Friday, February 10, 2006

TTF9 - Pioneer Spirit AAR

Zeb Doyle

Well, the second Game Day of the year has occurred, and those of us lucky enough to make it had a great time. The action all took place in Mike Denson's fantastic game room, where we practically had to tear ourselves away from his wife Pam's lavish hospitality to get any ASL in. Eric and Mike faced off in the early war Italian-conscript Russian pillow fight Bridge To Nowhere, while Matt Schwoebel and I did battle in the far more manly TTF9 Pioneer Spirit.

This scenario is from the CH pack Tigers To The Front, which includes its own (very nice) map. I've played a few other scenarios out of the pack that were pretty fun and that I've written about. Rather than go over all the same details as before, I'll just direct you to Sam's excellent AAR archive which includes a link to the map itself for those who are interested:

TTF7 - Tigers To The Rescue

Now, on to the scenario itself:

Pioneer Spirit is a quick-playing action that takes place in June of 1944 and centers around control of a small village. As the title of the scenario suggests, the attacking Germans have decided to send some assault engineers to wrest control of seven of the nine village buildings away from the Red Army (note these VC are errata...with the as-printed VC, I don't think the Germans can win).

At any rate, the Germans get seven 8-3-8 engineers, three 5-4-8s, an 81mm MTR, two Tigers, a 10-2 and some 8-1's, and the standard assortment of DCs, FTs, LMGs, and an MMG. All in all, a very nice little kampfgruppe to assault the village with despite six hexes or so of open ground initially separating the engineers from their ultimate goal.

Of course, there is also the little matter of a few Russians in the village who have set up home there and are liable to react rather violently to any attempted Teutonic eviction notices. The Defenders Of The Motherland get three 4-5-8s, five 6-2-8s, a 9-2, an 8-0, some mines, trenches, HIP, concealment counters, a few assorted SWs, a 76L ART piece and, just to keep the Tigers cautious, an ISU- 152.

In short, it's a fun-looking scenario with some nice toys for both sides. The Germans definitely have the stronger force, but they have to cross some open ground and get only five turns to capture their seven buildings. They aren't super-rushed for time, as it's only 12 hexes from the set-up area to the rear- most building, but the Russians don't have to hold out that long to disrupt the timetable and the ISU-152 looms as a major threat.

With such fun toys for both sides, Matt had a tough time deciding whether to defend or attack, but eventually the lure of the 8-3-8s was too great to pass up. I put together a relatively uninspired set-up, with the ISU-152 tucked away in the center of the village in the only stone building on the map. From there, it was impossible for the Tigers to set up with LOS to it, but it could really dominate the action as the fight moved into the village. The only drawback was the risk of bog if it tried to switch VCA, so I set up the 76L ART piece and a HIP 6-2-8 to cover its back. Any Tigers that tried to attack the ISU from the rear would be forced to give my 76L a rear shot. The rest of my troops went up fairly far forward to try and cover as much of the open ground as possible.

Once my counters were in place, Matt cast a disdainful look over my setup and spread his units out for the attack. Several squads went with the Tigers to threaten armored assault, while the 10-2/2x 5-4-8/MMG/LMG and the 81mm MTR were set up for covering fire. The MTR is a key piece in this game, since every round of smoke it can pump out makes crossing the no-mans-land that much easier for the Germans. Matt was well aware of this and remarked as we started, "I really hope to just get one smoke round out of this mortar. After that, I don't even care if it breaks."

Things started out a little better than that when Matt rolled snakes on his first smoke TH attempt to start the game. Although the MTR got only one more smoke round off, it kept ROF and managed to kill a concealed 6-2-8 with a series of low rolls, even lighting the building it was shooting at on fire. Under the cover of this deadly barrage, Matt pushed his pioneers forward, using the Tigers to armored assault. I got a 6-1 shot on his kill stack but only managed to break my MMG, and the rest of my fire, hindered by the smoke, was equally pathetic.

My turn quickly passed as I busily skulked, and that brought up Matt's turn two. Again, the MTR proved to be deadly, dropping a CH on my MMG squad and getting a 4KIA, then smashing a 6-2-8 down to a 2-2-7 and finally killing it as well. I'd always had a healthy respect for 81mm MTRs, but killing three concealed 8ML squads in +2 TEM in two fire phases was pretty amazing. That left me with three non-HIP squads and the ISU-152 to fight off Matt's two Tigers and ten 8-3-8s and 5-4-8s....

During the rest of turn two, Matt's troops took advantage of my battered lines to pour into the village outskirts relatively unopposed. He played well, moving aggressively but safely, so when he blundered into my first HIP 4-5-8/LMG, it was a single 8-3-8 rather than the stack of Germans I'd hoped to catch off guard. I rolled well on my attack, and the 12-2 KIA'd the pioneer squad. This moment of triumph was short-lived though, as Matt dispatched a Tiger to overrun my HIPster, leaving the 4-5-8 broken with nowhere to go. I was now down to four squads against Matt's nine, but the turn ended with a few crumbs of hope for me. The flame started by the MTR turned to a blaze, creating a very nice bottleneck in the middle of the village. Even better, the Tiger that had overrun my 4-5-8 ended up in the sights of my ISU-152, and I managed to knock its turret off.

My turn two was again a skulkfest, and we moved to German Three. Again, Matt pushed forward boldly but not rashly, and I was unable to draw any blood. In fact, throughout the turn, I seemed able to just slow the Germans down, not break them. A 6-1 minefield attack, a 9-2 led 24+0, and most frustratingly of all, a 30+0 attack from my ISU-152 all left their targets pinned rather than broken. The pins did keep Matt from swarming over my forces in the APh, but also left me with lots of adjacent angry Germans and no real place to skulk anymore.

That led to a bit of a desperate situation in my half of turn three, but the luck started to tip back my way. Two Russian squads trying to sneak down a trench line past an adjacent Tiger survived unscathed and left the German tank with a broken CMG it would later malf. Elsewhere, crowds of Germans clustered around my ISU-152 stared at it in such awe they forget to use their panzerfausts. Matt tried at least six times during the game to get a PF, but could never manage it. This was really a key turn, because the Germans had some good shots, and couldn't break any of my troops. I was still in terrible shape, outnumbered and out of position, but at least I was still in the game.

As the German turn four rolled around, Matt had four of the seven buildings he needed. With two turns left, time was certainly an issue, but due to my inability to break and not just pin the Germans, my troops were trapped forward, out of position and away from the buildings they were supposed to be guarding. Matt decided to take advantage of that by pushing forward for a turn five rush, threatening a flanking move around my hard-pressed Russians. My defensive fire did just enough to keep the Germans off my ISU-152, which was turning into into the lynchpin of my defense. The only other item of note was a 4-5-8 generating a hero when the Tiger overran him.

My turn four ended up being ugly but not completely catastrophic. As I tried to pull back from the Germans, a series of low odds shots pinned my defenders, and a tight LOS broke a would-be skulker with an 8-1 shot. Although I still had a defensive line, my three remaining squads were all pinned in grain hexes. That left Matt with one building that would fall automatically, one building with the ISU-152 parked in in it, and a plethora of buildings behind my pinned squads. It would all come down to the Germans being able to turn my flank and get behind my troops and into the empty victory buildings.

Given that Matt had only two MMC that could reach the empty buildings, but I had only my hero and artillery piece covering the flank, it was looking like a very interesting finish. Things started off with the Tiger crashing into the woods hex my gun was hiding in, looking for a little freeze-sleeze. Success in the maneuver would have left Matt with a near-certain victory, so I was forced to try an APCR shot despite all the penalties for in-hex fire in woods and so forth. The dice gods smiled upon me, and the gun got a rear turret hit with ROF on the Tiger, killing it but not burning it. Matt failed the CS roll, the gun was freed back up for action, and I was still in the game.

The next German foray came in the form of a 10-2 led 8-3-8. They started their dash only to be met with a snake eyes on a 2-3 attack from my adjacent hero. After turn after turn of firing at Germans and only pinning them, the KIA result sure felt good and couldn't have come at a better time. Matt still had one last chance at glory, though, and sent his last 8-3-8 after the last victory building. I only had my artillery piece left to stop him, and it was in woods facing the wrong way. The crew, fresh from killing the Tiger, frantically swung the gun around and let fly. The penalty for turning in woods proved to be too much, however. The shot flow wide, and the gun lost ROF. Matt's 8-3-8 moved adjacent to the building, and I went for a desperate Intensive Fire shot. Another lucky roll resulted in a Critical Hit, and the resulting 24+0 left the German squad pinned one hex short of victory.

It was a great finish to a great game, and Matt took my game end miracles with very good grace. I'd recommend the scenario. Like the others I've played from the Tigers To The Front pack, it's an interesting situation, has a fun combined arms feel, and gets a lot of action packed into a nice sized scenario. I still think CH stuff is hit or miss overall, but this pack is worth the money. Thanks again to Matt for a very enjoyable time, and staying good natured as I killed his Tigers and 10-2s on the crazy last turn.

Thanks for reading,


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