Ukraine ’43

Mark Simonitch is a designer/developer/graphics guy who I hugely respect, but unfortunately his Ukraine ’43 has sat on my shelf now for some 3 years as I’ve tried to find a chance to play. It has resisted all the rather drastic wargame purges of the past few years, and today I was glad it had when Charles game by and I finally had a chance to play scenario 3.

What I think got me the most was how clean the game is. One reason it has been tottering on the brink has been that it has 20 pages of rules, which for me is an awful lot. Once you sit down and play it though, Ukraine ’43 feels like a 12-pager. I’ve become so used to games from GMT which feel more complicated than the page count (perhaps because the only way to get down to that page count is to leave out all the errata they have to eventually publish). Ukraine ’43 is a really clean system, the rules are amazingly eratta-free, and it plays well. One of Mark Simonitch’s great traits is the fact that his games are comparatively focussed, with that focus being on real, high-level decisions, with peripheral stuff streamlined.

Like most of these games, the real meat is in the allocation of a handful of very powerful units – the artillery, breakthrough artillery, sappers, and armor for the Soviets, and the Panzer Divisions for the Germans. So the fact that the game is big is not as daunting as the raw counter density might indicate, and you concentrate more on the big decisions than the micromanagement as is usually the case with these bigger games.

I also really like the “magnitude” combat system, where the bloodiness of combat is proportional to the number of units involved. This is a technique that a lot of games could use, OCS not the least.

As I become more and more jaded after playing serious games for some 20+ years, it’s always a real treat to discover a great, new, engaging game, and now I’ve had the privilege of finding two in the last two weeks – Ukraine ’43 and Lock ‘n Load. This is almost as many as the whole last year, at least on the wargame side. Great stuff.

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