Rommel the Younger in Landships! (Clash of Arms Games, 1994)

The Game of the Week was Landships! Tactical Weapons Innovations 1914-1918 (Clash of Arms Games, 1994). My intent for Game of the Week is to set up and play a solo game to rediscover or further explore a particular wargame. This week turned out a little different.

To learn the basics of the game I set up the Fast Play scenario and started stepping through it. Not long into the first turn Youngest RMN Boy can up to the loft (where my small game table is) and sat down asking, “What’s this?”

I swept the German counters over to him, pushing the French on my side. Quickly explaining the basics of the rules, I invited him to play.

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Germans cross no-mans land and push past to the town (@Mountain_Navy)

The game took us two nights as we were just playing it in the short time after dinner and chores and bedtime routines. The French won the battle, barely, by Close Assaulting a lone German infantry platoon in the town and eliminating them on the last turn.

Youngest RMN Boy was slightly dejected as he thought he was going to last through the turn and win. I pointed out to him he did better than the historical situation.

“Really?”

“Yes, Rommel only made it to the woods,” I said as I pointed to the map.

“Rommel? I did better than Rommel!?”

I read to him the entire scenario description, including the title (“Rommel at the Argonne”) and the historical result.

“I did better than Rommel!” he exclaimed.

It was at this point I realized that he actually knows who Erwin Rommel is. I should of realized it as we had talked about him when we played Panzer and he had recently read an old copy of Ballantine Books’ Panzer Division: The Mailed Fist by John Macksey that we picked up at a used book store.

It was really awesome to see him connect to history. Making those connections is a major reason I played wargames for the past 40 years. Seeing him make those same connections assures me he will continue playing for the next 40.

Game of the Week for 25 Feb 2018 – Landships! Tactical Weapons Innovations 1914-1918 (Clash of Arms Games, 1993).

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Courtesy BGG

After my recent indulgences in the Panzer-series from GMT Games, I looked over my shelf for another Game of the Week. Going backwards in time, I pulled down Landships! from Clash of Arms Games (amazingly, new boxless copies can still be purchased). Just opening the box and getting ready to play has been a real education.

As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

As the stench and horror of World War I trench warfare increase, both sides seek the breakthrough weapon; immense barrages, air power, flamethrowers, even poison gas. All are tried and found wanting. At last the most awesome machine of all is made ready – the Landship!

Landships! Tactical Weapons Innovations 1914-1918 covers the Great War at its lowest level. The 420 playing pieces represent infantry platoons and cavalry squadrons, or a single tank or gun. Each turn is around 5 minutes and a hex on the eight geomorphic map sections is about 100 meters.

Easy to play rules with over 20 scenarios get you started right away. Trace the story of combat during the war; from the simple slaughters of 1914 to the sophisticated combined arms offensives of 1918.

Opening up the box, I was happy to find a long-forgotten Fast Start Rules and Scenario. This 4-page folio uses only the infantry rules and an abbreviated version of the artillery rules. The single-map scenario is “Rommel in the Argonne,” a June 1915 battle featuring Erwin Rommel. As the scenario description states, “There were no heavy weapons, vehicles, or aircraft in this engagement. This was an infantry attack, 1914 style and the queen of battle was the machine gun.” To show that the designer had a sense of humor, the Victory Conditions of a second scenario version using the Advanced Rules (the full rules, not the Fast Start ones) includes the line, “As before, but the French player can avoid future humiliations in 1940 by eliminating the FO [Forward Observer] unit (Rommel) in this version of the game.”

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Fast Start scenario (courtesy BGG)

The full rulebook (i.e. the Advanced Rules) is also interesting. Coming in at 24 pages, it really has three sections. The first part is the core rules. These are presented in 14 pages of three-column, small font (8 pt?) text. The second section is Optional Rules which run just over a page. The third section of seven pages includes Historical Commentary and Designer’s Notes. The historical commentary is quite extraordinary with inset tone-boxes for “Inside the Tank Environment”, “Tank Tactics”, “German Innovations”, “The Evolution of Artillery Tactics in the Great War”, and a timeline of “Notable Tank Actions 1916-18.”

The other thought that struck me as I looked over Landships! was how tanks were not the only featured technology in the 21 scenarios. Although tanks appear in several scenarios, other technological innovations like armored cars, poison gas, riverine flotillas, and aircraft are also covered.

Over the years, I forgot that the designer is Perry Moore and the maps were done by Rick Barber. In 1994 I did not appreciate them; today they have earned my deepest respect for their work.

In my Landships! box is also a copy of Infernal Machines: Landships! Expansion Game for 1915-1933 (and still available from Clash of Arms Games). I am not going to open it up this Game of the Week and instead focus on the core game. Maybe in the future?