Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Battle Above the Clouds (MMP) - "McLemore's Cove"

Game: Battle Above the Clouds (MMP)
Series: GCACW
Scenario: McLemore's Cove
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Friday, June 3rd ~ 6.30PM - 9.45PM

We continue with HeavyD's introduction to the GCACW series with Scenario #1 from BATC, "McLemore's Cove". This is the first scenario in the BATC game and its a keeper. Bob and I had played it a couple times when we first got BATC. Each side is part offense and part defense. The scenario is 4 turns long and has many option available to each player.

The scenario opens on September 10th, 1863. Rosecrans has crossed the Tennessee and has captured Chattanooga. He believes Bragg's Army of Tennessee is in flight. Bragg has only evacuated Chattanooga though and the AoT is itching for a fight. Rosecrans Army of the Cumberland is spread out and not expecting Bragg to turn and fight. Negley's Division of the XIV Corps is in McLemore's Cove, way out in front of the rest of the Corps.

Initial Set Up, the dice are marking the VP locations

As I mentioned the scenario has many options open to both sides for victory. The key for the CSA player is controlling the paths into/out of McLemore's Cove. This is represented by having an infantry unit in either S3605 (Thornton's Mills) or S3808 (Bailey's Crossroads), this will yield +10VPs. The second key objective, also worth 10 VPs are a couple hexes up on the ridge, again needing to control only one of these two hexes, S3406 (Campbell) or S3509 (Powell). In the above picture these four hexes have the purple dice in them. Chattanooga is worth 20 VPs, but has a strong Union Corps in front of it. The crossing behind Lookout Mountain is also worth 10VPs. The Union player has to prevent Bragg's AoT from taking these objectives. The Union player is also on the offensive in the scenario, having a strong cavalry force further South as well as an Infantry Corps (XX) threatening Lafayette (S4604). The rail line that supplies Bragg's army is also a potential target. The CSA player has to have at least 14 more VPs then the USA player to get a win.

HeavyD takes the USA side and I will be playing the CSA.

Turn 1

Near the End of the first turn

The game opens with me getting a big string of back to back action phases. I start with Buckner's Corps, moving a Division over next to Negley's Isolated Division. I move the rest of Buckners Corps towards Thornton's Mills. HeavyD is largely unable to respond to this as I am getting initiative after initiative. When HeavyD does finally get the initiative he pulls Negley's Division out of harms way, pulling them back to Bailey's Crossroads.  Negley's Division, while out on their own is in a very strong position at the start of the game. They are in a clear terrain hex and have 3 artillery. Any attack I should decide to mount against that hex will be costly. The risk though is if I am able to surround the unit.

End of Turn 1

I am able to get Buckner up unto Lookout Mountain by going to F3 on turn 1 (rolling very well for both initiative and MPs). This does not bode well for HeavyD as I am now sitting in both of the +10VP hexes. I have essentially become the defender now as I am on the ridge, HeavyD is going to have to dig me out to prevent my getting the 20VPs and the win. HeavyD works on bringing Thomas' Corps up onto Lookout Mountain. I am also able to get Walker's Corps down near the base of the mountain to cover Buckner's rear (Cooper's Gap). The rest of the turn is quick as most of the rest of our units are unable to move on the first turn. 

Turn 2

Negley is able to get out of McLemore's cove, up onto the Mountain. This allows me to bring Stewart's Division in to reinforce Buckner's position. I then move Walker's Corps over to cover Steven's Gap. By now nearly all of the XIV Corps is up on Lookout Mountain and queuing up to make an attack on Buckner's now dug in Corps in S3406. Thomas starts off a Corps Assault action and Rosecrans joins in to make it a Grand Assault. This is pretty impressive at Rosy is only a 4, but he rolled well and is able to get the other two hexes involved in the attack. The attack ends up going in as a -1 to HeavyD's die. Here are the details: 1-2 Odds (-1), +0 Tac, -1 Arty, +1 Assault. for a net of -1. This is certainly a long shot but at this point HeavyD knows its his only real shot at dislodging Buckner from his position.

The Battle of Cooper's Gap, Union XIV Corps Assaults Buckner's Corps

We roll and the battle goes poorly for the boys in Blue, ending in a -2 or -3 I believe. HeavyD looses 3 or 4 points of Infantry and Thomas's Corps is done for the day (F4). As I only gained 1 level of fatigue in the fight I then decide to counter attack when I next win the initiative. Buckner does a Corps Assault, rolling well allowing both of his Divisions as well as the Corps Artillery to attack. I decide to go after the hex Thomas is in with Baird's small division hoping to open the road up to S3509. The final is a +4 attack (+4 odds, -1 Tac, +0 Art & +1 Assault). It does not go well for me. I push Thomas and Baird out of the hex with a 'r' but I loose 3-4 points of Infantry at very little cost to HeavyD. Buckner's Corps is now out as well (F4).

Buckner's Corps after their failed Counter Attack

Our attention now turns South as HeavyD's only real chance at some sort of a win rests in his ability to take Lafayette from me and perhaps go after the rail line. Both of us leave a Corps facing each other near Chattanooga. In a pretty tense sequence of activations I am able to hold off HeavyD's march on Lafayette with Joe Wheeler's Cavalry while I have Breckenridge's division entrenching in Lafayette. What's worse for the Union cause is now that Thomas's Corps is out of action, I can move a couple of Divisions over to support Breckenridge in Lafayette.

At this point HeavyD throws in the towel as the odds are long that he is going to ever get me off of Lookout Mountain and the prospects of him taking Lafayette are slim against two entrenched CSA Divisions. The scenario really went my way early on the first turn. I was able get a whole bunch of activations with Buckner and Walker's Corps rolling very well when I then activated them. Thus HeavyD never really was able to stop me from getting up on Lookout. At that point his only option was a low odds frontal assault on two Divisions of CSA infantry who where already starting to dig in.

The map at the end of the scenario

Despite the one sided outcome, both of us had a good time. HeavyD is now getting up to speed on the GCACW rules and is enjoying them. We hope to start the SJW CG (2nd Manassas) the next time we get together. This is easily my favorite scenario in the box. The CG is very good also (the crossing of the Tennessee) with Bob and I having played it twice (both of us getting pounded by the CSA).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Light Aid Detached" [J139]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Scenario: "Light Aid Detached" [J139]
Participants: Joe "YJ" C, Myself
Time: Monday, May 30th ~ 2.45PM - 8.00PM

On Memorial Day, YJ and I had a chance to play ASL. I immediately grabbed the latest Journal and Action Pack from MMP to find something to play. This scenario appealed to me because of the situation and the designer. The scenario takes place in September of 1944 in Lessines, Belgium. The Light Aid Detachment of the Guards Armored Division is stationed in town, earnestly repairing AFV's when a retreating mob of Germans approaches. The locals, including a feisty band partisans warn the LAD and the fight is soon on.

The LAD begins the game set up within one hex of I4 (next to building G3). There are also two abandoned British AFV's, a Sherman V and Cromwell IV. The LAD consists of 2 447s, 3 436s and 2 226 HS as well as an 8-1 and a 8-0. The Belgian Partisans (4x 337s, 6+1 & German LMG) setup (HIP) on/between hexrows S and U. The Germans set up on board in a collection of AFV's, trucks and wagons. The Germans have a 8-1, 7-0 and 6+1 leaders; 3 548s, 2 447s 5 436s, a dm MMG, LMG and a PSK. The Germans have an interesting mix of vehicles including a Marder III(f), a SPW 251/9, 3.7cm FlaK LKW (truck), SPW 251/1, Opel Blitz and 6 Wagons. The German Personal much set up as Passengers with the vehicles in motion and CE.

Lessines, Belgium

The Germans win by having one GO non-crew MMC in building G3 at the end of the game. The LAD can remount the Sherman and Cromwell, if they do the Vehicles are straddled with all kinds of terrible penalties (RED MPs, Inexperienced Crews [akin to a 6+1 AL in the vehicle], Red TH #s and all weapons are treated as B11/X12). The Partisans (Armee Blanche) have MOL and may not form multi location FGs, nor may they enter any abandoned AFVs. The scenario is 6.5 turns long with the Germans going first.

My Set Up

We Diced for sides and I got the LAD and Partisans. There wasn't much to my set up given the restrictions in place. I spread out the Partisans to cover the roads, keeping the 6+1 separate with the hopes that he can prolong YJ's guessing on which units are squads. I placed a 226 on the Roof (the building, G3 is a factory by the way) to assist in stripping concealment, with the rest of my LAD on the ground.

Turn 1

End of Turn 1

YJ started off very rusty. We had to have some basic refresher courses in Vehicle identification (for example he had riders on the FLAK truck), so after we got that straightend out his turn 1 proved much less efficient then it could have been with some of his force dissenbarking sooner then he would have liked. He was able to roll up in the 251/1 and get into CC with one of my squads (who gacked the MOL attempt). My turn was spent spreading out the LAD to cover the approaches and remounting the two tanks. My 337 was able to survive CC throughout turn one into turn two, thus I at least slowed that ONE squad down.

Turn 2

End of Turn 2

I was able to figure out the MOL as YJ parked the 251/9 next to a still HIP 337. I destroyed the AFV without a flame (which is hard to do with a MOL). YJ got his infantry moving this turn and de-HIPed another 337, immediately jumping in CC with it as well. My 6+1 breaks HIP to cause concealment loss and YJ thinks its a squad at this point (my fiendish scheme is coming to fruition).

My half of the turn was quiet as I tweaked my LAD positioning and tried to escape with the concealed 6+1 and the MOL armed 337. YJ takes out both 337s in CC.

Turn 3

End of Turn 3

Turn 3 had YJ making a lot of progress towards the repair shop via the road that I had left uncovered. I am kicking myself for not parking the Cromwell in K9 to cover this road instead of parking it where I did (in J6). The still HIP 337 breaks a squad (548) and Leader and catches YJ off guard as he was thinking the concealed 6+1 was my 4th squad. This causes him to shift a squad or two over to deal with this unexpected event. I am not very happy with myself as had I had the road covered with one of my tanks along with the HIP squad he would have not made the kind of good progress he did on this turn. Still I am not that dissatisfied with how the situation looks at the end of this turn, he is down to 4 movement phases to get into the building and I have the entire LAD in concealment in stone buildings covering his approach.

Turn 4

End of Turn 4

Turn 4 sees the demise of my recently de-HIPed 337 and YJ making good progress in the center, closing the distance the the repair shop. YJ runs the Marder past the Cromwell to place the row houses under fire where I have a couple of squads covering the yard in front of the factory. This caught me off guard a bit, but doesn't have me too worried as the Marder only had HE7 and I am in a stone building. I am still feeling good about the scenario as its looking more and more like YJ is going to have to make a mad dash across open ground to get next to the factory.

Turn 5

Start of British Turn 5

YJ fails to get the Cromwell with a PF and suffers for it this turn (back blast and my return fire from the endangered Cromwell). I immobilize the FLAK truck as it rounds the corner with an BMG shot off the Cromwell as YJ tried to get me to take a MA shot at it to strip the -2 acquisition I have on the building across from me. I break a few of his squads as he tries to set up his final approach to the factory. The Marder runs out of HE as expected but the crew proves handy with AP and breaks the leader I have in the row houses, the squad however passes.

Turn 6

The Cromwell succumbs to the PF armed Infantry this turn. It really should have been knocked out last turn so I am not to shaken up by this. YJ is able to get a couple squads across the street using the now flaming Cromwell as cover, threatening my two squads in the row house. I had broken a couple squads last turn and they rallied in my turn this time around as I was unable to get DM causing fire on their location (M3). This has me worried as now he's got three MMC's on this side where I have the least coverage. The SPW 251/1 survives as well adding to my worries. The Marder repositions late in the turn after I had fired my Sherman at his encroaching infantry. A nice move on YJ's part. The Sherman survives through my turn, again I am getting lucky with YJs PF shots and the Bounding fire attempt by the Marder. I cap the Marder in my half of the turn, adding insult to YJ's injury as that Sherman should have been taken out by now.

Start of German Turn 6
 Still, at the end of the turn, I am starting the get that feeling that I'm not going to be able to pull this off as YJ still has so many GO squads within a couple hexes of the factory. The VC's require ONLY one MMC to get into the it'll be a wild final half turn.

Turn 7

YJ starts the turn by trying to take out the Sherman and again fails. Thus YJ goes into WTF mode on this side of the factory and I break my lone squad in the row house doing FPF. I do end up pinning the last MMC on this side of the map though, so its down the my side of the factory as YJ is unable to get any MMCs through in the center (due to the Sherman) and my pinning his last MMC in E4. YJ has all the ASL cob webs shaken off by this point though and is expertly using every trick (plenty of infantry by-pass movement) in the book to approach the factory while avoiding my residual FP.

Start of German Turn 7

YJ starts the assault on my side of the factory by running the 251/1 into VBM in I3. I debate long and hard here on whether I should reaction CC the HT or try and maintain concealment to aid in the upcoming CC phase. In the end I elect to stay hidden and hope for the best in CC. Watching YJ work through this phase of the game has me pretty certain that I'm not gonna pull it off. I am regretting not moving my 447 + 8-1 over to H2 in lieu of the concealed 236 I have there now. However, I was expecting (as was YJ) that the Sherman would go down in the prep fire phase. In the end it was a 436 that was able to survive my 226s first fire (4 -2) and advance into CC (in H2), eliminating the 226. YJ also had a squad and leader along with the 251/1 in I3 that was likely going to survive the CC phase as well.YJ did a great job setting up this turn and he certainly executed it very well when it came down to it.

End of game...

As I write this, I am thinking that I should have tried to move my defense of the factory out more. Given the VC's (he only needs ONE GO MMC in the building to win) I should have defended further out to give myself some depth at the end. That is what doomed me here, he had too many chances and too many resources at the end because I would TOO passive in my defense.

Still, I had a great time and it was nice to see YJ get the win as he certainly earned it with his excellent end game play. I have to also congratulate Ian Daglish on another fine scenario design. This one is really pretty interesting given the 2nd rate forces involved and the interesting historical situation. I would happily play this one again as either side (that means I think this is a very balanced scenario). I should also mention that Ian was interviewed by the highly esteemed ASL blogger Ian (yet another Ian) of the Wall Advantage ASL Blog. The interview is located here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Game of Thrones (FFG) - "5 Player" & Dominion (RGG)

Game: A Game of Thrones (FFG)
Scenario: 5-player
Participants: Joe "YJ" C, Bob H, Jim "HravyD" D, Jeff "Jeffe" I, Myself
Time: Saturday, May 28th ~ 10.30AM - 4.00PM

A Game of Thrones has been out since 2003 and well liked by my group of gamers. We have played it perhaps a dozen times since its release. Not so much lately though. With the excellent HBO series on and all of us watching it we decided to pull this one out and have a go.

AGoT is an interesting game. It is half Euro and half wargame. The game of course is set in Martin's captivating world of Westeros. The game can have up to six players, each assuming the role of one of the main houses vying for the Iron Throne. Combat is handled a la Diplomacy, that is two beats one. If you loose a battle, you retreat your forces if able, you don't loose units unless one of the players has played a card which inflicts casualties. Each house has a set of seven cards depicting various characters from the novels. Each one of the cards will have a number that you add to the battle, some of the cards will have special abilities (like voiding your opponents cards value for the battle). Each card can only be used once then it is discarded until that players uses all of his cards, then he will get them all back, to use again. Thus a battle will have units attacking and defending, supporting units in adjacent spaces that will also add their values to the fight and finally each house will play a card, the side with the highest total wins the battle. Simple, elegant.

YJ takes to Boys through the Rules

The game also has three sets of ten cards that determine various phases in the game. Some of these cards will do things like allow the houses to recruit new units, adjust supply (how many units you can have), garner support, or face an invasion from the Wildlings. This is a fantastic way of mixing up a standard sequence of play and adding in a whole lot of variability and tension. It also greatly enhances the replayability of the game as now two games will be the same with regard to the sequence of play.

Bob, Jeffe, YJ and HeavyD on Turn 2

The meat of the game lies in the orders system. Each house has a set of counters that are placed in every space containing their units, each turn. These counter (order) define what the units in the zone will do during the upcoming turn. Each player places theses orders face down prior to the start of the turn, then all players flip over the orders and execute them in order of their standing on the Iron Throne (which is one of the items that players use their support tokens to bid on).

Here is a run down on what the orders do:

  • Attack (allows the units to move and or attack an adjacent space)
  • Defend (units stay in place and get a bonus on defense)
  • Support (units are able to support a battle in an adjacent space)
  • Influence (units create support tokens, which are added to the players supply)
  • Raid (strip one adjacent Support or Influence token)
 In addition to the two basic order tokens, there is one 'special' order token which allows a player to perform the same action with a slight bonus (a +1 for the attack, or an extra +1 on defense). The number of these special tokens each player can use each turn is driven by their standing on the "Crow" chart. This standing is also bid on each time the "Game of Thrones' event is drawn (one of the three decks). Thus you might not be able to bid on these status' for several turns, or even the entire game (rare).

Turn 9, note the lack of units

Victory is determined after ten turns by the player who controls the most castle spaces or via sudden death if one player gets a certain number of castles prior to the end of the game. Diplomacy plays a big role in the game as well as players will usually need to form alliances to get enough support to help them win battles or hold spaces they've taken. Having 5 players is perhaps the best way to play, but any number between 3 and 6 works well. The fewer the players, the less diplomacy there is.

Our game was strangely muted. There wasn't a lot of diplomacy or back stabbing. I think most of us were grappling with re-learning the game early on and this limited the usual highly fluid nature of the game. Part of it was the each house has a little room to expand before they bump into their neighbors. Once all of the neutral spaces get taken is when you start to see some sparks fly. Also we only drew a couple of Muster events, thus for most of the game we had small armies, thus not a lot to work with. YJ ended up winning at the end of the game having taken one or two more cities then the rest of us. Bob got a little crazy mid-game by attacking both me and Jeffe, taking a couple of spaces. Jeffe and I quickly counter attacked and Bob lost most of his forces, allowing us to get back the lost spaces and take a couple more. Before we could capitalize on this though YJ had expanded and taken enough neutral spaces along with one or two from HeavyD to get the win.

Still it proved a fun game, only taken a couple hours. We will have to play this one again soon while the game is still fresh in our minds. I expect we'll have a much more interesting game the 2nd time around.

As the day was young, we decided to break out Dominion. This might have caused the AGoT game to feel like going through the motions as everyone of us were VERY eager to play Dominion (which is happening a lot around here lately.

YJ and Jeffe broke off and played three hands while Bob, HeavyD and I played a couple of hands.

Here are the results from YJ and Jeffe's Games:

Deck: "Best Wishes"
  • Jeffe, 38
  • YJ, 14
Deck: "Victory Dance"
  • Jeffe, 69
  • YJ, 82
Deck: "Secret Scheme's"

  • Jeffe, 33
  • YJ, 25

Jeffe and YJ square off using the Intrigue Expansion
Here are the decks and results from my games with Bob and HeavyD:

Deck: "The Good Life"
  • HeavyD, 50
  • Steve, 40
  • Bob 35
Deck: "Chemistry Lesson"
  • HeavyD, 20
  • Steve, 35
Bob and HeavyD

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here Come the Rebels! (MMP) - "Harpers Ferry-Crampton's Gap" [Scenario #2]

Game: Here Come the Rebels! (MMP)
Series: Great Campaigns of the American Civil War
Scenario: Harpers Ferry - Crampton's Gap
Participants: Jim "HeavyD", Myself
Time: Friday, May 27th ~ 6.30PM - 8.45PM

HeavyD is a big ACW game fan, and surprisingly has not played a lot of GCACW. Thus we are working our way through a few of the smaller scenario's in the series, teaching him the ropes. Part of this was stimulated by our recent trip to the Chickamauga Battlefield. I have all the games in the series and have played them all sans OTR. For me, GCACW is my 2nd favorite series after ASL. Previously we HeavyD and I had played a couple of the smaller one-turn scenario's from BAC. I went looking for a smaller (school night sized) multi-turn scenario from the series. I came across this one and liked it.

The scenario takes place between September 12th through the 15th, 1862. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia is on the move prior to the Battle of Antietam (Sept 17th). The CSA player (HeavyD) is try to take Harpers Ferry with all of Jackson's Corps and some of Longstreets. Jackson's Corps starts out North of Martinsburg while some of Longstreet's Corp begins NE of Harpers Ferry. Stuart has a couple of Cavalry Brigades between Harpers Ferry and the approaching Union forces.
Initial Set-up

The Union Player starts off with the garrison forces of Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry as well as Franklin's VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. VI Corps starts a good 20 hexes away from Harpers Ferry with a couple sets of mountains between then, not to mention Stuarts two Cavalry Brigades and 5 Brigades of Longstreet's Corp. The objective for the CSA player is to take Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg and then position divisions and brigades in or next to Sharpsburg which is a few hexes NW of Harpers Ferry. All of the CSA units begin the game at Fatigue level 1.This scenario has been "fixed" and we are using the new version (it, and other errata is located at as well as CSW).

End of Turn one, near Martinsburg

End of Turn one, near Harpers Ferry

The first turn saw HeavyD take Jackson's Corps to next to Martinsburg, rolling poorly in the process. Thus the entire Corps was at F3 at the end of the turn. I ran that Garrison unit out of there as there was no sense in allowing HeavyD the VP's he would get but destroying the unit. HeavyD then moved Longstreet's Brigades towards the Naval Battery (NE side of Harpers Ferry). I pulled one Brigade out of HF and parked it on the other side of the bridge in case HeavyD was able to push out the one Infantry Brigade I had on that side of the River. I marched Franklin's Corps twice, rolling well each time. HeavyD then moved Stuart down in my path setting up a blocking action in front of me.

Turn two started off with me activating Franklin's Corp and rolling well. Stuart did a Cavalry retreat and due to the retreat table had to fall back towards HF. This would prove disastrous as I got the next activation and again marched Franklin's Corps towards HF. Stuart was again in my path and this time the Cavalry retreat forced him to retreat through my units near HF, eliminating the Brigade in the process. This caught me by surprise as I didn't think the retreat chart was as harsh as this to cavalry doing a cav retreat, but it is (the first 4 hexes HAVE to be further away from the unit causing the retreat. With Stuart out of the way I continued towards HF. I moved next to Semmes Brigade and got a +4 attack, again the retreating Brigade had to move through other Union units thus destroying itself as well.

Franklin's attack on Semmes' Brigade

Now the road to HF was open and HeavyD had few options left. He elected to launch an attack on Ford's Brigade in hex 2720 to try and at least throw a ZOC in Franklin's lead Division. The attack went in as a straight up affair and he was unable to force me to retreat. This was the death knell as I would be able to get Franklin's Corps next to the Bridge on my next activation. Jackson had yet to move and thus was still 15-20 hexes away from HF. We decided to call it at this point.

McLaws Attack on Ford's entrenched Brigade

I really diced HeavyD in this one. But on the bright side we certainly have a very good understanding of the retreat table and its implications in tight quarters. We plan on playing one more small scenario before we plunge into a Campaign Game.