Computer Wargame Review
Editors Note: This is an abridged version of a more detailed review that can be found at Wargamer.com
Korsun Pocket covers the entire Korsun operation, beginning with the initial Russian pincer at brigade, regiment, and battalion level with a map composed of three-kilometer hexes and day-long turns.
The game's innovation surfaces when the clicking starts. A right-click on a hex brings up a pop-up screen that shows movement penalties, combat effects, special features, and alert and victory points. Units appear in the pop-up screen if they are present, while moving the cursor over them yields another screen showing their attributes and status. What takes several clicks in other games is done smoothly with the mouse in Korsun Pocket.
Combat produces a very innovative display area similar to a boardgame under the main map. This Combat Activity Area shows a view of the attacked hex and nearby hexes from which attacks are possible. The column on the Combat Results Table with the odds for the battle is the heart of the display. Inside, icons that adjust the assets used to improve the odds and respective combat strengths unmodified by terrain add to the boardgame feel. Column shifts are shown, as are the chances for an overrun and the dreaded die or dice roll to resolve the fight. Unlike most games, the decision of the randomizer god is up front. The actual terrain is shown without units so players can understand the reasons behind column shifts. This information is either very difficult or impossible to find in most other computer games, forcing players must make rough calculations.
The amount of information doesn't stop there. Other buttons show the orders of battle with losses, a two-page Combat Results table that reflects all terrain, weather and special unit effects, supply status, and transport availability. Map overlays show possible movement, supplied areas, and frontlines. Game information panels show weather, reinforcements, and events for the scenario on a day-by-day basis. Even the cursor is instructive when placed over hexes - it's a green marching man over hexes a unit can enter, orange over hexes where the unit would exceed the stacking limit, and red for an illegal move. Display areas for divisional status help with the division integrity bonus. Other panels allow for special commands such as entrenchment, replacement, motorization, and the shedding of detachments. With so many options on screen, a tool-tip cursor would have been nice, but the method of right-clicking on a button for its function works fine.
Playing Korsun Pocket is deceptively simple: just click on a unit and its movement area lights up. Click on an adjacent enemy, and the Combat Activity Area appears with odds laid out in plain sight. Sure, the game can be played like this if winning is irrelevant. However, many factors go into the mechanics of the game, and ignoring them guarantees defeat.
Units actually can do two things in a turn: move and perform an action. Movement is a function of terrain penalty points and the unit's operation points. Supply can limit a unit's movement when it affects the level of operation points available. Supply originates from fixed points but is distributed by trucks. Terrain, weather, air and partisan interdiction, and enemy zones of control all have affects on resistance levels, while two global considerations, general efficiency and the efficiency for the specific turn, also play a role in supply for each side. The different levels of resistance can be seen on a colored map overlay. Therefore, players must think a few turns ahead about the supply consequences of any moves to maximize an offensive.
Combat is also deceptively simple. Just click on an adjacent enemy, and the Combat Activity Area lays out the odds, the leaders, and air and artillery shifts, all of which affect the odds column or modify die rolls. Players must understand that close air support and barrages create rubble in the target hex, increasing movement penalties so victory may not ensure rapid movement. Also, not all attacks are the same. If an attacker can have enough units bearing on a hex, an overrun is possible. The odds necessary for an overrun vary for terrain types. The combat display indicates at what point an overrun is possible or assured. The advantage of overruns is that they don't count as actions, so groups can conduct a series of overrun attacks until they can no longer move. Artillery units are especially susceptible to being overrun.
Other variations on the basic combat mechanism are pickets, light forts, and detachments. These units and positions are weak but block movement and supply, thus making their eradication necessary. When a regular unit occupies a picket or a fort, two attacks are necessary: one on the position and one on the occupier. Finally, attackers can throw tremendous numbers of units at a hex. On these rare occasions, two dice are used, resulting in two results for the price of one action. Combat results are either step losses or retreats. A unit with no steps left or a retreating unit that is surrounded is eliminated. Still, a possibility exists that a remnant of an eliminated unit can exist to block immediate advances.
Could players be overwhelmed by all these nuances? Perhaps, but Korsun Pocket introduces the Combat Advisor. Clicking on this brings up all hexes within attack range and superimposes the best possible odds. Clicking on these hexes highlights the units that need to be committed to achieve those odds. Helpful as the advisor is, it won't win the game for the player.
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