Mechanic Monday – Advance After Combat
There’s nothing sweeter than getting the roll you need to eliminate an enemy unit. That is, of course, unless you can immediately advance after combat into the hex or area that the enemy vacated! Advance after combat has been with the hobby for as long as I can remember and provides players with an immediate, time-bound tactical decision.
Today we’re going to look at Advance After Combat and when and how you can exploit it in your games.
Advance After Combat (AAC hereafter) allows one, or more, attacking units to advance into the hex or area vacated by a defeated enemy in nearly every case. There are variations of this rule, but the most common flavors include:
AAC after elimination – this usually allows one or more to move into the vacated hex immediately.
AAC after retreat – this usually allows one or more, with some restriction, to move into the vacated hex immediately.
AAC by armor – this usually provides some exception to the rules allowing armored units to penetrate 1 or more hexes beyond the vacated hex.
Consequently, knowing how your game handles AAC is essential to ensuring a breakout.
It may be self-apparent why you would want to advance to some and equally questionable to others. This will, of course, come down to your risk tolerance. Instead of weighing the risks, let’s look at why you would want to advance DESPITE the inherent risks of extending your line or creating a “bulge” that could collapse.
Think back to our article about Zones of Control and one of the biggest advantages for AAC should become apparent. Many ZOC rules will block further movement in a turn. As a result, AAC offers an attractive alternative to extend your firepower advantage deeper into enemy lines. Since ZOCs are ALSO used for things like tracing supply or interdicting those supply lines, punching through an enemy’s front line is hugely important.
You will also want to keep in mind that retreating units (covered in an upcoming Mechanic Monday) are frequently penalized for retreating or routing through an enemy ZOC. That means your breakthrough, especially if you can sequence your attacks properly, could provide a SIGNIFICANT cascading effect on future combats.
Why hold instead of advance?
That’s pretty convincing! Usually, you will want to AAC. In some cases, however, you will be smarter to hold back and a lot of that is situational and depends on the game rules. You don’t want to create a fragile bubble in the line that might isolate some of your strongest units. If you penetrate too deeply beyond the frontlines, you could quickly find yourself without some of your most effective units.
Instead, look at how your reserves can full the front line gap, keep your ZOC in tact for supply checks, and how you can support an initial victory that results in an AAC!
You want to sequence attacks in such a way that you maximize the effects of a prior AAC to either create additional enemy losses in retreat, or to begin to open up a breach in the enemy’s lines. If you cannot do that, or you are worried about the upcoming success (maybe the dice just aren’t rolling your way this turn!) then hold back a little.
Aggressive vs. Conservative Play
My greatest fault as a player is that I’m overly conservative. AAC rewards players who are bold enough to take advantage and maximize their successes. In some regards, you must be audacious and throw everything you can at the enemy in order to make the most of an AAC.
Aggressive play will be rewarded, especially if you understand how combat works and can shift the outcomes generally in your favor for a turn or two. Conservative play, on the other hand, is unlikely to give you what you need.
The best example I can give is seen in nearly every eastern front wargame. If you sit down across from a timid German player in the opening months of Barbarossa. You will assuredly win as the Russians. Conservative play will not yield the early results and breakouts are essential to sustaining your forward progress.
Aggressive vs. Conservative play is too broad and philosophical for an article like this. Suffice it to say that you will need to make the most of the offensive actions in order to realize the advantages provided to the attacker with AAC.
Minimizing the effectiveness of AAC
Defense in depth. Learn it and live it well if you expect to combat AAC in any meaningful way. This doesn’t necessarily mean interlocking ZOC behind all your front line units. In fact, this may do more harm than good since you’ll make a series of fragile lines through which the opponent will cruise rather than putting up a still defense.
Instead, consider the effectiveness of where you place your reserve forces. This comes down to knowing the supply and ZOC rules of the game you’re playing. You can place reserve units at road hubs, cities, supply centers, etc. in order to maximize their responsiveness and to protect soft rear-area targets of opportunity. The last thing your opponent wants to see is an effective counter-attack AFTER they’ve completed their AAC!
This can also mean knowing when to collapse backward as a line is compromised. Sometimes, you can trade hexes for defense, especially if you can keep the pressure up on the front line aggressors. A fabian strategy. Be careful though as many savvy game designers guard against this style of ahistorical play by creating severe penalties for moving out of an enemy’s ZOC.
Finally, you can look for a weakness if an AAC unit leaves behind a bad angle or weak point. That advanced unit needs supply and support. If they don’t get it, you have a chance to prune the incursion before it turns into a full fledged hole in your line!
Hopefully this article has given you a VERY basic overview of the interactions between ZOC and AAC. Now you’re familiar with the jargon, some common moves, and have some thoughts to get you started as you encounter these common wargaming concepts in your next game!
What are your favorite tips and tricks with AAC? Share them in the comments below!