Strategy & Tactics Quarterly Issue #1 (Spring 2018 Premier Issue) – Caesar: Veni – Vidi – Vici

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Courtesy Strategy & Tactics Press

In my experience, wargaming magazines have been a hit-or-miss affair. Many times the magazines are nothing more than “house rags” – publications devoted to a single publisher and focused exclusively (or near-exclusively) on their games. The old Avalon Hill The General was much like this, as was C3i Ops from GMT Games (now RBM Studio).

And then there were the wargame magazines. Publications like Strategy & Tactics. Magazines with games in them! Taking about those games will be another post for today I want to focus on the newest S&T publication, a brand new magazine called Strategy & Tactics Quarterly.

In the premier issue, the publisher has added the following note:

Welcome to the launch of a new magazine with a new format. This magazine is a stepping stone for military history magazine readers who are interested in going beyond stories to examine and understand the how and why of military history. We analyze the actual operations and maneuvers as well as alternative plans and possibilities. A Lessons Learned section summarizes how the topic and outcome influenced later events and why certain principles and techniques are still important today. Each in-depth issue focuses on one topic by a single author and includes over 20 detailed maps plus one large map poster. We also include an annotated bibliography for further reading as well as an overview of other media and games on the topic. – Christopher ‘Doc’ Cummins

The premier issue focuses on Julius Caesar. The issue author is Joseph Miranda, a longtime associate of Strategy & Tactics. Weighing in at a meaty 112 pages, the issue is divided into three major sections; I Caeser’s World, II Caesar Conquers, and III Caesar Triumphant.

Inside one finds lavish illustrations, images, the usual high-quality S&T maps. I especially like the addition of a timeline along many pages to help me track the many events as I read about them. The level of detail is not enough to make a wargame scenario, but it can provide deeper background to an existing game. The pull-out poster is double sided with one side being a map and the other a description of forces with lots of text. Makes it easy to decide which side to show when hanging….

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Poster Map for S&T Quarterly Issue #1 – Caesar

The writing is pretty good but I see nothing dramatically “revisionist” or “new” in the analysis. In some ways I am disappointed; a cursory look at the sources reveal very few “modern sources” – that is – unless Osprey Publishing books from the mid 2000’s counts as “recent.” Maybe this is not a real negative because the target audience is a more pedestrian reader. I know that the presentation draws my high school and early college boys to read the magazine. That is certainly one definition of success….

I am a bit disappointed that the only wargames mentioned are all S&T products, but I guess that is expected as this is an S&T publication.

According to the back of this issue, future topics include, “America in WWI, Battle of Stalingrad, World War III What-ifs, and the French Foreign Legion.” An interesting selection of topics; one standard (Stalingrad), one tied to a historical anniversary (100th Anniversary of WWI ending), one hypothetical (WWIII) and one narrow (French Foreign Legion). A print subscription is $44.99 for 1 year/4 issues or $79.99 for 2 years/8 issues. That’s a lot of value for $10-11 an issue (and a small savings off the $14.99 cover price). S&T Press also offers a digital option at $14.99 for 2 issues / $29.99 for 4 issues. I tried the digital subscription for S&T Magazine before and didn’t like it because it was too hard to read all those great maps!

In the end I will probably keep buying S&T Quarterly if for no other reason than breezy historical reading and sharing with the RMN Boys.

Wargame Wednesday – Reichswehr & Freikorps

S&T #273 Courtesy BGG

Strategy & Tactics magazine and games can be a hit-or-miss affair. The articles are generally well-written if not original (as in original conclusions though the topics may be more obscure). The games are usually limited in scope due to rules length, map size, and counter limits. They also are not necessarily cheap at $29.99 for the game edition (magazine + game). But I am a sucker for alternate history and a fan of Brian Train’s work. So when I saw that Train (master of asymmetric warfare simulations) had teamed with Ty Bomba (known for his alternate history games) I took the chance.

Reichswehr & Freikorps (RWFK) advertises itself as a “low-complexity, strategic-level, alternative history wargame of the conflict that likely would have resulted had the Poles been defeated by the invading Read Army late in the summer of 1920.” The Soviet player is invading Germany; the German player is defending his homeland.

S&T magazine games usually have a “gimmick” that each game tries to showcase. In this case, the gimmick is the Red Army Morale. With High Morale the Red Army can favorably shift combat odds and move further. Low Morale negatively shifts combat odds and reduces movement. Morale is gained by seizing towns and cities and holding them.

The Sequence of Play is also interesting. The Soviet player has two fronts but can only move one front at a time. The German player has no set sequence of play but rather can “interrupt” the Soviet players turn three times to conduct rail movement, regular movement, or combat.

After setting up the game, I was rather dubious as to the coming experience. The 22″x34″ map is overlaid with a 16×24 hex grid. Though there are 176 counters, nearly half are markers meaning there are only around 100 combat units of which 1/4 are reinforcements. Taken together with the stacking rules which allow the Germans to put seven divisions in a stack or the Soviets to have all the units of the same army together I ended up with a few stacks and many empty hexes.

The first few turns see a nearly unstoppable Red Army juggernaut rolling over the countryside to take towns and cities. It is not until a few turns in that one realizes the impact of supply lines on the Red Army advance. Though the Soviets may be able to seize many towns, they are only able to create one new railhead each turn. The effect here is to slow the Red Army advance. This in turn means a loss of Morale since morale is gained by taking towns and cities but lost every turn over time.

In the end, the game sets out to do what it was designed to do; the Red Army player must keep up an offensive while dealing with a slow supply chain and gradually reduced morale. To be victorious the Red Army needs to stay ahead of that inevitable decline in morale. Reichswehr & Freikorps delivers on this gimmick, though I don’t see to much replay value here.