Progress Update – Army of Two

Halfway through writing “Army of Two” for Lock’n Load Publishing. This book has gone from being a fluffy action piece to becoming a linchpin of the series. The novel features most of the characters from First Strike and follows up their story as the war rages on around them. I’ve had to make a very minor tweak to Keith Tracton’s storyline as written in the scenario books, but it’s worth it for the payoff in the end.

Keith is a very smart fellow, so it follows that he does a lot of smart world-building. One of the things that gave me the freedom to plant these little adventures in his world was the fact that he was vague enough with the timeline in the scenario book. Because of this, I’m able to stretch the timing of events around so that they are both plausible and can fit in with the other books in the series.

While I’m enjoying the writing of Army of Two (I would say it’s my best book so far), I think it will be time to take a little break from the series after this. I’ll be changing up genres to write “Space Infantry”, which will be a welcome break from World War III 1985. I usually find that time away from a book series lets story ideas germinate and mature in my mind. After SI is published, I’ll slowly but surely return to World at War.

Scenario 4 – World at War: Counterattack

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve played a game of World at War and I thought I would get back to my roots this weekend and post a playthrough of a scenario from one of my favorite expansions – Counterattack.  This time we’ll be playing the first scenario of the Steckler campaign called “Little Red Riding Hood”.

This scenario features a battle between Task Force Eagle and elements of the Soviet Forward Security Element (FSE).  It takes place on Map W, a cozy little affair that comes with the Counterattack expansion.  There are a couple of interesting terrain features here like stone walls (that add a +1 defensive bonus for any fire that goes across them) and orchards, which offer some limited defensive terrain cover.   The Americans enter on the west side of the map from hex A9 while the Soviets can enter anywhere along the eastern side of the map.

TF Eagle:  A little bit of everything in here – tanks, IFVs, infantry, and two leaders.
Forward Support Element:  We’re a bit tank heavy here with the T-64s and the BRDM-AT could prove lethal

Victory conditions:  The Americans want to take the three hamlets on the map while the Warsaw Pact wants to prevent this from happening.  The Americans score a total victory if they can nab all 3 villages by the end of turn 5, a significant victory with 2 hamlets and the Soviets score a win if the Americans can only grab one hamlet.

Setup:  There’s a lot of steel being committed by both sides here for such a small map.   The Soviets keep their T-64s stacked with the HQ while the US player spreads itself a bit thinner, opting to work with lone units instead of stacking them.  Steckler gets put with a Bradley and the infantry while the leader gets stacked with one of the Abrams.  For the Soviets, I wanted to pump up their infantry a bit too, so I stacked Volotov with an infantry unit loaded on the BMP-1.

Turn 1:  TF Eagle goes first and pushes up along the road from A9, cross the bridge, and secures the southwestern hamlet.  The Soviets enter the board and move up their BMP loaded with infantry into the southeastern hamlet.  The T-64s get in position to cover the approach to the southeast hamlet and it looks like the rest of the Soviet forces are preparing to try and take the northwest hamlet next turn.

The US player moves his units across the bridge and claims the SW hamlet with Steckler.  Soviets get into the nearest village and claim it too.

Turn 2:  The Americans go first and fire at the Soviet BMPs loaded with infantry in the southeast hamlet..  The BMP is destroyed but Volotov and the infantry survive and are now sitting in the hamlet, sad and disrupted.

The Americans send their HQ and a Bradley up north towards the northwest hamlet while an Abrams stacked with a leader covers the trail approaches to the east.  Steckler and his men are unloaded in the southwest hamlet with a Bradley sitting in the same hex to cover against any armor attacks.

The FSE gets a chit pull next and they send a small force (two T-64s w/ HQ and a BRDM-AT) through the woods towards the northwest village.  One hex of cultivated terrain is all that separates these guys from the American HQ and Abrams in hex F5.  Talk about close combat!

Turn 3:  No chits are pulled for either side here.

Turn 4:  Time is running short and neither side has claimed the northwest hamlet in F4.  Americans get the first chit and take a couple of ineffective shots against the T-64 way down south and the Soviet infantry in the southeast hamlet.  Even the Abrams stacked with an HQ fails to do much against the Soviet tanks stacked with their HQ.  In frustration, the Bradley platoon is sent in alone to claim the hamlet in F4 and an event occurs.  The Soviet BRDM-AT tries to hit the Bradley platoon but does little except disrupt it.

The FSE now has a go and Volotov and his infantry manage to reduce and disrupt the Abrams stacked with the leader in F7.  The T-64 fires at Steckler and the infantry sitting in the hamlet in F8 but fail to score any hits.

The BRDM-AT fires at the American HQ and Abrams unit but misses completely and is marked Ammo Depleted (AAARGGH!).  The Soviets decide to just go for broke and send in their two full platoons of T-64s stacked with the HQ against the lone Bradley platoon in the northwest hamlet.  It seems like a sure thing but nope!  The Bradley takes only one disruption while the Soviet units take a disruption each in what must have been the most incompetent assault on a village ever undertaken.  The frustration mounts for the Russians.

End of Turn 4:  Americans and Soviets are disrupted down south while failed assault by Soviets against the lone Bradley in the hamlet (covered by the BTR marker) are par for the course at this point.

Turn 5:  The Americans decide to just cling on here and inflict some damage on the Soviets.  The main priority is to keep the Soviets near the northwest hamlet from regrouping and assaulting the lone BMP again.  The HQ and Abrams in F5 destroy one of the Soviet T-64 platoons stacked with the HQ.  The Bradley is disrupted and cannot fire.  If the Soviets get a chit pull and undisrupt, the Americans will be alone and in real trouble against another assault.

Meanwhile down south, there’s yet more ineffective fire from Steckler and his men, who fire off some Dragons at the T-64 in the nearby woods and then call in artillery on Volotov.  All of it misses and the Soviets are left sitting pretty.

With one end turn marker already pulled, there was a 50/50 chance for an FSE chit pull but fate had other plans for the Soviets and the next end turn marker got pulled.  End result:  The Americans won this one with a significant victory (two hamlets held).

End of turn 5:  Soviets get nowhere while the Americans deliver a bit more punishment before the game ends.

Conclusion:  What can I say?  This was a real nail-biter.  The close nature of the combat ended up really limiting how each unit moved and fought.  Everyone was always in striking range of each other and opportunity fire was a constant threat.  There was just nowhere for anybody to hide while still taking their objectives.  I’d like to say this was just bad luck for the Soviets but I felt the T-64 down south could have been used to better effect.  By mid-game, it seemed reasonable to assume that the Americans had just left a skeleton force to hold the southwest hamlet and a well-timed push towards it with tanks and infantry may have been enough to force the US player to withdraw some of his forces from the northwestern hamlet. In this scenario, you’ve basically got to push your guys the entire time and just take chances, especially with the single chit for each side in the cup.  Conservative play here by the Soviets will probably get them into trouble with this scenario.

World at War – Counterattack – Scenario 2

These days, in between bouts of 7th Fleet and Nations at War, I’ve been having fun playing the World at War expansion, Counterattack.  After playing through its first scenario, “Dial 411 for Information”, the second scenario, called “One Thing At a Time”,  was quickly set up on my table over the weekend.

The background here is that NATO is desperately trying to stall the Soviet advance into France in early June of ’85.  In order to stem the tide, the Americans send in a special group of Sheridan tanks behind the front lines to hit at reinforcements coming through Dattenberg.  The Soviets will score VPs by both exiting units off the west side of the map and taking out the Sheridans.

The order of battle is quite interesting as the Americans only get four platoons to work with from the 3-73 formation.  These are nowhere near as powerful as Abrams tanks, with neither their armor toughness nor their range capabilities (Sheridans have a 1-5 armor rating and range of only 11 and cannot fire at extended range).  The Soviets have two formations, the 65th Tank Regiment and the 143rd Tank Regiment.  These are all composed of T-64 platoons with extended range capable cannons. To make up for the lack of US long range firepower, the US 3-73 formation gets a DPICM strike (that can hit three surrounding hexes) every single turn.

This scenario takes place on the Blood & Bridges map and the activation mechanic forgoes the usual chit-pull routine in favor of two tables that outline an order of activations for both sides.  The table that you use is rolled for each turn so even though there is less unpredictability here, the order of activations is by no means set in stone, giving the scenario some nice replayability.

Here’s how things panned out during one of my plays of “One Thing At a Time”:

Setup

The Soviets set up first here and they don’t get many options.  The 65th Tank is splayed in column formation along the road from Anhausen to Dattenberg, sitting right out in the open.  The only decision here is where exactly to put your HQ, which can be a bit agonizing as the US player sets up second with a wide range of options.

65th Tank Regiment: Lined up and ready for a beatin’!

The 143rd is set up in and adjacent to Rieden way on the east side of the map.

The 143rd Tank Regiment in and around Rieden.

The Americans choose to set up on the hill to the southwest of Dattenberg, overlooking the broad expanse to the east with a nice shot at the oncoming Soviet tanks.  This provides excellent defensive cover as well.  The Sheridans will benefit with one extra defensive die due to their being on a hillside (should the Soviets fire from ground level) and another die for being in woods hexes.

American Sheridan tanks of the 3-73 perched on a hilltop on the west side of the map.

Turn One

The 3-73 starts off with a bang and serves up a piping hot plate of Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions on the HQ of the 65th and the surrounding T-64 platoons.  Fortunately for the Soviet tankers, it manages to reduce only the platoon with the HQ while the two other nearby platoons are disrupted.

The Sheridans fire off their Shillelagh anti-tank missiles, which destroy two T-64 platoons.  Overall, the 65th is bruised by the opening salvo but definitely still in the fight.  The Soviet tank commander pulls back his disrupted platoons towards Anhausen, where they are out of range of the American anti-tank missiles and they have better cover in the city ruins.

Meanwhile, the 143rd Tank Regiment creeps westwards along the south side of the board, hoping to have the US tanks within long range striking distance by next turn.

The 65th Tank Regiment HQ pulls back with disrupted forces while lead elements sit waiting to advance.

Turn Two

The 3-73 starts the turn off again with DPICM strikes, this time aimed at the T-64s and HQ of the 143rd Tank Regiment.  The strike is somewhat effective, catching the Russian tanks in the open and reducing two platoons and the Soviet HQ.  The DPICMs are the only thing to strike out at the Russians this turn as the Soviet tanks are either out of American AT missile range or not in line of sight.

The 143rd keeps moving up to find range on the Sheridan tanks.  Moving fire is almost totally ineffective, causing only one disruption on one American platoon, which it shakes off easily during the next 3-73 activation.

The 65th moves its lead tanks into Dattenberg while long range fire from the units back in Anhausen serve as deadly cover fire, reducing one of the Sheridan platoons sitting on the east side of their hillside defensive positions.

The 143rd finds no purchase in its attempts to destroy the 3-73 at extended range.

Turn Three

Having been stung by the long range fire from the 65th Tank Regiment, the 3-73 throws the DPICM artillery strikes at the Soviet HQ sitting in Anhausen.  The city ruins prove effective cover, however, and the artillery strike manages only to disrupt two Soviet tank platoons.

The Soviets hit their stride this turn.  The 143rd fires from long range at the Sheridans, killing one of the American platoons.  The 65th activates later in the turn, hammering the two Sheridan platoons sitting with the 3-73 HQ, killing one and disrupting the other.  Half the American force has been wiped out so far, so the 65th Tank Regiment commander pushes his lead platoons straight out of Dattenberg and towards the exit hex on the west side of the board.  Victory seems to be within the Soviets’ grasp.

The 65th Tank Regiment sends two platoons far out ahead to dash for the exit hex.  3-73 is hurting badly.

Turn Four

The 143rd gets an activation right off the bat and destroys the remaining Sheridan stacked with the US 3-73 HQ, leaving only a single American unit sitting on the board.  It’s starting to look like game over for the Americans at this point.  The Soviet 65th takes some fire from the single American unit but shrugs it off with a successful armor save roll.

The two lead units of the 65th are far away to the west of their HQ and end up out of command, even though they are in striking distance of getting off the board.

Turn Five

The Americans get their HQ back and let loose at the two Soviet lead units of the 65th Tank Regiment, incurring one disruption.  Anti-tank missiles do the rest of the job by finishing off one of the lead Soviet tank platoons.  The Russians now have only one platoon that can possibly get to the exit hex now.  It’s down to the wire on this one as turn six is fast approaching.

The lead tank of the 65th, far outside of its HQ’s limited command range, rolls for command and is indeed in command!  It saunters its way to the west side of the board.  One more activation and it will have exited, earning the Soviets some nice VPs.

The 3-73 activates and can only move this turn in order to find LOS on the single Soviet tank platoon making its way to the exit hex.  The 143rd keeps heading west though it has no chance of reaching the exit hex on time.

The sole remaining Sheridan moves west to fire on the sole lead tank of the 65th Soviet Tank Regiment.

Turn Six

The 3-73 activates and the sole remaining lead Soviet unit of the 65th Tank Regiment is destroyed in a hail of DPICM and anti-tank missiles.  This basically ruins the Soviet chances for VPs.  The 143rd and the remainder of the 65th Tank Regiment move further west, vainly attempting to reach the exit hex.

With no Soviet units exited from the board but three of the four American units destroyed, I decide to count this as three victory points for the Russians, which comes out to an American Victory, according to the scenario rules.  However, if the scenario went on for even one or two more turns, I felt this probably would have been an overwhelming Soviet victory.

End Game – The Soviets have failed to exit any units off the map.  That lonely Sheridan is in a bit of trouble though…

The American DPICM strikes were brutal and managed to hurt the Soviets every time they landed.  The fact that one strike can hit multiple hexes at the same time makes them incredibly dangerous.  The best Soviet option seems to be to stay out of US anti-tank missile range and fire away at extended range in hopes of damaging the 3-73 just enough to get Russian tank platoons safely off the board.

With the Americans getting a bonus dice each for a.) being in an elevated position and b.) in a forested hex, it was hard work for the Russians to acheive their goals.  Alternately, having played this scenario with a Soviet rush to simply close range assault the Americans or just get guys moving off the map with limited covering fire, I can say that these tactics don’t seem to work so well either unless the Soviets are extremely lucky.  Had the Soviet lead tanks of the 65th been in command during turn five, I felt the Russians would have had this in the bag but with a 6 morale rating, the chances of this working out were quite low.  Likewise, the Soviets can’t afford to just disrupt the US Sheridans with their exceptionally high morale of 8 as they can shrug off disruptions easily on their next activation.

I liked this scenario as the two sides are very different in terms of their capabilities at various ranges and the resources they have at their command and it reminds me a little of the excellent Angels of Death scenario from Blood & Bridges.

World at War – Counterattack – Scenario 1

Dial 411 For Information is the name of the first scenario for LnLP’s World at War expansion titled “Counterattack”.  The Counterattack expansion is a single book loaded with scenarios that form two campaigns that revolve around the efforts of two groups of NATO soldiers in the middle of World War III.  I won’t give too much of the background story away here for those who are interested in purchasing it.

In this scenario, Task Force Eagle is given the overwhelming job of rescuing a group of prisoners with valuable information.  They are sent up against an entire Soviet Motorized Regiment, which is spread out through three cities on the western edge of the Blood and Bridges map.  This task is complicated by the fact that TF Eagle has no idea in which of the three cities the POWs are located (you have to roll a die to determine their location so I’m not giving any spoilers away here with this report) and they only get 8 turns to snatch the prisoners and get the heck out of Dodge.

Soviet and American Setup

TF Eagle has a couple of distinct advantages thanks to the Special Scenario Rules and it also has a bit of artillery to help get the job done.   Most importantly, TF Eagle has two formation markers while the 62nd MR only gets one.  Getting lots of repeated activations is the only way I can see them succeeding here.

Turn 1 starts and TF Eagle decides to hit Uberdorf first off and check if there are any prisoners there.  Things go poorly in the first turn for TF Eagle as they send out a Bradley, which is immediately disrupted by Soviet Sagger anti-tank missiles.  The first couple of turns bear little fruit for TF Eagle’s efforts as they spend valuable time firing ATGMs and pouring Abrams tank fire into the south part of Uberdorf.  Not only did TF Eagle fail to get a second activation throughout any of these initial turns but the Abrams’ tank gunners must have been really tired that day because they rolled so poorly that they failed to inflict any considerable damage on the small Soviet contingent in the city.

TF Eagle wasting time south of Uberdorf.

In a huge stroke of luck for TF Eagle, the Soviet Sagger team ran out of ammo after taking out a Bradley platoon and the tide slowly turned in the Americans’ favor.  A platoon of Abrams managed to score a disruption on the Soviet infantry and TF Eagle HQ and another Abrams platoon raced into the city by the end of Turn 4, somehow managing to avoid huge volleys of opportunity fire from every corner of the map.  They assaulted the hex and scored a disruption roll on the Soviet infantry in the city,  pushing the Russkies back one hex. The American player rolls a dice to determine if prisoners are located in the hex and miraculously locates and frees them.

POWs are rescued by TF Eagle HQ and Abrams and turn into Scouts.

But it was far from over.  TF Eagle had to haul the liberated POWs back to the south edge of the board under withering fire and pursuit from the 62nd MR.  With only a handful of turns left at this point, it seemed that things could go either way.  The Abrams tanks managed to continue their streak of missing Soviet tanks (at this point, they had failed to score anything worse than a disruption for 6 straight turns).  TF Eagle infantry sitting on the hill approached the 62nd MR HQ as it struggled along the southern crest of a hillside for a better shot at the escaping American POWs but was stopped cold in its tracks by opportunity fire.  Amazingly, it was the M106 mortar platoon that managed to disrupt the Soviets on the hillside.
TF Eagle tries to make its escape with the rescued prisoners while 62MR pursues.

This unexpected disruption to the Soviet plans ended up saving the day as the POWs made their way into the forests to the south and found the exit hex while the rest of TF Eagle plunked away at the pursuing Soviet tanks in vain.  The last opportunity for the Soviets to salvage a win failed spectacularly as they rolled a 12 when attempting to remove their disruption status.

American POWs find their way south to the exit hex under covering fire from TF Eagle.

I’m quite happy I played this the whole way through.  By turn 3, I nearly abandoned the game as I felt the Americans had zero chance of winning. They had failed at that point to reach any of the potential POW hexes and the Soviet 62MR was still in great shape and ready for a fight.  However, the luck of the Americans in finding the prisoners and escaping unscathed through a hail of opportunity fire made up for their agonizingly slow start and lack of activations in the early turns.  The American player rolled poorly but what’s even more important is that the Soviet player somehow rolled even worse.  I wanted to immediately play through it again as I felt certain the scenario would be entirely different in the flow of events.

I really enjoyed this scenario due to the tension and uncertainty.  It’s also a nice change from fighting straight-up battles.  The random element of prisoner locations (which also influences where the exit hex is located) gives it some very good replayability.  The story behind the scenario is very compelling and the write-up does a good job of immersing you in the fight.  The characters and their overall goals and dispositions serve to give you a feel that you are playing through a story of people on the ground doing the actual fighting and involved in extraordinary circumstances.  I think this story-driven campaign kind of started with Untold Stories (through the character of the East German commander, Wolf) and you can see that Mark H. Walker wanted to follow that kind of story-driven campaign here too. Great stuff!

Operation Garbo – Scenario 1: The Hammer of Thor

Today, I played through the first scenario of Operation Garbo, the Swedish front expansion for World at War.  Titled, “The Hammer of Thor”, this particular battle features three Soviet formations against three Swedish formations as they duke it out for control of a city.  The objective for each side is very simple.  The Swedes need to attack and hold an entire city (Ranea, in the northeast corner of board B) in 8 turns while the Soviets need to hold them off.

Swedes must capture Ranea in NE corner.

In order to accomplish this task, the Swedes get the SN Tank Company, TN Tank Destroyer Company, and the QJ Mechanized Infantry Company.  The SN company consists of slow but deadly Centurion tanks while TN has faster but more vulnerable IKV91s.  The QJ Mechanized Company has three platoons of infantry each carried in extremely versatile PBV-302 armored personnel carriers.

The Soviets, on the other hand, get the 22nd Naval Regiment, which has weak but very fast PT-76 tanks that can pack a decent punch at very close range.  The 22nd Support Battalion has a bunch of old BTR-60 APCs with three infantry platoons and two Sagger anti-tank missiles.  Finally, the 22nd Tank Battalion can scarcely be called a battalion at all with only a headquarters unit and a single platoon of T-55 tanks.  It seems the Russians saved their best for the central European front and sent in their second-line units to take on the Swedes.

Both sides get several HE and Smoke artillery missions to make things more fun.

This particular battle is fought on a single map with six formations so things get quite crowded quickly and with artillery and smoke flying around everywhere, it gets pretty cozy.

Deployment

Trying to plan out my deployment for the Soviets, I decided to keep my T-55s away from the hillsides and out of sight of the Swedish tank destroyers.  I wanted them to be available when the fighting got closer to the city.  I placed them near enough to the city so that they can respond quickly to any Swedish rushes.

The PT-76s are even more vulnerable than the T-55s and, for that reason, I also keep them well out of sight by placing them to the north side of the board, just near the forests where some Swedish units might try to wheel around to attack the city from.

The infantry and BTR-60s from the 22nd Support Battalion are placed on the hills to the south of Ranea with enough LOS that the HQ can call in artillery on the Swedes and hopefully fire off some Saggers at any approaching Swedish tanks.

The hope is that the infantry and Saggers will weaken the Swedes before they get near the city and the PT-76s and T-55s will engage any survivors at close range and finish them off.

Soviets set up with infantry to south, T-55s to the rear and PT-76s to the north.

As for the Swedes, I decide that the Swedish QJ Mech Infantry will be placed to the south of their deployment zone and they will take this southern route to hit out at the Soviet infantry of the 22nd Support Battalion, thus eliminating the Soviet anti-tank capability.

SN Tank company will start out in the forest area in the deployment zone and provide long range fire support as well as artillery to cover the advance of both QJ and TN.

TN will advance quickly along the road, take Nottrask, cross the bridge and engage any nearby Soviet enemies around Ranea so that the infantry from QJ will be able to safely enter the city after finishing off the Soviet infantry from 22nd Support Battalion.

Swedish deployment

At least, that was the plan.  Things turned out very very different.

Turn 1

A couple of special scenario rules are in effect for this turn.  First of all, the Soviet 22nd Support Battalion, after a hard night of partying in Ranea, is still completely hammered and unable to activate this turn.  The Swedish have complete surprise and can pull one of their formation markers out to start the game off.

The Swedes pull the SN chit and call in an artillery strike on the 22nd Support HQ sitting on a hill to their southwest.  The HE is completely ineffective but the smoke arty is right on target in L8, which effectively blocks LOS for a couple of turns to the advancing Swedish units.  Although the 22nd Support cannot activate, I’m guessing it can perform opportunity fire so this seems like a good move.

The QJ Mech Inf. duly activates next and moves along the southeast road, licking its chops and ready to take on the infantry of the Soviet 22nd Support.

The Soviet 22nd Naval Battalion activates twice and moves its entire force to the south to help reinforce the infantry of the 22nd Support.  The northern road of advance for the Swedes is wide open now and Swedish TN company takes advantage of this, zooming along the road to the east, straight for Ranea.  One of the Soviet infantry platoons on the hill to the south takes a potshot at the approaching IKV-91s but the fire is completely ineffective.  The Swedish SN battalion trundles slowly along behind them.

So far, very little fighting has occurred.  The Swedes are advancing quickly thanks to the smoke artillery laid down earlier in the turn.  None of the Soviet HQs have LOS to the Swedes, rendering them unable to fire artillery of their own on the advancing units.

Turn 1 End.  Swedes make big advances east towards Ranea with SN and TN companies.

Turn 2

The SN tank company activates and moves east, again taking opportunity fire from the 22nd Support Battalion on the hill to the south.  This is ineffective and no losses are suffered.

TN activates next and fires artillery on the Soviet 22nd Support battalion HQ sitting on the hill but this misses entirely.  They follow this up with a smoke mission that also misses its target and lands too far to the east.

TN activates again and this time, it is able to move without fear as the Soviet 22nd Support is Ops Complete.  By the end of TN’s activation, it has IKVs inside Ranea.  Turn 2 and it already looks like Mission Accomplished.  The Soviet 22nd Tank activates next, however, and moves its ageing T-55s up on the hill to the south of the city, dangerously close to TN’s advance guard that has just arrived in the city.

Swedish QJ company moves along its southern route to get at the Soviet 22nd Support infantry but the HQ is disrupted by opportunity fire and is halted.  The Soviet 22nd Naval Regiment activates and pulls back to Ranea, right beside the Swedish TN headquarters.  The next chit activates the 22nd Naval Regiment again and it calls in smoke to give itself some cover from the approaching Swedish tank battalion to the west.  It fires an HE mission on the adjacent TN headquarters, disrupting both of its units and then follows up with a successful assault on TN HQ which reduces both its platoons.

Swedish QJ company activates again and fails to rally its disrupted units although a couple of platoons of IFVs loaded with infantry slowly make their way east.  The pace of QJ is agonizingly slow and they are missing the deadline for reaching their short term objectives on the way to the city.

The 22nd Support Battalion, noticing the huge amount of smoke swirling on the battlefield and rendering their Saggers completely useless, decides to pack their infantry up on their BTR-60s and head for Ranea.

Turn 3

The Soviets had some good luck this turn as the 22nd Nav and the 22nd Tank near Ranea started to work together against the TN company.  The 22nd Tank destroys one of the Swedish IKV units already in the city and this is followed up by an assault by the PT-76s of the 22nd Naval Regiment, which destroys the remaining Swedish tank.

The Swedish QJ and the 22nd Support are now in a race for Ranea and it looks like the Soviets are going to win.

Swedish infantry from the TN Company are now forced to rush into Ranea to try and secure parts of it before the Russians arrive.  The PBVs unload their infantry in the north of the city and rush down to assault the 22nd Nav HQ with its PT-76s.  The assault is astonishingly unsuccessful and although the 22nd Nav is disrupted and must withdraw to the south of the city, it is not heavily damaged.

So far, the expected anti-tank missile menace expected from the Soviets has failed to materialize thanks to poor rolling and obscured LOS.  The game has turned into an artillery duel between Swedish and Soviet commanders, laying smoke to prevent long-range weaponry from playing any kind of decisive role in the fighting.  HE artillery has been used repeatedly to soften up enemies prior to assault.

End Turn 3: Soviet 22nd Support races back to Ranea from the south as SN company battles 22nd Tank and 22nd Naval Regiment around the city.

Turn 4

The 22nd Naval Regiment gets its revenge against the Swedish infantry from TN which sent them packing from Ranea in the previous turn.  They call in HE artillery on the infantry, disrupting it.  They follow it up with an assault that completely destroys the infantry platoon in hex T3 and the Russians reoccupy the city.

The SN Tank company sends its own infantry from the north, assaulting the 22nd Naval Regiment in hex T3, reducing and disrupting both PT-76 platoons.  The Soviets yet again withdraw from the city.

QJ Mechanized infantry did not activate this turn, which leaves the Swedish TN and SN companies without major infantry support around Ranea.  What a mess.

22nd Support Battalion arrives near Ranea while Swedish QJ lags far behind.

Turn 5

QJ Mech Inf. finally activates to start off the turn and they trundle along northeast to Ranea.

Back in Ranea, the fighting is fierce as ever.  The 22nd Naval Regiment, battered and bruised, orders a smoke mission to block LOS from Swedish tanks creeping up on the hill to the north.  A second artillery mission, this time High Explosive, slams into the adjacent Swedish infantry from SN company holding hex T3, disrupting it Follow-up close range HE fire from the PT-76s finishes off the Swedish infantry off.   Downtown Ranea has switched hands so many times now in the last two or three turns that it must be just chest-high rubble at this point.

SN company moves its tanks off the hill to the north of Ranea, hoping to get some shots off at the Soviets without the lingering smoke in their way.  The Centurion tanks manage to blast the T-55s of the Soviet 22nd Tank Battalion to smithereens.  This is the first good thing to happen for the Swedes so far.

End Turn 5: SN company takes desperate hold of Ranea.

Turn 6

Turn 6 starts and the Chaos marker enters the cup.

The Swedes’ luck holds up this turn with the SN company activating right off and destroying the 22nd Naval Regiment along with its headquarters.  The only real opposition for the Swedes now is the Soviet infantry from the 22nd Support Battalion, speeding its way to the east of Ranea.

Luck seems to have dimmed for the Swedes, however, when the Chaos marker is pulled and the Soviets are granted another HE artillery mission.

The Swedish QJ Mechanized Infantry, so useless until now, manages an activation and sends two APCs with infantry to the east of Ranea while the HQ and one platoon go for the west side.  With the help of the armor from SN company, the Swedes hope to take the city in the next two turns.

Swedish QJ infantry finally arrive near Ranea as Soviet 22nd Support Battalion sets up defenses in city.

Turn 7

The turn starts with QJ Mechanized Infantry on the east side of the city brutally assaulting the 22nd Naval Regiment with its HQ and totally destroying it.  The HQ on the west side of the city approaches and is disrupted.  Two turn end markers are pulled next, ending turn 7.  This does not bode well for the Swedes.  They now have one remaining turn to take the city.

Turn 8

Swedish armor from SN Company now sit on the west and north side of the city, hammering away at the Russian infantry inside.  One Centurion makes a dash into the city and, against the odds, destroys an entire Soviet infantry platoon.

QJ Mechanized Infantry company alights from their APCs but gets disrupted by fire from a BTR platoon on the east side of the city.  However, the infantry on the west side manages to assault a Soviet APC and take hex T3.  The Soviets now have only one hex of disrupted units sitting in Ranea.

The 22nd Support activates, using the extra HE artillery mission it received from the Chaos marker draw in turn 6.  The adjacent QJ mechanized infantry with HQ is disrupted.  AP fire reduces the Swedish APC stacked along with it.  With only these holdouts left in the city, it comes down to the next marker pull, which is either a QJ chit or End Turn.

The next marker ends the turn and the game is over. The Soviets, holding a lone hex in the city, are the victors as the Swedes fail to take the entire city.

Soviets hold on to one remaining hex in Ranea as they are surrounded by Swedish units.

Conclusion

What went wrong for the Swedes?  Primarily, their biggest problem was sending in TN company so far ahead of the other Swedish units.  The double activations of TN that were used for movement resulted in their entering the fray in piecemeal fashion.  They were picked off accordingly and the entire formation was soon lost by the mid-point of the game.  On the Soviet side, it’s important to find a way to get those infantry working early in the game even with all the smoke flying around the battlefield and making the use of AT missiles problematic at best.  Both sides seemed to use their artillery wisely enough but the Soviets were able to follow it up with effective assaults or fire that eliminated enemy units.

New Games for the Summer

I recently received four new items in the mail, two expansions for World at War and two games from the 1970s.

Counterattack is an expansion for the World at War series from Lock ‘n Load Publishing.  It features a new map with two campaigns.  One campaign is centered on the US counterattack versus the Soviet advance into western Europe.  The other campaign deals with the adventures of a US task force assigned to look into some strange events going on in the background of the war.

The campaigns are handled very nicely with refit points earned with each victory.  These refit points can be spent to upgrade your units, repair existing units, and purchase skills.  The scenarios use the Blood & Bridges map and the expansion map.  There’s are nine scenarios with a range of sizes from small two-unit skirmishes that last five turns to a couple of larger battles with seven formations.  The layout of the book looks quite nice with several nice drawings and pictures to add some flavor.  I especially liked the FBI stamp on the pictures dealing with the Steckler campaign, which is a nice nod to its “X-Files-ish” theme.

Operation Garbo is the second game I received, which is another expansion for World at War.  It’s based on the Soviet invasion of Sweden in the World at War universe (World War 3, 1985).  
I really enjoyed playing through the scenarios and I found the Swedish units and maps were given a unique flavor.  I especially liked the special defense value for the STRV (or “S” Tank) when concealed as this reflects the relatively low hull of the tank.  The mounted firepower for the PBV was also a good way of dealing with how Swedish troops were trained to fire effectively from the vehicle in battle.  The scenarios are mostly of the smaller variety and I was able to play through most of them in a little over an hour (although the final scenario is bigger and did take a bit longer).  One of the scenarios has a neat backstory where a Swedish commander is shot down out of his helicopter and has to lead a small group of guerrilla units against a Soviet airborne regiment and a tank battalion.  
While I’ve been getting my World at War fix lately, I’ve also been playing some wargames with a space theme.  Freedom In the Galaxy was originally released by SPI in the late 70’s as part of the Star Wars craze at the time.  Later on, it was re-released by Avalon Hill around 1981 and this is the version which I have just received. 
Freedom in the Galaxy is, to put it mildly, a blatant ripoff (some might consider it a parody) of Star Wars.  It is a sci-fi wargame for 2 players where one player is the Rebel Alliance and the other is the Empire.  Both players get characters that are almost carbon copies of Star Wars characters and it’s kind of impressive that no one got sued over this game.  Despite the similarities, Freedom in the Galaxy has some really interesting mechanics and some definite flavor.  One of the books in the game is given over entirely with background of the various races, characters, spaceships, and planets in the game, so it ultimately does try to take its heavily inspired Star Wars-ish universe and flesh it out into something unique and interesting for the players.  The rebels have to send out their characters to different planets and perform various missions in hopes of kicking off a rebellion that will topple the evil empire, which has its own characters and units to try and stop them.  
Freedom in the Galaxy – one book of rules, one book of background 
There have been some complaints on BGG that the game is unbalanced despite some attempts by various writers and fans of the game to try and redress this issue.  I still haven’t gotten around to playing it yet but since I’m more interested in narrative than balance, this fact didn’t bother me enough to prevent me from purchasing it.  
The final game I recently purchased is “Starship Troopers”, the 1976 game from Avalon Hill.  I’ve always loved the novel and I even enjoyed the movie from the 90s.  I dig the pulpy drawing on the box cover.  This is a hex and counter game of man-to-man (or man-to-bug) combat.  It looks just great and I was surprised to find out how much love was put into this product as shown by the rulebook’s use of photos, schematics and other bits of stuff related to the novel.  It’s pretty impressive for 1976.
From the Starship Troopers rulebook – a photo of Juan Rico and friends
I haven’t played this game either yet but I can already tell I’m going to enjoy it.
Bugs, Mr. Rico!  Zillions of ’em.

Death of the 1st Panzer – Blind Sided (x3)

Yesterday I pulled out the World at War expansion, “Death of the 1st Panzer” and decided to play scenario 1, “Blind Sided”.  I’ve played this scenario before many times and my Soviet tanks almost always end up as heaping wrecks strewn across the West German countryside.

Trying to improve a bit on my Warsaw Pact tactics, I ended up playing this same scenario several times just to see how different approaches would affect the outcome.  In this short article, I’m going to demonstrate the very different flow of three different playthroughs of this scenario and the lessons I learned from them in regards to World at War tactics.

In the scenario, “Blind Sided”, the West German 1/171 Panzergrenadiers is caught by surprise by elements of the Soviet 1st Tank Army on the opening day of the war on May 14th, 1985.  The Soviet commander’s job is to capture all the city hexes of Walkerburg in the southwest corner of the map while the West Germans, caught out of position and by surprise, must scramble their meagre forces to defend it.  The scenario is only 8 turns but the smaller map means that the Soviets don’t have to cover too much ground to get to their objective.  
The scenario starts with two platoons of Marders and infantry along with a Jaguar sitting on the road to the northeast of Talen.  The 1st Tank, with eight T-72 platoons and a BRDM-AT, gets a free activation to begin the game.  
West German setup
Game 1
In my first game, I decided to try and use the hills to the south as cover for the Soviet 1st Tank, hoping to get some good activations and push them into Walkerburg without taking any losses.  
The Soviets got some very nice activations here.  They activated twice in the first turn and in each subsequent turn, they leaped forward to their objective.
Unfortunately, this also let the West German Marders and Jaguar waltz back to Walkerburg and set up infantry (with Milan ATGMs) and Marders in the city to await the onslaught of the 1st Tank.  On Turn 5, 1st Tank received the first activation chit and approached.  Predictably, a slaughter ensued as 1st Tank rushed the city and the Soviet T-72s were crushed by a hail of anti-tank missile opportunity fire followed by two activations of the 1/171st PzG.  Turn 6 started with two activations of the 1/171st, which was more than enough to make short work of the Soviet 1st Tank.  Clearly this approach was not going to work for the Soviets.
Game 2:
So I set up the same scenario again and decided to go with radically different tactics for the Soviets.  The major weakness of the West Germans is the thin armor for their Marders and the fact that most of the elements of the 1/171st start out in the wide open road without defensive cover.  This provides an opportunity for a very aggressive Soviet opening.  Instead of preserving my forces through a long march through the southern hill route, I was going to go for the throat right off the bat.
Game 2:  No subtlety here.  Just come on the board and blast away.
I pushed the Soviets onto the board from X4 and hoped for the best.  Opportunity fire from the Marders (the infantry were loaded inside, unable to fire their Milans) destroyed and disrupted a handful of Soviet platoons but the damage was surprisingly minimal.  Moving fire from the Soviet tanks managed to reduce one of the Marders and infantry.  The BRDM-AT moved into the city down south and got into a firing position.  
The next activation chit was 1st Tank, which was extremely lucky.  Soviet HQ called down artillery, disrupting a Marder with the HQ and also disrupting the Jaguar.  From that point, it was simply a matter of marching forward with moving fire and pasting whatever was left of the 1/171.  By turn 3, there was nothing left of the West Germans and Walkerburg was easily taken by turn 7.
Game 3
This was the most even game of the three and probably the best of them.
The Soviets opened with the same moves as before but did not meet with the same amount of success.  Although the West German Jaguar and one Marder (along with loaded infantry) were destroyed in the opening salvos (again with solid 1st Tank activations coming one after the other in the first turn), the Germans were not pulverized completely.  
The HQ, Marder and infantry wisely moved back from the Soviet onslaught and made their way to Walkerburg where they set up a defensive position and waited for the Soviets.  Thanks to decent West German opportunity fire, the Soviets had only 2 full-strength T-72 platoons, 4 reduced strength platoons, and the BRDM- AT.
The Soviets tried their best to keep what remained of their battered force.  The BRDM-AT managed to disrupt the Luchs sitting in Talen.  The Soviet HQ then assaulted it in the town, opening up a path down to Walkerburg.  
As the game turn limit approached.  The Soviets found themselves facing a stack of unloaded infantry and Marders in one corner of the city.
The last turn came around and the Soviets were in perfect position for an assault.  
With two full strength Soviet platoons sitting to the north of Walkerburg and the remainder of the  reduced T-72s sitting to the east of it, there was just enough fight left to try and take the city.
Of course, it could have all gone wrong.  If the Soviets didn’t activate, the game would be over and NATO would chalk up a win.  As it turned out, however, the first chit pull was 1st Tank and the plan went accordingly.  
Two reduced platoons rushed into the city and were disrupted and destroyed, respectively, by opportunity fire from the West German Marder and Milan.  The full strength units rushed south and hit the West Germans hard, scoring 3 hits while taking the same lumps in return.  The West Germans now found themselves facing down an HQ with a reduced Soviet T-72 platoon while they themselves had only a disrupted group of infantry and a reduced Marder.
The final battle for Walkerburg:  Game 3.
The final rolls came in with the Soviets scoring a single hit on the West Germans in a brutal assault while the West Germans, rolling for 6s, scored nothing.  With nowhere left to retreat, the West Germans were eliminated and the Soviets held Walkerburg.   It had all come down to the wire with no room for error for either side.  
Discussion:
Well, the Soviets were successful in two of these three games, taking a huge gamble right off the start by entering the board and firing away at the West Germans.  Had the rolls not come out right, things could have gone very badly for them.  The “safe” option in the first game of using terrain and the southern hill route turned out not to be so safe after all.  There are times that the Soviets really need to just take a huge risk and go for broke when the enemy is vulnerable.  With more forces at their disposal, the odds of the Soviets scoring that critical hit that eliminates a vital NATO unit are not so bad. The key is to get your guys firing at NATO rather than just moving all the time, which can allow the enemy get into a nice defensive position.  Even shooting from a bad position (long range, moving fire) is better than this option, I find.

World at War Primer: Helicopters

So you think you know World at War by now?  There’s one essential ingredient you need to know how to use in order to bring it all together.  Helicopters!

Let’s go through basic helo movement and combat today.

Helo Movement:

Helicopters basically have two modes.

These modes are:

  1. Flying – a flying helicopter can move
  2. Hovering – a hovering helicopter cannot move (duh).  It must switch to flying mode before it can move.
A helo’s mode is denoted by which side of the counter is displayed. 
Hover mode (left)   Flying mode (right)

You’ll notice that the hovering helicopter can use its AP firepower while a helicopter in flying mode cannot do so.  Also, the fact that flying around makes it harder to hit stuff is reflected in the higher “to hit” number for the helo’s HE firepower in the lower left corner.  You’ll notice that the flying mode HE is underlined, which indicates that the Cobra is capable of moving fire (as all attack helos are capable of doing).  There is no FP minus or “to hit” penalty for moving fire for the helos.  What you see on the counter in terms of FP and “to hit” is what you get.
Helicopters can change modes ONCE during their activation and it must be the first thing they do.  You cannot move a flying helicopter all over the place and then throw it in hover mode in the same activation.  
Flying, Moving and Firing
Let’s talk about flying helicopters first.
When helicopters first enter the map, they are always flying.  Flying helicopters can move an unlimited amount of hexes anywhere they want on the map IF they are not shooting.  Yes, you need to actually show the movement path to your opponent so that opportunity fire can be conducted against them if they enter an enemy unit’s range.  If you want to conduct fire with a flying helicopter it can only move a maximum of 12 hexes.
Here’s an example:
In the above example, we have a Cobra helo from Alpha company. Alpha has just had its formation drawn through a chit pull.  The US player wants the Cobra to come in and fire at the T12 ATG in hex G5.  
First off, the Cobra is going to need to enter the board flying so we make sure that the flying side of the helo counter is face up.
The Cobra comes on in flying mode and it can move up to 12 spaces.  We could just move the Cobra right adjacent to the T12 ATG and get a close range bonus for the HE fire “to hit” number but this would result in opportunity fire against the Cobra (yes, I know it looks like the T12 can shoot at the Cobra in D3 anyways but trust me, it can’t.  We’ll get to that later).
So the US player moves the Cobra over to D3 and opens up on the T12 ATG with its HE firepower.  We roll 3 dice for a “to hit” of 5 or higher.  The results are 4/1/6.  The Cobra scores one hit on the T12 ATG.  The T12 is a soft target in clear terrain and gets no defensive die so it is automatically disrupted.  
The Cobra is marked Ops Complete.  As with all moving fire, you cannot move, fire, and then keep on moving.  Once you fire, that’s it for the unit’s activation.
Switching Modes and Hovering
As stated above, a helicopter can switch modes only once per activation and it must be the FIRST thing that it does.  
Let’s say in the example above that Alpha gets activated twice in a row through a lucky chit pull.  The Cobra spots a T-80 platoon in the distance and it’s within range.  So the player now switches the Cobra from flying mode to hover mode as its first action and then fires at the T-80 platoon.
The Cobra switches to hover mode and now we suddenly have our AP firepower.  The T-80 platoon is well within range of the Cobra’s 20 hex AP range.  We roll 4 six-sided die and hope for a “to hit” of 4 or higher.  The result is 6/3/2/4.  The Cobra scores two hits on the T-80 platoon.  The T-80 platoon now rolls defensive dice (3 dice for 5 or higher) and gets 5/6/1.  Both Cobra hits are negated.  The Cobra is marked Ops Complete.
So far, I think this is pretty straightforward.  However, things get a bit more complicated with Line of Sight for helos.  Let’s take a look.
Helicopters and Line of Sight
To understand helicopters and their line of sight, you first have to understand how their altitude works.  Altitude is considered in terms of “levels” in World at War.  There are three levels, in order of height.  Helicopters are considered as basically flying just above whatever terrain is below them.
Level 1:  Helicopter is flying over more of less flat ground:  clear terrain/crops/rough/etc.
Level One Flight
Level 2:  Helicopter is flying over elevated terrain (hills, woods hexes on ground level, city)
Level Two Flight
Level 3:  Only when helo is flying over wooded hill or city hill hex.
Level Three Flight
  
Depending on which level the helo is flying, its LOS varies.  Since all LOS is reciprocal, this also means the height can affect which units have LOS to the helo.
Level One flight LOS:
For helos at Level one, simply treat their LOS the same as if it were a regular ground unit sitting on the edge of a hill.  This means it can fire at :
  • ground level units with no blocking terrain (i.e. hills) in between the helo and the target (I10)
  • hill level units with no other hills in between the helo and the target (same hill hexes are okay as long as they are not wooded hill hexes)  (M10)
They cannot fire at:
  • ground level units that are one or two hexes adjacent/behind a city hex   (G16)
  • ground level units that are one hex adjacent/behind a woods hex (M14)
Level One:  Black = LOS   / White = No LOS
The black lines indicate to which units the helo has LOS (and vice versa) and the white lines represent the units to which the helo has no LOS (and vice versa).
Level Two Flight LOS
LOS for helos at level two are a bit different. The main difference between level one and two flight is that helos can:
  • fire at ground units that are next to a hill that the helo is currently flying/hovering over. (N7)
  • fire OVER hill hexes at ground level units as long as there are no wooded hill hexes in between the helo and the ground level unit  

Helos at level two can’t fire at:

  • hill level units that are behind wooded hill hexes – whether or not the units behind them are adjacent to the wooded hill hex (T7 and U7)
  • ground level units adjacent to a hill hex (this does not apply if the hill in question is the one the helicopter is on). (T6)
  • ground level units behind a woods hex or two hexes behind a city hex
Level Two:  Black = LOS / White = No LOS
Level Three Flight LOS
Helos at this level have almost the same LOS as helos at level two.  A helo in level three flight can:
  • fire at ground units that are next to a hill that the helo is currently flying on. (N7)
  • fire OVER hill hexes at ground level units (W11)  as long as there are no wooded hill hexes in between the helo and the ground level unit  (X10)
  • fire at hill level units that are two or more hexes behind a wooded hill hex.   (U7)

They still cannot fire at ground level units that are behind/adjacent to a hill hex that is not part of the hill which the helo is currently flying or hovering over  (T6) nor can they fire at anything within the two hex blocking shadow of a city or one hex blocking shadow of woods (T7)

Level Three:  Black = LOS / White = No LOS
Helo LOS is always a bit hard to figure out so forgive any mistakes.  My best advice is just to go slow when starting to use them and check the LOS chart on the reference table.  
Helicopters and Combat
We’ve already gone over helos moving and firing, switching to hover mode and firing their AP.   A couple more things need to be mentioned.
Helicopters are hard to hit due to their speed and relatively small size.  As a result, there are penalties for shooting at helicopters.
First off, ground units that have an underlined firepower can never attack a flying helicopter.   They can attack hovering helos.
Secondly,  all ground units except anti-aircraft units (AAA units and SAMs) which are indicated by their blue firepower rating on their counter, have their ranges halved when shooting at helicopters.  Non-anti-aircraft units cannot use extended range when targeting helicopters.
Here we have a Hind helo hovering in hex O13.  Let’s see what each unit is rolling to hit the Hind:
ITV: (hex S14)
ITVs cannot fire at flying helicopters due to their underlined range of 20.  However, because the Hind is hovering, the ITV can fire at it.  The ITV’s range is halved from 20 hexes to 10 hexes but that’s okay because the Hind is only 4 hexes away.  The ITV rolls 4 dice for 4+ to hit.
Chaparral (hex S16)

The Chaparral is an anti-aircraft unit (as denoted by its blue firepower rating) so it receives no penalties for range.   It can fire at a helo regardless of whether it is hovering or flying.  Also, because this is a AAA unit with a non-underlined range, it does get close range bonuses (and can also fire at extended range if need be).  The Chaparral is only 5 hexes away from the Hind so it gets a close range bonus and is rolling 2 dice for 3+ to hit.
Abrams (hex U12)
The Abrams is a non-anti-aircraft unit with a non-underlined range.  It can always fire at helos whether they are flying or not as long as they are within range.  The AP range of the Abrams is 10, reduced to 5 because it is firing at a helo.  Range from T12 to the Hind in O13 is 5 hexes.  As a result, the Abrams rolls 4 six sided dice for a to hit of 4+.  On a side note:  non-AAA units never get close-range bonuses to hit helicopters so if the Abrams was only 2 hexes away from the Hind, it would still be rolling the same firepower/to hit (4 dice for 4+).
Abrams (hex Y15)
Just like the other Abrams, this unit’s range is halved from 10 to 5 hexes for firing at a helicopter.  The range from Y15 to the helo in U12 is 10 hexes.  This is considered extended range so the Abrams in this hex cannot fire at the Hind.
Helicopters and Pop-Up Attacks
Helos have a special attack known as a pop up attack.  This lets them hide behind a terrain feature, ascend quickly by one level and fire at enemy units before descending again behind the terrain feature.  This move is meant to avoid exposing the helo to enemy fire.
To conduct a pop up attack, the helo’s owner declares the attack beforehand and then considers the helicopter has moved up one level of flight (e.g. level one to two or two to three)
When the helo moves up, one (and only one) enemy unit that is in range and in good order and not ops complete can conduct opportunity fire.  Like an assault, the hits are determined and allocated after both sides roll the dice.  
Here’s an example:
The Hind in L11 wants to conduct a pop up attack against the Chaparral in Q9.  Right now, the Hind is over clear terrain and at level one height.  It may not presently attack the Chaparral because at level one flight a helo “may not fire at an enemy unit on ground level if a hill hex (M11 and N10) is between the attacker’s hex and target hex”.  So the Hind is going to need to pop up from behind the hill to level two where there is no such LOS restriction.
The Soviet player declares pop up.  The Hind in hex L11 ascends to level two flight and the Chaparral SAM unit and the helo see each other.  The Chaparral conducts opportunity fire, rolling 2 six sided dice for 3+ to hit.  It rolls a 4 and a 6 and gets two hits.  The Hind rolls 1 dice for 5 to try and negate one hit.  The Hind rolls a 3.  No luck.  The two hits on the Hind stand.
But these hits are not allocated yet.  
The Hind now gets to roll 4 dice for 4+ to hit.  It rolls 3/4/4/4.  3 hits.  The Chaparral rolls for its defensive armor, 1 six sided dice for 6 and gets a 5.  No luck.  
Now the hits are allocated.
The Hind takes two hits and is destroyed (helos can only be disrupted and hit once before they are destroyed – they don’t get the disrupt – reduce – destroy cycle that most ground units get).
The Chaparral takes 3 hits and is disrupted, reduced, and destroyed.  A wreck marker is placed in hex L11 and another wreck marker is placed in Q9. 
Conclusion:
I hope that helps explains helicopters a bit.  They’re pretty easy to use but the LOS can be a little tricky at times.  I’m not 100 per cent sure I got that section right but feel free to let me know if you see any mistakes.  
Thanks again to Pascal for the article idea!

World at War Primer: Assaults and Overruns

Sorry for my absence the last couple of weeks.  I’m in the middle of changing jobs and working on a grad thesis, which hasn’t left a lot of time for gaming.  In any case, let’s get back to some World at War goodness!  Thanks to a comment from Pascal, I’m going to do a short article on Assaults and Overruns, two very important aspects to the World at War system.

Assaults and Overruns occur when two enemy forces occupy the same hex.  This represents the dirty business of close-quarters no-holds-barred down in the mud combat.  The major difference between an assault and an overrun is that assaults occur when:

  • vehicles fight each other in any terrain 
  • vehicles and infantry fight in defensive terrain
  • infantry fights other infantry in any terrain
An overrun occurs (hopefully rarely) when:
  • vehicles fight infantry in open or open hill terrain
An overrun basically represents the terror of vehicle units speeding into an infantry hex and running down guys, firing at point blank range, and using their impressive firepower to simply wipe out anything that does not have protective cover.  
The procedure for assaults and overrun is very simple but there are a couple of mechanics to keep in mind.  First off,  combat results take effect after both sides get in a round of fighting.  So it really doesn’t matter who is entering the hex first in this case.  
Secondly, defensive terrain does not modify the combat rolls – except in the one case when infantry and vehicles are fighting in a city hex.  
Third, you cannot “aim” for a particular unit in a stack when you are in assault or overrun combat.  Hits are distributed equally among the units in the stacks.  So when you have two infantry units in a hex and they take two hits in an assault, the top-most infantry takes one hit and then the bottom infantry unit gets the second hit.  If there’s an odd number of hits to distribute then just roll a 1d6 and give the top unit the third hit on a roll of 1-3, the bottom unit gets the hit on a roll of 4-6.  
Finally, after the assault is resolved, one side will be moving out of the assault hex.  If the defending unit takes the same or fewer number of hits than the attacker (the side that moved into the hex) then the defender wins and gets to stay in the hex.  The attacker must retreat back into the hex from which it came.  If the attacker gets more hits than the defender, the attacking unit stays in the hex it is assaulting and the defender must retreat one hex away in the exact path from which the assault came or else it is destroyed.

Assaulting is very simple.  You simply add up the assault factors on the counters participating in the assault and you roll the total number of dice to hit.  The assault factor for each unit can be found in the lower right corner of the counter as shown here:

So in this case, the Abrams will be rolling 2 six-sided dice and a hit is achieved on a 4 or higher.

Let’s have a very basic example, shall we?

In the example above, the T-72 enters the hex in G2 with the Abrams.  Assault begins.
The T-72 rolls 2 six-sided die and gets a 4 and a 1.  The T-72 will score 1 hit on the Abrams.
But wait!  Before we assign the hit to the Abrams, it gets to fire back at the T-72.  The Abrams rolls its assault factor (2 dice for 4 or better) and gets a 6 and another 6.  The Abrams scores two hits on the T-72.  Now we can assign the hits.  The T-72 is disrupted and reduced while the Abrams is merely disrupted.
In this case, because the T-72 has taken more hits than the Abrams, it must retreat back into the hex from which it came (in this case, H2).  The Abrams stays in the G2 hex.  These results are shown below:
Post-assault
It is important to realize that the lack of an available retreat path (due to the path being either off the map, through enemy-occupied hexes, or in illegal terrain such as water or rivers) needs to be available or the retreating unit is destroyed.  Below we have an example where the lack of a legal retreat path destroys the retreating unit:

In the example above, the T-72 enters hex F12 and assaults the Abrams.  The T-72 scores one hit on the Abrams while the Abrams scores no hits on the T-72.  Normally, the Abrams would be able to take the hit and retreat back to another hex to fight another day.  However, the hex behind the path of the assault is a lake/water hex so the Abrams is actually destroyed.  A wreck marker is placed in hex F12 along with the victorious T-72 counter.

Note that if the assault had come from hex F11 to the north of the Abrams, it would have survived the assault and been moved into hex F13.

HQs and assault

Do HQ bonuses affect assault?  The answer is – sometimes.  If a unit with an HQ is participating in an assault and does not begin the assault combat under an Ops Complete marker then the HQ bonus dice are added to the assault.

Let’s just run through a quick example:

In the example above, the Alpha HQ and an Abrams are in hex F12 and they are Ops Complete.  Maybe they moved and/or fired earlier this turn or maybe they even used opportunity fire to shoot at the Soviets 1st HQ and T-72 approaching them in G12.  Either way, the American units are Ops Complete so when the Soviets enter hex F12 and the assault begins, they will not be able to use their HQ bonus.

On the other hand, the 1st Guards Tank Division and the T-72 in G12 jump are not under Ops Complete and they jump gleefully into hex F12 to scrap it up with the Americans in assault combat.  Because they are not Ops Complete, the HQ can add its bonus (two dice, as shown in the upper left corner of the Soviet HQ counter) to the assault.

The Soviets go first.  The T-72 can normally roll 2 dice and score hit on a roll of 4 or higher.  However, they add in the two HQ bonus dice and are now rolling 4 dice and will score a hit on a roll of 4 or better.  The Americans, however, just get to roll the Abrams normal assault factor of 2 dice with a hit scored on a roll of 4 or higher.

The Soviets roll four dice and get 4/5/2/1.  Two hits are scored on the Americans.  Before we allocate those hits, the Americans can fire back.  They roll two dice and get a 4 and 1. Now we allocate the hits:

The Abrams and the American HQ took more hits than the Soviets so they must retreat.  Without a viable retreat path, they are destroyed.

The Soviet T-72 is disrupted.  Since a unit with an HQ took a hit, we must roll for HQ reduction. We roll a six sided die and the HQ will be reduced on a roll of 1.  Luckily, for the Soviets, they get a “5” and the HQ is fine and dandy.

Disrupted units in Assault

Units that are disrupted before an assault begins can still participate in combat but there are some penalties.  The number of dice on the assault factor stays the same but the to-hit number is raised to “6”.

As a result, in the example below, a T-72 moves into hex H11 and starts assault combat with the disrupted Abrams.  The T-72 will roll 2 dice for a hit on 4 or higher.  The Abrams, however, will roll 2 dice but only score a hit on a “6”.

The T-72 rolls two dice and gets a 1 and a 4 and scores one hit but this hit is not yet allocated.

The Abrams rolls two dice and gets a 5 and a 6.  The Abrams scores one hit on the T-72.

Hits are now allocated.  The Abrams, already disrupted before the assault, is now reduced.  The T-72 is disrupted.  Since the T-72 was the attacker and it failed to score more hits than the Abrams, it must retreat into the hex from which it attacked so it is moved back to hex I12.

Note that HQ bonuses are still given to disrupted units that are not Ops Complete.  The number of dice added to the assault roll is the same as indicated by the HQ bonus but the “to hit” number will still remain a 6.  This is why it is always a good idea to keep HQs and disrupted units to the rear.  Remember that disrupted units can still move away from the enemy!  So rotate them to the back to avoid them giving the enemy an easy assault win.

Assaults in Cities vs Infantry

Infantry and vehicles conduct assaults in the same exact manner described above EXCEPT when the terrain in which the assault takes place is city/town terrain hexes.

Because infantry are awesome at using built up city hexes to hide in and vehicles are meant for open ground fighting rather than urban combat, this situation is represented in World at War with bonuses given to infantry when involved in urban combat against vehicles.

When infantry are involved in assault in a city hex (whether as attacker or defender) versus vehicles, the infantry gets a +1 bonus to the number of dice it rolls for the assault and a -1 bonus to the “to hit” roll.  The tanks/vehicles still get the same number of assault dice and “to hit” ratings.

Note that this infantry bonus only applies to undisrupted infantry.  Disrupted infantry only roll their normal number of dice as indicated on their counter and only hit on a roll of 6.

Let’s look at an example:

In the example above, the T-72 is assaulting into a city hex (N6).  The T-72 will roll its normal assault stats, which is 2 dice for hits on 4+.  Because the infantry are in a city hex, the infantry’s number of assault dice increases from 3 to 4 and the to hit is now lowered from 4 to 3.

The T-72 rolls two dice and gets:  6 and 5.  Two hits are scored but not yet allocated.

The US infantry rolls four dice and gets:  1, 3, 6, 6.  The infantry scores three hits on the T-72.

Hits are now allocated.  The US infantry is disrupted and reduced.  The T-72 is eliminated and a wreck marker is placed in hex N6.  Because the US infantry scored more hits on the T-72, it remains in the city hex N6.

The lesson here is to never send your vehicles into a city hex with good order enemy infantry.  Try to soften them up first with your HE firepower or artillery.

Overruns

If your opponent is silly enough to put infantry in the clear terrain within close distance of armored units, then you’re in luck!  You can use overrun to send your vehicles into a hex full of infantry (and infantry only) to conduct an overrun.  Vehicles get a considerable bonus when entering a hex full of enemy infantry.  The number of assault dice rolled for the vehicles is tripled although the “to hit” number remains the same.

To conduct an overrun, you simply move your vehicles into the enemy infantry hex but you must make sure you have enough movement points to do so.  Your vehicles pay one extra movement point to enter the hex and they must have enough movement point left to exit the hex afterwards.

Here’s an example:

In the picture above, the T-72 in O7 wishes to conduct overrun on the US infantry in hex Q8.  First, we check if enough movement points are available for the overrun.  The T-72 has 7 movement points (as indicated by the number on the bottom center of its counter).  It moves to P7 expending one MP.  Now to enter hex Q8 with the infantry and conduct the overrun it must pay one MP for entering clear terrain and one MP for the overrun itself.  It must have enough MPs left after this to move out of the hex.  The hill behind the infantry in R8 will cost two MPs to enter.  In total, it will cost 5 MPs to conduct this overrun, which is less than the MPs for the T-72.  As a result, the T-72 is eligible to overrun the US infantry in Q8.  It moves to P7, takes some ineffective opportunity fire from the US infantry and enters the hex.

The assault factor for the T-72 is two dice, which is tripled to six dice!  The “to hit” remains the same at 4+.

The overrun begins and the T-72 rolls:  6,4,4,4,6,1.  The US infantry takes five hits.  These hits are not yet allocated.

The US infantry now fires back with its assault factor of 3 dice for 4+ to hit.  It rolls a 5,1,6.

Hits are now allocated.

The T-72 is disrupted and reduced.  The US infantry is disrupted, reduced, and eliminated.

Because the T-72 is disrupted in the attack, it cannot actually move into hex R8 as planned.  It must retreat back to the hex from which it attempted the overrun, so it is moved into P7.

Overrun:  The aftermath.

If the T-72 had not been disrupted in the attack, it would have been allowed to move into the R8 hill hex behind the eliminated infantry.

Note that eliminated infantry are not replaced with wreck markers.

This shows why it’s always a good idea to keep your infantry in cover.  Put them in a city or at least a woods hex!

Note that, as in assault, disrupted units have their “to hit” number raised to 6.

I think that covers all the basics.  Please leave a message in the comments section if you see any mistakes or have any questions.

World at War: Line of Sight (LOS)

Here’s something that I messed up many times when I was learning World at War and still occasionally manage to do even now:  Line of Sight.  On the face of it, Line of Sight (also known as LOS) seems pretty simple but there are just enough nuances to it that it can mess up a World at War newbie once in a while.

Let’s step through it slowly and with plenty of examples, shall we?

First off, LOS is always reciprocal.  So if I can see you, you can always see me.

Above,  we have a very basic situation.  The T-64 and the Abrams have nothing in between except clear ground.  They both can see and fire at each other with no problem.  They both have LOS to each other.

Here above, we have a situation where LOS is blocked between the Abrams and the T-64 by the town (W13).  LOS is also blocked between the Abrams and the Shilka by the Forest hex (X10).

To check LOS, just draw a thread (my preference is a broken elastic band) from the center of the target unit hex to the center of the firing unit hex.  If the thread (or elastic or whatever) passes through a town or forest hex (it doesn’t have to go through the center – just any part of it at all except the hexside) then the sighting is blocked.

In this case above LOS is blocked.  Two rough terrain hexes or two wreck hexes (or any combination of the two, such as in the case above) serve to block LOS.  Neither the Bradley nor the T-80 can see or fire at each other.

LOS is not blocked in the example above.  LOS that only passes alongside a forest hexside (Y13), does not block line of sight.

However…

LOS is blocked when it passes along the hexside split between two blocking hexes.  In the case above the hexside between T3 and T4 has blocking terrain on either side (forest in hex T3 and city in T4).  Neither unit can see or fire at each other in the case above.

Of course, hills also block LOS, as in the case above.

I think this is pretty straightforward so far so let’s move things up a bit by talking about LOS and elevation.

LOS is not blocked in the example above.  The T-80 is on the edge of a hill in Z3 looking down at the Bradley in X4.  They can see each other and fire without problem.

LOS is blocked above.  An intervening hill hex (Z3) blocks LOS between another hill hex (AA3) and a ground level unit (Y4).

LOS is not blocked in the example above.  A unit on a hill hex can sight another unit on a hill hex.  Both the Bradley and T-80 can fire at each other in the above example.  Fire away!  This bends the definition of “hill” a bit but if you can imagine them more as ridges then it starts to make better sense.

In the example above, LOS is okay.  Both units can sight each other and fire even though they are both set back from the edge of the hillside.  You can see now that thinking about the hills as plateaus or ridges makes more sense.

LOS is blocked in the example above.  The units could normally fire at each other but the forest hex in U8 blocks line of sight.

LOS is blocked in this case.  Although the Bradley is in a clear hex and the T-80 is on the edge of a hill, the Bradley is behind a forest hex (X3).  Forest hexes cast a “one hex blocking shadow” for units behind these hexes on ground level, which means the T-80 cannot see the Bradley (and vice versa).  The T-80 and Bradley would also not have LOS if the Bradley were sitting one hex to the north in W3.

LOS is blocked in the above example.  Similar to forest hexes, town or city hexes cast a “two hex blocking shadow”when LOS passes from ground level to a higher elevation.  IN this case, the hex S5 blocks LOS.

This concept of LOS shadows can be a little bit tricky at first so let’s talk a bit more about it.

EX 1. LOS BLOCKED                             EX.2  LOS BLOCKED                                    EX. 3 LOS NOT BLOCKED

In the far left diagram, the town hex in S5 casts a hex shadow into S4.  No LOS exists.  In the middle diagram, since a town hex shadow is cast for two hexes when viewed from a higher elevation, the LOS is still blocked even though the Bradley is now in S3.  Finally, in our far right diagram, the Bradley and the T-80 now have LOS and can fire at each other as the Bradley is out of the two hex blocking shadow.  Note that wrecks do not cast a blocking shadow.

I think that covers most, if not all, of the potential LOS situations.  If you have any more questions or if I have missed something, please post a comment.