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Subject: Verdun Sessions Part II (#46-48) rss

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Jon Snow
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Le Morte Homme The much fought over hill complex, one of the most famous features of the battle, aptly means “The Dead Man.” In this sequel to the last scenario, the Germans have now entrenched across the Meuse river. But the French trenches are quite a distance away, so again the Germans must travel over semi open ground. And although the same victory conditions of the French having to be gone for this and another hill, these are 6 and 8 (LMH) hexes respectively, and there is little chance of getting these VP. The Germans are repulsed on Hill 304 (French Left), the French being aided by a Mortar Barrage card. But on LMG itself (French Right), the Germans overrun one FP, although the French keep a presence on it. In the Center, an MG duel begins between opposing MG crews only 3 hexes a way after the French move their up along their trenches, and the French score two and the Germans one hit on successive turns against each other, even though both are in trench hexes. And since taking a Hill hex leaves the occupier relatively open to artillery, as are the Germans almost everywhere, even when making use of the initial NML Barrage's Shell Craters, both sides fire away more than usual, even though they get minimal results. This also means fewer Combat Cards are drawn, and supplies of these are as low. Both sides have lost 12 infantry (The French one unit and the Germans two) and two SPFs, plus MG crew.

After some fighting, the French concede LMH, having only six units left, and fall back to their trench, figuring they can always deny the Germans the LMH VP later on. A period of relative quite now ensued, although each side got one more point: the Germans by using a 4 die Reserve Artillery shoot against a single French unit in a Shell Crater (aka the Cheap Shot), the French by playing a Recon card: Score now Germans 4 to 3 of 6. The Germans rallied a machine gunner.

I now carefully planned out a three turn sequence for a hopefully final German attack on the two units in trenches next to LMH; the only part of the French trenches that had really taken part in the battle.

1. First I reshuffled the two German units already in or near LMH, putting the full strength Bomber unit into one of the Fortified Positions, and moving the two strength infantry from it into Shell Hole. The enemy might take it out with artillery, but I'd need the Bomber as part of the later attack to hit them on their flank. This is the type of thing you need to do to conserve your infantry, which is as I mentioned above in Part I is for me the main basic strategy of this game design.

The French reoccupied LMH to take its special VP away from me, sensing the final fight was coming. Then he moved his Mortar over a space to better cover the Center sector, and continued the MG duel to take out another of my machine gunners (the German had the Body Armor card, but it only nullified Soldier dice faces, not the Burst face he rolled to get me in my trench anyhow)! Along with my Command Card, I played the German Combat Card Espionage, since the enemy finally was holding three Combat Cards of its own and it was finally worth playing. This luckily removed one Stretcher Bearer and one Trench Foot card he'd picked up recently, which could have hindered my assault. (Some other posters here don't understand how you can solitaire this game, but when I'm in the head of one player, I'm really not thinking about what cards the other is holding. Maybe I'm a good role player, or just getting old).

2. I opened up to soften the two target French units (one full strength infantry and one 3 figures MG which had been dueling my own MG across one barbed wire and one shell crater hex as mentioned previously) with my German MG and Mortar, which where now in my own trench opposite the the French Center and French Left sectors. Since I was boosting them up with a Storm of Fire card, I also used it for the two infantry in between them (one with my Forward Observer and the other with an Officer), which could just reach the enemy, since the opposing trenches were three hexes away. If I wounded them, I would then make a direct assault on the enemy position, and would have the HQ tokens later to add in Reserve Artillery to the attack as well. I was holding the Assault Center card,which would allow them to advance. Boosted My German MG got the only relevant hits, three flags, which retreated the enemy MG one hex back down his trench line. Then I picked up the Big Show card, which would help the assault further when I decided the time was right.

As the French player, I studied my cards carefully. I had no Left cards, to activate the infantry or the 'reserve' infantry with an Officer I was holding back for a counterattack, but held both Whistles and Bugles and Infantry Assault, which I needed to save. Identifying the crucial turns of a fight is an important ability in any war game, and I figured I'd need them for my own MG and Mortar soon or infantry soon. So I 'burned' one of the two useless Assault Left cards, This meant not returning my MG to its original position, but I was still in a trench, and now his MG couldn't continue the duel between us, so I wouldn't lose any more crew until the Big Attack that was certainly coming. The Germans still had lots of figures, but once they stepped 'over the top...' Then I picked up a Combat Card, since I had just picked an Artillery Bombard Command Card had a decent supply of HQ tokens. This proved to be Three On A Match, which was not great, but every little bit helps.

3. Back at German HQ, as the sun rose on the next day of this week long battle, and hundreds of men waited for the attack signal on the front line, I had to decide whether to commit tot he attack! I hadn't hurt the target units much, but now had the Big Show card to supplement my attack. Now, one of the important things about TGW card play s that the Reserve Artillery can't be used for a card like Big Show, but neither can it be used for the best sector cards, which you will notice 'only activate battlefield units' as opposed to cards which activate fewer units which do not have that phrase. Because this phrase also means you can't use Reserve Artillery with it! Do I put the attack off hoping to further improve my hand? Well, I if Big Show allows me to hit the target infantry unit with two of my infantry plus the flanking Bomber off on the left, it will be a good attack, even though the enemy is in a trench, and one infantry will be -1 dice for attacking through wire. I decide to go for it, and roll the dice...

Will my orders be properly received by my troops? Will they execute them properly? Only the dice will decide! And the roll is better than I expect: 3 infantry activations, plus one useless Burst I(usually the most hoped for result) and one useless Star (which only would give me an HQ token on a combat roll). In go all three of my potential infantry attackers. To summarize, I attack with the Bomber first and then the center infantry, so that the final attacker, if able to advance into the trench, will no longer be a possible enemy MG target out in the open. But although each attacker reduces the enemy by one figure, the final four dice get two soldier and two flag faces—all of which can be ignored by a defender in a trench. So which the attack has made some progress, my infantry is left out in the open, on a shell crater, or a hill for an enemy artillery strike. Oh no!

Back at French HQ, I can't resist using the Artillery Bombard card against such an opportunity, targeting the central attacker. Although I won't be able to make infantry assaults this turn, hopefully I'll reduce some of those nice juicy full strength Germans, and then do so. Using up all five of my HQ tokens, I take a shot with Three On A Match but miss on a German, and then start the 4 die shelling. This kills two Germans and retreats the middle unit. The second strike only retreats the Bomber unit, even though I've rolled the second Artillery triples in the campaign.

So after the three consecutive turns of the German attack preparations and launch, the battle rages in the French lines, where their resources are also thinning. The score is now 3 to 3, as the Germans have lost the LMH temp VP. Now the German infantry rolls forward, taking out both figures of the French infantry and one in the French MG crew. The French now have only 5 units left, and only the 'reserve' unit keeps the Germans from the LMG VP. The score is back to 4 to 3 of 6, Germans.

The Germans continued to sweep down LMH, and played Short of Supply on the French MG, now down to a single figure. The French moved it up one trench hex, which put it potentially back into the fight. Now the Germans took out the French reserve unit. With another unit falling on each side, it was a point game: Score 5 to 5. But the Germans were poised to win the LMH VP, with the French left only with their Mortar and MG, which could not get back there. Could the French get the winning VP before the Germans would get it automatically on their next turn?

The French Commander looks out at his poilus on the field. Can he get the final VP before the next German turn, when theirs will kick in for the win? His two blue infantry units still on their original Fortified Positions on the left hill are useless now, although earlier they repelled the first German attack with only one loss. The Germans have two units on Le Morte Homme, the nearest of which could retreat and still be on it, so there is no way to remove their presence. The other two of the four remaining French units, the Mortar and MG, can only fire on a center German out in the open at full strength. To this can be added a 4 die Reserve Artillery Barrage. This seems like the best way to go. But if the target retreats one hex, it will then have the protection of the French trench to resist further die rolls against it. So the forces of the Republic will need a better than average series of die rolls. Play it! Play 'La Marseillaise!' Sing it, mes enfants! Allons enfants de la patrie, le jour do gloire est arrive!

And open fire...

Staggering two hexes back with no losses, the German passed the trench, ending up in a Shell Crater in No Man's Land between the lines. Sacre Bleu! The MG now fires with only one die, and misses! C'est dommage! Its all up to the Mortar now. It fires, and kills one German. But this is not enough! The French turn ends; the Germans win 6-5. Incroyable!

Und das ist alle!


Fort Vaux (Twice) Where Fort Douamont was shown as five Bunker/Forts surrounded by trenches, this second famous Verdun stronghold is shown with three, also with a moat of trenches and two French units inside. The commentary says the Germans were busy with the village and a strong point on this first try, and never got to the fort this time, so we'll see if we can do better—or if that's even a good idea. Many special C&C victory conditions in all designs are close to impossible, and only worth going for to garner that winning game point, and taking the fort hex(es) may prove to be in this category. There will probably be another following game scenario where the Germans are assaulting from closer up to the fort, but I'm not looking ahead so I don't know yet.

Suddenly I had the chance to play against a live opponent, who had not tried TGW before, but had played several other C&C games. He took the Germans, and managed to take over the town of Vaux (French Left and knock out the first F/P built on a clear terrain hex I'd ever seen (but, like a fortified building hex on the other flank, with an MG. He started out by playing a lot of Command/Combat card combos, and I was soon in a tough fight. I managed to counterattack with one 'Reserve' unit, and keep him from getting the town VP, while putting more casualties on him and playing two Recon cards. So the French won 7 to 3. My pal's comment, who played for the first time, “I did a good job of board control, but didn't work out a strategy for my VP.”

He wanted to play the scenario over and switch sides, so we did. And this game played totally differently than the first one.

Unlike any TGW game I've ever played, I immediately made a massive assault with five infantry units in a row on the French Left, against three Building hexes, two of which had F/Ps, all of which were protected by barbed wire! Normally this is the kind of attack I'd never make. The dread that this kkind of thing it would always be necessary is why I didn't back the original Kickstarter, as noted in Part I. Moving up two hexes between the lines, I couldn't even attack or clear the wire on the first attack turn, which left me with taking casualties first!

Its a death trap! Its a suicide rap! We've got to get out while we're young--
cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run!”
--Bruce Springsteen


Why did I do it? Because I held right away at start Wire Cutters, Shell Shortage and even a First Strike card, as well as the ability to activate all those units. Plus I had lots of HQ tokens to power them and the Reserve Artillery! As you can see, I am usually a cautious player, but quite willing to take a calculated risk occasionally, if the moment is right!

Long story short, on Turn One I stepped right off into a major offensive, the type of massive World War I action I'd rarely want to initiate. The blunders and blind attacks launched in this war were engraved on my mind by many historical studies and films. Oh, the humanity! And if you think I'm kidding, I'll just mention that there is a whole row of dead bearing my family name engraved on the British War Memorial at Ypres (Northumbrian Regiments; my grandfather was English from Birmingham).

We bled, but eventually captured the village and took out lots of French. The French usually have fewer units than the Germans, so once you get through/around/past their first line, they don't have much to back it up unless at least some of their first line falls back, which they couldn't do in this case, being so massively assaulted. And I hugged them tight, not pulling out my own reduced units.

Most of the game played out as I slowly cleared Vaux village hex by hex, Then I took enough French trench to block a serious counterattack. Finally, I chased a lone French mortar unit down to the opposing board edge. But by now the score was very close; at one moment it as a point game. Using the Advance Over The Top Card, I even reach the trench adjacent to my target. Getting a unit all the way to the enemy board edge is quite an accomplishment, even if not a specific exit victory condition! Then I got that final mortar figure and won 7 to 6.

Once again, as noted in the scenario commentary, the Germans got nowhere near the three hex fort. Will we get another chance in the next scenario? Taking a quick look at the coming scenarios, I see not until #50, three games later. So to be continued at a later date...because this first time through, I do want to play them in order. There doesn't seem to be any particular learning curve so far that makes that matter, unlike the core game where new rules and terrain are slowly introduced step by step over the course of playing them in order. But that's okay; I've played these rules before.

After the game, we took a pause to discuss the design, which my pal liked. I was glad he'll play again. I do have an old gaming pal coming down from Canada between Christmas and New Year's this month for our annual Gaming Our Brains Out holiday fun, (this is the guy who spend an entire weekend playing the original BattleCry with me when it first came out! I know he'll want to try it out then, and I'll get some more live WWI opponent action in a couple of weeks. So I pause to show my buddy the tanks from the old Tank Expansion, and then take out the four new French heavy tanks from their two boxes for the very first time, noting they come out easily if you just push the plastic they are safe in apart a bit. Luckily, they are in perfect condition. Their green paint color is closer to the British tanks (now on the board for display also) than I expected. They have no detailing though, so I'll seriously think about using the new 'wed slide' decals that came in the new Kickstarter tank module.

The next scenario, Malancourt, in fact shows the Germans trying to outflank Hill 304, which was to the French left of La Morte Homme. It has different features from the last few games in the odd terrain—the fordable stream from the LMG scenario now meanders across the middle of the French Right, the defense has stronger artillery (based on the historical commentary), and each side can now choose an additional SPF. Two French villages are on the two banks of the stream, which has a bridge across between them. The French have fortified the northern village with three F/P! But trying to flank Hill 304 around the French Left, the Germans will now run into yet another hill complex (multiple Hill hexes)--Termite Hill. And for the first time in this Verdun campaign, perhaps because the Germans have dug their trenches close to the village, there is no preliminary No-Man Land Shelling! With modification, this and the last scenario might play as a two board “Underhill” (my WWI name for Epic, since we have none yet and it was Tolkien's war). I'll have to review them all after I get through them for further evaluation on this idea.

Flexibility! My German Plan was to hit the weak French Left, just two units in forest, and then advance without too many units adjacent, and hopefully not take too many artillery hits. Since the French have in effect nothing in the Center, they'll lave to fall way back to the French edge trenches! But when I drew both Artillery Bombard (Command Card or CC)and Box Barrage (Combat Card or CBC) cards, it was time to dump shells on the fortified village hexes on the strong French Right instead on Turn 1! While I expected to get most of my German VP without attacking the village at all, this was an opportunity to get the one or two I'd need here anyway to win! As a support to a limited attack here, I'd chosen a German Flamethrower as my optional SPF. For the French I chose a LTMG on the rear trench on the French Left, where I expected the Germans to advance (it was almost as if I could read their minds). Actually I find looking at the board from a different side gives me a different perspective for each side, but in this case it was pretty obvious that that was the German move, at least to some degree. This would also follow an enjoyable thing I like to do at the start of any C&C game: use a card—usually a less important one—to try and concentrate my opponent's attention on a sector that will not be my main attack.

By the way, the new red orange border on the larger Combat Cards is genius, and really helps even a newbie tell the two decks apart—as opposed to the green border on the Command Cards (the old smaller combat cards have an identical green border, so that you have to use the target cost symbol to tell them apart) The good thing about having decks of different sizes will come later when playing a two board game. It will prevent one from mixing the two decks being used in the same game. [A problem I solved for M44 D-Day Landings, for which I only had one deck and needed three, by having a second printed on simple cheaper paper stock but and sleeved and a third the same, but in Black and White only.]

The French came up with Shell Shortage, which canceled most of the German impact. They did kill one French infantry. The Germans only had 3 strength artillery (the French 4), but no cards that would allow them to turn their big guns on their real target on the other flank. So the flame thrower unit attacked from the wire an F/P with no effect (ironically, it was the French who held a Wire Cutters, while other units moved up behind it in a close approach trench line. With superior artillery and more HQ “Ammo,” the French drove the FT back to a trench with only one figure and the SPF remaining.

Still unable to use artillery due to the cards held, the Germans made a two unit infantry attack which actually killed half of one French infantry unit and pushed another back two hexes. In one turn they had almost taken the French Left forest complex! Mais non! Now using a French Artillery Bombard, the sons of France caused casualties on both advancing German units, and killed off an Elite SPF, retreating the other unit. In one case they did hit a half strength French unit, but did it no damage. So far, relying on their artillery had served the French well! Both sides were taking HQ stars rather than combat cards at this point.

The German now used one of his two Direct From HQ cards to whittle the two French units still in the forest down to only one figure each! But now the Germans had three adjacent units, and the French guns spoke once again. The French rolled two sets of doubles!!! Although they killed off one of their own units, they reduced all three Germans to only one figure apiece. Normally, artillery duels against entrenched units don't work very well without the Box Barrage card. But with only forest for cover, they were dealing death to both sides—the Germans had now lost 10 figures including an SPF; the French 8. Although the French Left Flank had collapsed, the Germans had a taste of what it would be like to advance over a long distance over almost open ground to reach their scenario objectives far in the French rear. Score: Germans 1, French 0 out of six. And while the French were down to only 2 HQ tokens, they drew another Artillery Bombard (the deck had been reshuffled).

The Germans move two single figure units back to their starting trenches. Using the SPF Forward Artillery Observer for my very first time, the French slyly boost their two HQ into a 3 die artillery shoot. Although they don't eliminate any units, they do kill more Germans. The situation on the French Left has been totally reversed. Now weak German units it the woods (one full strength but two single man infantry) face two entrenched full strength French infantry with a LTMG and the Artillery Observer if they advance further, and annihilation from artillery if they remain. The advance here seems to be over! Score: Germans 2, French 0 of 6.

The Germans try an artillery shoot against the Center French MG in the village, since they now have almost no troops left to reinforce the main flank attack, but plenty of unused troops n the Center--I never rush MG—but miss. The French use the lull in attacks to play a Recon card; Score: Germans 2, French 1 of 6.

I've never played a TGW scenario with so much open ground to cover against such relatively strong artillery, and its giving my real self pause. Methinks if the upcoming 1914 scenarios are to work, there had better only be relatively weak field artillery in them, and no Reserve Artillery of any strength, or they won't fly! We are told historically that most casualties in WWI came not from MG fire, as you'd expect, but from artillery.

The Germans fire artillery at the Center French MG again and miss a second time. The Huns lose another unit to shellfire. Feeling unhappy, the last gray 3 piece unit in the forest moves ahead, because it can't stay where it is. The French shift both of their entrenched units sideways, open fire, and wipe it out! The French are now ahead for the first time, Score: French 3, Germans 2 of 6. after another reshuffle, the French once again for a third time pick an Artillery Bombard card. All Is Not Quiet On The Western Front!

As the German player becomes depressed, the Frenchman finds he is enjoying himself. All of the Germans are now in the original German trenches. The French Artillery aims at the central target unit of three adjacent single man units that have retreated from the woods and opens fire...and for a second time roll two sets of doubles. They miss both units to either side, but get the one in the target hex: Score French 4, Germans 2 of 6.

The Germans reshuffle units in their trenches. The French fire on the front line with several units, taking out another German figure. The Germans are holding no cards that will help them in either deck. The artillery duel continues, weighed against the Germans. The Huns fire on one of the village F/P and miss. The French take out another one piece German. Score: French 5, Germans 2. What a debacle for the Germans! It didn't have to be this bad, but there is not doubt who this scenario favors.

The Germans come up with a desperate plan involving the Flamethrower unit and the Trench Raid card. They will need one more turn to acquire enough HQ tokens to power the card. But the French shoot their artillery for yet another “cheap shot,” and take out the last single man unit in a trench for the overwhelming win 6-2. Wow! Would a replay be any different? This is so far the most one sided scenario in the campaign, which is not a criticism, since historically that's what happened. I'd actually like to try it again some time, to see if the Germans can do better.


(TO BE CONTINUED IN PART III)


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René Christensen
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Re: Verdun Sessions Part II
Where the heck are the pics???? soblue
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Clexton27
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Re: Verdun Sessions Part II
I have not had time to unbox and play these scenarios, but I am thoroughly enjoying the action as you describe it. Thanks for taking the time.

Jim
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Mayor Jim
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Re: Verdun Sessions Part II
Slotracer wrote:
Where the heck are the pics???? soblue

Yes! Need pics! ...and no excuses that you are computer challenged whistle
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