#Wargame #FirstImpressions – WW2 Deluxe European Theater (Canvas Temple Publishing, 2018)

I recently took took delivery of WW2 Deluxe: European Theater (alternatively WW2 Deluxe: The War in Europe) from new-ish wargame publisher Canvas Temple Publishing. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

WW2 Deluxe is a grand-strategic game utilizing armies or army groups, air forces, and fleets. The game covers the entire conflict in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. There are two players or sides in the game. The Axis controls Germany, Italy, and all friendly minor countries. The Allied player controls France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States when it enters the conflict.

The game aims to make the war in Europe playable in an evening. Contents include 1 x 22×34 inch map,  1 x book of rules , 1 x sheets of 3/4″ inch counters, and charts and tables.

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The war in Europe, on a card table

The game funded with just over $24,000 on $6,000 needed. The extra money unlocked several stretch goals including a mounted map. There was one more stretch goal at $28,000 that would of unlocked blocks (more on that later).

Components

In a phrase, VERY NICE! I really like the mounted board (a folded paper board is also included). The big counters are really nice for this old grognard. When I opened my box, several counters had fallen off the sprue. CTP owner Jon Compton explains:

Lastly, be advised that the printer did a very fine job of die-cutting the counters for WW2 Deluxe. Perhaps a little too fine, as they barely adhere to the sprew. So be careful when you examine the counter sheet. Personally I consider that a bonus as it means I won’t have to trim off a bunch of rabbit ears. But everyone has a different use for these games, so if that’s a problem, my apologies in advance (and before anyone asks, no, I won’t be reprinting them to make them stay in better. It’s a feature, not a bug :-).

A great feature of this bug is that the counters are easy to get off the sprue and they really look awesome when clipped – and clipping goes quickly because there are not that many counters to go through!

If I have a complaint it is that I wish there was a Production Track somewhere. Production Cities on the map are often covered up by units making counting them up a bit painful. Rule 7.1.2 also details bonus production points; wish all that was captured on a chart or track somewhere. Alas, I guess I will make my own….

Game Mechanics

In play and scope WW2 Deluxe is not much different from Axis & Allies. However, unlike A&A, WW2 Deluxe uses many “classic” hex & counter mechanics in play. Each turn includes Strategic Warfare (Strategic Bombings and Convoy battles), Production, Axis then Allied Turns (Movement & Combat), an extra Armored Action phase, Supply and End of Turn Adjustment. Classic wargame Zones of Control (ZoC) are used. Combat resolution is via a Combat Chart with the number of attacking/defending factors cross-referenced with the type of combat and column shifts based on few modifiers. Roll 2d6; every “hit” first reduces then eliminates a unit (most are two-step, front & back).

Some markers are required for the game. Air and Fleet units will need Ops Complete markers at times but the few markers keeps the map relatively uncluttered. Errata to date has also been limited (a few misprinted counters and very few rules clarifications).

When I first looked at the map, I wondered about all the “extra” areas like the Middle East and Spain and the like. At first I figured it was just there because the map is rectangular and it would look unusual to cut it out. However, the rules make those areas important! Not only does WW2 Deluxe include neutrals, but those “extra” areas are important for Production. Iraqi oil or rebellion? Rumanian oil and Swedish steel; those “peripheral” areas have value!

Scenarios

Playing time is rated as 2 hours and up. The game is advertised as, “playable in an evening.” My first solo play-thru (with rules learning) of the full 24-turn Fall 1939-Spring 1945 campaign took around 5 hours. In addition to the full campaign, six other scenarios are provided. Each starts at a different point in the war and proceeds from there. Choices are:

  • Fall Gelb & Weserubung (Spring 1940)
  • Barbarossa & Battleaxe (Summer 1941)
  • Fall Blau & Torch (Summer 1942)
  • Citadel & Avalanche (Summer 1943)
  • Overlord & Bagration (Summer 1944)
  • Wacht am Rhein (Winter 1945)

I guess I could have started with Wacht am Rhein and only played two turns. But I would have missed out on the full experience and not really see how streamlined, or not, the game is. There are also several Optional Rules and variants to choose from. This will certainly help with replayability; one can either use the random variant rolls to see what you get (like Ireland goes Axis and no Soviet purges) or pick-n-choose what experiment you want to try.

Blocks

I don’t miss the blocks. Indeed, I think this game would NOT have worked with blocks as each would have to be two-sided meaning you either stack them (like counters) or face the unused side to your opponent (losing the fog of war blocks often bring). The mapboard would have to be larger too.

Final Thoughts

WW2 Deluxe delivers what it promises; a simple wargame of the war in Europe that is playable in an evening. Nice components complement a somewhat classic hex & counter wargame. In many ways WW2 Deluxe is a good candidate for a convention game; easy to teach and playable in a reasonably short time period.

In this age of “innovation” I am quite happy and satisfied with this classic wargame approach. WW2 Deluxe proves that “innovative” is not necessarily better. WW2 Deluxe is a wargame that lets players refight World War II in Europe without fancy plastic minis or custom dice or “innovative” mechanisms and rules. Canvas Temple Publishing has given us a thematic-enough game on World War II in Europe that’s plain, simple fun!

6 comments

    • When I first Kickstarted this game I almost cancelled because it looked too simple. Glad I hung in there because it can fill that niche for an intro wargame or a breezy convention game.

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