Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brief session report: Winter War

Had the chance to play this SPI classic this weekend after many years in the closet, courtesy Mark K.

In order to maximize the playing time I volunteered to take the Russians so Mark could have the game set up before we started.

In my opinion the game tends to favor the Russians slightly, if played carefully. It's pretty easy to mess up as the Russians, though and hard to recover from a disaster.

My basic plan was to threaten Petsamo, in the north, mess around the Finnish center to distract them and make probes against the Lodoga Line and the Mannheim Line while biding my time for a serious offensive.

Mark deployed the standard 4-division Mannheim line defense, the rest of his 6-6-2 divisions on the Ladoga front, backed by a smattering of units.

His central front had the 4-4-2 division and most of the rest of his army while he entrusted the defense of Petsamo to a single regiment and a battalion. This force proved inadequate and I was able to fight my way into Petsamo at the cost of a couple of exchanges. As we were not using any of the optional rules, I had to keep at least seven units up in the Petsamo/Murmansk area for the rest of the game on garrison duty.

Things went much better for Mark along the rest of the front. My one 1-1 probe against the Mannheim line was AE'd and my initial advances in the center were pretty badly cut-up by the mobile Finns, costing me two divisions and several regiments for no gain.

Only the Ladoga front started off a little better, as I was able to cause some casualties among the Finnish defenders. Mark quickly reinforced that front, however, and I had to call off the offensive.

Mark's Finns then got a little feisty and made a major effort to cut the Russian rail lines leading to Murmansk. Inside Russia, however, the Finns lose most of their advantages and I was able to counterattack his force and, while costly, manages to destroy the better part of it. The Finnish survivors fell back to Finland, confident that there was insufficient time for any Russian followup to amount to anything.

Likewise things were stalemated on the Ladoga front, with neither side willing to test the other's defenses in any meaningful way.

Things improved for the Russians on the Mannheim line, as the turn 3 & 4 reinforcements allowed some decent attacks at 3-1 and 2-1 odds. Again the Russians paid dearly for their success with exchanges (as usual the Russian must be stoic in the face of losses) but the Finns could ill afford to lose the divisions in the exchanges and the Russians started to grind forward. The Finns rushed all available troops to the front and were able to prevent a breakthrough, but the Russians did capture the entire Mannheim line and the city of Vipuri. Retaining Petsamo as well, the Russians were able to achieve a substantive victory.

Overall it was a satisfying game, taking about three hours to play. Overall I was satisfied with my play for the most part, although I did suffer some unnecessary loses in the center and I would play that portion differently next time. Mark was a gracious opponent and put up an good defense, although I think perhaps one a tad more aggressive than warranted. While he killed a lot of Russians, venturing into Russia ended up costing him quite a few Finnish troops as well and I think the Finns missed theirs more.

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