Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Solitaire Santiago

Today I did something I haven't done in a bit, play a complete solitaire game of a new S&T magazine title. I figured I didn't have any likely opponent for The Santiago Campaign of 1898 on the horizon, so it was up to me alone.

Fortunately this isn't that hard a game to play solitaire. It has a straightforward IGO-HUGO turn sequence and while the Spanish units have hidden combat values it wasn't that hard to "fudge" past that, as the rules suggested.

I decided to try an all-or-nothing Spanish strategy with the goal of doing better than the historical commanders. I was going to assign the Spanish troops blindly to the different sectors, but I pulled out the artillery units first. It seemed like committing them to the jungle fighting would be unfair to the Spanish and simply result in them being thrown away in overruns. So the three Spanish artillery batteries went to hang out in Santiago for later use and where they would be safe from marauding Cubans.

I placed four Spanish units near Daiquiri because it was the most likely US landing site (33% chance in the first wave, 1/6 chance in the second wave.) All the other beaches got two units, which seemed enough to cover the roads leading from the beaches and at least delay the Americans.

The Cuban roll was a 6, which was good for the US because it put a large number of Cubans near the Daiquiri action and around Santiago.

I went ahead and sent the US Marine to Guantanamo, as it seemed the prudent course of action.

So the first US Landing went to El Sardinero. In order to satisfy my own sensibilities and make it a little harder for the US, I played with a mild form of "divisional integrity" where I endeavoured to keep the historical OB more or less intact, although there's no requirement or benefit in game terms. Given the random landings, the US initial attack wasn't as efficient as it could have been. The 3rd US Cavalry destroyed a troop of Spanish cavalry in hex 2821 but was also reduced in the "Bloodbath" result. Meanwhile a couple of regiments from the 2d US division "stalled" in their attack against a stronger than average Spanish battalion in 3319.

The Second US landing went to Daiquiri, which presented an interesting situation, because it suggested the Spanish might be able to defeat the US in detail. Only five units land at the second landing site, so the US didn't have a numerical edge. Making it worse, one of the five US units was the cavalry troop and another one was an artillery battery, both of minimal defensive use at the jungle surrounded beach. The US attempt to fight its way past the Spanish stalled.

The Spanish response was to send the Juraga beach defenders over to help the Daiquiri force while the rest of the Spanish troops delayed the US main body. The Daiquiri Spanish pressed the US landing force hard.

The next several turns saw the Daiquiri beach head embattled while the Cubans tried their best to harass the Spanish attackers. Eventually the Spanish managed to eliminate one US battalion for its inability to retreat, which meant that the US could win no more than a marginal victory.

On the main front the initial Spanish delaying action cramped up the beachhead so not all 15 US units could land on Turn 2, but soon the superior US numbers told. There simply were not enough Spanish units to cover all the possible routes, especially after a couple more were lost. They did inflict some step losses in blood baths and a DE result from the elite 20-factor 65th Spanish Infantry. Here's where the Guantanamo Marine move paid off, because the Spanish Guantanamo roll resulted in no reinforcement from that sector.

While the three US divisions drove on Santiago, the two independent brigades went to relieve the Daiquiri force.

With too few units to cover all the trenches the US was able to enter Santiago just as the Manzanillo reinforcements arrived. The Cubans were able to block the roads enough so that the US forces won the race to the city walls, keeping the large Spanish force out. A truce turn delayed the inevitable slightly, preventing the American from finishing off the last city garrison. There was some indecisive fighting between the Manzanillo relief force and US units just north of Santiago while the independent brigades relief force surrounded the Spanish Daiquiri force in the east.

The die roll ended the truce the next turn (Turn 7) and the US troops mopped up the last Spanish troops in Santiago, ending the game.

In one sense the Spanish strategy did work, because the Spanish kept the US to a marginal victory, which was better than the historical result. Being able to concentrate six units against five US (and five Cubans) provided a chance to actually eliminate a US unit. But on the other hand, the Spanish were not really close to actually winning with this approach. The total US losses were just 6 steps and Santiago was captured on Turn 7. The sparse Spanish force left after committing so much to the Daiquiri front was inadequate to slow the US down much. The US force actually beat the Manzanillo relief column to Santiago and the outer Spanish defense positions such as El Caney and San Juan Hill played a minimal role.
It would be interesting to try this again. Because of the random US landings it appears there could be a lot of replay value. The biggest question in my mind is what options the Spanish have.

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