military control to control the region.

SCS provides a clear picture of the current situation of the Soth China Sea; the claims, political, economic, and the influences that can be altered by you, the player’s decisions.

The Actors:

The Chinese are definitely in a position to start off strong, since their claims, and their economic/financial strength provides an edge in the start of the game. Their weak point – the Chinese World Standing starts weak. Imposing Chinese will can burn you quickly, so making friends (influence) while increasing claims may (or may not) be your best bet.

The USA, the referee’s in the SCS with the Freedom of Navigation Act on their side, they need to consider the following: Where is their economic/social ties reside? Can they control the big three (The big three are: Vietnam, Philippines, and  Malaysia) and lock in US influence fast enough without starting an all out conflict? What other objectives (smaller or medium in size) does the US need to consider imperative to control while dealing with variability of Chinese actions? What claims do they have now, and how will you slowly disintegrate the claims of your opponent?


SCS is a solid, fast clear-cut game that is driven by luck of the draw, skill, and a baseline objective that can change based off the player’s interactions.

Rating: 8/10

Pros: Great fast paced game, provides a historical and futuristic outcome to decision making. Great for analytical thinkers and COIN players. Easy to train people on.

Cons: Does not cover Taiwan or Japan. That is ok though…

Replay Value: HIGH

Solitaire? Possibly as soon as the bot is released would love to try it out.

What I am hoping for: As SCS becomes more polished, increase in depth around the narrative and concepts of the game. Updated map – even though it is solid right now, I look forward to seeing the final outcome.

If you’d like to learn more about Flashpoint: South China Sea check out the links below. I will be posting a play-through, screens, findings and nuances of this game in my next posts regarding SCS.



Holland 44′ GMT Games

Chalk up another good simulation for Mark Simonitch with Holland 44′.

Holland 44′ brings back to life Operation Market Garden,  many would say the operation was just ‘a bridge too far’. Holland 44′ let’s us grog’s replay the largest airborne operation (that Monty gambled) in history. In my younger years my curiosity of Market Garden took shape with the movie A Bridge Too Far, and one of my 20’s – Victory Games – Hell’s Highway by John H. Butterfield.

Holland 44′ brings a high-fidelity, concise, crisp rule-set to Market Garden. Taking elements from Hell’s Highway, blended with the Simonitch trademark; Holland 44′ is one that can (and will) be replayed, either solo or face to face, with experienced wargamers, and friends interested in the hobby.

Opening, turn 1 Holland 44 by GMT Games.

The resulting effect…

As you can see, there is some shedding of forces, the initial action was bloody. Those ZOC bonds make it tougher meaning you have to whittle your enemies down or get past them and move up the road as fast as possible.

Tune into my twitter account, or see the linked sections associated with the outcome of this solo play.

Thanks for viewing!

Invasion: Sicily: Scenario 2 – Operation Husky

Background  – Invasion: Sicily covers Operation Husky 1943. This game is a solid, fun game that uses aspects of Vance Von Borries other great series games East-Front Series. I played this a while back – here are some of my notes. I should continue with them when I get the chance. Enjoy!


Invasion Sicily scenario 2: Operation Husky Historical Campaign.

Scenario Parameters:

Scenario Length: GT#1-#14 Weather, Dry (first turn) (No Storm)

Not using Historical Set-Up, card #2 Set-up only.

Exclusions: Detailed Sequence of Play: Exclude 1.c and 5.c from the rules.


  1. Commando and Airborne units can be used during any game-turn to invade/land on any allowable hex, so long as it is within five hexes of a non-airborne/commando unit of the same nationality. (Ignore enemy blocking hexes)
  2. British Airborne units are permitted to attack (only) on the turn they perform air assault missions, they may defend normally on all other turns.
  3. 2d Armored Divisions and 82d Airborne Divisions cannot enter any map hex where the last two digits are xx09 or higher after GT#8 or the fall of Palermo.
  4. US 4 naval/540 and 5naval/40 beach units must be withdrawn NLT the Allied Transport Phase of GT5.


VP Levels.

29+ Allied Decisive

20-28 Allied Operational

15-19 Allied Marginal

12-14 Axis Marginal

9-11 Axis Operational

8 or Less Axis Decisive

Turn 1: Allied Landing and Amphibious Placement. Airborne units (1ABN)  lands, one disrupted regiment – lost a step. Other landed safely.

0.1 Allied Segment
Combat Declaration: We are pushing hard to clear the coastline. Nearly 3 units (dummy) were completely useless CCNN 0-0-0 Removed! The remainder; let us see how that goes.
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The British have a few Italian’s to crack on out of the gate. Lets see how their combats turn out.


Turn 1: Pre Declaration of British forces..
Turn 1 Combat aftermath for the Allies. The Italians had a few 3rd Rate defensive units that just threw their hands up, the remainder, 2nd rate CCNN units with little to no experience/training. A coastal CCNN unit is holding fast and will soon be out of supply by second turn.
Turn 1 Allied Segment: Post combat.
Turn 1: Allied Segment – British forces, are now breaking out NNE toward Messina. The Axis have repositioned their forces and will need to block them.

End of Turn 1. VP’s == +1. Definitely a long road to victory. Losing the 40+41 RM in the initial invasion/thrust threw me off quite a bit due to the fact that Odd’s were dwindled against them as TEC modifiers and DRM’s turned their attack from 1:1 -1 to 1:1 +1DRM when conducting an Amphibious assault on Pollazo.

Things I learned as so far as Allies & Axis:

  • Allied Forces:
    • Allies need to push and screen along the main road coastlines.
    • Allies cannot get sucked into combat in the hills, the Odd’s are definitely against them. The Axis forces will be able to dig in as tight as ticks amongst the heavy boulders.
    • Allies will need to leverage the combat power the Airborne forces can provide, the limitation of ABN forces post landing/combat cause them to become more of a screening defensive force as opposed to a primary attacking force. Their role in this operation was definitely Air Assault, then hold/screen.
    • Royal Marines, Cdo’s and Ranger’s are not leading the way beyond the primary objectives. They are valuable alive.
  • Axis Forces:
    • Axis forces need to wait and see where the Allies end up then decide on next steps.
    • Axis forces have three phases: 1. Weaken US Forces and try to push them back to Gela and stop the British Advance toward Catania – comb the area around Mt. Etna if required. Great defensive positions. 2. NNW: Fall back into the hills, create an elastic defense along the rivers to the West of Palma – NNE area: Plug as many gaps as possible to slow the British advance to Messina.
    • Be patient and prepare Axis forces for Evacuation…

Turn 2: Weather – > Dry.

Combat Declaration – Allied Segment – Note: The axis blew the port up in Catania.

Turn 2: Allied Movement and Combat Declaration
Air-Support for the Allies, Axis cannot interdict from this zone; things are going to get a bit difficult for the Axis. Two glider units, 325th *US* & the 1ABN Glider troops fall into the fray. The OOS CCNN unit is still holding tight against the Canadians near Pozallo.

As you can see, all attacks declared are in Supply.

The 1SA Have captured the lighthouse at Augusta. My next tactical task is to move toward Catania to break down any units from being transported.


  • Turn 2: Four combats
    1. Combat against 157/55 (ER Check Failed AS Halved) against CCNN G: 1:1 -> No effect. (8 on CRT)
    2. Combat Vizzini: 2:1 odds, +2DRM (6+2) = 8 Attacker loses a step – 13/5 Brigade eliminated.
    3. Combat against CCNN in Pollazo: 6:1 odds -3 DRM: Rolled – D3R: Eliminated CCNN.
    4. Combat in Catania: Things are bad here for the Allies ->  1:1 odds DRM +1 (City), (ER passed) 8+1= 9 CRT: A2R/D1: Allies lose 2 steps & Retreat, Defender 1 Step loss. (Note: Axis do not advance, Allies retreat Hexes) 153/51 Eliminated.

Review of combats, best bet, next go around, get more forces up and stage a heavier attack with Air Support + Naval Support.)

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Allied Combat Phase (completed) – Directing attacks, requires coordination – This was a poorly calculated risk, causing heavy losses of an entire British Brigade.


To be continued…

LnL Tactical: Heroes of Normandy

IMG_2223.JPGLnL Tactical System: Heroes of Normandy is a complete game in the Lock ‘n Load Tactical Series. From the Airborne invasion, to the fighting on the Bocage’s of France, all the way to Market Garden. In HoN you are in command of infantry squads, specialists (leaders, heroes, & experts), AFVs, Heavy Weapons, and AT/INF guns. This game/series is great for new-to-wargaming fans, and long time grognards.

Rules: LnL:HoN uses the WW2 Tactical (standard) Series Rulebook, inside of HoN’s scenarios are series specific rules and narratives that focus on the system. Overall, the phases in the system are very straight forward at first, until you begin adding the layers of depth into the system: Terrain, obstructions, tactics, and other operations involved in the gameplay which keep you coming back for more. The three Phases in the LnL Tactical WW2 Era Rules at Rally, Operations, and Administrative Phase. Within those phases are provided functions that one could conduct. During the turns you pass back and forth 3 times with the option to pass per turn.


Deeper into the game there are capabilities to heal with medics, place snipers to disrupt assaults or slow enemy advances, weapons systems and mortars to destroy your opponent, Leaders to help move the needle, Heroes can be made with a die roll under stressful situations, and AFVs!

Within each scenario is a narrative that provides Special Scenario Rules to provide variability to the gameplay.

From my experiences with ASL, and even CoH: LnL Tactical provides the best of all worlds if you’re looking for something that can be executed within a 30-60minute window and obtain results/satisfaction one would want to have in a tactical paced game. This is in many ways NOT a simulation, but a fun game that once you’ve attempted various tactics throughout the system you come to realize a few major things:

  • Leaders make up the game and the narrative of where and how you want to handle things.
  • The rulebook is easy to digest. You’re fighting in the game, not the rulebook.
  • There are AFVs
  • Infantry units feel like infantry.


(Lock n Load in general) Heroes of Normandy is made with the utmost quality. I am thoroughly impressed with the cardboard, and rules/scenario book and maps. They are solid!

VisuallyLnL is appealing. I cannot emphasize that enough – they really modernized tactical games and gave a solid feel and look to it.

Weakness: Very few: (I do like ASLSK/ASL and TCS for tactical games, most people will say CoH is a great game, not a big fan…LnL is up there with ASL and TCS in terms of replay and enjoyment) Here are my weaknesses with LnL Tactical: It took me 4-5 plays to really understand all the rules and gather the depth of the game. I was a bit concerned even after those 4-5 plays that I was still missing some of the minutia that would make the game even better…so I tended to begin reading through as I played which took longer so that I could exhaust whatever it is that I could find.

LnL Tactical is not a Simulation, it uses the WW2 era/errata as a setting/narrative/mechanic for the game. It is a fun game and some of the core mechanics/story are what makes the game a hoot, but if you’re looking for simulation/historical depth, look elsewhere. (I think many are aware of that)

Final Verdict: 
I am keeping LnL Tactical on my list of 2017 games to buy/play/replay. A fun fast paced game that I don’t see going anywhere anytime soon. Look out for AAR’s and videos in the coming weeks.

Thanks to David Heath and LnL Publishing for HoN. A great company!