In a nutshell, the defender places four howitzers in such a way “so their crossfire is at once heavily concentrated and mutually supportive”. The different colours in the deployment map indicate the number of howitzers able to fire into any given hex. In the region near the command post, all four howitzers can fire upon an attacker.
As Steve Jackson comments:
Not everyone can make the four-howitzer defense work, but it’s a valid strategy – and played successfully, it can be hugely annoying to an opponent who didn’t believe howitzers were worthwhile… let alone four of them!
This is a scenario that I’ve used against human players on several occasions. I’ve also run it as a solo session many times – usually with an Attacker victory. It’s a good test case for Ogre video game, and thus is the subject of my first computer “play-through” post.
So how does an AI Mk. III fare against this defense?
I played as Paneuro Defense against the computer AI with an attacking Combine Mk. III OGRE.
Here was my unit deployment (click on the image to embiggen):
As you can see, I placed four howitzers – each in the specified hex. For my remaining four armour units, I selected GEVs. These I placed as far forward as I could, favouring the side of the map where my command post was located. I scattered my infantry units under the howitzer umbrella.
The enemy Mk. III came in from close to the map edge. I moved my GEVs rapidly to get behind the OGRE:
My goal was to knock out his main battery and missiles before he reached my howitzers, but luck was not yet on my side. I managed to get the main battery, but the Mk. III’s missiles proved resistant to my attacks.
By mid-game the Mk. III used his missiles to destroy two of my howitzers (and a bunch of infantry). Things were looking grim:
Turnaround and Victory
Up to this point, the Mk. III had behaved very predictably. He moved with maximum efficiency towards my command post, overrunning infantry when convenient but ignoring the GEVs tailing him.
At this time I managed to get some lucky dice rolls, and knocked him down to Movement 2. This is where I made my first mistake… Expecting the Mk. III to move three spaces, I hadn’t withdrawn one of my GEVs sufficient distance and the OGRE destroyed it. I cursed my inattention.
Next, the Mk. III suddenly became wily. Instead of advancing predictably towards my command post, he reversed and wiped out my remaining GEVs.
This definitely got my attention – and made me appreciate playing a computer AI instead of a “canned” solo session!
However, the diversion delayed him long enough for me to get a few more lucky rolls in. The Mk. III managed to grind down my few remaining infantry, but was stopped by my howitzers two turns before it could wipe out my command post!
Unit deployment went smoothly, though I wish there was an option to “save deployment” in a given scenario for future use. Also – I wish that the game would allow me to proceed (with a warning) if I haven’t deployed all forces. That way I could have played as an “experienced” (or cocky) defender.
If you’ve already used all your possible movement, the game will automatically advance you to the attack phase. During my first couple sessions (as an attacking OGRE), I accidentally skipped some of my attacks because I wan’t expecting this. As a defender, I didn’t have this problem (my GEVs always had some extra movement remaining).
Attacking was quick. The controls make sense after the first few sessions and I now know where to look to see the attack odds at-a-glance. I wish there were some more mouse-over tooltips showing unit stats – it still takes me a bit of time to check on the OGRE’s remaining treads.
The AI logic impressed me in this game. At first I thought it was following a simple algorithm, but I was actually surprised when the OGRE turned back to attack my trailing GEVs! I gotta admit that this is the point when I went from running in autopilot to acting like a commander! The game could have gone either way; it all came down to the (simulated) dice this time.
I’m pretty damned impressed now with the Ogre video game. Expect to see several more play-throughs before the October 5th release date!