Grogheads Previews Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa
Your first look at the newest release coming from VR Designs and Matrix Games ~
Vance Strickland, 14 November 2015
click images to enlarge
Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa, DC3 from here on, is the third in the series of operational level hex and counter wargames from VR Designs, published by Martix Games. The first, Decisive Campaigns: Warsaw to Paris (DC1), let us fight the beginnings of WWII with the invasions of Poland, France and a hypothetical Sealion. It had regiment level units with historical OOB’s. Hundreds of units representing infantry, artillery, and armoured units on the ground and fighter and bomber formations in the air for all the major combatants. Next came Decisive Campaigns: Case Blue (DC2). With the same scale of units and map it took us to the Eastern Front of WWII to participate in the massive German offensive of 1942 again with detailed OOB’s conveyed by hundreds of counters on huge maps. This game upped the detail of the supply modelling and refined some of the Command and Control aspects of the first game.
Let’s see what we can expect from the latest installment of this excellent line of games.
Note: This preview is from a pre-release beta version of the game. Some art and content may change on release.
The main entrance seems bare compared to the last version because there is only one scenario – the main event! There is no editor listed either but that apparently will be released as a separate entity that will work with the previous games as well. Also that that PBEM is now handled by Slitherine’s PBEM++ server system.
Just because there’s only one scenario doesn’t mean there’s not much re-playability here. With all these switches there’s plenty of ways to conduct the war from either side.
This interesting option let decide if you want to include some of the less-than-noble sides of the conflict. If you don’t want any moralizing in your game just set this switch and none of those decisions will be presented to you. This will not have a direct impact on your ability to win but will make it slightly easier as you will have more resources to do other things.
One the main additions to the series in this game is the political aspect of the war. As the German player, you take on the position held by F.M von Halder and have to deal with uppity Generals at the front demanding all your supplies and more. At the same time there’s people “above” you that are demanding certain actions and interfering with how you’d like to run the invasion.
Playing the Russian side, you take the role of Stalin. Now, you have absolute control but with that comes great responsibility and lots of paranoia. Are your Generals, those that you could have killed in the Purge, plotting against you? Or are they too busy licking your boots to do a good job of protecting your country? Do you send the NKVD to the front to “motivate” them?
This adds a tremendous amount of fun, and stress, to the game. Now you don’t have free rein to drive your troops as hard and as unrealistically as you’d like. It adds a whole new dimension to wargaming. Of course, if you’d rather just play the game as a traditional wargame you can turn all this off and have at it.
For DC3 the scale of the game has changed. Unit counters now represent entire divisions. Each hex is now 30km across and each turn is 4 days. There are no longer any counters for air units or artillery. These are handled through the use of cards. Engineers and security forces are also abstracted into the decision modelling. They aren’t gone but now you don’t have to micromanage their movement on the map.
The focus is definitely more operational that in the previous games. You’ll need to keep an eye on regular supplies and now fuel is a separate concern.
The new logistical system for fuel has its own map layer. It will show you where your trains and truck columns are moving the precious panzer blood to the front.
How well this system operates depends on decisions that you make when trouble arises. Some problems include whether to focus your construction battalions on maximum rail conversion at the expense of other railroad infrastructure or take a more balanced approach. Do you send your security battalions to mop up Russian stragglers that have been overrun or do you put them on anti-partisan duty so the partisans don’t attack your trains and truck convoys?
You also have to make decisions on when and where to move your FSB. Move it too late and your truck columns become dangerously long and they end burning more fuel than they are carrying. Move then too soon and you’ll stall your advance while everyone waits for the FSB to get setup at the new location.
If you look closely at the Army Group North (AGN) logistic layer above, you’ll notice that the train tracks are black in some locations and brown in others. This is showing the different gauges of the two systems. As your constructions battalions change the gauge over, handled behind the scenes by the game engine, the colour will change. Don’t move your FSB beyond the proper gauge or bad things will happen!
All of the decisions you make have repercussions. Here I’ve been pushing AGN hard and steering most of the supplies and fuel to that effort. This has made the jobs of the Field Marshals of the other two groups more difficult and they are beginning to chafe at the restrictions. Now new decisions come up that I have to deal with regarding these consequences.
You can even ignore the problem and make no decision, but bad things can happen that are worse than the other choices. You can see in these pictures that I’ve also managed to anger General Gercke who is in charge of all the trains on the Eastern Front. His knickers are in a twist because I keep asking for more trains to carry more fuel. Now he is in such a state the he is actively making things difficult with the trains. I’ll need to find a way to placate him soon.
Card play, long a staple of the Decisive Campaign series, is now expanded. Not only do your Army leaders get cards to help out their troops with bonuses, but you now get cards that affect your running of the front. These include where to locate air and artillery assets, when to rest and refit divisions or entire armies, and other commands necessary to control an entire front.
Some other additions include: highlighting all the divisions under its control when an HQ is selected, and displaying a HQ’s command range on a map overlay. There’s a new way to display the units on the map as well.
To help learn the game there now a series of videos explaining the complex areas of the game.
There’s also going to be manual, 320 pages (as previewed)! The first 257 are rules for playing the game that have lots of colour illustrations. The rest are designer notes and insights to the game. At this time I don’t know what form(s) the manual will take.
The combat model is largely unchanged from the previous games, but that is one area that didn’t need any improvements. Units have combat potentials that are made up of various elements like morale, readiness, equipment, training, terrain etc. Divisions move and fight until their action points run out. Individual units are made up from different types of equipment that are meant to be representative of the actual combat formation they represent.
The graphics are also near the same as the previous versions and just as moddable.
Who Should Get It
I think this game will appeal to anyone who is already a fan of the series. It is more of the same at a different scale with a completely new feel and take on the subject. For those new to the series, this will be a great way to join the fun. It is so different that any other wargame on this subject that it really does stand alone. For anyone interested in Operation Barbarossa this is a must have game just to experience a little of what it must have been like trying to orchestrate such a massive undertaking with pressures from above and below pulling in different directions and a foe who would not give in.