Saturday, 14 December 2013

Pegasus Bridge replayed - don't rely on first impressions!

Cancon is looming (January 26) and we continue to play test and prepare our games.  We will be having an extended Pegasus Bridge game with 3 gliders and 75 British tough guys vs 50 Germans plus lots of reinforcements over a double board to be played as 2 x 6 turn games, the second following directly after the first using survivors plus German reinforcements.  It should be fun.  
Here are two views of the double board (6 ft x 8 ft):
The full 6 x 8 board
Both sides of Pegasus Bridge
When we first played the official scenario that came with the Pegasus Bridge set we were sure it was unbalanced and the Germans were way outmatched by the Veteran Tough Fighter British. "Warlord games mustn't have play tested this much," we thought.
It is often easy to judge the strength or weakness of units or scenarios from one's armchair or around the table or bar. But Bolt Action is a fascinating game system whereby what seems overpowered or underpowered has hidden strengths and weaknesses only revealed through the pain and suffering of hard experience.
In our first game last week, the British romped it home and had a solid draw at the end because the Germans retained a few guys on the bridge.
Today was completely different.  We played the official scenario twice.  It only takes about 75 to 90 minutes.  One of our friends who is new to the game played British and we were stunned that every man of his was wiped out.
A failed British frontal assault.
The Germans are inexperienced and shirkers which meant they had to roll morale EVERY turn to do anything and needed to get an 8 or less to perform orders.  Any pins were doubled. And every shooting roll had an additional -1.  And they needed a 5 or 6 to kill a British soldier if they did score a hit.
"Doomed!" we thought, "Way underpowered."
But numbers did make a difference.  There were not many British figures and they had to brave the open to get to the bridge. In this photo, a British squad attacked a German squad clambering up the bridge stairs.  The Germans could shoot reaction fire and killed 2 of the British guys. The last one killed one of the Germans and the surviving troops killed him.
Major Howard showing the way.
Like last game, Major Howard stayed in the Glider until turn 5!  When he finally emerged, only one other part squad remained so he charged directly onto the bridge and assaulted a German unit.  With just 2 men they defeated the German unit. Easy.  Like how we figured it would normally happen.
Then the remaining German units finished him and his other guys off and won the game.
"Ha!" I said, "It must have been the inexperience of the commander, let me play."

Once more Major Howard remained in the glider until turn 5.  There is a 1 in 3 chance a unit remains in the glider each turn.  So over 3 games, Major Howard has remained in the glider for 12 turns.  A 1 in 3 chance to the power of 12 or 1 in 531,441 chance.  Or stupid numbers, but it happens!
Come closer and I'll bite your leg off.

By turn 5, when Major Howard decided to do his job, only one other British soldier remained alive.  Only 3 Germans had been killed.
He raced up to the barbed wire, then in turn 6 raced onto the bridge, close assaulting a German and throwing him in the river.  There were Germans in the control box meaning the bridge was contested so it was a draw!  But wait - there was a turn 7!
The British Order dice was drawn first (a 1 in 7 chance) so he ran 12 inches further along the bridge hiding behind the bridge wall for safety.
Then every German unit either failed morale or was too far away to see or shoot him.
Phew.  Still a draw.

So, my apologies to Warlord Games.  The scenario is balanced. It serves me right for smugly believing one game was enough to judge a unit or scenario's balance and effectiveness.

What did we learn?
Shirkers are painful, but when in defence and with enough of them they can do reasonably well.
Veterans and tough fighters are great but they aren't invincible.
Once more Bolt Action provides a fun and memorable game.
PS. Is Major Howard really jinxed to stay in the glider?

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