The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

By the roll of a dice

Strategy games usually focus on the front lines of a conflict, and gamers will have long discussion when the rollout of a new anti-tank gun happend and in what numbers, and if the upgrade of this or that unit is justified as per OB or should happen earlier – or not at all. Logistics, the art that does indeed decide wars, and  which usually takes up 90% of a commanders time, is usually abstracted, since until the advent of computer games the process of raising, training, equipping and organising forces was too tedious to be converted into a playable game.

Yet another aspect sometimes cripples consims: The hindsight that enables players to approach a situation with much more information than available to their historical counterparts. Hindsight defines a lot of the strategies employed in most Europa games, and only its most egregious problems can be corrected by artificially straightjacking the player into historical behaviour by victory point mechanisms or outright enforcement by rules (garrisons, no-retreat-rules, Plan XVII, etc).

Which brings us to the Asturian Gambit, a series of opening moves during the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in For Whom the Bell Tolls. In hindsight it was obvious that the balance of forces and the deep-set enmity between the two political movements precluded a quick end to the conflict that broke out in July 1936. Hindsight enables the nationalist player to play the long game and secure an andvantageous position from which to better prepare for a conflict that will span several years.  A reasonable, game-changing, and completely ahistorical strategy. Carlos Perez lays out the Asturian Gambit and its implications for you in the last article for now that Carlos gratiously allowed us to publish and which first went online at his website belliludi.com.

The Asturian Gambit of course runs contrary to all strategic assesments and convictions in the chaotic summer of 1936, where possession of Spains capital was seen as key to a quick and desicive victory by all parties. A possible fix would have to take the political value that Madrid held at the beginning of the war into account, forcing the nationalists to devote their assets to a serious attempt to take the capital as soon as possible for an extended amount of time. One possibility would be a rule prohibiting units of the Army of Africa to move north of hexrow 25xx as long as the weather is clear, and to require all units of the Army of Africa to attack in the direction of Madrid as long as they are in general supply. This could be com,bined with a modification surrender rule, requiring a roll for surrender for the side that just lost possession of Madrid, while giving them a strong modifyer in 1936 and a smaller one in 1937.

Together, these rules would reflect the prevalent belief that whoever held the capital would decide the conflict early on, and also simulate the political reality that any general on the nationalist side not pursuing a quick victory over the republic would have lost his position from where to make such strategic choices really fast. However, as with all rule modifications, these ideas would have to be playtested and evaluated before being made a recommended rules modification.

Seasons in the Sun

We continue our publications from the rich trove of articles kindly provided by Carlos Perez from belliludi.com.  An excellent overview on the state of Spains Army at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, we have Alberto Arzaneguis essay on The Spanish Army in 1936 in the department of Order of Battle research.

Additionally, a kind gamer provided us with an Index of Gary Stagliano’s newsletter Nuts & Bolts, which we’ve also published today. The individual game indices are also updated, so you have comprehensive reading lists to every game. Enjoy!

 

The long dark night

Happy season holidays, whatever you might celebrate, if you do! Posting here is kind of ironic, considering the message of love and all that. But I thought I’d drop some new reading material for the long winter days,  after the family chaos has subsided a bit and everyone finds some quiet time for themselves. So without further ado, more treasures for your gaming pleasure:

An Essay about the Soviet Armored Forces during the Second World War by Scott Boston Through The Furnace of War.

 

Pasaran?

The Spanish Civil War ended in the Summer of 1939 with the defeat of the Republic and the takeover of fascist dictator “Generalissimus” Franco. Mass executions and an exodus followed, as hundreds of thousands of republican, communist, anarchist or democratic Spanish tried to flee to neighbouring countries. Only months later the Second World War broke out, engulfing most of Europe. For many of the exiled this meant taking up arms against fascism again, and Spanish soldiers fought against Germany and her allies on all fronts of the war. For them, the end of the war ment more uncertainty, since returning home was not an option they had, Franco remaining as the last fascist dictator in Europe, having successfully and skillfully maintained neutrality throughout the war.

Adding to the articles provided by Carlos Pèrez, the following two essays capture the fate of Spanish soldiers on both fronts of the Second World War, more than repaying the assistance both factions had during the Civil War.

Spaniards in World War II Part 1: Fighting for the Third Reich

Spaniards in World War II Part 2: Fighting against the Third Reich

Addtionally, Carlos research resulted in an inofficial Grand Europa OB for the Spanish Axis contingent.

The Casino is Closed

It was a test, and as such, it showed that there is no interest currently in an forum on this website. Which makes sense, considering there is less activity on the Europa mailing list every year. So for now, The forums have been closed. Thank you to all who posted there! There are still comments possible on a lot of pages, and of course you can always mail me.

 

Spanish Bombs on the Costa Brava…

The second round of updates provided by Carlos Pérez is going online today: An essay on the history of the Spanish Air Force in World War Two, and the resulting suggestion for a Grand Europa OB for the Spanish Air Forces.

On a random side note, how do you call a linklist that exclusively links to online versions of books? Its a form we’ve used a lot on this website, and both “linklist” as well as “bibliograpy” seems insufficient. A linklist or bookmarks refers to websites, whereas a bibliography is a list of books. These lists are a mixture of the two, pointing the reader to digitalized verions of paper books available online. Confusing.

 

The terribly beauty of wargames

Carlos Pérez was one of the most active spanish Europa-players. His historical interest mainly lay with the Spanish Civil War, and at his website belliludi.com he assembled an impressive collection of essays on the history of the civil war, written by internationally renowned military historians such as Brian R. Sullivan and Klaus Maier, to name but two.

Since Carlos does not have the ressources to keep his website updated, he recently gave permission to the General Staff to reproduce some of the essays and articles here, an offer that we accept with deep gratitude. So in the following weeks we’ll add the Europa-related articles as well as selected essays to generalstab.org. Make sure to thank Carlos if you see him!

First to go online is an essay by Williamson Murray titled The Consequences of Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War.

Plus, for Friends of knowledgable Europa variants: An Alternative Rule for the surrender of Italy in Second Front by Rich Velay

From the Archives

Thanks to the kind help of Europa veteran Jim Broshot, I was able to add an article index for the original Europa Newsletter published by GDW in 1976-78 to the library. The references also have been added to the pages of DNO and Narvik, respectively. For you, that means another little glimpse at Europa history, for me, it means finally learning who exactly the first fifty buyers of Drang nach Osten really were.

Rounding up

While the generals talk I’ve slowly reached the limit of this years ideas and plans, and/or the limits of what I can post online without running afoul of copyright laws.

This is probably a good moment to repeat my mantra: This website lives by its contributors. If there is anything online you think violates any copyright laws, I would be very grateful if you let me know, and I will immediately remove the offending content. I do not make a single cent from this website, so I would very much like to avoid legal issues.

So, probably the last news for a bit untill the jubilee comes around (Generalstab turns 20 next year!):

  • Line of Communications pages online – Luiz Duartes fanzine, despite folding after only six issues for the want of submissions, was the indian summer of Europa and the best attempt of putting the game system on a footing without a publishing game company. Seems so long ago.
  • Two more links, one a more self-referencial (and incomplete) bibliography of publications by the Great General Staff (obviously none of them related to World War Two, but some still excellent sources, most of them available online), the second one to a similar, but way more sophisticated project collecting links to books available online about german and prussian history. And Prussian history comes with a lot of military history, so even though the books are german, even some of the map sections alone are worth a look.
  • Referencing the games is mostly done, means most games have a section listing all articles devoted to the game.

Be safe!

Another one bites the Dust

Some days ago, while expanding the “Europa Online” page, I noticed the “one Week Europa” crowd also joined the landowners: The website is offline, and as with most things Europa, I doubt they’ll be back any time soon. My updating frenzy of the last weeks is slowly coming to an end (not because of lack of ideas or material, though). For the future I might slowly broaden the outlook of this website to maybe include some successor projects to sad Europa, lest this website becomes a purely historical documentation about some dead game.  Then again, I might have trouble updating for some weeks anyway, so don’t expect too much. Latest so far:

  1. Individual pages for The Grenadier. I maybe will add a vidual index like the one for TEM at some point.
  2. Speaking of TEM: Finished the TEM visual index and added TOCs for every issue.
  3. Started adding a reference section to most games with a list of articles about or with scenarios for the respective game, compare the entries for “Fire in the East” for example. Still loads to do, as always.
  4. Eric Pierce sent a new version of his Updated OB for the Soviets in AWW, so I replaced the download and the page.

Still working on: Uploading and linking some custom game charts made by Ken Newall for his awesome FWtBT-report, and adding more turns to the ME/ER-report by Greg Bartels.

In Memoriam Milo Minderbinder

Here’s this weeks updates so far:

  • Added TEM index pages up to TEM #71 – getting ahead of my own schedule
  • Added pages for the Grenadier and ETO as well, with potentially creating individual pages for issues, similar to the TEM pages, if can research enough information
  • Added more postings (and pictures) to Gregory Bartels Wavell’s War AAR. Obviously a work in progress, just like the TEM-pages
  • Created an Europa Modules page to better distinguish between Europa games and Europa modules, added a page for ¡No Pasaran! to it.
  • Reworked the pages for Balkan Front and A Winter War to improve layout and readability, added some images here and there.
  • Reordered post and media category trees to support the website expansion
  • Added Downloads – PDFs for the four Orders of Battle we have, and some for the Great War Ground rules. More to come.

In former times that would be enough updates to last me a whole month or longer… But there are some things I just want to finish up.

 

A Spanish End

Ken Newall finally shared the last turns of his epic game report from his For Whom the Bell Tolls game. I can only again thank him for his efforts, the awesome writing and the permission to host this great report here. And Kudos for Ken to actually follow through to the very bitter (at least for the Loyalist side) end.

Also I noticed that I still hadn’t gotten round to fix Robert Williams TDDH-report which, even though its from 2000, still makes a fantastic read. And it makes me sad that Samurai Lightning will never see the light of day. So there it is now, re-upped, Links fixed and all the posts in working order again. There is still some cleanup to do from the great migration, but then there always is.

 

Scanning Europa, one chart at a time

A big thanks today goes to Stefan Farelly, who sent me scans of the War in the Desert Charts and Counters. Another gap filled on the way to a complete digital presence of Europa on the webs (minus the sensitive copyrighted parts, of course). Thank you, Stefan!

Also, I’ve progressed to No. 52 in the TEM index, and am done with uploading, renaming and tagging the images for Gregory Bartels newest game report – so I should be able to publish this in the next weeks. Aas far as I can tell now, after that there will be a break in available material, so do not expect too many updates ion the future.

 

Half a move

In preparation to upcoming additions I’ve started moving pages and posts around: Mainly the pages on TEM and all other publications related to Europa are moving into the new library section of the Academy, whereas the Arsenal will be for information on the game exclusively. This was more of an effort than I thought – while those nifty widget-based editors are great for editing, copying content is practically impossible, so I basically had to move and swap pages and then repair permalinks and navigation menues.  I also expect to severely loose some google rank because of moving content and other errors. However, screw google rank, its not like I will lose thousands of visitors a day – I dont have those. I am actually quite grateful the temptation to earn money with the site is never there, and so I will never start to think of articles in terms of SEO, maximizing reader engagement or chopping content into bits and pieces to create more page hits.

Anyway, expect some errors while browsing, and if you are missing information on how to play Europa on a Computer or where the ETO, LOC or TEMs are now, look in the library.

Oh, and I have two new link entries! And about 1000 (yes, you read that right!) pictures from a game report in my media library that need to be processed and published. But thats for another day.

Chatter in the Forest

Hi there,

while we are at the current speed of events, let me add another game report by Greg Bartels from 2013/14, an epic-length writeup of a short but eventful Campaign for Norway from Storm over Scandinavia. Gregs level of reporting is unparalelled in its detail, and while it might not be as entertaining as Robert William’s light descriptions, it is surly more enlightening if you want to learn the game in depth.

The Casino feels pretty sleepy these days, maybe since GR/D has absconded themselves from the Europa Group a second platform is not necessary anymore. If nothing happens in the casino, I will shut it down again in a couple of weeks.

Also, we’re now on twitter. Lets see how this works.

Welcome to the General Staff

On the following pages you'll find articles and material on conflict simulations, military history and the "Europa", "Great War" and "Glory" strategy game series of HMS/GRD.

For readers new to the topic of strategy games, we recommend a visit to grognard.com, the best starting point for these games on the web. Alternatively, get yourself familiar with terms and concepts of strategy games in our glossary. The article about strategy games is probably the best starting point.

The General Staff does not endorse any extremist political political positions and opposes the employment of military force as a means of politics.
If that sounds too much like a general disclaimer: We've had about fifteen different versions of an article loosely titled "Why its okay to play strategy games and still consider yourself a decent human being" online in the past twenty years. And you know what: Games are fun. We like games. Games make friendships, games teach you stuff. So save your outrage. Talk to us, not about us.

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