Sunday, August 05, 2007

AAR: A101 The Drive for Taierzhuang

Matt Schwoebel

Japanese: Rick Reinesch
Chinese: Matt Schwoebel

Rick and I matched up in The Drive for Taierzhuang (A101), a scenario pitting Japanese attackers (Rick) against Chinese defenders (myself). This was one of Rick's first forays into the PTO. The Drive features non-PTO terrain on boards 11 & 19 and is 7.5 turns long. The scenario is played on a wide front (~80% of a board length) with the Japanese entering from offboard, crossing open ground, reaching a forest belt with ~5 gaps for vehicles, and then driving across two low hills to exit 50 VP. They have 18 1st line (4-4-7) squads, four leaders, 3 crewed MMG, 2 knee mortars, some LMG, and an amazing 10 armored vehicles to accomplish the task (about 98 total VP). The armored vehicles include 6 armored cars (slow, but with radios), 2 tanks (radioless), and 2 tankettes (radioless). The Japanese vehicles had armor factors in the 0 to 2 range. The Chinese defenders set-up 6 hexes or greater from the entry edge and had 20 1st line (3-3-7) squads, 3 leaders, 1 MMG, 3 LMG, and 4 all important guns - 3 x 37L AT (3 ROF) and a 37* ART gun (3 ROF, no AP). They also had 3 HIP squads, 3 Dare Death squads (voluntary berserkers with a melee advantage), a roadblock, 12 foxholes, and 8 dummy counters.

From my defender's point of view, the limited lines of sight and clustered terrain on the two hills of the second board looked difficult to defend on such a broad front. The best chance of winning for the Chinese seemed to be inflicting maximum losses on the Japanese as they crossed open ground, especially their high VP vehicles (5 VP each), and then try to shift infantry to the side of the Japanese schwerpunkt. The armored cars were so slow (14 or 19 MP with truck movement), they needed roads to exit in time. It looked like my right flank was most vulnerable with the fewest open group hexes to cross and some forest cover where the Japanese entered. I set-up most of my units at the forest edge including all MGs, 2 of the 37L guns, and the 37* gun. A few sacrificial squads were in foxholes ahead of this forest line. The 3 range of the Chinese infantry meant most squads could not hit the Japanese when they entered from offboard, hence the picket squads hoping to damage any banzai before it reached the main defense line (of later importance). The less likely defender's left flank included all of the dummy counters. I had 1 HIP squad in the center and 2 HIP squads on the right behind the main defense line in ambush positions. Each flank had a reserve 8-0 with 2 x 3-3-7 squads. The Dare Death squads were with these leaders (1 on the left, 2 on the right). On the right a 37L was in ambush position behind a non-road gap in the woods. Since my defense was aligned on the right side, I put the roadblock on the left along the best exit road and out of sight hoping to keep the Japanese from flanking me with vehicles. All of the squads in the front line were either in foxholes or buildings.
Rick came blazing onto the board, mainly on my right flank with 2 armored cars and 2 tankettes probing my left flank. Only a few of my weapons could reach out and say hi early on. I revealed a 37L on the right, which took out an armored car. In the first turn, I usually revealed units and shot when possible, relying on the foxholes to help protect them from counter fire. The Chinese defenders did some damage, but the shots were mainly 1 down 1 or 2. A particularly good shot from a picket squad took out a Japanese leader and striped a couple of squads. It quickly became apparent that the Japanese range advantage and MG advantage was considerable. The Chinese guns and MG preferred not to get ROF during the early stages of the game. Ominously, a massive line of Japanese squads formed up after the advance phase on my far right flank. A few of my squads broke, especially the pickets, during advancing fire and during the defender's turn. A sniper wounded another Japanese leader. The 37L took out a tank. The 37L crew broke from MMG counter-fire. My two reserve squads on the right flank, both Dare Death, moved up into position on the tree line. I already had to started moving some units from the left to right, but that was a long haul.

When Rick started counting how many Banzai counters he had, I started to get worried. He prepped with two knee mortar squads, otherwise every Japanese squad sharpened their bayonets and yelled Banzai! Yes, 11 stacks of counters were flowing forward towards my now meager looking defensive line in a wave of red tide. My picket squads had all broken before the charge, but at least required a squad to jump on top of each of their foxholes. I tried to use the standard anti-Banzai measures - residual, firelanes (my LMG broke trying to create one), and adjacent 6 down 2 shots followed by in-hex tripled & halved shots. The Empire's troops ground forward. It became a swirling melee along the forest edge. A few good Chinese shots did damage, but the Japanese between the Banzai charge and subsequent advance phase entered every occupied hex save one. A Dare Death squad managed to mutually annihilate a Japanese squad and leader. At the end of turn 2, the infantry battle on my right flank was collapsing and it didn't look like many reinforcements from my left would arrive in time.

However, the armor versus gun battle on Turn 2 took a big swing in my favor. In Rick's turn, the 2 Japanese tankettes probed along the best exit road only to find the roadblock, turn around, and attempt to VBM freeze my 37* gun. This gun could have damaged the Banzai charge he was preparing to launch. So, my 37* gun with a 4 HE to kill number matched against a moving, double-small target in-hex with a 0 side armor factor. I needed a 4 to hit the tankette and rolled a 4. I then needed a 4 to kill it and rolled a 5. A quick check showed that HE>1 results in immobilization. The tankette crew bailed out and jumped into CC with my gun crew. Two of his armored cars sat on two of my squads (VBM freeze of a building, CC lock of a foxhole) and stayed in-motion. The 37L gun I had on the far left flank preventing an end run spun around in forest, missed its first low odds shot on the remaining tankette, got rate, hit the tankette & burned it, kept rate, then hit an armored car and destroyed it. The same gun would destroy the remaining armored car on that flank in the next turn.

Rick was now down to one real tank and three slow armored cars. On Turn 3 his forces penetrated my far right flank with ease. A HIP squad revealed itslef only to fire a completely ineffective shot. The ambush 37L succeeded in taking out the remaining Japanese tank before the crew was killed by Japanese infantry fire. The Japanese were reaching the high ground before my defenders and had a clear path to the exit with plenty of time. The Chinese would be running fast to shoot at withdrawling units and likely taking massive losses from Japanese troops in superior positions. Despite Rick being in a great position to exit all or nearly all of his remaining forces, there were simply not enough VP remaining for him to win. I had succeeded in taking out 7 of 10 armored vehicles and his squad losses were sufficient to leave him 42 VP total left on board.

This was a fun scenario and Rick a great opponent. I had never experienced such a massive Banzai charge (about 16 squads & crews with 3 leaders). It succeeded in getting troops across open ground quickly with moderate losses. We talked it over afterwards and agreed the armor could have been held back longer allowing the Japanese infantry to clear a path for it. The Japanese armor in this scenario is extremely vulnerable to the PAK 37 guns of the Chinese (9 to kill with 3 ROF against 0 to 2 armor). It is also a rare scenario where the Japanese have the infantry firepower advantage. Rick sat 4 hexes away firing 6 FP shots (squad plus LMG), while my squad fired back with a 1 FP shot. An extra turn prepping my front line with knee mortars and MMG would have left few Chinese squads left to defend the against the Banzai. In hindsight, I think my defense was good overall. A few exceptions were the limited use of the 9-1 with MMG on the left flank and having no infantry on the far, far right flank to defend the ambush 37L gun. Perhaps at least one squad on the right-flank hill to fire at the first Japanese squads penetrating the defense too.

Thanks for reading!

Matt Schwoebel

1 comment:

Sam said...

thanks for posting, Rick!