Friday, March 30, 2012

Dawn's Early Light: Scenario 3 - Southern Thrust

Today's game is Lock 'n Load's Corps Command:  Dawn's Early Light, a fun brigade/regimental level game that features the Warsaw Pact invading West Germany in 1985!

In this scenario, the Soviets push some divisions down south to crush the Canadian 4th Mechanized brigade and the US 5th Armored Division and take the surrounding cities.

The 4 CMBG consists of two infantry battalions and a tank battalion of Leopard C1s. The Canucks are pretty decent fighters with the best infantry in the game.  The Leopard C1s aren't quite as great as the German Leopard IIs or the US M1 tanks but they can hold their own pretty well.  I deploy them in the western area of the map, hoping to set up some clever ambushes in the rough forested area and trap the Soviets in there for as long as possible.  Good luck, Canadians!

Canadians from the 4 CMBG in the west defending against the Soviet 33rd.

The US 5th Armored Division puts one infantry battalion south in the city of Eisenbach while they set up the rest of their tanks and infantry further up north east.  Luckily, the center of the map is covered with rough terrain and mountains, which basically forces the Soviet player to split up his forces with the 1st Guards Tank in the east against the Americans and the 33rd in the west against the Canadians.  The Soviets position a token task force of tanks and infantry to guard Stahlhammer AFB in the north.

US 5th Division in the east defend against the 1st Guards Tank Division.

For assets, the Soviets pull an airstrike, artillery, gunships, and jamming.  They toss out the airstrike marker.  With the Americans and Canadians so dispersed, it won't have much effect on the battle. Day 1 Soviet assets are the artillery and gunships.  Their day 2 asset is signal jamming.

The NATO player pulls his assets and gets airstrike, engineers and signal interception.  With the Soviets so crowded together, having an airstrike for the first day would probably be pretty effective so I choose it and reluctantly toss out signal interception and the engineers.

Day 1

Impulse 1: Initiative - NATO 3.Soviets 2

Canadians move into the bushes in the west and start setting up traps for the Russians to fall into.  The airstrike marker is used and the Canadian infantry calls in a nice USAF A-10 strike which hits some of the assembled Soviet infantry up north.  The Americans get into position in the east and wait...

The Soviets rush down south.  In the west, they manage to inflict light casualties on the Canadian infantry.  In the east, the 1st Guards start engaging the US tanks but take some heavy casualties from defensive fire.

Impulse 2:  NATO 3,  Soviets 1

Airstrikes hit the main artery of the Soviet thrust to the east this time, hammering away at the 1st Guards.  M1s open up and start taking out lots of T-72s.  I will later regret not giving the Canadians the use of the airstrike instead.  The US infantry gets into more favorable terrain to tighten the noose.

The 4 CMBG starts taking heavy casualties from the sheer amount of Soviet armor and infantry pouring into the woods.  They give as good as they get, however, inflicting losses on two tank and infantry regiments from the Soviet 33rd Mechanized.

The Soviets attack the US 5th in the east and manage to cause light casualties, reducing an M1 battalions and an infantry battalion.  So far, things have not gone well for them in the east.

The Canadian infantry punishes the Russians for every gain they make.

Impulse 3:  Soviets 5, NATO 4

The Soviets start slowly slipping through the Canadian lines in the west.  Tanks make it to their flanks in dribbles.  A half-hearted tank assault on the beleaguered Canadian infantry is repulsed.

The 1st Tank Guard manages to inflict heavy losses on a battalion of M1s in the east. Otherwise, the Russians stay put.

NATO airstrikes again help the Canadians out in the woods to the west, reducing a Soviet tank battalion to heaps of molten metal.

The Leopard C1s finally get in on the action and inflict serious losses on some isolated Soviet tanks that try to sneak around Canadian lines.  An attempt to pull out the 4 CMBG infantry battalion which has taken so much punishment is rebuffed by command.  I desperately need them to hang on for as long as possible.

The US pulls back a heavily depleted M1 battalion and it is sent to the rear for defense and/or repair and resupply.

Impulse 4:  NATO 4, Soviet 4 - ties go to NATO

NATO player hopes that commanders will allow the Canadian infantry to pull back and lick its wounds (translation:  I'm hoping for a low activation number here).  Much to my astonished frustration, the request is denied and the Canucks are yet again ordered to stay there and defend.  The least I can do for them is call in airstrikes, which destroy a Soviet infantry battalion.The Leopard C1s take out more sneaky Soviet tanks.  I just can't believe how much punishment the Canadian infantry has taken and it's still managing to hold on by a thread.  Whoever is in charge of this whole operation is just plain cruel for forcing them to stay there.

The Russians manage to focus all of their remaining strength for a push on the Canadian line.  I had feared for this for a long time.  The line collapses completely and all the infantry (two battalions worth) are surrounded and wiped out in a single blow.  Soviets from the 33rd MRD start streaming down south. My poor poor Canadians.  At least I still have the Leopard C1s.

Soviets break through the Canadian lines.
The US 5th Division fares much better in the east.  The initial defensive fire on the Soviets at the beginning of the game reduced enough units so they couldn't bunch up on the American forces.  It's a stalemate.

Day 1 Night NATO 5, Soviet 3

Night falls and the Canadian Leopard C1s race down and try to interdict some Russian infantry motoring south.  They fail to inflict any losses.

The Americans hope for resupply and refit but nothing is available.  The Soviets realize the Americans will try to reinforce the western area and start to move their units to block them off.  None of the Pact regiments is resupplied either.

Day 2

The Soviets get fresh assets.  Artillery is assigned to day 2 and gunships are available from Day 3.  NATO assigns German Territorial units and gunships to day 2 and airstrikes and even more gunships to Day 3.

Impulse 1:  NATO 5, Soviet 4

The Canadian tank battalion calls in AH-1 Cobras which decimate a Soviet infantry regiment.  The Americans call for a second gunship but it's unavailable.  The Leopard C1s move into defensive positions to stop the rest of the Soviet advance from the northwest.  The US 13th Air Cav moves in from the west, giving the Canadians a much needed break and some reinforcement.  They spread themselves out pretty thin.

The US 5th Division hammers at the Soviets in the west, reducing some infantry and tanks but at this point, it's like trying to fight off a swarm of bees with a sledgehammer.

The Soviets take care of the Canadian Leopards with some well-executed coordination of infantry and tanks.  The Canucks are now completely out of the game but they did a great job of using a small force to hold off massive numbers of Soviet tanks and infantry.  The rest of the 33rd MRD streams southeast towards the cities.

In the east, the 1st Guards Tank Division sends down a couple of regiments of tank and infantry to try and take the city of Eisenbach.

The Soviet 1st Guard Tank slips some tanks down south past the US to take Eisenbach.

Impulse 2 NATO 4, Soviets 3

German Territorial units are apparently on their way to reinforce but where are they?  Lost?  Dead?  The NATO commander tries to get them on the radio to no avail.

The US sends a regt. of tanks to deal with the Soviets who slipped through and are threatening Eisenbach.  Gunship requests are all met with affirmatives and the AH-1 Cobras deal out some real punishment to the poor Russians in the east.  Meanwhile, the 13th ACR starts motoring around the west, setting up hit and run attacks.  The Russians lose quite a bit of momentum from these tactics, which are hard to adjust to after the yesterday's Canadian tactic of "stand and die".

13th ACR tries to stem the flow of Soviets in the west.

Soviet infantry and a recon brigade enter the town of Jungweiler, raising the hammer and sickle above the town hall.  Tanks pour in a bit later to beef up the Soviet presence.  The rest of the 33rd steams towards the southern cities, hopefully to help with an attack on Eisenbach.  The Soviets start hitting Eisenbach, inflicting terrible losses on the defending American infantry.

Impulse 3 NATO *6* - Broken Orders.  Only Germans activate.  Soviets 4

The Soviets open up with artillery and gunships on Eisenbach, quickly destroying the infantry and tanks defending it.  By the afternoon, the Russians have Eisenbach.  They also capture Nassebruck and Mittelbaum.  The Soviet formations in the east locate the 13th ACR elements and smash them ruthlessly with the aid of Mi-24 Hind helicopters and massed artillery.  Schneiderberg falls to the Russians soon after.

Only the German territorials can activate.  They finally wander on to the battlefield hoping to cause some problems for the 33rd MRD and maybe take back some of their cities.  They get on the road but don't get very far before the next impulse.

Impulse 4 NATO - 3 Soviets - *6* Broken Orders:  33rd only activates

The Germans rush toward Schniederberg and score some hits on the defending Soviets.The Americans slowly start clearing the Russians out from around Eisenbach.  Soviet gunships inflict damage on the German territorials.

Soviet gunships and infantry hit the Germans whle the US tries to take back Eisenbach.

Night impulse Pact - 3, NATO -3.  Pact Signal Jamming causes NATO reroll:  3

NATO moves its forces closer to Eisenbach, trying to take the city back.  The remaining 13th ACR unit tries to get down to help the German Territorials at Schneiderberg but they get hung up near Mittelbaum.  The Soviets use artillery to continue the fight through the night, devestating the German Territorials.

Day 3

Impulse 1  NATO 1, Pact 4

The Soviets get down to Mittelbaum first and reinforce it before the 13th ACR can go and make a mess of their plans.  The US player uses airstrikes and gunships to damage the Soviet infantry in Eisenbach but they just can't seem to destroy them.

Impulse 2 - NATO 4, Pact 6 - Broken Orders - 33rd only activates

The Americans finally destroy the Soviet infantry in Eisenbach and move some tanks into the city!  The 13th ACR reinforces their success.

The German Territorials are finally destroyed outside of Schneiderberg.

Impulse 3 NATO 4, Soviets 3

NATO reinforces Eisenbach with more tanks.  Not great for defending a city but it will have to do.  The Russians attack from across the bridge and are repulsed again and again.  Defensive fire takes its toll.  Soviet infantry attacking the city is destroyed in a hail of defensive fire.  It's not pretty.

Impulse 4 NATO 2, Russia 4

The Russians are just unable to get any offense together.  The Americans stay in Eisenbach and the game ends.


Soviets get +1 VP for victory cities +1 VP for destroying 11 NATO units -1 VP for losing 9 units from the 1st Guards for a total of 1 VP, which gives them a small but respectable victory.

The Soviets would have fared a bit better by knowing their limits and not pushing so hard to take back Eisenbach at the end of the game.  It really was a Stalingrad kind of battle where the more men and tanks that were sent, the more that were eaten up.  The 1st Guards Tank division bore the brunt of that vain attempt and the Soviets paid for it with a victory point.

I should have followed my own advice that I always give and saved NATO's signal interception asset instead of the airstrikes.  The airstrikes on the first day were fine but NATO's high activation numbers meant that I couldn't juggle around the defenses with the Canadians or rotate any units to the back as they got hit.  That meant a "stand and die" approach which just didn't last long enough.  I genuinely felt a bit bad at the way things went for those guys in the west as they were wasted in their defense just as badly as the 1st Guards were in their offense at the end of the game.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

World at War: Death of the 1st Panzer: Counterpunch

The objective is for the West Germans to take the city of Eben. The 1/71st deploys down south on the hills just to the west of Eben while the Leopards from the 2/174 deploy in the town of Obetz far to the north.

The 33rd Motorized Rifle Division deploys its resources carefully in Eben, forming a ring of infantry and armored carriers on the outskirts and the command and anti-air forces safely in the downtown area. 

Meanwhile, north of Eben sits the 87th Rifle Division, ready to either reinforce Eben or try for an attack on the West German forces as they make their approach to Eben.

Turn 1: The West German Marders of the 1/171st drop off their infantry on the hillside to the southwest of Eben. The Soviet 33rd MRD commander counters by sending out his own infantry towards the hill. The Leopards Is from the 2/174 move into the forest east of Obetz and start hammering on the armored carriers in Eben from long range.

Soviet infantry creeps towards the 1/171st.
Turn 2: The Soviet 33rd MRD commander decides against passively defending the city. Soviet infantry attacks the West German infantry on the hillsides near Eben. The Marders from the 1/171st withdraw to the west. 

The 87th Rifle Commander makes a bold and tragic mistake by sending his forces to assault the Leopards to the west. As they traverse open ground, they are hammered ruthlessly by the long range AT missiles and cannons from the Marders down south. The company is reduced to half strength in a matter of minutes. 

Turn 3: The Soviet commander starts firing back at the West Germans. The Soviet harassment has delayed the West Germans long enough for the Soviet commander to rearrange his forces within the city. The BTR-60s along with the infantry from the 87th Rifle Division are destroyed shortly after trying to creep across the northern part of the map, a victim of long range fire again from W. German Marders.

Turns 4 and 5:  The Soviets in Eben are getting picked off one by one by the 2/174 Leopards up north. Things don't look good for the Russians.

Where'd everybody go?  The Soviets take big losses in Eben as NATO picks units off .

But the brave little BMP south of the city does manage to kill off half a platoon of West German Marders. The Soviet infantry in the woods to the north gets lucky and kills of an entire platoon of 2/174 Leopards along with the company commander.

The 2/174 Leopard Is are badly hurt from the Sagger missiles and some lucky shots from Soviet BMPs sitting in defensive positions on the outskirts of Eben. 

The commander of the 87th Rifle Division abandons Volksburg and heads south to reinforce Eben. The Leopards in the 2/174 are taking a pounding. 

The Germans make their push. The 1/171st infantry streams from the hill and assaults the BMP platoon sitting to the south of the city. 

The final rush towards Eben.  Can the West Germans make it?

The brave BMP platoon north of Pfalzburg takes four consecutive assaults before being destroyed by the Marders on the hill. 

Turns 6 and 7:  The West German infantry from the 1/71 makes its way into the south of the city but it faces stiff opposition. The AAA platforms are used to great effect against the West Germans, who are also running very low on ammo. Without the Soviet heavy armor destroyed, the success of the infantry's assault is in major doubt. The Soviets pull their infantry back and try to hold off the advancing West Germans.

The 2/174 Leopards must move in and take out the 33rd MRD's heavy tanks or the West German infantry down south will be crushed. Unfortunately, the West German Leopards take heavy losses as they drive towards Eben. The Russian infantry to the west uses its Saggers to great effect and the commander of the 87th manages to disrupt a Leopard platoon before succumbing. 

With a stalemate in the north, the 1/171 commander decides to cash in all his chips. He calls in an F-4 Phantom airstrike on the Soviet units to the east along with a DPICM artillery strike. The F-4 is hit by a SAM on its way to the battlefield and aborts but the DPICM manages to wipe out the T-62 platoon. 

Yeah , it's an Israeli F-4 counter.  Couldn't find my W. German one.
The German infantry, tired and almost out of ammo, makes a last ditch assault to the east while the commander of the 2/174 Leopards finally gets his tanks in order and secures the north. The Soviet commander of the 33rd MRD finds himself surrounded and surrenders. Very very close game.

The biggest mistake here was the Soviet commander making an impetuous charge at the Leopard tanks near Obetz at the beginning of the game. Had the gamble worked, it would have paid off nicely and delayed the 2/174 from getting to Eben. As it went, however, the Russian infantry and BTRs got caught with their pants down and paid dearly for it. As the Soviet commander, I should have played it safer and taken the time to set up ambushes for those Leopards as they approached the city rather than attempt a clumsy counter-attack. Oh well, it was a good game and the fight for Eben was nail-biting!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dawn's Early Light: Some Thoughts on Strategy

I've been getting back into Corps Command:  Dawn's Early Light recently and here are some things I've started to understand about different Soviet and NATO strategies.  I'm writing this article as advice for beginners to the series.  I'm definitely not a tactical genius (as my opponents will surely attest) but I think this is a good basic guide for those who are interested in this under-rated gem of a game.

Soviets:  I used to lose as the Soviets all the time.  The reason was that I would basically just run up to NATO units and hammer away on them until I destroyed enough units to make an advance.  If you're very lucky, this strategy might work but the inherent NATO firepower advantage means that you're playing into their hands by adopting this strategy.  You might take out a few NATO units but your Soviets will be so utterly decimated by that time, you won't have enough strength to take your objective.

In order to win, the Soviets have to move.  A good NATO player will try to slow down the Soviets from reaching the objective through interlocking zones of control (ZOC).  A good Soviet player will use a "5" activation to maneuver his units out of those NATO ZOCs and towards the objective.  If you ever have to decide between attacking and moving, always always choose to move.  The Soviets need to have a laser-like focus on the objective in order to win.  During night turns, always opt to move rather than repair units.  The Soviets usually have reinforcements coming in behind them so don't worry about repairing your losses.

For the Soviets, the most powerful asset is artillery.  It gives you a much needed bonus for assaults, especially when you've got a recon unit to add its bonus to your attack.  Soviet units always take a pounding and lose strength due to defensive power so artillery can basically mean the difference between winning and losing.  Sure, it's only available for one impulse but used correctly (ie. at the objective), it will help immensely.

When you reach the objective, your setup is crucial.  For obvious reasons, most of the first units that reach the objective are the most damaged ones.  Take the extra impulse to maneuver these units to the rear of the objective, even if it means you can't attack immediately.  This helps to make way for the fresh units coming up behind you to get to the objective and hit them hard.  There really is nothing more frustrating than pounding away at a stack of infantry in a city with a "1" strength tank unit while your fresh infantry reinforcements sit uselessly behind you.  If time is an issue, however, you may have to just take your lumps and run headlong into the objective.

Try to split objectives up by regiment.  The Soviets can stack three units from the same division in one hex while they can only stack two units from different divisions in one hex.  Obviously this makes a big difference, especially in the aforementioned situation when you want to bring maximum firepower towards an objective.

Lastly, the 2nd Airborne is a really great asset because it can be dropped pretty much anywhere on the map.  This asset is most effective when NOT used.  It keeps the NATO player guessing when and where you're going to use it and it can effectively prevent NATO from sending rear units forward to help reinforce the front.  In the first scenario, the 2nd AB asset basically forces the Americans to keep some units near Eisenbach and the 1st Panzer to keep a brigade of tanks sitting uselessly at Stahlhammer AFB.  They can best be described as the land equivalent of a "Fleet in being".

NATO:  The most important thing for NATO is to just keep the Soviets at bay for as long as possible.  With limited numbers of units, their best hope is to delay and hope for help in the form of reinforcements.  Assets that help damage the Soviets (artillery, for example) are fine but the Russians are usually being reinforced with new waves coming behind them.  It's best for the NATO player to have assets that help him keep the initiative.

Signal jamming, for example, is a great chit that allows the NATO player to select his own activation number.  This means that you can use the chit to select a high activation number and speed your reinforcements from the rear to the front.  Alternately, you might choose a lower activation number to juggle your infantry around as the Soviets get closer to city objectives.

Airstrikes are a great way to reduce entire stacks of units and should almost always target anything with a recon brigade.  Recon units help give the Soviets a slight edge in damaging your units so removing this hard-to-kill threat as soon as possible is essential.

NATO units at the front should remain largely static until damaged.  Locking up Soviet units through zone of control forces the Soviet to choose between moving one measly hex or attacking.  Ideally, the Soviet player is going to lose lots of units to defensive fire and in the course of the average game, this will happen a lot.  To really seal the deal, however, you need to think carefully about terrain and how your units work in different places.  Inflicting defensive fire on 2,3 and 7 will certainly help wear down the Soviets until they reach the objective.

Lastly, it's important to use the last couplet of every day to return damaged units away from the front and recycle undamaged units towards it.  If your units are in a zone of control during the recovery phase at night, you can only recover on a "6".  But if you have damaged units out of that recovery zone, there's a much better chance ("5" or a "6") to get your units strength back up.

Make the Russians fight for every single inch of ground and only concede it when your units are heavily damaged.  Even a -2 Panzer brigade is much more use to you than a dead one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dawn's Early Light: Day by Day

Today, I'm going to post a short playthrough of Dawn's Early Light, which is part of LnL's Corps Command system.  This is a more operational level wargame that takes place in the World at War universe in which the Soviets invade West Germany in 1985.  In contrast to the playthrough from the other day where I tried to document every single thing that happened, I'm going to only give a general description of what happened in each day of this game.

The first scenario, "Dawn's Early Light", takes place on the opening day of WW3.  The Soviet player gets victory points for either capturing Stahlhammer AFB, having a line of communication to Eisenbach and moving forces off the west side of the map.  The NATO player wins by preventing two of these things from happening.

Setup:  The NATO player sets up first, with the US 5th Armored Division in the south part of the map and the West German 1st Panzer Division in the north.  The 5th Division sets up the 1st brigade towards the east part of the map as an early defense against the Russians.  The 3rd Brigade sets up further back with its infantry protecting Eisenbach and Nassebruck.

The 1st Panzer Division sets up with the 3rd Brigade playing defense to the east.  Infantry sits in Eben with a recon brigade while the tanks set up to the north and south of the city.  The 2nd Brigade sits back with tanks protecting Stahlhammer, the 2nd brigade in Hagenstadt and another group of tanks set up just west of the 1st Brigade to serve as backup.

German 1st Panzer Division:  3rd Brigade protects Stahlhammer AFB while 1st Brigade defends near the front.

Assets:  Each side gets assets to help them fight.  The Russians pull 5 assets:  2nd Airborne, 87th Rifle, Gunship, Airstrike, and Chemical weapons.  Airstrikes usually only help when they can attack big stacks of units huddled together.  Due to NATO's thinly spread defense, the Russian player decides against using Airstrikes and assigns the 87th Rifle reinforcements for the first day along with Mi-24 gunship support.  Chemical weapons and the 2nd AB will be available from day 2.

The NATO player pulls 3 chits:  Territorials, Signal Interception and Engineers.  The German Territorials are really good for freeing up German units in the north.   Signal Interception can change initiative in favor of NATO and Engineers are really only ever used as a last ditch desperate defense.  I discard the Engineers and assign the Territorial brigade for the first day and Signal Interception for the second.

Day 1:  The Soviets rush into the gap.  1st Guards goes north and starts hammering on the German panzer divisions surrounding Eben.  At the same time, the 47th Guards runs south.  The north turns into a stalemate during the morning but this is broken in the afternoon with Soviet gunship support.  By the end of the day, the German 1st Division has lost two full brigades while the Soviets have only lost one.  It's a nightmare but the Germans keep rushing in units from the east.

Meanwhile, thanks to rolling broken orders for NATO during two initiative phases, the Soviet 47th Guards has outmaneuvered and sprung some clever traps on the US forces.  With overwhelming forces split up into small units rather than single large units, the Russians have kept the US from using the roads.  Soviet units are seemingly everywhere.  Unlucky defensive fire reduces a US tank brigade and then destroys it by the end of the day.  Luckily, for the US player, the 2nd Brigade rushes in from the east to reinforce the situation.

Can't get there from here: Soviet infantry and tanks prevent NATO tank brigades from rescuing Eisenbach.

By day's end, Soviet forces are on the outskirts of Nassebruck, lined up to attack the city.  Several Soviet brigades are very close to Eisenbach.  An infantry and a tank brigade from the 1st Guards Division have slipped through in the chaos and are making a run at full speed towards the eastern edge of the map.  During the night phase, the Soviets edge towards their objective while the NATO forces attempt to regroup.  One German unit manages to recover to full strength after replenishing its losses.

Day 2:  NATO is in big trouble.  Defensive fire from Warsaw Pact units have depleted NATO's ability to hammer on the Russian units.  The Soviets, however, have their own problems.  Down south, the 2nd Brigade entered their tank brigades into Eisenbach and Nassebruck just in time to watch the defending infantry get completely destroyed by the Russians.  Eisenbach has held on but barely.  Nassebruck has been completely overrun by elements of the 48th Guards Tank division thanks to chemical attacks combined with sheer mass numbers of armor thrown at it.

2nd Brigade attempts to reinforce Eisenbach and Nassebruck.

In the center of the map,  infantry and tanks from the Soviet 1st Guard are pouring west with no one to oppose them.  The 87th is attacking a stubborn group of infantry in a forest hex in J14.  Defensive fire has hurt the 87th very badly and NATO has taken no losses in the hex.

In the north, the Russians and Germans are fighting a stalemate.  A handful of Soviet infantry and tanks have made their way west towards Stahlhammer AFB but the Germans have pulled back their units to make a stand.   Some German tanks are sitting south of Eben, stopping the flow of more Russian armor to the Stahlhammer base.  The night cycle sees several Russian units near Nassebruck get reinforced while NATO receives nothing.

Assets:  The NATO player receives 5 assets, tossing the artillery and allocating a gunship and the 13th ACR for day 3 and another gunship asset with an airstrike for day 4.  The Russians assign artillery to day 3 and a gunship to day 4.

Day 3:  Today, the NATO headaches increased as the Soviets took Eisenbach and broke through to the other side of the river in force.  Soviet artillery hammered away at infantry positions in Eisenbach and near Eben, edging the Russians closer to victory.  Unable to stop the Soviets from advancing units to the west through the middle of the map, the Soviets scored two victory points as units from the Soviet 1st Guards division ripped through the hole in the front lines.  The American infantry in J14 holds out all night and into the morning against assaults from the 87th but by day's end, they are past the point of exhaustion and eliminated.

NATO airpower came online and gunships struck out at Soviet positions to the north.  The Germans are holding fast and attempting to break through south to re-establish a line of communication to Eisenbach.  Soviet forces have suffered heavily but the 33rd Motorized Division has been used as a buffer to keep the Germans away from the southern flank.

The US 13th Air Cavalry Regiment moved in swiftly in the south and after trying to help Mittelbaum's defense, has given up and sent units to the bridge in the center of the front to try and find a line to Eisenbach.  The Soviets, seeing through their attempt, drop the 2nd Airborne to defend the bridges and keep the 13th ACR from racing east.  Airborne are also dropped in Eisenbach and south of Stahlhammer.

The 13th ACR needs to cross the bridge, defended by the Soviet 2nd AB.

Day 4:  Things seem to liven up at the prospect of a pair of brigades from the 13th ACR crossing the river in the center of the map and finding a line of communication to Eisenbach before Day 4 is up.  With only 1 victory point in the Soviet's cap, this could mean the difference between winning and losing.  The 2nd AB holds the other side of the bridge and now that NATO has both airstrikes and gunships, it starts taking punishment.

Elements of the 33rd Motorized Rifle rush to reinforce the 2nd Airborne near the bridge while the Soviet elements near Mittelbaum rush up to hit at the 13th ACR brigade from behind.  Despite the mass of Soviet armor, the 13th ACR holds up after being damaged only once.  Up north, the Soviets bottle the Germans up even further, preferring to hold their grip on the roads to Eisenbach rather than push everything to capture the Stahlhammer AFB.  Still, a few token Soviet units do make their way through the German gauntlet and uselessly lash out at the Territorials and Leopard tank brigades.  The Soviet 2nd Airborne is eliminated by a German tank brigade on the outskirts of Stahlhammer AFB.

Airstrikes completely destroy the 2nd Airborne but the 87th and 33rd division brigades both reinforce the bridge again.  The Soviets are unable to damage the 13th ACR but the bridge holds well.  As the light fades over the battlefield on the fourth day, NATO finds itself without a hope left as the Soviets pour more and more reinforcements towards the bridge and stubbornly cut off all German advance south..  Night falls and it is all over.  The Soviets have prevailed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

World at War: The Relief of Tanenhause (Part 2)

Turn 1: 

The 2/182 activates and starts firing Milan missiles at the Soviet BMP-2 sitting in the treeline in hex I5. They score a reduction and a disruption.  The German infantry fire mortars at the Soviet infantry but don't score any hits.

Soviet BMP-2 is disrupted in the woods. 

The 2/174 Panzer activates next.  Deciding to sneak around the city and assault from the south, the big Leopards advance north.

The 2nd Airborne activates and the BMP-2 in hex I5 is undisrupted. The Soviet HQ sends an infantry platoon to hex M2 to beef up the southern defense.

The 2/174 activates again and keeps moving north towards Tanenhause.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

The 2/182 activates again and the infantry with Milan hits at the BMP-2.

The second end marker is pulled.  The turn is over.  Not much happened except for the 2/174 advancing steadily north towards Tanenhause.  The 1/613 didn't activate at all.  A disappointing turn for the Germans.

Turn 2:

Soviets roll a "6" for the 74th GdT formation so it does not arrive.  "Where the hell are those tanks?" grumbles the 2nd Airborne commander.

The 1/613 activates and the German commander decides to get this show on the road.  A platoon of M48s advances into the city hex in F5 and the Songster/T12 ATG in I4 uses opportunity fire to disrupt it.

With the Songster's fire focuses on the other M48s, the 1/613 HQ sneaks into the hex in F6 and starts to take up firing positions.  Can M48s do moving fire...?  Oh well, let's say they can't.

The 1/613th chit is pulled again and now it's time for the German tanks to take out the Soviet AT capability. The M48s in hex F5 un-disrupt.  The HQ stack in F6 unleashes its HE rounds at the T12 ATG position and only score a disruption.  The M48s in F5 fire at the T12 ATG and reduce it further.  Drat - I had hoped to destroy the BMP-2 and the T12 this round.

Next up is the Soviet 2nd Airborne.  The T12 ATG passes its morale check and is undisrupted (is that a word?).  The BMP-2 rolls a 9, higher than the HQ value of 7 so it remains disrupted.

The Soviet HQ adds its two dice to the infantry with Sagger missiles in its hex.  They fire the Saggers and disrupt the M48 again in F5.  The T12 ATG/Songster in I4 fires at the M48s in F5 and destroys it!  Nice work, comrade!

The Soviets fire their 81mm mortar at the German infantry firing Milan missiles from D2 and manage to disrupt both infantry units and reduce the 2/182 HQ.

The 2nd Airborne lashes out and deals damage.

Lastly, the disrupted BMP-2 is pulled back from the treeline in I5 to J6.   Deciding not to push their luck too much further, the Germans leave the rest of the units unactivated for the sake of opportunity fire.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

What an amazing turn for the Soviets!  They have managed to hold on to all of their AT capability while dealing out some punishment to the Germans.  What's more, neither the 2/174 Panzer nor the 2/182 activated.

Turn 3: 

The Soviets check for the arrival of the 74th GdT.  A "6" is rolled so no joy.  The 2nd AB stands alone.

The 1/613 activates and the HQ fires everything at the T12 ATG/Songster managing only a disruption.  Unbelievable.

The 2/182 activates and the infantry with the reduced HQ are undisrupted.  They advance from D5 to F3.  The infantry in D2 advance to E3.  The Jagdpanzer advances from B3 to F4 and is hit by opportunity fire from the Soviet Sagger missiles in J3.  Two Marder platoons move from C3 to F5 to take cover behind the city hex while another Marder makes its way into the city itself in hex F5, taking cover behind the wrecked German M48s from 1/613.

The 1/613 now activates and tries to finish off the T13/Songster which has been a real pain the butt so far.  It scores no hits.

An End Marker is pulled.

The Soviet 2nd AB is activated.  Oh no.  Luckily for the Germans, the T12/Songster and the BMP-2 roll high for morale checks and fail.  However, with the German infantry and HQ in the wide open in hex F3, the Soviets let loose with the mortars and score two hits.  The infantry is disrupted again but the German HQ hangs on.

The disrupted BMP-2 is pulled back to hex K4.  It probably won't be doing much good for the rest of the game but maybe it could help take out some of those 2/174 tanks advancing up north.  You never know.

The T12/Songster has a movement value of 0 and cannot be moved.

The Soviets fire a Sagger at the Jagdpanzr in F4 but miss completely.  An "Ammo Depleted" marker is placed on the Soviet hex.

Finally, the 2/174 German formation activates and resumes its march up north towards Tanenhause.  The HQ moves up to O9 from O4 with the remaining Panzer going to N6.  There is opp. fire from the Soviets in M3 at the HQ but it's long distance and ineffective.

The 2/182's chit gets pulled next but the HQ is unable to rally the infantry in its hex.  The Jagpanzer in E4 makes it.

The Marders from F5 fire at the Soviet HQ and infantry in J3 but have no luck.  The only good order infantry  platoon moves from E3 to H5, perhaps the only inspired move for the 2/182 of the whole game so far.

The Jagpanzer moves to G3 and takes fire from the Asu-85 but is undamaged.  Marder moves from E5 to F7.  The HQ and disrupted infantry decide to find cover and very quickly by moving from F3 to E5.  Whew!

An End Turn Marker is pulled.  Not a bad turn for either side.  Probably a stalemate.

End of Turn 3.

Turn 4:

The Soviets check for the arrival of the 74th GdT.  A "1" is rolled.  Finally, the reinforcements have arrived! Everyone's getting extra vodka rations tonight!

2/174 activates first.  With their recon unit (the Luchs) in O6, the Soviet infantry in M3 loses its concealment bonus and the German Leopard I's open fire, successfully reducing the Russians in the hex.  Inspired, the German commander sends the Jaguar forward to M4 while the rest of the units sit back.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

2/182 is activated.  Again, the HQ units in E4 fail their morale check and remain disrupted.  The infantry in H5 assault the T12/Songster in I4.  The German infantry easily destroy it and move into I4.  The Marders fire madly at the Soviet HQ but fail to hit it.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

Not much to write home about.  The 1/613, 2nd AB and the 74th GdT failed to activate this round.  Next round should be a doozy.

Turn 5:  

The 1/613 activates but decides against doing anything in order to save up opportunity fire for the Soviet 74th GdT.

The 2/174th activates and wants to move a little north to fire at all the Soviets on the east side of town.  Moving from O5 to O4, opportunity fire from the Soviet infantry in M2 disrupts the German tanks with the HQ.  The Luchs follows up to O5.  The Jaguar in M4 fires at the infantry in M3 but misses.  The remaining Leopard moves from N6 to N5.

2nd AB activates and the BMP-2 in K4 rallies.  One infantry unit in M2 is sent to babysit the now rallied (but reduced) infantry units in M3.  The Asu-85 pulls back to K3 along with the rallied BMP-2 from K4.  The HQ in J3 lets loos with mortars and small arms fire to disrupt the encroaching German infantry in I4.

Oh dear, the 74th GdT chit is pulled and all hell is about to break loose.  They enter on the south edge along the east side and scale the large hill there.  It should provide plenty of elevation and visibility to hit at the Germans from long range.

The 2/182 marker is pulled.  Infantry in I4 is in command but failed to rally.  It's pulled back to the woods hex in I5.  The Marders in F5 finally...finally manage to disrupt an infantry unit with the Soviet HQ in J3.  The HQ and infantry push to G4, maybe not the best decision.  The Marder sitting in F7 advances to H4.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

Another End Turn marker is pulled.  Things are getting very tense with the arrival of the 74th but I wouldn't say it's too late for the Germans.  They seem to be getting some traction on both fronts of the city.

End of Turn 5.

Turn 6: 

The 1/613 activates and decides to do nothing in the hopes of opportunity fire at the 74th as it comes north.

End Turn marker is pulled.

Another End Turn marker is pulled.  Unbelievable.

Turn 7:

The 2/182 marker is pulled.  No time for subtlety now.  It's do or die.  Here we go.

The Marder in H4 moves to I2 and goes for a suicidal assault on the infantry in the city.  The Marder rolls a 6 for its assault while the Soviet infantry roll a series of 4s and 3s, completely wrecking it.  Both Soviet infantry are now disrupted.

The Jagdpanzer from H3 moves in and rolls a 6 for its single assault dice while the Soviet infantry has no luck whatsoever.  It is forced to retreat to K2.  The German HQ infantry move up to I2 from G4.  The Marders advance to I3.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

The 1/613 stays put and waits for the possibility of a Soviet rush from the south.

2nd AB activates.  The morale roll is a 7 so the HQ stack rallies.  With an increased assault factor and decreased to hit rolls against the Jagdpanzer, the Soviet 2nd HQ easily retakes hex J3.

Infantry in M2 and M3 fire at the German 2/174 Leopard Is, hoping to get a hit but there is no joy.

The 74th GdT activates and speeds north to the ridgeline overlooking the battlefield.  They take opportunity fire, which knocks out one platoon and disrupts another.  The Soviets use moving fire as they advance and manage to destroy the 2/174's Luchs recon unit.  How un-Luchsy for them...sorry.

The 2/174 activates and decides to focus its energies on taking Tanenhause.  The HQ in O4 fires at the infantry sitting in M2, scoring 4 hits.  The Infantry rolls for no saves and is eliminated.  Ouch. The Leopard in L5 moves to N2 and enters Tanenhause.  The HQ sends the unit which did not fire on the infantry along to M2 along with the Jaguar.

The 2/174 activates again and the HQ and Leopard I fires at and destroys one infantry platoon sitting in M3 while the Leopard in L2 reduces an infantry platoon with the Soviet HQ in J3.  Big trouble for the Russians!

The 2/182 from I2 assaults J3 and scores 4 hits while receiving absolutely nothing back.  The 2nd AB is crumbling quickly. The Soviet HQ is placed aside for next turn and the German 2/182 marches into the city.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

What a mess.

What a turn.  The 2nd AB held out for as long as it could but there's just no way for the Soviets to retake the city.  Let's see what happens anyways.

Turn 8:  Final Turn

The 2/182 infantry in J3 fires a Milan at the BMP-2 in the adjacent hex, disrupting it.  This is followed up by an infantry assault, which completely destroys both the BMP-2 and the Asu-85.

2/174 activates next, reducing the already disrupted infantry in M3, which retreats to M4.

The 1/613 takes potshots at the Soviet 74th GdT on the southern hill, managing to disrupt one tank platoon.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

The 2/182 activates and is happy exactly where it is, in the heart of downtown Tanenhause.

The 74th GdT activates but it's all too late.  Deciding to save myself from the details of watching the Soviets race north and fail to clear the objective of Germans, I decide that the Russian general will call it a day.

An End Turn marker is pulled.

End Game

The Soviet 2nd AB held on bravely until turn 7.  It seems the 74th was just one turn too late to really do anything at all to help.  Perhaps entering them from the west side of the board instead of from the south would have helped?

In the early turns, I really thought the Germans would get bogged down in their attack but they managed to rally back from a bad position and pressure Tanenhause gradually until it cracked open.      Pretty frustrating that the Soviet 74th didn't activate on the turn its marker was added to the cup on turn 4 and then again on 6.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World at War: The Relief of Tanenhause (Part 1)

Today, I'm doing an AAR of another great scenario from LnL's World at War Compendium which was originally featured somewhere in the first seven issues of Lock 'n Load Publishing's in-house gaming magazine, "Line of Fire".

"The Relief of Tanenhause" has everything a World at War player could want.  It features a tough battle between the Soviet 2nd Airborne as they try desperately to defend the city of Tanenhause from an impressive German assault that includes three companies of tanks, infantry and armored personnel carriers.  

The Soviet 74th Guards Tank Regiment (GdT) is racing to Tanenhause to reinforce the 2nd Airborne.  Before the game starts, the Soviet player writes down (on the usual beverage-stained napkin) on which turn the Soviet tanks arrive.  The earlier the Soviet player elects to have the tanks arrive, the fewer units he receives.  Since I'm playing solo on this outing and I'm horrible at keeping secrets from myself, I'll roll a dice each turn and if the result is lower than or equal to the dice number, the 74th GdT will arrive.

This is a short scenario (only 8 turns long) but the map is small so maneuver and close assault will definitely be a  major factor in determining the winner.  So off we go:  The Soviet 2nd Airborne sets up in Tanenhause and its environs with only five infantry, an T12 AT gun with a Songster, Sagger missiles, and a light mortar.  

The Germans get the full works, including the 1/163rd Panzer with several M48 tanks and the 2/182 Panzergrenadier with infantry, Milan AT missiles, mortars, and Marder APCs.  These two groups set up east of Tanenhause.  And if that's not enough, the Germans also get the 2/174 Panzer with Leopard tanks, a Luchs and a Jaguar, all of which set up on the south board in a city hex.

Cornered:  The 2nd Airborne sits surrounded in the NE corner of the map.

The above image might be a bit too small to make out what's really happening, so I find the best solution is to right click on it and select "Open in new tab".  You can then zoom in on the image in the new tab.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

World at War: The Road to Armaggeddon (Part 2 of 2)

The twisted wreckage of Syrian tanks surround Team Azzam as it makes a final bid to escape a Syrian trap and capture the town just a few miles to the north.  Can they make it?

The Israelis manage to blast away the last of the assaulting tanks thanks to lucky die rolls and double-activating for multiple turns.  The Syrians have managed to assemble their remaining tanks for a push at the lone Soltam sitting in the city objective.  Two Syrian T-72s provide overwatch from afar.   Time is quickly running out for the Israelis.

The Israelis activate and the Soltam fires with its HE at the Soviet tanks, managing to disrupt it.  The Merkava HQ lets go with HE artillery on the Soviet HQ position, disrupting the other tank platoon with the HQ.  The rear Merkava tank platoon is sent forward to help secure the city...


...and makes it to B4 before it dies under a hail of Opportunity Fire from the Syrian T-72s in hex H6.

The Israeli HQ sneaks past and manages to avoid being hit by the remaining T-72 platoon in H6.  Only two hexes from the objective.  The Syrians activate at the end of turn 8 and their HQ atop D2 manages to clear its disruption, close assaulting the Israeli Soltam but somehow not destroying it. The game hinges on Turn 9. 

Turn 9 starts with an Azzam activation.  The HQ makes its way to C3 but is hit by Syrian opportunity fire from H6 for a reduction.  The Syrians activate next and fail to hit the Israeli tanks again.  One more activation could win it for the Israelis.

Just one more chit pull for Azzam...and here...



And with that came the end of turn 9 and the game.  The Israelis has failed to take their objective.  The Syrians, very battered and maybe not so thrilled about it, are the victors by a small margin.  The use of opportunity fire was key here.  Also, it's important for the Israelis to deal damage to the Syrians before they make a run for the city.  

This was my key mistake as the Israeli commander and it allowed those T-72s to swarm my tanks.  The first part of the Israeli strategy was quite nice and the Syrians reacted well to the Israeli mistake by quickly moving their forces to the west and setting up traps for the Merkavas to walk through.  A good deal of luck on the part of both sides made it a very interesting game until the very last turn.  This is a great scenario.

World at War: The Road to Armaggeddon (Part 1 of 2)

Today, I'll be giving a very brief report of a scenario called "The Road to Armageddon" set in the World at War universe.  This scenario brings in the Israelis and Syrians for a nicely set up slugfest.

The Syrians get 10 T-72s and a Shilka.

The Israelis get 3 platoons of slow but tough Merkava tanks and an F-4E Phantom for air support.

The Syrians are the defenders and the Israelis' job is to take the city hexes in the northwest corner of the map, which are outlined in white.

The Syrians set up on the hilltops in the center of the map.  This covers the approaches quite thoroughly.  If the Israelis make a dash for the town, the Syrian T-72s will close assault them and destroy them easily.

The Syrians set up...and wait.

The Israeli commander, not having been born yesterday, sneaks his units on the map from the southeast and travels along the large hillside, which provides complete cover from the Syrian T-72s.

The Israelis sneak along the southern hillsides which provides cover from the Syrians.

This kept up throughout the early turns and the Israelis pulled their first airstrike, hitting the T-72s on the hills on the eastern-most part of the map.  The objective was to break the Israeli tanks through this narrow corridor and head for the city to the north.

Finally the Israeli tanks were in position.  The HQ ordered a Smoke barrage to cover their advance north and off they went!

The Syrians sensed the opportunity and started shifting their forces west to hit the Israelis as they approached their objective...but the second Israeli airstrike came in and messed up that plan a bit.

The Syrians pressed on and sent six platoons to close assault the Israeli Merkavas.  The Merks were hurt but the T-72s were reduced mostly to wrecks.  It was incredibly intense!  During the confusion, the Israelis managed to sneak the Soltam APC up to take the objective.  Continued in Part 2.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Victory Games' Central America: A Review

Victory Games' Central America
Central America, a wargame based on modern conflict in Nicaragua and surrounding countries, is very much a product of its time.  Designed by James H. McQuaid and developed by Mark Herman (Gulf Strike, Pacific War, and many others), Central America was published in 1987.

Historical Background

The communist overthrow of Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza in 1979 was a dire warning to many American policymakers that the United States was losing the Cold War in Central America.  The Reagan administration rode to power in 1980 in part due to its tough stance on foreign policy in relation to communism.  Reagan vowed to "roll back" the global spread of communism that had characterized the 1970s.  In what was later dubbed "the Reagan doctrine", covert support was given to anti-communist insurgents in places like Afghanistan and Nicaragua.  For neo-conservatives, a fixation on this doctrine and an attitude of "the end justifies the means" would end up causing scandal and embarrassment for the Reagan administration as the decade wore on.

Despite the insistence of administration officials that Nicaragua was a dangerous Soviet client state with ambitions of regional domination, the American public was not convinced and polls showed that the majority of citizens were against US involvement in a small regional conflict  that few Americans understood and which echoed some similarities to early American involvement in Vietnam in the '60's.   News reports of human rights violations committed by the US-backed insurgent group, known as "the Contras", didn't help matters and Congress decided to cut military aid to the group.  Undeterred, the administration pursued a kind of shadow war against Nicaragua, using the CIA to destabilize the government and the Iran funds to keep the money flowing to the Contras.  The CIA was later found to have engaged in a lot of dirty tricks, including mining the Nicaraguan harbors and destroying infrastructure. So outrageous were these abuses that the Nicaraguan government successfully sued the United States government in the International Court of Justice.

At the time of the game being published, the Iran-Contra scandal was breaking news and Americans were getting used to prime time programming being pre-empted for Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North's testimony to Congress.  The American sale of arms to Iran in order to continue funding the anti-communist insurgent groups known as the Contras shocked the nation and was quickly becoming the biggest political scandal since Watergate.  Despite the outrage that the revelations generated, most of the major players in the scandal, especially President Reagan, were left with their reputation and legacy largely intact.

Central America and Cold War Perspectives

So "Central America" comes with baggage.  A lot of it.

Designer James H. McQuaid makes clear in his essay at the back of the rulebook that he views Nicaragua under the FSLN as a dangerous Soviet client state with its eye on dominating the region and a key player in the Soviet Union's bid for global supremacy.

Consequently, the Nicaraguans take on the role of regional bad guys in many of the scenarios.  In some scenarios, they harbor Soviet missiles or invade Honduras.  Other scenarios, however, are based on historical short-term conflicts like "The Soccer War" between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969.  Another scenario depicts the small border raids in March of 1986 when Sandanistas attempted to destroy a Contra base near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border. Of course, there is the hypothetical US-invasion scenario where the US declares war and invades Nicaragua. There are even some scenarios that feature full-scale war between the Americans and Soviets during WW3.

Overall, Central America has 16 scenarios consisting of 4 introductory scenarios, 5 intermediate scenarios, and 7 campaign scenarios. Probably due to their relative simplicity, most people today who recall this game tend to refer to the introductory scenarios.

I know some posters on game forums have belittled Central America because of the designer's theories at the time but for me, it's just part of the game's overall charm and it makes things much more interesting.  Thinking about the region as a part of a larger superpower conflict that determines the battle for ideology is much more immersive than seeing Nicaragua as an isolated and poor country that was merely attempting to modernize after suffering under a repressive regime that favored rich land owners for most of the 20th century.  That view might be more realistic but it definitely isn't fun.


The components are quite decent.  There are 260 counters with the game with standard old-school silhouettes of units with lots of information on them.  A large colorful paper map is included with the game, showing El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the very northern edge of Costa Rica.  It provides tables and charts with combat results and other useful information.  However, there are also two reference books (one for each player) that include pages of extra charts and information for each player.  A large scenario book is included, as mentioned before.  There are two rulebooks, one for the conventional game and the other with advanced rules (the "Intervention" game).  The basic rulebook is a whopping 64 pages while the advanced rules clock in at 40 pages.

The rules themselves are actually quite well-written and organized quite nicely.  During my first several plays, I had to consult the rulebook many many times and I never once failed to find an answer to my questions.  One issue is that whoever wrote the rulebook decided to write little footnotes after each section.  Most people would instinctively skip over the footnotes but, upon further inspection, the footnotes have vital information that every player needs to know.  A very odd choice.


Central America does not forgive casual players.  If you are unable to retain and remember lots of detailed information then you will probably not enjoy the game.   Likewise, if the theme of modern warfare in a relatively obscure region of the world does not especially interest you, the game will fall flat as a pancake. Lastly, as I mentioned before, many of the scenarios are written from a particular ideological slant that many people might find to be too much of a stretch.  I believe that these are among the reasons that Central America's sales were disappointing for VG.  It did, however, win a Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Modern Era Wargame in 1987.

What Central America does well is model short, high intensity conflicts. Game turns represent two days of real time and units represent about 1200 - 1500 men.  There are special rules for creating insurgent units and moving them around the map.  Regular ground units can fight and help create insurgents to help fight alongside them.  Special units like US Army Rangers, Special Forces, and the CIA broaden out the roster and give the game a real atmosphere of a shadow war being fought by proxy and elite military units deep in the jungles and forests.

The movement, combat system and phase-based turn system seems outdated now but it actually works okay for this type of game and it manages to keep players on the right track.  The CRT based combat which is based around wargame staples such as step-losses, ZOCs, etc. date the game considerably but work smoothly enough, I suppose.


I would recommend Central America to wargamers with a lot of time and for people who enjoy complex games with lots of rules.  As a solo game to study and think about over my holidays, I found Central America to be quite enjoyable.  I sat back and watched some footage of the Iran-Contra hearings and leafed through my battered copy of Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA by Bob Woodward.  I found myself drawn into the game and remembering vividly what it was like to live through that period of history just before the Berlin Wall fell.  I also learned a lot more than I thought I would ever know about politics in Central America. It is a very good game -  not necessarily great - but it has its own unique charm and inhabits its own niche in the hobby.  As a game that took a lot of risks, I think it's important for gamers to know about it.

My first AAR of Central America can be found here if you'd like a further example of play.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Central America: Scenario 4: The SS-20 Incident

I received a beautiful used copy of Victory Games' "Central America" in the mail the other day and I've been grappling with it since then.  It's an extremely complex game with lots of little rules that don't immediately click until you've done a lot of reading and re-reading of the rule book.

I've been playing the Introductory Scenarios recently and I finally felt confident enough about my rules knowledge to post an AAR for it.  I'll be writing up a review later so hopefully that will answer any questions for those who aren't familiar with this lovely gem published back in 1987.  I've recorded the play in Vassal so as to make screenshots a little easier to understand since there is so much stacking of units in the game.

The Setup

"The SS-20 Incident" is the fourth scenario in Central America and it is based on a "what if" situation where the Nicaraguans get a hold of a Soviet SS-20 intermediate range nuclear missile.  Reagan decides not to put up with it and orders airstrikes to capture and destroy it.

Today's Objective:  SS-20 Intermediate Missile

This scenario is only 1 turn long but it sure shows off the sheer destructive power of concerted air attacks.  

To set the stage properly, I will first detail the types and locations of units.  The Americans have 2 carriers based in the Pacific with the following squadrons:

  • F-14 Tomcats (x4)
  • F-18 Hornets (x4)
  • A-6 Intruders (x2)
  • E-2C Hawkeyes squadrons (x2)
  • EA-6 Prowler squadrons (x2)

The USAF is located at three key bases to the north in Honduras with:
  • A-10 Warthogs (x3)
  • F-15  Eagles (x5)
  • F-16  Falcons (x5)
  • E-3 AWACS (x1)
  • B-52 Stratofortress (x4) -  (these are based off-map, presumably in the States)

The USAF also has several C-130 aircraft.  US Army Rangers are located at Tegucigalpa, Honduras and US Army Special Forces are located in Costa Rica at La Cruz waiting to be dropped into Nicaragua.

The SS-20 missile is located at the very large Punta Huete airport near Managua. There is a SAM site there as well as troops in heavily fortified positions.  

The SS-20 missile at Punta Huete, protected by SAMs and a battalion of Nicaraguan troops.

South of this position is the Masaya GCI (ground control intercept) and early warning station built by the Soviets in 1983.  The Masaya radar station is quite impressive and has a long range for detecting incoming American aircraft.

The Nicaraguans have their air force spread over a handful of airports in the area.  Soviet advisors in MiG-27s and Cubans with Mig-23s have beefed up the air defenses.  

First Moves

All of the following takes place during Turn 1, the only turn in the entire scenario:

The U.S. player decides to blind the Nicaraguans and sends two flights of B-52s south through Honduras where it picks up two F-15 escorts from the base in Tegucigalpa.  As soon as the flight crosses south over Nicaraguan airspace, the Masaya radar picks them up and scrambles a flight of four MiG-27s to intercept the raid.  A flight of F-15s take losses and so do the Soviets, who are forced to return to base.  

The B-52 strike arrives over the Masaya GCI and Nicaraguan regulars use handheld SAMs against the raid, causing another step loss for the Americans.  I wanted the bombers to be as effective as possible so I assigned the hit to the escorting fighters.  The B-52s hit (rolled a 6!) the complex and destroy it.  The Nicaraguans are now blind.

Next, I assigned the remainder of the B-52s to take out the air defenses located at Punta Huete airport.  This time, I sent another pair of B-52s and team them up again with some F-15s.  The presence of AWACS and the loss of Masaya meant that the raid penetrated quite deep into Nicaraguan airspace before it could be intercepted.  

A second raid of B-52s attacks the SAM defenses at Punta Huete.

The Soviets and Cubans scrambled from Punta Huete and suffered severe losses before heading for home.  SAMs took out an escorting F-15 but the bombers unleashed and completely destroyed the SAM site. Now Punta Huerte was hurting very bad and all I had left to do was take out the ground forces protecting the SS-20 and then drop the US troops on top of it.

I thought this might be a good time to unleash the Navy so let loose a pair of F-14 squadrons to escort A-6s and F-18s for a ground strike.  Again, the Nicaraguans were very clever with their use of aircraft to coordinate early warning in the place of the now defunct Masaya radar station and the flight got jumped just as it was over target.  One flight of F-14s was destroyed and the rest of the raid turned back.  Large numbers of MiG-23s and MiG-21s seemed to be somewhat effective.  

The Navy took another shot at the target, this time sending in a similar strike package.  The Soviets sent up a token bit of resistance from Punta Huete.  MiG-19s were all shot down but the strike package missed their target completely and the Nicaraguan troops guarding the SS-20 were just fine.

The Decision

I had a real dilemma as the US commander.  I had been saving my A-10s for close air support when the Rangers and Special Forces arrived on target but I decided to soften up the enemy troop positions before dropping the paratroops.  I sent in my remaining A-10s with what little escort I could still muster (a handful of F-16s) and the Nicaraguans put up a flight of Yak-38s.  The F-16s took them down rather swiftly and the A-10s managed to wreak havoc on the enemy troops below. 

My remaining F-16 escorted the C-130s with the 1/75th Rangers and they dropped on target without a hitch.  The Special Forces guys weren't so lucky, however, and took on some heavy enemy fire when they dropped on Punta Huete, forcing them to spend some time regrouping before they could attack.

Both C-130s successfully drop the troops.  The Rangers make it but the Special Forces take heavy fire.

With no close air support, the Rangers were facing an enemy in greater number and in fortified positions.  Everything came down to a single die roll.  If this failed, then everything else had been for nothing.  A "6" came up and the Rangers took out the Nicaraguan ground forces and captured the SS-20 at Punta Huete.  Very exciting stuff.  I'm not sure I played it correctly but I sure had a lot of fun.

The Result

I wasn't paying too much attention to the victory conditions of the scenario but first and foremost, the Americans must seize the SS-20 to avoid completely failing the mission. The final tally was:

  • 5 VPs for destroying the Masaya radar
  • 4 VPs for hitting the SAM at Punta Huete
  • 4 VPs for taking out the infantry 

That makes it a total of 13 VPs.  However, with all those US aircraft losses, the VP count comes down to 10, which is apparently a decisive victory for the FSLN!  I certainly don't feel like I lost that one but I suppose next time, I could spread out the damage rather than focus too tightly on the SS-20.  In any case, I'm sure the Gipper would have been happy with the result.