Sunday, June 19, 2016

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear Solo

I've previously written on what I regard as some of the problems with the Conflict of Heroes series. Those haven't stoppped me from buying Awakening the Bear 2e and the Solo expansion, and I've just finished the first solo scenario. There's one change in the Solo version which I really like: you no longer activate one unit at a time and keep using it until it's out of Activation Points. Instead, you select any Fresh unit, take an action, and check whether the unit is Spent. If it isn't, you can take another action with it--or you can leave it alone for a few impulses while you use another unit, and then come back to the original one when you're ready. Higher AP cost actions (such as Rally, 5AP) are more likely to cause the unit to become Spent than low cost (Move in the open, 1AP) actions. However, you don't track Activation Point totals any more; as long as you're lucky with your Spent checks, that unit stays Fresh and can take action after action after action. Of course, you can also order a squad to scurry across the street into the building on the other side, only to have them become Spent after the first 1AP movement and get stuck in the middle of the street.

I did manage to win the first scenario, capturing the objective and polishing off two German squads while only losing one of my own. It was close, though, as the halftrack chased my SMG squad for a while, then got adjacent to one of my Rifle squads and put a hit on it. Fortunately the scenario timer ran out almost immediately afterward, and the Germans didn't get a chance to finish off my wounded squad. Final score, 2VP for the Russians.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Six guys got together at Ryan's for a PanzerBlitz scenario based on the battle of Prokhorovka, which was part of the battle of Kursk.
In the scenario, the battlefield is divided by a 18-meter high causeway running north-south; its slopes are impassable for vehicles and difficult for infantry. There is only one road from the eastern sector across the causeway to the center, which means that the Russians can transfer some forces from one sector to another but the Germans can't,  There are numerous gullies and woods across the map, plus one wooded hill on the Russian side (perfect for putting an artillery spotter), and some towns, The Germans got four formations, including one late-arriving force on the eastern edge; as an example of one of those formations, my 2nd SS Panzer Division had 17 AFVs, 17 infantry, 5 artillery batteries, a couple of antitank towed guns and 7 halftracks. The Russians got five formations, including one that got two turns of movement before anyone else arrived; it raced across the map and took blocking positions almost at the German board edge.
Our right pushed the Russians back; as the Russians just blocked the road across the causeway and wrote off their eastern sector, our success was encouraging but not actually helpful. On the left, we got into some of the forests and were able to push the Russians back to about the middle of the map, but there we got stuck. In my sector, the center, I took the first forest, but advancing farther was impossible; there were woods all across my frontage, with Russians in cover in every woods hex. In order to shoot at them, I had to have an adjacent spotter; and that meant I had to move a unit to a hex with no cover, at point blank range from the enemy, and have it survive through the full Russian turn (indirect fire, direct fire, movement-with-overruns, and close assaults after movement) so it could direct fire on my next turn (turn order being shoot first, then move). So instead of launching a doomed banzai charge, I took over all the German artillery, found a great place for my spotter, and proceeded to drop barrages on every Russian unit I could see. That racked up quite a few kills, but the main Russian defense line was in cover and, once again, I couldn't shoot at them unless I had an adjacent spotter. I gather that, in real life, the Germans couldn't break through to Prokhorovka, so the scenario was historically accurate, but it wasn't very good from a play-balance point of view.
This was the first time most of us had played PanzerBlitz in over 20 years, so it was rather nostalgic. It was great, back then, because the game didn't cover just one battle, or even a limited set of scenarios; you had the pieces to make your own scenarioes. But that was back in 1974; playing it today was a reminder of how clunky the game was. Units out in the open were doomed, units in cover were invulnerable as long as they had enough pieces to block the enemy from getting into the same piece of cover. No morale, no opportunity fire, no command and control limits, no ability to ambush which means towed guns become largely useless, and so forth. I'd been thinking about getting a copy to replace the one I had back in high school; I'm glad I decided to hold off. Sometimes "everything was better, back in the old days" is because we don't remember the old days very well/