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Subject: A quick review - A simple and quick game for realistic results rss

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Vincent GERARD
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BAUTZEN 1945 is a new operational wargame by Javier Romero and published by VaeVictis (issue 135) on the battle of Bautzen in 1945. Hence, the components are an A3 map (at the scale of 1500 meters per hex) and 108 counters being regiments, brigades and headquarters plus several supply columns and air support markers.

The game depicts a victorious german counterattack against the 2nd Polish army supported by the Red Army around the city of Bautzen. When the game starts, Bautzen is completely held by Allied forces and the most advanced troops are already far away to the road to Dresde. The few German divisions placed on the map seems to have been shattered by the Red Army and Polish offensive ; with a large gap after the tanks pierced the front and captured Bautzen. The main German units - the Panzerdivisionnen (the Hermann Goering and the Brandenbourg from the GrossDeutschland Korps) are then placed freely either on the west side of the map or on the southern edge.

The initiative is clearly on the German side, with victory conditions that requires to hold Dresde while capturing Bautzen - or at least cutting it off from Allied lines of communication. With only six turns, the game is quick and very tense. There is no time to loose. But luckily, the rules set are simple and realistic enough to get the results you would expect from your operational maneuvers. Indeed, the rules seems very traditionnal for an operational wargame on the Second World War. But there are some good surprises. First of all, there is a rule about supply and it will not forgive any mistake - especially concerning armoured units. So the supply should be a primary concern of each player for the whole course of the game. A lot of games will depict the divisions integrity ; this one will do as well. But rather than just giving a combat bonus (which it will do with a +1 to the dice if all units of a same division are attacking the same hex) ; the division integrity will also grant you better stacking with the ability to stack the whole division. Last but not least, each side may receive supply columns that will give heavy bonuses in combat, either in attack or in defense. These supply columns are considered units and must move on the map toward the combat units they will support...and can be captured or destroyed by the enemy. If they can reach the combat units, they will then provide a great support by giving a bonus of one column on the combat chart per supply column used - up to a maximum of three. This will be one of the main assets of the Allied army, with four columns received each turn (up to a maximum of four per side at a time) ; on the other hand, the German may have one or two if lucky, starting with turn 3 !

Let's now have a quick look at the map and counters. The counters are standard VaeVictis and are very nice and readable. The map is nice enough, but the forest look like difficult terrain rather than forest and the whole thing looks a bit...greeny/browny - but nice to look at. But overall it is a good practical map ; the main axis are easy to see. It may just have been great to have the objectives towns more visible (with an objective star for example). With only the terrain and combat charts as player aids, the whole game basically is limited to the map and it would be possible to play in a train for example [and I did it victoriously on anothers VaeVictis games] ; so it is a game that you can play pretty much anywhere and which does not require a lot of time.

But what about the interest of the scenario ? So, as started above, the German player has six turns to conduct a lightning counter-attack, retake Bautzen or cut it off from its line of communication along with two other cities while still holding Dresden, threatened by two enemy divisions. It's quick. Very quick. The first strong quality of the scenario is to let the German player decide where to deploy your main mobile forces : only the infantry divisions will have their own deployment areas. So the player is not forced to a unique course of action, or to an historical plan. The second quality is about victory conditions. What would be the point of being able to deploy as you wish if your objectives can only be reached if you deploy "this way" ? So the designer offers several possibilities for the objective towns so you can have several ways to win. Mainly, you could either cut off the whole army from its line of communications by a great Blitzkrieg on its read, moving around Groditz and Förstgen, and letting the Jomini in you lead the operations. This would lead to a great amoured battle with the Allied reinforcements, pretty strong, that can enter on a good die roll. Or you could pulverise the spearhead of the Polish army around Pulsnitz and Wochau before moving to Bautzen while your infantry divisions try to hold in front of overwhelming odds, sparing their lives for some time. Whatever, you'll have fun but you'll have to take risks, move fast and strike decisively.

The whole Blitzkrieg explained in one simple game. A must have for those who want to play Second world War battles at the operational scale but can't afford 5 maps, 3000 counters and one week of heavy playing...
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