Monday, September 24, 2007

Bonus Blogging!

Wednesday night, Matt and I got together for a game of Combat Commander. Neither of us had played this in a while, so it was good to get it back on the table.

I let Matt choose the scenario, and we picked sides by looking at how the map was aligned to where we sat down. A heavily scientific process.

We played scenario #6 – a battle between German and American airborne units on a map littered with buildings. Nearly half the hexes on the map are building hexes. My first thought was – I'm gonna need a lot of Advance orders to win this game.

I played the Americans. The Germans start by defending on 80% of the board, control of all five objectives, and set up first. The attacking Americans get the remaining 20% (the top two rows in the provided image) to deploy in, deploy last, go first, and have the initiative card. Pretty much set for finding the weak spot in German deployment and jumping on it before they can really react. The Germans also start only being able to give 1 order, which increases by one at each of the first two time triggers to a max of 3. The Americans get 4 orders. (Which, I might add, I don't think I ever did. I think I maxed out at 3. MAYBE once I gave 4 orders.) The two open objective chits for this scenario say that if anyone controls all the objectives at Sudden Death they win, and all eliminated units count double. Sounds like a lot of bloody fighting from building to building. And that's pretty much what happened.

First off – a caveat. I was pretty damn tired when we played so some of the details below are going to be VERY fuzzy.

Okay, first thing I noticed after Matt's German deployment was that he left Objective #1 (the small building in O5) alone. This building is protected by a wall, is next to the road that bisects the map lengthwise, and has a LONG field of fire right down said road. That was target #1. As most of my forces were squads, they couldn't stack together. That meant spreading out across the bottom of the map and trying to place my leaders in advantageous positions. Matt had only partially occupied the far side of Objective #5 (the large building near the center of the map), so that became my 2nd priority. As Matt had placed most of his forces in the line of wall-protected buildings on the other side of the road, I figured I'd deal with priorities 1 and 2 first, then figure out how to pry him out of the rest.

So – how did it go? I took objective 1 on the first turn. Got a MG in there, and had them positioned to cover the road. The next step was to move in and claim the large building. (some time early on, I pulled a secret objective chit that made every objective worth 3 VPs. That much more incentive to control the center of the board to work from. I pushed on in, and I believe I had taken Objective 5 before the first time trigger hit. Sometime around that same point an event happened that really shaped the course of the game. A blaze started up in F5 (the hex immediately to the German side of Objective 3). Over the course of the game, this blaze would spread to cover fourteen hexes, and all but a single hex of the large Objective 4 building. Obviously, there was no way I was going to take that objective – the effect of this blaze was to cut the usable portion of the map down by over a third. There wasn't much point in trying to work my right flank if the blaze was going to cut things off.

The high percentage of buildings on the map made for a couple interesting trends in our scenario – there were rarely any units that stayed broken for long (it's pretty easy to rally when you get a +3 for being inside a building) and there were rarely any units outside the buildings. This meant many events were no-ops as they rely on units being in a hex with less than 1 cover. We only had a couple snipers that mattered, but an Air Support event hurt me.

After I'd taken Objective 5, I found myself in possession of a number of Advance cards (I think I had three of the four in my hand simultaneously). Since that's really the only way to reliably flush enemies out of buildings, I figured the time had come. I pushed the units that had taken Objective 1 into the line of buildings across the road. I must have moved into the road when Matt was devoid of fire cards, as I saw no resistance. I took out at least two buildings (it might have been three) when I finally lost a melee. That halted my attempt to roll up his line. (Tactical Tip #1 – never bring a weapon into a melee – it can't help you and just disappears if you die.)

I believe by this point I was about three units away from making Matt reach his surrender level. The time track was advancing, however, and we were either at 4 or 5. (Game could end on any time trigger 6 or higher.)

Around this time I decided I needed to go for surrender. I was behind on points (it was -7 or something close to that) and time was ticking. I abandoned Objective #3 (the two-hex building on my right flank across the road from Objective #4 – one of the hexes was on fire) and pulled that force into the central building that had become my base of operations. (And they got caught in the space between buildings. It wasn't pretty.) After some ineffectual fire across the gulf that is the main road I finally pulled the Advance order I'd been looking for.

As I moved next to the rightmost single-hex building along the road (under cover of some smoke) Matt shuffled his units around in a way I didn't expect. That left my only melee opponent to be much stronger than I was expecting. Not seeing much of a choice, I went for it, anyway. We ended up in a draw. This killed all involved units and finally hit his surrender trigger. Just in time, too, as we had already hit 7 on the time track and his deck was running low. I doubt I could have lasted much longer.

This game went right down to the wire. Matt was likely to win at the next time trigger, but I broke him just in time. The blaze cut the effective size of the board almost in half which helped me – my troops in this scenario are much better, but I'm forced to take the battle to him – shrinking the board let me concentrate matters a bit. We were both a bit rusty as it had been a while since we'd played but we were still done in 2.5 hours or so. Every time I play, the fact that CC is the best bit of wargaming fun you can have in 3 hours or less keeps getting driven home. Can't wait for the next two releases in this series.

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