Monday, February 27, 2006

AAR: J98 - Lend-lease Attack

Zeb Doyle

After Eric and I finished up Bridgehead On The Berezina, it was still raining, so we cast about for another scenario to play. Time was running short, so we decided on J98 Lend-lease Attack, which looked like it played fast and would keep our Operation Bagration theme going. The scenario is 5.5 turns, and features two Tigers and 3.5x 4-6-7s trying to hold off 4.5x truck mounted 4-5-8s, two SU-85s, and four gyro'd Shermans. The Russians win by scoring 28 CVP/EVP, and the action all takes place on boards 4 and 19.

As can be seen, the terrain is fairly wide open, but with enough grain and hedges and clumps of trees to make things interesting. The armor battle comes down to the classic situation of the Tigers dominating at long range, but in an interesting twist, the Soviets rely more on technology than numbers to win, with the gyros being the difference between victory and defeat. The infantry, meanwhile, isn't quite a sideshow, but it's the tanks that will decide things.

As usual, Eric succumbed to the lure of the Tigers and set up a defense with one tank up front and the other back covering the exit area. The forward panzer was covered by plenty of infantry, and a HIP HS with a PSK also lurked out there somewhere. On the other hand, the Tigers weren't really covering each other very well, and so I decided to try and exploit that fact in my attack.

The Russians have to enter in two separated but balanced groups by SSR, and I sent the right-hand bunch racing down board 19 to go after the rear-most Tiger. On the left, my second group, covered by some trees, drove up to within a few hexes of the forward Tiger to threaten a swarm on turn two. I guess my attack was just what Eric expected, as he only did a minimal amount of defensive adjustment in his turn, with neither Tiger budging, although they did both go CE.

On my turn two, some fancy maneuvering brought the Shermans in the left-hand group into LOS of the rear Tiger. Eric spun the Tiger's CA two hexspines to face the Shermans, but would have needed a four to hit me and passed on the shot. My gyro'd Shermans, though, could get the Tiger on a seven, and just for kicks tried a few HE shots on the exposed crew. I ended up with one hit, which ended up being an NMC, and the 9ML Tiger promptly failed it...

That unlikely turn of events allowed my right-hand force to be very aggressive in their approach, and the Stunned Tiger quickly died to an SU-85 APCR shot through the rear. No crew got out, and that left me with 7 CVP and 19 EVP right next to the exit area. Obviously, things were looking dire for Eric at that point, but the closer he gets to losing, the better he plays. The remaining Tiger raced to the rear to try and cover the exit area, while the German infantry scrambled to both cover their panzer and block the Russian infantry from slipping off.

At this point, the scenario got a little gamey. The Tiger didn't have the MPs to actually get within LOS of the exit area in just one turn. That left me with 19 EVP of tanks that could just drive off untouched, meaning I'd only be two EVP or CVP short of a win. Since I also had two trucks and a 7-0/4-5-8 that could also exit that turn, I was able to maneuver with complete freedom with the rest of my force. Eric was compelled to hold his fire to deal with the trucks and exit-eligible infantry to avoid an instant loss. That let me get into great position with the rest of my infantry.

I decided to hold all my armor on the map as a threat, so my turn three ended with 19 EVP of Russian tanks still lurking near the exit area, but not actually off, one truck dead, one truck off, the rest of my armor pushing forward to also threaten to exit, and my infantry in really good position to take on Eric's troops. I did lose a Sherman to the HIP HS/PSK combo, but the HS ended up being out of position to threaten the rest of my armor, and I could live with the loss of a single tank at that point.

In Eric's turn, he tried again to cobble together a defense, but the early loss of the first Tiger had really unhinged things. Now, if the Germans weren't aggressive, I could easily exit enough to win, but aggressive German play would also lead to losses, giving me the CVP I need to win...Faced with this tough situation, Eric brought his Tiger up to cover the exit area and faced off against my two Shermans and the SU-85. All the tank fire in the turn was ineffective, and the situation would go to my turn four unchanged. Elsewhere, a German squad broke and was killed for FTR, bringing my CVP/EVP total to 10.

My turn four rolled around with lots of options for me to try and win that turn. Some lucky dice resulted in the Tiger getting smoked in, and then some more lucky dice from the rear SU-85 dropped another smoke round down, completely blocking all LOS for the Tiger. This allowed my remaining three Shermans to drive off, followed by much of my infantry, for a very anticlimactic win...

Overall, the scenario was amusing and it certainly fit the bill as a fast playing action. Eric made a tiny mistake in not setting up the Tigers to mutually support each other better, and I was able to get a lot of luck in exploiting the situation. As I mentioned, the scenario had a bit of a gamey feel to it, so I'm in no hurry to play it again, but it does seem like a great way to teach combined arms attack and tank tactics. In short, it's a reasonably fun scenario when you're pressed for time, but nothing to take too seriously. Assuming that's what the designer had in mind with it, he succeeded admirably. Thanks again to Eric for again fighting to the bitter end as I diced him twice in one day...

Thanks for reading,


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