Riding the Shockwave
Analysis and Strategy
by Philip Rennert
Steve Jackson's long-awaited expansion set for Ogre/G.E.V. has been published. It's called Shockwave, and it includes a bunch of new units and scenarios (also a new map which fits on any side of the G.E.V. map). The new units introduced are the cruise missile, which comes on a missile crawler (MSL CRWLR), the laser and laser tower, the light GEV (LGEV), the GEV personnel carrier (GEV-PC), the superheavy tank (SUPERHVY [or SHVY]), and marine infantry. There are also trucks and hovertrucks, but these are unarmed and tend to be targets only. I'd like to discuss how these new units interact with each other and the older units, and offer some strategy suggestions for the new scenarios. (And I'll be making a few comments on Phil's ideas here and there – Steve Jackson.)
The first and most devastating of the new units is the cruise missile. They carry fairly large nukes: They're what made the craters on the Ogre map. When a cruise missile goes off, everything in its hex is destroyed, and a shockwave is generated which attacks units up to 5 hexes away, depending on unit type.
It's easy to see that cruise missiles are death on everything, and especially on hovercraft. However, there is a defense: You can shoot down the cruise missile before it gets to you. When a cruise missile is launched, everything stops while the missile is moved, a hex at a time. If the missile passes within range of defending units, each unit gets one free shot at it. The odds aren't very good, but if the missile has traveled far, it's easier to track and hit. If a cruise missile is hit, it's destroyed but it has a 1/6 chance of exploding in the hex where it was shot down.
Some things can be seen from this:
- Cruise missiles can be used in two ways: Fly into the target's hex and obliterate him for sure (if you make it), or detonate just outside his range and kill him with the shockwave. The first method will appeal to gamblers: The odds will often be that your expensive cruise missile will be shot down, but if you make it, you can wreak great havoc. The second method is more conservative: There's no risk, but the damage will be less against everything except hovercraft; GEVs are exceptionally susceptible to destruction by shockwave. It's clear that nail-biting decisions will have to be made about whether to detonate now or go for one more hex. Cruise missiles introduce a not entirely welcome element of "the whole game on one big roll" (actually a lot of low-odds rolls) into Ogre/GEV, which has remained relatively free of this until now.
- The distance a cruise missile flies is extremely important. Infantry, for instance, is twice as likely to shoot down a cruise missile which has flown 11 hexes as one which has flown 10. A laser tower will destroy 72% of off-board cruise missiles the instant they enter the map. If you plan to attack with the shockwave, it doesn't matter, but if you're going to give anyone a shot at your expensive cruise missile, you must make every effort to launch it from within 10 hexes of the target.
- Infantry has found a new purpose in life: shooting down cruise missiles. For the price, nothing is as good at it as infantry. Every big, expensive unit needs an infantry screen around it to help protect it from missiles.
- For reference purposes, to have a 50% chance of stopping a cruise missile you need:
- 8 squads of infantry or large armor units
- A laser and 4 INF
- If the missile has gone more than 10 hexes, 3 INF, or a laser and 1 INF.
- The shockwave/range ratings (i.e., how strong an attack a cruise missile can make without coming into range of the unit) of various units:
- All GEVs: 4-1
- Lt Tank: 2-1
- Inf: 2-1
- Hvy Tank: 1-1
Cruise missiles are expensive. For the price of three armor units, you get a missile crawler (defense 2, movement 1) carrying a single cruise missile. When the missile is fired, what remains is an unarmed crawler (movement goes up to 2) which you then try to evacuate off your board edge, since the enemy counts one armor unit (6 victory points) if he destroys it. I'd like to suggest a rule clarification: It should be explicitly stated that whenever you launch a cruise missile, your opponent gets 12 victory points. (Yes – SJ.) Therefore you must be sure to get your money's worth from a cruise missile.
To shoot down cruise missiles, we have lasers and laser towers. With the introduction of lasers, Ogre/GEV has lost its innocence as far as lines of sight go: Lasers are straight-fire weapons with infinite range (well, 30 hexes) which are blocked by any raised terrain (towns, woods, swamps, rubble). Since the Shockwave map is somewhat more obstructed than the G.E.V. map (it resembles the north half of the G.E.V. map), lasers (which are immobile) must be placed with great care to get good use out of them. Laser towers are tall enough to shoot over raised terrain, but neither lasers nor laser towers may shoot at a unit in raised terrain (exception: laser towers can shoot at cruise missiles in raised terrain). Lasers and laser towers don't have defense strengths; they are buildings. Rules for shooting up buildings are introduced in Shockwave.
The main purpose of lasers and laser towers is to shoot down cruise missiles, which they do well (in fact, they can intercept Ogre missiles on a 9 or more on two dice). (Rules question: Can a laser intercept an Ogre missile fired at a cruise missile?) (Yes – SJ.) However, they can also shoot at other units, with an attack strength of 2; this can be quite effective against expensive, poorly-armored units (MSL CRAWLER, HWTZR, MHWZ).
The light GEV is effectively half a GEV, at half the price. This can be useful: An LGEV is as good at shooting cruise missiles or bridges as a GEV, and relatively more efficient at shooting up town hexes. They can be a cheaper way of getting a GEV's job done.
The GEV personnel carrier gives infantry another new role: mounted attack. A GEV-PC carrying 3 squads can advance 3 hexes, attack an adjacent unit with a strength of 4 (3 INF plus its own 1), then either run away 2 hexes with the infantry, or dump the infantry out to receive the return fire and run away by itself. The speed of the GEV-PC makes it much easier to get infantry into the action.
This brings up an apparent flaw with G.E.V. rule 5.11 about infantry riding tanks (and GEV-PCs). This rule describes how to shoot at infantry mounted on a carrier unit, but 5.111 says that infantry can freely mount at the beginning of a turn and dismount at the end: That way (unless someone mistakenly takes mounted infantry into an overrun), the other side never gets a chance to shoot at infantry while mounted! The infantry spends its own turn mounted and the other side's turn (when it gets shot at) dismounted, getting the benefit of riding without the cost.
Therefore, I'd like to propose a rule change (to be G.E.V. rule 5.112): If a player can fire into a hex containing enemy infantry and carrier units, he may ask if the infantry plans to ride in the coming turn. If the defender says yes, he must mount up the infantry immediately and take fire while mounted. If he says no, that infantry cannot ride in the coming turn. (Clunky, but reasonable – and yes, it does close the loophole. – SJ)
It's clear that taking mounted infantry into an overrun attack is usually a mistake, since one die roll is applied to the carrier and each squad, and can easily destroy them all. However, I'd like to propose an optional rules about this:
Optional G.E.V. rule 5.113: Panzerblitz (or hoverblitz) attacks. Infantry which rides a carrier unit into an overrun attack may choose to dismount after entering the overrun hex but before taking fire. (Since the approximate enemy position is known, this represents dropping off and fanning out just before reaching it.) In this case, each squad and the carrier are separate targets, as though the infantry had entered the hex unmounted. After the combat, surviving infantry may not remount or continue to move, but the carrier (if it survives) may continue to move if it has movement remaining.
This optional rule definitely increases the effectiveness of infantry: With it, three squads on a GEV-PC are odds-on to kill any armor unit but a SUPERHVY in an overrun, and they can make such an attack up to 5 hexes away!
(Incidentally, the point value of a GEV-PC when destroyed is given as 6. Is this a typo; should it be 3?) (Yes. Sorry. – SJ.) [On the other hand . . . the point value of GEV-PCs has now been officially increased to 6, so in fact GEV-PCs are worth 6 VPs when destroyed. See the Ogre Miniatures errata, and the Ask the Ogre archive from Pyramid #4. – Webpeon.]
The superheavy tank has two guns, each with attack 3, which can fire on different targets. One hit still destroys the whole tank. According to my calculations, a pair of HVY TANKs dueling a SUPERHVY will win 60% of the time even if the SUPERHVY fires first. (How do you figure that? My calculations don't agree with yours. I'll address the question in a future designer's article. – SJ) Therefore it's hard to imagine when I'd rather have a SUPERHVY than two HVYs. SUPERHVYs do have the advantage of greater attack range; they can attack from 3 hexes away, and they can't be shockwaved from outside their range. However, I doubt this outweighs the advantage of being a single expensive target.
Finally, marine infantry are just like regular infantry, except they treat water hexes as clear terrain. Their cost is high (trade 2 regular infantry squads for each marine squad), but they can be useful in certain applications.
I'd like to propose a rule which seems to follow but wasn't stated:
Shockwave rule 3.0161: Marines and INF stacked together can be grouped together in groups of up to three squads for defensive purposes. (Example: two marines and an INF in a town hex could be treated by the defender as a single defense strength of 9.) If the attacker rolls a "D" against such a group, roll again to see which squad died (in this example, one of the marines dies on a 1-4 and the INF on 5 or 6). (Yes. – SJ.)
Now I'd like to summarize the good and bad points of these units, make some unit choice recommendations, and suggest how to use, and oppose, these units. What I have in mind here is a Ceasefire Collapse-type meeting engagement, but this also applies to other situations.
Cruise Missile (Missile Crawler)
Good points: destructiveness!
Bad points: cost, vulnerability
Recommendations: This is tricky: If the other guy doesn't have a laser tower, or if his force is mostly hovercraft, I'd recommend taking some; otherwise, not.
What to do with yours: If he doesn't have a laser tower, keep at least one in reserve. This is a case where the threat can be more powerful than the execution. The existence of a cruise missile will force him to keep his units screened by infantry, avoid stacking, and generally use his force in a less than optimum fashion. If he has missile crawlers, it may be worth taking his out with yours if you can: You'll probably get some other units into the bargain. If he has a group of hovercraft, attack them via shockwave; otherwise weigh the odds in deciding whether to risk a direct attack or attack with the shockwave. If you plan to attack directly, be sure to do it from 10 hexes or less away. Keep your crawlers well-screened by infantry and armor if the other side has cruise missiles.
If he has a laser tower, launch your missiles right away unless you can get your crawlers into raised terrain immediately. The risk of the laser tower killing your crawlers is too great. Since your crawlers will never survive to reach close range, attack by shockwave when you see a good chance (hovercraft are the best targets). Remember, your missiles can be shot down right after launch: Don't fly them over your troops if possible (I've seen someone fly a cruise missile over his Mark V, have it shot down in that hex, and roll a six...). Remember to evacuate your crawlers quickly after firing.
If you have off-board cruise missiles, attack by shockwave only (the chance of getting shot down is too great).
What to do about the other guy's: Clump your units in a tight defensive formation (avoid stacking), well screened by infantry. A line of INF, backed by a line of HVYs, backed by a line of MSLs makes a good missile defense. Spread out your big targets (crawlers, HWTZRs & MHWZs, SUPERHVY); keep your Ogres protected by infantry. Try sending some hovercraft after his crawlers, but keep them spread out. It may be possible to take out his crawlers with cruise missiles. If his units get too close, it can be advantageous to rush in and intermingle your units: Shockwaves don't respect nationality.
Laser, laser tower
Good points: range, effectiveness against missiles
Bad points: blockage by terrain, immobility
Recommendations: If you have a choice (you do, in some scenarios), take a laser tower rather than two or three lasers: The ability to shoot over terrain is worth it.
What to do with yours: The best possible target is a missile crawler, then come HWTZRs and MHWZs; shoot them if you can. Keep your lasers screened by infantry if the other side has cruise missiles. Wait until the last minute to shoot his cruise missiles (bonus to the roll) unless you have a golden opportunity to shoot the missile down over his own troops and you feel lucky. If none of the above happen, just keep taking your two-attack-factor shots.
What to do about the other guy's: If possible, blast them with cruise missiles. Otherwise, an advance with a bunch of armor units will eventually get to them. Keep your units in raised terrain. If he has lasers (not towers), just stay out of their line of sight. A rear area raid by a bunch of hovercraft can take out a laser tower, but expect to lose maybe one GEV per turn to the tower's fire. If you think you can get his lasers with armor units, hold back your cruise missiles until you do (they're more likely to reach their targets when the lasers are gone). Remember, laser fire doesn't spill over; if only lasers can reach you, you can stack units.
Good points: cost, speed
Bad points: attack, defense strengths, sensitivity to terrain
Recommendations: If you're going to take GEVs, trade in one or two for LGEVs.
What to do with yours: Keep them on the fringes of the battle or use them to raid the enemy's rear. They're good for destroying bridges and towns, and for anti-missile screens. They can pick away at the infantry screens around the enemy's big targets, and not be worth his while to chase. If well-handled, they can tie down more than their cost's worth of enemy units.
What to do about the other guy's: LT TANKs are probably the best (cheapest) units for keeping them at bay. An LT will usually beat an LGEV in a duel, even if the LGEV fires first. In general, don't fire at an LGEV if there's a better target around.
GEV Personnel Carrier
Good points: carrying capacity, speed
Bad points: attack, defense strengths, sensitivity to terrain
Recommendations: Choose a few pairs – they're a good way to get your infantry into the fight.
What to do with yours: Their job is to drop infantry in dangerous places and get away. One problem is that the hexes infantry likes (towns, woods) aren't hexes GEVs can get back out of: Drop in town/road or woods/road hexes if possible. Mounted attack can be quite effective, and you can always dismount afterward if it doesn't work. Keep the GEV-PCs nearby to pick up survivors after the combat. Be careful with GEV-PCs while loaded: They make big targets. If their infantry is lost, use them as slow LGEVs.
What to do about the other guy's: Shoot them whenever you can: They count for 9 [now 12] victory points if you kill them and their loads. Cruise missiles are great against them, as against any hovercraft. Their mounted attack range is only 4 (move 3 + infantry range 1), so all units but infantry can usually stay away from them or get the first shot in.
Good points: attack strength, two guns, defense strength
Bad points: cost
Recommendations: Don't choose any; take two HVYs instead.
What to do with yours: They're simultaneously big, powerful armor units and expensive targets: It's hard to both send them into the thick of things and be careful with them. Try to get off the first shot(s) with them. If possible, send them against MSL TANKs (which attack at only 1-2) or maybe HWTZRs (which attack at 1-1). They can shoot at HVYs from behind an infantry line two hexes in front of them. They belong in the forefront of your armor line, though they won't last very long.
What to do about the other guy's: Shoot them first, ahead of all other armor units; kill two guns with one X. A HVY's 4 attack factor is just right for killing them (1-1) attack, or use a pair of GEVs or LTs. If you have twice their number of HVYs, rush them: You can give them the first shot and still usually win.
Good points: They work in water.
Bad points: cost
Recommendations: Take a few if an infantry screen around a big unit needs to include a water hex.
What to do with yours: Use them for screening in water hexes. In the G.E.V. Raid scenario, for example, I like to put a HWTZR in the city hex that sticks out into the lake (2113). To keep the GEVs off, I need a screen two hexes away; a squad of marines can cover hex 1914 more cheaply than a GEV. A couple of squads in city hex 1915 can make the GEVs keep their distance even on the other side of the river. However, infantry is supposed to be cheap and expendable: Expensive infantry draws too many shots and dies too quickly. If your marines survive their water screening duty, keep them back out of the battle (and in a town hex) if you can.
What to do about the other guy's: Shoot them first, ahead of other infantry: They count 4 victory points per squad. Remember that they cross water hexes with only one movement point when you're counting to see what can get you. If there are no marine reinforcements nearby, it may be possible to shoot the marines on the water hex and go through the hole in the screen next turn. If there are other marines around, shoot them too, then do the same thing.
Shockwave introduces a number of new scenarios; I'd like to make some strategy suggestions for them. I assume here that the optional rules for destruction of towns, bridges, etc. are in effect.
The Day Before
The Day Before is Ogre with cruise missiles. On the Ogre map, the defense gets 25 armor units, 40 infantry, and a laser tower; the attacker gets a Mark V Ogre and 20 off-board cruise missiles (of which only about 6 should make it past the first hex).
The defense should use all those extra infantry to form anti-missile lines across the board. Put the CP and the laser tower back in the corner, put a couple of HWTZRs 5 hexes in front of it, then put a line of single INF squads across the board 4 hexes in front of the HWTZRs, and another one 6 hexes in front. There should be enough left for a final line among the HWTZRs 5 hexes from the CP; a couple of pairs of LT TANKs spaced 5 hexes apart in front of all that makes a cheap first line. This will pretty well keep the cruise missiles off the CP: The attacker should run out of cruise missiles well before he can chew through all that. The rest of the armor should be a mix of HVYs and MSLs, to stop the Ogre; as the attacker uses up his cruise missiles, line infantry can be freed to go die under the Ogre. The anti-Ogre armor line should mix HVYs and MSLs: The greater range of the MSLs makes it harder to attack by shockwave.
Faced with this, the attacker shouldn't waste missiles trying to get through to the CP, but should try to shockwave the armor facing the Ogre. Plan your move carefully, or you may end up with an Ogre right next to where you'd like to drop a missile. Ogre missiles can take out a couple of defending MSL TANKs to clear a path for the cruise missiles (remember, though, that a couple of the Ogre missiles will probably be shot down by the laser tower). Fire the cruise missiles gradually: This keeps the infantry occupied in missile defense, and one missile per turn keeps the laser tower from shooting at the Ogre.
This is a good, tense, fairly balance scenario; a lot will depend on how lucky the attacker gets with his missiles.
Recon in Force
Recon in Force is an expanded version of the G.E.V. Raid scenario. The Shockwave map is north of the G.E.V. map, and it contains the targets (everything on the G.E.V. map is already destroyed); in addition to towns, etc., there are 20 trucks and hovertrucks which need to make wake-up rolls before they can run. Twenty GEVs (the attacker can trade some for pairs of LGEVs) and 10 GEV-PCs full of infantry come in on the south edge of the G.E.V. map. The defender gets 8 armor units and 15 infantry on the G.E.V. map and 4 and 20 infantry on the Shockwave map, plus the usual G.E.V. Raid reinforcements (entering on the Shockwave map) starting on turn 4. The defender should take the maximum possible number of MSL CRWLRs, 3 (for the rest, LT TANKs or GEV-PCs for his infantry). The treat of cruise missiles will keep the GEVs from stacking, spread them out, and slow them down, and the missiles themselves when they come will wipe out most of the attacking force. The big confrontation, which will probably occur in the approaches to the big city on the Shockwave map, may well involve only a handful of units on each side: ragtag reinforcements vs. what's left of the GEVs.
An interesting scenario, and very bloody: a good example of what cruise missiles can do to hovercraft.
Casey Joneski is a new train scenario. The Shockwave map is east of the G.E.V. map; Casey's train must cross the G.E.V. map from west to east, then turn south on the Shockwave map and reach the terminal in city S-0413 (an extension to the east of the big city on the G.E.V. map). The defense gets 14 armor units and 20 infantry, plus 5 lasers or 2 lasers and a laser tower (I prefer the tower); the attackers, with 15 armor, enter the south edge of the G.E.V. map. The defense wins if the train reaches S-0413 and survives, the attackers win if they kill the train and exit 15 strength points; otherwise (the most likely result) it's a draw.
The defense should set up a strong force, mostly HVYs, in the big city, with infantry in the woods to the south (on the Shockwave map). If the attackers choose 15 non-missile units and attack the city directly, they'll get creamed. If they choose 15 GEVs and try to flank the city to the east or west, they won't make it: HVYs with a road and a shorter distance to travel can stay between them and S-0413 (the defense should put 1 INF on 1508 and S-1615 to destroy the roads in 1508, 1408, S-1615, and S-1515). They can't catch the train if it moves at full speed, without getting within range of too many defenders.
That leaves choosing mostly MSL CRWLRs, firing them all on the first turn before the tower gets them, and turning the game into an uninteresting crapshoot. If the cruise missiles can destroy even one hex of track, the train can't reach S-0413 and the game becomes a draw. (The best place to destroy railroad track is in town/RR hexes: Town hexes can be destroyed from as far away as 6 hexes, and the falling buildings destroy the track.) If the cruise missiles get the train itself – which means waiting until at least turn 2 and probably losing one or more crawlers to the tower – or the first track hex the train must enter on – which should be so well guarded by infantry that it would be a mistake to shoot at it – they might win. There's no way the defenders can provide an adequate defense for that long stretch of track against 3-5 cruise missiles (a good way to try, though, is a MSL TANK every 9 hexes) and still have enough armor to keep 15 HVYs from getting through and destroying hex S-0413. So all they can do is provide an inadequate defense, hope to get lucky, and probably get a draw. My suggestions for lasers are S-0117 and S-0708 (and the tower in, say, S-0903).
Anyone who brings something as archaic as a train anywhere near cruise missiles shouldn't expect to see it get through anyway.
"Nuts!", a scenario which takes place on the Shockwave map, is supposed to be a Bastogne-like breakout of a surrounded force. The fact that the attackers are spread out around a 15-hex diameter circle and the advantage of the first move are supposed to compensate the defender for the short end of the 35-20 odds in armor units. Unfortunately, the defenders have an administration building so valuable that if they escape intact but lose the building, they lose. Therefore the attackers have no reason to prevent the defenders from escaping, so instead of spreading out around the circle, they concentrate everything in one place, make a standard line assault, and grind up the defenders with greater numbers. This scenario needs a change in victory conditions: I suggest removing the building, which lets the defenders run, and letting them escape from the east and south edges as well as the north, which forces the attack to spread his forces out.
Super CP is not really a new-units scenario; It's a large game of Ogre, where the defender gets 30 armor, 40 infantry and two Mark III Ogres, against the attacker's two Mark Vs. The CP is a building with strength 60, which takes some grinding (or a good overrun) to destroy. Have fun!
To summarize, Shockwave is what we've all been waiting for: an innovative, interesting expansion of Ogre/GEV. The game with cruise missiles and lasers around is sharper and more exciting (no more complacency when you're out of range – you're never out of range), if a bit more luck-dependent. I'd like to extend to all concerned my congratulations on a job well done, and I look forward to a lot of fun.