Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fire Team - The Balloon Goes Up

Well, here's another lopsided end game shot from a different game!  I set up and played Fire Team this weekend after getting a sudden craving for some good ol' squad-based tactical action.  It wasn't even close.

The Soviets started off on the road north of Ehrenberg with three platoons facing off across the street from two American squads.  The Russians simply steamrolled north towards the bottom of the map, calmly rallied after collecting some Fear and then popped smoke and headed into Rasdorf. You're not supposed to use smoke in this scenario (and now I can see why) but that seemed too gamey so I played with it anyways.  Although the Soviets already had the 6 VPs needed to win by the beginning of turn 3, I kept playing just to see what would happen.

The Soviets managed to completely surround Rasdorf and then move in with relative ease despite a bit of fire from the Americans on the nearby hill.  An entire platoon marched into the US HQ building at the extreme north of Rasdorf and easily eliminated an American squad left there to protect it.  By the end of the turn 3, the US was down to two measly squads and it was time to call it quits as the Soviets had garnered 8 VPs (only 6 were needed to win).

End of Turn 3 - the Soviets definitely win here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Unconditional Surrender - Russian Winter

So basically, I was going to write a really long blog post about playing USE but I think this image sums up best what happens if you go ahead with your plans to invade Russia in the winter of 1939.  Not pretty at all for the Germans.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Unconditional Surrender: 1939 - 194? Campaign

Well, I thought I would at least give the campaign game of Unconditional Surrender!  World War 2 in Europe a shot so I've set up and started to play this weekend.  The game started in September of 1939 with a variable setup, which basically means that the German player rolls a die at the start of the game to determine where he will attack first.  In my case, I rolled a "3" and the result was that Germany was going for an East-First strategy.  I had set up the counters in their historical locations and chosen a variable entry for unit mobilization.  All that was left to do was to start moving counters.

September 1939

Germany started off by declaring war on the Soviet Union and Poland in the first turn and got the invasion underway.  After taking three cities, eliminating two Polish armies, and just barely grabbing Warsaw, the turn ended with Poland being conquered.  Hungary declared itself Pro-Axis.  During the Soviet operations phase, the army moved into Eastern Poland and took up defensive positions to protect the transport lines and cities nearest the enemy units.

"Hey guys, winter's almost here!  Time to start a war with Russia!"

In the Diplomacy Phase, the Germans pulled the Political Failure marker and the Soviet player laughed heartily.  Mussolini decided he quite liked the cut of Stalin's jib and Italy was declared as Pro-Soviet, in a move that alarmed the Germans.

Italians turn Pro-Soviet.

October 1939

October of 1939 began with Severe weather in both the Cold and Mild zone.  This would make an attack on the Soviet Union much harder but at least it would give the German Luftwaffe some time to recover from the Polish campaign.  Germany declared war on Lithuania and marched in during the Operations phase, managing a lucky roll to take the capital, Kaunus and conquer the country.  Latvia declared itself Pro-Axis and the Germans spent the rest of the turn trying to push back the Soviets in Eastern Poland with little success.

End of October 1939 turn

After the Axis finished up their operations, the East Invaded event went into effect and the Soviet Union started to wake up.  Several event markers (Partisans, etc.) were put on the turn track along with units that would be mobilized in the coming years.  With the weather the way it was and with the factories firing up, the Soviets decided to simply keep the Germans at bay in Eastern Poland.  

November 1939

The severe weather continued throughout November.  The Germans resorted to assault tactics rather than mobile attacks in order to find a breakthrough point on the eastern front.  With the weather the way it was, the war had simply bogged down at this point.  The Germans sent the 1 Pz army north into Lithuania to join up an army.  

November 1939 in Eastern Poland and USSR

The main attacking point was around Lvov, which saw the 2 Pz and two German armies being fended off by the 12th Soviet army.  Little changed this turn and even the Diplomacy markers yielded no events.  The Germans did get to mobilize a field unit this turn, which they put in Munich,   Italy still had a pro-Soviet marker on it but had not activated so the German player opted for a bit of insurance, scant though it was, near the southern border.

December 1939

The East Invaded event triggered in November, which meant that the "Russian Winter" marker sat in the December 1939 box.  This meant that the Cold weather zone was automatically Severe weather although the Soviets got to treat the weather as Poor for combat purposes.  The Germans scored a hit in the Strategic Warfare phase and moved their newly mobilized (and reduced) field unit in the Strategic Movement phase to Warsaw.

The stalemate in Eastern Poland continued as the 2 Pz and two armies took Lvov with a big assault.  Unfortunately, the Russians took it right back in their operations phase.  In the north, the Germans scored a success by taking Vilnius off the Russians, reducing their National Will by 2.  The Soviets tried a daring assault on the German army unit sitting in the middle of the line, attempting to punch through a hole back to Warsaw and thereby cut off supplies to the Germans down south.  With the Poor weather in the Mild zone, the Germans were finally able to activate their air support to help keep the Russians at bay.  Things look very dicey for both sides at this point.

End of Dec. 1939

In the Diplomacy phase, the Germans pulled a "Pro-Axis" marker and used it to heal their relationship with the Italians, who are now neutral again.  The Russians spent their production points putting a "Political Failure" marker back in the cup (along with an No Event marker).  

It was an interesting start to the war, with the Germans being left alone to attempt an invasion of Russia.  The weather was on the Russian side, however, and a stalemate threatened to destroy the German momentum early on.  If the Severe weather continued, the Russians could sit back and grow stronger as time wore on.  How much longer would the Western faction allow this to go on without intervening?  With the clock ticking,the Germans need to get back on the offensive if they hope to pull out a win here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Unconditional Surrender: Poland 1939

Unconditional Surrender!  World War 2 in Europe (USE) from GMT is designed by Salvatore Vasta and has been heralded by many gamers as a possible contender for one of the best games that deals with World War 2 on a strategic level.  Just to give you a flavor for what the game is like, I thought I would post a short playthrough of the 1st training scenario from the game, the German invasion of Poland in 1939.  Here goes!

Setup of Germany and Poland prior to game start.
The scenario only lasts one turn and the Germans have two air units and two Panzer armies along with a good deal of infantry.  The objective for the Germans is to break the Polish national will.  In USE, countries don't just collapse automatically when their capital is captured (although it certainly helps).  Nor do you need to chase around every last enemy unit and destroy it before counting the opposing country as defeated.  The game uses National Will as a marker for when countries are collapsed or conquered.  Losing an army unit or a city (or a capital) serves to slowly erode an enemy country's national will until it goes kaput. In this scenario, Poland starts off with a national will of 12 and the country is conquered when it reaches zero.

National Will values of each city

In USE, you basically have two types of attacks - mobile and assault.  Assault attacks represent army groups piling up on an enemy unit to gather enough bonuses to the die roll.  Mobile attacks are basically one army unit conducting immediate blitzkrieg-style battles.  In this particular scenario, we're only using mobile attacks.  Combat is handled by both players counting out die roll modifiers and then rolling six-sided dice.  There are no combat or movement values on any of the counters in the game - everything is figured out by modifications to a die-roll.

So we start off in September 1939 and roll for weather, which is mild.  Good news for the German pilots.

Getting the Polish down to national will of zero isn't as easy as it looks.  If the Germans can capture the cities closest to the border and eliminate a few Polish units, they should be able to pull it off.   On the other hand, the job is made so much easier by taking Warsaw itself.

Deciding to risk it, the Germans activate the 16th army in East Prussia and attack the Modlin Army to the south. The 1 Luftwaffe activates for air support (air units can sortie 6 times max).  The German army gains a +2 DRM (for being German) and another +2 DRM for the air support.

16th Army attacks Modlin army north of Warsaw.

We get a 6 for the Germans (10 modified) and a 2 for the Poles, which results in a DE (Defender Eliminated) on the CRT.  The German 16th army advances south again, crosses the Vistula and takes Warsaw.

Germans take Warsaw early in the game.

Polish national will goes from 12 to 7 (-1 for the eliminated Polish army unit and -4 for the capital).

Well, things are looking pretty good for the Germans so far but I've managed to lose this scenario with them before, so it's far from over.

The 2nd Panzer army east of Breslau attacks the Polish army near Lodz and uses some help from the 4 Luftwaffe.  The Poles elect to use a ground support marker (+1 DRM to their roll) but the Germans have a whopping +6 for their own attack roll (+2 Germans, +2 air support, +2 tanks).

2nd Panzer goes for it near Lodz.

The German player rolls a 5 (11 modified) and the Polish player curses his luck with only a 1 (modified to 2).  The defenders near Lodz are eliminated and the 2nd Panzer can continue moving and attacking (all tank units get 10 movement points and mobile attacks let you keep going until the MPs are gone).  The Poles lose another National Will point for having a unit eliminated (down to 6).

2nd Pz advances.

2nd Panzer decides to keep the momentum going by crossing the Warta River and advancing into Lodz, putting it under German control.

German 2 Pz marches into Lodz and attacks the Prusy army.

The Polish National Will is careening towards the rocky ground below as it loses another 2 National Will from the capture of Lodz (down from 6 to 4).  Having only spent half of its MP, the 2nd Panzer goes for yet another attack, this time on the Prusy Army sitting east of Lodz.  With more air support on its side from 4 Luftwaffe, the Germans get another +6 modifier.  The Polish player uses another ground support marker (its remaining one) and we roll a 6 for the Germans (12) and yet another 1 for the Poles (getting a 2 modified).  The Prusy Army is eliminated.  Some great rolls for the Germans and some very poor luck for the Poles so far.  Polish national will tumbles from 4 down to 3.

The German player activates 1st Panzer army way up north and decides to try and fell the final blow.  The panzers roll into Danzig, bringing Polish national will down to a measly 1.

1st Panzer takes Danzig.

It follows up with an attack on Army Pomorze to the southeast.  With a river in between the two armies, the Germans suffer a -1 on the attack roll but they still get +5 DRM anyways (+2 for German, +2 air support, +2 for tanks, -1 river).  The Germans roll up a 3 (modified to 8) and the Poles get a 4 (unmodified).  Army Pomorze is forced to retreat and moves southeast towards the Vistula.

Army Pomorze retreats.

2nd Panzer has spent 5 of its 10 MP so far, so it follows up the attack by chasing down the retreating Polish army and attacking it again for 2 MP.

1st Panzer chases down Army Pomorze.

With plenty of air support from the Stukas overhead, the German 1st Panzer manages to reduce the Polish army and force it to retreat east, since it cannot retreat into the enemy ZOC to the south projected by the 2nd Panzer army sitting in Lodz.  With 3 MP left the 1st Panzer spends 2 MP on a final attack on Army Pomorze.

1st Panzer goes for a final attack on Army Pomorze.

Things look bleak for the Poles since they are reduced and hence suffer a -2 DRM to their combat roll.  The Germans once again call on the Luftwaffe to join the attack and get a +6 modifier to their attack roll.  The Germans get a 4 (modified to 10) and the Poles get a 5 (modified to 3).  The result is another step loss for the Poles and they are eliminated.  The Polish National Will falls from 1 to zero and the Germans have successfully taken over Poland.

Thanks to some extremely good rolling on the part of the German player at the start, the conclusion was pretty much foregone after Warsaw fell in the very first part of the game.  However, if the weather doesn't cooperate and the Germans can't bring their air support to bear then it can be very hard going for them.  I have managed to lose several times with the Germans but the scenario is definitely favoring them as it did historically and most of the time, they can pull of a win without too many problems.  This is a great scenario for learning the basics of the USE system and it introduces some really important concepts involving movement and combat.  Great stuff.