One of the best things of blogging is getting e-mails from people who read your blog. Mike A. P. (savvy wargamer/active duty Capt. in the U.S. Army) and I have exchanged e-mails from some time and I always enjoy discussing wargames, simulations and whatnot with him. Mike has written this fantastic AAR and was kind enough to let me share it with you. Battlefield Academy was recently released by Matrix/Slitherine games and is receiving great critique from both casual and hardcore wargaming venues. Without further ado ... Mike and his tanks in the Bulge.
Clash of Armor
This was my first multiplayer experience with Battlefield Academy and the good spirit that I am, decided that I would enjoy it much more if I actually won it. Keeping that in mind, I decided to approach the game like I would a real life situation, through the painful process of military planning.
For those of you not familiar with Battlefield Academy, it is a World War Two turn based strategy game that combines the realistic combat gameplay of Close Combat with the fun and graphics of Battlefield Heroes. Yes, I just compared a beloved and classic realistic combat-crushing strategy game with a comical first person shooter made by DICE. Before you stop reading this, I can assure you the game is fun and exciting. The graphics are set in a vintage comic book style and the combat is preserved through realistic values based on vehicles, guns ranges, and many more variables.
I thought I’d try my hand at multiplayer; but Battlefield Academy’s multiplayer aspect is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Instead of playing a real time, turn based game, much like Combat Mission, players take their turns, then complete them through the game’s built in module. It’s something sort of like an email sent through your game to your opponent. Your opponent will receive your game, see your turn, make his turn, then return it to you. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. It allows players to take their time, think out their moves, and still have enough time to do the dishes and go shopping with the wife. The only drawback that I observed was that even four or five moves can take nearly a week, depending on you or your opponent’s real life schedule. No biggie.
So here’s the map we’re playing. It is set during the Battle of the Bulge and is called Clash or Armor, which features nothing but US and German tanks. The actual description of this map is ‘leave your infantry behind’. The map is very standard; It has two larger villages on the East and West sides of the map with patches of tree’s and shrub lines throughout it. The US forces start in the upper left hand corner, or for your regular grunts, the Northwest corner. The Germans (my team) will start in the Southeast corner.
As I mentioned, I enjoy a challenge. What I enjoy more than a challenge, is winning a challenge. So I decided to use some of the military planning that Uncle Sam has smashed into my brain. Why not, it worked for Patton, right?
I first look at my map and create something called an Obstacle Overlay. It shows me how limited my movement will be through the area and helps me visualize how this will affect my enemy as well.
I start with the red, or ‘no go’ terrain. The red marks areas that cannot be traversed by my vehicles. The red areas help me understand my maneuver limitations and therefore give me an idea of what my avenues of approach will be (black arrowed lines). From there I work on built up areas (marked in orange). These are areas that will funnel me in, or choke points that I need to be aware of in my advance. Finally, the large K’s that you see on the map represent Key Terrain. Key terrain is defined as areas that greatly benefit the person holding the ground. In this case, I marked key terrain as the major intersections on the map. From these areas you can control the roads and main access in and around the towns. Every mark I make on this map will help me understand my advance toward the enemy and what my limitations will be for maneuver. It will also help me try to understand how the enemy will approach. After all, my opponent is only human and faces the same challenges that I do.
So here’s how I see things going. I’ve identified three major avenues of approach for the enemy. I don’t know what kind of vehicles he has, but I can guess they are similar to what I have: a mix of medium tanks with tank destroyers and reconnaissance vehicles.
In the above plan, I will send recon vehicles forward to establish overwatch on the most likely avenues of approach. I will position my tanks along the flanks of these avenues in order to achieve a flanking shot.
I don’t think the enemy will come along all three avenues, so I will be ready to flex one of my hunter killer teams around the enemy’s flank in order to surround him. Once I’ve identified the enemy’s main effort I can find, fix, and flank them.
Let’s see what happens…
Here’s how things actually went down.
I moved my reconnaissance forces north to establish observation. I was able to establish positions to the west, but the enemy kept me on my feet in the Northeast. I wasn’t able to get very comfortable before the enemy started lobbing 76mm shells at me.
1 – As I set my recon vehicles in, I was immediately engaged by much heavier forces. My Puma vehicles were no match for M18’s and M4 Sherman’s with their 76mm high velocity cannons. My reconnaissance vehicles were immediately destroyed and positions were overrun.
2 – Again, my recon vehicles didn’t have much time to set their positions before being engaged by enemy tanks. I watched my vehicles be destroyed piecemeal, but knew that I had the upper hand because I had understood the enemy’s plan.
3 - I realized that the enemy main effort was approaching from the Northeast. Immediately, I dispatched tanks due north to stop the enemy advance, so I would not be surrounded. Simultaneously, I advanced my forces in the west. My original overwatch reconnaissance turned into a movement to contact, as I attempted to move on the enemy flank.
I sent a Panther, PZIV and Marder III north to stop the enemy advance on the village. It was a rough fight. The enemy had good vehicles; a slew of Sherman 76’s, M36’s and M24’s. The PZIVH and Marder III didn’t make it, but went down fighting. In the end, my detachment accomplished its mission and more by stopping the enemy advance and clearing North through the village.
In the meantime, my forces in the west were making good progress; killing the enemy and pushing their advance around the Northwest flank. As seen above, I’ve been able to maneuver a Panther and two Panzer IV’s around the Northern flank. The enemy exchanges blows with my Marder III’s, who are acting as a base of fire for my maneuver forces.
My flanking force advances forward. Keep in mind, engagements are still deadly. M36’s lurk with their vicious 90mm high velocity cannons. It’s best to work in packs for this one. I decide to suppress my targets with my PZIV’s and flank with my Panther. It worked well on this unfortunate M36. This is a risky tactic; the M36 has no problem cracking the armor on the PZIV. It is a risk is working, only because the numbers advantage is on my side.
Meanwhile in the East …
My Panther completes its sweep through the village and begins clearing to the West as my tank destroyers exchange shots with the enemy. Most of the enemy vehicles we encounter are facing the West, waiting for the bulk of my advance. They must have realized something was going on when they saw the smoke coming from the horizon. I use the confusion to my advantage and batter the enemy vehicles from their flanks.
So here’s the current SITREP:
In the East, I have cleared the village and my Panther has begun clearing to the West.
In the center, my Marder III’s duel it out with M18’s and Sherman’s.
In the West, my flanking force has been successful pushing forward and killing enemy armor.
My forces have eliminated a significant number of enemy vehicles. There are still more remaining on the battlefield, and I will remember that as I advance forward. Now is not the time to let my guard down. Victory is on the horizon, but a few well placed shots can allow the enemy the chance to break through the envelopment.
The match ended with the enemy attempting to break the encirclement by driving East. I had my Panther in a good position to interdict the enemy, and that is just what he did.
In reality this engagement would’ve lasted maybe an hour. In real life the turns took almost a full week (thank you, real life). Fun, none the less.
If you’ve never heard of Battlefield Academy or are looking for a good World War Two strategy game, I suggest trying it out. It is a simple game, in a time where games have become so complex that most forget the fun aspect.