Thursday, December 01, 2011

AE:TK - The Fall of France Runthrough - Intro

I've discussed some of the things I've been learning while going through the training scenarios in Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg. So far we've covered Case White and Barbarossa, now it's time to go into a little more depth and display the basics of the game through a multi-part session report on scenario A.3, The Fall Of France, but first I'll discuss the new rules and mechanisms introduced in this training scenario.

The major addition in this scenario is neutral minor countries, but we'll also be paying more attention to an increased set of support units (primarily naval), airdrops, and how to conquer a minor.

This scenario begins in Mar-Apr of 1940, so the Germans get to try to conquer three different minor countries! They aren't the countries you might think of at first blush - Denmark-Norway (one country), Belgium-Holland (one country) and France. Luxembourg doesn't even rate a hex, sucks to be them. The German goal is to flip the marker on the VP track to the Axis Tide side, which will require them capturing three strategic hexes - Oslo, Antwerp, and Paris.

A quick look at the VP track shows us why this is the case. The marker starts on the Allied Crusade side, and since the Axis haven't captured any Soviet or Western strategic hexes, that means the marker goes on the +1 box, meaning 0 to -5 strategic hexes captured by the Axis. If they capture one or two, the marker would go to the 0 box, but the marker won't flip until they've captured their third strategic hex, which moves it back to the +1 box but on the Axis Tide side. Something to be said for momentum, I guess.

In this scenario, France (a minor country) is at war but Denmark-Norway (DN) and Belgium-Holland (BH) are neutral. Before the Axis can move in and start rearranging the furniture, they will need to declare war on these countries. There are a couple of ways they can do this, but as you may remember from the Barbarossa discussion one is much better than the other, and that is to do it via an option card at the start of the Axis turn rather than during the War and Peace segment at the end of the turn. The difference is that your opponent doesn't get a chance to react much when using an option card, plus there can be some advantages if there are rolls on a Political table. Or sometimes disadvantages. All part of the fun!

Once a neutral minor has had war declared on it, there is a series of steps you go through to decide if that minor aligns with the Soviets or the West, some things that happen that are beyond the scope of this scenario if the country has certain statuses, and then units get placed on the map if there are enough of them. It's a pretty straightforward process in this scenario.

Minors are conquered once the enemy faction controls all of their cities during the conditional event phase. At that point their units are removed from the board and placed in the Conquered Minor Country Forces box in the Force Pool of the faction they are aligned with (so Poland's units go to the Western Allies Force Pool in a historical game). Very specific things have to happen to get that nation's forces back on the board, and they are outside the scope of this scenario.

For DN, this means taking Copenhagen and Oslo. For BH, it means Antwerp and Rotterdam. For France, it would normally be very difficult to take every city, but fortunately for the Axis they have the Case Yellow card to play, which means that if they control Paris or any three cities in France while that's the active card, they can invoke the Case Yellow conditional event which has it's own rules. No matter how hard you try, you just can't get past the unusual situation that was the Fall of France when it comes to ETO wargames.

While we saw the use of convoys in Barbarossa, now we see actual naval forces, including the possibility of a carrier-based air strike. It is also possible for a naval invasion to be carried out, but extremely unusual. In general, naval support units work much as their air units do - they have to be able to trace to an Open Port in their home country, they need to have Open Ports or Naval Bases in sea zones between the port of origin and their destination zone, and they need a Naval Base in the zone they end up in. They may go into a hex (if they're going to make a CV Strike or place a Beachhead) or "on station" in the zone which limits enemy naval activity. As with air units, naval support unit placement can be contested. The permutations are a bit overwhelming, but fortunately there's a very good play aid that covers all support units, their placement, and what they do, as well as reminding you of the definitions of Naval Bases and Open Ports.

The other new thing is Airdrops, which happen during the Blitz segment. In a nutshell, you have Paratroop units that you can use in an Airdrop within X hexes of their current spot by flipping the unit to it's Airdrop Marker side. After Blitz combat, they are dropped in the space in question, but in the meantime they can cut off retreat. The obvious spot for such a thing in this game is Oslo, which means the Axis doesn't need to cross water in boats, although I'm sure we'll be able to find other uses if that isn't necessary.

The only other thing that gets introduced is a few more conditional events, such as Their Finest Hour, Paris Threatened, Allied Minor Power Conquest, and of course Case Yellow.

The scenario is also good practice for when France gets invaded, of course, which is the other big milestone for the Axis (usually). The invasion of Scandinavia also gives the Axis a chance to compare going after a very weak country that benefits from geography vs a stronger minor with weak geography.

We'll take a look at the first German turn in the next installment.

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