Now this is a little cracker. It’s about the Soviet winter offensive of 1942 with nine game turns to determine the winner by killing enemy units or grabbing victory point objectives. (There’s also a sudden death victory which seems unlikely for either side.) The German units are divisions, the Soviets are corps and divisions. The situation is that the Soviet steamroller is about to start, and the onus of attacking is on them. The Germans have to trade territory and try to avoid being encircled, focusing on delay, delay, and more delay.
First and foremost, this game is very easy to play. The eight page rulebook – yes, eight! – has only five pages of rules. Amazing! And yet in that content the designer and developer have manged to produce enough variety and tweaking to make this a breath of fresh air.
It’s “I go, you go” with a twist. Each turn, each side gets a number of Activation Points (AP). You have to use an AP to move a formation. You have to use an AP to fight with a formation. (German Panzer units get to fight for free. Whether they will is another matter!) And you never have enough AP! Part of the challenge is deciding whether to spend AP in the current turn or save them. It’s a terrific mechanism, neatly showing the limited capabilities of real life campaigns: it’s not possible to keep every unit moving and fighting all the time.
The system has sticky zones of control (ZOC) and a combat results table that means if you want to kill the enemy, you have to surround them with ZOCs and get them to retreat to their death. Old school, and effective.
The twist here is that the attacker does all the retreats. A nice touch. (And it makes for easier play using Vassal.)
Supply is straightforward and surprisingly of limited effect. If the defender is isolated from supply, the attacker gets a bonus. That’s it.
The Soviets have a Shock Army – a massive 20 combat strength unit – that they should withdraw at the end of turn four. They can put off that withdrawal at a cost in VPs.
The Soviets also have partisan units – that pop up in rear areas – and one parachute capable reinforcement.
I have played it solitaire several times. There are no real obstacles to solitaire play, though face to face games may well show other strategies. So far, it’s been Soviet wins. That’s not to suggest the game is unbalanced. It’s probably that my defensive play and sense of timing is less than stellar. Knowing when to withdraw is crucial to success for the Germans. German play is likely to feature few attacks; it’s all about maintaining a coherent defense and avoiding being flanked. Oh, and trying to hold on to VP objectives.
The single (standard sized) map is gorgeous. Joe Youst does great work. The rules are great. There was only one clarification required and no errata so far as I know. (The clarification is that friendly units do not negate enemy ZOCs for the purpose of retreats.) The 200 half-inch sized counters are clear, crisp, and present no challenges to use. There is one cavalry unit with an infantry logo, but that’s scarcely noticeable and of no effect.
The game was originally published in Japan. It was designed by Shigeru Hirano and developed by Roger Miller for release by Revolution.
If you want an easy to play, fun, challenging wargame, this is it. Highly recommended.