WAR IN THE WEST is an historical simulation, at the brigade/division/corps level, of the conflict that began on the plains of Poland on 1 September 1939, and then spread until it had engulfed every ocean and continent in the world. In terms of sheer numbers of combatants and scale of operations, no other conflict in history (not even the 100 Years’ War) has come close to World War II. By the time the Second World War ended in the Pacific in August 1945, the number of total casualties killed, both civilian and military, exceeded the pre-war population of France. WAR IN THE WEST deals with the purely military face of that conflict as it spread through Western Europe and into North Africa. Strategic bombing, U-boats, partisans, war-time armaments production, and air and naval power all play their somewhat abstracted parts in the game; but the main focus of the design is on ground operations. At its heart, this game is a slugging match between the infantry and armor of the contending national armies. The scope of the design is enormous, nine map sheets come with the game, and the forces of seventeen different nations are represented in the counter-mix. WAR IN THE WEST represents one half of the biggest, most detailed “monster game” published prior to the expansion of the Europa series by GDW. Thirty-three years later, it is still a “monster” by contemporary standards. However, it still isn’t outdated, and, amazingly enough, it is still an enjoyable challenge to play.
WAR IN THE WEST is played in weekly game turns; and for those familiar with the KURSK Game System, the turn sequence is easy to execute. The typical game turn consists of a joint tactical air war turn prior to the game turn proper. Once this joint air war segment is completed, each player turn consists of the following phases: the reinforcement/replacement phase; initial movement phase; rail movement phase; sea movement phase; air movement phase; combat phase; mechanized movement phase; and air interdiction phase. At the end of every fourth game turn, both players execute the operations called for in the strategic cycle. These are: the U-boat war phase; the Allied reinforcement phase; the strategic air war phase; and the German production phase. Although this outline of the turn sequence may seem to suggest that play is cumbersome and slow, the typical game turn actually moves logically and comparatively quickly. As an added plus, the game tracks make all of these operations more efficient, and there is a minimum of bookkeeping required to keep track of play.
WAR IN THE WEST offers five standard scenarios: the Poland Scenario; the France ’40 Scenario; the North Africa Scenario; the Italy Scenario; and the France 1944 Scenario. In addition, players may opt to begin the Campaign Game at any of these historical junctures, as campaign deployment information is furnished for each. Given the breadth and detail of WAR IN THE WEST, there are no optional rules in the usual sense of the term; and since there are special rules for such esoteric subjects as the Kiel Canal, possible Iraqi revolt, Commonwealth breakdown and build-up, and even the Zuider Zee, there would hardly have been any point.
- Time Scale: 1 week per game turn
- Map Scale: 33 kilometers per hex
- Unit Size: battle groups/brigades/divisions/corps
- Unit Types: infantry/security/static/mountain, cavalry, airborne, mechanized infantry/panzer grenadier, mechanized cavalry, armor/panzer, flak, mobile supply, railroad repair, air/air transport, replacement (infantry and armor), surface fleet, U-boat, amphibious transport, transport, and information markers
- Number of Players: two or more (teams highly recommended)
- Complexity: medium/high
- Solitaire Suitability: medium (if pushing around 2400 unit counters doesn’t bother you)
- Average Playing Time: 6 + hours (assuming experienced teams and depending on the scenario; for the Poland ‘39 campaign game: with up to 302 game turns, think in terms of months not hours)
- Nine 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Naval Operations Boxes and Transit Tracks incorporated)
- 2400 ½” back-printed cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” WAR IN EUROPE Standard Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” WAR IN THE WEST Exclusive Rules Booklet (with scenario instructions)
- Two identical back-printed 11½” x 15½” combined: Land Combat Results Table, Air Superiority Combat Results Table, Sea Superiority Table, Interceptor vs. Escort Table, Interceptor vs. Bomber Table, Strategic Bombing Table, U-Boat Attrition Table, U-Boat Combat Results Table, and Flak Results Table
- One 22” x 35” Axis Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with Axis Production Display, Air Allocation Boxes by Front, and Armor and Infantry Replacement Tracks by Front)
- One 19½” x 23” Allied Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with Air Allocation Boxes by Front, Air Base Boxes, and Armor and Infantry Replacement Tracks by Front)
- Two small six-sided Dice
- One 7½” x 8½” SPI Catalog with Mailer
- Two SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Boxes (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic Box Covers with Title Sheets
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.