Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AAR: BC10 Groff's Grief

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Tom Gillis
NKPA: Zeb Doyle

On a recent trip to Houston, I found myself at the house of Tom Gillis out of excuses and without another opponent in sight. Gillis calls me the Artful Dodger for all the times I've ducked him over the years, but this time I was well and truly trapped. We sat down to play BC10 Groff's Grief, a smallish 5.5 turn scenario that takes place on three Deluxe boards. If I had to endure one of Tom's painful beatings, at least I could make the experience brief...

The action takes place in Seoul, Korea, 1950, and features a company of twelve 7-6-8 Marines engaged in some nasty street-fighting. The Leathernecks have to go roughly ten hexes and capture six building hexes. They get to start on-map, setting up on some dominant level-two hill locations that overlook the all level-one buildings (by SSR) of Seoul, and have a nice allotment of MMGs, 60mm MTRs, DCs, BAZs as well as
the support of two Pershing tanks. All in all, it's a very nice force with the typical high FP and ML you'd expect. Meanwhile, the NKPA is represented by pre-1942 Russians, and get twelve assorted squads ranging from 6-2-8s down to 4-4-7s. The ELR of 2 is a bit of a weak spot, but the SSRs add some HIP, commissar potential, Tank Hunter Heroes, and Dare-Death squads. The SW allotment isn't quite as generous as the Marines, but an HMG, MMG, some DCs, and two 57LL AT guns give the Koreans some serious punch of their own. Being numerically equal is also a big edge for the Koreans, allowing them to go for the 'wall of bodies' defense that often works so well in the tight confines of the Deluxe boards.

Mr. Gillis expressed a preference for the Marines and I, not being one to anger an 800lb gorilla in his own home, began setting up the Koreans. Unfortunately for my cardboard soldiers, I did a pretty poor job of positioning them. One 57LL was wasted in a
'clever' spot and never ended up firing a shot. I also put my HMG off to one side and my MMG where it could cover the level two hills in the Marine set-up area. Given those hills were twelve hexes away, long range for my MMG but normal range for the heavy, this was a pretty stupid decision. Worst of all, I put enough troops up front that it would be painful to lose them, but not enough to be sure of covering each other. I had some silly idea that backstopping these pickets with my commissar was good enough, and so I went into the first turn with a warm and fuzzy but entirely false sense of security.

Tom's eagle eye zeroed in on the weak spots I'd missed and proceeded to set up a monster firegroup of three squads, three MMGs, and a 9-2 on the forward hill hex. These units would make my life miserable all game long by throwing 20+1 and 30+1 shots at anything that moved. They were flanked by the two MTR teams, while everyone else lined up to move
out and confront the Koreans in the forward positions. The first part of the game was a bit of a disaster for me, with Tom's good dice compounding the problems of my crummy set up. The 9-2 Godzilla stack smashed one of my 4-4-7s, a BAZ shot needing a 4TH scored an 8+0 K/3 on another squad, and my forward positions all ended up being killed for FTR. Only the commissar survived by voluntarily breaking and ignominiously routing to the rear. Tom did a great job here, using the big firebase as a hammer and then sending swarms of DC-toting HSs forward to finish me off. It was a textbook attack and I had no real answer.

Things evened back up over turns three and four. Tom's dice cooled a bit, and although the Godzilla stack continued to punish me, his other attacks started to come up empty. I also managed to create a hero and send a 6-2-8 Fanatic with some good rolls, and my HIP squad popped up in a good spot to slow the attack. Overall though, the biggest
factor in the mid-game was a major loss of aggression in Tom's game. He had a chance to DM my commissar which would likely have resulted in the death of that SMC. Several times, I was able to bait Marine squads into taking relatively poor shots at units assault moving in buildings, freeing other previously trapped Koreans to safely fall back across potentially deadly open streets. Finally, the HS/DC blitz, which had been so effective in the first few turns slowed way down, with assault movement more prevalent than double-timing. The end result of Tom's cooling dice, my Heat Of Battle, and the slower pace of attack, was to allow my beleaguered NKPA units to escape relatively intact and to take up very strong positions for the endgame.

This lack of aggression was interesting because I saw something similar occur in Tom's game of Cadets and Cadre with Nick. In both cases, he had his opponent on the ropes and eased up a bit with victory in sight. In both
cases, it came back to cost him. I mention this not to single Tom out or anything, but because I see similar situations come up a lot with other players as well and I think it's worth commenting on: when your opponent is down, kick him! It's just a game and no one will actually mind. If you aren't ruthless during play, you can be assured that the broken squad in the corner will rally or the stray crew will sneak onto the hill and survive the 6+0 for the win. The players I've seen this happen to do well early and avoid bad moves, but just don't quite have it in them to bring the hammer down and thus make the endgame very hard for themselves. So, Tom, my advice to you is to stop being such a nice guy...across the ASL board anyway!

At any rate, Tom's mid-game kindness more than made up for my crummy set up and his work was cut out for him during the end-game. Godzilla continued to smash my defense apart, but my commissar was finally unbroken and in position and was able to rally the NKPA units as fast as they
broke. I'd been able to retreat without losing too many more troops, and so could activate the dreaded 'wall of bodies' defense. This left the Marines feeling some time pressure, and Tom responded like a champ by laying down infantry smoke to move forward to the six VC hexes. The turning point came when a Pershing drove into a building to freeze my MMG squad. The bog roll was a six on the colored die, and the bamboo floor collapsed, sending the Pershing into the cellar. That wasn't too horrible for Tom, as his crew survived, but my MMG then went on a rate tear, killing the crew outright and retaining ROF. That big piece of luck was a major set back, because Tom couldn't get any smoke into the adjacent open ground hex and the MMG was in such an important spot it really needed to be dealt with that turn. The MMG squad ended up surviving and that changed the turn six action from a potentially tight end game into a situation where a very unfortunate 7-6-8
needed to survive a 20-2 shot to
have any hope of victory. As you might expect, the squad didn't pass the ensuing MC and the game ended with a solid NKPA win after a very close early and mid-game.

Overall, it was a fun and fast-playing scenario I'd try again as either side. The monster Marines are always fun to play, but the NKPA has a fair amount of firepower too and lots of tricks and traps to even things up (even if Tom did kill all my Dare-Death squads before I could use them!). I hope you all enjoyed reading this, and Tom, if you are planning to unleash some Jekyll and Hyde ASL action at OwlCon, please save any newfound pit bull aggression for someone else...I've got my excuses all lined up this time!

Thanks for reading,

Zeb aka The Artful Dodger

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