Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tournament AAR Scenario 1: MP11 Vulcan's Forge

Nick Drinkwater

German: Rick Reinesch [ELR 4, SAN 3]
Russian: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 3]

So its Owlcon Precon at my house, and in the fine tradition of the event, we settle down to synchronous playings of the nominated scenario for Ferocity Fest, "Vulcan's Forge" from one of the Melee Packs. This was an excellent scenario to choose Ferocity Fest for the potential for carnage and bitter close combat and its chess-like setup conditions and nicely, was playable in 5-6 hours. My opponent in this was Rick Reinesch from Austin who runs and organises the excellent June Austin Tournament - massive fun to play and Rick plays at a nice quick clip which meant we were going to be comfortably placed to get through the game in a good length of time. Looking forward to playing Rick again, hopefully in the summer.

The scenario is set on the southern most part of the RB play area and is really two games in one. To win (and we used the German balance in all cases), the Russians must control seven more stone locations (including cellars) than they began with. The big gulley splits the board into two parts, with the Russian right flank being dominated by one of the RB factories, while the Russian left is dominated by a series of 2-3 hex multi-level buildings in a kind of worker's housing estate, so one of these alone is worth 6 Stone Locations.

Scenario Considerations:
Setup is interesting - the two sides swap placing a counter each time and all counters are revealed to your opponent, after three designated H2H melees are created in the front line of the German setup area. There are about another 15 counters to place including about 8-10 more squads, support weapons, leaders, and for the Germans some concealment. The question each player has to face here is how much strength to give each side and how then to react to any thrusts they can detect being made by their opponent. This is quite a challenge, but a couple of things should be borne in mind - if the German gives up the factory after a token resistance, then they are handing over 8 stone location - this means they need to get back only a couple of locations in "Workerville", as it will be hard for the Russians to transfer any units from the factory to the housing estates in time to make a difference. Note also that the Russians will be fanatic in the factories and for Turn one only, they will be facing the Germans at their weakest when they are missing their nastiest support weapons and have only access to 2nd line troops. If the Russians can spot an opportunity to bum-rush and eject the Germans in Turn 1, they should - the phased reinforcement schedule means than within a turn, the Germans can get Sturms and Engineers up and in to the factory quickly and this means the factory could become much harder for the Russian to occupy, especially if the Germans get the Breach-Flame "Blowtorch" combos going.

Reinforcements to the Rescue:
The other thing both sides need to think about is how long it will take reinforcements to get into the action - you will need bodies before toys, so get the footsloggers on first in the schedule, especially for the Russians as they have further to go to have an impact. Also note that Platoon Movement means it just takes time to get anywhere on the RB board. The sequential arrival of the reinforcements for four turns is a nice touch as both sides get some nice flexibility and can feed help in just where needed to assist with any desperate situations. Finally, it is possible to get creative with your placement of the AT Guns - the Pak 40 in the factory is difficult for the Russians and could just tip the balance in any Turn 1 Russian rush. Notice however, the Russians also have options to have fun with their gun - it is a nasty beast against both the German armour and their infantry.

The problem of the Factory:
Zeb has already commented on a perceived slight advantage to the Russians and I agree with him, even with the German balance in play - if the initial H2H's go well for them, they are even better placed and they have a great opportunity if they go for broke in the factories in Turn 1 - as long as they have a squad or two at the far factory wall they can really dominate the approach paths of the German engineers in the Debris and Shellhole field and the Germans will really struggle to get the factory back. Unfortunately my RB experience was a bit limited and I missed seeing the tactical advantage of a fast hard push with fanatic 8 morale troops, so I settled down for a safety first policy. This meant that Rick and I ended up in a "chicken" stalemate as he was able to get his engineers up quickly with their potent weapons. Any kind of move by either of us into no-mans land of the centre factory would have meant exposing your unit to withering 20, 24 and 30 FP shots at +1 (or worse with FTs) so a bizarre paralysis took over until Turn 6 with everyone too scared to move.

On the housing estate side, I had a dream start as Rick was a little bit light with troops over there and I eventually won the two at-start melees. In Turn 2, I had managed to break everyone I could see and pushed hard to gobble up more buildings and try to enforce a FTR on the one key squad, LMG and leader that were in the middle of my push. I thought I had these guys bang to rights and was getting ready to take them off the board, but Rick was more awake than me and routed them upstairs - I forgot about multi-storey buildings! Of course, these guys rally with a "4" next turn and thus its my turn to go reeling back in the face of just-in-time tough engineer reinforcements and I was forced straight out of two of the three buildings I had just claimed. Aaargh - SO close!

After that, we jockeyed for position in the houses - I pulled off a beauty to reveal my AT Gun, which on its fourth attempt, found a shell to kill Rick's big assault gun (Intensive Fire to boot), but then failed to hit a single German for the rest of the game even though it was two hexes away from buildings stuffed with them. My armour also failed to do a lot with multiple one-hex adjacent misses. Ugly. Rick also had his share of crap dice as his AT Gun failed to nail my KV1 and did little else.

The End:
At the start of German Turn 7, I held 10 new stone locations, but was resigned to losing one in the factory as Rick was able to get his engineers moving there. I should have been a couple more locations to the good, but I had critically pinned with one squad in my Game Turn 7 so I was unable to advance, and likewise a berserk result for me meant yet another non-advance to miss out on another hex. An engineer blowtorch in the factory netted him another two hexes (I thought he was only placed to get one more and didn't realise his stack contained two units), so I was now down to the minimum-required seven new stone locations. Rick then pulled off some star moves in his turn - his gun crew almost got through but I got a very last chance break on them as they were in the final stages of dashing through.

He then pushed as hard as possible to get other units through my thin lines, but an intensive fire shot with a snakes from my T70 removed the last of his 'thrusters', and so it all came down to a close assault on the one new building I still retained. With desperate fire, I manged to pin and nail a batch of attackers in the street and I was looking good in there as I still had two concealed engineers shrouded in a German smoke who had shrugged off everything to date. Rick then pulled out a Bomb-squad and crucially my two guys both lost concealment on a PTC from the subdued boom. Finally, he then dived in with some engineers of his own for the game deciding CC - if I killed them or avoided complete death myself, then the game was mine as I was going to hold onto that critical last location....

So, off we go...

First off, no ambush!

Then, I roll a .... 10....! Rick rolls a....4!!

Post-Game thoughts:
German win, just, on the last die roll of the game. Can't ask more than that and it was a monster emotional rollercoaster of a match and we had a blast. Look forward to playing Rick again. We both knew that neither of us were in the running for Ferocity Fest (half the game had been more timidity-fest), but that was the least of our concerns - it was just a great game fought to an unbelievably intense conclusion. Well played Rick!

The critical moment in this one was the escape from death and subsequent Must, Must, Must Rally of the German 447, LMG and 8-1 in the Housing estate: in half a turn, a really promising situation for me had been turned around completely and I had lost a squad for FTR and the Germans were one street ahead of where I wanted them to be. That hurt and I was never able to regain the initiative on that side at all. Rick also played the factory better than I did - he stepped out with his engineers a little bit sooner than I felt comfortable in doing and it probably resulted in one extra location for him and that made all the difference.

Though I lost, I still think that even with the balance, this is still every so slightly Pro-Russian overall. The initial Germans could probably do with a little bit more of a boost - perhaps a couple of 548s instead of all 447s, but much replay value all the same. Thanks guys for setting this one up and putting the time into it to make Ferocity Fest competitive.

0-1 for Owlcon on the last die-roll of the game! Awesome.

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