War Room - Brief Review


  • 2020 2019 2018

    Howdy,

    Finally got my hands on this game/got time to play it after being excited about it for a long time. Did a solitaire session over the last 2 weeks to get a handle on the rules and basic strategies, and would like to take some time go share my thoughts:

    • First and foremost, I am not going to be reiterating the rules of the game to you all. That’s just a waste of space/padding and I’m not being paid by-the-word to do this (or paid at all, really…).

    • As this was my first game, I may have butchered some of the rules, so forgive me if I goofed something up and PLEASE FEEL FREE TO STEP IN AND CORRECT ME. I am not going to argue that I have any level of competence at this game like I would for any A&A Edition.

    With those two points in mind, let’s dive in to Larry Harris’s first post-A&A project (yes, I know he’s made other games):

    My Sample Game
    I played the “Global” Scenario. Figured I’d just go right for the main event instead of messing around with any of the sideshows.

    Took one look at the map and realized Germany is pretty vulnerable overall and Japan is slow due to the 9-orders-per-turn limit and having units spread out all over the place at game start. With these two factors in mind, I decided to go for a heavy KGF with US/UK, where I focused on seizing Scandinavia and using it to ferry a steady stream of Air Units into Russia (from East USA -> SZ A-2 (during order phase) and from SZ A-2 -> Norway or Finland (during re-basing phase), and then from Scandinavia to wherever they needed to be after that. That being said, the Western Allies also spent 1-2 orders a turn to make the most out of their Pacific Fleets + their spare INF units spread out over the Pacific Islands, with all eyes on the “Money Islands” of Borneo/Java/Sumatra (Japan’s only sources of oil).

    For the Axis, Japan played aggressively for India (to seize the factory with like 4 production capabilities) and China (to seize the Iron + prevent the Chinese from taking away Japan’s territories in Coastal China.

    Italy (with some decent investment from Germany, like 3-4 orders per turn), made a beeline for Egypt and the Middle East, ignoring the stress opportunities and easier targets in Africa in exchange for access to UK’s oil, UK’s high-stress territories, a potential India-takedown with Japan, a southern flank on Russia via Caucasus (and more access to oil in the process) and finally, trade with Saudi Arabia (for more Oil, more on that later)

    I don’t have much to say for the other powers (China, USSR, Germany). They mostly just played single-dimension strategies (China fought off Japan and tried to break into Southeast Asia to reinforce India/slow down Japan, USSR fought Germany 99%, with a small detachment of initial troops sent to break the Soviet-Japanese non-aggression pact when a distraction was needed to keep China in the game, and Germany needed to devote everything it had to just stay alive against the crushing weight of the Allies).

    Anyway, to avoid going on for thousands of words, I’ll get to the point of how the game generally went:
    Early Rounds:

    • Germany and Russia fought with absolutely huge land stacks in Bryansk. Initially, Germany had the upper-hand, due to having both 30 dice of land rolls and 30 dice of air rolls, while USSR could only manage 30 dice of land rolls and ~14-17 dice of air rolls. However, as the game dragged on, US/UK were able to get enough air units into Russia to get them up to 30 air rolls by ~turn 3.

    • While en route to getting their air units into the fight in Bryansk, USA/UK wiped out Scandinavia extremely quickly (Norway and Finland both went down turn 2, creating a safe base for incoming US/UK air units for the rest of the game).

    • At one point (~Round 3?), Germany managed to pull off a “pin” maneuver, sneaking about 7-8 land units into Moscow, earning a capital, captured units and several medals for Germany and tons of stress for the Russians. This added up later in the game.

    • Meanwhile on the Europe side of the board, Italy and Germany combined effortlessly broke through UK’s defenses in Egypt, mostly due to neglect on the UK’s part to devote any orders to that section of the board. UK did manage to wipe out most of Italy’s fleet though, only leaving 1 Battleship alive.

    • Germany attempted a Axis&Allies-esque takedown of the UK Fleet round 1, but was completely stomped by the UK/US Fleet + Air Forces, as the Allies were able to easily out-bid Germany in the oil department and thus had the imitative needed to consolidate their navies in one Sea Zone before the Germans even showed up, meaning that several of the German SUBs missed their marks completely. This defeat was so decisive that Germany never bothered attempting to build navy for the rest of the game.

    • Japan and the US/UK evaded each others’ fleets in the South Pacific. My USA was trying to goad Japan into a Coral Sea-esque fight in the area around the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, but my Japan was smart enough to know that a consolidated fleet would be necessary before trying to challenge the Allies, and that losing the Solomon Islands was perfectly acceptable, as the territory isn’t actually worth anything resource or stress-wise.

    • China was on-the-run from Japan from basically the word go, due to the massive disparity in starting strength between Japan and China.

    • At the start, I didn’t have a firm grip on everything, and ended up spending a bit too many resources on “Civilian Goods” to offset penalties from stress. I failed to do the math on the tradeoffs of spending 25 OSR to avoid losing 3 OSR-per-turn due to the first tier of stress penalty, which I do think sped up the demise of certain countries (more on that later).

    Mid-Game:

    • Despite Germany’s seizure of Moscow, the Western Allies (mostly the Americans) were able to march into Moscow to recapture it from Germany while the Russians kept pounding the Germans and moving the frontline closer and closer to Berlin.

    • Germany lost the Bryansk fight, as they couldn’t keep up a steady stream of both land and air units to challenge the Allies. This allowed USSR to achieve a massive breakthrough by using pinning maneuvers, reaching the gates of Berlin by turn 5. However, Germany was not fighting for each and every territory along the way, instead opting to take a few turns to step back, recover their stress, and build up in Bulgaria-Romania and Greater Germany while still making progress in the Middle East against UK.

    • Italy was the All-Star of the Axis at this point, seizing Egypt, Trans-Jordan and Persia with almost no casualties.

    • The stalemate in the South Pacific continued, with the US/UK fleets slowly making their way towards Sumatra to force a confrontation, albeit slowly, due to the limit on orders-per-turn.

    • Japan, on the Asian mainland, began running the table, starting a massive battle in India around round 4 while also beating China back to just 3 territories in the western half of the country. However, this prompted the USSR to break the Soviet-Japanese non-aggression pact and charge into Manchuria and Korea. While they had to eat a lot of stress for this (which came back to bite them later), didn’t gain medals, and almost immediately had their invasion repelled and countered, this distraction accomplished its true objective, saving China. Japan, like every other country, is limited to 9 orders per-turn, and between reinforcing the India fight, doing fleet maneuvers in the South Pacific, and beating back the Russians (and gobbling up real estate in Siberia), Japan could only really devote 1-2 moves a turn to attacking China. This was not sufficient for dealing with China’s 6 allowed moves per-turn, which let China slip small stacks of Infantry into several Japanese territories across China and Southeast Asia, letting China remove all of their stress via medals and actually assemble a decent amount of units and resources.

    • Later (~rounds 9-12, this game went on a LONGGGG time), Japan failed to take India due to Chinese interference, Japan’s invasion of Russia was repelled (for now) when the Americans sent 3 stacks of 8 FTRS to decimate all of their land stacks before they could reach Moscow, and a massive fleet battle near Sumatra ended in a draw, allowing the US/UK to slowly-but-surely capture both Sumarta and Java (they never got to Borneo, more on that later).

    • Finally, Germany broke through the Middle East alongside Italy, and charged into India to finish off the British (who were worn down after fighting the Japanese). This event pushed UK into Economic Collapse, almost single-handedly shifting the dynamic of the game towards the Axis (despite the Allies nearly being in Berlin and having stopped Japan’s momentum).

    End Game:

    • The first battle for Berlin began when the Soviets charged in with their land stacks, accompanied by the large UK/US air stacks to fight against the Germans and Italians. The Allies picked up Slovakia-Hungary-Poland with spare troops while the main fighting happened in Berlin, driving Germany further and further down the stress scale as the battle continued. However, events elsewhere on the board decided this first battle in Germany’s favor, letting them stay in the game.

    • As mentioned above, UK economic-collapsed when India fell to Germany, meaning they couldn’t build anymore, and were limited to 6 orders a turn. This turned UK’s experience in the game into a race-again-time: "Get 5 medals/civilian goods to un-do the Economic Collapse or run out of resources/get hit with enough stress to reach “Mass Desertion”, either of which would basically knock UK completely out of the game. This new dynamic forced UK to shift gears away from spamming air units (which they’d been doing most of the game), and start building up land units in South Africa (to slowly work their way backup to Egypt/The Middle East/India), Australia (to seize Japanese islands) and in London (to invade France) (NOTE: They did this by moving existing units around and spending what resources they had left prior to economic-collapsing, mostly by trading Oil and Iron for OSR to buy mass-INF). This in turn cut UK’s involvement in the air campaign against Germany, which resulted in the US being spread extremely thinly across Europe (against Germany) and Asia (against Japan trying to invade Russia/defeat China), which forced America to start making concessions in Asia to mount pressure on Germany.

    • The above resulted in Japan seeing a resurgence in Russia, starting to slowly take back territories in Asia that they had lost due to the American air campaign combined with a small USA/USSR ground force tasked with walking through the now-empty territories.

    • Meanwhile in Asia, China fell near-completely when Germany used a pinning maneuver to trap the main Chinese army in Burma while moving a small detachment into China-proper to steal China’s still-building units. This single move turned China from a relevant member of the Allies, who were poised to retake India for the British, into a walking corpse. Fortunately for China, Germany had to turn its armies around to rush to Berlin’s defense (via rail/naval movement) before Germany could wipe out the last few Chinese holdings in Southeast Asia, and Japan was too preoccupied with other tasks (more on that below) to bother taking China’s last territories, so China was left to do nothing but collect its meager income on 4 OSR and pass its turns (it had no more means of production available and no units in-play, but was only in the “lose 3 OSR/turn” stage of the stress penalties, so it wasn’t formally out-of-the-game yet.

    • With Berlin holding on by a thread, my Allies decided to make a suicide play, using rail-movement to transport the USA/USSR task force that was cleaning up Japan’s occupation of Siberia all the way to Berlin to take part in a Second Battle of Berlin. 100% of the USA Air Force went with these ground troops to ensure Germany’s defeat. This battle went on for over 10 turns you’ll see why in a bit).

    • As this Second Battle of Berlin was raging, disaster struck the Allies again as my Italy raced up through southern Russia (via Caucasus -> Volga -> Moscow) to once again imperil the Soviet capital. The Soviets built a few units to try to defend, but the Japanese Air Force (quite large by this point, as they’d barely suffered any casualties all game and Japan was pumping out a fair number of planes each round (although, without access to trading Oil, they could only really make 2 FTRs/1 BOMB each round). Thus, Moscow fell a second time which, combined with Japan’s string of territory captures in the east and heavy casualties inflicted by the German/Italian army in Berlin, pushed the Soviets all the way to Economic Collapse, severely hindering their further participation in the game. Fortunately, the Russians were able to scrounge together a small force to dislodge the Italians once proper US air support arrived in Moscow to beat back the Japanese air force, which gave the Soviets enough medals to get back in the game for the time being.

    • Meanwhile, as Germany (and eventually Italy) had to pour 100% of their buys into Berlin to stave off defeat for as long as possible, UK finally scrounged together forces to successfully invade France (despite Italy’s attempts at a defense), and Egypt, earning them the last medals they needed to undo their Economic Collapse. This was effectively the point where the game was won for the Allies, but a further development stopped me from calling the game outright.

    • Japan took Moscow on the same turn UK escaped Economic Collapse, which dragged USSR into “mass desertions”, effectively ending their participation in the game (they charged their final units into Berlin, just to maximize the chances of the Allies winning the day and giving them the 3 medals for seizing a capital before their last units deserted). With Russia and China (effectively) down, the game was now a 2 (UK/USA) Vs. 3 (Germany/Italy/Japan). Things seemed to be looking good for the Axis, assuming Germany could just hold on in Berlin for long enough for Japan to come to the rescue.

    • While Japan’s massive air stacks did eventually reach Berlin to turn that battle into even more of a grindy stalemate than it had already been, the impact of UK’s escape from Economic-Collapse was starting to be felt across the board. Soon, France was pumping out 6 land units per-round and throwing them into both Berlin AND Rome, which cut off Italy’s supply of ground troops into Berlin. Meanwhile, Japan’s land army desperately tried to drive towards Berlin to break the Allies’ stranglehold, but every single turn, their land stacks were harassed and devastated by nonstop attacks by the US Air Force, which was at this point using all 9 of its orders to move around massive stacks of FTRs and BOMBs. This small detail allowed Japan to try two tricks to swing the game back around, both of which failed. First, they recaptured the Money Islands from the Allies, which got their oil supplies back up. This worked, but the planned invasion of Australia failed when the Americans sent an air stack to the region to strafe the Money Islands over and over again until the land stacks were wiped out. The second plan was to send 2 land stacks (Japan had plenty to spare by this point) to invade Alaska, with the hope of pulling off a miracle and seizing West USA, which would basically end the game. This failed disastrously, as the USA quickly re-routed one of their air stacks from Central USA to hit West Canada when Japan tried invading it, wiping out almost the entire Japanese land army in just one round of combat with minimal losses (they were pure ART stacks, for the 2-anti-air dice per-pip).

    • The Allies won the Second Battle of Berlin after a long-and-drawn out process, losing about 2/3 of the American air force, but wiping out the entire Axis air force in the process. Japan’s land army was in the territories bordering Berlin though, so a THIRD Battle of Berlin now broke out, with the Allies defending their newly claimed capital.

    • This third battle proved less dramatic than the first two, as the Allies were able to pummel the air force-less Japanese armies into submission after just two turns of combat. Rome also fell at this point.

    • The final blow came when I had my USA start Strat Bombing all of the Russian Factories that Japan now owned. Since they were 8-stacks of Bombers, any stack that touched a Factory instantly rendered it unusable (via “damage counters” on the facilities). Eventually, this carnage added up, and Japan was no longer able to build units in European Russia, instead having to build them in Eastern Russia, Bejing and Japan proper and manually move them up to the front lines. At this point, I had the Axis surrender, as there was no way Japan could have possibly hoped to fend off the US/UK’s drive to liberate (or conquer, since USSR was out-of-the-game at this point) Moscow. Additionally, UK had liberated India during the aftermath of Germany’s defeat, meaning that soon there would be British units rampaging into China, which would have allowed them to start using their stored income (they had about 30 OSR at this point after several turns of doing nothing but collecting income from the few territories they held in Southeast Asia). The moment China re-entered the battle, Japan’s income would have dried up extremely quickly, due to only have 9-orders per-turn Vs. the combined 24 of the Allies (9 each from USA/UK + 6 from China).

    tl;dr Allies win with a KGF, but it was extremely close and tense. Great first experience. Would have been a lot more fun with friends. Game took bloody forever though…

    Miscellaneous Thoughts

    • Air Units are completely overpowered due to being relatively cheap to build, rolling a disproportionately high number of dice per-pip, and being damn-near impossible to hit (1-2/12 (3/12 if wounded and no Force Advantage) for bombers and 2-3/12 (4/12 if wounded and no Force Advantage) for fighters. These factors combined make it almost pointless to build any other type of unit save the occasional INF/ART for actually taking territories on the board. Seriously, late-game 16 American Air units killed almost 40 Japanese Artillery over a few rounds of combat and lost like 4 FTRs/2 BOMBs in exchange for all of the Artillery. AND JAPAN HAD FORCE ADVANTAGE BECAUSE I DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER BRINGING AMERICAN LAND UNITS INTO THOSE FIGHTS!

    • Ultimately, I ended up buying almost entirely air units as any country that had a steady supply of oil, while just using the land units I started with to make pushes on the board. However, as the game dragged on and my initial stacks of land units dried up, I started mixing in land units to my buys to actually take clay. Similarly, as the Axis started losing, they had to start buying more and more land units due to their oil supplies/trade-lines drying up + desperately needing land units to keep themselves from losing territories with factories (or capital cities).

    • Although Larry really REALLY wanted you to build diverse armies, Tanks cost too much the be super-worth it. However, I found it best to build stacks with the following compositions:

    1. Budget Land Battle - 1 TANK/1 ART/6 INF - I built this kind of stack slowly over several rounds with OSR left over after making more important buys like FTR/BOMB. The 1 TANK/1 ART is to ensure I always have Force Advantage in fights, which keeps my air units safe from harm (dropping the odds of hitting them to 1/12 (BOMB) and 2/12 (FTR) respectively.

    2. Anti-Air - 1 TANK/6 ART/1 INF OR 8 ART - This was the main type of stack I used. 2 Iron/1 OSR is dirt-cheap for most countries, which really helps you pump out Artillery. Artillery are probably the best Land Unit through the sheer fact that they’re flexible, always able to throw one die per-pip at both land and air units, but able to pick and choose whether to throw a second die Vs. air or Vs. land, depending on the enemy army composition and your own capabilities. Learning to min/max your armies to get 30 air dice and 30 land dice in every single engagement for minimal investment is one of the keys to doing well at this game, IMO.

    • Naval Units are God-Awful. I did not build a single Naval Unit the entire game I played because they’re cost-ineffective relative to the dice they put out. The only role of naval units is to safeguard land units trying to invade areas by-sea, but I found that there’s no way you can reliably defend a naval stack against dedicated Air Stacks. FTRs are just too spammable/hard-to-hit. Carriers are the best Naval Unit purely because they can generate a free FTR every turn.

    • Oil is the most important resource in the game, since it lets you both build Air Units and bid for turn priority. Turn priority is not always important, so you shouldn’t always bid heavily for it, but when it matters it matters. There were several times during the early and especially the late game where trapping units in certain territories due to the pinning rules completely invalidated the orders of certain countries, and prevented critical reinforcements from reaching key areas of the map.

    • The idea of having multiple resource types and the ability to “trade with neutrals” is a really cool feature that gives this game its own unique feel. I loved fighting back-and-forth over who had the right to trade Oil with Saudi Arabia, and OSR with Spain, and Iron with Sweden. It gave the game a lot of depth. It also gave a great opportunity for members of the same faction to bicker with one another, since only one country may trade with a neutral per-round, and priority goes to the nation with the higher turn priority (due to bidding oil).

    • I also liked the limits of stack size and orders per-turn, although the latter made the game drag on for like 20 rounds. It makes a nice comeback mechanic where the side that’s winning has to manage multiple stacks of units with a static number of orders, while the side that’s losing is able to make the most of their orders, creating opportunities for unexpected attacks in areas of the board that are being ignored by the winner. This also allows for a player to out-maneuver another by not committing orders to one part of the board, leaving their units to defend themselves, while they spend their orders wreaking havoc somewhere else entirely. This worked in the Axis’ favor multiple times during my game, allowing them to break through the British defenses in Egypt/the Middle East, and in the late-game break through Russia’s southern flank and steal Moscow.

    • I missed an entire dimension of this game by playing solo, specifically the whole concept of “hidden orders” and limited communication/secret meetings that the designers borrowed from “Diplomacy”. It’s unfortunate that I had to go it alone on this playthrough, and I hope to experience this part of the game some other time.

    • Personally, I liked this game a lot, but it’s extremely slow even compared to A&A. I’m sure the other, smaller scenarios go by faster though. The balance is also a bit poor due to air units being massively overpowered, but INF are massively overpowered in A&A so I guess it comes with the territory.

    • Civilian Goods suck and you should never buy them unless you’re teetering on the edge of Economic Collapse.

    • The Stress Penalties aren’t really that scary until you get to the one that reduces your Order Count by 3. That one’s nasty when you’re ahead and/or are trying to juggle large numbers of units. Economic Collapse/Mass Desertion are basically death sentences, so try to stay away from those ones.



  • Sounds like an intense game. How much space does it take up?


  • 2020 2019 2018

    @J-o-C Thing’s big but not as big as G40 or GW36. I never had any trouble fitting stacks into territories until super-late in the game when I was basing like 8 full stacks of US/UK air forces in Finland lol. The only issue I had is that the board is a circle instead of a rectangle (which made fitting the game on my normal table a bit tricky) because they were going for an aesthetic where everyone sits around the table with their nation facing towards them. The designers recommend you get a circle-shaped table to play on, I agree.

    And I don’t even have the “jumbo” edition that apparently has an even larger map. No clue how big that is.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017

    @DoManMacgee said in War Room - Brief Review:

    {snip}
    And I don’t even have the “jumbo” edition that apparently has an even larger map. No clue how big that is.

    According to Nightingale Games, the base map is 42 inches (107 cm) in diameter and the jumbo map is 47 inches (119 cm) in diameter.

    I hope that helps.

    -Midnight_Reaper


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