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Posted on Sep 25, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Disperse the vehicles and ready for action!” Long Range Recon Actions in Russia –  Greyhound vs Bear: The Raid on Astrakhan Game Review

“Disperse the vehicles and ready for action!” Long Range Recon Actions in Russia – Greyhound vs Bear: The Raid on Astrakhan Game Review

By Rick Martin

Greyhound vs Bear: The Raid on Astrakhan Game Review. Publisher: High Flying Dice Games Designer: Paul Rohrbaugh Price: $7.95

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Easy to learn – only 3 pages of rules! Great looking components. Tense game play. Perfect for solo play as the Germans. Excellent value for the money.

Failed Basic: Rules need some clarification, no Russian victory point counter, Soviets should be able to get a move bonus from their railroads

High Flying Dice Games (HFDG) continues their tradition of high quality, low price games with Greyhound vs Bear: The Raid on Astrakhan.

Greyhound vs Bear is a cleverly designed game whose rules are only 3 pages long – 1 page of which are optional rules! The game reminds me quite a lot of the classic “One Page Bulge” game from the 1980s in which the designer, Steve Jackson, was challenged to design a Battle of the Bulge game with only 1 page of rules. Paul Rohrbaugh’s Greyhound vs Bear elegantly captures the German operation to scout and raid Astrakhan without bogging the player down in tons of detail and it plays just fine.

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Actually, until playing this game and researching the background, I didn’t know a thing about this operation. The following are excerpts from a fine article which can be found in its entirety at:

http://yakhalaba-blog.tumblr.com/post/26902431526/the-long-range-patrol-to-astrachan-germans-go#.W6pA4ntKiM8″

“Oberleutnant Gottlieb came directly from a briefing held by the commander of the motorcycle battalion, where they had discussed the final details of a patrol operation through the Kalmuck Steppe to the Caspian Sea. The commander of the Sixteenth, which had relieved LII Corps near Elista, wanted to know what was up in the broad expanse of wilderness on the flank of the Caucasus front. A huge gap
nearly 300 kilometers across gaped between the area south of Stalingrad and the Terek River, which the 3rd Panzer Division had reached near Mosdok on August 30. This unknown land between the Volga and the Terek appeared like a huge funnel. Its base was the coast of the Caspian Sea. All sorts of surprises could come from there. Therefore the area had to be kept under surveillance.

At the end of August the guarding of this huge no-man’s-land was entrusted to a single division. Its base was Elista in the Kalmuck Steppe. No reinforcements were to be expected before the end of September, therefore at first the tasks of surveillance and reconnaissance across to the Caspian Sea and the Volga delta had to be taken care of by long-range patrols, which took the form of daring expedition-type operations.

It was at this time that the 16th Motorized Infantry Division earned itself the name of the “Greyhound Division.”

Except for a few indispensable specialists, only volunteers were involved in these operations. The first large-scale expedition operation along both sides of the Elista-Astrakhan road began in mid-September. Four patrols were sent out. Their assignment was as follows:

I. Discover if and where the enemy is feeding forces into the gap between the Terek and the Volga, whether he is making attempts to cross the Volga, where enemy strongpoints are located, and if any troop movements can be located on the Stalingrad-Astrakhan shore road.

2. Carefully reconnoiter road conditions, the condition of the Caspian coast and the west bank of the Volga as well as the previously unknown Kizlyar- Astrakhan rail line.

The patrols set out at 0430 on September 13, a Sunday. A sharp wind blew out of the steppe. The sun was not yet up and it was still very cold.

The patrols were well-equipped for their adventurous drive 150 kilometers deep into enemy territory. Each troop had two eight-wheeled armored cars armed with 20mm cannon, a motorcycle platoon with twenty-four men, two or three 50mm anti-tank guns – motorized or mounted on armored personnel carriers – and a squad of engineers with equipment. Five trucks – two each with fuel and water and one with rations – as well as a repair squad completed the equipment. As well there was an ambulance with a doctor, a radio operator, a motorcycle messenger and an interpreter.”

The Greyhound Raid was highly successful and this game, Greyhound vs Bear, challenges you to the same mission parameters – can you pull it off as well as the Greyhounds did in real life or, if playing the Soviets, can you stop the German recon mission and destroy its elements?

The game is playable by two players but because of its mechanics plays perfectly as a solo game from the German perspective owing to the fog of war for the Soviet units.

The game has a full color cover, full color map and double sided counters as well as action cards. Alternatively, the rules provide for playing the game using a standard deck of playing cards as was originally intended in the first edition of the rules. As stated previously, there are 2 pages of rules and 1 page of optional rules. The game has a very small footprint and its compact size makes it perfect to pack as entertainment for a road trip or to take on an airplane flight. You will need to have a 6 sided die to play the game.

The Soviet counters have a generic Soviet symbol on one side with the actual unit’s information on the other side (although some Soviet counters are actually misidentifications which creates a great sense of the fog of war when you move your German 8 rad (wheel) Sdkfz 232 armored cars in to scout out a location and instead of finding Soviet forces you find a heard of animals kicking up the dust like a brigade of tanks). When German and Soviet forces move in to adjacent positions, the Soviet counters are revealed and can engage in combat if appropriate. Soviet forces include armored cars, rifle brigades, cavalry, etc.

German forces include four units of two Sdkfz 232 8 rad armored cars which also include their support troops, trucks and motorcycles. Additionally, a unit of anti-Soviet Cossack cavalry troops are helping the Germans in their raids. One side of the German counters is the unit’s fit side while the other side is the unit’s damaged side. Strangely, there is no difference in the stats of the damaged and undamaged side only that the combat stat number is in a different color. Unfortunately the rules don’t tell you which side is which so you’ll just have to start them on one side and be consistent when the units take damage. After the second hit, the unit is destroyed while the Soviet units take one hit and are effectively destroyed.

The German and Cossack units start in Elista while Soviet units initially start unit side down in map spaces with a red star. These areas represent cities. The German Victory Point Counter starts on the zero track on the map while the Soviet Alertness Level starts at the two point on the track. Each turn represents one day from September 13th, 1942 to September 18th, 1942. As the turns progress, the Soviet alert track goes up and the things start getting more difficult for the German scout teams.

The turn sequence is as follows:
Draw either an Action Card or if using a playing card deck, a playing card.
If using the Action Cards, the card will say whether it is a German or Soviet action and how many actions or what type of actions you can take. Some cards require a die roll to see if more units can be activated.

If using playing cards, the color and number of the cards tells you who can activate and what special things can happen.

The game was originally conceived using playing cards but HFDG has created a new Activation Card deck which is included with each game.

A unit can move or attack or German units may chose to raid an area on the map with a star on it (representing a city) up to two times. In addition, if a German unit is adjacent or in a square with a rail line, the German unit can attempt to raid and destroy a supply train as happened during the actual mission.

To fight or raid, the player draws a card and compares the results to the tables in the rules. Sometimes you win a battle or complete a successful raid – other times things can go horribly wrong. It’s all in the cards.

The Soviets can bring in reinforcements which can enter from the cities. While the German units can move 2 squares, the Soviets are limited to a movement of 1 square. I wish the rules allowed the Soviets to use their rail lines to move an additional square of movement.

Each side scores Victory Points for destroying units and the Germans score additional points for successfully raiding. While a counter is provided to track German Victory Points, the rules imply that a Soviet Counter tracks their Victory Points but I could not find one so I deducted Soviet Victory Points from the Germans. If the Germans get 10 Victory Points they win. If the Soviets defeat the Germans or keep them from getting 10 Victory Points by the end of turn 6, the Soviets win.

Optional Rules are included for the special terrain of the Salt Pan Desert, German Fuel Shortages, Soviet Airstrikes, turning native people against the Soviets or giving the Soviets an edge in the game.

So how does it play you ask? I played it solo on a Sunday afternoon. It took slightly over an 1 hour to complete. Since the Soviet Counters are played face down, I deemed it easier to play the Germans. You really can’t predict what will happen during each card draw. The Germans may have two or three actions in row and then the Soviets have one or two. The flow was captivating. The face down counters provided for an excellent fog of war situation and the constant flow of the cards kept the game from bogging down in to an “I move, you move” stagnation. I didn’t use the optional rules but hope to do so in a future game.

While I really enjoyed the game, I found the few rules questions to be frustrating but, being the old grognard that I am, I soldiered on and came up with logical answers to my rules questions.

The game is tons of fun and, for under $10, you really can’t go wrong.

While it’s not perfect, I heartily recommend Greyhound vs Bear: The Raid on Astrakhan and for the price there is really no excuse for it not being on the shelf of any gamer interested in Eastern Front World War 2 action.

Armchair General Rating: 86 % (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

1 Comment

  1. Nice review, though to be honest, there are a few areas that need clarification –

    1) The game has not been updated into a version 2 (or 2nd Edition) that includes the additional card set provided by HFDG. If you were sent the game with the card set, count yourself lucky. The rules were updated with the current addendum, dtd, Feb 20, 2015 back on Feb 20, 2015. The card set is an extra $8 available here – http://www.hfdgames.com/cardsup.html (which brings the total game purchase up to $15.95) or the card set is available for free when ordering 4 or more games from HFDG and asking for it.

    2) The Soviets do not need a VP counter(s), as VP is kept track on the Game Turn Track, starting at “0”. Since VP is added for the Germans as Soviet units are destroyed, successful raiding die rolls, or exiting the game map and subtracted as German units are lost, only one VP counter is needed.

    3) The Soviet railroad. Were engines and rolling stock available for the transportation of troops in this area to go chasing who knows what, where? And would those assets be released by Stavka? Or would having a rail movement bonus unbalance the game?

    This is a question I am sure the designer of the game asked himself. Please remember (as it was put to me some years ago) – ”Game design, as well as any historical portrayal regardless of format (books, articles, web pages, etc.) involves interpretation and a thesis. In small game format, these are very important. Keeping it simple and involving, as well as true to the history, are important challenges.”.

    So if it ain’t there, there is a reason. :D

    Outside of these areas, very nicely done. Be sure to add all of the variant rules when you play next time. Paul’s variants in his games always add (IMHO) “that little something extra that seems to be missing”, like Vegemite in stews and/or soups.

    -ab

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