Coffey vs Burkhalter : Game II, Day One

Coffey :
This is a great game that I played about 9 or 10 times when it was first released and never since then. The game Hank and I are starting here is a perfect example of how the internet is an asset to the hobby. Except for bumping into Hank's page via the Virtual Wargamer Headquarters Discussion Board, ...who knows?...I may never have played it again. I like the game primarily because both players have difficult decisions to make which tend to add tension and suspense in the play. A brief note on set-up. Anyone familiar with the game will notice that my initial Fort set-up does not agree with the more "defense-in-depth" approach found in a "General" article on the topic. The killing power of the fort primary range I think is maximized by placing them on the rampart hexes rather than behind. When placed behind, their maximum effect only comes into play once the ramparts are breached. Placement on the ramparts combines their effects with outer works die-rolls, and doubling of defending units giving the Romans their strongest unit eliminating combination. Except for essential bridging my Fort set-up is mostly a result of this idea. Further it is relatively common for a Gallic attack that breaches the outer works to be unable to seize Forts which are then bypassed. Some Gallic units will still have to be used to screen them. Every hex away from Alesia those Gallic units are helps the Roman in the only thing that really matters---preventing Vercingetorix's escape. Other than that its obvious I have a healthy respect for my vulnerability in the area near off-board section VIII. It's the most heavily fortified area of my line. Roman mobility is of course also a key asset and my Fort placement does serve to bridge rivers at key locations. We'll see how it all works. Other than that the first key decision to impact on the course of events is a Gallic one. Will he make an early attack designed merely to activate the Alesia garrison or not?

. . . .

Coffey, Turn I:
The Gauls are now opposite board sections I, II, and X. I've adjusted some units into II and X in case he goes for the activation attack. Other than that no change. The tension mounts for the sons of Rome! Where and how will those quarter of a million Gauls strike?

Coffey, Turn II:
This is probably one of the best locations for the Gallic activation attack because of its proximity to the board edge and easy access to outer works. Solid move by Hank. Barring lots of bad die rolls he can get the activation accomplished and then get out with little risk to his troops. A first turn activation attack isn't feasible from off board section #1 due to lack of outer works hexes within striking range. Opposite section #2 is also possible. Now the Alesia force will be able to move either turn 4,5 or 6 depending on the chit Hank draws. I've given up some doubled terrain in order to decrease the number of units I expose to a 3 hex attack in the Mt. Rea salient. Seeing as we've discovered the Gauls have learned how to read Latin I won't make real specific comments on strategy until after the fact. The tense balancing act for the Romans begins!!


Coffey, Turn III:
What a great game Caesar Alesia is. Though the hard choices I'm making in my defense can be nerve wracking, the Gauls also have to make hard decisions. Just because a weakness develops in the Roman perimeter doesn't mean the bulk of off-board Gauls are now able to take advantage of it. If they are not they have to decide if moving toward the weak spot is worth the time spent. Though the Gauls want to "light up" every off-board zone to spread the Romans thin that also takes time...and time is on the Roman side. A note on tactics. Although there is automatic elim in Caesar:Alesia it does not take place during movement. That allows a player to conduct the kind of screen I'm using with the 2 cavalry in B26, and B28. I don't prefer to do that but it buys me time there and allows concentration elsewhere. Also when possible I think it is important for the Roman to keep varying the set up (notice I'm back in the camp near zone 2), it complicates Gallic planning.

Coffey, Turn IV:
This is only 22% of the relieving Army. Although my counterattack largely retreated off the rampart the force there is in good shape. I'm going to write down where I think the Gauls are likely to strike next and reveal if my guess was any good after the fact. The Alesia force moves this turn as the PBEM rules we are in fact using give an automatic chit draw of "2".

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Coffey, Turn V:
Hank's really giving me a run for my money on this move. Multiple threats but focused on Zone II and I, the area I chose to accept risk in. I did so because based on the rest of my deployment it is relatively easy to reinforce. We'll see if the risk was too great. Further he still has a capable force off board. I did guess wrong. I thought he was stretching me out to the Northeast toward Zone V. Desperate times require desperate measures. I'm abandoning the Mt Rea salient. A blunder on my part at the southern fort in Zone II. I did not intend to allow a Gaul to slip onto the rampart. Generally the Roman forts should have units flanking them on each connected rampart hex. As to my response, except for two '6' die rolls that lost me a cohort each, the counterattacks went fairly well. It was more important to maintain the rampart in Zone II than Zone IX. Keep those outer works die rolls coming. Of necessity these notes will have to remain somewhat cryptic I'm maintaining some complete notes that may be interesting as an after action review. In my view the game is leaning to the Gauls right now. Again fine multiple threats by Hank --- with a solid threat still undisclosed. Mr. V is aimed like an arrow for his escape.

Coffey, Turn VI:
Well as Caesar said ALEA IACTA EST. The die is cast. There is not much use scrambling around the rest of the board except to maintain forts. Finally I'm able to get Labienus and Caesar into the fight though Caesar not yet at a key point. The God of war certainly smiled on combats off zone II. That could have been much worse although there is now a lot of Roman combat power there. The leaders ability to influence multiple combats certainly paid off with Labienus. What a fine balancing act this game continues to be. The next two turns will probably be decisive for this assault period.

Coffey, Turn VII, post Gaul combat:
Although it looks like the Gauls will break through around zone II I believe I'll be able to contain it. Missile fire got particularly deadly this turn 7 so I guess all those sheep sacrificed to Mars paid off. This turn was also a good example of how vital it is for the Roman to maintain rampart mobility. I'd be sunk without it. Also I've abandoned even more of the perimeter.

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Coffey, Turn VII:

All too briefly Caesar felt he could breathe a sigh of relief. At last the entire Gallic force was revealed, and the legionaires, through strained almost to the breaking point, were reinforcing and counterattacking in the nick of time to keep Vercingetorix trapped. Now the relieving army stood revealed and committed. Though alarmed at first, Caesar now felt Vercingetorix could be contained and that the mounting Gaul casualties would soon exhaust their efforts for this day. Besides Vercingetorix was attemtping to break out in an area that Caesar himself would soon reach and there he felt confident he could contain him.

Then a strange thing happened. The Gallic chieftan's standard turned in the breeze, for a split second it hung limp. And that odd inactivity caught the Roman's eye more than any frenzied death charge. Suddenly, it snapped back and the crowd of young Gallic nobles that served as Vercingetorix' bodyguard closed around their leader. but not to move toward the rampart, but back -- back toward the town of Alesia. A few cheers of victory echoed from the parched throats of the legionairres nearby, but Caesar knew in an instant this was folly. In a flash he realized this as a new threat. He suddenly saw all the promise of ending the Gallic rebellion and returning home in triumph shattered. As he looked out over to the North he saw forming faintly but clearly the very thing he had struggled so hard to prevent. In the distance there to the north unmistakably etched out on the ground by the teaming forms of the Gallic warbands, was a clean route of escape for the Gaul. The furious massed assaults around Labienus had been too much. The rest of the cohorts east of Mt Rea withdrew down to contain the threat near Labienus in zone II. But the Gauls at this saw their chance. The warbands in the north funneled behind the withdrawing cohorts and the northern half of the beseiged Gauls abandoned the effort to struggle across the trench and surged forward in a new direction to link up.

Quickly Caesar spit out orders. the withdrawing cohorts were to reverse direction, recross the OSE river and charge down its north bank to block the Gauls who were so near to linking up with the beseiged force. The isolated VII Legion would now have to take even more chances. Only a few cohorts, most of them auxiliaries, would remain in their fortified camp the rest would cross the OSE River on the other side of the fast forming Gallic escape route and pinch off this link up attempt before disaster struck. Between the counterattack and the fortified camp would be the thinnest screen of cavalry units.

Fortunately for the Romans the tide was turned by one lone reliable cavalry troop. While the cohorts slashed into the front of the two southernmost warbands, slowly pushing them back, the cavalry troop ran up the bed of the OSE and took the two warbands in the rear. Suddenly panic spread among the surprised Gauls and the next two warbands to the north suffered the same fate. For a moment at least the situation was stabilized -- but -- as always -- not without cost to the defense elsewhere.


Congratulations to Hank on a fine game. Thought I would jot down a few lessons learned for myself as well as (maybe) the benefit of anyone else interested. Certainly chime in. Especially if you disagree with anything I've got here as that will probably deepen all our understanding of this great game.

1) Overcommittment of forts in Zone VIII. This was an example of failed psychological warfare on my part. I had never played Hank before in anything and saw from the homepage that Richard had (ultimately) successfully attacked as the Gauls through Zone VIII. Solidly denying that option to Hank might have been slightly unnerving(?). However seven forts in the area is definitely overkill. Even six is probably too much. Could have used them elsewhere.

2) My fort placement in general had more to do with killing Gallic warbands and keeping them on the outer works than sealing in Vercingetorix. Personally I think either option or combination thereof is viable, but that at least the Mt Rhea fort should have been in Zone IV.

3) Overcommittment in the MT Rhea sector. This was not only a matter of number of cohorts but position as well. No need to stick that far out. Also too many forces there. My reasoning was that the position was centrally located between two areas I thought most likely to get attacked on that side of the board, namely, Zone II and Zone IV,V. Some of those cohorts would have better served IN Zones II and IV. Ultimately though I thought he was trying to stretch me out and would probably follow his Zone IV attack with one from V. He did not do so but assaulted back at II. I guessed wrong and had started to reposition accordingly. Wanted these forces to be a reserve without appearing obviously to be such. Still my dispositions turns 2,3 and 4 were too overcommitted in this area. An area that 90% of the time is an unprofitable attack option for the Gauls, (but never say never).

4) Defense of inner ring too weak. The about 8-hex long stretch of inner rampart that can be reached by the Alesia force in one turn was too thinly held. Hank vaulting onto the rampart here in only one turn -- in combination with other attacks really forced me to scramble.

5) Units in forts exert no ZOC. Therefore most of the time they need adjacent units to prevent an immediate jump up onto the rampart by the Gauls. Goofed on this in Zone II and it hurt.

6) Failed to remain EXACTLY aware of where Vercingetorix can move. Hank's move of Vercingetorix back into Alesia was a good use of his available options. I didn't see it. Closing my turn out prior to this move I can recall just making a visual evaluation and concluding Vercingetorix was still committed to a southwesterly breakout and could not alter that in but one turn. Should have actually counted the hexes. His movement is the key to victory after all.

7) The combat results table is not bloody. I have to admit when I saw those hordes of Gauls well - focused on the southwestern corner of the board I thought I was in very deep trouble. I forgot the extent to which this CRT does NOT result in elimination. Roman missile fire, necessary low odds soak-offs and the 2 to 1 surrounded auto elims are the biggest killers in this game. Forgetting the nature of the CRT led me, in hindsight, to react too much to some Gallic moves. Thus catching me off-balance for later ones.

8) No one of these items above caused my defeat. But the combination caused me to weaken the north too much. In the near term of course I now also realize I could have sealed of Vercingetorix at least another turn. My advances down the OSE river when I counterattacked the Gallic chieftan's northern flight could have been along the river rather than just onto it.

FINALLY: Let's play again. This is a very fun game. With never a dull moment. I encourage anyone who can to get a copy.

Above the Fields