Friday, December 9, 2016

Barbarossa - The Day of Battle

Note: This games day was run in September, but for a variety of reasons I've been worrying away at this report for a little while. 

The Soviet High Command putting their heads together
Comrade Siskey (left) has clearly been marked for purging and didn't get the memo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Barbarossa Campaign in Memoir '44 Campaign Book One.  It is a campaign of two player Memoir '44 games linked together.  The campaign is divided into Army Group Centre, Army Group North and Army Group South.  Each player takes on control of one of these groups and plays through a series of games that advance that particular part of the grander campaign. All the players draw from a greater pool of reinforcements which are assigned at the beginning of the game.

The game is divided into two phases.  The first phase consists of two scenarios, after which each side can deploy their reserves across the whole front.  The second phase consists of another two to three scenarios.

The dastardly Germans doing the same

I had set things up before most of the players arrived so we were actually able to get the show on the road reasonably quickly. Du Gourmand had not need able to make it, but had generously lent me his copy of the Campaign Book so that we were able to give each side a copy each. Sydney brought his along as well - which speeded things up admirably. 

A soviet excursion party by the River Bug thinking "There are an awful lot of Germans over there."

Over the day we had ten players, some of whom were able to stay for the whole day and others who weren't - but everybody who wanted one got a game. I was happy with that.  One advantage of the single board format rather than our more usual Overlord is that the players can play at their own pace, rather than playing at the pace of the slowest player. 

The German assault started with the traditional drubbing at Bug River.  This is one of the most unbalanced scenarios in the game, so much so that the German player must win by a margin of three medals to count it as a win.  It does run up the German medal count though and Mr. Target really struggled with the Commissar rule. 

The panzers are laying all about them at Brody

Meanwhile, the Soviets at Brody were dealing with a massive penetration of German armour and again were on the back foot from the word go.  Mr E began the game damning the Commissar rule and it was a refrain that lasted for the rest of the day. Brody wasn't quite the kicking that Bug River was, but it was still a German win. 

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Commissar rule. In Memoir '44 each player has a hand of cards which he can use to activate his units.  Each turn he plays a card and then draws another.  The Commissar rule simulates the often crude command arrangements of the Red Army in the early portion of the war, when it struggled to overcome the legacy of the purges, which had stripped it of senior leaders. 

Rather than playing a card from his hand, the Soviet player must take a card and place it under the Commissar chip. This card is then played NEXT turn, where it may have been totally superseded by events. 

"Sergei, does that look like a lot of tanks to you?"

Cut off at Pripet marshes - the Soviets launch a counter attack. 

Kiev - a grudge match between Mr E and Savage

This was, if memory serves, a very tight game. The armoured train proved tough and childhood foes Mr E and Savage, conducted a close fought match.  

I'm no poker player, but I think Comrade Siskey's Ivanskoye counter attack is going rather well. 

As I only had one Commissar button, so Savage produced this thing. 

Lady's and germs that is a gold Kruger-rand. I can only presume he hand forged it from gold he pulled from the teeth of his enemies. 

It's all getting a bit too much for Savage as Mr E takes that last roll of the dice. 

And fluffs it. 

Phew! A win for Team Nazi.

Meanwhile, the Germans mount an amphibious landing on the Baltic islands.  

I was very happy with how this turned out.  The beach landing setup was the first outing of my beach and sea overlays. I made these using a stencil from Litko accessories and felt.  They were laid over the standard green mat and shingle added with cat litter. Ultimately the plan is to try some of the D-Day scenarios, but that might take a little while and the addition of some landing craft. 

If I recall correctly, Siskey had a hard time dealing with the German onslaught.  The combination of an amphibious and a paratrooper assault being too much for his defences. 

Mr. Target is looking distinctly nonplussed at the Gates of Moscow 

It's all very serious here. Sydney versus Lorcan Hibernia McEireanneach

Well he's not happy with that dice roll. 

But even less happier when a German flanking force shows up in his rear. 

And the dice are on fire at the Gates of Moscow. General Creaner and Mr Target can't even look...

After a hard days gaming, we retire to the bar 

The end result was a major German victory.  Looking back on the campaign, the German team were able to stack up a commanding lead in the first few scenarios of the campaign.  As their resources began to peter out, the Soviet numbers began to bear, but the Russians were unable to make up the ground.  This is the second time we've run this campaign and the second German victory.  I wonder perhaps if it might benefit from just a shade of rebalancing, perhaps scoring the Bug River scenario differently might be an idea. 

After the battle, the tidy up. 

I really enjoyed the day, though I'm not sure I would do things the same way again. Because each player was playing his own game against his opponent as an individual and there was no concluding Overlord battle which brought all the players together, I think it lacked some of the shared experience that I've found so rewarding in our other games. 

That said, playing so many individual battles allowed everyone to play at their own pace and ensured that no-one was stranded in a "quiet sector".  There may be a case for a middle ground approach* to a games day which combines a series of two player games with a multi-player Overlord to finish. A series of starters with a main course to finish? 

All the boxes must go back on their shelves before Kinch can declare the game over. 

But dissecting the technical aspects of the day aside- it was an exceptionally pleasant way to spend a few hours in the company of good friends, who turned up and played the game in the best way possible. 

NOTE: I've received a couple of emails wondering where exactly "Joy & Forgetfulness" has been of late and suggesting that I should get a wriggle on and write something. Thank you for taking an interest in the blog - I'm always mildly astonished that people do so, particularly so much so that they take time to write. 

I'm afraid that I will not be able to post to J&F as much as I would like for at least the next couple of months. There are two reasons for this.  The firstly, I've become a father, which is wonderful and of which more later.  Miniature Kinchs demand a great deal of time, which sadly leaves fewer hours in the day to write for you lovely people. 

But secondly and to be honest, the far more limiting factor at present is that I'm recovering from a brain injury.  A confrontation in work in August resulted in me taking a blow to the head from which I have yet to fully recover.  Fortunately, the Good Lord has blessed me with an unusually thick skull so I've avoided all the nastiness of a depressed skull fracture, but it has left me with balance problems, headaches** and even more frustratingly, difficulty concentrating for prolonged periods of time. This has impacted on my reading and, even more maddeningly, on my writing.  I have to ration my attention carefully and make the best use of available resources.  Unfortunately this means that I have to prioritise and J&F has had to take a back seat for a little while.  

Thankfully, there is no permanent brain damage***, but the recovery time is a little longer than I'd hoped.  I'm still writing, just slowly and in small bursts. Facebook is proving a useful means of keeping my hand in in the mean time. 

But J&F is not going anywhere. It's just catching it's breath. 

*Ok, so some days I'm more Anglican than others.
**I will never complain about another hangover ever again, so help me God.
**To quote my darling father, Mr Kinch Senior "How would they tell?"