Saturday, February 25, 2017

Baby Steps to Moscow


     I've just started my latest game, GMT's Roads to Moscow. This game is one in a 2-game series -- the other title being Roads to Leningrad -- by a guy who has to be my favorite game designer, Vance von Borries (which always makes me think of Spinal Tap). I'd played Vance's earlier game Kasserine and rate it one of my favorites. In fact, the Roads to... series is virtually identical to Kasserine so it has a dual virtue: not only do I know I already like it, but I already know the rules, too.

     Still, it sat on my table for a while before I could muster up the will to tackle it. It was "Scenario 1: Drive on Mtensk" that was putting me off. It seemed like such a hopeless situation for the Germans. At first glance, it appears that they must fling themselves against a strong Soviet position with little hope of cracking it. Reading the historical account of the battle lends no encouragement, either. The Germans were easily repulsed -- and I was repulsed at the idea of repeating this stupidity.
     But there is a solution (besides putting the game away and never looking at it again). You just have to think outside the box a little.
     As an exclusively solitaire gamer (I like it best that way, thank you very much), I've developed a method of play that I find oddly, almost distressingly, enjoyable: when considering a move, I try to envision what would most piss off my opponent and I do that. Turns out, I'm actually pretty good at that. I absolutely hate me sometimes.
     So here I present to you my opening German moves on the Drive to Mtensk.

     Purple: KG Eberbach. Pink: KG Saucken.
     Eberbach is supposed to bash his head against the Soviet strongpoints on the main road along the stream. Instead, in a surprise move, Saucken -- not Eberbach -- takes the first Activation and makes straight for the Russian defenses. This pins them in place. After Saucken is in position, Eberbach moves toward the Russian left flank.

     The Russians react by pulling their armor away from Saucken and toward the threat to the flank. I don't think they have much choice. Both German KGs are extremely powerful, so both must be dealt with. Once the Russian armor, HQ and Leader unit (shown by the "BG1" counter) are gone, Saucken calls for an assault on the main Soviet strongpoint. Basically, the Russians have had to divide their strength when what they wanted to do was to concentrate it, obviously. The fact that I, as the Russian player, had to split my forces discomfited me, to say the least. (Damn me! ...shakes fist...)

     The attack: With fewer command points now available, the Russians fail their Combat Air Support coordination roll, have no units to react into the attacked hex and also fail a No Retreat attempt. They use their HQ to coordinate artillery, which succeeds. Pulling the Russian reserve forces away from this sector has borne some major fruitski for the German player (me).
     Oh, I should mention. KG Saucken is operating on Low Fuel because I used all my fuel during the first activation, moving both KGs at top speed. The main effect of Saucken's lack of fuel during this attack is a -1 ER rating, easily overcome. I have three HQ units and I use them to coordinate air support (see the 2 Stuka units at the ready in the picture above) and also artillery and the ground units. It's all good.
     The attack goes in....

     My homemade combat sheet. If you can follow my scrawlings, you'll see that the attack goes in at 2:1 odds, with -4 DRM (actually -3, since the ER Differential is really only 1, due to Low Fuel, but it didn't matter to the outcome). The die roll is a 3, modified by -3, resulting in a D2R result (Defender lose 2 steps and Retreat).

     The Soviets retreat one hex, the Germans advance one hex. With its next activation, Eberbach will attack with Low Fuel and try to get between the Soviet main position and BG1.
     A most satisfying outcome. The first time I tried this scenario, I followed history and just went straight down the main road -- and met exactly the same result. This time, it looks like I've got the Rooskies on the run. See you in Mtensk! (How many times have you heard that?)

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