The Supreme Commander – Boardgame Review
The Supreme Commander: World War II in Europe, 1939 – 1945. Boardgame review. Game Designer: Danny D. Holte. Graphics: Rodger B. MacGowen and Charles Kibler. Published by GMT Games LLC. Price: $65.00.
Passed Inspection: Excellent quality game parts; high replay value.
Failed Basic: Highly complex rules; long playing time.
The Supreme Commander is a strategic- and operational-level wargame of the European Theater in World War Two for 2–5 players. The game strikes a nice balance between abstracting various factors, such as naval and air warfare, and resource management while detailing the land warfare elements. The game play is highly complex and the various rules very intricate.
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The game’s maps are printed on two large sheets of good, slick paper stock. Nicely, GMT has, for those players with limited playing space, included a second complete game map printed on the back of one of the large map sections. This allows the game to be played in about half the space of the full two-piece map. Around the edge of the large map are several useful tables and tracks, including Combat Results Table (CRT), Turn Phase and Turn Record tracks and so on. Two separate cards with all the required tables, tracks and charts are also included, along with a separate set of five chart cards—one for each player—that track technology level and MSP (Military Spending Points) production. Two 10-sided dice and some storage bags are also provided.
The playing pieces are well done, too. The various unit pieces and game markers are all clearly readable; bright, colorful and easily disguisable, one type from another. The ground combat units use standard NATO symbols and the combat strength and movement allowance numbers are large. The game’s scale is Corps, Army and Army Group, with the air and naval units being abstract. Each hex represents about 60 miles and each turn is about six weeks long.
The rulebook, 40 pages long, is well indexed and includes many examples of game play. That being said, the players must read the rules thoroughly and keep the rulebook handy for reference; they will be referring to it frequently during the game, even after playing a few times. However, it is the very complexity of the game play that feeds the replay value of The Supreme Commander. With all the multiple outcomes of the wide variety of events in the game, no two games could possible play the same.
The resourcing element of the game also adds to its replay value. The players may use their MSPs in any way they see fit: advancing technology, buying more units, conducting diplomacy and so on. This allows the players to vary their strategy with each game they play. It also frees them from the surly bonds of having to repeat history.
Sequence of Play:
1. The Strategic Phase is first and players act mutually in this phase.
- Military Spending Points (MSPs), the primary resource elements of the game, are collected and will later be used to purchase new units and conduct other actions.
- Strategic Naval Phase: Both sides roll for the initiative for this phase. Both players place their naval units, the player with initiative doing so last. Then they reveal them. Naval combat is performed. Surviving ships stay in the Naval Box. Then submarine combat is performed.
- Both players reinforce their sides with new units or returning units from their force pools. The players then conduct various aid functions by giving MSPs to allied nations.
2. Axis Player Turn. The Axis player always goes first.
- Axis organization phase: Check for various political outcomes, such as a Major Power collapse. Purchase new units. Buy new technology. Perform diplomacy. Combine or break up units and construct forts.
- Perform strategic bombing (the opposing player defends with their fighter units.)
- Movement Phase: ground units and those air units that did not conduct a bombing mission may move. Conduct Naval Transport and perform any invasions.
- Combat Phase: Axis player resolves any combat against adjacent Allied units. Declares all attacks, conducts tactical air combat, and then resolves further ground battles. Adds or subtracts the MSPs based on the results of ground taken or lost. The Axis then may conduct follow-up combat with tank units, if the weather is good.
- Strategic movement, in which the player moves units up to the limit and pays MSPs to do so.
- Political phase: The player checks for liberation or surrender of minor powers, declares war at no cost and returns invasion fleets to port.
3. The Allied player’s turn is exactly the same as the Axis player’s, except the Allied player also checks for Siberian reserves for the Soviet Union and Soviet factories may be moved during the Movement part of the phase.
4. The final phase of a game turn is again a mutual phase, like the first one. The players check for victory. They return all Naval Support units from Sea Zone Control to ports. They move all air units back to the Front Air box. Then they advance the turn marker. If victory is not achieved they start the turn sequence again.
The Supreme Commander has four scenarios: “Barbarossa” is a two-person game of just the Eastern Front—Nazi Germany versus the Soviet Union. “Barbarossa to Berlin” is a full game, with all combatants, that begins in June–July of 1941 with the invasion the USSR by the Nazis. “The Great Crusade” is the shortest of the scenarios, starting in May–June of 1944 with the Normandy landings. The full campaign scenario is “Europe at War” which starts in September of 1939. “The Great Crusade” may be played in a long afternoon. “Europe at War” would likely take a long weekend to play.
The bottom line on The Supreme Commander is that if the gamer is looking for a complex simulation of World War Two in Europe, similar to Avalon Hill’s classic Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, then this game is for them. However, it is not for the casual gamer, or for someone looking for quick playing afternoon’s entertainment. Further, the $65 dollar US price tag might be a bit daunting.
Armchair General Score: 90%
Solitaire Rating (1 is low, 5 is high): 1
About the Author
Patrick Baker is a former US Army Field Artillery officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He has degrees in Education, History and Political Science. He cut his war-gaming teeth on Squad Leader and Victory Games’ Fleet Series. He bought his first PC in 1990, a Wang PC-240, specifically to play SSI’s The Battles of Napoleon (much to the annoyance of his wife). He has articles forthcoming in the Medieval Warfare Magazine and Ancient Warfare Magazine.