Sunday, 26 December 2010

Winter Sports

TFL's Christmas Special 2010 was released a couple of weeks ago and included two real jewels for Mud & Blood players: a mini-game system simulating small trench raid actions ("Winter Sports") and a very good recreation of the British Tank Corps in 1917. I was specially attracted by the former and I quickly organised a game in our club a few days ago.

As I said "Winter Sports" is a subsystem using Mud & Blood to simulate the raiding policy undertaken in entrenched areas where no major attacks were considered; the main objectives of these actions were gathering intelligence on the enemy positions by capturing prisioners, rearranging the lines snatching key local terrain features  and generally speaking trying not to get the troops accomodated to the "live and let live" system that naturally developed in the more quiet fronts.

The game require some preparatory work and we found it worked better with someone acting as a referee. The British have to undertake one of a total of six possible missions (from capturing prisioners to demolish an ammunition dump) which are assigned randomly (typical D6 throw); they also have a variable attacking force and support elements (HMGs, etc).

The Germans will have to choose the location  of some  key position within its trench system (command and sections dug-out, sentry posts, an ammunition dump, a MG bunker...) about which the British player had only limited intelligence, and create a counter-attacking force that stays off-table until activated.

The game develops nicely, with the British advancing as cautiously as he wants through the no-man's land and the Germans sentries trying to see in the darkness whether that noise is the enemy coming or just the imagination of the poor man, alone in the dark pitch night. The German accumulate "Whistle blowing points" evrerytime they see something and once some levels are achieved he's allowed to "raise the alarm" and to activate the on-table and off-table units.

I strongly recommend reading this post of Sidney Roundwood's blog explaining in more detail the background and mechaniscs of the game; Sidney is one of the designers of the game together with Richard Clarke (the original and only Lardie).

The game table seems initially small (4" x 4"), but if you're playing  the British side you  wish it would be even smaller. You can see in the following picture a view of the German trench section with the numbered red markers representing different relevant features (sentry posts, dug-outs, etc)

In the game we played a few days ago, the British got as a mission the "Peaceful Penetration", in which they would have top control an 18" section of the German trench. The British players decided to concentrate their forces in one flank, a tactic proving extremely successful as they  were able to take the targeted trench section very quickly, even before the Germans could accumulate enough points to raise the alarm.

The Germans were slow in guessing the British mission, as in the area targeted by the British it was also located the Command dug-out, and they were unsure about the real mission (Get Carter! or Prisioner Snatch, as both involve attacking the command dug-out).

The rest of the game saw the Germans ferociously counter-attacking the now well entrenched British with the forces on the table and later with the Eingreiftruppen reinfocements, while the British player was basically sitting tight and praying for turns as short as possibe as well as for high dice rolls to collect the 30 points needed to win the game.

We could not finish the scenario as some of the players had to leave early for pre-Christmas lunches. When we stopped the game, the British were holding the position with one  intact squad and a couple of squads at 50% level only; they had accumulated 10 victory points by then.

The Germans had one on-table squad intact and one reinforcement squad with a large number of shocks accumulated after their last close combat. We conceeded that victory was likely British although not everybody agreed.

Despite that all the players were highly satisfied with the scenario and said to have really enjoyed it. The random nature of the missions, the variable composition of forces and the limited intelligence on boths sides means that you can get infinite variations on the theme and replay as many times as you want with totally different outcomes. 

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