Conquest of the Aegean - After Action Report

Due to ‘popular’ request, I thought I’d do an AAR on Conquest of the Aegean, a pausable-real time operational-level wargame from Panther Games, published by Matrix.

Tempe Gorge Crisis - 17 April, 1941, 1200hrs. Greece

Briefing: The Allies are being pushed back by the Axis advance. The Allies, lead by NZ Brigadier Allen must hold the Germans back for at least two days and prevent them from seizing Larissa and driving on south. A natural barrier to German movement is the river and terrain in the area, we must use these advantages to prevent the reinforced mountain division overwhelming our allied infantry brigade.

On day 3 I am to exit via the town at the bottom of the map between 0001 and 12000. This will generate the bulk of my points to win the game. The rest come from holding on to the bridges and main road for as long as possible.

Situation on the ground

We’re in a pretty tough position. We’ve got three under strength battalions against what is reportedly an entire division. We benefit from a total of 16 25lb’er artillery guns, but other than a few mortars and a couple of AT units, we’re very short on heavier equipment. Reinforcements of a company or so of light armour are due on day 2.

Our initial tactical choices are very limited. almost all of the troops are wedged between the river and the hills to the south. Two bridges on the eastern end of the position are primed and ready to explode, but only if our boys can hang on long enough to pull the switch at the right time. Other crossings are ferry crossings only, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be used by the enemy, and it doesn’t mean they can’t be blown either. We’ll see what we can do about this problem.

Here you can see the situation in the north. Missing off to the north east, on the northern side of the river is a reinforced battalion who will almost certainly be able to cross a bridge near their position unopposed, whereupon they will likely head down the southern side of the river (their only choice of route) and into my boys. Maybe we can ambush them with my company pushed out to the North East. However, that company is unlikely to be able to stop the enemy’s advance and thus might get stuck behind enemy lines pretty quickly. Tricky.

On the left of the image you can see the full order of battle for the brave Allies.

The Plan

I feel like I’ve been dealt a hand of cards from a stacked deck! This is going to be an extremely tough battle. I’m going to risk some quick move orders to reposition my troop slightly. I don’t want to hang around too close to the river or it may be impossible to save my boys when the inevitable crossings occur. I’m under no illusions that we’ll be able to hold off the Germans for very long. We just need to hold them off for long enough.

My plan, by the numbers:

  1. I’m sending one company to go watch the western most ferry, with orders to delay any enemy it encounters by stepping back through a series of positions. I’m hoping it will stay alive long enough to keep feeding me info on enemy movements, should any come this way. And I expect they will try it.

  2. Central Btn. will be re-organised with delay orders as well. I want them to be fairly tough and fairly reliable on their own without me interfeering. Once we’ve lost the river things will move very quickly and with order delays and whatnot I won’t be able to organise a good defence fast enough. Delay orders mean that at least I know the pass will be held for a period of time while I recover the rest of my force and set up new positions further down the main road. In this area I also jiggle the position of the mortars a little.

  3. I reposition the units here a little to try and provide them with a bit better cover and better escape routes when I need to pull them back. In particular I get the AT guns off their very exposed spot on the hill and into a little cover, which I hope will keep them alive for longer.

  4. I pull all the units to close to the bridges with orders to ‘deny crossing’ for the two closest. I am hoping this will be enough to set the bridges off when the enemy start to take a heavy interest, but you can’t be too sure. My company of engineers and infantry in the town should make it a tough nut for the approaching armour column, and I’ll have them shot up from the flanks with the remaining AT unit and other infantry too.

The rest of my plan involves hammering the enemy with artillery if they get too close to the bridges to try and dissuade them from continuing, to slow them down, and to hopefully cause as many casualties as possible. I’m not too concerned about dumping a lot of ammo on the bad guys as I’m not even sure I’ll be able to keep my heavy guns going for day 2, and I’m likely to get a resupply sometimes in the evening anyway.

Good stuff. This is why a lot of us play these sorts of games–you can do this sort of AAR, really analyze what you did and what was going on. It’s one of the things I miss when I go for a long period of time playing other stuff. Hmm, time to dig out COTA and apply the latest patch, maybe…

I’d completely glossed over this as yet another WW2 game, but the approach with the cell-less map and delayed orders sound like a hoot.

I’m looking forward to this, Calistas! Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

Thanks for the encouragement! Well, yes, the orders delay is an interesting part of the game and it’s going to kill me in this AAR, I can feel it, hehe. I’ll explain that a bit with some background on how giving orders works in the game, and in the orders delay (which is different from the delay order!).

Ok, so, Order Delay. Below is a picture of the Major General unit in charge of another battle I completed the other day. He represents the player, essentially.

This guy is deployed in direct command of two MG companies and an AT company. He is, actually, in charge of the entire force I have on the map, but as I’ve sliced off elements of the command (mostly Btn sized chunks) and given them separate orders, he’s only been left with those three units to be directly in charge of. Whatever I order him to do, those other units will fall in to do as well. In the example there, I ordered him to move on to a hill and make a defensive, which he did, with the HQ unit sensibly behind the line units!

You’ll see some stats on the left which give us a picture of his skill as a leader. He’s pretty good actually, and this will mean that he will use his troops well in battle. For example, if a skilled general is using the ‘delay’ order, they will successfully order their units to leap frog back from a start line to a defensive line, and they’ll have each company move before they get too engaged, or risk being caught behind enemy lines.

A poor commander might cock this complex move up and, for example, not tell a lead element to move before it’s surrounded and cut off by an enemy.

He has some other stats. ‘Capacity’ is how many hived-off units I can command. If I give individual orders to each company for the entire map, it’s like the Commander of the Division is telling every single company personally what to do, it would be impossible and if I go above the ‘capacity’ stat then my orders would start to incur penalties. Best to tell the btn. commanders what to do and leave them (the AI) to move the troops, shake them out and charge, etc etc.

‘Load’ is the current load on the commander. It’s under 20, so no delay incurred.

‘Unit Delay’ is how long it takes before an order I give to the unit (er, to myself?!) gets processed and handed down to the units that I command. So If I tell my unit to pull back, it will take around 70 minutes for that order to be written up, passed to the MG companies and the AT company, and for them to just begin their move.

If I order him to move, and he has sub units under him, then the force delay comes into effect. For example, you might have a Brigadier in charge of an infantry btn. and an armoured btn. and a support btn. If he had the same stats as the pictured unit, and we ordered an attack, then it would take around 120 minutes for that order to result in moving units on the map. The order needs to be taken in by the HQ element “thought” about, then the plan for the troops sent to the Btns, and then the Btn. HQ’s need to think about where to move their companies. 120 minutes after giving the orders you see all the move orders lay out on the map, including where the form-up point will be (if you’ve not specified it), where the re-org area will be (post assault), and which units have been ordered to assault, sit in reserve, sit in support positions (eg, MG companies), etc etc.

Changing the aggressiveness settings and the casualty threshold for all of the above mentioned orders (attacks, defends and delays), as well as other orders, determines how long a unit will hold on, try it’s luck in the attack, or how long before it bugs out to the next fall back position, etc.

NOW, what does all this mean? Well, 2 hours is a LONG time to have to wait for stuff to happen, right? Well, the time is quicker for mechanised forces, but even so, even sixty minutes can take an eternity when you’ve got Germans swarming over the bridge. Factor in fatigued units, distance from commanders and you’ve got issues.

In COTA, just like in real life, the attacker is trying to get inside my decision cycle and render my orders irrelevant and ineffective. If I’ve ordered a Btn. back to defend a position and they don’t act on the order before Germans have occupied it, then that unit will be in really deep doo-doo. The Btn. commander may be smart enough to call off the move, but chances are they will have got themselves out of place and they’ll be caught on the hop. Defence is hard in COTA, because reacting always puts you many minutes behind the plans of the attacker. Order delay is a striking lesson in exactly why the German army was able to capture so much of Europe, and the Soviet Union, so quickly. It’s not uncommon in COTA to see a unit lose all effectiveness as it tries to respond to orders that no longer match the facts on the ground. One always hopes that unit belongs to the enemy!

The trick then is to keep one step ahead, either through anticipating the attacker’s moves, or if you’re the attacker, through constantly pushing the battle forward, hopefully in surprising ways for the enemy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, that’s why my central Btn has been given orders to do a “Delay”. This will result in the boss putting probably 1 company forward, and two at a fall-back position I’ve specified. When the company that’s forward gets pressed too hard (I’ve set casualty threshold to medium - I don’t want them hanging around too long), the forward company will go back, bypass the second position and head straight for the third, digging in when it gets there. And so the leap-frogging will happen, all the way back to Larissa if necessary. I’m hoping this order will give me the space and time to martial my forces that remain once the river is breached and to then put them into new positions further down the road.

I would give all of my forces long chains of orders now, but I’m not sure when or how the enemy will arrive, so at first I will be forced to react. The trick will be in choosing a time to bug out, and then a place to make my next stand while central force covers my ass.

OK, enough spam from me.

Very interesting stuff, both rule-wise and war-wise. Thanks for your efforts, Calista! Good luck with the fight!

Calista, was it you who posted the link to the PowerPoint-plus-MP3 presentation by the Panther developer on his AI? That was pretty interesting, and you should watch it if you haven’t already. But I don’t have the link handy and I’ll only go dig it up if it wasn’t you who posted it in the first place. :)

Come oooon. AAR without using military symbols? ;)

Very nice. One of the game magazines had a feature like this years and years ago, and I’d hoped someone would pick up the gauntlet.

More, please. :)


This is by far my favorite scenario in the game…so far I’ve only managed to make any headway as the Germans though. The key on that side is sending the first regiment in line to the ferry, instead of directly to the bridges. By the time the second reg is in front of the bridges, the first is (slooooowly) making its way over the ferry ready to cut the road to Larissa. IF both bridges manage to stay up, AND you can get over the ferry quickly enough (two very big ifs!), those poor ANZAC boys don’t stand a chance.

As far as the armored recce bn in the NE…every single time I’ve played this mission, B and D Coy of the 21st NZ manage to put up such a heroic defence that the armor is more or less spent by the time it reaches the bridges. And if you don’t manage to capture or destroy both, they’ll cut that supply line in a heartbeat leading to even more headaches. One thing about CotA is that organization and supply of your forces is very important: a unit that’s been fighting behind enemy lines without supplies for even a few hours is not going to contribute much to an attack afterwards!

Damn, I haven’t played this in way too long, anyone up for a game sometime this weekend?

That IS without military symbols! The military ones are crossed boxes, or crossed boxes with circles, or boxes with dots, or…

Hiya. More later on today, sorry! Didn’t realise demand was so high hehe.

Yes, perhaps I should put the military symbols on, but I’m only a grog-lite, and I sort of… feel for my boys more when I see them as little men. It’s so… distant when they’re little boxes.

Makes no sense I know, but there you go!

Oh, haven’t seen the material on the AI yet. Still in a hotel for another week and have limited download data capacity.

This is great. Thanks for doing it. Now I am stoked to get the game.


This looks great. Keep up the good work!

I was thinking about buying this but then saw that it’s one of Matrix Games “incomprehensibly priced” titles. Guess I’ll wait for a sale.

Nice AAR, however.

Found the link, it was on Rock Paper Shotgun. And the download link is on The Wargamer (“Creative Artificial Intelligence”).

Personally, I’m still disappointed that Conquest of the Aegean is not about ancient Greece.

Hmm, this has now got me wondering where I put the CD…

Day 1. 1800 hours

Well the Krauts are starting to push, and push hard. Have a look

By the numbers…

  1. On the left, my coy. there has just this minute decide to pull back to its next blocking position (marked in blue by me). I think they could have held on a bit longer, but what can you do?! Confirmed a reinforced btn. on its way!

Oh, if you’re wondering, the black boxes show the last position of spotted units. I have set the UI to display only “current” intelligence, so when we lose sight of units they vanish and become a black box like that.

  1. The central blocking force in the valley is in position. Two coy’s up front, one in reserve with the commander. Dug in. Guns have also been repositioned slightly. The other central btn. (next to the number 2) have been shooting up the force advancing on the ferry there. The ease with which units seem able to use ferries to get across the river is a little annoying and my only niggle so far. Anyway, the Germans seem to have committed quite a lot to that crossing. Which is annoying, as I am somewhat weak there.

  2. My blocking company has engaged approaching Germans, hit them a bit, and is now pulling back to its next position (behind another river). I have covered there retreat with a little of my remaining artillery, and it seems to have slowed the Germans enough to allow my coy. to disengage. The rest of Nor-Force is dug in and covering the front of Tempe, ready to hit the Germans when they break through my blocking coy’s. final position.

Calistas, I also wanted to echo my thanks at you doing this. I really suck at these type of wargames, and I never play them, mostly because I don’t have the patience to plan ahead and stick to a plan. But I love reading AARs, so this is a real treat. It’s also great to read about how it’s “really done” (regardless as to whether or not you’re victorious).

I’ll echo that thanks.
AARs like this one are a blast. Thanks.