Monday, September 17, 2007

AAR: HS30 The Good Shepherd

Zeb Doyle

Canadians: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Bill Wenzel
It was another fun Saturday in San Antonio, with eight of us arriving at Scott's house to take advantage of his hospitality. We had a good mix of people, and I got to catch up with some old friends like Mike Denson and meet some others for the first time like Forrest. All in all, the experience was well worth the drive, especially considering the large amount of ASL that got played. Featured scenarios included Round One, Village of the Damned, Oder Dare, and The Puma Prowls. My contribution to the ASL action was HS30 The Good Shepherd, which I got to play against Bill Wenzel. Bill's a fun opponent with a great sense of humor and who knows the rules quite well. Here's a brief recap of our game:

The scenario comes from the Operation Veritable Historical Study from MMP, and as such, it features some late war Canadians using some less than enthusiastic Germans as their punching bag. The action all takes place in 1945 on two deluxe boards, where the Germans have eleven ELR2 second-liners backed by a StuG, a 75mm INF gun, and some mines, and are trying to hold four of six multi-hex buildings. The attacking Canadians also have eleven squads, but they are elite and are supported by three Shermans and led by 'The Good Shepherd' himself, a 9-2 leader. The Canadians have only 5.5 turns to move up on the Germans and clear the buildings, three of which are the massive multi-level variety, and which will take some time to clear. Given the numerical parity in infantry and the fact that the Germans have an HMG and a MMG, while the attackers bring only LMGs, things would seem to favor the Germans a bit. The Canadian ace in the hole comes in the form of a Wasp, which has a 2 hex range 24FP FT and is fully-tracked with 16MP, allowing it to race from one side of the deluxe map to the other burning out any troublesome German strong points.

I'm not sure if it was Scott's martial Teutonic music playing in the background or not, but Bill decided to take the Germans and set up a very nice defense with his machine guns all at level two for the good LOS and his dummies mixed indistinguishably throughout. With no obvious weaknesses to exploit, I decided to push hard down the left side, where three of the VC buildings stood, and send a smaller flanking force to the right to capture the key fourth building I'd need. I also deployed more than I usually would; the fact we both had an equal amount of squads and that Bill actually had more infantry FP and ROF than me was pretty worrisome. Things started with a smoke round from my 51mm MTR and a wave of 2-4-8s trying to push forward as cautiously as possible. It didn't work. Bill got some 4+0 and 6+0 shots on me and scored several K/ results. Several more squads also broke, but not before I'd blundered into two well-placed minefields and lost another 1.5 squads to some more 6+0 attacks there. Just for kicks, I rolled two boxcars trying to rally my brokies, and started my turn two down 3.5 out of my original eleven squads...

On the bright side, my Shermans started the turn with a bunch of good smoke shots and so the German ability to hurt me dropped way down. I'd also found the minefields and could avoid them going forward, although one was in a great spot that really complicated the assault on the right flank building. My Wasp came to the rescue here, toasting a Germans squad with a KIA on turn one and forcing another to ELR into a 4-3-6 on turn two. The rest of the turn had my troops working their way forward to threaten the four buildings, although another mini-disaster occurred when my 9-2, 2x 4-5-8, 2x LMG stack was hit with an 8+4 that pinned my 9-2 and broke both squads. Bill did a nice job taking advantage of my misfortune and switched to a slightly more active defense. I ended his turn on a dismal note when I had to self-break two CX half squads that ended up adjacent to concealed Germans.

Turn three saw some hope return for me when I rallied almost all my brokies and got some more good smoke and WP rolls from my Shermans to again smother the German positions. The Wasp was again key as the 24+0 attack shattered a key German squad and let me push hard down the left into all three of the VC buildings in that area. Bill did everything he could against the FT threat, but the double-small always Motion Wasp is almost impossible to hit at two hexes and my lucky smoke rolls really cut down on the IFT attacks he could throw at it. The worst the Germans could do was the 4+2 shot from the squad actually being flamed, and neither that nor the X11 number ever came into play.

At this point, the tight confines of the deluxe board and my swarm of half-squads combined to make it tough for any broken Germans to rout, and I started racking up some prisoners. With the three squads the Wasp had zapped, and another 4-4-7 that broke on a 6+1 AFPh shot from The Good Shepherd, Bill was now hurting as much as I was from the lack of infantry. Again though, he made some nice moves in his half of the turn and ended up in CC with several of my half-squad Guards. Bill had some great chances to take me out and rearm his prisoners, but he missed not one, but two HtH attacks and we ended up in Melee in both spots. That was a huge break for me, and in my turn four I was able to fire into both Melees (easy decision as I had two 8ML units in each, the Germans had a single 7ML unit and the 6ML prisoner). Both locations ended with broken Germans and surviving Canadians and I was able to 'Kill Bill' in both spots as the 4-4-7s tried to Withdraw.

That was a huge swing in the game since we were both so short on units that whoever lost the Melees would be really really thin on the ground. The dice bit Bill again at the start of turn four when his brokies couldn't rally. I took full advantage by zapping yet another of his squads with the Wasp and managed to capture the VC building on the right and two of the three on the left. The final building was held by a single 4-4-7 that I broke in PFPh but couldn't quite kill it off that turn. My attack on the last building was greatly aided by the fact that Bill suddenly couldn't break any of my units, despite having point-blank shots from his StuG, INF gun, and some 8FP shots from an MMG across the street. With the final VC building now filling with Canadians and only a broken 4-4-7 holding it, Bill was forced to try a small counter-attack and send two of his few remaining squads across the street and into that fourth building. Again, he played it well and gave me nothing more than some 2-1 shots, but again I rolled low and he rolled high and both German units were gunned down. That signaled the end of the game, as I would have been able to Mop Up on my turn five to take the last building, and there was no way the few remaining Germans could have recaptured anything with only one MPh left.

Overall, it was a fun game with Bill's early luck more than negated by my late game dice. We chopped each other up pretty well with his machine guns and my Wasp until we were both down to seven squads or so. That made those two Melees so key, as some different rolls would have not just killed my units but actually added to the German manpower via released prisoners. As it was, Bill's good play but bad dice lost him about 30% of his remaining force and put me in great shape for the win. My only other comment on the scenario would be that the Germans are likely somewhat favored due to the fact that if something bad happens to the Wasp, I don't see the Canadians having enough FP to pull it out. I was lucky enough to have my key piece active every turn and dishing out damage all game long. The German key to victory, meanwhile, is to hold those big buildings and delay as long as possible, a strategy that is much less reliant on the fickle swings of fate as no one roll will really kill you. Still a fun scenario...but protect the Wasp at all costs and never roll an 11 with it!

Thanks to Bill and Scott for a fun day and thanks to you for reading,


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