Swamp Hamster
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Title: Strike and Counterstrike

Basic information: Designed by Ty Bomba, Decision Games (World at War #53), 2016.

Overall Evaluation: This is a good solo game with good replayability. It offers an interesting system that can be seen as three sub-games within a single campaign game.

Background Theme: The game covers the Soviet counter offensive against the German Army Group Center from December 1941 to April 1942. By the end of 1941, the initial German offensive into the Soviet Union had stalled just west of Moscow. The Soviet counter offensive took advantage of fresh troops from the East and the Soviet ally “Old Man Winter” which helped to paralyze the tired German soldiers at the end of a long supply line. The game follows this 5 month counter offensive.

As a side note, Ty Bomba also designed “Panzers East” -- the solo game of the 1941 offensive into the Soviet Union by Army Group Center. “Strike and Counterstrike” then picks up with the Soviet Counter offensive at the end of the year.

Mechanics: The solo player commands the Soviet army as it is thrown against Army Group Center. German unit types and strengths are “unknown” until engaged in combat. The Soviets must achieve three objectives to win the game -- which is not an easy task. First, the Soviets must clear all German units away from Tula and Moscow by the end of Turn 1. Second, the Soviets must hold at least 18 hexes within the German K line boundary by the end of Turn 3. Third, the Soviets must reach the victory line by the end of Turn 6. These three keep the player on edge throughout the game and are not easy as they may seem when first reading the rules and studying the map. German units can be replaced by “available” forces drawn at random and have the ability to initiate breakouts from surrounded positions. On the other hand the Soviets have Shock Armies that can...well…”shock” the Germans and break their lines. Alas, once the player has broken the line, the German manpower pool pulls more reinforcements which fill in behind the gap forcing yet another Soviet assault. These Soviet assaults can slowly wear down the German defenders but each game turn sees fewer and fewer Soviet units available for continued operations. Thus, Strike and Counterstrike is a Soviet race against the clock.

What I like about this Game:

1.The challenge! Clearing the German forces around Tula and Moscow by the end of Game Turn 1 is not always easy. I lost the first time I played the game by not clearing the last German unit from the edge of Tula. Reaching and clearing the K-Line in the next two turns can be challenging. Then reaching the victory line by the end of turn 6 can be maddening.

2.The game is manageable and not difficult to learn and play.

3.The fun of attacking an unknown enemy.


Potential Issues with the Game:


1. It is possible to “bleed” the Germans into defeat. I accomplished this through a strategy of sacrificing Soviet units to deplete the German army and crack their lines for a mad dash to the victory line. The Soviets did take heavy casualties during the offensive but not in the suicidal way I played that particular game. I don’t think the designer intended such a “suicidal” strategy so I refrained in further games.

2.Since German units are placed and pulled at random, the game lacks the historical flavor of seeing German forces defending their historically assigned areas.


Replay Value: Excellent. Random German unit placement and reinforcement alter the front lines every turn of every game.

Bang for the Buck: Good. Lots of replay value for those who like solitaire gaming. A good system that tests the player. The game is quite manageable and not complex.


c The Swamp Hamster
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Joe Hardy
United States
North Carolina
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Thanks for the good quick review of the game's highlights. I also found the game to be a fun challenge.
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Ty Bomba
United States
California
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In regard to the two points you raise in your "Potential Issues" section.

First, I feel I have accounted properly for the Soviet all-out (what you called "suicide") strategy, but that is a delicate thing to balance perfectly.

On the one hand, given the overall Soviet behavior in the historical event, to have crafted the rules and victory conditions to simply rule out such an approach wouldn't have been historical. So I tried to set the thing such that the approach is a dicey gamble that can possibly win the game for the player, but it can also backfire on him and lose the game for him.

Second, in regard to not having specific German units at their historic positions at historically corresponding times is NOT what the game is about. It's about recreating the uncertainty inherent within the Soviet high command as it struggled to prosecute its first strategic-level counteroffensive of the war. From that perspective, the fact the player doesn't know -- except in the broadest sense -- what German units can or will show up to resist his latest push falls right in line with the historical command experience of Stalin and his Stavka HQ at the time. Beyond that the overall German order of battle IS fully historical, in that my main source for it was the OKH War Diary.

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