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Chris' OCS List
Chris Farrell
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As inspired by Doktor Glaze OCS list, here is mine ...

Usually I am inspired to write these lists when I see a question ("which OCS game should I start with?" asked enough times, and I have written a reply often enough, to put me over some mystical threshold ... as has just occurred. So, here you go.

OCS is one of my absolute favorite wargames, despite the usual time comittment involved, just because it is *so* immersive. The game really throws you into running many aspects of a WWII campaign in a way that seems much more realistic than any other operational-level game, barring perhaps GMT/von Borries' Barbarossa series of games.

While the rules to OCS are not, in fact, that difficult in the main - as I've said before, I could teach you the rules to the ground game in 20 minutes - the flexibility they give you is high and the implications of all this are tougher to learn than many. This is a good thing, really, but you'll need to ramp up. So, here are the OCS games in the order a new player might try to tackle them.
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1. Board Game: Tunisia [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:1265]
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Tough call on which one to start on, all of Tunisia, Burma, and Korea were candidates. Tunisia has a number of advantages though: it's simpler, with no naval power and not too much air. The game is more "like" all the other games than Burma, as Tunisia is a combined-arms battle with both sides having tanks & infantry, and both sides having potent striking capabilities. You get to experience both the more fluid battles (in the West, a la Kasserine) and the set-piece battles (in the East, at the Mareth line). The lower counter density makes the game highly playable by two players, which is good - although once both the Americans *and* the British 8th Army are hammering on the Germans, you might want to split the campaign three ways.

The Kasserine scenario in this game is a classic introductory scenario, and there is at least one other good scenario around the Mareth Line. Like most OCS games, though, the replayability comes in the campaign games, not the scenarios. This is one area where the vonBorries' Barbarossa games from GMT really score, with easily 3 times as many (or more) good smaller scenarios per box. Although there are many good, shorter games throughout the line as a whole (especially in Korea, Burma, and DAK), OCS is really designed mainly with the longer games in mind, as typified by GBII which contains essentially no small scenarios. That being said, as long as you can find some mechanism for storing the games - and Tunisia only has 2 maps - the longer campaign scenarios are not as daunting as it might first appear, and are well worth the effort.

There are some downsides. Firstly, the game was designed to an older rulesets, and some innovations (like fractional trucks and non-rebuildable units) are not around yet, but probably should be. More importantly, the air refit costs changed significantly between 2.0 and 3.0, of significant benefit to the Germans. Secondly, the game is a little more at the whim of the dice than many OCS titles, as a lot of Mud weather (or too little mud weather) may be more of a deciding factor than anything else, like good play. I can live with this though, given the uncertainty surrounding the weather is so important.

All in all, a great game to break into the series with, and it's still available easily from MMP, while many OCS games have sadly gone OOP.
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2. Board Game: Korea: The Forgotten War [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:1675]
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It was a toss-up between Korea and Sicily for the next slot. I went with Korea for a few reasons. Firstly, it's still easily available. Secondly, it's less rules intensive - the naval stuff is present but less central than Sicily, the air war is more one-sided and so you have to worry about it less, and the whole thing is generally more infantry heavy, so you don't have quite the overhead of Sicily.

Like Tunisia, Korea is quite manageable for play by 2 players. There are quite a few scenarios available, and the character of the war changes as it seesaws back and forth at UN and Chinese intervention. By the end of the day, both sides have had their chance (although the UN of course get somewhat more cool stuff). Like Tunisia, the somewhat constrained terrain and the general shortage of armor means that it isn't quite as subject to the impression of "one slip sudden death" that some of the eastern front games can feel like. Korea is a 3-mapper, but the northernmost map is out of play for most of the game, and there are rules for abstracting it.
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3. Board Game: Sicily: Triumph and Folly [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:2260]
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It shocked me a little bit that Sicily is already OOP, but I guess it is three years old at this point. Anyway. This is the first game that you'll probably really want 3 players for the campaign games, as the commands split nicely (Americans/Brits/Germans ... give the new guy the US and the more experienced player the Germans. The Germans have a lot of units early, but that'll change quickly as the Italians vaporize). There is a whole lot of cool stuff about Sicily, because more so even than the regular OCS games you get to run the whole show, from invasion to securing the entire island - there are no artifical boundries. The Allies get a lot of tools, from a large airforce to airborne to amphibious units to do the job. The Germans have a hard core of excellent units, and the punch packed by the Stukas is still quite impressive.

Some players at Conquest were suggesting that this should perhaps be renamed Sicily: Fantasy Island in honor of the ludicrously overpowered German-Italian airforce, BUT this does happen to make the game more interesting and the Axis more competitive - the Allied player just need to be aware that they need to run the air war very carefully. Tied to this, there is also a glitch in the game system unfortunately: due to the halving of the standard OCS time scale for this game, all construction activities take twice as long in Sicily as they do in other games. That's OK, and makes sense, but the system didn't compensate on the *de*struction end, and so the rate at which Stukas can bomb your ports is the same. This makes it very difficult for the Allies to keep their ports sufficiently open unless they can turn the air war, especially in light of severe on-island basing restrictions. Just stuff you need to be aware of, if you go into these games trying to run a "historical" strategy. As a final little thing, the rules unfortunately are written such that Allied airborne landings are basically unworkable, in light of the historical difficulties. It would be nice if it didn't *have* to happen that way, and the Allied commanders were encouraged to at least try albeit with the historical debacle being a possibility, but this is a sadly missing optional.

Still, all this said, Sicily is still one of my favorite OCS titles. The campaign games are easy to play to completion, and so I've played them far more than the other campaigns. The Allies have a decent, quality, balanced force to use, and the Axis pack plenty of punch. There are some OK smaller scenarios.
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4. Board Game: Burma [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:1393]
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Burma is actually still my favorite OCS game, but there are two reasons it doesn't rank higher. Firstly, it's OOP and I gather modestly expensive via eBay. Secondly, it's very different from the other OCS games. The terrain is murderously tight, armor is virtually irrelevant, supply is a monster headache due to the frequently impenetrable terrain and lack of roads, and air is used mainly for transport.

What makes this game such a huge winner for me is just that it absolutely conveys how operations in the jungle work, and for that reason is amongst the most immersive games I've ever played. It's all about maneuver, infiltration, blocking positions, getting the supplies to the right place, and forcing your opponents to attack under frequently ludicrous conditions. Allied airpower can frequently be decisive simply for its abilities to deliver supplies to otherwise isolated units. Likewise, the Japanese ability to go without supplies for far longer than their Allied counterparts gives them an important edge. Another nice thing about this game is that there are three very different subgames going on at once - the whole Imphal-Kohima offensive, the Chindits, and the Chinese-American Ledo Road operation.

Due to the absense of naval power, and the absense of any meaningful air on the Japanese side, this game is very rules-light and so amongst the most basically approachable of the games. But it is tough to play well, which is the hallmark of a great game; to help you out on this count, Burma includes an excellent range of smaller scenarios, best in the OCS line.

A complaint about Burma is often one of playbalance, and it's true that the Japanese have a tough time of it. I've played the full campaign game only once (Allied win), and it somehow seems that I've played the Allies disproportionately in this particular title, although I admittedly always play the Good Guys by preference. Still, I've felt that every Japanese player I've played has relied too much on direct attack and not enough on infiltration, so who knows. Regardless, another strength of Burma is that it includes a *lot* of historical "options" which allow you to customise the campaign in various ways, from assuming that the Japanese high command doesn't act like a bunch of morons and either supports the offensive properly or calls it off to various permutations of the Chinese offensive going on to the north (including Allied access to some Chinese units of truly stunning mediocrity).

All in all, this is a fabuolous game, one of the best ever. *Way* better than Puerto Rico
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5. Board Game: DAK [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:2170]
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DAK is another game that may rate amongst the best ever. In common with Sicily, it has the advantages of comparatively low unit density and the ability to run the entire campaign, front to back, without worrying about the "edge of the world". There are a few things that derail DAK from being higher on the list, though: firstly, it's got *by far* the beefiest "specific rules" booklet, and has significantly higher complexity than the other rules. Secondly, it is not current with the 3.1 rules, and the shipping capacity and airbase refit costs are off. Thirdly, the leader & KampfGruppe rules are not entirely to my liking, and do rather change the flavor of the game from other titles. None are really major problems, but both are enough to make it somthing to move on to once you've played one or two other titles.

The really great thing about DAK, though, is the number of shorter & smaller scenarios included. There are tons of them, and while the big ones like Crusader & Gazala are going to be way more interesting than the lopsided encounters at Compass or Battleaxe, still it's good to have such a wide range of games.

DAK also has a great "random events" chart that has all kinds of cool stuff on it for the campaign game, from Rommel's constant comings and goings to the option to bring on Patton and his US Armored Division instead of just shipping the Brits tanks (bringing on Patton and his crappy Amerian units would be generally questionable at best ... but you can do it).
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6. Board Game: Enemy at the Gates [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1868]
Chris Farrell
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Now we're getting into the games that made OCS, for whatever it's worth ... the huge, monster games. To play the full campaign of Enemy at the Gates you will need *at*minimum* 4 players and more like 6. You'll need to figure on a year to play it. Seriously, this is stuff that makes Empires in Arms look modest.

The upside of this is that the game has a real "clash of titans" feel - two huge armies struggling to the death on the Russian steppes. Panzer Divisions and Tank Corps crash and burn. The tidal wave of Soviets roll over the outstretched Germans. Katyushas pummel fortified positions. This is total war; this is not 1941, when the Soviets were outclassed, outmaneuvered, and outgunned - this is late 1942, when they've learned their lessons and are repaying the Germans in kind. Sure, the German arsenal is still superior in most ways, but the Russians are quite competant now and much more numerous.

I aspire to play this campaign game sometime, but when that will be I don't know. Enemy at the Gates is much too large even to play at conventions. The Winter Storm scenario was one of the first I played, and it was fun although I don't know how the Germans can win in retrospect. A lot of the other scenarios are big, and I don't know how they would play standalone, but the overall situation is so appealing, I should look into it.
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7. Board Game: Guderian's Blitzkrieg [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:3888]
Chris Farrell
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GBII is a mixed bag. I haven't played that much of it - just the Typhoon and the "Summer 1942 German Fantasy" where the Nazis put their effort into taking Moscow rather than Stalingrad. It's generally less appealing than Enemy at the Gates simply because the Soviets really don't have much hitting power - they're just trying to stay alive. The Tank Corps are still in the future, all you have are a bunch of independant brigades, which don't pack much punch. I've played the Germans both times I've played this, and their situation is quite interesting - can you get to Moscow, literally wading through a sea of Soviet infantry? - but I think the Soviet position is less so. I think the game also seriously underestimates the Soviet ability to replace infantry (I understand Dean is working on a fix for this). Another significant drawback is that the big games require 6 people, but probably at least two will end up short of activity - there is only enough supply really for one major and one secondary sector, so somebody will get shafted.

Combine this with the lack of decent, or even plausible, smaller scenarios, and GBII doesn't work for me as well as the other games.
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8. Board Game: Hube's Pocket [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:2921]
Chris Farrell
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Hube's Pocket is the only game I haven't played even a scenario from. While not spatially large, the counter density is very high. This is a facinating campaign - Mark Simonitch's much more manageable Ukraine '43 is high on my play list - and it's good to see Soviets abusing Nazis for a change. But my impression is that this ranks among the least playable OCS titles, and so playing it is still a ways off even for me, and it's likely that if MMP keeps producing OCS games, it may be on the back burner forever.
 
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