Crimea (S&T 193)
Playings; 3, (6 hours), 2 Allied, 1 Russian win
I had high hopes for this game, a Miranda design, mid 19th century and the brave decision to show the whole Crimea rather than restricting the map to the Sebastopol area. A few games shows up that there is something wrong here. I have played a lot of GDW's Crimea although not for a few years and tried the best strategy for that game which is to land near Sebastopol and threaten it from the start. This restricts the crucial Decision playing area to some 12 hexes as the Allies assault or block of the Sebastopol and Fort Constantine hexes. This makes good sense on the victory front as the Russians gain 2 victory points a turn for holding Sebastopol and the Allies 3. With the fortress cut off the Russian will be forced to fight his way in with supplies risking further victory point losses for lost units. The rest of the map may see some too and fro around the few other towns particularly Kerch as it gains more points and Simferopol as it covers the road to Sebastopol. There is a slight chance of an initial Allied landing taking Sebastopol, this is what the Allies expected and will make for a pretty short game as the Russians are unlikely to take it back. The historical Allied landing in Efpatoria is unlikely as it is too far off as is the other likely landing site of Theodosia as it is even further away. My games saw an initial rush for Sebastopol with an assault or moves to block off the South and North access to Sebastopol and Fort Constantine. The game then telescoped to the relief attempts and assaults, nothing wrong with that but not much of the map was in use.
Decision did not go the whole hog and provide maps for the operations in the Caucasus, Balkans or the White Sea. So you can't invade Kronstadt instead of Sebastopol (the Allies did sail up and take a look) or capture Odessa as a base (another plan that was considered). Still the key events are going to take place around Sebastopol the (hopefully) Allied held harbours to the South and Simferopol, a playing area less than the size of the cover of a paperback book. Simferopol gains rather more importance than it deserves because although was seen as an important fortified Russian base it is rather a long way away from the sea. This ought to keep the Allies out but they can magic up the necessary supply (using the command point rules) and block the road for Russian reinforcements into the North or South of Sebastopol. The Allies will probably march around Sebastopol via Simferopol as it is a handy place to take out and you can do the trip within a monthly turn if no Russians get in the way. Historically the Allies marched from the Alma to Balaclava, South of Sebastopol, keeping much closer to the coast in a few days. This is less likely in the game as we have all month and there are extra movement points to be paid to enter enemy ZOCs. Cavalry have 2-hex ZOCs really making it easier to go the long way round than sneak past. Considering how close the Allies passed Sebastopol on the way to Balaclava with known Cossacks in the area and how the Allies were almost surprised at Balaclava these speed bump ZOCs are not having the right effect. The 5 kilometre hexes are not that big an area and the cavalry is available but the competency of scouting in this campaign appears overrated. The system does not differentiate between the need to scout and deploy as the enemy is approached for battle and the fact that the same distance may be covered quickly because the enemy is not known to be close by. For the sake of simplicity we will let this one pass.
On the plus side there is a clever Russian set up and reinforcement system that allows the Russian to choose what units to bring on but at a higher cost in victory points if stronger forces are called for. Certainly the Allies had no initial idea of how many Russian troops were in the Crimea and were less than sure about its geography. They sailed up and down looking for a good initial landing site. The Russian gains 2 victory points a turn for Sebastopol so can bring on the 2nd of 4 reinforcement options for 1 point each turn and still make headway. This only provides 1 decent unit a turn and is not going to be enough to outproduce the enemy. Some deficit will have to occur on the hope of winning the odd battle and regaining some points. The Russian can lose a battle and victory points then dig himself into a big hole trying to replace the troops lost.
I do have a problem in the whole not quite fitting together. The game relies on command points and supply units. Supply units seem a good idea for the period but note that the old GDW game does not have any basing supply on LOCs. All the Allied nations have their own supply units preventing British units from drawing supply from French units and so forth. The supply units are used to build and repair fortifications and to fire siege guns. It is not stated that French and British siege guns require 1 of their own supply points each to fire but I have been playing that way as it feels better. Supply is also used for the not surprising task of supplying units. Burn 1 unit to supply every unit of the correct nationality in that hex. The alternative is to have a very limited number of units remain unharmed by foraging and all other are disrupted or eliminated if already disrupted. Most forage values are 0 in Winter so there will not be a lot of foraging then. This is fine on paper except that the 8 movement allowance of supply units is a little zippy and there are just too many units to go around. The command point system is partly to blame here.
Command points are gained by a die roll and any not spent are lost at the end of the turn. 1 point moves a force, 2 force marches it, 1 is required to fire siege guns and 1 to attack. Using 2 command points allows a force to attack at double strength or combines 2 separate hexes into a single attacking force. Most worryingly 1 command point will build a supply unit in clear, fortress or town hexes. This is in addition to the regular supply units and unlike them turns up just where it is needed, no hauling it up from Balaklava. In 2 games there was no shortage of supply units for hexes that were not totally cut off and both sides made use of the magic doubling of combat and movement allowances (forced march) through supply points. I played a 3rd game with certain fixes described later and found supply suitably trickier. If an army is spread out it will need more supply units because 1 is burnt per hex. Cram everyone together and the expenditure drops. There is an advantage to concentration for efficient distribution of supply but this will also increase the likelihood of disease. The number of supply units provided must have been planned to affect the game and I would guess that the playtesters had been spreading out units. This is what the British and French did outside Sebastopol. There may be some technical advantage to this but lumping units into key hexes is not that bad an idea and in effect breaks the supply rules. Some rethinking is required for the supply and related command point system.
Combat is far from perfect although better than supply. There are 3 tables, skirmish, manoeuvre and assault both players roll a die and adjust it for cavalry units and leadership to see who picks the table. This has the odd result of cavalry affecting the combat in Sebastopol, if the Russians win the advantage they will choose skirmish and lessen the casualties. Results are in losses and disruptions, unlike the Franco Prussian War and similar games there are no incremental losses, units disrupt or die. Disruption is the same as for lack of supply and results in a loss of strength, some disrupted units cannot attack. So far so good except for the recovery procedure, this requires a 6 but the unit's morale is added together with a +1 if the side has 10 more victory points than the opposition. Most Allied units have a morale of 3 and with their side probably ahead on points will recover on any roll except a 1. This gives the higher morale side a big advantage as his disrupted units will recover more quickly. There is no differentiation here between real sickness (plenty of that in the Crimea) and formation disruption. The sick units are being shipped to Scutari (near Constantinople) and back in record time.
5.0 Command Control
5.1 Procedure. (Add) the die roll is reduced by 1 in Winter.
5.4 Uses of command control points
(2) Force march a force. (Add) Supply units may not force march. Force march movement is not allowed in Winter. This is to restrict Winter activity and slow supply units.
(5) Enhance an attack. (Change) By expanding an additional command control point an attacker adds +1 to the combat results die. Enhancing attacks is now far less powerful.
(6) Synchronised attack. (Add) 1 command control point is required per additional hex above 1 that the attacker is attacking from. This case is unlikely to be used much.
(7) Create additional supply units. (Add) the Allied player can only create additional supply units in ports, the Russian can only create additional supply units in Fort Constantine and Sebastopol. The Allies receive supply by sea, the Russian hexes are a naval arsenal.
12.6 Choosing the Battle Results Table
12.61 Procedure. (Add) cavalry points are not counted when attacking into a fortress hex.
12.10 Die Roll Modifiers
12.102 Victory Points. (Change) -1 is not subtracted from the roll is the attacker has less victory points.
16.0 Siege Attack
17.31 Expenditure of Supply Points. (Change) 1 supply point will supply up to 4 Divisions or the equivalent of the same nationality. Leaders and siege guns do not count for supply purposes, see 17.32. This is suitably generous but will deter super stacks.
17.33 Forage. (Change) the forage capacity of fortresses is 4/4 for Russian units until the hex is occupied by Allied units when it permanently reverts to 4/0. A mechanism to allow the Russian to supply some units in Sebastopol in Winter, they cannot be starved out.
18.0 Good Order Demoralisation and Rally
Rally Table. (Change) a modified 7 is now required to rally.