Last week, Tom and I played Tide of Iron's fan-made scenario Winter War. For a full description of the scenario, and our complete battle report, see HERE.
During our previous game, things went badly very quickly for the Soviets. But we liked the scenario, and wanted to try it again to see if there could be a different result. So we sat down yesterday and gave it a second shot.
Once more, the Finns gripped their weapons tightly and peered through binoculars as a group of Soviet infantry and two massive KV-1 tanks entered view. Four heavily-laden supply trucks split from the main Soviet body and turned south to creep along the road, accompanied by two grim Soviet squads.
Short scenario description: the Soviets have two paths to victory: either take the fortified building in the top left, or exit trucks out the bottom left. They have seven Rounds to accomplish either victory condition. The Soviets have many disadvantages, but they do have two KV-1 tanks which the Finns can only challenge with relatively weak AT squads.
The Finns must set up their defenses first, and the Soviet player goes first. But the Finnish troop are of better quality than the Soviets, and there are more of them, and they can adopt a defensive posture (including three Concealed squads) right from the start.
Last time, Tom tried to focus exclusively on the “exit trucks” victory path, but it didn’t work out. With the building unthreatened, the Finns were able to strip those defenses and focus everything on stopping the trucks. The trucks were forced by circumstances and the scenario clock to keep moving forward even when it exposed them to attack; and they soon fell to mortar fire and an assault, ending the Soviet chances.
Yesterday we tried the scenario a second time to see what the Soviets could do with the benefit of experience. Can this new Soviet leader avoid his predecessor's sudden recall to HQ for "questioning"?
As the Finns, my deployment resembled the first game. Once again I guarded the road with two machine guns (one forward, and one waaay back at the western edge of the road where it could start on the victory point to claim it during deployment). I also placed an AT squad near the forward MG, but safely out of sight.
I was careful this time to position a squad where it could see the full Soviet deployment zone and spot for my mortars; this was the concealed AT squad at the bottom tip of the main woods, near the middle of the map.
Tom split the Soviet deployment in two. The trucks with accompanying infantry started on the road; and the bulk of his infantry with both tanks in support were deployed at the western edge of his deployment zone, so they could start advancing right away on the fortified building.
The two Soviet Officers are critical, because in this scenario the Soviets suffer from the “Soviet Command Restrictions” Operations card. This prevents Soviet squads from rallying normally; they can only recover from Pin or Disrupt if an Officer is present in the hex, or by paying one Command per squad. Tom deployed one Soviet Officer in a squad with the forces attacking the building. The other went in a Machine Gun squad accompanying the trucks.
Starting Strategy Cards:
Tom drew (Reinforcement deck) Reinforcement Battalion, and (Morale deck) Desperation.
I drew all three of my cards from the Morale deck: Take Down the Beast, Go to Ground, and Go to Ground.
Reinforcement Battalion (cost 4): Bring on two regular squads as reinforcements.
Desperation (cost 2): As an action, flip a Fatigue token to its Opportunity Fire side. (Use three times.)
Take Down the Beast (cost 1): When combining fire against a Heavy Vehicle, gain 3 additional Firepower.
Go to Ground (cost 1): Conceal any of your non-fatigued squads in a hex not containing other units. Add a dummy counter to the hex as well.
Round 1 was pretty straightforward. In the north, Tom moved the bulk of his forces (including both tanks) toward or into the gully (“balka”) terrain, which would offer him a concealed route across the top of the map to the fortified house.
The most significant event was a Finnish mortar shot on a pair of Soviet squads in the open that pinned both of them (A). This left Tom few options but to move his sole Officer in that part of the map into the same hex, so that he could rally both squads at the end of the Round without spending Command. But that clump of three infantry would be a priority target for the Finnish mortars on Round 2.
In the south, Tom moved his squads and trucks forward, mindful of the scenario's time pressures. My concealed Machine Gun revealed itself to take an Op Fire shot at the Soviet squad that was headed for the Command hex, and Pinned it.
Command and Status Phases
Tom had started the game with four Command. He received one Command this turn. He paid one to unpin his squad on the road, put one into Initiative, and kept three in reserve.
I received three Command. I put one in Initiative, paid one to activate Take Down the Beast, and kept one in reserve. Since Initiative was tied, it switched to the Finns.
Tom drew (Morale) Take Down the Beast – useless to him, as I had no tanks. I drew (Morale) All or Nothing.
All or Nothing (cost 2): Remove an activation token from one of your units.
(A) Because I had initiative, I opened the Round with two mortar shots against Tom’s cluster of three squads in the northeast. (The first shot only pinned a single squad; so I followed up with a second shot which pinned or Disrupted everyone.) This was a frustrating setback for the Soviets, as their squads could now do nothing this Round, and would still be stuck in the open again at the start of the next Round. And that was three squads -- half the allocated infantry force -- that weren’t supporting the assault on the building.
Tom moved his other infantry in the north forward along the gully. But he wanted to do something about those crippling mortars; so he began to move his tanks in an arc down and around the woods. He started by moving one tank directly next to my concealed AT squad to reveal its position (B). That AT squad took a shot at close range ... with no effect. (Seven dice for 4+ produced only one success, which the KV-1's armour shrugged off easily.) The AT squad looked doomed with its position revealed, and a tank now parked at close range.
Down on the road (C), Tom’s machine gun fired but failed to pin the Finnish MG. The Finnish MG then pinned the Soviet squad as it advanced onto the Command objective. The Soviet trucks advanced up the road, compelled to keep moving by their tight schedule; and the same Finnish MG, rolling two dice for 5s, managed to lightly damage one of them. The AT squad used a move-and-fire action to advance to the leading edge of the woods and lightly damaged another.
Command and Status Phases
I earned three Command and put all of them into Initiative, leaving one in reserve.
Tom earned three Command and put all three into Initiative, tying us at 4; the Soviets took Initiative. He also paid one to unpin his squad on the southern Command objective, leaving him with two in reserve.
Tom drew (Morale) Take Cover; I drew (Morale) Rally Cry.
This was a setback for Tom; he really needed that Rally Cry card to help unpin his squads, but once again I had snatched it from the Soviets.
Take Cover (cost 2): Once per turn, when one of your fresh units is attacked, add two Cover dice. (Use three times.)
Rally Cry (cost 2): As an action, remove one Pinned or Disrupted token from one of your squads. (Use three times.)
Tom had Initiative and wasted no time using his KV-1 to fire on the revealed AT squad. (B) He rolled six dice looking for 4s; but came up with just two. Planning to finish the AT squad off before it could attack, he fired at it with his second KV-1; but six dice for 5s came up with just one success, and the AT squad rolled one Cover success to match it. The squad had survived with two figures!
In response the same AT squad fired at the adjacent KV-1, but on five dice scored only one success; Tom rolled three armour successes and shrugged off the hits.
As my second action (A) my mortar once again fired on the cluster of three Soviet squads in the northeast, and pinned all three. (The mortar was making a single die roll and applying that result to all targets in the hex. Tom had one Cover against Suppression attacks thanks to the Officer, but that was seldom helping against a four-dice attack.)
In the south (C), I could see that my MG in the building in the southwest could be threatened by Tom’s tank if it made it around the tip of the central woods and into the Finnish rear. To keep it out of the tank’s eventual LOS, and to stall the trucks’ advance, I moved the MG out of the building and directly up the road.
This left the MG exposed in the middle of the road, but it also plugged the road for the trucks; those trucks could not leave the road (as a scenario restriction), and could not move through an enemy squad. As long as a Finnish squad remained on the road, the Soviet trucks were trapped. And Tom had few squads in the immediate area to threaten even the exposed MG, while I now had three squads to trap and deal with the trucks. Things looked bad for the Soviet supplies.
Middle of Round 3: Finns assault a pair of Soviet trucks
At one point this Round, a pair of trucks (one lightly damaged) had advanced up the road and sat adjacent to the Finnish AT squad. Rather than fire, which could only affect one truck, the Finnish squad Assaulted them, hoping to destroy both. I rolled six dice (gaining +2 dice from the Finnish Merciless Assault) and scored three hits. Tom put two on the undamaged truck, lightly damaging it; and the third on the damaged truck, destroying it. The surviving truck retreated one hex back up the road.
(In a subsequent post in this thread, I’ll examine the scenario clock that was driving these trucks forward relentlessly despite the Finnish threat – particularly the trucks that were lightly damaged and had Movement 3, sharply constraining their options.)
Command and Status Phases
Tom and I both earned three Command. Tom put none in Initiative, spent two to activate Take Cover, and kept four in reserve. I spent one on Initiative, for a total of five to Tom’s four; the Finns took Initiative. I spent two to active Rally Cry, leaving one in reserve.
I drew (Command) Heroic Leadership (+) and Cut Communications (+). Tom drew (Reinforcements) Hardened Veterans.
Heroic Leadership (cost 2): Remove all Pinned and Disrupted tokens from a hex. If an Officer is present in the selected hex, do the same for all adjacent hexes.
Cut Communications (cost 1): Remove all Command from both Initiative pools.
Hardened Veterans (cost 1): Take up to 2 regular Infantry figures and add them to any squads.
This round was a bit complicated, but the key events were:
(A) I had Initiative, and wanted to take out that KV-1 in the middle of the map before it decimated the battered AT squad in the middle of the board.
Last Round I had seen how poorly a single AT squad fared against the KV-1 even at close range. So to beef up the firepower, I used a Move and Fire action to advance a nearby, fresh AT squad next to the KV-1, and fired on the tank at close range. The damaged AT squad, also adjacent to the tank, supported this attack. This let me use the Take Down the Beast card, giving me +3 dice.
Together the squads managed four hits on the KV-1, which managed only one Armour success. The tank was Heavily Damaged: it was now immobilized and reduced to half firepower.
Elsewhere in the north I fired at Tom’s clump of three squads with the mortar, but scored no successes; as a result, those squads finally dashed forward this Round to escape the open ground into the protection of the gully.
Tom’s damaged KV-1 shot at the weakened AT squad next to it, but scored only one hit. The squad lost its third figure, leaving only the Officer himself.
(B) At this point, seeing that there was no chance to move the second tank down in the same direction and keep it alive, Tom moved his second KV-1 north to the top of the hill in support of his assault up the gully.
Although I had squads on Op Fire at the bottom of that hill, I didn’t want to fire at the tank with them; even hitting at 4+ the odds weren’t great, and this would have used up their Op Fire attacks and left them unable to react if Tom then moved his infantry forward along the gully.
(C) In the south, Tom at last pinned my MG guarding the road with his own MG. He then tried to follow up with an assault by his second squad; but even pinned and at half firepower, the Finnish MG shrugged off the assault. Tom’s dice came up with just one hit, which was absorbed by cove; and in return, the pinned MG squad inflicted two casualties on the Soviets, repulsing the assault and pushing the squad back up the road.
(D) During the remainder of the Round, a combination of Finnish MG, AT, and mortar attacks managed to destroy the last three trucks.
Tom’s trucks were now eliminated, and with that the southern route to victory was permanently closed. But Tom now had a respectable mass of troops in the gully, and his KV-1 parked there in support. My AT squads were all several hexes away, occupied with trucks and the other KV-1. Could Tom push home the assault and take the building in the remaining Rounds?
Command and Status Phases
I earned three Command. I examined my Strategy cards and decided to keep two Command in reserve. I put the remaining two in Initiative.
Tom also earned three Command, and paid four to bring the two squads of his Reinforcement Battalion in the southern entrance. He put nothing in Initiative, and so the Finns retained it for Round 5.
We drew Strategy cards: I drew (Winter Tactics) Out of Fuel, and Tom drew (Command) Critical Objective.
Out of Fuel (cost 2): Fatigue one enemy vehicle that is not currently in Opportunity Fire mode.
Critical Objective (cost 2): Once per turn, give the active unit +2 Movement Points (use three times).
UP NEXT: Round 5, in which Tom tries to bring home the assault on the fortified building.
- Last edited Mon Oct 17, 2016 6:42 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:17 pm
Good AAR read. Looking forward to reading what happens next.
Right now, sounds like Tom has been getting a bit of bad luck. Die rolls and card pulls can sometimes have an influence in a game of Tide of Iron: Next Wave. - Oh those random dice and cards and how sometimes they can change the fortunes and misfortunes of wargaming.
From watching my friends play this scenario many times, I have noticed that a few scenario tactics develop quickly. They are listed below, but "concealed" until you move next to and click to reveal (possible spoiler alert).
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The Soviets should consider calling in reinforcements for the first two rounds of the game (normally advancing towards the building), after that, it depends. Also, the Soviet infantry and/or tanks should almost always lead the trucks (using the road) to take the attacks or to attack. And finally, if there is a mortar threat the Soviets need to not have more than one squad in a hex if they can help it.
Russians definitively have a better position this time. Lots of infantry ready to assault the building. And a tank at point blank range.
Sometimes you feel guilty about your luck in the course of a game, and this was one of those times. Tom had at last positioned himself for his grand assault on the fortified building, his imposing KV-1 perched defiantly on the hilltop right next to my key defenders… and I had just drawn the No Fuel card from the Winter Tactics Strategy deck.
The Finns had Initiative, and my first two actions were to deal with the Soviet tanks. (A) I spent my two Command in reserve to activate No Fuel, and exhausted Tom’s tank on the hilltop. (B) Then with my second action I again combined fire and destroyed the heavily damaged KV-1, despite Tom using a Take Cover card for +2 cover dice. (This was a mistake; I should really have just used the weak squad for this, as I only needed a single hit to destroy the tank, and besides the immobilized and half-firepower KV-1 was no threat. That would have left the other AT squad free to move over and threaten the KV-1 atop the hill.)
Down in the south, Tom Fire-and-Moved his squad in the road. He made a two-dice attack against the Finnish MG but scored no hits; then he retreated the squad to camp on the Command hex. He also began to move up his reinforcement squads. The Soviets in that area had one job now; protect their two-Command-point hex from my disturbingly resilient Finns who no longer had to worry about Soviet supply trucks.
Now, it’s true that my freed-up squads would do better if they could somehow join the defense of the fortified building that was now clearly under threat. But that was many hexes away, and there were only a couple of Rounds left in the game. So I judged that my three squads on the road would be better occupied with what was close at hand than trying to help with a battle they were unlikely to reach before it, or the game, was over.
And the Finns did have a chance to seize that Soviet Command objective, at least for one turn.
The main obstacle was Tom’s MG on Op Fire. So I fired with the one mortar that was in range (A), and Pinned the MG. (That was a bit lucky on my part, because I was rolling four dice for 5s, but Tom was rolling 3 dice for 5s thanks to the Woods and Officer. On the other hand, this mortar was a resource I really was taking away from the battle on the top of the map.)
My two MGs both fired at Tom’s squad camped on the Command objective; one (B) missed completely, but the second one (C) pinned the squad. Finally, I Assaulted the Command objective hex with the AT squad (D); it moved three hexes up the road and Assaulted, scored several hits on the Pinned Soviets, taking none in return. As a result, the Soviet squad retreated from the hex and allowed the Finns to seize it. Tom’s reinforcements, the only other resources in the area, didn’t have the Movement to take the hex back this Round.
I wouldn’t earn Command myself from this objective, but I would deprive the Soviets of two Command this Round. Granted, the AT squad was doomed next Round; but at this stage of the game, depriving Tom of two Command wasn’t a bad trade-off for one AT squad whose main job was already done.
Up in the north, it was time for Tom to attempt his assault; he was running out of time. But he had a formidable gauntlet to run, as I had several full-strength squads on Opportunity Fire covering the key gully hex (circled). This hex included a sharp bend in the gully that meant our squads couldn’t see each other until they were adjacent. There now ensued a grisly parade, conducted two steps at a time:
1) Tom began by moving his Squad A into the circled hex with move-and fire action. My own Squad A fired with Opportunity Fire at point-blank range, and Disrupted the Soviet squad. (This is the point shown in the image.)
2) On a subsequent action turn, Tom used a move-and-fire action to advance his Squad C into the circled hex, and my Squad B fired to suppress; I scored four hits, routing the squad completely.
Tom then advanced his Squad D its full three hexes into the same hex with a Move action. Its purpose was to draw fire, but I allowed it to move in unscathed. I wanted to keep my last squad, Squad D, fresh for now; it had LOS to that hex, and could spot for my mortar.
3) On my action turn, I fired with my mortar on that hex, hoping to pin the new squad and route the Disrupted one… but I scored no hits at all! And that was it – all my units with options were complete, leaving only those set for Opportunity Fire.
4) On his action turn, Tom advanced Squad B with a move-and-fire action into the circled hex; I fired with my Squad D to suppress… and got four hits, Routing the squad entirely. The hex now contained one exhausted but unscathed squad, and one Disrupted squad.
5) Finally, Tom advanced his Squad E into that hex with an Assault action against my cluster of two squad in the woods (I think at this point Tom needed a big turn of luck to save his attack, so he was taking the bigger gamble). But he was unlucky, managing only a single hit while the Finns scored five, stopping the assault cold.
And… at that point, we called the game. The Finns had Initiative next turn thanks to their capture of the Soviet Command hex, and would immediately annihilate the remaining Soviet infantry with a one-two punch of close-range Fire and a three-squad supported Assault. (Or maybe just a pair of mortar attacks to start, and the Fire/Assault after that.) Then, it wouldn’t really matter what else happened.
The Soviets had been massacred, leaving one KV-1 and a handful of squads to withdraw from the battlefield and report the results to their superiors.
UP NEXT: AFTERMATH, wherein we describe our thoughts about the scenario, the Finnish luck in this game, and the time pressures on those Soviet trucks.
- Last edited Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:22 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Oct 17, 2016 1:35 pm
Before we get into the Aftermath proper, a few comments about those trucks.
I kept mentioning the time pressures on Tom's trucks as the explanation for why he moved them forward so relentlessly, even when there were Finnish squads lurking about that could threaten them. I've put together some diagrams that help to explain those time pressures.
The trucks must start on the top right board, and move along a single, inescapable path along the road to reach the exit and leave the map before the end of Round 7. By counting back from the exit hex (and keeping in mind that the truck must expend one Movement Point to leave the board once it reaches the end of the road), you can see exactly where the trucks must be at the end of any given round in order to have any chance of making that schedule.
It gets much more difficult, of course, if a truck has taken light damage and is reduced to three Movement instead of Four.
This is the source of that time pressure; if the trucks don't keep moving, they will fall behind these minimum positions and are as good as dead anyway. These diagrams should be useful for anyone planning to play the scenario, as it can be easy to lose track of just where those trucks need to be, turn by turn, in order to have any chance at the exit victory.
So, that's our second experience with Winter War. The Soviets made a determined effort, but the Finns were able to stall and then repulse both prongs of the attack.
Tom and I both agree that the Soviets have a demanding task here, and the solution isn't obvious (though Ray's "spoiler" hint makes it clear that some players have found at least one path to victory). One of the key decisions the Soviet player has to make is how to deploy those two tanks, because they seem necessary to make either prong of the attack to work. Certainly it's very difficult to clear the path down the road without at least one of the KV-1s along to help; but at the same time if the Soviets press forward through the woods, they really want a tank or two to help break the Finnish defenses (lest they suffer horrific casualties as they advance, as happened during Round 5 of this game.)
There's no question that I was very lucky in this game. My mortar proved ridiculously reliable in pinning Soviet squads. My AT squad in the woods survived three attacks from the pair of KV-1s, and I drew the Take Down the Beast Strategy early in a scenario where it really helps the Finns against those monster tanks. My MG protecting the road refused to become Pinned for several rounds, either because Tom's attacks missed or I made Cover rolls at just the right time. And for the Strategy cards, I drew Rally Cry (depriving Tom of this valuable card) and then drew Out of Fuel at just the right time to neutralize Tom's KV-1 supporting his assault up the gully. And then, as Tom's infantry advanced up the gully, I rolled consistently better than average and eliminated two squads outright by Routing them (rolling four 4+ results on six dice, twice).
The most worrisome moment for the Finnish side was when Tom's KV-1 threatened to make it around the central woods and into the Finnish rear. If it had made it, the tank could have neutralized my mortars and my machine guns (whose cover in buildings is great until a tank brings its Concussive Firepower into play). I think maybe a determined push by the tanks from the outset to get around those woods and pressure the Finns from behind would be a good strategy for the Soviets... though a time-consuming one, as that's a long path for those slow tanks.
Tom and I also agreed that Soviet reinforcements in the first couple of turns could be critical assets, beefing up the Soviet attack so that it can better handle the Finnish defenders (whose squads outnumber the Soviet infantry at the start of the game). Reinforcements are less critical later on, since they'd be unlikely to reach the objectives in time to help.
The time pressures on those trucks are just relentless, as shown in the diagrams I posted earlier. In both games Tom found himself pushing the trucks much further ahead than he wanted, and as a result exposing them to danger, just to retain any chance of exiting them from the board on time. We both felt that the pressures here were too restrictive, and left the Soviet player with too few options. Some extra rounds in the scenario, or increasing the truck movement to 6 instead of four, might help a lot here. Allowing them their full regular movement allowance would be too much, though, as it would completely remove the pressure if they could just dash the entire route in just two Rounds.
We also found that the Soviet Command Restrictions Operations card was brutally punishing. We thought that maybe this could be an optional card used to tweak scenario balance; let the Soviets try the game without this card first, and add it in if they want a greater challenge. Similarly, the Finnish Merciless Assault seemed overkill since they already have plentiful Elites to help in this regard. This too could perhaps be an optional card whose inclusion makes the scenario a little bit easier for the Finnish player (and a little harder for the Soviets).
I really, really like the diverse mix of Strategy cards in this scenario; they provide all kinds of fun replay value to the scenario because they can so diversely affect the options available to either side. I was lucky in my draw this game; Out of Fuel is maybe the most useful Winter Tactics card for the Finnish player in this scenario, especially in a deck that messes with defenders more than attackers (with several effects like "no Op Fire" or "do X to a unit on Op Fire").
The Morale and Command decks are always good, solid Strategy decks to choose from, and again those draws can have significant effects on play.
Certainly it would be interesting to try this scenario again sometime. We both like the requirements for the two forces to allocate their attack and defense to two separate objectives. And Tom and I would both REALLY like to see reports from sessions in which the Soviets succeeded.
Overall we thought that players could decide for themselves whether to adopt any of the following tweaks to the scenario. We're not saying any of these are strictly necessary; but they can help a Soviet player that is struggling to find a solution to this scenario's tactical puzzles:
To help the Soviets:
a) MAJOR +: Remove the Soviet Command Restrictions Operations card.
b) MAJOR +: Add one or two rounds to the scenario length. This gives the trucks more options, and allows the Soviets more time to bring on reinforcements to help in their attack.
c) MODERATE +: Increase Truck movement to 6 (but not if you're adding two Rounds!).
d) MINOR +: Remove the Merciless Assault Operations card from the Finns.
To help the Finnish player: just do the opposite of the things listed for the Soviets.
We've had fun playing this scenario, and we do like it. Once again, we'd be happy to hear from others about their experience.
- Last edited Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:27 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:09 pm
Thanks for these great and detailed reports, Jon and Tom! I really enjoy reading them! Keep 'em coming!
Thanks for these great and detailed reports, Jon and Tom! I really enjoy reading them! Keep 'em coming!
Thanks Willem! Will do. I think it will be a few weeks 'til our next one, but we're certainly carrying on. And your "Nasty Surprise" scenario is next on the list...