Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Um, sir? Shouldn't we be moving east?

Over the last three sessions, Mike and I have been playing The Mighty Endeavor, the SCS game that covers WWII in Western Europe from the D-Day landings through the Bulge into the early '45 when the Allies crossed into Germany.

The Mighty Endeavor is scaled much higher than many SCS games. Each hex is approximately 15 miles across, and turns are two weeks long. Compare this to the opposite end of the scale, Bastogne, where hexes are 400m across and turns are 1 day. Yet the system scales wonderfully both directions: a testament to its design. The map covers most of France (leaving out the far western tip), BeNeLux, and the western 75-100 miles of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. (Though the latter two are excluded from play.)

We'd originally planned this as a warmup game to test strategies for play at WBC-West. When I lost a day due to the job change, this game fell off the schedule. I got the Allies in this one so I'd be attacking here vs. defending in Case Blue.

I've played TME once before, over email with Cyberboard, so this was my first ftf play. I was also the Allies in the prior game, so I haven't experienced this game on the defensive yet. I'll have to do that next time.

I'll post a few pictures of the final position, but let's just say that if Operations Overlord, Cobra, Goodwood and Atlantic had gone this poorly in the actual war, WWII may have lasted another five years. We called the game early in turn 19 (That's late January, 1945 and I had yet to liberate Paris. Historically, it fell on August 23rd – turn 8. I was a bit behind schedule.)

Final position in the south:

And in the north:

You may notice the bottom left of the first and top right of the second picture are the same German units. Mike now had the advantage of interior lines pretty much eliminating any chance at flanking attacks.

It's rather hard to give a blow-by-blow account of a game that took place in pieces over the last month and a half or so, but I will certainly bring up some things I did wrong, and hopefully help you avoid these pitfalls when playing the Allies.

First – Know your troops and choose landing sites accordingly.

You'll notice from the pictures showing the ending positions that I ended up with the US in the northern half of the advance, and the CW in the southern half. This is a tactical mistake for the following reasons:
  • The US forces have over twice as many armored divisions as the Commonwealth. (13 to 6.)
  • The US has the only exploit-capable HQ.
Now, the Allied forces need to move fast – the VP spaces are 25-30 hexes away, and you've only got 25 turns to get there. (Interestingly, this is about the pace first expected by Allied HQ – a mile a day.) This means you should put your most mobile forces where the most space is – to the south as they did historically.

I got into this situation by landing the US in what was historically the Commonwealth beaches (Sword/Juno/Gold – the easternmost three). As the line rotated counterclockwise across the bocage, this kept the US forces near the coast – eliminating nearly all their mobility advantage.

Second – Understand Supply

I was rather timid in this game as I was constantly concerned with being put out of supply. This was pretty much a holdover from all the OCS we'd been playing lately. I failed to grasp that supply is much less of an issue to the Allies as the Germans. (Allied units cannot die due solely to being out of supply while German units can.) I failed to use the Surrender rule to my advantage at all. (Essentially, if a German unit has Allied units on opposite sides, it will be out of supply regardless of where its friends are.) Also, running units behind the lines lets you use them to restrict Axis retreat paths before they can be marked out of supply. A key need when a bulk of the Axis strategy is trading space for time.

Third – Use your air drops.

This is an alternate method for getting troops in behind the Germans to cut off their retreats. Watch which troops you ferry in and make sure you drop behind the Germans when you can. You will take losses, but you might create entire pockets that either can't retreat from adverse combat results or must be withdrawn in a large hurry to get them back into supply.

Fourth – Keep your Ace in the Hole in the hole.

I made a very large strategic blunder that was caused by the above tactical blunders. Restricting my mobility and not being aggressive led to my being short of ports. And being short of ports in this game means you have limited attack capabilities. It's a downward spiral you have to avoid early on. In reaction to this, I wasn't very smart in using my six beach landings. I used the first three in typical fashion – two on the Normandy beaches and one near St. Tropez on the Mediterranean. I basically wasted one near Bordeaux, as I didn't keep forces in the area to hold it, nor Bordeaux itself.

This led to me, out of desperation for ports, to use my sixth beach port back on the original Normandy site. While this helped me out in the short term, it allowed Mike to abandon his rear defense without fear of my landing behind him. This let him throw more forces into the front line slowing me down even further. The result was an almost WWI-esque front line where I couldn't get around the edges with any sort of force.

If you're having difficulties, save that last landing – it keeps the Axis guessing and may help keep a sector weak allowing a breakthrough.

The Mighty Endeavor is a very good game. If you like the SCS style of game, you'll likely enjoy it. According to the BGG ratings, it currently ranks 4th in the SCS series behind Bastogne, Fallschirmjaeger, and Afrika II. If you're looking for a game covering the drive to the Rhine, it's going to be near the top of the list. After playing this, I'm wanting to give it another go (and avoid the traps I fell into!), and possibly look at Liberty Roads – the new effort from Hexasim that covers nearly the same ground. With the D-Day anniversary coming up, it just seems appropriate.

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