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Eastern Front
$34.95    Eastern Front
3000 Omega Games Line Omega Games
Eastern Front
This realistic solitaire game allows you to recreate Germany's invasion of Russia during World War II.
Map Description Reviews Rules
Discussion Board on Consim for Eastern Front.
 
This is a copy of the original review on Web-Grognards.
 
Eastern Front Solitaire (EFS) by Omega Games is a strategic level game, which seeks to recreate Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in WW2. The player directs Army Group HQs and Panzer Group HQs, Infantry Armies and Panzer Corps, beginning with Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, all the way up to the Soviet invasion of German in early 1945 (if the game has not already been won).

Game turns in EFS represent one month, and the game map uses (yuk!) point to point movement. The game system runs the Soviet forces, and the turn structure is pretty much a basic Igo-Ugo, with several chronological phases:
1. German reinforcement
2. German operational movement
3. German operational combat
4. German exploitation movement
5. German exploitation combat
6. Soviet reinforcements and front line placement
7. Soviet combat
8. Soviet partisan operations
9. Administration & weather


The German combat units are not fixed-value, but fluctuate in size (basically changes in manpower and equipment) in a manner reminiscent of the variable size armies of VG's "The Civil War". Maximum strength for an individual German infantry army is 30; for German armoured corps the maximum strength is 6. Armour and infantry are not interchangeable and replacements become available in fixed amounts at fixed points in time (see 'Overview' below). The player moves his HQ units, which are crucial for determining supply, then his infantry and panzer forces. Movement is limited to ONE adjacent district in this phase. Supply lines vary in length depending on the weather.

All attacks are then nominated in advance and take place using a Combat Results Table with the usual 1:3 to 3:1 columns and die roll modifiers that will be familiar to most players. Each of your HQs has a limited number of attack supply points (again a fixed amount at fixed points in time), which you can use for attacks by your combat units. If you run out of attack supply you can still attack, but only at half strength.

The level of supply of a unit (attack supply, general supply and out of supply), mountain, river, fortress and swamp districts all modify attack/defence strengths and die rolls in ways you would expect. Also German forces are given a Tactical Superiority value (again fixed amounts at fixed points in time!) that modifies the die roll and is supposed to represent the general level of operational superiority over the Soviets.

Casualties are taken and, if the modified die roll is high enough, the German player can force either a retreat or, if a panzer unit is part of the attacking force, an encirclement of the defenders.

The exploitation movement phase comes next, with (only) panzer corps being able to make an additional move. Exploitation combat against new Soviet units can involve only panzers, however German infantry armies are able to conduct multiple assaults on already isolated (encircled) Soviet units.

The Soviet turn is handled by the game system, and it is one of the stranger aspects of the game. You see, the Soviet units do not attack. Well, not most of them anyway. Instead, there are two types of unit that, for the sake of clarity, I will simply label Soviet Attack Units (SAU) and Soviet Defence Units (SDU).

The SDUs (nominal 'Fronts' in the game) bear all the damage of German attacks. After the German phases have ended, you place new SDUs in districts adjacent to the German front line. Their strength is based on fixed amounts, eg. the SDU defending Kiev will always have a strength of 30, Kharkov 26, Moscow 30, etc. The reinforcements for these SDUs come from a generalized Soviet replacement pool. Thus a line of SDUs is formed from the Gulf of Finland to the Black Sea.

Soviet attacks are not done by these units, but by a limited number of Shock Armies and, later in the game, Tank Armies. These SAUs pop up randomly on the German front line (like those pesky ARVN Rangers in VG's "Vietnam War"!) although the number of attacks they have and their attack supply levels are, you guessed it, in fixed amounts at fixed points in time! The only variation is in the size of the SAUs, which range from massive to pathetic. Combat mechanics are the same as for the Germans.

After July 1942, Soviet partisan operations begin, reducing supply for German offensives unless you divert a significant level of manpower to cover the rear areas.

The administrative phase covers victory determination, strategic events, and the weather for the next turn.


STRATEGY AND OVERVIEW

Reinforcement, supply, tactical superiority and Soviet attacks are way too predictable. Do you really think the German High Command knew in absolute certainty when it launched Barbarossa, that more than two years later in Sept 1943, it would have 3 infantry replacement points, 1 panzer replacement point, 6 attacks and a tactical superiority modifier of +2? Moreover, would they know with absolute certainty that the Soviets would have 4 Shock armies, 3 Tank Armies, 8 infantry replacement points, 4 tank replacement points, 2 attacks and 4 Soviet attack supply points? Now I appreciate that the actual historical conditions have been accurately modelled, and modelled very well, but it still does not hide the fact that there is virtually no strategic uncertainty ­ hardly advantageous in a solitaire game. Somebody needs to work on a system of greater variability, albeit within historical limits.

It is simply too easy to beat Soviet Union if you play from 1941 ­ I had taken Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad (and hence won the game) by September 1942 on my first attempt! Now I am a bit of a duffer in most games and I have NEVER beaten a game so easily on my first attempt. Nevertheless, there are variant rules, including having to 'obey' Hitler's irrational orders (thus screwing up your best laid plans), as well as other campaigns starting in 1942 and 1943. They may make things a bit more difficult, but that leads me to the issue of tactics…

The way to win this game is simple: reduce the Soviet replacement pool to zero as quickly as possible. SDUs have 'first call' on all replacement points and if the pool is reduced to zero there will be NO Soviet attacks. Why? Because SAUs are not 'on board' most of the time but come into existence from the surplus in the replacement pool. No surplus = no attacks. How do you reduce the replacement pool to zero? Attack, encircle and eliminate. Always use Panzer Corps, because not only do they give you a +1 die modifier, if you get a Breakthrough result the Soviet unit is isolated. Once isolated, its defence strength is halved, there is a +1 modifier to attack, they suffer desertions after each attack and your infantry army can multiple attack the isolated unit in the exploitation phase! Dead meat.

Now to eliminate the Soviet manpower pool, which is really your key objective early in the game, you have to knock off (at worst) about 25 SDUs beyond the initial set-up. You have 10 Panzer Corps ­ work it out. Also, there are five consecutive turns in 1942 and seven in 1943 where the tactical modifier is +3, which if you add the +1 Panzer modifer = +4 to the combat die roll. Not only does that make 1:1 a very attractive option, but even 1:2 comes into play! Keep armies at a minimum strength of 20; keep panzers at a minimum of 2. You should never lose more than 2 per attack, and the first loss comes off the Panzers. When they get down to 1 strength, pull them off the line and rebuild. Alternatively, if you get that far, Panzers with 1 strength can be 'parked' in Soviet supply zones.

Never use Panzers in attacks on isolated units as it is a waste of your limited panzer replacement points. Always use armies and DO NOT STOP until the isolated defender is eliminated. I repeat: DO NOT STOP ATTACKING, even if you run out of attack supply and have to take the 50% strength loss for only being in general supply.

Keep pushing forward, as the Soviets get only get a maximum of 8 replacements per turn. Remember: the replacement pool reduces when you place the new SDUs, not when you eliminate them. Keep them taking losses on their SDUs, even 1 or 2 helps your general strategy. If you get their replacement pool down to very low figures, they will never again have the ability to launch a meaningful attack.

Leningrad is both the hardest to take (with a ­4 fortress modifier) and, realistically, the first of the big three cities that you must take. The key is bypass it and then to isolate it by taking Lugo and Volkhov first, then waiting for Severe Winter to negate the swamp effects. Once isolated, attack, attack, attack, and keep attacking ­ et voila! Leningrad is yours.

Applause to the publishers for the very wide range of optional rules and historical options. I have not played any of these variants, but they appear to go some way to reducing the inherent 'sameness' of the game.

Applause for the very extensive historical notes. Applause also for the player aid cards ­ extensive and comprehensive, they are something that other games manufacturers would do well to copy.

Don't be fooled by the large number of playing pieces in the advertising, because a significant proportion of it is just eye-candy - about one third of the 280 pieces are simply 'historical variant' counter which allow you to personalize the actual Soviet Front, ie you can call a piece 'Leningrad Front' instead of '7', if that sort of thing turns you on. In fact, there are a lot of these sorts of things to make it look more historical without actually changing game play. May sure you buy stock number 3006, not 1006. 3006 is the 2nd edition and has a colour map, errata and historical variants.

EFS is not a great game, but its simple solitaire mechanics make it quite accessible, especially for people who are new to wargaming and/or might not have a wide circle of grognard friends. Alternatively, if it is a rainy day and you just feel like good thrashing of the Soviet Union, this is the game for you. It retails for about $20 on eBay and, while it will not have me throwing out my copies of “Carrier”, "London's Burning" or "Patton's Best", I am still quite happy to have it as a part of my collection.


Peter Phelps.
 
 
Reproduced with permission of Web-Grognards.

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