Matt & Rich & I had been trying to figure out when we might have a rematch of Europe Engulfed now that we know what we’re doing, but due to various commitments it looks like we might not be able to play until mid-May. So Rich & I decided to try to do a game of the shorter, one-map scenario the designer posted on BoardGameGeek and see if we could finish it on a weeknight. It’s just the Russian Front, 1942-1943. Rich took the Soviets, I got the Germans.
For reference, the 4 guys behind us started learning the rules for a game of Wreckage just as we were setting up.
The Germans have a tough choices in the standard 1942 game – Stalingrad or Moscow? Moscow is easier, but less valuable and not a war-winner on it’s own. Stalingrad is the first step on the way to Baku, which is a war-winner if you can take them both, but it’s mighty tricky. In this scenario you actually have a third choice, Leningrad. Normally, Leningrad isn’t that exciting because it’s very expensive, doesn’t hamper the Soviet war effort much and further advance is hampered by hideous terrain. But, as further events would show, I should have considered it more seriously.
Anyway, I went with the traditional approach of first clearing out the Don River Bend and Tula, then driving on Stalingrad. That went well, with Stalingrad falling to the second special action chit. Taking Baku, though, is a total nightmare. The terrain is awful, the Soviets can build plenty of units down there, and the drive on Stalingrad itself is likely to produce heavy casualties amongst the infantry, so you’re cracking Stalingrad itself with very expensive armor. So my whole advance stalled out. Fortunately, I think I had mauled the Soviet army enough to spare myself a horrible winter experience, and I went over to the defensive.
Rich’s first counterattacks into the Don River Bend to cut off the army in Stalingrad didn’t go too well; there were heavy casualties, but a foothold was gained. From there on out it was the standard pummeling job the Germans usually receive, with the Wermacht being slowly attritted and pushed out of area after area. The units holding Stalingrad had to withdraw. The line held along the “adjusted” front line (the start areas plus Tula and the Don River Bend, which form the river line) until the last turn, in which the Soviets ripped open a giant hole near Kursk.
In retrospect, I have to think that given the victory conditions, Leningrad is the target of choice in this scenario. It can be taken without overextending yourself, and it can be taken with comparatively cheap infantry, preserving your armor for counterattacks. It can be integrated into a defensive line based on the Don, and the Soviets are required to take it back to win. In the main game, Leningrad is not a strategy in and of itself, but a stepping stone to bringing in the Finns, cutting the Lend-Lease route, and driving on Moscow, but here, it’s a game winner if you can hold it.
German production is very tight in this scenario – of the 50 WERPS or so usually at the German player’s disposal in the 1942 tournament scenario, only 25 of them make their way east, and only 20 once the clock ticks over to 1943; this compared to the Soviet base of 34, so the Germans don’t have much wiggle room (unfortunately, I had screwed up the resource count and hadn’t been giving myself much of the conquered Soviet production for most of the game – this clearly made some difference and is why I always try to write things down, and why I wish they had given us some sort of production counter for the track. My memory for numbers is terrible).
We finished in a touch over 3 hours, so that’s not bad at all. This scenario still has a rather annoying end-of-the-world problem on the last turn, which I think I am now officially tiring of even though I like the game a lot. I’m eyeing the 1941 campaign scenario for my next game, or maybe a using the 1942 Tournament scenario as a starting point for the campaign. Despite the preponderance of games I’ve played as the Germans, I have an Allied mindset and I’m more interested in seeing the game going full circle than in seeing if the Germans can score a knock-out punch against unprepared enemies early on I guess.
If you’re wondering why I mentioned that Wreckage game above, I’ll just mention here that the only reason that they finished before we did is that they threw in the towel and bailed on the game (about 15 minutes before we finished). That’s kinda scary. I think Rich & I got a bit better bang for our gaming time investment.