World at War: Eisenbach Gap — Review

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Eisenbach GapWorld at War: Eisenbach Gap is Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s latest game. It is a Cold War era platoon-level board wargame. The unit scale is platoon and each hex represents 150m. While the game depicts fictional scenarios, Eisenbach Germany was a real point of possible contention during the Cold War. In addition, Eisenbach Gap is the first game in the World at War series so we will see additional titles using the same system in the future. The game ships in a full-size game box with 128 die-cut 5/8″ counters, mounted 17″ x 22″ map, two players’ aid cards, 4 dice, and a 16-page rulebook. Probably the first thing you will notice is the counters. They are very attractive and have an almost bewildering array of numbers on them. Unfortunately they are also some of the thinest cardboard counters you will find in any wargame. They are essentially the thickness of two pieces of card stock. The biggest issue with the thinness is that it makes the counters rather difficult to pick up even with tweezers. Hopefully Lock ‘n Load will produce thicker counters for future WaW titles. [Note: Oddly, an extra set of counters I ordered direct from LnL were on thicker stock.] The map is nice and similar in thickness to the ASL Starter Kit maps or roughly the thickness of your average wargame counter. The map is very attractive in an antiseptic sort of way — Like the time period being portrayed, it has a sort of retro feel to it. The rulebook is well laid out and a fairly useful reference during play. The player aid cards are handy but leave a lot of information out. You will need to make your own notes to ease play. Of course play is what is most important and it is here that WaW:EG excels. The rules are fairly simple, only ten pages, but manage to convey all of the important elements of modern warfare including terrain effects, morale, command and control, anti-tank missile fire, artillery, air defense, and even helicopters. The only obviously missing element is close air support. The combat system is very miniatures like and in fact could easily be adapted for miniature use especially for micro armor. The primary play element is certainly the impulse system. Each force in the game has one or more chits (formation markers) assigned to it. These are all placed in a cup along with one or more end turn counters and players activate units when their forces’ chit(s) is drawn. This one simple system simulates aspects of command and control, unit/army quality and initiative levels as well as technological differences. In general, NATO forces will have more formation markers than Warsaw Pact forces and thus will have the potential to act more frequently. What is nice about this system is that, when combined with the headquarter units and command radius, it does a great job of simulating the various C3i elements of modern warfare with a minimum of rules. In addition, from a play standpoint it keeps play exciting and both sides engaged throughout the turn as you never know when a unit will be activated relative to another or even when a turn might end. The NATO player may get a bit cocky and assume he will have some flexibility only to have the Warsaw Pact units drawn first and then the turn end. This uncertainty makes no plan a sure thing and goes a long way to forcing players to think a bit more like their real life counterparts than do many other games. Another command element is the in-game headquarters units. Each formation has a dedicated HQ unit. The HQ has a command range that all units must remain within. Units within command can be activated with the formation and the HQ unit can help rally units and aid in combat. In addition, HQs can call in artillery. Units straying out of command need to make morale checks to act and lose the benefits of the HQ. What is nice about this system is that it again helps stress the functional aspects of formations and command and control but also allows for the simulation of scouting formations that have less command radius restrictions and can also call in artillery and spot. Unlike some other game systems where HQ representation can become an Achilles’ heel as sides try to pick off each other’s HQ units, WaW:EG does not allow HQ units to be specifically targeted. There is even a chance a HQ unit will be replaced if it is destroyed. Combat is also handled smoothly. The counters do seem to have a dizzying array of numbers on them but they all will quickly make sense. Combat is basically a miniatures-like dice system. For example, an M1 platoon that is firing on a unit of T-72s in the woods at normal range would roll four D6 and need four or greater on each die to score hits. For defense the T-72s roll four D6 and need sixes to cancel hits. In addition, the woods give one more defensive die roll. This is a quick and clean system and simple tweaks handle complex procedures such as ammo-depletion of AT-missiles. If a unit firing ATGMs scores no hits it is considered ammo depleted for two turns. This is an easy way to simulate limited ATGM ammo as well as reload times. The only complaint with this system is that some modifiers add additional die rolls while others modify rolls. You will need notes on what does what until you get a game or two under your belt. Six scenarios are included that range from small company level engagements to medium/large battalion/regiment sized battles. One scenario includes an air assault operation and special rules handle the helicopter insertions with a minimum of fuss. Note, the last page of the rulebook contains the order of battle (OoB) for the various formations. Overall World at War: Eisenbach Gap is a fast playing, engaging game (and game system) that handles all of the most important elements of modern warfare with a minimum of rules. Our only complaint is that we wish they had moved back in time a bit more to when the U.S. M60A3 and Soviet T-64 were the kings of the battlefield. With the current Iraq War underway, having M1s and T-72s may seem a bit too present day for those not around during the Cold War itself. If you have an interest in the period at all or enjoy platoon-level games then WaW:EG is worth a look. Future expansions should only make this game better. Recommended. Note: In mid-2013 LnL discontinued Eisenbach Gap but replaced with Eisenbach Gap Deluxe. The Deluxe version is the same but includes all the components of both the original Eisenbach Gap and Death of First Panzer with mounted maps for both. See our review of the Death of the 1st Panzer expansion and World at War: Gamer’s Guide. [Updated: 7FEB14]

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10 thoughts on “World at War: Eisenbach Gap — Review

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