Friday, May 19, 2017

ON THE DNIEPER


     Some highlights of my most recent game of Barbarossa: Kiev to Rostov.

Overview of the early action.
Dneprovsk (sp?) area. Unit under the "Out of Supply" markers are German. Under the "Emergency" markers are Russians. The Out-of-Supply side has cut off the Emergency side. An emergency indeed! The Russians tend to surrender when cut off.
Kherson area. The city is surrounded. Russian divisions watch helplessly from the south side of the river.
Cherkassy. The Germans attacked here fast and hard, moving right to the gates of the city before the Soviets knew what hit them. A single armored train unit defends the RR bridge.
Soviets put up a pontoon bridge to save the defenders. They attack but fail to dislodge the Germans.

Kherson taken! A German recon unit crosses a bridge in the east. The Soviets end up destroying it -- from the German side! For the Motherland!
Fuel shortages hamper the German offensive.
Both bridges at Cherkassy are captured intact!

A later overview.
Germans and Romanians cross the Dneiper!
The German bridgehead at Cherkassy. Looks like a breakout is imminent. Don't count on it.
Reinforcements arrive in the north. Another front, another stalemate.
Eventually, this will be the Kiev Pocket.
     This is a pretty slow-moving affair. The game inches forward one hex at a time. A single turn (German and Soviet player turns combined) took me about 4 hours. That's a lot of work for very little gain. I'm starting to get some mud turns now, too. This is a good, quality game, but life's too short, folks. I think I've played this game more than all my others combined. At this point, though, I'm played out. I cancelled my pre-orders on the new edition(s). I still have Crimea to play. I think that'll about do me for the East Front series.
     Pros: High quality production. Great, clean rules. A complex and deeply immersive experience.
     Cons: Slow, slow, slow. Two-day turns should be 4 or 5. 1D10 makes combat results virtually random. Horrid player community (what else is new?).
     See the "Game Ratings" for my final thoughts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A RIVER TOO FAR

     Here is my recent playing of the Beyond the Rhine Grand Campaign. I played this over the space of about 2 weeks.
     On the northern flank, I tried to follow history as much as possible (within the limits of my knowledge). Mainly, I wanted to get the US 2nd Armored Division and the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions to Aachen as quickly as possible. They were delayed at Liege and the defense congealed at Aachen to such an extent that duplicating history is impossible. In reality, the German commander at Aachen had written a surrender letter to the Americans. It was intercepted by the Germans and the general (I forget his name...Schwerin maybe) was shipped to Italy. The Germans said later that there was nothing stopping the US from simply walking unopposed into Aachen and they couldn't understand why they didn't. Not so in this game.
     Not criticizing, just sayin.
     For the Germans, I strove to keep their Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions stacked and in reserve where possible for counterattacking. If nothing else, it made the Allied player nervous and more cautious than he would have been had the Nazis adopted a strictly passive defense. This paid dividends near Liege when 10 SS Pz destroyed an entire armored division combat command.
     In retrospect, the 10th SS should have hit the US armor and then retreated immediately. Instead, they got lucky and weathered a couple of US air attacks while in open ground and were able to save themselves on a future turn. It's important for the Axis player not to spend a lot of unnecessary time adjacent to American units due to the danger posed by spotted air attacks.
     As always, I tend to do what I think will most piss off the other side, which sometimes makes me play over-aggressively. It doesn't always work out, but it keeps the game lively. The move by 4th armored toward the German left took even me by surprise. I usually move the 5th AD, but saw that open area in the south and couldn't resist taking a shot.
     At this point, I ended the game. I wanted to launch Market-Garden, but misread a rule and missed my chance on the Sept 19 turn, but it looked like a losing proposition anyway, even with the Germans unprepared for it. Once the British armor breaches the canal, the Germans are naturally drawn to the area where the paratroopers are going to land. The armor has to be at Eindhoven by the time the drop is made. That just means that the Germans will be there too. Should have given the supply to Patton. Anyway, I'm ready to review this game and what I've seen of this system so far. Look for that in the future.

The northern sector. 2 and 3 Armored overrun German defenders near Namur and race for Liege. An SS division is threatened with being cut off in the forest. The Brits move their armor into the open terrain north of Brussels.

In a surprise move, the US 4th Armored Division advances toward the German left flank near Nancy.

A close-up of the 4th Armored's move. Aside from an understrength 21st Panzer, there is nothing here but empty space.

The entire 4-map playing surface.

The German's respond to the 4th. The 21st Pz and 15 PzG Divs assume blocking positions.

The SS escape the trap in the forest. Lots of fancy footwork was required to keep them supplied and on the move.

The 10th SS Pz Division gives the overextended US 2AD a bloody nose near Liege. Note the heavy German concentration around Aachen.
This shows the position of the US 2AD just before the attack by the 10 SS Pz (per previous picture).

British armor awaiting supplies to move out in force.
Final Dispositions. The British armor is across the Albert Canal. Squint and you can see it.

The Germans are on borrowed time on their left. US and French forces converge from west and south. The Germans spend each turn trying to extricate themselves from one bad situation after another.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

WE GOT NEXT!

     These games are next -- in more ways than one. I first learned about this series just a couple days ago. Everything I've read and seen about them since then indicate that they are right up my alley -- complex and substantial, if not all that massive. The game system itself is also the work of Gene Billingsley who also produced Operation Mercury, a game I'm very fond of.

The Next War, in situ. No packing peanuts this time.
      What this actually represents to me is a chance to redeem myself for my failure to play Gulf Strike very much when I had the chance. At the time, I found that game just too complex to actually play. Didn't stop me from admiring the hell out of it, though. I had always wanted to play it. Now's my chance.

This is not a game for playing; it's a game for laying down and avoiding. I had the pre-Sadam version (eye roll).
First up: India-Pakistan.
This one adds naval rules.
Rules booklet and Game Specific Rules booklet are both glossy and full-color.
Lots of player aids, a first class production all the way around.
The standard rules are actually pretty short and sweet.
9/16" counters designed for GMT's aging fanbase.
Big hexes. Die shows scale.
     Both games are one-mappers. I've already gone through the Standard Rules and found them relatively simple, straight-forward common wargaming fare. If Beyond the Rhine wasn't taking up all my table space, I think I could set it up and start playing today. The game includes both Standard and Advanced scenarios, allowing you to start small and work your way into the full game. I've only opened NWIP so far, Taiwan is still in shrink.
     GMT has been at this for some years now. They have really set the bar high for everybody else.

Friday, April 28, 2017

HERE BE MONSTERS

     I ordered a bunch of packing peanuts and when they arrived, I found these inside:

     Ahhh! Monsters!
     Seriously, these are a couple of real monsters. Guderian's Blitzkrieg II must weigh 10 pounds (you Brits are going to have to calculate how many stone that is yourselves: I don't know metric). 5 booklets, 7 maps (3 full-sized), 2800 counters and 2 dice...after a while it all begins to add up to some serious weight. The Scenario booklet alone is 96 pages.

That shiny stuff on the boxes is shrink wrap. I almost hate to rip it.
      Compared to this, The Last Blitzkrieg is a piker. Still, four full-sized maps! Plus, it's a brand new system. It feels good to be getting in on the ground floor for once. The second game in the series is going to cover the Battle of Kasserine Pass, one of my favorites. So I'm hoping I like it.
     I just got back into boardgaming in 2013 after a 25-year absence. I've had to pretty much re-discover my gaming preferences from the ground up, by trial and error. What I've found is that I like monster games, the more complex the better. How do I know I like them? Because they're the ones I play the most. This year, my most played game was Kiev to Rostov, a four-mapper (and when I add Crimea to it, five!). The four-map Beyond the Rhine is on my table now. I keep coming back to both of these. I love pondering my moves, consulting rules (yes, I really like that), charts and tables, and plotting strategy and watching the resultant "history" unfold before my eyes. This is something you can get only from a monster. That's why I play them.
     In keeping with this new passion of mine, I ordered this one, too:

     This is a company level game covering the Marines' WWII campaign on the island of Saipan. This is another game system new to me. If I like it, volumes on Guam and Crete are in the offing as well.

Northern map from Saipan (from Compass Games' website)

Saipan south.
     Saipan will consist of 2 maps and 6 counter-sheets. Does that make it a monster? Close enough for me. Hope it's good.
     But the games I'm really excited about I won't have in my grubby little hands until tomorrow. One of these will be next up on my table. I'll let you know what they are as soon as they arrive, followed by full blog coverage.
     Speaking of which, I have the first few turns of my Beyond the Rhine campaign to share soon. But I haven't been blogging much lately because I've been trying to maximize my game time. If I'm going to get these things played, I'm going to have to hurry. Times waits for no man, and all that, wot?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

OPERATION MERCURY: NAVAL GAZING

     I just got through Turn 3 of Operation Mercury, my first night turn. Not hugely eventful. The Germans continue to consolidate their forces and attack wherever the odds are good. They are especially eager to get an airfield, Maleme in particular. The sooner they can start flying in reinforcements (and supply), the better.
     The Allies get a bonus for attacking at night -- and they did with not so good results. They might want to go strictly defensive from now on. Those German paratroopers with their 8 Efficiency ratings are nasty tough.
     The losses for the turn: Germans -1 step; Allies -2. Most combat resulted in Fatigue for one or both sides.

The Heraklion Sector. The Germans are strong on both flanks. The airfield is to the right. Tough sledding here, though.
Naval Operations map, night of day one. A British task force bombards German positions near Maleme airfield. The rest of the navy awaits the German convoys. All units are undetected at this point.
Left-center of pic: The Germans take the city of Reitmo (6 VPs). Otherwise known as Low-Hanging Fruit. Australian troops have cordoned off the airfield.
Only some freak die rolls have saved Maleme airfield from capture. This is where the Germans are strongest. They have split the Allied defense in two.
My attempt at an overview. From left to right: Maleme, Reitmo, Heraklion. Wasn't Maleme a song by Rod Stewart?
German aircraft on search missions at first light of Turn 4. They can search 5 sea zones, but extra aircraft assist in three of them. 
All British task forces are detected, but one. Send in the Stukas!
INCOMING! Stukas dive from the clouds onto the Gloucester, a light cruiser.
The CL is damaged!
For the Allies, surface detection fails to find any Germans. An air search reveals one of the convoys. Gulp! Almost made it through! Incidentally, one of those markers is a decoy.
The ensuing surface action is not pretty. The convoy carries 11 steps of ground units. 5 are lost. The units in the top row are okay, those on the bottom are now indeed on the bottom -- as in Davy Jones' Locker. Yeah, THAT bottom! And that's with the Brits rolling poorly, too. And now that it has been detected, the convoy will have to endure another turn of this. Maybe it can hit the beaches with some supplies still intact. But I think its days (hours) are numbered.
On the bright side for the Germans, a DD is damaged in the battle. Two-of-three ships in TF B are now damaged. Back to Alexandria for repairs. Blood in the water for the Luftwaffe!