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The First World War left Germany a defeated, shattered nation. Fueled by a twisted philosophy and a desire for revenge, the Germans started the Second World War with a string of victories. But together, the free democracies of the West and the Soviet Union smashed Hitler's dreams of world domination. The Thousand Year Reich lasted a mere 12 years.
John Prados' Third Reich is a sweeping game of World War II. One of the best-known board games ever published is back in an all-new edition for a new century. Beautiful new graphics and streamlined play will make this game a new classic all over again. Two to six players, ages 10 and up, guide the destiny of Germany, Britain, France, Italy, the United States and the Soviet Union as well as many minor powers. Eight scenarios are included (one for each year of the war), each playable in an evening, plus a campaign game of the entire war in Europe.
With the recently released World War II grand strategy game THIRD REICH by Avalanche Press, Ltd., players need to be prepared to do a lot of dice rolling. I mean, a real lot of dice rolling, but I am getting ahead of myself in this review.
This new version of THIRD REICH is an update of the original version RISE AND DECLINE OF THE THIRD REICH (3R) by the same initial designer, John Prados. The original 3R dates from around 1974 and was produced by the old Avalon Hill Game Company. The original 3R went thorough at least 3 update versions, a computer version (that was really bad) as well as spawning an ADVANCED THIRD REICH and a Pacific Theater version, RISING SUN.
THIRD REICH as a game of WWII grand strategy adds itself to a line of games that includes WORLD IN FLAMES, EUROPA, EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS, WAR IN EUROPE, TOTALER KRIEG, HITLER'S WAR and AXIS AND ALLIES, and probaly a lot of others I can't remember the names of right now. The game is not as complicated as the original 3R, but not as simple as games like AXIS AND ALLIES or HITLER'S WAR. It should challange games like TOTALER KRIEG and ETO (a new advanced version is being developed by Decision Games)for playing time.
Discussed below are the parts of the game as well as some of the game's mechanics.
The game board is a hard mounted full color map of Europe that measures about 22 inches by 25 inches. It comes in 3 pieces and that is my first complaint. I would have preferred a single sheet folded paper map. The 3 pieces have a black border around them and when you put the pieces together it leaves 2 long black lines thorugh the playing board. These lines make an otherwise beautiful map a little less so. Maybe Avalanche Press will allow players to purchase an unmounted, single-piece paper map at an extra cost. The map, however, is far superior to any previous map in any version of 3R, and I think it is better than any other map in other WWII grand strategy games. Hexes are used to regulate piece locations for game play.
The unit counters are excellent and colorful. Each country (major powers as well as minor countries) have their own army, navy and air force in their own colors. Armor units use tank silhoutes (with national types shown) for identification and Cavalry units have a horse and rider silhouette. Tactical aircraft and Strategic aircraft use plane drawings and naval units use warship silhouettes, including aircraft carriers and submarines, for identification. Ground and air combat units have 2 numbers on them, one a combat strength and one a movement allowance, which are typical of units in this type of a game. Naval units have a combat strength number, but their movement allowance depends on the type of mission being performed. Naval movement is area movement by sea zones. Combat strength involves rolling dice and, again, I'll discuss that later.
The rule book does a good job of identifying country colors and symbols, except for the Free French units. I had to read the rules carefully to find out what those light blue units were. I guess that is my second (minor) complaint about the game.
Those familiar with 3R will know all about Basic Resource Points (BRPs) which is the 'money' in the game. They are called other things in other WWII grand strategy games but whatever they are called they basically serve the same purpose. Countries use BRPs to purchase combat units, declare war, conduct diplomacy, conduct offensive operations, etc. All major powers, as well as most minor countries, have their own BRP tracks to keep an accounting of their money. One problem (again minor) is that Yugoslavia starts with more than 10 BRPs (even has 2 BRP markers) yet its single BRP track only goes from 0-9. Another minor country, Belgium I think, has a BRP marker that has 10+ on its flipped side to keep track when the country has more than 10 BRPs.
Another thing I don't like about thee BRP tracks for minor countries is that the countries are not grouped in any logical order. They are not listed alphabetically, nor grouped geographically, nor grouped according to their historic alliances. I don't know why they are placed the way they are.
What I like about this version of THIRD REICH deals with politics and diplomacy. For game play there are a number of event 'chits' of which 1 is randomly drawn each turn. The events range from historically accurate happenings (Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, Pearl Harbor attacked, etc.) to events that could have happened (Hitler Killed) but did not. The effect they have is that each game will be different.
Each major power may spend up to 4 BRPs each turn (turns represent 3 months of real time) to gain influence in a minor neutral to the point where the neutral becomes an ally, or reduce another major power's influence in that country to the point where the minor country could declare war on that other major power.
What I consider to be a major problem with the rules of the game is how it handles how/when the United States gets into the war. Honestly, I can't find anything in the rules that limits when the US can get into the war. There is a declaration of war segment in the sequence of play and I guess the US player could declare war on Germany in the Fall of 1939 (game turn 1). Now there are several event chits (e.g., Pearl Harbor) that indicate US forces are available when the chit is drawn, but I can find nothing in the rules that says the US cannot enter the war until the appropriate event chit is drawn. By the time the 'Peral Harbor' chit is put into the potential draw pile of events there are about 20-25 other chits in the pile making the probability that the US will get into the war by drawing an event chit real low (less than 5%). Now, the US not getting involved in the game would make for an interesting game indeed!
The game's rules, in the components section, says 'You will need to furnish a number of six-sided dice.' This, in my opinion, is a major understatement. My game came with 4 dice. After playing a few practice turns, I went out and purchased 4 sets (different colors) of 12 dice each in order to play the game. Why? Because, as I said earlier, in this game you will be rolling a lot of dice. There are no combat results tables (CRTs) in the game like those found in many other wargames where the amount of damage done to an opponent is based on a ratio of attack factors compared to defense factors and a random die roll to determine a result on a CRT that affects one side or the other, or both sides. Wargamers are familiar with results like AE, A1, AR, EX, D2, DR, DE, etc. You won't find them in this game. Battle resolution is somewhat like that found in AXIS AND ALLIES. The combat strength numbers of comat units determine the number of dice that a combat unit can roll in a battle in an attempt to get 'hits' on the enemy. For example, let's say a country using 2 3-3 Infantry units, 2 4-5 Armor units, supported by a 5-4 Tactical aircraft unit attacks another country with a 2-3 Infantry unit and a 3-5 Armor unit supported by a 3-5 Tacitcal aricraft unit in a hex. That means the attacker gets to roll 19 dice and the defender gets to roll 8 dice. Different colored dice are needed because an infantry unit needs to roll a '6' to obtain a 'hit' while an armor unit gets hits on rolls of 5 and 6 when attacking. The defender gets hits from infantry with rolls of 5 or 6, or rolls of 4, 5, or 6 from armor units. You will not appreciate dice roll frustration like you will in this game when you get to roll 20 dice in a battle - and not get 1 '6' for a hit. While the opponent has a single 1-3 Infantry unit and rolls a 5. Now, show me a CRT where the 20-1 odds column did not have anything but DEs.
Similar circumstances happen when aircraft attack each other or there is a naval battle. You will be rolling a lot of dice.
When ground combat units are 'hit' they are either eliminated, if the number of hits equals or exceeds the combat unit's combat strength, or reduced if they have a reduced strength side. Or, if there are less hits than the combat strength of a unit, the country can use BRPs to satisfy combat losses. Air and naval units are reduced in strength per hit, thus, a 5-4 Tactical aircraft unit suffering 1 hit becomes a 4-4 unit. A 9 factor naval unit becomes an 8 factor unit when hit, etc.
I do like the way the operation segment of the game is conducted. Gone is the old 'front' system of the original 3R. Now countries can buy impulse chits that correspond to Headquarters (HQ) units and/or naval and air operations. After each country uses BRPs to purchase impulse chits they are randomly drawn and the country whose chit is drawn conducts the appropriate operations. This means game play is not the standard IGO/UGO process. Some countries may get 2 or more impulses in a row. When a HQ chit is drawn any units with 4 hexes of the HQ can be activated, as can any other HQ units. The rules are not clear how far this 'chain' of HQ activation can go. Most countries only have 2 HQs anyway so it probably only effects operations of Germany and Russia.
In summary, in spite of some problems, and the massive amount of dice rolling required, I do like the game and would recommend it to those players who enjoy grand stratgey WWII games.
I'll make this short. I didn't like it for 2 reasons.
#1 The rules bring nothing new to the gaming world. They could have been written 20 years ago and no one would know the difference. Most game manufacturers are designing unique systems which are card-driven / allow for fog-of-war, etc. None of that here.
#2 The map is absolutely atrocious. It looks like it might be well-done but think again. The black borders around each piece of the map make for an ugly display. The hex-grid is way too small and the counters are too big for it as well. All three of my maps were warped (they would not lie flat).
I had high expectations for this re-make but found nothing good except for the color palette used. Reminds me of the saying 'Beauty is only skin deep'. Too bad, I love strategic level WWII recreations.
Totalier Krieg, BArbarossa to Berlin and Eurofront are much better games.