Thursday, February 16, 2006

My AAR on OwlCon '06

Tom Gillis

This was a great event guys. First of all, MANY thanks to Walter Eardley for organizing and leading us ASLers during the convention. Because of his on the spot prepardness our event went all weekend long w/o a single glitch. Kudos to you Walt! I had a blast. Even though the turnout was a little down from last year I think I had even more fun this year. This was mostly due to the great and fun opponents I had. As always, even a doggie scenario can be fun with a sporting and fair opponent. I was lucky to play three guys who are all top notch sportsmen in all regards. There was not _one_rules disagreement with any of my opponents all convention long. (That means a lot to me.) In fact, we only hit the rule book a couple of times, and that was mostly for clarification purposes. It was a little disappointing that only one Austin guy showed up. There was a little discussion about this. Some of the guys seemed to think that being in the big gaming hall turned a lot of them off from wanting to make the trip down. But actually, I found the hall to be quite ok. The noise didn't bother me, and the sights (Las Chicas,) were much better than a bunch of ROTC posters on the wall...) :-) Being in the ROTC building does have its pluses: you can leave your gear and games set up. You can play as late as you want. But to me, the big hall was ok. Hey, I got to play ASL all weekend long with cool players. And thanks to Zeb for coming down. He got to smash us Houston and McAllen players and so enable himself to trash talk us for months now...In fact Zeb crashed out at my place on Saturday night. I could only offer him a cold floor and some ragged blankets but it was fun hanging out with him and discussing ASL, politics and life in general. My blue eyed cat even liked him. Now on to my matches:

1. first up Fri evening. "Roses for Vandervoort." A tactiques scenario that everyone whose played it said was pretty fun. Its Normandy mid 44 with bocage. My opponent was Stephane Graciet. We rolled for sides and he got the Germans and I got the Amis Paratroops. I was a little worried about winning this one. While its not the most steller of German infantry forces, they do get an HMG and a MMG and several LMGs. And of course the inherent late war German benefits of PFs and ATMMs. Also two 75mm atgs with B11. To finish it off, they have two of those deadly infantry killer 37L AA guns with IFE 8. All this sets up on bd 17. The Americans get some good Para infantry, a couple of Shermans, a couple of 81mm mortars, some various support weapons, and of course Col Vandervoort, a 10-2! Stephane chose to set up with what turned out to be several stacks of fakie ?marks up front and one MMC with an LMG. Mid bd was his HMG, and as it turned out in the rear near the victory buildings he had most of his HIP guns. The two 75s were set up in grain hexes adjacent to key buildings and a lone 37L was further back in an orchard hex. The other 37L was actually in another grainfield much further to the front, but though I ran several squads around it, I never entered its hex, and Stephane never chose not to reveal it, hoping for greater victims. The first shot of the game went my way, and it presaged how the dice gods were going to look on this match. I fired some WP onto a concealed stack, it turned out to be his lone upfront MMC/LMG squad. I rolled very low and kept rate and forced him to take the WP NMC. Now here is one of the three mistakes I made this weekend. We should have applied the bocage TEM to his NMC as a modifier to his roll but we didn't. I don't think it would have mattered because Stephane rolled very high anyway, and his guy broke. I fired again and laid another WP round out in an open ground hex near them, and so had good smoke coverage to start my race to the VC buildings. My troops took off and made good progress in the difficult bocage terrain. And to sum up the early game, Stephane could not roll lower than an 8 on his Prep/Def fire/MCs and I did not roll higher than a six. (To make matters worse, I had forgot my dice, so we shared his dice...) My Shermans came on, accompanied by some more infantry, managed to lay more smoke on some of his infantry with more incredibly low odds chances and just blitzed through his middle defence. I was able to break the 9-1/ MMC/HMG combo he had in a cool central position on an 8 flat or 8 +1 shot and he chose to rout them away from the HMG instead of trying to stay there with it and rallying under DM/facing mucho Para squads aimed right for them. Finally the Americans were pouring into the VC area and his atgs opened up. Now he may have had them HIP'd next to some french barns, but these gunners couldn't hit the side of one if they tried. That breakdown 11 made its self known when he had a flank shot on a Sherman from two hexes away, acquired, motion but large, and he rolled boxcars! That was about it for Stephane and he threw in the towel with one more turn to go. Of note also was the fact that my sniper was very active and kept his guys busy all game long. I think we both gave it a 7 on ROAR. To me it looked tough on the GIs, but it turned out, due in part to my good luck, to be a little of the opposite. record 1-0

2. Sat morning. I've been trying to play Nick Drinkwater for over a year now, but we never seem to have the same time off, so it was cool that we finally were both at the same event. He and I picked "No.8 Plt overrun" fom one of the journals. This is a "A Bridge to Far" scenario with the ragged Brit Paras trying to stop an incursion of a mixed bag of SS and Panzers. We rolled for sides and I ended up with the brave, but spread out Brits. Now there is an unwritten axiom in ASL about you don't want to be the side in a scenario title, that has the "destruction of..." or "massacre at...or" ...overun" applied to your force. So it was with some trepidation I started setting up my forces. I had some good troops: a 9-2, some 648s, and a couple of 458s and two 228s. For weapons I had an MMG, several LMGs, two piats and a 57L atg that by SSR cannot set up HIP. (The SS must have scouted it out.) Also some 81mm OBA with scarce ammo. (They get automatic BA on the first draw.) Facing them were some goosestepping 658s/ss548s, a Panther, two MKIVs, and a STGL! Fortunately the tanks have to wait a bit before they come in on turn three I believe. The VCs are basically that the SS have to capture buildings and get from 1 to 2 points depending on how strategic it is. The game takes place on the eastern half of the ABtF map, ending just at the bridge itself. (Not in play.) Its a long way for the SS to go, but they have the force to do it with the good infantry and panzers. I set most of my force up in the little block in the far NW of the playing area, thinking this would offer the best cover, and still maybe enable me to sally forth to other areas to regain/cover them if the bad guys threatened. Mostly 648s, the 9-1, MMG/228 combo and a lone concealed 458 up front to cover some open areas the germans would have to cross. I set some 648s, the 9-2, and a LMG in the big central factory. I thought it was the dominant board feature and therefore wanted the 9-2 in it. But I also set up some forces way up front. Two 648s, a 458 which I broke into two 248s, and a 7-0. A big oversight here though was not giving the troops a piat. I think my original plan was to not have them fight, but just contest the open ground a little and then pull out towards the rear. Well except for the two HS. I placed them both on rooftops on factorys, hopeing to tie SS down trying to clear buildings. I thought it was a good plan, but in reality they got shot up quickly by massive SS FP and died straight out or broke twice. And finally I set the 57L way in the southwestern back to cover the long road next to the Rhine that leads to the bridge. Well Nick opened up by shooting most of his troops at concealed guys and basically missing. He then tried moving a few, with me catching a 548 in the open with a long range rifle shot by that up front 458 I had. It was a sneaky LOS, but it was good, and my good dice rolling continued when I rolled low on a 2-2 shot. Scratch one SS sq. My HIP 8-0/radio guy brought down some harrasing fire, keeping the SS in their stone buildings and hampering movement in the NW sector. I had the 8-0/radio in the big central factory. (He had good LOS to the Germans there, but I did later make a LOS mistake with him, and called down fire were I couldn't see, but it turned out to have no effect, and when I realized my mistake we pulled the mission off.) Nick cagedly moved other units and turn one ended in some slight SS position gains, and one dead SS sq and one dead Brit HS. Middle game became basically Nick prepping most of his infantry and moving a bit in the eastern edge near my erstwhile roofies and the 7-0/648s. He didn't make much progress, but then come the panzers. He sends on MKIV, and the STG towards my main defence in the NW to support his attack there, the Panther down the center: he realized I had no piat up front. Good move to cause FTR for my front guys possibly. He moved the last MKIV against the up front 7-0 group. Mid game was a slow gain by the SS. Churning up some Brits, while losing a few squads, and finally corralling the 7-0 and remnants of the two up front 648s into surrendering. Both our snipers became very active! His especially. He went on a tear where he got at least four '1' sniper events IN A ROW! This broke my atg gun crew, and then selected them again and finished them off w/o ever having fired a shot! This would have major end game impact as my whole southwestern area was now open, my front line guys marching over to POW camp, and me finding my sallying forth plan to be completely useless. Nick also started to go on a 'how many SS heros can I generate' run. In mid to late game he got three of them! But these Brits weren't tough Paras for nothing. I managed to break up his first assualt into my NW block defence, somehow contest the central factory, and frantically move troops over to the southwest to block an end run to capture those now undefended victory buildings. A key final result was getting a pin on some riders on the MKIV near the SW victory buildings, forcing them to bail out. Unfortunately for nick they broke, effectively ending that threat to my back door. Anyway, it all came down to Nick having exactly the number of buildings he needed to win, with my last gasp turn to reclaim at least one. The battle was now concentrated in my NW block, with two 658s and a hero tenaciously holding on to several buildings. He had managed to capture the big factory when another 1 sniper result selected the only 648 I had left in there and breaking, and chasing him out of there. My 8-0/radio fellow decided it was better to surrender to two SS squads rather than go down fighting for King and country, and all in all the Brits looked on the ropes. No piat shots had been effective all game long. (Nick didn't give me many.) And the last turn was no exception when I missed and broke my last one shooting at the STG. All my prep was ineffectice, several movers got broke or pinned, including the 9-2, and it came down to me moving a cx'd 338 HS and the 9-1 into CC against a pinned 658. I'd either have to ambush him for the withdrawal or kia him to claim the building back. A real nailbiting end to a great scenario. We rolled for ambush, me being stealthy, -1 ldr, but Cx'd for a net -1. He being pinned for a +1. I roll a four, so net three...Nick rolls...a six! I withdraw into an unoccupied VC building and take it back. Too close. This was a blast of a scenario. Nick was a great opponent and I look forward to playing him again soon. We both rated it a 9 on ROAR! 2-0

3. Last one Sat eve/Sun. I've known Chris Buehler for over a year now and had played in some KASL events with him, but never directly against him. We had never been able to match up in any scenarios either so it was with great expectations for fun when we decided on "Down the Manipur Road" from Schwerpunkt. This pits average Brit infantry with three Lee tanks against a starved, and ammo short Japanese force. Its raining, and by SSR the rain will never stop. It can increase to heavy, and go back down to rain. But it will not go away. We diced for sides and I got the Japanese. I always like playing the Japanese, but this force has a lot of its flavor diminished so to speak. No Japs are stealthy by SSR. 2nd line are lax, ammo shortage reduces the breakdown #s on sw's and negates firelanes. The Japs get a 9-1, (more on him later,) and 8-0, an 8+1 and two 447s, eight 347s, and four 336s. The Japs get 8 foxholes, 3 trenches, and 2 135 pillboxes. Also two 70mm inf guns, four 127 crews, two MMGs, 4 LMGs, 2 50mm Mtrs, and 2 demos. Not a bad force really. And there are tough VCs for the attacking Brits. They have to control all hut hexes on bd 37/overlay 1. The Brit force consistes of 16 457s, a 9-2, and some other ldrs, two MMGs, 4 or so LMGs, and those big behemoth Lee tanks. Four 457s and an 8-1 LMG get to start on the other side of the stream that dissects this board. The rest must struggle across as best they can. I set up my conscripts up front, with the idea that they are eventually going to die anyway, maybe they will slow him down a bit. Everything else mostly goes to the very back of the hut line, thinking that there is were the final battle will end up. I just station a few MMCs in the central area hoping to slow him down. I do HIP one 347/Demo in the middle of a big kunai field inside a lone bamboo hex. The other Demo I leave with the 8-0. I probably should have HIP'd some tankhunter heros, but I didn't think of it during set up. Anyway to make a long story short, It all went my way the first turn with only a few Brits being able to make it into the stream unbroken, his across the stream squads not making much progress, and the Jap line looking pretty good. Turn two the rain increased! This happened several times and impacted both of us. It makes you add one to all shots under six hexes, and really cramped my frontline concripts attacks. Chris' Brits were better shots, and my concripts, while realizing duty to the Emperor was tantamount, decided to serve him better by reducing, breaking and leaving their foxholes for the better vantage of light jungle. A turn or two later they were able to honor the Emperor even more by blissfully disintegrating into cherry blossoms. Permanently. I took a squad or two of Brits down. ELRing a few, and breaking many. But these Brits, knowing their King had sent them big daddy tanks, were able to recover mostly and head back into the battle. Mid game saw Chris pushing into the huts, again having many Brits break, but also (permanently) reducing the Japanese. I tried to desperately hold the center huts to stall for time, but the English wave kept pushing on. My squads decided to wait for better opportunities when I finally decided to call on some tank hunter heros, none showing up for the first 5 attempts I tried. I probably should have started my backline HIP guns shooting earlier, but with the heavy rain coming on and off I wanted to get as good of shots as I could. I finally brought one out in late mid game, and he broke a couple of squads and a HS before I realized I'd brought him out in the wrong hex! Third big mistake of the tourny. I was really angry at myself for goofing this up. I had continually mixed up the set up rows in my defence area because of the overlay, and thought I had straighted it out by the time game play began. I offered to let Chris completely rally one or two squads, but he very gamely said, no its A.2 lets just play on. I still felt very bad about it so we decided to just eliminate the entire gun and crew. I think this was the right decision. It was a tournement game after all, and it being under ammo shortage, how much longer would it have lasted? Anyway end game saw the very depleted Japanese vainly trying to hold the last line of huts. A terrific canister shot by Chris on a 447 and 347 in bamboo and hut respectively shattered what was left of my right flank and the Brits were into the line. My MMGs/LMGs died. My mtrs were overrun or broke, One tankhunter was able to kill a Lee. (And it was the one that had malf'd its BMG, AAMG, MA, and SA!) Several demo heros charged for the Emperor to meet eternity without effect, both my 8-0 and 8+1 died from wounds, and my 9-1 was wounded. Last movement turn for the Japanese saw the 9-0 pull out his Katana, and say to the troops behind him, (there were in actuality none left,) "let us bring war and terror onto our enemies!" Wounded though he was he struggled thru massive enemy fire to remain adjacent to a Lee/457 squad. Several remaining Japanese MMCs occupied the few huts they could, some trying to no success to regain captured ones. In my final advance phase, my wounded 9-0 was able to enter the hex, ambush the squad in it and CR them, chop several heads off with his katana and exit into an unoccupied hut! But it was to no avail. Chris played a very steady, meticulus game with few, if any mistakes, and he was simply too much for my starved, tired troops. On the last turn of the game he simply overwhelmed the few remianing MMCs I had left and went on to claim a well deserved victory. I rated this one a 6, and Chris gave it a 5. I was going to rate it even lower, but I like to include the fun factor when I do, and Chris was certainly a fun opponent. I know some of the other guys who played rated it even lower than us with 4s! On ROAR it looks balenced, but the opinion by us who played it this weekend was that it was tough on the Japanese. As always, if several things had been different, especially the heavy rain, it could have been closer at the end. And I must say my Japanese sniper was very active. Even after being reduced by one itself. I had four '1s' and one '2' result in a row I believe at one point in mid game. Final tally 2-1

Some final notes on the tourny. There was an adjudicated game on Saturday evening by Walter the tourny director. These are never fun. Who wants to spend hours playing a game only to have it go to a referee'd finish. I know Walter felt bad for the loser, but I know he made the best decision he could with the info left on the board and with the stated intent of final actions by the players involved. As Zeb said on Sunday morning: "that's why we pay the tourny directors the big bucks..." I didn't see much of the game, or how it looked at nights end, but the talk from most who did said that Walt had made the correct decision. I met two more ASLers. Mike Reed, the TOT designer. He was an enthusiatic player, and I successfully dodged him all weekend; he looked like a ferocious opponent. ;>) And Dave Stanaway from the land of Oz via McAllen TX. Both were cool guys and I look forward to getting matches in with them both in the future. Maybe at the Austin Tourny in June? Thanks again to all for letting me hang out with you and throw dice and have a blast of a weekend!

See you all soon,


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