Thursday, February 16, 2006

AAR: ASL 105 Going to Church

Nick Drinkwater

German Player - Doyle Motes (ERL 5, SAN 4) Canadian Player - Nick Drinkwater (ELR 4, SAN 2)

Board 23 northern half (with the Cathedral) - no canals, open ground instead. Moderate conditions.

Owlcon 2006 in Houston and my first game up is six turns of short, sharp brutal urban combat somewhere in northern France in August 1944. The Canadians have a simple but tough task - make all german MMC in the Notre Dame Cathedral (big churchy building on Board 23) broken and they win immediately. A nice, simple instant win VC you'd think, but mentally we thought this meant that the Canadians have to have sole control of the church, a slight but very significant difference, and we were both playing our games in a slightly different way. We only woke up in Turn 3 to the "real" VC!

Anyway, the Canadians have to go over a lot of open ground hexes (no canal by SSR) and walls to even get close to the gothic montrosity, and that is facing a 4.5 SS squad-strong defense with upper and second level views across the board, a hero, 8-0 and a 9-1 with MMG and LMG. The germans can set up within 3 hexes of the central cathedral hex, so Doyle put a couple of HS concealed in the approach buildings to act as speedbumps. In response, those crazy canadians get three key assets to achieve this - a HMG, a 9-2 and a Lt Mtr with its smoke, plus 9 elite rifle squads, a DC and a couple of LMG. With the timing, I need to be knocking close to the cathedral by Turn 3 and hope to around the back encircling in the very final end game.

Even with a whole board to set across, it is tricky to get set up to launch this attack due to the wide roads being dominated by the overwatching SS, and especially for the Mtr as the LOS is limited and there is little initial cover for this which has a good LOS to the direct approaches to Notre Dame. Also, mentally I'm planning the need to get inside the church and do loads of CC whereas I actually just need to break all the squads. I put the mortar on the right flank and move up with a couple of squads to give LMG and fire group support to my main attack which is driving up from the west. This goes not too badly at first with a couple of breaks to some long-range fire, but my HMG breaks down in the second half of T1 (not to return until T4), and then the sniper whacks my 9-2 between the eyes in T2. Finally, my mtr loses its smoke on the first shot - all three of my main assets out of the game. Great. I do knock out both outlying half squads through some intricate fire and maneuver amongst the rowhouses, so I am able to get behind the wall and in the rectory just to the south and west of Quasimodo's home, but I am a really long way from winning this, and the PMC is startng to fail.

At this point, we both wake up and realise the true nature of the VC, and things start to brighten for me. I manage to separate the 658 & MMG from the 9-1 and I break a squad and now Doyle is down to about two "victory-denying" MMC that are still unbroken - any two good shots or a lucky sniper or two can win this for me. It's gone from no chance, to barely possible, to now an outside chance. Over the last two turns, I really try to screw Doyle's SS down and remove both leaders for FTR and blow up the DC with no real affect. In addition, the non-cowering of the Brits is REALLY helping, as I am able to keep 1.5 squads of Doyle's broken SS DM, as even a 2+3 shot from a HS is enough to keep them in the DuMps (bad pun). I am now adjacent in places and blasting away for all I am worth but Doyle always just manages to keep two MMC unbroken, and I'm unwilling to jump into CC too early against stealthy ambushing troops who outgun me. Finally, I try to bring a 458, LMG and 9-1 combo around the back of the cathedral to start pouring yet more pressure on - Doyle scrags them for a 6+1 and crucially the leader breaks, and then breaks one of the only other two squads that can significantly hurt him with a lucky +3 shot. Eventually, all that he has left in the last player turn is a single 658 adjacent to a hero - somehow we come down to the last CC attack of the game, and I'm ending up pinned. He ambushes me, but he gacks his CC kill. To win, I HAVE to kill him, but I'm ambushed and pinned and I need a 3 or less to do this.

And of course, its a 10.

OK, OK, long-ish odds indeed, but it would have been nice to pull this one out of the fire, and after losing all the main assets so early I could have done with a break. Doyle played the defense really well, and didn't really miss much (apart from the true nature of the VC like me!). I played pretty well, especially after the disastrous start, but I did miss a crucial encirclement opportunity that would have affected the final CC. The loss of the 9-2 was even more crucial than the loss of the light mortar smoke but not having the HMG for half the game was a killer. Also, I was a little bit shy with using the Mtr in the early game as I thought I'd really need the smoke to assault the church in the last turns and I didn't really want to risk breakdown on a batch of 2+3 shots before the smoke was in place.

This was a fun little game, easily done in 4 hours and should be very tense. I recommend this strongly. With full use for most of the game of all the main assets, it could be very slightly pro-Brit, but without any of the three in the end game, SS in stone buildings are a real tough proposition, and it was just too much for me. There was no real dicing per se - the only freakish one was Doyle's only effective sniper check to zero in on my 9-2 - give that man the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Diamonds I guess.

So that was that, 0-1 for Owlcon on the last DR of the game. Awesome, and mentally draining, but more was to come...

Nick Drinkwater

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