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Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945 [eng] [Współpraca reklamowa z GMT Games] Wydawca nie ma wpływu na treść recenzji
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When I first saw the announcement of Downfall, it didn’t make a special impression on me. Just another World War II game set in Europe. There are already a million of them… Some time later, I noticed that there was some hype around this game, and that’s when I saw the names of the authors… And it began… John Butterfield and Chad Jensen.

The first became famous primarily for incredibly well-crafted games like RAF and the series D-Day and Enemy Action. The second is the creator of the renowned series Combat Commander and Dominant Species. In the wargaming community, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t familiar with these titles. As a result, my Gollum Mode kicked in too (My precious!!!)…

How the game was created

The story behind the creation of Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945 is quite unique. Although the game has two authors who knew each other well and even were friends, they never exchanged a single word about it. The game was independently created by Jensen, who worked on it for many years, with the help of his wife as a playtester. Unfortunately, when the work was essentially completed, Jensen fell seriously ill and passed away.

After some time, his wife suggested to Butterfield to finish the game. She handed over all the components (counters, boards, cards, tables) that were already prepared as the final version and told him everything she remembered from their plays—which sometimes was confusing as different versions had come and gone over the years. However, what Butterfield didn’t receive was crucial. He didn’t get the rules.

There was not a single note about them; all the rules were in Jensen’s head—that was his working style. So, Butterfield reconstructed the game based on charts, boards, chits, cards, and notes with the initial setup. We don’t have the means to find out to what extent the current Downfall corresponds to what Jensen had in mind. Still, Butterfield’s involvement ensures that it is not a shoddy product.

Production quality

Aesthetically, the game adheres to the high standards typical of GMT. The very large unit counters on the oversized hexes look impressive. However, the main issue lies in the size of the board, which consists of two standard GMT boards, totaling 112cm by 86.5cm. Not every household table can easily accommodate this, and since the board is „soft,” extending beyond the edge of the table can be a pain.

GMT has been increasingly releasing games in a „two-piece” format, with a separate base game and a larger box (which replaces the standard, smaller one) containing a rigid board. Interestingly, this „addition” quickly sold out, and the publisher is soon planning a second print run.

As a result, there is plenty of space on the board, and the spread-out game truly makes a great impression.


The instructions follow Butterfield’s typical style—large fonts, extensive illustrations with examples, and detailed and clear explanations. Due to the game’s scale, the author avoided delving into small additional rules that would meticulously represent some atypical significant events.

Typically, I try to describe two or three non-standard rules/features characteristic of the game being discussed. Unfortunately, in this case, I have a bit of a dilemma because essentially, the entire game is non-standard! It’s easier to say what is standard. We have army tokens with dots (from 1 to 4) indicating their strength (presumably, it was decided that blocks would significantly raise the game’s cost), hexes, and movement with the expenditure of movement points. And that’s basically it…

Each player commands two factions—one with the Allies and Axis on the Eastern Front (OKH), and the other with the Soviet Union and Axis on the Western and Southern Fronts (OKW). This allows both players to both attack and defend, eliminating the „punching bag syndrome.”


The core mechanics revolve around chits. Each faction has its set of chits containing actions that their troops can undertake. These chits include direct commands for units – movement (indicating the number of movement points each designated unit can use – 3, 4, or 5), attacks (with the number of battles we can initiate), and mixed actions (movement and attack). Interestingly, the chits specify the types of units that can perform these movements and attacks – all mechanized and infantry, all infantry, only mechanized, only elite…

Additionally, there are chits with actions for infantry replenishment, tank replenishment, partisan recruitment, headquarters establishment, and strategic warfare.

All players’ chits go into one cup, then ten of them are drawn one by one and arranged on the corresponding track. When a faction has its turn, it selects one of the arranged chits and executes it (with the option to keep one chit for later), then another chit is randomly drawn to always have ten available. Performing actions from the chits incurs a cost in points.


Initiative determines who is currently taking action. There is an initiative counter (1-90) with initiative tokens for each faction. The faction with the lowest initiative must perform its action, and then its initiative increases by the cost of the played chit action. Subsequently, we check again which faction has the lowest initiative and executes its action. This variable order may lead to the same faction performing two actions in a row. If the initiative exceeds 90, the token goes to the beginning and is treated as if it had +90.

On this track, there are also event markers. Crossing them reveals the next event card. The weather token also moves along this track, indicating the current weather and ending the turn when it crosses the 90th space.


When choosing a combat chit, you can engage in as many battles as indicated on the chit. It also specifies which units can be the primary attackers. You select an enemy hex, indicate an adjacent unit token that will be the primary attacker, and use its strength in dots. Then, add +1 for each additional supporting unit (any units can do this, even those not specified on the chit). Furthermore, there are bonuses for elite status, the number of armored units, etc., and played action cards that can increase strength or provide modifiers to the roll.

The defender sums up all their units on the hex, adds bonuses from cards, and then subtracts their strength from the attacker’s strength. Find the appropriate column in the table and roll 2d6 +/- modifiers for weather, aviation, and cards. The result of the combat gives the magnitude of losses for both the attacker and the defender. The defender can convert half of their losses into retreat hexes. During retreat, you can move through the enemy’s zone of control, but it means losing additional strength points (the presence of your own units does not neutralize this).

More rules

There are many more unconventional mechanics, but my goal is not to provide a comprehensive summary of the entire rulebook. Suffice it to say that the initial encounter with the game may be challenging, not due to the complexity of the rules, but rather due to their divergence from what we are accustomed to in typical hex-based war games.


Once, I declared that Butterfield is a genius. Today, all I can say is that Jensen and Butterfield are geniuses. Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945 is a true gem. The game is captivating, and the rules function like a Swiss watch. It has all the advantages of chits without their drawbacks.

The initiative solution is fantastic, opening up new possibilities for planning and manipulating the sequence of plays. Yet, the chaos of war can still surprise us at the least opportune moment.

I want to play Downfall over and over again. Additionally, what happens on the board gives the sense that this is indeed the Second World War and not some sandbox where anything goes. On the other hand, some scripting is present in the event cards, but it doesn’t detract significantly from the enjoyment of gameplay.

Unfortunately, a rather painful drawback in today’s times is the playing time. The short Overlord scenario takes 12 hours, and the entire campaign from 1942 can take up to 16 hours. That’s how it is in this world – you get something, but you also give something in return.

Downfalls comparison

A year ago, a game with an identical theme and a very similar title was released, called Downfall of the Third Reich. Many people confused these games or wondered about their similarities.

Downfall of the Third Reich covers WW2 in Europe and Africa starting from 1940. It has generally simple rules but a poorly written rulebook, leading to many misunderstandings. One player takes on the Axis, and the other the Allies (with an optional third playing as the Soviets). The gameplay is simplified and quick but not crude. The entire war can be played in 2-3 hours, but there may be a drawback in terms of substantial scripting, which could significantly reduce replayability.

Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945 covers WW2 in Europe and Africa starting from 1942. It has more detailed rules but is easy to grasp, with a well-written rulebook. One player controls the Allies and Eastern Germans, while the other controls the Soviets and Western Germans. It features many innovative, unconventional rules that work exceptionally well, providing a very enjoyable gameplay experience. The playtime is 16 hours (8 for the short scenario), with minimal scripting.

These are completely different games, but I consider both worth playing. If you have the time for Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945, go for it without hesitation. If you have 3 hours, bring out Downfall of the Third Reich.


  • Well-crafted game.
  • Unusual but very interesting and effective rules.
  • Both players take on the role of the attacking side on „their” front.
  • Looks fantastic.


  • Requires a significant amount of time.
  • Requires a substantial amount of table space.

Review in Polish


Grę Downfall: Conquest of the Third Reich, 1942-1945 kupisz w sklepie


Dziękujemy firmie GMT Games za przekazanie gry do recenzji.


Oprawa wizualna (8/10):

Ogólna ocena (9/10):

Co znaczy ta ocena według Games Fanatic?
Gra tak dobra, że chce się ją polecać, zachwycać nią i głosić jej zalety. Jedna z najlepszych w swojej kategorii, której wstyd nie znać. Może mieć niewielkie wady, ale nic, co by realnie wpływało negatywnie na jej odbiór.

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