Thursday, February 16, 2006

AAR J58 No 8. Platoon Overrun

Nick Drinkwater

British: Tom Gillis (ELR 4, SAN 4) German: Nick Drinkwater (ELR 3, SAN 6!!!!)

What a simply outstanding game against one of the nicest guys in ASL - Tom Gillis is great to play against and we both had been wanting to play each other for 18 months now. Owlcon 2006 gave us the opportunity.

(Note: I've just seen Tom's awesome AAR of this game - it is really cool to see that we pretty much saw things in the same light. The correction of the British OBA in Turn 3 was done with both our agreement, and probably hadn't impacted much at all).

This is simply a classic - it takes place on the "Red Barricades- light" part of the Bridge Too Far Map: the big factory complex in the far southeast corner of the map. Conditions are moderate, both sides reduce normally due to weakened ELR, and there is fun stuff like gammon bombs and juicy OBA. The Germans get single VP for buildings taken from the British within the British set-up area (and some buildings like the big factory and all the HQ buildings adjacent to the bridge are worth 2 VP). The board configuration naturally divides the stone buildings into 4 parts. 11 victory points-worth are small factory buildings in the advanced-right position, 3 points are in the centre with the mega-factory, and there are 8 or so more closely spaced single hex buildings forming the left mid-field area (the "village"). Finally, the remainder of the buildings are in the backfield, and possibly open to a sweeping cavalry charge of riders on tanks. Looking at this, I thought the advanced factory complex was fairly easy to take, the mega-factory area somewhat tougher (for a total of 14) and I would definitely need to get either into the very- tough village or the back field to pick up the all-important 15th VP.

The trouble is that in between these building complexes are open streets or, worse, wide-city boulevards. Yuk. BUT, I do have 100mm OBA with offboard observer, 9 x 658s, 5 x 548s, a MMG, HMG and a couple of LMGs. The leadership is 9-1 with some 8-0s, but the SAN of 6 is amazing (I am on the attack!). This lot alone would not be enough by themselves, but on Turn 3 of 7, I receive some welcome support of a Panther, two MkIV Js and a Stug from the 10th SS Panzer Division to really get the attack motoring. The other big problem I have is that separating me from the Brits is very wide-open, polished concrete square, so until either a) OBA Smoke or b) the Armour arrives I'm going nowhere without committing suicide on the wide open platz in a British-dispatched rain of lead.

To delay the inevitable agonising end of Colonel Frost's 2nd Parachute Battalion, Tom has a motley crew of approximately 8 458 and 648s, a 9-2, an 8-1, a MMG, some PIATs and LMGs and a concealed (but not HIP) 6lb AT Gun with the 57LL Gun which will knock any of my tanks cold. He also has a hidden radio observer directing 76mm OBA onto my head with guaranteed (black) battery access for the first roll.

If ever there was a game of three parts, this was it. For the first two turns, I could do nothing...I kept pinging away at Tom's concealed squads in the village across the square and just kept rolling tens and elevens. I did manage to blast off a couple of HS off the rooftops in the factory complex, but then pull a red on my first OBA request. I try to push left into the advanced parts of the factory complex but grind to a halt with good maneuvering by Tom. Tom's OBA starts dropping, but though I largely pass the morale checks, my shooting in return from the elite SS is farcical. I try to creep and dash a couple of squads around for better maneuver, but one squad is riddled by a long range 2-2. That hurt.

Then the tanks arrive and everything inverts...I start dicing the crap out of Tom. In the mid-game, I roll snakes 8-9 times, I generate three heroes, I go fanatic twice, I pass every MC going, I eliminate Tom's two and a half squads and 7-0 (including the rooftop guardians) in the advanced mini-factory complex through a combination of dead- eye shooting with a Mark IV, some nifty maneuvering by the Panther and solid infantry support and by the end of Turn 5 (I think - memory is hazy now), I have cleaned out all the factory comlplex for 11 VP in the bag. Tom is still dropping his OBA and gets a Shock on a Mk IV but I roll a 2 for "OK" next turn, and I have now found his hidden observer who is taken prisoner in the front bit of the megafactory (new definition to the term Forward Observer). He deserves the Victoria Cross for calling the OBA on to mine and his own position, but to no avail. My sniper is ultra-hot, firstly with two consecutive ones eliminating the AT Gun crew who don't fire a shot, and then breaking a single 648 who are the last ones still holding the mega- factory.

At this point (roughly end of GT5), I now have thirteen VP in the bag and Tom has lost a lot of troops and the AT Gun; meanwhile the 9-2 and a broken squad (who just refuse to rally) are in the Level 1 building directly behind the mega-factory, and are stuck on the wrong side of the road from the "village", and my tanks are now prowling. In addition, with direct fire from tank support 1-hex away, I am able to get troops across the square and have now taken 4 of the village buildings as well to be at 17VP.

And then lady luck just starts to swing back the other way. What a surprise! After one fire mission, my OBA pulls its second red chit (hmmmm...), and for a round of Infantry fire, I completely fail to damage Tom's stout defenders (even at point blank range with SS and heroes) in the core of the village and a couple of my squads break in return - one 658 faces upto the HtH CC challenge posed by the red devils and comes off second best (i.e. dead). Even though I control four of the village buildings, my hold there is not strong, though the two fanatic squads and two heroes are just hanging in. I also start to think about a hail-mary to Tom's backfield: I load up a couple of squads on tanks and then put pedal to the medal: unfortunately, orchards in orchard road hexes are still orchards and one of my squads bails out (successfully) into the edge of the village for no real gain. Stupidly, I keep a tank in motion, where I should have either stopped and shot the Brits from 1-hex range from the side, or even crashed into a building, risked a cellar, but claimed the hex...I could have even abandoned a tank, but I really don't like that tactic to much. The other hail-mary looks good though...Tom has moved two HS back to the backfield building, but I'm not too worried about that...I put the MkIV down the south road CE into top gear and think that two or more VP are mine for the taking...yeah right Nick! Tom's 9-2 gets a long-range 2 flat shot off (hindrances) and of course, I fail the PTC, bail and break. The best- laid plans of mice and men and all that... no chance to get the backfield buildings now.

The end-game is simply the last half of the last game turn, Tom has reclaimed two of the four buildings, but I am still in 15 (and one of my remaining two in the village is empty). He has three squads in separate buildings, and all to play for to get one back...I am down to 1 squad in the buildings, and two tanks firing in at one-hex range plus various units firing in across the square from the distance. Tom tries to dash the -2 across the street but I break that. I then go a Def Fire ROF spree (5 shots + IF) with my stug against a 9-1, a 458 and a 348 - amazingly the 9-1 comes out unscathed, but the rest are pinned and broken. Other fire from my MkIV pins a 338 HS, but despite repeated fire and rate, I am unable to break Tom's only other MMC in the buildings.

So it all comes down to the Advance Phase, where the 9-1 and a 458 are pitted against a pinned 658. Close combat - amazingly Tom rolls a 6 on his die-roll!! I'm back in the game again. All I need to do is avoid rolling a six (+1 for being pinned = 7 compared to British total of 4) and I can avoid the ambush and Tom's subsequent withdrawal into my controlled but empty building behind them. In H2H I could even kill them and be killed myself, but still retain the hex for the win - awesome.

The dice rolls, the glass tinkles and the inevitable six is of course staring up at me. Tom withdraws into my empty building. I lose on the last roll of the game. Again. For the second-time in a row. Un- freakin-believable.

Somewhat stunned and now 0-2 for Owlcon on last turn, game-ending, CC rolls, I congratulate Tom - despite having the sh1t kicked out of him all mid-game he just kept in there and played an awesome defense and kept his spirits up all the way through. Simply excellent and I can't wait to play him again. Well, maybe a week or two to let the mental scars heal over. Or a month even!

Play this looks pro-German, but I don't think it really is a 4 turn game as until the tanks show up, the germans are pretty limited in what they can do, especially if there is no OBA. The Brits, if played skillfully, have every chance in this as they are tough to beat. We both made mistakes (Tom's AT Gun was not optimally placed nor were the rooftop gardeners, whilst my late- game tank handling wasn't my best), but the rest was pretty smooth. The dice were extreme (8 or 9 eyes for me, 4 cars at least for Tom) and an amazingly hot sniper for me, but Tom was also good for some long-range 4+1 and 4 flats that took some of my early sting away. The one other thing that possibly affected this was that Tom's OBA kept falling during my penultimate turn for a FFE2 (after his observer had been captured) - this meant my reinforcement team with a MMG had to go around a couple more hexes to not get blasted and meant they couldn't directly contribute to the last-ditch fight in the village in Turn 6.

Lesson to self - think the end-game some more and be a little bit more thoughtful about possible game-end options - both my opponents in these played the last round slightly better than me and that contributed to my slightly weakened positions in both these last round CCs.

Also, can I have some CC luck please??!

Nick Drinkwater

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