My next game was Ukraine ’43, about the Soviet summer 1943 offensive that took them from outside Kharkov, all the way to Kiev. The designer is Marc Simonitch, and it is newly published by GMT Games.
Luckily for me, the designer had arranged to bring along a 125% enlarged version of the game maps, and offered to host the session. He was joined by Daniel Thorpe, and they took the Soviet side. Nicholas Markevich and I were the German side.
The game is a playable and good looking monster; it has two standard sized maps in the recognizable Simonitch style – that is a compliment by the way – and a campaign game of 21 turns. (We were playing the campaign game, but there are three smaller scenarios included.) The counters are larger sized, with clear and attractive coloring throughout. The counter stacking is minimal, and the system is accessible and easy to understand. Mastering its nuances are another matter.
The situation is that the Soviet side have to drive hard to keep up at least to the historical performance. This is because each turn has a benchmark of victory points, and if the Soviets do not get close enough to the benchmark – within six, they lose. On the other hand, if they can achieve six more than the benchmark, they win an automatic victory. This means there is a level of tension in every turn as both siodes have one eye on the situation, and one eye on the victory point track. Victory Points (VP) incidentally come from control of specified (and marked) locations, with the possibility of extras for the Soviet side that can exit units off the Western map edge.
At game start, the Soviets have massive resources on hand. They will break the German line. So the question for the German side is when to pull back, and to where. Timing is everything.
We managed 11 out of the 21 turns, and at the end of that session my conclusion was that the German side had waited too long to withdraw. Although our panzers had snapped back at times, the Soviet side had kept on going and it looked as if there were almost no German units left to form a line. The only hope was that the Soviet side were at the end of their supply chain, and there was a steady (albeit small) trickle of reinforcements and replacements. Would it be enough?