Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kiwis against eagles

A whole month between sessions, don't you hate it when real life intervenes into your gaming schedule? Still, the new Combat Commander: Mediterranean had arrived on schedule, so it was the game of choice. I'd had it for a week, but hadn't spent much time with it at all, and in fact was feverishly cutting out the counters in the morning before heading off for work, and after I got home. With nothing else to base a decision on, I picked the first scenario, and drew the British. (Well, the Kiwis really.)

This scenario has the Kiwis attempting to drive through the thin German force and exit the board, gaining double VPs for doing so, with no other objectives in play at start. There is a large hill in the center of the board, a load of brush to my left flank, and a small hill off to my right on the German side of the board, with a river splitting the board as well. I set up first, near J1, with the Germans moving first and holding the Initiative.

So, what did I see as my strengths? The biggest is that Brit mortars can fire smoke. When mucho VPs are available for exiting the board, being able to place a lot of smoke is vital. With 2 mortars and the occasional Smoke Grenades action there was plenty of smoke to hinder his fire. Next, Eric mentioned that I always seemed to have a Recover card in my hand, and that's because the Brits have 10 in their deck, the highest of any nationality. I made sure I always kept one around for when I needed it, and I was fortunate to draw them regularly rather than in clumps.

I start with a neutral set up, as I only have 3 squads, and have to start near J1, although I misunderstood the instructions which allowed me to set up 3 hexes from J1, setting up only 2 away. I put one leader and a mortar with the reinforcements due to arrive with the first Time event. Eric placed a single German squad in the house near the edge of the board, one off in the brush on my left (he reinforced it with one of his hill squads pretty quickly), and the rest up on the hill. However, a couple of them were placed on the reverse slope, such that they were unable to get LoS on a large part of the board. I'm not sure if that was deliberate, but it certainly allowed me more freedom in movement.

I started with a great hand of 2 Artillery Request and 2 Artillery Denied cards, totally useless, so my first action was to discard them, but only after Eric had opened with fire from his sole unit able to see me, breaking my squad in the middle with the mortar. I then drew 3 Command Confusion cards to replace them. 'Great' I was thinking, first turn in, one unit broken (of 3 on the board!) and I still have a hand of crap. Looking pretty much like my usual games of CC! However, most of those Command Confusion cards also have Marksmanship actions, so they're not too bad.

Then the typical CC wackiness started. Eric just played a Rout, which I shrugged off, and in my turn played a Fire into his squad in the woods hex at the base of the hill, drawing a 9/Sniper. Eric decided to use the Initiative card, and the next card was a.... 9/Sniper. Wacky. And the squad broke to boot. Unfortunately I couldn't draw Move/Fire, and after a round of discards Eric Recovered the squad, and again broke my mortar squad. I recovered, but failed my fire, Eric tried again, causing the first Time event and all my reinforcements. In my defensive roll I also drew Time!

Looking at his position, with the hill units unable to get LoS, I put most of the squads on the left, and a couple on the right to keep him honest. I immediately started moving on both flanks, drawing a bunch of wire on the right. on my following play I fire at one of his two squads protecting his right flank, breaking it, but causing another Time. Halfway to the Sudden Death marker and I've barely got anywhere! In the next actions he gets an HMG team reinforcements, and proceeds to fire right down the road through the brush, breaking my squad and leader. Dashed unsporting!

Never mind, I've got a Recover in hand, but the leader fails, preventing me from moving that group forward. Still, I press on with both flanks, drawing mines on the right (pfft!), but getting into contact on the left, with an Advance and an Ambush already in hand. He uses Spray Fire to good effect, breaking 2 squads on my left.

Once more, however, I have a Recover card in hand, and draw a hero to boot! I Advance into both hexes, killing both German units, but lose one of my own to over stacking. I can see the edge of the board! Except for that HMG.... :(

Eric starts moving units across to the edge of the hill to try to prevent me from moving off, and I move the central group forward, Advancing and killing his unit in the woods. They are now around the other side of the hill to threaten VPs from that direction.

Meanwhile, on my left flank with a woods hex between me and the HMG I squeeze up a little, whilst he gets another reinforcement - a freakin' infantry gun!. On its first fire it causes another Time event on the Hit roll, and another on the Effect roll! I really don't want to face a 24 attack and Time, which would force an end of game roll, so use the initiative. The second roll is a 6, and Eric chooses to give the initiative back for a 9 roll, breaking a squad and leader, which I Recover quickly.

The map edge is tantalizingly close, and I have a Move card in hand. Do I go for it and try to Move off the board, risking the HMG, or do I patiently press forward with the group on the other side? Time is ticking away, it's in the 5 box already with Sudden Death check marker in the 6 box. I chicken out and use the Move on the right, and Eric....... discards! Ack, I should have gone for it! Not really, it was the smart move, as both groups are now close to exiting, and I drew an Advance and Move card, which I play next turn, now being right on the map edge on the left, and only a Move away on the right. I draw another set of Advance and Move cards, so I'm looking good for next turn.

However, I've still got to survive Eric's turn, and he turns on the fire, killing one of the squads and leaving the other and the leader broken. And another Time event! Are the fates going to deny me? Not with the Initiative card in hand they're not, and needing to draw a 6 or less to end the game I draw a 7. Phew! I Advance a squad and leader off on the left, and a pair of squads on the right for 16 VPs, swinging the game well to my side, with 11VPs.

After that it's all downhill from there. I decide not to get too cocky and take the simple move to exit the leader for another 4VPs, then start driving through my deck as fast as I can. Eric gets his gun to the top of the hill, but my lone mortar squad makes good use of more Command Confusion/Marksmanship cards to break the team manning it, meanwhile moving my right flank units up, even managing to exit another squad. Eric draws his last card, as do I, and the game is ended with that roll.

As usual, an odd game. The first part of the game sped by, and then slowed down, then took a last minute sprint for the end, then walked across the finish line. The ability of the British deck was very apparent. That extra Recover card really helps them pop up. The mortars firing smoke is also a huge benefit, which I took full advantage of, firing a lot of smoke, which really reduced his fire attacks, allowing me a lot of movement capability. The Command Confusion cards having Marksmanship as their action is also huge, as any Fire suddenly becomes really strong. Yep, the Brits are fun to play with.

In the end, though, I felt I was really lucky in drawing a lot of cards when I needed them, although I was holding the occasional card as I knew I'd need it. With a 6 card hand you have more capability to do that. Winning the melees on the left was big, and drawing Advance cards right at the end solved my issue of Moving in LoS of that HMG. It all contributed to a high VP margin.

I think Eric's set up helped me a fair bit. Starting a third of his squads behind crest lines meant that they took no part in the first phase of the battle. I'm also not sure I'd have given away the Initiative quite as quickly as Eric did. I only used it twice, and got it back immediately both times. i don't think I made too many mistakes, but with the cards I got it was hard to miss the obvious plays.

We made a few mistakes with the rules, getting the artillery rules slightly wrong, and we only used the new smoke counters instead of combining them with the old ones. The Germans don't have a lot of squads to defend with, and need to be careful. I'd really like to try this one again from the other side.

I've also detailed the actual plays, with photos at my own blog.

For our next session Eric has chosen Red Vengeance, the companion game to Defiant Russia that we played a previously, and I've promised to let him be the attackers this time. Bring it on!

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