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Subject: First Impressions rss

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Jeff Luce
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A Victory Denied is the new game from MMP depicting the German drive on Moscow in World War 2.

This review is an overview of my observations and impressions after playing the game once.

As this game has been promoted as a sequel to the game A Victory Lost I think it appropriate to compare and contrast the two.

Both are "chit activation" type war games which means that combat units are allowed to move and fight when within the command range of HQ units which in turn are activated through the random pull of a chit from a cup.

Components:

The components are of decent quality. The map is the paper type common to MMP games meaning that you really need to place it under a sheet of plexiglass in order to use it. Artistically it is nice with differentiations between terrain that are obvious but not garish. The counters are functional and easy to read. Like it A Victory Lost, the players have the option of using the Wehrmacht military symbols or tank silhouettes for armor units.

The one quibble I have is with the map. All the printing is done with a single orientation. It would have been nice if they had all of the Soviet related boxes and such facing towards one side of the board and the German related areas facing the other so that neither player was "upside down".

Rules:

Activation:

The rules regarding activation have not changed much from a Victory Lost. The players choose a predetermined number of HQ’s chits to put in the cup at the start of the turn and then they are pulled one at a time with players activating the indicated units.

There are some differences. The German player has a type of command chit rather than a specific HQ. He has what is called a "9th Army" chit which allows him to activate one of his infantry groups and he also has two panzer HQ’s which allow him to activate one or the other of his two Panzer Armies, the 2nd or the 3rd.

The HQ’s are also able to "chain" to a certain extent in Victory Denied. An activated HQ can also activate another HQ within it’s range. This second HQ can then activate combat units within it’s range but not other HQ units.

Where in Victory Lost the German player had the Mannstein chit which allowed him to activate any command, in Victory Denied he has the Guderian chit which allows him to veto a chit pull, throwing the selected chit back in the cup, and use Guderian to activate the southern Panzer Army.

The Soviet no longer has the Stavka chit which in Victory Lost allowed him to activate all of his HQ’s. Instead he has a Timoshenko HQ which provides a modest combat modifier but in all other ways acts as a normal HQ.

Movement:

Basic movement is the same. Each unit has a given movement factor printed on it. Each space costs one or more movement factor depending upon terrain. The terrain effects upon movement are printed in a box on the map itself for easy reference.

There are some differences. In Victory Denied, mechanized units must pay an extra movement factor to move through swamps, woods, and across minor rivers. In Victory Lost both infantry and mech units had the same cost to move.

Also, the cost for strategic movement (movement by roads) has been decreased from ½ a point per hex to 1/3 a point per hex for infantry effectively increasing the distance they can go. Mechanized units receive no benefit from road travel other than to nullify the penalties associated with other terrain so long as they remain on the road.

Stacking:

The rules for the Germans remain unchanged. Up to two combat units and an HQ may stack in the same space.

The Soviet forces have been split into two types. Tan units are regular combat troops and there may not be more than one of these in a space at any time. Red units are the elite and they may stack with tan units or other red units in the same way as German units, two combat units and an HQ max.

As the name would suggest, there are far fewer elite units than there are regular combat units. The net effect is that it becomes harder for the Soviets to bring enough combat strength to bear on German units to do much harm.

Combat:

Again the basics remain unchanged. The strength of the attacker vs. that of the defender is converted to a ratio and then 1 six sided die is rolled and the combat results chart is consulted. As with Victory Lost it is difficult to inflict step losses through straight up fighting. More often are forced retreats with the step losses resulting from going through enemy zones of control (the circle of hexes surrounding a combat unit).

The Germans are given some air power in a Victory Denied. Something that was absent or abstracted in its predecessor. This is represented by the Stuka counter. The German can, at his whim, place a Stuka counter on a combat before the die is rolled. This gives a two column shift in whatever direction benefits the German depending whether he is defending or attacking. This can be quite significant. There are only three such Stuka chits and once used they become exhausted until refreshed by the pull of the "air power" chit out of the cup.

The Soviet gets an Artillery strike once per turn initiated by the draw of the Art. chit out of the cup. The Soviet player then rolls a die to determine how many strikes he gets, a six sided die roll divided in half with fractions rounded down which means between 0 and 3. He then chooses any hex containing German combat units adjacent to Soviet forces. Then a normal combat roll is made using the designated column on the combat results chart. The chart is such that artillery alone cannot cause a step loss but can cause a retreat.

Once per game, the Soviet can opt to have the artillery attack be a rocket attack instead which can do significantly more damage.

Reinforcements:

This is one of the most important changes to A Victory Denied. Where as in a Victory Lost the reinforcements were predetermined units arriving at the end of predetermined turns, in a Victory Denied they arrive when the "reinforcement" chit is pulled from the cup.

The Soviet player is given a certain amount of points with which to buy reinforcements from a pool of units. It works out to be somewhere between 1 and 4 units depending on the turn and whether there were any HQ units purchased.

The Soviet player is also allowed to draw one elite unit out of a cup and place this on the board. He also gets a PVO unit which can only be placed in a victory point hex and has no movement allowance basically making it a damage absorber.

The German player can at his choosing take reinforcements out of units in the "Minsk Pocket" area of the board. The cost here is that the more troops he takes, the more likely it is that the trapped Soviet units in that area will escape to join their brothers in the fight at no cost to the Soviet player.

In a Victory Lost, reinforcements could be placed anywhere on the board that was reachable by an unobstructed rail line leading from a supply source. Some people did not like this at all and felt that it was illogical and "gamey". That has been removed.

Reinforcements in Victory Denied arrive either through indicated entry hexes for the Germans or for the Soviets they are placed in a victory hex, with an in supply HQ or adjacent to an in supply HQ.

Supply:

In Victory Lost, supply was checked at the end of a turn. In Victory Denied it is checked when the supply chit is drawn from the cup. At that time the Soviet player my place a number of German units of his choice out of supply. The number of units in indicated on the turn track and varies from 0 to 4. These units have their combat strengths halved until the next supply check. Then units that cannot trace a route unblocked by enemy units or unbridged major rivers are "isolated" and they have all their attributes halved until the next supply check.

Victory Conditions:

In a Victory Denied a die is rolled on turn six and that roll will determine what the victory objectives of the Germans are. One result will end the game on turn 8 and will be simply a comparison of victory points gained from taking victory locations and points awarded for destroying enemy mechanized units. The second will end the game on turn 10 and force the Germans to take the city of Moscow.

There is also a sudden death victory condition throughout the game where if the Germans enter Moscow or the Soviets advance combat units into the Minsk Pocket the game ends.

Impressions:

The game has the same see-saw effect as a Victory Lost only seen through a mirror. In a Victory Lost it was the Russians who have the initial advantage while the Germans play for time waiting for their stronger reinforcements to enter the fray and for the game clock to tick down.

In a Victory Denied the roles are reversed and it is the Soviets playing for time against an initially stronger German foe. The German reinforcements soon run out and the Soviet forces continue to build. This game does not reward timid play from the German.

Conclusion:

The game like a Victory Lost is fairly light. A novice could easily play a game after one read through of the rules. Also it is a war GAME with emphasis on game. It isn’t a simulation and if you are the kind that looks for exacting historical detail in a game you may be disappointed.

The game I played took about 5 hours but this would probably decrease with repeated plays. The game flowed nicely. Some complained that the Stavka chit in a Victory Lost led to the German player sitting around for a long time with nothing to do. I did not really mind this but in a Victory Denied this aspect has been removed.

I really like how the supply and reinforcements are dependent on the chit pull. This adds a great deal of tension, makes decisions harder and reduces the complete knowledge about when and where those extra units are going to show up.

The extras such as Stukas and Artillery I thought were interesting but I felt they mostly contributed a bit of un-needed complexity.

If you are trying to decide between A Victory Lost and A Victory Denied, I would recommend a Victory Lost. It is simpler and cleaner.

If you liked A Victory Lost you will like A Victory Denied as well. It has some additional bells and whistles but the fundamentals are the same and the chit pull system provides a lot of tension and excitement.

If you are new to war gaming, you should give this a try. Its relatively easy to learn and the fundamentals are all basic war gaming concepts that will serve you well as you get deeper into this genre of game.
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James Istvanffy
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What a great game! I loved A Victory Lost and I think I will enjoy A Victory Denied just as much. Good reveiw - but I am surprised there was little mention of the Victory Point Hexes - which seem a rather important difference to the two games.
 
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Jeff Luce
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Yes, I suppose that is an issue I skipped over. I don't know that I would call it an important difference.

In Victory Lost you have the key cities that provide victory points to whomever controls them. The amount is set and doesn't change.

In Victory Denied there are certain hexes, all towns if I remember correctly, that are the victory hexes. Their value is determined by placing a counter on them at random face down. The face of the counter shows the value of the space. I believe between 1 to 3 or prehaps 4.

In any case, the victory chits put some more uncertainty and randomness in the game but for the most part operate just as the victory cities did in Victory Lost. The aggressor, in this case the German player, will have to take a significant number of them to achieve victory if that is in fact the end game objective rather than taking Moscow.
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Steve Otto
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I believe it actually says "crisis at Smolensk" right on the box lid.
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Osprey
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ottob1 wrote:
I believe it actually says "crisis at Smolensk" right on the box lid.


Bartman has been waiting 6 1/2 years for that info. whistle
 
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