Pocket battle Games, so far....

selection of Rock and a Hard Place
This is a review "of sorts" on all the pocket battle games (aka pbgs) from the original publishers,  LPS, Inc and High Flying Dice Games, Ltd.

Up to now (Nov 10, 2019) LPS, Inc has put out 30 various pocket battle games (PBGs) under two different companies - Turning Point Simulations and Against the Odds magazine.  High Flying Dice Games, Inc has put out two under their company logo.

Now, I am not going into an in depth review or point out which is the best design or play, as what I like and believe, you may not, but I am listing the PBGs that are available and what each game covers. 

Turning Point Simulations (LPS) Pocket Battle Games
#1 Rattankrieg* Assault on the Tractor Factory - WW2, Stalingrad.
#2 Nothing So Well Lost. The Siege of Rhodes 1022.
#3 Fateful Days, The Marne 1914 - Opening of WW1
#4 Operation Pedestal - WW2, convoy to Malta
#5 A Hard Pounding Fight* - Battle for La Haye Sainte - Napoleon at Waterloo

ATO Magazine (LPS) Pocket Games
#1 Stand At Mortain - WW2, The stand of the 30th Infantry Division
#2 Some Poles Apart - WW2, German invasion of Poland 1939
#3 Showtime Hanoi* - Nam, Lt Cunningham's and Lt Driscoll's victory over Colonel Toon
#4 Morgan's A' Comin- ACW, Rebel raider Morgan crosses the Ohio
#5 The Toast of the Town - Boudica takes Londinuim 61 AD
#6 Paying The Peiper - WW2, Battle of the Bulge 1944.
#7 A Dash of Peiper - WW2, Battle of the Bulge 1944
#8 The Bagged Peiper - WW2, Battle of the Bulge 1944
#9 Just A Piper Dream - WW2 Battle of the Bulge, 1944

#10 La Garde Recule!* - Napoleon, The Old Guards last attack at Waterloo
#11 The Union Forever*- ACW, the entire Civil War
#12 Operation Cerberus - The Channel Dash* - WW2
#13 Marschall Vorwarts - Napoleon, Battle of Leipzig 1813
#14 A Matter of Honor - Napoleon, Battle of Leipzig 1813
#15 The Nations Assemble - Napoleon, Battle of Leipzig 1813
#16 Trapping the Ogre - Napoleon, Battle of Leipzig 1813

#17 The Siege of Alesia - Caesar's classic battle 52 BC
#18 Behold A Pale Glider - WW2, Eben Emael, 1940
#19 Not Men, But Devils - Mexico, Battle of CamarĂ³n, 1863
#20 Imua - Unification of Hawaii, 1795 - Hawaii Civil War

Unfortunately these PBGs are not available right now, as they were offered during the D-Day anniversary last June 2019. But I am sure they will be again (these are also known as "Five for Fighting").
#21 The Utah Beach Landings* - WW2, D-Day
#22 The Omaha Beach Landings* - WW2, D-Day
#23 The Gold Beach Landings* - WW2, D-Day
#24 The Juno Beach Landings* - WW2, D-Day 

#25 The Sword Beach Landings* - WW2, D-Day

High Flying Dice Games (HFDG) Pocket Games
#1 Dueling Eagles Over Malta* - WW2, British Air Defense of Malta
#2 Rock and a Hard Place* - WW2, what if German invasion of Malta

Note: Games in italics have reviews on this blog and are linked to those reviews.  Games in yellow can actually be joined together to create the entire battle. 

Big Games?
The PBGs above in yellow can be joined together and played as bigger games - for example #6, #7, #8, #9, create the Battle of Bulge; #13, #14, #15, #16, the entire battle of Leipzig; and #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, make up all five beach landings on D-Day. I have played them all, but my favorite "big" game is #21 to #25, the D-Day set. One can get advance rules to play the games combined.

Well, what are they?
In all honestly, these are not monster games with 4 or more large game map sheets covering a 4' x 6' or larger table with 1000's of counters, pages of errata, volumes of rules or the complication of said rules, and  taking months if not years to play.  Nor are they like a standard size game with an 11"x17" (or larger) game map, 80 to 100+ counters and 6 to 20 pages of rules.

These are nice, simple to play games.  Complicated enough not to be able to figure out the ultimate "win all the time" game plan strategy within a few plays if not at all.  If I had to say what the games are like, they would be akin to the old SPI Capsule Games or Meta-Gaming Micro games, though, much smaller, better graphics,  and a more variable play result - Easy to play, but hard to master.

Four inches by six inches (post card size), heavy duty poster board with 16 to 20 counters (most have 17 counters) each. Nicely printed with a game map on one side and rules on the other. I have noticed that each seem to have a clear coating, too.  Dice may be needed for some of the PBGs and some use a playing card system for movement and/or combat.

The games are not slapped together in a haphazard fashion, but truly planned out with attention to detail. I was once told by Paul Rohrbaugh that "it is harder to design these pocket games to be as true to history and fun, than it is to design a larger game.  Only 4"x6" of playing surface and 20 or less counters.  Fun is the key word here, as with any game, if it is not "fun" to play, then why play it?".  I agree.

Clear, concise rules that cover everything has to be provided. Units must equal what was at the particular battle.  For example, ATO #11, The Union Forever, covers the entire American Civil War to include blockade runners, Lee's invasion of the North, C.S.A. state militia and armies, Union Armies, and carpet baggers (i.e. Federal control of Southern states) (and this is one of my favorites). Another PBG, TPS #1 Rattankrieg covers the German attack at the tractor factory during the Battle of Stalingrad. Design for solo play, it is not a walk over for the Germans. As a bonus, it is designed and developed by two of the nicest and devoted to history game designers out there - Steve Cunliffe and Paul Rohrbaugh.  Again, a lot of thought and probably a lot of hair pulling went into this game.

Ok, what about the cost and how do I get them?
The games, are inexpensive, with the LPS (ATO/TPS) series being free with a purchase (this also gets you mounted die-cut counters for your PBG as well), or if you have an ATO magazine subscription, I believe you will get a few as part of your subscription. 

High Flying Dice Games offers 2 PBGs = #1 Dueling Eagles Over Malta and  #2 "Rock and a Hard Place".

Three ways to get HFDGs PBG #1 "Dueling Eagles Over Malta" -
  1. When one purchases four games from HFDGs, ask for it. 
  2. It is included in ATO magazine #45, the issue with "Red Dragon: Blue Dragon game. 
  3. It is available for $8.00 with a card set and a set of mounted counters from HFDG.  
It is an excellent little game and worth what ever it takes to get it, especially since it is a fairly easy to play air combat gaming system, that is exciting. Both have reviews on this site.

HFDG's pbg  #2 "Rock and a Hard Place" can be purchased for $10 and comes with a card set (worth it right there as I have this card set and it is nicely done).
HFDG card set for Leipzig 1813

I need to make a special note that High Flying Dice Games has a lot of card sets made up for the PBG's that uses cards. These card sets are used to replace the normal playing deck one may need in a PBG. You can click on the graphic to the right to view them.  Price is $8 and shipping.  Are they worth it? I believe so and here is a sample of one.  

So how do I play them?
Once one figures out which PBG to play, cut out the counters as carefully as one can, grab a card deck if needed and/or a die, and read the rules then sit down to play. 

What I do since I have problems with the colors red/green and  needing coke bottle glasses these days for reading, I blow the game up to 11x17. I may make new counters or not, depends on the colors used for them. I also make a copy of rules on the back, glue/mount and cut out the counters that I make (click here for instructions on how to mount counters), and find all the addenda I can (below are links, but there is not much).  

For ATO
For HFDG
Note: Addenda for the Games can be downloaded from ATO or TPS for their series of games and contact High Flying Dice Games for their addenda. 

For TPS
Note: The rules for combining all of the Five for Fighting PBGs has been updated and contains now the rules for the all the variants, including the USA Paratroopers. You can download them here.

Since I know I will play the PBG a lot of times, I make sure to take care of the counters and map. These little games are well printed on very stiff poster board and can take a beating, but like anything paper, if it gets wet or mistreated, will fall apart.  

Note: Just remember, these games just like their big brothers are COPYRIGHTED by the publisher.   Not for copying to give to your friends or loved ones. And if you give your pocket game to someone else, then you need to give what you copied to the same person or destroyed it. It is only fair and right.

If you have made it this far, that's it.  As stated above, I have reviewed a bunch of these games for the blog and each game that I play, impresses me just that more. They are fun, they don't take a lot of resources in playing, they don't take up a lot of room (good, if you are a traveling person) and best of all, don't take a lot of time to play.  And perfect for introducing someone to the world of military conflict gaming. 

 thanks for reading,
-ab

This blog is considered to be a living blog. Changes will be made to it as needed to clarify, correct errors or update with new information.

Edited Nov 12, 2019 to add price for Dueling Eagles PBG and card set.

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