Eric Tolentino
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Great War Commander with Roger Nord Summer PrezCon 2017

Roger Nord suggested that we play a Great War Commander scenario with flamethrowers. I said, "yes" before learning more about the scenario details. Roger then told me that the Germans - my side - would be assaulting French pillboxes in a forest. That is not one, not two, not three, but four pillboxes. I had some experience tacking one pillbox, but attacking up to four pillboxes commanded by the French Lt. Col. Driant who has a 3 hex command range / bonus would at best be, well, most unpleasant.

The Scenario: Lt. Driant leading the French forces were tasked defend Les Bois de Caures in order to delay the unexpected German breakthrough until French reinforcements could arrive. Lt. Col. Driant held his defensive line for three days before the Germans defeated the French defenders. Historically, although Lt. Col Driant valliantly lead the French defense in the midst of the action, he was killed during the action.

The Germans began at the left map edge. The French pillboxes were placed in random hexes and each had to be occupied by the French leaders at start. Twelve random one-hex artillery attacks with corresponding shell holes were placed on the map, with artillery attacks only affecting the French.

At the beginning of the engagement, I reasoned that since I was likely going to assault a pillbox with Driant and possibly a second or third pillbox later, I might as well assault Driant's pillbox early in the game while my German troops were at full strength and still had both flamethrowers operational. I set up my forces with my 2 secondary leaders with leader rating 2, grouped with the assault squads armed with the flamethrowers, so that these leaders could lead the main assault. In the center was my overall commander, Captain Beritn, so that he could active the entire assault force en masse. Speed was essential for the German attack. The goal was for the German assault force to move then advance to the objective as quickly as possibly, while hopefully amassing the necessary orders for the actual attack and minimizing the time and opportunity for the French to prepare sufficient orders to defend against the assault.

Running the attack numbers for my offense, I would need to roll well (10+) to get an attack roll of 21+ (11 flamethrower + 10+ die roll) with each flamethrower (times 2) and/or 23+ using the two hexes worth of the infantry in the 2 hexes in front of the pillbox (attack 13 including 1 leader's +2 bonus) for a total of three attacks in order to have a chance against the French squad's & fire team's base defense of 12 (morale of 9 +3 bonus from Driant = 12 defense) was tough without accounting for the pillbox +5 cover. I was not sure if the pillbox's cover versus flamethrowers was reduced to 0 in Great War Commander; in Combat Commander cover is reduced to 0 versus flamethrowers. If the Word War I flamethrowers did not reduce the cover of the pillboxes, the defending French chasseur squad/fire team's defense would increase to 17 (9 morale +3 for Driant leadership rating +5 for the pillbox) - ouch this was going to hurt for the Germans.

Capt. Bertin led the assault force in good order to the staging point in the woods for the assault on Driant's pillbox.

Pre-Assault


The assault force used an advance order to move adjacent to the Driant's pill box, enduring 2 rounds of exchanged fire with the defenders. During the first French fire order, the first German units broke although the recover order rallied the broken German units; this was the only recover card in the German player's hand. German fire was ineffective (poor rolls). During second round of exchanged fire, the German fire did break one of the French units, but the French player easily recovered his unit with his next recover order, given Driant's +3 and the +5 cover for the pillbox. The French fire resulted in one hex worth of the German assaulter's units being broken: one 2 leader, fire team and squad. Not good for the Germans. Exchanging fire was going poorly for the Germans.

Now for plan B - a player commander should always have one of these. Should the frontal fire of the assault backed by the two flamethrowers go poorly, the surviving attackers lead by the more intact German assault leader would close assault Driant's pillbox. The one hex worth of unbroken German assaulters lead by the 2 rating German leader advance into Driant's pillbox supported by the German broken squad and fire team from the second German assaulter's hex in an all out do or die mélée. The mélée fire power difference was only about +1 for the Germans since half storming German troops were broken. Even if the German's won the mélée, the German's assaulters would be over stacked by a squad and a fire team. On a tie for the mélee, the German's would be eliminated due to the French defenders being in a pillbox. The French player had the initiative card.

Now it was time for the French defender to play ambush cards - thankfully, nada for the French. The Germans burned one ambush card in the advance towards the pillbox, but thankfully the German player had one ambush card left to play, increasing the firepower difference to +5 in the German's favor, but then reduced to +3 by the French player's action Élan. The German player's hand was set up for ambush actions not mélee bonuses.

The first French die roll was low, so the French side passed the initiative to the Germans, and re-rolled. Now the German's needed to force a re-roll of the French player's die roll or lose the mélee. Both players used their strategy cards for an additional plus one to their attack rolls, effectively negating each other's cards. The French attack roll went from good to bad, winning to losing depending on who currently held and played the initiative card to avoid losing this critical mélee, as the initiative card rapidly exchanged hands for another chance at survival and victory in the mélee. Eventually, when the winning roll in favor of one side was drawn and that player had the initiative card, the mélee would be over.

Should the German lose the mélee and the close assault on Driant's pillbox fail, the German offensive for this game would effectively be over, barring game-changing random events, since losing the mélee meant that the German side would lose two-hexes worth of troops, i.e., a 2 rating leader, 2 squads, and 2 fire teams and one flamethrower, about one third of the German force ending any attempts to bust any other pillboxes. Likewise, should the French lose the mélee, Lt. Col. Driant would be lost breaking the French morale (not simulated by the scenario or game), along with his squad and fire team and a heavy machine gun, as well as, the pillbox which also happened to be the random secret objective of the French for game-altering victory points. Should the German's win the mélee taking the pillbox, this would now be defended by the German player's 2 rating leader, a squad and fire team armed with a flamethrower which had a good chance of inflicting high casualties on the French should they counterattack and try to re-take the objective pillbox.

Finalement, after the initiative exchanged hands several times, the French player, having been the last to use the initiative card giving it to the Germans, the French roll was too low and the mélee victory went to the German's ending the game by mutual agreement. Whew!!! Can you say, "furball?" That mélee was too close for the both sides.

My compliments to Roger Nord, the designer of Great War Commander, for a well-played game.

Post-Assault
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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Thanks for the AAR! Can't wait to play the game myself...
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Hory Zonn
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Ok. You did it. I'm going to play some CC:Europa pillbox scenario tonight...
Great report!
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David Janik-Jones
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Waterloo
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Up Front fan, Cats were once worshipped as gods and they haven't forgotten this, Combat Commander series fan, The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!, Fields of Fire fan
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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When. Is. This. Thing. Going. To. Get. Printed!? My credit card is waiting.
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Chick Lewis
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Great writeup ! VERY tense game !!

The photos are also good. But I would NOT have given the Flamethrowers to the leaders. Their accompanying squads are substantially harder to break than the leaders themselves.

Thanks for posting the AAR !!
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Roger Nord
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Compliments to Eric for a well-played game! And an excellent AAR.

I had drawn a secret 5 objective worth 4 VPs. It was closer to the German lines so the French had to fight for it and not let the Germans walk in without cost As defensive insurance, Col. Driant also went there, adding 2 more VPs for placing him as the French Headquarters. So now the site was worth 6 VPs. It was a do-or-die mini-struggle that the fates had set up--first, drawing of the secret 5 objective worth 4 VPs, and second, placement of the possible random pillbox within two hexes to lock in the pillbox there.

Eric is right: rush and assault was the correct German strategy. I saw what was coming. We both tried to collect whatever useful cards we could before the mayhem began. I too had burned an ambush card looking to cripple German attackers with fire before they could close in. The French fire did hurt them but not enough. All I could save for the melee was a +2 charge/Elan action and a +1 strategy card. With the senior commander rule and over stacking, the Germans crushed the pillbox defenders with massed assault.

Still, it took several melee rounds to knock out the pillbox. The tense fight evoked images of the bitter historical struggle--Driant and his small force holding out against the German onslaught.

In the close- quarter action, GWC weapons were not useable, which prevented the flamethrower operators from unleashing their burning oil, and giving the valiant French some hope.

Roger

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Eric Tolentino
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Chick,
Roger last. In the future support weapons will go to the squad for higher morale versus enemy fire.
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Pascal TOUPY
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Hi
thanks for this AAR Eric.
some comments on the rules:

-11.2 Portage
Each Unit may “carry” one Weapon, denoted by having the Weapon physically placed atop that Unit.


In GWC there is a distinction between Leaders and Units (because of the Doctrine of that time and the big gap of consideration that was made between officers and soldiers of the rank). As the rule says a Unit may carry a Weapon, it means that no leader can carry any Weapon.

Furthermore:
11.7 Specialized Weapons
A Flamethrower automatically sets its target’s Cover [T99.3] to “0”, with no modifications possible and can only be possessed by a Team.


As you see troops were specialized and the armies of that time would let the soldiers nearly no initiative.You do what you are trained for.
I often read in regiment's after battle reports of soldiers who would find or capture an abandoned LMG or HMG. They would not use it although it could have been a great asset to their attack. They would just left it and try to retrieve it later to bring it back to their lines and give it to appropriate troops. That's why you rarely see WW1 troops using captured armament (contrary to the German army in WW2).
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Roger Nord
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Here is a contemporary photo of the Colonel, GWC's "3" Leader.

Pascal, thanks for weapon rules clarification!

Roger
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Eric Tolentino
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bonzillou wrote:
Hi
thanks for this AAR Eric.
some comments on the rules:

-11.2 Portage
Each Unit may “carry” one Weapon, denoted by having the Weapon physically placed atop that Unit.


In GWC there is a distinction between Leaders and Units (because of the Doctrine of that time and the big gap of consideration that was made between officers and soldiers of the rank). As the rule says a Unit may carry a Weapon, it means that no leader can carry any Weapon.

Furthermore:
11.7 Specialized Weapons
A Flamethrower automatically sets its target’s Cover [T99.3] to “0”, with no modifications possible and can only be possessed by a Team.


As you see troops were specialized and the armies of that time would let the soldiers nearly no initiative.You do what you are trained for.
I often read in regiment's after battle reports of soldiers who would find or capture an abandoned LMG or HMG. They would not use it although it could have been a great asset to their attack. They would just left it and try to retrieve it later to bring it back to their lines and give it to appropriate troops. That's why you rarely see WW1 troops using captured armament (contrary to the German army in WW2).


Pascal, Thanks for the rules clarifications. I was trying to figure out how the differences in WWI doctrine/tactics, which are new to me, are simulated in Great War Commander. En futur I will have the infantry carry the weapons. My having the leaders carry the weapons is likely moi confusing rules from some other WW2 tactical games which I have such as Band of Brothers and/or Band of Heroes which does allow leaders to man weapons like machine guns (even captured ones as well as you noted re WW2) as an extraordinary skill.

Also knowing that flamethrowers reduce terrain cover to 0 as in Combat Commander, is most helpful and will be a rule most likely for me to remember en futur in both games. When I was unsure about the WWI flamethrower's effect on terrain in Great War Commander, I prepared for the worst case scenario where the pillbox still gave 5 cover even against flamethrowers and charged ahead.

I am more familiar with Combat Commander which curtails the leader bonus to other units in his hex if the leader is carrying the weapon. When playing Great War Commander with Roger Nord, I had only a chance to skim through the Great War Commander rules on an as needed basis and otherwise was using my familiarity with Combat Commander rules.

Players, who are familiar with Combat Commander and new to Great War Commander, would be greatly aided if they had a pdf version of the Great War Commander rules with the differences between these two games highlighted to help ease new players transition into Great War Commander. (I should likely post this suggestion in the Great War Commander Rules forum as well)
E.T
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Eric Tolentino
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Ma1ze wrote:
Ok. You did it. I'm going to play some CC:Europa pillbox scenario tonight...
Great report!


Happy to inspire other tactical player commanders. How did you do? The rules correction for Great War Commander and Combat commander regarding flamethrowers lowering target terrain cover to 0, make tackling the pillboxes much easier with flamethrowers, but what you mught find interesting is to see how difficult and painful the assault would on the the pillbox if the flamethrowers hypoyhetically did not reduce the target terrain cover to 0.

Enjoi!
E.T.
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Pascal TOUPY
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ETPxPa1adin wrote:

Players, who are familiar with Combat Commander and new to Great War Commander, would be greatly aided if they had a pdf version of the Great War Commander rules with the differences between these two games highlighted to help ease new players transition into Great War Commander. (I should likely post this suggestion in the Great War Commander Rules forum as well)
E.T


this is something I've already done.
These "highlighted" version of the rules will be available for download.
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Mark Brooks
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Great AAR Eric. I really enjoyed playing this at Winter PrezCon back in February. I would love to play the finished product at PrezCon 2018. Rodger is a great tutor. I like that it is similar enough to CC:E to pick up easily but different enough to capture the unique flavor of WWI.

Mark
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