Triumph & Tragedy

edited January 2016 in Board Game Reviews
GMT recently published a new strategic WW2 game called Triumph & Tragedy. The link is here: ... ph-tragedy

I got my copy in the GMT Fall sale for 50% off or around $45. Given that it has a couple of hundred blocks and 100+ cards this seemed to be a pretty good price.

I would encourage you to read the BGG entry on the game for a full description. I shan't try to fully explain it here. However, the game mechanics are really pretty simple. There are only about 20 pages of rules organized in one column with ample sidebar examples and clarifications. The designer is Craig Besinque who designed the classic Rommel in the Desert and East Front wooden block games. Now those games have never been my cup of tea, but I did play Rommel a few times and found the design to be brilliant, perhaps the best North Africa simulation ever.

So why did I purchase a block game? I am not really a big fan of the wooden blocks nor the "buckets of dice" mechanic (roll a certain number of dice to get certain results in lieu of a good old combat results table). I did not preorder this one and in fact dismissed it initially. However, when it finally was published I read a few reviews and a play by play article. Hmm. There seemed to be a good game under all those dice and the labeled blocks. So when GMT had their sale I bought a copy. In fact, I bought a copy of PQ-17 another game that uses blocks, although in a different system. But I digress.

I set up the campaign game for T&T this evening and played through the 1936 and 1937 turns. The game pits three sides against one another - the West (Britain and France), the Axis (Germany and Italy) and the Soviet Union. As it begins in 1936, the armed forces for each side are very weak. And unlike other WW2 Europe games, there is no script here. In my game so far, as an example, the USSR has made diplomatic overtures to Spain for example. In fact in T&T it is possible for WW2 to not even happen! It is possible to win the game with economic or technological dominance. Or you can fight each other. And it is possible for each of the three sides to be at war with both of the other two. There is no USSR/Western Alliance wired in.

The game uses cards to drive the action. There are two decks - an action deck and an investment deck. Each card in both decks has at least two uses. Each action card can be used to drive military operations or diplomatic efforts. Each investment card can be used to develop technology or to increase a faction's industrial base. The card play is really where the game is. The military aspect is there but is abstracted to a great degree. While it is not at the Risk or Axis and Allies level, it is not far from that. The real game is in the card play - tactical use or strategic use? Save cards or play them now? develop technologies that may take awhile or go for a territorial conquest?

In case it hasn't been obvious by now, I really like this game. It reminds me a little of the old Classic Hitler's War where the focus was also on the development of technology versus military activities, but T&T is a much richer game. It starts earlier and is really directed by the whims of the players without the scripting of other WW2 games. The card play mechanisms are well designed and purposeful. Decisions are difficult as there are opportunity costs to be weighed. The military units are generic, and combat is resolved simply. This game is meant to be gotten into quickly and I found that it held my attention.

I'm not sure what my rating will be for T&T yet. I would really like to play with two other live players to know for sure, but I am thinking that it will at least be a 7, but more likely an 8 or 9. I only have rated 3 games a '10' so giving a game an 8 or 9 means I hold the game is very high regard.

I would be interested to compare this one to the recent Columbia Games title Victory in Europe, a game that covers the same basic territory as T&T.

So any of you intrepid readers who would like to give T&T a whirl I would love to give a three player T&T A go.


  • I played a bit more of my solo game of Triumph & Tragedy. This is definitely a game that deserves to be played more. For those who remember the venerable old classic Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, I would compare the two games favorably. Third Reich allowed a wide range of diplomacy and military options. But it was basically WW II as we knew it from the history books. In T&T, players are less constrained by the historical path. T&T also emphasizes the economic aspects of the situation in the 30's. And since it starts in 1936 without the need for an additional game to do so (Third Reich's successor has a whole separate game for the prewar period).

    T&T uses simple mechanics. It uses wooden blocks to represent military units, which themselves are rather generic. It uses dice instead of a combat results table. There is no factor counting like in the less accessible wargames on the topic. There is a strong card play aspect to the game. Since the two types of cards can each be played in two ways each, there is almost a game within a game with respect to card play.

    The game is playable solo and with two players but it really needs three players to make the decision making and counter decision making far more interesting. Is anyone interested in trying out Triumph & Tragedy?

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