Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter extravaganza #1: The long weekend

Diversions, dinner, then duel in the depths
The long weekend brought Badger round on Thursday night. Events elsewhere diverted us unexpectedly for a few hours, so that our anticipated WW2 tactical megasession turned into a single visit to Stalingrad in Combat Commander, but not before dinner, naturally enough. Dinner was another new recipie from Nick Nairn's Top 100 Chicken Recipes: chicken with butternut squash and bacon.

I like cooking chicken. It ticks a lot of healthy eating boxes; is available prejointed in portions ideal for freezing, and easy to apportion to appetites; it cooks quickly and easily; and is adaptable to any and all culinary styles. Truly, the pack of chicken portions is a boon to the busy modern cook. Butternut squash was new to me, even though they've been around for ages.

The recipie was a success, just like all the others I've taken from this book by Nick Nairn. It'll be revisited, and I'll be looking for other ways to use butternut squash just as soon as I can.

Scenario 38. Not One Step Back!
If we had to play just one game, then scenario 38 was an interesting choice. Set during the battles to control the Mamayev Kurgan hill which dominates Stalingrad, the scenario features a clash in a giant ravine with little or no terrain to screen or cover the troops. I think Badger almost wished he was back in the tight confines of the city streets when he saw these wide open spaces!

Seeing Badger's setup, I did the obvious thing with an HMG platoon on the crestline facing the bridge. My flanking force went on the left because my secret objective chit had given me 3VP for objective 4. There was nothing subtle about my plan: hammer away at the bridge so that I could grab it, and attack across the gully in the direction of objective 2.

Events moved fast in the first time period. Badger's IG crew broke almost immediately under fire from my HMG platoon on the heights dominating the ravine. The crew and their gun were disposed of when they failed a defence roll which just happened to generate the Scrounge event, just a fraction too soon for Badger's benefit (the event was executed before the elimination of the IG's crew made the gun available for scrounging!). Badger also gained a Hidden Unit, which turned out to be an SMG squad, which he decided he needed to bolster his right flank.

I had got off to a strong start, but Badger mounted a tenacious defence. Soviet hero Gretchko popped up during the second time period to rally and bolster his forces clinging to the bridge. The defence of the bridge was further helped when my HMG squad was routed off the map with a single high roll.

Elsewhere, my HMG squad reappeared across on my left (without their HMG unfortunately) thanks to the Walking Wounded event, (that's them bringing up the rear, having rallied and started to move out); one of my line teams broke and was routed, never to rally; and Dietel - my own hero - appeared, also far across on my left. Confident that Sgt. Biermann and his platoon could fight their way across the gully without Dietel's help, I sent him on a charge right across the map to grab objective 3.

As the unit count on the above maps shows, Badger's forces were taking a hammering, but they were holding together. The main effect of my combination of fire attacks and Rout orders was that they were scattered so that the Soviet leaders were having problems coordinating the defence. Even so, time was pressing and Badger was maintaining his slight lead.

My options for pulling off a win in the endgame were twofold:
  • Seize the bridge.
  • Force a surrender.
As the battle raged on, Badger managed to get the pillbox on the bridge. This didn't worry me too much because he only had 2 leaders in there to hold it against my planned assault. Badger also enjoyed another Scrounge event, which he used to add a German HMG to his force trying to hold off my efforts to get across the gully and onto objective 2.

Badger's SMG unit had been routed right back to the map edge, and soon enough I got the Rout order which I thought would win the game for me. I rolled a 12, which would've given me the surrender victory I was after, but I had to use the initiative to reroll this because it would've prompted a Sudden Death check, which might've ended the game with Badger victorious. Sure enough, the SMG unit survived the subsequent rout test, as did the other 2 broken Soviet units on the map at that point.

Badger's respite was only temporary though, and the SMG unit soon legged it off the map, leaving me victorious in the position shown to the right.

Slavic mob 0
Prussian military science 1

Another great game packed with incident. I really like this map. It's daunting going into action across wide open space like this, especially when your opponent has a cannon, but it certainy gave the game a unique dynamic. I'd like to see it in action in a Western desert RSG scenario sometime.

Badger's loss of his IG just as the event turned up which'd've let him retrieve was a fine example of the torturous 'Yes, but no!' tensions CC generates so smoothly. The game also saw more blazes than we've seen in a while, although they turned out to have little effect on play.

What marked this game out from most though was the use of Rout orders. These are often used just to maintain card cycle, but in this game I was slapping them down like there was no tomorrow: with broken morale 6 and no cover, the Soviet squads were very vulnerable to routing. Badger used them to good effect too, but his firepower was more limited than mine, so he didn't have as many broken units to exploit as I did.

Mine! All mine!
Andy had a prior engagement on Sunday, so Dave, Donald, Gav, Tony and I sat down to try out History of the World, which has been sitting on my shelf untouched for years. I took a wee bit of persuading to get the game out because I hadn't studied the rules to ready myself to teach it. In the event I needn't've worried too much. The rules aren't the best written I've seen, and there are some ambiguities, but the mechanics are very simple, so it was pretty easy just to plunge in and then to figure out what was supposed to be going on.

Sunday's game is now too distant for me to remember any details, other than the outcome, which I noted down:
  • Dave: 169VP
  • Donald: 163VP
  • Gav: 169VP
  • Tony: 111VP
  • Me: 174VP
A very close result then.

Barbarism 0

History of the World is a great game, with some unique mechanics which give it a real sense of the history it purports to cover; make the game look well balanced; and suggest strong replay value. I'm looking forward to playing this again soon, and I suspect I'm not alone in that.

Easter extravaganza
- #2: Limbering up
- #3: Country-house carnage
- #4: Rumble in the jungle

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