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Subject: Part II- Playing the game rss

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Tom Haesendonckx
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devilHi all,

Part II of my review will be all about the gameplay of Zvezda's Operation Barbarossa 1941. The figures and other parts of the game have been described in an earlier review.

OB 1941 is a game made by a model soldier manufacturer and that does shows a little. It uses no counters, writing everything on a unit's reference card instead. This results in nice looking battlefields but it also results in the fact that it is difficult to see the unit status in the blink of an eye.

This tends to be more of a problem when you have lots of units on the field. For example: if you have 5 infantry units (all the same units), it is unclear as to which unit is damaged, pinned,...Units are identified by a flag that conatins a number, but still...

This brings us to the next fact: there are a lot of rules. To be more clear: there are a lot of special orders, most only usable by certain specialized units (like engineers). Next to this, there are seperate rules for headquarters and for airplanes.

Again, this brings a plus and a minus. The learning curve is steep. Too steep for many casual gamers. Just steep enough for the more advanced gamer. If Memoir is very simple, Tide of Iron is medium, you would rate OB 1941 as advanced.

The manual is clear enough BUT: it is a simple listing of all the rules.
They should have honoured this games with a system like Squad Leader or, more recently, Earth Reborn, where rules are introduced step by step. As it is, you are kinda dropped in the deep: learn to swim pronto or drown arrrh

In general, this game is more detailed and, IMHO, more 'realistic' than most other figure based games that I've played. Compare it to Squad Leader (not Advanced squad leader, mind you) in this respect. That also means it is a bit slower, especially during your first 3 games, when you are still figurting everything out.

There's a lot more planning involved than what I'm used to. You give order to units, allowing them to perform certain actions. BUT: when moving, you have to plot their movement path in advance, same goes for defending (defend what field of fire and fire from what distance), surpression and so on. This adds a unique feel to this game, slowing it down, but making it realy tense.

In most games you are free to move/fire/do whatever once your unit is activated, giving you the real turn-based feeling. Not so in ON 1941. It feels like playing real time. Movement is done hex by hex, with everybody moving at once and so on. It's like playing a real time PC game with the added option of pauzing the game to give orders.

A vital factor in the game is munition (supplies). Every action that involves fighting, uses x-amount of ammo. When you are out of ammo...you are in trouble. You can resupply your units with trucks that carry extra ammo/mines/...

Conserving ammo for when you need it is key! Again, this comes down to planning.devil

To continue yet a bit on the abundance of special rules: headquarters and airplanes work very different from the rest of the forces.

Headquartes are 'hidden' although they ARE placed on the battlefield As with most boardgames, OB 1941 has problems with the concealed status. You're not supposed to know that they are there...yet you have to show it, because you need to use the support ability of your HQ which has an action radius of 2 or 3 hexes.

In terms of playability, Zvezda has solved the problem (and it in no way affects the game negatively) by showing the unit, but making it impossible to target it.

HQ's give bonuses and/or rerolls to units wihtin their command radius. They are highly effective when used in the right way. The only issue that I had with HQ's is that Russian and German HQ's cost the same in point value (35 points) but the difference is that the Russian HQ has a command radius of 2 while the germans have 3...Now...how can the PV be the same? shake I understand the 'realistic' effect, given that the Russian had some serious command difficulties, but still, I found it a bit strange.

OB 1941 also takes the fight to the skies. Airplanes are represented by models and vary from bombers to fighters, each with their special abilities. On the ground, anti-air guns are also available.

As opposed to every other figure based WWII game that is focused on land battles, Zvezda has build a very good system without using some kind of 'support' cards or some other way of representing off map support. Airplanes are based an an airfield (off map) to get refitted and resupplied and then fly mission over the battlefield.

Again, planning is essential. this system works just fine. It does take some getting used to though. The only drawback being that, when one player has selected 1 or more airplanes in his force while his opponent has no airplanes/anti-air guns,...the fight can get nasty for the defenceless player.

So, a balanced force and carefull planning is important in this game. That, to me, is always a plus. You'll always need a bit of luck, although you usually roll lots of dice (which mostly cancels out being lucky/unlucky ALL the time).

What more is there to be said: infantry + lots of specials, armored vehicles, tanks (light/medium/heavy), airplanes,smoke, minefileds, supplies, planning and tension. This game has all that and then some!

The scenarios are fun because they allow you some serious freedom. You usually get a 'fixed' force + an amount of points to spend on extra forces. This makes for great replayability.

What I missed a little were things like elite/veteran squads (German squads are better than Russian squads and cost more). Stuff like a panzer ace for example. They give some added detail to the 'story' of your scenario, making it feel less 'generic'.

The good and the bad:
Plusses:
-Great value for money, especially when building your army with expansions
-point values to build armies
-great detail and realism
-planning is very well incorporated
-feels more like a real-time game as opposed to a turn based game.
-Great use of Air planes
-Historical accuracy (both for the models and the unit stats)

Minuses:
-Steep learning curve (no step-by-step approach)
-Unlcear unit status (becasue of lack of counters)
-Needs more mapboards
-Takes a full evening to play
-Feels somewhat generic
-Lacks campaign system (as do most other games of this type)

My advice:

If you don't mind the steep learning curve and the fact that it takes a full evening to play a scenario...what are you still doing here? Buy the game already...

If you like 60-90 minute games that not difficult to teach to new players, this might not be the game for you.

If you, like me, enjoy squad leader and Tide of Iron, I can recommend it! To me, this game was one of the revelations of 2011.ninja

I hope Zvezda continues along the chosen path. They might try to improve the 'game' bits yet a little bit. At least they don't try to squeeze 40 euro out of expansions that only contain a couple of models that you really need.

Well done, Zvezda! Now support your game please and get some action out here on the Geek cool

Final score:Gameplay
Figures
Rules
Replayability

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Luigi54
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Tom
thanks for this review!
I'm going to try it sooooooooon.
ciao
Luigi
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František Orálek
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Thank you very much for review. Not so much information on the internet.

The only issue that I had with HQ's is that Russian and German HQ's cost the same in point value (35 points) but the difference is that the Russian HQ has a command radius of 2 while the germans have 3...

Wikipedia - Operation Barbarossa:

The Soviet officer corps and high command had been decimated by Stalin's Great Purge (1936–1938). Of 90 generals arrested, only six survived the purges, as did only 36 of 180 divisional commanders, and just seven out of 57 army corps commanders. In total, some 30,000 Red Army personnel were executed,[54] while more were deported to Siberia and replaced with officers deemed more "politically reliable." Three of the five pre-war marshals and about two thirds of the corps and division commanders were shot. This often left younger, less experienced officers in their places; for example, in 1941, 75% of Red Army officers had held their posts for less than one year. The average Soviet corps commander was 12 years younger than the average German division commander. These officers tended to be very reluctant to take the initiative and often lacked the training necessary for their jobs.

Very nice detail, Two thumbs up.
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Tom Haesendonckx
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I agree with the historical fact that Russia had serious problems concerning hq's and leadership in 1941.

Actually, I'm married to a Russian woman, and they still seem to have some problems in that fieldlaugh

I would agree to limit the command capabilities in some way on the Russian side.

The idea of point values, however, is to allow players to field a roughly equal value force.

When one unit is clearly better than the other, this should be reflected in the points cost.
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Marco Arnaudo
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thank you for the review. I got my copy in the mail today. Very excited about trying it!!
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Robert Riddell
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This sounds like a great game. I enjoy Tide of Iron, also. Thanks for posting this.

Are the models on the same scale as TOI? I will look for part I of your review.

Thanks
++++

ok, I found on their web site that the vehicles are 1:100.
That seems to be bigger than the TOI vehicles.
Correct me if I am wrong.
 
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Robert Riddell
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Which stores are offering this game?
 
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Tom Haesendonckx
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I only know the stores over here in Europe...

You can find them using the link to the scenarios and rules that I posted earlier.
 
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Tom Haesendonckx
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Vehicles are bigger than their TOI counterparts. They are also more detailed.

A bigger 'issue' is that anti-tanbk guns and artillery are 1/72th scale and so they seem a bit big when compared to the tanks.
 
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Keith Plymale
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Here in the USA Warstore.com has all of the stuff for this game. I have gotten some of the vehicles for use in FOW from them. Very impressed with the quality.
 
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