The Motto of the Wise is Be Prepared for Surprises

By Alan Emrich

There is nothing surprising about a change is the weather, is there? As in so many wargames, the weather die roll takes on almost mythical proportions as opposing gods of war await its augury. In Frank Chadwick's ETO, strategic weather patterns define the game's major Theater boundaries. The weather tables throughout this series are based on the month, theater, and then for each a per-Game Turn die roll. The outcome of that die roll indicates the diktat of the map's Great Regulator – the weather. If you really want to see and feel the weather change, just play the Operation Typhoon scenario!

Surface and Atmospheric Conditions

Each type of weather has specific effects on surface and atmospheric conditions (and there are other weather types in future games in this series, including Sand Storms and Storms at Sea). Since per-turn weather across Europe and the Mid-East is never 100% predictable, sagacious players plan for the most likely weather and prepare for opportunities presented by the slimmer chance of a change from that norm.

ETO TITE weather tables

The Thunder in the East turn track and weather tables by Season.

Taking to the Air

All inclement weather is bad for the Axis Air Forces in East Europe – period. During inclement weather only half of the Axis Air units mend during their Repair & Recovery Step (except during Mud where only Axis Short Range Air units are so affected); this neatly simulates the overall loss of capability (measured as a decline in sortie rate) during inclement weather. It is important to note that inclement weather reduces Axis air maintenance effectiveness to that of the Soviet Union – and with the Soviets' eventual numerical advantage of Air units, that is bad news for the Axis.

Worse for air operations, Overcast, Mud, and Snow weather (but notably not Extreme Cold) also prohibits flying Transport Missions and, most importantly, renders all Strike Strength symbols (i.e., lightning bolts) unusable (which impacts not only Air units, but also Naval units and several Event cards). What this means is that the boys battling on the ground will not receive Close Support during this weather!

ETO weather card EE Overcast ETO weather card EE MudETO weather card EE Snow

So be aware of what your Air Forces can and cannot achieve when the weather is not Clear. Perhaps the sun is shining in the Middle East Theater? Your repairs might be halved in East Europe, but at least what is left can use their Strike Strengths in Crimea and the Caucasus. And there are plenty of other Missions that can be accomplished to your benefit or the opponent's deviltry other than Close Air Support -- bombing enemy Air Bases to suppress them is always useful, and a well-placed Logistics Bombing attack can protect a sector of your line from counterattack. See the article in this series, We're on a Mission.

Pounding the Ground

ETO weather card EE extreme coldMovement: While overruns are always prohibited, things really slow down in Mud where all overland movement is reduced to 1 hex per Movement Step (excluding Rail Movement). During Extreme Cold and Snow weather, all non-Mountain hexes cost 2 Movement Points, which slows things down, though not as much as Mud does!

Combat: On "split" combat results, the inclement result is used (and during Snow that is the only inclement weather combat effect). Mud is harsh, halving the strength of Heavy units (only) and inflicting a step loss on Retreating (and otherwise non-loss suffering) full-strength multi-step units. In Extreme Cold, Minor River hexsides are frozen (and ignored) while the first winter of the war inflicts Frostbite losses on the attacking Axis units.

Winter in East Europe

During the entire first Season of each year (i.e., every turn in the months of January, February, and March) it is "Winter" in East Europe. This closes all of the Anchorage hexes showing an ice flow in the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, but also opens up Ice Straits to use for movement and combat (of which there is only one in Thunder in the East at a remote location).

ETO weather card EE winter (back) ETO weather card EE winter

Pack some Warm, Dry Clothing

Weather is a vital consideration when playing a Campaign Game in particular, because longer and shorter runs of Clear weather have profound impact to the side on the strategic offensive, and cruel Mud weather, although often called neutral for having a similar effect on all sides, absolutely thwarts ground campaign momentum and therefore works to the advantage of the strategic defender (to lick wounds and prepare defense lines).

During invasions of Russia, the weather has historically favored the Russian cause; time and again their attackers suffered from the harsh weather which Russians have learned to endure. To nudge potential weather outcomes toward a more pro-Russian narrative, Thunder in the East provides a one-shot General Mud card (providing the Soviet player one weather reroll during a potential Mud turn). There is also an annually reusable General Winter card that can suddenly turn a Snow turn into one of Extreme Cold weather or vice-versa (for better or worse as this decision impacts Strike Rating availability, the freezing or not of Minor River hexsides and, during the first winter only, the implementation of the Frostbite rule that turn).

ETO Soviet card - General MudETO Soviet card General Winter

As presented here, the weather effects are easy enough to grasp with impactful gameplay results that turn. The Weather cards, particularly when placed in an eye-catching location at a jaunty angle somewhere in a central, unused area of the map so that they are "visually disruptive" and therefore highly noticeable, serve to remind players of the current weather condition in that theater and, on their backs, summarize that weather's effects.

May your dice and the weather never blow too cold.

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