Neuschwabenland Review by David Lent
Neuschwabenland is the name of a territory that the Germans explored in 1938. In this science fiction game the Germans created a secret base known as Base 211. The survivors of a German patrol told of hostile 2-meter tall worm-like aliens and tripods. The Germans mobilized to deal with the alien infestation and gather information about them.
This game is in Ziploc format and includes a rulebook, scenario book, map and counters. The rulebook is easy to understand and has color illustrations along with a notes section at the back. What I really like is it has a table of contents, which makes it easy to look up rules. On top of that, the author lists his sources of inspiration for the game. I wish more game designers would do that.
Neuschwabenland’s scenario book is wonderful. It has 6 unique scenarios that progressively increase in difficulty if you play them in order. In addition, each scenario has unique victory conditions and special rules. This gives quite a bit of re-playability. I played the scenarios in order and learned the game as I went along. During the campaign, I only lost the third scenario and won all the others including the final battle. The amount of turns in the last scenario is reduced by one for each scenario you were victorious in previously.
The map is very simple and just has rough or clear terrain. There is also a turn track, which is hard to read, because the numbers are almost the same color as the background. I wish the hexes on the map had identification numbers so you could write down the starting locations of the forces for any scenarios you make on our own.
The counters represent units, equipment and informational markers. Even though the illustrations on the counters are nice, they are hard to see at a distance because there is very little contrast between the illustration and the counter’s background. Some counters, like the worms have a dark green illustration on a dark red background and it’s hard to see.
Each scenario dictates what forces are involved, where they setup and the victory conditions along with special rules. Before the scenario begins, the Reich must pick their special equipment. They get one equipment point for each ground unit in play. The equipment that cost one point is mines, hand grenades and methamphetamine (pervitin). MG-42s and Panzershreks cost 2 equipment points.
Before I go into the sequence of play, I must discuss how the dice work. Even though the dice used in Neuschwabenland are D6 dice, they actually are used like custom dice. There are two types of dice: light combat dice and heavy combat dice. Light combat dice only count when a 1 or 2 are rolled. Heavy combat dice only count when a 1, 2 or 3 are rolled.
Sequence of Play:
1) Reich AP Determination Phase
2) Reich Recovery Phase
3) Reich Action Phase
4) Alien MP Determination Phase
5) Alien Recovery Phase
6) Alien Action Phase
At the beginning of each turn, the Reich halves the number of combat units rounded down to get his base number and rolls three light combat dice. He adds the single highest success rolled to it to get the number of units that may activate that turn. Only 1s or 2s count as successes on a light combat dice.
The aliens may activate every one of their units every turn. However, their worms have a variable movement rate. The alien player rolls two light combat dice and adds the value of the highest success to the number 2 to get the movement rate.
If the Reich player wishes to recover a unit that has lost a step, he may roll 2 light combat dice. If either roll is a success, the unit recovers. Otherwise, he may give methamphetamine to the unit to recover it or spend an activation to try again.
The activation phase is similar for both sides. One activation can be used to move, fire, move and fire (both reduced), Haunebu/Tripod move and fire or entrench mountain troops. There is some confusion in the rulebook about shooting when you have a red subscript showing range. One part of the book says that units with a red fire range may not move and fire, while there is a special action for Haunebu and tripods (who have a red fire range) to move and fire. They should have used a different symbol for those? Better yet, they could have had a handout for each player that shows these special abilities for each unit.
Speaking of special abilities, mountain troops have two types of special movement. When moving from mountain to special terrain, they may use downhill movement. It allows them to move one extra hex. Mountain troops can also do exhaustion movement, which gives them 1 extra movement point, but they may not shoot or close assault that turn.
There are two types of combat in Neuschwabenland: ranged and close combat. The Germans have more units capable of ranged combat, but most of those use light combat dice. If they buy panzershreks they can give their infantry a weapon, which uses heavy combat dice. The only alien unit capable of ranged combat is the tripod. However, it uses heavy combat dice and has the highest armor rating in the game.
The aliens are masters at close combat. They roll heavy combat dice, but German infantry can give them a taste of their own medicine if they were equipped with grenades at the beginning of the game. Grenades allow a German infantry unit to roll 2 heavy combat dice in addition to their regular light combat dice rolls. Each grenade is expendable though and can only be used once.
I found this game to be very enjoyable to play. During the first three scenarios, I made some rules mistakes but got that all sorted out by the time I played scenarios 4, 5 and 6. The variable action points for the Germans and variable movement points for the worms gave a “Fog of War” to the game, that makes it challenging to plan your turns in advance. In addition, each unit has special abilities that make the game interesting. I also liked being able to pick the equipment for the Germans at the beginning of each turn. However, this game is most interesting for the German player. I had a lot of fun playing it solitaire, because I could concentrate on strategizing the German turn and run the aliens with my simple A.I. where they just move forward and close assault the Germans and leave a few behind to guard objectives. However, there is not much strategy for the aliens in a two-player game, since most of their units cannot shoot and they don’t get to pick equipment. Really, all they can do is move towards the Germans as fast as possible and close assault.
My verdict: it’s a great game to play solitaire, but only the Reich player will be fully entertained in a multi-player game.
Watch a video of a play through of scenario 3 below: