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Summer Lightning: The Invasion of Poland 1939» Forums » Reviews

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JOE LIBRANDI
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This game came highly recommended. After returning to boardwargaming after 20+ years, SUMMER LIGHTNING was one of the operational level games recommended to me by a fellow gamer. After Marco Arnaudo’s glowing video review, I was sold.

I had high hopes for this game because this period of the war isn’t covered much, and the game wasn’t too complex. But after two attempts I’ve come away very disappointed. For one thing, I’m more into historical than hypothetical wargaming, so the vanilla historical scenario for this game is the one I tried. I know Poland’s situation was desperate in September 1939, but as translated to the gameplay in SUMMER LIGHTNING, it was downright tedious and boring.

I never had to make defensive casualty rolls for the Poles because they were automatically destroyed in every battle and the Germans never had to use a single air point in the first two turns (overkill.) After the initial German onslaught on turn one, the only action the Poles could take on their turn was to improve their positions in order to defend their cities and towns and delay the German advance. Attacking German units would have been suicide. The IPs also proved to be worthless for defense (-1 modifier), and by the second turn the Germans were already in striking distance of attacking Warsaw after eliminating over 28 Polish units.

The way a typical battle played out was: the Germans would move all six divisions and subdivisions in command of an activated HQ unit and attack any Polish stacks they could reach. This meant six casualty checks for the defending Polish stack and at most three casualty checks for the attacking Germans. The CCT for the German attackers was usually around 20-30 even without any air points, so the Matrix Modifiers and the feeble defense modifiers of -1 for a town/-2 for a city, -1 for a river, and -1 for an Improved Position still didn’t lower the CCT down to ten for the defending Poles which resulted in an automatic step loss. Six casualty checks=six step losses. Goodbye stack. The Germans might suffer one step loss for a sub division as a result of their attack.

After a couple of turns of this, I realized there was no way the Poles had a chance, so I quit.

Maybe the optional rules make this game playable, but I like historical. In addition, all combat units pretty much have the same factors which keeps the game less complex at the expense of variety.

The tediousness of scenario set-up and the experience of gameplay after my first two tries would dampen my enthusiasm for playing SUMMER LIGHTNING again.



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Brian Train
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I'm sorry this game did not live up to your expectations,

But you know, when I was doing my reading on the historical campaign, no matter how many times I reread the material, the Poles always lost!

All snark aside, that is exactly why I put so many variations into the game, for use once players had gotten used to the game system (which, as others have remarked, is a bit different from what a lot of gamers are used to).

The combat example you gave seemed to me a bit contrived. The biggest "killer corps" the Germans could assemble would be 26 CF (the two 5 CF armor divisions and four assorted 4 CF divisions - maybe a few more if you scraped up all three separate regiments from across the front). Everything else would be on the order of 18-20 CF. Let's put that against a "good" Polish stack of three 3 CF divisions.

The worst thing that could happen for either side would be a Blitzkrieg matched against a Counterattack: +2 on casualty checks for either side. Again, yes, there would be six casualty checks against the Polish stack with six certain step losses; however, the CCT against the Germans would be at least 11, (9 CF +2 from the table + any Terrain Modifier), done three times over, for three German step losses. Now, depending on how the German player distributes his losses, his 26 CF killer corps is now 19-20 CF - six or seven CF losses against nine Polish CF losses. That's not a slaughter, that's what would, in a simpler game like D-Day or Onslaught, be an EXchange result at 3-1 odds.

(I'm not sure why you say the German loss would be at most one step loss - is it not clear from the rules that Casualty Checks are done simultaneously?)

And the next time that killer corps hits the line, it will cause only three or at most four casualty checks (it's the beginning of the game, so not enough German casualties to generate Replacement Points yet). And so on.

Anyway, I hope you give the game another chance beyond the second turn, and try to explore some of the variations in play.

Brian
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JOE LIBRANDI
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Yes, the Germans ultimately lost WWII as well, but there are a ton of games where you play the Germans and have fun. We know how the Battle of the Bulge turns out, but there are plenty of titles depicting the battle. Playing the Polish side in this game was boring and tedious.

I said the Germans might have lost a step or two when attacking but that was rare and with very poor casualty check rolls. Three defending Polish divisions defending might be 9 CCTs + Matrix modifier + terrain effects may cause German casualties, but at least they had a chance to survive where the Polish stacks were wiped out. You're citing a best case scenario for the Polish defenders and even if they managed to cause three step losses to the German attackers, they lost three divisions permanently, plus their VPs, while the German onslaught continued.

Defending in cities with IPs behind rivers was totally ineffective for the defenders. It was silly and frustrating. All the German has to do is outflank and add an air point or two to cancel out the terrain modifiers.

I did play through to the second turn to see if attrition took it's toll on the Germans and made the game more competitive, but it was a cakewalk.

Like I said, I was looking for historical and realistic, not hypothetical.

Nice try, but I'm looking for a game (even with a predetermined loser) that causes me to think about strategy and tactics.
 
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Brian Train
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Well, I appreciate your spending your time on the game, to try out something different at any rate. I see you've put your copy up for sale already, hope you can find it a good home!

Brian
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Tom Russell
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joe6778 wrote:

I said the Germans might have lost a step or two when attacking but that was rare and with very poor casualty check rolls. Three defending Polish divisions defending might be 9 CCTs + Matrix modifier + terrain effects may cause German casualties, but at least they had a chance to survive where the Polish stacks were wiped out. You're citing a best case scenario for the Polish defenders and even if they managed to cause three step losses to the German attackers, they lost three divisions permanently, plus their VPs, while the German onslaught continued.


The Poles have to conserve their forces early on. Starting from the second turn, they can choose their Defense Mission. If taking Casualty Checks is going to result in six step losses for you and one or two for the Axis, then why on earth are you going to make Casualty Checks? Pick Withdrawl, move back three hexes-- towards Warsaw if you can. Only fight back when you can give better than you're getting.

And as for the inevitable rebuttal, "What if I can't withdrawl?", well, your goal in the first turn should be to make damn sure you have places to retreat to. Your goal in the set-up should be to make sure you deploy units to insulate your more valuable units in the same stack from casualties.

I'm not trying to say that you're wrong for disliking the game, or trying to convince you to change your mind-- hey, to each their own-- but in my experience the game is full of decisions, tactical and strategic, and knotty ones, for both players.
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JOE LIBRANDI
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ltmurnau wrote:
Well, I appreciate your spending your time on the game, to try out something different at any rate. I see you've put your copy up for sale already, hope you can find it a good home!

Brian


Brian-

I really DID want to like this game; I liked the limited complexity, the affordable price, the Matrix concept with varying attack/defense options, the subject, the rules tightness overall, the solitaire playablility, and especially your responsiveness and your obvious love for your design. I just think the Polish side has extremely limited options and was not competitive in the historical scenario (which I would mostly be playing.) I was looking for something more.

Obviously, there are other players who think I'm dead wrong.

I wish you much success for SUMMER LIGHTNING and future designs.


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Mike Willner
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Hey! A post where the author didn't like the game ... but didn't turn it into an opportunity to rant, insult the designer, and berate anyone who liked the game or came to its defense!

Thanks, Joe.
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Brian Train
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Thank you Joe - if you liked the combat matrix system and its possibilities, you may want to look at my Autumn Mist: The Battle of the Bulge, the first game I did with the system back in 2005, and Balkan Gambit which is due to come out this year. Copies of the Bulge game are not hard to find or expensive, and the situation in the Balkan game (the Allied invasions of the Balkans that weren't, and a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia in 1949) is quite loopy and interesting IMO.

Mike: yes, we've all been very grown-up about this and I'm grateful. Wish there could be more such behaviour on BGG!

Brian
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JOE LIBRANDI
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ltmurnau wrote:
Thank you Joe - if you liked the combat matrix system and its possibilities, you may want to look at my Autumn Mist: The Battle of the Bulge, the first game I did with the system back in 2005, and Balkan Gambit which is due to come out this year. Copies of the Bulge game are not hard to find or expensive, and the situation in the Balkan game (the Allied invasions of the Balkans that weren't, and a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia in 1949) is quite loopy and interesting IMO.

Mike: yes, we've all been very grown-up about this and I'm grateful. Wish there could be more such behaviour on BGG!

Brian


Actually, I decided to keep the game and give it another shot. I'll look into the other titles as well.
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Brian Train
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Thanks Joe, I hope you will look at the other games - you might find the situations more interesting.

The funny thing is that years ago, I developed this matrix combat system intending to use it in a Manchuria 1945 game. An opportunity arose in 2003 to have a Bulge game published and that's where Autumn Mist came from. The first opportunity did not pan out and eventually I published it through Fiery Dragon in 2005, following it with Balkan Gambit in 2007 (the game is only appearing now the recession derailed the publisher's plans). Then in 2009 I designed Summer Lightning and turned it in, but it took until the end of 2010/early 2011 for the game to make its Pxxx nut. I never did do that Manchuria game and now that it's 2012, I appear to be overdue for designing the next game using the system. I'd better get on with it but I have several other ideas on the cook right now....

Brian
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JOE LIBRANDI
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BrooklynMike wrote:
Hey! A post where the author didn't like the game ... but didn't turn it into an opportunity to rant, insult the designer, and berate anyone who liked the game or came to its defense!

Thanks, Joe.


Hey, Mike! You're the guy who sent me the e-mail a few months ago recommending this game and a few others. Remember me? I'm the Brooklyn born guy transplanted to AZ just getting back into board wargaming.
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Mike Willner
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joe6778 wrote:
BrooklynMike wrote:
Hey! A post where the author didn't like the game ... but didn't turn it into an opportunity to rant, insult the designer, and berate anyone who liked the game or came to its defense!

Thanks, Joe.


Hey, Mike! You're the guy who sent me the e-mail a few months ago recommending this game and a few others. Remember me? I'm the Brooklyn born guy transplanted to AZ just getting back into board wargaming.


Hey, Joe ... I do remember our exchange. Thanks for showing some Brooklyn class here on the Geek!
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Brian Train
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Hee hee... this is too much!

Brian
 
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greg C
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Hi Brian (or anybody else out there) Please help. I have just received Summer Lighting Poland 39, from my source in the US, Michael Dean Fine Games. The rules differ significantly from the old SPI or Avalon Hill style and I am struggling to get going with the game.

What does losing a "step" mean? Does it mean a game-turn loss during which the unit is not allowed to do anything?

Combat results - since it's not like the SPI system Summer Lightning combat results look like Greek to me. What precisely tells me who must take a casualty check and when? This is a huge challenge for my traditional SPI mind!! Please help.

Criticism - (probably the publishers/printers, nothing to do with Mr Train) the hexagon grid is so faint that it cannot be seen in some places.

Criticism - the Polish infantry symbol is complete (cross lines in a box) but the German infantry units just have an empty box symbol - why?

I write to you all the from South Africa - yes, there are a few people at the bottom end of this continent who play war games!!!
 
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Martin Gallo
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Welcome (back) to the modern world of wargaming. Still a great hobby but now with more details and colors.

gregsa wrote:
What does losing a "step" mean? Does it mean a game-turn loss during which the unit is not allowed to do anything?
In the olden days, counters had information on one side. Printing techniques have improved and games now have information on both sides. Quite often a counter will have a front side showing the unit at full strength and a back side showing that the unit has lost a "step" of strength (an incremental loss of troops/equipment/etc.). In the old days a unit that took a loss was removed from the game. Now they are first flipped to a reduced side and then removed on the second hit/loss.

Step losses are usually given on the CRT but now also happen due to being out of supply or some other cause.

Other wrinkles in some games include step loss markers that reduce the unit strength by percentage or just a subtraction. Some games have multiple counters to represent a single unit.

gregsa wrote:
Combat results - since it's not like the SPI system Summer Lightning combat results look like Greek to me. What precisely tells me who must take a casualty check and when? This is a huge challenge for my traditional SPI mind!! Please help.
I am not familiar with this CRT so cannot help you much here. There is usually some sort of description of the CRT results in the rules or on the map or chart near the CRT.

gregsa wrote:
Criticism - the Polish infantry symbol is complete (cross lines in a box) but the German infantry units just have an empty box symbol - why?
Just a guess here but the graphic artist wanted to use historical symbology of the era rather than the NATO symbols that were developed after WWII and favored by SPI.

gregsa wrote:
I write to you all the from South Africa - yes, there are a few people at the bottom end of this continent who play war games!!!
Good to hear. Great hobby! Great way to make and enjoy and keep friends.
 
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Brian Train
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Hi Greg,

Thank you for buying the game. I will try to answer your questions as clearly as I can.

Losing a step - you will see that many of the counters have lower numbers on the reverse side of the counter. This represents the military formation (represented by the counter) at a lower state of effectiveness, usually through having taken casualties or battle damage.

Usually units lose steps through Casualty Checks, inflicted during combat. Read the section of the rules on combat very carefully, and read the example of play that follows it to see how it works. The combat system is unusual and very unlike the AH/SPI games you are used to. The only time the die is used in combat is when one side or both are required to take Casualty Checks, which is determined by the intersection on the matrix of the two Mission Chits the two players selected.

Graphics: I was not responsible for any of the graphics choices. The map is quite beautiful - Marc von Martial is a real artist - but I too find the hex grid a little faint; play in a stronger light if you can. And the German unit symbols are the ones actually used by the Germans during the war; the unit symbols for the other forces are the standard NATO symbols now used in most wargames. This was another choice made by the artist and there is a unit identification chart supplied with the game. At least he did not go for little icons of running men and tanks, which is something I find very annoying and inappropriate for a non-tactical game of this scale.

Brian Train
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