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Subject: An Epic Treat for All Who Love WWII rss

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Steven Fuller
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Cracking my knuckles, I reveal the locations of my HQ. My opponent’s eyes widen – he had not expected a full-strength HQ at this point. I push my units forward, taking a deep breath as I throw my panzers into the enemy formations. I hope that they are understrength, but just to be sure I allocate one of my precious airstrikes. I cannot afford to lose such high-cost units nor have my timetable delayed. Soon dry weather could not be guaranteed. Revealing the blocks, I gasp – they are full strength. The road to Moscow would not be so easy, after all…

Eurofront II is in my humble opinion the greatest WWII in Europe game. I have played and owned many a WWII game, and while some can deliver enjoyment in a limited amount of time, or give greater control over production, politics, and strategy, nothing can compare to the epic of Eurofront II. No other game delivers the tensions and choices depicted in the memoirs of WWII generals as this one, and I’ve read a lot of memoirs and rolled a lot of dice. Make no mistake – it’s time-consuming, it takes up a lot of physical space, and the rules at times can be a bit finicky, but your patience will be well rewarded as the men and material of Europe are at your command for the greatest conflict the world has ever seen.

There is a good mix of units at your disposal: Calvary, Mechanized, Armour, Infantry, Paratroops, Amphibious Units, SS, Shock Troops, Fortress, and Static, to name a few of the more common ones. More specialized troops such as Siege Gun Corps, Tito, and Volunteers are also included. Movement is a fixed value and not represented on the counter, while firepower (e.g what you need to roll to hit) depends on whether the unit is attacking/defending and in what type of terrain/weather. For example, infantry attacking/defending in any weather requires a six; paratroops defending in any weather requires a 5-6; fortress units defend on a roll of 4-6; and armour attacking in clear weather and terrain hits on a 5-6, but that turns to a six if they are attacking a marsh and/or in mud weather. The amount of hits required for a defender to lose a step also varies based on terrain (attackers always lose one step per hit – ouch!)

Units are commanded through the use of HQ units, which represent logistical capabilities and C&C. HQs are vital for movement, attacking, airstrikes, invasions, paradrops – e.g. everything. They command units in a range equal to their steps (CV) and while they have no inherent firepower they control airstrikes and support combat. Airstrikes are how airpower is represented in Eurofront II. There are no air units, instead each HQ can place one strike on a combat in range. This airstrike can’t be targeted by enemy fire, and has a FP that is set to the historical strength of the nation using it. For example, Germany in 1939 hits on a 4-6, but that is reduced to a six by winter of ‘44! Likewise, the Soviets and Allies only hit on a six in 1939 but by summer ’44 are pounding the Axis with a 4-6! As you may guess, airstrikes are very powerful, even more so when it occurs before the defender gets a chance to fire! (Terrain, however, still provides defensive benefits against airstrikes). Supporting combat is also important. If a unit does not have an HQ supporting it, the enemy gets a defensive bonus (representing your lack of offensive power). This is really bad, so it’s not a good to attack without HQ support if you can help it.

High Command is also represented, and these SHQs (Supreme HQs) are very powerful. They have extended airstrike and paratroop range, but their biggest asset is that they are the only unit able to move any unit on the corresponding front (allowing you to use units out of range of other HQs) and strategic movement. Strategic movement is naval and rail movement. The Eurofront board is covered in railroads. These allow the rapid movement of troops through the use of SHQs. Since it can take an awful long time to cross Europe on foot/track, rail movement is essential to get your men to the front. Similarly, naval movement is needed to cross sea zones from one friendly port to another. SHQs are the only unit who can do these types of movement, so they are essential.

Railroads are also used to deliver supplies to your men. Without supplies, your men will start to die. Supply attrition happens on your opponent’s turn, which means if you get surrounded, it will start to hurt. Supply routes extend two-hexes from railroads, which mean if you can trace friendly hexes back to a railroad that is also friendly, and then can trace that rail route to a supply source (London, Berlin, Siberia) you’re going to be okay. For most nations you first have to trace your supply route to your capital, then trace a line of communication (like a supply route but can go through neutral territory) to a supply source. This may sound slightly complicated but it is intuitive in practice and allows for campaigns of encirclement (Poland, France) to bear fruit.

Speaking of strategy, you may be wondering how strategic and diplomatic Eurofront is. Well, the game tends to follow historical lines, as systems such as airpower and unit arrival are tied to pre-set historical dates. Naval units are non-existent (sea control and naval power projection are based on control of naval base ports). This game is very much about presenting the historical situation, providing you with the same historical incentives, and appointing you general. That’s not to say that there isn’t strategy. Production happens once per month and you can only raise units by one step. You get two turns a month and can blitz for an extra step (effectively an extra move/attack phase for a certain HQ’s command), which means you could easily run through your HQ in a month. Allocating your nations production capabilities to the fronts, deciding when to send emergency production (at a loss), deciding what forces to send with what HQ and to where, deciding what to spend your valuable SHQ command on… it’s a big job. It actually goes into greater detail than that, such as Axis Oil Supply (need a line of communication from Berlin to Ploesti, Baku, or Abadan), the strategic benefits of controlling the Mediterranean, pacifying the Balkans, or keeping open Iron Ore shipments from Narvik – it’s all there! Diplomacy is limited – it mostly consists of following a linear progression that seems to be there for the sake of keeping everything historically accurate, but deviations can occur if the campaigns and strategy diverges (e.g. Germany doesn’t accept French Armistice, Spain joins Axis).

All in all, Eurofront II is a bloody fantastic game which I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys WWII. My friend and I play it all the time. When asked, “What do you do when it’s over?” we always have the same response: grin and say “set it up again”.

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Mike Hoyt

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Great Review, thank you for posting.

I think you hit several points really well, reading this helped me remember the way EuF captures the truly strategic sweep of the war. The allocation of Supply to multiple fronts, the role of the Med, etc. thank you for mentioning all of that.

So many games, even those limiting themselves to just the East Front, are really operational games, with a larger map and thousands of units to cover the theater, but you are still making operational level decisions. Everything about EuF is truly at the strategic level.

It's a special game. I need to get it back on the table
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Steven Fuller
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Thanks for your comments! Deleted reference to 'operational' in opening sentence after thinking about it.
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RedPlanet
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wondering how many games you have played?

which side wins most?

which is your preferred team?
 
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Steven Fuller
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We have around 30 games. We always start from 1939. I do find the sides balanced and no side in particular is stronger. I often prefer the Axis as I have an offensive mentality. I do like the Allies though, it feels great to survive and conquer as the Soviets and I like the West because I grew up in Canada.

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Steve Hojnacki
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While a very engaging game, my gaming buddy and I have found it rather pro-allies. Played at least a dozen times and the Germans have two, perhaps three victories. (And one of the those was a lucky Sea-Lion gambit in 1940).

And here is why they lose.

In our past games its become standard Soviet tactic to go for the SM (Soviets Mobilize) diplomatic event ASAP (33% chance in '40)((though it has to be after S1 event)). Generally this can be achieved by June/July '40. With the Allies in the west going with a strong France defense, the Germans will have suffered moderate losses, perhaps even heavy with some luck. And their HQs will be severely low. By forcing the SM event, the East Front economic division occurs WAY before Germany wants and Med Front opening soon also hurts. This also removes the Russian 1/3 EP value per turn, even if your HQs are 15 PP you can now really afford it, since you're really not going on the major offensive anyway.

For Germany this event can be a disaster. At best after the conquest of France, Germany will most likely have 78 PP. With the East front open 5 PP are automatically in the East. And if you hope to have ANY chance in the Med you need to put 15 PP there initially. So now you're down to 58.

The critical part in this disaster is that the EF allocation can only be increased 10 PP once a year after the initial allocation. So unless you place 30-40 PP right off the bat, the EF is going to be lower PP wise then historical.

The second terrible fact is by making a large EF initial allocation, is that the majority of your troops are in France and 1-2 turns away EACH unit before reaching the East. Thus you won't be able to rebuild units easily or only 1-3 HQs a turn with NO troops getting points at all.

Third awful fact is now Russia can run away from the front line to more defensive position in mother Russia. Plus they can invade Romania for big PPs and cripple the Germans further by Oil shortages.

We've almost come to the point that removing SM diplomatic event is the only way to save the game.

Do that and EF is very fun and enjoyable time.

Steve
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Paul Lags
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it can pretty shocking when that happens, but unless Germany is bogged down in France doing SM is actually a poor move with the soviets.

Not only are your HQs expensive until you complete the reforms your units will continue to use the allied PP costs until the Germans are in the soviet union (and then you can start rolling). This combined with the rampant Japanese will really put the hurt on the soviets.

One critical rule that you might have missed is that you can always increase your allocation back up to the min. So there is no urgency in allocating the full allotment east (or even to the med).

Indeed if the soviets did this i would just hold in the MF (maybe 5-10PP allocation) defend any initial soviet invasion and then counter-attack destroying everything up to the border. Then you get a Barbarossa against Soviet expensive units in the summer 41. You will probably be having sauerkraut in Moscow before the allies get anywhere near Tripoli.

SM can work but the circumstances really need to be right. Really if the soviets cannot takeout Romanian or force a German resignation (no easy task), then its a waste in my book.

One Final note, SM is designed to counter a German MF strategy (basically screening Russia and attacking Gibraltar + Mid East). And even if the Germans do this, the Russians need to be careful. An 41 SM greatly weaken Russian flexibility to respond to different events so unless you are very sure you won't be facing a 41 Barbarossa as I would consider this a war winning/losing event before that.
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Mike Hoyt

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Great example of the strategic focus of this game.
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Pete Menconi
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Bessieres wrote:
While a very engaging game, my gaming buddy and I have found it rather pro-allies. Played at least a dozen times and the Germans have two, perhaps three victories.
Steve

FWIW, my understanding is that the game was intentionally designed to retain the historical probability of Axis victory only 40--45% of the time. It was pointed out to me that the Axis got a somewhat undeserved "rep" for brilliance in the early war years that was really caused by some very lucky breaks.
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Steven Fuller
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When I originally wrote this review, it was more because I did not see a full English review and was thinking about the battles. (Holding hexes, bringing in reinforcements, flanking attacks)

I played the game again right after, and have to say it is definitely a strategy game. I don't know why I wasn't thinking that way in OP, but hey. Case in point, I decided for Malta (I was one '6' away!!!!) and after the operation's failure decided to screw the MF and go EF all the way. Then I tried a 'Paulus Pause' so that the Soviets couldn't gain any ground the first winter (they got 1, maybe 2 hexes). It resulted in a stalemate in the East for 3 years, ending with a draw.

(Now, in order to redeem my MF loss I pulled out another Craig Besinque game: Rommel in the Desert)
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Björn Engqvist
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We are playing a ftf 1939 game right now. The game is fun and entertaining and certainly presents interesting challenges. Since the war at sea and in the air are handled abstractly the game allows you to focus on the land war.

The downside of this is that while those abstractions do simplify game processes, the game itself is not necessarily simpler because of it. There are a large amount of special rules to remember, especially about sea moves and sea supply, that also change depending on which front you are actually playing.

To me, it is easier (or is it just habit?) to move transports physically, fighting interception combats along the way to my target in need of supply Points, than it is to remember the rules for sea interdiction of sea supply, as governed by ownership of naval bases and adjusted by the calculation of who has naval supremacy.

Different takes on the same problem, I am not sure one is simpler than the other.
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Steven Fuller
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While it does seem easier to move transports physically, would this not require naval forces on both sides? (in order to intercept?)

As you said, eurofront reduces those forces into interdiction values emanating from naval bases, which I find reduces the amount of things to remember in a game already rife with rules. It's the political/diplomatic rules that pose a bit of difficulty for my memory.

One thing in this game I think would pose a big of an oddity about moving transports is that your supply is checked in your opponents phase! If he doesn't remember, your transports are nice and safe I find that this makes it a bit easier to remember because your opponent has a vested interest in cutting your troops out of supply, and should be more than happy to remind you that you are about to suffer a step loss.
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