Saturday, 20 September 2008

Red Flags and Iron Crosses (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 1

The first play-test used a very simple scenario; a couple of under-strength German infantry units (supported by an infantry gun unit) had to defend a village and road junction. The attacking Russian force had five infantry units of varying strength and a light field artillery unit.

The Russian plan was to mount a frontal attack with three infantry units (supported by the artillery), whilst the other two infantry units worked their way around the German right flank.

By the end of turn 5 the Russians had smashed through the German front-line, and were beginning to flank the second-line defences. The cost had, however, been high: the Russians had lost 37% of their infantry, and the remains of one infantry unit were falling back (there was no NKVD blocking detachment available to ‘encourage’ them to return to the fight!).

The German situation was worse, as they had lost their artillery observer very early on during the battle – and thus could not fire their artillery except at targets that were in line-of-sight – and had to rely on their heavy machine guns to stop the Russian mass attacks. The Germans had thrown appalling dice, and had failed to inflict overwhelming casualties on the attacking Russians as well as failing to ‘save’ many of their own infantry, even though they were dug in; as a result they had lost 60% of their original infantry strength by the end of the turn.

By the end of turn 7, the battle was over. The Russian flank attack enfiladed the German second-line defences just as their main attack reached it. The result was carnage. The Germans were over-run, and wiped out to a man. The Germans had continued to throw very low dice scores whilst the Russians had not. In the end the Russian casualties were 45% of their original strength. A Russian victory, but bought at a high price in terms of fighting men.

Lessons learned:

The rules are fun, and once one gets going they are simple to use.

The rule that makes opposing forces throw a D6 to decide who fires first makes perfect sense once one starts to use it. In the play-test game this should have meant that the Germans ought to have repulsed the Russian attacks quite easily and at very little cost to themselves; the fact that they did not is indicative as to how bad their dice throws were!

The use of playing cards to ‘activate’ units – a mechanism used in the original version of Red Flags and Iron Crosses – makes playing solo games very easy as the cards determine the order in which units move and fight and not the player’s (un)biased decisions.

Saving throws make sense if - as in this case - the rules mechanisms make it relatively easy to ‘hit enemy units.

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