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Subject: Review and AAR from 3 games rss

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Sabratha
Poland
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INTRODUCTION:

Over the past few weekends I have played 3 full games against a relative of mine, who was actually trained back in the day to act as a Warsaw Pact mechanized company commander. He is also a wargaming veteran, having played The Third World War back in the day and was for a numebr of years a local champion of Advanced Third Reich.

GAME 1.
During the first playthrough, we were both learning the rules and the intricacies of the game. As the Soviets I pushged too far too fast through the Fulda gap and had a large part of my army anihilated. I attacked a lot of NATO airbases on the first 2 turns, with predictably bad results. NATO did not make full use of its airforce or special forces units. Both sides used nukes. The game ended around something like turn 6 when Soviet losses (both air and ground) mounted to catastrophic levels and the Czech Republic was being overran. A total Soviet loss, which at tha time we still chalked up to bad decisions (especially the air attacks on NATO airfields).

GAME 2. At this point we already decided that some rules were either too weird or needed an errata (Danish units setup for example). So we started a game (me as NATO) where Dennmark starts the game at war with the USSR with forces on both Zealand and Jutland.

My opponent attempted several rather crafty attempts at deep armor brakethroughs (probably thinking too much along the lines of Adv.Third Reich). As NATO, I sent 4 nukes against key crossroads at the path of the main advance (taking out some Soviet units on the way). As nuclear bombs create a zone of control min this game, the main Soviet offensive was blocked and petered out. The soviet nuclear counterattack came in the shape of 6 nuclear strikes, destroying some key facilities and killing a lot of NATO units. The main soviet offensive now shifted from the North german plain (blocked by nuclear fallout) into the Fulda-Frankfurt axis. I had a scarcity of units at the time, however soviet air units were running thin. At around turn 5 the Soviets launched 3 major attacks (each with something like 12 soviet units involved), against which I sent US planes, US helicopters and some French ones. The air combat ended as a total flop for the soviets, and then the Apaches were given free reign over the battlefield turning the tables. Bad die rolls resulted in two AE results (all attackers eliminated) and one AS. In total something like 20 Soviet divisions evaporated leaving a gaping hole in the front. Seeing absolutely no way to get out of this game with 200 VPs, my opponent folded.

GAME 3.
We both decided that the game is quite unbalanced and that the Soviet side is far too weak for an even game. As such, we started with "free deployment" for both sides, as well as the following home rules:
- Soviet 0 die rolls would be treated as a "10" instead of "0".
- We decided to skip any negative modifiers for invading Dennmark
- Soviet Satellites would lose negative combat modifiers if NATO nukes any city in Czechoslovakia or East Germany.

As the Soviets, I deployed my main force against north Germany, with only flanking efensive formations on the Czechoslovak Border and East Germans guarding the Fulda gap. My opponent decided to block the Czech-Bavarian border and my defensive stacks in the Czech mountains were obliterated by nuclear attacks. My nuclear reply was instead aimed at US airbases and German industrial facilities.
This was probably the most interesting and balanced game of the 3. The Soviets managed to push as far west as Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel. Kopenhagen fell at about turn 6, with an attack from Soviet paratroopers, airmobile and airborne units, which ten moved againstJutland flanking the defenders of Kiel.
However, at about turn 7 I as the Soviets ran out of air units. From said point on, NATO steamrolled over me with ease, turning all 1:1 attacks into 4:1 and up attacks just through the use of airforce. I lost about half of my whole force within the next 2 turns, with NATO forces taking back Bremen and Kiel and overruning Chemnitz, Dresden and Liepzig. The war was over, with yet another total Soviet defeat. Looking back we could not identify any excessive mistakes on my part, rather the CRT and air combat rules lost the game for the Soviets.

Other points that came up:
- There are too many units that provide a "combat shift", this results in some special forces battalions or cavalry regiments worth more than 2 West German or Soveit armored divisions. There should be a cap on the total amount of "combat shifts by units" allowed per single combat, as in large battles the "combat shifts" provided by units are often 4 or 5 times more important than unit numbers or terrain.

- As if the game was not easy enough for NATO, the lack of Polish naval infantry units and the Czechoslovak army further decreases their capacity (in addition to being unhistorical).

- A note on the graphics: Nation colors are not distinctive enough from one another. Poles are too similar to Spanish, Belgians are too similar to East Germans. My opponent kept picking up up units from these 4 nations and had me confirm which nation that was. Neither of us is colorblind - there's something wrong with the deisgn.

- POMCUS sites& related units are not accurately depicted.

- Rules on Dutch withdrawal, Danish or Czech "neutrality" are bizarre to say the least.

Conclusion: The game is lobsided in favor of NATO. Despite our best attempts (and home rule buffs of the Soviets in our last game) neither of us managed to score anything other than total defeat as the Soviets. At no point in our 3 games were the Soviets even close to having 200 Victory points, let alone holding those 200 VP till the last turn.

There is a good game underneath it all wanting to get out. But things need to be fixed. The Soviet side clearly needs further buffs to make it viable, or the victory conditions need to change.
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Philipp Klarmann
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Thanks, an excellent review.
 
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Barry Kendall
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I agree, the basic game is badly skewed in several respects. I like your "game 3" fixes and also agree with limiting the pronounced shifts for Special Forces.

One thing I've appreciated is the perspectives of Europeans on aspects of this game and other WP-NATO games which were not available back in my old "SPI NATO" and "Warsaw Pact" days.

I'm also fascinated to see the evident "gamer nostalgia" for "the good old days" of East vs West in the Cold War era, now that the world has become such a complicated place. There are still more NATO-WP games coming from several publishers, at least two likely in the next year alone.

I will try your good "fixes" in my next game. Thanks!
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Just to clarify: In all games it was NATO using Nukes first?
 
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Sabratha
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Barry Kendall wrote:
I agree, the basic game is badly skewed in several respects. I like your "game 3" fixes and also agree with limiting the pronounced shifts for Special Forces.

(...)
I will try your good "fixes" in my next game. Thanks!


Well, treating Soviet 0 die rolls as a 10 is an absolute must, without it the game is so lobsided that its not worth playing. Even with all these modifications the Soviet side still feels quite weaker than NATO. At the same time it is the "attacking side" and it is the side that needs to press forward and take objective hexes. NATO can afford to sit back and wait till turn 7-8 when WARPAC runs out of planes.

I agree that NATO in the 1980s was historically the stronger side in the potential air war, but I feel in this game absolute NATO air control comes too quick (7 days or so) and is too easily won.

I was surprised to see Joe Miranda listed as one of the playtesters for this game. I wonder if any of the playtesters ever managed to achieve a Soviet victory using vanilla rules? For us this seemed impossible.

Even in game 3 where the NATO player made errors in strategic decisions (nuked the wrong part of the front - one with just deversionary units and not the part where the real offensive was taking place), NATO managed to pull off a decisive victory with no real effort.

eisenphx wrote:
Just to clarify: In all games it was NATO using Nukes first?


It was certainly NATO using nukes first in all our games. In Red Tide it makes perfect sense for the WARPAC try to keep the war conventional, as they need to press on into west Germany and nukes produce a zone of control hampering unit movements.

That is actually another modification we were considering. If each hex is 10 miles, then we have 1 nuke blocking 30 miles of the frontlines (1 hex "dead zone" and 2 hexes of ZoC). Given the RL WARPAC doctrine of having mechanized columns sweep around a nuked mobile target, the "nukes have permanent ZoC extenging 10 miles" rule seemed too much of an overkill for us.

Next time we play we are probably going to introduce a "each hex next to a nuke costs 1 extra MP to enter" instead of the "nuclear ZoC rule".
 
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Sabratha wrote:


eisenphx wrote:
Just to clarify: In all games it was NATO using Nukes first?


It was certainly NATO using nukes first in all our games. In Red Tide it makes perfect sense for the WARPAC try to keep the war conventional, as they need to press on into west Germany and nukes produce a zone of control hampering unit movements.

That is actually another modification we were considering. If each hex is 10 miles, then we have 1 nuke blocking 30 miles of the frontlines (1 hex "dead zone" and 2 hexes of ZoC). Given the RL WARPAC doctrine of having mechanized columns sweep around a nuked mobile target, the "nukes have permanent ZoC extenging 10 miles" rule seemed too much of an overkill for us.

Next time we play we are probably going to introduce a "each hex next to a nuke costs 1 extra MP to enter" instead of the "nuclear ZoC rule".


I don't think there is any chance that German forces would have continued to fight if NATO would have used Nukes first. The use of nuclear weapons would have been acceptable strictly to limited retaliation in case of a WP first use of NBC weapons. Don't forget that those weapons would more likely than not have been used on German soil (even if it would have been the GDR). In the fact the majority of WP forces would have been staged in the GDR.
 
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Przemysław Mantay
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Sabratha wrote:

Well, treating Soviet 0 die rolls as a 10 is an absolute must, without it the game is so lobsided that its not worth playing.


How exactly did you use that?
In Soviet CRT there's a result for "0" and for "9", there's nothing for "10".
So, did you use the line of results from NATO CRT?
 
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Sabratha
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Darth Stalin wrote:
Sabratha wrote:

Well, treating Soviet 0 die rolls as a 10 is an absolute must


How exactly did you use that?
In Soviet CRT there's a result for "0" and for "9", there's nothing for "10". So, did you use the line of results from NATO CRT?


Vanilla NATO 9 is the same as vanilla WARPAC 9.

So a 0 result we treated as a hypotethical "WARPAC 10" equal to a vanilla NATO 10.

We are still fiddling with the system. We do want WARPAC to be weaker than NATO counter-per-counter, but certainly not to the extent that every game ends with a NATO decisive win by turn 10. Not only is that not fun as a game, it does not line up with real NATO commander predictions of how long a war would take.


I'm actually considering to have NATO roll 2d6 while WARPAC rolls 1d12.

There's potential in this game, but balance seems to be sorely lacking. Either that or neither of us knows how to use WARPAC in a remotely effective way - which does not seem to likely given that we are both quite experienced wargamers.
 
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Przemysław Mantay
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I begin to wonder, how the playtests were run... and how much were they scripted by the author, who on this and on CSW forum said that the players do not use the WarPact air forces the way he designed it... which shows a huge flaw in the rules' design, as the author's idea can be completely screwed and obscured by the rules he wrote himself.

BTW: what about the missing divisions and one Soviet division originaly based in GDR but by counter mistake being placed in Czechoslovakia?

BTW: what do you think about combat factors ono Air Units, as well as their composition?
Some of them try to represent real units, some not... and even those real units vary from single squadron to whole air wing...
 
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