Decision Games gives us now their third branding of this offensive in 1941, for the German fateful push to Moscow. Its lineage traces back in my mind to the venerable SPI classic The Moscow Campaign which we picked up a number of years back. It is then followed by what I considered an underrated classic, Ty Bomba's Drive on Moscow. So it's arguable did Decision Games (DG) really need to come out with another game on it. Let me just say this, that Moscow 1941 is just different enough and FEELS different enough that it a bonus for the East Front community that someone took a different approach.
In hindsight, it is easy to argue that the German offensive to Moscow in October 1941 was a strategic blunder of monumental consequences. Arguably, the defeat in front of Moscow defined the rest of the war for them with increasing negative consequences. But what would have happened had they with this offensive caused the Soviet government to collapse or the Third Reich simply won a military victory of some sorts by the seizure of Moscow? What if the weather had simply been a bit better? None of this goes much into the alternative history realm as they are more than plausible. The Germans get a pass of sorts for launching even the late offensive for up until now they had series of unparalleled victories, if you ignore the summer stalemate or check at Smolensk. They had virtually annihilated the Soviet armor forces by this point and nearly done the same to the Red Air Force. Sometimes you only get a single shot at life or victory and here it was, the opportunity for victory. Certainly the odds were better here than say at Mortain in August, 1944. What would you have done facing such an operational and strategic choice?
Big hexes, and I mean the map has big roomy hexes. After buying a King sized bed for our house with the Florida move, I wonder how I ever got by with even a Queen sized bed. That's how I feel looking at maps right now with far smaller hexes. Hexes here are in scale twenty miles and the sense is they are big. Visually the imagery it conveys works too. The map is well done in terms of color scheme and laid out with charts to the top of the map board. The counters are nicely laid out and easy to read, done in the iconic style. The counters all dismounted cleanly and only four required a little extra care in breaking apart. In all a nice job there DG!
Stellar rules folks, simply stellar. I had not a single real question of any consequence here. I wish they would use a slightly different font as the red is sometimes a bit harder to read with the chosen font that Decision Games (DG) uses. The supply rules are a little iffy in that as I will speak to later allow armor for robustness than I believe it deserves. I also do question that the three Luftwaffe air units stay in force the entire game. That seems iffy from all the historical analysis of the campaign and allows the Wehrmacht to have a staying power it didn't have in the early winter of 1941.
The victory conditions in Moscow 1941 are less straight forward and subtle than in many games, particularly games on the Eastern Front. It is easy to plan if you have say this - Moscow, Leningrad, Rostov and Stalingrad by December 1941, you have achieved a Strategic Victory. Now that's straight forward. Others are a little less so in that you have a sliding scale of victory points based upon either objectives seized or captured by certain timelines and of course units eliminated. Moscow 1941 is a bit different and forced me early to deeply contemplate what my plan was as the German and to marshal my Panzers and Panzer Grenadiers, my fastest and most powerful units to follow my vision, vs, being able to do it on the fly as we often can, as many games in a sense allow us to more easily go after targets of opportunity.
Here the Germans win outright by the capture of Moscow. As Moscow 1941 does a Victory Point comparison, the next way for the German to win in by getting to the adjacent hexes surrounding Moscow. But the kicker is this- the Wehrmacht gets no points for killing Soviet units. Only the Russian Player gets points for the elimination in part or total of German units. The impact of that is the German Player needs to be mindful of the running point total that the Soviet is achieving by either their attacks or by your own German offensives. It's a nifty little gaming dilemma.
One small nit to pick at and that is the supply rule that allows armor to stay at full-strength when isolated in a city. It just doesn't feel right because armor requires a lot more to keep itself at combat effectiveness. Tankers run their tanks to stay warm, we all DID and there goes X amount of fuel. WW II tank kills were often catastrophic minus say the M1 Abrams fire suppression system, meaning ammo would be lost during a cook off. Moreover, these Soviet armor units then are the same later more proto-type combined arms folks we would see later.
One word in the game not to forget. OREL. Did you catch that? Orel. And once more time...OREL. Good luck in the south and driving to Tula if you screw up your early drive to Orel. It's a linchpin for the Soviets - and a linchpin for the German future supply dilemma.
The pre-Frozen Chosin Advance in Another Direction...here we launched an attack to free the 15th Panzer Divison by wanting to get a 1 or 2 result to force a retreat... This attack was a 2-1 by the time all modifiers were taken into account....
Now are Panzer strengths right? Depends upon how you interpret things. To me, as both someone who reads a lot on this and having done this in real life, when you're winning, your units perform better. The Germans had just got done doing some serious booty kicking in the Kiev pocket, had a good logistical pause AND were motivated to be home before Christmas. Surely that's worth something. Ask the Libyans what Chad did to them once their morale bounced back...I think the intangibles (my feel for the game) are rolled into these numbers. German panzer crews like US Armor crews that say together are another intangible -it's like the 1960's College football All-Stars facing an NFL team - not a fair fight.CONCLUSIONS
What's not to like about a game with BIG hexes that is fun and gives us a slightly different look at the operational dilemma facing the Wehrmacht and Soviets in the Fall and Winter of 1941? I was enthusiastic over the concept that I bought it with no feedback. Within two turns, I was singing its praises and telling my closest gaming buddies you GOTTA NOT miss this one. Now some folks don't like this or that about the game . Imagine that? It reminds me of the commentary through the 1980's and 1990's that certain American Armor folks and military historians suffered from Wehrmacht penis envy, that there was only one way to approach things and their way -in this case the supposed German way that by the way lost - was the model. I see that much with gaming, as there is lots of room for interpretation unless it feels blatantly wrong. Didn't feel blatantly wrong to me as both the US Army Armor Officer and Military Historian (Ret). Me? I keep this one and look forward to doing better with the Germans for I recall the one key word - OREL!
Nobody puts PK II in their art – hence this fits for Turn 11 of this game as the German Panzers have run their course for now….
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- Barry KendallUnited States
Useful review, Smitty, esp your take on on the clarity and completeness of rules.
Graphically, if I viewed things correctly, the counters look great except that I could wish for West-facing Soviet tank silhouettes (it's the "miniatures guy" in me coming out).
I "get" the appeal of the largish hexes from a counter-handling point of view, but ever since I first saw a "Holy cow, those hexes are huge compared to the counters" game, I've thought that what we have here is a mini-map game terrain-wise presenting itself as a full-mapper.
I like as detailed a terrain analysis as I can get in ground wargames, and for me, larger hexes simply means more terrain generalization and a "smaller" playing area.
Still, if the paper's available and the system doesn't require more "real estate" to be represented, there's nothing wrong with giving each counter some "lebensraum" in its hex.
Sounds like an enjoyable design, but I still treasure my old "Moscow Campaign," monochromatic map and all.
EDIT: Meant to add, first time I saw the minitanks, I thought I was seeing an OGRE variant!
And, a question occurs: Do you ever find yourself currycombing counters out of your felines' fur?
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Thankfully no though we had one kitty who had the German Paratroopers in Columbia's West Front game and would run off with that block. I admit at first I though ok - or worse ho-hum and instead found a very nice game and for a magazine game, well it's stellar. I love me my Moscow Campaign but the large hexes convey a different feel ala East Front perhaps?
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- Terry LewisUnited States
Oregon"But first, the children ought to be fed." -- Virginia Held (1980) from "Property, Profits, and Economic Justice"
Another great review, and of course I "love" the purrfect touch of your assistant, even if a few hairs were left behind for currycombing!
I will add this one to my wish list!
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