From Moves#23 Scenarios & Variants EastFront Options by Tim Taylor Columbia Games' EastFront continues their fine tradition of easy-to-learn, fast-paced and exciting wargames using wooden blocks as units. EastFront simulates corps and army sized combat between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II. For those of you who have never seen Columbia Games' wooden block concept in action, a brief word of explanation. Square blocks of wood represent military formations providing two distinct advantages over standard (cardboard) counters. First, the up-ended blocks simply and elegantly simulate the "fog-of-war" since you can see your forces but your opponent cannot. Only when engaging in battle within a hex can you view your foe's pieces. Secondly, a unit's relative strength is denoted by which one of its four edges is facing upwards. So a full strength unit (Combat Value of "4") is indistinguishable to your opponent from a cadre (Combat Value of "1"). Because of this uncertainty bluffing is an important part of play, providing an authentic experience of the grand strategic options available to Hitler or Stalin. More so than in any other game on the same subject and scale, a player faces the very same types of decisions confronting both High Commands. This is not a game of shuffling cardboard chits looking for that mystical 3-1 attack. EastFront is a war of nerves! 1 have played this entertaining and intense game many times, due to its high replay value (no two games are ever alike) and also the numerous scenarios available. Although the standard game plays fine by itself, I cannot help but tinker with any game's rules. During all these exciting game sessions, many options and alternative methods presented themselves. My fearless gaming compatriots and I explored rules alterations, defining and refining them until they now seem ready for a wider audience. Some of these optional rules can affect play balance. In this case, a notation to that effect will appear at the pertinent entry's end. Of course, it goes without saying that these options will very likely increase complexity and playing time. That is the price you pay for greater flavor. So be careful when choosing options. Too many options, like spices, can ruin the stew! Optional Finnish Forces A game design assumption in EastFront is that the Finnish front will remain stagnant and inconsequential for the war's duration. Thus Finnish units are not provided. While this is a very reasonable assumption and greatly simplifies play, many people feel that leaving the Finns out seriously detracts from the game. This optional rule introduces the Finnish Army and Soviet screening forces. Note that players must have Columbia Games' Rommel In the Desert in order to utilize this optional rule, since the units introduced in this variant will come from it. Finnish units are represented by the Italian Starting Infantry units - Bol, Bres, Pav, Sav, and Tren. Their Combat Values are respectively - 3, 4, 4, 3, and 4. The first three units (Bol[3CV], Bres[4CV], and Pav[4CV]) are placed in hexes Vyborg and Vyborg NE1, at the start of the Summer'41 BARBAROSSA scenario. In later scenarios, these three Finnish units set up in hex Leningrad NW1. The other two units (Sav[3CV] and Tren[4CV]) arrive as reinforcements in September '41. They are placed in hex Tikhvin NW3. In later scenarios, these two units set up in hexes Leningrad NE2 and Volkhov NE2. Finnish units set up in addition to the Starting Forces listed for each scenario (i.e., they neither count as units nor CV). All Finnish units are Corps-sized formations, just like their German counterparts. The Soviet player also receives three additional units which appear as reinforcements in Leningrad (one per month) in July, August and September 1941. Alternatively, any of these units may appear in Rail Entry hex V, if both players agree. Use any three British "3" Combat Value Motorized Infantry units to represent additional Soviet forces (they are considered normal Infantry units for all purposes). These three units represent Soviet troops used to screen the Finnish forces. They prevent the Soviet front line from becoming unrealistically stretched at this crucial moment in the game. Just like the Finns, these special Soviet units are set up in addition to the Starting Forces listed for each scenario after S'41. Finnish forces do not count as German units for purposes of the "Far North" rule (13.2). Exit of a Finnish unit would not result in the overrun of Murmansk. Rail Entry hexes V and W are considered to be supply sources only for the Finns. Otherwise, rule 13.2 remains unchanged. To represent limited Finnish resources, the German player may only spend one tenth (rounded down) of his total Production Points on Finnish "buys" during a Production Phase. For example, if German Production is 69 PPs, he may only spend a maximum of 6 PPs on adding replacements to Finnish units or rebuilding Finnish Cadres. The cost of Finnish Infantry units is the same as any other Satellite - 3 PPs to replace a step and 6 PPs to rebuild a Cadre. German units may move to Finland using a special type of Strategic Movement, although the reverse is not allowed (i.e., Finnish units may not go to Germany in this way). Ordinarily, Sea Movement would not be possible unless Leningrad is controlled (which would make placement of German units into Finland pointless anyway). The best way to think of this special Strategic Movement is just as if it were Off-Board Rail Movement (although units could not actually rail to Finland, of course). A German unit in Rail Entry hex A may move to Rail Entry hex W, in a manner similar to Off-Board Rail Movement except that each map edge hex traversed counts as 3 hexes (i.e. 14 hexes x 3 = 42 hexes). Thus it would require at least five "pseudo-Rail Moves" to get a German unit into Finland. This special type of Strategic Movement should be thought of as an exception to the rule, operating only in regards to the travel of German units to Finland (and not vice versa, as stated above). Movement between Rail Entry hexes W and V is possible for Finnish units using the standard Rail Movement rules. Finland surrenders whenever a Soviet unit in Rail Supply exits the mapboard via Rail Entry hex W. Otherwise Finland always surrenders at the beginning of the September 1944 Turn, unless Leningrad is friendly to German and Finnish forces. When Finland surrenders, all Finnish forces are removed from the mapboard and Rail Entry hexes W and V immediately become friendly to the Soviets. Lost or removed Finnish units count for Victory Point determination. Including Finnish forces gives the German player a slight edge. However, this option is not really very unbalancing at all. The only reason players might hesitate to use Finnish forces is that their inclusion complicates matters and clutters a remote area of the map - to little effect. Still, for historical purists, using the Finns is a Must. As an alternative, include a Finnish HQ to represent more active Finnish forces. Use the Italian Artillery unit. This HQ has a Command Value of "II." In this variant, the German player may use up to 10 PPs on Finnish "buys" each Production Phase. This option alters play balance and possibly could be used to handicap a more experienced Soviet player. Italian 8th Army The Italian 8th Army presents a problem in the campaign game. Since there is no way to make it surrender (barring extremely good luck), the Italian 8th Army can survive right up to the end of the game in 1945. This is bizarre from a historical perspective. The Italian 8th Army should be removed from play at the start of the September 1943 Turn, when Italy actually surrendered. Bulgarian Coastal Defense The only hex of Bulgaria shown on the EastFront mapboard is Varna. This hex is susceptible to Soviet Sea Invasion, but no Bulgarian forces exist to defend it. Consider Varna to have an inherent 1 CV Coastal Defense force. Although immobile, this 1 CV can defend against a Soviet invasion; it fires SF. Optional Turkish Forces The two hexes of Turkey are treated as neutral and impassible in the standard game. This optional rule supposes that Turkey joins the Axis coalition. Turkish forces are represented by the following Italian units (taken from Rommel in the Desert) - Folg [4 CV], Pist [2 CV] and Sabr [2 CV]. The Folg unit is an army, while the other two units are Corps-sized. All three of these units are treated as Satellite Infantry for all purposes (unless also using the "d12 Combat option). Rail Entry hex K (in Turkey) becomes a German supply source. German units may use Rail Movement to reach Rail Entry hex K (34+ hexes distant). Regarding rule 13.72, for every two Soviet units that exit the South Mapedge, one German unit must exit. Assume that Turkey enters the war at the beginning of whichever scenario is being played. This option is strongly pro-German. It could be used to handicap a more experienced Soviet player. Early Hungarian Activation If Soviet forces invade Hungary before the arrival of the Hungarian Army, that unit immediately becomes available as a reinforcement. It must be placed on Rail Entry hexes G or H (if possible) during the next Production Phase. Variable Reinforcements In order to add some uncertainty to the arrival of reinforcements, roll once on the following table for each unit during the Production Phase when it would normally enter play: 1-2 = Unit Late; try again next month. 3-4 = Unit On Time; reinforcement comes into play normally. 5-6 = Unit Early; place in any friendly hex. Initial Battle Hexes in Scenarios When setting up for any scenario (except BARBAROSSA), each player may set up his units in one front line hex which is occupied by enemy units. Currently, there are four battle hexes in which both sides may set up their forces: at the start of W'42 Stalingrad is a battle, in S'43 and W'43 Volkhov is an ongoing battle hex, and W'43 also has Kirovograd NE1. This optional rule merely postulates the existence of other such battle hexes in every scenario (except the first). In order to set up your units in a hex containing enemy forces, the dashed scenario Startline must pass through the hex so that a bit of it is shown as friendly - even a sliver is sufficient. Some examples of hexes which allow mutual occupation are: Insterburg, Dnepropetrovsk, Veluki Luki, Tikhvin, Rzhev, and Kharkov. The hex is controlled by the side possessing the majority of the hex. Two exceptions to this are: in the W'42 scenario Stalingrad is considered a Soviet-controlled hex and in W'43 Kirovograd NE1 is German. Fortifications Fortifications represent extensive, prepared defensive positions; such as minefields, PAK-fronts, trenches and so on. A hex which has been "fortified" confers Double Defense to passive units therein owned by the player who built it. Players may fortify a hex by spending 20 Production Points. The chosen hex is secretly written on a piece of paper and revealed only when enemy units attack that hex. A hex actually becomes fortified the month after it is bought; defensive preparations on the scale represented would be very time-consuming. Fortifications can be built in any friendly Clear terrain hex. A fortified hex loses that status when it becomes enemy controlled. Even if a hex is later recaptured, fortified status does not return. In static situations, this optional rule favors the strategically defensive player. Partisans In a game of this scale, the actions of small bands of fighters harassing supply lines would seem to be of limited consequence. However, the effeet can be measured in terms of German Production Points lost to these marrauders, as well as tied up in punitive raids. Troops employed in partisan-fighting actions hundreds of kilometers behind the front are unavailable to a German player and essentially wasted. At the beginning of each Production Phase, the Soviet player rolls a die and consults the Partisan Table to determine how many PPs are lost to the Germans that phase due to the actions of Partisans. This option is decidedly pro-Soviet. Alternate Murmansk Loss Effects Rule 13.2 states that the loss of Murmansk (and all those Allied trucks) causes Soviet Mech unit costs to double - becoming much more expensive than Armor! This is tantamount to reducing the Soviet force pool by 10%, since no player in his right mind will pay these costs. Another way to reflect this loss of mobility is to reduce the Speed of all "3" (max.) Combat Value infantry units to 1 hex (just like Shock Armies). Two-dice Combat System EastFront's 1d6 (one 6-sided die) combat system illustrates the differences in firepower between various unit types. A d12-based system shows even more variance (e.g., the weakness of cavalry and satellite forces, the marginal superiority of Mech over infantry. etc.). Refer to the Combat Table. The "%(d6)" column gives the original percentage of generating a hit while the "%(d12)" column shows the amended percentages when using this option. Random Terrain On the beautiful EastFront mapboard, there are a number of ambiguous hexes. Consider Tbilisi W1, which contains Mountain, Forest, and Clear terrain. There is more Clear terrain than anything else, but Forest and Mountain cover slightly more than half of the hex. Trying to reach a consensus about the terrain in a hotly contested hex with your opponent can be like negotiating an Arab-Israeli peace treaty! The following option can help reduce these tensions. Simply stated, an ambiguous hex's terrain type is determined randomly. on a case-by-case basis. Each of the hexes in EastFront covers an enormous area, on the order of 7500 square kilometers. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the actual point where a battle occuts may take place anywhere within this vast area. Each time a player initiates a new battle in a hex with ambiguous terrain, he may use this option. He and his opponent mutually assign the chances of encountering each type of terrain represented in the hex. For example, look at Tbilisi W1 again. About half of this hex is Clear terrain, roughly a third is Forest, and approximately one sixth is Mountain. So when a player initiates a battle in Tbilisi W1, he would roll a die; on a 1 to 3 the battle is fought in Clear terrain, on a roll of 4 or 5 battle ensues in Forest, and on a 6 combat occurs in Mountain terrain. At a later point in the game, if another new battle is initiated in this hex, the type of terrain would be determined all over again. "The Advantage" This option is adapted from Avalon Hill's Turning Point: Stalingrad game, where it functions marvelously. Before I describe this optional rule, allow me to relate a sad story. In EastFront, it is statistically possible for extreme results to occur, owing to the combat resolution system. One of these statistical bombshells once blew me away. In one memorable game, I Blitzed four full-strength (i.e., 4 CV) PanzerCorps into a Soviet controlled hex containing only two full-strength Infantry Armies. Incredibly, the Soviet player rolled eight 6's, indicating the loss of eight stepsall four of my Panzer Corps were knocked down to 2 CV! Naturally, my follow-up attack did no damage at all to the Soviet defenders. Perhaps this was ill-considered, but I decided to continue with my Blitz; he could not continue to have unbelievable luck. or so I thought. He only rolled four 6's, which turned all four Corps into Cadres (1 CV). This one freak battle signalled the end of the war for me! In order to avoid some similar (admittedly bizarre) occurence, players may choose to use "The Advantage" option. When a player holds "The Advantage" it means that he has a temporary fighting edge over his opponent. It usually represents the hoarding of resources for a major offensive. But it could also be an overall strategic, morale, positional, leadership, supply, or surprise advantage (or maybe even fate). A player controlling "The Advantage" can use it to nullify the outcome of one battle, provided he does so before any other subsequent action takes place. All units (including Airstrikes) in this battle hex re-roll their dice, as if the first result had not occurred. In addition, "The Advantage" may be used to force a re-roll of any dice roll for any reason (e.g., Weather dice roll, Random Terrain die roll, Unit Arrival die roll, etc.). Although the player using "The Advantage" can force new dice rolls, he cannot guarantee that the subsequent re-rolling will be more favorable (so it's best used only in truly disastrous situations). When Advantage is used by a player, it passes to his opponent who is then said to hold Advantage. If Advantage is not used. it does NOT pass to the opponent. The Advantage may be used only once per month and only by the player controlling it at the start of that month. For example, if the German player uses Advantage in July, the Soviet player may not use it until August. Each scenario begins with a different player holding Advantage, as indicated on the Advantage table. Early Reinforcements If a player wishes. a reinforcement unit maybe brought on the board early by reducing the unit by one step for each month before its scheduled appearance. For example, the Soviet 3rd Shock Army (arrives December '41) could be received as a reinforcement in November (when it would only have 3 CV, October (2 CV), or September (1 CV cadre). Forced Marches Units may move farther than normally allowed - at a cost. A unit loses one step for every hex traversed above its Speed. For example, a Cavalry unit has a Speed of 3 in Clear terrain during Dry weather. In such a situation a full strength Cavalry Corps (3 CV) could move 4 hexes (down to 2 CV) or even 5 hexes (reduced to 1 CV), but moving the unit six hexes would eliminate it. As an alternative, only allow Armor and Mech units this capability. Air Supply Any HQ may command Air Supply, expending all its command ability for that Turn (including airpower) to do so. An HQ unit may Air Supply a number of steps equal to double its Command Value. The unit(s) must be within Air Range of the HQ used to provide Air Supply. Such Air Supplied unit(s) are considered immediately in supply. During the next Enemy Player-Turn, such Air Supplied unit(s) are treated as being in supply, regardless of their current status on the board. Note that units may not be partially supplied. i.e. it is not permitted to supply some steps of a unit leaving other steps unsupplied. If even one step of a unit is unsupplied, the unit as a whole is considered unsupplied. Early Start For an additional handicap of -10 (applied in every scenario afterwards), the German player may start the Barbarossa scenario early - with the May 1941 Turn. Remove an Armor unit and three infantry units from Army Group South's set-up force. These units are still engaged in Yugoslavia. They are received as reinforcements on the June 1941 Turn. Afrika Korps If the German player desires. Rommells Afrika Korps can be assigned to the Eastern Front rather than North Africa. This decision can only be made before commencing the BARBAROSSA scenario (i.e., in subsequent scenarios the Afrika Korps has already been deployed in North Africa). Of course, if the "AK" is used it remains in the game for the duration of play. The Afrika Korps is a 4 CV Armor unit which may be placed anywhere within German set-up restrictions. Without German assistance, Mussolini will find his empire shrinking. To represent greater pressure on Italy, the Italian 8th Army stays home, never appearing as a reinforcement. To reflect the worsening Italian strategic situation, the Germans receive 2 fewer Production Points each month. This production goes toward propping up Italian positions. This option can be used to balance play between an inexperienced German player and an experienced Soviet one. Revised German S'42 Handicap Repeated playings of OPERATION 'BLUE' (Summer '42) have lead me to reevaluate the German handicaps for this scenario. Nor am I alone in my perceptions (Please see Ken Hole's excellent article, "Scenario Experience." in Canadian Wargamers Journal #29 for another opinion on this subject). I've simply seen too many German victories in this scenario. To help remedy this perceived problem modify the German handicap in this scenario by -5. Thus the handicap in S'42 should be -30. Campaign or Multiscenario Play It is my opinion that scenarios ending in Major as well as Marginal victories should be played on, since Major victories do not always reflect the relative forces on board. To do this, keep a running tally of Tournament Points, comparing the totals at the end of every scenario. The difference in TPs indicates the Overall Level of Strategic Victory. For example, consider the following game. At the end of S'41, the current Victory level is equal to the Overall Strategic Victory level, but this changes immediately at the end of the next scenario. Notice how at the end of W'41, even though the Soviets won a major victory, the strategic situation is still a virtual draw. At the end of S'44, play would stop with a Soviet Decisive Strategic Victory.
NB submitted by John Kula ([email protected]) on behalf of the Strategy Gaming Society (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/~sgs), originally collected by Andrew Webber ([email protected])