Jason Cawley
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Those familiar with maneuver warfare theory in its relatively recent incarnations will recognize the term "dislocation". It refers to enemy forces rendered ineffective without being destroyed, simply because they are not relevant to the main issue of a battle. This may happen because they are in the wrong place, because they are too slow to engage, because they are cut off from necessary supplies, because they are incapable of coordinating their actions with the rest of their force, or because they are paralyzed by morale or command factors.

A Victory Denied contains far more instances of effective dislocation than its predecessor, A Victory Lost. While the CRT has actually become significantly more "attritionist" (more step losses - in AVL losses came almost exclusively from surround plus retreat results), the initial situation in AVD makes effective dislocation a much more effective part of the attacker's arsenal. Especially the Germans. Especially on the first 2 turns. Sometimes unbelievably so, in fact.

The governing mechanic is not isolation for lack of supplies, because the Germans can rarely afford to throw full ZOC-nets around any significant "bag" of Russian units. Instead it comes from the command activation system. To move or fight, a unit must be within command range of an HQ when that HQ comes out of the cup, or when a different HQ within range of the first, does so. HQs left undefended can be run over for no movement cost, and immediately relocate. They must move 4 hexes closer to a friendly supply source each time this happens, more if the controlling player wants to go farther.

Well, most of them have a 4 command distance to start with. One Russian HQ has 6, as do most of the German HQs for infantry, while the German mechanized units don't need HQs, they just need to stay within 3 hexes of others in their corps to activate at once. This means even a mech corps sent deep into the Russian rear cannot lose its command, and thus never effectively "dislocated" by command effects. The Russians, in contrast, generally lose command "reach" as soon as their nearest HQ is overrun.

And almost never get it back. Early on, at least.

Now, the Russians have the option of dissolving units left behind in this fashion, and as long as they aren't isolated when it happens they go into their reserve pool, where they can be purchased again for reinforcement points. But if the Germans are doing their job, enough destroyed units will be flowing into said box that extra ones there are basically kills. While an individual unit may come back out, the Russians were going to use their whole replacement income stream regardless, and anything dissolved is basically removed from their net strength thereafter, as a result.

Both players can also relocate HQ voluntarily following the supply phase, but only closer to their supply sources, again. This is fine for a backpeddling defense but it means anything left at the front and bypassed will be completely paralyzed. At least until a Russian HQ manages to meander up to them again. For the front line forces, hell will freeze first.

So, the point for the Germans is to ignore the dislocated. Make a hole with a kill or two, then go through it, and overrun all the HQs. Only bother to kill a front line unit left by this process if you need to do so to open a road for the following infantry to use strategic movement.

Russian HQs entering as reinforcements can only go in victory cities still controlled by the Russians (or Moscow, not relevant here). So run a fast unit up tthrough any of those near the left-behinds, and they will pretty much never be commanded again.

The Russians can try to avoid this on later turns by stacking reserve corps with their HQs. Not that they have enough to hold much of a line anyway. But the Germans can easily put 2 PDs and a stuka on that reserve and kill the HQ anyway. Every such attack should put an army out of commission, not a single unit. And they can pick where to do it to break up chains of HQs in range of each other, to stop one HQ activation from "chaining" to others. Another nice trick is to wait to see what Russian HQ comes out of the cup, then trump it with the Guderian chit, and ride hell for leather to smash that specific HQ before it gets to "go".

Typically the Russians can keep a unified front intact on the southern end of the line, for a while at least, under this treatment. The reinforcements from there help, the shield of the Dnepr early helps, the ability to reform a line if a whole chain of HQs activates together helps. But often the center and the entire north becomes a line of relocated HQs with nothing much to command. Only whatever appears as reinforcements. All their original forces may still be alive, but so far from locations the Russians HQs can reach and remain alive, that they might as well be in the dead pile already.

I hope this is interesting.
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Adam Starkweather
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Not sure I see why the "on steroids" comment was added. Seems to be exactly how the Germans fought the Soviets successfully in 1941.

But thanks for the comments.
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Jason Cawley
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Compared to A Victory Lost, which already had a heavy maneuverist theme.

The "push" CRT, no step losses suffered in repeated attacks, the ability to ensure safety for the attacker by just getting a modest odds column, the ability to slip around enemies through soft ZOCs, mobility as the only way to kill anything by going around, the fluid chaos of multiple moves by chit pull, the overall thesis of op tempo as the operational driver by changing the number of active HQs over the course of a campaign, the ability of the schwerpunk to move and fight repeatedly before the enemy moves a muscle - AVL was already an extremely maneuverist game.

That works as a game, but not because it is particularly accurate as a depiction of the actual processes of warfare on the eastern front. The reality involved a heck of a lot more simple attrition and wearing losses to attackers.

Well, the situation in AVD takes that even further, as the typical operational kill isn't even surround attacks delivered on enemies once an operational hole opens and lets armor cut tactical routes of retreat - the usual army-kill mechanism in AVL. Now, a spearhead just runs over one HQ counter and the whole army stands stock-still thereafter, accomplishing nothing, even as the war rages past them. I call that maneuver theory on steriods.

And no, I don't think it is how the Germans actually won in 1941. The fact is, in the real deal all the Russian mech forces evaporated on contact in a matter of days due to non-existence CSS and hopeless staff work, and this was so unexpected on the Russian side that it left their plans in tatters, with gaping holes in their lines, the wrong orders to passed units (to stand and push west when they should have backpeddled, etc). The Russian forces bypassed fought hard and had to be reduced in serious fighting and did not become paralyzed by someone being behind them or by static on the other end of a phone line.

The Germans also own-goaled themselves by not having a replacement stream to cover even their far lower losses, leaving them weaker on December 1 than on the day of the invasion, while the Russians were as strong or better despite losses 10 times as high. And depicting that properly, while perhaps beyond the tactical scope of AVD, requires a more attritionist view of the whole campaign.

In case everyone just forgot, WW II was a brutal war of attrition decided entirely by attrition processes in the end, and all the dreams of quick decision by mere dislocation failed. Yes they achieved force multipliers, and the largest ever in Barbarossa, but no none of it ever replaced the importance of sheer numbers or the flow-logistic rather than stock-operational view of modern warfare. I think some of that is there in AVD in the Russian replacement stream and that works, and I have no problem with AVD as a game. But I don't confuse its game design decisions or the incentives they set up, with actual military reality.

One man's opinions...
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So what's your verdict Jason? I know you're not exactly a fan of the maneuver theory from your posts on the BFC forum. I remember your most interesting thread about the mech corps in 1941 and the swamp monster. But I can't quite tell what you think about the game here.

Good game but lacking in historical accuracy?
 
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It is a fun game. You have to be willing to push its mechanics to their limits to play it as competitively as possible, especially as the Germans. But on its own as a game, it works.

There is enough asymmetry in the mechanics that each army "feels" like itself - although not to quite the degree one sees in a larger scale monster like Red Star Rising. Personally I think RSR gets the balance of attrition and maneuver more nearly right at its larger and longer scales. Meaning, a lot of the maneuveree stuff winds up being sound and fury that doesn't quite decide anything, while the attrition stuff grinds on relentless.

(For those not familiar with Red Star Rising, I should explain. It depicts the entire war in the east, with corp level German units and army level Russian units, mostly. Which have steps. The Germans get a few reinforcements but literally zero replacements. The Russians can rebuild every army to full - but unknown and variable - power every turn it comes off the line, simply if it ends up not adjacent to a German unit. In addition, destroyed Russian armies reappear a random number of game turns later as reinforcements, making it necessary to destroy each one 2-3 times to truly be rid of it. On the whole this makes the Russians extremely indifferent to battle losses. Those weaken them locally and temporarily but have no lasting effect on their battle strength. While German losses are permanent and accumulate relentlessly, without any stream to fix them. Also, the CRT is relentlessly attritionist - lots of step losses to both sides at all the typical odds columns. Now, on the other hand, the sequence of play is Germans move everything, Germans attack, Russians *attack*, *then* Russians move, then German armor only moves again. Yes that's right, Russians attack before they move, not after. So they are unkillable regenerating zombies, but they punch only if you stand in front of them. Now, there are overrun attacks during movement to mitigate this, but overall the effect is standing "on-line" to trade punches with built up Russian armies is suicide on the installment plan... Anyway, RSR is a big game and a massive time commitment, but it has the finest balance of attrition to maneuver I've seen in any operational game).

You don't see that stark a contrast in AVD, but there is still a clear asymmetry between the maneuverist Germans and the replacement-stream-fed Russians. The Germans get to run completely riot in a maneuverist fantasy beyond the dreams of avarice - for 2-3 turns. Then their spearheads start getting hit with out of supply markers and whole fresh armies pile up in front of them, and those "2" defense factors on the German panzer divisions start looking awfully vulnerable. But to counterattack, not to wear and tear from simply attacking too often and wearing themselves out. In the end, numbers and a replacement stream do get a chance to operate, just by a different mechanism.

It is still just striking how 2-3 armies worth of untouched troops stand around in the northwest part of the map as 2-4 Germans corps drive around them as though they weren't even there. It doesn't break the game, but it does jar the immersion-believability for a while.

I should explain that much of this is a pure result of the change in the situation and not in the game mechanics. The Russians are on defense and thin, and slow. In AVL, the German defenders are fast enough they can run ahead of their pursuers, only getting caught by double moves, and only caught to the extent of actual losses when caught by armor or through a previous unplugged hole or both, to boot. Their HQs are big, fast, and readily reach the German units available to command. A few axis minor speed bumps get left behind by the tide of the fight, but get gobbled up realistically by the Russian rifle hordes, not left forever frozen in their positions by static on the command net. The Germans later counterattack, and sometimes a Russian HQ gets overrun, dislocating an attack. But there are lots more Russians and they have Stavka activations with scads of underused HQs, so these tend to be temporary one turn affairs.

In AVD, the faster Germans are attacking, are double-moving for each Russian move, and there aren't enough Russians to both hold a line and guard the forward HQs, early. HQs with units tight enough around them in numbers, to resist direct overrun, are also left in space in counter density terms, such that the Germans can run rings around them if they deploy in fists on the objective cities that way.

The upshot is the HQ overrun, paralyzed combat units situation that was already possible in AVL, and occasionally hurt a few axis minor divisions early on, instead is a constant important threat. And it is perfectly normal to see something like 10 Russian corps twiddle their thumbs in place, utterly ignored, from turn 2 on. That strains credulity, is all. The later portions of the game are still balanced and work.

Incidentally, a similar issue arose in the old SPI game about Stalingrad at the grand tactical level, John Hill's Battle for Stalingrad. There were die rolls for number of stacks that could be activated on any reaction phase in that one, and a large bulge of Russian line well outside the city to the west at the start. There tended to be a huge flock of them just left there, unmoved by the Russians as out of position and not as worth moving as other forces in the city center, and unattacked by the Germans to avoid unnecessary losses finishing them off, when they clearly weren't going to do anything. (That game had a hellishly attritionist combat system that totally rocked for that specific battle, incidentally. Units simply fired and destroyed whole enemy units - defender shoots first! Ouch).

A later idea to fix it allowed an end of turn move of out of command forces, limited to avoiding enemy ZOCs and getting closer to friendly supply sources. This meant if truly ignored, bypassed forces would drift back to their own lines and rejoin command. It provided an incentive to truly pocket them and to finish them off to free up the containing forces. Perhaps AVD could benefit from a similar mechanic, though its balance effect would need to be explored.

Or, as an alternative closer to the existing AVD mechanics, perhaps when the Russians voluntarily dissolve units that are not isolated, they get half the point count of units so removed in extra replacements on the following turn. This would represent forces bypassed but not closely pocketed, drifting back to the rest of the army. And again, provide an incentive to truly pocket them and finish them off. On the Russian side, it would create a trade off between slowing Germans by gumming up the western road net (leaving bypassed units on the map) or strengthening the fighting army (by removing bypassed units promptly, to deploy stronger replacment armies back in command).

I hope this clarifies what my issue is and what I've been saying about it. It is also just a tactical pointer for German AVD players. With the game as it is, they should exploit this mechanic to the fullest; it is one of their strongest weapons.
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Adam Starkweather
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Well Jason, our interpretation of what actually happened on the Eastern Front is in conflict so we will have to agree to disagree.

A few things - there was a 2 for 1 return on disbanded units rule until close to the end of the development process. It was cut because the game was running toward the Soviets in balance and a possible overkill on special rules. I like the rule a lot and you are welcome to use it.

On a more broader issue, AVD is an attempt to see if the wargaming public would accept another viewpoint on how things went down in the war and while I certainly expected more traditional perspectives like yours to be in evidence, I have been pleased with the openness to new ideas shown by most.

I am thinking of a game on the whole thing that incorporates this newer, non-traditional historical perspective...and gauging the reaction to such a thing.

Anyway, I really do appreciate the comments and glad to hear you enjoy RSR so much as well. Watch for "Last Stand" going on prepub soon (on Typhoon and the counterattack) - another Mas game that uses a similar system that I think is even stronger as a game. I think you'll love it.
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pepe le moko wrote:
So what's your verdict Jason? I know you're not exactly a fan of the maneuver theory from your posts on the BFC forum. I remember your most interesting thread about the mech corps in 1941 and the swamp monster. But I can't quite tell what you think about the game here.
What's "the BFC forum"?

Can anyone provide links to threads?

And what the heck is the "swamp monster"?
 
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Jason Cawley
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He is talking about Battlefront, the makers of the game Combat Mission, which I've played extensively, written strategy articles for, and designed many scenarios for. (Think, squad leader for the computer, sort of). There were extensive discussions on their forums about maneuver warfare theory and some of its over simplifications, exaggerations, and tendency to belittle its intellectual alternatives by pounding straw men. I was fond of pointing out all the sober, boring attritionists who won all the big wars...

As for "the swamp monster", it refers to an excuse one frequently encounters in contemporary Russian descriptions of the 1941 campaign, especially from officers in the pre-war mechanized force. They often explain the evaporation of entire mechanized corps of thousands of vehicles within days of being committed to action, by blaming poor roads and swamps, as well as German air power. Thus the joke, that thousand-tank forces were devoured by some mythical swamp monster, which for some reason spared the German panzer corps operating over the same terrain.

That came up in a long discussion there of the failings of the Russian army of 1941 and of its mech arm in particular. The staff work was apparently abysmal, and combat service and support non-existent as a result. Whole formations ran out of gas, and breakdowns crippled huge portions of the tank fleet just moving to contact or maneuvering to it. When a tank brigade runs out of gas in the wrong place and Germans cut a road behind it, and the men get out and evade on foot, whoops, the swamp monster ate another one...
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Jason Cawley
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Ethan - a few sample items from those old discussions:

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=39643&...

from another thread -

(on Barbarossa and the main German mistake, which is failing to mobilize for a long war - not the Kiev decision, which was correct).

No, the reason the offensive fails is not Kiev. Nobody asks the right question. Why are the Germans weaker in front of Moscow at the start of December, than the Russians are? How on earth do you inflict 10 to 1 losses on the enemy, destroy a force larger than his whole army on the day of the invasion, and yet *decline* in relative strength? Sure, the Russians mobilized a lot - as much as they had before hand. But that alone will not cause the outcome.

Germany has as much industrial potential as Russian and the manpower base was only 2 to 1 on the day of the invasion, and was much less after taking the Ukraine and White Russia, and killing or capturing millions of military age males. They also had Finland and Rumania as minor allies, and later tapped Italy and Hungary for more, as well as minor formations recruited from various other parts of Europe. So, did German mobilize even half as much as the Russians did, from the day of the invasion to the gates of Moscow?

No. They didn't even mobilize enough to replace their own losses, which were a tenth as large as the Russians. The ratio of the reinforcement streams is not equality, it is not two times, it is 20 times. Capacity ratio 2 times or less, outcome ratio 20 times. What other variable stands between?

You have to know you'll need it, and actually ask for it. The Germans did not mobilize their economy or their manpower. You can see this easily by looking at what the rear gave the armies in 1944, and comparing it to what they gave them in 1941. They had 6 months notice they would invade, they weren't being bombed, etc. And by late summer and early fall 1941, they were instead switching factories away from armaments, because they thought they had already won.

This was strategic level, and it was not attrition strategy. It was overconfidence. Bred of faith in past successes, and memories of the sacrifices of WW I. The hoped that their new methods of warfare had made all of that unnecessary - the complete mobilization, the millions cycled through the fronts, the massive expenditure of treasure and blood through munitions to murder enemy armies. At the operational level, they were seeking annihilation much more by maneuver than by battle. At a tactical level, they had come to believe in armor as the restorer of shock in the old sense, and the decisive arm, always to be employed offensively.

The pure blood maneuverists, criticizing the performance and outcome, say they didn't shoot for the brain they hacked at the muscle, and that is why they lost. The brain was in fact mobile, and behind acres of muscle. In France, the odds created by killing half the enemy army proved immediately decisive. In Russia even higher losses did not. The time scale was longer and forces per unit time mattered, as they hadn't in the west. The Russians drove theirs up immediately, and the Germans did not.

Thus the paradox, the Russians beat the Germans in a war of attrition that Germans knew how to run and could have run, *by beating them to the draw* - even though the Russians were the ones surprised, completely, and hopelessly on the defensive for the first six months.

The Russians lost 40% of their industrial production from a base of the same size, and outproduced the Germans in tanks by 2 to 1. How? They produced at the same peak rate, longer. (They got there in 1942, the Germans didn't until 1944).

You can't win a war of attrition by not trying. And you won't try if you don't know you are in a war of attrition. And you won't admit that you are in a war of attrition, if doctrinally it is anathema to face the reality of attrition.

The Germans of early WW II were perfectly willing to believe in attrition *for the other guy*, and targeted his fielded forces on that basis. But they weren't willing to admit it applied to them, too, that they weren't above it and untouchable by its logic. Fundamentally, because it is indeed extremely painful and Germany had been through that pain in WW I, without success - a prospect difficult to contemplate facing again.

Which is nevertheless exactly what happened to them.

End old quotes - FWIW...
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olivier R
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The Battlefront forums were a gold mine, I learned so much there about tactics and the war it is not even funny. But they have gone to shit lately for some reason but the old threads are still archived.

Here is the swamp monster thread that talks about what happened to these huge russian mech corps in 1941 :

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=39643&...

This game red sun rising sounds interesting especially the attack and then move mechanism for the russians. I looked into it before but I don't think I have a table big enough for three maps. But it sounds like the german player could completely avoid fighting if he wanted to.

I have not played A Victory Denied yet, only received the game two days ago.

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Oh Adam, I wouldn't call Jason a traditionalist. About that Kiev encirclement for instance which is directly linked to AVD, pretty much everyone is quick to point how it was a mistake and how the germans should have kept going for Moscow instead. Whereas Jason thinks it was the right move and also pretty consistent with the german doctrine as well as the objective of Barbarossa defined before the launch of the operation.

I quote Glantz here, Before Stalingrad, Barbarossa - Hitler's invasion of Russia 1941 p.13

"Hitler did not issue his Directive 21 for Fall Barbarossa until 18 December. When he finally did so his clear intention was to destroy the Red Army rather than achieve any specific terrain or political objective :

The mass of the Red army stationed in Western Russia is to be destroyed in bold operations involving deep penetrations by armoured spearheads, and the withdrawal of elements capable of combat into the extensive Russian land spaces is to be prevented. By means of rapid pursuit a line is then to be reached from beyond which the Russian air force will no longer be capable of attacking the German home territories. [Heinrici]

Two weeks before, in one of many planning conferences for Barbarossa, Hitler had noted that, in comparison with the goal of destroying the Soviet armed forces, 'Moscow is of no great importance.' [Halder]"

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pepe le moko wrote:
Two weeks before, in one of many planning conferences for Barbarossa, Hitler had noted that, in comparison with the goal of destroying the Soviet armed forces, 'Moscow is of no great importance.' [Halder]"
He learned half of the lesson from Napoleon.
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Jason Cawley
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It is Red Star Rising. Rising suns are Japan - lol.

Yes the table space requirement is pretty large. You don't need to use the northern Finland map for several of the big scenarios, and there is a small intro scenario depicting the Stalingrad counterattack that plays on part of one map and you can finish in an hour or so. But that is really just meant to teach game mechanics, like a tutorial.

There is another reason for VASSAL modules by the way. Not everyone can put huge maps on a table and leave them there long enough to replay all of WW II in the east. There is a VASSAL module for RSR by the way. With a game that large I actually find the board version more playable, though - there is just a lot of scrolling and clicking needed to do a turn in the electronic version. If you have the table area and time, the physical game is easier to play.

As for completely avoiding fighting, the Germans can't quite manage that in RSR, in practice, but they can get close to it when they want to for most of the year for most of the force. But not vs. Russian mech or during the winter. A couple of MP based mechanics and an overrun rule cause this.

First there are overruns, which work just like ordinary attacks and do not have some odds threshold to be allowed, and occur during the movement phase. They are restricted to a single starting stack, which for the Russians generally means one army, or especially tank army (Russian corps can stack 2 units, the armies cannot stack). But they can run up to and into the German defenders even if the latter break contact.

Breaking contact isn't trivial, it costs 3 MPs to leave a ZOC (2 for Russians in snow turns), on top of the normal terrain cost. The Russian vanilla infantry and Axis minors only *have* 3 MPs. German infantry has 4. This again lets the Germans (barely) break contact, while the Russian vanilla rifle forces cannot do so, except in winter. Only German armor (and a few weak Russian cavalry units in winter only) can move ZOC to ZOC.

Oh did I mention overruns also cost 3 MPs? 2 for Russians during snow turns. Well then, a Russian infantry army with an intervening blank space between it and the nearest German, cannot attack them in the combat phase because they aren't next to them, and can't quite hit them with an overrun attack in the movement phase outside of winter, because it costs 4 MPs to get there. This lets the Germans backpeddle vs rifle only for most of the year.

In winter, if they start out far enough away they can give up 2 hexes a turns and stay out of reach, but if they hit ZOC they can't get far enough away to be clear of even infantry overrun attacks. (German infantry moves once a turn, it has 4 MPs, it costs them 3 to leave ZOC so they only get 1 hex between them and the Russians, then the Russian infantry can move 1 to close, and still have 2 to pay the lower winter overrun cost for Russians).

But Russian Guards have 4 MPs, enough to break contact or arrange an overrun even outside of winter turns. Russian mech corps (weak but available early) have 5 MPs and can reach and slow things, but generally can't overrun anything themselves (just not strong enough). But the tank armies are very strong and get stronger with time and have 7 MPs. But there are only a handful of them. The result is wherever the Russians put their elite forces they can force battle even when the Germans try to deny it, and in winter they are dangerous across the entire length of the front.

Meanwhile on defense only those improved Russian types can break contact, the plain rifle armies can be pinned down by just putting a ZOC on them, and they will remain stuck until they can fight themselves free. But then they don't much mind taking a step loss if they *can* get free - they will heal it rapidly - so they flail away trying. The Germans stand next to the Russians to immobilize them but pay for it by getting hit, or back away to avoid their swings but that lets them move.

Very elegant tactical mechanics. There should be more small scenarios for it so people get a chance to see the system; the time and table space commitment are hiding a very good game from many potential players in my opinion. (VASSAL is a natural place to introduce more limited RSR scenarios incidentally).

Meanwhile the German infantry has 4 MPs (5 for broken-down division strength bits), enough to break contact or to overrun weak units, and the German mech has 8 MPs (actually 7 for full panzer corps and 8 for the broken down bits, which are used to surround stuff etc) and the special ability to move ZOC to ZOC just paying the 3 MP ZOC-exiting cost. Oh and it gets to move twice a turn, which over the turn break is also in a row, mech then everything then combat. So it can potentially attack up to 5 times in a single game turn (enough MPs for 2 overruns per movement phase, plus combat). It just can't afford to be flipped for step losses 5 times a game turn and remain on the map! The practical limit to its attacking power is attrition from CRT results wearing out the spearheads, not the sequence of play. The Germans can decide to drive op-tempo through the roof by using multiple overrun attacks with their armor, but averaged over all dice it always costs them in irreplacable armor steps.

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Oh yes red star not rising sun laugh

Yes it definitely sounds like a fun game, interesting mechanisms. I should give it a try one of these days.
 
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JasonC wrote:
There is another reason for VASSAL modules by the way. Not everyone can put huge maps on a table and leave them there long enough to replay all of WW II in the east. There is a VASSAL module for RSR by the way. With a game that large I actually find the board version more playable, though - there is just a lot of scrolling and clicking needed to do a turn in the electronic version. If you have the table area and time, the physical game is easier to play.
Have you tried RSR module version 4? It's great for solo play and online play, but not that great for PBEM play. Using that version, the play time is waaay shorter than playing physical version.
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Bill Lawson
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Its excellent for online play!
 
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Jason Cawley
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I hadn't I used the older one. I've tried the version you mentioned for the intro scenario, and yes it is a vast improvement in playability terms.
 
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