Friday, September 25, 2009

D-Day at Omaha Beach - Further Impressions

I finished up my first play through of the full game through 16 turns, ending in a catastrophic defeat. That means one side of the board lost 8 infantry units, which in turn means that they were reduced to one step or less. In my case, I had just figured out that I actually had a shot at hitting the magic 20 points by the last turn if no Germans showed up to contest the easternmost draw (the tiny one on the far right of the board). The 29th took a huge beating on that side of the board, although they did well cleaning things out. By comparison, the 1st was in much better shape in terms of infantry, but their other units had taken a huge beating, and they weren't going to be able to take a draw because so many reinforcement units had taken up positions firing into the draws. I lost on turn 14 when the eighth infantry unit from the 29th was reduced to a single step.

I'm not sure I learned as much as I might have hoped about this system, but there were a few things I picked up during the game...

  • Occasionally you'll run into a defense code that is difficult or impossible to match unless you are very lucky (such as the NA code that requires a naval bombardment, and it's extremely unlikely you'll get such an event during a 16 turn game). If you can build up a large enough force against such a position, you can still knock it out through attrition, if you're willing to take the hits. One steppers are great for this sort of thing if you aren't using them for garrison duty of WNs and reinforcement hexes. And don't forget the value of heroes as wild cards - place them where they will be able to take out these positions, especially if that's where your main push is. 
  • Artillery is useless in the early game unless it's near an HQ. Understand where arty and the HQs enter the game and plan to place them so that you can use it with relative ease. Save the general for the primary push inland, as they can scale bluffs and cliffs. Most late game units come in in a range of entry spaces, so be smart about where everything goes. 
  • If you can flip enemy positions at low risk to your infantry, it's probably worthwhile. If nothing else, you can always bombard those positions with a few well-located tanks and keep their heads down. Don't underestimate the value of disrupted units in terms of both step losses and clearing the beaches. 
  • While getting anything other than infantry onto the beach more or less intact is a huge crapshoot, it's worth spreading them out as much as possible. For example, you can get an AR attack code from antitank units, but few other types. If they're all bunched up in a single spot, they won't be of much use. 
  • Download the very useful two-page player aid that lists the various priorities and US attack requirements from the 'Geek. This aid limited my rules lookups to about one a turn, down from something like six. Very useful.
  • Attack everywhere initially. Fortunately, the system more or less allows you to do this because of placement, but you want to have flipped as many of the WN positions as quickly as possible to allow for bombardment by armored units, as these units typically are worn down to nubs by the 8th turn or so, and they require flipped units in order to bombard. 
  • Make it a priority to get units out of Intense Fire hexes as quickly as possible. Consider advancing into these hexes very carefully, and if you are approaching your catastrophic loss limit you might even consider falling back and keeping your two-step infantry units in Sparse Fire hexes at worst. I lost my game when I pressed a little too hard a turn before and I lost the step in a Steady Fire hex. If the other part of the map is doing better in terms of losses, you can always press there. 
  • Understand the terrain limitations carefully, especially in terms of where non-infantry units can go. Those anti-tank barriers aren't barriers to movement at all if there's a road going through the hex. 
  • Similarly, understand the implications of communications and control for the end game. A victory hex is no such thing if you can't trace an LOC back to the beach over a bluff hexside. You should be coming up with a general plan of how to hit 20 VP by turn 8 at the latest, earlier if you can. While additional German reinforcements can screw this up a bit, you can plan for this and thwart those efforts if you can get friendlies into the spaces they might appear in. 
There are other subtleties I'm sure I'm missing, such as being smart about not grouping (or grouping) units with similar targeting symbols in a given field of fire, and exactly when to realize that catastrophic loss is a real threat (I think it's probably after your sixth unit loss in a given division). 

Next up, I intend to try out the second half scenario to learn the extended game rules before trying a full game. This timeframe changes things considerably, with the codes for German fire changing their behavior, a doubled turn length that means twice as many events and more activations, establishing engineering and HQ bases, quicker movement for vehicles, and radically different terrain and challenges. Should be very interesting...

I continue to be very impressed with this game in terms of the low AI admin load and the interesting choices you are given. I'm starting to get the sense that it's as important to follow doctrine with the various unit types in order to get the most out of them as well. For the just-past-novice wargamer and beyond, this title is still Highly Recommended.

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