Monday, October 20, 2008

AAR: RPT3 Varosmajor Grange

Nick Drinkwater

Hungarian: Stephane Graciet
Russian: Nick Drinkwater

I was going to write a bigger AAR on this, but then I checked out the existing one on the Banzai Pipeline Blog from January 2007. That was an excellent and illustrated one, so I thought I'd just write a quick summary of how my latest dice-rolling disaster differed from that!

Unlike Zeb as the Russian in that write-up, I went in the opposite direction and stacked the Russians up high and heavy in the Board 20 Factory (the Grange) and only light defended in the three other victory houses with a 447 and a couple of scripts. I put all the big MGs at level 2 in the Grange to chew up as many Hungarians as I could in their approach routes and then put the on-board T34 hulldown behind the wall of the complex with a view to several of the Hungarian approach avenues. Ultimately the aim was to conduct the Stairwell fighting retreat in the Grange and hang on with the odd squad for the win...

Stephane comes on hard and fast with his infantry through the back streets of old Budapest and is soon placed to threaten my T34 at 2-hex range with a Shrek team, after having taken several long-range casualties from the MGs on the run in. Seeing that, in a nifty move, my brave T34 boys managed to find some Smoke Grenades and back out of trouble and move into a position where with my first tank shot of the game, I have a 5 To Hit BFF shot against a Zryinyi....

Roll the dice for the MA's first shot of the game.... 12.

OK. This is getting boring now.

Moving on, the T34 still has some tasty MGs and my OT34 is due to arrive on the next turn, so I'll back the tank up against the Grange and use it as an MG cupola for a while and not roll for repair just yet. In response and to get me out of this hole, on trundles the flaming monster of the OT34 - for its first shot of the game, it takes a DFF main gun shot vs an approaching Zrinyi.

Roll the dice for the OT34's first shot of the game.... 12. Again.

OK. This is getting really boring now.

But, I still have the Flamethower and so I will roast the now in-hex Zrinyi!

Roll the dice for the FT's first shot of the game.... 11. End of Flamethrower.

OK. I'm now past boredom and merrily on my way to the sixth level of hell.

Hungarian Hetzer rolls up behind the OT34 and shoots it from behind on a BFF shot of something like a 4. No problem for Stephane there in finding the required 4 and the OT34 is now immolated.

Now I HAVE to mend the surviving T34 tank-gun to stop the wave of VBM freeze that I know is coming my way. Without those two tanks, the Russians have virtually nothing to stop the Zrinyis apart from their bare hands and rude words and they will need an likely 4 in CC to do it even with them.

So, here's a must-roll repair die-roll if ever there was one....

First repair attempt of the game. Roll the dice. 6. Recall.

Now I'm onto the seventh level of hell....

The rest of the scenario was extremely predictable. Stephane executed a steady and well-planned attack on the stout defenders in the Grange. On the one critical shot I had after being upper-level encircled, I inflicted a 2MC on Stephane's FT guys and a 1MC on the two squads with them. Both the 1MC guys broke but of course the 2MC engineers survived! (Very typical...). In the final movement turn, my last 447 with 9-1 and HMG on Level 2 of the Grange were victim to the inevitable VBM freeze as two Zrinyi's came into the hex and then unbuttoned forcing me through good old target selection rules to shoot down two levels at the Zrinyi tank commanders giving them the finger, and of course at the same time are forced to completely ignore the monster 9-2, 447 FT, 344, 347 stack that had moved up adjacent to them with banners flying saying "we represent your imminent death but you can't do anything about it as you have to shoot at that bloke in the tin-can making rude gestures two levels below you!! HahahahHa - sucks to be you!!!".

So we come to the inevitable last roll of dice CC. I need to have a good order MMC in the building to win, and so I cannot be tied up in melee. No ambush, and no H2H CC, but facing a 3-1 (-2) vs a 1-3 (-1) shot back, only a 12 from Stephane or an 11 from him allied with a 2 from me can save me here.

I roll a 4, Stephane rolls a 10 and hence a solid win for the Hungarians.

Haunted by my dice rolling on my critical weapons yet again (see recent AARs on "To Take Back a Hill" and "Peningkibaru Push"), I look for a warm bath and some pills to numb the pain!

In an uninterrupted sequence, my last three Flamethrower rolls in ASL have been 12, 12, 11 and my last two tank shots have been 12, 12 and repair 6. Why do all dice hate me?

Friday, October 17, 2008

AAR: J106 Marders Not Martyrs

Rupert B

Germans: John Hyler
Russians: Rupert B

John Hyler and me faced off on J106 Marders not Martys from J7 last night. Since it was my turn to host, I took the Germans on defense.

Scenario has a small German infantry force of 5 squads and two Marder 1f setting up on Board v (the new board that comes with J7) to repel a horde of Russians who have to exit 17 VP off hex row I. One 9-1, one 7-0 leader and an 8-1 armor leader, along with an HMG and two LMGs round out the Germans.

The Russians set up on board with 10 squads and have 4 KV1Es enter on turn 1. This negates most of the German concealment gaining at the start. The Russians have a 9-1 leader, an 8-0 leader, an MMG, two LMGs and a 50mm mortar.

Interesting point (to me anyway) is that this is a 1942 Russian attack with better leadership and better armor attacking a German defence which is unconcealed at start !

John's attack struggled from bad luck on the dice from the start. One of the KV's was toasted on the first turn at long range, and the return fire was ineffective against the Marders. Long range HMG fire broke the mortar squad and so John pushed forward to grapple with the infantry mano-a-mano with little covering fire.

Another KV received a shock result, then an UK but finally recovered. A second KV was toasted but at the cost of both Marders. With no anti- armor weapons left for the Germans, and with time running out, John pushed forward but suffered a lot of infantry breaking to small arms fire. A rally of a HS did result in battle hardening (woo hoo !), an a nice sniper attack broke a German squad at a bad time.

The climax of the battle saw the remaining two KV's freeze the main German defences with VBM sleaze (boooo - hiss) and infantry closing in behind. The first frozen German died in a hail of fire and it looked to be over. However, with no sound of the fat lady singing, we moved onto the second stack and the Germans fried the KV by attacking down the stairs (more on that later). The next turn saw devastating small arms fire from the Germans and three (yes - three) boxcar rolls by John on his MC's. John did manange to create a 6+1 leader elsewhere, so it wasn't all bad !

At that point, with my hot dice, and insufficient VP left for John to win, we called it. However, post game discussions revealed that my CC attack that fired the tank was illegal and should not have been not allowed - not my turn so I couldn't have advanced into the attack.

We rolled a few dice and pushed counters around and concluded that I was still in a strong position if I could survive the def fire and advance and kill the tank in my turn. John could have got enough points off to win, but it was not a forgone conclusion.

So - I technically won, but don't feel as good about it as I should cos it depended on an illegal attack. Fun game, though ! Hot dice when it counted, and bad bad dice for John when he really didn't need it !

Friday, October 10, 2008

AAR: PBP 28 - Peningkibaru Push

Nick Drinkwater

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

A fast playing but challenging "meet then hold" scenario from the dying days of the war in Borneo that has a really interesting beginning in which the two players roll to see who moves first, both starting from offboard. The winner of the dice-off gets to dash on first and grab a majority of victory locations and then they try and prevent the opposition from ejecting them by game's end. Both sides need to look hard at their entry options and movement factors for this Turn 1 phase as this opening move is very critical to how the rest of the game is going to play out.

The scenario is set on Board 42 and PTO light jungle is in effect together with all roads being present, all buildings being wooden and some being huts. VP are awarded for each building/hut hex (12) but 3 VP are also up for grabs for whoever controls a single Japanese pillbox (PB) at game end; the side with the majority of VP is the winner (8 or more). The Japanese places the PB and mines on board close to the central village crossroads prior to deciding who moves first, so they need to locate this in a location where it will not be isolated in Australian territory at game end. Note that for the turn one moves, the Australians (only) are limited to no double time on Turn 1.

The Japanese receive an understrength company for this consisting of eight 447s, the usual SW and a couple of average leaders (though there is a 9-1) thrown in too and a couple of DC so there is potential for THH and DC heroes too. As well as placing the Pillbox, the Japanese have to place a 4IFE 25LL AA Gun in the PB and they receive a crew to man this. They also get to place three known 6FP minefields within 4 hexes of the G5 crossroads. In contrast the Aussies get a couple of -1 leaders and seven 458s plus LMG help and most critically a bunker-busting MkII Matilda with 40L Gun and HE of 9, and the really fun Matilda I CS tank, which in this scenario, has limited (depletion 9) Smoke and unlimited HE by SSR. That is a nice tough little force and easily equal in quality to their Japanese opponents.

Whoever wins the initial 'go-first' dice-off will have a massive impact on this scenario which ultimately adds to its replayability - a player could conceivably play four very separate scenarios as either the attacker or defender for both nationalities and all four games could play out quite differently - this is a very cool scenario in that respect alone aided by the fact that it is quite short (six turns) and could be played in 2-3 hours.

In our game, I rolled for the Japanese and I also rolled to move first. As a result of this, I spent some little time just trying to work out movement permutations with leader and road bonuses to grab as many of the victory buildings as I could in the initial move and advance, as well as 'tagging' a couple of the rear buildings at the back with a half-squad to ensure I controlled them. In addition, I ran the crew up to enter the PB and reclaim the abandoned AA Gun - the 4FP 3ROF AA Gun would be quite a tasty firepower boost in this against the Australians. I pushed a leader directed stack hard up the left side of the board to snag two of the forward-most buildings which would also offer me some enfilading opportunities against any Australians who were pushing straight through the middle part of the board directly at the PB-dominated crossroads.

The PB was set back one hex from the G5 crossroads on the main entry road, being flanked by an adjacent house on the left and hedged palm plantation on the right. Concealed squads were left in these two to form the main strongpoint of the defense. One other small stack of a squad and a half pushed up the right to ensure I snagged the final house on that side, south of the main EW bisecting road. Minefields were used to try and funnel the Australians through some more open kill zones, although, in hindsight, they could be really helpful to screen the pillbox too.

As Zeb was now effectively 'attacker', he pushed everything down the middle of the board using armoured assault to try and put pressure on me across the board. Still feeling somewhat nervous of bad die rolling after the nightmares of the previous game (Buck 9), I was pleasantly pleased to break two squads on my first shots of the game and even get a nice firelane up and running. Almost got really lucky with a sniper off the bat, but that merely 'small' stunned the CS Matilda - but this all helped.

Things started to even out a little in the next turn or so as Zeb got the odd stripe but what was impressive is that Zeb never once gave me a good opportunity to activate either a THH or a DC hero, always able to keep a 1-hex safety zone of open ground between me and him and usually with a -1 leader helping too. Also, his dice warned up nicely too as he was able to generate two fanatics and two heroes - grrrr...but, all in all, he was definitely behind the curve a little at this point. On my right flank, I had a squad which refused to go down quietly and, for being CR'ed itself, took out a whole 458 in CC (not H2H originally) and then the survivors did the same to another Aussie half-squad.

In the centre, another MAD CC (mutually assured destruction) meant that we both lost a squad but also meant one of my DC was now waiting to be picked up, which Zeb duly did with his hero. After some untimely pinning from my 9-1 and 447 on my left, and a missed -2 ambush roll (HOW many times does this happen to me?) he proceeded to bomb their ass down to a wounded leader and a halfquad who went down in a subsequent normal CC - hoisted by my own petard. My supporting squad in the hex behind also lost concealment on some lowly 2+2 shot and then also got shredded and wounded by low rolling Australians. All annoying but they'd actually done their job by delaying a lot of Zeb's squads. So things were looking good by now (Turn 4 of 5)...I actually had nine of the fifteen available VP in the bag.

At the beginning of my last turn I was able to self-rally a critically needed half-squad who then recaptured one of Zeb's backfield buildings by CX-ing uninterrupted up the right hand side. Up to 10VP now, and I was facing Zeb's last turn still with 2.5 squads, the crew and the gun protecting the crossroads, pillbox and single building there. All looking good, especially as Zeb's Matilda had missed four shots in a row with AP ammo against the PB occupants. My last mortar was now out of Smoke and WP which was annoying but I dominated the approach routes and I was very confident.

And then Zeb showed me why he is better than me at this game. Like me, he thought he was almost out of the running now, but he'd been able to see what he needed to do and been planning for it for a turn while I was merely left reacting. First up, he fired the fruitless Matilda one more time at the PB - again his low rolling got him out of trouble just at the right moment and he found a much needed 4 which was now a critical hit on the PB occupants. As the crew were still in possession of the gun, that meant they were eliminated with no further rolling needed and the PB was now open to visitors of an antipodean nature.

Next he used the co-axial on my two concealed units in the adjacent house and rolled a very timely three - an NMC. OK, no sweat here - both the squad and the half-squad passed but both rolled sevens to pin. That was huge as now my guys were only going to get a single Final Fire shot at the adjacent road and Pillbox hexes. A massive, massive result and unfortunately my dice going bad just at the critical moment YET again. Next he shoved the other Matilda into the hedged bamboo plantation on the east of the PB where my only other squad was located. Could they find a THH? Of course not and now they were fixed by selection limits too. Finally he moved a leader then the hero then a half-squad onto the PB hex and also grabbed wall-advantage (where were the minefields now?). My single shot was now a 4 flat against the leader to leave a 2 RF in the hex neither of which did anything to anyone - the Pillbox was now conquered, I was down to 7VP and somehow I had lost.

I had been fairly badly mauled by dice in the earlier games, but I was completely pole-axed by this, and genuinely had nothing to say for some minutes. Of course, Zeb had played it perfectly and I had missed some critical moves in the final two turns, but the double sucker punch of Zeb's 4 & 3 allied to my two 7s for the two pins was simply....well, words cannot describe how I felt at that point. It literally took about three hours for the shock of this one to wear off, and I am still feeling a little numb at the thought of it all two weeks later as I write this. I just could not believe this had happened again.

Almost any other results combination would have meant I had won this - a five on the PB shot would have been a normal hit, and the crew would have survived. Even striping of my two support units would have been better than pinning as at least I would have got more FP down on the critical hexes and left more threatening residual in the approach hexes. The Smoke from my mortar ran out just at the wrong moment the turn before as I was trying to a) smoke in the tank to make him move (and hence no crit) and b) make the movement of the Australians infantry move harder.

But worst of all, Zeb saw the end-game opportunity and I just missed it till it was too late. Even with the loss of the Mortar Smoke, I should have dropped the gun in the PB in the last turn - then any crit on me was most likely solely going to make my crew stripe rather than being completely eliminated from the gun crit. I also should have grabbed wall advantage with all my units which would have meant no cover for any of the Aussies in their approach, whether I was pinned or not.

I'd played this game pretty much as well as I could up till that last Prep and Movement sequence, but even then Zeb needed that four or less to make it all happen - without that he was going to have to come and get me out of the last house in CC and I was six FP to the good, but of course Pinning was a complete nightmare of a result even for that. What can I say? Outplayed and outdiced on two moves in the finale of the game.

Well played again Mr. Doyle - I see now why he is the Master as he'd seen all of this and played for it whereas I, the grasshopper....hadn't.

So all in all, a great session of ASL, but a very bruising one and I came away with a 0-3 record. On the Singling CG, I'd played OK but had learnt some hard lessons so that was OK; on the Buckeye Scenario, my own horrible dice allied to Zeb's hot ones had destroyed me in a very painful fashion, but the last game was an ultimate defeat from the clutches of victory and a very hard experience to live through. Not easy to bear this last one.

Guess I know the Pillbox rules now though.

Friday, October 03, 2008

AAR: Buck9 To Take Back a Hill (Prepared)

Nick Drinkwater

US Player: [SAN 3, ELR 3] Nick Drinkwater
Japanese Player: [SAN 5, ELR 3] Zeb Doyle

A real slogging match set on Bougainville in 1944, where US troops from the 37th Buckeye Division have to eject an intrusive force of Japanese who have just captured a chunk of a large massif overlooking an American airbase. The game is set solely on Board 39 and strict setup limitations mean that the Japanese are limited to solely operating between hexrows M and Y - any Japanese who step out of bounds are immediately eliminated. This particular piece of real estate has been thrashed hard by numerous artillery barrages and so all woods symbols on a hill hex here represent palm trees instead - this is a significant transformation in terms of LOS issues but also in a lack of rally terrain. Note that woods at Level 0 (on the board edge) is still light jungle. Also, as the pillboxes on the hill were once owned by the Americans, they all set up as known - there are four of them in this, the longest version of this scenario.

The designer of the Scenario Pack is Mark Pitcavage and he has attempted to create some interesting variability in some of the scenarios in this pack by a variety differing measures. I'd played "Up the Numa Numa Trail" a couple of weeks ago and really liked it, so I had no hesitation in playing this. For this scenario, players can select a "Hasty", "Delayed" or "Prepared" attack option which, due to some big changes in OB, initial starting conditions and variable VC, effectively results in three separate scenarios masquerading under the same name. The shortest game is the simplest and is the "Hasty" attack - in this, US preparatory measures and OB are at their simplest and the Japanese are at their skimpiest. In contrast, the "Prepared" attack has significant force augmentation to both sides and also the US get to use a Bombardment as well. Due to an early finish on the Singling CG, Zeb and myself had more time available than we first thought, and so we opted to play the longest of the three alternative options available, the "Prepared" Attack, for the chance to get a chunky game in.

In hindsight, this is probably the toughest of the games for the US to win as the Japanese have the always attractive "have one good order MMC on any hill-hex" as their VC - I personally think this is a fairly simple condition for most defending forces to achieve, especially with nations that can deploy and particularly for the Japanese where their half-squads are so tough to kill off. Despite this, I've no complaints here though as my eyes were open to this as we went into the game, and we were more looking forward to playing a big fun scenario than we were on the winning / losing part of it. And that's what we got.

The US have a starting force that is good but brittle: fourteen 666s, some DC's, MMGs, an HMG, three mortars, and a batch of -1 and 0 leaders - this is the basic force for the "Hasty" Scenario, but as we were playing the long version, so I also received at start an additional three 666s, four 667 Assault Engineers, two Flamethrowers, three more DCs, more MMGs and more leaders including a fearsome 9-2. I am also blessed with 100mm OBA directed by a Level 1 observer and I will have inflicted a pre-game bombardment on the Japanese too. That is fairly tasty, though it is going to take some maneuevering to get the mortars into a place where they could see anything to be useful.

In response, the basic Japanese have an HMG, six 347s, six 447s, a couple of Mortars, and a DC, plus a 10-1, 9-1 and 9-0. That is tough enough, but then they also get the "Delayed" attacks units (8+1, six 347s in Turn 4) and also the "Prepared Attacks" units too as at start units (9-0, three 347s, MMG, Lt Mtr). On top of this they receive a total of thirteen foxholes and four wires to block US movement, and through their natural abilities, two squad equivalents of HIP units. Due to these being ex-American pillboxes that the Japanese had previously captured, no tunnels are received. Despite this, that is a really tough force to kill off, and the US have to climb up a lot of terrain, although as woods are actually palm trees on the hill, the climbs up are not necessarily going to invoke CX for advance vs difficult terrain as we would normally expect on Board 39.

In addition, the real joker in the pack is that the weather is overcast - the rain makes a huge difference in this game as ascending and descending become an extra MF - this has implications for rallying in particular - when its dry, units have enough MF to have to run back all the way to the board edge to get to the light jungle rally terrain. As soon as it starts raining, most units won't have enough MF to make it to the sheltering jungle so they are able to rout only a single hex downhill and be safe - that was definitely a help to me for recycling troops and of course it also stopped Smoke and WP from Zeb's mortars which was also helpful. However, if the rain turned heavy, this was more of a help to Zeb as it meant my fire attacks were overall less deadly due to the +1 LV effect at all ranges and so it becomes just that little bit harder to hurt Zeb's extremely stout and dug in defenders (effectively +3 shots instead of +2 due to the foxholes. Overall, we both thought the rain was a double-edged sword for both sides - a nice touch to give the scenario a bit of a twist.

This promised to be a massive slugfest and due to the need for me to kill, like, everything, promised to go right to the full 8.5 turns, which is just what we wanted. The pre-game bombardment definitely started well for me - several of Zeb's dummies were removed, a couple of squads were striped and overall it showed he was setup light on his left (east) side. As Zeb is not an idiot, he had followed the Duke of Wellington's fine tactics and gone for a complete reverse slope defense, (a clearly superior tactic from one of Britain's best ever generals), as it meant my Artillery was completely invalidated as the Level 1 south board edge observer was never going to see a thing - the whole USA OBA thing was a bit pointless really as I strongly suspect that a reverse slope defense is what most people would adopt: maybe it was a design "double-bluff", that, even though it could never be used, it did ensure that the Japanese were very unlikely to setup a forward defense and so give the US an easier initial turn or two. Whatever. All I knew was that one of my key weapons was completely nullified: not sure if this was by design or accident, but the end result meant I was going to be doing this the hard way. The main impact of this was that it did put a LOT more stress on Flamethrowers to perform though.

As I was not impeded by the no-go entry areas that put such a crimp on Japanese movement plans, I planned to send a two squad platoon with Lt mtr around to the immediate west end of his defenses, where they could put long range shots onto reinforcing squads and try get some oblique shots at the back of his defense line - also, they were placed to clean out a pill-box that anchored the far west of Zeb's defense line. On the far eastern flank, I tried to send two other Lt mtrs and a platoon on a big flank move to the far eastern hills, to again enfilade the open ground back of the hill and his reinforcement's approach routes. Finally, the rest of the US spread out to make sure no sneaky and annoying Japanese squad slipped through the lines to create havoc in my back field, but there was an emphasis on the centre and far right of my attack where the troops were basically doubled up to pile on more firepwoer through big Firegroups. The aim was to pin the Japanese frontally and then roll up their line working east to west, using my left flankers as the shield. That was the plan anyway.

Most of the early game started pretty well - as I moved into LOS, Zeb placed the 4 wires on the leading front edge of the Level 4 hill from hexrow M - P which showed that the top of the hill immediately west of the central gulley was strongly protected and would form his last stand position; in contrast, his bombarded dummies and the lack of PB, FH and wire showed his line east of the gully would fold more easily. He had a nicely placed pillbox isolated on the level 4 promontory at the back of the hill (hex R3) which could sweep all of the eastern hill top with HMG fire. At the very back of the board but still on level 1 (near hex S1), he had placed the last two pillboxes in and adjacent to the small bamboo nest there to reduce their access to a CX-crawl by my good guys. All in all a very tough defense. I methodically started the climb and progressively worked my way through some of the outlier "?" stacks but again I was faced by the Zeb Doyle deployment half-squad defense which re-cycled blocking units endlessly. Next, the light rain started in Turn 3 which helped with the rally and return to action aspect of the attack as my guys did not need to run to the board edge anymore, but did add the extra MF for moving up an elevation level to get back into the attack. Despite this, some early progress was being made before I ran into the first of the outpost lines with a squad and a half in a Foxhole...cue the first Flamethrower....or not: Twelve. Gone, no shot.

OK. That was a little depressing, but from that point, the game just turned into a horribly depressing and familiar cycle of morale check failure followed by morale check failure followed by multiple failed rallies followed by Zeb finding the fours and threes on his dice for 2+1 and 2-0 shots again and again. It was agony to watch me go through my the same grim pains roll after roll, turn after turn, (and not, by any means, for the first time against Zeb). There were so many low points that its hard to choose one...perhaps the pin against a Japanese half-squad that I achieved with a 16 flat shot, who in return broke my 8-1 and 666 with a lowly 1+1 shot back. It took the 8-1 three turns to rally - three turns. At first, we laughed, but then it was like the four stages of acceptance of death as I went from comedy to despair to fear to anger in about two hours of nightmare ASL. Happy I was not.

After a lot more misery of me doing nothing really of significance and the rain turning heavy, I had a slight upturn in fortunes in Turns 5 and 6 as after some timely sniper action to take out two Japanese leaders, my 9-2, hero and HMG got to work and managed to destroyed two MG and their crews in the promontory pillbox, and this was followed up with three wins in CC vs some measly half-squads - I was just about ready to push on into the heart of his defenses. I had managed to drop my other FT in slightly ill-advised move which left its owners exposed and then killed for FTR. Zeb comically tried to pick it up with a leader who proceeded to fluff it twice (!), and a half-squad that then tried to do the same got shot to pieces and killed for FTR.

Finally, I had also realised that the Mortars on the east side were also really just junk iron in this scenario and I started to zap the flanking platoon along the north side of the board to snuff out the double pillbox bamboo complex. All looking good until I received another "4" from a 2+1 shot from the pillbox covering force. I rolled two 11s and a 10 and all my advancing platoon stopped in their tracks. Next up, I assault moved the HMG combo adjacent to a couple of squads in a foxhole below them on the back of the main western part of the ridge, but also to where they could see a lot of additional defenders of the back of the hill. Of course with yet another 4 roll from Zeb on a four flat shot, my HMG squads went running back down the hill with a 10 and a 9. Considering it was going to take at least one more turn to get this weapon back and firing, this was an almost fatal blow to my chances; however, my remaining FT was still alive and it could roast a hex a turn so we still had one more up the primer for its first shot of the game...get ready to blast....CLICK! Another 12.

I wish I could say I laughed but I didn't. Numb would be a better feeling. Senseless also sounds about right. Stunned was in there too. Zeb had a lot of sympathy, but what else could he say...he rolled an average near 5 on his attacks, I rolled an average over 8 on my morale checks and so I didn't even get a sniff of a chance in this one. We believe that not a single 666 passed a check in the entire game and we're talking a batch of 1's and NMC's here - from memory only my 667's passed a check and that was only once or twice. Rally attempts were no better as on average it took 2-3 attempts to get a unit back into action, and critically I missed a batch of simple non-DM ones on my player turn. It was horrible.

Of course, I conceded at this point. It was US Turn 7 and Zeb had six new 347s installed snugly in the foxholes to add to his 5 or so other squads left over from the at-start defenders. I needed to kill three squads minimum a turn and for that I was going to need both the FT and -3 HMG stack to be at full operating strength and neither of those were doing anything for at least another turn. I had no serious heavy weapons left and most of my units were going to need to rally and re-advance over the top of the hill again to apply some pressure and there just wasn't enough time.

Its a shame the die-rolling turned so horrible at the end, as by Turn 6 we both thought the US were in with a shout and it was going to go the distance - maybe about 60-40 to the Japanese, but definitely still with a shout, before the second horror sequence from hell kicked in and killed the game off really early. With the helpful VC I would definitely rate this one as slightly pro-Japanese (60-40), especially so if they adopt the reverse slope defense and invalidate the US artillery, which seems such an obvious plan. The biggest problems the US has is with the time, the six morale in 0 or +1 terrain at best and also the sheer number of bodies and hence full hexes the Japanese are able to fill. If the wonder weapons don't work, then the US need to do this with firepower alone - doable, but much trickier. I also don't think the Japanese need six more squads as reinforcements in Turn 4: that is a huge help and completely replenishes the Japanese OB, which wasn't weak to begin with, whereas the American's will already be starting to hurt - maybe limit that to 2-3 extra squads at most or even for the Prepared Attack, the Japanese recieve Forces 1 and 3, and not 1, 2 and 3.

Overall, a pretty nice scenario and I would recommend it - the vagaries of the rain certainly offers some variety, even if the defense is forced to be a bit static. The official balance is for an additional 666 squad, but I would reckon time and not bodies is the biggest US handicap here - the rain slows them down and makes the Japanese harder to dig out and so I would say another Turn for the US may actually be the best solution of all - I just think they are a little bit undercooked relative to the task in hand, but it certainly could be fun if you can roll under seven every now and then on all the important checks.

So, now that Victor Behar has left to go west, I am happy to report that I am definitely moving up from number 2 and falling into first place as Houston's worst die-roller. Zeb can confirm this - its official. I came out of this scenario feeling shellshocked and crushed by the hammering both Zeb's and my dice gave to me. But, again the early finish meant that we still had a little free time to slip in another small scenario, so would things improve this time?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

AAR: SP143 The Battle for St. Cloud

Ed Beekman

Vichy French [ELR 2, SAN 4]: Ed Beekman
Americans [ELR 3, SAN 2*]: Doyle Motes

Doyle and I were matched up in Round 5 of the VASL League and we decided to give this scenario a try. What makes this scenario unusual is that each side gets to make a couple decisions about its Order of Battle. These decisions are made at the start of the turn the reinforcements are due and affect either victory conditions or game duration.

The scenario takes place in November 1942 in Algeria so the Americans are still learning how to fight and the French are still resisting for honor's sake. The battle takes place on two half boards, the town half of board 10 and the grain field half of board 33. The French are defending the board 10 village which is all single story except for a steeple in 10Z7 and rowhouse are treated as single multihex buildings. The Americans are attacking from off board through the grain which is Vineyard "lite" by SSR, only costing 1 MP to move through. The game takes place over a maximum of 6.5 Game Turns.

The French start with four 1st Line squads, two Conscript squads, a vehicular crew, 8-0 Leader, a HMG, a LMG and six dummy counters. They receive a variable reinforcement on Turn 4. The default is two and a half 1st Line squads, an 8-1, a LMG and three dummies. They can upgrade this to three Elite squads, a 9-1, LMG and three dummies by giving the American 1 VP. They can also receive additional reinforcements on Turn 5 consisting of two 1st Line squads and a pair of AMD 50 Armored Cars, again by giving the American an additional 1 VP.

The American start with eight 1st Line and three 2nd Line squads, an 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0, a dm .50 cal HMG, a MMG and a BAZ43. They can increase their SAN by one, substitute a 9-2 leader for their 7-0 leader, upgrade their three 2nd Line squads to 1st Line and add a BAZ 43. Sounds sweet, the only draw back is they sacrifice a Game Turn of play to do so. The Americans can also opt to reinforce from either flanking board edge on Turn 5 or 6. These forces are two 1st Line and a 2nd Line squad led by an 8-1, again at the cost of a Game Turn of play.

VP are awarded for building control. Two central buildings (10AA4 and 10W4) are worth a 1/2 VP each while the church (10Z6) is worth 1 VP. Victory can be had by the Americans by taking all three buildings provided the French do not take any reinforcement upgrades. Fewer buildings need to be taken the more upgrades the French take. The Americans win with 2 VP as long as they control one of the 1/2 VP buildings. They win with 3 VP as long as they control any building worth VP.

I set up with a skirmish line out front consisting of a dummy stack, a couple of half squads and a couple squads. My strength was to the east. The conscripts were placed in the 1/2 VP buildings, I didn't have the leadership to baby sit them and they are too slow for a fall back defense. I placed the crewed HMG in the church looking down the central road to cut the American attack into halves, bore sighting the third hex into the vineyard. A dummy stack simulating the expected HMG nest was placed in the steeple with the leader and a squad also in the church proper. Finally a squad with the LMG was placed in town on the west flank to stiffen the defenses there with fireline possibilities.

Doyle elected for the initial upgrade (I know I would have!) and attacked using a dispersed skirmish line through the vineyard. Not much happened the first turn except much of the American OB lost concealment. I spent most of my turns skulking to avoid American firepower and preserve concealment. The second turn saw me break several half squads and kill the half squad with the .50 caliber HMG as he walked into my HMG boresighted hex. Doyle retaliated by breaking one of my squads who was able to route to the church and my sole leader. The half squads broke this turn were never able to rally. Doyle's 8-0 led and self rally attempts all failed. I think his average roll was a 9 when he needed a minimum 7. This hurt in the endgame when manpower was at a premium. My dummies on the west flank didn't fool Doyle, he promptly disposed of them with half squads moving into their locations.

Half way through the game my strong east side was stopping the Americans but Doyle just took most of what he had and threw it at my weak west flank. The 9-2 leader showed his worth by knocking out all the real units on that side with 2+1 shots that ELR'd and CR'd my LMG toting squad and Disrupted the Conscripts in a victory building. One building was firmly in Doyle's control and about another five squads converging on the church including a melee with my HMG crew and leader with a couple turns to go. He also generated an 8-1 leader taking out one of my skirmishing HSs on a melee snakes roll.

I had to make a decision on my reinforcements. I thought I could hold the other 1/2 VP building but did not think I could hold the 1 VP building till game end, only delay its capture long enough to keep the troops there from helping against the last victory building. The building Doyle held meant he would win with 2 VP. I believed he would have 1.5 VP from buildings so I couldn't take the upgrade or I would give him the win, so I took the standard reinforcements. Doyle later also turned down his potential reinforcements because it would not give him sufficient time to control the necessary buildings.

I skulked the best I could while my reinforcements moved concealed into my remaining 1/2 VP building. Doyle fired into the melee breaking my crew, his HS but my 8-0 leader was unperturbed. My crew ran away, never to rally while my leader eliminated his HS as it tried to escape. I failed to recover the HMG giving the Americans free movement in the west. In came the American surge. A lucky 1+1 shot pinned the MMG squad out of position and my sniper broke a critically placed squad in the northwest. Melees erupted all through the church. Two were 3:2 advantage Americans, the other a 6:1 walkover. The 6:1 went as expected with my leader dead but the other two had unexpected results. A turn later two American squads were gone while both French squads remained, bolstered by a newly promoted 8-0 (although one of these squads promptly surrendered due to a 24+4 attack).

Due to the horrible American melee performance they were in a tough spot. It was mad rush time and everything had to go perfectly to have a chance. Anyone who knows ASL sees where this is going. Nothing ever so rarely goes perfectly and that was the case here. The first squad assault moving to take my Alamo full of my concealed reinforcements got hit with a Fire Lane creating LMG attack, took a K/1 and broke. The resulting American Sniper did pin my last squad in the church but the Infantry OVR vs my leader failed, leaving not enough manpower. Almost every unit faced a 1-2 attack or worse to get ADJACENT to where they needed to be, then they would have to break all the defenders in at least one hex (who are concealed in stone buildings) before taking the remainders on in melee which they would have to win all.

It was a fun little scenario. Doyle found and exploited my weaknesses well. Rallying, a supposed American strength, hurt him. The average American rally roll was normally one higher than needed and he usually needed a 7 or 8. The two melees where he had 3:2 advantages and lost both without losses on my part was also a disaster. The debacle cost him nearly 20% of his manpower and forced him to retake the building all over again. If the results had been average in rallies and melees I think this would have come down to the last die roll in the last CC phase. Thanks for the game Doyle, I look forward to playing you again.

AAR: SP5 The Hornet of Cloville

Rob Burton

Germans: John Hyler
Americans: Rob Burton

John Hyler and myself faced off on this Schwerpunkt scenario last night for a quick game.

Scenario has John with his German 5 squads, a Pz IVJ and an OT PzJg III/IV defending a village against the good guys consisting of 9 American 1st Line squads and three Shermans. The Germans have PF and a PSK, MMG, LMG, an 8-0 and Cpl Hyler himself, in the star role as the 7-0. The good guys have a couple of MMGs, a Baz, a 9-1 armor leader, a 9-1 and an 8-1 leader.

I rolled into town from the west, using two of the Shermans as mobile guns to shoot the Jerries from the houses and using the bocage as cover for the advance, with a small group entering from the north with the third Sherman (with the 9-1 armor leader who never came into play at all). Long range gunfire between the tanks went on with little effect due to hull down behind bocage. I did score a Shock, which flipped to an UK on the Pz IV, but it came back next turn.

Despite this, the Americans swept into town with the Germans falling back. Two Shermas dies in flames due to poor tanker skill on my part, but the infantry did a sterling job. The Third Sherman killed the Pz IV, and the last remaining Germans were holed up in two hexes. The Americans advanced in, shotting up the Germans, and entered CC. The first stack was a great success, ambushing the Germans, and eliminating them in two turns for no American losses.

The second stack was a disaster. Four squads and two leaders surround the stack of two half squads (one broken), the previously HOB'd Cpl Hyler, now a Sgt Hyler 8-0, and the PzJg. Advancing fire on the 30 FP table HOB's the broken half squad into a fanatic and then all but one squad fail the PAATC. On the last turn, the lone squad and two leaders roll boxcars to fail to kill the PzJg. The game is lost since the vehicle is in the victory area with a working MA.

Other notables - lots of sniper action (two good squad breaks by the German sniper slow the Americans down considerably) and the PSK breaks on boxcars on the first shot. John rolled probably 6-7 boxcars on the game (plus a couple of HOBs abd snipers, so it balanced out).

A great game - down to the wire. Bocage rules seemed to work well. The only issue is rememebering to go WA when required otherwise limited LOS (bocage is like a wall, but different).