GDW, ROAD TO THE RHINE (1979)

ROAD TO THE RHINE is a historical game of World War II combat on the Western Front covering the period from September, 1944 through April, 1945. The game was designed by Frank A. Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1979.

DESCRIPTION



ROAD TO THE RHINE is an operational (division/brigade/regiment) simulation of the last eight months of the Allied campaign to liberate Western Europe from the Germans at the end of World War II. The game begins with the Allied pursuit of a battered Wehrmacht following the disastrous German defeat in Normandy. The action continues with the Allied summer offensive that virtually annihilated Army Group B as it attempted to retreat from the Allied juggernaut and back towards the safety of the “Siegfried Line;” it ends with the final Allied drive through the West Wall, across the Rhine, and into Germany.

One player commands the Allies (American and British forces); the other controls the Germans. ROAD TO THE RHINE is played in turns representing one week of real time. The opposing players maneuver their units across a large hexagonal map sheet representing the European Theater of Operations. Like most games, the combat power of the units composing the two armies is important; however, even more important to a player’s successful offensive operations are two other factors: supply and initiative. The player whose side possesses both can be almost unstoppable. Each game turn is composed of an Allied and a German player turn. Each player turn is broken down into multiple action impulses, and each of these impulses is further divided into different operational phases. This impulse system — while a little unusual for this type and scale of World War II simulation — allows the game to recreate both the static attrition battles of the Western Front, and, at the same time, the dramatic advances that could occur when a defensive line suddenly broke and attacking enemy armor poured through a newly-opened gap.

ROAD TO THE RHINE offers five scenarios: two comparatively short battle games (Market-Garden and The Bulge); two longer Campaign Games; and the full-length Campaign Game that starts in September, 1944 and continues through to the end of the April, 1945 game turn. The two shorter battle scenarios are excellent for learning the game system, while the longer Campaign scenarios allow the players considerably more scope in their strategic planning and execution.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

Frank Chadwick’s innovative mix of design elements in ROAD TO THE RHINE makes sudden surprises and reversals in the game an ongoing worry for both players: the Germans, depending on their strategic situation -- usually beginning in fall of 1944 -- can either opt to hold up in the West Wall and force the Allies to try to dig them out in a protracted battle of attrition or, alternatively, they can counterattack once weather and Allied supply constraints make the frontline elements of their American and British pursuers more vulnerable. Ordinarily, the use of an "impulse-based" game system would seem to be a little unusual for an operational level game; but in this case, at least, it seems to work very well. In fact, largely because of the game's unorthodox design platform, ROAD TO THE RHINE is one of the very few World War II divisional-level simulations that actually permits an army that is in headlong retreat on one turn, to regain its equilibrium and then to violently counterattack its pursuer just a few turns later. Thus, Frank Chadwick’s innovative game design makes sudden surprises and reversals an ongoing worry for both players: the Germans, if they are so inclined, really can launch an Ardennes Offensive against the Allied line. Moreover, besides being exciting, and a lot of fun, Chadwick’s interesting work on the Allied and German OOB’s is almost reason enough, all by itself, to own ROAD TO THE RHINE.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 week per game turn (multiple impulses)
  • Map Scale: 7 miles per hex
  • Unit Size: division/brigade/regiment/battle group
  • Unit Types: armor/panzer, armored cavalry/reconnaissance, mechanized infantry/panzer grenadier, motorized infantry, parachute infantry, glider infantry, static infantry, security infantry, police, supply, aircraft, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-20 + hours


Game Components:

  • Two 22” x 27½” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Turn Record and Impulse Track, Unit Status Boxes, and Terrain Chart incorporated)
  • 480 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet
  • Two 8½” x 11” back-printed Terrain Effects Chart and Combat Results Table
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Allied OOB and Reinforcement Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed German OOB and Reinforcement Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (Dated 13 April, 1979)
  • One 4” x 6” GDW Customer Survey Card
  • One six-sided Die
  • One 11½” x 14½” x 1¼” cardboard Game Box


Recommended Reading


See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.



THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU

2 comments:

  • Joe, this was a good title. As you mention, the orders of battle were well done, although one might wonder about some of the missing appearances in the last days of the German OOB. I expect the designers knew some elements weren't there, but left it alone because the German 1945 OOB is such a confusing mess to wade through (and the late '44 OOB isn't much better.) Not to mention that many of the late "units" had a high degree of ad-hoc character about them.

    I also seem to recall the counters fit comfortably in the printed hexes, a small touch that enhances one's enjoyment of gameplay.

    Cheers

    W. B. Wilson

  • Greetings WB:

    Although this game never got a lot of attention in the hobby press when it first came out, I discovered -- somewhat to my surprise -- that I liked the use of this "impulse" game system quite a lot in 'ROAD TO THE RHINE'; however, if the truth be told, I actually thought that it worked a little better when used at the grand-tactical scale of Chadwick's minor East Front masterpiece, 'WHITE DEATH'.

    Regarding the "late war" German OoB: I am inclined to agree with you. Things are so muddled and contradictory -- depending on which sources one looks at -- that I rather liked Chadwick's conservative approach to this problem.

    Best Regards, Joe

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