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Subject: Russian Front Flaw rss

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Ray Hosler
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When I first played Russian Front I thought it was the best game out there for a strategic level simulation of the campaign. Now I'm not so sure after playing four games.

My complaint is with the Russian Air Force, or air power in general. It's too influential. Accepting that this is a game and not a historical simulation, I still have trouble with the influence of air power on game play. Without air power, German attacks will flounder. Now it's true that air power played a big role in Barbarossa, but to the extent that the German army is helpless without air power?

Switch it around and the situation is even worse. The Russian air force was never a factor until the end of the war. In this game the Russian air force has tremendous influence even in the first year.

The quirky combat system makes even the most overwhelming attacks somewhat risky, especially for the air forces, which have limited ability to absorb damage. A bad die role or two and the German air force is essentially finished. The Russians have lots and lots of air power, which can be replaced without much trouble, so it never goes away.

On another note: On two occasions my opponent captured Finland. Now that also seems odd, although maybe not as strange as it sounds. Yes, Russia probably could have captured Finland, had it tried a second time. The problem for the German player is that the Russian has a 5 strength navy that's almost impossible to destroy as long as it has accompanying air power during attacks. Since when did ships have an advantage over planes? That's the way it works out in this game though. A navy being attacked by air power should be an easy kill.

Given these two ahistorical elements, the game becomes less interesting than it would be otherwise. It's easily fixed though. Tweak the air rules and the game becomes more balanced and, as a result, more interesting.

I suggest limiting the number of Russian planes that can join an attack to, say, two. This way the Russians can't pile on a load of planes to stop an attack on, say, Moscow. You still have your Russian air force, but it doesn't become a 600 lb gorilla. Also, double the damage that planes do to navies.

With these two changes, Russian Front has a lot more to offer besides one of the most beautiful game boards ever produced.
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Jeff Schulte
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It sounds to me like you may be playing a wrong, but I am not sure. In air combat, only one unit fights at a time so piling on air units, while it may allow you to stay in the fight a bit longer, does not give you any advantage in a combat round.

For instance, a German air attacking a Soviet air unit is on the +2 column. Any additional Soviet air units only come into play if the Soviets survive the first round. In this case the Soviets would have to retreat if they receive two hits (destroying the unit) or receiving a mandatory retreat result w/ one hit. Even with the optional rule of allowing a side to ignore mandatory retreats would not help as then you would need to retreat since the second hit would once again destroy the unit.

Also, playing with the air force so agressively is an easy way to find yourself in big replacement hole. Air units are fragile and rebuilding them is going to cost either 8 points for the Germans or 6 for the Soviets. Considering that the Germans only get about 9 points a turn and the Soviets about 20 neither side can afford to be losing lots of air.

Because of the large number of replacement the Soviets get, they can afford limited efforts, but for the most part they will not win most air battles and cannot continue to go toe to toe with the Luftwaffe for long unless they have a bit of luck with them. Air battles tend to be tests of will to see who will lose their nerve first if neither side is forced to retreat after the first round.

My experience overall is that the game is very finely balanced.
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Sandy Petersen
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You may indeed be playing it wrong, or at least ineffectually. In most of my games, the Germans maintain air superiority over the Russians quite for quite a long time - in one game I managed to keep supreme in the air till the very end. I don't know how your Russians managed to invariably have 2-3 planes to the German's one. I could never afford such a generous allotment of aircraft as the Russians.

Ships are hardly immune to aircraft - they are only resistant IF AND ONLY IF they have air cover. If they don't have airplanes patrolling overhead, the attacking aircraft have an enormous advantage (+3 I think).

When Russia finally attacked Finland in 1944, the Finns immediately caved. They indeed stood no chance. Note that the usual way the Finns lose the war in Russian Front is if you use them too generously in the offensive. The Finns are the most delicate army in the game. Even a single lost unit can take many turns to recover from. I only attack with the Finns when it's a sure thing.

Finally, you have your history a little wrong. The Red Air Force was a significant contributor to Soviet campaigns throughout the entire war. It's true they only achieved air dominance in 1944, but that's not the same as saying they had no effect before then.

Ask the German transport planes shot down literally by hundreds over Stalingrad if the Russian air force was ignorable. Or ask someone who was at Kursk, where the Russian Shturmoviks and other bombers devastated the German forces.
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Ray Hosler
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Jeff:
I'm not playing it wrong. We fight plane against plane. It's just that the Russians have a lot more planes. They win the battle of attrition.

Here's a typical example: German plane is 4-3-10, Russian plane is 3-2-10. German planes attack at +2. On the Combat Table only a 2, 5 or 6 are guaranteed good results (Defender must retreat with a 5 or 6 unless in a fort or major city). A 3 is Attacker retreat; a 1 is attacker loses 2 and defender loses 1. Not good. A 2 means both sides lose 2. In that case the Russian defender loses and the German wins, if fresh. I don't call a 50% chance of Germany winning air combat historically accurate. Not only that, after 1 round, if the Russian survives, he just throws in another fresh supporting plane. See rule 7.4.2 for changing engaged units for the next round of combat. Even worse, if a supporting air unit (supporting a ground attack) voluntarily retreats, all ground combat units must also retreat, 7.4.1.3.
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Simon Blackwell
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All you guys have valid points. To throw my penny in, I think the game pretty well reflects the historical events. The German air forces are crucial to winning those key battles. When going for Leningrad you have to throw everything at this place and even then the odds tend to favour the Ivan. While selecting other crucial battles you then have inevitably to rely on the Finns to provide either a diversionary attack or defensive air support. As previously alluded to, as soon as they take even a single point of damage its likely that you will have to retreat.
Then you have to consider what to do with the Romanian, Hungarian & Italian air forces. Not a lot really especially if used defensively as they will almost vcertainly get wiped out but their attacking strength is such that they can also ruin you best ground units if they are heavily beaten when attacking.

The Russians to me on most occasions do seem to overwhelm the Luftwaffe and Axis ground units eventually, it just depends when it happens and how well the Germans are doing up to that point. When playing as the Soviets you know youre on your way to victory when you manage to have a spare air force to bring in if your first is defeated. Again if going for a fortress city and the opponent is filling it up with his best you have to match him and use everything you have.

The key to the game as historically is to maintain the momentum. At the start the Axis have the advantage, I have played both aggressively and cautiously and the latter has never worked (not that I've been that successful with the former either!!) even in that first winter you have to keep on the offensive or the Russians will regroup and overwhelm you in too many places.

Tactically, the biggest problem I find playing as the axis is how to use their allies (less the Finns) as all they seem suited for is railroad convertion and being massacred by russian armies. I will post separately on this.

All in all though, an excellent game
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Antony Cattrall
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rayhosler wrote:
Jeff:
I'm not playing it wrong. We fight plane against plane. It's just that the Russians have a lot more planes. They win the battle of attrition.

Here's a typical example: German plane is 4-3-10, Russian plane is 3-2-10. German planes attack at +2. On the Combat Table only a 2, 5 or 6 are guaranteed good results (Defender must retreat with a 5 or 6 unless in a fort or major city). A 3 is Attacker retreat; a 1 is attacker loses 2 and defender loses 1. Not good. A 2 means both sides lose 2. In that case the Russian defender loses and the German wins, if fresh. I don't call a 50% chance of Germany winning air combat historically accurate. Not only that, after 1 round, if the Russian survives, he just throws in another fresh supporting plane. See rule 7.4.2 for changing engaged units for the next round of combat. Even worse, if a supporting air unit (supporting a ground attack) voluntarily retreats, all ground combat units must also retreat, 7.4.1.3.


I know this post was 3 years ago but ive only just read it so here's my shot at it.
Ray i see what you mean about combating at least 2 russian air but the russian can only afford to do this in maybe one or 2 battles in the first year and a half its only after dec42 if he has looked after his air force could it be a major problem for the german and as for your last point this situation would come about AFTER the air battle has been resolved so if you won the air battle why would you retreat if you had air superiority over the battle field??
as the russian i would not risk two planes on defence that often only if it means i could destroy at least 1 german air.
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Sandy Petersen
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The Russians are at a HUGE disadvantage in the air in this game and only numbers enable them eventually to keep pace. I have played this game many times and I feel I can state authoritatively that the Russians definitely do not have it all their own way in the air.
And the Germans have a LOT better odds than 50-50.
Examine it result by result:

1 – German takes heavy losses. Usually the German retreats at this point, so the Russian wins, with a damaged unit. But the German doesn’t HAVE to retreat. If he doesn’t then there is a 50-50 chance he’ll get shot down next round. But there is also a 100% chance that the Russian will be shot down. Just so you know.
2 – Russian is shot down. German remains to support ground unit.
3 – German must retreat.
4 – Russian is hurt. If he sticks around he is CERTAIN to be shot down next round. Usually the Russian retreats at this point.
5 – Russian retreats.
6 – Russian is shot down.
The Russian plane is destroyed 1/3 of the time. He is forced into retreat 1/6 of the time. And if the German rolls a 4, the Russian is a fool if he stays.

Yes if the Russian player throws two airplanes into the mix, he can stick around for longer. But I think the OP is way too optimistic if he thinks the Russians can afford to do this very often. I never could.
And what about when the Russians attack?

On a roll of 1-2, the Russian is shot down. On a roll of 3, he is forced into retreat. On a roll of 4 he takes a hit and doesn’t hurt the German. Only on a roll of 6 can he actually make the German retreat. He can damage the German on a roll of 5 – some Germans might chicken out at that point – but they don’t need to, because in order to shoot the German down on the next round, the Russian would have to roll a 2, which also shoots himself down. Basically the German wins defensive air combats at least 70% of the time.

There is also the fact that when the Germans win (which usually happens), they add a larger factor to the combat than when the Russians win.

All this means that the Russian air force has an uphill battle.

When the Germans invade, the Russians have three (3) planes vs. the German’s five, plus another two planes for the Rumanians and Finns (not as good as the main Germans though). The Germans have not only better planes, but far more.

By the end of 1941, the Russians add four more planes, for a total of 7. However, they have almost certainly lost their starting 3 by that time, unless they hoarded them very carefully indeed (in which case they probably lost many extra ground battles). The Germans also have extra air support in the form of their minor allies – some of these planes are trash, but some are as good as the Russians, or better.

I have always found the air battles in Russian Front to be interesting, and I always am challenged by it. The Germans have to fight to maintain their air superiority against the superior Soviet production (which is historical), whereas the Russians have to use their planes sensibly in order to hoard enough to stem German offensives, plus eventually retake the air from the Luftwaffe (also historical).


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alex w
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I agree with you all,

Its an elegant system and a FANTASTIC battle/wargame. I like it very much.....no other wargame has come to this scope of excitement at thiss scale. (Maybe Stalin's War......soon)

Nevertheless, The Air-battles are deadly, but there are actually other component to the game to consider. (1) The cost of bringing back the destroyed Russian Air, as well as (2) Locating them close to the front, with enough airfields, so that a German Air unit could not 'Air-base' attack, and HOLD down 2 russian Air.

I agree, that losing the German Air is more difficult to replace than Russian Air, but the overall map situation by combat units on the ground should also be looked into. Plugging gaps casued by Exploiting Panzers are really a challenge.

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Craig Champagne
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Ray: I see your point absolutely and I have never thought much about this point until I read your thread here. I think that you have a point. I will concede that it is a weakness, if not a flaw.

I encourage you to NOT use the Optional Rule concerning Ignoring Retreat Results on the CRT. Don't use that Optional Rule.

If you play by the regular and playtested retreat rule, one of your air battles will soon have a required retreat result and the air battle is ENDED for that player turn in that Battle Location hex.

I don't like the Ignore Retreat Optional Rule for any purposes.
 
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