So, my prep work has come to fruition, and here is the battle report. I'm sure I made all sorts of mistakes, but it was a good time.
If you'll recall, both forces started off with a 9 for Force Morale (FM), so I rolled to see who would go first in the Patrol Phase. I probably screwed this up, but I rolled to see who would start off with the command dice, and the Germans won again.
Germans are up, roll 4, 4, 3, 2, 1: cracked me up all game that the Germans only had one Sr Ldr and consistently rolled a lot of 4s. The 1 brought the remainder of 2nd Squad on (2nd Fire Group, or 2FG, and its Jr Ldr) in the center. The 2 was used to bring 3rd Squad on the table to the right, putting 3FG on hill and 3AG to its right. The 3 was used to bring 1st Squad on the table to the left, where the Jr Ldr used a CI to have the LMG fire up the Brits who thought they were creeping beside the building (2RG and the PC). 9 dice were used, resulting in five hits, which rolled up 2 kills and 2 shock. In another trend, I had to roll to see if the PC was one of the guys that got hit, and I rolled a '1,' so yes, he was hit. I rolled a 3, so he was wounded, lost 1 CI for the remainder of the game, and could do nothing for the rest of the turn.
With all German squads on the table and only the PzSchreck team and PC left to deploy, I decided to use one of the 4s to bring the PC on. I placed him with 3rd squad on the right, where he used a CI to get 3FG to lay into the Brit 1st Section, to no effect.
Brits roll up 1, 2, 4, 4, 5: the 1 brings on the 2" mortar team, the 2 brings on all of 3rd section on the far right, and one of the 4s brings the Brit Plt Sgt with 3rd section. The other 4 is useless as the PC is out of the fight until next turn.
Germans roll up a 3, 4, 4, 5, 5 (not a single 6 has been rolled in command die yet): the 3 is used on 1st Squad on the left, where 1FG lights into 2RG again, hitting the Brit PC again (still out until next turn, now reduced to 1 CI). 1AG was intent on moving up to the wall and putting a hurt on 2RG, but didn't roll enough movement to get there.
One of the 4s was used to activate the German PC (on far right with 3rd Squad). 3FG lays into 1st Section, getting a kill and a couple shock, while 3AG moved forward with the PC.
Brits rolled up: 1, 1, 1, 4, 6: finally a six, but only one of them is worthless... A 1 lets the 2" drop smoke; they wanted it in front of the German 1FG on the hill (to help out 2RG and 3rd Section), but the smoke was off the mark 6" to the left.
1BG uses a 1 to open up on 3FG on the hill opposite them, getting a kill and a shock.
The Plt Sgt used the 4 and decided to have 3rd Section haul ass (3D6 of movement, lose 3 pips for terrain, and +1 point of shock on each team); ended up with 9" of movement, not bad.
The Germans then rolled up 1, 3, 4, 4, 5 (these excess fours are killing me!): the 1 is used by 2AG to move u and fire, though they don't make it far enough forward, so only a couple guys able to fire at 2BG in the center (and their dice are halved), no effect.
The 3 is used on 1st squad, where we get some classic fire and maneuver to good effect. 1FG lights into 2RG again,where the PC is again hit, this time killing him (you would think this is impossible, but each time I rolled to see if the PC got hit I rolled a 1). Two others are killed as well. The situation is ripe for exploitation, and the Jr Ldr uses his other CI to have 1AG move into close combat. I give them a move order, -1D6 for hopping the wall, and we are in close combat.
But first: at this point I realize I have been remiss in not taking morale tests. The Brit PC just went down, so I know I need to test for that. I turn to my trusty QRS, and it turns out I should have tested each time he got hit. So I did all three of them at this point, getting -1 for each wound and -2 for his untimely death. Brit FM stands at 5, so everything is okay, but not for long...
Brits roll up 3, 3, 4, 4 (two 4s sucks as the PC is dead): One 4 is used on the Brit Plt Sgt, who uses two CI to remove the shock from each team, and then move them into the field (I think I might have messed this up; he used two of his three CI to remove shock, does he have to use 2 CI to order section of two teams, or just 1 CI to order entire section to do the same thing?).
One 3 is used to activate 1st Section's Jr Ldr, who pulls 1 shock off 1RG and gets 1BG to move over and fire at 3FG (on the hill), to no effect. Final 3 is used on 2nd Section's Jr Ldr, who kills the two Germans it can see from 2AG (in the center).
The 4 is of course used to activate the PC (on the right with 3AG). He removes some shock and moves them 3AG forward, just out of close combat distance.
The Germans roll up 4, 4, 5, 5, 6 (one four is always wasted, two pips for the CoC dice, and a single, worthless 6): we have our first CoC dice ready for play. The German PC uses the four to pull off some shock and have 3AG lay into 1st Section, but manages only 3 shock, which is split between the two teams (1RG and 1BG).
On the far right, the 4 allows the Plt Sgt to activate, who, once again, is countenancing some fire and maneuver to get 3RG into close combat. One CI allows 3BG to fire on the German LMG team (1FG), but they manage only 3 hits and no effect! So the Plt Sgt uses the other CI to have 3RG fire also, getting a couple shock.
The Brits roll again, 1, 3, 3, 3: the first 3 goes to 3rd section's Jr Ldr, where he has the whole section cut loose (18 dice, 7 hits, 2 shock and 1 kill).
In the center, the next 3 goes to 2nd Section's Jr Ldr, who has 2BG put 3 more shock on 3AG in the building.
The last 3 goes to 1st Section's Jr Ldr, who cuts loose on 3AG again (11 dice, 7 hits, but only 1 shock. Inconceivable!). The 1 is used to have the 2" mortar drop smoke in front of 3FG (on the hill on the Brit far left) to keep them out of the fight between 1st Section and 3AG (with the German PC).
The Germans roll up 1, 1, 2, 3, 6: the 1 is used to try to finally bring the PzSchreck team on, but, because there is no Sr Ldr off-table to help, I have to roll and of course it fails... The 2 is used on 2nd Squad, where the whole squad open up on 2BG (trying to take pressure off 1AG, getting its butt kicked in the building by 2BG). They get 1 kill and 2 shock. The 3 is used to activate 3FG on the far right; they just had smoke dropped in front of them, and the Brit 3rd Section is threatening the left flank, so they decide to haul ass left to get into the center building and help out. But they roll miserably and only end up going 4 inches (and getting one shock for their trouble!). On the far right, the last 1 is used to activate 3AG in thh crop field, and they fire at 1st Section, but they're down to only six firing dice (because of casualties and shock), and only get a pin on each Brit team. As I write this, I realize I didn't test force morale for when the German PC got wounded or when the Jr Ldr with 3AG got wounded...
The Brits roll 2, 4, 4, 5: The Plt Sgt jumps on one of the 4s and has 3rd Section haul ass up and over the hill to capture the German JOP over there, but only get a measly 5 inches! The 2 was used for 1st Section to once again pound 3AG in the field, getting 2 kills and 1 shock. 3AG now has more shock then men and is now pinned.
The Germans roll 2, 3, 4, 5, 5: Hmmmm.... I can't use the 4 because the PC is out of the fight until the end of the turn, but I can't end the turn (with the CoC dice) because the 1FG will route off the table and 3AG will be pinned for all the next turn. Though I probably should have because it would have gotten the German PC back in the fight and it would have kept the far left JOP safe (which the Brits were about to pounce on; when they did, then I REALLY couldn't end the turn as I would have to take morale tests for the routed team and losing a JOP)...
The 3 went to the 3rd Squad Jr Ldr (to activate 3FG), and he used his CI to get them into the building and remove one shock.
Brits roll 4, 4, 6, 6 (have next phase): Plt Sgt activates on 4, uses whole squad to move up on the hill and fire at 3FG (the LMG team that just entered the building), getting a kill (A-gunner). I should say that I seriously pondered using the German CoC dice to bring the PzSchreck team on in ambush, but I was convinced doing this would only result in their getting killed and having to take a Force Morale test. I also thought about using the German CoC dice to have 3FG open up on 3rd Section as they crested the hill, but I held onto it as a deterrent to 3rd Section closing into close combat.
Brits go again, with a suckalicious 4, 4, 4, 6 (can only use one of those 4s, and a single 6 always sucks): Plt Sgt grabs a 4 and has 3BG lay into 3FG, getting a kill (the gunner), followed by 3RG moving up and firing, killing the Jr Ldr. That left me with a strange feeling that it was pretty easy winkling that LMG out. Pic above shows 3BG at far left, 3RG (w/Plt Sgt) behind wall in center. On the right in the building you have the bodies of 3FG at the bottom and 2FG at the top.
I tested the Germans' Force Morale, losing two points for the team and one point for the Jr Ldr, leaving the Germans at 5. The Brits have also captured a German JOP, but it doesn't count until the turn ends, and I don't believe I'll ever see 3 6s, the Brits still don't have a CoC dice, and there's no way the Germans will use theirs to end the turn.
The Germans rolled 3, 3, 5, 5, 5 (the Germans now have a CoC dice and five on another one): the 3 goes to 3rd Squad's Jr Ldr, who clears some shock from 3AG and has them fire on 2BG, getting a kill and a shock. This kills the Bren Gunner, leaving only the Jr Leader and 3 shock. I'm a bit unsure of what to do; I've got more shock than bodies, but I thought leaders ignored shock. I decide to have him break, and 2D6+6" sends his tired ass right off the table... The subsequent morale checks (Jr Ldr route off table, team wiped out) result in two more points lost (Brit FM now 2). The Brits get 3 dice and lose a JOP, though this didn't hurt as all their forces are on the table.
Brits roll 2, 4, 5: the Plt Sgt grabs his usual 4, has 3BF fire on 2FG, getting only 1 shock. Now, he shouldn't go, but times are hard and we really need a miracle, so, with a cry of "follow me, boys!" he leaps the wall and charges the MG-42 team, who is licking its lips and loading a new belt of ammo...
After all the calculations are made, I'm surprised to learn the Brits and Germans will both roll 15 dice; the Brits have eight bodies and the Germans four, so I'm feeling pretty good about this, though I know if I take heavy casualties the Plt Sgt will probably get hit and maybe die and force another morale check, possibly ending the game. But that's a lot of stuff to stack up and not very likely, so let's get it on!
The aftermath. I rolled the Brits first, and they wiped out the four Germans (exactly 4 kills on 15 dice) in the building causing two morale checks (Jr Ldr KIA, team wiped out), dropping the German morale to 3. And then I rolled for the Germans and Armageddon happened: the Germans rolled seven 5s and three 6s, for a total of 10 kills, wiping out the Brits in the street. Inconceivable! 10 hits on 15 dice... As near as I can tell, the Plt Sgt got nailed right after he tossed a grenade that got the last German gunner.
I knew it was over, but for fun I rolled up the morale tests. Ultimately, the Brits lost another 6 points (2 pts each for team wiped out, Sr Ldr killed, and Jr Ldr killed), leaving the Brit Force Morale at exactly -4. Game over, Germans carry the day.
Regarding the game, I was kind of surprised the Germans got beat up as much as they did, as it seemed like they got off to a fast start. Tactically, I learned a lot about the rules by making mistakes. I can tell you that if you're used to splitting sections up for fire and maneuver, you'd better get over it because it's a bit mistake in these rules. You will make it very difficult to coordinate action between the two, and you make them both much more vulnerable, particularly the smaller gun groups (don't misunderstand, it says all that right there in the rules). The German 2nd Squad and the Brit 1st and 3rd Sections were much more successful and much more resilient because they were kept together, while the Brit 2nd Section and German 1st and 3rd Squads got eaten up piecemeal. I was probably too timid about using the German CoC dice, but I really wanted to have it for some super move that never really presented itself.
I also learned about deployment, that is you can't leave our guys out in the open when enemy troops are still off table as said enemies will pop right onto the table in the worst possible spot and eat your lunch, which is exactly what happened to 2RG, resulting in the PCs death and the elimination of the team.
Now, regarding the rules. I'm hesitant to write this, because overall I like the rules, I greatly respect the Lardies and what they do, and I don't want anyone calling for my head. I'm just a knucklehead that plays with toy soldiers, and I've only played one game, so please keep that in mind, but I do have some critiques that I think are relevant, in my humble opinion. And, because I'm so brave on the internet, I'm going to save what I like/love about the rules until after I write my critiques...
Philosophically, the rules aren't a perfect match for me. First, I am a very simple man in terms of rules, which you can see from all the batreps here on my blog. The rules I've been using are one page, front and back. It took me three nights to read these rules, cover to cover. I printed off the QRS, which is two pages (front and back), and then made another two pages (front and back) of notes. Even then I spent a lot of time flipping around for charts or explanations. Additionally, there were three times I went to the pdf to look things up, and there were another two that I should have but didn't feel like it (and another three or four I didn't even know I screwed up). So the rules, to me, are pretty complex; that's not to say any of the concepts are complex. I salute the Lardies as everything is laid out in a straight-forward manner and it all makes sense intuitively. To me, the concepts are simple, but man, there are a lot of them. I would also like to mention that I am talking about the rules in their entirety, not just the rules I played with (what I mean is, when I say complex I'm including the tank rules, the anti-tank rules, the guns, the bazookas, the transport, the softskin, the mortar barrage, medium/heavy machine guns, etc..., even though I only played this game with 'standard' infantry squads and their associated rules.
Again, I'm a simpleton, so I'm used to stuff like "Sr Ldr +2, Jr Ldr +1," whereas here there are several paragraphs laying out Sr and Jr Ldrs. Again, everything makes sense as to way the author is doing it that way, but it's a lot of stuff to remember. I will also state that I would guess that a lot of this complaint is centered on the fact I'm a solo gamer, meaning I have to remember, look up, decide, move, and roll everything, which is making it tougher for me than your 'normal' gamer (I don't want to hear from any of your ten pound brainiacs that are also solo gamers and had no problem!). Even from my initial reading I was thinking this would be great to play against a 'live' opponent, but might be too much for my limited intellectual capacity when going it alone.
So, aside from it being too complex for my simple self, I'm not sure about the scale of the game (for my taste, and Lord knows everyone that wargames has their own idea of what they think war on the tabletop should look/feel/taste/smell like. My issue is not being able to split squads/sections. We can talk all day (and we have on TMP) about whether it was done, how it was done, how much it was done, etc..., but I personally like to split my squad, half firing while the other half moving. To me, it just feels right. And of course you can do that, but the authors say and my experience suggests it's not the best idea, and the squad that stays together in this game is the one you can control effectively, has an effective weight of fire, and shakes off the shock. Please, please, please note that I am not in any way suggesting this is not realistic; actually, I am freely admitting I like a more "Hollywood-ized" version of WWII than most. I like having a Sgt lead the maneuver element and a corporal lead the fire element, and let's get it on!
I will also point out that not splitting sections means you only have three maneuver elements on the table. From a purely gaming standpoint, I have found that games that have between 8 and 12 maneuver elements are my sweet spot in terms of having enough to play around with but not so much that I get bogged down. Again, just a personal preference. Having said that, I'm going to play at least one more game with the rules as written, this time keeping my sections together and see how that works out. On the one hand that might make things go faster as there are less elements to take into account for the command dice, but on the other hand, not having a lot of units to play with might not be as entertaining, and I'm a little worried the sections may prove impervious as all shock and kills will be split between teams, with more leaders covering fewer teams to take care of shock. Who knows, but I'll find out. It may be more workable casualties-wise with slightly smaller squads (maybe seven or eight guys), and keep the game moving. If that keeps the squads from being invulnerable it may speed up the game quite a bit, which would be more attractive to me personally.
So, that's it, those are my complaints: a bit complex for me (I'm a one page, front and back kinda guy), and not enough maneuver elements on the table. If you're thinking I'm screwing it up because I didn't have any support elements on the table, I'd submit 1) you still only have 3 maneuver elements as vehicles and MGs/mortars/guns/infantry AT weapons are support elements, not maneuver elements, but even if you count them, 2) you're still talking about only having maybe five (three squads, a tank, and machine gun, for example).
I'll even take a shot in the dark as to why the rules are too complex. I say this because I think the complexity is out of character for the Lardies when you take a look at their other sets (at least the ones I have). I think it's a response to criticism from people that wanted them to make their rules more like other folks' rules. The perfect example of what I mean is the firing tables from IABSM. I saw so many complaints about that, i.e., "what am I supposed to do? I simply can't figure out what the difference is between a fair shot, a good shot, and a bad shot!" I suppose what was never heard was the vast majority of folks that bought the rules that had no problem figuring this out. So I think the 'complexity,' i.e., length of the rules was an attempt by the Lardies to placate those folks that had to have someone spell out, in detail, every single thing. Who knows, but that's my feeling on reading the rules.
Now, what did I like, or, more appropriately, what did I love!? And I don't just say that to try to make you like me, I really did absolutely love a lot about the rules. First and foremost, hands down this is the coolest system of Command and Control I've seen in a game. I love the command dice concept, I love the Leader concept, and I love the Force Morale concept. Those three ideas tie together in a seamless manner that, in my opinion, introduces just the right amount of friction. You, the player, are in control so far as your command dice and leaders allow; you actually make the decisions, as opposed to having cards dictate the decisions to you. I never got to do everything I wanted when I wanted, but I never once felt like the command and control system was running me or that I was just a spectator in the game (which has happened to me with some card-based activation games).
To further expound, everybody's talking about the dice, but that's not it (or not nearly all of it). The Command Initiative concept is fantastic, and meshes perfectly with the command dice concept. Ditto for Force Morale, which I think is perfect in how it models the 'wearing down' of your platoon (in terms of losing the ability to command them) as casualties are suffered. With the way those three things meld together, I can see why the play-testing took so long, and boy did they get it right.
The other thing I absolutely loved was the Patrol Phase, even though I screwed it up! The idea of pushing ahead to establish jump-off points and then deploying troops onto the table is pretty damned cool. You're probably surprised I say that as, in the above game, I rally rushed to get everything on the table, but the reason I did this is because I wanted to get to the fight and test out the command roll system, having already been impressed by the Patrol Phase itself. In future games I can tell you that I think the where and when of deploying troops onto the table will be a much larger consideration, having a huge impact. I think it also will be a huge factor in terms of making players actually hold a reserve to deal with things that just 'pop up,' just like in real life. Hope I didn't let anyone down, but I was really pushing to get everyone on the table and fight it out. The only issue I saw with troop deployment was with the Germans only having one Sr Ldr in their platoon. This means they're either going to not have their PC on the table for most of the game or their going to have a rule tough time getting guys on the table (assuming they don't take an adjutant from the support list). I can foresee in my games either 1) giving the Germans a Plt Sgt, 2) giving them an adjutant at no charge, or 3) not penalizing them for not having a Sr Ldr off-table (not making them roll, or reducing the chance of failing the roll).
The rest of the game is, in my opinion, is as you'd expect. I thought movement, cover, firing dice, terrain, etc..., were all on point. No one really talks about this stuff unless they have a problem with it, and I didn't have any problems.
So, what next? I'd like to play another game with the rules as written, this time keeping my sections together, and see where/how that goes. But, I am a renowned rules tinkerer, and I can see myself continuing to use these rules but shrinking down the rule book quite a bit. Obviously the Patrol Phase, Command Dice, Fore Morale, and Leader Command Initiative mechanics stay, they're awesome. But I will look to pare everything down to its bare minimum built around those mechanics so that I get the game I want. I hope you don't mind ;)
Also, as a solo gamer I'm looking to use Platoon Forward with these rules. I personally have had some issues in figuring out how to go about doing that, but Mr. Joe Legan has been kind enough to share a batrep and some thoughts on how to do this on his blog: http://platoonforward.blogspot.com/2013/09/outskirts-of-lenningrad.html
Lastly, a thanks to the Lardies for imaginating and ideating and publicationating these rules out to the rest of us, they're awesome!