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I remember being given this game as a gift in 1976, even though it had been out for a while. Puzzling over how to play the Russians, as at first playing the temptation was to stack all those 1-4 infantry divisions and -10 tank brigades. Of course, that didn't work too well. Then it finally dawned on us to take the Russians and put the 1-4s with one unit per hex. First, we alternated units, "lozenge style," with an empty hex between all the divisions. The tank brigades were used as reinforcements for places we really didn't want to lose (not that it mattered all that much, but it did a little). Then we realized we could put those units adjacent to each other--that meant the German could get a lot less farther. Once we cracked that code, the Germans were like Brier Rabbit in the Tar Baby--it was like wading through molasses. Playing the other scenario options with more Germans in the OOB didn't matter all that much, but bless us, we did try it and it did spice things up a little.
I so much wanted to like this game--and I did until we solved the Soviet defensive puzzle. Then it wasn't very much fun. At least we gave it a go and it kept us occupied for a while.
For so many years, there just wasn't a good game on the topic--at least until SPI's monstergame OPERATION TYPHOON was published. This was all we had until then.
Like most in the SPI Divisional Series, once you figured out the puzzle, you were less than fully satisfied. There were not a lot of successful games in the series. But we cut out teeth on them and this game was my second in the series (my first was FRANCE: 1940, the AH version). I just sold my ancient black plastic flatbox version of this game last year. I don't miss it. Still, there's something nostalgic about those brown and field grey counters and two color map that makes me a bit misty. Lost childhood...and lost innocence. A lot of those games, while we loved them then, just aren't that good.
What are your memories of this game? When did you first play it? When did you "crack the Soviet defense code" and what was the reaction of the players?
My memories of Moscow Campaign are cold winter days in Nebraska in the late 1970s. When SPI finally got going in the wholesale business, a local store starting stocking all of their games, so I was able to pick up a number of flat packs that I had seen only in the magazines. (I was not enamored of buying by mail as a kid, so much of the stuff from SPI had to wait until it hit a shelf some where for me to try them.)
Since I didn't have a lot of opponents out in the wilderlands, much of my SPI time prior to Terrible Swift Sword was solitaire. Reading over the materials, playing out a few turns or more, the games taught me a lot of detail about a specific moment in history which often would be built on or filled in as I grew older.
As I look back, I realize now that the SPI games of that era were really just another form of a book. They were a rather detailed research paper on whichever battle, with a simulation built around the premise of the paper - usually supply or leadership, training or technology - to 'show' why the battle went the way it did.
I am not making light of the games, or of SPI. Of course, like almost everyone else, as soon as SPI moved to color, we lost the ability to even SEE these older games! So sad, in retrospect. While they were not the best games, they were an experience that I'd never trade!
For me, I found that once the good weather left it was all over. In one game the Germans had very lucky die rolls and actually made it up to Moscow but, not enough left to punch thru the outer defense. Still a very fun game to play.
PS: here is a link to Joe Beard's great review of this game.
While you are there, look around - he has done an extensive set of reiviews on many SPI games. Feel free to drop him a note while you are at it!
Russ, this is awesome! The review is great and matches why I liked the game when I first got it. But I guess I no longer have Joe's enthusiasm for the title after so many years. You are quite right though--those SPI games were indeed like books. You learned a helluva lot just by playing them; these games also got me reading about their subjects. I got Seaton's book on the battle of Moscow (in paperback) after several runs with this particular game. And, like you, these games were experiences I would never trade--they were foundational ones. It's hard to imagine becoming an accomplished gamer without them.