The soviets have broken through the NATO line in West Germany, and the West German, British and Americans are now in full retreat. Now it is up to the French to stop the soviet war machine, a task the 2eme Corps d’Armee was unable to do in West Germany. Will they do better in their homeland?
This is how this world at war module starts, now the natural question is 'what does it bring?'
First, it brings 7 French formations (1RCP, 510GC, 55RI, 6RD, 1RC, 2REI, 9RHC) which, if they do not have the sheer firepower and resilience of their American and British counterparts, represent nonetheless an interesting force to play.
The module also brings 4 new soviet formations (15RC, 3rd Marines, 8nd Guards, 1st Tank) plus a few additional interesting goodies (e.g. spetnaz, sniper).
Finally it brings Team Dahl (reinforced infantry, M1 platoon and a T72 platoon) as well as the British 4RTR.
Rule wise, this module introduces the following:
Rubble - which appear whenever an artillery or airstrike rolls 2 hits on a town or city hex. This give 2 defence bonus for infantry and vehicles while increasing the cost to move through the hex (2MP for infantry, 3MP for vehicles).
Crater - which appear whenever an artillery or airstrike rolls 2 hits on a clear or cultivated hex.
Heroes - which allow the unit they are stacked with to ignore the first hit in any ranged or assault attack - and also inflict an extra hit in assault combat.
Spetnaz units - stealthy with the ability to attack first in assault.
Sniper - who gets to shoot at units to disrupt them while being relatively safe from return fire.
Black eagle - experimental tank with a lowered armor save number when attacked by missiles.
Overall, an interresting countermix which definitely gives a very special atmosphere to this module.
The next question should now be: what about the scenarios?
The short observations below were recorded during an intense week of playing this module. Each scenario was played only once with the objective of having fun - and it worked, I had fun
So, let’s get into the time vortex and head back to 1985 (well, a pretty different 1985 - one where the Warsaw Pact invaded Western Europe).
Scenario 1: cracking the nut - 0951, May 18th 1985
The soviet third shock army attacks the French 2eme Corps d’Armee. The French are stretched thin, but have effective anti-tank weapons with which to engage the soviets. Yes, the soviet tanks can bypass the resistance but by doing so will place the following echelon at risk.
In order to crack this nut (i.e. the French 1st Infantry regiment), the soviet player has three major formations at his disposal (8th Guards, 1st tank, 77th Motor Rifle). In order to win the soviets must either try to exit 12 platoons from the opposite side of the board, control the two major towns on the board or a combination of these two conditions(i.e. exit 6 platoons and control one town).
In the game I played, the soviets ended up controlling the northern town but did not manage to exit any units This scenario reminded me of how difficult and long it is to root enemy infantry units out of towns.
Overall, I liked this scenario and will most certainly play it again in the near future.
Scenario 2: Turn about is fair play - 1109, May 18th 1985
The 1st RC supported by surviving elements of the 35 RI counterattacks the soviet bulge. The AMX 30B2’s first test against soviet armour did not begin well. As soon as the 28 tanks of the lead battalion cleared the woods west of Hoogven, accurate cannon fire from a company of soviets T-64 tanks tore into them, ripping the turrets off two, and bringing another to a shuddering halt. The Battle was on.
The objective of this scenario is for two major French formations (1er RC and 35RI) to capture as many towns as possible on the eastern board (obviously capturing bigger towns gets more victory points).
My game resulted in a draw (4VP) with the 1st RC managing to crush remnants of the 8th guards defending Boekel in the south, but not having enough time to support the assault of the 35th RI in the North on Hoogven - fiercely defended by elements of the 77th Motorized Rifle as well as left-overs of the 8th Guards.
In retrospect, all French forces should have delivered a concentrated blow in the north.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this scenario and would love to play it again.
Scenario 3 on the wings of angels - 1502, May 22nd, 1985
Part of the French plan for supporting NATO, as well as their forces within West Germany, was a series of disruptive strikes by paratroopers and commandos into the rear area of the soviet forces. On May 22nd, while British and soviet reconnaissance units battled for control of Faulbach, one such strike by the Frenchmen went horribly wrong. The paratroopers of the 1RCP landed within 1500 meters of their objective, a soviet airbase and destroyed the Mig-29 fighters stationed there. Soon their armoured support, eight ERC-90s, was flown in. Everything was going well, that is until they learned they had landed in the middle of a polish mechanized division. What they did not learn was that that the polish commander had given orders to crush the French force.
This scenarios deals with the desperate struggle of the 1st RCP trying to defend their newly conquered objective against violent and ruthless counterattacks by the 12th polish mechanised division. Actually, there is no strict turn limit and the game only stops when the last French unit is destroyed. If the 1st RCP can last until turn 9 then they win.
The polish opposition is quite serious with the 21st Podhales Rifles opening the game with 3 T72 companies, 3 BMP 1, 3 BPM2, 6 infantry units, 1 shilka and 1SU 100. This is followed in turn 3 by the 2nd polish legion with 10 outdated (but still potent against infantry) T55 platoons. If there are still any French trops alive by turn 5, then the 1st Warsaw regiment makes its appearance and throws three T-72 platoons and 1 MTLB 120 for the final kill.
This modern version of the Alamo could have been a great scenario. The problem (or at least the problem I had while playing it) is that the French has no reason to stick for too long to the airbase they are supposed to defend (though I agree it is a very good defensive position) and can start running around the map in a modern version of ‘catch me if you can’. I am slightly exaggerating since the polish side has ways to interdict the most obvious escape routes. Still, in the game I played, it took 3 turns for the polish to stop a lone ERC 90 which was obviously using its relative high speed to outrun the pursuing forces thus turning a significant polish victory into a ‘heart rending French victory’.
The next time I’ll play this scenario, I’ll change the victory conditions to force the French forces to defence the airbase and thus make it look more like the Alamo game I was looking for.
Scenario 4: Mes amis - 0917, June 18th, 1985
Border crossing, northeast of Jeumont, France. Mike Hudson sat against the massive oak, smoking a Sobranie. The pack, sticky red on the outside, full of black tobacco on the inside, belonged to a dead soviet tanker lying next to a shattered tank. The black Russian tobacco felt heavy in his lungs, but at least it was a smoke. The team’s two surviving Bradleys had clanked by ten minutes ago, followed by the three polish tanks, looking strange with a white star emblazoned on their turret. They disappeared over the ridge, beyond which lay France. Hudson did not think leading with the Polish T-72 was a good idea, but then again, anything that didn’t require him and his seventy five infantry to lead, wasn’t a bad idea.
This scenario is quite different than the others with Team Deahl having to make its way through the 6th French RD. On paper, this scenario looks quite nice: an interesting situation, just a few units and the pressure of time. Well, the only problem is that short scenarios sometime have difficulties with the randomness of the activation or, in some cases, the non-activation at all. In my game, team Dahl made good progress until turn 3 and was ready to storm the targeted bridge - and then bad luck struck and Team Dahl only got one activation in two turns - thus killing the game.
In spite of this disappointing ending, the scenario has potential and I’ll gladly play it again.
Scenario 5: The long haul - 1108, June 9th, 1985
The border incident had been a tragic mistake. Men, their minds clouded by fatigue made a poor decision and now friends, American and French lay dead. But there was no time for grieving, that time would come later. The mistake had been realized and the battle stopped. Close behind the Americans an amalgation of British soldiers and tanks, calling themselves the 4th Royal Tank Regiment crossed the border. Mike Hudson wasn’t sure what happened to the first three regiments, but if they were in as bad shape as the fourth, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. But of course, none of that mattered because the Brits said the lead element of a soviet tank division was no more than an hour behind. The officers went off to do their officer thing, although Sgt Dahl was the closest thing the Americans had to offer. When they returned, Dahl announced that team Dahl would defend the river crossing. Hudson didn’t argue; he didn’t care. He pulled the last butt from the bloody pack of cigarettes and walked away.
This scenario is a serious one: Three soviets formations have to battle their way out of three successive actions.
The first one, called ‘the bridge’, finds the remnants of Team Dahl defending the bridge that was the setting of the previous scenario. The soviet forces are more than very impressing but the trick is that losses incurred during this action stays for the rest of the actions - this kind of limits the risk that the soviet player can take. When I played this one, I lavishly used artillery to neutralize the most dangerous elements of Team Dahl and waited a few turns before launching the final assault on the bridge. This cautious approach (combined with some amazing rolls and formation shit pulls) resulted in a stunning soviet victory with marginal losses.
The second action, called ‘the speed bump’ (for very good reasons), portrays the heroic fight of the British 4th Royal Tank Regiment trying to slow down the soviet onslaught before it crashes down on the main line of defence. In my game, the soviets managed to escape the requested 12 units but, while doing so, lost close to that number of platoons.
The last action is truly epic since those soviets units which did manage to survive the first two actions now have to face the French 1st RC strongly entrenched and with a generous provision of land mines. What the AMX 3O lacks in armour is compensated by the power of its gun. In my game, the soviets managed to break through but they lost a sizable portion of their forces. Fortunately, for them, the relative light losses of the first two episodes ensured that they still had some punch left. The French eventually gave up but only after a truly fierce fight.
Overall rating : 10/10
Scenario 6: they are steel and they are doomed - 1742, June 9th, 1985
A hard rain began after Dramonovitch’s tankers finished mopping up the remainder of the French armour. It was as if the sky itself was weeping. The rain fell in buckets, rapidly turning the already wet countryside into a quagmire. The battle had been hard, harder than he had expected, but then again, nothing came easy in this war. Army command told him to regroup, rest and refuel. They were passing through an East German Brigade that was there to exploit the hole Dramonovitch’s men had opened.
In this scenario the 51st and 53rd East German panzer regiments need to score 10 victory points by either exiting full strength units or destroying French units. The French starts the scenario with a meagre 5 units deployed in a very rigid way to cover the south road. Refugees are clogging the north road. A French infantry regiment is expected to enter the map anytime between turn 1 and 6 (entry roll made every turn).
Now, when I first looked at the scenario I told myself ‘wait, the East Germans will just overrun the map’! Well, reality turned to be a bit different. In fact, a major parameter is that, because of the soggy ground, moving units over anything but roads takes forever (well, just double time - but in the context of this sceanrio it really feels like forever!). Now, the problem is that there are only two roads. The one in the south is heavily guarded by the five platoons mentioned above and solidly entrenched. The other one in the north is clogged with refugees and there is little way to bypass them. The only solution is to fire on them but, quite unfortunately, that accelerates the arrival of the French reinforcement and also causes the loss of victory points.
The end result is a very intense game where the East German forces are constantly on the edge and struggling to make the best use of their overwhelming force in order to accumulate the 10 victory points before it is too late.
A truly great scenario!
Scenario 7: the beginning of the end - 0619, June 11th, 1985
Relentlessly, the soviets pushed on. The Americans were exhausted, their units severely depleted. Although fragments of Britain’s once proud formations continued to fight, the English had withdrawn from the war after Thatcher’s assassination two weeks ago, but Mitterrand would not give up his beloved City of Lights. After a day of fruitless negotiations, the soviets launched their first tentative probes on the city with elements of the 15th Recon and 3rd Marines. Neither side wanted to commit their final reserves. The probing, however, was no more than a decoy. Behind the scenes, the soviets had infiltrated a Spetsnaz company with the sole objective of killing President Mitterrand - hoping that his replacement might be more willing to negotiate.
This scenario pits the soviet 15th recon against the French 510GC for the control of the Arc de Triomphe while, in the shadows, three soviet special forces platoons are trying to locate and kill the French President (who could be either in palais de l’elysee or l’ecole militaire).
When I played this scenario, I found there was little challenge for the soviet player who managed to take control of the two presidential locations in a few turns. I may have missed something critical in this scenario but, in my opinion, there is little competitive game there.
Scenario 8: the end - 1351, June 11th, 1985
The soviets did not find Miterrand. Later that same morning elements of the French Foreign Legion threw the last few Soviet troops from the Arc de Triomphe. Paris stood defiant. There would be no peace. Warsaw Pact faced NATO in a battle neither could afford to lose.
Very flipping poetic , thought Hudson as he tossed the copy of Le Monde in the gutter at his feet. His French was not good – he had studied two years in High School and one more before he dropped out of college – but it was good enough to read the crap. Yeah, the French newspaper read well, the words sounded glorious, courageous even, but more blood is all it meant for Hudson, a few thousand Frenchmen and the remnant of team Dahl.
This scenario is the big one: A major soviet assault by 4 soviet formations of Paris defended by two major French formations (supported by team Dahl).
This scenario is actually broken down in two parts: in the first 7 turns, soviet forces are trying to score as many victory points as possible by controlling key strategic locations on the map. In the next 7 turns the French player counterattacks with newly arrived reinforcement and tries to capture as much urban ground as possible north of the Champs Elysees.
When I first read this scenario, I was expecting a slugfest and I was not disappointed. The first 4 turns were fast and furious and may have been the most intense turns I played in the world at war game series. The only problem is that after these 4 turns there was not much of a game left with soviet forces controlling most of the map. Action resumed in turn 6 with the Canadian reinforcement but the tempo was broken and the rest of the game was missing the excitement of the beginning. For this reason, I have mixed feelings - this scenario could have been a great one but the excessive duration made it too annoying towards the end.
I truly enjoyed playing this module. Even if the scenarios are uneven, they have a very different feel from the other games in the World at War series and definitely deserves a try!
- Last edited Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:40 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:08 am
Read & Watch at www.bigboardgaming.com
Thank for writing these up in such detail.
Excellent write up. WaW is big at our game club ( www.nycwargames.com ).
Your assessment of Scenario 7 is EXACTLY what we found when we played. There was no good way to stop the Soviet commandos from tracking down the President. If you pull enough troops off the line to protect him, you weaken yourself to the point where there is no way to stop the Soviets from taking the other objectives.
In fact, I posted here asking if anyone had figured out how to win as the French, on the likely chance that me and my play partner were completely overlooking something. Apparently not.
I'm glad I'm not the only one to find that there is an issue with scenario 7. This is a pity since this is the only scenario (published so far) where the soviet spetnaz troops (and sniper) are in action. And I must admit they are really nice to play. Actually, I am quite tempted to create a scenario just for the pleasure of playing them again.