Saturday, March 21, 2009

No cheer at the Chir

One of the sessions in our upcoming WBC-W game-athon will be a 2-day, 4-player 'monster' game. After some discussion, we settled on one of the games from the MMP/Gamers OCS line, and choose the 'Drive for Oil' scenario from Case Blue (BGG entry). (OK, that's not such a huge monster in the grand scheme of things, but it's a start for us.)

So, as part of our preparations for WBC-W, and Case Blue specifically, Eric and I will be spending the next few weeks getting back into OCS. Last night saw our first foray into Case Blue, with the Chir River training scenario. This was a scenario that was a part of the original Enemy at the Gates OCS game, and which (along with a lot of others) was not included with the enlarged version of the campaign, Case Blue. (I've never understood why they weren't converted and included with CB.) Anyway, several devotees of OCS have started converting these old scenarios to Case Blue, so, it seemed a good place for Eric and I to start, as it's only 3 turns long, with a small group of units and portion of the map.

The scenarios sees the Russians attacking to the SW of Stalingrad in the middle of December in 1942, trying to gain a foothold over the Chir River. The Axis have a lot of crummy units holding the line, but with a full panzer division to provide mobile backup. The Russians win if they break through the Axis lines and capture Morozovsk (to the left from the Axis perspective), and the Axis win if they prevent that. Here's the opening situation from the two perspectives:

I randomly got the Russians, and my plan was to force a gap in the center/right flank area with the two infantry divisions (212th and 93rd Gds), where they only faced a couple of Alert battalions, using 5Mech Corps to drive through the gap. From there, drive to Morozovsk, whilst trying to protect my flank from 11Pz. The second part was to use the existing bulge into the Axis lines, and 1Tk (stacked under the 12-2-2), on the left to also force a gap, threatening to pocket his entire frontline, leaving them out of supply, and forcing him to also protect his right flank of 11Pz as they try to stop my main thrust.

A grand plan, but it went awry from the first roll. I started with an overrun of a minuscule Alert battalion by my 1Tk units in the bulge. However, despite a +1 action rating modifier, I managed to roll a 6 column defender surprise shift (needed 6+ to avoid defender surprise), which meant I lost one of the attacking units, although I did remove the Alert battalion. Further, after moving in, we spotted that this would leave 1Tk unsupplied, as the HQ couldn't throw that far, so it had to pull back. (Frozen march is 6MPs, and a frozen minor river is +3MPs, so it can't throw across the river.) In all my following combats I rolled another couple of defender surprise results, and a single attacker surprise. Fortunately, my combat rolls were generally very good, so things mostly balanced out, as without that things would have looked pretty bleak. However, by the end of the turn I'd surrounded several units, cutting them off from supply.

Then Eric went into action with 11Pz. They came storming forward, and overran the mech unit holding the pocket, gaining surprise for another 6 column shift, and promptly vaporized. So went the rest of the turn, with Eric gaining attacker surprise in 4 out of 5 combats, for 6, 6, 5 and 2 column shifts (4 at +2, i.e. needing 8+, 1 at +1, i.e. needing 9+). By the end of the turn 5M and 1Tk Corps had pretty much ceased to exist, and for no loss to the Axis.

It was pretty clear that there wasn't going to be any Russian win in this game. With there still being a gap in the Axis lines, I pushed my remaining strength forward, attempting to take out part of 11Pz. Once again I didn't have much success, although I did successfully overrun the 11Pz artillery unit that had been left exposed, and managed to clear Surovikino, to create a better line of supply to the units on the left, and once again surround some of the Axis front-line units.

Once more, however, the dice didn't go in my favor as Eric's attrition rolls were 4 and 5, meaning both stacks survived, one with no loss, the other with a single step loss. (The first needed a 8+ to die (AR3, 2-5 no loss, 6-7 1 step, 8+ 2 steps), the second 6+ (AR2, 2-3 no loss, 4-5 1 step, 6+ steps.) Elsewhere, he just rejigged his line, with little (or no?) combat.

In the final turn Eric won initiative, and chose to go first. He started a withdrawal, and pulled everyone back, knowing that with a single turn to go, I had a lot of ground to make up. In the pocket, one of the isolated units still survived, as the AR3 stack only lost a single step, but the AR2 stack lost its final step.

However, there was still a chance! Eric had left one hex in his line protected by a single Alert battalion, and I threw what I had left against it. But it was not to be, as I couldn't muster the '6' required on two dice to get the exploitation result to allow the units to drive through the gap and have a chance of overrunning Morozovsk, although, thinking more about it, I wouldn't have had the MPS to do that, anyway.

This had taken around 1.5 hours, so we set it up again, and switched sides.

This time it was Eric's turn to suffer from the dice, as his very first roll saw the best weather possible, not what the Russian player wants, leaving the rivers unfrozen. (In my version I did well on the weather rolls, having frozen rivers each turn.) He pushed a little in the bulge area of his left, but didn't risk any attacks across the river, settling for setting up for the next turn. I pushed 11Pz forward to blunt his attack in the bulge area, successfully pushing him back, but at the cost of a panzer battalion.

In the next turn the weather became frozen, and Eric pushed forward. He attacked along his right flank, all the way to the end, hoping to turn it and set himself up for the final turn. I moved 11Pz across to protect, and removed his leading units in combat.

In the final turn, I won initiative, and chose to go first. I pushed all my units forward, in what I considered to be a very 'gamey' tactic, taking advantage of a gap in his lines to put all his lead units out of supply. If this had been part of a larger game, rather than a focused scenario, I wouldn't have done this, as I fully expected most of my forward units to get blasted, and wouldn't have been prepared to give up so many units for such a short-term gain. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened, as Eric over-ran all those Alert battalions I'd pushed forward, but they'd done their jobs, as he didn't have anywhere near the range or capability to get close to Morozovsk, so the Axis won, once more.

In the post-game kibitzing we discussed how the Russian player should tackle this puzzle. We agreed that there are a few items that appeared critical, and which we learned through play:

  • Rail bridge at 30.31 - without it the Russian HQ can't throw supply far enough to allow an attack on Morozovsk, so removing the LW division protecting it is vital
  • 8-4-8 armor unit - neither of us used this unit effectively, but with its big movement and combat strength it should be used in the drive/attack on Morozovsk
  • Get the Katyusha across to the point of attack in the first turn, or at least use it to DG 11Pz

OK, it's a very limited scenario, but it served its purpose. We got back into the OCS groove, and very quickly too, with a minimum of rules referencing, as either one or the other of us remembered the specific rule in question. We're planning to do the Edge of the World scenario over the next few weeks, which should have us ready for WBC-W. Not having played OCS for several months now, I'd forgotten how good it was, and how much I liked it.

I am _so_ looking forward to the WBC-W OCS session, the highlight of the week for me.

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