Narvik: Storm over Scandinavia Style
I’m not sure what it is about Scandinavia that keeps drawing me back. It seems to me that more people like the Spanish civil war, the Russian front, North Africa or the Second Front more so than any other games. I rarely see anyone discussing the Fall of France, for example. The Balkans are often ignored as well. Is it because these were campaigns the Axis won, and people really don’t want to see the Axis win at something?
Sometimes these campaigns are good fodder for ‘what-if’, alternative scenarios. While I do not own a copy of First to Fight, I own and have played, Case White, the invasion of Poland. I don’t believe, at least from playing Case White, that the Poles can stop the Germans, but combined with the Fall of France map, it can make for an interesting campaign if the French decide to attack the Westwall. While Case White is not required for that scenario, it does open up the ability to transfer German units west if and as needed. At a two week scale, it puts a lot of pressure on the German player to end the Polish campaign in two turns. It probably needs a special Axis invasion turn to pull it off.
However, Narvik is a special game. It it touch and go, and either side can win it. I’ve played the second (boxed) edition multiple times (as witnessed on this blog), and the Germans have yet to win a game, though several have been close.
The Storm over Scandinavia edition (hereafter designated SoS for brevity) makes a few changes, most notably on the map, and possibly to the rules/Order of Battle, but any changes may remain unknown until the game progresses.
The two maps are roughly the same size, with SoS showing more of Denmark and less of Finland. Finland is covered in A Winter War.
The two primary things that stand out on the 2nd edition maps are the three long valleys that run through the mountains, and the large swaths of clear terrain in the Oslo environs. Also of note are the large forested areas near and around Trondheim.
Way up to the north, in Narvik itself, the terrain is rough in a large section around Narvik. Not too mountainous, but not the greatest defensive terrain.
SoS, by comparison, makes a lot of changes to this terrain. Let’s take a closer look.
Gone are the long, sweeping forested valleys emanating from the Oslo lowlands to Bergen and Trondheim.
The valleys have disappeared, or in some cases, drastically shortened, but realistically, what does this mean?
In the GDW version, a forest only carried a -1 DRM. With the change over to mountains, the DRM is now a -2, unless half or more of the attacking units are mountain units. Puts higher urgency for the Germans to get mountain units into Norway.
Also gone is the clear terrain surrounding Oslo, being replaced by woods. While this has no bearing on combat as neither carries a DRM affecting combat, aesthetically it looks better.
Finally, there are major changes to the Trondheim environs. Gone are the forests, replaced with woods, the mountains have been pulled back just a touch, and it looks like the bottleneck has been widened just a touch. Trondheim proper has been reduced from a dot city to a reference city. This had been an important blocking position for the Norwegians, and they could hold up the Germans for a long time, using the conjunction of the forests and the mountains, creating a lot of negative DRMs (-2 for the mountains and -1 for the forests).
Now the area is open to more rapid movement by the Germans, as the new woods hexes pose no barrier to combat. It may turn out that fewer forces can be committed here than previously.
Far to the north, a major change has occurred, making it more likely that the German player will be able to hold Narvik (or an adjacent hex) in the event of an Allied counterattack. Narvik is now in mountainous terrain, rather than the rough terrain of the GDW game. The land has also been narrowed, so that Narvik is now on the Swedish border, greatly restricting an Allied counterattack. The Allies will almost desperately attack to prevent it from falling into German hands.
The last game that was played, the Allies made a desperate attack at 1:1 odds, and the rough terrain had no effect on combat. The Allies had a 1 in 6 chance of a half exchange (any other result was bad for the Allies), and rolled the 6, destroying the Germans in the city and winning the game. Of course, that’s the simplistic version. It may be that Alan comes back and recollects that he held another city. The point is that the combat result would have been No Effect/Attacker Stopped, leaving the Germans in control of Narvik.
The rail line that runs from Sweden to Narvik has been reduced from a couple of hexes to running directly into Narvik. This means that the special German supply depot that appears in Sweden on turn 2 no longer has to be retrieved by the Germans. It can sit on the border in Sweden indefinitely, or it can move on its own. The depot has its own movement rate, and does not have to be carried by a combat unit, unlike regular German supply depots. I do not remember the depot having an independent movement rate in the GDW game, but I seem to have misplaced the rulebook and am having difficulty finding it at the moment. It is laying around somewhere. It is just a matter of finding what pile it is in.
While the depot is listed in the rules, it should be listed on the OB on turn two. Anything that enters play should be listed on the OB.
There are probably a few more changes on the map that I am overlooking right now, a road from Bodo to Narvik, for example. Also, with the release of Second Front, airfields can be expanded beyond the basic 3 air unit capacity. Some air stations in Norway have been expanded. The Aalborg airfield in Denmark has been expanded to a 12 air unit capacity, and it is available from the very first turn, instead of a delay until turn 3 to facilitate the takeover of Denmark.
Also, the German Ju-88A bombers have also had their ranges reduced to 26, from 40. The Ju-52 transports have also had their range reduced, bu 5 hexes to 20. This could make reaching some places more interesting.
Air “On Demand” appears to not exist. A cursory glance at the rules makes it appear as though the air phase is pretty rigid. In addition, the combat charts look to be the same, along with the lousy air combat system. I am not a fan of odds ratios to perform air combat.
I am looking forward to playing this, to see how it plays, if it plays differently due to the terrain changes, or even changes to the units. At this point, I just need to get it set up, and start the German planning. I do wish I had a scanner so I could make scans of the counter sheets for future reference. This is one of the few games that I have that is completely unpunched, but it can’t be played if it is still in the sheets.
For now, I plan. I refer back to some of the earlier plans I laid out, and as I review them now, I think I tried to do to much at once and got spread too thin, and it ended up hampering the German effort. The number of landings has to be reduced. I think at one point, I was landing at something like 8 different points all along Norway. Definitely need to reduce and concentrate.