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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hex War Games - Strategy Part X - Oblique ZOC Defenses

The previous article discussed ZOC defenses from a Head-On assault.  This article reviews the same defenses, but from oblique assault and rear assault angles.

Assault Positioning
A Head-On assault occurs if the shortest distance between the attacking unit and the objective hex is parallel to the defending unit's retreat path.  An Oblique assault occurs when the attacking unit's shortest distance to the objective is not parallel to the defender's retreat path.  There are generally two oblique paths: Forward Oblique and Rear Oblique.  In this case the attacking unit attacks 'at an angle' to the defender's line of retreat.  Lastly, the attacking unit may come directly along the defending units line of retreat, this is called a Rear Assault.
Assault Positions

Superior and Inferior ZOC Defenses
In oblique assaults, the location of the defending unit has an additional element to consider: Positioning.  A position may be in either Superior or Inferior position.  A diagram of the Inferior and Superior position is provided in the diagram below:
ZOC Defenses on Forward Oblique Assaults
Superior defensive positions allow the defender to immediately counterattack if the defender must retreat.  Inferior positions means if the defending unit retreats, it must move before launching a counter attack.  Another way to view superior/inferior positioning is if the defending unit is forced to retreat, does the objective hex remain in the defender's ZOC?  If the answer is 'Yes', it is a Superior Position, and if it is 'No' it is an Inferior Position.
Rear Oblique Assault ZOC Defense Positions
Rear Assault Positions

Normally, assaults along the defender's line of retreat are considered ideal for the attacker and bad for the defender.  This is definitely a situation to be avoided if possible, but when viewed on a unit-on-unit basis, rear assaults leave the defender with all superior positions.  This is because if the attacking unit forces the defender to retreat, the defender moves to a location adjacent to the attacker and may counterattack next turn.
Rear Assault ZOC Positions
Rules Benefiting Superior ZOC Positioning

Two types of rules in games are greatly affected by Superior/Inferior positioning.  The first type of game is when the player has a limited number of units which may move each turn.  In this case, having a unit in a Superior position means the player does not have to spend vital points moving the defending unit into position, allowing the player to move other unit's, hopefully bringing them closer to the objective hex.

A second, and more common game rule, is when a unit may either Move or Fire on a turn, but not both.  Usually this impacts artillery units, but some games have infantry units which are 'green' or 'low grade' and may only perform one of the actions.  In this case, being in a superior position is critical to ensuring the unit may counter attack next turn.  If the unit retreats from an inferior position, it will not get to attack on the following turn, as it will spend it's turn moving into position.

Lastly, games with 'line of sight' combat restrictions for artillery may suffer from a type of Superior/Inferior effect.  Normally, artillery units cannot fire 'blindly' at the target hex, it must be in line of sight by a friendly unit to come under fire.  If the defender is hoping to 'call in artillery' on the enemy unit, but the unit is forced to retreat from a position and, in doing so, loses line of sight to the attacker, then the position may be considered 'inferior'.

Choosing Not to Attack
In games where the Attacking unit has the choice of whether to attack a unit or not, the player may choose not to attack if the defending unit is in a Superior Position.  In these games there is usually a possibility of the attacking unit being damaged during the assault or retreating.  If the attacker attacks a superior position, it risks damaging the attacking unit twice, once during the attacker's turn and a second time during the defending unit's turn.  If the objective is to take the hex, why take a second risk?

For inferior ZOC defensive positions, it is usually recommend the attacker make the attack unless the odds are the attacking unit will be wiped out, or if the defender occupies strong defense bonus terrain.  In this case, the attacker may drive the defender away from the hex and force the defending player to spend valuable time or resources moving the unit before the attack.

The decision to attack or not, if permitted, will depend on many factors.  But Inferior/Superior positioning is an additional consideration.


Games with Definite Superior/Inferior Effects
Nearly any game with retreat rules has some form of Superior/Inferior effects.  One of the more basic version is Memoir '44.  In Memoir '44, Artillery units cannot move and attack.  Thus, if forced to retreat, they may not be able to counter attack on the enemy unit, at least, not at full strength.

There are several other games I've played, most of which I can't remember the name of, whose retreat rules caused Superior/Inferior effects.  One whose name I can't remember was a Napoleonic battles game.  In the game I remember there were limited number of unit's permitted to move, and artillery required line of sight by a friendly unit.  I vividly recall placing a unit in good natural defensive terrain, but in an inferior position.  Odds were the unit would survive the combat untouched.  As the dice would have it, the unit was forced to withdraw and I spent many precious actions trying to get the unit back into position and attack.  I would have been better of placing the unit in a superior position and letting the attacker drive the unit into a position where it could automatically counter attack.  Eventually I lost that game, but learned a valuable lesson.

I'm curious what other games exist which have superior/inferior type effects.  If you know of any, please leave a comment with the name of the game.
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