Friday, February 20, 2015

Unconditional Surrender: Poland 1939

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

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

National Will values of each city

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

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

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

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

16th Army attacks Modlin army north of Warsaw.

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

Germans take Warsaw early in the game.

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

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

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

2nd Panzer goes for it near Lodz.

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

2nd Pz advances.

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

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

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

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

1st Panzer takes Danzig.

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

Army Pomorze retreats.

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

1st Panzer chases down Army Pomorze.

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

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

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

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


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Some Updates!

Well, it's been a while since I've last posted here due to some major busy stuff going on in my life but rest assured, I have been gaming!  During January, I spent many hours learning the Next War system and playing through all the standard scenarios in Next War:  Korea.  I also got a start on an advanced scenario with all the bells and whistles, playing the first several turns of the Strategic Surprise scenario.

Next War: Korea - Turn 3 begins
All I can say is, wow!  Next War: Korea with all the advanced rules is like a well-oiled and very complex machine that runs perfectly and is full of interesting decisions.  The use of Special Forces, airstrikes, detection, amphibious assaults, airborne drops, and ground combat all works together superbly to deliver a very tense game.  The Strategic Surprise scenario is incredibly tough for the ROK as the DPRK catches it unaware of a major invasion and launches attacks right out of the barracks, gambling everything for a quick takeover of South Korea.

The North Korean army is like a juggernaut and once they penetrate through the DMZ, the losses start to become overwhelming for the ROK and the US.  As the Americans and the ROK gain air superiority, lots of interesting options start opening up and I watched with glee as my A-10s launched interdiction strikes south of the 38th parallel in an attempt to delay the North Koreans just enough to buy time for the next trickle of reinforcements to arrive.  The North responded with chemical weapons and it was up to my F-18s to start hitting at chemical weapons factories north of the border.  Everything you do in the game has a major impact on play and seemingly small decisions in one turn can either help or hurt you badly later on.  Fun stuff!  I intend on trying this one later on and I've become deeply interested in the Next War: Taiwan game that has just been released by GMT.

I recently bought yet another new game and have started to learn it by playing through the training scenarios.  Unconditional Surrender!  World War 2 in Europe is a strategic WW2 game by Salvatore Vasta and published last year by GMT.  Although this topic has been explored in many classics over the years (Third Reich, Hitler's War, you name it), I didn't actually have any games that covered the topic at this scale so it sparked my interest.  Most of the reviews that I read or watched used the word "elegant" to describe the system and I'm starting to see why.

The game happens at the army level and there are no combat factors or movement points on any of the units.  There is nothing to add up or subtract (except for a few die roll modifiers) nor are there combat ratios to figure out in combat.  Ground units get 8 movement points and tank movements get 10.  That's it.  Air, naval, and ground actions can be taken in any order during a faction's turn.  Each side gets events (ground support, surprise attacks, strategic movement) that can be played and used to help units get bonuses in combat or do special things like launch amphibious invasions or airdrops, etc.  Having only played a bit of the game, I can say that it's very fluid and intuitive once you grasp the basics.  I'm looking forward to trying out the full campaign game in the near future.