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Friday, May 30, 2008

Got game!

Bank holiday boardgames bonanza!
A busy weekend last week plus a cold I picked up sometime has left me unable to write much. I had Badger round last Friday for Combat Commander, then the usual Sunday session turned into a mass invasion as my old buddy Martin turned up for the bank holiday, prompting Bill to pay a visit to catch up with him. This led to a late night Combat Commander session with Martin on top of the usual Sunday boardgames. With the Monday off work thanks to the bank holiday Badger turned up for yet another Combat Commander session. Truly did my cup runneth over!

Friday night firefight
Pursuing our goal of playing all the official scenarios, Badger and I got in 4 games on Friday.

#29 'Operation Repulse'
Featuring the 101st Airborne scrounging for supplies from a glider drop, this scenario replaces the 5 mapboard objectives with secret objective chits randomly-drawn, then scattered from 5 starting hexes. Worth 5VP plus their hidden value, these 'gliders' are going to be a main source of VP for the US player- who turned out to be Badger- because they are prohibited from gaining exit VP.

My plan involved a base of fire behind the hedge for maximum arc of fire (there were no hills on the map), which I would develop up the right and/or left flanks towards the F1 & F8 objectives. Meanwhile I would be sending an assault force of fallschirmjager to grab the E5 objective, and enter the woods to threaten the J4 objective.

My plan went as smooth as these things can, and I won with 26VP and 5 kills on time 7, the first sudden death check.

#30 'Red Skies at Night'
I drew the Germans in this 1943 encounter between Russian paratroopers and a strong German platoon. The postures are an odd feature here: the supposed attackers- the Russian paratroopers fighting to establish their bridgehead, are in Recon; and the 'defending' Germans are actually in Attack. The most important effects of this are to deny the VP clock and defender-only actions, so no wire, minefields, and other unspeakable fortifications.

My plan was simple. My secret objective was S- all 5 objectives worth 1VP. I could hold 3 objectives easily, and make 1 too hot for the Russians to hold. To this end I placed my foxholes in forward positions and set up to make a quick dash into them: a squad on the left behind the crestline, an HMG nest with the leader in the middle, and another HMG on the right. I put the team ready to make a run for the objective on the eastern map edge.

With his units strung out on the map edge, just 1 leader and only 2 orders, Badger found it difficult to get any momentum behind his attack. My units took their positions comfortably and began laying down defensive fire, forcing a surrender on time 5 with 10VP.

#31 'Blizzard Baptism'
Drawing the Germans again, I drew my secret objective, H- #4= 2VP, for a total of 5. With the close terrain and the blizzard I could expect the US paras to close in. I planned on holding 2 objectives and putting up a fight/delaying action for another- the one out on the east. I laid my wire to make the western approaches look as unappetising as possible and occupied the building with Sgt. Ganz, 2 rifle squads w/LMG's and a line team. I put a foxhole in B8 to deepen the blocking position.

My base of fire was in the other main objective building: v. Karsties, 2 rifle squads w/HMG & LMG, line team w/LMG. A rifle squad in foxholes in H7 gave some cover in the centre and another went in N5, the forlorn hope in objective #5.

My plan worked in a closely fought and very eventful game- as can be seen from all the blazes and other fortifications added to the map during play. Event followed event as Badger's units fought their way through hidden wire after hidden in his main thrust for exit VP over on the east.

I was forced to move v. Karsties' platoon eastwards to the woods as Badger threatened to turn my flank for a free run at the map edge, where they were broken by an airstrike, though they survived in the end. We both got reinforcements of one sort or another aplenty: I got a team w/HMG and pioner w/flamethrower, which I threw into holding back Badger's assault down the eastern flank; Badger got a 203mm radio, which proved more frightening than effective, although it was fun to see it scatter and hit one of his own units, wired in hex O10! My own flamethrower proved a bit of a disappointment, thanks to the smoke that Badger was throwing around liberally to screen his units strung out in the wire.

The game lasted 3 additional time periods, only ending on time 10, leaving me the winner with a slim 10VP.

#32 ' Look Mom, No Tanks!'

I finally drew the Americans, and it had to be this scenario of all scenarios! I'd played this one as the Germans when Martin and I played it just after I'd got hold of Battle Pack: Paratroopers, and I'd seen the deadly efficiency of the SS close combat stacks- Sgt. Ganz, SS squad and line team for a total of 16FP in melee. Truly fearsome!

I decided that I had to have my own killer assault team: Sgt. Smith, para squad and elite team, for a melee total of 18FP. My plan involved trying to hold the Germans with defensive fire from Sgt. White, 2 para squads/MMG in the building in the east, and from 2 para squads in foxholes around the wooded road in the west. Meanwhile Sgt. Smith and his lads would be stalking SS squads, ratcheting-up double elimination VP's.

My plan began to unravel immediately. I'd put Sgt. Smith's team front and centre, which drew Badger's killer stack in, whereupon I promptly lost the close combat, leaving my plan in tatters. Then the rampage began. Sgt. Ganz and his men simply chewed-up my units as they swept across the board, exiting for double exit VP multiple times. It's a measure of how desperate my situation was that it took me until time 7 to get my first kill.

Badger won on time 8 with 35VP and 6 kills (1 short of surrender). A thrashing.

Score
3-1 :)

The Sunday session
Ivanhoe
With 6 players due at the table on Sunday, a fast pick-up game like this Knizia gem was an ideal way to get started while we waited. Martin won.

Score
Martin 1
Everyone else 0





Judge Dredd

The ancient rivalries of Mega-City 1 don't get much exercise these days, so it was easy for us to agree to move on to this classic GW boardgame. I was hoping that the extra new players would give me a chance to wreak my revenge for previous humiliations (A month in the games of, The Claymore mega-session). It was not to be. In a game of surpassing finkery I ended up just one lost arrest shy of victory. At least I had the satisfaction of foiling Martin's midgame rush to the winning post, which left Donald the winner in the end.

Score

Donald 1
Martin 1
Everyone else 0

Paranoia Mandatory Bonus Fun! Card Game
Fired up for some serious finking, and faced with my frankly rather limited choice of decent multi-player conflict games, we decided to have another try at this game, which some of us had played once before. We had more players this time than that first time, which was all to the good.

The Paranoia Mandatory Bonus Fun! Card Game involves clones of various security clearances playing missions defined by cards. The players play action cards to perform the missions, or to help or fink on other players. There are bonuses and penalties for success and failure in missions, plus the penalty of execution for Traitors. Play continues, mission after mission, until 1 player loses their 6th clone, either due to wounds, or to execution. At that point, the clone with the highest security clearance wins.

The mechanics delivering this gameplay are pretty simple. Fulfilling missions in particular is typically done by placing wound or treason tokens (also used for the clones) on the mission card. This is very abstract, but the true fun of this game is in the backstabbing cardplay in any case, so that doesn't really matter. There are a few questions of interpretation opened up by the interaction of certain cards, but once they're attended to, the Paranoia Mandatory Bonus Fun! Card Game is a game which should play fast, furious, and most of all, fun!

I took an early lead in our game by the simple device of using my ownership of the game to appoint myself team leader. This couldn't last, as the other players eventually gangned up on me to make sure I died so that they could elect a new team leader. This passed on again to Martin and he caught up with me. The final mission plus the cards in hand left him in an unassailable position to win. Curses!

Score
Donald 1
Martin 2
Everyone else 0

Roborally
I was a bit reluctant to play Roborally when it was suggested, forseeing a long drawn out game leading to my inevitable defeat. So I insisted on a simple board with easy flags for an open race. Did I get it? Did I heck! Instead I got one of the worst, a hideous array of twisting conveyor belts and pits, alongside the radioactive core. And sure enough, while Martin took an early lead thanks to his robocopter, closely followed by Andy, I ended up footling around stuck on the conveyor loops for turn after turn.

I was eventually able to get into a position to start collecting options in the hope of doing something dangerous to Martin's bot as he headed for the last flag, but the map offered few useful vantage points for these interception tactics, and Martin cruised to an easy victory.

Score
Donald 1
Martin 3
Everyone else 0 :(

More Combat Commander
When everyone else went home after the Roborally, Martin and I sat down to the reason for his visit, some Combat Commander. I gave him the Playbook from Combat Commander: Mediterranean and left him to find something he liked the look of. His first choice took us to the western desert.

#24 'Six Hills'
I'd played this before with Badger, so was pleased when I drew the British- the other side, and they'd been the winners last time. My plan was simple: defensive fire! So I set up Lt. Lyndhurst with the HMG and 2" mortar in foxholes on the eastern end of the high ridge. I put another squad in foxholes beside them, and the corporal with an LMG at the western end of the high ridge to forestall an Italian end run. The rest of my forces were disposed in support of this plan.

In setting up, Martin immdiately showed he wouldn't have to play 2 games to learn the lessons I'd learnt from my losing game as the Italians- he set up a platoon in the SE corner ready to make an end run for exit VP. Next he promptly set up his MG platoons using the lie of the land to break up my lines of fire exactly as I had done. Then he called down artillery on my position, which had the immediate effect of destroying my HMG nest's foxholes, so that they broke, and were eliminated to a man by the following MG fire.

In my shock I surrendered on the spot. I just couldn't help myself. It was only when it was too late to go back that we realised that it was still the first turn. What a shocker! I should've fought on. The position probably was unwinnable- 5 territorial squads with a weak leader against a full strength Italian company with artillery support? Almost impossible, especially with the way the Italians would be ratcheting up exit VP against such weak opposition. In any event, I should've fought on, if only to avoid having a first turn surrender on my Combat Commander record. Anyway, it all just goes to show how important player morale really is in the game.

#19 'Metaxas Season'
Leafing through the Combat Commander: Mediterranean Playbook looking for our next scenario Martin hit upon this one. He plumped for random selection and drew the Germans. I went for the same setup as I'd used against Badger: Sgt. Delvoie, the HMG and the cannon in the bunker on the heights with 2 squads in trenches covering the cliffs; Levasseur and a squad in trenches covering the approaches to the farmstead; the rest in the farmstead; and waited to see what Martin would do.

Martin's setup showed his ability to assess a position and his keen tactical awareness- he split his forces, putting his pioners with their assault weapons in position for an assault up the cliffs in the west.

Coming up with the right plan was one thing, executing it turned out to be another. Getting up those cliffs is a difficult and dangerous manoeuvre: the only cover from which to advance (and note that units advancing across cliffs can't carry weapons) is in view of the bunker. So the manoeuvre as a whole calls for the best available combination of move, advance and smoke grenade cards, and a lot of patience! Martin tried his best- twice- but it was to no avail. His assault troops did get close once, and their close combat ability showed its worth too, but they were destroyed by fire from the bunker each time. The assault on the bunker broken, I was free to mop up his other units.

Score
2-1 :)

In our post-game discussion, Martin felt that this scenario is unbalanced. He might be right, although our 3-game sample proves nothing, even though it is 100% in favour of the Greeks. And the whole point of scenario-driven WW2 tactical wargaming is more-or-less unbalanced scenarios in any case, because these were the most interesting original battles. This scenario is definitely a tough nut for the Germans to crack. I'm looking forward to giving it a try, and I wonder what the statistics will look like when we finally see a German victory.

And yet more Combat Commander!
Badger left his ipod behind on Friday, and he just can't live without it. That was all the excuse he needed to come round for another session on Monday. We got 3 games in.

#33 'We Go!'
I'd played this as the Germans with Martin in our original Battle Pack: Paratroopers session last April. So my setup was easy: an HMG nest to protect the building objectives, and an LMG nest in the woods objective, then hope for the best with the random US setup. Badger and I weren't keeping notes during this session, so I can't remember much of what happened. Sufficeth to say that I won on time 7 with 4VP, a very close run thing!


#34 'Encircled at Hill 30'

I'd played the Germans too with Martin last April and had won a narrow victory in a memorable game. So I was looking forward to having another go when I drew the Germans for Badger and my last game from BP#1.

My basic idea was to develop from a base of fire to my east, using the mortar as much for smoke as anything else. Seeing Badger set up behind the crestline and in the buildings so that he could bring no effective defensive fire into the large field immediately in front of my deployment zone, I set up with a simple line abreast of 3 platoons: Sgt. Bierman on the right, Lt. Leuerbach plus an LMG in the centre, and Lt. Schrader with the HMG and the other LMG on the right. My plan was to take the buildings in the centre first, then send Leuerbach's platoon off in search of exit VP while Schrader's platoon joined Bierman to assault the objectives.

Everything went smoothly at first. I got smoke where I wanted it, and my platoons moved up promptly. Then I got bogged down in the centre. I wasn't helped by the appearance of blazes right beside the action, which seriously hindered my LOS in the big firefight. Badger recieved a pack howitzer as a hidden unit, which I killed and promptly received thanks to scrounging. I put it over on my right, and it helped me clear objective 1. It wasn't enough though. The game ended on time 7, Badger winning by 6VP. A close run thing!

#101 'Rubble-Rousers'
This little slice of Stalingrad was next. It promised to be a titanic struggle: apart from the strong OB's, each side also has a bunker complex- 3 bunkers (6 cover), 3 trenches (4 cover), 3 wire, and 3 8FP mines. Plus each side sets up simultaneously in zones defined by a diagonal line running SW/NE, so we'd be close, and in heavy cover.

My plan involved 3 forces: in the centre- a strong HMG nest to hold the main objective, which I fortified with bunkers and wire; to the west- Cpt. Egorov with all my SMG squads and satchel charges- to assault the church; and to the east- a force to work down that flank. My plan changed immediately when Badger promptly started exiting his own forward units in the NE corner. Exit VP! I'd plain forgot about those, and was much relieved- Badger had strongly reinforced the orchards so that Egorov's assault had been looking much less appealing. So he led his men off the map instead.

The result of this was that the game turned into an HMG slugathon in the centre with skirmishing in the east as I mopped-up the few units Badger had left there after making his exits. Badger pressed hard, and enjoyed some of the luck which we both needed to break the stalemate in the centre, but I held on to win with 4VP- as close as we've got this time.

Score
2-1 :)

Combat Commander score
7-3 ;)
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