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The Rhineland War, 1936-37» Forums » Reviews

Subject: One of the Great "What ifs" of History rss

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Tim Parker
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Rhineland War is an alternate history game that lets players explore what might have happened if France had stood up to Germany during the Rhineland Crisis of 1936. The game covers both political events (through the mechanism of crisis chits) and military actions. Each turn, players can bring in reinforcements and replacements, move forces and attack using either the attrition or mechanized combat tables. At the competition of each turn players draw a number of crisis chits. The chits can bring other countries into the fray, give military advantages or cause internal instability in three critical countries (Germany, France, and the USSR). Victory is determined by the occupation of certain crisis hexes and the conquest of country mobilization centers.

Playing Time: This is fairly long even with the short scenario (March-October 1936). The game lengthens considerably as more countries enter the struggle and since there is little chance of landing a knock out blow you are looking at roughly two hours at least for a game.

Map: The map depicts Europe at the strategic level stretching from Portugal to Soviet Russia as far as Kiev and Leningrad from west to east. The map also covers from Denmark to Greece. The map also has tons of charts as one would expect in a magazine game as well as tracks for the game turn and holding boxes for support units. The map is nice and functional but gets a bit crowded once everyone starts joining the party.

Counters: The counters are nice sized (but not my favorite 5/8) and depict the armed forces of anyone that could’ve had an impact on the crisis(and actually includes as few countries such as Portugal and Denmark that really would’ve have made little difference at all). The counters are clear and colors are well defined making it easy to discern what forces belong to which country.

Rules: The rules for Rhineland War are pretty straight forward. You have the usual suspects of movement, ZOC, and supply lines. Combat can be initiated on either the attrition or mechanized combat tables. The interesting part of the combat rules is you only need one mechanized unit to use the mechanized table. The real meat of the game comes from the crisis chits. At the end of each turn each player draws chits equal to the number of crisis centers they control. Most of the time that is a good thing but one really cool thing about the game is how double edged the crisis chits can be. Sometimes when you draw them you can actually bring countries into the struggle on the other side. There are also chits that impact the internal stability of countries. Pull them and you could find the fighting ability of your enemy (or yourself) seriously impaired.

Things I like about the game:

1 Chit pull. I love the chaos it can cause as well as the internal impact it can have on a country.
2 I like the supply rules which make you physically occupy a city in enemy territory in order to use it as a supply source. This is nice illustration of the law of strategic consumption.
3 Each game is unique not only due to the crisis chits but also because every replacement that enters the game has to have a die roll to determine how many turns it takes before it is ready to go.
4 The mechanized combat table keeps the game from bogging down a la WWI
5 There are a lot of options. I even had one game where the allies decided to take advantage of an early entry by Great Britain to advance into the Low Countries to get at Germany.
6 It is easy to play solitaire. The chit pull and variable reinforcements/replacements make each game unique.

Things that can be annoying angry

1 The crisis chit pull can be very double edged and unforgiving. One suggestion made by other players it to make internal chits you pull for you opponent count and have your own returned to the pool.
2 The map really needs a track for both sides to show how many crisis centers and mobilization points each side controls. The map gets covered pretty quickly.
3 The Germans do seem a bit strong but I think this is mainly due to having so many mechanized units coupled with the combat requirement that you need only one mechanized unit to use the mechanized combat table.
4 The map really gets crowded in the west thanks to the generous stacking rules.

Overall evaluation:
d10-9 =wargamer heaven d10-1 =I’d rather staple my tongue to the wall for a mont yuk

Map= d10-6 The map is okay. Nothing spectacular but it is nice. The charts and tables on it are well organized.

Counters= d10-8 The counters are nice sized and the color schemes chosen make it easy to distinguish between countries with the notable exception of Romania and Greece.

Rules= d10-7 Overall I think the rules are good. The usual suspects are all here but it is the crisis chits that make this game really shine. The chits are a nice way to introduce the uncertainty that existed in 1936 as to who would react to the situation and, more importantly, when. The fact that the chits also deal with domestic problems too is critical to the enjoyment of the game.

Deployment of Forces=
d10-6 I gave this a d10-6 simply because it will take a little bit of time due to the fact that a lot of reinforcements you have to roll for to determine what turn they arrive.

Overall Evaluation=
d10-7 This game earns a d10-7 for several reasons. First, it is a lot of fun. This game presents alternate history in an easy to handle manner. There is no endless checks or die rolls to see who will enter the fray just pull a chit and let bedlam ensue. Second, the randomness of the chits and arrival of reinforcements/replacements keep you on your toes forcing you to make the best moves each turn even when you play solitaire. Third, this game makes for solitaire play which is true of most chit pull games. Finally, the game allows you to try all kinds of options based on who is in the conflict when as well as the wide open nature of the crisis centers. There are no real limitations on what either side can do.

Bottom Line: If you like alternate history you will love this game. The chit pull smoothly handles the political possibilities smoothly. Many times simulating the political aspects of a grand strategy game can be tedious or difficult but here it runs smooth as silk. Granted one could argue that the Germans are quite strong, but if you feel that way then it is easy to just leave units out or add some house rules to what is, at heart, a good core system. In the end, this game is a perfect blend of political possibilities and military strategies allowing the players a true wargame experience at the strategic level.
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Ethan McKinney
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Does it reflect the problems that the French mobilization system imposed?
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Tim Parker
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I would say yes since it can take some turns to get the French mechanized units into play which, given the strength of the mechanized table, can be critical.
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Robert McCoy
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One idea I have for curbing the Germans at the start is to make their initial set-up variable.

Thus on a D6 remove from the initial German set-up.

1. One infantry corp
2. One infantry and one light arm div
3. Two Infantry corps and one light arm div
4. Two Infantry corps and two light arm div
5. Three Infantry corps and two light arm div.
6. Three Infantry corps and three light arm div.

Each unit that is removed arrives as a reinforcement on a 1 D6 with a '1' roll meaning the unit would be a reinforcement in April, '2' May etc. Each unit is rolled for separately.

This roll would constrain German ambitions to a point but not unreasonably.

take care
rwmccoy
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