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Helsinki 1918: German Intervention in the Finnish Civil War» Forums » Sessions

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J. R. Tracy
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Hawkeye and I gave Helsinki 1918 a spin last night. This is from our Finnish friends at U&P, publishers of W1815. However, beyond the wooden bits and a certain graphic sensibility, the similarities are nil. The topic is the Battle of Helsinki, during which German troops ousted the Finnish Red Guards with some assistance from Mannerheim and his Finnish Whites.

Stormclouds over Stadi

There aren't many traditional wargame elements here outside of the hexgrid. Units are represented by wooden stickles (copyright C. Vasey) while cubes represent HQs. The game progresses through initiative determination by the German and the Reds (straight roll-off with last active player suffering a die roll mod). The non-initiative player receives a small bonus and then the active player executes his moves, generally with a number of orders equal to his initiative roll. If the roll is tied, the Whites go instead.

von der Goltz plots his assault

Units are considered to be in direct command (IDC), in command (IC), or out of command (OoC). To be IDC, a unit must share a hex with an HQ, or have an HQ on a vertex of its hex. IC units must be able to trace to an HQ down a road or railroad. Red HQs occupy hexes, while German and White HQs occupy vertices, a neat way to reflect the superior command and control of the Germans. I'd say that holds true for the Whites but they have problems of their own. A given order can activate all IDC units in a given hex, while individual IC units require an order each. OoC units also require an order each, and must pass a die roll against their distance from command.

Through the trench line

Combat is initiated by entering an enemy hex; the stickles are aligned to determine front and flank. The attacker rolls one die per stickle (stacking is three max) while the defender always rolls just one die but terrain guarantees a minimum result (i.e., you'll always be at least a '3' defending in a city). A tie is a stalemate while any differential determines the winner, and a three column CRT is consulted for the consequences. The center column is the default, but under certain conditions either side can push it right or left for more or less severe outcomes. Combat may (and often does) result in common occupation, in which case you can start executing flanking attacks with inherent bonuses.

Dawdling HQs struggle to keep pace

White activations are weird and wonderful. They slowly coalesce in Helsinki proper, first through the appearance of 'squads' (seem to be more like cadres) on vertices, which are then used to recruit actual units. They have their own activation table, getting more orders with each successive activation. However, the Reds can suppress them through arrests; a successful arrest removes a White HQ (squad/cadre) cube from the game permanently. The more active the Whites, the easier they are to find and arrest.

The Seebatallion debarks

To win, the Germans have to occupy the five centers of Red resistance represented by red banners, in the city of Helsinki itself. The Reds can win a marginal victory by holding onto one banner, and various other conditions can slide you up or down the victory scale. In addition to maneuvering, both sides are recruiting units onto the map, managing a side action at an off-map rail junction, prepping the landing of a marine battalion (for the Germans) or shoring up morale (for the Reds). Game turns represent 15 minutes (60 minutes at night) and the game lasts through three days of fighting - the clock advances a space for every German order.

Turning to meet the threat

The action opens with the main body of the Germans in the northwest corner of the map, facing a handful of Reds in a fortified line. The majority of the Reds are holed up in town, with their HQs. The Germans must fight their way through the countryside into the city, with the help of the marines who will eventually land on the docks in the city itself. The Germans are fighting the clock as much as the Reds, and really have to optimize their order execution. The Whites can be useful but are too random to form a reliable part of German planning. The Red game is as you'd expect - delay delay delay, trade bodies for time, kick the Whites in the nuts when they get uppity, and counterattack as opportunities arise.

Goltz reaches the city

We played two-handed, with Hawkeye running the Germans and the Whites. He blasted through the fortified line but I was able to get all my troops out (into reserve) and back onto the map near the city. He struggled with this second line, and the Whites took their time showing up. With the clock winding down on the third day, he suddenly had a good stretch of success, getting a slug of White units onto the map to capture one Red banner, and overrunning two more with the Germans. However, I'd kept his marines penned up and his shot at my last banner was a Hail Mary with a single White unit. He fell short, leaving me with a narrow Red win.

Performance enhancers

We thought this was a lot of fun. It took a few cycles to wrap our heads around the subsystems, but we were humming along by the end of the first day. There is a card element but it is secondary and doesn't dominate play. The rules are generally tight, though we had to make some judgement calls on a few ambiguities, and made some non-fatal errors. The movement system in particular is awkwardly worded. There is considerable nuance to the combat system, much of which was lost on us. Deciding from which direction to attack a particular hex requires more consideration than we realized, and often that initial assault is just the pinning move to set up a flanking death blow. This is ostensibly a three player game, but the Whites have such a minor role I'd hesitate to invite someone to take the seat. It felt fine as a two-player. The Germans drive the action but as the Reds I had plenty to do and think about.

White daggers at our backs

Overall, this was fresh and interesting, both as a topic and as a design. It's a sprawling beast, with two full-size maps, and game length should settle in at a little under two hours. It looks lovely and plays well, and if you can manage the table space, I recommend you check it out for yourself.

One last shot
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Andy Parsons
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J.R. - the owner of a moderate sized table here. You mention that there are two maps, but the BGG game description speaks of only one of 105cm (about 41.5 inches) by 85cm (33.5 inches). It certainly looks larger in your images, so is the game description wrong?
 
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J. R. Tracy
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Andy, it is indeed 105cm x 85cm, basically two standard maps side by side. It may look bigger in the pictures because my map frame is pretty big and Hawkeye is only three and a half feet tall.
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Mike Welker
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jrtracy wrote:
Andy, it is indeed 105cm x 85cm, basically two standard maps side by side. It may look bigger in the pictures because my map frame is pretty big and Hawkeye is only three and a half feet tall.


Aha, a hobbit.

On another note, I can't locate this game in my normal online sources... have any idea on availability?
 
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J. R. Tracy
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Mike, this is where I ordered it from:

http://upgames.fi/home/helsinki-1918/
 
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Mark Herman
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jrtracy wrote:
Mike, this is where I ordered it from:

http://upgames.fi/home/helsinki-1918/


One of these days you will have to run me through this one.

Mark
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jamuki (Jueguetistorias)
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Thanks a lot, very interesting AAR. I love it!
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Mike Welker
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jrtracy wrote:
Mike, this is where I ordered it from:

http://upgames.fi/home/helsinki-1918/


Thanks. Not a bad price.
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J. R. Tracy
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I mentioned some errors in our game - one is evident from the photos. Only German HQs can move; Red Guard HQs must stay in their initial hex. You can see a couple of my HQs away from their start locations. This is a mistake - they would've died when forced to retreat. Thus a lot of my units should've been considered IC, not IDC.

It didn't matter because during the endgame, when it occurred, I was rolling up a lot more orders than I could use, but it's something we'll need to pay attention to in our next game. The rule itself is clear, I just completely missed the key sentence.

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Gordon J
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Wow, this looks great!
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David Dockter
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Eric Teoro
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Thank you for introducing me to this game. It does look quite lovely. Off to order.
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David Dockter
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MarkHerman wrote:
jrtracy wrote:
Mike, this is where I ordered it from:

http://upgames.fi/home/helsinki-1918/


One of these days you will have to run me through this one.

Mark


Played it at Swampcon: you'll dig it. Smart/fun/innovative design.
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