Saturday, September 29, 2007

AAR: TRBH3 - Cold Comfort

Nick Drinkwater

Japanese Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3 SAN 4]

Australian Player: Zeb Doyle [ELR 4, SAN 2]

Summary and Analysis After the long drawn out agony of crawling through the jungle into the teeth of Zeb's lethal defense in the "Those Ragged Bloody Heroes" Campaign Game, we had a couple of hours to spare, so having nothing else obvious in mind and being completely up to speed on all the small intricicies of the CG and the map, we just pulled out the shortest and fastest playing scenario we could find from the remainder of the TRBH pack. This was "Cold Comfort", a short brutal attack by a company of Japanese sent to destroy a bunch of the Australians who have just entered onto the board into a big kunai field, lining the Kokoda Trail, before they could get established for their final assault on the Gona mission. The action predominantly focusses at the south end of the kunai field either side of the Kokoda trail and in the fringes of neighboring jungle, though the Aussies are not allowed to setup directly in there. No more hacking through the dense jungle for me, which is a huge relief and a much needed change!

To mix things up a but, I opted for the Japanese this time after my painful experiences trying to get the Australians to function in the Campaign Game. All the standard TRBH SSR are in effect (not the CG ones), the only major impact of which was that the Japanese could enter in column and had the option to Banzai whenever they wanted - no Smoke grenades are available to either side, and the Dense Jungle costs 3MF instead of the usual two. Due to the time constraints in the scenario, there was no real option to use the interior jungle as a path. SSR meant that all the Australians had the option to setup in a foxholes (not in jungle) but they had to split their forces into two groups, split either side of the track. To win, the Japanese had to prevent the Australians having a MMC having a LOS to the trail at game end (very unlikely) or claim 7CVP (much more probable).

AAR Australian forces consist of a total of 4 x 457, a 458, 3 x 248, two 127 crews, two 8-1s (one heroic), 2 x LMG and 2 x MTR plus dummies. Zeb recognised the danger of me defeating in detail either one of the two split forces and quickly moved to re-unite the two groups in a massed foxhole "amoeba" in the far SE corner of the map that extended into the light jungle fringe and the solitary hex of bamboo he had access to. Importantly, the entire eastern right hand edge of the kunai field is separated from the jungle by at least one open ground hex, and Zeb's defense meant that I was going to have to cross this. Tricky, but hey, I'm the Japanese and they just shrug off bullets, don't they?

I had a tasty little force of 4 x 447, 4 x 347, a crew, MMG, lt Mtr, 2 x LMGs and a 9-1 and 9-0. With only six turns and a lot of kunai to hack through, I opted to use the bonuses of column movement to leg it down the track as soon as possible. Column rules meant I had to disband as soon as I could see a KEU, but it did bag me a couple me of extra hexes and took Zeb a little bit by surprise. A third of the way down the track, I detailed two and a half 2nd line squads to cross the open ground and to start working their way down the jungle fringe to take on a squad and a "?" stack there. I then sent a couple more half squads to test the outer edge of the foxhole line and get some units to reveal themselves. Two Australian firelines later, and I was off and running with a 'get me closer' banzai from the remainder of the main force - a useful tip from Mr Doyle, who helped me through the Banzai technicalities. This banzai managed to swerve around both firelines and subsequently posed a serious threat to the hard-pressed Aussies. Zeb continued to pick up the odd stripe here and there but my sniper was hyper active and picked off two of his dummy stacks with '1s'. Grrrr. Importantly, another sniper pinned one of his half-squads in the jungle and despite a complete failure of smoke, WP or anything else from the knee mortar and MMG, I was able to wipe out 3VP of units there.

Turn 5 saw me launch my second banzai and this carried me on to the western line of the Aussie holes where they put the defenders into the fight of their lives. Zeb was unlucky with a batch of First and Subsequent First Fire 4, 2 and 1 -2 and -1 shots which left most of my troops relatively undamaged. In addition, after a critical pin of a half-squad from another sniper, I was able to assault the crew (with their now useless SW) and the remnants of the jungle-clearing squads onto the stout defenders of the northern foxhole line. Close combat in Turn 5 saw five separate hand-to-hand melees which was more than enough for me to claim the win on CVP, despite missing a couple of the melees with 'tens'.

Zeb played this one as stoutly as he could and his defense was spot on, but by pulling back and focussing on the far corner, he was left with no real bolt-hole to go to for any broken units. Pinned units were unable to self-break as they had few rout paths as there was no wiggle room, so they died in place in melee. In addition, he at last started to roll high(!) on some of the more critical shots and that made a big difference as he just couldn't do enough damage to the banzais. Even so, I wouldn't have played this any different if I had been in his shoes: an up-front defense would just have gone down faster and mean the Japanese would have been exposed to less shots on the approach. As I'm still fairly new to the Japanese, Zeb very kindly helped with a few rule clarifications (in fact he did that all weekend) and hints on how to do the Japanese, especially on the mechanics of the banzai - huge thanks Zeb!

Overall, I think is a great little PTO-learning scenario, especially for those new to the Japanese. They have access to all their offensive tricks (Banzais, the options afforded by the knee mortar) and its a very short violent scenario that ends up in a mass of melees. There is little chance the Japanese will win on the LOS VC as there are just too many scattered Aussie units around, but the 7CVP is completely achieveable, which makes it 55% pro Japanese in my book...making it 8CVP might actually be a great balance.

Nick Drinkwater and Zeb Doyle

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