Thursday, January 9, 2020

Less screen-time leads to more focused gaming


I have more games than ever but I want to play most of them less and less. As I approach my late 40s, I find myself wanting to absorb more detail from the games I play, but I have less time to wargame as my family life keeps me pretty busy. That lack of screen time has led me to choose better, ask more questions about titles I am interested in and say no to the voice in my head telling me to click the purchase button.
I also find myself wanting to game more offline. I recently dusted off my ASL manual and bought the Pacific starter kit for that game, as well as Undaunted: Normandy from Osprey Games. These two titles added to my already alluring collection of Napoleonics, AMRW and WWII operational games and are making my tabletop more attractive than my laptop.
That said, I had a pretty fun digital gaming year in 2019. I discovered probably my favorite game of the year Piercing Fortress Europa; I began to dabble in the Pacific theater of WWII with a Panzer Battles Tarawa scenario that I created and finally got around to putting the Command Ops 2: Korsun project into my blog’s STEAM workshop. I also started a newsletter for my blog that now has 89 subscribers (if you haven’t subscribed, please do so here), but I only blogged 20 times in 2019 and will probably do so less in 2020.
That said here is what I have in the works as far as free scenarios that I am going to release in 2020, a listing of the games I am interested in playing and which games I am finally willing to admit I will never play again.
2020 Development
By the end of this month, I am going to release a 6-8 scenario Pelileu pack for the Squad Battles title “The Proud and the Few” by John Tiller Software, complete with an updated island map, a number of sub-maps, a new OOB for the island battle and the aforementioned scenarios focusing primarily on the 1st Marines part in the battle.

This wargame fits quite well with my current interest in wargaming: The Pacific War. I found a great companion book for my gaming in Ian Toll’s “The Conquering Tide.” Toll is to the Pacific what Shelby Foote is to the ACW, or Rick Atkinson is to the WIE, a must-read for any wargamer/history buff. Toll’s writing is a pleasure to read and his narrative is a page-turner.
My next project is the release of two more Command Ops 2 Korsun Project scenarios including the 1500+ unit scenario titled “Konev’s breakthrough” which covers the attack against the German 389th ID and the subsequent Russian breakthrough to Shpola. I expect to finish play-testing soon and will release these in February.
My third development project takes me back to the Pacific and Panzer Battles again. I am working on a three scenario set for the “Green Inferno,” the Cape Gloucester campaign by the First Marine Division. This is jungle fighting at it’s best and will feature jungle and swamp covered maps, lots of concealment and deperate attacks by the Japanese against the First Marine division.

My final 2020 development project is going to bring me back to Europe and WWII. Piercing Fortress Europa has me interested again in the Italian theater. I have previously read a good book about Cassino and even made a Panzer Battles scenario about the Maori battalion attack against the ruined train station on the edge of Cassino which is now part of the Panzer Battles demo here.

This fall I followed up my Panzer Battles gaming and finally bit the bullet and purchased the Salerno 43 title from John Tiller Software. It has one of the most beautiful Panzer Campaigns maps I have seen and one of the most fun 80 turn scenarios you will ever play (turn 6 of a replay, pictured below).

That said the scenario list is thin (centered on Salerno, Anzio, and Crete only), so I am going to build a fourth map for Salerno owners and a scenario set focused on the fighting for Cassino.
Games I purchased in 2019
  1. Salerno 43 (John Tiller Software)
  2. The Proud and the Few (John Tiller Software)
  3. Piercing Fortress Europa (Matrix Games)
  4. Armored Brigade (Matrix Games)
  5. To End All Wars (Matrix Games)
  6. Command Ops 2 Westwall (LnL Publishing, (I only had the Beta version of this all of these years))
  7. Radio Commander (Games Operators)
Games I resisted purchasing in 2019
  1. Steel Division 2
  2. Warplan
  3. Strategic Command: World at War
  4. War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition
  5. Unity of Command II
  6. Close Combat: The Bloody First
Games I own that I am giving up on in 2020 for a variety of reasons
  1. CMANO
  2. Afghanistan 11
  3. The Operational Art of War IV
  4. Ultimate General Civil War
My wishlist for 2020
  1. Burden of Command
  2. Campaign Series Vietnam
  3. Grand Tactician
  4. Scheldt 44
Thank you for your continued interest in this blog and good luck to you in 2020 on the digital and tabletop battlefields and in life!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Panzer Battles Tarawa scenarios free for download


Merry Christmas! These new scenarios are for the readers of this blog who own the free, Panzer Battles Demo. If you do not own the demo, but want to try this scenario, please download the demo from JTS/WDS here.

My first Tarawa scenario is called “Operation Galvanic - The First Day.” It is 18 turns long, and pits 3,000+ men of the US 2nd Marine Division against approximately 2,500 Japanese defenders of the 3rd Special Base Force and the 7th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF).

My second Tarawa scenario is called “Operation Galvanic - The First Day - Variable Points” It is 18 turns long, and pits 3,000+ men of the US 2nd Marine Division against approximately 2,500 Japanese defenders of the 3rd Special Base Force and the 7th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF). It uses a variable point scoring system for a handful of objectives, which forces the American side player to be more aggressive along the edge of the island and/or seize one of the airfield objectives on the first day. I found this version of Operation Galvanic far more challenging.

This is NOT a full representation of the forces present during the actual battle for Betio island. For the sake of time, and counter density, I have only modeled the troops that fought during the first day, mainly the 2nd and 8th Marine Regiments. I have not included the follow-on forces for the Americans that figure into the battle on the evening of November 20th and subsequent days.


I am not an expert on Tarawa, the SNLF, the Marines or the war in the Pacific. If you are, please forgive my omissions, mistakes, etc.

My scenario notes are as follows:

Japanese units created
Rear Adm. Keiji Shibazaki (HQ unit). He is killed on the first day but directs the initial defense of the island.
120mm CD Gun (f): These large coastal defense guns engaged the US Navy until they were knocked out. Beware of them, they can sink an LCT and disrupted one of my USN destroyers in my last play-through.
80mm Mortar: These were present in abundance and I have added them into the Japanese OOB.
Otherwise, I have relied upon the existing Guadalcanal units included within the demo for the Alligator Beach scenario.


American units “created”
11 historical American commanders (HQ units): Shoup, Schoettel, Rice, Amey Jr., etc. are present.
Fletcher Class DD: These were present in the Battles of Normandy game and I ported them into the Demo database for this game.
Colorado Class BB: These were present in the Battles of Normandy game and I ported them into the Demo database for this game.
LCT: These were present in the Battles of Normandy game and I ported them into the Demo database for this game.
LCT(R): These were present in the Battles of Normandy game and I ported them into the Demo database for this game. These are single-use units that disappear after turn 1 so make sure you use them.

Otherwise, I have relied upon the existing Guadalcanal units included within the demo for the Alligator Beach scenario.

Additionally, I have the following comments:
  • Visibility during the battle was awful. Smoke from the naval bombardment obscured much of what was going on and led to numerous problems with the prosecution of the battle. Consequently, I have decreased visibility.
  • The first wave is ashore or almost so at the start of the scenario. I did this to make the start more historical (some of you might land on the southern side instead of the northern side) and because I wanted to save you counter management time. You will see how tedious bringing waves of LCTs into the beachhead can become when the 1st Bn, 2nd Marines is released from the reserve.
  • The planners of Operation Galvanic ignored local knowledge of the tides and so when the first waves approached the island, they hit the exposed, coral reef line and shallow water. Many LVT drivers dumped off their cargo up to as many as 1,000 meters away from the shoreline. And so very few LVT’s made it to the beachhead due to the reef and/or enemy fire. If you look closely at the map, you will see the LVT wrecks. Subsequent waves of reinforcements came in on LCTs due to the heavy LVT losses. That is why I did not include LVT’s in this scenario. Presumably, most are destroyed by 9:30 AM when the scenario starts and I didn’t want to take the time to chase down art for the various sized images I would need.
  • I did not model air assets (recon, fighters or otherwise). I didn’t see Avengers and Hellcats in the Normandy asset list and skipped over recreating them.
  • You will see intel on estimated Japanese artillery positions on the map from an overhead naval recon flight before the first wave hit. Take these guns out or they will sink ships.
  • I did not identify American officers below the rank of Battalion commander. I did include two XO’s who figure prominently in the battle on the first day.
  • You will see disruption, losses, and fatigue built into both forces when the scenario starts. Japanese forces are disorganized/reduced from the extensive naval bombardment and American forces disorganized/reduced from the effort to get ashore during the opening moments of the battle.
  • This map is not to scale. Betio island is incredibly small. Something like 300 acres in total. The PB scale is 250 meters per hex. Because I did not know how to change the scale to something like 100 meters per hex, I just enlarged the map. It is roughly 2-2.5x the actual size island at this scale.
  • The OOBs are not perfect. They are approximations and nothing more. JTS/WDS and would put SO MUCH MORE effort into historical accuracy than I did. So if you find points to quibble within my OOB, you wouldn’t if they had done it. For instance, I used the existing Stuart tanks in the American OOB instead of Sherman tanks. I did not include the handful of Japanese tanks present on the island. They make only a few mentions in the histories of the landing and it seems most were wiped out by the initial naval bombardment.
  • I have tried something new. American commanders and official histories recount how the fire intensified over the course of hours, which to me was counter-intuitive because you would think there were fewer defenders. But when you think about it, the Japanese defenders likely faced terrible command and control issues due to the bombardment. Radios were knocked out, their commanding officer Shibazaki was killed late on the first day and many defenders were holed up in tunnels below the ground, waiting out the destruction overhead without orders. It would take time for the defense to organize in these conditions and so consequently, American players will likely notice more and more Japanese counters appearing on the map as the battle progresses through the initial hours as they arrive by a reinforcement schedule.
    TO DOWNLOAD THIS SCENARIO GO TO MY DROPBOX HERE.

Instructions:

Replace the data editor with the new copy.

Replace the existing Japanese and American-Marine folders with the new copies. Add the data and scenarios to the existing folders within the demo.


IF you are not a subscriber to my blog’s email list, I encourage you to add yourself here for follow-on scenarios set in the Pacific (Guadalcanal, Burma and Cape Gloucester).

SPECIAL NOTE:  A special note of thanks to David Freer at WDS who helped me with some image issues, the map editor and who suggested creating the variable points version scenario.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Panzer Battles Tarawa Coming Soon


Want to receive the email announcement for Panzer Battles Tarawa? Sign-up for the blog email list here if you haven't already--->

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Piercing Fortress Europa: A sneaky, good game


I call this “The agony of the 29th Panzergrenadier division.”
I have often said to myself that if I ever come into money, I am going to try to buy the rights to the Command Ops game engine from its current owner. This is the only wargame I have ever said this about until now, please add Piercing Fortress Europa to that exclusive list.
This is a sneaky good game which is currently on sale for $9.60 (regular price is $39.99. You can purchase it here. I actually purchased it for around $6 after I leveraged my 6 year Matrix anniversary coupon and their Christmas sale. I also purchased AGEOD’s “To End All Wars” WWI strategy game and it’s DLC for $9+ (Christmas sale + discount coupon!).
Bottom LineUltimately, although Piercing Fortress Europa is a niche game, it is a very good one. Gamers interested in exploring the effects of logistics on modern warfare will enjoy this game, or those equally interested in the Sicilian and Italian operations will find the challenge enjoyable, engaging and educational. However, the game’s nearly $40 dollar US price, its unflashy graphics, and its somewhat restricted historical focus may keep others awayBut they’ll be missing out on a well-designed operational simulation of the Second World War.
I completely agree and have stayed away from the game because of the steep price, but now that it is heavily discounted, wow am I glad I purchased it.

The initial defense of Naples.”
This game has a number of flaws that may be disqualifying for you, and I’ve rated some of them to show you how bad I think they are.
  • Clunky command interface (Grade D)
  • Poor map graphics (Grade C)
  • No sound (this is a personal preference, not necessarily a flaw)
  • Eliminated units are left as ghost counters on the overview map (a very minor problem, but this can be confusing)
  • Clunky window system (they should upgrade the interface to windows that can be dragged open and are moveable (overview map I am talking about you)).
  • No river and mountain labels (and the German defense centers on river and mountain lines)
For me, this game scratches the operational itch though:
  • With command decisions centering around the maintenance of crucial supply points.
  • The forced prioritization of combat decisions, because of the supply emphasis.
  • By making the addition of replacements a decision point.
  • By making the prioritization of air cover a decision point.
It also has:
  • A turn-based WEGO system (which I love)
  • Challenging AI
  • The game consequently is free-flowing and fast-playing.
The Fight for Naples an AAR:
I am currently playing one of the larger scenarios which goes deep into 1944. It is October 1943 though and the Allies and German army are slugging it out on the verdant plain outside of Naples and in the hills to the east of the city.

16th Panzer is withdrawn during my orders phase after two failed attacks to stop the Allied advance on the plain west of Avellino.

The Allied AI, however, attacks the 16th before they are fully withdrawn, reducing them significantly. Ultimately I am forced to withdraw them to my fortifications at Capua.
Game note: Tracking unit withdrawals and reinforcements is also very important. The first withdrawal for the Axis is 24th Panzer, fortunately, they weren’t locked in combat when it happened at the beginning of October.

After nearly two months of falling back, I am finally stabilizing a line of defense between Naples and Benevento, but Naples falls to a second Allied attack on October 25, 1943. A major loss to the Axis. I should have added more units to the defense of the port. I had them but didn’t commit them for fear of an amphibious landing close to Rome.

Knowing the campaign history, you can feel the Allied AI gears grinding for an amphibious assault at Anzio or Terracina, behind the Naples line, which is why I defending the coast in-depth and not only at Naples.
The need for reinforcement south of Capua increases and so I prepare the Sturmbrigade Reichsf├╝hrer SS for combat, by increasing its combat supply from 1 to 2 (3 is best), before they deploy south of that city.

The situation map on October 25, 1943.
Game note: The game counters effectively track unit status, allowing you to eyeball them without further clicking. If you look at the 16th Panzer Division counter in Capua, you can tell the following:
  • The yellow circle shows the stacking limit.
  • The upper right corner’s upside-down yellow triangle shows that this is a high-quality unit (green = elite, red = average, black = low quality).
  • The bottom right corner triangle shows that the unit is out of combat supply, which means it is no longer an offensive formation.
  • It has 4 left of its original 14 strength points.
  • The colored line at the bottom of the counter is to indicate the amount of disruption on the unit. The longer the red line the greater the level of disruption.

After two Allied attacks fail against the 2nd Parachute division outside of Naples and the 65th infantry division east of Benevento, I funnel more replacements to the 2nd Parachute Division.

November 2, 1943 situation map.
My defense is wearing thin. After weeks of fighting, the 1st Fallschirm-Panzer Division Hermann G├Âring, 16th Panzer Division, and 2nd Parachute divisions have all lost combat effectiveness. I funnel replacements into HG, 16th Panzer and move the 65th north. I increase the combat supply for the StR SS brigade, a unit I knew nothing about (use the link for more about their involvement in war crimes).
Look for me to continue this AAR soon, but before I go, some final thoughts:
This is a very interesting game. I am currently playing one of the longer scenarios, but there are also shorter ones (including Sicily). This is a game that I wish Matrix would bring back and expand into North Africa or France. There are scenarios within the game labeled Tunisia 43, France 43 and France 44, but they cannot be accessed from the main menu and seem to be unfinished. My dream would be to play the 1944 France scenario, which is why if I had the money to pay for further development of the game, I would.
The regular purchase price of $39.99 is too steep. My recommendation to Matrix is to permanently lower it to $20, update the map graphics and remarket it as an update that they promote through their social channels and to their email list. At $19.99 they will generate revenue they aren’t getting now because of the higher price point.
In the meantime, if you like this period of warfare, buy it at $10 before the sale ends. Know you are getting a game with a number of worts that is limited to only the Italian theater. That said, I think you will enjoy the game, especially at this price.
Finally, I want to leave you with the designer’s notes in the manual (which I really appreciated):
“One of the first things a wargamer will notice is that the sequence of play is different than the classical design. I prefer simultaneous moves. Also, I prefer that a unit has the ability to perform only one action at a time. So no leave a ZoC, move, enter a different ZoC and attack in this game.
By limiting units to just one major action per turn I had to reduce the time scale so that over a month units would be able to perform a number of actions, including move a given distance, that felt right. With simultaneous moves, the limit of one type of action per turn and a time scale of 4 to 8 moves per month, I had the core of the system I wanted.
The campaign in Italy often seemed close to being a stalemate. Periods where a position became untenable and a grand withdrawal occurred were few although the Allies were always planning for the big breakthrough.
The sequence of play makes breakthroughs difficult to achieve which I think is historical. When using a classic sequence of play a player can move his forces to attack any weak point along a line, make the attacks and then get a mechanized movement phase allowing him to exploit all before the defender can move anyone.
Using the PFE system the attacker and defender will enjoy moments of uncertainty, for example, an attacker moving his forces up to a weak point in the line, then the defender will be able to order his forces to react although since everything is simultaneous the attacks will be going in while the defender is reacting. Nothing being certain neither side will know for sure what the situation will be on the ensuing turn. Will the attacks succeed or fail? Will the defender’s reserves be able to create a new line in time? Does the attacker have fresh forces following up?
The sequence of play, simultaneous with short turns allowing a single type of action, produced the overall feel I wanted where the front is constantly in a state of flux as hexes are gained and lost and limited withdrawals are happening all in an effort to prevent the big breakthrough.
Something else I wanted from the game system was an emphasis on reserves, fresh units, and planning. On the German side, Kesselring always seemed able to scrape together some reserves to deploy to meet a threat or plug a hole. Since the defender is essentially always reacting to the situation one turn in the past, having even just a couple of units in reserve is very important.
Once units are “stuck in” they are difficult to extricate and move to another part of the line. Therefore it is important for the defender to always have a reserve of some sort to plug a hole.
Units wear out as they attack and defend. The way fresh units were handled was in two ways. One, disruption. This value rises as units take hits in combat or lack supply and fall as the unit rests in a well-supplied hex. The other way was using combat supply points. These points give the player some direct control over how ready a unit is to engage with the enemy. Since it requires several turns to bring a unit up to maximum effectiveness and since combat points are not infinite, it requires some level of planning as to which units receive the points and when the unit needs to be ready.
The above covers the base system. I wanted to avoid the need for a lot of chrome and I wanted the system to be as easy to play as possible so I hoped the base system would meet those goals. After that, some chrome was required for the Italian Campaign itself. The system needed amphibious operations and para drops, ground support and interdiction as well as replacements, etc.
When adding chrome I tried to avoid unnecessary complexity and to integrate those areas as smoothly as possible into the base system. I hope the result gives a feel for the Italian Campaign and that the game itself is of interest to players.”

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Command Ops 2: The Stolberg Corridor

Lately, I have been very interested in the fighting around Aachen and the Westwall campaign. Fortunately, Command Ops 2 has an entire module titled appropriately enough “Westwall” covering this period of the war along the German frontier.
As the US VII corps advanced towards Germany in September of 1944, the Stolberg corridor was the likeliest approach from the southeast of Aachen towards the Westwall through a gap in the line of mountains and heavily forested terrain there. German intelligence knew this but had little in the way of reserves to reinforce the line ahead of the American advance. A small kampfgruppe from the 9th Panzer Division was formed along with the remnants of a Panzer brigade. The 12th Volksgrenadier division would be the follow-on force and their staggered arrival is represented accurately in the scenario reinforcement schedule.
Given the defensive challenges facing the Germans, I have decided to play that side.
This AAR contains the orders I issued as the German commander on the first day (the scenario is nearly four days long). I will continue to post AAR’s for each successive day. I will also include some thoughts on important CO2 rules (i.e. rest and resupply) and a mix of historical commentary from a very good book that I am reading about the campaign titled “The Battle for the Rhine,” by Robin Neillands as well as the U.S. Army military studies about the Siegfried Line campaign.

Situation: It is 46 degrees Fahrenheit, with moderate fog and muddy terrain. The day is September 17, 1944.
German written Orders:
0500: 89 Inf Regt ordered to move 5km south to Gressenich to establish a defensive position. This unit, part of the 12th Volksgrenadier division, is at 75% establishment with a 40% training rating. The VG troops in this scenario all have particularly low training levels and model correctly the manpower issues Germany was having during the late war.
0505: 2 Panther tanks ordered to reinforce I BN 89th Inf. My armor is at a minimum and with two armored Task Forces approaching my lines I need to be careful about the application of my tanks.
0550: I Bn 48th Inf Regt ordered to probe 3kms south of Langerwerhe to Heistern village.

0727: 3 Landesschutzen Bn ordered to withdraw 4kms east, pass through Eschweiler and proceed 6km south to Mausbach and establish new defensive positions there. The 2nd and 3rd Landesschutzen battalions assigned to this part of the front are rear area security forces, with low training, minimal experience and, practically no aggression.
American forces have been sighted southeast of Schevenhutte.
8:06 AM  1 Kompanie 9 Panzer Regiment ordered to probe American forces around east of Verlautenheide. Again I am being very careful employing my armor.
The fog is lifting.
8:34 AM I Bn 27th Fusilier Regt attack southeast in orchards outside of Verlautenheide.
9:16 89 Gren Inf Regt completes the move to Gressenich.
10:35 Static positions south of Stolberg began to fall to American forces. 
11:06 3rd Bn 32nd Armored regiment sighted moving along the highway from Vicht into southeast Stolberg.
3rd Landenschutzen begins to reorganize for an attack on Mausbach from the NW. Their training and aggression levels make the success of this attack improbable.
12:10 I Bn 27 Regt abandons the attack and begins 1km withdrawal into Wurselen.
12:35 12 LW Festung Bn forced to abandon defensive positions along a 5km line of Dragon’s Teeth.  Move 4km north into woods to regroup.
I believe the line of Dragon’s Teeth that this battalion is abandoning is called the “Schill Line” but this isn’t labeled on the map. Perhaps incorrectly, this unit is modeled with limited weaponry. From my reading, Fortress battalions were better armed than the standard 1944 infantry battalion, but that isn’t the case with this scenario.
II Bn 12th Artillerie Regt supports the withdrawal of 2nd Landschutzen from the southern end of Stolberg towards Donnerberg.
15:15  Under pressure from a mixture of armored and reconnaissance forces, II Bn 27 Fus Regt withdraws 4kms east along rail line towards Eschweiler.
16:50  II Bn 48th Regt moves 6km west from Langerwehe to Volkenrath into a reserve position.
12th Volksgrenadier Division reinforcements begin to arrive.
16:58 II Bn 89 Inf Regt arrives as reinforcement at Inden.  Ordered to move into position at Werth 8kms south to their position.
20:00 I Bn 48 Inf Regt ordered to rest at Heistern.  Their fatigue level has spiked from 30% to 45%.

20:41 I Bn 27 Fus Regt ordered to make a night march to Aachen airfield 5kms to the east of their position in Wurselen.
20:58 II Bn 48th Inf Regt ordered to rest with fatigue levels at 34%. Within the game, units that remain stationary will rest automatically. Units that are given specific orders to rest, reduce fatigue levels more quickly. While unit fatigue is tracked, I don’t think there is any specific mention of its impact on units within the rulebook. My guess is that it is significant, which is why I am always monitoring fatigue levels.
21:03 Two hours after sunset, supplies begin arriving across the sector to my various units.
A moderate fog sets in over the battlefield, the mud is still a factor.
I will post my Day 2 AAR this week…

Friday, August 16, 2019

Panzer Battles Demo 1.01 Preview

Plus “Nobody wins at Komarovka” an AAR
Good news!
Wargame Design Studio is publishing very soon an update to their FREE DEMO, that includes:
  • Five new scenarios covering the actions in the Perekop area in the Crimea in 1941
  • Two new scenarios covering actions in Narva Estonia in 1944
  • One new scenario covering an action at Cassino Italy in 1944
  • There are now twenty-five (including variants) scenarios in total.
I am excited to say that I designed these new scenarios and David Freer polished them up for the demo.
The demo update will also include:
  • New graphics for all theatres
  • New sounds
  • Also, some code changes and scenario updates
Here is a look at the briefings for two of my favorite scenarios:
“Cassino Station”
Cassino, Italy: February 17, 1944:  The 2nd New Zealand division headquarters has assigned the 28 Maori Bn with a night-time mission of seizing the train station south of Cassino.  Behind the Maoris, engineers with Bailey bridges will move forward and repair the destroyed bridges preventing American and British armor from moving into the town and the valley beyond.  As the Maori commander can you take and hold the station?
You should play as the Allies in this scenario.  What the Maoris achieved was almost impossible and incredibly brave.
“Perekop - Across the Tartar Ditch”
Across the Tartar Ditch:  Having beaten back a Soviet counterattack on the 25th and with the villages of Perekop and Chervonyi Chaban firmly in German hands, Hansen resumed his attack on the 26th. Eager to avoid the heavily fortified position of Fort Perekop in the center of the Soviet defensive line, he attacked along the western section of the Tartar Wall on the morning of the 26th. SS Pioneers from LSSAH, supported by Stossegruppen from the 46 and 73rd infantry divisions, moved forward behind the protective screen of smoke to breach wall and seize the vital crossroads village of Armyan'sk less than two kilometers away.
Because they are in a very tight spot, my preference to is to play as the Soviets for these Perekop scenarios. 
“Nobody wins at Komarovka” an AAR
“Holding Komarovka” is a short, very bloody scenario that makes either commander choose between bad tactical options as they try to win the battle.  In my opinion, this battle is more interesting to play from the German side.
Scenario briefing:
Komarovka, Estonia: 5th March, 1944. (Scenario Size: Regiment. Head to Head or Human or either side vs AI) The German army is retreating across Estonia to the strong point of Narva and it's medieval fortifications. In early March, the III SS Panzer Corps is fighting a series of rearguard actions as the defensive line is fortified behind them. At Komarovka, 10kms east of Narva. 6 Coy II Bn of the 47 SS Gren Regt is conducting a reconnaissance in strength with a platoon of Tiger I tanks from the 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion.  The new II battalion commander Major Alfons Rebane is leading the probe when they run into the forward elements of a mixed force of Soviet rifle infantry and armor from the 2nd Shock Army.    Complicating matters, the lead Tiger has run out of gas just outside of the village. Rebane, a native Estonian, decides to hold his ground against the Soviets until the Tiger tank can be removed to the rear.  His plan is to occupy the old German defensive positions here and hold them indefinitely.
Turn 1:  The Soviets close very quickly.  The disabled Tiger is in the village and the remaining tanks in the platoon have fanned out south of the village to provide a screen of the main road, while Rebane’s Company 6 gets into position.
Turn 5: The Tigers are holding steady as the Soviet forces converge on Komarovka from two different directions.  Soviet troops are in the outskirts of the village.  Four T-34s are destroyed by a combination of the Tigers and some “off-board” artillery support.
Turn 10:  By Turn 10 the pressure on the objective is building. Rebane’s HQ unit is under the threat of overrun by 8 T -34s that ultimately pass them by.  Visibility is worsening and so the dug-in German units to the south are forced to move into range onto the small bluff behind the village.  I have two Tigers left.  The immobilized tank that made this village suddenly significant is in flames.
Turn 15: Rebane’s done his job, sacrificing his infantry platoons to save two Tigers, six field guns and slow the Soviet advance while the defensive line behind him is stabilized.  It doesn’t feel like a victory though, as he retreats on the final turn for Narva, while the remnants of two of his platoons are surrounded.  
Rebane’s successful defense of the village, gives him a major victory at a heavy cost.  Soviet losses are even higher.
The final battlefield screen:

Monday, August 12, 2019

Command Ops 2 Tip: Rest your units in cold weather and maintain supply


Cold weather and massive Russian attacks that encircle units are things to worry about in “The Korsun Project” data pack.



How weather impacts rest

You might not know this, but the weather in Command Ops is a gameplay factor beyond visibility, air availability, and movement; cold weather can impact a unit’s ability to recover from fatigue.  So, on the Eastern Front, where cold weather is likely, and prolonged periods of fighting are the name of the game, resting your fatigued units over longer scenarios is critical.  What’s more, resting them in the rear, urban areas is a must.
 
From the manual:

“Whenever units are stationary and either resting, defending or waiting, their fatigue will reduce. Resting troops recover fastest. In cold weather, your troops will recover faster in urban terrain.”

Admittedly, in shorter scenarios, fatigue is less of an issue.  But in longer scenarios, where time is measured in days; accumulating fatigue impacts almost everything a unit can do, so keep the cold in mind as your unit fatigue levels rise from prolonged combat and have a plan to withdraw formations from the line to rest whenever possible.

At Korsun, initially finding urban terrain for resting though will be hard to do for the Russians, as most units will start in open terrain and any urban areas they enter will be in or near the combat zone and make effective rest nearly impossible.  German commanders, however, will be able to cycle troops in and out of the frontline, sending them kilometers away to relative safety.




Supply

Maintaining supply is another critical task for battlefield commanders.  In the screengrab above, Russian units are encircling German formations at a frightening pace.  You will find as the German commander that keeping your supply lines open or moving units back into supply is a full-time job and something I believe you need to micro-manage and not leave to the AI.  

1) To see units and their supply lines, mouse over “Cmd” in the bottom toolbar until it says: “Display lines.” 

2) Next, click on the button to change to “Sup.”  This will display supply lines from bases to units in the field.  Red lines indicate a unit is out of supply and green lines indicate a unit is in supply.

If you see red lines, consider moving the impacted units as their inability to receive supply will soon become an issue.



Keep in mind though, this supply line report is not real-time and may contain hours old data. 

From the manual:

“Also note that the status is not necessarily current. It is based on the time the supply line was last determined for the units. This may be several hours old and the situation may now be different – eg. it may show as open but now it is obvious they are cut off. (The reason why current data is not displayed here, is that the processor load to determine the different supply routes would slow the game down inordinately.)”

Having fresh supply data will prove critical for planning purposes and strategic decisions, so make sure you have it before you make a major move.  

At Korsun, I have struggled to keep my supply lines intact in the longer scenarios where more Russian forces are brought to bear.  Perhaps the main reason why is that Russian unit density per square kilometer at Korsun is higher than any other Command Ops scenario that I have played and the terrain is relatively open, which makes blocking every Russian thrust forward nearly impossible.  

Looking ahead

I am getting closer to releasing the second and third scenarios from “The Korsun Pocket Project.”  They are:

“Konev Feints” – A fictional scenario set on Jan 22, 1944.

“Konev Attacks” – A historical scenario set on Jan 25, 1944, detailing the 389th’s defense of the German line.

To play the first scenario, “Lang’s Challenge,” please go here on STEAM or download this scenario directly from dropbox here.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Command Ops 2 Tip – Play slow


Revisiting the Battles for Normandy using Bie’s excellent ‘XXX Corps’ Right Pincer”

I learned something interesting about Command Ops 2 recently, that I never really appreciated despite logging 400+ hours on the STEAM version of my game (admittedly a lot of that time is devoted to designing scenarios). 
Playing scenarios over many in-game days at regular speed builds a nervous tension that can be palpable and hard to replicate in any other digital wargame that I have played (CMANO, Flashpoint do a good job of this too).
For one thing, slower play causes you to absorb the game rather than react to it. You can see units’ fatigue rise as the fighting progresses, you watch units suffer casualties, fall low on supply or not move fast enough for your liking.  That slower cycle also gives you time to evaluate what is happening and plan accordingly, which is really the strength of this game in my opinion. 
Command Ops 2 also has an effective night and day dynamic, with the darkened screen and fewer visible units when the sun sets.  Just imagine a nail-biting scenario in Normandy after the Allied landings. You are the German commander, entrenched in Bocage country waiting to receive a massive attack. You can’t make decisions about the disposition of your troops because you are waiting for dawn and some decent visibility. Time drags on and the tension rises.
Which brings me to a free scenario worth downloading…
“XXX Corps’ Right Pincer”
I am playing a final D-Day scenario, in honor of the 75th anniversary, made by “Bie” in the CO2 STEAM workshop called “XXX Corps’ Right Pincer,” covering the four days of fighting in Normandy from Jun 10-14, including the Battle of Villers-Bocage.
I recently played the John Tiller Software’s Panzer Campaigns’ scenario for Villers-Bocage, enjoyed it greatly but found it less satisfying because it didn’t come close to the historical result and was less tactical than the Panzer Battles game (which I also played but didn’t blog about).
This CO2 scenario is a zoomed-out view of the same battle, same real estate and encompasses more time. The scenario designer “Bie” has done an amazing job with the map. The graphic tones are perfect, and the detail finely given. He has also created new terrain types not in the original game like “Bocage.”

The screenshot above shows my German defensive line at the start.  By the end of the first day, the extreme left objectives will phase out and the new German objectives of Noyers, Point 213 and Villers-Bocage will appear on Day 3. 

By Day 2, the attacks are escalating along my front line, and my right flank is starting to bend inward. I am shifting units from my left to my right, but my defensive buildup is slow going, as I am having to break contact, reorganize and then shift my men. I am playing at regular speed and watching attacks develop over time and the tension is building. I know how the historical attack develops and so I am cheating a little with the disposition of my troops, waiting for the historical hammer to fall. 
And because I am playing slowly my strategy expands from a handful of predetermined moves and reactionary moves, to a series of speculative moves; probes and counterattacks you wouldn’t see and be able to develop at a faster speed.

As I said, playing slowly is “new” for me, as I haven’t played at regular speed since I first purchased CO1 Battles from the Bulge.  I was always too busy to take the time, which is a real shame now that I look back at the hours I’ve devoted to the game, because the game is better when it isn’t sped up.
Back in April, I polled game speed on my “Command Ops Fan Site” FB page and realized the way I approached the game was different than most, which is when I decided to start playing the game on regular speed again.
Since then, I have played a handful of scenarios at this speed, including this Bie scenario. If you don’t normally play Command Ops at the regular speed, do yourself a favor and give this Bie scenario a chance and take your time. 

Less screen-time leads to more focused gaming

I have more games than ever but I want to play most of them less and less. As I approach my late 40s, I find myself wanting to absorb more...