It’s April and time for yet another tale from the Combat Commander ladder, run by the unrivaled Patrick Pence of Patrick’s Tactics & Tutorials fame.
This game happened a couple of weeks ago but, you know, COVID and everything.
In fact, I was in the middle of my COVID fog when I was playing this, but in looking back at it, there’s only one mistake that I may not have made if I wasn’t totally under the weather.
The other mistakes?
Well, they probably would have happened anyway.
I guess this is also a bit of a spoiler, but still, hang around and see what happened!
For April, my 11th month (since I took last June off for personal reasons) in the Ladder, my opponent was Mark C, and we were playing Scenario #9 from the Leader of Men battle pack of tournament scenarios. Most of these scenarios are quick and brutal with very few special rules.
In Operation Mercury, the British troops (Mark) are on the island of Crete facing off against the German paratroopers (me) as the invasion comes from the air instead of the sea!
As usual, you can click on the picture to make it larger.
The British (tan) troops are ganged up around both objectives that actually give victory points (Object #3 & #4, both up on hills). The Germans are massed to try and assault these positions.
COVID MISTAKE #1
Ideally, the Germans should mass a firegroup that can just obliterate one of the British positions.
Of course, I didn’t do that (and I may not have done that even if my brain hadn’t been foggy). I positioned the Germans on the left under Ganz so that Ganz could activate everybody, but since they’re not adjacent, they have to fire separately rather than as one big firegroup.
I paid for that mistake.
I did position a smaller German force on the right to try and advance and take the other, more lightly-defended objective.
Mark positioned his starting Wire to channel me into a couple of different avenues of approach so he could use his machine guns to decimate me as well.
That didn’t really happen either.
Let’s take a look.
A couple of special rules in this one, but as I said earlier, the special rules are light in these tournament scenarios.
In this one, the German Elite Teams can use the “Assault Fire” action as a Smoke Grenades action instead, to help them advance by throwing smoke in front of them.
The British (all units) can use Assault Fire actions as Spray Fire actions (meaning they can fire at more than one adjacent hex).
Otherwise, it’s just a brutal assault and defense. The Germans are in Attack stance and the British are in Defend stance (which means they can use all of those wonderful Defend cards like Wire and Mines, etc).
Ideally, the Germans start with some Fire cards to start working on the British defense.
Not this time, though. The game started with a couple of Discard rounds and then the British opened up!
Sadly, it didn’t start well for the Germans as the British did a lot of low-firepower attacks to make Time go faster.
And it did!
In the first series of morale checks, the Germans pulled a Time trigger and had to give up the Initiative just so things didn’t move too quickly.
On the subsequent German turn, where I tried to fire at Mark, I drew another Time trigger!
The Germans moved on the right side of the board, and promptly were broken by the British fire. Thankfully, a Recover card was in hand and all of them rallied.
In that move and subsequent morale checks, the Germans got the Reinforcements event and received a 150 mm Artillery!
COVID MISTAKE #2
After trying once to just blast Mark out of his positions with the artillery, I started to just try and lay smoke with the artillery to help my advance. It kept drifting to the point where it didn’t help. In hindsight, I should have been trying to destroy Mark’s Wire and Foxholes to make things easier for myself.
Anyway, the artillery was fun!
After an abortive artillery attack and breaking a British unit that promptly recovered, the Germans again moved forward on the right.
And another Time trigger was drawn during the morale checks!
This was getting untenable.
There was also an event that drew a new public objective chit, which made every objective hex worth 1 VP. More VP to the Brits! And one to me, but that wasn’t very helpful.
The Germans had a Recover, but two of the four units who broke didn’t rally.
The first German smoke didn’t go very well either, with a bad drift card draw.
How are you supposed to assault a position if they can see you?
Even when the Germans could actually break the British units on the left side, they quickly recovered before the Germans could move to take advantage of it.
The 2nd German smoke attempt went as well as the 1st!
This was not helping at all. I can’t blame COVID for these bad dice draws.
Even worse, the Brits tried to Rout my broken units, and while the Rout didn’t work, he drew a sniper that landed right next to one and killed it outright!
And then the German tried Smoke once again.
Maybe, if I hadn’t been in a COVID haze, I would have realized this wasn’t working and stopped?
But I could see myself keeping going even without being sick, so probably not.
More ineffective British fire happened, but yet another Time trigger was drawn! Just two rounds from Sudden Death and the Germans had made no headway.
(Have I said how much I suck at attacking, even when I’m not sick?)
The morale checks did cause the German Hero to appear! Maybe that might be something good.
Maybe Dietel could get those guys on the left moving.
(I could have stacked him to rally the squad with Lt. Schrader on the right, but then they would have been overstacked and Dietel would have died).
A 4th German attempt at Smoke actually (kind of) worked!
It would be a great avenue for German advance through all of that smoke.
If they could rally that damned squad.
While attempting to Rout (mainly to burn the card), the German sniper actually broke Sgt. Hawes on the left! Maybe that could be the beginning of something good?
Dietel and his men tried to use Dawes’ breaking to advance into the smoke, but they stumbled into Wire in their first hex and were stuck.
Hawes promptly recovered, though, and that was that.
Dietel did move his men out of the Wire and into the Gully without being fired upon, so that was good!
Dietel then tried to advance further and stumbled into a minefield! Going into the minefield didn’t hurt them, but trying to exit was too much for Dietel and he broke!
They did have one more movement point to get out of Hawes’ Line of Sight, but it still wasn’t good.
What was even worse, with all of that smoke out there, is that a German morale check caused a breeze and it was all gone!
It was time for more smoke on the right side to facilitate a further assault.
And it worked for the most part! Things were looking up, but Time was still passing too quickly.
Mark reinforced the British on the left side of the board and then subsequently fired on my Dietel’s stack, causing another Time trigger!
Subsequent fire caused a Breeze and yet again all of that beautiful smoke was gone.
However, the Germans drew a Reinforcement event and got an Infantry Gun! A rather large one too.
COVID MISTAKE #3
I then subsequently placed it where Ganz couldn’t activate it as part of a fire order for the rest of his group.
Another mistake (which Noel, our rules guru, neglected to mention) is that, even suppressed, Ganz could call in artillery, which I didn’t think he could. I doubt it would have helped, though.
The Germans finally drew another Recover card (they had been scarce), rallying Dietel and his men (except one squad which sadly failed) and Schrader’s men rallied as well.
It was do or die time, and the Germans had a Move order! Schrader, with the Elite team using Assault Fire as smoke, went to get close to Lyndhurst and Objective #3. And the Brits had a Fire card…and Wire!
That could have cut things off before anything could happen.
But the Germans didn’t break! Thank you, Smoke.
The Germans fired the Infantry Gun, but of course due to my mistake, I couldn’t actually fire anybody else along with it. Would it have made a difference?
The German deck ran out, and the Sudden Death roll was low, so the game ended.
The sad thing is that the squad with Lyndhurst was actually broken (by a sniper, I think) and if I had been able to do one more Advance order, I may have taken Objective #3! Between the VP swing as well as the VP for killing the British stack, that may have been enough to win it for me.
Of course, who knows what might have happened?
Mark was a great opponent. He was gracious both when things were going well and when things were going badly.
It was cool to have Noel watching us and providing rules advice as well (but again, maybe he could have mentioned the suppressed leader/artillery thing, since I specifically said “damn it, I can’t even do my artillery with him because he’s suppressed!”?)
But I can’t really blame him. It’s a fine line between providing rules help and rules advice and I know he doesn’t want to fall on the wrong side of that.
The Combat Commander ladder is a great way to play one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
I’m 7-4 now (three of my losses have been on the three scenarios where I was the Attacker, if that tells you anything).
Looking forward to next month. That will be the first “repeat” month (though different scenario, it will be from the same pack as last May’s scenario was from) and it will be nice to start again.
Why don’t you come join us on the Ladder? We have so many people on it now that Patrick’s been able to set up a European and North American time zone league, so it will be rare that you’ll have to play somebody who’s 8 hours different from you.
Unless you want to, of course. Some people do!
Come back next month for another tale from the Ladder!
Maybe I won’t be sick this time…
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