I got to play Across the Rhine recently at the UK Expo. It’s a game I had a vague knowledge of and having seen it as I approached the table demo I knew I was going to like it. It was a treat to have the rules explained by the developers and to meet the designer. Phalanx are a cool games company from Poland with some really high end offerings. I can see myself trying a few more of their games in the future (obviously not in the past)
The game is a little different and strongly thematic. It’s set during the wind down of the War in 1944 and sees three allied powers racing to be the first to cross the Rhine and claim glory for the final capitulation of Germany.
The game is not so much about fighting (although this is part of it) as getting the logistics in place to keep the thrust rolling. Each turn sees you firstly trying to supply your fighting corps and keep them pushing forward and then to swap hats and take control of the German forces and direct them to slow the other two allies down. It’s a clever mechanic, everyone’s a good guy, everyone’s a bad guy.
The map shows the west of Europe from the coast of France to just across the Rhine in Germany. Each player starts with a supply base in the west (at the bottom of the map) where war materiel in the shape of ammo, food and gas is landed and a network of roads and villages/towns where army Corps can move to and supply must flow.
Each turn a player can take two actions such as
Send out supply on a line of trucks to a location. Move a Corp or land more supplies at the staging area. Each of the commanders in charge of the three allies have some special abilities, Montgomery is good with supplies and grants a bonus, Bard has access to more air support. Patton can give an extra push to troops
As corps move along through the various villages they spend ammo to defeat the Germany defenders, fuel to move and as each pulse of new supplies arrive food to feed the men. Not having enough of these will slow or stop the corps advance. Likewise each village/town entered has it’s own surprises. it might contain resistance fighters that assist the allies, supply dumps or starving villagers who you can give some of your supplies to for extra points. Taking certain key points and carrying out certain actions gives the players medals which in the all too possible case that no-one gets across the Rhine are then used to determine the winner. Equally first across the Rhine is the winner straight off and medals don’t count.
The map after a little while starts to look like the title sequence of Dad’s Army in reverse and areas liberated by a player become marked with their respective flags and cannot be entered by the other two allies, so fast pushes forward can block other players and force them to take a longer route to victory. Equally undefended areas can be taken back by the Germans and it’s possible to cut and immobilise corps who can’t trace a supply route back to their base.
The game is a little like Quartermaster General but on a smaller and more complex scale. Although allies never obviously attack each other they can make it difficult for each other in a surprisingly large number of ways. Blocking paths, hogging resources and supply trucks and moving Axis units into annoying locations. The way it plays is refreshing, there are opportunities to co-operate (well maybe in other less bitter gaming groups) and opportunities to backstab and welsh on deals.
It’s very much a unique game but I can see elements of Rome v Cartage (something Phallanx are releasing a new version of), Powergrid, Twilight Struggle and a number of other great games in here.
Production qualities are great, lovely artwork, solid pieces, clear and consise rules. I’m impressed and will do another write up on it after several games have been played.
Until then, last one across the Rhine is a rotten egg!