Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Distraction 2: Arctic Front Deluxe

PanzerGrenadier: Arctic Front Deluxe is an upgrade of APL’s earlier Arctic Front supplement for the system. It’s pretty much a given that anything game-related with ‘Deluxe’ in the title is a re-make of something.

I have the original Arctic Front supplement, but the ‘Deluxe’ version certainly appears to be well-worth the $15 I paid for it. It includes more scenarios than the first version (and all of them are tooled for the new mappage), bigger scenarios and two identical half-sheets of counters for the Finns.

This supplement appears much more accessible than East of Suez, primarily because it doesn’t require ownership of a $200 monster game. Most of the scenarios can be played with ownership of only East Front Deluxe, the system’s core game. Scenarios range from small 1-mappers to several 4-mappers with lots of counters.

All three main episodes of Finnish involvement in the war are represented. Scenarios cover the Winter War, what the Finns call the Continuation War and the final fighting in Finland in 1944 (both against the Soviets initially, then against the Germans in a few instances).

The scenarios set in the different ‘episodes’ provide an interesting view of the progression of the Soviet army through the war years. The Finns are fairly consistent throughout the course of the war – skilled, motivated, well-led but always short on heavy hardware. The Soviets, however, change considerably over the course of the module’s scenarios.

In the Winter War, they are stumbling goobs with low-average morale and a dearth of leadership – certainly not well-suited to offensive operations in strange territory. The Continuation War sees their troops become a bit more motivated (and on the defensive), but leadership is still weak and it’s still obviously a bastard theater of operations with low priority for the good hardware. Then fast-forward to the Soviet offensives in 1944 that convinced Finland to seek an armistace. The Soviet formations involved in the attacks weren’t the tip of the Red Army’s spear (it was still sort of a bastard theater), but the troops are better, leadership is more plentiful and considerably improved and they bring a good deal of nasty hardware to the battle. It’s easy to see how the Finns were initially overwhelmed during the opening days of the offensive.

Historical commentary in the supplement is less plentiful than it is in East of Suez. More space is devoted to the scenarios. Still, you can read the historical notes and come to a good understanding of the underpinnings of the Finnish army and find a good basic primer on Finland’s military involvements during the war years.

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