Monday, July 20, 2009

Stalingrad CC Campaign, Pt 3

Matt R. and I have had a running CC:Stalingrad campaign game going for three sessions now, and it's a pretty pathetic note that we've been doing it since, oh, February. Maybe longer. We just meet once a month, and we've had to skip the last three months for various reasons, but we finally got back on track tonight. Matt is the Germans, me the Russians, and after each winning a game we're right back where we started, on the Giant Gully Of Doom map.

As the game progresses, the maps get more and more littered with rubble markers, and we were up to 12. However, because many of them were in the valley (this is the Stalingrad pack map that looks like a giant S, with the S being the low ground), it wasn't as bad as it might have seemed. I find this a difficult map to parse LOS on, largely because of the wide valley and lots of small gullies everywhere, and we started out both having our share of surprises from set up. However, we allowed for quite a bit of latitude early.

My forces consisted of my command platoon (at Elite level, as was Matt as we both chose to "up" our own forces in each win) as well as the cheap Gordov SMG group of 5. I also had four reinforcement squads or teams coming in as the game progressed, of which one Elite Guard squad played a big role. Matt had the corresponding German platoon with "the Fonz" Winkler as it's leader, plus a couple of other units. Because I had so many reinforcements coming in (seven VP to Matt's four) he got the support roll and chose to take two more Elite Rifle units setting us up for a Recon scenario. As the only exposed objective was Obj1 for 1 point, that made guessing who was really on the attack and who was really defending a bit of a guessing game. I knew that Obj 5 (also in the no-man's land between us in a recon posture) was worth three points, but didn't know what Matt needed, so I was assuming that Obj 3, on his side of the board (which was in a narrow configuration) was probably his. I had both Obj4 and Obj2 on my side, but he was clearly aiming to both take Obj 5 and Obj 1 with his two main sets of forces, and Vogel was aligned to take Obj1 (and thus aimed to take Obj4).

He took three foxholes to start while I took two. Way too much exposed ground to do otherwise.

The game got off to a bit of quick start, with Winkler's platoon taking Obj 5 on the first play. I had put my SMG platoon over there, and couldn't really build up a lot of firepower, especially with Gordov (equally weak) on that side. I took a chance on running up next to the Obj with my SMG squads, which worked really well, and I had two Recover cards to try to hang onto the open ground while I dug for Advance cards, but no luck. I failed to notice that Vogel's main fire group had a clear line of sight to the space with my leader on it, and it took a lot of fire. The SMG unit in that space hung on very nicely, though, surviving three different fire attacks, although suppressed and broken. However, the SMG surrendered under a Prisoner of War event that I drew, and after Gordov held on for a little while longer, I eventually withdrew him into the valley, and that side of the board was more or less done for the game.

Not *quite* true, as I had brought up my Elite Guard with their ampulomet weapon. In one of our past games, this was an extremely effective weapon when I rolled high doubles against Matt, forcing him out of a key hex. This time, the dice went against me, and I ended up breaking the unit and starting a blaze in that hex (which didn't create any issues for the rest of the game). However, I never did get the unit to recover, and a sniper finally killed it late in the game.

On the opposite side of the board, though, things were more exciting. My Elite Guard that came on at Time 3 as a reinforcement managed to run up the board and challenge the Elite Rifle unit that had taken Obj1. In the one example of the game where I had the right cards at the right time (I failed to knock out broken units in Obj 5 when I failed to draw Fire or Advance cards for about ten turns in a row), I laid down a hail of fire from several points into the Obj1 hex, all of which failed to do much. However, I did manage to draw a sniper that gave me the +4 Urban Sniper modifier, played an Ambush in the space, and won the Melee handily. I also had a +2VP Action card to swing the VP in my favor (at last!) to the 3 space, just enough to counter the 3VP I was going to lose for Obj5, and I had the initiative. I held tight and never gave up that card for the rest of the game.

In the end, I managed to hang onto the space despite some really nasty fire that Vogel's group kept laying down in the space, but a Foxhole from one of Matt's Dig In actions (I had placed a foxhole in the adjacent hex on the same Time! event!) allowed that unit to hang on right to the end, albeit suppressed and broken. When the Sudden Death roll went my way at Time 7, Matt was on the verge of advancing into the space, although I'd brought up another Elite Guard squad as well and it would have been close.

A few turns earlier, I'd remarked that I was very hopeful that Matt had drawn the Obj4 for 4VP objective. He had, and I ended up winning by four points. Had he gotten that advance played and killed both units, that would have been a six point swing giving him the win by two. As it was, a very tight game, but really a game of inches. As it was no one really advanced past the no-man's land in the middle of the board into the opposing territory. Because it was a recon mission, our next session will be in G1, the big flat map but with 16 rubble markers. Also, because this was not a terribly bloody affair (we only lost two squads each), there were a lot of reinforcements for the next round, with me taking 4 (including Gordov as the Russians have such a paucity of leaders, a big problem) and Matt getting three, including a veteran Rifle and another veteran Elite Rifle unit. He also took his hero, who ended up scrounging that ampulomet I managed to misfire the first time out. I ended up gaining a decent regimental draw to gain one more platoon option for the next round, as did Matt, and we're both down to 8 points of Fortifications (I took six foxholes to his three at the start of this scenario).

While this wasn't quite as intense as the game Chuck and I played Saturday, it was still very interesting because we didn't really know who was where. I think that Matt played well, although knowing he had to take Obj4 I probably would have skipped one of the two Rifle units he took from his support roll and taken the offensive to get the artillery. He'd already gotten a medium mortar as a reinforcement from the previous game, but never got the smoke laid down to really take advantage of it as he spent so much time fighting off the SMGs from Obj5 and then trying to root me out of Obj1. In the end, just not enough time for him, although had that first Sudden Death roll gone his way (although I did have the initiative at that point) he would have won by a point.

Not the most exciting game of CC, but still a good one with some nice literary elements and a decent storyline. Things start getting a little more desperate in the next scenario, and after that we start making campaign sudden death rolls, so it may come down to a tactical victory with the most recent scenario winner taking it all.

I'm glad we're doing this over time, though, as I'd start to get a little tired of seeing the same types of units on the same maps over and over, and our games typically take 4+ hours as we have to review the prep portion over and over. I think it's time to make up that checklist so I don't have to go back and forth between the Stalingrad book and the CC:M playbook with the scenario generation routine (one references the other more or less constantly). It was nice to get back to the ETO, too, but unlike Mr. Steadman, I am not tied to either theater from either a historical or system standpoint. Both are fun and have their charms. CC remains my favorite wargaming system for it's brevity, story, incredibly clear ruleset, and tension, not to mention that it makes it to the table more than all other wargames I play combined (in part because of those qualities, which makes it easy to find opponents, some of which play very few other wargames).

Thanks to Matt for coming over. We always have a great time, and I'm already looking forward to August. The only dark cloud is twofold - I will be in a courthouse if my name gets called for jury duty, or at a completely different courthouse (for reasons not directly involving me) if it doesn't on our next scheduled date. Here's hoping I don't end up being sequestered on a Grand Jury (for many reasons)...

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