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Subject: A great balance between depth and playability. rss

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Brian Morris
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Strategic level wargaming can be a tricky proposition. In general the rule of thumb is the more historical depth and realism you desire the more complex the rules and sometimes the stiffer the game play. While I think most grognards want as much historical depth as they can get, players will of course differ on how much playability they are willing to sacrifice. Some want a relaxing low complexity game while others love to dive in as deep as it takes to get as much depth and detail as they can get. The truly great games are the ones who give you that great historical depth you desire without rules that make you feel that the game is to slow moving. Europe Engulfed is in my opinion one of the best strategic level games in respect to giving you that depth in a system that is amazingly user friendly.



Components

Europe Engulfed may be the biggest block game currently on the market. It's a big game. To put the game's size into perspective, an average GMT game map is 22x34". This game has two 22x34" cardboard maps. So playing space wise this game is twice the size as your average GMT wargame such as Sword of Rome or The Napoleonic Wars. In terms of blocks it has 283 blocks. Again to put that into perspective there are 75 in GMT's FAB:The Bulge and 56 in Columbia's Hammer of the Scots. Add to all that 244 counters. The result is you've got a big big game.

Block wise the quality of the GMT blocks are excellent. They're smaller than the Columbia blocks but still plenty big enough. Sticker wise the stickers are perfect for the blocks i.e. they aren't to small and they aren't so big as to leave no room on the edges making for much easier stickering which is very important when you'll looking at 283 blocks to sticker. The sticker sheet itself is also very well perforated so you won't have to fight to get the stickers off. So lots of stickers to put on but you won't have to worry about it being to much of a hassle.

The cardboard counters themselves are pretty much your normal GMT counters varying from your standard square counters to larger round ones for things like special actions. Art wise I think they're a touch above you normal wargame counters and are easy to read which is good for us grognards who are over 40.

Map wise the the game has a super map. Big as I said (Make sure you have plenty of table space) but also well designed. The territorial and national borders are well marked as are things like rivers. Very functional and like the counters very easy on the eyes. The map comes in two pieces and is made of thick cardboard ala GMT's deluxe maps. I like to use plexiglass to cover mine but you could do without it if you wish.



Mechanics:

Europe Engulfed for a strategic level wargame with the depth it has has surprisingly user friendly game mechanics both covering tactical combat as well as strategic. I won't go into to much detail here about how block game mechanics normally work as I will assume that you are already familiar with block games to some extent. In short tactical combat takes place in a manner very similar to many other block games. Units roll dice equal to the number of strength points a unit has. The game has unit modifiers as you would expect but not a massive amount which makes most battles go along rather fast and smooth. Most modifiers are things like armor getting a +1 versus infantry, elite units getting a +1 and things of that nature. No looking through a long list of modifiers trying to tally them all up or tables trying to get that 1 more point to get yourself over to the 2-1 column on the combat results table.

There is one very interesting mechanic that helps add a bit to the mechanics and that is the special action. Special actions in the game can be bought by players using their WERPs (Wartime Economic Resource Points). These special action represent special effort on the part of a nation to concentrate resources for certain events. They can be used for a variety of things from amphibious invasions to reinforcing battles to allowing units to launch counter attacks. Players can only purchase a few of these at a time so they have to be careful how they ise them. They add a great deal of flexability to a player's strategy however and it's never a bad idea to have one handy just in case you find yourself in a bad situation and could use some reinforcements in a critical battle.

From a strategic point of view the game has everything one would expect. U-boats, Lend Lease, strategic bombing and even V-1 and V-2 rockets are all here. Yet they are handled in a very user friendly way. U-boats strangling Britain are handled with just 2 die rolls. The British roll for anti-submarine warfare and then the Germans roll to see how many werps the British lose. Strategic bombing is handled in a different mechanic but again it's pretty painless and takes only a few rolls.



Strategic Depth:

Now comes the important question. Does this game scratch that itch you have for historical and strategic depth? The answer is yes and more than you would expect. While the game's mechanics may be more uncomplicated than you would expect for a game of this scope it plays with an extreme amount of depth both strategically and historically. For example the British player has many tough decisions to make with limited resources to do them with. Do you build fighter aircraft or try and strengthen your asw this turn. Do you try and stay on the continent and slow down the German juggernaut with France, risking the loss of valuable units or do you evacuate quickly to Britain and let the German's roll through the French to Paris? The German's meanwhile must decide to either invade Britain and risk not being prepared for a building Soviet Union or to simply put the economic squeeze to the Brits and turn it's attention to the USSR early in an attempt to hit them before they can game to much strength.

This is where the game truly gets me. The game leaves you facing the same hard strategic choices faced by the nations involved during the war. Also like any truly great game there is more than one route to victory.



Summery:

I must admit that I really like games of this type. I have always been a fan of the strategic wargames but never been one for the massive 5,000 counter monster games with chits stacked 5 high using tweezers to see what's where. That's why I truly like this game. It gives me that strategic and historical depth that I so love in a game while at the same time I am not bogged down in 5 pages of charts and tables. A new player with this game can after a good reading of the rules really dive in and enjoy their first game without being completely bogged down by the rules. At the same time players will be able to plan long term strategy and experiment with different ways to victory. If that is the kind of game you are looking for then I think this would be a perfect choice.

I rate this game a 10
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nathan hayden
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you've re-ignited my interest in this game, thanks.

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Jan van der Laan
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A superb review of a really great game. It couldn't have been worded better! Especially the following quotes are entirely true for my part:

mrbeankc wrote:
Europe Engulfed for a strategic level wargame with the depth it has has surprisingly user friendly game mechanics both covering tactical combat as well as strategic.....

This is where the game truly gets me. The game leaves you facing the same hard strategic choices faced by the nations involved during the war. Also like any truly great game there is more than one route to victory........

I must admit that I really like games of this type. I have always been a fan of the strategic wargames but never been one for the massive 5,000 counter monster games with chits stacked 5 high using tweezers to see what's where. That's why I truly like this game. It gives me that strategic and historical depth that I so love in a game while at the same time I am not bogged down in 5 pages of charts and tables....
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Andreas
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I always wanted to buy this game, but if I look at the game aids provided here on the geek I wonder how fast and easy it can be learned/played with two pages of special rules for areas and events...
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Brian, I share your enthusiasm for this game. I might have added that Special Actions are crucial to doing well in this game.

But even if there aren't 5 pages of charts and tables, there are almost as many in notes about restrictions and events (and their triggers). "Jumping in" to a first game of this is likely going to result in some "oh, crap" moments, when the player realizes he was supposed to, for example, do something two turns ago, or stop doing something 3 turns ago, or even has essentially handled something wrong since the beginning of the game. I'm not saying any of such mitigations shouldn't have been handled, but for the life of me there had to have been some better way to deal with it all, than how it was dealt with in the rules and scenario book.
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Brian Morris
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leberegel wrote:
I always wanted to buy this game, but if I look at the game aids provided here on the geek I wonder how fast and easy it can be learned/played with two pages of special rules for areas and events...


I printed out a bunch of the player aid stuff from BGG for my first game and find it really helpful. The special rules aren't that hard to deal with. Of course on a first game players are going to make mistakes, but I didn't find the number of special rules to be that overwhelming at all.
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Bulldozers
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Thanks for the review Brian. I find myself considering playing this game now, where as I had not previously.
 
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Tim Paterson
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DarrellKH wrote:

But even if there aren't 5 pages of charts and tables, there are almost as many in notes about restrictions and events (and their triggers).


Although the interface isn't the prettiest, Bruce Wigdor's internet Europe Engulfed (iEE) is a fantastic way to learn the game, because it takes care of these restrictions for you (for example, Italian production, Axis-minor free step, etc.)
 
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Michael Lucey
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Excellent review. I'm learning this one right now.

This looks too big for me to FtF. Anyone PBEM it? I wonder how the flow is?
 
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Brian Morris
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If the game's size is to big for you table wise but you like the mechanics you might try Asia Engulfed or FAB: The Bulge. Both are also by Rick Young and use a lot of similar game mechanic concepts found in Europe Engulfed like the special actions. Bulge is about the same level in terms of rules complexity while Asia Engulfed is a bit more complex.
 
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Jan van der Laan
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mrbeankc wrote:
If the game's size is to big for you table wise but you like the mechanics you might try Asia Engulfed or FAB: The Bulge. Both are also by Rick Young and use a lot of similar game mechanic concepts found in Europe Engulfed like the special actions. Bulge is about the same level in terms of rules complexity while Asia Engulfed is a bit more complex.


This is so true. While FAB: The Bulge is an operational level wargame Asia Engulfed has the same scope (strategic wargame) as Europe Engulfed but the maps are half the size of the Europe Engulfed map. The introduction of naval units in Asia Engulfed (and the bygoing rules) makes the learning curve of Asia Engulfed a bit steeper. The FAB: The Bulge rules and game mechanics differ a bit more from Europe Engulfed. All three are excellent games imho!
 
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leberegel wrote:
I always wanted to buy this game, but if I look at the game aids provided here on the geek I wonder how fast and easy it can be learned/played with two pages of special rules for areas and events...


Well... to be honest... it's not the easiest game to learn. The rules are quite straightforward, but there are a LOT of exeptions that you WILL mis in your first few plays. And forget about playing fast: the Tournament Scenario (which I think is a different game from the two base games anyway) should be playable in about 10-12 hours for your first time (all in). After that it gets easier, but I recon it's still 45 min up to an hour per round: and there are 27 in the 1941 scenario. Despite that... I still love this game. I'm still on the fence if it should take the number 1 spot in my private collection (A&AR holds that spot). But it's getting there.
 
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Andrew C
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Solid review Brian, thanks.

EE is one of two games I rate a 10, along with Friedrich.

As Brian and others have said, the basic mechanics of the game are relatively straightforward, but there are a pretty high number of systems interacting here. The player aids on BGG really do help quite a bit. One I found particularly useful is the wheel that calculates the amount of supply that can be carried to units in the Med. It takes into account the status of Malta, Crete, the number of naval units etc.

It can be found here: http://files.boardgamegeek.com/geekfile_view.php?fileid=2205...
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Michael Lucey
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By too big I really meant too long to FtF whether in one sitting or multiple. Not even assuming a lack of opponents. Its either Vassal or nothing really. Does it PBEM well?

I hear FAB is a little too random, or more to the point if you not enough units to offset a couple lucky rolls which can ruin any strategies. Anyone else encounter this? Is the unit density too small?
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Jan van der Laan
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Scoobysnacks wrote:
I hear FAB is a little too random, or more to the point if you not enough units to offset a couple lucky rolls which can ruin any strategies. Anyone else encounter this? Is the unit density too small?


The unit density is small, that's true (about 30-40 blocks per player). Whether that's too small is a matter of opinion. Players can avoid heavy losses by retreating or breaking off an attack. Some units may become destroyed (especially the one and two pip units) but the majority will stay in the game. Units can get replacements/reinforcements so the pile of permanently destroyed units will stay relatively small. Areas can hold up to a maximum of 2 units (blocks) per side (this is a "natural" low unit density) so "having not enough units" isn't a problem I have ever encountered until now. Of course the Allied player will have other thoughts.
 
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Ville Koli
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Scoobysnacks wrote:
Its either Vassal or nothing really. Does it PBEM well?


EE Vassal module is really high quality work.
It's nice looking, stable and very playable by e-mail, although there can be quite many logfiles travelling back and forth/round. Especially if there are a lot of Special Actions in play. Of course you can let your opponent make some of "your" rolls (like Strategic Warfare before Build) on his turn to skip sending some of those unnecessary logfiles.

 
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Borat Sagdiyev
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mrbeankc wrote:

Europe Engulfed may be the biggest block game currently on the market. It's a big game.


Eurofront II is definately bigger than EE.
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harzal wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:

Europe Engulfed may be the biggest block game currently on the market. It's a big game.


Eurofront II is definately bigger than EE.


Dont you need Westfront II, Eastfront II and Eurofront II to play that uberlarge game?

If it is... then Europe Engulfed is still the biggest standalone block game currently on the market.
 
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Pierre Pinguet
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leberegel wrote:
I always wanted to buy this game, but if I look at the game aids provided here on the geek I wonder how fast and easy it can be learned/played with two pages of special rules for areas and events...


There are really two level of complexity in EE.

First, as you said, there are a lot of special rules, mainly "Political Rules" that are integral to the simulation of WWII (Vichy Rules, Italy Morale etc, US production ramp up). There's quite a few Player help for these.

Second, there's a long "retroaction" time in the game, meaning that the impact of some of your decisions won't be felt directly the next turn, but sometimes a year or so down the road (eg Investing in U-boots vs Panzers). It will take a while to "learn" this, usually through stinging defeats and spectacular failures laugh
But learning this "complexity" is for me an integral part of the game and a big part of the fun.
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Kurt Keckley
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Great review - a really nice read.


I think PBEM games using either Cyberboad or Vassal are a lot of fun. If I had to choose, I'd take Cyberboard for emailed turns. I does a better visual job of showing where pieces moved using long straight lines between beginning and end points.

Kurt
 
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Ville Koli
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Cyberboard doesn't function with a MacIntosh. Vassal does.

 
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Well... to be honest... it's not the easiest game to learn. The rules are quite straightforward, but there are a LOT of exeptions that you WILL mis in your first few plays.


That is a HUGE problem with the game. Because of all the exceptions, the rules aren't straightforward at all. Many of the rules aren't clear, and the rulebook is very poorly written. Many of the rules are cross-referenced to other sections of the book. Missing one those exceptions, or forgetting one of the many key sentences can result in a colossal mistake. With very little room for error (especially with the Germans), that one mistake can cost you the game. It can cost you the game in 1942, but the end won't come until 1945, so you have to play through hours and hours of turns just so you can lose and start a new game. Not fun at all.

You should be able to play and enjoy a game out of the box, without so many tedious and pointless trial games that can last 20+ hours. Of course, mistakes can occur with any new game. But most games don't take 10-20 hours to play when you are starting out. Combine a super-steep learning curve with such a long game and you can see that learning EE requires a lot of time spent playing through frustrating and pointless games filled with mistakes. It's silly to sacrifice hours and hours, simply to learn enough of the rules so that the game can be played properly.
 
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Terrible game. The rules are awful. The complex and confusing rules are compounded by a poorly written rulebook. This creates a situation in which games can be lost not because of a strategic mistake, but because a rule was misinterpreted or simply forgotten. This can happen in any game, but the rules of EE are especially prone to this.

How fun is when the other player to incorrectly uses breakthrough movement to cut-off and wipe-out 2/3 of your army? More to the point, the single relevant sentence about breakthrough movement isn't in even the movement section, it's in the combat section, without a cross-reference, so when you look up the rules for breakthrough movement, the key detail isn't there. What does one do in this situation? Call the game and give up all that time spent on 1939-1941? Keep playing, even though a loss is inevitable and attributable to a rules mistake?
 
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Jon M
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Try playing the tournament scenario first?
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Michael Lucey
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Please help me see where I'm going wrong with CB?
I don't know how CB could be played with this game. Am I playing it wrong where I no longer see the logging after I accept my opponents moves? Why should I have to either remember or write down anything, I want to go back and see things while I'm recording my moves. Why can't I see pieces and move them out of the way of other units or map features while viewing a log of my opponent? What if I want to jump in and make comments during playback to either roll, take losses or correct a mistake?

I can do all of those things with Vassal. Those green lines are nice until you have about 50 of them on the screen and have no idea which is which.

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but since it came up.
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