No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! NO MORE SYSTEMS!
You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!
I have never played B2B before, but my experience with PoG systems is pretty extensive (Paths of Glory, Pursuit of Glory, Shifting Sands, Triumph of Chaos, and Crusade and Revolution: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939). My friend Jordan came over and over three sessions we played a game of B2B. He took the Axis while I took the Allies. I didn’t keep extensive notes, but I do clearly remember the highlights. I’m not certain we played all the rules correctly, given that it was the first time, but it seemed like between the both of us we caught most of the rules changes. We also kept a printout of the rules nearby for resolving confusion.
1941: A Slow Axis Advance
Jordan began with the Von Paulus Pause card, and stuck my scattering of forces along the border. The Stand Fast orders from Stalin were not as crippling as they might have been, and my Soviet Mechanized Front was even able to cause a lot of damage before it was destroyed. I even pushed into Romania in the early months of the war, but was forced to withdrawal by other German advances. The Germans continued to push into Russia slowly but effectively whilst I spent a great deal of time rebuilding my depleted Soviets. The Industrial Evacuation didn’t take place till the Fall, but the Germans were being held at the Leningrad-Smolensk-Kiev line. Panzer Group Guderian was repulsed in their first major assault. Some partisans started causing the Germans some trouble by “recapturing” Minsk and disrupting supply through the Baltics, leading the forces besieging Leningrad into limited supply.
In North Africa, my British deployed the Desert Army in Alexandria and I started marching to relieve Tobruk. A large Italio-German assault on Tobruk was turned back because of some amazing 6-1 luck in my favor. This took the teeth out of the German assault and I had advanced into El Agheila before the Panzer Armee Afrika had even been deployed.
In winter the Germans suffered now penalties, but were far behind their objectives. Leningrad had become a complete fortress, with the Urban and Fortress effects stacking with my newly dug trench there it was a veritably impregnable Gibraltar. Despite many major assaults against it, I never lost a combat there and was able to hold the city (thanks to SRs and charging tanks to the south and east) throughout the game. The Axis had not taken Tobruk, and had only Odessa and Minsk to show for all their effort in the USSR. This was a crushing 3 VP penalty. It really made me realize that the Germans really need to push hard, take risks, and concentrate combat potential in a few strong stacks that will blast through the Russians and not still till they either reach the Don or Leningrad.
1942: The Year Stalin was Slain
In the Spring, I finally drew Sorge, the last card in my Blitzkrieg deck. I had held 1 card from a previous turn and I realized that like in Paths of Glory, this was a rather foolish idea. No card was worth it. I also drew FDR declares War for the second time and since he’d played Wolfpacks by now (the first time it came through he hadn’t), I decided there was no reason to hold back. Getting the Americans into the war is an important factor. I probably should have done that earlier as well…but I am uncertain.
With Sorge and another Yellow card I made some limited pushback against the Germans during the Spring Thaw and began waging a war of attrition where I was on equal odds or better. I deployed my Shock Armies, and pushed them to the front, ready to unleash havoc on the invaders. However, in my zeal to come to grasps with the enemy I made a huge error. I had left a small hole in my lines and not used some of my copious Soviet RPs to rebuild forces into Moscow. Jordan saw my error and charged the 2nd Panzer Army forward, sweeping into Moscow, grabbing Stalin and putting him up against a wall to be shot. I was devastated. 4 VPs…gone. 1 RP per card…gone. Ok…the game just got interesting again! A card before I had been quite uncertain if the game would last beyond 1942…now I knew I’d be lucky to win by ’44. I had to completely rework my lines. I was concerned he’d make a run for Stalingrad to wave the Fall Blau restrictions on that city and at the same time was forces to abandon the entrenched Kiev as the Germans had pushed through to the north of the city, making that position untenable. The 2nd Panzer Army was worn down and destroyed by counterattacks by much larger Soviet formations. Jordan made a large error here when he played Luftwaffe Supply to try and keep his army alive in Moscow, but it did compel me to waste many OPS points destroying him. My position had worsened. I now held a Leningrad-Bryansk-Orel-Dnipropetrovsk line. This loss of serious amounts of territory had only cost me 1 VP (Kiev). I’m pretty sure I think Smolensk should be worth something, but maybe it’s a game balance issue. During the Winter the Germans launched Fall Blau, which was brilliantly done. An OKW MO was satisfied by a mixed stack, and 4 major attacks in Russia caused massive casualties (but not any envelopments). It was this incredible attack, plus the loss of Stalin, I realized my Soviets would be lucky to just survive…and I switched my goals for them.
In North Africa the DAK gathered up some Italians and was twice compelled by OKW to assault to British positions in El Agheila, despite the bad odds. Both times though the DAK made a good showing of itself. Ultimately their attempts were futile and the Torch landings went off without a problem. Tunisia was barely defend against the British 1st Army and because of casualties from constant battle the DAK was alone.
Once again, the Axis required VPs were completely debilitating. 3 more VPs were penalized because he had been unable to attain great successes in Russia. I had personally felt very fortunate to not have collapsed totally, but this time I felt that the restrictions were accurate. He really had not made progress against the Soviets. It had taken him almost two years to approach the gates of Moscow (not counting the 2nd Panzer’s mad dash) and he was still bogged down along the Don. The winter brought us into Total War, but our first turn of that was a bit of a dud because we both had restricted 5 cards hands to start off all the “cool stuff” with.
1943: The Fall of Italy
With our small hands and the Spring Thaw there was little we were really able to achieve the first turn. Armies were rebuilt, the Soviet position continued to slightly erode through attacks by Germans at good odds, and the Western Allies were stuck in Africa. The Germans were not at 11+ VPs (9), so were unable to play Totaler Krieg, which definitely gave me a great deal of hope for victory. But after turn 9, things started to speed up.
In Russia the Soviets continued to hold out. Using my newish Tank Armies, I was able to shatter a portion of the lightly defended German lines between Smolensk and the besiegers of Leningrad. I advanced 3 of my Tank units forward and in conjunction with my Partisans deprived the besiegers of full supply. It was one of those glorious attacks where only one of my units was along the front and the other two had move up to the combat marker to join in…caught Jordan completely by surprise. Because of the Tank Armies high movement factors and ability to OOS quite a few German Armies, Jordan was compelled to scramble some of his forces that he had lined up for an assault and pull them back to defend from a breakout through the Baltics. This slowed Jordan down. Ultimately my tanks were pushed back and Leningrad was cut off from the rest of the Motherland completely, relying purely upon their fortress for supplies. Along the rest of the Eastern Front, German attacks continued to thin the Soviet line, using up stockpiled reserves, but never able to create the necessary breakthrough.
I got lucky and Husky showed up for me. I did a smash and grab in Sicily, taking only two turns to break through his thrown together defenses at Messina. After gobbling up Sicily, Italy abandoned the Axis and Jordan’s whole southern front was blown open before his eyes. He was able to hurry some forces to Verona to keep the Allies bottled up in Italy, but he was outnumbered by British and American forces with RPs to burn, finally some pressure came off of the Soviets (though…precious little).
It was in the winter that I was finally able to play my first of the new Soviet Armored Fronts, and they really saved my bacon. As the Soviet line had become more brittle, I was relying on more and more depleted Fronts to hold the German armies back. When I was able to replace the depleted and weak Fronts with powerful and rebuilt Fronts, it made all the difference in the world. At this point, Jordan was getting desperate. He still held 3 VPs in Russia (keeping him from any more VP penalties), but it seemed that with these new Armies the Soviets were unlikely to collapse before his own forces in Austria and Italy did.
1944: The Signing of an Armistice
Once again the German attacks in Russia were well executed, but just fell short. The Spring Thaw gave me a chance to play for a great deal of RPs. My number of eliminated Soviet units was absolutely shameful. I was again reaching the breaking point and after he played Hedgehogs I was absolutely positive that I’d be unable to make any worthwhile attacks against the Germans for at least a good long time. This would allow him to focus all his RPs and OPS against the Americans and British pushing up from the South.
After a long series of attacks, I was able to push the Germans out of Verona with the American 1st Army. While Jordan played for RPs (hoping to reinforce Austria with his southern approach), I was able to bum-rush my British into Vienna, causing him to experience a small crises. How would he deal with this? Ultimately he decided to use some of his forces in Austria to cut the British off from the Supply coming up from Naples. I had made my second “map” error, and not kept my line of supply garrisoned. However, I realized that I just might have the chance to snatch a victory out that turn. I played Operation Shingle, landing my small mixed Anglo-American force off Salonika (at the behest of PM Churchill no doubt). I shattered the Bulgarians in Greece and the Germans in Athens and Crete pulled out while they could. It was too little too late as my British and American forces drove north from Salonika while my British OOS forces in Northern Yugoslavia drove south. They met in the middle and had drawn up another front in the Balkans. As his SR had just been used, and we were now in Action Round 6, Jordan tried to make a mad grab for VPs in Russian, capturing Orel, and almost taking Kharkov, I captured Belgrade and Sofia, and during the attrition phase Athens and Crete fell to me as well, dropping the VPs to 0 and ending the game. It was the end of Summer 1944.
As for the result, I don’t feel too cheated by the game. The Germans never achieved their historical progress into the USSR. There were game penalties for this, and while a little bogus, definitely kept the Axis on the offensive. I felt that better progress could have been made with some more luck and some better strategy as well. The many fruitless assaults on Leningrad cost many RPs and lots of OPS and were ultimately meaningless…especially since the Germans took forever to really cut off the Fortress City from new forces SRing in. The Axis had also been booted out of North Africa quicker than historically and Italy had defected with much greater acumen than the historical events. I remain uncertain of how exactly history would proceed from here. With Stalin dead and the Soviet Union in tatters, it seems like Eastern Europe would not fall under an Iron Curtain, but become a series of pro-Western democracies like Churchill envisioned. The complete lack of any movement or action in France, by either of us, seemed strange, but I never had the right invasions at the right time and Jordan had (unknowingly) masterfully placed one of his Armies and Atlantic Wall trenches into Calais (the site easiest to invade in France). However, I do believe that with Sofia captured, the Hungarian Armies smashed, the Romanian armies fighting for years along the Don with no progress, that the Axis Minors would have followed Italy’s example and abandoned Germany. What would happen then? Who knows? Adolf Hitler wouldn’t have given up, but maybe Valkerie gets pulled off, or the Generals just get fed up with constant defeat and decide to eliminate Hitler on their own. Still seems unlikely.
My impressions of the game were very good. My initial rating is an 8. Jordan had never really played a Racier-style CDG before (Washington’s War he has played), and he did quite well with the system as a whole. I hadn’t been very aware of what cards were going to come up, for me or him, and that kept a lot of the “oh zing!” moments extremely fresh. I felt that as a wargame goes, this one is very ‘fun’. The events lend themselves to a kind of narrative flow better than the slog of PoG, or the erosion of C&R. Now, while I actually rate both those games as better than B2B, I was really captured by the game and I believe repeated plays will grant me a greater appreciation of its balance, and gameplay options. All in all, I had a blast and want to play again!
When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
Very nice AAR. Makes me want to play this one again. The emphasis on use of Western Allied forces to tip the game belies the accepted wisdom on this game that it is all about the Russian Front and using OPS in the Med or the West is generally a waste.
It is a funny game in some ways, but I am happy to have played it a few times and, recently, to have picked up a copy. One lesson I learned from it was that there are definitely some very important cards to play for events. Like "Speer" I believe. Another is that it is possible for the Germans to nut up fairly well at the end and outlast a furious Allied assault on the Fatherland.
Glad that you liked it Larz and thanks for the write up.
- Last edited Mon Aug 6, 2012 7:39 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:39 pm
Great AAR very interesting read
I like this game a lot and I too lost Uncle Joe in my last game