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Subject: Monty, Patton & Zhukov star in the "Race for Berlin" (with images) rss

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Dougie LB
Wales
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Today I played yet another S&T folio game, this time one of my all time favourites - Battle For Germany (B4G). I had to take care re-reading the rules as they are very nearly single sheets of paper now and after that I needed a piece of sticky tape on the back of the map where the creases are a little thin. Once this was over it took less than 10 minutes to setup the historical scenario thanks to the unit locations printed on the map - I didn't worry about historical designations so the Western Allies (Allied) fought as a melange not as nearly separate armies.

Other posts have covered the game mechanics thoroughly but it should be pointed out that this great game only has 4 sides of rules plus a couple of pages of scenarios, designers notes and charts & tables - this was the introductory game of choice at my school's wargames club in the late 70s.

Here's the setup:



Turn 1 saw the Soviet steamroller start it's march on Berlin but not before a reallocation of forces southward to prevent any Eastern German (EG) forces slipping off the map. A couple of exchanges and some surrounded attacks (no retreat through ZOC) saw the EG dead pool quickly grow.

In the west the Western German (WG) forces launched their Battle of the Bulge (mandatory minimum of 2 attacks on turn 1) by actually pinching off some Allied salients and eliminating a couple of units. The Allies responded with a push in the north where the terrain is less bad and leaving the line thinly held in the rough southern terrain. In Italy the Allies were jubilant with an exchange result hurting the WG far more than the Allies there.

Back in the East the EG tried for the last hurrah with an attack on a Soviet Front in Hungary, this would have punched a worrying hole in the Soviet line but an Attacker Retreat put an end to that vain hope.

The Soviets quickly replaced their first turn losses and crossed the Vistula in force and dealt a hammer blow to the EG forces in Hungary.

The WG strengthened their northern defences but would be mainly reactive for the rest of the game unless the Allies stuck their neck out. The Allies pressed hard again in the north and also found a weak spot near the Swiss border, expanding a bridgehead over the Rhine. In Italy the Allies pressed north towards the Po.

The EG forces started a slow withdrawal towards Berlin, trying to maintain a strong line in front of the Soviets.

The situation at the end of turn 2 looked like this:



Turns 3 and 4 saw the Soviets advancing on a broad front with the EG forces melting away. Warsaw fell and was garrisoned by a Russian Front which cannot then move for the remainder of the game (in some images I've turned garrisons over so I didn't try to move them!). The EG try to reform a decent defence line in front of the advancing Soviets but it's a vicious circle - the fewer units, the easier they are to surround and eliminate.

Both the German forces suffer from their replacements being the weakest units in their dead pools which means that the German strength is steadily eroded through the game. The Soviets have the same restriction but after the first few turns they are only likely to lose units on an Exchange not from German attacks. The Allies can choose whatever replacements they like and get 2 every turn - the Allies love exchanges early on as it denudes the WG line in front of them of units making a breakthrough inevitable (normally!).

The Allies press forward at both ends of the Western Front and start pursuing the WG forces in Italy into the mountains. The WG tries to maintain defensive positions in defensible terrain to slow the Allied advance. They do not risk a 1-2 surrounded attack on an Infantry Corps as an Attacker retreat would have blown a hole in the line for the Allies to exploit.

The situation now looked like this:



Turns 5 & 6 see Vienna and Prague fall to the Soviets which ties up another 2 of their powerful but slow Front sized units. The EG have been pushed back/withdrawn towards the River Oder, the last defensive terrain before Berlin. There are very few EG units left on the board and the fall of Berlin to Zhukov appears inevitable.

It's slow going on the Western Front - this is 1945 not 1917 I'm sure but suddenly a hole appears in the south and an Armoured Corps races through and hooks north towards Berlin. In the north there is no more defensive terrain to hide in or behind until the River Elbe and there are fewer and fewer WG units holding the line.

Down in the forgotten front, the Allies have just about liberated Italy as the remaining defenders crawl back through the Alps (mountain hexes cost 4 movement points - most units have allowances of 4-7 so it's one hex per turn).



The Soviet steamroller is exactly that, immensely strong but slow and it's taking ages to bear down on Berlin. EG units are little more than speed bumps but they are slowing the Soviets down. By the end of turn 8 the EG forces are worn down to 4 units near Berlin and a lone unit running around Hungary retaking Victory Point cities as the Yugoslav units that were chasing it can't leave Yugoslavia - a very gamey tactic, I slapped myself on the wrist for that one.

The Allied right hook meant that the WG forces withdrew quickly to a last defensive line around the Oder to prevent the Armoured Corps capturing Berlin unopposed. The Allies pursued over the North German Plain while also mopping up a few loose WG units that couldn't make it to the Oder. The whole of the western part of Germany is now in Allied hands with only Innsbruck and Berlin of the available victory point cities still in German hands.

The two front lines are so close together that only this image is needed:



You may have noticed that there is now only one WG unit left in front of Berlin while there are still the 4 EG units. On turn 9 the Soviets annihilate the remaining EG units and advance next to Berlin. Similarly the Allies destroy the last WG units defending Berlin. But, the last player turn on turn 9 is the EG and they receive one replacement unit which can be placed in the last available hex to the east of Berlin. The WG replacement in turn 9 arrived before the Allied turn and was eliminated in the final onslaught.

This left the following position:



On turn 10 all the Soviet player can do is destroy the lone 1-2-4 EG unit and advance into the vacated hex - Berlin lies tantalisingly within reach.



However, the way is clear for Monty & Patton to start the victory parade under the Hindenburg Gate as they capture Berlin waving to Zhukov just outside the gates as they do so. The final situation looked like this:



The final victory point tallies were Soviets 16 and Allies 33 (Berlin is worth 10 and basically wins the game for whoever holds it at game end).

I don't ever remember a game ending in quite this manner (and me & my circle of wargamers played this a lot when it first came out) and I feel that the Soviets lost to a game mechanic rather than to poor play. Disregarding the last 1-2-4 replacement unit, the Soviets would have captured Berlin and indeed were closer to Berlin than the Allies for virtually the whole game.

Still, I enjoyed revisiting this great game, it went down to the wire and Monty could quite easily have heeded Ike and stopped on the Oder to allow the Soviets to take Berlin.
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Michael Sommers
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Clinton
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dougielb wrote:
(Berlin is worth 10 and basically wins the game for whoever holds it at game end).

That's the problem with this game: Why should the western allies spill any blood to take Berlin when they have already agreed to turn it over to the Russkies when the war ends?
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Michael Dreiling
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Thank you for the excellent game posting!
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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tms2 wrote:
dougielb wrote:
(Berlin is worth 10 and basically wins the game for whoever holds it at game end).

That's the problem with this game: Why should the western allies spill any blood to take Berlin when they have already agreed to turn it over to the Russkies when the war ends?


Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Could probably wrangle an important concession out of it.
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