"We will stop the handiwork of these air pirates, so help us God."
“During the war, more bombs by weight were dropped on the city of Berlin than were released on the whole of Great Britain during the entire war.”
BitE Dortmund Campaign AAR, pt 6
Soviet July 1941
I am playing out a solo campaign of Blocks in the East using all optional rules. As I play, I'm taking photos for a session report, which I hope will function also as a review of this game that I have become enthralled by. This is Part 6.
Past installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5
Ingrid Shultz thought about her sons, her brothers, her husband as she made her way to the tram. Her shift in the synthetic oil factory had been held late, again. She could only hope that what Goebbels said over the radio was true, and that German forces needed so much of this fuel because they were driving the enemy so swiftly into ruin. If that was true, if German forces were racing so fast into Russia, that might explain why she'd had no letters from any of her “boys” in such a long time. Or maybe it just seemed a long time, to a mother waiting for news. A faint buzzing sound caught her attention. It was too dark to look up into the sky, but she thought she heard airplanes...
While BitE takes place on the Eastern Front, the Western allies make an appearance during the production phase for both sides. Before German production begins, the Wallies, after July 1941, get to send bombers after German factories.
That is the strategic map, and it shows German cities with specific numbers and types of factories. Newly built factories will be placed here, by the way. The Wallies have, at first, one bomber group, the British 4th Bomber Group. Later, they'll have more bomber groups. The Germans begin with a single unit of interceptors. Fighters can be transferred from the front to help fend off Allied bombers, but the interceptors (notice the block for that fighter is white, not black) are considered strategic assets and cannot be put into the fight with the Russians.
The bombers pick a city to bomb, the interceptors intercept. There is a single round of Air-to-Air combat, each side rolls the number of dice that it has steps. Hits are applied. Then, the German city rolls 6 AA dice, hits are applied to the bombers. Any surviving bomber steps then bomb the city, hits to specific factories reduce the German production that turn by the number of hits. At the end of the strategic war phase, the Allied bombers are fully repaired, automatically. The German fighters have to be repaired during production, same as any other unit.
The Wallies also send Lend-Lease to Russia during the Strategic War Phase of the Russian turn, and Germany has bombers and submarines to try to intercept those shipments. More on them later. I am really glad the Strat War phase is part of this game, I think it's a lot of fun. On this turn, no damage was done to the German fighters or the German production.
Quickly, German Production:
1 yellow to continue repairing Lvov's mines;
1 yellow to begin repairing Minsk's resources;
5 yellow on armor factories (I was notified by another BGG'er that each side starts with some partially constructed factories, for Germany there are 5 armor and 1 oil factory half way finished at campaign start, so I've now got 2 armor at 7 pp, 3 at 6 – in case you're a production geek like me);
1 yellow on an oil factory;
10 yellow and 10 black on HQ's;
2 yellow and 2 blue on a white air step;
5 yellow on artillery re-fits;
6 yellow and 6 red on armor unit re-fits;
5 yellow on infantry unit re-fits;
2 blue and 1 yellow to Romania who re-fitted their fighters to full strength;
1 blue and 2 yellow to Finland, who re-fitted their bombers to full strength.
Reinforcements are per-designated each month (some months there are none). They are placed in home major cities, 1 unit per city max. Germany has a few each month throughout Autumn 1941.
In the North, Germany used a rail move in Finland to drive the Russians back in the center of the country, and invade Murmansk. They lost steps, but they took the port, and it will be a long time before the Russians can get it back, if ever.
Splitting SRMs between North and South, Germany moved its troops into position to strike at Leningrad, but were not able to engage in much combat. The put some Russians OOS, and eliminated some, but it was not a terribly bloody time in the north.
In the south, I thought I had built a credible Soviet defensive line. I may have been wrong. AGC and AGS once again made judicious use of blitz combat, armored exploitation and infantry reserve mode. Here is the situation as August begins.
Here is the situation at the end of the move phase.
The Germans were able to make use of their operational principles of Schwerpunkt (focal point) and Schwerpunktprinzip (concentration principle) to hammer the weak link in the Soviet defense. That attack group is a single armor unit, with artillery, attacking across the river, with air support. I'm learning in this game, the hard way, that a river is a strong defensive point ONLY if the defender has at least close to as many steps as the attacker, or the ability to counter enemy air power. In this case, it's a single step German infantry, and I regret stripping the line to build one near Sevastapol.
After combat, blitz phase and armored exploitation phase, the Germans have created another, and unexpected, encirclement.
I was pretty happy with my leadership of the Germans here, but not so excited about how I'm doing as the Russians. I'll have to see if I think I can counter attack and break the ring next turn, but there aren't many powerful Russian troops coming into play soon.
BTW, when units reach Tech 2, they are able to make desperation attacks if they are OOS. It's a one time, last gasp chance to break free, if they're not back in supply afterward they're eliminated. Sadly for the Russians, they're not at Tech 2 yet.
I realized that I haven't really talked about combat yet in this AAR/Review. If I'm going to call it a review of any kind, I should probably do that, seeing as how it's a war game. If you've played block games, and I think if you've read all this you probably have, this won't be a big shock.
Sequence of Combat
1. Air-to-Air Combat Step (multi-round, simultaneously)
2. Anti-Aircraft Fire Step (1 round, simultaneously)
3. Air-to-Ground Combat Step (1 round, simultaneously)
4. Artillery Fire Step (1 round, Attacker first)
5. Ground Combat Step (1 round, Defender first)
Here is one of the battles from this turn, round by round.
The Germans send a powerful armored force with artillery against two Russian blocks. They also send a lone air unit. Seeing only one air unit, and recognizing that the air unit came from more than 5 hexes away, the Russians realize it's an unescorted bombers unit, so they react with one of their good fighter units. Still, it's an uneven fight as you'll see.
Blurry photo or not, each side rolls the number of dice that it has strength. So the Russians roll 3, the Germans roll 5 (their 5th dice was a miss). Each unit has an offensive and a defensive firepower, and a Tech level. In air-to-air combat, units use their DF, which based on their tech level gives them a to hit number. Tech 2 bombers and Tech 1 fighters (what we have here) both hit on 6. So the German bombers scored one hit, vs. 0 for the Russian fighters.
At the end of the first round of air-to-air combat, first the defender (the Russians) then the attacker may withdraw. If both sides stay, another round of combat occurs. That happens until only one side has units remaining in the hex, or until both are eliminated. This combat is simultaneous. The Russians, now badly outnumbered, retire their fighters.
Each unit that will be attacked in air-to-ground combat fires AA, 1 die per step. The Russians roll poorly, and score no hits. Note that the German bombers, here at full strength, has a 5 strength, and its next step down is a 3. In that case, if the unit suffers a single hit, it is not yet reduced. It retains the hit throughout this combat, and if hit a second time, is then reduced. If it takes 2 more hits in the following round, it would be reduced all the way to a 2. That is not going to happen.
The bombers now attack, rolling 5 dice. A Tech 2 bomber (using OF since it's attacking) hits on 5-6, so it scores 1 hit. That hit is applied.
Artillery fires next. Tech 2 artillery hits on 5-6. The German cannon score 2 hits, eliminating the last Russian unit. Excess hits are lost.
One very neat aspect of BitE is that artillery is reduced a step after it fires (it's low on ammo). If there were future combat rounds, or future combat, it would roll only 2 dice. It's also good that units in the combat MUST fire. Otherwise, the side with a huge advantage would not bother firing its artillery.
The winning side remains in the hex.
Some other things about combat, since we didn't use one that went the distance:
1. The attacker artillery fires before any defensive fire;
2. The defending artillery, if any, then fires;
3. Then defending ground units fire;
4. Finally the attacker fires;
5. Any hits scored are applied as they're scored, so if the attacker arty scores a hit and reduces the defender's arty, then that unit fires at its reduced strength.
After the attacker fires, if both sides have units remaining in the hex, first the defender, then the attacker, can retreat. If no retreats are done, the combat sequence is replayed, as many times as needed, until only one side has units remaining in the hex. There cannot be simultaneous annihilation in a battle hex involving ground units, one side will always be victorious.
Optional rules allow cavalry and/or armor units that are attacking infantry in the open to fire before the defender, Cavalry Charge and Panzers Attack! If that option is used, and defenders survive, the cav or armor unit(s) that made the attack must suffer hits first.
Hits are applied, in most cases, by the owning player, with some discretion. First, all full strength units must suffer one hit before any other unit can suffer one. So you can't just let your 2 step infantry take two hits to keep your armor at full strength. Second, the strongest unit in the hex must suffer the first hit. If there's a tie, the defender chooses.
Notice how that allows a side with a unit that needs two hits to suffer a step loss to absorb some damage before weakening any units? That's part of this game's combat system I quite like, and I think understanding it is critical to making a successful offensive over time.
Terrain provides combat modifiers, either reducing the fire power of the attackers by a Malus, which means the attacker rolls ½ dice, rounded down, or by providing a to hit bonus of +1, making each dice the unit throws more deadly. Some terrain does both. All modifiers are cumulative.
There is one final optional rule that I really love, which is relevant here. It is Air Recon, and I think it's brilliant. If an attacking player has aircraft making air-to-ground attacks, or artillery firing, he wants to, if possible, fly an air recon mission over the hex first. To use air units in combat, an air HQ must be activated, and it can activate as many air units as it has steps. In addition to that, for each step the HQ has when activated, it can make an air recon roll. It picks a hex (does not have to be a battle hex) within range (same range as fighters at current tech level) and rolls a die. A modified 4 is a successful roll, modifiers that help are for the rolling players' Fighter Tech, terrain and weather give modifiers that hurt. If the hex is in the clear in good weather, a side with Tech 2 fighters automatically succeeds.
A successful roll does two things – it forces the enemy player to reveal all the blocks he has in that hex, AND it allows the attacking air units and/or artillery to target a specific block (announced before rolling). So if there's a defending artillery unit, for instance, and the attacker rolls three total arty / air hits, they may all be applied to that arty unit, leaving it to roll only 1 die in combat.
Even if you think that's a cool rule, it's about to get cooler. When armored units blitz, any air or artillery units that were in their original combat may follow them. If the player did not think to perform an air recon on the blitz hex during the movement phase, then those air and arty units get a Malus (half dice) in the first round of that combat! So you have to move and activate your air HQ with more in mind that just which air units you want to send on the attack. You have to consider which hexes you want to recon, and how you can do that, planning ahead also to the blitz phase.
I talked before about elegant rules, I find the air recon rule in this game to be elegant as well. It adds a fun and interesting level of planning and decision making without adding a great deal of complication (once you memorize the modifiers, which takes about 2 turns of game play, the air recon rolls are no-chart-or-rulebook consultation needed affairs). Once again I'll note that, for players who find BitE fiddly, this may be one of the fiddly aspects. I would certainly understand that, although this is an optional rule. Except in my case, I would not play the game without it.
So August 1941 comes to a close. Many fewer Russian dead this turn, but that will change soon.
Holy cow, did this end up being super long or what? I keep trying to cut the length of these things down, but I haven't succeeded. These early turns are quite important, and I'm also trying to incorporate a review of the game into the AAR, along with a lot of photos. Once I'm done explaining rules along the way, I'll have fewer words to write. When winter sets in, there will be several turns without a lot of action, as the Germans hunker down and try to survive the unexpected cold, and the Russians see hope come in the form of very powerful shock armies. Thanks for reading all this way.
Ingrid Shultz was not a vulgar woman. She could not remember ever swearing, as a child or an adult. Not during the birth of any of her numerous children, not after reaching the front of the bread lines to find out her million marks were not enough to buy food for them. And certainly, she'd never taken the Lord's name in Vain. As she looked at the fires raging in the city, and stared at the flashes of anti-aircraft guns stalking the bombers, she could not help herself. "Damn you," she almost whispered. Then she heard screams, and screamed herself, "Damn you all!" If she'd known then that what she saw tonight was but the smallest taste of the Hell to come, she might have said more.
- Last edited Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:22 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:34 am
Brilliant AAR series, the game looks great. Just a quick question - what part does Battlestar Galactica play (first image in this post)??
Brilliant AAR series, the game looks great. Just a quick question - what part does Battlestar Galactica play (first image in this post)??
The germans get a basestar at tech level 4?