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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rommel - A Review of the Latest from Sam Mustafa's Honour Series

Review by Tom Burgess,

Sam Mustafa, one of the most successful US miniatures wargame rules developers, has brought his Honour series of the wargames into the 21th Century with Rommel. Sam has for the most part had kept previously to ancient, 18th and 19th century rules. The Honour series includes many great historical miniatures wargames to include Aurelian, Maurice, Lasalle, Blücher, and Longstreet. I have greatly enjoyed playing Sam's games and was a playtester for a couple of them. What I always appreciated about Sam's rules is that he always tries to push the envelope and come up with unique approaches and mechanics to keep games simple and fast moving while retaining the appropriate feel for the given period.

Rommel is no exception to Sam's guiding game design philosophy. As I playtester on Sam games I recall as many has eleven different versions being tried. And when I say different versions, I mean complete redoes of the entire core mechanics, not just some minor tweaks.  Blücher may have had many more as it was completely shelved at one point, before coming out in its published form after Sam returned to working on it.

So what make Rommel so different? I've played a lot of WW2 miniatures wargame rules that run the gamut from small man to man squad actions up to brigade size battles, but Rommel picks up where the other WW2 wargames leave off. Wargaming with Rommel starts at the Division command level and extends upwards to the corps and even army level, this level of command in wargaming previously was for the most part the domain of board based wargames.

Indeed, many may see Rommel as more of a board game than a miniatures game, and I can tell you that's exactly what Sam wants. As with rest of the Honour series, he wants you to make what you want out of the game. Sam has designed Rommel and other Honour series wargames to be equally playable using miniatures or without by using unit cards. Even though I consider myself a miniatures wargamer, this aspect has grown on me quite a bit. It really helps in playtesting new scenarios before embarking a large modeling project and it allows you to branch off and do "one off" scenarios in theaters that your model collection does not cover. It also lets you set up full battles which might be beyond your miniature collection span. For example, I have couple of lovely 15mm British Napoleonic Divisions for Blücher, but with the Waterloo unit cards decks for  Blücher I now have the complete orders of battle in unit cards for the Anglo-allied, French, and Prussian armies of the entire Waterloo campaign!
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