Friday, April 27, 2012

LnL; Heroes of the Blitzkrieg - Poker Trick in Martelange

This scenario from Lock 'n Load's Heroes of the Blitzkrieg features the 1st Panzer Division's attempt to cross the border from Luxembourg to Belgium on May 10th, 1940.  The German player has to try and get as many units as possible across a river  while the Belgian player has to stop them.  Things are complicated by a Panic! rule whereby Belgian units might be forced to retreat every time a German unit successfully crosses over to the western bank.

The Belgians set up on the west side of the river behind lots of barbed wire and mines.  There's an old WWI-era machine gun in the center of the town on the upper floor of a church.

The Belgians wait for the 1st Panzer Division.

The Germans have an impressive array of forces with them.  They've got mobile units that include motorcycles with side cars and some of the newer German scout vehicles.  They've also got a mortar team for support.

The Germans wait, ready in the east, ready to strike across the Belgian border.

The Germans split their forces in two.  Although the bridges across the Sure River have been destroyed, there are three places where they can try and ford across.  Lt. Wurtz takes his men up to the northern crossing while Lt. Von Martial goes for the south.  The ford in the middle has no cover nearby from which to make a crossing attempt so neither team will use it, unless things get desperate.

Motorcycles attempt a crossing in the south.

The Germans start off sending small teams forward near the river crossing, drawing Belgian fire.  With the major points of resistance identified and located, the German scout cars hammer away on the Belgian positions.  Meanwhile, German motorcycles with side cars attempt to zoom across the ford but come under heavy fire and are forced to retreat.

Eventually, the Germans start finding some success in the south.    Lt. Von Martial's force sends a squad across the river.  It comes under heavy fire but somehow manages to keep going.  Gefrieter Steiner makes his way to the west of the river bank and although the Belgians are worried, they hold firm and keep fighting.  The Germans try to follow up this success with more units but Lt. Von Martial has trouble convincing the men in his squads to make a rapid advance.

The southern ford:  German infantry units spawn a hero.

Lt. Wurtz finally starts getting his act together up north.  Although the scout cars have not helped him suppress the Belgian infantry immediately across the river, luck has enabled some of his men to get over to the western bank.

The northern ford:  Lt. Wurtz gets some men across.  Belgians retreat.

Some of the Belgians realize the Germans might just accomplish their task and panic.  Sgt Merckx and his men fall back in full retreat.

Sgt. Merckx pulls his forces back to the edge of town after the Germans start arriving.

One of the German heroes across the river rallies his squad and they pull free of the wire.  As they march west into the town, they encounter Sgt. Merckx and his men coming back to re-engage the Germans.  Firing wildly, they pin the Belgians and another German hero single-handedly takes him and his squad out in a fierce melee!  The German northern flank seems to be enjoying great success now that they have gotten a handful of units across to the ford.

The demise of Sgt. Merckx and his squad.

Lt. Von Martial, seeing that time is running out to take Martelange, rushes across the southern ford with his men but Capt. Lambic and his team of Belgian machine-gunners put a stop to that.  Lt. Von Martial's men are bogged down out in the open and under heavy withering fire.

The southern flank is saved.  Cpt. Lambic stops Lt. von Martial's rash attempt to charge over the river.

As time ticks on and the Belgian reinforcements arrive on the horizon, the Germans on the northern flank are exhausted.  There is simply not enough of them to make a real difference in the fight.  The Germans try to send the remnants of their motorcycle units across but machine gun fire from the Maxim 08 up in the town church steeple prevents their crossing.  The two German scout cars try for an attempt to get over.  The Belgian T13 B3 light tank completely destroys one German vehicle as it attempts to ford while a squad of Belgians pours fire on the other scout car while it crosses in the middle.  The Germans are exhausted.

Some success in the north but it's just not enough and the Belgians hold the town.

The final tally:  The Germans get 5 units across while the Belgians have 9 units in the town.  I would consider this a significant victory for Belgium.

This is a real tough one for the Germans.  They have only three crossing points to get over to the west while the Belgians can just sort of wait patiently and blast the Germans while they attempt to ford.  The lack of cover and the relatively low firepower of the German units makes it tough to crack open the defense.  I probably could have done better as the German player by focusing my firepower and efforts on one particular crossing while sending a smaller force to keep the other units occupies.  Two equal forces putting pressure on two points just doesn't seem enough to get much done.  The Germans did get lucky, though, with some units rolling spectacularly for their defense rolls while on the ford or even spawning heroes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Band of Heroes - Swift & Bold: Expected Company

LnL's Swift and Bold is an expansion to their squad-based WW2 wargame, Band of Heroes.  Swift & Bold features the British forces, vehicles, and even gliders. There are about a dozen new scenarios in the expansion with brand new counters.  Players can use the maps already provided with Band of Heroes and the scenarios here are really nicely crafted.  Most of the scenarios are a bit smaller and have fewer units but there are a couple of real slug-fests for those who enjoy those big battles with everything but the kitchen sink in there.

Today, I just finished a scenario from Swift and Bold called "Expected Company".  It's the day after D-day and the British paras are defending against a German counter-attack.  The Germans have to clear the roadside in the middle of the board while the Brits try to stop them. For a variety of reasons, I think this scenario shows what can go wrong when you get too fixated on one goal and blind yourself to what the enemy is doing.

The scenario takes place on just one map board.  I set the Brits up in the forest and houses in the upper left of the map while a 57mm anti-tank gun sits in a foxhole in some light woods.  They await the German onslaught.

Lord Holmes and our hero, Chapman, set up and wait for the Germans.

As the Germans poured onto the board, the British held their fire, trying to make every shot count.  Two Stug IIIs rumbled onto the road while a Marder skirted around to the north.  As the Stug tank commanders scanned the area for trouble, the welcome wagon started by firing a 57mm AT shell at them.  The AT shell slammed into the front of one Stug, and a few seconds later, smoke started belching from somewhere inside.  The German tank crew quickly abandoned their vehicle and raced for cover.  So much for British understatement.  Lord Holmes smiled.

A British AT gun hits home and puts one German Stug out of commission.

The remaining Stug returned fire at the 57mm gun but found no purchase in its efforts.  Still, it was only a matter of time before the German tanks zeroed in on their target.

Lord Holmes heard the nearby rumble of an approaching vehicle and peered out from behind a fallen tree to see a nearby Marder.  The tank was deliciously close and he urged his men forward out of their cover to close assault it.  As the men poured out of the woods and fired at the nearby Marder, their grenades landed short and the vehicle commander saw the troops attempting to encircle him.  Their ruse spoiled, the Marder pulled back and fired several shots at the British troops.  Lord Holmes quickly brought his troops back into cover.

Lord Holmes unsuccessfully attempts to close assault the adjacent Marder.

With Lord Holmes' men busy near the edge of the forest, the German infantry began pouring troops into the nearby house.  Seeing his mistake, he ordered his nearby squad to take the house and defend it from the approaching Germans.  However, as one advance squad entered the wooden lodge, they were quickly overwhelmed.  Things didn't seem to be going their way today, thought Lord Holmes.

Germans flood into the house near Lord Holmes' position.

The nearby Marder began firing again and again into the forest.  Shrapnel from the blasts flew everywhere, maiming some of Holmes' men and sending others panicking to find cover.  All composure was completely lost.  Further to the west, Pvt. Chapman began directing his fellow squad mates to fire at a German squad that had hunkered down near a German Stug.  To his amazement, the firing was completely ineffective and some brave German soul dashed out from cover to eliminate the 57mm anti-tank gun.  It was hard to believe.  One minute, the anti-tank gun had been firing happily away at the Germans and the next minute, it was a pile of scrap after a single German ran into the position.

Finally, Lord Holmes gathered his men back under control and they formulated a quick plan for an assault on the Marder tank.  Hoping that destroying the second German tank would demoralize the Germans, the British hopped from cover and made a desperate dash towards the Marder.  One of their best men nearly got close enough to it to lay a charge but again the German tank commander saw through their tactics, withdrawing from the British approach and firing at them with carefully aimed shots.

As Holmes and his men pulled back to the forest, he suddenly spotted several German squads sitting in the British positions.  He barely had time to mouth a curse word before Sgt. Baumann and his men cut the British troops to pieces with MG34 and small arms fire.

Lord Holmes is killed in melee while the hero, Chapman, barely hangs on.

Meanwhile, Pvt. Chapman and his men fired helplessly at the Stug to the south but were completely unable to score any effective hits.  With their position given away, it was only a matter of time before something bad happened.  It finally did.  The Marder and the Stug opened up on his position, sending his squad scrambling for cover.  He turned around in his slit trench to witness one of his men get a bayonet thrust into him.  A German soldier was in his position, wreaking havoc.  Suddenly, more Germans flooded into the woods around him.  He fired wildly, felling two or three enemies before everything went dark. 

Lt. Koch reached the small shack with his squad.  They had been using overwatch to carefully arrive at the door.  Inside was a small determined band of Brits.  He hoped it was the last group.  The Paras were tough fighters, especially at close range.  While the other squads had loosed their fire early at them and given away their approach, Koch and his men took the opposite tack, gingerly approaching the door.  After they got close enough without encountering any fire, they crept to the windows and threw in the grenades.  Several mighty explosions rang out and Koch's men, well-trained soldiers from the 21st Panzer, leapt inside.  Bloody fighting ensued there in the shack and in the end, Koch walked out with only half his men alive but with the shack secured.  The road was open now thanks to their efforts and the Germans now had a way to push the invaders back to the sea.

The last British Para squad holds off the Germans but is eventually overwhelmed.
Very close game!  The British really did hold on to the very end but were completely eliminated at the close of turn 7.  Even with the death of the only real leader (Holmes), the Brits managed to stick it out quite well.  It's a very tough scenario since the Germans have a ton of ordnance and if they concentrate on one target, they can really mess it up badly.  The Brits had some real unlucky breaks.  By all accounts, Lord Holmes and his men should have destroyed that Marder in all those close assault attempts but the dice just would not work in their favor.  This was also true of attempts to shake up the second German Stug.  It's important to note that, in this scenario, if the British manage to destroy two German tanks, it forces the rest of their men to make a morale check or be shaken.  Thinking back on it, the Brits should have tried for two Shaken results against the Marder by using small arms fire rather than using close assault.

Unfortunately, the British concentrated so much on getting that second tank destroyed that they lost all focus on what the German infantry were doing and basically got overwhelmed.  After the 57mm took out the first Stug, the dice just refused to help the British out in any way at all. This a pretty good scenario and I find that the win/loss rate for both sides is about 50/50.  With such a small map and few forces on each side, there isn't much room for mistakes but the close-in fighting makes for some very intense action.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Boots on the Ground: Hot LZ

Although I talk a lot about Lock 'n Load products on this blog, it's nice to take some other games off the shelf once in a while just to see what other game companies are doing.  Lately, I've developed a bit of a man-crush on Worthington Games, which has consistently delivered an interesting variety of games covering lots of different topics.  Today's report is of the scenario, "Hot LZ" from WG's Boots on the Ground.

"Dammit!" Lt. Waterman muttered in exasperation as he watched helplessly.  His ride home, a big beautiful UH-60 Blackhawk, was turning around and heading back to base. Tracer fire fell short of the helicopter as it increased altitude and raced off.  With so many insurgents in the area, there was no other choice but to do this the hard way and get Team Alpha back to the Green Zone on foot.  That wasn't especially good, especially as rounds from nearby windows were hitting the walls and pavement near him and his 6-man squad.

Waterman and the team set up right at the intersection of Surrounded Blvd and Oh No Avenue.

The only option was to keep moving.  Waterman turned to his demo man, Sato, and pointed north.  The team moved quickly, keeping in a loose column formation and providing overwatch as they bounded up the street.  As they passed near the windows of the nearest building, AK-47 rounds sprayed out at the team.  The scout, Mureault, turned and fired a tight burst, dropping the nearest insurgent.  Fire erupted from all around them from the other windows.  The team had little choice but to try and take cover near the dusty SUV parked on the side of the road.  Team Alpha fired short controlled bursts, covering the windows as they moved.

Waterman sprinted towards the SUV.  Suddenly, everything went bright white and his ears started to sing at the highest pitch he had ever heard.  As his vision returned, he saw his demo man, Sato, and his medic, Arran, lying on the ground nearby.  Waterman scrambled to his feet.  The SUV was a flaming wreck.  The rest of his team further back was crouched near a doorway.  A grenade landed near Sato but there was no time to help him.  Waterman curled up behind some of the SUV debris and the grenade went off, killing Sato.

The nearby SUV turns out to be rigged with explosives and a nearby grenade kills Team Alpha's Demo.

It seemed things couldn't get much worse at this point.  Waterman staggered to his feet and tasted the warm blood in his mouth.  The only thing to do was to keep moving.  Arras, the medic, stumbled to his feet and shook himself off.  Again, the team moved, rounding the corner as insurgents around them kept firing.  Team Alpha kept things tight, moving the more wounded members to the middle of their squad formation while those who were still fresh covered for them.  As soon as he noticed another vehicle ahead, Waterman screamed.  It exploded.

The team rounds the corner.  Surely the next SUV can't be rigged with an IED too?  Uh, yep!  It can be.  Boom!

The second team member was now dead.  Mureault, the scout, lay in a heap near the wreckage, unmoving.  Arras checked him out quickly, turning to Waterman and shaking his head.  The team staggered on. Only two members of Alpha team were not wounded now.  Waterman knew he was hurt and didn't know if he could hang on much longer.  An insurgent scrambled around the corner, running at them and firing from the hip.  Bullets sprayed everywhere.  Waterman fired three rounds at him, dropping him instantly. Just one more block to go but considering their losses, it might as well have been a thousand miles.  

For some reason, I kept pulling this card throughout the game.

Another insurgent, seemingly trying to outdo the previous one's insane attack, rounded the nearest corner and started firing. As Waterman lifted his rifle to return fire everything went pitch black.

An insurgent rounds the corner and his lucky shot kills Lt. Waterman, the team leader.

After the team leader fell, Arras shot the crazy insurgent who stood out in the open, grinning like a maniac and shouting to the heavens for joy that he had killed a member of Team Alpha.  There were just three members of Alpha now but they were so close to the Green Zone.  Peters, on the M249 SAW, covered the rear.  As they filed down the street, he could hear Peters exchanging fire with enemies behind them.  Arras could feel exhaustion starting to take hold.

The Heavy Weapons Expert kills an insurgent in the window behind the team.

Just as they were about to enter the Green Zone, an insurgent popped out of the nearest doorway while another fired from the rooftop.  Peters turned around and blasted the nearest insurgent with the SAW.  The familiar buzz of a UAV circling above sent the insurgent on the roof scrambling down into the building for cover.  

Arras limped inside the Green Zone with the rest of his team and the heavy gate shut behind them.  With half their team KIA, there was little to be happy about.  

But for one more day, Arras thought, he had survived this place.

Game result:  With three members of Team Alpha still alive, we can declare this a victory but just barely.  I love this game!  It's very well suited for solitaire play thanks to the card system.  There's always a great deal of tension with every decision.  I decided early on in the game to keep the squad together no matter what and to just keep moving towards the goal.  I made some pretty dumb decisions by sending the squad over to vehicles TWICE to take some cover.  Both times, the vehicles exploded and that's why we had a fifty per cent casualty rate.  I was pretty sure that I'd end up failing this mission, especially after losing three guys in the first three turns.  However, the cards worked in my favor after that and just keeping the squad moving seemed to work pretty well.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes - Tameville Breakout

As tank fire and .50 caliber machine gun bullets ripped out chunks of the upper floor room he crouched in, all Captain Weiss could do was wish that he had finished his cup of coffee this morning before heading out on patrol.

It was June 7, 1944 and earlier that day in a small town near St Come du Mont, he had patiently outlined his patrol plan to his men and fellow Fallschirmjäger while sipping on his favorite French blend and studying the map around Tameville.  The word was already out that the Allies had landed in northern France but it was nearly impossible to separate rumors from fact at this stage.

Despite that, the sound of artillery and heavy machine gun fire that punctuated yesterday and all last night was confirmation enough that there was fighting in this sector.  Weiss gathered his men near a field.  "Men, you have undoubtedly heard that the Allies have landed in France and they are pushing inland.  Our mission is to find the enemy positions so that the rest of the regiment can join the other defenders and push the Allies back into the sea."  Nothing was said and there were no questions.  That was good.  He thought about making some inspirational speech but what could he say that his men didn't already know?  They were Fallschirmjäger , the pride of the German army, and they would successfully complete this mission or die.

Less than an hour later, advance elements of the patrol reported back to Weiss that an American jeep had been spotted in a small stone building near a large old house along the road to Tameville.  It was then that the unmistakable rumble of armored vehicles met his ears.  American tanks were moving directly towards them.

Weiss quickly formulated a plan, sending small groups of men to cover in front of the house while he raced with a squad and an MG42 machine gun to the second floor of the building and quickly set up.  There was no need to give further instructions.  The men of the Fallschirmjäger knew their job was to spring a trap on the Americans as they drew near.

Capt. Weiss and his men set up in and near the house.

Minutes later, the first Sherman tank approached.  The German machine gun opened up on it while the Panzerschrecks poured fire at it.  Far to the east, American M4 tanks were slowly pushing through bocage to get a line of fire on his men.   There were also the Americans in the nearby building to worry about. Weiss sent his best man, Lt. Frietag and a squad to cover the nearby Americans and prevent them from entering the main house.  As he shouted a command, he was rudely interrupted by machine gun fire,which destroyed the nearby American jeep parked close by.  Weiss allowed himself a smile as his men went to work but then he quickly got back to the task at hand.  "How many tanks are coming for us?" he wondered.

US troops and vehicles push through from the east.

The American tanks to the east finally pushed their way through the bocage and were firing at the house from a distance.  Thanks to the long range, the American fire was inaccurate but Weiss knew the rounds would soon land on target.  He ran through the hall upstairs and knelt on the bed in the next room, peering through his binoculars.  Looking through the trees, he saw a handful of Americans running to engage his men just outside the house.  The US troops were cut down mercilessly by the German machine gun outside.  The nearby Sherman, however, let loose on his men in the trees below.  From his position, he thought he could see some Americans far off in the trees to the north east, struggling to advance through thick bocage and other terrain.

Sherman fires on Germans near the house.  A US BAR squad made an attempt to rush Germans in N6 and failed.

Suddenly, one of his men yelled for him from down the hallway.  He rushed back to find more American soldiers attacking his men below, rushing towards them through the grass.  The MG42 opened up on them, and the enemy below fell.  Before a smug sense of satisfaction could sink in, a tank round crashed into the room next to him.  The entire building shook. Heavy machine gun fire from the US tanks slammed into the building, tearing fist-sized chunks through the wall.  Men around him were shouting and the familiar cries of the wounded began to fill up the room.   His body shook as he fought to regain his thoughts and put away the fear.

More machine gun fire sliced into the room around him.  His hands shook as he reached inside his pocket and found his cigarettes.  He managed to put one in his mouth but he knew trying to light it would be impossible.  Finally, he calmed down enough to send a few men to man the MG42.

Tank fire erupted outside and the sound of machine gun fire burst again but this time it was all aimed at his men in the trees below.  Weiss felt guilty for his sense of relief that he was not the target.  The US tanks were getting gradually closer.  He pulled his binoculars up again and he could see his men outside making an aborted rush at the American tank.  The nearby Germans fired panzerschrecks at the tank, which missed or glanced off the armor.  Some of the shots slowed the American tank but none of them could stop it.

US troops have captured some German positions outside the house and several squads are approaching it.

Weiss heard a commotion in the large entrance hall below as Lt. Praun, who had been trying to direct fire against the nearby Sherman, had decided to pull his men back into the house.  "This place is getting crowded," was all Weiss had time to think before more tank and machine gun rounds hammered into the building.  Plaster and wood from the ceiling above were pouring into the room and everything around him was covered in thick white dust.  He slowly got up and coughed out orders to several men to run downstairs and start firing at the approaching American tanks.  Again, his men shook off the trauma of being under heavy fire and manned their machine gun, firing at the approaching American troops, cutting them down just as they got near the entrance of the house.

Last turn:  The US troops approach the house but they are too late. The game is over.

As he staggered to the rear of the house, he looked out a window and nearly cried at the sight of German reinforcements arriving.  The rest of the battalion had caught up with them.  The Americans had run out of time. He was saved.

Soon it would be time for a coffee.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

World at War: The Untold Stories - The Princess and the Dragoon

In the third scenario of Lock 'n Load's World at War:  The Untold Stories, there's a classic match-up consisting of the Canadians versus the East Germans.  This scenario is a tough one for both sides since there are multiple objectives and lots of different forces to contend with.

The NATO forces include the 2nd PPCLI (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) and the Royal Dragoons "A" Squadron.  2PPCLI has a couple of tank platoons mixed in with infantry and M113s while the Dragoons consist entirely of Leopard C1 tanks.  About halfway through the scenario, the Canadians get CF-18 close air support, which is pretty cool since I've always loved the CF-18s.

The East Germans get lots of toys to play with.  They have the 51st tank division with lots of T-72s.  The 29th MS is a motorized regiment with some tanks mixed in with infantry and BMP-2 infantry transports.  They also get a BRDM scout car with a Shilka mobile AAA platform.  Last but not least, the 40th Fallschirmjager battalion with motorized infantry and three Mi-24 Hinds for support come in on turn 3.  An Su-22 aircraft is also available for airstrikes after a few turns in.

The East Germans have to 1) take over two cities in the west (Erp and Hoogven) 2) destroy the Canadian HQs and 3) get some tanks from the 51st off the west edge of the map.  The Canadians want to stop them from achieving as many of these objectives as possible.

The game starts and the Dragoons and the 2PPCLI make their way on to the map from the south.  The East Germans enter the board from the east with the T-72s from the 51st.  The designated formation marker is pulled, which allows the E. German player to activate any formation.  He chooses the 51st again and they stream west - straight for the Canadians.  The objective here was to cut the Canadians completely off from getting to the East German objective cities directly north of them.  The Canadians respond by herding the 2PPCLI into the protection of the city of Meine to the west while the Dragoons put up tanks on the hill to the southeast and wait to blast the East Germans.

East German 51st tanks cut in from the east towards the Canadians.

The following turn, the East Germans pull some lucky activations, however, and manage to disrupt the Dragoons tanks.  The Canadians watch helplessly as the East German 29th formation activates twice in a row thanks to the designated formation marker. East German infantry and tanks stream towards Erp and Hoogven to the west as the Canadians are trapped in by the T-72s on their flank.  The Canadians decide to pop smoke and make a run for it.  This doesn't work so well as the smoke fire mission lands off target and the Canadian infantry gets hammered by T-72s from the East German 51st.

Canadians pop smoke and try to maneuver some units, which only invites opportunity fire.

The Germans have gotten a bit cocky and have used the Canadian smoke to their own advantage.  They have positioned their units on the forested hillside directly to the east of the Canadians. The smoke clears and the Canadians start hitting their positions.  The East Germans take some casualties but they still have plenty of power left to harass the Canadian 2PPCLI as it pushes north.

The smoke clears and the East Germans start hitting at the Canadians to the west.

Further up north from the action, the East German 29th has almost reached the city and the 40th FJS has disembarked from the Hinds, which have landed far out of the Canadians' reach.  Truth be told, I wasn't exactly sure what to do with the 40th.  Things were going so well down south with the 51st that they almost seemed superfluous.

40th FJS infantry disembark from helos north of Erp while the 29th makes its way to the city.

One lucky coincidence for the East Germans was having enough BMPs with a line of sight to hit at any Canadians that escaped the cauldron of fire down south.  The BMPs leisurely picked off advance elements of the 2PPCLI, destroying M113s and the Canadian Lynx recon vehicle.  Things were getting dire for the Canucks.  With the 2PPCLI and the Dragoons in complete disarray, the remnants of the 51st East German tank division moved off the hillside and up towards the city of Hoogven.  The 29th and the 40th made their way into Erp while a lone Canadian infantry platoon bravely attempted to take Hoogven without any support.

2PPCLI infantry races the 51st to Hoogven.  40th and 29th pour into Erp.

The 51st activated the next turn and completely wiped out the Canadian infantry platoon as it entered Hoogven.  Hinds from the 40th started opening fire at the 2 PPCLI Canadian headquarters units, repeatedly disrupting them but failing to make the kill.  CF-18 airstrikes came in and harassed the East German 51st tanks and their headquarters but also could not eliminate them.  It was turn 6 and now no one was happy.  The Dragoons, deciding enough was enough, decided to try a last ditch effort at hitting the East German infantry pouring into Hoogven.  They raced up the road, taking opportunity fire from two Hind helicopters.  Despite one of the floating beasts emptying the last of his ammunition and missiles on the Canadians, neither Hind scored any hits.  The 2PPCLI tanks set up to the east on a hillside and also started to fire into Hoogven.  Neither Canadian commander had any infantry reserves to send into the city but they were determined to try something.

The Dragoons charge up the road and start setting up shots at Hoogven.  

The last available Hind activated on the next turn and managed to destroy the Canadian 2PPCLI HQ.  The Germans sent the 40th FJS down south to assault the rest of the Canadian tanks from the Dragoons.  The Canucks fired back but failed to destroy the East Germans on their approach.  A small window of opportunity opened for the Canadian HQ to charge into the south of Hoogven almost unopposed.

German infantry from the 40th FJS charge at the Canadian Dragoons.

But alas, the second turn marker was pulled and turn 8 had ended.  With it, the game was over and each side calculated their scores.  For capturing Erp and Hoogven, the Germans gained 1 VP.  Although they killed the 2PPCLI HQ, they needed to get the Dragoons HQ for a second VP, so that's denied.  The 51st failed to exit four units from the west side of the board as they were indeed eventually cut down by the Canadians.  With 1 VP, the Canadians score a very minor victory.

It was very close and the Germans could have probably gotten that second VP by taking out the Canadian Dragoon HQ if they had used the 40th FJS a little more wisely rather than just using it to reinforce Erp and Hoogven.  The 29th really did very little once it got to the city and they should have poured south in search of a fight.  The Canadians should have probably kept moving north early on rather than try and gingerly send out units to get picked off by the East German 51st, 29th, and (later on) the Hinds from the 40th.  Both sides got fairly reckless on the very last turn, which was fun to play out.  Sometimes those really crazy ideas pay off anyway.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Corps Command: Dawn's Early Light - NATO Fire and Movement

This is (probably) my final article dealing with strategy in LnL's Corps Command:  Dawn's Early Light.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the key to Soviet victory is finding a NATO weak spot while maneuvering your other units around the other defenders to either prevent NATO reinforcement or to protect your own breakthrough elements.

For the NATO player, there are some essential points to keep in mind in order to successfully defend against a Warsaw Pact invasion.

The first point is setup and formation.

Setup Advice:  Where should the US player set up?  In the first scenario, the US is tasked with defending the southern sector of the board.  The West Germans get the north part to defend.   The amount of clear terrain from the board's eastern edge to the city of Eisenbach poses some real problems.  American reinforcements take a long time to get to the front and the US doesn't have many units to use as defense.  Even with an activation number of 5 (6 MP), the US reinforcements will take at least two impulses just to get to Eisenbach.  By the time they arrive at the front further northeast, the battle is usually already lost for the Americans.

To help with reinforcement issues, the Americans should set up far forward to the northeast of the city of Eisenbach and then slowly pull his forces back towards the Soviet objective.  As the NATO player, always try to make the Soviet units come to you.  Not only will this take away the ability of the Soviets to use their recon units and artillery assets in assaults, but the Soviet player cannot use gunships to hit units that are not adjacent to his units at the beginning of his impulse.  A slow backwards moving defense removes the Soviets greatest advantage by taking away assault bonuses, which keeps your own units alive much longer.  By the time your units have pulled back to the Soviet objective and are defending it "Alamo style", your reinforcements should be arriving to save the day.

Formation:  There are several possible defensive formations that the US can use in its defense.  Let's examine them and the possible advantages and disadvantages.

Line:  The most common formation for beginning players to use for American defense is the line formation.  The line formation looks exactly as it is described.  The forces are lined up across the map and the defender rushes at the line in an attempt to break it.  The major disadvantage is that the attacker is going to find a weak link at some point and a good attacker, as already stated, will easily exploit the space between units to prevent movement and reinforcement.

Vee:  In a vee formation, units on the flanks are kept forward while units in the middle are moved slightly back.  The formation looks and acts like a "catcher's mitt" and the hope is that the enemy will go straight for the middle of the pocket and get hung up there.  The problem is that a smart attacker will go straight for the vulnerable flanks, surrounding them and quickly destroying them.  Probably not the optimal defensive formation.

Diamond:  In the diamond formation, the flanks are kept back and the middle units are sent forward slightly.  A rear unit hangs out behind the friendly forces, ready to reinforce damaged units or catch enemy units that slip through friendly lines.  For a variety of reasons, the diamond formation is probably the best formation for a defender in DEL to adopt.  Although it's not invulnerable, it's versatile enough that units can easily move together and support one another if friendly NATO units starts taking serious damage.  And since the key to defense in DEL is to keep it mobile, this is a great formation to adopt.

US units in diamond formation.

In the picture above, the player is defending in a good spot, not too far from Eisenbach where it's hard for reinforcements to reach but not so close that the city is in imminent danger.  The US has created lots of problems for the Soviet player, first by using the US Cavalry Squadron not as an attachment to existing forces but rather as an additional independent force that can project friendly ZOC.  He (or she) has also kept one of the armored battalions from the 2nd brigade sitting back in reserve to prevent a breakthrough should any of the Soviet units be successful in destroying the American units.  They can also use those tanks to reinforce any units in trouble or they could even rotate out a damaged front line unit and move those tanks in as a replacement.  The tanks can even rush back and reinforce Eisenbach in the lower left if there's a real sudden emergency.

Focus:  This brings me to my last point, which is fire focus.  For the Soviets, concentrated firepower is everything.  Damaging a NATO unit is extremely difficult and if it's only damaged and not completely destroyed, little has been gained for the Russians.  NATO has the opposite problem.  Completely destroying Soviet units is all well and good but there are always more units on the way.  The best thing the NATO player can do is to spread out their damage to slow down the Soviets.

When Soviet units take damage, they actually lose initiative, which means they don't activate as often and that, in turn, means they don't attack or move as often.  The more units that are damaged, the less units you'll have to deal with trying to break through or sneak around your units and that makes your job much easier as the defender.

You'll find that even though you can't stop the Soviets, you can control the pace and direction of their advance with smart placement and movement and this, along with good use of assets, is the key to NATO victory in Dawn's Early Light.

Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Corps Command: Dawn's Early Light - Soviet Movement and Fire

Last week, I talked about some fairly basic principles behind LnL's Corps Command:  Dawn's Early Light and I urged the Soviet player to consider moving rather than fighting as the best course of action most of the time.  Today I'm going to go into this a little deeper and talk about how the Soviet player can use movement to his best advantage.  Let's start with a fairly common situation that usually happens in most scenarios:

This shot is from the right side of the board and it's fairly early in the game. The Soviets are trying to push southwest (lower left) towards Eisenbach with the 1st Guards Tank Division.  The American player has made some good decisions about defensive positions by placing infantry in the appropriate terrain and by tightening the zones of control for each unit so that the Soviet player cannot just barge down south and take the city.  Zone of Control is vital in this game because it determines not only who you can attack but also how the enemy can move.  All enemy units must stop as soon as they enter a hex where the other player projects a zone of control (a unit's surrounding six hexes).  That means the Soviet player can move only one hex maximum towards his goal right now - even if he has an activation number of "5" (which gives him 6 movement points).

The Soviet player has made some good decisions here too.  He's got infantry next to infantry to take advantage of terrain and defensive fire while tanks are fighting in the open.  Everything looks fine.

Given enough time and pressure, odds are very high that enough Soviet attacks, if focused properly, will lead to one of those NATO units getting destroyed.  My money is on the 2nd Brigade US tank division cracking first but we can't say for certain.  What should the Soviet player be doing to ensure that his breakthrough is complete and he doesn't blow his chances of winning after taking out that 2nd Brigade?  He needs to move and start setting up his own ZOCs behind the NATO units to stop them from following the breakthrough.  

So let me apologize first for my terrible Pshop skills.  What I'm illustrating here is how the Soviet player is using selective focus to hit the most vulnerable part of the NATO line, the 2nd Brigade, while slipping past the NATO player with his other units and getting ready for that breakthrough punch so that the US units cannot pursue the breakthrough elements as they head for their objective.  

Over on the right part of the board, we see the 2nd Guards Soviet infantry with the US 3rd Brigade infantry.  There is no advantage to the Soviets engaging in this battle.  Even if the Soviets manage to destroy the US infantry, their comrades will have to push through rough terrain with a movement penalty and they would be going far out of their way to get to the objective in the lower left.  Clearly, the Soviet infantry should focus solely on moving out of the 3rd Brigade's infantry ZOC and either go southwest (lower left) for the objective or (as shown) move southeast and set up its own zone of control so that the US infantry cannot reinforce the 2nd Brigade and it cannot pursue any breakthrough or rush to the rear in an attempt to reinforce Eisenbach.

Likewise in the left part of the picture, the NATO forces are simply too strong for the Soviet to really engage.  With the US in better terrain and the Soviets caught between the munchers of the US 2nd Brigade infantry and the US 1st Brigade tanks, the Soviets will simply get worn down and destroyed if they stop to fight here.  

It is much better for these Soviet forces to use their movement to get between the two US tank brigades and cut them off from reinforcing each other.  The Soviet infantry might also try to get past the 2nd Brigade infantry if possible and either go for the objective or, if things are looking good with the battle against the 2nd Brigade tanks, get behind the US tanks and infantry and stop them from a pursuit southeast.  The 1st Guards should probably also try to get a unit or two on to the road to really help prevent the US from pursuit of breakthrough units.  

There are many ways you could go with this idea.  As long as you remember to protect your success by using ZOC against NATO to prevent reinforcement or pursuit and you don't fight meaningless battles, you'll probably be quite successful as the Soviet player.  

A smart NATO player will circumvent this style of play by a.) using layered and moving defense instead of linear and static b.) setting up his initial units far enough from the Soviet objective to prevent quick capture but close enough to the rear to allow for quick reinforcement and rotation of fresh units to the front/damaged units to the back and finally: c.)  dispersing hits at various Soviet units rather than focusing hits on one or two units.  

In each case, your objective is to be the water, not the rock.  If you want to be really good at Dawn's Early Light, you've got to think about how to keep your own forces mobile while denying terrain and movement to the other side.  Do that and the dice will surely follow.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nations at War: White Star Rising - Omaha Beach

In scenario 7 of Lock 'n Load's WWII platoon-level combat game, Nations at War:  White Star Rising, the Americans are trying to take Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 7, 1944.  The US objective is to get off the beach, get behind those Germans and take the town of Saarbourg.

The Germans get six infantry platoons, a couple of HMGs, a 20mm quad cannon, some mortars and several improved positions, which I guess are supposed to represent bunkers.  I set up the German HQ on the hill to the west with some infantry and an HMG as well as a powerful 88mm AT gun.  Two more platoons set up a bit further to the west and east while the anti-air and mortars sit back in the town.  Just so the Allies can't make a straight dash for the town and ruin my day, I've placed two minefields on the roads from the beaches.

For American OOB, we get 9 infantry from the 2/16 and some M4A1 tanks from the 4/51st armor and they set up on the beach next to the water hexes.  Before setup, you have to check if the M4s make it safely to shore by rolling a dice.  Oops!  It looks like some of those tanks did not make it on to the beach. Two platoons are reduced by half strength.  Not a good start for the Allies.

Setup:  The US 2/16 infantry  to the northwest and the 4/51st armor to the northeast.

Turn 1 comes and things definitely don't look good for the US. The German Schtz. Btl 107 fires off its 88 and takes out one of the American M4 platoons over to the east.  Machine gun fire from both bunkers hits the US infantry from the 2/16 reducing one platoon and disrupting the other.

Despite taking some heavy fire from the bunkers, the 2/16 manages to shake off the damage and finds its way to the berm.  The tanks from the 4/51st, however, seem to enjoy hanging around in range of 88mm anti-tank guns and don't move much.

The US infantry moves up to the German bunkers.

Eventually, the 4/51st gets moving after the US commander calls some artillery down on the German bunkers near them.  With the Germans disrupted, the 4/51st makes its way up onto the hillside.

The US infantry takes more fire from the German HMGs but it starts sending masses of infantry on close assaults, which finally dislodges the Germans from one of their bunkers.

US infantry takes one of the German bunkers.  German infantry retreats.

While things are starting to look up for the Americans on the west side of the beach, disaster strikes for the tanks on the east side.  The Germans manage to disrupt and close assault the HQ unit, destroying it completely.  The 88mm ATGs finish off the final American M4A1 platoon.  There are now no US tanks on the beach.  It's completely up to the infantry.

All that's left of the US tanks are flaming wrecks.

The US gets some luck when a P-47 fighter arrives and does some serious damage to exposed German infantry that assaulted the Sherman HQ units.  Eight .50 caliber guns will do that sort of thing.  It's not an equal measure of revenge but it's a little consoling.  The US infantry makes its way across the hill and towards the objective, the town of Saarbourg.  The Germans start pulling units back from their bunkers to defend the town.

US infantry  gets closer to the town as German units start pulling back to fight them

Eventually, the town fills with Germans, ready to turn the battle into a slaughter.  Mortar units and anti-aircraft weapons are pulled out of the town and infantry is sent in.  Opportunity fire hits some of the US infantry as they approach the outskirts of the town.  Some platoons are reduced but the offensive continues.

Germans start filling up the town, waiting for the US onslaught.

The US commander sees his chance and with one artillery fire mission left, he calls in HE on top of the town. Although both sides spend fate points back and forth like sailors on shore leave, the US barely prevails and the Germans take a pounding.  The town is softened up. The 88s are used against the Americans while mortars and quad cannon fire hit at them from the forests to the southeast.  The US manages to grab hold of two hexes in the town but the Germans still hang on tightly to the third hex and time is running out for the Americans...

The Americans hold 2/3s of Saarbourg.  Can they grab the rest before time runs out?

The Germans activate again and again, pouring on the fire and trying desperately to hang on to the town.  Terrible rolling from the ATGs, mortars, and the quad cannons prevent any real damage being done to the US.  The Germans in town open up with heavy machine gun fire at close range on the US, disrupting some of them.  However, the US pulls together for a final assault during the very last activation of the game.  A single infantry platoon manages to dislodge the German HQ in a close assault, taking the very last hex needed for victory.  What a game.

The Germans are vanquished as the US takes the town of Saarbourg near Omaha Beach.

Great game!  A couple of things:  The Germans can also win by taking some of the hexes near the water.  It's a victory condition that I forgot about it until just now.  However, the battle for the town seemed much more dramatic.  As the German, I should have seen what the US was trying to do and pulled my support units back a lot sooner.  The German infantry on the eastern hill should have been heading back to the town the instant the tanks were gone.  Good placement of anti-tank defenses and mines meant that the Americans had to choose a real detour to get to the town, which was good.  Of course, it's easy to forget about artillery fire missions and here it was a fatal mistake.  With all that infantry and equipment massed in the town, it was an easy decision for the US commander to call in his final artillery strike right on top of them.

The US commander should have coordinated a bit more closely between the 4/51st armor and the 2/16 infantry.  It's impressive that the US infantry was able to win alone but it would be better to be much more careful with the tanks and keep them out of range of infantry fire and assaults.  I think the US won by focusing tightly on objectives rather than scattering units to take out many different bunkers at once.

World at War: Eisenbach Gap - Maelstrom

OOB:  US Alpha, Charlie, and Delta teams.  USSR gets 33rd MRD and 1st Tank as well as two Mi-24 Hind helicopters from the 69th AHR.

Soviet Objective: Move 6 units from south to north off the map. 

Setup:  I set up the Americans on the hills overlooking the approaches to the south. I don't like putting the Chaparral so far up front but it's no use to me if it's sitting safe in a city somewhere while my units are getting destroyed by Soviet air.

Infantry from Charlie and tanks from Alpha set up a trap for the Russians.

I put Charlie on the hill to the west with a Dragon AT weapon. Alpha HQ and the SAM sit on the hill to the east. And to the east of that lies the rest of Alpha Troop. The Bradleys would normally be out of command range but since they're Recon units, they can act independently even when they're pretty far from their HQ.

Game Start: The Soviet 1st Tank Division charges along the west edge of the map taking light fire from Charlie but otherwise practically unopposed. The 33rd Soviet MRD enters from the southeast and takes some minor hits from Alpha but it looks pretty good for the Russians so far. With only a token force sitting in the west to deal with the 1st Guards Tank Division, the NATO commander must shift west to stem the tide. Turn 1 and NATO is already in trouble.

The 1st Guards Tank Division storms up along the west side of the board.

While the US commander repositions Alpha, the 33rd Motorized Rifle Division appears along the east side of the map, hoping that with the rest of the American units tied up in the west, he can make a run for it.

Soviet Hind helicopters enter the map and conduct pop-up fire from behind the hills to the north. The Chaparral and the Hinds play a deadly game of hide and seek. The Hinds win, however, and destroy the American SAM launcher.  They also manage to disrupt some other units of Alpha on the same hill.

Delta finally enters the map from the northwest on the second turn. As the 1st Tank Division moves north towards certain victory, Delta's M1 Abrams tanks park in the woods near Schlafendbauer and start laying on the fire, quickly reducing the Soviet units to wreckage. I have serious doubts that it will be enough to stem the tide.

A lonely handful of tanks from Delta tries to stop an avalanche of 1st Guards Tanks

The Hind helicopters, now practically unopposed by anti-air, swoop behind a hill to the south and start firing AT missiles at Alpha. They destroy Alpha's HQ and the Abrams platoon with it.   However, they get far too close to Charlie on the western hill and get disrupted and eventually destroyed by ground fire.

Pure carnage:  Soviet Hinds destroy American Chaparral  and Alpha HQ.

Meanwhile, the Soviet 33rd Motor Rifle Division slowly advances up the east side of the board, taking occasional but deadly fire from an M3 Bradley to the west.  It's just enough to delay them from escaping off the board.  Every time they inch closer to the north side of the board, they get hit by opportunity fire and are disrupted again and again.

In the west, Delta really lets loose. Charlie is eaten up and spit out by the 1st Guards Tank Division.  However, in the next three turns, the 1st Tank Div. activates only once while Delta activates six times! The American tanks fire again and again in full "Alamo" mode. Half of the 1st Guards Tank division is destroyed. This is quickly turning into a death trap for the Soviets but they might pull it off if they have some luck and can get an activation early in the next turn.

Delta hangs in there and still holds off the 1st Guards Tank Division.

But no, the Delta Dogs get two more activations right away and pulverize the Soviet 1st Tank Division. At this point, the Soviet commander wonders how much punishment his men can take before they reach the breaking point. The 33rd Motorized Rifle Division in the east manages to sneak off five units but with the west side of the board a total cauldron of American firepower, the Soviet commander concedes defeat. There will be no glorious linking up with the Third Shock Army to the north.

If the Russians had managed to get a few more activations or if the Hinds had been less cocky about their ability to take fire from infantry and been more careful, it might have been a very different outcome.  It was tense even right up to the last turn!