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After Action Report from GMT West Weekend

So Saturday morning at GMT West Weekend rolls along and Rodger MacGowan has a bit of time to spare from his duties as convention host and wants to learn Combat Commander. I spend ten minutes explaining the counters, Fate Cards, terrain and victory conditions, then we roll up a scenario.

We end up with a map depicting a vast stretch of forest along one length of the board that empties onto a small farming community. Map orientation ends up 'wide' (15 hexes wide by 10 hexes deep). It is 1941. Rodger will command line-quality Germans against my green-quality Russian troops. We each draw one (secret) Objective chit, then reveal an (open) Objective that is known to both of us - which ends up being one of the specialty chits: "Objective #5 is worth 10 victory points". Since it is very difficult to amass 10 VPs more than your opponent via casualties and breakthrough, this pretty much means that this particular scenario will be won by whichever side controls Objective 5 (a stone building) when the battle ends.

At this point it is time to (secretly) choose our Order of Battles - our choices are numerous but they must match the year, nationality and troop quality as determined above. Rodger picks a Rifle Detachment (a Rifle Company would be a larger pick and the Rifle Platoon smaller), netting him 2 Leaders, 6 Squads, 2 (weapon) Teams, 3 Light Machine-guns and 1 Medium Machine-gun. I select a Militia Detachment which includes 2 Leaders, 10 Squads, 1 Team, 1 LMG and 1 MMG. His OB costs 19 points and mine 11: so I get the difference in starting victory points.

We then roll on the Leadership Table to determine which specific Leaders we get (modified for nationality, year and troop quality) to command our forces. A few other rolls/choices are made and Rodger ends up as the Attacker (he will get a 6-card hand and set up 2 hexes deep) with me as the Defender (4-card hand and 8-deep setup). Instead of saving my 8 victory points as a 'handicap', I opt to spend 5 of them on ten Barbed Wire markers - the other 3 I keep as a buffer. These end up making an arc two hexes deep in front of, and on the left flank of, Objective 5 (the right flank being covered by the board edge).

I set up the rest of my forces, with three key positions: Cpl. Kutisov and a Squad go into the key building; Sgt. Pyotor, a Squad with the LMG and the Team with the MMG go into a building in the center of the map to cover the open ground hexes at the edge of my Wire field; and two Squads are set up on the far left edge of the board - this will serve to either draw off some forces from the attack on the key building or, if not (it did not), they will move off of Rodger's board edge for exit victory points.

Rodger sets up a large firebase led by Lt. Hunfziger in a woods hex that can see both my MMG group and Objective 5, though this latter line-of-sight passes through several hexes worth of brush which will reduce his Firepower when firing at the key building. The rest of his forces are set up opposite the Wire field, ready to take casualties for the Reich in order to secure that building! At this point Rodger asks if he gets an artillery bombardment, as historically an attack such as this would have been preceded by one. I explain that artillery was not purchased by either of us, so it will not occur in our game unless a subsequent "Reinforcements" Event nets us a Forward Observer with a Radio. His preparatory artillery strike may have happened 30 minutes before this scenario's start time, or perhaps it is happening right now - two maps over.

So the game begins and Rodger and I take turns firing at one another as he manuevers forward a bit. About 5 minutes into the game, Rodger makes a Fire Attack against my firebase and his die roll comes up "Event". The game pauses as he reveals the next card from the top of his Fate Deck and reads aloud the Event on it: "Reinforcements-Select one available German support unit (roll) then place it along your friendly board edge." Rodger rolls on the German Support Table and ends up able to choose an FO and Radio commanding a 75mm Artillery Battery! "I guess they're ready to start firing in our sector now," he exclaims. The Forward Observer is plopped down with a clear line of sight to Objective 5 - AND Rodger just happens to have an "Artillery Request" Action in hand, so he promptly goes to work.

Several turns later, there is another interesting series of occurances. Objective 5 is only 3 hexes from Rodger's front line (with the Wire field in between), and an "Artillery Request" Action targeting the building goes awry. The area of impact ends up falling directly on his far flank - including his FO! Many German units break under the scourge, and things are looking grim for the Axis commander. But a fortuitous "Rally" card in hand saves the day for Rodger, which is further followed up by a "Fire" attack that breaks the Russian Squad in the key building.

But that's not all.

A few turns later, Rodger gets a "Sniper" roll that reminds my broken Squad that War is Hell, and he is eliminated, leaving Kutisov to defend the building alone. Ah, but I still have the protection of the Wire field, you say. True, but during this same turn, one of Rodger's Squads on the other side of the Wire went "Berserk", which gave it +3 Morale, +3 Movement, and it must Rally and charge the nearest enemy unit at the beginning of each of Rodger's turns. Wire forces a unit to stop moving whenever it enters or leaves it, but when a Berserk unit gets a free "Move" Action at the beginning of a player's turn and then can still be activated normally for "Move" later in the turn, Wire becomes a minimal concern.

Kutisov needed help.

I had another Militia Squad behind Objective 5 - across a road in a woods hex. But this woods hex also had a hedge, which adds to the movement cost when crossing it. My Squads only had a 3 Movement allowance and it would take 4 to get into the Objective, meaning I would have to Move into the road hex and wait for the following turn to Move or Advance in (assuming I draw one of those Actions!). Well, desperate times call for desperate measures so this was the plan. My valiant Militia Squad made it into the road, but that, alas, also became its grave. The Berserk German unit ended up navigating his way through the Wire and killing Cpl. Kutisov to take the building. At this point, with most of my other forces killed, wounded or missing (but with a goodly amount of damage done to Germans, as well, I might add), I conceded to Rodger with a hearty handshake and a "well done".

I could be mistaken, but I think he liked the gameā€¦.

-- Chad Jensen --