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Combat Commander: Europe» Forums » Variants

Subject: Balancing Scenario 5 rss

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Jeff Endres
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First off, let me say that I really like the challenge of playing Germans in scenario 5. However, no-one could reasonably argue that this scenario is balanced.

We have a mini tournament going here in Melbourne. Everyone plays everyone else once and every round is a new scenario. Round 1 is scenario 1, round 2 is scenario 2, etc. Sides are selected by Vickrey auction with the winner getting the lowest bid + 1 VP bonus.

The problem with this in Scenario 5 is that I could bid 100 Russians and the opponent could be 50 (setting the starting VP at 60 for the Germans) and I would still win by surrender. The Russians have plenty of time and far superior forces that just have to advance and close combat the Germans to wipe them out. Basically the play is: Move, Recover, Move, Recover, Advance, Advance. Anything else on the Russian side is filler. The Germans will jam their hand on defender only cards that can't be played and their only chance of winning this is setting up on row D and quickly running them off the board if the Russians left a gap in their setup. Not likely with the number of units they start with!

So, what can we do to make this scenario a bit more balanced?

Maybe one (or more?) of the following:

Giving the Germans 4 wire to setup. (Holds off the horde on the flanks, still tough for the defenders though because it might not slow them down enough.)

Allowing the defenders to play wire and mine attacks. (This would allow them to slow the Russians at choke points again, and also allow them to cycle cards a bit better.)

Giving the Germans an extra weapon team and MMG. (Maybe not enough, but it lessens the effect of loosing the HMG at the start. I've seen a game where the HMG is eliminated before it fired a shot.)

Significantly reduce Russian surrender levels. Maybe to 4 or 5. (If the Germans can kill 5 units, they have done an exceedingly good job and should be considered the winners. Although, this is a little unrealistic surrender level with such a large number of Russians. Winning a game of CC:E shouldn't be about winning the battle, but rather outplaying the opponent.)

Increase German surrender level to at least 6 so they can fight to the last man.

Move time marker up 2 places. (Might not be enough, I have managed to hold off until time marker 11 with a 28VP lead, but the result was inevitable with a Russian 2 leader and squad in my trenches close to my remaining units.)

What do you think?
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Richard Pardoe
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Interestingly, the current CC:E Vassal tournament is also running through the scenarios in order as you are currently doing. It is currently in round 5 so is playing this very scenario.

Of the 3 games played to date - Germans have won 2, Russians have won 1. (9 more bouts still to play - so will see at the end what this sample says about scenario balance.)

I happened to watch one of the German victories on Vassal and they most assuredly did not set up in advance (ie Column D) to rush the map edge. They set up behind the river and carefully waited for the Russians to come using their fire lanes quite effectively. Over at CSW made some comments here. I threw in my comments here. The Russian player made his comments here.

The Russian player in this game was hampered by a lack of recover cards early and didn't get the necessary advance cards until later. Granted the Russians almost did pull it off, but the Germans won on time (sudden death) by exhausting the Russian draw deck for the last time trigger. This one game came down to the very end, in no way was it a rout for the Russians.

For what it is worth, Chad has made some comments about his preferred German set-up in this thread. His exact post is here. The Germans in the game above used something very similar to that for very good effect.

So while the Germans are harder to play in this scenario, I have yet to be convinced that the scenario is imbalanced to the point where tweaks are needed.
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Jeff Endres
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Of the 4 games I've seen, all were won by russians. So we have 5 to 2 to the russians. The one game you mention seems to be have been lost due to very poor game play and then it was only _just_ lost. (Even the player mentions he made bad decisions.) I'd like to see the log files of these games. It would be interesting to see the different play style.

How you can expose yourself to fire without cover as the Russians is unbelievable. There is abundant cover on this map.

Lack of recover cards early? Weak excuse. Discard. Get rid of those fire cards, they are useless at the moment. You have plenty of time. And you have so many leaders and units, you don't need to recover everytime a unit breaks. Only play your recovers when a leader breaks. so the germans broke a unit? Leave them behind. Let the Germans waste fire cards trying to kill that unit, it only means they will jam more on the useless defence cards.

The left flank should be able to move up to the building without suffering any breaks by using good LOS you shouldn't even be exposed to significant fire.

The right flank is your key, it doesn't have to be big, otherwise the germans will defend it better. You don't have much cover, but you have some hindrances to German fire and if they setup like Chad you will quickly overrun them without loosing a man.

You now have two groups well positioned within firing range of the germans and a step away from CC. You just need 2 move cards and then you are up in their faces. Ok, they might have broken one lot of units, but your second lot is there unbroken. You then only need one advance (which you have saved from beforehand perhaps) and the germans are as good as dead. A +2 leader and 2 squads is a base of 20 in CC.

IIRC, the Russians have the most movement, advance and concealment cards. This is all they need to do. Firing your SMGs is a waste of time.

Quoting you from CSW:
Quote:
In the end, what amazed me - the Russians looked out of it early on (as time had advanced while the Russians hadn't), but Rob still managed to come within 1 order of winning the game by the time it was all said and done.


Doesn't this suggest that even if the russians play poorly and fail to move, they still have plenty of time to win this game?

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David desJardins
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jeffendres wrote:
You then only need one advance (which you have saved from beforehand perhaps) and the germans are as good as dead. A +2 leader and 2 squads is a base of 20 in CC.


I'm not going to take a stance on the scenario balance, but you certainly don't have to let them advance on you with 2 squads. If they have two squads adjacent to you, they must be in different hexes. So you can use an Advance card of your own to advance into one of those two hexes. Or you can use a Move card and run away. I agree you can't just stand and duke it out in close combat. But that isn't the only conceivable German strategy.
 
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Jeff Endres
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I was wondering when this was going to come out. Running away isn't a feasible defence. Russians have more move cards, more base movement, more advance cards, more commands, and a larger hand size since the Germans have an average hand size of about 3 because of the useless cards.

The Germans just have to jam once, or be forced out into the open, not quite move far enough, etc and they are dead.

I was in the same situation in my last game. I advanced my force to take out one of the Russian hexes, but there are just so many, they countered with their own advance. That won them the game.

I'm not here to discuss strategy. That is pretty obvious IMHO. Germans die due to close combat. I'm here to discuss the best way to tweak this to give the germans a fighting chance if both players are of equal competence.

If you feel that this is already the case, I think your playgroup doesn't close combat enough.
 
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Alpha Mastrano
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We can have a rematch next thurs, Jeff. Let's see how I go playing the Germans.
 
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Nick Avtges
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jeffendres wrote:
If you feel that this is already the case, I think your playgroup doesn't close combat enough.


And I think your playgroup doesn't churn the decks enough. The German player needs to pretty much ignore everything the Russian is trying to do unless they have a chance to run away and simply burn cards at every opportunity. But then you're not here to discuss strategy...

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Mark Christopher
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I just finished my third playing of this scenario. The first was an overwhelming Russian victory. The second was almost as tight as it could be until the end. The third found the Germans winning the most one-sided victory I've ever seen in this game; not only did they never lose a unit, they rarely even broke, and if not for a pair of walking wounded events, the Russians would have lost by surrender. Naturally, this isn't enough data to form an opinion on the balance of the scenario. However, there's nothing like the tension of feeling like the underdog and playing a close game or pulling out an amazing win. There are plenty of "balanced" scenarios in this game; I like leaving a few that at least give the appearance of asymmetry.
 
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Ethan McKinney
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jeffendres wrote:
First off, let me say that I really like the challenge of playing Germans in scenario 5. However, no-one could reasonably argue that this scenario is balanced.


Interesting assertion. Reminds me of the assertions that Scenario 2 was unwinnable by the Soviets. They did just fine in the tournament, though.

Of course, it was balanced in playtesting. It was played a whole lot more than four times.

jeffendres wrote:
Of the 4 games I've seen, all were won by russians.


If both sides have equal chance of winning (50%), you'd get this result one time in sixteen (1 in 16 or 6.25%). That means it's going to happen to someone. This result doesn't make it to the 95% confidence interval by any means.

BTW, the 2-5 result is so far away from the 95% confidence interval that it's not worth talking about.

I'd like to see the set-ups and strategies the Germans used in those four games of yours. In my (limited) experience, the obvious set-ups for the Germans are death traps.


jeffendres wrote:
I was wondering when this was going to come out. Running away isn't a feasible defence. Russians have more move cards, more base movement, more advance cards, more commands, and a larger hand size since the Germans have an average hand size of about 3 because of the useless cards.


Do keep in mind that the Germans can take advantage of trench-to-trench movement if they set up their defenses correctly. This is not the be-all and end-all of mobility, but it helps them move forces laterally, remaining in cover, to counter-attack penetrations.

Technically, the Soviets have a bigger had size just because they get six cards to four for the Germans. Using your calculation, the Soviets only have about a 4.5 card hand because so many of their cards are useless: Artillery Request, Artillery Denied, Sustained Fire, Dig In, all of the Defender-only cards, and probably even their 18 Fire cards.

This scenario can be quite sensitive to certain Actions and Events for the Germans: Hidden Unit, Infiltration, Reinforcements, and Walking Wounded. A single reinforcement represents quite a force increase for the Germans. For the Soviets, it may represent a unit stuck on the west edge of the map that would suck up a critically needed Move order just to get it near the action.

Incidentally, the roads and stream that cris-cross the map are wonderful kill zones.
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Jeff Endres
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markus_kt wrote:
I just finished my third playing of this scenario. The first was an overwhelming Russian victory. The second was almost as tight as it could be until the end. The third found the Germans winning the most one-sided victory I've ever seen in this game; not only did they never lose a unit, they rarely even broke, and if not for a pair of walking wounded events, the Russians would have lost by surrender.


Again, why are you trying to "break" the Germans? You just CC them to death. You would only make one concentrated fire every now and then.

Quote:
However, there's nothing like the tension of feeling like the underdog and playing a close game or pulling out an amazing win. There are plenty of "balanced" scenarios in this game; I like leaving a few that at least give the appearance of asymmetry.


Hmmm... "appearance". I don't mind an asymmetrical scenario either. I like a challenge.
 
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Jeff Endres
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nix342 wrote:
jeffendres wrote:
If you feel that this is already the case, I think your playgroup doesn't close combat enough.


And I think your playgroup doesn't churn the decks enough. The German player needs to pretty much ignore everything the Russian is trying to do unless they have a chance to run away and simply burn cards at every opportunity. But then you're not here to discuss strategy...


Haha! Yeah, that is it, poor hand management. "Just ignore the russians and run away." Sorry mate, that is the worst game plan I've heard.

I split fire groups for most fire attacks, unless I see a chance to break a leader. I take the "not-a'chance-in-hell" rolls. I know how to churn. I've got enough experience with V:TES to know how to churn a deck.
 
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Jeff Endres
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elbmc1969 wrote:
jeffendres wrote:
First off, let me say that I really like the challenge of playing Germans in scenario 5. However, no-one could reasonably argue that this scenario is balanced.


Interesting assertion. Reminds me of the assertions that Scenario 2 was unwinnable by the Soviets. They did just fine in the tournament, though.

Of course, it was balanced in playtesting. It was played a whole lot more than four times.


I can't comment on that, because I didn't make that call and I don't know any scenario 2 with the Soviets.

Everyone makes this comment about playtesting, yet I get a comment on another thread from David that "if we had thought of X while playtesting" to something that I find quite obvious.

Quote:
jeffendres wrote:
Of the 4 games I've seen, all were won by russians.


If both sides have equal chance of winning (50%), you'd get this result one time in sixteen (1 in 16 or 6.25%). That means it's going to happen to someone. This result doesn't make it to the 95% confidence interval by any means.

BTW, the 2-5 result is so far away from the 95% confidence interval that it's not worth talking about.

I'd like to see the set-ups and strategies the Germans used in those four games of yours. In my (limited) experience, the obvious set-ups for the Germans are death traps.


Sorry, no death traps here. Standard trenches behind the river. One setup was behind the river and road. The same setup you hint at with the "criss-crossing" of roads and river. This failed because it allowed the Russians to advance unopposed until they could make the double move play.

Edit: Actually there was a death-trap. Basically a copy of Chad's setup failed miserably. The Russians only lost units to overstacking. Double move gambit for the win!

Quote:
jeffendres wrote:
I was wondering when this was going to come out. Running away isn't a feasible defence. Russians have more move cards, more base movement, more advance cards, more commands, and a larger hand size since the Germans have an average hand size of about 3 because of the useless cards.


Do keep in mind that the Germans can take advantage of trench-to-trench movement if they set up their defenses correctly. This is not the be-all and end-all of mobility, but it helps them move forces laterally, remaining in cover, to counter-attack penetrations.

The Russians can also do the same. We are talking about the same map, the
Germans don't get a special terrain movement bonus right?
Quote:

Technically, the Soviets have a bigger had size just because they get six cards to four for the Germans. Using your calculation, the Soviets only have about a 4.5 card hand because so many of their cards are useless: Artillery Request, Artillery Denied, Sustained Fire, Dig In, all of the Defender-only cards, and probably even their 18 Fire cards.

The hand-sizes are balanced for attacker and defender with the standard card set. Not for when the defender has 13 out of 72 cards useless.
Quote:

This scenario can be quite sensitive to certain Actions and Events for the Germans: Hidden Unit, Infiltration, Reinforcements, and Walking Wounded. A single reinforcement represents quite a force increase for the Germans. For the Soviets, it may represent a unit stuck on the west edge of the map that would suck up a critically needed Move order just to get it near the action.

Incidentally, the roads and stream that cris-cross the map are wonderful kill zones.


Well I have received a HMG Reinforcement as Germans. It helped me kill one leader. That is why I listed a MG and team as a possible tweak. It might be a bit strong to have it available from the start.

Remember the more you churn the opponent's, the greater the chance of snipers hitting your team. Events are more likely to be good for the drawing player. While the Russians are barely churning the German deck at all. (But apparently I don't know how to churn decks.)
 
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Dave Langdon
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Played this as the germans a couple of days ago. HMG was frozen at beginning...it only got worse after that, most resounding defeat i've had so far. Despite the end result going heavily against me, it sure felt like a realistic insight into the eastern front.
 
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J Mathews
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I've played this scenario 4 times, twice recently gearing up for my tournament match and 3/4 of those have been close. The blowout was for the Russians and consisted of them killing one side and streaming guys over and out. Other than that, neither side has had an overwhelming advantage. I have not seen the Russians get the endless supply of Advances that they seem to be getting in Australia. I have personally seen nothing, either in my experience or when watching VASSAL, to indicate that the scenario is unbalanced. So either there are poor Russian players here and on VASSAL, poor German players down under, or there's some other variable that's confounding the results. My guess is on the third option.

As for how you win as the Germans, you make good use of your cards, make the Russians pay for getting close enough to melee, do preemptive melee if it makes sense, etc. The trenches make Russian Fire attacks less scary and you have enough firepower to do some damage. The last one that I played was a Russian win due to a secret objective that gave him 6 pts at the end (it was tied VPs). I didn't lose a single guy and killed a few of his, he broke some through and scored some exit points.

The key is in the set up and using the trenches for advantage. Typical stuff. Just be sure you have Fire cards when the Russians Move. I don't see the need to change this one.
 
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Jeff Endres
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You only need two advances as the Russians. One for each German leader. Chances of getting them are good as long as you aren't using them unnecessarily.

You talk about the Russian fire attacks. There should be almost no Russian fire attacks if the Russian player is playing sensibly. Those fire cards are better used as Concealment, Ambush and Light Wounds (light wounds so you can increase your CC stack). The chances of them making hits on the Germans in the trenches are very low so why bother?

Jon, in your last game did the Russians close combat with you at all? If not, why not? If so, how did you survive?

Look, I'm going to wait until the VASSAL comp finishes this round. I've already been told off for giving the Russians tips on how to play this round and that, as you suggested, the Russian players on VASSAL were playing poorly.
 
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J Mathews
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Yes, they attempted it on the Ob #1 side. I happened to have 2 Ambushes and was able to beat him off. On the forest side, I was without a Fire card when he made a dash to the forest and so he didn't stop to CC me, he ran for it, which is a big reason why the VPs were close enough for him to win. He also got a .50 cal as a reinforcement and so spent a bit of time shooting at me. By the time the exited units came back on, there wasn't enough time to get close.

I agree with you in theory at least that the Russians shouldn't be spending too many turns shooting at the Germans, assuming competent German set ups, the trenches are too much for the Russian firepower to overcome. However, in practice I don't see it being as overwhelming as presented. You still have to stop a turn before Advancing next to the Germans, have the Germans not run away or kill anyone with a Fire attack, Advance into Melee, not get your combat power Ambushed away, and then win the Melee roll. Admittedly, it only needs to be done once because once one side is gone, there will be exit points a plenty. But if your leader gets killed or something, the Russians are in trouble.

However, there seems to be too much that needs to go right to rely on that consistently, especially since the side more conducive to CC-ing is the lake side, not the Ob #1 side. I find it hard to believe that it would work Moving into the Stream and then living to Advance from there. And the lake side requires going through the marsh, which has been the death of more than one squad in my games (my typical set up has the trenches at F7, G7, H6, and J3-5). With the main fire group at F7, it's pretty difficult to get enough people surrounding the fire group to overstack into melee (assuming that the Germans have Fire cards). If the Germans can kill the leader, that puts a crimp in the Russian melee plans. It's the same with anywhere along the stream.

Again, maybe I'm just playing with bad Russians, but I'm not seeing the overwhelming force that the Russians have, as long as there are Germans on each half of the board. As I said above, the only blowout I've seen with this scenario had the Ob #1 side die and units going across unimpeded, exiting or flanking the other German units.

Re: the VASSAL game. If it's the one I remember with Rob Bottos as the Russians, he lost because the bottom half was full of Blazes and couldn't take advantage of the fact that he'd killed the Germans on that side to escape. The fire funnelled him up and into the other Germans. Without that, it would have been a walk. I think that there were 21 Blazes on that map at the end. Hardly a normal game, but with CC:E, what is a normal game?

Is there something I'm missing?
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Jeff Endres
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EventHorizon wrote:
I find it hard to believe that it would work Moving into the Stream and then living to Advance from there.


Well I've done it. CC with one squad and two ambush cards to take out a major stack. Ok, I sat in the houses for a while waiting for a good card combo, but only about 3 turns, and I lost a squad and a leader doing it, but it paid off.

Quote:

Is there something I'm missing?


To be honest it sounds like you had a bit of good luck with your game (2 ambush cards at the appropriate time is lucky as defenders) and the Russian should have held at least one Ambush in his hand before going into the trenches.

I've seen luck in our games go the way of the Germans, but not enough to beat the Russians, even when they play sub-optimally. And this is with a German setup similar to yours.
 
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Jeff Endres
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Also, I'd like to point out the tactical flaw of the Russian team making a dash for exit points. 2 squads and a leader is 20 Base in CC. No German stack will stand up to that. Which is better, bringing the VP to equal or simply annihilating your enemy?
 
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David desJardins
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jeffendres wrote:
Everyone makes this comment about playtesting, yet I get a comment on another thread from David that "if we had thought of X while playtesting" to something that I find quite obvious.


I never even saw any version of Combat Commander until the published game arrived in the mail. The idea that I failed to notice things during playtesting is total nonsense.

The scenario seems biased toward the Russians to me, also. But I'm not arrogant enough to insist that I must be right, based on my few playings, and the people who have played hundreds of times are all idiots. Plus, I already had the opportunity to play against Chad, who cleaned my clock despite good luck on my part, so it would show questionable judgment for me to denigrate his skills.
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Jeff Endres
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I have never said that "the people who have played hundreds of times are all idiots" and I haven't denigrated Chad's skills.

This is a good game, but this game worship crap is a right turn off. I'm just saying that this scenario is not balanced for tournament play. IMHO, the best solution is the random scenario generator or at the very least playing both sides.

Lets see how these VASSAL games turn out shall we?
 
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J Mathews
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Quote:
Well I've done it. CC with one squad and two ambush cards to take out a major stack. Ok, I sat in the houses for a while waiting for a good card combo, but only about 3 turns, and I lost a squad and a leader doing it, but it paid off.

I should have said that I find it difficult to believe that it could happen on a regular basis. Nor would I really count on that to work on a regular basis. I think that the other side is more vulnerable.

As for the tactical decision of exiting vs melee, I don't know what his cards were so I can't say one way or another, but that exit was why he won (as far as evening the VPs are concerned), so I find it difficult to say it was a categorical mistake.

Personally, I think that the key to the Germans in this as far as set up is concerned is F7. I think that it is really hard to surround that hex and overstack in to melee. And it only takes killing the leader to kill that strategy. I do think that it's the best strategy for Russia in this scenario though.

I just don't think that disagreeing with you about the balance of this scenario equates to worship of the game. The scenario I don't like and think needs change is #8, but people disagree with me about that one too. Although the official change makes it a bit better. This one seems fine and the set up card seems balanced, any issues afterwards seem to be a matter of setting up the troops and card play. I haven't seen what you are citing as the inherent flaws in this scenario, and what you propose to do with the Russians seems to be the optimal strategy for them. I'm not sure that an optimal German strategy/set up has been discovered yet. If one side has an optimal strategy but the other one doesn't, I'm not sure that means it unbalanced. After the VASSAL tournament, and a few other tournaments, maybe an optimal German situation will be found or we'll have enough data to say that it is or isn't balanced.
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Ethan McKinney
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I see only one way to settle this: Jeff needs to take the Soviets in a best-two-out-of-three against Steve Bishop, Barry Ingram, or Bob Heinzmann. (Using VASSAL, naturally.)
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J Mathews
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Agreed, but there is a time zone issue with that idea. Who are the elite players not in Europe?
 
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David desJardins
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jeffendres wrote:
I have never said that "the people who have played hundreds of times are all idiots" and I haven't denigrated Chad's skills.


Well, the people who balanced the scenario have far more experience with the game than you do. But you say that it's "obvious" that the scenario is wildly unbalanced, that it is not something on which any reasonable person can disagree. I guess I don't understand how this is not a criticism of their understanding of the game.
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elbmc1969 wrote:
I see only one way to settle this: Jeff needs to take the Soviets in a best-two-out-of-three against Steve Bishop, Barry Ingram, or Bob Heinzmann. (Using VASSAL, naturally.)


Well, I think Steve and Barry agree with Jeff on this subject...at least that's the impression I get from discussing this scenario with them. From the tourney results page, I suspect that Steve went with an exit strategy as the Germans and got his last guy killed.

My opinion is that this scenario requires excellent play by the German side to have an even chance at winning. Anything but tips the scales very much in the Russians favor, who only need average play to win. Does that make the scenario unbalanced? I don't think so. I think a fair measure of balance would be if both sides play optimally each side wins about 50% of the time.
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