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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 Limerick! 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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Most magazine wargames are generally marginalized. The reasons why elude me. After all, such games are not expensive, they often cover some interesting topics and the rules are usually simpler. Yet, the numbers don’t lie here and I am left wondering why such a great game as Four Roads to Moscow has not gained more applause.

Of course there are exceptions, such as Frederick the Great, Winter War, and Panzergruppe Guderian. Among those exceptions is Proud Monster, a massive 959 counter simulation of Operation Barbarossa, history's biggest and most tragic campaign. The allure here is the scale, the simple rules, and some creative design choices made by Ty Bomba. Such was the success of this game that it even got a sequel: Death & Destruction: The Russian Front 1942-44. Bomba also gave Proud Monster a poorly recieved face-lift in Land Without End: The Barbarossa Campaign, and Compass recently published Proud Monster Deluxe.

Gameplay (65/70): The first thing to absorb is the scale of this game. Most Barbarossa games have corps units. Not here. The Germans mostly have divisions, although they are allotted some regiments. The Soviets use both divisions and brigades. While the game ostensibly has only 12 turns, there are actually 23, since each turn covers two weeks of time, with a week getting a couplet. Each turn sees reinforcements arriving, followed by these couplets. The Germans always move first and have the advantage of highly mobile and powerful panzer divisions, which can make mobile attacks, that is expend movement points to attack and therefore exploit their progress. Exploiting is easy too, for Bomba got rid of zone of control, forcing players to create continuous fronts.

This is a Big Game


The forces are asymmetrical in the extreme. The German mobile units have four steps and are basically like Godzilla taking a tour of Tokyo. German infantry are quite strong too, and only the large but poorly equipped Romanian Army is weaker than the Russians. Soviet units are nearly all one step, and are of unknown strength before battle, a mechanic first used in Panzergruppe Guderian. This creates a lot of doubt among the Soviets and speeds up play, as factoring counting is rare. It also creates tension.

The asymmetrical play goes even further. The Germans are always on the attack, have superior air cover, and yet reinforcements are rare. Meanwhile, the Soviets don’t just receive a horde of new units, but destroyed infantry divisions, including those that were out of supply, can come back for more. Besides a zombie-like horde of Soviets, the Germans also have to overcome the weather and logistics. About halfway across the map German supply breaks down and their attacks are no longer as powerful. This can be avoided only through a supply concentration, which allows 18 units to be in full supply, or taking the von Paulus Pause option, which will give the Russians three couplets unhindered by the Axis.

Combat results table is brutal at odds lower than 3:1 and even then winning does not cause the enemy to retreat. The Soviets must be destroyed for the Germans to enter their hex and at 5 units per hex, this can be difficult. For this reason I feel the game favors the Soviets. Germany’s only advantage outside of combat is the that if they capture enough cities on a given turn they automatically winning, preventing a Soviet "retreat to victory strategy." Indeed, it seems that this the only way to win. Pushing for Moscow is difficult, due to terrain, defenses, and worst of all the fact that the Soviets can, regardless of how many Germans are near the city, pump fresh units into the sprawling metropolis.

The Northern Pincer From Army Group Center


Accessibility (8/10): Proud Monster’s 18 pages of rules are easy to understand because of Bomba’s clear style. While not an introductory game, the rules will not be the problem. This is just one reason why I picked up this version and not Proud Monster Deluxe. Apparently the rules are a total mess.

Components (7/10): The map was impressive in its day and has aged very well. The units, while not pretty, are functional and thankfully color coded. Axis units of the various nations have their own distinct color (although the Hungarians and Italians look a lot alike) while the mobile units are black. The Russian units are color coded too, making identification and organization easier. Still, with some 500 units on the map at any one time, and stacking limits of 5 (10 for large cities like Kiev), the map can get rather messy.

The Game Can Get Messy


Historical Quality (5/10): The game captures the dash and thrash of the campaign and the never ending flow of Russians, while perhaps a little too generous, reflects the fact that the Germans underestimated the size and strength of the Red Army. Indeed, this miscalculation arguably made the whole effort doomed from the beginning. Still, I feel the game fails to represent some key aspects of the conflict. Tanks are not penalized for attacking cities, but nor do they benefit from combined arms. Aircraft is not all that powerful. Out of supply units that are destroyed come back, making pockets a waste of time more or less. The Soviets will almost never attack before winter, which they did in the real war, and furthermore the panzers cannot reach Minsk on turn one, although in the actual war they did just that. All of this is easily fixed with a few added rules, but in the end Bomba could have paid closer attention to history.

Overall (85/100): Proud Monster gives you the freedom to explore the campaign's many possibilities within an accessible system. You may wonder then why I have this game for trade. Simply put, it is too big and for a game has to actually have a shot at being played. Furthermore, the history has some holes and the brigade units are more of a hassle than a benefit. For all the poor reviews Land Without End: The Barbarossa Campaign received, it seems the second edition fixed things up. At any rate, I would prefer a game with fewer counters and only one map. Still, if you like the subject and you don't mind Bomba's lack of chrome, Proud Monster is worth the effort.


The images used in this review were created by these users

Andrew C
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Aaron Silverman
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gittes wrote:
Most magazine wargames are generally marginalized. The reasons why allude me. After all, such games are not expensive, they often cover some interesting topics and the rules are usually simpler. Yet, the numbers don’t lie here and I am left wondering why such a great game as Four Roads to Moscow has not gained more applause.


I think it's because, generally speaking, magazine games don't get the same development and playtesting attention as boxed games due to the need to release them on a regular schedule. So the gems are fewer and further between. Just the nature of the beast.

Great review, as always!
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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 Limerick! 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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DJ Kuul A wrote:
gittes wrote:
Most magazine wargames are generally marginalized. The reasons why allude me. After all, such games are not expensive, they often cover some interesting topics and the rules are usually simpler. Yet, the numbers don’t lie here and I am left wondering why such a great game as Four Roads to Moscow has not gained more applause.


I think it's because, generally speaking, magazine games don't get the same development and playtesting attention as boxed games due to the need to release them on a regular schedule. So the gems are fewer and further between. Just the nature of the beast.

Great review, as always!


Great observation. I think there is also a lack of mystique, almost like "hey this does not come in a box it must be a lesser design."
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Andrew C
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Jeez I took those pictures almost six years ago. Time flies...
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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 Limerick! 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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Cleitus the Black wrote:
Jeez I took those pictures almost six years ago. Time flies...


As the Romans would say "tempus fugit."

I'm glad you took them man. I'm also happy you've kept that avatar over the years.
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Aaron Silverman
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Romans?

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