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053 Shock and Awe

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 3.17 (3 Votes)
Victory Results:
 100 %
Record a victory for ALLIES ARMY  0 %
Total plays 7 - Last reported by JVHillegas-Elting on 2023-01-05 15:58:56

In the winter of 1942, Soviet forces mounted the Toropets-Kholm offensive south of Lake Ilmen. Soviet forces, although ill-equipped, were able to surprise two forward German regiments, as the regiments were spread to such a degree that they couldn’t protect each other. Capture of the German supply depot at Toropets allowed the Soviets to press further than expected, helping to create the northern border of the Rzhev salient, which would become key in forcing the withdrawal of German troops the next year. The Toropets-Kholm offensive also led to two simultaneous encirclements of German troops at Kholm and Demyansk. 

  Soviet German
Division 1

2 Squad Bases
- 5 Regular Infantry
- 1 Officer
- 1 Machine Gun Crew

1 KV-1

2 T-34/76s

5 Squad Bases
- 15 Regular Infantry
- 1 Officer
- I Machine Gun Crew
- I Mortar Crew

1 PaK 40 75mm AT Gun

1x AntiTank

Division 2

5 Squad Bases
- 17 Regular Infantry
- 1 Officer
- 1 Machine Gun Crew

5 Squad Bases
- 15 Regular Infantry
- 4 Elite Infantry
- 1 Officer

1x AntiTank
1x Sabotage

Strategy Decks Winter Tactics 1
Combined Air Support 1 (Shared)
Artillery 1
Combined Air Support 1 (Shared)
Starting Strategy Cards 2 2
Operations Cards 043 Tank Riders
048 Heavy Mortar Support
012 Massive Confusion
Deployment Zone Any of the road hexes on maps 35A. 39A, and 37B. Division 1: Any whole hexes on map 32A.
Division 2: Any whole hexes on map 3M
Starting Initiative Soviets place starting units first. Initiative Token
Objective The Soviets win if they control the two victory hexes (on maps 32A and 38A) at the end of round 5. The Germans win if the Soviets are unable to fulfill their objectives at the end of round 5
Rounds 5
Actions per turn 2 2
Reinforcements

The Soviets only receive reinforcements if they control the neutral objective hex (on map 36A) during the listed Status Phase.

Status Phase of Round 3:
Soviet D1:
• 4 Squad Bases
- 11 Regular Infantry
- 4 Elite Infantry
- 1 Officer
• 2 M3A1 Half-Tracks
• 3 Specialization Tokens
1x  Medic
2x  Flamethrower

Status Phase of Round 4:
German D1
• 3 Squad Bases
- 7 Regular Infantry
- 4 Elite Infantry
- 1 Officer
Special Rules - -

Scenario Balance

One of the following (or some combination) may help in addressing the limited Soviet options and balance strongly in favor of the German faction:

  • The “No Fuel” cards should be removed from the Winter Tactics I deck, because the German player has no vehicles in this scenario, so drawing these would be useless to the Soviet player.
  • Add 2-3 cover-providing hex overlays west of the German lines at startup—at the east ends of map tiles 39A, 37B, and 35A, or the west edges of map tiles 38A and 32A. This will provide some protection to advancing Soviet squads.
  • Replace 3-4 Reg with the same number of Elite figures for Soviet squads, again to provide some cover from suppressive German fire (at least).
  • Reduce the cost of the “Heavy Mortar Support” Operations Card (048) to 2 CPs, because the current high cost combined with only 50% chance the contact roll will succeed is too steep for the Soviets ever to consider using it.
  • Consider either reducing the costs of most cards in the Combined Air Support Deck, or removing it entirely.
  • Extend the scenario length to six rounds, possibly to give the Soviets some chance of responding to the German reinforcements that come at the end of Round 4.
  • Remove one or two German squads at set-up.

 

Tags: German Army, Soviet Army, Complexity: Low, Rounds, Boards, Year: 1942, Version: FFG FoB

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JVHillegas-Elting's Avatar
JVHillegas-Elting replied the topic: #905 2 weeks 4 days ago
Thanks for making this change. It was entirely my fault--I usually do compose my forum replies in Word and then copy-&-paste them to the website, but I just spaced it this time!
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JVHillegas-Elting replied the topic: #904 2 weeks 4 days ago
This is great! Thanks for implementing these website refinements so quickly.
alecrespi's Avatar
alecrespi replied the topic: #903 2 weeks 4 days ago

I just wrote a bunch of stuff and the website timed-out and I lost it all!!
 
I've just extended "Session Lifetime" from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. (like saying that you have to push "submit" within 30 minutes).
Let me know if that's enough or if I need to increase the timeout further.
As an alternative, based on my personal experience, I'm used to select all the text (CTRL + A) and copy it (CTRL + C) before pressing the "submit" button.  
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alecrespi replied the topic: #902 2 weeks 4 days ago

I'm embarrassed and humbled that I've been playing this long and still sometimes confuse the art. That's on me, but also the designers could have done better.
I exactly agree with you that the designs should be more differentiated. At the moment they look too similar.
As for these hexagons, I won't hide from you that I too have to look at them at least 2 or more times before identifying them properly (during every game).

JVHillegas-Elting post=901 userid=536
I'd be happy to benefit from (or even participate in) a feature on this website addressed to play balance.

I've just created "Scenario Balance" section just below map picture on both scenarios.
www.commandsandcolors.net/tideofiron/sce...3-shock-and-awe.html
www.commandsandcolors.net/tideofiron/sce...37-totensonntag.html
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JVHillegas-Elting replied the topic: #901 3 weeks 5 hours ago
I just wrote a bunch of stuff and the website timed-out and I lost it all!!

<frowny-face emoji>

To paraphrase what I wrote earlier . . .

To your second point, I have two thoughts. First, I'm embarrassed and humbled that I've been playing this long and still sometimes confuse the art. That's on me, but also the designers could have done better.

Second, your observation only solidifies my overall experience that this is a wildly imbalanced scenario. It means that the Soviets have zero cover to advance against an enemy that knows exactly what their enemy needs to do to have any chance of success. I really would like to get inside the mind of the designers to understand what they had envisioned, because I just don't see a way to victory for the Soviets without significant revisions.

To your first point, I'd be happy to benefit from (or even participate in) a feature on this website addressed to play balance. Some of these scenarios are extremely out of balance. I've read reports about this over the years and just chalked it up to other players not implementing effective strategies, but with this and some other recent scenarios (www.commandsandcolors.net/tideofiron/for...37-totensonntag.html) I'm realizing this is really an issue and it would be good to let the community know what they can expect going into a scenario.
alecrespi's Avatar
alecrespi replied the topic: #900 3 weeks 22 hours ago
Hi James, kudos for this amazing report and detailed review.

I'm thinking of adding a "Play Balance" section in the various scenarios.
This way we can add specific hints to each of them, as they are played, just like your final hints.
What do you think about it?

By the way in your review I noticed that you refer to some wood hexes, but I cannot find them on the map (an this makes it harder for Soviet side).
It has happened in the past that I too have confused the "swamp" hexagons with "woods".

See attached images.
WOOD:
SWAMP:  

As you can see here map 37B only contains swamp hexes and no woods.
JVHillegas-Elting's Avatar
JVHillegas-Elting replied the topic: #892 3 weeks 1 day ago
Played this solitaire five times in a row, and the Germans won all five, handily. I want to like this scenario more than I do, but in my experience it has some key shortcomings that skew the balance heavily toward the German faction. It may well be that if I were to play against someone else as the Soviets, this other player could devise an approach that would enable the Soviets to win, so I look forward to future commenters who have had a different experience.

WARNING: Spoilers follow.

Having tried three distinctly different Soviet approaches (plus variations of two of these), my view is that there is only one Soviet approach that has any chance for success--and even if the dice rolls go in the Soviets’ favor as part of this singular approach, there's still only a small chance they can meet the victory conditions. I will summarize these approaches, discuss my perceptions of scenario weaknesses, and conclude with some tweaks that may help balance the scenario (which I did not have time to play-test myself).


Approach 1: Soviet split advance on their left flank and middle, version 1

Tried this approach once.

KV-1 plus four squads of Regular Infantry (Reg) advanced on their left flank toward the Victory Objective (VO) hex on map tile 38A, while the two T-34s plus remaining three squads (one Reg, two MG) advanced up the middle toward the 2-Command Point (CP) marker on map tile 36A.

Soviets captured the 2-CP Building hex by the end of Round 1, but on Round 2 German squads from the Hill hexes on map tile 32A swept-down and re-captured it. Meanwhile, the German Pak-40 plus close-range squad attacks were able to knock-out the KV-1 on Round 1. Other German squads used suppressive fire to pin or disrupt Soviet squads in Clear terrain (particularly on the Soviet left flank).

Soviets threw-in the towel at the end of Round 2 because they did not have sufficient squad strength to re-capture the 2-CP Building hex. Not capturing this hex by the end of Round 3 means the Soviets do not get reinforcements, and without reinforcements they have almost no chance of meeting the overall victory conditions.

Neither faction had sufficient available Command to spend on Strategy Cards (all Command went to the Initiative Pool).


Approach 2: Soviet split advance on their left flank and middle, version 2

Tried this approach twice, with slight modifications the second time.

For the first variant of this approach, I took the KV-1 up the middle toward the 2-CP Building hex on map tile 36A while all other units went up the left, toward the VO hex on map tile 38A. The two MG squads rode the two T-34s, while the remaining squads proceeded across the Clear terrain. The logic behind this was to overwhelm the German right flank quickly, and then peel-off needed units to the south to join the KV-1 in capturing the 2-CP Building hex.

This approach was successful in that the tank-riding MG squads arrived adjacent to the crossroads hex on map tile 38A on Round 1. However, the game was over at the end of Round 3 because the Soviets were nowhere near capturing the 2-CP Building hex (which, as stated above, is necessary for the Soviets to have any chance at attaining the victory conditions). The Germans again were very effective in using suppressive fire to halt Soviet squads advancing without any cover across Clear terrain.

The second variant differed in that rather than take all the squads to the left, I placed three Reg squads with the KV-1 up the middle. I explicitly tried to shield the units up the middle from the German MG squad on Op Fire and the Pak-40 on the Hill hexes of map tile 32A. To the Soviet left, I advanced Reg squads across Clear terrain again, while using Tank Riders on T-34s to deliver the MG squads to the center of map tile 38A.

The middle push seemed to be working into Round 3, in that there were fewer squads caught in the open and subject to German suppressive fire. Soviets also had the benefit of “Frozen Solid” and “Subzero” Strategy Cards (which they purchased in lieu of challenging for Initiative). These cards enabled the German MG unit to be Fatigued, which helped the Soviets avoid Op Fire and capture the 2-CP Building hex by the end of Round 2.

Nevertheless, early in Round 3 the Germans succeeded in pushing the Soviets out of the 2-CP Building hex and taking it themselves. After that, the Soviets did not have enough firepower remaining to take back this objective, again negating their ability to get the needed reinforcements. So, the Soviets conceded at the end of Round 3.


Approach 3: Soviet concentrated advance up the middle

Tried this approach twice, with slight modifications the second time.

In this approach, I focused the Soviets on the center of the map, and capturing the 2-CP Building hex while trying to avoid as much German firepower as possible. Previous play-throughs had convinced me that the Soviets absolutely had to take-out the Pak-40 on the first turn of the first round, and that squads had to be as protected as possible for as long as possible while still finding ways to engage German units with Combined Fire (to take them off the table as soon as possible). At set-up, this squad protection can only be found in the center of map tile 37B, in the line-of-sight shadows of the 2-CP Building hex and the two Woods hexes adjacent to the crossroads.

Should the Soviets capture that key hex by the end of Round 3 and receive their reinforcements, my approach would be to load the two Flamethrower squads onto the halftracks and move up the Soviet left flank, while the two on-foot squads would proceed across the Clear hexes on the right flank, toward the German-fortified Hill hexes on map tile 32A.

In the first variant, in addition to taking-out the Pak-40 I was hoping Soviet squads could also suppress the German MG unit on the Hill hex Entrenchment on map tile 32A. The three-tank Combined Fire shot against the Pak-40 worked spectacularly. The Combined Fire squad attack on the MG unit was a long-range shot, with squads having to hit on a 6, but there would be eighteen total dice! Against Suppressive Fire, the German MG unit in the Entrenchment would be rolling three defense dice, and since the Soviets needed only one hit to pin the unit, I was optimistic. Using an online odds calculator, with eighteen d6s the chance of rolling four 6s was only about 35%, while the chance of rolling three was about 59%; the benefits of doing this seemed worth it, so I gave it a go . . . and failed! If I recall correctly, the Soviets rolled either one or zero 6s (out of eighteen), while the Germans rolled either one or two 5s/6s (out of three).

Though unable to neutralize both the Pak-40 and MG crew during the first turn of Round 1, this play-through lasted the longest—well into Round 5.

The Soviets made decent progress up the middle, capturing and retaining the 2-CP Building hex through Round 3. Hiding in the line-of-sight shadows was also a great idea, as the Germans suppressed many fewer squads. Until this play-through, the Germans were regularly suppressing five or six of seven Soviet squads each round, and sometimes routing a squad entirely; this time, only one or two squads were suppressed each round.

The Soviets did feel the effectiveness of a close-range German Anti-Tank squad during Round 3, however, when one of these was able to get right up to a T-34. Rolling a total of five 4s-5s-6s, the German unit scored five total hits, and the undamaged T-34 scored zero defense dice, so the Soviet unit was removed.

During Round 4, the transported Flamethrower squads quickly got near the German VO hex on map tile 38A and obliterated a couple of German squads. To the Soviet right, the two on-foot squads advanced to where they would have a Normal Range, Combined Fire shot onto the German entrenchment during the last round.

Then the Soviets hit an insurmountable wall, in the form of the Round 4 German reinforcements.

The Soviets conceded at the beginning of Round 5. They had a decent chance of being able to take both VO hexes by the end of Round 5 before the German reinforcements arrived, but those reinforcements tipped the scale decidedly back in the Germans’ direction.

In the second variant of this approach, the Soviets modified their setup slightly. In each of the two eastern-most Road hexes of map tile 37B, I grouped two Reg squads + one MG squad containing an Officer. I did this rather than spread them out as I had previously so they were closer to the 2-CP Building hex, and also to give all the units the benefit of the Officer’s Determination trait.

This time, I did not attempt to suppress the German MG squad with Combined Fire from all Soviet squads (since this was futile last time). Instead, I moved Reg squads into the Woods hexes to the immediate north of the map tile 37B crossroads. This way, these units could use Combined Fire against German squads in map tile 38A.

The Soviets were doing great through Round 2. After destroying the Pak-40 using Combined Fire on Round 1, all three Soviet tanks swung to the south (Soviet right flank) to within Normal Range of the German-occupied hexes on map tile 32A. Their Round 3 move would have been to use Combined Fire from two tanks to destroy the German MG unit, while the third would use Concentrated Fire on the German Mortar unit (which was tucked away to the far northeast of map tile 32A, effectively behind the Hill hex and out of line-of-sight for all other Soviet units). On Round 3, five of the six remaining Soviet squads were within movement distance to capture the 2-CP Building hex, so the Soviets felt confident at least one of them would get there.

The Germans had Initiative during Round 2. At the end of Round 2, they received three CPs, while the Soviets received two. Both factions had two CPs in their respective Initiative pools. Seeing the precarious position the Germans were about to face going into Round 3, I decided the Germans would forego being able to purchase two cards from the Artillery II deck and place their CPs in the Initiative pool instead.

Feeling confident heading into Round 3 despite not holding Initiative, when the round began the Soviets hit yet another insurmountable wall, in the form of German suppressive fire.

Out of the gate, the German Mortar squad successfully pinned the three Soviet squads in that Clear terrain hex, and then a German squad in map tile 38A succeeded with a long-range suppressive shot against a Soviet squad in a Woods hex, pinning that squad. On the Soviet’s turn they attempted to advance a Reg squad into the 2-CP Building hex, but another German squad on Op Fire pinned it in a Clear terrain hex before it arrived. Within the first two turns of Round 3, the five Soviet squads that could have captured the 2-CP Building hex were helplessly pinned (and the sixth squad was one movement point short of being able to enter that Building hex).

At this point, the Soviets conceded.

Five Soviet attempts, five failures (four of which did not exceed Round 3).

Overall Reflections

As written, this scenario is extremely challenging and constrained for the Soviets. I’m tempted to say that it’s impossible for the Soviets to win unless the German player is sub-par. I went into this scenario thinking there might be a few possible options to Soviet victory, but multiple attempts lead me to the conclusion that the Soviets really only have one option: Concentrate entirely on the center of the map through Round 3. Doing this opens the Soviets up to enfilade fire on both their flanks. The Soviets are also forced to capture that 2-CP Building hex by the end of Round 3, because they can’t possibly succeed without the subsequent reinforcements. Another thing constraining the Soviet’s choices is that they absolutely have to destroy the Pak-40 at the outset, or that gun will wreak havoc on both Soviet tanks and any squads in buildings.

While the Soviets are extremely limited in what they can—and have to—do, the Germans have a lot of flexibility in taking subtle but key actions to thwart what they know is coming. This includes shifting units amongst the cover-providing terrain in map tile 38A, and keeping their Anti-Tank squad(s) hidden behind the hill hex in map tile 36A until such time as they can pop-out and target Soviet tanks. They can also rely heavily on Suppressive Fire against Soviet squads in Clear terrain, knowing the Soviets have to keep rushing forward to have any chance at success, yet also knowing that most Soviet squads have zero cover.

Even _if_ the Soviets take the 2-CP Building hex by the end of Round 3, this scenario is still tilted in favor of the German player. Reinforcing Soviet half-track units are challenged in getting to the VO hexes, and the squad reinforcements on foot cannot possibly reach these hexes within the remaining two rounds. The best offensive support the on-foot squads can provide is Fire-and-Movement half firepower. The barbed wire in front of German positions also makes it challenging, because either squads must “go the long way around” it or one or more Soviet tanks must spend some of their Movement Points to clear it so squads can pass. In doing so, the tanks make themselves more vulnerable to the German Anti-Tank squads.

I don’t see how the Combined Air Support Deck does either faction any good. First, the face-up card may not even be for the given faction. If it is a card the faction can use, it’s likely to cost three or four CPs to activate. Finally, even if the faction pays the cost, the Establish Contact dice rolls may not come through! In all my play-throughs, neither faction got close to having enough CPs at one time to contemplate spending three or four on a card. The Combined Air Support Deck also compares unfavorably to the other two Strategy Deck options. The Winter Tactics deck is very useful for the Soviet player (minus the “No Fuel” cards—see below), and the Artillery I deck is somewhat useful for the German player (as long as the “Increased Priority” card is amongst the first revealed).

Echoing the lack of utility of the Combined Air Support Deck, the “Heavy Mortar Support” Operations Card (048) is similarly not useful to the Soviet player.

At first I thought the German player _not_ being able to use Combined Fire (“Massive Confusion” Operations Card (012)) would be a hindrance, but it is not. The German faction does quite well without it.


Scenario Revision Suggestions

One of the following—or some combination—may help in addressing the limited Soviet options and balance strongly in favor of the German faction:

The “No Fuel” cards should be removed from the Winter Tactics I deck, because the German player has no vehicles in this scenario, so drawing these would be useless to the Soviet player.

Add 2-3 cover-providing hex overlays west of the German lines at startup—at the east ends of map tiles 39A, 37B, and 35A, or the west edges of map tiles 38A and 32A. This will provide some protection to advancing Soviet squads.

Replace 3-4 Reg with the same number of Elite figures for Soviet squads, again to provide some cover from suppressive German fire (at least).

Reduce the cost of the “Heavy Mortar Support” Operations Card (048) to 2 CPs, because the current high cost combined with only 50% chance the contact roll will succeed is too steep for the Soviets ever to consider using it.

Consider either reducing the costs of most cards in the Combined Air Support Deck, or removing it entirely.

Extend the scenario length to six rounds, possibly to give the Soviets some chance of responding to the German reinforcements that come at the end of Round 4.

Remove one or two German squads at set-up.
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joeyama replied the topic: #597 1 year 3 months ago
Ops sorry you've already added on PtB scenario page!
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joeyama replied the topic: #596 1 year 3 months ago
No problem! Grad to see this game is still active!!

Hey there is new Errata and FAQ for FoB on BGG originally done by (supposed be) 1A Games.

boardgamegeek.com/filepage/103500/fotb-errata-and-faq

However there is no images with this file and looks like "Prelude to Breakout" should have corrected map. Instead of the map, there is a paragraph:

"In the “Prelude to Breakout” scenario, the two-point command objective on map 32A is Soviet and not German. Also, there should be a two-point German command objective on map 33A behind the hill (compass direction 3) on the clear hex next to the balka, and a neutral two-point command objection on the hill hex of 36A."
(If this post should be the scenario PtB then sorry to post here...)
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alecrespi replied the topic: #595 1 year 3 months ago
Thank you both for the compliments and for submitting the correct background text.
I've just replaced it!
joeyama's Avatar
joeyama replied the topic: #594 1 year 3 months ago
First of all huge thx for these great works! I really appreciated.
The intro of this scenario should be following:

In the winter of 1942, Soviet forces mounted the Toropets-Kholm offensive south of Lake Ilmen. Soviet forces, although ill-equipped, were able to surprise two forward German regiments, as the regiments were spread to such a degree that they couldn’t protect each other. Capture of the German supply depot at Toropets allowed the Soviets to press further than expected, helping to create the northern border of the Rzhev salient, which would become key in forcing the withdrawal of German troops the next year. The Toropets-Kholm offensive also led to two simultaneous encirclements of German troops at Kholm and Demyansk.

Random Quote

It is the last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe, but it is a claim from which I will not recede and which, God willing, I will make good. (Delivered in a speech covering the Sudetenland, 1938)
German Leader Adolf Hitler