Monday, November 26, 2007

AAR: SP142 To No Avail

Zeb Doyle
Germans: Eric Gerstenberg
Russians: Zeb Doyle
Here's another quick AAR from the Eric archives, featuring an east front rumble taking place about ten days after Kursk. Despite the battering the Germans received there, SP142 To No Avail finds some SS on the attack, attempting to wrest a fortified town away from the Russians. I was given the plucky defenders (8x 4-5-8s, T-34, T-70, 45LL ATG, and a bunch of wire and mines) and was tasked with holding both a factory and a large building on board one. Eric, who had to take one of the two buildings to win, got 8x 6-5-8, 3x 5-4-8 assault engineers, a FT, and two each of some 75mm and 20mm armed half-tracks and seven turns to get the job done. One of the more interesting aspects to this scenario is that the defender has armor superiority, although the urban terrain and the German FT and ATMM (by SSR) go a long way towards making this just a small advantage. Also interesting is that the scenario goes a full seven turns, not six and a half. The Germans will get one final round of defensive fire and CC to try and root out any last stubborn Russian defenders at game end. To make the rooting-out process as tough as possible, I placed my T-34 in the factory and surrounded it with most of my troops and mines. A few pickets, including the T-70 went forward to try and slow the SS attack, while the wire was positioned in choke points across the map, hoping to channel the German HTs onto my AT gun.

The German attack sent everyone crashing into the left side of my defenses. This approach offered somewhat better cover and a nice jumping-off point to get at the factory, but didn't threaten the second building at all so I was able to leave a very small garrison there and pack the factory full of 4-5-8s. The luck went my way early when a 4+2 shot from one of my pickets broke an 8-0 (represented by Eric's personal Sgt. Gerstenberg counter!) and 3x 6-5-8s. In an inspired bit of trash-talking, I told Eric he should move his 9-1 to set up a rally point for the brokies because Sgt. Gerstenberg would never manage to self-rally on his own. Eric took that as a personal challenge and moved the 9-1 up to the front to direct fire instead. Two game turns later, the 9-1 was seen running to the rear again to rally the (still-broken) platoon of hapless SS...Meanwhile, my attempts at using the wire to channel the HTs worked out quite well when both the 75mm tracks ended up in the same location. It turned out my 45LL had an LOS to the overstacked hex, and I managed to miss by one and roll a subsequent dr of 1 to brew up one of the HTs. An IF shot finished off the second one as well. It was cool getting the rarely seen overstacked kill, and rather important too, as some brutal SS FP broke my AT crew and they never got back into the game. The early demise of both 75mm HTs was also big since they were the only ranged AT threats in the German OB.

With a big chunk of his OB broken or dead for the first three turns, Eric was a bit behind and started to get even more aggressive in an attempt to even things up. He caught a big break when he decided to run his remaining two HTs past my T-70 and my first shot resulted in a malfed MA. That trapped a few of my squads outside the factory, in positions that were nice but not decisive. Meanwhile, a bunch of smoke grenades from the SS 5-4-8 assault engineers made the streets a little less dangerous for the Germans. Soon, the jack-booted thugs were well ensconced in their jumping-off positions for the final assault. At this point, the 6-5-8s had some serious FP staring at me and I was down to five GO squads in the VC factory so I had a tough choice to make: try and cover the street or sag back into the building and hit the SS as they came adjacent. I figured that since my mines were in good spots, the majority of Eric's troops would have to run through 6+0 attacks anyway and so I opted to set up an interior factory defense. It seemed like a fine idea at the time, but it also had the effect of making Eric's turn six very simple: he'd have to move since he couldn't see any Russians. Often in ASL, if you have two options that are roughly equal, going with the option that leaves your opponent making the tough choice is better, and I didn't do that here.

At any rate, on turn six the Germans, unburdened with the decision to fire or move, rushed towards the factory and prepared to advance into it adjacent to my concealed defenders. The minefields were a big disappointment; I had eight or nine attacks and broke only a HS...although it was the one with the FT. Still, that put more Germans adjacent to me than I had hoped for at the start of my turn, making my PFPh critical. Unfortunately, my bullets were as ineffective as my mines, with a 16+0, multiple 8+1s, and some T-34 IF shots at point-blank targets breaking only a few of Eric's SS. His DFPh smashed me up pretty well and suddenly most of my OB was routing out of the factory. To shore up my sagging defenses, I drove the T-70 into the factory and in the APh, arranged my few remaining units to block any Germans moving adjacent in their last MPh. I figured that still gave me a great chance to hold the building for the win, even with the licking Eric was putting on me, since his only good AT weapon was CC.

The German half of turn seven saw Eric's first attempt to deal with the T-70 as Sgt. Gerstenberg wrested the FT away from the broken HS he'd been unable to rally. The ensuing PFPh blasted away the rest of my infantry, leaving only the T-34 and T-70 holding the factory, but also generated a sniper that unerringly sought out Sgt. Gerstenberg and wounded him....leaving him unable to move the FT and completing his bad day! The rest of the German infantry moved to confront the T-34, which broke a few of them but not enough, and the two 20mm HTs were sent on a desperation dash to take on the T-70. The HTs had really hurt me throughout the game, but after the T-70 malfed its gun trying to kill them, Eric had done a great job of keeping them alive and active. Now, as the SS infantry swamped my T-34 in CC and easily took it out, it was up to those pesky 20mm cannons to deal with my last good order unit and save the day. I was pretty confident that my 6/4 armor would serve me in good stead against the 8TK (base 6, +2 for range) and 2 ROF of the cannons. I was right for a while, easily surviving the German AFPh, but I then had to last through an agonizing last Russian turn seven. There was no way I was going to try and repair my MA, and there was nothing Eric could do except shoot me with the HTs, so it came down to his DFPh for the game. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, Eric let the suspense build and build before rolling up a CH on his last IF shot. No crew survived and it ended with a German win.

Despite my heart-breaking ending, the scenario was still a lot of fun, matching the powerful SS infantry against some elite defenders with armor superiority. Beside the sheer enjoyment of mocking Sgt. Gerstenberg, it was really cool to see the Germans work their way back into the game despite a bad start. One of Eric's greatest ASL strengths is his bull-dog tenacity which means he sees a lot of end-games and knows how to handle them. That served him very well in our match as he was behind coming into the last two turns but didn't panic and managed to maximize his chances for victory. I think there's a lesson there for newbies in particular: even if you get behind early, try to play it out and see what happens. You may or may not fight your way back into it, but you'll certainly learn something and eventually become an end-game master like Eric.

Thanks for reading!


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