Saturday, July 21, 2007

AAR: SP81 Betje Wolf Plein

Nick Drinkwater

British Commandos: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 5,SAN 3]
Germans: Stephane Graciet [ELR 3, SAN 4]

Pre-Game Thoughts: A big case of deja vu as Stephane and myself sit down to play our second tour of Board 51 in two months, in the same configuration that we used for Extracurricular Activity a month ago - namely rows A-P with the big stone 'university' building at the very back of the board. This time we have swapped the ruins of Budapest for the ruins of Flushing on the island of Walcheren in November 1944. The commandos have just landed in the flooded town and are about to receive a fast and brutal counter-attack from a bunch of surprisingly tasty late war Germans. An Interesting SSR means that the German gets to place four rubble counters with the chance of generating cascading, falling rubble stacks - especially useful to try and restrict use of upper building levels by the retreating British or maybe create some cover to block the big LOS down the long avenues which dominate this board. Unluckily Stephane came up with squat and no rubble decided to fall, which curiously probably made both our jobs harded. The commandos have a tough task in this one - they have to hold out for six and a half turns and stop the Germans exiting 8 CVP off the back of the board, but they have only been given 4 x 648s, 3 x 338, 2 x DC, 2 a LMG, an 8-0 and the all importnat key piece of the day, the 9-2. Normally, that would be a tasty force capable of dishing out a lot of nastiness to anyone who tries to take liberties with them, but they are facing an unusually powerful force for such late war Germans - 8 x 467, 6 x 447, MMG, 2 x LMG, a couple of -1 leaders and a 8-0. That's a 2-1 squad advantage in numbers at the beginning and the Brits have to start out dispersed across the map to cover all approaches so they can concentrate and perhaps overwhelm the line locally. I've already had one recent lesson in the difficulties of defending on this board, especially when trying to make lateral switches across the board due to the problem with the long avenue lines of site, so I need to take care here. Again, the natural stop line is the straight cross-board road that the attacking Germans must cross. Like the last time on this board, it is the critical job of the defenders to make crossing this road as painful and as bloody as possible - having done this, the Commandos need to slowly withdraw back along the avenues to the backfield to fight out a desperate last ditch defense on hexrow A, the exit row. The end game in this one is interesting. As they stand, the at-start Brits though powerful, are inherently brittle due to their very low numbers, so these guys must plan on a large degree of force preservation until the "cavalry" arrive on Turn 3. Any loss of any key units to fate or sniper shots and there could be a very obvious hole through which the Germans will pour, so keeping concealment and trying to use the dummies construc'tively is important, as again the threat of a concealed squad is often greater than the reality of their possible impact. The "cavalry" for the Brits are two Commando half-squads, an 8-0, and critically, two MMGs - it is important that these guys get onboard safely in one piece, preferably concealed, as two small woods in hexrow A mean there is a perfect opportunity to throw out two firelanes that will make exiting movement especially fraught with peril for the Germans. These really are the last-ditch defense positions and no matter how well the initial defense has gone, the Brits will be fighting hard in Turn 7 right on the back line to stop the Germans cold.

AAR: For this one, I repeated my spread-out defense of the lateral road which I had used the month before. With no vehicles this time, Stephane went for a crushing attack on my right side and maneuvered carefully to keep a big two-hex Firegroup of both -1 leaders plus MGs and six squads intact. He sent a small platoon down the middle to test the centre defenses, but I shot these up easily at range and they quickly ran out of puff. I also advanced a concealed half-squad out across the road in the centre to try and posture and threaten the Germans for some behind-the-line mayhem. This concealed stealthy 'mystery' stack scared the bejeezus out of a concealed 447 who went scurrying backwards to get away from instant death ambush...a great moral victory for the defense - its always the threat value that works! By turn two, Stephane was up to the lateral road where he was facing the teeth of my frontline defense - his big stack was in place and things were looking really horrible when my 9-2 and 648 lost concealment to a measly 16+4 attack, and then were horribly destroyed with a 30+2 attack that resulted in 1KIA. I got really lucky and missed the yahtzee, thank heavens, but my 9-2 was broken for two turns and the loss of one quarter of my squads was grim. I was however still putting the hurt on the Germans and scoring some small and important victories with the odd squad going down to -1 shots and also to fate. Importantly, through a lot of skulking and some crucial missed massive FP attacks by Stephane, I was able to neutralise his big foregroup with my right-most 648 which continued to stop the six squads of the Firegroup from crossing the road, the central attack having already ground to a halt. Eventually however, I just didn't have enough units to put enough Residual Markers down and some squads leaked through to start to threaten my middle. Then came the big one - another 648 broke to some cheap shot 8+3 shot, but then went berserk when rallying to attack two of the 467s with an 8-0 leader they had also generated. Surviving the 30+2 move into the enemy hex, they succesfully killed a squad in CC and then locked up the other squad for the rest of the game - this was huge move, as these two 467 squads would have easily marched off with little to stop them apart from these berserkers. The Germans did manage to slip one squad through to the very back in the 'university', but these got nailed by a snakes from one of the MMGs which by now were nestled into position. By the end game, Stephane was reduced to some fairly desperate moves with suitably horrible results. Another snakes and a three consecutively did for two more squads in the backfield, and it all came down to whether he could find enough of a combination of units to get off the required CVP, even though he was going to have the run the gauntlet of two parallel MMG firelines and a 648 and 9-2. I was by then really happy that I had the game in the bag at this point as that was a really touigh ask, but the great thing about Stephane is he always goes on to the bitter end and there are no cheap victories. He deployed as many squads as he could and then started his own "Run through the Valley of Death". I scored another snakes and got both firelanes working straight away and stopped almost all of it in its tracks. However, one full squad did make it and we could see that he had to get two more squads AND the 8-1 off the board for the desired 8CVP needed for the win - still do-able, but one of the squads was going to have to survive two 2-2 Residual FP attacks, even though the 8-1/467 only had to go through a 2-flat residual firelane. The first 467 survived my first shot (a nine - eek!), and then I rolled a eight for the second attack: a Pin Test! Up comes the dice and Stephane rolls a 9!! Game over, hard fought British win. We played out the last squad and -1 leader escape attempt to see what could have happened, and they sneaked off unscathed, so the pin result had been absolutely critical. Awesome game and awesome fun! Good little scenario this, thouigh the British need handling with care - a bad result or two and the Germans will be streaming off in no time. We got through this all-infantry slug-fest in 3 three hours, so it was a perfect night's entertainment. Stephane surprised me a little as I didn't get a usual half-squad opening blitz testing all my stacks, and he missed the fact that I had dummies for a turn or two. The loss of the 9-2 / 648 early in the game threatened to disrupt me completely, but I fought a staid and solid defense that generally quickly blocked up any holes Stephane was able to punch through. Even still, it could easily have gone the other way in those last desperate rolls - any win versus Stephane is valuable and I was very happy.

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