Sunday, January 27, 2008

AAR: SP 128 Rupee Reward

Nick Drinkwater

Chinese Player: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 4]
Japanese Player: Matt Shostak [ELR 4, SAN 4]

Ever had one of those games where no matter what you try, nothing goes right from the start? I had the pleasure of inflicting one of those on Bud Garling at last year's Texas Tourney (you can find the AAR), but this time the tables were turned, and Matt Shostak crushed me in four turns after which I willingly threw in the white towel.

Matt and myself were looking for a fast-playing, small-medium game that would not all come down to the fickle hand of fate: we were flicking through one of Zeb's old tourney compendiums and saw this one and opted for it. This is PTO-lite in that, as well as having brush instead of bamboo and all roads present as printed, the Japanese are supposed to have been surprised by the intensity of the desperate Chinese attack and so have had no time to get any of their usual tricks setup.

So, all six 447s, 228s and two Japanese leaders setup in huts and buildings (including their sole mortar unit) and all MMC start the game non-HIP, apart from their single 70mm field gun. In their zeal to collect the reward money on offer, the Chinese are all fanatic though they are only allowed one Dare-Death squad. The task of these ten Elite 447s and four 347s is to take 11 of the 15 building/huts on Board 42 in five and a half turns: they also have a 9-1, 8-1, 8-0, MMG, LMG and Lt Mtr to assist them in this.

Sounds simple hey? All the Chinese have to do is get units into CC with the Japanese and rely on their 2-1 numerical advantage to win the day, as their firepower is not going to cause too much striping in a stand-off fight. Well, maybe. The Japanese are still better in CC than the Chinese (both stealthy and the -1 modifier), and they can invoke hand-to-hand CC. In addition, they start in and will be fighting from predominantly +2 terrain. The Chinese also need to penetrate quite deeply into the village to get all the required buildings with some thickish terrain to struggle through so they will need to hustle.

Looking at Matt's defense, he had split his units evenly either side of the track, and although the Gun was hidden, it was probably on his left side, as his -1 leader and Mortar was on his right. He had covered well all the choke points - these are where the light jungle and bamboo I could approach his defense line from were condensed to a minimum frontage, meaning I had some awkward open ground and single palm hexes to traverse before I could get stuck in. I opted to swing student body right with eleven squads, using 347s to suck up initial fire, but also send a single platoon through the big palm plantation to the left. This was all covered by the 9-1, MMG and 447 whose task on Turn 1 and 2 was to try and cover the middle road area and keep the left defenders divided from the right.

All goes well to begin with - I manage to sneak a squad and a half around Matt's far left flank, despite losing a hs to a 1-2 residual attack (my luck with residual is legendary). Then, to quote the classic scenario title, things got worse. A lousy warm sniper attack pinned one of my guys - we then realised that we had initially used my sniper and not Matt's, so we retracted the attack and replayed it. This time when using the same sniper direction die-rolls as before, it of course, yahtzeed, zapped my 8-1 between the eyes (5 on the wound die) and then re-zapped the squad with him who then fated on their LLMC. Hmmm. Not good, and this seriously hurt.

From then on, it just turned comical. I would roll a three on an attack, Matt would roll a four on the ensuing morale check. Matt needs rate on his 70mm field gun...Matt gets rate. Matt needs rate on his knee mortar, Matt finds rate. Nick needs to pass a morale check with his fanatic elite units, Nick fails it. On and on and on. I jump into CC with a 347 vs a 447: no ambush, but my ten is going to do nothing in comparison to Matt's four. Ouch. In one particularly horrible sequence, Matt finds a 4 To Hit with a +4 shot with his Gun against a concealed adjacent 237. Worst of all worlds I then pin on the MC, so I am now stuck there with nowhere to go.

In his next Prep Fire, he crits these guys, and then immediately crits another two squad stack with his Lt Mtr: the bloody remnants of these go down in the rate shot. Two and a half squads down in two shots, and then to add insult to injury, I self-fate another squad on a rally attempt. My final hurrah is to try and send one more flanking squad around the back corner of Matt's defense line to try and gobble up some buildings in Matt's backfield: when these go down from yet another four roll by Matt, I surrender: I can't really take anymore of this beating.

At this point, I have about five squads or equivalents left on the board in good order, two are broken but well out of position. Matt has suffered one squad of casualties (from a measly 4+1 subsequent first fire - go figure!), of which half of those were caused by himself on a subsequent 12 rally roll: note that Matt had caused as many casualties to his troops as I had in this game! I had not advanced an inch into the village, and was still facing 5 full squads and two crews, and had run out of ideas on how to proceed anywhere.

Game over and a very, very solid Japanese win with no headaches. I think this actually could be a good scenario on any other day: the Japanese are slightly emasculated and a bit more 'normal' than usual, and so the Chinese have a slightly easier task. The key to this one for the Chinese is to try and create a chink in the Japanese line and then exploit it ruthlessly by massed, overwhelming infantry assault: I tried to do this with a good flanking manoeuvre that did initially create some problems, but Matt's extremely solid play allied to some scary dice meant it was a total blow-out.

Roll on Owlcon!

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