Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tournament AAR Scenario 4: ITR1 Debacle at Sung Kiang

Nick Drinkwater

Chinese: Bill Dorre [ELR 3, SAN 3]
Japanese: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 3]

Pre-Game Thoughts:
Game four was my other big monster scenario for the weekend. I was itching to play some Japanese vs Chinese mayhem but had been warned off some of the other classics (The Grand Canal, Shanghai in Flames, The Drive for ChertzyHungyThingy) by more knowledgable folks than myself, due to some perceived balance issues. Then I remembered this one out of the brand new pack, "Into the Rubble", from the recently resuscitated Bounding Fire Productions. This is actually one of the smaller scenarios in this pack with about 17 or so squads on each side and six and a half mayhem-, bloodsoaked-, action-filled turns. The scenario is designed by Scott Holst, who despite the many, um, interesting aspects to his online persona, is a bloody good scenario designer. I think this could be another one of his great scenarios just due to the fun and mayhem factors alone. Bill Dorre, another man who's a bloody good laugh to play, was looking for some fun and graciously agreed to play me in this new beast!

Scenario Considerations:
Its 1937, so prisoners are still being accepted, and its non-PTO terrain for once, this one being set on the transitional board 49 and one of the beautiful new railway-heavy boards produced by BFP for this pack. The Japanese are on the attack in this one and they have to extract 11 multi-hex buildings from the clutches of their Chinese opponents. Many of these buildings are wooden sheds (actually factories using the new rules), but all the transitional board 49 buildings and several on the new board are stone and multi-level. The Chinese can fortify 4 locations in this, and any of them can declare H2H CC at will, though they still get Dare-death capabilities as normal. Finally, the many railroads on the new board are EmRR, and so act like hillocks (broad walls). Finally, finally Storage tanks and Water Towers are both in play on the new board, rules familiar from RB and elesewhere.

Chinese defense options:
Keeping the Japanese out are a very thorny force of sixteen Elite and 1st line Chinese, with good leadership, two 70mm ART guns, and wonder of wonders, two armoured cars: words you don't hear in ASL very often: "I'll just look up the Chinese Vehicle notes for their Armoured Cars". These are archaic and with twin B11 MGs don't really pose too much of a threat to their IJA opponents. Their infantry SW HMG and MMG will cause me more problems however. Bill set up mainly on the Board seam, covering all the more open approach routes on Board 49, and particularly covering the big E-W lateral road I had to cross. His right side looked lighter than his left so I guessed that may be where his ART guns were hidden, but there were numerous scary looking 3 and 4 counter stacks scattered around all over the board.

Japanese attack options:
In response to this, I had been provided with a whopping sixteen 1st Line Japanese squads and a single solitary 448 whose job it was to man the Flamethrower. Four leaders come with these guys together with a couple of MMGs and crews, and three Knee Mortars which were clearly going to be my principal asset to crossing that lateral road in one piece. I setup heavy on my left which meant running directly into Bill's more numerous stacks, but I felt this offered me a little bit more of a covered approach to the main game area. This was also the side upon which there were more Multi-hex building victory objectives too - on this matter, the playing area is naturally divided into four areas: the area in front of the main E-W railway contains 11 multi-hex buildings, while there are approximately 6 more behind it. The main Chinese area is also split by a N-S road which cuts their area in half.

Hence the Japanese can try and wrestle control from all 11 buildings in front of the tracks or perhaps push on and gobble up 2-3 more in one of the two back corner quadrants. This is good for the Japanese as they do not need to decide immediately on their exact plan of attack, but can see how the game plays out and in Game Turn 3/4 if reqired, make a decision to push hard and fast into a back quadrant to claim the extra buildings. In contrast the Chinese must remain aware of the threat from any deep penetrating Japanese flanking attacks and keep the edges of the playing area guarded. More reasons why this is a fun scenario as there are some decisions to be made early and then yet more decisions to be made in the mid-game. Both sides need to be on their toes and look out for opportunites and suitable responses.

The Japanese also get three of their own Armoured Cars, equally archaic and equally as bad as their Chinese equivalents, but these could be more useful for cutting some late game rout paths and enforcing some failure to rout options on some beleagured Chinese - they will need to be preserved.

Flanking attacks?
With my main attack path decided upon, I had a bit of a think about how I could support this - the knee mortars are the key for this and I opted to push them into some scattered woods in the middle part of the board where they had a nice line of sight to some critical road crossing points. In addition, I put a strong 5-squad reinforced platoon down my extreme left side to keep Bill's defenses on that side from getting a free-ride and translating across to support his defenders on my main attack sector. Realising the weakness of the vehicles to attacks by both the 70mm guns (unknown at game start) and the ATR (also unknown) and also the MGs (also unknown), I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and kept them well to the rear to be used as needed in Turns 4-7, once all Bill's AT assets had been smoked out.

AAR - the main assault:
That was the plan anyway, and for once, it actually worked. The start was horrible - a leader and a squad went berserk and charged straight into the face of a MMG squad. In my Prep Fire, I tried to save these guys with a well-aimed smoke or WP from the only knee mortar I had in position but could find neither, so those guys went down in a hail of lead. Despite this, I kept pushing hard on the main attack side and soon, I was poised to leap across the road, but Bill pulled off a great lateral shot from one of his guns that knocked several units back. Bill then shot up another couple of squads from an upper level building location with 2 x 447, a MMG and an 8-1. Ouch.

Cracking the left?
On my left side, my flankers pushed forward really hard and Bill forgot to shoot his other gun at them when they were in the open and marching nonchalantly forward without a care in the world...its difficult to keep tabs on all the key units sometimes when there's a lot of stuff going on. My flankers pushed on hard, finding one dummy but then getting dumped out of another location painfully by a two squad "?" stack. More ouch. On my right flank, my main attack was eventually able to get some squads across the lateral road, but I was forced to be extremely careful and assault move only as I was aware of a four unit "?" stack that was looking very menacing there and covering all the approach routes. Progress was being made but it was slow and by the end of Turn 2, I was feeling like I was moving six feet forward but sliding five feet back. Frustrating and a good tough defense by Bill.

Everything kicking off...
Turn 2 is when everything happened. First off, Bill's overwatch MG broke down and then X'ed out for good and that took a little of the pressure of my main force. With my left flankers, I then ran into a concealed HMG, 447 and 9-1 combo which then went on a 5 shot 3ROF spree of hell as Bill rolled five times, rolled Snakes twice and never less than 5, and yet missed my sniper! Scratch two more Japanese squads. Don't get me started on 3ROF weapons! Feeling aggrieved at this, for one of the few times in my life, I had my own little moment of ROFness immedaitely in return and one of my MMG had his own moment of fun in the sun and scratched off 1.5 Chinese squads in return.

Next up, I was able to sneak a squad onto Bill's laterally-facing 70mm Gun and the crew went down in a brutal CC attack. With his HMG, Bill then made another of my leaders and accompanying squad go berserk - YUK! They were one-hex away at the time from the HMG, yet miraculously they survived a 30 -3 shot when adjacent, and thus also forced Bill's other 70mm Gun to declare IF - lucky for me, only the leader succumbed and the squad charged straight on into the HMG hex. This was huge as the resultant CC opened up Bill's right side completely as in a follow-up, I was also able to destroy the Gun crew in CC as they had used up all their fire opportunites trying to nail the zerkers.

Grinding through in the middle and right:
In the middle, more sharp shooting and the finding of another of Bill's fortified building the hard way meant I was still grinding forward way too slowly. Something needed to change for me to force a result on this side. My now striped and CRed Flameboys needed to be brought into action to crack this fortified thorn in my side which was completely dominating my whole centre and left. Thinking quickly, I managed to relocate Bill's lateral 70mm ART Gun, and managed to find one of the Chinese' own Smoke shells to give my flame boys some freedom of movement and lightly toast these bad boys - massive STYLE points! And even better the plan worked - light toast was produced to order and as no-quarter isn't in effect, I even managed to persuade these diehards to surrender...I expect they regretted that one afterwards.

To match this piece of style on my side, Bill pulled out a corker of his own on my right flank. Having worked very hard to advance a DC bomb-squad onto Bill's menacing four-unit stack, imagine by disappointment when the resultant BOOM removed a stack of four dummies! Classic poker move Mr Dorre, carried out with a classic poker face and I was had, hook, line and sinker. I'm still wandering why I didn't bother to test that one with a bouncing half-squad move, but I'd already convinced myself of the threat it posed. Nicely done Bill.

After the clear-up of the middle strongpoint, I'd pretty much reached stalemate on my main attack units were pretty beat up over there and I lost another squad to a nicely declared dare-death attack when my guys pinned so I decided I was best off holding on to what I'd got, especially when my FT Xe'd out on its fourth shot of the game (it had paid for itself though). I had pretty much conquered everything I could on that side and we both had to settle for stalemate over here as another squad loss for either of us would mean the other would be pouring through the line.

In contrast, on my left flank, the loss of Bill's guns and the HMG was proving critical - I destroyed one of his armoured cars with a shot from a MMG, and then one of my AC immobilized the other, forced the crew to abandon and then I shot them down in the street with Bill's own HMG freshly captured - Sweet!

Added to that, my only effective sniper shot of the game broke one last cricital squad and I was off to the races. One of my armoured cars went chasing deep into Chinese territory to keep a squad DM, another killed a broken squad for FTR and the third helped to encircle Bill's last fighting squad who went down in a big CC. At that point, I had claimed the required 11 buildings, but I was placed to capture at least three more deep into Bill's back yard with nothing there to stop me. We ended it with one Chinese and one Japanese turn to go.

Post-game thoughts:
A really fun scenario with tons of what makes ASL such a great game - two berserk leader charges, bluffing concealment stacks, hot snipers, working flamethrowers, fortified buildings, hand-to-hand combat, crap tanks, captured weapon use in improbable situations and so on. An absolute blast. I'd say this is pretty balanced - we both had severely interesting dice in this game and all sorts of weird stuff going on, and Bill admitted he was caught in the classic dilemma of both trying to defend up front and defend in depth, tried to do both, but ended up doing neither as well as he would have liked. The big critical rolls were the loss of the MMG from the multi-storey stone building, the second berserk squad which though it looked horrible for me, was the key to cracking open Bill's right flank, and finally the finding of the Smoke shell to assist my FT to break Bill's central strongpoint. Huge fun and strongly recommended. And I'm back to 2-2 and all square for the tournament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are no multi-story stone buildings; they are factories by the Bounding Fire special rules (they have interior black bars)