If you’re looking for some deep, rich tactics and winning strategies for this game, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Also, from a mechanical standpoint you might be hard pressed to execute the same strategies each game. There’s just so many variables. So let’s take a quick look at Cataclysm and see if it’s something you might want to explore further.
Cataclysm: A Second World War
Cataclysm is grand strategic game, with units that represent entire fronts and armies. A single counter might be a million men. Executing the war from a combat stand point is imperative to winning the game, but Cataclysm is so much more than that. I’m here to tell you that this game, whilst large and vast in scope, is nothing to be afraid of. First of all, the components are excellent. The counters and maps and play aids are all what you’d expect, but when I say components here, I’m specifically referring to the Rulebook and Playbook. Sometimes, Playbooks are just an extended example of play with some historical notes. That’s all fine and dandy, but this Playbook is so much more. The extended example of play teaches you how to play the game right off the bat. But the opening segment of the play book is called “Surviving Cataclysm”, and gives an excellent introduction to the concepts of the game and how you as a player should approach it.
I cannot stress to you how helpful that Playbook was for us on embarking on our first play. We were both a bit intimidated. On the surface, this game looks kind of like a war game similar to the likes of Axis & Allies, but if you play the game that way, expecting to march armies across Europe and the Pacific at will, you’ll be gravely disappointed. Primarily this is an economic and political game, with combat sprinkled into the game as a means to an end. The combat is done by rolling a number of dice with only a couple of simple modifiers, based on army composition and air support/terrain. It’s not complicated and you’ll not be bogged down in charts and tables and ratios, so the pace of the game moves at a really good clip. So what about all this politics and economics I mention? Also, not as daunting as it might appear.
Each country has a rating for their national stability, as well as their effectiveness, and then a commitment level to the war. The stability track is affected by certain events which might move that track as well as losing key strategic points on the map. If the stability drops too low the country collapses, and must offer an armistice to their aggressors, which is typically very unfavourable.
Effectiveness is a function of the countries inherent power, including their military readiness, production capacity and current standing army, as well as their commitment to war. At a low commitment level certain chits allow only a single action. At higher levels of commitment to the war effort those same chits might provide two or three actions, which makes balancing your commitment to the war an important facet to the game. And that’s what I mean by this being an economic AND political game. Sure you need to move your counters around and roll some dice, but you are only able to do that, and do it well, if you can manage your resources and keep your faction stable.
There are plenty of speed bumps however when it comes to trying to do this. The core mechanic of this game is a chit pull system. The draw cup is loaded with chits from all the factions in play. The chits range from neutral ‘Cataclysm’ events, to faction specific political actions, to military operations, units, and many, many more elements. That’s where I recommend going through that play book. It’s a very easy way to learn what all the events do (practically speaking) without slogging through the rulebook as you try to play and learn the system.
We only played this two player, and it was a great game, and I have played around with it solo, and it’s still a great game (very similar to Unconditional Surrender, in the sense that it’s chit pull and you just do the best possible move). I do however want to get more people on board with this one. Truly, this is a massive What If? style game! There’s a ton of scenarios of varying lengths so you can make the game what you want, a sandbox if you will, and some have alternate history with a fascist France and democratic Italy for example, just for fun. This is probably another lifetime game for me because there is so much here that it will conceivably take dozens of plays to truly experience it all! The mechanics are also rock solid and I just see it aging well. Plus there’s the whole Pacific Theater map, which is separate so you can play just that, or both combined for the total war aspect.
There’s just so much more to explore I’m chomping at the bit to get it back to the table again.
For a little more insight into our thoughts on the game and its mechanics, please check out our video review.