Saturday, 28 March 2015

Posts I blog in other places March 2015 edition

I've been a little quiet here for much of early 2015 though I have posted a few things of interest on other sites;

A review of the VPG boardgame Star Borders Humanity posted at boargamegeek, since thats the place I felt this style of review would be most useful;

An opinion piece on why boardgames are closing in on mainstream entertainment status;

And an obituary piece on the video game Planetside 2, a great game that perhaps fell short of its potential;

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean - A short update on my inept defence of Malta

Computer wargames, as in computer milsims, generally aren't that great. They tend to either be overly simple or completely opaque with most of the best games being those that are really designed for video gamers such as Ultimate General Gettysbury or Wargame Red Dragon, rather than the games for the milsim crowd.

A few years ago I bought a CD copy of Panther Games Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean off Ebay for £5. I’ve always felt Matrix Games were overpriced (The old publisher for this series) and wanted to try the system before I threw real money at it.

Here is the situation just after dawn of day 3. Last night the Safi and the Central Airfields got overwhelmed. Troops guarding the Victoria Line, the Western harbour and around Nignet had to be hastily redeployed for a counterattack, which as the sun rises appear to have been successful. Unfortunately I have to hold out for 6 more days and I have no idea if more German para regiments are in bound. This game is pretty intense.

Red lines = Allied movements of note, Blue = German. Black Crosses = Airfields.

Originally the Germans landed around the south and quickly forced me out of the southern Airfield. My plan was pretty docile and simple (typical British military) contain the enemy in a pocket, hammer them with artillery and hope they have supply problems. For most of day 1 this appeared to be working. Early on day 2, and probably through the previous night, the Germans started to probe down the coast westwards. I figured this was going to be the big break out manoeuvre so I took most of my reserves from Western Malta and the Harbour and sent them over to Rabat. It now appears to have been a ruse to force my redeployment. Instead the Germans continued probing the edges of the pocket before going all in on a b line straight for the Harbour through the Central Airfield. At the same time, what I had thought was just two units slipping eastward along the coast turned out to be four that swung in land past my lines and stole Safi Airfield right from under my nose. I was expecting defeat by morning, but fortunately the AI planners did a good job of counter attacking. A good test of a ‘proper wargame’ is does it reward you for holding reserves.

Airborne Assault is an innovative game. You can micro manage individual units, or you can select the battalion or brigade command unit and issue it a general order. It will then think, come up with a plan and carry it out ordering the subordinate units. Secondly the game has order delays. I had started moving the units from the Victoria Line a few hours before the disaster really unfolded as I felt the Germans were on the move. Once a formation is on the go changing their orders can take quite some time. There were a tense few hours (of game time, really it was minutes) as I wondered whether the new order to launch an attack would hit home in time.

A large part of the appeal here is the layers of the game. There is a rather complex and sophisticated game under the hood of Airborne Assault, but you can play it very simply. Select a HQ unit, tell it what to attack or defend, watch the results. It is a shame the game (in the digital age) is now unavailable. The later games in the line, now rebranded Command Ops, are however (now published by Lock n Load surprisingly) and I might save up some pennies for them.

edit; on day 5, I'm getting hammered.

Those few german para units that swept around and attacked Safi airfield, one of them managed to secure it for about an hour. This was enough time for a ton more german units to land. Coupled with this some heavy assaults on the east and west sides of the pocket gave me a mauling. I am now 3 days out from game end so I'm changing up my plan. I'm going to pull back to the two black lines on the map above and try and stall for 3 days.