My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flying Lead - Western Union

Yesterday Don and I played the Western Union scenario from the NUTS! scenario book The Big Hurt. I tried a few things differently, with regards to the scenario, rather than using the totally random method for reinforcements that I did last time.

Considering that Don's forces were severely depleted from the first scenario, I decided that the forces were going to be equal in points. The first thing to resolve was how to deal with reinforcements. I decided that the best way was to use the German Enemy Activity Level and the US Support Level as indicators for the number of possible reinforcements, rather than modifiers to who got reinforcements. So, the Germans would get two and the US one. I then rolled on the reinforcements table, re-rolling any vehicles (don't want to introduce them yet). The German reinforcements came out as: Panzerschreck Team, and Half Squad. The US reinforcement was a Half Squad.

The next part was to figure out the German Possible Enemy Forces (PEF). The scenario called for three, but as Don won the last scenario this one indicated that one PEF was removed. As I had decided that the game was going to be equal points, I had to figure out some way to reward the US for winning last game, but still keep the game even. I struck upon the idea that the initial German forces (the two PEFs) would be 75% of the point value of Don's starting forces and then the German reinforcements would be equal to the US reinforcement point value plus the difference between our starting forces. Thus, Don would have a quality advantage until reinforcements started coming on. Eventually, when both sides received all of their reinforcements, it would be an even point game.

Reinforcements were deemed to come on the same was you receive Joys of War cards in the Hearts & Minds supplement of Flying Lead: both players roll a die at the start of every round and if one player's die roll doubles the other, that player received reinforcements. As I would find out later, the God of Randomness was still favoring me and punishing Don, which had a tremendous effect on game play. In hindsight, I should have decreed that the Germans could not get their second reinforcement until after the US had gotten their single reinforcement.

The Scenario

The Western Union scenario is basically looking for a break in a telephone line. You are given two communications specialists with your squad and you have to search three sections of the line in order to find one or more breaks, repair them, and then exit the board. If you lose the specialists before all of the breaks are found and fixed, you automatically lose.

The board is a mixture of woods, tall grass, and open area. The open area is significant because it is only one spot (there is a second, but it is small and set away from the telephone line, so it does not play a role), and it is large. It also flanks the area where the US comes on, and the Germans had an LMG randomly determined to be there (which actually makes sense).

My rules for the tall (a little above waist high) grass is that movement is not hindered and visibility is not  blocked but rather obscured (-1 to hit), unless either the target or the firer is prone in the grass. In that case the visibility is a Long and obscured, just like within a Woods. In hindsight I should have made it two Longs, as one Long would make all of the firefights very short (once again).

The Game

Don came on the board and my LMG team opened up on then from 5L away, still managing to take out one of replacement soldiers. Don ran his troops forward, but even though some were still in LOS of the LMG, he decided to keep running rather than dropping at the end of each bound. The LMG tagged one of the specialists out of action. At this point, with Don had four squad members left and one specialist, while I had one LMG team and an unrevealed Half Squad (5 soldiers).

I decided to describe the medical rules (we were using the Man Down! rules from Hearts & Minds) so Don could start saving people, even if he lost this scenario. Don started dragging the two out of action soldiers (found to be T1 and T2 casualties) and that is when he learned to bound, basically denying my LMG a shot at him. Every time I would get two actions with them, and place overwatch, he would only get one action, which was not enough to allow him to get up from prone and drag the soldier one move, before dropping prone again. It was almost like the soldier had a sixth sense about when I had an overwatch marker on his position...

Effectively, that was the end of the action on that flank. The LMG team never got off another shot, even after they shifted position. Back on the other flank, my first reinforcement, the Panzerschreck team, showed up, quickly followed by the Half Squad. At this point I think Don's morale broke (as opposed to the figures on the board). He had five guys facing 14 and he had not even swept the first sector yet!

Don drove his troops into the center of the fire trap (surrounded on three side by troops, only one of which could fire at him though), and although his Sergeant knocked two enemy Germans out of action, the numbers told. First a grenade landed in the midst of his party and took out his BAR gunner and the second specialist (effectively ending the game for him). A second grenade landed in the midst for good measure, allowing a team of Hitler Youth (Green and Eager troops) to assault the Sergeant and (barely) finish him off.

Meanwhile the US reinforcements had finally arrived about 12 turns after all of mine had arrived and, upon hearing the news from the sole survivor of the squad (who happened to be the guy who dragged the wounded off of the board), turned around to report the partial success (but mostly failure) of the mission.

What Went Wrong?

Although I am not playing to lose, the idea of running a campaign for one of the sides is to see how far you can go with that side, so that means not beating the bejesus out of it every game. People have to survive for there to be continuity.

The first problem was the reinforcements. Statistically, I don't think it was a problem. If I roll a '1', he has to roll a '2' or more, if I roll a '2' he has to roll a '4' or more, and if I roll a '3' he has to roll a '6'. So half of my rolls make it possible for him to double me. But, I would roll a '1' and so would he, and so on.

So, because of the randomness of it, and Don having pissed off the God of Randomness somehow, I should probably have had some "brake" to ensure that the German forces didn't get too wildly out of whack, the way they did.

Now, if you had asked me yesterday about the effect of the German reinforcements, I would have told you that the first, the Panzerschreck team, never got into action, never fired a shot, never even got within range to fire. So, other than having a morale effect on Don, what use was it? Despite what Don says, the second Half Squad (what I called the Hitler Youth) took a long time to get up where it could get engaged too, primarily because the original squad was in front of it, in the way. It was only because US spread out to their right did it give me space to shift to the same flank and bring more rifles to bear.

What can I say? Don was excited to play this game before we played it and now he is ready to switch to something else. I hope he is not soured to the rules like he appears to be with Song of Drums and Shakos, where his 1740's Highlanders were shot and clubbed down by Prussians.

Next game we have is supposed to be Memoir '44 with the new Winter War expansion. Oooh boy!

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").