Friday, November 5, 2010

Roadblock Mission


I wanted to write about this mission before the posting the Roadblock AAR. The set-up for Roadblock (from Das Book) is very interesting and the game could be won or lost after the first ambush in most cases for those who aren't prepared for it list-wise or mentally.

As a cavaet, take whatever comments about this mission with a grain of salt. I've played the mission once and I'm not the most experienced FOW player out there. But, over the years of wargamming, the following truths are apparent even to one with limited tactical acumen such as myself. These truths are as follows:

1) More guns shooting enemy = good
2) Large numbers of enemy guns shooting back = bad

My take on wargamming is to get the most firepower aimed at the enemy, while reducing the amount of his firepower directed back at me. In most wargames, this basic formula holds true. The trick is doing it; therein lies the realm of tactics.

Now the Roadblock missions offers the chance to put LOTS of guns on the enemy at the start of the game without any maneuvering!

In the Roadblock Mission the Defender gets to cherry pick an Attacker's platoon as the subject of the ambush. The Attacker then nominates a platoon (and a third platoon is company is > 7 platoons) as escort. This opens up all sorts of interesting choices for the Defender.


Take the typical LW German Panzer Kompanie. Let's assume HQ 2x Pz IV's, CP1 3x Panthers, CP2 4xPz IV's, SP1 4xBrummbars, and SP2 8-Rads for a grand total of 1,490 pts. Hmmmm...what to chooose? Oh, look! I see 3 Panthers at a cost of 560 pts. Oooh, they are FA10 with AT14 nastiness, but only SA5. I want them gone!

Let's further assume I am running my LW Lend Lease Tankovy with Sherman 75's. My force looks like HQ M4A2 (Nevsky), CP 8x M4A2, CP 8xM4A2, SP1 3xISU-122, SP2 Short Spetsnaz and Sturmies. Okay, my M4's are AT10, FP3+. I could select the ISU-122's with their AT15 gun, plus they get the Volley Fire rule, allowing misses to be re-rolled. On the other hand, AT15 is like using a sledgehammer against a bug (Panther's SA5). I'm also not rolling many dice when trying to hit a Veteran unit.

Switching over to the M4 company. I can fling 16 AT10 shots at the Panthers using eight M4's. I don't want to go MathHammer on people, but a few educated guesses can give an idea of what 8 M4's ambushing 3 Panthers might look like.

Okay, 16 shots needing 4's (50% chance) to hit (Confident Vet Panthers on the road and in the open). Assume the dice rolls are slightly less than average and yield 7 hits. The Panther player is now facing AT10 vs SA5 and needs 5's to tie and 6's to bounce, so basically the Panthers will save 1/3rd of the hits. When I say "save", I mean there's not chance for the Panther to be destroyed on that particular hit. We'll assume the Panther player makes 2 saves. That leaves 5 FP "to destroy" tests for the Sherman player. Needing 3's or better, the chances (67%) are that even with below average dice, 2 Panthers will be dead. In most cases, there will be 3 burning Panthers and a menacing component of the German player's list is gone with the added hurt of being down 1 VP.

Basically, a company of 8 Sherman 75's costing 410 pts can wipe out a Panther platoon worth 560 pts at the start of Roadblock. There's also a chance a German player won't recover because they are so used to relying on Panther's near invulnerability on the board.

Am I wrong in thinking Tankovy is going to have a better than puncher's chance of destroying Veteran units due to the sheer volume of fire from one company? British or Americans can "only" generate 8 shots from a standard 4-vehicle platoon. In those cases, I'd guestimate 1 dead Panther and 1 bailed Panther. A good result, but the platoon isn't even forced into a morale check.

M10's and Marders are going to be beasts in Roadblock. They get to "Tee-up" against what they are designed to destroy and have the guns to overwhelm a target's side armor so that removes the save from the kill equation. Plus, if the escort platoon destroys the ambushing platoon because of the M10 or Marder's paper-thin armor, it doesn't cripple the Defender's force. Who'd be willing to trade a platoon of M10's to wipe out 3 Tigers? Or perhaps 3 Marders in exchange for 3 dead IS-2's or ISU-122's?

The Defender's choice of what Attacker platoon to ambush is where the meta-game of Roadblock will come in play. Is selecting the Panthers to ambush the best choice? What about the PzIV's or the Brummbar's? What if the German list had Tigers instead of Panthers? Maybe the Tigers are a better platoon to select and that means I should use the ISU-122's in ambush because a Tiger's sA8 is going to bounce a 75mm AT10 shot with annoying frequency.

I think most Defending players will look at the Attacker's list and select a key platoon. In the case of the Panther platoon, it's a highly effective and costly platoon with a few vehicles, meaning there's a good chance of removing that platoon from play. A Defender may look across the table and see armored artillery. Maybe that's a good platoon to ambush, removing smoke barrages, pinning barrages and a direct fire threat from the Attacker. Or maybe your list has Priority Air and the opponent has invested in AA. Select the AA platoon and wipe it out. There's all sorts of options.

I'll have to play the flip side of Roadblock and experience what's it is like when a large blob of tanks is ambushed. With my LW Lend Lease list, I have a feeling the ISU-122's will be selected for "Special Attention". If I was running Panthers or Tigers, that's what I'd do.

When I first started writing this post, I was going to complain that I thought Roadblock heavily favors the Defender cherry picking the Attacker's list. It may still turn out to be the case in the future, but it's too early to tell. I think any player planning to attend a Tourney with Roadblock as one of the missions should take a good hard look at their list and figure out how they are going survive with the loss of a key platoon before the beginning of Turn 1. Or maybe the player brings a more vanilla list with several good, not great, multi-role platoons that can perform a variety of functions (Pz IV list with no big kitties for example) after the ambuscade.

Remember, I'm a relative "noob" to FOW in terms of games played. My thoughts, theories and assumption could be totally offbase. Hopefully you, the reader, can set me straight. I look forward to hearing about other's experiences and thoughts about Roadblock.

Thanks for stopping by!

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