29 May 2016

Wargame-Review: "Objective: Kiev" by Frank Chadwick

This review is an edited version of an earlier review I wrote for BoardGameGeek.

'Objective: Kiev' is a two player entry-level operational wargame originally published by Victory Point Games and re-released as an insert to C3i magazine #26.
This review is based on the C3i version.

The game depicts the Heeresgruppe Süd's advance on Kiev as part of the Barbarossa Campaign, with the opposing force of course being the Red Army.

Contents include a map of the area around Kiev (including outskirts of Poland and Romania), 40 counters, a rules fold-out, and a play aid with a turn track and terrain chart. Five of the overall six pages of the rules contain an extensive introduction, historical notes and of course the rules themselves, while the sixth page covers credits and an overview of the included counters. Other vital information, like the game's CRT and sequence of play, are printed on the map. The game comes with no die, you need to provide a six-sided one yourself.

Keep in mind that the C3i edition has a few but severe printing/editing errors, which you can (and should!) look up before play.

Thanks to the low number of chits, setup is rather quick and while partially restrictive for historical reasons (mandatory starting positions), still allows for some strategic placement of the remaining units.

Clear and concise language mediates the core concepts of what is essentially a beginner's cosim. The colour-coded rules pamphlet helps distinguish rules text from examples and clarifications and the all capital, coloured headlines help in further lightening up the dense three-column layout.

Key concepts of hex and counter wargames like CRT, ZOC/EZOC, MP, Stacking, Terrain, and NATO symbols are explained in a refreshingly easy-to-grasp yet concise fashion and does away with sententious minutiae. It is here, where one can see immediate value for the fledgling wargamer.

Historical chrome comes in the fashion of a Special Movement phase, which is basically a second Movement Phase with some restrictions and special rules applied. The Red Army Infantry may make a full move along rails in their Special Movement Phase, while German mechanised units (Panzerkorps) may make another full movement in theirs.

The CRT is odds based, pitting Combat Factors against each other. The Germans can call for air support twice in the game, which causes a column shift in their favour. This allows for some more adventurous maneuvres on the German side. I rather like this, it is easy to understand and by moving the airplane chits from their designated boxes on the map, also a breeze to track.

Another interesting component of 'Objective: Kiev' is the last phase of each player's turn: the Replacement Phase. The turn track indicates Replacement Points available to each player on each selective turn, with which one may "buy" new units or flip damaged ones. This is especially important for the Soviet player, who also has more of these points at hand over the course of the scenario.

An element of chaos comes in the form of the Soviet mechanised units beginning play on their "untried" side. These are shuffled before placement at setup, only to be revealed whilst firing or being fired upon.

A few units enter the game on later turns. They are placed on colored edges either in the west or the east, according to the power you command. If I remember correctly, this is one of the cases, where there was a misprint on the precise turn in which certain units enter the map. You will have to look it up though.

The Game
The Victory conditions for the Germans, which have some Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian troops on their side, are to capture all 15 cities by the end of the game (after seven rounds). The Red Army on the other hand needs to prevent that from happening. If only 14 cities are controlled by the Germans, the game is considered a draw. Nothing too funky here, these are goals which should be easy to grasp for everyone.

The Soviets command armies and a handful of untried mechanised units, while the Germans and their allies mainly consist of Panzer and infantry corps. Setup dictates a clash of massive Red Army infantry units against the rolling behemoth which are the German Panzerkorps at the Western part of the map. The Soviet player is clearly the weaker force here and has to prolong the German advance through skilful use of ZOC and terrain.

Sooner or later though it is quite likely that the Germans will break through the lines and their mechanised units can rush from city to city. The game dramatically changes pace at this point and delivers a satisfying battle with the Red Army as the desperate defender.

The numerous rails and diverse terrain really encourage strategic thinking and tactical placement of units, with swamps being particularily nasty for the mechanised attacker. Rivers come in two sizes, which canand will!be used a lot to the defending player's advantage.

I can't comment too much on it, as I have insufficient knowledge of the topic. I will make an educated guess though and say, that a lot of thought has been put into the historical underpinnings in this abstracted environment. The forces seem appropriately asymmetrical, the Special Movement is rather unique, and the replacements favour the Russian side, which makes sense on their soil.

While somewhat preaching to the choir, I can see why RBM has included this game as an insert to C3i: it is an excellent option for someone interested in our cherished hobby, but without any prior knowledge of it. Who knows, maybe there is someone out there who does pick up the magazine for this specific reason.
Now don't get me wrong, this is not a fantastic game. It probably isn't even a great one, but it surely is a viable stepping-stone for anyone who is interested in operational wargaming. With the benefit of hindsight, many wargaming veterans know the value of learning the established core concepts of the genre when making your first foray, since they are often repeated in other games.

Potential Grognardlings are often put off by the complexity of popular wargames and the unfamiliarity with the involved lingo – never to be seen again in our midst. This is why more games like this shouldnayneed to exist. After all, how many times can you refer to 'Napoleon at Waterloo' as a potential starting point?
Newcomers should know their ZOCs, EZOCs, CRTs, CFs, and MPs... and have fun getting introduced to them. A feat 'Objective: Kiev' pulls off brilliantly.

For the seasoned wargamer this can be a game to pull out if you want lighter fare, where you don't have to check rules often and can finish a game in about three hours. There is enough meaningful decision-making involved to warrant a place in your collection. The portability is another plus.

No comments:

Post a Comment