Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Total War Batrep: Review and Lessons for Future

Brother's Grim Games and Hobbies recently hosted a Flames of War "Total War" battle, loosely based on the fall of Konigsberg as the Soviets pushed into Germany. In this scenario we envisioned the Germans attempting to mount one last, grand armored counter-attack into the city. Our terrain looked great, and we had an incredible amount of units on the table, but our effort ultimately failed for a few reasons.

I saw trouble brewing when it became apparent that two newer players were being given command of massive amounts of Soviet units. I had played against each of these guys in recent tournaments, and I just knew that they were going to get overwhelmed by the scale of this battle. The referee, who we all trust and was busy trying to organize the entire game, was now going to have to lift as much of the burden of command off of newer players as he could.

I noticed our next problem when it came time to deploy. It was, in theory, a good idea to try and recreate a sort of "seize the bridgehead" effort that the Germans would have to attempt. I didn't think that deploying along the narrow frontage would present much of a problem, and that we would just have to deal with bogged down vehicles attempting to cross the rivers. But the referee, now thinking that the two newer players would need a bit of help, decided to treat the rivers as impassable. Now we had a problem. All of this armor...

...would now have to cross at only three separate points. It would be ages before some vehicles could even move because of the bottleneck, let alone fire a shot.

As much as this development frustrated the German players (myself included) it turned out to be a death sentence for the Soviet players. The game devolved into a simple matter of rolling dice. No maneuvering, no generalship, just dice. And there is simply no way that a Soviet army is going to outgun an equally matched German force - the Hen and Chicks rule won't allow it. The referee tried everything he could: recycling Soviet units, no platoon morale checks for Soviets, etc., but it just wasn't enough.

In the end I was rather let down. I had wasted what could have been some good painting and gaming time on an exercise in standing around and rolling dice. This doesn't mean that I never want to play large games again, but there will definitely be some changes:

1. The players in command have to know the rules. New players are welcome but shouldn't have command of too many units. Every turn I had to tell my opponent the motivation/skill ratings and stats for his troops. Even the most patient among us get worn down by the effort.

2. Points caps - the German players simply had larger collections than the Soviet players, and there was no attempt to limit what could be brought. The forces were fairly equally matched, but we had 8 King Tigers on the table! The Soviets had, at most, 5 IS-2's.  In the future I would like to see the referee (whomever that may be) limit each player to contributing a fixed amount of points.

3. Deployment - The deployment zones have to avoid bottlenecks and get everything involved on Turn 1. This game may have gone smoother had we deployed on the long axis of the table (or even a diagonal).

I feel that if these three rules are adhered to than the players and referee will be in a better position to overcome any challenges they face during the game.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget that I have started a fledgling Twitter feed @piflamesofwar

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