Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AAR: ASL 116 - The Sixth Blow

Zeb Doyle

This won't be nearly as polished as Nick's AAR from the other day, but I had fun playing The Sixth Blow with Eric last Saturday. The scenario has always tempted me since the card looks so interesting, with fleeing Hungarian cavalry fighting through partisans and a powerful German force entering to block off a mixed Soviet group of cavalry and tanks. The terrain is also a major attraction, with hills, valleys, woods, and streams all combining to make some very tough going. There are defensible choke points galore and of course the random rockets and airplanes only add to the spice.

I ended up with the Soviets and set the partisans up skewed very heavily to one side of the map, with a few units scattered in the middle as well. The far side of the map looked wide open, but was actually covered by the minefields. Eric quickly figured out my gambit, but decided it would be easier to face the mines than the partisans and readied his cavalry to retreat. Things started off with a bang as the rocket OBA came in and killed two Hungarian squads, but also blocked off a road, preventing my tank column from making much progress on the first turn. Still, the Hungarian cavalry didn't make it too far in their MPh, and by turn two, the Russian armor had caught up to them.

By the time the mid-game rolled around, the mines and Soviet tanks had wiped out the Hungarian cavalry to the last horse but were greatly slowed by the tough terrain and weapon malfunctions. Out of the six tanks, two .50 cals, and two airplanes available over the course of the game, seven of them were lost to the dreaded boxcars. That put more of a burden on the Russian cavalry, but they were up to the challenge, clearing out a Hungarian rear-guard with a saber charge and scaling the board 50 hill to destroy a machine gun nest.

Still, even the toughest Cossack has a tough time fighting tanks, and things began to look rather dicey for the Soviets towards the end. Even if the Soviet tanks weren't largely malfunctioned, the terrain is so difficult to maneuver through that it's almost impossible to get onto the vulnerable flanks of the Panthers. This brings up what I feel is the key match-up of the game: the Soviet aircraft vs the German armor. In my game, I targeted the FlaKPz IV/37 early and knocked it out. That left the planes free to carry out a lot of point attacks on the PzIVs and the Panthers, and even with net 5TK and 6TK, it was enough to get the job done. I lost one plane to a boxcarred attack, but by turn 8 all the German tanks were taken out as well. A late game kill of the last Panther was the difference, and a final cavalry charge cleared the way for the Soviet armor to slip off for the win.

Overall, the game was fun but wasn't as cool as the scenario card suggested. In its favor, it's the best venue for cavalry I've ever seen in ASL. I had units doing charges, dismounting to mop up, and then climbing back on their horses to head up the next hill. Every horse that got shot was a major loss, and the overall effect was very cool and something I haven't experienced in any other scenario. Ultimately, though, the game seem to come down to the German tanks and the Russian airplanes. There's not a lot of skill involved in that match-up aside from trying to roll fives and sixes, but I have a tough time seeing the Russians win if it doesn't happen. The fact that the scenario seems to center around a dice-rolling contest definitely makes it less interesting for me, although I still enjoyed the overall game. The last interesting point regarding this scenario is what to do with the Hungarian guns. Eric used them in conventional fashion and managed to blast a few Russians, but I'm wondering if putting them in the back and pushing them off for another 8 EVP isn't a better way to use them. I know Bryan and Brian have played this scenario; you guys have any thoughts?

Thanks for reading,


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