Saturday, July 18, 2009

Take The Hill!

Chuck came over today for some badly needed gaming on both our parts. On the table, a particularly fun game of Combat Commander: Pacific, specifically scenario H, where the Marines take some hill on Iwo Jima. Chuck took the role of the noble Marines, while I was the devious Japanese hiding in my caves.

One thing I discovered pretty quickly was that CC:P is a much different game in a lot of ways compared to it's ETO sibling. There are a ton of rules changes, from how smoke dissipates to how units recover to the much richer asset management rules. I think all of these are for the best, although we did have some points where we forgot a couple of rules (such as units in caves can only fire downslope or checking for arty/air busting fortifications). Note that I'd played the A scenario (Filipino hemp fields! Maybe someone will start a blaze!), but it didn't have the cave rules and they made things very interesting.

The Japanese start out on the four-level hill in the middle of the map, and have six caves and seven wire markers. I placed the wire off to the sides to nudge the Marines to the center of the map where I could shoot at them. Because of the high hill wall, units in caves can shoot at more or less anything that moves for much of the game, and I had three caves on that face. Two more were set forward and one as a bug-out/backstop in case the Yanks got past my main defenses and started running off the board. Our extra objectives (aside from the mandatory Obj5 worth 10 points) were Obj4 worth 1 (yippee, my secret obj) and Chuck's public +1 VP for eliminating units.

I was blessed with no fire cards at all early, and Chuck got his forces moving forward quickly, then was able to lay smoke screens to protect them. However, I was having good success in breaking them but not eliminating them, and at one point I'd broken 9 of 16 units on the board. The whole Revive mechanism adds better control to the game, and players can pick and choose which units recover or have suppression markers removed. Chuck had a terrible time getting these cards early, however, but his smoke from his howitzer kept them from dying too quickly.

Things started going wrong when he managed to start blowing up my caves by having the explosives actions when he rolled doubles against my forward bases, negating my defensive advantage. I did manage to hold out extra long in the first cave he destroyed, and ran from his flamethrowers in the second. Remember that latter unit, as it played a big role later on.

However, my deck moved along *very* slowly, although I often had fire cards handy, and more than a couple of Panji pits. As such, the time marker didn't move very briskly and Chuck was able to root out one of my two medium MG nests along the top of the hill. He also managed to break through in the center and drive on the main objective, which we nicknamed the Mess Hall as it was the only building on the map. Unfortunately, that unit that had run from an early melee in a forward cave couldn't move fast enough to get there before Chuck did, so now *I* had to root *him* out.

Amazingly, I did so. I had to hold an Advance card in hand for about ten turns while I tried to knock out enough of the three units in that space to advance with my lone unit, and I was thinking I had a good chance to win the game if the time triggers would just cooperate. They did not. As we approached the sudden death marker, the game got very close, even with Chuck controlling the Mess Hall, and he got a very large stack adjacent to the last MMG nest, now in a convenient hidden pillbox (I ended up with three of these over the course of the game). He managed to knock out my last leader, and it was all over but the shouting. We agreed that it was one of the most entertaining and fun CC scenarios we'd ever played.

CC:P definitely mixes things up with the Japanese. I had placed one unit hidden with the plan to use it to infiltrate at some point later on, and that actually worked out to some extent. I put the unit far in his backfield, but because the map determines exit points instead of just getting a unit off, I ended up with no points in that department, but was able to bring the unit on to help try to take the Mess Hall back. However, the unit never did really get into the action.

The Japanese deck has some definite oddities. Charge cards are useless unless a specific event happens, but if it did things would have been crazy. There are only 10 Move cards in the whole Japanese deck, but 10 Advance cards. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to get those cards to use the Caves as much as I'd have liked, although I did neglect to consider that you can use them to advance from one cave to another where your opponent is hiding. This would have been a good choice in a couple of instances and might have made the difference for me, but now I know better. Also, no Command Confusion Orders, although the Charge cards make up for that to some extent, as do Infiltrates and Reconnaissance (especially late when I didn't have any leaders to activate them with).

If you've played CC:E/M, you'll definitely want to start with scenarios that avoid caves, but there's really no way to avoid the really big changes that happen, especially in the Asset Request/Denied Order set, which gives the players a lot more variety of actions. The net result is a very different feel, but a good one. This is still one of my favorite wargames and if you like tactical games and can tolerate more chaos than many other wargames, you'll like it. If you want more control, I'd recommend Conflict of Heroes over this as you are always allowed to do what you want within the context of action points rather than hoping you have the right card. CC:P, however, is a great addition to the CC family and if you liked E/M, you'll love P.

Thanks to Chuck for coming over and gaming. We had a great time as always, which was something I sorely needed, and I'm very fortunate to have him as a friend and opponent (as I am with all of my gaming friends).

1 comment:

Joe Steadman said...

I'd agree... I have played that very battle and had a much different result. I was also the Japanese but lucky for me the Marines called in arty on them self twice and thanks to events I had an Inf Gun, a leader, and one of those tree snipers appear at crucial times. I am still a bigger fan of CC:E/M but that may just be my preference for all things ETO.