Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday night firefight

Tony came round on Saturday night to play some Combat Commander. I fed him the lamb and fennel stew with which I'd my recent pepper catastrophe the first time I'd cooked it. I have moved on, beyond the simple caution that experience immediately imposed, to developing the art of tasting my cooking while I season it. I'm also measuring out my pepper by the teaspoonful instead of just pouring it in by the heap. The result was a hit, which was nice because fennel is a vegetable unfamiliar to most, and one with which I'm keen to cook regularly.

Tony hasn't played Combat Commander in a while, so I gave him his choice of scenario. He chose Scenario 8, Breakout Dance. I guess this choice was influenced by the low unit count in the scenario, which Tony must've thought would ease his return to the game. Whatever his reasons, Tony's choice was to prove unfortunate for him, as a quick card draw gave me choice of sides, and I chose the Germans. So not only was Tony forced to play the Russians he'd declared he wanted to avoid, but he had to play them at night and with a mere 1 order (yeah, well, I didn't fancy that much either!).

The effects of night on fire attacks, combined with the Russians' restriction to 1 order, means that the Germans can easily exploit any gap in the Russian lines. Accumulated wisdom therefore dictates that the Russians have to set up a simple line straight across the map. Apprised of this, Tony saw no reason to disagree, and promptly set up his line in hexrow G, ie. as far foward as allowed. He had a leader plus an MMG in the field to the west, and another in the woods on the hill in the centre.

For my part, I went for a main attack comprising a squad/LMG in the western objective building, led by the redoubtable Sgt. Ganz (8-2 leader), and a squad/LMG in foxholes on the adjacent hill. I also put foxholes in the hex where the road ends, immediately north of the position. I set up my 9-1 leader and squad/LMG in foxholes on the wooded hill, to the SE. My basic plan was for Ganz and his squads to shoot a hole in the Russian lines, then to exploit the gap. The immediate purpose of the other squad was create a 2-pronged attack to split and overload the Russian defences. In practice this would have to amount to aggressive exploitation of any opportunities offered by a hand otherwise to be optimised for Ganz's attack.

Tony was soon made to pay the price for what we both saw with hindsight was a foolishly foward Russian deployment. As if turn after turn of fire attacks from Ganz's hilltop vantage point from the get-go wasn't bad enough, I was also getting good use out of a German specialty I always enjoy- spray fire, by virtue of which I was able to break 2 units on Tony's most western flank. While that breakthrough point was being finally secured, I'd thrown my units forward in the east. A quick close combat ensued, with another breakthough point the result. I quickly got Schrader and his men through the Russian lines and into the woods hex on the eastern map edge.

Ganz's dash for the western gap followed almost immediately. Tony had a card for opportunity fire natually enough, so that both my moving stacks were broken some halfway, ie. somewhere adjacent to the farmhouse in those fields. Ganz's stack in particular was worrying, it being adjacent to Russian units and me with no recover cards. I was fortunate to draw an advance straight away so that a quick move to safety in the building soon followed.

The rest of the game played out with me completing my exit and re-entry on my right, while Tony quickly regrouped his dispersed force from around the central hilltop into the low ground just west of centre, from where he promptly launched a dash north along the hedgeline. His hope of establishing a firing line to block my dash for the map edge were shot down by opportunity fire from Ganz and his platoon, by now rallied and regrouped. Tony's counterthrust neutralised, Ganz and his squads began their dash for the board edge. I had the 2 move cards needed before I began, but I was slowed down for a turn or two by opportunity fire from Tony's reinforcements so carefully deployed many turns previously. An isolated squad at night couldn't do much though, and my units made their exit soon enough.

Tony's force was on the verge of surrender by this point, and he was 34VP behind, so he conceded just after the game had entered time 5.

Tony 0
Me 1

Setting up the Russians at the forward limit of their deployment area left Tony's units exposed to immediate fire of weight sufficient easily to break them, night conditions notwithstanding; in other words, it effectively surrenders the cover of night. So the Russians have to set up further back. My choice would be hexrow D. Stacking the 2 leaders and MMG's together has a twofold immediate effect:
  • Denying, to the German player, the choice of an easier flank to choose as their primary axis of advance.
  • Giving the Russians the strongest possible firebase with the best possible lines of fire.
Of course, stacking all your leaders in 1 hex is not ideal, so the Russian player can plan on moving the leader with the MMG to the appropriate flank once the primary German axis of advance is known.

Additionally, Tony helped me get round the 1-card discard imposed on the Germans by the night attack special rules. If I'd been in a position to have to move up before engaging in the firefight, then I'd've had some 17 immediately usable orders- or 24% of the deck- increasing to as much as 62% through the 28 additional actions that might spin out cardplay combos from the basic move order. Able immediately to open fire I could instead play as many as 45 orders and 16 actions, or 63% to 85% of the deck. In other words, I was gifted much increased chances of opening and sustaining a rapid attack that'd give me a card cycle overcoming my discard limitation. ;)

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