Monday, June 08, 2009

Blitzkrieg Commander: Encounter at Odessa

I managed to wrangle Des into a game of Blitzkrieg Commander today. I've been itching to play again ever since taking on her Dad a couple weeks ago, not the least reason being that I've actually had time to properly review the rules and was looking forward to playing a "proper" game this time.

As this was only my second game and Des's first, I elected again to run an Encounter scenario. In a way, this could be looked at as a prequel if we decide to do a proper campaign--two recon battalions bumping into each other during the initial hours of the Romanian offensive against Odessa in August 1941.

Other reasons I've been itching to play include the fact that I finished assembling my South Russian village from PaperTerrain, church and all. The base work isn't totally done, but they looked good enough to use in play, so why not? Add in the fact that I finally have a proper digital camera for taking pictures, and I just couldn't wait. Whether my enthusiasm would translate to success on the battlefield remained to be seen...

My BKC forces are failry modest. Right now I have enough minis for a 600-700 point force on both sides. I eBayed some Flames of War figures and used part of the proceeds to pick up enough extra minis to bring the total points to 1,000, which will allow proper attacker-defender scenarios to be played. For now, we went with 500 points, about a battalion to a side. This gave us a bit of choice in what troops to draw from the available pool.

Des lucked out and got a 10% bonus on the roll for the random points modifier. My luck went the other way and I was stuck with a 10% penalty. So right off the bat I found myself assembling an army 100 points short of Des's redoubtable Russians. Here's what we came up with (and for those unfamiliar with BKC, each of the "units," or bases, represents a platoon's equivalent of men, guns, or vehicles):

- 1x CO unit
- 4x HQ units
- 6x Infantry (Regular) units
- 6x Infantry (Veterans) units
- 2x Heavy Machinegun units
- 1x Mortar unit
- 2x 45mm ATG unit
- 1x T-26 (MG) Tank unit

- 1x CO unit
- 2x HQ units
- 8x Infantry units
- 1x Heavy Machinegun units
- 1x Combat Engineers unit
- 1x Mortar unit
- 1x R.35 Tank unit

Things were not looking good for me at all going in...

This is the initial setup. In keeping with the Ukrainian landscape, I kept hills and trees to a minimum. The buildings and fields provided plenty of potential cover, however. Since I did the seting up, Des got to choose her side of the board. She chose the long edge, opposite from where this picture was taken.

I finally got a bit of luck at the beginning of the game. We used the Mobile Deployment rules to simulate units arriving on the board at a trickle, but all my Command Activations went my way on Turn One and my entire battalion marched onto the board. The units in the center and on my right flank (top of the picture) made several successful Command rolls and blitzed their way across the fields. Des then proceeded to fail half her Activation rolls, holding up all six of her Veteran units for one turn.

The R.35 unit makes its way across the field in support of the infantry.

Des had taken two 45mm anti-tank guns and deployed them on her flanks, so I was obliged to send my tank up the center. Fortunately, the gun never was able to draw a bead on me, but the ATGs served their purpose by funneling my tank movement. In the game I played against Desiree's dad, I took two R.35 platoons and he had no ATGs to counter them--I ran riot over his lines...if you can call a 10cm move and single attack dice "rioting."

Des took a couple shots with our old 'misty-eyed' camera. Certainly does lend a patina of nostalgia, doesn't it? Here you can see her late-comer units, including the wacky, two-turreted T-26, making their way on board. (Speaking of wacky tanks, part of my last minis order was for an Odessa 'Terror Tank,' an ad-hoc AFV consisting of a tractor with steel plates bolted on.)

One of the Built-Up Areas of the village is a Soviet collectivist workhouse. I figured there'd be a nice sturdy wall to protect it and plenty of propaganda posters decorating said wall.

My left flank took a real beating throughout the game. Here they move into position; by the end of the game, only one unit would remain!

Des concentrated most of her forces on her flanks. Thanks to some poor dice rolling on my part, I was unable to press her weak center, or the game might have gone differently. You can see a veritable firing line along her left flank at the top of the picture. This may have been during a brutal firefight that erupted between the Russians in the open and a couple units I'd moved up into the old Orthodox church. Between the units firing from the church and my mortar unit positioned behind the building, I was able to keep a small but steady harassing fire going throughout the game.

Des might have been able to force me out of the church at bayonet point, but she was distracted by my strong push up the center and swung her left flank around to respond to that instead. (Incidentally, you can see the mix of different infantry models I've used to represent Odessa's ad-hoc defenders; in this shot are visible some Naval Infantry from the Black Sea Fleet as well as some dismounted Cossacks.)

Hey! Get out of the shot!

Right. As I was saying, she swung her flank to face my central push. (The push doesn't look so strong here, but that's because I've got several units in buildings by this point.)

The game ended with my tank and infantry units about to boot-scoot away from this closing steel trap...

..and with my left flank in utter tatters.

As the sun sets, the village is in Russian hands...but for how long?

We tallied things up after the final turn and found Des had scratched a minor victory--barely. I was one unit away from forcing a draw. Then again, she was one unit away from breaking my army, which would have handed her a major victory. One more turn probably would have told the story one way or another, but the Encounter scenario's eight turn limit is a harsh mistress.

Actually, I was pretty much saved by some hot dice rolling at the start and end of the game. I only got my "kill count" up significantly with a series of hot activations in the last couple turns, opening up from my strongpoint on the hill. Also, if this hadn't been Des's first game she probably would have played much more aggressively than she did. Oh, and I forgot about the Romanian's "Fragile" rule for the first couple turns. Probably didn't make a difference in the long run, but you never know...

We also used the Tactical Doctrine rule from Cold War Commander, and that worked out really well. Both the Russians and Romanians have Rigid Doctrine, so we were both issuing our units with homogenous orders, and we never did close to within the 15cm (as opposed to 20cm) that Rigid units require to act on their own Initiative.

All in all a fun game, a great learning experience. BKC seems to encourage and reward historical tactics quite well, and I look forward to hopefully getting a little campaigning action going at some point in the near future.


  1. Hey, your table looks great! I guess this is a 15mm scale game? The paper buildings look really sharp too. I've been using the free northern European paper models from this's all in German, but it's easy to figure out how to download the PDFs:

  2. Thanks!

    It's actually 20mm. I play with one stand=one platoon, so we can fit about a battalion per side on a 6x4 table.

    And thanks for the link. I noticed the paper buildings on your latest post and was admiring them.

  3. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Your phrase is brilliant


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