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Subject: Asymmetry Near the Arctic Circle rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Winter War is a simple hex and counter SPI oldie on the Russo-Finnish War, a conflict that saw the Red Army humiliated, emboldening Germany when it made its plans for Barbarossa. This, and the Nazi army's opening drive in 1941, led to many military experts declaring that the Soviet Union's defeat was imminent. Of course it was not, but the Winter War forever stands as Finland's finest military hour and quite possibly the Soviet Union's worst.

Gameplay (25 out of 28): Winter War is fought in up to ten turns, in which the Soviets move and attack, followed by the same for the Finnish player and then event dice are rolled if you are using the optional rules. Deployment is for the most part not set, so both sides can investigate alternative strategies. I think the variation in deployment and events makes each game more fresh than similar fare from the era, such as Afrika Korps.

Soviets Push Into Finland:


The Soviets must seize victory point locations, with four of them being major cities. In addition, the Soviets must attack units adjacent to them on each turn and they have a more limited supply network. The Finns are on defensive, and while outnumbered, they have many options. For one their units are concealed until attacked and they have ski units that are good at delaying the Soviets. Also the Finns have the advantage of some strong defensive lines, no supply limits inside Finland, and the possibility of French and British aid. Most importantly, the Finns do not have to attack units adjacent to them. The situation for both sides is as asymmetrical as Gaugamela, Braddock's Defeat, and Leyte Gulf.

I'd like to say more about the gameplay, but that pretty much sums it up. Wargames in the early 1970s were simple affairs, and Winter War is no different in this regard.

Strategic (4 out of 5): For the Finns, as flexible as they are, they are outnumbered and the Soviets have some truly powerful units at their disposal. That being said, the game is hard enough for the Russians: their logistics are, outside of Leningrad, are constraining, while an attacker eliminated result is very painful and can lead to Finnish counter offensives. The game is balanced without the events, which ramp up the difficulty for the Soviets but add a dimension that was lacking in games of this period: forces outside your control.

Accessibility (5 out of 5): With only four pages of rules, Winter War is a classic of the old playable SPI games. It won't overwhelm a novice, and a player with moderate experience will fly through the game.

Old Game Advertisement:


Components (3 out of 5): Older games always suffer in this category, but Winter War is a strange exception. I do not like the way the units look and strangely enough the typography is off on the units in copy I borrowed, forcing me to use homemade units. However, I love the map. It is not flashy, but it is evocative with is muted blend of white, blue, and gray. This is something I cannot say for other games of the era.

The Units:


The Map is Simple, but also Evocative:


Originality (1 out of 2): Winter War may not have broken the mold, but the inclusion of optional event dice, which can give you anything from German aggressive behavior to better Soviet logistics, makes this a game where killer opening moves can be more readily curtailed, even if the Soviets seem to usually suffer.

Historical Quality (4 out of 5): The game captures the situation with simple effectiveness. The Soviets are more powerful, but less flexible, while the Finns have a small army but a superior position. Over time Soviet power becomes more irresistible, while the Finns hope for either game turn 10 or a cease-fire. This seems to capture the spirit of the conflict, if not the minute details.

Overall (42 out of 50): Winter War is a fast and furious game that while not a hyper accurate simulation, will provide a player with an understanding of the Soviet invasion of Finland in a quick playing game. Winter War has stood the test time because it is playable, features events, has variable deployment options, and the map has an evocative quality.

Fear the Finns:!
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Seth Owen
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Peso Pete wrote:
Great review, Sean. I think Winter War ranks among the top ten S&T's ever done. It combines simple mechanics with just enough wrinkles to make it interesting. You include all of the variable options in this game and you have a game that can be played and enjoyed for years. A true classic.


I agree. It's stood the test of time better than nearly every other SPI game from that era. Excellent review.


I generally play without the random evengts when playing two-player because they cn really skew the game results and do make the job harder for the Soviets but it's a nice thing to have when playing solitaire because you can't real;ly use the hidden units as the Finns while playing solitaire so the random events help redress the game balance plus they tend to add some spice to a solitaire outing.
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Pete Belli
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Winter War was (if memory serves) one of the few "outside" designs ever published by SPI... I don't think it was created by an SPI staff member.

Thanks for giving this classic a little exposure on BGG.
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Robert Lee
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Thanks for the review, I remember this one,we used to play this with the random events table but there was a random event which was German threat to Leningrad in which the big Soviet 20 strength points were withdrawn making a Soviet win very difficult , this in reality of 1940 was pretty much unlikely as Germany still had to deal with France at this point, but pretty much in tune with the crazy random events table in 1970's wargaming. There was a rule I think where the large strength units couldn't operate north of a certain hex row and the small Finnish SKi troops that could retreat before combat.
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Lance McMillan
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Sun_Shang_Xiang wrote:
There was a rule I think where the large strength units couldn't operate north of a certain hex row and the small Finnish Ski troops that could retreat before combat.


If you look at the first picture included in the review, on the extreme right side of the shot you'll see a letter 'A' with an arrow. This is the "Arctic Circle" line. The Soviets are restricted from operating their 20-12-2 infantry corps, and the Finns their strong 6-6-2 infantry divisions, north of that line. This means that the picture shows an illegal situation as there are two Finnish 6-6-2s one hex over the line.

The Finnish 0-0-2 Ski patrols and 1-1-3 infantry battalions were able to exercise a retreat-before-combat option, providing the units began the combat phase north of the 'A' row.
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Rob Johnson
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Great review!

I'm ashamed to say I've never played Winter War, despite being a SwedeFinn, an SPI Fanatic and Talvisota Freak.

I guess I'm kind of holding out for a Company/Platoon-level game.

Hakkaa Pääle!
(Cut them down!)

PS If you want to see a truly grueling movie about this war, see Pekka Parikka's "The Winter War (Talvisota)". Very much the Finn's answer to Full Metal Jacket. Outstanding!
Try Belle and Blade if you can find it nowhere else.

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Mike Windsor
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Thanks for the review. Winter War was one of my favorite games growing up, and its one of the few that I'm really sorry I let go. It also had the best game cover of all time:
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Carl Paradis
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I really like that game. Thanks for the review!

It's tru that the counters (and the map) are not super-great.

I should do a remake of the copunters one of these days. Next month would be feasible. The map could be remade too, but it is a bit more time-consuming.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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I generally play without the random evengts when playing two-player because they cn really skew the game results and do make the job harder for the Soviets but it's a nice thing to have when playing solitaire because you can't real;ly use the hidden units as the Finns while playing solitaire so the random events help redress the game balance plus they tend to add some spice to a solitaire outing.


Right on Seth. In competitive play the events are not that great, but solo they work quite well.

Quote:
If you look at the first picture included in the review, on the extreme right side of the shot you'll see a letter 'A' with an arrow. This is the "Arctic Circle" line. The Soviets are restricted from operating their 20-12-2 infantry corps, and the Finns their strong 6-6-2 infantry divisions, north of that line. This means that the picture shows an illegal situation as there are two Finnish 6-6-2s one hex over the line.


I fear that event because it happened to me! The war sort of broke down after that.
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Don Clarke
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Great review, Sean. I enjoyed that a lot!

As it happens, I have a slow-burning project on the go to finally give substance to the mythical 2nd edition of John Kranz's SPI Revival e-zine. That edition was to have been devoted entirely to Winter War.

I need two good Winter War players, both of whom legally own a genuine copy of the game, to play a game through to conclusion using the Cyberboard module. After each turn they simply have to record their thoughts in as much detail as they wish. Comments made will be secret, especially from the opponent, until the end of the game.

There can be no payment, since I would want the e-zine to go out free of charge and free of uninvited advertising, but there will be full credits for those involved hence much, much glory!

I have other material on standby, and the replay will bring the project close to completion.

If you are interested please email/message me.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Here's my gaming buddy's avatar:

Dick Jarvinen
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That pretty well sums it up.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Here's my gaming buddy's avatar:

Dick Jarvinen
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That pretty well sums it up.


Great avatar. Besides being the cover of Winter War isn't that the famous Simo Häyhä?
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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gittes wrote:
Great avatar. Besides being the cover of Winter War isn't that the famous Simo Häyhä?

Yes, I believe so. It's a great photo that has been used many times.
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Richard Nelson

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This has always been one of my all-time favorites as well. I still have my jealously-hoarded copy, though it's getting dogeared now. I too hope that someone will update and re-release it--yet keep the ease of playability of the original.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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This has always been one of my all-time favorites as well. I still have my jealously-hoarded copy, though it's getting dogeared now. I too hope that someone will update and re-release it--yet keep the ease of playability of the original.


Decision should release a new high quality copy.
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Zagros Sadjadi
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Decision Games does not own the rights to Winter War. Paragon Simulations International does. We (Paragon Simulations International) purchased it from 3W and we are still hoping to rerelease it someday in the future or license its rerelease (we have a redone map and counters and the rules have been somewhat updated but only slightly--it is hard to improve on such a great initial design).

Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Thanks for the news Zargos. Can't wait to see the reissue.
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Vicomte13 13
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I loved "Winter War" and played it over and over and over again.

I agree that the random events table was skewed against the Soviets.

The thing I found about the game, though, was that it was essentially impossible for the Soviets to win anything other than a marginal victory, assuming the Finns deploy their heavy units properly.

The Soviets cannot breach the Mannerheim Line with the forces they have until well into the game. And by that time, with their low movement rates, they cannot reach the objective hexes that give them the points for a major victory.


The Soviets can always take Petsamo.
Eventually they can take the Lake Ladoga Line and the Mannerheim Line, if the game goes for 10 turns (if the random events shorten the game, the USSR can't even do that). But by the time they do, the Finnish victory hexes are too far away to reach before turn 10.

The Soviets never, ever reach Oulu.

As far as I can see, the only way for the USSR to win a decisive victory is literally to throw everything at the Mannerheim Line by turn 3 and hope for amazing luck on the dice. Otherwise there is just not enough time to get anywhere valuable.

Thoughts?
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Jim Marshall
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gittes wrote:
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Here's my gaming buddy's avatar:

Dick Jarvinen
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That pretty well sums it up.


Great avatar. Besides being the cover of Winter War isn't that the famous Simo Häyhä?


Late to the party as ever, but I understand that it's a photo of a Swedish volunteer fighting for the Finns.

I vaguely recall reading this on the internet a few years ago, so I'm sure it can be trusted ...
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VIcomte13 wrote:
I loved "Winter War" and played it over and over and over again.

I agree that the random events table was skewed against the Soviets.

The thing I found about the game, though, was that it was essentially impossible for the Soviets to win anything other than a marginal victory, assuming the Finns deploy their heavy units properly.

The Soviets cannot breach the Mannerheim Line with the forces they have until well into the game. And by that time, with their low movement rates, they cannot reach the objective hexes that give them the points for a major victory.


The Soviets can always take Petsamo.
Eventually they can take the Lake Ladoga Line and the Mannerheim Line, if the game goes for 10 turns (if the random events shorten the game, the USSR can't even do that). But by the time they do, the Finnish victory hexes are too far away to reach before turn 10.

The Soviets never, ever reach Oulu.

As far as I can see, the only way for the USSR to win a decisive victory is literally to throw everything at the Mannerheim Line by turn 3 and hope for amazing luck on the dice. Otherwise there is just not enough time to get anywhere valuable.

Thoughts?


I think that's reasonable. My wife got a strategic victory against me as the Soviets by gambling on the Mannerheim.
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Carl Paradis
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Jim Marshall wrote:

I vaguely recall reading this on the internet a few years ago, so I'm sure it can be trusted ...


You are correct... meeple

http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/swedish-volunteer-winter-war...

“It is known that at least 8,000 Swedes voluntarily went to Finland to fight alongside the Finns. The Swedish government and public also sent food, clothing, medicine, weapons and ammunition to aid the Finns during this conflict. This military aid included: 135,402 rifles, 347 machine guns, 450 light machine guns with 50,013,300 rounds of small arms ammunition; 144 field guns, 100 anti-aircraft guns and 92 anti-armor guns with 301 846 shells; 300 sea mines and 500 depth charges; 17 fighter aircraft, 5 light bombers, 1 DC-2 transport aircraft turned into bomber, and 3 reconnaissance aircraft, totally comprising 1/3 of the Swedish air force at the time.”
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Vicomte13 13
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Neopeius wrote:
My wife got a strategic victory against me as the Soviets by gambling on the Mannerheim.


Your WIFE will play a wargame with you, and play well enough to win?

Dude, YOU rolled the perfect score on the dice when you found her. Some of us in this universe did manage to get married and all that, but you are probably the only one who actually found a woman who was willing to play these games. At best, the rest of our wives TOLERATE our hobby, while hoping we don't talk about it in public.

Kudos.

In fact, I think "My wife got a strategic victory..." is the ultimate mic drop in the wargaming world. If you never posted again, you still win!

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Carl Paradis
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VIcomte13 wrote:

Your WIFE will play a wargame with you, and play well enough to win?


I find that, with identical game experience, women are better than men at most complex games, as they are superior at multi-tasking. Something very important in most Wargames. And I'm not even talking about "diplomatic" games, where they leave us far far away in the loser's queue, eating dust clouds.
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VIcomte13 wrote:


In fact, I think "My wife got a strategic victory..." is the ultimate mic drop in the wargaming world. If you never posted again, you still win!



I read this aloud to my wife, who appreciated it We're going to play Frederick the Great soon.

We actually have a lot of wargaming women in our crowd. The trick is to get a women into wargaming rather than look for women in the wargaming world.



and my daughter insisted on one of her, too:

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licinius wrote:
VIcomte13 wrote:

Your WIFE will play a wargame with you, and play well enough to win?


I find that, with identical game experience, women are better than men at most complex games, as they are superior at multi-tasking. Something very important in most Wargames. And I'm not even talking about "diplomatic" games, where they leave us far far away in the loser's queue, eating dust clouds.


My wife is actually the serial thinker among us. She tends to be slower than me at wargames, but a strong match.
 
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