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Subject: A review of VPG's The Barbarossa Campaign rss

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Edward Hung
Hong Kong
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Hi all,

I hope that this review may help readers to decide whether to try this game, and I also welcome any one for more discussion if you have tried the game. Since I have played for less than 10 times, so I hope that you will understand I have not tried all possibilities and situations and so my comments may have some slight bias. Again, comments are welcome.

First, this VPG's new product is a solitaire game emphasizing Initiative. You, as an Axis player, need to keep Axis initiative high (also high enough to get Victory Point, VP), and maintain it high enough so that Axis can still have blitz and regular combats and Soviet is less likely to have their initiative attack. Initiative is affected by development of armor tracks (both sides), Soviet industrial development, Allied lend lease, random events, capture of objective cities, random bonus of city capture, initiative of some (very few) random combat chits, and demoralization of elimination of isolated and unsupplied enemy units. The first three are mostly done by random economic counter draws. The last two cases only affect the current turn's initiative.

Second, this is a game with more randomness introduced to increase the variability of game flows and the replaybility of the game. Obviously, if there is no randomness, your every game play will mostly be the same. The randomness in introduced by (1) random card draws, (2) random Axis and Soviet economic counter draws, (3) combat chit draws.

For (1), in addition to giving more randomness, it also gives you a possibility of some "what-if" situation to handle. For example, "what if Finland expanded war and continued to attack Soviet (and Leningrad) after the little advance?", "what if Axis allies units were not so weak?", "what if Hitler was assassinated?" Besides, a random card draw may give you one or none capture bonus (for +1 initiative) when you capture a city. Please see http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/485004/some-brief-ideas-... for possible effects of random city capture bonus.

For (2), this gives you unpredictability of when Axis armor advantage will be lost, how fast Soviet's industrial strength is growing, and when Axis will get the outcome of his strategic development (Axis Strategic Mode, ASM), etc. While this kind of unpredictability will surely affect the flow of the game (and so, it will influence whether you can win early, or lose the victory at the end), it also increases the replaybility as well as the ability of story-telling and also affects your strategic decision. For example, after Soviet gets an armor economic counter and you see that Soviet's armor initiative gets the same as yours, and you draw an "Any Axis" economic counter, should you put it to your armor track to maintain your armor advantage for better blitz combats, apply your strategic effect from ASM, or instead get 2 Luftwaffe counters (to help you have more units to blitz or put back green X chits to improve your combat results)?

For (3), random combat chits replace a dice. Keeping X combat chits in the holding box after drawing them changes the probabilities of the color combat chits and also the probability of getting favorable results from turn to turn. In fact, even within a turn, drawing more green chits in the beginning (your combat phases) may mean that you are more likely to get unfavorable (e.g., red) chits during Soviet counter attack phase, because those (non-X) chits drawn will not be returned to the cup until the end of the turn. The randomness here is somehow balanced in this case. Here also gies you an opportunity to decide strategically: should I spend a Luftwaffe counter to return 4 black X chits back to the cup? or I apply a OKW Directive to reset all combat chits (but get a -1 initiative for the rest of the game).

Third, this game simulates the history quite well. For example, the Axis blitz phase helps the quick and big loss of Soviet terrotories and also surrender of a lot of Soviet units in the beginning of the game. The weaker non-finnish Axis allies units in the south of the operation line help Soviet to have a better counter attack (so that you will see Axis loses its southern land earlier and faster). If you play the game with the mind of "I want to see how the game goes as like the history, or the "what-if" case", you will be happy to see all these happenings with some minor variations (depending on your strategic decision of, e.g., where you would like to spend more effort to hold). If you really want to win, try not to be upset by the unfavorable outcome of city bonus (on average, you should get 4 city capture bonus in total as maximum, while I usually get smaller than that, sigh), or upset by the bad card events. In fact, now you have something (your bad luck) to blame at instead of your skills. (Kidding). Or, you may consider this as a "challenge" as what you can do if you get more unlucky than Hitler?

Fourth, I can see that the setting of VP system is a result of careful consideration of the developers. This is a new thing added to the older edition of this game (as far as I know, please correct me if I am wrong, as I don't have the rules of the older edition), where some players of the older edition complained that it was too easy to win. I also see the incorporation of updates of the older rules to this edition, which is very helpful.

Fifth, the addition of a few scenarios are very helpful to add the fun and replaybility of this game. Thanks Carl!

Finally, this game is totally different from another VPG Eastern Front game No Retreat! by Carl Paradis. While Carl (one of developers of this game also) also mentioned his No Retreat! game (in the thread with link given at the bottom of this post), I would also like to give a brief comparison between these two games. I encouraged readers to take a look at that game since players have much more control even though the No Retreat! game also introduces some random cards. The cards are however less determinant and could be more well used by the players to improve their positions. For example, a player can apply the card's effect (event), use a card to replace a destroyed unit, improve a battle's combat odd, or organize an unorganized unit. Besides, this game also gives you much more details throughout the whole years (2 month a turn instead of 3 months a turn; more map hexes covering a similar area (if you also play with Na Berlin! expansion kit); unique units instead of "all-the-same" line units, etc). Surely I have no personal relationship with Carl (the only relationship is that I am a fans of that game!), but Carl gives a very good support to the game by answering all players' questions and posting useful materials in BGG.

There is a thread of wonderful discussion about the randomness of this game, where Alan Emrich (the game developer) has discussed with Ulrich A (a reader with very reasonable arguments) a lot of his ideas and game philosophy. You are highly recommend reading it: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/477981/too-much-randomne...

Comments are welcome. Thanks.

Edward
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Jamieson Teo
Singapore
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Sounds like a nice solitaire game. Did you order from VP direct?
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Alan Emrich
United States
Irvine
California
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The game was just reviewed in Vae Victis magazine (a nice, 3-page spread). They seemed to have liked it very much (my French isn't that great, but the gist comes through).

Alan Emrich
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Edward Hung
Hong Kong
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That will be very nice if an English translation of the review can be released on the web after solving the problem of copyright and translation.
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