Ginkel Heath – Propaganda and Reality in MARKET-GARDEN

It has been very quite from this side over the last six months. Mainly due to loads and loads of work I haven´t had the time to write anything. There´s however, one article which was published some time ago on Armchairgeneral.com and which I didn´t re-post here.

Ginkel Heath – Propaganda and Reality in MARKET-GARDEN

During the afternoon of September 18th, 1944—day two of Operation Market-Garden, the Allied airborne attempt to seize bridges at Arnhem, Holland—a cameraman of Propaganda Kompanie Benchter runs for cover in the woods adjoining SS-Captain Helle’s battalion headquarters. From his position, overlooking Ginkel Heath—Drop-Zone Y for the incoming Allied paratroopers—he films the hotly contested landing of the British 4th Parachute Brigade.
That unexpected air-landing and a perfectly timed counterattack by the 7th Kings Own Scottish Borderers during the engagement proved a serious setback to the German effort to destroy the Allies’ attempt to establish a bridgehead north of the Rhine Rive. This, however, is not what the German propaganda department wanted Herrenvolk on the homefront to believe
The German Propaganda department used images shot by the aforementioned cameraman quite extensively in their weekly newsreel from the front, Die Deutsche Wochenschau.

It is interesting to see how events around the cameraman unfold, and how the images he shot were used to create a fictional interpretation of the Arnhem battle. The scenes in this particular newsreel were very rare this late in the war: German units in action, Allied planes burning and crash-landing, and paratroopers descending amidst German tracers and bursts of shrapnel.
These may have been the first pictures of success that could be used by the German propaganda department following the disaster in Normandy and the headlong retreat to the border of the Reich. It’s no surprise, therefore, this footage was fully exploited in order to keep up the sagging German morale. A narrator described the hotly contested Allied landings in the Arnhem region by saying, “hundreds of paratroopers are killed before they reach the ground” and “thousands have been killed near the landing zones.” This interpretation of events is, however, in stark contrast with what really happened at Ginkel Heath.

So, what do we really see in this newsreel?
First of all, what we witness are not the initial landings on September 17th but those of the second wave on the 18th. The drop-zone (DZ) was under direct fire, but the Germans did not control the entire perimeter as suggested by the narrator. Brigadier John W. Hackett’s 4th Parachute Brigade, numbering 2.000, jumped into a hail of fire and suffered considerable casualties, but again, not as crippling as suggested. Neither was the battle for Ginkel Heath a victory for the Germans; it was in fact, almost a disaster. In short, everything about the narrator’s story is wrong.
After the initial landings in the afternoon of September 17th a division- sized Kampfgruppen, Division von Tettau, was scraped together from the units stationed west of Arnhem. Their mission was to contain the threat and close the drop zones (DZs) and landing zones (LZs). At dawn the next day six battalions—SS-guard, SS-training, Luftwaffe, Kreigsmarine and Wehrmacht units—advanced from Wageningen in the direction of Oosterbeek and Arnhem beyond. After initial failure, the DZ at Ginkel Heath was re-captured and those to the south threatened, with the British troops pushed back over a five-mile front. By early afternoon most of Ginkel Heath, rather flat and completely open terrain surrounded by woods to the south and west, had been cleared. SS-Wachbattalion III Nordwest, commanded by SS-Captain Helle, formed up to chase the 7th Kings Own Scottish Borderers (7 KOSB) from the eastern treeline and their last foothold on the heath. In the midst of these preparations, at 1500 hours, a buzzing sound filled the sky: the aerial armada bringing in the second wave of Major General Robert Urquhart’s 1st Airborne Division was approaching. This was the signal the British on the ground had been waiting for. As the German cameraman ran and Helle’s NordwestSS-battalion watched in awe, the 7 KOSB attacked to sweep clean Drop-Zone Y just prior to the landing.

SS-Wachbattalion III Nordwest was a small unit of six guard companies and one heavy-weapons platoon, 400–600 strong. It had been formed in 1942 to guard the concentration camps spread throughout Holland and was composed of collaborating Dutch volunteers wishing to avoid the Arbeiteinsatz (forced labor), along with Ukrainians and recuperating German wounded. Even by the low standards of the garrison of Holland, the members of the battalion were physically unfit and lacked the training, equipment and morale necessary for front-line duty. Nevertheless, on the 17th, they had been close to the drop-zones west of Arnhem and thus formed a part of Division von Tettau. Their initial actions showed their lack of training as they attacked down a road in column, suffering heavy casualties. A subsequent concerted attack with neighboring units in the early afternoon had more success and swept the 7 KOSB from Ginkel Heath, though suffering heavy casualties yet again. It was these six bloodied companies that now found themselves seriously outnumbered and assailed from the front and from the sky.

Victory turns into Defeat
As the Propaganda Kompanies‘ cameraman was filming the action Batallion Nordwest fell apart. Most companies fled right away. Only two companies (3rd and 4th) and Hauptscharfuhrer (Sergeant-major) Einenkel’s heavy-weapons platoon formed “hedgehogs” and something of a coherent, all-round defense. SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) Paul A. Helle panicked, ran out the back door of his headquarters and fled northwards. Many of his troops did the same and fled or surrendered even before the last of the paratroopers had landed on the heath. The cameraman had a good view of the Dakota transport planes overhead, some of which had been hit by flak, and the subsequent descent of the paratroopers. Even though it was not as murderous as Die Deutsche Wochenschau wished those watching its newsreel to believe, for the paratroopers it still must have been hell to descend into the small-arms fire of 3rd and 4th company intermixed with 20mm flak and mortar and machine-gun fire from the heavy-weapons platoon.
Leonard Derek Moss, 4th Parachute Brigade, remembered his jump into this cauldron of fire: Bullets whizzed past from the ground and anti-aircraft shells continued to explode all around. The ground was rushing upwards quickly. 400 feet … It was chaos below. Men ran all over the place avoiding enemy fire. Mortar shells exploded throwing up clouds of smoke and dirt while fires burned out of control … Paratroopers were landing all around. It was chaos as heavy machine gun fire raked the area from concealed German positions in the woods. Men were being hit, wounded, killed. Gunfire exploded nearby, ripping into the ground, throwing up puffs of dirt. The air was alive with flying lead.
Trying to fight off attacks from all sides, the remnants of Nordwest‘s 3rd and 4th company and Einekel’s platoon gave up their position and attempted a haphazard fighting withdrawal to the north. The cameraman must have joined them after he had shot several minutes of footage—showing much more courage then most soldiers of SS-Battalion Nordwest had shown. He managed to capture unique material, and a full minute of his footage was used in that week’s Wochenschau to show those at home images of German soldiers fighting valorously, tenaciously—and victoriously, something far from the reality of what was actually happening during the time the cameraman was filming.

The Aftermath
It was all over in a matter of minutes. Had the 7th KOSB not counterattacked as the second wave of paratroopers arrived, the German propaganda might well have been right. General Hackett thanked the 7 KOSB “for getting the paratroopers such a good landing.” Still, during the landing, the 4th Parachute brigade lost over 200 soldiers, 10% of its strength. The 7 KOSB and 4th Parachute Brigade never reached their intended target, the Arnhem bridges, and were pushed back into the Oosterbeek perimeter along with most of the 1st British Airborne Division. Relief would come too late and most of them had to surrender.
SS-Wachbatallion Nordwest had ceased to be an effective unit, losing over half its number, either killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Helle’s adjutant: SS-Untersturmf├╝hrer Albert Naumann, gathered what was left. Incorporated into an experienced SS-regiment, the battalion suffered heavy casualties yet again on the 22nd and was subsequently withdrawn from combat.
The battle for Ginkel Heath had only been a side note to the much larger spectacle at Oosterbeek and Arnhem, but a minute of historic footage remains to remind us of this bloody fight—which was not what the German propaganda purported it to be.

Click here to view a BBC animated map of the battle for Arnhem.


1942, Invasion-Malta Board game

Last week I found an unexpected copy of the World at War magazine in my postbox. Now I don't mind getting magazines for free so I quickly scanned through the contents of this WWII-themed magazine and my interest was soon caught by an article about the Axis Invasion of Malta, 1942; an invasion which never took place. “The war in Europe might've been much different had the Axis 'pulled the trigger' on their detailed plan to conquer Malta.”

Not only was the detailed article an interesting read, it made me think of the possibilities of transforming this very interesting 'what-if' scenario into a board game. Using the British august '42 situation on Malta and the Axis plans for Operation C3, as the plan was named by the Italian high-command, it is possible to form a surprisingly interesting scenario. What would have happened if the Axis had actually pulled the trigger? Well, give it a try!

Axis forces:
  • 5 Italian infantry divisions (sea-borne)
  • 80 artillery pieces (sea-borne)
  • A few dozen Italian assault-guns (sea-borne)
  • An Italian assault-swim battalion (sea-borne)
  • An Italian Marine regiment (sea-borne)
  • 2 Italian para-regiments (sea-borne)
  • 3 German Flieger regiments (air-borne)
  • 2 German Panzer companies (sea-borne)
British forces: 
  • 14 infantry battalions
  • 11 tanks 
  • 2 artillery regiments
The 'what-if'
From 1:00pm on the night of august 15th 1942 the first of two Italian regiments of paratroopers would descend from the sky, soon three German regiments would follow and attempt to set up a perimeter before their seaborne comrades would come ashore. They did not know what to expect when they landed, in fact had the original plan been carried out they had landed on top of the British reserve-brigade. But will the British player position his reserve-brigade on the same spot and where will the Axis player land his airborne-troops.
The same might take place on the “beaches” if Axis intel fails as it historically did. If an Italian division comes ashore directly in front of Fort Campbell on the northern shore of Malta it will be slaughtered.

Axis intelligence on the British troops defending Malta and its position were not very accurate. Thus gathering intelligence on the British strength and disposition can be an interesting addition to the game. Will your paratroopers land on top of a British brigade and be shattered?

But will it be an interesting board game to play? 
As the invasion never took place and so neither of the players is 'in the knows' about what the other will do. As neither side held a decided advantage and there were many aspects which could lead to failure or disaster for either side the game can hang in the balance for quite a long period. The initial invasion might be successful, resulting in a strong bridgehead for the Axis player  but if the Italian navy lives up to its reputation, and scampers after taking a beating, and fails to resupply the ground-forces it might all go awry just as well. Just as well the game might be decided early on for either side by a stroke of luck.

The Royal Navy was not lord and master on the Mediterranean sea, as they would be from '43 onwards, yet. Both players have to decide how to use their naval assets, the Axis has to deter the Royal Navy, stationed in Alexandria, from interfere but will need to support the landings as well.
The British fleet, although much weaker then their Italian counterpart, had two decided advantages, supply and morale. The Italians had to ration fuel and would thus be unable to use their capital-ships much more then a few days, choices will have to be made. Another fragile asset for the Axis player will be the morale of the Italian navy; a series of defeats and their fleet will withdraw to the safety of its harbours.

Malta is a very rugged little island. Landing 100.000+ troops on its rocky shores, as Operation C3 called for, would have been a hazardous and possibly disastrous undertaking. Let alone bringing ashore the German panzers and Italian self-propelled artillery necessary to bring the invasion to a successful end.
Which brings us to another difficult problem for the Axis player: supply. Not only fuel, food and ammunition but water will be in short supply from D-day +1.

The different aspects and phases of a Malta Invasion board game:
  • August 13, 14, 15 Axis intelligence gathering of British troop disposition 
  • August 13, 14, 15 British intelligence gathering of Axis intentions
  • August 13th British-player troop disposition
  • August 15th Axis-player chooses landing beaches
  • August 14 to August 30, Naval Warfare
  • August 15th the battle commences
  • An Italian Navy morale chart
  • Surprise factors for the Axis side
  • Terrain factors because of the rugged terrain

The question: make or not to make?
A bit of research turns up Invasion of Malta: 1942, a small bonus game to Avalon Hill's 1977-title  Air Assault On Crete. It seems however, detail is lacking (Fort Campbell is not on the map) as are many of the important side-aspects of Operation C3. This and the fact it would be hard to find necessitate a new Invasion-Malta board game; I would love to play it for sure.
Avalon Hill's Invasion of Malta: 1942

John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta

This book might be a nice little read if you just visited the Atlanta battlefields and want to know a litte more about them, just a little that is.
However, there's not much on Hood's fascinating character and why he made the descisions he made and fought the battles he fought to be found in this book. This makes me advice someone who wants to know more about Hood to read a full biography of the man, even if you want to know more about the Atlanta campaign as there's not a whole lot about these battles in this book either. 

After just a hundred pages there are 50 pages of OOB which might be in other books but are of no use in this, they just fill blank space. Almost a third of the hundred pages of the text on Hood and Atlanta is taken up by short biographies of the generals who took part in the battles, I guess there are more then thirty of these one page biographies. What is left is not much actually.

If you would like to read about Hood, get this book.

- John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta, best to be avoided: 2/5


King Arthur: the Druids Expansion; a Preview-AAR

I have just started writing an AAR about this soon to be released expansion for the RPG-RTS King Arthur. The game is a bit like the Total War games (as it has epic battles) set in a medieval-fantasy period. It far surpasses the TW series in several aspects: its well-made campaign map, number of units, very good Arthurian story and best of all the RPG-elements; units mature, heroes learn skills an abilities and your king decides to go on the path of good or evil and gain access to new units, skills and spells.

As said, I am writing an AAR about it which can be found here. Hope you will enjoy.


WITE and another Beta-AAR

After two month of being quiet due to some RL-issues which had to be handled I finally have some time to dedicate to my hobbies. At the moment I am franticaly trying to bring Operation Barbarossa to a good end with Gary Grisby's: War In The East which was released about a month ago. To be frank I already made a mess of things with my first attempt as the Axis and are currently being beaten back by the Soviets. The first winter is a brutal experience.
I will continue my current Grand Campaign but am already devising plans for a second attempt.

Shifting von Kleist's 1st Panzer Group, all the way to the south, close to the Black Sea, I will develop a new stagin area for an offensive in the second or third week of Brabarossa. With ample German infantry support von Kleist will drive deep into the Ukrain, bypassing Odessa, with the goal to reach the Dnepr as soon as possible without having to come to grips with the main Russian forces around Kiev.
At the same time, Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group, reinforced by an extra corps from the 3rd, will strike for the Dnepr east of Minsk and then turn south. The plan is thus to create a giant pocket around Kiev. Once this is cleared by the infantry, and it will take some time, I will drive for the Don-basin instead of Moscow. Botht he Soviet capital and Leningrad will thus be seriously neglected until at least early September. We'll see if it works.

Last month was also the time I wrote a new preview-After Action Report with the Beta of the game Cities in Motion. The small Finnish developping company performed a great feat if you ask me. I have always loved games like, and especially, Transport Tycoon. Being over ten years old the graphics are so-so. Thus I was more then happy when I saw the first screenshots of Cities in Motion. This game looks fantastic.

Moreover, it is huge fun as well. Altough there is a lot of room for further expansions and add-ons in the future the game will be stable and well worked out. Here you can find my complete AAR with as many as 20 chapter and (as I write this) 19,000 views. Apart from tons of screenshots I have also made a couple of short in-game videos. I admit it has nothing to do with military strategy and warfare but I hope you'll enjoy them.

The videos->


Finally, after months and months of preparation: reading dozens of books whilst making notes and creating a series of maps to illustrate everything, the time has come to unveil my latest, megalomanic, project: The Civil War Weekly. 
The under-title of the blog says almost everything: A Week-by-Week account; what happened one hundred and fifty years ago during this momentous struggle which pitted brother against brother and shaped the future of the United States.
The American Civil War is very much alive today. And thus I will retrace those events of 150 years ago on a weekly basis. Every week I will write about what happened all those years ago in that week and put it all in perspective. The famous battles we learned about at school are mostly far in between and the periods of inactivity and preparation are very long. At the same time Grant's Overland campaign of 1864 will get another dimension, week-by-week the fighting continued and casualties mounted. The same goes for Sherman's March to the Sea.

Next to retracing the main events I will take a look at the events in the lives of several leading figures, from both sides, as well as some less well known. Amongst others: generals Grant and Lee, Dan Sickles and Stonewall Jackson. But also inventor John Ericsson, intellectual J.J. Pettigrew, private investigator Allan Pinkerton and captain James Wadell.

Well, I am off to write some more and if you are interested, take a look


Enhansing Napoleon Total War; the game as it could....no should have been

I still can't understand why the Creative Assembly leaves it up to the modding-community to make their Total War-games into what they are supposed to be. Whenever a new game hits the shelves, leave it there for six months and only then pick it up. By then many a few great mod(-dification)s can be found which improve the game beyond anything CA released. Enhanced gaming experience ahead!

The performance of both Empire and Napoleon isn't all that good, sudden lag is quite normal if you have anything but a brand-new, state-of-the-art gaming-rig. The engine renders in a completely wrong way, or so I was told. My brains stop working when something becomes technical so don't ask me how and why. What I know is my perfectly suitable machine wasn't able to run bot Empire and Napoleon properly without the GFX-card making an awful rattle.
Now some chaps: Brigadier Graham and Killzone, performed miracles and found a way to let the engine render battles far more efficient. The results: better FPS, better quality and better overall performance of the game. Why can't SEGA do this themselves you wonder?

Next I focused on the looks. Well, the Total War games have always been about looks and mostly anything else comes second. Even so, there is room for improvement in this department as well. The smoke from musket and cannon discharges disperse quickly and the explosions are unimaginative. Enter the to Smoke and Blood mod. (the second part is a little bonus) and you have all the "atmosphere" you want. Clouds of smoke linger for minutes, explosions are great and with one of the good sound-mods (I used the Ultimate Sound mod) the noise is realistic as well.

So, we have a better performing, better looking and better sounding game, we now can actually feel like we are part of the battle and commands amidst the chaos. The original units however, are a bit bland and almost color-coded. In comes the modding-community yet again, with a large selection of new units/skins. In general they are more detailed, better researched and thus more realistic then the original units as well.
There are scores of different unit-packs as well as completely overhaul mods which incorporate many more aspects of the game. The one I prefer is Georider's. A total of 88 new units more then doubles the vanilla number of units.Whichever faction you will play you will find something of your liking.

To complement this set of fine mods there are some smaller ones which might add some extra depth: Longer battles, Massed fire, Larger units and Tighter formations. You choose which you like and get the game you want, or hoped it was in the first place. The preceding was just a list of my favorites and most certainly you will find even better mods when you look around on this and other sites. The search is well worth it so, good luck!

Finally there is the main problem with every release, the AI. Empire: Total War excels in this case, it was abysmal. In Napoleon it is so-so. Mods slightly improved on the AI in Empire and in Napoleon they do yet again. Luckily CA has put in some effort and now the AI is something you can live with even though it isn't as good as you wish. There are some mods which enhance the battle and campaign AI but it is all a bit iffy as no one knows exactly how the AI works and how to edit it. Let's hope the Shoguns will know how to fight when we meet them on the field of battle in 2011.


Napoleon's campaigns in detailed maps

Recently I came across a set of highly detailed maps from the "Atlas to Alison's History of Europe". This atlas was made by cartographer Alexander Keith Johnston (1804-1871) to accompany "Modern History of Europe from the French Revolution to the Fall of Napoleon" by Sir Archibald Alison. Written between 1832 and 1844 the work is according to wikipedia: "one of vast industry, but is extremely diffuse and one-sided, and often prosy." Thus, simply leave Alison's 10 volumn book gather dust and take a look at the accompanying atlast which is wonderful.
All the important and many less well known military campaigns and battles from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars are mapped by Johnston. Well, take a look for yourself: here you can leaf through the Atlas, and here you can view high-resolution scans of the individual maps. Enjoy!


Victoria 2: a Review

  • PC Game
  • Paradox Interactive
  • Release-date: 13 August 2010
  • Price: E 39,95
The Paradox
Seven years ago I played the first instalment in Paradox Interactive's Victoria series. I didn't play it for much longer then a few games and put it away rather quickly; bored and overwhelmed I did not like the game at all. Playing Victoria 1 did feel more like being at work, accounting, then playing a game: relaxing and being entertained. Naturally I was a little apprehensive when Paradox announced Victoria 2 just over a year ago. And even though having read a portion of their 'developer-diaries' I didn't look forward to playing this game all that much. To be honest I almost declined writing about it at all.
Even though I am a long time fan of Paradox games ever since Europa Universalis came out in 2000 I have to admit Paradox does not have earned themselves a reputation of delivering a well-polished and bug-free product at release with their last few games; Hearts of Iron III in particular. Combine this reputation with that of Victoria 1's: steep learning-curve, micro-management to the max, and you can understand why a lot of people won't be all that enthusiastic with this title before even having played it. They however, will be left out on a good, perhaps in the future even great, gaming experience.
Victoria 2
Victoria is a grand strategy game which “allows for the player to take control of and manage a 19th Century nation-state including its political, diplomatic, economic, military, and technological aspects.” Where other Paradox games, like Hearts of Iron cast you in the role of an armchair-general or an armchair-king in Europa Universalis, in Victoria 2 (V2) you play the role of a nation's prime-minister. This can be any of 200 nations; from uncivilised and isolated Sokoto, to dominating great power Great-Brittain and everything in between: the declining Ottoman empire, the soon to be 'civilized' Japanese or the emerging United States.
Nations in V2 come in four categories: uncivilised and civilised countries, secondary powers and the big eight, the Great Powers. Your natural goal is achieving a position in the last category.
The Learning Curve
When you start your first game in Vic.2 you have two choices: jump in straight away or take it slowly and play through the tutorial (at least).
Jump in straight away as a powerful Great-Power - and if you are not a post-graduate in computer-science and logic - blunder about and fiddle a bit with the sliders, techs and the budget. Quite soon you will think there is hardly anything interesting to do in V2 while you possibly run your economy into the ground and the POPulation into rebellion.
There is another option: take it slowly and realize V2 is a game altogether different from games like the Europa Universalis series. The good tutorial (a play-through before you start a campaign is recommended), manual and strategy-guide will help you understand the interface and game-mechanics before you start your first game. Due to the steep learning-curve playing Japan, which starts in 1836 as an uncivilized nation 'closed' to the west, is perhaps one of the best choices. You won't have all the countless additional options an European Great-Power has and they will leave you alone for now. This is perfect to learn the first basics of gaining prestige, handling the military and managing your budget. Within two or three decades you enter a different face as Japan opens like a blooming flower and civilizes; factories are build and the country industrializes from the ground up, step by step and slowly. Soon your population will become conscious of their plight and have demand you to address their issues. Keep them happy, not demanding too many reforms, and employed, make sure your economy runs like clockwork and your nation diplomatically independent. You'll soon know how to efficiently run a country and dissipate the initial vagueness of the game-mechanics. Except for trade perhaps which was I left to the AI to sort out.
In V2 everything you do revolves around the different groups of population, POPs for short. There are several categories: farmers, artisans, clergymen, capitalists, soldiers etc. and all of them have their own relgion, ideology and dominant issues. Many of those will conflict with the needs and wishes of another group of your population. The conservative poor-strata will often demand completely different reforms, and less reforms then the more liberal and upper-class. The same can be said for the middle-class, all have their own issues, their own daily-needs and their own goals in life. And if you don't give them what they want they move to another province, another country or rebel in an attempt to overthrow your government. Compared to 99% of the games there is little “action” in V2 but a lot of “monitoring” and “management” instead.
The consciousness and militancy of your POPs changes over time, when you make a decision or by event. V2 has a lot of fine historic and flavour events which make every play-through different.
Historical Simulation vs a Historic Game
Keep in mind however V2 is not a historical simulation but a historic game. We will have to agree no game-engine can ever represent unrealistic things like a player attempting a world-conquest nor should a game-engine put you in a historic straight-jacket. In Europa Universalis3 Paradox had, in my mind strayed a bit too far from the path of history making the game into a complete sandbox game after the very historical EU2. With V2 they have chosen for to take a bit of both and this works out very well.
The AI governs its countries well, altough it sometimes has some problems with the revolutions in the later part of the game. The AI fights with acceptable, but not superb, skill and performs all-important naval-invasions. Rebellions are far more realistic then in any previous games and less haphazardly. Some areas of the game could be fleshed out a bit more such as the reaction of your POPs to a massive war or big change in government-policy. The game might be too easy for those gamers who will try to play V2 as quick and hard as possible. Some balancing through future patches thus has to take place and the AI needs a bit of imporovement to keep down the rabble. If you keep pace with history, the current build of V2 already is a great experience so this can only become better.
What's left out and should or could be in
V2 has too many facets and options to name in this review but there are also some things which are not there and which I miss.
If you play it well you won't have to take up arms once during your entire game. When you do however, either as an aggressive European power or to wage a colonial war, you will see the military aspect of V2 is quite abstract in comparison with other games of it kind. This is understandable and not altogether bad because the game will quickly be boring if you play it EU-style. Nevertheless I would have applauded some more focus on this aspect, more variety in units, and unit-types and best of all the HOI3-Semper Fi order of battle organiser.
At the moment there is only one starting point:1836. According to a statement on their forums Paradox have made this decision as it was hard enough to code the entire population for one grand-campaign, let alone several starting points. An expansions will certainly mend this but it will take some time before that will be ready.

V2 is a splendid game which looks really great; the zoomed-in map is detailed and zoomed-out version looks like a map from an atlas. Like HOI3 was it is not plagued by bugs and crashes (I experienced none at all) and everything feels very solid. O yes, there are some things which do not work as intended; China is a weak nation and huge casualties during war are not really reflected in a decline of your POPs and population, for example. Next to that I experienced some weird things in the later part of the game. This time around however, patches will not have to mend a 'broken' and instable game but merely make it better and more balanced.
An alternative campaign-start and some scenarios, most importantly the American Civil War, are not part of the game. Re-playability of the 1836 start is good however; nations are very different from each other and every game will be a different experience. After some time you will have had enough of the obvious course of the 19th century -industrializing, revolutions etc- but by then the first expansion will probably see the light making this game even better.
The good
  • Genuine Grand-Strategy
  • No more mind-numbing micromanagement
  • Good tutorial manual and Strategy-guide
The bad
  • Only one starting point-1836
  • Steep learning curve
  • Some gamers might deem V2 to easy as it is now
Score: 86%


A Victory 2 Review-After Action Report

Earlier this afternoon I started a Victoria 2 Review AAR.

Some words from Wikipedia about Victoria 2: "Victoria II is an upcoming grand strategy wargame by Paradox Interactive. It is the sequel to 2003's Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun. It was announced on August 19, 2009 and is set for release on 13 August 2010.

Like its predecessor, Victoria II allows for the player to take control of and manage a 19th Century nation-state including its political, diplomatic, economic, military, and technological aspects."

I am playing my first game as Japan, starting in 1836, and have the following goals:
- Become civilised
- Industrialize
- Conquer Korea
- Develop Japan to at least a minor power
- Colonize the Pacific (if possible)
- Conquer some colonies in SE-Asia
- Attack the United States
- Become a great power
- (Let's not forget: Learn the game)

The Review AAR, called Under the Rising Sun, can be found here. Enjoy!