Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tournament AAR Scenario 2: SP147 The Zebra Mission

Nick Drinkwater

German: Eric Gerstenberg [ELR 2, SAN 4]
American: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 3]

After the initial marathon game session in Vulcan's Forge, I was actually quite happy to take a couple of hours off on the first evening, put my feet up, and watch some games. However, Rob needed to bail out at the 11th hour and so I replaced him as the Americans in a very fast game of "The Zebra Mission" from Schwerpunkt 13 against Eric Gerstenberg. This is one of those classic end war scenarios where a fast US armoured combined arms force has to take the village from your average bunch of late war Germans. In this case, this means nine US elite and 1st line squads ejecting two 548, four 447s and three 436s from an enclosed road net of buildings on SK Board Z. To offer the Americans a bit of latitude, half of board 49 has been glued to one side of the main action area to allow some armoured envelopment options.

Pre-Game Thoughts:
The twist in this one is that the Germans receive a Nashorn and a Wirbelwind as fire support for their beleaguered defenders, who must know they are going to receive a pasting of the whitish, phosphourousy kind from the US bazookas and Shermans. Bizarrely, the Pershing is probably the least effective weapon on the board - yes, it can instantly kill anything it hits, but then so will both Shermans and they come stocked to the gills with smoke and other fun stuff, so they are actually the more valuable assets in this one. The one other key unit the US get is a 9-2 - he will be useful to unlock any end-game defense in the big 5 hex stone building at the back of the road-net. Like all SP scenarios, the US needs to move fast but the 9-2 will help keep the pace up a lot.

Flanking Fun:
Eric set up a very concentrated defense essentially with everything already tucked back within the victory defining road net apart from two suspiciously isolated three-deep "?" stacks in woods just east of the village. With no HIP capability for the Germans, I can now proceed unimpeded through all the forward outskirts of the village with impunity by eight of the nine foot squads, but I also send a squad as a rider and the M3 MMG HT on a deep flanking manoeuvre to the back of Board 49 to envelop the defenders. These guys quickly disembark, and after shooting an outlying dummy stack, the crew goes through the laborious procedure of abandoning and scrounging the .50 cal.

Meanwhile, with the freedom of movement I can now exploit from Eric's die-in-place defense, I quickly shove some squads into the face of the now Phosphorous-shrouded defence. I almost get lucky and come close to bagging the Nashorn with a 8-1 led bazooka shot but miss on a 10, and the lucky crew realise its their lucky day and go off any buy lucky lottery tickets at the back of the village and keep out of the way and hide - open topped vehicles are no place to be when 6 FP US troops are running rampant.

Keeping the Momentum going:
In the village, pressure begins to tell and the prisoners start to mount up - 436s are just no challenge in CC vs 666s. I continue to push on and keep the pressure on despite some fairly bad dice rolls for a spell on my part and some hot rolling by Eric. His vehicles pass several MC and PTCs without blinking and then in the moment of the game, one of Eric's 447s marked with a First Fire, decides to fire a Shrek at my 9-2. He pulls out the only single roll he can which can both hurt me and not hurt him with the back blast (a 7 with a coloured 5). He then rolls a K/3 on the effect which of course kills my 9-2 on the wound check and CRs, ELRs and breaks the squad with him on two failed MC! To add salt to that wound, his next attack is to spin his Nashorn 3 hexes and fires an intensive fire AP shot at an adjacent 666 which I had patiently sweated into position to toast the Nashorn, and they of course break on the lowly 2FP attack.

Despite these setbacks, I am ultimately well placed to wrap this one up. After burning the Wirbelwind with the Pershing (a case if ever there was of using a hammer to crush a nut) I do the dance of death on the Nashorn with the three tanks. This blocks off all the rout paths for Eric's infantry from the back of the road-net, and despite one squad escaping hand grenades, knives and rifle butts when I roll a useful 12 in CC for Eric, the end cannot be denied and the last couple of squads go down heavily outnumbered in a flurry of CC.

Post-game thoughts:
I think Eric hurt himself with his setup as he instantly ceded all initiative to me and left me free to manoeuvre wherever and whenever I chose, especially once I had worked out quickly with my first shot of the game that his two outlying stacks were just dummies, and that everything was rooted to the village net. As a result of being on the back foot, Eric failed to get any real effective shots off with either the Wirbelwind or the Nashorn and they ran out of boltholes to sneak back into. This one definitely needs some form of speed-bump to impede the Americans as they are just too smokey, speedy and shooty to be be held back for long. Fun to catch up with Eric at last and like all my opponents this weekend, someone that I would play again in an instant. 1-1 for the weekend.

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