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.

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