Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bat Rep: Learning from losing


Had a game last night at DG, against a buddy of JJMicromegas, with JJM giving some advice, and a few of the other THMGers serving as advisors and rules consultants. Again, props to the club for the use of terrain.

I ran a late war FE Motostrelkovy list at 1750 with the following:

HQ 30
CC1: 2 MStrelk platoons, SMG option, Kommisar
CC2: 2 MStrelk platoons, SMG option
WC1: Full H. Morter with observer
WC2: 8 M4s
SC2: 2 SU-152
SC2: 5 KV-85

He ran a FE Panzer company with two units of panzer III/IVs, a Tiger, a platoon of pioneers, some stugs, and a few other odds and ends.

The game was something of an education. We played an Encounter scenario, which I've since learned is somewhat controversial among the competitive FoW community, for reasons that shoudl become clear. This was the second time I'd used infantry in numbers, the first time in late war, and the first time I defended (technically, I was the attacker in this scenario, but again, as will become clear, it didn't work out that way).

The defining features of the Encounter scenario is the role played by reserves. Half of one's platoons start off table (which is why so many of the lists posted on the FoW boards have "lopsided" platoon structures - 3 large, point-intensive platoons and three "filler" platoons. Beginning on turn three, there is a chance they can come on - you roll one die turn 3, two on turn 4, three on turn 5, etc. For each 5/6 that turns up, you can bring on a platoon. However, where the platoon comes on is randomly determined. In a scenario where victory is determined by control of objectives, this random element can make or break a game - again, as will become clear.

I chose to keep my mobile / armoured elements in reserve. The plan was to dig in with my infantry on the objectives, weather the storm while plinking away with morters, and then counter-attack with my tanks.

These pics show the situation on turn three - no reserves turned up, my morters had been only minimally effective, and my opponent had spent the last few turns machine gunning my infantry guarding the rightmost objective.





I had managed to dig in my infantry by turn 2, which gave them some protection, but the limiting factor was that Soviet infantry lack any integral anti-tank assets. With strelkovy, this can be mitigated by attaching flamethrowers, anti-tank guns, and ATRs, but Motostrelk rely on their armoured support. Without that back-up, there was little I could do but hunker down, and hope I got lucky with the HEavy mortars. While they have a chance to take out tanks (note the smoke), it's not huge.

The next turn, he assaulted with his tanks, pulling in the heavy mortars (if a unit is close enough, it gets dragged in), mauling both the infantry and the mortars, and seizing the objective.


While I was still contesting, things were not looking good on the right. I really needed a reserve unit on the table, and on my turn, was able to bring on one. It's at this point that the dynamics of the Encounter scenario come into play. I decided to bring on my heavy KV-85 tanks. These had a chance to take out the Tiger, and have a good chance of shrugging off the main guns of the PzIII/IVs. Unfortuneately, they came in on the wrong side of the table - my left, well away from the action. Because that side of the table was heavily wooded, it meant that the tanks only had a narrow approach, and while they were able to account for a few dead Panzers (and drive off the remainder), never got close enough to the objective to contest it.


On his next turn, my opponent finished off my remaining infantry, consolidated his hold on the objective, and hunkered down. I either had to contest the objective on my turn, or lose. To do this, I needed to get some reserves on the table. At this point, I was rolling three dice - all I needed was a single 5+, and I was back in the game. Worst case, if they came on the left side again, I could move my heavy tanks out of the way, and double across the table to contest. I would lose some tanks the following turn, but could at least buy some time.

So, of course, I rolled a 1, 2, and 4. No reserves, no way to contest the objective (my heavies were too far away). My only chance would be to drive the infantry and Tiger off, and with only the rump of my mortars and the few heavies in a position ot fire, it just wasn't enough.

I think I learned a couple-three critical lessons in this game. First, while Soviet infantry is tough (It did take him four turns using 7 tanks and infantry to shift them), without tanks in support they are hamstrung. One of the observers suggested deploying the KV-85s at the start of the game, something I might think about in future, trading them for either the mortars or an infantry unit. I have tried deploying the KVs in cover before, and they can be remarkably durable. It also gives me a fair bit of AT on the table - five 85mm guns can go a long way to influencing the game.

Second, I was hesitant to move my second infantry platoon, with what seemed like good reason. In the open, on the move, infantry are far more vulnerable than they are hunkered down. However, in a game like this, immobility is less of an option. While it would have been a risk, advancing with the infantry would have at least threatened my opponent's assaulting force, and put him in a position of having to make choices. I suspect knowing when to move infantry is one of the subtle, but important elements of this game.

Last, I learned a few things about list design. I've wondered for a while why so many lists posted to the FoW forums seemed disproportionate or lopsided - several large platoons, along with several small ones. Now I know. In scenarios where half your force starts off table, beginning the game with a disproportionate amount of points in play give you a huge advantage. I've been playing around with this concept, and came up with the following list by way of illustration.

HQ: T-34/85
CC1: 10 T-34, 5/85
CC2: 10 T-34, 5/85
WC1: 2 45mm AT guns
WC2: 3 82mm Mortars
SC1: 5 KV-85s
SC2: 2 45mm AT guns.

In encounter, that list can start with the 26 tanks on the table - more than 1500 out of 1750 points. When, or if, reserves come on becomes an academic issue. While this is a bit of an exagerrated example, I think it makes the point.

I should have a few other things to post in the next couple of days, but in the mean time - a happy New Year to all and sundry.



  1. Nice figs and terrain! Consider me a new follower :)

  2. I'm not sure how much terrain building you yourself do, but I've come up with a method for building fences that looks like it would fit some of your gaming, especially in the time-period and locales you played in here.

    You start with:

    Bird sand, the same stuff JET uses to add sand when basing things, and that he talks about in his post on building houses.

    White glue.


    Some kind of small container that the glue and water won't soak into.

    Popsicle sticks.

    Matches with the heads removed. The remaining stick can be painted if you need some thing that doesn't look quite so wood-ish

    Then you mix the sand and glue together, until you have something thick that will fall of a popsicle stick without shaking in small bits but mostly stays stuck to it.

    Apply this to a second popsicle stick, all along the length of it, in a thin layer. Then make a small hole with a matchstick where you want to have each of them set. Put extra sand-glue mixture at each hole, then put a matchsick in the center of the raised area. If you disturbed it too much the stick won't stay up. Don't worry about it though. Just push it back together with you fingers.

    Allow to dry.

  3. Thanks for the suggestion Cnor. Have you thought about pre-drilling a hole for your matchstick - might help them stand up in the glue / sand mix.

  4. Hmm. That might help. Thanks for the idea! I'll try that out soon.