With three run throughs of the boardgame under my belt now I thought I’d offer up a few observations of the game.
1944: Race to the Rhine by Phalanx Gamesis a wargame who’s main focus is on logistics rather than the intricacies of combat. The game is set after the Normandy breakout and the fall of Paris in 1944. Three players (full disclosure time- all three games I’ve played have been three player I know that there are rules for playing solo or with 2 players but I don’t know what they are) take the roles of the Army commanders Montgomery, Bradley and Patton; each with their own ‘path’ to the Rhine. Each player has three or four wooden blocks which represent their subordinate Corps, wooden counters are also used to indicate what supplies each Corps is carrying (fuel, ammo or food) as well as the path that the logistics trucks take to resupply the subordinate units. The winner is the first General who pushes a Corp block across the Rhine, if all the German units are deployed before that happens the winner is the General who has earned the most medals.
When a player takes a turn, they can perform two actions: move a Corps, move supplies, take trucks or take supplies. Once all the trucks have been used the game pauses and the logistics trucks are reset. Movement is point to point and a card is drawn for each point entered. One deck is used for ‘unoccupied’ areas and is unique for each player whilst a common deck is used for areas with a German presence. Cards may indicate a German formation, a historical event that is used to change the weather or interactions with the local populous. Combat is deterministic and is just a case of having the right resources to beat the Germans. The hard part of the game is ensuring that the right resources are there where they need to be at the right time. Once each player has finished their two actions they place a counter, starting with anywhere adjacent to Dusseldorf, and working outwards from there. Of course, the placement of these counters can be used to hinder the progress of your rivals.
Each of the Generals has their own special abilities, this combined with the different starting loads for Corps as well as the hazards along each available route makes for a different game strategy for each General. Some of the basic decision that you have to make are similar, do you push forward straight away, or do you load up with what you think you might need… Montgomery’s route has the channel ports to consider, clearing them is difficult but supplies can be brought in from them once they have been taken; If Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary is cleared it is an even bigger bonus. Similarly, Patton can draw on supplies from Allied forces advancing from the South (post Operation Dragoon) once he has advanced sufficiently far. Air power is simple but effective when it is used carefully. Likewise, the use of Airborne assets, needs careful handling. If used badly they might cost you the game but you can still try for your own Operation Market Garden.
Deciding when to push forward and when to consolidate and bring up supplies are the key decisions in the game, keeping and eye on how your rivals are doing means the pressure to keep going piles on. The game is a great blend of euro style mechanics married to a strong military theme. There are very few flaws in this game. The only one that is really apparent is the game-y way you can stich up your rivals by placing the German counters- rather ahistorical, I’d have preferred a random or semi- random guided placement bot.
Regardless, it is a minor quibble, I highly recommend this game.