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Posted on Sep 30, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Europe Aflame Interactive Combat Story: Episode I

By Brian King

Introduction to the Europe Aflame Interactive Combat Story

One of the most-asked questions in recent history has to be whether the Axis forces could have ever won the Second World War. Was all the destruction merely a great misjudgment of the chances Germany actually had, or was there a course of action that could have changed the outcome to favor that war’s great loser? This question has no definitive answer, which is why so many books, articles, games, and discussions continue seeking it to this day.

Now, we continue that tradition by taking a new look at this old question and see if we can come up with fresh answers. We are going to do this by actively participating in a recreation of World War II in Europe using a game as our foundation, and reader-submitted survey data to guide the German and Allied war machines through the course of this 6-year campaign. Given the benefits of hindsight, can you steer the Axis towards victory over the USA, Great Britain, the USSR, and all of Europe? You will become part of the German high command, giving orders on where, when and how to conquer Europe. You can also help the Allied Supreme Commander make decisions to help counter the Axis conquests… You can participate on one side, or you can give suggestions to both!


This serial story will be a combination of hard history, alternate history, wargaming, role playing, public discourse, and good old fashioned friendly rivalry. The combination will yield what should be a dynamic story starting at the Polish border in 1939 and ending sometime in the future either at a fiery bunker in Berlin, or with a German victory parade in London or Moscow! Remember this is just a GAME, and attempts to make no political claims, endorsements, other statements about the conduct of the war by either side.

The People Behind the Curtain

This story is going to be written by myself and several other gentlemen, and is called the “Europe Aflame Interactive Combat Story” (EA-ICS). You will meet these people over the course of the “war.” Each side will have several commanders; one who actually plays the game, and the others who will be the writers. From the outset, they will be soliciting YOUR opinion on various options they should take. For the Axis it might be a question on whether to go all out for Moscow in 1941 or instead go all out for the Caucasus region from the start. For the allies, you might be asked whether to send extra troops to France in preparation for obvious German aggression, or keep them at home to defend against Sealion (Invasion of Great Britain). Each story segment in the series will end with a major poll or survey, which will guide your command staff until the next chapter comes out.

The game we are using is The Operational Art of War, which is well tested and well suited to this exercise. In that game, we will be playing a scenario called “Europe Aflame” which was created by Mark Stevens and Ulver Neilsen (based on a previous scenario by Trey Marshall). Europe Aflame covers the war in Europe from Norway to North Africa and Spain to the Urals. It also has portions of the map devoted to Italian East Africa and South Africa as well. It will cover all the major theatres of this conflict.

Europe Aflame map.

You won’t need to know the rules of The Operational Art of War (which are lengthy), and in fact you won’t need to own this game or have any wargaming experience at all. The only weapons you need for this conflict are a love of history and a willingness to share your voice by voting to guide your commanders. You will control the strategic goals of each side, and your commanders will worry about the tactical movement, fighting, and supply of your armies.

How It All Works

Behind the scenes, this is a fairly complex endeavor. Yet, it should all come together fairly seamlessly in the story. At least, that is our hope!

Episode I (the one you are reading!) will contain this introduction to the story, a primer on the history leading up to the Second World War, and some initial decisions you will need to make before launching the Axis and Allies on their respective missions.

Episode II will witness the initial Blitzkriegs of the Germans and give the world a taste of what is to come. The Sitzkrieg will break the action in the Winter of 1939-40 as both sides begin planning in anticipation of big events of 1940. The Axis will be asked where to attack once the winter snows melt. The Allies will continue to plan defense, and maybe look to the forests of Finland for their own breathing room.

Episodes III-? have no set scripts or goals. They will all depend on how the story progresses, how well Germany does or doesn’t do, and how well the Allies can stall the Axis war machine before they eventually gain enough strength to take the fight back to German soil. The challenge for Germany and her friends is to end the war before the allies reach that point. Yet, as with any empire, finding the balance between fast expansion and smart expansion will be crucial. This is where your decisions become important! For now, that is all you need to know! Good luck.

And now we return to World War II to see how our own decisions affect this alternate history.

A Brief Summary of Events Leading Up To World War II

The story of the Second World War begins with the end of the First War. The Germans never really accepted the Treaty of Versailles and any German government who accepted the Treaty was pre-destined to fail in the long term. A small party denied the Treaty gained more and more power in the country, backed up by its paramilitary force the SA. That party’s leader was Adolph Hitler, and on the 30th of January 1933 – he was appointed as Chancellor of Germany. On the 2nd of August 1934, after the death of Hindenburg, Hitler gained full control of Germany and became the Fuhrer. The period of Nazism had started.

The military constraints of the Treaty had a positive effect on the German Heer (army). Only the best soldiers could remain in their positions, and (as the loser always looks for his mistakes while the winner sits in peace) they started to develop a new tactics and strategies based on new weapons to achive more efficiency with their limited resources. The Nazis in power brought more changes in the Heer. Nazism opened up the higher positions in the Army to the young, self-confident party members. Hitler, in an effort to strenghen his position in the party, killed his opponents (Night of the Long Knives, killing of the SA leaders, and party enemies). The SS (bodyguards of Hitler) replaced the SA in its position.

Recent data shows the population of Germany started to loose faith in Nazis from an economical point of view in 1935. So Hitler had to find something to keep up support. His winning strategy was a new powerful Germany, and thus he breached the Treaty of Versailles and began to build up the Wehrmacht. In 1935 Germany reoccupied the Rhineland which showed how powerless the ex-Entent countries had become. The new Army could try itself in the Spanish Civil War, and proved to those who looked how successful the new German tactics had become. Germany formed an alliance with Japan and Italy (the Axis) to continue to strengthen its position in the world. In the late 30’s Germany, with the compliance of British PM Chamberlain, gained more and more territory (Austria, Czechoslovakia). Germany was ready now to make one more claim against Poland…

Your Options for the Axis High Command

Germany has decided to pursue a course of action that is undoubtedly plunging Europe into conflict. First on her plate is the nation of Poland, and the plan is to invade under false pretenses, which may confuse or delay the entry of the allies. Few are fooled however, and as Poland is consumed, Germany looks ahead.

1.The Second to Fall? Poland crumbles before the German invasion force, with only the number of weeks before collapse being a variable. German war planners are looking ahead even now. These options await.

A. Norway and Denmark – An all out invasion of these Nordic countries can secure iron ore shipments from Sweden to help the war effort. This option also blocks the northern sea route to Russia.
B. Yugoslavia – This nation has been on the fence as to which side it should join, although securing the southern flank can only help the war effort, with further expeditions into Greece and the Middle East expected.
C. Low Countries – A risky strategy of invading the Netherlands and Belgium could expedite war with France, or it could provide a launch point for a 1940 invasion of the French homeland.
D. Head directly into France – A VERY risky alternative is to attack France in 1939. To knock her out before the Winter would be a major coup, but failure to knock her out immediately could extend the battle well into 1940.

2. Axis Offensive Strategies: How should the Axis conduct this war?

A. All out Blitzkrieg – This strategy proposes one swift strike at all who oppose us! Losses are not a concern. A pile up of enemies (including, significantly, the United States) is of no concern. The war must be won early or not at all.
B. Aggressive, but not suicidal – This strategy proposes a quick, but methodical destruction of nations who oppose us. Countries can be dealt with in succession, with a careful eye placed on the United States.
C. Intense, but controlled – This strategy proposes the eventual destruction of our enemies, but in a rather carefully choreographed fashion. Rather than strike out everywhere, we will only focus on those nations that we must destroy, while trying to maintain good relations with others (including the United States) for as long as possible.
D. The best offense is a great defense – Some of our planners maintain we would be wise to consider a long term defensive campaign, rather than throw caution to the wind. It is possible, with careful planning, the Axis can expand slowly as needed, but eventually reach a point at which stability on the continent is achieved. Some suggest this may help our mighty Axis survive past 1945.

3. Directional aspirations. Where do you propose to focus the initial efforts of the Axis?

A. East – The war will be won or lost in Russia. France remains a sideshow and the Mediterranean an afterthought. All efforts must be used to destroy Russia in the shortest time possible. We cannot lose if Russia falls!
B. West – The war will be won or lost based on how the United States and Great Britain are handled. If we can contain them, or better yet – remove England from the war altogether, Russia will be irrelevant. Control of the seas will largely isolate Russia and keep the other allies off the main continent. We can take apart Russia at our leisure. Spain may be a helpful ally in this strategy…
C. South – Initially, we must turn south to secure the wide open underbelly of Europe. Securing the Middle East and North Africa opens options for subsequent expansion. This is the key to the war!
D. Balanced – A combination of the above options provide the key to success for the Axis powers. Our planners caution on spreading ourselves too thin by going in too many directions at once…

Vote for the Axis options for Episode I: Axis Poll

Discuss all your options with others in our forums (registration required for forum) – Axis Forums


Your Options for the Allied High Command

1. How should we conduct initial British deployment?

The deployment of the British can be the deciding factor in this conflict. Where should we send our British units to best counter the expansion of the Axis? We can empty the Home Islands in anticipation of an Axis attack elsewhere, but we potentially open ourselves to a direct assault on our island if we send too many troops elsewhere. Of course, keeping England as a fortress will do little to protect Norway or the Suez Canal. Sacrifices and gambles must be made.

Our options:

A) Homeland Defensive posture (i.e. all units will concentrate on defending the Isles.)
B) Draw up plans to reinforce France against the impending German invasion.
C) Draw up plans to reinforce Norway against the impending German invasion.
D) Draw up plans to reinforce Northern Africa.
E) Draw up plans to reinforce Norway & France depending on Axis operations.

2. Should the USSR invade the Baltic states?

No. Invading these nations will probably upset the Americans, and perhaps delay their interest in helping the allied cause. After all, who is the aggressor here?

Yes. It will potentially give an expansionist Germany an easy path directly to Leningrad. These nations are too small and weak to protect themselves – and the Germans will surely take advantage of that. A pre-emptive invasion is necessary to protect them, as well as protect the Motherland!

3. Should the USSR invade Persia?

If yes, this will greatly extend the territorial boundaries of the Soviet southern flank. This could be an excellent safeguard against Axis designs on the Middle East. Surely the UK cannot guarantee they can stop the Axis should they choose to cross the Middle East.

If no, we risk letting the Axis walk right up to our doorstep unopposed. However, it could preserve some forces that would be lost in the deserts of Persia – and could harbor some good will from the UK/Americans by not crushing another neutral territory.

4. Winter War – Invasion of Finland

We have a draft of plans for the invasion of the USSR’s northern neighbor. STAVKA (Soviet High Command) has also sent over some pros and cons of this endeavor. STAVKA is confident this will be a short, easy campaign…


Negative Effects:
This will undboubtedly upset the Americans who are closely watching events unfold in Europe. Any hostile acts of this nature could delay the entrance of the U.S. into the war. Also, given the nature of the terrain and the constricted avenues of advance for the Soviets, this is liable to be a very bloody little war for the Soviets.

Positive Effects:
Destroying Finland will provide an important shield against northern Axis aggression, should war come to the Rodina. Win or lose, fighting in Finland will give our troops some much needed experience. These lessons could help us should the Fascists choose to invade…

Our options;

A) Don’t conduct the Winter War for the time being.
B) Overwhelming invasion with the intent to conquer.
C) Moderate invasion with the intent to conquer.
D) Moderate invasion with the intent to reclaim some border territory.
E) Light invasion with the intent to reclaim some border territory.

Vote for the Allied options for Episode I: Allied Poll

Discuss all your options with others in our forums (registration required for forum) – Allied Forum


Make Your Decisions!

Please consider the alternatives above, vote in the polls, and then proceed to our forums to discuss the choices. Remember, these votes tell the commanders of each side which course their nations should pursue. As the votes begin to add up, and the decisions are finalized, the game will continue along that path. Since no one knows the exact outcome of any decision, don’t be surprised if the unexpected happens along the way. This game, like history, is complex in it’s unfolding…and in fact, we are counting on this “fog of war” to make this recreation as uncertain as the real thing.

We hope you enjoy this story, and will participate and return for future episodes.

The Europe Aflame ICS Team

Have a comment, question, suggestion, complaint, or just want to help write the next chapter? Visit our forums to discuss!

Continue the story with Episode II.