Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once ( in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?
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Not much of a Breakthrough

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
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When I play Memoir '44 online, I usually do so on the Days of Wonder app (also available on Steam). The advantage of this is that the software implements the game, so you can't do anything that would break the rules. And it's quick to play, too - though an undo option would be so useful (for those occasions when you click the wrong thing). However, the app doesn't support more recent expansions to the game, notably my favourite, the Breakthrough expansion, or the terrific New Flight Plan.

Conversely, the (excellent) implementation on Vassal does include Breakthrough (and New Flight Plan). However, it's essentially manual play - you have to know and apply the rules, just like a face-to-face game.

For my latest encounter with regular opponent Evert, I persuaded him to use Vassal and try a Breakthrough scenario. (If you're not familiar with Breakthrough, it uses a larger board - the same width, but much deeper - and a revised deck of Command cards where Section cards let players move - but not battle with - units in addition to those they've ordered.)

We decided to try "Counter-attack of the BEF". A mixed French and British force is trying to stem the German blitzkrieg in northern France in May 1940, pre-Dunkirk. The Allied force is on the attack, with the Germans spread over half the board and defending. Here are the starting positions (from Vassal), Allies at the bottom. Note there are also two British units holding Arras (left centre edge), which is a victory medal objective for the Axis.
From gallery of Pevans

Evert plumped for the Allies as he prefers attacking. No problem for me, I'm a defensive General (my wargaming days also taught me I'm a better commander of infantry than cavalry/armour). While Evert started moving units forward - a slow process even with the extra movement options - I attacked Arras. Some good shooting, along with long-range fire from my mobile artillery, eliminated a defending unit and I was able to occupy the town for a second medal. [That's 2:0 to the Axis]

The French troops on Evert's right wing moved fastest and engaged the forward German units. However, I had brought up some tanks. They removed two French units and inflicted damage on the other flank. Evert's attacks caused casualties (and forced my battery of 88s to retreat), but didn't eliminate anything. [4:0] (The movement lines show the advance of the German tanks and removal of French units. I've also retreated a battered infantry unit - with panzerfausts - to the woods. The red markers indicate the British infantry I targeted on the left.)
From gallery of Pevans

Allied armour in the centre and right moved up in force to engage the German forces. The exchange of fire between the French and German armour on the Allied right saw the French tanks destroyed. [5:0] But the British armour claimed two German tank units [an "Armour Assault" card] in response and advanced across the railway to surround the town of Agny. [5:2]
From gallery of Pevans

The Germans counter-attacked strongly, removing two of the British armour units in turn. [7:2]
From gallery of Pevans

[After two hours play, we saved the game at this point and came back to it a week later - Evert reckoned he had a strategy to try.]

The first thing that happened was that I finished off the third British armour in the centre [a "Behind Enemy Lines" card]. [8:2] The British infantry moved forward. I continued long-range pot-shots with my mobile artillery. First, this damaged the last British tank unit, then it finished off the British infantry in the Arras fortress. [9:2]

Time for the Germans to attack. Moving up my remaining tanks in the centre, I took out an advancing British infantry. [10:2]
From gallery of Pevans

However, the British artillery was now in range of Arras and eliminated my infantry holding the town, depriving me of that medal. [9:3] Quite rashly, I continued to press the attack.
From gallery of Pevans

I lost two infantry and one armour in exchange for the last British tanks and regaining the medal for Arras. [11:6] With nothing much left of my right wing, I switched my attack to the centre. German infantry advanced across the railway track, forcing back the last French unit. British infantry and artillery supported the French, but the German infantry continued forward.

However, the end came when German planes ["Air Power"] took out a heavily damaged British infantry unit hiding at the back of the battlefield. [12:6] Here are the final positions with the target of that air strike (bottom left) about to become the 12th medal. Time for the BEF to retreat to Dunkirk.
From gallery of Pevans

That was a total of three hours playing time - much longer than a standard M44 scenario. Luckily, Evert agrees with me that the Breakthrough expansion adds depth and subtlety to the game, it doesn't just take longer.

Now, how well can I do when we swap sides to play again?
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