I got myself a Mechanical Turk
I took Mrs Kinch out for lunch yesterday as I'll be away for a few days. This meant of course that she had to get ready, so I had about twenty five minutes on my hands. I had set up the Mon Mouchet scenario on my table, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try a solo game.
Now Ross Mac may have the mental wherewithal to distance himself from the battle so that he can take a dispassionate view. I, on the other hand, get a little more involved - also I don't like playing the baddies, which left me in something of a quandry when it came to solo wargaming. However, we live in a fascinating modern age of FaceTubes and YouBooks and Memoir '44 online. Memoir '44 online is the board game rendered as a computer game. It's free to download and free to play, for a trial period. Games cost "gold", which can be bought from Days of Wonder, but a free account will give you 50 gold, which is enough to play twenty or thirty games. Further gold can be bought from the online store and a game works out at around five cent per game. The obvious attraction is that one can play online against other people, but there is a computer opponent called "Johnny", though if you play as the Allies, he is called Helmuth.
And Helmuth was going to solve my solo-wargaming problem. I opened up Memoir '44 online and selected the Mon Mouchet scenario. My plan was to use the computer to adjudicate the cards and dice, while Helmuth provided the opposition. I could of course, just played the game on the computer without moving toy soldiers around, but where would the fun be in that?
The game took about twenty minutes, as that was all the time I had (there is a limit to even Mrs Kinch's preparation time), and was played to a conclusion. Please forgive the shockingly poor photographs as they were shot using my Iphone at speed and on a particularly sunny day.
For those of you who might wish to refresh your memory, the set up and scenario can be viewed here.
Helmuth opens with an aggressive move toward my centre. The French Resistance units are treated as regular infantry, but with only three figures instead of four. They may choose to retreat up to three hexes rather than the more usual one when forced to retreat. They may also ignore terrain penalties for combat.
In short, they are nimble and hard to pin down, but brutally easy to wipe out if they can be caught in the open. A French Resistance player needs to move fast, concentrate, hit hard and then scatter before the inevitable counter-attack.
I concentrate three Resistance units on the German probe, wiping it out and scoring one point for the Resistance. This scenario was to four points, though the Resistance counted German armour units as two victory points. The point should also be made that the German armour was rated as elite. They weren't really, but for men armed with small arms and fowling pieces, any armour is very hard to deal with and this is a handy way of dealing with that issue.
German armour and infantry move forward on the left. I had hoped to be able to move my Maquisards into the treeline at the top of the picture and make them fight for it, but Helmuth beat me to the punch.
Reckoning that I would be unlikely to get such a tempting target again, I played Air Power. A wandering USAF typhoon or something similar, shot up the advancing German column. I'm not sure if there's any historical justification for this, but needs must.
Perhaps a more air minded fellow could enlighten me? Brother Gow?
Undaunted, Helmuth pounced on a Resistance unit in the open. He was unlucky in his dice though and Francois and friends managed to scamper away before he could do much damage.
Lured into fighting in a build up area and seperated from it's infantry support, Helmuth's armour was at a disadvantage and was forced to retreat by a Maquis counter attack.
Obviously realising his mistake, he moved his infantry up. It was too late and a Maquis unit using a "Behind Enemy Lines" card (which allow a unit to move, battle and then scarper) ambushed the German armour before it could rejoin it's supporting infantry. With armour counting for two victory points, this put me on three victory points of a required four. Things were looking good.
The supporting infantry moved out of the treeline ready to smash to the now exposed Maquis, but their luck held and the German attack fizzled.
Helmuth's counter was a much more worrying development as the second unit of German armour started rolling through the trees towards me. I had been lucky to destroy the first one, but that had taken good fortune and two of the best cards in the game, I was unlikely to be so lucky a second time.
In the hope that I could settle this quickly, before the German armour started rolling all over me. I moved a Maquis unit forward to target the weakened Germans, but it was not be.
But it was not to be. Not only did I fail to daunt the Kraut infantry, the armour promptly machine gunned the exposed Frenchmen, wiping them out. Overrunning the unit, Helmuth pushed through and was poised to hit me a second time, ready to target the two weakened units that had did for his chums in the first tank unit.
He promptly did for one unit of Maquis, making the score two - three to me. This had suddenly gone from a German washout to much closer proposition. He followed up, but failed to scare off the one plucky fellow that remained.
Amazingly, he manages to drive off the tanks, no doubt with a barrage of molotovs. However, Helmuth is showing a distressing tendency to focus on where he's winning and at present he's dictating the pace of the battle. This will have to be stopped. I need to end this before he can bring his superior numbers, not least because Mrs Kinch is beginning to show signs of nearly being ready.
I move up another group of fighter on the right. It's a long shot and they take a single stand from the German infantry, but I hope this will draw Helmuth's attention away from my vulnerable left.
With Helmuth's infantry ready to pound me in the centre and his armour poised to do the same on the left, I take a gamble and move every full strength unit I have into the centre. The plan is to concentrate fire on the exposed German unit near to the village in the hope of whittling it down. It this fails it is likely the exposed Resistance fighters both in the centre and the weakened group on the left will be annihilated either this turn or the next and that will spell the end for the Maquis.
This was a very enjoyable game, rather more enjoyable than I was expecting to be honest. Harder too, I thought Helmuth was going to pull it out of the bag when he got his second armour unit into play. Mrs Kinch looked at me a little queerly when I told her I had been playing myself, but it is possible to play a proper wargame by oneself in about twenty minutes and that is worth knowing.