Friday, January 29, 2016

Cancon 2016 After Action Report


"I saw the Stalingrad ChoC tables, and thought 'dammit, I made the wrong choice of what to play at Cancon'" - Mr Zo 

"Stalingrad 4/5 stars - would invade again"- Jygg

"It took my two days and four battles to take that damn fountain. I'm buying one and taking it home!"- The Bard
Those are some hard yards in the middle

Background:

I ran a smaller 'classic tournament' game of Chain of Command in 2015, and others were at a ChoC demo game. Both went well. After 2015,  Cancon organisers made a decision - no free demo games. This meant that next year had to different. Would the demo players become tournament players with me running it? Would a demo  player step up and run a paid scenario? As it was, a third option emerged. Cancon tournament organisers need to make their mind up around July, to advertise by September. I received the notification email, and went fishing on Facebook for people who might want to run Cancon 2016 instead of me. Michael Parker and I had some discussions, and he proposed to bring ten members or so of his Victorian club, and run a big themed game. I checked that the demo players were okay with this, and sent him the needed details.
Big Baddah Boom

Run-up: 

Michael was added as an admin to the FB group, and outlined that we would get a pack and instructions soon. I am someone who likes to be organised early, and pushed hard for details - we have slow painters who need 3 month lead times to paint a new force if needed. The theme came out as Stalingrad - Germans and Russians. The painting and gathering could begin! We got the printed pack V1 in December, the V2 update mid January and a rules modification YouTube explainer a week out.

We received excellent run-up photos, and we knew the terrain was going to be great. Michael runs Battlefield Accessories, and we knew that he had his 3d printer and laser cutter running hot. So hot, in fact, that he had a fire in the shed! There were Christmas pictures of Michael holding up his presents - fire blankets and extinguishers. Let's hope they are never needed again!

My brother and I spent an afternoon puzzling out the modifications two days before go time. We were a little concerned, but hopeful it could be made to work on the day.

I think we will be right as long as they don't have a flamethrower.
Dammit.

Game One - Go Time:

Saturday when we saw the tables, we were very happy indeed. Obviously Stalingrad, excellent design and layout decisions, and quality details everywhere. Side commanders were appointed, with Major Kosta telling all his Captains where to deploy. Germans attacked, and while there was some resistance, the Germans broke through. The main focal point had three Stugs and Elite Panzer grenadiers, who melted away Soviets at that point. My personal sector saw a German probe, and other than one squad electing to defend the back of the factory after a flame-thrower attack by Unteruberfuhrer Jygg., there was little movement. I even took the option of sending my mortar fire against the Elite Panzer grenadiers - to little effect.

The man in the opposing sector: Jygg!


Game Two - Containment:

The Germans wanted to widen the front, and that made my sector a prime candidate for assault. Komrade Kosta sent me a artillery observer for a 150mm battery. Thus prepared, knowing I commanded tools to throw back the Nazi aggressors, I positioned my troops in such a way as to blunt further advance, and very nearly take back one of Fritzies Jump Off points. Skilful use of Reserves by Hauptman Lance prevented this. The Germans met the fury of the artillery barrage, and stalled their attacks, and blunted the effectiveness of their tanks. The Germans made some localised gains in other sectors, but our hearts were uplifted by the news of an anti-tank crew gaining the order of Lenin! Two fascists Stugs destroyed in two shells! All glory to Lenin and the Motherland for such effective tools of war, and hearts held strong!

Many Soviets were lost trying to cut off the breakout

Game Three - Grind.

Hauptman Lance is a quick learner. The Germans might be totalitarian pigs, but they do understand war. The factory from which I commanded came under heavy artillery fire. In one flurry of shells, I lost a senior commander, a junior commander, and two mortar teams left their posts. We withdrew from that factory sector badly mauled. In the breakthrough areas, the Germans made hard gains.

Defend the fountain!

Game Four - Focus.

I requested a quieter area for my mauled troops. Komrade Kosta was so happy with my ability to hold sectors with artillery spotters, he gave me a second one! Tanks, artillery, snipers are all handy at the right time - but boots on the ground matter. The Germans had tanks, we had artillery, but what mattered was who was in the building the Germans wanted. In the time we had there was no second building - we had generalised our defences, and the Germans had focused their attacks. With much pain, they pushed in two directions and got their two buildings.

My Ivan's felt Jygg's burn

Game Five - Boldness

With my platoon back to full strength, we were thrown into the meat grinder. We were not without our Russian tricks. Sometime the best way to take away your opponents aggression is to put forward an impossible fear. The Germans had sent their best troops smashing through the Soviet line, and created a breakthrough. They then sent line troops to expand the frontage of the breakthrough. Smaller Russian forces were sent to defend, and possibly close the front. In this locality, Germans had better positions and had more troops. A focused attack would have broadened their frontage. So the Russians went on the offensive with a desperate dash to try and close the breakout zone, and leave the aggressors encircled. Fear stopped the attack, and put them on the defensive. The Russians used fear to stall a greater opponent. We received terrible casualties, but lost no ground. We actually took an area from the Germans, but they took it back with a lucky last minute double phase.

Soviets preparing for deployment

Game Six - Blunted

The Germans came to see their strength, and were emboldened by their anger. They assembled a mighty force to crush the Russians - who were saved by the mighty god of war, the artillery. On whatever whim, the artillery rained down on the Germans, covering, pinning, and smoking them out. By the time the incredible barrage had ended, the time allotted for the offensive was over, and the Germans stayed in their starting positions, stalled.

The Fritzies have deployed the giant yellow dice!

Vagaries of War:

One of the constantly amusing rules and situations that kept coming up - There was a custom rule "NKVD sends support troops forward". One compromise I had to take was that in order to drive my mortar teams, I deployed my Senior Leader on board first deployment. This meant that I was leaving my support teams on 'maybe they will show, maybe not'. When you called troops, their was a roll and they could fail, and then the NKVD would send something forward randomly. On FIVE separate occasions there was a choice between my medical officer and some serious troops: A section of Elite Scouts. On FIVE OUT OF FIVE occasions my support call failed, and the medic was send forward when I could have really done with the super troops.  You have to laugh...


Aftermath:

I had a wonderful Cancon experience. Each of my opponents was a gentleman, and played hard but friendly. The terrain was outstanding, really evocative and well designed for playing on - always a place for fingers to get in to reach the troops. The rules summaries were complex, but on the day they seemed to work, as mostly you were only ever dealing with one modification, not multiples at once. The 'area terrain' effects worked, with the two categories (inside building =  heavy cover & restricted movement & outside = light cover and unrestricted movement) made decision making fast. The 'fire sale' at the end was really cool - I picked up a couple of inexpensive 3-d printed German vehicles, which was really handy and unexpected. I could not support the terrain sale, as I have a good collection, and committed not to buy scenery.

Final words:

The big plus of ChoC came through - Friction. The Command dice mechanic keeps you involved. The time limit kept you moving and thinking sharp. It kept you focused on the play during your opponents turn - their turn was really your thinking time, as once you roll your dice you are in motion. The overall commander supplying big surprises of support was great - you never REALLY knew what you were about to face, as it should be. The sub game to destroy their support teams was great - you had to blow away theirs without loosing yours. I was really happy with my support choice of the two mortar teams. Others went for more dice - I went for only four dice that reached the whole board, reduce cover, and competently hunted other support teams. Michael wants to do it again, I will be there! Will we be creeping around jungle in the Pacific? In the deserts of Africa? The lowlands of the German heartland? I am looking forward to lots of warning, so I can make sure my force is in excellent readiness for Cancon2017!

3 comments:

Chris Stoesen said...

That looked like a fantastic game. Well done to you.

Bart Beswick said...

I had the joy of only being a player. Nice after running events for six years in a row!

Kosta Herko said...

Hi Bart,
It was excellent to meet you at Cancon!
Kosta