GrogHeads Reviews Order of Battle: Winter War
Airboy bundles up for a fight in the snow ~
Avery Abernethy, 1 April 2017
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Finland. The Finns were one of the few who repaid their World War 1 debts to the United States. I’ve had three enjoyable trips to Helsinki in the last thirty-five years. The Finns have good beer and you can take a “beer trolley” tour of Helsinki. “Hello” in Finland is “Hey” – the same way Auburn fans say hello to each other.
Finland won their independence from Russia at the end of World War One when the Russians were defeated by Imperial Germany and fought their Civil War. The Soviet Union tried multiple times to conquer Finland. The USSR invaded Finland in November, 1939 and were subsequently expelled from the League of Nations. Winter War is a $14.99 add-on to the Order of Battle series which covers both the first and the second Russian-Finland conflict during World War Two.
In Winter War you are playing Finland against the computer AI Commies. Your Finnish army will be almost exclusively comprised of infantry. You can purchase ski units which are amazingly mobile in the winter scenarios. But you have to conserve enough resource points to convert the ski units into regular infantry when the snows melt.
The Finns are faced with horrible equipment shortages in the first war. The best fighter unit I was able to purchase was a Brewster Buffalo – and I was happy to get it. You never have the opportunity to buy heavy equipment such as armor or artillery in the first half of the war. It is possible to capture a single armored unit and a single heavy artillery piece if you achieve some difficult objectives in two different scenarios – but that will be it. As a result, you will be fighting this war with infantry, a few anti-tank guns, and the occasional captured piece of heavy equipment.
There are thirteen linked scenarios in Winter War. Your core forces carry over from scenario to scenario. The first half of the war is in deep winter. Your Finns are more mobile than the commies, but the commies have armor and heavy artillery. In some of the winter scenarios you are on the offensive. In others you are attempting to defend a fortified line in South-West Finland against a heavy Soviet assault. Some of the winter ambush scenarios are amazingly fun to play.
Regardless of your success or lack thereof, the Finns sign a peace treaty with the Commies. When Nazi Germany attacks the USSR the Finns reenter the war. Now Finland has a rotating group of allied German forces under your command. You can also purchase German equipment, but not the absolute top of the line stuff. No Panthers for the Finns! Still, your troops are mostly infantry and will often be outnumbered by Soviet forces. The final scenario in the game simulates how the war ended. I don’t want to give it away, but Stalin was a creatively evil SOB and the Finns have to pay the price.
Although there are a large number of World War 2 European Theater computer games, the Russian Finland conflict seldom appears outside of a side-show to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The terrain and order of battle facing the Finns provides an unusual and welcome challenge to the player.
The game never crashed and the AI was suitably aggressive. The AI will encircle and chop up your forces if you leave an opening. There are overall goals and sub-goals for every scenario. This is a welcome change from “capture everything” or “only one city hex really counts for victory” game design school. My only complaint is the various air forces are never grounded by weather. But this is probably a function of the length of each turn.
Although you need Order of Battle to play Winter War, the base game is a free download. The price is reasonable, the game design is good, the AI is credible and this is a World War 2 campaign that seldom reaches the PC. Grogheads also has an AAR that can give you a lengthier example of the game mechanics and scenario design. I strongly recommend Winter War for anyone interested in an intermediate difficulty simulation of this conflict.