Thursday, March 30, 2017

MY GAMING FUTURE

     The hardest time I've ever had in my gaming life was this past winter when I bought five games all at once. I thought it seemed like a good idea at the time. Wrong! Every time I set one game up, the other four would glare at me from the shelf. So I would set one up, then tear it down, then set up another, then tear it down, ad nauseum. Five unplayed games was more than I could take.
     So I told myself I would never do that again. One game at a time, said I.
     Well, I just received two more from the FedEx man yesterday, Barbarossa: Crimea and Twin Peaks. At least this time, I traded for them, instead of buying them. I sent some of my old games to Noble Knight out of Janesville, Wisconsin in exchange for $80 in store credit. In my world, how long do you think store credit lays around unspent? Yeah, that's right: not long.
     Anyway, I'm not buying another game until I get all my current games played....and I mean it this time! I literally have a 25-year backlist.
     This year, my goal is to play all of the following games (plus a full campaign game of Beyond the Rhine - not pictured here). By my estimates, I've got about 9 months worth of gaming here. And that's if I push it.
     So without further ado, here's the lineup for 2017.

     You'll notice lots of Vance von Borries games on this list. I love his gaming style. I'm playing Kiev to Rostov right now, but I can't wait to hit Crimea, maybe even combine it with KtR. By the way, both games are lavish productions -- beautiful maps (4 full-size in KtR plus minis, 1 plus some mini-maps in Crimea), full-color play-aids including set-up cards, and a full-color rulebook and playbook in Crimea. Well worth whatever you pay for them. I've pre-ordered all the other Barbarossa games as well, since I believe they are all going to be re-printed. I just hope not this year. I'm busy.

     I bailed on Roads to Moscow a few weeks ago, but that was primarily due to the glaring issue I mentioned earlier. My pattern is to not have my preconceived notions met, jump to a hasty conclusion, then reconsider and try again only to find that my hasty conclusion was correct or that it was completely wrong. An equal chance -- like throwing a 1D10.
     Roads is another Vance von Borries game very similar to Barbarossa, but at a smaller scale. Actually, it is virtually identical to his 2001 game Kasserine (on this list). I love Kasserine, so I'll love Roads, too -- once I give it a fair chance.
     On to Paris keeps getting pushed down my list. It's probably because of its 64-page rulebook and equally tomey playbook. All full color, another lavish production, by Compass Games this time. I just need to buckle down and learn it. My heart says "yes" but my brain says "no."

     If all goes as planned, next on my table is Dead of Winter, a 4-map monster game of the Battle of Stone's River (1862). It's part of the Great Battles of the American Civil War series. I've played it enough now to know I like it. It needs more informational counters, though, but I'll get into that during play. I just picked up Twin Peaks from Noble Knight. This is a GBACW series game covering the Battles of South and Cedar Mountains. Each a one-mapper, which is something I need more of.


     Two more VvB games, Operation Mercury and Kasserine. I bought both these games back in the 90s and just played Kasserine for the first time in 2013 (yeah, I know). It's probably my favorite game, so I plan on playing it again this year. OM covers the German airborne assault on Crete 1941. This game is from, I think, 1994. It is very similar to Kasserine but has component issues Kasserine does not have; i.e. the counters are really really thin. If a standard playing chit today is a Ritz cracker, these are Wheat Thins, to put it in delicious snack terms (I must be hungry). I hear these two speaking to me a lot while I'm playing other games. (The games, I mean, not the snacks. Well, okay, the snacks, too.)

     And last, but least...Battles from the Age of Reason, Fontenoy and Prague. How many times have I sworn off this system? Lots, let me tell you. I had Fontenoy set up just last week, for crying out loud! But I give up. I surrender. I know I'm going to try them again. I can actually feel myself wanting to as I type this. Oh, the shame! It's just as that muffled voice from inside the box said when I put Fontenoy back on the shelf: You'll be back...


Sunday, March 26, 2017

RETURN TO KIEV

     As I mentioned in a previous post, I love the Barbarossa game system. On the other hand, I'm not totally sold on OCS (Operational Combat Series). While it is engaging and fun, it also has a kind of free-wheeling gaminess that I find unappealing. Hard to explain, but when I'm gaming I like to feel as though I'm not wasting my time. To me, that means historicity and realism are the important elements.
     Despite some misgivings, in the end I get that from Barbarossa: Kiev to Rostov. My gaming time with OCS, on the other hand, is full of nagging doubts: artillery sits there unused, mech units cannot move even a single hex without a massive supply effort and mainly just sit there too, and armored divisions pirouette deftly through every crack and crevice of an otherwise solid defensive line. Yes, it's fun and challenging, but it doesn't feel quite real.
     I'm all about second chances, so I've started a new game of B:KtR, this time playing "Scenario 2: The Kiev Pocket." (I'm actually itching to play the full campaign of Beyond the Rhine, too, incidentally.) In this one, as in the campaign (which adds another map and more time), the Germans have advanced into the deep bend in the Dnieper River but have run into supply problems. They are attacking the fortified city of Kiev and the Russians are holding all the bridges over the river. The following pictorial shows the progress of turn 2.





Map 1 (above): An overview.
1) The Germans have destroyed a Russian strongpoint. The Russians should easily be able to fill the gap during their half of  the turn. But pressure is pressure. The Germans hope to apply it everywhere possible.

2) Two German units cross the Dnieper, and a third is poised to cross. To keep supply flowing, the German will put up a bridge or two on the following turn.

3) German infantry close in on Cherkassy. An SS stack smashes through a line of strongpoints in the north. The German supply problem starts here and works its way east (top of the map).

4) The Soviets leave an open flank and German panzer divisions move to cut off a salient.

5) Protecting the panzer divisions flank and rear.

6) City surrounded. The defenders survive a "surrender check." The German will probably have to assault it.

Map 2 (above): Closeup of the west (bottom of map)
1) This is where German supply enters and the route it takes by truck. Slow going.


2)  A small German supply dump awaits potential transport by air. Air Transport allows city-to-city movement. The Germans only have 3 missions to use in the entire game, so you don't want to waste any. Also in this circle is the extent of the German rail conversion.



3) Rail conversion moves 4 hexes per turn. In two turns, the railhead will reach the main road, at which time the entire area fed by the green line (4) will be in supply.



Map 3 (above): The east (top of map).
1) Motorized units suffering from Fuel Shortage. These units cannot move at all.

2) Blown bridges.

3) Threatened with encirclement, Russian cavalry will have to retreat across this pontoon bridge.

4) With the bridges blown, the Germans turn their attention to Cherkassy.

Map 4 (above): Cherkassy.
1) Stalin mandates an attack. The Soviet armor (the 4-2-5 stack) succeeds but is left out of position, exposing the Russian flank.

2) The German 9th Pz Division cuts off the Soviet salient. Russians, when out of supply, immediately start rolling for surrender. They will have to reopen a supply line before the end of the turn.

3) Other German mechanized forces surround the Soviet armor, pinning it in place. If it doesn't surrender, the Germans will attack it from three sides next turn.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

BEFORE THE RHINE

OCS - BEYOND THE RHINE (First month of action)
     I had distinct ideas in mind for each side when I started this game of Beyond the Rhine. For the Americans, I would try to dislodge the Germans through maneuver alone, without fighting. For the Germans, I would look for opportunities to counterattack. For each side, I would be as aggressive as possible, since that is simply a winning strategy in most wargames. Make your opponent uncomfortable is my credo.
     The American strategy worked well. The Germans...not so much. Counterattacking just got them in trouble. A better strategy would be to defend everywhere shoulder-to-shoulder. Without ZOCs, it is just too easy to exploit every defensive weakness in this game. Overall, I find that it is easier to attack than to defend. Defending in OCS requires a greater adjustment to one's thinking, I believe. This adjustment has come a little late for the Germans, with disastrous results.
The Thionville Corridor after the advance of the US 5th AD.
In the center, the German 3rd PzGren Div has surrounded a US Tank Bn..
In the south, the US is opposed by the German 11th Pz Div.
A German counterattack in the Thionville Corridor, while appearing initially successful, only results in the better part of a Panzer division cut off with little hope of escape. The American 5th AD found the weak spot in the defense and makes for open country near Thionville.
The US rights the ship in the center.
The French 1st AD crashes through the German defenses around Dijon. Give 'em the ol' mustard, boys!
Overview. I really want to play the full campaign. This is half!
American infantry splits the defense in two. Germans will have to pull back and establish a new line.
Germans out of supply and ready to roll for attrition. Bad news!
The southern front.
The US noose tightens.
10th armored breaks through near Metz. More trouble for Jerry.
Dijon falls and the French "Gray Poupons" advance, aka "French's Armored Division." Ugh! More mustard jokes. "Helman's on Wheels!" Stop!
Another overview.
The Germans try to organize a defense in the south.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THE LONG WAY TO LONGWY

     Good news and bad news for the Americans this turn.
     The bad news is that the 90 ID's attack failed. It was going up against a good German infantry unit (7 STR, 4 AR). During the Movement Phase, this unit was DGd by US air units, making it a 4 STR unit, 3AR. But the Reaction Phase saw a strong German panzer brigade move into the hex (12STR, 4AR). Not wanting to call off the attack, the US player bombarded the hex for 3T supply, DGing the panzers, too. Still, that was enough to tip the balance in the German's favor.
     The attack went in thus:
     German: 7x.5 (DG) + 12x.5(DG)x.5 (hvy woods) = 7
     American: 24
     Total: 3:1 in Very Close Terrain.
     Result: AL1o1/Do1.
     The American player took the mandatory step loss and retreated.
     Time for Plan B -- otherwise known as "The Good News." The 5th Armored Division had been  put in "Reserve" in order to -- optimistically, as it turned out -- exploit the 90th's success. Instead, seeing as how there was no success, the 5AD raced through a hole in the Maginot Line defenses. The red arrows show moves for the current turn, while the blue arrows show proposed moves for next turn. (That's the other good news -- the US player won initiative and now can immediately take another turn!)

     The German units I've outlined in blue are soon to be "in the bag." Under the DG counter are two powerful high-quality 4AR German units, one infantry, the other armored. They have no choice but to attempt to bug out. I probably should have canceled the infantry attack altogether and saved 2 SP.
     The US supply line is tenuous, but for now the coming turn looks solid.
 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BTR Turn 1

     The American turn turned out okay. Better than expected dice rolling in the Sedan area resulted in the elimination of the German defender and an Exploitation move one hex past the city by the US 4th Infantry Division.
     The attack on Chaumont by the 35th ID was called off, however, when the air support failed to DG the target hex. From previous experience, I know that OCS can be very unforgiving to an attacker, so best not to push your luck. I moved an arty group forward in case my air fails again next turn. I will take the city, but I'd rather not have to spend any more SP than necessary -- but I will if I have to.
      The following three pics show the situation at the end of the American turn. 

     The American left flank. I've circled the major combat units: red for American and black for German. The American units are four infantry divisions and the 5th Armored. The German units are all panzer divisions. The Lehr Panzer in the woods is only a couple of units, so I put a minus symbol next to them.
     This is a good time for the players to review the terrain modifiers. Armor in heavy woods (all the dark green hexes on the tan hexes) not only attacks at one-half strength, but defends at half-strength, too. In short, these woods are no place for armor -- at all. The hills (open tan hexes) aren't so good, either. So the only real tank country here is the little corridor around Thionville. This is where the 5th Armored is heading.

     The 4 ID exploited through the city and is now heading for Sedan. I need to pull those armored TD units out of the woods because they're defending and attacking at half-strength there. I assume those are M-10 units. The mech units (red) are good. They at least defend at full strength.

     A close-up of the "Thionville Corridor," as I'm calling it. The 5th Armored's aggressive advance has at least ensured that the US player won't have to fight through the circled hexes. (Those are old Maginot Line fortifications that still offer some defensive benefit.)

THE GERMAN RESPONSE
    The following pics show the situation at the conclusion the German moves on turn 1.

     The German 80 Corps HQ had to do some fancy footwork to get supply to the Lehr recon unit in the woods. That's a 5 AR unit. I'd hate to lose it. The Lehr armor fuels up and heads for the "corridor" where it might be able to do some good, leaving behind a mech unit to slow down the US advance.  Sedan is just a speed-bump at this point.

     The Germans relocate a panzer division to guard the "corridor." I think a German player would find the American plan obvious given the terrain modifiers. The armor will head for the open country. The poor bloody infantry will do the dirty work.

     I don't envision a lot of action in this sector. The Germans rolled well during their Reinforcement Phase and were able to bring on a bunch of fighters from their Luftflotte group. Since they're basically on temporary loan, I put them as close to the front as possible to guard against US bombing runs. Two German panzer divisions are in reserve here. Probably a waste of resources.

     The American right flank (south). The horizontal green lines show where US and French reinforcements are slated to appear over the next couple of turns. The Germans deploy to slow them down. Too much space, too few units.
     Because of an abstracted US Air Interdiction rule, it costs German units 1 MP to travel by road during good weather. This confuses me on occasion because supply lines can still be traced at 1/2 MP per road hex. It can be hard to keep the distinction straight. Also, most of the German moves in this area were done by rail. The German can move 10 REs by rail, the equivalent of 40 battalions. So as far as moving these little units around, rail capacity is virtually limitless, but I still have to do a better job at keeping track of German rail movement. Something to add to my Order Sheet.

     Well, that's turn 1. Phew! Once I sit down for a while and review the situation from the American perspective, I'm sure I'll find the flaw in the German response. Turn 2 should see a lot of action.





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

FULL OCD FOR OCS

Beyond the Rhine Planning
     I've just set up the 2-map Beyond the Rhine campaign, "Fall of '44 (Patton)." BTR is one of the latest entries in the Operational Combat Series from The Gamers. It's a tough game system. Not tough in that it's hard to learn or play; but tough in that it requires lots of planning.
     So I set the game up and spent an hour or so preparing for the American player's first move. Because everything you do requires supply, there's less winging it in this game than in most others. You need to plan carefully every step of the way.
     To help me, I've created a simple little orders sheet so I can keep all my opening moves straight and see how all my supply points are coming and going. It's just easier for me to have it all written down.

     When it comes time to actually playing the game, things should go pretty smoothly. I'll do this again for the German player on his turn. For the Americans, though, I've got two infantry attacks planned for Turn 1 and a major move by the 5th Armored Division.

     (I'm playing with the map turned upside down. The bottom of the map in the picture above is north.) The red lines show my planned moves. The two infantry divisions will cover the area between Sedan and the 5th AD's position.


     At the other end of the map, my one supply truck is going to pick up some supply and ship it to my reinforcements, then go back to Verdun for some more. The 35th ID will launch an attack (green arrow) and the 12th Corp HQ will set up shop somewhere in that neighborhood while I prepare a supply dump at Saint Dizier (circled in red).  Or thereabouts.
     I'm still up in the air about some things. That infantry division outside of Verdun, for example. Should it go north or south. I dunno. I'll save that move for last and see how things look then. It's using "Leg" movement points so doesn't require supply. It basically moves for free, so I guess I'll just be winging it, after all.

     Here's a closeup of the Sedan area, with proposed moves. From the German standpoint, the understrength Panzer Lehr Division's gotta think the 5th AD is looking to exploit through the city once it is taken by the infantry. In fact, that was my original plan. But then I started looking around for brasher ideas. I don't want to get bogged down in those woods. The weak link of this plan is that infantry division. I have it taking the first city, then taking Sedan -- and that might be asking too much.