The A World at War event ran for the entire week of the convention and saw 25 players refighting World War II in six games. Five games began with starting positions generated from Gathering Storm, the prequel European game that starts in 1935; one of those games also began with a position generated from Storm Over Asia, the Pacific prequel counterpart to Gathering Storm which is under development. One game was classic A World at War game.
Game 1: Jon Hogen and Vic Hogen (Axis) vs. Kevin Milne and Paul Milne (Allies)
Game 1 was a much-anticipated rematch between two of A World at War’s premier (and perennial) teams. This year the Hogen siblings, playing the Axis, triumphed over the father-son Milnes.
Naturally the Axis executed the “Los Angeles” or “Hogen” plan, starting with a Gathering Storm focus on German submarines and advanced subs for the Axis, and ASW and transports for the Allies. In Spring 1939 Germany declared war on the Allies, and Paris fell in Winter 1939. The early acquisition of the French ports, coupled with an immediate Axis air range research result, gave Germany’s sub campaign in the Atlantic a strong start and it never let up. Germany attacked Russia in Summer 1941, with a stalemate on the eastern front until the Western Allies invaded France in Spring 1944. The Allies progress was (too) slow, and Italy and Gibraltar were not retaken. The Atlantic sub campaign caused the Western Allies serious oil issues in Europe and in Southeast Asia. Germany survived until Spring 1946.
Japan attacked in Winter 1941, with a lackluster Pearl Harbor result. The Western Allies research an Air Nationality DRM increase, but Japan instead increased it air defense level three times. Japan captured Rabaul and the Solomons, but the Allies retained Port Moresby. Japan’s main focus was a risky assault on India, with successful attacks on Dacca (2:1) and Calcutta (1:1). This garnered an extra 6 VPs. Heavy Japanese fortifications in the central Pacific caused the Western Allies to move west against Borneo and the Philippines. The first Pacific naval battle occurred off Okinawa. Nuclear attacks on Canton, Kagoshima, and Osaka softened Japan up, but Japan also held out until Spring 1946, giving the Axis a convincing five-turn victory.
Game 2: Ken Cruz and Chris Goldfarb (Axis) vs. Elihu Feustal and Bill Moody (Allies)
The European Axis pursued what has become the standard “Los Angeles” plan, with Germany conquering Spain, capturing Gibraltar and pressing in the Middle East, leaving Russia alone. Unsurprisingly, the Western Allies suffered in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, but the party eventually ended and the hangover set in – the Allies won in European in Spring 1945 for a one-turn victory.
In the Pacific Japan adopted an anti-British strategy, to accommodate the European dynamics. Japan declared war on the Western Allies in Winter 1941, and extended its Pacific perimeter to include Guadalcanal, Port Moresby and the New Hebrides, while pushing into India. The Japanese stalled in Dacca when Russia began shifting large forces from Europe to Siberia. Both players sought naval battles, and the U.S. lost a total of 12 carriers, including one caught in Pearl Harbor, compared to only one Japanese carrier. This didn’t seem to impact the American ability to advance across the Pacific, which surprised both players. The Pacific theater ended in a draw (a Fall 1945 Japanese surrender), giving the Allies an overall one-turn victory.
Game 3: Greg Wilson and Jason Moore (Axis) vs. Randy Scheers and Eric Thobaben (Allies)
In this Gathering Storm-A World at War game, the Axis pursued a Mediterranean strategy in Europe while Japan built a larger navy and challenged the Americans to fight them in the south Pacific. The Gathering Storm game ended in Spring 1939, one turn early, with an unprepared Germany fighting an uphill battle to start the war. Through good play, the Axis were able to establish a more stable position after defeating Poland, then France, and then the British in the Middle East. By the time the Americans entered the war in Europe in Fall 1941, the Middle East had fallen; Gibraltar was under siege by Axis land-based air; and the threat of a Russian attack on Germany was the only real threat facing the Axis.
Russia attacked Germany in Spring 1942, but made little progress throughout the year. The Western Allies were able to invade France in Spring 1943, and by Winter 1943 northwestern France had been liberated and Russia had begun to swing through Rumania and stretch the German front. In 1944, the Allies pushed into western Germany and northern Italy while Russia advanced through Warsaw in the north and Yugoslavia in the south. Even so, Germany survived into 1945 and its position was strong enough for a Summer 1945 draw – but an Allied atomic attack on Berlin (just) forced a German surrender, resulting in a one-turn Allied victory in Europe.
In the Pacific, Japan’s Summer 1941 attack fizzled at Pearl Harbor, but netted Japan a solid defensive perimeter. A Japanese invasion of Cairns, in northeastern Australia, prevented Allied supply to Port Moresby at the start of war, which eventually resulted in the Japanese capture of Port Moresby. The Americans were able to supply the Gilberts for several turns, and in Spring 1942 the Americans fortified and built a port in Beru, seriously threatening the Japanese perimeter. Through skilled Japanese play (and foresight), Japan countered by neutralizing the American land-based air and building a port of its own in the Gilberts, which solidified the Japanese position. Following a successful Japanese naval battle in Spring 1943, the Americans were forced to advance more cautiously through the Gilberts, Solomons, and the Bismarck Archipelago in 1943.
Come 1944, the Japanese cautiously withdrew units, thereby controlling their contraction back to the home islands. American landings in the West Carolines, Southeast Asia (including the China coast), and the Marianas appeared to give the U.S. an edge. A bloody naval battle at Okinawa bolstered Japanese resistance considerably in Spring 1945. Although the Western Allies had a very successful atomics program, they needed to use a second atomic bomb tactically to weaken the Japanese defenders at Okinawa prior to invasion. Even so, the Americans could not make gains in 1945 without also triggering higher Japanese resistance due to Allied combat losses. The players agreed that Japan could survive through Summer 1945, but past Fall 1945. The Pacific therefore ended in a draw, and overall the Allies eked out a one-turn victory.
Game 4: Ashley Johnson and Chris Collins (Axis) vs. Bruce Harper and Keven Leith (Allies)
This game was tense right from the start, as Gathering Storm ended in Fall 1938, with A World at War starting in Winter 1938. In some ways this was the most interesting part of the game. Germany conquered Poland in Spring 1939, and attacked France in Summer 1939. Germany made a number of risky 2:1 and 1:1 attacks in France, but rolled well and France fell in Fall 1939, which put Germany on track for a Summer 1940 attack on Russia.
The early attack on Russia was an essential part of the Axis strategy, as Russia would have been too strong to attack in Summer 1941. Conversely, Russia was almost too weak to defend in Summer 1940, because its mobilizations were late relative to a Summer 40 attack and Russia had to find an initial set up without one 3-5 armor unit and three 3-3 infantry units. This led to an intense Barbarossa campaign for both sides, with Russia managing to hang on. The Axis luck in combat continued relentlessly until Winter 1941, when a German 2:1 attack on Moscow failed, and the tide turned on the eastern front. Heavy fighting continued in 1942, but by 1943 the Germans were in full retreat.
The Allies suffered in the Atlantic as well, both because of successful German raiding and because the Axis drew their submarine codebreaking card for a record 11 turns in a row. American mobilizations were early due to the early start of the war, and while the U.S. entered the war at a “normal” time (Winter 1941), their force levels were noticeably higher. The Allies leveraged this by transferring the American marines to Europe and invading France in 1943, advancing in North Africa at the same time. At this point the collapse of the Reich was just a matter of time, but it almost always is. The Allies tried mightily to steal a two-turn victory with a complex Winter 1944 move that included a Russian exploitation all the way across Germany into northern Italy, but it was too much to ask and Germany surrendered in Spring 1945.
But this was only half the story. In the Pacific, Japan attacked the Western Allies in Winter 1941, with more or less normal results. Japan’s maximum expansion gave it nine resistance points for island groups, but Japan’s main success was invading Australia, which also gave it important resistance points.
The Allied strategy of giving priority to the defeat of the European Axis naturally benefitted Japan, slowing the American advance. Unfortunately the rate of play in Europe prevented the Pacific theater from being played out to the end, but a reasonable estimate was a two-turn Japanese victory, mainly due to the number of resistance points Japan had accumulated by the end of 1944 (29) and the anemic Western Allied atomic program, which fizzled in 1944. Overall the game ended in a narrow one-turn Axis victory.
Game 5: Jim Sparks, Bill Moodey (Axis) vs. John Loertscher, Jay Kiefer and Dave Hanson (Allies)
In this game both Gathering Storm and Storm Over Asia were played, giving the latter a good test. In the European pre-war game, the Axis had a big advantage, with the Reich absorbing Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Polish Corridor, and war breaking out over Western Allied support for the remainder of Poland in Summer 1939. German had maximum (18-step) research results in jets, advanced submarines, rockets and specialized units. The Pacific outcome was more balanced. Japan achieved 18-step research results in advanced submarines and economic preparation, and dominated Southeast Asia diplomatically, but China was big, losing only Northern China and Shanghai prior to war. China’s force pool included six army air factors (six more than in classic A World at War).
In the actual war, the combination of the strong Axis starting position and the inexperience of the European Allied players led to an Axis victory, with Spanish association after an Allied invasion of Portugal and the Mediterranean collapsing without Germany giving up on its Summer 1941 invasion of Russia. Large Axis encirclements in 1942 forced Russia to abandon the Caucasus, with the front stabilizing along the upper Volga in 1943. Both Russia and the Western Allies faced serious Allied oil shortages, and Germany survived until 1946.
In the Pacific, Japan’s strong diplomatic position in the Dutch East Indies and its economic preparation research result alleviated its oil problems, but rather than delaying war Japan attacked in Fall 1941, catching two aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor. Japan’s main attack was into an India weakened by Japan’s Storm Over Asia diplomacy. By 1942 Japan reached the western edge of the mapboard. India survived, at which point Japan invaded Australia, whose intended defenders had been diverted to India. The Japanese resistance points from India and Australia allowed Japan to survive into 1946, despite the continued strong Chinese position. Storm Over Asia passed the test, as the variations in the Pacific made for a very interesting game.
Game 6: Bill Humphries and Peter Lewis (Axis) vs. Mark Ruggiero, Jeff Mathis and Steve Rossi (Allies)
This was a classic A World at War game, starting in Fall 1939. The Axis followed a roughly historical strategy, but things turned out better for the Axis than they did for their historical counterparts.
France survived until Fall 1940, but this was more than offset by the success of the Axis campaign in the Atlantic, in part because of very effective raiding. Germany invaded Russia in Summer 1941 and achieved a fair degree of success, while in the Mediterranean the game followed an historical course, with Italy surrendering in Fall 1943. The Western Allies also got ashore in Brittany in 1943, but the weakened British economy and the strong German position in Russia allowed the Axis to fight hard in France and hold off the mainly American drive into Germany. When the game ended at the end of 1944, the western front ran roughly along the French border and Russia had yet to get into Poland or Rumania, so it was clear that Germany would survive well into 1945 and possibly 1946.
In the Pacific, Japan attacked the Western Allies in Winter 1941 and roughly normal results were achieved at Pearl Harbor. Japan’s priority was to invade India, which it was able to do after winning a 1.5:1 attack on Dacca. Japan then began to accumulate resistance points for the Indian objectives under its control, including Colombo.
Having secured India and strengthened its position in the central Pacific, Japan switched its attentions to China. The pivotal turn was Fall 1943, when an overly-ambitious attempt to invade the Marshall Islands led to an American disaster: Japanese lost one CVL sunk and one CVL damaged, while the U.S. lost four CVs two and two BB4s, with proportionate light ship and naval air losses. The U.S. never fully recovered from this setback. At the end of 1944, the Japanese oil reserve was still full and the Allies were not yet in a position to threaten Japan.
While the Western Allies might have retrieved the position somewhat with good atomic research rolls in 1945, the game was assessed as being an Axis one or two-turn victory in both theaters.