DESCRIPTIONTHE FALL OF FRANCE is an operational (division/brigade/regiment/battalion) simulation of the short, but decisive campaign that followed the German invasion of France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland) on May 10, 1940. Besides being a complete game, it is also another installment in GDW’s EUROPA Project: a comprehensive simulation of all of World War II in Europe, the Balkans, the Soviet Union, North Africa, and the Middle East.
The France ‘40 campaign was a historical watershed because it demonstrated unequivocally that the rapid German defeat of Poland in the Fall of 1939 had not been, as the French and British commanders hoped, the product of either complete Polish ineptitude or German good luck. Instead, the rapid, and completely unexpected, disintegration of the French Army in the face of the Nazi offensive proved that the new German doctrine of combined armor/air operations had dynamically accelerated the pace and tempo of warfare from that of World War I. The sudden and unexpected collapse of France, in the space of six short weeks, also had immediate and far-reaching consequences for Europe and the world at large in the months following France’s surrender. It left Hitler in undisputed control of Western Europe. England, under Churchill, was now left without allies in its war against Germany, and had only the Royal Navy, the RAF, and the English Channel to protect it from a German invasion. In the East, Stalin and the generals of the Red Army were shocked by Hitler’s lightning victory over the French and British forces defending France. The Red Army and Air Force, already weakened both by losses from the Russo-Finnish War and from Stalin’s purges of senior military officers during the 1930’s, were forced to concentrate their main combat strength in Poland and the Baltic States, after which Stalin and his generals watched nervously for any sign of German military movement towards Russia’s western frontier. Their wait would not be a long one: on 22 June 1941, Hitler unleashed the greatest military invasion in history against his former ally, the Soviet Union, beginning a new, even more brutal phase in the war that had now engulfed virtually all of Europe.
THE FALL OF FRANCE is played using the standard Europa (two weeks per turn) game format. One player commands the Allied and Neutral forces; the other controls the Germans and (if Mussolini’s intervention is triggered) the Italians. The game is ten turns long. Like other Europa Series games, THE FALL OF FRANCE uses the familiar KURSK Game System with a number of additional game subroutines added. A typical player turn will progress in the following sequence: Supply Determination Phase; Initial (Ground) Movement Phase; Air Phase; Ground Combat Phase; and the Exploitation (mechanized) Movement Phase. On the invasion game turn of the Historical Scenario only, special rules limit the actions of both sides. The movement of certain German, French, and British units is restricted and there is no Exploitation Movement Phase after combat for either side. The regular player turn sequence begins on turn two and continues for the balance of the game.
THE FALL OF FRANCE: EUROPA VIII, as anyone who is familiar with the Europa Game System knows, is not a simple game. However, the turn phases are logically sequenced and, with just a little practice, players will usually find that they can learn the basic mechanics of the land game quickly. The Armored Effects, Support, Stacking, Naval, and Air rules, on the other hand, will usually take a little more effort to master. One nice feature of THE FALL OF FRANCE is the inclusion of “Corps Holding Boxes” for the three major belligerents. This feature (which would have been nice had it been included in the DNO/UNT games) allows the players to deal easily with what would otherwise be an extremely congested map area. Players exploring the EUROPA game system for the first time will quickly discover that the Air and Naval subroutines are almost independent games in their own right. This is one reason why THE FALL OF FRANCE is a particularly good candidate for team play.
As should be clear from the preceding description, THE FALL OF FRANCE is clearly not a good choice for the casual gamer. Despite its complexity, however, THE FALL OF FRANCE offers — to those who are really interested in the greatest war in history — a richly textured and very challenging game system for simulating World War II combat in the European Theater.
The Standard game in THE FALL OF FRANCE is the Historical Scenario (May 10, 1940 Invasion) with set up instructions for all French, British, Neutral, and German starting forces. In addition, the game offers a (Free Deployment) 1940 Campaign Scenario for those players who prefer to make their own mistakes. The game also includes a special EUROPA Supplement, which includes information on force levels, reinforcements, and mobilization rates for the armed forces of France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland during the period from 1939 through 1941. Because of the additional information provided by this EUROPA Supplement, players may experiment by designing their own scenarios around different Orders of Battle for the belligerents, and different starting dates for the war between Germany and the Allies. This supplement also includes a substantial number of additional game counters that are not required to play either THE FALL OF FRANCE Historical or 1940 Campaign game.
- Time Scale: 2 weeks (one fortnight) per game turn
- Map Scale: 16 miles per hex
- Unit Size: division/brigade/regiment/battle group/battalion
- Unit Types: armor/panzer, light armored/reconnaissance, mechanized infantry/panzer grenadier, motorcycle/Bersaglieri, motorized infantry, infantry, light infantry, mountain, cavalry, bicycle, machinegun, parachute, air landing, combat engineer, construction engineer, training, static, fortress, mountain fortress, fortress machinegun, border, mountain border, antitank, light antiaircraft artillery, heavy antiaircraft artillery, field artillery, mountain artillery, siege artillery, railroad artillery, naval units (assorted ship types), air units (assorted aircraft types), and information counters
- Number of Players: two (excellent candidate for team play)
- Complexity: high
- Solitaire Suitability: average (if you don’t mind pushing around 1500+ unit counters)
- Average Playing Time: 10+ hours (depending on experience of players, and whether or not individuals or teams are playing)
- Two 21½” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (EUROPA Maps 16 and 17)
- 2,040 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” loose-leaf style Rules Booklet (with designer’s notes)
- Two 8½” x 11” back-printed copies of the combined Combat Results Table/Terrain Effects Chart
- One 8½” x 11” combined Turn Record/ Reinforcement Track, Replacements Chart, and Victory Point Chart
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed, combined French Unit Identification Chart and Unit Type Symbols Chart
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed, loose-leaf set of Allied/Neutral OOB, Deployment, and Reinforcement Instructions
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed, loose-leaf set of German OOB, Deployment, and Reinforcement Instructions
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed, loose-leaf set of EUROPA Supplement Instructions
- Three 8½” x 11” Corps Marker Displays
- One 8½” x 11” German Unit Breakdown Chart
- One 8½” x 11” French Unit Breakdown Chart
- One 8½” x 11” French and Belgian Unit Breakdown Chart (for use with Supplement)
- One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (Dated 12 February, 1981 with Expanded Sequence of Play Guide incorporated)
- One six-sided Die
- One 4” x 6” GDW Customer Comments Card
- One 11½” x 14½” x 1” Cardboard Game Box
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; all of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.