Welcome to the third installment of AARs from my solitaire campaign of Unconditional Surrender! from GMT Games. If you want to get up to speed, you can read September and October here. Unconditional Surrender! (USE) is one of those games that seems to just keep giving. If you’re looking for a turn by turn reenactment of WWII then you’re most definitely looking in the wrong place. That’s not to say that USE couldn’t replicate the war in great detail, because it could. Really I’m saying that you shouldn’t. Sal’s game is a sandbox that allows you to explore endless iterations of how the war could have gone. You are the ultimate controller. The geopolitical landscape will invariably be different during every play through which makes each game a wild ride as you try to navigate the nuances of a new war every time.

Much of that was on show over the winter months, but the Western front offensive came to a grinding halt. It’s for that reason that I decided to combine November 1939-February 1940 into one AAR. After October the weather couldn’t hold out any longer and rain and snow plagued central Europe protecting the Allies from the invading German forces. The stalemate reminded me of the failed attempt to take France in 1914, German High Command had not learned their lesson. The poor weather modifier made attacking have such heavy negatives that it wasn’t worth the risk, and when the weather became severe assaults stopped being attempted.

western front stalemate

During November the French and Belgians tried to push the Axis back but were unable to make any headway. Attacking into a forest in poor weather meant that the rolls, even with ground support came out as no result. I like to think that the Germans, fresh off a victory against the Netherlands had dug strong defensive positions in the Forest. Unfortunately for them those dug in positions work both ways. They were unable to leave them and cross the river into Belgium due to inclement weather and Allied positions across the banks of the Meuse.

strategic bombing

German strategic warfare was being waged successfully and the production capacity of the UK’s economy was starting to be choked off. The most interesting developments in November were in the Diplomatic Phase where the Italians joined the Axis forces and the Turks entered the war allied with the USSR.

ITA axisUSSR turkey

Based on how the war is going the USSR wanted some protection on their southern border and to put pressure on the Balkans, whilst the Axis forces are now considering a second spearhead into Southern France to try and break the stalemate.

ITA poised

December turned out to be relatively fruitless as the weather was severe across almost the entirety of Europe. Diplomatically speaking most of the factions spent production points buying back Political Success markers in the cup for future use. During January, however, the Italians positioned themselves to Assault across the southern french Alps as soon as the weather broke however. In a twist of fortune for the Axis faction the Romanians joined their side to help bolster the Eastern Front against the Turks and the USSR.

ROM join axis

February saw a respite from the terrible weather, at least in the Mild Zone. The cold snap ending meant that the Axis were ready to strike west with all haste. The Italians struck against the French army stationed in the Alps with unopposed air support. The Western Allies had tried to strategically move a second army down from Paris but were unable to get their in time to support.

ITA assault in the alps

The French retreated Southwest fracturing their fragile front but not fully capitulating. As things stand the Italians will be able to keep the southern forces occupied and away from northern France but which ever side takes heavy losses first in the Alps will have a very hard time. I think a loss or two, maybe some bad positioning from retreats will cause the conflict in southern France to be blown wide open. Either allowing a devastating counter attack across northern Italy, or a pincer movement towards Paris.

The Allies in Belgium did an upstanding job trying to fend off the German advance. regardless of how many attempts were made to shatter their lines the French and Belgians stayed strong, using the terrain and weather to their advantage.

feb map

Whilst not a lot, militarily speaking, had changed across Europe, politically speaking arms were being taken up by many other countries. There’s a really interesting balancing act that I can see growing with the Axis faction that I wanted to discuss. The German’s carry a good amount of production points, this allows them to activate almost every unit currently and still have enough production points to remove some sorties and add replacements if needed. If used well, they can even still dabble in diplomatic affairs (costs 5 production points and guarantees no results). During these winter months with little production going towards ground offensives the Germans were able to clear most sorties from the Luftwaffe and be very active during the diplomacy phases.

However, as smaller countries like Romania join the Axis faction they need support from the Germans. The Romanians don’t have enough production to support their own armies and will need to be gifted production from the Germans every turn to be able to utilize all of their units. These units are not as good as German fighting units, and as such that sacrifice of production may not be all that rewarding. So I ask myself, should the German’s be trying to get more allies into the war that will sap their own strength, or should they try to conquer countries and improve their national will, which will allow them to endure longer throughout the war. The Western allies haven’t found themselves in that situation yet, and the Russians might do at some point, but the Axis faction will face some tough choices about Hungary, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia coming up soon.

Thanks for reading and watch out for March coming up soon!