Friday, 28 April 2017

GF9 Tanks Practise Games - Part 2: Test Game 2

Still smarting from the humiliating thrashing that my Shermans got in my first practise game, I was determined that they could do better. But, at the same time, I also felt that I needed to adjust some of the parameters of the game to meet my experience level.

I decided to add some additional scenery this time, just to make the line of sight
a little less obvious and also obstruct the temptation to rush tanks in a straight,
unhindered line to their target.
In my last game, I perhaps complicated matters more than I had to by adding quite a few 'uprade cards' as if dealing with the basic rules wasn't enough to be getting on with. So I left this aspect of the game balancing out this time, and instead took a simpler 'nearest equivalent' means to achieve force parity.

I used a spare 1/100 scale T-34 model I already had to give the German force two tanks to match the US force's two. While the points value might not match exactly, the benefits of simplifying the attack and defence values - by just having the basic tank cards - makes calculating effects of engagements easier for a novice like me.

The T-34 will stand in for a 17 point Panzer IV, so the German force will add up to 49 points while the US will be 45 points. Not too much of a discrepancy - hopefully the addition of a 76mm armed Sherman will help counter the fearsome Panther this time around.

Game On! Time For Revenge?
My strategies were - once again - fairly rudimentary (for either side). I split the US team, with the standard Sherman making a bee-line for the 'Panzer IV', whilst the slightly more powerful 76mm armed Sherman had the job of keeping the Panther busy...

As for the German force,  I decided to be a little more defensive - despite having a slight advantage and I was hoping to use the extra cover I had added on the table to maybe do some crafty sniping with the panther before the Sherman '76' could use its mobility to close in.

American 'Blitzkrieg'
I settled the Panzer IV in some nearby wood, hoping to use the cover and block the standard Sherman's headlong dash down the flank. But, I swung the Sherman in towards the middle of the table - my thinking was that I wanted to try and deal with the Panzer IV as fast as possible. If I got lucky and destroyed it then it would be 2v1 against the Panther...

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, I could see the Panther laying in wait for me behind cover so I switched the direction of my '76' and turned left hoping to sneak a peak (and get a shot) at the 'Panzer IV' from a distance through the gaps between the scenery...

Bear in mind, that while it looks like the Panther can see me, the Sherman '76'
is actually completely behind the woods so - according to the rules - out of sight.
Spotting this change of direction, the Panther used it's 'Blitzkrieg' special ability to move from behind its cover in order to track the '76's' movement. And here's where I got clever...

On the next Movement round, the 'Panzer IV' moved first (having the lowest 'Initiative') and chose to retreat back behind the wood and to it's right - still trying to block the oncoming Sherman's advance down that outer edge of the table - BUT, instead, the standard Sherman moved even further in toward the middle of the table and bravely - threatened the Panther's flank!

The Panther - which moved last (having the highest 'Initiative') - used its move to counter this thread by swinging around to face the little Sherman...

Having the highest 'Initiative' also meant that the Panther shot first in the Shooting phase and I held my breath as it rolled its attack (remembering how it had decimated my Shermans in the last game) but the German's dice rolling let it down and the little Sherman managed to pull off a terrific defence roll and survived!

Not only that, but the Shermans replying fire scored a critical and the resultant 'crit card' meant that the Panther suffered a damaged turret. This meant that in the next Movement phase the Panther could not turn its turret to engage the Sherman '76' as it took advantage of the Panther's occupation with ethe little Sherman and rushed forward to - again - threaten the German's rear...

It was a perfectly executed trap (albeit dependent on a good deal of luck), as whichever way the Panther turned now it would expose it's weak rear to either one of the American tanks.

It was a case of the lesser of two evils and with its turret still jammed (as it failed to repair its damage during the previous Command phase), the Panther chose to focus its fire on the little Sherman as that already had the most damage on it already. But - bless it - the little Sherman again pulled off a mighty defence roll and so the 'Initiative' and the advantage passed to the Sherman '76'...

And what a shot! Two crits and three hits, it was a devastating attack and one that the Panther's defence dice failed to cancel out. So it was three normal hits plus to Critical Cards which also added another two hits each for each crit card, making a total of SEVEN hits. The Panther already had two hits, so this meant that it now had a grand total of NINE damage and it was goodnight Vienna for the big cat!

KA-BOOM! ...But, not quite yet! (A tank isn't actually destroyed until the end of
 the next Command Phase and then it gets a chance to have one last consolation
shot at the enemy.)
And meanwhile, it was the little Shermans turn to shoot - caught as it was between a rock and a hard place - and it turned its gun to deal with the 'Panzer IV' in its rear. The Dice Gods definitely seem to have jumped ship in this game as the Sherman pulled off a roll of no less that three 'crits'...

The panzer - unable to answer this with its defence roll - took a huge pounding and drew the drew some very unpleasant 'crit cards', including the dreaded 'Bail Out' card which effectively left it dead in the water! (This also raised the panzers total damage to 4, leaving it just one point away from destruction.)

And, as that action brought the Shooting phase to the end and the Command phase began, it was the time for the Panther to perform its very last action in the game. The 'Final Fury' rule allows a tank which was - technically - destroyed during the last Shooting phase to end its life with a bang (literally) and take one final shot at any target it chooses.

In this case, the Panther attempted to lend what support it could to its teammate and targeted its spite at the little Sherman...

But, in yet another epic turn of events, the little Sherman dodged fate again and rolled an incredible 6 & 5 to counter the Panther's 6 & 5! 'Gott in Himmel!'...There was a moment of stunned silence...

And with that, the Panther exploded...

(I had to pause for a cup of tea at this point before continuing...Honestly, the game was so tense.) In truth, with the Panther dead and the 'Panzer IV' out of action the strains of the Fat Lady warming up in the wings was clearly audible. And after a couple of slurps of tea the star of the game, the plucky little Sherman, could take its time and move in for the final kill.

And - as if it needed the help - the Sherman '76' repositioned itself so it could support its mate with a long range shot...

BUT...In another twist of fate in had already been a game of surprises, the next Shooting phase did not bring about the expected coup de grace, not immediately anyway. The stay of execution was brought about by my being confused about what to do about defending a tank whose crew had abandoned it.

Did a 'Bail Out' have an impact on the number of dice that was assigned to the defending tank?

I actually had to 'pause' the game and seek clarification by means of the GF9 Tanks Facebook page...

Luckily, it is a big and very active FB Group and it wasn't long before I got some replies (enough time for me to finish off my mug of tea). The answer was that there was no special effect, it seems, other than the defender not receiving an extra dice for moving - obviously - because it couldn't.

But this pause in proceedings had allowed the German to catch his breath - it seems - as when I got back to rolling the dice he actually managed to throw a saving roll (admittedly, it was a poor attacking role by the American tank)!

Could this game get any more of a twisty finale? The answer to that was YES...For, as it turned out, the help of the Sherman '76' had to be called upon to finish the job, but guess what?

REALLY? You are joking!
Nope, no joke, the abandoned panzer beat two attacks, it's crew must have been hiding in the nearby woods and laughing their heads off. What a time for the Germans to get their dice mojo back.

But, hold onto your socks, because it gets worse (or better, depending who you are rooting for)...

With the 'Panzer IV' unable to return fire it was onto the Command phase and the German chose to roll - naturally - to cancel ('repair') the 'Bail Out' card and put the crew back in the tank. This was successful and so the next Movement phase saw some shuffling about for positioning with the German (first to move) ending up with the little Sherman firmly clamped to his side (I was darned sure I wasn't going to miss this time)!

And - with some relief - the Sherman didn't miss and threw a destroying roll...But (yes, another 'but'), you remember that 'Final Fury' rule?

With the very last shot of the game, the tenacious Panzer IV (where were these rolls in the rest of the game) managed to roll a critical and a normal hit and the poor little Sherman drew a nasty 3 damage 'crit card' in the most brutal and ironic 'trade kill' (which is one death for another).

--- THE END - U.S. VICTORY! ---

The Debrifing
Phew! That was emotionally draining. I could not have asked for a more different game after the last lacklustre practise game I had. This one had everything in it!

Most of all, I was exceptionally pleased to have my faith in the M4 Sherman tank restored after the beating they took in that earlier practice game. While - as it was historically - the M4 Sherman was at some disadvantage when compared to the later WW2 German tanks, given the right circumstances (and a bit of luck) the Sherman could still pull off a victory.

I think the addition of the extra scenery probably helped, as the Shermans used these to good advantage. Though, the decision to play the German tanks defencively probably helped the Shermans cash in on their aggresive manoeuvring.

Still, in the end, the dice had the last say and I have relived that the American dice were not 'broke' (as I was beginning to think after their last horrendous outing).

Still Learning, But Making Progress
I am still making a few errors in my interpretation of the rules, or am not quite sure how certain rules should be interpreted. But, on the whole, I felt this game flowed a bit more smoothly than the last, with only two or three stops to check the manual or web for clarification.

Even so, there are two areas of the rules I must sit down and study again, and take pains to reinforce in my next game. These are...

• The Defence Dice Allocation Rule: How many dice assigned to a defending tank can vary, and I need to get the various modifiers clear in my head (I felt I missed out a dice here and there, or maybe added one on occasion because of my uncertainty).

• The 'Stand Still' Rule: A tank does not have to during the Movement Phase. In fact, there are certain advantages to standing still. I need to be clear on the rules about this and - in particular - its effect on the allocation of dice regarding a stationary tank when attacking or defending.

But, overall, most of my errors were down to simple forgetfulness due to the excitement of battle. So, the more practise games I have the better I will get and more natural the mechanics of the game will get. And I was exceptionally pleased and had lots of fun with this latest game of Tanks.

The 75mm gunned M4 Sherman was the mainstay of the Western Allies during
the latter half of WW2. So, I was most relieved to find that it actually could
hold it's own against a technically superior enemy if it was handled correctly!
One thing I decided, though, is that for my next game I will print out a 'crib sheet' for the turn order. This will give me a 'tick list' of things to do in a turn so I don't accidentally forget to apply certain rules.

Next: Let's play Tank Destroyer, as I practise using the Assault Gun rules with a Jagdpanther! 

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