Another day, another session of the ridonculously awesome Combat Commander, this time a VASSAL session with the incredibly nice
, who despite sounding very much under the weather, carrying a pounding headache and suffering some outrageously bad (and one outrageously good) fortune was an extremely pleasant person to spend 3 hours with via the interwebz. I guess I've either been very lucky so far with my VASSAL opponents, or more likely it's just a community of very friendly and helpful people who enable you to get the fix from your favourite games from the comfort of your own armchair!
I certainly learned several neat tricks and solid nuggets of advice during the game, hopefully they'll start to sink in, I know from my games with
that those lessons dont necessarily sink in directly hehe, but it's fun to keep trying and keep learning.
Scenario 8 was an interesting one, I played with the wife the night before and somehow I dont think we grokked it, its very tough with the night rules basically reducing most fire attacks to literal hopeful shots in the dark, the russians are outgunned and forced to spread out to cover the exit attempt with their puny order limit of 1, while the germans usually mighty discard limit is capped to a tres francaise 'un' and despite having the better units have a precariously tight surrender limit of 4, of the 5 units they start with. As a fun aside, Lt Schrader is quickly becoming the most incompetent of german leaders in our Combat Commmander universe he seems to leave nothing but chaos and confusion in his midst
I did a bit of flicking around and noted that this scenario doesn't seem to be that popular, indeed in a poll on the base game scenarios it was the only scenario that received zero votes for "favourite" and several threads note that it seems unbalanced, it seems like the germans should at some point be able to either mow down a couple of russian units and just wait it out, or make a breakthrough and get off the board.
So, in our F2F play, the wife really struggled to muster her russian units, and my german stacks, expertly led by Sgt Ganz spotted the weak point in her setup and overwhelmed the russian flank, laying waste to all opposition and storming off the board for what was surely an epic victory, VP track with the "flipped over" counter showing is always a good sign, Ganz's units sat on the time track (IIRC it was on space 2 or maybe even 1, time was ticking very slowly). For some reason unexplained (and which would also be a point of advice from Antonia in the following VASSAL game, not to mention a point already received from Michael in a previous VASSAL game), I decided to move up with Schraders squad along the same lines into the large open area on the flank via the house. I guess I was not happy with the 20+ VP lead, and reinforcements in waiting, or something. Perhaps it was a Michael Bay moment and I eschewed a calm introspective lull into the "movie" where Schrader huddled round a camp fire with his men regaling them with tales of Ganzs escape and instead went for the guns blazing cowboy fuck yeah! ending.
Sadly, the discard limit problem left me floundering while her demoralized russian units half heartedly made the advance over to that position. Perhaps only the ghost of christmas michael bay is the only one who will know why, on that day, Schrader chose to advance into the house with a russian squad, perhaps buoyed by the knowledge that the german force was clearly superior, however, what he'd failed to carefully read Directive 6.3.1 from HQ meaning that a botched assault on the ground would lead to humiliating and utter defeat regardless of the number of shiny victory medals on the "mantelpiece". And you can probably fill in the rest of the story which involved Schraders bumbling buffoons falling in a run down brick building on the road to Nevel.
A fantastic story but at first blush it felt like a scenario that was perhaps a bit too "one sided" - essentially a late game blunder had given the game away, but the wife had fallen into the trap of getting a bit demoralized by the combination of a constrained order limit, restricted opportunities to fire, and a sense that her team was just playing a support role in a german propaganda movie. While I had the nagging feeling that its not quite so simple, its hard to rally your opponent when things seem to be going completely awry. While she felt the ending was perhaps a bit cheezy (and in essence it was due to basic incompetence on my part), I tried to point out that the tight surrender limit of the germans and the inability of their better troops to use their shooting advantage due to the night rules really makes this a rather tight and clever scenario, and a perfect illustration of why (apart from the adage of never give up, which I'll come to again in the VASSAL report) you cannot look at the VP track like some kind of euro game, its not the end of the story, far from it, each scenario has its own living, breathing web of victory points, objective control, surrender limits and yes, even just the simple notion of keeping some of your units on the map. Ganz and his celebrated squad of escapees can wave to the crowds all they want, but rather an embarrassing way to lose with them sat on the time track looking on as the rest of your forces are eliminated from the map!
So, I decided to rerack Scenario 8 with Antonia, who as I understood it, is a very competent and aggressive player and who would surely show me a better way to steer the russian forces, so that i'd be able to encourage the wife to give it another go, and for me to have a crack with them. It turns out that as is often the case (it seems) with COmbat Commander, is that ones preconceptions and shallow judgements are very often completely wrong. I think this is a fantastic little scenario, is not deserving of its unpopular status and definitely presents some really interesting texture to the playbook (the genius of the sytem is in part that the different setups, postures and objectives already give vastly different feel to each game, which is modulated again by the development of the card play, different each time, but that 2 or 3 sentences in the form of SSRs can once again totally mix the pot and create a dish you've never tasted before. Imagine going to the same restaurant every night with a famous Michelin starred chef in charge, using different recipes and techniques each night with the same great selection of ingredients and then rustling up a completely unique sauce to lather on top. Its top quality ingredients, its great classic recipes, with a modern twist and a creative and sumptious gravy. Fantastic!
Antonia set up somewhat unconventionally with her units bunched into 3 main groups rather than the line dancing formation somewhat suggested by the scenario title, and I have to thank her again for her help with some of the rules points, again, not a reflection of anything wrong in the rulebook, more my own excitement to drive the action along and miss this or that point here or there, but we got there in the end, and even had some interesting discussions about one or two corner type cases that, as usual, turned out to be explicitly and clearly described in the rulebook.
My germans setup on the opposite flank this time (german right) and proceeded to move directly through the gap in the gully with the promise of a quick escape to victory. I have to say that Antonia's rolls were probably the worst Ive ever seen, or could imagine almost, with one glorious exception (keep reading), she failed roll after roll after roll when she finally uncovered a recover card, her early fire attacks were filled with 2s and 3s and 4s, my rout rolling was pushing her broken units off the map, off the edge of the laptop and into my box up on the shelf to adjoining maps, I mean it was pretty bad. But where my wife had started to look a bit dejected and go through the motions, Antonia was as engaged and good humoured throughout, a real lesson for me, not only to try and encourage the wife, but also to be honest, to take on board myself because I know how easy it is to become a bit exasperated when it seems you've got no good chances. This is not the game for that attitude!
I made good use of the gap in her defence and the gully to make quick progress into the crack, I'd routed off some units and didnt think much of the fact that I ended up routing one unit into the gully right ahead of my exiting group. But no worries, I had Ganz and his 2 command with a rifle squad against a broken russian squad in the gully exit, and behind them another broken russian about to meet his demise against a full strength rifle squad, we'd discussed about philosophies behind the initiative card and I'd convinced myself I was in the "cavalier" school of IC control, which I learned was probably not the best when melee is impending. I didn't have any ambush cards, but had not expected to meet with resistance, at least Ganzs group had a move card option off the edge in the next turn. But, advance it was and I took my 9-2 advantage into the first melee, OK no IC but Antonia had no ambush either, result! The russians pull a double six, for a 14 holding the iC. Suddenly my lead group needed a 6 to survive. Snake Eyes! Not even close, those russians had hidden themselves well in the gully and quickly and easily dispatched a crack rifle squad led by a revered german commander. A huge blow for the germans, and despite winning the other melee, she soon advanced in and mopped up the other squad, suddenly the russians had the lead, had closed the gap and I wondered if this was indeed the lesson that the germans dont win by default here!
Anyway, I steadied myself and prepared the next wave led by Schrader and unfortunately Antonia continued to have very bad luck with her rolls and cards, desperately needing to move and advance into melees which could lead her to victory, I'd successfully holed up in the woods collecting ambush cards and was able to win the first big melee showdown, and when she was forced to come after me, sometimes recklessly, I managed to succeed with some fire attacks bolstered by various boosting actions to counteract the night rules. There was also an important lesson to think carefully about putting all your eggs into one basket when I put together a fire group with actions on top to create a very large fire attack roll, probably 2 separate attacks would have done the job better. A jammed snake eyes with sustain fire sent both machine guns in the group into the scrap heap in a moment which certainly led to panic in the german command ranks, at least the commander in control of the keyboard
when Ganz later reappeared to round up an HMG team he was afforded the opportunity to rewrite his history books it offered an alternative target for Antonias other attack group, I think it was around this point when I realised that I'd actually not been paying attention to the fact that my casualty track was filled to 3, with surrender at 4! Ganzs reapparance at least afforded me another empty slot, but mostly just served as a wake up call that the ever increasing vP total wouldnt mean squat if the russians could wade in and win a melee. I'd already received more great advice about how to sit on a 20 point lead and not try to rush out to more contact, and at least I heeded the lesson a bit when I used a move and an advance to simply back away from an adjacent unit / melee possibility, and then move a vulnerable unit right out of the firing line. The HMG with Ganz was strong enough to cut down a swathe of russians appearing over a hilltop, but then I made the wise, if less exciting decision to back those units off and round a hill crest to keep them out of harms reach while praying for time.
In the end, Antonia's dogged determination led to her end as ultimately it was the heavy russian losses that led to her demise by surrender. Surrender! 10 casualties filled her track, remarkable when you read reports from people who try the game and complain about the lack of lethality and how difficult it is to kill anyone. In a scenario where night rules rendered almost all shooting completely ineffectual, the Germans with a final total of 30 VP had clung on, literally clung on with 3 of their 4 casualty spaces filled and a broken rifle squad standing as the smoke cleared and with 10 spaces filled on the russian track. Hard to kill? There's no Steven Seagal in this game I can tell you that.
Thanks again Antonia for a fantastic game, very gracious in defeat but for me it was just lovely to meet another great opponent and I hope to see you on the battlefield again very soon and regularly in future. Your never say die attitude and attacking principles were an inspiration, and you refused to let the bad rolls or cards take the credit for the result, even though I still feel like this is a very nice scenario for a beginner to have a chance, and not be overwhelmed with the demands of some of the more expansive and involved scenarios.
So, in summary. Scenario 8. Its a lot better than you might think and definitely worth another try if youve written it off or had a somewhat lopsided experience with before.
Over and Out.
Kudos to you both!
Great AARs, BoJack, and some valuable lessons !
I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that Muad Dib is female. Her reputation IS solid here.
- Last edited Fri Nov 25, 2016 7:44 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Nov 25, 2016 7:34 pm
Thanks for the kind words BoJack and Chick, now I am blushing
you cannot look at the VP track like some kind of euro game, its not the end of the story, far from it, each scenario has its own living, breathing web of victory points, objective control, surrender limits and yes, even just the simple notion of keeping some of your units on the map. Ganz and his celebrated squad of escapees can wave to the crowds all they want, but rather an embarrassing way to lose with them sat on the time track looking on as the rest of your forces are eliminated from the map!
I think you got one of the most important points of this game here.
A 20 VP lead does not secure the victory if you you surpass the surrender limit. Hence it is sometimes a good idea to run in the other direction with a lead. Also people tend to forget the double VP swing that comes with the open objectives. Capturing an objective from an opponent gives you double the VP, sometimes turning the tide.
Antonia set up somewhat unconventionally with her units bunched into 3 main groups rather than the line dancing formation somewhat suggested by the scenario title
I will be honest, my setup was probably crappy. I did not put a log of thought into it. And without my later luck in the first melee you would have easily won by a mile. So please donot copy this playstyle
I took my 9-2 advantage into the first melee, OK no IC but Antonia had no ambush either, result! The russians pull a double six, for a 14 holding the iC. Suddenly my lead group needed a 6 to survive. Snake Eyes! Not even close, those russians had hidden themselves well in the gully and quickly and easily dispatched a crack rifle squad led by a revered german commander. A huge blow for the germans, and despite winning the other melee, she soon advanced in and mopped up the other squad, suddenly the russians had the lead, had closed the gap and I wondered if this was indeed the lesson that the germans dont win by default here!
Well, this was pure luck as already said
But... Lesson to be learned: Hold on to the initiative card
she was forced to come after me, sometimes recklessly
Well, in an after thought going over the hill like that and being destroyed was really unnecessary. Should have moved in from the left flank (through the brush) to begin with. Then I might have had a chance to pull it off So this was really stupid...
I think it was around this point when I realised that I'd actually not been paying attention to the fact that my casualty track was filled to 3, with surrender at 4!
But I was nice enough to make you aware of it
but then I made the wise, if less exciting decision to back those units off and round a hill crest to keep them out of harms reach while praying for time.
German cowards, running away with a 20VP lead! But yes, this is the wise thing to do with a 20 VP lead. At least if you want to win that is
Thanks for the elaborate play report, BoJack.
I had a lot of fun playing as well but to be honest I did not feel like I could teach you that much.
In my opinion you already had a good understanding of the rules and on the hand management required to be a good player.
Also this scenario is not really good to pull of nice tricks that might be interesting to see as other ones. Being stuck with one order per turn does not invite for nice movement followed by a recover and such. Which might have been interesting to show
I would love to play another scenario with some more flexibility in that regard with you
And I guess the most important points (in my opinion) have been clarified:
- never give up, it is almost always possible to come back if you keep on fighting, no matter how dire the situation
- be wary of the initiative card
- try to have an effective hand management, getting rid of cards with unwanted order with actions as often as possible
- the German army is the best (ambush heaven and a 6 discard limit for the win)
So thanks for the kind words, although the teaching from my side was limited. Hopefully we can play again and hopefully we will see each other in the Vassal tournament
- Last edited Sat Nov 26, 2016 3:55 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Nov 26, 2016 3:55 pm