Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday gaming: part deux

The second part of my holiday gaming was briefer than expected. I had planned on spending a good part of the day at my friend Rick's house in Carnation, WA. However, I spent the morning and early afternoon at my mother's house assembling a TV stand and setting up her 42" plasma TV that we bought her for Christmas. These things always take longer than expected.

My brother and I finally got everything set up and ready to go by around 3:00, then off to Rick's, which was tricky. It snowed here in the Seattle area on Monday and has remained frozen ever since. Some thawing has made most roads passable, but you never know. I was keen to avoid anything that might prove unmanageable in my 350Z. It's a great car for dry roads, but on ice it's like an elephant. I generally stay home in conditions like this, but I'd been out an about for the last few days and the roads seemed OK. On I went, but I took the safer back way and didn't get to Rick's until almost 4:00.

Game 1: Team Yankee ate my baby!
Our first game was a play of the first scenario from World at War: Eisenbach Gap. This is a fairly straight-up Soviet attack against a US defense. I had 10 T-72s against a US force of two M1 Abrams, one ITV, and one infantry unit with an M113 APC. On the face of it, the Americans looked to be screwed. Oh alas for me, no.

Looking back to my days playing any board game that represented actual or hypothetical combat between US- and Soviet-produced equipment, the US-produced equipment rips the Soviet crap apart. This was true with Red Star/White Star, MechWar '77, MBT, and The Arab-Israeli Wars. World at War is no exception. The T-72 is no slouch as a weapons system, but the game models not just the equipment; it also models the tactical doctrine, tactical flexibility, and training of the units—another area where the Western-equipped and trained forces prevail. The game uses a chit-draw system to activate formations one at a time. Team Yankee got two chits to my one. Plus, the Abrams is a mother. The units are more effective and outrange the T-72. Add to that the TOW ATGM system used by the ITV. Then factor in that the Soviets are on the attack and therefore subject to opportunity fire as they move in.

I had to take all the town hexes of two locations to win, which meant that Rick had only to defend one town hex in one location to win. He abandoned any defense of the the first location and set up around the second with a nice kill zone in front of him. I figured that if I came in en masse, he just couldn't kill all of me before I got my shots against him. I erred. The chit draw didn't help. We played six turns out of the eight for the scenario and I missed activation on two of them. Overall, I managed one shot at an Abrams the entire game. All but two of my T-72s were wrecks and my formation commander had been eliminated. I need to refigure Soviet tactics. Unlike Nations at War: White Star Rising, the WW2 variant in this series, World at War is unforgiving in tank kills. The technology of the 80s is just too advanced. If they hit you, they get you—at least if you're in a Soviet AFV.

The smoking ruin of the Soviet First Tank Regiment

Game 2: Fall Weiß
We played part of a game of Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honour-Poland 1939, the latest in the tactical series from Academy Games. I was the Germans storming in with my armored cars and wee Panzer I and Panzer II tanks against a Polish force that was coming in from both my flanks. The scenario has the Poles trying to get a small convoy of guns away from the Germans as the Germans race towards them with their Sdkfz 221 and 222 armored cars. It's a choice for the Poles whether they want to just run the guns off the board or deploy them against the advancing Hun. Rick chose to vamoose, and fight with his infantry troops rather than risk losing the guns, whose loss gives big points to the Germans.

The first firefight was between one of my 221s and some infantry in a stone building. I shot up a couple units by the end of round 1. In round 2, I moved on against some other Polish infantry only to get close assaulted. It was a brief fight, but I lost a 221 to determined Polish infantry, which my remaining 221 shot up. The 222s moved over towards some other Polish infantry and got good results shooting at them. It was starting to look a bit dicey as more Polish infantry was coming on the board. I had my own reinforcements and it looked to be shaping up to an interesting game, but it was getting late, the roads home were even more frozen, and dinner beckoned. Rick, his wife Janet, and I went to dinner at a local biker bar. The clientele were an interesting lot, but the food was terrific. After that, home to my ravenous cats, who didn't get fed until after 9:00 PM.

Price of Honour looks to be a very good game. Rick and I hadn't played the Conflict of Heroes system for some months, so we were a bit rusty, but it comes back quickly. The scenario we chose was a bit ambitious for our time constraint, so next time we need to go smaller. One noticeable aspect of Price of Honour is that the Poles don't suck like the Russians do in the other games in the series. They have movement and combat cost that are equivalent to the Germans, so they can actually do a lot in a round, whereas Russians are usually limited to a few actions before they run out of action points (APs) and have to dip into their much-limited supply of command points (CPs) to get anything done.

And thus ends the holidays. Back, hopefully, to work soon.