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Subject: Interesting team play variant from Reddit thread rss

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Lucas Emery
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In the Reddit thread about CNA linked to from here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/693199/reddit-is-the-new-sla...

A user offered a glimpse at their modified rules for EastFront:

EastFront II (Columbia Games) - Modified ruleset to fit in 8 players (plus a referee for technicalities); it is the year 1941 and Germany is about to commence Operation Barbarossa. 4 players on each side take their roles as either any of the three field commanders in charge of north, center or the south. Fourth player is responsible for giving out points for new units or replacements, strategic movement and other special operations (such as a paradrop), essentially the main HQ.

The catch: field commanders see nothing but the area they are responsible for, but they can message their team members (with a likelihood of 1/6 of said message being intercepted by the enemy) as well as cooperate, say, a pincer attack... if they can muster their forces quick enough. HQ sees nothing but his own HQ unit on the map, so it is up to the field commanders to inform of any imminent attacks.

Each year commanders meet up with their HQ for 15 minutes to beg for points (because they might have gotten destroyed completely by an enemy blitz) and to rework on their strategy. This part is the most entertaining for the referee, because he can review both sides and see each party's rejoice/gloom or, simply, how wrong their assumptions about the enemy are.

Anybody ever try EastFront like this? Was it fun?
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Paul Lags
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concept sounds interesting.
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Ilmo Raunio
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Hi, original poster of the quoted text here. Since this seems like a forum that can handle the added context, I can open the modified ruleset a bit to any and all readers that want to try this out with their friends.

First of all, I want to emphasize that this is not a creation of mine. Rather, it was originally a suggested multiplayer ruleset for Bobby Lee in the Columbia Games forums or in the BGG forums (can't confirm). Transferring that ruleset into EastFront was simply deciding what were the demarcation lines between the country's field commanders - or simply said, who controls what and where the control transfers to another co-player. This conversion wasn't done by me, but rather by my friend who has done a huge job in organizing the gamers, the location, making the rules work and getting a solid weekend out of one amazing game.

In production (mistakenly said in the quote each year), the SHQ decided who gets how many points and who gets the hoped-for reinforcement units. Meetings were 30 minutes the first time, 15 minutes thenceforth. The Supreme Commander saw NOTHING but his own SHQ unit on the map and, vice versa, the players were not be able to see the SHQ unit. The supreme commander was given blue and red carton pieces to be used to form an abstract line of defense or a point of attack etc. He relied only on the ability of his field commanders to report to him about the whereabouts of the enemy units, point(s) of attacks and such.

Players were allowed to send 1 message to the SHQ and 1 message to one friendly field commander per fortnight. Supreme Commander could message all friendly players once per fortnight. Messages were sometimes used for dire airstrike requests or something that would be dangerously informative or crucial to friendly operations if the enemy got a hold of them. You could usually interpret enemy interceptions by the amount of laughter that was produced or just by looking at where the judge is going (granted, this can be fixed by playing in a bigger house).

The demarcation lines for each field commander and their corresponding enemy were as follows (to the best extent of my memory).

North commanders' southermost hexes: from Memel to Polotsk, then rises 2 hexes north east and goes 3 hexes to the East (currently at 1 hex west of Kalinin), then rises 1 hex north east and then goes east all the way to the edge.

Center commanders' southernmost hexes: normal demarcation line as indicated by the red triangle at Brest-Litovsk.

From the German point of view, the center area had the most important operation in the game: a German spearhead attack that was supposed to capture Moscow. Moscow's surroundings were almost defenseless and my enemy had powerful units at full strength in Tula and adjacent hexes. The operation was a huge success... for the Soviets. Some reasons as to why:

a) I had the face of a Rommel in the Desert player and the enemy could not interpret the quality of my units outside of Moscow b) the Germans were running out of HQ points and command range could not reach the speartip, and perhaps c) my enemy was slightly too inexperienced to seize the opportunity. Whatever the reasons, the spearhead was then pincer attacked cutting the German units out of supply (including a German HQ) through interplayer co-operation. The horror-ridden look on the enemy's face when the referee brought units, command support and airstrike support that challenged the supply of the German units was priceless.

South commanders had the most amount of clear hexes in play in which easy progress could have been made. This certainly showed as the Soviet Supreme Commander put a lot of points, reinforcements and SHQ moves into making the south theatre a dazzling rocket display. Unfortunately, the Soviet side's field commander was a fairly navy-minded player, attacking the strongest part of the enemy lines with expensive units that did get the job done, but with considerable losses - only to have the hex taken by the Germans again. It was probably one reason both sides got heavily invested in the south. It was basically the most expensive defensive war that both the Soviets and the Germans were trying to win.

The north could have been more active, but the Nazis could not concentrate on the north theatre due to the attention the south & the centre demanded. This meant a slight downside to the modified game: some players would be incessantly bored.

Eventually the game was ended by the sheer amount of time that it took with each fortnight, each production & negotiation phase, the messaging hassle and in the fact that people had to leave for work. But it was won by the Soviets, because the Germans could not conquer Leningrad, Moscow or anything beyond Kharkov on the south theatre. The Soviets, however, were able to break through the German defenses along the Kiev-Vitebsk axis to put one unit in Vilna and Baranovichi each on the very final turn achieving attritional damage to German units (including SS units).

It can be said that as the winner of that particular game it was fun. The suspense, the surprises and the negotiations (going to your supreme commander with a handful of unit blocks can be an interesting experience) kept everyone going, so almost everybody had a blast. Waiting was a big part of the game, though, and should be expected in the future as well. The only losing side are the players who won't be getting enough action. Also, some people might consider that being a supreme commander is boring. That is why you should probably consider who to give what roles; maybe give a new player the Soviet side of the north theater and give the most experienced player the role of Hitler/OKH. These are only ideas, though.

Finally, for this game to work at all, it will need a willing referee. And more so, it would do good if he was a good referee. This game will otherwise lag constantly if the referee is not checking that players are done with their moves, moving units to other players, throwing weather / message interception checks. But for the game to go on smoothly, it would be expected that all players know the rules of the game properly. This was a problem because some of the players were new, had only been instructed the rules once and so had to ask the referee for rule specifications. Overall, this ruleset is something that experienced wargamers should definitely try. Having played Bobby Lee, EastFront and The Battle of Verdun 1916: They shall not pass with this multiplayer modification, we plan on tackling EuroFront next. Hopefully then everybody will be getting their share of the promised action.

If there are any questions, I can try to answer them.
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Paul Lags
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Funny it never occurred to me that you did this in-person. I just assumed it was PBEM. You must have had a big house
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Ilmo Raunio
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While it was a big house it wasn't mine. In theory, you should have 1 room for each theater plus 1 room for each supreme commander - also, a table for the referee. In practise, we put 4 players in a living room and two players in the kitchen so that we could isolate the supreme commanders somewhat properly (to ensure proper immersion during negotiations). It's totally doable in a medium-sized house!
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Lucas Emery
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Thank you for posting this, Ilmo!
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