Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan (GMT)

Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan (GMT)
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sun, 12/18 ~ 2.00PM - 3.45PM

I have never played a block game like this. I wouldn't call CCA or CCN block games in the sense that they don't use blocks to hide information from the other player. The blocks add a great ascetic to those games but could have been plastic pieces or counters and the games would have worked (not quite as well as they do with blocks, IMHO). I cant recall why I ordered Sekigahara other then perhaps it wasn't a Berg game and GMT put it up for preorder. I know that neither HeavyD or Bob showed any particular interest in it nor was there much buzz associated with the game prior to its release. Thus when it arrived, I looked it over and put it on the shelf without much thought.

Recently however I read several random posts in the GMT folder on CSW where someone had played the game for the first time and really enjoyed it. This piqued my interest. So I broke out the rules. I started with the designer's notes (doesn't everyone?) and was impressed at some of the things that the designer talked about around what he was trying to achieve with the design. Then I looked a little closer at the rules, first off they were pretty short, less then 12 pages. So I started reading and liked what I read. When I got to the combat process, I really got excited. The game is a little bit about deck building and a little bit about a traditional point to point card driven game. When you add in the blocks and the revolutionary combat system you really have something special, unique in my limited experience. There are no dice. The designer is also very interested in producing a balanced and playable game within the historical narrative.

So the next time Bob came over for our regular Thursday night session, I forced him to play. We set it up (set up is very easy and fast) and spent a lot of time going over the rules (Bob had not read them prior to sitting down). Then we started and played for a few turns before deciding that we liked the game enough to give it a full playing the next time we got together. The next night I played a full game with HeavyD. HeavyD arrived prepared (he's never been anything other then prepared, bless his heart). Again I started to explain the game to him but after the third or fourth time he finished my sentence or made a minor correction to a point I was explaining, I said the heck with this and we started.

Initial Set Up

Roughly two hours later we were finished and I was electrified. What an amazing experience! And this was my first game. We played a complete game in under three hours, closer to two. The game was an exciting back and forth thrill ride. Some of the time I felt like I was doing great, then the pendulum would swing the other way and I thought all was lost. We had several exciting battles, we had one devastating battle where, late in the battle HeavyD introduced a double unit and they switched sides, a massacre ensued. It was fantastic, so much more exciting then determining the odds or the firepower and rolling a die. We both learned some lessons that you can only learn while playing. We both couldn't wait until the next time we played. I couldn't wait to play Bob again on Sunday.

The Game

Sekigahara is a game about the seven week campaign that took place in 1600 that resulted in the unification of Japan. Each side plays a faction (the yellow blocks or the black blocks). Victory is determined at the end of the game by counting resource locations (1VP) and castle locations (2VP), the player with the most VPs is the winner. There are sudden death situations for each side, if your main leader is killed in a battle for instance you loose, or the yellow guys can loose if the heir block is taken. The game comes with a great one page player aid that has nearly all of the major rules summarized. Movement is by default 1 space, this is enhanced and decreased for various reasons (size of moving force, presence of a leader, force marching etc). There are castle locations and siege rules. Set up if fixed (there are certain units that start in the same place every game) and variable (you will randomly add X number of units to certain locations at set up). Combat is driven by deploying units (blocks) into battle via cards, the side that is able to generate the most impact (value of the units deployed) is the winner. The battles go back and forth with each player committing units to the battle until the other side has the initiative, units can switch sides during a battle. Losses are permanent. The cards are used to drive movement and recruiting as well as combat. The rules are very well written, one or two turns into the game and you will rarely need to look anything else up (sans perhaps the siege rules).

My Second Game

So I thought I would be able to use my new found knowledge to crush Bob after playing my first game a couple of days before with HeavyD. When Bob sat down I went over a couple of rules items to clarify them for Bob, but these were minor and in no time we were playing. One thing I should point out is that we used color coded dice to mark the control of castle locations. This helped a great deal as the big blocks can sometimes hide castles and it makes it much easier to quickly identify where the castles are and who controls them, very handy if you are still new to the game.

Start of turn 2
 One thing I had learned from my previous playing was that you need to sit tight for the first turn or two unless you have a lot of cards of one Mon or the other. Each side had several Mons (factions within their group), the Mons are displayed on the blocks and correspond with the cards. Each player only starts out with 5 cards, with these five cards you have to pay for movement (which is done twice over the course of a turn) and use them for any battles you might have. Additionally each player has to use a card to determine who gets the option of going first, this card is discarded and not replaced so you end up with not very many cards during the first turn.

Bob was playing the Black blocks so he has a slight advantage in starting forces as well as in gaining the initiative (all of his cards are even numbers and the yellow cards are odd). I haven't counted the blocks but my sense is that the black team has more starting off. I know that I started off slow, not burning any cards for movement and only taking minimal moves or recruiting on my first turn. Bob on the other hand started off by moving two 4-block armies out and towards my peace loving yellow blocks. We both grabbed a few resources on the first turn, then I moved a big 6-block army out of my capitol to deter Bobs opening. 

Ueda Castle Falls on turn 2

Bob started off the hostilities on turn two by going after Ueda Castle in the center of the map. I had three blocks, all from the same Mon and Bob came in with 4 blocks. I chose to fight as I had the cards I needed to get at least two of my units into the battle. It was a route, Bob got all 4 blocks deployed to my two, it was 16 to 5 in the end and I lost all three blocks. Bob took the castle and eliminated a key strong point of mine in the middle of the map. In the bottom of my 2nd turn I went after Miyazu castle (upper left hand side of the map).  He declined to fight and I was able to take him out. We were learning that sometimes its better to not fight and lose blocks via siege as you can draw a card per block lost in a siege versus one card per two lost in a normal battle.
Start of turn 4

I should talk about building your deck for a moment. As I mentioned, each player starts with only five cards. At the start of every turn, each player will discard half of his cards (rounding in his favor) while drawing in 5 (or six if you control more castles) new cards. Thus if you have a couple turns without battles and heavy movement your hand will get bigger. A bigger hand is important as its these cards that will enable you to both move your blocks and then get them to fight. I love how this works out...it forces one to carefully judge when its wise to use cards to move and when its better to same them for a latter turn.

The 2nd Battle of Miyazu Castle
Bob's forces retake Miyazu Castle

On Bobs next turn he brought his big six block army into my recently conquered Miyazu Castle. I elected to fight even though I only had three blocks, I knew I could get them all in the battle. Bob was better prepared and again routed me, I lost all three blocks in a 19 to 10 battle. Then in the second part of turn 3 we had an amazing fight in the center of the map. Bob took his 4-block army (the one that had taken my castle in the middle) and went after my 2-block force that had been running around capturing resources. I had only the two blocks (a leader [1 impact] and a 3 impact unit), but I had a single loyalty card. On Bobs second deployment I played the loyalty card and he had no answer for it (if you have an additional card of the Mon of the unit in question, that unit stays on your team)...thus his 3-impact unit came over to my side and I stole the victory out from under him. The final was 8-5, he lost two blocks and I lost none.

Traitors! A single unit switch's sides and all is lost
Riding this improbable victory, I took my main force (4 blocks) back up to Miyazu and went after Bobs 5 block army.  I had a bunch of cards of the right Mon and I knew that Bob had just recently played a lot of these Mon in retaking the castle. This time it was a one sided battle as Bob was caught Mon-less and only able to get a single 1-impact unit into the fight. The final was something like 11-1 and I killed three blocks at no cost to myself. Bob did have a couple of loyalty cards which I was able to counter with my deep hand. Bob retreated into the castle with his surviving blocks.

The 3rd Battle of Miyazu Castle, a one sided Victory for the Yellow Team

Bob started to muster in troops in the while I made a move on Kiyosu (a center of power for him). I went in with 6-blocks (burning a card to force march them in there) and we both got everyone into the fight, this one was costly (16-10). In the end I cleared out his army and was now close to two of his castles. I was sitting in his muster location so I knew that I'd have some time before he could get a force into this area.

Start of turn 4

Turn 4 was all Bob. He defeated both of my remaining armies on his side of the map in one sided fights. Thus in one short turn I went from feeling like I had this one in the bag to desperation. Bob had more resources and more castles. He kept on bringing on 2-4 blocks per muster while I was only able to bring in one or two blocks here and there. I was able to clear out the castle closest to me so that I had 4 castles and they were all close together on my side of the map. I was desperate enough at this point to burn cards to bring in my special reinforcements, I needed to do this because I was running out of units and Bob kept on getting bigger and bigger (he drew the right blocks in the reinforcement phase and was able to get them on the map quickly).

The Battle of Kiyosu

A close run affair, 16-10 in favor of the Tokugawa (Yellow) faction

On turn 6 Bob went after Miyazu castle again, he moved an 8 block army in there and wiped me out. It was a big and bloody battle ending at 20-14. I lost 3 blocks and he lost two. I did manage to lesson the losses by converting one of his 3 impact blocks over to my side (what were they thinking!). He then countered by grabbing one of my units. Fantastic stuff I tell ya! Bob then moved against the South (my side of the map) and re took the castle there, taking out my garrison force. Victory points wise it was turning into a land slide victory for him. I didn't have much in the reinforcement box to bring in and had already brought in my special reinforcements. I was down on cards as well.

The Start of Turn 5

Bob knew that he was in the drivers seat and there were only a turn or two left. I had one last grasp left even though I knew it wasn't going to alter the overall course of the game. I gathered my remaining forces in Kyoto and went after Miyazu once again, better to go out in a blaze of glory that to just sit there. This battle was exciting and close, the end result was 21-19...so close. After that it was over. The final VP count was 16-9 in Bobs favor.

Miyazu falls for the last time

Despite the one sided final result, it felt close and tight the whole game. Not knowing what you are going to face by not seeing the other guys units AND THEN not knowing what he'll be able to get into the battle once you get there is simply one of the best gaming mechanics that I've come across. I cant wait to play this one again. I highly recommend this game to anyone who will listen. It's easily the best new (new as in new to me) game that I've played this year...and that's saying something as I think CCN and Dominion are also fantastic games as well. My hats off to Matt Culkins on his inspired design.

Positions at the end of the game
Each sides eliminated units

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Flying Colors (GMT) ~ "The Doggersbank" [18.29]

Game: Flying Colors (GMT)
Scenario: The Doggersbank [18.29]
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Fri, Dec 12th ~ 7.00PM - 10.45PM

Back in 2005 when Flying Colors came out, HeavyD and I played it several times. This was prior to the "Ship of the Line" expansion and the second volume of the game, "Serpents of the Seas". The last time we played, I remember HeavyD dicing me good and hard...I know that at least partially this has lead to us not having visited this series since then. So I pulled these games off the shelf and looked at them again, I had not looked too closely at either of the new products. I found the scenario when looking through the SoL expansion.

The scenario depicts an action fought by the Royal Navy against the Dutch Navy in 1781. I for one, didn't even know the British and Dutch were fighting around that time. The action depicted takes place in the Baltic. RN Admiral Hyde Parker is escorting a group of merchant men through the Baltic when they spot a Dutch squadron doing the same thing. Parker was recently censured, so he signaled his merchantman to make for home and had his squadron form line of battle. The Dutch followed suit as both sides held their fire until close range...what transpired was largely a draw. The only ship lost was a Dutch ship, the next day. Casualties however were heavy on both sides.

The scenario was appealing to me because of the size and the fact that it was on one map. Also, and more importantly, there is only a 1 differential in Audacity between the two forces. The British have an Audacity of 1 and the wind gage. The British have seven ships, six of them Ships of the Line and one Frigate. The Dutch have seven ships, six of them SoL's with one Frigate. Both sides SoL's are mostly 64's and 74's. The British have one leader (Parker) while the Dutch have two. Its interesting to note that the two Dutch leaders are both better then Parker. A special rule precludes the British ships from using Cannonades.

Starting Positions

I wanted to play the Dutch. From my previous playings of the game I recall, dimly (it has been many years) that I was not very happy with the Audacity mechanic and how it impacted the balance of the scenarios. Audacity in this game translates into enhanced firepower (among other things). The side with the Audacity advantage will shoot better. While I was re-reading the rules I came across this section under 6.2 Tournament Play. It reads:

6.2.2 Fleet Actions: The historical scenarios all have an inherent bias towards one or the other in the form of the Audacity rating. The side with the higher Audacity rating is expected to win most of the time. This is by design, but it makes for boring tournament play! For those wanting to play fleet actions competitively, these options are suggested:

He then lists several slight changes to the mechanics, including bidding for break check modifiers.

For me, the most important part of a consim game has always been the balance of the design. That is each sides chance of winning. ASL, being my favorite game is driven by this as the scenario designers have striven for as balanced a scenario as possible. It doesn't always work of course, there are and will always be unbalanced dogs, but I know that most of the scenarios that are published strive to be a closely balanced as possible. When I see a designer include a rule like the one I site above, I get very worried. To me the designer is telling me that he isn't interested in producing a game that even tries to provide an even chance of winning for both sides...the British will (and should, from what I am reading) always win Trafalgar.

The Scenario

Opening Broadsides

The first interesting thing that happened was that we had the wind change direction, on the first turn! The wind changed one hex to the left, now I had the wind as well as HeavyD. The first few turns were largely uneventful as we both stayed in line formation and closed on each other. It was on the third turn that the first opening broadsides were unleashed. HeavyD nicely closed up his line as he turned into the wind at about 6 hexes range and opened up. His initial broadsides were very effective, he both rolled well and benefited by the British advantage of shooting at my hull (+1 drm) and being up wind (+1 drm) as well as the Audacity firepower advantage (add the audacity to your firepower)...his average shots were usually on the 4 or 5 column with a +2 drm.  When the smoke cleared he had inflicted about 6 hull and rigging hits to my 1, not a good way to start off.

The entire British line engages the van of the Dutch squadron

Things continued to go poorly in the next couple of turns. By the time both of our lines had engaged, he was way out ahead in the damage inflicted department. He'd inflicted about 14 hull/rigging/crew hits (across several ships) to my 4 hull hits on one ship. As our lines were about even, HeavyD turned in on me. He had been Beating (2MPs) against the wind at this point, when he turned in he was now reaching again. The front of my line was in bad shape at this point. I had one ship flipped over due to damage and my flagship was a few hits away from flipping as well. The closer we got, the more lethal his fire became, he was still getting the +2 drms and +1 to firepower on every shot. To add to this, I was rolling terribly, HeavyD even suggested I change dice it was getting so bad. I refused, wanted to take my medicine, It was I after all who wanted to play this game and then play the Dutch.

Hyde Parker's British turn into the Dutch line of Battle

The Dutch suffer as the British break their line
 Things got really spicy as our two lines joined. HeavyD had only one leader, while I had two. This meant that he's having to move all of his in command ships (and most of them were in command up to this point) at once, while I am making two moves, one with each of my leaders. In this scenario that really didn't make much of a difference. The game has a very nice defensive fire mechanic in which the non-phasing player can interrupt the phasing players shot (you fire your ships at any point in their movement) to fire defensively. As HeavyD was winning most of the initiative rolls (despite my having a better leader) he was able to break my line and get those nice rake shots. HeavyD had a great turn (turn 6 I believe), many of his shots were rakes and I had no option to defensive fire before I was raked. He got most of his rake rolls and by the end of the turn the end of my line was in shambles now as well.

The Dutch fall out of line and reverse course

Now having two leaders proved to be helpful. I was able to get the rear of my line turned around, Beating now at range 4 from his line. My ships were suffering terribly though, all of the rear three were flipped (more then 50% damage) while the five ships I was facing were still hardly damaged and maintained the weather gage. Things were going a little better with my van. I was able to get a couple of nice rakes on the end of his line as I turned around.

Parker crosses the "T"

It was shortly after this that the wind changed direction again, turning one direction clockwise, back to its original facing at the start of the scenario. HeavyD still held the weather gage. HeavyD won the initiative again and was able to cross my T with the front of his line. This turned into a massacre at this point. I lost a couple of ships out right (sunk) while HeavyD also closed in and grappled one of my ships and took it. I struck my colors at this point despite passing the Break check roll.

Final Positions

Despite my complete shellacking, I had a pretty good time while getting shellacked. I love the games mechanics. I love how it emphasizes command and control and focuses on leadership in a very playable format. The rules are great and cover every interesting situation we encountered. In short its a joy to play, it plays fast and is exciting. This is why its so very disappointing that nearly every scenario in the game (not counting the Serpents of the Seas volume that I have not played) is an unbalanced dog by design. Its hard for me to imagine if HeavyD and I played this scenario 10 times, switching sides each time that the Dutch would be able to win more then one or two of those.

What a shame that such an elegant design is left wanting for balanced scenarios.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Into the Vienna Woods" [AP52]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Scenario: "Into Vienna Woods" [AP53]
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Sat, Nov 26th 4.00PM - 7.00PM

Action Pack #5 featured scenarios from the Eastern Front Around here at least we have played many of the scenarios from it. This one "Into Vienna Woods" is one that I have now played twice. This one looks appealing when you see it. Its played on half board 58 (hill) and only lasts six turns. As the Russian you have 15 MMC's and a couple of Assault Guns to counter a gang of 11 SS squads lead by a 10-2. As of this writing it is 50/50 (42/42) on ROAR, which is perfect.

HeavyD and I are into our 2nd month of our get back on track with ASL program and selected this one to play. I chose the Soviets as I had played it back in '09 as the Germans. I didn't recall much from the game other then I played my friend Dave Angrisani. The Victory conditions are very clear here, the Germans have to run up the hill and take all of the level three hexes and hold them by the end of the game. There is a trench counter in each of the level three hexes and Alpine Hills are in play (in short, hills will block LOS along the same level). The Russians start out with 5 5-2-7s, 1 2-2-7, 1 8-0, 1 LMG and 4 "?" markers. On their half of turn 3 the Russians get substantial reinforcements. This group has 10 4-5-8s, 1 9-1, 1 8-1, 1 8-0, 3 LMGs as well as a SU-100 and SU-76. As the playing area is so small, these reinforcements can enter the trench line the turn they enter (some of them at least). 
My Set Up

The German player has a very nice force of 11 6-5-8s, 1 10-2, 1 8-1, 1 8-0 2 dm MMGs, 3 LMGs and a PSK. They too can be in the trench line on the turn that they enter. It is my job to keep them out. As I looked at the board whilst setting up didn't see anything that had me really worried. I simply set up most of my guys on top of the hill in the trench line with 1 squad on level two (all starting Russians have to be at least at level 1) and a couple of dummies at level one. 

The Steamroller

Things went well early on. I was quite pleased with how my dummie stacks made HeavyD be cautious around them. I did a little long range fire (when your squads range is two, long range is 4-5 hexes away) at some of his squads as they started their assent up the hill. Each time though when a MC was called for his guys were up for it, I don't think I broke a single unit of his during his first movement phase. As the movement phase progressed I didn't get that worried though as he was saving his 10-2 death-star stack for the very end. Most of his movement had been very passive to this point, so him not breaking much wasn't that much of a concern. However when the 10-2 and his band of thugs made there way up the hill without any of my fire slowing them down, I started to get a bit worried. It was also at this point in the scenario that I realized that I had completely blown my set up. 

End of German first Movement phase

When his turn was over, I was starting to go into shock. I had three 6-5-8s and a 10-2 (plus a couple of MGs) adjacent to my trench line. I had a squad or two break from his advancing fire as well. I skulked on my turn, hoping to rally my guys and survive his prep fire. 

HeavyD working me over during his turn 2 Movement Phase

It got ugly early in the prep fire phase. He started breaking units right off the bat. After his withering Prep fire he made a few cautious moves to get adjacent to me on his side of the hill. I pointed out that he could CX one of his guys and get around behind me on my side of the hill, eliminating some of my route options. My defensive fire again was fruitless, not breaking a single unit. He advanced into the trench line and cleaned up in the CC phase. It was over. I conceded at the end of the turn as he still had one more movement phase to clean up my last one or two squads that were in the trenches, then he'd be ready and waiting my assaulting forces.  

End of German Turn 2...Those are Germans in the trench line

Even though HeavyD did well on his MCs, this wasn't about dice, this was about me missing the point. My initial force of 5.5 squads has to be a speed bump. I have to fight him as soon as he enters the map, I should have 3-4 squads down on level one close to his entry hexes. This allows me to engage him right away and takes away the range advantage that his units have over mine. I should have only left one or two squads on the hill with the LMG to cover the trench line. I know that I'll loose all of my initial force now, I should have set it up better to slow him down so that my reinforcements would be able to get to the trench line while he is still fighting his way up his side of the hill. 

The day was not lost, Dominion was sitting there...the new expansions (Hinterlands) was just begging us to try it out so we did. We ended up playing a few hands of the new set and having a good time.

Dominion Saves the day

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Liberating Bessarabia" [113]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Scenario: "Liberating Bessarabia" [113]
Participants: Rikk "Flaming Tank" M, Myself
Time: Sat, Nov 12th ~ 10.00PM - 12.00PM
         Sun, Nov 13th ~ 4.30PM - 5.30PM

As I have recently clipped out all of my Axis Minor counters, I wanted to play a scenario using them. I started with the Armies of Oblivion module and quickly found this one. It was the right size and had a little early war armor. When I looked it up on ROAR it also fared well. It's easily the most popular scenario from the module having been played and reported to ROAR around 100 times. Its 56% pro-Romanian, which is a great balance percentage.

The scenario takes place in Bessarabia in July of 1941. The Romanian 1st Armored Division is attacking a city called Branzeni. The scenario has two half boards (49 & 22) with the Russians setting up East of a Road a few hexes in from where the Romanians will be entering. The Romanians have to Control 6 or more multi-hex building in order to win. The scenario is 8 turns long. Most of the Multi-hex buildings are near the border of the two boards. The Romanians will have some open ground to cover in addition to a gully to deal with. Since I was defending in our last scenario, I elected to take the Romanians in this one.

Rikk's Russian OB looks contains; 7 4-4-7s, 4 4-2-6s, 9-1, 7-0, 2 MMGs, 2 LMGs, 1 ATR and 6 "?". Additionally, he starts out with 2 BT-2A's (37L) and 2 BA-6 Armored Cars (45L). The Russian ELR is 2 and their SAN is 3. There isn't a lot of depth to defend in, so I expect him to set up as far forward as he can given the terrain.

After both side have set up

The Romanians OB consists of: 14 3-4-7s, 9-1, 8-0, 7-0, 2 dm MMGs, 3 LMGs, 1 dm 60mm MTR with a 8-1AL along with 4 LT vz35 (g) [37] and 2 R-1 (t) [CMG]. The vz35's are really nice, they have 3 frontal armor and 4/4 for MGs. These are the most potent weapons I have. The are very vulnerable to the 45L's and somewhat vulnerable to the 37Ls as well. The Romanian ELR is 3 and their SAN is 2.

Rikk, as expected set up with nearly everything up front, just across the road. I could see that on my right he had two of his AFV's hull down behind a stone wall covering an important intersection. He had another AFV on my far right and the last AFV was set up back in my left covering the road. I knew I would be able to make some good progress on the first turn as there were a lot of LOS hindrances and some buildings blocking his view. Additionally there are not any good level 2 hexes for him to use. All buildings are wooden via SSR.

Turn 1

End of Romanian Turn 1

My initial movement phase went well for me. I was expecting more fire from Rikk, but then again most of the shots he had weren't going to be very good. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I wanted my tanks and how to use them. I didn't want to even engage his armor until I had an idea what was where. All if his AFVs were in very strong positions, 3 of them were hull down on the first turn. My tanks are too important to me to risk any early on.

Turn 2

End of turn 2 on the Left

Rikk stays passive on his first couple turns. I am able to engage the MMG in hex 49F8. This is important because he can lay a fire lane down the whole road from this spot. I wasn't sure on the LOS initially but thankfully it is open. Rikk brings up one of his tanks (radioless) to support his infantry on my left. He leaves a hull down position that I was worried about. He does it so that he can get some fire on the big building on my left which is now teeming with Romanian squads.

End turn 2 on the Right
My turn 2 goes well again. I see that Rikk has a BT-2A on my left in the street. I will be able to pelt it with MG fire with the four MGs I have in the building. In the center Rikk's ATR takes out one of my mini tanks and immobilizes the other one. I have a couple squads break on my left, but I have a leader near by to rally them and can do that in cover. On my right I continue to poor fire into his MMG in the big building. I am able to get most of my guys up to to road in cover during the turn, he's going to be facing a lot of fire power should he not skulk in his turn.

Turn 3

Hex 49F8, after the Critical Hit.

In his half of turn 2, I got some good shots off.  I was able to shock his AFV on my left with MG fire and getting a CH on the MMG covering the whole road on my right. Rikk skulks with most of the rest of his force. With the BT-2A shocked on my left, I now see an opportunity to focus my attack there with a couple of my tanks. By then end of my turn, his tank is aflame and I am pushing across the street on my left. I've had a couple squads break but so had he. The MMG not interdicting the road is big as is the vz35 I send over there to take out his shocked tank. With this tank here, Rikk cant stay there with his infantry, allowing my to get across the street in good shape.

The loss of Rikk's BT-2A on the left
 Turn 4

Rikk begins by sending another tank over to cover his left. The two in the middle are busy shooting at my infantry. One of his AFV breaks his MA. Rikk decides to pull back and play it safe on his half of turn three, not electing to stay in the buildings right on the street.

I make excellent progress on my left. With the 2nd vz35 in the area I am able to use the terrain to my advantage and get right up next to several of his squads. He's only got a couple of 4-2-6s over on this side and they have very little room to escape should they break. In the center I am able to get a leader over there to rally a couple of broken squads in the gully and I start to shift a couple more squads over in this direction to pressure him.
End of Turn 4

On his part of turn 4 he pulls back where he can. The two AFVs in the center bug out as he needs them to prop up his melting infantry on my left. I am able to eliminate/capture 2-3 squads on my left as they break or disrupt and have no where to rout.

Turn 5

The start of Romanian Turn 5

On my right I send forward the a vz35 I have lurking there to cover the intersection. The other one I move up to the wall that he has just abandoned and take his ACs under fire (from hull down). He breaks one of his MA's in defensive fire. Things go from bad to worse for Rikk on left. Rikk isn't able to stop me from getting to his last few squads on his left. These guys are covering a couple VP buildings and when I am able to break them he throws in the towel.

Final Positions, end of Romanian Turn 5

Both of us really enjoyed the scenario. Its easy to see why its the most popular one in the module and obviously is getting a lot of play. I expect its also getting used a lot in tournaments. I would happily play it again as either side. I think Rikk had the right idea on how to defend in this one. The CH on the MMG on my right was big. That being said, I think a roll here or there could have made this one a lot closer.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Far From Home" [AP53]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Scenario: "Far from Home" [AP53]
Participants: Rikk "The Pirate" M, Myself
Time: Friday, Nov 11, 5.00PM - 10.00PM

I had not had a chance to try out any of the scenario's from Action Pack 6 yet, so when Rikk came out from Arizona for a long weekends visit, we decided to try out the first one. Action Pack 6 came with three new boards cut at a different angle then traditional ASL boards. These allow for a different feel as they are wider and come with some terrain that 'makes more sense' then the normal long and narrow ASL boards. The scenario's in the pack cover many none traditional actions as well. The theme being "a decade of war". Thus this first one takes place in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

The scenario pits the Republican (represented by Russian counters and rules) forces against the Nationalists (Axis Minor counters and Rules). The Republican forces have just taken a town and the Nationalist forces are trying to take it back. The Victory conditions are very interesting. The National Forces have to score at least as many VPs as the Republican player. VPs are awarded for friendly unbroken MMCs occupying certain buildings. Thus each player can earn VPs for a given building, assuming they each have unbroken MMCs in it at the end of their RPh.

Set Up

The Republican forces set up first with a small force on board 2a. The force includes 6 4-4-7s, 3 2-3-7s an 8-1, 2 LMGs and one 51* (British) mortar. Interestingly, these forces are not able to set up in three of the VP eligible victory point producing buildings. Then on turn 3 a couple of T-26s enter as well along with an 8-1 armor leader. The Republicans are reinforced by a large for of Infantry on turn 4. This force consists of 12 4-4-7s, 2 2-2-8 crews, a 10-0 commissar, a 9-1, MMG, 2 LMG, 2 DC. This force is supported by two T-26 M33 tanks.

The Nationalists meanwhile have two groups of units. The group that sets up on board has 9 4-4-7s, 9-1, 8-1, MMG, 2 LMGs, 51* MTR (British) and 1 ATR. These forces set up on the South side of board 1a. They are reinforced on turn two by another force of Infantry (nearly the same as the first group) and six PzKfw IB (G). The tanks have inexperienced crews (like a 6-1 AL in the tank) in addition to being radioless.

As I began setting up I made a critical error. I didn't 'do the math' on the building control mechanics thus I was more or less in the dark about the specifics. I knew generally that I needed to try and hold the buildings on my side of the board as they paid points at the end of the game. I also knew that there were about six buildings on the edge of board 2a that paid VPs for the first three turns. Additionally there were two hexes (cross roads) that paid 5VP each for their control at the end of the game. Thus I knew all the mechanics, but I didn't go over it before I set up so that I know what I would have to do. It turns out that the VPs available are very tightly balanced between the two forces and the game will be decided by a narrow margin. In the end I don't think I would have done anything differently on set up had I gone through this exercise, but I felt like I had already given an advantage to Rikk before we made the first WC DR.

Turns 1-3

I have a small force to work with for the first three turns. Rikk will have tanks in my midst around turn three and I have little to defend against them with early on other then MG fire. I decide against trying to occupy the front to buildings (outside of my set up area) as I expect Rikk to come down the road in that direction with most of his force. I need to keep my guys alive and try and keep him out of the main town where VPs are scored at the end of the game. I don't have a lot of ways to interdict his approach either given my set up restrictions. He has to cross a lot of open ground, but I have few places to set up to cover this approach. Instead I put the majority of my guys on my right in and around the three VP paying buildings on my right. I throw a HS up on the level two hex on my far right to help strip some concealment. I lightly cover my left, planning to shoot and scoot there.

Turn 2
As expect Rikk brings 2/3s of his force down the road on my left, where I am spread very thin. There is very little going on in these early turns as Rikk spends the first two turns moving at full speed into the area. Rikk brings his turn 2 reinforcements in and sends most of the Infantry to my left with two of his tanks, sending the other 4 and remaining infantry to my right. I pull back a bit on my right as he moves into the VP buildings there. I am leaderless on this side of the map so I am very careful, only shooting if I have to.

Turn 3
On his turn three Rikk moves up the level 2 hill on my right, sending my HS there scurrying away. Rikk also moves his 4 tanks on this side close to the building complex that is the cornerstone of my defense. In the middle he sends his remaining two tanks over the threaten the crossroads there. I have a squad and LMG here. On the left Rikk, with his main force continues to advance and clear out the buildings there.

Turns 4-5

Turn 4, on my right
The bottom of turn 3 sees my small force reinforced by two T-26s and an 8-1 AL. I send these to the threatened crossroads and engage his two tanks there. Rikk makes his move on the building on turn 4. He sends one platoon of tanks in to tie up my infantry. He then sends a couple of squads to support the tanks. The other platoon of tanks goes over and engages my two tanks in the center. Close combat ensues and I get the tanks the used VBM to enter the building hex, while his infantry survives locking us in melee. One of his tanks in the middle breaks its MA (CMG) in advancing fire while I am able to take out another one in defensive fire. On my left Rikk is moving hard for the village and I have little there to stop or impede his progress. This though is where my reinforcements will arrive the next turn.

Turn 4, action at the crossroads

Turn 4, the left
My turn 4 sees the arrival of my reinforcements. I start with sending the two arriving T-26s over to my left to stop his advance towards the town. This is important as Rikk has nicely placed these units to interdict my arriving Infantry's movement. Thus I am forced to stay clear of a couple road hexes that would have allowed me to get closer to the center. Rikk takes a nice long range shot at my guys with his MMG on my far right (on the level 2 hill there with an 8-1 directing). I have a couple squads break here. In the advancing fire phase both of my arriving T-26s break their MA's.

Rikk assaults the building on my right

Rikk sends his other Platoon of IB's to the crossroads
Rikk's turn 5 sees his Infantry on my right pull back into the woods. Its clear he's not going to make any more progress on this side of the map. In the center at the crossroads I am down to one tank as is he. I have killed two if his with a third recalled. The pressure on my right grows and Rikk takes one of the buildings here. I cleared his infantry out of the two-hex building, but he's still got the lone tank adjacent with a lot of squads still in the vicinity. More importantly though, neither one of my T-26s fix thier MA's. As I only have a snowballs chance at this point in the game, I throw in the towel.

Problems on my Left

End of my Turn 4
This was one of those scenarios that I lost and still cant really articulate what I should have done differently to not lose. The broken MA's were an afterthought because even by that point, I knew I was loosing. The two five VP hexes are also a key factor at the end of the game. I had hoped to drive over to the other side of the board to occupy one of them with a T-26, while maintaining control of the one on my side of the board, but this was a long shot as my sole remaining T-26 that had the range to get there was now alone and thus would have to roll for non platoon movement. Additionally by having that tank make a run for it, I would have to leave the other crossroad hex unprotected.

End of Rikk's turn 5 (end of game as well)
The ROAR on this tells me that I am in the minority in being clueless on what I should have done as its fairly balanced there. I did really enjoy the game though and that of course is the important part after all. The new maps are really a great addition to the system and I look forward to more scenarios using them. Rikk and I are also big fans of the early armor game, so we really liked that part of the scenario as well.