Friday, August 28, 2009

Postcards from Smolensk

By now, you've probably seen my brief review of Red Star Rising, and Mike's summary of our 4-session game. Here's my view of the game as it progressed and some after-action thoughts.

Early Turns

Push back everywhere as far as I can. Run ahead with the armor and lock future targets in place. Use the fact that most Russian units can't exit a ZOC on their move.

By the end of turn 3, Army Group North is heading off to Leningrad, Army Group Center had reached the railroad that runs south out of Leningrad, and Army Group South had reached Kiev.

I feel like I'm doing okay at this point.

By turn 5, I've crossed the Luga in the north, crossed the Dnepr in the center, and have invested Kiev in the South. Odessa has fallen without a fight.

Things are still looking pretty good.

By turn 7, the advance on Leningrad has stalled, Soviet reinforcements have begun arriving in the center, and Kiev has been taken. The door to the Crimea is about to be blown open.

Concern is rising, but progress is still being made.

Winter is coming.

Turns 8-11 are winter. It is about here that I really understood what was going on. I was probably too aggressive in the winter turns. All combats in the winter add +3 to your die roll. The CRT looks like this:

Everything from a 7 on includes required step losses. I suffered a lot of attrition in the winter turns.

If you look at the far left edge of the pictures Mike took of turns 8 through 10, you'll see small changes in the area just north of Leningrad. This is where the Finns were trying to break through from the north. If you look on the CRT above, you'll see a couple places where, at 3:2 or 2:1 odds in the woods and roll an 8, the attacker loses a step loss with no harm coming to the defender.

The Finns managed to do this three turns in a row (turns 8-10). After that, there really wasn't anything left up there to use, so I abandoned Finland.

I took Sebastopol on turn 11, and began moving units across the Crimea. The goal was to attack Rostov from the south.

What happened after the thaw in '41 was a stabilization of the center, the repulse of the north, and the destruction of the south.

By the time we reached the fall mud, it was clear that the Soviets were in the ascendency and I'd reached my high-water mark. Rather than spend weeks confirming that fact, we decided to call it after turn 20. Massive Soviet victory.

As a reference, here's some key cities, the equivalent turn number when they fell in real life, and when they fell in our game.


Around turn 7, I started falling behind, never to catch up.

So what happened?

I obviously wasn't aggressive enough in the first three or four turns. Remember my OCS tip about how if you're comfortable with your supply situation, you're not being aggressive enough? Bingo. Fell into that trap.

Notice how I don't have a single armor unit out of supply in the early turns? This is definitely a result of not fully understanding how the supply rules work. In the summer months, attrition from being out of supply is a rare thing – only a 1 out of 6 chance of losing a step. I should have been running my units behind Mike's to force more kills instead of just pushing him back two and three hexes at a time.

Because, if you don't kill off those units, they eventually come back. And when they did start returning, I simply didn't have enough left to hold them off. If I had been able to kill more units off early, I would have been in far better shape in the summer of '41. I need to push the armor further and let supply catch up to them instead of stopping at the edge of my supply range and waiting for the depots.

The buzz on this game in the hands of experienced players, the Soviets have almost no chance of winning. Given how much fun we had playing, I'd be more than happy to get to that point – it would be an enjoyable journey.

1 comment:

Hansolo said...

Would definitely like to see you guys play again. I think it was your blog posts that tipped me over to buying the game.