What Size Cages Fit this Monster Size Game Series?
By Alan Emrich
Really big “monster” size games, particularly myriad-map connected wargames, need space. But just how much space will it require when the Frank Chadwick’s ETO series is built out? What do you need to “see the elephant” and grock the maps before you on game tables? And that is the subject of this article, what The Big Picture will look like when it’s all assembled. At the time of the writing, these are our plans (as always, subject to change)...
To begin, we must define a few terms.
First all measurements are approximate but close enough for the purposes of writing this article. Some components might be slightly larger or smaller, but you should certainly get the idea of the spatial dimensionality of the ETO components and how their maps relate and/assemble with each other. Also, because I am an American, I will use the metrics of my people: feet and inches.
Second, let us define the size of a “Standard Game Table.” I consider these to be the ubiquitous rectangular white plastic folding tables or normal draped hotel wooden tables with a surface dimension of 6’ wide x 2’ 6” across (or 72” x 30”). As I inspect the different volumes and expansions for the ETO series, how many standard size game tables they require will help me make an apples-to-apples comparison.
Third, the approximate map dimensions referenced in this article are:A “Full” (i.e., “standard wargame” size) map is approximately 22” x 34” (well, actually slightly smaller after the printer trims the edges, but you get the idea). A “Half Square” (i.e., “standard half-size wargame”) map is approximately 17” x 22”. A “Half Long” map is approximately 11” x 34”.A “Mini” map is approximately 8.5” x 11”.
Fourth, the top of the maps are North (and you can figure out the rest of the compass from there). “Upper” refers to the topmost (or northernmost) section, and so on.
Standing Alone and Standing Together
We are releasing each game as a stand-alone “Volume.” This means it can be played separately or combined with other Volumes for a larger gameplay experience; that is, they can link up with the other volumes but it doesn’t mean a player must do so. Instead, they can just enjoy a pleasant mini-monster wargame experience covering that particular area of WWII in Europe.
Consequently, each volume’s maps might overlap another volume so that each separate game has all the necessary real estate to be playable as a stand-alone game. Naturally, we tried to keep map overlaps to a minimum, but some did occur. The most “overlapped” map bit being the Franco-Spanish border which is covered in Volumes II (The Middle Sea), III (Decision in the West), and the España expansion kit.
Volume I: Thunder in the East
The first volume of the Frank Chadwick’s ETO series, Thunder in the East, has the distinction of “anchoring” the maps for the entire series. Designer Frank Chadwick pushed, turned, nudged, and angled his Big Picture vision of the grand ETO series map layout before carving out a nearly-square plot of land (2 Full Sheets on the upper and lower left side plus 2 Half Squares on the upper and lower right side) these would become the maps for Thunder in the East.
And you will notice that every hex of the combined maps is individually numbered. Stockholm is hex 7226 (72 columns from the leftmost map edge and 26 hexes down from the top row of hexes) and Stalingrad is hex B652 for a reason! (And, yes, we started plugging letters in for a pair’s first digit after it rolled over 99.) So, in case you were wondering, we have given these maps a lot of forethought.
By using 2 Full Size maps to cover the majority of the action in the northwest and southwest sections, and abutting them with 2 Half Square Maps along their eastern edge, the map area for Thunder in the East is about 50” x 44” and fits on 2 Game Tables with room to spare for charts and mats.
Given the popularity of the Russian Front in WWII wargaming, this is a very nice configuration:
Volume II: The Middle Sea
This second Volume, The Middle Sea, contributes the most map additions to the series. It covers the Central and Eastern Mediterranean areas with 3 Full, 2 Half Long (extending the bottom to properly reach into the North African desert), and 1 Half Square map (to cover the Balkans for the Axis blitzkrieg and the long partisan war there).
The total area is almost square at 68” x 55” and, while it still fits snugly on 2 Game Tables, you will definitely want a third one handy for the game’s various charts and mats.
Not surprisingly, this Volume’s maps also see the most overlap. For example, The Middle Sea northeast Half Square map is an exact duplicate of the Thunder in the East’s southwest map’s western half. When you combine these two games, you will not use this small Middle Sea map but instead use the full Thunder in the East map to present the Balkans.
Also, the northwest map of The Middle Sea covering the lower half of France, most of Switzerland, and bits of Spain overlaps with Decision in the West and that small dash of Spain has an overlap Mini map in the España expansion set (so that module can be played stand-alone).
Volume III: Decision in the West
ETO’s third Volume, Decision in the West, contributes the fewest map additions to the game. With one Full map covering the northern half of France, the southern half of England, and half of western Germany (and countries in-between), it is a prime piece of real estate. To make the game stand alone, a Half Long map below it covers the south of France and Germany, most of Switzerland, and northern Italy.
Decision in the West could almost fit on one Standard Table at 34” x 33”, but plan on using two to make sure you have plenty of room.
When combined with The Middle Sea, the bottom Half Long map in Decision in the West becomes redundant and is not used.
Volume IV: Fire in the North
There are certainly rewards when an experienced game designer like Frank Chadwick is making your game series. Volume IV: Fire in the North features three Full maps arranged vertically instead of horizontally (as are the other maps in this series). This functions brilliantly as it allows the bottom edge of this 66” wide, 34” tall block of maps to overlap six hexes or so with the upper maps from Decision in the West and Thunder in the East enabling you to play out the arctic campaigns as a stand-alone game.
Since the westernmost of these three maps covers Iceland and Scotland, it is rarely used in play. This makes the remainder of the Fire in the North a nice, 2 Full map (44” x 34”) area and so, with 2 Standard Tables, you will have plenty of room to play.
Volume V: Victory at All Costs
The maps included in this “linking” Volume of the series will not extend the footprint of Europe unless, of course, the three Expansion maps sets (below) are included with it. Otherwise, if there are any hex maps Victory at All Costs with European terrain on them, they would be “overlays” of key areas to make sure that everything locks together properly when all of the first four Volumes are played together.
There will be at least one map included, but it presents North America among other parts of the world connected by Sea Zone to show Allied production and commerce flowing into Europe. It is on this map where players will fight The Battle for the North Atlantic.
We expect Victory at All Costs to present “unified” decks of cards for each Faction (rather than cobbling them together from each Volume), a unified Turn Track and weather tables, the Big Economic mat, the Diplomacy mat, plus larger Air Display mats to handle all of the Air units in play. Odds and ends like the Soviet Navy and Turkish armed forces are likewise scheduled for inclusion.
We might not have thought through everything needed in Volume V yet, but we are keeping notes and will have it together when the time comes.
Expansion A: The Urals
With the three planned expansions, the crystal ball gets a little hazier, but the map components they contribute to extending Europe are fairly certain. In Expansion A: The Urals, we offer more room to maneuver in the east. This might necessitate a revision in the Thunder in the East Economic mat as their Siberian centers are “in play,” but this expansion exists mostly to extend the Russian maps eastward.
Expansion B: The Mid-East
Not only does Expansion B: The Mid-East extend the map southeastward with 1 Full plus 1 Half Long sheet into tantalizing territory of Iran and Iraq, but those nation’s armed forces are also included.
Expansion C: España
The western Expansion, C: España, offers us a chance to include the nations and forces of Spain and Portugal, but we hope to have some Spanish Civil War scenarios and a campaign game included in this stand-alone product. It adds 1 Full, 1 Half Square, and 1 Mini map sheet (the latter is not used if you combine this with The Middle Sea) and features important Sea Zones and the UK Naval Base at Gibraltar.
The Whole Shootin’ Match
When you have put everything above together, how much room will it take?
Yeah, about that…
Brace yourself: you need table space that is about 124” (just about 10’) wide and 100” (about 8.5’) tall. (And that kind of room will be easy to find, right?)
What this means is you will need 8 Game tables in a 4 x 2 column layout (so, roughly 12’ across and 10’ tall). Of course, you will need a baboon in your pocket if you must reach into Central Europe from the edge of the tables…
So, chances are, if you want to go crazy and run everything together, you will either be playing at a big wargames convention (where they have adequate space and tables) – presumably arranging the tables and maps in such a way to gain easier access to the center areas; or play on your computer via Vassal.
This is an important reason why each Volume is a stand-alone product and why you can pick-and-choose which configurations to combine into larger games (where we have arranged several common scenario start dates). That power to combine and separate is entirely in your hands.
But for those of you wanting to see the elephant, here is what it looks like:
Volume 0: Dark Beginnings
Assuming the team lives long enough to continue this project into our dotage, we have already put together much of Volume 0: Dark Beginnings (once upon a time we had planned to start this series here, but we finally realized it would better to end it with the pre-war stuff).
The full ETO campaign game begins on October I 1939, right after the Polish Campaign is concluded. Players wanting to wind back the clock prior to that will be interested in Dark Beginnings as it looks at the myriad pre-war crises that could have spiraled into the beginning of WWII. This game will only include maps already existing in other games, overlapping to show the borders of nations like Austria and Czechoslovakia. Naturally, their Orders of Battle will be included in the countermix, plus rules and cards for pre-war production, mobilization, and organization.