Patch made it over Sunday, and we tried out my latest game acquisition, Barbarossa: Crimea. It’s the sixth game in a series slated to someday cover all the fighting on the East Front at an operational level. Let’s hope that promise fares better than Europa’s; at least they haven’t decided to up the scope from the East to the whole war.

I’ve been doing some solo work with it, so I was able to give Patch a fairly decent run-down of the system. I just hope there weren’t too many errors and bad assumptions mixed in.

We started with the first, tutorial, scenario, “The Tartar Ditch”, covering the German push from Perekop to Ishun in late September ’41. It’s four turns, with a tiny number of units, and an even tinyer front (even at this scale, the isthmus into the Crimea is only 2-3 hexes wide). Patch got the Germans, who have a lot more to do, as the Soviets are hamstrung, and have a pretty straightforward defense anyway.

In a few solo plays, I have yet to see a German win. Patch came closer than I ever have. I normally run into trouble on the first turn, with neither Soviet fortified position giving way. Without that, there is just no way to make up the lost time of having to attack the same line a second time in such a tiny scenario. Patch managed to replicate the example play’s breaking of the line in one hex, but not the other; though he didn’t replicate the tactics, making two 3-1 attacks instead of a 4-1 and 1-1.

He did inadvertently replicate one bit of performance that I had. The German Stukas only managed to make it in to support an attack once during the scenario, with AA usually aborting them out. At any rate, he did a nice job of attacking all down the line in the second turn, including an attack with the only mobile units in his force down at the end of the line. I got lucky and managed to bounce out the Stuka assigned to the combat, and held firm there while the rest of the line disappeared.

This left him with still clearing his way to the second defense line on the third turn, which was easy enough, even with three units withdrawn. The final turn saw the expected attacks without supply on the final defense line. He actually rolled well on one combat and got in, but the final victory hex held. This is the closest I’ve seen the Germans get yet in this scenario.

Anyway, that took less than three hours, including the full explanation of the main game functions. We set up the second scenario, and broke for lunch before starting it up. I took the Soviets again, while Patch struggled with the Romanian army assaulting Odessa. We only got through four turns, but saved the situation off on Vassal, and we’ll likely continue the game.

While it’s still early, he’s watching his force whittle away with some trepidation, while I’m alarmed at how fast the defensive perimeter is shrinking. Currently, pretty much everything has been happening on the west side of the city, and he’s nearly through all of the defenses out there, just as I gain the ability to start constructing new strongpoints. The good news is that means that he’s entering the range of the guns of the Soviet Navy, which could slow things down.

Also slowing things down has been two turns of Mud. This started just as two fresh divisions came on, and kept them from getting into the action for an extra turn. I’ve finally decided to shorten my defensive line on the east side, but the mud has also delayed the units I freed up.

Patch is still sorting out everything with Interdiction, but has generally managed at least one point in naval movement box. Right now nothing is damaged, but that’s after repairing minor damage on three different ships, and a large number of aborts. I’ve managed to deliver all the Zap units (minus the ones I’m starting to build with the I-points I’m now getting), but it has often taken 2-3 tries.

Both Patch and I like games with a lot more maneuver than what we’re seeing at the moment, but then these are simple, constrained, situations. Certainly, there’s a fair amount of thinking going into the Odessa scenario, and it probably does better than a fair number of magazine games out there. I’m still getting some of the feel for the system, and some of the interesting points won’t come up until the Soviets get a chance at an offensive. But I have to say, I do really like the air system in it, and I like what I’ve seen of the naval system; both are nicely abstracted, while giving decent detail.