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ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: The Kuwait War (AN:KW) along with the ARABIAN NIGHTMARE game expansion kit: DESERT STORM UPDATE, together form the expanded game, ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM. AN:KW was designed by Austin Bay and James Dunnigan and originally published by World Wide Wargames (3W) as a magazine game in S&T #139 (December 1990). The DESERT STORM UPDATE was designed by Austin Bay and published by 3W in 1991. This special combined game, ARABIAN NIGTMARE: DESERT STORM (AN:DS), was also published by 3W in 1991.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDAt 0400 on Sunday, 24 February 1991, the first blows of the ground phase of Operation Desert Storm struck Iraqi units along the Kuwaiti border. A two division assault by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and a “breaching” operation by elements of General Tommy Franks’ Joint Forces Command-East made progress against the layered Iraqi defensive belts almost immediately. These initial “diversionary” operations were so successful in dislocating and demoralizing Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait that the attacking coalition troops quickly discovered that surrendering Iraqi soldiers were as great a hindrance to the advancing coalition forces as the defensive obstacles erected by Saddam Hussein’s combat engineers. Thus, almost as soon as the coalition offensive began, it became clear that most of the frontline Iraqi divisions were — because of the sustained coalition air campaign — already on the verge of collapse. Convinced by the flood of reports from the battlefield that the Iraqi army in Kuwait was disintegrating, General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of all coalition forces, decided to accelerate the pace of his offensive. By the afternoon of the 24th, the armored units that would comprise Schwarzkopf’s massive “left-hook” began moving through the Iraqi frontier barriers and north into the western desert in search of Saddam Hussein’s last strategic reserves, the elite units of the Republican Guard.
ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM (AN:DS) is an operational level, combined-arms (air-land-sea) simulation of fighting in the Middle East between what ultimately became the American-led Coalition forces and the Iraqi military. The game models military and political events both during and after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. AN:DS is actually three games in one: the Introductory Game; the Political Game; and the (advanced) Military Game.
The Introductory Game, as might be expected, is intended to acquaint new players, and even those completely unfamiliar with conflict simulations, with the basic workings of the ARABIAN NIGHTMARE game system. In keeping with this goal, the Introductory Game has only seven pages of rules. This basic game begins with the surprise Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and continues through the early stages of the Allied build-up in Saudi Arabia. The basic game is twenty turns long and focuses almost exclusively on ground operations. To keep things simple, the complex air war subroutine used in the Military Game is dispensed with completely and aircraft units operate much like air points in an old SPI East Front game like KURSK; naval operations are also severely restricted in order to speed play. There are no supply rules. In this version of the game, the turn sequence is abbreviated and proceeds as follows: Iraqi Movement Phase; Iraqi Combat Phase; Allied (initially Kuwaiti and Saudi) Movement Phase; Allied Combat Phase; joint Reinforcement Phase. The Introductory game system is both simple and familiar. All combat units have a zone of control (ZOC), and ZOCs are rigid, but not “sticky.” ZOCs do extend into friendly occupied hexes for purposes of movement, but not for retreats. Combat between adjacent units is voluntary. The combat results table (CRT) is the traditional “odds differential” (1 to 1, 2 to 1, etc.) type. Stacking limits differ for the two sides: the Iraqis may stack two divisions, one division and two brigades, or three brigades in a singles hex at the end of movement; the Allies may stack any combination of five units (brigades, regiments, and battalions) in a single hex. The Iraqi player can win in this Introductory Game by capturing Riyadh and controlling it for two game turns; failing that, by seizing six Saudi cities and holding them for two consecutive game turns, before Allied reinforcements can make themselves felt; or, alternatively, by capturing two Saudi cities and holding them through the last turn of the game.
The Political Game attempts to address the peculiar political and economic factors that then affected — and, in fact, still distort — international relations in the Gulf region, as well as the diplomatic infighting between the Major Powers (US and Russia) who, not surprisingly, have maneuvered for decades to protect their national interests in the volatile Middle East. The Political Game does not require either a game map or counters: the opposing sides pursue their conflicting diplomatic/political goals using a set of game charts and a pair of dice to a resolve the outcomes of “political endeavors” and to determine the impact of random events. Because there are far more political options than either side can pursue in any given game turn, each player must select a long term strategy that both furthers his own side’s political interests and that, at the same time, impedes or blocks those of his opponent. Just as is the case in real international relations, the Political Game requires skill to win; it is not merely Yahtzee in the Arabian Peninsula. The game system rewards the player who plans carefully, is adept at bluffing, has an abundant supply of guile, and last, but not least, is lucky.
The Military Game is, of course, the central focus of ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM. It combines the Political Game with a very detailed simulation of the complex, highly-integrated air-land-sea operations that characterized combat both before and during the First Gulf War. An (extremely) abbreviated description of a representative game turn of AN:DS would begin with the (first player) Military Action Segment (MAS1), followed by the (joint) Political Action Segment (PAS), and ending with the (second player) Military Action Segment (MAS2). The game’s turn record track lists twenty game turns; however, the designer recommends that the twenty-turn limit be treated as a nonbinding suggestion and nothing more. In the interest of brevity, I will skip any attempt at a detailed description of a typical player turn: a single player’s Military Action Segment is composed of far too many individual steps to catalogue all of its various phases here. Suffice to say that virtually every component of modern combat operations is represented in the Military Game: ballistic and cruise missiles, chemical warfare, special operations, airmobile assaults, electronic warfare and counter measures, SAMs, and stealth aircraft. And this list could be much longer. Moreover, as richly detailed as the ground game is, the air and naval subroutines are almost mini-games in their own right. That being said, AN:DS is, in a very real sense, a game about logistics; or as the designer notes: “it as about the beans and bullets” that make modern combat operations possible. The limitations imposed by logistics are represented in the game by Iraqi Operations Points and US Logistics Points. And both players will consistently find that they want to conduct more combat operations than their logistics will support. In this game, the supply “tail” really does wag the combat operations “dog.”
ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM offers a number of scenarios that permit the players to examine different phases of the First Gulf War. These scenarios include: Scenario 1: Oil Scramble: The August 2, 1990 Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait; Scenario 2: Jabarut!: On to Riyadh; Scenario 3: Pay-Back: US Airstrikes on Iraq; Scenario 4: Beware the ides of January; Scenario Variant: “Sitzkrieg in the Sand”; the Historical Scenario — The One that came true: Beware the ides of January: The Historical Version; Scenario 5: Enter the Turk: The Turkish frontier mini-game; and finally, the Campaign Game, which begins with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and continues either for twenty game turns, or, alternatively, for as long as the players want to continue slugging it out. In addition, for those gamers with an interest in truly unsettling hypothetical situations, the designer offers two Special Scenarios: 1994, Orwell, Ten Years After, in which Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and has fully mobilized his armed forces, even as the US begins the scenario with reduced forces due to the Congress’ profligate spending of the so-called “peace dividend.” And finally, Armageddon 1: The Whore of Babylon, in which Saddam Hussein launches his army through Jordan in an attempt to attack and destroy the State of Israel. And, as if players didn’t already have enough on their plate with the regular Military Game, the designer also offers a few additional “optional” rules for that tiny number of gamers who really do have too much time on their hands.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
The American-led war to liberate Kuwait produced one of the most lop-sided military victories in modern history. In the aftermath of the Iraqi defeat, a valid question then, and one that can still be asked today, is not whether Saddam Hussein’s military could have ultimately won the war, but whether — with different battlefield preparation and planning — they could have done appreciably better than they did. Was the catastrophic defeat of Hussein’s forces inevitable, or did the Iraqi dictator and his generals prepare for the wrong kind of war? Several different conflict simulations — see, for example, Victory Games’ GULF STRIKE for another approach to this subject — have been published in the years since “Operation Desert Storm” that, with varying degrees of success, have all attempted to address this historical puzzle. ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM, while not without its faults, none-the-less presents one of the more convincing responses to this nagging military question.
Interestingly enough, SPI first raised the possibility of a war in the Gulf in 1975, long before Iraq actually got around to invading Kuwait. The initial S&T version of this game, ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: The Kuwait War, was an indirect off-shoot of SPI’s S&T #52 magazine game, OIL WAR. This resemblance, despite noticeable differences in scale and complexity, can still be seen in the Introductory Game portion of the newer title. Given its early start, 3W’s ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM was one of the first games to see print that dealt with the conquest and liberation of Kuwait, and even after eighteen years, it still provides one of the more intriguing treatments of the subject. If nothing else, AN:KW and its expansion kit provide an interesting look at the unfolding historical drama as it was happening. And, unlike most of the other models of the Kuwait War, in this game, the pressures of political events can be almost as important to the final shape of the coalition victory as the course of the actual fighting in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq.
To explore these divergent but connected themes, ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM offers a challenging mix of different gaming options for players with different tastes and experience levels. The rules to both the Introductory and Political games are relatively short and both are also clear enough to be learned and played by almost any casual or novice gamer. The more complicated and expanded Military Game incorporates the Political Game into a single comprehensive simulation of the First Gulf War. For this reason, the Military Game requires a bit of serious study on the part of a new player — even one who already has experience with simulations of contemporary (present-day) conflicts — if that player really wants to get a handle on the highly-detailed game system, and the complex interplay of the various combat arms. That being the case, I don’t believe that the “advanced” Military-Political Game, with its voluminous rules and increased complexity is a particularly good choice for the casual or novice gamer. It can undoubtedly be learned by a motivated beginner, but some experience with a variety of different modern combat simulations really helps to significantly shorten a new player’s learning curve. On the other hand, I don’t think that this title was designed just to be hauled out of its Ziploc® bag, set up and admired, either. So, for the experienced gamer who is interested in a very challenging and rewarding game experience, and who can invest the time to learn a richly-detailed game system, I think that ARABIAN NIGHTMARE: DESERT STORM might well be an excellent choice.
Finally, I want to add a few brief words about this game’s designer, Austin Bay. Colonel Bay, U.S.A.R (ret.) is currently one of the most knowledgeable military bloggers to be found on the internet. In addition to his conventional military postings as an armored officer, he was, for four years, directly involved with wargame design and testing at the Pentagon. In 2004, Colonel Bay was recalled from retirement to active duty and served in Iraq. Today, Austin Bay is a successful author of both fiction and nonfiction books, and a recognized expert on military affairs. For this reason, I strongly recommend him as a source of insightful, cogent, and well-written commentary about ongoing political and military events in the Middle East. His website can be found at: http://www.austinbay.net/
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It is with profound sadness that I report that the wife of Buddy Sinigaglio, Alynda, recently passed away unexpectedly. Tragically, she was only thirty-two years old, and leaves behind her husband and two young children.
For those of us, like me, who have been in the wargaming hobby for many years, Buddy — along with his father, gaming icon and designer, Bruno Sinigaglio — has been a regular fixture, first at Avaloncon, and then at WBC conventions virtually from their inception. In recent years, Buddy’s lovely wife, Alynda, occasionally accompanied her husband and her father-in-law, Bruno, when the father and son made their annual WBC pilgrimage to Pennsylvania. Alynda seemed to take the peculiar demands of the convention tournaments in stride, and she was always a sparkling and cheerful presence whenever she ventured into the gaming areas. Her passing is a tragic loss to her family, and to all who had the pleasure of meeting her.
The thoughts and prayers of all of us who know the Sinigaglio family go out to them in this time of loss and mourning.
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WORLD WAR II: European Theater of Operations is a strategic level simulation of combat in the European and North African Theaters, 1939-45. WORLD WAR II was designed by Douglas Niles and published in 1985 by Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI), then a division of TSR, Inc.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDAt 04:40am on 1 September, 1939, waves of Luftwaffe aircraft began bombing and strafing airfields all across Poland. Almost simultaneously, 44 German infantry divisions and 14 armored divisions surged across the frontier catching Poland’s thirty-odd infantry and cavalry divisions completely by surprise. Without bothering with the inconvenient formality of a declaration of war, Hitler had ordered the invasion and subjugation of his smaller neighbor. The concentric German attacks cut-off whole Polish armies, and those units that could extricate themselves from the rapidly closing German vise, fell back on Warsaw. The Polish attempt to defend at the frontier had been a complete disaster. Nor could the Poles look for any assistance from the East. Seventeen days after the start of the German offensive, Soviet troops poured across a nearly-prostrate Poland’s eastern border to join with the Germans in the Polish nation’s final dismemberment. England and France, although incapable of providing the Poles with any immediate direct assistance, both quickly demonstrated their political support by declaring war on Hitler’s Germany; for the second time in a generation, Europe’s Great Powers had gone to war. Tragically, the greatest conflict in human history, seemingly almost by accident, had begun without any of its participants understanding its future geographical reach, its ultimate magnitude, or its unbelievable human and material cost.
WORLD WAR II: European Theater of Operations is a strategic level simulation of the air-land-sea war that ignited with the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and then quickly spread until, by the time it finally ended in 1945, it had engulfed all but a few corners of the globe. Although this game shares the same title as the SPI game: WORLD WAR II: European Theater of Operations, 1939-45, which was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published in 1973; it is neither an expansion nor a refinement of the earlier game. Rather, it presents a completely new design approach that is far more complex, more richly textured, and much more detailed in its historical treatment of the war in Europe than its predecessor.
The outline of the typical game turn in WORLD WAR II reveals a great deal about the focus of the newer version’s design. Each sequence of three monthly game turns begins with a Seasonal Turn. During this important “seasonal” phase of the game, individual players activate minor country allies, collect income, construct or rebuild depleted units, and pay for all offensives to be conducted during the next three monthly game turns. This last operation is important because the side (Axis or Allies) that pays for the most offensives, gains the “initiative” for the next three game turns. Once alliance initiative has been established, a typical monthly game turn proceeds in the following order: Weather Phase; Strategic Warfare Phase; Naval and Air Phase; Offensive Phase; Movement Phase; and End Phase. Each of these individual game phases is then further subdivided into multiple game segments, each of which must be executed in strict order.
The basic game system of WORLD WAR II is actually quite familiar. Regular combat units all exert a zone of control (ZOC) into the six surrounding hex sides. ZOCs are semi-rigid, but not “sticky.” Infantry units must stop upon entering an enemy ZOC, but armored units may continue for one additional hex in an enemy ZOC before being obliged to halt. Combat between adjacent enemy units is not mandatory and, in fact, is only possible if the attackers have been activated to participate in an “offensive” operation. Army group headquarters and generals are present in the game, not only to add historical color, but also because they both play critical roles in the conduct of army offensives. Combat between ground units is resolved using a standard “odds differential” combat results table, and most terrain, supply, command, and other effects are represented using die-roll modifiers (DRMs) all of which exert a cumulative influence on the final combat outcome. Ground combat in WORLD WAR II is almost always both dynamic and fluid. The Offensive Phase can, for the defending player, produce a nerve-racking series of sequenced battles: regular combat, followed by breakthroughs, followed finally by exploitation attacks. For this reason, defense in depth and reserves are not merely a good idea, they are critical for every player, whether attacking or defending. Most combat units have two steps: a “full” strength side, and an inverted “reduced” strength side. Thus, units typically must take two loss results before being removed from the map.
Stacking is limited to two units per hex in most terrain; however, in city resource hexes it is increased to three units. Soviet stacking is an exception: the Soviet player may stack one additional unit in either type of terrain, for a total of three and four units, respectively. Generals, army group headquarters, paratroops, and information markers do not count against regular stacking. The rules governing supply in WORLD WAR II are relatively generous. Any friendly resource city hex can supply an unlimited number of friendly units; moreover, supply can be traced overland, by sea, or to an airhead. Units that are unsupplied suffer no immediate reduction in movement or combat capability; however, if a unit is left unsupplied for two consecutive monthly turns, it is reduced, if at full strength, and eliminated, if it is already at reduced strength. Ground operations, as might be expected, represent the backbone of the game system, but air and naval operations are also quite important. Fortunately, although both the air and naval subroutines have multiple phases, neither of them is particularly complicated or cumbersome to execute within the context of the larger game. Both subroutines do, however, add significantly to the flow of the game. For example, the air rules make it possible for players to conduct air transport, air supply, and airborne operations, as well as ground support and bombing missions; and the naval rules are detailed enough to include, among other things, naval interception, German surface raiders, sea transport and escort, and amphibious landings.
In the interconnected areas of Strategic Warfare and Economic Production, and also in the realm of Ground Combat important similarities can be seen between Douglas Niles’ WORLD WAR II, and two of John Prados’ games: THIRD REICH (1974) and PANZERKRIEG (1978). The economic component of Niles’ design, like that in THIRD REICH, concentrates mainly on rebuilding reduced or destroyed combat units; the “Strategic Warfare” portion of his game, as was the case historically, focuses on the Battle of the Atlantic, and on the strategic bombing campaigns conducted by both Germany and the Allies. As an interesting aside, the treatment of minor neutrals on the initial game turn of an enemy invasion is virtually identical to that in THIRD REICH. In addition, the execution of breakthroughs and exploitation combat in WORLD WAR II, as well as the importance of commanders and headquarters units, are all handled very similarly to the way that these separate combat elements are dealt with in PANZERKRIEG.
Not surprisingly, special rules that add to the historical 'flavor' of WORLD WAR II are numerous. There are, for instance, rules that affect “Home Country Reinforcements;” rules that restrict or, in the case of marshal “Zhukov,” enhance Soviet combat operations. There are also rules that confer combat advantages on the Germans because of “German Tactical Superiority;” that provide for the creation of “Partisans,” and even for the construction of “Permanent Fortresses.” In addition, other rules impose certain “Historical Restrictions” on the belligerents that tend both to recreate historical events and that guide the relations between allies along historically plausible lines as the war continues.
The winner in either the two-player, or multi-player versions of WORLD WAR II is determined, in the shorter scenarios, much the same way that victory is determined in THIRD REICH, through the control of city resource hexes (objective hexes) at the end of the game. In the case of the Campaign Game, different levels of victory are possible depending on which of the major powers are still standing at the end of the game. If none of the players has achieved either a “decisive” or a “major” victory by game end, then a “marginal” victory can still be won by the player (Axis, Soviet, or Western Allies) who controls the most city resource hexes at the end of the June 1945.
WORLD WAR II offers six scenarios of varying lengths each of which provides a snapshot of the War in Europe at different stages during the conflict. Scenario 1: Case White, is a solitaire scenario of the German invasion of Poland in September, 1939, and is intended to familiarize players with the basic game system before moving on to longer, more complex game situations. Scenarios 2 and 3: Blitzkrieg! begin on the Spring 1940 seasonal turn; Scenario 2 ends at the conclusion of the September, 1940, monthly turn; Scenario 3 continues through June, 1945. Scenarios 4 and 5: Poised for Onslaught, begin on the Summer 1941 seasonal turn; Scenario 4 ends at the conclusion of the December 1941 monthly turn; Scenario 5 ends just like Scenario 3. The final option, the Campaign Game: Europe Ablaze covers the entire war, from the invasion of Poland through to June 1945. In addition to the various scenarios offered with the game, the designer has also included a number of “optional” rules that the players may add individually or collectively to vary the game or to improve play-balance between unequal opponents.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONWhen I first began to read the rules to WORLD WAR II, I had to check the back of the box to reassure myself that John Prados had not designed the game. To say that this title is highly derivative of THIRD REICH and PANZERKRIEG is to make an understatement. There are, of course, other influences in the design, as well; however, for better or for worse, there is nary a hint of Jimmy Dunnigan’s original WORLD WAR II (1973), anywhere to be found. Because John Prados’ fingerprints are all over this game system, it should come as no surprise that WORLD WAR II has very much the feel of a highly detailed, much less abstracted THIRD REICH. For some players, that fact might be a problem; for my own part, since I still like THIRD REICH — even after all these years — I find the extra detail, although time-consuming, generally acceptable. Moreover, the SPI/TSR maps are a vast improvement over anything that ever ended up being published in a typical Prados design. And, of course, personally being very interested in how games handle the problems of command and control, and organization of forces, I did not find the extensive set of rules governing offensive operations all that off-putting. That being said, WORLD WAR II is certainly not for everyone. To start with, it is not a simple game either to learn, or to play, once learned; and were it not for the fact that the unit density is relatively low, an individual game turn could easily get to be quite tedious. Fortunately, compared to most of the true monster games, this one is really pretty manageable. In that sense, it occupies an interesting space among World War II game designs somewhere between the truly “big” titles, and the “play it in an afternoon” type of games. Of course, for those players who want to turn this title into a true monster, all they have to do is link it to its design doppelganger, WORLD WAR II: Pacific Theater of Operations. These two titles, when combined, will definitely give a dedicated monster player as big a game as he could ever want. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this title, or its Pacific War cousin, for that matter, to a novice; however, for the experienced gamer with an interest in the Second World War, I think that that he could do far worse. In my view, WORLD WAR II: European Theater of Operations offers a nicely-textured, historically-detailed simulation that, in spite of its lack of originality, is both an interesting competitive challenge, and an enjoyable game to play .
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FORTRESS EUROPA is an operational simulation of the Allied campaign — from the D-Day invasion to the breaching of the Siegfried Line — to liberate Western Europe from Nazi domination, 1944-45. The original version of FORTRESS EUROPA was designed by John Edwards and published in Australia under the Jedco Games label in 1978. This version was extensively redesigned by Alan R. Moon and Richard Hamblen and published in the United States by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1980. Rumor has it that an updated, expanded version of FORTRESS EUROPA is currently in development by the L2 Design Group, and publication of this newly-revised edition of the game is expected in late 2009 or early 2010.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDLate on the night of 5 June 1944, thousands of Allied paratroops began to parachute into occupied France. Their mission was to seal the approaches to the nearby Normandy beaches and to secure safe landing zones for the glider-borne infantry that was scheduled to come in behind them. Within a few hours, the follow-up glider infantry — along with heavy equipment and artillery — began their landings to reinforce the paratroopers who were already on the ground. Because of unexpected cloud cover over the drop zones, however, these airborne units were widely scattered and disorganized during the first hours after the drop. At the same time the gliders were plowing into French fields, waves of Allied planes roared over the Cotentin Peninsula. It was now 0300 on 6 June, D-Day, and flights of Allied bombers had begun to rain thousands of tons of bombs down on the German bunkers and obstacles that bristled along the beaches of the Normandy Peninsula. The initial phases of the most complex military operation in history were finally under way. At 0500 hours, the vast naval armada that had escorted the 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish troops who would shortly be landing in occupied France began to shell the German defenses directly behind the beach landing zones. Operation “Overlord,” the amphibious invasion of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” was about to begin.
In the coastal waters off the 7,000 yard wide American landing sector, code-named “Omaha Beach,” the first of many assault teams prepared to land in occupied France. Naval bombardment had commenced almost as soon as the Allied air strikes had stopped. At 0630 hours, 96 specially-equipped amphibious Sherman tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry — four each from the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions — began their invasion run into the target beach. The Allied plan called for 34,000 men to land in the Omaha Beach sector in the first wave of landings. The second wave was scheduled to begin after 1200 hours and was expected to put another 25,000 men ashore by nightfall. Instead, the landings went wrong almost from the very beginning because of a five mile-per-hour tidal current; virtually every assault group drifted well east of their original objective. American units became hopelessly intermingled; finally small ad-hoc teams of thirty to forty soldiers, their backs to the Channel, began to clamber over the seawall and to attack the German positions in the beach draws and on the overlooking bluffs. Gradually, despite heavy German resistance and even heavier American casualties, the GIs pushed inland and away from the deadly expanse of open sand and water that was the beachhead. By the end of this first day of the invasion, Omaha Beach had earned a morbid but accurate new name from the men who had survived the landing: “Bloody Omaha.” In this one beach sector, over five thousand men had been killed, wounded, or gone missing during just the first fourteen hours of D-Day. Nonetheless, despite terrible casualties among the first wave, the beachhead had been held and even expanded. General Eisenhower’s Great Crusade to liberate Western Europe from Nazi occupation had finally begun.
FORTRESS EUROPA is an operational (regiment/brigade/division) level simulation — based loosely on the old SPI BATTLE OF MOSCOW Game System — of the Allied crusade to liberate the captive peoples of Western Europe from German occupation. The game begins with the Allied cross-Channel invasion of Europe in June, 1944 and continues through the first week of March, 1945. The game map covers Europe from Erfurt in the east to Bordeaux in the west, and from Toulon in the south to Cherbourg in the north. In essence, the game map encompasses virtually all of the territory in France, Germany, and Northern Italy over which the Germans and the Western Allies maneuvered and fought. One player commands the armies of the German Wehrmacht, and the other controls the Allied forces (the Americans, British, Canadians, and Free French). FORTRESS EUROPA is played in game turns; each of which is equal to approximately one week of real time. Each game turn is further divided into a German and an Allied turn; the Allied player is always the first player. Each game turn is composed of a specific sequence of player actions and proceeds as follows: the Weather Roll (Allied player rolls a die to establish weather conditions for the entire game turn); the Joint Air Mission Allocation Phase; Allied Replacement Phase; First Allied (impulse) Movement and Reinforcement Phase; the First Allied (impulse) Combat Phase; the Second Allied (impulse) Movement Phase (during this phase the Allied player may move any units not in enemy zones of control again); the Allied Second (impulse) Combat Phase and Supply Determination Phase. At the conclusion of the Allied player turn, the German player repeats exactly the same phases as his opponent, excepting the Weather Determination and Joint Air Phase. Once both players have finished their moves, the game turn is over and the turn marker is advanced one space; a new game turn then begins.
The mechanics of the FORTRESS EUROPA game system are relatively orthodox and intuitively logical. Supply rules, not surprisingly, are important, particularly for the Allied player. Both sides trace supply through friendly headquarters to a viable supply source. All units in cities and fortresses are always in supply, and German units in Germany and Italy are likewise always in supply. The logistical rules for Allied units are considerably more demanding. The Allies are limited in how many units they can land and support in Europe by their current Supply Capacity (SC) which, in turn, is dependent both on the supply capacities of the Allied “mulberries” and on those of captured Channel ports. Any units unsupplied at the end of the Second (impulse) Combat and Supply Determination Phase are immediately reduced one step. Zones of Control are rigid and “semi-sticky;” that is: units adjacent to enemy counters may move normally at the beginning of the first impulse, but may not move at the beginning of the second, and combat between adjacent enemy units is compulsory. Stacking is limited by terrain: three units may stack in clear hexes; two in rough terrain; and only one unit may end its movement in an Alpine, mountain, or flooded hex. The game uses a traditional “odds differential” type Combat Results Table (CRT), and combat results are typically confined to retreats, unit eliminations, exchanges, and “step” losses. One intriguing, feature of FORTRESS EUROPA is the inclusion of air units for both sides. Air missions can only be flown — with one exception — during “clear” weather game turns. The Allies receive four SAC and seven TAC points at the beginning of each weekly game turn; the Germans, on the other hand, receive no SAC points and a varying number of TAC points at the beginning of each month (four game turns). These aircraft points may conduct a variety of different missions. For example both Allied and German TAC air points may fly Strafing, Ground Support, Bridge Attacks, and Counter-Air missions. In addition, the Allies may conduct several different types of SAC missions, including: Railway Attacks, Attacks on German Replacements, U-Boat Attacks, V1 Site Attacks, and Carpet Bombing.
As might be expected of a game covering the campaign that General Eisenhower referred to as a modern “Crusade in Europe,” a number of design elements add historical color and texture to an already exciting game. There are detailed rules in FORTRESS EUROPA that cover, among other things: Allied naval bombardment; airborne operations (for both sides!); British commandos and American rangers; German coastal defense units; partisans; German Volksturm (militia) units; the Allied mulberries (temporary ports); reinforcements; replacements; and the temporary German withdrawal of panzer units from combat in preparation for Hitler’s last major offensive in the West, “Wacht am Rhein,” in December 1944.
Although the Campaign Game can, in theory, continue from the June I ’44 turn all the way to the March I ’45 game turn, most standard games will actually end earlier. For example, the Campaign Game in FORTRESS EUROPA can immediately be won by the Allies if they succeed in occupying Paris and Bruxelles and four of five major cities in Germany, or if Allied units occupy fifteen cities in Germany (Geneva and Torino can be counted for this purpose). The German player wins by avoiding the Allied victory conditions, and by holding three major German cities at game’s end. Alternatively, players may secretly record “sudden death” victory conditions prior to the start of play, and then compete to fulfill their own objectives while working to block the opposing player from meeting his goals.
Besides the thirty-seven turn (or longer) Campaign Game, FORTRESS EUROPA also offers a set of five different Scenarios or “mini-games” that allow players to refight a single specific phase of the larger war. These scenarios are: To The West Wall (12 game turns); Breaching The West Wall (28 turns long); Invasion (7 game turns); Battle Of The Bulge (4 turns long); and On To Berlin (11 game turns). Victory conditions vary for these Scenarios from one game situation to another, and are stipulated in each of the different Scenarios’ instructions. The designer has also included a number of interesting “optional rules” and historical (what ifs?) any of which permit the players to vary the flow of the game, and also to adjust play-balance between unequal opponents.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONIf THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN (1976) was John Edwards’ inspired remake of STALINGRAD, then it is pretty obvious that FORTRESS EUROPA was his design response to Avalon Hill’s D-DAY (1961). However, even if one acknowledges that D-DAY undoubtedly served as the starting point for Edwards’ own distinctive treatment of Operation Overlord and the subsequent Battle for France; this doesn’t change the fact that the two games — except for their overall scale — are really quite different. And even though Avalon Hill revisited the “design well” a number of times in an effort to update and revive its aging invasion game, the reality is that D-DAY was long overdo for a major face-lift or, even better, a complete makeover. Time had simply passed it by, and what had been an innovative game design in the 1960s, had become tired and obsolete by the 1970s. That being said, FORTRESS EUROPA fills the bill as a replacement for D-DAY very well, indeed. It, like its predecessor may take a long time to play, but in every other way, Edwards’ version — particularly after the additional development work of Moon and Hamblen — is a dramatic improvement over the original. In view of this, it should not be surprising that there is much to like about FORTRESS EUROPA. However, there are also a few aspects of this design that are a little disappointing. For this reason, I will continue this short critique of TAHGC’s version of FORTRESS EUROPA with a discussion of the design elements that I find a little off-putting and then move on to the many positive qualities of the game.
On the “minus” side of the game design ledger, there are three elements that I personally dislike about FORTRESS EUROPA. First, there is the map board: it is functional, unambiguous, and really, really bland. I don’t know why, but Avalon Hill seems to have had — with very few exceptions — a penchant for printing boring, unattractive game maps, and this map is no exception. Second, there is the stylized calligraphy used on all of the German unit counters. I may be wrong, but I think that I detect the overzealous hand of Alan R. Moon in this bit of graphics excess. Granted, this is a very small nit, but it is one that I find irksome. Mainly, I resent this pointless little affectation because I think that it falls into the realm of adding “chrome” purely for “chrome’s” sake. Last and probably most important: it would have been VERY helpful if the game designers had included a separate, detailed set-up chart for the Battle Of The Bulge and On To Berlin Scenarios. A single set-up sheet — a la SPI’s BREAKOUT & PURSUIT — would have done the job very nicely, particularly since both scenarios begin on the same game turn and share the same unit starting positions. As things currently stand, it almost takes longer to set up the BATTLE OF THE BULGE Scenario than it actually takes to play it!
The “positive” design qualities of FORTRESS EUROPA, happily, are both more numerous and more significant. For starters, the initial invasion portion of the game is very nicely handled; the Germans, even in the Historical Game, have enough hidden-deployment units to make the Allied player’s choice of an invasion site, in each and every game, a nerve-racking test for both players. Where are those hidden panzer divisions actually going to show up, once the Allies start to wade ashore? In this game, a shrewd guess on the part of the Allied player can put the Germans under heavy pressure from the very first turn; a good bluff on the part of the German player, on the other hand, can be worth as much as an extra panzer corps! Second, the game’s basic mechanics, although not all that innovative, are virtually glitch-free. There is nothing in the basic game design that is either particularly confusing or cumbersome. The turn phases are logical and play flows surprisingly smoothly despite the numerous player operations required during each turn. Third, the dual impulse movement and combat system works particularly well for this type of mobile campaign; granted, the Allies will be doing most of the attacking, but Eisenhower must, nonetheless, always be alert to the possibility of a sudden German counterattack. An unexpected series of German victories might just manage to break through his front and disrupt the entire Allied timetable. Fourth, the importance of weather and its impact on Allied naval operations, and on both sides’ air operations, is represented realistically, but simply. Finally, the air rules are a vast improvement over most games that model World War II campaigns at the operational (brigade/division) level. The mix of different possible air missions and the critical balance that must be maintained between offensive and defensive operations makes for an interesting challenge for both players whenever clear weather permits aircraft to fly.
Clearly, FORTRESS EUROPA is not a ground-breaking new game design. In fact, most of the game’s basic mechanics will be quite familiar to experienced players. That is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, more often than not, it can be a plus when it comes to titles designed to be played on this scale. Is it the best simulation that I have ever seen of the D-Day Invasion and the subsequent Battle for France? Hardly; but having said that, I should also add that — in my opinion at least — it is still an exciting, fast-paced game, and a reasonably good simulation of the bitter fighting that characterized the Allied pursuit of the Wehrmacht across France and into Germany in 1944-45. Most important of all, while it is an interesting challenge for experienced players, its clean game system and clearly-written rules make it accessible — albeit with a little study — to both casual and novice gamers, alike.
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; all 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
Recommended ReferenceThis book is a handy guide of maps for the Normandy landing beaches.
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1940 is an operational-level (division/corps) simulation of ground combat during the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May, 1940. 1940 was designed by Frank Alan Chadwick and published in 1980 by Game Designer’ Workshop (GDW). 1940 is one of GDW’s “Series 120” games. These titles were intended by the designers at GDW to be “introductory” games; the “120” comes from the fact that each of the titles in this series uses no more than 120 counters, and all were intended to be played to completion in two hours or less.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDShortly after midnight on 10 May, 1940, the planes of the Luftwaffe took off in total darkness to strike at targeted Allied airfields that had been sited close to the hitherto quiet Western Front. The “Phony War” in the West had finally come to an end. Within hours of the Luftwaffe's first waves of air attacks, German ground forces also began moving forward towards the French frontier, and into Belgium and Holland. The German offensive against France and its allies, code named: "Fall Gelb" (Case Yellow), had begun.
The German plan was complex and focused not just on piercing the French border defenses near Sedan, but also on lightning attacks against the Low Countries. One critical element of Hitler’s plan for the conquest of France was the rapid seizure of the Channel ports in Belgium and Holland. Under no circumstances, did the German dictator want to face the threat of Allied landings against his northern flank, particularly once German armies had begun their drive into France. Moreover, the Dutch ports were far too close to the German industrial heartland, the Ruhr, for the German High Command to risk allowing them to fall into British hands. The Führer was adamant; Holland along with Belgium would both have to be attacked and overrun once the main German offensive had commenced. Neutral Holland’s fate, along with that of Belgium and France, was sealed.
Thus it was that, as dawn broke on 10 May 1940, the nine infantry divisions and one panzer division of Kuechler’s Eighteenth Army pushed through hastily-mounted Dutch frontier defenses and fanned out across Holland in three columns. At the same time that these first attacks were beginning, German paratroops and air-landing units descended on The Hague, Rotterdam, Moerdijk, and Dordrecht; their goal: to seize airfields and key bridges to help speed the German advance. After recovering from their initial surprise, Dutch forces counterattacked the widely-dispersed German airheads, but continuous close support from the Luftwaffe allowed the isolated German paratroopers to retain control of most of their earlier gains. While these desperate battles were going on, the Dutch Army attempted to block the onrushing German tide near the frontier but was steadily forced back all along the front. The northernmost German column reached the Afsluit Dyke on 11 May; the center column made even better time and reached the Grebbe line on the evening of the 10th. Also on 10 May, Kuechler’s southern column seized the railroad bridge at Gennep; the unexpected German capture of an intact bridge was a serious blow to the defenders’ plans and soon obliged Dutch forces to fall back from the Peel line. On 12 May, advance elements of Kuechler’s southern column finally linked up with the paratroopers still holding the bridges at Moerdijk and Dordrecht. This was the last straw for the Dutch: now cutoff from further Allied assistance and with their cities facing destruction from German air attack, the Dutch government took ship for England on 13 May. On 14 May, 1940, the Dutch formally surrendered. It had taken only five days for Kuechler’s ten divisions to subjugate all of Holland.
DESCRIPTION1940 is a two-player, corps-level simulation — loosely based on the old SPI BATTLE OF MOSCOW Game System — of the first fifty-two days of the German offensive against France and the Low Countries in spring of 1940. The game focuses on the critical period — May 10 to June 30 — during which the Allies essentially fought and lost the First Battle for France.
Because 1940 is intended by the designer to be an “introductory” game, the game system is clean, comparatively simple, and intuitively logical. The counters represent the military units — German, French, British, Belgian, Dutch, and Swiss — that actually fought (or could have fought) in the historical campaign. The area represented by the game map covers that region of Western Europe — from Paris in the west to Frankfort in the east, and from Amsterdam in the north to Switzerland in the south — over which the actual campaign was waged. 1940 is played in game turns, each of which represents five days of real time. Each game turn is further divided into a German and an Allied player turn; the German player is always the first player to act in any turn. However, the game begins with a special game turn (turn “0”) during which only German and Allied units (including the Swiss, if attacked), but no other neutral units, may move and attack; the game then continues with its standard format for ten more regular game turns.
Each game turn in 1940 follows an ordered series of player actions and proceeds as follows: German (First Impulse) Movement Phase; German Combat Phase; German Recovery Phase; German (Second Impulse) Movement Phase, during which all phasing units may move up to one-half of their regular movement allowance; German Combat Phase; German Recovery Phase. At the conclusion of the German Second Impulse Recovery Phase, the Allied player becomes the “phasing” player and repeats the same six player phases as his German opponent. Once both players have completed their moves, the turn marker is advanced one space on the turn record track, and the sequence begins again.
To simulate the “fog of war,” each player must secretly assign, in writing, each of his armies to one of three “Army Group” map areas prior to the start of play. Before either player sets up on the game map, the German player secretly chooses which one of three different strategic objectives he will pursue in the coming game; he then secretly specifies which of his three army groups will be the “main” army group. In addition, the Allied player must also secretly specify which of his three army groups will be allowed to move on turn “0.”
In keeping with the “introductory” intent of the designer, the rest of the rules are also clear and easy to understand, even for a comparative novice. All ground units, except regiments, possess a zone of control (ZOC). In addition, these ZOCs are rigid for non-motorized units, but only semi-rigid for motorized units which may move a single hex directly from one enemy ZOC to another before stopping. ZOCs are not “sticky,” and combat between adjacent enemy units is semi-voluntary (any enemy unit adjacent to an attacker must be attacked). Supply rules, although important to the play of the game, are refreshingly uncomplicated: supplied units move and attack normally; unsupplied units are halved for both movement and combat. Stacking rules are also simple: four divisions, or their equivalent (a corps is considered three divisions for stacking purposes) from the same side may stack in a single hex. British and French units, however, may not stack together. Combat is resolved using a traditional “odds differential” Combat Results Table. Terrain, not surprisingly, influences both movement and combat. Air and airborne operations are an integral part of the game but are handled with logical simplicity. Rail and sea movement are also both possible in the game.
The game’s winner is determined by whether or not the Germans satisfy their pregame designated victory condition. However, different levels of victory are possible; these different levels are established by accumulating victory points for the destruction of enemy units and, in the case of the Allies, for launching a successful incursion into Germany. 1940 offers only the Historical Game; however, to increase variation in play, the designer includes a provision for several “optional” units that can be added to the Orders of Battle for both sides. In addition, the designer also includes three “optional” rules: the Mechelen Incident rule; the Belgian Late Alliance rule; and the (increased) French Air Force rule. Any or all of these rules can be used to modestly alter the flow of the game, or to tweak play-balance in favor of the either the German or the Allied player.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONGDW’s foray into the design and publication of simple, introductory games was, to be generous, pretty much a bust. AGINCOURT was too simple (once the badly-written rules had been deciphered), too predictable in its play, and visually disappointing (green and brown counters in the age of knights and heralds?). BEDA FOMM and ALMA, although interesting, were way too complicated for novices; and several of the other titles were, unfortunately, both time-consuming to learn and boring to play, once they actually had beeen learned. That being said, I personally think that of all of the “120 Series” of games, 1940, 1941, and 1942 all probably come closest, in terms of ease-of-play and excitement level, to fulfilling the original design goals set by GDW for the “120 Series.”
Over the years, I have played every one of these World War II titles and, to varying degrees, liked them all. However, my personal favorite of the three, hands down, is 1940. I don’t know why, but the problems confronting both the Allies and the Germans in May, 1940, have always interested me. And despite its limited scope and size, 1940 does a surprisingly good job of representing those problems in an easy-to-learn, fast-playing, and exciting game format. Nor does it get stale after repeated games; in fact, it seems like every time I play this title, I get a surprise. In short, it’s just a solidly designed game, and a blast to play. There may be better simulations of the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940, but I guarantee that there are none to match 1940, in historical detail and pure enjoyment, that can be played to a conclusion in two hours or less.
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; all 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
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WAR BETWEEN THE STATES: 1861-1865 (WBTS) is a detailed, large-scale historical simulation of the American Civil War, 1861-1865. The game was designed by Irad B. Hardy and published — in the double “plastic flat tray” monster game packaging format, common during this period — by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1977. Decision Games (DG), in keeeping with their long-standing company practice of reissuing out-of-print SPI titles, began publishing an upgraded (nicer components, more counters and colored map sheets) boxed-version of WAR BETWEEN THE STATES in 2004.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDIn the chaotic days that immediately followed the Southern attack on Fort Sumter, in April 1861, clashes between the breakaway South and the Unionist North flared up repeatedly, particularly in the border-states; however, these actions were typically limited to relatively small-scale skirmishes between hastily-raised bands of opposing militias. And although war had come in the spring, there had not been a single major battle between Confederate and Federal troops in the four months that followed the surrender of the Union garrison in Charleston Harbor.
Finally, in mid-July, the 35,000 Union troops bivouacked around Washington, D.C., stirred to action and began to clumsily wend their way south. The Union commander, Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, although worried about the battle-worthiness of his freshly-minted army, had at last reluctantly succumbed to political pressure and ordered his army to march against the Confederate Capital in Richmond, Virginia. Barring McDowell’s path were 20,000 Confederates under General P. T. Beauregard. Unbeknownst to the Union commander, however, an additional 12,000 rebel soldiers from the Shenandoah Valley, under J. E. Johnston, were already rushing by train to Beauregard’s aid. By the time the slowly advancing Union troops at last encountered the first Confederate pickets on the 18th, Confederate reinforcements were rapidly nearing Manassas Junction. McDowell allowed three days to pass while he completed his army’s concentration. And although he could have attacked the still outnumbered Beauregard on the 20th, the Union commander decided to wait another full day.
The two armies — composed mainly of green recruits and 90-day enlistees — finally crashed into each other near Centerville, Virginia on the morning of 21 July, 1861. The Union opened with a surprisingly well-conceived attack against the Confederate left, and for a time, the Rebels were forced to give ground. Unfortunately for McDowell, Johnston’s troops were beginning to arrive just in time to shore up the wavering Confederate line. McDowell's and Beauregard's armies were now almost evenly-matched, but the initiative gradually shifted to Beauregard as Johnston’s fresh troops continued to enter the fight against the tiring Yankees. The seesaw battle continued through most of the day, but by late afternoon, both the battlefield and the victory belonged to the Confederates. Fortunately for the North, the Rebels were too spent to pursue the retiring Yankees.
From McDowell's standpoint, the aftermath of the bloody Union defeat was bad enough. The shock of the unexpected Federal loss quickly led to a breakdown in the discipline of many of the green Union regiments. As General McDowell's beaten and exhausted army began to retrace its route back towards the safety of Washington, command and control largely disintegrated, and for many of his withdrawing units, the Union retreat quickly turned into a rout. And the confident army that had marched out of the capital only a few days before, now fled back towards the same city as little more than a disordered mob.
The summer battle at Centerville was the first real preview, for both sides of the months-old conflict, of the true cost of the long war that lay before them. Fourteen hundred and ninety-two Union troops were killed and 1,600 taken prisoner, while the victorious Confederates’ losses numbered 1,752. “Manassas” — also known as the “First Battle of Bull Run” — would produce rejoicing in the South, and shocked disbelief in the North; a Union officer named William T. Sherman would distinguish himself on the Manassas battlefield, and an obscure Confederate officer would, following this battle, ever after be known as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Tragically for both sides, a political argument between countrymen had become a war between states. And although none of the men from either army who fought at Manassas on 21 July, 1861, could have known it at the time, the fight at Centerville had only been the first of many major battles in what would ultimately become the costliest war in American history.
WAR BETWEEN THE STATES is a two-player historical simulation, at the operational (brigade/division) level, of the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history, the American Civil War, 1861-1865. The game focuses on military operations in the Eastern and Western Theaters and thus, covers a wide geographical area that stretches from Philadelphia, Pa. to Galveston, Tx. and from St. Joseph, Mo. to Jacksonville, Fl. Because of their minimal impact on the overall outcome of the war, the game does not attempt to simulate military operations in the Far West. One player commands the forces of the Confederate States of America (CSA) while the other player controls the armies of the United States (Union).
WAR BETWEEN THE STATES is played in (monthly) Game-Cycles each of which is composed of a Strategic Turn followed by four regular (weekly) game turns. During the Strategic Turn, both players perform the various economic, logistical, production, command, and political operations necessary both to raise and maintain their forces in the field and to continue the war. After both players complete the Strategic Turn, play then continues with four regular game turns each of which is further divided into a Union and a Confederate player turn. Before a regular game turn begins, however, the Determination of the First Player to act must be made by (blindly) drawing for Initiative. Once the player order for the game turn has been established, the turn continues with the First Player Movement Phase which is split between the Movement Command Allotment Segment and the Individual Leader Initiative Segment; next comes the First Player Combat Phase which is again divided into two segments: the Combat Initiative Segment and the Battle Segment. As soon as the First Player completes his Combat Phase, the Second Player then repeats the exact same sequence of player actions as his opponent. Once both sides have completed their player turns, the game turn ends and the turn marker is advanced one space of the Turn Record Track and the turn cycle begins again.
The WBTS game system is detailed and richly-textured, but not unmanageable. The heart of the military ground game is leadership and command and control. To move and fight effectively, an army requires both leaders and headquarters. At the beginning of the game, both are in short supply; however, as play proceeds, both players periodically get the opportunity to randomly draw for new leaders and additional headquarters. Interestingly, in the Campaign Scenario, at least, it is quite possible for the game to play out to the bitter end, and not have either Lee or Grant ever enter the game! Besides leadership and command and control, the other element crucial to ground operations is logistics: armies must be supplied, and when those armies move, supplies must move with them. Armies without supply are restricted in their operations and subject to attrition. Supplies can be carried by headquarters, railroads, naval transport, and slow-moving supply trains.
The naval component of WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, although not overly complicated, is none-the-less, almost a separate game in its own right. Naval and river flotillas, as was the case historically, play a critical role in how the game develops. Moreover, sea power is one of the Northern player’s biggest built-in advantages; the Union navy, almost from the very beginning of the game, will dominate the sea. For this reason, the Yankee player should study and master this aspect of the game even before beginning play. Typically, the Union player, because of his greater capacity to build naval and river flotillas, will be able to conduct naval operations freely along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts; he will also be able to blockade Confederate ports for much of the war. The one slender chance that the Confederate player has to lift the Union blockade is through the construction and aggressive use of ironclads.
While there are a number of design features in WBTS that are innovative and new, many elements of the game system are also quite familiar: terrain effects, rail movement, and zones of control, for example, are all handled in conventional ways, and naval combat is resolved using a traditional “odds-differential” combat results table (CRT). Ground combat, on the other hand, is resolved using a “split results” combat system reminiscent of the one used in FREDERICH THE GREAT. Another unusual wrinkle in the combat system is the use of “Battle Intensity” chits. These chits, which are limited by the initiative levels of the two opposing battlefield commanders — in most cases, the player with the superior force and better commander will want a higher intensity battle, by the way — are secretly chosen by each player prior to combat. When revealed and added together, their sum determines which of four CRTs will be used to resolve the battle. The greater the battle’s “intensity” the bloodier the action will be for both sides. Players will quickly discover, in the course of a typical game of WBTS, that decisive Napoleonic-style battlefield victories will be few and far between. Most land battles, just as Civil War engagements were historically, will tend to be bloody and — unless an enemy army can be completely surrounded by attacking units — inconclusive.
The one design feature that really differentiates WAR BETWEEN THE STATES from other strategic-level Civil War games is the all-important role that the “Production Routine” plays in the direction and outcome of the game’s different scenarios. Coordinating the various factors of production, and then planning and building the forces necessary to meet future strategic goals is absolutely crucial to both players’ prospects for ultimate victory. For my own part, I really enjoy this type of game-within-a-game. However, for those players who don’t, there is still some good news: Redmond Simonsen’s ingenious design innovation, the “production spiral,” makes the whole production process much clearer, much easier to manage, and a lot faster to execute than previous SPI production systems.
The victory conditions in WBTS will vary from scenario to scenario, but typically will be awarded on the basis of geographical objectives captured or held, enemy casualties, and enemy forces besieged at the end of a scenario. Victory conditions in the Campaign Scenario are a little different: players, of course, will typically play for a conventional Historical Victory, but they may also attempt to win a Personal Victory by making a single die roll on the “Political Events Matrix.” The threat posed by the “Political Events Matrix” will tend to restrain the actions of both players (postponing draft calls, for example) as each tries to prevent the other from gaining enough victory points to make such an appeal worthwhile.
WAR BETWEEN THE STATES offers six Yearly Scenarios as well as a Campaign Scenario. The six Yearly Scenarios use only a portion of the game’s counters, either one or two map sections, and each give a snapshot of the Civil War in either the East or the West in 1862, 1863, or 1864. These shorter games are also an excellent way for players to master the WBTS Game System before moving on to the two hundred turn Campaign Scenario. The Campaign Scenario, as might be expected, begins in July 1861 (First Battle of Manassas), and covers the entire war — assuming the game continues all the way to the bitter end — through April, 1865. In addition, players may opt to experiment with a number of different optional rules. These include special rules for, among other things: a fighting Retreat after Combat Option for surrounded units, Leader Effect on Combat, (automatic) Confederate Initiative Pick, Lee Stays East (no big deal for the Confederates), Grant Stays West (a big deal for the Union), Entrenchments, Partisans, and a Special Initiative Restriction on leaders outside of their army’s regular “chain of command.”
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONI had forgotten what a good game WAR BETWEEN THE STATES (WBTS) actually is until I pulled my long-neglected copy off the shelf and began to write up this profile. In fact, even acknowledging its several flaws (unhistorical dearth of leaders and headquarters during the first two years of the war, for example) I still consider this title to be the best strategic-level Civil War game I have ever played. As monster titles go, WBTS is also probably one of the most playable “big” games ever published. The game system is intuitively logical, reasonably easy-to-learn and once learned, is surprisingly fast-moving considering the game’s scale. Command and control, initiative, and leadership are both handled nicely, and the army and corps organization charts are a real plus for players (like me) who are interested in the strategic challenges of planning, supporting, and conducting a major military campaign. Even the naval and river flotilla rules are not that difficult to understand and master.
The graphics (hat tip to Redmond A. Simonsen) are attractive to the eye and unambiguous, and the various game tracks, tables, and charts are all about as clear and useable as one could reasonably expect. One thing that really sets WBTS apart from most other strategic-level Civil War games is the opportunity (or necessity) that it creates for both the Union and the Confederate players to choose and then produce the types of forces that they actually want. And even this process is not all that unfamiliar: for those players who have played either WAR IN THE EAST (2nd. Ed.) or WAR IN THE WEST, there will be much that is instantly recognizable about the “production” subroutine used in WBTS.
Finally, it goes without saying that WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, in spite of its many virtues, is not a simple game. However, unlike most other games its size, WBTS does not require weeks to familiarize oneself with the rules and game system; often, at least for experienced players, this can be accomplished in a single sitting. For this reason, while I strongly recommend the game for experienced players, WAR BETWEEN THE STATES is one of the very few monster games that, I sincerely believe, even a casual or comparatively inexperienced player can learn to play and enjoy.
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Review of this title which is 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 .
Also see my blog post Book Review of this definitive three volume work on the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia by Douglas S. Freeman.
Also, for those interested in battlefield maps, the "museum book" collection of historical Civil War maps by William J. Miller, released in 2004, or the atlas compiled by Stephen Hyslop in 2009 of Civil war battlefields are worth collecting.
Recommended ArtworkThis Giclee print of a map of the Battle of Gettysburg is suitable for framing and makes a nice wall decoration for a game room with a Civil War theme.
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For those players who are not familiar with SPI’s MODERN BATTLES I and its successor, MODERN BATTLES II, this is a pair of quadri-games that deal with contemporary (1970s and newer) conflicts, both real and imagined. Each of the four games that collectively make up one of these larger quadri-games comes with its own map, one hundred cardboard counters, and its own Exclusive Rules booklet. The larger game includes two sets of Standard Rules and two sets of Game Charts and Tables that together cover the basic architecture and game operations for the MODERN BATTLES Game System. Oddly, the one player aid that is conspicuously missing from both MODERN BATTLES I & II is a Turn Record Track. Since a number of the individual MODERN BATTLES games are fairly long, this omission is both noticeable and frustrating. Finally, after losing track of which move both I and my opponent were on for what seemed like the umpteenth time, I decided to correct this problem once and for all. The following MODERN BATTLES GAME TURN RECORD TRACK is the result. I hope that those players who already own a copy of either one of the MODERN BATTLES games will find this “Player Aid” useful.
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