A BoardgamimgLife After action Report

by Russ Lockwood

DesignerBrian L. Knipple
ArtistPeggy Gordon, Terry Moore Strickland
PublisherAvalanche Press Ltd.

                I bought this Avalanche Press wargame of WWII — covering attack and counterattack in southeastern France circa late 1944-early 1945 — a few years ago in an HMGS flea market. It looked good, it was small, and it was unpunched. Since then, I carried it around from time to time to open gaming at concentions and basements, but never quite found the time to pop out the counters — until a recent Tuesday afternoon.

                Dan and I started with the introductory scenario 1, with the American offensive pressing the Germans near Strasbourg. Since we’ve played hex-based wargames for, ahem, decades, we could go over the rules (pages 2 through 19 in a 5.5×8.5-inch booklet) relatively quickly. We would then work our way up to scenario 3: Operation Northwind.

Combat is by d6 versus odds-based Combat Results Table

                Alsace 1945 uses 2.5 miles per hex, one turn equals one day, and most units are regiments with some battalions and weak divisions sprinkled in. Corps HQs get their own counters with the ability to support two attacks and two overruns, but an unlimited number of defensive supports, per turn. HQs also serve as supply centers and a chit-pull activation by HQ system offers some variety from traditional Igo-Ugo.

                Set up for Scenario 1 was mostly free deployment over a range of hexes on the 22×17-inch map.

Basic Gaming

                As Dan cut out the counters, I read the rules aloud. Most were fairly typical. Movement had a couple twists: entering a Zone of Control (ZOC) costs an extra 1 movement point (MP), no moving from enemy ZOC to enemy ZOC except to land atop a friendly unit already in ZOC (that can’t move), and leaving a ZOC costs 1/2 a unit’s total MP, rounded up, plus the MPs for the hex. That indicates that when you get stuck in the line, you’re going to have to work to get unstuck.

Combat is by d6 versus odds-based Combat Results Table, with odds changed based on terrain, air power, HQ support, surrounding an enemy hex with units in four hexes, division integrity (mechanized divisions only), combined arms, HQ support, and a couple other events.

                The HQ support range took us a while to find — it’s really buried and the rules left out the HQ unit illustration with explanation of associated numbers. Suffice it to say, it’s the first number on the counter. Strangely, and I guess ‘support’ means corp-level artillery, the hex range goes across all hexes, even those occupied by enemy units.

Set Up

                Hmmm. Who sets up first? The rules don’t say and Avalanche Press does not have an Errata section on their web page. I figured since the US was listed first, it set up first.

                As it turns out, I found the answer, and more, on ConsimWorld by reading posting after posting to find the official Avalanche Press response. It makes a difference.

                Here, let me save you the time. Scenario 1: Germans set up first. Scenario 2: Germans; Scenario 3: Americans, and Scenario 4: Americans.

                By the way, to correct a typo: German XIII (T) is really XIII (H) — the headquarters for XIII Corp. We figured that out, but it kept us looking for the T = Tank unit for a while.

More Units?

                Set up for Scenario 1 confused us. The US had 12 units to cover 22 hexes of frontage. The Germans had 10, with three more coming in on Turn 1. Forget the stacking limit of three units plus a batttalion and a HQ. How do you cover the line?

                Now you know why who sets up first is important — the Germans can tie up the US units with ZOC (remember that leaving a ZOC costs half of total movement plus the hex being entered.

                Next question. Given the lethality of the CRT against the attacker at 1-1 or less odds, how do you mass enough units to achieve at least 2-1 without leaving a giant hole in the line?

                Answer: With great difficulty.

                Mind you, Both sides are in the same predicament.

                Fortunately, Scenario 1 does not use any supply rules. Victory is based solely on the US capturing towns in the northern part of the map.

Turn 1: Nov. 27 – Clear Weather, Frost Ground

                Dan drew the US XV Corp chit first, so as US player, I went first.

                US airpower (two counters, each good for an odds shift in favor of the US) allowed me to squeeze out a 2-1 attack on the German motorized unit holding the town of Fronmub on the west edge of the map — each lose 1 ‘step’ (flip the counter over) and the German had to retreat one hex to Ratzvillar. For good measure, I attacked a Panzer Lehr regiment 2-1 in Ingwiller town, but I rolled a no effect.

                The Germans shifted some units to stop my efforts to flow through holes in the German line and were content. The forests and rivers really slow down movement, but not quite as much as the half total MP when leaving an enemy ZOC.

Turn 2: Nov. 28 – Rain Weather, Dry Ground

                Again, Dan drew the US XV Corp chit.

                Yes, rain and dry ground are an oxymoron, but it meant no extra movement penalties and no US airpower. The US needs the airpower to cancel out the town or forest terrain bonus and greater US losses likely from low-odds attacks. The US does get a 1 step replacement every turn (the Germans only get two the entire 7-turn game), but faster replacements don’t make for greater odds attacks.

                Still, I managed an attack on the German unit in Ratzvillar, with both of us suffering a step loss.

                The Germans flung units against my infantry regiment outside Ingwiller, causing a step loss each and forcing me to retreat. Then, the German mechanized and armor of Panzer Lehr overran the survivors and had enough movement to overrun the XV Corps HQ. Now I had a hole in my line and no support.

                On the overrun, we weren’t quite sure whether units have to pay 1 MP for entering the ZOC or not, or whether the HQ had a ZOC. We looked it up in the rules: No, the HQ did not exert a ZOC, but the nearby infantry unit did. The panzers had enough MPs.

                Destroyed HQs come back in two turns.

Turn 3: Nov. 29 – Rain Weather, Dry Ground

                Again, Dan drew the US XV Corp chit.

                Here’s the gamey bit about this scenario — victory goes to the US capturing towns north of a certain hexrow, not keeping a line or even keeping your army intact.

                So, I continued to grind it out in the west. Without airpower, a managed a 3-1 on the German unit in Ratzvillar, eliminating it while suffering a loss myself. I then exploited the flank to grab four towns and then some.

                Dan continued to roll up my line, using one replacement to beef up a Panzer Lehr regiment and then surround and destroy the 157th Regt of the 45th Infantry Division. He pulled back his western units from the Ratzvillar area into a semi-circle around his HQ.

Turn 4: Nov. 30 – Rain Weather, Dry Ground

                Curses! The weather stayed rainy again! I’m ready to call in the padre and demand a prayer for good weather. I hear it worked for Patton…

                This time, Dan pulled the German chit.

                Again, Dan continued to roll up my line, opting to try and kill many units and then turn to attack the ones defending my captured towns in the northwest. On his attack, he destroyed another infantry regiment and a Sherman tank battalion.

the Germans can tie up the US units with ZOC

                On my half of the turn, it’s off to the races as my units fanned out and cut behind the German lines. My recon got as far as Wissenbourg. I’ve captured so many towns, Dan’s going to have his work cut out for him to track me down at opposite ends of the map. Next turn, he’s getting the weak 25th Panzer Division, but losing the still powerful Panzer Lehr Division.

Ending It

                We agreed to end the game, finding it silly that our forces are swapping positions. I wonder what Gen. Patch, commander of parent organization 7th Army, would say about the combat losses and loss of a front line north of Strasbourg in exchange for blowing a hole in the German lines, sweeping across the Rhine in the south, and approaching the Rhine in the north. Why, it may have disrupted the Ardennes offensive!

                Er, maybe not.

Snipe and Tripe

                I don’t mind that rules are incomplete. Well, we all mind that, but as long as the company provides errata, no problem. Avalanche Press has no errata on its website — you have to go to ConsimWorld for it and scroll through the 99 postings to find it. At least the company rep answered most questions.

                As for HQ range, enemy units and ZOCs do not affect support.

                I ran across an inference that German units cannot be placed or move south of the river that more or less forms the front start line, but I believe this is a second-hand suggestion from the Avalanche Press folks, not official errata.

Errata

                The errata corrected a number of typos, some important, some not. Counters are finally identified, such as OKW — “an extra, unused piece” — and why there are four US airpower counters while the rules say US gets up to five — “increase from 4 to 5 came late in development” (so you do get up to five US airpower attacks).

                Another important one: Is is true that mechanized units, except tanks, can attack across a river at quarter strength and across a stream at half strength, but they cannot advance after combat unless there is a bridge? “That’s correct.”

                If a mech division that includes a tank is in the same hex, can the non-tank units get doubled for Divisional Integrity when attacking across a river or stream? “No, that shouldn’t be allowed.”

                Rule 3.4 and 7.3 conflict. The correct method is to subtract 1 from the result if the Weather Condition is currently Snow. This is part of the “Operational Halt” rule that can end a turn prematurely.

                Neither side gets replacements in the Northwind scenario.

                There’s more, but these are the most important.

Overall

                It was an introductory scenario to learn the rules, and for the most part, it worked as it should, albeit bringing up questions. Fortunately, it’s an older game (2005), so the errata is there. It’s not a quick game despite the low counter density, and you have to think about placement because of it. One of the folks on ConsimWorld offered a setup for Scenario 1 based on historical locations of the US and German units, which would have been interesting to know before trying the scenario and its free set up.

                The introductory scenario is not worth playing again and probably not scenario 2 — due to both not using supply. The third scenario, Operation Nordwind, with supply and more counters, might be worth a go, although it would be a long afternoon game.

About the Author

Russ Lockwood has been bouncing around the wargaming world for the last 25 years in one capacity or another. Most know him as creator and CEO of MagWeb.com (on-line archive of 162 military history and related magazines from Coalition Web, Inc. from 1996-2009).

He appeared on camera on The History Channel (Modern Marvels), ABC, NBC, Fox, and various cable TV shows. MagWeb was also covered by the NY Times, USA Today, and other newspapers, a variety of trade and consumer magazines, and a multitude of on-line sites. He’s given lectures at various HMGS conventions, Origins War College, and various professional meetings and seminars. Although MagWeb closed in 2009, those white MagWeb rulers still appear on wargaming tabletops across the country.

On the prior professional front, Lockwood was Editorial Director of AT&T’s web division, Senior Editor at Personal Computing Magazine, Assistant Editor at Creative Computing Magazine, Telecommunications Editor for A+ Magazine (Apple), tech writer at AT&T, Staff Writer (Financial) NY Times Information Service, and freelancer for PC Sources, Windows Sources, PC, MacUser, Byte, Restaurant Business, Hotel Business, Computer Buyer’s Guide and Handbook, and other magazines. He also hosted a radio show, ComputerWise, for five years, and was an on-line editor for ZiffNet on Compuserve and Ziffnet on Prodigy.

He is currently a freelance editor and writer covering financial and defense news, with a concentration on the retail industry. If you are really interested, go to Linked In, where he maintains a profile.

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