Wednesday, July 02, 2008

AAR: RPT-9 Shelling the Sivash

Nick Drinkwater

Romanian / German [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
Russian / Partisan [ELR 4/5, SAN 3]: Tom Gillis

Tom's on his summer vacation right now and is looking to fill his idle hours with some serious gaming - luckily I was able to snag him for a week night's gaming from this small/medium scenario from the first Rally Point pack - this is my third outing from this pack, having already squeaked a narrow win against Tom in Cadets & Cadre and then been hammered by Ken in a very one-sided playing of the Ferenc Josef Barracks. This one, set in the Crimea in April 1944, sets a screen of fairly good Romanians with very thinly stretched German support behind them against a mobile late war Russian battle-group. To keep the Axis on their toes, the Russians receive Turn 3 reinforcements in the form of three Partisan squads that can come on from any board edge - this is to help the Russians in their VC of enabling 8 infantry only to exit from a narrow 5-hex wide corridor at the back of Half-Board 49.

The Romanians start this scenario as the front, folding defense - they have three 447s, a couple of 347s, a MMG, LMG, a hero and a 9-1 leader - as its April 44, they have also been issued with newly oiled 1-hex range Panzerfausts to keep the Russian tanks honest. They also receive a stack of "?" which I scatter around in a none too clever way up front on Board 17 to try and put a crimp in Tom's on-board entry manoeuvres - the rest (including a hidden 50L Pak) are placed centrally at the board seam to try and cover both flanks, ut also to be able to fallback gradually onto their German backbone.

Behind these poor sods, the Germans are stretched in the thinnest of lines in the transitional part of Board 49 where country meets town to make the Russian assault across the open ground deadly - ploughed fields are in effect and these are absolutely lethal on attacking infantry and easy to defend and there's a lot of them in play here. I keep both vehicles fairly central as I am conscious that to lose either my Marder or my Stug to an assaulting concealed partisan creeping on at the board edge would be criminal - they also receive a 237 each as infantry support. I place my 467, 9-1 and MMG in one of the back exit buildings of Board 49 - its job is to lay a lateral firelane down across the Russian exit corridor, but also to survive and dispatch any sneaky concealed partisans that may advance in and try their arm at CC to tie my guys up whilst their colleagues 'do a runner'. This MMG will be covered by a mutually supporting equivalent from the Turn 2 reinforcements to double up on this exit gambit when they arrive.

The Russians have approximately 8 458s and a couple of 447s coming on in two waves, with exceptional Russian leadership (9-2, 9-1, 7-0), a couple of machine guns and a mighty FT to add some oomph in the end game assault against possible German MG nests in stone buildings. They also receive a tasty SU 122 which they will need for some Smoke to cross all that open ground, and in Turn 2, two T34 M43s. Recognising that he has 7 movement phases to cross a straight line distance of 20 contested, open ground hexes, Tom sees the need for speed and pushes his SU 122 and riders down the far west flank looking for gaps in the almost diaphanous defence. Unluckily for Tom, he offers me a flank shot at range to my 50L - that misses finding the APCR by one (four when I needed a three), but in a rare but welcome spate of good rolling, I find a 5 and then a 6 to scratch the Assault Gun - the crew do get out but its a great start for me. The bulk of Tom's attackers push on through the centre and east where they run up against an immovable object of for once, rock hard Romanians.

On this eastern flank, the two T34s push up here to approximately hexrow 6-7 where they start to threaten the first of the Germans near the Board seam - in response, I move the Marder over to cover the eastern side where there is a lot of open ground and ploughed fields to cross, passing a gettable ESB roll to stop behind a hedge. I'm also banking on the fact that at 7 hexes or more, the odds are slightly better in my favour as I am CE, (Tom isn't) and I'm on black To Hit numbers (Tom isn't). I survive Tom's defensive fire and having acquired him, I managed to shock him on my next turns Defensive Fire...unluckily for Tom, the T34 doesn't come back from this - scratch two of the three Russian tanks.

To up the pace a bit, Tom tries to push a 458 down the centre adjacent to my gun crew, but I manage to break them. I immediately follow this up with with a 4-2 shot in prep fire from the hero with a 347 I managed to pin the 9-1 and break the 458 and FT he is with that are immediately adjacent to Tom's first broken 458. With two broken elites in the open, I gamble that this is just too good an opportunity to miss so I get the running shoes on for my other 347 to try and enforce a massive 2 squad FTR. At this point, the vagaries of the space and long open LOS available on Board 49 kick in as Tom is able to nail these athletes with a 1-2 shot from the Partisans LMG 11 hexes away - ouch! Still not wanting to lose this opportunity, I decide to move my Marder up to get them to FTR instead...the crew survive a pin from a long distance shot and I am able scratch two of Tom's 458s for FTR - absolutely massive in the scope of the game.

Even more crucially, Tom's pinned 9-1 leader rolls a 6 the next turn when he tries but fails to retrieve the FT - this was huge as my Marder would have been toast if he'd picked it up. Instead, he tried to run his 7-0 over to retrieve it, but he broke and was also also killed on FTR: that was now 5 CVP not getting off the Board. Now things get really desperate - Tom has to break my unyielding line of stalwart defenders and so jumps into CC with a 237 German half squad with a Partisan and leader, a 12-1 CC attempt vs my now wounded hero and a 1-2 stab of his 9-1 leader vs my 50L Gun crew. Amazingly, he rolls a 12 with the Partisans so I escape, the hero ambushes the three squads trying to kill him so withdraws and I whack the forlorn 9-1 for two more CVP not getting off the board. Tom calls it quits when I destroy his last T34 with another side shot from my Romanian 50L AT dead-eyes - he's now without armour support, has lost about 30% of his potential escaping infantry force and is now still about 10-15 hexes away from the exit corridor with only three movement phases left - he'll also have to still beat off my outlying defenders, and then run the gauntlet of two 9-1 directed MMG fire-lanes in Open Ground with his single 9-2 leader to assist - never gonna happen.

I played this solidly with only one bone-headed move (when I unnecessarily relocated my MMG and 9-1 and they suffered at the hands of a coaxial shot from a T34) - the move to kill the two squads in FTR was really handy as it cost Tom a lot of units and also the loss of his one weapon that can make a big difference to small and fragile defences, the FT. Tom was unlucky with the first off hot-rolls to destroy the SU-122 as he really needed that big-gun and its Smoke in the end-game, but we've all had that happen! I think with the amount of open ground in this, the Russians are going to struggle a little bit on this, especially with the paucity of their Smoke resources, but equally, one or two key MC failures by the Romanians could see the dam burst and the Russians pouring through. The correct use of the Partisans may be key, especially if they are needed to soak up defensive fire shots in the end-game or otherwise occupy defending MG nests, to hence allow other units to escape.

Anyway, we're onto something meatier this Thursday: "Fireteams". It promises to be a monster!

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