So now we move from the campaign map to the tabletop. Since both battlegroups used the Attack action, the battle will be a standard Encounter fight, as opposed to something like a Flank Attack vs. Defend. A Retire action would have avoided the fight altogether.
Theatre of War includes rules for setting up the tabletop based on the campaign map and forces involved. The tabletop is divided equally into sixteen sections, in a four by four grid. Cards from the force sequence decks are drawn for the eight grid sections on each side's half of the table, which gets translated to terrain. Since this battle took place in a Heavy terrain square, with movement cost five, it risked some pretty dense terrain. It wound up with some open areas in the end, though. Here is the battlefiend I drew:
|Flank: Heavy Water Feature and Heavy Wood||Deploy: Village||Deploy: Open||Flank: Heavy Hill|
|Flank: Heavy Water Feature||Combat: Impassible||Combat: Heavy Wood||Flank: Road|
|Flank: Road||Combat: Light Hill||Combat: Open||Flank: Player's Choice (Open)|
|Flank: Road||Deploy: Heavy Hill||Deploy: Road and Impassible||Flank: Heavy Hill and Road|
I grabbed various pieces of terrain and laid out the table as described. I opted to make the center "Heavy Wood" bocage fields next to the village. I also need to make some decent river pieces.
Cards were pulled for five American objectives and four German objectives. Each is worth 2-10 points, with nothing other than victory points drawn for them. Each objective is tied to a terrain feature dictated by a Sequence Deck card draw, and with the flanks of the table fairly open, the objectives were concentrated in the center. The bocage is worth a whopping twenty three points, and is right next to an eight point road junction. This looks like it will be the focus of both forces.
Now we need to figure out which actual units will be on the table. First of all, both forces draw one card from the Army Characterization Deck for each ten units they have on their roster or fraction thereof. That's two cards for the Germans with twenty units, and two cards for the Americans with fourteen, only their second card can't be higher than a four. Both forces played three cards in their battle hand, so that will be three more draws of the Army Characterization deck. And the Germans get one more draw for having a battlegroup one size larger than the Americans. Barring some special effects letting you select a specific unit, the units represented are selected randomly. The Germans got eighteen of their twenty units, choosing a Panzer IV company for certain and randomly leaving two infantry companies out. The Americans managed to bring their entire fourteen units to this battle.
With the table set up, the objectives all placed, and the army forces selected, they could now be set up. Again, this is accomplished through Sequence Deck draws. Each side draws simultaneously. Depending on the card drawn, a unit is placed on the table in either the Deploy zones, or given the option of the Deploy zone or the Flank zone. The Action cards in the players' Battle Hands determines the type of battle played; e.g., in this case, Attack vs. Attack, which in turns determines the layout of the zones on the board. A Flank Attack would have given me different Deploy zones, for example.
The Americans hit a streak and set up nearly their entire force before the Germans had to make any difficult choices. This left my poor hull down Sherman company anchoring my right flank facing two Panzer IV companies and two PaK 40 batteries!! Right across that wide open stretch of "Player's Choice" Open terrain, too! Way to go, HQ. Hopefully the higher American quality will tell, but the upcoming battle looks rough...