Finishing the Pocket

A few weeks back I finished an extended session of play with Jaws of Victory. Here are my likes and dislikes.

What I liked

  • The maps are gorgeous.
  • The counters are equally nicely done.
  • The rule book, scenario book, and play aids are also of high quality.
  • Game play is immersive. (There’s a downside to this which I’ll cover in the dislikes.) While you can just push the counters around, to be successful you must come up with a plan and then execute it. For example, when and how to use artillery. As another example, which troops to commit first and which to be reserves.
  • The supply rules are a lovely balance of playability and realism. You cannot simply attack everywhere all the time. So, naturally, there are lulls as supplies are built up before the next offensive.
  • The air support rules are another wonderful creation. You can call for support but you are never sure if you will get any. It’s easy to play and adds to the suspense. (And reflects real-life doubts.)
  • The tank and anti-tank interaction is superb. It’s easy to use and delivers believable results.
  • Similar to the last point, the terrain effects and different unit types give a real sense of the limitation the actual forces faced. This is not a game where you get your powerful tank units up front and they sweep all foes away. Oh no. You need infantry, engineers, and artillery. And you need replacements to fill the ranks.
  • There are plenty of one map scenarios.
  • Achieving historical results is challenging. That’s the way it should be. The result is not scripted. I know that I only scratched the surface of the game play and I am much happier knowing that the Soviets, for example, cannot simply just attack away and succeed. I’m also pretty certain that watching an expert play this game would be highly entertaining and instructive.

What I didn’t like

  • It’s slow to play if you are doing things properly. There are three sources for this. First, most hexes have more than one unit in them, so there’s a stack with one visible and one or more hidden. Second, only infantry units with 3 steps or more project a Zone of Control. (ZOC). So, you often need to disturb a stack to see if a ZOC is in effect. Third, there are rules for armor interception. So, you may need to check to see if a stack has a potential interceptor. This is the price you pay for the level of detail on display.
  • There are lots of special rules setting up the historical restrictions on when units, for example, may be activated and where they may go in early turns of the scenario. You get the history, but it’s not for free. No, I don’t know a way around this. (Yes, I am trying to have my cake and eat it.)
  • That’s it…

In summary, this game has been one of my best buys. I spent hours playing it and enjoying it. And if I can ever get back to a convention, this will be high on my ‘to-be-played’ list because I very much want to see how the campaign goes.