I’m on my way to Moscow.
Figuratively speaking, of course. On the games table just now is A Victory Denied from Multi-Man Publishing, designed by Adam Starkweather, developed by Nick Richardson and featuring the graphic talents of Nicolas Eskubi.
It’s a wargame about the German push for Moscow in the Second World War, with one map, 280 counters, one page of charts and tables and a 16 page color rulebook.
The game uses a chit-pull activation system (when you pull a chit, randomly, it activates certain units) with several straightforward, but enticing wrinkles. For example, each player is restricted to how many chits he may put in the container. The resultant chaos is splendid, as well as making for a good solitaire experience if you can get over the chit selection challenge. (To achieve the latter, I assign probabilities and roll die. However, gamers with more developed schizophrenic tendencies may manage without that process.)
The systems are simple, but effective, with lots of subtlety built in without major rules overhead. For example, there is a movement point cost to both enter and exit Zones of Control. (If you need this explained, go here.) Soviet infantry do not have enough Movement Points to both enter and exit a Zone of Control in the same turn, but the Germans do. As another example, the Germans use a six sided die in combat, but the Soviets use a ten sided one. There are hidden Victory Points, Stuka and bomber attacks, Soviet artillery and rocket attacks, easy supply rules (with a great out of supply twist) and more. A clever package. I am sure there are other finer points I missed, but I was impressed by how much had been packed in to a game that is so easy to play.
The physical production standards are high. The map is understated, but lovely. The counters are clean and easy to read. The rules are among the best I have read for clarity and completeness – helped by good, extensive examples. The color is a bonus. Niggle: the font is small and I would have preferred more pages and a bigger typeface.
Not only is the game easy to play, it’s fun. The Soviets have to defend, but when they do fight back, their attacks can be spruced up by the sudden (and random) arrival of elite units. The Germans start with forces tied up around the pocket at Minsk. These can be released in dribs and drabs, but at the risk of some Soviet units escaping. So, the Germans have the balancing act of needing to be aggressive, but wary of over extending their forces. And the Soviets have to balance giving up territory against the loss of Victory Points. The chaotic sequence means constant tension – and great replayability.
In short, it’s a blast.