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Posted on Jan 28, 2008 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

West Front (2nd Edition) Game Review

By Brandon Neff

The movement phase is when the HQ’s help other units move up to three hexes, depending on their speed and the terrain of the hexes. Units not under the influence of an HQ may not move (again, the importance of an HQ cannot be underestimated). Following movement, the HQ may either mobilize itself and move 1-2 hexes and then deactivate or it can or remain active for combat purposes.

Combat may occur in some or all of the current battles and must occur in any new battles initiated by movement in the previous phase. The combat round consists of four steps: Airstrikes, Defensive Fire, Offensive Fire and HQ Deactivation. Airstrikes are resolved first, rolling one die for each Combat Value (determined by the HQ that ordered the strike). Hits are scored based upon the current firepower (varies as the war progresses) and results are immediately enforced upon the enemy units by rotating them counter-clockwise, thereby reducing their Combat Value. Following the airstrike is defensive and offensive fire in that order. Step losses from defensive fire are applied before the offense has a chance to inflict casualties to the enemy. Units are ranked with one of three firepowers (SF, DF and TF for single, double and triple firepower). A single die is rolled for each Combat Value of the unit and a unit ranked SF scores a hit on a 6, a DF scores on a 5 or 6 and so on. Losses are applied as mentioned above. When a unit is granted double defense (either via terrain or an attack by an unsupported unit), they take one step loss for every two hits scored. It should be noted that half-hits carry over during combat, both from airstrikes and defensive/offensive combat. Leftover half-hits are ignored once the combat round has ended. To end the combat round, HQ’s are deactivated. A deactivated HQ, either at the end of combat or at the end of the aforementioned command phase, has it’s Command Value reduced by one and it is placed in the upright position again.

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Blitz movement and combat now occurs for units under a Blitz HQ (an HQ that is committed to losing two Command Value points when it deactivates rather than the standard one point). A Blitz HQ functions like a regular HQ but are allowed to command a second movement and combat phase during the same player’s turn. After the first movement and combat phase, the Blitz HQ is reduced one point and during the Blitz Movement and Combat phase may command units within range to act again. At the end of this phase, the Blitz HQ is reduced by another Command Value point (for a total of two).

The Supply Phase involves checking the supply status of enemy units. A supplied unit is one that can trace a path to a friendly rail line or sea supply. A supply line can be no more than two hexes in length and cannot be traced through enemy-controlled hexes. Each unsupplied unit is immediately reduced by one step. You won’t check the status of your own units (your opponent will do that for you). Finally, the fortnight concludes with the Politics Phase. As the Allies advance through France, there is the possibility that the citizens will revolt against the Germans. A die is rolled and if it is less than the number of controlled hexes in France, a revolt occurs. The Allied player may place a new unit, the Maquis, in any French hex not in a German zone of control. There is a similar unit available in Yugoslavia (Tito). The other aspect of the Politics Phase involves surrender. Allied control of Italian ports may result in an Italian capitulation.

The subsequent fortnight is then played out following the same format as described above. At the end of that fortnight, a month has elapsed and the entire process begins anew. At the end of six months, the game ends based upon Victory Points. Victory Points are earned through production level, the Command Value of HQ’s in play, Allied beachheads and cleared ports. Points are subtracted for every eliminated HQ and combat unit as well as for declaring war on a neutral party (Spain and Portugal). The scenario handicap is then added or subtracted from the Allied total Victory Points. The Victory Point differential between the two players is used to determine the victory level, a result between a Draw up to a Decisive Victory.

Replay

The manual recommends that the new player begin with the first scenario, Operation Husky or the Invasion of Italy. The Axis must defend a vast coastline and the Allies must crack that defense. It is fairly easy to land the Allied troops, but the Axis will not give up ground without a fight. We opted for the Historical Deployment using the Order of Battle cards. The game was a back-and-forth affair once the Allies landed and the Allied Airstrikes proved devastating. In the end, the Axis just could not contend with the will of the invading force and the game ended as a Major Victory for the Allies.

We decided to switch sides and replay the same scenario, this time following a Semi-Historical Deployment (essentially the same as Historical but allowing for more leeway as far as initial troop placement). This time it was a rout. The Allies stormed the beaches, dismantled the Axis defenses and marched onwards towards Operation Avalanche (the next scenario). It was a Decisive Victory, aided in large part by poor placement by the Axis player and frequently unsupplied units which lead to unnecessary step-losses. Even in defeat, the Axis player enjoyed the experience.

Overall Impression

This is not a game for the faint of heart. Our first game lasted approximately 4 hours. We had to refer back to the rules several times during the game and in the beginning we felt that we just didn’t know what we doing. After three months had elapsed, we were much more comfortable with the sequence of play and what were should and shouldn’t be doing during the turn.

The novice player might be turned off by the thick rulebook and inherent complexity, but this game is certainly within their grasp. Experienced players will enjoy the fog of war created by the wooden blocks and the importance of Headquarters in the game. The game retails for $99.95 from Columbia Games and the price tag may keep away the merely curious. However, if you enjoy strategy, tactics and historical accuracy in a war game, it is money well spent.

It is worth mentioning that West Front and its companion games, East Front and Euro Front, can be combined to simulate the vast European theater of WWII, something that should appeal to fans of this era. [gallery:121]

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