Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tournament AAR Scenario 5: SP14 The Green House

Nick Drinkwater

Japanese: Zeb Doyle [ELR 4, SAN 4]
American: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3, SAN 3]

Pre-Game Thoughts:
Game 5 of the Tourney and fate has pitched me against the Owlcon champion for the last two years - I've just finished the monster game with Bill and we still have three hours before we get chucked out of the gaming hall, and Zeb is free, having just completed yet another game with John Hyler. Despite feeling shattered, I'm always up for a game against Zeb - we've become good friends, and its always a blast to play him both from the learning perspective (he is one of the best players in Texas) and the running commentary of extremely dry witticisms which he peppers the conversation with.

The Doomed Platoon:
We opt for "The Green House" from SP2, one of their earlier offerings that has an interesting premise behind its storyline. Basically, this is a rescue attempt to save the doomed Second platoon which is stranded in a multi-level, jungle plantation wooden building (an overlay on Board 19) across an open meadow (the main part of Board 19). The rescuing Third platoon starts on neighbouring Board 38 (the airfield is covered by Hutville) and needs to quickly move to the jungle edge in Turn 1 to try and lay some covering fire for their stranded colleagues. Further company support is due on in Turn 1 (heavy weapons) and on Turn 3, a platoon of Stuarts stuffed with Canister will arrive to add some more oomph.

Japanese Vice:
In return, the Japanese have executed a nice trap here. A platoon of infantry is about to appear close, dirty and concealed to the Green House and a second platoon is due on in Turn 2 on the opposite flank to shut the jaws tight. To stop the Americans from fleeing back to safety, a flanking MG and Mortar platoon has just popped up in a nasty overlay jungle pillbox-bunker nest and can interdict all running GIs in their tracks.

Tough VC:
This is a Schwerpunkt scenario of course, so the big emphasis in this scenario, as ever, is a set of VC tied to a fairly tight timetable (4.5 Turns), but in this case, there is a twist. The Americans can claim an instant win by getting 5 CVP of 2nd platoon back to the safety of the jungle - they have 8 CVP at start (3 x 666 and a 8-1), and this could be possible in Turn 1 or even in Turn 2, but the Firelane potential of the HMG is huge and the 9-0 leader with it adds to the risk with no cowering. If they can't do this, then the US must ensure there are no good order Japanese MMC either in the jungle-bunker complex of the flanking weapon support platoon, and none in or in hexes adjacent to the Green House. This is a tough ask.

Japanese Considerations:
The Japanese have a fairly standard setup with little ability to get too creative, though they should remember to use their tunnel in a clever way, for some last-turn CC surprises. They need to try and eliminate the 2nd Platoon as quickly as possible but they have been given the tricks to do this - note eliminating all the US and being scattered in every level of the +2 TEM Green House will be a much more daunting problem for the US than if there is some die-hard Ami squad / leader in the upstairs position hanging on for grim death.

US Considerations:
In contrast, the US needs to plan quite hard on their stacking and MF / PP cost combinations for their offboard Support Weapon platoon and their pathway to the main playing area, as they get very little time in this scenario to get their 81mm MTR and HMGs operating (probably two turns at most). They also need to keep an eye on the time needed to clear the woods of Japanese troops and use their tanks and any spare infantry to clear all the Green House adjacent attackers. This is not easy at all. They will almost certainly need to get one or two WP shells in to cover any infantry moves across the field, and use the Mortars and long-range MG to suppress any Japanese adjacent to or even in the Green House. At the same time, they may still need this FP to suppress the Bunker-complex defenders, and to support the attack the US 666s must pull off to clear them out. Tough choices all around and not easy to get the balance right.

AAR - tiredness all round:
Probably due to a touch of tiredness and a failure to grok (awful word) the scenario, I can't say I really understood what I needed to do in this one and kind of blindly stumbled through it, finding the way to resolve issues by chance more than any real judgement or nous on my part. On small scale tactical issues, I played it quite well, especially in the ultimate endgame - it was more the bigger issues on timing and force balance that I struggled with and there were moments where I couldn't see how the Americans could do it all (yeah, I had a moan and a whinge (questioning the integrity of the scenario?) but I was tired!). So, for the last turn or two I got a bit unit happy and just sent guys on missions to see "what could be done", more in hope than expectation. The early game had actually seen Zeb on the receiving end of some hot dice from me and I had successfully whittled down the odd half-squad here and there (also stopping Zeb's knee mortar from firing at all), and found a couple of dummys by wasting bullets on them, but I had also ruled out early on any kind of dash by Second Platoon across the meadow.

Desperate times...
My Green House defenders did some damage to their creeping concealed nemesis but all the squads were ultimately broken and FTRed by the end of Turn 2, and that on some very average Morale Checks. Critically however, my 9-1 stayed alive (and encircled) in the top level of the house to the very end and I was able to pin or break any Japanese who got close to taking him out with long-range fire. Despite my decision making problems, I ended up doing the obvious things with the Mortars and using them to Phos both the Pillbox nest, the Green House and the adjacent jungle, before they ran out of Smoke shells. This set me up for the end-game dash: thinking I was in a hopeless situation I just sent a batch of squads against the Pillbox-bunker nest, and by US Turn 5, these guys were poised to wipe out all the remaining Japanese, despite losing two squads to a measly 8+1 shot, and Zeb's smart play in putting the leader outside of the Pillbox to ensure I had to go through two rounds of CC (no Tunnel use from Zeb though - he was tired too!).

...Desperate Measures:
Things were even more desperate around the Green House though - thinking I had nothing left to lose and getting a bit Canister fixated, I manoeuvred the three Stuarts into position to threaten the jungle at a three-hex range. However the Japanese were now covered in my own WP, so I had to re-start and drive straight into the jungle to attempt to suppress them with MG FP - probably the better manoeuvre as they will then need to come into your hex to get you! I also had one squad and an 8-0 dash across the meadow to help the solo 9-1 in the Green House - in fact these were the only guys I could get there, and reflects my problem with getting division of forces right. These guys withstood the 2-2 Firelane, but their passed MC caused one of the CE Stuarts to take a Sniper Shot between the eyes. This manoeuvre did enable me to threaten one of Zeb's half squad when I moved adjacent to it - even better, they generated a hero on a MC of their own which really opened the game for me. Another hot sniper removed the second of my Stuarts to a dead Tank Commander, but my last tank was able to charge into the jungle and threaten this annoying HS.

End Game at the Green House:
In final Turn 5, I had one of those situations where I had to have a whole series of events go for me. Firstly, I was able to Pin by Tank MG Fire Zeb's annoying half-squad in Prep Fire, adjacent to the hero, squad and leader, when he critically failed a PTC on an 8 (2FP shot rolled a six). This freed up by Leader and Hero to advance in and ambush and kill the HS in CC with a base 9 on the normal CC roll. Next my now freed-up squad advanced, with the sole 2nd Platoon survivor (the 9-1), into a hex with Zeb's only other Japanese half-squad, again managed to avoid being ambushed (just!) and then wipe out the Japanese with a 3-1 CC roll. So all good on the Green House side of the Board.

End Game at the Bunker:
On the Pillbox nest area, I was left needing to win two more CC's - the first was against a crew in a pillbox and again no real surprise there, that was succcessfully completed. The final one was the toughy - having just seen two squads break and run earlier in the turn, I was down to two half-squads vs a Japanese half-squad. The tension was big here....advance in, dodge (just) the ambush and again, normal CC and I think after mods, I needed an 8 for the win...rolled a six!!!!

Post-Game Summary:
Frickin Awesome. Still not quite sure where that one came from as I never felt like I was really in control in this game at any all had the whiff of desperation. The key rolls in this scenario were the turn one loss of the Japanese Knee Mortar, an initial successful US defense of the Green House and Zeb's failure to completely capture it and Zeb's forgetting the tunnel. The real kicker however was Zeb's pinning of his HS next to the Green House and my generation of the Hero. I was now free to send the leader and hero against the pinned guys and use my squad for the harder job against the non-pinned guys with their bigger fire power. I had actually failed to deploy this squad that turn and so without the options created from generating the hero, I would not have won it, as I would not have been able to get units into both of the reuqired CCs. I was lucky to miss ambush and subsequent withdrawals in all these CC's and was also lucky to roll four times under an average of nine to win all the CC, but best of all, I never actually had to ATFP against Zeb in this game (ATFP - "assume the foetal position" - something I do when Tom and Zeb normally play me with their crushing dice rolling!).

Final Comment:
An odd scenario - it seems weird that your biggest weapons barely get to fire at all in this one before the end game-rushes in two separate directions are upon you. No smoke from the two Mortars would really crimp the US player as there is no cover in that field whatsoever, though maybe you could do some Turn 4 armoured assault to get across it. The Japanese have little to do apart from some clever concealment and squad recycling tricks, but it does play quickly - we were done from start to finish in 2.5 hours. Moderately recommended if only because of the tactical challenge it poses.

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