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Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 by Columbia Games  Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. Y...

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43

Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43

Combat Infantry:

EastFront 1941-43


Columbia Games

 Here we are on the Eastern front in World War II. You would think that this has been gamed to death. In a way you would be correct. That is, there are only so many battles that took place to do games about. However, each designer also  has a separate take on how to make a game more (fill in the blanks; playable, realistic, or historical) in our playthroughs. So, even though it looks gamed to death it really isn't, not when you add everyone's different vision of how to properly game/simulate it. We still read every, or almost every, book that comes out about Stalingrad etc. So why not have different games on the subject? Then we come to the different types of games that each designer brings to the table. These can be designed to be fast paced and light to deep simulations. We Grognards are a fickle bunch. One minute we will be praising a game for its depth and the next we will be castigating another game because we have to spend a lot of time reading the rulebook. Just because a game does not give historical outcomes does not mean it is not fun or stimulating to play. Now the Eastern Front diatribe is over on to Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43.

 This is the second in the series Combat Infantry. The first took place on the Western Front and had the Americans and Germans going at it in 1944-1945. That game is an excellent game of tactical combat on that front. Games, and more importantly their rules, either work or they don't. The Combat Infantry games are block wargames which means they are simple to set up with usually less rules that their cardboard cousins. Notice I did not say 'less deep', just simpler. Chess is about as simple as you can get for ease of setup and rules, but never say it isn't deep. With block wargames there is no need for writing down a unit's stat, it's right there for you to see. At one time I was a firm believer that block wargames were not as 'worthy' as my counter heavy collection. I thought that they were fine for playing with your kids or trying to get someone interested in the wargaming hobby. I could not have been more wrong. Block wargames have become some of my favorite ones to play. 

 So, Combat Infantry: EastFront 1941-43 is a tactical block wargame of the early years of the Russo-German war. its name is actually a misnomer because you do not just get to fight it out with infantry. Columbia Games has given you the whole gamut of tactical forces to try your luck with. As you can see by the list below, they have not left out anything. There is even Air Support included for your units.

 This is what comes with the game:

132 Wooden Blocks
22 Wooden Markers
1 Sheet of labels
2 Large Geomorphic Maps 16.5" x 22"
3 double-Sided Scenario Cards
4 Dice (D10)

 The game hexes are 100 meters wide and you get to play with units comprised of:

Rifle Squads
Machine Guns
Air Support

 The components of the game are what we have come to expect  from Columbia Games. The maps are very well done, especially if you like the color green or some of its shades. They have large hexes to accommodate the blocks. The labels are pretty simple, but the pictures on them, although small, are great looking little pieces of artwork. The blocks are, well, blocks. They are however completely uniform in shape. Yes, I have seen games where they were not. The rulebook is only twelve pages long. It is in full color and does have some examples of play. There are three double-sided scenario cards. These are of cardboard, not too thick, but pretty rugged. Now I can hear the howls: this game comes with six scenarios only! Yes, yes it does. However, do not let that be a stumbling block if you are looking to purchase it. The original game WestFront also came with limited premade scenarios. There were scenarios created for the game by players and the designer, and I assume for this one also. You do not have to wait for them. You can create your own with just a tiny bit of time and effort. The second to last page of the rulebook gives a breakdown of how to create scenarios for yourself. It also has a chart that gives unit values to each unit in the game. This allows you to make scenarios with X amount of points and then just choose them for each side.

 Normally, you will be the commander of either a Soviet or German battalion which is composed of three infantry companies. Then a company is broken down into three infantry platoons. Platoons are also broken down into three squads of infantry, and usually a heavy weapons platoon (mostly machine guns). The battalion can be made stronger by the addition of some extra assets such as tanks, artillery, and anti-tank guns. Leadership is very important in the game and you must keep your units in command range. If not, they must pass a morale die roll, and some assets cannot act at all outside of command range. The strength of your units is easily kept track of  by the block wargaming system. You usually start out with a unit at full strength and then turn the block to the next strength/step number if it suffers damage. Some of us gamers are very used to opportunity fire and suppression, among other things. These are among some of the other well known tactical rules in games that are not found here. I will list what is not in the game and why by the designer Tom Dalgliesh himself:

"Opportunity Fire
Opportunity fire is excessive in many tactical
games. WW2 Infantry and vehicles simply did
not move through open terrain without clinging
to every tiny bit of cover available, nor without
fire support to keep enemy heads down.
Defender first fire in Assault reflects opportunity
fire in close combat when it was most effective.
Suppression fire is handled by the step reduction
system. Units that take hits have less firepower
and are partially suppressed until they Rally.
Guns and tanks would have no difficulty
turning to fire in any direction given a 10-30
minute interval. Tanks did have thinner armor
in the belly, flanks, top, and rear and this is
allowed for by making them more vulnerable to
bombardment (6.6) and assaults (9.65).
Hard & Soft Targets
The armor class system reduces firepower
against armored targets. This eliminates the
need for separate hard and soft firepowers.
Status Markers
Status markers should not be missed. Cluttering
maps and units with markers such as "Used",
"Suppressed", or "Final Fire" is not necessary.
Units are upright, face-up, or face-down
depending on their action."

 The nature of block wargames lends itself to Fog of War, and EastFront does this particularly well. The only caveat to this rule is tanks. "Tanks are the exception. Veteran infantry could determine the location and identity of tanks just from the sound of their engines. Hence, tanks are revealed when they fire or move." The scenario that you have picked will state which player goes first. After the first turn a die roll determines who goes first. The active player can then activate one headquarter per company; "When commanding multiple companies, HQs are activated and resolved one by one in any desired order." The gameplay is fast and furious because of the design decisions made in the rules. I think the game is a great tactical one that gives you a lot of bling, but does not wrap you up in a cocoon of rules to play it out. After your first or second game there really is no reason to be perusing the rulebook anymore, unless you are extremely forgetful. Thank you Columbia Games for letting me review this great addition to the Combat Infantry stable. I hope the games will spawn either different areas or years during World War II. That way we can play in the Pacific or use airborne troops etc. I will have the link to my Combat Infantry: WestFront 1944-1945 review along with some others below.

Columbia Games:

Combat Infantry Series:

This is my review of Columbia Games Julius Caesar: