J. R. Tracy(jrtracy)United States
We had eleven gamers including a couple visiting from overseas for the usual mix of wargaming, euros, and Ameritrash.
Jim and Campoverdi dove into Amateurs to Arms, a first playing for both of them. It's a great looking game but the graphics proved frustrating in the early going. Some of the pieces blend into the map and a few wilderness trails are hard to pick out. However, they soldiered on for a few turns and are very much enjoying it so far.
Action on Lake Erie
The Americans get organized
Scott, Dave, Bill, and Dr. Rob opened with a quick game of Airships. Dr. Rob claims this is always won by whoever goes last, but I think that's the way it's supposed to go as the last action closes out a stack of scoring cards (not sure here, it's been a while). Anyway, tonight Scott enjoyed that final play and indeed was the winner.
Masters of the air
With the arrival of Sean, they moved on to Merchants & Marauders. I think Sean won this but I don't know the details.
At the other end of the room, John and I paired off against Bo Siemsen and Michael Hastrup-Leth, who flew in yesterday from Denmark for the Albany ASL tournament. We decided to try something new and picked some Squad Bleeder scenarios from the recent Journal 10. Squad Bleeder is a miniature design-your-own kit, with the basic situation sketched out and each side given 100 purchase points and a menu of things to buy. Options range from infantry, armor, and ordnance, to air support, artillery, and fortifications. Victory is determined by inflicting casualties and advancing into enemy territory, so it's likely both sides will be on the attack. A die roll process determines the board configuration, and then both sides choose their forces in secret.
The force construction process is pretty involved but the scenarios themselves are very short. Bo and John played a five turn British-German 1940 scenario set in Arras, while Michael and I played a four turn '43 Kursk scenario. We all generated our orders of battle, knocked back some jambalaya, and got to gaming.
A Matilda waltzes forward
In Arras battle, Bo chose a balanced mix of panzers and infantry, backed by artillery a Stuka, while John picked up some light anti-tank guns, some artillery of his own, some smoke-throwing support tanks, and a trio of lumbering Matilda IIs. Bo had the slight edge in defensible terrain, with good cover for his attack onto John's board. John held his own, however, and when his Matildas rumbled on as reinforcements (an option for a reduced purchase price) it looked like nothing could stop them. However, the British failed to get any smoke down so small arms fire and very effective artillery hammered the Tommies, forcing the Matildas to advance unsupported. A PzIVD nailed one with a critical hit, further weakening John's attack. In the end, no Brits made it onto the German board, while a couple panzers were able to successfully push into British territory. That plus the casualties generated a German win for Bo.
Aftermath at Arras
As the German in Kursk, I went as heavy as possible, buying a pair of JgPz Tigers (Elefants), a pair of early PzVD Panthers, a Tiger, and a 105mm Semovente in German service. I also picked up some elite infantry, some middling leadership, and a pair of fighter bombers. I felt my armor could handle any tanks the Soviets could scrounge up, but I was worried about my dodgy transmissions (all of my AFVs except the Semovente suffered from mechanical reliability) as well as the possibility of Soviet air support. Michael bid to get the first move, and advanced cautiously. I was more aggressive, moving up all my armor and getting my infantry close to Soviet territory. On the second turn, sure enough, Michael's fighter bombers showed up. A near miss on one Elefant was still enough to knock it out, and a direct hit on the second left a pile of smoking metal in the road. I was down a ton of points but I figured my own FBs would help get me back in it, and I had a good chance in the upcoming tank battle as well.
Kursk, before the storm
Unfortunately, the Luftwaffe didn't fare nearly as well as the Red Air Force, as I clean missed one T34 and merely got a shock result on a second, from which Michael quickly recovered. However, my Panthers tore up the Soviet infantry and my Tiger paired up with the Semovente to claim a little corner of Mother Russia for themselves. A well-directed pair of heavy machine guns prevented my infantry from moving up, but I still liked my chances. Unfortunately, that's when Michael revealed his 100mm anti-tank gun. I did a double-take - I didn't even realize it was an option. It pegged one Panther in short order. The second put up a bit of a fight but also went down, despite furious attempts to shroud it in smoke grenades. A swirling tank battle claimed the Semovente in exchange for a T34, with two more T34s racing past into German territory. I was now down on points and needed to kill a couple Red tanks with my infantry to have any hope of winning. Unfortunately, my troops were not on board with the plan, with several squads flat out refusing to engage the enemy armor, and those that did, failing to do more than scratch a little paint. In the end, it was a handsome Soviet victory for Michael.
'Do you hear something?'
Squad Bleeder is a fun little scheme for generating sharp, short scenarios suitable for a weeknight. The third option is a Japanese-American scenario featuring Merrill's Marauders. The force selection can take a while so I'd suggest getting the board configuration and the purchasing done beforehand so you can go straight into setup on your game night. It's a nice change of pace from standard scenarios, good for plenty of laughs and surprises.
Next week, more AtA plus perhaps a trip to the Ardennes -