I taught my wife Cathy how to play Conflict of Heroes this evening, and learned something of which all men (or at least all men who are wargamers) should beware.
Cathy was climbing a fairly steep learning curve on this. She’s a very capable gamer with some experience of tactical wargames, but mostly ancient-period and fantasy stuff. CoH is her first modern-period wargame, which I wanted to teach her partly to find out how much of her knowledge would transfer. Ancients and fantasy tactics differ from WWII and later tactics quite a bit because, where ancient-period weapons favor concentration of forces, modern semiautomatic and automatic weapons demand dispersion and mobility if you’re not going to get shot up to no purpose.
We played scenario 2, “The Gap”, from Awakening The Bear (the first CoH fame, covering 1941-1942 on the Russian Front). The scenario is basically a platoon-level German probe at a Russian fixed defense of a village in the Ukraine; the Germans want to push through it, the Russians to stop them, and the victory point scoring conditions favor whoever ends up in control of a large stone house that’s a natural strong point. The Russians start with control of the strong point, but seriously outnumbered; they’re holding for reinforcements. The Germans are under time pressure.
I took the Germans because we both thought Cathy would be more in her element playing defense. Since she was learning modern tactics as well as the mechanics, I helped her out early on by telling her where I would site my units if I were defending the position, explaining concepts like fire lanes and mutual support. One of her setup conditions was the ability to place two hidden units, offering her the opportunity for some tactical surprise.
My initial challenge was to take out the heavy Maxim machine gun Cathy had sited in the strong point. Not too difficult as my German platoon had a light machine gun for each for four squads; I dispersed them and laid down suppressive fire until I could get my infantry near enough to close-assault the strong point. My close assault succeeded right at the end of turn 2, leaving me in control of the strong point with no casualties and a couple of unit kills on the Russians.
The whole time this was going on, Cathy was bitching and moaning about not knowing what to do, feeling confused about the mechanics, etc, etc. The truth was, though, she’d used that Maxim to pretty good effect before I took it out, forcing my units to stay in cover and further out from the village than I was happy with in a game with a tight turn limit. The close assault only worked because my infantry ran in after Cathy’s units in line of sight had expended all their action points firing at my troops earlier in the turn, and it was a near-run thing.
Then it got ugly.
It was the end of turn 3 in 5, and I’d collected the 5 victory point bonus for being in control of the strong point at turn end. But the unit holding it, and that unit’s backup in an adjacent hex, were where the Russians might be able to cut both off and kill them, with my rear units barely in support range. And Cathy had reinforcements coming in, including another Maxim which she promptly sited in some heavy woods with a fire lane clear to my forward units.
The only thing for it was to blitz my rear units into the village, hope they didn’t get popped by the hidden Russian units on the way in, and go house to house ripping the Russian infantry out of their holes.
My wife continued to bitch and moan about not being sure what to do, not knowing the rules, getting lousy die rolls…and fought like a cornered tigress. She gacked four of my eight units in the house-to-house fighting and actually took back the strong point building…OK, so I blew her attack force away on the next turn with concentrated fire from my remaining three light machine guns, but taking it back at all was pretty impressive considering she was outnumbered.
The whole time Cathy was complaining about feeling clueless I did not see her make one single tactical error. She sited her hidden units right where they’d be maximum pains in the asses when I found them, chose her fire priorities well, deployed properly to delay and block me, used her heavy weapons as one should, and inflicted 50% casualties on my troops. OK, she did one thing that might have been disastrous, running infantry in for close assault across a fire lane for two of my LMGs…but that gamble worked – she got a Rally roll at the right time and was able to punch out the target.
I won this one, but only because I was more experienced and didn’t make any errors Cathy could jump on and used the fire/maneuver advantages of my LMGs to the hilt. I’ve known professional military officers who wouldn’t have run Cathy’s end of the action that competently, and this was her first game. I love my wife….
So, what’s the lesson here? Don’t let them give you to the women…because a woman may bitch and moan and whine about how lost she feels doing something like this, but that won’t keep necessarily keep her from kicking some pretty serious ass.