Mark Rivera
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Review – Field Command: Singapore 1942 from Worlds Forge

Designed by – Khoo Yik Lin

Note – Thanks to the folks at Worlds Forge for providing a review copy of this game

I’ve been really feeling a need to connect with my Grognard roots lately and thankfully I have been able to get my mits on a few very interesting war games recently which I will be reviewing on Boardgames in Blighty.

To start with, I have been playing war board games since the early 1970′s and have seen many games and publishers through the years. I still even have some classic hex and counter games in my collection from the old guard of the 1st Golden Age of War gaming published by the giants Avalon Hill and Simulation Publications (SPI). I’ve followed many of the developments in war games through the years and am very happy to see that the standard and quality of war games has grown and flourished to the point where there are loads more options to choose from in terms of topic, scale of conflict, etc.

One niche within war games belongs to the Axis & Allies style of games which are mostly about area control and movement, come with miniatures which represent the military force involved and with combat results determined by a roll of the dice with the larger result winning the local battle.

These games have all been set in World War 2 and either been set in global, regional (Europe or the Pacific) or campaign scales, all of which are pretty grand in scope.

Along comes Field Command: Singapore 1942 from Worlds Forge and another take on the A&A genre. This is a game for 2-3 players (the players taking on the roles of the British and/or Australian allies and the Japanese) aged 10+ which may be a little young without guidance from an experienced player (I’d say maybe 12+ was more appropriate). This being more an operational level campaign in a much smaller geographical area and covering a campaign in the Pacific theatre - the conquest of Singapore, considered the worst the defeat in British military history.

If you are familiar with other A&A style games, you will have an expectation of the standard of components and this game will more than meet this. This is a high quality production.

The mounted map of Singapore is very nice with the regions clearly marked and in different shades of green. Along with key locations, airfields, and markings for supply locations. As has been my experience with these type of games before, I wish that there was more attention placed on topographic detail as although the map is very clean and functional, I always prefer game maps that show foliage, terrain types, etc. which adds to the theme and feel of the game. There is also a nicely done Combat Board which although looking complicated at first, facilitates all types of combat very well in a straightforward manner.

The miniatures are very well done and are clearly representative of the different forces involved. You get infantry, artillery, armour and aircraft. As with all games in this genre, minis add to the feel and aesthetics but tend to be fiddly to manage. But this is the price you pay for games with minis. There are also a number of well designed cards with various scenario instructions from short battles useful for learning the combat system if these kind of games are new to you, to Campaign cards covering the historical campaign which of course limits you to the strategies originally taken, a campaign that gives you more choice as to how you approach your strategy and a hypothetical “return to Singapore” campaign after the surrender of the Japanese government in 1945.

Gameplay

But first a few words about the rules… The original rules that came with the game were somewhat challenging, even if you were familiar with this type of game and I am very pleased to note that after much feedback, Worlds Forge has published an updated and significantly revamped rulebook which is relatively easy to use. It is also really helpful for those new to this type of game in that it takes you through a programmed learning process where you learn the combat processes and then move onto the full game proper. The structure is such that experienced players can easily skip ahead and get into the campaign without having to spend too much time. The basic rules are clearly marked and there are faq’s etc. as well as visual examples. All in all, the current version of the rules which can be downloaded from the Worlds Forge website (http://www.worldsforge.com/fieldcommand/sg1942_downloads.php) are much better and it didn’t take me too long to get what needed to be done.

Anyway, each turn is as follows -

Refuel Aircraft- aircraft are grounded on airfields for a turn to refuel so you have to think about how many you deploy and when

Deploy aircraft – in support of ground battles to deliver strikes but only once you clear the skies of enemy aircraft

Move units and declare attacks

Declare offensive artillery barrages (or strikes) – these can be quite devastating

Declare defensive artillery barrages

Resolve combat – All done on the combat board where you take the troops from a particular battle and line them up starting with point and support units, with reserves behind. You can also choose to flank or concentrate against your enemy which effects the dice rolled in the battle. Essentially battle results are resolved through rolling dice with the battle going to the side rolling the highest result. What is cool is that different types of units roll different types of dice to reflect their impact on the battlefield. Armoured units me likey!

Passage of time – After all three forces have done through the steps above.

Victory comes through taking objectives within certain indicated time limits.

Certainly, once you get used to the process, things move along pretty well but it will take a couple of turns to get into the flow of things. The rules are logical and easily understood in the new edition and it all hangs together pretty well. If this level is not as in depth as you’d like, you can add rules for supply logistics and best of all, Worlds Forge has published an expansion pack of event cards all based on historical events and this further enriches the game and brings more uncertainty and fog of war into the proceedings.

Did it work for me?

The historical game has its limitations to be honest as the Japanese land in the Northwest and all allied troops head in that direction to try and stop them. Its not a walk-over for the Japanese by any means. To be honest, if it was too one-sided then it wouldn’t be fun. The thing that is most impressive about the game is that it is a labour of love. Lots of effort has been put into telling the story of this great military disaster. I had no idea that the Brits and Aussies had such a falling out and the rules do not allow either army to be in the same spaces together which means you really need to be careful about unit placement and leaving space for retreats (called suppression in the game).I look forward to playing the scenario giving more options of deployment for both forces along with the event cards. I suspect that that will be the best and most fun way to play.

Yeah there will always be arguments about how historically correct certain design decisions are in any war game. This is NOT a doctoral dissertation and is NOT meant to be the ultimate simulation. My personal preference is to have games that give me a sense and feel of the main issues, objectives and challenges faced by the commanders and gives me a chance to see what I would do in hindsight without my head exploding or taking days to play. I’m just not interested in the minute details nor do I have the time or inclination. And most of all I want to have fun! Field Command: Singapore 1942 scores on each of these.

All in all, this is a good, playable and fun game (with the new rules of course) and worthy of purchase and definitely more fun than other A&A style games that I have played. This game should be of particular interest to UK, Australian and Japanese based gamers and I urge local distributors to pick this one up and make it available more widely, particularly in those markets.

I am excited to have heard that the next game planned by Worlds Forge is the Battle of Iwo Jima. I hope that the lessons learned about writing good, clear, well structured and concise rules will help them produce a great game.



Family friendly?

Its not really meant to be a family game.



For more information about Worlds Forge Games go to – http://www.worldsforge.com/worldsforge/threshold.php


To see my review with photos go to - http://bdg.ms/ae63
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Jan van der Laan
Netherlands
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Good review Mark. Worth mentioning is the release of Field Command: Singapore 1942 – Cards Expansion. This expansion gives Field Command: Singapore 1942 a nice little twist and adds a bit of fog of war to the game.
 
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Mark Rivera
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Yep, I love the expansion. Adds a really nice level of theme too.
 
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Phil McDonald
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Excellent review of an interesting game.

One thing though, worst defeat in British military history? Well, it was certainly a catastrophic outcome and an ignominious surrender, coupled with the sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse.

But as an actual military defeat in 'battle' it has to take a back seat when compared to the battle of Isandlwana in the Zulu wars, a few days before Rourkes Drift and also of course Gallipoli in WWI. The defeat of Cornwallis by our colonial cousins was a slap in the face too.

Excellent films are available dramatising all 3, 'Zulu Dawn', 'Gallipoli' and 'The Patriot' with Mel Gibson starring in the latter two.

Back to the game. I bought it a couple of years ago but sadly it is still waiting to be played. On the plus side I now have a couple of opponents who will appreciate this kind of game, so it will be a new year resolution to play it. I'm also likely to get the expansion cards.
 
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