Tuesday, April 29, 2008

AAR: ESG25 Road Out Of Rangoon

Zeb Doyle

British: Zeb Doyle
Japanese: Matt Schwoebel

It's always rather amusing how some ASLers have strong preferences for certain styles of scenarios or for a particular nationality. Matt Schwoebel, for example, is the biggest fan of Gurkhas I've ever had the pleasure of playing against. So, I figured that ESG25 Road Out Of Rangoon would be a great scenario for our next match. It's a 1942 Burmese jungle scenario with some cut-off British forces trying to push through a thin screen of Japanese and escape. There's guns for both sides, armor for both sides, and oh yes, one of the most powerful Gurkha force ever seen in ASL. You can imagine my surprise when Matt agreed to play the scenario and then took the Japanese.

Road Out Of Rangoon is a good-looking scenario that takes place on boards 34 and 37. Both maps are have a lot of jungle, but while board 34 is almost completely covered, board 37 is more open with a fair amount of palm trees as well. The Japanese get one road-block, a 75mm ART piece, and roughly six squad-equivalents on each map as well as three reinforcing Ha-Gos on turn three. The British get six 4-5-7s and a 9-2 entering on board 37 and a great Gurkha force on board 34 of five 6-4-8s, three 4-5-8s, a 10-2, a 9-2, an 8-0, and a hero. Additionally, four Stuarts and two trucks towing 94mm guns enter on either board. All in all, it's a very interesting match-up of forces, with some great leadership for the Commonwealth. The stealthy Japanese are really in their element with all the jungle though, and their 75mm guns pack a 12TK which can be very painful for the 4AF Stuarts.

The longer I looked at the situation, the more I understood why Matt took the Japanese. The Commonwealth wins either by clearing two roadblocks or by clearing one roadblock and exiting 25CVP off the far edge. The scenario is only 6.5 turns long, and although the Japanese have to set up fairly far back, the overall math still wasn't too encouraging. To clear a well-placed roadblock on board 34, even after running forward as far as possible on the first turn, Gurkha Force would have to average three hexes per turn for the rest of the game down a dense-jungle road in order to have a single clearance roll. That didn't seem likely even for 10-2 led 6-4-8s, so I starting thinking about the other possible VC.

Over on the more open board 37, the terrain dictates a more forward placement for the roadblock. Here, the first turn rush is also easy enough, and leaves the British only six to eight hexes away from the fortification with six turns remaining. Of course, the EVP requirement still looms large, and although the Stuarts are worth 20 points, you still have to come up with another five points which will have to cover 18 hexes in six turns even after the first turn rush. That seems depressingly similar to the three hexes a turn the Gurkha force would have to average, but on board 37 the numerous palm trees offer the potential for faster movement, and the trucks can also try to load up some infantry and make a dash during the end-game. It still looked tricky, but I figured it was my best option. Just to try and be extra cunning, I decided that I'd also bring the board 34 Gurkha force over to board 37 as soon as possible to bolster the attack there. That had the disadvantage of signaling which VC I'd selected, but I could also avoid throwing those awesome 6-4-8s away on a useless objective.

Things started out well for me over the first two turns. Everyone ran forward as far as possible on turn one, just as planned, and then I shifted the Gurkhas onto board 37 while the British continued to push forward. Matt countered by trying to shift his board 34 troops over as well, but they'd been set up to defend, not to move, and so I was able to steal a march on them. Even better, all the Japanese HIP units were on board 34 and Matt popped them up as part of the shift. Fighting without fear of any Japanese traps was pretty nice. Finally, the ART piece on that side of the map was rendered useless as well, so I'd call the shift a success.

The mid-game consisted of my British force grinding down the original board 37 defenders. I had a 9-2/2xMMG/2x 4-5-7 stack that did great work dishing out 8+0 and 16+0 shots all game long, but Matt did a nice job keeping me from turning his flank and holding me back from the roadblock. Meanwhile, my Gurkhas were butting heads with the board 37 ART gun, which was in a very nice spot. Flanked by bamboo, with several hexes of palm tree hindrances in front, it had a pretty good LOS and was enough to keep my Stuarts at bay. I sent a 6-4-8 to hunt down a supporting Japanese squad nearby while the rest of my troops tried to whittle it down with prep and defensive fire while advancing ever closer.

This was easier said than done; the palm tree hindrances and dense jungle stacking and FG restrictions meant the best shot I could get at three hexes was a 16+2, not bad but not great against an 8ML step-reducing crew. As I tried to close the range by pushing through the palm trees, my fire got somewhat more effective, but now the return fire from the ART piece was just deadly, with acquisition and point-blank range offset by a meager hindrance. My dice ended up going crazy, with my 10-2 battle-hardening to a heroic 10-3, my 9-2 turning into a 10-2, and a 6-4-8 becoming fanatic and generating a hero. I also rolled a few boxcars on MCs for my squads, though, and ended up taking heavy losses before the gun finally went down on turn four, along with all the Japanese who had shifted over from board 34.

That opened things up a lot for my Stuarts, which had spent most of the game hiding from the gun's 12TK, but with only three turns left in the game and an intact roadblock in my way, things were still looking grim. I pushed forward as much as possible on turn five, taking advantage of the weakening Japanese defense, and managed to get a single 4-5-7 adjacent to the roadblock. Here, I caught a huge break by rolling the required 3 on the first clearance DR and actually managing to remove the key fortification in record time! In the Commonwealth rear area, preparations for a last turn dash commenced and the trucks were hastily loaded up with crews, leaders, and anything else with a high EVP value.

Matt was playing his usual great game, however, and had prudently dropped a 2-2-8 with an MMG back down the road for just such an eventuality. He also had his three HA-GO tanks parked in good blocking spots, and his stout defense earlier had put my infantry in positions where they were no threat to exit. Despite my stellar luck in clearing the roadblock, he was still in excellent position for the win. I ended up having to throw caution to the winds and use my Stuarts to aggressively seek out and challenge the Japanese armor. Meanwhile, my remaining infantry surged forward to push the few remaining Japanese squads away from the road. I ended up killing one of Matt's HA-GOs but also malfunctioned an MA and his 2-2-8/MMG goalie was just impossible to get to. This set up an anticlimactic turn seven in which my Stuarts engaged in some hapless and harmless BFF before driving off. The two trucks then sped down the road, but the MMG and Japanese tanks were too much for them and neither survived to exit. Matt ended up with a well-deserved win and I walked away having destroyed the roadblock and having exited 19 of the required 25VP.

Overall, it was a fun scenario that does a great job capturing the desperation the cut-off Commonwealth troops must have felt while trying to evacuate. As far as balance goes, I feel that it's rather more difficult for the Commonwealth. Most of the East Side Gamer scenarios seem designed to be played in a very set-piece patterned fashion, and Road Out Of Rangoon is no exception. I tried to break that pattern with the Gurkha board-shift and it's possible I tilted the scenario against me. I've also failed in this AAR to mention that both Commonwealth forces have two DCs, which of course can be used for clearing roadblocks and some may argue that also tips the balance away from the Japanese.

Because of these factors, the jury is still out for me concerning just how hard this is on the Commonwealth, but I was well aware of the DC clearance possibilities from the beginning, I really do think the Gurkha shift helped me a moderate amount, and I still feel that the attacker really has his work cut out for him in this one. The time-line is so demanding that just one or two bad rolls (especially clearing the roadblocks) can knock you right out of the game. In my playing, rolling that three on my clearance DR really kept me in it, and the ending still wasn't that close. Final verdict: fun scenario, I like the combined arms early PTO action, but I might give the Commonwealth the balance or even an extra turn.

Thanks to Matt for being a great opponent and thanks to you for reading.


1 comment:

Band of Odders said...

Good AAR. It's not usual to play PTO ASL and this scenario seemed fun.