Friday, July 13, 2007

Tourney Game 2 AAR - A114 Hamlet's Demise

Nick Drinkwater

French: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 2, SAN 4]

German: Roy Connelly [ELR 3, SAN 3]


I think I remember reading somewhere, probably on the ASLML, that
Hamlet's Demise has some pro-German balance issues...can't remember
exactly, and to be honest, and it didn't impact this scenario one little
bit. My opponent in this one was Roy Conelly from Kansas and one of the
funniest and nicest guys I met all weekend - it was great that Roy and
the other Kansas guys made the 10(?)+ hour drive down to Austin - hope
you all got back OK - looking forward to catching up with you next year
with luck!

Pre-game thoughts:

There's a witty truism going around saying that you should never play
the losing sides in those scenario's whose name aptly describes their
outcome..."Smashing the Third" and "Panzer Graveyard" come to mind
immediately. Well, I've not played enough to comment on the veracity of
that statement for those two scenarios, but at first look at this one,
you just end up scratching your head, wondering how the French have got
any chance at all - you could easily see a batch of other witty names
for this one like "French get Crushed", "Les Francais get Stuffed" or
even "Freedom Perishes" (- think Freedom Fries!), but Hamlet's Demise is
catchy and it works too.

We rolled for sides (in fact I rolled for sides all weekend and did not
invoke the balance once) and I lucked out and got the French! WooHoo!!
We're on Board 24 in a Belgian village for this one - it is mild, breezy
day in mid-May 1940 and a German Unstoppable Force is about to run over
a French Very Movable Object - a multi-building overlay replaces the
Board 24 stone factory and lumberyard, but the roadnet and the rest of
the village is in play, and also valley terrain is present, so most of
the Board is at level -1. The interesting split level building at the
back of the village is at Level 0 / Level 1, so that the French do get
some height advantage to pick off unwary fritzes. The Germans have a
great attacking force for this - to win, they must amass 16CVP whilst
losing less than 20CVP themselves, and they are given a Mk Ib, a Mark
IIf and a stonking Mk IIIf, perhaps the most potent gun platform from
the early war.

They also get a strong infantry component to assist in clearing the
French out of their predominantly stone building defense, consisting of
2 x 467, 6 x 447 and a single 838 engineer with a Flamethrower together
with the usual assortment of machine guns and 9-1s and 8-1s we've all
come to expect. The play area is actually the central portion of the
board between (both edges have been trimmed), and so the German's don't
need to come very far to do this either. Hmmmm. Why did we choose this
one again?

The gallant, or possibly idiotic, French chosen to repel this latest
barbarian invasion aren't going to set your world on fire. They are
assisted by an H39 tank with 4 armor (turret is a superior 6, so hull
down positions would be useful) and the world class 37* mm Gun and the
mighty 2FP coaxial machine gun, and it is radioless away, run
away!! In addition, they also get the AT Gun with an inferiority complex
- the stunning 25LL AT Gun, though it does have a ROF of 3. Again, not
exactly confidence inspiring! The basic TK of both these weapons is 7,
so the MkIb may be in trouble, but the other two panzers have much less
to fear. Infantry support is from a yeoman set of six 457s, two
resolute, old hand sergeatnts (8-0), an odd LMG and a MMG.

Distributing these meagre forces to repel the Germans was a major
challenge - good spots to tuck away the AT Gun are at a premium: there
is one wooded level 0 knoll that sticks out from the left of the board
that looks good but it is very obvious...perhaps too obvious and a bit
too far forward. Instead I opted to put the 'little gun that could' in a
woods hex at the back of the village, adjacent to the split level
building. It has a good view along both flanks of the main built-up area
and hopefully will be able to catch an odd tank napping. More
importantly it has the greatest chance of still being alive at the
scenario end (after 6 Turns) - maybe the ROF 3 and 1 HE FP equivalency
will prove useful against the Germans. But then again, maybe not!


The MMG and an 8-0 go in to the split level building to do the overwatch
job and I try to present a concealed staggered defense of the rest of
the troops scattered throughout the buildings and trust a bit, errr,
scratch that, a LOT to luck. With only one board's width available,
there is not much room for the Germans to maneuver and Roy came up the
middle hard and fast. I gack my first long-distance 4-2 shot (a running
theme all weekend), and Roy rolls over the front defenders quickly.
However, they are able to retreat safely backwards and one gallant squad
takes out a German squad in CC - this combines nicely with the removal
of the Mk Ib as the 25LL shows itself.

Roy continues grinding his way down through the town, but I am able to
keep a bit of resistance here and there and break the odd squad or two.
I even get a sniper that wounds an 8-1 leader and that again contributes
to a general stalling of the German attack. Key events in the game
really happen in Turn 4 - I drive the H39 out to take on the challenge
of the MkIIIf - it actually wins this one by immobilizing the MkIII and
the crew bails out - I again fail to take advantage of the -2 "kill the
crew" moment however and they are soon re-manning the tank, causing
problems again.

I do get one stroke of luck as my H39 recovers from a Shock at its first
attempt, and this was symptomatic of the way the game progressed -
slowly and surely, the dice started to turn against Roy. The biggest
moment of the game is when facing certain death in CC, my 8-0 and a
squad infiltrate, generate another 8-0 leader and escape to fight again
- a key moment as I'm now getting ahead on the infantry numbers as well.
Despite this, Roy is also still finding things when he needs to - his
engineers eventually wake up to the fact that there's a war on, and
manage to reduce one of my squads to crispy toast with a snakes with the
FT - there next shot reduces my H39 to a smoking pyre...impressive

In the last turn, I just need to keep the necessary squads alive...we've
both almost resigned ourselves to the fact that I can do a batch of
voluntary breaks, run up the hill onto the back Level 0 plateau and
escape with an uncommon but solid French win; the Germans will not have
enough MP to both cross the last road and get up the hill to capture my
guys in the last turn. Just then it occurs to both of us that doing this
will enable Roy to capture the AT Gun for much needed and necessary VP
and deny me the win. Realizing this, I have to quickly re-think the end
game - most things can still Voluntarily Break, but the gun crew must
stay in place and also survive: a couple more key rolls go my way and I
am just able to survive the return fire to claim a tough but fun win.
Its never over till its over, and you must always keep an eye on odd but
crucial opportunities to win. Great game by Roy as he just kept plugging
away hard, but the return from the shock and the massive infiltration
roll were just enough to tip the balance my way.


I can see how this would be a quick German blow-out: like all small
scenarios, the French are just a single sniper check or an AT Gun
malfunction away from being crushed, but....but....if, they can keep
their weapons fighting to the end, then they have a chance. A rearward
fallback defense is definitely the way to go on this one.

2-0 for the tournament now, 1-0 lifetime vs. Kansas (!) and I am like,
seventh on the overnight leaderboard...something upside down in the
universe today!

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