Sunday, May 11, 2008

AAR: ASL 77 Le hérisson

Nick Drinkwater
German: Steve Miller [ELR 4; SAN 2]
French: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 3; SAN 4]

A desperate rearguard of French colonial troops is determined to give Hitler's finest one last bloody nose before the inevitable ignominious end comes to Mother France. A small company of poilus (nine 457 and three 237) has to deny the evil Boche from taking eleven of fourteen multi-hex buildings on Board 20 by game end or inflict at least 26 CVP on the invaders. Despite the carnage and chaos spreading through the rest of France, these guys are determined to make a go of it and they well armed with HMG, two MMGs and a LMG, have good-ish leadership (9-1, 8-0, 7-0). They are in (by SSR) an all stone building defense, with the option to make one Fortified Building location and create a single HIP squad with associated SW tools. Their biggest handicaps will be the Ammo Shortage they are suffering which will make the HMG and LMG very fragile, a lack of AT assets, and the need to spread out thinly to stop any German flanking maneuvers to sweep up easy victory buildings.

The Germans have a fairly straightforward task here and a goodly mix of thin-skinned but ballsy 150mm assault guns to keep the defenders on their toes, allied to a bitchin' 10-2 with associated HMG to blowtorch their way through any particularly tough defensive nuts. The assault guns are really fragile, being large targets, really bad open turreted armour, and lumbered with a pathetic low ammo B9 – the French will be particularly unlucky if one of these guys doesn't get recalled if the German opts to start flinging the big iron about. They are however given good smoke assets and ultimately could be used as sacrificial sleaze victims for any building assaults needed in the last couple of turns. Though this sounds attractive, the Germans should take a little care here as if the French destroy all three of these then they will already be 3/5ths of the way through the CVP cap: wary Germans however, should not need to worry about the CVP cap in this scenario. The guys who will really being doing the fighting will be the 12.5 landser squads – these are the blokes who will be required to beat the hard yards in this one.

I used my three half-squads to create an outward screen in the right, forward-most three buildings, while I spread the rest of the crew in an L-shaped angle across the left hand side and rear right positions. These three outer buildings were my collapsible screen and the job of the half squads was to hold and annoy the Germans as long as possible. My two most dependable weapons, the two MMG had the best leaders and were placed either side of the central defense splitting road, with support from the two roadblocks to act as shielding `walls' if I needed to conduct some retreats in safety – they could also act to block any creative deep penetrating thrusts by the Sig1 bis if necessary. In response, Steve set up across the half-board width equally, but had put the 10-2 blowtorch in a dominating 2nd level overwatch on his left center. For the first half of the scenario this guy was a right royal pain in the ass as he continued to project 16+1 shots right into the heart of the brittle French defenses. Nasty indeed.

Steve slowly ground forward before he walked into my first shot of the game – my very fragile HMG amazed us all and went on a rate spree and on its sixth shot managed to destroy the first Sig 1 that had waddled into view – 5 CVP for me with a gun with a B10! That was the high point for the next five turns – in return Steve rolled snakes with the blowtorch and my 7-0 and 457 were out of the game – the 7-0 became the ultimate persona non grata when he went to the 5+2 wounded status we all fear and dread! The survivors proceeded to disrupt, then surrendered, have their MG picked up, and the most dreadful result of all, compromised my defenses when they were taken prisoner – out popped by FBL, my hipster and a revealed squad. Nice move Steve as that hurt A LOT.

With all the setbacks, things were looking a bit grim, although I thought Steve was a little bit cautious in his attack. My half-squad screen ultimately failed in Turn 4 and the front right series of three buildings dropped comfortably into Steve's grasp. Despite the pain being received by the blowtorch, I had just managed to stop a first road-crossing assault with a series of lateral shots from my left front line – note that `stop' is a bit of an over exaggeration as from about five -1 and -2 shots I had ultimately only managed to pin three of Steve's squads, but it at least did delay them for a turn.

So Turn 4 was the critical one – Steve realizing the need to press on tried to reposition his 10-2 and death stack when I got the HUGE result of the game: my sniper in its only attack of the game nailed the 10-2 through the eyes (of course), and this also saw the end of the HMG for the rest of the game too. At this point Steve had only lost the single Sig 1 Bis and a measly half-squad so this was huge for me. However, he still had a lot of his infantry left and two of the three AGs, and he pressed on with grim determination. I continued to be my horrible rolling self when it came to Ambush and CC where overall I lost two ambushes, and came out the wrong side of five of the CC attempts made and with no wins of my own. Steve was also shrugging off numerous Residual Fire 1 and 2 -1 attacks with aplomb. All of a sudden, my front left defense had gone down in a welter of hand-grenades and rifle butts and it was looking grim again, but I was still just managing to keep Steve pinned back on my central right side.

In some careful Turn 6 maneuvering, I thought I had a safe place to run my 457, MMG and 8-1 back out of the LOS of Steve's last big 16FP stack – to my horror, I got snagged on a atom-thin LOS from another squad that actually nicked the shadow of a building and not the building itself (and Walter verified it – very tight) – of course I failed the 1MC for both of these from the lousy 4+1 shot from Steve's CX squad with a 10 and a 11 – disaster! To counter that and with a lot more thought, I saw a gap in Steve's lines and an opportunity to run a squad back to my old front line and reclaim a lost building. This was big as there was no in place to stop them and despite the nightmare of the thin LOS shot, I was a building back in credit. To really aid my last turn defense, I was able to rally a half-squad back for the only rally attempt I made in the entire game (and I managed to fate two of my own leaders and a half-squad!) – another big one as I was able to man one more of the backfield buildings to make Steve's job even harder.

The end game was looking to be very tense – I was looking at last turn CC fights in four buildings but in all of them I was likely to be outnumbered at least 2-1 against negative leadership, and as noted, my luck (ability?) in these situations is never good. Steve parked an AG on one of my guys, and tried the same trick on the diehards in the FBL. However, his luck failed him in other maneuvers where two squads got fatally pinned assault moving in the street – the odds in the final CCs were beginning to swing back a little.

He also hadn't realized the full implication of me still having a full squad MMC in my FBL – there was to be no advance in for a win here unless he could break me in Advancing Fire on a 16+3 attack and then force me to rout: unluckily he rolled and received PTC results which I passed. For the final CC round, Steve was in place to try and take three buildings from CC: I of course lost one completely (and this was the one in my favour where I had an immobilized Sig 1 Bis), but in the second, despite fluffing my 2-1 attack, I only received a CR result from the 1-2 in return (some luck!) and hence kept overall final building control of that one. The third one was a wash but even here I again failed with my attack, though I did survive the return.

So a French win in the last CC round of the last turn – the Germans came up shy by three buildings – the big game turners were the massive sniper attack, me sneaking the squad back to the front to reclaim a building and to put me back one building to credit, and Steve's misreading of the FBL entry requirements. We also had a situation in German move 7 where Steve missed declaring double time at the beginning of a squad's move, and hence was one hex short of claiming a building as he could only declare Late DT – during the rest of the game I would have let this go and let him re-take the move and claim the full double-time, but I felt I couldn't on this last turn game-making / breaking move as this was critical – ultimately, it didn't matter to the game result, but I hope this didn't sour it for you Steve and I really didn't mean to come across as a hard-ass on this one.

All in all, quite a good scenario and I can see why its borne so many playings on ROAR – its quite tight and will generally come down to the last turn in some desperate city fighting. Good use of the big guns is essential but with their fragile nature, restraint for use in the end-turn rush maybe a good plan.