The A World at War event featured seven games recreating World War II. Two games began with a starting position generated by Gathering Storm, the prequel pre-war European game that starts in 1935. Two Gathering Storm games also began with Asian positions generated by Storm Over Asia, the Pacific prequel counterpart to Gathering Storm which is under development. Three games were classic A World at War games, including one where the Gathering Storm generated starting position was considered so favorable for the Allies that it was not playable in A World at War, a rare outcome.
Overall, the outcomes were balanced, with three Axis victories, three Allies victories, and one game intentionally unfinished, to continue at next year’s convention.
Game I, Gathering Storm - A World at War - The Axis tried a complicated and confusing, and perhaps confused, strategy aimed at crippling the British economy and the Western Allied transportation network. The strategy itself wasn’t necessarily flawed, but the Pacific portion of it, which involved a Summer of 1941 Japanese declaration of war on the Western Allies and an immediate invasion of India, was doomed to fail. Japan’s land strategy did not mesh with the European Axis naval strategy, especially since the European portion of the plan triggered faster American mobilizations and a Summer of 1941 American entry into the European war as well.
While Japan’s invasion of India failed badly, the European Axis had some success, conquering most of the Middle East, Spain and Gibraltar, and bombing Britain repeatedly. The Allies were not easily cowed, and the British bent but didn’t break. Russia, left to its own devices, entered the war in the Spring of 1943, and from then on the Axis were on the defensive on all fronts. The Axis economic and transport pressure had some effect, slowing the Western Allied advances in both Europe and the Pacific, and in the end the European Axis went under in Spring 1945 and Japan surrendered in Summer 1945, for a well-deserved Allied one-turn victory in both theaters.
Game II, Gathering Storm - A World at War - This game saw the Allied players pursuing a Gathering Storm strategy to strengthen France and win the Battle of the Atlantic quickly. France began A World at War with a fully extended Maginot line and four 4-5 armored units. The Axis pursued a middle of the road research policy in some respects, but planned to eventually produce four air transports and have four airborne units by 1942. The Axis achieved their historical conquests in Gathering Storm, the Rhineland, Ethiopia, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Albania, with war starting in the Fall of 1939 over Poland. However, the Nazi-Soviet Pact favored Russia, which elected to take all of Rumania, forgoing any interest in Finland.
The Axis found the going rough in France, taking significant casualties in the first two turns of attack to break through the Maginot line. The Axis then switched to an unconventional low-tension strategy by making no attempt to conquer France other than through attrition and avoiding any attacks on minor countries. Not surprisingly, this strategy failed. When Germany declared war on Spain in 1941, the Allies had the luxury of voluntarily surrendering France. The Axis conquered Spain and besieged Gibraltar, but Germany found it had to abandon the Battle of the Atlantic for two turns in order to use its submarines to augment its air units in cutting supply to Gibraltar. Gibraltar fell on a 2:1 attack but once Russia and the United States entered the war in 1942, the European Axis were doomed to an early defeat.
A British invasion of France in 1942 ended the German submarine campaign and the Axis had no chance of evicting them. Even so, it was the Russians who took both Berlin and Rome, ending the European portion of the war in the Summer of 1944.
Japan declared war on the Western Allies in the Spring of 1942, but with the war going badly for the European Axis, the Japanese had no chance. The early victory in Europe paved the way for a Russian build up in Siberia, to be followed by a decisive Russian declaration of war. This gave Japan the opportunity to go down in style by declaring war on Russia first, delaying the Russian advance by a turn or so. The Allies could hardly be denied in the Pacific, and by advancing in overwhelming strength the Americans were able to avoid casualties that would have increased the Japanese resistance level. The Japanese collapse in Manchuria and the dropping of one atomic bomb was enough to force a Japanese surrender in the Spring of 1945, for an overall Allied six-point victory
Game III, Gathering Storm - Storm Over Asia - A World at War -
Arguably the Gathering Storm portion of this game was the most important part. The Axis were in bad trouble early on, and Germany only managed to remilitarize the Rhineland in the Fall of 1938. The Allies failed to make the most of their advantage, however, and after a fairly unlikely series of positive support events in 1939, Germany was able to take Austria, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, and the Polish Corridor, with war breaking out with a German pre-emptive attack on the Western Allies in the Winter of 1939. Since a random event allowed early atomic research, both the Axis and Allies achieved ten steps of atomic research in Gathering Storm, which allowed the application of research modifiers to atomic general research in A World at War. The 1939 German surge in aggressions which the Allies mistakenly allowed was helped by their 18-step research results in jets, advanced submarines and rockets, which gave Germany prototypes of all three advanced weapons in 1942. For their part, the Allies had a maximum Maginot Line extension and a strong French defense. The outcome of the war therefore hinged on the race for the atomic bomb.
In the Pacific, Storm Over Asia yielded a position favorable to the Allies, with Japan taking only three of China’s key economic areas, a fortified Canton remained in Chinese hands. The Chinese and commonwealth force levels were also greater than those in classic A World at War.
Once the fighting started, the Axis were able to conquer France in the Fall of 1940 and Norway in the Spring of 1941. The German effort in the Atlantic was significantly assisted by two successful raids which sank a total of nine Western Allied transports. The Mediterranean was quiet and never figured prominently in the war.
While the race for the atomic bomb, which turned out to be completely one-sided, went on in the background, the eastern front took center stage. The situation there was unusual, as Poland, minus Danzig and the Polish corridor, was neutral and therefore a diplomatic target. The Allies failed to meet this difficult challenge, partly by not prioritizing Poland as a diplomatic target, but primarily by triggering a Russo-Polish border war over eastern Poland on the first turn of the game, the Spring of 1940. This meant that most of the Polish units Russia eliminated were rebuilt by the time Germany tried to activate Poland in the Winter of 1940, after France surrendered. Russia should have either waited until the Fall of 1940 to fight the border war or simply stayed out of Poland altogether. To compound this mistake, Russia started another border war with Finland in the Fall of 1940, having obtained Bessarabia peacefully in the Summer of 1940, and the Finns refused to lay down their arms.
The Germans launched their attack on Russia in the Summer of 1941, and the campaign followed a roughly historical course in 1941. A mild Russian winter allowed the Axis to take Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkov and complete their conquest of the Baltic States and Bessarabia in Winter 1941.
1942, however, was a different story. The Russian Summer of 1942 defense was fatally flawed, as it allowed the Germans to overrun a hex in the Russian front line, using the 5-6 armor unit Germany had produced in the Spring of 1942. The Germans were able to exploit off one of the Russian armor units backing up the line, and a massive German exploitation effectively ended the campaign in the east. The Germans took an undefended Stalingrad, isolated Rostov and got to within two hexes of Kuybyshev. A separate German attack in the north isolated Moscow and most of the Russian army. The destruction of the bulk of the Russian army led to a -5 Russian resistance level at the end of the Summer of 1942. This was the first test of the revised Russian surrender rules, which provide that Russia never stops fighting, but has its force pool reduced when its resistance level drops below zero. As a result, Russia’s force pool was reduced by 100 BRPs of units, about one-third of its total value, and Russia was never able to recover from this debacle. Ultimately, the Germans reached the Urals and captured some of the Russian ICs near the edge of the mapboard, as well as the entire Caucasus.
The rest of the fighting in Europe was anti-climactic. In the Summer of 1942, the Allies invaded Morocco, but the fighting there was desultory and never distracted the Germans from their successful conquest of Russia. The Allies conceded an Axis victory in Europe in the Spring of 1944, but both sides made their atomic research rolls for 1944, as this would determine the outcome of the race for the atomic bomb and therefore the fate of Japan. The Axis were already well ahead, with five atomic breakthroughs against only two for the Western Allies. The Allied failure in this area would have guaranteed an Axis victory regardless of the outcome in Russia, unless Russia had conquered Germany before the Germans got the atomic bomb. With Russia safely conquered, Germany was able to produce one atomic bomb in the Winter of 1944, seven more in 1945, and twelve more in 1946. This convinced the Allies to surrender.
In the Pacific, the Allies did much better, although in the end it didn’t matter. Japan’s maximum expansion was seven island groups. By the Spring of 1943, the Americans had recaptured Lae, the crucial port required for the American advance from the south.
The Summer of 1943 saw the Japanese capture of Singapore, its ability to resist a legacy of the Allied advantages from Storm Over Asia, while in the same turn the Americans invaded Ulithi. The American advance continued throughout 1943 and 1944, but Japan was able to hold on until the Winter of 1944, when the German victory in Europe would have triggered a favorable U.S. election result. In the end, the Axis as a whole won a maximum victory, as the German atomic victory forced the U.S. to sign a peace treaty with the Japanese as well.
Game IV - Gathering Storm - Storm Over Asia - A World at War - This game, which also involved both Gathering Storm and Storm Over Asia, ended in a convincing Allied victory. War broke out in Europe in the Winter of 1939 when the Allies supported Albania against Italy, leaving Germany neutral. Germany declared war on the Western Allies in the Spring of 1940, but suffered significant losses against what was this year’s standard French defense, an extended Maginot Line and four French armor units.
The position in Asia was more interesting. Japan made no progress at all in China in Storm Over Asia, which meant China was very strong, with a significantly greater infantry force pool and close to ten army air factors. Japan had the option, however, of taking the game into completely unknown territory by attacking a neutral Russia, which would have triggered a Russo-Japanese war in parallel with a European Axis-Western Allied war. Japan would likely never have fought the U.S. and Germany would likely never have fought Russia. Who can possibly say how this would have turned out?
Unfortunately, from the standpoint of Storm Over Asia game development, this didn’t happen, as Germany had its heart set on a standard attack on Russia. This was also unfortunate from the standpoint of the Axis, as they lost soundly in both theaters. The slow German start in France and the strong Chinese position were handicaps that were just too great to overcome.
The main lesson of this game appears to be that the development of the Pacific prequel game is going to make A World at War even more of a challenge and even more fun, as standard plans are found wanting and new strategies emerge.
Game V - A World at War As noted above, this game began as a Gathering Storm game but the players decided that the outcome was too pro-Allied to be worth playing, yet another French defense, so we were treated to an increasingly rare sight, a classic A World at War game played by four experienced players. They didn’t disappoint.
The game started quietly enough. After conquering Poland, Germany attacked in the west in the Spring of 1940, conquering France in the Summer of 1940 with a French surrender level of zero. The Axis player then revealed his secret weapon, an astounding ability to roll well for diplomacy. Considering the ham-handed German diplomacy in the actual war, the contrast was quite something. Yugoslavia associated with Germany in the Fall of 1940, and in the Winter of 1940 Vichy France also associated with Germany in response to British invasions of Algeria and Morocco in the previous turn. Perhaps out of curiosity, the Axis tried to capture Malta in the Winter of 1940 and failed. With the generals discredited, Germany then rolled for Spain in the Spring of 1941 and after yet another 6 roll, Spain also joined the Axis camp. This caught the Western Allies off guard, and the lone Free French 2-3 infantry unit in Gibraltar wasn’t enough to prevent the Axis capture of Gibraltar in the Summer of 1941. Meanwhile, the Axis military efforts continued to sputter, with Italy losing both its subs in the Spring of 1941 and eight Italian destroyers and two German 4-6 armor units in a failed sea transport to Tobruk in the Summer of 1941.
The Axis strategic decision to shift to a Mediterranean strategy in 1941, abandoning Barbarossa, can be more easily criticized in hindsight by someone who wasn’t involved in the game than by someone familiar with the details of the position. It’s really just one more example of the age old question, when something falls into your lap, in this case Vichy France and Spain, do you just take the gift as a bonus or try to fashion an entire plan around it? If any of us knew the answer to such a question, we probably wouldn’t still be playing A World at War. By the end of 1941. The Axis retook French North Africa and had crossed the Suez Canal, but the U.S. had also entered the war and the tide began to turn.
In the Pacific, Japan attacked in the Winter of 1941, eliminated four American battleships at Pearl Harbor and sank a fifth in port. Japan took all the usual conquests for its first turn. 1942 saw further Axis advances in the Middles East, but the front stabilized, as it did in the Pacific. In the Fall of 1942 Sweden allied with Germany, proving the Axis hadn’t lost its touch in that area, but otherwise the Germans had to shift to a defensive posture with a Russian declaration of war imminent. This duly occurred in the Fall of 1942 and Russia, with a combat training level of two, took Warsaw in an exploitation attack, aided by the crack Russian airborne unit. In the Pacific, Japan airdropped on Calcutta and took it at 1:1 odds, invaded Cairns and, in the Winter of 1942, took Port Moresby. This was the high water mark of Japan’s expansion.
In 1943, American forces recaptured the Middle East up to Port Said, leading the Axis to fortify Suez. An optimistic 1:1 attack failed in the Winter of 1943, but by the end of 1943 the Western Allies were in Lisbon and Lorient. In the meantime, the Russian steamroller continued to roll, and a German counterattack on Krakow at 1.5:1 failed. Japan also had problems, as its transports started to collapse. Most of 1944 had few surprises. Russia took Breslau in the Spring and headed towards Budapest in the Summer, while the Western Allies broke out in France. By the Fall of 1944 the Russians were a hex away from Berlin and Paris was isolated. In the Winter of 1944, the Allies came up with a complex, coordinated and, from afar, beautiful plan to knock Germany out of the war. The Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Cologne, while a joint British and American operation liberated both Paris and Brussels. The final blow was to be a 2:1 Russian attack on Berlin, which blew out with combat rolls of 1 and 1. As a result, Germany survived for another turn, and by transferring forces to northern Italy, managed to postpone the Allied conquest of Italy until the Fall of 1945, for a one turn Axis victory in Europe See below for a brief discussion of the rule change triggered by this tactic.
In the Pacific, the American advance continued and by the end of the year the Japanese fleet was largely destroyed and the Allies were poised to attack Japan’s inner defenses. Okinawa was invaded in the Summer of 1945, aided by a tactical nuclear attack, and a strategic atomic attack on Tokyo which ended the Pacific war in the Fall of 1945. The game therefore ended with a one turn victory in Europe for the Axis and a tie in the Pacific, for an overall one turn victory for the Axis. The game was very well-played and was close all the way. The Russian debacle in Berlin was the difference between victory and defeat for the Allies.
Game VI - A World at War - This game started with the conquest of Poland and a fairly normal buildup to the attack in the west in the Spring of 1940. Italy declared war on the Western Allies in the Winter of 1939. On the diplomacy front, Russia got an economic interest in Turkey. The winter war was fought for the Finnish borderlands with heavy losses to Russia. In 1940, the Low Countries and Norway fell and France surrendered in the Summer. If not for a misplaced 2-3 infantry unit, the French might have held out for another turn, as it was, the Germans had to pull off two 2:1 attacks to take Paris. The French surrender level was -2 and the Germans did not establish Vichy France. 1940 also saw a German parachute raid on London. They held it for one turn. Russia grabbed Bessarabia and the Germans got an economic interest in Yugoslavia and hex control in Spain. Spain never fully aligned with Germany because of Allied DP allocations and Axis diplomatic die rolls of 1 for Spain in all its subsequent diplomatic attempts. The Mediterranean front saw constant action over supply to Malta and an Italian advance into Egypt that was stopped at the Qattara Depression.
In the Summer of 1941, Germany invaded Russia with fairly standard results. The same can be said for 1942, while in 1943 the Western Allies begin to roll back the Axis, getting them out of Africa, gaining hex control of Turkey, invading Norway and invading France on a shoestring. The Western Allies abandoned their atomic program after a series of poor die rolls but this didn’t stop them from starting to bomb Germany. The Allied expeditionary force sent through Turkey began to advance in the Balkans, while the Allies landed in Italy and forced their surrender.
By 1944, the Russians continued to advance, while the Balkans were liberated by the Western Allies and France fell after a masterful defense. In 1945, the Western Allies crossed the Rhine and fire stormed Essen and Cologne, and it was clear Berlin would fall to the Russians in the Summer of 1945, for a tie in Europe. In the Pacific, though, the Japanese reward for teaching the Western Allied player the finer points of naval combat was a large scale victory, as the flag of the Rising Sun still flew over most of the Pacific when the game was called at the end of the Spring 1945 turn. A rematch is already planned for next year!
Game VII - A World at War - Something new was seen in this game. With their Japanese player unable to attend the convention this year, the three players calmly played only the first part of the war, then adjourned the game until next year. This let them play in other, non A World at War events, yes they exist, as well as following the action in the other six A World at War games. The write up of Game 7 will therefore have to wait until next year’s report.
Before the 2017 Convention, a few A World at War rules were changed after the 2016 convention. These included eliminating Russian surrender, significant penalties for Russian resistance going below zero, eliminating U.S. elections other than at the 1945 YSS, requiring mandatory losses on invasions requiring one-third which have to be from destroyers, similar mandatory losses against fortresses, and revamping the oil rules. Russian shock troops were limited to three per attack.
Changes to Gathering Storm included the introduction of an advanced research point for Russia and having rocket research for Russia help produce shock troops, as well as reducing the effects of some of the 18-step Gathering Storm research results.
After the 2017 Convention, a handful of rule issues emerged from the convention games. All five pre-convention Gathering Storm games saw a super France strategy, with the Allies prioritizing French Maginot Line and French armor research and mobilization. Some adjustments have been made to make this Allied approach less strong. It was also seen in several games that simultaneous civil wars favored the Allies, so the maximum increase in the European Aggression Index for civil wars is now capped at +1 and the Axis need only support one civil faction each turn. The maximum force pool change for Norway, and other minor countries with only 1-3 infantry units, is one fewer or additional unit, with a Gathering Storm trade pact being required. Some refinements were also made to the effects of Axis aggressions. In A World at War itself, the Italian resistance level is now a component of the German surrender level with Germany’s surrender ending the war in Europe. The effects of the Air Nationalist DRM on the size of air attacks have been mitigated and the oil rules polished further. It has always been a challenge to make oil as important as it was historically without adding unwanted bookkeeping to the game.