We finished something like 8 turns this time, largely because the fighting in Leros finished up and we entered the “calm before the storm” phase as the entire British OOB is in position and just waiting for their attack orders to implement before crashing into our little foothold. Meanwhile, my Fallshcrimjaegers in Portolago continued some inconsequential skirmishing with some remnants of the Irish brigade that was starting to infringe on the future landing zone of the heavy equipment. Fortunately, they were driven off (or eliminated), and the recoilless rifles and mortars arrived without incident.
At which point the game got interesting. I think one of the things that may have been frustrating Milton (the British player) here is that neither side really has a lot of heavy equipment in this game, so it’s a lot of squads taking pot-shots at each other which takes absolutely forever to accomplish anything. Milton has also had bad luck with his artillery. Well, this session demonstrated that in reality (unlike what you might take away from, say, Squad Leader) if you want something done right, what you need is not a bunch of squads but some heavy firepower. The recoilless rifles are a poor substitute for 105mm howitzers, but they’ll do the job. Once you start shooting on the 16+ tables, things start getting interesting. Milton’s luck with his arty also cleared up, much to the dismay of the paratroopers who got seriously whacked.
Anyway, as you may have noticed from my session reports, I move back and forth a bit on TCS. It’s a good enough game, but the real question is does it justify the time commitment. Last couple of sessions, I’ve been leaning a bit more towards “no”, despite the good stuff. For a big game it’s not bad, but it seems the pacing is off. Combat has been described as hours of boredom followed by minutes of terror, and TCS seems to treat these times equally. It seems that sometimes the 20-minute turns need to be a lot more intense – you often read about the “mad minutes” in which every gun on the line is firing with devastating results. You can bring bring massive quantities of firepower on a hex and it’s hard to do more than a step loss (less than a squad) and a suppressed result. And then, you have to play out the 20 minute turns where everyone is mainly realigning and taking low-odds pot-shots with the same detail as the heavy-combat turns. Finally, the command system is really just not quite tight enough. I’ve been referencing the 4.0 beta rules to see how they’re dealing with some of these acknowledged problems, and while generally I like what they’re doing, one thing that definitely worries me is that they are making combat significantly less lethal by generally weakening the area fire table and significantly increasing terrain benefits. This certainly has me concerned.
So I dunno. This is a game I still like the core concepts of a lot, and if you want a system game for the “big picture” of a WWII battlefield, you won’t find better (PanzerLeader? PanzerGrenedier? Please … even Squad Leader is much more fantasy than reality). There is enough good stuff in TCS that I still really want to like it. I’d like to play A Raging Storm or Screaming Eagles, games where both sides have a lot of firepower, before passing final judgment. But I do find myself questioning whether TCS deserves the space it’s taking up on my shelf when stacked up next to OCS, GCACW, Ukraine 43, Barbarossa, etc. Because realistically, I’m still at the point where I have too many games I’ll never play, and while I’m certainly not thinking of liquidating my entire TCS collection anytime soon, some of the weaker games (like Hunters from the Sky or A Frozen Hell) are probably eBay candidates.
One way or the other, this game won’t go on too much longer. Everyone is lined up; as soon as the British attacks press home, things will be decided one way or the other.