DAVID BROWN
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CHINO
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I have enjoyed WW 2 wargames for many years. One of my favorite topics is the European theater as a whole, enjoying long, complex strategic games. So many games have been made on this topic that I have been able to learn about design theory by comparing and contrasting them. I ask myself what works well from the standpoint of my enjoyment, as well as the simulation of history, or at least capturing the feel of those aspects I enjoy (much of the history breaks my heart). I will reference A3R, WiF, TK and BtoB to help describe USE. There are already many reviews here at BGG of USE, but I hope mine contributes something that complements them.

I was unable to find time for this wonderful hobby for several years, so I came to this game late (2018). USE was highly recommended by a friend whose taste I trust, and the great Marco Arnaudo raved about it, so I was definitely interested. There have been remarkable developments in game design in recent years, so I was prepared for the possibility of another innovative triumph. As I read Sal’s philosophy and studied the rules I realized it was definitely innovative, but would I enjoy it? No combat factors (?!), no printed movement factors (?!), paying for the activation of units (this isn’t a tactical game!)…I was becoming skeptical. The air and naval system which included the accumulation of up to six “sorties”, at which point the units’ effectiveness had declined to nil, seemed promising, and the training scenarios were wisely going to introduce the rules efficiently (in small portions). It was so strange but interesting. Then the French scenario frustrated me—should France be so difficult, though I never play games well at first. The Med. was okay, but the air/naval system was so different and disorienting. Maybe I wouldn’t like USE, but I would want to analyze why. On to Russia, my favorite gaming topic: now things started to work. I could redesign other parts of the game, if necessary. I started to play a campaign game on line with my long-time gaming buddy, John. I soon found out that I was liking this game. I told him that it was pretty good, but could never be a favorite. Well, my admiration grew, and sometimes you don’t mind being wrong. This became my favorite game! Oh, the “I told you so”s…but a small price to pay. I played it for an average of seven hours a day, or probably more, for five months—yes, I had a lot of free time last year. Finally, I burned out, for a while.

Tastes vary so widely. I am tempted to say “this is a great game”, but I want to help you to decide whether this is worth trying for you. I have a concern that some people who would like USE might miss this game for the reasons I had doubts, and might lack my interest in design theory to go ahead and try it and press on. Some gamers don’t like to play long games, or don’t like learning many rules, so they should not waste their time on this one. Some gamers don’t enjoy deviating much from what they are familiar with, and there is no game remotely similar to USE. If you are not fascinated by WW 2 history, you may not appreciate how well this game simulates it. If you want to simulate smaller aspects, the lack of chrome will not be welcome. If you like a system to work well overall, this is for you.

This paragraph may be long and awkward as I draw comparisons, but I hope it will be helpful to readers who are familiar with any of these other games. The views I express are presented with humility, as I have never met anyone who shares my gaming preferences with consistency. Totaler Krieg (TK) yields great satisfaction re German grand strategy, as does the less “realistic” Advanced Third Reich or A3R (I refuse to use the double move, incidentally), while USE is adequate here. The political system is volatile and exciting in TK, interesting in A3R, while good and nicely streamlined in USE. The economic system is highly involved and enjoyable in World in Flames: The Final Edition, but perhaps takes too much time (I really prefer this version to the earlier ones, despite the distracting, glossy map surface, because of its many, ingenious improvements); in A3R it is interesting and fun; in WW 2: Barbarrossa to Berlin (BtB) it is simple and good; while USE requires discipline and forethought with unit activations competing with builds/repls., and no ability to save “production points” for later turns. The air and naval systems shine in WiF:FE, with the sparkling chrome of all those specific air models and ships, while USE just makes so much sense, and there is continuous excitement, despite the counters being generic. A3R and WiF are good with strategic warfare, while USE handles this logically and quickly, though fails up close if you want “realism” on the micro level. Fog-of-war is best in BtB, being a CDG, though TK isn’t bad with its limited cards, while USE has a subtle form in its combat system. Ground combat is good in BtB and WiF, but here USE is incomparable. The slow periods of poor weather are best handled by BtB and TK, where things move along quickly, and not bad with WiF. A3R has the most beautiful and functional map.

The ground combat is my favorite part of the game. The ground units represent armies, which are activated one at a time, if you choose to pay the cost (two production points (PP) for motorized/armored and one for the others). A unit pays for movement and/or combat. An assault can occur after movement, or even after other units’ activations. Mobile attacks are the other way of attacking, and up to five can occur with armor in clear terrain during clear weather if you don’t lose a battle, though this is rare. There is no stacking, so many attacks involve just one unit vs. one unit, while assaults allow three attackers to combine vs. one. Attacker and defender each roll a die, each being modified variously by nationality, armor, air support, terrain, weather, elite status, partisans, airborne drops, if low on supply, if surrounded, by surprise attacks, etc., when applicable. The difference between these modified results produce outcomes that fall within a bell curve, so extreme results are possible but unlikely. Yet so many battles occur that many extreme results are inevitable, producing uncertainty and excitement. There isn’t much “down time” since the defender has decisions to make regarding support (often air, sometimes tank), and re retreats. It is often difficult even remotely to predict how things will look after one turn’s activations. All other combat -- air, naval strategic warfare -- is similar in many ways to ground combat. You need to take care not to run out of production points before it is time to improve, build or replace units, which is sometimes a little tedious, but usually I enjoy trying to get the most value out of my PP and it seems fine.

How do I like to play this game? I like to play this with the Vassal module, allowing you to practice your moves, which always turn out differently, but give you some feel for how to conduct your turn – this means doing perhaps one player turn only per session. Of course, you can play on line faster, as with ftf play, and get several turns done at once. I have not played ftf, but it should work well for most people (I am a slow thinker). USE is great for solitaire. USE has a lot of scenarios: I like the big campaign game, the ’43 and ’44 scenarios, and the Ger. vs. Russian campaign, but will explore the shorter scens. at a later time, if I can resist the lure of the larger ones.

Sal has created a game that simulates the entire ETO in a “campaign game” that uniquely captures a feel for the history, is not too long, rewards skill and careful thought, while remaining pleasantly unpredictable, and is so much fun. The price he has paid is to abstract elements in ways that some will not like, and to sacrifice micro considerations for macro elegance -- I am not entirely satisfied with the effects poor and severe weather can have on combat, sometimes allowing only one faction to attack effectively; weather rolls can be too decisive; and armor is too effective vs. swamps, usually southeast of Leningrad – yet that which is not remedied by house rules can easily be tolerated for the joy of this brilliantly innovative game. I have a second favorite game now, Thunder in the East, which follows a different philosophy. It is part of a series that will include a grand campaign that may be too large for me to play due to its length (though I will play a lot of that system’s scenarios!), so for me Unconditional Surrender: Europe is easily my first choice for a European WW2 complete campaign game. I will always come back to USE (my “mood” will definitely return!). Thank you Sal Vasta for persevering and for all the hard work. Thank you Mark Dey, Allen Hill, and all of you who helped Sal make this remarkable game possible!
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Charles Finch
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Pearl River
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
Nice review!
there are some optional (being playtested to possibly to become changes) weather rules somewhere on this site. These may be worth investigating based on your ending comments
I also prefer historical weather, helps when comparing game to game if you swap sides ;-)
enjoy!
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Salvatore Vasta
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Woodstock
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
Thank you for a very nice review, which did have a different spin on it. I'm glad you enjoyed the game.

Sal
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Salvatore Vasta
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Woodstock
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
cfinchjr2 wrote:
Nice review!
there are some optional (being playtested to possibly to become changes) weather rules somewhere on this site. These may be worth investigating based on your ending comments
I also prefer historical weather, helps when comparing game to game if you swap sides ;-)
enjoy!


You'll find it in the Playtesting section of the errata file Click here
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DAVID BROWN
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CHINO
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Thanks Charles for the suggestions. I use rerolls to moderate weather , but might try historical weather. I like the uncertainty of the weather, but ran into highly improbable unpleasant weather for two years defending Russia--maybe this is what it's like to have Sal's luck (lol).

Dave
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DAVID BROWN
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
Sal,

These ideas being playtested are interesting. My "mood" may return a little sooner than I thought! Though I put in 1000 hours with USE, part of my problem may lie with my lack of imagination or skill. Meanwhile, I use house rules in solitaire, not having to convince anyone to use mine!
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Bruce Tillotson
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
Here's a thread where Sal asks for feedback on several proposed optional rules. If you try any of them, I'm sure he'd appreciate hearing how they worked out.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1990736/use2-playtest-m...
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Barry Miller
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]

Dave Brown wrote:
I will reference A3R, WiF, TK and BtoB to help describe USE.

that's an awesome review! Hits all the right notes, and is a true review. Thanks!

But when I first read the above excerpt, this scene from 'Good Morning Vietnam' immediately popped into my head! (I'm glad you defined each later in your article as I didn't recognize any of them right off).



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DAVID BROWN
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CHINO
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Re: “It’s no USE, I’m just not in the mood!” A Review of “Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe"[size=10][size=18][/size][/size]
Okay Barry, I think have stopped laughing long enough to finish my drink...no, I better wait! Thanks for the kind words!
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