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Subject: Best Comeback Ever: At Rzhev rss

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dave
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Rzhev: Down 0-4, best comeback ever.

So usually in Memoir ’44, once you get behind, you just can’t quite come back. Yes I’ve come back being down a couple of medals many times, but it’s pretty difficult to do since you’re likely down troops, position, and cards. I don’t recall ever coming back from being down 3, let alone 4 medals in a regular M’44 game of 4-7 Medals. Ok, so this comeback was against the DoW AI, but still, it’s got to be about as far as you can get in a regular game.

I’d definitely like to hear of anyone else’s great comebacks.

Historical Background
So Rzhev was part of a free release by DoW back in the day. Rzhev is the uppermost town on the Volga river, about 140 miles west northwest from Moscow and is about a quarter of the way along the Moscow-Riga, Lativia road and rail corridor. This scenario portrays the start of the Russian march from Moscow to Berlin, otherwise known as the "Rzhev meat grinder" since the Russians had huge losses as they bludgeoned themselves against Army Group Center. Eventually the Russians broke through, but historically it was not this day as although the Soviets attacked day and night through snowstorms and bitter cold, the German elite troopers fended off the oncoming Soviets while the Panzers sealed off any breaches in the line. And although Winter Combat Cards are not used, the scenario has a good feel for being historically accurate and the Germans win 69% of the time online.


Fig. 1. Rzhev at start.

Special Rules
The Germans have command superiority with 6 command cards versus 4 cards for the Russians. The Russians have the initiative as they play first. The victory condition is 6 Medals, and there are permanent object medals available for both sides: the axis can capture the town of Sweklino while the allies can capture the town of Noshkino, which is also the German HQ (lose if Command card if captured). In addition the Russians can exit for medals.

Russian Command rules are in effect so the Russians must place their next card under the Commissar chip. In addition, allied armor can only move 2 and battle (not 3). All German infantry are Elite troops (move 2 and fire). And finally, the river is frozen (2 dice, Stars hit when crossing).

Axis Strategy

Advantages: The Dug-In Elite infantry can be very powerful, especially against units backed up on the board edge without a retreat. In addition, the 2 Panzers provide versatility for both offense and defense while the Russian tanks can only move 2. The Medal-town of Sweklino is somewhat vulnerable to attack as the Russian infantry are pinned behind the frozen Volga. Finally, the German Command Card 6-4 advantage can be decisive, especially with the Commissar Chip.

Disadvantages: The Germans are down in manpower 12:17 troops. In addition the Russians have a medal-town and exit conditions.

In spite of the Russians being vulnerable due to lack of retreats, due to the Germans numeric disadvantage in their Right and Center, the Germans really can only press on their Left which also threatens the medal-town. And they really need to have at least 1 panzer in support of the 2 front line Elite infantry. Getting those panzers into action is critical for German success.

Attacking on the Right or Center is highly risky because all too often the Russians counter-attack will just kill you. With only 4 cards and the Commissar Chip, you might get lucky, but it’s risky. The key is to time these attacks to the end of the game, making sure that you have enough firepower to get you to the finish line.

Allies Strategy

Advantages: The Russians have lots of guys, outnumbering the Germans 17:12. There are also the medal-town and exit markers, but they are along way off.

Disadvantages: All of the Russian units start with no retreat available. The Russian tanks are handicapped by only being able to move 2 instead of 3. The 4-card Command Hand is really 3 due to the Commissar Chip.

The clear Russian strength is their Center where they have twice as many units as the Germans, including 2 artillery and 5 tanks ready to go. Klepenino and Opjachitno are very vulnerable to attack and probably should be targeted first. You should expect the Germans to come at you on one of the flanks, so any all-purpose command card should probably be put under the Commissar.

The Left flank is a bit tricky as you want to make sure when you do attack, you attack in force with plenty of follow-up. While your troops are vulnerable on the back row, it’s risky for the Germans to come at you since they likely face a fierce counter-attack so you don’t want to just give the Germans good shots. If you can get by the first 2 infantry, it’s relatively clear to the Objective Medals, but it’s along way—probably too long as it’s almost certain the Germans will be attacking in other sections.

And on the Right, the Volga probably should not be crossed as it’s a 30% chance of getting dinged crossing the frozen river—let the Germans take that risk if they want to get Close Assaults on your guys. The big challenge for the Russians is playing one move ahead with the Commissar Chip. I find this most challenging and satisfying as you need to play at your very best to negate this disadvantage. It is absolute joy to look back over a game knowing that you were not disadvantaged at all with the Commissar as you would have played every card the same way.

Session Report

First Half: Digging the Hole
So the AI comes out swinging with a string of great cards: Move Out, Armor Assault, Move Out, Recon in Force, General Advance (AI glitch only taking 5 orders), and Probe Left— it doesn’t get much better than that. Its first 6 cards resulted in 22 orders for 18 shots, rolling 34 dice for 18 hits, which is a 53% success rate and 4 Medals. Wowzers. Meanwhile I played: Behind Enemy Lines, Close Assault, Direct from Headquarters, Assault Center, Probe Center, and Recon Center. So in contrast, my first 6 cards resulted in only 15 orders (7 less) for 12 shots (6 less), rolling 34 dice (equal!) for 10 hits (8 less), which is a 29% success rate (24% less) and zero Medals (4 less).

Because my guys were in good defensive positions, the quality of my shots were better, which actually made up for the fewer orders, but the dice crapped out on me so I merely wounded a few guys in his backfield. And let’s not forget he is threatening the German Supply Tent with his armor so that could be the game right there. D’oh. And oh, I’m holding two Recons and a Probe Center, an Attack and Probe Left, and Medics and Mechanics. Double D’oh. I suppose to be fair the AI is holding an Assault and Recon Left and 2 Probes Right, one of which is under the Commissar.


Fig. 2. Screenshot of Days of Wonder map when the Russians are up 4-0 and threatening the German HQ.

Fig. 3. The German Command Cards at this point.

Second Half: Digging for Daylight
So I figure the most immediate threat is my HQ supply tent—he kills that guy and takes the town it’s game over. I consider using my Center Probe for 5 shots on his 3-figure infantry, but that might leave my infantry ripe for an overrun back onto the frozen river which sounds like death. Instead I use one of my lowly Recons and shell the infantry so I’ll still have a couple of shots at anyone trying to exit next turn. A hit and a flag take the pressure of my HQ and the exit, and better yet, the Recon pays future dividends by pulling a Direct from HQ!

The AI’s got a Right Probe under the Commissar, so he interrupts with a Recon Left and dings my HQ. My Direct from HQ does some damage to his lead tank and infantry, but still no kills. Finally his Right Probe comes out, but no damage to my lead infantry.

Turn 8: Clawing onto the Scoreboard
Now the tide starts to turn as my Center Assault orders 4 units and I kill his lead tank and rear infantry in an overrun—2 Medals bringing the score to 2-4. Woo-hoo!

Dodging the First Bullet
My celebration is short-lived as the AI plays Artillery Bombard and blasts 5 hits with 11 dice on my 2 Panzers bringing the score to 2-5. Ignoring retreats for simplicity, 6 dice gets 3 tank hits 32% of the time, but that’s only 10% to get both of them. However, his 1st shot takes out my tank (3.7% chance), so then he had 8 shots at the 2nd tank, which kills it 53.2% of the time. Whew, I dodged that bullet, but now I’ve got a single figured tank surrounded by 5 enemies teetering on the edge of defeat with a score of 2-5.


Fig.4, Screenshot of the Artillery Bombardment of my 2 Panzers.

It's Medics and Mechanics to the rescue as my tank gets repaired, but then he can’t finish off the 1-figure armor in the woods, again. Sigh. At least his Left Assault does nothing but bring a couple of guys forward. Of course, neither does my Center Probe as 3 dice whiff on a single-figure infantry, but at least that 1-figure tank retreats out of the woods to the back row.

Dodging the Second Bullet
Next comes an Infantry Assault where 4 Russians spring into action. He’s got 6 shots to kill my guy in Krutiki (34% ignoring retreats), but the dice fail him again as my rabbits flee back with only 1 damage.


Fig.5, Screenshot of the failed Infantry Assault.

Turn 11: Closing the Gap
I counter with a Center Attack and my arty finally finishes off that pesky lead infantry—that was some 6 orders and 18 freaking dice to kill that guy. And of course I get 3/3 hits on that last figure—damn I just hate that ‘wasted’ luck. In addition, my refurbished Panzer finally overruns that 1-figure, back-row tank (88%), but then whiffs on the overrun shot to kill a 2nd back-row armor (50%). But now I’m within striking distance at 4-5.

Dodging the Third Bullet
So the Russians call in a Barrage and target my 3-figure, useless sandbagged, back-row infantry garrisoned in the Supply HQ. And once again he rolls for the win with a 59% chance for the kill—and comes up 1 shot short. Damn this is exciting but I don’t think I can survive another turn…


Fig.6, Screenshot of the failed Barrage.

Turn 12: Never Looking Back
With my back up against the wall, and with the choices of a Center Recon (13% to kill both a 2-fig. tank and arty on the back row) or Left Attack (1.6% for two 3/3 infantry hits) just lacking the firepower to get 2 kills, I roll the dice with Their Finest Hour. Booyah! I, I, I, T, S, f!!!!! The perfect roll. My 3 infantry slaughter two 3-fig infantry (31% for 4 dice to get 3 hits, and 66% for 6 dice to get 3 hits ignoring retreats) to end the game. But I also had a 75% chance to bomb a 1-fig tank on the back row as well as a 69% to blast a 2-fig back row tank and then a possible overrun for a 41% chance to kill a back row arty.


Fig.7, Screenshot showing the Very Finest Hour attack. (There was a glitch in the replay as the final image gave an error)

Bookkeeping
So the AI’s last 6 cards were Recon Left, Probe Right, Artillery Bombard, Assault Left, Infantry Assault, and Barrage which resulted in 13 orders for 11 shots, rolling 26 dice for 10 hits, which is a 38% success rate for 1 Medal. My last 6 cards were Direct from HQ, Assault Center, Medics and Mechanics, Probe Center, Attack Center, and Their Very Finest Hour which resulted in 20 orders (+7) for 21 shots (+10), rolling 46 dice (+20) for 13 hits (+3), which is a 28% success rate for 6 Medals (+5).

So overall we had the same number of orders (35) so the cards evened out; but I had 4 more shots (33 vs. 29) since he was attacking me; and I rolled 20 more dice (80 vs. 60) since I had good defensive cover; but I got 5 less hits (23 vs. 28) and had a 18% lower hit rate (29% vs. 47%); but somehow I managed 1 more Metal (6 vs. 5). Damn, some games you just gotta keep hammering away and finally catch a few breaks to prevail.

Aftermath
I have to say I never thought I’d be able to come back from a 0-4 deficit. Yes, it was ‘just’ against the AI, which does have its limitations, but the AI is quite good at forming fire groups to kill stuff. I did have to survive 3 brushes with death, and Medics and Mechanics proved key to staving off defeat, but it was Their Very Finest Hour which saved the day. Medals to all the boys.

Conclusion
Memoir just continues to shine for me. So much fun and strategy packed into such a little game. And now it's nice to know that comebacks are possible. Bring it. Thanks for reading and if you have your own comeback that you're proud of, please share it below.


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dave
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dave65tdh wrote:
I’d definitely like to hear of anyone else’s great comebacks.

Bah, this was nothing. I was down 1-6 and had the greatest come back EVER.
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