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Fall Blau AAR

 
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Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 7:05:24 PM   
ComradeP

 

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Right, the (first) AAR will focus on Fall Blau/Case Blue, one of my favourite scenarios.

Feel free to ask any questions you might have about the scenario or the game, and I'll try to answer them.

I'll be playing against the AI and I'll be playing the scenario as a regular scenario, so not as part of the campaign, which limits my prestige.

I haven't tried the multiplayer yet at all, to be honest, I've focussed my testing on seeing if the victory conditions in the various scenarios could be met and on seeing if there were balance issues either with the scenario or with a certain unit type. Several testers have tried the multiplayer component, and they're happy with it.

Here's the briefing. Note that I stretched it out significantly so you can hopefully all read it.

The briefing appears "on top" of the scenario map as soon as you start the scenario.




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< Message edited by ComradeP -- 11/7/2011 7:29:11 PM >


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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 7:21:48 PM   
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As you can (hopefully) read in the briefing, the Soviets are retreating. If you get to this scenario in the campaign, you have already completed the 2nd Kharkov and Voronezh scenarios.

Axis theater assets:

Note that theatre assets are all available every turn, although that doesn't mean you can use them every turn as for certain assets, certain conditions have to be met.

The Stuka: The Axis get 4 air strikes, which can cause anything from 0 losses, to up to 3 suppressed steps or up to 2 KIA'ed steps. Note the "or", as you can't cause both suppressed steps and KIA's with the same air strike. There's nothing stopping you from bombing a particular unit 4 times, though.

The fuel drums: supply. This asset can be applied to a supply source and will increase the supply radius/burst of that supply point by 1 movement point. In a ~medium sized scenario like Fall Blau, you have supply sources at various edges of the map and which supply source's burst you increase is a very important decision.

The bridge: rivers can be bridged at certain points. Bridges become functional the turn after you place them. This is one of the assets that you in many cases can't use every turn, at least in a practical manner. In some scenarios you can just bridge random rivers in the rear if you feel like it.

The fuel drum on a parachute: air supply. This can be used to restore supply to an out of supply unit, anywhere on the map. This is usually needed to keep your spearhead in supply, and as with the other supply-related theatre asset, deciding which unit(s) gets fully supplied is an important decision.

Soviet theater assets:

Partisans: the Soviets can convert any hex that is not an objective, urban, doesn't include a railroad and isn't in the ZOC of an Axis units to their side. Clever use of this asset can be a game changer.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 7:25:56 PM   
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The northern/central part of the map at the start of the battle.

Note the objectives indicated on the right. As a nice feature, objectives have a turn limit by which they need to be captured if you want to get the full amount of points/prestige.

I theoretically have until turn 10 to win, but as you can see I need to win by turn 6 for a brilliant victory.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 7:28:38 PM   
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The southern edge.

The lower part of the interface shows which types of specialist steps are available, as well as the reinforcements I could buy with prestige.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 8:12:24 PM   
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Nice...takes a cup of coffee and starts to read

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 8:44:16 PM   
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I've activated the hex grid (which is rather subtle) and the objectives overview which activates pop-ups at the objectives so you can see a description of what capturing the objectives does in a strategic sense/why you need to capture it, as well as ownership, points for capturing it, and the points you lose per turn if you capture it later than the designated turn.

The screenshot is again stretched out a bit to make the text readable, hopefully.

As I see it, the objective across the Don is by far the most difficult to get to on time, because you need to get adjacent to the objective by the end of turn 3, otherwise you can't cross the river on turn 4 (there's no bridge, and your units tend to use all MP's when crossing a river without a bridge).




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 8:55:19 PM   
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The supply sources in the northern part of the map. The arrows you see next to them are just there for show, they pulsate in circles around the supply source but don't mean anything.

Note that the supply along a railroad has the same burst all along the railroad, with the railroad at the center. This is crucial for this scenario, as the supply situation in the northern part of the soon to be pincer is very poorly supplied.

As you can see in the screenshot of the units in the north/center, the two Panzer divisions there actually start out of supply (indicated by the red exclamation mark next to their steps that you may or may not able to see).

Railroads are functional as soon as you capture them, which means they can begin to supply units in the next turn (the supply state doesn't change during a turn unless you use air supply).

The idea is to remove/destroy the 3 Soviet units sitting on the rail line east of Izyum, fix the bridge over the Mius so that supplies can reach my spearheads that will soon be north of Rostov.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 8:56:07 PM   
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Supply at the southern edge. Not bad, but by no means enough to supply my spearheads after a turn or 2.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 8:57:26 PM   
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As you can probably discern from looking at the screenshots, cutting the rail line north of Rostov is very, very bad news for the Soviets in the central part of the map, as they have no supply source near them. They're supplied by the burst from the railroad that enters the map a bit to the southwest of Stalingrad.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 9:04:36 PM   
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The weather is sunny and the terrain is mostly clear, so supply pays 1 MP for the vast majority of the hexes it travels through in this scenario. That's good news for us. There are some scenarios which come down to a race against time, as you can't advance at speed anymore when the mud hits because combat odds become worse and supply drops, sometimes dramatically depending on how many mud hexes there are.

Unity of Command features weather that is calculated per hex, there are no "weather zones" per se, although the weather will tend to become worse with mud moving from north to south as this is southern Russia. Snow can be unpredictable, especially in the Caucasus.

< Message edited by ComradeP -- 11/7/2011 9:05:13 PM >


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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/7/2011 9:13:51 PM   
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Some general explanations:

The green X you see left of the unit's steps of some of the Soviet units in the northern part of the map means it's a green unit, which suffers penalties in combat. The Iron Cross(es) or Star(s) you see left of a unit's steps indicate a unit is veteran or elite and gets bonuses in combat. Veteran or elite German mobile units are very, very hard to kill for the Soviets.

As you can see, I have 4 veteran Panzer divisions and 1 veteran motorized infantry division. The Soviets have 1 veteran cavalry corps.

What the German and Soviet infantry is should be pretty obvious. The two divisions with blue/gray uniforms north of the Mius river are Italian divisions, the three divisions northeast of Izyum and the one on the coast of the Sea of Azov represented by infantrymen with brown uniforms and a cap are Romanian. The other units represented by an infantryman with a cap are Gebirgsjaeger divisions.

There have been some complaints on this forum about what the units look like, but I don't have any problem with the unit graphics. Sure, they're not NATO counters, but NATO counters are not exactly the epitome of modern graphics design. Useful for large scale wargames, not needed for smaller scale ones like this.

The people complaining about how infantry divisions are represented by half a man must detest chess, where a "knight" is represented by a horse's head and nothing else. What matters is that you know what a certain piece or unit does and that you can clearly identify it, the exact looks/graphics are a secondary matter.

< Message edited by ComradeP -- 11/7/2011 9:20:15 PM >


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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 2:19:38 PM   
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Nice writeup, thanks. I like the theater assets idea, simple. What's the deal for bridging a river, do you need to occupy only the two opposing hexes or also have no adjacent enemy units? River crossings were always a challenge in the old PanzerKrieg boardgame where you literally had to expand and secure the bridgehead before the bridging (and supply) became effective. Looks like a fun game.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 3:43:37 PM   
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You can build bridges either between two hexes that are both yours (so from one friendly hex to another friendly hex across the river) or from a friendly hex to a non-friendly hex that does not contain an enemy unit and isn't in ZOC of an enemy unit.

Adjacent enemy units have an effect on the rolls for blowing up bridges, but not on the actual bridge construction. So generally speaking, you do need an actual bridgehead across the river before you can construct a bridge.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 4:11:57 PM   
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The start of the turn after air supply, air strikes and assigning specialist steps. Specialist steps give a unit some sort of bonus, either through a special ability like removing entrenchments, adding artillery shifts (there are no on-map artillery units) and as long as a unit is in supply, the specialist step will become active next turn. Each unit can have 1 specialist step assigned to them, although there is a limit to the amount of specialist steps that can be bought/are available in a scenario.

The Tank corps in the north was hit hard, and it now only has 1 regular step and its towed AT step. Towed equipment steps become suppressed after moving. Those purple dots some Soviet units have indicate artillery steps, and those are usually towed, so as long as they don't start their turn next to one of my units, they can't attack using that step.

Units generally recover their suppressed steps normally over time as long as they're in supply, with veteran and elite units recovering more suppressed steps per turn.

I've given 1 infantry division and 4 Panzer divisions an engineer step. Engineers remove entrenchment and also remove the negative shift for attacking across a river, aside from providing additional attack/defence values.

Contrary to games, like SSG games, where each step represents an abstracted amount of efficiency that scales up with the number of steps (so each step doesn't necessarily represent a certain fixed value), in Unity of Command each step has the same attack/defence value for a unit.

Air strike targets have a yellow circle around them and the units that got engineer steps have a blue circle around them. One of the units is not visible on the screenshot.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 4:26:36 PM   
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The results of the opening moves in the north. All Soviet mobile units in the area, as well as several Rifle divisions, have been destroyed for no friendly step losses.

The road to the first objective is more or less open. The only remaining Tank corps can't both reach my units and attack so it can only take up a blocking position.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 4:48:19 PM   
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The opening moves in the south. We're going to outflank the Mius line from the north.

For light German infantry losses, 2 Rifle divisions have been destroyed in the breakthrough area and 1 has been displaced from its position on the rail line. The pullback near Izyum, to protect the Romanians, will likely cause a Soviet unit to move across the river, but that's acceptable.

The - floating to the right of some units indicates it's "weak" and doesn't have a ZOC.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 4:54:23 PM   
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As predicted, the AI moved a unit across the river near Izyum, which is no problem at all for us.

The start of turn 2, after having placed the reinforcements that arrive in the north. A total of 4 mobile units come as "free" reinforcements in this scenario. Those reinforcements can be placed at certain reinforcement hexes and don't cost prestige. Both divisions came with a StuG III specialist step attached to them.

The AI tried to attack the infantry division that I had assigned the engineer specialist step to, but that attack ended in disaster for the AI, with the AI losing half a division for only some suppressed steps inflicted on my unit.

Note the two enemy hexes northwest of Izyum, caused by partisans.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:03:52 PM   
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The primary objectives in the south this turn are cutting the rail line going north from Rostov, so all Soviet units northwest of Rostov will be out of supply, and moving the mobile units forwards in a position that threatens Rostov.

In this screenshot, the 14th Panzer Division is selected. In the screenshot on the left, regular movement allowances are shown. Not enough to get to the railroad. In the screenshot on the right, extended movement allowances are shown. The Soviets are in trouble.

The hexes with a dot in the middle indicate a hex with enemy ZOC. Unless a unit has a recon specialist step, it can't move out of such a hex the same turn after moving into it. With a recon specialist step, you can use extended move to move onwards.

Note that selected units "turn" in the direction you're facing with the mouse or in the direction of the path they're going to take. A nice little graphical feature, in my opinion.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:26:32 PM   
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A comparison of unit statistics

The statistics:

Top row: Unit name and type (Soviet divisions tend to have a generic name indicating what army they belong to), attack/defence/movement+extended movement/armour rating

Upper middle row: steps total and state of the unit's steps, with an indication of where the specialist step is placed (this determines when it can become suppressed). Replacement step type (armour or infantry).

Central middle row: Experience, indication how many experience points the unit has gained and what it needs to reach the next level of experience. A unit loses 1/5 of what its next level requirement is when it receives a replacement step. For example: let's say your unit is a veteran unit and you give it one step. If it has 6 experience points towards elite, it will end with 1 experience point towards elite. If it had 4 experience points, it will become a regular unit again. Movement type is self-explanatory.

Lower middle row: The number next to the arrow indicates the number of regular movement points the unit has left and the information next to the lightning bolt indicates if the unit has an action left.

As you can see, Panzer divisions and Tank corps have the same armour values, but Panzer divisions are much better units overall.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:35:40 PM   
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Comrade P, does the experience of units carry forward to future scenarios if they are used, or is the experience only scenario specific? Also, since I only play vs. the AI, how does Unity AI compare to other games that you've played.
Thanks. 

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:48:20 PM   
ComradeP

 

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At this point, experience doesn't literally carry on to the next scenario, but many scenarios in the campaign feature what I would call realistic estimates of the experience of particular units at that stage. You also don't necessarily use the same units from one scenario to the next.

All in all, I'm happy with how the game handles experience, considering that the campaign consists of linked scenarios and doesn't feature a traditional "core" of units.

The AI is pretty good at detecting weak spots and trying to cut off your supply. As usual: the bigger the scenario, the more problems the AI will face. Compared to other games, I'd say the AI's quite clever in smaller to medium sized scenarios and does more than simply hole up to try and prevent you from getting a brilliant victory.

Of course, the defending AI and human defending players face some difficulties in scenarios like this, where they're essentially screwed from the start and all they can do is try and buy time.

I picked this scenario more to show how the game handles a typical "blitzkrieg" penetration/pincer than to show how the AI performs.

So don't expect miracles from the AI, but expect it to put up a fairly good fight in more balanced scenarios and challenge you to win decisive or brilliant victories.

< Message edited by ComradeP -- 11/8/2011 5:50:12 PM >


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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:51:36 PM   
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The end of turn 2. I've decided to make a push to open the rail line east of Izyum a turn earlier than I'd normally do so. Rail supply can now reach up to the blown bridge across the Mius.






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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 5:54:13 PM   
ComradeP

 

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That also means most of my spearhead northeast of the Mius is in supply if my units hold on to their positions.

If I had spent both supply increase points on the rail supply source, the spearheading 14th Panzer would also be in supply. Choices, consequences.






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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:00:07 PM   
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Thanks for your quick reply. Since the AI is better in the small to medium scenarios, how many of the scenaios are large? Also, what is you opinion of replay value? In some games things play pretty much the same every time.
Thank you.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:11:15 PM   
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Replay value always depends on what you're trying to get out of the game. If you want to win a battle, or want to get a brilliant victory. If you're just buying this for singleplayer, replay value will obviously be limited to a certain extent. I completed the campaigns in about a week, but that was after spending most of a day on playing for the entire week. With more casual play, you should easily be able to get several weeks out of the singleplayer if you just want to win each scenario once and more if you're trying to get brilliant victories in all of them. Replay value of multiplayer is theoretically unlimited.

The scenario editor is being worked on currently, but I'd guess that post-release, numerous new scenarios will be available over time.

As a lot of the scenarios include a (historical) initial setup that's tough on the defender, it's difficult to say how many scenarios offer the AI a fair chance. I'd say the AI's more or less toast by default in about 1/3 of the scenarios, but in those scenarios the defender is pretty much doomed to lose in general, so it's not an AI problem.

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:13:05 PM   
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As an example of an AI move, the AI moved its defenders away from the riverline along the Mius. You could say this might not be the smartest thing to do, but given the situation the AI's facing, there's little it can do aside from trying to protect Rostov and that's done best with units actually in my path.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:16:20 PM   
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I wont to play now

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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:16:39 PM   
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There are 3 stages of being out of supply, 1 per turn.

In the first stage, indicated by a small red exclamation mark, you don't recover suppressed steps but can attack and move normally.

In the second stage, indicated by a larger red exclamation mark, you don't recover suppressed steps, don't have an action point (so you can't attack or use extended move) and some steps become suppressed based on the experience of the unit (green 3, regular 2, veteran 1, elite none). You can still move normally using regular movement.

In the third stage, indicated by a black exclamation mark with a red glow around it, you don't recover suppressed steps, don't have an action point (so you can't attack or use extended move) and all steps become suppressed. You have 1 less regular movement point than you would normally have.

< Message edited by ComradeP -- 11/8/2011 6:17:06 PM >


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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:41:21 PM   
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The heroic sacrifice of the defenders near Rostov has bought the city some time, and has made sure my units coming from the north are facing supply problems.

This is the start of turn 4.

Note that the defenders in Rostov have a NKVD specialist step, which dramatically reduces their retreat chance and usually makes sure they have to die in the hex they're in.

At this point, we're on schedule to win the scenario on turn 5, 1 turn before the brilliant victory limit on the final objectives.




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RE: Fall Blau AAR - 11/8/2011 6:53:27 PM   
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Turn 5 start, the Soviets have received a Tank corps as reinforcements, but it's too little, too late to stop the Axis mobile units.






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