Monday, April 09, 2007

AAR: SP131 - Pocket Panzers

Matt Shostak

Lightning Strikes

At Saturday’s game day I got a chance to square off against Brian in this nifty-looking scenario from Schwerpunkt, which had been on my play list for some time. I mean, dudes, it has 6 Panthers! Not only that, but the Germans have the objective of destroying a pontoon bridge across a canal or securing the immediate area in front of that bridge (i.e. controlling 3 buildings directly in front). They have a tough force to do so including a few assault engineer squads armed with demo charges. The opposing Americans have some assault engineers of their own and 100mm artillery on call. But they only have one antitank gun (a 57L), and a couple of bazookas to start with to stop the Panthers. Brian expressed no preference but I wanted the Germans, and ever the good sport, he let me have them.

Although two boards are in play, a deep canal cuts the playing area down by about a third. Board 22 depicts a small town or city where the pontoon bridge spans the canal, and board 44 has much more wide open fields. The canal runs from the west side of board 22 northeasterly until it hits board 44, at which point it turns due east. The defenders must set up south of the canal, which is the near side from the German perspective, and the German entry area is a fairly large one on the east and south sides, south of the canal. The U. S. does get a platoon of reinforcements that enter on the far (west) side near the pontoon bridge on turn 2, however, and a squadron of British tanks are scheduled to arrive on turn 3 on the southwest area. The German attack will be more or less in a westward direction, so these British tanks could be hitting them in the flank, but the Germans have a large entry area so they have a lot of leeway in how they want to angle their attack.

The direct approach with the shortest path in hexes from the German entry to the pontoon bridge has a pretty good amount of cover, with a big section of woods and brush flanked by buildings. This is where it looked like the American defense was the strongest. There was someone at the second level of the tall building by the bridge, which was probably the artillery observer. There were other units in the small woods line at the board join.

I was most worried about getting caught with large numbers of troops and tanks bunched up in close terrain, particularly that woods mass on the direct approach, where the artillery could wreak havoc. Wanting to try something a little different, I decided to anchor my advance on the canal itself, which would provide flank security. I was hoping to turn this flank with overwhelming force before the defenders could redeploy back from the other side to meet this attack. But this area had a lot of open ground to cross. I decided that to do this, I had to attack quite aggressively, particularly with the Panthers, because I didn’t want the artillery to get a chance to knock several of them out. So a lightning assault was called for. Hence the tanks surged forward, with four of them driving right up to the woods line at the board join, to engage the infantry there at point blank range, but more importantly to hug the tree line closely enough that the artillery observer could not see them. This was a very risky move because the 57L could be in the area, and if set up just right, it might be pointing at the flanks of 4 or even 5 Panthers (the other two Panthers made similarly aggressive moves on the far right closer to the canal). The tanks at the tree line brought a couple of riders with them, who were promptly shot off their taxis by the American infantry. The rest of the German infantry did their best to follow the tanks, but they could only move so far. The antitank gun didn’t show itself, and the Germans took a few casualties on the way in. The artillery fell near the small buildings and wall in the center, doing some damage but only catching a couple of German infantry units. The American infantry on this flank quickly crumbled due to the weight of German numbers and some bad luck. Once a couple of units broke, the floodgates were open.

On the second turn the Panthers raced for the pontoon bridge area, reaching it before any defenders could. With a half dozen powerful tanks sitting on the objective, it was starting to get rough for the Americans. It got worse as the German infantry started to close the distance. Brian really fooled me with an assault engineer squad, which held its fire so long I was convinced it was a dummy unit. Finally when I moved an 8-0 leader and assault engineer 5-4-8 squad with a demo charge nearby, he finally opened fire, killing the leader, and ELRing the squad. This American 7-4-7 squad, however, was quickly encircled and died while trying to escape when a nearby Panther scored a critical hit against it in a stone building. That was the kind of luck Brian was having. His units were breaking all over the place, particularly the bazooka units. When turn 3 rolled around, the Americans in the town were just assaulted by those Panthers. Do you know what I mean by assaulted? The Panthers drove right up in their faces, inflicting DM on broken units, overrunning a machine gun squad and breaking it, and threatening death by rout failure on several squads. It was at that point that Brian threw in the towel. Although it’s worthwhile to play games out to the end to work on your skills and to hope for the brilliant comeback, I can’t really blame him. He was going to be playing from deep behind for the rest of the scenario with very little chance of success.

I enjoyed the game and of course Brian is always a pleasure to play. I’m not sure about this scenario yet. It looks very cool, and it’s a lot of fun to command so many powerful tanks, but if they are employed very aggressively I’m not sure the Americans will be able to stop them. A lot probably depends on whether the antitank gun and the bazookas can manage to stop 2 or 3 Panthers. If they can’t do so, the tanks can become like a pack of lions on the hunt. I’d like to give the Americans a try to see what it’s like to try to stop this German juggernaut.

Assaulted by those panthers:

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