Scenario Rescue – Winter fight at Kuhmo

Winter fight at Kuhmo is an Official Scenario from the Equipment Pack expansion for Memoir ’44.  I was not a fan of the equipment pack for a variety of reasons, which I shall outline in writing some day.  The scenarios included are a mixed bag, and this is one of the worst.  It’s set during the Winter War of 1939, featuring the Soviet Union and the Finnish Army.

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union broke off diplomatic relations with Finland and attacked by air and land without declaring war. Ordered to repel the Russian 54th Rifle Division in the North, elements of the 13th Finish Reinforced Battalion successfully blocked them near Kuhmo. Despite an intense firefight, the Soviet Infantry could not force the Finns from their defensive positions. Soviet armor was brought forward to assist. The Finnish Ski troops, ill-equipped to fight this armor, prudently withdrew to fight another day.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

One morning I was running late, and had nothing on the board.  My regular gaming partner, who rarely remembers maps played more than a few weeks ago, set it up.  I remembered having a bad experience with it on our first playthrough, but bit my tongue to avoid a jinx.  Maybe it would be more interesting this time.  Maybe we’d just had a bad session the first time around.I was wrong.  Here’s why – and here’s how I would recommend fixing it.

Take a look at the photo below, showing the standard opening setup for this scenario.  It’s a photo of my table, as the scenario is not available online at the moment.

IMG_0128

So, you can see the Finns dug in on hills and forests, and a relatively open space around the road.  The road is blocked by wire and mines, and guarded by a town.  The Finns have a single artillery piece in the backfield.  All Finnish units are 3-figure Ski Troops – I didn’t place badges because they’re all the same.  Now take a look at the Soviet units – two tanks, and artillery, and a full complement of normal infantry, plus an engineer.

As set up, this map is not very fun.  The Soviets have massive fire superiority, and can whittle down the Finns from a distance.  If the Finns come out into the open, they will get mowed down by the tanks, and if they don’t, they will get mowed down by the artillery.  Luck and cards can always turn a game in favor of the underdog, but in this case, it’s guaranteed to be a cheap exploit win – the sort of win that takes advantage of the total inability of the other side to execute.

Both times we played this map, long ago when the Equipment Pack was new, and just a couple of days ago, we had a boring map.  As the Russian player, I had miserable hands, with nothing in the center, but was able to scrape up an easy win by attacking his dug in units with my vastly superior forces.  His 3-figure Ski Troops couldn’t take even weak 1-die attacks, and did not survive long enough to hurt me very badly.  There was not a whole lot the Finnish player could do.

We though about the situation, and had an idea.  In the Winter Wars expansion, there was a “Reduced Visibility” rule that seemed quite appropriate to this battle – Dice symbols rolled that match a unit being targeted only score hits when battling that unit in Close Assault, from an adjacent hex.  Right away, that throws the big Soviet advantage out the window.  Not only are tanks and artillery a lot less useful, but the mobility of the Finnish ski troops is made much more valuable.

For good measure, I made a couple of tiny adjustments to the starting setup.  Take a look.

IMG_0127

First off, no more Soviet artillery.  Second, you can see the extra barbed wire.  Now those Finnish positions will be very, very hard for the Soviets to crack – just like in the history books.Third, the Soviet medal awarded for clearing the barbed wire in the road (a pathetic gimme for the tanks) has been pushed back to the town near the Finnish baseline.  That town has been expanded by a square, and an extra Finnish ski troop has been placed there.  Finally, one Finnish ski troop, the one guarding the victory-point town, has been upgraded to a Machine Gunner.

Soviet fire superiority has been taken away, and the Finns have a chance.  The Soviets can still win, but it will be an ugly slog against highly-mobile units that can either hide in their well-fortified positions, or dash out for daring attacks or quick retreats.  It’s better all around.

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