400 plays of Combat Commander

As I package up the last of my Combat Commander Pacific to exchange for The Next War from 1978 (SPI) I am amazed at the interest and dedication to a game that people develop.

It makes me wonder who much their play style changes and how their appreciation of a title changes over time. What do they learn about a game that I did not or do not with that many plays?

Here is Chick Lewis’s AAR:

Great Stuff, Image laden report follows.

400th Game

Sunday October 2nd I played my 400th game of Combat Commander (Donna’s 264th). In celebration of this dubious milestone, we decided to post a session report.

We had been playing through the excellent 2008 West Coast Boardgame Championship scenarios, and reached #T4, called “Gauleiter Estate, Northern Germany, 1945”. These tournament scenarios are clever in that they use the Random Scenario Generator starting at Step 4, with the first 3 steps (Map, Nationality, and troop Quality) fixed by the scenario. This compels the player to test their ‘RSG think’ as part of tournament performance.

Open objectives for T4 are double elimination points and double exit points !!

T4 is interesting in that it matches green Indian troops against green Germans. I know from hard experience that green Orders of Battle are very fragile, and map #28 has very little cover terrain. Therefore I determined to try very hard to be the scenario defender, with access to fortifications. By SSR, the younger player takes the Allies, so Donna became the commander of the Indians.

Perusing the available ‘Green’ Obs for the Germans and British, it became clear that if I chose the best option, a Volksgrenadier Company, I would spend more points than the British, and become attacker. However, if I were to choose only a detachment, not only would I NOT receive the crucial heavy machine gun, but my surrender level would be only 6, easy to achieve with aggressive play against such brittle squads. So, I chose a Garrison company, giving me three leaders, nine Conscript squads (good order morale 6, broken morale a dismal 5) no teams, a HMG and a single LMG. My surrender level is only 8 units.

Donna, since she, too, loves Heavy Machine Guns, obliged me by choosing a full Indian Rifle company, spending three points more than I. She received three leaders, nine Territorial squads (good order morale 7, broken morale 6) four teams, a HMG and three LMGs. The Indian surrender level is 12 units, four higher than mine, which seems strange since the Indians only have five more units than the Germans.

(Parenthetical question – – on the Commonwealth order of battle table, the Indian Platoon has only five units, but has a surrender level of “5”. This green platoon will fight to the DEATH ! Chad, is this deliberate?)

Leader rolls gave my Germans a “-1” for Green and another “-1” for 1945. Rolling pretty low, I received 6-1, 7-1, and 8-2 leaders. Donna, with no minuses, rolled better, achieving 7-1, 8-2, and 9-1 leaders.

I also rolled low on the Support table, choosing only a single Volksgrenadier squad for one point, my most reliable (!) soldiers on the board. The two remaining points purchased me six precious foxhole fortifications.

I paused to imagine my poor 1945 Garrison company, trying to defend a rapidly-crumbling Reich. Plenty of pensioners and older boys, partially trained, led by an excellent veteran CO and two tyros. Only one squad of ‘almost fit’ men, undernourished, ersatz uniforms, poorly resupplied, trying hard to convince themselves that the promised wonder weapons are not just hot air.

Setup in a scenario such as this is an extremely important part of the game. I was very tempted to set up my fortifications immediately behind the hedge between hexrows K and L. However since the Indians would get to set up second and take the first turn, the most likely result of such a German setup would be a huge Indian fire-team blasting my HMG twice on turn 1 with me holding no Recover card in my 4-card hand.

Considering the pitiful 3-hex range of my conscript squads, I decided to ignore the hedges and build a big dug-in fire-team back at I2 through I5, positioning my HMG and 8-2 Sgt Esser just behind in H3. This position allows ’em to put pretty good fire on anyone appearing behind the hedge, and should give me a turn or two to optimize my hand with Fire and Recover cards by the time the Indians do appear. My second-best leader 7-1 Corporal Rettenhaus set up covering the road dug into I10 with the LMG and VG squad, plus a backup Conscript. The 6-1 Corporal Winkler set up with his boy scout troop in reserve near the l/r road, ready to bring three more very shaky squads to whichever threat might seem greatest.

Donna set up similarly, with most of her units and weapons around 8-2 Sgt Kwan, and the rest of them with the 7-1 Cpl Nettles near the road, all out of LOS of my units.

Now that I am writing up this AAR, I see that I committed two unintentional Cheats in setup. The Garrison Company I chose is, for some unimaginable reason, not available in 1945, so I should either have been attacker, or not have the HMG. IN ADDITION, I now see that I kept a weapon team and lmg which I got as reinforcements during the previous playing of the same game. I should have checked the original OB more closely. These two unfair changes are a huge advantage to my Germans. Therefore poor Donna’s green Indians had, unknowingly, accepted a much more difficult mission, and a poor chance to win this scenario.

Scenario T4 makes a big deal of always having both heroes on the board, and disallows them the use of weapons. In our game, however, heroes just sat around the entire time, and each of us pulled three Hero events which we would have loved to be able to use to rally crappy broken units. Seems like a silly SSR to me.

We drew our cards and started the game with two or three turns of discarding. All too soon the Indians and Cpl Nettles on my right flank moved down the road and over the hedges. I waited as Donna moved her units, holding my Fire action until Nettles moved adjacent and in the road, as I had a fire, with hand grenades and Spray fire actions. Rather unfortunately, I pulled quite low and all three of Donna’s units pulled high for their morale. None of the three adjacent Indian units moving in the road broke! On Donna’s next turn, my right flank collapsed as my best squad, LMG, and Rettenhaus all died in melee !! A very well executed assault, I must say.

More discarding followed. Cpl Winkler began moving the reserve boyscout troop to the right, and my outmatched right flank Conscript unit soon skeedaddled.

Once Donna had collected an Advance and a couple of Fires and Recovers, she advanced her large fire-team up to the hedge where I could see them. In my own turn, the Germans fired twice at the hex with the HMG, team, and squad. Here I had VERY good luck, as both units were eliminated by the second fire attack, low probability that I would be able to eliminate the 8/9-morale weapons team protected by a hedge with a pair of 11fp attacks, especially as the Indians had, and used, the initiative card. This also had the effect of breaking up her planned fire team. Another Indian unit moved up into the gap and was in turn eliminated. Even after a time trigger allowed them to dig foxholes, the bloodied Indians pulled back from the hedge to make a new plan.

The appearance of a blaze in I5, chasing a squad of Conscripts into the open, offered Donna’s green troops a new line of approach. Leaving behind Lt. Chatham, Sgt Kwan took his men circling to the German right, using the blaze to block LOS from the fearsome German HMG.

In the course of the game I managed to play ‘hidden unit’ twice, for a HMG and 9-2 Lt Borbe, and got an infiltration event for ANOTHER HMG! Quite good luck there.

One of these HMG units hustled towards the main fire team position, but was intercepted on the way by a broken Indian squad which a ‘walking wounded’ event caused to appear in G4. They managed to eliminate the HMG in melee, and were subsequently re-eliminated by the nearby German Fire-base.

Hidden mines in G10 stopped Cpl Nettles and his men, the rattled leader then unfortunately failing to recover. My other new HMG moved to the right flank and quickly stabilized the situation there by eliminating Nettles, and sending his forward units routing back along the road, broken in spirit.

The Hidden Unit 9-2 Lt. Borbe appeared in the foxholes dug and then abandoned by the Indians in hex L4. He moved promptly to the German fire-base, picked up the three idle conscript squads there, and in a few move orders, counterattacked with them off the allied board edge for 18 points to the Germans !!

At this juncture I heard Donna do one of her quiet soliloquies which occur when she realizes she must re-evaluate the tactical situation and scrap her current plan. It went something like this – – “I will lose on points and the game will be over before long. Therefore my only hope is to drive the Germans to surrender. SO I must play even more boldly than I have been.” While it had become impossible for her to win by exiting Indian units, Donna is a true believer in Malacandra’s Maxim – – in Combat Commander NEVER EVER give up !! – -. What-a-Gal !

Since the Indians were by then so shot apart and fragmented, I was confident that I could drive them to surrender before they could do so to my Germans. Then in quick succession the Allies got a pair of “Elan” events, raising the Indian surrender level from 12 to 14. Hmmmmmmm, not good for the Deutsch with a surrender of only 8.

Lieutenant Chatham, 9-1, still back at the Indian start position, was ordered forward by Donna, tasked with re-energizing the flagging attack.

This was followed by a reinforcement event giving the Indians a 10 FP radio ! Lt. Chatham used it to call his old school chum, commanding the nearby artillery battery, and was rewarded with three concentrations of smoke in three consecutive Indian turns !!!. The second and third were well placed, and gave protection to the Indian forces from the heretofore devastating punishment of the main German fire-base. Chatham gathered up two of the routing Indian squads and moved them confidently forward along the road where their previous officer had perished.

After pivoting around the blaze, the remaining Indian units tried to cross the fire-swept lane of hex row H and were broken there as they moved. Sgt Kwan always managed to recover, and finally the artillery-generated smoke allowed those units to cross the hedge and approach the German units blocking the axial road.

You know that your opponent is commanding brittle troops when you smile when drawing a Rout order, and find yourself KEEPING Routs when you discard other cards. Three of the German squads had already been eliminated by routing off the map, as well as two of the Indian squads.

A Breeze event finally got rid of all the British smoke.

Sudden Death at TTs 8 and 9 had already been passed without ending the game. The German collapse came quite suddenly. A sniper broke the right German HMG, allowing Chatham and his green squad to advance into hex E8, eliminating the German Conscript unit there. This brought me to within 2 units of surrender. Germans had no advance nor move orders to get that HMG and the two inexperienced German leaders away from the bayonets of the bloody-handed Indians.

Yes, Donna had saved up a second Advance order, and the Indians crept resolutely out of the orchard into the German foxholes. The resulting melee, (Donna’s 7FP to my 6FP) was tense, with the initiative changing hands five times. Finally bold Lieutenant Chatham’s courage and persistence paid its just dividend, and German corporals Rettenhaus and Winkler were eliminated along with the HMG team. The Germans surrendered !!

Donna did extremely well to triumph, especially with my two unintentional cheats at setup, and all the undeniable luck my Germans experienced during the early and mid-game. What a come-from-behind WIN for Donna’s Indians !!

And, though I lost, I had a truly great time playing my 400th game of CC, Gauleiter Manor, Tournament Scenario T4.

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