Archive for June, 2014


The Great War Explained

Philip Stevens

Pen and Sword Books

Available Now

Trying to write a book that explains everything about the First World War – all of its theatres, its background and the effects it had – is a large enough task in and of itself. Trying to do it at a beginner’s level – so that it will take the reader from absolute novice to well-clued-up expert is even harder – some would say even near impossible. The Great War Explained tries to accomplish this, and it makes a very good go of it.

The book is a decent sized one, and is presented in a fun, conversational style – loaded with some interesting pieces of trivia scattered throughout in box-outs. The upbeat writing style is one of the book’s strongest assets, as it gives the impression of being on a battlefield tour with a particularly knowledgeable and affable guide. The pacing is excellent, never lingering too long, never skimming over an area too quickly.

As the book progresses a large portion is dedicated to aerial and naval combat, which is very welcome; far too many “newbie” books linger on the mud and blood of the trenches without ever passing an eye across other theatres. The Great War Explained however, is wide and encompassing.

If I had any criticisms, it would be that some parts or aspects of the conflict are not quite explained in as much detail as they really need to be. A few extra paragraphs here or there when covering some of the basics would have been most welcome. A few more maps and/or photos showing how the battles and fronts tied together in the greater scheme of things would have gone a long way towards making some parts easier to follow, too.

All in all, The Great War Explained is a great reference or starter book…but not quite the “complete beginner’s guide” they were hoping for – those expecting to have their hand held every step of the way may come away a little disappointed. It is – however – a great beginner’s book – and a fun reference for those who are a little more knowledgeable.


A stunning illustration of just how terrifying even the ‘quiet’ moments in war can be, this eerie new trailer is sure to captivate both new and existing audiences for Company of Heroes 2.


Studio Canal

Available Now – Amazon

Forgotten Men is a documentary about the First World War, with footage produced in 1934 (before the outbreak of the Second World War). Presented by historian Sir John Hammerton, this rare account of the horrors of the First World War combines original footage and pictures taken by official photographers between 1914-1918; intertwined with interviews from a number of ex-Servicemen who describe their own personal experiences whilst fighting on the western front – less than 20 years after WW1 ended.

A haunting account of the horrors of war, Forgotten Men is a document, reminding us in this centenary year, of the many brave men and women who risked their lives to fight for their country’s independence in one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Forgotten Men is a wonderful documentary for many reasons. It’s filled with rare, interesting and depressingly brutal footage. There are entertaining and engaging face to face interviews with actual servicemen of the First World War. However, being originally produced and released way back in 1934, it’s interesting as historical account in its own right, too. The stoic Britishness of it all is sometimes laughable…and more often sobering. A telling moment comes when these men can’t bring themselves to say the word “urine”, but the narrator thinks nothing of mere seconds later dramatically declaring in voice over “Look at that body! It once had a head!”

This juxtaposition of cheery British celebration of victory is tempered by the cold detachment with which Hammerton rattles off the death statistics. Sometimes he seems a little too detached, but then we cut back to the “lecture room” with all the ex-servicemen, and he grows somehow warmer, underlining the difference between faceless statistics, and the REAL men who fought there.

Forgotten Men also provides excellent parts on both the aerial and naval fronts, with some very detailed sections on plane operations, and a decent sized part given over to the Battle of Jutland. Then, for the Treadheads like me, there’s some great footage of the Battle of Cambrai, and a decent sized talk about their involvement in the War.

The picture quality throughout is as good as it could be, although blips and scratches are to be expected – especially from one sequence where the camera filming it is visibly blown apart by incoming artillery! The sound is very good, some tape hiss, but again, nothing that can be improved upon.

The extras are minimal – an interview with historian Max Arthur – but it’s definitely worth a watch for the detail and background he provides.

Forgotten Men is a touching memorial to the many victims of the Great War, and features some amazing archive footage to boot!


Phantom Leader is a great game of resource management, character development, historical education and tense, action-packed combat. Most new players will tend to utilise the USAF when having their first few games, thanks to the more easily recognisable planes, such as the Thunderchief, Intruder and Super-Sabre. I think this a good thing, as in my experience the USN campaigns prove to be significantly harder that those featuring the USAF. This is due to several reasons, which I’ll come on to in a moment.

PL cards (front)_PL cards.qxd.qxd

The first piece of strategic advice? Play the USAF campaigns first so that you have some idea of how the game works, what weapons are best for what purpose, and what sort of events you can expect. You will be in a world of hurt if you go for USN first.

So, here are my key tips and strategies for effectively using the USN in Phantom Leader.

Sink your SO Points into the Tanker

The USN gets a lot more leeway with its special weapons than the USAF seems to, especially in later campaigns such as Rolling Thunder and Linebacker. Also their F4s are equipped to carry AIM-9 Sidewinders without any special modifications, which stretches those “pennies” a little further. To counterbalance this, it seems that the USN often has further to travel, as a lot of flight paths can see you spending 2 Weight Points towards extra fuel. Long story short? If you have to give even one weight point over to fuel allowance, and you’re expecting the mission to be anything other than a complete cakewalk, fork out for the tanker. You’ll be glad of it when you’re able to use that weight allowance for some ECMs or Falcons instead.

Sheet Campaing USN Linebacker - Copy

Assign Specialised Roles, and STICK TO THEM

The USAF plans are pretty good at diversifying if necessary. Fighters can do a bit of bombing if you need them to, your interceptors can probably knock out a ground target if you want them to; but this kind of diversity is considerably harder to come by in the USN campaigns. In the USN, you have interceptors, and you have bombers; and there’s very little leeway when trying to make one plane cover for the responsibility of another.

With the USAF you can fly a squadron of Jack-Of-All-Trades and achieve some pretty good results. With the USN, you want to have your Bomber, and you want to have some fighter support for it. Don’t expect the fighter to be able to drop any bombs and don’t expect your bomber to be much use if a gang of MiGs turn up on the horizon. Set your roles and STICK to them.

And, on that note:

c Bandit MiG21

Avoid Dogfights

With a few notable exceptions, the USN pilots are not as good at Air-To-Air combat as their USAF compatriots. Where possible, loads of up some half-decent pilots with Falcons and knock out the MiGs at range. If you don’t, you’ll probably have them harrying you all the way back home again.

Don’t Take the ECM Planes

Those horrible bulbous planes the Navy has? Don’t bother with them. They’ll fill up useless space on your roster, and are nowhere near as useful as the USAF Destroyer. The bonus of making someone a “Fast” pilot is nice, but way too hard to trigger. All they’ll do is float around and attract fire.  Sure they don’t cost to add to a mission, but you need to bear in mind they are a drain on your roster space, and cost you SO points when they need the tanker.  Take another Phantom or Skyhawk instead.

Words: Brad Harmer.  Pictures courtesy of DVG.