Friday, July 13, 2007

Tourney Game 1 AAR - A59 Death at Carentan

Nick Drinkwater

German: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 4]
American: Scott Hopkins [ELR 5, SAN 3]

An age old, quick playing favorite and a great place to start as a warm-up game for both Scott and myself. This is an all-infantry, meat and potatoes scenario with no odd game breaking weapons, or clumsy AAR to worry about and yet despite this apparent blandness, the scenario still retains a great ebb and flow momentum to it as both sides get to attack and then hang on desperately in this one.

Pre-game thoughts:
A small section (9-1, MMG, LMG, 1x 548, 3 x 238) of Van der Heyte's 91st Airlanding Division paratroopers are holding out just after D-Day in a small manor-complex in the middle of Board 17 - their demise is imminent from an onboard section (9-2, 3 x 747 and a Bazooka) of the 101st who are quickly going to evict them from the farm under the cover of a pre-programmed Smoke FFE. They will receive a ton of help from an offboard tough force of 7 x 747s with a 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0 leaders, 100 mm OBA radio and MG support driving hard from the north board edge on Turn 2, though there is no radio support allowed until Turn 4 by SSR.

Having hopefully totally eliminated the holdout Germans in one swift, brutal assault, the reinforced company then has to hang extremely tough as a very hardened relief force of 11 x 548, 9-1, 8-1, 8-0, 7-0, a PSk and some MGs arrives from both / either the east or the west sides of the boards to envelop the Americans in Turn 3. To win, the US must have control of five of the seven buildings of the central manor-farm complex at Game end after 8 turns, one of which is a two hex level building which would give some defense for the Americans against the German relievers. Four Orchard overlays have been added to make some cover "appear" for the American initial approach from the north in particular and the few walls and hedges that are present here are all Bocage. Although the Bocage is limited in its abundance in this scenario, the +2 TEM has a great effect on the game if you can get to it and use it - it's clearly a natural place for the Germans to launch their counter attacks from.

Looking at the board and the setup timing, it was clear to me that for my initial force to have any chance of survival, it would need to set as far back as possible. Initial SSR meant that the on-start MMC must all set up separately (one half-squad HIP) and hence dispersed and also unable to move at all in Turn 1, but I was able to create a couple of dummies to at least try and put a little bit of doubt in Scott's mind. I did leave one half-squad forward plus a dummy stack to at least try and cover some of his approach path and put some caution into him, but the other three units went to the very back to try and hang on until the much needed help arrives. This meant giving up at least 5 of the 7 farm buildings to Scott's attack, but that worried me less than not having any kind of force left when my relief guys arrived.

The Americans, with a double-pronged approach through the grainfield from the NW and the NE, swiftly ran through the smoke and into the village and one of my two half-squads rapidly went down to a double-break, but the others, including the leader and the MMG, all managed to survive and hold on there, albeit desperately, with some low odds passing of 1 and 2 MCs. Scott's 9-2 stack was particularly troubling and causing some damage from a building on the eastern side of the farm and I needed the relief to arrive asap.

The great thing about the relief force is that they can come from either side and hence the possibility for encirclement and proving problematic to broken American rout paths is quite high. The approaches from the western side are probably the better ones for the Germans as there is a small wood to come on into and this links directly into a nice bocage line that runs east-west right up to the southern most building of the manor complex, where my survivors were holed up. Most of my relief force came on from that side, but I was also able to sneak on a platoon from the northeast and southeast corners too which started to cause Scott all manner of grief. On the northeast side, there is another east-west bocage line that separates the farm from a big grain field - this is another great place to get the German's running up to, as they can dominate the northern side of the manor complex from may even be worth sacrificing a US squad here to at least try and stop the Fallschirmjaeger from moving quickly on to this and putting the US Paras in so much subsequent trouble.

On the southeastern side of the village, the Germans are again able to get relatively close to the village due to a large orchard complex; again, another US squad in here to delay German's from that side may have actually knocked them off their quite tight timetable. Despite some breaking of the odd squad or two by Scott's 9-2, through careful maneuvering through this orchard combined with an assault to the northern bocage line, I was able to get Scott's 9-2 stack encircled. This was a key part of the game: he tried to maneuver out of the hole he was in, but one squad got whacked hard for FTR and the others were starting to hurt from the encirclement.

At the same time, as well as this southern and northern envelopment, on the west side, I was able to link up my relief team at the western bocage line with the at-start survivors and their MMG so that pinned in place the majority of Scott's squads in the main part of the farm, effectively signing their death warrant. Scott's force slowly attrited to a batch of 12 and 16 FP attacks from the resultant large firegroup I was able to form, and squads started to go down one by one. This game of attrition continued to Turn 5 when the last of Scott's squads were eliminated, by which time I had finally retaken almost all of the buildings.

Great little game and a nice start for me against one of my own brethren from Houston - as remarked to all and sundry at the time, this was the first occasion we had played each other, so it was not as odd as it looked - we actually live over 40 minutes drive from each other in the Greater Houston metropolis so opportunities to play FTF are rare. I liked this scenario a lot as it was just a classic infantry game using well-led, top-notch units with lots of maneuver to boot - it's not your usual stand-and-die defense that you see in so many other small scenarios - I can see why it is a favorite.

Scott was a little bit unlucky with the dice as he went through a crucial period of high-rolling in Turn 3 as I was maneuvering and forming up my bocage-line firegroups, a better result from which could have definitely have cramped my attack. Getting the western firegroup into place and enforcing the encirclement were the key moves in this match and were the ultimate path to victory. I'd play Scott again any time as he's a great guy and a lot of fun! Also, he was a complete star for driving both Tom and myself up to Austin and back - many thanks Scott!

1-0 for the tournament

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