Previously I discussed how although a 3:1 was a very good attack for the Allies when amphibiously assaulting a port, I noted that a 2:1 was only a 50/50 proposition. However, a 2:1 attack is only a 50/50 proposition IF the Allies win the EX and HX – if they don’t then they only win the attack on a dr of 6.
To win an EX/HX the attacker must have a printed attack strength which equals or exceeds the printed defence strength of the defender. [Note that the attacker always wins ties, when it comes to printed strength.]
Note well the sequence involved in apportioning losses and performing retreats – the loser of the EX/HX always takes their losses [and performs any retreats] BEFORE the winner does. This means that in equal exchange of losses the loser will have no units in the hex BEFORE the winner takes their losses – thus the winner of the EX/HX ALWAYS gains sole ownership of the hex, regardless of any losses the winner of the EX/HX is required to take.
For example, assuming my suggested strength for defending a port of 17 DS; if the Allies have at least 17 printed strength points participating in the combat, then they will gain ownership of the hex even on an EX result wherein they have to lose their entire force of 16 strength points to match the losses of the defender. Even if the hex is left entirely empty by the combat, the Allies will have been the last to occupy it and thus gain ownership of it. If the Axis want to better protect their ports, at a reasonable cost in troops then they should keep these mechanics in mind. There are two totally different ways to approach the problem of losing EX/HXs – one related to strength and one related to ZOCs.
With regards to strength, if the defender exceed the printed strength of the attacker, then the defender wins the EX/HX. Our good Allied stack, outlined in a previous post, had an effective combat strength of 5, but a printed att str of 18 – thus vs a DS of 17, those 18 printed str pts would suffice to win the EX/HX.
So adding a few def str pts at particularly important ports won’t cost you too much, but can insure that the attacker loses the EX/HX due to the defender having the greater printed def str. While having 20 printed def str won’t change the odds any vs the Allied 48 att str pt attack, it will insure that the Allies are the ones eliminated by any EX/HX. Note that this effectively changes a 2:1 att into a 1:1 attack, since the possible results are the same, i.e. if the Allies lose the EX/HX then they can only win the combat on a dr of 6 – exactly the same as at 1:1 odds. Pretty good bang for the buck…
The other way to deal with the question EX/HX combats and hex ownership is to recall that an uncontested ZOC gains ownership of any hex which is not enemy-occupied nor in an enemy ZOC. So for example, if the Allies have landed at a port and won the combat through an EX which eliminated their entire force [as well as eliminating the defending force of course], the hex is unoccupied but Allied owned. However if there is an Axis XX adjacent to the hex, then its ZOC [being uncontested] will take ownership of the hex.
So simply having a XX adjacent to a port hex protects the port in the case of Exchanges which totally eliminates both sides. Given the vagaries of the dice this effect may never come into play of course [and how many cases of total elimination of both sides do you encounter] BUT it is a concept worth keeping in mind for those particularly valuable ports.
I’d like to talk a little bit about placing forts to aid in the defence of Sicily. Assuming that you as the Axis are committed to defending Sicily, then obviously you want to get the most bang for your buck with regards to managing your various resources. You should NOT place a fort in a port hex if you intend to defend that port with a unit or stack which is 1/7th or more AECD. Ever. Let’s look at the effects of a fort – it modifies the combat dr by -1 and prevents the use of AEC, which means BOTH AECA and AECD. However any attack on the hex in which 1/7th or more Cbt Eng REs participate will be modified by +1 – negating the fort’s DRM. So it is a very simple thing for the Allies to negate the DRM from a fort by simply including an RE of Cbt Engs in any attack on a hex containing a fort. From the Axis point of view, the expenditure of the resource pt to get the fort has lost a lot of its value, since the fort can be eliminated as a concern in the combat, so easily.
Now if we had a PzGr XX in the hex without a fort, it’s half AECD would modify the combat by -2 [for half or more AECD] and the Allies, having no amphibious armor at this point in time, could not negate or even effect that DRM in any way. So if you intend to defend Sicily, and intend to commit Armor units to its defence, then think long and hard about placing forts in port hexes you intend to defend with AEC capable units. In a fort, that PzGr XX losses a LOT of its punch; in the fort, the combat is going to have a +/-0 DRM – without the fort, the combat will have a -2 DRM.
Obviously, as the defender, getting a -2 DRM is vastly superior to getting a 0 DRM.
Now obviously this doesn’t apply to hexes which are already “No AEC”, like Palermo [Maj City] and Catania/Messina [Dot Cities] where a fort is a good investment. But then these cities should also NOT be defended with AEC capable units anyway – use non-AEC capable units in hexes that don’t allow AEC, and use AEC capable units in hexes where AEC IS allowed. That’s a general rule of course, there may be situations where using a Pz XX, say, in a hex with “No AEC” makes perfect sense; but as a general rule it stands. One may suggest that by not including a fort in this port hex defended by the PzGr XX, you are costing yourself a level of CD, which otherwise could have an impact on any invasion against this port.
Well… no. Not having the fort will have at best a negligible effect on things, and more often than not, no effect whatsoever. Let’s look at the situation. Syracusa, for example, is a Mediterranean minor port, so it has one level of CD intrinsically. A fort has one level of intrinsic CD itself, so adding a fort to the Syracusa hex will increase the level of CD in the hex to two levels. Now unless you have *more* than four levels of CD in a hex, it isn’t going to be a big issue, at the best of times. CD is an irritant – it isn’t something that is going to even regularly inconvenience the Allies, let alone stop them.
Let’s look at the situation of the Allies dealing a hex with one level of CD and their dealing with a hex with two levels of CD. The one lvl situation first. An Allied combat NG consisting of two Br 16 pt TFs arrives adjacent to Syracusa at night having expended it’s last night MP, then enters the Syracusa hex in daylight, thereby entering the combat zone of the CD and initiating a round of naval combat. The Allied player declares that both of his TFs are in the TF body – he has no main body. Now the Axis player has to make a decision – put his single lvl of CD into the general group or into the reserve group. Putting it into the general group means that the Allied fire on the Naval Gunnery Table [NGT] will NOT have a -1 DRM, but the Axis CD CAN fire back at the TF body. If he places his single lvl of CD into the reserve group, then the Allies will fire with a -1 DRM on the NGT, but the CD will NOT be able to fire on anything [since CD str in the reserve group only fires on the main body – and the Allies have no main body.]
Considering that the Allies should, given average luck, inflict two firing hits on the CD regardless, the Axis player declares his single lvl of CD to be in the general group. Now we exchange fire. the CD fires with it’s single lvl with a +1 DRM – it has a 1/3d chance of inflicting a pt of damage on one of the Allied TFs. The Allies return fire, allocating their str pts to 3 firings at a str of 10, and 1 firing with strengths of 2. However, the first two firings with 10 str pts are guaranteed to automatically get a firing hit each, thus reducing the CD to 0 lvls and ending the round of combat.
But what if the Axis DID choose to put his lvl of CD into the reserve group? Well, now the lvl of CD faces Allied fire, at a -1 DRM, and with no chance to fire in return. With 32 str pts available, even with the -1 DRM, the Allies should be able to achieve two firing hits on the CD. But what if they don’t, through atrocious luck? Well, the combat NG backs out of the hex, re-enters it and begins a new round of naval combat with the CD. Repeat as needed.
Note that if the Axis player places his lvl of CD in the reserve group he is still going to see his CD reduced by one lvl [to zero] eventually, but he will not have any chance to inflict any damage on the Allies. Thus placing his lvl of CD in the reserve group seems pretty pointless.
Now the two lvl CD example. The Allied combat NG arrives in a hex adjacent to Syracusa by expending one MP in the daytime. The two lvl CD in Syracusa has a combat zone consisting of its own hex and all adjacent hexes, thus the Allied NG has entered its combat zone in moving adjacent, and thus naval combat is triggered. Once again, the Allies declare that both of their TFs are in the TF body – he has no main body. And again the Axis has to decide how to allocate his two lvls of CD. However, a CD’s gunnery str is halved when firing into an adjacent hex, unlike the gunnery str of TFs. So the CD has a str of one gunnery pt which can either be in the general group or the reserve group. As we just saw, placing gunnery str into the reserve group is pretty pointless when no main body is present in the naval combat, So the Axis player places his single gunnery str pt into the general group.
So we exchange fire: The Axis CD fires its single gunnery str pt on the Allied TFs and has a 1/3d chance of getting a hit. The Allies fire with their 32 str pts, divided up as they wish. Let’s assume that they fire twice with 10 str, twice with 5 str and twice at 1 str – they would be guaranteed two firing hits [reducing the CD by 1 lvl], 2 shots with a 50% chance each of inflicting a firing hit and two shots with 16% chance each of inflicting a firing hit. So that’s a better than 50% chance of inflicting two more firing hits, reducing the CD by another lvl, reducing it to zero lvls. But the Allies could miss with all four non-10 pt firing attacks, leaving the Axis CD with a single lvl. In that case, the combat NG pushes on into the Syracusa hex [since the CD only has one lvl, its combat zone is only present in its hex now] to trigger another round of naval combat. The CD will have another 1/3d chance of inflicting a hit and is guaranteed to be reduced to zero lvl by the end of the exchange of firings.
The Axis CD will be reduced to zero level and given average luck the Allies will escape without taking any losses, regardless of whether the Syracusa hex has one lvl or two lvls of CD to begin with. Yes, having two lvls of CD gives the Axis a [small] chance of being able to fire with a str of one twice rather than once, but only if they survive the first exchange of fire, which is an iffy proposition, but yes, could happen.
Thus, in a hex which the Axis intend to defend with an AECD capable stack there is nothing that I can see which justifies placing a fort therein. Not only do you WORSEN your chances in ground combat, but the benefit you get for doing so is marginal in the extreme.
On the other hand, placing a fort in a hex where the Axis are NOT going to be defending with an AECD capable stack makes sense both in terms of the ground combat AND the naval combat.