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!







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!

Current update! LnL Pub!

Hi Folks!

It’s been a long few months with work, life, etcetera. The good news is that it is that time of year again where things slow down for me and the games start hitting the tables. I recently received an Order from Lock n Load Publishing with about 15lbs of games!

Here is a little clip of me opening up the box and seeing what I have in-store for my vacation!

So far, I have had the opportunity to read through the LnL Tactical Series rules, a great quality product, I must say, just from reading them it feels like the perfect balance of fast action tactical gaming, rules, and layers to the game to keep people playing regularly. I will say, with confidence, that you only need 30-45 minutes to ramp up on the system/and-or teach folks, both new and old to wargaming.

I’ll get into some reviews regarding the first part of my endeavor – the starter guide in my next post, then after that, I’ll pull out Heroes of Normandy and give it a whirl.

Check out the links below and thanks for checking in!


GMT Games – Invasion: Sicily

A GMT/Vance von Borries creation – Invasion: Sicily is a series game that covers the Allied invasion of Sicily from July-August 1943, Codenamed “Operation Husky”.

This series game consists of Four Scenarios (1 learning – Gela Beachhead), one that covers the Operation Husky, a historical Campaign for Sicily July 10 – August 17, and a wide open Scenario that gives you more flexibility to either invade Calabria first, or stick to the plan, invade Sicily.

A total of 240 Full-Color die-cut counters, and a single map (and aid cards). Unit scale is in the Regiment/Battalion size. Time-scale of 3 Days per Turn, and a Map scale of 5.5 miles per hex.

Invasion: Sicily plays very much like most traditional wargames, however, invading scenarios give it a bit more flexibility in decision making. And since I regularly play EFS, von Borries’ system/rules are very close to one in the same, with their slight nuances to the game, theater of operation, and style of warfare. Invasion: Sicily’s focus is heavily driven to what decisions are made by the Allied invader, the Axis, however, decide on a defensive stratagem to position for stopping that very invasion; factors that give the Axis defender the advantage is the terrain, the maneuverability and supply lines they have, and most of all, the potential to evacuate (which some would say is generally bad, but hey, lets live to fight another day people.) from Sicily.

The variability for this game gives both sides to aid, and or, handicap. Point being, for both sides; The Fall of Mussolini, Fascist Revivals (Italian), Air and Naval Transport Determination/Transfers, and Supply.

Given that these rules provide the variability one would often run into in the face of an operation, the other factor of this game that makes things real interesting is the implementation of Efficiency Ratings for units, Beachhead and Port Supply lines for the Allies, capabilities to blow up Port’s, and the seizure of airfield and gun emplacements make Invasion: Sicily a fun, and often focused game.

One recommendation I’ve heard from many to compliment this game is to look into OCS Sicily ii (We’ll see…)

Getting a little into the structure of the game:

The Sequence of Play (Short)

A. Strategic Segment

  1. Special events Phase
  2. Weather Phase
  3. Supply Determination Phase
  4. Air/Naval Readiness Phase
  5. Pre-Invasion Actions

B. Allied Operations Segment

  1. Allied Transport Phase
  2. Allied Movement Phase
  3. Axis Reaction Phase
  4. Allied Combat Phase
  5. Axis Counterattack
  6. Allied Mot. Movement Phase

C. Axis Operations Segment

  1. Axis Transport Phase
  2. Axis Movement Phase
  3. Allied Reaction Phase
  4. Axis Combat Phase
  5. Axis Mot. Movement Phase

D. Reorganization Segment (both players)

  1. Replacement Phase
  2. Special Movement Phase
  3. Engineering Phase
  4. Victory Conditions/Turn Record Phase


For those that own the game, I recently threw together some of the on-map rules in an XLS. (The extended play rules will be in another file)

On-Map Rules

I have also submitted it to BGG here