Note this post uses the guidelines for BigBoard write ups found here
Operation Star -Six Angles magazine version. One of the 4 battles from the Army Group South Quad from SPI.
This implementation of the classic Operation Star is a well thought out and refined effort, which tunes components of the map, charts and counters to make the game easier to setup, more accessible and intuitive to play. Which when you think back on the sparsely word, lean designs of SPI then that is quiet a credit to Masahiro Yamazaki.
The turn sequence is classic/typical Victory in the West system with the secondary move for armour after combat. In fact you would be able to pick this game up and play it without even reading the rules if you have played most of the other similar VITW titles.
The game play however is not generic. The game has battle specific rules that impact both sides as it pertains to supply, movement and combat. In the main the primary difference is that once in contact Russians cannot really disengage and they must move ‘forward’ as defined by the rules until such time as the drop out of offensive mode.
The game places you in a decision space, with full intelligence at an Operational role, with a need to manage your losses and geographic locations in order to attain a given level of victory or objectives. Once again as in most late war titles on the East Front the Soviets will have the upper hand.
The exposed positions in turn 1 mean the Germans can really take a mauling if the right untried units flip over in areas where there is little or no terrain benefits for the Germans.
Some poor moving and a lack of foresight forced the Soviets into to some rough attacks in Turn 2. As well as giving the Axis an opportunity to counter attack at decent odds.
While chances to counter attack are rare when they come the Germans can still pack a wallop with the x2 combat factor for mechanized infantry divisions.
At the start of turn 4 we can see the progress below around Kharkov the SS have setup powerful interlocking ZOCS. but the Soviets are edging in on the flanks. The River line is in deep trouble on the right.
The Soviet push however does leave a lot of units somewhat exposed to counter attack. The Germans elect to attack based on the results of the Soviet effort.
They identify 6 attacks.
Its a bit of a blood bath. However unlike the latter war the Soviets have an abundance of replacements. This replacement rate is so high that the Soviets barely have to worry about losses incurred other than shuttle units back to the front. You will note that despite even 8:1 attack the CRT is forcing losses on the attacker also.
Turn 5 and the left flank of Kharkov is collapsing across very open terrain.
The SS lunge to cover the gaps. Kharkov is now thinly defended. Stretched as they are the Germans face a fresh wave of reinforcements in Turn 6. If these enter on either flank there will be blood!
The only reason the Kharkov is not attacked is the locking ZOCs!
The Germans try to knock out Popov.
Play become tense for both sides and the game situation has a handful of isolated Soviet units, but a tenuous linking line for the Germans.
Poof just like that the line crumbles. Even with 2 armoured divisions extra the situation here is now becoming hopeless. Units drive for the rear objectives of the soviets. The Turn 6 reinforcement hit the far right flank and plunge deep cutting off some Germans and forcing others to retreat. On the left too many divisions are running scott free.
The Germans concede. This title has a decent amount of replayability value as with smarter play from the Soviets the y could be more surgical, similarly the Germans could spread themselves a little better and conduct smarter counter attacks. This is not a puzzle game rather one to be experienced it does bring out some nice narrative also given the scale. That narrative is mainly due to the whacky behaviour the Soviets conduct with their mandated direction of movement when in offensive mode.
See more game play April 7th: http://wp.me/p3euWn-75VGBD