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Subject: Underrated Gem From the Twilight Days of GDW rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Race for Tunis is the sister game to Bloody Kasserine. It covers the so called Run for Tunis, which was the last major Axis victory in North Africa. To my knowledge, this specific battle has only been covered in an earlier game also known as Race For Tunis. Frank Cadwick, a respected wargame designer most famous for A House Divided (although he might be trying to forget Tet Offensive), designed this game for GDW, although recently it has been reissued in Japan with enhanced graphics. If anyone knows where I can get the Japanese version, let me know.

Gameplay (66/70): Race for Tunis is a grand tactical in map scale, but yet the units are battalion level, with some German tank companies. The rules are mostly classic hex and counter. Essentially each side plays a rigid sequence of play, with the Axis going first, moving and then attacking. The advanced rules are a must for any session. They add rules for aircraft, counter-battery artillery fire, weather, Allied airborne and commando attacks, and supply. I like all of the rules, but I do have some gripes. Supply loss is not brutal enough, commando and airborne attacks seem too easy to pull off, and there are no rules for dogfighting. Still, the rules add some extra dimensions without complicating what would otherwise be a straight forward hex and counter game. Even then, the game would work, because the nature of the battle, which is fluid and features both sides rushing units to the front.

Axis Victory! Wait should I be happy that the bad guys won?


What really makes Race for Tunis work is the CRT. It is based upon a 2d6 result table that encourages attacks at greater than 1:1 odds. Basically, the results on the table vary a great deal. Straight out elimination of units is rare and retreats are more common. The ZOC rules will destroy units more readily, which encourages maneuver and exploitation over bashing. That is very World War II. Another common result is “engaged” which means the forces are pinned in battle. This allows you keep the enemy in place and create pockets with the judicious use of mobile forces. it also adds to the narrative, as forces do not merely bounce off each other, but can instead be stuck in a fierce battle. This is a big improvement over more classic CRTs that rely upon retreat results, which often makes warfare at this scale too fluid. For a similar CRT, check out Bitter Woods

Another thing I like is the asymmetry of the forces involved. The Axis have an edge in air power, while their forces can more easily move into ZOC, with German mobile forces being able to single out Allied units in a stack and attack them. Italians are generally weak, but plentiful, and German infantry varies widely in quality. However, Axis losses are permanent. The Allies receive replacements, which is vital since their troops are generally weaker. British and American tanks do have some punch though, while their artillery is superior, and their forces are faster than most Axis units. French colonial forces are a liability. In one scenario they cannot attack unless they pass a die roll. Although their fighting quality is equal to the Americans and British, and superior to the Italians, they are not as mobile and their losses are permanent, leading to some Axis headhunting strategies.

Accessibility (8/10): The rules do not present too many complications. However, some holes do rear their ugly head. For instance attacking or defending multiple hexes is hardly mentioned at all. Rules for reinforcements and Allied replacements are ambiguous and buried in the rules. In the end if you can agree on some house fixes by applying tired and true hex and counter principles, then the game will play just fine.

Components (10/10): I rate components for the time they were published, and I think Race for Tunis is rather sharp looking. The map has the right kind of color and is functional. The large hex map with 5/8" counters makes it easy to move units. Also, German tank companies features images of equipment instead of NATO symbols, a rarity in 1992. GDW had to be proud considering some of their other fare.

Slice of the Map


Now Compare that to GDW’s Tet Offensive


Historical Quality (7/10): History is generally well served judging by what I’ve read about the battle. However, there are some small issues that, with some quick fixes, can be easily resolved. First, airborne and commando landings are too easy to pull off. There is no rules for either units scattering these units, a real danger in a campaign fought on a shoestring by a military still groping to learn the new art of war. Furthermore, if lost, these units can be easily replaced and sent back in for another round. I have a similar complaint with the out of supply rules, which merely lower movement and weaken artillery fire. With no combat penalty or even surrender rules, being cut off just isn’t that bad. Then there are their air rules, which make the interdiction of some aircraft penalty free and do not allow fighters to escort bombers. It just seems too simplistic. However, none of this is a deal breaker and each can be easily solved. There is one historical problem though that cannot be easily addressed: the ease of coordination. The Run for Tunis was fought by thrown together units, with the Allies in particular suffering from poor communications. The much maligned General Kenneth Anderson was in part defeated by communications problems that forced him to ride 1,000 miles in one four day period just to consult his commanders. Race for Tunis does not account for this crippling complication. Perhaps it is beyond the scope of this game, but I wish it was simulated in some fashion.

Overall (91/100): Race for Tunis is not a game I should rate a 9. I have no special affinity for World War II in Europe or hex and counter games. The former though can lead to great gaming and I appreciate the attention paid to an important but forgotten battle. As for hex and counter games, this is how I like them: simple rules that emphasis maneuver over slaughter. Race for Tunis will never be a famous wargame, but it is one that I find to be under-appreciated. I wish other designers had followed Chadwick’s lead on this one. Hopefully I can one day combine it with Bloody Kasserine for a bigger gaming experience.
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Bill Eldard
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Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.

Frank Chadwick turned out some great designs for GDW, inlcuding this game, Tet Offensive, and the Third World War games.
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Dave VanderArk
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Fantastic review, thank you. I own both Race for tunis and Bloody Kasserine. I bought them on clearance at a game store years ago because I like the history of the war in north Africa. However, I have never been able to find a regular opponent for wargaming, and have never played either game. Your review might prompt me to get these played.
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Andy Edwards
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Thanks for the great review. I own this as well, but it hasn't made its way to the table yet - I may have to give it a try!
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Paul Amala
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Eldard wrote:
Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.

Frank Chadwick turned out some great designs for GDW, inlcuding this game, Tet Offensive, and the Third World War games.


"Race for Tunis" is a wargame about maneuver, "Tet" is about area control. Both maps are appropriate for the subject (although "Tet"'s style is a bit funky).
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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paulamala wrote:
Eldard wrote:
Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.

Frank Chadwick turned out some great designs for GDW, inlcuding this game, Tet Offensive, and the Third World War games.


"Race for Tunis" is a wargame about maneuver, "Tet" is about area control. Both maps are appropriate for the subject (although "Tet"'s style is a bit funky).


Man you guys are being awfully kind to the Tet map!
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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gittes wrote:
paulamala wrote:
Eldard wrote:
Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.

Frank Chadwick turned out some great designs for GDW, inlcuding this game, Tet Offensive, and the Third World War games.


"Race for Tunis" is a wargame about maneuver, "Tet" is about area control. Both maps are appropriate for the subject (although "Tet"'s style is a bit funky).


Man you guys are being awfully kind to the Tet map!


Agreed. I couldn't get past the map when I was thinking about buying the game when it first came out. You have to consider your mental health sometimes...
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Michel Boucher
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gittes wrote:
paulamala wrote:
Eldard wrote:
Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.

Frank Chadwick turned out some great designs for GDW, inlcuding this game, Tet Offensive, and the Third World War games.


"Race for Tunis" is a wargame about maneuver, "Tet" is about area control. Both maps are appropriate for the subject (although "Tet"'s style is a bit funky).


Man you guys are being awfully kind to the Tet map!


The map serves its purpose. As far as I'm concerned that is the only criterion that matters. In fact, I'll be playing it tomorrow with a friend.
 
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Derek Dunnagan
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Eldard wrote:
Great review, although I don't think the Tet Offensive map is as bad as its reputation.


Agreed. If one wants to bash GDW for a map, I suggest Great Patriotic War.
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Juan Valdez
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Just finished a second play of Race for Tunis.

Pretty much agree with the OP on all points.

Despite lacking a bit of historical (or perhaps simulation) quality, both games I've played were very tense, with a lot of pushing and shoving back and forth. We really enjoyed it, and we're going to play Bloody Kasserine next.
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