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Subject: Churchill: A Near Run War rss

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Mark Herman
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CAVEAT: These are not the final graphics for Churchill, in fact these are not even the playtest graphics. The playtest graphics are being done by the awarding winning graphic artist Mark Simonitch of GMT games, who will also be doing the final production map. The graphics that you see were done by me in Powerpoint, which is the limit of my graphic skill. So while it is laid out and functions exactly the way I want it to, these images are not meant to be eye candy. That's Mark Simonitch's job and every time I let him do his job, my design usually wins a graphics award. So, please avoid demonstrating that you did not read this opening in your comments.

Today I had an elite crew of playtesters to put Churchill through its paces. As we had four plus myself we chose to play one game with everyone instead of starting a second parallel game. Stalin's Politburo was the team of Volko Ruhnke (my co-designer on Fire in the Lake) and Peter Perla (author and game designer). Churchill was played by my friend and talented game player Jeremy Filko with Paul Aceto (Fire in the Lake playtester) in the role of Roosevelt.


The map has two basic components the Conference Table and the Military Campaign map. The game is won at the conference table with the war keeping score. If you look at the Conference Table display (see iPhone photo) imagine that this is a top down view of a large circular conference table, like the one that use to be in my office. There are three chairs at the table where you can see the Meeples sitting in those chairs representing Churchill, (Green) Stalin (Red), and Roosevelt (Blue). The circle in the middle of the table is known as the 'center of the table' where the issues that are nominated and then discussed/ debated originate at the beginning of a conference. Through the play of cards named for the key senior leaders an issue moves toward your chair. An issue such as a change in European military leadership is moved by the value of a card toward your seat at the conference table. A 4 value card will move the issue that many spaces toward you unless one of the other players debates the issue by playing a card in debate. Most historical personages have some key feature such as a bonus or the fact that after you play the personage they may die as Admiral Pound did in the game and actually did during the war. At the conclusion of card play all issues that are on your track or in your chair have been won by you. The player who wins the most issues wins the conference and gains on a global issue (the red lines that connect each of the chairs bilaterally to the other players). For example the global issue between Churchill and Stalin is Free Europe versus Spheres of Influence.


This is the Conference Table display.

Each player has a Chief of State card that represents that player. You can have you (Churchill, Stalin, or Roosevelt) weigh in on an issue, but only another Chief of State in a Tete-a-Tete can block you. You can use your card once per conference for advancing an issue, debating an issue, or winning key tie breaks. The timing and circumstances are up to you. At the conclusion of the conference the players implement the issues they won on the miiltary map. The Soviets may have gotten promises of additional supplies or strategic materials. The British may have been directed to launch an attack in the Pacific, or the Americans may have argued successfully for clandestine and military support to Yugoslavian partisans.

The military map (see photo below) is divided into the European and Pacific Theaters. In Europe there are three main axes of advance the Western and Eastern approaches lead to Germany, while the Mediterranean is a secondary theater that leads to Italian surrender. In the Pacific there are four axes of advance (the Central Pacific, Southwest Pacific, CBI, and Far East). When an Allied front (markers that move on the axes of advance) enter Germany or Japan they surrender. If the US successfully builds the A-bomb, Japan can be forced to surrender without an invasion.



This is the functional military map. This was the position at the end of the game.

With this as background here is how the playtest went. The game is played as a series of 10 conferences starting with Symbol (Casablanca). Early on Churchill and Stalin tangled at the conference table allowing Roosevelt to win the conference. All of the players went heavy on clandestine and political activity to the detriment of the war. Consequently there were few advances with the Anglo-Americans failing to capture North Africa and the Bolero buildup in England was behind schedule. In the Pacific the IJN dealt the Central Pacific a surprise defeat and MacArthur's advance in the Solomon's stalled.

Next up was the second conference, Trident, with the Allies continuing to work at cross purposes. The Soviets appeared to be in the lead developing partisans, clandestine networks, and Comintern cadres aligned to their cause. The Western allies began to coordinate to slow down the Soviet operations. These interactions benefited the Axis powers as once again the Allied offensives stalled. The Western buildup in the UK (Bolero) was starting to be horribly off schedule with the Soviet armies running into stiff German resistance in the East. The British managed to clear North Africa, while surprisingly the CBI offensive gained some momentum.

Quadrant takes place in Quebec and the Soviets are not present as the A-bomb program was one of the main topics. This puts some limitations on Stalin who will not be able to advance issues, but only say nyet. It is beginning to dawn on the Allies that if they continue to work at cross purposes they may lose the war. Churchill wins the conference, but earlier than history Roosevelt dies and Truman takes over the US government. In general the US player managed to blow every die roll to include 80% probabilities. In fact the only time the US rolled low was when it killed the President. Once again even when making almost a maximum effort the US buildup in the UK was now officially behind schedule and the war on the Eastern front languished. In mirror image the Allied advances in the Pacific also began to fall behind the historical pace.

By Sextant the Allies were beginning to have a different conversation as it began to dawn on them that they could lose the war, which is a defeat for all the players. While cooperation improved a little in a pinch self interest continued to dominate the players actions. With Eureka, the fifth of ten conferences, the Allies changed their strategy. the Anglo-Allied advance out of the CBI was gaining momentum, so the US committed to an attack through Indochina to Hong Kong with establishing a B29 base on Formosa. The mirror strategy saw the US commit to supporting the Soviet drive on Germany, while it tried to accelerate its buildup in the UK for D-Day. The Mediterranean front took Sicily with surrender of Italy in their sights.

The London conference finally saw the Allies beginning to cooperate on strategic commodities that put more production into the war effort. The Allied drive took Formosa, while the Soviet forces began to gain momentum. As the Soviets and the US focused on the war the wily Churchill exploited the Allied psychology that feigned cooperation but continued to work the UK clandestine and political agenda.

Octagon saw the Axis forces successfully throwing back D-Day, while the Soviet advance into Prussia promised a possibility that the Axis could be defeated in time. As the US-Soviet cooperation continued the Axis were slowly being driven back with the UK continuing its clandestine and political activities in Eastern Europe and the Pacific colonies. Truman at a critical moment faltered due to his inexperience. In the Pacific the Anglo-Allies successfully invaded Japan and forced her surrender. This was welcome news as the Trinity test failed even as the Soviets successful penetrated the Manhattan project.

At the 9th conference Argonaut (Yalta), the US-Soviet cooperation finally paid off as the Soviet forces made a major breakthroguh and took Berlin ending the war. The final score saw Churchill's strategy pay off as they won the Peace with the US coming in last to the Soviets as the runner ups.

Concluding Thoughts

The playtest went very well with many interesting twists and turns. What was said late in the game was that while this design has no relationship to the Republic of Rome it has the feel of that earlier title where the natural competition between the players often falters in the face of imminent defeat. The game should be entering full scale playtesting soon, but I am very encouraged by what I have seen so far. I will leave it to the players to offer their own views, but things are progressing well.

Mark Herman
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James Webb
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Very much looking forward to this game coming out. Looks like it will be a semi-coop that actually works - the psychological motivation to not lose World War 2 might be the magic ingredient.

One question - why did you decide to call it 'Churchill'? As a Brit, I'm quite happy with the name, but I was wondering why Winston gets the spotlight? Is it because he was the most charismatic personality (and possibly the most recognisable) of the Big Three, or is there some other reason?
 
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The game has a fascinating topic, but I'm hestitant on the "semi cooperative" aspect. "We all lose" never seems to have the same impact on anyone as an individual loss. What incentive does a player in last place have for trying to help his opponents win? Why not intentionally seek the group loss, keep everyone on the same level, and then try to win next game? Tournament play would seem to add an even greater incentive for the 3rd place player to try throwing the game to the Axis.

Is there any chance of reworking it so the Axis can be played by a 4th (or more) player?

A look at the war from a high level, grand strategic perspective, including concern for the post-war balance of power would be great, but the "group loss" seems like a major problem.

Thank you for posting the playtest report.

Pax
 
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Small questions_ are the clandestine operations open or secret/semi-secret information?
A (semi-)secret approach might give the whole thing a lot of LeCarré-Tension
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I have not played Republic of Rome, so to me this looks like a very interesting game with a very new look at WW2 gaming.
Andrew, there may not be a next game if the others decide that your version of alliance can only be for self-interest and not for a common goal. Though I guess your stance is realistic, in that these and probably most leaders only see an alliance as a temporary means to also pursue their group-self-national egotistic ends. However, isn't that the point, with a global reach there are no spare spaces to exploit and so without cooperating (economically ie. re. resources and skills) we all lose.
Anyway, that's a bit off topic except to say that isn't the meta-effect which continues between and back into games important too?
 
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Wow, those graphics are awful, did GMT zero out the art budget for this game?

JOKING! Thanks, this has whetted my appetite for Churchill...

MarkHerman wrote:
If the US successfully builds the A-bomb, Japan can be forced to surrender without an invasion.


Can Japan be forced to surrender if the Soviets do not declare war on it? I think a pretty strong argument can be made that it the Manchurian campaign and the destruction of the Kwantung Army had at least a great, if not greater, impact on the Japanese decision to surrender (and even then, they nearly did not...). After all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just two more destroyed cities in a long list of destroyed cities.

MarkHerman wrote:
What was said late in the game was that while this design has no relationship to the Republic of Rome it has the feel of that earlier title where the natural competition between the players often falters in the face of imminent defeat.


Interesting. Though when I played Republic of Rome, I've encountered plenty of players who would rather lose to the barbarians than allow another player to win!

Will Churchill be strictly a three-player game?
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wifwendell wrote:
Wow, those graphics are awful, did GMT zero out the art budget for this game?

JOKING! Thanks, this has whetted my appetite for Churchill...

MarkHerman wrote:
If the US successfully builds the A-bomb, Japan can be forced to surrender without an invasion.


Can Japan be forced to surrender if the Soviets do not declare war on it? I think a pretty strong argument can be made that it the Manchurian campaign and the destruction of the Kwantung Army had at least a great, if not greater, impact on the Japanese decision to surrender (and even then, they nearly did not...). After all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just two more destroyed cities in a long list of destroyed cities.

MarkHerman wrote:
What was said late in the game was that while this design has no relationship to the Republic of Rome it has the feel of that earlier title where the natural competition between the players often falters in the face of imminent defeat.


Interesting. Though when I played Republic of Rome, I've encountered plenty of players who would rather lose to the barbarians than allow another player to win!

Will Churchill be strictly a three-player game?


Agree and it's already the rule I just kept it short. To force Japanese surrender requires a B29 base, an Abomb and a Soviet advance at least to Manchuria.

As it says in the game description, 3, 2 or you playable.

Mark
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prizziap wrote:
The game has a fascinating topic, but I'm hestitant on the "semi cooperative" aspect. "We all lose" never seems to have the same impact on anyone as an individual loss. What incentive does a player in last place have for trying to help his opponents win? Why not intentionally seek the group loss, keep everyone on the same level, and then try to win next game? Tournament play would seem to add an even greater incentive for the 3rd place player to try throwing the game to the Axis.

Is there any chance of reworking it so the Axis can be played by a 4th (or more) player?

A look at the war from a high level, grand strategic perspective, including concern for the post-war balance of power would be great, but the "group loss" seems like a major problem.

Thank you for posting the playtest report.

Pax


Not much history or game without it. I will be true to the topic. Lots of alternate choices do what you like, at least there should be one that's different.

Mark
 
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Thanks for the session report Mark. I am looking forward to this one. How about follow-on game for Churchill which would add two players taking on axis cooperation between Hitler and Tojo? The games could be combined into a 5 player game where the activities at the conferences impacted the course of the war.

I am sure you need another project!!

Keep up the good work.
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'Meeples'...

Mark herman designes Euros now!

Oh, the bad influence of the Coin-series devil
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Another question: have you decided to greatly simplify the map? Comparing your new map to the pictures I've seen on BGG it would seam the map was meant to have a greater granularity during the first iterations of the game.
 
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Sancherib wrote:
Another question: have you decided to greatly simplify the map? Comparing your new map to the pictures I've seen on BGG it would seam the map was meant to have a greater granularity during the first iterations of the game.


What you see in the photos is the underlying design and logic of the new map. The old map is kaput and is no longer used. I will update the photos once I have new artwork.

Mark
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MarkHerman wrote:
Sancherib wrote:
Another question: have you decided to greatly simplify the map? Comparing your new map to the pictures I've seen on BGG it would seam the map was meant to have a greater granularity during the first iterations of the game.


What you see in the photos is the underlying design and logic of the new map. The old map is kaput and is no longer used. I will update the photos once I have new artwork.

Mark


I'm curious about the rationale of the decision Did you want to avoid the players concentrating too much on military stuff?

And I'll repeat my first question: are the clandestine operations open or secret/semi-secret information?


Thanks for the answers! Looking forward for this.
 
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I am curios, as some of the other posters have brought up, of how you deal with a player who is losing the game, and just throws the game to make everyone lose. What incentive would I have to putting my all into defeating the Axis when I know I can't win? Or would the game end in such a way that there would still be a chance for someone to pull out a win?
 
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patton55 wrote:
I am curios, as some of the other posters have brought up, of how you deal with a player who is losing the game, and just throws the game to make everyone lose. What incentive would I have to putting my all into defeating the Axis when I know I can't win? Or would the game end in such a way that there would still be a chance for someone to pull out a win?


As the play test demonstrated to me if two players cooperate it is likely to be enough to defeat the Axis, so one player sabotaging the war is insufficient. The Churchill player (Jeremy) is a serious Texas Hold em player and it showed in the game. He managed to get Stalin and Roosevelt (Truman) to cooperate to win the war, while he reaped the victory, so I have few concerns that one player can sabotage the game if he is not winning.

The way it works each player has sufficient resources and forces to advance their Fronts toward Germany and Japan, but if this is done to the exclusion of positioning your Clandestine networks, think Partisans friendly to your perspective, and governments in exiles better than your Allies then you will lose, but the Axis will lose the war. The key is to balance sufficient cooperation to win the war while looking after number one to win.

On the other hand if all three players are always working at cross purposes sounds like they should all lose. You can always add up the score and see who did best and I can add it as a Victory of Shame, but if there is an absolute need to have a "winner" its doable within the current context, just seems hollow to me.

I think this notion that their must be a tournament winner etc., is a perspective that I do not share for all games. If people want to sabotage a play session, counter to the spirit of why one plays any game in a sort of pique, I would get a new gaming friend.

My Churchill design and the history requires the dynamic tension that there is a war to be won while positioning for the Peace. Its not an impossible task like the old Republic of Rome, but it requires that the war not always take second place to fighting with your Allies. I continue to dare to be different.

Mark
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Mark says: "...if two players cooperate it is likely to be enough to defeat the Axis...."

Therefore it sounds like there won't be a problem, as long as a hopelessly losing player can play listlessly but can't actually wreck the game for the other two.
 
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prizziap wrote:
The game has a fascinating topic, but I'm hestitant on the "semi cooperative" aspect. "We all lose" never seems to have the same impact on anyone as an individual loss. What incentive does a player in last place have for trying to help his opponents win?


I always interpreted this as a catch-up mechanism. Like "Since I'm not winning the game I will let you fight the Axis until I catch up with you."
 
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MarkHerman wrote:
patton55 wrote:
I am curios, as some of the other posters have brought up, of how you deal with a player who is losing the game, and just throws the game to make everyone lose. What incentive would I have to putting my all into defeating the Axis when I know I can't win? Or would the game end in such a way that there would still be a chance for someone to pull out a win?


As the play test demonstrated to me if two players cooperate it is likely to be enough to defeat the Axis, so one player sabotaging the war is insufficient. The Churchill player (Jeremy) is a serious Texas Hold em player and it showed in the game. He managed to get Stalin and Roosevelt (Truman) to cooperate to win the war, while he reaped the victory, so I have few concerns that one player can sabotage the game if he is not winning.

The way it works each player has sufficient resources and forces to advance their Fronts toward Germany and Japan, but if this is done to the exclusion of positioning your Clandestine networks, think Partisans friendly to your perspective, and governments in exiles better than your Allies then you will lose, but the Axis will lose the war. The key is to balance sufficient cooperation to win the war while looking after number one to win.

On the other hand if all three players are always working at cross purposes sounds like they should all lose. You can always add up the score and see who did best and I can add it as a Victory of Shame, but if there is an absolute need to have a "winner" its doable within the current context, just seems hollow to me.

I think this notion that their must be a tournament winner etc., is a perspective that I do not share for all games. If people want to sabotage a play session, counter to the spirit of why one plays any game in a sort of pique, I would get a new gaming friend.

My Churchill design and the history requires the dynamic tension that there is a war to be won while positioning for the Peace. Its not an impossible task like the old Republic of Rome, but it requires that the war not always take second place to fighting with your Allies. I continue to dare to be different.

Mark


Thanks for your response. Sounds good. Can't wait to play this.
 
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MarkHerman wrote:
prizziap wrote:
The game has a fascinating topic, but I'm hestitant on the "semi cooperative" aspect. "We all lose" never seems to have the same impact on anyone as an individual loss. What incentive does a player in last place have for trying to help his opponents win? Why not intentionally seek the group loss, keep everyone on the same level, and then try to win next game? Tournament play would seem to add an even greater incentive for the 3rd place player to try throwing the game to the Axis.

Is there any chance of reworking it so the Axis can be played by a 4th (or more) player?

A look at the war from a high level, grand strategic perspective, including concern for the post-war balance of power would be great, but the "group loss" seems like a major problem.

Thank you for posting the playtest report.

Pax


Not much history or game without it. I will be true to the topic. Lots of alternate choices do what you like, at least there should be one that's different.

Mark


I'm all in favor of games that take a different look at things, so no problem there. But I'd question the idea that the "group loss" idea is necessary in order to reflect historical reality. A great many wars throughout history have ended in a negotiated settlement. There wasn't any particular reason that WWII could not have done so. If the government of Italy, Germany, or Japan survived the war, that wouldn't have automatically equalled a defeat for the US, UK, or USSR.
 
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prizziap wrote:
MarkHerman wrote:
prizziap wrote:
The game has a fascinating topic, but I'm hestitant on the "semi cooperative" aspect. "We all lose" never seems to have the same impact on anyone as an individual loss. What incentive does a player in last place have for trying to help his opponents win? Why not intentionally seek the group loss, keep everyone on the same level, and then try to win next game? Tournament play would seem to add an even greater incentive for the 3rd place player to try throwing the game to the Axis.

Is there any chance of reworking it so the Axis can be played by a 4th (or more) player?

A look at the war from a high level, grand strategic perspective, including concern for the post-war balance of power would be great, but the "group loss" seems like a major problem.

Thank you for posting the playtest report.

Pax




Not much history or game without it. I will be true to the topic. Lots of alternate choices do what you like, at least there should be one that's different.

Mark


I'm all in favor of games that take a different look at things, so no problem there. But I'd question the idea that the "group loss" idea is necessary in order to reflect historical reality. A great many wars throughout history have ended in a negotiated settlement. There wasn't any particular reason that WWII could not have done so. If the government of Italy, Germany, or Japan survived the war, that wouldn't have automatically equalled a defeat for the US, UK, or USSR.


We will have to disagree here. The Allies pledged several times to not cease fighting until Germany and Japan had unconditionally surrendered. So, while there have been many wars as you state with negotiated settlements, it was not the plan for the Allies in WW2.

I find this notion that the players cannot lose the game collectively to be interesting from a psychological point of view. There have been at many games where this is part of the historical narrative and so it is with Churchill. You will just have to try it to understand how it makes the game truly interesting from my point of view and necessary for the game narrative. It just wouldn't be the historical situation I want to portray without it.

That said the Allies have yet to fail to defeat the Axis powers, but only because they had to pay attention to it. So far it is just a theoretical possibility, but a motivational one.

Mark
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I don't disagree that the Allies chose to seek "unconditional surrender" from the Axis. But it was simply that...a choice. If the players are taking the roles of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin, then why would they be bound by the choices made by their historical counterparts?

From a game perspective, what is the incentive for a player who think they can't win, to keep working towards the defeat of the Axis? Are scores hidden during the game? Is scoring weighted toward the last rounds, so the earlier part of the game is less important?

For many folks "We all lose" is considered a better outcome then "I lose and you win."

How do you address that with the design?

Pax.
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prizziap wrote:
I don't disagree that the Allies chose to seek "unconditional surrender" from the Axis. But it was simply that...a choice. If the players are taking the roles of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin, then why would they be bound by the choices made by their historical counterparts?

From a game perspective, what is the incentive for a player who think they can't win, to keep working towards the defeat of the Axis? Are scores hidden during the game? Is scoring weighted toward the last rounds, so the earlier part of the game is less important?

For many folks "We all lose" is considered a better outcome then "I lose and you win."

How do you address that with the design?



Pax.


It should not be said that I do not listen. I think this is a non issue, but I have added a tournament victory in case you are playing with a misguided gamer. The winner has performed best militarily. So the person sabotaging the war comes in last.
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The saboteur is declared The Biggest Loser. Has a certain ring to it ...
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MarkHerman wrote:
prizziap wrote:
I don't disagree that the Allies chose to seek "unconditional surrender" from the Axis. But it was simply that...a choice. If the players are taking the roles of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin, then why would they be bound by the choices made by their historical counterparts?

From a game perspective, what is the incentive for a player who think they can't win, to keep working towards the defeat of the Axis? Are scores hidden during the game? Is scoring weighted toward the last rounds, so the earlier part of the game is less important?

For many folks "We all lose" is considered a better outcome then "I lose and you win."

How do you address that with the design?



Pax.


It should not be said that I do not listen. I think this is a non issue, but I have added a tournament victory in case you are playing with a misguided gamer. The winner has performed best militarily. So the person sabotaging the war comes in last.


I think that's a good addition. As I noted before, I know plenty of gamers who'd rather have Rome lose in Republic of Rome than let another player win. I'm sure some of them would play Churchill the same way.
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Gerit Driessen
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Mierlo
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A long while ago my attention was drawn to this game. But I was put off by the playing cards of the game. I just could not imagine immersing myself in a WW2 game while playing poker cards.

However, I never unsubscribed the forum for Churchill...

Now, if I understand correctly, the poker cards are replaced by named personages and I love it! If we get a nice map of the world to follow the military actions I'm off the fence. Thanks!!!

How will the solitaire variant work? is this explained somewhere already?

 
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