Monday, January 14, 2013

Combat Commander: Europe more merry mayhem and waffle

A day off and so to war !!! at least of the cardboard variety..........................

Had another bash at two scenarios of Combat Commander: Europe with my Father and again an superb session it was too.
Both have really taken to this game with its nice balance of flavour/excitement/chaos/frustration/unpredictability/simulation and sheer damn fun (always of benefit to include that in a game I say).

First scenario played (number 6) was entitled 'Paralyzed From The West Down' (not the most PC of titles) which had me as Americans trying to wrest control of a chateau from Germans in 1944.
As you can see in first pic below a tall order for Yanks as German can defend the area pretty handily. They have a bunch of Elite types with 2 HMGs 2 LMGs and a 75mm IG plus 2 Leaders.
They also start with 5 Wire counters which act as rubble in scn being able to start in or adjacent to any chateau hex.
Yanks have also a bunch of Elite types backed by some Line Inf with 2 HMGs 2 MMGs a couple of satchel charges and then later a couple of Engineer Squads and 2 Flamethrowers ('Let 'em burn !).

The Chateau shows a Red circle on left-most hex which is the nominal Victory Hex which I targeted singularly only to suddenly realise that one must take the whole 7 hex Chateau to qualify for VPs !!
Made little odds to be honest as I could not get a sufficient run of move/advance orders to make any real push (I did try on the left where terrain masks my moves especially as Krauts did not cover opting to concentrate solely at chateau).
This lead to fairly ineffective exchanges of lead from us both (with high morale and decent cover we both were able to recover any broken units.
I only managed to take 1 hex in the end after flaming some Heinies but Sudden Death time roll ended game in Kraut favour.
Toughie for Yanks but fun trying even if the GIs were reluctant to play ball (this sort of thing can radily frustrate players used to more structured/phased games like Squad Leader but I loves it).

The chateau and its defenders

Yanks line up ready

Second scenario (number 7) was entitled 'Bessarabian Nights' (groan) and pitted an anti-Partisan sweep by Germans (father by strange quirk of fate ie demand).
Interesting set-up for this one as Russians units set up in random hexes (a mix of decent SMG troops with Militia and several Green teams with some LMGs and satchel charges and 2 Leaders) and then Huns setting up after but have to maintain a chain of adjacent units (bunch of Volksgrenadiers couple of LMGs and leaders). 
VP locations are spread all over the board and both sides get 1 secret VP chit in addition to the open options of 'hold all at 1st Sudden Death opportunity for auto win' and 'score double points for eliminating enemy'. 
Partisans have added bonus of only counting 1 move point instead of 2 per wood hex. However they have only 4 card hand as defenders to Hun 5 card Recon hand and more importantly only allowed a meagre 1 order per turn compared to Hun 3. 
This was an extremely fun game with the VP levels swaying to and fro and the Huns hoping for the Sudden Death rolls on turns 5-7 to be successful and then the Ivans crying out for same on turns 8 & 9.
On turn 10 the VP level was a 1 for Hun but a Time Event would give the Ivans 1 VP as defenders which would mean a draw. 
This meant Hun was loathe to use the tie-breaking Initiative card (can be used to force re-rolls of 'dice'). Game was decided by a Russian Hero (event generated earlier in game) moving a whopping 21 hexes (move of 7) in 3 turns and managing to get to the key victory location (made obvious as 'secret' Hun objective both by his actions and by its being revealed by an event) and take it, after having weathered volleys of lead enroute (his morale of 9 makes him hard to break). 
Huns desperately discarded whole hands of cards trying to get an Advance order to close assault the wee bugger (his firepower is rather low making him vulnerable to melee when alone). 
However this time a Time event favoured me as the Sudden Death roll ended the game. 
Great stuff to end a game that was full of move counter-move, assaults (really bloody these), events and use of foxholes and mines. 
Tension level was so high we managed to crack the corner of glass I brought to cover map (well ok it was really my elbow but sounds more dramatic)
Having good grasp of rules now our games fairly pelt along and that is now twice we have managed 2 scenarios in one evening (about 5 hours play) including set-up. 
Small maps and OOBs really help here.

Germans concentrated at start whilst Partisans all over the show

Struggle in center of board (Mines, Foxholes and Veteran counters in play)

Herewith also a bit of waffle i put on BGG ref a discussion over the frustration some players have with the CC system for those of you bored enough to read:

Combat Commander is what is from what I term the chaos or narrative school of rules systems 
When I can't draw say a required move card is it frustrating ? Yes but I also feel it represents (to my imagination) a reluctance for the PBI to get up and go/time taken to communicate and explain the actual order and that hoary old term fog of war. This also builds the narrative aspect of the game as you include the above in how the story of the game enfolds.
Personally I love this sort of stuff.

In a game just last night my Russian Hero (generated in game and another narrative point) moved a whopping 21 hexes in 3 turns, survived numerous shots from the Huns to take the key VP location. The German player desperately hoping to draw an Advance card to move into melee and retake hex and torn between need to discard to do this or try to rely on shooting alone (hard when hero has 9 morale). A sudden death time roll ended game with the hero giving Russians victory !! Super stuff full of narrative episodes, excitement, frustration, decision points, risk and plain good old fun :-)

Now a game like ASL is what i term a structured or sequenced style game. It is therefore a somewhat more predictable game as it relies on a fixed turn phase sequence the main unpredictable element being the use of dice rolls. No cards or chit pulls means every piece on board (in general terms) is capable of moving, firing or assaulting etc as the player so desires. 
There is still (again in my imagination) a strong if a tad lessened narrative element to such games just generated differently. I move my squads in their move phase to confront enemy positions which they do after suffering losses from enemy defensive fire, my leaders recover wavering units, my initial prep firing is largely ineffective damn ! Rethink....ok let's try to suppress (ie break) with MGs in prep fire, then in advance phase move into melee the enemy hexes and do them unto death. 
Whilst predictable/structured in terms of how I can plan and hopefully execute (enemy actions not withstanding) the story line still unfolds with a degree of uncertainty and excitement and again that good old fun aspect.

Both systems are IMHO excellent Infantry action games in their own ways (of course ASL includes AFVs which adds a whole other level of narrative !) and scratch similar and yet different itches in different ways.

Can't say I find one a better simulation or indeed game than other overall just different with different levels of abstraction (they are games and so inherently abstract no matter how one sees their model of so called reality) Certainly CC is simpler game with a lot less rules (by a huge factor !) but then it does not aim like SL to be as extensive a system/game. This also means that CC games tend to be quicker (we have managed to complete two scenarios per evening last two outings) than SL which is often a reason to select it as choice

I play a lot of miniatures rules as well and they too enjoy/suffer (delete as you desire) similar differences in approach with a lot of newer rule systems (IABSM/BKC etc) relying on cards or unit activations/command rolls compared to the older/traditional structured rulesets (WRG/Cmd Decision/SH etc). I must give honourable menyion here to the Piquet family of rules which embraced the chaos theory very early on (and remain among my favourite rule set)

I say play them both styles/systems and enjoy the narrative/story/ride/fun/predictability/unpredictabilty/chaos/structure I know I do :-)
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