Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 Hide
2 Posts

Beyond the Urals: Campaign in Russia, 1942» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Why isn't this game viewed more favourably? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
R L Moses
China
flag msg tools
Beyond The Urals is a far better game that it is credited for.

Instead of replaying yet another contest, Ty Bomba posits that a Russian strategy to not defend in depth (the Zhukov Option) but seek to defeat the Wehrmacht at the frontier and go over to the attack (the Pavlov Option) has resulted in the fall of both Moscow and Leningrad and left much of the Red Army in ruins. Only the Russian industrial base in the Ural Mountains remains intact, and the Wermacht is determined to see it in German hands, as the way to bring the war on the Eastern Front to a close. It's a fascinating premise, based on a still active controversy about what happened with Soviet war planning and why. And what seems at first to be another of Bomba’s usual serving of an excellent Order of Battle but the standard fare of armies squaring off to achieve Victory Points is actually a novel and robust design with some very clever-even brilliant—mechanisms.

1. The game forces the German player to roll a die to see what game turn the contest starts on—a rule that compels careful thinking about what strategy and line of approach to take. It’s uncertainty at the outset for both players, and in a campaign where time was a central matter, a simple and potent variable.

2. In the same vein, the idea of a Second Front—again achieved by a recurring die roll (and then follow-up rolls to determine the amount of armor and infantry that has to be pulled out of line and dispatched to France)—forces both players to try to plan ahead in circumstances that will be, by their very nature, unpredictable. Should the German player go all out and take step losses, knowing that he is very much racing the clock and can use hurt units to fulfill his obligation to Berlin? Or should he take care with his line of attack, knowing that soon he will have to pull troops out of battle? Does the Russian player count on good fortune that may turn the tide, or see the diverting of units as simply a bonus?

3. Then there’s the weather—which also hinges on a die roll, but which doesn't take place until September, and may not be as debilitating because there’s no guarantee that mud or something worse will be the result. While many games on the Eastern Front assume that the weather must deteriorate and the only question is when, this one readily concedes that point, but doesn't specify when.

4. As the Red Army is reeling, forced to trade cities for space, the German player gains Victory Points, and can achieve a win outright, if he manages a die roll—a result increasing in probability as the Soviet front crumbles and more industrial areas are lost or abandoned. It’s possible to win the game early by garnering more victories and essentially compelling Stalin to capitulate, or someone to launch a coup to remove him and seek some sort of settlement with Hitler.

If Ty Bomba wanted to make this a more elaborate design, all of these variables could have been fashioned to depend on each other—to co-vary: the more losses sustained by the Red Army, the more (or less) likely the chance that a Second Front might be launched. Perhaps too many losses and the Western Allies see their cause as hopeless and sue for peace. At the same time, possibly too few setbacks occur, and the Second Front is postponed, as the Allies see little point to risk an invasion from their end. It might have made sense for there to have been conditions apart from a die roll that would have produced a Second Front and the resulting withdrawals—something that would modify the die roll in some way due to something on the battlefield. But Bomba's choice to be simple results in a rough elegance that celebrates design-for-effect and feels appropriate.

Critics have noted that the game is unbalanced, and there is merit in that claim. But if the Germans are indeed favoured here, that shows just how debilitating the loss of Moscow would have been, as Guderian insisted to Hitler. The designer is probably right when he notes that the game will be enjoyed best by some as a solitaire exercise, as the Russians have a terrible challenge. But that his game can easily be played either way is a testament to its strength--and to the risk taken by Bomba to fashion something counterfactual that’s more interesting to play and contemplate than it first appears and deserves to be admired as well as enjoyed. Unlike his 'Proud Monster', this isn't a grand game, but it's a great design.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ty Bomba
United States
California
flag msg tools
Boom shakalaka!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.