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Posted on Jan 28, 2008 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

West Front (2nd Edition) Game Review

By Brandon Neff

Overview

The Allied invasions of Sicily and Normandy in 1943-1944 were some of the most ambitious and risky military operations in history. Success was not assured, and the cost of failure may have been insurmountable. Yet careful planning, skillful execution and a large dose of fortune sealed the fate of the Third Reich. West Front simulates the campaigns in Western Europe between 1943 and 1945, specifically the invasion of Sicily, the battle of Cassino, the invasion of France and the race for Berlin.

Components

Inside the box you will find a 40-page rule/scenario book, 130 wooden counters and sheet of stickers, two full-color maps, 60 die-cut chits, two Order of Battle cards, a Time and Production track and 4 six-sided dice.

The rule/scenario book is well-organized and divided into numbered sections which facilitate cross-referencing. The rules are not difficult to read and the basic concepts should be easily grasped. Some more challenging concepts, particularly for the novice wargamer, might require some study and frequent trips back to the rulebook during the beginning turns of the first game. Fortunately, the rules are littered with examples of play including an example of the first month and a half of the opening scenario which can be invaluable to the novice.

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The wooden counters, a staple of Columbia Games, come in blue (Allies) and black (Axis). The unit stickers are attached to the blocks which allows for an incredible “fog of war” feeling during gameplay as your opponent cannot see your units until he engages them! Step losses are tracked by rotating the wooden block. The uppermost number represents the current Combat Value of the unit.

The maps depict the western half of the European theater and are divided into hexes. The maps are large (22.5” x 34” each), which can create a potential problem if you don’t have adequate space for the game. The artwork is top-notch and the various terrain types are easily identifiable. The maps contain several tables to track and determine sea supremacy, assault and interdiction. There was a printing error on the maps and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Columbia has included a sticker you may use to correct the error.

The die-cut chits are essentially tracking markers used during the game. They are one sided and rather plain. The Order of Battle cards represent the historical deployment for the first scenario, Operation Husky and there is a card for both the axis and allied player. The Time and Production track allows you to monitor the weather conditions during the scenario as well as elapsed time during the scenario and the current productions values which allow you to reinforce and or replace units.

Rules, Mechanics and Game Play

Each scenario represents a 6 month period of conflict. They may be played individually or combined into larger scenarios or indeed the entire Western campaign. Each scenario includes initial set up for each side. You may choose from Historical or Semi-Historical setups. The maps include the startlines for each scenario which helps when setting up units. The hexes on either side of a startline represent the Front Line and must be occupied by at least one unit. Remaining units are assigned to supply hexes.

Every month of the six month scenario is divided into Production and two Fortnights of play. As previously mentioned, production (which occurs simultaneously) allows you to replace/reinforce your units. After production, weather is determined (during certain months). Weather affects command, movement and combat. Each fortnight, representing a turn for both players is divided into phases: command, movement, combat, blitz movement and combat, supply and politics.

The command phase begins with activation of headquarters (HQ). The wooden HQ block is turned face up. Headquarters have the unique ability to mobilize and support friendly forces in combat. The HQ has a printed command value on it, representing the range of influence of the HQ. Range cannot be traced through impassable terrain or enemy-controlled hexes. Thus, it is important not to allow your units to become flanked and cut-off from HQ. During the turn, the HQ can either move or support units. A unit without support from an HQ is only half as effective as a fully supported unit (actually, the defense of the opposing unit is doubled). The HQ may also conduct an airstrike into an active battle within the range of influence. There is one special type of HQ, the Supreme HQ. It is not used for combat, strictly movement of friendly units and airstrikes.

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