World at War: Blood and Bridges — Air Asset Imbalance?

March 22, 2011

Russ and I are both big fans of Mark Walker’s World at War series of games. We love us some Cold War gone hot, modern tanks rolling through the countryside of Western Europe, anti-tank missiles screaming down range, artillery strikes…it’s all good. We also like how World at War mimics the “organized chaos” of modern warfare (check out a great post on it here). But recently I thought I had found one sticking point, one thing that lessened my enjoyment of this series of games a bit. And that was the proliferation of air power in Blood and Bridges scenarios, especially when compared with the paucity of anti-aircraft weapons.

Playing the scenario “Separation,” I wondered how the Germans could win given their one SAM weapon v.s. two Hind helicopters and a Soviet airstrike. I wondered the same thing again when one blunder on Russ’s part (moving a self-propelled anti-aircraft unit so it was “ops complete” when my airstrike arrived on the scene) in “Calm Before the Storm” led to the total obliteration of two Chieftain platoons and their headquarters unit.

Burn, baby, burn!

After tallying up the aircraft and anti-aircraft assets used in the scenarios, it comes out pretty evenly: 27 v.s. 26. However, we must keep in mind that the aircraft are vastly more powerful than the anti-aircraft assets, with helicopters and airstrikes obliterating enemy targets relatively easily and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) missing quite often, especially if the other player is careful to keep his valuable aircraft out of the way.

In most scenarios (but not all), the power of aircraft is mitigated somewhat by the inclusion of rules regarding missile depletion in helicopters. Also, some scenarios include the possibility of an air cover event, which allows a player to pounce on an enemy airstrike or helicopter when he chooses. However, these are determined randomly, as opposed to on board anti-aircraft assets like SAMs and self-propelled flak guns. Though I thoroughly enjoy the organized chaos of the World at War series, I think powerful helicopters and airstrikes aren’t always properly balanced out by anti-aircraft assets in scenarios like “Separation.”

Mind you, I’m not calling for fewer aircraft, but rather more SAMs and flak guns to oppose them! This will mean that players will feel less like they are at the mercy of the dice, praying for missile depletion or air cover, and more in control as they strategically place SAM teams and flak guns in woods, etc. As Russ and I play the series more, I’ll look for opportunities to tweak scenarios that seem a little off balance.

Yup. More missiles for our poor grunts.

So, have you seen an imbalance when it comes to aircraft v.s. anti-aircraft assets? What have you done to correct this? Or do you feel this perceived imbalance fades when playing point-based victory conditions? (Heck, those helicopters are worth quite a few points!)

Manoeuvre Toeurnament: So It Begins

March 14, 2011

It’s not as big as I was hoping, but we’ve got 9 people signed up for the Toeurnament. The top player from each bracket plus the next best record will make it to the elimination bracket. The groups were decided randomly:

Groeup A: Rick (me), Sara, Hai
Groeup B: John, Russ, Aaron
Groeup C: Joe, Jess, Brad

I was happy to see that there is a game owner in each of the groups (John, Joe and me). This will help facilitate the games being played.

As far as the groups go, the experience levels are fairly well distributed. But based on number of games played alone, I probably have the best shot of advancing. Of course I will have to make sure I don’t underestimate Sara or Hai either.

My wife, Jess, was bummed with her grouping. Joe is a very talented player. And Brad, although he just learned this game a couple weeks ago, beat me in both of our games. For her sake, hopefully his beginner’s luck has run out.

Group B is the “Group of Death.” Aaron is the least experienced player in that group, but he is certainly capable. Because this group is the most evenly matched it’s likely that only one of these guys will come out of this stage.

Best of luck to everyone and I look forward to my first game with Hai on Wednesday.

Even Wittmann’s Ghost Couldn’t Save Them

March 6, 2011

Today we played the fourth scenario in the World At War: Death of the First Panzer game. It was titled “Wittmann’s Ghost,” a homage to the most famous German tank ace of WWII. On one side was Oberst Russell, trying to take back the town of Walkerburg from the Soviets with his West German forces. On the other side was Polkovnik John (me) and my commissar Comrade Kateri, defending the town with the glorious troops of Mother Russia.

The West Germans had two separate forces, a few platoons of Leopards coming from the north and a company of mechanized infantry heading in from the west. Standing in their way were elements of a Soviet airborne division, complete with a platoon of air-dropped self-propelled guns (ASU-85s). The three forces made contact early as Soviet Sagger teams and anti-tank guns opened fire on the German panzers and infantry fighting vehicles alike, but then inflicted little damage. Soon a company of T-72s arrived on the scene, taking light losses as they charged across the map to engage a rush of infantry fighting vehicles.

Things descended into a whirling melee during the mid-game, with T-72s and Soviet infantry slugging it out at close quarters with the West Germans. The Soviet tanks took pretty heavy losses, but they got the job done and eventually obliterated the West German mechanized infantry company, leaving only smoking hulks on the hill south of Walkerburg. Russ’s Leopards came on strong, eliminating and disrupting a few platoons of Soviet infantry, but after a short while, the combined firepower of the Soviets was too much for the Deutsche, and they quit the field.

This short, small scenario was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I thought early on that I would be turned into mincemeat, but soon realized that there was only a small area of open terrain that my T-72s would have to cross before making it to a long ridge on the south edge of the map. I used this to shield my tanks from Russ’s deadly Leopards for as long as possible, which allowed me to concentrate the majority of my forces on the mechanized infantry, destroying them outright before the whole lot turned on the Leopards.

I was reminded tonight why I enjoy the World at War system so much–it’s a simple ruleset that I can not touch for months, then pick up in fifteen minutes and feel competent with. Plus, the carnage on the field after a scenario is just great to see!

Unfortunately, the Black Baron's ghost did not aid the West Germans.