Monday, February 12, 2007

Racing Against Time

Combat Commander: Europe, scenario #3: Bonfire of the NKVD.

Germans: Eric
Russians: Tim
Beer consumed: Sam Adams
Music: XM's Fine Tuning stream via DirecTV. (except for a ½ hour window when my wife watched Family Guy.)

This week's game was a different Combat Commander: Europe scenario, Bonfire of the NKVD, #3. In this scenario, the Russians are retreating, but are attempting to destroy papers/maps/stuff in the building they had been using as the local HQ. The Germans are trying to get there before they can destroy everything of value.

In similar fashion to the scenario we played last time, the attacker is trying to get to and control a building in the back half of the map within a certain amount of time. Two things make this scenario a LOT different than the Belgian Chateau scenario we played two weeks ago: This is a real “quality vs. quantity” matchup – the Germans have a small handful of squads while the Russians have nearly a dozen militia and green units. Also, this scenario is played along the long axis of a woods heavy map. (for reference, here's the map. From this perspective, the Germans are attacking left to right – west to east if you prefer, trying to control the small building in the middle of the right edge of the map.)

Deployment is also a bit interesting. Defenders set up first, then attackers, then the defender can deploy 12 wire counters. Tim decided to place these in what amounted to a line just west of the road from the north down. (Again, referring to the map image as north on top.) All objectives are open in this scenario – the HQ at N5 is worth 16 VPs, and the other objectives are worth 1VP each. Time counter starts at 0 and the Sudden Death marker is at 7. Another interesting tidbit of deployment is that objective #3 straddles the deployment zones – the Germans deploy in the western 3 columns, the Russians over the rest of the board.

My basic plan after seeing Tim's setup (he effectively abandoned the west half of the map) was to move forward in the forest, taking objectives as possible, marshall my strength and then assault the HQ. I fully intended to ignore objective #4 (the two-hex building in the southeast quadrant) other than harassing the occupants enough to keep them bottled inside.

My opening hand would prove to be a theme throughout the entire battle – I had severe problems getting Move orders. I only had more than 1 in my hand one time, and even then, I only had two. Obviously, my troops weren't to eager to follow through on my plan.

Early turns involved a slow advance on my part to within a couple hexes of the wire. I took objective #3, and was firing a few potshots into objective #4. Tim hit a Time trigger halfway through his deck, and by the time I had worked through my deck, we were facing off in the woods. The only melee that happened in the woods ended up a tie – all units die. Since that was one of his and two of mine, Tim was pretty happy with that exchange. Eventually, I was able to break and rout away most of the remaining units he had in the woods – after which I claimed objectives #1 and 2. Up to this point, I had four events that gave me somewhere around 8 or 9 victory points (for either controlled objectives or destroyed enemy units). Before I had even closed on the HQ, I had whittled Tim's VP count down to 6 or 7. (He started at 20.)

It was about here that things started to go pear shaped. I was routing some of his units off the board, but he had parked a good leader, team, and squad in the HQ, and I was going to need everything I had to assault it. I finally pulled the pieces together, but managed to botch it by not being able to include my leader – we both played a couple ambush cards and the result was a 9 strength force for Tim while mine was only 4. (It would have been 10 if I had managed to include the leader.) With the odds stacked against me, and Tim in possession of the initiative, the inevitable happened and my assault was repulsed.

That pretty much broke any chance I had at forcing Tim out of the HQ, and the VP counter was inching its way back his direction. The killing blow came with the incredible speed in which the game ended. The Time counter was at 4 when I managed to pull a Time trigger on the last card of my deck. This advances the Time counter twice. NOT what I needed. On the very next turn, Tim exhausted his deck, advancing the Time counter again, and rolled under the Sudden Death number. As he had the initiative and the lead, he obviously let the result stay and claimed his first CC:E victory. I believe the final score was about 13 in Tim's favor.

We played this scenario in almost exactly two hours, and again had a wonderful time. This truly is one of the best < 3 hr wargaming experiences available.

Noted items

  • Assaulting buildings is tough. They're interesting puzzles to crack, and I did a poor job of assaulting the HQ in this session. I'll have to toy around with various combinations to see what works best. Leaders are obviously critical here as they add their command rating to every unit in the hex, AND add their own firepower. Assaulting a hex containing a leader without one of your own is likely to fail.
  • The defender has won both scenarios where we've had an attacker/defender setup. Granted, Tim was a lot closer to winning as attacker last time than I was this time. However, I think it means we really haven't grasped what it takes to win as the attacker yet.
  • For whatever reason, I completely forgot about the VPs available for running off Tim's side of the map. In the end, they wouldn't have mattered in this case. I would only have scored 6 or 7 VPs, and I never had enough Move orders to get those guys back into play where they could have mattered. I wouldn't have had a prayer of taking the HQ had I run off the board.
  • I'm reaching the point of 2nd level thought on when to use the initiative. It's not just a matter of “do I really want this roll to succeed” anymore. Now I'm starting to think about whether I'm going to need the initiative in the near future. For example, had I managed to keep the initiative before assaulting the HQ, the result could have been very different. Tim rolled a 10 on his melee attack, IIRC, and I obviously would have had that rerolled.


Next week's game is my choice, and we're going to give Twilight Struggle a run. I've played four or five times now, and Tim has yet to play. So, he'll get the Russians. I've got the 2nd edition rules and cards, and there's only a couple minor errata on the 1st edition map, so this should be fun. Not that there were THAT many changes in 2nd edition, but I haven't had the chance to play the new version yet.

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