Thursday, April 19, 2007

AAR: HP8 - Ligneuville Halt

Nick Drinkwater

US Player [ELR 4; SAN 3]: Tom Gillis

German Player: [ELR 5; SAN 2]: Nick Drinkwater

Over to Tom's new house for my first game of ASL in 3 months...oh how I hate these enforced gaps between sessions as I always feel that I lose the 10% of my game play that I have built up over the previous sessions of play. You get to the point where you are bubbling along nicely and just getting the rustiness removed from general play, when wham! and running on a big business trip for a couple of months and losing what little edge I've built up..and then back to square one again...

Anyway, on with tonights tale of intrigue. This is a quick 5.5 turn scenario featuring a nifty little combined arms recce force from Kampfgroup Peiper on December 17th 1944, headlining with the man himself, "JP", in the form of a hero with an automatic PF-check first- time-passing ability. He is leading a beefed up recce group of two Panthers, a MkIV, a standard APC, a 37L armed APC and four Trucks. They also receive 8 x 658, a 9-2, an 8-0, a dismantled HMG and a LMG. The SS need to get 16 EVP off the back edge of a half-board 17 configuration, tacked onto the more wooded half of Board 42. To reflect the mobile nature of the force and the "don't stop for anything" need to get west and secure bridges, all the infantry must enter as riders / passengers.

There's a pond in the middle of the game area which is iced over to add to this generally scrubby (grain = scrub by SSR) rural terrain which just helps create a natural killing ground - overall, despite the board configuration there is a surprisingly large amount of open ground about and this will all help Tom's US scratch force to make a stand or die defense with some nice clear fields of fire. With the half-board width configuration he knows where the SS are coming from, where they've got to go and exactly how they are going to get there. Tom opts for a largely upfront defense with one of his four 667s plus his hero (more on him shortly...) stuck in the front centre ground in an isolated stone house dominating the entry road network, supported by two hidden half squads toting bazookas, a 9-1 and 8-1 and a MMG. This is beefed up by a 75mm Sherman stuck in a central stone building, a 76L Sherman hulldown behind a wall in the back area guarding the only "Road out of Dodge" and a nasty, initially hidden M10 with its even nastier ROF of 2.

Tom is a canny but often bold and aggressive player and I knew that he would at some point do some form of a "Light Brigade Charge" into me to create confusion and throw my quite tight timetable offbalance. The 5.5 turns are a real issue - with any kind of resistance, the infantry wll have to drive off (and not walk off) and that will be so much easier in armoured assets than in a truck. One small tip I learnt from Tom in this game is that for a truck to pick up and load infantry, it has to have been stopped in the hex with the infantry, without having driven into the hex during that movement phase. For a long time I had been playing that loading was the exact inverse of unloading, in that the truck can move, use up 1/4 MP for embarking passengers, and then drive on again, but not so.

This nuance means that some quite subtle end-game choreography is going to be needed so that if I have a desperate desire to get any infantry offboard, they must be in the same hex as my trucks at the beginning of their last MPh, ready for some last turn Nascar-driving off the back edge, dodging the Bazooka shells and MG Firepower from whatever Americans are still alive at that point. Also, it will really be necessary to have pretty much cleared the "Road out of Dodge" (Board 17 road) of all US principal assets as these trucks are really vulnerable to all forms of fire.

One other thing to note is that the Germans could actually win this solely by driving both Panthers off in Turn 2-3 as these behemoths are worth 8 VP each. Unlikely though, as the US hidden and non-hidden AT assets are strong in this scenario so I'll probably need to get something else into the end zone. What else is there? The MkIV is worth 6EVP, and whilst the two half-tracks empty are worth 4 VP each, the infantry assets are worth 22 EVP (+1VP each for the four trucks). So, potentially there is a lot of flex on what needs to go, but a couple of bad hits on the main armoured vehicles and the need to get those Infantry off in the very vulnerable trucks will increase dramatically.

I'll keep the report brief. Tom had done a nice setup where all the obvious road routes were guarded by a screen of potential street fighting squads so there would be no quick and easy dash for victory. I pushed on hard into Tom's central outlying house-defenders and managed to take the squad prisoner by the end of my Turn 2 Move Phase, as well as remove a couple of dummies. I used the Peiper-hero in his historic role to threaten the one Sherman I could see, but he failed to scatch its paint: Joachim was having a headache that day I guess, the poor love.

In Turn 2, Tom played his masterstroke: he pushed his now isolated hero one hex to threaten my advanced and parked Panther. I pulled off three 8 and 6 -1 attacks on him, but this "man-of-steel" bounced those bullets off, (I could just see the red cape and blue vest peeking through the olive drab uniform). The MkIV managed to wound him after a hit from the main armanent and misses from its MGs but that was it from five separate "-1" attacks: a sore finger and a slight limp. Troubling.

Having pulled this heroic crawl off, Tom then pulled out the "Gillis rapier-thrust" (Trade Mark pending). He un-hid his M10 and charged straight down the middle of the board, survived three gun duels from both Panthers and the 37L Half-track, and proceeded to whack one of the two Panthers in bypass in the side on a BFF To Hit of 5, keeping rate, and then repeated this trick with a second BFF To Hit of 4 on the small target 37L half-track. Ugly.

To rub salt in the wound, the next rolls in my defensive fire, while good at knocking out another US squad, produced the only sniper check in the entire game - obviously this was "hot", and landed directly on the crew of my other (unarmoured) half-track which then immediately Recalled. Finally, to grind up some powdered glass and sprinkle it over my salty, gaping gash, the limping wounded hero passed his PAATC in CC and then threw a thermite bomb onto the tracks of the last Panther to immobilise it on a seat of his pants roll of "3". Depressing.

In four separate but consecutive events, Tom had stranded or burnt four of my five armoured assets and destroyed 24 of my most powerful EVP straight off the bat. It was a ballsy and great move by Tom with the M10, and a move of last resort with the hero but both worked magnificently for him. I was facing a real uphill fight by then, but gamely carried on.

In revenge, I blew the hero to kingdom come with the SN on the now grounded Panther, and I did manage to remove or break almost all of Tom's infantry assets leaving him at game end with a couple of squads, a bazooka, the 8-1 and the MMG. I also managed to burn the forward Sherman in the homestead, but all attempts to get the M10 went comically awry as I fluffed every attack: six attacks with main tank armanent all missed (and we were talking 5s and 6s to hit here). His burnt Sherman's last act prior to going up in flames was to dump his one and only Smoke Mortar (rolled a 7 on the S7) onto the Panther which significantly impacted his subsequent ability to kill his nemesis the limping hero - another smart shot.

I even tried to get desperate with the MkIV and went hunting, and actually had the M10 squarely in its sights - I won the gun duel but missed (of course) with an 11 (needed a six) - he managed to roll a three when he needed a five to hit it on an Intensive Fire shot and that was essentially that. More out of determination to get revenge and to "make the tank die", I followed this up with multiple attempts of PFs - the eighth (yes, eighth) attempt hit and torched it, but of course these acts of desperation had used up even more fire that I desperately needed to suppress the infantry elsewhere.

Well, really desperate times call for really desperate measures - time for the huge, miraculous "hail mary". I could just squeak the win if I was able to get the three remaining trucks, 5 658s, the 9-2 and a wounded 8-0 off the board but this meant running the gauntlet of the last Sherman plus the few US infantry assets left. Before jumping on the trucks I attempted to reduce Tom's infantry assets some more, but these SS guys left the gunsights at home as every attack I tried ended up sailing miles wide or passing harmlessly over their heads. This of course hurt me plenty in my last MF as the first shots by the still unbroken MMG stopped my ever so cunning plan of driving "down an open road in very hostile country in unarmoured trucks" in its tracks as the lead vehicle ended up looking like Clyde Barrow's car at the end of Bonnie and Clyde - Swiss Cheese.

Well played Tom - he pulled this one out well, but after the Turn 2 sequence of pain, I was really going to struggle. The good thing about Tom is that he really pushes it hard when he sees a chink: sometimes it burns him up a little, but more often than not, it pays off spectacularly. This had some interesting moments: the double bounding first fire by the M10, which we were relieved to find out post-game that we had played correctly, a hero that was actually truly heroic, the succesful use of a SN. Dice were average to OK - only one eyes (for me on a Panther stall DR of course!), and a couple of twelves which didn't do much, but I again rolled a bit higher when I really needed to roll a bit lower, especially at the end.

I played a solid if non-spectacular game where I maneuvered aggressively into good positions to get everything right but just got sharply scalped by some good play by Tom. Interestingly, when we first started we thought this was heavily slated for the Germans, but in the end, we both agreed that this was just way too pro-American: the ROF 2 M10 is very powerful, and it starts the game hidden, allied to the probable initial hiding of both Bazookas. There is a lot of places for everything to hide and many natural choke points in this board configuration that makes it very easy for the US to bottle up even a force as strong as Peiper's in this one. You could try the instant "don't spare the horses" attempt in Turns 1 and 2 and get lucky, but most times that will end up in death and destruction, so some patience must be exercised. 65% US vs 35% German, and that's a bit too much to get over, even for the so-called SS supermen. ROAR had this as 16 : 4 to the US at time of writing and I couldn't agree more.


1 comment:

Nick Drinkwater said...

All - some follow up discussion with Matt on my mathematical
inaccuracies and thoughts on follow up to my latest AAR (Scroll down)

Thanks for the comments and thoughts Matt!

----- Original Message ----
From: Matt Shostak
To: nick_drinkwater
Subject: Re: AAR: HP8 Ligneuville Halt

Great AAR Nick. Why are the halftracks worth only 4 pts. each?

16:4 pro-American sounds like 80% to me. :-)


----- Original Message ----
On 4/19/07 nick_drinkwater wrote:

Hi Matt,

My mistake: 1 VP for vehicle, 2 for crew, 1 for MA and 1 for AF of 1
= 5.
(Done in a hurry last night).

16 (now 17!) : 4 is now 81% pro-US. Again, you're right. However,
last night and even today, I don't think its necessarily quite that
imbalanced as most of my armour assets went down to some wild and hot
shooting from Tom in Turn 2: hence the 65% to 35% rating. With a more
normal sequence of events and say, keeping one of the Panthers alive
much longer, and then it could be a bit more interesting. The balance
here is tricky - the Germans are officially offered one more 658
squad, but that's not really the point: having the right amount of
infantry isn't really the problem as I had plenty of them left over
at the end. Its more an issue of retaining the ability to transport
the infantry off the board which is out of whack. Perhaps what they
really need is 1 or even 2 more half-tracks to do this, and perhaps
tweak the desired EVP total to 18. Trucks are trucks, and even a
bloke with an air-rifle can stop them - APCs are what is really
needed for this task.

Anyway, hopefully into a run of ASL for a while now..!


----- Original Message ----
From: Matt Shostak
To: Nick Drinkwater
Sent: Thursday, 19 April, 2007 10:16:24 AM
Subject: Re: AAR: HP8 Ligneuville Halt

Can the Germans delay any entry, or must they enter everything on
turn 1?

Agreed, it does sound like Tom had a pretty lucky move there with the

----- Original Message ----
On 4/19/07, nick_drinkwater wrote:

Don't think they can delay, but I can't remember entry conditions.

In fact, this is an interesting thought. It might be an option to
keep one half track with a squad and and the 8-0 in reserve tucked
out of harms way in the backfield ready for the last turn(s) dash -
APC + 658 + 8-0 = 16 EVP. Also, it might work as the Germans can
probably get away with not using ALL their infantry for the ground
assault, as they are actually more than a match for the US infantry
as it is. This would definitely require that all the US significant
anti-armour assets need to be dead: it wouldn't be fun to run even a
half-track through a bore-sighted hex from a US 76L gun (and Tom
didn't need to use his bore-sighting last night either). And of
course, one cannot really compensate for the hot sniper sticking one
through the shoulder-blades of the APC commander. The truck problem
is an issue - they have no choice but to use the "road out of Dodge"
as going parallel and lateral through the orchards is not an option
due to MP costs - the APCs of course are not bound by this problem.

Tom was a bit lucky, but it was a good, ballsy, brassy move all the
same. Sometimes you just need to give it a go!

----- Original Message ----
From: Matt Shostak
To: Nick Drinkwater
Sent: Thursday, 19 April, 2007 11:10:16 AM
Subject: Re: AAR: HP8 Ligneuville Halt

How do you get 16 EVP out of that? HT + squad +8-0 = 5 + 2 + 1 = 8.
You'd need two of these to get 16.

----- Original Message ----
On 4/19/07, Nick Drinkwater wrote:

DOH...!I REALLY AM TIRED TODAY. I am a humble geologist and Maths is
not my strongpoint! !

Errata to below:
Line 2 -Replace:
APC + 658 + 8-0 = 16 EVP

(APC + 658 + 8-0) * 2 = 16 EVP.

The rest of the paragraph above still makes sense, but this makes
this even harder for the Germans to win. Yuk.