hmm since that scenario is mine i'll look at again. it should favor the Americans as the 2nd Armored was one of our oversized Divisions in the Tank assets.
also the German commander of 2nd Panzer had never seen so many Air Planes as the allies commited since the Russians never gather planes quite like we did and he had been on the Russian front for most of his time in service
I was able to dig up the review-report I did (back-ups for teh win!), but the e-mails are gone.
Here it comes!
First of all, a big thank you for giving us this great (in more ways than one) scenario to fight over! Besides actually playing strategy games, I also really enjoy play-testing various games and this one really gave me something to sink my teeth in!
Now down to business …
Looking back at it all, I think the main balance issue does not come from one clearly defined part of the scenario, but from the synergy between a whole list of seemingly small things. On their own, none of these presents a major problem … but add them together and suddenly the US side has a serious advantage that is (IMHO) almost impossible to overcome for the Germans.
The US has the advantage in both quantity and quality. There’s not much to say about this really, they simply have more units on the table and also have a higher ratio of elites and heavy support. The traditional German advantage of better panzers is largely compensated by the operation cards and the two special tanks the US starts with. With those cards in play it suddenly becomes a lot easier for the “humble” Sherman to score that single hit for a light damage result on the panzers while the Germans do not gain enough from it to reliably score heavy damage as a result (which needs 3 hits). Lowering armour all across the board favours the side with the lowest attack values in this case.
Side note: It’s usually not a real problem for the attacker to have the advantage in quantity and/or quality, because this can be compensated by the advantage of being the defender (terrain/obstacles, op-fire) and a time limit to reach the objective … but in this scenario these equalizing factors don’t have very “balancing power”.
This is also a clear advantage for the US. Both sides can capture 4 command points during the first round, but Germany has starting initiative so will have to spend his points first and can’t hold on to initiative if the US side wants to have it … a tie means the US wins. During the next round the Germans have already reached their limit, but the US can capture another two points and perhaps another two with a push towards the central mountain. In short: the US can grab and hold on to the initiative for the entire game without too much trouble (they also have strategy cards to make this even easier).
Now one of the bigger problems for the Germans becomes clear:
- by losing initiative, they need to start with several units in op-fire mode to prevent being rushed every round before they can do anything about it
- because they need to start with units in op-fire and also have less units than the US on the table, they will run out of actions each round before the US does
- because the US still has a reserve of fresh units each round after all the German units have been spent, they can make their important moves/attacks when the Germans can’t react anymore (except for a few op-fire shots)
- because the US will win initiative again, the units that made “the final push” previous round, can now attack again before the Germans can act … and op-fire doesn’t do anything against units that are just shooting
Germans have two panzers in op-fire, four Shermans advance with a move-and-fire order. On average a panzer will score 3 hits and 1 will be saved, leaving the Sherman lightly damaged. The Shermans move into position and open fire: that’s 4 chances to score a hit with 4 attack dice against 3 armour dice.
US wins initiative and has now 4 Shermans in range of the two panzers who can do nothing about it but pray. The Shermans can go for single shots if their previous shots had already scored some hits, or combine for two 12-dice shots if the panzers are still full strength.
As you can see, the advantage in units is made much stronger by adding the advantage in command points (and operation cards) to it.
All strategy decks chosen for this scenario are good decks and certainly have their uses, but not all of them work very well in this particular scenario. The US can use both air and artillery support. The things is, with access to air support, no (experienced) player will ever use the artillery deck. The air support deck is much better for one very simple reason … you don’t need line of sight to the target (no drift!), once you get contact the payload will hit the target anywhere you want them to. With the 20-round limit there’s also plenty of time to collect those handy remain-in-play cards to enhance the effects of the air attacks.
The Germans can use both ground support and artillery support. Though trumped by air support, the artillery decks can still be used very effectively in certain situations. It is most effective if you have the time to get the remain-in-play cards to enhance the effects and save several artillery attack cards to launch a big barrage on enemy defences followed by a ground attack … or to disrupt an enemy attack for one or more rounds. Unfortunately for the Germans, chances for a serious attack are very limited and disrupting an enemy attack for a few rounds means very little in a 20-round battle … so besides being a small nuisance, the deck can never really do what’s it supposed to. It also doesn’t help that the US has cards that can strip all but one card from the German carefully saved-up artillery reserve.
- the US can concentrate their mortar units into very effective double-mortar squads, while the Germans are “forced” to spread them into single mortar squads due to the risk of air attacks all across the battlefield
These are only minor issues though and personally I think that both the air support for the US and the ground support for the Germans have been very well chosen. The threat of air attacks reflects the Allied air superiority very well and forces the Germans to use cover and spread their units. Meanwhile the Germans use their very cheap ground support deck to hamper and disrupt enemy operations and pump the rest of their command into initiative … not enough to win it, but enough to force the US to make a choice between either keeping initiative or calling in non-stop air attacks. Eventually the US gains so much command that all hell breaks loose for the Germans anyway, but during the first day they still have some control left … but never enough to break that devastating initiative-lock the US has on them.
I very much like the variety the big map offers, but there are a few things that have a very big impact on the tactics available to both sides. The buildings are very important for the Germans to hang on to, they are a victory objective after all. The thing is, with a so much enemy tanks driving around, being inside a building is very bad for your health. Every time a squad takes cover inside a building, every enemy tank gets a 3-hex range-bonus and +3 attack-dice for free … you might as well stand in the open! The US units however have a very large and ideally situated forest available in the centre of the battlefield to operate from … that’s +2 cover for every unit. It would help if the panzers could keep the Shermans at a distance, but with the combination of good cover, superior numbers and initiative-lock, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
The US has also a very handy lvl-2 hill on their side. The only thing they have to do is park a truck on it (or a squad) and they have almost unlimited line-of-sight over the entire battle-field. Remember that line-of-sight is not restricted by range and that a spotting unit on a lvl-2 hill means that there will only be a 1-hex blind spot behind all obstructing terrain.
- the German units can’t take cover inside the building due to the enemy tank threat (which the panzers can’t stop, see previous points)
- the US double-mortar squads can come very close due to the map and the high risk for the German units to engage the enemy (see previous points)
- the US spotter on the lvl-2 hill can direct mortar-fire almost everywhere on the map, greatly increasing their effect on the battle and limiting German defensive options
Put all of those things together and you will end up with a US force that:
- has a very powerful initiative advantage that allows them to attack after the Germans are all out of actions, followed by another attack before the enemy can react to it in the next round.
- has long-range fire support able to strike anywhere on the battlefield
- has nothing to fear from counter-attacks as long as they keep their forces concentrated
- is under no pressure to move fast … though their squads can still move at the double!
… meanwhile the Germans have:
- to defend a town they can’t risk occupying due to overwhelming enemy tank forces
- to keep in cover as much as possible everywhere on the battlefield
- to avoid enemy contact basically every time the US concentrate their units
There’s a lot more to be said about this … I could go on all day if you let me (I just love to talk tactics!), but this should give you a pretty good idea of the situation I ran into while testing this scenario. I tried and/or considered the following options to get some more balance between both sides:
I don’t think the choice of units presents a real problem in this scenario. The US has the advantage, but not by such a large margin that victory is guaranteed. It should be enough to downgrade some of the “synergy” mentioned earlier:
- Remove the lvl-2 hill from the US side of the map (restricts the effect of the US double-mortar teams)
- Make the operation cards “Elite tank crew” and “Tank ace” German only (to create a clear quality v. quantity situation)
- Make the operation card “Double time” available for both sides (it encourages mobile play and the Germans certainly need it more to run from cover to cover)
This is where the biggest problem lies IMHO. Fix this and you limit the US option having a guaranteed first round of attacks … which is especially deadly when it comes after their free final attacks the previous round:
- Change the command hexes on maps 10A and 1A to 2 points each (this gives the Germans an early command point lead while leaving the US the option of gaining more later in the game)
- Give the Germans access to the Supply deck (command benefits), Command deck (initiative benefits) or Morale deck (combat benefits) to offset the stronger US command point potential
A few minor changes I have thought about, but not tried yet:
- No air attacks during night rounds (for obvious reasons … we’re not carpet-bombing here!).
- Trucks (empty) can’t claim objective or command hexes and can’t be used as spotters for mortars or artillery cards. (they’re transports, not special-ops units!)
- Both sides have a fixed amount of trucks available, they can either stay on the battlefield and transport troops around, or return off-board by road and help transporting the next wave of reinforcements (the US should of course have a clear advantage here).
With the limited resources I have (that being just me and my evening hours to be precise), I couldn’t go into details about every little detail, but I think this should give you some idea of the problems I ran into, what (IMHO) caused this and how I tried to fix it. If there’s anything you would like to read more about, please feel free to ask.