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Totaler Krieg! was my first wargame back in 2000. I knew the basics of WWII, but did not know any Operation in great depth and certainly had no clue how to run the war from a commander's perspective. Gradually, over the years, I built up my knowledge of the timeline, the events, their impact, etc. My grasp of the game improved and I enjoyed playing it from both sides, although I have a better time as the Allies as they start the war on a reactionary footing and not driving the pace of events.
Then plans for TK2 (aka Axis Empires:Totaler Krieg!) and Dai Senso were announced and our copies of TK were shelved, awaiting the new release. It took a while, but they finally arrived. By now, my son is old enough to play with us. So we took the roles we felt would allow us the comfort of familiarity while learning the new system: Chad has Axis and sets the pace, I have Western Allies and work to respond to the events as they unfold, and Devon has the Russians with lots of bodies and the room to manoeuver them.
We started with the 1937 political tug-of-war and, at Devon's play, went off the historic rails before we even started to build up forces as he felt the change in cardplay "made more sense for the Russian situation" than the historical one. We have gone further and further off the beaten path with nearly every card play since then. In somes ways, I feel like I did when learning the game. I sometimes feel that I have no clue what I'm doing, I'm not sure how my chosen card will affect the overall situation by the end of each turn and I'm scrambling to meet pre-conditions for playing other cards. It's great fun and I'm having to relearn the reasons and the timing behind each Operation as we move further into the conflict.
I think in the long run, this will make me a better player of the historical game (boy, I hope so, anyway!). I think I will have a stronger grasp of how to advance my cause, how to pre-position my forces, etc. as I now understand more fully what the long-term effects of the choices can lead to.
So for those of you who have purchased TK2, I urge you to get off the rails once in a while! Not only is it entertaining, but I think taking a look at the events from the different perspective will open your eyes to see the historical game in a different light. Once we finish this game, we are moving to Dai Senso - where I truly know nothing about the sequence of the war and will be learning all over again. Good times!