A couple of days ago, I wrote about 3 essential scenarios for the Lock ‘n Load series of squad-based tactical games and now I’m going to write a little about the World at War system from Lock ‘n Load. I should clarify what I mean by ‘essential’ here before I go any further. I’m not necessarily saying that these are the best scenarios (that’s for a later article) but these scenarios are important to play because you either learn something important about how the game system works, game design, or the historical context of a certain era that the game is trying to model.
In that respect, I suppose every scenario in a game could be deemed essential but some of them really do shine a better light on things than others. Just a warning that I only own the first three games of World at War (Blood and Bridges, Death of the First Panzer, and Eisenbach Gap) so I can’t speak for the later games but they’re definitely on my list o’ things to buy and I will include them in a later article.
1.) The Defense of Anhausen – Blood and Bridges
In this scenario, the Soviets have three regiments of armor and infantry and need to capture a small city called Anhausen. The British have only a few platoons of infantry and a handful of vehicles with anti-tank missiles to stop them.
Much has been written about this scenario with some players complaining that it is unbalanced and impossible for the Soviets to win. Upon closer inspection, however, DoA presents some interesting tactical lessons.
The first point is that anti-tank missiles are a game-changer for both sides and I believe this would have been the case had there been an actual conflict in West Germany around that time. Clancy also writes about this issue in Red Storm Rising when one of the Soviet commanders remarks:
“We expected that a breakthrough would have the same effect as in the last war against the Germans. The problem is these new light antitank missiles. Three men and a jeep”-he even used the American title for it-“can race along the road, set up, fire one or two missiles, be gone before we can react, then repeat the process a few hundred meters away. Defensive firepower was never so strong before, and we failed to appreciate how effectively a handful of rearguard troops can slow down an advancing column. Our security is based on movement” (p. 287)
I think DoA really highlights this issue well. Although the NATO forces in this scenario are probably going to set up in fixed and improved defensive positions rather than move around, it really shows you what a small group of guys could have done to entire tank regiments given a decent line of sight from elevated terrain. Even with careful movement and dismounting your troops early, the Soviet player can still expect quite heavy losses. As frustrating as this scenario can be for the Soviet player, it does a very good job of teaching about coordinated fire, movement, and careful consideration of terrain.
2.) Opening Moves – Eisenbach Gap
This is the grand-daddy of WaW scenarios and it’s essential because it introduces some very fundamental concepts about the WaW series. First off, it’s an incredibly fun scenario to play. It’s fast-moving, it features lots and lots of tanks, and both sides get some neat toys to play with (the Soviets get artillery and NATO gets M-1 tanks).
The Soviets get a large group of T-72s from the 1st Guards tank division while NATO sets up with Team Yankee. The Russians try to grab Eisenbach and Bergengipfel while NATO tries to stop them.
|T-72 tank: Destination – the Burger Queen drive-thru in Eisenbach|
Just from this one scenario, you can see the basic differences in unit organization between the two sides and how differently they play. The Russians get a deep bench of T-72s that, if hit, can be replaced very easily by another HQ. This means that it’s not a real problem if your lead tank gets taken out by an M-1 when sitting near the crest of a hill trying to call in artillery fire. The Soviets can afford to be a little reckless – emphasis on the “little”.
The Americans get a mixture of units which include tanks, infantry, anti-tank missiles, etc. This means that the US has to think really hard about preserving units and which defensive terrain fits which units best (hint: put those infantry guys in the city).
I’ve played Opening Moves many times and it’s really my quick-play scenario when I’m coming back to WaW after a long break away from it. It’s a great learning scenario and it reminds you of the mentality you need when playing both sides.
3.) Angels of Death – Blood and Bridges
Fantastic scenario and what makes it essential is its use and demonstration of how air power and helicopters and artillery can coordinate to make even a small force extremely deadly. The US starts off with a handful of units, which include antiquated M60 tanks that can barely move. The US defends a small town called Rieden while the Soviets try to take it over.
The US gets the support that includes two Apache helicopters, an A-10 airstrike, some FASCAM mines and improved positions. On paper, the Soviets have overwhelming numbers including two regiments (the 74th and the 48th) to take out the US. Smart placement of SAMs and AAA are absolutely essential for the Soviet player and use them wisely to cover their advance otherwise American air power will absolutely dominate.
|These things: Good for the US. Bad for not the US.|
I think this scenario is great because it makes both sides stop and really think about how their supporting units are actually the most important units in the game. Shiny tanks and swarms of APCs filled with hard-charging infantry are pretty useless without some kind of support to shield them until they get to where they need to be. Conversely, the US has to learn to use airpower in a smart way and to use pop-up attacks to hit out at HQ vehicles. Timing the FASCAM strike accurately is essential for the American and can honestly make the difference between winning and losing. Great stuff!