Texas Tourney AAR: WCW7 Eye of the Tiger
German (SS) Player: Eric Gerstenberg [ELR 3, SAN 2]
Russian Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 4]
Another classic from the WCW pack and this one was a complete blast to play. Eric opted to play the evil jackbooted ones (surprise!) and I was quite happy to take on the challenge of the free-thinking proletariat in this oldie but goodie from the newly released WCW pack (note: a BIG thanks to the publishers for letting these go out into the public domain and a thanks to Mark Pitcavage for hosting these on his Desperation Morale website). There are some great scenarios in this pack and I am looking forward to trying several more of the offerings in here in the future. This scenario has seen a load of playings over the years and has a strong ROAR rating and is thoroughly recommended - a real blast!
Victory conditions are nice and simple: at the end of six turns, the Germans must be in control of more stone buildings than the Russians on the dispersed village of Board 42, with the caveat that they must have lost less than 30 CVP at that point. Instant win VP cap scenarios can be quite testing for the attackers and I was pretty happy to take the Russians as a result of this. The big unknown in all of this scenario is the effect of a pre-registered 280mm OBA shot in Turn 1 against the village by the cruiser Prinz Eugen - the hex is pre-regged before the Russian setup, so its important that the Russians disperse their units at least one or preferably two hexes apart during setup to avoid some catastrophic first turn loss of key units from naval gunfire. There will be time for them to regroup and rebuild the defensive line in Turn 2, especially if they have left some speed bumps to impede the Germans in their Turn 1 approach a little.
The other big impact that may happen with the naval OBA is that it may rubble one, or possibly two, of the stone buildings. As we understood it, if this happens, then they are no longer considered valid Victory objectives (the VC state "stone buildings" only and not "Stone Buildings / Rubble"), so it might be that the Germans task gets a little easier as they may only then have to control five instead of six buildings at game end - this may well cause a subtle shift in the game dynamics as well. Again, the Russian needs to think about this and then re-deploy his forces to cover German attack routes and revised building locations, particularly if more than one building gets demolished.
There are all sorts of options available for the placement of the German pre-reg hex - most will probably be at or close to the Board 42 "cross-roads" point of G4/G5 where it is very likely they will tag at least one building and hopefully a nice concealed unit or two, but a crafty German may consider targeting the forward part of the Russian defense line around hexrows two and three on Board 4 and then correct in FFE2 to hurt something else that looks juicy. Neutralising the upfront defenses may also open some interesting attack routes for the Germans too. Note that if the Germans do get lucky with the OBA and rubble a couple of the buildings around the cross-roads, then the Russian will need to think hard about defending some of the more isolated buildings in the far SW corner of Board 42, which could be opened up to to some sweeping "armoured car with rider" probes.
Balance of Forces:
The other thing the OBA can do to the Russians is to cause the Turn 1 armour force (3 x T34 M43s and a SU-85) to delay or swerve around a possible blast area that straddles the Hexrow O entry road - the FFE2 counter is in effect for all of the turn and this heavy payload stuff can put a serious dent in any careless Russian armour. The tanks also need to keep themselves out of harm's way in any German Defensive Fire FFE2 corrections - the Russians really will need the armour to help in this scenario and a loss to OBA will be damaging. As well as the armour, the Russians receive a tasty 11 squad strong infantry company which is lead by a tough 9-1 with HMG assistance. The other key piece in the Russian defense is the hidden 45LL. Russian players may consider putting this on a board-edge position on Board 4 to get some sneaky lateral shots, but be aware that you may be likely to be run over by marauding SS infantry before any juicy opportunities came along. Instead, I opted to put it in a brush hex just south and east of the cross-roads on Board 42 where it could cover the big eastern grain field and its adjacent shell-hole 'field'. In this position, it was also well-placed to mutually assist the HMG and 9-1 which went into a stone building south of the cross-roads, which again was well-placed to assist in the defense and approaches to the main core of the village. I had a couple of squads at the front of the line on the fringe of the Board 4 woods to try and suppress any fast dashes by Hitler's finest across the open approaches to Board 4 and then dispersed the rest of the defense around the village to try and minimize damage from the OBA.
Eric was very unlucky with his OBA. He went for the crossroads in G4, erred, and ended up doing no damage to anything on FFE1 by its falling between all my units. Things didn't improve in FFE2 when he tried to correct - again he erred, and just missed snagging a T34 with an 11 on the OBA effects DR, but again it dropped optimally by missing all of my infantry units - a huge sigh of relief was breathed on the Russian side. The one thing the OBA did do was to rubble a single stone house so now his requirements were down to 5 buildings from nine. For his main assault, Eric came in on the eastern half of Board 4 with riders and armoured assault - my response shots were a bit limp, but I did manage to ELR two 658s with a long-range 4-2 shot which was a nice bonus, but one of my own guys went down to a measly AFPh 2+2 coaxial shot. Kind of normal for me! Eric's main direction was taking him directly into the grain field and shell-hole 'field' part of Board 42, which of course meant he was coming onto my 45LL AT gun - sweet!
To spice it up a bit, Eric also tried to send an armoured task force toward the central axis of Board 4/42 and the row O road - this was fairly punchy consisting of the Tiger, 50L AC and a MkIV. Seeing the threat this posed, I quickly tasked a T34 to take this on in BFF. After some delay MP and a bit of manoeuvring and targeting the Mk IV which was facing the wrong way behind his AC, I managed to win the Gun Duel and then caught him in the side with a juicy '4'. This was compounded by a bypassed 447 who ran back and managed to immobilise the motion Tiger in an out of the way position, where it could not influence the fight for the village, even though my brave boys were immolated themselves: posthumous "Orders of the Soviet Union" all around there! Finally, the AC came off worse after failing to find its APCR, and was toasted by my cute T34, though the crew jumped out and saved themselves.
Flipping sides, on the main attack route, I manoeuvred another T34 to a position at the back of the grain field where it could spy the other AC between some trees: even though the brave T34 crew could see their nemesis faust-totin' 658 approaching fast, they held tough to the end and atomised the second 50L AC. For the loss of a squad and a T34, I had reduced Eric's armour to a single mobile Mk IV only, a trade off I would eagerly have taken at the beginning. The other key thing was, of course, I had just inflicted 19 CVP on Eric - this was good, because even though I was winning the armour battle, my infantry were still slowly crumbling and I was looking bad for holding onto the buildings at game end.
The mid-game battle see-sawed for a while - both sides fought hard in the woods and shell-holes at the fringes of the village, and I lost my second T34 when a lowly 658 survived a thrown DC (unlike a squad and a leader of his friends), and they, of course, instantly found a Faust and toasted the tank. Seeing instant win fame beckoning I tried to manoeuvre my last two vehicles to roast the stranded Tiger and the last Mk IV for more juicy VP, but Eric outmanoeuvred me with the Mk IV and my T34 went down to a critical hit on an intensive fire shot - OUCH! We were now at parity on the armour, and so it was going to come down to the infantry fight after all.
Having just broken a squad and a 8-0 with some desperate prep fire, I spied an opportunity to sneak a 7-0 behind them and get them for FTR. Eric missed the significance of this and failed to break or destroy my lonely hero, and I was able to scratch 3 more CVP all due to the SS' shocking war record (no surrender to Russians). Even worse for the SS, the 7-0, now wounded, was able to repeat this trick in the next turn with another SS squad, who were forced to rout back towards him as they couldn't see him hidden behind trees when they started their rout: 5VP for me on this one slick move - love it!
On the far east flank, after toasting their T34, the SS pushed in hard across the lateral cross-road, aided by an untimely malfunction of my HMG - amazingly, a measly 6+1 walked behind my hidden gun without discovering it! These cool boys carried on smoking their cigarettes and biding their time until something really juicy appeared in front of them - Eric duly obliged: an 8-1 and two 658s moved up behind a hedge to try and threaten my HMG, but on the ROF spree from hell, my ATG destroyed another squad (2 more CVP) and then broke and ELR'ed the second squad plus their leader. This all left Eric very short of quality infantry on the east.
In the final turn, Eric was able to shock my SU-85 with his MkIV after I'd put two AP shots into the wall in front of it, and set himself up for the death and / or victory assault on the village's core buildings. At this point, Eric's dice let him down a bit and his 8ML troops went rolling backwards to a series of 4-1 and 2-1 shots as they approached their objectives. Ultimately, he was placed to actually make a CC assault on five buildings, but the lack of troops meant of these, one of them would be taken by a hero and a leader only, and that was not enough for him to take control (only MMC can do that). We played it out anyway, and even though I failed to hold any of the buildings (me and ambush again - pah! Don't get me started!!!), I did manage to kill the 9-1, the hero and a half-squad. This pushed him over the edge by a single CVP but he was also left one building short on control too.
Great game, fun opponent and full of the wild ASL swings we are all used too. I was pretty pleased with my effort in this one, as I handled the armour pretty well and planned for the defense and the ramifications of a bad OBA turn well too. I was also fairly pleased with my Gun placement as that, and the move with the 7-0 to enforce a batch of FTR on the war criminals, were probably the key events in this one that meant the Russians were (just) able to hold on. This is a great scenario as the randomness of the OBA would mean that the scenario will always play differently and their are options for both sides to get cute. Much fun and strongly recommended!