Monday, July 03, 2006

Strange Defeat: One more try

A final look, for now, at Avalanche’s Strange Defeat, this time sans le chat. Managed to get in two games over the weekend.

The Germans won both games. I suspect in both cases that the Allies were over-aggressive, but finding a successful strategy for them is difficult.

In the first game, the Allies adopted a more spread-out approach. Their defenses deployed fairly dispersed, mostly one unit per hex with a few of the “AA” deployment group added for stiffening where allowed.

The dispersed deployment keeps the German armor from trying to ‘ooze’ the French defense, but it I think it opens up the Allies to defeat in detail. My thoughts on it are that the best chance the Allies have of inflicting step losses is when they’re defending. A good German player will always have an armor unit of some type stacked with his spearheads to gain the ‘Allies attack at half strength against armor stacks’ advantage – which means French counter-attacks frequently just bounce off.

Also, the bucket o’dice combat system punishes small stacks by making them easy to overwhelm. A German attack that scores three ‘hits’ will eliminate a single unit (two step) stack, but the same attack can be absorbed with a single step loss and a two-hex retreat by a larger stack.

At any rate, the dispersed defense seemed only to delay things. The Germans sort of stupidly pressed a frontal attack against the Belgians along the Dyle, which cost them some unnecessary infantry casualties. The Germans ended up bagging them eventually, but suffered from a few French/British counter-attacks in the process. Most of the BEF evacuated via Operation Dynamo, although once again the courageous French Gen. Piroux and his boys got whacked in the process.

Axis forces coming out of the Ardennes chopped up the dispersed defense facing them with a series of armor-led blasts that drove to Chalons by turn four. The Germans opted to not attack any of the Maginot forts, reckoning that picking up three or four additional Political Points wasn’t really worth running the risk of facing the defender advantage (hit on 5 or 6) of the forts.

On turn 5 the BEF evacuated via Dynamo and the French were down to a hand full of units defending in front of Paris. The PP index stood at -23 with little prospect of improvement for the French, which pretty much ended things.

In the second game, the French opted for a slightly different defense approach. Where possible they stacked defending units in groups of four or five steps. This left a few hexes uncovered except by ZOC, but it also forced the Germans to attack into stacks that would be rolling 9-12 dice against their panzer spearheads.

It worked for a little bit, I think. The Germans decided to take out the northern-most of the Maginot fortifications, which the Allies had stacked with 6 steps of defenders (two French fortress units and the BEF 51st Division). Both sides rolled a bunch of hits. One German infantry corps was wiped out and two more reduced – but the Germans rolled seven hits with some like 24 dice and wiped out all three units in one go. That was something like an 8 PP swing right there. Argh.

The Germans were loathe to commit panzer/motorized units to attacks against the bigger stacks without infantry support, and the jockeying around left them open to a couple of counter-attacks. The Allies managed to set up one good counter-attack in Belgium, which fizzled when they rolled 14 dice and got only 1 hit.

The turning point, I think, was a large French counterattack just west of Sedan. The Germans had driven Guderian and two panzer corps forward without infantry support, and the French managed to put them out of supply. But that attack failed even more miserably. They rolled no hits on 18 friggin’ dice, while the defending Germans rolled two hits with 6 dice. Had that attack succeeded, I think the Allies would have had a chance at winning the game. But, c’est la guerre. The counter-attacking British in Belgium then got chopped to bits and Ie called the game after turn 5 with the PP index standing at -26 and set to plunge even lower.

I think that will wrap up my investigation of Strange Defeat for now. More games beg for table space. Details shortly.

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