This weekend I put White Eagle Defiant: Poland 1939 (Hollandspiele, 2020) on the gaming table. As I wrote recently, White Eagle Defiant is the latest game from Ryan Heilman and Dave Shaw based on their previous Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019). Both are billed as ‘gateway wargames’ but don’t let that put you off; White Eagle Defiant, like Brave Little Belgium before it, is another quick-play, easy-to-learn wargame that delivers an always tense situation full of challenging decisions.
In my campaign, the Germans started out on the backfoot. Army Group North (AGN), rather aggressively, directly attacked several Polish Forts (Torun, Modlin, and Lomza). All three attacks failed with heavy losses. These three (foolish?) attacks gutted AGN and severely weakened it for the entire campaign. Meanwhile, Army Group South (AGS) faced difficult terrain and advanced slowly against Katowicz and Krakow.
The slow pace of the German advance meant that Victory Points were slow to accumulate. Turn 4 (Sep 11-16) was especially challenging because the four End Turn chits came out before either AGN or AGS activated. This forced two Blitzkrieg Breakdown rolls, both of which failed. In White Eagle Defiant if the Germans accumulate five (5) Blitzkrieg Breakdown it is an automatic defeat. In one turn they had moved 2/5 of the way to losing.
Turn 5 (Sep 17-20) is important because this is the first turn the Soviets can enter. Fortunately for the Poles, the Germans needed to have at least 6 VP to trigger Soviet Entry and they only had 5 VP at the start of the turn – no Soviet entry. The situation did not get any better for the Germans the next turn where they still had only 5 VP holding off the Red Horde for another few days (the Soviets did not enter until Turn 7 (Sep 25-28)).
The next major Victory Check is on Turn 8 (Sep 29-Oct 2). If the Germans have at least 9 VP they win an Automatic Victory. However, the Polish Central Army had held strong and the Germans had 8 VP going into the turn – no auto victory. On the next turn (Turn 9, Oct 3-6) if the Germans have 9+ VP the game ends in a draw. Instead of game end, the Poles actually Liberated several cities the Germans left open as they tried to mass forces for a push against Warszawa.
Turn 10 (Oct 7-10) was the last chance for the Germans. Going into the turn with 6 VP, they needed at least 9 VP to achieve a Draw. The Polish assumed risk as they occupied three cities with single units.
The first battle was at Krakow where the Polish Prusy Cavalry fought two reduced 14th Infantry. The subsequent Polish defeat was very bittersweet as the Prusy Cavalry had ranged as far north as Danzig (which it Liberated for a while) and then back south. If there was a heroic Polish unit the Prusy Cavalry was the one.
The Poles were also defeated at Poznan. This brought the German VP total to 8 – one point away from a Draw.
This meant the final battle was at Lodz. Here, the Polish Narew Infantry of the North Army had moved south to bolster the defenses. Unfortunately, they were facing two full strength Panzer units, the 10th and 14th of AGS. Further, the Germans supported this attack with their Ju87 Stuka (+1 to one combat). In this alternate history, this battle would likely be the source of many Blitzkrieg myths. The Panzer units, each rolling 2d6, both rolled ‘boxcars’ which by the rules counts as four hits total – far more than the two hits needed to destroy the luckless Polish infantry unit.
The common myth of the German invasion of Poland in 1939 is that the campaign was a total walk-over for the Germans. Wargamers know this is not true. I previously played the chit-pull Poland Defiant: The German Invasion, 1939 (Revolution Games, 2019) and learned much about the campaign from that game. White Eagle Defiant delivers similar lessons. In this game, like history, the Poles are likely to lose, but they can make the Germans pay a stiff price for their victory.
Most importantly to gamers, White Eagle Defiant delivers a game that is easy to learn (12 page rule book), quick to play (even my extended game took less than 90 minutes) and is very challenging (Turns 6 and 7 were very good for the Poles, and it was very tight up to the final battle on the last turn). White Eagle Defiant will certainly find its way to the gaming table again!