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Ostkrieg WWII Eastern Front by Compass games  The Eastern Front in World War II was absolutely immense. It i...

Ostkrieg WWII Eastern Front by Compass Games Ostkrieg WWII Eastern Front by Compass Games

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Ostkrieg WWII Eastern Front

Ostkrieg WWII Eastern Front


Compass games

 The Eastern Front in World War II was absolutely immense. It is by far the largest military campaign in history. It included millions of men and hundreds of thousands planes and tanks, and other Soviet and German machines of war. We Grognards love the multiple maps and thousands of counters that come with most Eastern Front Wargames. So, why am I presented with this small box with its tiny map and one sheet of counters? Let us see if good things really do come in small packages. First let us hear from one of the designers about the game and its history:

"Although I have played a lot of these kinds of games since I was a child, and toyed with designing one, this is my first design. I wanted to make a very simple World War II game. Why World War II? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of excellent games around that cover every facet of World War II, from tactical to strategic, with every conceivable game mechanic. What new perspective could I possibly bring to this topic?
 I started design on this game four years ago. My goal was to make a simple game, that would fit on an 8½ by 11-inch map, and take only an hour or two to play. Initially I only had one type of unit, and everything was abstracted in the cards. I also wanted something simple that could be played quickly but have decision points and focus on concepts that one would not need to be a historian to understand and recognize as being important.
 This game ended up having three generations. The first game was the simplest. The second was similar except that it had tanks, and then the third iteration which is the one that you are playing. This points out the importance in testing, and how key it is to refine a game’s design. Each cycle of playtesting brought up issues that needed to be addressed, and were addressed, to the improvement and strengthening of the system."

 This is what comes with the game:

  • One map (17" x 22" map size)
    One Countersheet of 9/16” unit-counters
    53 Game Cards
    Rules booklet
    2 Player Aid cards
    16 Six-sided Dice
    Box and Lid

  •  Pertinent information:

  • Complexity: 3 out of 10
    Solitaire Suitability: 8 out of 10 (solitaire bot system)
    Time Scale: Single Year Turns with alternating, multiple cards plays per player
    Map Scale: Area map
    Unit Scale: army-level infantry, armor, air groups, and partisans
    Players: one to two, best with two
    Playing Time: two to four hours

  As you can see it is a card-driven game that is based on a point-to-point moving system. The map is rather a Plain Jane with all the information needed, but somewhat bland. The counters are not what I have come to expect from Compass Games. They are easy to read, but to me they seem a little thinner and the color scheme is  downright ugly. I guess that is too strong a word. They work and are completely functional, but somehow reminiscent of when my children were much younger. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we buy these games for the game play not the aesthetics. The errata states that for both of the scenarios the Turkish Areas are out of play for both sides. I am not sure if that means there will be more scenarios or an add-on forthcoming. The rulebook is only twenty-four pages long and does have an index of the rules on the back. It is also in full color and eight pages of it is actually of play examples. So, the actual rules are only twelve pages long. The playing cards are well done and are the most eye pleasing part of the game. The game comes with a 'Bot' system, so it is very solitaire friendly. 

 On the plus side, the game does come with everything you would expect in an Eastern Front game. You get all of the Axis Allies, but you also get Partisans. The map does not just end at Poland, but shows the Balkans, Finland and Turkey. This means that you can also play the Partisan War that took place in Yugoslavia. Partisans can be placed through the effect of the Soviet Players cards. The game comes with two scenarios: The Barbarossa Campaign starting on June 1941, and the Uranus Scenario starting on November in 1942. The sequence of play is as follows:

The game consists of five turns, each representing one year of the war. Each turn has the following sequence of play:

Year Start - Determine first player based upon the year ( 1941-1942 the Axis player, 1943-1945 the Soviet player).
Card Play  - Players alternate playing cards until both pass.
Year End - Perform a Victory Check, determine country control, add cards to hand from next year, purchase cards from discard pile.

 One of the most innovative ideas in the game concerns combat and die rolls. This is a simple and easy way to show how the Soviet forces grew in actual ability throughout the war. These are the rules:

Any axis attack of defense that involves at least 1 German Armor or Infantry Unit gets one die roll for every two Units.
Any Axis defense which involves only Finnish Units gets one die roll for every two Units.
Any other Axis attack or defense gets one die roll for every four Units.
Any Soviet attack or defense in 1941 gets one die roll for every six Units.
Any Soviet attack or defense in 1942 gets one die roll for every five Units.
Any Soviet attack or defense in 1943 gets one die roll for every four Units.
Any Soviet attack or defense in 1944-1945 gets one die roll for every three Units.
If one player has more Armor points than the other in any combat, he rolls one additional die.

  The stacking limits for the game are a liberal twelve Infantry or Armor points per area. The air stacking limit is two normally or four for any Victory or oil area. A Player wins automatically if he controls Berlin, Moscow, Leningrad, and Baku. If there is no automatic victory the Player who has the most Victory Points wins a Marginal Victory. If it goes to counting Victory Points, Baku counts as 2. Advances into Victory Point Areas increase your production by one. If you are able to take an Oil Resource Area, your production is increased by the number of oil symbols on the map. At the end of 1943, the Italian Card goes to the neutral discard Area and all Italian Units are removed. Bulgarian Units can only enter Greece, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. Hungarian and Romanian Units can never stack in the same Area. These rules are meant to show the historical realities of the time. Maybe we could add a house rule to do a die roll to see when Italy actually leaves the war, possibly starting in 1942 and continuing until 1944.

The cards are easy to read and not flimsy

 So, you can see that it is an encapsulated game about the Eastern Front. Even given that it plays in year long turns and is pretty small, the game's playing time is listed from three to five hours. That should prove it is not a lightweight in the strategy department. The 'Bot' solitaire system works, especially because it does not tie the players hands, but only gives the player a general overview of what he has to do. Other than that, the player just tries to play as well as he can on the 'enemy' side. I am pretty amazed that the designers have been able to incorporate so much into so little. The game plays well, and for those who can get into its design it is well worth the cost. To be truthful, it is not my cup of tea. I really think that it is just because I have been indoctrinated into the 'bigger is better' when it comes the Eastern front. Had the game been released as one about North Africa I really do not think I would have any trouble with the designers' approach for that campaign. Thank you Compass Games for letting me review this very different approach to the Eastern front.

 PS: The game has been starting to grow on me after playing it some more. I wanted to leave my initial impressions in the review to show my change of attitude toward the game. Its rules do make it work and you do get historical outcomes. It just proves you should not be so hasty in your first judgements. I have had to change my mind on block wargaming, area instead of hexes, and now bigger is not always better. 

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