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Originally published in 1973. Designed by Jim Dunnigan.

Physical components

A single 22" x 28" mapsheet (although the map itself is roughly a 'square' 18" to a side with the remaining area being covered with various charts and tables including a turn record chart, with reinforcements etc., for each side.) The map covers the 'continent' of Europe, plus a 'strip' of North Africa and the Asia Minor / Persian Gulf area.

A separate scenario / set-up card. There are scenarios starting in 1939, 1940 and 1941.

Eight 'page' rules 'booklet' (unfortunately old 'accordian' style, although each 'panel' is close to 7.5" x 11.5", so scanning and 'creating' a 'booklet' format is relatively easy)

A (then) 'standard' SPI 400 counter sheet (although there are 17 'blank' counters). Counters are roughly 'army sized' formations. However, they represent strength points from 1 to 4 (not all nationalities can build to 4, see below). The Germans are differentiated between infantry, armour and paratroop SP's. All others are 'generic' infantry SP's.


The Good

This is a relatively simple, fast playing one map game covering the entire ETO in WWII in 18 quarterly game turns. There are a number of rather subtle and clever design features that one only comes to appreciate as one really gets 'into' the game. The game uses a (unusual for that time) differential combat results table - so there is none of the ratio / odds based table 'factor fiddling'. There is 'overrun' as well as a second movement phase after combat for eligible units (otherwise a 'standard' move-combat IGO-UGO sequence). There is an optional 'counterattack' rule included in the Feb. 1975 errata. There are 'political consequences' of certain actions in so far as they can affect the status of the Soviet Union prior to being invaded. There are elements of a simple 'production' system, which for example allows the German player to 'spend' his 'reinforcement points' on a variety of types of units, including infantry, armour, paratroops and amphibious / naval capacity. When at total war status, Soviet 'production' is 'rolled' for on a table, and varies according to the number of 'resource' hexes held, which abstractly represent population centres / factories / resources. One comes to appreciate the significance of this 'system', as it forces some real trade-offs for the Soviet player in terms of when to hold vs. retreat or counterattack in order to maintain the highest level of production possible for as long as possible. Conversely, the German player must trade-off pushing forward as far and quickly as possible in order to reduce Soviet production vs. leaving himself vulnerable to counterattack and heavy losses (especially the first winter counterattack, which has a special rule of devestating impact). Lend Lease points also arrive, via 3 different routes (Archangel, Persia and the eastern map edge - i.e. Vladivostok) and assist with Soviet total war production.

Units are composed of 'generic' strength points (SP's), except for the Germans which are differentiated between infantry, armour or paratroop SP's. Combat results are in terms of SP's lost by the defender (note optional counterattack rule). A defending forces which suffers losses (greater losses than the attacker with the counterattack rule) must retreat. Units may be up to 4 SP's, however, the 'maximum' SP varies according to nationality and time. All 'minor' countries, and Italy, may only build up to 2 SP units. The French, British and Americans may only build up to 3 SP units until the start of 1943, at which point they may build 4 SP units. The Soviets are limited to 2 SP units while at peace. At limited or total war they work the same way as the other Allies. Only the Germans may build units up to 4 SP's from the start. This gives the Germans a 'qualitative' edge early in the war which goes beyond a mere numerical advantage in SP's. The 'building-up' / 'breaking-down' of units is done in a specific phase towards the end of each player turn, and stacking restrictions (max 2 units per hex) must be observed. Thus there is a certain 'rigidness' about this that requires some planning ahead, as well as making it a bit challenging to integrate reinforcing SP's into an active front. Attrition of max. strength units (4 SP's) can therefore take some time to fully recover from. A subtle, albeit admittedly 'abstract', representation of the 'blunting' of 'spearhead' units.

Airpower is abstractly included by virtue of SP's of certain nations having an 'air zone of control' extending out 2 hexes, which allows 'shooting' at naval transport to 'abort' the mission, or under certain circumstances potentially 'sink' an SP. There is an optional (Feb. 1975 errata) rule for 'nullification' of air zones (highly recommended). A 'defensive' air ZoC must be 'contested' by a friendly one in order to allow an amphibious landing. With an admittedly highly abstracted air game, one still gets some of the 'feel' of 'running the gauntlet' in the Med.


The Bad

Air and naval combat have been for the most part 'abstracted' out of the game. Each side has some 'naval transport' capacity (the Germans can build more as well). The Allies (eventually) get some amphibious landing capacity (the Germans can build some, albeit at high cost). Some SP's have an 'air zone of control' (see above) with certain effects. However, there is no 'explicit' strategic bombing campaign or u-boat campaign or air support. The emphasis is clearly on ground combat, and that will probably be a turn-off for some people. There is a two page errata sheet from SPI (dated Feb. 1975) with corrections / clarifications / changes. However, this still leaves a couple of issues unaddressed (see below). Germany starts the game rather too strong and France rather too weak, leading to an even quicker campaign to 'take out' France than was historically the case. The impact of this situation is exagerated due to the absence of any defensive benefit for the 'Maginot Line'. My 'solution' to this was some 'houserules' to add a 'Maginot Line' effect, reduce the at start German forces and increase the initial German reinforcements to bring things back 'in line' from both a gaming as well as an historical perspective.


The Ugly

Even with the errata, there a couple of key issues left 'unresolved'. The 'marginal' victory for the Axis player seems to implicitly assume that the Soviet Union has been invaded. However, there is no explicit requirement as such. Thus the Axis player can simply decline to invade the Soviet Union, attempt to avoid any action which might 'activate' the Soviets and thus practically ensure a marginal victory. Prior to being invaded the Soviet Union is considered 'neutral' in the two-player game. However the Soviets do receive reinforcements and these are presumably to be placed by the Allied player. In addition historically, prior to the German invasion the Soviets advanced into and occupied eastern Poland, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) and parts of Rumania (Bessarabia and Bukovina). The Soviets also fought the Winter War against the Finns. While the territory taken from the Finns was relatively insignificant at the map scale of this game, eastern Poland, the Baltic States and Bessarabia are not. So if considered 'neutral', the Soviets are 'frozen' in place and unable to make their historical advances into Eastern Europe prior to being invaded or otherwise 'triggered' to limited war status. This means a 'houserule' is necessary, to allow the historical advance into Eastern Europe without allowing the Allied player total 'control' over Soviet forces while at 'peace' (which would allow the Soviets to position their forces so as to avoid much of the impact of the initial German invasion).


Game Play

The 1939 scenario / Campaign game begins with Germany at war with France, Britain and Poland. The Nazi-Soviet 'Pact' is considered in effect, and the Soviet Union is 'neutral' at start. In the two-player version, they will remain neutral until invaded by Germany (which triggers 'total war') or certain other actions are taken (e.g. violation of the area of Eastern Europe 'allocated' to the Soviet Union) which can trigger 'limited war'. If the Axis player plans on invading the Soviet Union at some point in the game, it is important to keep them at 'peacetime status', so that they remain as vulnerable as possible when the invasion starts. Subsequent comments implicitly assume the use of my variant / houserules, or something similar to address the previously mentioned issues. Given the use of sufficient forces by Germany, Poland will automatically fall on the first turn. Fewer forces are required if not using the optional counterattack rule, which provides the Poles with a slim possiblity of survival. Some German forces can be spared from the attack on Poland to being attacking elsewhere. The Allied player has a couple of choices to make regarding France. It is possible to evacuate enough French SP's to North Africa to avoid the declaration of Vichy (which depends on the total number of French SP's falling below a threshold). Doing so practically gives the Allies a 'lock' on North Africa. However, if France falls too quickly, and inflicts too few losses on the Germans, it can leave the Soviets open to an early invasion and possible defeat. The Allied player also needs to consider carefully how many British SP's to send to France. Although it may be tempting to avoid sending any to a 'lost cause', a few extra British SP's might 'buy' an extra turn, which can make a big difference in the chances for Soviet survival. However, the commitment of British SP's to France needs to be balanced with the need to send enough to North Africa to first hold Egypt and then clear out the Axis (especially if the French go Vichy). Given the scale / complexity of the game, and the emphasis on ground combat, the eastern front will naturally be where most of the 'action' will be. The victory conditions require Germany to conquer either 'most of' the Soviet Union, for a decisive victory, or 'part of' (roughly equivalent to the Ukraine) for a substantive victory. This game does allow for a 'defeat' of the Soviet Union - if the Axis player can reduce the Soviet war production sufficiently by capturing enough of the resource centres while inflicting sufficient losses on the Soviets. A 'stalemate' is actually the less likely result, as a failed German attempt at 'total' conquest usually has the Red Army surging back in the other direction. The war is usually won or lost on the eastern front, with the Allies playing a 'supporting' role, by tying down German garrison against amphibious landings and denying the Axis player Italian SP's by knocking Italy out of the war. Of course Britain and the US can roll across France and into Germany for the win, if the Axis player fails to take proper safeguards. However, given the much shorter frontage in France vs. in the Soviet Union, it is easier for the Axis player to delay in the west at a lower cost in SP's. Given relatively even play of both sides, and with some afore mentioned 'houserules', there is still a significant chance that the Axis will be able to 'defeat' the Soviet Union. Even in that scenario there are still partisans (optional) and a 'garrirson' rule to contend with. However the Axis side will likely be strong enough in that situation to 'hold off' the US and Britain for the win. Given a probable failure to defeat the Soviet Union, the Axis may try for a 'stalemate' in the east for a lesser 'win', however, at that point the game is more likely to develop into a 'race' for Germany, with the Allies attempting to equal or better the historical result for a 'win'.


Conclusion

A brilliant design for a 'small' sized, lower complexity game covering the ETO in WWII, marred by a few unfortunate development issues. This could have been an SPI classic beer and pretzels game, and can be with 'fixes' in place. Unfortunately few potential players will get past the need for 'fixes' in the first place, or will be looking for something 'meatier' (e.g. Advanced Third Reich) or something even less 'complicated' (e.g. Axis and Allies).
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Sim Guy
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Nice review. I came here looking for something to help make up my mind about acquiring this old game. Your review helped me decide.thumbsup
 
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suPUR DUEper
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In your experience, given the differential CRT, how hard is it for the German to throw (at least a portion of) the Allied invasion of France back into the sea?
 
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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TedW wrote:
In your experience, given the differential CRT, how hard is it for the German to throw (at least a portion of) the Allied invasion of France back into the sea?


In my experience, when experienced players are involved, the Germans don't get much if any chance to do so because the Allies will either land so as to mitigate the risk or won't land at all if that is not possible. Inexperienced players might 'make a mistake' and leave themselves vulnerable (see below).

It might seem that, based on the combat system, it wouldn't be too difficult. At +2 the attacker is guaranteed to inflict at least 1 SP loss, and thus require the defender to retreat. However, there are a number of considerations that have a significant impact. First it depends on whether or not the optional counterattack rule is being used. If it is, then simply inflicting a 1 SP loss on the defender may not be sufficient to force a retreat. Even if the counterattack provision is not being used, a retreat does not necessarily mean that the landing is 'thrown back into the sea'.

Let us consider an Allied invasion of France in Summer '44. The Allies should have at least 4 units of 4 SP's by that time. They have 8 amphib and 8 naval transport points available on that turn. The Allies should end their turn with the max 8 SP's in each landing hex. The rest depends heavily on what the Germans have available to counterattack with, and whether or not the counterattack rule is in effect.

If the Germans have at least 10 SP's, they can guarantee a retreat on one of the two landing hexes, IF the counterattack rule is not in effect. If it is, then the situation is very different. Even if not, the Allies can potentially land in places (e.g. Brittany) where they have an available hex 'behind' them, so a retreat will not result in elimination. If the landings are made in adjacent hexes, then the units from one hex could always retreat into the other (although they would have to rectify any overstacking during the ensuing movement phase). There are other options for the Allies to mitigate the risk of a German counterattack - e.g. a 3 SP unit could land in a hex to prevent a counterattack on another hex from more than one hexside (i.e. limit any attack on the 'main' landing force to the 0 column).
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suPUR DUEper
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Thanks for the excellent response. I pulled the game out the other day and am going to give it a shot after 40 years....
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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TedW wrote:
Thanks...


YW

TedW wrote:
...am going to give it a shot after 40 years....


Cool. Let us know how it goes. If, once you're back up to speed, you're interested in playing against an opponent there is a Zun Tzu module available for the game to facilitate pbem.
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