Thursday, September 13, 2007

AAR: RBF-51 Final Glory

Zeb Doyle

Germans: Eric Gerstenberg
Russians: Zeb Doyle

Well, my Labor Day was without ASL and my invitation to join the 'Beat Roy' bandwagon seems to have been lost in the mail, but I did spend a very fun Saturday at Haus Eric playing RBF-51 Final Glory. This is a very fun late-war heavy metal showdown from none other than Chas Smith, who always raises my expectations with interesting-looking scenarios and rarely disappoints. Here, our cardboard counters simulate a May 1945 meeting engagement between the Soviet 1st Polish Tank Division and the Fallschirmpanzerlederhosen Division Hermann Goering. Both sides enter from off-map and battle across the open fields of boards 4, 16, 18, and 44 in an attempt to capture buildings and score CVP. At the end of six turns, the dust clears, the corpses are counted, and if the Germans hold a 31+ VP lead, they win (note that they are fighting the battle in an attempt to break into besieged Berlin, so any victory will be a very relative one indeed).

The scenario looked quite interesting for a number of reasons. Meeting engagements always offer tough decisions, as do combo building/CVP VC (do I risk my troops to try and take that last building?). Chas throws some extra spice into the scenario via the German use of captured Soviet tanks, so we get to try some IS-2 Stalin vs Stalin action. Finally, despite the late-war heavy metal action, there's a lot of interesting net TK numbers and not nearly as much of the boring hit-kill-burn that we usually see in 1945. The two forces are equally matched in total tanks at eleven each, but the Germans hold a slight qualitative edge with two Stalins and three Panthers. I'll call these (to coin a phrase) Main Battle Tanks, as they have a good chance to take out any opposing tank through the front and have little to fear from any non-MBTs. The Soviets have only three Stalins of their own and therefore are weaker in the MBT category by a count of five to three, although the IS-2 (despite the circled B11 number) is slightly superior to the Panther.The remaining tanks are a fun mix of T-34/85s and SU-85s for both sides, with a few T-34/76s and PzIVJs bringing up the rear and clearly out-classed at this point in the war. To sum up, we have the MBTs, which can kill each other frontally with most TKs from five to seven, but are otherwise vulnerable only on the flanks, and a number of lesser tanks that engage each other with TKs of six or so and that need to swarm the MBTs to have much chance. In play, it's a very interesting mix of forces, although I'd say the Germans have a slightly more powerful force overall.

When it comes to the infantry battle, the slight German edge becomes a large advantage. Although the two forces are again equal in quantity, the German first-line squads out range the Soviets (quite useful in such wide-open terrain), are packing PFs and PSKs instead of ATRs, and are backed up by half-tracks and flak-wagons instead of trucks. The two German AT guns are also the manly 75L variety, while the Red Poles are stuck with the 45LL 'nuisance gun.' This disparity in forces is somewhat balanced out by the fact that the Soviets move first and can race into decent defensive positions and capture a fair number of buildings unopposed, but if the armor battle turns against them, it's all over. The German landsers, especially with the 12FP and 20FP IFE attacks from the flak-wagons, can be expected to slowly dominate the infantry struggle and quite likely take out some Soviet armor as well.

At any rate, Eric opted to try his hand at the Germans, which basically meant he had to capture all the contested buildings and outscore me in CVP, or capture fewer buildings and score more CVP. I was happy that he was playing the side stupid enough to try and break INTO Berlin, and sent my Polish Red Army troopers racing onto boards 16 and 44, capturing about half of the VC buildings in the first two turns. The armor for both sides, meanwhile, was cautiously maneuvering into position. One of the fun parts here was the joint off-board entry meant everything was concealed and so we weren't sure quite what we were facing. I tried to enhance this advantage by parking my tanks in orchards or grain whenever I had the chance, and this paid off when Eric (who was fighting horrible allergies all day long and was not on his best game) drove a Stalin up to confront one of my concealed tanks, hoping to score an easy kill. Unfortunately, it was a Stalin of my own and, although my shot missed, presented a major threat to one of Eric's precious MBTs. He moved up a Panther to further pressure me, but a super-tight LOS from a T-34/76 was good and a few side shot APCR rounds left the Panther Stunned and Immobilized. This resulted in the redeployment of another German Stalin and two more Panthers to confront my Stalin and offending T-34 and the turn ended with all of Eric's MBTs facing just one of mine. In a key move though, the German Stalin ended its MPh in a gully where it couldn't see anything but adjacent hexes.

At the start of my turn three, I crossed my fingers, fired my IS-2, and managed to knock out Eric's Stalin, which left me with a very interesting decision. The Germans now had one Stalin dead, one in a gully and effectively out of the fight, one Panther Stunned and Immobile, and the other two Panthers covered by a single German T-34/85. The only German infantry in the area were Riders that I could likely force to Bail Out and wouldn't be able to fire PFs in any event. It seemed like a great opportunity to swarm Eric's tank force and take out his remaining MBTs, thereby granting me a huge edge in the tank battle. The margin of error was slim, though, as I had the bare minimum of required tanks in the area, and two of them were the sub-par T-34/76 variety. In the end, the weak Panther side armor and my really high APCR numbers talked me into the attack. The special ammo rules are a gamey but important part of ASL, and I figured that my swarming tanks would have net 7TH or 8TH numbers (base 10, BFF +4, BU +1, Point-Blank -1 or -2, size -1). Those TH numbers were really close or even equal to my APCR7 numbers, and the thought of getting two chances to roll a 7TH was too tempting to pass up.

So, I unleashed the hounds and sent my tanks swarming in from all directions. Eric made all the right moves with the VCA spins and TCA spins and Intensive Fire shots and so forth, but his dice just couldn't get it done. He seemed to miss by one every single time while my APCR trick worked to perfection and I got all the rolls I needed. By the end of my turn, Eric had lost four of his five MBTs at a cost of a few T-34s. I think the mistake here was bringing the German MBTs into the (comparatively) tight terrain of board 4 without any real infantry support. The slow turrets, weak side armor and close ranges of engagement don't play at all to the strengths of the Panther, while those 75LL guns could do good work on the open expanses of board 44 (where later my 45LL managed to Shock a PzIV with a 29 hex shot!). The real lesson, though, is don't play ASL when you have horrific allergies....the scenario was giving me a real mental workout even without the
distraction of struggling to breath.

At that point, it was looking grim for the Germans, but if you thought Eric was going to throw in the towel...well, you've clearly never played Eric. His landsers started working their way forward to threaten my tanks while his flak-wagons started ripping apart my infantry. In an especially audacious move, a truck pulled a 75L AT gun way up into the front lines, unloaded, and started blasting away at one of my Stalins. At this point, the superiority of the German infantry force really showed itself. The bulk of my armor was mopping up the Panthers and in no position to support my infantry. That left Eric free, in a series of aggressive moves that stopped just short of foolhardiness, to clear out all the victory buildings and cause me a fair amount of casualties in the process. One funny moment arose when a German 8-1/4-6-7/MMG fired at a Russian 8-1/44-7/MMG. Eric rolled my sniper who came over and killed his 8-1, although his squad passed the LLMC. I then rolled my MCs from the attack and activated Eric's sniper...who came over and killed my 8-1. Not to be outdone, the 4-4-7 then also passed his LLMC.

Although Eric was doing great work tearing me up, the infantry fight was bringing in CVP slowly and in small quantities. It's the armor battle in this scenario that will likely prove decisive and thanks to my early good luck, I had a big edge here. Even so, Eric fought hard and really only needed a few things to go his way to get back into it. It simply wasn't meant to be, though, as his dice continually left him just short. One of my Stalins was hit literally 14 times through the front by the 75L AT gun and assorted other tanks, but it survived every time and stolidly proceeded to pick off one German AFV after another. Finally, a desperate German-manned SU-85 drove to point-blank range and fired at the monster, managing to immobilize the monster. Of course, the Stalin crew passed the bail-out TC and erased the offending German during the next PFPh. With that, Eric's armor was effectively annihilated and the combination of my large CVP lead and entirely unopposed armor force brought an end to the game on turn five of six since the German infantry just wouldn't have enough time to hunt me down.

I want to thank Eric for the very fun game despite his sub-par physical condition. The scenario itself is a ton of fun, with the slug-fest between the MBTs taking center stage, but both sides having enough beef to continue fighting even if something should go wrong early. That's exactly what happened to the Germans in my playing, but the strength of their infantry allowed them to make a very valid push for victory over the remainder of the game. If I were to play it again (and there's a good deal of replay value here), I might try sending the German MBTs onto board 18 where HD positions await and they can cover the open fields of board 44. At that point, the LL guns of the Panthers and the Soviet red TH numbers might tip the balance away from the Red Poles a bit. Still, if the Soviets know of the plan, they might be able to use their concealed T-34/76s as bait to feint and....let me just end here by saying if you're looking for a late-war rumble with
some fun subtleties to it, take alook at Final Glory!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Eric and Chas for a great Saturday


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