TAHGC, PANZERBLITZ (1970)

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PANZERBLITZ is a tactical simulation of armored warfare on the Russian Front, 1941-44. The game was designed by SPI’s James F. Dunnigan and published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1970.

INTRODUCTION

When it first made its appearance in 1970, PANZERBLITZ — Jim Dunnigan’s game of World War II tactical armored warfare on the Russian Front — rocked the war gaming community as no war game had ever done before, and few have since. Its ground-breaking design blended elements of board war games with those of miniatures, and by so doing, created an entirely new, and extremely playable tactical design architecture. Moreover, it had something for everyone. For the history buff, the game was chock-full of historical and technical detail; for the pure gamer, the satisfying sight of burning wreck counters from one end of the game board to the other made it a blast to play. In the eyes of many of us, Dunnigan’s creation of PANZERBLITZ was his overdo atonement for his truly execrable two earlier monstrosities, JUTLAND (1967) and 1914 (1968).

Interestingly, PANZERBLITZ had originally been designed as part of SPI’s “Test Game Series,” under the unimpressive working title: “Tactical Game 3.” In a somewhat surprising move, rather than market the game itself, SPI sold the design to Avalon Hill, but continued to manufacture PANZERBLITZ under a royalty agreement with the boys from Baltimore. The first printing used the old sleeved-box packaging system that Avalon Hill had used in several of its own games from this period. However, this design, because of cost, was soon abandoned in favor of the less expensive and lighter-weight, bookcase style game box that soon after became a standard for other Avalon Hill games.

Besides the original game, the PANZERBLITZ Game System also showed up in my personal favorite, PANZER LEADER, and in THE ARAB-ISRAELI WARS. In both cases, the game system handled the transitions nicely. And as a testament to the ongoing resiliency of these titles, there are still few long-time gamers who do not own or know how to play at least one or two of these games.

DESCRIPTION


PANZERBLITZ is a tactical (platoon/company) level game of armored warfare on the Russian Front, 1941-45. One player commands the German forces and the other controls the Red Army units. The game is played in turns, and each turn is divided into two player turns: a German and a Russian turn. During each player turn, the phasing (acting) player will perform the following game operations in exactly this order: Combat Phase (friendly Minefield attacks are also conducted); Movement Phase (during this phase, Overrun attacks may be conducted); and the Close Assault Phase. Once this series of player operations is completed, the defending player becomes the phasing player, and the sequence is repeated. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the current game turn ends and the turn marker is advanced one space on the Turn Record Track. Because of the operational scale of the game, units do not possess zones of control, and there are no supply rules. Stacking varies between the two armies: German units may stack three and Russian units may stack two units in a hex. All combat units display four numerical values on their counters: fire strength; fire range; defense strength; and movement range. Because PANZERBLITZ is a “fire” oriented game system, blocking terrain, concealing terrain, elevation, and line of sight are critical factors in determining which units may fire and be fired on in any given combat phase. During a typical player turn, four different attacks against an enemy unit may occur: minefield attack; fire attack; overrun attack; and close assault. Destroyed armored units are replaced by a wreck counter, and, upon placement, stacking in the “wreck hex” is reduced by one unit for both players.

PANZERBLITZ is played using a scenario or “mini-game” format. Six back-printed Scenario Cards are included with the game; these cards provide the specific orders of battle, set-ups, and victory conditions for twelve different East Front battlefield situations. Each scenario typically attempts to reproduce a different, but common type of engagement between German and Russian forces during the years 1941-44.

PANZERBLITZ also offers “optional” rules covering Indirect Fire, Real Space Line of Sight, Ammunition Supply, and Panzerblitz Assaults. In addition, the designer has included several “experimental” rules for those players who want to increase historical realism at the cost of diminished playability.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


Even after thirty-nine years, PANZERBLITZ is still a perennial favorite among experienced gamers and a fixture at most of the major war gaming conventions. It has, to put it mildly, aged extremely well. Until the arrival of SQUAD LEADER and then its perpetually-growing, mutant offspring, ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER, no other title had ever had as many articles, rules variations, or scenarios printed in the various hobby magazines as had PANZERBLITZ. Today, PANZERBLITZ players probably cannot come close to matching the ardor of their fanatical ASL brethren, but Dunnigan’s creation is still a great game for regular players. And, unlike ASL, it has two other virtues: it is cheap to own and play, and — unlike the typical ASL game system with its numerous special modules — I can actually carry my copy of PANZERBLITZ under my arm when I go off to meet an opponent.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 6 minutes per game turn
  • Map Scale: 250 meters per hex
  • Unit Size: platoon/company
  • Unit Types: various German and Soviet Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), (German) self-propelled artillery, machine gun, anti-tank, (German) light flak, howitzer, mortar, engineer, (Soviet) reconnaissance, rifle, (Soviet) Guards, submachinegun, (German) security, command post, (Soviet) cavalry, wagon, truck, halftrack, fortification, mine, block, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 1½-2 + hours (depending on scenario)


Game Components:

  • Three 8” x 22” geomorphic hexagonal grid Map Boards
  • 352 ⅝” cardboard Counters
  • One 5½” x 8½” map-fold Rules Booklet (with Unit Identification Tables incorporated)
  • One 5½” x 8½” Campaign Analysis Booklet
  • One 8” x 11¼” combined Game Chart (with Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, LOS Table, and Weapons Effectiveness Table incorporated)
  • Two 5¾” x 7½” back-printed Player Aid Cards
  • Six 5¾” x 7½” back-printed Situation Description and Scenario Instruction Cards (revised as of 9/15/71)
  • One six-sided Die
  • Four plastic Game Clips (a useless game component, if ever there was one!)
  • One 5½” x 8½” Avalon Hill Game & Parts Catalogue
  • One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
  • One 8½” x 11½” x 2” bookcase style cardboard Game Box


Recommended Reading


See my blog post Book Review of this title which I recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background material.

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THE 2009 WORLD BOARDGAMING CHAMPIONSHIPS CONVENTION BEGINS TOMORROW IN LANCASTER, PA

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WBC Pre-Convention events begin on 1 August while the Regular Week-Long Tournament Events begin on the 3rd



It is finally that time of year again: the WBC Convention kicks off in Amish Country on Saturday morning with a number of pre-convention events for those die-hards who don’t want to wait for the formal convention start on Monday, August 3rd.

This year, I will be with those dedicated grognards in spirit, if not in person. Much as I wanted to make the trek back to Lancaster, family issues have prevented me from attending this year. None-the-less, I still want to take this opportunity to wish everyone, from attendees to organizers, the very best of luck. Don Greenwood and the many, many others who devote a great deal of their time and effort to this once-a-year, premier hobby get-together deserve a lot of credit for organizing and running a great convention and tournament.

Have a GREAT TIME, everybody! For the unlucky stay-at-homes like me, I’m afraid that we will just have to settle for the “after action” event reports — once they finally show up on the BPA web site — to get the details of this year’s tournament goings on. For my own part, I can hardly wait.
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SPI, DRIVE ON STALINGRAD (1978)

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DRIVE ON STALINGRAD, Road to Ruin: The German 1942 Summer Offensive is a historical game of World War II combat during the Russo-German War, 1941-45. DRIVE ON STALINGRAD, not surprisingly given its subject, is based on the very popular PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN Game System. It was designed by Brad E. Hessel and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1978. The game was offered by SPI using two different forms of packaging: the plastic flat pack featured in this game profile and also in a bookcase-style cardboard Game Box.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

As the Russian winter snows began to give way to the rains and mud of spring, Hitler and the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) made their final preparations for the 1942 campaign season. Despite the tenacious Ninth Army defense around Rzhev, the German High Command was disinclined to renew the drive against the now heavily-fortified Russian Capital. Nor was an assault against the formidable defenses of Leningrad considered a worthwhile option. Instead, Hitler had decided that once the ground was suitable for mechanized operations, the Wehrmacht would make its major offensive effort against the Soviet armies deployed between the Dnepr and the Don. By attacking in the South, the Führer was confident that not only would the German offensive achieve strategic surprise, but it would also, if successful, deal a crippling, if not fatal blow to the Soviet Union’s ability to continue the war.

The Axis plan was an ambitious one. As soon as the weather permitted, Hitler’s goal was to launch his refitted and reinforced southern armies deep into Russian territory to seize the Caucasus oil fields and to cut the southern Russian lifeline that was the Persian Lend-Lease Route. Both Hitler and the German High Command were convinced that this southern strategy would avoid the most powerful Soviet forces massed in front of Army Group Center, and would force the Russians to fight instead for the Don Basin and for Rostov.

Thus, in the Spring of 1942, the Wehrmacht, along with its Axis Allies, advanced confidently in search of the decisive mobile battles with the Red Army that might finally clinch an Axis victory in this, the second year of the war. However, despite numerous battlefield successes, the great encirclements and massive pockets of Russian prisoners and materiel that had characterized the first summer’s campaign eluded the Germans. The Soviet forces in the South fought tenaciously, but skillfully withdrew before they could be enveloped and destroyed. Gradually, it became apparent that the Red Army of 1942 was a very different and much improved force from that which the Wehrmacht had smashed in 1941. As the year ended, the Germans and their Axis Allies would learn, in the bombed-out rubble of a city on the banks of the Volga, just how different.

DESCRIPTION


DRIVE ON STALINGRAD is an operational simulation, at the regiment/division level, of the decisive battles between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army that occurred in southern Russia from spring through winter of 1942. This campaign, despite its early German successes, would be the turning point in the War in the East.

DRIVE ON STALINGRAD uses the popular PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN player turn sequence with some interesting innovations. The typical game turn begins with the Axis player rolling on the Hitler Directive Table to see what, if any restrictions will be placed on his actions by Berlin in the coming turn. The German player is always the first player, and the player turn sequence proceeds as follows: initial movement phase; combat phase; mechanized/cavalry movement phase; disruption removal phase; and air interdiction phase. The Soviet player then repeats the same set of operations and the game turn marker is advanced one space on the turn record track.

Experienced players who have tried PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN will recognize most of the game mechanics present in DRIVE ON STALINGRAD: untried Soviet units, German step reduction, the German divisional integrity combat bonus, overruns, and headquarters-based supply (for the Russians) are all familiar. However, because of the scope and duration of the Stalingrad campaign, a number of additional features have been added to the original game system. Among other things, the game now contains additional rules on rail movement, Soviet strategic movement, Axis (truck) supply chains, air supply, tactical air units (points) for both the Germans and the Russians, and operational restrictions on both armies in the region of the Don River. Both players (not just the Soviet commander) in DRIVE ON STALINGRAD also have to contend with untried units. The German player must cope with the untried infantry of his Axis Allies; the Russian, as in PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN, will still find a major part of his force to be untried rifle divisions. Therefore, the nagging possibility of weak or zero strength units appearing unexpectedly in awkward locations will be a factor in the planning of both the Russian and the German player.

DRIVE ON STALINGRAD offers only the 25 turn Historical Scenario. Nonetheless, players will find quite a bit of variation from one game to the next, if for no other reason than because of the unpredictability of combat outcomes due to the large number of untried units on the map at any given time. In addition, the Hitler Directive Rule insures that each game is different and challenging. This rule injects a realistic element into DRIVE ON STALINGRAD that players don’t have to contend with in most simulations: the operational interference of political leaders far removed from the realities of the front. Unless the Axis player does extremely well in the early going, Hitler will begin to meddle more and more (to ill effect) in Army Group South’s operations.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


When DRIVE ON STALINGRAD was first published, those gamers who flocked to buy the new title quickly realized that the game suffered from severe play balance problems. Dramatic advances by the Wehrmacht into southern Russia simply failed to materialize. The uncooperative Russians didn’t retreat; it turned out that they didn’t have to. Needless-to-say, SPI and Brad Hessel caught a lot of flak from a disappointed and indignant gaming public, and SPI quickly began the effort to fix the design. After several tries at post-publication errata, the introduction of some balancing modifiers and a number of other adjustments (changes in German stacking and supply rules, to name but a few), DRIVE ON STALINGRAD was finally transformed into the simulation everyone had hoped for from the beginning. While still not perfect, the final game gives players a real contest, with abundant opportunities for both sides to attack and defend. The German Offensive against Southern Russia in 1942, was a pivotal moment in the War in the East; so it is good that the game that was designed to model that historical situation finally became both interesting and enjoyable to play.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 week per game turn
  • Map Scale: unstated
  • Unit Size: regiment/division
  • Unit Types: army headquarters, infantry/rifle/guards rifle/NKVD rifle, Jaeger, mountain infantry, cavalry/guards cavalry, panzer/tank, panzer grenadier/mechanized/guards mechanized/NKVD mechanized, truck, air corps/air army, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 4–6 + hours

Game Components:

  • Two 22” x 32” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 600 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Set of Rules (with Historical Orders of Battle incorporated)
  • One 11” x 23” Game Turn Record/Reinforcement Track
  • One 11” x 12” back-printed, combined Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, Hitler Directive Table, Directive Contents Index, City Victory Point Values Chart, and Designer’s Notes
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (19 May 1978)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One 3¾” x 8½” SPI Customer Complaint Card
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet
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TAHGC, CIVILIZATION (1981)

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CIVILIZATION is an abstract, grand strategic simulation of the development of human culture from about 8000 B.C. to 250 B.C. in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Basin. The original game was designed by F. G. Tresham and published by Hartland Trefoil, Ltd. in England. This version was developed by Mick Uhl and republished in 1981 by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC).

DESCRIPTION



CIVILIZATION is a grand strategic simulation of human struggle and advancement on a truly epic scale. Seven or fewer players direct the efforts of their tribal/national groups as these groups attempt to increase population, build cities, develop crafts and trade, advance their scientific understanding, and develop the social/political skills necessary to become the dominant economic, military, and political power in the Mediterranean Basin. Tokens represent population/taxation, cities, and ships (fleets), but the main action of the game is card-driven. There are two types of cards in CIVILIZATION: Trade Cards, which represent the commodities most commonly exchanged in the ancient world; and Civilization Cards, which represent the attributes of cultural advancement (crafts, literacy, art, science, and civics, to mention a few). These cards are the most critical element in a player’s attempt to win the Archaeological Succession Track (AST) race to the finish line.

As might be expected in a multi-player game, conflict and diplomacy both play a part. As populations expand in order to build cities and to establish the tax base necessary for the purchase of Civilization Cards, competition for new territory is inevitable. One nice feature of CIVILIZATION is that there is no die: conflicts are resolved in a logical, but simple manner. Instead of die rolls, Calamity Cards, which are concealed among the Trade Cards, introduce a nice element of randomness into the game. Some Calamity Cards must be played as soon as they appear, but others may be traded to an unsuspecting opponent who must then visit the effects of the calamity on his own territory. Of all the game elements in CIVILIZATION, perhaps the most appealing is that the requirements necessary for the cultural advancement of each of the seven tribes/nations is different: so perfect plans and rigid, predictable lines of play do not dominate the flow of the game.

CIVILIZATION is a two to seven player game that offers both a standard (full) game and a variety of alternative scenarios that shorten playing time. The shorter scenarios all use predetermined points on the AST as finish lines (instead of the entire track). In those situations when it is impossible to find seven CIVILIZATION players, all is not lost: the game also offers six, five, four, three, and even two-player versions of the full game. CIVILIZATION has two simplified scenarios that use only portions of the game rules: Nomads and Seafarers, suitable for two to four players; and Farmers and Citizens, which can be played by two to seven players. CIVILIZATION is one of only a handful of games that asks players to identify with a tribal/national group (instead of individuals, armies, or nation-states), and to guide it in its epochs-long scramble up the cultural ladder. No Napoleons or Rommels, no tanks or cavalry in this game, but for someone who wants to take the truly long view of history, I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon gaming with friends.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: progressive (from the beginning square on the AST which represents 3,000 years, to the final box which represents only 100 years)
  • Map Scale: not given (area movement)
  • Unit Size: indeterminate
  • Unit Types: population/taxation tokens, ship tokens, city tokens, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two to seven
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: low
  • Average Playing Time: 1-10 + hours (depending on which version of the game is being played)

Game Components:

  • One (two section) 22” x 32” area movement Map Board
  • 639 cardboard Counters (varying shapes and sizes)
  • One 6” x 9” Rules Booklet
  • 74 Trade Cards (with 6 spares)
  • 72 Civilization Cards
  • One 8” x 22” Archaeological Succession Table
  • Seven 2¼” x 3” numbered Place Cards
  • Seven 4½” x 8½” Player Place Mats
  • One 3¾” x 8½” Avalon Hill ad flyer
  • One Avalon Hill Order Form
  • One Customer Response Card
  • One 8½” x 11½” x 2” bookcase-style Game Box
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STAY TUNED: AN 'AFRIKA KORPS' SERIES REPLAY IS ON THE WAY

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Proving yet Again that there is no Fool like an Old Fool: This Blogger’s flawed play will soon be exposed for all to see in an AFRIKA KORPS Series Replay that will be hosted by Russ Gifford



For those visitors who periodically drop in to check out my Blog, it is probably apparent that I have not been posting very much new material of late. I haven’t really been AWOL from my favorite hobby, however; instead, I have been writing commentary for an AFRIKA KORPS Second Round PBeM Tournament Match between Greg Smith and I that will soon be posted by computer guru and game expert Russ Gifford as a “real-time” Series Replay. That’s right: a Series Replay just like those that used to appear years ago in the General; only this time, the turn-by-turn action will be posted on line. The other difference is that, in the case of this Replay, the match is still in progress and the final outcome is still very much in doubt. Happily, present day technology should make for a much clearer and more detailed presentation of the game as it plays out: the maps will be much larger and crisper (thanks to VASSAL) and the commentary will be much more comprehensive (longer) because of the flexibility of the internet as a medium. In addition, to make sure that my every stumble and lame mistake is exposed, neutral play-by-play analysis will be provided by long-time player and tournament grognard, Scott Goehring.

I am posting this notice now, because it is possible that Russ’ site may actually go active within the next few days. Once this Series Replay is up and running, a hyperlink will be posted in a permanent “Replay Box” in the right-hand column of this Blog. Hopefully, that will make it easy for some of my visitors — many of whom have probably silently scoffed at several of my attempts at game analysis — to see what a pushover I actually am when it comes to real live competition.

I can’t wait for the match to finish so that I will be able to visit the Replay site, myself. So, if this sounds interesting, please continue to watch for the formal launch of Russ’ new site; I think that you will find it amusing!
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SPI, MARENGO (1975)

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MARENGO: Napoleon in Italy, 14 June 1800 is a grand tactical simulation of combat during the Napoleonic Wars. The game was designed by David C. Isby as a part of SPI’s NAPOLEON AT WAR Series of Folio games on the campaigns of Napoleon. MARENGO was published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1975.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

On 14 June 1800, Napoleon was, for one of the few times in his long military career, taken completely by surprise by the actions of an enemy general. At 8:00 am in the morning, Austrian forces began to debouche out of the Italian fortress city of Allesandria and to press forward against the French divisions, under General Victor, that were screening the town. Napoleon, somewhat removed from the battlefield, initially thought that the Austrian movements were nothing more than a probe to test the strength of the French positions around the town. However, he was wrong. In actuality, the Austrians, under the seasoned General Mélas, were intent on breaking out of Allesandria and, in the process, on inflicting a defeat on the French. And, at least initially, events seemed to favor General Mélas and his troops. By 9:30 the French units facing the Austrian attack were giving way; the situation was now becoming critical and, even worse, was rapidly slipping beyond the young French general’s control. Fortunately for Napoleon, the energetic and able General Desaix arrived with his reserve division just as Victor’s line was beginning to crumble.

Desaix did not hesitate but immediately counterattacked the advancing Austrians. His attack came just in time. The newly-arriving French troops halted the Austrians long enough for the wrecked French divisions to reform behind the attack. This momentary check to the Austrian advance marked the turning point in the battle. Now Victor’s soldiers, as quickly as they could be rallied, were immediately thrown back into the French ranks to support Desaix’ division. The battered Austrian units, also under heavy pressure from the ferocious and repeated attacks of General Kellermann’s newly arrived French cavalry, began to give ground and then — their attack totally spent — to waver. Finally, the lines of exhausted Austrian soldiers, unable to resist the French counterattack any longer, began to disintegrate. Mélas’ army, having, only a few hours before, come so close to a decisive victory over the French, now turned into a disordered mob and began to flee the battlefield.

It had been a "near run thing," but Napoleon's luck, and the valor of his officers and men, had salvaged a victory from what looked, for a time, like the wreckage of a certain defeat. By the end of the day's bloody fighting, 31,000 Austrians had been in action against 28,000 Frenchmen, and the casualties had been high on both sides. Austrian losses numbered some 6,000 killed and wounded, with another 8,000 becoming French prisoners. The French lost at least 7,000 killed and wounded.

The hard-won victory at Marengo extended Napoleon’s run of both military successes and of good fortune in Italy. Just as lucky for the ambitious young Corsican as his dearly-bought victory, however, was that the charismatic, gifted, and potentially dangerous General Desaix had been killed while leading his troops. Through an unexpected twist of fate, an obvious political and military rival to Napoleon had gallantly acted to save the French army at Marengo from defeat, and then, quite conveniently for Napoleon’s future political plans, had gone on to meet a glorious end. Throughout his life, Napoleon never failed to celebrate his good luck at Marengo. One nagging question, however, still persists to this day as to which bit of good luck the French Emperor was actually celebrating with each passing anniversary of the Battle of Marengo: his near-run victory over General Mélas, or the fortuitous (and permanent) exit of a daring, brilliant, and well-connected political rival?

DESCRIPTION


MARENGO is a division level simulation — based on the popular and widely-used NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System — of the battle between the Austrians, under General Mélas, and the French, commanded by the young Napoleon, for control of a large swath of Italy. Napoleon’s victory at Marengo not only saved him and his army from virtual annihilation, it also restored control of much of northern Italy to Revolutionary France. MARENGO is played in game turns, and each game turn is further divided into two symmetrical player turns, each of which proceeds as follows: the first player movement phase followed by the first player combat phase; the second player then repeats the sequence. The French player is always the first player to act in any game turn. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence repeats itself until the scenario ends. Stacking is prohibited at the end of the movement phase, and supply is automatic for both players. ZOCs are rigid and “sticky:” once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. MARENGO uses the familiar “odds differential” type Combat Results Table, and terrain effects are typically represented by the doubling of a defending unit’s basic combat strength. Artillery plays an especially important role in this combat system. It can be used both to attack adjacent units, and also to attack (barrage) non-adjacent enemy units either independently or in concert with other attacking friendly units. The game is fourteen turns long. There are no “optional” rules.

MARENGO simulates the historical battle only; there are no scenarios. There are, however, two special rules: the French “first turn surprise” rule and the French “counterattack” rule. In the case of the first rule: French units have their movement halved and may not voluntarily enter Austrian ZOCs on the first turn of the game. In the case of the special “counterattack” rule: beginning on game turn nine, or any turn thereafter, the French player may declare a counterattack; once this declaration is made, all French units are doubled for attack (only) during the next three consecutive game turns.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


The NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System is probably one of the most successful conflict simulation design architectures ever created. Besides being used in numerous SPI (and other publishers’) Napoleonic games, it also formed the foundation for the SPI BLUE & GRAY Civil War quadri-games, and showed up in at least one WWII title and even appeared in a modern naval game, SPI’s 6th FLEET. These games all share many of the same characteristics: they are easy and comparatively quick to play, full of action, and they usually model interesting and historically significant conflict situations.

Such is the case with MARENGO; it simulates one of Napoleon’s early battles, and his come-from-behind victory at Marengo was instrumental in burnishing the young general’s military reputation throughout Europe. It is a classic “surprise attack” situation, with the Austrian army suddenly surging against Napoleon’s pickets, while the bulk of the French army is dispersed and scattered across the battle area. Napoleon’s initial forces must contain the Austrians long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Once the Austrian juggernaut has been stopped, the French — if their losses have not been too great — will then have the chance to seize the initiative and mount a crushing counterattack. In short, MARENGO makes for a fascinating see-saw game situation. The historical events of the battle, combined with the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System, offers a fast-moving and exciting game that is easy to learn and enjoyable to play. Moreover, all of the games in the NAPOLEON AT WAR game series are both simple enough to serve as introductory games for beginners, and still challenging enough to make for an exciting contest for experienced players. For this reason, I recommend MARENGO for anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars, or just an affinity for good, well-balanced, and fast-paced games.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 hour per daylight game turn
  • Map Scale: 800 meters per hex
  • Unit Size: brigade/division/corps artillery
  • Unit Types: infantry, cavalry, and artillery
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: below average/introductory
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours


Game Components:

  • One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • 20 cardboard Random Number Counters (included in all of the “folio games” as a substitute for a six-sided die)
  • One 8½” x 11” NAPOLEON AT WAR Standard Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” MARENGO Exclusive Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 7½” x 8½” SPI Products Catalog and Mailer
  • One 9” x 12” card board Game Folio


Recommended Reading


See my blog post Book Review of this title which I strongly recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background material.

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SPI, ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ (1977)

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‘WACHT AM RHEIN’: The Battle of the Bulge, 16 Dec 44 – 2 Jan 45 is a historical simulation, based loosely on the PANZERGRÜPPE GUDERIAN Game System, of Hitler’s last great gamble on the Western Front: a massive German winter offensive to smash through the Allied line, and by so doing, change the course of the War in the West. ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1977.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


In the closing months of 1944, Allied armies were closing in on the Third Reich from all sides. British, American, and Canadian troops had broken out of the Normandy beachhead, destroyed the bulk of von Kluge’s army group, and were already pushing up against the Siegfried Line in the West; in the South, Rome had fallen months earlier to the Americans, commanded by General Mark Clark; soon after, the Allied armies had resumed their northern advance up the Italian Peninsula. The news was just as bad from the Russian Front: there another entire German Army Group, under Field Marshal Busch, had been shattered by the Russian Summer Offensive, “Operation Bagration.” Only the speed and depth of the Russian advance, and the length of the new Russian supply lines had allowed the Wehrmacht to restore some semblance of a front. Despite these multiple catastrophes, Hitler poured over his maps frantically searching for one last offensive opportunity that might reverse the recent string of German defeats: a battlefield victory that could retrieve the Third Reich’s fortunes long enough for the new German “wonder” weapons to make an impact on the war. At the forested section of the German frontier that bordered Belgium and Luxembourg — site of the Germans’ brilliant surprise offensive of 1940 — Hitler finally decided that he had found it. The German Führer would attempt to repeat his earlier military triumph by again attacking through the Ardennes. This desperate military “throw of the dice” would be Hitler’s last major effort to turn the tide of battle in the west. The code name selected for this, Germany’s last winter offensive, was ‘Wacht am Rhein’ which, when translated, meant “Watch on the Rhine.”

Hitler’s ‘Wacht am Rhein’ offensive jumped off, as planned, at 5:30 am on 16 December 1944, with a violent, hour-long artillery bombardment along eighty-five miles of the Allied front line in the Ardennes region of Belgium. As soon as the barrage lifted, the 250,000 men and 1,100 tanks of Field Marshal Model’s Army Group B smashed into the dazed defenders of this thinly held section of the American line. The German offensive that would later come to be called the “Battle of the Bulge” had begun. The German plan was simple: tear a wide hole in the American front and then to rush powerful panzer forces through the newly-formed gap. The panzers, once they had achieved freedom of maneuver, were to force a crossing of the Meuse River, and were then to pivot northwest to seize the port city of Antwerp before the Allied High Command had an opportunity to react. The German seizure of this important Allied supply center would isolate the substantial British, Canadian, and American forces north of Aachen. Hitler hoped this might finally force the Western Allies to accept a separate, negotiated peace with the Third Reich.

DESCRIPTION


‘WACHT AM RHEIN’: The Battle of the Bulge, 16 Dec 44 – 2 Jan 45 is a two-player historical simulation, at the grand tactical (regiment/battalion/company) level, of the surprise German offensive against the American forces deployed along the German frontier in winter of 1944. The game is played using an AM and PM daylight turn, and a Night turn for each day (24 hours) of the battle; players may also choose, if they feel that the advantages outweigh the costs, to conduct operations during a Night Bonus Game Turn. A typical game turn begins with a set of joint player operations all of which are conducted during the AM game turns only. These include the Weather Determination Phase (U.S. player rolls for the day’s weather); the Mutual Air Allocation Stage (both players allocate their air missions for the day), and the Surrender Stage (both players roll to see if any of their isolated (I-2) units surrender). The U.S. player acts first, but both the Allied and German player turns follow an identical sequence of player actions: Mutual Supply Determination Phase; Movement Phase; Bridge Blowing and Bridge Building Phase; and Combat Phase. Following the end of both player turns, there is a Mutual Fatigue Reduction Stage. At the conclusion of the regular Night Game Turn, but before the start of the next day’s AM turn, the U.S. player first, and then the German player may opt to conduct a Night Bonus Game Turn.

‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ offers four standard scenarios. The first two use only a portion of the game’s counters, a single map section, and are a useful means of introducing players to different aspects of the game system. These two introductory games include the Bastogne Scenario (Map Section D), and the Kampfgrüppe Peiper Scenario (Map Section C). The last two game situations use the complete counter mix, all four map sections, and cover the entire ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ battle area. These are: the December 21 – The Race for the Meuse Scenario (which begins play at the “high water” mark of the German offensive); and the Campaign Scenario (which begins on December 16, and covers the entire battle through January 2, 1945). In addition, players may opt to experiment with a number of different optional rules. These include special rules for, among other things: Mechanized Infantry Movement, German Artillery, German “Truppeneinheit” (Commando) units, Von Der Heytde’s Parachute Drop, the 150th Panzer Brigade, Additional Green Units, German Westwall Fortifications, German Free Set Up (bad news for the Allies), and a rule assuming an “All-Out” (maximum) German Effort (really bad news for the Allies).

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ is not a simple game, and it is certainly not a good choice for the casual gamer. However, many serious players with a strong interest in military history have persuasively argued to me that examining specific combat actions at the tactical (company) or grand tactical (battalion) level provides a level of accuracy and information almost never contained in other types of simulations. In short, they contend that this title, Frank Chadwick’s AVALANCHE, and “Red” Jack Radey’s design, KORSUN POCKET, together provide the most complete and “intuitively” accurate narrative currently available on the operational dynamics of individual World War II battles. For my own part, I cannot say one way or the other when it comes to this title because, regrettably, ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ is one of the very few Monster games that I never actually had the opportunity personally to play. None-the-less, players whose judgment I trust have assured me that it is, quite possibly, the best historical simulation of the “Battle of the Bulge” ever published. After examining the game and its components, I am inclined to believe them.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 4½ hours per AM or PM daylight game turn; 15 hours per night game turn
  • Map Scale: 1 mile per hex
  • Unit Size: company/battalion/regiment
  • Unit Types: infantry, glider infantry, parachute infantry, mechanized infantry/panzergrenadier, reconnaissance, ranger/commando, engineer, towed artillery, airborne artillery, self-propelled artillery, rocket, anti-tank gun, armor/panzer/tank destroyer/assault gun, headquarters, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two or more (teams highly recommended)
  • Complexity: above average/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: average (if pushing around 1,500+ unit counters doesn’t bother you)
  • Average Playing Time: 6 + hours (assuming experienced teams and depending on the scenario; for the fifty-five turn Campaign Game, think in terms of months, not hours)

Game Components:

  • Four 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Terrain Key and Abbreviated Sequence of Play incorporated)
  • 1600 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ Rules Booklet (with scenario instructions and American Battalion Breakdown Table incorporated)
  • Two identical back-printed 11” x 14” combined Game Charts and Tables (with Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, Artillery Effects Table, Weather Table, Supply and Fatigue Effects Summary, Truppeneinheit Table, March Mode Interdiction Table, Green Unit Table, and German parachute Drop Table included)
  • One 11” x 17” Axis Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with German Air Mission Control Display, Weather Track, and Ground Track incorporated)
  • One 11” x 17” Allied Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with U.S. Air Mission Control Display incorporated)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • Two SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Boxes (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic box with Title Sheets


Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of most of these titles; all six of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.



THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU
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SPI, WAGRAM (1975)

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WAGRAM: The Peace of Vienna, 5-6 July 1809 is a grand tactical simulation of combat during the Napoleonic Wars. The game was authored by game designer Irad B. Hardy as a part of SPI’s NAPOLEON AT WAR Series of Folio games on the campaigns of Napoleon. WAGRAM was published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1975.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

On the night of 4 July, 1809, Napoleon ordered the (French) Armies of Germany and Italy, numbering over 154,000 men, to cross the lesser arm of the Danube using Lobau Island as a staging area. The French advanced guard quickly drove back the Austrian pickets and the French crossing was completed by the early afternoon of 5 July. With daylight slipping away, the French Emperor decided not to delay and launched a late-day attack against the enemy formations to his front. Archduke Charles’ Austrian troops, some 158,000 strong, fought tenaciously and the initial French assault was bloodily repulsed. Clearly, the Austrians had established strong positions and were determined to hold them, whatever Napoleon threw at them. Despite the disappointing results of his first attack,however, Napoleon was undeterred. Instead, the French Emperor studied the enemy dispositions and began his preparations for the morrow. The battlefield laurels for the first day had gone to the Austrians; Napoleon, however, was determined that the 6th, bitterly-fought though it might be, would end in a French victory. The success of Napoleon’s whole Austrian Campaign now hinged on the outcome of one more battle. And it was a battle that he knew he could not afford to lose.

DESCRIPTION


WAGRAM is a division level simulation — based on the popular and widely-used NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System — of the climactic battle between the Austrians, under Archduke Charles, and French, led by Napoleon, at Wagram on July 5-6, 1809. This hard-won French victory brought the war of 1809 to an end and resulted in the Peace of Vienna. WAGRAM is played in game turns, and each game turn is further divided into two symmetrical player turns, each of which proceeds as follows: the first player movement phase followed by the first player combat phase; the second player then repeats the same sequence. The French player is always the first player to act in any game turn. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence repeats itself until the scenario ends. Stacking is prohibited at the end of the movement phase, and supply is automatic for both players. ZOCs are rigid and 'sticky': once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. WAGRAM uses the familiar 'odds differential' type Combat Results Table (CRT), and terrain effects are typically represented by the doubling of a defending unit’s basic combat strength. Artillery plays an especially important role in this combat system. It can be used both to attack adjacent units, and also to attack (barrage) non-adjacent enemy units either independently or in concert with other friendly units. There are no “optional” rules.

WAGRAM simulates the historical battle only; there are no scenarios. There is, however, one special (what if?) rule: the possible appearance of Archduke John’s Austrian army on the east map edge during the second day of the battle. The possible arrival of these additional Austrian reinforcements is determined by a die roll; Archduke John may show up on Napoleon’s right flank, or he might not — it all depends on the Austrian player’s ability to roll “1s.”

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

The NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System is probably one of the most successful conflict simulation design architectures ever created. Besides being used in numerous SPI (and other publishers’) Napoleonic games, it also formed the foundation for the SPI BLUE & GRAY Civil War quadri-games, and showed up in at least one WWII title and even appeared in a modern naval game, SPI’s 6th FLEET. These games all share many of the same characteristics: they are easy and comparatively quick to play, full of action, and they usually model interesting and historically significant conflict situations.

Such is the case with WAGRAM; it simulates a battle that Napoleon really had to win: having pushed his army across the Danube, a French defeat could have turned into a military disaster. Napoleon also knew that a second Austrian army, under Archduke John, was approaching the battlefield from the east. Thus, the French Emperor had to win and he had to win quickly before Charles and John could unite their forces. In the actual battle, he almost didn’t. And in fact, the French did not finally drive Charles’ army from the field until the afternoon of 6 July. These factors all combine to make this battle a great subject for a wargame, and, not surprisingly, this title is one of my favorites among all of the Napoleonic games that have been published in this series. It is well-balanced, exciting, and both players must attack and defend effectively to win. Moreover, the French and Austrian players both have different options when it comes to the conduct of the campaign. In short, this historically fascinating game situation, combined with the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System makes for a fast-moving and exciting game that is easy to learn and enjoyable to play. All of the games in the NAPOLEON AT WAR game series are both simple enough to serve as introductory games for beginners, and still challenging enough to make for an exciting contest for experienced players. For this reason, I recommend WAGRAM for anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars, or just an affinity for good, well-balanced, and fast-paced games.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 hours per daylight game turn; 4 hours per night game turn
  • Map Scale: 800 meters per hex
  • Unit Size: division/corps artillery
  • Unit Types: infantry, cavalry, and artillery
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: below average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours

Game Components:

  • One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • 20 cardboard Random Number Counters (included in all of the “folio games” as a substitute for a six-sided die)
  • One 8½” x 11” NAPOLEON AT WAR Standard Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” WAGRAM Exclusive Rules Booklet (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 7½” x 8½” SPI Products Catalog
  • One 4” x 8½” SPI Mailer
  • One 9” x 12” card board Game Folio


Recommended Reading


See my blog post Book Review of this title which I recommend as a source for additional historical background information.

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GDW, WHITE DEATH (1979)

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WHITE DEATH: Velikiye Luki, The Stalingrad of the North is a historical game of World War II battalion-level combat on the Eastern Front beginning in November 1942 and running through January 1943. WHITE DEATH was designed by Frank A. Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1979.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In the winter of 1942, the Soviet High Command (STAVKA) planned a pair of massive offensives against a German Army that, having campaigned all summer long, was now overextended and spent. These two counterblows, it was hoped, would cripple the Wehrmacht and open the way for a sustained Soviet drive that would ultimately expel the hated fascist invaders from Russian territory. In the south, “Operation Uranus” was aimed at breaking through the weakly-held flanks on both sides of Stalingrad and then encircling and destroying Paulus’ Sixth Army which was still locked in a bitter fight for control of the final few blocks of the rubble-choked city. In the north, “Operation Mars,” called for Red Army to launch a multi-pronged Soviet attack against the precarious German positions along the edges of the Rzhev salient; if successful, STAVKA hoped to push the Germans farther away from Moscow, and in the process, envelope and destroy the German Ninth Army.

A third, smaller offensive was also planned by the Russians to coincide with the two larger operations: an attack by General Perkayev’s reinforced Third Shock Army which was intended to encircle and recapture Velikiye Luki, and also to force a crossing of the Lowatj River. Once the Third Shock Army was established on the west bank of the Lowatj in strength, it was then to drive west to cut the critically-important communications link between Army Group North and Army Group Center: the Nevel-Leningrad rail line. To oppose the Russians, the Germans had only two under-strength divisions and assorted support and security troops in the rear area immediately behind the frontlines. The Germans had, however, one critical defensive advantage: they had spent the preceding months heavily fortifying Velikiye Luki. For General Perkayev, this meant that even after the Third Shock Army broke through the German lines, there would be no avoiding the fact that it would still require, on the part of his soldiers, a major and bloody effort to actually capture the Axis-held city. Despite the extensive German defensive preparations, however, General Perkayev — although concerned about the cost of capturing Velikiye Luki — was, outwardly at least, totally confident of victory. Now, with his preparations complete, all that remained was for him to issue the order for his troops to attack.

DESCRIPTION

WHITE DEATH is a grand tactical level (company/battalion/regiment/brigade) simulation of the ferocious fighting that resulted when the Soviet Third Shock Army attacked the thinly-held German line near the city of Velikiye Luki in northern Russia. One player commands the Germans; the other controls the Soviets. WHITE DEATH is played in turns representing five days of real time. The opposing players maneuver their units across a large hexagonal map sheet representing a forty by forty-four mile area over which the contesting armies fought during the actual campaign. Each game turn is composed of a German and a Soviet player turn. An individual player turn is broken down into multiple impulses, each of which will take the form of either a “pass” or an “action” impulse. Both players begin the game turn with 10 movement points; a player may expend as many as ten or as few as one of these movement points during each impulse. The game turn ends only when both players have expended all ten of their available movement points. The Russian player is always the first to act. The sequence of player operations for a typical “action” impulse consists of a number of different segments and proceeds in the following order: the Decision Phase; the Movement Phase; Barrage Phase; the Defensive Fire Phase; the Assault Phase; and the Terminal Phase. If a player opts to take a “pass” impulse, he may only conduct barrage attacks, and move units by rail. Because of this interweaving of player actions, the game system of WHITE DEATH produces a genuinely simultaneous feel to play, and without the laborious chore of maintaining written movement records.

Combat can take several forms depending on the units involved, but will usually fall into one of three categories: conventional combat; antitank fire; and artillery fire (either defensive support or offensive barrage attacks). In addition, certain specialized units in both armies may make “close assaults” against enemy units. Conventional and antitank combats are resolved each using their own odds differential CRT. Barrage attacks are resolved based on the number of artillery factors delivered against the target hex.

The various rules that add historical color to the game are almost too numerous to list. But as might be expected in one of Chadwick’s designs, besides the, more-or-less, expected rules governing supply and isolation, garrisons, morale, artillery observation, bridge destruction and construction, weather, reinforcements, replacements, and bunkers; there are also rules governing “tank fright,” the effect of Soviet cavalry on German infantry morale, elite combat units, and the Brandenburgers (a legendary group of German commandos). And then there is my personal favorite: a special rule dealing with the pathetically ineffective German 331st Infantry Division which was predominantly made up of elderly reservists and slackers! Finally, in addition to the regular body of rules, the game designer also offers two “optional” rules for players to experiment with: the Abandoning Equipment rule, which allows heavy weapons units to abandon their equipment and, as a consequence, gain both a ZOC and non-vehicle (leg) mobility: and the Cavalry Charge rule.


WHITE DEATH offers six different scenarios that each covers a different phase of the battle. These scenario “mini-games” are: the Purkayev’s Attack scenario (Turns 1-4); Woehler’s Response (Turns 5-7); the First Relief Attempt scenario (Turns 8-9); the Second Relief Attempt (Turns 10-11); the Final Relief Attempt scenario (Turns 12-13); and the Velikiye Luki Campaign (Turns 1-13) which ties all five of the shorter scenarios together into one long game.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION


When I first examined Frank Chadwick’s WHITE DEATH — his simulation of the virtually unknown, but important battle for Velikiye Luki in the winter of 1942-43 — I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this East Front design and a couple of his previous games: AVALANCHE and OPERATION CRUSADER. And sure enough, Frank Chadwick acknowledges as much in the designer’s notes at the end of the rules booklet. Of course, AVALANCHE is a simulation of the battle for Salerno and OPERATION CRUSADER is a grand-tactical study of combat in the Western Desert; moreover, both games are considerably larger than their East Front counterpart. None-the-less, players who are familiar with these earlier GDW titles will quickly recognize elements of both of their designs in WHITE DEATH. On the other hand, because of the obvious scale and situational differences between the three games, this similarity probably shouldn’t be pushed too far. Still, the “impulse” game systems of all three titles combined with the critical importance of supply and morale to combat outcomes, as well as the carefully structured interaction of different weapons types, are all vaguely familiar and somehow reassuring.

This is probably just as well, because, whatever its other qualities, WHITE DEATH, despite its comparatively small size, is not a simple game; it is far too layered in both historical and tactical detail for that. Frank Chadwick, in my view, designed a great game in WHITE DEATH; unfortunately — as is the case with his better-known “monster” games — he just didn’t design it for everyone. In short, this game is a very poor choice for the casual gamer or the beginner. Instead, it is a complex, richly-textured, and very challenging historical simulation that is explicitly designed for the experienced player. For that type of player, I recommend this game highly. I personally believe that, for someone with a serious interest in grand-tactical combat on the Russian Front, WHITE DEATH and Jack Radey’s, KORSUN POCKET — although different in scale and in many other important ways — are still probably the best two simulations currently available on this general subject.

Finally, in the category of completely unexpected trivial facts: One surprising, but interesting admission that showed up in the designer’s notes to WHITE DEATH was that the Civil War historian, Shelby Stanton, actually did virtually all of the background research that Chadwick actually relied upon when he he set about to design this game. Apparently, Chadwick and Stanton are friends, and the subject of the Battle of Velikiye Luki was one that had interested the famous writer for years. So Stanton, who was already a gamer, volunteered to do the historical research if Chadwick would turn the author’s work into a game. Happily for all concerned, WHITE DEATH is the result.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 5 days per game turn (multiple impulses)
  • Map Scale: 1 mile per hex
  • Unit Size: company/battalion/regiment/brigade
  • Unit Types: various types of German and Soviet AFVs, infantry, mountain infantry, German armored infantry, Soviet submachinegun infantry (SMG), paratroopers, machinegun, heavy infantry, commandos, motorcycle, cavalry, ski, engineer, construction, railroad construction, bridge construction, observation, security, police, antitank, antiaircraft, field artillery, mortar, mountain artillery, self-propelled filed artillery, rocket artillery, heavy antiaircraft, airborne artillery, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: below average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-4 + hours (depending on scenario and/or the experience of the players); 15 + hours for the Campaign Game

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 480 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions and Unit Identification Chart incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed German Order of Appearance Chart and separate Terrain Effects Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Soviet Order of Appearance Chart and Terrain Effects Chart
  • One 11” x 14” German Organization Chart
  • One 11” x 14” Soviet Organization Chart
  • One 4” x 6” GDW Customer Survey Card
  • One six-sided Dice
  • One 11½” x 14½” x 1¼” cardboard Game Box
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SPI, RED SUN RISING (1977)

11 comments

RED SUN RISING is a combined land and naval simulation of the Russo-Japanese War (February 1904 - December 1905). The game was designed by Frank Davis and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1977.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

On 27 May, 1905, forty-five Russian warships, having sailed an astounding 18,000 nautical miles all the way from their regular station in the Baltic Sea, through the Atlantic, and into the Pacific and then the Sea of Japan, finally entered the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. The Russian fleet, commanded by Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, included seven battleships and six armored cruisers and was steaming towards Vladivostok when it was intercepted by the Japanese fleet, under the command of Admiral Heihachiro Togo. By late afternoon, a major battle had developed as the Japanese began firing at the Russian ships at long range. Within a matter of hours, four of the Russian battleships had been sunk and another severely damaged. Admiral Togo’s fleet, both faster and better armed than their Russian adversaries, suffered no losses during this initial clash.

Indicative of the onesidedness of the struggle was the fate of the Russian Battleship, Borodino, which after being struck in a powder magazine, exploded and sank within minutes taking all hands with her to the bottom. Failing light brought no relief for the badly outmatched Russians as the Japanese continued their unrelenting attacks with destroyers and torpedo boats. By the end of the next day, all but twelve of the Russian ships had been sunk, captured, or run aground. Admiral Togo’s total losses, astoundingly, were only three torpedo boats.

The Battle of Tsushima Strait had been the greatest naval engagement since Trafalgar, almost a century before; it had also been the only major naval action to ever be fought between pre-dreadnaught battleships. In addition, the lop-sided outcome of the battle was, despite the humiliating loss of Russian territory to the Japanese Empire, instrumental in bringing the Russians to the peace table. The Russo-Japanese War formally ended with the acceptance, by both sides, of peace terms proposed by the American President, Theodore Roosevelt, in December 1905.

DESCRIPTION


RED SUN RISING simulates the Russo-Japanese War on both land and sea. The land game is an operational (brigade/division) treatment of the war, with special emphasis on the command and control, and logistical problems confronting both armies. The land portion of the game map covers the areas of Asiatic Russia, Manchuria, and Korea over which the contesting armies maneuvered and fought. The naval game centers on the individual capital ships and flotillas that featured so prominently in the final outcome of the war. Leadership, in the guise of initiative, plays as important a role in the naval game as the land game. Many of the game mechanics used in RED SUN RISING are standard fare in contemporary designs: command and control, initiative die rolls, step reduction, and logistical rules are all pretty much to be expected. There are, however, unexpected rules that add color and detail to the simulation. For example, Ship Repair; Capturing a Fleet; Foreign Aid, the February 1904 Japanese Surprise Attack, and the Port Arthur Follies, among others, all add to the historical flavor of the game.


Land and naval movement and combat have been integrated in an ingenious manner in RED SUN RISING. An excellent way to get a feel for the flow of the game, therefore, is to examine the combined sequence of play. A typical game turn proceeds as follows. First is the Strategic Naval Sequence of Play which consists of five stages: the Russian Naval Initiative Stage; the Japanese Naval Initiative Stage; Naval Search Stage; Naval Movement Stage (which consists of 10 rounds); and the Attrition Stage. Once the Strategic Naval Sequence has been completed, the land portion of the game turn begins with the following sequence of actions: Russian Supply Stage; Russian Reinforcement Stage; Russian Land Movement Stage; Russian Land Combat Stage. After the Russian Land Combat Stage is completed, the Japanese player repeats the same steps, and once finished, the game turn ends. Unless, that is, a successful search has been executed during the Strategic Naval Sequence: in that case, play immediately shifts to the Naval Tactical Display and the Naval Combat Sequence of Play begins. This sequence can consist of multiple rounds, but will follow this series of steps: the Weather phase; the Search phase; the Range Determination phase; the Gunnery Combat phase; the Torpedo Attack phase; and finally, the Morale phase.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION



Players will quickly find that, as was the case historically, Russian naval sorties are exceedingly rare. But some sort of naval action is virtually guaranteed: first because the vulnerability of the Japanese sea borne supply lines makes raiding attractive; and second, because of the preordained arrival of the Russian Baltic Fleet. The importance of the Japanese supply lanes underscores an important factor in RED SUN RISING: it is much more economical and effective to put units out of supply, than it is to actually fight them. A unit unsupplied for two game turns melts away; while attacking, even with a superior force can often lead to outcomes in which it is hard to tell the winner from the loser. Although the Russian player is at a significant disadvantage in terms of leadership and command and control, the Japanese player has problems of his own: Japanese forces must capture cities on a strict timetable or the Russian player wins immediately. In short, the pressure is on the Japanese player from the first to the twenty-third game turn, and the historical Japanese victory is far from a foregone conclusion.

Finally, I should note that the creator of RED SUN RISING, Frank Davis, is one of my all-time favorite SPI designers. Davis certainly had his his share of "misses" in the course of his career, but I personally think that his reputation is secured by his superb designs, FREDERICK THE GREAT and WELLINGTON'S VICTORY. That being said, this game does not, I confess, count as one of his best designs, but it is still an ingenious and well-crafted effort and well worth a look from anyone interested in this relatively obscure (and little understood) conflict.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 month per game turn
  • Map Scale: 20 miles per hex (estimated) land map; 180 miles per hex (estimated) naval map
  • Unit Size: brigades/divisions
  • Unit Types: headquarters, admirals, infantry, cavalry, artillery, siege artillery, battleship, cruiser, destroyer flotilla, torpedo flotilla, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: medium/above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-5 hours


Game Components:

  • One 23” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Land Combat Results Table, Terrain Key, Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Port Arthur Mine/Supply Tracks, Vladivostok Mine/Supply Track, Japanese Replacement Track, and Strategic Naval Map Insert incorporated)
  • 400 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters (land war)
  • 100 back-printed oversized cardboard Counters (naval war)
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Set-up Instructions, Land Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, and Historical Commentary incorporated)
  • One 11” x 27” Tactical Naval Display (with Russian Morale and Defense Strength Track, Weather Track, Naval Combat Results Table, Admiral Casualty Table, Maneuver Table, and Japanese Blockade Attrition Table incorporated)
  • One 7½” x 11” Russian & Japanese Unit Assignment Display
  • Two small six-sided Dice
  • One 8½” x 11” S&T Promotional Flyer
  • One Customer Complaint Card
  • One SPI 12” x 15 ” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet
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SPI, LOST BATTLES (1971)

6 comments

LOST BATTLES is an operational/tactical level game of World War II combat on the Eastern Front. This title was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1971.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In the winter of 1943, the Red Army seemed invincible, and Hitler’s armies in southern Russia appeared to be on the verge of collapse. The commander of the surrounded German Sixth Army in Stalingrad, Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, had surrendered his forces on 31 January and the last German holdouts in the city had finally capitulated on 2 February. Stalingrad was again totally in Soviet hands. With this victory, the tide of battle seemed to have finally turned decisively in favor of Soviet forces.

With an entire German army destroyed at Stalingrad, Stalin and the senior commanders of the Red Army thought that one more major blow would destroy the remaining German units scattered along an uneven line between Kharkov and the Sea of Azov. Within days, the Russian Armies — newly released by the fall of Stalingrad — surged west, confident that victory over the invading Germans was close.

However, the Wehrmacht in southern Russia was not yet finished as a military threat. On 19 February 1943, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, with the recently reinforced divisions of Army Group Don, launched a surprise counteroffensive against the northern flank of the Soviet forces advancing across the open steppes between the southern Donets and the Dnepr. In the space of a few short weeks, the attacking Germans — often outnumbered by their enemy eight to one — smashed four Soviet armies and, more importantly, halted and then threw back the Soviet offensive completely.

Manstein’s “backhand blow” had succeeded in retrieving German fortunes in southern Russia: by the time his brilliantly successful offensive had run its course, Manstein’s forces had regained most of the ground lost in January and had reestablished a relatively straight and stable German defensive line stretching from Belgorod to Taganrog on the Sea of Azov.

DESCRIPTION



LOST BATTLES is a historical simulation, at the regimental/battalion level, of several types of combat actions that were typical of the fighting between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Russia between 1942 and 1944. The different engagements presented in the game are hypothetical, but the situations they describe were all quite common on the Eastern Front during these years.

The game makes use a rich palette of different unit types: infantry, motorized, armor, antitank, direct fire artillery, ranged artillery, engineers, headquarters, supply, and even abstract air power to model combat at the operational level during this period. The combat and movement rules are also interesting. Each player turn consists of two regular combat segments plus an armored attack segment, a ranged artillery segment, an air strike segment (depending on the scenario) and two movement phases: one at the start of the player turn, and the second at the end. In addition, the players must also contend with rules governing supply, command and control, bridging engineers, and even road march formations. The graphics may be simple, even primitive, by today’s standards, but the game and the wealth of different design ideas it introduced 35 years ago are not.


LOST BATTLES offers four scenarios each representing a different, but common, combat situation on the Eastern Front: the Russian Tank Offensive; the Russian Defensive Position scenario; the Meeting Engagement; and the German Mobile Defense scenario. In addition, because the game system is so open and flexible, the game’s designer, James Dunnigan, invites the players to construct their own scenarios. He writes: “Practically any possible combination of forces appeared on the eastern front during the war. Practically anything you could conjure up probably did occur. Give it a try.”

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

LOST BATTLES was originally published as the insert game for S&T #28; later it was reissued as an independent game in the standard SPI flat plastic game tray format. For East Front game collectors, this title is interesting both for its innovative game system; and because Frank Chadwick (of GDW) publicly acknowledged, many years ago, that the simulation ideas first introduced in LOST BATTLES were the inspiration for many of the game concepts that he ultimately put into the design of DNO (1973). For this reason, it is probably not too great a stretch to suggest that — whatever the game’s flaws — had there not been a LOST BATTLES, then there just might not have been a EUROPA Series of games from GDW.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 24 hours per game turn
  • Map Scale: 2 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: battalions/regiments
  • Unit Types: armor, mechanized, infantry, assault gun, reconnaissance, headquarters, engineer, artillery supply, anti-aircraft artillery (direct fire), direct fire artillery, anti-tank artillery (direct fire), infantry, ranged artillery, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: medium/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 2–2½ hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Chart, Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Tables, and Scenario Set-up Charts incorporated)
  • 255 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 5½” x 11” map-fold style Set of Rules
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (31 May 1973)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One 4” x 8½” SPI Catalogue and Order Form
  • One SPI 12” x 15”x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet
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SPI, THE CRIMEAN WAR (1978)

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THE CRIMEAN WAR is a set of four games each simulating a different critical battle in the war between the unlikely alliance of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia against Russia during the Crimean War, 1854-1856. The four battles represented in this collection of games are: the ALMA, BALACLAVA, INKERMAN, and the TCHERNAYA RIVER. This collection of games, each with its own design and development team, was published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1978.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Battle of Alma
On 28 September 1854, the allied armies of Britain, led by Lord Raglan, and France, under General St. Arnaud, and accompanied by a contingent of Sardinian troops, finally made their way to the outskirts of Sevastopol and began the laborious preparations necessary for a major siege. The capture of this one Russian fortress and naval base had been, from the very beginning, the strategic focus of the entire Allied Crimean Campaign. On 17 October, the first Allied parallels were completed and an almost constant bombardment of the fortress began.

Sevastopol’s large Russian garrison was commanded by General Prince Menshikov with the assistance of his chief engineering officer, General Todleben. Because of the limited size of the besieging force, the entire naval base could not be completely encircled. So, much in keeping with the conduct of the rest of the campaign, the Russians continued to reinforce and resupply the naval base and its garrison using unblocked routes into the northern side of the fortress. This peculiar situation persisted through the entire duration of the siege.

Finally, on 8 September, 1855, the crucial Malakov defensive works on the southern side of the fortress fell, in spite of the gallant efforts of its defenders, to a violent French assault; and the Russian engineers, after inspecting what remained of the southern defenses, reluctantly declared that the fortress was no longer defensible. On the following day, Allied troops finally entered Sevastopol; they were unopposed. The higher than expected Allied losses incurred during the siege had, it turned out, resulted as much from disease as from enemy action. On the defenders’ side, casualties numbered over 54,000 killed, wounded, and missing; with as many as 3,000 Russian soldiers a day falling due to the constant Allied bombardment during the last stages of the siege.

DESCRIPTION



The four games that make up THE CRIMEAN WAR utilize a similar mix of game components, and are designed around a set of Standard Rules that are common to them all. Each individual simulation also has its own short set of Exclusive Rules specific to that game. This design format makes it almost effortless to move from one game to the next without a lot of time spent learning a new game system with each new title. Thus, each title while similar to the others in this set, still offers the players a different and unique gaming experience. The simulations in this series are designed to be above average in complexity; and playing times will typically vary from three to five hours depending on the game chosen.

THE INDIVIDUAL GAMES

ALMA (20 September 1854)
is a tactical simulation of the first battle of the Crimean War. After landing at Evpatoria, the allied force of British and French regulars began their march towards Sevastopol. At the Alma River, they met General Prince Menshikov’s Russian forces in prepared positions on the south bank. This was the one and only clash, during the entire war, between the main armies of the three major powers: Britain, France, and Russia. The Russians, although outnumbered, occupied very strong defensive ground; the Allies, while numerically superior, suffered from severe organizational and command problems. A Russian victory at the Alma would probably have ended the war — to the enormous benefit of virtually everyone involved — before it had really even begun. ALMA is twelve turns long and was designed by J. Matisse Enzer.

BALACLAVA (25 October 1854)
is a battalion-level simulation of the Russian attack against the British supply base at the port of Balaclava. Today, this battle is remembered more because of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem: “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” than for what actually transpired there. This is unfortunate. Balaclava was a battle that illustrated, for anyone with eyes to see, that the British and Russian commanders were equally matched in their stupefying incompetence. Initially, despite the tactical bungling of the British commander during the actual engagement, the battle would make the Light Brigade’s commander, Lord Cardigan (perhaps the single worst officer, and this is saying something, in the British Army) a hero, while the British general who was ultimately responsible for the botched orders that led to the debacle, Lord Raglan, would deftly pass blame off to his second-in-command, Lord Lucan. In the end, however, Raglan's excuses would prove insufficient, and Balaclava would bring about more formal inquiries into the conduct of the British Army than any action before it. BALACLAVA is twelve turns long and was designed by Thomas Gould.


INKERMAN (5 November 1854),
also known as “the Soldiers’ Battle,” is a tactical simulation of the action between British and French forces and the Russians on Inkerman Ridge. The Russian plan was to attack and defeat the British force in the area of the ridge before reinforcements could arrive from the nearby French Army. Nineteen thousand Russians, under General Soimonov, began their assault on the British outposts at about 5:30 am, but a heavy fog hampered efforts to coordinate with General Paulov’s 16,000 men. With visibility limited to a few yards, the artillery on both sides was restricted to firing at the dimly visible muzzle flashes of the opposing guns. Even more important, whatever command and control existed prior to the engagement quickly collapsed, and the battle became a short-range clash between disorganized groups of soldiers stumbling through the fog. This battle was, perhaps, the Russian Army’s best opportunity to smash the exposed British; that the attack failed, was more a testament to the high morale and professionalism of the individual British soldier, than to the skill of the local British commanders who, characteristically for this war, seemed to have been almost totally absent from the fight. INKERMAN offers two scenarios: the Historical scenario, which begins on turn eight and continues until turn twenty-one (14 game turns); and the Russian Option scenario, which begins on game turn one and continues through turn twenty-one (21 game turns). INKERMAN was designed by Martin Goldberger.

Russians and French skirmish.
TCHERNAYA RIVER (15 August 1855)
is a tactical simulation of the last attempt by the Russian Army to defeat the Allies in the field and, thereby, relieve the siege against Sevastopol. A force of more than 65,000 Russians attacked the French and Sardinian Armies, with a combined strength of about 28,000, at a section of the allied line thought impregnable by the Allied commanders. In this particular instance, the Allied commanders were almost correct. The French and Sardinians occupied prepared positions on high ground shielded by the Tchernaya River and by steep slopes, both of which served as barriers to attack. In addition, an aqueduct ran along the length of the front; the presence of this man-made obstacle meant that any troops advancing across this ground would be completely exposed to artillery fire from the guns of both the Sardinian and French artillery on the heights. Nonetheless, the Russians attacked and achieved complete tactical surprise. The fighting that ensued came heart-breakingly close, after a series of desperate assaults, to bringing the Russians victory. In the final moments of the battle, however, with the Tsar’s troops seemingly on the verge of success, a surprise counter-attack by the French threw the exhausted attackers off the heights and back across the Tchernaya River. TCHERNAYA RIVER offers two scenarios: the Historical scenario which follows the actual Russian plan of battle and runs 15 turns; and the Non-historical scenario which lasts ten turns and assumes that the Russians had waited to better concentrate their forces so that fresh reserves would be available to exploit any success in the initial assaults. TCHERNAYA RIVER was designed by Steven Ross.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

Charge of the Light Brigade by
Richard Caton Woodinville
The four engagements simulated in THE CRIMEAN WAR, and the campaign of which they were a part, are rarely examined by modern students of military affairs. This is probably unfortunate from a historical point of view, but quite understandable: although the Crimean War was, in many ways, a precursor to the modern wars that were soon to come, it is known today primarily for the almost unbelievable incompetence repeatedly demonstrated by the senior commanders of both sides.

Unfortunately, this incompetence was not restricted just to senior battlefield commanders. The supporting and administrative services of both the Russian and the British armies were, in many cases, little changed from the napoleonic Wars. Thus, while Russian logistical arrangements to supply Sevastapol, once it had fallen under seige, were primitive, to say the least; on the other hand, Russian medical services in the fortress actually showed improvement as better methods for classifying and treating the wounded were developed.. And if the British commander, Lord Raglan, couldn't seem to get anything right, he was in good company when it came to the officers responsible for supporting his army in the field. The complete breakdown in both supply and medical services to the soldiers manning the seige lines would reveal, yet again, that both the British army's quartermaster corps and its medical services were so backward and incompetent in their operations that they literally placed the entire British war effort in the Crimea in jeopardy.

Interestingly, the only army of a major European power to emerge from this debacle with its reputation relatively untarnished was that of Napoleon IIIrd’s France. Once the Allied armies actually reached the Crimea, the French transport, quartermaster, and medical services, it quickly became apparent, were everything that the British services were not: efficient, well-organized, and modern. In simplest terms: while the ordinary British "Tommy" froze in tents during the harsh Crimean winters and starved because of short rations; his counterpart, the French soldier, slept in dry, warm huts, had excellent medical services close to hand if he needed them, and, most important of all, ate well, even in the dead of winter. Unfortunately, all of France's many advantages could not save the army from battlefield casualties and disease. And French losses, mainly due to disease, would exceed, by the war's end, those of the British by a factor of almost five-to-one. Nonetheless, in virtually every way imaginable, the French military establishment demonstrated itself vastly superior to that of the British throughout the campaign. Unfortuantely, France's hard-won reputation for military competency would, all too soon, be wiped-away by her army's humiliating defeat in 1870, at the hands of a newly-resurgent and expansionist Prussia.

Game Components (for all four Games):

  • Four 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Unit Starting Positions, Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key incorporated; Inkerman also includes a Fog Visibility Table and a Unit Movement Table)
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • Two 8½” x 11” Standard Rules Booklets (with Terrain Effects Chart and Artillery, Fire, and Melee Combat Results Tables incorporated)
  • Four 8½” x 11” Exclusive Rules Booklets (with Scenario Instructions)
  • One 8½” x 11” Historical Background Booklet
  • One 8½” x 11” Crimean War Errata Sheet (19 May 1978)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic box cover with Title Sheet

Additional Information

For additional information on the Crimean War, see the following title















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