World At War – Eisenbach Gap
(Note: This review was started quite some time ago and due to ever changing priorities, a spate of forgetfulness, and when you put something away it becomes out of sight and out of mind, it was never completed. However, I dusted off my notes and decided to attack this project once again as it is a game and a game system that deserves to be examined and brought to the attention of wargamers and boardgamers worldwide.)
May 1985, the biggest fears of NATO are realized when the Soviet 1st Tank Army unexpectedly plows into Western Germany. This initial incursion occurs near the Eisenbach Gap and the Tank armies goal seems to be to capture Bergengipfel and open the way for the remainder of the Soviet invasion. To the horror of all, World War III has begun! This is the premise for the “what if” simulation game Eisenbach Gap by Lock n Load games.
This is a platoon level simulation of combat during the Third World War in 1985. The World At War games will be a series of simulations all using the same core rules and will simulate bits and pieces of a World War 3 conflict. The Eisenbach Gap simulation contains the complete set of rules, 136 counters, a 17” x 22” map, and six scenarios depicting the Soviet’s thrust into this small area of West Germany.
The physical components of the game are of professional quality. The 17” x 22” map is professionally mounted and the counters are bright and colorful. The rules are well written and structured so that you can find answers to your questions quickly. The rules themselves are only 8 pages in length and the Scenario pages take an additional 4 pages. There are also two Reference Charts which contains the TEC (Terrain Effects Chart) on one side and important tables and counter definitions on the other. The game is supplied with six Scenarios and they are:
- First Moves – Initial Soviet invasion
- The Defense of Klapebruck – defending the bridges across the Klappebruck river
- Rolling Hot – NATO (US) counter attack
- Maelstrom – Soviet’s unexpected success, can they capitalize on their breakthrough
- Ships in the Night – A meeting engagement of Ad Hoc units
- Hells Wings – Soviet Airborne attack behind the lines
The Scenario variations give players a chance to use all the different units that are supplied with this game. This provides gamers with the flavor of warfare as it could have occurred in 1985 and gives them experience with the World at War game system.
The rule book consists of only 9 sections. These sections deal with the game mechanics and are;
- General Concepts
- Setting Up the Game
- Outline of Play
- Formation Impulse
- Line of Sight
The last section in the Rule Book deals with the Scenarios. You are provided with 6 Scenarios in the game. Additional scenarios can be found on the Lock ‘N Load website or in their magazine “Line of Fire”
The core rules are really pretty simple to follow. You can read them in about an hour or two and dig right into the game. However, in the beginning you will find yourself constantly referring back to the rules, clarifying situations. This is not a fault of the rules, as they are well written. It is more the fact that there is so much going on in such a short amount of time that you want to be sure your playing the game correctly. Added to this, you have a game that has no turn sequence or Combat Results table and you definitely want to make sure you’re playing the game correctly not only for your sake, but you don’t want to upset your opponent.
The best way to explain the system is to play an example game. I have chosen the first Scenario which is titled “First Move” and the background for this scenario is as follows:
May 14th, 1985, the Soviet First Tank Army enters the Eisenbach Gap; their goal is to capture Bergengipfel and Eisenbach and open the way for follow on forces.
The Soviet force consists of all units of the 1st Tank Battalion with 4 HE Fire missions and one Smoke.
The American force consists of all units of Team Yankee, there is no support. Team Yankee must set-up first.
The Soviet player receives a free activation of the 1st Tank Battalion once he deploys his units. This simulates the surprise attack during the first turn in the Eisenbach Gap. The 1st Soviet Tank Battalion is automatically activated to simulate this surprise and may have two activations on this turn if his chit is pulled later during the turn.
The initial deployment of forces is shown on Turn 1 Map.
Starting Positions 1
Starting Positions Turn 1 (Turn 1 Mapa-Closeup)
(Click on picture to see an enlarged version of the map.)
The Soviets begin by moving out a T-72 from Schlafendbauer South-West down the road. After progressing about 450 meters (3 hexes), it is attacked by the M163 in the forest in L4. The result of the combat is a glancing blow from the attack and no damage is incurred on the T-72. An “Ops Complete” marker is now placed on the M163 and it can no longer perform Opportunity Fire at any other units.
NATO decides to try another opportunity fire, this time from the Chaparral on the hill at K8. If we look at the AP firepower of the Chaparral we see that the range is 16 hexes, we roll 2d6 and score a hit on the T-72 if we roll a 4 or higher. The Range to the T-72 that we have targeted is less than half the AP range of the Chaparral, so the “to hit” value is decreased by 1 from 4 to 3. This means that for this combat we roll 3 or better we hit the T-72. Glancing at the combat dice results above, we see that a 6 and a 5 were rolled which results in 2 hits. Now the T-72 rolls for its armor value, which is the top right number. We see that it rolls 4 dice and the save number is 6. So, for every 6 that is rolled, we ignore 1 hit from the Chaparral. As the American luck would have it, two 6’s are rolled which means that all hits from the Chaparral are ignored. Again, an “Ops Complete” marker is placed, but this time on the Chaparral.
Figure 2 (Combat2)
The final movement for the T-72 has it moving the last 300 meters (2 hexes) to the outskirts of Bergengippfel. At this point, only the Team Yankee Infantry unit is in its way to stop it. The Infantry has a range of 1 and an AP Firepower of 2 dice with hits of 5 or better. The combat begins. The dice are rolled and here the Team Yankee Infantry score 2 hist from their AP Firepower. Again, the T-72 rolls it armor value which is 4 dice and as you can see from the results above, there was a roll of a single 6. Finally, the T-72 is stopped (at least temporarily) and it becomes disrupted and a disrupted marker is placed on the T-72. A disruption means that a unit can move but cannot fire. However, a disruption can be removed with a Morale Check during the next round when the Soviet 1st Tank is activated.
However, if another hit is scored on the T-72 after the disruption, it would have to suffer a step loss which reduces the AP Firepower and its Assault Factor which is denoted by flipping the unit over.
The game continues with some Mortar Fire on the infantry in Bergengipfel and with the Shilka in Schlafendbauer firing on the Team Yankee M-106 in the forest in hex K3. The M-106 receives two direct hits and is destroyed. There is no more Opportunity Fire as the remaining NATO units do not have a LOS to any Soviet units.
You can see the unit dispositions at the end of the Soviet move below.
Figure 4 (FirstPhaseComplete)
After the Soviet 1st Tank surprise phase has been completed the game now progress to a standard player turn which begins with a chit pull to see what unit is activated. It really doesn’t matter which player draws the chit, because if the player playing the NATO side draws the Soviet 1st Tank, the 1st Tank is activated, or the opposite could occur, which is the Soviet Player picking the Team Yankee chit would activate the Team Yankee units. The American player pulls an “End of Turn” marker from the cup which is placed on the side because you need to pull 2 “End of Turn” markers to end the game turn.
Figure 5 (SecondPhaseCompleteNATO)
Next the Soviet player chooses a chit. The chit he pulls is the Team Yankee chit. The Team Yankee units of the NATO player are now activated. This means all “Ops Complete” markers that were placed on them from Opportunity Fire are now removed and the Team Yankee units can either move or fire.
The NATO player looks at the tactical situation and is not pleased. It is decided that they will try and knock out the Soviet T-72 with the ITV that is located in K8 that hasn’t fired. The ITV takes a shot and misses. At this point in the game it appears as though the forward units have been sacrificed as the Soviets are rapidly moving down the road. The only thing the NATO player can hope for is that he is activated again this turn before the other “End of Turn” marker is pulled as Team Yankee has two activation chits in the cup. With this in mind and with the hope that the Team Yankee player gets lucky with another activation, the HQ and the M113 retreat into the town of Eisenbach. The Team Yankee player was fortunate that all his units are still in Command and no morale checks will be required this phase. The final NATO and Soviet dispositions for this phase can be seen below.
Figure 6 (Team Yankee 1st Phase – Retreat Disposition)
The game continues with either one player of the other picking chits out of the cup until the second “End of Turn” marker is pulled which marks the end of the turn, with the Turn Marker advancing and all chits being placed back in the cup.
Eisenbach Gap is a fast moving “what if” game of a NATO/Warsaw Pact conflict in the mid 80’s. The game uses a number of game system techniques that keeps the game moving and the outcome in question. There is something about this game that captivates me, both as a gamer and reviewer. It is a clean game design that is expanded with new game editions and there are new Scenarios presented in Lock n Loads magazine “Line of Fire”. While modern combat games may not be everyone’s’ cup of tea, I find that the World at War game system is extremely refreshing because it is a fast moving system that challenges players to use sound strategy and tactics, which is exactly what I think a game should do. I highly recommend Eisenbach Gap and the other World at War games as they all use the same game system (with minor changes) and once you learn one system, you know them all. In my opinion, the World at War game system is modern gaming at its best.
Available from Lock N Load Games (http://locknloadgame.com/)