GDW Europa

Europa Games – The GDW Era

Game Designers’ Workshop published the very first Europa game in 1973: Drang Nach Osten. Its immediate success and popularity made the Europa series possible. There were four original, or “first edition,” games.

Drang Nach Osten (DNO), Europa IDNO

The title, Drang Nach Osten, is a German phrase meaning drive (or push) to the east, used at times from the Middle Ages through WW2 to signify German settlement and expansion into territories east of Germany. DNO was not only the first Europa game but also the first monster game, with six maps and hordes of counters.

A Personal Note: I first saw DNO in an ad in a wargaming magazine. It looked amazing, and the picture of German and Soviet units fighting for the Crimea alone made me lust after that game—an emotion I rarely experienced with wargames. Expertly rated divisions, tank brigades, antitank battalions, model-based aircraft, Soviet landing craft, and more, wow! Alas, I was in college and on a very limited budget, so the $12.85 price tag (2-3 times the cost of most other games) was just beyond reach. Later, I did get to play it (and eventually got my own copy), and it was everything I expected it to be. —John M. Astell

Unentschieden (UNT), Europa IIUNT

Unentschieden is a German word meaning “stalemate.” UNT was an add-on to DNO and was not playable by itself.

Unentschieden ends in December 1944. GDW planned to publish a third “original Europa” game covering the 1945 German-Soviet campaign, tentatively titled Na Zapad! (Russian for “To the west!”), but these plans were not realized.

A Personal Note: Together with DNO, UNT was a revelation on what games could be. I was used to cookie-cutter games where, say, every German panzer division would have the same rating and wouldn’t change for the entire war. Here was a game that showed what really went on! —John M. Astell

Narvik, Europa IVNarvik sample

  • Published: 1974
  • Designed by: Frank Chadwick and Paul Richard Banner
  • Subject: The German invasion of Norway, 1940
  • More Info: See Narvik on BoardGameGeek (note that the illustration there is the back of the game box of 2nd edition Narvik, and is not indicative of 1st edition Narvik) and The Europa Series at Wargame Academy.

Narvik took its title from the Norwegian Arctic port the Germans seized in the face of British naval superiority. The game covered the entire campaign in Norway.

Note that Narvik was Europa game IV, not III. Europa III was reserved for Marita-Merkur, which wasn’t published until GDW did the second edition Europa games.

A Personal Note: This was the first Europa game I ever bought or played. I became intrigued with it when I read some reviews—until then I had known little about the Norwegian campaign and thought it was just another German cakewalk with little interesting action. The Europa supplement in the game with the Europa-level Norwegian and Swedish armed forces was also fascinating.

Narvik was the game that got Winston Hamilton into the Europa system, and it always remained his favorite Europa game. —John M. Astell

Their Finest Hour (TFH), Europa VTFH

  • Published: 1976
  • Designed by: Marc W. Miller, Paul R. Banner, and Frank Chadwick
  • Subject: The Battle of Britain and the hypothetical German invasion of Great Britain, 1940
  • More Info: See TFH on BoardGameGeek (note that the illustration there is the front of the game box of 2nd edition TFH) and The Europa Series at Wargame Academy.

Their Finest Hour was three games in one: Battle of Britain, a squadron-level game of the aerial campaign over Britain, Battle of Britain (Europa), a Europa group-level game of the aerial campaign, and Sea Lion, a ground-air-naval game of the planned but not executed German invasion of Britain.

TFH was a transitional game between original Europa and the second edition games. The graphics were improved over the previous games, but not to the level that the 2nd edition games would feature.

The label on the cover (see illustration at left) is hard to read at this scale. It states:
“Their Finest Hour” Copy No. 8
published 23 March 1976
and it is signed by all three of the game’s designers.

A Personal Note: Someone in the wargaming club at my college (The Strategy Games Club, UMass Amherst) bought TFH when it came out, and we played both the squadron game and the invasion game. Again, the attention to detail was impressive. For example, not only could you try to bomb out the British radar stations, you as the Luftwaffe never could tell how much effect you were having—would just one more hit knock one out, or were your hits doing little damage? —John M. Astell

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