Kreig (Decision games)

The auction is just over leaving me with a horde of games to wade through and I go and buy a brand new game at just about full price. Worse still the household budget is going down the tubes and I really need some new clothes.

Anyhow I was pretty impressed by the piece on Kreig in the Denain issue of Vae Victis, pushed just over the edge by all the web support for it and finally crunched when I found a supplier on the web at a slightly less high price than the others. Having got past the explanation and the possible need for funds I have to admit that Kreig was a good purchase after downloading all I could grab from the net. All the stuff worth getting is on a single site; scenarios, designer’s notes how to play and the amorphous 2nd edition. In other words without the net you get the basic family version but you really must upgrade to the GTI with furry dice and chrome bumpers from the Kreig site. In yet more words if you do not have the facilities for these downloads you only have half the game.

Krieg is a 2-map WWII in Europe job just like World In Flames that I have already got (twice), ETO that I sold and Advanced 3rd Reich that I have so far avoided. The players are Jerry, Uncle Joe and the home team but the game plays with 2 and is surprisingly OK solitaire. The box only includes the whole show, there are 2 shorter war scenarios and 3 single map games on the net together with a zipped tournament pack that has 4 more single map games. I have only played the whole war but have done so about 4 times managing a couple of boche wins. Admittedly the 1st of these was also my 1st game and I got the rules well messed up.

Getting the rules wrong has been a recurring theme, in every play I have found something that I have done wrong. I read a game discussion document and note that I am not alone in getting rules wrong. The cause is not poor or incomplete rules, the errata is pretty minor but the concepts are not intuitive. The basic idea is move, (bonus fight on some turns), fight, move again if not in an enemy ZOC, pretty standard stuff. This is misleading as there are so many extra tweaks that are covered in the rules but because they are not expected the brain goes into Panzergruppe Guderian auto and forgets them. The various aids that you ought to download point out these through strategies, Q & As and playthroughs. They are partly to blame for the problem because without this backup we would not notice that the game was going wrong in the 1st place. As a rough example of the way things go the 2nd move can only occur if a unit does not enter or leave an enemy ZOC (watch for terrain that bars ZOCs). If moving along a road a single step (only) unit pays ½ not 1 movement points, other terrain is ignored. Wait, if that unit is in Russia it pays 1 not ½ a point per hex except Russian units who do it the other way around and are penalised out side the mother country. The concept is fair enough, we have to break down to move fast and Russia is a problem because it has broad gague railways. The brain has difficulty with this sort of rules because a simple basic idea is complicated by the exceptions. Kreig is not alone I this situation and in a way has shot itself in the foot because it explains the way rules depend on each other rather than leaving the player to ignore them.

Gameplay itself is long but simple with cards to direct strategy and a bold lack of ships. You put planes in the sea to land troops in far off beacheads or link coasts with a single turn bridge. This accounts for a few odd map distortions as single hex gaps have been engineered to allow historical invasion such as Normandy, Pas de Calais, Sicily and Norway. No boats cut down the counter mix and helps focus on the land campaign. Planes are one-use units. They fly for a turn and then go to the delay box together with most other powerful dead units. At the end of a turn they come back D6 turns along the game turn track, possibly next turn. The D6 roll is modified by how well the player is doing and the level of US support to the West. With the US in full gear the Western units come back nearly every turn. The Luftfaffe is as big as it ever was but due to late war delay box modifiers is no match for the Allied air power.

The cards decide what new troops become available, allow political events and the key blitz turns. Blitz turns give the extra combat phase and a shift for attacking tanks and paratroopers. Jerry cannot choose a blitz card on successive turns, Uncle Joe is restricted to one a year and the good guys have a free hand. There is a hand of cards for each of these three power groups, many cards are dependent on other cards being played 1st. The game begins with limited war that restricts every hand except Adolph’s. When Jerry reveals a total war card (usually Barbarrossa) the other players are allowed to draw form their total war cards. At this point the US entry point is calculated. It will be about a year down the line from total war and will allow our boys the very powerful US based cards. Cards are picked for 1 turn in advance fixing all the players to some degree of forward planning.

Limited war cards are not as powerful as total war but have more flavour of political events. Total war cards concentrate more on troops and offensives. Unfortunately for the German he will have to go for total war by about 1942 because by then these will be the only cards that he has left. Indeed the German hand is a pretty poor show, there are some very nice cards but not enough to last the war. By 1944 the Nazi choice is not much of a choice more a seeking of the least worst case. The Soviet cards are pretty decent with good reinforcements and the chance to grab parts of Finland, Romania or Turkey without having to fight anyone, thanks to off-board charts. Their cards do start to pad about by the end of 1944 though. There is also the chance to break the Pact of Steel and move against Germany if he is busy in the West in late 1941 or 1942. This is based on the political situation in the Balkans caused by previous card plays. If Russia does decide to attack it can go all pear shaped so this decision is far from obvious. The West has some pretty ropy cards to begin with but ends up with a wealth of power once the US cards are in play. These cards have 3 entry levels that have to be played in order, no 2nd before all the 1st have been played so everyone’s card play becomes pretty standard by the last part of the war.

Winning is based on time and victory hexes. The boche need to hold a lot of victory hexes to win. They will need to occupy all of Russia on the map, way into the Urals. Iraq, France, Egypt, and Norway should then do the job assuming the various in-between hexes are taken on the way. Instant victory can be achieved without London or Gibralatar or these could be traded for a little less Russia. This effort is close to impossible, most likely as a result of some Allied foul up. The other way to win is by beating history and outdoing Hitler. Jerry needs to get as many victory hexes as possible then play the no retreat card. This is placed in the current victory box. It prevents the German from ever getting a higher victory level and an instant win but does bring in a few more troops. The war then goes on with the war winner being based on the final victory level and the game victory adjusted by how far the no retreat marker got on the victory track. Quite a few games will see the Germans get nowhere and gradually sink into defeat through some constricting front lines.

There is an option to extend the war into 1946 by playing separate peace cards. These extend the game if the Germans are doing a lot better against one ally than the other. In game terms there is not a lot of point in playing them. They make an already long game even longer and will not have a big effect on who wins. If the German attains a separate peace he is probably doing very well in Russia and will be going for a win based on the territory he holds there. One of the Allies might go for a separate peace at the cost of putting the other ally out of the picture but will be lucky to do well enough in 1946 to pull off a game victory. A nice idea separate peace but it doesn’t fit into the gaming side of things.

The 2nd Edition Totaler Kreig is on the net and if you have Word is well worth getting. The changes to the rules are pretty small. The big news is the introduction of ships that act in much the same way as air counters but not surprisingly are restricted to the sea. There is a new set of cards for each player giving more options to strategic play. Also interesting is a scenario builder where you roll a lot of dice to determine the result of WWI and the intervening peace. The result is a set up not unlike the last war with a possibility of new borders or new countries. The Ottoman Empire could still be in place or Ukraine is a nation.

The download includes all the rules and card templates but no map and only a counter manifest. The counters are a mixture of old Kreig counters, some from an out of date *.pdf file and those you will have to make up from scratch. Most of these new counters are markers or for the new nationalities. There is also a big increase in SS counters and a pretty hefty re-jig of the USSR counter values. I am tempted to redraw the lot and have a complete consistent set of the new counters. I will wait until as late a version of Totaler Kreig as possible as this is a pretty dull task. This shows up the problem or benefit of Totaler Kreig; they keep changing it. You go to the trouble of downloading it and making up the bits and along comes a change. There is no patch you have to get the whole new set and print out the new bits. This is easy for the cards as they can be identified and an update sheet pasted and printed. Rules booklets have to be re-printed, a big waste of ink. The official line is that there will be no published 2nd edition until the 1st is sold out and looking at Decision’s rate of releasing games this could be a while. Expect a good £10 to £15 price hike as Totaler Kreig has 200+ extra counters another rules book and umpteen charts on top of Kreig. Being tight with cash I am sticking with the download although I have to admit that I have not played it there is a vast resource of rules and ideas that can be tacked on to Kreig.