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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 1183

King of the Hills

(52 votes)

"The fight for our ridge line started in earnest with the Chinese blowing bugles and whistles. They used these sounds as signals to assemble their men. When the bugles and whistles stopped we knew that they were on their way.”

–Major Ben O’Dowd, A Company Commander, Australian 3rd Battalion

King of the Hills, by designer Paul Rohrbaugh, is a moderate complexity level game on the climatic battle fought near Kap-Yong during the Korean War. The Chinese intervention in the Korean “Police Action” just a few months earlier in late November, 1950 caught the Allied forces by surprise, sending them reeling back with substantial losses, especially among the newly reconstituted units of the Republic of [South] Korea (ROK), many of which broke and ran in the face of the Communist onslaught. In just a few weeks the initial Chinese offensive had driven the UN forces back from the Korean border and nearly completely out of North Korea.

In mid-April the Communists launched a second offensive they hoped would drive the UN forces completely from the peninsula. The 27th Commonwealth Brigade, made up of battalions from Canada, New Zealand and Australia, supported by US Artillery and Armor, backstopped the Allied line on the road to Seoul. On April 23rd the Chinese 118th Division struck the over-stretched defenders. A Communist victory here would’ve broken the Allied defensive line, leading to the precipitous fall of Seoul and the isolation and possible loss of several other Allied units. The Allied forces at Kapyong held, but just barely. Can you do better?

A complete game of King of the Hills has around 8 pages of rules, one 22 by 34 inch hex map, 280 double-sided counters, and two players’ aid sheets with charts, tables, and record-keeping tracks. Each night turn of the game represents two hours of time; day turns represent 4 hours. Each hex is approximately one third of a mile across. Infantry units represent companies (about 200 to 250 men) and tanks are sections (2 to 3 tanks). Designer’s Note: The Communist forces conducted the vast majority of their operations at night due to the overwhelming Allied air superiority. The differing spans of time for the day and night turns reflect the increased pace of combat activity during the evening hours.

The game uses a chit pull design, based on the designer's well-received Blood and Steel series of games, to activate formations. Bombardment, Fire and Assault combats are resolved by rolling against the attacking unit’s Combat Factor modified by terrain, unit status and other game events.

La Vendée – 1793: Counterrevolution in the West

(60 votes)

The Central Western provinces of France proved to be a major headache to both the new French Republic and the subsequent Empire. There, nobles lived with and were respected by the peasants who adhered to Catholicism. Parisian decrees ordering conscription and church closure encouraged counterrevolution. Vendéan peasants (Whites) begged local nobles to rebel and defend them against a massive invading army (Blues).

The odds were against them but with remarkable martial spirit the Whites captured what they needed. Victory seemed possible despite massacres committed by both sides. At one point the Duke of York considered landing British troops to support them. Outnumbered two to one by well-equipped troops led by generals Lazare Hoche and Jean Baptiste Kléber, the Vendée was subdued and large swaths burned. Its inhabitants slaughtered. Historians still squabble over the term - genocide. Still, the Vendée rose again – and again – and again during Napoleon’s reign. Notably, the Whites worried the Emperor during his “100 Days.” Napoleon actually committed 20,000 troops to settle the region. Might those troops have staved off defeat at Waterloo?

This card-driven, area movement game by designer John Poniske depicts the first Royalist rising, centering on the “White” player’s attempt to capture and hold Republican forts. If all goes well the English may enter the fray. Meanwhile “Blue” armies attempt to overwhelm their weaker foe and implement a scorched earth policy while partisans harry their every move.

Lion of the Sea

(78 votes)

Churchill’s pre-war plan to defend Singapore (that "lion of the sea" as he called it) by relying on a strong local garrison, and the general potentialities of sea power, including that of the US Navy, was outflanked at 12:30am local time on 8th December 1941 when the battle-hardened 5th and 18th divisions of Yamashita’s 25th Army landed at 3 locations in Thailand and Malaya. Fifty minutes later the first bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, reducing Churchill’s plan to dust. He had no realistic plan B.

Prior to the invasion the Japanese had been consistently underestimated and ridiculed, portrayed in the popular press as stereotypically short, myopic, and technologically backward. But the British soon found that it would be they fighting against the odds, not the Japanese. The campaign (the Japanese referred to it as "Mare shinko sakusen" (Malay Offensive Operation) lasted only 55 days through the northeast monsoon of 1941, and culminated in the unconditional surrender of Percival’s entire Malaya Command. It was the worst and most shocking capitulation in the history of the British Army. The reasons for the unexpected Japanese victory are many and varied and all are explored in Lion of the Sea, a fast-moving, low complexity, strategically varied game of the Japanese invasion of Malaya.

The Japanese player has few reinforcements and replacements with which to fight this campaign. They are also short on supplies and time (read more about that here), though the effects on the hardy, veteran Japanese units of being unsupplied are relatively light, unlike the British whose unsupplied units are likely to crumble. The Japanese must press forward aggressively, but avoid losses and conserve supplies whenever they can by outflanking rather than engaging in pitched battles. Detached Japanese battalions marching through the jungle and conducting small boat operations are perfect for this. On the downside, despite what appears to be easy access to captured supplies, the Japanese may find themselves with insufficient resources for the final assault on Singapore if they fight too many battles and replace too many losses. Opportunities for British counter-attacks during their fighting retreat will occur, especially early in the game when British strength is at a maximum and the Japanese invasion forces are divided, and every step loss inflicted on the Japanese forces is a victory.

Lion of the Sea by designer Don Clarke includes a 22” x 34” map scaled at 20km per hex. There are 150 large 5/8" counters, of which around 100 are combat units representing Japanese regiments, British brigades, Thai and other battalions, plus reconnaissance, armored recon, artillery, air, and tank and anti-tank units. The rulebook runs to around 15 pages including player notes, designer notes, and historical overview.

La Bataille de Kulm

(88 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.

Teutonic Nightmare

(90 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.

(NEW) Lee’s Greatest Victory: Chancellorsville, 1863

(98 votes)

The Chancellorsville campaign, which took place in and around Virginia’s Wilderness in May 1863, is considered by many to be Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece. The Union commander, Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, had devised a plan that seemed assured of success. His cavalry would raid deep behind Confederate lines, cutting Lee’s supplies, then Hooker and four infantry corps would march west, then south, and appear behind the Confederate defenses opposite the city of Fredericksburg. Lee would be compelled to withdraw south, in which case he would be pursued, or he would be forced to attack with his numerically inferior army to avoid being crushed between the hammer and anvil of Hooker’s forces.

No plan, however, survives first contact with enemy. With the advantage of interior lines and a great deal of audacity Lee would confound his opponent by continually bringing more rifles to the critical place at the critical time. And it didn’t’ hurt that Lee’s largest corps was commanded by one “Stonewall” Jackson. . .

Lee’s Greatest Victory: Chancellorsville, 1863 is an area-impulse game but one unlike anything seen before. Since the appearance of the “sunset die roll” nearly three decades ago players have alternated activating a single area, with variation coming in the form of an uncertain turn length. Play has a chess-like feel, with players able to act and react with a great deal of prior calculation. Short turns could be frustrating for one or both players. In this revolutionary development of the genre players no longer know how many impulses they, or their opponent, will have, creating both opportunities and crises that cannot be anticipated in advance—just like real combat. The “momentum” swings back and forth but rarely the same way twice. At the same time, each turn lasts as long as the players wish it to last, ensuring something will happen every turn.

One 22" x 34” area map, 176 double-sided 5/8” counters, twelve pages of rules. Units of maneuver are Union divisions and Confederate brigades for the most part, with historical leaders present to provide a combat boost though at the risk of being wounded or KIA. Pontoon bridges and entrenchments are part of the basic rules while optional rules incorporate weather and optional units for both sides. Just six turns and playable in one sitting. Designed by Michael Rinella.

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

(105 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.

Hitler's Stalingrad: The Siege of Breslau, 1945

(126 votes)

After being cut off and isolated in mid-February 1945, the German garrison at Breslau, some 50,000 men defied all odds, holding onto the city until AFTER the war ended! The task of taking the city fell to the Soviet Sixth Army, composed of some eight divisions with 80,000 men between them, plus four tank regiments and two artillery divisions. An entire Air Army, the Second, was also assigned to provide ample destructive power from the sky. Hitler ordered the city held at all costs, believing Soviet forces tied up there were thus not taking part in any assault on Berlin. The task the Soviets faced was daunting; urban warfare plus a very determined defender. Terrain too was critical - the Oder River flowing through the city sliced it up into many parts. Taking a major sector of the city could mean nothing more than occupying an "island" in the end. Although Breslau was unimportant to the outcome of the war, the battle for the city was not without incident or drama. By the war’s end the Germans lost 6000 KIA. The Soviets lost at least 12,000. These figures exclude the toll in wounded, estimates of which range from 20,000-40,000. The Soviets also lost up to 170 AFVs trying to seize the city. The defending garrison only finally surrendered after the war officially ended (and the Gauleiter in charge fleeing the city in an experimental helicopter)!

Hitler's Stalingrad, by designer Perry Moore, looks hard at this defiant siege. With around 300 counters and a 22" x 34" map scaled at about 425 yards per hex, a game turn represents one week. Hitler's Stalingrad captures the flavor of planned, grand assaults quickly degenerating into gritty, street-level fighting, with players alternating conducting operations during the turn. Skillfully positioned reserves and sharp counterattacks can blunt massive thrusts, but at possibly too frightfully high a rate of casualties. Special rules include the Breslau having Germany's remaining stock of armored Goliaths (remotely controlled AFVs) and the possible use of nerve gas (Breslau was a major center of production for deadly nerve agents like Tabun and Sarin).

Duel of the Carriers - The Battle of the Philippine Sea

(134 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.

The Cruelest Month

(137 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.

Monty's D-Day

(215 votes)

The companion game to Bradley’s D-Day, this simulation will complete the Normandy Invasion vision established by John Prados in his recent Campaign Study #3 by adding the D-Day assault frontage that was targeted by the British Commonwealth forces under General Bernard L. Montgomery. Monty’s D-Day will link to Bradley’s D-Day to permit the player to investigate the possibilities of the full panoply of the D-Day invasion.

This publication of Monty’s D-Day will bring the progenitor, which appeared in Strategy & Tactics magazine almost thirty years ago and was wildly popular at the time, up to the standard of its follow-on. Even with artwork by Mark Mahaffey, parachute and amphibious landing rules identical to the Bradley’s D-Day game, rules for solitaire play, new German invasion intervention alternatives, and British and Canadian artillery units incorporated, it will still be possible to produce Monty’s D-Day as an Against the Odds regular issue game, making the twin-game package more affordable. Monty’s D-Day will be playable as a stand-alone simulation of the D-Day landings on the British front as well as in a campaign format in conjunction with the Bradley game. It comprises one 22" x 34" inch map, game charts and tables, and 280 counters, overall of medium-high complexity.