Friday, February 22, 2013

Day of Days Stalingrad- let the madness begin

FoW is first and foremost a game, a World War Two game second. Sometimes some of us want more “World War Two” out of our game than “the game of WWII”. Personally, I don''t really like standard, cookie cutter FoW comps. Give me a themed comp or one with some tweaks to the standard fare and I’m happy, make it axis vs allies and even better- that’s the style of WWII game I grew up with and the kind I want to play. Luckily as the comp organiser, I get to decide the rules- though with input from the players and especially those that have been to most./all my comps.

WWII is a vast, interesting period in history and ye standard X points, anything goes comp gets pretty stale after a while, I’d rather game something a bit more interesting. Bede in Wellington has taken this approach on board and the last two “Bedecons” have been two of the most enjoyable FoW events I’ve participated in. Both were LW events, one themed on D Day and the battle for Normandy, the other on the East front in the winter of 44/45- both were great fun and had lots of tweaks that made them interesting. Those kinds of events are starting to push what you can do with a FoW comp far more than most comps here in NZ seem to do and as a result are the kind that I would prefer to go to.

So roll on Day of Days 2013. This week has been a major headache as I’ve lost two German teams, one though people having more important real life issues and another over a communication mix up and belief that the rules being used are stacked against the Germans  in this comp. A shame really as I was looking forward to seeing these guys in action again. So lots of last minute e-mails and I found a couple of teams willing to change sides to keep the Axis/Soviet split even- thanks for the offers and we are now all sorted and raring to go.

So what are we doing to Day of Days to tweak it and get a Stalingrad theme going?

1. Axis of Attack
All axis teams will attack in some rounds, all Soviets in others to represent specific attacks in the campaign:

Round 1: Operation Uranus: Soviets Attack (No Retreat)
Round 2: Operation Winterstorm (Encounter) to represent the fluid action as the German relief ran headlong into the Soviet vanguard.
Round 3: Winterstorm 2: With toughening Soviet defences the attack towards Stalingrad is starting to falter as the flanks are exposed to counter attacks (Pincer). The Germans have to fight their way through these spoiling attacks and remain focused on the true goal- Stalingrad!
Round 4: depending on the situation either Operation Koltso (the final assault to relive the pocket) or a final push to change history and relieve the city. The mission will be Surrounded- which will represent the Germans breaking through to relieve the city or the final capitulation (depending how well the Germans do)

2. Strategic Battle
As with all these events there is also an overall strategic battle. Each side gets 1-2 or 3 pts per win, depending on which round it is. The final round all victories are worth 3 points for the overall winning side. This means the Germans can lose all battles in round 1 but still have a shot at the title by winning on most tables in round 2, 3 and 4. They need to focus on the bigger prize.

 3. Air support 
Will be allocated according to who is attacking- some games one side gets air support, some both, some none.

4. Winter/Snow tables
The battle took part in the depths of winter so this needs to be represented on the battlefield.
With Stalingrad I am trying to theme the event on the larger battles in a very loose narrative. The initial Soviet attacks are in the snow and a blizzard to represent the poor conditions that Soviets attacked in. Does it make it harder on the Germans? Possibly yes. But hey, the Soviets didn’t ring up tally up points and agree to only attack at 50/50 odds- they picked bad weather and the wings of the front where the Axis allies had few AT defences and went for it. So I’m trying to represent the strategic edge in a couple of ways:

5. Snowstorms! 
The first battle will begin in a snow storm (using Night fighting rules to simualte this) Actually technically a blizzard/snow storm.  Some people felt that this is giving the Soviets an unfair advantage. My response? Well duh! They had one, that’s the whole friggin point and IT SHOULD BE REPRESENTED!

Battles the snow counts as difficult going and all vehicles move at their slow “speed” BUT T34s get to move 12” (unless in blizzards/night) WTF I hear you say. Why? In god’s name why? Simple.  T34s were renowned for their cross country performance in the snow and was far superior off road than the earlier German tanks which, with their narrow tracks, tended to get bogged down. A fact that is not very well reflected in a standard FoW rules or “middle of summer” type game. So although  they cannot double move T34s have the mobility edge over the Germans but of course the Germans do also have storm trooper as well to keep up with those pesky T34/76s.

6. An Extra Objective in all games!
Finally our experiences last year found that more often than not the standard mission rules meant that only one objective tended to become important and fought over and so 90% of troops came involved in this battle and games became “rugby scrums and slug fests”. This year I’ve playtested, and added, an extra objective which forces the defender to spread out more, allows more flexibility to the attacker, but also means that the defender needs to carefully consider where to place units and keep a reasonable reserve to counter attack- common sense military tactics one would have thought and in our playtests it made the games more interesting as there were more tactical choices, we will see how they work out in over the weekend.

7. Limited Support Choices
One of my biggest gripes with FoW has always been the frontloading up on Div support and minimal combat/weapons choices. 3E has changed this somewhat as HMGs mortars etc are now semi-useful. With these doubles events I try to focus on the games a being TWO COMPANIES launching a company/battalion level attack. As such the two players should have to reply on each other for support and not on the divisional support assets. To this end we only allow ONE divisional support choice per player max so they need to focus on their weapons platoon choices and perhaps field a semi-historic company- madness in FoW I know. It does make some army choices more difficult but if the two players work together the weaknesses can be overcome by a proper combined arms force and by coordinating their attacks or defences. Finally, it also makes for more interesting/diverse army selections.

8. Limiting infantry forces
I prefer running infantry forces but in events like this with 2 players we’ve found that the games that tend to run over time are those with 2x infantry forces so are limiting to a max of one per team so we can ensure results- same with armour, max of one per team.

So there we have it some of the ideas behind Stalingrad. Players have started to turn up, tables are set up. Bring it on.

So the clock is now set to the predawn hours of the morning of November 19th, 1942. The German 6th Army is embroiled in a deadly war of attrition in one most cataclysmic battles of World War Two. Stavka have been feeding just enough troops into the maelstrom to prevent the city from falling whilst simultaneously preparing for a major offensive on the flanks. The Romanian, Hungarian and Italian armies holding the flanks of the Stalingrad salient are all short on anti-tank weapons and despite numerous calls to 6th Army HQ requesting more, have also  reported the Soviet build-up of men and materiel, but so far their warnings and requests have fallen on deaf ears. The German 6th Army commanders, fixated on the prize before them, do not realise that terrible fate that waits them in the depths of the Soviet winter in a city called Stalingrad…


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful work, Craig! The reason I play historical minis is because of my love of history. Running a themed dovetails right into that. It can help a guy wrap his head around the historical event in a way books can't.

    I wish I lived within driving distance. ;-)