Friday, July 13, 2007

Tourney Game 3 AAR - RB1 One Down, Two to Go

Nick Drinkwater

Russian: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 5]

German: John Hyler [ELR 4, SAN 3]


Having been put through the emotional wringer in Hamlet's Exaggerated
Demise by Roy, and having been heard muttering audibly by several people
that I just want to "play something small", the insane, stupid part of
me kicks in and agrees with John "I live and breathe to become Major
Johnson" Hyler that it would be a really great idea to play something
big! John is a fun guy, now returned to Houston, with a great dry, sense
of humour - he's keen to retry "One Down, Two to Go", which is perhaps
not everyone's choice of ideal tournament fare, but is classic,
well-balanced and the first scenario out of the big-mamma pack of all
time, Red Barricades. I wasn't completely new to RB, having played a
series of games vs. Ken Havlinek two years ago, but I was rusty on all
the ins and outs and subtleties of the RB map and unfortunately it

Pre-Game Thoughts:

This scenario represents the opening shots in the battle for the
Barrikady - the Germans have marched their way through the Tractor
Factory to the north, and this scenario represents their initial assault
on the northern peripheral buildings that fringe the main Barricady
complex. All the usual RB stuff is in play, so I won't go into an
in-depth analysis on this - Mike Seningen has done an excellent job of
that in a recent Banzai issue (5.2) previously and I would recommend
everyone read this analysis if they want to play this scenario. Mike's
skilful analysis breaks the Russian defense into three zones: an
"unlikely to be attacked" eastern sector that is furthest away from the
German setup area, the central sector dominating the big central
northern debris field and the all-important and hardest to defend,
western sector, behind the railway tracks - Mike, you are prescient!
Unfortunately when playing this, I didn't have access to Mike's article
and I had to figure out a defense on my own - some bits I got right but
some bits I got very, very wrong!

Unlike our normal perception of RB, the VC (Germans need to control 20
Stone building, cellar or rubble locations) for this scenario really
don't require any fighting to take place in the factories themselves -
as a result, the nine reinforcement Russian conscripts will act just
like Russian conscripts always do: get hit, fail morale check, disrupt!
Also, the all important SSR that all non-HIP Russians in locations
greater than co-ordinate 7 take a MMC hit me really, really hard and I
broke about 60% of my units in those locations, but especially in the
key F5 northernmost building. This one is really difficult to plan for,
and the results were gruesome.

In my rushed setup, I missed the importance of another key SSR – all
buildings in hexes less than 4 must roll to see if they are on fire. So
what you ask? Well, lots of them are on fire, and this crucially reduces
many of the places where the HIP German observer can hide out, something
that I realized much later. Also, as Mike recognizes in the Banzai
article, the corner stone building (F5) in the NW corner is just really
difficult to defend, but as the Russian, you are really reluctant to
hand over 8VP straight off the bat. I just didn't realize HOW difficult
it was to defend, and put too much in there from the start: Mike's
advice to accept this as a death trap and effectively abandon it is
well-advised as, after a shocking start there, I just couldn't get going
again. John was instantly able to suppress all the obvious defenders
from the start, after a little bit of trouble getting in and through one
of my own connecting trenches was able to threaten much of the real
estate to the south - it never really improved from there.

I think also my performance was hampered to a degree by general fatigue
allied to an overall rustiness with the RB rules in general. In setup, I
had to remove one of my tunnels as I'd marked it up to exit in a rubble
location, I had to eliminate a minefield during play as I'd routed a
broken squad through it prior to John moving a juicy stack into it, I
had seriously misplaced my Observer and Phone at the east rather than
the west end of the N6 building so that it was unable to see much of the
westernmost railroad approach, I had written down a meaningless FBL hex
coordinate on my scenario prep card, and in Turn 2, I completely forgot
to pull a chit and call in the OBA on John's juicy stack when it was in
relatively open ground approaching the railroads.

To compound this, during the NMC phase someone had come and talked to us
and when replacing counters after the NMC, I realized I had mistakenly
replaced both a HMG and a MMG in the N5 building with only one squad who
was now broken. All horrible mistakes, but the loss of those two support
weapons without firing at all was critical, and I paid for these with
the massive hole that then developed in the northwest corner of the map
which John proceeded to pour through.


The main issue with all of these flaws was that I was in no place to
really interdict John at all in the next three main turns. John had
developed an awesome attack in which everything, and I mean everything
came on through the Railroad track offensive corridor - this was brutal
and most of my stuff was off balance, and the bad positioning of the
Phone Observer was particularly problematic. He skillfully concentrated
everything together and pushed really hard south - scouting by his tank
found two more of the AP minefields between the rail tracks (although we
both missed bogging from debris for the first turn or two). On the one
occasion I really could get to hurt a big stack of John's, I fluffed a
4-2 and a subsequent 2-2 and his sturms leapt over the tracks into
adjacent open ground (11 and 10 in succession).

I did manage to surprise and hold up John with the hidden 76* field gun
in building F5, and these guys heroically shrugged off three or four
30FP + 4 attacks in a row, before going down to a miserly 8+4 shot from
the MkIVE machine guns - typical! I also managed to whack and burn
another MkIV in CC with a 2, but in the westernmost wooden buildings, my
defenders there kept repeatedly missing a bunch of 12+2 attacks and went
down instantly to the massed firepower of the 10-2 directed sturms.
Weirdly, we both received our reinforcements at the earliest point
possible (Turn 1 for me, Turn 2 for the tanks for John) but again this
helped John more than me as my Commissar-led guys had SO far to crawl
and John successfully pinned them repeatedly as he got air support for
each and every turn of the 5 turns possible!

His bombing it has to be said was generally terrible, but it did reduce
two conscripts to 'rupties going nowhere. In contrast, John's tanks were
swiftly into the action and starting to hurt me even more. In terms of
the little OBA I had available, my one FFE corrected to the only hex
where it couldn't do anything at all (I was chasing his now revealed
observer), while in contrast, John's corrected perfectly to the exact
position where he could completely smoke in the western view of the
entire N6 building and stop my sole surviving HMG from doing anything
for 2 turns. Even with my SAN of 5, I can't remember a single effective
attack. It really was just one of those games...

A couple of things did pay off for me: I had a great lateral tunnel
connecting the western C13 stone building under the tracks to F13, and
this one is a must for any defense of the west as the Germans will
definitely get a nasty MMG firelane setup to interdict the E hexrow
along the railtracks, stopping reinforcements in their tracks. I also
placed the armored cupola in Debris J5 which has a great view of the
western and central entry approaches - this did manage to put some hurt
on one of John's stacks and I did do some casualties but overall, it was
far too little and far too late as my attacks were rolling horribly on
any and all of their IFT resolutions.

By the time my second batch of reinforcements were due on in Turn 5,
John had successfully pushed me out of the F5 building-plus-rubble, was
in the rubble of the western approach of the N6 building, was pushing
hard through the F8 and F9-G10 rubble and had just eliminated all my
defenders in the C13 building. He had effectively broken through into
the stone buildings in the C18 area and was over 25 stone locations to
the good and in place to get at least another 10 more. I quickly
conceded defeat to this expert and well-planned attack and can only
offer some apologies to John for being too tired and inpatient to setup
a more rigorous defense and give him a tougher match. Well-played John!


2-1 for the tourney overall after a game played over two days. My big
takeaway from this is to actually slow down and recognize the warning
signs earlier in this kind of tourney scenario - I sadly don't have the
stamina of an ox and I really compromised my chances with my rush to get
started and to get a turn in, and also not realizing that I really need
to spend much more time refreshing myself on all the nuances of the RB
rules and conundrum, and the very different series of questions it asks
of you. Perhaps, the monster HASLs with their plethora of extra things
to think about over and above everything in the 2" thick rulebook are a
step too far and a little bit too ambitious in this environment -
certainly some of the other guys looked at us like we were aliens for
trying this one on, but I did see Bill D tackling "The Bushmasters"
which is another monster, so each to their own I guess!

On the bigger scenarios, I think there is some truth that they can be a
lot more forgiving of the odd bad dice or misplaced setup, but in this
one I had compounded my numerous setup mistakes far too much through
some very average play and some fairly horrible dice let me down when I
needed them the most. Misplacing the observer was a major faux pas and
then forgetting to place the SR marker just made it worse. Again, read
Mike Seningen's review and discussion on how to win in this one - it
really is excellent!

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