Turn 2: September 4-6, 1939

The German turn

The German turn. Movement = Green, Attacks = Orange, Exploitation = Yellow

As expected, the German armored units outside of Warsaw and the infantry in Lodz are out of supply, as indicated by the hit markers (*) placed on them. This reduces their attack factors by half for the following turn. It also reduces their movement by half, a fact I missed until after the turn was over…

In the movement phase, the Germans in the far north consolidated into one stack and moved on Gdynia, overrunning the Polish guard unit parked in front of the city. A little south of that, the Germans crossed the river to try and trap the Polish units on the other side. The rest of the Prussian front stayed mostly static with only some slight shifting to increase the odds for a couple of attacks, while the Panzers outside of Warsaw moved north to provide some flanking (this is where the out of supply rule should have come in, as they wouldn’t have been able to move that far had I read it correctly). Along the primary front in the southwest, more units moved forward onto the line and some stacks were shuffled to maximize armor capabilities and strengthen the line as a whole.

The combat phase started as it had left off in turn one. Defender Retreat results looked like they were again going to be the order of the day.  In the north, the Polish units in Gdynia retreated into the much more defensible Hel Fortress hex (which is where the Poles should have moved them on turn one…), and the relatively strong Polish stack that the Germans were trying to trap just south of that was sent back across the river, where they could still use the river as a defense.

Things finally started to break loose along the main front, however. A couple of big attacks with highly favorable odds, spearheaded by German armor and aided by massive bombing raids, finally punched two holes in the Polish line. These holes were solidified and pushed slightly deeper during the exploitation phase. Also during exploitation, the southern most armored units made a sprint deep into Polish territory toward Warsaw, while the northernmost Panzers swung back across the river to re-envelope the infantry that had been forced across the river, and the armor coming out of Prussia linked up with the out of supply Panzers that had been outside of Warsaw.

German paratroopers outside Lwow. The Soviets wait patiently nearby.

German paratroopers outside Lwow. The Soviets wait patiently nearby.

Of final note on the German turn, during the air phase, the Germans took a gamble and airdropped the three German parachute units in the game to the empty hex immediately west of Lwow, the southern most Polish major city (not pictured above). Unfortunately, two of the three units were disrupted during the drop, which means they can’t move or attack during the next German turn. It remains to be seen whether any of the units can get into the unoccupied city before the Poles do…

 

Polish Turn 2

The Polish Turn

The Polish Turn

Where the Polish motto in turn one had been Consolidate and Defend, for turn two it became Consolidate and Withdraw. For the most part, this turn was all about movement. Stacks were strengthened and the number of units in the few remaining fortifications were maximized as much as possible. Warsaw was strengthened with more units moving into and around the city. Also of importance, two border units in the far south east part of the map were railed towards Lwow to try and occupy it before the German paratroopers could. Unfortunately, when using rail movement, you can’t move adjacent to enemy units, so they were stopped just outside Lwow to the east, which means the Germans will be able to occupy the city with one unit on their next turn.

The only combat on the Polish turn was at Lodz, where the Poles managed to mass enough units to get 4:1 odds on the Combat Results Table. This resulted in a DR, which forced the two German infantry units in the city to retreat and, since they didn’t have a clear route of retreat, also flipped them both to their half strength cadre sides. The Poles then occupied the city and filled it with as many combat factors as they could in preparation for the next German assault. The turn ended with the lone exploitation move of the Polish armor units from Lodz back to Warsaw.

Polish troops rush to Lwow. Soviet troops still waiting...

Polish troops rush to Lwow. Soviet troops still waiting…

The situation at the end of turn two.

The situation at the end of turn two.

The War Begins

Turn 1: September 1-3, 1939

The war has commenced.

As with most Europa games, Turn 1 began with the German player turn. The Germans moved up, consolidating and reinforcing stacks in preparation to try to punch holes in the Polish line along the border to the south. In the north, units consolidated and moved east to cut off the Polish units stationed between Germany and Prussia. Other northern German units were brought south to prevent any misguided Polish attempt at entering Germany.

The Germans on the move!

The Germans on the move!

The German air phase was highly disappointing. While German bombers and fighters managed to hit every air field containing Polish air units, only one Polish bomber was destroyed, while several German bombers were aborted or returned. Even though they were heavily outnumbered, the outcome highly favored the Poles.

That brought up the German combat phase, which also proved to be disappointing for the Germans. Even with troops concentrated in strategic spots to maximize the chance of getting some breakthroughs, and fairly favorable odds, the majority of the German rolls  on the Combat Results Table (CRT) came up as Defender Retreats, which merely backed the Poles up without resulting in the hoped for elimination of units. This allowed the Poles to actually consolidate their line further in preparation for their own turn.

The only major German gains occurred in the exploitation phase, where combat motorized units can make a further move. The northernmost German panzer divisions and two motorized infantry divisions (indicated in orange in the picture above) were able to take advantage of the wide open spaces of northern Poland and drive deep behind enemy lines. The two infantry divisions rolled unopposed into the city of Lodz, while the panzers took up position across the river from Warsaw. A bit of a risky gambit, but wars aren’t won by being cautious.

Thus ended the German turn.

End of German Turn 1

End of German Turn 1

Polish Turn 1:

Polish Movement Phase

Polish Movement Phase

The key to Polish victory in Case White is to delay the Germans long enough for Britain and France to intervene. To that end, the Polish motto for turn 1 was Consolidation and Defense. Polish units in the north and northwest retreated behind the relative safety of rivers, where attackers’ strengths will be halved coming across. In the south, units were brought in to shore up the main defensive line, including getting some units into the fortress at Crakow. An attempt was made to get units in position to retake Lodz (more on that later), and units were brought from the east to strengthen Warsaw. All of the Polish armored units (such as they are) were shifted to the north side of Warsaw to counteract the presence of the German Panzer divisions, and finally a unit stack was moved south from the Prussian border to ensure that the Panzer divisions would be out of supply on the next turn.

The Poles had no air phase to speak of. Air units were moved and missions assigned, but ultimately it was all for nothing because…

The Polish declined to partake of the combat phase. There were several places that looked promising for Polish attacks. A couple of spots on the main line where German units were surrounded by multiple stacks, the city of Lodz, a spot or two on the Prussian border. However, when the odds were tallied to prepare for combat, in only two places did the Poles have better than 1:1 odds, and those places were only at 1.5:1. The best result any of the possible Polish attacks could hope for was a Defender Retreats, and that was only a 1 in 6 chance. After much deliberation, the Polish High Command decided not to launch any attacks and hope that their still mostly intact army would be able to blunt the German onslaught on the next turn.

The few casualties from Turn 1

The few casualties from Turn 1

The game at the end of Turn 1

The game at the end of Turn 1

It’s been several years since I’ve dabbled at playing any of the Europa games. I had started a couple of times with FAQ Rat or Satan to attempt a couple of the smaller games (Narvik and Marita-Merkur respectively), but those attempts always failed for reasons I’ll explain in a second. I certainly haven’t tried any of the big games since my huge War in the Desert run of the early 90’s (with probably 15 feet of map stretched around my then gaming area). Primarily, the lack of Europa (or any wargame) playing has been due to a combination of space and gaming schedule. Sure, the gaming table at the Rat’s Nest is certainly big enough to accommodate any Europa game, but there’s not much point in setting one up when it would have to be torn down a couple of weeks later for our regularly scheduled gaming sessions, and having two gaming areas set-up at the same time just wasn’t feasible.

All that appears to have changed with the recent semi-renovation of the Gaming Garage. Now that I’ve removed all of the crappy looking storage shelves and added marginally less crappy looking cabinets, I have more flat space to lay things on. This was in the back of my mind when I designed the cabinets, but as originally laid out, they weren’t big enough for a single map sheet. However, because of the unfortunate placement of the outlets on the south wall, and at the suggestion of FAQ Rat, I added some spacers to the backs of the cabinets to provide room for plugging stuff in. On a lark one evening, once the dust had settled and the Garage was once again fit for gaming, I broke out some maps and laid them down, just to take a look:

FoF Narvik

And they fit. Perfectly.

I was as giddy as a school girl. I broke out each and every Europa game and explored the possibilities. Sure some of them would take some work. The southern map of the L shaped Case White would have to be placed to the side. The monster Fire In The East would have to be broken into 3 two map sets. But it’s doable. The only one that is probably out is running another entire War In The Desert game, but even that isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

Then I experimented with a couple of other wargames I own, but have never played. Imperium Romanum II also fit perfectly, and while 6th Fleet did hang over the edge by about an inch, it certainly wasn’t bad enough not to be playable. And most importantly none of it was on the gaming table. I have the space to wargame once again without interfering with normal gaming. Wahoo!!

But what to start with? I gave it a lot of thought and it was only after I had taken the two above pictures (admittedly to taunt FAQ Rat with) that I settled on starting at the beginning. It was time to break out Case White, a game I hadn’t played since the great Hurricane Jennifer debacle of ’89(ish).

And so, I laid out the maps:

Case White

As I re-familiarized myself with the rules, I started sorting counters:

Poland

And then deployment began, first with the Poles:

Poland 2

Then the Germans:

Germans 1 Germans 2

And finally the Soviets, who are just waiting for the Germans to do all the dirty work.

Soviets Deployed

It should be noted that I originally took all these pictures to try and entice FAQ Rat into playing, but tempted though I’m sure he was, he ultimately bowed out, no doubt because he couldn’t take the pressure. Having already spent the time setting the game up, however, I was determined to press on and vowed to fight the war solo, as in olden times. I did manage to keep FAQ slightly involved in a small, but crucial role at the beginning of the game: the hidden deployment of the Polish air units. He notified me yesterday that this had been done, and so:

September 1, 1939:

The war has begun as the Germans commence their pre-invasion air strikes:

Air Strikes

Will the Luftwaffe catch the unsuspecting Polish Air Force on the ground? Will the Polish Army be able to delay the Germans long enough to register on the victory chart? Will the Soviets do more than sit on the sidelines drinking vodka? Is the entire campaign doomed to falter and die due to waning interest as so many Europa games before it? These questions and more will be answered in the coming days…

Stay tuned for (hopefully) regular updates.

On Saturday, August 2nd, several of the Rats gathered at the Gaming Garage to enjoy a day of board gaming prior to our annual trip to Gen Con in a couple of weeks. During the pre-gaming discussion, we learned that Eric had never heard of CheapAss Games. Since we were waiting on Stephen to arrive with the Big Blue Bag O’Games, we broke out Deadwood in order to give Eric a proper introduction.

Deadwood

Deadwood

Originally published in 1999, Deadwood is a classic CheapAss game. The players are Z-list movie extras wandering around the backlot of Deadwood Studios trying to work their way into as many scenes on the various movies that are being filmed as they can, in order to increase not only their fame, but more importantly, their bank accounts. The board is a map of the studio and its various lots and sound stages. The scenes being filmed are represented by randomly distributed cards which list not only the name of the film and the scene title, but also any special roles required for the scene (such as “Man on Fire” or “Horse”). Players are paid based on what role they played and whether or not that role was “on the card” or “off the card”. At the end of four days, the player with the most money wins. In our case, that was Fu, who edged Stephen out by a couple of dollars.

Of special note about our game of Deadwood, the Rats invented a new system of currency that was later used in our game of Concordia (see below). When the blue poker chips we were using as dollars started to run low, it was decided to supplement with the higher denomination white chips. Not content to simply have the new chips be worth five or ten dollars, it was determined that they should have a value of thirteen dollars. These chips were quickly coined “triskets”, and thus was a new currency born.

Agricola

Agricola

Agricola is a classic, award winning game about trying to survive as an agrarian family in medieval times. Players start out with two actions per turn, one for your farmer and one for his spouse. These actions are chosen from several options laid out on the board, ranging from gathering wood, clay, stone, and reeds to gathering cattle, building extensions to your house and fencing in pastures. As the game progresses, you can gain more actions by having children and more options become available as cards are flipped over on the board in each turn. However, there are only 14 total turns in the game, and every few turns the harvest is due and you must be able to feed your family. Through it all, there are also cards to be played and purchased (occupations and improvements) that can make life on the farm easier. Honestly, there was so much going on in this game, that it took a while to really get in the rhythm of it, but once you do, it is an excellent game. Once the points were tallied at the end, Stephen had edged out Fu by a couple of points, while I finished a distant last with just 8 points (everyone else being in the 20’s). Agricola will definitely get a replay soon.

Concordia

Concordia

Concordia is a game of economy building in the Roman Empire. Players represent various Roman factions and must spread out across the empire to establish trade routes and acquire wealth. Each player has seven cards representing a variety of Roman officials (Prefect, Tribune, Architect), each allowing its own unique action. Players will play these cards, one per turn, in whatever order they like. When a player decides he needs to refill his hand, he plays the Tribune card and takes all of his played cards back and starts over. There are also cards laid out on the board that can be purchased for combinations of money and trade goods. These cards are mostly slightly better versions of the card the player already holds, but there are some special ones sprinkled in. All of the cards are also labeled across the bottom with the names of different gods. Matched sets are used for scoring at the end of the game. Speaking of the end of the game, Fu won this one as well. I feel like I started off strong, racing to the eastern edge of the Empire and claiming the majority of the trade routes in the middle east and Egypt, but in the end I didn’t spread out enough into the western Empire and fell short when the scores were tabulated. Fu, however, raced out to a dominating victory. As mentioned above, when the money provided with the game ran low, we were required to break out the Triskets, thus ensuring that this currency will see future game play for a long time.

Devil Bunny Needs A Ham

Devil Bunny

To finish things off for the evening, we broke out Devil Bunny, another classic CheapAss game. The premise is simple. Each player represents two sous chefs who are trying to climb a skyscraper. The problem is that Devil Bunny has decided that he needs a ham and he thinks that knocking the players off the building will get him one. On his turn, each player rolls two six-sided dice and can use each die individually to move both of his chefs (either horizontally or diagonally, but not vertically), or total the dice to move just one chef. If a six is rolled on either (or both) dice, Devil Bunny moves instead and leaps on the chef that is highest up the building, knocking him off. If there is a chef below him, the falling chef is caught and placed below the catching chef. If not, he falls to the ground and starts over. Unless, that is, he is above the Line of Death, which cuts across the middle of the building. If he’s higher than that and falls to the ground, he dies. Each chef that reaches the top of the building scores a certain number of points. At the end, the chef pair with the highest total wins. In our game, Devil Bunny was all over the place, knocking chefs off the building in almost every turn. Both of Eric’s chefs died first, followed shortly by mine, and then Stephen’s. Both of Fu’s chefs were still alive at that point and still on the building, so we declared him the winner, even though he didn’t reach the top.

As always, a great time was had by all and it was obviously Fu’s night as he won three out of the four games. I was finally able to play Agricola, a game which had been on my list for some time, and Concordia turned out to be a lot of fun as well. Both will certainly earn replays in the near future.

Attendees: Rat Punk (Scott J.), Crypt Rat (Scot S., aka Fu), Book Rat (Stephen), Tech Rat (Scott S.), Ice Rat (Eric)

Welcome to the New, Improved (and hopefully regularly updated) Rat Bastard Gaming Blog!

The plan is to chronicle, discuss, and, in some cases, just plain brag about the various gaming exploits of The Rat Bastards. Whether its board, card, dice, miniatures, role-playing, or war games, if we play it, you should be able to read about it here.

I am your humble host and blog admin, Rat Punk. The majority of what you find here will come from me, but I’m hoping to get an occasional guest blog from some of the other Rats as well.

Who are the Rat Bastards you ask?

We are a group of long time gamers, mostly located in Central Indiana, but with members as far away as Seattle, Washington and even Athens, Greece! In our civilian identities, we come from all walks of life, ranging from mere office drones (yours truly) to business owners, podcasters, game designers, and everything in-between. Eventually, you’ll be able to learn more about us at the About link at the top of the page.

Our true passion, though, is gaming in all its varied and entertaining forms and that’s what you’ll read about on this blog. So check back often to learn about new games, old games, and what we’ve been playing!

Rat Punk