Thursday, February 16, 2006

AAR: FF14 The Hunted

Nick Drinkwater

Ken Havlinek and myself kicked off in a brief warm up for Owlcon next week by playing one of the mini, one-evening specials from HOB's second Firefight pack. This is the first ASL either of us had played since October and man, were we rusty or what? We couldn't even remember which underlined indicator meant Assault Fire - yes, THAT bad!

Anyway, we gave this one a spin - it is designed by Chas Argent and we really like his designs, but we really struggled to see how the Germans can win this one. Basically it is Day 1 of the invasion of the Low Countries in May 1940 and a platoon (3.5 squads) of super tough Belgian elites are holed up in a hilltop stone building village with a chunky 10-2 and a not so wimpy 9-1 plus 2 MMG and 2 LMG. The random reiforcements for the Belgians are either a choice of 2 light tanks or a 8-1 / 248 / ATR reinforcement that arrives in turn 4 (of 5). To win, the germans get a couple of -1 leaders, 2 x LMG, an LTR, 7 x 468s and a huge amount of very open terrain to run through. Their random reinforcements were either a MkII, a PSW 222 or a PSW 231 (6rad), the last of which has no smoke-laying capability.

Setup is simultaneous though the Germans start offboard. The half- board configuration means the direct route is across an essentially open valley, with a few orchard road hexes. Either side of the valley is a wood building / walls / ploughed field complex, which offer a possible route laterally around to the hill - the lower slopes of the hill are completely bare and the 5 stone buildings are all on level 2, three of which are in frontal crest-lines dominating the approach. At the German entry side is a small strung out woods which offer a little cover to build a possible German firebase.

And so we were away - I rolled for the Belgian's and just did the obvious things - put a series of 458/MMG or 458/LMG stacks in the frontal three buildings to dominate everything coming onboard. To stop any sneaky flank tricks, I put a h/s + LMG in the right-hand small wooden house - the left hand (and longer) flank side was left empty. Basically the plan was to shoot early and often at anything that dared to sneak across the valley, and with that leadership, I'd be looking at several -1, -2 and -3 shots. Ken came on with 2.5 squads on a flanking attack (the long way) and the 5 squads and PSW 231 rad inching across the short axis by assault moves and armoured assault. My shooting and dice were OK to average, but Ken had nowhere to hide and was just knocked for six - the PSW 231 (6rad) is actually the weakest of the possible armour with no Smoke and the weakest frontal armour (AF0) and it was soon stunned and then malfunctioned it's main armanent. I manged to berserk and then wipe out one of the two flanking attacks with the deadly -2 leader, and even playing HOB's crew-served weapon rules (loss of ROF by 1 and a decrease in Breakdown number), I wasn't even scratched - I had two malfunctioning MGs by turn 3, but by then it was over. Even when Ken tried to form big FGs, the +3 defensive TEM made it a nightmare and I didn't have to roll a MC - there was no way up that hill for the Landsers and it was over very quickly.

So, we swapped it round and played it again. We had identical reinforcement rolls again, but this time I opted put a big german firebase in the backwoods with my two LMG and try and knock out the main Belgian stronghold containing the 10-2, while the other 5 squads go right to get into the flanking house with the long route to the hill. Ken went the same way with his defense and we kicked off. Things started brighter for the germans and by the end of T3 I'd pretty much been able to get almost all the team into position at the base of hill, but I would need miracles to get these elite troops up to the 5 stone buildings, particualrly as the Belgian's could do a simple fallback defense. I'd even got smart with the PSW (which also got stunned and malfunctioned its gun), and used it to drive straight upto mr 10-2 and VBM freeze him, which he did, but at the same time going down to an Immobilization in reaction fire. Unfortunately the range from the woods to the houses was 9 hexes which just made my LMG heavy firebase useless as I was looking at 6+2 instead of 8+2 and that was not enough, so I couldn't make any hole in the defense. On Turn 4 and 5 my landsers valiantly charged up those bare slopes but in 2 turns, this was just far too much to ask and I couldn't even get into the first VBM'ed house through all the -3 and -2 shots + resid and the attack just withered. I lost an 8-1 through a sniper shot to the head but that was the only misfortune - the rest failed due to withering defensive fire in the clear wide open.

So, we're after any advice on how to get the germans across this yawning divide and beat elite troops in an uphill stone building defense. We double-checked all the LOS rules to make sure we weren't doing anything fundamentally stupid, but we were happy we weren't. Possibly smoke from any of the other support vehicles (apart from the one that we both had) might have been useful but it struck us that a lucky shot or two was really going to be needed - I even managed to inflict a 2MC on the 10-2 but they passed that with ease and watched the bullets bounce of their adamantine chests. If anyone's played this, feel free to let us know how the germans do it!

I'm looking forward to playing some more from these packs as they are a simple evenings entertainment and I by no means mean this to be a slam on Chas - he does great stuff! We just failed to 'grok' it I guess.

Nick Drinkwater

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