Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AAR: 117 With Tigers On Their Tail

Roy Casagranda

Hungarians: Roy Casagranda
Russians: Walter Eardley

Well after my lament about MMP's absurd delays and how that caused me to lose interest in AoO, Commissar Walter ordered me to open my copy and play him in "With Tigers on Their Tail." I have been trying to play the Russians more lately so I asked for that side. Upon arriving in Houston, however, Zeb talked Walter and me into switching sides for reasons that can only be described as diabolical.

I had looked at the map and the situation before leaving for Houston, but decided that until I saw Walter's set up and first turn that there was no way to really make much of a plan, but with the sides switched I was at a loss about what to do. The Hungarians have a very tricky situation. They are supposed to exit 30 EVP or more and more EVP than the Russians. Their EVP come in the form of 2 tigers, 8 inferior tanks, 6 trucks, 18 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers. To counter this the Russians have 19 tanks, two scout cars, two GAZ 67-B, 6 trucks, 22 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers.

The Russian tanks include 12 T-34s including 3 x 85mm versions. Their squads are 447s and 527s as compared to Hungarian 447s and 347s. In every way the Russian force is superior except for the two tigers. The tigers get to set up on map, but everything else must enter from the north edge. Since the Hungarians move first the first turn is a sort of Hungarian setup turn. All of this also means that the Hungarians cannot simply delay the Russians. Since the Russians move last the Hungarians must either stop the Russians or else leave enough on the map to stop the Russians from exited too much of their force on the last turn. Having said that I began to doubt that would be much of an issue by the end of turn two. I doubted their would be any Hungarians left to exit by then.

The Russians do come in piecemeal on turns 1, 2, 3, and 5. They have considerably more EVP available, so the Hungarians cannot simply exit. They must stop the Russians and then exit.

I just had no idea what to do, so I decided that I would enter in anticipation of how I planned to attack as the Russians. The turn 1 reinforcements are 3 T-70s, 4 SU-76s, and 2 scout cars. Turn 2 Russians are 16 squads and 6 trucks. Turn 3 included 7 T-34s and 6 squads. The reinforcements conclude on Turn 5 with 5 more T-34s. As the Russians I had decided to cancel some of the piecemealedness of the attack by entering the turn 1 and 2 forces in a relatively safe area and just wait the turn 3 forces. On turn 3 I would then attack the in combined arms on the Hungarian's weakest flank. My goal was to get behind the Hungarians and take out one tiger. By assuming that Walter would attack this way I entered my boys on turn 1 with at least one more MPh in mind. I split my forces up pretty evenly between both flanks figuring that a Russian run up the open middle would be suicidal. I planned to get into position so that on turn two I could get to my final destination. I put one Tiger on board 11 overlay Hi8 and the other one with the 8-1 AL on the forward most level 4 hex on board 9. Two lucky hull down dr of 2 gave me 3 hexsides for each Tiger (I needed a 2 or less and a 3 or less to get this result).

Walter came on full attack. His T-70s and SU-85s drove right up to my tanks. By the end of turn 1 I had only managed to trade tank losses with him. Things were off to a grim start. In this scenario trading kills meant a sure fire defeat for the Hungarians. In fact I don't even recall having one of the Turan IIs I lost it so fast.

On turn 2 his infantry joined the fray and began pushing my infantry in the middle back. But some lucky shots kicked in and I started to see his tanks thin a bit. The board 11 tiger was definitely doing his job, but the StuG and one of the Turan Is were doing more than their share. Then the tiger with 8-1 Malfed. My heart sank. In a scenario like this losing a Tiger was probably a death blow, especially so early. EVP at that point was not really a concern.

To repair or not to repair was not as much of a choice as it felt at the time. I had to make the roll and I did: 1. I am now firmly convinced that repair rolls ought to be leader modified! Anyway without missing a beat my Tiger was back and just in time. Walter split his T-34s up between both flanks 5 and 2, and came straight at me. The hero of the day proved to be the StuG. As the T-34s swarmed the board 9 hills he fired. Critical hit one T-34 setting it ablaze. With rate the StuG fired again destroying another T-34. Facing CC with three possible squads I decided to spin around and take an intensive fire shot on the flank of a third T-34. After spinning I needed a 4 to hit. I hit and took out a third T-34. The StuG went down in CC. By the end of turn 4 I was down to a Turan I, a Turan II, and two Tigers. Walter had lost all the T-34s on the right flank, but on board 50 he had two T-34s, a scout car, and a SU-76 still in action. One of the T-34s was immobilized due to a DI attempt by the Turan I in a woods road hex. He was the last tank I had on that flank other than the Tiger that is.

Walter decided to bring on all the Turn 5 reinforcements board 9. After having taken so many losses and having inflicted so many losses I was a bit shook up seeing five more T-34s. It did not matter that I knew that they were coming. Walter finally got the Turan I on the right, but unfortunately for him the tank blazed up. This meant that if I got lucky the woods road hex too might go. It had to happen in the first two possible AFPhs or else Walter could just drive through. Sure enough in the next AFPh the fire spread to the woods. In the subsequent AFPh it turned into a blaze forcing Walter to try to bypass the wooded hill and face bog checks as well as slow progress. I got lucky again. But then Walter realized that his immobilize T-34 had a sneaky LOS to the Tiger on board 9. The side shot resulted in a shock. Walter wanted that bad boy dead so he intensive fired and malfed the immobilized tank's MA.

Facing 6.5 T-34s with one Tiger and a Turan II almost certainly meant that I was out of the game. Zeb, Tom, and Rob were ready to leave so I told them just one more Game turn was needed since I was likely to lose. However, I got another lucky break. On the first RPh I recovered from the shock and went to work on Walter's T-34s. With three remaining he swarmed my hill forcing the Tiger on my right flank to spin around. With the enemy out of LOS of my left Tiger I swung around and fired at the immobilized T-34. Several attempts to fix the MA had failed and I managed to prevent more attempts by setting the tank a blazed. With the woods now burning and all the carnage on board 9 and 50 there was quite a bit of smoke on the map.

In the meantime in the center of the map my enter infantry force was broken. I had managed to MALF and then X out all my support weapons except for one LMG. Things seemed grim, but several lucky shots from my boys on the board 9 hill and from Tanks, succeeded in breaking the Russians running through OG, giving me time to rally the center.

My 8-1 manned Tiger on the right flank faced a T-34/85 and two T-34/M43s. I had to spin my VCA towards the and focus my attention on the T-34/85. I destroyed it without setting it ablaze luckily. Then one of the M43s managed a successful DI against the Tiger. The 8-1 and company managed to stay in the tank and took down another T-34. With one left on that flank Walter decided to hunt down my Turan II, but he failed to get him. My tiger finished off the pursuing T-34. He was down to one T-34 on left and a SU-76 mired in the woods. Walter threw in the towel. The scenario was always close. Had I lost the Tiger on the right Walter would have most certainly have won. In fact had I not repaired the MA and recovered from the shock immediately, as I had done in both cases, I probably would have lost the scenario. It was that close the whole time. Walter was a great opponent and took constant advantage of my weaknesses. He forced me to take some scary intensive fire shots and on occasion to ignore some scary T-34 M43 flank shots on my Tigers. For almost the entire scenario (except maybe the last turn that we played) I was pretty certain that Walter would pull it off.

It was a bloody battle. We quit playing on turn 8 and at that point 43 EVPs in GO and a couple of broken squads that would likely have been able to rally.

In the scenario that I played with Tom later I took out 4 more T-34s giving me 15 T-34s, 3 T-70s, and 3 SU-76s for the weekend. It was a tough weekend, but someone had to do it!

All in all both of my opponents gave me great games. Fun nerve racking tension, good sportsmanship, gracious hosting, and lively comradery was the rule of the weekend.

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