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Against the Odds magazine investigates military history from a broad perspective. The economic, political, religious and social aspects of warfare are examined in concert with events on the battlefield.

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In the Pipeline

The following games are under active consideration here at Against the Odds and may appear in future issues. If any of them particularly interest you, you can vote for them below. You need to be logged in to your ATO account to vote. Don't have an account yet? Set one up now, no purchase required!

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Votes cast: Current total is 1001

(New) Trying Men's Souls

(6 votes)

By 1776, King George III convinced hardliners in Parliament to raise a massive army and fleet that would bring the colonists to heel and end the rebellion. In August, a British fleet of over 400 ships, including 73 warships, arrived in New York harbor and landed over 32,000 men on the shores of Long Island. Opposing them was the largest American army ever assembled with 23,000 men under the command of General George Washington.

Washington took a bold gamble by defending on Long Island. Hoping to replicate what happened in Boston on a larger scale by defending the Gowanus Heights and fortifying those about Brooklyn, as well as constructing numerous obstructions in the Hudson and East Rivers, he hoped the British would incur such high losses in taking the American defenses that an assault on Manhattan would be impossible. However, the British had also learned from what had happened in Boston and would make use of the many loyalists’ knowledge and sentiments in and around New York in their efforts to bring the rebels to heel.

For the American player, Trying Men's Souls will be a game that can indeed, try one’s soul. You must transition from a static defense in depth to a more mobile fight in which defiant stands must be matched with bold counter-attacks. For the British player, you have a preponderance of force but will need a delicate blend of activation among your commands to keep the Americans off balance while pressing the attack. Use of the Royal Navy requires a deft touch in and around the American forts, but can open up opportunities along the rivers. One 22” x 34” inch map of the New York City-Long Island area, 280 counters, and moderate complexity. Designed by Paul Rohrbaugh.

Operation C

(43 votes)

Operation C, by Perry Moore, covers the Japanese naval foray into the Indian Ocean in April 1942 with five of their carriers. The Japanese were on a roll, seemingly invincible after a string of victories since Dec. 1941, including the taking of Singapore and the Dutch East Indies. Ceylon was next objective due to its strategic location astride the shipping lanes. The Japanese hoped that by menacing Ceylon, they could force the smaller British fleet (with three carriers) defending it to fight and cripple it, then go on to demolish Britain’s vital shipping ports located in India. The map scale 50 miles to a hex, and the game uses the land-air-sea system first showcased in Perry’s War in the Aegean game.

Historically, the Japanese admiral, Yamamoto, first proposed to physically invade the island, and establish control over the sea lanes that way, but his superiors rejected the plan, and Port Moresby was invaded instead. In this game, the Japanese player does have the option to invade Ceylon (which was weakly defended) but must also cause heavy damage to the Indian ports, and of course, initiate a carrier battle with the British if at all possible. One map with 280 counters.

The Road to Tokyo

(57 votes)

"We are fighting the Japanese, but the US Navy is the enemy."

- MacArthur's Chief of Staff to a visiting Australian general

The Road to Tokyo is a two player (but uniquely, four-sided) game depicting events in the Pacific Theater for the first 6 months of 1944. Players assume the roles of both Nimitz and MacArthur and more indirectly, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces opposing them. The twist is, each player controls forces on both sides and must strive to do better than his nominal ally (but secret opponent).

Designed by Steven Cunliffe, The Road to Tokyo features 176 large 5/8" counters and 52 cards. The map depicts the principle fronts in New Guinea and the Central Pacific and each turn is around 2 weeks.

The victory conditions are a bit unusual. Players must minimize their own casualties, but maximize those of their opponent, and attempt to garner the most "Headline Points" possible, influencing Roosevelt's ultimate decision to take the road to Tokyo through the Philippines (MacArthur's demand) or by Formosa (Nimitz's plan). At times, the imperative to "make the news" will cause "mere war considerations" to seem almost quaint.

That Man of Blood

(58 votes)

The story of the Second Civil War is short and simple. King, Lords and Commons, landlords and merchants, the City and the countryside, bishops and presbyters, the Scottish army, the Welsh people, and the English Fleet, all now turned against the New Model Army. The Army beat the lot.

- Sir Winston Churchill

On 30th April 1648 the Army Council met at Windsor Castle for a three-day prayer meeting which resolved “that it was our duty, if ever the Lord brought us back again in peace, to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for that blood he had shed”. Despite odds of two or three to one they defeated the Royalists at St Fagans, Maidstone, Colchester, and Preston. Returning to London victorious, the Army purged Parliament and tried and executed the king for treason.

That Man of Blood is an area movement and impulse game for two to four players recreating the Second Civil War of 1648, the direct cause of the English Revolution and the execution of Charles I. The first player controls the New Model Army; the second the Parliamentarian Northern Association, Irish Army, Scottish Whigs, some lukewarm militia and a mutinous fleet; the third has a loose alliance of Cavaliers, Presbyterians, Welsh, and any ships that desert the Parliamentarians, and the fourth the Scots Engagers and Ulster Army. The Royalists and Scots have more men, but worse generals and variable reinforcements. Players maneuver their forces from area to area across the map in order to destroy enemy regiments, capture towns, build up a navy and control the King.

Designed by Philip Jelley, That Man of Blood features one 22 x 34" map and 280 counters with 8 battle scenarios for a quick evening's fun, and 3 full campaigns that force players to take into account all the intricacies of managing their difficult coalitions.

Teutonic Nightmare

(108 votes)

Even on the Eastern Front where savage battles were commonplace, few were as bitter as the Soviet siege of Königsberg from late January until early April 1945. The Germans fought fanatically to retain control of the ancient East Prussian capital and used all means at their disposal to defeat the Soviet onslaught. The city was surrounded by an extensive series of fortifications which allowed the defenders to withstand withering artillery and air bombardment. Among the approximate 30,000 defenders were four infantry divisions, a panzer division, fortification troops and large numbers of Volkssturm and Hitler Youth. As ineffective as the Volkssturm was almost everywhere else, they put in one of their best performances of the war to defend their homes in East Prussia. As usual, the Hitler Youth proved fanatical and added another degree of ferocity to the combat. The German Navy also made itself felt providing effective artillery support from heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer and a number of other smaller ships. The Soviets employed some 12 rifle divisions at the start of the battle and eventually were forced to throw in four armies by the end supported by huge amounts of artillery, including some of the heaviest employed during the entire war, and an extremely heavy concentration of air forces including large numbers of heavy bombers.

Teutonic Nightmare by designer Mark Stille uses the same game system as his Hungarian Nightmare (in ATO #31) game to portray the entire approximate 75-day battle. Hungarian Nightmare covered the bitter siege of Budapest and focused on the uncertainty and brutality of urban conflict. In Teutonic Nightmare, the German player not only has to hold festung Königsberg against an ever-increasing weight of attack, but he also must keep a corridor open to the port of Pillau on the Baltic coast to allow the evacuation of refugees. Originally, Königsberg held out from 25 January until 10 April and the corridor was open from 18 February until a few days before the city’s capture. The German player can win by bettering the historical result. The Soviet player is challenged to better the historical capture date of the city against fanatical resistance and probably the heaviest fortifications encountered during the war. Even with some of the heaviest concentration of firepower used by the Soviets during the entire war, this will be a fight to the bitter end.

La Bataille de Kulm

(122 votes)

General of Division Dominique-Joseph-René Vandamme, Count of Unsebourg, missed most of the horrible Russian campaign, having been forced to leave the Grande Armée during the summer of 1812 due to his constant squabbles with the French Emperor’s younger brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia. However, by the spring of 1813, Napoleon was happy to round up any general he could and Vandamme found himself back in favor commanding a corps on the lower Elbe River. There he successfully worked under Marshal Davout to retake Hamburg, which fell to the French on 30th May.

Summoned to the Grande Armée during the summer armistice, Vandamme was given the I Corps to command. By the 25th of August Napoleon, convinced that Dresden was in imminent danger of being captured by the Allied Army of Bohemia, marched there straight away himself. He did send fresh (but fuzzy) orders to Vandamme to capture and occupy the town of Pirna on the River Elbe. This town lay below Dresden and thus was between the Allies and the Erzgebirge Mountain passes to their base of safety in Bohemia. Napoleon no doubt considered that Vandamme could trap the Allies if they retreated south from Dresden.

Pushing boldly ahead, Vandamme crossed the Elbe, captured Pirna, then judging the situation afresh, turned south and boldly advanced over the mountains himself to confront Allied rearguards in a two day battle at Kulm (Aug 29th-30th). To his surprise, the Russians there fought extremely well (many of their Guards units were present), and then the next day supposedly shattered Allies from Dresden appeared, taking him in his own rear! The trapper had become the trapped, and most of the I Corps was lost with Vandamme captured….

La Bataille de Kulm covers this great against the odds situation at the tactical level using the La Bataille game system found in our own La Bataille de Vauchamps game. The game comes with a full color 22" x 34" map board, close to 500 colorful, die-cut counters, plus rules, charts and everything else you need. And with the gracious permission of Clash of Arms Games, special link rules will be included to play this game in conjunction with their own recently published La Bataille de Dresde game.

The Heron in Flight: The Approach to Stalingrad Aug-Sep 1942

(126 votes)

The Heron in Flight explores the German operation, “Fischreiher” (Heron) to take Stalingrad off the march during the period of mid-August up until mid-September 1942. Failure to encircle Soviet forces west of Stalingrad ensures that an urban brawl for the city will ensue. Both sides are challenged to meet different objectives.

The Germans must utilize their Sixth Army to destroy the three Soviet armies in the landbridge between the Don and the Volga before they can fall back into Stalingrad. Historically, this attack was coordinated with operations by the Fourth Panzer Army that attacked from the southwest and which was to form the southern arm of a gigantic pincer. Supporting the attack are aircraft of the Fourth Air Fleet which ruled the air.

The Soviet player must not only ensure sufficient forces escape the intended German encirclement, but maintain constant pressure on the overextended Sixth Army with a series of counterattacks from north of Stalingrad to relieve pressure on the defenders of the city. The Soviets are also tasked to retain bridgeheads on the Don which will be their key for future operations.

Designed by Mark Stille, The Heron in Flight includes 1 ½ maps with 420 counters. Units are at the division/brigade level for the Soviets while German and Axis Allied forces are depicted from battalion to division. Each turn is two days. The game system is based on his earlier Wintergewitter design and emphasizes the effect of air power and a command and control system which makes players plan ahead to conduct operations and carefully weigh where their offensive efforts will be expended.

A Crowning Glory: Austerlitz

(143 votes)

Even weeks before Trafalgar, by August 1805 the newly crowned Emperor Napoleon Ier, had come to understand his plans required action on land. More specifically, he had to defeat his continental enemies in order to secure his continued power. Britain, Russia and Austria were allied against him and, since he couldn’t get at the British on their island fortress, and Russia was too far away to allow for the required quick victory, he was left with invading Austria.

Rapidly surrounding and capturing the main Austrian Army at Ulm, December found Napoleon at Austerlitz (modern day Skavkov u Brna) in southern Moravia at the end of a very stretched supply line. He also appeared to be slightly outnumbered by an Coalition army made up of the remnants of Austrian forces, plus a sizable Russian contingent.

Feigning weakness, Napoleon lured the Coalition force into attacking his flank (where he wanted them to), then counterpunched through the Coalition center to encircle most of them. The Coalition were crushed, and through the victory, Napoleon cemented his hold on the throne. It was a crowning glory.

This two-player grand-tactical simulation by Ty Bomba presents the battle generally considered to have been Napoleon’s greatest victory. Both players have the opportunity to attack and defend, but the main burden of the offensive resides with the French player. His opponent, the Allied player, commands the Austrian and Russian units. Each hexagon on the map represents 600 yards (649 meters) from side to opposite side. The units are brigades and divisions. Each full turn represents one hour of ‘real time.’

The Cruelest Month

(164 votes)

“April is the Cruelest Month.” – T.S. Eliot

The Cruelest Month is a wargame simulation by Paul Rohrbaugh of the campaign waged by the British to take the crucial high ground north of Arras in 1917 and break through the new German’s defensive network. By the third year of war both sides had come to realize the vital importance of securing air supremacy over the battlefield so their artillery could support the infantry as they fought for control on the ground. To provide air cover and scout out the German’s new defensive positions, dubbed the “Hindenburg Line,” the Royal Flying Corps dispatched hundreds of aircraft to the Arras sector. While many of the Allied machines were over a year old and rapidly becoming obsolescent, British commanders gambled that numbers and sheer persistence would tell in the end.

The Germans with initially just 80 aircraft on hand, were outnumbered in machines and aircrew, but had just introduced new aircraft to the front including advanced Albatross fighters. Better still, the German High Command had re-organized their fighters into “Jastas” (hunters) that roamed the front in packs to sweep enemy aircraft from the skies. The Jastas traveled by train from one threatened sector of the front to another, and were dubbed the “Flying Circus” by the Allies.

The air battles over Arras in April, 1917 marked the first aerial campaign in military history in which air supremacy played a decisive part in the ground battle’s outcome. Will British numbers prevail over German quality? Can you do better or fare worse than your historical counterparts? Each copy of The Cruelest Month has two maps (one strategic and one tactical) 176 double-sided counters and a 16 page rulebook. Each hex on the map is approximately 2 miles across. An aerial unit is comprised of 6 to 12 aircraft. A game turn spans two days of time. Rules include balloon busting, aces artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance missions, strategic reserves, as well as portraying the major aircraft types deployed by both sides in this campaign.

Duel of the Carriers - The Battle of the Philippine Sea

(174 votes)

The Battle of Midway was fought between seven carriers. Compare this to the Battle of the Philippine Sea which featured a total of 24 carriers on both sides. It was simply the largest carrier battle of all time which will never be surpassed. Duel of the Carriers, by designer Mark Stille, portrays this epic battle which had the historical result of shattering the Japanese carrier force for the rest of the war. Though the battle has gone down as a one-sided affair, players will have every opportunity to reverse history. Both players will be challenged to better the historical outcome. The American player can choose to reverse the defensive posture adopted by the USN commander on the scene and inflect greater losses on the Japanese carrier force, instead of settling for defeating the Japanese air strikes. The Japanese player has many advantages which could allow him to produce a better result. These include aircraft with superior range and a number of airfields with a potentially large land-based air force. In the real battle American submarines played a huge role and despite myth, a number of Japanese aircraft broke through to attack the American carriers but failed to score. Can the same things happen again?

Duel of the Carriers uses the same game system as Imperial Sunset (in ATO #17) which stresses playability over complexity. Individual counters will be used for ships cruiser-sized and larger with destroyers represented by squadron. Carrier air groups are represented from between 2 and 4 counters. The game system is built around the uncertainty of task force activation, replicating the uncertain command and control still evident on both sides even in 1944. Surface to air combat, surface combat, and anti-submarine combat is modeled with a clean system steering the players clear of an elaborate combat resolution process that permits quick play and multiple game iterations. Detection is an important function in the game but is handled in a manner so as not to overwhelm other aspects of the game. Most importantly, neither side will have complete knowledge of the opposing player’s order of battle or of the effectiveness of his air operations. The practice of over-claiming by the aviators of both sides will have repercussions at the operational level. There are also optional forces for the Japanese player, including additional surface units and land-based air forces which will create more uncertainty for the American player. All considered, the famous "Turkey Shoot" is not a given.