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Friday, May 30, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Wargames Factory Soviets

$26 Soviet Airborne Army

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Attack on Firebase "Eagle" US vs NVA

By Eric Lauterbach and John Sulek
Here is the base perimeter with wire all the way around it, some poor
Engineer officer is going to get sacked
after this nights attack for the design and layout of this base.
Another game from our WWPD Wounded Warrior game day was the second part of our Vietnam series attack on the firebase.  The first part being the NVA's attempt to isolate the base by killing supply convoys, which didn't work!  So near the DMZ Firebase "Eagle" is crushing communists with its heavy 155 fire, attempts to neutralize the base by fire have failed due to the US Army stationed M109 (VUSBX08).  Its excellent survivability against incoming fire from the North has made firebase "Eagle" a number one target for Uncle Ho!

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bolt Action - AAR: Winters is Coming

As a nod to the upcoming D-Day anniversary the team at have been chatting about scenarios and my crew in Newcastle, Australia played out a night time US Airborne parachute landing in Normandy. I have spoken in a previous article about the Warlord rules regarding night time battles and the house rules to simulate a parachute landing, so now it was time to see how it would work in practice.

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All Quiet on the Martian Front: Rules and Rulebook Review

Scott and Steven here, and we'd like to talk to you about Alien Dungeon's new offering: All Quiet on the Martian Front.

The hardback rulebook in all of it's glossy covered glory

All Quiet on the Martian Front takes place in the era where World War I would have occurred. It's 1914ish, and the Martians are back after their first failed attempt as foretold in the non-fiction historical account The War of the Worlds. The first invasion was going well until (spoilers!) the Martians' immune systems defeated them as they couldn't deal with the common cold. But now they're back, and they've come prepared! But we've prepared too. The industrial powers of the world have been feverishly producing machines of war- massive tanks powered by steam and firing the finest conventional weapons available- and a few unpredictable, emerging technologies as well! Though the tanks are individually no match for a Martian Tripod, human ingenuity, leadership, and willpower are often enough to carry the day.

The world is consumed by interplanetary war. Will you conquer it or save it?

Steven: To be honest, when I first saw the kick starter I thought it looked neat, but not enough to buy in. The models were cool, but I just didn't need another game system to occupy my time! Like Alien Dungeon's previous offering: Fanticide (see our review here), I thought it was a unique, interesting game, but not one I could see myself playing for long. As time went on, and the KS closed, I found myself often thinking about All Quiet- and eventually that grew into regret for not backing the KS! By the time the game was released, I was incredibly excited, and anxious to paint some of those gorgeous models.
Scott: I'll echo Steve's comments about kicking myself for missing the Kickstarter. But hey, now that it's here, time to catch up! With a sprouting interest in WW1 gaming combined with an inert love of all things sci-fi and alternate reality, what could go wrong?

The Game's Presentation: Rulebook and Marketing
Miniature gaming is a cottage industry. The cost of entry is low, and the competition is fierce. Miniature game companies compete not only with each other, but with every other distraction that would take up their customers' precious painting time: video games, board games, movies, being processed by a martian harvester to feed the red weed. In 2014, having a set of rules just isn't enough. Their products need to be presented in aesthetically pleasing, polished forms to be taken seriously- and especially to grab any market share.

Increasingly, smaller companies like Alien Dungeon are figuring that out, and creating products that look very professional and compete with the best on the market. All Quiet on the Martian Front is a fine example of a rulebook and game system demanding to be taken seriously. With all-star writing credits (Alessio and Priestley) and an obvious passion behind the project from Ernie Baker, the presentation of All Quiet adds to the enthusiasm admirably. The rule book is full of fantastic photographs, artwork, and "fluff", and also features complete army lists for the US, The Martians, and The British Expeditionary Forces.

A lot of the fluff pieces are written in the style of period newspaper clippings
Scott: I'd just like to say that the rulebook is QUALITY.  Hardback, nice glossy covers, and clocking in at 176 pages, it's certainly had a lot of work and design put into it. The first 30 pages are chock full of fluff and Martian war-themed propaganda, which makes excellent reading material. The narratives, rules, and descriptions are well written out, spacing is gracious, and theres enough pictures, both photographs and artwork, to keep it from feeling like a boring rulebook. There are a few typos and errors that we've found, and a few rules questions that seem to be missing, but you find these with most rulebooks, and are easily addressed with FAQs and erratas if needed.
Steven: Yep! This is a nice quality rulebook. Aside from a few minor, easily fixed errors, it's really standout. I went from being interested to being all in by the time I made it through the book on my first read. Top notch graphic design, wonderfully doctored historical photos- it's got everything you need to really get into the history of it all.

They also have some period photos, and including some that have been....altered....

The theme and "fluff"
The setting of the game is interesting. Either you like it or you don't- chances are if you don't, you wouldn't have read this far. While the game is about Martians and humans battling it out for Earth, at its core this is a game about asymmetrical warfare. The Martians are clearly technologically advanced, possessing nearly impenetrable armor and heat rays that melt the thickest steel; while the humans must rely on numbers and ingenuity to overcome their foes.
Steven: For me, any game that can successfully capture an asymmetrical battle automatically has my attention. It's what I think Flames Of War: Vietnam did so well, and I don't think a comparison to that particular game system is that far of a stretch. I love the setting! 
Scott: The game is visually pretty stunning. Walking by a game in action is likely to see a conversation like:
"See those gigantic Martian tripods towering over buildings, and these little tiny things running around on the ground?"  "Oh, wait, those are the humans?!"  "Those tripods must be massive - humanity is doomed!" The epic struggle of humanity to overcome this superior threat just draws you in. If you love a good underdog story, AQ is for you. And if you love giant stompy alien robots, well, how can you miss them?

The Rules (Overview)

-Basic Stats and Concepts
All Quiet uses a modified "I-go, You-go" system, and utilizes d10s for dice rolling. Individual models (or bases of infantry) are referred to as "elements". Sometimes multiple elements group together into units. The stats for elements are relatively simple. They have
  • Speed - how far in inches you move
  • Defense - the score your opponent needs to roll on a D10 to hit the unit
  • Armor - the score you opponent needs to roll on a D10 to damage the unit
and their weapons have
  • Range - range in inches
  • Power - a penetrating modifier applied to the roll to damage the unit
A sneak peek of some of the stat lines.
Many entries have some special rules in addition, such as the Tripod's special damage table, or tanks that cannot move and shoot in the same turn.

From the detailed army list in the back of the book

Each turn, the players roll off for initiative to decide who goes first. When you activate, you move all your models, fight with all your models, and then move them again. Next, the other player does the same if they haven't already gone this turn. On the next turn, you roll for initiative again. What this does is allows the possibility of having two turns in a row. The initiative roll is also modified by how much stuff you destroyed in the previous turn, so if your army is making sweeping advances on the tabletop, that plays into the initiative roll as well.
Steven: Having not played a game yet, I am very interested to see how the "move, shoot, move" paradigm works. It seems like being able to step out, snipe, and step back behind cover (the shoot and scoot) could make for a static game, although most scenarios require one or more side to be aggressive. Having not seen this play out on the table top yet, I think it can absolutely work. Two movement steps does seem to steer the game towards a highly mobile engagement, and I hope that plays out!
Scott: The "move, shoot, move" definitely helps the humans more than the Martians - it's not easy to hide those giant tripods! I also really like the initiative system. It gives a bit of randomness to the activations, but since you only would ever get two turns in a row, it's not something that you can really run away with.

During your first move phase, you move all of your models that you wish to move. Pretty much any kind of hindering terrain reduces your movement by half. Infantry move through most terrain without penalty. Elements within a unit must maintain a 2" cohesion (3" for vehicles).

After the combat phase, you get to move again! The classic Flames of War "move, shoot, stormtrooper away" is a valid tactical maneuver available to everyone. Of course, you can also use this second move to move even closer to the enemy of you want to get stuck in up close.

Human infantry units can move as "stealth blips", allowing for lots of decoys to be placed out. For every infantry unit, I can deploy three numbered "blip" tokens, one being real, and two being fake. All three of these blips can move around the map and act like normal infantry, only being revealed when the time is right. This adds a unique element of psychological warfare to the game.
Steven: I love the hidden movement. Most scenarios also allow tank units to be hidden (though unlike infantry they cannot move while hidden) meaning you could really mess with your opponent! Besides that, movement is straightforward and works fine.

During the combat phase, you shoot and fight in close combats. Shooting (and close combat) is simple - you roll a D10 for each shot and hope to meet or exceed the targets defense. Then all the dice that "hit" are rolled again, this time against the targets armor, to determine if you damage the target. Weapons have a power stat - this modifies the "to damage" roll, and allows you to punch through armor values higher than 10.
example: A human Mk II Steam Tank has defense 5, armor 8 and a 4" gun which features Power +2. A Martian tripod has defense 6, armor 11, and a heat ray that is power +3. Obviously the tank is no match for the tripod! Thankfully, it has strength in numbers.
Steven: Now seems like an appropriate time to praise the simple stat-lines. Combat is simple, and easy to teach anyone in just a few seconds. The combination of "defense" and "armor" combined with differing cover bonuses does a good job of differentiating units' capabilities without having an enormous statline.

Many units shoot with templates, such as the Martian tripods with their sweeping heat rays or human artillery pieces. Simple place the template anywhere within range, and then roll to hit against each target under the template. Unlike many systems, the template doesn't have to be centered on any particular model, so play away for maximum effect!

Only units with close combat weapons can actually fight in close combat, but it's done at the same time as shooting, so it's one or the other. In addition, units never stay "locked" in close combat - if you do not destroy the enemy in an assault, you must use your second movement phase to pull back.

In the event of units consisting of more than one model (such as a unit of three steam tanks), if one of the elements is destroyed, the unit must take a morale test. The test starts off at 60% (5+) chance odds of success, but is lowered 10% for each element lost in that round of combat. If the test is failed, the remaining units rout. Unlike failing a morale check in some games, they're not immediately destroyed - you can run them off the board and allow them to regroup and return, or perhaps rally them with a command unit.

There are no strict army-list building rules, but some sample force org charts are given for guidance.

As mentioned in movement, most pieces of terrain slow movement speed down to half. Terrain also confers positive modifier bonuses to targets either within, or on the other side, of it. A relatively unique aspect to AQ is that modifiers are counted separately for terrain the target is within, and intervening terrain. If you're shooting some infantry that are within the woods and your line of sight also crosses some obstacles, you take both penalties. In the event of line of sight crossing multiple pieces of terrain, you only take the highest modifier, but still take the additional modifier for the woods they are standing in.
Check out this sweet all-in-one terrain chart. All rulebooks need this!

Check out that sweet list of scenarios to choose from!

Rules Review and Analysis
Scott: The rules are simple enough that the game is easy to teach. This is wonderful news if you're trying to spread the good word to all your friends and clubmates. In fact, I'd venture to say that you could probably stumble through a simple game with just the overviews provided in this article! There are some more meaty aspects, such as commander rules, reserves, rules for buildings, etc, but you could jump right in and start playing without them and have a satisfying gaming experience. There are some rules questions that are not easy to answer with just the rulebook, but Alien Dungeon seems to be forthcoming with answering questions and addressing issues on their forums and such.
Steven: Again, agreeing with Scott. This game's strength is its relatively straightforward mechanics- but don't let that fool you! There is a potential for a very meaty game here, and I think with just a few tweaks and some online support (which Alien Dungeon have said will be forthcoming) this game could easily hang with the best of them in a tournament environment. I have yet to play a game, so take my opinions with a grain of salt- but I know my way around a game system! I think AQ will meet a lot of gamers' needs from the casual to the hardcore. Check back soon as we start posting more of our painting progress and Battle Reports!

Rulebook provided by Alien Dungeon

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bolt Action - Speak Easy Episode 23

Continuing the discussion from Bolt Action Radio 23, Dano Without Robots and Judson With Three D's attack the show with spirit-induced vigor; but things meander as the guys talk shop like the microphones weren't on. Oh, and they get a little wild as well, in case the abrupt ending of BAR Episode 23 wasn't an obvious enough clue.

(For those that don't know, subscriptions provide access to all WWPD premium content, and Speakeasy represents just a fraction of the whole. - Judson)

Download here!

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News From the Front Episode 76

In Act I, the guys do an AAR on the recent Italy Tournament and cover what they have been up to.  Paw Paw makes a breief appearance before his Mom picks him up.  There is general craziness and a descent into Boss Moster madness.

In Act II, there is a deep dive into the upcoming Bridge at Remagen book.  The guys cover the highlights and anticipate some US and German lists.  Pershings and Jagdtigers, oh my!  You will want to hear this segment, for sure!  

In a short Act III, the guys cover some Commonly Overlooked Rules, including transports and Assaults.

After Hours 76

In this episode, the guys dive further into Remagen and try to make some predictions about which lists will be popular and how they will do against various opponents.  This discussion takes up most of the episode, but the guys do sneak in a little terrain talk at the end.

Click here to listen to After Hours
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bolt Action - Dropping into Darkness, Looking at Night Fighting Rules and Para Drops

In the lead up to D-Day the crew were chatting about getting some games going to simulate the various elements of the invasion, I grabbed hold of the idea of a night time Airborne assault and started to plan how it would work. The two elements I had to consider were the night fighting rules and how to simulate a para drop. Now Warlord Games has put out a night fighting set of rules so that part was easy enough, but simulating the randomness of a parachute landing was left up to us to work out.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Bolt Action - Bolt Action Radio Episode 23

On behalf of the original BARbarians, Dano and Judson, welcome back for another episode of Bolt Action Radio! In this show, the not-so-gentle men get back to basics and turn this into a shop talk marathon. In fact, the shop runs on so late into the night - and the cups - that the second half is going to appear on Speakeasy 23. Before it's cut short, however, D and J talk about recent Warlord Games releases and may or may not admit to surprising sensitivity to some of the period subject matter. Certain journeys to Australia and Oneonta and the tournaments that occurred there are mentioned, as well as the surprising results breaking out from your normal list-making habits can often yield. Before long, this one starts to get a bit loose, and the FCC (not really) pulls the plug, forcing us to the high numbers on your TV dial (Speakeasy!) The important points are made before the rollercoaster takes its final downhill plunge into Speakeasy territory, but hold on to your hats regardless. 23 is on the spicy side!

Download the BAR here! 

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All Quiet on the Martian Front: Steamtanks

Let's take a peep at the U.S. steam tanks for All Quiet on the Martian Front by Alien Dungeon.

You get three per pack, or six in the two-player starter set. Each tank consists of a single sprue.

The core chassis of the tank itself is four pieces - top, bottom, and the two sides with the tracks sculpted in. The side doors are separate pieces as well, allowing you to glue them open if you wanted to - you could make one being repaired at the field repairs workshop! (A field repairs workshop is an actual thing you can take in a U.S. list!) Next, you either add a flat top for the MKII or the superstructure for the MKIII, and add guns as appropriate. 

I assembled them with Testor's plastic cement, and they are pretty strong and durable once assembled. You're not going to have gun barrels snapping off. In fact, you could probably toss these across the room and they'd be fine. (Note: please don't throw your tanks)

The rules for the game allow you to be flexible with the armament - you can actually shave some points by dropping the 4-inch guns to 3-inch guns, or even machine guns, or uparm some machine guns with anti-tank guns. For my starter box tanks, I followed Steve's advice and built three MKIIs with a single 4-inch gun, and three MKIII's with three 4-inch guns.

Tanks next to a 15mm HMG team

The tanks are a bit larger than I expected. Not quite as long as an actual WW1 landship, but considerably big for a FoW size tank.

Tanks next to a Battlefront Sherman
 The figures definitely measure up to an 18mm/20mm scale, which as many folks have pointed out, makes it really easy to get terrain for in HO scale!

Tanks next to a WIP stand of U.S. infantry
 The only possible flaw I noticed with the tanks is that the detailing on the right side panels is far less deep than the detailing on the left side panels. Below notice you can barely see the vertical inlays on the right - they're there, but very faint.

It would also be nice to get some more machine gun turrets on the sprue, as I'd like to build some 4x Machine Gun MKIII's, but the sprue is fairly packed as it is, so I'm not sure where they'd find room to stick it! Maybe they'll sell them as an add-on pack one day....

Painting wise, I used Vallejo Russian Uniform for the basecoat, with some very faint airbrushed highlights adding a drop or two of white to cup. Tracks are my standard Vallejo German Grey, drybrushed with Citadel Necron Compound and Gehenna's Gold. Then a little weathering powder, decals, and a sprinkle of grass on the tracks, and they're done!

All in all, these tanks were quite a joy to build and paint up, and they've been doing OK for themselves on the tabletop as well. Check back soon and we'll see what Steve did with his!

In the meanwhile, if you're still eagerly awaiting the arrival of your tanks and need more to fill your appetite, Alien Dungeon made a pretty cool YouTube video walking you through all the pieces of it - check it out!

Models provided by Alien Dungeon

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Game Vault Italy theme tournament 2014 AAR

By Eric Lauterbach
Photos by Eric, Sean and Maurice

Another good time was had at the late war Italy theme tournament at Game Vault in Fredericksburg.  The tournament was 1650 point lists from only Road to Rome and Fortress Italy with the restriction of only one Corps Support box of Artillery. Naval Gunfire was banned and will be from pretty much here on out in all I-95 tournaments (ed: Can't wait for a healthy debate on that...). The boards did have a fair amount of impassable terrain that the players were warned about.

For this tournament impassable cliffs and hills were open ground to all mountaineer rated troops and non mountaineer rated could cross them on a skill test. If the cliff was more than 4" high only mountaineers could cross it on a skill test. We had a almost 50/50 split of Allies and Axis with a good mix of British, Polish and American allies; the Germans had one Italian with them as well. In the end Sean Mackintosh and Eric Rhia tied for first place with 3 wins each and the same battle score as I-95 scores "Wins" first and then points. Thus, with better "power of opponent" scores (meaning the tie was broken on the score of the opponents the two players faced off against) Eric Rhia won and Sean came in second. Ed Leland and Steve MacLauchlan played the last round for the win but had a draw allowing Eric and Sean to jump over them.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Bridge at Remagen Reviewed and Spoiled

The Bridge At Remagen - Spoiled

“In many ways the strategic and political situation facing General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces, in February 1945 was eerily similar to the previous August. After the fierce and desperate battles in the autumn and winter of 1944, the Western Allies were once again advancing along a broad front and closing in on Germany. The River Rhine remained the last physical and psychological barrier between the Western Allies and the industrial heartland of Germany, known as the Ruhr. How to cross that obstacle and which armies would go on to secure the German heartland was a matter of contention with both Eisenhower’s subordinates and superiors.”
-From The Bridge At Remagen, by Mike Haught. Excerpt by Dr. Michael McSwiney.

The Bridge At Remagen is an 80 page Flames of War book from Battlefront Studios that covers the time period from February until April of 1945. The book is written by Mike Haught with assistance from Dr. Michael McSwiney. This book features superb graphic design and the lists inside detail actions by American and German forces over that time period.

The Battle of Remagenis laid out in detail as well as the larger military operations taking place in the battle for the Rhine River and the Ruhr Pocket. Battlefront provides great force diagrams, unit histories and details; as well some painting and modeling guides for units fighting in this time period. As we approach the fall of Berlin and the end of the war, it is great to see new releases releases are high quality not lacking in details or smart layouts.

American players are going to be excited to field a real live heavy tank and all of the options for Shermans are going to absolutely blow your mind. German players are going to see King Tigers and Jagdtigers in a new light, and will welcome back their old friend Otto Carius. So whether you are defending the Fatherland or Fighting for Freedom thousands of miles from home, The Bridge at Remagen is sure to be an essential part of your collection.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bolt Action - Dismounted Soviet Cavalry

The down side to painting mounted Soviet Cavalry was that I "had" to paint dismounted figures. The upside of painting mounted figures is I "got" to paint dismounted figures.  Anyone who has ever painted motorcycle troops or other cavalry knows there is both pain and joy in collecting mounted troops. Yes painting and having extra dismounted figures can be annoying, but it is worth it in the end to have proper models for when your troops dismount. True, you don't have to paint dismounted figures and can use regular infantry, but having matching dismounted figures really makes an army stand out.

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All Quiet on the Martian Front First Look: Assault Tripods!

The folks at Alien Dungeon were kind enough to send us some All Quiet on the Martian Front stuff for review, and we were excited to jump in and check it out! Over the next few weeks, Scott and I will be sharing our thoughts here- so there's plenty more to come. For this article, I am going to focus on my impressions of the Tripods from a model standpoint and show how I've chosen to paint them. Future articles will see similar treatments for the steam tanks, infantry, and a discussion of the game itself.

Without further ado, let's discuss the Tripod! Specifically, in this article, I am talking about the Assault Tripod. Both the Assault and Scout tripods share the same lower half- a plastic sprue comprising the 3 legs (2 of which are one piece, rigid construction while the 3rd is comprised of smaller pieces separated at the joints to make dynamic poses) the lower superstructure, and the tentacles.

 Legs, tentacles, base on the left. Assault Tripod specific frame on the right.

On the right is the main body of the assault tripod along with the various weapon options: Heavy heat ray, black dust launcher, green gas. The scout tripod has a similar, but smaller frame, sitting atop the same legs.

As you can see from the pictures, the frames are well laid out and the designs have good, "thick" detail. I had some deeper mould lines- nothing outrageous, but I did have to take some time with a file and a craft knife. The plastic was very easy to work with, however, and everything assembled without any issues.

 Speaking of assembling plastic, if you don't own this- do yourself a favor and buy some right now. I promise you won't regret it.

 Legs assembled. I was initially very concerned about those tentacles being fragile- they have quite a bit of give however. It remains to be seen if they will stand up to the rigors of gaming, but I'm much less concerned after working with them for some time.

The tripod fully assembled. For all 3 of mine, I decided to stick with just the Heavy Heat Ray armament- primarily so I can demo the game quickly without explaining barrage weapons.

A tripod next to some Steam Tanks for scale

A tripod next to a wife for scale.

Next, I used Vallejo Model Air 71.064 through the airbrush for a base coat. This came out fairly light- much lighter than depicted in the book. While I've come to like the look now, I was initially disappointed because they don't look quite as menacing. I'd use a darker color from the range if you wanted to more accurately match the awesome paintjobs in the book, but I am going to stick with chrome for my Martians. If anything, they'll be distinctive!

Fully assembled and base coated.

Starting to come together!

Next, I liberally used CGR Painters' Magic Mud wash to darken up the chrome, and paid close attention to the recesses. The heat ray and vents underneath the "hood" were painted Black Grey, with highlights of Black Grey mixed with Sky Grey. The eye is Sky Grey, with the center being True Red, and Black Grey.

The heat ray emitter I originally painted red, but changed it to German Camo Green- it looked too much like the eye! To end it all off, I drybrushed the legs with Flat Earth for some weathering, and a bit of red at the end of the tentacles. That's it! Easy paintjob, and I'm quite happy with the results.

Review Summary:
This is a great kit. 3 tripods for $35? Count me in. The models are huge, well detailed, robust, and easy to assemble and paint. What's not to love? I think Alien Dungeon have a hit on their hands with All Quiet on the Martian Front, and I for one can't wait to get more into it. Check back here for more!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bolt Action - AAR: Germans Attempt an Envelopment of the Canadians Outside BARbaristein

Immediately outside the completely shelled and entirely fictional city of BARbaristein, a hastily formed German counterattack attempts to envelope Canadian liberators, in this post-Normandy landings battle.

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