Monday, September 22, 2008

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

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