Thursday, April 6, 2017

IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY

     In keeping with my renewed commitment to complexity, I cracked open an old friend Tunisia, a game from The Gamers' Operational Combat Series. Now that's complexity!    

The opposite of End of Empire, Tunisia is exciting but butt-ugly.

     I bought this game back in 1996 and it sat on my shelf, unpunched, ever since. I played a little on Vassal, but never played the hard copy until now.
     I'm re-learning the system with the "Race for Tunis" scenario. So far, it's been fun. It's really not all that complex. The mechanics of the game are actually quite simple. It's the strategic decision-making that's hard -- even in a little scenario like this one. Making sure you have enough supplies at the right time at the right place is an oddly rewarding challenge.
     I'm using Tunisia to prepare for bigger and better things. Namely....

Five mapsheets in a big fat box. Gaming nirvana!
      The campaign is played on four 22"x34" mapsheets. I'll be playing this one for a while. Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy!


     Wow! I hate me.
     That is, I would if I were the German player because everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- has gone the Allies' way in this one. The die rolls have been phenomenal, as witnessed by their pile of unused Replacement units just waiting for units to replace. I almost wish the Allies would lose a unit or two so I could replace them immediately, always a good feeling.
     Aside from that, however, I also think I've played the Allied side pretty well, thank you very much. I've conserved supply whenever possible -- which means no artillery pot-shots and no moving mech and armored units around to no real purpose. So it's not all luck.
     In fact, to OCS' creator's credit, this is one of the few games I've played in which a player can really become a GOOD player, in the same way that a guy can become a good chess player. The rules are full of subtle side-to-side interactions that only experience can teach you to use properly.
     This last few turns for the Allies have been a good example.
     First, by using the ZOC rules to threaten/cut the Germans supply lines, the Allies forced them to abandon strong defensive positions without firing a shot -- and wasting precious supply.
     The last turn, though, put it all together. The Allies attacked an Italian unit in a village with just enough force to have a better-than-average chance of defeating it (allowing for bad die rolls and ambushes and such). Then all the Allied armor, fueled during the Movement Phase, went into Reserve mode for use during the Exploitation Phase. Meanwhile, an American parachute battalion crossed the river and occupied a Salt Marsh, to ensure that no German armor could enter the hex unopposed during the Reaction Phase. Still, I felt my paratroopers were doomed. So the US/British air forces launched three separate "trainbusting" missions (only one of which was successful -- at the cost of 2 fighter steps and a bomber step -- but I felt it was that important) to interdict the path to the combat hex that would be used by the reserve German armor. 
     It worked like a charm. The German armor could not reinforce the battle due to the increased MP cost of entering the Interdicted hexes. The Allied infantry took Mateur and the 1st Armored Division streamed through without opposition. Total Awesomeness!

American forces cut German supply, forcing Jerry to withdraw from strong positions. Cost in Combat Supply Points: 0
The big picture. The French head for the Allied right flank. The Germans will have to spread their forces out to cover the threat.
The Allied attacks result in Exploitations. The US 1st Armored Division has gone into reserve, ready to exploit as well.
Units of the 1st Armored triumphantly enter Bizerte. Some good German and Italian units are trapped in the north.
A closer look at the Bizerte region. The Allies are expecting a counterattack from 10th Panzer (under Reserve markers in the top left corner). Note the "INTERDICTION" marker, the key to this successful move. The 1st Armored has carried the entire center of the German position without firing a shot. The British 78th Infantry Division did most of the fighting.
The British took Medjez el Bab early. Now it looks like the Germans will have to abandon this position, too. The German predicament: too few reserves, too many holes. December 1 sees lots of reinforcements, though.
     The German player learned some lessons, too. Movement is not restricted by ZOCs in this game. Always be on the look-out for where the enemy can get onto your flanks.
     Because of this, the Germans have a nice little hole to dig out of now.
     This oughtta be fun!

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