Friday, February 10, 2006

Danger Close AAR

Zeb Doyle

Thanks to the technological miracle of VASL, I was able to get in a quick game with the geographically isolated Clint From Carthage, all without ever leaving my chair. Once we'd agreed on a cyberspace showdown, Clint picked out Danger Close from Schwerpunkt 11, which features nine American squads backed by some 150mm OBA holding off a rag-tag German force of twelve assorted squads and three Hetzers in Belgium, 1944. The Germans get just 4.5 turns to capture eight building hexes from the Americans. To spice things up, the Americans get some pillboxes and dummies; the Germans have a DC, a FT, and can place three smoke counters anywhere on map after all set up. The action all takes place on boards 32 and 38, so there's an interesting mix of dense terrain and wide open spaces.

As can be seen, the American infantry has just as much firepower as the Germans do, not even counting the artillery, so maneuver and skillful use of the Hetzers is the order of the day as the attacker. Clint preferred the Americans with the big 150mm OBA threat and that left me staring at his set up, scratching my head and trying to figure out how in the world to accomplish the aforementioned skillful maneuvering...

It's an interesting situation at the start, as the Germans have a very large entry area with several different angles of attack. However, they are also limited as to how many MMC they can bring on in each side, so the coordination of the attack takes some thought. The American OBA is also a major threat, as the best terrain the Germans initially get is woods. Even though Harassing Fire is NA, the German is forced to disperse his troops out of fear of the 30FP attack. Finally, the Hetzers, although the key to victory, are ungainly beasts at best. No machine guns, no smoke, depletable HE, and armor that is very vulnerable to the three Americans bazookas from the side make for a vehicle that must be used with a lot of patience.

Clint's set up as the Americans was a thing of beauty. He deployed, stacked, and used the dummy counters very well to create the appearance of a well balanced defense and (very importantly) left me guessing about where the bazookas were. With no clues to work with, I set up my attacking Germans and we kicked off the scenario. Things started poorly when it turned out that Clint had baited me very nicely with his dummies. Of the three pregame smoke counters I placed, two went on dummy stacks and the smoke did nothing but slow me down. Things got worse when I gambled that the last smoked in and concealed unit was also a dummy, and tried to run a 7-0 and three 4-3-6s past it. It turned out to be a real squad and the resulting 6+4 attack was an NMC, everyone broke, and 25% of my force was put out of commission. In a 4.5 turn scenario, that's bad news!

I was really feeling like I'd been knocked back on my heels with that attack, but I caught a huge break in the DFPh when Clint rolled boxcars on his first check for the field phone. It was only the first of many poor rolls for Clint, but nothing else came close in terms of sheer bad luck for him. The 150mm OBA is, by far, the American's biggest weapon in the scenario, and for it to go away completely like that was just huge.

Over the next several turns, I took advantage of Clint's misfortune and pushed the attack hard. Being able to mass my troops and create big multi-location firegroups without fear of OBA retaliation was a big edge for me. Even worse, aside from one American squad that withstood practically the entire Werhmacht shooting at him, Clint's 7ML troopers showed a marked tendency to break even on 4+2 and 6+3 shots. In short, the tide of battle was swinging my way.

Up to this point, I'd been very patient with the Hetzers, trying to use them for fire support, even though they all ran out of HE on their first shot. As I pushed Clint back though, he was forced to move his BAZ squads to less-than-ideal positions, and that gave me an opening to be more aggressive. As the Hetzers pushed forward to start cutting rout paths and engage in VBM freeze, Clint tried hard to knock them out, but his dice stayed persistently high. With neither the bazookas or the OBA working, I was able to get hyper-aggressive and just roll the Americans up. The worst that happened to my attack was my FT X'ing on its second shot and the DC sending a 6-6-7 Fanatic. It was funny to see my most powerful weapons do nothing but make the enemy stronger, but with Clint's awful luck, it just didn't matter. The game ended on turn three, with every American breaking when fired upon, and every broken American dying for failure to rout.

It was an interesting scenario that I want to like. It's got some interesting choices for both sides, and some neat aspects that you don't normally see in ASL. For such a small scenario, both sides have a lot of options. On the negative side of the ledger, the OBA is going to make things very dicey (our playing certainly demonstrated that) and the inability of the Hetzers to do anything but be freeze-sleeze platforms is pretty annoying. VBM freeze is certainly a tactic that has its place, but I don't care to be forced into it. Overall, I'm glad I played the scenario but I'm in no hurry to play it again. Finally, thanks to Clint and Rodney Kinny, without whom this AAR would never have been written.

Thanks for reading,


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