Wednesday, November 29, 2006

AAR: J106 - Marders Not Martyrs

Zeb Doyle

Mmmmmmm, Thanksgiving's tough to top food, family, and football. This year, I did manage to improve the holiday formula by ditching the family and heading to Eric's for football plus ASL. Now that's a combination that's impossible to beat. The football wasn't so exciting, with UT going down meekly to A&M, but the ASL more than made up for it. Inspired by the stellar AARs from Nick and Tom, we decided to try J106 Marders Not Martyrs from J7. The previous AARs did a great job covering the scenario, so I thought I'd try more analysis and less narration here.

We'll start the analysis with the VC, the heart of any scenario. The Russians win by exiting 17 total EVP, which must include at least 3 infantry EVP. Although they have 51 EVP in their force, the Russian ground-pounders have only 6 turns to go 15 hexes. This is a relatively rapid pace, especially given the open terrain, and it would take terrible German play or amazing luck to achieve anything close to 10 EVP with the infantry. Instead, the vast majority of playings will revolve around the exit of two KV tanks and a handful of squads. Clearly then, the KV tanks are the key to the game, both for their combat power in clearing a path for the infantry and for their EVP potential.

Since the Russian tanks are so vital, let's examine the AFVs of both sides. The German Marders are pure tank-killers due to the limited HE and lack of machine guns, while their weak armor and OT nature means that even the Russian light mortar is a threat. To make matters worse, the Marders aren't even very effective tank-killers here, as their net 6TK against the frontal KV armor puts the German on the wrong side of the bell curve. Although the possibility of APCR and the 2 ROF help, the German has to expect more Shocks and Immobilization than outright kills. Given this fragility and lack of punch, it's even more important than usual to avoid any situations where the KVs can gang up on an isolated Marder.

On the other side of the board, the Russian tanks have a few disadvantages of their own, such as the red MP numbers and the requirement to stay buttoned up to fire, but the 76mm MA auto-kill against the thin Marder armor outweighs those minor flaws. The KVs are also extremely durable; as we saw above, the Marders need a good roll to kill them and the German infantry has no hope other than CC to hurt them. In short, we can expect the KVs to dominate much of the action. Their major challenge in the scenario is that they must move to confront the Germans, thus giving the Marders the first shot. This is always a tricky proposition, especially since the Russian cannot afford to lose more than two tanks. As a final note, the KVs must be careful not to engage the Marders at extended range. We all know about the red vs black TH numbers, but here the small CE Marder with the 75L gun has a major edge over the large BU KV with the 76 gun. If the two forces simply parked on their respective hills at 16 hexes apart and shot it out, the Marders would start with an amazing 10TH vs the 5TH for the Russian.

Now that we've crunched all these numbers, let's step back and picture how the overall scenario might play out. The Germans, both with the infantry and the AFVs, have the advantage of ROF and range, so we can expect a defense in depth. The entire set-up will be intended to funnel the KVs onto the Marders, which will be safely towards the rear. The Russian light mortar is a concern here, but not enough of one to influence the Marders placement. Given the opening ranges, the MTR will need a 5TH and another 5 on the IFT to do anything, which isn't too deadly. To prevent acquisition and multiple fire phases of attacks, we'll set up the German HMG to duel with the MTR in an attempt to remove that threat early. Additionally, the HMG will be manned by a HS to make the defense less fragile and free up another scarce MMC for use elsewhere.

The Russians, meanwhile, would love to match up their infantry against the Marders and the KVs against the German infantry, but this is very unlikely to happen. So, the Soviet infantry will trade in the 8-0 for a commissar and push forward as best they can, with an eye towards CC and pot-shots at CE German AFV crews. Since the Marders armor is thin, even machine guns may be pressed into use as tank-killing tools. Meanwhile, the KVs will look to mass against a single Marder and fight at a range of two to six hexes. As we saw above, shoot-outs at seven or more hexes give the edge to the Marders, while the increased chance to hit at one hex is not worth the net TK change from 6 to 7.

With this hypothetical model scenario in our heads, let's now examine how Eric and I actually played it out. Both sides set up almost exactly as described above. The 50mm MTR got one shot at the Marders, missed, and (like everyone else in TX, apparently), was KIAd. The infantry of both sides then proceeded to clash in a profoundly non-decisive fashion. The key to the game came in the tank battle, when three KVs managed to isolate a single Marder at three to four hexes. The Marder Stunned two KVs but then was hit and flamed by the third. The remaining Marder maneuvered to clean up the Stunned KVs, but one of the Russian tanks unexpectedly came back to life and blasted the offending German into scrap. Although a brave landser destroyed the remaining Stunned KV, the loss of both Marders left three unopposed KVs. At that point, Eric and I pulled out our notebooks and wrote 'Game Over.' We played it out for posterity's sake, but the Russians triumphed with a turn to spare.

Anyway, analysis aside, it was a fun scenario that we managed to knock out in a lesurely three hours. Thanks again to Nick and Tom for bringing it to the attention of the list. I'd recommend it as well as a very fun 'lighter' scenario. Finally, if anyone has a strong preference for my analysis AARs over my narrative (or vice versa), I'd like to know.

Thanks for reading!


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