I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE CHIT-PULL MECHANIC as well as early World War II games. Poland Defiant (Revolution Games, 2019) hits both of these wants of mine and delivers an interesting, tense battle of the start of World War II in Europe.
When I first saw the advertisement for this game, I jumped right in because of the chit-pull mechanic. Although mechanically based on an earlier Konigsberg game, I never owned or played that title. In Poland Defiant, major formations are activated when their Command Chit is drawn from the pool. In addition to the Command Chits, there are also Special Command Chits representing higher headquarters as well as Action Chits for Random Events and Replacements. The chit-pull mechanic means the turn order is randomized – i.e. friction in warfare. Inevitably, your perfect plan to sequence attacks all along the front are disrupted because one group jumps off too early (their chit comes out first) or the enemy disrupts the offensive (their chits are drawn instead of yours).
Poland Defiant adds another layer of friction given that, depending on the turn (one day of the campaign) each side doesn’t necessarily get all their Command Chits. For instance, on Day 3 (Sept 3) when the Germans have six major formations in the field (6x Command Chits) they only get five activations. This means somebody is not going to get an activation that day. But who? For the Polish player the problem is worse. With seven formations fielded (7x Command Chits) the day starts out with the arrival of another formation (+1 Command Chit) and the Replacement Action Chit (+1 chit) for a total of nine chits in the pool (assuming no headquarters have been lost to date). However, on Sept 3 the Poles were really reeling from the invasion and their command and control (C2) was at their worst, which translates in the game to only four activations FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. At least half the army is not going to move
(maybe more if the Replacements Action Chit is amongst the drawn). Edit: Per 2.5 Action Chits, “Action Chits do not count against the number of activated Command Chits drawn per turn.”
I admit that after I quickly jumped and ordered Poland Defiant because of the chit-pull mechanic, I was doubting myself over the topic. I mean, it’s the invasion of Poland! We all “know” this was a cake-walk for the Germans, right? How can a steamroller possibly be interesting, especially for the Polish player getting steamrolled? Well, designer Stefan Ekstrom and developer Roger Miller solved this problem with three simple rules; German Operational Pace, Command Range, and Supply:
- German Operational Pace – Found in rule 4.2.1, German Operational Pace requires the German player to compare their current VP to the number associated with the turn. If the VP count is equal to or better than no problem (everything is developing according to plan). But…if the VP is “behind the pace” the German player suffers a negative consequence until they can “catch up” to the plan.
- Command Range – Formations have headquarters and headquarters can only command so far. Get too far ahead of your commander and suffer. This creates opportunities to disrupt your enemy’s plan by attacking their HQ. Very importantly, if you destroy a HQ all those commanded units become “independent” which in the game means other HQs can activate them, but individually and not as a mass formation. They still fight, but far less efficiently!
- Supply – Nothing special here but a supply line is needed to keep fighting. Striking out cross-country is certainly fun (charge!) but if you don’t protect your supply line one will find themselves going nowhere very quickly (or not).
In Poland Defiant the German player can win an Automatic Victory if they have a unit in supply in any Warsaw hex at the end of a turn. More reasonably, the German player will have to accumulate VP. Up to 14 VP are possible, with 10 VP being equal to the historic result at the end of ten days (Turn 10). Can the Polish player hold the German to less and “beat history?” Play Poland Defiant yourself and find out!
Overall, Poland Defiant has a very small footprint – a 3’x3′ or 1m x 1m table can work. The rule book is an entire 12 pages (one for cover) and the back of the title card acts as a player aid. Poland Defiant is not complex but it delivers a very playable game about a tragic campaign – and makes it interesting and challenging. It’s well worth our investment in time and money.