Sunday, March 23, 2008

AAR: OM3 - Hill 107

German Fallschirmjaeger:
Nick Drinkwater [ELR4, SAN 2]

British & Commonwealth:
Victor Behar [ELR4, SAN 3]

A moment of history - Houston's highest rollers face off against each other for the first (and probably only) time! As many of you know, I can roll really bad in very grim sequences but by reputation, Victor is famous for being worse! Can't wait for this one to see how long these bad streaks continue.... As its a Saturday, we both want to try something a little bigger and the new ASL crack-product Kreta: Operation Mercur is just begging to be played. Of course, if you're going to do a HASL, you gotta try out the historical map rather than the geomorphic scenarios, right? There are seven scenarios set on the main map, two of them on the smaller side and the monster OM7, but there are 3-4 good sized ones somewhat in the middle which should be good for a day's play.

Victor was then being murdered as the German's in an ongoing CG of Cemetery Hill so he's not so keen on doing a paradrop, (evokes bad memories) but he's happy to try a Glider drop. The big "Get the Bridge & Get the Bofors" OM2 scenario looks like a perfect one for another day with three people, so we opt for the more manageable "Get the Hill" OM3 alternative instead. In this the Fallschirmjaeger have 7.5 turns to take a minimum of 18 hexes of level three terrain on Hill 107, and take the named summit hex itself. If they knock the clunking great 3" AA Guns emplaced openly on the hill, they need to take 2 hexes less of Level 3 real estate for each gun they capture or eliminate. In addition, for every squad actively ordered to move at the beginning of Turn 3 by the Brits from two dedicated "numbered" platoons, the Germans need to take three less Level three hexes from their required total.

All Allied units are unable to move and advance in the first two turns, and the two Allied dedicated platoons, start on "No Move" counters until their moment of decision comes along in Turn 3 (they are released from this restriction if any German unit or glider comes within 2 hexes). This is what makes ASL so cool - interesting decisions with no simple and obvious answers.

The Kreta module is full of fun stuff and some interesting Terrain issues. Most of this doesn't impact this game but there is an abundance of olive groves, vineyards, shell-holes, walls, hedges and small stone huts which make glider landings precarious. Victor is set hard to dominate both ends of the long Level 3 ridge and any gliders coming down in the slightly open area between these strong-points will be encircled and murdered in very short order, and will also be confronted by really tough approach routes for the gliders with big chances that the crashes will be unfavourable. The SW and NE flanks of the hill are more appealing and hill topography means that at least one of the AA Guns is likely to be nullified, as will a good chunk of the defending infantry.

I decide to put everything down on the SW Level 1 and Level 2 plateaus that offer good approach routes to the NW headland of the hill. I will be aided in this approach as the scenario designers have decided to give the attacking Germans a leg-up by making Moderate Dust in effect for Turn 1 and Light Dust for Turns 2-4. This is massive as it will really assist the Germans to get up-close and personal to the British foxholes and keep the damage limited...clearly scenarios aren't much fun for anyone if 1/3 or more of the attackers and their SW all get blasted out of the sky on Turn 1, so moderate dust it is. The other reason to try and take on the NW headland is that partially through set-up restrictions and partially through choice, Victor has split his force into two big groups with the line of the Level 3 hill relatively sparsely covered in between. The two dedicated 'numbered' platoons are separated by SSR, one on Level 2 immediately below the NW headland who will be needed to be reduced by the Paras, and one to the far SE corner - these guys may never even come into the game unless Victor chooses to activate them in Turn 3. His more mobile groups on the main part of the hill include five squads with LMG and a viscous 9-2 leader, and these guys could be damaging. By SSR, the AA Guns have to stay in AA mode until Turn 4, so the key on all this for the Germans is to move, move, move when all these defender restrictions are still in place: this will be where the game is lost or won, as if I'm not firmly entrenched on the far end of the headland when the Brits wake up, I'm going to be in real trouble trying to dig them out.

The Germans have 8 squads, 4 crews, 4 leaders (including a -2), an HMG, MMG, a batch of LMG, and interestingly, a 50mm and an 81mm Mortar and a 75mm RCL, all coming in by glider. If the German can get all that lot running and into position, then he packs a hell of a punch. Of course, it would be good to get all this lot dropped onto the victory objective directly so they can be running hard from Turn 2 onwards, but discretion is the better part of valour so I opt to reduce risk and land a short distance away and then walk in. This means my bigass SW are probably not going to be doing much until Turn 4 at the earliest as all this 5PP iron is difficult to lug around, but they could easily be the game-swinging punch I'm going to need after the casualties of the initial uphill assault.

The landing goes pretty well and I had no complaints at all as almost everything touched down untroubled. The hillside-flank landing meant that the bulk of Victor's Brits were out of position and I took only one AA shot from one of Victor's big guns...this caused an evasion and a crash and I lost a half squad from the get go, but I would have taken that at the start of the game. The rest of 'Team Hill' landed in one piece on the Level two plateau where Victor's long shots with dust modifiers pinned a lot of things but just couldn't really damage me too badly. We both had several 8+1(+dust) or 16+1(+dust) shots but for a couple of turns we couldn't scratch each other - pillow fight! I managed to get a squad adjacent to a hilltop foxhole but they broke on a FPF from Victor and then promptly surrendered, no-quartered to leave me down to 6.5 of my initial 8 squads.

In turn 3 we continued to trade blows but with a killer DC charge, with a mere NMC, I broke a squad and leader and then chased them off the hill a long, long way, Victor rolling a 10 on a self-rally when he needed a 9. Despite a nasty sniper whacking one of my squads in an exposed position, I managed to save them by breaking the advancing British 9-2 on a measly 2+0 Subsequent First Fire when Victor rolled a 10 - my guys quickly routed away to safety. By end of Turn 5, I had taken all the headland part of the hill, was gobbling up hexes in the main saddle area and all my principal support weapons were now firing (accompanied by much scrabbling through the rule book to check the rules on Recoiless Rifles) - one of the Big Guns was now destroyed and Victor kept rolling high on his better attacks (particularly a 6-2 shot against my 9-2 leader / HMG which I brushed off). When Victor's entrenched squad on the summit broke with nowhere to go but into the cage, Victor resigned. He was now going to start having to recover territory with only 2-3 squads left and the -2 leader against dug-in 8 morale troops with multiple heavy support weapons and strong leadership, and
that wasn't going to happen in a hurry.

This is not a bad scenario, in fact its quite fun, though a little dull for the defenders at the beginning. Any damage done to the gliders is going to help the Brits, and they probably need to concentrate together as much as possible in the set-up or they will be defeated in detail. This is very hard to do, especially under the various restrictions the Brits are under for the first two turns, but it does help to roll low on some of those big shots! The question of whether to activate the other platoon is a tough one: certainly the Germans will almost certainly activate one of your platoons as they roll on towards their objective but its a tough decision for you to give the Germans back 6 Victory hexes for a measly two squad addition to your attack force. Like Victor, I too would probably not have activated them either considering the tactical position of the game at that time.

So thank-you, farewell and good luck Victor in your move to SoCal...we wish you bon voyage, and hope the dice gods take a change for the better for you in the Sunshine State! But wait, that makes me officially the worst die-roller in Houston????

Oh crap.


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