1 game (16 hours) Central Power win.
Fatal Alliances is a WW1 module for World in Flames, you will need that to play it and you will have to read the review of WIF in issue 2 to make much sense of this lot. FA has a higher heft per penny factor than Planes in Flames, for less cash FA (must think of a better acronym) has 600 counters 2 1/4 maps, rules and charts compared to the 600 counters and thin rules of P in F. FATA (thats better) is not made by ADG but by the Canadian Wargames Journal people, even so graphically it holds its own. The counters are very similar to WIF, too similar, it is possible to use the new mix to beef up transports and infantry pools in WIF in exactly the way you are not allowed to. The maps have the same symbols as WIF but the greens and browns used are not of the same hue. 1 map is of northern Finland and Russia and is an addition for WIF, I will say no more about it except that it will probably never get used. The other map has to be trimmed from straight edges to hex outline and then lies over central Europe from London to Odessa, if you slam a sheet of perspex on top to keep it in place it does a fairly good job of redrawing the borders. The other changes that need making to the map are the adding and removing of certain resources on other parts of the map, I used DOD counters for this.
FATA is not a complete a game but does come annoyingly near, all that is needed to make up the game is the Europe map (available with FATA for an extra whack), the build spiral and charts thereon and the 5th edition counter information sheet. This sort of info could be gleamed from looking at someone else's copy of WIF but could have been put in FATA at little extra cost and the lot released as a stand alone game. FATA rules and charts are all that are needed for play, they can be read and used without ever having seen the WIF rules, although they are a little sketchy in places, they assume the gamer to be familiar with WIF.
Play is simpler than WIF because there will be no naval air action (no units) and very little naval surface combat, the Central Powers are so outclassed they may not want to come out to play. Some new rules and counters are provided for WW1, notably artillery and observers. Artillery shells cost 1/2 BP each and the guns can shell into an adjacent hex as part of a combat. Artillery is rated from 0 to 3, usually 1, if equal to or less than the rating is rolled, the defending stack is flipped. Guns keep firing until they run out of ammo or accomplish the flip, 1 is removed from the die roll for every 2, or part of, observers in the hex. Observers can be intercepted on the way to a mission and can be escorted, leading to a major cause of air combat. You cannot use bombers to flip stacks in FATA so artillery is the only way to get that +1 in combat. Note that this is all part of combat and the attack will go ahead even if the artillery does no good, you cannot shell the enemy to pin him (until he reorganises) but must attack.
Fighters begin with a 1 air to air rating, if they manage to destroy an enemy air plane they are replaced by a 2 and so on up to 4. Pilots did get better as the war went on but so did the planes, when the RFC shipped surplus planes off to Palestine the Turkish airforce ran rings around them. In FATA you cannot build better planes, they only go up by combat, the upgraded 1 is then available for rebuilding. This does not cut, at this scale the odd ace will not matter, given a few extra counters we could have 1915/6/7/8 quality airplanes so if you don't upgrade the airforce becomes worthless. Two new combat charts replace the WIF charts,infiltration is the best giving a good chance of gaining some ground (yielding massive advances of entire hexes) but the attackers must include 1 tank or Stoss unit. These cannot be built until 1917 and take 4 and 3 turns to build, they must also be the first units to be removed in adverse infiltration combat results. The Germans have 2 Stoss units, the British and French 2 tanks each, so there are never going to be many infiltration attacks.
Most combats will be battles of attrition, using the assault table, in all cases 3 infantry units may stack but only 2 may attack, giving an advantage to the defender if he has enough units to pack the front 3 deep (and he probably will with some to spare). 3:1 are the preferred odds to have a better chance of defender than attacker casualties (unless you roll a 1). Results are a loss and if lucky an S result, the defender can convert the 1st loss to a retreat of 1/2 a hex, an S forces a retreat of 1/2 a hex. There are (too few) 1/2 hex markers to show this situation, if lucky an attacker can force a stack back 1/2 a hex on 1 impulse, reorganise and force the stack out of the whole hex in his next impulse. If he does not the defender will eventually reorganise and may force a 1/2 hex loss on the original attacker, the marker is now removed and everyone is back where they began, minus a few units. The attacker never has the option to lose 1/2 a hex rather than lose a unit.
Games of WW1 face the problem that a good simulation of trench warfare is not going to be highly exciting, FATA is no exception it is also plagued by that old chestnut hindsight. Players know that trench combat uses a lot of troops and achieves little, a look at the assault CRT will dispel any doubts. The physical nature of this game also makes combats on the major fronts less than exciting. Counters are the same glossy things as in WIF but here they are stacked 3 high plus the odd artillery, tank, leader or marker for an average of 4. In the west, east, Italy and possibly the Balkans this lot will run from sea to sea. With 2 lines facing each other, usually 2 stacks will gang up on 1, it is a delicate game to extract these stacks to count them up without scattering units every which way. At one point, I found that the lines had gained 1 more row of stacks than hexes for both sides on the Russian front.
Only 1 scenario is included in the game, the whole war and it is suggested that the players bid for the Central Powers, whoever bids the longest number of turns for the Central Powers to survive gets to play that side. Spot the glitch, if you have never played the game before, how are you supposed to know what to bid? I played once with the Central Powers in play at the historical end date of Nov/Dec 1918. The Balkan front was wide open, so another turn should have seen the demise of Germany and Austria, I had surrounded the Bulgarians in Sofia and left them alone, Turkey had already surrendered.
Minor countries are taken out of the game by occupying all their cities, Bulgaria and Romania enter at their historical dates, other countries will fight against the invader. Generally if a minor country is not invaded it will not join either side, so if the Germans do not invade Belgium it will not join the Allies. Curiously Britain will join the Allies regardless of the status of Belgium on turn 2. The exceptions are Albania and northern Greece that both allow the Allies to pass through but do not join them. If the German moves into Greece after the Allies have landed there does he compel the Greeks to join the Allies? The rules are not much help here, Albania has no army so is less important, more relevant is Persia not mentioned in the rules at all. During the war Russia, Britain and Turkey all moved troops through parts of Persia, which was independent but the north and south parts were under Russian and British "influence". The whole situation is ignored by the rules but since a good 1/3rd of the country is on the map it is a tempting way for the allies to outflank the Turks in the east. I left the country neutral but if it is treated as open (historical case), the tiny Ottoman army and its 2 leaders are going to be even more stretched.
The only major countries that begin in play are Germany, Austria, Russia and France. The UK, Italy, Turkey and the USA are all neutral. They each have an entry number that decreases by 1 each turn, certain events, notably invading neutral minors may raise or lower that number but when it reaches 0, the country enters play at the beginning of the next impulse (not turn). The UK has a 1, so Belgium or no, will soon be in play, Turkey has 3 and Italy has a 5, all these are going to be in the game pretty soon. The USA starts at 22, 3 years 4 months from activation, if the German plays historically, sub warfare and invading Belgium will bring this forward, also after Sep/Oct 1917 there is a 50% chance of the USA advancing an extra turn each turn. If on the other hand the German is a good boy, doesn't build subs and doesn't invade any neutrals the USA is not likely to join the war until 1918. The USA has a production multiple of 0 while neutral so cannot start to build up an army until it is in the war. With only 1 year to go the USA will not have time to build transports (it starts with 1), so Allied transports must be diverted to get the troops to Europe. At 2 turns to build infantry, gearing from 0, plus 1 month to sail to France, the USA is going to be next to no use in this case.
If the game is won by knocking out major powers, major powers are knocked out by reducing their morale to 0. Morale is checked at the end of every 6 months and presumably at the end of the game or there would be little point in bidding totals other than 6 month ends. Each country receives a standard boost at the period end from 1 (Italy, Turkey) to 5 (Germany), except that Russia gains no morale from June 1917 on. -1 is lost for each home country city in enemy control, (-6 for the capital) and -1 for each 3 or part of 3 ground units destroyed during the period. There are other modifiers but you won't be using them much, notably strategic bombing (on a good die roll) and as a result of the Allied blockade of Germany. The Allies station every spare ship in the north sea and roll on a table at the end of every turn, Germany gains or loses a few morale and resources through this table, the allies need at least 76 surface naval factors squeeze Germany here. It pays to knock out the weakest members of the alliances first, not only reducing the number of enemies but causing a -6 to the morale of all the powers still on that side. Turkey starts at 6 and Italy at 9 but look how close Venice is to Austria, worth the effort to capture, the Turkish home cities are stuck in the middle of Turkey except Ezurum that is temptingly close to the Russian border. To reduce the morale strain on these 2 it is sensible to send in an expedition to bolster them, this allows another major power to die in defence of the country and saves the morale drop for lost units to the weaker members. Italy being rather thin, may end up with a front line full of Frenchmen with oodles of Italians clogging up the rear, send them to Albania out of the way. Turkey is too big to do this but certainly any threat in Palestine or Mesopotamia can be met by Germans while the Turks hold the Caucasus. If Turkey falls the Allies can move into the Balkans, if Italy and minor Serbia fall, the Central Powers can pile into Russia.
All tactics will be similar to those used historically, wasteful attacks in the west to pin the other sides' replacements while trying to knock out the other fronts. The Central Powers need to knock out Serbia and Russia, the Allies need a 2nd front in Turkey and or the Balkans. The only advice I can give is if you are going to do it, you must pile on. A stack in Russia, a couple in the Balkans and Palestine will just lead to similar sized German or Austrian stacks facing them, basically the same sort of situation as on the western front. To do any good on a new front, every spare unit will have to shipped out to top up losses and overpower the defenders.
As a game FATA is mobile for the first 6 months then things settle down until 1918, when if the Allies have any chance of winning, they should be beginning to break through. If the Central powers can keep their original borders in the west and Italy, control the Balkans and keep the Russians out of Prussia, they will win easily. Between 1915 and 1917 any permanent advance of more than 1/2 hex in Europe will deserve to get the church bells ringing. Note the cities in Germany and France that run along the border, all worth holding to control morale levels. These deserve fighting over but odds will be 2:1 at best, needing a 6 or 7 to guarantee a 1/2 hex advance. Even after the whole hex has been cleared, the advancing unit will find itself assaulted by the enemy that is now on 3 sides. Only if the next hex along the line can be quickly taken is there any hope of holding onto any gain. 3 years of this sort of fighting is not a lot of fun.
The 2 sides blast away at low odds to wear down reserves and in the slight hope of gaining a hex. It does not pay to ignore the west and send all the boys to Turkey or Russia, if the west is weak and the line broken far more home cities will be lost than in any other part of the map. There are 3 French and 3 German cities within 2 hexes of the 1914 border. What this game needs is some sort of warp to rush through 1915, 1916 and 1917 and then play 1918 as normal. A variation of attrition combat (Third Reich) might cope with the western and Russian fronts plus any others that had settled down during play. This would leave the only WIF impulse type play occurring when a new area is exploited or when a front is close to collapse (average unit density below 2 in clear terrain). Of course we don't get this and have to slog through the slow years to get to the breakthroughs.
The generals at the time searched for a short solution and so did I, sending British troops to Russia, Albania and Palestine. There may or may not be a short cut to grinding the Central Powers down but over 3 game years of low odds attacks and small gains does not add up to a fun game. I would have called the thing off in 1916 but for a warped desire to find out who would finally win. It is certainly very hard to tell until near the end, Russia will almost certainly hold out until its morale bonus is withdrawn in June 1917. Part of the fun of WIF is the ability to break through in land and sea, then make sweeping advances (or not) with the multiple impulse system. Here an advance of 3 hexes in a turn is sweeping, infantry only have 2mp's so even advances to the front are pretty slow and you won't exploit far before the gap is sealed.
FATA is a fair simulation of static warfare which is why it is so damn dull to play most of the time. Some of the Miranda approach would be useful here, what if trench warfare didn't work, random events fluctuating morale and so on. We all know too much in this game, a country will not suddenly collapse, the morale level can be seen and steps taken to shore it up or get out fast. We may even know that the defence was favoured at this time and that the Schlieffen plan had little chance of success but the generals at the time either did not know or did not bother to find out. The result is that the gamer will probably not even try several tactics that he can see from the CRT and rules to be doomed to failure (the not another battle of Ypres approach). We know that Zepplins will appear in 1916, bombers in 1917 and so on, if the 2 sides had an R&D budget that gave a % chance of this stuff turning up at any time there be less certainty, ? values for new unit types would really put the spanner in the works.