Friday, February 24, 2017

Initial Review: Part 1 - Beyond the Beachhead 2

Nick Drinkwater

Instant Out of the Wrapper Review: Part 1 - Beyond the Beachhead 2; Part 2 - BPF2 Operation Cobra

Its here at last - the next instalment from Bounding Fire Productions after the outstanding Into the Rubble pack is now winging its way across the country to the waiting masses and another excellent product it is too. BtB 2 and BFP 2 can be bought from Bounding Fire in a combined package of $75 or individually at $50 and $44 each respectively. Note this is a first impressions review and I have not tried any of the scenarios or nit-picked them for obvious errors - at first glance, can't seem to find any.

First up is Beyond the Beachhead 2 which is composed of all of the original BtB components plus extra boards and extra scenarios. Chas Smith apparently retained the rights to use the components of that pack when he went from HOB (back) to BFP. The main difference this time is that the original BtB boards (which were mounted hardboard works of art) have been re-issued as ASLSK-style cardboard boards to make them compliant with all the new board issued from MMP. Something has been lost in the translation as the old versions were some of the best quality components in the entire hobby, but this is the price of progress I guess, and at least lugging the whole kit to tournaments has got that much easier.

The super shiny, super glossy 2/3 board overlays have also been replaced with a matt version now. The pack itself has two loose leaf fly covers with a coloured cartoon-style picture of Stug rumbling between two high hedges somewhere in France on the front - the back cover is a summary of the components included, some summary notes from some of the scenarios and a list of the extra items needed to play the pack. The whole pack is stiffened by a cardboard sheet to help it survive the rigours of the US postal service - sadly mine didn't and the corners of the pack took a crunch, but no lasting damage done.

Components (those marked with a * were in the original HOB version of BtB1).

Note that all these boards have bocage marked on them as hedges with a brown perimeter rim and this is a different feature from a regular hedge (which is also marked on some of these boards). Also, these boards and overlays often include many examples of slopes so even the apparently flattest looking terrain has some subtle LOS changes going on - cool!

BFP C*: one third grainfield bocage, one third scattered stone village including a small church and a two hex graveyard and a two hex, level one hill; final third of the board is more bocage.

BFP D*: The road-bocage one. One bocage-lined road running the long-axis of the board, orchard-lined. Small level one hill and small sunken road.

BFP E: One half is bocage-lined grain fields and medium sized level-one hills with sunken lanes, the other half consists of a small stone building hamlet and hill / grain gulley. A 'split' board - think Normandy version of Board 10.

BFP F: A transition board for bocage. Mainly open ground with two bocage-lined grainfields at each end, each with an associated level one hill. (Like Board 49, but designed to transition to denser bocage). Get out the smoke / SMOKE!

BFP V-1*: A great addition to either the BFP boards - an orchard-rich, linear style French stone building village with bocage-lined fields and woods - narrow roads are in effect. This board is designed to be placed on the BFP boards and would cover approximately two thirds of them - the Q hexrow road is the linking feature between the overlay and the board beneath.

BFP V-2: A small 14 hex stone village overlay with single hex buildings. One oddity are depictions of small buildings that straddle hexlines to prevent snap shots and bypass - rules for this are included (see below).

BFP V-3: Another 2/3 board overlay linked by the Q hexrow road. This is the antithesis of BFB V-1 being a dispersed stone building village sited around a small one-hex chapel. A couple of large bocage fields are added to the overlay edges, but this is all in pretty open terrain.

BFP H-1*: A 2/3 board overlay dominated by a level 2 hill covered by an intricate network of choking bocage and orchards and a snaky orchard and bocage-lined road. Slow progress going over this particular hill.

BFP H-2: A 22 hex two-level hill overlay with a couple of small bocage hedges included. Fairly simple in its design.

Rules addition: One page of the BtB 1 rules is reproduced here including rules for light bocage and hexside buildings. On the reverse of this page are the known errata and Q&A for the ITR packs and the old Hell on Wheels pack.

Scenarios 1-8 are from the BFP 1 (HOB) version. These are described elsewhere on the web, so I'll breeze over them.

Btb 1: Taking Tailleville
Btb 2: Merely Hanging On
Btb 3: Kraut Corner
Btb 4: Firestorm in St.Manvieu
Btb 5: Martinville Ridge
Btb 6: Men Against Tanks
Btb 7: Blood on Hill 192
Btb 8: Steel Inferno

New Scenarios:
Btb 9: Norman "D".
6.5 turns. 5.5 SS squads on BFP Board E (bocage, grain and hills) defending against 11 Elite and 1st line US squads. A very simple, all infantry building control scenario, probably good for tourneys.

BtB 10: Unplanned Attack.
5.5 turns. Played on overlay BFP V3 only (the dispersed village in open terrain one). 6 squad equivalents of all HIP German paras have to deny 13 1st and 2nd line US squads from controlling the majority of the village buildings. Another all-infantry tournament sized special.

Btb 11: Bosq Barbecue.
6.5 turns. A bit meatier this one. Two good and four bad (447) SS squads with copious AA Gun support and 4 self-propelled guns have to deny 15 British first line units from taken a chunk of the BFP-D village. They have a tough approach over the wide-open spaces of BFP F, but they are given a ton of British smoke generators to do it - 5 basic flavours of Churchills and two Crocodiles!! This one looks super-cool.

BtB 12: Going against the Grain.
6.5 turns of BIG scenario. The Brits are on the defense and they have to prevent the Germans from exiting units and taking stone buildings in the BFP F village - the SS can also try and sneak units off by using the lomg snakey bocage-lined lane of BFB D that just screams 'ambush'! The SS receive 15 of their main guys plus a couple of engineer squads and receive a couple of Flak panzers, a couple of Bisons and 5 (yep, that was five) Panthers. The Brits have to split their 15 1st line squads, but they also receive two 17 pounders, two 6 pounders a Mortar and three bog-standard Churchills. This one looks challenging but a lot of fun.

BtB 13: By Chance.
6.5 turns. A very weak German force of 6 conscript and second line squads lock horns with an American recce force on trucks with half-tracks. An immediate CVP cap will keep the US honest as they try to control buildings on Board 17 attacking across the BFB F board. The biggest thing in this is the US 100mm OBA.

BtB 14: Swatting a Hornet.
6 turns set on one-half of BFP E with some stone rubble thrown in for good measure. This is BFP's version of the SP scenario "The Hornet of Cloville" where nine 1st and 2nd line US squads with three shermans have to remove all good order German MMC and AFV's from a critical hex. As well as the eponymous Hornet, the Germans get a MkIV and 6.5 para and second line squads.

BtB 15: Becker's Battery.
6 turns for an all armour British force to accumulate 66 VP from either exiting vehicles off the south edge of Board 33 and half of BFB D, attacking across Boards 44 and BFP F. The Germans can also exit units after Turn 4 and in this case, the twist is that the Germans recieve 10 of the funky 75L and 105 SP guns that came with Pegasus Bridge I think). This is a mighty force of British steel including 15 Sherman V, three Fireflies, and a couple of Crusader AA tanks. The Germans get the option to utilise HIP if behind Bocage hedges, but a lot of this fight will take place on open terrain and grain fields. Looks a bit different this.

BtB 16: Battlegroup Nor-Mons.
6.5 turns and another chunky scenario. Brits vs SS in this set on BFP E, F and D. The SS need to control a central level two hill and have more VP than the Brits for building rubble control - Brits receive VP for any units on any hills at Game end. To carry this task out, nineteen 1st and 2nd line squads with 80mm AND 120mm OBA, 5 Shermans and a Firefly need to hold off 21 mixed quality SS squads with Mortar OBA plus two Tigers, 5 Mk IVs and a couple of Stugs. The balance is interesting in the form of FB, but maybe is a mistake as only the US are listed with their details (unless I have misunderstood something here).

A great set of scenarios, and apart from the issue of conquering the problems posed by Bocage defense and attack, are all very straightforward. Almost all are moderate with no wind (a couple have mild breezes for spreading smoke) but there is no night, rain etc and no scenario is larger than 6.5 turns, though some are quite sizeable in terms of numbers of units. Once people are happy with the Bocage (both normal and light) and slopes and narrow streets, then there should be something for everyone in here. The scenario cards are of excellent quality being printed on a nice quality paper with the counters and boards represented in colour - great effort.

A really good effort overall - those who own BtB 1 may have an issue with the price of $50 for something they have about 40% of already, but if you're new to it, that's fairly good value for 4 boards, 5 overlays and 16 scenarios. It would have been brilliant if BFP had issued an upgrade pack for those who already had BtB1, but I understand the problems of small company economics and the re-issue of the boards in the new format is definitely a useful thing so I am really happy with these. A- for those new to the BtB packs and a B++ for those who already have them.

Operation Cobra review to follow.

AAR: TOT45 The Dogs of War

Ed Beekman

Germans: Ralph
Partisans: Sean
Russians: Ed

The Dogs of War is a 3 player scenario in May '45 Prague.  The Czech Partisans are defending the Victory Building (VB) against attacks by 2nd SS Das Reich units and Russian Liberation Army (ROA) units which are Russian POWs rearmed by the Germans to liberate Russia.  Ralph wanted the SS and Sean took the Partisans leaving me with the traitorous Russians.  Sean set up first in the VB, where his units are Fanatic, on the hex row A half of board 21, and would receive a couple of reinforcing squads with an obsolete French tank on Turn 3.  He would also roll to randomly generate infiltrating squads during each of the Partisan Player Turn Rally Phases.  Ralph set up second on the graveyard side of the VB.  His force included a couple of JgPz and an obsolete, although not nearly as obsolete as the Partisan's, Skoda tank.  I set up last on the other side of the VB.  My force included a pair of captured T34s, a pair of halftracks, a Hetzer and a Flamm halftrack.  The ELR situation is  also interesting.  The Partisans naturally have a 5 ELR, the Russians have a 1 ELR.  The SS take it on the chin with a 0 ELR, which  means squads that fail a MC break  into HS and HS Disrupt but there will be  no surrendering because all sides have invoked NO QUARTER.  And EVERYONE has Panzerfausts!  Alright, the Partisans' are captured so their PF checks and TH rolls have a +2 modifier.

The sequence of play starts with the SS and in the DFPh the Partisans goes first followed by the ROA.  The second phasing player is the ROA with the SS followed by the Partisans  in DFPh.  Finally the Partisans go with the ROA followed by the SS in DF.  You need to consider unit positions at the end of your movement carefully, they can potentially be shot at in 4 fire phases before they can move again.  With some low ELRs this can be really bad.

There are 5 ways to win the game.  In descending order:  be the only player with Good Order (GO) MMC in the VB; have 2 more GO Squad Equivalents within 2 hexes of the SW corner of the VB than the next one player; have 3 GO Partisan squads in the VB (applicable only to Partisan player); have more GO HS equivalents within 2 hexes of the SW corner of the VB than the next one player; the Partisan wins.  Our game was decided by the 4th VC.

Ralph started the game trying to strip concealment from Partisans in the VB and cautiously advancing through the graveyard.  He also took a shot at my concealed kill stack forcing it to relocate during my turn.  The Partisans began repulsing the SS with a 10-2 led HMG which broke up an SS squad.  My DF was ineffective in stripping partisan concealment.

In my first turn I moved towards the VB, getting the FlammHT in position to "zip-po" in for Bounding Fire on later turns then return to hiding while the T34's moved to firing positions on the VB with the Hetzer covering them from hostile armor.  Ralph broke the Sean's HMG stack in DF.  One of my T34s malf'd its B11 MA on the first shot. 
Sean generated several Partisan infiltrators around the periphery and one in the VB.  He remanned the HMG while DF seemed to redirect against infiltrators to get them off the Rout paths.  

Ralph's turn saw him get into the VB with a pair of squads while his JgPz moved against my armor.  Many infiltrators were neutralized while I was hit with the first of 3 sniper attacks in the game.  Both opponents put their snipers on my side of the board and each attack hit a stack of units and I would each time obligingly roll a Yatzee, resulting in all my leaders wounding and stunning a HT.  The only other sniper activity was mine, which eliminated an infiltrating Partisan leader late in the game.  

I didn't like Ralph interfering with Russian interests, so I engaged his PzJgs.  I lost my 'lame' T34 to one but the Flamm HT burnt it up before going back into hiding.  When I assaulted the second PzJg, it came down to a Gun Duel.  We both had +5 Firer Based DRMs so the lower roll would go first.  I rolled a 5 which meant my round would go up the enemy's rear since all other TH DRM for me were 0.  Ralph rolled a 3, winning the duel and destroying my other T34.  The Hetzer then attacked, Ralph spinning for a desperation IF shot that missed.   The Hetzer moved to the side and reduced it to burning wreckage.  I thought it a good trade, 2 T34s for 2 JgPz.  I also loaded a couple squads into my HTs and moved to isolate infiltrating partisans and keep some SS units DM.

Sean generated a few more infiltrators and played it safe but had some units broken in the VB by DF. 

Ralph moved on the Partisans on the VB ground floor, eliminating 2 squads in CC and capturing one of the two stairwells.  He also pushed along the southern flank to attack the Hetzer and my LMG team on that flank.  His squad passed its PAATC but failed to kill the Hetzer (in motion) in CC. 

On my turn I shot up and flamed Partisans and SS on the north and south flanks.  The Hetzer safely drove out of CC (Ralph needed 3's to hit w/PF as I drove through the burning PzJg wreck) and threatened the Skoda behind the graveyard wall.  Ralph fired the Skoda at the Hetzer and missed.  As I moved to a more optimal firing position, Ralph took the Intensive Fire shot.  Snake eyes, Critical Hit.  He rolled a 7 TK, I passed my possible Shock TC for No Effect.  9 penetration +1 for range, double less 14 armor = 6 final TK #.  The Hetzer moved behind the Skoda for a better position and gained acquisition.  I was able to sneak a squad into the building but it would not be able to stay.

On Sean's turn he moved to counterattack Ralph in the VB while bringing his reinforcements along a safe approach to the VB along the northern flank, catching a few SS between me and him.  In DF, I got lucky with an armored HT fire group against the SS squad on my side of the VB.  This left NO Good Order enemies on my side of the building.  Ralph lost a squad for FTR because the Hetzer cut its rout path (Hetzer = Troublemaker).

Ralph cleared the southern approaches to the VB while making a deal with Sean not to attack each other there.  He came after my Hetzer with a squad and 9-1 leader.  I failed my Motion roll along with my DF.  One Panzerfaust later the Hetzer was a burning wreck.  Ralph was then able to rout a couple squads worth of broken HS to the 9-1 for future rallys.

 My turn was a game changer.  I took a halftrack and raced it into bypass of Ralph's stack guarding the road I had to cross into the VB.  It survived PSK, PF, and Reaction Fire suffering only Immobilization.  Yeah, it died in CC but it had done its job better then I could have hoped.  I would have been just as happy with a burning wreck between Ralph and me.  This freed me to rush 5 squads, a wounded leader, MMG and my remaining vehicles into position in and around the VB.  My AF eliminated all but 1 of Seans remaining partisan squads in the VB.  I set up a defensive perimeter around the staircase I controlled and waited for the counterattack.

At this point it was the world against Ed, I had Victory Condition 2 in the bag.  Ralph was vowing that he may not win but he was going to make sure I didn't win either.  Sean was figuring if he played us against each other, maybe, just maybe he could sneak away with the win.

Sean moved his units into position to make the final charge into the VB with his reinforcement and infiltration squads while using his HMG to break one of my squads.

Ralph had rallied his broken units with the 9-1 leader and was able to run them into the VB via the graveyard while moving the Skoda next to the SW corner of the VB to count towards victory and threaten my Flamm HT.  Some units on the south tried to also get into the VB but were repulsed by me.

Ralph also jumped one of my squads in CC which turned into a Melee.  Ralph now had 3 GO squads and a vehicle in position to count towards victory plus another HS tied up in melee with one of my squads.

In my turn, I played it safe.  I moved units upstairs where they could fire at Sean's units that will be trying to enter the VB.  I also self rallied a HS with a LMG which I moved into position to lay a Fire Lane across the southern approach to the VB.  Ralph DF'd into our melee, breaking my squad who obligingly died trying to escape the melee.  I had 3 MMC and 2 vehicles in position to count towards victory, but Ralph had picked up another GO HS from the melee meaning I was a HS short of VC 2.

Sean's turn had one objective for him - have 3 GO squads in the VB.  One was already present  so he only needed 2 more with 5 squads available to get there.  His first squad ran across the road, survived the DF and got in the building.  The second squad crossed the road but broke to Final Fire adjacent to the VB.  Next he tried the southern flank.  The first squad ran through the LMG fire lane but Pinned outside the building.  The last squads had to go through the residual fire or get within HT flamethrower range.  They did not make it.  Lastly he moved his tank into position to count towards victory.

In the final tally, all three of us had GO squads in the building - Sean with 2, Ralph with 3.5 and I had 3.  Nobody had VC #1.
VC #2: Sean had 4 squad equivalents, Ralph had 5.5, and I had 7.  Missed  by a HS.  Nobody had VC#2
VC#3:  Sean only had 2 squads in the VB.  He did not have VC#3.
VC#4:  I had the most squad equivalents as totalled in VC#2 above for the win.

It was a very good game with a completely different feel.  The fire sequences are different which makes your moves, advances and rally points very important.  Next time you have an odd number of players, you should try a 3 player game like this.  The journal published a couple of them recently.