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Subject: Review of The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 rss

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Martí Cabré

Terrassa
Catalonia, Spain
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I've always had interest in wargames about the XX Century Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Spain has had a number of civil wars for nearly five hundred years, but the last one was certainly the most important both inside and outside Spain, as it was the first time that Communism and Fascism fought one against the other, in what was a preamble of World War II and its East Front.

After many years of political unrest (that started with the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808), a fraction of the army rebelled against the legitimate Republican government. That had happened a lot of times in Spain for more than a hundred years, resulting in changing of kingdom dynasties, a couple of republics and many presidents outed by the military, with both left and right wings of the Spanish army involved in this coups or "pronunciamientos".

But this time it was different. The different regions of Spain had been led to different social views, ranging from anarchy to fascism, with also different communist factions enemies of each other, Catalan and Basque separatism, struggle within the socialist and republican leaders, heavy involvement of the Catholic church and a deep rooted fascist movement (Falange) with wide territorial support.

The military coup against the Republic failed and it escalated from a conflict fought locally in every village to a full-blown war that was quite similar to many of the theaters fought in World War II, with an addendum of cruelty and ruthlessness against the other side that left scars not yet healed today.

Sadly, I've never found a game that fulfilled my expectations as a grognard. Until now. laugh


*** THE CONCEPT

The Spanish Civil War is a wargame designed by Javier Romero and published by GMT that covers the struggle inside Spain between 1936 and 1939. There are 19 turns that cover from the July 1936 "pronunciamento" to the final battles in Catalonia, Valencia and Madrid. Units represent columns, regiments, brigades and divisions.

Battle assets of aviation and navy are handled with support counters used during battle. Armored cars are combat counters.

There are some event chits that add chrome representing from the death of popular leaders to unexpected battle results, militia defections and other assorted array of events.


*** THE HARDWARE

The game comes in a beautiful GMT box with a cover representing a typical SCW propaganda poster. There is some information about SCW military leaders in the sides of the box, as GMT usually does.

The map is very beautiful and depicts the whole Iberian Peninsula, with Portgual, Spain and part of France. The Balearic Islands are included though they are not used in the game. Spanish Morocco does not appear.

The map is divided in hexes an terrain is easy to distinguish. There are many towns and cities, which are very important in this game. Following Romero's tradition of using the local names, the names in the map are written in Spanish/Catalan/Basque, but I think that it does not present a problem for the English-speaking player.

The units are also very beautiful. They are big and easy to read. They use NATO symbols and they are cleverly managed to represent the escalation that led a military coup to evolve into an enormous war: the unit counters have a color code that aid the player in withdrawing some units and upgrading some others in certain turns.

There are some counters that have errata, which has been posted to BGG. That is not strange, as every counter in the game is historically identified with its real world counterpart, which I can say is a tremendous source of information and reflects how deep was involved the designer with this work.

The rules are well written, clear and with examples. There are some illustrations to help with the setup of the campaign and scenario games. There is also a little errata and Q&A already posted to BGG.


*** THE SOFTWARE

The rules of play are really easy to understand. They follow the middle-of-the-road wargame with hexes and CRT. The sequence of play is also classical and easy: reinforcements, movement, combat, supply.

ZOC is VERY important in this game. Units representing non-militarized militia (columns) do not have ZOC except when inside a town or city. These units do not have a NATO symbol representing size. Militarized units have the typical NATO symbols for regiments, brigades and divisions and project standard ZOC.

ZOC cuts supply and moving out of supply is NA in the game, so players who like to create ZOC chains and like to break fronts and isolate enemy units will surely enjoy this game A LOT. cool

Each hex in the map must be occupied by your troops in order to control it, and for this purpose there are informational control counters. They have to be used during the setup and in the first turns of the game and I recommend to use them extensively to avoid relying on memory. After that a front line is created and these counters are not as necessary.

At the start of the war the Nationalist forces are divided in two zones and until a LOC is created between the two zones these forces have some penalizations. Also, the Republican forces are separated in two zones with some special rules regarding collaboration between troops of different northern regions, as there was much distrust between them. The units in Catalonia are most of them Stalinist communist, non-Stalinist communist, anarchist and separatist troops, which cannot stack together (but they can stack with regular troops). Finally, the Nationalist side has the Army of Africa, which are the best column troops in the game and have a lot of benefits, though they cannot be replaced.


*** THE EXPERIENCE

The Spanish Civil War is a successful wargame. It has a good historical research and representation of this complex conflict and it has a good recreational level. While it does not delve into the political issues that rose during the war, with a small subset of rules the full epic of one of the decisive wars of the XXth Century comes into full display in your wargaming tables. Do not miss it!
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Medievalbanquet
United States
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
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Re: Review of the game
Thanks Marti for the kind review. We are very glad you like Javier's design. He is, indeed, a SCW historian... and that knowledge has found its way into his game nicely.

Andy
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Marc Figueras

Barcelona
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Re: Review of the game
I agree with Martí's review and assessment of the game. Like Martí, I badly wanted a good, rewarding, historically accurate game on the SCW, but I liked none of the existing ones. With TSCW I finally fulfilled my wishes.

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In my opinion, it's the best game Javier Romero has designed so far.
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Eric Leung
Hong Kong
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Re: Review of the game
Thanks alot, Marti, SCW is my favorite subj. For Whom the Bell tolls give me a hard experience. However after ur review I'll rush to get my copy.
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Steven Adams
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Re: Review of the game
The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 is an excellent game, surpassing previous efforts on this conflict. I just completed a solitaire play of the entire Campaign game, finished with a RML of 33, I think it is very balanced. If the game had gone one more turn (a hypothetical turn 20), the RML almost certainly would have been 30 or below. The mechanics are clean and easy to use and the events are good, with historicity and some interesting impact on game play. I had the Nationalists use a Madrid priority strategy and the city fell to them on game turn 13. Never could get Valencia or Barcelona or even close. Thanks, Steve Adams
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Sam I Am
Canada
Québec
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Re: Review of the game
Thanks a lot for the review. I was surprised there wasn't one already on this game. I've been looking at the box for this one at my local store a few times and your review convinced me to try it out.
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