Sunday, December 28, 2008

AAR: S28 Out of Luck

Scott Bell

Germans: Scott Bell
Russians: Dan Preston

Dan and I squared off yesterday in what I believe is a relatively new scenario (S 28), which is out of the ASL "Starter Series."

The scenario takes place in Baruth, Germany (April 26, 1945).

It is a battle that is fought in the muddy wetlands, and involves a large German force led by Colonel Hans von Luck, which tries to break out to the West. The Russians 50th Guards Rifle Division stands in the way. It is an interesting mix of tanks, as the Russians have 3 JS-1 tanks which are the weaker armored version of that tank, along with a HIP 122L Artillery piece. The Germans have 4 Panthers and 3 Hetzers. The JS-1 vs. the Panther is a pretty even match. The Hetzers are a little out of place in this scenario, and appear to be more for victory points. As the German, you really have to protect them, because they seriously outgunned. This limits their usefulness. The German Victory conditions center on crossing two (2) game boards to escape off the South edge.

In yesterday's game, Dan played the Russians (on defense), and I played the Germans. What really makes this scenario unique is that all tanks must stay on road or risk immobilization (11 or 12 DR). It is difficult to stay on the road all the time, and when I tried, ever so slightly, to go off-road in order to avoid getting shot at, I managed to immobilize 2 our of 3 of my Panthers that attempted it. Very bad start!

It was immediately apparent to me that I had to stay committed to remaining "only" in road hexes, regardless. Now I was down to 2 Panthers and 3 Hetzers, against 3 JS-1's and the artillery piece. It was also apparent to me that I would have to win this with German infantry, as I would not be able to take full advantage of my tanks capabilities. I made some progress on the attack, yet Dan's collapsible defense worked to perfection, as he traded real estate for time.

It was a very close as we approached the end of the game. At the end of the game, I had two things go my way. One was surviving a street fighting episode as I raced down the road with one of my Panthers, and took a key fire position down a long road towards one of my exit hexes. Secondly, I managed to score a "critical hit" against Dan's HIP artillery piece that turned to fire at my tank, which killed his crew and destroyed his gun. Unfortunately, we had already played about 8 hours and had to "call it" before it was completely over. I would say that the game was really up in the air at the end. I had made good progress with my infantry, however, I was in a position to where I was going to have to cross some open ground to exit, and though Dan's Russians were reduced, they were not dead. I was not doing real well on my morale checks either, so it was far from conclusive as to whether I would have made it off the board without breaking, had time permitted.

I have dubbed Dan the "Minister of Defense," as he once again did not disappoint with his defensive game plan. It was very challenging, and his ability on defense to collapse and trade land for time, is among the best I have seen among our club membership. I also congratulate Dan on the judicious use of his tanks. He kept them far enough forward to delay my advance, but not forward enough to take 1945 Panzerfaust shots. Well played, indeed.

While I would not characterize this style of scenario as one of my favorites, I enjoyed its "unique" aspects. Being confined to roads definitely limited what I could do offensively, but it presented unique challenges. In summary, it was kind of fun to do something a little different.

Finally, I thank both Bill Zopff and Dan Preston for the two (2) ASL games that I got in over the Christmas Holidays. That made it a very "Merry Christmas" for me.

I absolutely love this game! (Sorry NBA)



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

AAR: Sverdlikova Melee RBF12

Nick Drinkwater

Russian [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
German [ELR variable, SAN 3]: Stephane Graciet

A very quick playing six-turn deluxe scenario that amazingly we finished in under two hours. Its set on Board b and also on HOB's Deluxe board BF2 (which came with one of their Recon By Fire Magazines). Its a simple enough concept - a moderate force of Russians have to have more good order squads north of the stream than a fairly tasty German group do at game end. The Germans set up first, north of a flooded but completely fordable stream, and they receive three 4-4-7s and three SS 4-6-8s, a couple of LMG, moderate leaders and three flak trucks (which by SSR, retain a three ROF and get a special -1 modifier when firing IFE). The attacking Russians come on from the south side with approximately nine squads, four of which are useless, range-constrained conscripts, the rest 4-4-7s. They also receive a 9-1 leader, a couple of LMGs, a light mortar and the obligatory swapped in 9-0 commissar (its August 1941).

In itself, that is clearly not nearly enough, so in Turn 2, they also receive another 7 squads of mixed 4-4-7s, 5-2-7s and another 9-1 leader, 7-0 plus LMG help which come on from the north side of Board b, behind the German start line. Ideally these guys will be the hammer to the south side anvil and will help crush the outlying line of German resistance. At least for one turn anyway, before a monstrous eight SS 4-6-8s, a MMG and four LMGs shows up from either the west, east or north side in Turn 3. The end result of all of this will be a swirling melee of punching, stabbing, shooting fights across most of the board and the small hill and ultimately, last men standing win. A bit like a late-night Saturday at the taxi rank in most UK cities I guess....

Stephane had a fairly straightforward setup where he had lined up in stone and wooden buildings a cross the width of the board with a couple of squads on the hill. As the stream was flooded, this meant everything in it would be at level 0 and hence we would be fording this as hazardous movement in plain sight of most of the Germans. Not a good place to be, clearly, so I managed to find a single blind spot on the extreme flank to try the ford, but set everyone else up to form big blob firegroups from the buildings at the water's edge. Stephane fired vainly with his three trucks but these were extremely fragile and I managed to shoot two of them to pieces with pure and simple FP in the first two turns and then shredded the final one in round three. We made a mistake and failed to apply a collateral attack to an escaping crew and they started to become difficult, but not too bad a start.

Eventually, my flanking forders managed to get up and on the hill and through a break from FPF on one German squad and a 16 FP FG shot against another I bagged two of Stephane's original six squads as prisoners. At the same time my Turn 2 crew had pushed on hard into to the village center and were starting to put the squeeze on Stephane's starters. Things are looking up!

Then of course it all went wrong as per usual. The Game's sole German sniper (warm) randomly selected my 8-1 from a stack of three and of course the wound was actually a kill. One of the squads he was with broke (of course), and my Commissar managed to shoot the only decent squad he had to rally, having saved a couple of lousy conscripts prior to this. I had made a mistake by accepting the two squads of prisoners and paid the penalty when one of Stephane's 4-6-8's jumped into melee with my guards and then took them prisoners and to rub salt into the wound, re-armed his own guys - all because I didn't want NQ to cause the Germans to start low crawling away as their self-rally potential was so much better than my own. This particular 4-6-8 had also come through a 8+2 and a 16+1 shot the phase before I had rolled my usual 9s and 11's.

From this point the Game swiftly fell apart. Three more NMCs and 1MC's from the newly arrived eight squad strong SS 4-6-8 Schwerpunckt (from the east board edge) resulted in three more MC failures in a row (rolled 9, 10, 10). I had managed to break Stephane's at start 8-1, two 4-6-8 + MG stack, but the SS quickly rallied and then with spraying MG fire proceeded to break two adjacent 5-2-7 squads when I rolled an additional 9 and 10. Five morale checks in a row from units in woods, and wooden and stone buildings and everyone failed (three had been ELRed to conscripts) and the lowest die was 9.

I conceded at this point. I had only five unbroken squads left (two of which were conscripts) and my strreams of broken troops were going to be chased across the board wit h no hope of quickly rallying (the Commissar was still south of the stream) and hence winning. These pitiful remnants were pitted against nine squads of troops with 8 front and 9 broken side morale, who I now had to kill and lock up in melee. It was a wash at that point. I had passed two morale checks for the entire night, (both squads still pinned), and my own fire had been generally less than effective. Another night, another dice-rolling disaster. Victor - please come back to Houston!

So more atrocious sequential rolling by me had ruined what had looked like being a fun scenario. Up until that sequence, things had been looking about even, though I think I was probably in more trouble than I originally thought as at least three of Stephane's at-start squads were still ultimately going strong. Obviously the Russians have to really hammer those at-start defenders quickly and then try and prepare for the German reinforcements but that also comes with risks and is not easy to do.

Crossing the river under fire is lethal and there is no option to Human Wave it as fording takes all your MF and HW teams have no Advance to get out of the stream. Even at the beginning, the Russians are a little outgunned and then they get set seriously out-gunned and out-moraled from Turn 4 onwards when the rest of the SS show up. ROAR has this as 8-10 to the Germans, so I'd be interested to know how any Russian wins were achieved or is there some kind of trick strategy that I missed as the Reds in this one? (Apart from passing morale checks when asked to of course!).

I am now surrendering to the obvious and we're going to play a game that doesn't involve so much dice for an evening or two, if schedules allow. After the weekend with Zeb, I was close to reaching this point, but these recent games with Stephane have showed its been less than fun for quite some while now, and I think this is true for my opponents when I can't really offer them a challenge anymore. Its just tedious for both parties when you're two or three turns and a lot of time invested into a game when all of a sudden, half of my order of battle just melts away in a horror sequence from hell and the game is then effectively a wash.

It seems that no matter what I do or attempt, I just can't get any relief at all from the continual sequences of nines, tens, elevens and twelves which I have an uncanny ability to pull out in horrendous chains. We may try Twilight Struggle or Flying Colors next. We'll see, but I need to re-charge and take a break from ASL until the new year.

AAR: RBF40 King's Gambit

Tom Gillis

Randy and I hooked up on this one the other day. Early August 1940 Copenhagen...Randy was the Landsers, and I the defending Vikings, I mean Danes...

It is a really fun small 7 turn scenario from our 'recon by fire' friends. It was early war Germans vs Danes in a scenario called Kings Gambit. The defending Danes are trying to protect the King and palace on bd 45 from a reinforced German plt advancing to secure it. The Germans have 7x467s and some decent ldrs and a DM MMG and 228 crew to go with it. The Danes have about a similar amt, except for some trucks for use with later arriving palace guards. As the Danes, I chose to try to interdict the advancing Boche with a couple of my trucks armed w a HS and 8-1 ldr. They pretty much failed in this attempt with me eventually losing the 8-1 to a nasty 6-2 shot KIA and the HS just continously breaking. So much for being a hassle in Randys rear. My center groups, (9-1, 457, LMG on my left side in a block of stone buildings, and a 457, LMG next to them on my right in similar TEM. These were the real soldiers and they kept the Germans moving slowly for a turn or two by breaking several MMCs. But as the Germans slowly closed in on these guys I made a mistake. Instead of advanceing into an open hex to get closer to Danish lines, I asslt mv'd instead. Randy was able to get a 6-1 on these guys and rolled low. Real low as it KIA'd that squad. My other squad was hit bad by fire and elr'd to green. But all was not going completely bad for me: I kept breaking the German squads trying to get closer to the palace, (building J3 on bd 45.) The VCs are the Army that had more good order squad equivalents in or within 1 hex on building J3 after 7 turns. Well Randy skilfully moved most of his force through some orchards and into the palace. I had 2 broken 457s, both with an 8-1 ldr, no longer DM'd and a couple of squads and a HS. I broke 1 of 2 467s he had in the in the palace and pinned the other one. (No CC for him...) We counted squads and he had 3 1/2 gd order squads going into German T7 (The last turn,) and I had 2 1/2...If I rallied both my squads (one in a woods hex and one in a building hex) I'd prob win as Randy will have to face some blistering DF in his last mv phase. If I only rally one of them, I'll still prob win as the Germans have to have _more_ squad equivalents and that would tie us.

OK, rally phase rolls: remember Allied minor brkn side is one less, so in both cases I'm looking for an '8.' First roll: an 11, uggh! Of course...and this particular squad had rolled 11 the rally phase before that...Damn. But these are the Kings guard. Not elite front line guys maybe, but not raw greenies either...I roll and its a...9! Damn, game over! Great fun, and Randy played a good solid game, never panicking when he had lots of brokies, and making solid moves. We both gave it a '7' on roar: a respectable "recommend." Try this one if you can as it is short and fun. And not so much of a bloody slugfest, but more maneuvering for good firing, dashing, and moving situations. Some funky things, not in a bad way...The Danes set up and move first, before the Germans are even on bd, and the Germans are restricted from entering buildings until the Danes fire on them. (Of course I fired right away...but I wonder what a game would be like where the Danish player lets the Germans advance very close to the palace before firing...could be interesting. Randy was a fun opponent and I'm looking fwd to playing him again.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Thunderbird ASL Tournament 2008 Final Results

After starting out as one of 16 participants in the "Sour Sixteen", both Wes Vaughn and Randy Shurtz faced off against each other for the Thunderbird Trophy on Sunday morning.

They played the scenario "About His Shadowy Sides" (Friendly Fire Pack #19) with Wes Vaughn winning. He received the Championship Trophy and Randy got the Runner-Up Trophy.

Two other games were played to determine winners for overall group play. In a playing of East Side Gamer's Scenario "Dying to Kill", Mike Denson defeated Ed Beekman and after the dust settled in Multiman Publishing's Scenario "Hill 27" from Operation Watchtower, Jeff Ital took down David Longstreet. Both of them received 10-0 Commissar trophies for their efforts.

A total of 26 people made the tournament a great success. They came from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Maryland. My personal thanks to all of you for making the trip. There would be no tournament without you.

I would like to give a big thank you to the many sponsors who donated prizes. The prize table made many an old Grognard happy in the spirit of ASL camaraderie. Each of the products deserve high consideration from the ASL playing public. The complete list of sponsors with hyperlinks can be seen on our website

I want to also thank both Ken Dunn from MMP and Chas Smith from Bounding Fire Productions for attending in person. A hearty thanks also goes to John Farris of Edward Jones for providing a great deal of tournament support as well as making our
t-shirt debut a smashing success. He is also our official tournament photographer. I also very much appreciate Rick Reinesch's help in providing us with a tournament play tracking program and the technical advice that goes along with that as well as sage wisdom throughout the event. Thanks to Caitlin Cadieux for the website that makes advertising of, and pre-registering for, our tournament so much easier.

Lastly, my two co-organizers deserve special recognition. Both Mike Rose and Mike Laney chose some bang up scenarios and provided Up Front support throughout the tournament by making sure the room was open each morning, that drinks were available and that participants always had a game as soon as possible. Thanks for hanging in there during those long days.

Pictures of the event will be posted on our site soon.

Hope to see all of our new friends, as well as our old, at next years event!

Mike Cadieux

Monday, October 20, 2008

AAR: RPT3 Varosmajor Grange

Nick Drinkwater

Hungarian: Stephane Graciet
Russian: Nick Drinkwater

I was going to write a bigger AAR on this, but then I checked out the existing one on the Banzai Pipeline Blog from January 2007. That was an excellent and illustrated one, so I thought I'd just write a quick summary of how my latest dice-rolling disaster differed from that!

Unlike Zeb as the Russian in that write-up, I went in the opposite direction and stacked the Russians up high and heavy in the Board 20 Factory (the Grange) and only light defended in the three other victory houses with a 447 and a couple of scripts. I put all the big MGs at level 2 in the Grange to chew up as many Hungarians as I could in their approach routes and then put the on-board T34 hulldown behind the wall of the complex with a view to several of the Hungarian approach avenues. Ultimately the aim was to conduct the Stairwell fighting retreat in the Grange and hang on with the odd squad for the win...

Stephane comes on hard and fast with his infantry through the back streets of old Budapest and is soon placed to threaten my T34 at 2-hex range with a Shrek team, after having taken several long-range casualties from the MGs on the run in. Seeing that, in a nifty move, my brave T34 boys managed to find some Smoke Grenades and back out of trouble and move into a position where with my first tank shot of the game, I have a 5 To Hit BFF shot against a Zryinyi....

Roll the dice for the MA's first shot of the game.... 12.

OK. This is getting boring now.

Moving on, the T34 still has some tasty MGs and my OT34 is due to arrive on the next turn, so I'll back the tank up against the Grange and use it as an MG cupola for a while and not roll for repair just yet. In response and to get me out of this hole, on trundles the flaming monster of the OT34 - for its first shot of the game, it takes a DFF main gun shot vs an approaching Zrinyi.

Roll the dice for the OT34's first shot of the game.... 12. Again.

OK. This is getting really boring now.

But, I still have the Flamethower and so I will roast the now in-hex Zrinyi!

Roll the dice for the FT's first shot of the game.... 11. End of Flamethrower.

OK. I'm now past boredom and merrily on my way to the sixth level of hell.

Hungarian Hetzer rolls up behind the OT34 and shoots it from behind on a BFF shot of something like a 4. No problem for Stephane there in finding the required 4 and the OT34 is now immolated.

Now I HAVE to mend the surviving T34 tank-gun to stop the wave of VBM freeze that I know is coming my way. Without those two tanks, the Russians have virtually nothing to stop the Zrinyis apart from their bare hands and rude words and they will need an likely 4 in CC to do it even with them.

So, here's a must-roll repair die-roll if ever there was one....

First repair attempt of the game. Roll the dice. 6. Recall.

Now I'm onto the seventh level of hell....

The rest of the scenario was extremely predictable. Stephane executed a steady and well-planned attack on the stout defenders in the Grange. On the one critical shot I had after being upper-level encircled, I inflicted a 2MC on Stephane's FT guys and a 1MC on the two squads with them. Both the 1MC guys broke but of course the 2MC engineers survived! (Very typical...). In the final movement turn, my last 447 with 9-1 and HMG on Level 2 of the Grange were victim to the inevitable VBM freeze as two Zrinyi's came into the hex and then unbuttoned forcing me through good old target selection rules to shoot down two levels at the Zrinyi tank commanders giving them the finger, and of course at the same time are forced to completely ignore the monster 9-2, 447 FT, 344, 347 stack that had moved up adjacent to them with banners flying saying "we represent your imminent death but you can't do anything about it as you have to shoot at that bloke in the tin-can making rude gestures two levels below you!! HahahahHa - sucks to be you!!!".

So we come to the inevitable last roll of dice CC. I need to have a good order MMC in the building to win, and so I cannot be tied up in melee. No ambush, and no H2H CC, but facing a 3-1 (-2) vs a 1-3 (-1) shot back, only a 12 from Stephane or an 11 from him allied with a 2 from me can save me here.

I roll a 4, Stephane rolls a 10 and hence a solid win for the Hungarians.

Haunted by my dice rolling on my critical weapons yet again (see recent AARs on "To Take Back a Hill" and "Peningkibaru Push"), I look for a warm bath and some pills to numb the pain!

In an uninterrupted sequence, my last three Flamethrower rolls in ASL have been 12, 12, 11 and my last two tank shots have been 12, 12 and repair 6. Why do all dice hate me?

Friday, October 17, 2008

AAR: J106 Marders Not Martyrs

Rupert B

Germans: John Hyler
Russians: Rupert B

John Hyler and me faced off on J106 Marders not Martys from J7 last night. Since it was my turn to host, I took the Germans on defense.

Scenario has a small German infantry force of 5 squads and two Marder 1f setting up on Board v (the new board that comes with J7) to repel a horde of Russians who have to exit 17 VP off hex row I. One 9-1, one 7-0 leader and an 8-1 armor leader, along with an HMG and two LMGs round out the Germans.

The Russians set up on board with 10 squads and have 4 KV1Es enter on turn 1. This negates most of the German concealment gaining at the start. The Russians have a 9-1 leader, an 8-0 leader, an MMG, two LMGs and a 50mm mortar.

Interesting point (to me anyway) is that this is a 1942 Russian attack with better leadership and better armor attacking a German defence which is unconcealed at start !

John's attack struggled from bad luck on the dice from the start. One of the KV's was toasted on the first turn at long range, and the return fire was ineffective against the Marders. Long range HMG fire broke the mortar squad and so John pushed forward to grapple with the infantry mano-a-mano with little covering fire.

Another KV received a shock result, then an UK but finally recovered. A second KV was toasted but at the cost of both Marders. With no anti- armor weapons left for the Germans, and with time running out, John pushed forward but suffered a lot of infantry breaking to small arms fire. A rally of a HS did result in battle hardening (woo hoo !), an a nice sniper attack broke a German squad at a bad time.

The climax of the battle saw the remaining two KV's freeze the main German defences with VBM sleaze (boooo - hiss) and infantry closing in behind. The first frozen German died in a hail of fire and it looked to be over. However, with no sound of the fat lady singing, we moved onto the second stack and the Germans fried the KV by attacking down the stairs (more on that later). The next turn saw devastating small arms fire from the Germans and three (yes - three) boxcar rolls by John on his MC's. John did manange to create a 6+1 leader elsewhere, so it wasn't all bad !

At that point, with my hot dice, and insufficient VP left for John to win, we called it. However, post game discussions revealed that my CC attack that fired the tank was illegal and should not have been not allowed - not my turn so I couldn't have advanced into the attack.

We rolled a few dice and pushed counters around and concluded that I was still in a strong position if I could survive the def fire and advance and kill the tank in my turn. John could have got enough points off to win, but it was not a forgone conclusion.

So - I technically won, but don't feel as good about it as I should cos it depended on an illegal attack. Fun game, though ! Hot dice when it counted, and bad bad dice for John when he really didn't need it !

Friday, October 10, 2008

AAR: PBP 28 - Peningkibaru Push

Nick Drinkwater

Australian [ELR 4, SAN 3]: Zeb Doyle
Japanese [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater

A fast playing but challenging "meet then hold" scenario from the dying days of the war in Borneo that has a really interesting beginning in which the two players roll to see who moves first, both starting from offboard. The winner of the dice-off gets to dash on first and grab a majority of victory locations and then they try and prevent the opposition from ejecting them by game's end. Both sides need to look hard at their entry options and movement factors for this Turn 1 phase as this opening move is very critical to how the rest of the game is going to play out.

The scenario is set on Board 42 and PTO light jungle is in effect together with all roads being present, all buildings being wooden and some being huts. VP are awarded for each building/hut hex (12) but 3 VP are also up for grabs for whoever controls a single Japanese pillbox (PB) at game end; the side with the majority of VP is the winner (8 or more). The Japanese places the PB and mines on board close to the central village crossroads prior to deciding who moves first, so they need to locate this in a location where it will not be isolated in Australian territory at game end. Note that for the turn one moves, the Australians (only) are limited to no double time on Turn 1.

The Japanese receive an understrength company for this consisting of eight 447s, the usual SW and a couple of average leaders (though there is a 9-1) thrown in too and a couple of DC so there is potential for THH and DC heroes too. As well as placing the Pillbox, the Japanese have to place a 4IFE 25LL AA Gun in the PB and they receive a crew to man this. They also get to place three known 6FP minefields within 4 hexes of the G5 crossroads. In contrast the Aussies get a couple of -1 leaders and seven 458s plus LMG help and most critically a bunker-busting MkII Matilda with 40L Gun and HE of 9, and the really fun Matilda I CS tank, which in this scenario, has limited (depletion 9) Smoke and unlimited HE by SSR. That is a nice tough little force and easily equal in quality to their Japanese opponents.

Whoever wins the initial 'go-first' dice-off will have a massive impact on this scenario which ultimately adds to its replayability - a player could conceivably play four very separate scenarios as either the attacker or defender for both nationalities and all four games could play out quite differently - this is a very cool scenario in that respect alone aided by the fact that it is quite short (six turns) and could be played in 2-3 hours.

In our game, I rolled for the Japanese and I also rolled to move first. As a result of this, I spent some little time just trying to work out movement permutations with leader and road bonuses to grab as many of the victory buildings as I could in the initial move and advance, as well as 'tagging' a couple of the rear buildings at the back with a half-squad to ensure I controlled them. In addition, I ran the crew up to enter the PB and reclaim the abandoned AA Gun - the 4FP 3ROF AA Gun would be quite a tasty firepower boost in this against the Australians. I pushed a leader directed stack hard up the left side of the board to snag two of the forward-most buildings which would also offer me some enfilading opportunities against any Australians who were pushing straight through the middle part of the board directly at the PB-dominated crossroads.

The PB was set back one hex from the G5 crossroads on the main entry road, being flanked by an adjacent house on the left and hedged palm plantation on the right. Concealed squads were left in these two to form the main strongpoint of the defense. One other small stack of a squad and a half pushed up the right to ensure I snagged the final house on that side, south of the main EW bisecting road. Minefields were used to try and funnel the Australians through some more open kill zones, although, in hindsight, they could be really helpful to screen the pillbox too.

As Zeb was now effectively 'attacker', he pushed everything down the middle of the board using armoured assault to try and put pressure on me across the board. Still feeling somewhat nervous of bad die rolling after the nightmares of the previous game (Buck 9), I was pleasantly pleased to break two squads on my first shots of the game and even get a nice firelane up and running. Almost got really lucky with a sniper off the bat, but that merely 'small' stunned the CS Matilda - but this all helped.

Things started to even out a little in the next turn or so as Zeb got the odd stripe but what was impressive is that Zeb never once gave me a good opportunity to activate either a THH or a DC hero, always able to keep a 1-hex safety zone of open ground between me and him and usually with a -1 leader helping too. Also, his dice warned up nicely too as he was able to generate two fanatics and two heroes - grrrr...but, all in all, he was definitely behind the curve a little at this point. On my right flank, I had a squad which refused to go down quietly and, for being CR'ed itself, took out a whole 458 in CC (not H2H originally) and then the survivors did the same to another Aussie half-squad.

In the centre, another MAD CC (mutually assured destruction) meant that we both lost a squad but also meant one of my DC was now waiting to be picked up, which Zeb duly did with his hero. After some untimely pinning from my 9-1 and 447 on my left, and a missed -2 ambush roll (HOW many times does this happen to me?) he proceeded to bomb their ass down to a wounded leader and a halfquad who went down in a subsequent normal CC - hoisted by my own petard. My supporting squad in the hex behind also lost concealment on some lowly 2+2 shot and then also got shredded and wounded by low rolling Australians. All annoying but they'd actually done their job by delaying a lot of Zeb's squads. So things were looking good by now (Turn 4 of 5)...I actually had nine of the fifteen available VP in the bag.

At the beginning of my last turn I was able to self-rally a critically needed half-squad who then recaptured one of Zeb's backfield buildings by CX-ing uninterrupted up the right hand side. Up to 10VP now, and I was facing Zeb's last turn still with 2.5 squads, the crew and the gun protecting the crossroads, pillbox and single building there. All looking good, especially as Zeb's Matilda had missed four shots in a row with AP ammo against the PB occupants. My last mortar was now out of Smoke and WP which was annoying but I dominated the approach routes and I was very confident.

And then Zeb showed me why he is better than me at this game. Like me, he thought he was almost out of the running now, but he'd been able to see what he needed to do and been planning for it for a turn while I was merely left reacting. First up, he fired the fruitless Matilda one more time at the PB - again his low rolling got him out of trouble just at the right moment and he found a much needed 4 which was now a critical hit on the PB occupants. As the crew were still in possession of the gun, that meant they were eliminated with no further rolling needed and the PB was now open to visitors of an antipodean nature.

Next he used the co-axial on my two concealed units in the adjacent house and rolled a very timely three - an NMC. OK, no sweat here - both the squad and the half-squad passed but both rolled sevens to pin. That was huge as now my guys were only going to get a single Final Fire shot at the adjacent road and Pillbox hexes. A massive, massive result and unfortunately my dice going bad just at the critical moment YET again. Next he shoved the other Matilda into the hedged bamboo plantation on the east of the PB where my only other squad was located. Could they find a THH? Of course not and now they were fixed by selection limits too. Finally he moved a leader then the hero then a half-squad onto the PB hex and also grabbed wall-advantage (where were the minefields now?). My single shot was now a 4 flat against the leader to leave a 2 RF in the hex neither of which did anything to anyone - the Pillbox was now conquered, I was down to 7VP and somehow I had lost.

I had been fairly badly mauled by dice in the earlier games, but I was completely pole-axed by this, and genuinely had nothing to say for some minutes. Of course, Zeb had played it perfectly and I had missed some critical moves in the final two turns, but the double sucker punch of Zeb's 4 & 3 allied to my two 7s for the two pins was simply....well, words cannot describe how I felt at that point. It literally took about three hours for the shock of this one to wear off, and I am still feeling a little numb at the thought of it all two weeks later as I write this. I just could not believe this had happened again.

Almost any other results combination would have meant I had won this - a five on the PB shot would have been a normal hit, and the crew would have survived. Even striping of my two support units would have been better than pinning as at least I would have got more FP down on the critical hexes and left more threatening residual in the approach hexes. The Smoke from my mortar ran out just at the wrong moment the turn before as I was trying to a) smoke in the tank to make him move (and hence no crit) and b) make the movement of the Australians infantry move harder.

But worst of all, Zeb saw the end-game opportunity and I just missed it till it was too late. Even with the loss of the Mortar Smoke, I should have dropped the gun in the PB in the last turn - then any crit on me was most likely solely going to make my crew stripe rather than being completely eliminated from the gun crit. I also should have grabbed wall advantage with all my units which would have meant no cover for any of the Aussies in their approach, whether I was pinned or not.

I'd played this game pretty much as well as I could up till that last Prep and Movement sequence, but even then Zeb needed that four or less to make it all happen - without that he was going to have to come and get me out of the last house in CC and I was six FP to the good, but of course Pinning was a complete nightmare of a result even for that. What can I say? Outplayed and outdiced on two moves in the finale of the game.

Well played again Mr. Doyle - I see now why he is the Master as he'd seen all of this and played for it whereas I, the grasshopper....hadn't.

So all in all, a great session of ASL, but a very bruising one and I came away with a 0-3 record. On the Singling CG, I'd played OK but had learnt some hard lessons so that was OK; on the Buckeye Scenario, my own horrible dice allied to Zeb's hot ones had destroyed me in a very painful fashion, but the last game was an ultimate defeat from the clutches of victory and a very hard experience to live through. Not easy to bear this last one.

Guess I know the Pillbox rules now though.

Friday, October 03, 2008

AAR: Buck9 To Take Back a Hill (Prepared)

Nick Drinkwater

US Player: [SAN 3, ELR 3] Nick Drinkwater
Japanese Player: [SAN 5, ELR 3] Zeb Doyle

A real slogging match set on Bougainville in 1944, where US troops from the 37th Buckeye Division have to eject an intrusive force of Japanese who have just captured a chunk of a large massif overlooking an American airbase. The game is set solely on Board 39 and strict setup limitations mean that the Japanese are limited to solely operating between hexrows M and Y - any Japanese who step out of bounds are immediately eliminated. This particular piece of real estate has been thrashed hard by numerous artillery barrages and so all woods symbols on a hill hex here represent palm trees instead - this is a significant transformation in terms of LOS issues but also in a lack of rally terrain. Note that woods at Level 0 (on the board edge) is still light jungle. Also, as the pillboxes on the hill were once owned by the Americans, they all set up as known - there are four of them in this, the longest version of this scenario.

The designer of the Scenario Pack is Mark Pitcavage and he has attempted to create some interesting variability in some of the scenarios in this pack by a variety differing measures. I'd played "Up the Numa Numa Trail" a couple of weeks ago and really liked it, so I had no hesitation in playing this. For this scenario, players can select a "Hasty", "Delayed" or "Prepared" attack option which, due to some big changes in OB, initial starting conditions and variable VC, effectively results in three separate scenarios masquerading under the same name. The shortest game is the simplest and is the "Hasty" attack - in this, US preparatory measures and OB are at their simplest and the Japanese are at their skimpiest. In contrast, the "Prepared" attack has significant force augmentation to both sides and also the US get to use a Bombardment as well. Due to an early finish on the Singling CG, Zeb and myself had more time available than we first thought, and so we opted to play the longest of the three alternative options available, the "Prepared" Attack, for the chance to get a chunky game in.

In hindsight, this is probably the toughest of the games for the US to win as the Japanese have the always attractive "have one good order MMC on any hill-hex" as their VC - I personally think this is a fairly simple condition for most defending forces to achieve, especially with nations that can deploy and particularly for the Japanese where their half-squads are so tough to kill off. Despite this, I've no complaints here though as my eyes were open to this as we went into the game, and we were more looking forward to playing a big fun scenario than we were on the winning / losing part of it. And that's what we got.

The US have a starting force that is good but brittle: fourteen 666s, some DC's, MMGs, an HMG, three mortars, and a batch of -1 and 0 leaders - this is the basic force for the "Hasty" Scenario, but as we were playing the long version, so I also received at start an additional three 666s, four 667 Assault Engineers, two Flamethrowers, three more DCs, more MMGs and more leaders including a fearsome 9-2. I am also blessed with 100mm OBA directed by a Level 1 observer and I will have inflicted a pre-game bombardment on the Japanese too. That is fairly tasty, though it is going to take some maneuevering to get the mortars into a place where they could see anything to be useful.

In response, the basic Japanese have an HMG, six 347s, six 447s, a couple of Mortars, and a DC, plus a 10-1, 9-1 and 9-0. That is tough enough, but then they also get the "Delayed" attacks units (8+1, six 347s in Turn 4) and also the "Prepared Attacks" units too as at start units (9-0, three 347s, MMG, Lt Mtr). On top of this they receive a total of thirteen foxholes and four wires to block US movement, and through their natural abilities, two squad equivalents of HIP units. Due to these being ex-American pillboxes that the Japanese had previously captured, no tunnels are received. Despite this, that is a really tough force to kill off, and the US have to climb up a lot of terrain, although as woods are actually palm trees on the hill, the climbs up are not necessarily going to invoke CX for advance vs difficult terrain as we would normally expect on Board 39.

In addition, the real joker in the pack is that the weather is overcast - the rain makes a huge difference in this game as ascending and descending become an extra MF - this has implications for rallying in particular - when its dry, units have enough MF to have to run back all the way to the board edge to get to the light jungle rally terrain. As soon as it starts raining, most units won't have enough MF to make it to the sheltering jungle so they are able to rout only a single hex downhill and be safe - that was definitely a help to me for recycling troops and of course it also stopped Smoke and WP from Zeb's mortars which was also helpful. However, if the rain turned heavy, this was more of a help to Zeb as it meant my fire attacks were overall less deadly due to the +1 LV effect at all ranges and so it becomes just that little bit harder to hurt Zeb's extremely stout and dug in defenders (effectively +3 shots instead of +2 due to the foxholes. Overall, we both thought the rain was a double-edged sword for both sides - a nice touch to give the scenario a bit of a twist.

This promised to be a massive slugfest and due to the need for me to kill, like, everything, promised to go right to the full 8.5 turns, which is just what we wanted. The pre-game bombardment definitely started well for me - several of Zeb's dummies were removed, a couple of squads were striped and overall it showed he was setup light on his left (east) side. As Zeb is not an idiot, he had followed the Duke of Wellington's fine tactics and gone for a complete reverse slope defense, (a clearly superior tactic from one of Britain's best ever generals), as it meant my Artillery was completely invalidated as the Level 1 south board edge observer was never going to see a thing - the whole USA OBA thing was a bit pointless really as I strongly suspect that a reverse slope defense is what most people would adopt: maybe it was a design "double-bluff", that, even though it could never be used, it did ensure that the Japanese were very unlikely to setup a forward defense and so give the US an easier initial turn or two. Whatever. All I knew was that one of my key weapons was completely nullified: not sure if this was by design or accident, but the end result meant I was going to be doing this the hard way. The main impact of this was that it did put a LOT more stress on Flamethrowers to perform though.

As I was not impeded by the no-go entry areas that put such a crimp on Japanese movement plans, I planned to send a two squad platoon with Lt mtr around to the immediate west end of his defenses, where they could put long range shots onto reinforcing squads and try get some oblique shots at the back of his defense line - also, they were placed to clean out a pill-box that anchored the far west of Zeb's defense line. On the far eastern flank, I tried to send two other Lt mtrs and a platoon on a big flank move to the far eastern hills, to again enfilade the open ground back of the hill and his reinforcement's approach routes. Finally, the rest of the US spread out to make sure no sneaky and annoying Japanese squad slipped through the lines to create havoc in my back field, but there was an emphasis on the centre and far right of my attack where the troops were basically doubled up to pile on more firepwoer through big Firegroups. The aim was to pin the Japanese frontally and then roll up their line working east to west, using my left flankers as the shield. That was the plan anyway.

Most of the early game started pretty well - as I moved into LOS, Zeb placed the 4 wires on the leading front edge of the Level 4 hill from hexrow M - P which showed that the top of the hill immediately west of the central gulley was strongly protected and would form his last stand position; in contrast, his bombarded dummies and the lack of PB, FH and wire showed his line east of the gully would fold more easily. He had a nicely placed pillbox isolated on the level 4 promontory at the back of the hill (hex R3) which could sweep all of the eastern hill top with HMG fire. At the very back of the board but still on level 1 (near hex S1), he had placed the last two pillboxes in and adjacent to the small bamboo nest there to reduce their access to a CX-crawl by my good guys. All in all a very tough defense. I methodically started the climb and progressively worked my way through some of the outlier "?" stacks but again I was faced by the Zeb Doyle deployment half-squad defense which re-cycled blocking units endlessly. Next, the light rain started in Turn 3 which helped with the rally and return to action aspect of the attack as my guys did not need to run to the board edge anymore, but did add the extra MF for moving up an elevation level to get back into the attack. Despite this, some early progress was being made before I ran into the first of the outpost lines with a squad and a half in a Foxhole...cue the first Flamethrower....or not: Twelve. Gone, no shot.

OK. That was a little depressing, but from that point, the game just turned into a horribly depressing and familiar cycle of morale check failure followed by morale check failure followed by multiple failed rallies followed by Zeb finding the fours and threes on his dice for 2+1 and 2-0 shots again and again. It was agony to watch me go through my the same grim pains roll after roll, turn after turn, (and not, by any means, for the first time against Zeb). There were so many low points that its hard to choose one...perhaps the pin against a Japanese half-squad that I achieved with a 16 flat shot, who in return broke my 8-1 and 666 with a lowly 1+1 shot back. It took the 8-1 three turns to rally - three turns. At first, we laughed, but then it was like the four stages of acceptance of death as I went from comedy to despair to fear to anger in about two hours of nightmare ASL. Happy I was not.

After a lot more misery of me doing nothing really of significance and the rain turning heavy, I had a slight upturn in fortunes in Turns 5 and 6 as after some timely sniper action to take out two Japanese leaders, my 9-2, hero and HMG got to work and managed to destroyed two MG and their crews in the promontory pillbox, and this was followed up with three wins in CC vs some measly half-squads - I was just about ready to push on into the heart of his defenses. I had managed to drop my other FT in slightly ill-advised move which left its owners exposed and then killed for FTR. Zeb comically tried to pick it up with a leader who proceeded to fluff it twice (!), and a half-squad that then tried to do the same got shot to pieces and killed for FTR.

Finally, I had also realised that the Mortars on the east side were also really just junk iron in this scenario and I started to zap the flanking platoon along the north side of the board to snuff out the double pillbox bamboo complex. All looking good until I received another "4" from a 2+1 shot from the pillbox covering force. I rolled two 11s and a 10 and all my advancing platoon stopped in their tracks. Next up, I assault moved the HMG combo adjacent to a couple of squads in a foxhole below them on the back of the main western part of the ridge, but also to where they could see a lot of additional defenders of the back of the hill. Of course with yet another 4 roll from Zeb on a four flat shot, my HMG squads went running back down the hill with a 10 and a 9. Considering it was going to take at least one more turn to get this weapon back and firing, this was an almost fatal blow to my chances; however, my remaining FT was still alive and it could roast a hex a turn so we still had one more up the primer for its first shot of the game...get ready to blast....CLICK! Another 12.

I wish I could say I laughed but I didn't. Numb would be a better feeling. Senseless also sounds about right. Stunned was in there too. Zeb had a lot of sympathy, but what else could he say...he rolled an average near 5 on his attacks, I rolled an average over 8 on my morale checks and so I didn't even get a sniff of a chance in this one. We believe that not a single 666 passed a check in the entire game and we're talking a batch of 1's and NMC's here - from memory only my 667's passed a check and that was only once or twice. Rally attempts were no better as on average it took 2-3 attempts to get a unit back into action, and critically I missed a batch of simple non-DM ones on my player turn. It was horrible.

Of course, I conceded at this point. It was US Turn 7 and Zeb had six new 347s installed snugly in the foxholes to add to his 5 or so other squads left over from the at-start defenders. I needed to kill three squads minimum a turn and for that I was going to need both the FT and -3 HMG stack to be at full operating strength and neither of those were doing anything for at least another turn. I had no serious heavy weapons left and most of my units were going to need to rally and re-advance over the top of the hill again to apply some pressure and there just wasn't enough time.

Its a shame the die-rolling turned so horrible at the end, as by Turn 6 we both thought the US were in with a shout and it was going to go the distance - maybe about 60-40 to the Japanese, but definitely still with a shout, before the second horror sequence from hell kicked in and killed the game off really early. With the helpful VC I would definitely rate this one as slightly pro-Japanese (60-40), especially so if they adopt the reverse slope defense and invalidate the US artillery, which seems such an obvious plan. The biggest problems the US has is with the time, the six morale in 0 or +1 terrain at best and also the sheer number of bodies and hence full hexes the Japanese are able to fill. If the wonder weapons don't work, then the US need to do this with firepower alone - doable, but much trickier. I also don't think the Japanese need six more squads as reinforcements in Turn 4: that is a huge help and completely replenishes the Japanese OB, which wasn't weak to begin with, whereas the American's will already be starting to hurt - maybe limit that to 2-3 extra squads at most or even for the Prepared Attack, the Japanese recieve Forces 1 and 3, and not 1, 2 and 3.

Overall, a pretty nice scenario and I would recommend it - the vagaries of the rain certainly offers some variety, even if the defense is forced to be a bit static. The official balance is for an additional 666 squad, but I would reckon time and not bodies is the biggest US handicap here - the rain slows them down and makes the Japanese harder to dig out and so I would say another Turn for the US may actually be the best solution of all - I just think they are a little bit undercooked relative to the task in hand, but it certainly could be fun if you can roll under seven every now and then on all the important checks.

So, now that Victor Behar has left to go west, I am happy to report that I am definitely moving up from number 2 and falling into first place as Houston's worst die-roller. Zeb can confirm this - its official. I came out of this scenario feeling shellshocked and crushed by the hammering both Zeb's and my dice gave to me. But, again the early finish meant that we still had a little free time to slip in another small scenario, so would things improve this time?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

AAR: SP143 The Battle for St. Cloud

Ed Beekman

Vichy French [ELR 2, SAN 4]: Ed Beekman
Americans [ELR 3, SAN 2*]: Doyle Motes

Doyle and I were matched up in Round 5 of the VASL League and we decided to give this scenario a try. What makes this scenario unusual is that each side gets to make a couple decisions about its Order of Battle. These decisions are made at the start of the turn the reinforcements are due and affect either victory conditions or game duration.

The scenario takes place in November 1942 in Algeria so the Americans are still learning how to fight and the French are still resisting for honor's sake. The battle takes place on two half boards, the town half of board 10 and the grain field half of board 33. The French are defending the board 10 village which is all single story except for a steeple in 10Z7 and rowhouse are treated as single multihex buildings. The Americans are attacking from off board through the grain which is Vineyard "lite" by SSR, only costing 1 MP to move through. The game takes place over a maximum of 6.5 Game Turns.

The French start with four 1st Line squads, two Conscript squads, a vehicular crew, 8-0 Leader, a HMG, a LMG and six dummy counters. They receive a variable reinforcement on Turn 4. The default is two and a half 1st Line squads, an 8-1, a LMG and three dummies. They can upgrade this to three Elite squads, a 9-1, LMG and three dummies by giving the American 1 VP. They can also receive additional reinforcements on Turn 5 consisting of two 1st Line squads and a pair of AMD 50 Armored Cars, again by giving the American an additional 1 VP.

The American start with eight 1st Line and three 2nd Line squads, an 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0, a dm .50 cal HMG, a MMG and a BAZ43. They can increase their SAN by one, substitute a 9-2 leader for their 7-0 leader, upgrade their three 2nd Line squads to 1st Line and add a BAZ 43. Sounds sweet, the only draw back is they sacrifice a Game Turn of play to do so. The Americans can also opt to reinforce from either flanking board edge on Turn 5 or 6. These forces are two 1st Line and a 2nd Line squad led by an 8-1, again at the cost of a Game Turn of play.

VP are awarded for building control. Two central buildings (10AA4 and 10W4) are worth a 1/2 VP each while the church (10Z6) is worth 1 VP. Victory can be had by the Americans by taking all three buildings provided the French do not take any reinforcement upgrades. Fewer buildings need to be taken the more upgrades the French take. The Americans win with 2 VP as long as they control one of the 1/2 VP buildings. They win with 3 VP as long as they control any building worth VP.

I set up with a skirmish line out front consisting of a dummy stack, a couple of half squads and a couple squads. My strength was to the east. The conscripts were placed in the 1/2 VP buildings, I didn't have the leadership to baby sit them and they are too slow for a fall back defense. I placed the crewed HMG in the church looking down the central road to cut the American attack into halves, bore sighting the third hex into the vineyard. A dummy stack simulating the expected HMG nest was placed in the steeple with the leader and a squad also in the church proper. Finally a squad with the LMG was placed in town on the west flank to stiffen the defenses there with fireline possibilities.

Doyle elected for the initial upgrade (I know I would have!) and attacked using a dispersed skirmish line through the vineyard. Not much happened the first turn except much of the American OB lost concealment. I spent most of my turns skulking to avoid American firepower and preserve concealment. The second turn saw me break several half squads and kill the half squad with the .50 caliber HMG as he walked into my HMG boresighted hex. Doyle retaliated by breaking one of my squads who was able to route to the church and my sole leader. The half squads broke this turn were never able to rally. Doyle's 8-0 led and self rally attempts all failed. I think his average roll was a 9 when he needed a minimum 7. This hurt in the endgame when manpower was at a premium. My dummies on the west flank didn't fool Doyle, he promptly disposed of them with half squads moving into their locations.

Half way through the game my strong east side was stopping the Americans but Doyle just took most of what he had and threw it at my weak west flank. The 9-2 leader showed his worth by knocking out all the real units on that side with 2+1 shots that ELR'd and CR'd my LMG toting squad and Disrupted the Conscripts in a victory building. One building was firmly in Doyle's control and about another five squads converging on the church including a melee with my HMG crew and leader with a couple turns to go. He also generated an 8-1 leader taking out one of my skirmishing HSs on a melee snakes roll.

I had to make a decision on my reinforcements. I thought I could hold the other 1/2 VP building but did not think I could hold the 1 VP building till game end, only delay its capture long enough to keep the troops there from helping against the last victory building. The building Doyle held meant he would win with 2 VP. I believed he would have 1.5 VP from buildings so I couldn't take the upgrade or I would give him the win, so I took the standard reinforcements. Doyle later also turned down his potential reinforcements because it would not give him sufficient time to control the necessary buildings.

I skulked the best I could while my reinforcements moved concealed into my remaining 1/2 VP building. Doyle fired into the melee breaking my crew, his HS but my 8-0 leader was unperturbed. My crew ran away, never to rally while my leader eliminated his HS as it tried to escape. I failed to recover the HMG giving the Americans free movement in the west. In came the American surge. A lucky 1+1 shot pinned the MMG squad out of position and my sniper broke a critically placed squad in the northwest. Melees erupted all through the church. Two were 3:2 advantage Americans, the other a 6:1 walkover. The 6:1 went as expected with my leader dead but the other two had unexpected results. A turn later two American squads were gone while both French squads remained, bolstered by a newly promoted 8-0 (although one of these squads promptly surrendered due to a 24+4 attack).

Due to the horrible American melee performance they were in a tough spot. It was mad rush time and everything had to go perfectly to have a chance. Anyone who knows ASL sees where this is going. Nothing ever so rarely goes perfectly and that was the case here. The first squad assault moving to take my Alamo full of my concealed reinforcements got hit with a Fire Lane creating LMG attack, took a K/1 and broke. The resulting American Sniper did pin my last squad in the church but the Infantry OVR vs my leader failed, leaving not enough manpower. Almost every unit faced a 1-2 attack or worse to get ADJACENT to where they needed to be, then they would have to break all the defenders in at least one hex (who are concealed in stone buildings) before taking the remainders on in melee which they would have to win all.

It was a fun little scenario. Doyle found and exploited my weaknesses well. Rallying, a supposed American strength, hurt him. The average American rally roll was normally one higher than needed and he usually needed a 7 or 8. The two melees where he had 3:2 advantages and lost both without losses on my part was also a disaster. The debacle cost him nearly 20% of his manpower and forced him to retake the building all over again. If the results had been average in rallies and melees I think this would have come down to the last die roll in the last CC phase. Thanks for the game Doyle, I look forward to playing you again.

AAR: SP5 The Hornet of Cloville

Rob Burton

Germans: John Hyler
Americans: Rob Burton

John Hyler and myself faced off on this Schwerpunkt scenario last night for a quick game.

Scenario has John with his German 5 squads, a Pz IVJ and an OT PzJg III/IV defending a village against the good guys consisting of 9 American 1st Line squads and three Shermans. The Germans have PF and a PSK, MMG, LMG, an 8-0 and Cpl Hyler himself, in the star role as the 7-0. The good guys have a couple of MMGs, a Baz, a 9-1 armor leader, a 9-1 and an 8-1 leader.

I rolled into town from the west, using two of the Shermans as mobile guns to shoot the Jerries from the houses and using the bocage as cover for the advance, with a small group entering from the north with the third Sherman (with the 9-1 armor leader who never came into play at all). Long range gunfire between the tanks went on with little effect due to hull down behind bocage. I did score a Shock, which flipped to an UK on the Pz IV, but it came back next turn.

Despite this, the Americans swept into town with the Germans falling back. Two Shermas dies in flames due to poor tanker skill on my part, but the infantry did a sterling job. The Third Sherman killed the Pz IV, and the last remaining Germans were holed up in two hexes. The Americans advanced in, shotting up the Germans, and entered CC. The first stack was a great success, ambushing the Germans, and eliminating them in two turns for no American losses.

The second stack was a disaster. Four squads and two leaders surround the stack of two half squads (one broken), the previously HOB'd Cpl Hyler, now a Sgt Hyler 8-0, and the PzJg. Advancing fire on the 30 FP table HOB's the broken half squad into a fanatic and then all but one squad fail the PAATC. On the last turn, the lone squad and two leaders roll boxcars to fail to kill the PzJg. The game is lost since the vehicle is in the victory area with a working MA.

Other notables - lots of sniper action (two good squad breaks by the German sniper slow the Americans down considerably) and the PSK breaks on boxcars on the first shot. John rolled probably 6-7 boxcars on the game (plus a couple of HOBs abd snipers, so it balanced out).

A great game - down to the wire. Bocage rules seemed to work well. The only issue is rememebering to go WA when required otherwise limited LOS (bocage is like a wall, but different).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nick's Post Hurricane Ike Game-a-Thon AAR

Nick Drinkwater

The battered survivors of hurricane Ike gathered together to get a fun day of gaming in on Saturday and to compare tales of woe of course. Numbers were down as several people needed to stay at home and fix things up (priorities clearly wrong there!), but a dedicated few hunkered down for some fun action.

Eric and Matt came down the night before and, after a couple of beers and some solid English cuisine in the Stags Head (or multiple beers if you're name is Gerstenberg), Nick and Eric settled down to play "Kerepesi Cemetry". As listed in the AAR, this ended in some counter clutter confusion so we called it a draw at 1.15am! Fun and chaotic all the same, and that's enough about Eric...the game was a nail-biter too!

The next day three hardy souls made it in from west and north and south Houston. Walter defeated Doyle the lumberjack as the Germans in First Cristot, Doyle not helped by his inability to rally troops by the sound of it. Eric played a fluctuating game of fortune in Frankforce against another Brit, Rupert, who is just returning to the Houston ASL scene. This one looked like a breeze for the Germans until Rupert's second 88L warmed up and left both Eric's infantry and tank force a smouldering wreck in a final turn of death and destruction.

Finally, Matt and myself played a corker of a scenario from the Buckeyes pack called "Up the Numa Numa trail" from which I squeaked a win from with some last turn maneuvering, before Matt's Aussies crushed my forlorn Japanese in "Commandos, Not Supermen" from the Tropic Thunder pack.

All in all, a fun day of gaming and my thanks to all who braved the power outages and the numerous enforced 4-way stops to make it over - especially the Austin boys for entering the disaster zone when it seemed that the rest of Houston was heading in the opposite direction!

Hopefully everyone is on the mend and on some power by now and things are returning to normal for you all!

AAR: TT5 Commandos, Not Supermen

Nick Drinkwater

Australian Player [ELR 5, SAN 4]: Matt Schwoebel
Japanese Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater

After a half day playing "Up the Numa Numa Trail", Matt and myself switched sides and played this micro-scenario from HOB's Tropic Thunder Pack on the Australian 1945 invasion of Borneo and Tarakan. In this Matt had a platoon of three 648 Australian commandos, a hero and an 8-1 with Lt Mtr and LMG defending a small level three hill on Board 36. By SSR they can set up in foxholes and concealed on level two or higher terrain. The task the Japanese have is to either control all five level three hill hexes or claim 7 of the 9 available Australian CVP….in 4 turns…with five 447s, two half-squads and a couple of leaders, but no mortars. OK.

Due to the time element here, there really is no time for anything of Japanese finesse – ambitious flanking movement over the tough terrain is impossible and many of the Japanese start in a gully, so that's already 2MP used up. They are almost forced to go straight up the middle along a track but then they end up surrounded in a nasty gully and overlooked by two Australian dominating positions. I sent some sacrificial lambs up the middle to see if I could force anything and two slightly flanking attacks both under leader direction, but they were all largely shredded by relentless first, subsequent and final fire attacks at 16-Flat, 12-Flat, 8-Flat or 6-Flat. Again, the Japanese are good but they are not that good and they wilted under that lot and Matt's radically improved dice. I did get one half-squad CX on top of a commando but they were ambushed and went down in a hail of bullets. Eventually, I managed to kill one HS from a timely berserk roll and then evicted another, and this meant I was in a position to make Matt abandon his foxholes and fall back and cover the last three level-three hexes. However my two final banzai squads died on a 12 Morale Check rolls after receiving numerous 12-24FP first and subsequent fire attacks.

An OK micro scenario that ultimately really is very scripted – the Japanese are going up the middle, or just left of the middle, or even just right of the middle, but pretty much up the middle all the same and there the guns of the Commandos will be waiting for them. If they roll high then the Japanese have a chance, if not then there's only one winner here.

Fine if you have the odd ninety minutes between games….

AAR: RPT2 Kerepesi Cemetry

Nick Drinkwater

Hungarian [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater
Russian [ELR 4, SAN 2]: Eric Gerstenberg

Gasp! Eric plays the Russians!!! Shock!! Horror!! Awe!! Eric is not playing the Axis!! Hold the Front Page!!

Having got over the seismic-scale tremor of Eric agreeing to play the Soviets, we quickly settled down to a fast three-hour tour through this 4.5 turn quickie out of the recent Rally Point pack (my fourth scenario from this in 2008). Very simply, Eric's Russians have five turns to ensure that my nine first-line Hungarians don't have a MMC in or adjacent to the big cemetery on Board 21 by game end. A large wood overlay covers 5/6th of the adjacent classic Board 21 `cathedral' building that would normally have dominated Eric's approach routes. As well as the average infantry, I have some average leadership to help (9-1, 8-1) and some average support weapons (MMG, HMG), as well as the ever present threat of 2-hex range panzerfausts. Finally I am given two Stugs (with black TH numbers but no APCR) to lend some backbone to the defense. Note that even though this is set in Hungary, the Hungarians do not get the raised rear-side morale in this (needs an SSR to be invoked).

Eric has a mixed infantry bag for this one, including 3 x 527, 2 x 458s and 7 x 447s. They have been given three T34-85Ls to give fire support, and the joker in the pack, a Flamethrower, to unlock anyone Hunnish proving particularly stubborn. Time issues and the obvious "last Hungarian turn move" of me advancing a lone concealed squad upto the Hungarian cemetery back-wall for the win meant Eric had to forego any kind of subtle approach (no overlook MGs or anything like that). Instead he opted for a very solid left punch (two tanks and eight squads) and subtle right jab (a three squad platoon plus single tank). I had put outlying squads right up front on hexrow I to make Eric's initial road crossings tricky, and, to make sure any far-reaching, hard-driving flanking movements by T34s would be risky, used single squads on the far sides of roads, away from the cemetery's side walls. Both Stugs were on the cemetery roads, one in a Hull Down position on the left behind the cemetery wall, the other in the more open, non-walled right side to catch any un-cautious T34s napping.

All was good to start with as I shredded Eric's flanking platoon early with MMG fire – they were out of the game for three turns as a result. Then things got worse. A lousy 2+1 Ad Fire shot broke my 347/LMG front line squad, and then Eric's leftmost two T34s played chicken with my more exposed Stug on the right side of the cemetery – I hit the T34's twice but bounced two shells off the turrets (TK of 6, rolled 10 and 9). Eric then turned that around and spanked-cum-atomised the now exposed Stug (TH roll of 3 and then a TK of 2). My useless infantry kept failing to find any fausts either (three attempts, none found).

On top of that, with a crummy 2+2 co-axial MG shot, he then DMed my right flanking 9-1/HMG combo which I had badly misplaced in setup in the brush outside of the cemetery wall (foregoing defensive wall advantage for an improvement in attack modifiers) – stupid, stupid, stupid. When these guys subsequently `fated' on their rally (the second unit to do this), this and the burning Stug left a massive hole in my right flank defenses which Eric proceeded to pour everything through. Having single-handedly malfunctioned the HMG, my 9-1 ran away to escape, but he then `fated' another half-squad trying to get them back into action, before ultimately dieing himself on yet another 12 wound, 6 die rally check. Not Attila's best legacy that one, no sir, not at all. In addition to all this self-inflicted woe, I had somehow managed to lose / not win two ambushes when perfectly placed (concealed vs CX opponents: rolled two successive sixes, and of course died myself) and the game was effectively up.

To cap it all, Eric's Flamethrower actually worked! And it didn't just work once! It actually worked three times, breaking two key front-line squads and most damagingly, breaking my 347/MMG/8-1 kill stack and roasting the second Stug in the hex with them – all this after his FT team had survived with a Pin from a 12-Flat shot the turn before. Grrr. My only real highlight of the game had occurred just before this where I had spun my Stug in the graveyard, hit one of the rampaging T34s, bounced but kept rate, hit it again with no rate, bounced again (would you believe it?), but luckily got it with intensive fire on the third shot. Five hits with the Stugs but only one kill. Hmmm.

The end-game meant I had three infantry units hung out behind the cemetery back wall in the final turn trying to look `adjacent' in an `adjacenty' way. A berserk 336 (that was simply mown down by like, the entire Red Army), the aforementioned 9-1 who went down to the 12/6 combo, and an initially concealed then pinned 347. In Eric's final turn he piled a ton of bodies on top of that last squad and (by SSR) declared H2H. As Matt pointed out at the time, only a 12 could possibly lose this now…and Eric rolls….a 12!! I quickly withdraw the surviving half-squad (at 4-1 H2H CC, a 12 meant my full-squad was casualty reduced) into the only vacant hex Eric has apparently left, back over the wall and inside the cemetery. Somehow, unbelievably I have gleefully dragged kicking and screaming an impossible victory from the yawning, chasm of defeat.

Or have I? We go through a lot of rules checking and are all completely happy that this was the right result (well, Eric wasn't really happy of course, understandably as he had diced himself phenomenally badly on the only roll that actually mattered in the entire game), but then we realized that Eric's FT toting squad should actually have been in that empty hex…or so we think…or maybe they were part of the team administering the coup de grace in the CC hex? But that would have meant overstacking and he didn't do that. Or did he?

So what was the deal? It seems probable that in all the end-game counter-stacking and last-ditch die-rolling and last-gasp advancing, these guys had been moved out of the way…or maybe they hadn't...or…oh, who knows? The trouble was that none of us could identify or remember how they had been moved and in which sequence etc, and we were now shattered as it was 1.15am. Not able to resolve this issue fairly, we resolve to call this game a draw – no way either of us could or wanted to claim it as a win, so that seemed to be the fairest way to end this. A lesson to be learned though in that its important to sweat the details at the very end, and never, ever give up if there is still even a 2.7777% (or 1 in 36) chance of winning /not losing on a single die-roll!

Great game of fairly simple ASL but with the nice graveyard twist. Definitely do-able in a short evening, but don't get too speedy as that simple, elementary mistake made the end a wash for

Saturday, July 19, 2008

AAR: AP34 Bocage Blockage

Jack O'Quin

Americans: Jack O'Quin
Germans: Jim Martin

Jim Martin and I played this scenario from the new Action Pack 4 at the Austin game day last Saturday.

For me, the appeal of this scenario is as an introduction to bocage rules [B9.5] and tactics. The date is 17 June, 1944, when the allies are trying to cope with the unanticipated difficulties of that uniquely Norman terrain feature. No special equipment, like the Cullen "rhino" device, was available yet. Instead, the US player must choose two of four support elements: assault engineers with four demo charges, three .50-cal heavy machine guns, two modules of 100+mm OBA, or a pair of M4 Sherman tanks. Making those choices and then figuring out how to use them mirrors in ASL terms the challenge facing Allied infantry commanders.

That was exactly what I wanted to do, so Jim graciously let me take the Americans. I chose the assault engineer and armor support groups. By SSR, those engineers can breach bocage hex-sides with DC using the B23.711 row house rules. I figured that was a good way to get armor though the hedgerows. The Americans only have six turns to take three of the four stone buildings, so they need to move quickly, which is hard to do in the bocage. The .50-cal machine gun support group, would provide lots of firepower, but lines of sight are short and those guns would move slowly in this terrain. Similarly, I figured the OBA would take too long to call in and might get in my own way during a close-range battle.

I gave two of the four DC's to 8-0 and 7-0 leaders, taking advantage of their faster movement. Then, in the turn one RPh, I recombined a pair of 347 assault engineer half-squads into a 667, with smoke exponent 5.

Jim's setup was strong in the middle along hex row Q, where boards 55 and 54 meet. The six-squad German force can't be strong everywhere. Since it looked somewhat weaker on my right flank, I decided to make my main attack there.

Jim had a 467 squad defending the 54R1 stone building, at the front left edge of the German setup area. The Americans took it in turn one using the engineer halftrack to VBM freeze the squad, then running a strong infantry platoon and one of the tanks up behind it. The defending 467 broke in the AFPh, but was able to route to the woods behind, because there were no Americans in position to interdict the row Q road. I sent another platoon along the opposite board edge to threaten the 55P8 stone building. A 60mm mortar and one of the tanks took up overwatch positions along the row V hedges, while a third platoon closed on the 54T3 wooden building. The 667 advanced into 54S4, gaining Wall Advantage and then concealment [B9.55] behind that corner of the central bocage field.

In German turn one Prep Fire, the 81mm mortar opened fire from its HIP location in Q6. Technically, it should have been revealed when my 667 in S4 gained WA in the previous APh, but that didn't matter. We were both becoming more familiar with the peculiarities of bocage while playing. I was lucky the mortar needed to change covered arc: although Jim rolled a hit, the colored die of 3 did not maintain ROF due to NT CA change penalties [C2.5]. My squad survived the ensuing 8+1 on the IFT, and was very happy not to get more of the same.

Jim's mortar placement totally surprised me, but it really makes good sense. Although generally one of the most powerful weapons in the ASL arsenal, short lines of sight make it hard to use in this scenario. The level one board 55 hills are all completely blocked by woods, bocage and in-season orchards, so the usual sites are worthless. The board 55 road from I4 to Q8 is an obvious possibility. But, with ROF 3, a minimum range of 2 hexes and bocage TEM of only +1 against indirect fire, this mortar can make almost any bocage field difficult for infantry to approach.

In turn 2, an American tank placed WP smoke on the road in Q8, where the drift would cover Jim's mortar. By SSR, there is a mild breeze from the east, making this tactic more effective. My 667 skulked back to the T3 building to avoid getting smashed in defensive fire before the smoke could drift in the AFPh. Defensive fire from the 467/LMG in R5 caused a morale check, but the 667 rolled a 2, became fanatic and created a hero. The 7-0 passed his DC to the hero, and they advanced back into S4 at the end of the turn, gaining concealment in the bocage against the 81mm mortar now covered with drifting smoke.

The American HT bypassed the woods in 55P1, VBM freezing the concealed unit there. To me, this gap looked just wide enough to permit vehicular bypass. Jim concurred, but I doubt he had noticed that possibility during setup. I recommend that both players agree on this crucial feature before starting, since it strongly affects both the American plan and the German defense. Looking at it again today with no Plexiglas covering the board, I now have doubts. Plexiglas makes the space appear wider, because one can see open ground underneath the counter from both sides. Without it, the gap looks too narrow.

American infantry on the right flank tried to cross the road in row Q using smoke grenades, failing twice, but succeeding on their third attempt. That last unit was able to assault move safely to Q1, then advance into 55P1, where the defender was revealed as a dummy in the CCPh. More infantry advanced into the row Q road, adjacent to the row P woods.

American infantry on the left flank closed up with the row R hedges. The large German stack in the P8 stone building held their fire, retaining concealment. But, American defensive fire eliminated the dummy stack in the P9 wooden building.

Since the German 81mm mortar was covered with smoke, Jim dismantled it in his PFPh, preparing to move back, only to have my 667 break the crew in defensive fire. Another stack retreated from Q4 back to the next field, while the 467/LMG continued to hold tough in R5. Unable to break the American infantry, it took some stiff return fire, but created a hero of its own on a Heat of Battle roll.

In turn 3, American infantry and armor poured through the gap on their right. The 347/DC in P1 double timed to L0, then placed a DC on the L0/K1 bocage hexside, successfully breaching it [B23.711] in the AFPh. The HT moved to M1 and the other tank to O1 in bypass of the bocage hexside. The center platoon moved into Q4 and P3, flanking the main defensive position and advancing into P4. The platoon on the left infiltrated into Q10, P10 and O10, flanking the P8 building. One 666 advanced adjacent, into the P9 building.

In their ensuing PFPh, the Germans in P8 finally opened fire with a 9-1, 467/HMG stack, breaking the adjacent 666 with a 20+1, but not retaining ROF. This squad failed its ELR, but survived and later routed to N10. Jim's tough 467/LMG in R5 advanced to S6, threatening to retake the stone building in R1, which was inadequately protected. Luckily, defensive fire broke them. They routed to T10, which was bad for the forward motion of my attack.

In turn 4, one Sherman moved to T6, covering the road leading to P8. A squad of the left flank platoon, moved concealed back to S10, then advanced into CC and captured the broken 467 in T10, which was unable to route away.

The right flank force moved up to threaten J3, gaining WA in J2 and advancing a conceal hero/DC into K3, where they were attacked by a 6 FP minefield, but to no effect. The HT moved to H3, where its machine gun could cover the road leading back to O8. The other Sherman moved through the bocage breach to K1 in support of this attack.

Jim's half-squad with PSK in the J3 stone building prep fired at my unit behind the wall in J2, but the backblast broke them, putting another victory building within my grasp. A lucky shot from the tank in T6 broke and casualty reduced the squad manning the HMG in P8, putting a third victory location within reach.

In turn 5, American infantry closed in on T6 from both sides. To make sure of this victory hex, the 8-0 placed a DC, killing the remaining defenders. Still concerned about the remaining German mines, one squad moved into O4 and did a Search, which revealed AT mines there, a good placement for the Germans.

Meanwhile, the HT did his VBM freeze trick on the defenders of the H5 stone building. US infantry moved adjacent. The hero ran from the K3 minefield to G5 and placed his DC in H5, breaking the defenders in the AFPh. The tank in K1 moved up to cover the road from I4 to Q8.

At this point, the Americans had all four stone buildings. Jim gamely counterattacked with the few remaining German units, but American firepower was too strong. At the end of turn 5, he conceded.

This scenario offers plenty of challenges for both sides. It looks tough for the Americans because they have a long way to go in tight terrain. But, the Germans have only a small force to hold them. In our game, the decisive moment came in turn 3, when a large American force broke through along the west board edge. That kept the Germans from falling back, unhinged their strong central position, and allowed the Americans to attack the J3 stone building a turn or two sooner than expected. Otherwise, they would likely have run out of time. If the players decide that 55P1 does not allow vehicular bypass, then the scenario looks even harder for the Americans.

With multiple American support group options, "Bocage Blockage" offers considerable replay value. There are six different two-group combinations out of four choices, giving a kind of rock-paper-scissors feel to this game. Should the Germans defend against armor or artillery? Things would go very differently in an attack using the artillery or .50-cal machine guns. But, I like the way armor and DC breaches worked together, and would be very tempted to combine those units again.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

AAR: FF11 Out of Ethiopia

Nick Drinkwater

British Player [SAN 3, ELR 3]: Nick Drinkwater
Italian Player [SAN 4, ELR4]: Tom Gillis

Tom and me hooked up for a second time this week for an afternoon of ASL. Our first foray was a disaster as we took a brief spin through the Friendly Fire Scenario Adolf's Amateurs where, after two turns, I declared victory after crushing 8VP of Tom's Russians, and we both declared it a huge limping fido...imagine our dismay 24 hours later when we realised we'd completely screwed the pooch on the victory conditions and made a massive mistake. We declared the game null and void...and judgement on this scenario is reserved for another day.

The problem we now had is that we were now really pushed for time, so I suggested, with a huge amount of trepidation, that we try something from the famous "set up and play" pack Fire Fights. "Trepidation" as these scenarios being so small can be dicey, and there are definitely some serious balance issues on some of the scenarios - my previous foray into this territory had been fairly horrible with two stabs at "The Hunted", just to double-check that the Germans cannot possibly win. However, with an acceptance that fate may be whimsical in this, we opted for "Out of Ethiopia", a 1941 desert scenario set during the Italian invasion of British Somaliland.

The appeal of the Fire Fights packs is that they are all generally short to very short, come with their own pre-printed half-board (many of which can be added to existing boards), and are designed to be played in an evening. This particular one is a 'Take the Hill' scenario, where three and a half second-rate British squads are holed up on a stony knoll, with a LMG, ATR and importantly a 40L AT Gun (under low ammo), and a 9-1 and 8-1, and a Rolls Royce armoured car (with a mighty ATR and rear firing MG). They receive sangars for all units and a couple of wires to make the top of the hill a tough place to assault - to win the Italians need to take the three Level 3 & 4 hexes.

As the scenario is only 5 turns long and there is little subtlety in the VC, I hunkered down with a solid hilltop defence and waited for the inevitable. Both sides receive random reinforcements for Turn 1 - Tom pulled a squad-leader-MG combo, my luck was to get assistance from two wholesome 436s! Oooh, can't wait...The Italians have a mixed battlegroup of 5 L3s, a batch of trucks, 5 x 346s and a squad and a half of 447s (engineers), various leaders, MGs and a very critical unit, a flame thrower. Light dust is in effect, so a quick review of the various DLV, hammada and scrub rules and we were away. Note there are some important errata in effect for this one: the Brits receive a crew for their gun (!), the board is inverted with respect to setup on the card and there are some terrain clarifications.

With only the board width to play with, Tom came on with the tanks leading with platoon movement and throwing up some dust, but they hadn't reckoned with the dead-eye shooting of the British AT Gun. Despite their opponents being very small and moving, they quickly punched holes through two of them, and the third was shocked on a great result from the Boys ATR! Tom's flanking infantry were quickly dispatched by some excellent shooting by the 9-1 and LMG and things were starting to go wrong quickly for Tom. However, as is the very nature of these small and a little bit dicey games, a hot sniper broke my summit 447 and I was suddenly MG-less - a huge result.

The Italians continued to grind on upwards and Tom started the FT on its fun, and with some motion dust and smart manoeuvring causing the break and surrender of my speed-bump 8-1 and a 447, and things really got interesting when a second sniper recalled my luxury crowd-control car! However, Tom missed a chance to FTR a 447 due to truck and platoon movement intricacies and his lowly infantry continued to struggle against the myriad -1 and 0 shots - I just pulled the front of my tin hats down a bit further, gritted my teeth and continued being stoic.

The end game in Turn 5 was swift when it came - the remnants of Tom's infantry tried to push on and were at the very base of the victory hill looking for a game winning advance, but an 8-1 got hung on the wire, and most crucially of all, Tom's engineers broke for the second time and they were taken out of the equation - the -1 for using the FT is really tough for Italians in the desert. Now it was left to a couple of squads to do the business, but they all failed under the last defensive fire shot of the game and we were done - but it was close and a squeaker!

So a winner in the pack after all - good fun this one. Yes, it could be horribly dicey with some early turn weirdness, but we both felt we were both in it all the way yet still hanging on desperately and that is always a good sign. I got lucky at the end with a couple of low roll shots and my dust mods were low at crucial points so I was able to hang on tight for a very squeaky victory. Worth playing and some fun if you have only have 3 hours to play and you're don't mind weird luck swings to throw up some odd results.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

AAR: RPT-9 Shelling the Sivash

Nick Drinkwater

Romanian / German [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
Russian / Partisan [ELR 4/5, SAN 3]: Tom Gillis

Tom's on his summer vacation right now and is looking to fill his idle hours with some serious gaming - luckily I was able to snag him for a week night's gaming from this small/medium scenario from the first Rally Point pack - this is my third outing from this pack, having already squeaked a narrow win against Tom in Cadets & Cadre and then been hammered by Ken in a very one-sided playing of the Ferenc Josef Barracks. This one, set in the Crimea in April 1944, sets a screen of fairly good Romanians with very thinly stretched German support behind them against a mobile late war Russian battle-group. To keep the Axis on their toes, the Russians receive Turn 3 reinforcements in the form of three Partisan squads that can come on from any board edge - this is to help the Russians in their VC of enabling 8 infantry only to exit from a narrow 5-hex wide corridor at the back of Half-Board 49.

The Romanians start this scenario as the front, folding defense - they have three 447s, a couple of 347s, a MMG, LMG, a hero and a 9-1 leader - as its April 44, they have also been issued with newly oiled 1-hex range Panzerfausts to keep the Russian tanks honest. They also receive a stack of "?" which I scatter around in a none too clever way up front on Board 17 to try and put a crimp in Tom's on-board entry manoeuvres - the rest (including a hidden 50L Pak) are placed centrally at the board seam to try and cover both flanks, ut also to be able to fallback gradually onto their German backbone.

Behind these poor sods, the Germans are stretched in the thinnest of lines in the transitional part of Board 49 where country meets town to make the Russian assault across the open ground deadly - ploughed fields are in effect and these are absolutely lethal on attacking infantry and easy to defend and there's a lot of them in play here. I keep both vehicles fairly central as I am conscious that to lose either my Marder or my Stug to an assaulting concealed partisan creeping on at the board edge would be criminal - they also receive a 237 each as infantry support. I place my 467, 9-1 and MMG in one of the back exit buildings of Board 49 - its job is to lay a lateral firelane down across the Russian exit corridor, but also to survive and dispatch any sneaky concealed partisans that may advance in and try their arm at CC to tie my guys up whilst their colleagues 'do a runner'. This MMG will be covered by a mutually supporting equivalent from the Turn 2 reinforcements to double up on this exit gambit when they arrive.

The Russians have approximately 8 458s and a couple of 447s coming on in two waves, with exceptional Russian leadership (9-2, 9-1, 7-0), a couple of machine guns and a mighty FT to add some oomph in the end game assault against possible German MG nests in stone buildings. They also receive a tasty SU 122 which they will need for some Smoke to cross all that open ground, and in Turn 2, two T34 M43s. Recognising that he has 7 movement phases to cross a straight line distance of 20 contested, open ground hexes, Tom sees the need for speed and pushes his SU 122 and riders down the far west flank looking for gaps in the almost diaphanous defence. Unluckily for Tom, he offers me a flank shot at range to my 50L - that misses finding the APCR by one (four when I needed a three), but in a rare but welcome spate of good rolling, I find a 5 and then a 6 to scratch the Assault Gun - the crew do get out but its a great start for me. The bulk of Tom's attackers push on through the centre and east where they run up against an immovable object of for once, rock hard Romanians.

On this eastern flank, the two T34s push up here to approximately hexrow 6-7 where they start to threaten the first of the Germans near the Board seam - in response, I move the Marder over to cover the eastern side where there is a lot of open ground and ploughed fields to cross, passing a gettable ESB roll to stop behind a hedge. I'm also banking on the fact that at 7 hexes or more, the odds are slightly better in my favour as I am CE, (Tom isn't) and I'm on black To Hit numbers (Tom isn't). I survive Tom's defensive fire and having acquired him, I managed to shock him on my next turns Defensive Fire...unluckily for Tom, the T34 doesn't come back from this - scratch two of the three Russian tanks.

To up the pace a bit, Tom tries to push a 458 down the centre adjacent to my gun crew, but I manage to break them. I immediately follow this up with with a 4-2 shot in prep fire from the hero with a 347 I managed to pin the 9-1 and break the 458 and FT he is with that are immediately adjacent to Tom's first broken 458. With two broken elites in the open, I gamble that this is just too good an opportunity to miss so I get the running shoes on for my other 347 to try and enforce a massive 2 squad FTR. At this point, the vagaries of the space and long open LOS available on Board 49 kick in as Tom is able to nail these athletes with a 1-2 shot from the Partisans LMG 11 hexes away - ouch! Still not wanting to lose this opportunity, I decide to move my Marder up to get them to FTR instead...the crew survive a pin from a long distance shot and I am able scratch two of Tom's 458s for FTR - absolutely massive in the scope of the game.

Even more crucially, Tom's pinned 9-1 leader rolls a 6 the next turn when he tries but fails to retrieve the FT - this was huge as my Marder would have been toast if he'd picked it up. Instead, he tried to run his 7-0 over to retrieve it, but he broke and was also also killed on FTR: that was now 5 CVP not getting off the Board. Now things get really desperate - Tom has to break my unyielding line of stalwart defenders and so jumps into CC with a 237 German half squad with a Partisan and leader, a 12-1 CC attempt vs my now wounded hero and a 1-2 stab of his 9-1 leader vs my 50L Gun crew. Amazingly, he rolls a 12 with the Partisans so I escape, the hero ambushes the three squads trying to kill him so withdraws and I whack the forlorn 9-1 for two more CVP not getting off the board. Tom calls it quits when I destroy his last T34 with another side shot from my Romanian 50L AT dead-eyes - he's now without armour support, has lost about 30% of his potential escaping infantry force and is now still about 10-15 hexes away from the exit corridor with only three movement phases left - he'll also have to still beat off my outlying defenders, and then run the gauntlet of two 9-1 directed MMG fire-lanes in Open Ground with his single 9-2 leader to assist - never gonna happen.

I played this solidly with only one bone-headed move (when I unnecessarily relocated my MMG and 9-1 and they suffered at the hands of a coaxial shot from a T34) - the move to kill the two squads in FTR was really handy as it cost Tom a lot of units and also the loss of his one weapon that can make a big difference to small and fragile defences, the FT. Tom was unlucky with the first off hot-rolls to destroy the SU-122 as he really needed that big-gun and its Smoke in the end-game, but we've all had that happen! I think with the amount of open ground in this, the Russians are going to struggle a little bit on this, especially with the paucity of their Smoke resources, but equally, one or two key MC failures by the Romanians could see the dam burst and the Russians pouring through. The correct use of the Partisans may be key, especially if they are needed to soak up defensive fire shots in the end-game or otherwise occupy defending MG nests, to hence allow other units to escape.

Anyway, we're onto something meatier this Thursday: "Fireteams". It promises to be a monster!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Texas Tourney AAR: WCW7 Eye of the Tiger

Nick Drinkwater

Texas Tourney AAR: WCW7 Eye of the Tiger

German (SS) Player: Eric Gerstenberg [ELR 3, SAN 2]
Russian Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 4]

Scenario Analysis:
Another classic from the WCW pack and this one was a complete blast to play. Eric opted to play the evil jackbooted ones (surprise!) and I was quite happy to take on the challenge of the free-thinking proletariat in this oldie but goodie from the newly released WCW pack (note: a BIG thanks to the publishers for letting these go out into the public domain and a thanks to Mark Pitcavage for hosting these on his Desperation Morale website). There are some great scenarios in this pack and I am looking forward to trying several more of the offerings in here in the future. This scenario has seen a load of playings over the years and has a strong ROAR rating and is thoroughly recommended - a real blast!

OBA Impact:
Victory conditions are nice and simple: at the end of six turns, the Germans must be in control of more stone buildings than the Russians on the dispersed village of Board 42, with the caveat that they must have lost less than 30 CVP at that point. Instant win VP cap scenarios can be quite testing for the attackers and I was pretty happy to take the Russians as a result of this. The big unknown in all of this scenario is the effect of a pre-registered 280mm OBA shot in Turn 1 against the village by the cruiser Prinz Eugen - the hex is pre-regged before the Russian setup, so its important that the Russians disperse their units at least one or preferably two hexes apart during setup to avoid some catastrophic first turn loss of key units from naval gunfire. There will be time for them to regroup and rebuild the defensive line in Turn 2, especially if they have left some speed bumps to impede the Germans in their Turn 1 approach a little.

The other big impact that may happen with the naval OBA is that it may rubble one, or possibly two, of the stone buildings. As we understood it, if this happens, then they are no longer considered valid Victory objectives (the VC state "stone buildings" only and not "Stone Buildings / Rubble"), so it might be that the Germans task gets a little easier as they may only then have to control five instead of six buildings at game end - this may well cause a subtle shift in the game dynamics as well. Again, the Russian needs to think about this and then re-deploy his forces to cover German attack routes and revised building locations, particularly if more than one building gets demolished.

There are all sorts of options available for the placement of the German pre-reg hex - most will probably be at or close to the Board 42 "cross-roads" point of G4/G5 where it is very likely they will tag at least one building and hopefully a nice concealed unit or two, but a crafty German may consider targeting the forward part of the Russian defense line around hexrows two and three on Board 4 and then correct in FFE2 to hurt something else that looks juicy. Neutralising the upfront defenses may also open some interesting attack routes for the Germans too. Note that if the Germans do get lucky with the OBA and rubble a couple of the buildings around the cross-roads, then the Russian will need to think hard about defending some of the more isolated buildings in the far SW corner of Board 42, which could be opened up to to some sweeping "armoured car with rider" probes.

Balance of Forces:
The other thing the OBA can do to the Russians is to cause the Turn 1 armour force (3 x T34 M43s and a SU-85) to delay or swerve around a possible blast area that straddles the Hexrow O entry road - the FFE2 counter is in effect for all of the turn and this heavy payload stuff can put a serious dent in any careless Russian armour. The tanks also need to keep themselves out of harm's way in any German Defensive Fire FFE2 corrections - the Russians really will need the armour to help in this scenario and a loss to OBA will be damaging. As well as the armour, the Russians receive a tasty 11 squad strong infantry company which is lead by a tough 9-1 with HMG assistance. The other key piece in the Russian defense is the hidden 45LL. Russian players may consider putting this on a board-edge position on Board 4 to get some sneaky lateral shots, but be aware that you may be likely to be run over by marauding SS infantry before any juicy opportunities came along. Instead, I opted to put it in a brush hex just south and east of the cross-roads on Board 42 where it could cover the big eastern grain field and its adjacent shell-hole 'field'. In this position, it was also well-placed to mutually assist the HMG and 9-1 which went into a stone building south of the cross-roads, which again was well-placed to assist in the defense and approaches to the main core of the village. I had a couple of squads at the front of the line on the fringe of the Board 4 woods to try and suppress any fast dashes by Hitler's finest across the open approaches to Board 4 and then dispersed the rest of the defense around the village to try and minimize damage from the OBA.


Early Game:
Eric was very unlucky with his OBA. He went for the crossroads in G4, erred, and ended up doing no damage to anything on FFE1 by its falling between all my units. Things didn't improve in FFE2 when he tried to correct - again he erred, and just missed snagging a T34 with an 11 on the OBA effects DR, but again it dropped optimally by missing all of my infantry units - a huge sigh of relief was breathed on the Russian side. The one thing the OBA did do was to rubble a single stone house so now his requirements were down to 5 buildings from nine. For his main assault, Eric came in on the eastern half of Board 4 with riders and armoured assault - my response shots were a bit limp, but I did manage to ELR two 658s with a long-range 4-2 shot which was a nice bonus, but one of my own guys went down to a measly AFPh 2+2 coaxial shot. Kind of normal for me! Eric's main direction was taking him directly into the grain field and shell-hole 'field' part of Board 42, which of course meant he was coming onto my 45LL AT gun - sweet!

To spice it up a bit, Eric also tried to send an armoured task force toward the central axis of Board 4/42 and the row O road - this was fairly punchy consisting of the Tiger, 50L AC and a MkIV. Seeing the threat this posed, I quickly tasked a T34 to take this on in BFF. After some delay MP and a bit of manoeuvring and targeting the Mk IV which was facing the wrong way behind his AC, I managed to win the Gun Duel and then caught him in the side with a juicy '4'. This was compounded by a bypassed 447 who ran back and managed to immobilise the motion Tiger in an out of the way position, where it could not influence the fight for the village, even though my brave boys were immolated themselves: posthumous "Orders of the Soviet Union" all around there! Finally, the AC came off worse after failing to find its APCR, and was toasted by my cute T34, though the crew jumped out and saved themselves.

Flipping sides, on the main attack route, I manoeuvred another T34 to a position at the back of the grain field where it could spy the other AC between some trees: even though the brave T34 crew could see their nemesis faust-totin' 658 approaching fast, they held tough to the end and atomised the second 50L AC. For the loss of a squad and a T34, I had reduced Eric's armour to a single mobile Mk IV only, a trade off I would eagerly have taken at the beginning. The other key thing was, of course, I had just inflicted 19 CVP on Eric - this was good, because even though I was winning the armour battle, my infantry were still slowly crumbling and I was looking bad for holding onto the buildings at game end.

The mid-game battle see-sawed for a while - both sides fought hard in the woods and shell-holes at the fringes of the village, and I lost my second T34 when a lowly 658 survived a thrown DC (unlike a squad and a leader of his friends), and they, of course, instantly found a Faust and toasted the tank. Seeing instant win fame beckoning I tried to manoeuvre my last two vehicles to roast the stranded Tiger and the last Mk IV for more juicy VP, but Eric outmanoeuvred me with the Mk IV and my T34 went down to a critical hit on an intensive fire shot - OUCH! We were now at parity on the armour, and so it was going to come down to the infantry fight after all.

Having just broken a squad and a 8-0 with some desperate prep fire, I spied an opportunity to sneak a 7-0 behind them and get them for FTR. Eric missed the significance of this and failed to break or destroy my lonely hero, and I was able to scratch 3 more CVP all due to the SS' shocking war record (no surrender to Russians). Even worse for the SS, the 7-0, now wounded, was able to repeat this trick in the next turn with another SS squad, who were forced to rout back towards him as they couldn't see him hidden behind trees when they started their rout: 5VP for me on this one slick move - love it!

On the far east flank, after toasting their T34, the SS pushed in hard across the lateral cross-road, aided by an untimely malfunction of my HMG - amazingly, a measly 6+1 walked behind my hidden gun without discovering it! These cool boys carried on smoking their cigarettes and biding their time until something really juicy appeared in front of them - Eric duly obliged: an 8-1 and two 658s moved up behind a hedge to try and threaten my HMG, but on the ROF spree from hell, my ATG destroyed another squad (2 more CVP) and then broke and ELR'ed the second squad plus their leader. This all left Eric very short of quality infantry on the east.

In the final turn, Eric was able to shock my SU-85 with his MkIV after I'd put two AP shots into the wall in front of it, and set himself up for the death and / or victory assault on the village's core buildings. At this point, Eric's dice let him down a bit and his 8ML troops went rolling backwards to a series of 4-1 and 2-1 shots as they approached their objectives. Ultimately, he was placed to actually make a CC assault on five buildings, but the lack of troops meant of these, one of them would be taken by a hero and a leader only, and that was not enough for him to take control (only MMC can do that). We played it out anyway, and even though I failed to hold any of the buildings (me and ambush again - pah! Don't get me started!!!), I did manage to kill the 9-1, the hero and a half-squad. This pushed him over the edge by a single CVP but he was also left one building short on control too.

Great game, fun opponent and full of the wild ASL swings we are all used too. I was pretty pleased with my effort in this one, as I handled the armour pretty well and planned for the defense and the ramifications of a bad OBA turn well too. I was also fairly pleased with my Gun placement as that, and the move with the 7-0 to enforce a batch of FTR on the war criminals, were probably the key events in this one that meant the Russians were (just) able to hold on. This is a great scenario as the randomness of the OBA would mean that the scenario will always play differently and their are options for both sides to get cute. Much fun and strongly recommended!