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Into a Bear Trap: The Battle for Grozny, January 1995» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Russian nightmare rss

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Arrigo Velicogna
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Introduction and presentation:

Into a Bear Trap is an interesting simulation of the first Russian assault in Grozny during the first Chechen war. Being a magazine game it is accompanied by a really interesting article about the battle that gives some interesting insights on the city, the story behind and the real battle. It's definitely a tactical game with platoon size counters for infantry and vehicles (2-3 vehicles each counters that for standard russian organization is a platoon). The russian counters are color coded for formation identification and all counters discarded traditional NATO icons in favor of russian ones. It's a nice touch even if at start it can generate some confusion. The map is a subdued representation of the city with really (and handy) large hex. IMO it is succesfull in conveying the idea of the large, socialist sytled, city. Table are included in the rules that are printed in the magazine. Two scenario (one historical with many restrictions on the russian player and a variation with a more careful russian plan).

The System
Into a Bear Trap has a chit based sequence. The chits representing russian formations and chechen "activations" are placed in the opaque container and then draw randomly. When a formation is activated (for chechens a number of units equal to a die roll) each activated unit can move, call artillery, close assault or perform a combine fire/move action. Fire results vary from outright elimination to progressive states of unit incapacitation. Artillery can also reduce urban hexes to rubble aiding the defender even more. Random events are included to covver some unusual actions in the battle.


Comments

I think that the game does a good job in simulating modern urban combat. The random activations grant that nothing is predictable and that coordinating different formation is almost impossible (this is more a problem for the russian player than for the chechen, the latter activations allow to stage more "coordinated" operations even it they are subejcted to the random roll for unit activation) and soon the russians are fighting separate battalion sized battle at various places. this bring another problem of the city terrain, the dependance on road for vehicles. While on paper the heavier russian units like T80 tanks are strong the dependance on the road network makes them vulnerable and force the soviet player to protect them with infantry (adding coordination problems due to the fact tha tanks a riflemen are on different battalions). And destroyed vehicles generated wrecks who block roads. thus the main heavy weapons in the hand of the russian player has to be employed carefully.
The chechen are also provided by plenty of RPG and they are more mobile (6 mp compared to 3 for russian foot). the end results is a lumbering bear moving forward surrounded by smaller birds of prey. this doesn't imply that the russians can't win, just that they have to tailor their tactics to their force structure and bear in mind that the chechens will outmaneuver them (I have tried a Baghdad approach with garrisons at mayor crossroads to keep them open only to see them surrounded and wiped out if they weren't less than half battalion sized).
The fire system is a bit frustrating you have to roll a d10 and obtain less than the unit firepower. Considering that average infanytry units have 3 and for firing on built up area there is a +2 modifier to the die roll it means that you have to put a lot of fire in a hex to obtain results (there is a +1 if the target has been already subjected to fire). And activate units then become more vulnerable (the firer has a -1 do the roll for firing on activated units) meaning that more you push more you are vulnerable to enemy reaction, sa nice way to simulate the ambush prone nature of urban combat.
In addition employing heavy firepower (off board arty and Schmel pseudo-flamethrower) risks to generate rubble that will only increase terrain protection.
The rules are genrally well written even if the section on Russian forces entry on the map can be a little difficult to digest and can be interepreted in different ways. Still no major erratas are needed and the game isn't affected by mayor problems.

Conclusion
A nice game on a less known, but veryinteresting battle. If you like city battles and/or contemporary conflicts this is a nice choice.

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Pete Atack
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I've had a pretty decent time playing this twice (map and counters do not bother me like many others who have not warmed up to them). Combat is a level ABOVE deadly. The one part that still strikes me as odd, even though I've seen the developer's / designer's comments on it, are the modifiers for close combat. Can't recall the exacts, but it has something to do with the ratio of Russian units to Chechen units.
 
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Chris
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Nice review. It reminded me that I wanted to get this game, so I just followed the eBay link and bought it!
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Arrigo Velicogna
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The close combat modifiers are based on the number of unit the attacker/defender has and the worst suppression status between defender units. Ideally you have to soften up the enemy with fire and then move in...
 
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Colin Hunter
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Thanks for the review, I've ordered it and look forward to playing it.
 
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Hidden Among the Leaves
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A game that I have enjoyed playing some times despite its shortcomings. I commend it to anyone who wants to study tactics in the modern urban warfare.

Plus it can become an awful experience for the Soviet Player.

Michael
 
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