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Thursday, October 5, 2017

On Battle Plans

by Tom Culpepper

Last month Battle Front released an updated mission pack.  Much has been said about the implications of the new victory conditions and how they will affect play-style and, perhaps, list creation.  Recently, I conducted an analysis of the Battle Plans scheme for choosing the mission.
For tournament players knowing what missions will be played, or are likely to be played, can have a decisive impact on their list construction.  If you’re anything like me when you first saw the Battle Plans mission selector you thought to yourself, “this looks complicated, but fun!”  Your second thought may have also been, “How can I over-analyze this to gain a small edge over my opponent?”
First, we should discuss the nine (not counting Annihilation or Hasty Attack) scenarios found in the updated More Missions pdf.  Each of the nine missions can be sorted into three groups.  Each group contains three similar scenarios. 

Defensive Battles

Bridgehead, No Retreat, and Rear Guard compose this set.  These scenarios are featuring a classic attacker vs defender type layout.  In all three missions the defender has minefields and an ambush.  In two scenarios, Bridgehead and No Retreat, the defender must contend with reserves, deep reserves actually.  Rear Guard is the only mission that uses Withdrawal, acting like reserves in reverse.  To me, these are the most straight forward missions even though they use many special rules because each side only has one job to do.  The attacker must take an objective to win.  In Bridgehead and No Retreat the defender wins if the attacker is not near the objectives after turn six.  In Withdrawal, he just has to hold out until turn nine.

Fair Fight (AKA “Meeting Engagements” or “Symmetrical Battle”)

This group includes Dustup, Encounter, and Free for All.  In these scenarios each player wins by capturing one of their opponent’s objectives, but must also defend their own.  One player is labeled as the “Attacker” and the other “Defender”, but this label only affects who chooses their table edge and deploys first.  Players deploy their units on an alternating basis.  Armies with more units will have the advantage of waiting to see where their opponent places decisive units before committing their own.  

Mobile Battles

This mix includes Breakthrough, Counter Attack, and Contact.  Players seem to either love these missions or hate them.  They are similar to the Defensive battles in that one player is attacker and one is defender.  Several themes run throughout these scenarios.  They use reserves for the attacker (in two out of three) as well as defender.  Unlike the Fair Fight scenarios, the reserve rules are asymmetric with the attacker starting with more of his forces available sooner.   For example, in Contact both players have reserves, but the defender’s are delayed.  In Breakthrough the attacker only has to keep one unit in reserve.  To balance things out, the defender gets an ambush in each of these missions, but no minefields.  Objective placement and rules are anomalous in most of these scenarios.  Two missions place objectives outside of players’ deployment.  The objectives can’t always be claimed immediately.  This makes the instinct to rush an objective in order to reach it first sometimes unwise.  Contact is a recent addition, replacing Hasty Attack.  Contact straddles the line between a Fair Fight and Mobile Battle.  Deployment and objective placement is symmetric as in a Fair Fight scenario, but special rules (ambush, reserve) are used to encourage the attacker and defender into their respective roles.

Now we have three groups of missions.  Let’s have a look at that Battle Plans matrix:

There are all sorts of implications for choosing your Battle Plans strategy if you already know the opponent you will play against, their list, and terrain you will do battle on.  For the purpose of this article I assume an opponent who is equally likely to choose any of the three strategies: Attack, Maneuver, or Defend and whose choice is unknown to us.  I also wrote this with MW V4 in mind, but most of it applies to Team Yankee as well.  Because I assume we don’t know our opponents list or the terrain prior to selecting our Battle Plan, I assume we will choose the same one for the duration of a tournament or event.  The task before us is to look at what situations each of these strategies is likely to put us in and how that may instruct our list building.  The names of each strategy imply what the result of choosing them will be.  If you choose “Attack” you’ll be attacking all the time, right?  Let’s see about that…

The charts below show the probability of each mission depending on what strategy you choose.  They also show how likely you are to be the attacker or defender.  Note for Fair Fight scenarios, I do not consider there to be a real “Attacker” or “Defender” as both player must attack and defend at the same time.

A player choosing the “Attack” strategy will NEVER be the defender in any Defensive Battle.  They have a small chance of defending in Breakthrough or Counter Attack.  He still has a 1 in 3 chance to play a Fair Fight scenario where he must defend while attacking.  Because of this, he must have a plan for how he will keep his opponent off of his objectives in a Fair Fight.  He should have a plan for dealing with minefields, ambushes, and dug-in infantry or AT guns.  His single most likely outcome will be as the attacker in Counter Attack at about 14%.

The player choosing “Mobility” as his strategy receives a mixed bag.  He will always be the attacker in defensive battle, but the situation is less sure in Mobile Battles.  Speaking of Mobile Battles, he’s more likely to end up in one of those than anyone else.  Like the attacker, he will need a plan to deal with ambushes.  Minefields are less of a concern, but still a potential hazard.  I assess that the Mobility player will need to build their list primarily for the attack, but also with defensive capabilities for Mobile Battles and Fair Fight Battles.  His single most likely outcome is to be the defender in Counter Attack (14%), mirroring the player who chose to the attack strategy.

Adopting a “Defend” strategy seems to reward a player with the most predictability.  He will be the defender in almost three quarters of his match-ups with only a small probability to of attacking in a Mobile Battle.  However, if he’s in a Fair Fight he can still only win by claiming an objective.  The temptation will be for players to choose this build and make a list for total defense.  However, this may lead to ties in the Fair Fight scenarios.  The single most likely outcome is to play the defender in No Retreat 22% of the time!


Overall, I’m excited about seeing Battle Plans used in future events.  It allows players to choose a “theme” for their army in addition to the faction, adding another dimension to list building.  I hope this will bring greater variety into lists as players craft theirs for an intended role.  

Tom Culpepper is a wargamer from the Atlanta area.  You can find him on the forums as "DJTommyC".  He spends 70% of his hobby time painting, 29% making lists, and 1% playing an occasional game.

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