Friday, May 04, 2007

Scenario Analysis and AAR: J103 - Lenin's Sons

Nick Drinkwater

German: Nick Drinkwater [ERL5, SAN 2]

Russian: Ken Havlinek [ELR4, SAN 3]

Some die-hard holdouts of Stalin's reddest, most communisty heroes against a bunch of Hitleresque Supermen? What's not to like?

As imitation is one fine form of flattery (ask the Austinites about their ersatz, synthetic copied forms of the peerless Montrose Latte), I'll try and put my best "Zeb Doyle" hat on and do a bit of scenario analysis on this one, and then a summary AAR at the end.

Scenario Pre-set Conditions: Six and a half turns of infantry mayhem on one of those moderate, windless days that were apparently so common in Russia in 1941. Three quarters of Board 42 (Rows D-Z inclusive) is in play for this one. This is another in-your-face ASL scenario from Xavier Vitry (much like Borodino Station, also in the same Journal) which starts off with the assaulting Das Reich division taking on the task of capturing 8 of a possible 10 wooden buildings from a seriously souped up collection of elite Russian cadets.

The SS must avoid a 16 CVP cap to win this one and they will be assaulting the long way down the excellent Board 42 to get the job done. The Germans only have a maximum of 22 hexes to traverse, so the pace of the attack doesn't need to be ultra aggressive. However, the terrain configuration on Board 42 does make this a little tougher: the half of the board south of the main east-west road is (very) open ground as it is October and the Russian peasants have had a good harvest this year.

In contrast, the northern half of the board is dominated by a large east-west forest, but this is dissected by several forest roads and paths - the paths are important for the SS as they will seriously reduce the amount of hard-marching the Germans need to do. Clearly the Russians need to guard this sylvan glade with road-bumps for as long as possible as it is the very obvious access route for the Germans to get directly into the village.

The last third of the play area is where the final two or three turns of action will be focused. The large open ground "field" is covered by a hedge so the Russians can easily cover this approach from any brave (or sneaky) Germans with the cajones to try and test that route. Using a LMG or the Lt Mtr at the hedge line will easily accomplish this, and the Lt Mtr team can also can keep an eye on the southern fringe of the forest to catch napping any unwary or broken Germans with air bursts.

Behind the hedge, the village is divided into three sections by the road net: three widely scattered buildings can be accessed at the very back of the play area by any flanking force the Germans opt to throw out there, and four more buildings in the central northern part of the village are fairly easy to capture as they are all directly accessible from the forest and neighbouring scrub. Where the Russian needs to think carefully about is how best to defend the three isolated buildings that lie to the south and west of the main roads. The Germans absolutely have to have one of these buildings for the win, but they will need to assault across an open road for the last turn or two to get there. This should be a good place for the Russians to hang tough for the "last stand" to deny the Germans the win. These three houses are surrounded by the odd patch of woods and several orchards on the western side, but the Germans will have to run across the open "field" to get into here from that direction.

Germans: force advantages and disadvantages: This is a nasty, brutish bunch of tough thugs from the 2nd SS Division. These are ten 468s, three 548s a 238 half squad, which are all SS by SSR, with increased broken morale, underlined morale and ELR 5. The 548s are also assault engineers who have smoke exponent of 4, and can use the flamethrower and the two DCs without penalty. To give some ooomph to the assault, they are also issued with three LMGs and a MMG.

The SS leadership is very tasty for this scenario - an 8-1, 8-0, 7-0 and an awesome 9-2 bad boy. Expect to see the three LMGs get shoved into the willing hands of the 548s to give a really healthy 8FP, even when adjacent in the advancing fire phase. The DCs may well get tossed into the hand of the 238 half-squad to provide an excellent "mobile-bomber" distractions to the Russians that just screams out to be shot up, but also suck up lots of defensive fire in true Japanese-style.

Finally, it may be a good thing to give the Flamethrower to the 8- 0...a potentially very devastating but awesome self-rallying combination. Like always with the engineering toys, it is actually the potential threat from the weapon that is most effective, not necessarily its execution. The 7-0 leader should be used as the rally point to help get these SS tough guys back into the attack as much as possible - when DM, these guys still have a good shout at rallying with 6 or less when in woods, and will be back on a 10 or less slacking off crying for mama from these guys. The 9-2 + MMG combo is perhaps obvious, but hey, why not? The Russians will be in wooden buildings at game end and so this guy does need to be around in the final stages to be most effective: even commissar- inspired Russians may melt under the 8 or 12 Flat shots from this guy.

German Attack: For the Germans, at first glance an attack over the open ground (the "field") looks suicidal - the Russians are just too well-armed for this to make much progress. However, this attack shouldn't be completely ruled out - with the abundance of infantry, it may be good to think about rushing a squad or two over there to man the hedge if the opportunity presents itself through Russians being distracted or shot out elsewhere. This is even more pertinent in the last two turns, as such an opportunistic attack from the hedge opens up an interesting back-door approach into the Russian three-building "last stand" area that a) may enable the Germans to sneak control of a cheap building (at best); b) deny rout paths (at worst) as the Russians fall back across the main east-west road to make their last stand; or c) even offer some nice options to think about enforcing encirclement from here too. This will all be vital if it comes down to a last turn struggle to take that last outstanding building.

For the most part though, the German attack needs to smash through the woods as fast as possible - with one eye on the CVP cap, it may be good to try and mix it up with some infiltration between Russian "?" units as well as bumping them to test for dummies. This can be done with both a couple of deployed half-squads as well as with full squads - keep the DC-totin' engineer half-squad for the end- game.

The Russians are stretched thinly in the woods as they will definitely have their principle big, immovable 5PP weapons in the "last stand" section of the village, together with squads to man them. The key for the Germans here is speed and envelopment of the sparse Russians - they need to pour through the Russian defences and leave them with all sorts of tough decisions on where to place RF and spraying fire and when (or if) to use FPF. Ideally, they should have cleared the woods by end of Turn 4 at the latest, to enable them to start running around clearing up the buildings in the last three turns. If opportunity presents itself and the Germans can sneak an annoying half-squad into the Russian backfield earlier, then even better.

German End-Game: The end-game is interesting and needs to be thought out a bit. The CVP cap of 16 is a touch on the generous side, equating to 8 full squads. If the Germans are on the brink of reaching that cap by GT6, then they are most likely going to lose as to get into that last house, they will have to be taking some very nasty shots right at the very end and there will inevitably be casualties. However, careful but aggressive play means the cap shouldn't need to come into play unless some last turn "stuff the melees" with bodies events need to happen.

Ideally a good German attack will still have at least 2/3rd of their start force in place for the end game, and the Engineer's toys should still be available and running. This is especially true of the FT in particular as you will really benefit from it to swiftly reduce a Russian strong point or two to burning ashes, ideally in the AFPh from a range of two hexes. The 9-2 leader really also needs to be alive as the final task of the game will be to clear out some tough 628s with multiple ROF machine guns and probably the rotating rally machine of the Commissar.

Assuming that your half-squads have gone on a blitz and run around the backfield stamping their hob-nailed boots in the flower beds, then the best way to bust into the last building is to envelop it from three sides (west, north and east). Use single squad assault moves to get adjacent to the Russians, helped (hopefully) by smoke grenades from your surviving engineers. You will be taking a batch of 6 or 12 -1 shots here and you will take your licks, so ideally you need to be starting this in German Turn 6 if possible so that if it fails the first time, you still have time to rally and try again.

Also, try to approach from multiple directions so that the Russian HMG and MMG get fixed in their covered arcs and so that the Residual Fire gets dispersed around the building and not all focused in the one 'must-approach-from-here' hex. The key to winning this game for the Germans is to be in place to jump in for any required last turn CCs, but even here, the Russians are tough and you may be facing some tough, "no-guaranteed win" odds in melee - again, the 9-2 will be your friend!

Russian: force advantages and disadvantages: For an army suffering massive defeats, huge manpower losses, and a shattering blow to the collective confidence, this bunch of 1941 Russians sure are a tough bunch of hombres. The ELR of 4 is awesome for 1941 Russians, the leadership is plentiful and abundant (10-0 Commissar, 8-1, 8-0, 149 Hero), they are stuffed to the gills with automatic weapons (HMG, MMG, 2 x LMG and a Lt Mtr) and the troops are the absolute best the Russians can offer at this time of the war: 2 x 628 (plus two demo charges), 2 x 328, 3 x 458, 2 x 447, a 228 crew and a batch of dummies for concealment. Despite this being 1941, they are unable to cash in for the second Commissar due to the leader : commissar ratio cap, but in truth, probably don't need it.

They have two main tasks in this scenario: to try and reduce the German march through the woods to a slow and painful crawl and then to pour on plentiful amounts of hurt in the last two turns to either deny them the eighth building or just nudge the nasty Nazis over the 16CVP cap. These are tough tasks, but they are doable. In terms of weakness, the only real issue they have is perhaps a lack of bodies - they are going to be sorely pressed to mount a comprehensive defence, as there are a lot of Germans coming at them hard and fast. There will be a need to try and put warm or cold bodies in the way of the Germans for as long as possible to try and delay, delay, delay in the assault through the woods - the merest chink of light in the defence and the Germans will take the opportunity to rush someone through the gaps and then there will be trouble.

One of the few things I think are disadvantageous for the Russians are their B11 numbers on the LMGs and the MMG, and more especially the 4-5PP necessary to haul these chunks of iron around - it would be really great to have these weapons with the high ROF available for the forest fight, but that needs to be resisted, as swift German manoeuvre tactics will mean these antiques get quickly abandoned. They need to be where the German has to get to, not where he possibly could be going. The HMG and the MMG allied to the 628s are the linchpin in your defence and they need to be firing on all cylinders in Turns 5, 6 and hopefully 7.

Russian Defence: This has been touched on already, but after trying to delay the Germans in the woods, the Russians are going to need to stand tall and firm in the village. They do have one ace up their sleeve - they have the option to have a HIP MMC plus SW. This should be thought about carefully - it may be possible for the Russian to keep the Hipster hidden in a back corner of the village so that they can un- hip and waltz into an abandoned house to reclaim it and take the Germans back down to seven controlled buildings - all they would have to do is survive German T7 movement and fire for the win.

This may be quite possible if the Germans are behind the clock in terms of manpower or buildings, but it is probable if not necessary, that if by this point the HIP unit hasn't been revealed, the Germans will have left covering half-squad screens around to prevent any easy and cheap HIP reclaim tricks. Other alternatives maybe to HIP it somewhere in the German staging area where it can come as a nasty shock in Turns 5-6 to cause problems as the Germans are preparing for the final assault from the woods and brush that neighbours the won. Making the HIP guy a sacrificial 328 with thrown DC may be particularly effective as you may catch an unwary stack napping and again cause late game casualties - this is all about trying to knock the Germans off their schedule.

Russian End-Game: Recycle, recycle, recycle. The Commissar is the king on this one and he is vital - any serious end-game situation is going to need him alive right to the bitter end - even better, as you have an abundance of elite troops, the chances of shooting a few cowards is actually pretty small - these guys are the finest there is in the red horde and they should be rallying every time on 10 or less....we don't do no stinking DM! Awesome.

The Russian needs to be alert from any end-game dashes across the open field by some late-arriving Germans for the reasons outlined above: they could compromise rout paths and even sneak in a back door of an undefended house for the win - it may be judicious to try and keep at least one half-squad manning the hedge defence line until the end of GT6 to prevent this.

The Russian also really needs to think hard about all the permutations of defensive fire in the last turn in particular, especially where and how much residual to place and invoking options for spraying fire, and where covered arcs of MGs will be fixed - the Germans will probably be coming at you sequentially from three or four different sides, and if they have points in the bag, they won't mind burning the odd half-squad or squad even to dilute the firepower attacks on their main assault. Ideally, the Russians should save their biggest FP and the biggest residuals (8-1 and 12-1) shots for the biggest German threat, which will inevitably be coming from the 9- 2. If you can neutralise him (pin or better), then the CC odds are going to dramatically swing in your favour and you may get away with the win by holding the Germans in melee (read the building control rules). Again, the 628s are your friends - look after them well.

AAR: We rolled for sides - I received the tough looking Germans, while Ken plotted a fiendish Russian defence. I swung 90% of the force straight through the forest where I could see a lot of scattered Russian "?" units, whilst a squad and a half and the 7-0 went dummy-testing of some "?" at the front (German) end of the open field. The plan was to part-infiltrate, part-steamroller my way through Ken's Russians in the forest, and then if any opportunity came, express-train a squad across the field to put pressure on the Russian back area.

Ken had the Lt Mtr on field watch duties at the hedge line and had burned a couple of the lesser squads in the forest to slow me down. They partially succeeded in this as I was unable to motor my way through the clear forest paths, but I did manage to bump out most of the dummies and then whacked the majority of the defenders through lots of desperate First Fire, FPF failure and subsequent FTR. Most casualties for me were self-inflicted: the 7-0 went down to the first sniper check of the game, and I fated out two more squads, but the controlled "octopus" aggressive onslaught paid off and by the end of Turn 4, I was maintaining the timetable and the forest was cleared out and I had a couple of half-squads just starting to run round the back and 'bag' empty buildings. In a good move to try and stall me, Ken had sallied out the Commissar from the town to the forest to try and put some backbone into the forest fighters: I thought I'd snared him, but with a great voluntary break, he managed to escape the net only to come back and annoy me more later.

I tried a couple of tricks in the Forest of Death that were great for style but poor in execution: the one with the Japanese-styled run and throw of the DC half-squad into a stack of Russians was great, but at the last moment they went down in a hail of bullets. In return, Ken decided to throw his own DC back...ouch! He caught three congested stacked squads with their pants down and I was very lucky to come away from that with only a half-squad dead. Nice move Ken!

In Turn 2, when his mortar crew was shot-out, I managed to take advantage and dash a squad almost to the hedge line, but then they were quickly CRed and DMed from a shot from a newly arrived MMG and hero. These guys were quickly removed for FTR with nowhere to go, so that part of the plan was dead in the water.

In turn 5, just as I was about to press into the village from the fringe of the woods, I had to survive my customary PMC issue as five squads all failed their MC in a row (the usual string of high rolls) and went reeling backwards - my second and final attempt to place a DC got shot down in a blaze of non-glory and things were looking bleak. Ken then produced his next (HIP) Thrown DC bombshell (literally) and got another crowded stack to wet themselves: two broken squads resulted with the reduction of a third.

At this point, I was staring a tough defeat in the face as he still had both 628s (one fanatic), a 458, the Commissar, the 8-1 and the hero in the "last stand" section of the village. I think he then made his only mistake of the game - he sallied forth his Lt Mtr crew to come and chase some of my backfield, forgotten brokies for easy CVP points - this was a good move in some ways as it sucked off a couple of good order squads from the main German assault, but it also meant I was able to rapidly dash a half-squad of my own across the open field to take up an advance position on the hedge line and threaten the rearmost house.

More importantly, this meant I now had his forward defenders boxed in and I managed to critically FTR one of the two 628s as they couldn't rout backwards - that had a big influence on the end game. My half- squad building mop-up teams had by Turn 6, cleaned up all the outlying buildings and I was in control of seven of the required eight. I was very lucky to instantly rally the faltering SS assault line (gotta love that broken side morale of 9) and despite my MMG breaking, and my only surviving engineer squad fumbling their smoke grenades and pinning, I managed to inch three squads, the 9-2 and the 8-1 adjacent to one of the "last stand" buildings, though it cost me a squad and a half in casualties to get there through a veritable storm of 6 and 12 FP -1 and -2 residuals.

In hindsight, I definitely came up smiling out of this attack, as I bounced a lot of them bullets off. I think the presence of the half- squad on the hedge line also compromised Ken's defence slightly, as he had to leave a squad in the rearmost house in case I dashed in and sneaked victory through the backdoor (as it were). Unluckily for me, Ken's third quality sniper attack of the game broke these guys, but their usefulness had already been proven, and luckily they weren't need to do anything superhuman in the end.

German Turn 7 Advancing Fire Phase was the critical end-game moment: Ken's 628 and Commissar stack survived an ineffectual FT attack (did nothing all game) and almost, almost survived an eight-flat attack from the 9-2. The Commissar passed, but the 628 broke on a ten, Ken's dice really failing him at the very last, and they were forced to rout out of that building. I advanced three squads, the 9-2 and 8-1 into the house, avoided the ambush, and then whacked the Commissar on a 14-1 CC attack (just!! - rolled an 11). Last CC die-roll of the game deciding DR - awesome.

If the earlier FTRed 628 squad had survived and been there or if I hadn't got the flanking half-squad into a good position, then possibly I would have been facing one more squad and that may have made the difference. Certainly the odds in the final CC may have changed in a more positive way for Ken, and rolling the subsequent 11 may have lost me the game. Such are the margins in the closer games!

We enjoyed this but have slightly mixed views on this. I played pretty well, with average to bad luck, while Ken played pretty well with average to bad luck too - we wondered if the Germans were a little bit too strong in this one? There was little more he could do, and apart from the mortar crew sally (which was eminently justifiable as the CVP cap was rising), I would have done little different. I must state that both sides' automatic weapons were useless in this game: the only thing Ken really got any rate with was the Light Mortar and that did squat, whilst the MMG and HMG were very limited in their impact. My MMG barely fired all game before it broke down, but that was less of a handicap to me than the weakness of his weapons was to Ken. With average luck, I think the Germans could be a little bit better placed in this, so I'd rate it slightly pro-German (55%), but this is tricky - ROAR has this as 33-23 to the Russians at time of writing and I wonder how much of that is down to a last turn HIP trick where they go running around and reclaim empty buildings?

Nick Drinkwater


Anonymous said...

From Brian Roundhill:
My experiences and viewpoint on this scenario are fairly different. I think it favors the Russian defender. :)

Outline of defense without the scenario card or board in front of me.
Defending the open ground from behind the hedge - One 5PP machine gun and the mortar. Need to keep a leader in the area for rallying and to help move the machine gun. Everyone else defends the woods.

The goal in the woods is to fall back as little as possible every turn. The Commissar is vital in this area to keep troops coming back. Don't defend in much depth, create a strong line each turn. Make the Germans move adjacent to your units, shoot them, leave residual, take the return fire, then voluntarily break back to the Commissar. Try to not let the Germans assault move next to you, try and not let them kep concealment. First turn defense is at the other side of the clearing, and falls back 2 or 3 hexes each turn. I think turn 3 will be defending around the 2 hexes of brush. Ideally, the Germans will be in the woods with Russians at the last edge of the woods at the beginning of turn 5. Just make sure you keep Russians on the edge of the woods to help cover the open ground, especially on turn 1.

The Germans are a tough force, but it is a very narrow front they have to attack along. If they set up a firebase over the open ground, they'll usually lose too much time shooting. If they push through the woods, the Russians are defending a 4 or 5 hex line with strong troops. I'll take the Russians any day against anyone.


From Matt Shostak:
Excellent job, Nick. What a great summary and AAR. The quality of postings on our
list has a really high signal to noise ratio due to stuff like this.

As to why the Russians seem to be favored, I think it may have to do with the fact that
if they play the Commissar behind the line of woods defenders, they can make it really
tough for the Germans to break through there, and can force the clock to run down.
I did it this way in a game against Dan Preston. The one time things looked tough,
I self broke guys, ran back to the Commissar, and promptly rallied them all to reform
the line farther back. I well played fallback defense in the woods with the Commissar
can be tough to beat.


In reply, from Nick Drinkwater:

Brian and Matt,

Great replies and thanks for this - this is a great alternative strategy and is definitely a good Russian defense, but as both of you comment, fallback defenses need to be carefully and skillfully done. I think it could get tricky for the Russians if the SS are able to sneak even a half-squad through or round the back of the defensive line at some point as some FTR options would quickly open up, and this could chew up some much needed Russian squads quickly. As the SS, I would be quite willing to brave some 4 flat residual shots to take the chance to perhaps FTR a squad or two as soon as an opportunity or gap came up, as that would seriously attrite the Russian numbers, open up more gaps and compromise the defense. Thinking about it some more though, I do agree that a tough fallback is a strategy that probably wins it 6.5 times out of 10, but it could also lead to a quicker German win if they are able to blow a hole in the line and kill off several of the Russians in the woods before it even got to the fight at the end.

Has anyone thoughts on how you'd balance it? I had it as very slightly pro-German (55%), but I can see the logic of the pro-Russian view. Perhaps make the Commissar a 9-0 or change the 3 x 458 and 2 x 447s to 2 x 458 and 3 x 447s instead? Just musing here.

Anyway, if you haven't played it, give it a stab - its a fun one!


From Mike Seningen:

Maybe painful at first -- but can you bull rush the hedgeline --

Note I haven't played it.


In reply, from Brian Roundhill:

You could bull rush the hedgeline, but I think a good defense should stuff it.
The Germans start far enough back that it takes a turn to get into position to do a bull rush. As a Russian defender, I would start shifting units to the edge of the treeline to provide more cross-fire and firelane opportunities. It should get ugly quick, but I don't have any numbers to back this up.


From Ken Havlinek:


I didn't, at first, have my commissar in the woods, but figured it out by turn 2 to do so and ran him up there. He was very effective indeed. Maybe if I had him there from the start, it would have given the edge I ended up needing for the win.

As for the bull rush across the OG comment, I had both the mortar, the MMG, the HMG preventing that from happening. I think that would have been a bad mistake. But, the threat alone of such a move forces the Russians to spread the defense at the start.


From Rob Burton:

Zeb used this defence on me in Yae Dake with Japanese against my marines. He set up a line of Jap half squads and every time they broke he would rush back to his leader and rally them on an 11. If I didn’t fire he would self break them so I could not advance into CC.
He held my main attack force to about one hex per turn. By the time I was able to flank and break the line there was no time to take the hill.

It was one of the most frustrating defences I had seen up to that point and he pulled it off flawlessly. Of course it did not help that I X'd out two Flamethrowers on their first shot.

I can see how this defence would work well with a Russian Commissar as well.


Unknown said...

I would take the Russian too. the defense in the woods is the best options as said before. Note BTW that Russian can HIP one squad equivalent (two HS or one HS and the crew) and not one MMC as written in the AAR.
I played this one several times even in tournament against different people, always winning as Russian. I rate it 40/60 pro Russian.