the russian campaign   

Updated Nov. 23, 2013

Grognard Pre-Con
2013 WBC Report  

 2014 Status: pending 2014 GM commitment

Bert Schoose, IL

2013 Champion

Event History
1991    Rob Beyma      31
1992    Alan Frappier      26
1993    Ed O'Connor      20
1994    Jeff Martin      16
1995    Rob Beyma      16
1996    Tom Gregorio      20
1997    Gary Dickson      24
1998    Gary Dickson      27
1999    Gary Dickson     26
2000    Doug James     30
2001    Phil Evans     27
2002    Tom Gregorio     30
2003     Doug James     30
2004    Tom Gregorio     36
2005     Doug James     33
2006     Doug James     23
2007    Bert Schoose     34
2008     Doug James     27
2009     Doug James     39
2010    Bert Schoose     36
2011    John Ohlin     41
2012     Gary Dickson     31
2013    Bert Schoose     26

PBeM Event History
1999    Gary Dickson      19
2000    Gary Dickson      22
2001    Doug James      23
2002    Gary Dickson      44
2003    Tom Gregorio     40
2006    Doug James     34
2008    Tom Gregorio     31
2010    Gary Dickson     31
2012    Gary Dickson     24


Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Gary Dickson       CA    13    435
  2.  Doug James         NC    13    378
  3.  Tom Gregorio       PA    13    358
  4.  Bert Schoose       IL    13    265
  5.  Rob Beyma          MD    13     96
  6.  George Karahalios  IL    10     86
  7.  John Ohlin         FL    12     81
  8.  Alan Zasada        IL    13     63
  9.  Phil Evans         VA    04     63
 10.  Pat Flory          CT    05     61
 11.  Jeff Martin        CT    10     48
 12.  Ed O'Connor        NJ    12     47
 13.  Art Lupinacci      on    02     40
 14.  Tim Nielsen        VA    11     36
 15.  Joe Collinson      MD    04     36
 16.  Dave Ketchum       FL    04     36
 17.  Mike Pacheco       CA    10     32
 18.  Richard Beyma      VA    12     30
 19.  Joe Angiolillo     CT    10     24
 20.  Gregory M. Smith   PA    12     22
 21.  Ari Kogut          TX    12     22
 22.  Michael Kaye       MD    12     20
 23.  Scott Abrams       CA    06     16
 24.  Forrest Pafenberg  VA    06     16
 25.  Allen Kaplan       NJ    05     16
 26.  Jim Eliason        IA    05     14
 27.  John Popiden       CA    07     12
 28.  Michael Mitchell   GA    06     12
 29.  Roy Walker         uk    08     10
 30.  Jeff Lange         ae    04     10
 31.  Brad Frisby        MD    01      8
 32.  John Bullis        WI    02      6
 33.  Mike Mishler       CA    12      5
 34.  Rob McCracken      DE    05      5
 35.  John Ryan          FL    07      4
 36.  Alex Gregorio      PA    08      3
 37.  Larry Hollern      TX    08      3
 38.  Marty Musella      VA    99      3

2013 Laurelists                                       Repeating Laurelists: 

Gary Dickson, CA

Richard Beyma, VA

Alan Zasada, IL

Doug James, NC

Tom Gregorio, PA

Past Winners

Rob Beyma, MD
1991, 1995

Alan Frappier, CT

Ed O'Connor, NJ

Jeff Martin, CT

Tom Gregorio, PA
'96, '02, '04

Gary Dickson, CA
1997-1999, 2012

Doug James, NC
00, 03, 05-'06, 08-09

Phil Evans, VA

Bert Schoose, IL
2007, 2010, 2013

John Ohlin, FL

Wayne Saunders and Michael Trobaugh battle it out on the steppes. Michael led the field with 13 games played.

Greg Smith and Tom Gregorio meet in a lean year for the GM who had to watch the playoffs for a change.

Charles Catania in his 12th TRC game vs Mike Mishler

Ten titles reside with the Schoose-Dickson finalists and their GM.

The Tools of Success ...

It's been 23 years that TRC has been run at WBC and this GM has had the privilege of participating in all but one. Having been the GM for the last 14, I've seen champions arrive with gaming fervor and fury while others have moved on to greener pastures where meeples and plastic figurines roam. Through it all, however, the attributes a TRC champion must possess to win in TRC have stayed constant: Endurance, Cleverness, and Style.

Before I delve too far into how this year's winners exemplified these traits on the cardboard battlefield, it's worth highlighting some statistics from this year's event. There was a decline in both players and games played with the figures being 26 and 65 respectively. Some of the regular stalwarts did not show and, in this GM's opinion, the gaming cornucopia that is WBC provides sufficient distraction for those seeking other forms of hexagonal glory. The inevitable aging of the grognards, in my opinion, requires that efforts must be redoubled to draw in both new players as well as former players who have moved on to lighter fare.

The scenario itself is fairly well known with this being the seventh year that the 5-turn scenario was used. This scenario allows players to get a match completed in a reasonable four hours or less, while giving both the opportunity to attack and defend. Balance seems adequate with the Germans winning 50.8% of the matches this year.

The bidding has continued to drift ever higher with bids now between 14 and 15 replacement factors being accorded the Russians over the five turns of the scenario. By the medal rounds, however, the bids are even higher, the average this year was 23. It appears there's a strong desire to play the Germans in the final rounds with them winning two of the three single elimination phase matches.

The weather for the 5-turn scenario features a 50-50 chance of being Light Mud / Light Mud or Clear / Snow in Sep/Oct and Nov/Dec 1941. That being said, however, this year the Clear / Snow weather combination only occurred 25 out of 65 times which was significantly below what would normally be expected. Most Germans seem to feel that it's 'easier' to win when Light Mud is rolled and I personally agree. Unfortunately, for many Germans, most Russians know that two light mud weather turns can result in the Red Army being demolished and thus bias their July/August defenses towards a light mud Sep/Oct weather outcome. (Example: The Red army tries to defend five hexes away from the Germans so that they are out of reach on the first impulse of Turn 3. Even better, particularly in the North, don't defend at all and count on the rains to keep the Germans away from targets like Leningrad, Kalinin, and Bryansk!)

One unexpected trend observed was a sharp decline in the number of games decided by the capture of Moscow in 1941. Only one of the game records indicated that this happened which I found quite surprising given the proclivity some folks have for pursuing the quick knockout. (In the 5-turn scenario, the Germans win immediately if they control Moscow during 1941.) My belief is that this decrease was driven by more people using Baltic and Western Military District setups that inhibited the all-out blitzkrieg pushes on the Russian capital.

Three key attributes got us through nine 15-hour days of TRC goodness in Lancaster this summer:

Endurance: No fewer than six players got ten or more games of TRC in during the course of the week. Michael Trobaugh was the TRC Iron Man with 13 matches and Charlie Catania was close behind with an even dozen. Looking at the top six finishers, at the end of the Grognard phase of the event, eight matches, including six wins, was generally sufficient to garner a spot in the single elimination portion of the tournament. There was one individual match that went six hours, with players 'working' the board the whole time, but most other matches finished in under five hours with more than a few ending in the 2-3 hour range.

Cleverness: Turn 5 is replete with tales of 'end-of-the-world' heroics. Experienced players know to NEVER give in if opportunities for low-odds attacks capturing victory points exist. Assemble enough of these, however and the underdog in the individual battles is statistically the favored player! Gone are the days of Paratroops or sea invasions capturing unwary German controlled cities on the last turn; savvy Russians are setting up combinations involving "Attacker Retreat" outcomes on both first and second impulses to get far into the Nazi rear areas. In return, Germans are throwing caution, and casualties, to the wind and relentlessly attacking in the snows of both Nov/Dec 1941 and Jan/Feb 1942! It matters not if much of the German army is dead on the last turn if the Russians can't reach the cities they need to recapture. Knowing how to smother, leaving a big stack next to a heavily defended objective at the end of your second impulse, as always, is a bedrock tactic for experienced players. Demonstrating their understanding of the scenario construction, many Germans are going all-out in Nov/Dec, even with low-odds attacks, because that buffer of an extra VP or two is often critical. But caution is just as important - putting TWO defenders in a Black Sea port can be crucial so as to ensure that even a 1-2 is not feasible.

Style: Being able to adapt to the vagaries of the dice is a fundamental skill at higher levels of play. In a nutshell, if you're playing someone of equivalent skill, and are losing, then you MUST take more chances. Counting on an experienced opponent to make a serious mistake is a mistake in and of itself - the 5-turn scenario is just not long enough for one to build a winning position by accumulating a series of incremental advantages. If, as the Russians, you feel you are losing going into Turn 2, then perhaps it's time to switch from positional play to a strong counterattacking style. More than one game ended early this year because the Russians launched a series of attacks on Turn 1 or 2 that resulted in a significant number of Panzer or HQ losses. Conversely, if you're ahead, you want to minimize opportunities for your opponent to capitalize on luck. That means that you don't expose Leningrad or Moscow to 1-2 attacks, you defend against possible moves that will hamper your mobility next turn, and, most importantly, you set up so that, should you lose a critical battle, you'll have the men and material to mount your own counterattacks.

Single Elimination:

Semifinal 1
In the Schoose-Beyma semifinal, Bert was well aware of Richard's tendencies to take long-shots. Bert matched that style early and launched numerous Russian counterattacks. He was rewarded with the recapture of Odessa as well as securing some key positions that would severely cramp the mobility of the Wehrmacht on subsequent turns. Richard then got clever and set up a Turn 3, clear weather, bounce-off assault opportunity aimed at Moscow and STAVKA. Unfortunately, the German 4-1 that would clear the way to Moscow resulted in a "Contact" result which effectively shut down the assault in that direction. Leningrad fell to a German 1-1 but Bert's Red Army responded by holding Odessa against two German 1-1 assaults. Richard then smothered Kharkov and nestled up next to Bryansk. The Germans still had a chance of winning but the Red Army would persevere, however, by countering the German forces at Kharkov and leveraging a little luck of their own to wipe out several German panzers next to Kharkov as well as blow out the German forces next to Bryansk. With the reinforcement of Odessa now yielding a defensive strength to 22 going into a snow turn, Richard's Germans threw in the towel. A lot of action for three quick turns!

Semifinal 2
Defending champ Gary Dickson had the honor of leading the Germans against Alan Zasada. The Germans made good progress, capturing Kiev on Turn 2 and taking Leningrad, Stalino and Kharkov on low-odds attacks on Turn 3. Alan surged back, however, and drove the Axis out of Kharkov and back to the outskirts of Smolensk. An ill-advised German counterattack at 4-1 vs a defender in woods, resulting in a first impulse contact, compromised Gary's position, and left Alan with a chance to win if he captured Smolensk. The initial Soviet 1-1 failed which denied the possibility to win on a second impulse 2-1; Gary escaped for the win with exactly the VPs needed to advance.

The stage was now set for the TRC clash of former champions. Gary had been paying attention and his Russian defense was a version of a defense that Bert had used earlier. Bert got off to a bad start with many Russian defenders able to retreat during the opening assault. Unfortunately, for Gary, his 3-1's failed to free all his pocketed defenders so he went from having plenty of defenders in the south to being very shorthanded. The dead Russians were so numerous that a forearm was used to sweep them away! Bert quickly shifted to a very attritional strategy in the south while his relatively weaker forces were able to maintain drives on Leningrad and Smolensk.

WIth the arrival of Clear weather on Turn 3, the Germans had the air power to support a sea invasion that resulted in the capture of Rostov. German forces also got into the woods outside of Moscow - this kind of move is often instrumental to bogging the Russians down in the center. Bert also managed to secure Dnepropetrovsk and Leningrad while weakly smothering Stalino and Sevastopol. (Sevastopol saw a rare Dickson gaffe - he overlooked the opportunity to bring in a defender to mount a low-odds counterattack that would have had a chance to save the city.) The Russians securely held Kharkov but their lone defender in Bryansk was swept away on Turn 4 because the Russians couldn't get anything else into the city. On Turn 4 the Russians smothered Rostov and secured it, and Stalino on Turn 5. Russian cleverness also saw Minsk fall but, with the final score at -1, the Germans secured their win and the Russians didn't even play out their half of turn 5 to completion. Bert now joins the ranks of the TRC three-time Champions!

Closing Thoughts
TRC continues to be an exciting ride with many thinking of further tournament scenario adjustments - stay tuned! For many, this event is a mainstay at WBC and hopefully it will continue to bring in both wily veterans and inquisitive newcomers. Regardless of what the future holds for this classic game, those who can endure numerous games, master the many tactical nuances of play, and learn and adapt to new strategies and situations will continue to find success on the hexed terrain of Mother Russia.

 GM      Tom Gregorio  [14th Year]   1650 Chadwyck Place, Blue Bell, PA 19422    NA

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