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Jon Darlington
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After a busy summer spent largely away from the tabletop, this weekend Tom and I returned to our play-through of Tide of Iron’s Eastern Front. For a list of the scenarios we'll be playing, and links to the previous reports in this series, see HERE.

We took this opportunity to rewind the clock and return to the scenarios we missed from the early part of the war – either because we weren’t aware of them, or because they were only made available after we started our play-through.

The first of these missed scenarios is "Finnish Raid", Hans Sverre Smalø’s scenario of Finns versus Russians in the notorious winter war of 1939/40. It’s a small scenario on just two boards, and it drops players immediately into the fight. (It’s probably just as well that the scenario is small, since Tom and I have been away from the game for a few months.)

THE SCENARIO



The Soviets get nine squads of completely vanilla troops (with one Officer and a Commissar specialization). Four of these squads begin loaded on the two trucks. And they have two heavy KV-1 tanks, a real problem for the Finns who have no conventional AT weapons.

The Finns get eight powerful squads: there's a strong mix of Elite figures in the mix, two Officers, and every squad has a specialization. Four are SMG squads (+2 Firepower vs infantry, but -2 Range), and four are Experts (reroll up to one die for every figure on the base).

Soviets set up in the center three hexes, and the Finns then set up anywhere that isn’t adjacent to a Soviet unit. The Finns also go first, so they have all the advantages. But the scenario’s big puzzle for the Finnish player is what to do about those two heavy Soviet KV-1 tanks.

There is no time limit or turn marker. The victory conditions are simple:

- For either side, annihilate the entire enemy force
- For the Soviets, escape the Finnish trap by driving at least one KV-1 off either board edge.

The Finns have fewer troops, but they are of much higher quality and they get to go first. But it’s those tanks that are the puzzle, as the Finns have no conventional anti-tank weapons to help them deal with the Soviet beasts.

Tanks and time pressures
If the tanks are left alone, the Soviet player can win at the start of the second Round by simply driving a tank off the board; nothing else will matter. Specifically: by the end of Round 1, the Soviet player wants to camp on the Command Point hex. This lets him claim Initiative for Round 2, at which point he can immediately drive one tank off the board as his very first action of Round 2 and end the game with an instant victory.

On the other hand, the Finnish player can’t win by focusing only on the tanks; immobilizing or destroying them only prevents an early loss. The Finnish player must retain enough forces to annihilate all of the remaining Soviet infantry.

The Finnish player has another dilemma. It’s always possible for the Soviet player to choose the “annihilate the Finns” path to victory instead of the “exit a tank” victory; the Finnish player can’t afford to assume that the tanks will only ever be used to move and escape. They could instead sit still and contribute their firepower to a straight-up fight, and decimate any Finns that have left themselves in the open (like, in the middle of the road) just to slow down any moving tanks.

For this reason, I was reluctant to try any strategy that involved camping the limited Finnish infantry on the open road to block an exit path; what if the Soviets just attacked the exposed infantry instead?

Dealing with those tanks
Hans Sverre Smalø makes it clear that the Finnish player must use his first two actions wisely. I thought this meant somehow disabling or destroying those two KV-1s so that they couldn’t exit the board; but I struggled to see how I could do that with the first two Finnish actions.

To deal with those tanks, the situation the Finnish player really wants is to fire at the tanks at full power from an adjacent hex. If the Finnish player does this with Experts, he is rolling four dice for 4+ with rerolls versus the tank’s six dice for 5+. This should result in a hit for light damage. Better yet, combine fire with two such squads and you have a respectable chance at 3 hits for heavy damage, immobilizing the tank.

But… how to set up this situation? It relies on the Soviet player obligingly moving his tank next to the Experts. The Finns must set up a trap, and the Soviet player must blunder into it, or be forced into it.

Running out the clock
The Soviets have a large number of units and can afford to wait out the Finns, activating infantry after infantry until all Finns have acted and only then deciding what to do with the tanks. If the Finns are exhausted, the tanks can move; if the Finns are on Op Fire, the tanks can stay still and attack.

One way to erode this advantage is to take out some of that Soviet infantry quickly and reduce the number of activations available to the Soviets. And the easiest way to do that is to destroy those trucks with the infantry on board. I decided that eliminating infantry, and hopefully drawing the Finnish tanks adjacent to my own infantry, was my best play.

DEPLOYMENT



Tom put one tank each in the leading hexes closest to the exit on the left-hand side. He wisely paired up a trucks with each tank. This ensured that the trucks could not be assaulted; the presence of a tank prevented any assaults against that hex.

Also, by placing one of his tanks in the centre of the three-hex deployment zone, Tom had kept it out of range of any Finnish infantry’s anti-vehicle fire. If I wanted to attack that tank, I had to move or make it come to me.

In response, I set up five squads (a little over half my force) in the space between the Soviets and the left board exit. These same squads were guarding the sole Command hex.

I placed the three remaining squads on the opposite side of the Soviets. Their job was to keep pressure on the Soviets from the right side too, and to present a challenge to any tank that might decide to simply drive in the opposite direction from most of my forces and exit from the right-hand side.

But I still thought the best bet was to hammer the Soviets infantry hard to reduce the Soviet activations, and to force the KV-1s to move while the Finns still had activations remaining.

ROUND 1

Without seeing any viable way to attack the tanks at range, I had to bring them close. I wanted to force the Soviets to adopt a running exit strategy, and to place the tanks in position to be attacked by the Finns when they did. To work, this plan had to start with eliminating Soviet activations so they couldn’t just run the clock down on the Finns. I hoped to take down a truck with a pair of attacks by Experts on one side of the ambush.

I actually made a mistake here; I thought that if the trucks were lightly damaged, that the infantry had to bail out and be exhausted (or maybe even be destroyed, since the hex was at maximum capacity). But that’s only true when a moving transport is hit with Opportunity Fire; if it’s a regular attack, light damage to a transport has no effect on passengers. This wasn't a game in which I could afford to get rules wrong.

Finns 1



One of my Expert squads fired at a truck (A); this was four dice looking for 6s, but with up to four rerolls, versus no armour. I should do one, maybe two hits. But the squad managed no 6s even with rerolls. This was bad news.

I wanted to preserve my experts for attacking the KV-1s, but I felt I had to put pressure on the Soviets and only the Experts had any chance of damaging any vehicle – even the trucks -- at range. So a second Expert squad fired at the same truck (B); it managed one 6 and the truck was lightly damaged, but that was all. This was when I discovered that the light damage had no effect on passengers – d’oh!

Soviets 1



Tom wanted to neutralize the Finnish infantry between him and the nearest exit, so he made some Suppression attacks. First the Commissar squad moved to the adjacent woods (A) and fired at the unexhausted Experts (2 dice for 5+ versus 2 dice for 5+); he scored one success but the Finns made one cover success, for a net zero damage. Then he fired with the infantry squad in the leading hex (B) (4 dice for 5+ versus 2 dice for 5+); he scored two successes, but so did the Finns with their cover. No effect!

Finns 2



At a loss, I decided to try to destroy the lightly damaged truck with my remaining Expert on the left-hand side (A). But once again I scored no successes, and the truck and its passengers were fine. My entire plan to deprive the Soviets of activations had come to nothing!

The only other way to do this was to attack the infantry in the open at the back of the column. This would take several steps over two Finnish turns. As a first step, I fired on the trailing Soviet squads with an SMG squad (B)and scored two wounds.

Soviets 2



Tom wanted to clear a path on the road and get that truck into some cover; so he moved the damaged truck into the woods (A) costing three movement points, and then dismounted one infantry squad with a move-and-fire action (B). A few dice aimed at my squads in the Soviet rear scored no hits.

Finns 3



I continued the attack on the Soviet infantry in the rear by moving and then firing at close range (A), scoring two more casualties and eliminating one squad; and following up with an Assault action by a second squad (B), which killed seven Soviet infantry at a cost of five Finns. The single surviving Soviet figure retreated from the road.

Problem was, this had just opened a path for Tom and used up all of my infantry guarding the rear.

Soviets 3



Tom first dismounted his second squad from the truck in the woods, and took an ineffective shot toward the Finns in the rear (A). Then he made his play for the Initiative next turn; he moved his leading KV-1 onto the Command hex with a move-and-fire action (B). His three dice at close range, though, scored no hits on the Finns.

Finns 4



Well, this was the situation I had hoped for. I needed to disable or destroy that tank, and I had two squads adjacent. I considered one combined attack (6 dice at 4+ versus 6 dice at 5+), but I decided to gamble with two smaller attacks.

(A) I fired with the first squad (4 at 4+ versus 6 at 5+) and achieved one hit, lightly damaging the KV-1.

(B) But the second attack (4 at 4+ versus 5 at 5+) achieved no further hits.

And that was it for the Finns; all of my units had gone.

Soviets 4



Tom had secured the Initiative for the next turn (in truth, it was his as long as he just kept the Finns off of that command hex). With that, he just needed to set up an exit plan, and the way back was open.

First Tom moved his second KV-1 backward with a move-and-fire action against the Finnish infantry (A), which destroyed the squad (3 dice for 4+ versus 1 for 5+ resulted in three hits); then he moved his second truck, still loaded with (starving) infantry, back there as well (B).

Tom's remaining actions were to dismount the starving infantry, who could take no further action (C, D).



And… at that point, we called the game. It was clear that with Initiative next turn, the Soviets could advance their escape plan by first moving the truck or assaulting the lone Finnish squad with infantry (to unblock the road), and then the KV-1 (with a simple Move or a Move and Fire action) could make its way back toward the exit.

Since I had only one SMG squad anywhere near there, and it was likely to succumb to attacks very early from the infantry, tank, or both, there was nothing to stop the Soviets from exiting the KV-1 off the rear in Round 3 and the game would be over.

Final board position



AFTERMATH

So, much as Hans Sverre Smalø warned, without the right Finnish actions the Soviets have a fairly painless route to victory. Whatever the right choice was, it had eluded me.

I was glad that my plan had more-or-less worked at the front of the Soviet column; I did manage to make close-range attacks against that KV-1 and I would most likely destroy it and grab the Command objective next turn. But I just couldn't stop both of them.

Getting the rule wrong about how passengers are affected when their vehicle suffers light damage was a bad mistake on my part; that actually makes attacking the trucks much less attractive. That leaves me, though, without a clear first move for the Finns. Maybe just focus on exposed infantry? I'm not sure.

That said, this was a fun (if quick) game and a good way for Tom and I to get back into the system. I feel like there's a solution here -- I came KIND of close this time, slowing down one of the tanks at least, and likely to kill with my adjacent infantry during Round 2. I just lost control of the right-hand side of the board and left the way open for Tom's exit victory. Maybe a few more plays might reveal a better approach...

I really like a lot of things about this scenario. The forces are asymmetrical. Combat begins right away (not always an asset, but handled well here). And even though there are just a couple of boards and relatively small forces, as a player you are immediately forced to make a whole series of difficult decisions; every choice matters. It’s a very clean, focused scenario with interesting, very different forces.

And there are lots of different ways for this to go: will the Soviets try for a quick exit victory? Will they just stand still and use their numbers and armour to annihilate the Finns? How will the Soviets set up and act, and how will the Finns react in each case?

But so far I just haven’t solved this scenario’s particular puzzle for the Finns.

And with that, I throw it open to others… thoughts? What are your recommended opening moves and overall strategy for the Finnish side?
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Ray
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Good AAR read, thanks.

Have a look at the Winter War scenario. Would like to see an AAR on that scenario. You can find the scenario in the files section of the Fury of the Bear expansion page, but here is the link:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/123863/winter-war-sce...
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Jon Darlington
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Thanks; it's brief, as was the game, but these are always fun to write.

Thanks also for the link to the Winter War scenario; I'm not sure how I missed that one before. It's now the next one up on our chronological list.
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Rob W
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Looks like a tough puzzle. Had you managed to destroy the Soviet KV-1 on the objective, who would have had initiative the next round? If the Finns, perhaps they could have stopped other tank as their first move, then move the infantry over from the left towards the right side.
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Jon Darlington
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Porkins_ wrote:
Looks like a tough puzzle. Had you managed to destroy the Soviet KV-1 on the objective, who would have had initiative the next round? If the Finns, perhaps they could have stopped other tank as their first move, then move the infantry over from the left towards the right side.


No, unfortunately if I had destroyed the KV-1 and neither of us claimed the objective, then we would both be tied at 0 Command points at the end of the round. In the case of a tie, the Initiative switches to the other player -- so in this case, from the Finns to the Soviets.

It's definitely in the Finnish player's interest to grab that Command hex, so that he can spend the one Command it provides to retain Initiative and go first in Round 2. That gives him a critical second crack at the tanks before either one exits the board. But how to manage that...?

I was reluctant to leave any of my squads anywhere out in the open road (figuring that if I did that, the Soviets would just switch to "annihilate mode" and massacre the exposed Finns rather than try for an exit victory). But... maybe I'm wrong about that.
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Very good and fun to see this review of my scenario.

And yes, as stated, it is a puzzle. Glad to see people enjoying it and trying to solve it.



But that said, I have seen several Finnish victories. In one game, two of my mates played each other, and the Russian tried to exit the tanks in one direction. Suddenly he realized that damn, that's not going anywhere and turned around. After a lot of violence he had one lightly damaged KV1 left with 2 in movement, and he halted towards the other exit at the other side. But the Finns did not have a lot either. At the very last hex, the Finns got lucky at last with a fire and movement action and managed to heavily damaged the tank. And manage to kill of all Russians.

You also have a lot of good points. The trucks are fragile, and left alone they can easily be assaulted (or shot) and you risk loosing a lot of infantry if you are not careful. Also, the number of activations are important.

If anybody wants to see how the Finns won, send me a message
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Willem Boersma
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Grand Stone wrote:
Very good and fun to see this review of my scenario.

And yes, as stated, it is a puzzle. Glad to see people enjoying it and trying to solve it.



But that said, I have seen several Finnish victories. In one game, two of my mates played each other, and the Russian tried to exit the tanks in one direction. Suddenly he realized that damn, that's not going anywhere and turned around. After a lot of violence he had one lightly damaged KV1 left with 2 in movement, and he halted towards the other exit at the other side. But the Finns did not have a lot either. At the very last hex, the Finns got lucky at last with a fire and movement action and managed to heavily damaged the tank. And manage to kill of all Russians.

You also have a lot of good points. The trucks are fragile, and left alone they can easily be assaulted (or shot) and you risk loosing a lot of infantry if you are not careful. Also, the number of activations are important. :)

If anybody wants to see how the Finns won, send me a message :)


In general it's great to see these fan-made scenarios being played. Usually a lot of effort has gone into them, so it's certainly very rewarding to see them being played and appreciated. It actually makes me want to finish the few unfinished and unposted scenarios of mine and make them available.

Overall, I feel the fan-made ones tend to be (much) better balance-wise than many of the official ones.
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Matt G
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Great write up. I noticed the elites were doubled with the expert squads instead of the SMGs. Perhaps that could have affected your deployment or results? I'm going to try this one out before asking the author, as tempting as it is.
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Jon Darlington
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MattG wrote:
Great write up. I noticed the elites were doubled with the expert squads instead of the SMGs. Perhaps that could have affected your deployment or results? I'm going to try this one out before asking the author, as tempting as it is.


Oh! You're right, these pictures show eight Elites with the Experts and four Elites with the SMGs. It should be the other way around.

But it might have been right in our game; I ended up recreating the game for these pictures based on my notes and original photos (because I wanted more frequent photos than I had taken during the game itself, and one of the originals was blurry). It might be that when I set up again for this report, I was paying less attention and mixed up the SMG Elite allotment and the Expert Elite allotment. (I also notice the picture shows both of my Officers together in the same hex; actually one was over with the rear guard.)

I'll be interested to hear how the game goes for you!

EDIT: Yeah, just checked the original pictures and I had the mix right for the game itself.
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Hss Hss
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MattG wrote:
Great write up. I noticed the elites were doubled with the expert squads instead of the SMGs. Perhaps that could have affected your deployment or results? I'm going to try this one out before asking the author, as tempting as it is.


Experts are better at fighting tanks, while SMGs are better at fighting infantry I figured SMGs had better use of elites But that should not make a huge difference.

You could try it before and after asking me
 
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boersma8 wrote:
Grand Stone wrote:
Very good and fun to see this review of my scenario.

And yes, as stated, it is a puzzle. Glad to see people enjoying it and trying to solve it.



But that said, I have seen several Finnish victories. In one game, two of my mates played each other, and the Russian tried to exit the tanks in one direction. Suddenly he realized that damn, that's not going anywhere and turned around. After a lot of violence he had one lightly damaged KV1 left with 2 in movement, and he halted towards the other exit at the other side. But the Finns did not have a lot either. At the very last hex, the Finns got lucky at last with a fire and movement action and managed to heavily damaged the tank. And manage to kill of all Russians.

You also have a lot of good points. The trucks are fragile, and left alone they can easily be assaulted (or shot) and you risk loosing a lot of infantry if you are not careful. Also, the number of activations are important.

If anybody wants to see how the Finns won, send me a message


In general it's great to see these fan-made scenarios being played. Usually a lot of effort has gone into them, so it's certainly very rewarding to see them being played and appreciated. It actually makes me want to finish the few unfinished and unposted scenarios of mine and make them available.

Overall, I feel the fan-made ones tend to be (much) better balance-wise than many of the official ones.


Yes there are lots of good fan made scenarios
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Matt G
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Grand Stone wrote:

Experts are better at fighting tanks, while SMGs are better at fighting infantry I figured SMGs had better use of elites But that should not make a huge difference.

You could try it before and after asking me


I tried this scenario and had better luck with the Finns. Jon was right to not focus on the tanks from the start but I put a twist in the spoiler below. It was still a tough fight - the Finns retained the initiative but each shot from a Soviet tank was painful.:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Use the SMG squads with suppression fire on the infantry. Just pinning them takes them out of action and they are easily disrupted or routed on the first turn. This leaves the Soviets in a quandary to either fight back or spend actions moving and bailing out of the trucks


I'll freely admit I wouldn't have tried this as my first attempt if I hadn't already learned from Jon's write up. Thanks all for a fun scenario.
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Ah! Did know about the spoiler... This is brilliant.

Sound like you did a twist of my solution

Spoiler (click to reveal)

I haven't thought about using suppressive fire, but that could definitively work. But you are definitively onto something. Attacking the infantry is part of 'my solution'

How did the Russian play?

Here is my analyses:

1) Depending on setup, the Russian may as it's first action take the command point with something, then move one tank to the edge of the board. Beginning of round 2, Russia wins!

2) Damaging the tanks round 1 is difficult. You don't have the firepower. Thus, firing at the tanks as first action isn't a solution


*here* is my solution:
You DO have plenty of firepower versus INFANTRY! And you need to stop the tank from exiting. The way to do that is jump in front of the column, taking the command objective with a fire & movement action, twice, each time using a SMG troop. An SMG has plenty of firepower even in fire & movement. So fire at some infantry. It should be enough to heavily damage any infantry standing next to the command point.
I go with regular fire, but I guess it can be done with pinning fire also.

So to stop the column, you need to be really bold

Now the Tanks can retaliate very hard, potentially at point blank range, BUT they cannot move to a winning position round 1. AND the Finns have the initiative. And if they do fire, the Finns now know where they are going to be round 2 and can prepare to hammer them down round 2.

The Russian may try to retake the command point, but it isn't actually easy.

Now the Russians have plenty of options, they can attack to the right, to the left, needs to be careful where they move things, cuz a lone truck may be assaulted (and killed with the men inside). They may move the all infantry left or right. May do a counter assault,... The options are to many to analyse them all. But probably, the last unit the Russian activates are their two tanks. And the bugger for the Finns, the Russian may move their tanks after the Finns have moved all infantry.

But, from this point, how would you play the Russians???

From this point, it should be a open balanced scenario. If anything, the Finns actually have the upper hand.

Design notes:
The trucks where add deliberately to reduce the Russians initial retaliation power but add power in the long run.





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Matt G
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I played both sides similar to how you described. The trucks couldn't unload in the street so it took two actions just to get one squad out of a truck and into cover(with an ineffective move/fire). The Finns were aggressive. I don't think I spoil anything by noting that a damaged tank can't overrun the occupied command hex. The Russians definitely had a tough time coordinating an effective response but there was not much subtlety to their situation.

I may need to play this yet again with a modified Russian deployment.

Edit:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The Russians ran out of actions before the Finns in the later rounds because many of their squads were pinned, disrupted or routed. In true Russian style, a starving squad did manage to kill three experts in one action.
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I have long time wanted an 'unprepared' restriction to be able to model ambushes. But then I figured, well, if I put them in trucks, they cannot act effectively first round.

My observation to is that getting the men safely out of the trucks is a pain in the neck. And it is one of the things which allows the Finns to take on such a large Russian force. (that is, after you have solved how not to loose in round 2)In addition the trucks gives the Russians some fun options.
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