Seth Owen
United States
Norwich
Connecticut
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There are three main ways of depicting military units is wargames these days: Figures, blocks and counters.

Figures have the advantage of being fun the handle and attractive, but can't convey much game-related information, This means they have to either be supplemented by data cards or limited to game systems that don't get into too much detail. They're also expensive to produce. Counters are the other extreme. They're the cheapest and least attractive (although some games do an awful lot with them) but can be filled with all sorts of game information.

Blocks form a middle ground. They're attractive, can carry a lot of game information and are not as expensive as figures.

They also have a couple of additional advantages. When placed on edge they provide an elegant way to handle reductions in strength and also provide some fog of war.

Columbia's games, for example, make use of all three of the main features of blocks. The games are attractive, always use step reduction and always use fog of war. While wooden blocks have gained some popularity recently, many of the other company's games don't really use all the features.

For example, Simmons Games' titles use the Fog of War and attractiveness of blocks, but not the step reduction feature,using unit substitution instead.

Some of Worthington Games' offerings are Columbia style (like Forged in Glory) but others just use the wood to make sturdier and prettier counters (Like For Honor And Glory).

At GMT, likewise, wooden blocks aren't really used to full effect. In C&C: Ancients they're merely less expensive substitutes for figures, having no FOW or step reduction role at all. But even in Europe Engulfed, their primary role seem to be making the product appear spiffier and providing an easier way to handle step reduction (4 steps per unit) than counters (two-steps) would provide.

It appears that Fog of War is also present, but it seems to me to play a very minor role in the game system, especially compared to the typical Columbia design. Bluff and deception usually plays a vital role in Columbia Games titles, with it mattering a lot what a specific block's identity is.

In EE, in contrast, the key battles usually involve so many pieces that their specific identities and qualities are much less important. There are relatively few regions and important battles will tend to involve dozens of pieces. There are important system advantages for having units at full strength, so it seems there's less scope for deception operations. Is it a realistic tactic to bluff strength by having an area held with a large number of weak units,for example? Or is it an invitation to disaster?

From my blog at http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
 
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Bill
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Sayville
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There's certainly some scope for bluff in Europe Engulfed, but you're absolutely right in that no one is terribly concerned which specific blocks you're moving in when you push a stack of 20 towards Moscow. Panzer units are often revealed by their movement patterns before the actualy revelation anyway.
 
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Trent Garner
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Fayetteville
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On the other hand, Germany always plays a balancing act of truth-or-dare after the fall of France. Needing most of his strength for Barbarossa, he must also leave enough strength in the West to counter any moves by the WAllies. This part of the game is almost a mini-game of pure bluff and counter-bluff between Germany and the WAllies.
 
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Seth
Netherlands
Eindhoven
Noord Brabant
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Or what about leaving a 4 step infantry or panzer as an apparent 1 step 'speed bump' in Russia... it can be quit suprising just how much surprise is left in the game, and thus how much FOW is really created. Of course, in the end it is up to the creativity of the players to make stealth really shine!
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M@tthijs
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Venlo
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HEY!! Who's the archvillain here?
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The previous posters underline my conclusion: Europe Engulfed does use the 'bluff mechanism', possible through the use of blocks. But not to it's full possibilities. It's nothing compared to, say, EastFront II which makes this mechanic really shine.


I don't think anyone playing EE will stack Moscow with 20 1-pip units and Stalingrad with 10 4-pip units. It's more likely it'll be something 'on average', some 4s, some 1s. And even if you do, the sheer numbers (unlimited stacking, unlimited entry) make it less important. But then again, portraying the Eastfront is not Europe Engulfed's strongpoint -although it's a lot of fun playing the entire WWII using these rules.
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James Pinnion
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I've always felt the main reason for not bluffing in this game is that I never want to risk getting it wrong. It's a long game and while it would be neat to bluff my opponent into attacking the "most wrong" thing, it would involve me leaving a "most right" thing for him to attack that would really hurt, and make the next hour a real struggle. Instead I tend to play the averages.

However I'm sure if I got to play this more often I would bluff more, there is a lot of scope for doing so (infantry strength 1 and tank strength four do look the same after all!). I'm also not sure having not played east front that I wouldnt have the same attitude for that game either.
 
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Steve Sallot
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Fog of War is critical component of the game for a number of reasons. Sure, the argument for huge battles has some validity to them, but its the other battles, the "shaping operations" where the Fog of war becomes a critical component of the game and decision making and subsequently risk taking. Below are some reasons why the blocks add a tremendous amount of value to the game:

1) Prevents opponent from Identify key units that are indicators of high risk / high payoff operations such as paratroopers. For instance, pushing paratroops to Norway ensures the Allied player that Sealion is highly improbable. Contra to this is German Paras in the Low Countries is an "indicator" that German is considering or aleast threating SeaLion.

2) Forces opponents to do risk management and generally force a larger commitment of resources than necessary: Which stack do I pin with a supporting attack? Which Beachhead is the weakest? etc...

3) Allows players to achieve some operational / strategic surprise without using a judge or umpire.

My motto: Once you go block you dont go back!

Cheers
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