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Subject: A War-game For Those Who Know ‘Size Doesn’t Matter' rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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An Excellent War-game For Those Who Know ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’



The first thing that you notice about Leningrad is its size – it is small. A thin box: an 11” x 17” map; 100 cardboard counters. In conjunction with the size you will also discover that it plays quickly. The 90 minutes specified on BGG is correct – it is that quick. What really surprises me is the intensity and excitement of the game. You get the kick out of this war-game that you would normally expect to get only from its larger cousins.



Leningrad uses a modified Panzergruppe Guderian system. The game was originally published by SPI in 1979, although it has been reprinted (with some minor changes) by Decision Games. Even though I have both editions in my collection I have only played the SPI version.


Turn Sequence

The Germans move first – it is, after all, the summer of ’41 and we are watching Army Group North make its advance towards Leningrad. They initially have a replacement phase (depleted units in cities can build-up to full strength). The Germans move (over-runs take place during movement and provide a key element to German success). The Germans fight (combat is voluntary – it is hard to eliminate enemy units unless they are surrounded). The Germans place air-interdiction markers (in my experience the Germans are better to keep their planes to assist in combat).

The Soviets move second. They initially have a fortification phase (placing forts will help the defence of Leningrad enormously). The Soviets move (just like the Germans, except there will be few opportunities for an over-run). The Soviets will fight (there will be some opportunities to attack, but they will be few and will have problems due to Soviet units being face-down before their first combat, so the Soviet player may not know the actual strength of his units during his planing stage).

The game lasts for 12 turns – from June 22 until September 13.


Victory Conditions

Leningrad is made up of four hexes in the North-eastern corner of the map. The German player scores 30 points each, for the two most North-eastern hexes. If the German play does not capture either of those hexes they will lose. The Soviet player scores points for reducing and eliminating German units.



How Does Leningrad Play?

Turn 1 should be a Soviet disaster. If there is no disaster the Germans will have a massive problem. The German forces start over-stacked in the South-western corner of the map. Their starting point is ringed by a cordon of Soviet units. No matter how the Germans come at it, they are unlikely to totally eliminate the cordon. On the positive side, the Soviets must counter-attack on the first turn (they are obliged to advance all units that can come into contact with the invading forces and must attack them). Providing that the German Panzer Corps have led the breakthrough the Germans will have a good chance of totally destroying the entire Soviet front line. This is because of column shifts for Corps Integrity, Armour and Air.

There are three (or maybe four) river lines that the Soviets can use for defence. These will still give the Soviets some tough choices. The further forward the Soviets defend the more man-power will be needed as the forward rivers tend to be longer. If the Soviets defend forward and then try to pull back, the greater the chance of Soviet troops being caught in the open. If the Soviets pull back quickly they have the advantage of a shorter river line to defend, the benefit of swamps and being closer to the source of reinforcements. The downside of this option that it gives the Germans more time to launch their final assault on Leningrad itself. What is more important - buying time with the lives of your valiant Soviet troops or minimising losses to give a maximum strength defense in the Leningrad suburbs. It is a difficult decision - and no matter which way you decide, your troops will die.

On game turn 7 the Soviets can launch a massive counter-attack with the benefit of a four-column shift on the Combat Table, but unless you can eliminate some Panzer Corps I don’t believe that this is a good option.

The Germans also have some choices. Do they attack from the west or do they attack from the south? Either option is viable but the Germans almost certainly lack the resources to attack on both fronts.

The Germans probably don’t have the strength to be able to eliminate fortified stacks on Soviet units that are defending behind the river. They do have enough strength to keep attriting the Soviet forces so that they may be able to make a breakthrough towards the end of the game.


Final Thoughts



This is one gutsy little game. My initial reaction was to dismiss it because it is so damn small. Having played it nearly 50 times I know it to be a gut-wrenching experience. The Soviets will lose most of their troops most games. The Germans will have the sensation of virtual invincibility. And yet, each time, it comes down to getting across the Neva River into the northern suburbs of Leningrad. You can be the German, lose the game and yet still feel like a winner. You can be the Soviets, hold onto Leningrad and feel as though you have just been put through ‘the wringer’.

da pyrate arrrh
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Mark Mokszycki
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Nice review. I also like this game. I remember buying it back before I played a lot of hex and counter wargames, and the cheap price tag was the biggest draw. I think it was $13 or $14 new. This game probably offers more bang for the buck than any other. I find myself recommending it to newbies in a lot of "newbie wargamer looking for simple games" type geeklists.

I have not played the game nearly as many times as you (I've played it maybe 8 times) but I never finish in anywhere close to 90 minutes. It takes us twice as long. And maybe 3-4 times as long if I'm playing against a certain person...
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Iain K
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A classic!

In your experience, how often does the German player win?
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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In my experience I have won only once as the Germans using the standard victory conditions.

However, here in Australia, at wargame conventions, we use different victory conditions which fixes up the inherent balance problems in the game.

Perhaps I should post these onto the BGG website so others can use them.
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Iain K
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Couldn't hurt
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Charlie Decator
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Very nice review of the game. I am getting back into wargaming after many years of NOT playing. I have never played this one but after reviewing the geeklists Leningrad comes highly recommended for newb's so I thought it would be a good game to get my hands dirty again.

I just got the game in the mail last week and I am anxiously waiting to play. I have a game setup for the weekend with a buddy who has not played war hex games, he plays axis and allies. So, this should be a good intro for him into the hex and counter scene.

I will report back with an AAR!!!

I also purchased The Russian Campaign which will be next up on the table if I can convert my gaming buddy to the hex and counter war games.

~Chux
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Freddy Dekker
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da pyrate wrote:

However, here in Australia, at wargame conventions, we use different victory conditions which fixes up the inherent balance problems in the game.


I think you'll find that's called cheating in the rest of the world.


laugh
 
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