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Gathering Storm

DESIGNER Bruce Harper
ART DIRECTOR Rodger B. MacGowan
MAP & COUNTER ART Charlie Kibler and Mark Simonitch
PRODUCERS Mark Simonitch, Tony Curtis, Gene Billingsley, Andy Lewis, Rodger MacGowan
Price: $105.00

  • Four countersheets
  • One 22"x30" mapboard
  • One 8.5"x11" mapboard overlay
  • 144 Random event cards
  • Rulebook
  • Battle Manual
  • Transition Rulebook
  • Scenario Cards


Gathering Storm, both a game in its own right and a prequel to GMT’s A World at War, covers the period from 1935 to the outbreak of World War II, whenever that might be. Like A World at WarGathering Storm, simulates the military, economic, political, diplomatic, research and production preparations for the Second World War, allowing the players to explore what might have happened if:

  • Admiral Doenitz had convinced his superiors of the importance of submarine warfare in the impending war with Britain.
  • Germany had pursued the Z Plan earlier and more consistently.
  • The development of the “Ural bomber” had been pursued.
  • Poland had become a German satellite, rather than resisting German aggression.
  • War had broken out over the Sudetenland, or even the remilitarization of the Rhineland.
  • Mussolini had given a lower priority to naval armaments, to the benefit of the Italian armor and air forces.
  • France had extended the Maginot Line.
  • de Gaulle’s arguments to expand and strengthen France’s armor units had been accepted.
  • Britain had rearmed sooner.
  • Russia had deferred the Great Purges. Or accelerated them.
  • The Spanish civil war had been won by the Loyalists.
  • A civil war had broken out in Yugoslavia. Or Greece.
  • Atomic fission had been discovered earlier.
  • The Second World War had begun with a Franco-Italian conflict. Or a French pre-emptive attack on Germany. Or a Russo-German war, with Italy and the Western Allies neutral.
  • War comes early. Or later, in 1940 or even 1941. 
  • YOU had been in command.

Gathering Storm,can be played as a separate game in a single session, with its own victory conditions, but A World at War players will want to press on and see how the war they have created plays out. While using different mechanics, Gathering Storm,’s structure is consistent with A World at War and allows for a seamless transition to whatever alternate war the players planned – or stumbled into.  Some 30 years in development, with three years of design and playtesting, Gathering Storm, includes the following:

  • Six random events each turn, providing unlimited replay value.
  • Economics based on tiles and activity counters, eliminating any paperwork.
  • Flexible mobilization rules, allowing players to emphasis civilian or military production – each at the expense of the other.
  • Unit construction which allows players to activate reserve units for immediate benefits, at a cost of limiting future options.
  • Variable research, which can focus on air, naval, military or intelligence projects, as well as short or long term gains.
  • A fast-moving diplomatic system, with each player allocating diplomatic counters each turn. Diplomatic targets are public, but the points allocated to them are not.
  • Shipbuilding that allows varied fleets, including the possibility of 5-factor super battleships.
  • Ahistorical A World at War counters, including armor units of different strengths and additional ships. 
  • A dynamic crisis system, in which the Allies can appease or oppose the Axis, with neither side necessarily being certain whether war might break out.
  • No dice.

Gathering Storm is a must-buy for any committed A World at War player, an excellent – and possibly dangerously time consuming – introduction to the A World at War universe for those unfamiliar with that game, and a enjoyable and instructive fast-paced game all on its own.

Customer Reviews
# of Ratings: 13
1. on 3/5/2017, said:
Gathering Storm is an excellent game that complements A World at War. This game will be of interest to the student of history. Game has high quality components, rules are nicely laid out and some interesting historical concepts are presented.
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2. on 8/17/2016, said:
Finally, an internet giveaway that’s real! On January 1, 2017, the people responsible for the A World at War website will be giving away a free Gathering Storm game, thanks to the generosity of Mark Ruggiero, who conceived of this idea. To qualify for the end of year draw, you must be register on the Player Registry on the website by December 31, 2016 or, if you are already registered, confirm and/or update your Player Registry information, correcting any information that needs to be updated. If your profile on the Player Registry is currently accurate, you must still e-mail to confirm this in order to qualify for the draw. To enter, you may directly e-mail [email protected] Please spread the message to anyone you know that plays A World at War and/or Gathering Storm and have them register. This will not only make them eligible for the prize but may well allow them to discover new opponents and expand their gaming experiences. The contest ends on December 31, 2016. The winner will need to provide a shipping address to receive the Gathering Storm game. Only registered members will be eligible to win. If the winner is outside of continental USA, then the winner would need to pay for shipping charges. To add or change your player information, please send an email to [email protected] and provide the information you want to add or change. It will be processed and become available on the website. This will normally take around 24 hours. If you want, you can copy the template below and paste it into your email to help you provide your information. Full Name: Location Country: State/Province: City: Skill Level: Beginner (0-1 Games) Proficient (2-3 Games) Experienced (4-6 Games) Expert (7+ Games) Gathering Storm Skill Level: None (Never Played) Beginner (1 Game) Proficient (2-3 Games) Experienced (4-6 Games) or Expert (7+ Games) Format: Face-to-Face, WarPlanner, or Both
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3. on 5/15/2016, said:
My son and I have now played at least 7 Gathering Storm games to completion and rolled two of those into two-man AWAW games. Before GS came out we had fooled around with AWAW for three months and played two games to surrender or concession. Before I talk about GS, some comments on AWAW. We had played a few games of Third Reich 20 years ago before we discovered AWAW in December 2014. In that time, we also played an advanced AH Civil War game a few times (ugh!) and dozens of games of Panzer Leader and Panzer Blitz over the years (Great!) So when we looked at AWAW on line, we realized that if we got it and actually played it it would take hours and hours of time. And the actual game didn't disappoint. The fact is that AWAW takes some time to explore. And if you're not up to exploring before you play, you're going to be putting up one of those whingeing reviews. I can't believe the reviews by folks who bought it on Friday, set it up that weekend and expected to all of a sudden be FDR or Rommel! It is an amazingly comp,ex, intellectual and subtle game. Every gain has to be minutely balanced, often on the fly against the cost. There are no sudden wins. This is the real deal. You have to marshal and balance each against the other, economy, oil, supply, research, diplomacy, industrial policy and military strategy to defeat the opponent . You don't play this on a weekend or even several. The idea that you are just going to buy AWAW and step-to is ridiculous and an insult to the sophistication and balance of the game. We started the game with that perspective and have not been disappointed. The Naval Rules alone took us a few months and a number of very very slow naval engagements to resolve. After a year of experiment and play, we've worked most of the kinks out and each know how to employ our forces with reasonable speed and ability. After a few times, Naval iInterception becomes one of the game's true delights. Ditto the supply/oil nexus and the intricacies of sea supply.. The fact of the matter is that AWAW is an amazingly complex undertaking with everything being balanced against the other at the point of decision. Sort of like the real thing! So, if you think you're not going to have to put in the work with this game to discover how WWII was actually won, pass on by and play something less challenging. So, as to Gathering Storm: For me, playing Gathering Storm for itself would be the worst kind of lonely pursuit. AWAW gives you the ability to research and develop all these amazing counter-factual events. But the fact of the matter is you start with the real set up in '39, so development of big battleships by the Germans or more effective ASW or larger Air Force by the allies is always constrained by the conditions as they existed in '39. Gathering Storm permits one to completely alter the starting conditions of AWAW. For example, last game, I concentrated in GS on developing the ability to build and then and building a German fleet that was able to challenge th UK in the Home Islands, mount a successful invasion and, 2-1/2 years later, in game time, compel a British Surrender. The problem was though that because of the effort in the UK, I had not invaded the USSR so it was knocking on the Eastern Marches when Britain surrendered. In addition, the US had secured a Spanish diplomatic result allowing them to stage in Spain for an invasion into the south of France. Conditions in the Pacific dictated an Allied concession in mid 43. Even more than AWAW, Gathering Storm is a subtle game. Every "Diplomatic," "Balance of Power" or research result is fleeting, incremental and almost always subject to change without notice. Are there rule glitches between GS ending conditions and AWAW? Yes. But the glitches are almost always involve an issue that can be resolved by common sense or application of existing AWAW rules. But, after 7 games, we've found the glitches are, if anything, relatively minor. GS and, if you roll into it, AWAW are the most intellectually challenging games I can imagine playing. And if you're willing to spend the time to learn the rules, you too can become Rommel or MacArthur or Zhukov.
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4. on 9/15/2015, said:
Very disappointing so far. First off, I bought AWAW BECAUSE this game finally came out. I figured it would give me "Gathering Storm, simulates the military, economic, political, diplomatic, research and production preparations for the Second World War," in general - not just for Europe. There are key technological, production, and diplomatic actions in the Pacific (such as moving on China at all!) which it would be nice to explore. But okay, this isn't the game for that - Days of Decision does a far better job of the giant sandbox. I can try it on its premise. But, the rulebook is designed to be about as unhelpful to the new player as possible. I suppose if you already knew how to play, it would serve as a fair reference manual. But, it is almost useless to anyone trying to absorb the concepts in the game. Added to that, the set-up instructions are spread throughout the rules that they apply to, rather than being in one consolidated location - and even after extracting them, they don't fully explain how to get started pushing some pieces around so that maybe, just maybe, if you wanted to still try playing this thing from the rulebook alone, you could begin to learn it. Sadly, it seems there will be no rewrite of this mess. Finally playing (and maybe not at all right - but I think close to it), and there's just not much of a game here. I suspect that the incoherent rules were designed to obscure that fact. Of course, there are a bunch of unexplained components that maybe could be used to some fun purpose - but they just seem to be alternative ways of tracking things.
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5. on 8/2/2015, said:
This may well be a fantastic game, but I have found the rules much harder to read and absorb than is normal for GMT. The lack of clear examples and any concise set up guide is also, for me, a problem. I have had to give up. The game as released by GMT is unplayable without help from an existing player- a ridiculous requirement when the wargaming community is so scattered as it is today. The rules do not enable individuals to learn it and play it without so much head-scratching and rules-searching as to make this game, in my opinion, unplayable.
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6. on 7/28/2015, said:
I'm new to the World at War universe and I was intrigued by the subject of the Gathering Storm game. After examining all of the components, I was surprised by the lack of any learning guidelines or examples of play. I own many GMT games and I have come to expect a step by step extended turn immersion into a game, rather than being tossed into this deep game without some kind of structured learning guidelines. I'm very disappointed in this game. I hope GMT will remedy this problem soon.
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7. on 7/19/2015, said:
Bottom-line: Rules and battle manual need a complete re-write. The rules are terrible. The layout makes reading difficult. There are no index, setup instructions, references, or historical notes. No clarity. Rules generate more questions than answers. Use of counters, charts, and tracks is never clearly explained. One-half page of the rules refers to mobilizations prior to the start of the game: are we to do something with those? Another rule regarding British mobilizations concerns the first through fifth mobilizations; details the third through seventh mobilizations; and ends with the eight and final mobilization. Is the first the third? The fifth the seventh? The eight the last or does Britain have nine mobilizations? There are many lines of rules that provide nothing related to the play of the game or understanding what the design intends (see the first rule in "Outline of Play"). I'm sure this game is not as complicated as the designer has it written.
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8. on 7/15/2015, said:
Waited 23 years for this game, and I am not disappointed! I love the way that you have to balance your desired course of action against the political realities and random events. The game has the feel of the Pre-war Years and the uncertainty of when the other shoe will fall. You want to be better prepared than your opponent, but avoid initiating the war in the process. Good job designing this game. I agree the rules could be better organized, but I don't find them hard to follow. Great game!
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9. on 7/4/2015, said:
I am commenting from the perspective of a casual although reasonably experienced game player, recently introduced to AWAW. This game (GS) has been under development from prior to the time AWAW was first published in 2003, and it shows. Having played the game as a prelude to AWAW, it works extraordinarily well, and it is apparent that no shortcuts were taken in designing this game. Players must balance the trade offs of concentrating their limited resources on diplomacy, research, factory conversion, and military and naval construction to influence the balance of power, as well as preparing for and executing prewar aggressions (or defending against them). It is balanced, playable, and with outcomes that are realistic. The random events add enough uncertainty to keep the game from becoming stale or subject to "perfect plans." I likewise see this as a must-have for any AWAW player, although it also works as a free-standing game and is reasonably quick. The GS website now has an article from the game's designer discussing a Russia play example that may be useful for players. The website also has other resources, including for those carrying over their GS game to AWAW a utility that handles all of the starting AWAW calculations. There is also an active Yahoo discussion forum, and questions posted typically are answered by the game's designer or other knowledgeable GS players within hours, if not minutes. Being somewhat of a history buff I happen to like the historical photos and maps and the care that was taken to make the game work as a historical simulation. While I find the rules to be clear enough, I agree that some improvement to organization and clarity of the rules is possible, and perhaps they could benefit from read-throughs by individuals not otherwise familiar with the game. Although I am fine without them, I also agree that adding page numbers would make sense for those who want them--I understand the counterargument that they are not needed since the rules are organized by section, and that they will change with updates. But the game itself is a blast to play!
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10. on 7/4/2015, said:
First, let's be fair: all but one of the "bookkeeping forms" are simply updates to player aids used in A World at War (to make them consistent with the extensions to that game introduced by GS). You don't touch them unless you play AWaW. The only written record actually used in Gathering Storm is one research sheet for each side, where you check off one or two boxes a turn and that's it. There is virtually no written record-keeping required to play GS. Also, downloadable PDF rules (and all other components) are available at, which is mentioned on the first page of the printed rules. The game system itself is interesting. The organization and transparency of the rules leaves something to be desired, and gets in the way of understanding it. Lack of page numbers is pretty silly. Lack of setup instructions in one place is also very unfortunate (the setup information is printed on the game components, but a first-time player will have trouble understanding it because it is scattered throughout the rules). What the game really needs, more than anything, is a comprehensive example of play, showing a playthrough of, say, the first turn. Why something like this wasn't included, when most of the "Battle Manual" is largely a redundant recapitulation of the rules, is really puzzling. It would, indeed, be nice if most of the black & white "flavor" photos in the rulebook were replaced with clear, well-constructed and explained full-color examples... As I say, the system is interesting, but the political possibilities are actually fairly conservative. Some of the bullet points listed as "what if's" on this page are beyond the scope of the game. For instance, the Russian player can do nothing to defer or accelerate the Purges. They just happen. I think the game lives up to its billing as "must-have" for AWaW/A3R fans. Also, if you are interested in the origins of WWII in Europe, and are not put off by the density of the rules and the near total absence of useful examples, it is a very interesting and in some respects, elegant, game. It's unfortunate that the presentation does nothing to improve its accessibility, though. (Apologies for the wall of text; I tried putting paragraph breaks in this review, but GMT's system ignores them...)
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