Sunday, 5 May 2013

A Time to Die... how long should a game take?

I have enjoyed two games of FoW this week, which could not have been more different...

The first against Brett, was the tank on tank battle featured in the previous blog post, and the next game the following night against Paul; the 3rd game in our Breville Gap campaign, the Germans having another go at breaking through in a Hold the Line after their 'diversionary attack' in the previous game.

 Normally our 'policy' here at 'KFoW', is that the victor writes the battle report... but that last game against Paul became quite a serious (though still good natured) affair, and I think I gave Paul enough concern, and thus caused him to concentrate on the game a little more than normal, that he stopped taking pictures part way in...

It was a seriously gutsy game, death and mayhem on each side, and I eventually broke through and had a toe hold on the objective with other troops poised to follow up, and with Paul's remaining forces being quite battered and getting to the point they were hanging on as best they could, but at the point we called it, Paul was still contesting the objective, and thus the game was a 4-3 to Paul.

The reason we called it was that the game started at about 7pm and we called 'time' at 11.30pm... four and half hours later... Poor Paul is an early riser and he was just about asleep by the end of the game, whilst me being a bit more of a night owl, was still happy playing on...

 I will admit freely, I am not the best player in the world (but hopefully improving), and it takes me quite a while to ponder my tactics for the game and in turn, turn to turn as the game progresses...

With the tank battle previously, there is little to really consider; no artillery, no decision between bombard or smoke, no worrying about moving infantry around, being gone to ground or dug in, or whatever... it just about boils down to, can I roll a 6 to hit, and if so, can I follow it up with a successful FP test... hence the game was probably over in 60-90 mins or there abouts...

But with infantry on infantry, in a defensive battle, there is far more going on...

The game for the defender, once they have cunningly constructed their defense, becomes a game of mostly keeping their heads down gone to ground and waiting to unleash their ambush at the most opportune time, and hope they get reserves in time...

The game for a the attacker is more complex, having had a brief chance to study the defenders defense he has to come up with a plan of attack; which objective to strike for, how to go about it, how to mitigate any ambush, which artillery to use against which targets, and to try and fire smoke to conceal, or a bombardment to kill... and then how best to set up a possible game winning assault such that I can capture an objective and be in such a position to hold on to it against any likely counter attack...

There's an awful lot going on in such a game... so how long is fair amount of time to resolve such a game?

This question crops up in the forums from time to time, especially concerning tournament play, where time management is crucial for the conduct of the tournament in a timely manner. Most tournaments appear to allow 2.5hrs  for each game. And yet it can cause concerns about deliberate slow play, as several missions go in the defenders favour if the attacker fails to grab an objective, or break the defender...

Note that I am not saying Paul plays slowly, far from it, it would be me the attacker taking a while to ponder my tactics, I can't help it...

Here's a quick look at the issues from that last game. I am not going to do a full ARR, but give you a few of the points of the game...

So the Game is Hold the Line, with Brit Paras defending against an attack by German Grenadiers.
Objectives go down in typical fashion, Paul places his at the back, I place mine more or less diagonally opposite as near to my front as possible...

The Brits deploy two Para platoons and an Engineer platoon, spanning the front of the board with 3 barbed wire sections down covering approach to front objective. This is tough enough to get through, But Paul also has 4 x HMG and 4 x 6pdrs in ambush. One can shred an infantry platoon, the other can wreck a tank platoon, in one round of fire... Not nice...

The rest of Pauls force is in delayed reserve; artillery, 2 more 6pdrs, trained infantry, recce jeeps with MGs, and mortars...

I am attacking this with 2 x grenadier platoons, 1 pioneer platoon with flamethrowers, 4 x HMG, 4 x Mortars, 4 x 105 howitzers, 4 x StuHs, 1 x Scout platoon.

My plan is relatively straight forward - Get scouts up as far as possible early to push back any ambush and then start lifting GTG on the Paras. GTG Paras in foxholes are 6s to hit at short range and impossible at long range... Lifting GTG can make all the difference.

Also, my infantry start 16" back from the Defenders zone, so its going to take me 3 turns to get there, unless I am lucky with some storm trooper moves, then I have to get to the wire, and then start the next turn NOT pinned down with my pioneers to Gap it to allow my troops through, then I still have to get into suitable position to assault...

All the while I am conscious of Pauls ambush and where they could strike from, and thus where do I need to try and drop smoke to cover my approach, but I also want to kills some Paras with my Howitzers...



Here are the general deployment pics...


My pioneers are still a WIP, hence the card bases...


Now, things go wrong for me in first turn, I push my scouts up as far as possible, getting a good position to view Pauls platoons from cover and also forcing back an ambush from the area I intend to assault.
Paul realises he has nothing to lose, as he'll be lifted GTG next turn anyway, fires everything he can at the scouts, he kills two teams, despite needing 6s to hit, but I have 2 left so I am still OK, just. Then he remembers one last possible shot, from an observer team; one shot on a 6, gets it and I fail the save, typical... scouts fail morale and are gone. F*ck!

So now my chances to lift GTG are gone and I cant push back any ambush... And Paul now settles back into his foxholes, gone to ground...

Red dots mark the dead scouts

This forces my approach to be far more cautious...

So I eventually get into position to shift the wire, but then Paul ambushes with his HMGs killing some pioneers and Pinning the platoon... so I cant shift the wire next turn and must wait for another turn and on it goes... All during this time I am slowly doing some damage with the howitzers which luckily ranged in on first throw of game and the StuHs are picking off the odd team thanks to their breakthrough guns...Opposing sniper teams are also enjoying some activity...

Eventually I am through the wire, but by which time Paul has decided to withdraw slightly, not wishing get all crispy from my flamethrowers. So I manage to get to and take the building adjacent the objective, but Paul still has a few teams left from a platoon, dug in near it contesting. I can eventually kill them once I reposition the StuHs but that's at least another 2 turns...

So we call the game, Paul has took a battering, 3 platoons down, CO - rang away with engineers, 2ic just been killed, two para platoons badly mauled, the 6drs have had two guns knocked out (one to the pioneers goliath), only his mortars left to come on. My only concern now really is if his artillery ranges in on me on the objective and starts to do some damage before I can remove his last contesting teams...

So all of that took 4.5hrs. We did have a few rules queries along the way which always takes a few minutes to resolve too, looking stuff up.. And it could go on longer to get to conclusion... so when do you stop?

If this game had had a time limit from the start, then I may as well have packed up and gone home once the scouts died on turn one - I'd certainly have scored more brownie points with the Mrs for an early Friday finish and get to have a glass of vino with her...  but I was conscious of throwing away the second game early, and not playing on for VPs for the campaign... hence my determination here...

As it happens, Paul is now 14 points to 7 up in the campign after 3 games, so I have no chance of getting back into it... So I'll declare Paul the winner.

We have planned another Hold the Line for next game; 3rd times a charm(!?) to see if its possible to crack this nut as the attacker, I can be a determined stubborn bugger sometimes... see if I can keep the scouts alive this time and what difference it makes, maybe consider other ways to play the mission...

So what do you think; a defensive battle between infantry companies, each knowing beforehand the opponent and mission thus the best chance to pick the best troops for the job. And a game involving field fortifications - How Long Should The Game Last to get to a fair conclusion?










3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the battle rep and the invite to come up the coast. I am keen to do that some time. Will post some photos on the blog of my FJ army some time so you can see what I have. I do really need someone to take me through some games so I can get used to the rules - SWHMBO is not particularly accomodating (and nor is the 7 month old) but I reckon I could swing a pass card in the foreseeable future. Will keep you posted.

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    1. I look forward to seeing what you have. :-) I know what you mean about SWMBOs... ;-)

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  2. Was definitely an intense battle, and Scott's carefully crafted plan went out the window when I rudely killed his scouts! To his credit, however, he did regroup and have the game firmly in his grasp by the time we called it. I wasn't totally out of it, but was certainly coming "second" :-)
    Generally speaking, it's pretty obvious when the defender plays slowly for a time out win, and there's no excuse for it. The attacker usually sets the tempo of the game, and they have all the incentive to get things done. I think it's worth making a distinction between turns and time. If the game times out but has a lot of turns (say more than 8) then I think that's a fair pace. Some missions and match ups (eg: infantry vs infantry in Hold the Line!) are just hard, grinding games.
    If the game takes more than 3 hours and doesn't get past 6 turns, you're playing too slow. In friendly games this is understandable and is going to happen as you get practice in. In a tournament situation, I think you really need to be proficient enough with your army to get through 6-8 turns in your share of the time allotted. Time outs are frustrating for everyone!

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