If you area a follower of this blog you may have noticed that the Standard Combat Series from Multi-Man Publications has been getting a bit of some wargame love from me recently. In great part this is because the “War Engine” of the SCS hits a sweet spot for me; they are easy to learn, relatively quick to play, and through their use of special game rules they are tailored to fit the situation depicted without adding an unpalatable level of rules overhead. Recently, Multi Man Publishing “found” copies of older titles in theri warehouse, which allowed me to add Karelia ’44: The Last Campaign of the Continuation War (MMP, 2011) to my collection. Although an older SCS title, I am glad to say it did not fail me.
Karelia ’44 looks at the Soviet Offensive in June 1944 on the Karelia peninsula. The intent was to knock the Finns out of the war. At it’s core, Karelia ’44 uses the SCS war engine to recreate the somewhat asymmetric match-up of the goliath Soviet Red Army versus the artillery-supported mobile defense of the Finns. One of the most important rules in Karelia ’44 may be the one that so many wargamers seem to hate; supply. Here the supply rules are important for they determine just how far and where the Soviet offensive can act.
Like every SCS game, there is the special “gimmick” rule. In Karelia ’44 it’s “Soviet Special Rule 2.1 The Boss’s Patience.” This rules introduces a variable game end time; if you keep the Boss “happy” the offensive will go on longer (but with maybe less forces) whereas if the boss us “unhappy” the offensive (game) might end early. It’s a fun rule that keeps the pressure on the Soviet player, and encourages patience by the Finn player.
As often as I focus on the “gimmick” rule in SCS, Karelia ’44 actually have several other special rules that are important to the narrative of the game. Soviet supply and Inflexibility (rule 2.5) as well as Prepared Offensive Turns (2.6) and The 2nd Wave (2.7) are just as important as the Boss’s Patience. For the Finns, the defensive lines rules with “ghost” units (3.3) is vital to the defense. Woe be the Finn player that tries to take on the Soviets without understanding this rule.
I also like how the initial developer, Ernesto Sassot, was not afraid to change some wargaming conventions in Karelia ’44. I appreciate his choice to treat forests as the base terrain and modify movement and combat accordingly. Choices like this show that no matter how “standard” your game may seem it is always useful to look for how it can be tailored to fit the situation.
Karelia ’44 may be an older SCS title but it still is not only an enjoyable game, but also an example of good wargame design.