Combat Commander: Stalingrad, Scenario 37

Ken and I resumed what will hopefully be weekly Wednesday wargaming sessions. We’ve been playing through the Stalingrad scenarios for Combat Commander and loving it. We played scenario 37 which has a weak Russian force trying to hold out against a superior German force in an urban combat setting. I played the Russians, Ken the Germans.

20090917-Combat Commander- Stalingrad

The default setup and victory conditions has the primary objective for Germans close to the front line – a dividing road near the German setup location. We drew additional objectives that made the two buildings near the rear line worth an extra 14 VPs, which is a huge strategic change in the scenario. Ken was sufficiently aggressive, running up my weaker left flank in an attempt to capture one of the bonus buildings. In short order he was also moving up my right front or the 12 point bonus and there wasn’t much I could do with my garrison near their front lines.

Some early time triggers put the screws on Ken pretty hard but he stayed with his plan. He only managed to capture a single objective by the turn 6 trigger that brings in my reinforcements plus an extra squad/LMG for each objective I still hold (4 total). We both felt like this was probably game over for the Germans but Ken persisted and I made at least one tactical error by having my front garrison run for the sewers. I forgot about his hero that could dash across the map at will and this allowed him to capture the building. It then became a race of casualties vs. time, and as you can see from the photo below we were both up against our surrender limits.

20090917-Combat Commander- Stalingrad-1

Unfortunately for Ken the sudden death time trigger came before he could eliminate another unit and the Russians were the victors.

This is a very well balanced scenario (considering a single play) with loads of tension and a classic attacker/defender posture. The time-based reinforcements force the Germans to act quickly which keeps the pace brisk.

Our Defensive Scheme

We’ve nearly installed our defense for the year as of this week. I’ll work on a few minor additions over the next 2 weeks, and we will always make small adjustments based on scouting reports, but our core scheme is in place. The split 6 is very similar to the 4-4 stack, and the best online resource I’ve found that describes most of our scheme is the Jaws of Death hybrid by John Carbon. I ran the split-6 exclusively the last three years with great results – last year we allowed an average of under 12 points per game; 8 points per game if you throw out the first game of the season where we ran the 3-5-3 (poorly) and allowed 33 points.

So why introduce a 3-5-3 when the split-6 has worked so well for us? Two reasons:

  • Sherwood High School runs the 3-5-3 and these kids are getting close to playing at this level.

  • We have better athletes this year, including a very strong core group of linebackers. Running three inside linebackers gives me more options for blitzing and pressure.

The teaching points for the two defensive schemes are very similar, and in fact identical for our hawks and secondary. For the defensive line there are critical differences that are easy to teach. In the split-6 they are aligned directly in gaps and we will not slant or stunt (though we could run exchange stunts with linebackers if we wanted to). In the 3-5-3 they will always align heads up (on center and the two tackles) and slant variously depending on my play calling.

WhiteKnightDefense2009 3-5-3 Alignment. Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

When I call a split-6 front (either Able where the tackles align in the A gaps or Baker where they align in B), we move the stud linebacker into the left DE position and slide the 3 down linemen to the right. I will not be shifting the linebackers and D-line to strength – it leads to confusion for some of these young kids and I don’t think it would be significantly beneficial to us in any case.

WhiteKnightDefense2009 Shifting from 3-5-3 to Split 6. Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Why include both fronts? I like to be able to show different fronts (odd and even), and if we encounter a team that is showing almost exclusively an inside running game I might stick to split-6 fronts for most of the game. I was able to install the split-6 after teaching the 3-5-3 in less than 30 minutes of practice time. We’ll see how it works in our first game a week from today.

Check out our 2009 defensive playbook. This is what we share with the players and parents.

Jamboree – first scrimmage

We participated in the Tigard jamboree this weekend with mostly positive results. Our defense was stellar and is ahead of where I hoped to be by now – we’ve only had about 90 minutes of team defense practice but every player executed well and nothing got by us. I was stunting / blitzing on every play and just running down my slant and blitz list to get the kids used to our different packages. Over the next two weeks I’ll install our old-school split-6 defense so that we can give a mix of even and odd fronts. Most of my players know the split 6 well so it should be an easy addition. Below is the raw footage from our defense, followed by our offense. Notice how well our hawks (outside linebackers in the 3-5-3) executed – great containment, pursuit, and tackling. We still need to work a bit on keeping their outside arm free and getting depth when they sweep wide, but their athleticism and quickness made up for some small fundamental issues.

Offense was a bit more of a struggle, but not a disaster either. We were running most of the offense with backup tackles and we have some work to do on our WB down blocks on sweep and down plays. So much of the Wing-T is timing and coordination between the backs and the line – it is often compared to choreography. The video below provides my analysis of key things we need to work on with our offense and this will be our focus for the next 2 weeks as we prepare for our first game on September 12.

Roads and Boats Again

Jacob and I were eager to play Roads and Boats again, so persuaded Matthew to join us for a Sunday afternoon game. I was a bit hesitant, not knowing if Matthew would latch onto a game that can be a bit of a brain burner and would hardly be considered light. Given he enjoyed War of the Ring, I should not have been surprised with his pleasure playing this.

Jacob is very much a natural at planning ahead on both logistics and production. He once again mostly ignored the wonder and focused on working towards coins and stock certificates. I was more aggressive in updating my transporters, getting to 5 wagons fairly quickly followed by a couple of rowboats. Matthew went long on the wonder, earning points in just about every row while learning his way around the production tree.

Matthew and I were fairly convinced that Jacob would be the runaway victor (again), but I researched specialized mines and new mine shafts (after building a “normal” mine so that I could grab some ore) and got a nice steady flow of gold. Jacob worked his way to a stock certificate and would have had a second soon, but Matthew forced the game to end by racing the wonder. I had a nice mix of wonder points, raw gold, and two coins and edged out a narrow victory (204 to 186). Matthew loved the game and this might become a staple in the house.