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Scenario review: 2 on 2, round one (Designer Series)

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#1 Latro



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Posted 18 August 2009 - 05:59 AM

I had to register my old nickname once again (third time now), but it's good to be back anyway!


The last few weeks I've been busy playtesting and reviewing this massive scenario from the Designer Series and I thought I might share some of my findings here. Who knows, perhaps it helps make that scenario even more enjoyable than it already is to some of you. This review is certainly not meant to be complete ... that would be way too much work, so I'll probably add a few more things now and then (if and when I remember them).


First of all, I can truely say that I had a very good time these weeks while playing this scenario ... 5 times! Yes, that's five times ... you read it correctly the first time. My compliments to the designers! The massive scale of it all really adds a lot to the game. It's not just a case of having more units to move around, the whole dynamic of the game changes. You have to work with large formations instead of micro-managing each unit, Each sector is a complete battle in it's own right ... you might me on the offensive near the town while in full retreat on the other flank, forcing you to break off the attack and send reinforcements. With a very generous 20 game turns, there's a lot going on.


A short summary of my final test-battle (including all house-rules and changes):

- The Germans start creating a defensive line while the US forces move in slowly, careful to avoid long-rage sniping by the panzers.

- The US start to put pressure on the small town, forcing the Germans to evacuate their forward positions with heavy losses.

- Meanwhile the German panzer formations are at full strength and they launch an attack on the right flank, inflicting moderate casualties and securing several forward positions before nightfall ends most of the fighting.

- Another wave of US troops arrives and starts pushing foward, the Germans quickly pull back for a defence-in-depth.

- The US launches an all out offensive on all fronts leaving a trail of burning Shermans ... but finally breaching the German lines.


The first few test-battles ended a lot sooner though , due to the balance being seriously out of whack. The reason for this was mainly that in about everything that matters, the US has the advantage:



They have more units. This gives of course the obvious advantage of having more firepower and more threats on the battlefield, but it also gives you the often underestimated but very effective option of " drawing out"  your opponent. He'll be out of moves while you have reserved your strength for that very important final move ... combine that with a constant command point lead (= initiative win) which enable you to also start fighting before your opponent can react to that final push and you have a very potent winning combination. Besides numbers the US also has quality on their side. Not a huge advantage, but being able to concentrate the mortar squads (no risk of enemy air attacks) does make a difference and they certainly were a decisive factor in the final battle. Even the tanks, normally a German advantage, seem to be favouring the US this time. Not only in numbers, but they receive 2 special Shermans with Panzer IV stats to start with and both sides have Elite tank crews and a tank ace. Less armour protection for everyone sounds equal, but actually favours the side with the lowest firepower quite a lot.



The Germans have to defend a town they can't risk actually occupying with all those Shermans riding around, so they have to hide behind it basicly giving the enemy a free advance. The US meanwhile has excellent cover from the forests and a nice extra save as well. Great position to wait while the rest of their force arrives. To top things off they have a very handy lvl 2 hill in their rear area to provide those deadly mortar squads with nearly unlimited sight across the battlefield ... even behind the town there are now only a few hexes the German defenders can hide.


Strategy Decks

The US can hit anything anywhere on the battlefield with their airpower, the Germans can do nothing with their limited artillery support. To make effective use of an artillery deck, you have to be able to save them up and concentrate a lot of them in a decisive situation. Too bad the US has that card to make the Germans discard all but one card ... bye bye strategy. So basicly they can only use the ground support deck to annoy the US and spend a lot of command on initiative to force the US to do the same (still winning initiative, but limiting their air support the first day).


More coming, need food now

#2 Latro



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Posted 18 August 2009 - 07:12 AM

Hmm ... it seems I can't even change my own post.


Ah well, in a reply then.



Without going into too much details, I think I can safely conclude that the US has a very strong advantage in this scenario. The only chance the Germans have is if their opponent insist in runing forward through the open into op-fire position every time he receives new troops, never waiting to concentrate his forces. It's not going to happen.


So I tinkered around a bit and came up with the following changes:


- Remove the lvl 2 hill from the US side of the map to limit the effect of their strong mortar support.

- Change the two special Shermans back to regular Shermans.

- Make the "Tank Ace" and "Elite Tank Crew" operation cards German only and "Double Time" for both sides.

- Air Support strategy cards have no effect during round 10 and 11 (night)


With these changes the US still has the advantage (23 v. 9 tanks total!), but at no time did I have the feeling that the Germans didn't have any chance at all. It's going to be a challenge, an up-hill struggle and very hard for them ... but not impossible.


An additional change I haven't tested (yet), but which seems to add a bit more flavour to the game is to give trucks a different role. During testing they ended up being parked behind cover to draw out activations (which leads to several turns of "trucking" halfway each round when both sides have lots of trucks doing nothing. Or they end up rushing objectives by themselves, or as onservation posts for mortars. All very legal, but also a bit meh ... gamey even.

So how about this:


- Trucks can't claim objectives or spot for artillery/mortars.

- Trucks that leave the battlefield by road (friendly edge) can be used again to bring the next wave of reinforcements (which will no longer have any trucks of their own). Halftracks remain available as they are now, they are combat vehicles after all.

The German side receives a command point everytime a trucks safely leaves the battlefield. Careful use of limited assets will be rewarded!


Any thoughts?


PS Having two sets of ToI is better (looking), but I only have the base game and all expansions once ... still playable though. I shuffled the strategy cards after the first day (leaving in play cards) so I didn't need double sets and I proxied a lot of units ... so I ended up with the Brits fighting for both sides ... the traitors!  (Well worth it though!)

#3 Cyscott1



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Posted 23 August 2009 - 11:33 AM

5 times? Are you stranded on a desert island? j/k

The Americans have the advantage in almost all the scenarios. The designer of this one even says so in the notes. I've played about 20 of them so far. You got to be tricky to play the Germans. We where talking about giving this one a try this winter when we have more time for games. I even built a large game table just for big battles like this one. If you like monster scenarios you should check out my Battle for Monte Cassino scenario posted at BGG. It can be played with only the base set and 1 each expantions.

#4 Latro



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Posted 24 August 2009 - 04:49 AM

Well, I didn't play it through for the full 20 turn every time ... the balance issues were very obvious early on in the game. After that it was simply a matter of adding a house-rule, starting again and see how much it changed the situation.


Those designer notes/hints you mention are best ignored if you ask me ... unless you're the US player and fancy an easy victory, in that case make sure to point them out to the German player. With so few panzers to work with, it's tactical suicide to waste them in pointless rushes against the US tanks. The US starts with a safe lead in numbers, and this never changes during the battle. The only time the Germans get a "major" panzer boost on the open flank is at the end of the first day ... this leaves them with just one or two rounds of combat before line of sight is reduced due to dusk.


That said, it was still a great scenario (with the added house-rules) which I really enjoyed playing (even 5 times!). I strongly recommend people to give it a try! ... and yes, I sure will give your Monte Cassino scenario a try myself, but first I'll go test some smaller ones. I'm concidering to give the dreaded first scenario a go and see if I can come up with some recommended house-rules ... but I'm open for suggestions on this.


(I just like play-testing!)


(... even when not trapped on a desert island!)


#5 BJaffe01



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Posted 15 October 2009 - 11:43 AM

hey latro could you provide me with more details as to why you think this needs tweaking and what exactly you did. i co designed this and if there's something we missed the info would be helpful you can mail me at bjaffe_666@yahoo.com






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