I did a play thru of Red Winter, Firefight on the Ice scenario. Fun! Fun!
Mark Mokszycki has done a wonderful job here with talented people in support and fervent play testers.
I attempted to catch every move, all the major game mechanics that I believe matter, in a way that clearly shows the combat system, the tactical choices and the “feel” of the game.
At first glance the game is a simple tactical game. After having just played TCS several times (poorly I might add) I was underwhelmed by a thorough read through of the rules. Where was the meat? Where was the complexity we all expect from company level tactics. I was wrong on many levels.
This is a small scenario that you will watch and does not show the full depth that I have now experienced in other scenarios I am recording. Yet even here there are some delicious choices to be made, and you hopefully will sense this from the video. Assault, Fire and Movement are excellently done here, and I hope the system is successful enough to be used in more than the two currently planned releases.
Red Winter is staged at a company level so we can focus on tactical considerations, not fret about a cluttered board of units. Red Winter can be played very effectively. We can pause to invest time and think about our choices tactically rather than worry about rules adherence for a given situation, and the meticulous grind. As I monitor and write about my game experiences, I am seeing a trend evolve. Complex or more sophisticated games have issues besides the obvious ones discussed on BGG.
The biggest single issue for me is time lost to rules clarification. I am not investing time in play, tactics, dice rolling, combat and movement. I am double checking, re learning, recalling and re interpreting a rules set. There is little fun in that, and its the fastest path to becoming a crotchety old rules lawyer. Thankfully the rules here maybe be reasonably long, they are very clear and very concise. Lets take a look at some game mechanics.
Ranged combat works very well, and has the desired impact for the period. Similar to other more complex tactical simulations the real action happens in Melee, or Close Assault. But being able to negatively affect a unit prior to a close assault is important, thats where Artillery and Ranged combat play their designated roles. Where Red Winter differs is the idea of Combat and Assault. Combat occurs between units adjacent to each other. Assault is a function of movement.
Units are set up typically by battalion for the Soviets and companies and platoons for the Finns, with attached additional MG sections and mortars for both sides. Arty is somewhat abstracted, but works effectively as you will see in this video.
ZOCs are used to inhibit certain behaviours and actions. Movement is one such activity. eZOCs affect movement when you attempt to leave but not when you enter, although you must stop movement upon entering the first eZOC.
ZOCS also impact your ability to conduct ranged fire, retreats and receive replacements. The use of eZOCs is a vital consideration as the sequence of play here is different from some Fire and Movement based games, and as such eZOCs take on a greater importance.
So within a given turn we will move first, then Assault if appropriate. Other activities occur now too – Recovery, Replacements etc. We then conduct ranged fire with other units and combat as well. This took a little bit for me to digest and adjust to. As always timing within a gaming mechanic is everything. Here with Red Winter it is no exception.
Looking at the game or a game through the Move then Fire lenses is an interesting experience. If we take a closer look at Combat and Assault we see they are close cousins but different. Combat is more akin to 2 (or more) companies engaged in a firefight with LMG’s, and other guns. Where as Assaults are “all in” with grenades, Moltov cocktails and sub machine guns, and yes there are some nice chrome rules for those items. When you conduct combat offensive and defensive weapons are brought to bear – Mortars, Artillery and Tanks. The combat and assault are resolved on the CRT. Whereas ranged fire and Arty are on a different table.
An Assault being part of movement costs 2 MPs to conduct over and above the terrain. The Finns with higher movement rates and ski units will likely be able to conduct more assaults than the Russians, based upon my experience so far. Russia bring potentially powerful artillery to bear, and has significantly more than the poor Finns.
Losses are represented and taken as retreats and step losses.
There is more to Red Winter too. Supply for units, does not affect combat operations or movement. It will effect re constitution of units with replacement points. Night movement is critical to this game as historically a lot of combat occurred at night. Which bring us to Ice and Weather. The frozen lake dominates the history and the game. Ice will impact your combat, movement and other factors. Night time will introduce double movement, Finnish night raids, sub zero temperatures and their resultant effect.
Each play of this game has been a layering experience, where the discovery of new subtleties, alternate approaches, different ways to leverage capabilities adds flavor. Having just finished War of the White Death by Bair Irincheev I felt that this game helped bring a key segment of history from WWII to life.
I am thrilled for Mark, this will be great when it goes to print. If you like WWII, are curious about the early stages of Soviet arms and doctrine, or interested in how a small nation fought so ferociously for so long think about adding this to the Pre Order Buy list.