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Subject: Commentary on recent Three Moves Ahead Churchill AAR rss

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Mark Herman
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One of my favorite podcasts is Three Moves Ahead and their most recent episode is a Churchill After Action Report. Here is the link:

https://www.idlethumbs.net/3ma/

After listening to the episode I would like to kibbitz and offer some of my thoughts on strategy in what was a fascinating game. Most importantly the dialogue indicates that they had a good time with some very thoughtful commentary.

My synopsis of the game

The AAR describes a campaign scenario (10 conferences) that moved along at a leisurely 7 hours. I will start at how the game finished and based on their comments try to reconstruct how they got to the final Peace. I would love to hear from the players to correct what will obviously be an unintentional misrepresentation of what actually happened.

The final score was US (Evan?) winning a condition 3 victory with a score of 67, with the UK (Rob) finishing with a score of 56 or 58. Bruce Geryk's Stalin score was not stated but he was a distant third. My best guess at the Soviet score, as this will become important in the commentary, was Japan surrender (8VP), Poland (3VP), at least one conference (5 VP), Prussia (5VP) and likely some number of A-bomb track points (~6VP) for a score of 27VP that I will round to 30 for some other likely ash and trash VPs. That seems low, but it is all that I could surmise from the commentary.

The salient features of the game were the Soviets early in the game declared war on Japan and successfully invaded Japan to shut down the Pacific somewhere around conference 6 or 7. I am not clear exactly on when this occurred, but the commentary indicates the US had not gotten any traction in the Central Pacific with the British capturing Hong Kong as Japan fell.

All of this early Pacific action came at the expense of Europe, although I get the impression that the British were conducting operations in the Mediterranean with the US and UK playing a very aggressive Pol-Mil game, while the Soviets did most of the military heavy lifting.

As the US winner was not on the podcast it is impossible to say what they were thinking but Churchill caused the Soviets to stall at the gates of Berlin forcing a Condition 3 end game that backfired on the British when the Americans won a 10th conference global issue and won the game on the 10 point swing. It appears that if the British had allowed a condition 2 victory they would have won the game.

As a footnote it is not that the person in second place wins a condition 2 victory, but the player with the largest VP block as represented by the leader of the two player alliance wins the game. It is possible for the high score in a condition 2 victory to win the game, but their score has to be larger than second and third combined.

This is most of what I could gleam from the conversation, so hopefully more texture can be added down the road by the participants.

Some thoughts on strategy

This game could be characterized as the Western Allies letting the Soviets do the heavy military lifting, while they focused on the post war political situation (political). Historically this is what Stalin feared the Western Allies were doing when he accused them of not pushing harder for a Second Front in 1943 and Churchill trying to continue the delay in 1944.

Whenever the Soviets can get an early declaration of war against Japan I find that it is usually to their advantage to advance into Manchuria with the eventual goal of capturing Korea for 8VP (as many as a successful invasion of Japan). In order for the Soviets in this game to invade Japan they not only had to focus their offensive support in the Far East, but they had to build a Pacific fleet to enable the invasion.

My thought here is that part one of the plan, capturing Korea was solid, but invading Japan probably cost the Soviets the game. The reason is once Japan falls the Pacific is shut down and now the US has lots of production without having to deal with the Pacific, hence their ability to aggressively resource Pol-Mil issues even in the face of losing some number of US directed offensive issues to their Allies.

It would have taken an entire conference worth of Soviet production to pull off the invasion. Given that the Soviet Eastern Front fell one space short of forcing German surrender (15 VP score) I would offer that the cascading effect of not invading Japan might have given the Soviets the game or at a minimum created a tighter end game.

Stalin (Bruce) stated that forcing Germany's surrender would not have given him the game, but the fact that he was not clear on this point indicates that his score was probably a bit higher than the 30 VPs that I hypothesized earlier. It is impossible to say what would have happened if the US was forced to deal with an Emperor's surrender condition and resourcing the Pacific later into the game. My hypothesis is Germany would have surrendered and the US/UK due to an active Pacific would have had a bit less Pol-Mil action.

An important point that was not discussed is that allowing a Campaign game to go a full 10 conferences is probably a mistake for someone. What often gets missed is ending the war early favors someone and it is a failure of whoever that is to take that opportunity that creates a more uncertain end game.

Final Thoughts
It sounds like an exciting narrative for a war. Stalin aggressively pushes a military agenda that with one more advance would have seen the Soviets dominating the entire Eurasian land mass. If the Soviets had just scored a few more points in Pol-Mil they could have won this game or come very close.

One thing that was not considered or was under appreciated by the two new players is the around conference 7 the end game victory conditions finally came into focus. At this time the UK player started calculating whether to go for a condition 2 or 3 victory and opted for condition 3. I believe if one of the Western Allies had aided the Soviets one more space, I suspect that a condition 1 victory was likely when the Soviets would have closed most of the VP delta to under 20VP to enable the high score to win.

It also became clear from the commentary that the Western Allies finally discovered the power of Theater command late in the going, which is understandable on a first play. Theater command is an important issue when properly executed. What is often missed from what I can see is the Soviets benefit from winning Theater command, so even if you cannot be the Theater commander still gives the issue winner two offensive support, the same as winning an allies directed offensive issue. It is often a cool move for the Soviets to debate a theater issue, especially the European command, late in a conference as it forces the other players to spend another card or let you have it. A play that I usually do not see with Soviet players.

I think that is most of what I gleamed from the commentary. I suggest that anyone who has an idle hour walking or driving somewhere should give it a listen as the texture of the conversation is top notch.

Mark

Footnote
Each player has the same face value strength in their deck of cards. Each player has one Leader (7), one Chief of Staff (variable), 4x 5s, 4x 4s, 4x 3s, 4x 2s, 4x 1s with the differences represented by their special abilities.
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Thomas M
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One thing I thought I heard was that they seemed to be applying the bonus from winning the Theater Leadership issue only when leadership changed. The winner of the issue, which can include Russia, gets the bonus, correct? I know Russia would not get the bonus that is added when leadership is checked but they would get the bonus that comes with claiming the issue. Presumably someone could already be in charge in a theater, win the issue and get all associated bonuses without changing leadership. Unless I am misunderstanding.

Oh yeah and Pericles can not come fast enough.

Tom Mc
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Bruce Geryk
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Frashbios wrote:
One thing I thought I heard was that they seemed to be applying the bonus from winning the Theater Leadership issue only when leadership changed. The winner of the issue, which can include Russia, gets the bonus, correct?

We played the game correctly - it was Rob's first time playing it so he was fuzzy on some of the details, like the fact that he believed he had gotten VP for Hong Kong (he did not). But we applied the rule as written.

I don't have time right now to respond to Mark's excellent commentary but I will try to do so by the end of the weekend. Lots to say!
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Mark Herman
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Brooski wrote:
Frashbios wrote:
One thing I thought I heard was that they seemed to be applying the bonus from winning the Theater Leadership issue only when leadership changed. The winner of the issue, which can include Russia, gets the bonus, correct?

We played the game correctly - it was Rob's first time playing it so he was fuzzy on some of the details, like the fact that he believed he had gotten VP for Hong Kong (he did not). But we applied the rule as written.

I don't have time right now to respond to Mark's excellent commentary but I will try to do so by the end of the weekend. Lots to say!


I look forward to hearing the rest of the story.

Great episode...

Mark
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Matt Kruse
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Absolutely loved the episode and love 3 moves ahead. Basically this podcast got me into board gaming with Rob mentioning war of the ring on a podcast episode long ago and then Bruce talking about Vietnam solitaire I bought both games and fell in love with the hobby. Actually just received my copy of Churchill in the mail today after becoming obsessed with getting it after listening to the aforementioned podcast episode and testing it out through tabletop simulator on steam.
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