|Genre(s) Board wargame|
Skill(s) required Strategy
|Random chance Medium-low|
|Publisher(s) Simulations Publications|
War in Europe is a board wargame designed by Jim Dunnigan, and published by Simulations Publications (SPI) in 1976. It was an expansion of a previously published wargame, War in the East. In order to allow players to focus on the war in western Europe and North Africa, a "sub-game" was created known as War in the West. It was subsequently marketed separately from War in the East (which became known as War in the East, version 2). It was known as one of the premier games in the category called monster game, needing several square feet of room for the nine maps and days or months to play (the official estimated playing time was given as 180 hours).
Each game turn represents one week, with the game covering a period from 1939–45; units are based on Allied and German divisions and Soviets divisions and corps.
As is usual for such games, individual combats are determined by a die roll on a combat results table – of which this game contains four. The Germans begin by attacking on the table most favourable to the attacker, only to deteriorate slightly in quality during the war, whereas the Allies and Soviets begin on an unfavourable table and are deemed to improve in quality during the game. Units which take losses are flipped to their reverse side - "battlegroups" ("kampfgruppen" for the Germans) of nominal strength; several battlegroups may be combined to form a full-strength division.
The game system was based on SPI's old division-level World War II gaming system used in various games (such as their game on the battle of Kursk or "Destruction of Army Group Center", based on events of the summer of 1944) over the preceding five years or so. Much emphasis is placed on exploitation by armoured units, which, as usual, may move a second time after as well as before combat, and may conduct overruns – attacks in the course of movement – during either of their movement phases.
The Soviets may attempt to slow German tank advances by flipping their small infantry divisions to create static fortifications (which double the combat value of another unit in the hex) and by using antitank brigades (which halve the value of attacking German armour). Another factor slowing the German advance into the USSR is the different railway gauge, which means that railroad lines in the USSR take longer to convert to German control.
Air and Sea Warfare
Each player has air factors, which may be used either for "air superiority" (fighting the enemy air force), or to enhance the die roll for ground combat, to suppress ports or to interdict hexes, making them harder to move through; the numerically-superior air force, after winning the air superiority combat, may largely prevent the enemy from conducting the latter functions. Whereas the German Luftwaffe might have ten or twenty factors during the invasion of France in 1940, by 1944 the Western Allies alone might have approaching 100 air factors, enough to interdict almost every hex in France.
The Western Allies may also conduct a strategic bombing campaign, increasing in range and effectiveness as the war goes on, to bomb German industrial and resource centres (see below); the German player may attempt to fight this off with his own air factors and with flak units.
The game also includes very rudimentary rules for naval evacuations (evacuated units are flipped to battlegroups) and seaborne invasions. Western Allied naval forces are not shown in the game apart from the landing craft needed for invasions, and these need to be used before most of them are withdrawn for the Pacific Theatre in the latter part of 1944. The German player may also build submarine and surface naval factors.
The game places great emphasis on German and Soviet production; only German production is used in War in the West and only Soviet in War in the East (in each of these sub-games the German player must add or remove units to reflect historical transfers between the fronts). Once each month, the players spend production points to construct units, which are placed on giant production spiral displays to show how many months in the future they will become available – infantry units being available fairly quickly, with armour units taking longer, and air and naval units longer still.
German production points are generated from industrial and resource centres (provided the Western Allies have not bombed them), with resource centres in Romania and the USSR – representing oil and other raw materials – needing to be controlled for the German economy to operate at full effectiveness (Germany also has a limited capacity to "loot" production points from conquered countries). German production points are increased by a multiplier, which reflects the increased productivity of the German war economy as the war progresses.
The German player has a wide of choice of units to produce: infantry, garrison infantry (for fighting partisans), static infantry (for coastal defence), Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions (stronger SS versions of both of these becoming available later in the game), small Panzer brigades, paratroops and air transport points, flak, fortifications, supply depots, and railroad repair units. Replacement points may be produced to rebuild battlegroups into full-strength divisions at the front. The German player is limited to spending at most 30% of his production on naval units, although he may spend between 30% and 50% on the Luftwaffe.
Soviet production points are created from personnel and arms points; the latter are increasingly available as the war progresses, whereas personnel points, abundant in 1941, become scarcer and by 1944 are not available every turn, often forcing the Soviet player to cannibalise no-longer-needed infantry units for their personnel points (the arms points used to create them are lost). Soviet production is largely determined by the course of the war: the USSR needs to build infantry and antitank units first – although even in the desperate early turns the USSR is still required to build two new air factors each turn, so the Red Air Force will gradually increase in size – then switch to armoured corps and artillery units (which have offensive firepower of ten factors, equal to a German Panzer division) as the tide turns.
In the original version of the game, the Western Allies received only the historical reinforcements, which may be delayed or advanced somewhat depending on whether the German U-Boat campaign is more or less successful than in reality. Western Allied production was added in the 1999 reprint of the game.
War in the West includes a four-turn introductory scenario on Poland 1939, as well as scenarios for France 1940, North Africa 1942 (from Gazala to Tunis), Italy 1943, and France 1944. "War in the East" includes a scenario for each of the years 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1944. The complete "War in Europe" contains a single scenario for the fall of Germany, beginning in December 1944 with the Battle of the Bulge. The full game can be played by two or three players (the Soviets have separate victory conditions, based on control of territorial objectives, from the Western Allies), but is also playable solitaire.
For many World War II wargamers, this became the ultimate World War II wargame, even if it was not possible to complete all that many games. Nearly two decades later, Decision Games published a computer version by Greg Ploussios which recreated the game, which is still played by email between enthusiasts. The main limit to the computer game is that there is no computer opponent, so it must be played by two or more human players. Decision Games republished the monster in 1999, with additional optional rules (including Western Allied production) and counters (e.g. US Marines) and significantly upgraded map graphics. Decision Games is planning on again re-publishing this game, and stating they will add counters and new optional rules. A new computer game version of the War in Europe, redesigned to fit more advanced versions of Windows, appeared early in 2009.
An extension kit called the "First World War Module" was produced in the 1970s, containing rules and counters (mostly headquarter units with divisions being kept track of as abstract points), and instructions on how to amend the "War in Europe" maps (not included in the module) to simulate the First World War. Players are required to keep track of combat losses, which affect a country's morale and industrial ability, both of which will eventually, when a critical point is reached, reduce a nation's ability to withstand combat without retreating. This game has been out of print for many years and is now a rare collectors' item.