I had enjoyed my experience with Europe Engulfed at HomerCon West, so I’d been looking for some locals to sucker into it. Matt and Rich were willing victims, so we took a crack at the 1942 scenario.
Having played the Germans in all three games I’ve played up until now, I was looking for a different experience. Besides, I thought it would be interesting for the two first-time players to slug it out on the Eastern Front, so I took the US/UK. The Germans drove on and took Stalingrad on the first turn, but had trouble expanding their conquests beyond that point; they were never able to drive much further south to Baku, nor where they able to push any further east into Guryev. The Germans also had some success near Leningrad, filtering some Finns into a weakly defended Onega swamps and then further south into Ladoga Swamps (this we later realized was illegal – you need to clear Leningrad to release the Finns – but it’s interesting to consider the Germans transferring their worthless, cash-sucking Atlantic fleet into the Baltic to support a significant German presence in Finland to attempt something similar).
Meanwhile, all this activity in the East left little for the Med, so the Brits and Americans were able to drive on Tunisia with the main limitation being their movement allowance. As a result, I never built up the US/UK fleet which probably was a mistake – to launch a really big invasion, like in France, really requires 8 fleets just to launch, plus of course another few still in the Med to support operations there, and by the time you get there it’s too late. I do question, though, whether doing any serious fighting in Italy is a worthwhile proposition. You’ll need to attack Calabria to force the Italian surrender (which should be doable for the peninsula is too built up), but after that the terrain is incredibly daunting, and it seems like investing to try to pull off a late ’43 Overlord is much more worthwhile proposition. Once the Germans had SRd a number of units into northern Italy, I didn’t even try to push further.
Meanwhile in the East, the Germans were extended badly and Soviet counterattacks in Kursk and Kharkov managed to cut supply to the armies in Stalingrad, but supply was restored through the Crimea. By the end of the game, the Russians were in a good long-term position but had failed to evict the Germans from Stalingrad or Leningrad, both victory cities for this game. It was a tough battle in the East.
In the West, I had forced Italian morale collapse and surrender, and had bombed the heck out of Germany with over 30 bomb hits (this was probably overkill – bombers are expensive at $5 a pop – but it’s hard to say). So it all came out as a draw. I do like the ’42 scenario as a great learning scenario, because it’s got so much stuff in it – amphibious invasions, heavy-duty strategic warfare, massive combat in the East – but on some level it’s also a bit frustrating to have to cut it off at the end of ’43, while things are still developing.
We finished the game in about 6 hours, which was a little longer than I would have liked, but not too bad nonetheless for two new players learning the game – I do think the first game is kind of tough. For me, I struggled the first game, but after playing once and re-reading the rulebook immediately, I was quite comfortable for the second game. It would be nice to get this scenario down to 4 hours, but it does have the full campaigning seasons of two of the most fluid years of the war.
EE is definitely a very gripping, exciting game. One could argue that it’s basically just composed of various stuff from other games (not sure that’s accurate, but you could certainly try), but to me it just feels right, like it’s perfectly balanced. Income is calculated so that money is always tight and you can never buy what you want. The density of spaces and units on the mapboard seems perfect. The Special Action chits seem to do a great job of both simulating events and giving you tough choices. The game probably has just a touch too much chrome, but overall the core game is extremely manageable. Where it scores over EastFront, I think, is just in being a dramatic game – most turns, major stuff happens, and by the time you’re done you’ve witnessed some serious sweep of events. This is refreshing, because a lot of wargames expect you to do a lot of work just to push your frontline forward a couple hexes (I will finger the Gamers here, especially stuff like TCS or CWB or RSS).
So anyway, Europe Engulfed still has me excited. Looking forward to another game.