Sunday, October 29, 2006


Ed Beekman

Dawn, Sean Harris:British, Ed Beekman:Germans

As discussed earlier, I bought a Panzergrenadier Company and Platoon as well as a platoon of GSW 39H (f) self propelled artillery. The infantry reinforcements were full strength but Jabos must have hit the vehicles along the way because they arrived depleted. The infantry platoon received an 8-0 leader and a full complement of support weapons. The company received a 9-1, an 8-1 leader and all allotted support weapons except they had no HMG. The sole GSW 39H received a 9-1 armor leader, extremely useful for an open top vehicle. I also figured that I would need to spend the last CPP on FPP to create HIP and dummy stacks. Otherwise Sean would see only real units and every shot would put real squads at risk. I placed a HS HIP in the orchard next to the Town Hall overlooking the valley and a full squad HIP in the forest road hex into Le Port. I used ten concealment counters as dummy stacks.

My objective was to get my reinforcing infantry into the front line. The infantry platoon would move to the chateau, put the MMG and Lt Mortar in the Second Level and Roof to interdict movement along the river road. The rest of the platoon would move to reinforce the blocking force on the road into Benouville. The infantry company would move as fast as possible to get as many troops to reinforce the brittle garrison in Le Port. Sean’s main objective was to expand his bridgehead.

Maneuver dominated the early turns of the scenario. My reinforcements double timed towards their objectives, although I shifted three squads from the company to reinforce the east approaches to Benouville and another three to the north approach. Sean snuck paratroopers through the streams north and south of the bridge and formed up to assault along the west road to Le Port and towards the Town Hall. My units directly confronting the British continuously skulked out of LOS during my turns and whenever possible would remain there to regain concealment. The +1 dusk attack drm combined with stone building or wall covers made +3 or +4 attack modifiers common and there were even a few shots in the game with a +5 modifier. Of course I usually had 4, 6 or 8 FP attacks but Sean, on the other hand, usually had 12, 16 and once got as high as a 36 FP attack. The power of these attacks just wore away at my units and tested my ability to rally them back into the line.

When the shooting started it did not go well for the Germans. The first shots wounded and ELR’d my new 8-0 leader and casualty reduced and ELR’d one of my two elite squads. The GSW 39H found a good firing position in the behind the Town Hall so it could hit any Brits that tried to make a move on Le Port from the crossroads building cluster. Unfortunately it Malf’d its MA on the second shot and it was several turns before it finally repaired it.

The Town Hall/School House building cluster fell when a Conscript squad disrupted from a good shot from Sean and then later in the turn the only other squad broke due to sniper fire. Sean infiltrated a squad of paratroops and cleared the buildings before my troops could reinforce. The loss of these buildings was a boon for expanding Sean’s bridgehead and a blow to my containment efforts.

Around this time I found a collaborator in the local populace who revealed the location of a HIP British 6 pounder AT gun. The info was very useful, if my SPA had moved a little more to the north it would have come into its LOS with potentially dire consequences.

Sean kept shooting at the squads in the treeline shielding LePort but they held their ground. I even generated a hero on the west flank, who bought time to reinforce his position, at the cost of his own life, when his original squad broke and routed. The southern line would not be breeched although some Frenchman ratted out my HIP squad in the forest road.

The eastern approach to LePort was another story. Two groups of paratroops infiltrated up the stream, crawled up to the crest, drove back the defenders and charged into the tree line. The fighting was bitter and frequently turned to ugly melees. One German squad escaped by luck of ambush and withdrew to continue the fight. Some of my conscripts weren’t so lucky. One British team moved to clear the buildings to the river road while the other drove in towards the church with its steeple that gives the Germans a sniper bonus. The squad and leader clearing the way to the river road succeeded in its mission all the way to the last building at the river road intersection. Here defender and attacker alike met mutual destruction in melee. Only an abandoned French-made LMG scrounged from a Hotchkiss tank remains to show what happened there.

The other, more powerful stack reached the church, driving off the wounded 6+1 leader and disrupted conscript half squad occupying it. They also scared off my Hotchkiss tank, their PIAT threat caused me to move it around the stables to the west and it never got back into the fight. The 1st line HS in the steeple proved to be another matter. It took everything thrown at it even though encircled. They proved to be full blown Nazi fanatics, laughing off a 24+4 attack by becoming an Elite HS with a Hero. When the scenario ended the Brits still controlled the ground level and the Germans in the belfry survived the encirclement 1TC. The next scenario will start with the British Isolated in the church and I have a Fanatic Elite HS isolated in the steeple. Unfortunately, Sean’s sniper twice got kill shots on my sniper and since I don’t control the church my SAN will not get a bonus in the next scenario.

In the south the MMG squad and Light Mortar team in the chateau made the British move cautiously. The Light Mortar was not very useful. It once went on a six shot ROF tear. Net result, one MC passed by both affected squads and five, yes five, British SAN’s of which two were successful. I was grateful when the mortar malfunctioned and X’d out. Sean tried to use the 50L AT gun against the MMG but it was lost on about the third shot.

Then disaster struck. My 10-2 stack keeping the Brits at bay, it had killed a 7-0 leader and broke two squads of paratroops, broke on a 12 +3 attack. I had a major rally point in the woods south of Benouville. The 10-2 attempts to rally and… I can’t stand it….Boxcars…2LLMCs all around. Not only did I lose the 10-2, but the wounded 7-0 broke and ELR’d, a broken squad CR’d and ELR’d and another broken squad was eliminated by boxcars. Fortunately I was able to thin my lines out to cover the loss and still keep the Brits at bay.

About half a dozen squads with some support weapons made the run through the valley south of the stables and were able to get to Le Port with a help from Smoke from the GSW 39H. Unfortunately the GSW 39H eventually ran out of smoke and was unable to replenish that ammunition type during refit for the next scenario.

In the end, the British were unable to expand make any inroads against Benouville itself, but Sean consolidated the buildings between Benouville and Le Port into his lines and well as break up the defenses on the east side of Le Port. His losses were fairly light, four leaders dead (all 0 leadership modifiers except for one 8-1), one squad dead and another relegated to Walking Wounded status. I had considerably higher casualties, eight squads lost although the vast majority were quality garrison troops, a Hero and the 10-2 leader. I had achieved my goal of holding Benouville and reinforcing Le Port while Sean had achieved his goal of expanding his bridgehead.

For the next scenario, Day I, both sides will see improvement in leadership. Sean had 9-2 leader become a hero and he will return as a 10-2 leader. My wounded 6+1 leader in Le Port was declared fit for return to full duty by the medics after his wounding at the beginning of the Night II scenario.

I will receive 32 + dr of CPP for the next scenario while Sean will receive only 15 FPP. It will be harder on me to drive him back because there will be no +1 dawn modifier to non-CC attacks to soften those expected 12 and 16 FP attacks. I have yet to contemplate my reinforcement purchases but I need to look at what I can do to help Le Port. It is vital to any attempt to smash Lovat’s troops in the Day II scenario.

There will be more heartbreak and blood shed around Pegasus Bridge now that the Normandy Landings are in full swing. The Germans have one counterattack opportunity left before the first Brits arrive from the beaches. We will let you know how it goes at a later date.


Game Photos: Expelling the Guards

In Banzai 11.1, I wrote an analysis of Expelling the Guards. Having witnessed several playings of this excellent scenario at club game days I thought it would make a good subject for coverage. At one game day (May 2006 I think) I was able to take some photos of games in progress. Here you see Rick's Germans going with a strong German left hook attack, just the opposite of the direction I illustrated in my article. In the next photo, you can see the lead tank getting sent home by a sniper.

The infantry follows hard on the heels of the tanks, hoping to roll up the hill from on end to the other.

An exciting little sideshow developed in the Russian rear where Scott's valiant T-60 caused quite a headache for the Germans.

Finally there was a last stand by the remaining Russians at the end of the hill.

Sam and Eric duked it out in the other match. Eric's Germans also chose to go with a strong left hook.

But there was a bit more fighting on the front side of the hill this time.

Just when he needed it, Eric got a smoke barrage down on the hill.

This one also came down to a last charge across the hill, with the Russians just barely hanging on for the win.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

AAR: J105 - Borodino Station

Nick Drinkwater

Russian: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 2]

German: Stephane Graciet [ELR 3, SAN 3]

Journal 7 is turning out to be extremely cool - yet another quality scenario from it to keep the masses happy. This one is a powerful little gem that is small enough to be done in a single evening sitting, big enough to be forgiving of some bad or good dice, has tactical conundrums for both players to beat and is real Russian Front, "in your face" ASL.

For this one, we turn to the grinding stage of Barbarossa - it's now October 1941 and all the easy wins are over for the Germans - now they're starting to get a feel of what it is like to face the endless hordes of Russian peasants who just keep coming, no matter how many you mow down with your automatic weapons. This one is set on hexrows R-GG on the awesome Board 20, probably the best of the old Beyond Valour boards for the variety of terrain contained therein. A single railroad has been added to the board to create the small town of Borodino, scene of an earlier famous defeat of a nasty invader of mother-Russia in the previous century.

In this scenario, the Russians have a tough 'ask' in that they have to control either or both of two large stone buildings (either the 'station' building or the 'city hall') and also have three squad equivalents across the southern most board-wide road in the German backfield - all this to be done over 5.5 turns (and the Russian moving last is important for the assault move / advance options available to them to get the win). Sounds tricky? Well, yes it is, but they get a superb force to do this - 3 x 458, 6 x 527 (assault engineers with smoke exponent of 2) and 9 x 447 which is probably as good as it gets for 1941. Even better, they get some superb leaders in the form of a 9-2, 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0. On the downside, there are virtually no support weapons for this very mobile strike force - just 3 x LMG. Pah! Who needs those clunking great Maxims anyway? We're on the attack!!

Facing off against this finely-honed battlegroup are advance elements of a German armoured division. With their ELR of 3, they've clearly been through a few tough fights along the way, and there are some holes starting to appear in the ranks - automatic weapons is the way to go! In the station, the Germans get 3 x 467, a LMG and a 8-1, in City Hall, they receive 2 x 467, an HMG and an 8-0 and finally they are allowed the option of 3 x 467 to scatter across the defence line to help plug the gaps, as well as 5 x ? to spread around to make a couple of dummies. Even with the best will in the world, thats never going to hold back Ivan and in Turn 1 a small but potent relieving force arrives, consisting of 1 x 9-1, 3 x 467, 1 x 468, a MMG and 2 x LMG who are providing foot escort for a Hanomag and a Pskw 221 (the "leedle tank" for those who have ever seen "Allo, Allo!"). Options, options everywhere.

This game kicks off nasty and brutish from the start - the Russians arrive from offboard straight into the open-ground and woods 'teeth' of the German defence, only one, two or three hexes away from the fronts of both objective buildings. Looking at Stephane's defence, I see a major gap on the west side where I can left hook around, enfilade City Hall and be running into the backfield, with effective bypassing of the defenders of the Station! YES!! Uhhh, wait for it, NOOO! Xavier Vitry, the designer, also saw this fabulous plan, and outlawed it in Turn 1 by making Russian entry occur between AA-R, and only allowing full north side entry on Turn 2 or later - make sure you catch this one...

Anyways, quickly I re-setup and this time we're doing it - straight into the jaws of death at the Station. With that many bodies to get onboard over such a short entry area, some guys are inevitably going to enter open ground adjacent to the Germans on Turn 1, but it is important for the Russians to do some stack management pre-start so that brokies have somewhere to rout to and that your better squads get to use some of the small amount of initial cover. I scatter the assault engineers around to try and use their smoke grenades to hinder some of the firelanes coming my way - what stinkin' smoke grenades would those be? They obviously got left in the mess in Moscow as I never saw one all game (about 9 attempts!). I also use the two Commissars to help get those guys back into the frontline - and yes, you can have two, and I think the Russian needs both of them.

The first wave piles in - Stephane's first two rolls are twelves! I like this game!! Especially as this puts final fire on both squads. His next two rolls are better and the HMG firelane is nasty. Now there are two things that happen in ASL games I play: I will have a really ugly rolling streak for at least one turn and I will fail each and every 1,2 and 4 -1 and -2 Residual Fire Morale Check. In games against Stephane, this will be compounded by two extra events: I will never, ever successfully ambush him and no matter how lousy he is normally rolling, he will always, I repeat always, find the absolute, "fail this and lose the scenario", must-have die-rolls when he needs them. This was to be no different.

I assault move into a bunch of 1-1 and 2-1 Residuals and come reeling back, always broken, often reduced. Luckily I do find one roll with the 9-2 stack that just breaks the 8-1, LMG and 467 in the point-defence hex of the station - these guys roll back and split open the station defenders. Even though my first line has gone down in a wave of bullets, the awesome commissars are doing their rally- factory tricks and sending the peasants back to the front line, after a few summary shootings to encourage les autres (I self-killed a squad and a half overall). With the chink in the factory defences, I manage to rush a squad around to the station west side to enforce a FTR on the LMG squad, break a second 467 on a crucial FPF attack (who then die on FTR due to No Quarter being involed) , and then jump into melee with the final 467 Station defenders.

On the other eastern side of the board, I also crucially break the 8- 0 and HMG/467 in City Hall and then critically force the other defending 467 to drop concealment on a gacked attack. Stephane is faced with a tough decision at this point - should he stay to try and rally and then get the HMG firing again or run and get bodies back into the fight later? He takes the safe action and runs back to the backfield and I waltz in and pick up the Germain HMG! Yesss! Following this, I then jump into Melee with the last City Hall 467 with a couple of my own squads. We then, of course, both proceed to fumble all our CC rolls, but at the end of Turn 3, all the initial Germans are either dead, in melee or running away.

Stephane's Hanomag whacks one of my squads on a very long AAMG shot on a thin-but-there LOS which was a bit needless and wasteful on my part, and his 8-1, MMG and 468 reinforcements are now entrenched in the stone building overlooking the Board 20 "circle" (familiar to those who've played "To the Square" and "Acts of Defiance") - they knock off another of my squads who try and dash across the road and my attack is effectively being cut in two by this firelane. I eventually kill off in CC both the last remaining City Hall and Station defenders for the loss of a squad in return, and then whack the 8-1 when he fails to execute a successful ambush of a CX conscript.

Both the building objectives are captured but I have taken some big hits in return. Stephane is now well placed across the board to make it difficult for me to get anything across the road, and the clock is ticking. I do remember to pick up his abandoned LMG in the station and then start to challenge the "leedle tank" with it - this is the only thing that is stopping me crossing the railway line for the advance to the southern road net. This could be brilliant - I may just be able to shoot and kill the German armoured car with one of his own weapons!

I miss killing the "leedel tank" at 2 hex range the first time by one, aargh, so, as a random shot at start of Russian T4, I try again: roll a three - HIT! Snakes - kill, BURN! Awesome! Hoisted by his own petard and kind enough to leave me some nice friendly smoke to cover my dash across the railway too - think of the style points baby!! In the same turn, I break the only 467 (and 8-0) defending the wooden building line south of city hall from a big FG from the captured HMG - this nicely opens up the entire eastern half of the board.

Seeing this hole, I run a 7-0 and 447 past the broken guys so now I am adjacent to the 'road that must be crossed'. Crucially, the MMG strongpoint is also fired out, so spotting the opportunity, I am able to run at full pelt the 9-2 and 2 458s for 8 hexes over to the east side of the board to be in place for T5 and T6 assaults across the "road". I also run a commissar-led assault due south of the station through the woods to the southern rowhouses, next to the gully, where I force to rout two broken squads back across the southern road.

It's all or nothing time now for the Germans - Stephane revs up the Hanomag to come and put hurt on the redirected 9-2 stack and survives 4 cases of Street Fighting from my guys (where did my good rolls go???!) and sticks it right in the path of the Russians. I try to dash the 7-0 and 447 across the road, but go down to a three on a 1-2 attack - Stephane pulling out the die-rolls just when he needs them. Crucially my half-squad doesn't break on the K/1 result, but I am now really only placed on this extreme east side to get only 2.5 squads across the road....nightmare!! His HMG killstack then pulls off four 1MC results in a row to still be able to interdict almost all the streets in the region. Next, his last squad in the rowhouses manages to ambush me (6 for me, 1 for Stephane) and just withdraws next door to again interdict anything that dares try to cross the road, and then to compound it, one of the broken squads (with LMG) manages to pull out a three on a miracle self rally to put more hurt on my brave Ivans with added firelane potential - freakin' unbelievable. Finally, Stephane's sniper hots up for the only two shots of the game - the first sticks one between the eyes of the 10-0 commissar, the second breaks a 247 HS in the building next to the gully. This is horrible.

But lady luck, though sticking me in the ribs and kicking me in the nuts, did decide to smile on me for one last turn. In German T4, after two more failed Russian PAATC for Reaction Fire on the Hanomag (yuk) and a "missed by one" PAATC by the 9-2 leader (would you credit it?), the two 458s do find some grenades and I manage to whack the tiresome Hanomag at last. In one last desperate Defensive Fire shot, I again despair as the 8-1 leader with the MMG passes his third 1MC in a row - can you believe that - 5 passed 1MC on that stack in sequence? - but luckily the manning squad rolls a 10 and start to ask about "the location of Mommy". However, if the leader is able to rally these guys back in Turn 6, this is going to the edge...

Turn 6 starts - they miss the rally by one!!!! PHEW! This is the gap I need...I charge all my rowhouse units out across the street - they all go down in glory, but most importantly, they fix German covered MG arcs and use up all the German defensive fire options, who are all then fired out. Once that is gone, I am able to saunter the three squads from City Hall who used to own the now discarded German HMG past the broken MMG squad yelling, "yaah, Fritzski, look at us - we sneer in your general direction" and gain the win!

Awesome, heart stopping ASL at its best. This one has the hallmarks of a classic and must be tried - there was never one point where I ever felt totally comfortable about this - the Germans always have the chance to stop this one right to the end - even after clearing out both objective buildings by the end of Turn 3, there is still tons to do as the Russian and two more "roads" to cross (the railway and the southern road) - and the MMG is still critical to stopping you at this point. The biggest two events that changed this were the destrucion of the "leedle tank" to a 3 and 2 combination, and especially the loss of the 467 and 8-0 in the wooden buildings on the east side, which opened up the defence significantly.

Turn 1 is important but not completely critical to the result of the game - both sides can survive a bad Turn 1, but some thought needs to be given to the Russian setup with rout paths, stacking and placement of the commissars. It may be possible once onboard that the Russians could get a human wave going to get across the street, though there was never the opportunity or the need for me to do this. Things to read up and get comfortable with in this scenario are all the first, subsequent and final protective fire principles, Commissars and their effects, street-fighting and reaction fire, dash, and all the Fire Lane details as they are a major component of the battle. The Russian should also note the possibility the gully offers for some cheap and sneaky routes to win.

Great scenario - strongly recommended. Thanks Stephane for that one and especially for leaving the Armour-piercing incendiary bullets with your nice shiny LMG!!!

Nick (still trying to remember where we packed them thar' smoke grenades?)

Monday, October 02, 2006

AAR: KE20 - The Steel-Eyed Boys

Nick Drinkwater

German: Nick Drinkwater [SAN 3, ELR 2/4]

British: Tom Gillis [SAN 2, ELR 3]

September's game day was at Walter's house - this lies in some long lost forgotten corner of the greater Houston area , somewhere lost in the wilds, wait for it ... OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY! I mean, man, for us ITL types, that's like, Canada, right? I'd prepared for this expedition into the unknown by retaining a spare cup of coffee for any emergency that cropped up - this was done through the cunning plan of throwing it all over my lap at breakfast - when times got really tough, I could always pour milk on myself and suck out the sweet caffeinated nectar and imagine I was having a Montrosian-latte. (Note that even this desperate measure would be better than anything you get served in Austin...!).

Anyways, having noticed that the map for this area was almost empty apart from the words "Here be dragons", I employed a local guide (Tom) to hack through the undergrowth and guide me to Walter's, where to my pleasant surprise, Ken, a fellow ITL-ite, had also managed to make it through the wall of death, bamboo spears and headhunting cannibals. Even more impressive was he'd found this oasis single- handed - no stinkin' guide for him! Brave fellow indeed! Two ITL-ites in the same wilderness room at the same time on the same game day? The world really was upside down today.

Before the game, Tom and myself had decided we want to play something meaty - however, Tom's been playing like, forever, so we also wanted to try and find something he hadn't played before which was harder. Luckily, I do have some of the Kinetic Energy scenario packs which I'd bought years ago and there was some 'new' stuff in here which looked tasty. The problem many people have with the KE stuff is that they automatically assume the VC are going to be very confusing or that there are pages of impenetrable SSRs to wade through ... I don't think is really all that true - granted, there are some challenging ones in there (the mobile German "democharges on tracks" rules is one example that comes to mind), but there's also a lot of good straight- forward stuff in here as well, usually with interesting twists (I'm keen to try the four-phase "Dreadnought of Razne-thingy" scenario some time) and of course the ultimate three-player challenge, "The Dogs of War", is a KE special. If you are looking for something new and you have a good few hours, then I would recommend these scenarios strongly.

In the late nineties, KE had done one scenario pack that was of real interest to me - this was the march of the British 53rd and 11th Armoured Divisions across northern Germany in April 1945, taking on the reserve and replacement battalion of the 12th SS HJ division and a recently constituted Marine division - these scenarios are largely based on an excellent book called "No Triumphant Procession" that is filled with very descriptive small unit actions. I had actually bought this book last month on Amazon and had just finished reading it and so was itching to play something from it, though I don't actually own the original "At the Sharp End" scenario pack. I do however, own a series of sumptuous colour updated scenarios that KE issued to amend a few perceived balance issues with some of their earlier packs - 3 modified scenarios from the original British pack are included (Black Friday, Franzen's Roadblock and The Steel Eyed Boys) and all look quite fun. We opted for The Steel Eyed Boys, and I was happy to play the bitter and desperate SS, whilst Tom took on the challenge of a very tasty late war British company from the Rifle Brigade with plentiful armour support from the 11th AD.

The action is set on a slightly odd board configuration of Boards 11 and 18 with their level 1 hills flanking the trusty stone village of Board 10, rowhouses and all. Environmental conditions are moist, but a stiff breeze is blowing smoke from two burning British tanks right across the frontal southernmost buildings of Board 10 at start. What at first seems odd is that the Board 10 village is right at the 'front' of the German defence line and the Brits can simply walk on in Turn 1 and start fighting immediately for the buildings. The Germans set up between hexrows EE-U, right in the centre of the village whilst there is the whole empty half of the board 'behind' the main scene of the action - odd huh? However, this configuration is explained by the somewhat advanced nature of the VC - the Germans can win by having 15 VP on board 10 and/or exited offboard from the north, back edge of the playing area, but to do that they are going to need to beat a desperate retreat across the open half of board 10 under the guns and noses of the well armed and armoured Brits sat on the heights - a veritable reverse Valley of Death!

The Germans can also win by retaining control of eleven board 10 building / rubble hexes at game end (all board 10 buildings start under German control at start, even those outside the original setup area) at game end after 7 turns, or finally, by achieving an instant win by inflicting 20 CVP on the Brits. The Germans are very tasty but apparently brittle - 12 x 658s, 4 x 348s, 1 x HMG, 2 x MMG, 4 x LMG, 4 x Psk, 2 x DC and up to 28 Panzerfausts. Pretty damn good, especially as we will be mainly conducting a stone building defence. The big problem they have is very weak leadership (3 x 8-0, and a 7- 0, all ELR 4) and that there is a strong possibility of their main squad contingent reducing down to a 447 (SS) very quickly with a ELR of 2. Hmmm. Less good - I expect to see numerous 447s by scenario end. Finally I receive 12 x ? in addition to those received due to British offboard setup, so I need to set some good dummy stacks - this combines nicely with a 2 HIP squad equivalent potential to create a few tricks for unwary British tanks and three boresighted locations for the machine-guns.

The Brits, despite their late war "lets avoid undue casualties" ELR of 3, are awesome: 18 no-cowering 457s, 4 x 247s, 2 x Lt Mtr, 6 x LMG, 2 x MMG, 4 x Piats, 6 (six!) Comets and 4 M5 halftracks. In this environment, with no long-range enemy AT assets or armour to worry about, the Comet is a brilliant tank with both SD and SM (3-hex range), 6FP of MGs and a 12 FP equivalent 77L gun for knocking dug-in tough guys out of stone buildings. They also have outstanding leadership (9-2 plus a load of 8-1s and 8-0s) - a really nice mobile, late war assault group. They also have the boards and armoured mobility to surround the village in very short order whilst the bulk of their infantry are swiftly assaulting the village the hard way from the front. Knowing that Tom plays hard and aggressive on the attack, I quickly reject any notion of being able to slip off a bunch of infantry through the open area to the north of the village to get some easy escape VP - he's far too good to let that happen - so I set up for an all-round contracting defence of the village with the intention of trying to hold eleven building hexes or get him on the low CVP cap (another mechanic to reflect the quoted wish to avoid excess casualties on the behalf of the British), finalising on the big Board 10 factory where all my troops will be fanatic by SSR. Recognising but yet rejecting the 'escape clause' made the setup a little easier as I was able to be more focussed - all the HIP and boresighting traps were put in place to whack incautious Brit infantry or tanks in the environs of the village - a HIP PSk HS in woods on both the east and west side in middle ground locations and a 658 MMG combo in the backfield to try and put the hammer on slack Brit squads creeping around to seal off the rear.

As expected, Tom moved two split armour forces with HTs to the northwest and east of the village to seal off any immediate thoughts of running offboard. He also moved in strongly with a big ground assault directly into the teeth of the defence on the southwest and southern sides of the village, supported by a couple of Comets, trying but failing to find SM shells. I had set up tough with the big HMG stack in the factory and then squads and dummies scattered evenly around the rest of the village. Through armoured assault Tom marched hard onto my outlying defences and I missed three PF shots and 2 PSk shots in a row - eventually I managed to find a 'Shrek shell and reduced a Comet to atoms and started the VP assault (two for the crew only, vehicles not counting against the balance). Tom also tried to jump an isolated half-squad in hexrow EE in CC - these guys were total heroes and managed to whack two squad equivalents over three turns before going down on the fourth attempt. Despite missing another ambush with a concealed squad against a CX half-squad, I eventually managed to get them too - Tom's VP cap was rising sharply by Turn 2. I was however, taking some sharp knocks in return - an outlying squad was encircled and then wiped for FTR (no quarter in effect by SSR), and other squads and half-squads were being reduced or eliminated slowly, especially in the SE corner of the village.

Seeing the need to get more cheap victory points by killing tanks with Faust fire, I ran another two squads out into the woods line on the southwest side of the village, but these guys got hosed by a +6 shot from an adjacent Comet despite smoke, woods TEM, buttoned up and a CA change. Eeek. I did manage to smoke another Comet from a long- distance Shrek shot (two more VP), and knocked off some riders for some more VP. One of the HIP half-squad traps whacked a British half- squad adjacent in the open, but I also had a MMG fail for a heart- stopping turn before recovering. Turn 3 was absolutely horrible - in another missed by 'one' shot sequence, I rolled a series of 9, 11, 10, 11, 8 and 9 for a series of To Hits and IFT rolls - my "usual roll horribly in one long sequence" event for any scenario I play. At this point, the defence was collapsing badly and although the British CVP cap was at 12, things were breaking horribly everywhere. A Psk X'ed on an 11, a half-squad rallied themselves to death on a 12, and one of my leaders did the same - to counteract this Tom X'ed one of his two FT (oh yes, the Brits also had two FTs!) on his first shot. Then he berserked one of my whole squads who subsequently went down in a hail of flame and gun fire. Despite this, Tom was still having trouble getting all his units co-ordinated and focussed at any one point or place at any one time, reflected by an inability to rally a 8-0, 2 x 457 stack for three turns. In contrast, I managed to battle harden my 8-0 with the HMG to an 8-1 - a vital turn of affairs as it turned out.

By Turn 4, things were getting desperate for me - my counter attack in the woods had failed, my HMG squad had broken and with two other squads, were forced to rout to the back of the factory with the 8-1. Only my very backline was holding tough with a 658/LMG and a 658/MMG FG holding back the British mobile force at the very back of the village. I had to rally the Factory HMG force and this is where the Fanatic bonus allied to the additional -1 leadership from the battle hardened leader just did the trick - I managed to just rally the lot of them, and then moved back to the front of the factory and reclaim the temporarily lost HMG. We then ended up in a Mexican standoff with Tom's 9-2 and 2 x 457 stack which were now like a rabbit in the headlights: in the open amongst the swirling smoke - who would blink first? Tom crucially rolled an 11 on the Brit Prep Fire in T5 and my big stack came through unscathed. I then whacked him hard in the open with a -1 directed HMG - I managed to firstly pin the 9-2 in return and then break one of the squads, but most importantly, kept rate. Further fire CR'ed the broken squad, broke the unbroken 457 and managed to break the 9-2! Yaay! To add to my fortune, Tom was unable to rally the 9-2 in German Turn 5, and I kept the pressure on with more ROF which CR'ed the half-squad. Bigger Yaay and another VP. This fire only wounded the broken 9-2 however, and the last broken squad pulled out consecutive snakes on two 1 MC - the first resulted in disruption, but they weren't adjacent and no quarter was in effect anyway, so this was like a null result for me. The second snakes was for me even more heart-breaking - battle hardening and hero creation was a result and these guys were now pretty much unscathed. I was 1 point away from victory but out of bullets in this part of the village and feeling gutted.

Luckily though my backline was still there, fighting hard, rough and tough. I knew that if I failed to scratch any of the British infantry now, I was probably going to lose as I had already missed with a long range Pf on one of his tanks and I had also had one further shot at another broken squad in woods, but these guys had also passed a game winning MC with yet another of the many 4s that Tom rolled on his special dice. Tom had both my backline key squads double-acquired by three Comets and it was only going to be a round or two before I went down in a hail of tank shells. I had one final 16 FP shot left at an unbroken squad in a stone building - amazingly, these guys broke, and best of all, both MGs kept rate! Woohoo! The follow up shot was crucial - again a 4 on the IFT for me and a 1MC for Tom. Heart in mouth time. Pass this and there is nothing left to shoot and he's going to be carving me to small, feldgrau coloured pieces...

Tom rolls a 10. The squad casualty reduces. 1 VP for me. The magic 20 CVP cap is reached. Game over. German win.

Awesome game with a great opponent - the guys in Texas are such fun to play and Tom's a star! We had the usual ASL madness (a berserker, three cases of battle hardening, two fate die-rolls for the Germans, my sniper landing directly on Tom's sniper to remove it from the game, five malfunctions (three for Tom, including the FT and two Comet MA (one repaired)) and much end-game nail-biting desperation where every roll counted. In post-game discussion, we both thought Tom had probably pushed a bit too hard too early - the loss of the two Comets was four good VP for me - he also was very unlucky with the half-squad from hell CC which also took another four VP. His inability to rally the 8-0 stack was important as their extra firepower would have been helpful too. Finally, despite my usual mid- game dicing of myself, I did receive some top ROF die-rolls at the very end to just send Tom over the CVP limit - if I hadn't done that, he would certainly have won the game on the other VC as I was fast running out of troops to hold buildings and the British still had troops in abundance - I had under 50% of my force left at game end and I was seriously acquired by the tanks - the last round really was a round of all or nothing and luckily it just paid off.

Great scenario, much fun, needs some careful playing with both forces and demands some tough decision making for both sides, which is always the sign of a good ASL scenario. Recommended.

If you have comments, as always, would like to hear back!