Monday, February 2, 2009

Returning to Stalingrad

Last week, Mike and I got Storm over Stalingrad back to the table as my choice. If you'll recall, we had played this area-impulse game a few months ago, and got three specific rules wrong:

We allowed Russian units to fire from the ferry terminals
We applied the terrain modifier to defense against units in the same area
We eliminated units retreating into full areas instead of retreating them further

We both wanted to try this one again played correctly. I bid 3 to Mike's 2, and got the Russians. That meant I had to control three of the seven VP areas at the end of the game. (If you remember, the game is 6 turns long.)

This time, we got all the rules right. We just forgot to not use Mike's dice.

The opening turn of this game is very critical for the Germans – they must make significant progress quickly, specifically on the Russian left, as the SS units are removed from play after turn 3. With all the reinforcements the Russians can bring in, the Germans must have strong positions from which to cover the SS removal or it's simply not going to happen for them.

So, what happens in our game? 1st turn, Mike averages a 4 on his attack rolls. This is on two dice. I averaged around a 9 in my counter attacks, and actually eliminated more units than Mike. In fact, I was able to stay ahead of the dead-unit count until mid-way through turn 5. Anyone even remotely familiar with East Front games knows that if the Russian units aren't dying in at least a 3:2 ratio over German units, they're not going to win and might even lose in epic fashion.

Midway through the game (turn 3 or so) Mike maneuvered down and took the 3rd-from-right VP area along the river. This gave him a point at which he could bring in reinforcements, and I believe every reinforcement he received the rest of the game was placed here.

In the end, though, it didn't matter. I held the two rightmost VP areas, and the entire left excepting the far left area. 5 of the 7. At best, Mike was going to be able to take one in the final turn, so we called it late in turn 5. Russia defends the city.

If you recall how combat works, you add up the firepower of all attacking units, add the roll of two dice, then subtract the highest defender rating added to the terrain value (if applicable). The way the numbers fall out, it's common to need 7s or 8s on two dice to start doing any sort of damage. Now, there's likely some selective memory at work here, but it seemed every time Mike needed only 4s or 5s, he'd roll a 6 or less. If he needed 8s or 9s, he'd roll 9s or higher. Rarely did it seem that he'd roll high when he needed low. (And, I specifically recall twice pulling three units off at once – the fact I remember it means significant damage wasn't happening often.) Meanwhile, I usually seemed to have enough to either stall his attack, or kill his units outright. All you need to do as the defender.

This is two weeks in a row where atrocious luck has severely damaged Mike's game. I'm going to be watching for when it happens to me.

Dice aside, this is an excellent game. You've got loads of decisions to make, and it's very simple to play. We were done in around 2 hours, and it wouldn't have been more than 2.5 had we played to conclusion. The bidding-for-sides mechanism at the start of the game addresses any balance issues a particular play style may reveal. Not aggressive enough with the Germans? Bid higher for the Russians, and suddenly the Germans don't need to take as much ground. Successful on the attack? You'll be bidding lower to play the Russians and the Germans will have to do more.

I haven't played Turning Point: Stalingrad yet (It's on my list, Jackson. Really.) but it will be very interesting to compare a more detailed game on the same subject using the same basic framework.

1 comment:

Joe Steadman said...

looking for a Vassel game?