Clearing out Leros

It’s getting confusing, always talking about the Island of Leros vs, the City of Leros, but I think we were finally able to declare victory in clearing out Leros. The city, that is. There are a couple weapon platoons on the outskirts yet, and a persistent platoon (and, somewhat more irritatingly, a Bofors AA gun) occupies Castle Leros – and probably will for the foreseeable future, given the -4 terrain shift and the fact that it’s on top of a huge hill. But, the city and the critical pier are under control and the outliers should be rolled up momentarily. The cost was quite high on both sides, though – the Irish battalion that was manning the defenses was wiped out, and the elements of two German battalions that were attacking were badly mauled, one of them savaged. The pioneers won’t be doing a lot more pioneering this game. Meanwhile, the Fallschrimjaegers occupy Portolago, and have driven off a probe on their perimeter. The first batch of reinforcements (the Fsjr weapons company) will be arriving in just two turns.

Overall, the terrain we’ve occupied is quite satisfactory, but the losses have been very high indeed for the Germans and even once the heavy weapons show up, we may have a shortage of actual infantry to clear the rest of the island. Erasing the Irish, the best meaningful British unit (the tiny SAS and SBS contingents have also been badly mauled) was a big plus, but it’s now a race against time to bring in the reinforcements before the British can bring enough force to bear with a counterattack.

I do end up wondering if TCS suffers from somewhat similar problems to one of The Gamers’ other series, the Civil War Brigade series. In a nutshell, the problem with CWB is just that it takes too freaking long, for two reasons. Firstly, combat is much too incremental – you roll 6 dice on something like 5 tables to do only a tiny amount of damage, a point or two to a single brigade. Secondly, the game simply doesn’t reasonably model fatigue, so players can push their troops far beyond any rational, historical limits, so the lulls in the action simply don’t occur, and the fighting at some level goes on continuously 24 hours a day. The problem with this is that even desultory combat is comparatively time-consuming to resolve. Now, TCS certainly doesn’t suffer from this to the extreme of CWB – I once played Thunder at the Crossroads (Gettysburg CWB) for three Saturdays straight, 8 hours each, and we never got past the initial skirmishing. Here, we’ve played only 5 sessions, none much more than 2 hours, and a lot of stuff has happened. But enough? I dunno. TCS is not nearly as incremental as CWB, combat does take a serious toll and the game moves along – but formations never really become fatigued in any kind of a recoverable way, so battles are less decisive and drag on longer than they should be. Morale isn’t really well-covered – units will never break or withdraw unless their commander wants them to, regardless of casualties, and those mounting casualties rarely have any effect on the morale of the individual units. Fortunately, the new 4.0 beta rules do seem to address a few of these issues.

Thinking about this question of whether the time investment justifies the gaming content, this situation might make a good one to try to adapt to the Thunder At Cassino system. It’s short, smaller, self-contained, and an interesting battle with some interesting choices and units. At the Thunder at Cassino level it might have the requisite number of interesting decisions per minute to be unquestionably worth it. TCS is much more of a “flavor” game, you play it for the sense of the pressures of battle, to make incremental decisions that add up to something in the end (you hope), not really because you are making big, crucial decisions all the time like in an OCS game (or Puerto Rico).

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