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Subject: GDW 1941 Review rss

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Matt Irsik
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Overview

Game Designer’s Workshop had a short-lived series called Series 120, where the games were supposed to last only 120 minutes, hence the name. This wasn’t always the case, but you did get a smaller type game with a basic map, a booklet of rules, and around 120 counters in most games. One of the better thought of games in the series was 1941, which covered the opening of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941. With only seven turns in the basic game, the goal was that a two-player game of this massive operation could be finished in a few hours.

Components

From gallery of mirsik


If you’ve seen any GDW games from the late 70’s or 80’s, then the map won’t surprise you. With a size of around 17 x 22 and using only a few colors, the map portrays the entire area where Operation Barbarossa was fought, from the Polish/Hungarian/Romanian border to Archangel in the north to Stalingrad and the Caucasus region in the south. The counters are also very basic, with a tan/light brown for the Russians and a grey/green for the Germans and their allies. The first thing you notice with the counters are the very high combat factors for the German panzer groups, with one counter having a strength of 23 while most Russian counters have threes and fours. The rules are easy to get through and if you’ve played any wargames then you will easily recognize the systems used in the sequence of play, movement, zones of control, combat, etc., as they are pretty standard.

Gameplay

From gallery of mirsik


If you’ve played any kind of Barbarossa game then you know the sequence of how this campaign usually plays. The Germans hit hard and shatter the Russian lines on the first two turns while the Russians desperately try to plug the gaps. Around turns three and four masses of Russian reinforcements begin to arrive and it gets easier to fill the holes and establish a defense. By turn six the Germans are running out of gas and when winter hits they try to hang on in the face of Russian counterattacks. Yes, that’s how most Barbarossa games go, but this one does have a different feel to it.

For one thing, it seems easier for the Russians to plug the gaps in the early turns. Repeating the German historical advances is going to be tough to do unless you roll really well the first few turns and simply obliterate the Russians in your path. Also, the exchange results on the CRT will kill off quite a few German units and as the front spreads out across the vast expanse of Russia these units are desperately needed to either provide security for flanks, additional combat power for vital attacks, or just simply to soak up more exchange results deep into the game. At the end of some games it’s not uncommon to see just a few units on the board hanging on to various objectives!

In the end the results, in terms of objectives seized, are within historical tolerances. How you get there, however, can be another thing, often losing far more German units (and Russian units for that matter) than actually occurred in 1941. As it has been discussed many, many times in the wargaming world, trying to replicate the Russian disasters in Operation Barbarossa is nearly impossible and 1941 is no different. In the game’s defense, however, it plays quickly, is entertaining, and will usually come down to a few critical rolls at the end.

Comparisons

For quite some time this game was regarded as the poor man’s Russian Campaign or for those who couldn’t afford the time or money for games like SPI’s War in the East, GDW’s Fire in the East, or several other larger games on this theater. If you wanted to invade Russia and try to seize Moscow in under three hours this was your game! In the past several years you now have Defiant Russia by Avalanche Press and No Retreat by GMT Games, both of which offer a similar type of game. In fact, Defiant Russia is very close to 1941 in terms of game play, length of game, and both come down to the final turn or two in every game I’ve played. The only difference is better graphics (although that can be debatable with the Defiant Russia map!) and the “bucketful of dice” combat approach that Defiant Russia uses.

From gallery of mirsik


Summary

This is still a good little game, even though it’s now over three decades old. Simple to set up, plays quickly, and usually comes down to the last turn or two, even though in my opinion it’s tough on the Germans to achieve victory. This is definitely a good introductory wargame or for filling one of those gaming slots where you only have a few hours. There is some errata available on Grognards that is helpful, but even without it the game is still playable.
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Steven Goodknecht
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What are the odds of two great reviews of a 31 year-old game being posted on the same day?

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Matt Irsik
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Not only that, but within minutes of each other! I was reviewing the Geek list showing the games that still needed reviews on Friday, so I played the game and wrote a review aiming to post it today. After years and years of having no reviews, all of a sudden there's two of them on the same day! Weird...
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Steve Herron
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A slightly better rated game than Defiant Russia by Avalanche Press for being around the same size. It would be nice to see it reprinted in a C3i.
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Steven Goodknecht
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mirsik wrote:
Not only that, but within minutes of each other! I was reviewing the Geek list showing the games that still needed reviews on Friday, so I played the game and wrote a review aiming to post it today. After years and years of having no reviews, all of a sudden there's two of them on the same day! Weird...
Matt, I think it's cool. It's like hearing Zeppelin's "Kashmir" on one classic rock station, pushing the button to another classic rock station and getting to hear it all over again. I'm happy!

I enjoyed both reviews because it's a game I seriously considered buying back in 1979 but I didn't. Now I know what I missed. Doubly.
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Kim Meints
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1941 is still one of my favorite games on the campaign.If it had a Expansion added to it to cover the rest of the war it would have been a real classic.
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M@tthijs
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Budo and boardgames...
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Amazing!

I've been planning on writing my review for months and always had something else to do. And now, indeed, within a 7 minute time frame, two reviews!

My mind is blown. So hard, blood trickles out of my ears laugh
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Steven Goodknecht
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I still think it's great. Both reviewers came to the same similar conclusions about the game. I really enjoyed reading them side-by-side.

We should really do this more often!
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Steve Herron
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If 1942 got double reviews next Monday that would be freaky but not maybe now since I said something.
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Mike Anderson
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A well-done review of a mini-classic. This was indeed one of the best of the Series 120 games done by the good folks of GDW in Normal, IL. The other two in the series that really shine, IMHO, are Beda Fomm and 1940.

There is already a reprint of 1941 - kinda sorta. Frank Chadwick worked with Victory Point games to put out four mini-games that cover the same time frame and geographical area. It uses a system that is very similar to 1941. The four games are The Arduous Beginning (Army Group Center), Target: Leningrad (Army Group North) Objective: Kiev (Army Group South)and Battle for Moscow (itself a reprint of the freebie included in GDW's great Patriotic War. The mini-game Bjective: Kiev has its own mini-mini-add-on called Objective: Odessa. These games add untried Soviet mechanized Corps to the mix which is a nice touch.

The down side is that the maps of the four games don't mate, so it's not possible to play a monster-mini of Barbarossa. The upside is that Chadwick and Victory Point have been talking about producing a game that covers the whole campaign. A 1941 Deluxe.

Chadwick did a game that covered the entire war in the east called Great Patriotic War. It used the same system as 1941 with a bit more chrome. It also had the ugliest game-box GDW ever produced,which is surprising considering the quality of the art on their 120 series. The map was....as ugly as the game box. Too bad. The game itself was pretty decent. It's good to see Frank Chadwick back in the gaming saddle.


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Charles
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This is a great little game. To avoid too many German losses, remember to use the supply/ surrender rule to your advantage. When more than 5 hexes from a supplied unit, the pockets of Russians will surrender (no EX possibility there!).
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