On To Moscow (S&T)
Playings 2 (3 hours), 1 Swedish, 1 Russian win.
Another magazine game based on a successful earlier issue. This is The Seven Years War In Europe moved East. Miranda has taken the chance to clean up his rules, unfortunately this has gone to the extent of taking out a lot of the feel from this system. Another gripe I must get in is that the map is surrounded by most (but not all, the CRT explanations ought to be in place) of the relevant charts and tables. This gives a roughly folio sized map with a border of tables. A respectable chunk of the counters are Turks who may turn up has handy allies of the Swedes but the map layout chosen does not extend as far the Turkish domain, time for another off map box. By throwing all the charts tables and off-map boxes into the rules area and shifting the map as supplied up to the top of the sheet of paper there is plenty of space to cover another 1/3 as much terrain to the South. This would as near as damnit stretch to the Turkish border. True, the Turks never showed up in either of my games but with all the counters in play to handle Russians fighting Turks it is a shame that the map space was not provided.
The map as provided covers the Northern slice of Central Europe with a sliver of Finland at the top and trailing off around Kiev in the South. Due to previous territorial conquests the Swedes are in possession of most of the West side and the Russians have the East. Play is dominated by fortresses which reduce combat odds and improve morale. They are also the key to victory and supply. If neither side wins an instant victory it is the number of fortresses that each side holds which will swing the balance. Automatic victory is based on a balance of power chart which tends to go up as you do well and down as things go bad, a differential of 10 means victory. Capture of fortresses and victory in battle will affect the balance of power. To cap it all each player's recruiting ability is based on a constant from off-map areas plus a variable based on the number of fortresses controlled. So to win we're talking fortress capture, supply is automatic (except in Winter) for any unit within 3 hexes of a friendly fortress and although not all fortresses are within 3 hexes of each other there is a nice safe supply net in the Russia/Finland border area. A respectable portion of the map can be covered by capturing enemy fortress within 3 hexes of your own and then moving on to the next in line.
As in Seven Year's War fortress capture is important to victory but the layout and strength of fortresses means that more time will be spent in investing them and less in field battles. Fortresses come in 2 flavours both of which improve the morale of inhabitants (making them harder to kill) and reduce the odds column (reducing combat effects). Combat follows the same procedure in or outside fortresses but the big advantages of sitting inside fortresses mean that armies will not come out to play unless they have a good odds advantage. Small forces in besieged forttresses suffer attrition on a roll of 1except during Winter when the take a 50% loss on a roll of 1-3. In effect you are pretty safe in fortresses from Spring to Autumn but not over Winter.
Combat is 2 stage, first odds based on a traditional CRT and then morale based taken for individual units. Russian units have poorer morale but outnumber the Swedes, in general the Russians will be able to attack at good odds but suffer worse from the same combat effects as Swedes. Combat results will % losses on the opponent based on the other sides' strength, Russians have bigger armies and tend to do well here, their final loss inflicted will be larger than that inflicted by a small Swedish army. Also the Russians have plenty of rubbish troops to soak up losses, Swedes often end up having to burn up valuable high grade units. The handy Austro-Prussian War system of eliminating single strength points from a unit and forcing all units in an army to take their share of losses is removed in the guise of simplicity. The 2nd effect of the CRT is to force morale tests, either singly or with a slight positive modifier or 2 tests on every unit. Dice are rolled for every unit affected which can add up to a lot of rolls, when Russians have to take morale tests their units become disrupted in droves. Disrupted units fight at half strength and surrender if disrupted again, double morale checks (routs) can see off huge Russian armies. Note that the CRT part of combat is a function of size not morale (except in the case of disrupted units) the 2nd part is a function of size and morale but a bigger army will suffer worse because it has more morale dice to roll, if you lose a big battle you will lose a lot, winners may come out virtually unscathed. Split CRT results are worse for the Russians who will suffer badly from any morale check even with preferential modifiers. The Russians can take these losses as their poor quality infantry is easily replaced, even a few losses put a hefty dent in the Swedish army
Units can also be lost through being out of supply and force marching. The supply rules are fair enough, best keep near fortresses or take along slow moving supply trains which are burnt up if used to keep a force in supply. Losses from straggling are harder to avoid, the now standard march table includes some attrition losses. These losses are more likely in Winter or if the force moves more than once in a game turn but it is possible to lose stragglers on a 1st march of a Summer turn. This loss is always of 1 combat unit of any size, naturally the Russians have a good supply of rubbish units to satisfy this loss, the Swedes don't. The march table is modified for small forces marching but although this will make it easier for small forces to go where you want them it will not prevent them from losing stragglers. The Swedes should be losing units on the march as a result of Russian scorched earth policy (the Swedes will generally be marching in Russia rather than anywhere else) however the number of units lost should be a function of force size. Changing 1 unit lost to 10% (rounded up) lost will keep the Swedes losing stragglers (probably mobbed by peasants) but increase the losses in larger Russian armies (these will usually be poor quality troops and we can assume they have slipped off home).
In general the rules are of the same style as Seven Years War but unlike the Imperial age series they have not been re-written to replace those of Seven Years War. The layout indicates that this may originally have been the case but it has not been followed through to completion. Certainly most of the charts are designed to be used with either game and a new CRT is provided for Seven Years War. Otherwise the effect is of simplification with a loss of much desired chrome. The real failing of On To Moscow is not the rules which can be fiddled to add a little extra chrome but the situation as Miranda has laid it out. Any intervention by outside powers, Cossaks, Turks, Prussia are based on random events with some modification for how well each side is doing. The game concentrates on a head to head struggle between Sweden and Russia wher'as Seven Year's War had a more European perspective. The number and position of fortresses on the map converts the campaign into a series of sieges, consider Marlborough and Co' in Holland, plenty of fortresses, endless sieges or reliefs of same. The system has provided the right result based on the factors it has been given. The difficulty in keeping in supply will deter Charles from making an end run on Moscow without a healthy chain of fortresses behind or in the wake of a big victory early in the War. Similarly the Russians are better off with big forces in fortresses than by pulling back in the open, either the Swedes will spend long times in sieges (and they will be pushed to besiege more than 2 hexes at one time) or assault with the chance of catastrophic losses and a game winning Russian reposte. The bottom line is that the options provided make for a dull game unless 1 side is prepared to go for a high risk strategy such as marching for the enemy rear.