Friday, January 16, 2009

CC hits the beach

Eric's choice this time, so we moved from the fields of England to the Pacific islands, and rolled forward 300 years, as we got the newly released Combat Commander: Pacific (BGG entry)from GMT onto the table. This sees some changes to the base CC rules, as well as some special rules for the Pacific. The major changes are:

  • Stacking. Previously there was a hard limit of 7 figures in a single hex, but this is changed so that a player may have more figures in a hex. However, any hex with more than 7 figures stacked in it has a -1 cover modifier for each figure beyond 7. Seemingly drawn straight from Fields of Fire, I like this rule.
  • Artillery. The artillery Request/Denied order have been replaced with more generic Asset Request/Denied orders. Requests allow you to obtain artillery or aircraft missions, fire for effect, or repair broken weapons. Denied orders allow you to screw with the other player, breaking his weapons or radios. Again, a neat change that fits, and seems to be well thought out.
  • Exiting. Units that exit the map no longer score points based on their casualty value, but on the value of the location where they exit. In fact they can only exit off these locations, rather than anywhere on the map edge.
  • Scout. Kinda like a hero, except that he is used to direct mortar fire when activated.
  • Melee. Now fought at the start of the Allied player's turn, rather than immediately. Allows the Japanese player an extra draw. Also introduces the Bayonets action, which adds two to the melee strength.
  • Elimination. In a Fire, if the attack strength is more than twice the defense strength, then the defender is eliminated. This makes fire groups even more useful, and building mega fire groups of death (tm) real useful. Especially when the defender is overstacked.
  • Reconnoiter. A new order, it allows the player to look at the top card in his fate deck, and then either leave it there, put it in the discard pile, or into his hand.
  • Recover. Replaced by the Revive order, this gives you a number of points (1-5), shown at the top of the card. Each point may be used to remove a suppressed marker or rally one unit, which is now automatic. The Rout order has also been removed.
  • Road. Roads now are 1/2MP, but only if there is no enemy LoS to the hex. The -1 cover is also dropped.

There are a number of smaller changes, impacting when weapons may be transferred, changes in the Actions and Events (some of which are just modifications of previous items), and such. Overall, I like the changes to the game. Mostly evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the stacking change is the biggest impact item, I think.

With this being a Pacific theater game, there are, not surprisingly, a number of rules to handle the Japanese. Major ones include:

  • Infiltration. An order, it allows the Japanese player to remove units from the map to be brought on later at Sighting marker locations. These are set up at start, and then moved each time a random hex is revealed (e.g. for a Sniper).
  • Banzai. A new posture, this allows the use of the Charge order, where all units that have not been activated can be activated for movement. Before that, all now activated units lose any suppressed marker, and rally. Downside is that all remaining unactivated defenders are activated for fire.
  • Caves. New type of fortification, with limited LoS rules

These add some interesting flavor to the game for the Japanese player. (And his opponent, I guess!) However, we chose scenario 3, which Eric had read was one of the best CC scenarios, ever, and has the Japanese attacking at Guadalcanal, early in the war, and didn't feature Infiltration or Caves, but they are in a Banzai posture, so Charge orders were available. In a random draw, I got to play the Japanese. This scenario has the Japanese attacking over a river, attempting to take the VP hexes.

Eric set up an MMG in the middle, protecting VP hex #5 (worth 5VPs), along with a squad and weapons team. His howitzer was set up in VP hex #4 (worth 4VPs), along with a team, leader and squad. His HMG, weapon team, and a squad was in VP hex #1 (1VP), which had a good LoS to the beach hexes. His remaining squad was set up on his right, in the jungle, by itself.

I grouped my 'A' squads to the left, and in the middle, along with one of the good leaders each. The 'B' and SNLF squads were spread out in between and to the right, with the weaker leaders. My plan was to use the strength on the left against his lone unit, and mainly threaten in the middle, to see how it went. I started out slowly, taking my first three hands (of only 3 cards) and discarding them, looking for some way to move. In the meantime his howitzer is taking pot shots, to no effect.

Eventually I got moving, as I found Charge, Move, and Advance cards, all in short order. I managed to get up to the river, and across, but by this time we've had 4 'Time' events already, we're half way through the game, and I haven't even got to contact yet. On the good side, Eric tries for some artillery, but gets denied, and his MMG in the middle breaks.

Another Advance (the Japanese have 10 in the deck) and Charge gets me onto the far side of the river, and yet another Charge lets me advance onto the wire. Oh, I forgot to mention the wire. It's all over the American side. It's here that things start to go pear shaped, as his HMG, squads and leaders start to take a toll at the closer range. Still, my left flank is in good shape, and starts kicking the stuffing out of the American units, although his reinforcing garrison squads keep breaking down into teams, which makes them harder to kill. (Elite teams have higher morale than the garrison squads.) In the middle I finally get to contact, but my advance to melee in #5 goes Eric's way, when the even attack draws weak. All I needed was an even draw!

However, Time is down to the penultimate turn, I've already used the Initiative twice to reject a Time trigger, and it's getting close. I managed to assault #4, set up for an assault on #5, and even draw the required Advance card. However, it's not to be as Eric draws a Time trigger in his Fire, and with the Initiative card in his possession I can't get the double draw of '8'+ to keep the game going. Even though the score was 19VPs in his favor, it was a lot closer than that as I would have swung back 12 of those points in the next turn, just from the cards in hand.

This was one of the more enjoyable CC games I've played, as nothing too outrageously wacky went on. One or two small things, like Eric breaking his MMG in the middle early on; my 7-8 sniper attempts all drawing '7'+ (except for 1 '5'), when I needed low numbers (the numbering only goes up to '10'); Eric's gun managing to miss almost everything it aimed at, including a Fire at range 3, but at least the snake-eyes draw was also a Time trigger. Fairly minor. The critical factor was all the Time triggers early in the game, taking away half the game before I'd got sploshing through the river onto the far bank. It was a disappointment not to get to try some of the other Pacific rules, but that just means we'll have to get it back onto the table again. Bummer.

The changes to the system all made sense and worked well. I especially like the change to the stacking. However, the biggest disappointment in CC:P was the handling of the Banzai/Charge. My perception of a Banzai charge is a whole bunch of guys screaming and charging until they get to grips with the enemy and a big fight develops, with fists and rifle butts swinging. OK, maybe a Hollywood type perception, but that's what I understand it to be. And that's not what the game delivers.

The nature of the card plays means that the Charge order has you move your guys for one turn. And then they stop, piddle around, maybe Fire a little, whatever. At some later stage they may take it up again, or they may not. And that just doesn't seem right. There needs to be some sort of mechanism to allow them to carry the charge on, to keep going until they meet the enemy. Maybe it's my perceptions on the whole Banzai Charge that needs adjusting, I'm not sure, but at the moment it feels more like a 'Line Advance' card from C&C:A than a Banzai Charge.

Which is a shame, because the rest of the game is tight. The Japanese deck feels good. The new Events, Actions and mechanisms make for a better game than CC:E and CC:M, and I'm hoping that a lot of these changes make it into the v2.0 rules for the older games, and they have redone card decks, although that's unlikely.

I'm looking forward to playing more of the scenarios, especially any with Infiltration, but that whole Banzai thing is going to bug me.


Jackson said...

I have to comment on your concerns regarding Banzai charges.
My only question is whether in reality a Japanese Banzai charge did in fact stall and "piddle" around once it had commenced, or did the human wave have some variation to it?
One thing to consider, the Charge card does RALLY all units, so that they can now play move cards....That will help keep things flowing.
Of course, many of those rallied units will get fired on and get pinned.
What would you have done regarding Banzai? Allowed move cards to act as Banzai orders?
Let me know what you think a better alternative would be. Often, when given this type of problem, the one in the game starts to look, well, pretty darn clever!

Thanks for your continued excellent blog.

JMcL63 said...

Hmm, I thought I'd posted here earlier, but it seems to have got lost somehow (I probably didn't hit publish before leaving the page). Anyway, nice blog, with some good reading. :)

I too am unpersuaded by your comments about banzai in CC:P. Your wish for "some sort of mechanism to allow them to carry the charge on, to keep going until they meet the enemy" strikes me as another example of the oft-repeated call for ways of getting round the essential nature of the card-driven command and control system.

You said: "the Charge card does RALLY all units, so that they can now play move cards". The Charge Order doesn't quite work that way. It activates all non-activated units, rallies them, then allows them to move. So they could issue a Move Order, but that'd be next turn. Why wait? Just charge!
John ;)

Jackson said...

I should have made myself clearer:
I know that the units get the free move during the Charge card, I meant that during the next several impulses they would also be available to move (and thus continue the charge forward)
sustaining the momentum of the Charge Order.
All in all, I think they did a pretty darn good job.

JMcL63 said...

S'OK Jackson (is that 'Action' Jackson?). The main point in any event is not minor points about our interpretation of the rules (that's what BGG and CSW are for). No, I'd rather reassure Mike et al that they're not going to be irked by the banzai rules. As you said, at first sight I think they're well considered. But then, I am a fan. ;)