WAR IN THE WEST is an operational level simulation, based on the KURSK Game System, of World War II in the Western European and North African Theaters of Operations. WAR IN THE WEST is the West Front companion game to WAR IN THE EAST, 2nd Edition and, when combined with its East Front counterpart, forms WAR IN EUROPE. WAR IN THE WEST was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1976.


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 However, it still isn’t outdated, and, amazingly enough, it is still an enjoyable challenge to play.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.

Design Characteristics:

  • 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)

Game Components:

  • 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

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


  • Hi there,

    I have in teh last month stumbled on this site. Fantastic! Really helpful. I decided to get back to my roots DNO in the 70's after a long lay off.Decided to try something new and bought WitE 2nd ed after reading your articles. Thanks really helpful.

    I also decided to go for it and bought WitW. Again you articles are really helpful.The WitE came without the War in Europe standard rules but should get them with WitW game.

    A question you mentined in the articles that I as described now have everything to join east and west together for WiE. However I noticed in a picture for WAE on BGG (not sure if it was 1 or Edition, that there is a WIE exclusive rules set. Would I need that aswell?
    One finalpoint the SPI boxs in both games are a bit banged up. Any thoughts on how I can obtain some newer ones? I have tried the SPI wrecking yard but no response.


    Chris James

  • Greetings Chris:

    Thank you for visiting and for your kind words; both are appreciated.

    From your comments, it looks like you currently have the WIE Standard Rules and the WItW Exclusive Rules; this means that you still need to get your hands on copies of both the WItE Exclusive Rules, and the WIE Exclusive Rules. My suggestion to you, under the circumstances, is to visit the appropriate forums at Consimworld, Boardgamegeek, or Grognard.com (links to all three are posted in the side-bar) and request copies of these missing rules booklets from other gamers. Given my own experiences with these forums, I wouldn't be surprised it there are not PDF files floating around on all of these booklets already. Thus, I am pretty confident that someone will be more than willing to post files of the needed rules booklets so that you can complete your WIE set.

    Replacement flat-pack SPI game boxes are a little tougher. Back in the seventies, SPI sold extra flat-packs in sets (I bought 48 extra boxes, myself) and newer versions have periodically been offered by other publishers in the years since. In fact, I think that Decision Games may have done so, at one time.

    My advice, in your case, would be to watch the game auction section at eBay: every once in awhile a pristine set of two or more of these boxes will show up and, although they typically don't go out super "cheap", they are still probably worth the money. Also, you might check my post on refurbishing and restoring these boxes (particularly on reattaching the cardboard bases) as it has been my experience that most damage to the plastic game trays and covers tends to occur after the cardboard begins to separate from the plastic trays.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hi Jo,

    Just spent 15 mins typing a note and thanking you. And it all got binned.
    Firstly Sorry about the typos in first message, pressed enter to early!

    I have WitE 2ED Exlusive rules. ANd will get all I need in WitW I assume except WIE exclusive. So looks like I need the WIE exclusive rules only. Will visit Consim.

    Would DG WIE living rules fit?

    The trays are really banged up so might need new ones. All contents VGC tho :) Will keep a look out.

    Maybe back to you sometime regarding strategic ACW games have TCW but want to try something a bit bigger. Read alot abt WBTS not sure which one to go for. More of that later.

    Thanks again and it's a great site, a very valuable tool. I will be back.


  • Greetings Again Chris:

    Regarding your idea about using the Exclusive Rules from the 1999 DG version of WAR IN EUROPE, I'm not sure (it's been awhile since I looked at the newer version) but, as memory serves, there are fairly significant differences between the "strategic warfare" rules of the SPI and DG versions of the game.

    When it comes to "monster" Civil War games: hands down, my personal favorite is, even after all these years, still 'WAR BETWEEN THE STATES'. The DG version is probably your best bet as it includes some fixes to a few of the most pernicious problems associated with the original SPI game (the paucity of leaders and headquarters, for example); even better, you should still be able to find a nice "players' copy" flooating around that is relatively cheap.

    If you want to try a sort of 'A HOUSE DIVIDED' on steroids, you might try Mark Herman's 'FOR THE PEOPLE'. This is a CDG "point-to-point" game that, while not really my personal "cup of tea" is, nonetheless, very popular with a number of my friends. Moreover, I am told -- although I haven't played the newest version -- that the latest iteration of the game has had its combat rules cleaned up.

    Thanks again for your interest and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Many thanks, your advice re Consim world has paid off in double quick time! I have a pdf of not just my missing rule set but all the others aswell.

    Thanks again,


  • Greetings Chris:

    I'm glad that I could be of help!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hello Jo,
    WBTS question. I have taken your comments and considered your thoughts. I appreciate you suggest the DG version for me, however I am an old school SPI man. I wonder, in your opinion, if the original WBTS is 'saveable' Are there enough fixes that enable you to play it and get a lot out of it (leaders etc). I think you mentioned that you do still enjoy it.

    Looking at the DG version there is a lot of errata. Not sure I want to buy it with that much errata.

    I would welcome your thoughts when you have time.

    Kind regards

    Sorry this is posted on the wrong game thread!

  • Greetings Chris:

    I'm pleased that you are considering picking up a copy of 'WAR BETWEEN THE STATES'; it is still, in spite of all the Civil War titles that have come after it, one of my all-time favorite Civil War games, "monster" or otherwise. I sincerely hope that you come to like it as much as I do -- that's the good news; now for the bad!

    Whichever version of the game that you decide to buy (whether SPI or DG), you are still going to end up needing pages of "errata"; which means that, no matter what, you are probably going to have to make the trek to Grognards.com to download any "errata" that are not already included with your purchased game. This, by the way, really isn't as depressing as it might initially appear. Many of the rules clarifications and changes are relatively reasonable; moreover, quite a few have to do with cleaning up the Riverine and Naval rules, so I wouldn't worry about them too much.

    Of course, there are a few rules changes that you will really need to get a handle on; these typically have to do with issues of "command and control", but, I should also note, none of these issues are really all that difficult to understand and apply to your play.

    When it comes to making broad comparisons between the SPI and DG versions of the game, I have to confess that while I have glanced at the DG version, I have only played the old SPI original. As memory serves, the DG version has a somewhat prettier map; it also has more counters (1,400 versus the 1,200 in the original); in addition, the DG game pieces are printed on a glossy rather than a matte backing (I personally prefer the matte finish, but that's just me).

    One STRONG suggestion that I will make to you is that you try, if at all possible, to get your hands on Brent Ellerbroek's article, "WBTS: A Case of Double Vision", which appeared in issue #12 of "Fire & Movement" (July-August, 1978). Brent offers a number of excellent suggestions for rectifying some of the irksome discrepancies that show up when players compare the scenarios (particularly 1862 and 1863) with the typical situations that will arise during these years in the Campaign Game. Speaking for myself, I and my various opponents ended up using all of his recommendations except for those limiting the size of infantry divisions (we all really liked those 10-3s) and those restricting militia conversions. I'm not positive, but I think that Rodger macGowan actually offers downloads of his old "Fire & Movement" magazines still. So, it's possible that you should be able to get your hands on this material without ransacking the forums at Boardgamegeek or Consimworld.

    In any case, I wish you luck. And, for what it's worth, this is one of the very few "chit-pull" games that I have ever liked.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hi Jo,

    Still thinking about the WTBS version to get.

    Just got hole of a copy of War in the West. The boxes are a bit banged up. I can't seem to find your blog on resurrecting them. Can you point me in the direction of the blog please.

    Many thanks.


  • Hi Jo,

    Still thinking about which version of WBTS to get. I shall let you know!

    Just got a copy of War in the West. All OK except the boxes have seen better days. I can't seem to find your blog on resurrecting them. Can you direct me to the page please.

    Many thanks,


  • Greetings Chris:

    Nice to hear from you, again.

    For advice on the care and maintenance of SPI flat pack game boxes go to: http://mapandcounters.blogspot.com/2009/04/collectors-corner.html

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hi Joe,

    Went for DG version of WBTS in the end. I will keep the shrinkwrap on until I want to play it. Currently getting my head around 'War in the West'.....


  • Greetings Chris:

    Your choice is probably a good one, if for no other reason than the DG version adds some of the counters that should have been included in the SPI version, but were inadvertently left out!

    Good Luck with both games and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • I have a June 2016 update to DG WBTS rules and charts which make it more historical. See the CSW thread header.

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