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Subject: Showdown in Siberia -- modern arctic warfare using the Memoir '44 system rss

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Arctic warfare is a fascinating topic. My first arctic scenario using the Memoir '44 system -- Ice Station Memoir -- when the Cold War was REALLY cold -- was posted on BGG back in 2011 and I've created two more in the last few years. Showdown in Siberia is the most ambitious Session Report in this series.

Showdown in Siberia depicts a struggle for control of modern Russia between forces loyal to the government and nationalist forces attempting to launch a military coup. The background for this scenario is pure speculation and the narrative was developed to create a more interesting game. For the record, I have previously posted an article on BGG -- Politika 2042: Russia After Putin -- predicting the continued dominance of Russia by Vladimir Putin for decades.

There are four specific factors connected to any military operation conducted under arctic conditions that I wanted to portray in this scenario. Here they are, listed in no particular order:

-- changing weather conditions

-- poor visibility

-- the effects of snow and frozen terrain

-- the impact of frigid temperatures on soldiers and equipment

By combining a set of special rules with a few modified Command Cards these factors have been simulated within the existing Memoir '44 system. This is yet another testimony to the superb framework created by the talented Richard Borg.






The board represents the area south of Chita near Domna Airbase. The map in not precisely to scale but each hex represents about a mile of actual terrain. The landscape features wooded hills, frozen swamps, towns, and the Ingoda River. Only the highways are depicted with road hexes.

The nationalist forces (light gray figures) are attempting to establish a blocking position south of Chita in order to gain time for other opposition formations to assemble in the Eastern Military District. The government forces (dark gray figures) must break up this concentration while neutralizing the missile batteries controlled by the nationalists. This is a fluid situation containing many elements of a classic meeting engagement... and a meeting engagement is often one of the most challenging military problems a commander will face.

An effort has been made to create an accurate order of battle for the modern Russian ground forces. The nationalist army might include the 36th Motor Rifle Brigade, the 14th Spetsnaz Brigade, and elements of the 83rd Airborne Brigade. The government army might include the 37th Guards Motorized Brigade, the 5th Guards Tank Brigade, and the elements of the 11th Guards Airborne Brigade. Both commanders would have local reserve units available.






Each formation is intended to represent the equivalent of a battalion. This photograph of a government brigade (sometimes designated a regiment) includes three mechanized infantry units, a tank unit, and a self-propelled artillery unit. An attack helicopter unit is accompanying the brigade.

The adverse effects of snow and frozen terrain were mentioned earlier. Please note the frozen swamp terrain tiles and the frozen river terrain tiles. All mechanized units (this term includes any formation with a vehicle except the snow tractors) have four "movement points" to expend when activated. Moving along a road, entering a town, or crossing a bridge requires one point. Entering a clear hex requires two points. Entering a wooded hex, a swamp hex, or a river hex requires four points. Obviously, these powerful mechanized units are severely hindered when leaving the highway.






This photograph features a nationalist snow tractor infantry unit and a missile launcher. Infantry equipped with snow tractors have four movement points but can enter anything but a wooded, swamp, or river hex by expending one movement point. Entering a wooded, swamp, or river hex requires two movement points. To reflect the difficulty of operating in these frigid conditions mechanized infantry and snow tractor infantry may only attack if they have expended less than three movement points.

Missile launchers never move or fire. They are actually static objectives which the government player must neutralize. A missile launcher is immediately "neutralized" if any government ground unit enters that hex. A neutralized missile launcher scores two victory points for the government commander.

An astute observer will notice the colorful camouflage schemes used on the nationalist equipment. The government units are dreary and largely monochromatic. This was intentional. The use of color can help to establish a mood during a game session.






Both sides have light infantry formations which are treated like ski units. However, each formation includes four miniatures and there is no extra retreat bonus after a flag result. Airborne formations are also treated as light infantry units with the ability to use skis.

The government commander has a 3-1 advantage in tanks and a 2-1 advantage in mechanized infantry. However, in these arctic conditions light infantry is often more effective, particularly in rugged terrain. The nationalist player has a 2-1 advantage in ski troops. Even though both sides are essentially structured in a similar "Russian" fashion I was able to create asymmetric forces to reflect a unique tactical situation.

Nationalist light infantry formations begin the game in camouflage mode and remain in that status until they move, fire, or are attacked by close assault. Modern sensor technology is assumed to prevent any other units from entering camouflage status during the scenario.






The river valley is a major Siberian transportation route. The flag tokens on certain bridges represent demolition charges placed by the nationalists. Government ground units remove these charges the instant a bridge hex is entered. This scores one victory point for the government commander.






Government units advance through wooded terrain. The pointing figure represents a staff officer. A staff officer may be dispatched anywhere on the board to activate one formation. Both commanders have staff officers available.

Each player is provided with four command cards. The scenario uses my special "hot" deck with many of the superfluous cards removed. Random events are depicted by modifying certain cards. For example, the original "Ambush" card allows all nationalist light infantry units to instantly attack one adjacent enemy formation. The original "Finest Hour" card appears near the end the battle as a fatigue event. This card is randomly buried near the bottom of the deck and will appear at an unexpected moment to end the session.

Unless there is a change in weather conditions as a result of a random event card the government commander has complete air superiority. Attack helicopters have unlimited movement and fight like flying tanks. No line of sight is required and helicopters roll a 3-3-3 battle dice sequence. Because of the threat posed by SAM launchers helicopters are never allowed to enter a hex adjacent to an enemy unit. An attack helicopter is destroyed immediately if it ends a government commander's turn next to any nationalist formation.

To reflect the limited visibility under arctic conditions in this scenario a grenade result on the battle dice is only a hit when the attacking unit is next to the targeted enemy formation. At longer ranges artillery can only be hit with a star result on the battle dice.






The government commander receives one airstrike per turn. Jets roll three battle dice and attack like artillery. Aircraft have unlimited range and may attack anywhere on the board. A change in weather patterns may allow the nationalist player to launch an airstrike from his distant runways. When the original "Airpower" card appears as a random event the nationalist commander immediately conducts an airstrike... then the unpredictable weather shifts back in favor of the government player.

Another random event reflects arctic weather conditions: the original "Medics & Mechanics" card is inserted near the middle of the deck and functions as a brief pause in the battle. Many of the casualties suffered by infantry formations will be due to cold weather. A temporary halt to the fighting will allow many of these men to rejoin their comrades. Some weakened infantry formations from both armies can immediately gain a lost figure when this card appears. However, the impact of frigid weather on tanks and other vehicles is not alleviated by this event. Mechanical repairs in the field are extremely difficult in arctic weather.






The government commander always executes an airborne operation during the first turn of the scenario. This unit may land in any clear hex which is not adjacent to a nationalist formation. The airborne unit functions as light infantry and can wreak havoc among the missile launchers if the VDV troopers are not contained.

In this photograph a security unit (with truck) has left Domna Airbase (red runway hex) to confront the airborne unit. The government player scores two victory points for occupying the airbase. The single nationalist tank unit has joined the effort.






A nationalist mechanized unit protecting a missile launcher is supported by artillery. These towed guns function according to standard rules while the self-propelled guns use mobile artillery rules. One random event card provides the government commander (who has more abundant supplies of ammunition) with a "free" barrage with all three of his artillery formations.






The original "Behind Enemy Lines" card is another random event signaling a change in weather conditions. This time the weather shift allows the nationalist commander to conduct an airborne operation while the government bases are fogged in. In this example the nationalist airborne formation has landed and threatens the flank of an advancing government armored column.






In addition to securing bridges, neutralizing missile launchers, and seizing an airbase the government commander must attempt to occupy two towns near the northern edge of the board. Control of these towns will restrict lateral maneuver by the nationalist commander. Each town is worth two victory points. There are 15 total victory points available and the government player needs to have a score of 8 points at the end of the session to win.

Since the government troops would probably be less motivated than the soldiers fighting with the opposition morale is an important factor... and morale is often volatile when an army faces brutal weather conditions. If more than six government formations are destroyed the government army is considered to be "demoralized" and the session ends immediately with a nationalist victory.

This reckless advance by a government tank formation ended in disaster when the armored unit was caught in a crossfire during the next turn. All three tanks were eliminated.






At the end of the session a thin defensive line has been patched together by the nationalist commander. The dark blue self-propelled nationalist artillery unit across the river has been pounding the government force pushing north along the river valley.

The government army has avoided demoralization but only two of the three missile launchers have been neutralized. With two bridges secured the government commander is left with a weak total of six victory points as time expires.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read this lengthy article.

I think this scenario has possible convention appeal. It is big and bold with rule modifications that any experienced Memoir '44 player could grasp immediately.
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John Eldon
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Excellent game review and an interesting topic

Well done
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Ruben Rigillo
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Mr. Belli,
Indeed you know how to have endless fun out of games!!!!!
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Qwirz wrote:
...you know how to have endless fun out of games!!!!!


Exactly right.

That is the beauty of the Commands & Colors system.
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Orion J.N. Winder
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This IMHO seems one of the best mods yet! Nicely played!
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OrionDD wrote:
This IMHO seems one of the best mods yet! Nicely played!


Thank you for those positive comments. I'm planning another session with a different mix of units. A report will be posted on BGG.
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Chris Strabala
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I have to ask, what is the micro machine used for your mechanized infantry? Is it modified from it's original?

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crsluggo wrote:
I have to ask, what is the micro machine used for your mechanized infantry? Is it modified from it's original?


Good question.

The chassis is a German tank from the original Memoir '44 set with the turret removed. The small gun mount/turret was previously attached to an M7 Priest self-propelled artillery piece in the Micro Machines series. It was secured with Super Glue and the entire APC was painted. I intended this "Franken-Tank" to represent something like a BMP.
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The next version will include actual BMP miniatures from Micro Machines.
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George Van Wallendael
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I had the opportunity to play this at Recon 2016. I have to say it was very fun and tense. I played the Rebels and won however, it could have gone either way. Pete did an excellent job and the game was both visually stunning and also, a great adaption to the Command and Colors System! We had the honor of Mr. Borg himself being in attendance. Richard is one of the nicest and most humble people you would ever meet. Thank You to both Pete and Richard for their efforts in making this a wonderfully adaptable system.
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