Another turn at CC:E, this time a late '44 bocage scenario, Germans and Americans. I shall present this report from my point of view as I remember things. Sorry if I miss anything Steve!
Steve played Germany again. This time the US had radios to call in artillery. The Germans had some decent leadership, but only Volksgrenadier and quite raw recruits as the main body of forces. There were heavy machine guns that Steve set up at pinch points, but the cover of bocage made it difficult to get LOS to my units.
The US had a couple of elite squads, plus mortars and less effective leadership.
As the Germans started with control of all the main objectives plus a 20VP lead (what!?!?), and in defensive formation, Steve's main strategy was to hold on to what he had (I should explain that VPs are counted on a through-zero track, therefore if one player has a positive VP count, the other player has negative). Because of this, he had little need of Move Orders which, as we discovered last time, are important if you're going to attack anything, and enemy movement is often a prerequisite for taking Actions (especially Fire Actions) on the other player's turn. As the attacker, and with a lot of ground to cover, much of it covered with the hinderance of bocage, I needed the moves. Steve was well entrenched after setup and could afford to spend his Move cards as Actions.
Using one leader as an artillery spotter, I divided my soldiers into two 'platoons', I guess I'll call them for simplicity, each led by one of my remaining leaders, and started by advancing my first platoon on a single farmhouse to my left. I took my second platoon through the bocage to attack the centre. Instantly, I was in trouble because I ran into the same problem as last week – namely, that my leadership 'sphere of influence' wasn't wide enough for me to order the whole platoon to advance equally (remember, squads or teams in the same hex as a leader get his benefits, those in his 'sphere' merely get to take the order). With a stacking limit of 7 men per hex, and with squads starting at 4 men and only splittable into teams of 2 by a card Event, I was left with two squads trailing behind, neither of which were effective for much of the following battle. I think in future I would rather limit my leader's movement than lose control of squads. The only time I'd want a squad without leadership would be when they're in defence and waiting to fight off the enemy. I'd realised this by the end of last week's game, but still I didn't seem to learn from it.
To begin, I was able to call in a lot of artillery because my hand allowed it. Artillery spotting works by playing a card turn dice roll and multiplying the two dice together. If the result is greater than the distance to target, the spot is successful. Another dice card turn gives drift, with an off-map hex displaying numbered faces, thus showing which hex direction is represented by which dice roll. A roll of 5-1 would mean that the mortar fire drifts one space in the 5 direction, then one space in the 1 direction. An unsuccessful spot takes one die as direction and the second die as the distance by which the call was off, so you can have some pretty huge errors if your spotter gets it wrong. My spotter was pretty accurate due to his close-to-mid proximity to his targets. In initial rounds, I was able to beat back one of the pinch point HMGs and break a few units taking refuge in one of the main objectives. When trying to press forward to attack this building, however, Steve was able to lay mines on me and make things difficult. I lost a squad, then shelled again and tried pressing the same objective from a different direction... with disastrous consequences. I lost one squad, Steve broke another and then routed them so that they almost retreated off the board. I did earn a Hero, who came and took one hex in a 3-hex objective, but as a single man he had little firepower and could only defend. In the end, though, he was taken out. Steve's hero came onto the board close to the game's end and hence wasn't much use. Not that it mattered: by the game's end, Steve was on 33VP with only three squads lost, whilst I'd lost 4 squads, 1 team, a hero and a leader (possibly two – I'm not quite sure), whilst also being very close to surrender. My remaining forces were in tatters, most disrupted if not suppressed, and it was not a glorious day for the US. Because of battlefield Events that required me to shuffle like Dominion, I went turn after turn without a Recover Order, therefore unit after unit was broken with no opportunity to rally. I'm not saying that this was my sole reason for such heavy losses as I was also, frankly, a bit reckless in my assaults, and Steve played his defence quite shrewdly. I think the only thing he'd play differently would be to try to take out my spotter much earlier.
Though my mortar fire was quite accurate through the game, ultimately it had little effect. I wonder how useful mortars really are as I feel they can be used to best effect on open ground or woodland, but I think they'll only work well if there is close infantry support to press the attack after the shells have fallen. The risk here is that close infantry can be shelled by friendly fire, even on an accurate spot, when drift is taken into account, and you run the risk of having your own forces broken or destroyed. If you keep your infantry at a safe distance you can't really take advantage of mortar fire unless a) you have some Move Orders to play; and b) your opponent doesn't have the chance to rally. As a choice, it seems a bit Hobsons to me.
So, what did I think?
Again, the three hours went very quickly. It's one of those games that takes a while to play (I think we're still learning and playing relatively slowly, though we're getting quicker) but feels like it's over in a flash. There's a lot to think about, but there's also a lot that's down to chance, so I don't feel particularly worn out at the end in the way I do when it's my choices that determine my success or otherwise.
It's fun, but it's not one to beat yourself up about losing because of all the randomness.
It's tactical, but not very strategic as the chaos of the cards in your hand dictating what you can do on your turn means it's hard to have a plan and stick to it. You can devise an attack with a Move Order, but you may not get another one for a while, so make sure it's the right thing to do. You are utterly reliant on what the cards give you, and must be efficient. You have to adapt as the opponent is against you and, often, so are your own Orders – the only upside is that the other player is in the same boat. It's over-simplifying to say that this is a bit like Memoir '44 in that you have to play the cards you're dealt, but the base mechanic is the same.
Do I like it? Well, I've ordered the CC: Med expansion which gives the Brits, French and Italians to play with, so I guess so. Not sure it merits its position on the 'Geek as No.1 wargame, though.
As I've said before, if you don't like wargames or randomness, AVOID!