I recently played a game with the Encounter mission. Our game ended disappointingly suddenly with the destruction of the Soviets force along with Tracy's lack of ability to get any reserves in. He was extra frustrated because his previous game had the same mission and ended in a similar way. We both had new test lists and were sad that the game ended before we got a chance to get a feel for our lists. At least that what I thought at the time. Thinking back on it, I think I did learn something about my list. However, more important I think I learn the Encounter mission is far trickier than it appears and I though up some advice to think about when playing that mission. I just want to say that I will be using examples of what I think Tracy did wrong in our game. I'm not trying to insult his playing. In fact I would have probably behave in the same way. It was only after witnessing the game going very wrong and contemplating on it that I came up with these ideas.
The first thing I need to tackle is the elephant in the room when dealing with a lot of this missions, list building. Tracy said next time we should just play a game with everything on table so we can properly test out our list. At the time I agree with him but now I think that is the wrong way of thinking about it. 7 out of the 9 Expanded Missions has at least one player dealing with reserves. Reserves is very much a big part of the game and if your list has troubles with reserves then its not a good list. Up until now I only thought about reserves in how many units I have in my list (and by default, how many units need to go into reserves). I now know that I need to put far more thought into how my list deals with reserves. Neither of us had very reserve friendly list as we both struggled with deciding with what to have on the table and what to put into reserves. Here are the things I think you need to think about for reserves:
1. A strong infantry unit on the table. - Infantry are very hard to remove in the game. Having some infantry start on the table means it will be unlikely for you to take (and failed) a formation morale check before most of your army can come in from reserves, even with bad rolling. You have to consider that you might not get anything from reserves until turn 5 while your opponent have access to nearly everything with some bad rolls for you. What you start the game with has to be able to survive for a long time and infantry are the best units for this goal. You don't want to auto lose the game because of a failed formation morale check when you only have 30% of your force on the table.
2. A game changer unit in reserves. - By game changer I mean an unit of 3 main battle tanks from NATO forces or 5 - 7 T-72s from a Warsaw force. I think the reason you want to do this is twofold. One is that if they not on the table, they can't get destroyed! When you have to deal with reserves, there is a good chance you will be out numbered on the table. When you are vastly out numbered, main battle tanks make easy targets. Second, when you are hurting, out numbered and with your back against the wall and you only got 1 thing coming in from reserves, you want something that can make a different. In addition to their natural power, main battle tanks coming in from reserves has a good chance of getting side shots on enemy MBTs.
3. Try to have a balance force on the table. - Since what you start with on the table could be the only units available until turn 5, you should try to craft a list that can have a balance force on the table. Its pretty obvious that your list should be balance so it can deal with armor, aircraft and infantry. But what some people, including myself don't factor in is that you need to have a balance list after taking away your reserve units. That means you should already have a good idea what is going into reserve and what's going to be on the table regardless of what your opponent has.
4. Make adjustment based on your opponent's list. - That said, you need to pay attention to what is in your opponent list and if your opponent has to pick their reserves first, be sure to consider that as well and make adjustments to your normal plan as need be. If your opponent puts all their aircraft in reserves, then you should be safe with putting your Gophers in reserves as well for example.
These are four things that I think will not only help with Team Yankee in general but in particular should help with the Encounter Mission. And they are all things I never consider to do until now.
If your not familiar with the Encounter Mission, it splits the table in middle such that both players have an entire long table edge deployment zone. The key elements of it is that both players have scattered reserves, have to defend two objectives place by the opponent that can be taken on turn 1 and no one knows who has first turn. That's why I started talking about reserves. How you handle reserves is extremely important, maybe more so than some other missions with reserves. Something that is really easy to miss is that the objectives are in a location where that if you are controlling your opponent's objective to win, your opponent's reserve can flank you. The fact that you can immediately take the objectives leads to the incentive to rush across the board to do just that. It's easy to forget that your opponent has the chance to get new units on Turn 3 and will definitely get something in on Turn 5. Or you might think you have reserves of your own so it evens out. If this is your thinking then you need to remember that while you are in your opponent's deployment zone, your reserves might have trouble lending support arriving from your own board edge. In our game Tracy rushed two units of T-72s to my side to put pressure on me and it look like I was in a lot of trouble. But me getting back to back reserves of Leopard 2s and Leopard 1s who got flank shot lead to all of his T-72s getting wiped out. You should always based your tactics on the strengths of your force and what your opponent is capable of, but I think a general rule of thumb is that for Encounter you should resist the temptation to rush for objectives for the first few turns.
If in the first 4 turns you get obliterated, it is pretty easy to get demoralize and give up. Before you do take a deep breath, relax and take a serious look at the state of the game because you may not be as bad off as it seems. Unless your reserves can't hurt your opponent like Shilkas and Gophers against Main Battle Tanks, then its a good chance you still have a large portion of your force ready to come in. In our game Tracy lost 8 T-72s in one turn, completely wiping out 2 units and failed to get any reserves of his own. He thought he had no hope of defending both objectives. The thing is that I wasn't going to win on my next turn as I wasn't near any of his objectives. He still had his T-72 HQ on the table and infantry in a building that I had no hope of doing meaningful damage to. In reserves he had an unit of 4 Hinds and 2 units of 6 Carnations and he was going to get at least one of those units next turn. The Hinds would be risky to use as I still had most of my Gepards and the untouched Redeye Teams on the table. His biggest threats were the unit of 2 Leopard 2s and an unit of 3 Leopard 1s. The carnations if lucky can deal with both of them. If Tracy didn't give up, I would have moved the Leopard 2s up to try to control an objective to win. In retrospect, this would have been bad because now Tracy's carnation would of had the opportunity to get on the flank and with 6 guns the averages say he should wipe out the Leopard 2s. Even if he couldn't get on the flank, 6 carnations has a decent chance of taking out a single Leo2 per turn. And dealing with the Leopard 1s would have been even easier. It would have been an uphill battle to win but Tracy had the tools to handled the board in his reserves.
The last point I want to bring up is that the scattered reserves in Encounter is not as random as it appears. A concern I've heard about and had myself is that your reserves are unreliable because its random where they will arrive from. However a third of the time you can place the unit anywhere on the table edge. Also objective tends to be near the corners to make defending them as hard as possible. That means if you are worried about being able to contest an objective, you have a 2/3 chance of getting to arrive where you want. Failing that, the enemy should still be in range of the arriving unit's weapons, assuming firing lanes are available. Terrain can change this, but in general I don't think you have to worry about the scattered part of reserves in this mission.
These are all my thoughts on the Encounter mission. I hope it can be useful in our own games. If have your own advice on this mission or if any of my advice here help you, please tell me about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading.