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Subject: review/session of Unconditional Surrender : Case Blue rss

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Paul Pfeiffer
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My review of Unconditional Surrender : Case Blue. Game design by Salvatore Vasta
As of December 2012 this game is a P500 game by GMT.

First I want to point out that my experience in large ETO games is very small. Since the 70's(born back around then) the majority of my Gaming experience outside of computer war/strategy games and D&D has been in rather simple games like risk, axis and allies, carcasonne, with the most difficult being Twilight Struggle. Ok I played East front 2 and Rise and Decline of the 3rd Reich(AHH rules hurt head) but only once each. I believe I approach this from a more typical consumer of quality games. Not mass market stuff but quality games. I am not really a hard core war gamer.

So why did I play this...solo no less...I am not big into solo either. Well, I have found that my schedule doesn't allow for gaming against someone online and computer war game's AI is stupid. How stupid? My current Hearts of Iron2 game is a good example. I am the Soviets and I have cheated and given the Germans almost unlimited resources and manpower to make it interesting. To make a long story short the Americans, for some reason, have placed over 150 divisions (out of 170) on Guam. And 90% of the British are roaming around Africa grabbing remote/empty/worthless Vichy/Italian provinces. No second front and it is 45. No more AI for me.

Now USCB.
After 2 weeks of trying to figure out which ETO game I wanted I found this little Gem. And it was free. So I downloaded it read the rules and said “what the..” I had no real experience in this kind of game. So back on line I went and read everything I could find on it, asked questions, watched Enrico's videos on them and then printed off every set of rules from every ETO I could find. I looked over most of all of them. Wow. Brain grew or shrank. Not sure which. It helped though. EZOC is still a bit weird for me but I am getting the hang of it.

So here is my session:

NOTE: You use production for activating units, replacing units, mobilization, and upgrades.

JULY:
On map 1 you see the set up. Turn 1 with set up took me 2 hours(I didn't count most of this time as play time) and 2 glasses of wine. Yeah, me not smart. And I had to redo the whole turn when I realized that I screwed almost everything up.

SETUP PIC


Well first the Germans attacked and almost everything went well. Only one bad roll stopped the 1st Panzer Army. What I leaned later is that this one failure was a big deal. The Armor success was critical. However, the 4th Panzer Army pushed back 1 Soviet army twice destroyed 2 armies and repulsed a weak Soviet counter attack by their 5th Tank Army. They had some help with an air unit but hey they are Panzers in the open against infantry. Awesome. I have to say I thought “hey, The Germans are kicked butt and they will have won by Christmas. Ha! Was I wrong. Man, the Russians are like one giant red goo ball aren’t they.

END OF JULY pic


AUGUST:

First I want to say I may have done something wrong with the Hungarian 2nd army. It destroyed, with help, a Soviet unit and then moved a long way. Never the less, this turn was German armor at it's best. The Soviets lost 4 units and they were retreating all over the place. At this point I just knew that either the game was completely broken or I didn't know how to play or the real magic was about to begin. Hmmmm....

END OF AUGUST pic


SEPTEMBER:

The Germans continue to roll on their turn. The capture Stalingrad and all seems hunky dory at this point for them. I know that this is not the best position for them because their northern flank is exposed but still they had to take Stalingrad. As I said somewhere else “So far I felt like the Germans are Wesley from the movie "princess bride" when he is fighting Fezzik the giant (The Russians). Wesley has all the skills and brains while Fezzik has raw brute strength. Wesley(Germans) say "Look, are you just fiddling around with me or what?" Fezzik(Soviets): "I just want you to feel you're doing well." yeah that nails it.
The Soviets have wisely done nothing this turn. ( IMPORTANT NOTE: You use production for activating units, replacing units, mobilization, and upgrades and so on). They saved almost everything for new stuff, upgrades, and repairs. More Soviet units began to arrive. I viewed them not as new units but rather as reformed units. It doesn't matter, but I think the whole combat, destruction, replacement thing is abstract in a way. I like it.

END OF SEPTEMBER pic: Where did all those red armies come from. The Germans started to scream like Bill Paxton in Aliens “ Game over MAN, Game over!”



OCTOBER:

(1st turn of poor weather... I rolled poor weather every time from now on... I wonder what Severe would have done?)
Really this turn blew my mind. I had to put the thinker on here for the Fascist pigs as opposed to Commie dirtballs. Yeah , I love these games where everyone is bad. Where was I... oh, The Axis minions actually disposed of a Soviet army and pinned another one down. Aren’t those little minions cute. You know they do stuff once in a while. In doing so they secured the flank... some shifting of forces helped also and the 1st Panzer army did nothing yet again. I decided it was a bad commander. In Hitler style I yelled at him a lot and he retired. Stalin just had everyone shot in my game. Lots of Soviet Generals bit the dust. Oh well. A good turn for the Axis considering the weather.

Comment from another post at about this time” The Germans(rolling awesome) just took Stalingrad but now I see the serious repercussions because of this. Their line of supply is tenuous and they are out of air support. The Russians on the other hand are the living dead... they just keep coming. So far it feels like Case Blue should. And lots of thinking about strategy which is good and by now not so much thinking about rules. “ The Germans need a Boom Stick.

END OF OCTOBER pic:


NOVEMEBER:

Doesn't look like much here but the Germans blew apart the line South of Stalingrad and then the Commies pushed them back. A real back and forth. North of Stalingrad the line stabilized. The Hun and Rom Armies would continue the ugly dance with the 12th and 44th Soviet armies for quite a while. At this point you might be asking why not drive on the Grozny or Novorosslysk. Well, the Nazis didn't have the production to do it. The Soviets had a fairly good line with a river and weather helping them. As the Soviet player I felt a growing sense that things were going to be just fine...give it time. The real fight was for Stalingrad! Duh!

END OF NOVEMBER pic


Random fun:For a real treat go to youtube and watch Chuck Norris Hitler rant video. Why? Because the Germans got a Chick Norris kick to the groin here. (I may have screwed up supply markers here. I am still learning but I think it didn't matter anyway.) The Soviets launched several assaults over the last few months to dislodge the Germans. All failed (piles of dead Ruskies)until this attack. The Soviets hammered the krauts with 2 armor and 1 infantry in an assault with partisans, a tank event support marker, a Artillery event maker, Air support, and dog bombs...wait, no dog bombs... come on I want dog bombs. Oh, so you never heard of Russian dog bombs. O.k. , look it up smart guy. Hey, they are better than those stupid American Napalm Bats or Japanese balloon bombs. Where was I... oh yeah. Yahoo the commie bastards won finally a major battle.

END OF DECEMBER pic


JANUARY :

Hey the worthless 1st Panzer army does something. They take Stalingrad back. Not much else happens as everyone fails in their attacks on both sides. A general mangling going on at the tactical level. The Soviets s are able to buy another air unit. A this point the Soviets are transforming from a smoochy little teddy bear into a small panda bear eating bamboo...well they are not a mama grizzly. I mean they are kinda cute swatting at the naughty little German kid at the zoo. Ok I have been up too late, time to save this. I will finish it later

END OF JANUARY pic


FEBRUARY:

O.k. I didn't go to bed. I am pressing on and getting a little slap happy. More bickering in the north this turn. The Axis minions are doing their thing. It's like being forced to watch an episode of the Golden Girls when they are talking about sex. It ain’t pretty. YUK! What is going on here. Anyway this turn only had one major happening other than many failed attacks on both sides. That is the 4th Panzer got across the Don. Yeah. Hmmm I wonder what the 1st did? Oh, it failed. I now know why it's the 1st. Because it rolls 1s!!!
By this point other then a few lose bolts in my head I have my mind wrapped around the combat system. I like it. Very fast and intuitive and I believe so far the results are realistic. This game is looking like a winner. It is not getting bogged down with dozens of die roles per battle nor having to look up countless charts. It allows me more time to think about strategy and less about rules... did I say this already. Me tired. Three hours past my bed time. I will upload this later.
Note: My axis buddies are doing a bit better than History at this point. More Commie commanders are shot and a few dog bomb dogs as well.

END OF FEBUARY pic


MARCH:
The Axis, now high on meth, rips a hole the size of Rossie O’Donnell through the Soviet defenses south of Stalingrad. Even the Hun/Romanian combo does something. Go Bea Arthur go. Oh it hurts. Note: Do not let the Huns or Italians do stuff with out help. If they attack and then get hurt you will not be able to repair them because you use all your production moving them. I made a mistake here. I should have let the Romanians lead the assault. Oh the Germans forced the activation 2 INF in the Grozny area. Doh! stupid 1st Panzer. Then the 1st(hey) ended up retreating a bit to stay in supply. Hey they did something good this turn...mostly. They pushed 2 units all over the place, with some help from the 4th .

AXIS END OF MARCH pic:


The Soviets put the beat down on the Huns and then flailed away uselessly attacking the 1st and 4th Panzer armies. Winter bites both ways I guess. Also, the Germans are superior... well that's what Hitler keeps telling me at least. Quality vs Quantity. I told Stalin what Hitler said just to tick him off and Uncle Joe said “Quantity is it's own Quality”. So had restraining order put on them both... creeps. Stop calling me.

Stalin shoots the weatherman. Just because.

END OF CASE BLUE pic


I suspect that, if I played a few more months, the Soviets would throw the kitchen sick (a bunch of assets that they would have this next turn: April) at the weakened Huns. A shock unit and Inf with uncontested air support and the mentioned assets (“Fire everything”)would crush the Huns in most cases. At that point the Axis would be in a bit of danger. Also, Then the commies would be set up for a nice attack on Stalingrad. It is my impression that the 2 Panzer armies would have no choice but to move north to prevent a serious crisis. The Germans always felt a bit spread out and “ thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." Which was really cool. Like it should feel. As the Soviets I had the feeling of “just one or two more turns and I will take back whats mine”. You got the idea that the Soviets were just going to get stronger and stronger but really needed to eliminate that German Armor in order to get anywhere.

Well how was it? Considering that this was all really new to me I would have to say I enjoyed myself capitally and platonically as well. After you get to know the system it becomes rather easy. A few turns in I knew what most of the die roles were with out even looking at the combat table. Air units were somewhat abstract but appropriate (fog horn...only Minnesotans of a certain philosophical leaning get this) for the level of command. I really don't care if 153 109Es were shot down at the HITLER STALIN level of command. I just want it to work. I love the production system. Super simple but effective. Should I maneuver and attack or build up and repair or something in the middle. I found my self short on Air support a few times for the Germs because I LIKE TANKS. And I spent to much on rolling over Ukrainian farms. I know I know “The Ukraine is strong”. I had to get that quote in here. Supply seemed similar to other games that I read or played. But the units out of supply can still do stuff, just not as much. And they don't die right away.
I found that in order to make an effect pincer you needed to think it through. I have heard it said that many other games in this class make pincers/encirclements way to easy and in fact ridiculous. Going back to hearts of iron. I think I encircled over half of the Soviet army once and destroyed it...sorry, not realistic. I don't see how someone could do that here. Some games like Axis and Allies just turns combat into a mindless series of frontal attacks. Not so here. Also, don't get wrong about the came being simple as in child like. It is not. It took me a fairly long time to read the rules and learn it. It has a great deal of depth with out getting bogged down in endless die rolls and obscure rules. But what about rule 167.13.456.4b2: The rule clearly states that the player with Nesei units gets to drink a bottle of rice wine if the capitulation of Italy occurs on the Shinto New year. Sharing is allowed.
I really liked the special event markers. They are a simple flavored bonus that you get to use once and awhile. You really need to think about how to best use them. In the future you could get a bonus pack with a few more fun markers. Like prepared defense/defense in depth (+1) for defending unit. Pocket battle ship raiders chit. An I like IKE chit(?). A Finish white death chit. A Rommel (insert cool commander here) event chit and so on. Just a thought.
The weather is a no brainer, as most of the tables and rules are well laid out. I think Sal has a new set of rules for this up somewhere. Anyway the new rules are more clear and better organized. I used the old rules. It should be noted that this is not a granulated game. If you want more detail then aim for a game with 1000's of pieces and have fun book keeping. This is not a book keeping game. There is some book keeping in this game but it is not distracting like some old AH games were, in my opinion.

Again, I can't stress enough that this game makes you consider everything. You don't just move troops with out consequence. I found times when I would say “why did I move that unit there last turn, now I have to spend points to move it back. doh” I know in the future to spread some German units in with their Axis allies. Otherwise it is like leaving your children alone in a toy store. Disaster. I believe the Soviets would have crushed the north in a few turns and we would have had a summer version of Stalingrad.

I look forward to the expanded game with national will, strategic bombing, sub warfare, and politics and so on. My wife might even play. Wow. No kidding. She sat at the same table as me, while I played this, making her Christmas ornaments for her Sunday school kids... isn't she sweet. She seemed interested. Oh, I forgot, the units have no numbers on them. At first this freaked me out. But not to worry. The Ground combat mod table has all you need. For instance a German (+2)armor fighting in the open in fair weather(+2) with fair weather air support (+2) for a +6 is fighting a Reduced strength (-2) Soviet guard (+1) Infantry with air support (+2) for a +1. then you role a 6 sided die each and add the mods and “Shazam”. you have a result when you look on the table. Cool. Easy. No bucket of dice or piles of counters that get knocked over or endless tables and charts. I think I have said this already. Broken record. But combat is nice and efficient. And also, not an Axis and Allies affair either. Loads of thinking... did I mention this. This game seems to have the right balance. Solo worked great by the way. I really tried hard to do the best for each side. I now have to play it again. I bet it will go smoother and both sides will be more effective. My time to play was 3-4 hours. But I think that will be half that next time.

The only concerns/suggestions( hey I am not an expert)that I have are minor and may change in the final print version. One is the axis control makers. I would make them into black German crosses on red back grounds is fairly simple. Easier to see. Maybe easy to see control makers for everyone. On the weather chart I would include the weather conditions die roll chart. That way you don't need to look back and forth between 2 separate places. Not a big deal but it would make it a bit slicker. Also, I might consider giving the Soviets a severe winter bonus(+1) for the 1st winter of fighting with the Germans...maybe make the rule optional. It would reflect the German's lack of winter preparations. But, this may be in the longer game or it might have not play tested well so it was left out.
Lastly, and this is just me but it seems like every war game uses NATO symbols. O.k. that is fine but I wouldn't mind seeing Panzer III silhouettes for German Panzer divisions and T34s and Shermans and drunk Frenchmen (yes they had to protect their distillery from advancing Germans...so they drank it)and Italians dropping their rifles and so on. Not a big deal. Everyone uses these symbols so I will live.

I still don't know what attacking across a strait hexside is. Huh??? oh well. I will figure it out some day.

Anyway it is a very excellent game from what I have seen. Print it out... play it. Then buy it's big brother if you like this one. I preordered it on p500 on GMT.com . And I plan on playing this again as well as the a test copy that Sal is sending me. I should have another write up on the whole thing in a month or 2. Hopefully I will have less wine in me and more sleep.
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Salvatore Vasta
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Well done. Review had pictures, you hit upon the game mechanics, and threw in some humor as well. Thanks.

Sal
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Paul Pfeiffer
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svasta wrote:
Well done. Review had pictures, you hit upon the game mechanics, and threw in some humor as well. Thanks.

Sal


Well most of the humor was edited out. I felt it got out of hand and was distracting. I wrote this after midnight Friday night/Saturday when I was fairly loopy. Last night I did a massive edit. I am looking forward to the larger game and I am even taking a look a AETK. It looks hard but not as daunting as it used to.

p.s. thanks for the gold people... I never really had any before and now I might be able to buy a badge or something.
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Paul Pfeiffer
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elrond3737 wrote:


The only concerns/suggestions( hey I am not an expert)that I have are minor and may change in the final print version. One is the axis control makers. I would make them into black German crosses on red back grounds is fairly simple. Easier to see. Maybe easy to see control makers for everyone. On the weather chart I would include the weather conditions die roll chart. That way you don't need to look back and forth between 2 separate places. Not a big deal but it would make it a bit slicker. Also, I might consider giving the Soviets a severe winter bonus(+1) for the 1st winter of fighting with the Germans...maybe make the rule optional. It would reflect the German's lack of winter preparations. But, this may be in the longer game or it might have not play tested well so it was left out.
Lastly, and this is just me but it seems like every war game uses NATO symbols. O.k. that is fine but I wouldn't mind seeing Panzer III silhouettes for German Panzer divisions and T34s and Shermans and drunk Frenchmen (yes they had to protect their distillery from advancing Germans...so they drank it)and Italians dropping their rifles and so on. Not a big deal. Everyone uses these symbols so I will live.

I still don't know what attacking across a strait hexside is. Huh??? oh well. I will figure it out some day.


Ok. A few more thoughts. I think I know what a strait is? yeah... my degree in geography kicked in. I was not reading it as a geographical feature.

Also, the concerns are bit minor and somewhat ill informed. As I read the weather section and look at the board I realize that my suggestion will not work very well. It would clutter it up a bit. Works in Case blue but not in the bigger game.

I am going to tackle the big game now so most of those will disappear. well, everything but the symbol thing. But, that is the standard isn't it.
 
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Salvatore Vasta
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elrond3737 wrote:

Lastly, and this is just me but it seems like every war game uses NATO symbols. O.k. that is fine but I wouldn't mind seeing Panzer III silhouettes for German Panzer divisions and T34s and Shermans and drunk Frenchmen (yes they had to protect their distillery from advancing Germans...so they drank it)and Italians dropping their rifles and so on. Not a big deal. Everyone uses these symbols so I will live.



I am going to tackle the big game now so most of those will disappear. well, everything but the symbol thing. But, that is the standard isn't it.


Actually, I've noticed the recent trend to be the opposite. Wargames are using silhouettes much more than NATO symbols.

I chose NATO symbols because I wanted my game to give the impression that one was looking at an atlas. I felt silhouettes for ground units didn't impart that feeling. Not, that I didn't use silhouettes. The air and naval units have them. And you will find images (such as a Pz III) on many of the Event markers in USE.

Sal
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Paul Pfeiffer
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[/q]

Actually, I've noticed the recent trend to be the opposite. Wargames are using silhouettes much more than NATO symbols.

I chose NATO symbols because I wanted my game to give the impression that one was looking at an atlas. I felt silhouettes for ground units didn't impart that feeling. Not, that I didn't use silhouettes. The air and naval units have them. And you will find images (such as a Pz III) on many of the Event markers in USE.

Sal[/q]

I concede that it does look more like more like a map. And you do use silhouettes on your event that would get mixed up with the regular units. Really what I want is 3D painted metal pieces. Ha
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Paul Pfeiffer
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elrond3737 wrote:

Also, I might consider giving the Soviets a severe winter bonus(+1) for the 1st winter of fighting with the Germans...maybe make the rule optional. It would reflect the German's lack of winter preparations. But, this may be in the longer game or it might have not play tested well so it was left out.


Oops. I read the rules for the long game and it does have an event that covers the Russian winter. In fact it is worse for the Germans than my suggestion. Cool.

Another note. It appears that this game would easy to modify if you want. You came easily change things or add things to suit your needs. I like that. Very cool in fact.
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j b Goodwin

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Wow, what a great review! I went ahead and printed mine, and am looking forward to giving it a shot with my favorite opponent.!
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"Man, the Russians are like one giant red goo ball aren't they."

Quoted for truth.
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Salvatore Vasta
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Mycroft Stout wrote:
"Man, the Russians are like one giant red goo ball aren't they."

Quoted for truth.


laugh Well done, sir.

Sal
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Very interesting but the impression from the map is that from September onwards most of the German army appears to be out of supply so presumably should have been destroyed over the autumn.

[The rail line north of the Don is not linked to the German network, thus all supply to Stalingrad MUST come through Rostov, the line between it and Stalingard appears generally cut].
 
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No the German army is still in supply. The redish troops by Rostov are actually pinkish and that means they are the Romanian army. All is well. The full game of UCS is very good.
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