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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bloody irregulars!

Badger was round on Friday night as advertised, fighting fit and ready for action. I had, of course, managed to get hold of Combat Commander: Pacific and Battle Pack 2: Stalingrad, and had spent Thursday night in a counter-clipping session to get the first scenarios in each new set ready for play. So, a quick revisit to sausages braised in red wine later, we set to.

Bloody Bessarabia
As I'd noted at xmas, I was motivated finally to return to this very enjoyable scenario by a discussion - about the odds for and against the Russians - over at CSW. Just as had been the case with the BGG discussion about Scenario 20, A March in December, I took this as a challenge, which was why Badger was only too keen to play again on Friday, naturally enough.

My setup was really pretty good this time. I didn't manage to get any leaders stacked with other units (although I came close at least once, with Cpl. Bulganin IIRC). Even without enjoying that most favoured of circumstances though, I was in a strong position:
  • Both my leaders were in a position immediately to activate 2 units, and to regroup them with other units.
  • These platoons were then in a good position to advance on objectives.
  • The general massing of my units was going to make it hard for Badger to follow the typical German strategy of picking out isolated units - especially the leaders - for quick early kills.
And so it proved. Badger followed his previous strategy of literally surrounding one of my units, although in this case it was that militia squad toting the German light mortar, right in the centre of the map. I could live with this:
  • There're always bound to be some stragglers somewhere to be picked on by the Germans.
  • Militia squads are second only to green teams as expendable units.
  • Light mortars have their uses in woods, but the terrain here is just so dense that lines of sight are minimal, so getting any use at all out of that mortar in this scenario should probably be considered a bonus (in this case the bonus was probably providing a juicy target for Badger as far away as possible from my leaders, thus buying me time to regroup).
Badger wasn't able to maintain the same momentum in this game that he'd enjoyed at xmas, with the result that my hidden unit appeared much earlier, a circumstance which proved doubly advantageous when Sgt. Pyotor - an 8-2 leader! - popped up in hex M7 to the north of the map. Now I had 3 platoons to mobilise: difficult to coordinate with a mere 1 order; but enabling coherent dispositions which I hoped would be difficult for Badger to assault.

Our early manoeuvres continued throughout the 1st time period:
  • Lt. Schrader's platoon had seized the central objective and was facing off against Sgt. Pyotor's platoon who were marching south to meet them.
  • Sgt. Maisky's platoon had grabbed the northern objectives and was moving to establish a pincer attack against the fascist Schrader.
  • Cpl. Bulganin's platoon were preparing to hold the southern objective (#4) against the rapidly advancing Sgt. Bierman and his lads.
I got lucky with some reinforcements, and brought in a rifle squad on the southern edge; perfectly placed I thought to support Bulganin's platoon against the fascist invaders. Badger had other ideas, promptly advancing into close combat to kill off my new unit. It was after that when everything really kicked off.

Lt. Schrader ordered his platoon across the railway line into the teeth of the partisans' guns. Unbeknownst to Badger my hand consisted of:
  • Op fire.
  • Hand grenades.
  • Hidden mines.
  • Hidden wire.
The first German unit to move was the Volkgrenadier squad in row G. I dropped mines on it as it entered the woods after crossing the railway, then opened fire with Pyotor and his platoon. The German squad was scathed, but it survived. The squad with the LMG was next to move off, moving across the railway hex where you can see it into the adjacent woods, where I fired on it with the hand grenades.

Badger was clearly seeking to establish Schrader's platoon in a line through those woods hexes adjacent to the railway. But I'd been husbanding my wire card especially for Schrader's stack, which I expected to be crossing the railway into that hex adjacent to both of my stacks. My rationale was simple: by dropping the wire were you can see it, Schrader's platoon was effectively split into 3, dealing a useful blow against the Germans' superior command capability in this fight.

By this time I'd emptied my 4-card hand, which led to a funny moment when Badger drew the Interrogation event allowing you to look at your opponent's hand and discard the card of your choice. I was also left wide open in the south. I don't remember that Badger was able immediately to exploit that opening, but he threw a serious spanner in my works soon enough, advancing into close combat against Cpl. Bulganin's stack. I lost, despite my best efforts with a Light Wounds action against Badger's inevitable Ambushes. The fate of my remaining 2 units in the south escapes me, but I do remember that objective #4 fell to Badger shortly thereafter.

The battle raged on through 2 time triggers, including a 12 rolled almost immediately after the deck exhaustion which had given us our first. I was being punished by a series of 3's on my attack rolls, with the result that the VP total was shifting in Badger's favour, from 16VP at the end of time 1 to 10VP at the end of time 3.

Meanwhile, I drew the Walking Wounded event: pick a KIA unit, to be placed at random on the map, broken. I chose Cpl. Bulganin, who appeared just south of where you can see Maisky's platoon on the map. This good fortune was to prove decisive. Bulganin rallied and began a 1-man charge to victory. First he grabbed the German-held objective #1. Elsewhere Pyotor's platoon had regained objective #5 in the centre, giving me 4 out of the 5. Bulganin charged on, heading for objective #4 in the south, by now left open by Germans moving north to support Schrader's harrassed platoon in the centre.

Badger twigged to what was going on, and detached a squad to deal with Bulganin. He was too late though. Dug-in on the objective, Bulganin was too tough to shift with fire attacks from a mere squad, and Badger didn't get the Advance he needed to enter close combat. The time trigger I'd been waiting for came round soon enough, and I won on the special victory condition of holding all 5 objectives at a sudden death check - a first!

It was a great victory, but very closely fought. I was on a mere 3VP when the game ended. Even just 1 more time period might've been enough for Badger to shift that in his favour. All hail Cpl. Bulganin then. ;)

Surf's up dude!
The fascist hordes on the Russian front well and truly in their place, it was time to grab my new copy of Combat Commander: Pacific and to head round the world for our first visit to the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO), a trip Badger and I were equally keen to make.

Starting at the beginning as you do, we found ourselves on Mindanao Island, the Philippines, in the closing months of the war. Random selection gave Badger the US against my Japanese, and off we went.

Badger's setup was credible enough, giving him 2 forces each capable independently of carrying out fire and manoeuvre while he waited for his guerilla squads to appear behind the Japanese lines later in the game.

Facing those strong rifle units with their stronger MG's, I was at a bit of an initial advantage because I'd been reading battle reports and tactical chat on the BGG and CSW. As a result of this, I decided on a forward defence. This decision was encouraged by:
  • My units' high morale and fortifications - these guys were going to be hard to shift with fire attacks.
  • The Japanese Infiltration ability.
Infiltration is one of the interesting new rules in CC:P. The Japanese have 3 tracking boxes into which they can put units and markers (eg. fortifications). Labelled A, B or C, each box corresponds to an Infiltration order which is used to hide or reveal infiltrating units. There are also Sighting markers, which go on the board, and which mark the hexes into which offboard infiltrators can be placed.

So, for those alert readers who've been wondering where 2 of my squads and a foxhole had gone in that setup map, the answer is: they're infiltrators. I put them all in box A, and placed that sighting marker so that they could appear behind my lines in a position to deal with any of those pesky guerillas who might try to get up to some funny business behind Japanese lines.

The game was determined by the battle for objective #5, in the SE corner. Already known to both of us to be worth 10VP, I knew it to be worth an additional 4VP thanks to my secret objective. Naturally enough, Badger's guerillas made a strong play for this objective when they appeared. Equally naturally, my infiltrators moved in to put a stop to that.

The firefight in the north raged back and forth as the Yanks tried to break though my bunker position. The tipping point came when I was forced to decided whether to rally Lt. Dainichi in the bunker, or the squad who was fighting for the decisive objective. Painful as it was, the choice was easy to make. Badger's units poured yet more fire into my bunker, finally clearing the position. I wasn't too worried though. The terrain and my forces meant that Badger's units wouldn't be sweeping south towards objective #5 quickly enough to grab it off me; I was going to hold.

And so it turned out. I won with 17VP on time 7.

Badger and I both enjoyed this game a lot. We agreed that the new rules were a lot of fun. They are colourful and logical where they are specific to the PTO; and neat tweaks to the core system where they might enjoy wider application. What was most clear was that a few simple rules changes (which are summarised in a single page, sufficient for experienced players to get CC:P up and running with ease) have created a whole new experience, a game which is most definitely not just CC:E with the serial numbers filed off. Another hit for Chad Jensen in other words.

Score
Badger 0
John 2
;)
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