Europe at War (Xeno)

1 Playing; 4 hours + (German win)

I have been playing the ersatz version of this game as the plastic pieces happen to be identical to those from Xeno's World at War and the rules and map are available on the web. All that I do not have are the set ups for all the players and the production for the USA. I filled in the gaps from World at War that appears to have a similar currency base and World in Flames for the set up. The maps are on-line as gifs that have to be pasted together. There is some overlap and a tiny strip missing from the centre. I also feel that the obviously-scanned-in maps have shrunk a little from the original. Still considering the real game comes in a fancy red box and for around 40 pounds it is worth trying out 1st.

I will cut all the waffle and say that I was none too impressed. Europe at War suffers from a lack of purpose, as it is a little too heavy to get away with the broad historical view of Axis and Allies. In contrast World at War just succeeds and is in my opinion a worthwhile add-on to Axis and Allies. Europe at War shows up the production problems where a navy can be built up in a single turn and an increase in territory brings on some spectacular buying power. There are also the customary mistakes notably the abilities of some units to move and fight are not the same in the rules as on the game map summary.

The whole has a feeling of some good ideas that have not been followed through in testing. As such it is a good starting point for someone wanting to try yet another Axis and Allies variant. I may use the map for a World War I scenario, as this is a lot easier than drawing a new one. There is a brave attempt to simulate the convoy war with the British player having to keep transports in 3 convoy boxes that link to the Americas. Jerry can attack these and inflict losses on the British production points. If there are no transports in these boxes the points are lost without Jerry having to leave port. The problem lies with entering the boxes; if the rules are followed exactly some boxes cannot be entered because this requires more movement points than any ship will possess. Scrub that and assume that the 3 boxes are in-line; you go from a to b to c to America passing through the boxes at 1 movement point a box. This prevents a transport from going back and forth through the Atlantic in a single turn.

Interception by aircraft cuts down on the sinking of fleets by air power compared to Axis and Allies. Some ports such as the German Baltic port also offer protection to ships. Even so the speed at which ships can be built allows a German that is doing well to crank them out at an amazing rate and possibly force the British fleet out of home waters. There is a problem with fighters who intercept into adjacent areas. In battle fighters can fight other fighters or attack ground troops. Bombers cannot attack fighters but can be attacked although it is unclear how because they can only be assigned to attack the ground. Another mess to sort out. Some solution is to have all attacking bombers bomb and match all attacking fighters to defending planes 1:1. If there are remaining defending bombers they can bomb. Any surplus attacking fighters can bomb or gang up on the opposing fighters. If the defender has more fighters he can prevent the attacker bombing by pairing off against those bombers. At least this makes sense. Most areas have a single shot at all attacking aircraft at the beginning of the 1st combat round and a unit that is bombed gets to fire back at the opposing aircraft. This adds up to heavy aircraft losses compared to Axis and Allies. As a final fix any unit that fires in anti-aircraft does not fire in ground combat as well.

A couple of decent political rules restrict the entry of the USA and USSR into the war until set totals are rolled on a D8. The total accumulates from turn to turn and there is the odd bonus for aggressive acts by Jerry. This is a better system than that used in World at War with the bonus that both players while neutral get occasional free attempts for new technology. This encourages the active players to spend some money on technology development as well. Yet again there is a problem; can Germany attack the USSR before it enters the war? With low rolls this can be late in the game and see a strong USSR. Still without this Germany can roll through Poland and take out Moscow while he is in the neighbourhood. This was Stalin's problem and a big reason for the Pact of Steel. A good fix is to allow Jerry to declare war on Uncle Joe if he controls Paris.

Actual play of the game had few surprises. The War with Italy saw an advance into Egypt, a repulse and finally Italy knocked out via Sicily and Rome. Jerry had a slow time in France, as the conditions for Vichy are pretty strict but later tore through Russia and won. At sea the powerful German fleet kept pounding the British while very few Yanks got ashore in Europe. The German win was by holding key USSR areas on the East of the map and showed up a few quirks that may explain the appearance of the dreaded expansion Russia at War. The big production areas of Russia are towards the South and East, Jerry needs these to win and Uncle Joe keeps up production by holding on to them. So by holding a line from the East map edge to the Black Sea Russia can hold on. If the Western Allies can knock out Italy and move through France then Russia can push back if not its curtains for the Allies. The swing of fortune is plausible but we could do with some more Russia to fall back into; it's an awfully big place to dig in and hold a line all along. As in so many games Jerry does rather well from the territory that he takes over on the way to Moscow; possibly converting all that grain into ships. Kreig is the only game that really shows the inability of the Nazi war machine to use captured resources.

In all this game was not a lot of fun although I may use the map and some of the systems again. With We the People I was keen to try another turn or even another game to see what happens next. In Europe at War I didn't care and it took some effort to finish the game at all.