The continuing start of the year festivities had Jason come over today for some gaming. He, like I, has been interested in GMT’s East Front Series. Of course, we ended up getting them in opposite order, with him getting Kiev to Rostov in the 2010 fall sale, while I got Crimea on preorder, and he got Crimea in the 2011 sale, while I got Kiev to Rostov….

Anyway, I’ve managed a few games of it, but he had yet to get it to the table, so we went through all three short ‘training’ scenarios in the two sets today. He had read the rules a couple times, and had started a solo game of “The Battle of Sumy” from KtR, so rules-wise, things went very smoothly.

The Battle of Sumy looks to be the best of the tiny EFS scenarios so far (first time I’ve played it). It’s a fairly dynamic situation where the Germans are attacking across a decent chunk of the board, and have the mobility to shift concentrations in a flash. The Soviets also have a good amount of armor, motorized infantry and cavalry, and so are capable of counter-punching effectively. It looks to be the best introduction to the series I’ve seen yet. Pity it’s positioned as scenario #4 in KtR.

In the event, Jason took the Germans, and mostly followed the tutorial’s advice for the first turn. The southern combat went better, and he concentrated his three effective divisions on the south and east route for the rest of the game. I took pains to try and keep a decent all-around defense, and plug the holes as he blasted through them every turn. The fact that he kept to one sector, and kept his big formations bunched up, gave me more leeway than might have been possible otherwise, but on the other hand, it guaranteed that whatever was in their way evaporated.

One German unit was left guarding the northwest flank, and I managed to hit it with the motorized forces for a decent attack: R/-

I pulled just about everything back towards the east re-concentrate towards the center, and his main force. While they advanced, he actually counterattacked the lone unit I left guarding the river line: 1/R

So I dashed in again, and hit him, this time retreating his unit and taking one of the victory cities the Germans start with.

He pushed me out of the central one on the last turn, but that still put him only at three out of a needed five victory stars. It’s a fun scenario, and at the moment I think it looks quite winable as the Germans, they just have to take a more balanced approach than Jason did.

After lunch, we started “The Tartar Ditch” from Crimea. The advantage here was that I already had it set up, and I could set up the other KtR tiny scenario, “Rostov Redeemed” while playing that. I had Jason take the Germans, because while I have yet to see them win this scenario, it is a decent puzzle from their perspective. From the Soviet perspective, it’s pretty boring, because there just isn’t much to do other than shuffle a couple units into the next line of defenses.

For a glorious minute, I thought he might actually break the record of German losses in the scenario. Then the combats for the first turn did not go so well. Why did I think we might see a German win before a single combat had been done? Because the air war had gone completely poorly for the Soviet air force. Between air combat and AA fire, two units were destroyed outright, and one put into the ‘damaged’ box (to join the unit that begins the scenario there).

After that spectacular beginning, the main combat (he split his attacks on the front line into a ‘main’ attack and a 1-1 attack, like in the example play) caused a retreat, but no losses, leaving the Soviets a completely intact force to continue defending with. I think the other attack caused losses, but no retreat, leaving him the second hex of the first line of defense to mop up on the second turn. This proved too much, and in the long run it was all he could do to get at and attack one (of two) hexes in the final defense line. He actually did manage to take that hex, but the Germans didn’t even get a chance at attacking the final hex.

I think the scenario is quite winnable by the Germans—if they have a perfect first turn. That wasn’t it. I tend to think it’ll only happen if they clear both initial hexes on the first turn, but the Germans don’t really have the strength to do that.

After that, we went back to the other learning scenario in KtR, “Rostov Redeemed”. In some ways it is a little more advanced than the other two, since it starts with Frost, and then has actual weather rolls after that, instead of being auto-Dry weather. Jason let me take the side I wanted, and since I’d been the German defenders when I played it against my Dad, I too the Russians.

Well, the attack went a lot better than in that previous game. I only made three attacks the first turn, two on the eastern edge of the pocket, and one on the eastern hex of Rostov. All went very well, with hardly any German survivors, and me getting into Rostov. The Germans have a number of units that can react on that turn, but Jason sent them all into the western hex of Rostov, presumably not liking what I could do to him in the actual combats. I think that was the critical mistake, because what the Germans need is to shift the odds, and try to hold out for the short length of the scenario. As it was, I was able to defeat the German forces in detail, and mop up almost everything. I was unable to wipe out the final pocket of resistance in Rostov on the final turn, but that leaves the score at 2, which is a Soviet Operational Victory (the highest level that exists in that scenario). Sadly, the weather stayed Frost the entire time, missing that chance to show how things can vary from turn to turn.

And that finished off with the last of the tiny, fast scenarios with plenty of time left. We talked for about an hour… well, mostly I pushed Vassal at him for most of an hour, as I’d like to play Jason more often, and with our schedules, that means doing some non-FtF gaming. (And we can play longer things that way, like longer East Front System scenarios….)

We still had more time after that though, so we broke out Commands & Colors: Ancients. I had managed to finish stickering Expansion 6 the night before, so we broke that in with a game of Hysiae. If we’d been thinking, we’d have gone for something that actually used the Spartan hoplites, but we just went for the first new scenario in the book. It’s not a bad scenario, both sides are almost identical, except that the Athenians have Hoplites, and the Spartans have regular mediums and one heavy. I ended up with the Spartans by default (it was the way I was holding the book…), and the first exchanges tended to go with me. But I was having trouble getting exactly the cards I wanted, and Jason had the initiative, and used it mercilessly. I took the first banner of the game, but he had nearly won before I even got my second. He did get to use mounted charge with the hoplites late in the game, and did quite a bit of havoc with them. 2-6 to Jason.

After that, we had just enough time to pack away the game, and get him to the train station. Four games in one day, not bad. Jason was saying that going through the scenarios definitely whetted his appetite for more EFS, so mission accomplished there. ^_^