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Bastogne: Screaming Eagles under Siege» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Some comments after the first Solitaire gameplay rss

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Christian Koppmeyer
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Played a Solitaire Full Campaign and would like to adress some points and to ask some questions.

The first big point is that you are able to play after a short rule studying. There are no heavy rules and if you are familar with normal wargame behavior then is this all easy stuff.

First big rethinking begins with supply. It is simply not there. So German units mustn't take care for any supply path. This looks fine and plays good but is at least a little bit unhistoric. It also means that any sneaking through frontline gaps (easy with motorized units) will find easy Artillery unit targets with little risk.

The restriction that Barraging is only conducted in the German Turn is a very ingenious rule. It simply means that important German units can move so that they are not adjacent to an American spotter unit during the American Barrage Phase.In the Exploitation Phase they make Overruns and can stand wherever they want without risk of becoming Artillery targets. With the enormous destroying potential of yellow Artillery this is neccessary for the German.

What feels strange is the Movement cost for the terrain. Even if only 10% of a hex is woods the units pays 2 MP? Even if a run runs parallel with the moving direction the cost for the run is added?

The Retreat of German KG units is probably historical correct, but as mentioned before the historical setting is not really in the focus. Additionally it is simply to predictable for the American when which unit is to be removed.

One very nice thing is that there are no stacks. This makes the overall view very easy.

Overall a good Solitaire playabilty.

CK
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Jay Sheely
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I remember the designer saying that the movement cost was difficult to integrate because with each turn being a full day, units could move all over the board due to the relatively small hex scale.

Getting ready to play my first full-scale solo game.
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Richard Savage
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I was disappointed with the game. I know it's an SCS game, so it's supposed to be simple, but the game is probably too simple. As was mentioned, units zoom around like they were on an autobahn instead of snowy, clogged roads. There's no supply rules, and also no combined arms if I'm not mistaken. I read through the rules, looked at the map and counters and then put it back in the box. I like simple games now with low stacking and big units now in my elder years, but this was dumbed down too much!
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Thaddeus Blanchette
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Actually, I think that the game is a stunningly well-designed example of design for effect.

Let's tackle some of the "problems" described above. Remember, first of all, that turns are a day long and hexes only 400 meters wide.

1) Supply. Units are company-level and have enough supply to last them a day or two under any circumstances. If you're cut off and surrounded in this game for longer than a turn, you have problems that go beyond supply. If you're being attacked, you will certainly be slaughtered. If you're not being attacked, you're not using much supply anyhow, are you? I thus think the designer was quite correct to eliminate supply from what's essentially a tactical game. The probable effect on the game did not justify a page of rules.

2) Zipping about in snow. Actually, this is very, very realistically covered. Presuming cleared roads - even in snow - there's no reason why a unit can't zip across the mapboard in a single turn. The Germans and the Americans did BETTER than this, in fact, in their approach to Bastogne, so obviously snow didn't slow down that sort of operational movement. Where snow DID slow things down is once units moved off the roads and into contact. The game brilliantly models this dual movement mode by allowing long strategic moves on the road system outside of contact with the enemy, but restricting off-road movement and movement into contact to a couple of kilometers a day - which is very, very realistic.

3) Artillery. Remember that there is effectively no stacking in this game and that there's quite a lot of attrition. So yes, one can withold one's panzers out of artillery range and zoom them forward to overrun without being shot apart by artillery. However, they will be fighting alone and,unless they're overruning artillery in the clear, chances are very good that they'll take a hit doing this. THERE's your attritional effect right there - the same that artillery would produce. This forces the German player and the American player to use their units historically: the German player is seeking to blow a hole in allied lines and, during the mechanized phase, overrun American artillery with his carefully hoarded panzers. In order to counter this, the American player also has to play historically, using defence in depth, blocking positions and concentrating his artillery in defensible groups.

4) As for combined arms, it's there in spades! Again, people seem to think there should be some combat modifier for tanks and infantry working together. There isn't. But that doesn't mean units work identically. Poor quality infantry hold the line. Good quality infantry make assaults to open breaches in the line. Motorized infantry are best placed in a position where they can strike several parts of the line at once as they have high movement values but no exploitation capacity. Tanks and mechanized infantry exploit breaks in the line to overrun rear areas and seize important crossroads. Artillery, for the Germans, supports set-piece assaults and proper use of it is absolutely necessary to make successful breakthroughs. For the Americans, it breaks up German assaults and attrits their key assault units. American mechanized units form a mobile reserve which can counterattack German breakthroughs. All of this is very historical. The man who said that there's "no combined arms in the game" obviously didn't play it. Successful use of combined arms is absolutely key to winning.

Again, all of these "issues" only enhance the game's realism and playability in my view. The only seem to be issues, I believe, because people are mentally seeing an operational or strategic game when Bastogne is rightly classified as grand tactical.

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Richard Savage
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Good points well taken Thaddeus! It's changed my entire perception of the game. Now instead of a bad operational game, I think it's a bad grand tactical game.
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Thaddeus Blanchette
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I'd be more impressed, Richard, if you'd tell us why you think a motorized column couldn't move 12 km, when unopposed, in a day along the roads in the Ardennes (when this quite clearly happened), why you believe that supply is necessary at this scale and - in particular - what sort of combined arms effect you think needs to be added, given that combined arms is already most definitely the way to go in this game if you want to win.

It's one thing to trash a game when it's deserved. Another to look it over and toss it out because it doesn't seem to meet your preconditions when the points you raise have been most clearly addressed by the designer.

IMHO, the game addresses all the points you raise and is a blast to play. Easy, too.
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Richard Savage
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Sure the units could move vast distances over a day, the Battle of the Bulge is full of reports of panzer columns chugging down one road, running into stiff resistance, then doing a swift about-face, motoring back up the road and taking another road to try and outflank the enemy. This battle is still studied today in war colleges for the sweeping flanking movements employed by the combatants in the frozen, rutted and traffic-clogged roads, it was considered a military miracle.
 
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Christian Koppmeyer
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I do not agree with the "to simple" approach. In the first run my own biggest problem was to accept that units can move (as per Road march) nearly unhindered where ever they want. I then realized that a good planning is needed to make this as effective as you want it to be.

The second point is that we have here mostly Company level. So why bother about Supply. It is my own long gaming experience which asks automatically for supply rules. But they are really not needed in Bastogne. Only the "heavy" Artillery has limited Ammunition. I like this "making things simple" approach.

If you take a careful look you will find out that there are a lot of things which you must organize to a maximum of effect. I highly appreciate the fact that you are able to concentrate on real tactical decisions after reading a little amount of rules and the "feel" of the game isn't wrong - for me!

What I first found strange, was the fact that units may sneak through a frontline if not every hex was covered by a unit. This were things not possible in other games (ZOC block!!!). But if I then imagine that we are speaking about companies with 80 men or 10 tanks then I have to accept that this small units were able to penetrate a line. It are not divisions or regiments!!! And because they are able to sneak around it is consequent to not have supply become cutted down by this moves. So all works smooth together.

I like the game.

CK
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Thaddeus Blanchette
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Less sarcasm and fewer strawmen, Richard, and more intellectual honesty, please.

At the level the game plays - and let me point this out once again: 400 METERS PER HEX - the ammount of movement is perfect.

Also, your description is simply disengenious. One cannot go "chugging down one road, running into stiff resistance, then doing a swift about-face, motoring back up the road and taking another road to try and outflank the enemy" in Bastogne. For you to characterize the game that way implies that you are either arguing in bad faith or have never even played it.

One cannot engage the enemy PERIOD if one uses road movement. A unit that uses road movement spends all day on the road and can't fight. This is quite clear in the rules and I can't see how you missed it. Also, road movement is not unlimited. It amounts to around 5 kilometers a day. Furthermore, units already on the roads slow road movement down to a crawl (your traffic jams).

So you're saying, Richard, that Germans couldn't move 5 kilometers along cleared roads in the Ardennes, even when there was no enemy opposition?

Would you like to give a source to sustain that opinion, please?
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June Hwang Wah
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Macunaima wrote:
One cannot engage the enemy if one uses road movement. A unit that uses road movement spends all day on the road and can't fight.


My understanding is that a unit cannot start or move adjacent to an enemy unit during road movement, but that does not stop it from engaging in combat during subsequent movement/combat/exploitation phases.

From my limited playing of the game, it does seem that road movement produces a situation that is too fluid. Perversely, it aids the defending American player more than the attacking German, as he can concentrate substantial forces to attacking German spearheads as they are moving into position.
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Thaddeus Blanchette
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The problem is that relatively few units are mechanized and - crucially - there is little stacking in the game. This makes your mech units very brittle.

Conceivably, you could road move mech units into position during the movement phase and then exploit-overrun after the combat phase with mech movement.

You need to be VERY careful, however, because if those mech unit get too far out ahead of the infantry, they will be surrounded and cut off. Thus this sort of "mech breakthrough" is only really useful in very restricted circumstances.

For this reason also, the American strategy you describe is chancy.

If the Yanks move/exploit/overrun with their mech units in the second movement phase, they wil end up with said mech units exposed to German counter attack and they will be quickly eliminated.

The proper way to use American mech units, in my book, is to run them out front during the first movement phase, attack in the combat phase, and run them back to breakthrough blocking positions during the second movement phase.
 
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Dave Langdon
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5km, 10km, 15km....its a heck of a long way in some circumstances despite best intentions, Arnhem, Moscow, Dunkirk to name a few.
 
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Thaddeus Blanchette
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Sure. And we're talking 5km in the Ardennes in 1944 in a 24 hour period, by units which do nothing but move, unopposed, along roads in column.

Sounds fine to me, given history.
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Mark Walker
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Why do so many discussions devolve into impotent mudslinging on this site?

I'm thinking of buying this game, and understand the points being made. To me the obvious, and ignorant (I don't have the game, let alone the rules), question is... If it's semi-tactical (400-meter hexes), is there ranged combat? Even a short-barreled Sherman could fire effectively to 800 meters. Easy Eights and Wolverines could have fired three 400-meter hexes.

So, I understand no ZOC, but that should be replaced by a form of ranged combat. Yes?
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