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Subject: Why I think WiF is (one of) the best strategic level WWII game(s) rss

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Øivind Karlsrud
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I used to play World in Flames, but it’s been a few years now. What triggered me to write this review is that I have just ordered other strategic level WWII-games (Unconditional Surrender Europe and Empire of the Sun), and I realized that WiF is the benchmark game on WWII strategic level games for me. I find myself comparing other strategic level games to WiF, before even playing them. I wonder if this or that aspect will be as well represented as it is in WiF. So here’s a few thoughts on what I really like about WiF.

Let me start by saying that one of the friends I played WiF with used to say that WiF has something for everyone. You want strategic decisions like what to produce or which minor nation to declare war on? You got it. You want to make operational level decisions on the eastern front? You got it. You want to do island-hopping in the Pacific? You got it. This comes at a cost, of course. The cost is that the game takes a long time to play, in my experience one year (of real time), if you play one evening each week. Now, this is for the deluxe game, the classic game is quicker (I would guess it takes about half the time of WiF deluxe). There are some upsides to playing long games though. You get to make big plans, and see them come to fruition over time. I like how you have to plan your prouction several months (in real time) in advance. Building an aircraft carrier in Wif feels like a major undertaking, and the carrier will take 12 turns to produce (12 weeks in real time if you play one turn each week).

It is also a complex game, but that is because it does so much. Many rules (especially for land movement and combat) are rather standard for hex’n counter games. I would also say that the rulebook is rather easy to use as a reference, from what I remember. I guess that goes with having gone through as many iterations as WiF (more about that further down). I also remember that some rules have been streamlined since the 5th edition, like rules on attacking convoys.

I guess we all have our favorite aspect of WiF, and mine is naval combat. The sea zones and the sea zone boxes work very well, and creates a lot of tension when it comes to naval combat. Sometimes two fleets sail right past each other in the same sea zone, sometimes they find each other and you suddenly get something like Midway.

I also like how the game supports historical strategies in general. You can’t just invade Japan as the US, you have to do island-hopping, to secure bases closer to Japan first. This is just one example, of course. In general, the game creates a plausible story.

In my experience (I have played the complete game two and a half times, but some of my friends have played many times), the game is well balanced. I would say that this is a game that can be played competitively, and I doubt that is true for all monster games. The thing is, there are very few games which have been through as many iterations as WiF. The final edition was the sixth edition, and from what I've been told, the latest edition is really a new final edition. I don't think there are many monster games which have been playtested and tweaked as much as WiF.

You get a lot of game with WiF. Obviously, you get a lot of play time with such a long game. But you can also look at it as several games in one. I think you can play just the ETO-scenario or just the PTO-scenario, and still get a game which can compete with other games which focus on just one theater. Even the Barbarossa-scenario is an interesting game alone, with plenty of detail for that level. Do you really need to play all of the eastern front at a more detailed level than corps-level (WiF is mostly corps-level, although WiF deluxe have some special divisions)?

Is WiF a perfect simulation? No, but I don't think that exists. There is one thing in particular which I think could be better represented, and that is supply over land. Supply over sea works OK, since you need convoys in each sea zone, and that adds to the cost, but there is no additional cost to supplying the german army deep into Russia compared to supplying it when it's still in Germany. I think it may be a bit too easy to beat the USSR because of that (I'm not sure it was even possible, historically), but all in all, the game usually doesn't deviate too much from history, in my experience. Not that you get the same story each time. You can try some ahistorical strategies (I remember sending most of the japanese navy to the Indian Ocean in one game), but often it's the details which deviate from history, and I'm happy with that.

Sigh... I wish I still had time in my life for playing WiF. It's really one of my favorite games of all time. Maybe when I get older, and the kids move out.
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David Bukata
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Oivind,

Thank you for sharing that quick review/semi-overview. Our group has yet to play - we were going to attempt a learning game sometime this month and its nice to see some viewpoints on it.

We have several copies of it in several versions but never got around to it - seemed too complex and time consuming. But I for one cant shake that need to give it a go finally! So Deluxe with a bunch of add-ons is our choice!

-Dave

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Wendell
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Yeah I think WIF is okay, too!

David - if you want to try WIF, maybe start with the Barbarossa and then Guadalcanal scenarios. Perfect for learning the basics of land, air, and naval movement/combat, and playable in just a few hours.
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Ron
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wifwendell wrote:
Yeah I think WIF is okay, too!

That's why you changed your username from 3Rwendell to wifwendell, right? meeple
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Jesper Noget
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Hi,

Just play the one map scenarios quite some times. They can be completed in a day. Setup do take some time as a newcomer.

There are tons of different approaches to the most basic scenarios, Barbarossa. So dont skip it after just 1-2 games.

So no need to wait for the kids to grown up. They do that fast enough anyway.

Yours,

Jesper



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Joseph Moore
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Hello,

I have loved WIF since I bought the first edition back in the '80's and still do (it's on my games table right now.) It is a wonderful game and a good simulation, but it is principally a game first and foremost.

You can spend half a lifetime enjoying it as I have, but there are other strategic level games that to me are better simulations, albeit perhaps not as good FTF games.

It would probably be hard for you to get the mainly out of print GRD Europa series, and as you like naval stuff as I do, that is one area where Europa falls short. ButI recommend you look at Decision Game's Advanced European and Pacific Theatres of Operation (AETO and APTO). IMHO thse are better simulations and merit your review. The Struggle for Europe series is also good, but doesn't have the Pacific and the naval stuff is weak.

But even if you don't like the above, you can never go wrong with WIF.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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Gunner Joe wrote:
Hello,

I have loved WIF since I bought the first edition back in the '80's and still do (it's on my games table right now.) It is a wonderful game and a good simulation, but it is principally a game first and foremost.

You can spend half a lifetime enjoying it as I have, but there are other strategic level games that to me are better simulations, albeit perhaps not as good FTF games.

It would probably be hard for you to get the mainly out of print GRD Europa series, and as you like naval stuff as I do, that is one area where Europa falls short. ButI recommend you look at Decision Game's Advanced European and Pacific Theatres of Operation (AETO and APTO). IMHO thse are better simulations and merit your review. The Struggle for Europe series is also good, but doesn't have the Pacific and the naval stuff is weak.

But even if you don't like the above, you can never go wrong with WIF.


Just curious: What is it you think could be simulated better in WiF? I know one thing, which I mentioned in my review: Supply. I just always felt the overall picture felt right, except I think it was less possible (maybe impossible) to crush the USSR historically. The war in the Pacific always felt very right to me, with the way naval battles work and with the island-hopping and all.

But WiF is the game that made me realize that true realism in games is probably a pipe dream. Games are games.
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Bruce Jurin
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Great post Oivind!

I am a committed lifetime WiFFE player and think the game is awesome.

Here is my (biased) take on where the game could improve.

There isn't a doubt that supply could be more realistic, and this point has been discussed for 20 years. But as you indicate, it comes down to a key aspect of game design - is the rule system I have 'good enough' relative to the complexity of the game I want to design/people want to play? In actual war, supply takes up a preponderance of military time/thought. But it is hard to improve supply without adding a lot of either 'memory' and/or complexity.

The HQ supply system is now integral to the game. Supply shortages are de facto a function of HQ over land. This mechanism clearly isn't fully accurate; of course many games ignore the managerial aspect of supply, which HQ's work well, but the physical side is abstracted.

WiFFE like many games has two states - in supply and out of supply. Something is either a supply source or it isn't. Any home country city can supply the entire armed forces of a country. We have rail lines - they have infinite ability to supply through them. A single convoy point can supply all armed forces through it is using limited overseas supply, and not even that is needed if not. Of course this set of rules is a simple abstraction.

Perhaps even more important, units are either ‘in supply’ or ‘out of supply’. I have a unit in Egypt which was in supply for many turns – but in this impulse, the supply CP is destroyed, the unit is flipped by GS, and it suffers the full effects of being out of supply. Of course in real life this wouldn’t happen.

We have a few mitigants in WiFFE – emergency headquarters supply and supply units, for instance. But regardless, supply is abstracted. My view is that the decision was to abstract supply because the game ‘works’ as is and the complications needed to make a more realistic supply system would just not be worth the trouble.
The game could say that certain cities can supply certain number of units - for instance, could Cairo supply one corps? Two corps? (When do you decide, etc?) A computer game could possibly handle the paperwork involved here, but it would dramatically slow down the game probably without enough gain.

Similar to this issue is the ‘all or nothing’ with port designation. Ports are either major ports and can house the entire fleet, minor ports with limited housing ability, or not shown as a port. A port like Rabaul is then hard to simulate, it should be between a minor port and major port.

If I had to pick other areas the game doesn’t simulate as well, I would pick the following:

The submarine war: The real Battle of the Atlantic was attritional. In WiFFE we tend to get busts or spectacular results for the subs. Given the ease of covering convoys with aircraft (get the fighter to the 0 box) most sub damage in WiFFE occurs during bad weather, which again is not a realistic result.

In the actual war, the CW lost some 20 MM tonnes of shipping, probably about 80 CP’s. The game is kind of recognizing that they don’t get these losses, that size loss would be crippling. There are people who feel US production is too low based on history – but it ‘works’ in game terms.

China: China is hard to simulate. Jim Dunnigan spoke about this in the 1960’s. Game designers want to make China relevant. The ‘problem’ is that Japan showed it could probably roll over China based on the 1944 offensives but basically didn’t do it because it wasn’t worth the trouble. So Dunnigan’s view was that if you give historical forces and abilities and make China relevant, Japan rolls over them – but Japan did have substantial forces tied up there

I think the ‘real’ problem with China is that Chiang and Japan had a de facto truce (my opinion here) even if nothing was said. Chiang felt that the US and CW would take care of Japan so conserved his forces for the post-war. Japan would keep what they had if they didn’t bother Chiang too much. But this doesn’t happen in a game like WiFFE.

I think WiFFE does a good job with the compromise – China is important and fun, probably a little stronger than they were historically.

The great fighter war – WiFFE players build more fighters than they did in real life, indeed many players build out their PiF force pools. What is the culprit here? Retrospect bias. Fighters are great in WiFFE, and having air superiority is critical. So WiFFE (or more specifically PiF) gives players the ability to build more fighters and players do.
My conclusion – There are many areas where WiFFE has simplified to make the game faster and more enjoyable. I generally agree with these decisions and like the system.

Of the areas I’ve discussed above, I’m ok with supply and with China. I’m lukewarm about the great fighter war.

However I do think the game will be better when the submarine rules change, and right now I would say this is WiFFE’s current version’s biggest issue.
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Alberto Natta
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I am still a novice in WiF but currently I quite like the vibe the game is giving me.

The supply model is actually quite smooth in my eyes. It would -overload- a player if you start to have to count how many counters / units etc a single railway can actually supply. Actually I am not very fond of the Fortress-Cities (National cities being always in supply!)

I enjoy the production model instead. The random pick of units is enjoyable - especially with PiF, at times you have a good mix of not very good planes and excellent ones and it's playing lottery. It well represents possible political oiling of wheels and favoritisms to certain factories more so than else.

And the decision making is quite relevant. Much more than in other games because here you cannot move everything, every turn / impulse (Echoes a bit of other games with HQ usage for activation of forces) and at times you need to do this and that, and you have to prioritize.

Ultimately it's a game where the player has to adapt himself against an amount of variables which can passively antagonize its plans. (Variable turn length, random naval search, quality of produced units, etcetera).

I feel there are improvements to be made - from my first impact. Axis appear quite weak and the bad streak of weather rolls / impulse end can truly screw them up. The USA are very ready to get in war when war comes, and they can easily hammer down on 1 side of the Axis and simply easily containing the other (Usually EU_Axis goes down first and Japan later).

Most lacking is the Victory System. I dare say one of the weakmost if not the weakest in absolute terms part of the game.

Addenda - reading what of above:
Submarines: Very true, and on top of that the arming up of the convoys pratically provokes a very high loss ratio to submarines. I can live with the "I must luck the surprise roll and all to bypass escorts and whatnot", but it's a matter more of luck than else. Otherwise they're just a sitting threat to the W.Allies. (Meanwhile USA subs can easily cripple Japan due to the shortage of ships and planes the Japan can have in comparison).

Fighter Spam?: I realized that too. I feel here when there are like 5 vs 3 Fighters, there should be 3 different fights (and the one with 5 fighters "queue" regularly two fighters behind, adding up their bonus to another fighter). One single queue of bombers should do.
Currently a 5 vs 2 situation is no different than a 10 vs 7 situation, if all fighters would be of same value for example of 5. (+2 / -1)
When one here has X fighters more than the counterpart (Especially the Allies, because USA fighters have for the most excellent range for sea operations too) it's pretty much game over and beyond recovery for who has less.

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Øivind Karlsrud
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Breunor wrote:
The submarine war: The real Battle of the Atlantic was attritional. In WiFFE we tend to get busts or spectacular results for the subs. Given the ease of covering convoys with aircraft (get the fighter to the 0 box) most sub damage in WiFFE occurs during bad weather, which again is not a realistic result.


Yes, this is something I didn't think about. BTW, it has always bugged me a little in general how easy it is to cover a sea zone with aircraft, just by reaching one hex in the sea zone. The '0' box is not the best place to be in the sea zone of course, but you still cover the whole sea zone. This is where the sea zone system break down a little, I guess. It works so well for ships, but can give strange results for land-based aircraft. Maybe the system would be more realistic if you needed a minimum amount of movement points left just to be placed in the '0' box. Ideally, I think you should at least be able to reach the middle of the sea zone to be allowed to affect the sea zone by being placed in the sea zone box, but that would be a big change. A more conservative change would be to say that you need 2 MPs more than you do with the current rule to reach a certain sea zone box (2 to reach the '0' box, 12 to reach the '4' box).

Some of the things you mention has to do with resolution, I think. Yes, the supply is on or off, but so is losses. There are no step losses in WiF (I remember this correctly, right?) like in many other games. I don't think this is a problem for realism, as long as the average losses (or the average supply coverage) is about right. I think the biggest problem with supply is that there's no additional cost to transport supply longer distances over land. Then again, I've never played any game which represents this additional cost. Maybe the OCS-series does this. From what I understand, supply is one of the most important aspects of OCS.
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Jason Johns
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oivind22 wrote:
Gunner Joe wrote:
Hello,

I have loved WIF since I bought the first edition back in the '80's and still do (it's on my games table right now.) It is a wonderful game and a good simulation, but it is principally a game first and foremost.

You can spend half a lifetime enjoying it as I have, but there are other strategic level games that to me are better simulations, albeit perhaps not as good FTF games.

It would probably be hard for you to get the mainly out of print GRD Europa series, and as you like naval stuff as I do, that is one area where Europa falls short. ButI recommend you look at Decision Game's Advanced European and Pacific Theatres of Operation (AETO and APTO). IMHO thse are better simulations and merit your review. The Struggle for Europe series is also good, but doesn't have the Pacific and the naval stuff is weak.

But even if you don't like the above, you can never go wrong with WIF.


Just curious: What is it you think could be simulated better in WiF? I know one thing, which I mentioned in my review: Supply. I just always felt the overall picture felt right, except I think it was less possible (maybe impossible) to crush the USSR historically. The war in the Pacific always felt very right to me, with the way naval battles work and with the island-hopping and all.

But WiF is the game that made me realize that true realism in games is probably a pipe dream. Games are games.


I think Oil is one of the biggest difficulties to simulate correctly. There is some new variant with almost every upgrade and many HR of this too.

Vichy rules have changed a bit. I assume they are fine now.

Peacekeepers issues are still a problem, I think.

Different dice charts (1d, 2d, or 3d) mean that something is going on there.

I agree with the subs and convoy comments above.

Finally, for me is combined move limits. We've added a billion ships, planes and other land units and it is still the same from WiF5. (I never played 1-4, so I don't know about those.) I still think that a Germany land move should get one sub move...

Even with all of these "issues" I still prefer it over any other Strategic level WWII game.
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David Bukata
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Wendell/Jesper and all,

Thanks for the info - those were the two scenarios we were going to start with. Nice to hear some reinforcing on that also

The big decision at this point is the day we will give it a go if we should use cruisers in flames and Convoys in flames.... sigh!

-Dave

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Wendell
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Arduinceo wrote:


The big decision at this point is the day we will give it a go if we should use cruisers in flames and Convoys in flames.... sigh!



I'd recommend against Convoys in Flames for learning games. I probably wouldn't use Cruisers, either though that doesn't really bring in new rules, just extra units.
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David Bukata
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Wendell,

thanks - Maybe ill just look a little closer at Cruisers - that was my second thought - first was to skip on both of them.

-dave
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jerry adamsson
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i love WIF too but hate it sometimes but then i say to myself it is a GAME not simulation.
And it is really fun , no other game in my opinion ,have so much action and so much decisions to be made , marvellous.

i can accept 99% of the games mechanics but there are 2 i do not really accept or understad.

1) in our game the russians and the italians are at war , because the italians advanced on iraq and the russians wants them flushed out , there came a declaration of war , and now there are some Italian troops moving in across the soviet border and they are backed up by their allied GERMANY WHO ARE ABLE TO WALK IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS IN TO RUSSIA WITHOUT GETTING TO WAR BECAUSE THE PACT they did in 1939 ???!!!???!!!

2)When you want to leave a naval battle you must empty the whole sea-area with all your units, that is dramatic in my opinion.

But just 2 things to complain about thats good enough for me to play it again and again.

/jerry
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Wendell
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jerryjugend wrote:

1) in our game the russians and the italians are at war , because the italians advanced on iraq and the russians wants them flushed out , there came a declaration of war , and now there are some Italian troops moving in across the soviet border and they are backed up by their allied GERMANY WHO ARE ABLE TO WALK IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS IN TO RUSSIA WITHOUT GETTING TO WAR BECAUSE THE PACT they did in 1939 ???!!!???!!!


Yeah, I agree on this (and other similar examples of "neutrals" entering another country's hexes which have first been controlled by a friend of the neutral). I can't remember what the status is of possible changes to this, it's been debated so much.
 
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jerry adamsson
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mmmm..... ok i can agree that it is a bit gamey for the soviets to declare war on italy to gain some benefits in the middle east , but the fact that Italy can attack into russia through the german/soviet border and that hords of germans can follow in the footsteps , thats a bit absurd......
i hope in some future rules this , and the strange "peacekeeping" rule could be adjusted in some way.
 
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