Friday, January 20, 2012

Totaler Krieg - The Campaign Begins

Eric, Chuck, and myself got together last Sunday to start playing our campaign game of the new edition of Totaler Krieg!. Eric and I had previously played the Fall of France scenario to help get the rules under our belts, and I'd gone through the "How To Learn This Game" steps in the Scenario Book.

Let me be clear - even if you're an experienced wargamer, unless you've played this game before you want to go through the process they describe. As I've said in earlier posts, the ruleset is very good for the most part, but there are some processes that span several sections of the rules and there is not always good cross-referencing. However, once you've learned the game they are *excellent* for a reference source.

I've also discussed why I like this game in an earlier post. I'll just say that playing the campaign game has not changed my thinking at all.

I took the Axis in this game, as everyone felt I had the most experience having tried running through the Pre-War period as a solitaire exercise to see what sorts of things happen and what options the different factions have. There is an Option Card Strategy Guide on the back of each player's play aid, but it's one thing to read a few sentences and another to go through the process. Chuck took the Western Allies (which I will call the Wallies, despite the fact that the designers aren't fond of that term), and Eric took the Soviets.

I started the game fairly historically, although my intent was to activate Poland as an Axis Minor country and head East First just to be different. I was very glad I'd run through the pre-war, as you make a few long-term decisions during this portion of the game, and there are some subtleties that you wont get any other way. I began by Supporting the Nationalists in Spain, which gives me a roll on the table of the option card. Things started going the Germans way immediately as I reduced a Republican Stronghold. We went with the historical option and just gave the Republican Control marker to the Soviets. However, the marker switched sides a couple of times, usually just as Eric or Chuck was about to play a Support Republicans card, and I was able to turn Spain Fascist within a year with no breakaway countries.

It was the first Wallie turn, however, that was the fun one. Chuck rolled on his option card table and it resulted in me getting to roll on the Minor Political Event table. For those of you that know this table, you know that it's kind of an Anything Can Happen Day. This particular day, Poland and the Baltics had a Border War, with Poland going to the Soviets. So much for my initial plan. And the Baltics! Hooray! They have one Res unit!

Things went pretty historically, at least for me, through 1938. Austria fell to the Anschluss, and rearmament and mobilization went along well too. Eric went with a more cooperative approach with his neighbors, partly because he already had Poland, and managed to get the Finns as well when I again rolled on that damned table. Because I wanted to see what would happen. I took the Czechs as well. He was hoping to get French-Russian Entente out, but I was ready with the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

I went for Demanding Switzerland at the beginning of 1939, since the Wallies hadn't made any Guarantees, so even when they resisted I was able to win a Military Victory. Only drawback - I couldn't get the free Influence on a country since no one was at War yet when all of the Outbreak of War conditional units came out because of the Mil Victory. It did make the Wallies a little nervous to have their Maginot Line flanked. I picked Switzerland because nothing else was legal or worthwhile (who cares about Denmark - you get that almost for free along with Norway), and it simply paid off.

I finally played 6a in early 1940 in order to get to Limited War with the Wallies. It was really the only chance I had. Guarantees had come too late to help them, and I was able to trigger Case Yellow in mid-1940, right on schedule. What wasn't on schedule was taking Denmark-Norway, which I did in the Autumn. The problem was that now that Finland was a Soviet Minor, Norway had a 50/50 shot at becoming anyone's Minor, and that country was the Soviets. Suddenly, with a ton of Soviets in Poland and me just getting my units back from France, I was at war with everyone. Wow.

As I type, we are finishing up 1940. I have made a little headway into Poland, but it's tough without air or Blitz markers. As Chuck was planning to Demand Cyrenaica, I brought in the Italians with Treaty (and with a +1, next up is Hungary who also has a +1 Influence marker). Posen and Krakow have fallen, and Warsaw is sitting waiting for my next turn or two to fall. Once that happens, and if Hungary comes in, Russia may need to fall back to it's historical boundaries and I have to decide if I want Poland to become a Puppet Government or not after it falls. The only drawback is that I have to consider whether or not Occupation will be an issue, as I don't have the benefit of having multi-step units in a friendly minor, at least not without a serious cost, and why bother bringing in Poland if I can't just drive through it when I want to? The other option is aggressive Treaties and thinking about the rest of the Balkans. Yugoslavia is only useful if I really want Italy in the game in Russia, and the only thing worth considering besides it is Athens. Crete is too far away from anything to be a threat. Of course, a certain amount of peace means that I can start to build up if the Italian War Economy kicks into gear. I already have the +1 for Axis Minors.

Perhaps it will be time to try to steal land from the Russians through the Anti-Comintern Pact, which looks interesting. We are so far away from history at this point that I can't say what will happen at all, but it's sure been a fun ride so far.

I will continue to give updates, probably on an annual basis, but perhaps seasonal. I'll throw in some screen shots as well from time to time, probably should have done that here, although only Poland is really interesting at all right now.

I'll say one thing - this game is everything I was hoping it would be. A somewhat variable start position, combined with some major wackiness on the diplomacy front, and a real feel that you are in control of pretty much your country and not a lot else, at least for the Axis. My only disappointment is that we have shifted to VASSAL after a great 7 hour starting session, and I am making lots of noob errors (like how I set up in Libya, which I was fortunate to figure out before Chuck took his turn - things like you don't have an Open Port in a port in a dependent unless it's got a friendly unit there). That said, there's a lot to think about, and it's nice to be able to take my time to do that. I sure hope Chuck and Eric are enjoying the game as much as I am.

On to 1941. Will I invoke Barbarossa in the summer? Mwahaha...


Eric said...

"I sure hope Chuck and Eric are enjoying the game as much as I am."

You have no idea. I sat around for at least an hour last night figuring out the direction I wanted to take things.

I'm even tempted to start up another 1937 solo Vassal campaign to try to get the non-Soviet perspectives.

Thomas said...

Awesome -- glad you guys are enjoying the game. Let me know if you have any questions.