The majority of historical wargames go to great lengths to avoid being categorized as “alternate history.” A major exception seems to be more than a few titles by designer Ty Bomba which revolve around a horrible alternate past where Nazi German and Imperial Japan win the Second World War. The title game in this series is the 1989 title Tomorrow the World published by 3W. Tomorrow the World, with its global scale, led to two other titles including Mississippi Banzai and Black Gold (Texas Tea) both from XTR in 1990. The latest issue of Paper Wars magazine, Issue No. 101, features the newest of Mr. Bomba’s alternate history games in this series, Case Geld: The Axis Invasion of North America, 1945-46.
To me, Bomba’s Tomorrow the World and wargames in that “setting” are yet another “bad guys win WW2” story in the vein of Phillip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle (1962) or Len Deighton’s SS-GB (1978) or Robert Harris’ Fatherland (1992). The difference is whereas books are passive—the reader will expereince the story through characters—a wargame demands the player actively participate in the story by making decisions. This ‘active participation” means the players must take on the role of an evil belligerent, in this case either Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany. This approach makes some people uncomfortable. Although Ty Bomba never acknowledges this condition in any the Designer’s Notes for Case Geld, the clever use of a unique player arrangement may help players get past mental reservations they may have against playing “the bad guys” in the game.
Here is how Compass Games describes Case Geld on their website:
This two-player (solitaire adaptable) alternative history mini-monster has two mapsheets and one counter-sheet to cover the bicoastal invasion of North America by the Japanese and Germans (who have already conquered the rest of the world) at the army/corps level and 50 miles per hex. Command is split-sided. The player running the defense of the US west coast against the Japanese invasion there is also running the German east coast invasion, and the player running the US east coast defense against the German invasion there is also running the Japanese west coast invasion. Victory is possible by each of those four commands. Low-intermediate complexity.Webpage Description
Take note; Case Geld is quite literally an East/West Front game with the Germans invading the U.S. East Coast and the Japanese invading the West Coast. As you discover when reading the rules, the “dividing line” in the American Midwest (actually a north-south line centered on Tulsa) splits the continent as well as the defending and invading commanders.
Components…Two Games in One?
Case Geld is very much a magazine wargame. To play you get a 16-page rule book, 288 counters, and two 22″x34″ maps. The rule book is full color with several colorful examples of play and the rules are written in standard SPI case notation. The counters are nicely die cut; in fact, they are almost too nicely die cut as they literally fall apart in shipping or handling.
As already mentioned, Case Geld comes with two 22″x34″ maps. The “East Map” is landscape style and covers all of the lower 48 states. The “West Map” is oriented portrait style and covers the U.S. west theater but extends northward to cover the lower part of British Columbia in Canada as well as provides space for game tables and tracks. When laid out together the maps have significant overlap and end up L-shaped taking up more like 40″wide and 36″ tall. As I often use a 3’x5′ gaming table this resulted in some overhang. Not unplayable, but a bit annoying.
Case Geld is a very different two-player game. That is because each player plays both a U.S. defender and an invader. The U.S. East Coast commander is ALSO the Japanese invader while the U.S. West Coast defender is also the German invader. This creates a very interesting atmosphere during gameplay where each player is simultaneously fighting against and cooperating with the other player.
The rules of Case Geld actually lay out four different commanders; U.S. East, U.S. West, German, and Japan. While the U.S. players have a common Strategic Phase, the plain reality is that this game is seemingly optimized for four (4) players, not two. Why designer Ty Bomba or publisher Compass Games don’t mention this astounds me. Given the “low-intermediate complexity” of Case Geld would this not make an excellent group wargame?
Maybe, just maybe Compass Games and Ty Bomba don’t mention the multi-player option in Case Geld because they think only a few people will play an alternate history wargame where the Nazi’s and Imperial Japanese start as victorious. I understand how some wargamers could be uncomfortable playing such a game. If you are such a player I ask you to consider if the different two-player, attacker/invader commander approach is enough to get you interested.
Unusual Magazine Game
At the end of the day, Case Geld is simultaneously what one would expect in a magazine wargame and a bit different. From a component and rules complexity perspective Case Geld is a very standard magazine wargame (albeit with a slightly oversized map when fully laid out). The two-player/four-commander/attacker-defender roles assignment of players is very different. That different approach, where a wargame can be played solo, two-player, or even by three or four is probably worth studying to see if/how it can be applied to other games or lead to future designs.
Feature image by self