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Subject: Scrambling with the 48th Panzer Korps - A game of multiple threats rss

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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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The disaster of arms at Stalingrad for the Wehrmacht has over time proved to be a rich source of gaming possibilities. From Operations Uranus, Saturn, Mars, WINTER STORM, and to the resulting battles around Kharkov in early 1943, we see a new phase in the war, a resurgent Red Army but a still tactically sounded and dangerous Wehrmacht. 48th Panzerkorps (48th PK) was originally published in CounterAttack magazine, but is now distributed by Pacific Rim Publishing. It's focus is on the battles on the Chir River in December 1942. The Germans hoped to use this area to if not anchor, then launch elements forward as part of Winter Storm, their effort to relieve the encircled 6th Army at Stalingrad. Both sides had offensive dreams, with the Germans centered here on the 11th Panzer Division and the 336th Infantry Division. The Soviets saw the growing German strength for what it was - a relief effort. The battle as presented here reflects the Soviet desire to maintain the encirclement of 6th Army, while off-map and out of the scope of this game, concentrating opposite the Italian 8th Army for a breakthrough toward Rostov.

The map - the art is perhaps a little distracting - but not overly so. The map shading is just a touch more.

COMPONENTS
I am always happy when I get a game from an unknown company and all the counters come off without a hitch. Is that not simply a joyous thing? The map is the industry standard of 22" X 34". It is a little bit on the funky side in terms of color choices, with an odd medium green. When matched up with what is clear terrain on the map, the overall impression is a darkish map. I am at a loss why they chose the mottled mixture for clear as the mind scream broken terrain, anything but clear. What you then assume is swamp terrain as it is in the Don River area is...broken. The Turn Record Track bar represents 12 hours per turn. The German Reinforcement graphic for Turn two is swallowed up by what I guess passes for the hours of darkness? I was unable to determine why the color coding difference. The counters are rendered clean and crisp, making them easy to read. The Germans are a field green and the Soviets a tannish orange. Some counters have in their upper right corner a combat modifier. Key charts are on the right hand side of the map, overlapping a little to the left. They are easily read and ease play. I have never felt cheated by tables on my game map. Where you are shorted is with the numeric markers in the game. You're going to run out of the ones provided long before game's end, so make sure in advance you have a plentiful supply from some other games.

RULES
The Rule Book is only twelve pages, nine of which are actual rules. It's not a bad rule book. The morale check system needed a bit more clarity. An example is "If the attacker makes a morale check and fails, the affected unit immediately loses a number of steps equal to the result.." The question revolves around the fact it's possible the result might show no losses or effect on the morale side of the Combat Results Table. If that is the case does that mean there is any, except the rule as written seems to assume there always is a loss. I still scratch my head over this, as this is simply awkward rule writing.


Initial set-up - don't you hate that big German bend WAY OUT THERE...except there are 10 VP's out there...so is it better to forfeit those early and consolidate and have a QRF of sorts? Looking back on it, those forces way to the West seem oddly placed, don't they?[/BGCOLOR]



Turn 5 - the Soviet onslaught really starts but it's not slam into the line attack. A lot of smaller pressure points. However the 5th Soviet MECH Corp had made its appearance - I sent 1/2 into the middle and 1/2 to the South.


GAME PLAY
One thing that will help game play is to understand the map as it's not a West to East but a north to South. The second thing is to understand the ration of forces necessary to either defend or capture the Victory Point Objectives in the Don River area. As the Soviet it's easy to assume that because of your knowledge of history the German cobbled together line is iffy. Well, yes and no on its iffiness. So you need to watch putting too much force in that area as it will make a concerted push anywhere else simply a slow grind. In fact, I didn't realize the overall subtlety here inherent in the design until writing this just now! The Soviet is strong but not that strong.

Strength management is a key part of this game, as units have steps. You need to carefully watch your step losses. The Combat Results Table (CRT) is a bit of an unforgiving beast because it can hammer you two ways. It is set up to inflict both step losses and possible greater losses due to morale. This is where the German Player is always balancing the odds of losses vs. holding key terrain. I don't think I want to see this type of CRT with many games, but it works here. It's interesting to have a CRT that actually adds to the players decision making flow chart.

Combat is broken down into fire systems: Armor, infantry, anti-tank and personnel. Why Personnel? The Order of Battle has a Railroad Engineer Regiment and get this, a Furlough Battalion present. Target priority in the game not surprisingly is Armor, Personnel and Weapons. Units that are stacked together are fired on by that priority. In addition, the game uses a simplified weapons effectiveness chart to gauge the possible effects of various fire classes upon a target.

One aspect I liked of the design was I always felt I was a turn away from either a disaster as the German, or that final breakthrough as the Soviet. Ironically as the German one of your new best friends forever is the 7th Luftwaffe Division. OMG you say, a Luftwaffe Division my new bestie? Indeed, for the 7th Luftwaffe's infantry aren't bad and they are richly equipped for anti-tank duty. The fact that neither have happened in any of my plays was not disappointing and I think when it happens it just will be one of those things. That speaks well to the overall play balance of 48th PK. I dealt easily with Soviet variable entry. I cut out slips of paper with the dates for the various units and blindly selected.

I made certain that Soviet reinforcements would be totally random. I made up slips of paper for each unit and its possible location, and then chose.

CONCLUSIONS
Zoldak's 48th PanzerKorps is a nice addition to any Eastern Front library. The game is about a nudge on the other side of mid-range complexity. Pacific Rim did a nice overall job in terms of the presentation part of the package. As a magazine game, this is among the best of its type, a rare pleasure to play a game without cards or chits. Both sides get a mixture of both offensive and defensive play. A note of caution - despite being an East Front game with a lot of armor, this isn't your typical panzer pusher game. It is much more of a combined arms approach, of finding the right combinations for either assault and defense. It's a different combat system but it works well with this game.


11th Panzer finally shows up....we split them into 3 columns to save 5 points on the far left, to stabilize the center and to stem the breakout of sorts threatening the 10 point bridgehead center-right.
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Eric Walters
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One might wonder how it stacks up to Victory Games's old PANZER COMMAND and MMP's recent PANZER BATTLES: 11TH PANZER ON THE CHIR RIVER.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Eric my good buddy! Being as I'd rather have root canal than touch a MMP game, that is for you to tell me!

Smitty
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Terry Lewis
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M1Tanker wrote:
Eric my good buddy! Being as I'd rather have root canal than touch a MMP game, that is for you to tell me!

Smitty


Sounds like you dodged Eric's question, Smitty.

Would be helpful if you explained your obvious dislike of MPP games, and also clarified whether it is ALL MPP games or some? I would be surprised if you have played ALL games, so that you have the kind of in depth knowledge to condemn them ALL, but perhaps you have? So, which ones have you played that has given you such a dislike of MPP?

A list of games played and an outline of your dislikes for each would be helpful in giving some substance to your generalization.

Thank you!
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M St
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ericmwalters wrote:
One might wonder how it stacks up to Victory Games's old PANZER COMMAND and MMP's recent PANZER BATTLES: 11TH PANZER ON THE CHIR RIVER.

I'd say Panzer Command is not directly comparable; it has a hex scale of 500m compared to a mile in 48th PzK. Since PC also has 5/8" counters, the PC map is essentially only the center part, 10 hexes wide, of the northern half of this map, with Sovchos 79 at the southern edge. It does have extra units but ultimately does not focus on 5 Tank Army vs 48th Pz Korps but 1 Tank Corps vs 11 Pz.

Panzer Battles is part of the company-level SCS games which I stopped buying because they play just bizarrely. It has the same map scale to PC, but covers much more space since it's a two-mapper. But a turn covers 2-3 days, so is equal to 1/3 to 1/2 the whole 48th PzK game. This is the usual SCS shotgun marriage between long turns and small hexes. Together with the exploitation-focused turn sequence and weak ZOCs this makes them tremendously exciting to play as units lurch hither and thither across a good part of the maps, but they tend to bear little resemblance to the actual campaigns. Dean Essig once stated publicly that if you have any concerns re: history or related factors, "you have not understood the point of SCS." Some of them are more restrained but the company level ones are among the worst. I bought several and eventually learned my lesson and am now staying away from them. Panzer Battles is particularly interesting because of the chitpulls. I like chitpulls a lot as a mechanism to show the difficulty of fine-tuned cooperation between different units, but that depends on the time scale. For the 2-hour turns of Panzer Command, that makes sense. For the 2-day turns of Panzer Battles, at the scope of low level WW2 operations, it doesn't. One reason why the Chir River battles have been studied in detail is not just because they were momentous over limited terrain, many fights would qualify for this, but also because Balck's records are available and give insight into his leadership style and decisions. And they make it pretty clear that these things were fought on a daily rhythm with hours determining the fine tuning and collaboration. Having units lurch over the map for a couple of days, and then other units lurch elsewhere over the map for the same time, supposedly in parallel, has little to do with the style of decisions that seem to have been made.

If you want to see the Chir River battles designed properly to work within a 2-day turn sequence, I recommend instead to go for Schettler's Winter Storm. There you have 5 Tank Army and 48th PzK at division/regimental level, but with a flexible sequence of play that enables you to work out how to effectively run echelon attacks as the Soviets, or throw ripostes at the Germans, subject to the larger (in particular logistical) context. You can see why the line had to be held. And the whole thing can be played in a long evening, unlike the 10+ hours of Panzer Battles (which is again at least double the time you'll need for 48th PzK). The Chir River scenario does not give you great sweeping moves in that game - it's the small intro scenario! But it fits the situation like a glove, and shows it in incredibly compact fashion. I played this for the first time only a couple of years ago, but it was a great experience. It's an excellent companion for 48th PzK - if you can handle the rules. My opponent from back then is currently editing a new version of the rules to avoid the old errata problems. You'll have to look for him on CSW though.
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Fred Thomas
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I was dismayed by how Panzer Battles completely misses the point. It has two maps but still leaves out the Soviets' main objectives: the German Don bridgeheads at Verkhne-Chirskii and Rychkovskii. Once those fell to 5th Shock Army, 5th Tank Army pulled back and shifted its forces to the west, suggesting that its objective had just been to divert 11th Panzer Division away from the main event. It seems like the game was designed to pander to the panzer porn crowd who would prefer not to play the part of the battle that the Germans lost.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Terry:

I've not played the MMP game on the subject - hence I can't compare it here to this one.

Smitty
 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Thanks Eric! Always good to have you weigh in.

Smitty
 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/earmor/content/issues/2017...

P 71-73 Of interest 2 books every one with any interest on the East Front should read....
 
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