Wednesday, December 05, 2007

AAR: J53 Setting the Stage

Matt Shostak
Russians: Matt Shostak
Germans: Mike Denson

The second of Pete Shelling's brilliant Broadway to Prokhorovka mini-CG trilogy of Kursk scenarios, this action has a character all its own. It's a short (5 turns) and sharp firefight between the SS and Russian Guards, over the relatively open countryside boards 33 and 44. As the Russian player faces the playing area, board 44 is at the top and 33 at the bottom. The key terrain features are the 3 clusters of buildings. One is smack dab in the middle of board 44, and contains only one multi-hex building. Another is at the right side of 44, just across the board join, and has two multi-hex buildings. The last is in the middle, but close to the bottom edge of board 33. These multi-hex buildings are important because the Germans can win by controlling any 3 of the 5 total. They can also win by exiting about 45 CVP off the map at the lower right half of the board. That lower right half is dominated - nearly covered entirely - by a couple of huge grain fields. One of the big attractions of this trilogy is that each player gets to choose parts of his forces. Here the Russians get to spend some points on fortifications, and their tank choice is between 4 heavier KVs with boxed 11 armor, or 4 faster, lighter KVs with an armor leader. The Germans get to pick two of three groups of tanks, and also between two roughly equal platoons of infantry and halftracks.

I chose almost entirely mines and wire, and the heavier KVs, figuring I'd need their armor against the Tigers. Any Russians set up in buildings get to be HIP, and naturally the fortifications start hidden as well, so there wasn't much to look at from my setup, although there were a few counters on board under concealment. I put just a token force in the front middle building, and the majority in the other two clusters, especially the right side one, which looked like the most likely target of the German assault. Several wire counters went in front of the rear buildings, and a few squads were there, plus my 7-0 and field phone to call for 80mm mortars. Most of my mines went to the right side building area, mostly in front of the buildings. One wire was used to block a gap in the woods to hinder his vehicular movement.

The SS attack was about as subtle as a punch in the nose, and as brutally effective. They lined up on the right side (as I faced the map) and just charged straight at the right side building cluster. The tanks led the way, coming on crew exposed and popping a lot of smoke with their dischargers. Several tanks stopped just two hexes away from the building to shell the defenders. The infantry followed up, often with armored assault, to close the distance quickly. My 9-2, MMG, 4-5-8 commenced the shooting with an 8 down 2 at a full stack of 3 SS squads and a leader, and rolled boxcars to malfunction the weapon immediately. It would later be ruined on the next repair roll. The offboard mortar artillery arrived in my preregistered hex and shocked a PzIII, which was then hit and killed by my 45LL gun, which was set up behind the front and center building pointing back toward the right.

I won't try to describe the exact order of the rest of the events at the right hand building cluster, but instead just try to note the highlights. However, the first key moment I can't forget. The SS were bunched up, without a lot of cover, in front of the buildings. I had artillery falling just a few hexes away. I could make a 3-hex correction and drop it right on top of a juicy stack, with the likelihood of taking under fire several other locations packed with infantry as well. The line of sight was tricky, and I had to think about it a while. Finally I decided the potential reward was worth the risk of a blocked line of sight from the observer. I rolled for contact on the phone, and came up boxcars again. Ouch. I was extremely disappointed, not so much because this would hurt my chances to win (although it would), but because this was one of those rare opportunities in ASL. How often do you manage to get everything lined up just right for an artillery stonk on a whole bunch of the enemy at once? After the game I measured the LOS and it was clear, so anything but a 12 on the roll would have put the Germans in some hurt. Admittedly, it could have strayed on top of some of my guys in the buildings too, but they had better cover, were likely dead anyway, and the potential for a huge score against the SS was right there in front of my eyes. And it was guaranteed to land on some of the Germans. It was so disappointing.

The German infantry, despite their tremendous firepower, had a lot of trouble breaking the stalwart Russians in these buildings. Part of that was because the vehicular smoke drifted in the wind and hindered many of their early shots, part of it was poor dice for Mike, and part of it was timely morale rolls on my part. The Germans were hardly bothered by the mines. It only slowed them down, and the tanks drove right over them (they were AP mines, not AT), and created trail breaks for the infantry to follow. The German vehicles aggressively drove on top of the Russians, or in bypass, to limit Russian fire opportunities against the SS infantry. But they paid the price. The other PzIII was killed in close combat, with the Russian squad generating an 8-1 leader to boot. The Russian 9-2 battle hardened to a 10-2 early, and when a StuG got up close and personal in bypass, the 10-2 showed the squad how to immobilize it, which effectively mission-killed it since it couldn't see anything from that bypass vertex. The other StuG also died in CC when a Russian 4-5-8 jumped it in the road. One Tiger bogged on the wire, and later mired. The other continued his bypassing ways, but eventually immobilized on a startup roll, also in a place where it had limited effectiveness. A series of hot rolls from the Russian troops took their toll on the SS, but all of a sudden in one fire phase, the Germans broke the last of them and captured the two buildings.

At this late stage in the game, it looked like Mike was going to push for the exit victory, and so I reinforced that area with my tanks. After some consideration, however, it looked like he changed his strategy on the fly and took a right turn for the lone building in the middle. I think this was a smart play, because the exit strategy was looking less and less viable. The timetable was short either way, but taking just one building looked easier. I don't think I played very well in the end game. For one thing, I was too convinced that Mike would still go for the exit. I should have hedged my bets a little and sent two tanks to the middle building, and the other two to guard the exit. I also blundered with one of my KVs. I decided to drive it past some German infantry to reinforce the threatened building, but I forgot that the squad had a flamethrower. It was hidden under a CX marker. I paid the price as Mike jumped on the opportunity and killed the tank. Later I drove another KV next to this squad (at least I knew what I was doing this time), and the German FT squad dispatched that one too.

On his last turn charge the lone mobile Tiger, which had untangled itself from the wire earlier, charged out in front of my 82mm mortar crew and went CE. I figured he'd try to pop smoke to cover his infantry assault on the remaining building, so my nearby KV held its fire, waiting on the infantry move instead. Mike promptly declared bounding fire and killed that KV too, and even brewed it up, which would greatly hinder the fire of my squad that was underneath, hoping to cover the approaches to the last building. I only had one KV left, and its fire was hindered by that smoking wreck too. Yikes. The SS charge fell short in the end however, when my infantry fire from in and around the building went on a hot streak and broke and pinned several units. Mike threw in the towel at that point.

Great game, Mike, you outplayed me over the last couple of turns and almost pulled it out. As I said earlier, I'd recommend this scenario to anyone. At 5 turns it should be playable in a tournament setting, although it might be helpful to arrive at the tourney with a Russian setup already written down since there is so much HIP to record and that can take time. Also, this scenario has reinvigorated my desire to play the Broadway to Prokhorovka CG, of which it comprises the middle third. As a club we once tried to play this as a relay with different pairs of players in each round, but in this case I want to give it a try on my own against someone in all three. I think some of the CG considerations might very well change each game in some subtle ways too. Banzai!! 6.2 has analyses of all three of these scenarios, which I think are well worth reading. Carl Kusch did an excellent job studying Setting the Stage for that issue.

Monday, November 26, 2007

AAR: SP142 To No Avail

Zeb Doyle
Germans: Eric Gerstenberg
Russians: Zeb Doyle
Here's another quick AAR from the Eric archives, featuring an east front rumble taking place about ten days after Kursk. Despite the battering the Germans received there, SP142 To No Avail finds some SS on the attack, attempting to wrest a fortified town away from the Russians. I was given the plucky defenders (8x 4-5-8s, T-34, T-70, 45LL ATG, and a bunch of wire and mines) and was tasked with holding both a factory and a large building on board one. Eric, who had to take one of the two buildings to win, got 8x 6-5-8, 3x 5-4-8 assault engineers, a FT, and two each of some 75mm and 20mm armed half-tracks and seven turns to get the job done. One of the more interesting aspects to this scenario is that the defender has armor superiority, although the urban terrain and the German FT and ATMM (by SSR) go a long way towards making this just a small advantage. Also interesting is that the scenario goes a full seven turns, not six and a half. The Germans will get one final round of defensive fire and CC to try and root out any last stubborn Russian defenders at game end. To make the rooting-out process as tough as possible, I placed my T-34 in the factory and surrounded it with most of my troops and mines. A few pickets, including the T-70 went forward to try and slow the SS attack, while the wire was positioned in choke points across the map, hoping to channel the German HTs onto my AT gun.

The German attack sent everyone crashing into the left side of my defenses. This approach offered somewhat better cover and a nice jumping-off point to get at the factory, but didn't threaten the second building at all so I was able to leave a very small garrison there and pack the factory full of 4-5-8s. The luck went my way early when a 4+2 shot from one of my pickets broke an 8-0 (represented by Eric's personal Sgt. Gerstenberg counter!) and 3x 6-5-8s. In an inspired bit of trash-talking, I told Eric he should move his 9-1 to set up a rally point for the brokies because Sgt. Gerstenberg would never manage to self-rally on his own. Eric took that as a personal challenge and moved the 9-1 up to the front to direct fire instead. Two game turns later, the 9-1 was seen running to the rear again to rally the (still-broken) platoon of hapless SS...Meanwhile, my attempts at using the wire to channel the HTs worked out quite well when both the 75mm tracks ended up in the same location. It turned out my 45LL had an LOS to the overstacked hex, and I managed to miss by one and roll a subsequent dr of 1 to brew up one of the HTs. An IF shot finished off the second one as well. It was cool getting the rarely seen overstacked kill, and rather important too, as some brutal SS FP broke my AT crew and they never got back into the game. The early demise of both 75mm HTs was also big since they were the only ranged AT threats in the German OB.

With a big chunk of his OB broken or dead for the first three turns, Eric was a bit behind and started to get even more aggressive in an attempt to even things up. He caught a big break when he decided to run his remaining two HTs past my T-70 and my first shot resulted in a malfed MA. That trapped a few of my squads outside the factory, in positions that were nice but not decisive. Meanwhile, a bunch of smoke grenades from the SS 5-4-8 assault engineers made the streets a little less dangerous for the Germans. Soon, the jack-booted thugs were well ensconced in their jumping-off positions for the final assault. At this point, the 6-5-8s had some serious FP staring at me and I was down to five GO squads in the VC factory so I had a tough choice to make: try and cover the street or sag back into the building and hit the SS as they came adjacent. I figured that since my mines were in good spots, the majority of Eric's troops would have to run through 6+0 attacks anyway and so I opted to set up an interior factory defense. It seemed like a fine idea at the time, but it also had the effect of making Eric's turn six very simple: he'd have to move since he couldn't see any Russians. Often in ASL, if you have two options that are roughly equal, going with the option that leaves your opponent making the tough choice is better, and I didn't do that here.

At any rate, on turn six the Germans, unburdened with the decision to fire or move, rushed towards the factory and prepared to advance into it adjacent to my concealed defenders. The minefields were a big disappointment; I had eight or nine attacks and broke only a HS...although it was the one with the FT. Still, that put more Germans adjacent to me than I had hoped for at the start of my turn, making my PFPh critical. Unfortunately, my bullets were as ineffective as my mines, with a 16+0, multiple 8+1s, and some T-34 IF shots at point-blank targets breaking only a few of Eric's SS. His DFPh smashed me up pretty well and suddenly most of my OB was routing out of the factory. To shore up my sagging defenses, I drove the T-70 into the factory and in the APh, arranged my few remaining units to block any Germans moving adjacent in their last MPh. I figured that still gave me a great chance to hold the building for the win, even with the licking Eric was putting on me, since his only good AT weapon was CC.

The German half of turn seven saw Eric's first attempt to deal with the T-70 as Sgt. Gerstenberg wrested the FT away from the broken HS he'd been unable to rally. The ensuing PFPh blasted away the rest of my infantry, leaving only the T-34 and T-70 holding the factory, but also generated a sniper that unerringly sought out Sgt. Gerstenberg and wounded him....leaving him unable to move the FT and completing his bad day! The rest of the German infantry moved to confront the T-34, which broke a few of them but not enough, and the two 20mm HTs were sent on a desperation dash to take on the T-70. The HTs had really hurt me throughout the game, but after the T-70 malfed its gun trying to kill them, Eric had done a great job of keeping them alive and active. Now, as the SS infantry swamped my T-34 in CC and easily took it out, it was up to those pesky 20mm cannons to deal with my last good order unit and save the day. I was pretty confident that my 6/4 armor would serve me in good stead against the 8TK (base 6, +2 for range) and 2 ROF of the cannons. I was right for a while, easily surviving the German AFPh, but I then had to last through an agonizing last Russian turn seven. There was no way I was going to try and repair my MA, and there was nothing Eric could do except shoot me with the HTs, so it came down to his DFPh for the game. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, Eric let the suspense build and build before rolling up a CH on his last IF shot. No crew survived and it ended with a German win.

Despite my heart-breaking ending, the scenario was still a lot of fun, matching the powerful SS infantry against some elite defenders with armor superiority. Beside the sheer enjoyment of mocking Sgt. Gerstenberg, it was really cool to see the Germans work their way back into the game despite a bad start. One of Eric's greatest ASL strengths is his bull-dog tenacity which means he sees a lot of end-games and knows how to handle them. That served him very well in our match as he was behind coming into the last two turns but didn't panic and managed to maximize his chances for victory. I think there's a lesson there for newbies in particular: even if you get behind early, try to play it out and see what happens. You may or may not fight your way back into it, but you'll certainly learn something and eventually become an end-game master like Eric.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, November 12, 2007

AAR: DB018 Special Delivery

Tom Gillis

Germans: Walter Eardley
Tom Gillis: Partisans

A few of the guys showed up and we played a little ASL today. Lotsa fun. Bill and Chris played a playtest scenario for MMP Normandy '44 stuff, and Walt and I played a Dispathes of the Bunker one called Special Delivery. Early war SS and local fascists, along with some kriegsmarine toting a FT attack 12 postal workers and Polish civilians armed with an allied minor mmg and atr. They're represented as 337 Partisans. Since Partisans are stealthy and my SAN was a 5, (ELR too,) I actually thought I'd have pretty good troops. His SS were 468s ELR 3, and the fascists were represented by conscript axis minors squads "led" by a 6+1. The marines were 548s. 12 SS, 6 Fsts, 4KM vs 12 337 who are fanatic in the 'Post Office' (bldg aK3) on deluxe bd a. The bad guys have to capture 14 out of 27 locations in bldg aK3 w/o losing less than or equal to 19 CVPs. Also the Germans get two early war ACs with an IFE of 9. I bagged one early on with the ATR so the other one kept quite cautious as the game went on. I also start with 12 ?s so the beginning can be a bit cat and mouse. Walt knowing my ?s were out there, but not wanting to lose CVPs by blundering thru them. And this being only a 5 turn game, the Germans have to move. Anyway Walt cleared most of the area around aK3, being very careful with his 336s because capture counts as double by SSR _during_the game, and the 19CVP takes effect imediately. I'd lost a couple of squads to the heavy SS firepower in the neighborhood in front of the Post Office, but I'd thought maybe I'd gained at least half a turn as the SS cleared it out...Also my SAN 5 was awesome. He wounded Walts SS 9-1 on T1 and wounded his KM 8-0 on T2! Later on he wacked the FT HS and hit him a couple of times, virtually keeping him out of the battle the whole game. Some highlights I remember: Walt having several 30+3/4 shots that did nothing, A HS of postal workers went berserk in the Post Office, ran out of the building, into the street dodging hails of SS gunfire only to meet his bloody, (but glorius,) end in the CC phase...! Also ambushing of couple of Walts 468s in a side building as they were trying to flank aK3. That put me back into the game as prior to that, say turns 2 thru 4, Walts firepower and good manuver had got a sea of black counters to the cover of the wall outside the PO to pretty much no losses. Finally Walt moved his 336s into the line of fire. (Cowardly bastards had hid in stone TEM the whole game trying to roost out some concealed partisans who turned out to be sacks of mail with brooms stuck near them for rifles...) They were thinking let the Germans do the fighting and we'll charge in for the glory...Not so fast you beerhalle swillin' puffed shirts, the Postmaster, an 8-1, has been waiting for you all game long. I took a chancy 6+2 shot at them and ended up breaking nearly the lot. That helped bigtime on turn five because Walt had less troops to secure the VCs. To sum it up, Walt got some good firepower into aK3, and took both my fortified (by SSR) locations. He had cleared out the ground floor which gave him 9 locations, plus he had all the stairwells so I was under encirclement. He had the VC locations or would be able to just get up to 14. But ambushing his flankers pushed his CVP cap dangerously closer and that suddenly was looming over him. I was just trying to keep concealment with my last few troops and hope for some last turn dash to take back locations, when some timely rallying and good shooting put a big cramp in Walt's plan for a last turn 5 assault. I pinned some KM in a stairwell and kept them from advancing to victory hexes. (They were being led by an SS 8-1 at this point and the marines must have not liked his tone or something...) Walt actually did a cool thing by self breaking them and routing them with a ldr to a vacant hex. If they rallied in my last rally phase they would be in good order and thereby able to control the hex. When the SS 8-1 a KM548, and some CX'd HS or something finally did advance into my 8-1/337/mmg hex I ambushed him again. None of his guys rallied in my last player turn. So with only about 40 postmen left, the citizens of Gdansk were able to hold out a little longer than in real life. As always it was a blast to play Walt. Some of this last turn stuff is getting fuzzy now, but basically thats how it went.

Thanks for rolling all those 5s!
It was great to see everyone, and it was cool to hang out with y'all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review: Friendly Fire Pack 3

Zeb Doyle

Of all the ASL releases in October (and thanks to ASLOK, there are a lot), I've been looking forward most of all to the Dispatches From the Bunker and the Friendly Fire stuff. Walter did a very nice job summarizing the Bunker scenarios, so I figured I'd quickly comment on the Friendly Fire creations. These guys are based out of Sweden and do great work. I've played a lot of the scenarios from their first two packs and really enjoyed them all. The designers have a knack for creating tourney-sized actions with simple SSRs that still provide lots of replay value and require lots of thought. Their stuff is much less cookie-cutter than Schwerpunkt and overall I'd currently rate them as my favorite design group. The Friendly Fire scenarios are also a great value for the money at $15 for 8 scenarios, especially considering that out of each pack six or seven of the scenarios look like fun to me. Obviously tastes will vary, but I'm generally pretty picky and usually buy packs expecting to be only interested in about half the enclosed scenarios. In short, if you're looking to expand your ASL collection, I highly recommend all the Friendly Fire stuff. You can get it at various retailers in the US or directly from them at I've ordered from them in the past and shipping is actually very quick, about six days from order to arrival. With the praise phase concluded, and the disclaimer that this is largely based on a 30 second scan of the scenarios, let me run down the details of the latest pack:

FrF17 The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: Japanese attacking Chinese, 5 turns, 35 total squads, two tanks.

As you can guess, this scenario revolves around the famous clash just outside Beijing that led to the Sino-Japanese war and involves a tough force of Japanese being attacked by a ton of not-so-tough Chinese. It's also a cool example of how the Friendly Fire guys make their scenarios simple but interesting. The Japanese win at game end by hanging on to some buildings, but each squad of prisoners they capture counts as a building too. Given the large number of Chinese conscripts running around, that VC provision sounds like it'll really complicate the attack. Cool!

FrF18 Through Fire And Ice: Russians attacking Finns, 6.5 turns, 23 total squads, 11 vehicles.

This is a Winter War scenario with Deep Snow and has the Russians attempting to break through a Finnish defense and exit some trucks. Interesting situation, but doesn't excite me as much as some of the other scenarios.

FrF19 About His Shadowy Sides: Russians attacking Germans, 7.5 turns, 23 total squads, six tanks.

Barbarossa action here, with some monster KV-2s crashing into a German battalion HQ and fighting off some late-arriving PzIVDs. I got to play this one at the San Antonio game day and it's definitely a lot of fun. I'll try to write up a full AAR later, but let me just say that after commanding the 75mm howitzer armed Panzers, I can really see the KV as Kraken comparison.

FrF20 Adolf's Amateurs: German SS attacking Russians, 6.5 turns, 19 total squads, four tanks

This is more Barbarossa, and the SS are 4-4-7s and Green by SSR. I've always thought the SS (especially early war) are overrated in ASL so I like that aspect. Both sides also get some armor and the BT-7s vs PzIIID and PzIIA looks challenging for both sides.

FrF21 Cavalry Brigade Model: Germans attacking Russians, 5.5 turns, 23 total squads, three tanks.

Another East Front scenario, but this time in 1942. On the dense terrain of boards 32 and 37, German cavalry gets to clear out some hapless Russians. Cavalry is always fun, especially when it can enter from any board edge and this is another I'm looking forward to trying.

FrF22 Wunderwaffe: Russians attacking Germans, 6 turns, 26 total squads, nine tanks.

Still 1942 East Front, and the Russians are on the attack against those 75LL squeeze-bore guns I was asking about the other day. They're cool weapons with the 24TK and 2 ROF, but the VC are even cooler: the Russians win by capturing buildings or a working squeeze-bore, so the German has to be very careful about where he places them. Really want to give this one a try.

FrF23 Elephants Unleashed: Germans attacking Russians, 5.5 turns, 17 total squads, 13 tanks.

Kursk action now, with 6-2-8 and 8-3-8 assault engineers battling it out as SU-152s and Elephants trade shots. Russians get a few fortifications, Germans can win by capturing buildings or exiting. Another scenario I am anxious to try.

FrF24 Forging Spetsnaz: Russians attacking Japanese, 6 turns, 33 total squads, three vehicles.

Late war scenario with a bunch of very tough Russians (6-2-8s with the 4 smoke exponent) tearing into a rather feeble Japanese force. Both sides are pretty intermingled, which is always interesting and makes things tricky for both sides. I need to actually set up the boards for this one but it looks very intriguing.

That's it for the overview. I think I spotted a few inconsequential typos and one minor one (In FrF24, Elements of 140th Reconnaissance Detachment set up two hexes from 23GG5. Should that be two or less hexes? Again, I haven't pulled the boards, so this may make more sense when looking at the map). Regardless, all the Friendly Fire packs are very high quality and my only real grip with them is the funny-sized paper those Swedes insist on using :) If you're looking for ASL products that are high quality and offer great bang for the buck, you can't go wrong with these.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Sam for doing the data input on these so we can play them!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review: Dispatches From The Bunker #25

Walter Eardley
Much to my delight, I found the latest Dispatches From the Bunker in my mail box yesterday. It looks like another solid issue from the guys back East. Of the 3 scenarios, two of them have moved to my Wanna Play List and the third looks like a quick tournament sized scenario.

DB061 – Housing Crash – With all of the subprime news lately this scenario title made me laugh. The main “Oh yeah baby!” factor here for me is the scenario is played on Deluxe boards. I am a sucker for Deluxe and look forward to anything new produced for those boards. It is Kharkov 1943 and the Germans attack with 10 838 sporting 6 DCs and 3 FTs lead by a 9-2, 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0. The Russians defend with 15 447s a HMG, MMG and a couple of 50* MTRs. Many of the Red Barricades rules are in effect including roof tops, factories, Booby Traps level C and a stealthy designation for the Russian elite and 1st line squads. With only 5 and a half turns to take >= 17 buildings, those 838 will need to be the Supermen they are touted to be. Instant wanna play for me.

DB062 – Heroic Defense of Wake – This looks like a great Thursday selection for the Austin Tournament. This is the Japanese second invasion of Wake. It starts at night and moves into daylight. There is a LOT going on in this scenario. It is very heavy on overlays and terrain changes. I saw on the ASL Forums someone had created a PRN file from VASL. I think printing this out ahead of time would really help. There really is too much going on to do a detailed write up but to me it looks like a blast. I will tell you the Japanese landing craft start beached Fast Aground at start so no driving landing craft (those rules are brutal).

DB060 – Acorns in the Fire – This is kinda your basic 6.5 turn combined arms low squad density scenario. It looks like good tournament fodder but does not make me want to jump up and down and pull the boards out. 8 666 and 4 347s lead by a 9-1 and supported by 3 75 Shermans and a M4 105 attacking 2 467s and 5 447s supported by a couple of Mark IVJs on boards 19 and 43. It is probably a solid scenario but again it looks kinda vanilla to me. I will add it to my tournament collection.

There is an analysis of Bloody Bobruisk and some other articles which I will have to spend a little time reading. Over all it looks good at first glance.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AAR: 117 With Tigers On Their Tail

Roy Casagranda

Hungarians: Roy Casagranda
Russians: Walter Eardley

Well after my lament about MMP's absurd delays and how that caused me to lose interest in AoO, Commissar Walter ordered me to open my copy and play him in "With Tigers on Their Tail." I have been trying to play the Russians more lately so I asked for that side. Upon arriving in Houston, however, Zeb talked Walter and me into switching sides for reasons that can only be described as diabolical.

I had looked at the map and the situation before leaving for Houston, but decided that until I saw Walter's set up and first turn that there was no way to really make much of a plan, but with the sides switched I was at a loss about what to do. The Hungarians have a very tricky situation. They are supposed to exit 30 EVP or more and more EVP than the Russians. Their EVP come in the form of 2 tigers, 8 inferior tanks, 6 trucks, 18 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers. To counter this the Russians have 19 tanks, two scout cars, two GAZ 67-B, 6 trucks, 22 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers.

The Russian tanks include 12 T-34s including 3 x 85mm versions. Their squads are 447s and 527s as compared to Hungarian 447s and 347s. In every way the Russian force is superior except for the two tigers. The tigers get to set up on map, but everything else must enter from the north edge. Since the Hungarians move first the first turn is a sort of Hungarian setup turn. All of this also means that the Hungarians cannot simply delay the Russians. Since the Russians move last the Hungarians must either stop the Russians or else leave enough on the map to stop the Russians from exited too much of their force on the last turn. Having said that I began to doubt that would be much of an issue by the end of turn two. I doubted their would be any Hungarians left to exit by then.

The Russians do come in piecemeal on turns 1, 2, 3, and 5. They have considerably more EVP available, so the Hungarians cannot simply exit. They must stop the Russians and then exit.

I just had no idea what to do, so I decided that I would enter in anticipation of how I planned to attack as the Russians. The turn 1 reinforcements are 3 T-70s, 4 SU-76s, and 2 scout cars. Turn 2 Russians are 16 squads and 6 trucks. Turn 3 included 7 T-34s and 6 squads. The reinforcements conclude on Turn 5 with 5 more T-34s. As the Russians I had decided to cancel some of the piecemealedness of the attack by entering the turn 1 and 2 forces in a relatively safe area and just wait the turn 3 forces. On turn 3 I would then attack the in combined arms on the Hungarian's weakest flank. My goal was to get behind the Hungarians and take out one tiger. By assuming that Walter would attack this way I entered my boys on turn 1 with at least one more MPh in mind. I split my forces up pretty evenly between both flanks figuring that a Russian run up the open middle would be suicidal. I planned to get into position so that on turn two I could get to my final destination. I put one Tiger on board 11 overlay Hi8 and the other one with the 8-1 AL on the forward most level 4 hex on board 9. Two lucky hull down dr of 2 gave me 3 hexsides for each Tiger (I needed a 2 or less and a 3 or less to get this result).

Walter came on full attack. His T-70s and SU-85s drove right up to my tanks. By the end of turn 1 I had only managed to trade tank losses with him. Things were off to a grim start. In this scenario trading kills meant a sure fire defeat for the Hungarians. In fact I don't even recall having one of the Turan IIs I lost it so fast.

On turn 2 his infantry joined the fray and began pushing my infantry in the middle back. But some lucky shots kicked in and I started to see his tanks thin a bit. The board 11 tiger was definitely doing his job, but the StuG and one of the Turan Is were doing more than their share. Then the tiger with 8-1 Malfed. My heart sank. In a scenario like this losing a Tiger was probably a death blow, especially so early. EVP at that point was not really a concern.

To repair or not to repair was not as much of a choice as it felt at the time. I had to make the roll and I did: 1. I am now firmly convinced that repair rolls ought to be leader modified! Anyway without missing a beat my Tiger was back and just in time. Walter split his T-34s up between both flanks 5 and 2, and came straight at me. The hero of the day proved to be the StuG. As the T-34s swarmed the board 9 hills he fired. Critical hit one T-34 setting it ablaze. With rate the StuG fired again destroying another T-34. Facing CC with three possible squads I decided to spin around and take an intensive fire shot on the flank of a third T-34. After spinning I needed a 4 to hit. I hit and took out a third T-34. The StuG went down in CC. By the end of turn 4 I was down to a Turan I, a Turan II, and two Tigers. Walter had lost all the T-34s on the right flank, but on board 50 he had two T-34s, a scout car, and a SU-76 still in action. One of the T-34s was immobilized due to a DI attempt by the Turan I in a woods road hex. He was the last tank I had on that flank other than the Tiger that is.

Walter decided to bring on all the Turn 5 reinforcements board 9. After having taken so many losses and having inflicted so many losses I was a bit shook up seeing five more T-34s. It did not matter that I knew that they were coming. Walter finally got the Turan I on the right, but unfortunately for him the tank blazed up. This meant that if I got lucky the woods road hex too might go. It had to happen in the first two possible AFPhs or else Walter could just drive through. Sure enough in the next AFPh the fire spread to the woods. In the subsequent AFPh it turned into a blaze forcing Walter to try to bypass the wooded hill and face bog checks as well as slow progress. I got lucky again. But then Walter realized that his immobilize T-34 had a sneaky LOS to the Tiger on board 9. The side shot resulted in a shock. Walter wanted that bad boy dead so he intensive fired and malfed the immobilized tank's MA.

Facing 6.5 T-34s with one Tiger and a Turan II almost certainly meant that I was out of the game. Zeb, Tom, and Rob were ready to leave so I told them just one more Game turn was needed since I was likely to lose. However, I got another lucky break. On the first RPh I recovered from the shock and went to work on Walter's T-34s. With three remaining he swarmed my hill forcing the Tiger on my right flank to spin around. With the enemy out of LOS of my left Tiger I swung around and fired at the immobilized T-34. Several attempts to fix the MA had failed and I managed to prevent more attempts by setting the tank a blazed. With the woods now burning and all the carnage on board 9 and 50 there was quite a bit of smoke on the map.

In the meantime in the center of the map my enter infantry force was broken. I had managed to MALF and then X out all my support weapons except for one LMG. Things seemed grim, but several lucky shots from my boys on the board 9 hill and from Tanks, succeeded in breaking the Russians running through OG, giving me time to rally the center.

My 8-1 manned Tiger on the right flank faced a T-34/85 and two T-34/M43s. I had to spin my VCA towards the and focus my attention on the T-34/85. I destroyed it without setting it ablaze luckily. Then one of the M43s managed a successful DI against the Tiger. The 8-1 and company managed to stay in the tank and took down another T-34. With one left on that flank Walter decided to hunt down my Turan II, but he failed to get him. My tiger finished off the pursuing T-34. He was down to one T-34 on left and a SU-76 mired in the woods. Walter threw in the towel. The scenario was always close. Had I lost the Tiger on the right Walter would have most certainly have won. In fact had I not repaired the MA and recovered from the shock immediately, as I had done in both cases, I probably would have lost the scenario. It was that close the whole time. Walter was a great opponent and took constant advantage of my weaknesses. He forced me to take some scary intensive fire shots and on occasion to ignore some scary T-34 M43 flank shots on my Tigers. For almost the entire scenario (except maybe the last turn that we played) I was pretty certain that Walter would pull it off.

It was a bloody battle. We quit playing on turn 8 and at that point 43 EVPs in GO and a couple of broken squads that would likely have been able to rally.

In the scenario that I played with Tom later I took out 4 more T-34s giving me 15 T-34s, 3 T-70s, and 3 SU-76s for the weekend. It was a tough weekend, but someone had to do it!

All in all both of my opponents gave me great games. Fun nerve racking tension, good sportsmanship, gracious hosting, and lively comradery was the rule of the weekend.

AAR: FO1 Come Seven Come Eleven

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Bill Dorre
Japanese: Zeb Doyle

Today finds me recovering from a fantastic weekend of ASL in Houston. It's always cool to go down for OwlCon, and this was almost as fun. I carpooled it with Rob and Roy and we got in a good discussion of the merits of the King Tiger vs the IS-2m before we arrived at Walter's new digs. He's got a very nice place for game days, and although no sun-bathing beauties appeared, the hospitality was still awesome with lots of barbecue and Kaiser Wilhelm Oktoberfest beer.

I faced off against Bill Dorre in Come Seven, Come Eleven, which is a pretty fun-looking scenario freely available on the web for download:

As you can see, both sides have a nice force but the Americans are pretty pressed for time. In our playing, Bill's boys had their 150mm rockets drift harmlessly astray, every SMOKE shot from the WP9 tanks failed, the OBA man was killed by a sniper after pulling a red card, while I was killing him with .50 cal fire and blowing up his AFVs with Berserkers that ran through more lead than you'll find in a Chinese toy factory. Fun scenario, great opponent, but the dice were very one-sided and the Americans have no margin for error.

Lots of other ASL action went down around me, but I think the game of the day was Walter squaring off against Roy in With Tigers On Their Tails. This is a monster from the Armies of Oblivion that's very fun but flawed in that the two Hungarian Tigers are so vital that it's basically over if anything happens to either of them. I goaded Roy into taking the big cats, and Walter pushed him to the very brink of defeat several times. Every time Roy was almost dead though, he'd roll a one to repair the Tiger MA or a two to bring it back from being Shocked. If the Russians can't KO the Tigers, it turns into a mental test of endurance, with 43 vehicles and 41 squads battling over some crazy LOS terrain for 11 turns. Here, Roy, being the wily veteran of countless untold mental battles of academia, had a substantial edge and began to quote long passages of his dissertation at poor Walter. This was an effective weapon but it had the side affect of driving the rest of us off. As we left for Tom's to continue playing, I noticed Walter was displaying more emotion than I'd ever seen before from him: a slightly disappointed hangdog look of mild frustration. Giving that he was contemplating being along in a room with Roy for seven more turns of a monster scenario, I think Walter is likely the most stoic person I've ever met.

Once at Tom's house, Rob and I squared off in Streets Afire, a deluxe city fight between Hungarians and SS on one side and Russians on the other. This is one of the scenarios from the CH Total Axis Pack I mentioned the other day, and I was pretty excited about playing it. The Axis have some troops trapped in the upper levels of a multi-story building while the Soviets dominate the ground floor and surrounding terrain. At game end, whoever controls the building wins, but some reinforcing SS, Zyrinis,and FT halftracks really complicate the assault on the upper levels. Just to make things even more interesting, the Soviets also get some reinforcing T-34s which have a very small entry area. Given the tight confines of the deluxe boards, it's pretty easy for the Axis to get some PSK teams in the area, so an interesting little side-fight can occur over there, distracting both forces from the main event in the big building. To sum up, you have the Axis defending the top of the big building while attacking the bottom and the Soviets doing the reverse, with the potential for another battle around the T-34 entry area. Very cool situation!

As it worked out, Rob came down with a bad head-ache and set up before the aspirin kicked in. He also rarely plays deluxe scenarios, which have a much more chess-like feel than standard ASL due to the tight quarters the action takes place in. Those two things gave me a big edge right off the bat, and I then started the game with a huge ROF tear from my 9-2/HMG/MMG kill stack and a very lucky ATR shot to bag a FT halftrack. I then managed to storm the upper levels of the victory building without taking any real losses and so we packed it in pretty early. I think the funniest moment from our game was a Hungarian squad doing a Search in the VC building to strip the concealment off of twelve squads and three leaders. We didn't even bother to roll for the Search Casualties...

That was enough ASL for one day, and we switched to watching Curt Schilling get knocked around by the Indians, but the next morning we were back to rolling dice. Roy had wandered in at some point, although I had missed exactly when since he's so small, and he and Tom sat down to play the Streets Afire scenario since Rob and I had left the pieces out. Their game looked like it had a lot of action, with far more force being committed to the battle around the T-34 entry area. It ended up with lots of T-34s being bogged in a burning building, and I think it left Tom with a bit of a bad taste in his mouth. I can understand that, and the entry area is extremely constrained, but I still think it's a pretty cool situation overall.

Meanwhile, Rob and I did battle once again, this time in a SP scenario The Five Pound Prize. It features some SS and Panzer IVs attacking some Brits with 57L AT guns backed by some Shermans. I took the Brits and managed to come away with the win. Early, I couldn't scratch any of Rob's tanks despite having some pretty good shots. My infantry though was basically invincible, taking 2MC and 3MC checks over and over without breaking. Eventually, my defenses started to crumble but I got some sneaky LOS to finally bag three of the SS tanks and Rob just ran out of time. Fun scenario, and a really good one to play at a tournament, but nothing amazing.

Still, ASL is fun ASL, and I really enjoyed all of my three games and hanging out with the Houston crowd. Thanks to Walter and Tom for their hospitality, and I can't wait to do this all again at the San Antonio game day coming up!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 04, 2007

TAP1 First Impression

by Zeb Doyle

The Total Axis Pack is classic Critical Hit: a really cool concept that needs a lot of thought and skill to get it right. In this case, CH has come up with a pack of 12 scenarios and includes 6 new maps to play on. I love the idea, because bigger non-geomorphic maps are much more fun to play on (IMO), but it obviously is asking a lot of CH to do something so ambitious in a well-executed and cost-effective fashion. Well, in this case, I'm happy to say that CH seems to have done a pretty good job although they are far short of perfect.

I got TAP off Ebay for 29.99, which I feel is pretty reasonable for 12 scenarios and six maps. It must be admitted that only one of the maps is the 24"x36" size mentioned in the product description, and one of them is really tiny, but the other four are a decent size and look like fun to play on. So far, well done CH. On the negative side of the ledger, I got it on sale. The CH website indicates they plan to sell it eventually at $49.95, which seems quite steep for what you get. Additionally, the print quality is rather low, with a few paragraphs running so close to the margin that a letter or two of each line is cut off. There are also some unsightly ink stains on several of the scenario cards. None of these are vital issues and won't stop me from playing the game, but they are annoying...hopefully I was just unlucky and caught part of a bad print run.

Another annoyance, and something that has nothing to do with luck, is that the maps don't come precut and are printed with rather tight tolerances, so I've got some pretty tricky work ahead of me with a straight-edge and an x-acto knife before I can play. Again, this isn't a huge deal, and the maps themselves look excellent (no bad printing there), but if I paid $50 for this, I'd be feeling like I really overpaid. One last minor gripe: several of the scenarios use counters from a previous CH product, Finland At War, so if you don't have that, you'll either miss out on some of the contents or have to substitute other counters for the required Finnish tanks and 5-5-8 squads. All in all, TAP looks like one of the better CH releases: cool-looking scenarios, very nice maps, production quality not up to MMP but not horrible, and a bit of work and some hassle required before playing. The other historic bane of CH, rules issues, hasn't made an appearance...a
quick skim of the scenarios and maps raised no questions, which is great. Now, on to the scenarios:

TAP1 Balkan Suicide: Partisians and Bulgarians and Russians attacking SS Police. This one looks really cool, with 4-6-8 SS backed by Tigers defending against an onslaught of motley east front allies including some IS-2s and M3A1 scout cars. It should be a very nice combined-arms fight and has jumped up near the top of my play-list.

TAP2: White Death: Finns attacking Russians. This is some Winter War action, with a bunch of 8-3-8s butchering a herd of 4-2-6s and tanks. Takes place on the teeny tiny map, which is (from memory) something like 5 hexes by 20 hexes. I guess that works for simulating a long-strung out convoy like the Russians have, but I wonder how tough routing is going to be in that space. Seems a little strange.

TAP3 Die A Bitter Death! Russians attacking Germans and Romanians. This one looks rather amusing, with the Germans trying to use the hapless Romanians as a speed-bump while they escape from the attacking Russians. As I look at this one a bit more, I now have a minor rules question on several of these scenarios. Bummer.

TAP4 Streets Afire: Germans and Hungarians attacking Russians. This one is on deluxe maps, and has the always fun situation of a trapped garrison of Axis troops surrounded by Russians. Can reinforcements break through and save the day? Add some Zrinyis and FT halftracks, and this one is also on my play list.

TAP5 Cross-Check: Romanians attacking Hungarians. Looks like a fun combined-arms battle. T-34s against Zrinyis.

TAP6 Viku Baptism: Finns attacking Russians. Another Winter War scenario, and it actually has armor on both sides. The Russian crews start outside their tanks though, and the Finnish AFVs have Red MP and Stall on any start-up roll of 9 or higher, so the infantry will be involved too.

TAP7 A Vicious Melee: SS Germans attacking Bulgarians. Another interesting situation, with the SS using captured French tanks against Bulgarian PzIVs. Some variable OB adds to the fun.

TAP8 Ghastly Sojourn: Hungarians attacking Russians. Turans and Nimrods do battle against towed AT guns.

TAP9 Edelweiss In Decline: Finns attacking Germans. Obviously late-war, this scenario may have the latest appearance of a PzIB in ASL. I can only imagine what the German crew did to be banished to Finland and drive a PzI at this stage of the war...

TAP10 Bertalan's Bridge: Hungarians attacking Yugoslavian. A simple all-infantry scenario involving a struggle over a bridge.

TAP11 Pescara On The Bug: Hungarians attacking Russians. A Barbarossa brawl and another chance to use those Toldis.

TAP12 Petrescu's Cadets: Hungarians attacking Romanians. Another armored force taking on some dug-in Romanians backed by a 47L AT gun.

All in all, it's not a perfect product but given the price I got it at and the fact that I'm a sucker for new maps, I'm quite happy. I think I'll be planning to play several of these scenarios as soon as possible...any takers?


Why are the old Banzai!! PDFs no longer functioning?

The files were lost in the shuffle for a few days, but are now back online.

Here is the link for the entire catalog of goodness.

ESG3 First Impression

by Zeb Doyle
Well, it's October, which means that those of us not fortunate enough to attend ASLOK can at least take solace in the flood of ASL material released there. Yesterday, I managed to get copies of Eastside Gamer's Dezign Pak 3 and Critical Hit's Total Axis Pack 1, and I thought I'd share my initial impressions of them. Obviously, this isn't a review since I haven't done anything other than open the products and look at them, but if nothing else, this'll give our under-appreciated and overworked data-meister Sam a chance to put the scenario info into our club records.

The first two Eastside Gamer packs have had scenarios that vary greatly in size and with a fair amount of typos and misprints but minimal errata. Due to the variation in scenario size, the ESG packs has lesser interest for me because I'll likely never play the tiny and monster games included. Of the scenarios I do play, I've also noticed that replay value seems to be very low. That's because most of the ESG stuff has units setting up in a specific location or exiting off a single hex. Because of that, the action ends up being a bit scripted at times and it feels as though the scenario would play out in very similar fashion time and time again. Due to the scenario size and scripting, something like MMP's Few Returned offers a better bang for the buck (IMO), with 12 scenarios and 3 maps for $24 compared to ESG2's 12 scenarios for $25. Those caveats aside, I have enjoyed the ESG stuff I've played enough that I had no hesitation ordering ESG3 and it looks
very much the same as the first two packs. This isn't a bad thing at all, and I'd recommend ESG to jaded ASLers like myself or (especially) people who do like monster and/or tiny stuff. The scenarios included in ESG3 are:

ESG23 Gak Gak The Ack Ack: Americans attacking Germans. This is a Normandy battle, with 7-4-7 paratroopers trying to knock out some AA guns on three deluxe bocage boards. There are 18 total squad equivalents doing battle for 5.5 turns, so I'd call this small but not tiny, and it's an interesting situation.

ESG24 Mayhem: Germans attacking Russians. This is some Barbarossa action, with a powerful German force (including some sIG IBs) trying to push the Russians off of hills on board 40 and 50. The Russians get amphib tanks that enter via a river which is fun. It's eight turns of action, and I'd call it tourney sized (disclaimer: I helped play-test this one).

ESG25 Road Out Of Rangoon: British/Gurkhas attacking Japanese. This is an early war Burma scenario, and has some retreating British trying to clear some roadblocks assembled by pesky infiltrating Japanese. 6.5 turns, 28 or so total squads, tanks for both sides, this one is making it onto my play-list.

ESG26 Diabolical Shrapnel: Italians attacking Americans. This action takes place in Sicily, using boards 12 and 15, and has some Italians with a deadly 150mm ART piece trying to push around some more 7-4-7 paras. To spice things up a bit, both sides have a 6 SAN and any successful sniper attack can trigger a NOBA attack instead of the normal resolution. Could be interesting.

ESG27 Typhhon's Vortex: Germans attacking Russians. More Barbarossa action, with some elite Germans trying to push through some not-so-good Russians and exit. It's an all-infantry fight lasting 8 turns, and it seems like the German will need all of that time to wear the Russians down. The Soviets get some reinforcements during the game, but it ends up with roughly 15 German squads attacking against 25. Not sure I've ever seen such a disparity for the attacker there, and I wouldn't mind playing it just for that challenge.

ESG28 Dangerous Reliance: Hungarians and Romanians attacking Russians. This is another Barbarossa action, with traditional enemies Hungary and Romania trying to cooperate to beat up on the Russian bear and not doing a very good job of it. I can't tell just from looking at the card, but it appears that scenario will have the Russians trying to hold in some areas and counterattack in others, which is always fun. Looks interesting enough to set up and figure it all out, especially since driving Toldis and Csabas around is so much fun.

ESG29 Blood In The Mud: Canadians attacking Germans. This is a 1945 struggle for the Reichswald scenario, with Kangaroos and Sextons going up against a 120mm MTR. Also has an interesting board configuration with half a map flooded and impassible, which makes the initial assault occur on a very narrow front indeed. Could be fun.

ESG30 Mindanao Mop Up: Japanese attacking Philippine Army. Looks like a fun early war mix-up, with a small force of 4-4-7s and 3-3-6s and a pair of 75* mountain guns trying to hold a bridge against some 4-4-7s and Chi-Ro tanks. I'm guessing a lot rides on the smoke rolls from the two knee-mortars, but it seems like some fun action.

ESG31 Hell From Hill 441: Russians attacking Germans. This has a big Russian force trying to clear a roadblock on board 42 while a bunch of German ordinance fires at them from the heights of board 9. The Russians suffer from ammo shortage and get a bunch of tanks, but the armor has to enter in Convoy and cannot leave road hexes. At first sight, this doesn't appeal to me, although actually pulling out the boards may change my mind.

ESG32 Steel, Steel, Steel: Russians attacking Germans. This is a Kursk action with some SS using captured tanks to ambush a Soviet tank column. It uses the HoB High Ground maps, which I don't have so I'm unlikely to play it. Interesting nonetheless because this is the third or fourth scenario to cover this action, and it's amusing how different the SSRs are for the ambush, the terrain, the troops, and even the captured tanks.

ESG33 Mutilation Station: Russians attacking Poles: This is a small 1939 scenario, with 22 total squads and 4.5 turns of action, and is a fight over a train station on board 48. The attackers get a FT and some DCs, the defenders have a 40L Bofors AA gun and a bunch of green troops.

ESG34 Ripped To Shreds: North Koreans attacking Americans. This is an interesting scenario set in 1950 that takes place in two parts. The first part has some Korean T-34s trying to break through an American defense, and the second part is a more conventional attack on the same positions, with all the wrecks and carnage, etc, from the first part still in place. My experience with multi-part scenarios is that they are often a cool idea, but generally end up being not worth the extra effort. It'll be interesting to see if this one can break that mold.

ESG35 Destroy All Monsters: Germans attacking Americans. This is one of the alluded-to monster scenarios that is something of an ESG hallmark. It's Operation Nordwind, and something like 115 squads and 90 tanks do battle for 13 turns. This is certainly big ASL in size, but also with the troops and equipment, as 8-3-8s, 7-4-7s, 90Ls, 128L are all in abundance. Highly unlikely to ever make my play list as I'd rather do a campaign, but I know opinions vary in this area.

ESG36 Havoc In Shanghai: Chinese attacking Japanese.
ESG37 Tsunami Of Maniacs: Chinese attacking Japanese. These two scenarios are modeled after Guards Counterattack and The Tractor Works, as they take place on city maps and can be combined into one larger scenario. Japanese vs Chinese city fights are always fun so I may well give these a try.

Looking it over, this got a little long, so I'll go over CH's Total Axis Pack in another mailing. I'll end up here by saying that ESG3 appears to build on the success of their first two packs, and has only one or two scenarios I'd discard out of hand for size issues. That's a much better ratio than prior packs, and so it'll come as no surprise that ESG3 has more scenarios that interest me than either of the other two. I'm sure I'll be playing some of these soon and I'll let you know how they go.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

AAR: AP18 - Village of the Damned

Nick Drinkwater

Axis Player: Zeb Doyle [ELR 2; SAN 3]

Russian Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3; SAN 3]


The final game of the ASL-bounty we indulged in this weekend had to be a fast and furious scenario that we could finish in 3-4 hours as I needed to be back in Houston. As Zeb, remarked we couldn't go a whole weekend without trying something that was hot off the presses and the Action Pack from MMP, "A Few Returned" offered up this juicy morsel which was just perfect for us.

Axis Review:

After I had been on the receiving end of a defensive drubbing in our previous scenario, Zeb gamely tried the challenge of the ultimate in lost causes - a bunch of wounded and weak Italians and Germans stranded and stranded in a tiny hamlet in the snows of Southern Russia. This is a very desperate bunch - completely abandoned by their colleagues, this forlorn group tries to go down to the last bullet taking as many of the communist horde with them as they can. Their task is to have one surviving MMC in the board 48 village (between hexrows U and J) at the end of 4.5 turns.

They receive one Italian elite squad, three Italian first line and three conscripts. Even in these very desperate hours, the Germans were clearly still miffed and blaming Tuscany's finest for the nightmare they are living through as SSR means that no Germans can stack with an Italian at game start - the Germans are a scraggly force of a 467 and and two 247s and an 8-0 leader. This really is the bottom of the barrel time as there is only one SW in the entire Axis OOB, a solitary Italian LMG. Finally, to rub salt into the numerous wounds, three Italian and two German squads need to be nominated as walking wounded, and the Italian 9-2 is also wounded at game start. Ouch!

Russian Review:

The Russians really only have two problems in this scenario - a very scary wide open set of approaches to the village and the question of the time available to get the job done. Despite the completely awful state of the Axis, it is eminently possible that a single diehard Axis half-squad will remain tucked away somewhere to hold out for a win. The VC require an unbroken MMC to be alive at game end (and not good order) so even being stuck in Melee results in an Axis win. The Russians do have a very robust force to achieve the task, with two 458s, 8 x 447s, a MMG, 2 x LMGs and a 9-1, 8-0 and a 6+1. In addition they have been given the luxury of a couple of 237s to act as first fire soak-ups in the initial approach to the village. Finally, they can come on from three sides (north, east and south) and this does need to be considered carefully when planning the assault.

Scenario attractions:

A couple of extra bits of chrome have been added which give this scenario a nice final twist. The Russians and Germans both receive winter camouflage to use in the ground snow, but its unlikely I'll be doing much assault moving concealed here due to the time element - there are a lot of buildings in the Board 48 village spread all over the map. Next, the Russians get a radioed T60 M42 - normally not a tank to inspire terror in one's opponents, but in this scenario for the Axis, this is like a communist Nuclear Bomb. The potential for armoured assault and the fabulous opportunities to cut route paths and enforce FTR are obvious and the Russians should be licking his lips with glee at the thought. To dig out particularly difficult Italians, the Russians are also provided with one opportunity to declare Hand to hand combat - maybe needed at the very death to try and guarantee the destruction of the very last MMC.

Finally, the last interesting twist is that two blazes get placed in wooden building from a centrally placed Random direction DR. The mild breeze and resultant Smokes will create all sorts of opportunities for both the attack and the defense. In this game, the blazes ended up in some of the eastern-most buildings, one of which had no impact at all on the scenario. The other did help my approach from the east, but the burning building also impeded my entry as my infantry had to skirt around the blaze in the open. Your mileage and hence the Russian assault options will vary a lot depending on the results of this SSR, and this is one of the cool things that will add to the scenario's replay value.


I put the tactical flexibility of the multi-route approach to the test by sending a platoon and the 6+1 to the far northern side to put pressure on Zeb's hard-pressed defenders from behind. This was where the German "?" stacks were, but through shielding by a small hedge and an orchard, I had a modicum of cover and I was able to run hard and fast across the snow-blown field. At worse, I thought I would lose one unit, but Zeb started as he meant to go on and rolled high and I was able to make the partial cover of the hedge intact by Turn 2. The rest of my force came on in the direct and closest direction from the east and quickly revealed two Italian conscripts in the outermost buildings who both cowered on high rolls on their first attacks. In small games on open ground like this where every -1 shot counts, this was the worst possible result for Zeb, and I quickly disrupted and captured them on Turn 1.

This was my first play on Board 48 and Zeb was prescient in his statement that this is commonly seen as a defender's nightmare - the tiny wooden buildings mean there are numerous LOS opportunities in all directions, and skulking, routing and concealment gain are effectively impossible, especially for him due to the units I had managed to get around and into the back of the village. I continued to roll low and strip many of Zeb's units of their concealment and Zeb just kept missing key shots as I inched my way into the village. Having carefully manoeuvred by MMG and 8-1 into position, I was able to shred Zeb's 447 and wounded 9-2 on an opportunity fire attack. This and my invoking of hand-to-hand combat on an obstinate Italian 1st line infantry squad took the wind out of the sails of the defense. This was followed up by some more careful movement to enforce some FTR opportunities (allied to the huge mobility of the T60 tank) and by the end of Turn 3, most of the southern half of the village was in Italian hands and all but one of the Italian squads was dead or safely captured together with the 9-2. The 8-0 and 6+1 though isolated,were still looking to pick fights, but I wasn't too bothered by them and happy to let them do their headless chicken thing (a bit like the Black Knight in the Monty Python Holy Grain movie - "no arms? - come on you b*stard, I'll head butt you!").

All that remained to do in the final two turns was to mop up the German units in the NW corner of the village. At the very back of the village, I locked up a 247 hs in melee with a 447 squad, and a very timely snakes from the MMG broke both of the other 247s in the core of the last quadrant of the village. The defense ultimately came down to the wounded 467 in an isolated house and the aforementioned ongoing melee, which lasted longer than I first planned. I manoeuvred hard to enforce no quarter on the broken German half-squads and to get in a position to take down the 467 who, because of the wound, just missed immobilizing the tank in a freeze bypass position. However, the writing was now on the wall for the Axis, as the ongoing melee finished in a Russian clear-out, and despite sending the 467 berserk, I was able to destroy them with a couple of 16+2 shots. Solid Russian win after 4 turns.


So a fun but quick one, with a bit of replay value due to the variable building blazes which may result in variable Russian approach routes each time. I think it is perhaps a tad harder on the Axis as they are just that little bit less forgiving of a key bad roll or two...once their concealment and dummies are all stripped, Board 48 means they have nowhere to hide and they will inevitably start to go down to a continuous barrage of 4+2, 6+2 and 8+1 rolls from the Russians. If by some miracle, they are able to knock out the Russian tank then they will be in much better shape, but careful Russian play should completely prevent that. If the Russians get stalled or badly knocked about on their way in to the village then they will be pushed to beat the time issue, but it is definitely doable.

Zeb played a very solid game and only missed a couple of small things from what I could see, but he was definitely on the lower end of the luck quotient on some key die rolls. I messed up the use of my leaders as I had a couple of broken squads out of position which I struggled to get back into the action, and probably went with the freeze a turn early, but I was lucky on SW breakdowns and rolled a couple of critical low rolls when needed.

Recommended for single night evening play or for those times when you want to get something squeezed in quickly - 3 hours from setup to shut down.

Nick Drinkwater and Zeb Doyle

AAR: TRBH3 - Cold Comfort

Nick Drinkwater

Japanese Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3 SAN 4]

Australian Player: Zeb Doyle [ELR 4, SAN 2]

Summary and Analysis After the long drawn out agony of crawling through the jungle into the teeth of Zeb's lethal defense in the "Those Ragged Bloody Heroes" Campaign Game, we had a couple of hours to spare, so having nothing else obvious in mind and being completely up to speed on all the small intricicies of the CG and the map, we just pulled out the shortest and fastest playing scenario we could find from the remainder of the TRBH pack. This was "Cold Comfort", a short brutal attack by a company of Japanese sent to destroy a bunch of the Australians who have just entered onto the board into a big kunai field, lining the Kokoda Trail, before they could get established for their final assault on the Gona mission. The action predominantly focusses at the south end of the kunai field either side of the Kokoda trail and in the fringes of neighboring jungle, though the Aussies are not allowed to setup directly in there. No more hacking through the dense jungle for me, which is a huge relief and a much needed change!

To mix things up a but, I opted for the Japanese this time after my painful experiences trying to get the Australians to function in the Campaign Game. All the standard TRBH SSR are in effect (not the CG ones), the only major impact of which was that the Japanese could enter in column and had the option to Banzai whenever they wanted - no Smoke grenades are available to either side, and the Dense Jungle costs 3MF instead of the usual two. Due to the time constraints in the scenario, there was no real option to use the interior jungle as a path. SSR meant that all the Australians had the option to setup in a foxholes (not in jungle) but they had to split their forces into two groups, split either side of the track. To win, the Japanese had to prevent the Australians having a MMC having a LOS to the trail at game end (very unlikely) or claim 7CVP (much more probable).

AAR Australian forces consist of a total of 4 x 457, a 458, 3 x 248, two 127 crews, two 8-1s (one heroic), 2 x LMG and 2 x MTR plus dummies. Zeb recognised the danger of me defeating in detail either one of the two split forces and quickly moved to re-unite the two groups in a massed foxhole "amoeba" in the far SE corner of the map that extended into the light jungle fringe and the solitary hex of bamboo he had access to. Importantly, the entire eastern right hand edge of the kunai field is separated from the jungle by at least one open ground hex, and Zeb's defense meant that I was going to have to cross this. Tricky, but hey, I'm the Japanese and they just shrug off bullets, don't they?

I had a tasty little force of 4 x 447, 4 x 347, a crew, MMG, lt Mtr, 2 x LMGs and a 9-1 and 9-0. With only six turns and a lot of kunai to hack through, I opted to use the bonuses of column movement to leg it down the track as soon as possible. Column rules meant I had to disband as soon as I could see a KEU, but it did bag me a couple me of extra hexes and took Zeb a little bit by surprise. A third of the way down the track, I detailed two and a half 2nd line squads to cross the open ground and to start working their way down the jungle fringe to take on a squad and a "?" stack there. I then sent a couple more half squads to test the outer edge of the foxhole line and get some units to reveal themselves. Two Australian firelines later, and I was off and running with a 'get me closer' banzai from the remainder of the main force - a useful tip from Mr Doyle, who helped me through the Banzai technicalities. This banzai managed to swerve around both firelines and subsequently posed a serious threat to the hard-pressed Aussies. Zeb continued to pick up the odd stripe here and there but my sniper was hyper active and picked off two of his dummy stacks with '1s'. Grrrr. Importantly, another sniper pinned one of his half-squads in the jungle and despite a complete failure of smoke, WP or anything else from the knee mortar and MMG, I was able to wipe out 3VP of units there.

Turn 5 saw me launch my second banzai and this carried me on to the western line of the Aussie holes where they put the defenders into the fight of their lives. Zeb was unlucky with a batch of First and Subsequent First Fire 4, 2 and 1 -2 and -1 shots which left most of my troops relatively undamaged. In addition, after a critical pin of a half-squad from another sniper, I was able to assault the crew (with their now useless SW) and the remnants of the jungle-clearing squads onto the stout defenders of the northern foxhole line. Close combat in Turn 5 saw five separate hand-to-hand melees which was more than enough for me to claim the win on CVP, despite missing a couple of the melees with 'tens'.

Zeb played this one as stoutly as he could and his defense was spot on, but by pulling back and focussing on the far corner, he was left with no real bolt-hole to go to for any broken units. Pinned units were unable to self-break as they had few rout paths as there was no wiggle room, so they died in place in melee. In addition, he at last started to roll high(!) on some of the more critical shots and that made a big difference as he just couldn't do enough damage to the banzais. Even so, I wouldn't have played this any different if I had been in his shoes: an up-front defense would just have gone down faster and mean the Japanese would have been exposed to less shots on the approach. As I'm still fairly new to the Japanese, Zeb very kindly helped with a few rule clarifications (in fact he did that all weekend) and hints on how to do the Japanese, especially on the mechanics of the banzai - huge thanks Zeb!

Overall, I think is a great little PTO-learning scenario, especially for those new to the Japanese. They have access to all their offensive tricks (Banzais, the options afforded by the knee mortar) and its a very short violent scenario that ends up in a mass of melees. There is little chance the Japanese will win on the LOS VC as there are just too many scattered Aussie units around, but the 7CVP is completely achieveable, which makes it 55% pro Japanese in my book...making it 8CVP might actually be a great balance.

Nick Drinkwater and Zeb Doyle

Monday, September 17, 2007

AAR: HS30 The Good Shepherd

Zeb Doyle

Canadians: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Bill Wenzel
It was another fun Saturday in San Antonio, with eight of us arriving at Scott's house to take advantage of his hospitality. We had a good mix of people, and I got to catch up with some old friends like Mike Denson and meet some others for the first time like Forrest. All in all, the experience was well worth the drive, especially considering the large amount of ASL that got played. Featured scenarios included Round One, Village of the Damned, Oder Dare, and The Puma Prowls. My contribution to the ASL action was HS30 The Good Shepherd, which I got to play against Bill Wenzel. Bill's a fun opponent with a great sense of humor and who knows the rules quite well. Here's a brief recap of our game:

The scenario comes from the Operation Veritable Historical Study from MMP, and as such, it features some late war Canadians using some less than enthusiastic Germans as their punching bag. The action all takes place in 1945 on two deluxe boards, where the Germans have eleven ELR2 second-liners backed by a StuG, a 75mm INF gun, and some mines, and are trying to hold four of six multi-hex buildings. The attacking Canadians also have eleven squads, but they are elite and are supported by three Shermans and led by 'The Good Shepherd' himself, a 9-2 leader. The Canadians have only 5.5 turns to move up on the Germans and clear the buildings, three of which are the massive multi-level variety, and which will take some time to clear. Given the numerical parity in infantry and the fact that the Germans have an HMG and a MMG, while the attackers bring only LMGs, things would seem to favor the Germans a bit. The Canadian ace in the hole comes in the form of a Wasp, which has a 2 hex range 24FP FT and is fully-tracked with 16MP, allowing it to race from one side of the deluxe map to the other burning out any troublesome German strong points.

I'm not sure if it was Scott's martial Teutonic music playing in the background or not, but Bill decided to take the Germans and set up a very nice defense with his machine guns all at level two for the good LOS and his dummies mixed indistinguishably throughout. With no obvious weaknesses to exploit, I decided to push hard down the left side, where three of the VC buildings stood, and send a smaller flanking force to the right to capture the key fourth building I'd need. I also deployed more than I usually would; the fact we both had an equal amount of squads and that Bill actually had more infantry FP and ROF than me was pretty worrisome. Things started with a smoke round from my 51mm MTR and a wave of 2-4-8s trying to push forward as cautiously as possible. It didn't work. Bill got some 4+0 and 6+0 shots on me and scored several K/ results. Several more squads also broke, but not before I'd blundered into two well-placed minefields and lost another 1.5 squads to some more 6+0 attacks there. Just for kicks, I rolled two boxcars trying to rally my brokies, and started my turn two down 3.5 out of my original eleven squads...

On the bright side, my Shermans started the turn with a bunch of good smoke shots and so the German ability to hurt me dropped way down. I'd also found the minefields and could avoid them going forward, although one was in a great spot that really complicated the assault on the right flank building. My Wasp came to the rescue here, toasting a Germans squad with a KIA on turn one and forcing another to ELR into a 4-3-6 on turn two. The rest of the turn had my troops working their way forward to threaten the four buildings, although another mini-disaster occurred when my 9-2, 2x 4-5-8, 2x LMG stack was hit with an 8+4 that pinned my 9-2 and broke both squads. Bill did a nice job taking advantage of my misfortune and switched to a slightly more active defense. I ended his turn on a dismal note when I had to self-break two CX half squads that ended up adjacent to concealed Germans.

Turn three saw some hope return for me when I rallied almost all my brokies and got some more good smoke and WP rolls from my Shermans to again smother the German positions. The Wasp was again key as the 24+0 attack shattered a key German squad and let me push hard down the left into all three of the VC buildings in that area. Bill did everything he could against the FT threat, but the double-small always Motion Wasp is almost impossible to hit at two hexes and my lucky smoke rolls really cut down on the IFT attacks he could throw at it. The worst the Germans could do was the 4+2 shot from the squad actually being flamed, and neither that nor the X11 number ever came into play.

At this point, the tight confines of the deluxe board and my swarm of half-squads combined to make it tough for any broken Germans to rout, and I started racking up some prisoners. With the three squads the Wasp had zapped, and another 4-4-7 that broke on a 6+1 AFPh shot from The Good Shepherd, Bill was now hurting as much as I was from the lack of infantry. Again though, he made some nice moves in his half of the turn and ended up in CC with several of my half-squad Guards. Bill had some great chances to take me out and rearm his prisoners, but he missed not one, but two HtH attacks and we ended up in Melee in both spots. That was a huge break for me, and in my turn four I was able to fire into both Melees (easy decision as I had two 8ML units in each, the Germans had a single 7ML unit and the 6ML prisoner). Both locations ended with broken Germans and surviving Canadians and I was able to 'Kill Bill' in both spots as the 4-4-7s tried to Withdraw.

That was a huge swing in the game since we were both so short on units that whoever lost the Melees would be really really thin on the ground. The dice bit Bill again at the start of turn four when his brokies couldn't rally. I took full advantage by zapping yet another of his squads with the Wasp and managed to capture the VC building on the right and two of the three on the left. The final building was held by a single 4-4-7 that I broke in PFPh but couldn't quite kill it off that turn. My attack on the last building was greatly aided by the fact that Bill suddenly couldn't break any of my units, despite having point-blank shots from his StuG, INF gun, and some 8FP shots from an MMG across the street. With the final VC building now filling with Canadians and only a broken 4-4-7 holding it, Bill was forced to try a small counter-attack and send two of his few remaining squads across the street and into that fourth building. Again, he played it well and gave me nothing more than some 2-1 shots, but again I rolled low and he rolled high and both German units were gunned down. That signaled the end of the game, as I would have been able to Mop Up on my turn five to take the last building, and there was no way the few remaining Germans could have recaptured anything with only one MPh left.

Overall, it was a fun game with Bill's early luck more than negated by my late game dice. We chopped each other up pretty well with his machine guns and my Wasp until we were both down to seven squads or so. That made those two Melees so key, as some different rolls would have not just killed my units but actually added to the German manpower via released prisoners. As it was, Bill's good play but bad dice lost him about 30% of his remaining force and put me in great shape for the win. My only other comment on the scenario would be that the Germans are likely somewhat favored due to the fact that if something bad happens to the Wasp, I don't see the Canadians having enough FP to pull it out. I was lucky enough to have my key piece active every turn and dishing out damage all game long. The German key to victory, meanwhile, is to hold those big buildings and delay as long as possible, a strategy that is much less reliant on the fickle swings of fate as no one roll will really kill you. Still a fun scenario...but protect the Wasp at all costs and never roll an 11 with it!

Thanks to Bill and Scott for a fun day and thanks to you for reading,


Thursday, September 13, 2007

AAR: RBF-51 Final Glory

Zeb Doyle

Germans: Eric Gerstenberg
Russians: Zeb Doyle

Well, my Labor Day was without ASL and my invitation to join the 'Beat Roy' bandwagon seems to have been lost in the mail, but I did spend a very fun Saturday at Haus Eric playing RBF-51 Final Glory. This is a very fun late-war heavy metal showdown from none other than Chas Smith, who always raises my expectations with interesting-looking scenarios and rarely disappoints. Here, our cardboard counters simulate a May 1945 meeting engagement between the Soviet 1st Polish Tank Division and the Fallschirmpanzerlederhosen Division Hermann Goering. Both sides enter from off-map and battle across the open fields of boards 4, 16, 18, and 44 in an attempt to capture buildings and score CVP. At the end of six turns, the dust clears, the corpses are counted, and if the Germans hold a 31+ VP lead, they win (note that they are fighting the battle in an attempt to break into besieged Berlin, so any victory will be a very relative one indeed).

The scenario looked quite interesting for a number of reasons. Meeting engagements always offer tough decisions, as do combo building/CVP VC (do I risk my troops to try and take that last building?). Chas throws some extra spice into the scenario via the German use of captured Soviet tanks, so we get to try some IS-2 Stalin vs Stalin action. Finally, despite the late-war heavy metal action, there's a lot of interesting net TK numbers and not nearly as much of the boring hit-kill-burn that we usually see in 1945. The two forces are equally matched in total tanks at eleven each, but the Germans hold a slight qualitative edge with two Stalins and three Panthers. I'll call these (to coin a phrase) Main Battle Tanks, as they have a good chance to take out any opposing tank through the front and have little to fear from any non-MBTs. The Soviets have only three Stalins of their own and therefore are weaker in the MBT category by a count of five to three, although the IS-2 (despite the circled B11 number) is slightly superior to the Panther.The remaining tanks are a fun mix of T-34/85s and SU-85s for both sides, with a few T-34/76s and PzIVJs bringing up the rear and clearly out-classed at this point in the war. To sum up, we have the MBTs, which can kill each other frontally with most TKs from five to seven, but are otherwise vulnerable only on the flanks, and a number of lesser tanks that engage each other with TKs of six or so and that need to swarm the MBTs to have much chance. In play, it's a very interesting mix of forces, although I'd say the Germans have a slightly more powerful force overall.

When it comes to the infantry battle, the slight German edge becomes a large advantage. Although the two forces are again equal in quantity, the German first-line squads out range the Soviets (quite useful in such wide-open terrain), are packing PFs and PSKs instead of ATRs, and are backed up by half-tracks and flak-wagons instead of trucks. The two German AT guns are also the manly 75L variety, while the Red Poles are stuck with the 45LL 'nuisance gun.' This disparity in forces is somewhat balanced out by the fact that the Soviets move first and can race into decent defensive positions and capture a fair number of buildings unopposed, but if the armor battle turns against them, it's all over. The German landsers, especially with the 12FP and 20FP IFE attacks from the flak-wagons, can be expected to slowly dominate the infantry struggle and quite likely take out some Soviet armor as well.

At any rate, Eric opted to try his hand at the Germans, which basically meant he had to capture all the contested buildings and outscore me in CVP, or capture fewer buildings and score more CVP. I was happy that he was playing the side stupid enough to try and break INTO Berlin, and sent my Polish Red Army troopers racing onto boards 16 and 44, capturing about half of the VC buildings in the first two turns. The armor for both sides, meanwhile, was cautiously maneuvering into position. One of the fun parts here was the joint off-board entry meant everything was concealed and so we weren't sure quite what we were facing. I tried to enhance this advantage by parking my tanks in orchards or grain whenever I had the chance, and this paid off when Eric (who was fighting horrible allergies all day long and was not on his best game) drove a Stalin up to confront one of my concealed tanks, hoping to score an easy kill. Unfortunately, it was a Stalin of my own and, although my shot missed, presented a major threat to one of Eric's precious MBTs. He moved up a Panther to further pressure me, but a super-tight LOS from a T-34/76 was good and a few side shot APCR rounds left the Panther Stunned and Immobilized. This resulted in the redeployment of another German Stalin and two more Panthers to confront my Stalin and offending T-34 and the turn ended with all of Eric's MBTs facing just one of mine. In a key move though, the German Stalin ended its MPh in a gully where it couldn't see anything but adjacent hexes.

At the start of my turn three, I crossed my fingers, fired my IS-2, and managed to knock out Eric's Stalin, which left me with a very interesting decision. The Germans now had one Stalin dead, one in a gully and effectively out of the fight, one Panther Stunned and Immobile, and the other two Panthers covered by a single German T-34/85. The only German infantry in the area were Riders that I could likely force to Bail Out and wouldn't be able to fire PFs in any event. It seemed like a great opportunity to swarm Eric's tank force and take out his remaining MBTs, thereby granting me a huge edge in the tank battle. The margin of error was slim, though, as I had the bare minimum of required tanks in the area, and two of them were the sub-par T-34/76 variety. In the end, the weak Panther side armor and my really high APCR numbers talked me into the attack. The special ammo rules are a gamey but important part of ASL, and I figured that my swarming tanks would have net 7TH or 8TH numbers (base 10, BFF +4, BU +1, Point-Blank -1 or -2, size -1). Those TH numbers were really close or even equal to my APCR7 numbers, and the thought of getting two chances to roll a 7TH was too tempting to pass up.

So, I unleashed the hounds and sent my tanks swarming in from all directions. Eric made all the right moves with the VCA spins and TCA spins and Intensive Fire shots and so forth, but his dice just couldn't get it done. He seemed to miss by one every single time while my APCR trick worked to perfection and I got all the rolls I needed. By the end of my turn, Eric had lost four of his five MBTs at a cost of a few T-34s. I think the mistake here was bringing the German MBTs into the (comparatively) tight terrain of board 4 without any real infantry support. The slow turrets, weak side armor and close ranges of engagement don't play at all to the strengths of the Panther, while those 75LL guns could do good work on the open expanses of board 44 (where later my 45LL managed to Shock a PzIV with a 29 hex shot!). The real lesson, though, is don't play ASL when you have horrific allergies....the scenario was giving me a real mental workout even without the
distraction of struggling to breath.

At that point, it was looking grim for the Germans, but if you thought Eric was going to throw in the towel...well, you've clearly never played Eric. His landsers started working their way forward to threaten my tanks while his flak-wagons started ripping apart my infantry. In an especially audacious move, a truck pulled a 75L AT gun way up into the front lines, unloaded, and started blasting away at one of my Stalins. At this point, the superiority of the German infantry force really showed itself. The bulk of my armor was mopping up the Panthers and in no position to support my infantry. That left Eric free, in a series of aggressive moves that stopped just short of foolhardiness, to clear out all the victory buildings and cause me a fair amount of casualties in the process. One funny moment arose when a German 8-1/4-6-7/MMG fired at a Russian 8-1/44-7/MMG. Eric rolled my sniper who came over and killed his 8-1, although his squad passed the LLMC. I then rolled my MCs from the attack and activated Eric's sniper...who came over and killed my 8-1. Not to be outdone, the 4-4-7 then also passed his LLMC.

Although Eric was doing great work tearing me up, the infantry fight was bringing in CVP slowly and in small quantities. It's the armor battle in this scenario that will likely prove decisive and thanks to my early good luck, I had a big edge here. Even so, Eric fought hard and really only needed a few things to go his way to get back into it. It simply wasn't meant to be, though, as his dice continually left him just short. One of my Stalins was hit literally 14 times through the front by the 75L AT gun and assorted other tanks, but it survived every time and stolidly proceeded to pick off one German AFV after another. Finally, a desperate German-manned SU-85 drove to point-blank range and fired at the monster, managing to immobilize the monster. Of course, the Stalin crew passed the bail-out TC and erased the offending German during the next PFPh. With that, Eric's armor was effectively annihilated and the combination of my large CVP lead and entirely unopposed armor force brought an end to the game on turn five of six since the German infantry just wouldn't have enough time to hunt me down.

I want to thank Eric for the very fun game despite his sub-par physical condition. The scenario itself is a ton of fun, with the slug-fest between the MBTs taking center stage, but both sides having enough beef to continue fighting even if something should go wrong early. That's exactly what happened to the Germans in my playing, but the strength of their infantry allowed them to make a very valid push for victory over the remainder of the game. If I were to play it again (and there's a good deal of replay value here), I might try sending the German MBTs onto board 18 where HD positions await and they can cover the open fields of board 44. At that point, the LL guns of the Panthers and the Soviet red TH numbers might tip the balance away from the Red Poles a bit. Still, if the Soviets know of the plan, they might be able to use their concealed T-34/76s as bait to feint and....let me just end here by saying if you're looking for a late-war rumble with
some fun subtleties to it, take alook at Final Glory!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Eric and Chas for a great Saturday


Sunday, August 26, 2007

AAR: OA7 Celles Melee

Tom Gillis
Americans: Tom Gillis
Germans: Steve Miller
Quick AAR of this enjoyable slightly medium sized 7 turn scenario. Steve Miller, (yes the famous one...) ;-) and I have been playing a lot of scenarios lately. He had bested me in the last two matchups going in to this one. Was it going to be a hat trick? Anyway, we both liked the look of this one, and it seemed pretty close on ROAR so we went after it. Steve took the Germans and I the Amis. The German force consists of a vanguard patrol from the 2nd PanDiv on Christmas day in the Bulge, with 3 Panthers, 3 Mk4s, an Stg, and 4 HTs. Also a tough looking 10-2, 8-0, and 4x548s w/ a Psk and an LMG. ELR 4 SAN 2. Nasty! Fortunately for the defending Amis, the Germans have to exit 78 EVP/CVP!! Thats a lot. Plus they have to exit from either 19GG5, 17GG5 or 17Y1. But the Germans are generally speedy, and anytime you have Panthers with smoke making AFVs watch out! The American force consists of 2xM36 GMC, (the 90L kind with ROF 2!), 2xM4A1 (76L)W, and 2x those speedy M5A1s entering on T1. Nice group of Tanks. Plus the Shermans have gyros. They're protecting an American platoon from _their_ 2nd ArmDiv consisting of a 9-1, 8-0, MMG, and 4 Baz and 4x667s, ELR4, SAN 4.

My plan was to use the 90Ls to cut off the exit roads. Great gun and ROF, but OT. Always dangerous being CE. (As proved to be very telling in the game...!) Keep 'em outta sight.The Sherms were each to pair up with a M5. These speedy little buggers are great. 17 MPs, C7, decent MA. I was going to be really aggressive on my T1 because the Germans can actually exit quite a bit of their force on their T1 MF pretty much entirely out of the Amis LOS. To my surprise Steve didn't move to exit any units on T1. Instead coming up the middle of the two bds, (19 and 17, the long way across,) with several AFVs, some of whom dropped off infantry units. Also he sent most of his panzers down bd 19 and stopped them in an effective semi-circle. Kind of a circle the wagons thing. End of my T1 saw the flaming destruction of an M5 to a Panther, and the knocking out of an Mk4 to one of the 90Ls. Also several American HS were broke, and one surrendering and giving the Germans a Baz. (Thanks guys...! Not!) T2, the Germans are the ones who get aggressive. Steve wants to fight it out. Cool, I've got gyros. We have a bit of a belgium stand off on bd 19 with a Ger HT going down and an Am 90L, (Flaming...) In the middle is a muddle of German ?s who sneak up to the woodline. And now in a daring, (crazy...?!) move Steve pulls out his big guns. On the south part of bd 17 comes a Panther. It stops with good LOS to some concealed Amis in a wooden building. Next comes a HT with, lo and behold, Herr Teufel the 10-2 and an LMG/548. (It did not sink in to me that the sqd had the LMG and _not_the Psk. I would be shown the Psk shortly.) What a powerful little force in a very thinly armored AFV. Juicy target says I...Various DF and AdF broke the HS I had w the 9-1 and MMG. I managed to survive pretty unscathed as the Germans took some low odds shots. With sniper 4, that can be dangerous. Within another turn my sniper hit three times, two of which were 1s! Of course being CE helps when you need that crucial TH #. But a sniper 1 entering a CE AFVs hex is deadly. I recalled a HT, and a malfed MA Panther! Nice. All this happened when I sent one of my gyros Sherms hunting Herr Teufel, supported by a concealed 667 w Baz. The Baz had a good shot on the HT and rolled an 11. Gone. X'd out. My Sherm had got behind the HT, but I elected to stay in motion so my shots were not that good. I was nervous about the Panther, until if Malf'd. Recalling it made my task against the HT easier. Or so I thought. I couldn't hit him. I forced the crew to BU, and the 548's LMG broke. (To be repaired after a turn or two.) Herr Teufel pulls away to futile American direct fire, moving into the courtyard of the central bd 17 village. I get more troops broken and somewhere I lost my 8-0 for FTR. I haven't broken a single German inf unit. The Germans now control or deny me two Baz, I lost one, And the one I have left is in melee with a 548 and a Ger 127 crew! I lost the other M5 to the Psk in the center woods line. Completely missed it being there. I had had great plans for those M5s...( I lost the other Sherman, (flaming.) Needless to say, Steve started to BU his AFVs. So what does my sniper do. On another 1 sniper try it selects his sniper. Zap, now no Ger sniper counter! Cool. My sniper is the only thing keeping me in this game as I have now lost all but one 90L and one Sherm. I have one go 667 and the 9-1. There are AFVs crawling all over the village and woods of bd 17. A 548 w a Baz comes to cover the HT with Herr Teufel. The 10-2 is in a precarious situation, but he's still got some good IFT FP with that minus two modifier and its forcing me to stay concealed and CE as I try to approach him. Wow. Very wild melee going on here. Generally with a Ger edge thru turns 1-3, a mixed bag in the middle game and a shifting of Ger strategy as the game moves on. My sniper wounds the Ger 8-0. Yes, he's scored quite a bit of CVPs, but he needs to exit some stuff to reach 78. His force on 19 is in great position to exit off, but instead he move's on to 17 to chase down the 90L. This will actually keep them in a good place to exit. But alas it left a Panther giving a side shot to the Sherm that I didn't notice until it turned its turret and fired at me, hitting the wall. I'm the one worried here. T5 he makes a jump at the retreating 90L tank. Moves a Panther right next to it, stops, prepare to BF. I shoot first, hit in the turret, need a 7 or less TK. Roll an 12. (I rolled one over on shots at least 3 times, maybe 4 during the game also!). Panther gets ready to pounce...shoots, hits, flaming tank! Down to one gyro Sherm. He's still mixed up in the imbroglio in the center bd 17 village. Fortunately for me I was able to become HD, and stay in motion. Very important because Steve hit me 4 times with Panther and Baz shots that all hit the wall! He moved a Mk4 down to help Herr Teufel, still trying to blitz right thru the main Amis defence in a blur of automatic fire and AP shells dropping all over the place, augmented by auto/MG fire from both sides. Wild. All this fire breaks another American HS, but generates a Hero for the 667 squad. Cool! Lets go tank hunting! The melee of my 667 and the Ger 548 127, and prisoner HS finally is over with the 667 and the 127 eliminated. The survivors load into a HT, and some more Ger inf manage to load onto the STG. A HT exits for points. The Panther who killed the last 90L ditto, A Mk4 with a Mal'd MA exits. The point amt is rising...Can I kill that DAMNED devil 10-2 in that HT?! Steve moves his last remaining Mk4 to get a shot off at the Sherm behind the wall in AdF. Should I turn my turret to fire on it? I'm obsessed with killing the 10-2. There's a lot of points in that HT. I wait for the HT to move, It will be able to pull out of LOS after one hex. I shoot, need a 4 and roll a 5!!! ugh. I shoot the now rallied HS with my MMG at the HTs rear facing, miss. It gets a way to exit for points! Good move Steve. Gutsy choices on both sides. My turn 6 DF finds me returning shots with the side exposed Panther, hitting him in the hull and knocking him out. That was a big turning point. Up to losing the Panth, Steve had more than enough pts to win thru just exit. Now he had to get everything lift off minus a squad or two to win. Turns 6 and 7 see German manuever to finalize their exit places. On bd 19 he has a HT w 548 and prisoner HS and another 548 loaded on the Stg. I move the Sherman as close as I can moving all 13 MPs from bd 17 to get LOS to these guys. The Stg goes for D7 smoke and gets it, the Sherman AdF at it. Miss. Last T of the game. Steve has managed to get 74 exit points with the last Mk4, HTwSqd/Prsnrs and Panther exiting. Actually he had to have had 76 points because he exited the captured HS and there's no SSR not counting them...Anyway, its all up to the Stg. The Sqd on it doesn't even have to exit now. The Stg can just make it, but it'll have to become CE for the last four hexes! Remember, my sniper has been wicked. (He had also broke a 548 with Baz that could have threatened the Sherman on this last German turn.) So its gutsy, but Steve has to do it. He moves, the now CE Sherman shoots with MA and misses. Moves another hex, intensive fire from the Sherm, miss...! Ugh! Steve moves to the hex he must become CE at and I figure well I can use my AAMG and CMG for a combined "4+2." I shoot, Steve is a mere 4 hexes away from Victory. I do not have a very good chance but I roll: a 4! NMC. Well we all know German Panzer crews were the cream of the Wehrmacht's crop. 8 morale, no prob...Well Mr. Sherman commander has been around NWE for a bit himself. Steve rolls the MC. A 10! Stun! Game over 200 yards short! What an awesome time we had. Wild swings of luck. Dramatic choices and results. Bad mistakes and great moves each...! Steve played a top notch game and forced me to play my best game and still it was luck with the sniper that kept me in the game. Great time! We both rated it a "Must Play" on ROAR.