The inclusion of SoS and FWTBT maps to Second Front really changes the dynamics of the campaign. I look forward to the designers handling of trying to mesh the games in Grand Europa and trying to account for the neutrals and the Allied ability to invade at will anywhere. In this game, it put the Axis on the back foot once Spain became operational with insufficient troops available to cover Italy and maintain a viable Atlantic Wall while trying to prop up Franco’s tottering regime. In this game Madrid fell far to easily, due to a large amount of luck and to a sub-conscious desire of my opponent to destroy Nationalist Spain (he was Robert Jordan in a previous life and owns a video copy of Land and Freedom – needless to say he is always the Loyalists in FWTBT and never seems to win).
This opened up southern France and Germany faced a three front war in the west – way beyond the existing OoB resources to handle effectively.
The early destruction of Italy helped too – the slaughter in Sicily of the Italians and the seizure of Messina before the Germans were in position to retreat to the Toe accelerated a panic in my opponent who was forced to react more to my plans and upset his timetable for an easy withdrawal up the boot. The advance up the boot was quite speedy as many German units were diverted to the Pyrenees and gaps developed early in the line allowing the succesive lines set up to be outflanked.
The highlight for me was the race across Southern France by the British Army – aside from the hiccup with the Guards Corp it was sheer pleasure to reach the Rhine with minimal effective interference from the Germans.
The Battle for Germany was a hard slog – thankfully the US units were in the right position to fight for the Ruhr and Holland – I don’t think the Commonwealth forces have enough engineers and seige equipment to take this part of the map without extreme losses. The advance through Bavaria and Saxony towards Berlin by the British was very lucky – my opponent had his eyes on the developing US breakout from the Channel Beachhead and put insufficient units in the south until it was too late and the Rhine was crossed in force.
Things I would do differently in a similar game
Ignore Scandanavia – I should have invaded at the begining of Summer with more troops or ignored it completely. By the time the poor weather arrived I was too far from Oslo and hadn’t taken a big enough port to try and activate Swedish involvement. I think Norway is an all or nothing approach. The paratroopers should have been used to reinforce the British drive across southern Germany.
Use paratroopers in assisting the drive across Southern Germany (see above) – I might have lost a few, but it would have assisted in seizing some key terrain, especially the rough hexes leading into Czechoslovkia which meant I could have finished off the southern sector forces a lot earlier (Vienna etc) and shifted my focus onto Berlin.
Invaded at Normandy – the invasion site was chosen to avoid the Atlantic Wall but the lack of Bocage to defend the cardboard troops meant that when my opponent lashed out, it hurt. if anything I would invade at Normandy, and then, after a couple of turns, hit the beaches again around Bolougne-sur-Mer and probably trapped a lot more units.
My opponents biggest regrets
The failure to leave a garrison in Madrid, trusting in mountain terrain in Italy and the Alps to prevent a rapid Allied advance (not in this game – an EX is better than a DR), failing to provide a second line of units in Italy and behind Trento to prevent a rapid advance and (naturally) manning the Westwall earlier.
My opponents highlights:
The Battle of the Shetlands, the Battle off Barcelona (starting to see a trend here?), the near crushing of the beachhead at Boulogne sur Mer and his initial handling of the retreat up Italy up to the Arno (where after, in his words, it all turned to s**t) and, surprisingly, the last few turns of the game where he commanded his shrinking empire from his bunker and tried to hang on with a diminishing army and no replacements other than special RPs.
Victory Points: Without being too exact, the Allies had 98 VPs and the Germans around 74 (10 from failure to maintain the Spanish garrisons). 46 Allied VPs came from cities inside Greater Germany/Berlin hexes – so if I had sat outside the Westwall I would have lost most convincingly (mind you a bundle of German VPs came from the loss of the Canadian Armoured Corp at Kottbus that was still sitting in the dead pile so this logic might be challenged).
All up a very enjoyable, but mentally and physically sapping game. Total casualties: 3 bottles of scotch, 14 cubans (cigars, not people), 3 cartons of beers, one pack of cigarettes. Total time taken: around 35 hours spread over 10 days.