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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A big night out

Small beginnings?
In part 1 of my 2010 gaming wishlist last December, I wrote of how I needed to find new opponents to maintain my regular fix of WW2 tacsim gaming. I finally took steps towards this end last month when I posted an 'Opponents wanted' thread on BGG. The thread resulted in one reply which I confess wasn't encouraging, but it was enough.

And so it was that last night saw me lugging a big bag full of Memoir'44 down to a local municipal hall- conveniently located a few minutes away, there to attend the very same Glasgow Games Group (G3) which had been my old stomping ground in the years before I started blogging, and whose 10th anniversary celebrations I had attended back in June 2008.

As you can imagine dear readers, returning to an old haunt like this involved meeting with a few familiar faces. The first was Barry, whom I'd introduced to Memoir'44 when it was still new back in the days before I took my break from the club. What a pleasant surprise that was. This led to another entertaining little moment when, chatting to Barry about what had brought me back to G3, I mentioned the person I was to meet that night. He was lurking nearby earwigging, naturally enough, and so I was introduced to Gregor.

In at the deep end!
Gregor and I settled in for our game, before which I just had to show off the new Breakthrough boards and scenario pack which I had recently bought, naturally enough. Gregor was suitably impressed which was nice, because that meant I can be confident that this new expansion will be hitting the table sooner rather than later.

Distractions done, we chose our scenario. Gregor was keen to try the Eastern Front expansion because he'd never played it before. I'd been thinking about introducing Gregor to the new air rules via a familiar scenario but I needed no second bidding. Eastern Front is a great expansion and there's one scenario in particular I've never played that I've long been keen to try: Red Barricades, featuring a German assault on the legendary tractor factory.
What went down
Random selection gave Gregor the Russians, which suited him because he was interested in finding out how the Commissar rules worked. We set up and set to.

A strong German force ready to advance across the frozen wastes into the teeth of the Russian defences

With 4VP available to myself and the Russians for holding the Red Barricades factory complex and other objectives, and expecting to suffer serious losses as I closed, my basic plan just had to involve going for the Red Barricades on my right flank. This did and didn't start well:
  • Did: I got a couple of order cards for that flank which enabled me to advance, opening fire with my sniper for a kill; the first ever sniper shot in my Memoir experience and success was mine!
  • Didn't: Gregor launched a local counter attack, killing my sniper; my own advance on the right stalled for some time thereafter.
My next manoeuvre involved a bit of adjustment on my left followed by an Infantry Assault in the centre. The result was a bastion of 5 infantry units based on that town and ruins on my centre/left, complete with the clearance of the adjacent minefield and 2 wires: a strong anchor for my left to swing up the flank I hoped. Gregor had other ideas naturally enough, hitting my units turn after turn with everything he had before I could exploit my opening. Artillery, infantry, snipers (those pesky snipers- a permanent thorn in my side!) and tanks made short work of my exposed units so that shockingly quickly I was left with just 2 units holding in cover.

Gregor & I: battle is joined in Stalingrad

I was feeling the heat by now and knew I'd have to do something soon to turn the situation in my favour. I brought my artillery forward to improve their range and sent in the tanks. They didn't get off scot free but they achieved their crucial aim when they disposed of Gregor's own tanks, so opening up my own freedom of manoevure. Some of Gregor's infantry were stubbornly holding on in the buildings and ruins but others were caught by my tanks in the open deep in the Russian lines on my left: perfect conditions for armoured overruns, of which I was able to take full advantage. Meanwhile I had gained enough of a local advantage on my right finally to threaten the Red Barricades factory complex.

His forces crumbling and under pressure on two flanks, the jig was up for Gregor. The end came when a unit of Engineers cleared the factory objective on my left, advancing to occupy it for the final VP and a result of 10-5.

Score
Veterans of the 6th 1
Stubborn but outgunned 0
:)

Afterthoughts
A gripping and brutal game, the latter being down to the 10VP victory requirement which is uniquely high in standard Memoir AFAIK. Gregor's early success showed that this scenario is well winnable by the Russians. What went wrong? Well Gregor did comment before we played that he's more prone to rash attacks than he is to tactics, and I think our first game together proved his point.

With as many as 4VP available from objectives, the Russian strategy just has to involve holding on to those and punishing the Germans while they advance to sieze them. This suggests to me that the Russians have to create 2 defensive positions:
  • The Red Barricades factory complex.
  • The factory and ruins on their centre/right.
They also have to be prepared to fall back:
  • The 4 infantry units in the advance guard should tighten the defensive perimeter when the German advance is in a position to overwhelm them.
  • Everything should fall back on the Red Barricades for a last ditch defence because the Germans have to capture 3 of those 4 hexes to gain the 2VP.
These manoeuvres can be covered with harassing fire from the artillery, tanks and snipers. No plan ever survives contact with the enemy of course but I think that this strategy presents the Russians with their best chance.

By the way, although I won a fairly decisive victory the overall result was actually quite close to the historical outcome: the Russian line broke but I only ended up occupying a corner of the Red Barricades. Neat, I thought.

Hanging out
There was plenty going on at G3 last night: roleplaying- an ongoing D&D campaign in which Donald's been playing for ages; 40K- a 5-player megagame; Warmachine- 2 or 3 different games of this, which is apparently quite big in Glasgow; Infinity- an SF miniatures game which Andy was playing on some very nice urban terrain; and a game of Descent. Regular readers will know that this offers me plenty to get my teeth into in the future.

All of that will come after I've got the regular WW2 gaming rolling. All of which leads to my final pleasant surprise of the night, another club-goer called John. He was Gregor's other recent Memoir opponent; in fact he owns the campaign bag which is the only accessory I haven't bought for this favourite game. It turned out that John is a keen WW2 tactical gamer whose collection includes ASL and Combat Commander and he is a big fan of card-driven command and control systems.

We had a long and interesting chat after which I also found out that John is interested in RPGs like BoxNinja's SF bughunter 3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars- which regular readers might remember I bought at Conpulsion back in March; and in Contested Ground Studios' game of Cold War paranoia, weird science and monster hunting, Cold City- which I picked up at UK Games Expo'10 just last month. I'd been wondering when I might get a chance to play these new RPGs and now it looks like that chance might come a lot sooner than I'd imagined.

Two new wargaming opponents and someone who shares my interest in alternative RPGs? Talk about coming up trumps. You can be sure, dear readers, that John and I will be meeting each other across the gaming table at the earliest opportunity. I suspect Gregor might want first dibs on his revenge though. ;)
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