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ETO Dev Diary 2019-9-15: Taking a Minor Stance

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

The “ETO-izing” of Small Nation Commitment Levels and Home Armies


When playing Thunder in the East, most players understand that Hungary has a Home Army, but few have played the Bagration scenario and seen it activated into play. Likewise, as we playtest The Middle Sea, little happens with Bulgaria with its domesticated Home Army. Thinking to the future, how do get historical stances for every Small Nation’s participation from Spain to Finland “right?”


What we needed was a set of National Commitment rules that would cover most cases and leave as few exceptions for specific nations and circumstances as possible. In this Dev Diary update, let us introduce you to these now-defined building blocks. Brothers and sisters, please turn in your rules hymnal to number 533.0…


The following is based on the ETO rules for all games in the series currently in development and occasionally updated here.


[553.0] National Commitment

In Frank Chadwick’s ETO there are levels of a nation’s commitment to the war: Fully Active, Limited Active (i.e., keeping a Home Army), Pro-Faction and Neutral.

Changes in National Commitment can occur as the result of certain cards, gameplay, and turn-mandated events. Note that a change in alignment (i.e., defection) often causes a change in its commitment as well.


[553.1] Fully Active Nations:

Fully Active nations and territories are completely committed to their Faction’s cause. Nations that have had war declared on them are always Fully Active nations. Fully Active nations share these characteristics:

  • Full Transit Rights: All of its Faction’s forces may enter, deploy in, extend ZOCs from, fly over, and trace Ranges and LoCs through it (if not prevented by other rules).

  • Free Force Deployment: Its entire armed forces can operate outside of its Rightful Territory (553.4).

  • Full Economic Contribution: It contributes all of its EP and FP production (544.0) each Season if its Resource hex can trace an LoC to that Faction’s Large nation’s Capital City hex (i.e., London, Berlin, or Moscow) at that time (542.4).

  • Full Manpower Contribution: It gains its nation’s PPs each Season (544.0).

[553.1.1] Thunder in the East: In TITE, Active nations include Germany, Italy, Romania (becoming a Fully Active nation on the second turn of Operation Barbarossa), Slovakia, and the USSR.

Yes, Slovakia! They’re commitment to the Axis war effort is coming in this series’ future. Their Force Pool consists of a single 2nd Line Infantry Corps unit, but it does have the advantage of breaking down into Divisions. They also contribute their own 1/2 PP per Season to maintain their forces.


Coming to the ETO system, the wholly-carved Axis Small nation, Slovakia. Note the Corps unit's break down Divisions.

[553.1.2] The Middle Sea: In TMS, Active nations include Germany, Italy, Egypt, and the British Mandate (Palestine and Trans-Jordan).


[553.2] Limited Active Nations:

Limited Active nations are committed to their Faction’s cause but with limitations about using their territory and deploying their forces abroad:

  • Limited Transit Rights: Its Faction’s forces may enter, extend ZOCs from, deploy in, fly over, and trace Ranges and LoCs through it (if not prevented by other rules) as follows:

o Prior to July 1941, only that Faction’s Large nation’s ground forces may do so.

o After July 1941, that Faction’s Medium nation’s ground forces may do so as well.

o That Faction’s Small nation’s ground forces are prohibited from voluntarily entering their Limited Active allies (if they do, they and be caught Fudging per 553.4).

  • Limited Force Deployment: It maintains a Home Army (553.3) thus restricting its armed forces operating outside of its Rightful Territory (553.4).

  • Full Economic Contribution: It contributes all of its EP and FP production (544.0) each Season if its Resource hex can trace an LoC to that Faction’s Large nation’s Capital City hex (i.e., London, Berlin, or Moscow) at that time (542.4).

  • Full Manpower Contribution: It gains its nation’s PPs each Season (544.0).

[553.2.1] Emergency Commitment: Limited Active nations always and immediately become Fully Active when an enemy Ground unit enters its Home Territory (531.0) or, after 1943, is within 3 hexes of (per 113.5) its Home Territory.


[553.2.2] Thunder in the East: In TITE, Limited Active nations include Hungary (and Finland, although it is out of play). These become Limited Active nations on the second turn of Operation Barbarossa.


[553.2.3] The Middle Sea: In TMS, Limited Active nations include Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Occupied France (that part of continental/”Metropolitan” France north of its border with Vichy France).

If an Allied Large nation’s Major Ground unit is in Greece, Yugoslavia, or Croatia while they are those nations are either Axis or Axis-occupied conquered nations, then Bulgaria changes its status to a Fully Active (553.1) Axis nation (552.4.4).


[553.3] Home Armies:

Limited Active nations have Home Armies, thus restricting how much of their armed forces will operate outside of their Rightful Territory (553.4). Ground units in their Home Army’s Rightful Territory cannot voluntarily leave that area unless released politically (e.g., by card or an emergency, see 553.2.1). Their ZOCs do extend across that boundary and they can Retreat out of it. If not released politically, they must return to their Rightful Territory or be caught “Fudging” per 553.4.


Political Release: There are two types of Home Armies based upon their politics of releasing their forces for use outside of their Rightful Territory (553.4). Establishing political release is that nation’s Limited Active setup instructions based on what sort of Home Army it has (see below); cards and other events can supplement this and extend political release to additional forces from that Limited Active nation.


[553.3.1] Expeditionary Home Army:

Up to four (4) of their Major Ground units (but never more than the number of Major Ground units remaining in their Rightful Territory), all of their Minor Ground units, and one (1) of their national HQ markers, plus its Air and Naval units may voluntarily leave, exist, and operate outside of their Rightful Territory. This means that a Major Corps unit can leave, break down into Minor Division units (which do not count), and another Major Corps units can then be released – but doing so might prohibit reforming them again into a Major Corps unit! Historically, Greece (sending limited forces into Italian Albania) and Hungary (sending limited forces into the USSR) are examples.


[553.3.2] Non-Intervention Home Army:

None of its Ground units may leave their Rightful Territory nor operate from its bases except those specifically released via political events. Historically, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Finland are examples.


[553.3.3] Foreign Legions:

Eliminated politically released forces immediately lose their politically released status. You cannot rebuild them and send them once more out of their Rightful Territory; they must again meet the conditions for their political release to do that.



We have been very circumspect to design this game around having “no memory.” That is, things are always as they seem and markers exist to help you remember their status when they are not.


When politically released to participate in the war, the very fact that piece is outside of its Rightful Territory should remind you this event has occurred. Only when Retreated outside of their Rightful Territory might there be an actual memory problem (but if that is happening on the map there are probably much larger problems distracting you!), but “fudging” (553.4) should help solve that.


[553.4] Rightful Territory:

Things like this can start wars...

All of the territory that nation has, has previously ceded, or could claim politically (via cards) is its “Rightful Territory.” This neatly defines the limits of Finland’s “Continuation War,” for example.

  • Fudging: When discovered out-of-political-bounds (533.3) during your Supply Step (conducted during the opponent’s turn), your opponent determines the specific unit(s) in violation and immediately Dissolves them (i.e., they are eliminated and returned to their Force Pool but without any Morale Point loss; 571.1). Thus, you have until the end of your previous Regular Movement Phase to sort out these political/territorial situations before your opponent catches you fudging.


[553.5] Pro-Faction:

Pro-Faction nations are still technically neutral but are “pro” a particular Faction and tacitly support it. While a nation is Pro-Faction toward a particular Faction:

  • Limited Transit Rights: Its Faction’s Large nation(s) forces (only) may transit through (but not remain in or base from), may fly over, and trace Ranges and LoCs through it (if not prevented by other rules).

  • No Force Deployment: As a Neutral nation, do not deploy its forces on the map.

  • Political Vulnerability: The opposing Faction(s) may freely declare war on it during their Politics Phase.

  • Half Economic Contribution: It contributes half of its EP and FP production each Season where that Resource hex can trace an LoC to that Faction’s Large nation’s Capital City hex (i.e., London, Berlin, or Moscow) at that time (542.4).

  • No Manpower Contribution: As a Neutral nation, it does not produce national PPs.

[553.1.1] Thunder in the East: In TITE, Pro-Axis Neutrals include Sweden (excluding Stockholm’s economic contribution; the Axis receives no EPs from it in TITE), which is out of play.


[553.1.2] The Middle Sea: In TMS, Pro-Axis Neutrals include Spain (excluding Madrid’s economic contribution; the Axis receives no EPs from it in TMS), which is out of play.


[553.6] Neutral Nations:

Neutral nations are just that; unaligned, undecided, and protecting their neutrality. While a nation Neutral:

  • Limited Transit Rights: Its territory is unplayable and prohibited to use (if not otherwise specified).

  • No Force Deployment: As a Neutral nation, its forces are not deployed on the map.

  • Political Vulnerability: Only the Axis Faction may freely declare war on it during their Politics Phase. The other Factions require card events to declare war on Neutral nations.

  • No Economic Contribution: It does not contribute its EP or FP production to any Faction.

  • No Manpower Contribution: As a Neutral nation, it does not produce national PPs.

[553.1.1] Thunder in the East: In TITE, the Neutral nation is Turkey.


[553.1.2] The Middle Sea: In TMS, Neutral nations are Switzerland, Turkey and, once established, Vichy France.

This article sets the stage for how nations see their participation level with their Faction at war (or, avoiding war, while at peace). And while perfect for prescribed scenario set up and play, it does not address the larger matter of how they got that way. We are constantly asked about how the ETO Political System will work. The answer is that is still in development and we will have it ready to present later (as it will certainly be an important feature in Vol. V: Victory at All Costs).