Finally got to play '44. The setup time was longer than I would have liked, but it was my first time playing. We started off with the first scenario, which I quickly noticed was only infantry, making it that much easier to teach. I was Axis, and Michael was Allies.
Michael moved quickly toward the Orne Bridge and chipped away at my defences there. He also advanced on my razor wire near Pegasus Bridge. I noticed that sandbags are removed from the board if their units leave, so I kept my infantry there dug in. I got tangled up in my own wire trying to get a closer shot (ultimately a mistake since I kept losing a battle die on every attack).
Meanwhile, back over at the Orne Bridge we traded a lot of fire -- I managed to get one of Michael's infantry units whittled down to a single token, but then I rolled two flags and he was able to flee deep into the forest. Meanwhile, since I'd moved to guard the bridge, flags rolled against me converted into casulaties because I didn't leave myself an escape route.
Very quickly Michael managed to finish off my two units and take the bridge, suddenly leaving him only a single point away from victory when I'd not even managed to score once!
I quickly retreated a few of my more vulnerable units, but fresh forces were stuck on the wrong side of the river because I didn't have any right-flank cards. We traded a few more rounds of close fire, and I finally managed to finish off one of Michael's units.
Unfortunately, he drew an airborne assault card and got to roll two dice each against two units -- one only with only one token. Given the deadly effect of Allied airborne, he finished off the fourth victory point with ease.
Looking back over the scenario, it does seem like it's weighted in favor of the allies. Allies start with most of their forces in the center but within easy striking distance of the Orne Bridge. Axis doesn't have many units to begin with, and a third of his forces are stuck behind a bridge choke point. In retrospect I should have done a better job getting those forces to where they could be useful and I should have stayed clear of my own wire. I had a Behind Enemy Lines card that I never used -- it probably could have gone a long way toward mobilizing some of my more distant forces.
Having played a fair amount of Risk over the years, I found it interesting that you're not penalized attack dice as your tokens get depleted within a unit -- it definitely makes for some tough decisions -- stand and fight with full dice (close combat) or run away so that you don't give up a victory point?
I like this game so far, but I'm definitely going to read through the other scenarios and try to find one that's a little more balanced.
I have played this scenario as the the Axis about half a dozen times. Having read a few of the battle reports, I have come to the conclusion that your troops on the right flank need to stay put or at least stay on the right bank of the river. They should be able to provide 2 dice of firepower at any allied unit coming up the edge of the canal.
Last night, I introduced another of my friends to this game by playing Pegasus bridge. I lost the Orne bridge fairly quickly, but it did mean that at least 4 of his units were out of position to affect any sort of attack on the Pegasus bridge. As for his attack on said bridge, I managed to drive off or destroy all 5 units by simply keeping my reserves on the right of the canal. He could not bring enough firepower to bear on them to be effective but I could.
It is a tough mission for the Axis to win (I have yet to do it) but then again, the germans were surprised and outnumbered in real life. In fact, the British 6th Airborne landed the first glider less than 50 meters from the bridge and had secured it without a shot being fired. Now, holding it was a different matter!
If I ever win, I will let people know the best tactics. Until then, Happy gaming!