Monday, January 28, 2008

AAR: FrF2 Maczek Fire Brigade

Zeb Doyle

Poles: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Doyle Motes

Well, after my trip to the Bayou City, I'm happy to say that the Houston ASL scene is alive and thriving. It was a fantastic weekend of good gaming and good hospitality, with Nick ably serving as host. He introduced me to Czechvar beer, some of the best pizza I've had in years, and actually managed to serve up some coffee that was pretty tasty even by Austin standards. It would have been a great time even without the ASL, so thank you very much, Nick! In between the trips to the House of Pies and teasing Nick about the Spice Girls, we did manage to play some pretty fun scenarios. Here's a recap of the action:

My first match was against the august Mr. Motes. Interestingly, we both play a ton of ASL but have only ever faced off once before, so I was looking forward to the challenge of facing such a wily veteran. We'd decided on FrF2 Maczek Fire Brigade, which is an early war German/Pole conflict with lots of tin can armor for both forces. As an aside, if anyone is looking to add some scenarios to their collection, I'd highly recommend the Friendly Fire stuff. I've played six of their sixteen scenarios now and really enjoyed them all. Maczek Fire Brigade is another winner, with ten German squads and seven assorted AFVs of the PzI, PzII, and PSW222 variety trying to capture twelve buildings on boards 17 and 50. The Germans have a long way to go in only 5.5 turns, but get enough motorcycles and trucks that their force is extremely mobile. To hold off this onslaught, the Poles have nine squads with the usual HMG, MMG, and ATR, as well as six assorted tanks that enter over the first two turns. The Polish armor is an interesting mix, ranging from a turretless AFV with nothing but a 2FP BMG through some multi-turreted 'land-battleships' with twin 6FP CMGs all the way up to a dominating (in this scenario anyway) Vickers tank with 2AF (!) and a 47* gun sporting a massive 8TK. It doesn't sound like much, but everyone else has 1AF and a 6TK at best. It also has a B12 which is also a big edge in this scenario, as red B11 numbers are common. One last thought that strikes me as I write (this didn't come up in our game): how do the twin 6FP CMG tanks work in CC? I'd guess they get two attacks, but if anyone knows for sure, please enlighten me!

At any rate, Doyle fancied the Germans and so I set up a Polish defense that featured the MMG on the dominating board 50 hill with two halfsquads as a covering force. Pretty much everything else went onto board 17 since that's where the vast majority of the buildings are. I don't think there are any fun tricks or traps to try, so the set up was pretty straightforward with an eye to placing resid on key roads in the hopes that the German trucks and motorcycles would be slowed or shot up. Things started off well on the first turn. I was able to kill two HS motorcycle scouts and persuade the remaining Germans to dismount. Even better, those B11 numbers reared their ugly heads early and Doyle malfunctioned two of his MAs taking low-odds AFPh shots. After each roll, Doyle just shrugged and mentioned that they were still perfectly useful VBM machines. I was well aware of the possibility and didn't really pay much attention, something that would come back to haunt me.

As we played through turns two and three, Doyle quickly gained the upper hand. He did a great job of hunting down my CMG-armed tanks with his 20Ls and exploiting his superior 6TK against my 4TK. I stupidly tried to fight back rather than run and the dice punished my poor play by malfing two of my MAs. As Doyle brewed up my now-helpless tanks, his own malfed vehicles started to VBM-freeze my poor Polish infantry all across the map. Normally, this isn't the huge threat people make it out to be. The VBM tank is vulnerable to CC without escorting infantry, and if there is escorting infantry it's also vulnerable to ambush and of course the sequential CC. In addition, I had a nice in-depth defense with the covering HMG and MMG and so any German infantry would still be taking fire as they came through the open towards the frozen positions. In this game, however, even though the German infantry did take some losses on the approach, they were invincible in CC. Repeatedly, a Polish unit would be frozen, fail the CCRF attack, fail to ambush the German infantry despite the +3 mod, and then die haplessly without ever doing any damage in return.

Despite this frustration, the Poles managed to hang tough, with the hill-top MMG dishing out a lot of pain. That unit was really my MVP, killing a 9-1/4-6-7/MMG stack with a 4-2 shot, and then getting a 4-6-8 with a trick LOS for FTR. Meanwhile, my 47* tank, dubbed "The Pride of Poland," was smashing up the German armor. It's amazing what a big difference a net TK7 is compared to a net TK4! As we played out turn four, the momentum swung back my way, with my HMG going on a rate tear to chop up some more squads and an ATR scoring a lucky kill against a pesky hull-down PSW 222. At this point, things were looking pretty good for me. Doyle was now down to three AFVs, only two of which had functioning MAs, compared to my four. We were also pretty even in infantry, but the Germans still had a long way to go across the open ground and only two movement phases left.

My feeling of complacency didn't survive turn five, however. Doyle decided that his VBM tactic had been working well but didn't go quite far enough. So, he smashed a PzI into the building containing (in various locations) a 9-1, the HMG, and 1.5 squads. It would have been annoying to have them frozen but when the bog check came up with a one on the cdr, the whole hex collapsed into a pile of rubble and killed everything...except the PzI, which survived unbogged, of course! Elsewhere, a CX'd German ATR squad, needing a 5TH and 5TK, killed two of my remaining tanks with some deadly fire in his AFPh and DFPh. To complete the disaster, my 47* 'King Tiger in disguise' was wacked by a CH from a PzII. That took out 75% of my armor and 33% of my remaining GO infantry and really put Doyle in a great position going into my turn five and then his final half of turn six.

This set up a classic end-game puzzle that turned into a total brain-teaser for me and is one of the reasons I love this game so much. Up to this point, the scenario had been very evocative, with lots of neat details painting a great picture of the action including desperate leaders rallying squads to re-man key machine gun positions, tanks crashing through woods in search of the foe, etc. ASL does a great job of that, but it's also capable of being very chess-like, and the combination of the evocative feel and the analytical part of it are very appealing to me. At any rate, the last turn became very analytical and I tried to make it all as tough for the Germans as I possibly could. I'll spare you the gory details, but the key moment was deploying a squad in my last turn and sneaking one of the resulting half-squads back into a German controlled building. Doyle had a squad there so I didn't recapture it, but my HS was still in a good spot to cover another key building and could at least tie the 4-6-7 down.

The last half turn saw the Germans rushing forward to capture the three buildings they still needed. We were both pretty thin on the ground at this point but Doyle still had enough bodies to get it done. It took a lot of good rolls and some really key residual for me to not lose right away, and Doyle had to suffer the heartache of a potentially game-winning squad pinning on a 1-1. In the end, the Germans needed one more building and had only an 9-1 and the 4-6-7 guarding the building with my HS to get the job done. My HS was already First Fired but was the only unit left that could do anything. This was a major decision point and Doyle opted to Double-Time his squad out of the building, risk my Final Fire 2-1, go tag the other building, and then come back and attempt to eliminate the Polish HS in CC with the 4-6-7 and the 9-1. The other option would have been to run the 9-1 into the building first to retain control and then run the squad out. This would have caused me to FPF my HS and so the 4-6-7 would have had to survive two 2-1 attacks but the Germans would have retained control of the first building. What would you have done in this situation? Take two 2-1s, or one 2-1 and win a CC with a CX 4-6-7/9-1 vs a 2-3-7? I think I would have risked the FPF myself...

In our game, however, it came down to the CC and I managed to ambush Doyle's tired troopers and survive for the closest win I've had in a long long time. I can't take any credit for the victory since I was outplayed early and got very lucky on the last turn, but it was a great time and extremely entertaining throughout. Thanks to Doyle for being such a great opponent!

I have to stop here, but my next AAR installment should be coming soon: "Part II: I stop dodging Tom"

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, January 27, 2008

AAR: FrF12 The Fields of Black Gold

Nick Drinkwater

German (SS): Nick Drinkwater [ELR 5, SAN 2]
Russian: Tom Gillis [ELR 3, SAN 3]

It was timely that we played this one, as Matt Shostak had listed it in his possible scenario fodder for the Austin Tourney - pure serendipity as we had planned this to play this game a week ago, but still a great opportunity to see how this offering from the second Friendly Fire pack would shake out. At first glance it looks like this will be a cakewalk for a really strong SS Wiking Division combined arms force of ten 468s, a smattering of goodish leaders (-1s and 0s), and an efficient armoured force for the summer of 1942 (a couple of Mk IV F2s, a "smoke puffing" F1, and a couple of Mk IIIHs). All sounds good, yes? Well, maybe. What they are really missing is any kind of infantry support as they have a couple of MMGs and 3 x LMG only (no Mortars) and they have magical anti-tank powers at all (this is June 1942) - an 81mm Mortar would have been great! More critically is the lack of transport - there is no options for riders for me (unlike the Russians) and there are no half-tracks at all so I am 'hoofing' it in, to use a quaint British phrase.

Board configuration and victory conditions means that I have somewhat split objectives - I need to detach a small infantry force up the long axis of Board 18 on my right so that I can control one of the small central drumlins there (in this case, SSR means I can treat this hill like a multi-hex building for control purposes). This is actually quite a 'hoof' for the SS although there is a good approach route through a long axial gulley to get me there. Note however, that with the time taken to get there, whatever infantry you send to do this job will basically be unable to assist you much for the attack on the Board 2 hilltops due to a lack of time (scenario is 7 turns long), so choosing the balance of this force is important. That is difficult but doable.

The other half of the VC is a much trickier beast - I have to control all the Level 3 hexes on the big hill on board 2 - this is a much harder thing to achieve. I personally find trying to take this hill along its long axis instead of into its broad face is always tricky as the defenders can always conduct a "simple delaying fallback then reverse slope" defense. This is a tough road to hoe for any attackers as the scattered woods and cliffs on the hill means that MF / MP get eaten up quickly and yet there is plenty of open ground for the defenders to put up some tough kill zones to make any attacking force very wary.

At start the Russians get a batch of trenches to put on the hill, and an equal number of 447s as the attacking SS. As we're in 1942, they have the Commissar option (a given), and an HMG, Lt Mtr and a couple of LMGs. Normally no great shakes, but this is backed up by a initially hidden 76L AT Gun (BIG, SCARY OUCH!) and another towed 76L AT Gun which starts on the back slopes of Board 2 Big Hill being towed. That bunch can certainly give the Germans (well, probably Norwegian, Swedes and Danes) a bloody nose, but with the SS armour and their extensive smoke assets, taking the hill should still definitely be achievable. However, help for these desperate Ivans is not so far away - on Turn 3, the Russians receive two T34 M41s and four Valentines with all their smokey tricks. That little lot is going to seriously re-align German attention of their tanks as the entry area means that the Russians can come on and drive into the flanks of the attackers.

There is one other thing the German needs to be aware of - VC are very dry and there is a mild breeze blowing from the west, right across the front of the Russian defenses. These Environmental Conditions normally scream out in big, flashing red neon signs "SMOKE! SMOKE!" at the top of their lungs (probably with extra caffeine) and the SS increased depletion numbers help this. This is great as it will help shield my guys on those bare slopes, but this will also be a little double-edged as the Russians will probably be less attrited, much harder to dig out of their trenches, and ultimately any resultant CC will be on a completely even basis - CC doesn't care whether these guys are 8 morale supermen or not. Therefore a degree of caution must be exercised here as there is a need for balancing the urge to smoke everything in sight to actually hurting these Russians at the same time to make the Infantry's task a bit easier.

So, my plan such as it was, was to send an armoured platoon of a MkIVF2, a Mk IIH and the "smoke puffer" screaming up the Board 18 axis to try and get into positions to put flanking fire on the big hill and maybe establish some useful hull-down positions on some of the Board 18 mini-hills for when the Russian reserves arrived. The "smoke puffer" was to stick itself on the small Level two hill on Board 18 and try and find the Russian HMG for some serious smokin' and then the Russian ATG once it had revealed itself - a platoon of infantry was to infiltrate up the Board 18 axis to get to the victory drumlin and hold that - these would be supported by the aforementioned tanks.

For the main assault on the short end of the Big hill, I assigned the other seven squads to push on and push hard, with a couple more tanks to help. Tom tried to sucker me into a criss-crossing firelane trip at the base of this hill, but armoured assault and 8 morale is tough to beat, and only one squad broke. He had entrenched the top of the level two hill which leads up to the "outlier" two-hex level three forward plateau and I formed big firebases to try and suppress them. After a lot of desultory fire, I managed to enforce an FTR and disrupt some scripts on his ground level defenders, but critically the last of Tom's low slope defenders turned berserk from prep fire from me. This was an absolute bugger as he was in dead ground to tanks and nearby machine guns and surrounded by open ground which I jsut had to move through. Of course, I just started to fail morale checks and lost another squad to another brainless open ground move to him too. Eventually he went down in a storm of fire, but the delay was taxing.

My attack force on the Board 2/18 join got hurt a bit too from the pesky light mortar where Tom just continued rolling low and my 8 morale supermen changed their underwear repeatedly - not good and I just couldn't knock the guys off that mortar, despite a couple of 6-1 shots. In another wild swing of fortune, Tom "I only roll 2s and 3s" Gillis created another berserk 7-0 leader which then proceeded to chase another broken squad of mine backwards with little I could do to stop him. Of course, more time and resources were needed to kill these really annoying sods, which when allied to Tom's brilliant ability to roll low when needed, caused yet more unwanted delays and setbacks.

My board 18 force was progressing along nicely when, CRASH, BANG, one of the Mark IIIs was reduced to a smoking wreck by the now revealed AT Gun on the Board 18 victory drumlin. Ouch indeed. I quickly smoked him from a well-aimed shot from the "smoke puffer" but this damage was compounded when my other Mk III broke, repaired, broke again, malfunctioned its main armament and had to withdraw. Tom's reinforcements started to arrive - a split two-Valentine-plus-lead-T34 force on either flank to cause a nuisance. In the meantime, he had unlimbered his other AT Gun onto the rearmost, left Level Two hill where it could offer perfect shots on any of my guys cresting all of the Level three hexes and also on my approaching troops on the frontal outlier. Not good.

I kept pushing on, but lost another broken half-squad to a sniper and then one of my MMG / 468s at the far left of the big hill at ground level received three "snakes" in a row from the cowering HMG which took them out of the game. I did manage eventually to evict the outlier's Level three defenders from their trench, but then got hurt by an adjacent bounding fire shot from a T34 which broke my newly advanced 9-1 leader and the squad with him. At this point I resigned - these guys were flying back down the hill and going nowhere fast and the game was basically up. Through a lot of gulley sneaking, I had eventually managed to get a single squad onto the victory drumlin which was about to take out the AT Gun crew from behind, and in my one inspirational move of the game, I had whacked one of his lead T34s on an inspired bounding fire shot where the 9-2 armour leader made the difference, but the game was definitively 'up'.

When I resigned at the end of Turn 4, I had been kicked out of the one level three hex I had managed to conquer and was running back down that hill. Though I had probably knocked of four of Tom's initial 10 squads, I had lost at least three of mine, but more important, due to holdups from both berserkers, three of my remaining squads were at the base of the hill back near the start line completely out of position, and one other was isolated on the victory drumlin. Of the rest, there were a couple of half-squads available, at the front, but the bulk of my force was still a long way back. We counted out MF and realised that even going full tilt, that at least a third of my force would probably not even get up to the furthest level three hex which they needed to do to control it - AND that was assuming that they were completely unopposed in their run up the hill AND that they were going to use the open ground route only - HIGHLY UNLIKELY! On top of that, Tom's reverse-slope AT Gun with support of the other T34 and Valentines and Commissar, would make Swiss cheese of any of my armour which I put up onto the crest of the hill. It just wasn't going to happen so we called it a day.

We both felt that, even with the SS, this was just too tough an ask for the Germans. The big Board 2 Hill is an absolute bugger to take end-on, and this was no different. We also felt that the Russians with equal squads (with added MOL - forgot that!) were perhaps a little bit too tough in this one, especially when the armour arrives, as the German just has to stop everything for a turn or two and deal with threat. This really dilutes their assets for taking the hill just when they are needed the most. I confess that I didn't play it optimally and you wouldn't believe how easily the SS fail 8 morale checks and rally on 9 checks (well, my SS do anyway!) and so I was always behind the curve on a scenario where clearly there is zero margin for error. However, anything the Russian can do to delay the German on their entry turns is going to count doubly against them in the late game, and that is something that is just too easy to achieve for the Russians. We felt that the Germans either needed some ATR to ward off the threat of the Russian tanks, a half-track to help overcome some of the MF challenges climbing that damn hill, or perhaps an 81mm MTR to give them even a modicum of cover on those bare, bare slopes. As it stands currently, we'd both rate this as 60% pro-Russian.

So Matt, perhaps not one for the Tourney!

And Gillis - learn how to roll '12s' other than for the bloody Wind Change!

A Response by Zeb Doyle

Thanks for taking the time to write up all these great AARs, Nick. Very enjoyable and informative to read them. I actually played FrF12 The Fields of Black Gold against Jim Ferrell and had a great time losing as the SS. I agree with your main points, that the SS are operating on a very unforgiving timetable and can't afford many losses, but I think there are a few tricks to help even the odds. Random comments follow:

First of all, a few times in your AAR you mention the SS get ten squads. They actually get twelve; I hope that's just a typo there! Looking at the VC, I don't actually think the board 2 hill is the tougher target. Admittedly, you only have seven turns to go 17 hexes, but since the VC call for hex control, you can park an AFV on the further hexes at game end to get control in a pinch. The board 3 'drumlin' is 18 hexes away, and since it counts as a multi-location building, you HAVE to get an MMC back there. I think that distance/time challenge is the biggest enemy for the attacker in this scenario and most of the German infantry has to be running forward every turn. It's certainly possible, but you have to be thinking about just how to do it from turn one.

Obviously, there's lots of open ground to get through and the Russians have an HMG, but that's where the tanks really come into play. You've got an S10 gun, two S9s, and six sD7s. That's a ton of smoke, especially with the Mild Breeze in play. The other thing that really helps is the SSR making all the Soviets TI that set up behind hexrow N. That lets the SS stack 'em up and DT on turn one behind a nice smoke screen from the sDs. While the infantry runs forward, the SS armor has three turns to dominate the battlefield before the T-34s and Valentines show up to distract them. Even then, the six German tanks clearly outclass their Soviet counterparts and should be able to deal with them while the SS infantry finishes the job.

For what it's worth, my playing against Jim was quite close and saw the Soviets massed on the board 2 hill with a small holding force on the board 18 drumlin. I send the bulk of my force to storm the board 2 hill while 2x2-4-8/2xMMG/8-1 went to the board 18 level two hill to wear down the drumlin outpost (sounds like you did something similar in your game). It was a really cool fight, and while I took the board 2 hill relatively easily, my MMG stack X'd out a weapon on the first shot. That really hurt, since I'd been planning on seven turns of 4+1 shots on the Soviets to unconceal them and then 8+1 attacks after that to clear the drumlin. Obviously, 2+1 and 4+1 shots aren't nearly as good, and my lone MMG was never really able to do anything. That left several Soviet squads on the drumlin with two turns to go, when my tanks finally freed up from killing stuff elsewhere. Over those last two turns, I had the infantry in place to fulfill the VC but my
tanks, like the MMG earlier, malfed seemingly every time they fired at the drumlin and a last turn rush came up just short. To Jim's credit, he did a very nice job with the Valentines keeping them alive and annoying longer than I thought possible, and (very key) stoically passed up several nice shots to maintain concealment with a squad on the drumlin. That turned my 8+2 tank MG shots into 4+2s and ended up being the difference. Great game against a great opponent though.

Anyway, I think The Field Of Black Gold is a really fun situation and a lot of thought went into designing it. I'd hate to see it branded as a dog, although I can see why you feel the SS have a difficult job ahead of them. My suggestion to even up the balance (and I'd love to hear your thoughts here, Nick and Tom) would be to make the Soviet ART piece set up emplaced and concealed but not HIP. There aren't a lot of places to put it, so losing HIP isn't a huge deal, but it does let the SS armor be aggressive from the get-go (and they do need to be aggressive in this one).

Thanks again for writing the great AAR!


PS: As an aside, the AAR on the ASL forums is not at all (IMO) representative of the scenario. The German armor is so important in this one you cannot throw it away. Trying to overrun an AT gun sitting in the open, unemplaced with no gunshield seems like a really bad idea!

A Response To The Response by Tom Gillis

Good points Zeb. A few comments of my own...I was the one who pulled the counters for this one and I'm sure I pulled 12 468s. I did think Nick should have deployed some of his troops on turn one. It would have made even more 8 morale MMCs to have to look for. Also, though important, I think Nick was over concerned about the drumlin. While he only sent one MMC towards it, (I only had the at start HIP 76L Art on it so it appeared empty...) He did send almost all of his armor assets to bd 18. They lost a couple of turns or so getting into what should have been ideal postions to smoke the bd 2 hill. By the time they were in position tho, I was already falling into my reverse slope defense. I luckily zapped a Mk 3 with my HIPster gun, and thus caused the SS armor to (overreact...?,) against my reinforcing Val and T34s and ART gun on bd 18. By this time my second Art piece was well set up to cover the third lvl victory hexes, situated with the bulk of my remaining troops on the back of the bd 2 hill. I then sent three AFVs along the back side of the big hill with the intent of getting behind what MMCs Nick had on the front of the hill. He had no AFV assets back there, and the SS infantry with no AT assets were looking at being anvil'd and hammer'd by 3 Russian metal monsters, covered by the still holding out HMG. One note about this. After fireing away on Nicks T1, I moved the HMG and Sqd holding it out of line of sight. Nick commented on this at the time saying they wont be able to shoot German infantry advancing next turn. But I figured he would have smoked them and being a 3 ROF weapon, I wanted it on the backside of the hill to cover any cresting infantry. My timely 'zerker threw Nicks troops off also, so suddenly with time running short he had three AFVs heading towards his rear area. When Nick's smokers targeted the Art gun on bd 18 I moved the HMG back to their original position on bd 2. I was trying to be as fluid as I could in my fixed defensive position and not give Nick many targets. He surprised me when he nailed a T34 on bd 18 with a bounding shot, but this just moved his best Panzer away from the hill and potentially getting it stuck in a cat fight with the remaining 2 Vals I had there. This could have erased some of his assaulting potential on bd 2, which was fine by me. I guess my AFV distraction helped because the SS grunts were wondering where the hell _their_ AFV support was at the stalled attack on the front of the big hill. My fire lane trap at the beginning of the game did pretty much fail, but these ground lvl troops of mine did their best to stay and fight and disrupt Nicks time table. All in all a fun scenario that we rated a 6 only because of the belief the SS need just a bit more to make this a more even fight. One or two HTs would have helped. Its always fun playing Nick tho, so win or lose I still had a blast. Yes, my dice were hot all day, but you all can ask Steve how bad those same dice were against him just a week earlier... I wouldn't call this a broken scenario, but it does need some tweaking. We both thought that maybe when it was play tested the Russian infantry were doing poorly so they upped them too much, prob by adding the molotov capability. Nick was very cautious, (maybe too much...) when driving his AFVs near the Russian infantry because of this. Good fun!


AAR: SP 128 Rupee Reward

Nick Drinkwater

Chinese Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 4]
Japanese Player: Matt Shostak [ELR 4, SAN 4]

Ever had one of those games where no matter what you try, nothing goes right from the start? I had the pleasure of inflicting one of those on Bud Garling at last year's Texas Tourney (you can find the AAR), but this time the tables were turned, and Matt Shostak crushed me in four turns after which I willingly threw in the white towel.

Matt and myself were looking for a fast-playing, small-medium game that would not all come down to the fickle hand of fate: we were flicking through one of Zeb's old tourney compendiums and saw this one and opted for it. This is PTO-lite in that, as well as having brush instead of bamboo and all roads present as printed, the Japanese are supposed to have been surprised by the intensity of the desperate Chinese attack and so have had no time to get any of their usual tricks setup.

So, all six 447s, 228s and two Japanese leaders setup in huts and buildings (including their sole mortar unit) and all MMC start the game non-HIP, apart from their single 70mm field gun. In their zeal to collect the reward money on offer, the Chinese are all fanatic though they are only allowed one Dare-Death squad. The task of these ten Elite 447s and four 347s is to take 11 of the 15 building/huts on Board 42 in five and a half turns: they also have a 9-1, 8-1, 8-0, MMG, LMG and Lt Mtr to assist them in this.

Sounds simple hey? All the Chinese have to do is get units into CC with the Japanese and rely on their 2-1 numerical advantage to win the day, as their firepower is not going to cause too much striping in a stand-off fight. Well, maybe. The Japanese are still better in CC than the Chinese (both stealthy and the -1 modifier), and they can invoke hand-to-hand CC. In addition, they start in and will be fighting from predominantly +2 terrain. The Chinese also need to penetrate quite deeply into the village to get all the required buildings with some thickish terrain to struggle through so they will need to hustle.

Looking at Matt's defense, he had split his units evenly either side of the track, and although the Gun was hidden, it was probably on his left side, as his -1 leader and Mortar was on his right. He had covered well all the choke points - these are where the light jungle and bamboo I could approach his defense line from were condensed to a minimum frontage, meaning I had some awkward open ground and single palm hexes to traverse before I could get stuck in. I opted to swing student body right with eleven squads, using 347s to suck up initial fire, but also send a single platoon through the big palm plantation to the left. This was all covered by the 9-1, MMG and 447 whose task on Turn 1 and 2 was to try and cover the middle road area and keep the left defenders divided from the right.

All goes well to begin with - I manage to sneak a squad and a half around Matt's far left flank, despite losing a hs to a 1-2 residual attack (my luck with residual is legendary). Then, to quote the classic scenario title, things got worse. A lousy warm sniper attack pinned one of my guys - we then realised that we had initially used my sniper and not Matt's, so we retracted the attack and replayed it. This time when using the same sniper direction die-rolls as before, it of course, yahtzeed, zapped my 8-1 between the eyes (5 on the wound die) and then re-zapped the squad with him who then fated on their LLMC. Hmmm. Not good, and this seriously hurt.

From then on, it just turned comical. I would roll a three on an attack, Matt would roll a four on the ensuing morale check. Matt needs rate on his 70mm field gun...Matt gets rate. Matt needs rate on his knee mortar, Matt finds rate. Nick needs to pass a morale check with his fanatic elite units, Nick fails it. On and on and on. I jump into CC with a 347 vs a 447: no ambush, but my ten is going to do nothing in comparison to Matt's four. Ouch. In one particularly horrible sequence, Matt finds a 4 To Hit with a +4 shot with his Gun against a concealed adjacent 237. Worst of all worlds I then pin on the MC, so I am now stuck there with nowhere to go.

In his next Prep Fire, he crits these guys, and then immediately crits another two squad stack with his Lt Mtr: the bloody remnants of these go down in the rate shot. Two and a half squads down in two shots, and then to add insult to injury, I self-fate another squad on a rally attempt. My final hurrah is to try and send one more flanking squad around the back corner of Matt's defense line to try and gobble up some buildings in Matt's backfield: when these go down from yet another four roll by Matt, I surrender: I can't really take anymore of this beating.

At this point, I have about five squads or equivalents left on the board in good order, two are broken but well out of position. Matt has suffered one squad of casualties (from a measly 4+1 subsequent first fire - go figure!), of which half of those were caused by himself on a subsequent 12 rally roll: note that Matt had caused as many casualties to his troops as I had in this game! I had not advanced an inch into the village, and was still facing 5 full squads and two crews, and had run out of ideas on how to proceed anywhere.

Game over and a very, very solid Japanese win with no headaches. I think this actually could be a good scenario on any other day: the Japanese are slightly emasculated and a bit more 'normal' than usual, and so the Chinese have a slightly easier task. The key to this one for the Chinese is to try and create a chink in the Japanese line and then exploit it ruthlessly by massed, overwhelming infantry assault: I tried to do this with a good flanking manoeuvre that did initially create some problems, but Matt's extremely solid play allied to some scary dice meant it was a total blow-out.

Roll on Owlcon!

AAR: SP 139 Oder Dare

Nick Drinkwater

Russian: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 4]
German: John Hyler [ELR 2, SAN 4]

It's February 1945, its been snowing, and some brave Russians have poked their heads across the Oder in a fragile bridgehead, where due to thinning ice, no heavy weapons are available. These guys are going to try and blunt the inevitable German counter-attack the hard way - with machine-guns, ATRs and firepower only. The Germans are a fast, mobile group of mixed 548s and 467s, machine guns and some assault guns stuffed to the gills with HE ammo (all have endless HE rounds by SSR), but of low ammo for each vehicle overall. They have been given two Hetzers and two Stugs (one of the close support versions), all of which are small vehicles and thus tricky to hit.

In contrast, the Russians have a mixed bunch of 458s and 447s, with two MMG, two ATR and some good quality leadership (9-2, 8-1, 7-0) plus two 45LL AT Guns, one of which can be leader-directed at -1 by a Hero by SSR. The Germans are being tasked with getting 20 CVP off a constrained, 12 hex wide exit area at the back of the boards - no points for prisoners (as you would expect) but also vehicles must have main armament functioning and are only worth 3VP themselves.

The action is set on the non-airfield part of Board 14 and Board 44, and consists of centrally dispersed terrain of woods, buildings and orchards, and two more open-areas to left and right. My plan was to interdict John's brittle infantry as much as possible in their opening turn 2 from the front of this terrain and then fall back to the safety afforded by the two hidden guns in the back area of the field for the last stand defense.

Flawed plan, flawed result. My lead three guys at the front of the playing area were swiftly VBMed by three of John's tanks on Turn 1 which caught me completely off-balance - I was expecting him to sit back and paste me with Smoke first, and THEN move the Infantry up under the screen, especially as the vehicles alone could effectively give him over half the exit VP. However, John took a chance that my AT Guns would be well back covering the exit rows and hence that his tanks would be fairly safe, so he saddled up his testicles, and let rip. After some horror rolls, I was a squad and more critically an 8-1 leader dead, as John's deep penetrations by these flying armoured assets into my defense line (allied to a declared No Quarter) meant that my doughty Russian defenders started dropping like flies. I was able to immobilise a Hetzer on one shot, but then in the critical result of the match, John, on a laser thin LOS, hammered my 9-2, MMG, 458 on a K/2-yahtzee-wound-6-DIE-12-fate, sequence and I was now really out of the running.

I continued the now very unequal struggle, but things got worse rapidly when a Stug put a Snakes attack on an overrun of one of my other squads, and I was completely unable to hit it with one of the two AT Guns. I did managed to nail a Stug in the side with the leader-directed AT Gun, and I nailed a couple of other squads when John was a little hasty with some cocky, move in the open, "we thumb our noses at you" stuff at the few Russian survivors, but one of my gun crews was attrited in a welter of hand-grenades and knives, and at the end I was reduced to one out-of-place squad and the now revealed AT Gun which John was now was able to easily drive around and avoid. That was most definitely that.

So, a fast-paced scenario that we finished in three hours...not what was expected, but John pulled off an excellent "In your Face" smash-mouth attack that my Russians had no answer to. I started poorly with nowhere enough preparation time getting it right and thinking about defensive options, and crucially my two MMG were far too forward at the beginning and they did not get an effective attack in all day. The other main problem I had was getting any kind of effective AT attack in on the German armour: the To Kill of normal AP and APDS of the AT Guns was still less than the frontal armour of the Hetzers so it was side-shots only: DI by Gun or ATR was hampered by the small size and normally motion status of the vehicles and it was hard to get an effective shot in. Despite this, I was basically, swiftly dissected by a skillful opponent and we were done. Not one of my better efforts!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

AAR: SP133 Old Hickory's Path

Nick Drinkwater

Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 4]
German: John Hyler [ELR 2, SAN4]

The second instalment of my first weekend of ASL Heaven in 2008. From rural Yugoslavia and some really crap tanks, to the forested plains of western Germany with some really good ones. The task: clean every single German good-order squad from every single building on the board, and ensure that there are no more pesky manned artillery guns anywhere on the playing area. Easy huh? Well, maybe.
This is a four half-board combination involving the very scattered forest orchard and brush terrain of Boards 17, 32, 37 and 38 - the main "conurbation" (if you can call it that) is a scattered bunch of wooden buildings that straddle Boards 37 and 38. The approaches to this village are a series of narrow corridors between scattered woods that form natural choke points from which these late-war Germans can delay, harry and annoy the Americans - I have seven turns to turf John's die-hards out of their largely wooden dwellings, and I can easily see the last turn or so being a desperate bug-hunt to enforce breaks or some other non-good order status on to the last one or two squads in the back corner of the village.
John has actually got a fairly tasty force to defend this particular corner of the Reich: four elite squads (two 548s, two 468s), three first and three second line squads and a smattering of average leadership. They are enforced with a plethora of support weapons, and have all the late war tricks of the trade that you would expect from your typical, garden-variety 1945 Wehrmacht - I will be striving to keep my armour a healthy three hexes or more away from these guys. To beef this up, they have a hidden Pak 40, and four half-tracks that pack a huge punch: a 75L type (with Ammo Vehicle) and three of the triple 20L guns (12 FP, ROF 3). Finally they have two 105L ART guns which are a massive 20 FP on the IFT - tasty!
To counter this immovable object, I have a really impressive unstoppable late war force - it is mostly coming in on foot (9 x 667s, 5 x 666s, a 9-2 and other good leaders, a .50 cal and stuffed to the gills with mortars, machine guns and bazookas). The armour punch comes from two M10s and the five Chaffees, one of my favourite tanks with a ton of smoke tricks and a whopping 18MP - this is basically the late war, improved up-gunned version of the old Stuart, but like its predecessor, comes with scarily thin armour. The key with these babies is to keep them moving and pop smoke out whenever its necessary to get out of a tight situation.
Sigh, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that... John's task is to delay my initial thrusts as much as he can in an outer screen and then conduct a fast fallback defense of whatever's still alive to help in the defense of the last-stand village in Turns 5-7. He has covered all the main choke points quite heavily with some big looking stacks, and, apart from the concealed 5/8" counters, there is not much obvious in the way of troops protecting the village. A case of an upfront, "in your face" defense then, from which he's going to need to extricate his big units carefully and with some skill.
My waves of attackers pour on to west edge and I try a looping manoeuvre with two Chaffees and riders to the extreme south to thrust in on the right hand side: my riders get off relatively unscathed but one of my Chaffees goes up in Smoke from a single dead-eyed shot from the 75L half-track...ouch! The Chaffees AF of 6 is no help here. John has a 548/Psk combo in the key 17GG6 isolated hut that holds out really well and this puts a crimp on my right-flank attacking plans. In the right centre, John misses hurting my waves of infantry in the big woods complex and loses a 248 half-squad in return as he tries to pull back, lugging the HMG. The assault fire bonus of the Americans is a monster and just eats up tired defenders again and again in these scenarios.
My other main trick is to do a two Chaffee rider flank attack on the other, far northern side of the playing area. Again, riders disembark to start putting pressure on some of the other concealed defenders in the northern wooded glade. Trying to be clever and stir up all sorts of trouble, I next send a roving now rider-less Chaffee deep into Johns territory: good idea, bad execution, as John pulls out a 4 to hit from one of his artillery guns just when he needs it and my second paper-thin Chaffee goes up in smoke. The To Kill number of this gun is a healthy 14 and the Chaffee doesn't have the weight of armour to survive that kind of shot - these artillery guns need to be respected. Finally, I stupidly leave a CE M10 in direct LOS of one of the triple-guns and a resultant CR means he is under the BIG SHOCK red badge of shame...silly, unnecessary, and a lesson well-learnt for the future. I'm now down three tanks in two turns and by the skin of my teeth, have survived a couple of long shots on some of the others, and yet have not really scratched the Germans at all yet.
Successful combined arms is something I know I still need to work hard at as I continue to be a bit too aggressive with my tanks and this is showing up well here. The good news is that apart from one ELR reduction, the core of my infantry force is still intact and pushing hard up through the right central woods and also through the left central wooded glade. John's luck then really starts to run dry at this critical point in the game as he malfunctions one of the big 105L Art guns in the Board 38 part of the village (a really crucial loss) and then immediately follows this up by malfunctioning one of the triple gun half-tracks. In addition, I am really starting to hurt his core defenders for the end game as his withdrawing troops are repeatedly going down in light terrain as they try to flee backwards from multiple long shots from my numerous infantry. On three occasions John is forced to dally to pick up his HMG as its owner is either pinned or broken. I am attriting him with a half-squad here and a half-squad there and this is being subtracted from some of his quality infantry (his 468s and 467s). On top of this attrition, my surviving Chaffees are able to score some hurt on John's half-tracks through some long and thready line of sights through the multiple orchards. One of the triple guns goes down on a long shot and after four misses, I eventually nail the 75L half-track on a 13 hex long double-acquired shot - a big win indeed as John had just missed me on the reciprocal shot with the same gun!
Finally, I nail the malfunctioned triple gun with a long-bazooka shot, which leaves John with just one working 105ART, the hidden Pak 40 and one triple gun half-track. This just escapes my trap in the northern wooded glade when I realize the bazooka stack of riders I had carefully manoeuvred into place actually only has a MMG! Don't you just hate it when that happens? To effect the escape of this half-track and a couple of other squads, John sacrifices his other 548 / Shrek, which break from withering 667 fire. Of course, these guys become a huge distraction as broken units: I am about to enforce a surrender on them when my adjacent 8-1 leader, having survived a 12+1 by pinning, gets broken and wounded with a boxcars from a measly 4+1 shot from the village defenders. Ugly, and I have to expend further resources to go chasing him through the northern forests as John cleverly starts routing him back towards my side of the board towards the one sole building over there - a great lesson on the creative art of routing to cause me all sorts of problems!
By turn 4, the pressure on the German line is proving intolerable - the 17GG6 548 eventually goes down from a ring of five squads, but he has done his job well and I now need to push hard into the southern central part of the village. John reveals his Pak 40 emplaced nicely in the core of the village, but after I use some WP to shield my tanks, this gun gets X'ed on a 12 from an Intensive Fire shot. In addition, John's malfunctioned 105ART rolls the inevitable repair six, so he is now down to two principal anti-tank assets allied to a shaky defense of mainly first and second line infantry, and the writing is really on the wall. In one of his few effective rolls, my 9-2 gets the .50 Cal turning and breaks the crew of the last ART gun and I push hard into the core of the village with a ton of infantry. I quickly shove a Chaffee right into the face of this broken crew to get them moving backwards, braving the only PF shot that John is able to get off all night. In the final act of the game, I am able to encircle the main schwerpunkt of the village with an encircling Chaffee that has snuck in to position from the sunken road at the back of the board. When the owners of the encircled HMG break, John resigns.
Due to time pressures, he needs to go, but he was encircled in this key building and double enveloped in the entire village. In terms of assets, he was down to rougly a 9-1, one triple gun half-track and approximately three squads (mainly 447s and a 467): I was essentially still at about 10-11 active infantry squads and four tanks and my mortars, HMGs and bazookas with their WP were all warming up nicely. John, after some early hot-rolls, was plagued by some horrendous luck at a crucial point in the game (Turn 3) when his big ART broke then Xed, one of his triple guns broke, and the intensive fired Pak 40 went down on the intensive fire shot. He also had a big dud from his other 105ART gun and his repair and recovery rolls were cool (in the bad sense). In return, I failed to find Smoke from SM, mortars or shells for most of the game, but I only malfunctioned a single MMG all game. In the first few turns John's aggressive upfront defense caused me all sorts of problems and three tanks dead in two turns was an inauspicious start. Ultimately however, this strong frontal defense approach actually helped me: I was forced husband my resources and to use my armour much more cautiously (I only exposed the armour to one PF shot opportunity all game). More importantly, this early tough defense critically weakened John's later game efforts as he was struggling to re-establish his secondary defense lines with lesser quality troops and keep his big ROF weapons firing. There wasn't much left in the well by Turn 5 and though we didn't play out to the end, the result itself was not in doubt: the defense was being systematically taken apart chunk by chunk and there was no place to go.
Fun game, fun opponent and a harder tactical challenge for the Germans than the Americans, but definitely recommended - possibly a tad pro-American but the Germans can do this one.

AAR : DB38 Centauro on a Flank

Nick Drinkwater

Italian: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 2, SAN 2]
Yugoslav: Walter Eardley [ELR 2, SAN 3]

Warm-up time for Owlcon and I'm on for an intense ASL-rich three weekends immersing in the full ASL experience. First up for me is a moderately-sized scenario from Dispatches from the bunker against one one of Houston's best, Mr. Owlcon himself, Walter Eardley. Great guy, excellent to play and very rules savvy so this will be a stretch.
We roll for sides and I pull the Italians - lucky me! The scenario is a seven turn "Take the Board 42 hamlet" special by a mixed force of Italian armour and infantry. At setup, a huddle of Italians has just crossed the Board 40 river and need to kick the Yugos out of nine of the twelve Board 42 dispersed buildings. They have an imposing two level wooded hill right in the middle of their approach route which they will need to cross or go around before they get into the teeth of the Yugo defenses. They have been given an apparently tough little force of 10 x 346, a couple of 447 engineers, a 9-1, 8-0, 7-0, MMG, DC, 2 x Lt Mtr and 3 x LMG. They also have three metal boxes with tracks (L3/35) and two M13/40s which of course are much nicer tanks to play with. This motley crew is pitted against a Yugoslav defense that apparently is very brittle at first glance, but actually has a core of steel. The Yugos receive 4 x 457, 4 x 437, 2 x 237, an 8-1, 7-0, HMG, MMG, and two killer 37L AT Guns with ROF of 3. Even though these two guns set up onboard concealed but with no HIP, this is actually a brutal force as the Yugos receive three ROF3 weapons and a ROF 2 MMG. In addition, their support weapons are all B12 (compared to the B11 of the Italians), they are equal in ELR to the Italians, but their broken-side morale is 1 higher than normal (again better than the Italians), and their basic firepower significantly is 4 as opposed to the 3 of 90% of the Italians. Thus they will be firing one column higher on the IFT on a squad vs squad basis and that is huge. Despite being slightly outnumbered, I personally rate these Yugo infantry overall as being at least 20% stronger than their Italian equivalents, especially as they are conducting a fall-back defense in wood buildings against 3FP, 6 moral, 2 ELR troops. Clearly, it is the armour which makes the big difference here, but again the Italians are hamstrung on this one too: the quality of the main guns of these tanks ranges from weak to pathetic, all the tanks are susceptible to even lowly MG fire and the 37L AT guns with their three ROF and basic To Kill of 9 will be like blowtorches on this thin plate. Finally, we are limited by the weakness of platoon movement to add to our woes so this will be a slow and cautious grind forward.
Looking at the board configuration, the Italian left side is going to be funnelled through some nasty choke points between ponds and woods. As its April, the apple blossom is flowering in-season but the ploughed fields will prove to be an absolute bugger for infantry to cross, and wide-open and extremely lethal. Eyeing Walter's defense, the big empty grain field on the left is clearly covered by a 3 ROF AT Gun that will punch holes through anything I have, so I am forced to plough over the hill and through the left-central orchard. While we inch over the top, I launch my other gambit which is to try and run the L3 platoon on a huge right-sided flanking manoeuvre around the back of Walter's defense with an infantry platoon in support, but the platoon movement is laborious and I have to detour the infantry through the stream to avoid a -3 bridge residual. Cresting the hill, I plough on into the defense and capture a couple of green squads but Walt's speedbumps work well, and he also manages to get a recall on a shot-up the backside of an L3 with MG fire. Eventually my flankers do get around the back of the defense and claim a couple of outlying buildings but that was my only real success of the day.
In the middle, the push through the orchard and in the central woods works for a couple of turns and Walt slowly retreats, but importantly, though he is forced to leave the HMG behind, Walt's 8-1 and (battle-hardened) 458 avoid damage from a crucial 20+2 shot and they continue to hold tight in one of the central houses. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot shift them, and this includes two sixes on recovery attempts on the HMG which I am not able to fire even once. This die-hard 8-1 and his mates are a thorn in my side for the entire scenario.
By Turn 4, I have also discovered Walt's second AT Gun dominating the crossroads in the middle of the village. In addition, due to a slight initial bad placement, he also manhandles the first grainfield covering one into a position where it can enfilade the entire lateral road through the middle of the village. This is really damaging to all my attack plans as Walter now has TWO glorified, pumped-up 4FP guns that can dominate everything I do. As a result, I decide to try and overrun the gun that has been pushed, as I have to get rid of this to leave me the freedom of movement to assault the last 5-6 buildings in the village. Initially I do really well to miss the first two defensive fire shots, but the in-hex overrun prevention shot quite literally cooks my goose. To add salt to the wound, the never-ending ROF guns make my other M13 swiss cheese - I really am in trouble now.
In Turn 5, I continue to push on, but the ROF guns from hell mince both of my engineers on multiple shots and Walter is even able to launch a counter-attack with a green half-squad (!) which re-takes one of my briefly conquered buildings. He is also in a position and to that force me to rout from another one too - well done glorious Yugos!. At this point I resign - I only have three unbroken squads left, the 9-1 and two L3s, but we count up and determine that with the terrain configurations and the need to rally Italians, (several of them), that I am just not going to be able to take and hold the sufficient nine desirable residences. One of the two L3s is labouring with a malfunctioned MG so it can't be used for freezing, and my troops are way to weak to do anything now. That was decidedly that.
I enjoyed the game and Walter is a great opponent, but we both felt that the Yugos were just too favoured in this one. Any sensible placement of the AT Guns to cover the core buildings of the village means that the tanks are bound to be heavily exposed at some point and they will just wither under the 3 ROF guns. In contrast, the Italian mortars were next to useless as they needed to be pulled over some tough terrain to get into favourable firing positions, the LMGs break down easily, the armour struggles to stay alive and be effective, and ultimately you are trying to rally 5 broken side morale troops against 7s. No real contest there. The printed balance here is to give an extra Italian turn and I think this would be a good way to amend the scenario, but I would also remove the HMG and swap it for an LMG. It is one extra 3 ROF weapon that the Yugos just don't need. On the other hand, low grade troops vs low grade troops is always a lot of fun and if balance is used, this definitely has the makings of a fun one.

Friday, January 25, 2008

AAR: RPT14 Comrade Kimenkov

Scott Bell

Germans: Scott Bell
Russians: Dan Preston

Dan Preston and myself played RPT14 (Rally Point) named "Comrade Klimenkov." It is an exciting late war scenario featuring (4) Russian IS-2's against (2) German King Tigers. While the disparity in armor seems significant (and it is), the Russians must battle against the clock in an attempt to gain control of a couple of buildings at the rear of the gameboard. The Russians have to expose themselves to substantial risk, with the Germans usually getting the first shot.

I played the Germans, and my strategy focused upon funneling the Russians into a corridor with both of my King Tigers. I was successful with this, initially, until Dan brilliantly executed a right-hook with his armor which put me into a deadly vice-grip. Things kind of fell apart on me when my MA on one of my King Tigers malfed. It is a gift that I have, for which I cannot explain. At this point, my defense, which was heavily predicated upon the strength and dominance of my King Tigers, began to unravel.

Fortunately, I had managed to break a very large percentage of his russian squads prior, and this cost Dan valuable time. At one climatic point in the action, I sacrified one of my King Tigers in order to break one of Dan's last remaining stacks of infantry. That was a move that might be debated, but it was made on my part with the victory conditions given primary consideration. Regardless, the King Tiger is too big, and there was nowhere to run when you have (4) IS-2's gunning for you (from the front and the rear). I felt like an elephant in an antbed, where I stomp a lot of ants, but eventually succumb to the ants. As a consolation, I did manage to destroy one (1) IS-2 during intensive fire, before losing my second King Tiger Tank. Dan easily destroyed my first King Tiger which was defenseless without it's main gun.

One final note in this game was the fact that Dan was tank rich but infantry poor at the scenario's end. This was another reminder of the fact that regardless of your technology and your hardware, you cannot win battles and wars without infantry. ASL accurately reflects this, again and again.

It was a very exciting game, and though we did not finish, it really did not matter. Dan and I both had a possible chance of winning at the end, and we both agreed the Germans probably had a slight edge due the fact that the Russians were running out of time, had a lot of broken squads, and a lot of open ground to cover to get to the victory buildings in the rear. It was a blast, and I am particularly enjoying the fact that Dan and I are becoming more familiar with each others style of play. Each time we square off, it seems to get a little more difficult. The challenge is immense, and the reward is great.

I absolutely love this game!

What a game! What a hobby!



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Into The Rubble Overview

Zeb Doyle

Well, the postman made me very happy yesterday by dropping off a mint copy of Bounding Fire's latest creation, Into The Rubble. Here's my quick overview:

Unlike CH, there aren't any 'sales' or Ebay specials, so I think everyone will be paying the standard $40 for it. In the package, you get 8 scenarios, a bunch of one-hex debris overlays, two starter-kit style maps, a big factory overlay, and a monster 'ruined city' overlay. Just as a comparison, Multimanpublishing's recent AP3 Few Returned (which is roughly comparable IMO) is 12 scenarios and three maps for $24 plus shipping. As far as quality is concerned, the printing, graphics, and overall look and feel of ITR holds up quite well against MMP's gold standard. In short, if you're a beginning ASL player on a budget, going with the MMP product will give you somewhat better value. Of course, that's the case for pretty much every third party publication vs MMP comparison ever. For everyone else, I can't call ITR an incredible bargain, but it does look to be well worth the money.

Moving on to the heart of the product, the scenarios all look very interesting and several are being added to my already lengthy 'wanna play' list. Most of the scenarios are big and meaty (my personal preference), appear to have a very high carnage factor (also a big plus in my book), and cover an excellent range of years and theaters. I think it was a smart idea to include such a wide range of nationalities and time frames, as the scenarios could otherwise have blurred into a series of similar city fights. Here are some more details on each scenario:

ITR1 Debacle at Sung Kiang: this is a Scott Holst design (the only non-Chas Smith scenario in the group), and has 17 Japanese squads attacking 16 Chinese squads over 6.5 turns. Both sides get some armor. Beyond that, the scenario feels a little generic. Still looks fun, but doesn't stand out compared to some of the others.

ITR2 Factory In Flix: Some Spanish Civil War action here, with 16 Nationalist squads trying to hold off 24 Republican squads. Could be a fun early-war pillow fight.

ITR3 Tough As Nails: This is a big (two page) scenario with the Germans trying to take away downtown Stalingrad from the Russians. Lots of squads (70 or so), Stukas, flame-throwing tanks, this looks like bloodbath central.

ITR4 Clash At Ponyri: Another two page Russian vs German scenario, this time at Kursk. This is another one I really want to play. Interestingly, there are none of the typical Tigers or Panthers of this period, but the Russians get some ISU-152s and as such have the monster tanks in a fun change. Forty total squads, 17 tanks, guns, OBA, oh my!

ITR5 Fire Teams: Americans attacking in Aachen with (as you might guess) FT-toting crews. Looks like a neat tactical puzzle, with 38 total squads and 8 total tanks.

ITR6 The Ceramic Factory: Late war fighting in Budapest, with some tired 5-4-8 SS getting sandwiched between two massive groups of attacking Soviets. Fifty-five total squads, tanks and guns for everyone, this looks like a real fun bloodbath. I think the scenario is missing an SSR allowing commissars and I've written an email asking for confirmation, but that's the only rules question I have for the entire product. Impressive! The other thing that struck me was how familiar this scenario looked. I had to pull out DASL A To The Last Man to realize this is an awesome-looking remake. Really want to play this one!

ITR7 Rebounded Spirit: Another Budapest scenario, with the Romanians attacking Hungarians. Looks pretty cool: 37 total squads and some reinforcing Zrinyis.

ITR8 Beyond The Slaughterhouse: Late-war East Prussian action, with 20 Soviet squads attacking 14 German squads. The Germans get some variable OB to spice things up, and if this one is as good as The Slaughterhouse scenario, it's gonna be a winner.

That's pretty much it for the quick and dirty overview. The only other point of interest is that many of these scenarios have a MUCH higher ratio of machine guns to squads than you'd normally see. ITR5 The Ceramic Factory, for example, gives the defense eleven MGs for twenty squads, and the attacker gets fifteen MGs for thirty-five squads. I'm not sure if the justification is that troops got more firepower in dense urban terrain or what, but I thought it was interesting and would love to hear the designer's thoughts on the decision. Beyond that. just to sum up, this is an excellent-looking product with top-notch components and scenarios I can't wait to play.

Thanks for reading!