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David G. Cox Esq.
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Victory in the West

Board Game: Victory in the West: Plan Yellow, The French Campaign 1940

Two-player Simulation of the French Campaign, 1940
Designed by David James Ritchie
Published by GMT (1993)





Why did the French plant trees along the Champs Elysee?

So the German soldiers could march in the shade!
(German joke from World War II)


Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour?




To save you time, if you know anything about Lost Victory (another game by David James Ritchie and GMT) you don’t need to read further – the games are not at all similar mechanically. If you are one of the few people not to have played Lost Victory perhaps you should read on.

To put Victory in the West in perspective, the rapidity and total success of the German campaign in France came as a surprise to everyone – except the Germans and the French. It was a fight between a modern army with high morale and an army that had developed little since achieving victory in the Great War twenty years previously.

Board Game: Victory in the West: Plan Yellow, The French Campaign 1940

VitW is a large and detailed game that requires a large commitment to learning fairly detailed rules and takes a substantial amount of time to play.

Components
The map comes in two pieces and goes from Holland to the Swiss border. It is quite attractive and reminiscent of SPI-style maps of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

There are 720 counters – most of them representing military units. Infantry tend to be in divisional sized units while motorized, mechanised and specialist units tend to be in brigade or regimental size. Most units have been assigned to a corps and each corps is identified by a coloured band at the top of the counter. The counters look good and it is easy to identify each corps but there is a lot of detail on the counters (stacking value, efficiency rating and so on).

There are quite a few charts and the example of play and historical notes are printed separately and are not part of the rules.

Board Game: Victory in the West: Plan Yellow, The French Campaign 1940

Sequence of Play
In VitW each turn represents two days of real time.

1. Weather – roll the dice, look out the window, see what the weather will be like for the next two days and check out your Tactical and Strategic Air Points.
2. Supply - Check which Headquarters are in supply and then determine the supply state of combat units.
3. Recovery & Reinforcement – use replacement points to bring depleted units up to full strength and then units that are not fatigued recover from disruption.
4. Air Segment
5. Operations Segment – Axis Movement, Axis Combat, Axis Exploitation, Allied Movement, Allied Combat and Allied Exploitation.
6. End of Turn Phase – Surrender Checks, Pursuit and Victory.

Blitzkrieg capable units are allowed to over-run enemy units during movement.

Reaction movement is allowed at the end of the enemy combat phase – this allows limited opportunities for the allied player to try to prevent breakthroughs.

During combat there are a whole pile of die-roll modifiers and column shifts.

Assuming you have some experience of wargames you will be getting a picture from what I have said so far – if you think it looks a lot like the basic Panzergruppe Guderian game with a whole lot of extra detail thrown in you would be right.

Board Game: Victory in the West: Plan Yellow, The French Campaign 1940

Nice Touches
David James Ritchie has thrown in some nice features to make VitW a little special.

There are refugee counters – as the Germans advance the civilian population just wants to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the allied player the refugees are a damn nuisance – they just get in the way and clog up the road network but, unlike the Axis, you can’t just run over them.

The axis player has paratroopers to use as he wishes.

If allied troops get stuck in a port they may be evacuated.

Once each game the allied player may declare an ‘emergency’ which will give him a couple of advantages.

There are several scenarios – The Cape (two turns and uses only the small northern Holland map); The Sickle (twelve turns long and concentrates on the main thrust into France through the Ardennes); The Blitz (twenty one turns long and combines the two earlier scenarios, uses the full map and replicates the vast historical panorama of the 1940 campaign in its entirety).

There are optional rules that include many alternative histories (or “what if” scenarios). These alternative histories give the players the chance to make a more balanced, even if less historical, game.

Negatives
If you like these heavy historical simulations there is only one real negative to the game. Setting it up is a pain – there are lots of units and it takes ages to go through the set-up details to put each unit in the correct hex.

There you have it! A big game – lots of counters, lots of rules, lots of detail.


‘The Game is Afoot!’



Board Game: Victory in the West: Plan Yellow, The French Campaign 1940

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Piero
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A very good review there! As usual.
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Bob
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Thanks for the super review David! thumbsup
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Steve Herron
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Excellent Pics! I didn't know much about this game till you wrote this well done review.
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Keith Plymale
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There is a correction to the Holland map up on the thread for the this game on Consimworld.
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Colin Raitt
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Good review. I liked the game when I bought it but I only managed solo play.

With 2 day turns the 21 turn campaign game runs for 6 weeks when France historically surrendered. The map is quite detailed with 11km hexes.

The colour inside unit type symbol indicates which army (rather than corps) a unit sets up with. eg German 16th army includes its own HQ, 19thPz Corps HQ, 14th motorised corps HQ, 3 panzer divisions, 3 motorised divisions and 13 infantry divisions. All of these are light green and set up within 3 hexes of Trier. 19th Pz corps and 14th motorized made up 2/3rds of panzergroup Kleist. The other third, 41st pz corps, is part of 12th army a little to the north.

To some extent, starting play is scripted. The BEF, French 1st, 7th and 9th armies must advance into Belgium for the first 2 turns. French 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th armies in the Maginot line cannot move unless attacked. That leaves the 8 divisions and 1 brigade of 2nd army to hold 9 hexes around Sedan. 2 of those are 3rd rate reservists likely to flee at the 1st sight of a stuka. 4 good divisions of reinforcements from GHQ best go here on turn 2. Those restrictions can be avoided by playing the alternate history scenario, effectively paying 200VP, that's enough to shift from a substantial German victory into a draw.

The Germans have an enforced halt after 7 turns to rest the panzers. If the allies can last till then without having lost their 4 best armies they have a fighting chance. Their are heavy victory point costs for declaring an emergency and not declaring Paris an open city but I feel they are both worthwhile.

Efficiency rating is quite important, it allows units to withstand tactical shocks, exploit and react. Blitzkrieg ability allows motorized stacks to pick off weak hexes during movement and exploitation. The Germans are much better than the allies at both of these. Air-power has little detail, it differentiates between TAC and medium bombers. The former are twice as potent but shorter ranged. TAC supporting blitzing units is particularly effective. The Germans of course excel at all this. Radio's in every tank, infantry in half tracks, close air-ground co-ordination and dive bombers counts for a lot.
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