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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Having long been an avid fan of Columbia's various block games, and with the now classic EastFront being one of the very few games in my collection rated a 10, I "upgraded" to EastFront II (EF II) when Columbia refreshed the Front series.

For the unitiated, Columbia Games (CG) published the original EastFront in 1991, and in later years published WestFront (adding Western Europe, US and British units, sea invasions, ...), MedFront (Italians, North Africa, Spanish Civil War subgame), VolgaFront (eastern expansion map for EastFront), and EuroFront (units for neutral countries, überrules to unify all the various Front games into one large game to replay the entirety of WWII). EuroFront eventually became MasterFront.

CG was going to add maps for the North (Scandinavia) and Turkey, but ultimately decided for a variety of (IMO good) reasons to clean up the rules, the maps, and the games, and make three new games. To wit, EuroFront II, WestFront II, and EuroFront II. EuroFront II is the final piece and is finally officially released. (The new maps combined look like this: http://www.columbiagames.com/pix/3407-euf2map-1200.jpg)

Before proceeding with the remainder of this review, a couple of comments:

1. I am a long time fan of CG's block games.
2. This review compaires EF II to the original. It is recommended to read reviews and gameplay of the original EF before reading the remainder below.

The gameplay for EF II is essentially the same as the original EF. The core game mechanics can be summed up as follows:

1. You are provided with a mix of units (HQ, infantry, armor, mechanized, cavalry, and shock - the latter two are only for the Russians). There are a few units that are special (e.g. paratroops, SS armor, SS mech)

2. You can deploy the units as you see fit (there is a historical order of battle for the opening Barbarossa scenario) along start lines set out by the various scenarios.

3. HQ's govern how much you can accomplish.

The rules of the game, while lengthy and detailed, are not tremendously complex, allowing the players to focus on their strategy and tactics.

The game starts in summer of 1941 with the Barbarossa scenario - Germany attacks their former ally and tries to get to Moscow before winter sets in. The game has 8 six-month scenarios starting with Barbarossa through the fall of Berlin. The last scenario is essentially a walk for the Russians, although the goal for the Germans is to see how long they can delay the inevitable.

The scenarios can be played independently or serially or any subset. For instance, you could start in Winter of 1943 and then continue into Summer of 1944. The individual scenarios give the information required to continue to the next six-month period.

HQ units are the basic engine of the game. Each side has one master "strategic" HQ and several tactical HQ units. The Russians have more but weaker HQ's than the Germans. However, given the span of the map, this gives the Russians a slight edge in flexibility.

What's different in EF II?

For starters, the map. As you can see in this image (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/133536), the EF II map is much larger, as it includes what was previously VolgaFront as well as the new addition of Turkey and some of the Middle East.

This can make finding a suitable playing surface tricky. As some other BGG commentators have noted, this can be problematic.

Size aside, the new hexes are 3% smaller according to the designer, which is unfortunate in the sense that if anything, they needed to be larger, but the trade off was the expanded geography. The new graphics are less artistically attractive than the original, but more functional - making for net easier ability to play the game!

The rules have been cleaned up. The original EF rules underwent several revisions and edits and erratas. No doubt EF II will have the same rules tweaks over time (indeed, rules 1.1 are already posted on the CG web site).

One of the key changes in the game is that strategic HQ's in source cities (Warsaw for the Germans, Moscow for the Russians) are not subject to disruption. This is a rather huge benefit, especially for the Germans in winter.

The rules for EF II are posted at the CG web site, so for the EastFront veterans it's easy to check out what's new.

Who should buy this game?

If you already own EastFront *and* it's the only game in the WWII Front series you play *and* you don't feel the need for the expanded map, then not you.

However, if you don't already own EastFront, and you want the best WWII Russian Front game out there, definitely yes.

The trickier question is whether or not to "upgrade" to the EF II/WestFront II/EuroFront II series. This was a decision I didn't take lightly (as the trio will set you back a cool $300 + S&H - less if you pre-ordered like I did); however, in the end I decided to go for it. I have a copy of the classic EastFront for a quick game, but the new map for EF II + WF II will make it much easier to set up a EuroFront II game, and I'll have a uniform and complete set of units.

If you're only going to have one WWII Russian Front game on your bookcase, this is my pick.
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
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Roger, damn you, this weekend will see this game in my collection thanks to your report.

Jim
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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You're welcome!
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Bill Lawson
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Its high on my list of things to get!
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Andrew Laws
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leroy43 wrote:
Having long been an avid fan of Columbia's various block games, and with the now classic EastFront being one of the very few games in my collection rated a 10, I "upgraded" to EastFront II (EF II) when Columbia refreshed the Front series.


Why haven't we played this?
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