Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Christmas Offensive: What did we learn?

This year's "Christmas Offensive" served as one of the test games for my "Ponyri Station Mega Game" so I wanted to write down all of my observations and analysis while they were in my head.

The first test battle was a huge success in terms of the rules and the overall satisfaction from the game itself.  There are, however, a few things I want to adjust based on how it went.

AAR Items:

When playing Rapid Fire, I need a better quick reference sheet.  I like the "X-County Player Sheet" on the website, and the current QRS is designed to sort-of mimic the sequence of play, but it doesn't quite cut it for me.  I would have liked more information on the call for fire process and sequence of play.  I'm going to, eventually, make my own Rapid Fire QRS that addresses some of my quirky issues.

My current terrain is inadequate.  The rules and ground scale are "big" and therefore I felt that the terrain didn't quite capture the feel of the scale which the rules are written for.  While I understand there is a definite "bathtub" effect going on here, I'm pushing companies and managing battalions.  That makes me a brigade commander.  I want the table to capture that feel by looking at it.  I'm not sure I'm there yet, and terrain may have a big part to play in that.  Going to ponder that more.

Indirect Fire:  So I kept tube artillery out of this battle but boy oh boy did both sides have ALOT of artillery at Ponyri Station.  The Germans have all of the supporting fires from their direct support cannon units from their regiments, heavy mortars, and general support tube artillery.  The soviets have a very similar composition.  Additionally, both sides have rocket artillery as well.

On my Ponyri Station OOB spreadsheet, I actually had to make a "Fire Support" Tab to keep track of all of the assets.  I feel as though the artillery may get a little out of hand but it's good to know Rapid Fire supports this, which brings me to the point.

I will need a Fire Support Matrix to keep track of artillery, mortars, rockets, and air support. 

 I also feel that it's a good idea to limit the fire missions.  Last game the mortars killed tons and tons of enemy troops.  Next time, I'll probably roll a D6 per battery and track the fire missions, allowing resupply of those batteries using the Divisional or Regimental Trans Companies.  That will be cool because those transport companies are always in high demand that modeling that supply problem will be cool.  Which battery do you resupply?  When?  How often?  Do you let the mortars starve?

Man, this 6 x 4 table is starting to feel a little crowded.

Speaking of crowding the table I will need more fortifications.  I used baseboard trim for dug-in markers and to good effect but I'll need more.  Alot more if I'm to have proper trench line systems.  Ideally they will be in front of and behind the unit.  That means about six times the amount of what I have now.

Anyways that's about it.  Things to keep in mind for the new year that will drive some of my "New Year Hobby Resolutions." I'll try to get in a final post before 2016 comes to a close.


  1. Some nice artillery ideas there.
    RF is an elegant little system. I think mush of the flexibility is granted by either using move-fire or fire- move, and by using 'reaction fire' and it's something that players don't always grasp right away, but it comes through repeated plays.
    Infantry combat also comes down to a bot of a grind, but to be honest, that's probably a good thing, since much will depend on the positioning of machine guns and whether you want to fix the enemy in place.
    Morale is also decisive and unpredictable, but in a good way.

    RF, with Able Archer, might just be the future ;)

    1. Thanks Darren. The more i explore my options and what i want in my games, its starting to look more and more like Rapid Fire is the best compromise.

      As you stated, the strength of the game lies in the simplicity of it and the nuances of the turn system which once mastered allow you the ultimate flexibility as a commander. I like a game that allows you to do what you need to do.
      Yes isnt that funnny - i read game designer notes once - i think by Chadwick that said the greatest killers on the battlefield were heavy weapons (artillery, heavy mortars) and support weapons during WW2. In RF much depends on the support structure and the accompaniment of heavy weapons with your companies.

      Again, theyre not the best rules out there, but theyre a good compromise of everything im looking for. That was probably the big turning point of 2016- a re definition of the objectives of this mad rules quest.

  2. If the table feels crowded it might be time to re-engage the scale and magnitude of the scenario. If there is little to no room for maneuvering, a game can end up feeling like a pre-planned flight path for the attacking commander.

    1. No i was just making a quip about the volume of units and supporting batteries and battalions of artillery involved.
      Interestingly when youre talking about kursk there really isnt much maneuver involved. The Soviets had every key approach pre identified and well defended with plenty of mines to slow the blitzkrieg. The Soviets were basing their plans off of 2 years of previous failures and felt they had found the answer to the german mobility problem. Which turned out to be a correct estimate in the end.
      I think the table is okay. The good thing about RF is that roughly a platoons worth of figures constitutes the fighting strength of a battalion minus supports and the loggies.