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Melee Mastery for GBACW


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What should you consider when using melee in GBACW?


Nathan Summerside adds:

"Put the big regiments at the front and push! When you are on the attack, you have to make things happen, and the big regiments make the defenders think twice. They can do the math, and know the differential for melee will hurt - and if you add a leader to the big regiments, they know they are about to be hurt.

"If you can get them to run before you melee, so much the better! When they turn to run, you get an enfilade shot to help them on their way. You still get to take the hex, and you might take a strength point from them with no risk of melee,  since they are giving you a free shot - and it likely will be an enfilade."

"But if you are the attacker, you have to keep the pressure on!


Greg Laubach writes:

"More good things about melee:
It gives you the chance to move 7 hexes in one turn.
It is the main way to break lines and surround units.
It gets the enemy moving backwards. The proper orchestration of a series of melees combined with the retreat and rout rules can cause the collapse of entire sections of the line and creates Chaos (and surrenders).
If you are the attacker, there is very little wrong with an engaged result, especially if there is an enemy leader in the hex (leadership effectiveness radius goes to zero, so all enemy subordinate units not engaged in the melee are out of command in the next initial command phase).
Although I've never tried it, a negative or zero melee differential may be a good thing if you are on defense and trying to break out of an impending encirclement. The attacker retreat result may be exactly what you're looking for.

In general:
"Melees are where the gambles are taken.
To take a fortified position with a frontal assault will often require a series of low   differential melees. The fight for the gully in Pleasant Hill comes to mind. The defender has all of the advantages in a fire fight so you have to move them out or come up with another plan. It is the one time where you are hoping for a 1 die roll. And if the results are not optimal, at least you probably won't still be toe-to-toe with an entrenched foe in a firefight for the next turn."


Russ Gifford writes:

"Melee is a major tactic in GBACW. Frequently, the goal is to take a hill or a victory point hex. Or you need that hex to pressure the enemy line. While we might hope that we will buckle the enemy due to fire combat, it generally requires something extra to break a brigade or regiment's hold on an area.

"That something extra is melee."

"Melee generally results in someone giving up ground. Only an engaged result can change that, and at most usual melee levels, there is only 1 chance in 6 of an 'Engaged' result. 

"Thus, melee is a vital piece of the puzzle of playing GBACW well. The threat of melee can keep defenders off balance. But the mutually bloody nature of melee makes it a dual-edged sword. Add to your calculations though that most versions of the game make it nearly required to put a leader into the melee! (Rule 12.27 in TSS2, see the Exclusive rules for the rest of the games..]

"First, let's look at when to melee, using GBACW melee chart. (TSS2 uses a slightly different melee chart.)

Rule 1: Don't even think about melee if you don't have a strength advantage.

"At + 0 differential, only 2 bad things can happen to the defender - three only if the result is 'Repulsed' AND the defender fails a morale check. Passing the morale check means the defender is left untouched.

"But at least 3 bad things are waiting to happen to the attacker - since a 'Repulsed' for the attacker will cause him to leave the hex. Really, out of six outcomes at the +0 differential, at least 4, and perhaps 5 results could be considered bad.

"I am not automatically considering the 'K' result a bad thing - but as the attacker, the 'Eng' result in a +0 differential certainly is. Engaged invites disaster,  since it means your troops are trapped in the hex, and now the enemy will have the chance to reinforce. Since you were at +0, this could mean they can make it a +2 or +3 advantage! 

"So why isn't the "K" automatically such a bad result? I think losing 1 SP to clear the hex is generally acceptable in this game. We risked much more than that closing with the enemy!

"But there are some hidden traps in the 'K' result that you should be aware of. We'll consider that in a moment, since it is true in any melee result of 'K.'

"Strength advantage is + 1 differential isn't much better, but it at least offers a roughly 50 - 50 chance for the attacker. Still not great, unless the attacker has overwhelming force in the area. So, that leads to ...

Rule 2: Unless there is an overwhelming reason, the +2 differential is really the minimum point where you should consider melee as the attacker. 

"After that, it becomes a no brainer. +3 and above is the best you can do. 

"But the truth is, it is NEVER a 'no brainer' since you rarely know if ALL the troops are going to come into the melee! To get higher than +2, you often have regiments stretched out around the defender. That means you have to rely on a die roll to get them into the fray. Which translates to the fact some of them could decide to 'sit it out' - and you'll have less than the optimum number of troops in a melee!

Rule 3: Be prepared to pay for the ground you take.

"Time to look at that 'K' result. The +3 and +4 column give you a 2 out of 6 chance to lose a strength point - and much more - thanks the to 'K' result.

"Since most of the games require a leader's help to get troops into melee, leaders end up in the front lines, and in melees. That's good - they give us a +1 morale advantage to stand up to the defensive fire, and in melee, they give us a +1 strength point! All good things!

"Yes, as long as we face facts that if we have a leader in the melee, that 'K' result could be a death knell.

"On a 'K' result, if you have a leader in the melee, there is a almost a 1 in 6 chance that you will lose that leader!

"So am I saying you should never have a leader in a melee? Am I saying you shouldn't melee in general?

"No - In fact, I believe the opposite. Melee is too important to leave the execution to a lucky die roll. If a melee is important, then put the resources needed to make it happen - a leader - on the line, if I can get at least a +2 differential.

"The threat of a melee may make your opponent give you the ground. Of course...

Rule 4: Like all tactics, the threat is often more powerful than the execution.

"Why? Because if I am declaring my intent to melee, now the defender has to decide: do I stand, or do I attempt to retreat before melee? My feeling is they could do more damage to themselves attempting escape than they will suffer if they stand for the melee! (Retreating units are subject to Withdrawal Fire, and that likely means an enfilade. Unless they are in woods or behind a crest, etc., they are risking an SP loss to run - and sometimes worse!)

"If the defender does choose to stand, though, we have to follow through, and as we stated above, when we put a leader into your melee, we are putting him at some risk! (About 6% chance of losing him at the +3 or 4 differential level, and less than 3% at any level above that.)

Rule 5: But adverse melee results are a risk a player has to accept. Melee is a required tactic if you intend to win at GBACW/TSS.

"Attacking almost requires melees to be effective. Capturing guns demand it. And it is certainly an important counterattack tool. (A low +2 counterattack once saved the entire Union army in game of TSS2. If they hadn't had the courage to take that chance, the CSA would have owned the road network, and the night!)

"Melee is an important tool to master in GBACW/TSS, because it is often the only way to take away strength points and territory. Melees can position your troops in the right place at the right time!"

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This site was last updated 02/25/08