Europe Engulfed: A play of 1942-45 scenario reveals a problem

I’ve played the 1942 scenario of Europe Engulfed quite a few times, and while I like it a lot for being an interesting situation, the end of the world syndrome in late ’43 always seemed a little unsatisfying. So we decided to start in 1942, but play through 1945 – or as long as time allowed, anyway.

I was the Soviets. The Germans made an attempt on Moscow, which ultimately failed, but didn’t result in catastrophe as attempting to take Stalingrad and Baku often does; so the Germans fell back, and the Soviets started building up their army.

I’ve been trying to determine if building the Elite units serves any purpose for the Soviets. For the Germans, elite units of both types make a lot of sense, mainly because they’re cheap to SR (a factor I had not previously weighted enough), but also because they are easy to counterattack and reinforce with. Post-1942, though, it’s not clear that either of these is much of a factor for the Soviets, and maybe they should simply go with mass. I actually built a Soviet Elite Tank unit just because I had never seen it done, but I’m not clear it’s a good idea.

In our game, the Germans actually held on for quite a while in Russia, as Matt never let his army get mauled, so I was hard pressed to create a real breakthrough as in previous games playing against more aggressive German players. In fact, by 1945, the Germans still had not been completely evicted from Russia. The bad news, from the German perspective, is that the money spent in Russia meant the Western Allies had an easier time of it in Italy, and when they finally invaded France in 1944, the western defense were very thin.

We had to call it in 45 due to time, and it was actually still a fairly close game, although I think the Allies were in pretty good shape with the situation in France.

So what was the problem, you ask?

While some of my friends have quite enjoyed Europe Engulfed, it hasn’t quite caught on around here to the point that I get to play as much as I’d like. Part of it is certainly the complexity, perceived and actual. While I don’t think of EE as being in the same high-complexity ballpark as many of GMT’s games, and while it’s a lot simpler than competing games like World in Flames or Advanced Third Reich, it’s still not a simple game – and I think the lack of decent player aids is a significant problem. Compared with the very nice aids in Barbarossa to Berlin, Europe Engulfed’s one-page reference sheet is almost worthless, being mostly consumed with the neutral power setup and a table for figuring out percentages for U-Boat losses. Given the non-trivial amount of fiddly complexity in EE, a decent reference sheet would, I think, make this game much more accessible.

I was trying to think of good games that have actually been killed by the lack of decent reference cards, and the only one I could come up with was Moments in History/Critical Hit’s Royal Tank Corps – although admittedly player aids were only a fraction of that otherwise decent game’s production problems. There are certainly plenty of good games that have been damaged by a lack of good aids, though, including Monty’s Gamble: Market-Garden, Battlelines, and even Storm over Arnhem. GMT has generally been quite good about this, but I think it’s certainly a significant omission here. For medium-complexity games like Grant Takes Command, OCS, Barbarossa: Army Group North, Kasserine, and Ukraine ’43, the good player aids make a big difference. It’s tough to keep all that stuff in your head, especially if you’re just trying to play and haven’t made a study of the game yet.

So I’ve added making up a decent one-page player aid for this game to my list of projects.

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