Triumph and Tragedy
A game of World War possibilities.
I first heard about this game while talking to an Army Instructor from Leavenworth. He said it was a great game to demonstrate the aspects of national power and strategy. Knowing that I liked such things I looked into the game and found I was pretty close to perfect timing with GMT releasing another edition of the game and ordered it.
Standard review of GMT game components for this one, all excellent. All I added to this one were card sleeves and ten small dice for each faction. This is a block card assisted style game.
The game starts with a 1936 political situation that aligns the Western Allies, Axis Powers, and Communists factions against each other for victory. Methods of victory are economic, discovery and delivery capability of the A-bomb, or the conquest of two other faction capitals. The game ends in 1945 after a total of ten turns.
Each turn is broken up into three major phases. The production phase allows the factions to increase production or research technology. The Government Phase allows the powers to use Action Cards to diplomatically influence the other nations of Europe for access to their resources or to ultimately make them protectorates and extensions of your home provinces. The third phase is the seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall in which units may move or combat around the board.
Gathering the Brother's O, we set out to see who the master of Europe would be. Joe was interested in the Communists and Bill the Fascists so that left me as the Generalissimo of Antifa the leader of the Western Allies. I surveyed the rules again, read my highlights, and watched StukaJoes BGG extended example of play video. I then set the board up and didnt have a clue as to what I was going to do. The Axis powers start with twice their hand size in cards so I knew they had the initiative. My goals were to secure the backdoor by influencing Spain, and try to bring the Americans into the fight as early as possible. I also hoped to have a sufficiently strong force to keep armies in France and not defaulting to Fortress Britannia. My lack of a developed strategy was somewhat due to learning the game. While the rules are fairly simple the relationships of cause, effect, and strategy impact took me having to play the game.
My initial hand was pretty strong for Spain and the US so I was pretty happy. It was a false hope. My industry of 7 meant I was behind the power curve and the diplomatic game was not one that I had the luxury of participating in. I found as the game went one two valuable things about the Western powers. First, that I was not in a position to go toe to toe with the Soviets or the Fascists in terms of diplomatic maneuvering. The best that I could do was to be an outlier and spoil some of the plays that they were trying to make. I did manage to make a couple of agreements to respect zones of influence through the threat of intervention. For instance I started drawing Austria into my orbit to keep the resources and population away from the Fascists. I then made a deal to stop my central European machinations if they would leave Belgium and the Low Countries out of their positioning. This meant that they would not be able to waltz into Paris, and it also meant that they could focus on diplomatic cold war with the Soviets.
The second thing that I realized was that the Western Allies need to go to war with the Fascists much more than the fascist need to go to war with them. I found the longer that the game went on the worse my position was getting. This further highlighted that I was behind the production curve from the beginning and my diplomatic foray was a waste of time. I was in a position where Germany was quickly moving towards an economic win and was out building me so, like the Japanese, I went to war now to avoid losing one later. I tried to get the Soviets into the war with me, but they were building up legions of red armies on the borders, sitting, waiting, watching. The United States ended up coming into the war early and I was quite surprised when Fascists pieces moved out of Germany to discover that they had undertaken a huge naval construction project in which Scapa Flow and the Channel Islands were not prepared for. I had focused on air power under the impression that I could strategic bomb Berlin and level the production gap. I was wrong, oh so very wrong. I did not have the lift capability and had to instead fend off a naval invasion of Scotland. France did not fall, but the besieging of England was perhaps worse then just having lost France to string out limited Fascist forces.
The Soviets ended up coming into the war in Late 1944 and the game ended in 1945 with a German victory by one point. In a sick twist of fate the Soviets and the Western Allies were tied and one point behind Germany. Namely because we lost a VP for declaring war on Germany.
In the end I think that everyone realized that there was not enough time to build the perfect army. If your strategy was going to be predicated on a military victory then to do that you need to get into a war fast and prosecute it with everything that you have. I squandered a lot of time trying to find a strategy and a path to victory and I think the Brother’s O did the same with their factions. If I were to do it again I would focus on increasing my production and building a hand of cards that would allow me to take military action in any of the turn phases that I wanted to. Burning the cards for diplomacy was not really in the Allies best interest.
In the end I found the game to be an insightful approach at looking at how production, diplomacy, research, and military production feed into a national strategy. I liked the 1936 geopolitical opening of the game with the ability to shape your own destiny through 1945. When and with whom to go to war was between the players, with the diplomatic map of Europe giving you an edge in one way or another. None of the facets of the game were deep rules dives or chromed on bits. There was enough there to be enjoyable, but not so much that it bogged the game down. The use of blocks was a bit more involved then other block games that I have played and as a model I think this game stretched that as a design choice for this game. Any more complicated and I would say that it would have been too much of a distraction. As it was it was difficult to keep your pieces oriented for fog of war when you are playing a three player game. The layout of the board I think could have been adapted to better do that. I approached this game as a mechanism to play a historical game and to explore the elements of National Power (Diplomacy, Industry, Military, Economy) and this game did that and was fun to play.