Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hex War Games - Strategy Part IX - ZOC Defenses

Protecting a Target Hex
Since ZOC affects both movement and combat, it may be viewed as a type of ‘Terrain’.  Unlike most terrain, ZOC terrain moves around the map as the unit’s move.  The movement of a single unit with ZOC can greatly impact the mobility of the opposing army.  This article will discuss effects of various arrangements dealing with ZOCs.

For these examples, we will deal with the most common ZOC available:
  • Entering an enemy ZOC ends movement.
Additionally, a few other ground rules are necessary to establish:
  • Attacking and defending units are limited in number (no reinforcements),
  • The attacking units are attempting to reach the position(s) marked with an X,
  • All attacking and defending units may move a maximum of 4 hexes per turn,
  • For retreating purposes, the defending unit must retreat closer to the bottom of the map.
Defending Positions of a Hex
A unit may protect a given target hex three basic ways:

A – Preemptive Defense,
B – Last Ditch Defense,
C – Counter Attack Defense
Defense Positions

Some hexes may hold more than one type of defensive position depending on the Natural Terrain.  The diagram below shows a single attacking unit, the target hex, and the defensive positions in the surrounding hexes.

Preemptive Defense
The position marked ‘A’ is a purely preemptive defense.  Preemptive defenses have several advantages over the other types of defense.  Preemptive defenses require the enemy engage the defending unit before moving on to the objective hex, or taking extra time to bypass the unit.  For games which are timed, this is an excellent method of stretching the game out.  Even if the rules allow for “advance after combat”, the enemy unit may not take the objective location on this turn.

Bypassing the Preemptive Defense
If the game has retreat rules the defending unit may retreat to the objective hex due to combat results.  On the next turn, the unit is already in position for a Last Ditch Defense.  This may result in the enemy not moving on a subsequent round, again, controlling the flow of the enemy unit.

Preemptive Defense Retreat
A common drawback to the Preemptive Defense is the location of the hex “A”.  Usually the hexes where one would plant a preemptive Defense has the weakest Natural Terrain.  This is not so much a quirk of fate, as the reason the enemy is approaching from that direction in the first place.  If the objective were more readily reached from another direction, then the enemy would attack from that direction.  This means the defending unit in a Preemptive Defense receives no Defensive Bonus.  If this is the case, the defending unit may become a sacrificial unit, expected to simply delay the enemy.

Although the terrain bonus may not be the best, the Preemptive defense can be crucial when friendly units need two turns to move and engage the enemy.  This results in a Delaying Tactic may provide the time necessary for those forces to arrive and save the objective.

Last Ditch Defense
The ‘B’ marked on the objective identifies the Last Ditch Defense.  In this case, the enemy may march right up to the objective, but must fight the defending unit to take the objective.  Often times the objective hex has greater natural defensive advantages, so it seems reasonable to place a unit in Last Ditch Defense.  If sufficiently fortified, the enemy unit may spend turns besieging the hex before finally taking it.  Some games do provide the attacker bonuses to the attack based on the attacking terrain.  For these games, a Last Ditch Defense gives the attacker three options to attack from, and therefore some control over how the ensuing battle may end.

Last Ditch Defense and Retreat Positions
A danger does exist to the Last Ditch Defense if the game rules allow for Advance After Combat. In this case, if the enemy drives the defending unit out, the enemy may immediately take the objective hex.  If retreat rules are in place, the defender should end up in one of the hexes marked ‘C’.  They then find themselves in the position to counterattack on the following turns.

Counter Attack Defense
The positions marked ‘C’ are not designed to stop a unit from occupying the objective.  Instead, the unit launches a counter attack after the location is occupied.  This type of ‘defense’ usefulness occurs when the unit occupying the objective hex suffers a terrain penalty, such as tanks occupying a city.  The danger of such a defense is if the counter attack fails, the objective hex is left under the attacker's control.

Dual Defense Hexes
Positions marked ‘A/C’ may be either A or C type defenses depending on the natural terrain.  The opposing unit may avoid the zone of control of the defending unit, if the natural terrain allows quick movement for the opposing unit.  The movement is as follows:
Bypassing the Dual Space Defense Positions (A/C)
This defense is great if the natural terrain the attacker must travel to reach the objective prevents it from reaching it in one turn and the Natural Terrain in position A/C has greater defense bonuses than the hex in just position A.  Forests and rivers make great Natural Terrain limiters to movement.

Even if the defending unit is bypassed, the defender is now in a position to initiate a counter attack from its current hex.  If the defender is forced to retreat, the defender still finds itself in one of the original Counterattack Defense position.

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