Friday, July 13, 2007

Tourney Game 4 AAR - SP97 Twilight of the Reich

Nick Drinkwater

German: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 2; SAN 3?]

Russian: Matt Shostak [ELR 4, SAN 2?]


Phew. After the meat grinder of Stalingrad, its onto the last desperate
death throws of the dreadful Third Reich, and my fourth new opponent!
And what a new opponent it was....the eventual Tournament 10-3
winner....Roll up Mr. Matt "I write articles on how to kill AFVs"
Shostak! (I think you can see where this one is going....).

Awesome AAR and many kind words from Matt on this one recently - I am
blushing here as I write this, but here's my view!

As Matt has related, this was our first meeting and we'd both been
looking forward to this one to happen, Matt because he wanted to meet
the guy who writes all the AARs, and me because I wanted to play one of
the top-ranking players in Texas and learn something. Due to an insane
work schedule prior to the tourney, I had had no chance to compose a
want-to-play scenario list for the weekend, so for all my opponents, I
was quite happy to play anything they had lined up. As you've seen, this
was the scenario for last year's tournament final and Matt wanted to
give it a spin: it looked fun, a bit quirky and there was some cool
terrain challenges to boot so we rolled for sides and I pulled the

Pre-Game Thoughts:

The scenario is set on half boards of Boards 43 and Boards 51(?) I think
and is a short and brutal Schwerpunkt affair from SP10. The VC requires
the Germans to have one of their three (!) Jagdpanthers both armed and
mobile within a 5-hex radius of hex J1 on Board 43. The key part in this
6 turn scenario is that the Russians retain the final initiative as they
move last, so if there are any German TDs left at game end, they are
going to need to be in Motion and hopefully covered in Smoke to pull
this off. The Germans have a micro-force to begin with, 2 x wires, 3 x
Foxholes, 2 x 436, 1 x 447, 2 x467, a 9-1 and an 8-0, plus HMG, LMG and
PsK - of course being May 1945, they have an abundance of Panzerfausts
and a three hex range so the Russians need to keep their distance.

However, they are not the only fausters in town...oh no. The Russians
also have PF capability and find and shoot them like June 1944 Germans
so they have a 2-hex range. Hmmm - they have just become quite tasty. To
go with this attack, they have something like 8-9 combined 458 and 447
squads, they are Guards so have Elite Ammo benefits, a 9-1 and 8-0
leader and a horribly effective armored force of 4 x T34 85s and 2
SU152s!! They even have an armor leader which by SSR can only be placed
in an Assault Gun. Yowza.

I have to set up my meagre forces within 5 hexes of the J1 victory hex
and this creates the first problem: the Russians have an entry
requirement that allows them to drive on anywhere on the southern board
edge AND half of the western edge, so trying to prevent some kind of
encirclement is going to be extremely difficult. There is one option to
try and defend at the back of the setup area on the edge of a small
one-street village and create a small Festung for the Germans, but this
would mean relinquishing all tactical initiative by ceding the very open
southern approaches directly to the Russians.

The alternative I chose was to try and defend a small semi-circular wood
in the center of the board with the few infantry assets I did have and I
tried to use the two wires to create some bog potential in open ground
gaps between the trees. This would hopefully force the powerful armor
force to go around the extreme flanks rather than slice through the
defenders and break them into smaller and smaller trunks. Like always, I
struggled a little bit to place the foxholes usefully, but in the end
placed my HMG and 9-1 in one in the point location of the woods: here
they could dominate both the western and southern approaches, but also
throw out quite a tasty lateral firelane to the east if required to
block flanking attempts. One of the 436s was deployed in a small walled
compound on the extreme west to increase the number of potential PF
shots going out - I am really going to need to kill a couple of these
tanks the hard way.

To counter the huge tactical flexibility available to the Russians of
the western approach, I tried to create a "refused eastern flank"
through use of my at-start Jagdpanther and a 436 in the foxhole below
it. This scenario is set on lonely beach terrain in northern Germany on
the very last day of the war and to represent the presence of Sand
Dunes, all grain was sand (with all the adjacent bog penalties) therein
and by SSR, two low dunes were placed on the western side of the board.
Interestingly the board configuration meant that both my Turn 2
Jagdpanthers were going to have to brave some '12' bog checks when
adjacent to the sand just to get to the victory area or cut across a
long east-west lateral gulley - more on this anon. The on-start
Jagdpanther started hulldown behind one dune crest at the beginning
facing west and we set up for the inevitable.


As expected from the quality player he is, Matt deployed an excellent
and powerful two pronged attack: four tanks and all the squads bar one
came on cautiously from the southern edge to be met by some dismal long
range shooting by the MG (rolls an 11). Matt quickly fires up both
Assault Guns to get some acquisition and my HMG / 9-1 is already
starting to feel the pressure from the big -1 acquisition counters lit
up on their heads! On the west flank, the game breaking movement
actually happened in Russian Movement phase Turn 1: Matt brought a T34
at the extreme northern edge of the entry area which meant he was in my
covered arc for only 1 MP - clearly now, this should have been the
boresighted hex for the Jagdpanther in that position, but I think my
lack of experience showed through as I had boresighted elsewhere, and I
missed with a 10 when needing a 5 To Hit (no rate, and 11 and 10 from my
first two shots of the game!!).

Now of course it is the painful decision I spin and declare IF
or try and gamble and ride out the storm on the +4 or more shot from
Matt from the bounding fire Sherman? I tried the latter as I was very
aware of the other Sherman waiting to come onboard and do the dance of
death on my Panther ass, but of course this was perhaps the wrong
option. As the Russians were guards, their APCR was an impressive 7 and
Matt waxed me straight off the bat. The crew did survive, and I was able
to burn the T34 from the entrenched T34 with the 436 on their second
shot (at last, a 4 on the To Hit!), but my principle AT asset was gone
from the get-go and Matt knew it. Matt quickly brought the other T34 on
to loop around right down to the northern board edge and put in some
nasty encirclement options from there.

It was a great move by Matt and really put me strongly on the back foot
from there on. In discussion afterwards, we both decided this really was
the key move as once the Jagdpanther had shot its one and only bolt from
the hulldown dune location, there was only one likely result. It really
needed to be much more centrally located, tucked in behind the woods
with a much longer field of view to the western edge to increase its
chances to hit the marauding Russian armor, and also its survivability.
Without it, my infantry guys were doomed to struggle against the machine
that was rolling towards them...

Anyway, back to the middle. Realizing just how uncomfortable my HMG guys
were feeling, they tried to get out of dodge, but the bloody foxhole did
its usual trick and they got swiftly broken by one of the big guns. Then
of course, the fickle hand of fate played its games again as my 9-1
leader turned berserk and took the accompanying 247 hs with him. I
wasn't even able to lay out my planned for firelane to stop his flanking
attack in my Defensive fire because of course, I'm no longer Good Order.
Hmmmmm. Well, never daunted, my guys determine to go on their last
heroic charge for the Fatherland and pit man against machine. Matt has
told us about the possible 8 or less to score the Critical Hit that
these guys could have faced from the 152* - they'd have been finding
pieces of these boys on the moon if that one had gone off! Wasn't to be
however as they went down in a hail of more normal gunfire.

After those two disasters, it really was just a case of seeing if I
could sneak an extremely unwarranted victory by some cheap move from the
Jagdpanthers. These two came on only to be immediately faced with an
interesting duel with Matt's flanking T34 which he won (by surviving)
through me missing him 4 times (the last two being by one each time on
To-Hits of ~7 – again, typical!). He then sent his rider squad to
threaten both these tanks with his inherent Panzerfaust option in the
gulley, but I managed to get out of that hole with the "Squid" off Smoke and then Reverse vehicular bypass out of there
as fast as possible. From then on, Matt swiftly mopped up my remaining
speedbump and leaderless infantry and was well placed to threaten me
both with his 5 surviving armor assets and all his infantry at the choke
point where the gulley met the sand and village. After exploring a ton
of Motion, Smoke Discharger and other options including a couple of
interesting rules questions, the first of my relief Jagdpanthers took
one roughly from behind through Smoke and Motion from a T34. The other
was busy trying to make its last turn victory dash when typically,
unbelievably, I went and rolled a 12 on a bog check on a sand accessible
hex and that was the game.


2-2 after this and so out of all running for the tournament but I'd
learnt several useful tips from one of the Zen masters of ASL. The dice
didn't help me at all, but I think my setup was a little bit flawed and
I needed to be game perfect to have any kind of chance as the defense in
this one. I think that for this scenario (and many other of the less
forgiving scenarios), it is perhaps better for the less experienced
player to take the attackers, as one small mistake will swiftly be
exploited by a skillful opponent, as Matt ably demonstrated. It was a
lot of fun to play Matt however and I picked up several little gems on
the details of ASL, and I look forward to crossing swords with him again
in the future.

0-1 to Austinites now (but still 0-0 vs Zeb!), but our coffee's still

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