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Subject: a brief review of Peter the Great rss

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Mark Mokszycki
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a brief review of Peter the Great, as appearing in Wargamer magazine
by Mark Mokszycki

(last edited on 12-28-06)

This is an oldie but goodie. It uses simple rules which are basically identical to Napoleon at Waterloo but with a few extra complexities such as routed units, leaders, redoubts and their corresponding fire zones, morale level, and artillery fire deterioration with range.

The gameplay is quick and smooth. I'm not a fan of differential combat systems, but in games like this one (or, say, Gettysburg '85) with a relatively low counter density and no stacking, it works well enough.

Speaking of stacking, it's one unit per hex, period. Leaders and one artillery unit can stack for free. The game has an almost tactical feel. A turn represents 45 minutes. There are no formation types represeneted here, and a unit is a unit for stacking purposes. You'll find yourself grabbing up the good terrain and placing "speed bumps" with your picket units in order to slow your opponent or deny them your flanks.

There are a nice mix of combat results, including retreats, routs (lose a step, retreat 3 hexes, and place a "D" on the unit to signify that it may not move, or attack, and have no ZOC), the usual step losses, exchanges, mutual retreats, and no result. The specific combat result dictates whether an advance after combat is possible, and if so, it is available to victorious defenders as well as attackers.

Zones of control mandate attacking adjacent enemies, but they have no effect on movement in this game. So if you leave a hole in your line, the enemy can waltz circles around you. Forming solid lines is easier said than done, since there aren't enough units to form a continuous line across the map. In my experience, the battle quickly breaks down in to a series of smaller sub-battles, with frontlines forming and shifting. Overall, the situation feels very mobile.

Artillery can fire at targets several hexes away, with a range deterioration setting in past a certain number of hexes. This basically means they fire at half strength beyond a certain range, and the range at which this occurs is different for light, medium, and heavy artillery (as distinguished by the symbol on the counter).

There are no rules for cavalry charge in the basic game, though they are included as an optional rule. Cavalry are treated just like infantry, though obviously faster, and they may not attack into forest, ravine, or redoubt hexes, limiting their usefulness somewhat. There are optional rules for dismounted cavalry included.

Command and control is another nice, simple bit of chrome. You must start your turn within command range of a leader (generally either 1 or 2 hexes, depending on the leader) or you are "out of command" for the turn. The game includes several counters to mark such units. This status means you may still move your normal limits, and your combat value remains unchanged, but may not enter an enemy ZOC (unless you started the turn in one, in which case you must still attack, or move away).

Victory is achieved by breaking the opponent's army for a decisive victory, or by holding 3 of 4 objectives for a lesser victory.

A nice element is the Russian stricture that says Russians may not move on turn 1. On turn 2, all Russian units outside the camp may move. Starting on turn 4, five units from within the camp may move outside it, and then on turn 6 all Russian units on the map may move. This simulates the Russian inability to quickly and decisively respond, and it also conveniently balances the game by giving the weaker Swedish player a chance at victory.

Speaking of the Swedish player- he or she has fewer units, but they are of typically better quality. This is simulated by a morale value assigned to each unit. During combat, the morale diffential of the best units involved from either side is computed as a die roll modifier, which can worsen or lessen the combat result.

There are lots of optional rules here too. I didn't use them, so I won't comment on how they effect the game balance. It is nice, however, to know that they are there to be incorporated. They add such details as cavalry charges, grape shot, and limited ammo.

The rules presentation is straight forward and polished. As far as I know, no errata exists for this game, and this is fine because none seemed to be needed. Modern wargame companies would do well to look to these older games for an example of clear, concise, well edited rules. Seasoned wargamers should be up and playing within half an hour of opening the rules (there's really only about 3-4 pages of rules, not including variants, scenarios, etc.).

The graphics are a mixed bag, but overall good. The dark blue counter color for the Swedes is annoying and makes the type difficult to read. I have good eyes, and I still found the counters challenging to read unless I leaned in close. The map, on the other hand, is well done and easy on the eyes for an older map. It has a clean, simple, elegant look that meshes well with the subject material.

Four scenarios guarantee some replayability. Based on a couple plays (one of the historical scenario, and one of the standard scenario) it seems that both sides will have their hands full; this game won't be a cake walk for either nation.

There is a bit of historical commentary included in the magazine as well, but this is rather sparse (about a page and a half). Still, it's better than nothing and it adds interest and flavor to the game.

Overall, there is a lot to like here- especially for an older magazine wargame. This would make a fairly good introductory wargame for a newbie, especially without the optional rules.

My ratings:

OVERALL 7 / 10

COMPLEXITY 3 or 3.5 / 9 (with all the optional rules, maybe a 4 / 10)

BOTTOM LINE: Nothing revolutionary, but a good, solid game. If the period interests you, or if you are looking for a relatively simple, quick playing wargame with only a few pages of rules, this one is worth checking out.
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Robert Wesley
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Here is a LINK for the "add-on" that can be used along with this 'one' delved upon within this artcile: Lesnaja: 'The Mother of Poltava' September 29, 1708 Great of you, by the way, to "offer" yours-(or perhaps an "extra" copy?), for any others that may be interested on that.
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Mark Mokszycki
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I do indeed have a copy up for trade. It's not a bad little add-on game, but after two plays I think I'm done with it.
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Nameless Necromancer
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Do what yhou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." - Aleister Crowley
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"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." - John Galt
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Nice review. I'd always considered this as one of the best the older 3W offerings.
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Kim Meints
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Agree William and one I still drag out every year to play.Also one of the better on the subject(in the scarce numbers that there are)
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Bill McGuinness
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Just a quick clarification concerning ZOCs. I thought the ability to move freely through enemy ZOCs was only valid if the friendly unit started in a command radius.
A great review of a hidden gem!
 
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Edward Pundyk
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billjazzer wrote:
Just a quick clarification concerning ZOCs. I thought the ability to move freely through enemy ZOCs was only valid if the friendly unit started in a command radius.
A great review of a hidden gem!


I believe the OP covered that point with: "This status [i.e. out of command] means you may still move your normal limits, and your combat value remains unchanged, but may not enter an enemy ZOC (unless you started the turn in one, in which case you must still attack, or move away)."

I was given an unpunched, unplayed copy of this game this past summer by a buddy of mine. I just read the rules yesterday and have started a solo Cyberboard play of the game. So far I am really liking what I've seen after four turns. I had forgotten how well-written magazine game rules could be so short and sweet.
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Sten Ekedahl
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The designer, Peter Englund, is a very wellknown historian and author and an expert in Swedish 17th and 18th century history. One of his most successful books is as about the battle of Poltava. His style of writing is very similar to, and probably inspired by, the famous late Barbara Tuchman. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy, and since a couple of years, its permament secretary. Among his duties a secretary is to make the public announcement naming the winner of the Nobel prize in litterature, each year.
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Russell Kitchen
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The game has some neat optional rules that I don't see in other Poltava games. For example, there is a Maximum Swedish Strength scenario, wherein the Swedish player can include additional units and strength points to simulate the fact that historically, Charles left a couple of thousand troops in the siege lines around Poltava, didn't call in many detachments, and left almost all of his artillery behind. There is also an option to include assault equipment with the Swedish Army to consider what would have been possible if the Swedes had been better equipped to attack redoubts. You can also assume that Charles was not wounded shortly before the battle, thereby giving him a larger command radius. Another rule allows the Russian player to include a couple of horse artillery units.

I really like the options with this game that can add some balance. It is still my favorite Poltava game, and there are a few others.
 
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