Map: The map covers the European continent, and portions of Africa and the Middle East. A hex represents about 30-60 miles (50-100 kilometers).
Certain areas on the map (such as in Scandinavia and Africa) have subtly noted hexes that are prohibited to ground units. This limits how many units may operate in those areas. So visually the map retains its hex grid, but mechanically those areas are effectively turned into a point-to-point map.
Markers: Special WW2 events and chrome such as airdrops, jets, partisans, or ULTRA intelligence are represented using “Event” markers. These markers are often simply a combat die roll modifier or come with a very short rule that can be looked up when played.
Units: There are three kinds of units: Air, Ground, and Naval. Ground units are represented at the army level for ease of play and historical reference, but may consist of forces ranging from brigades to full armies. Air and naval forces are represented as groups, fleets, or other designation.
There are two categories of ground units: Field and Garrison. A field unit has a full strength side and a reduced strength side. A garrison unit has a reduced strength on both sides of its counter. A reduced strength unit represent forces of significantly lower quality and/or quantity. When a full unit suffers a loss, it is reduced. If a reduced unit suffers a loss, it is eliminated. Ground units are broken down into two groups: Leg and Mobile. Leg units are infantry, paratroop, and garrison forces. Mobile units are motorized and tank forces.
There are two types of air units: Fighter and Bomber. A fighter can provide escort and initiate an air/naval attack, but cannot conduct strategic bombing. A Bomber can conduct strategic bombing, but cannot provide escort nor initiate an air/naval attack.
There are two categories of naval units: Warship and Convoy. There are two types of warship units: Carrier and Surface. A Warship unit can provide escort or initiate an air/naval attack, but cannot provide supply or naval transport. A Convoy unit can provide supply or naval transport, but cannot initiate an air/naval attack or provide escort.
Movement: There are no movement allowance numbers on the counters. There are only two values to remember, eight and ten. Leg type ground units have an allowance of eight, and every other kind of unit (inc. air and naval) has an allowance of ten. While two movement points may not seem like a lot, they have quite an impact in Unconditional Surrender!’s integrated movement/combat system.
Stacking: A hex may have up to one unit of each of the following: bomber, convoy, fighter, ground, and warship. Therefore, friendly armies can get in each other’s way. As they did historically, once an army is on the front line, it tends to remain in that vicinity.
Sorties: The effectiveness of an air or naval unit is tracked using Sorties markers, valued at 1 through 6. A unit with no Sorties is fully effective. A unit marked with 6 Sorties cannot be activated to perform any action. As an air or naval unit conducts actions or fights in combat, it will add Sorties to its total. Thereby reducing the number of future actions it can perform. Key to the Sorties system is that in a given turn, only two Sorties that can be removed from an air or naval unit. Therefore, a heavily used or engaged air or naval unit takes time to recoup to full effectiveness.
Combat Resolution: Unconditional Surrender! uses a die result comparison system with no combat factors on the counters. There is no factor counting or search for that elusive one attack factor. Advantages due to troop quality, equipment, tactical doctrine, etc. are handled through combat die roll modifiers.
All combat in Unconditional Surrender! follows the same resolution sequence and utilizes the same Combat Results Table. Every combat has an attacker and defender. Each side rolls a six-sided die and adds its own specific die roll modifiers (DRM) based on the units involved and the type of combat fought. Examples: A German air or ground unit has a +2 DRM, but a German naval unit has a +1 DRM. The final result of each side’s die roll is then cross-referenced on the Combat Results Table. The results are then applied on the type of combat fought.
Game Turn/Sequence of Play: A monthly turn in Unconditional Surrender! is composed of phases broken down into segments. Rather than one faction taking its entire turn before the next faction does, each of the three factions (in Axis, Western, and Soviet order) completes one segment before moving on to the next one in the sequence of play.
Strategy Phase: Consists of the Weather Segment, Declare War Segment, Economy Segment, Strategic Warfare Segment, and the Strategic Movement Segment.
Weather Segment: The weather conditions (Fair, Moderate, or Severe) for each of the four weather four zones (Cold, Mild, Warm, and Desert) are determined each turn.
Declare War Segment: Each faction may declare war on any number of neutral countries. The country’s faction alliance is then determined and its units and markers are set up.
Economy Segment: Using simple math,Unconditional Surrender!’s economy system represents each country’s relative economic strength (based on studies of its GDP, historical activity, and game play balance). In this segment each active country determines its production points for the turn.
Most countries have only 1-3 production points per turn, while even the larger countries only have numbers in the 20s-30s range. And with its “Use it or lose it” system, production points are not carried over from turn to turn. So there is no hording of production to achieve extremely high levels of activity and replacements at the same time.
Strategic Warfare Segment: Strategic warfare in Unconditional Surrender! abstractly represents trade wars, U-boat activity, strategic bombing, partisan activity, etc. A strategic combat is fought between the Axis and Allied factions. Important strategic elements are represented through combat die roll modifiers. Example: An Axis port on the western coast of France (such as Brest), will add a positive DRM to the Axis combat roll. The strategic combat results will cause the major country of a faction to lose production points that turn.
Strategic Movement Segment: Each faction may move one supplied air or ground unit any distance along a contiguous rail or road line.
Operations Phase: This is the phase where units move and fight. The Operations Phase has no segments.
Unconditional Surrender! does not use a “Move everyone; fight everyone” system. Instead, a faction activates one unit to move and/or fight (possibly multiple times within a single activation). Once it completes that unit’s activation, it then activates another unit to do the same. In addition, units can be activated in any order. Example: The Axis faction activates an air unit to perform an Air Strike, followed by activating a ground unit that moves and fights. It then places an Airdrop marker, which is followed by another Air Strike, etc.
Given an army cannot be re-activated in the same turn, players operate under some fog of war. Offensively do you risk having one of your own army cut off because its supporting armies failed to keep up, or do you advance more slowly to protect every army’s flanks? Defensively, do you retreat and reform your lines, or take advantage of an enemy’s broken front line.
Airdrop/Partisan Action: Airdrop and Partisans markers are placed in hexes containing enemy units or cities.
Air Action: An air unit must be activated to perform an Air Action. Air Actions are Air Movement, Air Escort, Air Interception, Air Strike, Air Support, and Bombing Run.
Ground Action: A ground unit must be activated to move and initiate an attack against an enemy unit. To activate a ground unit, a faction must first spend the production points of that unit’s country. Very simply, it costs one production point to activate a Leg unit or two points for a Mobile unit.
As a ground unit moves it may initiate an attack against an enemy unit. Attacking costs additional movement points (more so in bad weather conditions). Therefore, a unit that engages in combat will move less distance over a turn than a unit that does not encounter any resistance. In Unconditional Surrender! if you fight, you don’t move as far.
Attacks come in two forms, Mobile and Assault. A Mobile attack is resolved immediately during a unit’s activation and can only be performed by one army at a time. An Assault attack is resolved at some later point in the faction’s Operations Phase, but it can involve multiple armies attacking a single defender. A Mobile attack allows the same unit to continue moving and attacking in the same activation. But a unit that Assaults must stop moving for the phase. Higher quality armies are more effective at Mobile attacks, while poorer armies try to even things out with sheer numbers in an Assault.
Naval Action: A naval unit must be activated to perform an Naval Action. Naval Actions are Naval Movement, Naval Escort, Naval Interception, Naval Transport (Amphibious Invasion), and Carrier Strike.
Strategy Phase: Consists of the Supply Segment, Replacements Segment, Upgrade Segment, Mobilization Segment, Diplomacy Segment, and the Removal Segment.
Supply Segment: First, if a unit is already marked as unsupplied, it suffers a loss. Then, each unit checks to see if it can trace a supply line from its current location back to a Supply Source. If a unit cannot trace a supply line, its supply state drops one level (from Full to Low, or from Low to No).
To trace supply across a sea zone, a convoy unit must be activated. If used to trace supply, a convoy will add to its Sorties total. In addition, an enemy faction can intercept that convoy during the supply line trace. Therefore, a convoy that is used by many armies to trace supply, or is constantly intercepted, will quickly hit 6 Sorties and be unable to activate again (which means it can’t trace supply). Places like Africa have a limit to how many armies can be supplied there based on available convoys and air/naval superiority.
Replacements Segment: A faction spends the production points of a country to increase the strength of (or reduce the Sorties of) that country’s units. Costs range from 1-5 points. A unit can be improved only once per turn.
Upgrade Segment: In Unconditional Surrender!, significant improvements in troop quality, quantity, and/or fighting doctrine (e.g. USSR infantry armies designated as “Guards” after numerous battles and becoming motorized) are reflected using the Upgrade mechanic.
If an Upgrade unit is available in a faction’s Force Pool, it may replace a designated supplied unit on the map. Example: The USSR ‘1 Guard Tank’ Upgrade unit in the Soviet Faction Pool and the USSR ‘2 Tank’ unit is in Smolensk. The Soviet player puts the 1 Guards Tank unit in Smolensk and removes the 2 Tank from the game. To ease play, the historical numeric designation does not matter.
Mobilization Segment: A faction spends the production points of a country to mobilize new units for that country. Costs range from 1-5 points; the same number of points that it costs to improve such a unit.
In addition to mobilizing new units, a faction may buy its faction’s Surprise Attack marker. The most expensive item in the game at 10 production points. A Surprise Attack marker placed in a hex provides its faction a positive combat DRM for all combats within 2 hexes. More importantly (especially to the Western faction) a Surprise Attack marker is required in a Sea Zone in order to launch an Amphibious Invasion there. Once a Surprise Attack marker is used, it is set aside and can be purchased again.
Diplomacy Segment: In Unconditional Surrender!, politics takes a broad view to simulate this chaotic period. Utilizing a simple marker system, the game creates tension in a player’s political decision making. Each turn, players are faced with the choice of either trying to gain their own allies or preventing the enemy from gaining them.
The “Diplomacy Cup” (an opaque cup) starts with 12 markers with the events of No Event, Area Seized, Political Success, or Political Failure. A faction pays production points to either randomly pull one marker from the cup, or intentionally choose two already pulled markers to put back into the cup. A faction can only do one of these two choices per turn, and it can only do that choice once per turn.
If a No Event marker is pulled, nothing happens. If an Area Seized marker is pulled, the USSR has territory ceded to it from a neighboring country, e.g. the Finnish Karelia region.
If a Political Success marker is pulled, a neutral country’s political leaning is adjusted one level in your favor. If a Political Failure marker is pulled, a neutral country’s political leaning is adjusted one level in the favor of an enemy faction. This represents negotiation breakdowns, political coups, allies acting independently (e.g. Italy attacking Greece), etc.
Due to the low number of political markers, each pull from the cup may drastically change the odds of the political impact the unpicked markers may have in a future pull. Players have to decided if they will pull a marker in the hopes of influencing a country in their favor, or putting markers back into the cup to reduce their opponent’s odds of influencing a country in their favor. The dilemma is that pulling markers might also increase your opponent’s odds of picking a good marker, while putting markers back into the cup sacrifices your chance of pulling a good marker.
Removal Segment: Units or markers are removed per scenario instructions.
End of Turn Phase: Consists of the Victory Check Segment and the Turn Marker Segment.
Victory Check Segment: A check is performed to see if a faction wins the scenario being played. In the campaign scenario, victory is based on whether Germany is conquered by the last turn of the game.
Removal Segment: If victory hasn’t been achieved, advance the turn markers.
What Players are Saying about Unconditional Surrender!:
"I played Sal's World War Two game up to, though not including, the invasion of the Soviet Union in mid-1941. At every step of the way, the game presented intriguing choices. Despite the plethora of games on the topic, this one stands out for me as especially elegant and intense. And the rules are already more polished than almost any published game I've ever played." - John Setear
I like the feel of the game. Flows easily, rules not too complex. Mostly, once you've done one set of mobile attacks, the others are easy, so even in my first game I was thinking about how to conquer Poland and not "what do the rules let me/make me do". That's always a good feeling. Norway was more a study in a few new rules systems, which also seemed to work well.
I like the "event markers" system for things less permanent in the game. Allows the Poles to have some air defense, even if it isn't much, and gives the player a chance to decide when is the best time to commit it. (The sorties system is very clever; looking forward to seeing it play out in a longer scenario.) Allows the Germans to have air drops, but they've got to decide where to commit them, because they're unlikely to be available two turns in a row; more likely just a few times a year. Ditto Surprise and the way Surprise drives amphibious invasions, etc. - Allen Hill