Colin Raitt
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The winter counter-offensive of 1941 left the Germans occupying a deep salient with Rzhev at its northern tip. Zhukov intends to cut off the German 9th army by attacking both flanks. 9th army is heavily outnumbered but has more experienced troops and Stalin will switch resources to Stalingrad if progress is slow.


Key features
• Hex & counter
• ZOC (zone of control)
• CRT (combat results table)
• 2 day turns
• 5 mile hexes
• Divisions and regiments
• Attack supply track
• Chit pull activation
• Russian command rigidity
• Overruns
• Bad weather
• Mechanised exploitation movement
• Blasted interference from high command

Stalin will continue to support the attack if 2 of these 6 locations are taken.


Sequence of play.
1 Roll for weather, new supply points and withdrawals.
2 Spend supply on some corps/armies.
3 Check supply status of all units.
4 Put some corps/army HQ chits into activation cup.
5 a Draw a chit
b move units of that corps/army
c attack
d mechanised move
e check for operational halt
f back to step a

Combat results are expressed as hits. Every second hit can be taken as a retreat even by the attacker. 3:2 odds or less favour the defender. Column shifts for combined arms, tank superiority (5:1 superiority needed reminiscent of europa series), terrain, weather, fieldworks, HQ support, 1st turn barrage. The attacker can advance up to 20 miles if the defender is pushed out.

Volga. This flows for 100 miles on the map from west to east through Rzhev. It is impassable to mechanised units except at 2 bridges. It effectively cuts the Russians into an eastern and western fronts. Much further downstream the battle for Stalingrad began a week ago.

Roads and rails radiate from the salient. This allows unengaged German troops to move between sectors more easily than the russians.

Overrun. This is a half strength attack at the start of a movement phase by a panzer division, panzer grenadier division, tank corps or mechanised corps. The formation must be stacked adjacent to the target. It is only really useful against lone brigades/regiments but success could let infantry participate in the breakthrough.

Qualitative differences. German infantry divisions are a little faster than the Russians (move 7 rather than 6) and can split into regiments which increases the number of steps they have and the length of front they can cover. Panzer divisions are faster than soviet tank/mechanised corps (move 10 vs 8), are doubled in strength if stacked together and can overrun in mech as well as regular movement. German corps HQ are much faster than Russian armies (move 12 rather than3), support more attacks and can control any troops within range. Russian HQs can only control their assigned units. The Russian player can change only 1 HQ from those he sent to the cup on the previous turn.

Chit pull activation. The order that activation chits come out of the cup is random which simulates fog of war and friction. Both sides can activate 7 of their 9 HQs on average, maybe more, maybe less. If you put all your chits in the vital sectors may not activate at all. It also makes solitaire play more interesting. Finally it makes 2 player games more interactive.

Attack supply. Russia starts with 14 supply points and gains 3 a turn. Each supply point allows 1 of the 9 armies to attack at full strength but they will run out after 2 turns if all are supplied. HQs can still activate even if they don’t have supply and often will. The Germans start with 4 supply points and gain 3.5 points a turn on average. They typically save them up then launch counterattacks with several panzer divisions under 1 HQ.

ZOCs. You can’t advance through ZOC so a division can hold 15 miles of the front. Single regiments/brigades don’t generate a ZOC. Thats a reasonable length for the eastern front but units tend to hunker down in good terrain on either side of a gap rather than having to stand in the open. costs ½ your printed move to disengage. Units in ZOC and bad weather can only move 1 hex. ZOCs which block advance in rough but not clear terrain would solve this.

Course of events. The Russians wears down the defence in some areas over a couple of turns. The Germans have time to shift reserves to block breakthroughs. I prefer attacking at the base of the salient. The Russian 20th army (their strongest) ploughs straight into the German XXXIXth panzer corps (their strongest) making no progress but pinning it.
A calm Russian won’t outrun his HQ, guard the flanks of breakthroughs and try to envelop just the neighbouring Germans. A confident German can allow deeper breakthroughs then pinch them off. Army group centre sends 3 panzer divisions as reinforcements in the first 2 turns. There are many places the Germans can shorten the line to form more reserves later on. Often Stavka shifts supply and troops to Stalingrad and the German line stabilises with heavy losses to exposed Russian mechanised units. The historical result is quite possible but not pre ordained.

Chrome. Soviet ski brigades attached to 20th and 30th armies. Snow is so common they will come in useful.

Victory. Russia needs to take 3 of these 5 northerly locations for victory in the short game.
In the long game she needs 8 of these 12.


Cosmetics. Other reviewers say they really like the map and counters.I would like a lighter background for Russian winter and names on rivers. The specks for city buildings are the same as towns. Red (town) and yellow (city) stars stand out nice and clear. Woods could have a sample trees drawn within the green. The black rail line would be more obvious if it was barred. Tank units have silhouettes of different types which I like. When set up the extreme bend in the line scares me.


Problems. The counters are a little thinner than usual. Soviet guards are so garish they stand out more than armour. Russian counters are dark and it is hard to spot the size symbol.
Special rules mention a German XXX corps and there is a counter but it never appears in starting forces or reinforcements. Not all odds modifiers are on the CRT on the back of the rules. German start area could be written on the counters to speed set up. German independent sturmgeschutz battalions are absent. I think 202nd should be somewhere on map, 209th with 19th panzer division and 667th with 39th panzer corps. I suppose they would be a 2 strength, single step tank battalion without divisional integrity. Maybe each Russian tank and mech corps could be 1 stronger to compensate. http://sturmvogel.orbat.com/stug.html The Mezha river through Neiidovo comes to a dead stop rather than joining the western Dvina. The Gzhatsk river also comes to a stop rather than flowing into the Vazuza near Sychevka. (Gzhatsk town was renamed Gagarin after the cosmonaut).

Summary
I like the game. It is good old panzer pushing breakthrough and counterattack brought up to date with chit pull activation. Russian command problems are nicely shown. The battle seems fresher to me than say 1st El Alamein as it was little known back in the 1980s when I first gamed.

Thanks to Jon who lent me his copy.
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mochara c
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That's a very good summary. Since NWS has copies of this game for $9.99 at the moment I may just have to scoop one.
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Mark Goss
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Off topic: The link to sturmvogel TOP listed is incredible! Amazing amount of detail!

Also, (and no, this is not a plug for his book and no, I'm not interested in what anyone thinks of the author!!!) , David Glantz has written a detailed account of this operation, "Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942" (1999) ISBN 0-7006-0944-X"

Okay, back on topic. Great review!
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Bob Schindler
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Your review was very good.

Did you notice that none of the rivers are named?

I went to various resources and could not figure out most of the rivers names on the game map.

Avalanche graphics are just bad. Who ever is doing them has no real feel for the subject!!!


cry
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Chris Hansen
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Good review, and it does sound like an interesting game. But yeah, the graphics don't thrill me, mainly the counters. They look too busy. Too many extraneous graphics on the counters starts to detract from ease of visibility of the actual unit information. Now these aren't as bad as some I've seen, and you can at least read the numbers, but again, it just seems like an extra distraction to the eye that's not needed. Probably just me though.
 
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Bill Lawson
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The counters are atrocious! The rules are incomplete. How ever I really wanted to play out this topic so I went to CSW and downloaded the errata and some play aids. With the additional material I was able to figure out how to play it (its not that complex). I have played it twice and it is a good game

Spoiler (click to reveal)
but those counters suck!
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mochara c
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Ahh, I like the counters. Always have admired the AP counters with the semi-translucent national symbology on them. Once my eyes start to go, though...
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Christopher Dean Naval Warfare Simulations / Tactical Warfare Simulations (Land/Air Combat)
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moly19 wrote:
That's a very good summary. Since NWS has copies of this game for $9.99 at the moment I may just have to scoop one.


Thanks for mentioning us.. we have plenty of the game available.

Christopher Dean
NWS Online Gaming Store
Director of Operations
 
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