Thursday, 25 July 2013

Battalion Attack: The Reason Why - Fire and Movement (Game 3 - Part III)

End Game: 

After the butcher's bill (casualty counters) is paid and the logistic (ammo low counters) withdrawals depart the British central portion of the front line looks depleted and a "tad" (a traditional Yorkshire expression) forlorn. Only one British platoon from "Green Company" remains in close assault position but is now effectively out numbered three-to-one (see below):   

Off to the left hand side a solitary "Blue Company" platoon had reached "Outcast Wood" and was in a position to close assault it (see below). This was in the twilight phase of the game. The last four turns were played out in effect solo as the British Commander "had seen enough" and was contemplatively sipping on his John Smiths with his 2-in-C knocking back a Guinness. As I was driving I was looking at them rather enviously ;)

But to me it also raises the question of "The Reason Why" we should play to a finish. Not to win, sorry if I sound overtly pacifist here, because nobody wins in war. No it is to see how it pans out. Not in a statistical sense, as in "how many ones and sixes followed" but did the game still manage to represent at the end what it nobly stated to achieve at the start?

Certainly a "philosophical" point.     

In terms of "Fire and Movement" Battalion Attack, retreat is impossible. If a platoon tries to retreat the chances are they will get suppressed and effectively be pinned in place and whittled away by the defenders  (which have no ammunition restrictions). So there is no point going back unless you are guaranteed (or stand a good chance of not being hit because of the enemy's range to you) to get off table as you will become suppressed, frozen in place and subject to the cruellest direct and indirect fire (war is unfair and hell).

What you need to seek is "hard cover" (aka "farms") or a hidden from view hex. This could explain the situation with respect to the final position (see below). The British platoon in the centre successfully close assaulted the "Farm Crescent" to inflict three casualties on the Germans, which brought their total to six, one more and a German platoon is removed. However this victory was Phyric as "ammunition expenditure removed the unit from play" - this was the bane of the British commander's life! The British platoon in "Little Gibraltar" was again lost to "ammo expenditure" but the Vickers HMG platoon caught a bullet from the defenders of the "Farm Crescent".

The one German casualty was caused by "catching a German platoon in the open" as it came from behind the "Farm Crescent" in a vain hope to reinforce "Outcast Wood". With no protective cover or dug-in status, the Germans are as equally vulnerable in the open. One additional casualty to the German total meant a platoon  removal. The board below shows the end of the game (German turn twelve - there is no British turn twelve to avoid the "last two minutes of the Superbowl land grab" - not an issue in this game).

The one ray of hope for the remaining British platoon is that it has isolated one-on-one a German platoon and if the fight were extended past turn twelve it would have at least the initiative. The bad news is that everybody else has "gone home" (not necessarily as in "dead") and with nothing left to pin the Germans in place it is only a matter of time before they bring overwhelming force to bear - but that is beyond the scope of the scenario brief and who knows "operationally" what else would be happening on the wider battlefield.

Was there a point to playing on?

I think so, not just because it is a forty mile round trip for me to play the game and that this was the only wargaming thing I managed to do this month. I did offer to "play on" but switching sides, winning was not the issue here. This was a "road test2 of the rules, it doesn't happen very often as this is only the third game I have managed to play in over seven months. To me it tested out the (unsavoury?) end game and illustrated as much as what we are NOT playing more than what we are trying to play. We are not simply killing people/soldiers. Counters are removed because the unit (some forty soldiers) becomes "combat ineffective" (10-20% casualties should do that). Over half the removals in the game were actually logistical (7) and only half combat casualties (6). In a campaign setting the battalion would have half its 'order of battle' force ready to defend itself against an immediate counter-attack.

Does the game need to visually represent the fact that there are British troops still on the table in some way? Is the ground taken/last-occupied by the British now 'unfriendly' (in some way) to the Germans and will they need to clear it? Does it restrict their future defences or give the British a closer jumping off point for next time. Will the surviving Germans be subject to a withering artillery bombardment or 'Jabo' fighter-bomber attack? I will take the discussion to the to the forum:

Meanwhile, although not played to win, what was the scale of the British defeat?

Victory Points: 

In the end it was a clear German win in the order of magnitude of six British platoons lost to one German platoon. However with respect to scenario balance it was very "pro-German" in terrains (a statistical extreme given the number of "farms" generated as terrain pieces) and had already been started with an idea to go through as many rule mechanisms as possible, rather than purely tactical gain.

The next game will be a random terrain generation affair. The book's play-test scenario should be put back in the bag as the Germans have convincingly took it (3-0). I would love to hear from anybody who has played it and got a British win. IMHO this was clearly was NOT the sector to attack


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