Sunday, February 12, 2012

Strafexpedition 1916 (Europa Simulazioni) ~ Scenario 1, "The Drive on Pasubio"

Game: Strafexpedition 1916
Publisher: Europa Simulazioni
Scenario: #1 "The drive on Pasubio"
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Thu, Jan 19th 7.00PM - 9.30PM
         Thu, Feb 2nd 7.00PM - 9.00PM
         Sun, Feb 5th 3.00PM - 5.00PM

Were it not for Bob's eclectic taste in games I would never have even known about a game like Strafexpedition (SE). Bob has always had a thing for games on the Austo-Hungarian Empire (not that there are a lot of them), as well as for games covering WWI. Bob let me know that he'd received this game earlier in the year and said it was one that he's like to play. Since I could hardly refuse his request as he's ever willing to try out games that I'm interested in, I ordered the game from the publisher and did my bit to support the European wargame economy.

When game arrived a couple weeks later I dived into the rules. I was pretty impressed. The rules are well written and very accessible. The game covers the Spring Offensive the AH unleashed on the unsuspecting Italians in the Alps around Trentino. The Austrians were trying to cut off the larger Italian forces further east by attacking here. Most of the Italian Offensive operations were further East. The game comes with a couple page article on the actual operation which I found very valuable and well written. The designer also takes a page up talking about his design process and the history of the game, again I found this very interesting.

The games scale is 900 meters per hex with units being Battalions of Infantry and Batteries of Artillery. There are also leader counters that are used to activate a formation (usually Brigades) during the turn. There are also Fortress counters. There are two maps covering the area of operations. There are five scenarios starting with a very small introductory scenario with a couple of one map  scenarios and of course the campaign that features the entire operation (May-June, 1916).

Italians set up, AH stating to set up

As I mentioned the rules read very nicely and after reading them I was even more interested in trying out the game. Prior to our playing of this scenario we set up the small intro scenario and played through that one. A turn consists of getting reinforcements and supply, then allocating that supply to your leaders (Brigades) and then rolling for initiative. Each player rolls a die and adds in the number of supply points that he has allocated for the turn. Once the initiative is determined that player will then select from one of his supplied leaders and place that leader on the map, this allows him to activate units of that Brigade for movement and combat. The amount of supply allocated determines how much artillery that leader may use over the course of its activation.

Bobs initial attacks on my left on turn 1

After Combat

Combat is very straight forward and takes little time to resolve. The attacker opens with a bombardment, selecting various artillery units that are in range and that have not yet fired during the turn then rolls on the bombardment table. This table will cause units disorder, losses and can also destroy trenches. Once the bombardment is over the defender can then defensive fire with available adjacent units and artillery that has not yet defensive fired for the turn. Most Infantry units have a machine gun factor (the small number in the middle of the two other numbers) that he uses to resolve defensive fire, artillery can also help out on defense albeit at a fraction of its normal strength. After defensive fire is resolved the attacker then makes his assault on the hex with remaining units, with a limit of two units (or less depending on the terrain) per hex. You will often see the attacker assign more then two units to one attack so that he'll have a choice of which units to actually use in the assault as some of his attacking units will get shot up prior to the attack. It is this assault that can force a defender from the hex allowing the attacker to move in.

Bobs assigned supply to his leaders

Once that leader has moved/fought all of his units, the player with the initiative will then select another leader to activate until he's used all of his supplied leaders. The defender can attempt to preempt the attackers activations as well. In our game this rarely seemed like something to consider. The non-initiative player will then activate his supplied leaders. Once he's done the initiative player will move all the rest of his units (those that were not activated previously) followed by the non-initiative player. Supply is then checked and replacement steps are placed on the map.

I liked the rules and how interactive they were, I wasn't expecting something like this from a operational WWI game. We decided that Bob would be the AH player in our first 'real' playing of the game. In looking over the scenario we looked at the map and the starting locations and how many victory points Bob would need to get a win. It looked like a tough one as he's really got to make a lot of progress over the course of the five turns of the scenario.

The Drive on Pasubio

All of my Italians start entrenched (at least those on the front line) which is nice because there are some big holes in my line. I had little behind these front line units other then some militia battalions and these were of low quality and without machine guns. I had a decent amount of artillery but little supply available in the opening turns to make use of it other then for the occasional defensive fire support. I get reinforcements on on turn 2 as well as turn 4, additionally I start getting supply points beginning on the 2nd turn which I need to start to entrench as you cannot entrench unless you are assigned a supply point.

Bob during his 2nd turn


Italian 2nd Turn
 Bobs first turn was mixed, he had some good attacks and there were others where he wasn't able to take the hex. As this was our first real playing we really had no idea this early in the game to tell how one side was faring over the other. On my right where the terrain is the heaviest I had some key hexes hold out that created a bit of a traffic jam for Bob as some of his not alpine troops couldn't cross or pass certain rough hexes. On the left where the terrain is a little flatter I was getting smashed. My center which starts with the fewest units had some units cut off as well. I did little in my half of the first turn as most of my guys were roughed up or too far behind the line to lend assistance. Most of my artillery just sat there being unable to move or fire (lack of supply) offensively on the first turn.

Bob's AH attackers on turn 3 on my Right

Bob's attackers clear the road to Posina


I got reinforcements on the second turn as well as starting to receive supply points. I got about a brigade's worth of troops on my left. Bob was starting to get a little better at attacking on turn two. He was learning that fewer attacks with more artillery support was the preferred method. We also discovered another cool feature of the rules in how artillery can limit supply roads. This would prove an interesting mini game as I would often debate on leaving an artillery unit in a very dangerous position in order to cover Bobs supply roads knowing that I would likely loose the unit but I could often put a group of units out of supply by doing so. Another this we picked up on was that in order for an attack to keep going you will have to rotate units in the attack as attacking leads to much disruption and attacking with a disrupted unit is asking for trouble. The defender will also (when he can) want to send units a couple hexes back to try and reorganize before sending them back up into the line.

Bob's mounts as attack on my Right

...and is pushed back

Bobs attacks on my left continued but when my reinforcements showed up it started to look like he'd have a hard time taking the VP hexes in this area. In the middle Bob blew big holes in my lines but then ran out of supply as he was unable to supply his lead units, thus the attacks started to funnel down the roads on this side of the map. On my right Bob was starting to clear the initial line and make some progress. I had taken a lot of losses and he was able to make some nice progress. On my far right he was again slowed by poor performance on his attacks.

Turn 3, Bob moving...Yellow dice are the VP hexes

The road to Valmorbia...turn 4
 Turn 3 saw these deeper road based penetrations expand. Most of the last lingering units on the front line were now gone having either been eliminated or reduced by lack of supply. But the clock was ticking and Bob had only taken 3-5 VPs thus far.

By turn 4 we were seeing that Bob was behind the curve as it was looking like he would run out of time before he'd get the VPs he needed for a win. I also got the last of my reinforcements this time on the right, which was exactly where I needed them most. Bob got close to Posina here and this was where he would win it if he could be getting to the VP locations before I could with my reinforcements. Bob also lunged down the road towards Valmorbia on my left. I had only some militia here and quickly reinforced this area.

My Italian's counter Bob's move

As it was getting late we took a close look at the Victory situation at the end of the fourth turn and decided that it would be nearly impossible for Bob to get the needed VPs for a win. He was essentially playing for a draw at this point so we decided to call it a game at this point.

End of turn 4

All in all I was pretty impressed with the game, it was a lot more fun then I expected and was pretty interactive for a battalion level game. The one sided nature of the scenario however means that the defender has to basically get smashed for five turns in this scenario. The campaign game which is much larger will see the Italians have a chance for some counterattacking.

5 comments:

  1. WWI can be interesting then. As always a good AAR. You must own 100's of games!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks interesting. Where did you order it from?

    Thanks

    Peace

    roger

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roger,

      I ordered it from their web site, @ http://italianwars.net/

      Only took a couple weeks to get here.

      Delete
    2. are you in US?

      Thanks!

      Peace

      Roger

      Delete