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Subject: The Revitalization of a Classic rss

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I had been gaming since the late seventies but only came into the Europa scene at about the time Western Desert was released in 1982. I can still recall thinking how innovative the game box art was, what an infatuation I had for the meager yank forces in the game and had no idea what I was missing that would come into being in later games such as port symbols and the like.

Truth be told as a monster wargame enthusiast, I was still infatuated by War in Europe when along came something similar with actual unit I.D.’s and detailed orders of battle and I was hooked. Despite being on full active duty in the military I somehow found the time, space and wherewithal to purchase and play every new game in the Europa series that came out even from as far away as Okinawa Japan. I recall thinking how odd it must be for John Astell and his crew of highly skilled geniuses to ship games all the way to that tiny Island.

A great many years have come and gone, and in all that time I find I have been contaminated with ever increasing innovations and very skilled designs resulting in my Europa series collecting more and more dust. Recently however as I settle into retirement, I find myself eyeing my Europa collection more and more sitting there on the shelf with a yearning to play it. The problem however is that the now simple design of the series is just not as enticing as it once was, and to bring it up to code, as it were, I’d need to completely overhaul the game, and I’m not looking to create a new game when it was the old ones I enjoyed so much. How then to bring the games in this series up to speed and still maintain their original makeup was the question dogging me.

Then it struck me. If more detail was what lured me in in the first place, perhaps that same premise would do it again, and with that I set out to figure how to increase detailed information to the game without contaminating how the game is played. I located my answer within history itself, and as I sought historical details the solution began to unfold right before my eyes. I decided to begin with the games in the series in chronological order, and with one of the easiest games in the series, First to Fight.

Looking at the setup pages I realized that what is really listed is simply a mere army title as the only barrier between just a bunch of loose strewn out units and a true military organizational initial setup. Fact is the game’s setup right and left lateral limits, only barely resembles a historical setup as players hunt down the perfect combination of units to increase their offensive or defensive capabilities. Essentially players were free to toss history out the window and I’ve rarely been a big fan of that. Fact is I seek out historical military simulations for the very reason that they begin from a historical point in both accuracy and time. It has never made much sense to me to play a historical game and not at least begin from a historical perspective with those limitations and all that entails, to see if I can meet or beat the same challenges as my historical counterpart even with a Godlike command, control and view of the battlefield.

This then got me thinking that if I could organize the units in their historical military organizations, then things would take on a whole new light and the game might have a whole new set of challenges, be more fine-tuned, refresh the learning and excitement I once enjoyed, and yet maintain the rules as written. With a renewed sense of purpose, I set about researching the game and its stacking limits in order to determine what the designer had in mind when it came to determining what size of a formation stacks in a single hex. Turns out the answer is a corps sized element, so I began collecting unit data from those nations involved in the Polish campaign for that part of the world at that time.

In addition to data, I needed a way to both organize those corps formations and eliminate the large cumbersome stacks often associated with these games. To this end I created a set of Corps markers for the Germans and Soviets. You may have noted I didn’t create a set for the Polish forces. This is because a defense rarely knows from where the blows will come and therefore must spread out, while an offense is most effective when coiled up tightly to strike in lethal corps sized elements and the attacker can choose the time and place. I was able to design some killer looking German and Soviet corps markers (if I may say so myself) and some even better Corps Marker Display sheets to complete the package.

I’m currently tying up a few loose ends, looking for data on a few dozen minor battalions in the historical records, and once I complete that, I’ll be playing the game under these new historical setup restrictions. I anticipate awesome challenges ahead as this game unfolds and would like to share it here if there is an interest.


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Brian Sielski
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Great post .... and I felt similar to you about Europa ... always wanting to play ... and I never got to play First to fight ... but it is on my list for sure (still)!!!!

However, I have found the newest creation that I'm sort of excited about ...

It is Frank Chadwick's Thunder in the East. They are working on the next in the series so it'll be just like Europa ... but on steroids....

I can only hope ...

 
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Although the game looks really nice, Thunder in the East is a Corps / Army scale game isn't it? Not quite the replacement of Europa's Divisional / Regimental scale I don't think.
 
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