Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jose and I recently finished a game of Europe Engulfed….

After years of belligerency, Germany declared war on Poland and sent panzers and Stukas roaring across the Polish plains in September 1939. The Poles fought valiantly and won a small victory by forcing Germany to use a second special action to complete the conquest of Poland. During the next six months the Phony War remained quiet while both sides continued to build their forces. Germany built up a fleet of 60 U-Boats in an attempt to starve Britain into submission.

In 1940 Germany declared war on the Low Countries and conquered Belgium and the Netherlands easily. Meanwhile the British sent a sizable expeditionary force to Pas de Calais along with ground support units to stare across the border at the Germans.

With only 3 British blocks defending the British Isles, the German supreme commander saw an opportunity and launched Sea Lion in June 1940, instead of attacking France. Four German fleets plus an airborne attempted the cross channel invasion. The Royal Navy performed perfectly sinking the entire German navy without a loss of their own. The falschirmjagger and their ground support units landed outside London but without infantry support they were easily defeated. The lost GSU and infantry were a setback to the Germans, but the loss of 4 fleets would prove fatal. With the German navy all but eliminated, the Royal Navy ferried an expeditionary force to Norway to seize Trondheim. The operation was a success but a follow on attempt to seize Oslo was defeated by a combined German/Norwegian force. Even so, the British were able to hold onto Trondheim which proved to be a thorn in the side of Germany for most of the game. These events reminded the German player to conquer Denmark.

After the failure of Sea Lion, the Germans turned their sights to France. The Germans poured into Pas de Calais, but the French were prepared and the invaders took heavy losses. The valor of the French Army was not enough to prevent the fall of France as Vichy France was declared.

With France conquered and Britain still defiant, Germany headed east and moved into the Balkans. Yugoslavia and Greece both fell easily. Italian naval activity put pressure on the British in North Africa but the Brits managed to dig in outside of Alexandria. Without naval opposition in the Atlantic, the British were free to move fleets into the Med to keep their forces supplied. The Germans suffered another setback when their combined airborne and amphibious invasion of Malta was repulsed.

The winter of ’41-’42 came before Germany was ready to launch Barbarossa. Russia declared war on Germany in January 1942 and began building their expanded force pool. The USA also entered the war and began lend lease to Britain. Germany finally launched Barbarossa in May ’42, with the Germans gingerly attacking Russian forces in Eastern Europe.

Army Group North consisted of primarily infantry with a few panzer divisions providing additional firepower. Army Group South included the bulk of the panzer divisions, including three elite panzer divisions. On the western front, the Germans dug in along the coast and kept their reserves in Paris. The Russians continued to build their forces and dug in at strategic points, while the western allies built up their forces in London and Southampton.

In July/August ’42 the Germans pushed farther into Russia with Army Group North capturing Leningrad and Army Group South capturing the industrial areas of the Don river basin. On the last clear weather turn of ’42, Army Group South captured Kharkov, but their supply lines were stretched. The Russians saw their chance and launched a massive counterattack, recapturing Kiev and then using a special action to capture Bessarabia—putting Army Group South out of supply. To make matters worse, the western allies successfully landed in Normandy.

Next turn the weather turned wet and the Russian steppes turned into mud. Out of supply and slogging through the mud, Army Group South managed to link up with Army Group North in the Pripet Marshes to restore their supply lines. This cut off the Russian armor that was sitting in Bessarabia, putting them out of supply. Germany declined to counterattack the allies in Normandy.

Running out of time, we decided to call the game. It did not look like the Russians could break out of Bessarabia, meaning the bulk of their army would be wiped out. However, with bad weather ahead, the Allies in France and plenty of space for the Russians to rebuild, things did not look good for Germany. Russia still had its conscription option available and could rebuild very quickly. We predicted an eventual Allied victory, but it would be very slow going.

Looking back on our game, the failed Sea Lion attempt was a fatal blow to Germany. Germany has a very specific timetable it must stick to and the time lost to Sea Lion was just enough to force Germany to delay Barbarossa until Spring ’42, when Russia was better prepared.

This was my first time playing this game in a meaningful way and now I regret not playing it sooner. It’s not nearly as complex as I first thought, somewhere in between the original Axis & Allies and Paths of Glory on the difficulty scale. This game quite possibly makes all other strategic level WWII games obsolete.

The picture is the ending board position on the eastern front. In the West, the allies were in Normandy and had a small force hanging on in Norway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wargaming with Moral Queasiness

Greetings. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and keeping warm with good games by a roaring fire... or at least a roaring LCD screen.

One game I've been snuggling up to is GMT's new Labyrinth. This game is essentially an unofficial sequel to GMT's previous Twilight Struggle game. The new game borrows many of the same key mechanics but with a healthy layer or two of extra chrome. For instance, there are now actual military units moving around on the board. Each country not only has a modifiable influence value but now also stability can be changed (aka regime change). Each side has different choices / mechanics with on which to burn operations points. So... a bit more complexity, but in my opinion, good, thematic complexity.

One issue that is tough to wrestle with is the uneasiness one experiences when playing the Jihadist side. For instance, the autovictory condition for this side is to successfully set off a WMD on US soil. Hooray. This is certainly a thought provoking game, but I can't remember ever having played one so directly dealing with the ugliness of attacking civilians.

Perhaps thankfully the game comes with a fully developed solitaire version where you're playing the USA vs. an evil AI Jihadist opponenet. I haven't fully digested how the AI system works, but I'll report back soon.

What else is new?

Lot's of WoW getting played. Thanks to Michael and Chris for the continual gifts of gold pieces and tough to find crafting components keeping me zipping along towards the Level 80 end game. I actually started having WoW dreams last night, so I'm officially taking a break for a day or two. Bad sign.

I figured out that Cool Stuff Inc. will ship card sleeves in bulk to you via USPS first class mail, making their already cheap prices even cheaper. No tax; 35% off retail; and $0.99 shipping makes the transaction quite a deal, especially given that the latest Thunderstone expansion consumed around 350 sleeves.

Netflix is awesome. Unfortunately I now seem to be compelled to put a Netflix-enabled device on every TV. Netflix is now officially a part of the Axis of Evil. Okay... sorry.... Channeling Labyrinth again there for a moment.

Bye for now. Off to find some egg nog!

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Heroscape Dead; Wallet and Closet Relieved

So... after a long, lingering malaise, Heroscape finally snuffed it today, as announced by their caregiver, Wizards of the Coast. One final wave will ship in a few weeks, and then its all over.

While I will miss the excitement of collecting each new wave, I really do feel I have way more stuff than I will ever possibly use. With ~15 waves of approximately 20 figures each plus multiple copies of four master sets... Yeah, I'm kind of relieved its done. Still... look at that photo... what a cool game!