Monday, August 13, 2007

AAR: HP34 Big, Bad Gun

Nick Drinkwater

Italian Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 5]
British Player: Zeb Doyle [ELR 4, SAN 4]


The urban-country transitional board 49 forms the backdrop for this
sharp little action set in Sicily in the summer of 43, and it is a
classic little `take the stone hovel village' scenario, the
biggest challenge of which will be the time issue. The British have 5.5
turns to eject a tough and determined detachment of Italian marines out
of four of the six multi-hex stone buildings in which they are holed up
in and at the same time they must capture or eliminate a large AA Gun
that dominates the centre of the town that has been proving particularly
difficult to the Allies.

The action is set on rows M-GG, a little bit bigger than the normal R-GG
arrangement that we normally get to see; this pulls in a couple more
multi-hex stone buildings for the Italians to work with. SSR means the
75L , ROF 2 AA gun has to set up emplaced on the central crossroads (or
at the Four Corners) in hex Q8 in the middle of four of the six critical
buildings. The fifth stone building lies adjacent and west of this
crossroads on the northern edge of the board, whilst the sixth is a
`gimme' for the Brits being outside the initial Italian setup
area in the British approach area.

The buildings in the village are close enough together to make lines of
sight actually quite limited for the gun which can dominate the roads it
looks down but that is about it – despite this, it is still the most
potent weapon on the board, and if given the chance should make a
particularly tasty Swiss cheese out of any of the British armor.

British Analysis:

Why is that? Well, its London Bus day for the Brits – they have been
given two of the fearless Daimler Scout cars (with a 4FP CMG, SD and the
trusty 2 pounder Gun), a Bishop, which despite being a 25 pound gun on
tracks, was truly one of the most poorly designed vehicles of the war
(limited traverse and prone to low Ammo), and an AEC II Armoured Car
which is the king of this particular battle (elite boosted S9, a SM and
a 6 pounder gun allied to some relatively tasty armor). To add some
`oomph' to this motley crew, the British also receive four
leaders of varying vintages (8-1 to 7-0), two 648s, two 458s and five
457s, together with LMGs, two DCs and a Lt mtr. SSR means the 648s are
Assault Engineers – of course they are.

That lot with combined the awesome mobility of the Armoured Cars
(we're playing mainly on paved roads) and the massive potential for
Smoke will mean the Italians will be receiving attacks from every side
and there will not really be the potential for a fallback retreat here
as rout paths will be threatened everywhere. The Brits approach from the
west in scattered terrain from Turn 1 whilst the vehicles come on from
the south on Turn 2. The best the Italians can probably try to do is a
die-in-place defense and just hunker down even more tightly in their
trusty Sicilian stone villas and make every bullet count. If they do get
an opportunity to fall or rout back, they clearly need to take it, but
with those pesky Armoured cars nibbling at their ankles at every
opportunity, that is clearly unlikely. No, the Italians have to make a
`festung' of the four buildings at the crossroads and hope they
can annoy and delay the British enough so that they can retain bodies in
three of them.

Italian Analysis

This is where the Italians "Armoured" asset comes in – they
have been given a turretless, MG-less L40 with a mighty 47mm gun to
assist the defense. Wow. Mind-blowing. There are options with this in
its initial placement, but its ability to sally out and damage the Brits
is, shall we say politely, limited. I think it is best if it used to
mutually support the AA Gun. It can be used as a bridge to cover
infantry crossing the roads between the crossroads buildings to help
reinforce a particular axis of the defense where necessary, and of
course even offers assistance to do this as a wreck. It is unlikely you
will get any good shots in against the armoured cars, as they will most
likely be coming in from your rear and flanks, but if lucky, it may
still be alive to offer point blank shots against the final British
assault groups in the last two turns.

As well as this mighty piece of Italian techno, the Italians do get an
8-1, two 8-0s, a hero, an HMG, MMG and a couple of LMG plus a couple of
the bad ATRs to go with their twelve (yes twelve) 347s. SSR tries to
reflect that these Italians woke up feeling particularly mean and nasty
this morning, by making two of the squads secretly Fanatic assault
engineers – they also receive a hidden MMC option and this should be
used creatively to make sure you annoy the Brits by making them search
or walk through every single location along the way. You could also try
and find an out of the way place somewhere and maybe uncover yourself in
Turn 4 or 5 and make a dash back to the gimme Building in the British
entry area and really annoy them! There is some potential here.

AAR - run like bunnies!

Zeb is an outstanding player and I knew I was going to need to be on my
toes in this, especially with such a brittle force – the prisoner
counters will need to be at the ready from the start. He started by
deploying as much as possible to form a half-squad blitz (the bunnies),
which became even more important when his Bishop and Lt Mtr both failed
to find Smoke on their first shots of the game. Like it! He pushed hard
on from the western side, but his Schwerpunkt was really formed by the
two Engineer squads and the 8-1 pushing adjacent to the northern board

Real soldiers?

The Italian defense was desperate and dogged and, all things considered,
they put up a fair imitation of being real soldiers by delaying the
British at one of the big lateral avenues until Turn 4 which really
helped – one outlying squad proved to be a real thorn in the British
side by hanging out to Turn 5 which was nice to see. However, all was
not well on the northern side of the board, where an extremely useful
set of Vehicular Smoke Grenades blocked off most of the lines of sight
to advancing British infantry by my AA Gun and tankette. The British
engineers continued to push on hard, and I had to slowly give way - they
made even greater progress due to the ability of the British to cause
encirclement through great use of the Armoured Cars, for which I had
little defensive options.

"Aim at them, not over them!"

My biggest problem was just the complete inability to touch the British
in defensive fire – I missed a street fighting opportunity which had
implications and I continually failed to hurt Zeb in -1 and -2
situations where I rolled the numerous tens and elevens. I did manage to
ambush and kill a squad and escaped ambushes elsewhere to slowly retreat
backwards, and until the very end I was able to suck up several good
morale checks, but I just couldn't scratch him back in return. My
two fanatic engineers were never offered a chance to do any vehicle CC
and they went down in a welter of British assault fire.

The start of the end was marked when his engineer stack survived a 2MC
and normal MC on respective 16+2 and follow up 8+2 shots with only one
broken squad as a result. One of my fanatic boys failed to survive their
FPF shot as I attempted to stop a DC-placement and that cracked open a
small chink in the defense. The next turn was even worse however –
my little tankette fluffed its point blank shots at the 8-1 and 648, the
AA Gun missed both its normal shot and the Intensive Fire shot at the
same target and my 8-1 and HMG missed them too in a horrid sequence of
9s and 10s with no rate at all (neither of my ROF weapons got extra rate
or made barely a meaningful attack all game).

This is the end...

I survived the return defensive fire relatively unscathed but in British
Turn 5, it really went arse-up: the tankette, having destroyed one
Daimler Scout Car (see, they can do it!), went up in flames to
successive snakes from the AEC from Zeb, and then to add insult to
injury, my AA Gun immediately rolled a boxcars on only its fourth shot
in the game. The real clincher was when my 8-1, two squads and the HMG
all failed their morale checks from a measly 8+3 prep fire from the
machine gun of the other Scout car. That completely cracked the defense
wide open and despite some (literally) last-gasp suicidal charges from
the two squads I had left, my pinned gun crew went down in a hail of
grenades and that was the win for the British.

I played this pretty solidly but the combination of the killer
consecutive snakes and the complete inability of myself to roll an
effective attack or morale check especially when really, really needed
was in huge contrast to Zeb. Its got to be such a joke between us over
the last two weeks that he even donated a spare set of precision dice to
me to see if I can sway this in the future – an offer I gladly

If those odd events at the end hadn't happened and the 8-1 and say,
just a single squad with him had survived then I think it would probably
have come down to the very last turn, though the Brits would still have
been heavy favorites. The Bishop played virtually no role in the game
and the bulk of the British infantry played a supporting role to the
virtuosos of the assault engineers – if they had gone down to the
2MC like they were supposed to then we may have had an even closer game
still as the Brits would have been behind on their timetable even more.
Well played Zeb as ever though, as he sees every option and exploits all
the weaknesses. Great fun to play with.

Recommended as, despite quite large numbers of squads, we completed this
in about four and a half hours and it was tense (almost) to the end.
This scenario is large enough that even with the odd flukey shot, it
should go to the end.

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