Victory in Europe Review
Victory in the Europe is the latest offering from Columbia Games. Released early in 2015 after a successful Kickstarter, Victory in Europe is a strategic level block war game covering the European theater of World War II. It’s touted as playable in 4-6 hours, quick fast for something covering the entire European war.
As the norm with Columbia Games, the blocks are top notch and the stickers detach from the sheet easily and fit well on the blocks. Once stickered, the game is a joy to look at. The Kickstarter allowed for each major player to have its own colored blocks. Stickers for the blocks are also country specific. The cards have great illustrations that reflect the special ability of each card. The map is bright and colorful. My only gripe here is the map feels a bit flimsy and is small when the fighting is around Germany early or late in the war. The rule book is short and sweet. The errata from the rule book was quickly addressed and updated rules are already available.
By 1940, the Germans had easily blitzed through the Low Countries and France.
Both the Axis and Allies get their own deck of cards. Within the deck, there are cards for each year of the war. Players draw part of this deck to determine their hand for each year. It’s a neat way of giving some flavor to each year of the war. The Germans are understandably strong early, but the Allies have overpowering cards in the war’s later years. Each card has an operations number. This number determines how many attacks or strategic movements are allowed. A player can always make standard moves for all their units. Both sides have something to think about during their turn. Cards are color coded. The Axis have black (German) and green (Italian) colors. The Allies have red (Russia) and blue (Western Allies). If your card has an even number, you must split your operations up evenly between both major groups. So playing a 4 means both the Russians and Western Allies can make 2 attacks. But if a card has an even number, then the extra attack goes to the color that corresponds to that group. A blue 5 would mean the Western Allies get 3 attacks and the Russians 2. The cards really add a lot of strategy to the game, forcing you to prioritize your attacks. Once you make your attacks, the game plays like any Columbia block game. Letters on the blocks determine the order or battle and hits rotate the block until the unit is eliminated. Players also have the option each turn (until the US joins the war) to influence neutral countries. This is done by a dice roll. There are advantages to your roll if you own territory next to the neutral but beware. If you miss, your opponent now has bonuses on a roll on the same country. It may not be completely historical, but it adds some neat playability to the game.
Ok, so it’s a World War 2 game. Germany romps early, and the Allies romp late. Rinse and repeat, right? Not exactly. The card deck can add a lot to the game. I’ve played the game three times, all with Germany, and have managed one victory. The Germans can either win outright by capturing certain objectives or by simply holding on to Berlin by the end of 1945. In a three player game, the Allies don’t have to win as a team. The winner is who reaches Berlin first, making the Russian-Western alliance as tentative as it was in real life. Throw in the random influence chances, and there are a ton of replay possibilities. For a World War 2 game, it’s refreshing. It also helps that the quick game play means it’ll make it to the table much more often.
By end of 1944, the Allies had capitulated. At one point the Germans owned Cairo and Moscow.
Again, balance in a World War 2 game is relative. Germany should roll over Poland, the Low Countries, and France. The German war machine will slow down some. The Allies should win most games, but the game is winnable for Germany as I’ve seen. That’s good balance for a World War 2 game.
I’ve played many Columbia Games, and this is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. It’s got a simple rule set, good components, and lots of replay ability. Years ago I enjoyed a simpler World War 2 game called Hitler’s War. Victory in Europe is like a much better version of that game. It can be played in a relative short amount of time and provides a great strategic experience. Now, if they would just make that map a bit bigger…