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Jon Darlington
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Last week Tom and I sat down to try our next game in our play-through of Tide of Iron’s Eastern Front. You can find the full scenario list, and links to our reports so far in this series, HERE.

Our original plan was to play all of the scenarios chronologically; but after we'd played a few games we learned of some scenarios we'd missed and others that only came out after we started. We've gone back to fill in those gaps, and this is the last of those backwards-in-time-games before we nudge our way closer to, and into, Stalingrad.

The scenario this time is Willem Boersma’s A Nasty Surprise, which takes us back to the early days of the war as Germans encountered some bewildering Soviet tanks for the first time...

To streamline this report a bit, I've focused on key moments during the game instead of describing each Round in detail. I will add the Round-by-Round images in a subsequent post for those who want to see the positions unfold one Round at a time.

THE SCENARIO

This scenario is almost pure tank vs. tanks, in which a group of light and medium German tanks have to protect a fuel dump from an attack by light, medium, and heavy Soviet tanks. If the fuel dump is lost, the Germans can still win by keeping too many Soviet tanks from escaping back off the map and out of a German encirclement before the scenario ends on Round 11.]



As part of the scenario description, Willem has helpfully provided some statistics to represent several early-war tanks that don’t normally appear in Tide of Iron (Pz II, Pz 38t, BT-7, T-26). To represent these units on the board, you’ll need to pick some stand-in models; we used trucks and halftracks.

The Soviets have a long way to go to reach the fuel dump and then retrace their path back off the map. It’s not a challenge for the lighter Soviet tanks that move 6 and 7 hexes per turn; but it’s harder for the lumbering KV-1s, who move just four hexes per turn, and whose exit is critical to score enough VPs for a Soviet victory.

Also, at the end of each Round, a random hex on the eastern board edge is blocked for the Soviet exit; this represents the German encirclement closing off the Soviet exit routes. If the German player is lucky, these random hexes can create a line of obstacles that significantly lengthen the Soviet exit route, particularly challenging for the slower KV-1s.

The German tanks are equal to or better than the Soviet light tanks; but they are no match for the KV-1s or T-34s. The T-34 and KV-1 have armour 5 and 6 respectively, with Thick Armour providing one guaranteed Armour success vs. each attack).

EDIT: I discovered later that I'd started with two Panzer IVs which should really have been Panzer IIIs (thanks Willem!). The Panzer IVs have FP 4, Armour 4, Range 5 vs. the Panzer IIIs' FP 6, Armour 3 Range 6. This was a significant loss of attack power for the German side in our game.

But the Germans do have the advantage that they should be able to take up defensive positions in Woods to enhance their own armour values by +2, versus the Soviets who are forced to advance through largely open terrain. Still, the Germans are going to lose the tank battle in the long run; it’s a matter of how long they can prolong the fight, and how much they can slow down the Soviet attackers.

Germans also get modest tank reinforcements at the end of Rounds 4, 7, and 9, though their entry point is determined randomly, and could be anywhere along the northwest, west, and southwest board perimeter. That last reinforcement is a fearsome 88mm gun that can easily kill any of the Soviet tanks; but will it arrive in the right place to do any damage before the game ends?

(Note: we did make a mistake here; we rolled once for the entry point for each set of German reinforcements, but we should have been rolling for each unit's entry point separately.)

Soviets also get a few tanks in reinforcement at the end of Round 2, entering in the original deployment area.

Two special Operations cards are in effect. For the Germans, Massive Confusion; no combined fire allowed. For the Soviets, Lack of Tank Radios: the Soviet player must pay one Command at the start of the Round if he wants any of his tanks to move.

DEPLOYMENT

Soviets have Initiative and deploy first. There aren’t a lot of options; it’s a matter of filling the four available deployment hexes with all eight starting tanks.



Germans start up along the road near the Soviet objective. I messed up here as I thought I had to set up in a line, so I didn’t start on the objective; but this didn’t really affect things much.

One thing we did decide on the fly: we judged that “Lack of Tank Radios” didn’t apply during Round 1 (as the Soviets start with no Command, so without this they would just sit still for the duration of Round 1). [Note: actually, if we'd just read all the way to the end of the Operations Card text, we would have seen that this cost is explicitly not paid during the first Round. So no judgement required here after all.]

ROUNDS 1 THROUGH 3



By the end of Round 2, things were going fairly well for the Germans but were about to take a turn for the worse. I’d managed to hold up the Soviet advance along the road a little bit by positioning tanks in the leading edge of the woods (A), where the Panzer IV effectively had 6 armour instead of 4. It had Tom’s tougher tanks bottled up near the bridge (B), busy shooting at the Germans. But elsewhere, Tom’s light tanks were now swarming around my own light tanks . A couple of my tanks had failed to do any damage with their Overwatch shots, and Tom’s tanks had used the opening to dash into point-blank range (C).

At the start of Round 3, Tom had Initiative and used a Major Offensive card to take an extra four actions during his first Action Turn before the Germans could act. This allowed him to eliminate a lot of my forward defense in a single hammer blow; from this point on, the Germans were at a solid disadvantage.

During Round 3 I activated a Bombing Run strategy card that could trigger a multi-hex attack against the cluster of Soviet light tanks in the open; but I failed the Make Contact roll and missed the chance. Tom was careful never to cluster his light tanks together again.



ROUNDS 4 THROUGH 6

At the end of Round 4, I received reinforcements at the northwest corner of the map. These tanks, though, were getting hung up with the task of destroying a couple of light German tanks holding the German Command hex there.

Over Rounds 4 through 6, Tom moved his heavier tanks steadily forward and surrounded the fuel dump objective. The result was what you see here at the end of Round 6. I had one Panzer IV camped on the objective defiantly, but its four points of armour wouldn’t hold up to the combined attack of all Tom’s heavy hitters.





By this point Tom had accumulated about 30 points of Command in his reserve, and would retain Initiative through the rest of the game.

ROUNDS 7 THROUGH 9

On Round 7 I again tried to call a combination of air Support and artillery onto Tom’s tightly-packed tanks as they seized the objective; but each attack either drifted harmlessly away, or failed to penetrate the thick Soviet armour. Tom had no problem destroying the Panzer IV and taking the objective with his first few actions of Round 7.

Tom immediately began his withdrawal – starting with the KV-1s which had waited to go last in Round 7. Once the objective was taken by the T-34s, the slow KV-1s immediately headed full speed (and more) toward the exit.

I had been lucky that the German encirclement had been slowly creeping up the Eastern board edge and making the Soviet exit path longer and longer; but by this point Tom had drawn and activated two Critical Objective strategy cards. He now used these repeatedly to hasten his KV-1s as they made the long trip back to the exit board edge, increasing their Movement values from 4 to 6 for three straight Rounds.

Critical Objective: Once per turn, you may place an activation token on this card to give your active unit 2 additional movement points. Discard this card when the third activation token is placed on it.

I had one piece of good news: my Round 7 reinforcements appeared right beside the objective. I immediately set these up on Opportunity Fire at the start of Round 8, and one of these shots destroyed a previously damaged T-34. The rest of the T-34s, though, escaped unharmed. During Round 8, Tom exited two of his light tanks from the Eastern board edge. By the end of Round 9, the board looked like this:



At the end of Round 9, my final reinforcements arrived on the far western edge, next to the ruins of the Fuel Dump. This was too late, and out of position to have any effect on the game’s outcome.

Tom started by exiting both KV-1s. Then his T-34s followed immediately afterward, shrugging off the Opportunity Fire of my lone Panzer IV, and the Soviets won the game on Round 10 with a Decisive Victory.

Result: Soviet Decisive Victory

AFTERMATH

Ouch! That was brutal. A neat recreation, though, of what the Germans might have experienced when they encountered surprisingly resilient Soviet armour.

The result this time was terribly lopsided, but Tom and I did feel that the scenario itself was well balanced. I had terrible luck with my artillery and air support; on the other hand, Tom was usually careful not to cluster his light tanks together, so that when I did manage hits it was against the heavier tanks that just shrugged off the dice.

I also had a lot of trouble coming up with hits against Tom's tanks even at close range; it became kind of funny after a while as I would either come up empty on my rolls, or Tom's armour would kick in at just the right moment and deflect any damage I did roll. Toward the end of the game I finally started knocking out some of those light tanks, and even a T-34... but it wasn’t enough.

Tom also made the best possible use of his own strategy cards; the Major Offensive card let him crush my defenses at close range at the beginning of Round 3, and his Critical Objective cards were the perfect tools to get his lumbering KV-1 tanks off the board after they had penetrated all the way to the objective. It was the KV-1 exits that secured him the Decisive Victory, but I don't think he'd have made it off the board with these tanks without those cards.

This isn’t the first time, and likely won’t be the last, that the outcome of a single play doesn’t really show a scenario in its best light. As I mentioned, there were lots of moments that, had they gone the other way, might have swung the tide. But Tom played the Soviet side well, and the Germans just couldn’t stop the tanks this time. This remains an interesting tactical puzzle, though, and it would be interesting to see how it goes for other players.
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Jon Darlington
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I'll follow up with some additional comments, as I rushed the end of my report a bit in order to post it before going to bed last night...

(1) The early war is awesome
I really, really like the early war setting in general -- when tanks were relatively weak, armoured cars had an interesting role to play, and everything was at a significantly lower level of tech than just a year or two later. I'm really happy Willem did the work of coming up with stats for some of those early war tanks, and it would be fun to come up with other scenarios set in this era.

(2) Things I should have done differently
My plan in this scenario was to get my own tanks into the cover of woods, and from there pick off the Soviet tanks (especially the light tanks) as they were forced to advance in the open. But I badly underestimated just how fast those tanks were; and as a result, they swarmed my forward positions as soon as I occupied them. There were a couple of instances where I did set up the shots I was hoping for, but just couldn't come up with the hits I expected.

That forward defense at the wood's edge was perhaps a mistake, as it did allow Tom to get his KV-1s' firepower into play. Maybe I should have set up just a little back in the woods, forcing Tom to move adjacent where I would be hitting on 4+. My worry was that by doing that, Tom's tanks would also benefit from the +2 Armour from the woods; and I wasn't sure I'd penetrate 7 or 8 points of armour even at point blank range.

We also handled the reinforcements incorrectly, entering each group in the same place instead of rolling for each tank's entry point separately. I know that my Round 4 reinforcements entering in the northwest corner wasn't a great position; but I then let those tanks get caught up in a fight for several rounds just to kill a couple of light tanks. That Panzer III would have been better employed against Tom's heavier tanks near the objective.

Ah, well.

I think this scenario could reward a few plays in a row, and both sides will learn as they go how best to solve their respective tactical puzzles. The whims of the dice can go either way, and the German reinforcements could arrive in wildly different places from one session to the next; so this is certainly a scenario with lots of replay potential. Being all tanks, the units move much more quickly than in a typical Tide of Iron scenario, so the situation is very fluid and you can rapidly shift in response to opportunities or setbacks.

All in all, I think this is a good scenario with lots of moving parts that will keep things interesting through multiple plays. Thanks, Willem!
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Jon Darlington
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For those keen on precisely how things unfolded Round by Round, here is the full series of events.


DEPLOYMENT



ROUND 1



ROUND 2



ROUND 3



ROUND 4



ROUND 5



ROUND 6



ROUND 7



ROUND 8



ROUND 9

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Jon Darlington
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Hmm... I posted a message in the Tide of Iron forum to point people to this session report in the Tide of Iron: Next Wave section, but a BGG mod deleted it asking me not to make new threads to promote other threads.

So... guess I won't be doing that any more.

With any luck, most people are following Tide of Iron: Next Wave at this point so I'll keep posting reports here or in the expansion areas.

I'll continue to update the first post in the "Eastern Front scenarios in Tide of Iron" thread, so there will always be one central place from which to find all of these reports.
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Barry Kendall
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Lebanon
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Excellent report, Jon, thanks for your efforts and for the great photos! Like you, I sometimes try to do helpful things only to receive moderator correction. I'm sure they have their reasons, though I always appreciate posters providing links to things--partly because I'm too computer-stupid to do such things myself.

I hope you'll post more AARs of your "chronological histical play-through."

Like you, I enjoy gaming with early-war armor--even "Axis & Allies Minis"--but also enjoy some late-war pounding. After playing with early stuff, those late-war up-gunned AFVs are real beasts!
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John Di Ponio
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JDarlington wrote:
Hmm... I posted a message in the Tide of Iron forum to point people to this session report in the Tide of Iron: Next Wave section, but a BGG mod deleted it asking me not to make new threads to promote other threads.

So... guess I won't be doing that any more.

With any luck, most people are following Tide of Iron: Next Wave at this point so I'll keep posting reports here or in the expansion areas.

I'll continue to update the first post in the "Eastern Front scenarios in Tide of Iron" thread, so there will always be one central place from which to find all of these reports.


I found it so I know others will for sure. Great report. I haven't had the game to the table in about 9 months so I am due. Reports like this fire me up to get it back out.
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Scott M.
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I follow both forums so posted either place is as good as the other one..
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Jon Darlington
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Barry Kendall wrote:
Excellent report, Jon, thanks for your efforts and for the great photos! ... I hope you'll post more AARs of your "chronological histical play-through."


Hey thanks! And yup, we'll continue playing these scenarios and I'll continue posting these reports... even if FFG is in the process of selling their remaining Tide of Iron stock for firewood in their holiday sale. We will play on!

Barry Kendall wrote:
Like you, I enjoy gaming with early-war armor--even "Axis & Allies Minis"--but also enjoy some late-war pounding. After playing with early stuff, those late-war up-gunned AFVs are real beasts!

The early war is cool because armour is still a bit tentative and vulnerable. Early war could be interesting, as these unsupported light tanks could be targets for assault, and even MG fire, in a way that later tanks shrug off. It's a bit less rock/paper/scissors. Then again, maybe early war infantry should have their stats altered too.

Later war scenarios with monster tanks can be fun too, provided those few beasts don't make everything else on the board irrelevant.
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Jon Darlington
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JohnnyD wrote:
Reports like this fire me up to get it back out.


That's the spirit!

- The Other Johnny D
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Willem Boersma
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Great report! Again, thanks for playing my scenario and posting the AAR!

It's a shame that this time the Germans got overrun. Then again, in my numerous playtests of this scenario, I've had widely varying results ranging from major German victories to major Soviet victories. In addition to the things you mentioned above as well (German reinforcements will appear in different locations each time you play, different exit hexes being blocked to the Soviets etc.), not a single game should be a repeat of a previous one.

This scenario can be played multiple times over the course of a single evening, so I'm confident that with slightly different die rolls, different locations in which the German tanks appear, a different set-up, a different strategy, you'd likely come up with a very different result. I hope more people will give this one a try and share their findings!

Some possibilities for the German player:

* In my playtests, positioning the German tanks in the woods IN PAIRS or SMALL GROUPS for the extra cover as well as for covering one another's backs, really worked. This should be done in such a way that you basically force the Soviets into funnels of approach and hopefully getting a close range shot in before being annihilated. You don't want to have a panzer II in the open!

* This also basically forces the Soviet player to either use a T34 or a KVI to fire at those tanks to open up clear pathways to the objective.The lighter Soviet tanks lack the firepower to be reasonably sure to take out the German tanks, especially when located in woods. Also, then the T34's and especially the KV 1's (due to their low movement rate) are faced with the choice to either use concentrated fire (surest way to destruction) or a fire and move, hoping for a lucky shot, yet with the risk of being slowed down too much. Time is definitely on the Germans' side in this scenario!

* Although the T34's and KV I's are juicy targets, it's certainly also a very viable option for the Germans to focus on the Soviet light tanks instead! Even a panzer II stands a reasonable chance against them and once the Germans manage to destroy a number of these, this will almost automatically force the heavies to fire rather than move and or to take bigger chances in order not to lose momentum!

* You will want to delay the Russians from seizing the objective for as long as possible! Making the Russians pass through a sea of enemy armor is sure to delay them considerably!

* Blocking the escape routes is also an option for the German reinforcements!

* Make the Russians expend as many movement points as possible; e.g. block the bridge or place one or two panzer III's in the woods looking out on the bridge in op fire mode to deter the Soviets from taking that route. This will force them to cross the river and expend extra movement points. Indeed, as Jon aptly points out, the KV I's are gold for both parties when it comes to scoring VP's! Destroy/ delay them enough and the Germans are in good shape, manage to actually exit one, let alone both, sets the Soviets on a clear path to (major) victory!

* Remember, the Germans do not need to conserve their armor; they can sacrifice them at will, although you will probably want to be somewhat careful with your panzer III's, which have a firepower of 6, enough to be a serious threat to the Russian heavies even from normal range!

BTW, it's indeed important to roll for each German reinforcing tank unit separately. That way there's a much bigger chance for at least some of them to end up where you want them too as the German player!

Again, thanks for playing and posting, Jon, and I'm looking forward to future battle reports!I'm hoping to post two more Stalingrad scenarios and one more scenario set in the woods around Lake Ladoga in the winter of '42-'43 over the next six weeks or so!

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Willem Boersma
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By the way, the Soviets indeed do not need to spend any command on their first round because of the operations card they have. I believe that's even a standard rule and that it's considered to be already paid prior to the start of the round. Pretty sure about this one, actually.
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Jon Darlington
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boersma8 wrote:
By the way, the Soviets indeed do not need to spend any command on their first round because of the operations card they have. I believe that's even a standard rule and that it's considered to be already paid prior to the start of the round. Pretty sure about this one, actually.

You know, you're absolutely right -- it's written right there in the Operations card that this cost isn't paid in the first Round.

I'll edit my report to make this clear and avoid confusion.
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Jon Darlington
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Thanks for the comments Willem. Yup, I agree that the Germans should try to position and cover each other, and the in-pairs idea makes sense where possible. I busied myself capturing a forward Command objective near the middle of the board I should have probably ignored; I lost it almost immediately anyway. I should instead have used the time to set up that tank in "ambush" for the Soviets.

There's a lot of merit in the German player blocking that bridge and making the Soviets fight their way back across it as they're trying to exit. Provided there are tanks, and Movement points, to do that with. I can see how a game that went differently would afford the German player lots of different ways to mess with the Soviet objectives.

I agree that the scenario has lots of replay value. The first play-through might be a bit slower as players figure out all the bits, but after that it should go quickly indeed. The several different strategy decks also mean it's hard to predict what new opportunities will come into play each time.

boersma8 wrote:
I'm hoping to post two more Stalingrad scenarios and one more scenario set in the woods around Lake Ladoga in the winter of '42-'43 over the next six weeks or so!

Sounds great! We'll be sure to add them to the list. We'll be mired in Stalingrad for some time, I'm sure.
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Willem Boersma
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Btw, Jon, where are the two German panzer III's at set-up? If you started without them, I'm not suprised you got steamrolled...
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Jon Darlington
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boersma8 wrote:
Btw, Jon, where are the two German panzer III's at set-up? If you started without them, I'm not suprised you got steamrolled...


Oh wow! There were not! I started with two Panzer IVs instead of two Panzer IIIs. How embarrassing! modest

That said, that meant for each incorrect tank I lost two points of Firepower, but gained one point of Armour. So a bad mistake, but not like leaving out two tanks entirely (which I thought when I first saw your message).

Trying to make sense of this, I think I must have got distracted by the big pictures of the tanks on the German deployment page which include the Panzer IVD to show its reduced stats... and forgotten that the actual Division 1 text specified, with perfect clarity, two Panzer IIIs and not Panzer IVs. Let's be thankful there weren't any shiny objects nearby at the time, or else I'd have used those instead...!

Since the two Panzer IVs that I did start with survived several shots from Tom's heavy hitters, maybe their extra armour helped them survive attacks that would have killed the proper Panzer IIIs. So maybe it worked out?
 
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Willem Boersma
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JDarlington wrote:
boersma8 wrote:
Btw, Jon, where are the two German panzer III's at set-up? If you started without them, I'm not suprised you got steamrolled...;)


Oh wow! There were not! I started with two Panzer IVs instead of two Panzer IIIs. How embarrassing! :modest:

That said, that meant for each incorrect tank I lost two points of Firepower, but gained one point of Armour. So a bad mistake, but not like leaving out two tanks entirely (which I thought when I first saw your message).

Trying to make sense of this, I think I must have got distracted by the big pictures of the tanks on the German deployment page which include the Panzer IVD to show its reduced stats... and forgotten that the actual Division 1 text specified, with perfect clarity, two Panzer IIIs and not Panzer IVs. Let's be thankful there weren't any shiny objects nearby at the time, or else I'd have used those instead...!

Since the two Panzer IVs that I did start with survived several shots from Tom's heavy hitters, maybe their extra armour helped them survive attacks that would have killed the proper Panzer IIIs. So maybe it worked out?


Yes, the better armor somewhat offsets the superior firepower of the panzer III's, but that extra firepower is crucial in keeping the Russians from being overly bold.They're the only units in the beginning of the game that can pose a serious threat to especially the t 34's from normal range.

And are actually quite lethal to the light Soviet tanks, should they become too reckless, I might add!

The fact that you had the reinforcements arrive differently than intended and the fact that the Germans started without the two panzer III's, very likely had a big effect on the balance of the scenario and the way it played out, the more I think about it.

Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the fact that you are giving my scenarios a try and writing these amazing reports about them. Since 1A's demise I've hardly touched TOI, but reading these articles always makes me want to get it onto the table again and/or design more scenarios! (The ones I've been posting here on BGG were already completed and originally intended to be officially published by 1A in one way or another at one time or another).

The two Stalingrad ones I mentioned above are follow-ups of City of Doom (which is already on your list of scenarios to be played and available in the files section of TOI Stalingrad) and can either be played as a mini-campaign or seperately. They are actually also already "done", but could use one or two more playtests, which I will therefore commit myself to before making them available to the public. The scenario set round Lake Ladoga is close to being done. I'm still figuring out the exact balance in forces and decks etc.
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Jon Darlington
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Yup, that's certainly true. I think limiting the German firepower like that did change the dynamics of the early turns, at least.

I've added a note in the original post to make clear to readers that I started out with two Pz IVs where I should have used two Pz IIIs.
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Willem Boersma
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JDarlington wrote:
Yup, that's certainly true. I think limiting the German firepower like that did change the dynamics of the early turns, at least.

I've added a note in the original post to make clear to readers that I started out with two Pz IVs where I should have used two Pz IIIs.


The panzer IV d has armor 4, range 5 (against vehicles)and firepower 4.
 
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Jon Darlington
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boersma8 wrote:
The panzer IV has armor 4, range 5 (against vehicles)and firepower 4.

Right. That's the IVD we used in this scenario.
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Willem Boersma
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JDarlington wrote:
boersma8 wrote:
The panzer IV has armor 4, range 5 (against vehicles)and firepower 4.

Right. That's the IVD we used in this scenario.


OK, because it says something different in your original post, so I was afraid you had given the panzer IV one armor too many:

The Panzer IVs have FP 4, Armour 5 vs. the Panzer IIIs' FP 6, Armour 3.

It's the note you added to your original post.

Also note that besides the firepower of 6, the panzer III also has a range of 6; i.e. equal to that of the T34 and KVI, whereas the panzer IV d only has a range of 5, meaning it would only hit on 6's, whereas the T34 or KV I would hit back on 5's and 6's from range 5.
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Jon Darlington
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Ah, got it -- thanks, that was a typo. I've updated that note with the correct armour value, and added the range as well.
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Hss Hss
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It should also be noted in the case of tank on tank battles with low firepower, the outcome is highly random. A shot which does damage in 1 out of 3 times could take hit first time, or you could miss 6 times in a row.



 
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Willem Boersma
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Grand Stone wrote:
It should also be noted in the case of tank on tank battles with low firepower, the outcome is highly random. A shot which does damage in 1 out of 3 times could take hit first time, or you could miss 6 times in a row.





That's why I gave the T34 and the KV1 the thick armor trait in this scenario, to decrease the possibility of a highly lucky shot . One wouldn't even be too bad, but should you get lucky twice, that would entirely upset the balance of this scenario. And the fact of course that it was historically correct; at the time the light and medium German tanks were no match for these two Soviet tanks, both in armor and in firepower!
 
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Hss Hss
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It would be a totaly different scenario without it. I can easily understand that this scenario may go either way. As slightly different die result, or tactic or something may alter a lot.

The Germans have insuperior tanks, but they get quite a few more of them as reinforcements in the long run.

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Willem Boersma
Netherlands
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Grand Stone wrote:
It would be a totaly different scenario without it. I can easily understand that this scenario may go either way. As slightly different die result, or tactic or something may alter a lot.

The Germans have insuperior tanks, but they get quite a few more of them as reinforcements in the long run.



True. As I said above, I have had widely different results during my playtests and face-to-face games, which I believe is a GOOD thing! There's no single winning strategy for either faction! In all honesty, in order to get a decisive victory for either side, you will need to be very lucky with your die rolls, card draws etc. and/or your opponent needs to be very unlucky in those respects. Of course if one party or the other makes an enormous blunder, this result is also possible (quite often did the Germans allow the Soviets to get onto the objective too easily and too early on in the games I personally played, thereby destroying it as they hadn't counted on/ forgotten about their opponent having a critical objective card or so). In this particular game the report is based on, two major design features were, unfortunately, played wrongly (the two panzer IV d's in the German set-up instead of the two panzer III's, which have considerably better firepower and the reinforcement mechanic, which more than likely led to this particular outcome).

A major victory is certainly possible for either side, but most of the time you should be seeing minor victories , if neither side makes enormous mistakes or gets incredibly lucky multiple times, that is. The time factor is also very important in this scenario! The longer the Germans can hold out, the stronger they will become (as you aptly point out, HSS), and the more difficult it will get for the Soviets to exit the board (more enemy tanks and more exit hexes blocked)!

Besides soloing this scenario multiple times when playtesting it, I've also played this scenario quite a few times against different opponents and all of them were eager to try it again. I was very pleased with that, I have to admit!
 
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