Tuesday, September 12, 2006

AAR: J106 - Marders not Martyrs

Nick Drinkwater

German [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater

Russian [ELR 3, SAN 2]: Stephane Graciet

A very simple one-evening-special scenario out of the new Journal 7, which has the closest feel to an original Squad Leader scenario I've experienced in a long, long time. Not surprising really as this was originally apparently slated for ASL Starter Kit 3 before a decision was made to not include open topped vehicles as part of those rules...as a result it was easily retrofitted back into regular ASL and now forms a simple intro-plus scenario to vehicles with the added spin of needing to get familiar with OT and hull-down rules. As a bonus, the new ASLSK board v was included in the Journal as it is needed to play this one - this board has a good open Russian country feel to it as there are no hedges or walls, but its applicability to represent a western European battlefield may be a little more open to question.

It's the late summer of 1942, the grain is in season, the orchards are heavy with fruit and its a nice summer day. The play area includes approx 2/3 of the board with the Germans defending the backfield area across two low (hills) with a couple of isolated wooden buildings and the board edge woods half-hexes to offer a little bit of cover. The Russian infantry sets up 1/3 of the way onboard - the central area of the play area has two small board edge woods that flank a large central grain field with an axial orchard road. In the Russian back area is another low (level 1) hill that pretty much covers the whole short axis of the board - the Russian Armour, entering from offboard will need to climb and traverse this before they can join their footslogging brethren. To win, the Russians must exit 17VP (3 of them infantry) off the westboard edge (hexrow I) after 5.5 turns.

What gives this scenario the ASL feel is the nature of the force: a small (5 squads) force of the classic 467 Landsers has to hold tight against a mass (10) of the comfortingly familiar Russian 447s. The leadership of the Germans is a 9-1 and a 7-0, whilst the Russians get an 8-0 and a 9-1. Support weapons are fairly similar - the Germans get the brutal MG42 HMG and two LMG, whilst the Russians have to lug a MMG and a couple of LMGs. In addition, the Russians receive a Lt Mtr, normally something we sniff at derisively, but vs open topped vehicles, actually something of a threat out to a range of 20 hexes - it is a concern. Finally the Germans get two Marders with the 75L gun , which is good but not outstanding in late 1942 though the ROF of 2 is very cool, whilst the Russians, get four KV1- E which is a nice-ish tank for this time period as it has 11 AF all around, a good MG platform and is equipped with Radios - it also has a straight 76 Gun, although it has only 11 (Red) movement factors. My basic TK for this scenario is 6 so I will be expecting some bouncing shells, though I do have the option of APCR which has a much healthier TK of 9. One drawback of the Marder is limited HE, so I will be doing a few 2 IFT AP shots at the marauding Russian infantry horde somewhere in this.

My defence is fairly simple - I stick the 9-1 and HMG on Level 1 of the single two level wooden building just in case the Russians feel like doing an amoeba creep through the big grain field, a 467/LMG goes in a board edge woods half hex to seal off the northern side of the board with a 467 reserve behind them as the mobile fire brigade. On the south side, I set up the remaining two squads in isolated buildings to assist the main HMG strongpoint. I keep one eye on the ability of the two LMGs to place across-the-board lateral firelanes through the grain field. Once I see which way Stephane is coming, I'll drop the HMG down to ground level to assist with firelanes where necessary. My only flaw in this is that there is no support if the HMG-manning squad go down - it is a key weapon and needs to fire all the time, but with only 5 squads... Finally, I get the Marders hulldown on the east ends of the two low level hills - they have a clear unobstructed view to the Russian level 1 entry area and will try to pick off at long range anything that wanders into their gunsights.

Stephane clearly doesn't want to do the amoeba creep through the central grainfield and so splits his force to do two board-edge shuffles using the cover of the edging woods. On the north side, his smaller flanking squad of the MMG, 8-0 and three 447s swiftly runs into trouble as they near the woods edge and they are unable to get anywhere for the entire game and on more than one occasion fail to recover the dropped MMG - my single overwatch 467 / LMG pretty much nullifies this threat from the start. Stephane's other plan to use the Mortar to harass my Mortars also goes awry as I manage to retain HE shots long enough to KIA the one squad there in Turn 1 Defensive Fire - similar to Tom's recent AAR of this game. This is a major plus for me as it takes out one of the threats to the Marders from the start. Finally Stephane's main infantry slowly crawls along the south edge whilst not doing a lot. The KV1-E's come on very cautiously trying to remain anonymous in the background as they struggle over the hill, but one gets whacked on an APCR shot as it tries to sneak across my LOS.

By Turn 3, things are going OK for me, but in two swift attacks big holes appear in the defence - first off my AL Marder rolls a twelve, and with the other one already being shot out, Stephane takes the opportunity to send the remaining 3 KVs to the south side to assist the main Infantry rumble. Then my 467 manning the HMG is broken then CRs to nothing on a box-car on a low attack...the essential MG is out of action. After a turn of dithering, I wake up to the fact that the 9-1 can still manage to shoot the HMG at half-effect and this is needed right now as there are 6 Russian squads, 2 x LMG and the 9-1 lined up in the woods edge just waiting to go. I try to dash the 7-0 back across the road to help with MG-manning duties but he ends up CR'ed and wounded to form the bastard step-child of ASL, a broken 3MF 5+2 leader! Way to go! In turn 4, Stephane risks the bog check successfully to send a KV1 through and adjacent to one of my (broken) 447 / LMG flank squads. Things are falling apart everywhere now as my other Marder is out of HE (but not APCR) and has 8 ROF shots in a row at a squad in a grainfield, but every 2FP HE- equivalent attack fails - yuk. Even though my broken squad is doomed to rout Stephane takes a Bounding Fire shot at them anyway - and of course it bites him hard when he rolls eyes and battle harden back to a 467. In the next turn I start up the working Marder, get it hull down on the next hill to the south, take the bounding fire shot and of course leave the stopped KV there a smoking charred ruin.

This is big - Stephane now has to get both of the surviving KV's off- board AND get at least 1-squad and a leader off the board as well. I still have four of my five squads functioning and then to cap it all, the other Marder repairs its gun. In Russian Turn 5, Stephane tries a series of slightly suicidal but no-other-choice infantry moves to get them in position for the T6 end-game rush exit strategy, but some accurate and lucky defensive fire and judicious use of Firelanes breaks most of them - I get two more lucky breaks when my dead-eye Marder takes out a third KV in German DF - he now has to get off the sole surviving Marder (not certain) and at least 10VP worth of infantry which is going to be really tough from here. Finally a low odds 6+2 shot breaks the 9-1 and 2x447 stack in the burning KV hex. These low crawl back one hex and if they can survive into T6 could miracle rally and still dash off to help the win, but through a CX move with one of my squads, I eliminate them with an FTR move and that was that.

So at last a win. Nothing great and there were one or two bone-head moves by me, but overall I had slightly better dice than Stephane, although in the mid-game it looked a bit grim. Stephane had many 2+2 shots against the CE Marder crew but they all failed and that became a problem for him. Stopping the northern flankers cold with just one squad was really cool and getting rid of the Mtr in Turn one was a major plus and keeping APCR was very useful, and I think Stephane missed an opportunity when the HMG went down as he should have risked a squad to charge that building and stop me getting that HMG back. I can't criticise him for taking the bounding shot on the Broken Infantry as we've all done that one, but their battle hardening and return really crimped the big infantry push in Turn 5. It was not a bad scenario though like all small scenarios it could be a little dicey if any of two of the three key German assets go down early in the game - the Russians really need to do a big combined arms push and concentrate on trying to get at least one of those Marders off the board with as much +2 vs CE crew fire as quickly as possible.

As always, welcome comments!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was this one a gas or what? Scott Bell and I played this one two weeks ago. I saw it in J7 and had to play it. Those in the hobby who had never played a Squad Leader scenario should try it; it had the feel of the good old days. Great things come in small packages. I recommend J106 to anyone.

Dan Preston