Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

Excitement in the Air, Part One


Europa is dead! Long live Europa!

Or is it?

The debate rages on over whether Total War, the long awaited revision of Fire in the East, will ever actually see the light of day. Communication from the company is a rare thing, the last update being posted way back on Valentine’s Day.

I have often been sympathetic to the company, but all they do when they post is offer the excuse dujour. The game has been promised since the late 1990s or the early 2000s, making it the biggest piece of vaporware in existence.

There is an alternative, however.

There is a company that is beating HMS/GRD up one side and down the other. The company, Diffraction Entertainment, based in the United Kingdom, has produced a litany of products over the past several years.

In the time we have been waiting on Total War, Diffraction has released:

  • Blitzkrieg, a game covering the early stages of the war from the invasion of Poland, to the invasion of Denmark and Norway, the Battle of the Low Countries and France, and the Battle of Britain. Scouting the order of battle, it looks like it can be taken out as far as 1943, so the window for an invasion of Great Britain has been greatly expanded. (Take what I say with a grain of salt. I am still perusing/assembling the game, so I am by no means an expert on this game, but more on this momentarily). HMS/GRD still has the plans for Lightning War, an updated merging of the Fall of France and Their Finest Hour, but it is still unpublished.
  • Singapore!, a game covering not just the Japanese campaign to take the British fortress of Singapore, but the fight in Burma, the Japanese invasion of India, Java, the Battle of Java Sea, the Japanese invasion of Malaya, and so much more, But wait, there’s more! The point is that Diffraction has released a comprehensive game while HMS/GRD still has theirs currently “in the queue”.
  • Diffraction has a pair of games, Barbarossa & Vengeance, covering the War in the East upcoming. At the current rate of publishing schedules, both of these will be out long before Total War ever sees the light of day. At this time, Barbarossa seems to be a bit behind schedule, but not nearly as far as HMS/GRD is.

I’m not trying to shill for Diffraction, although it may seem like it. The biggest drawback is the cost of the games. This is where I got hesitant. Diffraction does offer different versions at different prices, making it a bit more affordable.

I received a copy of Blitzkrieg on DVD for Christmas last year. I was initially hesitant to print the files, not being sure if it was a legitimate item or not.

Well, it is, and I have recently started printing off the maps, probably the most expensive part of this some assembly required version of the game. In the end, I think this will come to far less than purchasing the game already printed.

One third of the maps are printed thus far. I have to do a little at a time, so I can still pay my bills and eat. I may also have to reconfigure the game room to get it to fit. This after I spent several hours reconfiguring the game room so I could get more space.

So far, I have Britain and France. I had them printed on  11 x 17 semi-glossy card stock. Sure it will cause a bit of reflection in photos, but I think the maps look incredible, so far. Each map comes in 2 sections. If I had chose to get them done on a single sheet, it would have cost me $24 per map. Pics are below.

I know I owe an update on the Battle of Stalingrad, and I owe Lee a turn. Trying to balance all of my projects, but an update is coming soon!

Great Britain & Ireland (click image to enlarge)

Great Britain & Ireland (click image to enlarge)

Great Britain & Ireland overhead (click image to enlarge)

Great Britain & Ireland overhead (click image to enlarge)

France (Click image to enlarge)

France (click image to enlarge)

First third of the maps (click image to enlarge)

First third of the maps (click image to enlarge)

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8 thoughts on “Excitement in the Air, Part One

  1. Looks like the hex numbers are easier to read, and a lot more terrain than the old TFH maps of England. Where are you printing them, Staples?

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    • I had this set printed at FedEx Office/Kinkos. It cost me about $2.50 per section (no tax in Oregon).

      They look nice and definitely gives more features to the British Isles. I can’t wait to get some more printed next weekend and see what they look like.

      But it looks like the Quartermaster’s Editions of these games may be the way to go instead of shelling out $400+ US. The map printing may be the most expensive thing, besides purchasing the DVD itself. I got this one from Noble Knight Games.

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  2. Stephen on said:

    I have this, including the revised counters and rules. It is huge and a lot of work has gone into it. However, I’ve not yet taken the plunge and punched the counters. Although a long time Europa fan and owner of two thirds of Total War (maps and counters), I found the rules for TSSW a little heavy – there seem to be an awful lot of die rolls before you get to each combat. I’d like to see how you get on with it.

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    • I have version 1.29. Hopefully there will be a kit when 2.0 comes out that will allow an easy upgrade.

      I’m hoping to have the last batch of the maps printed and cut next weekend. Then the rulebook, OBs and charts. Then finally the counters. I am debating whether or not to get a die cutting machine to help cut the countersheets up. It would definitely come in handy if I were to buy more than one of these games on DVD.

      Once all of it is printed and cut, I will probably do a run through it, making lots of mistakes in the process as I forget it isn’t Europa. I’m sure I will screw the stacking up. Fortunately, I have all sorts of different dice types to use. At that time, I’ll do a review of it.

      I also want to check out Tom Johnson’s version of the same period and area. Kind of compare the two.

      Plus the First World War, because I want to play campaigns that are not the Western front.

      I have a lot of things in the pipeline.

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  3. rcv224 on said:

    Hello Tony,

    I periodically check my Greg’sGameBoard site and realized that someone from the Cardboard Wars site had recently visited it (via WordPress’ site monitoring service) and upon closer inspection realized that you’re back in business. Hey, that’s great! And I hope you keep going. I’ll hit the new posts notification box below to keep in touch.

    Yes, I fear for the Europa series and HMS. Having done some analysis this summer, it appears all their inertia spins around the release of TW, and in particular the business obligation of the old preorders. Because of that problem they apparently cannot proceed with the development or updating of other wargame projects or the old magazine. This also appears to be the block of any sell-out. If one reads carefully the last two progress updates on the HMS site, they say all that is holding TW back is the competition of the “third batch” of the final remainder of printed material and then the preorder shipping costs. And this is with the resources of the Ebay sales of their estate purchase, their investors and share holders resources (both of whom are evidently in the same drifting boat as they are), and their own resources. And so what might this inhibiting factor be that stops dead the implied final putt-in of the golf ball into the hole, to close the TW deal? In terms of a sell-out, which apparently now seems to be in theory the most exquisite and pleasing solution for the two ailing and aged Europa front men, it might be that in addition to the expected costs of the Europa rights and remaining material assets of the business, there is the liquidation of the old TW preorder business obligations, via not by a little chump change to finish the two aforementioned little loose ends, but rather by a total refund of the old preorder list. Unfortunately this might be the reality, which they’ve been able to stiff for over a decade by their chronic fiddling on the golf course green, endlessly putting around the TW golf ball. What this means is that prospective buyers will not want to “buy” unless the current owners liquidate the old TW preorder business obligations, one way or another. If TW if in fact a toxic asset, then Europa may be too expensive to revive, until this “asset” is liquidated.

    In the meantime I am currently involved in other projects, and for now do not have a wargame on the board, having put up the WitD maps. This is the first time in quite a number of years that I have not had something laid out, but maybe later, after New Year or if my current projects end sooner than expected. So I will be counted on you and Cardboard Wars to let me get up close to an active gameboard! How nice to see your plywood boards and saw horses up in your game room.

    I have given both MTV & OT a look lately, and agree that there is a ton of wargame literature there, along with pages & pages of errata; makes me think twice, too.

    Good luck on your current wargames and your super-fine blogsite.

    Greg Bartels

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    • Greg –

      With regards to HMS, my own personal opinion is that their boat sunk. There is no HMS. There has been no communication in nearly 6 months (which means they will throw the line out again soon). Here’s the reality from my point of view. I don’t have a dog in this fight because I didn’t pre-order.

      They spent the money. They spent the money they raised from the sale of the estate items they purchased (which, in my opinion, they had no business purchasing in the first place with monies from pre-orders). Be it on rent, food, medical bills, settlements or what have you, the money is gone. There are no “investors”, no shareholders. They are a creation and convenient excuse continuously used as nothing continues to happen. The problem isn’t their printer. The problem is that they have no money and the game will remain vaporware forever, and they have been forced into fabricating stories rather than fess up. I fully admit I have no evidence of this. This is purely speculation and my opinion. Hell, they don’t even seem to be monitoring the group anymore. The group has been discussing Europa alternatives recently.

      I have sympathy for those who pre-ordered. I get it. They spent money in good faith and few have received anything in return, certainly not a playable game. I understand that many are holding out hope that it will eventually come out, that they are to the point of desperation where some are suggesting giving HMS even MORE money to get it printed and shipped (such as you stated in your comment). Some have given up. I saw a place where someone was giving the TW maps (slightly used) for free with a certain order amount. HMS has ZERO credibility anymore, and they have been shamed into silence. Reports that I have been seeing in the group is that their phone has been shut off.

      Define chump change. Another couple hundred bucks? Fifty bucks? If everyone on the Europa list contributed $50 to get this thing out, you would have what, $500 bucks? A thousand? Likely not enough to get it out the door.

      In the end, they will likely declare bankruptcy and move on with their lives. I’m sure this is not what they intended when they undertook the project. Winston always got stuff out the door. Not always on time, but he got stuff shipped. Carl, well I don’t remember if Over There came out before or after his watch, but I do remember that he did not stick around long. It is possible he saw what was going on and decided to abandon ship. HMS has done nothing but provide excuses.

      Does HMS want to get things going again? Bypass the printer. Make the rules .pdf format and post them online. What’s the harm? Potential copyright infringement? The game certainly isn’t playable without maps and counters. If their so-called “investors” are preventing them from doing anything like this, their “investors” certainly are not visionary, and stuck in the 20th Century, which is why I believe there are no “investors”. Investors invest to make money, not provide charity. If there is no product moving, there is no money being made. Investors would insist the company do everything possible to get it finished and shipped to those who already purchased a copy, even if it is only a few at a time. Very few investors will stick around for a company that can’t generate revenue.

      The reality is that, in my opinion, they are out of money, and are hoping to disappear into obscurity. I’m really surprised the trademark holder has not revoked the rights from that group.

      BUT, having been investigating Diffraction’s offerings and having purchased “Blitzkrieg”, I noticed one very notorious name once associated with Europa and the Europa community. I have to wonder if something has been done to ensure Europa will never see the light of day in order to push another agenda forward. I am not referring to John Bannerman. He has never been anything but nice and helpful to me.

      Again, no proof. Mere speculation on my part, but there is certainly something rotten in Denmark. It seems that Diffraction has released at least three major games in the past 6 years (Blitzkrieg, Mare Nostrum, Singapore), and are preparing to launch numbers 4 , 5 and 6 (Barbarossa, Vengeance, and Operation Watchtower) starting next year. In addition, DE has published several smaller games, as well as having developed another series altogether.

      Can HMS be sold? It really depends on whether or not they really want to sell, and if anyone wants to buy once they see what’s under the hood. No one wants to buy a Mustang that only has 150 ponies under the hood.

      There is probably so much that has happened that we likely don’t know about. Don’t forget that there was a lawsuit several years ago, and these guys have been crippled ever since. That bomb hit the rudder, and they have been going in circles ever since.

      Don’t misunderstand me. It saddens me to see Europa die like this. I cut my teeth on Western Desert. That’s one of the primary reasons I continue to play the classic games. Not many games today require you to think like these games do. I recently turned my nephew on to Squad Leader of all things. It gets him to shut off his Playstation every once in a while.

      Finally, I did drop by your page, because I realized last night that I hadn’t been there. So I dropped in to see what was going on. You still have your FoF/TFH/Narvik project you were going to work on. That’s what inspired me to get a copy of Blitzkrieg. I’ll also have to check out Tom Johnson’s version at some point.

      And my dogs have been trying to eat those sawhorses! Apparently I don’t feed them enough!

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  4. rcv224 on said:

    Hello Tony,

    Here’s what I can say right now regarding your reply above.

    I’m still interested in the FoF/TFH/Narvik project that was kicked around awhile back at the EA. In fact, I seriously considered going back to this project after putting up the WitD maps used for the WW 1941 ME/ER-II/Crete Scenario and prior to taking MTV & OT a rather casual look. If I get through with my current projects, I may in fact then go back to the ToF/TFH/Narvik project.

    Implicit in the above paragraph is a temporary postponement/abandonment of finishing up the loose ends of the 1941 ME/ER-II/Crete Scenario, which would be the competition and posting (read: publishing) of the 1941 Scenario Axis and Allied OBs and the Scenario-specific Rules. All three draft texts are in the draft files of the Greg’sGameBoard website, including an unpublished Nov II 41 Allied turn. The Allied & Axis Scenario OBs were considered finished when I began posting the 1941 Scenario’s game reports at the EA, but I would want to give these two texts a good going-over before I publish them at the WordPress web site. The 1941 draft rules already have a lot of hard work put into them, but I need to update it with the lessons learned from the EA game reports. The “main thing” about the 1941 Scenario would be the embedded “historical” Apr I 41 Iraqi coup and and a refinement/revision of the 1941 Axis intervention in Iraq and Syria rules, aka, the “Near East.” A corollary to this would be Axis use of Tunisia, if Axis privileges in the NE aren’t used by the Axis player. The Assault on Crete segment rules also need to be finalized, which are tricky, and some kind of Victory Conditions are needed.

    I’ve already used up about 65% of the photo space of the Greg’sGameBoard site, and so will cease publishing on it when & if I ever finish the above mentionedScenario-specific loose ends. Eventually, I may leave the website address somehow in the EA Files and maybe at the GeneralStab site as a reference, in case anyone with WitD & WW might want to play it. If I ever do any other wargame website publications than the 1941 ME/ER-II/Crete Scenario project, I’ll try to get another WordPress freebie website and use it.

    More some other time on the FoF/TFH/Narvik project, save that the first step might be to do a FoF game, using the historical set-up and the Ger OB found in the FoF 2004 OB and the Fr OB found in Gee’s old TEM articles (two), along w/ the FoF 2004 Rules (based on SF), but modified by much from AT’s old Sedan article, in TEM.

    When you ask “what do you mean by chump change” I was surprised, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. To tell the truth I was in fact being facetious, or doing a little “leg-pulling” in a failed attempt to be subtle, or kind By that I mean that I currently believe that the TW project may not be finished, or else that maybe it is sort-of finished, but is still too rough and full of burrs and glitches to be published in what might be called “in good faith” in business. I have no evidence for this hunch other than it appears to me per the website texts that the only thing that is holding up the publication are some “chump change” issues, and to me this hardly seems plausible, even for run-of-the-mill businessmen. Secondly, there was never any deliberate intention by me to indicate any concern, pity, or due consideration for the pre-order people in the second paragraph of my above posting. I’m one of those po’ dogs, too, but that’s alright. I’m no lawyer, but the intended point about the pre-order issue is that it appears to me to be a business obligation (read: contractual understanding), and unless it is liquidated (read: either TW published or else owner bankruptcy) it goes along as part of the baggage with any sale of Europa, in my uneducated opinion; and this is why, I am guessing, no one wants to buy Europa at this time, because of this particular liability. Therefore, to change my tune in order to be more clear, it seems to me the TW “issue” today is not at all about some “chump change” to “finish it & get it out”, but rather (to make me say it out loud): that the “issue” is the liability cost of the TW pre-orders in terms of a refund in order to finish that pending contractual obligation, assuming it is not otherwise liquidated via bankruptcy, in which case the remaining Europa rights would apparently then be sold off at a nominal auction price rather than at a premium retail price, in a case w/out the TW pre-order liability via a successfully published TW by the Europa owners. Any accidentally implied concern, pity, or due consideration would be for the realistic economical continuance of the Europa project, and not at all for the unfortunate pre-order bunch, who have duly learned a lesson in business economics, and who are now at least wiser. I would imagine the real pre-order refund costs of TW would be maybe 10Xs the hypothetical “chump change” sum, or maybe even higher, subtracting what TW game material they’ve already sent out to the pre-order people.

    Sorry for the long-winded yap. I’m working also on diminishing this character flaw; you’ll see.

    Greg Bartels

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    • I see what you are talking about in reference to chump change.

      I don’t think HMS set out to end up like this. I think their intentions were purely honorable. But I think that lawsuit a few years back handcuffed them and essentially killed Europa, if they had to come up with some sort of settlement.

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