ON A RAINY DAY CLOSING OUT THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE YEAR, I decided to go old school (sorta) and play a more classic hex & counter wargame. Searching my shelves, I pulled down WW2 Deluxe: European Theater from Canvas Temple Publishing in 2018. The CTP motto is, “Old codgers trying to retire!” and their designs reflect a desire to satisfy “more senior” wargamers with larger counters with larger fonts. As CTP says themselves:
We at Canvas Temple have been at this a long time; designing and playing wargames. The youngest of us has been playing over 35 years. Like many old-school wargamers, our eyesight has declined, our fingers have become fumbly, and our time has become scarce.
So we decided to make the perfect wargame for us old timers. A grand strategic game that is big in scope (and in lettering!) that can be played in an evening. Utilizing 3/4″ counters, a full-sized map with giant hexes, and a tried and tested game system that approaches its subject with enough abstraction to keep the game tight, but just enough detail to do justice to history and create an array of complex decisions.
Another World War II
My World War II started off with a mostly historical situation in 1939. In WW2 Deluxe you can start some setup variations possible. In this game, the Axis started with the historical setup (Panzer Divisions at full strength) whereas the Allies were joined by a Republican Spain (can join the Allies starting in Winter 1940, automatically once the USSR joins the war; Portugal may also be Allied). The Fall 1939 turn (each turn is a season) saw the historical German conquest of Poland. Winter 1940 saw the Germans shift to the French frontier and the invasion started in Spring 1940. Maybe the Germans should have waited; although they blew thru the Ardennes and besieged Paris, the British were able to bring reinforcements to the continent. Summer 1940 saw Paris fall to the Germans only to be heroically retaken by a reduced 1st French Armor**. In the course of retaking Paris an entire German armor unit was destroyed and an infantry reduced. Of course, lots of RAF support also helped the French defenders as the Luftwaffe suffered terribly in air-to-air combat. Fall 1940 saw new German armor drive on Paris and retake the city, only to be ejected once again. Meanwhile, in the south of France, the Italians had joined the fight and took Toulon, robbing the French of one Production Point and thus making them dependent upon US Lend Lease aid if they want to rebuild lost armor or air units. A German offensive drive against Paris in Winter 1941 fell short and the Germans went over to the defensive in Spring and Summer 1941 as rumblings from the Eastern Front started to become alarming.
That really was the end of the war for Germany. As fast as the Germans tried to rebuild they had lost too much with the failed campaign against France. When the Soviet Union entered the war it was Operation Bagration – in 1942. With a toehold on the Continent (remember, both France and Spain were part of the Allies) the Americans didn’t need a Normandy invasion to get to the battle. Italy fell in 1943 and by the time Spring 1945 arrived it was an Allied Major Victory with a much reduced Germany remaining the sole Axis Major or Minor power still standing.
The Armored Action phase of a turn where Armor gets another movement and combat phase is very evocative of the era. The Blitzkrieg is real!
Aircraft are so powerful with a Strategic Warfare role and air combat for land and sea. The RAF dominated the French Campaign and the Luftwaffe was swept from the skies leading to Paris surviving and France not falling.
I underplayed my naval forces. The Battle of the Atlantic took place but the Germans had to focus on rebuilding lost ground forces to defend the Fatherland. The U-Boat campaign never really got going and the Germans never deployed enough submarines to seriously threaten either Lend Lease or the movement of US troops to Europe. The British controlled the Mediterranean and enjoyed strategic mobility against the soft underbelly of Europe.
WW2 Deluxe: European Theater is a fun afternoon’s diversion. With a relatively simple set of rules you can refight the European Theater in just a few hours. My game took about three hours although the first 75 minutes or so decided the war. In addition to the 1939 setup, there are six other scenarios that start at various points of the war. Fall Gelb and Weserubung (Spring 1940) is the historical invasion of France. Barbarossa and Battleaxe (Summer 1941) is the historical German invasion of the Soviet Union and the British defense of North Africa. Fall Blau and Torch (Summer 1942) looks at that pivotal period while Citadel and Avalanche (Summer 1943) starts with those two offensives. Overlord and Bagration (Summer 1944) is followed by Wacht Am Rhein (Winter 1945) for the final showdown. Any of those could be interesting and well worth another afternoon of play.
Kudos to John Compton of CTP for a very simple, yet highly enjoyable, old school wargame design. WW2 Deluxe: European Theater, though a newer title, is a perfect old school renaissance wargame and rightly deserves a place in both my game collection and on the gaming table.
** Looks like I misplayed this whole game! Rule 12.2 Vichy France and Free France states, “The instant the Axis captures Paris, France is conquered and Vichy France is created.” Oh well, my play was still enjoyable. I haven’t cleared it off the table yet so a reset and some evening play sessions seem called for now!