Back to the front
Katana has been on a top secret mission lately- too secret even to tell the GM, so Bill and I resorted to some more Up Front when he came round last Wednesday. We played 3 games:
- 2 plays of City Fight featuring Bill's Germans against my British.
- 1 play of Paratroop Drop where I took my American paras against Bill's Germans.
The other play was more memorable, although no more successful. What happened in that game was that my British firebase strolled forward to what I'd planned would be a -3 Building at Range Chit 1- a pretty safe move early in the game. Bill's German firebase opened fire, promptly malfunctioning his LMG, which helped ensure that my own group was completely unaffected by the fire attack. With a Brush card in my hand as well as the -3 Building, I sensed an opportunity: my group hit the Brush instead of the Building, so that I could advance to the Building at Range Chit 2 instead of just at Range Chit 1.
Even as I was doing this, there was a nagging voice at the back of my mind telling me that I was making a mistake. And so it turned out. Bill managed to repair his LMG with no difficulty naturally enough. My firebase did manage to entrench in the Brush, but that didn't help: a series of Wire cards helped ensure that they'd been reduced to 3 men before they finally made it to that same Building more than a deck later.
Now this could've been put down to misfortune- as Bill tried to suggest, but I knew better. Y'see, there was no doubt whatsoever that the move I made would've been a very strong if I'd pulled it off. The problem was that I was relying on too much luck to get there. First I had to hope that the German LMG would remain broken long enough so that I didn't suffer in the Brush. And second I needed to draw a Movement card quickly enough to get forward. Both of these went against me.
In other words: the move would've been a smart play if I'd had that second Movement card in hand when the opportunity presented itself. Or perhaps if I'd been playing the Germans, the Russians, or the Japanese. As the British I should just've taken the definite gain I'd planned on and established a strong position from which to start dishing out the fire attacks against the German firebase. Hardly a numpty play like so many from the post-Claymore bash, or that missed killer fire attack from the previous game, but a sign that I've got a lot of old lessons to relearn to get my Up Front game back up to scratch.
The third game was much more straightforward. Paratroop Drop is an entertaining scenario in which the attackers set up at random. That is: the attacking player defines 4 groups, and their Group ID and Range chits are determined by random selection. Well not quite: the defender has some control over the Range chits (he picks one at random then chooses which attacking group to place it on), giving him the chance to drop an attacking group or two right under his guns. Once in place the attacker's objective is essentially to form up the squad in the hot dropzone.
Our game that night went easily for me because two of my adjacent groups landed at maximum range from the German defenders. So they were able to form up then advance, instead of forming up under heavy fire. An easy victory which taught me nothing I'm afraid.
(But at least it's better than 1-6!)
Andy and I take to the skies again
With just the 2 of us presest during Andy's regular Sunday visit last weekend, we quickly decided to have a go with the new Wings of War: Watch Your Back stuff I'd picked up at Claymore the previous weekend. So we jumped straight into the combined Famous Aces and Watch Your Back scenario All Quiet on the Western Front. This scenario features 3 planes on each side:
- Allied: a Sopwith Camel, a Nieuport 11 and a SPAD XIII.
- Central Powers: a Fokker Dr.I, an Albatros D.Va and a Halberstadt D.III.
What surprised us both about this was that we'd expected the Nieuport 11 to be more of a liability to the Allies- its 10 damage points makes it the most fragile plane in the game. It does have good guns though. And it has to be noted that the Nieuport might be a worry because it's fragile, but the Halberstadt is a worry because it's just plain rubbish- dead slow and stop with no fancy manoeuvres to pull (the Nieuport's no faster really, but it does have 1 or 2 nice tricks available). It does have the same good guns as the Nieuport, and it's not nearly so fragile, but you don't have to fly the thing long before you're cursing it for the clunker that it is!
Andy and I both had a lot of fun playing these 2 games and Fantasy Flight Games' entire Wings of War series has rapidly become a firm favourite we're happy to play pretty much anytime. We'll just have to become better pilots so that we can play it more quickly!
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't note a very important fact: Andy's last plane to exit the table in our second (his Albatros IIRC) had only 1 damage point remaining, and he'd oh-so-luckily taken 0 damage from a hit the turn just before the plane exited. Talk about jam, eh?!
And yet more!
Erm, I expect I'll be grounded soon chaps
Donald had an unexpected free night yesterday, so he called round for some gaming. And guess what? We started with a game of Wings of War: Dawn of War!
This being Donald's first game that meant we'd be playing the old match-up of the Spitfire and the Hurricane against the Me109 and the D.520. Random selection of sides gave me the British. Good I thought- maybe this time I can keep the Spitfire flying.
I started with a minor variation on my familiar sideslipping and turning-in from the side tactics, while Donald started with the beginner's variation on the tactics Badger had tried in his first game. That is to say: he started to split left and right to come round behind me only to loose the plot completely as he worked to come to grips with basic flying. The upshot of this was that his planes were separated for most of the game and I chased his D.520 across the table and back.
I couldn't believe the luck Donald was having with this flying brick. Time after time I would shoot at it and the thing would still be flying. Meanwhile my own Hurricane had taken a couple of heavy hits. Eventually though I had both my planes flying straight in at the D.520. Unfortunately for me though the Me109 drew a bead on the Hurricane- another solid hit. One more like that and the Hurricane was lost. Luckily the Me109 fluffed its turn and the Hurricane survived.
By this time my Spitfire had passed the D.520 and was pulling an Immelman to get back into the fight. So I was faced with a choice: the Hurricane could break for the sake of survival, or it could fly straight in at the D.520 and hope for the best. Luck wasn't with me, and I lost the Hurricane. The Spitfire was soon in a good position though, and that damned flying brick was finally shot down with my next attack. I had taken 10 shots to kill the thing, which had been reduced to 2 damage points out of 16 when the Spitfire finally delivered 11 damage in 1 attack.
So now it was down to the Spitfire against the Me109. Both planes were undamaged (although Donald didn't know this, since the Spitfire had a 0-damage chit on it), so I was expecting a long fight. It wasn't to be though. Donald got a bead on my Spitfire almost straight away, and promptly drew the Explosion chit, downing my plane with a single shot. A 1/60 chance- what lousy luck! You can be sure that I turned the air blue for a wee while after that!
I save my honour at Kursk (or do I?)
Donald wanted to play Memoir'44 next, so it was off to the Russian front for Scenario 42: Ponyri.
Random selection gave me the Germans, which was both nice- look at all that armour, and daunting- look at all those dug-in Russians (3 artillery units in particular) and those minefields.
My initial hand gave me 2 left section cards, 3 right section cards (including Assault- ie. all my units) and Armour Assault. Getting all that armour moving for 2 turns had its appeal, even if the minefield would prevent the tanks from actually closing in for overruns. But I wanted some cards for my attack up the centre towards Ponyri before I committed to this. So I began on my left.
A turn later and I could see myself getting bogged down on my left without being ready to go in the centre, so I changed my mind and bit the bullet: Assault on the right. This brought 5 of my armour units into a nice line in front of the minefield, from where they promptly opened fire on the Russian tanks. A couple of turns later I'd broken the Russian line and I was 1 VP up on the exchange. Plus I was beginning to draw the kind of cards I'd need to make a decent attack on Ponyri, the capture of which was key to my strategy, seeing as it was worth 2VP if I could hold 3 hexes against Donald's 2.
And that was where the battle was decided. The game ebbed and flowed a bit, but the war of manoeuvre was over after my massed tank attack and it came down to a meatgrinder as I fed more and more infantry into Ponyri in the hopes of holding it while I sought elsewhere the VP I needed to win. I pulled it off in the end, but I was more than just a wee bit lucky: Donald was hampered by a 4-card hand and the fact that we mistakenly played the Russian command rules.
Erm, sorry about that Donald: although we weren't playing my Expanded Nationality rules, I forgot that as standard the Russian command rules only come into play when specified by the scenario. Your comments about the Russian command rules after the game suggest that this had a significant effect on your play.
Anyway, where I was lucky was that Donald wasn't able to feed his right flank infantry into the Ponyri meatgrinder. This could've had a decisive effect on the crucial battle. An entertaining scenario all-in-all, and one I'm keen to revisit, especially with the appropriate rules in play, expanded or otherwise.