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Subject: Scenario review - The Drive for Oil. rss

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Björn Hansson
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I recently claimed that the Drive for oil scenario was one of the most rewarding OCS experiences I've had. Whereby Kev (hipshot) asked me to elaborate as to why.

This is my attempt to do so. A small disclaimer though: I haven't played it quite some time, so forgive me if I get any specific details wrong.

Historical setting

The Drive for oil scenario simulates Operation Edelweiss, the German attempt to conquer the Caucasus oil fields. If you look at the amount of literature produced on the subject, it can definitely be seen as the forgotten part of the 1942 summer offensive. Which is odd, because in my eyes it is way more interesting than the Stalemate at Stalingrad.

Scenario features

The 21 turn scenario uses only half of the maps in the game box. But that is still five full size maps.


(Image courtesey of Fabrizio Da Pra. Colorful lines and dots by me.)

The red line on the map indicates the scenario's northern boundaries. There is no real "edge of the world" problem in this scenario. Going north is never going to happen in this game and the Black and the Caspian seas each form natural east/west boundaries. To the south the mighty Caucasus rises and going south of the mountains towards Baku is never going to be an issue either, because of the mission objectives.

The German objectives are marked with green circles*. The major city of Krasnodar, the port of Tuapse and the city of Grozny in the south east. As you can see, by the indication of the black arrows, this will effectively split the German army in two and the scenario is therefore perfect for team play.

*edit: I just realized I made the German starting position at Rostov green as well. The one forthest to the north. That is not an objective.

There are two orange dots on the map. The towns of Sa'alsk and Elista. These towns have been given special rules. Elista can serve as a trace supply source for the German, in order to enable them to make the historical advances to the east, should they desire to do so. This will most likely only happen in the campaign game in my experience, if at all.

The second town, Sa'alsk, serves as a supply source and reinforcement entry for the Soviets. This is purely a design for effect feature. It will force the German player to slow his advance southward and take care of what could otherwise become a severe threat to his supply lines as they extend southward. When we played this scenario Sa'alsk was a somewhat tough nut to crack, but in the campaign game it can become a really vicous fortress, so players might have to come of with some sort of house rule to make it possible for the Germans to take the town. Perhaps the same situation can occur when playing the Drive for Oil scenario, I would need to play it again to be sure. But like I said: it definitely wasn't a game breaker the time I played it.

At start

When you set up the scenario you are struck by three things:

1. These are some vast plains. We are talking wide open. This is where panzer divisions come to mate.

2. It is a long way to Tipperary. Grozny lies way down there in the south east. Drive for a few more hours and you'll reach Persia. Persia!

3. It is empty. Even by Russian standards this is a vast and empty landscape. The infrastructure is poor - at best. And you are looking at a single railroad - with the wrong gauge. Of course a lot of DAK2 players will laugh at this, saying "Railroad? You got a bloody railroad? When we invaded Egypt... Oh I could tell you stories, boy!"

The Germans control the city of Rostov to the north. The rest of the map is controlled by the Soviets. Token troops are scattered across the open landscape, but the main line of Soviet defenses is around Rostov. It looks peaceful and quiet. The only thing disturbing the peace is that grey-blackish little hornet's nest in Rostov...

The first turn is a blur to the Soviets. The Germans literally explode out of Rostov. Disorganized remnants of the Soviet defensive line falls back in panic, trying to maintain some sort of cohesion and put up speedbumps where possible.The railroad engineers start working hard straight away. The Germans have captured some rolling stock in Rostov and are therefore allowed to track trace supply on Soviet gauge railroads, but in order to transport supply points they have to convert the tracks.


The Germans break out of Rostov. Picture by me.


In the beginning stages it is impossible to stop the Germans. Soviet gameplay will consist of ad hoc defenses, well timed retreats and establishing local strong points. But even the most well prepared defenses will be encircled and quickly destroyed by the Germans. But even though it seems hopeless you will start to notice that these small delays eventually pay off. More and more Soviet units enter from the south and the Germans get weaker and weaker as they progress. Dividing the forces in two is a pain for the Germans. If they are lucky and use cunning and skill the German advance can be halted.

In the campaign game this wasn't the case. Our full july 1942 campaign gave the Germans significantly more punch in the south than they are able to get in the scenario.


Grozny. The end of the world and last line of defense for the Soviets.

To summarize:

* The drive for oil scenario is a great four player scenario. The forces are easily divided between the players.

* It is 21 turns of low counter density fighting. You might have to use your tweezers on turn one, but after that it is roomy enough for the thickest of butterfingers. Unlike the campign game this scenario feels like it has gone though some play testing and you get an exciting and balanced game experience.

* It will push the skills of both the defender and the attacker. The Soviet player will have to make every supply token count and make the most daring and whacky retreats. And of course: if the Germans overextend, be prepared to launch that surprising counter attack (though this happens less often in this scenario, than in a lot of other OCS titles). Personally I love playing a defensive underdog in OCS so it suits me fine. I am the reincarnation of defensive tactician Walter Model, minus all the genocide stuff he was accused of...

The attacker will have a lot of problems. He is strong and will crush almost everything that stand in his way, but he needs to know when to overrun, when to bypass and when to halt his advance. It is tempting to drive south as fast as you can, but your railroad engineers can only work so fast. It is even trickier than playing the North Koreans in Korea: The Forgotten War.

Both players will face tough decisions and new challenges as the game progresses.

* You will be fighting with strange troops in strange places. Units from Soviet provinces you probably haven't even heard of will charge their camels(!) against Scandinavian SS volunteers and your Romanian cavalry men will experience both swamps, plains and mountains and get to eat exotic fruits while doing so.

* You are experiencing the furthest extent of the German advance in the whole war. Seeing your troops outside of Grozy and imagining how many maps it would take to reach Berlin is a humbling experience and really puts things into perspective.

How did our game end? We, the Soviets won. It was a close call. Krasnodar and Tuapse had fallen and the Germans were right outside Grozny, along the Terek river. The last line of defense. The Germans made a small mistake on turn 19 that we took advantage of. With only two tunrs left the German commanders surrendered.

We had a blast playing this scenario. It was nail biting excitement all the way. Of course with more play you may discover game balance flaws or some stategies that are unstoppable (but isn't that true for most games of this size?). I don't know. And if such issues should exist, they could probably be fixed with fairly simple means. All I know is it was one of the best OCS games I ever played and Case Blue is worth getting for this scenario alone.
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Malcolm Cameron
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I have been playing this via VASSAL for some months now (against Jim).

It is a blast. It really highlights the importance of supply and the effects of distance. My German tank divisions sit around for a number of turns waiting for fuel whilst the infantry bludgeon their way closer to Tuapse in the mountains.

Grozny is a long way off. By the time I get there it will be bristling with Red Army defenders.

Jim spends his game putting up roadblocks strong enough to slow me down, and eventually seeing them die, whilst at the same time attempting to preserve enough forces for an end game battle near Grozny (if I get that far).

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Charles Lewis
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Quote:
This is where panzer divisions come to mate.


Best tag line evar!
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Bill Lawson
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Drive for Oil was the first Case Blue scenario I played. I concur its a great one. Perfect for teaching newbies.
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Murray Fish
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They explained everything in detail and at great length. After they finished I sat, despondent, contemplating a bleak and empty future. "I’m glad you’re depressed" said one. "It means you’ve understood the situation.”
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Really well written review - thanks for posting!

I particularly liked the bit about exotic fruit - no better way to motivate troops than the promise of fruit. whistle
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Donald Johnson
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I think the results you had in your game was actually a draw. It is very hard to actually win for either side, but the fun is in trying to get as close as you can get.
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Kev.
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Great review. Certainly looks like a smashing good time for all parties!
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Björn Hansson
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Don Johnson wrote:
I think the results you had in your game was actually a draw. It is very hard to actually win for either side, but the fun is in trying to get as close as you can get.


You may be right. My memory is a bit hazy on that point. I do remember us Soviets being very pleased with the result so it felt like a victory.
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Lawrence Hung
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While I have the game, I don't have the monster table.....I am wondering if The Caucasus Campaign would be more economical to simulate the campaign more effectively and much fewer overhead. I am not saying which one is better but at least I have played the campaign and recalling my moments when reading your post.
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Björn Hansson
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
While I have the game, I don't have the monster table.....I am wondering if The Caucasus Campaign would be more economical to simulate the campaign more effectively and much fewer overhead. I am not saying which one is better but at least I have played the campaign and recalling my moments when reading your post.


I have played both. Here's my comparison:

Caucasus campaign is like a delicious piece of cake. It is sweet, tasty and pleasing.

Drive for Oil. Is the same piece of cake...
...plus the rest of the cake
...and whatever you want from the bakery.
...and you get to make love to the bakers hot young wife.

It's no doubt which is better, but sometimes you might just want a single piece of cake.
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