I picked up my copy of this interesting new game from GMT just before Christmas, as soon as Fine Games got a copy. It’s official now … GMT Games can go bust now if they like. Not that I wouldn’t prefer to keep them around and lose the deadweight like Decision and Avalanche, but I now have everything I want from GMT game-wise and very litle in their current pipeline is moving me much … the Typhoon reprint, maybe, or Roads to Leningrad … but overall, I’m good now (although if Berg’s Ancient World series keeps going, I’d quite like to see that, even though I still haven’t played Rise of the Roman Republic).
Anyway, Europe Engulfed is the first block game that I’m aware of from someone other than Columbia. It certainly borrows heavily from many of their games, but that’s OK I think since EE is a big game and Columbia is now quite reasonably out of the big game business. Still, EE seems quite playable for a big game, with rules I can read through once and comprehend even at 20 pages, unlike so many GMT games. I’m looking forward to giving it a spin. In general, WWII strategic games have a lot of issues, so it will be interesting to see if EE manages to get past these. I am especially drawn to EE’s “Special Action” chits, which allow you to take a range of bonus actions, from additional combat phases to more flexible reinforcements, extra supply, retreat before combat, counterattack, etc. The disposal of these chits seems like it will make for some very tough decisions and should be interesting. I like wargames that are biased towards momentous, big decisions instead of endless little fiddly decisions, and the Special Action chits I think but EE firmly towards the former category.
One comment in the rulebook really caught me off-guard, though: in talking about the victory conditions, the designer makes the offhand comment that in usual play, the Germans will survive past June ’45 between comparable opponents because historically “the Axis powers made bigger mistakes than the Allies did.” This really floored me … I mean, if the incompetent defenses of France and USSR don’t count as greater mistakes than anything the Axis ever made? Given the corruption and inefficiency inherent in the single-person state, it’s hard to imagine the Axis doing much better than they did. In order for most WWII strategic games to work, they usually need to force the Allies into making their historical mistakes (by mandating an unworkable setup for the Soviets, for example) while allowing the Axis to undo theirs. Anyway, this hardly detracts from the game I should say, but was interesting to me nonetheless.