Monday, March 23, 2009

Crossing the Chir in Slow Motion

Once a year, the wargame fans in our gaming group head over to Doug's place in Sunriver for a week long gaming gathering hat is referred to as WBC-West. It's our own little version of WBC. Minus the hundreds of attendees. And the competitions. And trophies.

But it's got lots of wargaming. So that's good.

This year, we're trying an experiment and having WBC-W in May. August was proving problematic for a variety of reasons.

One thing most of the attendees do before heading over is lock down a schedule. Which games, against whom, and when. Practice games are held to get the rules cemented in our head and verify that, yes, we do actually want to play this for real. After all, if you only get to do this once a year, you don't want to waste a full day playing a substandard game or botching critical rules. And you certainly don't want to be stuck as odd-man-out when everyone else is playing eight-hour games.

So, at this point the character of Two Sides will be changing a tad until late May. Mike and I have entered practice mode. We're planning a “monster” game this year to finish off the week – four of us will be playing the Drive for Oil scenario of Case Blue, the OCS game covering the 1941-1943 adventures of Army Group South. Mike and I will also be playing The Mighty Endeavor earlier in the week.

So, our schedule for a while is pretty locked in. This week, we played the Case Blue version of the Chir River Battles scenario that originally appeared in Enemy at the Gates. It was a nice refresher – 3 turns, and you're playing on less than a letter-sized portion of the map. In fact, it's small enough that we played it twice (once from each side) in around 3 hours.

The next couple weeks, we'll be tackling the Edge of the World scenario, also from Case Blue. It's the “intro” version of the scenario we're playing at WBC-W, so it's a perfect lead-up. We're also going to be using the sessions as an OCS trainer/refresher for anyone else in the group interested in OCS. I'm also going to try to write up an OCS instructional manual as a post on here in a couple weeks.

After that, Mike and I will spend a session going over the first few turns of The Mighty Endeavor to get an idea of how we want to approach that. So, for those of you following along at home, here's what we'll be covering on the blog for a while:

This week - Case Blue, Chir River
Next week - Case Blue, Edge of the World
Apr 1 - Case Blue, Edge of the World part 2.
Apr 8 - Either Edge of the World, the Finale, or The Mighty Endeavor.
Apr 15 - Either The Mighty Endeavor (if we didn't play the week before), or something else we haven't decided on yet.
Apr 22 - No gaming – I'm at Disneyland all week for our daughter's 5th birthday party. (though Vassal's always a possibility.)
Apr 29 – Unknown game to hit the table.
May 6 - No gaming this week as WBC-W is the entire next week, so I don't get a night away the week before :)
May 13 – WBC-W.

Besides Case Blue and The Mighty Endeavor, games it's looking like I have a shot at playing that week include Friedrich; some large 3-player game which could be Clash of Monarchs, Here I Stand, Savannah, or something else; Through the Ages; Combat Commander; Command & Colors: Ancients; and a host more possibilities. I intend to post session reports on most, if not all the games I play either here or on my personal blog.

Okay, enough context. We played the Chir River Battles mini-scenario last week. How did it play out?

First time through, Mike took the Russians, who are on the attack. The initial setup is illustrated here:

The brown circle indicates the Russian supply source, and the blue circle the German. The red circle is the hex the Russians must occupy by the end of the third turn.

You can't see the contents, but you can definitely tell the Russians have two large stacks – right next to the supply source, and another stack in a salient just NW of Nizhne-Chirskaya. That's also where the bulk of the Russian artillery is stationed. You can also see that the Germans are rather weak in the NW sector, and that right next to the German supply source is the 11th Panzer Division, waiting to counter attack.

Mike worked from the position of Russian strength, and pushed hard straight south with the idea of breaking through, then shooting west. I used the 11th Pz Div to counter attack exposed points and pulled back the survivors of the initial onslaught. I ended up creating a defensive line on the west side of the Tsinla river and points north. Mike nearly had enough to get to the goal, but wouldn't have been able to fight off the garrison once he got there. So, a minor German victory here.

We turned it around and I took the Russians. My idea was to attack west through the German weakness, then push south. I was slightly hampered by warm weather in the first turn keeping the Chir from freezing. I wasn't as committed as I should have been, and ended up not being able to reach the goal. Another German victory.

Mike differed in his approach with the Germans and took a forward defense, forcing me to fight through his troops early – something I wasn't consistently able to do. His approach gave me the opportunity for overruns where mine specifically avoided them. It will be interesting to see which defense works better once we figure out the Russian offensive plan.

When we talked about it afterwards, we realized that with the supply structure in place, there were two things neither of us did that look to be necessary to win this scenario as the Russians. First, you have to blow through the German lines at the rail bridge just south of Oblivsk. That's the only way you're going to be able to create a supply line long enough to pull off an attack on the VP hex. Second, neither of us used what might be the best Russian unit on the board – the 8th Gd Tank Brigade stationed in the middle of the line. (It's the 8-4-8 red unit you can see in the middle of the setup.) That's the key unit, I believe, as it's got a 16 MP move mode that can project strength pretty much anywhere on the map.

So, Mike attacked too far south, and I attacked too far north. This scenario is a nice little puzzle, however, and a great refresher or learning scenario for OCS. There's no air units or other strangeness – just straightforward give and take.

So, if you've got that Case Blue sitting around and you're wondering how you're going to tackle it, head over to The Gamers Archive and snag the Chir River Battles scenario and give it a go. It'll be a well-spent evening.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Very much looking forward to this next month or so of your commentary - I'm especially keen to see your OCS guide, as I'm trying to decide if OCS is for me. I'm not a monster game guy, so I suspect it might not be - but I'm curious.

Also curious about your take on The Mighty Endeavor - I picked up the latest SCS series game (Bastogne), and that looks definitely within my level of effort, but I wonder how the larger games compare.

Have fun, both warming up and at WBC-West proper . . .