Friday, July 22, 2011

Yeah, yeah, busy busy busy.

Obviously, I've been really busy, but I swear I'm not done blogging yet!  I won't get into all the various things that are keeping me away from the computer here (you can look on my other blog for that, it's not very interesting though, I promise).

The important thing is that I'm going to try to blog more.

I don't know if I'll ever get my various battle reports up from PrezCon, mainly because it's been so long now that my memory faded.  We ended up leaving from it early, but still got a few other games in that I haven't posted about: Imperium and Triumph of Chaos come to mind immediately.  Man, Triumph of Chaos has potential to be a fantastic game, but it's going to have to be one I'll need to own to play it effectively.  I need to actually study a few of the parts of the game to see why I would want to do certain things, or to see the penalties from playing certain cards, etc.  One day.

Upon coming home from PrezCon, I broke out (at the time) ATO's newest issue: The Lash of the Turk.  Played one of the scenarios solo.  I really like the overall flow and rules of the game, but it needed some errata (for instance, the setup was completely screwy).  Also, the siege rules are bit peculiar.  It's one of those eras of history that doesn't seem to get enough games covering though, so I'm definitely going to give it some slack.  Again, maybe someday I'll post pictures and a report of that game.  More likely, however, is that when I play it again, I'll post THAT.

Rob and I have been playing occasional games of Combat Commander.  We've been eyeing the Stalingrad campaign game, so maybe in another few weeks we'll do that.  Combat Commander is a blast, but I swear that has to be the most complicated game in existence.

I still do my ASL playtesting when I have time to.  I won't say I'm decent yet, but I'm certainly getting better at playing.  Every time I play it, I'm just reminded how great a game it is.  I have dreams of playing a lot of the scenarios solo (and even grander dreams of running some of those massive Valor of the Guards scenarios *drool), but it won't be for a bit.

Regardless, I'm sure I wasn't missed much, but I'll be coming back with some new posts, I promise.  I've been trying to tackle Fields of Fire lately, so I suspect there will be some posts on that coming up soon.

See you guys soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy (Book Review)

David Stevenson's Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy may be the best coverage of the First World War ever written. This terse, detail filled tome covers, in incredible detail, the political, financial, logistical, and strategic decisions and challenges faced by all of the belligerents.

When I was in middle school, our coverage of World War I started with a class exercise. We broke into groups, were given a written description of our groups’ thoughts (basically- ‘You have an agreement with so and so group to fight a war if they join one, but here’s why you might not want to’), and a group was told that one of their leaders was assassinated. Soon, the entire class was at war. The goal was to show that politicians weren’t so much in control of this war- events just spiraled out of their control, and the result was a conflict resulting in millions of deaths and effects which are still felt today.

Cataclysm challenges that view- it shows, in great detail that politicians deliberately made choices to both initiate the war, and continue it despite appalling casualties. Most importantly, it presents this case in an unbiased fashion as possible- you won’t find much in the way of assigning blame to one country or group in here.

The book is broken into four major parts, and I feel it’s probably handy to at least mention them for and understanding of this book’s value.

In Part One, Outbreak, Stevenson examines the causes of the war- from the decisions taken by politicians after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife to the various diplomatic factors faced by Germany and Austria prior to this event, to the tensions caused by the Balkan Wars, to a bunch of other things. I feel this is probably one of the strongest sections of the book- the causes of World War I are one of the most studied topics in history because there are SO MANY factors that went into it. This book does a fantastic job covering them all. The central theme is, of course, that World War I was a controlled event- the politicians from BOTH sides knew (at least partially) what their actions would cause, and chose them anyway. The first part ends with coverage of the initial attacks in the first year, and the difficulties faced on the Eastern and Western fronts- including why the front lines didn’t advance on West for 4 years, and the ones in the East didn’t move very far to start. It also describes why the Germans chose to keep their fleets at port, instead of going out to attack the various British troopships when they were vulnerable (since the British fleets at Scapa Flow probably couldn’t have arrived in time). The desire to not risk the fleet, keeping it as a ‘political instrument’ would of course present the Germans with problems later- Stevenson shows us early on the decisions made by the Central Powers that ended up hurting them.

Part Two, Escalation, nominally covers the middle of the war- from spring of 1915 to spring of 1917. As we know, there were several major battles during this period- Verdun, Somme, and Cambrai, for instance are all well known. Despite this, the advancements of defensive warfare meant that no advances were made, so in the long run, there isn’t a lot of historical interest that happened (‘escalation and stalemate, both sides applying rising levels of violence yet failing to terminate the impasse’ according to the book). However, instead of boring the reader with page after page of inaction, Stevenson chooses to examine the issues that kept the war going as well as examining, by country, the various issues facing them, from manpower shortages, to morale, to economics, and into new logistical, tactical, and technological advances. He does a great job blending the information in- although the information is fairly terse at times, the information is presented in a way that shows, at each step, how it influenced the course of the war. One thing to note about this section is that coverage of the war is only briefly chronological- much of the section is devoted to discussions about the various topics and how they influenced later parts of the war- not so much when they happened during it.

Also covered in this section are the war aims of the various countries. The people of a country won’t support a war without knowing why they’re fighting, after all. Some of the works towards finding a peace (or in the case of Germany, trying to use peace feelers as a way to split their enemies) are covered here.

Part Three, Outcome, covers the Russian Revolution, the American entrance into the war, the final push of the Central Powers and the collapse of their armies, and their eventual ceasefire and surrender. The causes, progress, and results of the Russian Revolution, are perfectly blended into Stevenson’s coverage of World War I, and the same great amount of detail is put into it as the war itself.

The reasons behind the American involvement in the war, from the various political reasons to the Zimmerman Telegram are covered, but once in the war, the actual fighting the Americans were involved with was very briefly stated, although their presence was ‘indispensable’ to the Allies’ victory.

Also, the various tactical/operational improvements are discussed, especially prior to the Central Powers’ 1918 offensive, which met with early success but eventually drained the German manpower too much to allow them to continue the offensives, or even effectively defend themselves during the renewed Allied attacks. Also discussed is the role of Ludendorff’s mental breakdown in the eventual fall of Germany.

The final part of the book is titled Legacy. Given the grand scope of the war, and its influence to later world history, it’s an apt title. A few different issues are discussed here. First, the Treaty of Versailles, reparations, and the League of Nations are all briefly discussed. The eventual bitterness towards the treaty certainly contributed to the rise of nationalist groups in Germany after the war, so you couldn’t talk about World War I without discussing them. Much of this section, however, is concerned with covering the breakdown of the cohesion of the Allied powers, their reasons for their laxity in enforcing the treaty, and indeed the eventual rise of the Third Reich (although Stevenson makes a point to show that the events of the 1930s and later were not inevitable, but they were more difficult to defuse because of earlier choices). One of the primary reasons mentioned for the breakdown of peace is the lack of American or Russian involvement in post-war security.

I would recommend this book for anyone interested in World War I- unless you’re only interest is in the individual battles occurring during the war. Although the book covers the overall strategic decisions made by the powers fighting, comparatively little is written about individual battles. The Battle of Verdun gets about 3 pages of coverage, and some battles (for instance, the Second Battle of the Marne) get only passing mention. There are plenty of resources for readers interested in that. Cataclysm contains a 21 page bibliography- I’m almost certain you could find a perfect book for any topic you’d want listed in there.

If you’re interested in the politics behind war, and the various processes a country has to undertake to keep a war running, as well as the strategy and flow of World War I, I don’t think you’ll find a better book than Cataclysm. My only warning is that this is NOT an easy read- it’s going to take you a month to get through this, but it’s well worth it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Received Four Roads to Moscow!

So, early last week, I received my copy of Four Roads to Moscow, the 2010 Annual from Against the Odds Magazine.  This issue is particularly exciting, because not only does it include a game covering Operation Barbarossa, but rather it includes FOUR games on the topic, from four different designers (John Prados, Roger Nord, Ted Raicer, Michael Rinella), each with its own style and rules.

I haven't had a chance to play any of them yet, but man the product looks good.  I managed to get the last ATO release (Lash of the Turk) on the table- even though I've been really slow posting things on here!- so I'm really excited to see that they are getting on the ball this year.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Battle Report: Combat Commander: Stalingrad, Scenario 35- Spartakovka Salient

The next wargame played by Rob and me at PrezCon was a scenario from Combat Commander: Stalingrad.  The eventual goal for the convention was to break this out and actually give the campaign system a shot, but to start we needed to just play a game to get the rules for the system back in our head.

We chose to play the first scenario of the Stalingrad battle pack, Spartakovka Salient, which depicts elements of the German 16th Panzer Division fighting through some rear-line Russian units in an attempt to get to the Volga River (which I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure they succeeded at).  This scenario is different for this pack, since it's the only one that doesn't use any of the new Stalingrad special rules (rubble, the urban sniper, etc) since they aren't in the city quite yet.

I was playing the Germans, and Rob was the Russians.  The Russians have fewer and poorer troops, whereas the Germans get reinforcements who are fairly elite.  Since Objective W was an open objective, we both knew that exiting squads off the opposing side would be worth double victory points.  I drew chit F for my secret objective, which listed that Objective #2 (the one on the far side of the board, to the right) would be worth 2 VPs.  Rob drew one as well.

We did our set up, Rob first.


After Rob's setup, I began mine (also seen above) and formulated my plan for the battle.  Given that units exiting off the map were worth double, and given the superior quality of my troops, that needed to be my goal.  I'd lock Rob's main force (which you can see in the above picture) down with significantly fewer units, and advance the rest off of the board, claiming Objective #2 along the way.  Each squad leaving would be worth 4 victory points, plus I'd get the squads back the next turn.  Can't argue with that.

Of course, the wrinkle in my plan is that Rob is listed as the scenario defender.  That means he gets a LOT of extra abilities through the cards to hinder me.  Mines, wire, and all sorts of tricky things would be thrown at me to slow me down.

I begin the game by moving up on the right, into the woods, with a few squads plus a leader.  My mortar takes a shot up the road into the woods, and I get a Time! trigger, but the shot has no effect.  Turns in Combat Commander, for those who have never played, are determined by these Time! triggers- many random events happen during the game because of various triggers, as we'll see.  Regardless, a Time! trigger in this scenario is a huge help to the defender (Rob) who not only gets a victory point, but also gets the game closer to ending (the game potentially ends any time after turn 7).

Rob tries to take a few shots at me, but doesn't accomplish anything.  He decides to send a Russian squad down the road to the right of the lake, to try to make me hesitant to advance around and off the map.  I Op Fire at him and manage to break him, however.

On my turn, I shoot at the broken squad in the open, killing it (and giving me 2 Victory Points).

Rob and I then take turns discarding cards (instead of playing cards during your turn, you have the option to discard a few cards with the hopes of getting a better hand- if one person discards, it's not generally a bad idea for the other player to do so as well, since he is basically given a free turn), but Rob plays an action once I discard to get some reinforcements- rolls, and gets another Militia squad (big help there).  He then continues to shoot at me, but again accomplishes nothing.

I'm saddled with a hand of Command Confusions and Artillery Request/Denied cards... which are worthless in this scenario since we have no radios.  I discard again.

Rob's shooting finally gets some results, as he breaks my closest German leader.  With no Recover card in my hand, I have to just hope I stay lucky enough to keep him there (without a leader, it's hard to move my Germans in groups).

We trade a turn of me moving and him shooting to no effect, then on my turn, I finally some useful orders for once.  I advance a Rifle Squad into melee with the Russian squad closest to me.  Rob uses a Hidden Mines action which ends up breaking me, and I respond with two Ambush actions to kill his squad, followed by a No Quarter action to get some extra victory points.  Can't complain about getting Victory Points!

Rob begins opening fire into my broken squad and leader, hoping for some kills, and succeeds in killing the broken Rifle squad.  Some shooting also suppresses my Weapon team with the mortar (which has been rolling 4s all game for shooting, by the way).  The leader recovers on my turn, and I begin moving them up the right, towards Objective #2 and freedom.

I believe Rob ran out of cards here, which is a free Time! trigger, much to my chagrin.

He follows this up by breaking my Weapon team, but isn't sure what to do about my guys on the right.  I follow this up by bringing on my reinforcements- a bunch of elite squads to help deliver the hurt to the Russians!  I work on moving my entire army up, but Rob uses some Hidden Wire actions to shut down my movement towards the top of the map (guess he was sure what to do ;) ).  Rob doesn't accomplish anything on his turn, and I move out of the wire, and up some more.

Rob moves a leader, and I take a shot, drawing a 5 for my attack roll, which I use the Initiative card to re-draw, and get a 4 instead.  Rob of course grabs a 12 for the defense roll, which is another Time! trigger for him.  Sigh.

After several rounds of us shooting at each other, I do manage to break one of his squads in the woods to the left, but he manages to Rout it out of there and into safety (and eventually recovers).

I also, over the course of a few rounds, move point blank to his lone squad on Objective #2, and advance into it, killing the squad, and claiming the objective.  My shooting also breaks another Russian squad.  Rob isn't exactly idle, but his shooting isn't doing a whole lot (breaking or suppressing my weapon team a few times, but I keep recovering).  He doesn't want to move out of the building, since it's an objective, and he doesn't know what mine is, and he can't really get the guys out of the woods on my left because I'll take chunks out of them as they try.  He's just stuck waiting until I get things off the board, and trying to recover from that.

After drawing through my deck (another Time! trigger), I oblige him.  My two squads and 1-command leader exit the board, giving me 12 Victory Points, finally moving the VP marker to my side of the track (oh yeah- the VP marker starts on the 11 space on the Russian side of the track ;) ).  These squads will come back on as reinforcements next time there's a Time! trigger.  Some of my shooting then causes a Walking Wounded Event! which lets me bring back a squad.  I now have a lot of guys on the board, and coming on.

Rob figures that I might have the Objective #2 chit, so moves back to reclaim it, and again continues to shoot at me, without effect.  I then discard cards again, and Rob again plays the action to give him a reinforcement roll, this time getting an Assault squad with a Flamethrower.

We don't wait long for it to influence the game.  Rob sends him into melee with the adjacent German squad, and we tie on the combat draws, wiping everything out (a net gain of like 4 Victory Points, I think).  On top of that, Rob's next shot gives us another Time! trigger, bringing the game closer to the end. 

I focus on moving things up and around, but groan as I draw 4 Recover cards when I refill my hand.  That slows me down for a turn as I discard them.

Rob has decided to start trying to get the game over.  He shoots, but fires as many individual low strength shots as he can in order to increase the chances of either of us drawing Time! triggers.  He doesn't get any yet- but does manage to draw another objective chit.  Realizing I'm going to be pressed for time, I move up quickly (dropping some smoke next to me to help protect me from shooting), but shoot and break another Russian squad.  Rob responds on his turn by playing a Recover card... unfortunately the Event drawn ends up killing the Russian before the roll could've recovered him.

I finally make it up to Objective #2, and have a move order in my hand to blow the game open next turn.  However, Rob finally gets lucky- his shooting brings up a Time! trigger, and we are now at the point where we roll for the game end.  It doesn't happen yet though.  However, my Defense roll brings up ANOTHER Time! trigger, and this time the game does end.  I never got a chance to move those guys off :(.

Ah well, we move onto figuring out the final score.  Due to casualties and the turn I moved units off the board before, the victory point marker was at 1 on his side.  My objective chit gave me 2 victory points for control of Objective #2.  Rob's objective chits were L and J, which were 3 Victory Points for Objective #4 (controlled by me), and 2 Victory Points for Objective #5 (controlled by him).  That means we ended with a net score of 2 Victory Points for me- a very narrow win!

This scenario has a very different feel than any I've played with Combat Commander so far, and it was certainly a good time.   Rob's shooting wasn't very effective, and a lot of that was due to poor luck.  He had several good turns of fortune though, so it probably evened out.  Overall, my luck was good as well.  Rob thinks that his main mistake was setting up too far forward.  I don't know if it would've helped, but it may have.  I mean, he was close to winning as is- one or two more things going his way may have done it.  Had the game gone another turn, I would've ended up with a pretty significant win.

Hopefully we'll get a campaign started one of these days.  Just another thing to add to the to-do list.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Battle Report: Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honour, Scenario 2- Cavalry Charge!

The first game Rob and I brought out at PrezCon was Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honour.  I had received this for Christmas, and I was really excited to put it on the table.  After realizing I didn't have the trucks handy to do Scenario 1, we decided to play Scenario 2, called Cavalry Charge!  It depicts the Charge at Krojanty, where the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans Regiment bravely slowed the advance of a German infantry regiment which was supported by some armored vehicles.

In the scenario, a forward German force is pounced upon by a numerically superior Polish force with significant cavalry support, with another small German force 'behind the lines' coming in as reinforcements.  The Germans get an armored car coming on mid-game for support, which should be a little problematic for the Polish, who don't have too much in the way of anti-tank support here.

I played the Germans, Rob took the Polish.  Conflict of Heroes is an interesting game, as we'll see, because the turns are very integrated- there's no 'I go- you go' mechanic going on here.  Both players' units are moving and acting one right after the other, and interrupting each other's actions.  It means that the battle report here will actually have several things going on at once, so it should be... well, interesting.

Turn 1:
The Polish cavalry comes on board, and I turn the nearest squad around to face them, hoping to make them more cautious about coming in at me.  Rob, to try to draw off my activations, used CPs to bring on some other units adjacent to the cavalry, and I oblige by shooting at them, but don't do anything.  He uses a Dual Attack card to unload into a Rifle Squad, killing it, and I return fire, damaging one of his AT Rifles.  Rob's cavalry decides to charge into my LMG unit....

And kills it pretty easily.

I use the card I drew to put a Hasty Defense on top of another LMG, hoping to use the unit to buy some time for my guys to back up and link up with my reinforcements.

Rob responds by moving his cavalry into the building, claiming the objective, and putting a lot of pressure on my guys who are still in the open.

I fire a few ineffective shots, and Rob's cavalry reinforcements come on and get behind my advance force, making a retreat a bit more difficult.  They get there pretty much untouched, despite some shooting by another of my Rifle Squads.  I manage to put some small damage on one of them, I believe.

With nowhere to go, I have my squads continue taking shots at the Polish forces surrounding them, causing a hit on one of the Horses in the building, but not really doing a whole lot else.  My first group of reinforcements gets in position in one of the other buildings (out of the picture).

Turn 2:
I continue into the second turn by shooting, but I don't get any effect out of it, primarily due to some poor shooting die rolls.  Rob's HMG comes on the board and starts moving towards the south-western objective.  My reinforcements work to get into position for the inevitable Polish advance on the other objectives, and I try to get some results up on the front, but my shooting just can't seem to do anything.  Rob eventually rolls over my front German lines, and I'm left only with the reinforcements to fight the Polish tide.

German reinforcements almost in position.

And on the east side, the Polish have cleared out the German units.

Turn 3:
Rob and I start the turn by dancing around the southern objective.  Rob uses his HMG to advance towards the objective, and I counter by having my Rifles move onto the objective.  Rob moves his HMG and a supporting Uhlan, I believe around the objective, trying to get an opening to shoot at the Rifle without taking a shot in return.  The Uhlan moves into line of sight of my supporting LMG and takes a hit from CP shooting, but thankfully the HMG decides to back off, and the objective is fairly safe. 

The LMG finishes off the Uhlan and my LMG helping defend the northwestern objective moves forward a bit and starts taking pot shots at the Polish stacks, doing some significant damage (I think I ended up putting hits on 4 out of 6 counters in one stack in a single shot).  Rob works to rally them to begin the late-game push, but doesn't get too many of them back quickly.

German situation in the west.

Polish situation in the East.

Turn 4:
This is a helpful turn for the Germans, since a SdKfz 231 (an armored car) comes on the board as a reinforcement.  Just as happened historically, the Polish really don't have a lot of tools with them handy which can easily take it down- those Anti-Tank Rifles need an 11 on 2d6 to put a hit on it if they aren't point blank (and don't have help).

My LMG starts the turn out by shooting some more at those vulnerable Polish stacks, continuing to do a bunch of damage, and giving me some VPs (I'm pretty far behind at this point).  Rob focuses his efforts on the bottom objective, finally clearing it out, and claiming it, depriving me of 5 VPs, and gaining 2 for himself.

My armored car comes on, moves into a supporting position, but doesn't manage to deal any damage on the Polish attackers.

Rob ends the turn by running an ATR right behind the Armored Car- a certain way to have me sweating starting next turn.

Turn 5:
I win the initiative, and turn, preparing to get the vehicle to safety.  Rob happily fires his ATR, getting a hit, but thankfully the damage draw is damage to the gun... meaning I can't fire at vehicles.  No loss there. 

The vehicle gets free, and I start putting the pressure on the southern objective, shrugging off the ATR fire in the meantime, and taking a pot shot at the ATR, putting a hit on it.  I charge in and start unloading on the unit there, but don't manage to do anything worthwhile.  Rob and I trade shots, but nothing much is done, and the game ends with me impotent to get anything done to change the result.

We calculated the Victory Points.  Rob had killed 8 of my units, and had taken 2 of the objectives, giving him 12 VPs.  I killed 9 units (mostly horses), and didn't control both B11 and G17 (just one), meaning I ended with 9 VPs, a Polish victory!

I'm guessing, the next time I play, that I shouldn't bother trying to fight with those front units- just get them running to the back objectives, and work harder to hold them.  Holding both the back objectives is worth 5 VPs to the Germans, which is pretty significant.  Combined with a few casualties as the Polish advanced past the first guys, that would probably be enough to win.

I haven't played this game since Awakening the Bear, and it's undergone some pretty serious changes.  I really like the new version however, a lot more than the previous one.  The components are still beautiful, but the basic game mechanic is so involved that you never feel like you have down time, even horridly outnumbered there's still a lot you need to do every turn.

We finished our first day at PrezCon by playing a game of Dust Tactics, but I'll throw some pictures of that when I'm done with my wargame battle reports.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A shortened PrezCon

Well, sadly, my PrezCon trip was cut short by an emergency, and having to drive Rob back from Charlottesville to make a Saturday morning flight.  That meant I was there from Wednesday night until about 1700 Friday.

In that time, I did manage to get a decent amount of gaming in, however:
  • Combat Commander: Stalingrad
  • Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honour
  • Dust Tactics
  • Earth Reborn
  • Imperium
  • Incursion
  • Triumph of Chaos
No ASL Starter Kits or Napoleon's Triumph, I'm afraid.  Not too shabby otherwise :).

I had a decent amount of time on Saturday after doing some cleaning and recovering from my screwed up sleep schedule, so I managed to get in a few solo games of the new ATO release which was waiting for me- 'The Lash of the Turk', plus the bonus game, 'When the West Came East'.

This upcoming week I'll make sure to post a bunch of playthroughs and pictures.  Looking forward to getting them up!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Battle Report: Nations at War: WSR Basic Scenario 3: Vierville, France

Another report that still is about a month old, but at least now I'll be caught up, so that once I come back from PrezCon I can start posting about my time there immediately!

Rob and I played Nations at War's 3rd basic scenario back in January.  This scenario depicts a battle after Omaha Beach to take the town of Vierville-sur-Mer.  In game, the 507th PIR is defending Ville Sur Le Fleuve against a few German infantry formations- the Schtz.Btl.107 and the Kampfgruppe Beck.  This scenario is all infantry, and is pretty light even on the support pieces (a couple of HMGs).  It's just about the Germans grinding control of the town against outnumbered American defenders.

I played the Americans, and seeing that the Germans would have to cross at least some open ground to get to me, set up fairly far forward.  I kept a unit back so that I had a safe path to move through if I had to abandon one of the positions.  The Germans enter from the South board edge on the first turn, so don't start on the board, but automatically get an activation to start the game.

Turn 1:
The Schtz.Btl.107 formation gets its free activation, and Rob moved his units on and up.

The river doesn't exist for this scenario, by the way.  Having done that, the Schtz.Btl.107 formation chit is put back into the cup, meaning there's a chance that the German formation could move twice in the first turn.

Next chit draw was the 507th PIR.  I had nothing in sight, so I just repositioned a little bit, but tried to keep as much un-moved as possible in case I had a chance to Opportunity Fire.

The first End Turn chit was drawn next.  As the scenario defender, that's always great news- if the German formations can ever go a turn without being activated, it'll really help my chances!  However, it didn't matter in this case, as the Schtz.Btl.107 chit was drawn before the second End Turn chit.

The Germans continued advancing as quickly as possible, and I opened fire on a German unit entering the woods, disrupting it.

Turn 2:
We drew the first End Turn chit immediately, much to Rob's unhappiness.  Unfortunately, a German-less turn wasn't meant to be yet, and we drew the Schtz.Btl.107 chit immediately after. 

The disrupted German unit rallied, and the formation began its work.  The HQ and Inf unit opened fire on the nearest of my Para Inf units, getting a single hit which I couldn't save, disrupting it.  Rob moved his other German unit into the woods, and prepared to begin the assault.  His first unit moved into the open, and I destroyed it by fire from my HQ/Para Inf stack.  The second unit moved in to assault my disrupted unit, and succeeds in killing it.  The Para Inf who was right behind the just destroyed unit attempted to Op Fire, but to no effect.

Next chit draw was the second End Turn, ending the turn.

Turn 3:
On this turn, Rob received some reinforcements- the Kampfgruppe Beck formation is added to the chit cup, and enters on the board from the south to help with the German push.

The first chit draw is the recently added KG Beck formation, which advances onto the board, well out of my line of sight.

My 507th is activated next.  I move my non-stacked Para Inf units back, to buy me some time.  My HQ and Para Inf stack fires at the Infantry unit in the woods, disrupting it.

It's not a big help, as the Schtz.Btl.107 chit is drawn next, and Rob immediately rallies the disrupted unit.  He decides to go after my HQ, and begins by firing his Infantry with an HMG at my HQ/Para Inf stack, dealing 1 hit that I fail to negate- I'm not disrupted and still Ops Complete).  Not good.  He moves in to assault with 2 of his Infantry units, healing 3 hits to my one, and killing my HQ.  Now, since I have no front-line defenders, he moves his other unit into the city uncontested.

Not a good turn for the Americans!

Turn 4:
Followed by an amazing turn for the Americans.  The first two chits drawn are both End Turn chits!

Turn 5:
The Schtz.Btl.107 chit is drawn to start the turn, and they press the advantage, moving their units through the city.  When Rob moves his HQ and two infantry units up, I take a shot with one of my Para Inf units, and deal 2 hits, disrupting both of his units.  The Para Inf who shot didn't get off easy though, and was assaulted by another two units, dealing 4 hits while receiving 2 in response (disrupting both attackers).

The 507th chit is drawn, and fortunately, I get a few reinforcements this turn as well (2 more Para Inf units).  They advance on from my left, and I move them towards the rear of the city, thinking that I might try sending one the long way around to draw off some attackers.  My now reduced HQ and a Para Inf unit shoot at an adjacent German stack, and deal 2 hits, with Rob failing to save either of them.  More disruption!

Since the turn can't end without KG Beck getting a shot to activate, they do so, and advance up further.

Turn 6:
KG Beck gets another shot to activate, and move up.  I Opportunity Fire with my Para Inf and the reduced HQ, rolling 3 hits.  Rob negates one of them, but I'll still take the disruptions.

Both End of Turn chits are drawn next.  Turns like these are really going to help my chances!

Turn 7:
The Schtz.Btl.107 formation chit is drawn, and naturally, Rob rallies all of his disrupted units.  His nearest Infantry unit shoots at my Para Inf/HQ stack, and disrupts me, but the HQ again dies.  He then assaults that unit, dealing 4 hits and receiving none in return.  The rest of his formation moves into position and corners me.

Our first End Turn chit is drawn and then the 507th chit is drawn.  I decide that I'm not going to be able to loop my guys around, sadly, and just moves everything in to prepare for the final rush.

The second End Turn chit is drawn, ending the turn.  Things are looking really bad for me now, but it's not over!  Although it'd be better if it was...

Turn 8:
This turn is started by KG Beck activating, and moving up to lend the support Rob needed to push through.  Their advance is slowed, however, when I Op Fire at their advancing units, and deal 2 hits, disrupting the leading parts of his advance.  Rob isn't very concerned, however.  Not with that many units floating around.

The 507th activate next.  I take a shot at an adjacent stack, and disrupt them.  Really powerful stuff here.

The first End Turn chit is drawn.  I'm hopeful...

But then crushed when Rob draws the Schtz.Btl.107 formation chit.  However, I catch a break when his nearest squads don't rally!  He moves the disrupted squads away, and begins sending in the assaulters.  The first group jumps in and deals 4 hits, but thankfully takes 4 hits.  Critically, since I've tied him, the assaulting units are repulsed, and I'm not pushed out of the hex.  I am badly reduced and disrupted, however.  Plus, my HQ managed to die again.  Rob still has another unit ready though, and he sends him in.  He deals a single hit, and I return with a single hit.  I'm now down to a single reduced (and disrupted) squad, and I'm staring at a LOT of attacking Germans.  Thankfully though, the turn ends.

Turn 9:
Last turn!

The first chit drawn is the End Turn chit.  That's VERY exciting- the game ending here would give me a win!  If any German formation is drawn, however, my chances are very slim.

The second chit drawn... is the other End Turn chit!  YES!  Victory for the Americans!  I managed to win with a single reduced/disrupted Para Inf unit in the town.

With a chit-draw system, a lot of a player's success is dependent on how often his formations get to activate.  With the one German formation getting a free activation on the first turn (with a chance for a second) and the second German formation not arriving until turn 3, we can do some quick checking to see what the 'average' number of activations each formation can dream about.  For the Germans, the Schtz.Btl.107 would average about 7.7 activations per game (it activated 7 times this game) and the KG Beck would activate 5.2 (4 in the game).  That's not a huge difference for the former, but that's a huge loss for that latter formation.  Had he gotten that 5th activation, I'm sure Rob would've swept me from the table.  The Americans, by the way average 6.7 activations (I activated 5 times).  Those two turns without activations (and Turn 6, with just the one KG Beck activation) were critical for me winning. 

Obviously, the number of activations doesn't tell the whole story- when formation activate in relation to one another is a big deal as well (being able to activate twice in between an enemy's activation could be key), but it's helpful to keep in mind how things could go, especially for the attacker to consider his pace.  Rob played fairly aggressively.  Had he known beforehand how many activations he would get, would he have tried something different?  I'd guess not, but you never know.

This scenario seems pretty tough on the Americans, but since it's an infantry-only scenario and there really isn't a lot going on, I don't think it's going to get much play regardless.  I'm sure I screwed up a little with my play, which probably hurt my poor American's chances as well- I'm guessing I need to be more selective about my shots.  It didn't feel like I had many options, however.

This is a game that's going to get played a decent amount of times at PrezCon, including playing some of the advanced scenarios.  That should be very exciting.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Battle Report: Frontline General: Spearpoint 1943 (1/8/11)

Yeah, this took me over a month to finally post.  That's pretty terrible.  I'm going to try to get more on the ball with these.

Rob and I played two games of Frontline General: Spearpoint 1943 on one of my few free Saturdays, the 8th.  We decided to start playing some of the Situations (scenarios) that are available to give us some variety in the game.

First up was Situation I: Take Out Those 88's! In this situation, the Germans (played by Rob) had 3 crewed 8.8cm FlaK 36 cards on the rear line, with 2 front lines that must be beaten through before the Americans can finally take them out.  The goal of the game, of course, is the destruction of those 88s, and the Americans have to accomplish this without aircraft.  The Germans aren't allowed to start drawing reinforcements until Turn 3, but they do get 10 free victory points a turn (needing 75 to win).

After choosing our decks (Americans start with 120 points vs the Germans 80), we set up to play.  For my starting hand I chose a M4A1 Sherman, Tank Crew, Rifle Squad, and .30Cal LMG Team.  My hope was to use the Sherman to spearhead my attack (harder for the infantry Rob starts with to kill, and use the infantry to finish the job (the infantry is harder for the 88s to hit, needing a 13 vs an 11 vs the tank).  I didn't write down what my deck consisted of, next time I'll try to include that.  My drawn Command Cards were Withdraw (useful if my tank gets damaged), Reconnaissance (not really helpful for this situation, since Rob doesn't start with units in his hands), and Frontline Priority (great for getting a unit I need into my hand when I need it).  Not a bad start truthfully.

Rob immediately begins the game by playing a Sabotage card, removing one of the Shermans from my deck.  Ugh.

Turn 1:
I commit all 4 units in my hand, hoping to eat through at least one of his frontlines, and putting the pressure on early.

Right after first commitment phase.

Rob begins the Combat phase by playing Fire For Effect, making his artillery a lot deadlier to my poor Sherman (8 intensity vs the Sherman's 5 armor isn't nearly so scary as 12 intensity vs that same 5 armor).  He then proceeds to win initiative.

By the way, it's worth noting here that although the choices of targets for each card is very important in game, it's not a very interesting read, so it's not likely to be mentioned in any report I write.  Usually just the results.

Rob's first shot was an 88 at my Sherman, which missed.  I followed up by having the Sherman (targeted by all three artillery pieces) fire at the German Rifle Squad, discarding the Reconnaissance card for a +1 attack on my 75mm gun.  I missed with all of my attacks, however.

The German Rifle then shot at my Rifle Squad, killing it.  My LMG fires and misses.  With nothing of mine left, Rob goes through his guys- my Sherman dies to an 88, and the German MG-42 Team kills my LMG.

During the draw phase, I draw two units (Tank Crew and a Rifle Squad), and use Frontline Priority to get another Rifle Squad.  My Command Card draw is a Fighter Ace (useless in this situation).

Rob at this point has 34 Victory Points (he needs 75 to win).

Turn 2:
I choose to commit nothing, knowing that I'll just get slaughtered, and needing a few more units so that I can sweep through him.  I'm able to gain a bit of an advantage solely because the Germans aren't allowed to draw Reserves until turn 3.  With no combat, this is a quick turn, and I draw an Artillery Crew, a 57mm Anti-Tank Gun M1, and Commit Reserves (allowing me to play a card from my Reserves deck).

Rob is up to 44 Victory Points.

Turn 3:
Since Rob is going to start getting units this turn, I decide I can't keep waiting.  I commit everything, and use commit reserves for another Sherman (I apparently had 3 in my deck).  With an artillery piece, 2 infantry squads, and a tank, things are looking up for me.

Rob then wins the initiative.  He fires an 88 at my Sherman, damaging it.  The Sherman takes a shot at the Rifle Squad, and manages to deal 6 damage to it.  The German Rifle Squad fires at one of the American Rifle Squads, damaging it.  I draw a 'Shaken' card, retreating my Rifle Squad to the rear line, really hindering my attack. 

My other American Rifle Squad beats on a German Rifle Squad, causing 13 damage (don't remember the damage card), but it turns out not to matter as my ATG finishes it off.  Not a bad turn for me, really, although not great.

Anyway, during the draw phase I again choose two units, and draw an Artillery Crew and a Tank Crew.  I also draw another Fighter Ace.  That's just terrible. 

Up to 54 VPs.

Turn 4:
Well, with a draw like that, you can imagine I had nothing to commit.  Rob did, though.  He put a Scharfschutze (Sniper) in his first front line, and plays a Lay Smoke card on his front line Rifle Squad.  That limits my front line units to attacking his sniper, and means I can't break through his front line this turn.  Ugh!

I once again lost the Initiative.

Rob's first shot is an 88 at my Sherman, but thankfully he misses.  In response, my Sherman kills his Sniper.  Once again, with free reign to shoot, Rob manages to kill my 57mm ATG and retreats another of my Rifle Squads to my rear line.  He's now up to 70VP.  Not looking good.

I again choose to draw 2 units, and draw a Rifle Squad and another 57mm ATG.  I also draw Sabotage, which I use immediately to get rid of the Pz. VI Ausf. E Tiger I from his deck.  Have to take those small victories :).

Turn 5:
With Rob on the cusp of winning, I need to win THIS turn.  Well, I can't.  But that doesn't stop me!  What does stop me, however, is Rob playing a Capture That Unit! card, rolling a 10, and ending the game with 82 victory points.  Oops.

That's a picture of a sad me writing down the results of the current game.  In the immediate foreground is the impenetrable wall of FlaK 88s.

I pretty much did as poorly as possible that game, and I think next time I play, I'll have to be a little smarter about what I do.  Tanks are a bit more vulnerable to his artillery (the 88s were used as anti-tank guns, after all).  Maybe more infantry and a few artillery pieces of my own (so I could return fire with my own long range stuff) would have made this a closer game.

We weren't done here though- we decided to take a shot at Situation II: Beachhead Air Defense.

There are two parts to this situation.  First is an air battle, with 4 planes apiece, fighting to the death.  After this is done, the remaining aircraft are put onto the bottom of the victor's reserve deck, and a land battle begins.

There's one more component to this game, however- a US Landing Ship is making landfall at the beach, and is a vulnerable target for the German aircraft.  In fact, for every point of damage done to the LST prior to the aerial fight being done, the German player gets an extra victory point.  Given that the American aircraft is a bit better than the German ones, that's a key way to make up the difference.

Rob and I screwed this up, badly.  See, we missed the line that the LST was removed once the aerial combat was over.  So we left it out there.  That means his tanks were taking pot shots at it, and doing a ton of damage.  That's pretty game changing.  So although I wrote a bunch of notes, and even took some pictures, I'm not going to be writing a report for it.  It's sufficient to say that Rob one this one, but the game would have been a lot closer had I actually READ THE SCENARIO.  Ah well.  Live and learn.  Sounds like the second situation will be pretty enjoyable now that we'll do it right.

Here are some pictures of our second game anyway.

Ready to begin the game.

The air battle begins to go well for me.

As always, I'm struggling when it comes to the land-based part of the game.

We'll be playing this game from time to time at PrezCon, so I'll have more game reports going up next month, as well as a review, finally, since I'll finally have enough experience to do so (plus, I need practice writing reviews).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Going to PrezCon 2011

Well, PrezCon 2011 is coming up (end of February!), and I've finally begun planning what I'm going to be bringing and playing there.

I posted a geeklist on Boardgamegeek with the games I will be bringing to PrezCon, as well as what my buddy Rob will be bringing as well.  He'll bring a few other games as well, which are also on the list.  Check out the list here.

If you see these games being played, and see me playing them (I'll be the handsome guy with the red hair.  Handsome-ness not guaranteed), come up and say hi!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Recap, and my hopes for 2011

Just as with all my blogs, I'm putting up a post to summarize the last year (as far as gaming is concerned), and look towards the next one.

First, let's start with the blog.  I finally moved away from doing news, because CSW does it better, and started putting content up on here.  Last year that consisted of 53 posts, most of it news, but resulted in 950 visits from 589 visitors (since April).  The five most popular searches that led here were "Cardboard Warriors", "Cardboard Soldiers", "White Star Rising", "Wargame Publishers", and "Spearpoint 1943".  I managed to get 3 Battle Reports and a discussion about a book up here, but that's about all for real content.  Not very impressive.

Gaming wise, I did a lot better.  Looking through my plays listed on Boardgamegeek, here are my wargame plays for the past year:
  • Advanced Squad Leader  17 
  • Some Poles Apart: The Battle of the Westerplatte  9 
  • Frontline General: Spearpoint 1943  7 
  • Manoeuvre  6 
  • All Things Zombie: The Boardgame  4 
  • Dust Tactics  2 
  • Nations at War: White Star Rising  2 
  • Wellington  2 
  • 1898: The Spanish American War  1 
  • Corps Command: Dawn's Early Light  1 
  • Dixie: Bull Run  1 
  • Hold the Line  1 
  • Jena 20  1 
  • Kingmaker  1 
  • Panzer Grenadier: Airborne (Introductory Edition)  1 
  • Triumph of Chaos  1 
  • World in Flames  1 
Obviously, what exactly qualifies as a wargame is fairly loose, but these are what I would consider to count (that don't include miniature games).  That's 17 different games, 58 plays.  Really, that's not terrible, but i could certainly do a TON better.  Expect to see more playthroughs on this blog in the upcoming year, as I play more games, especially a larger variety of them.

Reviews are something I've not quit gotten around to on this blog.  There are two reasons for this.  First, I feel that a person should play a game several times, be familiar enough with all of the variants and ways to play the game, and have a pretty good experience handling the game as a whole to give a good review, and there aren't many games I'm qualified to do that with.  Second, most of the games I'm at this skill level with are older, and the average person who wants to read a review is going to want it about a newer game which they are interested in buying.  With that said, I may still throw a few up there this year, simply 'because'.  We'll see.

I may take a crack at designing a scenario or two for various game systems, but we'll see if I get that far.  With my life a bit more stable, PrezCon and the Winter Offensive coming up, and a lot of new games to get on the table, you can be sure this is going to be a great year to read this blog!