Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dietel, Bane of Mother Russia

Game: Combat Commander, Scenario #7, Bessarabian Nights
Germans: Tim
Russians: Eric

Tim hadn't fully decided on something to play last week, and mentioned a couple choices. I said “if I can influence you, I'd like to play the Russians in the Bessarabia scenario of Combat Commander.”

So, that was the choice. This scenario is very different than anything else in the game in that the Russians have 12 units of partisans (plus two leaders) that are randomly placed on the board. You draw a card for each unit and place that unit in or adjacent to the hex listed on the card. Then, you've got 4 satchel charges and 4 light machine guns to portion out. You also start the game with the hidden units action card – I used that to place a weapons team with an HMG. You get one big benefit – the partisans are very familiar with the surrounding terrain, so they pay no terrain penalties in moving. You also get one big drawback – you can only play one order per turn.

The Germans in this scenario have to place in adjacent hexes somewhere on the board – and they get to do it after the Russians deploy, so they can try to avoid the worst of things.

The game starts at Time 0, and Sudden Death is Time 5. Starting objectives are that elimination points are doubled (every unit killed counts doubled) and if you control all five objectives when a SD roll is made, you win. There's also a secret objective for each side. Also, there are no victory points for moving units off the board – you have to fight it out.

I was able to deploy on three of the five objectives. (#s 3, 4, and 5 – all along the railroad.) Tim ended up deploying his group in the woods on top of objective one. As the game progressed, he never really moved very far – I took the game to him.

One of the techniques in defeating units in Combat Commander is to break them with a fire group, then either fire on them again or rout them away. That requires two orders – when you can only play one order on a turn, it takes a different mode of thought.

In return, however, Tim didn't have a concrete thing to fight against – I was spread out all over the map, so he really did have to defend from all angles.

After some fire was exchanged, the incessant harassment from the partisans produced something the Russian partisans really didn't want to see: Dietel, Hero of the Reich. Over the course of the game, Dietel did the following (at a minimum): Took out the weapons team with the HMG, eliminated a militia squad, and claimed three objectives. The thing with heroes in Combat Commander is you can't control when they appear, and they don't hurt you if they're killed. This leads to some pretty daring feats – exactly as you'd expect to see from a hero.

While Dietel was running around causing havoc, an intense battle was raging around objective 1. I was slowly getting my units into place from elsewhere on the map, and pulling them into the fray. I briefly got the VP counter onto my side, around 2 or so, but for nearly the entirety of the game, the VP counter was hovering between 2 and 6 on the German side. Given that eliminating a unit was worth 4 Vps in this scenario, it was anyone's game.

We had one rather hilarious moment sometime around when the Time counter had reached the sudden death marker. Tim had advanced into melee, and I beat him on the die roll. He had the initiative card, so he passed it my way to get me to reroll. I failed, and passed it back. (IIRC, I only needed a 7 or higher on two dice to succeed on this roll.) We proceeded to pass the initiative card back and forth around seven times until I finally managed to pass the roll while I held the initiative card. We joked about that one quite a bit.

After the time counter reached 7, Tim had managed to pull out to a 10 point lead, mostly through Dietel's antics. This included a “Battlefield Integrity” event where Tim got 1 VP for each objective he controlled. That was 4 points right there as I only held on to #2. The game ended when the Time counter hit 8. We revealed our hidden objectives and these gave a net of one point to Tim. (I got a point for objective 2, Tim got 2 for objective 5.) So the Germans fend off the Partisan attack with a final score of 11.

Did I learn anything here? Certainly.

First, don't attack piecemeal. I was pushing Tim before marshaling my forces, and it meant I had nothing around to exploit any openings that I may have opened up.

Second, put the satchel charges with faster units. I was using them to shore up my Green units (movement of 3), but that meant I had a harder time getting the charges where I needed them. I ended up only using one of them, and it didn't have any effect I remember.

Third, attack an opponents weakness quickly rather than waiting to build strength. This kind of goes in the face of the first lesson, but there were a couple times during the game that I could have gone after a weak point and decided to build up strength first. The fact that Tim could make three times the orders I could meant the opening was gone before I had another chance.

Net? I love this game. I specifically chose what's likely the biggest challenge of any of the 28 positions in the official scenarios, lost, and still had a blast. The story that was created by Dietel's antics was full of the stuff that feeds all the histories. Hollywood likely would have changed Dietel to American then done at least two movies about it.

We were a little rusty in that neither of us had played for a while, but every question we had was answered right there in black and white. We went three triggers past the targeted end of game, and still finished in two hours. This game is going to be hitting the table for me for a long time. It's really hard to beat the amount of decision making, fun, and challenge packed into two to three hours.


Next week's game will be Clash for a Continent. I haven't chosen the scenario yet, but it will be one of the Revolutionary War ones, not one of the French & Indian War battles.

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