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Subject: Campaign Game rss

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Myk Deans
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(This is republished from my own blog.)

Being a fan of the Gamers' OCS series of games, I've been looking at other games they do, and, of course, the Standard Combat Series of games. These are far lighter games, with a quite simple rule set, but they have some very interesting subjects, and after playing a small scenario from Afrika (second edition) with Chuck I decided to get a few. Unfortunately, very few are currently in print, but I picked up Afrika II, Stalingrad Pocket II, and Yom Kippur. Chuck and I decided that the one we most wanted to try was the whole campaign in Arika II, so we set aside a month of October evenings...

The game starts with the Italians (Chuck) invading and taking territory. The British (me) are very weak, with only a few units to defend against the Italians. Fortunately the Italians are not very strong either, and weren't able to do much.

[IMG]http:/deans-inter.net/blogs/thumbs/gaming/replays/afrika/camp_01/end_gtx.jpg[/IMG]
The next couple of turns sees the British start to ramp up, and begin to take it to the Italians. However, early withdrawals on the variable reinforcements table (I twice rolled 4/5 in the first 4 turns) put a cramp on my attacks, as did my usual spotty dice rolling for combat.


However, weight of numbers eventually started to tell, and I was able to solve Chuck's supply problems by cutting off and eliminating his forward units.


Game turn 7 saw me continue to push forward towards Tobruk, but this was to be the high water mark for the British...


...before the Germans arrived and started pushing me back. I decided that an advance to the rear was in order.


Chuck kept probing, trying to find a break-through, and I kept falling back, trying to keep a line.



I decided it was time to fall back, which meant giving up Bardia. However, this was no great loss, as in 5 turns of ownership I managed to get in 1 supply point by sea (50/50 roll). I also built a couple of boxes to help stiffen the line.


Chuck had a go at trying to break my line, but was unsuccessful, and Rommel had been stopped.


The next couple of turns developed into a stalemate, as we just glowered at each other over our respective defenses. At this point the game resembled WW1 trench warfare more than the cut and thrust of WW2 desert warfare.


Having built up some forces and supply, I started cautiously inching my way forward.


And even threatened to turn his flank.


And head for Tobruk.


However, Rommel wasn't having any of that and finally moved aggressively to force me back. I also decided to use the LRDG on an attack on Rommel, which turned out to be way more successful than I had hoped it could be, as I managed to roll a '6' and Rommel was out of the game.


I once again threatened Tobruk from the south, as Chuck moved more forces back to defend it. This was more an attempt to persuade the defenders to come out, as I preferred a fight in the open to a fight in his fortresses.


This succeeded a little too well, as he came out swinging and rolling more high dice. I managed to cut him off, but kept rolling low dice to cause little damage.


Still, the pressure of numbers was starting to tell, even though he was rolling replacements every turn. (The Axis need a roll of 6+ to score replacements, the higher the better, and didn't miss a replacement roll for 8 straight turns.)


With more combat rolls going Chucks way (for his two combats he rolled '11' each time, where I rolled a brace of '4's), I was seriously starting to run out of units, and my line was looking way too thin. I had 3 stacks of units back at Mersa Matruh (out of the picture to the left) waiting for replacements to bring them back to good health, but was only rolling replacements about every other turn. (Same 6+ required.) I also couldn't get supplies in by sea to Mersa Matruh, managing twice in 12 turns (needed 5/6 roll), which meant trucks had to be used to move supply up from Alexandria, so I found it very difficult to build up supply or drive too deeply.


I finally managed a turn of good combat rolls, and started to seriously wear Chuck down. However, time was not on my side, as I needed to capture both Bardia and Tobruk for the win, one of them for a draw, and they were both heavily defended.


I started building up my attacks on Tobruk, as well as trying to get into position for Bardia.


Some decent success saw me break through to the coast, but Bardia had built up sufficient supply such that I wasn't going to be able to starve him out. I struck past Tobruk to stop any reinforcements coming in by road.


I managed to break though the final defenses between Bardia and Tobruk, and had won through to a position where I could attack Tobruk itself. Two turns left meant it was coming down to the wire.


I stacked up the attacks best I could, but didn't roll well enough, so he was able to soak up the losses and convert the retreats to more losses, without losing control of Tobruk. I tried to put out a screen of units to prevent any reinforcement. Who cares that I didn't supply them, it was the last turn coming up.


Except I hadn't counted on Chuck using all his truck points to move a supply unit around the south end of my line, and then move a couple of units to create a supply path to it from Tobruk. This allowed him to use his solitary shipping point to move a fatty Italian division into Tobruk. More importantly than the defense strength it gave, was that it could soak up 3 steps of losses. I rolled, but didn't get a high enough result, and he survived in Tobruk. Bardia was a different story, as I easily scored the result I needed to remove the final couple of steps, as with no shipping or LoC he wasn't able to reinforce it, leaving only 1 or 2 steps.


And that was it, game over and we had fought to an honorable draw, and were left to lament the might-have-beens. If the results had gone better for the British in the early game they might have forced the Italians out of Tobruk. (In the first few turns Chuck rolled 1 '6', and all the rest higher than '7'. My highest roll was a single '8', then a single '6', and the rest were lower than that.) Should Rommel have pressed harder and risked a Gazala-type operation to strike deep into my rear areas? What if the LRDG strike hadn't been successful? If the British attacks on all the surrounded Axis stacks had rolled higher than consecutive '4's (therefore removing possibly 8 Axis units from play) would Tobruk have been able to hold?

Only one way to find out, and that's to do it again!

So, what were the lessons learned? For the British, keep grinding away. I didn't attack enough to make use of the supply I had. Even at 2-1 the attacker only needs to roll '5' to get even losses, and that's good enough for the British as even rolls for each will see them get around 1.5-2 times as many replacements as the Axis. (Well, it should be, but with me rolling dice......) Also, defend in depth rather than everything at the front, for two reasons. First, you can't afford to risk developing holes in the line during combat and letting those long legged Axis units space to drive through. Second, having all the units at the front means you need to get supply up to the front, using up all your truck points. Defending in depth means you don't have to truck your supply so far forward, allowing a supply dump to be built. this means that when you do want to push forward, you have the forward base to allow you to truck supply to your forward units through a non-road route. Like around his flank.

Anyway, a very enjoyable game experience. The SCS system is simple, but not simplistic. It puts the minimum number, and complexity, of rules out there to give you the feel and challenge of the situation, and they don't get in the way of playing the game. Definitely at the beer & pretzels end of the wargaming spectrum, it's just that you need a couple crates of beer and big bowl of pretzels for the campaign. If you drink slowly. I'm currently playing Rock of the Marne with Eric for our latest Two Sides to the Coin game, and it's proving to be real tense. I want to try more SCS games.
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Peter Veenstra
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Nice AAR. Love the pictures!!

What's the historical time scale of this scenario? And how many turns did you play?
Regards,
Peter
 
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Myk Deans
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pveenstra wrote:
Nice AAR. Love the pictures!!

What's the historical time scale of this scenario? And how many turns did you play?
Regards,
Peter

Thanks. Turns are monthly, and the campaign games starts in Sept 1940, and ends Dec 1942, for 28 turns. We played the whole game.
 
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Lee Massey
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Cool report and pictures! I'm a sucker for games about the campaign in Afrika!
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Bill Lawson
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Nice report. I bought this recently and have only played a little bit of one scenario.This is making me want to try it out soon.
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Mike Brewer
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Sounds like you were very timid in the initial CW attacks. You need to meet Rommel a long way W of Tobruk, ideally.

Mike
 
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Steve
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This is such a good report.
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Myk Deans
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mikeb13603 wrote:
Sounds like you were very timid in the initial CW attacks. You need to meet Rommel a long way W of Tobruk, ideally.

Ideally, yes. But it's really hard to make much progress towards that goal early on when your average combat/overrun dice roll is 4-5. Even more so when your opponent's average roll is 8-9. Then 2 out of 4 replacement rolls in the first four turns were 4-5, so I had to withdraw units, rather than get extra units. Meeting Rommel west of Tobruk was a non-starter, let alone a long way west of Tobruk.
 
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Mike Brewer
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OK, fair enough.

I suppose this underlines that there is a fair bit of variability in the CRT - the die roll makes much more difference to the result than the column shift - and, at 1 turn per month, there are not that many combat die rolls in the game for the luck to "average out".

Still, it's SCS and that means fast and furious fun.

Mike

 
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Myk Deans
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mikeb13603 wrote:
I suppose this underlines that there is a fair bit of variability in the CRT - the die roll makes much more difference to the result than the column shift - and, at 1 turn per month, there are not that many combat die rolls in the game for the luck to "average out".

Yes, the CRT really rewards the 9+ rolls - big step losses and retreats. Get them surrounded and 'D3r3' style results means stacks disappear quickly. An 'average' 7 roll is A1D1, and not much happens. In our game I think my first overrun against the Italians to allow the deep drive rolled an 'A2' result on a 3-1. That stopped the advance cold, as there aren't enough trucks to take supply around the outside - those roads are critical! I still think I've yet to learn how to run a good offense in A2, however, and judicious use of actual units at the front is the issue. (A skill my Axis opponent also didn't learn, fortunately for me.)

mikeb13603 wrote:
Still, it's SCS and that means fast and furious fun.

Absolutely!
 
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Myk Deans
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mikeb13603 wrote:
there are not that many combat die rolls in the game for the luck to "average out".

Or, in my case, enough games. My skill with dice is nothing short of legendary in our gaming group.
 
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jack raten
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About how long did it take you to play it through?
 
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Myk Deans
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jackR24 wrote:
About how long did it take you to play it through?

4 evening sessions and 1 day session, so around 20-22 hours in total I reckon.
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jack raten
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Wow. Seriously? I was under the impression that the whole thing only took about 3 hours or so. I guess that's just for the expansions. Boy was I wrong!
 
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Joshua Gottesman
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Great AAR and I loved the pictures. My copy arrived today and now I'm excited to get it on the table (if only I can find the time...).
 
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