Blood On The Snow Review by David Lent
Most wargamers have a “Wall of shame.” It’s a collection of wargames they have never had a chance to play. The reason it’s shameful is because they keep buying more wargames even though they have plenty they haven’t tried yet. Blood On The Snow has been in my “Wall of shame” for years. I’ve decided to try and reduce my “Wall of shame” by playing one of its games a month and this month I’ve chosen Blood on the Snow.
Blood On The Snow is a simulation of The Battle of Suomussalmi in the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Fins only had one infantry division, while the Soviets had two divisions and plenty of tanks. However, the Fins were properly equipped for winter fighting, while the Soviet divisions were not.
The components for this wargame are ok, except for the map. Blood On The Snow’s map has a bizarre color arrangement. The frozen lakes are purple, while frozen forests are blue, white and green. In addition, the hex numbers and hex sides are red. It almost feels like you are being hypnotized while looking at this map. I jokingly asked my opponent if he thought the printer might have accidentally printed a negative of the map. The main reason this game was on my “Wall of shame” so long is because of the map’s strange appearance.
Sequence of Play
1) Determine number of impulses from weather table for the turn
2) Determine what units are out of supply
3) Soviet player determines which division the 9th Army HQ operates with
4) The Finn player picks the number of impulse chits determined by the weather result minus one, but at least three.
5) The Soviet player picks the number of impulse chits determined by the weather result minus one, but at least two. Each Soviet division has its own chits.
1) Draw chit from cup to determine the active player
2) Active player may move and/or fight depending on the chit drawn.
3) Do steps 1 and 2 until all the chits have been drawn
The impulse chits come in five styles: attack, full, half, move and choice. Attack and move are obvious, but full means attack and move and half means move up to half your movement points and attack if you wish. Choice means you may either move or attack. This was a simplified explanation. Some other things may occur on some of these impulse chits such as breaking down full-strength battalions or bringing in reinforcements.
There are two types of attacks that can occur: probes and regular attacks. A probing attacking is done the same way as a regular attack, except all combat results are halved. In addition, there is no advance after combat and the defender may attempt to retreat before combat.
The combat results table for this game is no fun at all, since it greatly favors the defender. To make matters even worse, this CRT doesn’t have retreat results. Instead, losses are taken as follows: the attacker loses the number of steps specified, while the defender takes ½ step losses rounded down and the rest can be taken as hexes of retreat. In essence, the attacker never has the option to retreat and it requires a minimum of 2 step losses on the CRT for one loss to occur to the defender and the rest he retreats. I would have greatly preferred a traditional CRT, which gave BOTH step losses and retreats.
There are some special rules for both the Finns and Soviets in this game for chrome. The Finn rules are Finnish gun crews, which allows the Finn player to convert artillery units into infantry companies. It counts as a loss at the end of the game though. The next special rule allows the Finn player to capture anti-tank guns and put them into use 3 turns later. Ice roads may be constructed by the Finns in secret also. Finn battalions can be broke down into companies also. Last, the Fins sometimes get decoy counters.
The Soviet special rules are Panssari panic and exiting the map. Panssari panic occurs when two or more Soviet armor units are attacking the Soviet player rolls a dice and on a 6 the Finn player loses a step and retreats. Before the retreat though, the Soviet player does a regular attack. Soviet units may exit the map at certain hexes dictated by the scenario to gain extra victory points.
Since the Soviets have armored units and the Finns do not, the game play involves the Finns using weak, but very mobile ski units to try and break the Soviet player’s line of communication. Any Soviet units out of supply attack and defend at half strength and it allows the Finns to actually have a chance of destroying normally powerful Soviet units by surrounding them with numerous weaker Finn units. The Soviets are mostly road bound in this game, since most of the hexes are frozen forests and motorized units move too slowly through them.
Blood on the Snow is a decent game for the Finn player, since it’s fun to use very mobile, but very weak units to cut off Soviet forces and weaken them. However, the game is less exciting for the Soviet player as you are just trying to take roads to your objectives or off the map and hoping you don’t get cut-off and killed. I’m not a big fan of random impulse games. I feel a less chaotic way of giving the Finns more activations than the Soviets would have been better such as IGO-UGO, but the Finns have more units that can activate or something like that. In addition, there is not enough often used information on the player’s aid card. It didn’t even list all the steps that can be taken for the various impulse chits. Grognard.com has a much better player aid you can download here: https://grognard.com/info1/bloodsnow.doc
Overall, I feel this game is ok since it’s fun and there is a lot of movement by the Finns to try and cut lines of communications. It would have been far better if it used some type of mutation of what I call, “Standard Wargame Rules.” It seems the author tried reinventing the wheel instead of using tried and true wargame mechanics. Stacking is even determined by terrain type (which I hate). I had more difficulty learning these rules than in most of the games I’ve played over the years since it doesn’t play similarly to any of the other hundreds of wargames I’ve played from other manufacturers. This is surprising for such a small rulebook. In addition, the game overstays its welcome. E.G. there is no reason why the first scenario should last more than an hour. Last, the hypnotic map was such an eyesore that it distracted from the game play. Despite the negatives I’ve mentioned, I feel it will be ok for somebody trying to simulate this obscure battle.
View the components (including the map) in the unboxing video below: