Simone dalla Chiesa
Cassina de' Pecchi
A small tournament of CC:E/M was held here in Milano, Italy, yesterday July 4th.
We originally planned on having eight participants, but the tournaments of other games, the call of the beaches and other summer distractions eventually cut our number down to only 5 players. Still, we had a great time and cheerfully shared the prizes (old vintage games kindly offered by the management of the club) and the beer.
Rather than giving here a report of how the tourney went I want to discuss the scenarios we picked up, because I'm very interested in the opinion of more experienced players about the characteristics a tournament scenario should have and how the scenarios we selected should be played.
I believe a tournament scenario should have:
1) A quick setup.
2) Few special rules.
3) A short playing time.
4) A balanced play.
As the informal TO, my choice fell on WBC2009 scenarios 003, 004 and 005 (in particular, I wanted to avoid the Night Rules).
Indeed, my choice proved right for as much as points #1 to 3 were concerned. As for the playing time, in particular, we started at 10:00 a.m. and finished by 5:30 p.m., allowing time for lunch and a chat. The average playing time per turn was about 2 hours.
We were a bit disappointed however about the balance of play. During the weeks before the tournament we all tested the chosen scenarios extensively, but could not come out with any setup or tactics that would eventually balance up the play. This may obviously depend on our lack of experience in the CC game system; still I want to discuss those three scenarios in some detail in the next section. The opinion/commentary/criticism of all the Forum readers will be most welcome.
If you're not familiar with it: It uses Map 7, oriented horizontally; the Finns and the Russian setup simultaneously 4 hexes deep from the W and E map edge respectively; posture is Recon. Open Obj. Chits are JUVX: all Obj.s are worth 3 VPs; Obj. 5 some 3 VPs more; eliminated units are doubled; control of all Obj.s = win. No random secret Chit.
Point Blank Fire Special Rule: When firing at an adjacent hex, +2 Attack per each card randomly discarded from hand.
Even without the sisu discard rule, the Finns have a slight but significant advantage in all aspects of the game but one. The effect of this advantage is decisive.
a) Troop morale. An 8 (unbroken) / 9 (broken) for the Finns against an 8/8 for the Russians.
b) Troop quantity: 10 Squads +2 W/Teams for the Finns, 10+1 for the Russians.
c) Leadership. The 3 Finnish leaders are weaker than the 2 Russian ones, but one more in number. This better Leader/troop rate allows the Finns to spread wider in the forest, and even lets them spare one Leader to support the HMG Team.
d) Short distance (1 hex) firepower. Here the Finns have a net advantage. The printed FP on the teams is 5 for both sides, but the Finns have 4 Molotov cocktails.
e) Medium distance firepower. At a distance of 2 hexes, the Molotov cocktails can still be very effective when thrown with Leader support. The range advantage enjoyed by the Russian Squads (5 vs. 4) is not significant in the woods.
f) Long distance firepower. The two sides' HMGs are identical in FP terms, but the Finnish one is more easily eliminated when broken. A very slight advantage for the Russians, countered by the fact that moving about the Russian HMG will hinder the movement of one precious Russian leader. The Russian 6FP mortar is a good weapon for shooting from one edge of a clearing to the other, but again it is difficult to be manoeuvred in the woods.
g) Melee. A net melee strength of 6 for the Finns (boxed "5"), vs. a 5 for the Russians.
h) Movement. The Finns move 33% faster than the Russians in the woods (6 MPs = 3 hexes against 5 MPs= 2 hexes). They actually dash wherever they want.
i) Initiative. The Finnish player both holds the Initiative card and has the first turn, therefore moving first and having that first HMG shot along the railway.
j) Setup/Objectives. Objective 5 is only 2 hexes away from the Finnish setup area. Even if not physically occupied right away, Obj. 5 will be in tactical control of the Finns for all the game. Once taken, it gives the Finns a 5 VPs lead.
k) Deck. Overall, the Finns' Discard limit of 2 is only slightly worse than the Russians 3. The two decks are to be compared mostly for as much as Move and Fire Orders are concerned. Here the Russians have more opportunities of Moving (13 against 11), but both sides have the same number of Fire Orders. What is interesting here is that the notoriously bad Italian Fate deck, so full of useless cards (12 Command Confusion "Order" cards!) is actually better than the Russian one when the Point Blank Fire special discard rule is used. With so much garbage in her hand, the Finnish player will indeed discard her cards more easily and lightheartedly than her opponent, who will often try to hold on to "good" cards for later use. (It should be noticed also that one of the few good features of the Italian Fate Deck, the large number of Light Wounds Action cards, is of very limited use when playing with the Finns. Unless the Finnish player has the absolute need to save one unit, replacing a Sissi Squad with a Team, even if an Elite Team, will still get him an Italian Elite Team: the worst unit of its kind in the entire game.)
l) Surrender Levels are similar, 11 for the Finns, 10 for the Russians.
In our testing of Scenario 003, we noticed that things would constantly go in the following way.
Unless particularly unlucky with her opening hand, the Finnish player would immediately fire her HMG along the railway (possibly pinning down the opposing Russian HMG) and move her units forward in the woods, taking or simply bypassing Obj.5. Next, she would push a bit further, taking position along the middle of the map (just along its spine, actually). The Russian Player, 5 VPs under, would then have to move to attack, clumsily keeping his units all clustered around his two only leaders, until in range of the fearsome Finnish Molotov cocktails. Were he to lose time by manoeuvring for position or by trying to get a better hand, the Finnish Player would then proceed to press him back towards his map edge, or to outflank him, attacking the most advanced exposed Russian units. All the time, the tactical initiative would be on the Finnish side, as well as the lead in VPs and the advantage of a much better close combat strength, while the burden to attack will be on the Russians.
Frankly, we couldn't come out with a trick or a clever tactical solution to overcome this problem, which is strategic in nature. In all games we played in this way, the Russian were just smashed to pieces.
Thanks to the suggestion of my fellow player Simone, however, we decided to try to simply invert the orientation of the map. Now its is the Russians that setup on the Western portion of the map, closer to Obj.5, and the Finns that have to move across half the map and attack the Russian positions. The two tournament games played in this way turned out to be amazingly balanced. In one game, the Finns (Massimo, while Simone had the Russians) did their job and put all the pressure they could on the Russian line, eventually taking Obj.5 and winning at the Sudden Death by a short margin of 5 VPs. In the other game (myself as the Finnish player against Paolo), the Finns were stopped dead on their starting position for 3+ turns due to a killing lack of Move Orders, managing only a good effective pinning fire along the railway. Then they moved quickly in the North cone of woods (their left flank), but the Russians had already taken an advanced position on both sides of the railway. The rest was a violent struggle around Obj.5: the Russians rolled the Finnish left (Northern) flank inflicting heavy losses, but on the opposite (Southern) flank the main bulk of the Finnish forces just pushed the Russians troops away. The game ended by Sudden Death at a count of 5VPs for the Russians when the road to both Obj.5 and 1 was open to the Finns (again, no Move Order at the right moment).
We were very satisfied at our success in balancing this scenario.
Map 2, oriented horizontally. The Americans attack from the Eastern Map edge, supported by 3 Light Mortars and by a powerful 10 FP Radio; the Germans defend in 4 Trenches with poor Green troops and the support of 2 LMGs and 2 HMGs. A Special Rule allows any US Leader to activate the mortars as a Spotter. Obj. Open Chits are UV (each Obj.: = 3; All = win), plus 2 random secret Chits. The high VP lead of the Germans, +19, is of no meaning against a Surrender Level as low as 8.
We did find the scenario to be unbalanced in favor of the Americans. As it is always the case, defending in a too advanced position will indeed let the Germans have a few good shots at the American Leaders, but then the defenders will be swept away in a couple of turns by the American Radio and infantry fire. With a low surrender level of 8, we found out that the German player should setup in the middle of the map and try to minimize his losses. Of course this will give the American player the opportunity to manoeuvre around the German flanks, protected by the edges. However, with a lot of indirect fire, Time is running fast in this game, balancing things a bit. Still, in both our pre-tournament testing and in the actual tournament games, the Americans always won. One tourney game was matching an experienced player (Simone) as the German against a good but rusty player (Nicola); the German player set up wisely so to have good sighting lines for his MGs but also to be in good Cover against the American indirect fire. It paid off for 2/3 of the game; then the Americans outflanked the German positions from the North and won for Surrender. In the other game, the less experienced German player (Massimo) did set up close to the Americans; the following violent firefight inflicted heavy losses on both sides, but the final outcome was predictable. The American player (Paolo) again won for Surrender.
I reckon that a wise, well pondered initial setup would give some chances to the Germans in Scenario 004, but still I cannot see how the poor, few German troops, with a Surrender level of only 8, might eventually withstand the overwhelming American firepower.
I wonder how more experienced players would play this Scenario.
Map 3, horizontally oriented. The Germans attack from the North map edge with two platoons of 3 riflemen each, two Leaders, two Line Teams, 2 LMGs and 1 HMG. The Frenchmen defend with 2 platoons (8 Chasseurs and 2 Reservist), 2 Leaders, 1 W/Team, 3 LMGs and 1 HMG. They set up 6 wires after the German setup. All Obj. Chits are random. A Special Rule allows to add +1 per each firing hex beyond the first one, by giving away the control of the Initiative card.
Again, in our preparatory testing I could not witness a single French victory. However, the Germans are so few that they must choose an attack plan and stick to it; so that a well placed French wire can disrupt their planned movement, gain time, hinder enemy Weapon fire etc. Also, the Obj.s worth most VPs are set in the Eastern portion of the map and are easily defendable. The problem for the French player is that the German player can choose to make a move along the Western map edge and get out from the wood close to his exit edge. Now, such rout can be blocked only by a French force in the long house of Obj.3, a position very difficult to defend against any incoming from the North.
Of course the actual defensive stance taken by the French player will ultimately depend upon the Obj. VP values, but in general the Frenchmen should defend both the stone houses of Obj.3 and Obj.4, the latter with the HMG (it has the widest possible field of fire from here, and good Cover), and be ready to move one platoon from one house to the other if need arises. If the random VP Chit pick gives the French side a significant VP lead, the French player will want to roll for Fire as much as he can, to make time run quickly. (In this case, the Special Rule will not be used by the French Player).
This brings me to the worst weakness the French player has: his HMG. Stacked with a Leader, this HMG has a decent net FP of 8 and can be fairly effective when fired with other Weapons (most of the time, the Germans will be out of range of the French Squads). This HMG, however, will break with any dieroll of 3, twice more often than the German Weapons. Once broken, it will fix with a 1-5. Because of such a continuous use, and of the extensive use of Sustained Fire Actions the French player needs to do in order to have the cards in his hand flowing, the French HMG will invariably break during the game; when, it depends on your luck. In three of the games I could directly witness, it broke at its first shot, and was later fixed in one instance only.
One tournament match saw a heavy German (Paolo) attack in the East portion of the map. The Germans eventually overwhelmed the French defense by sheer firepower and eventually won by Sudden Death at a high VP count. In this game, however, fearing the devastating German move along the Western map edge, the French player (Simone) kept a large force in the stone house of Obj.3, possibly depriving his main front of useful units and of some firepower. In the other game, Obj.5 was worth 10 VPs (Open Chit R), and become the target of the main German effort. The German Player (Massimo) gained ground with the help of well timed Advance and Move Orders, patiently negotiated the wire surrounding the building, and finally took Obj.5. The building was wired as well; so that the heavy fire from the French units deployed in the wood just South of Obj.5 eventually cleared it (the HMG was gone for good since its first fire). Then a chaotic firefight followed, but the German player never got out of the wire with his HMG, and could not use it. The advantage was on the French side. It so happened that after successfully softening the Germans around Obj.5, the French counter-attacked once, taking the building, were repulsed, counterattacked again in force, and eventually wiped out the German platoon and Leader with a timely Advance. Sudden Death saw the French player (myself) winning with a 23 VPs lead. This game saw no action in the Western portion of the map, and little commitment of one German platoon.
Again, I personally cannot see any way the French player could win this Scenario if both players are equally experienced. Alternate views and opinions are welcome.
I do know that many contributors to this Forum will disagree with my analyses and conclusions. I wrote this long post exactly in the hope of receiving criticism and hints from you experienced players.
- Last edited Wed Jul 7, 2010 11:29 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Mon Jul 5, 2010 11:18 pm
Most interesting thread I've read in quite a long time. I would dig out the scenarios and my own records of play and respond, but I'm off to Historicon early tomorrow, and need to pack. I'll be reading the other responses, and looking forward to doing so.
Simone dalla Chiesa
Cassina de' Pecchi
Chick, it's an honor to be praised by a veteran like you. I look forward to your commentary.
Yeah, I'm the good but rusty Nicola, the American in scenario 004.
In effect Simone (German player) did the best defensive play I ever saw, not so for my offensive tactic (rusty, indeed).
I resolved the game only a bit early the game end with a sniper eliminating a broken officier.
I think the scenario requires a very skilfull German player in order to resist the American overpower, and this may be not sufficient.
That is an excellent, thoughtful and thought provoking post.
I went to download the scenarios to have a look and there is some nonsense mechanic to stop downloads. Some sort of catchphrase code involving 'wheelmen' and 'senator' Can anyone help with any of that ?
Simone dalla Chiesa
Cassina de' Pecchi
Fentum, I faintly remember I also had to insert some strange code to validate my download. Try this:
It seems to work. Otherwise, I could send you the file as an email attachment.
- Last edited Wed Jul 7, 2010 10:59 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Jul 7, 2010 10:57 pm