In this Action Point, we will take a look at several of the special actions available during the game, including Exploitation Movement, Improved Positions and Roadblocks.
Exploitation is generally chosen in order to take advantage of a successful attack by following that up with an additional attack on the retreating units. This is a special class of tactical maneuver. When a HQ unit is activated, the player can choose to place a special Exploit marker on top of several units before conducting any regular movement or combat. After the combat is conducted that round for the units that either didn’t move prior to attack or that used tactical movement, and then after all resulting retreat or advances have been resolved, units that were designated for exploitation may then conduct movement and combat. Exploitation can only be conducted by motorized units so planning is required to be able to use the benefit.
When properly used, exploitation can really benefit the Germans particularly as they are trying to break through the American lines to wreak havoc and capture Town hexes which will grant Victory Points at game’s end. Also, in later rounds, as the Allied counterattack is in full force, they can also take advantage of the mechanism to try desperately to take back those captured Town hexes prior to final scoring. Neat little mechanic that we enjoyed quite a bit.
Improved Positions and Roadblocks
I love Engineers. They make life for combat troops bearable as they can build fortifications that protect as well as those that hinder the enemy. In Winter Thunder, a big part of the American strategy will have to be a coordinated retreat and fall back to more defensible positions to withstand the onslaught of the Germans and to hopefully contain their advance. The two elements in the game that are available to aid this effort are Improved Positions (IP) and Roadblocks.
IPS are simple. Any in-supply unit that is under the command of an HQ, that hasn’t moved or participated in combat that round, may place an Improved Position marker in its hex. The effect of the IP marker is to give an additional +1 to the Terrain Modifier of the defender’s hex. If the units in the hex with the IP move or attack, the marker is removed. I found that these were very important to keeping the American units alive in the early going and found myself using them often rather than flinging my under powered units headlong into the German war machine. These IPs are very key to any possible victory for the Americans.
Roadblocks are also very simple but provide a good means of slowing down the German advance until reinforcements can arrive to bolster the beleaguered Americans until they can muster sufficient forces to counterattack and drive the Germans back. When an Allied HQ is activated, they may place one Block marker in or adjacent to the HQ unit, or to the hex of a friendly unit that is in Command Range. Only one Block marker per hex is allowed and the hex must be empty or friendly controlled. The Block markers stop units once they enter the hex with them and are then removed. They act as speed bumps only and also disrupt supply as the enemy cannot use the hex containing the Block marker to trace supply. Really neat little element that can be used in multiple ways. To impede the Germans advance as well as to cause issues with supply.
Overall, Winter Thunder: The Battle of the Bulge from Tiny Battle Publishing is a great little game that we enjoyed quite a bit. It is not the best game I have ever played on the Bulge, but definitely had some very interesting and unique elements to it that made it very playable and also memorable. Nice work again Brian! You are a great designer and I appreciate your take on many battles.
If you missed it, you can check out Action Point 1 where we took a look at the Operations Phase and the Combat Resolution.
As I pointed out in my response to the other Action Point, I did a game using this system on the Poland 1939 campaign. The terrain there is a lot more open and the correlation of forces different, so there is more scope for Exploitation movement – so that gets a bit more elbow room and use in that game.
As you pointed out, it cuts both ways too, when Patton’s 3rd Army arrives and the Allied counteroffensive gets underway you will want to exploit through those hapless Volksgrenadiers too… but beware of the Traffic Control rule; stacking limits apply at all times, so you can’t just ram armoured divisions through, no more than the Germans could two weeks before.
And again, this is where roadblocks become useful; in an optional rule the Germans can build these things too (and they did, historically; they were quite good at mobile defence and delaying by this time).
It appears my response to the other action point has been lost. Shame, it was brilliant, or as brilliant as I can be before 10:00. Oh well.
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I saw that you mentioned another comment but it wasn’t there. I wish I could have seen it because everything you write is noteworthy.
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Not posting. I don’t always like WordPress.
Well, it was in response to your thoughts on the chit-pull and combat system, of course.
The game originally came out of a deal that the Microgame Design Group was trying to hatch with a Spanish magazine back in 2002, where they wanted to put wargames in their magazine but they only wanted the “Big 5” battles (Waterloo, Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Bulge and something else I forgot – maybe Arnhem). At the time I had worked out the bones of a corps/army system based on postures and missions, partly inspired by a variant for Blitzkrieg Jim Stahler had published in the General magazine back in 1985. I was going to use it for a Manchuria 1945 game but there was this opportunity, so I used it for Autumn Mist, which Winter Thunder revises.
The deal did not go through and a few years later I published it with Fiery Dragon Productions. Retroactively I joked that for any game designer to be taken seriously, he had to do a Bulge game, and this one was mine. I have used this system in Summer Lightning (Poland 1939) and Balkan Gamble (Mediterranean 1943-45) but still haven’t done that Manchuria game… I will one day.
Chit-pull, HQ-controlled games are familiar now, and they weren’t unknown back in 2002 either, but the combat system was something not often seen and as you point out, it takes a bit of getting used to. You have to think about what you want the battle to accomplish in selecting your mission, instead of piling on as many combat factors as you can and hoping for a good roll. And the other guy is thinking about it too.