Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mamyev Kurgan, Pt 2 - The Nazis Strike Back

Matt R and I have the longest running CC:Stalingrad game ever. Two months and we're finished with the second battle! What can I say, we have busy lives. I'll assume that you've read the earlier post and/or are familiar with the game and campaign setting for Stalingrad. 

In our first battle in the gully, my two Guards Rifle platoons beat Matt's Germans and advanced to CP1 on the German side, the flat area right above the gully. I had four campaign platoons available, another four units reinforcing (mostly Guard Rifle), plus another three weapons (most importantly, the ampulomet, or Molotov cocktail thrower). I also chose to bump my sides level up to Elite rather than drop Matt's down. The improved level means I get a better quality of soldier in my command platoon, and any replacement teams will be Elite (as in the base game). 

Because of the way the campaign game works, you get to choose a certain number of units for each round, but any campaign platoons are then out for the next game unless you get them again as reinforcements. For this game, I had four potential platoons available aside from the command platoon, but two were SMGs and one was an Assault platoon (better suited for lots of fortifications or a city fight). This was going to be a pretty wide open map, with no features other than eight rubble (you get four more placed randomly every battle, so our next will have 12!) and the objectives spread out along a road running from corner to corner (the road is ignored, too many craters). That meant I had my command platoon of Guards Rifles, my reinforcements which were primarily Guards Rifles, and one campaign platoon of Rifles. Wow, what a difference two hexes of range makes on those Rifle units.

Matt had his Line command squad, a couple of good units coming back (including an HMG), and a Line platoon with another HMG. When all was said and done, I had used one more VP than he had, so we both ended up rolling for support. I ended up with one point more than he did, so I was the attacker and got the second best radio the Russians can get (11 FP). Matt took a Bunker/Trench combo, while I took three foxholes to start in. We had points for the objective closest to my side of the board (2 pts), plus three for the one in the middle. My secret objective was for the objective closest to Matt, but it was only for one point. Still, that one point drove me crazy throughout the game. The map ended up being set up as a "long" map, which was not so good for me as I had numbers where he had quality. Even the Guards have no boxed values, and with only two LMGs I was going to get virtually no use of mods in this game. 

Matt had largely set up a little ways back, but he was doing a pretty good job of breaking my guys while I tried to get some smoke laid down by my artillery. After two or three bursts landing in out of the way places, I finally got things going. More exciting for me, I used the ampulomet against his bunker. It's ordnance, so you have to make a targeting roll. If you roll doubles and make it, you destroy any fortifications and start a blaze *after* they take the fire (without the bunker). However, if you roll doubles and *don't* make the targeting roll, it blows up in your own hex. Not a good weapon to use with a lot of your units standing by. 

I rolled doubles and hit, knocking his bunker out of the game right away. Our games go like that. Somewhat hilariously, that blaze ended up taking over eight hexes on the board, as the Breezes seemed to come up pretty regularly (and at the worst times for me, of course). 

His main battery of units was guarding the NE corner of the board, with a smaller pair of units in the NW corner to rake the battlefield with one of the HMGs. He also held the rubble near the W side of the board with a small force in the trench. I made runs for both the NE and W nests, but only had success in the W through fortunate draw of Ambush cards. Actually, not *so* fortunate, as I would hold onto the Advance/double Ambush cards for about fifteen turns trying to lay enough smoke to get my units up close. I also drew a *lot* of Sniper! time triggers, few of which did any damage, so I often had the Urban Sniper mod (although I forgot about it regularly). 

In the NE, I advanced some units, but they kept getting shot up despite the smoke. Fortunately (I guess), the blaze in the ex-bunker had spread to the east side of the board, forming a wall of flame four hexes long (close to half the width of the board, sort of like a wall partition from hell, with each of us on one side. Unfortunately, the 1 point objective was over there as well. I had taken the 3 pointer, so things were fairly close. I was within striking distance of pulling the total my way on a few occasions, but that damned one point behind the wall was going to be very hard to take, so I decided to go for taking out the remaining units in the NW corner and then trying to exit some units off of the board. 

I managed to get up close with a Rifle unit, and had not only two more Ambush cards (Matt never got a single one played on me the entire game), but the +4 Urban Sniper mod. Not surprisingly, I won that battle as well. The Command 2 leader in the hex, though, came back as "Walking Wounded" and I wasn't close enough to kill him, which would have been nice. Matt also got a Hidden Unit event, which allowed him to take a squad off of my side of the board. After the next time trigger, he brought it on right in front of a broken (and suppressed) Guard unit that was two spaces from his edge of the board. He wasn't able to kill it, but I got yet another Advance/double Ambush combo and waltzed into the space, killing him in the process. I had another Advance a couple of draws later, and that unit got off the board intact. 

We were now down to just a few points difference, and the Time marker had worked it's way up to 8 (the first two Sudden Death checks failed or got Initiatived and failed), so I knew I didn't have much time. I started going for firing for effect around his large clump of units behind the wall (now in the North part of the board), and got a big hit right in the middle of them, breaking nearly all. However, he'd killed the leader who could see into that part of the board, and the one I had left was badly placed as the blaze was burning between him and the Germans, so I couldn't quite finish the job. 

As it turned out, it was mostly a moot point. Matt tried to Recover his units, and halfway in caused a time trigger and ended the game. He finished with 4 VP and the initiative card after getting the extra points (his secret objective, the one close to me, had been revealed earlier). A very close game with the VP marker hovering around 0-4 on his side of the track, and had I been able to get in one more barrage I think I would have taken him out. An excellent game with great narrative elements, as usual. 

Because Matt had only gotten about half of his units rallied when the Time trigger struck, the rest weren't available for reinforcements (meaning that HMG that he had left), although he did get to keep his medium mortar. He'll also get to roll twice on the deployment table as opposed to my once, and decide if he wants to join me at Elite level, or bump me back down to Line. We'll also be on the map we were on first, but with a *lot* more rubble. On the plus side, I'll get four reinforcements to his two, fortunately more Guards. On the down side, I'm left with three campaign platoons better suited for assault than a gully fight, but I guess the LOS on that map are such that long range isn't as critical as it was on the CP1 map for the Germans. 

Having gone through the full scenario generation, I'll say that it's nothing short of brilliant. There's a chance for both sides to try to game that system to a small degree, both in figuring out how much force you want to bring (and probably won't have for next time), but also in the support rolls once everyone has chosen their platoons. It's a very clever system and I have to say that I like it a lot and would consider using the random scenario generator on a regular basis, especially for the Med armies (those scenarios don't seem to be as well crafted as the battle packs, Europe, or Pacific, at least the few I've played). 

We're going to play an ongoing campaign at WBC West in a few weeks in the evenings, should be a very enjoyable experience seeing how each team does. 

The one drawback to the evening - it took us from about 6:45 to 11:30pm to finish the game, which is really about an hour longer than I'm allowed to have company over. Part of that was having to go over the scenario generation portion (although I separated out units and did what I could to prep ahead of time), but that seems like a very long game when each side had three orders and the sudden death marker started at 6 (it ended at 8). To be fair, there were definitely situations where min/maxing was called for, but next time I'll put the game in a poster frame and hope I don't need my copy in between sessions. 

Again, this Battle Pack (and this game) come highly recommended from me. More or less everything about this game is effortless in terms of remembering how things work, the ease of looking up rules, and the almost complete lack of downtime. Plus, I taught a clinic on how to use smoke to advance troops across the board (even though my blazes seemed to cause me more problems than Matt, at least after that first one). 

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