Scenario 16 - To Die on Christmas
Series designer Jim Krohn, publisher Worthington Publishing.
With the recent release of Battle-Pack 1 in the Band of Brothers series, those looking for a quick refresher of the rules to ready themselves for the Battle-Pack can be well served by this short and snappy (though with a thought provoking title) scenario from the base module, Screaming Eagles.
This post uses elements of that scenario to give a memory refresh of some of the nuances of this system in relation to the infantry part of the rules.
For the rest of this post, please use the ‘read more’ tab.
You don’t really need to be away from a game for long, especially if you are also playing other tactical systems, to feel a bit rusty on the finer elements of play, so a quick read of the rules and a playing of a short, small scenario is just the ticket to get back on track.
Our scenario of choice today is a small infantry only action, using just one board with 5 turns of game play. We are particularly fortunate that the rules (version 2.1) are concise, we can have the infantry part of the system under our belts with just 5 pages of text and importantly, many of the processes carry over into the guns and armour section, so familiarisation of the infantry types means that the later rules are easier to assimilate.
Since readers will have a mix of familiarity (from zero to expert!) with this system, I will try to balance the text in the hope that everyone can take something from it, so it will be a mix of explanation and one liners.
For anyone wanting a deeper look at the system, particularly the armour, I have included some links in the Resource Section at the foot of this post that will take the reader to earlier blogged articles.
Note - the system uses a D10, the dice is not modified, factors on the counter may be modified and then a raw die roll is made against modified factor. So when firing at units in a stone building, the -2 defensive value of the building comes off the firers firepower strength and then the die is simply rolled and compared to that number.
The graphic below shows a German unit front together with the flip side, which is used after casualties are first taken. Important numbers are those down the right side of the counter as they show the various morale levels from fresh, to suppressed (yellow) to fully suppressed (red). Morale is referenced for much of what a unit wants to do, so the more suppressed a unit is, the less likely it will be to do what you want with it, because a morale test is simply a D10 trying to roll equal to or less than the current morale value.
On the bottom of the counter, the first pair of numbers are the firepower factors. The number before the slash is the strength when conducting ordinary fire. The number after the slash is the fire value when doing something a bit more demanding such as Opportunity Fire or Assault Fire.
The centre number is normal weapon range and the unit will be able to fire up to double this, but with penalties.
The two numbers on the right are casualty ratings. The poorer quality troops have lower value ratings and are more likely to take casualties. If the fire dice plus the first casualty rating combined is equal to or lower than the MODIFIED firepower attacking it, then the unit has taken casualties and will flip and go fully suppressed. If the fire dice and the second number are equal to or lower than the MODIFIED firepower, then the unit has taken very heavy casualties and is simply removed from play.
The sequence of play is;
Operations Phase (players alternate moving and firing units)
Rout Phase (units in certain situations check to see if they rout by rolling against their morale)
Melee Phase (enemy units in the same hex have Melee Combat, just roll 2xD10 per unit)
Recovery Phase (units recover from one level of suppression and game markers are removed)
Interestingly, the Rout and Melee phases have a relationship, because units in melee situations have to test for rout.
Infantry get 5 Movement Points and Weapon Teams get 4.
Scenario background - Champs, Belgium, December 25th 1944, overnight, German units have infiltrated into Champs. At first light, American paratroopers have the task of removing all the German forces from the town. In the game this must be done within 5 turns.
Some of the German set-up hexes are fixed, this puts at least half of them in the centre of the town. The Paratroopers set up second in any non-occupied building hex, so there is opportunity to set up next to a German unit. But remember, at the start of a turn, the player who goes second can play a Command Chit, to interrupt the first player’s Actions, so they can go first with one unit. This could prove deadly for such an adjacent Paratrooper unit.
The Forces. The Germans have 4 first line units plus a HMG and a decoy counter. The system allows units to set up concealed, but once both sides have set up, some units from either side may lose their concealment if they contravene the concealment criteria (i,e being adjacent to an enemy).
Concealment has two advantages. The counters hide the unit type underneath from the other player and concealment reduces enemy firepower by -1, so it is a very valuable status to retain. The Germans will likely refrain from firing in this scenario, so that they can hold on to their concealment and make it harder for the paratroopers to see them off.
The Germans get 1 Command Chit (it has several functions that abstractly represents leadership) and their Operations range is 2 - 3, so when it is their part of the Operations Phase, they must activate at least 2 units and can activate up to 3 if they wish and then they hand play back over to the other player, who also plays within the allowances of their Operational Range and then they hand the play back and so it goes until both sides have ‘USED’ everything.
The paratroopers have 7 Infantry units and one of them is bazooka armed. The bazooka will enhance any fire against the Weapons Team (the German HMG). They also get a HMG team. They have 2 Command Chits and their Operations range is 2 - 4, so they have slightly more flexibility than the German force, by being able to use an extra unit before having to hand play back.
To USE a unit, it will either move (followed by Assault Fire if appropriate), just Fire or go into what is essentially overwatch and is marked with an Opportunity Fire counter (the orange counter), so that when or if it is later fired at a moving unit, it will get a small firepower bonus and then the orange Op Fire counter is flipped to its USED side. The system does not allow players to pass, so players must at least use the lower end of their Operations Range every time play is passed back to them. So today, both players will always be USING at least two units before handing play back to the other side.
Units can fire after moving (Assault Fire), they use their second fire value for that, which for the Paratroopers is very good (5), so they are very effective when both moving and firing. The German second fire value is just 3 and just to show how bad things can get, in 1941-42 based games, Russian units have a second value (or properly termed their Proficiency value) of just 1, so the potential of this secondary figure really makes unit types stand apart as to their capability on the battlefield.
The Germans have already decided that they will hold back their fire for as long as possible, as they don’t want to lose their valuable concealed status. This means that the Paratroopers are likely to have to spend longer just firing, trying to suppress the defenders and since they are up against the clock, this is a viable German tactic and the American player will feel that tension. In this game you don’t want to step into the open in front of unsuppressed troops if you can help it. It is just too dangerous. A unit firing at a unit moving in the open can get up to a +4 modifier added to their firepower, dependent on range AND get an additional +3 for firing at an adjacent target. That is some deadly fire!
The paratroopers could surround the Germans (above photo) and fix them in place, but this leaves them without enough troops to both lay down enough fire and still manoeuvre in any particular quadrant of attack - because Assault Fire always comes after movement (see Photo below of potential set-up).
So they decide (above photo) to set up on the left side of the board and try to deny any retreating Germans the stronger stone buildings. They do not stack, as fire into a hex affects all occupants (though each may have different modifiers applied if their circumstances are different, such as moving in the open through static troops in foxholes).
Stacking - No more than 2 squads, Weapon Teams of combination thereof per side.
In the scenario, the U.S. Player goes first every turn, but on the opening turn, the Germans play a Command Chit so that they can interrupt and activate one unit first. They select the HMG to fire at the adjacent Paratrooper squad. The HMG is fresh with morale of 10, so it does not need to take a morale check to fire, because it will automatically pass with the value of 10.
Units have to take morale checks to do most things including movement and fire, but those who have an initial rating of 10 would automatically pass, so there is no need to actually roll the die for them, until their morale lowers through suppressions. Importantly, if you want a unit to do something, say fire, if you fail the morale, then the unit gets marked as USED and used units cannot do anything else that turn other than FINAL Opportunity Fire against units moving adjacent to them.
The HMG has a Firepower of 8 (we use the first of the two firepower figures as this is not demanding or difficult fire). +3 for being adjacent to the target, -2 for the target being in a stone building, so the modified firepower is 9. The player rolls a 7, this is equal to or less than the MODIFIED firepower, so inflicts a suppression result on the target. The target unit is fresh, so it takes a yellow suppression marker. If it becomes suppressed again, it will get a red suppression marker. The yellow marker means that the unit must now use its moral value highlighted in yellow, so in this case, the Paratroopers morale has dropped from 10 to 6. The German HMG is marked USED.
Remember - a used unit could fire again if a unit MOVED UP adjacent to it, this is called FINAL Opportunity Fire.
Note there is a subtle difference if a unit STARTS the turn next to an enemy unit and then moves directly into that units hex, the defender is always given a chance to defend themselves against this sort of Action by using Final Opportunity fire.
The remaining Paratroopers pour fire into the now unconcealed HMG, those that fire lose their concealed status, but all the fire, annoyingly for the Americans, is ineffective. Units never combine fire. units fire individually and the D10 is compared against the unit’s modified firepower. The Germans use their Operational Range to put units into readiness for Opportunity Fire (which is easier to describe as overwatch), by placing the orange Opportunity Fire counters on them.
A unit can fire THROUGH other units, whether friend or foe.
Turn 2 - The German player again spends a Command Point to go first with their HMG. Their morale is 10, so they automatically get to act. They fire with a modified firepower of 9 at the adjacent paratrooper and roll a ‘1’…… devastating.
By default, a ‘1’ will always at least suppress a unit and if scoring a 1 while adjacent, will always inflict casualties which flips the unit and it goes fully suppressed (red).
But the result here is even worse than that. This is where the casualty values come in (numbers on the bottom right of the counter). The paratroopers casualty value is 4/8. If the dice and the SECOND figure (8) when added together are equal or less than the MODIFIED firepower, the units is simply removed from play due to excessive casualties. That is the case here (the dice 1, added to the casualty rating 8 becomes 9 and this is at least equal to the modified firepower of the attack). The Paratrooper unit is removed from play and the HMG is marked USED.
Later (see photo above) the same HMG becomes yellow suppressed. A paratrooper unit thinks it is worth approaching (risky). It pays 2 Movement Points to enter the building hex adjacent to the HMG. The machine guns is already marked USED, but it can always Final Opportunity Fire against anything that moves adjacent to it. Since opportunity fire is more demanding, it uses its second firepower figure of 7, which after modifiers remains 7, but it rolls 9 on a D10 and fails. The American squad is lucky and continues with its movement and enters the hex of the HMG. Both units are USED, so they are locked in position until the Rout / Melee phases (if the German unit was unused it could attempt to retreat out of the hex, but such retreats have a morale penalty of -3 when testing to move.
In the Rout Phase, all units in potential routing situations must test morale. This includes units in melee. The player who moves first in the game always completes their part of the Rout phase first. The Paratroopers are fresh and have a morale of 10, so they automatically pass their rout test. The Germans are yellow suppressed, so their morale has dropped to 6. But they roll 4 and also pass, so neither rout out of the hex and they remain in place for the Melee Phase.
If a unit fails its Rout Check by a sufficient margin compared to its Casualty Rating, it is reduced (flipped) and fully suppressed (red suppression).
Melee is fought simultaneously by both sides. Each unit simply rolls 2 x D10 and aims to score equal to or less than their normal firepower rating. For every successful roll they inflict 1 casualty (1 flip) on an enemy in the hex. Weapon Teams do not do well in Melee and their normally high firepower values are replace by a 2 (or 1 if they are already flipped).
Morale is not considered in the Melee Phase because it has already had an influence in the preceding Rout Phase - another example of how these two Phases have a relationship.
The Paratroopers roll two dice, they need 6 or less and score 1 casualty. They could spend a Command Point to re-roll both melee dice, but uniquely, weapon teams are always destroyed in Melee if they suffer a single hit regardless of whether they have 1 or 2 steps, so the Americans are happy with their result.
Since combat is simultaneous, the HMG rolls two dice and get 7 and 7. They needed 2’s or less to score casualties and they don’t have a Command Point left to make a re-roll. They are removed from play and the Paratroopers hold the hex.
Turn 3. It takes a lot of firepower, but eventually the Germans at the end of the long building go fully suppressed (red), their morale now drops to 1 (see photo above). The bazooka armed squad are happy to take the risk, they drop down onto the road and the suppressed German unit attempts Opportunity Fire (note this is normal opportunity fire because it is not already USED, which is different from FINAL opportunity fire, which is conducted by USED units), but fail their morale test that would allow them to shoot. The Paratroopers move adjacent to the German unit, which even though USED, can now attempt to fire again with FINAL Opportunity Fire (due to adjacency), but they again fail their morale roll. So the Paratrooper unit moves in to the German hex and they both await the Rout / Melee Phases.
It is important to note that suppression makes it harder for a unit to do something. But if they can pass their morale test, then they will be firing at normal full strength, so sometimes even a unit under a red suppress counter with a morale value of ‘1’, can pull out a nasty surprise!
Rout Phase - Now this is an example of the relationship between Rout and Melee Phases. There are two hexes to look at, the HMG hex that is under melee and the above mentioned hex with the Bazooka unit. Let's look at the HMG first. The Paratroopers automatically pass their test, the HMG needs a 6 or less and they roll a 1, so no routs there. Over at the long building, the fresh paratroopers automatically pass their test, but the red suppressed Germans need a ‘1’ and they fail. They are forced to move out of the hex, but the rules say that when routing if the unit at any point is adjacent to an enemy unit not in melee, it is eliminated, as the Germans move out of the rout hex, by default they move into a hex that is adjacent to the enemy that they are fleeing from, which of course is no longer in melee, so the escaping unit is removed from play. So in this example, the Melee units awaiting the Melee Phase did not even get as far as that Phase, but it was the situation of being in melee that brought about the result.
Melee Phase - now only one melee situation exists, the one in the HMG occupied hex. The HMG takes casualties and is removed from play.
Recovery Phase - two paratrooper squads are now out of the Line of Sight of any Germans (the view is blocked by buildings), so can automatically claim concealment and are marked accordingly.
In the Recovery Phase, all yellow suppression markers are removed and any red suppression is reduced to yellow suppression.
Turn 4. Another German unit goes red suppressed and a Paratrooper squad manages to get into its hex. Units get help with retreat as long as they do not share a hex with the enemy. In their part of the turn, they can announce a retreat move, but add a very useful +4 to their morale check (for retreating) to give them a better chance of retreat. By contrast an unused unit that finds itself already sharing its hex with the enemy, SUFFERS a -3 modifier morale modifier, so it is too late for our German unit here … they are going nowhere.
The bazooka squad (see above photo) moves down the long building and as it happens, do not take any opportunity fire, but they choose to end their movement halfway down the building and announce Assault Fire. This fire always uses a units lower firepower rating and luckily for the paras, they happen to have good ratings (6/5). Even so, with modifiers (target concealed and in a building), they need ‘2’ or less on the D10 to inflict suppression and they fail. Another American squad enters the long house and Assault Fire straight ahead, this does cause a suppression, which reveals a Decoy counter under the concealment marker. The decoy is removed from play (see below photo).
Decoys are given 5 Movement Points and covered with a concealment counter. To maintain their ‘decoy effect’, the player will activate it and either move it while under cover or put an Opportunity Fire Marker (read overwatch) on it. They are always revealed and removed from play on receiving a suppression result.
Yet another Paratrooper enters the long building (at the lower end - see above photo), but this brings it immediately adjacent to an unused German squad, which immediately opportunity fires, it is carrying an Op Fire marker (orange counter) so its firepower is enhanced by +1, also being adjacent to an enemy when using Op Fire adds ‘1’ to the firepower. It can be raised one more time if the player has a spare Command Points chit, but the second fire value can never be raised higher than the first fire value. Since the German fire values are 5/3, the 3 can never be raised above 5. The die is rolled and the Paratroopers become yellow suppressed.
A moving unit that gets a suppression from Opportunity Fire must stop, to get going again, they must immediately pass a morale test, which in this instance is a roll against the units yellow ‘6’ rating, they roll and fail and so would normally just be marked ‘used’. However, they play 1 Command Point to re-roll the morale dice and this time score a ‘2’. That gets them going again and they have enough Movement Points left to get them into the German Hex. Note the German unit cannot fire Final Opportunity Fire again as the unit enters, because it enters having NOT STARTED their movement ADJACENT to them.
Turn 5. There are just two German units left on the board. One in the church and one in the wooden building at the bottom of the map.
Rout Phase. Though the red suppressed paratrooper (see above photo) in the church is adjacent to an enemy, it does not test for rout, because the enemy happens to be in melee, so only the occupants of the melee hex itself will test for rout, but both those units are fresh with moral ratings of 10, so they both automatically pass.
Melee Phase. The paratroopers inflict 2 casualty steps, while only receiving 1 casualty. The German unit is removed from play.
It is the end of the game and there is one German unit left in play (wooden building at the bottom of the map - see above photo), so the game is a German victory, though closely contested.
(Note, the last time I played this scenario, I had the Paratroopers surround the Germans as shown in the opening part of this post and they hardly got out of their fire positions. A different set-up, a different game).
The Tiger v T-34 in Band of Brothers (updated to v2.1 rules) LINK
Ghost Panzer replay (scenario 19 mass tank attack) (updated to v2.1 rules) LINK
Comparing various low complexity tactical systems LINK
COMMANDERS - my sister web site that is less article based than here LINK
Errata note for V2.1 of the rules. The rule update explains on the front page that now all modifiers are applied to the counter values and not the Die Roll. However, the last sentence on page 7 suggests otherwise. This last sentence is incorrect. The example that immediately follows it is correct. Here is a link to the BoardGameGeek thread that discusses it. LINK