Monday, October 20, 2008

Hold the Line expansion session report

I tried a solitaire run-through of the first scenario in the French and Indian War expansion set for Hold the Line.

Depicting the Battle on Snowshoes on March 13, 1758, this scenario prominently features the two new unit types introduced by the expansion, Indians and Colonial Rangers.

I was curious about the scenario because the rangers are grossly outnumbered, with just five combat units and a leader facing 13 combat units and a leader.

Setting up the scenario the first thing I noticed is that I'd have to proxy some of the terrain, as there's nowhere near enough woods tiles. This was an annoying discovery and should have been pointed out in the rules.

The essential nature of the scenario is that the rangers are trying to hold out for 18 turns without losing too many units or letting the French cut them off from a retreat at nightfall. The latter condition is represented by having a couple of VP hexes behind the Ranger lines. The French win by getting 5 VPs. Between units, leader and VP hexes there are 8 possible VPs available, so winning will require doing a lot of damage to the Ranger force. The Rangers can win by avoiding those losses or, alternatively, by inflicting 7 Victory points of losses on the French, which amounts the half of the 14 possible.

The rangers set up on the edge of a big clump of 27 woods and hills hexes. Events would show that, while outnumbered, the rangers are truly an elite and dangerous force in this kind of terrain. Led by a 2 value leader (the famous Rogers), blessed with a base of 3 command action points and able to move through two woods hexes per turn the rangers are an agile force that will usually be able to move nearly every unit every turn.

The French start out with some Indians posted as an advance guard in some scattered trees in a semicircle matching the ranger front, a line of militia units and then a line of regulars. They have just one average leader for their large force and just 2 command action points so they will only be able to act with about a third or less of their army every turn.

I decided the rangers would play an active defense, using their mobility advantage to the full.

The French force started out trying to send the Indians on wide flanking maneuvers to get around the rangers with the aim of thinning the ranger front lines and threatening the VP hexes in the rear.

At first this looked promising bu the rangers were able to parry the move fairly easily and counter attack the unsupported Indians while the French were trying to sort out their infantry lines (the militia was in the way of the regulars and it seemed unwise to let the militia lead the way into the forest.

While the Indians were able to kill one ranger unit, they lost four in return (although one Indian did manage to make it to a VP hex before being killed. This put the French unider a severe VP deficit and time was also starting to become an issue.

The slow-moving French main body was forced to leave about half of its units behind as it tried to close with the rangers, who now fell back deep into the woods.

The final showdown near the VP hexes found one French regular with leader Langy, a milita unit and the surviving Indian facing off against Rogers and the surviving rangers, two of which were reduced. Another French regular unit was close by, but not quite able to get into the fight.

Langy and his regular were able to push the rangers back inexorably, killing one and capturing a victory hex for the second time, but it was in vain because the other three rangers were able to eliminate the last Indian and the militia unit, although losing one more ranger in the process. The final score was 4 to 7.

This result was close enough to suggest that the French can win, although next time I think I'll spend more time bringing up the main body before sending the Indians on their flanking task. Committing the Indians too early allowed the rangers to defeat them in detail.

Overall it appears to be an interesting scenario. Just remember to borrow some extra woods hexes from Clash for a Continent or Memoir '44.

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