Monday, October 31, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "On the road to Andalsnes" [A31]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader
Scenario: "On the road to Andalsnes" [A31]
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Saturday, Oct 29th, 10AM - 5.30PM

It didn't take much convincing to get HeavyD back on the ASL bandwagon. Both of us have been on the ASL decline for years, both in the frequency that we play and of course the quality of our play. As we are seeing a decline in the number of new games that GMT/MMP are releasing that we are both interested in, I thought it would be a good idea to get back on the ASL bike. There has been a slew of products released in the past couple years and we are due for some new stuff around the turn of the year as well. We both agreed that we'd try and play one scenario a month for the next six months, we'd start out slow with a couple Infantry only scenario's and then gradually work our way back into the rest of the game.

As we are getting back on the ASL bandwagon, it seemed like a good idea to play a scenario with wagons in it. I found "On the road to Andalsnes" by going back and looking for Infantry only (no vehicles) scenarios, I started with most of the recent products and unsurprisingly very few of those scenarios are Infantry only (and non-PTO), so then I went back to the beginning and started with Beyond Valor and the early Annuals. This one I found in the '91 Annual. It appealed first of all because I could use my version 2 ASL kit (new boards & counters) and then because it was medium sized with some interesting terrain (two hill boards). I checked the ROAR and it was German 9/Norwegian 13 which is a decent spread. Then for kicks I google earthed Andalsnes (something I am doing a lot now with the games I play) and was amazed at the terrain (see the picture bellow).
Andalsnes, Norway

The Scenario takes place in April of 1940. The Germans are advancing on Andelsnes in response to the Allied "occupation" of parts of Northern Norway. Elements of the 2nd Norwegian Infantry Division are South of town trying to hold off a resupply column of the German 196th Infanterie Division. Boards 2 and 9 are in play side by side. The Germans enter on the Southern edge of board 2 and have to go the length of the map to exit 30VP off of the Northern edge of board 9 (hexes 9A5/9A6). The Norwegians have a road block, 3 foxholes and 14 squads (6x 1st Line & 8x Green) along with one MMG, two LMG's and six concealment markers. They are relatively well lead with a 9-2, 9-1 and an 8-0. 

Set Up

I end up taking the Germans in this one. The Germans have 16 1st line squads, 5 LMG's, one MMG and a little mortar. They also have a 75* INF gun along with 6 wagons. This force is lead by a 9-2, 9-1 and two 8-0s. The Germans have to exit 30CVPs off the Northern edge of the map via a single road. There are eleven turns (another thing you rarely see in contemporary scenario's). The wagons are worth 3VPs each for exit and are much more mobile in this hilly terrain that you might think. Their open ground cost is only 1 and to go up a level costs only 2 (assuming its open ground). They are going to be channeled be the many crag hexes on board 9 but I should be able to move them on the far side of the hills on this board, shielding them from HeavyD's fire.

End of German Turn 1

After looking at HeavyD's set up, I decided to enter on the edge of board 2 and make straight for the board 9 hill. HeavyD set up heavily on Board 2, I think in anticipation of my running the wagons down that road there, but wagons do very well in open ground (1MP) and I felt no need to stay on the road at all. The first few turns go quickly without a lot of drama. I am puzzled by HeavyD's inactivity on his first couple of turns. About the only units he moved were a couple of stacks of squads that were making a beeline towards the exit hexes. This of course makes sense, it was all of the squads (and there are some dummies there to be sure) that sat on the far side of the hills on board 2 the first couple of turns that has me confused.

End of German Turn 2

I am only facing a couple of Green squads on on the closest board 9 hill and these fall quickly without causing too much trouble. In fact I believe that both of them upon taking their first MC's failed their ELR and were disrupted, making it very easy for me to capture them. It dawn's on me that these captured squads are going to be very valuable if I am able to exit them. They will be worth 4VPs each.

Around turn three, it becomes clear that HeavyD has his 9-2 and MMG on the center hill on board 2 in a level three hex (in a foxhole). This is a nice spot as its out of LOS from the front (where I enter) but will have LOS to the length of most of Board 9, at least until I can get on the other side of the hills there. We start doing some long range MG fire (my 9-2 & MMG against his) and after an initial break (of HeavyD's MMG) followed by a repair, he wins this battle when my 9-2 rolls a 12 on its first MC of the game. He is only wounded but the squad breaks and these important tools are basically lost to me for the duration of the game.

German Turn 3

Since I've lost my MMG + 9-2 I am forced to send 4-5 squads over to board 2 to deal with this threat. This will turn into a mini-scenario in itself with a lot of drama on both sides. HeavyD now starts to bring up the squads on the far side of board 2 to support his MMG position. This turns out the be handy as the way the scenario is turning out, this is really only the main tool he has to impede my advance.

The Death Star and the Sniper

Despite rolling over his initial opposition (on board 9) and moving at nearly full speed on every movement phase, I start to get a little worried here. While I am making progress in advancing along the length of board 9, I am unable to take out or neutralize his MMG + 9-2 on board 2. The above mentioned 4-5 squads soon gets into trouble when HeavyD's active sniper (SAN 4, he's like 4 for 5 on sniper checks at this point in the game) takes out the 8-0 on this side of the map. An old ASL sage from my early days with the game in Arizona once said "A leaderless force is soon neutralized" and I now had a leaderless force tasked with taking out, or at least distracting the 9-2/MMG Death Star.

I am still making good progress on board 9, moving my wagons and not getting them shot at. I am capturing the few Green squads that he set up on this side (I think there were 4 total). The height of the Death Stars reign of terror is around turn five when I lose my 9-1 to an across the board shot (KIA'd) and a turn later when he zaps a HS with two full prisoner squads in tow. At this point I am now down to one 8-0 who I've had to run up front with my forward elements on board 9 and the wounded 9-1 (who ELR'd to a 9-1 whilst being wounded) who is really out of the game as he's so far back, trailing blood and only moving 3MPs a turn.
Start of German Turn 5

Slowly though I start to feel a little better about the situation, I have all of my wagons on the far side of board 9 now, safe from the Death Star for the remainder of the game. I am facing a couple of 1st line squads with LMG's and then the three squads who have dug in on the exit hexes. HeavyD has only two leaders on this side of the board. I have perhaps 6-7 squads remaining in my main force, several of whom are now 2nd line as well as a couple of HS's pulling 3-4 prisoners. All of them are mostly together and on the safe side of board 9. Still it'll be tight, as I do the math and assuming that I get everything off, the points will be only just around 30. I've decided to unload the INF gun several turns ago to help engage the Death Star and then to be able to fire on one of the two exit hexes (where he has a squad in a foxhole).

The Death Star (9-2 + MMG in the Foxhole)
 Down Hill Run

Around my turn 6 I start to break up his last line of resistance before the exit hexes. I am able to break and then capture one of the two squads here. Then suddenly HeavyD runs his 8-0 up towards this area. He (the 8-0) had been back with the three squads sitting on the exit road. I'm not sure what HeavyD was thinking here except that he might be trying to block a hex that I am wanting to move through with my wagons. But its way to early for that, turn 6-7 only and this is an 11 turn scenario. Soon the 8-0 is eliminated and he is down to one leader on this side of the map (as I am).

I eventually break the sole remaining squad. Now I am free to advance on the exit area. I chase the 9-1 and get him in melee, though it took two whole CC phases for this to happen. My hopes are higher at this point as the Death Star is largely irrelevant at this point in the game. I still have a couple of squads and now a hero over there sans a leader just trying to stay alive and stop the 9-2 from attempting to come over to the exit area. The INF gun, after two turns of trying to move one hex up hill finally makes it and I start shooting at the exit area (24 hexes away).

German Turn 7, Breaking the forward line

By my turn 8 I am sitting on the hills above the three remaining squads with enough VPs to exit as long as I can break/eliminate him without loosing more then a squad or two. I also stand to capture these guys if I can break them as well as he has very little room to route. It only takes a prep fire phase and then a defensive fire phase to break two of his three remaining squads. At this point HeavyD throws in the towel as he's out of options.

Getting Close, Start of Norwegian turn 8

This was a pretty cool scenario. Its one of those scenarios where every little thing is important. Even LMGs are critical here because of the many long range shots and their ability to interdict out to eight hexes. There is very little terrain on this hills, so you end up scrambling for every bit of height advantage you can find, you become an expert on blind hexes and slope rules. You learn how to drive a wagon train. You learn how vulnerable ELR 3 Green squads are to disruption. You spend the majority of the game on the 1 through 6 fire power columns on the IFT. Whats not to like?

The white flag, the situation at the end of the game

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (GMT) ~ Talavera, 28 July 1809

Game: Commands & Colors Napoleonics (GMT)
Scenario: Talavera (French attack on British ), 28 July 1809

Participants: HeavyD and Myself
Time: Fri, Oct 21st, 7.00PM - 9.00PM

CCN is fast becoming a favorite here in our little gaming group. Tonight HeavyD and I selected the next scenario in the book, "Talavera (French attack on British), 28 July 1809". This one is huge, the biggest we have yet played. First off its a race to seven Victory Banners, the largest we've yet played in this system. The scenario features a huge swarm of Frenchmen trying to cross a brook and dislodge the British who are behind it in the hills. The brook covers about 2/3s of the map, the side of the map without the brook sees both sides deploying their Cavalry there. As we are still climbing the learning curve with this new system, our last couple of playings featuring large attacking forces have met with disaster generally for the attacker.  We are slowing cluing in to the fact the the attacking force in this series (as opposed to CCA) simply has to have several cards back to back that will activate the attacking forces consecutively to have a chance. This takes some getting used to as the attacker was so heavily favored in CCA. We diced for sides and I got the British. 

Set Up
Cavalry, a good time

We start the game with some artillery duels, I am in no mode to do anything at this point but tweak my line and plink away at HeavyD with my guns. The first interesting thing that happened was that HeavyD played a "Flank Attack", activating 2 units on each wing. On my right he moved up some artillery and one line unit, on the left he advanced his Cavalry into striking distance. I was more concerned with the Artillery unit and failed to see the danger my own Cavalry was in. I elected to play a card to activate my right and fire on his advancing units.

"Caught!"...HeavyD catches my Cavalry off guard.

Then HeavyD lays down a "Cavalry Charge" and lunges towards my Cavalry with his. His two light Cavalry units come storming in and I expect the worst, but amazingly he rolls very poorly (starting a very hot and cold dice night for both of us). Both of his Lights attack my front Light units and when the sabers are sheathed I have only lost one block and so has he. I was expecting to lose one or perhaps two units as in this game Cavalry can advance into a cleared hex, move another hex and then attack again. I luckily have a card that allows me to activate a bunch of units on my left. Here I am again set up to potentially wipe him out, but my attacks are very bloody to both of us. I take out one unit and force the other to retire, its cost me four blocks of my lights though, with each unit down to one block each. Amazingly though, HeavyD is not done, he throws down another "Cavalry Charge" and this time his Heavy is able to support his other Light unit. I lose my two 1-block Lights and my Guards Heavy is left with one block, HeavyD's losses are light. I am able to cut down his Heavy's soon after with Musket and Artillery fire, his Light unit is driven off. 

The British Cavalry strikes back
The French Heavy hitters come in and clean up

Action in the Center

The French close in
With both of us having spent our Cavalry in some exciting action, neither one of us is left with an advantage. We are nearly out of Cavalry and both have a couple of VBs to show for it. HeavyD begins to advance on the Center, as he must. My right is a tough nut with Artillery in a fortified location as well as my Light Rifle unit and another Light Infantry unit. I have the good fortune to draw the Bombard cards close together and put them to good use as he slowly closes the gap in the center. 

The French assault pushes the British back

Things heat up as he lays down an "Assault Center" followed by the "La Grande Manoeuvre" cards. This allows his units to get up close to the brook but not to enter it (where he is forced to stop the turn he enters...its the only effect of the brook via special rule). I am caught without any real good cards to deal with this and am forced to shot at him from the flanks or with fewer units that could have. Thus he has his chance and moves three units into the brook for some melee, where his French Infantry has the upper hand. He is able to exploit this and push me back while also overrunning one of my Artillery units. It costs him though as the units he now has over the brook are very low on blocks. My fire eventually drives his assault back into the brook but not before he's taken some Victory Banners (VBs) from me. At this point he is at 5 and I have 3. 

Things get very costly in the Center for HeavyD
Banner hunting in the hills

Over the next couple of turns I am able to make fire attacks on his forward units in the center and I am able to eliminate a couple more so that now I am at six and with him holding five. I am running out of blocks with my forward units in both the Center and my Right. Things are getting tight as he starts to assemble for another push in the Center. He then charges in with two Line units and catches one of my depleted line units in Melee and destroys it. Now we are both holding 6 Victory banners, the next player who gets one will get the win. We dance around for a turn or two until I am able to do a combined fire and melee attack and grab the last block for the win. 

The Last Banner falls

We were both pretty happy with this game. For the first time in the series we had some exciting Cav on Cav action with both of us getting to use our Heavy Cavalry to good effect. The French defiantly have the upper hand in the Cavalry department, but my Lights gave as good as they got. I for one felt really engaged by this scenario, I mean that it was much more challenging and I think made me approach the game as more then a big fun dice fest, we were both trying to get every last advantage out of the terrain and our units strengths and weaknesses. This is sort of a first for me and this series. CCA has certainly never made me this tense, fighting for every last little trick to get a win. Also, I have to say that we are both gaining a much better understanding of how to pull off at least a competent attack in the game...Certainly something we will be doing once again in the near future.

The map at game end

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Battles of the American Revolution, Vol V (GMT) ~ "Monmouth"

Game: Battles of the American Revolution Series (GMT)
Scenario: Monmouth
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Thu, Sep 29nd ~ 7.00PM - 8.45PM, Sun, Oct 2nd ~ 2.00PM - 5.00PM

Monmouth is the fifth installment of the excellent Battles of the American Revolution System by GMT Games. HeavyD and I had only played it once, right after it was released. We had a really good time with it, so when Bob and I were looking for another game to play without having to read rules, we selected this one. This battle pits the American forces under Washington against a withdrawing British Force under Cornwallis. The Americans outnumber the British, both initially and overall but the British generally have better units. The game is interesting also in that it has some command and control rules in it to handle at situation where one of the American Generals (Lee) was a bit mixed up in the opening phases of the battle. As I had played before as the Americans, I took the British this time. 

Opening (Turns 1-4)

Set Up
 The battle opens with the van of the American Army under General Lee approaching Monmouth Courthouse where the British have a small rear guard in place. Over the first few turns, until Washington can relieve Lee, the Americans have to roll on a table to see what effects some of their units are under do to command confusion. These turns go quickly as both sides have few forces and the Americans are mostly just marching to get to the British position. About the only thing I did was prevent Bobs leading units from using Strategic movement on several of their turns by placing a unit six hexes away on the road. 

The American Column approaches the Courthouse, Turn 4
Initial Contact (Turns 5-6)

Lafayette drives the British back to the Courthouse

Things started to heat up as Bob approached the Courthouse. I knew my reinforcements were just around the corner and I had some good terrain to anchor my defense on, so I made a stand at the Courthouse with Clinton's units. Bobs opening attacks go well, forcing me to give ground. In my half of turn 5 I pull back and anchor my line on the Courthouse. My reinforcements are close now, marching in on the road...they will be here on the next turn. 
Initial American assault on Monmouth CH

Bob gets the initiative on the next turn (6) and gets hit with two Brigades suffering 1/2 movement point penalties. This proves fortunate as some of the affected units are unable to get in on the action. Still he presses his attack at the Courthouse and this time Clinton hangs on to it. On my half of the turn I strike back with two attacks around the CH. My attacks don't go well and I am forced back out of the Courthouse (CH). 

Battle at the Courthouse (Turns 7-8)

Clinton and Cornwallis fail to drive the Americans back
Bob gets the initiative at the top of the 7th. Our Army Moral levels are equal at this time, both us sitting at 19. Bob is also able to relieve Lee, thus lifting the C&C roll for the remainder of the game. Bob occupies the CH hex and moves in more units to support his attacks. The attacks go well, pushing back my units. Wayne gets caught up in the fight and advances into the hex beyond the CH. 

Bob's Americans continue to drive the British back

On my turn I start to extend my line with my arriving units. I also launch a counterattack against Wayne. The lead American units Disrupts and the rest of them pass moral checks and hold the hex. I get the initiative at the top of the 8th. Because of the command and confusion, Bob is slightly out numbered now in the area around the CH. I take advantage of this and launch three attacks, two 3-1 and one 4-1 (against Wayne). The back to back turns giving me a big advantage at this point. The attacks go well, I push Wayne back while the other two hexes hold. The attacks cause Bobs Army Morale to drop. He looses several steps in these fights too.

Reinforced, the British strike back

Crossing the T (Turns 9+)

The Situation at the end of Turn 8
Bob gets the initiative at the top of the 9th. As he holds the CH hex and the losses are still fairly even his is clearly on the Defensive at this point. I have a small edge in forces still as some of Bobs units are still arriving and thus marching across the map. Bob doesn't do much except adjust his line and continue to move the rest of his army towards the CH. 
British attacks at the end of turn 9

On my turn I continue to extend my line around the CH. I am able to get around the end of his line and attack it. I am also driving into the woods near the road in an attempt to interdict Bob approaching units. The 1st New Jersey takes loss at the end of the line, but importantly doesn't retreat. I am more fortunate in the woods, driving back Bobs unit there, getting me closer to being able to throw a ZOC on the main road. 

The British attacks on the Courthouse, Turn 10

The start of turn 10 sees both of use use our momentum on the initiate roll as we know that we are at a critical junction. I win the roll and am able to exploit the gains I made last turn. Around the Courthouse I move in and attack 4 hexes including the CH hex. The assault in the Woods goes well and I am able to get ZOC on the main road, cutting off access to the CH via that rout. 

The Americans take heavy losses defending the Courthouse

The decisive action though occurs around the Court House as three of the four hexes fall. I set the attacks up to start from left to right, this will trap the units if I take the first couple hexes. The first hex falls and the rout is on. Bob looses a bunch of units due to lack of retreat options and over-stacking. Lafayette does hold the CH, but with his Army's morale wavering now Bob throws in the towel.

Lafayette encircled at the Courthouse

The back to back turns were the straw that broke the camels back. However Bob was hit with some untimely command and control rolls that lead to his initial units getting spread out in the early turns. This left his line too short in the end and I was able to take advantage of that.

So closes another excellent game of this series. The more I play it, the more I want to keep playing it. If you haven't yet given this series a try, you should.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Napoleonic Wars (GMT) ~ 4-Player Scenario

Game: The Napoleonic Wars (GMT)
Scenario: 4-Player
Participants: Matt "BA" W, Bob H, Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time: Sat, 9/24 ~ 12.00PM - 2.45PM

The Napoleonic Wars has long been the standard to which all other multi player games has been measured against here in our local group. We have been playing it regularly since its release in 2002. When the game was released we climbed the learning curve quickly rules-wise, it took a bit longer to figure out how to play it well. One of the challenges with this curve is how it treats new players that have not played the game before. It's long been our practice to introduce new players to the game as either Russia or Prussia depending on how many players we have at the time. This valuable lesson was learned over many painful games where a new player was randomly given a side to play and quickly made some of the mistakes that we have long since taken for granted. In short, if the coalition is not all on the same side in its efforts to get the game to the 2nd or 3rd turn, its very easy for the French player to win. We have had some very interesting and exciting "adventures" with new players playing the game for the first time.

Luckily over the past 5-6 years we've had a fairly stable group of players with roughly the same amount of experience. This is a great combination and has lead to some very memorable and satisfying gaming experiences. Today's game was sort of interesting in that it produced one of the more unexciting playings that we've had in several years. We are playing with the 2nd edition of the game and overall we are happy with this edition, we were equally happy with the 1st edition and spent most of our time playing it. The 2nd edition has added some new and interesting things to a true classic.

The Napoleonic Wars, Start of turn 1 (deluxe map)

Bob is the player with the least amount of TNW experience, so we gave him Russia and then drew for the rest of us. BA got France, HeavyD got the British and I got the Austrians. Bob has played the game several times and is well versed on what can happen if he doesn't move early to assist the Austrians.

Turn 1

BA opened by playing "War Without End" as the event. I don't recall him doing anything other then shift some forces around towards Austria with his CPs. The rest of us didn't do much out of the norm, that is I bought more guys to get killed by the French, Bob ran 5-6 units over into Austria from Russia and HeavyD went after the French and Spanish Fleet (taking them out). BA, with his second round started moving/gathering forces for the push into Austria. Then is happened, Bob played "Armistice", a new 2nd edition card (I think) which shuts down offensive operations until "War Without End" is player OR a player rolls a "6" at the end of his round (which we all had to do). This was huge as it shut down BA from taking keys from the Austrians (and anyone else for that matter) until the event ended. BA was already up in VPs (i.e. he would win if the game ended on the first turn) but was unable to add to that while he was strongest and we were the weakest.

Naval Sideshow, The French and Spanish are caught by the Royal Navy

Thus began a fairly quick and aside from some Naval actions a very boring turn. "Europe Exhausted" wasn't played, so we all knew that we would see a 2nd turn. BA mostly lost his entire fleet while taking some of the Royal Navy with it. HeavyD was saddled with a couple Foreign Wars while Bob and I continued to recruit and march troops into Austria. Before we knew it the turn was over and no one needed to offer up cards to influence the game end die roll.

Turn 2

The French chase Charles out of Venice at the start of Turn 2

So we started the turn with BA up one key due to Spain's taking of Lisbon on turn one prior to the Armistice breaking out. Bob and I had spent nearly all of our CPs from the last turn buying more troops and messing with BA on the diplomatic track. HeavyD was saddled with a couple of Foreign Wars and had lost a few ships and Lisbon, but was still in decent shape. BA had spent most of his turn buying troops and spending his extra CPs on Naval movement and small actions on the Diplomatic track. We were gearing up for a big fight on the Austrian Frontier as we (France, Russia and Austria) had amassed large forces there.

BA started things off by going after Naples and taking it. He then moved on Venice and kicked my forces out of that Key. He was quickly up two more keys. Then Armistice came out again! This was quickly followed by HeavyD trying to knock Spain out of the French camp with "Talleyrand", BA was forced to pay nine CPs to keep Spain in his camp, but with Armistice in play this was an easy decision for him to make. HeavyD then brought Sweden into the Coalition camp while Bob and I continued to site there and build new troops and counter BA's halfhearted moves on the Diplomatic Track. Another quick turn with only a few battles.
The situation near the end of Turn 2

BA was in an even stronger position at the end of this turn then he was at the end of the last turn. He had taken two more Keys with France at very little cost. Bob and I had built troops as fast as we could, but BA was easily matching these additions with new troops of his own. When it came time to bid cards to end the game, none of us (the Coalition) felt that we could part with the cards for a chance to prolong the game. BA was in too strong a position after two turns of growth at very little cost. The back to back Armistices were an omen. BA rolled for game end, needing a 4 or more and we were all secretly hoping that he'd get the win, which he did, rolling a resounding 6. We were facing an uphill battle at this point and knew that it was a long shot that we would be able to knock BA down to size over the course of the next couple turns.