Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division
Game Designer Chad Jensen
The Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division was an elite unit of Germany during World War II. Because of its status, it was the best equipped unit in the German Army and it received equipment before all other German units. The unit was founded in 1939 to prove that the German Army could field a more elite unit than the Waffen SS. Members of the GrossDeutschland Division were recruited from all over Germany while normal divisions were recruited from a certain local. In 1942 it became a Motorized Infantry Division. Most of the combat that the unit saw was on the Eastern Front from 1943 till the end of the war. It was a highly decorated unit that fought in such battles as Stalingrad, Karkov, and Kursk. It also fought in numerous defensive battles during the last 18 months of the war from Russia back to Germany. Fighting Formations – Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division is a tactical simulation of some of the battles in which this unit fought. For additional information on this unit you can refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer-Grenadier-Division_Gro%C3%9Fdeutschland which also contains a detailed Order of Battle.
Each hex on the map is approximately 75 meters (250 feet) and each unit represents a Platoon or a Squad. In this game, a Platoon is 3 Squads and each Squad has between 8 and 12 men. A gun (or tank) with its inherent crew is represented by a Platoon of 3 tanks or can be broken down to the Squad level which is a single tank and each turn in the game represents 5 minutes. While the term Platoon or Squad is not 100% accurate these terms work well within the confines of this game. Finally, there are three types of basic units portrayed in the game and they are Infantry, Guns, and Vehicles.
Before taking a look at the rules for this simulation, let’s look at what you get for the money you spend. The game is delivered in a standard sized GMT game box which is 12” x 9” x 2”. Crammed into this box are the following items;
- 4 double sided 22” x 34” maps
- 5 die cut counter sheets
- 2 Player Aid cards 8.5” x 11”
- 55 Playing Cards
- 1 Track Display Double Sided
- 24 Page Series Rule Book
- 64 Page Playbook
- 10 Dice
- 10 Wood Cubes
- 1 Wood Pawn
In essence, you are provided with 8 maps for the 11 Scenarios. The 5 counter sheets are comprised 1/2” counters for information, 5/8” counters representing Infantry or wheeled units, and 1 ½” counters representing tracked units. Lastly there are some miscellaneous sized counters that are used for information when playing the game.
Information Counter Examples
Infantry Counter Example
Counter Front Counter BacK
Vehicle Counter Example
Counter Front Counter BacK
Tank Counter Example
Counter Front Counter BacK
As you can see from the above counters, each unit in the game has a front and rear side. The rear side of the units is the activated side and is where you see the movement allowances. The counters are very intuitive in their design and are easy to remember in little time at all.
Looking at the front and back of the counters, you see that on the front, there is a number with a diamond. This number is the Rate of Fire (ROF) and the ROF serves as a trigger during Return Fire or Opportunity Fire that if any attack die that is rolled is a 4 (or the number in the diamond) or less, the unit is considered “Spent”.
One thing to remember as you’re playing FF is that all die rolls are based on D10’s (ten sided dice). Most Die Roll Modifiers (DRM’s) have the effect of either causing an up-die or a down-die. This means that your unit may start off as a D10 but with modifiers, you could be rolling D4’s with two down-die modifiers.
The Rules and Playbook
The Series Rulebook for Fighting Formations is 24 pages in length. However, it’s not 24 pages of reading as there are definitions and many reference diagrams and examples spread throughout these pages. The Series Core Rules are divided into three main sections which are
- Rules – Orders
In each of the sections, the explanations provided give the player an excellent understanding of the game and the game system.
- The Playbook is 64 pages in length and contains 12 sections. The breakdown of these sections is
- Exclusive Rules
- Optional Rule – Events
- Scenario Setup
- Introductory Scenario
- Historical Scenarios
- Order of Battle
- Historical Notes
- Examples of Play
- Sources and Suggested Reading
- Summary of Orders
The Exclusive Rules for this game define the effect of different terrain, weapons and/or munitions. They also provide rules for passengers and towing, Counterbattery Fire, Fighters, Fighter Bombers and Stuka Dive Bombers to name a few. The Exclusive and Optional rules add only 10 pages to your reading. Next you come to the Scenario Setup page. Here you are told how to interpret the information that Is presented on the following Scenario pages. There are a total or 11 Scenarios provided with Fighting Formations, one of which is Introductory and 10 Historical. The historical battles are taken from actual battles that occurred on the Eastern Front during World War II. The Scenarios provided are;
- Introductory Scenario
- Staryj Oskol-Kastornje-Jeles Railway, Olym River area, Russia, 1 July 1942
- Gorschetschnoje, Russia, 2 July 1942
- Podkletnoje, Don River area near Vorinezh, Russia, 6 July 1942
- East of Tschermassowo, Gostischka Vally, Russia, 22 September 1942
- Gostischka River Vally, Russia, 30 September 1942
- Kostanossowo, Russia, 30 September 1942
- West of Boltino, Russia, 30 September 1942
- Gorowatka, Luchessa Valley, Russia, 1 December 1942
- Ivany-Berdyny, near Bogodukhov, Ukraine, 12 March 1943
- Cemetary Hill, Russia, night of 22-23 September 1942
Finally, in the Playbook there are very detailed Examples of Play. The 11 Examples of Play provided clear up most questions that you may have regarding game play. I found them extremely useful and very informative when I finished reading the rules. These examples really clarify any ambiguities that you may think you have come across in the game. These examples in no way replace the rules, they supplement them in such a way as to make the game a more enjoyable experience.
Initiative and Assets
Now that we have looked at the physical components of the game, let’s move on to looking at initiative and assets. The game is based on the use of an Initiative system to see whose time it is to perform an action and the use of assets to see which action will be performed. At the beginning of a scenario one side is provided with the initiative and a pawn is placed on the initiative track. There are 10 orders that can be given during a turn and each of these orders cost varying amounts or initiative. Cubes are placed on the order track per the Scenario briefing and that will then define the amount of initiative that is used for that order. However, if there is no cube on that particular initiative, the player must use the next initiative cube and then subtract that from his initiative track. So, if one player wants to “Rally” their units, which would normally cost 4 initiative points, but the only cube left on the Order Matrix is at 10, the Rally Order would cost 10 initiative points to execute. As the lower cubes are used, it gets more expensive to perform the simple tasks such as Fire and Move.
Each order uses initiative and as initiative is used the Initiative Pawn is moved back and forth on the Initiative Track. While this may see a bit confusing, it all becomes clear as you play the game. There is a real strategy that begins to unfold with decisions and counter decisions as the cubes are removed from the Order Matrix. Which order should I use now? How much should I pay for the order? How many orders can I use before the initiative moves to my opponent? Should I Move, Fire, or Assault or just Rally the troops and see what my opponent will do. The use of initiative in the game is like the ebb and flow of real combat as it moves back and forth between fighting forces.
The Order Matrix is really where all of the game’s subtleties begin to occur. As I have said, it is here that the strategy of the game takes place and mastering the Order Matrix and managing initiative is the key to winning or losing a game. Below you can see the Order Matrix and how initiative is defined for each order.
The final item we need to look at is Activation. Specified in the Scenario Briefing is the number of Activation Markers that each side employs for that scenario. The number of Activation Markers received is different with every Scenario that is played. However, the command radius of the Marker is typically 3 for the German player and 2 for the Soviet Player. The reason for the difference in command radius is to show that the Germans had better leadership than the Soviets. There are three ways to activate a unit for an order.
1. You can pay 2 Initiative Points for every unit that is activated.
2. Any number of friendly units within the radius of a Mission Command marker can be activated using 0 Initiative Points per unit.
3. Any number of friendly units within the radius of a Tactical Command marker can be activated using 1 Initiative Point per unit.
Now that you have the overall basis of the game system, you can see that Initiative Points are the foundation of all actions within Fighting Formations. As the Initiative Points move from side to side on the Initiative Track the strategy is to make the most of what you have. Execute as many orders as you can before the initiative transfers to the other player.
Now it’s time to take a look at how the game plays. We will use the Introductory Scenario as the sample to show how some of the game mechanics operate. The first map shows the initial troop dispositions of the Soviets and Germans.
Since this is the first turn, the Soviet Player has the initiative per the scenario briefing. So for what I will call phase 0 of Turn 1 the Soviets will move their units using a Mission Command marker that will be placed in hex K11. This will allow all units within 2 hexes of K11 to activate at no cost. The map below shows these units flipped to their activated state.
The Soviet player decides to move all of the units that are in the Mission Command radius. Moving cautiously, the final positions for the Soviet units are as shown.
From this disposition, the Soviets are in an excellent position to pounce on the German units as they advance on their phase. All of the Soviet units are either in cover or behind cover and there is no direct LOS to any Soviet unit.
On the German phase the German player also decides to move his units. He decides to place a Mission Command Marker with the German Grenadier unit in hex F2. All of the units that are within 3 hexes of F2 are now activated with no additional Initiative Point cost. The German units begin moving down the road and when the Pioneer unit in F3 moves to F4 it triggers an Opportunity Fire from two potential units. The first unit is the T34/76B behind the wall and the other unit is the Rifle Platoon in the building in hex H7. Checking the Line of Sight (LOS) we see that both units can see the Pioneer unit however, the Rifle unit will be attacking at long range and will have a 2 die reduction. Instead of rolling 2d10, he will roll 2d6. The Pioneer unit is in the rough which is a hindrance of 2. A hindrance occurs with different terrain and is in effect when the attackers dice are rolled and if that number or less is rolled on either die it is an automatic miss. A rough is considered a cover 1 and will be added to the defensive dice when they are rolled.
The Opportunity Fire combat now takes place and the Soviet player decides to attack with the Rifle unit first. The Soviet player will roll 2d6 for his attack to which the Firepower of the Rifle unit will be added. The result is 19 (die roll of 1 + 5) to which the Firepower of 13 is added. However, since a “1” was rolled and the hindrance of rough terrain was 2 it is an automatic miss. Next, the T34 will take its shot. Here we are rolling 2d10’s to which the T34’s HE Firepower of 15 will be added. The result from this 27 (die roll is 7 + 5) to which 15 is added and now we will have a defensive die roll to see if there is damage. The defense for the Pioneer unit is based on its Morale which is the lower right number on the counter which is 12. The German player also rolls 2d10 to which he adds the units Morale number. The total rolled here was a 24, which was a Die roll of 2 and 10 to which the Morale of 12 was added. Since the defensive roll of 24 was less than the attackers die roll of 27, a hit is scored and the defensive player randomly selects a hit marker from an opaque container. The defensive player draws a hit marker and gets a “Supressed” with an “F” circled in the lower left hand corner. This means that the unit can move, but cannot fire until a Rally attempt is successful on the unit.
The German player decides to keep moving the Pioneer unit from hex F4 into the building in hex F5. This will provide the Pioneer unit with additional cover from the attacking units. This can be seen in the map below.
Again, the Rifle unit and T-34 have clear shots at the German Pioneer unit. Again the Rile unit will take the first shot and this time will roll 2d8’s as the range decreased by 1 hex. Rolling these dies the Rifle unit scores a total of 15 and the die rolls were 1+1. Since either of the die was less than the ROF, and the die roll was a 1, which is an automatic miss, the Rifle unit is now “Spent” and a Spent marker is placed on the unit which means it cannot conduct any additional Opportunity Fire for the remainder of this turn.
Now it’s time for the T-34 to attack. Again it rolls 2d10 to which its HE Firepower is added. The total rolled is 32 which is the 2d10 of 8 and 9 to which the HE of 15 is added. The Rifle unit now performs its defensive roll which was a 24 which is less than the attack roll and since this is the second hit on the Pioneer unit it is eliminated from play.
The German player would now continue to move his units one at a time, undergoing Opportunity Fire as required from the Soviet player. However, the Soviet player needs to be careful that he does not have all his units spent as this will give the German player the ability to move up all his units uncontested.
Once the German player moves all his units, play then reverts back to the Soviet player as he now has the initiative. It will go like this back and forth, back and forth as the cubes are pulled off the order matrix.
I hope I have been able to give you a good overall idea of the game system employed in Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division. It really is a subtle system that needs to be played to be thoroughly appreciated. The ebb and flow with the dynamics of unit control keeps you deep in the game and often the outcome is not obviously seen until you reach the games sudden death. This is the first in what I know will be many more expansions to this game system. While the mechanics may at times seem complicated, it is an extremely good game with a system that truly is simple to follow and understand. It can be a fast moving game between players who think they have mastered the game only to find a new challenge and different tactics played. Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division may be on the high end of the pricing scale, but it is a game that you will not easily get bored with and new challenges will await the gamer with its future expansions and GMT’s C3I magazine additions.