France ’40

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France ’40 is the Mark Simonitch package from GMT which includes two separate games – Sickle Cut and Dynamo – featuring different parts of the May 1940 campaign in France.

Sickle Cut: Guderian’s Drive to the Channel, is about the German breaking of the French defense line at the Meuse, and the drive to the sea at Abbeville. It’s a race by the Germans against time and Allied reinforcements.

Dynamo: Retreat to Victory, is about the British escape at Dunkirk. This time it’s the British running the race, trying to complete a retreat and evacuation before the Germans cut them off.

Both games use the same core rules with only a few special differences. And, although you can link both maps together, there is no combined game scenario.

Physically, the game is a joy. The maps, counters, rulebook, and play aids are clear, colorful, and make you want to play the game.

Personally, I don’t like the way parts of the rules are written. For example, in combat, units may retreat 2 or 3 hexes. It says so in the rules. Later on it mentions a 1 hex retreat. Aaargh! I want that information in the one place, please. However, I should stress that all the information is there, and you may well read the rules and be perfectly happy with the way the are organized.

How does it play? Based on several solitaire runs at Sickle Cut, I would say that it is easy and enjoyable; the systems are not overly complex, but there is enough variation on tried and tested stuff to keep things fresh. For example, retreated units suffer an automatic disruption. This can make them liable to an overrun – only allowed as part of advance after combat. However, defenders can try and stand their ground. It’s a little fiddly, but well worth the added wristage as it takes some of the control away from the players and adds to the chaos. Oh, and there is a worse form of retreat as well.

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I like the way the designer has catered for the French command and control problems and the sudden halt order issued to the German panzer troops. Similarly, the tank and troop quality effects are easy, and the differentiation between the German airpower and the Allied combat support – channeled through HQs – gives a good feel to the encounter.

Another point in its favor is that it’s very playable solitaire.

The current thinking about the campaign is that the German success was balanced on a knife edge. This game lets you see why that was the case, and lets you try and change history. So far as Sickle Cut is concerned, the Allied player has to keep a defense line from snapping. Figuring out how to do that for long enough is his challenge. The German player has the burden of attack, and his challenge is to maximize his progress without wearing down his cutting edge panzer forces too much.

I will certainly be getting to Dynamo next.

All in all, a very nice package. I’m not sure how enduring my interest in it will be, but I have already had much more than my money’s worth out of it. Great gaming value. For any WW2 gamer, I heartily recommend this.