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Monday, December 7, 2015

Battle of Alma de Fresno, Part II: Moroccans

I was lucky enough to get to replay this battle with another player the day after the game with Fritz. Jamie came by my place and took up the cause of the People while I got to have a go at the brutal Moroccan Regulares. Everyone involved in the scenario (myself and both Fritz and Jamie) were curious to see how things played out and insisted on the exact same board (and it is near identical, down to the tree placement), and Jamie and I decided to use the same roll results as Fritz and I so that it would be the best comparison possible.  Therefore we had 8 support, the attacker got 4 free patrol moves, and the militia got an 11 Force Morale to the Moroccans' 10.

The patrol phase played out somewhat similarly, with Jamie aggressively trying to lock me down with his markers. I chose 3, rather than 4, for speed.  The Nationalist jump off points were on nearly a straight line across the board. With the three markers however, I was able to get a jump off point behind the hedge row on the right, which was important for my general strategy.

The militia ended up with a different arrangement than I did the day before. Jamie put one at each corner of the church, and opted not to add an additional point at the graveyard (the objective) itself (due to a concern that if the objective is temporarily taken, it could hurt his morale).

The third was well placed behind the building closest to his table edge, allowing him to deploy into it.

The support choices were slightly different this time around, although Jamie based his choices largely on mine from the day before. He chose:
"el hombre" (1),  hardened militianos (4), LMG x3 (3), MMG (2) ,Army Officer advisor (2), Bilbao Armored car (2), Green army infantry w/junior leader (3), adjutant (1), as I did, but instead of the sniper, chose Flag (2), and a Roadblock (1). Probably wise as the sniper was utterly useless yesterday. As I didn't take any AFVs, the roadblock didn't come into play.

I kept Fritz's choice of Preliminary Barrage (2), but instead of the sniper and field gun took a section of Foreign Legion (regulars), and a mortar for one of my teams.

Jamie initially had better luck than I did yesterday, and managed to successfully deploy some units on the first few rolls. The car came on first, although it turned out that the roadblock only blocked the friendly AFV.

Unfortunately, I had no way to deal with that car. I could try and drive it off with my LMGs, but it seemed unlikely. So as I deployed the Legion on the right, I put them on overwatch and targeted the car for covering fire.

A section of Moroccans deployed on the left. I had initially intended to try to drive my patrol markers up the right and keep my forces together for a concentrated right hook, but they were locked down too quickly to make that feasible. Instead, I had to mirror Fritz's strategy and try to move a section of Moroccans around the church. It was during the execution of this maneuver that I was able to mangle this section and cripple him, so I was a bit nervous about repeating it.

This was my first game with 6 command dice and it is a beautiful thing. On my next phase I was able to rapidly move the Legion section across the street, while covering them with my second Moroccan section, along with a senior leader.

The Legion moves cautiously, risking fire from the Bilbao's machine gun.

Meanwhile Jamie is able to deploy a section into the rearmost house to cover the approach to the church. In the next phase he moves the LMG to the rightmost windows to fire on the Legion.

Another section deploys in the cover of the church's gallery, along with the senior leader and Flag.

As expected the Bilbao kills one of the Legionaries, but thanks to the tactical stance, the light cover from firing across the courtyard, and the covering fire from the Moroccans, casualties are minimal. Glancing at the dice Jamie rolled made me realize how useful covering fire can be. The 10 dice from the MMG turned up with only three hits, but there were another 4 or 5 fours rolled, which would have hit but for the covering fire.  The system does model advancing under covering fire rather well.

On the next phase I roll 2 sixes, allowing a double phase. The Legionaries rush forward on the right.

On the left, the Moroccans make a dash for the edge of the church on their first phase, taking some shock. They also threaten the militia's jump off point on that end of the church.

The Legionaries initially split, one team being slowed by the building in front of them, but using it to cover the rest. The senior leader rushes up to catch up with that team, and later with the rest of the section. On the second phase, the lead team of the legion reaches the edge of the building, rendering that jump off point useless as well. Grenades are successfully tossed into the upstairs windows to soften the militia inside.

With two jump off points overrun by the Nationalists, it seems like a good time to spend my CoC die to end the turn...

Causing the immediate loss of 3 points of force morale for the militia!  And just as bad, they now have only one point to deploy from.

The Moroccans rush forward to the very gates of the graveyard. As they do so, they take overwatch fire from the MMG with the militia in the church's gallery.  With them again moving tactically, the damage is relatively slight.

Meanwhile the Legion make it around the building at the rear and surge up the stairs. The rest of the section has now caught up and is able to make it into close combat with the milita inside.

With the militia inside whittled down from fire from the Moroccans at the hedge line and the grenades, and the Legion almost entirely intact, the combat is one-sided. The militia is slaughtered to a man. The Legion now holds the building.  It's not the safest place, with the armored car and the militia across the street able to shoot at them, but it is hard cover and allows for now two sections to cover the front of the church.

The Moroccans push into the graveyard, taking the objective. It was pretty crucial to take the building across the street as the upper floor is the only place that had a line of sight over the high walls. Once inside, the reds will have to try and assault the building directly if they want to take it back.

The Moroccans that don't make it inside are subjected to the expected withering fire from the militia in the gallery. They'll only have to last one more phase before they're inside thankfully.

The militia are getting desperate. Needing reinforcements, another militia section along with their green army boys pour out of the church (the last jump off point anyway), but due to the 4" limit, the two sections are necessarily poorly placed. There's just not much room for them!  The army section ends up in front, totally exposed to fire from across the street.

An LMG on overwatch is more than happy to oblige the inexperienced troops.

...and I roll really well for damage. 6 kills!

The army unit's junior leader is killed outright in the firestorm (another point of morale), and I allocate the remaining 5 kills to the LMG team, wiping them out and causing another morale check. Things are looking bad for the Revolution. The militia are down to morale 4. The fascists are still at a 10.

What remains of the army unit and the armored car shoot up the Legion, slowing down the removal of shock (I completely forgot to use their ability to remove double shock). I'm fully expecting this unit to soak up fire, and am fully winning to lose them if it wins me the game.

As the Moroccans move into position within the graveyard, Jamie sees his last chance. He moves both of his nearby militia units to the cemetery gate and they make a desperate push to retake the objective.

The combat is close and brutal. The militia has twenty men, nearly unhurt, a senior leader and a MMG, while the Moroccans are also still rather intact, despite their daring rush, and have not only a senior and junior leader, but an LMG, a quality advantage and the hard cover of the yard.  In the end, the Moroccans win, forcing the militia back, but surprisingly not breaking or even pinning either team.

However, the Militia's senior leader was wounded in the melee, dropping their morale and forcing the loss of a command die.  Thanks to the flag, which reduces shock taken, neither team is even pinned, yet without a senior leader it will be difficult for them to get rid of all that shock and become effective again.

The Moroccans see two whole teams wiped out, and both a senior and junior leader wounded, causing a three point loss to their morale.

Fire from the Legion finishes the job on the green army unit which breaks and flees. Jamie rolls poorly, and his morale (and command dice) drop to a 1.

Rolling his single command die, he rolls a 5. Using his army advisor, he takes the reroll, hoping to activate something, anything, but rolls an even more useless 6. We both know it's over.

The legion wipes out the last green army soldier, and the milita break.

With the clergy safe in the graveyard, this is a clear victory for the Nationalists. The fact that, despite the close combat in the graveyard, none of the clergy were killed is widely reported by Franco's propagandists as a true miracle, proof that God is on the side of the Nationalist rebels, and against the godless reds.

Meanwhile, La Jefe and the surviving reds slink away into the hills...

Lessons Learned:  I feel like this was Jamie's best game of CoC yet, and that he made very few mistakes. Unfortunately, the militia are very limited by what they can do, and it showed. I was satisfied with my own showing as well, particularly with the very successful maneuvering on both flanks. Using covering fire, overwatch, and most importantly the Moroccan's ability to more 2d6 tactically, I actually managed to take the objective and the important house across the street with very minimal casualties and no morale hits.

I think the lesson learned is that CoC is not, as it appears at first glance, a game about throwing down a volume of dice. That's just the randomness of two sides slugging it out against each other. Rather, it's a game of trying to stack everything in your favor before you get to that point, using cover, and importantly using those leader initiatives to make it harder for the enemy to be effective (something the militia are very limited in their ability to do). Covering fire reduces your chances of bring hit by 1/3. Overwatch adds a powerful psychological deterrent to firing at all. Tactical movement makes hits less effective.  Moving a unit tactically under covering fire might at first glance seem to be less effective than just ordering the whole section to fire, but you're more likely to be successful if you wait until you have the advantage before trying to break the enemy.

It was a lot of fun to go back to a professional force after my previous couple of games as the militia. It's like running with lead weights tied to you, and then letting them drop. This week, Fritz and I are moving to CoC WWII with a showdown between my British and his Germans, two fully professional forces with some serious weaponry (at least compared to SCW standards!). Wish me luck!


  1. Great pair of games! I'm starting to feel the need to get CoC.

    I would be interested in seeing you use Force-on-Force rules with your Spanish minis.

    1. Thanks! A friend of mine has been trying to get me into Force on Force. Is there anything specific about it that would make you recommend it?

    2. The action/reaction system is pretty great.