The Allied push into France may be starting to slow. I tried to make the most of my early break-outs in Brittany, but now that the shock and awe has passed, the Nazis are beginning to re-trench behind rivers and in numbers that can’t quite so easily deal with. Odds in Fortress Europa heavily favor the defender, so once the Nazis are able to stack 3 deep in hexes behind a river, it usually takes all of your available air-power (better hope that the weather is nice) to displace them. This is especially a problem where adjacent zones of control will force you to attack multiple piles, splitting your attack power, at unfavorable odds. So, I’m surprised that my dad surrendered the Seine. Still, he’s managed to form an impressive line to slow me down, and, as he pointed out, there’s a lot of ground between Paris and the Rhine he has to work with.
While the Brits keep slowly pushing east across the north of France, the Americans have struck deep into the heartlands; my toughest armored units cut all the way south to the Mediterranean and are coming back up the Rhone/Saone valley. Hopefully, those guys will be able to disrupt the south flank of the German line. I’m probably going to just leave a token force behind to keep the Italians from going anywhere. There’s no point in wasting time on Genoa or Torino, since even though Innsbruck is on the map, you can’t cut through the combat results table* to get to it. It’s actually a pretty annoying design oversight, as it forces allied troops through funnels and renders nearly ¼ of the map useless. I’d much prefer to be able to modify my strategy and sneak some elite mountaineer units across the Alps. I guess I could send an HQ into that little nook and paradrop a couple divisions on the other side of Switzerland, but I don’t know if it would be worth it.
So far, I think the most obnoxious element of the game is the “Defender Retreat” result on the combat table. In theory, it is a preferable result (achieved by a better roll) than an Exchange (attacker and defender each lose one strength step, defender retreats) or Exchange 2 (attacker loses two strength steps, defender loses one and retreats), but in practice is the “Nazis get away free card”. Several times, I would have gladly knocked two infantry divisions down to half-strength to knock an SS Panzer division to half strength or to eliminate a fleeing Wehrmacht. Though the retreat forces the enemy to cede ground, it allows the Nazis to gradually retrench behind advantageous terrain. The worst thing that can happen is when your once-per-month carpet bombing mission (add +2 to attack roll on one attack at no better than 2-1 odds) yields a “Defender Retreat” result.
Honestly, though, most of the mechanical issues I have (such as ZOC extending across rivers, forcing ‘soak-off’** attack troops to retreat even when stacked with units who “win” their attack, or DR combat results having virtually no downside for the Nazis) are balancing elements to help the German player, who needs all the help he can get. Early game play is the most interesting, as the Allies have the most options as to where they can invade and what strategy they can pursue. Midgame ends up being kind of samey, since the Germans can really only pursue the one strategy of forming a line between Normandy/the Low Countries and Switzerland and the Allies don’t have the options to do anything but a frontal assault against said line. The strategy of trying to land paratroopers in Austria from northern Italy is akin to trying to glitch through a wall. But it’s interesting, so maybe I’ll mix things up and try it.
Overall, it’s a much quicker paced game than some of the others we’ve played recently, but I think I need to start writing my troop strengths down on scratch paper. I’ll be having to count upwards of 20 chits in a turn in 3-4 separate engagements to figure odds, and by the time I get around to resolving battles, I’ve forgotten the troop strengths and have to count them each again. I’m embarrassingly bad at head-math. Not that I don’t know the math, but while I’m trying to figure out odds in my head for one battle, I’m trying to remember how many guys I have in all of my other piles at the same time. A part of me almost wants to come up with little cover-counters so you don’t have to recount piles every time. Lord knows the biggest downside of these games is picking up the pieces every time to count and then accidentally bumping other piles and the next thing you know you have no idea where Army Group West was before you started knocking things over.
**If a stack is in two enemy stacks’ ZOC, at least one other unit must make a screening attack against one enemy stack to attack the other enemy stack.