When it was first published in 2012, Brian Train's The Scheldt Campaign was the first game to focus on the 1944 clearing operations in the Scheldt Estuary. The subtle interplay of the game's mechanisms artfully captures the feel and nuance of the historical battle. Hollandspiele is proud to bring this game to a wider audience in a handsome new edition with map art by rising talent Ilya Kudriashov.
In late 1944, Allied advances are rapidly outstripping their ability to keep their fighting men in supply. The recently liberated port of Antwerp would alleviate this, but German coastal artillery and mines along the narrow eighty mile Scheldt River render it unusable. The First Canadian Army, which had been in continuous combat since D-Day, is tasked with clearing the Scheldt and opening Antwerp. They're opposed by the 15th German Army, whose under-strength Divisions are composed mostly of new recruits or badly-battered veterans. Confusion, limited logistical depth, and poor communications put the Germans in a desperate situation. With their backs against the wall, the Germans were defeated but fought ferociously, dealing significant casualties, with the brunt of them taken by Canadian soldiers.
The game riffs on the "Staff Card" system invented by Joseph Miranda. Each player has a hand of staff markers which he chooses non-randomly in anticipation of his next turn, and which he keeps hidden from his opponent. These drive the action and result in a sequence of play that's more fluid and less restrictive than a traditional move-combat game. Differing hand sizes for each player, as well as a different mix of markers, ably model differences in command and posture.
Small Tactical Units can be grouped together into larger Task Forces. These division-sized Task Force units enable you to move your forces quickly and efficiently to put maximum pressure on the enemy. Tactical Units have several steps of strength, with combat effectiveness gradually eroding over time, better reflecting the attritional nature of the fighting than the two-step reduction process found in other operational level games.
Aspects of bluff and tempo figure heavily into competitive play strategy, yet the game remains a viable candidate for "play both sides" solitaire study. Typical of Mr. Train's designs, there are a number of optional units and rules that allow players to color outside the lines of history, and thus arrive at a clearer picture of the essential nature of the situation and its possibilities.
The Scheldt Campaign provides insight into an important, and often overlooked, piece of military history over the course of an evening's entertainment.
Game design: Brian Train
Map: Ilya Kudriashov
Counters & Cover: Tom Russell
Hex Number: 1
Duration: 150 minutes
Solitaire Suitability: Medium