I was initially very wary about the game, because my intial impressions from the screenshots of this 11 year old game, were that it was complex with a lot of numeric/coded information cluttering the unit chits on the map. I was very surprised to find a rather straight forward, operational boardgame for the PC. One where the phases actually guide you through the play, rather than drop you in a swirling myriad of options and confusion. The wealth of information presented in situ, on the chits, is actually very liberating (once you’ve familiarised yourself – using a handy reference card included with the manual). Your attention is no longer drawn away from the combat situation to reference a unit information window.
I thought I’d tackle one of the relatively shorter and simpler scenarios of the fifty one on offer! I thought I’d tackle the Crimea Break-in. A push by the Axis through the Crimean peninsula and hopefully capturing the key ports and staging areas for further action into Russia.
Playing as the Axis, I set up the Russian Computer Opponent. I wanted to explore the optional Command and Control HQ effects. Without the HQ’s this scenario seems very sparse. I thought it best I get used to using HQ’s in a small setup, whilst learning the game. I also wanted to play with Fog of War off, so that you could see the enemy units play out their moves.
Here’s a look at the main map of the game zoomed out to its fullest extent. You can see the red rectangle at the bottom of the map that denotes the area involved in this scenario. We’re playing on quite a small chunk of the whole play area.
There are two further zoom levels available, a broader operational view where your unit’s have only the NATO symbols available.
The lowest zoom level, that you will spend most of your playtime in affords the display of your units with full information attached to the coloured counter like proud shiny war medals. The Russians currently hold the neck of the peninsula around Perekop. With an incidental track to the side of this leading into Dzhankoy, we have a single Russian unit in defense at the coastline. The fortress at Sevastopol seems to be undefended, but we have a ways to go to get to that prize. Along the Southern coastline, leading out to Kersch and across to the Russian continent we have one or two enemy units ready to defend.
The main concentrations of victory points in the Crimea, rest around Simferopol and Sevastopol, as well as Perekop and Kersch. It’s clear to me however, that we should attempt to push all I have along the South eastern road running from Perekop through to Kersch. If I can interject my units here, I’ll have a chance at cutting off the Russian supply from the mainland. That should help with my offensives. I did ponder over storming Sevastopol direct, but theres a lot of ground to cover to get there, and I’ll have a hell of a job trying to protect my supplies coming in from OKH in the North West. I also considered pushing a unit through Genichesk along the very slim connecting straights to Parpach, if swift enough I could put a stopper in the bottle and prevent further Russian supplies making it through. However, I decided against this, because I know there are Russian naval units around and about, and they could have a field day taking pot shots at my single infantry unit on those straights.
So the “road push” plan is now in effect.
I should try and explain the numbers on the unit chits.
You have 6 digits along the top of the chit. They are :
1st: Supply Losses
2nd: HQ Reserve Allocation
3rd: Training, Experience and Morale (TEM)
4th: Defense Stance – Dug-in(D) or Entrenched(E)
5th: Defense Type – Hold Ground(H), Give Ground (G)
6th: Combat Losses
So from the top row alone, you can tell a lot about the status of your unit.
Then you have the NATO symbol indicating unit type (infantry, armour, cavalry, air etc), the Unit size above that indicating (III:Regiment, X:Brigade, XX:Division, XXX:Corps, 4X: Army and 5X:Army Group/Front). To the right of the NATO symbol, you have the Unit Identification (22nd, 50th etc) and directly under that you have the HQ identification that the unit is attached to. Finally, you have the three digit factors affecting Attack-Defense-Movement (eg. 5-5-2, 1-2-2). Lots of info, and once you’re used to it, it becomes second nature as you glance around the map.
During the Turn Deployment Phase you can perform Naval operations of all kind, Allocate Reinforcements, rebuild or disband units or construct rail lines for supply.
My first action is to bring up my Naval units for some Fire Support. I decide to make the target the entrenched 106th enemy unit (1-2-2) just to the west of Perekop. I have three infantry divisions available to initiate the attack.
I then allocate reinforcements, I have two, so I place them on the 46th (obscured by the 50th) and on the 22nd. I plan on pushing the 22nd along the route into Dzhankoy so I need them at full strength.
I also decide to begin construction of rail lines in readiness for my push forward. I start work on the Perekop (even though that hex is occupied by the enemy at the moment). I also extend the eastern route by one hex. Where there is an ‘S’ in the coloured circle, you have supply flowing through. The circles without an ‘S’ are currently under construction. For me to maintain any momentum its important for me to convert these Russian rail lines into ones the German Army can use.
The next phase is Air Operations, and I have two air units (F8A and F8B) I can bring into play. I set up an Air Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the area around Perekop to keep enemy fighters and bombers at bay during my attack. You can see the CAP area covered with a white circle. I also send in F8B as Ground Support, which can exert its attack in support with a friendly ground unit. I’m afraid the enemy’s 106th unit has a lot of German power pointed directly at him.
During the Russian Air Ops phase they try to send Russian aircraft into the same area, luckily the Luftwaffe has acheived air superiority in the area and the enemy planes are forced to retreat with losses.
We now move into a Ground Ops phase where we can move into attack positions. I move the 54th HQ unit up close. I advance the 22nd down the eastern router to meet the enemy. The Russians move their troops up to meet the 22nd and install another unit in defense of Perekop.The Movement factor at the bottom of the chit shows an ‘M’ if the unit has expended its movement points. Another quick way to visually check on whether you’ve processed all your movement operations in a turn.
In the Combat Ops phase I begin the 1st Breakthrough by selecting the enemy unit 106th and then select all the units that are going to take place in the assault, including the Naval Fire Support and the Air borne ground support.
I then click once again on the enemy to initiate the attack.
Here are the comprehensive results. They can take a bit of getting used to, because theres a matrix of pluses and minuses listed out for both attacker and defenders, and totals are calculated. In this attack we have 32 Atk to 6 Def. It is calculated to be a 5 to 1 ratio. Then two die are rolled and a combat table is used to determine Losses and Retreat/Pursuit chances. I fully understand the process up to the point where the die rolls are mapped to the combat results table. Then I struggle to work out how a 4 and a 6 rolled result in the A1:D2 finish. I’m sure some knowledgeable Schwerpunkt player will chip, in the comments and help me out here. But ultimately, the results box drops out consistently according to the ratio and modifiers. The die roll only adds an element of variability, which I can live without understanding for the moment.
As the enemy retreats, we get the opportunity to pursue into the contested hex. I move both 46th and the 50th forward (you can’t pursue with Naval nor Air units).
I now plan out an attack with the 22nd against the enemy 271st infantry division.
We go in hard. The 3 to 1 ratio goes well, and the die rolls seem to be on our side. We get a A0:D3 result!
The 22nd move up in pursuit.
We now move into the Exploit/Move phase which allows us to perform a secondary movement operation. Luckily it gives me the chance to sweep the 22nd into Dzhankoy, capturing Victory points.
I then move the 50th forward to threaten the enemy HQ unit 9SC inside Ishun.
The Russian movement phase sees them bring up a lot of troops to surround the Dzhankoy area.
Now begins the second Combat Ops phase so I stack up the 50th with support from the Navy.
Rounded down the 10A:1D factors are capped at 5 to 1 odds. The die rolls of 1 and 1 give us an overwhelming victory and we destroy the unit.
The 50th move into Ishun as part of the pursuit reward.
At the end of the turn, theres some tidying up and supply is calculated. Here you can see the 50th are now incurring 1 supply loss, along with the 22nd.
I’m quite pleased with how the first turn has played out. I’ve taken two cities off the Russians, and have isolated those troops stationed at Perekop. Heres the City Control view at the end of the turn.
Lastly we’ll take a look at the Game Status screen. I captured this a bit late, so it shows the turn to be 2, but its right at the very beginning of the turn. The game scores you against History, one of my favourite aspects to this game mechanism. So you can compare how you do, side by side, with History. As you can see from the Grade, I’m still a ‘C’, same as the Russians. My City points is commensurate with History, although my losses sustained are a little less.
Check back for Turn 2 of this conflict, soon..