CJ Hakansson
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Part 2 An introductory scenario we actually played for once!



Malin: Introductory scenarios are normally something that I avoid playing. A lot of the time they are unbalanced, uninteresting and if you've played wargames for 25 years you can usually figure out the rules just by reading them and get right to the fun part. Not so this time. While the rule book is a pleasant enough read with easy layout and a good flow that leads to very little flipping back and forth, the order matrix really stumped me. In combination with the initiative rules, I found it hard to predict how it would actually play once the pieces hit the board. And, since the scenario actually included a decent amount of pieces and didn't do any "let's just play with the basics and avoid the hard stuff", I figured it might actually be fun.

And boy, it was.



CJ: Even for me, who got completely trashed! As long as the game is interesting, I don't mind getting stomped and there's no shame losing to such a skilled wargamer as Malin. She went on like a true Soviet Heroine of the People and basically just steamrolled over me on all fronts. She used the initiative track to great advantage and managed to maintain her momentum while forcing me to react and react until there was not much left to react with.

I have to say that this is one of the few introductory scenarios that I've played that didn't feel like it was tacked on as an afterthought. I could easily play it again, trying different tactics without feeling that it would be too limited. The scenario has an interesting map with several viable options to advance, solid victory conditions and it throws you into a quick action packed battle without any complex scenario specific rules. It's perfect to introduce your friend to the game system, but also a joy to play for experienced players. The only bad thing I can say about it, is that the game system itself is very unforgiving and in this case maybe the Germans might have a little tougher task at hand than the Soviets. I say maybe, because I feel I need to play more to be certain, but it's what my intuition tells me right now, so I'm going with it. Shutting the hell up, even under gun threat, has never been a part of my skill set. During the game, I had some really crippling bad luck at some critical points, but I have to say that I felt that it wasn't the bad rolls so much as my failure to properly analyze and plan my attack that made me lose the game. Which to me, is reassuring when trying out a new game.


Malin: In all fairness, a lot of my momentum came from my wish to explore just what my trusty little T34's could do. After all, every game handles things differently. How fast could I drive? How effective was shooting? What effect did range have? Is a tank assault a viable tactic? It turns out that it was, though what won me the game was the fact that my wild, right flank assault proved to be a good distraction that enabled me to take and hold the VP's in the central village first, and a lucky artillery strike dealt with the counterattack.

CJ: Yeah, the capabilities of the T-34 is actually a good benchmark for testing a new game. If it plays like it should have performed on the field, in the day, which in this case it did, we see that as a good sign. I was expecting that the rule about the T-34 at this time lacking radio communication, as well as the asynchrous matrix itself, would handicap the Soviets, but it didn't. As long as you manage to get the tanks in place, they didn't need much further encouragement to rip my units to shreds. In too many wargames, most of them designed during the Cold War era, the Soviets are portrayed either as a drunken horde that won the war by “(cheating with) their overwhelming numbers” or as a “robotic hive mind” where the chain of command is so rigid, a tank column can't even drive down a road without all turning at the same time and ending up in a large burning pile in a ditch (yeah, MBT and Assault – I'm looking at you!). With the research that has come to light during the last decade or so, game designers are re-evaluating the capabilities of the Red Army during WWII and that is a breath of fresh air. Politic dogma shouldn't affect historical simulations, nor historical research, but unfortunately it does and it will most likely continue to do so. But as long as we are aware of it, the better the both the historical science and historical gaming communities will be at questioning it.

But back to Fighting Formations. How did you feel that Soviets played in this, compared to other games? I know we both liked how they worked in Combat Commander, another excellent game by Chad Jensen, but also that we both had issues with that no one really wants to simulate their historical ability to put up with hardships or their stubbornness in the face of an overwhelming enemy. Pre-Stalingrad the Red Army was in poor shape, one reason being Stalin's purges, but after Stalingrad, when NKVD's influence dropped, the Red Army turns into a different kind of beast. People with combat and command experience from the Russo-Japanese war were suddenly kosher again.

Malin: I have to say that I liked the feel of the T34 here. I can't disagree much with any of the stats, they are fast, tough little buggers.

CJ: Yeah, tell me about it! In scenario 1, I surronded three of them and kept pouring flank shots from my pak 38's and my PIIIJ into them, that bounced off in all directions while the tankistas inside just laughed and hurled abuse at us. “That's all you've got, facist? That's all? My mother brews tea tougher than you!”
My guys thought it was really unsportsmanlike of the "unwashed barbarians" to build better tanks than them. They must have had help from space aliens!

Malin: What is interesting about how the radioless rules work, is that it gives a good feel for the limits of their command system while not pretending that the crew are idiots. When it comes to all the decisions that are up to the crew, like firing or rallying, Germans and Soviets are the same, especially since the rolls needed to rally for tanks are dependent on the damage chit and not on an intrinsic morale value of the tank. And when it comes to moving, as long as you keep them in mission command so the officer can keep waving his signal flags or whatever he does, they function as effectively as any other tank. I really like this, I can really imagine the hesitation of a tank out of command trying to decide whether to take the initiative and assault their opponent, not knowing if this will mess up their commander's plan or not.

CJ: Especially, since you have to pop the hatch to take in the surroundings and that's a perfect way to getting your head blown off. From the German side, I thought the StuG IIIF felt just as it should. It hit hard, it had to position before shooting and it had decent armor. I can't complain about my fashion models either. The grenadiers' capabilities felt about right, to me.

I call them fashion models, since as absurd as it sounds, a lot of people recruited into the GD MD were chosen for their physical appearance. They had to look good and tough, while being the honor guard in Berlin and escorting dignitaries around, which was their main job before earning the name GrossDeutschland. The SS took over the role of poster boys, but GD still had official guard duties of Berlin for a while. With this in mind, I could at least tell myself that when my guys died, they looked damned good doing it!
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Freddy Dekker
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Just to complete the picture, is CJ a guy?
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CJ Hakansson
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A guy?

I'm barely human!shake
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Freddy Dekker
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Thanks, got it, female it is.....

laugh
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