In the Special Edition #3 of MMP's OPERATIONS magazine, one of the games contained therein is yet another offering on Operation BARBAROSSA, entitled FURY IN THE EAST .

Given the title, I had visions of the Civil War, imagining a companion game to Battleline's/Avalon Hill's old classic, FURY IN THE WEST, for those who remember it! Ho hum, I thought. How many games do I have on this topic? Why would I play another one? Well, no matter how jaundiced an East Front grognard you may be, you will want to give this game a spin.

You'll need to get the errata posted for the game on the header in the CONSIMWORLD folder for the game here. Adam Starkweather, the developer for the game, has compiled it there but there aren't any "living rules" or published errata elsewhere as of this writing. It's crucial to use this errata--it's all of a few paragraphs, but your playing experience won't be good without it.

There's a colorful map and less than 250 counters in the game. Originally published as G-BARBAROSSA (at least so it is known) in Game Journal #1 by Japanese designer Ginichiro Suzuki, the design has gotten the usual elegant MMP/IGS treatment. The rules are easy to read and--when coupled with the errata, easy to remember and relatively complete. Most questions people have come up with are answered by Starkweather in the CONSIMWORLD Forum thread, some obviously contributed to the errata.

But what makes this game different from earlier titles, especially favorites like XTR's BLITZKRIEG '41, the old PROUD MONSTER, and DG's LAND WITHOUT END? It's about as fast to play as the first XTR magazine game and far faster than either of the latter two titles. But it's also got some novel quirks. Soviet "Tank Corps" and "Rifle Corps" strengths are known, but the step reduction side is unknown until they take a step loss. Soviet leaders are completely unknown at the beginning of the game and are really key for the Soviet player to supply and command his forces. Conserving high rated leaders like Zhukov, Konev, and Rokossovsky are very important--but that's hard to do when they show up commanding front line Soviet Armies in the path of the Panzers! The way leaders work in the game is somewhat reminiscent of PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN and RED STAR RISING.

Logistics for the Germans will raise the most eyebrows as each Army Group has a counter representing major depots that move first--and often leapfrog far ahead of the combat forces that eventually overtake them in the movement phase and panzer movement phase. It's a nice abstraction, but it is disconcerting. You also won't have the rail conversion issues and that is either a relief to you or a problem. Given the paltry German rail movement capabilities, I generally don't miss it. But it's not often the German is out of supply for his major drives for each Army Group; it's really only a problem if (a) the Soviets are given the luxury of dashing Corps behind the lines to interfere with Lines of Communications to these depots, and (b) if an Army Group is going for two divergent geographic objectives at once. That might irk the purists who imagine German out of supply last gasps in front of Moscow or Rostov on the Don.

The pieces are corps-level for both sides. Each side has different CRTs and the Germans NEVER get any terrain benefits. The Soviets always do, whether attacking or defending and ZOCs are always locking for the German units--not for the Soviets. So the German will move adjacent to Soviet units as much as he can safely get away with at the end of his movement phases, for the Soviets are obliged to counter-attack back in their turn. What takes getting used to is the Soviets still reap advantages from attacking out of their terrain and over rivers, which seems a bit counterintuitive at first. Starkweather does a good job explaining the rationale in the CONSIMWORLD thread--the way to think of this is just a series of sustained set-piece battles where the Germans are actually forced by Soviet offensives to counterattack back (and suffer the terrain advantages the Soviets possess, even though it's the Soviets initiating the fight!).

Weather variation and German airpower is worked in nicely and best of all, there are Hitler Commands that are given to the German player which guide objectives and cause him to lose victory points if he ignores them. This marvelously models the division of opinion in campaign concept between OKW and OKH--and the player is free to use the Halder vision of driving for Moscow come hell or high water and sustaining the fury of Der Fuhrer! Just be sure to take the place and all will be well. If not....

The game lasts ten turns, with each turn representing a month. The German gets basically a "mech movement phase" on top of regular movement and combat and can overrun with his Panzer units in each--obviously, this is THE major tool in the German offensive arsenal. The fascist invaders have the dilemmas of trying to mount large encirclements/kesselschlacht battles, killing Soviet forces but not moving forward fast enough, or lifting a page from Guderian's manual and driving hard for distant objectives full speed ahead, the flanks be damned. The Defenders of the Communist Motherland have the usual balancing act of trading space for time and troops, or trading troops for space and time. It's quite tricky to walk that knife edge and the dead pile of Soviet Tank and Rifle Corps is HUGE either way. No matter what, the Soviet has to watch how he uses his leaders; the German will be trying to kill the few good ones as soon as they are revealed--and losing too many leaders, regardless of quality, will spell the doom of the Red Army as it can't be adequately commanded when moving and fighting and supplied.

As for me, this is now the strategic Russian Front game I'll be playing for quite some time as it's quite the puzzle for both players. I've not been this intrigued since the old days of AH's reissue of Jedko's THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN back in 1976!

If you've played this emerging gem of a game, tell us your thoughts about it!




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Comment by Bill on December 16, 2010 at 3:55pm

Thanks Eric!

Comment by Eric Walters on December 16, 2010 at 11:55am

Here's some of my beginner's tips/hints on how to play this game, for what it's worth. Don't forget to print out the errata on the CONSIMWORLD FORUM folder for this game.  I'm still working on these ideas, but here's my first impressions on how to play:

 

AXIS PLAY:

 

Strategy:  Going for broke for Moscow is one way to win the game, irrespective of Hitler, but the Soviets will know it and throw everything but the kitchen sink into the defense.  I'm not good enough as a player to have any confidence I can pull it off, so I aim to grab Leningrad and then weight everything to southern Russia where the majority of cities are.  Sure, AGC isn't going to get blown off--there's plenty of cities in that direction and Gomel needs to be taken to seal off the rail line into the Pripyat.  So long as the conditions for TYPHOON are met when Hitler wants it and I can maintain a decent threat towards the Soviet capital, that's all I'm worried about.

You won't keep Hitler happy all the time.  Good news is that you probably won't disappoint him all that often--and when you do, figure you need another city to make it up to him.  Leningrad is a must, so you've got to be serious about that.  But between taking Smolensk, Kiev, Typhoon, and the Southern offensive, it's the latter that's probably the biggest hurdle turn after turn.  Another reason to weight your effort south.

 

Operations:  Gotta make hay in the first four turns.  It can be difficult at times to set yourself priorities since there's so much to do. Best goals are generally to clear enough ground ahead of each Army Group that you can move the Supply Depot Marker the full 8 movement factors to a spot where you want it to be (generally a road intersection).  Thinking at least one turn ahead regarding where you want it so that you can move it (remember, it moves FIRST) is a very big deal.  For example, the Axis goal for Army Group North is to ensure you can get this piece across the Dvina River as far as you can at the beginning of your second turn.

 

Tactics: Part of the fun of the attack is figuring out how to make Soviet limited ZOCs and overruns work in your favor.  Neither of you know what the leaders are going to be like, so I like to set up my Panzer moves so that I threaten to go around Soviet units, forcing him to "uncork" (flip) leaders to prove that units are actually commanded and have ZOCs.  Of course, Soviet leaders always have ZOCs, no matter whether they are flipped or not--so that won't work against a stack with a leader on it.  But for units one hex or more away from a leader, it can be a good tactic.  Just be ready if it turns out your target is commanded--hopefully it's only one RC and you have a pair of Panzer Corps that can overrun (and use the Luftwaffe if you absolutely need to).  Typically, you need results of a 2 step loss in such circumstances.  A pair of panzers is 24--against a 3 factor RC, 8-1 is great but expect these defending units to be in towns, etc, so you'll need a plane to guarantee that kind of loss.  But be sparing and use those planes when you absolutely have to.  You'll have to take your chances when the unit is across rivers or any other circumstance where you can only muster something less than 8-1.  Don't forget, you have to pay the MP cost to enter that terrain on top of +3 to overrun--across rivers gets horribly expensive to overrun.

Typically, you'll move the Panzers first to open up yawing gaps for your infantry to follow.  While surrounding units is important to get the combat shift benefit for the defender not being in supply, remember too that the infantry is going to get basically two combat phases--yours and the Soviet combat phase (he has to attack you in a Mandatory Attack if there's anything left of him).  Sometimes you may want to forgo the surround to push infantry corps as far forward as you can--especially if you can get adjacent to a number of Soviet units to force a lot of Mandatory attacks in the opponent's combat phase.  But be careful.  If you don't attack those adjacent units and you don't force a 1-3 or ideally a 1-4 mandatory attack, you could be gumming yourself up for your next movement phase.  Keep in mind that the Soviet can bring up additional units to "dogpile" onto those mandatory attacks you created to bring the odds to something better than 1-3; do whatever you can to prevent that or--if he does it--it's going to cost dearly him somewhere else.  Remember too that you never get any terrain benefits--and when he does those mandatory attacks, those city/town/forest/swamp hex terrain effects and river lines generally work in HIS favor, not yours.  Plan accordingly.

The key to understanding how to calculate attacks is all in the steps you need your enemy to lose, not in the factors themselves when units flip.  Every TC is a "5," every RC is a "3" on the front--the question is what the combat factors are on the reverse side and whether units are two step or one step units.  The key variable at first is whether there's a leader within range to command the defenders.  If the stack has an unflipped leader, assume it will be commanded (remember, "*" leaders do get removed if flipped for combat, but that can't be reliably planned on in most cases).  Of course, a leader with a number above "0" is going to add combat factors. You can plan whatever odds range you like, but you'll be making judgments on what the expected step loss probabilities will be.  Typically, you'll assume unflipped Corps to have 2 steps.  Leaders count as one step.  So, a stack of two Corps with a leader should be thought of as 5 steps, even though there is a good chance it could be only 4 steps and a somewhat unlikely chance it's only 3 or less.    You will want to ensure that, if you can't eliminate a stack through your own overruns and/or combat phase through step losses, it will evaporate during the Soviet turn through his own forced mandatory attacks in his combat phase--provided he doesn't bring up more units to help raise the odds and absorb step loss results.

If there are leaders in a stack, surround the stack by the end of your turn.  Obviously, you'll want to do that with infantry corps in the first movement phase, but in the Panzer movement phase, you want to do it there as well when and were you can.  Soviet leaders are the key to the game--don't let the opponent evacuate them.  Even those crappy "0" leaders are worth something--they at least command the units they are stacked with.  You want to drain the USSR of leadership so that you are attacking uncommanded units later in the game as much as possible.

Lastly, remember how Advance After Combat works and never fail to take advantage of Soviet mandatory attack losses to get your units a few more hexes forward.  Every little bit helps.  Think of it this way--you could get 4 extra hexes of movement each turn; two hexes in your combat phase if you eliminate your target defender through advance after combat and two more in the Soviet phase if his attackers are eliminated.  Aim to do that as much as you can.

Use the reinforcing Axis minors to garrison your victory cities and other key terrain if your wily Soviet opponent is stashing Cavalry Corps and leaders in the Pripyat and around Leningrad to zip behind your lines and "liberate" previously captured cities or cause all kinds of havoc with rail movement, strategic movement, and Lines of Communication.

Pay attention to freeze and snow turns--those rivers and swamps are gone, and with them, those movement and terrain shift effects and ZOC limitations.  Mostly those benefit the Gemans--but not completely.  Be ready for the Soviet Elite units launching a counterattack with a flip-flop turn on Turns 6 and 7.  There can be some nasty surprises if you aren't careful.

 

SOVIET PLAY:

This is definitely the harder side to command.  I confess I haven't cracked the code on this yet, although I have learned some things....

 

Strategy:  Where to put your defensive main effort depends on what the Axis is doing.  Obviously, if he's going all out for Moscow, your job is easier in this regard.  Trouble is that he can push hard for the capital and then switch south before the mud comes--and then stay south.  With two Panzer movement phases, a sudden switch south on Turn 4 can be devastating if you aren't prepared for it...and then there's the freeze on Turn 6.  Southern Russia has to be garrisoned strongly enough to absorb some of that German offensive energy and direct German drives in places that your Siberians can take advantage of when you launch your winter counteroffensive.  Easier said than done, I know--I still haven't figured it out yet.  But I don't think that's a strategic problem on my part, more of learning operational and tactical level tricks.

 

Leader Management:  That's what this game is all about for the Soviet.   Every single one is valuable, some are, of course, more valuable than others.  Try not to evacuate numbered leaders that you've flipped--move them in the movement phase so they don't have to go back into the Leader pool on the map flipped back over and brought in as reinforcements/replacements as unknowns.  But if you have to evacuate them, then do it.  Don't let them get eliminated if at all possible.  Even the "0" rated leaders are needed to command single stacks.  Numbered leaders are hugely important--not only can they command units within range and lend combat factors to stacks they are collocated with, but they bring on NEW REPLACEMENTS.  Lose too many of them and much of the Soviet resiliency is lost.  Think about that.  Every "1" leader you lose is a step of replacements lost PER TURN.  Think of that as a full strength RC or CC every two turns.  If you've lost two "1" leaders, you've lost a full strength RC or CC every turn for the rest of the game.  And so forth.

Conversely, realize the German is going to be on a mission to arrange his movement and attacks to trap and eliminate those leaders in combat--both in his turn and yours.  Think ahead wherever you put those leaders--how could the German trap them and kill them?  Can you  use this to "lure" him to kill known leaders when and where you're willing to suffer that loss because it diverts him from objectives he needs for the turn?

 

Operations:  Figure on lots of losses the first four turns, for sure.  To include leaders.  You are going to spend that blood no matter what, but you can influence what that blood purchases--time?  German casualties?  Terrain?  Single RCs, CCs, and TCs out of range of leaders have their uses, but more often than not just are speed bumps.  Sometimes that's enough if you need to force movement point expeditures of Panzer units doing overruns.  But make sure this maneuver "saves" another stack that is more valuable to you from being overrun, or keeps units from having the German put them into ZOCs, forcing mandatory attacks in your turn, etc.

Stash some Cavalry Corps with leaders in the Pripyat and possibly near Leningrad.  CCs spend only 1 movement point to move around in swamps--and with an 8 movement factor, that's pretty good.  Just remember the leaders can't move like that--they are considered mech units!  Still leaders ensure the CCs are commanded when supply is determined at the beginning of the turn--and if the Axis leaves a City open within range, you know what to do.  Now, a good German player is going to see what's up and then garrison his cities.  Okay, that's fewer units forward in the fight, even if they are "trash" Rumanians, Italians, and Hungarians.  Then you can look for places where you can cut German Lines of Communications or otherwise cause trouble for his rail movement or strategic movement and go for that.  Just remember, when the freeze comes, all those nice swamps you've been hiding in go away and these threats are pretty much gone.

Don't forget the "flip-flop" in turn sequence after "the Freeze" on Turn 6.  You get two turns in a row.  Use your turn in Turn 6 to set up your counterattack (with your Elite unit reinforcements) in your Turn 7 move.

The defense of Leningrad probably requires its own separate discussion--and you'll probably get those 6 militia units instead of 5 as it usually gets threatened before Moscow does.  If the German puts any emphasis in this area, it's probably going to fall--especially once the freeze occurs and the swamps and rivers go away.  The goal here is to tie up as many Germans as possible and take as long as possible to fall.  Miracles do happen, especially if the city lasts to the "flip flop" and some Elite Corps can rescue the situation.

Watch, watch, watch the rail lines and roads every turn, particularly when the Soviets get thin on the ground.  Given the way Rail Movement and Strategic Movement works, you could find German units zipping far into your rear if you inadvertently leave any openings.  Particularly frustrating as most of your corps in such places are uncommanded and can't move in such a manner when using Strategic Movement.  Don't leave the Axis player any "freebies!"

Always keep something in Moscow once the German gets within a turn's movement range.  Stranger things have happened than to have what you thought was a good commanded stack turn out to be nothing more than two steps with a "*"leader that falls to an overrun and unlocks your entire defensive scheme.

 

Tactics:  For you, the key concepts are Limited versus full ZOCs, commanded versus uncommanded units, and expected steps.  Putting a single RC or TC out as a "speed bump" won't work terribly well if a Panzer Corps and just walk around it because it's got a Limited ZOC.  For those "speed bumps" to work, there has to be terrain on either side that Panzer Corps cannot go.  Making the terrain work for you is very important as well in several ways.  One, the German can never get terrain to help him in combat--it only helps you.  Two, Panzer Corps can only overrun and advance after combat where they can normally move.  Pay close attention to how combat shifts work for terrain--they often change whether you are defending in the hex or attacking out of it.  Plan accordingly, especially when calculating low odds Mandatory attacks.

Just because the rules say you have to do those Mandatory attacks against Germans you are adjacent to, don't be too quick in writing those attackers off.  Sure, the German will be trying to force low odds Mandatory attacks so that he can force losses on you in your combat phase, setting him up for his next turn.  Do whatever you can to raise odds above 1-3, even if that means bringing more units into the battle.  I know that sounds crazy, but if you even have one step surviving still adjacent, that means the German has to bring over Panzer Corps to overrun it, losing precious movement points, or lose the opportunity for adjacent infantry to move this turn and have to attack this lone step again in the German combat phase the next turn.  This is a huge tool in your arsenal.  Think of it this way.  If you are going to lose 2 RCs in the next German turn anyway, why not pile it on to a mandatory attack if it raises the odds some and gums up the German offensive?  Sure, they're gone--eventually if not at that combat phase.  But now the German is having to react to you and your ideas of where battles should be fought, vice putting out the ducks in the shooting gallery for him to pick and choose his targets at will.  The ideal circumstances are doing this when there aren't Panzer Corps in easy range to keep German infantry corps from being gummed up by this tactic.

 

That's all for now.  As you can see, this game rewards a good deal of precision of play, even though there is so much uncertainty regarding Soviet leader and RC and TC quality.  Again, this are just generalized observations from a few sessions of messing about with this excellent title!

 

Comment by Bill on December 15, 2010 at 11:42pm

I finally grabbed a copy of Operations Special Edition #3. I'm going to start reading the rules to Fury tonight.

Comment by Eric Walters on December 7, 2010 at 10:59am
Before this game, I was very taken with the World At War premiere issue magazine game, BARBAROSSA, by Ty Bomba. While it superficially appeared to be a remake of the very old original SPI game of the same name, it was a whole lot better but takes chesslike precision to play. Plus it covers the whole war. Apparently it's so good that DG is going to release a "Deluxe" boxed version of the game. Well, I think this game is just as intellectually intriguing, even if the scope is a good deal shorter (from the summer of 1941 to the late winter/early spring of 1942). Don't know if MMP would ever publish this game separately from OPERATIONS Special Issue #3, but if players like it enough, they might be convinced to do it.
Comment by Bill on December 5, 2010 at 3:29pm
On my list of games to get!
Comment by brian s. b. on December 5, 2010 at 1:07am
it may be down to this or noretreat!deluxei want to get 1 strategic east front game and get of the "searching" for merry-go-roundlol
Comment by Brian Lazewski on December 4, 2010 at 9:51am
I got the issue to obtain the ASL Map. I have however tinkered with this, I'll give it a play one of these days.
Comment by brian s. b. on December 4, 2010 at 1:55am
i just got this game THE AFRICAN CAMPAIGN" still on its way-this im super excited about-the eastern front is so appealing but to really encompass the WHOLE thing is a big challenge
Comment by Charlescab on December 4, 2010 at 1:47am
No problem, just thought Id mention it.
Comment by brian s. b. on December 3, 2010 at 8:07pm
ok well i'm not buying anything till the new year-so may get it from multi or may make you an offer charles-but again not for a month-buy all means sell if you get a bite. thanks for the intel eric.

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