It’s February and I actually did an early game in our Combat Commander ladder, led by the superlative Patrick Pence, the man behind the Patrick’s Tactics & Tutorials Youtube channel.
The ladder has been a fun way to play Combat Commander live once a month, rather than just the Play-By-Email (or in this case, Discord) games with my good friend Michal.
I lost yet again last month, which means I’ve lost two in a row and it’s time to get back to my winning ways!
Was I able to?
You’ll just have to keep reading to find out! (It’s not like I’m going to spoil it for you now, though you being here seeing this counts as a view, so maybe it doesn’t matter?).
Anyway, what was I saying?
Oh yeah, February’s ladder game!
February’s scenario is from the Fall of the West battle pack for Combat Commander. These scenarios take place during the German invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France.
It has a contingent of German paratroops who had landed and taken the bridges at Vroenhoven and Veldwelezt in Belgium. The Belgian force is trying to evict the German paratroops from their positions while the Germans are awaiting reinforcements.
Here’s the setup for it. I was the Germans and my opponent, John D, was the Belgian force (using the French card deck which really made a difference).
The Germans are in the bottom southeast corner defending the road to the bridge while the Belgians are in the north trying to advance.
By scenario special rule, the Belgians only get exit victory points if they exit through hexes N10 or O10, which signifies getting to the bridge. That means the Germans don’t have to defend the entire board edge, which is good because they don’t have a lot of units at the start!
The Belgians do get double victory points for eliminating German units, but that may not happen too often because the Germans are entrenched.
How did that go?
Let’s take a look.
(As usual, you can click on a picture to blow it up)
As mentioned before, the Belgians are hampered by the fact that they use the French deck and French card rules during the scenario. Thus, they can only discard one card on a turn where they can’t do anything.
This really became an issue in this scenario, and I think it’s one of the major problems for the Belgians.
Basically, the Belgians started by having to discard because they had no good cards in their hand. Even with 6 cards as the attacker, sometimes you just get crap.
The Germans opened by firing at the Mortar crew but nothing happened. The Belgian mortar crew, however, seemed to be only half-trained. Throughout the scenario, they attempted to lay smoke in front of the German fire group and only succeeded about 40% of the time.
That sucked for John.
What sucked even more is that on the first Belgian fire attack, John drew a Time trigger! It was way too early for that to happen, so he gave me the Initiative card and he never got it back.
I have to say right from the start, the the snipers for both sides were pretty much ineffective, I think only breaking one Belgian unit during the entire game. Snipers were not a big part of the game other than fixing German machine guns that had jammed.
The Belgians did try to advance the majority of their forces, but the leader stumbled into a minefield!
Sadly, it didn’t have much of an effect.
They went through the mines with no problem.
The Belgians tried to smoke out the main German fire group in K8 but it kept missing (though they did finally land one and hampered the German firepower for a short time).
Meanwhile, the Belgian right moved through the wheatfield. The Germans didn’t have a Fire card to do anything about that, or maybe they were actually holding back because that move didn’t mean much.
It turns out the Germans were just waiting! Because they fired at Lt. Serrault and the squad with him, trying to see if they could break up some of the Belgian attack.
And it worked! While Serrault was fine, the squad with him broke twice under two attacks and was eliminated.
The Germans were firing so much that the Light Machine Gun (LMG) in Lt. Schrader’s hex got too hot and jammed. It stayed broken for a little while, but sadly the Belgians were unable to take advantage of it.
Some more German firing happened, ineffectual but still costly in terms of cards spent (the defender loves to churn through the decks).
John discarded a card, and I had a “Hidden Unit” card that got me Corporal Guttman! Since the Germans only have one leader at the start, that really helped.
He appeared next to the machine gun nest on the west side of the German defense.
On the next German turn, I had a Move card so stacked up with the nest. Never know when that extra 1 firepower will help.
Lt. Serrault was getting tired of the Germans firing at him (even though they were missing) that he decided to retreat back to be with a squad…and promptly blundered in to Wire that the squad hadn’t discovered!
That does not help the side that wants to move forward quickly.
The Belgian heavy machine-gun (HMG) kept trying to break the Germans in the Trench but couldn’t crack it. The +4 Cover really helped the Germans there.
Then the Belgians tried to move through the wheatfield to the German left, but faced withering fire through the fence (John forgot that the fence does not block line of sight but just causes reduced firepower).
The leader and one of the squads broke.
John promptly played a Recover card and the leader rallied, but the squad didn’t! That could be important later.
That squad stayed broken almost the entire game, and almost Routed off of the board to give me points. They did rally once but then the only effectual Sniper of the game broke them again.
Anyway, that’s for the future.
There was a lot of firing back and forth that didn’t do anything. Even further back behind the fence, Serrault kept getting fired at because he was stuck in the Wire.
Also, every time John managed to get his mortar to successfully lay Smoke, there was a Time trigger fairly shortly afterward that dissipated it because he couldn’t land two in a row.
John was finally able to get Girard and his squad on the Belgian right to get into the woods on the south map edge, even though they faced fire from Guttman and the MG. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the Belgians only get exit victory points for exiting through hexes N10 or O10, so now he needed to get behind the Germans.
Two very quick Time triggers (the French drew a 12 on a morale check and then the German deck ran out) brought the German reinforcements onto the board. Another leader, another squad, a weapons team and a heavy machine gun!
They entered on N10 and were ready to move into position to make the Belgian life even more hellish.
We were also only 3 rounds away from the first Sudden Death and the Belgians hadn’t really made any headway.
It is really tough to play the Belgians (French).
Some more ineffectual fire (though Girard did break again, he quickly recovered) and another German Time trigger kept the game moving forward quickly.
Too quickly for the Belgians.
Serrault and his units tried to get a little bit closer to the Germans and get in range, but one squad broke and Serrault got out of the Wire only to stumble into more Wire!
The advance was stalled before it could begin.
Meanwhile, the German reinforcements brought the HMG into position, solidifying the defense.
At this point, the Belgians truly had no hope, given the cards John was drawing and how embedded the Germans were.
But John kept trying.
Subsequent German fire killed the Belgian squad in the road just in front of the Trench.
The Germans kept peppering fire at Serrault and his squads, breaking one and suppressing another.
And another Time trigger!
The good news for the Belgians was that the German HMG jammed after one shot (I think they forgot to bring the firing pin with them).
The bad news was that it didn’t really matter.
Then Girard makes a dash behind German lines! Luckily for him, it was one of the rare times that the Germans didn’t have a Fire card.
Of course, not much he could do, but it showed great courage.
He moved one more hex (into the building) and got fired on. While nothing happened, he decided to just stop there and not risk the German kill stack (even without the HMG).
He also moved the broken squad in the north, getting off the road and hopefully eventually rally it.
But I tried to rout it off the board, and drew another Time trigger! It was going to be gone regardless, but it was time for Sudden Death.
A quick roll of 5 and the game was over.
The Belgian forces are in for a tough time in this one, unless they can get close without the Germans firing on them too much. They really need smoke and John wasn’t getting any.
I was lucky that most of the time I had a Fire card, or when I didn’t, John couldn’t move. It was funny watching Girard come in behind me, though. He could have made a run for the exit (one Move would have done it if he survived any Opportunity Fire). Even that would only have been 4 points and I ended with 15 so it wouldn’t have made much difference.
If the Belgians are going to win, I think they need to eliminate German units and make them surrender. And if they can luckily kill the German leader before reinforcements arrive, that would be greatly helpful too.
I was lucky to get Cpl Guttman just in case.
John was a great opponent and graciously accepted my request to do this scenario in a couple of lunch-time sessions. Thankfully, we only needed one! Though that was a testament to how badly this scenario went for him.
I look forward to playing John again.
That puts me at 6-3 on the ladder, which is not too shabby!
Come back next month to see whether I can create another winning streak as we do a scenario from the Sea Lion battle pack, a “what-if” pack where the scenarios happen during a hypothetical German invasion of Britain.
It should be a doozy!
Combat Commander Ladder – After Action Reports
May 2021 – Scenario #112 – Sonnenwende
July 2021 – Scenario #23 – No Man’s Land
August 2021 – Scenario #34 – Encircled at Hill 30
September 2021 – Scenario A – Grassy Knoll
October 2021 – Scenario M6 – Breakout
November 2021 – Scenario #35 – Spartakovka Salient
December 2021 – Scenario #51 – The Uneasy Wait
January 2022 – Scenario #65 – Road Trip
February 2022 – Scenario #75 – Sturmgruppe Beton
March 2022 – Scenario #90 – The Man Who Would Be King
April 2022 – Scenario LoM9 – Operation Mercury
May 2022 – Scenario #119 – Sky Fall
June 2022 – Scenario #9 – Rush to Contact
July 2022 – Scenario #14 – At the Crossroads
August 2022 – Scenario #30 – Red Skies At Night
September 2022 – Scenario E – West Tank Barrier
October 2022 – Scenario M4 – Templeton’s Crossing
November 2022 – Scenario #41 – The Commissar House
December 2022 – Scenario #53 – Deeds Not Words
January 2023 – Scenario #67 – The Orient Express
February 2023 – Scenario #82 – Hidden Guns Lash Out
March 2023 – Scenario #91 – The Battle of Trafalgar
April 2023 – Scenario LoM8 – Codes in the Sunrise
May 2023 – Scenario #105 – La Fiere Counterattack
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What a tough scenario for Belgians! That 1 discard might seem a small hindrance, but we all know this is a tremendous issue if you have 4 Command Confusion!
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Funnily enough, the reported games on the Ladder thread on BGG so far have been very heavily weighted to the Belgians! I have no idea how they got so close to the Germans without being decimated.
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A tough one for the Belgians!
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