Category: Strike of the Eagle

Strike of the Eagle: Soviet Initial Strategies

By Harvey Mossman

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Soviet Initial Strategies

Academy Games’ Strike of the Eagle (Designers: Robert Zak, Brian Bennett and Uwe Eickert) is so challenging and elegantly designed that it has quickly joined The Boardgaming Life’s top 10 desert island games. In fact, it is in the top five of my exclusive list. Nuanced but straightforward rules provide exceptional challenges for both players and the contest is never a foregone conclusion. This article will propose one opening Soviet strategy. I will not claim that this is the best or most efficient strategy; however it is designed to wrest control of the initiative from the Polish player, reverse the initial Soviet deficit in victory points and unhinge the Polish Northern front.

The Soviet commanders of the Northern and Southern Front face completely opposite situations. In the North, the Soviets must take the offensive and break the fortified the Berezina River line in an effort to push through towards Warsaw and end the war. In the South the Soviets are desperately trying to hold before a Polish onslaught until either reinforcements arrive or success on the northern front unhinges the Polish lines forcing them to abort their offensive. Let’s first look at the balance of forces available to each player.


Soviet Northern Front Strategy

On the Northern Front the Soviets have 12 infantry divisions totaling 34 infantry strength points along with one cavalry division worth 3 strength points for a total of 37 strength points. Additionally, by the end of the first round, six more infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade enter as reinforcements bringing 15 more strength points into play for a total of 52 Soviet strength points. The Polish player has 8 infantry divisions on the frontline totaling 23 strength points and one Calvary brigade worth 2 strength points. In rear areas he has another five infantry divisions for a total of 10 strength points and a cavalry brigade at 2 strength points. However, these units are not immediately available at the front and will take time to move into positions where their presence can be felt. Therefore, the Soviets have a numerical advantage in in both number of units and total combat value yet they can still be stymied by a tenacious Polish defense based on numerous fortified cities. How can the Soviet player utilize this preponderance of strength to crack the Polish line without suffering enormous casualties?

It is said that armchair generals discuss numbers, strategy and tactics while real generals talk logistics. Indeed, maneuvering against the enemy’s lines of supply in Strike of the Eagle is imperative in devising a successful strategy that will avoid excessive losses. Remember that infantry must trace three spaces and cavalry units five spaces to a Key City which in turn must trace a clear line to Warsaw for the Poles or the Soviet Eastern links for the Russians. Units out of supply at the end of an operation phase each suffer harsh penalties, losing 1 strength point and restricting their choice of orders to Move OutDefend, or Withdraw. Moreover, units that are eliminated due to lack of supply yield 1 victory point to your opponent and can never be rebuilt for the rest of the game. Therefore, threatening your opponent’s supply line forces him to react to your moves.

On the Northern Front, the Polish defense is based on a line of fortified cities behind the Berezina River thereby making frontal assaults costly. The fortifications reduce the defenders losses by one and negate friendly attempts to outflank, The Soviets will be hard-pressed to take this position by frontal assault as they will often only obtain drawn combat results requiring the attacker to retreat. Therefore, it is best to look for areas where this line can be outflanked. The first axis of advance should aim at capturing the city of Vorenech. Here you can bring in units from Polotsk and the two strong infantry divisions from Beshenkovichi to attack the 2SP Byelorussian infantry division. It is often a good idea to force march the cavalry division from Vitebsk into this target city in the hopes of pinning the Polish unit so that it can be destroyed. Remember, the Polish player starts with the initiative and could very well retreat this unit by force march before you get a chance to attack. Therefore, if the Soviet player is allowed to execute his forced marches first, pin the Byelorussian unit with your cavalry. The Byelorussian unit is extremely exposed and no Polish units can reinforce it on the first operations phase. The Soviets will be attacking with a total strength of 11. With a 3 combat modifier card (either picked from the deck or a 2 combat modifier card played from your hand) your attack strength will be 13 causing 4 Polish losses. Of course Polish battle card play may modify Polish or Soviet losses and placement of a Defend order could further reduce Polish losses but the likely outcome is the elimination of the Byelorussian infantry division for one Soviet step loss. This victory achieves the first breakthrough of the Polish defensive line. On the next operation phase the Russians will have 3 infantry divisions and a strong cavalry division in Vorenech ready to drive straight ahead towards Hylbokaye, an important Key City for each side. If the Polish player does not pull out the infantry divisions in Druya and Disna, the capture of Hylbokaye will cut their supply line. (although not stated in the rules, we assume that Polish units cannot trace through neutral Lithuania). To adequately defend Hylbokaye against this Soviet juggernaut, rear area Polish units will have to be moved forward or the 4 strength infantry division in Berezino will have to react leaving a hole in the Polish line. No matter how the Polish player reacts this completely unhinges the left flank of his fortified line. Since Soviet reinforcements come in at Yartsevo, they can easily be railed forward to further pressure the extreme northern part of the Polish line.

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Red arrows indicate 1st operation phase moves, blue arrows 2nd operation phase moves and green arrows 3rd operations phase moves in the first round. Ghosted units represent units that moved into the city on the first operations phase. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed in the second operation phase.

While the Soviet player unhinges the northern flank the Soviets can apply devastating pressure at the opposite end of the Polish Northern Front by driving on the key city of Mazyr. As we shall soon see, when we turn to Southern Front strategies, capture of Mazyr helps the Southern Front Soviet defend against any advances of Polish units into the territory formed by the confluence of the Prypiat River and the Dnieper River.

In order for this attack to materialize the first step must be to capture Kalenkovichi. The weakness of Soviet forces in the area makes this a difficult problem. In the first operation phase the two 4SP divisions in Tolochin must be moved by rail down to Rechitsa. A Reorganize order can be used on the infantry division that starts in Rechitsa if the Soviets have enough orders to spare. These units are now poised to strike in strength on the second operation phase with a Move To order on Kalenkovichi resulting in a flank attack which negates the fortification. The combat would include the three divisions from Rechitsa totaling at minimum 10 SP’s and two divisions from Zlobin for another 4 SP’s. Since this attack will not materialize until the second operations phase, it is conceivable that the Belarusian infantry division at Brest could have railed up to Kalenkovichi to aid the defense. If the Polish Calvary brigade in Charyshi tries to move and timely reinforce, the Poles will not have enough units to cover their southern flank and a hole will be created where the Soviets can penetrate into the Polish rear areas. Assuming no cavalry reinforcements but the possibility of the Belarusian unit being present, the combat would entail 14 infantry SP’s versus 4 Polish infantry SP’s possibly underneath a Defend order. The Defend order would negate 1 strength point loss caused by your 14 strength points but here is where it would be worthwhile to use a combat modifier card value of three from your hand which would then cause 4 Polish losses (5 for your combat strength and combat modifier -1 for the defend order) while the Polish are likely to inflict only one or two strength point losses. This results in the elimination of at least one and possibly both Polish units leaving Mazyr weekly defended while concentrated Soviet units poise to attack on subsequent operations phase.

With a strong push and average Battle Card and Combat Modifier card play, Mazyr should fall in the third operation phase. In addition, any Polish units trying to defend this area should have suffered substantial losses opening up the right flank of the Polish Northern Front. The capture of Mazyr also has several other important consequences. First it provides a victory point and a forward Key City from which the Soviets can draw supplies as they move along the northern Prypiat River. Ultimately their objective will be the key city of Luminets or an encirclement of the center part of the Polish line. Secondly, any Polish units operating on the right flank of the Soviet’s Southern Front will have to draw their supply from Rivne until Berdychiv is captured. This forces the Polish player to advance frontally against the Soviet forces and limits the opportunity to outflank the Soviet Southern Front line. Finally, if the Polish southern front is advancing, Mazyr provides a River crossing where Northern Front Soviet units can threaten the flank and rear areas of the Southern Front Polish line.

In summary, this northern Soviet front strategy attempts to outflank the strong central fortified Polish River line by unhinging the Polish extreme left and right flanks. It provides for the potential capture of two important Keys Cities garnering 2 Victory Points and the possibility of other Victory Points for a Great Victory in the battles generated. Since the Polish player starts with two victory points this quickly changes the momentum of the game. Additionally, victories in these opening battles should shift the initiative on the Northern Front to the Soviet player.


Soviet Southern Front Strategy

The strategic situation on the Soviet Southern Front is quite dire indeed. The Soviets have 10 infantry divisions and one infantry brigade for a total of 23 strength points as well as one cavalry division with 2 strength points. There are Garrison markers in each of the key cities on the southern front. The Polish player has 11 infantry divisions totaling 31 strength points, 3 cavalry divisions and the leader totaling 8 cavalry strength points. This means that the Polish player has a 39 to 25 strength point advantage and is more maneuverable due to the three Calvary divisions. Fortunately, the Soviet player only has two important cities to defend. Kiev must not fall or you will yield six victory points (two plus another four bonus victory points). Additionally, if Polish units crossed the Dnieper River, they may be able to advance on Gomel threatening the Soviet Northern Front supply lines. Berdychiv must be held if possible to prevent its use by Polish units to draw supply as they advance on Kiev. However, it sits in an exposed position with no direct retreat path towards Kiev thereby requiring that the cities of Koziatyn and Zytomir be kept open so that defenders in Berdychiv can eventually retreat. Otherwise, Berdychiv becomes a giant trap for Soviet units and a treasure trove for Polish victory points when Soviet units are eliminated for lack of retreat path. Additionally, as a road hub without fortifications, Berdychiv will likely be subjected to multiple flank attacks. Finally, the Poles have strong forces within easy striking range of Berdychiv. The overriding dilemma for the Soviets is how long they defend Berdychiv before their entire army is jeopardized. If the Soviet Army is destroyed in front of Berdychiv, a successful defense of Kiev is unlikely.

Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.
Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.

Red arrows indicate first operation phase moves, blue arrows second operation phase moves in the first round. Ghosted orders represent orders to be executed on the second operation phase.

There are so many possible strategies available to the Polish player when his offensive is launched, I can only give general guidelines as to an appropriate Soviet defense. First and foremost, the Soviet player must pick either Zytomyr or Koziatyn to defend resolutely. One of the cities will provide the retreat path when it is time to abandon Berdychiv. Establishing forces in Zytomyr, Berdychiv and Koziatyn allow some interesting tactical maneuvers to allay the effects of attrition on your forces and negate the multiple outflanking attacks on each of these cities. The Soviet player should initially place Withdraw orders on his frontline units as shown in the illustration above. The infantry unit in Korotsen and the cavalry unit in Romaniv will attempt a Forced March to Zytomir if not pinned. All other units will withdraw to Berdychiv except the infantry division in Zmerynka which will force March through Vinnytsia in an attempt to get to Koziatyn. Likewise the infantry division in Haisyn should end a forced march in Koziatyn. Once this line is achieved, a Defend order should be placed on Berdychiv and Zytomir with a Forced March To order. This Force March order allows units to exchange places between these two cities acting as support units thereby reinforcing the most threatened city and negating potential flank attack penalties. If any other orders are available consideration should be given to Force March the infantry brigade from Chernobyl to Fastiv to Koziatyn.

By the third operations phase, the Poles will be poised to attack in strength all along the Zytomir-Berdychiv-Koziatyn line. This is the moment of truth for the Soviet player. He must decide whether he can win the battle of Berdychiv as well as the battle for either Zytomir or Koziatyn. If he decides to stay and fight, Defend orders are appropriate and once again a judiciously placed Force March To order to shuffle units between these three cities to act as supporting units may be appropriate. On the third operation phase, much-needed reinforcements arrive in Elizavetgrad and, if possible they should execute a Rail Movement to either Zytomir or Koziatyn while Stalin reorganizes one of the units. If you have successfully held Berdychiv until the beginning of the 4th operations phase without losing too many units, you have achieved your objective. Hopefully by this time your comrade on the Northern Front has cracked the Polish defensive line and captured Mazyr. You now have the option of falling back on Kiev while awaiting the powerful 1st Cavalry Army to arrive. If the southern front Poles advance, they will be threatened by Soviet Northern Front units attacking south from Mazyr.

If possible, use a card for the 5th operations phase to accumulate reinforcement cubes. By Round 2, you should start to feel confident about holding Kiev and possibly launching a counterattack as reinforcements accumulate on your front. The Southern Front Polish player will eventually be forced to retreat as their Northern Front collapses. In Round 2 the Soviet player should cautiously pursue and use cards to accumulate reinforcement cubes so your Army is up to strength when the Polish retreat ends at the Curzon Line.


Summary

Strike of the Eagle is a game of maneuver and bluff augmented by sound strategy. It is a game where both players will have the opportunity to aggressively attack and tenaciously defend. While the strategies I have put forth can be adversely affected by card play and the fog of war, they at least provide a sound basis on which to develop your campaign. I am sure other and perhaps superior opening strategies will be discovered. The Boardgaming Life would like to hear about them. Please feel free to write us and we would be happy to publish the strategies that you have tried.


Feedback

Harvey,This is excelent article! I love to read such analysis.

However, I found one risky move in your strategy on Southern Front ☺

Moving 2SP division from Haisyn opens a gap which may be exploited in future phases by the opponent to flank attacks Koziatyn group, enter the rears and
take Uman. I think it would be better to leave it there (as reserve) and even Reinforce it (if able) with Reorganize order. That’s my subjective opinion.

Best regards,
Robert Zak, Designer

Robert,I am glad you enjoyed the article.

With regards to the risky move, It is really not that risky. First, the 2 SP Infantry in Kamianets will take 2 Forced marches to get to Uman or to
flank the Koziatyn group which means they don’t get there until Round 3. That is assuming the Poles have enough orders to move it each turn and if they
are spending orders on that then they are not using an order in the more critical central sector. If that 2 SP Division dashes for Uman it will get there
as a Force March on Round two with very little chance of taking the city due to being halved from the Force march. If other Polish units are diverted there
they will arrive on Round 3. By that time the Polish Northern Front should have been unhinged by Soviet attack as outlined by the article. Also, Soviet
reinforcements arrive in Elizabethgrad adjacent to Uman any nowcan quickly counterattack or at least threaten to.

Good Strike of the Eagle play is based on knowing the logistics and bluffing your opponent into making poor decisions. If the Poles capture Uman and use that to
draw supply for their attack towards Kiev, they are only really supplied to attack Kiev from the South and won’t reach Kiev until Round 5 at the earliest. By this
time the Polish Northern Front should be in full retreat and significant Soviet reinforcements should be arriving.

In summary, Uman is not critical to hold and if this strategy baits the Poles to go South then they are diverting forces from their main drive towards Kiev. Once
the Soviet Cavalry Corps arrives and the Polish Northern Front collapses, it is very hard for the Polish Southern Front Commander to continue his drive on Kiev.

In effect this strategy baits the Poles to go around south thereby drawing off some pressure in the center and right flank of the Soviet line. The center of Soviet
line is eventually going to retreat to Kiev anyhow but the longer you delay the Poles, the more likely you can hold Kiev.

Great to hear from you, and thanks for designing such an excellent game!
-Harvey Mossman

Strike of the Eagle Board Game Review

By Harvey Mossman

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A Gourmet Achievement for the Discriminating Palate

As a young child, I watched my grandmother cook for all the holiday family get-togethers. She told me that the secret of a good chef was to use the best ingredients and keep each in balance with the other. Academy Games must have had this in mind when they took a prior recipe, the Eagle and the Star designed by Robert Zak, added a touch of this and pinch of that and, as Chef Emril would say, “Bam!” produced a gourmet meal.

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Strike of the Eagle is a game to be savored. From the moment you open the sturdy box revealing the beautifully illustrated mounted map, you realize this game was produced with epicurean care. The map shows stylized cities each connected by paths or railroads. There is a player’s aid sheet, two decks of well-illustrated cards (one each for the Polish and Soviet players) , a card with tracks for Victory Points and Initiative and finally, clearly illustrated sticker labels for the blocks which take the place of the usual cardboard counters. Yes, some assembly is required. The rules are printed on magazine quality glossy paper and are extremely clear and profusely illustrated. They can be digested in less than 30 minutes. Professional chefs know that an exquisite meal can be ruined if the presentation is poor. Academy Games gets extremely high marks in this regard.


The Recipe

As for gameplay, the designers have taken tried-and-true ingredients and blended them to create a tension packed, and decision filled, challenging delicacy. Let’s examine their recipe a little closer.

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Fog of war is a huge element of this design. Units are represented by blocks that stand upright facing the player with unit type and strength hidden from your opponent. Additionally, step loss reduction is secretly administered by turning each block 90° for each loss suffered. Therefore, you are never quite sure of the enemy forces combat potential. Furthermore, units are given secret orders by placing order markers face down on the playing board. Orders include Move To, Move Out, Force March To, Force March Out, Withdraw, Defend, Reorganize, Recon and Rail Move. The player with the initiative decides who places the first order which can be a big advantage as it may give imprecise hints as to your opponent’s operational plans for the turn. However, with facedown orders there is plenty of room for bluff and misdirection. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game.

In brief, Forced March Out and Move Out orders are placed on a space with friendly units and activate all units in the space to march out in any direction. Infantry move 1 space, cavalry moves 2 spaces and a Forced March Order gives each unit type an additional space to move. Move To and Forced Marches To orders are placed on any space with the requirement that units following these orders end their movement in the target space. Withdrawal orders lets you retreat if your units are attacked at the cost of one strength point lost. Defend orders allow friendly units to ignore the first loss in combat and negates one enemy flanking attack. Units gain one strength point under a Reorganize order but they may not move and fight at half combat strength rounded down if attacked. The Rail Transport order allows units to move along a friendly rail line up to eight spaces. Finally, the Recon order is a mandatory order that must be placed in each operations phase and allows you to look at enemy unit strengths. However, since it can be placed within three hexes of a friendly unit, it is sometimes best utilized as a crafty misdirection by placing it on a friendly or unoccupied space to make your opponents think that some other order will be executed there.

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While Fog of War is the sauté to whet the appetite of gamers, the meat of the game is the cards. I cannot say that Strike of the Eagle is card driven a la We the People because players can take actions without the use of cards, but it is intensively card dependent. You simply will not accomplish anything of great value without utilizing cards.

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A player can have seven cards in his hand. Each card can be utilized in one of four different ways. In the upper left-hand corner is the Order Modifier which gives the player additional orders beyond the 2 he gets at the start of each operation phase. This can be critical because one of his 2 orders will be the mandatory Recon order, leaving him only one order to move or defend. A player who does not utilize the Order Modifier will most likely cede the operational initiative to his opponent for that phase.

In the upper right-hand corner of the card there is a red Combat Modifier. This value is added to the player’s combat strength to determine the losses that he inflicts on his opponent. In the middle of each card is text which represents historical events, battle effects or battlefield events. Finally, at the bottom of each card are a number of squares representing Reinforcement Cubes which can be accumulated over the course of the turn to be cashed in in the reinforcement phase to form new units or augment depleted units.

Proper use of the cards is one of the most tense and challenging aspects of the game. Cards with higher Order Modifiers tend to have high Combat Modifiers, highly effective events and a multitude of reinforcement cubes. Deciding the priorities for using the card is of utmost importance to effective gameplay. Is play of the event more important than operational maneuverability? Have you taken such significant losses that getting reinforcement cubes are paramount? Do you save this card for an important battle to take advantage of its high Combat Modifier? There are no easy answers to these questions which makes this game so exciting.


The Ingredients

As I now have your digestive juices flowing let’s run through a typical turn so that you can see how all these wonderful ingredients has been combined into a gourmet meal. The turn is divided into five operational phases. Each phase starts with players replenishing their hand by drawing new cards from their respective decks. At the beginning of the first Operation Phase each player draws six new cards. Thereafter he gets two cards on phases two through four. A player can have a maximum of seven cards and must discard down to that limit by the end of this phase.

Following the Replenish Cards Phase is the Initiative Phase. The game map is divided horizontally into northern and southern fronts for each player’s Army. The initiative is determined for each front. The player with the highest initiative on his front decides who places the first order during each operation phase and who executes each order type first. This is critically important.

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Once the first player is decided, it alternates back and forth until all orders are placed. Allowing your opponent to place orders first may give you a hint as to where he might be making an offensive thrust. Even more critical is the ability to decide whether you or your opponent executes each type of order first. Sometimes you want to move before your opponent to get to a critical city space before he does. Other times you would prefer that he tips his hand so that you may best react to it. This adds another aspect requiring tough decision making and problem solving. Initiative is increased by certain event cards and by winning battles. However, the higher your initiative the more difficult it becomes to raise the initiative further. You must inflict more strength point losses than your current initiative level to increase your initiative. This wonderfully simulates how the friction of war impedes the buildup of your momentum. Any lost battle will reduce the initiative but the initiative level cannot increase or decrease by more than one point for each battle.

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The players now have the option to play a card face down to garner additional orders, trigger a historical event or accumulate reinforcement cubes. It is not mandatory to play a card at this point. After historical events have been resolved, the number of orders increased and reinforcement cubes distributed, players then place orders. The map is divided into a Northern and Southern front for each player so that the game can accommodate up to four players. The player with the initiative on each front decides who will place their orders first. In certain circumstances leaders can then contribute additional orders if activated. Next orders are executed in a strict sequence. Force March orders are executed first. As orders are revealed they are executed with one player executing all of his forced March orders followed by the other. Next, all recon orders are executed followed by movement orders then withdrawal orders.

If opposing units now occupy the same space, combat ensues unless the defending units are under a Withdrawal order. If attacking units entered the space from more than one direction, they gain a Flanking Bonus which reduces the defenders combat value by two strength points for each additional path of entry above the first. The Flanking Bonus can be mitigated by having a Defend order which allows the defender to ignore the first strength point loss in battle and negate one enemy Flanking Bonus. Certain cities on the map have fortifications. If all attacking units are coming through the fortifications symbols, these act like an additional Defend order negating one flanking bonus and allowing the defender to ignore one strength point of loss. Finally, if the defender has Supporting Units moving into the battle space then, for each path that these supporting units enter, one Flank Bonus is negated.

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Combat is now resolved. Each player may play a Battle Card which often adds or subtracts strength points or losses to the attacker or defender. Next, the players must play a combat modifier card. If played from his hand the Combat Modifier Value is augmented by one. Otherwise, the player uses the face value of the Combat Modifier of a card drawn from his deck. Note that the battle card and the Combat Modifier card are played before combat unit strengths are revealed. Therefore players don’t know how strong his opponent’s forces are before making decision on how to play his cards. Now unit strengths are revealed and totaled taking into account modifiers for fortifications, Defend orders, Flanking Bonuses, Battle Card effects and Combat Modifiers.

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There are no dice utilized in combat resolution. Each player’s total combat strength determines how many losses he inflicts on the opponent. A value of 4-6 inflicts one loss, 7-9 inflicts 2 losses, 10-12 inflicts 3 losses, 13-17 inflicts 4 losses, 18 or more inflicts 5 losses. Losses may be reduced by previous played Battle Card or the play of Battle Event cards which occurs immediately after losses are determined. The player who suffers the most actual losses after modification from Battle Cards and Battle Events must retreat. Ties cause the attacker to retreat. Successful attackers must move at least one unit into the captured space. Others can return to the spaces from which they came. Losers must retreat towards a friendly Key city.

After combat, Reorganization orders are executed followed by Rail Movement orders. Then supply is judged. Infantry units must be within three spaces of a friendly Key city that can trace supply back to a supply source which is Warsaw for the Polish and the Soviet Eastern links for the Russians. Cavalry can trace five spaces. Units out of supply are marked by an out of supply marker and suffer one strength point of attrition.

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There are five operations phases to each turn and when all are complete, the reinforcement phase begins. In this phase players get additional reinforcement cubes from cities they control and add that to any reinforcement cubes they collected by play of cards during the operation phase. Friendly units can now absorb or detach strength points to consolidate units, place Garrison markers on Key cities they occupy, expend reinforcement cubes to augment one unit one strength point in spaces that are adjacent to the enemy (frontline units), freely augment friendly units not adjacent to the enemy and finally, spend 2 reinforcement cubes to build a new one strength unit.

The victory conditions are then checked and a new turn begins. Victory points are gained by capturing Key cities or play of certain Historical Events. Additionally, eliminating out of supply units or destroying units who lack a legal retreat gives one victory point per unit destroyed. A victory point is gained by winning Great Victories if you inflict at least 4 real losses to your opponent in a battle. There is a victory point track which shows the victory point advantage one player has over the other. If a player’s advantage reaches 15 points he wins the game.


The Meal

So how does the game play? We assembled 4 players and jumped right into the full campaign scenario. On the Northern front the Poles must play cautiously and pick spots carefully to attack. The Soviet forces are at least their equal and Soviet reinforcements rapidly accumulate on the Northern front. The situation is reversed in the South. The Southern front Poles are stronger and can launch an offensive that pushes the Soviets back towards the key city of Kiev. The Southern front Soviet commander must use Withdrawal and Defend orders carefully so that he can keep his line intact while using his cards to accumulate reinforcement cubes. He does get a significant reinforcement in the Soviet Cavalry Corps which consists of 4 full strength cavalry divisions and 1 cavalry brigade. However, the entry of these units is somewhat random based upon pulling the correct Combat Modifier value from the deck until they automatically come in on the second operation phase of Turn 2.

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It is important that players pick specific axis of attack since broad front offensives often result in significant losses and little movement towards one’s objectives. The key decisions are whether to play your cards for additional orders, historical events or reinforcements. Typically, players will wait until the fourth and fifth operation phase to play for reinforcement cubes since by this time units are spent and hand sizes depleted. This wonderfully simulates the exhaustion of offensive momentum. A player also has to be careful lest his opponent achieve a large advantage in numbers of orders during a given operation phase. Operational pacing and balance is paramount to achieving your objectives or successfully defending. Each operation phase we found that we were constantly challenged how best to utilize a given card. Hand management is critical because a player going into battle without Battle Cards is severely handicapped.

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By the mid-game, Soviet reinforcements tend to swing the momentum and the spent Polish player must make a decision when to cut and run back to the Curzon defensive line. While the Soviets give chase, the Polish player must accumulate reinforcements and prepare to counterattack. At this point in the game, my Polish compatriot and I had bitten our fingernails down to the cuticle. As the Soviet logistical tail lengthens, the Polish player has a chance to counterattack. Once again multiple frontal attacks will achieve little. We used brilliant misdirection by order placement to punch a hole in the Soviet lines causing them to reel back. Although the game ended with the Soviet victory it was a “near run thing”.

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The game uses simple straightforward concepts that we have all encountered in other games. Initially, there was some confusion about the interpretation of MOVE TO and FORCE MARCH TO orders. The rules seem to indicate a strict interpretation whereby units executing these orders must end up in the targeted city. However one of the rules illustrations suggested that these orders could be used simply to have units move towards the objective even if they could never actually reach it. This created a lot of confusion as to what defined moving towards the objective. The designers rapidly responded that the strict interpretation was indeed what was intended. In summary, MOVE TO and FORCE MARCH TO orders must be executable at the time of placement. During Orders Execution they are voided if no unit could possibly reach the targeted space because of intervening enemy units. Any unit executing a MOVE TO or FORCE MARCH TO order must end in the targeted space.


Conclusion

We have played this game many times now with various players and different strategies. Each time the game played differently yet remained exciting and challenging for all. My one concern is that Historical Events tend to be underpowered and situational making it less likely that players will forego the additional orders or reinforcement cubes on the card to play the Historical Event. This is only a very minor caveat to an otherwise exceptional game.

It is rare that a game so delights the senses and stimulates the appetite for more. I’ve played this game several times now and remain un-satiated. While the full campaign game can take 8 to 12 hours to complete, there are smaller scenarios to whet your appetite. However, Academy Games has served up a truly gourmet meal; one that should be leisurely enjoyed and truly savored. Bon appétit!