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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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In 1972 Norman Spinrad wrote The Iron Dream. It was a science fiction novel meant to point out the fascist tendencies in science fiction literature through a plot where Hitler writes Nazi pulp instead of leading Germany. While I have not read the book, I have wanted to for years. From what I’ve gathered Spinrad questioned our obsession with heroic salvation, where rather than relying upon each other we beg for a savior. As Frank Herbert showed in Dune, most saviors come drenched in blood.

In 1985 veteran designer Dana Lombardy made 4th Reich, a game where in a post apocalyptic world “Puremen” slay “Mutants” led by a “Master” who also creates “Super Mutants” (sounds like a precursor to Fallout (1997)). While I have no direct evidence, I think Lombardy was poking fun at the wargame hobby in its early days when there was an obsession with the German war effort. The use of Picasso’s Guernica on the box art for 4th Reich suggests a recognition of the horrors of fascism. Judging by stories told to be my old grognards and from looking at some of the old game covers I’d say there was a bit of Nazi fanboy worship going on.

So I Take it Only Germany Fought in World War II






I don’t mean to harp on the “bad old days” for that is a weak idea in itself and I like all of the above game covers. However, I have to say the hobby has come a long way from the 1970s. Thematically, wargames are much more diverse and less prone to that special brand of Nazi-worship. There is always the weak line that “the German army was not involved in extermination.” I hate that shit, and if I ever do get an army for Flames of War: The World War II Miniatures Game it will be the 12th SS Panzer. If I’m going to be the bad guys, I’m going to go all out, no pussy-footing around. Same thing goes with the American Civil War. My ancestors fought for the South, but that doesn’t mean I have to whitewash slavery nor damn them for fighting for Dixie. Hell, if the family legend is right most of them deserted after Shiloh!

Some of that is the romance of a lost cause. I grew up with a father who told me tall romantic tales about the lost conservative causes of yore: Cavaliers, Jacobites, Redcoats, Confederates, and Natives hunted on the plains by the very Yankee army that professed to “free the slaves.” To this day I cannot play the Roundheads in a boardgame and I always play the Jacobites when I can. Napoleon and his generals draw some of that romantic exaggeration out of me, even if I cringe at the man’s politics and the pointless bloodshed due to French aggression and British intransigence. Yet I cannot help but feel there is a real sadness in the failure of Napoleon, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert E. Lee, and their comrades in the pantheon of defeat. As I.F. Stone once said, in reference to his admiration for Thomas Jefferson, “history is tragedy, not melodrama.”

You can argue that not all east front wargames are like that and you’d be right. Hell, I love the goofy cover of Russian Front, where the war in the east looks like a picnic. I applaud the TSR cover of Barbarossa: Game of the Russo-German War 1941-45 for showing war as hell in a scene that reminds me of the film Come and See. Yet how many of them featured heroic Soviets? Some did. One reason I like the cover for The Russian Campaign is because the Soviets are prominently displayed. But let’s not kid ourselves. Box fronts like that were rare. The cover for Axis & Allies featured no Soviet troops and the USSR's flag being almost completely blotted out by the good old stars and stripes. It was the Cold War and there was a conservative resurgence. Nazism is itself the darkest side of conservatism. All of the aboce did not define the hobby, but it was clearly an undercurrent and one that I can happily say has faded away.

Well, that was a long rant I did not intend to make. All of that aside, is 4th Reich a decent game? Yes it is, although hurt by one giant flaw.

Gameplay (52/70): 4th Reich runs off a classic hex and counter system reminiscent of Panzergruppe Guderian. Both sides build units, but have very different rules for building. The Puremen only build every even turn and are limited by resources. The Mutants must awaken their forces, as they are not at first allowed to build freely from every city they control. Still, they can make a steady stream of men, and will nearly always have the numercial advantage. The Puremen do have better aircraft (although planes are weak in the game) and more importantly railroad movement.

The Puremen get to move, attack, and then move and attack again with their mobile units. The Mutants do the same but lack mobile units. The game in no way punishes the attacker, making the CRT the most bizarre known to gaming. Basically there is never a reason not to attack, and if you have an attack strength of 12 or more then nearly every attack is guaranteed to destroy the enemy. In addition, rules for zone of control are tricky, because friendly units do not negate them for purposes of supply and movement, making 4th Reich play in a strange fashion. Units are easily cut off and yet advances can easily bog down in ZOCs, bad weather, and hard terrain. The CRT and ZOC rules make 4th Reich a unique and aggressive experience. It may not model combat correctly, but considering the subject matter, I feel pretty lenient on this on this point.

The real problem with this game is the victory conditions, which call for total victory by both sides. The trouble is the Puremen are too out-numbered, and without a lot of luck they cannot conquer the entire map. There are just too many Mutants, who can easily form strong counterattacking reserves or merely swamp any advancing Puremen force. On the other hand, the Mutants lack the mobility and qualitative advantage, which is important since counterattacks define much of 4th Reich. The result is a fairly broken game where a draw is the order of the day. Fortunately, the game can be easily fixed since it is very simple.

The Units


Accessibility (8/10): The rules are a bit blurry in some spots, like isolation, but this is a very simple game, and a breeze for experienced wargamers. I would not call this a great introductory game due to the subject matter. Some people just might not understand the joke inherent in 4th Reich.

Components (7/10): The units come alive with small drawings of the various Mutants, Puremen, and the Puremen’s equipment. The map has large hexes filled with colorful drawing. Colors are bland by today’s standards but great for 1985. 4th Reich does suffer from super small counters, but otherwise this game is graphically one of the best of the era.

The Map


Theme (10/10): 4th Reich is a humorous allusion to the Second World War. Geld (Germany) benefits from a Hetler leader unit. Cities mimic their real world counterparts: Burlen, Paree, and Aten to name but a few and I'll leave you to guess what those cities represent. You even get to imitate the Nazi interpretation of the war: elite Germans overwhelmed by barbaric eastern hordes. The game takes a satirical turn which makes the derivative science fiction oddly enjoyable, if not immersive.

Overall (77/100): 4th Reich might be tasteless, it might be a violation of copyright, and it is not the greatest game. But it is honest and I respect that. Best of all, it has a sense of humor, which is a sure sign that you have mastered your fears and are honest about your shortcomings. The only real blemish in our hobby, besides maybe a general grumpiness and pickiness, is that at one time it harbored closet Nazis. Games like 4th Reich allow us to laugh at that and see it for what it was: ridiculous.

If by chance this game is not satirical, well then I openly laugh at it and enjoy it, as I do the old Fortress America. It gives you a kind of power over what may otherwise torment you.

Oh Yes, They Went There
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Michael Debije
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Man, Sean, you made me put another one of my games on the 'have to play again' list.
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Darrell Hanning
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Nice review, and it matches up nicely with my impressions of the game, as I recall it. It had sat on my shelves unplayed for years (hell, decades?), so I gave my copy to a friend as a holiday gift, a few weeks ago.
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Michel Boucher
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redfred666 wrote:
I've read Iron Dream from Spinrad, and this game seems to be the wargame version of it


Except for the shrill undertone :-)
 
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Lloyd Krassner
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DarrellKH wrote:
Nice review, and it matches up nicely with my impressions of the game, as I recall it. It had sat on my shelves unplayed for years (hell, decades?), so I gave my copy to a friend as a holiday gift, a few weeks ago.


Hi Darrell,

Thanks again for the game. Not played yet. It just sits there and I admire it like a prize, a hunting Trophy. I stare at the cover art and imagine the battles and slaughter and think of all the moral, historical, and theoretical implications of the Theme. Considering my son is 14 and he is a little bit of an unrefined nut-job, and it is a jewish household, and the theme is arayans slaughtering slavic sub-humans, I may hold off on playing it for a awhile.

Lloyd
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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alsandor wrote:
redfred666 wrote:
I've read Iron Dream from Spinrad, and this game seems to be the wargame version of it


Except for the shrill undertone :-)


So I take it Spinrad is shrill?
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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No Expectations wrote:
Actually, I kinda liked the rant.

Good review!


Glad someone did.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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mi_de wrote:
Man, Sean, you made me put another one of my games on the 'have to play again' list.


Don't rush though. It is a flawed game at best, but I think other wargamers have been too tough.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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usrlocal wrote:
There's a backstory to the Up Front box cover that suggests that it itself may be satirical of such tendencies at the time.


That is good news indeed. Can you give any details of the story?
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Good Lord, man, retain that anus! One day its fruit may be the only thing that stands between us and total oblivion!
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gittes wrote:
Fortunately, the game can be easily fixed since it is very simple.


And your fix is?

I have an unpunched copy of the game and want to play it. It's so over the top wargamey and science fictiony and proto-AmeriTrashy, I can't help it!
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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mistermarino wrote:
gittes wrote:
Fortunately, the game can be easily fixed since it is very simple.


And your fix is?

I have an unpunched copy of the game and want to play it. It's so over the top wargamey and science fictiony and proto-AmeriTrashy, I can't help it!


I'd say modify the victory conditions (every city counts as 1 VP, with capitals being 3 VP) and make the Geld stuff cheaper.
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Darrell Hanning
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Warpspawngames wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
Nice review, and it matches up nicely with my impressions of the game, as I recall it. It had sat on my shelves unplayed for years (hell, decades?), so I gave my copy to a friend as a holiday gift, a few weeks ago.


Hi Darrell,

Thanks again for the game. Not played yet. It just sits there and I admire it like a prize, a hunting Trophy. I stare at the cover art and imagine the battles and slaughter and think of all the moral, historical, and theoretical implications of the Theme. Considering my son is 14 and he is a little bit of an unrefined nut-job, and it is a jewish household, and the theme is arayans slaughtering slavic sub-humans, I may hold off on playing it for a awhile.

Lloyd


Hmm. Maybe I should have kept it...
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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usrlocal wrote:
gittes wrote:
usrlocal wrote:
There's a backstory to the Up Front box cover that suggests that it itself may be satirical of such tendencies at the time.


That is good news indeed. Can you give any details of the story?


Sorry, I thought this was well known. Here's Rodger MacGowan's CSW post concerning the Up Front cover.

p.s. great review, and a good historical perspective on the hobby.


Thanks Peter. I'll read that post when I get a minute.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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usrlocal wrote:
gittes wrote:
usrlocal wrote:
There's a backstory to the Up Front box cover that suggests that it itself may be satirical of such tendencies at the time.


That is good news indeed. Can you give any details of the story?


Sorry, I thought this was well known. Here's Rodger MacGowan's CSW post concerning the Up Front cover.

p.s. great review, and a good historical perspective on the hobby.


“…Germans sell, we want Germans on the Up Front cover…” - Don Greenwood according to Rodger MacGowan.

That is creepy.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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usrlocal wrote:
Creepy nevertheless. But, I guess they would say something like 'business is business'.

It is an interesting and apropos footnote to your original post, though.



Just for you:

Crapgame: Then make a DEAL!

Big Joe: What kind of deal?

Crapgame: A DEAL, deal! Maybe the guy's a Republican. "Business is business," right?
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Stuart Brennen
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There was a 3-player variant in an Issue of Nexus. Can't remember which one though.
 
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gittes wrote:
alsandor wrote:
redfred666 wrote:
I've read Iron Dream from Spinrad, and this game seems to be the wargame version of it


Except for the shrill undertone :-)


So I take it Spinrad is shrill?


No, Hitler is. The bulk of 'The Iron Dream' is Hitler's last novel before he died in 1953 in this alternate universe. This book is actually titled "Lord of the Swastika." Spinrad writes it in a tone that strikes the reader as a pulp fiction novel written in the manner of Mein Kampf. The rest of the book is an afterword by a scholar of science fiction dissecting Hitler's pathological mind set and reason for writing such a novel. This is Spinrad writing as Spinrad.
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Robert Wesley
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winestu wrote:
There was a 3-player variant in an Issue of Nexus. Can't remember which one though.
Yeah, and here that "is":

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1097381/4th-reich?size=or...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1097380/4th-reich?size=or...

zombiezombiezombie
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I have a play test copy of 4th Reich - I need to find that and see how it compares with this review.

Sean, I liked your rant too.
 
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