Wednesday, November 12, 2008

AAR: Sverdlikova Melee RBF12

Nick Drinkwater

Russian [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
German [ELR variable, SAN 3]: Stephane Graciet

A very quick playing six-turn deluxe scenario that amazingly we finished in under two hours. Its set on Board b and also on HOB's Deluxe board BF2 (which came with one of their Recon By Fire Magazines). Its a simple enough concept - a moderate force of Russians have to have more good order squads north of the stream than a fairly tasty German group do at game end. The Germans set up first, north of a flooded but completely fordable stream, and they receive three 4-4-7s and three SS 4-6-8s, a couple of LMG, moderate leaders and three flak trucks (which by SSR, retain a three ROF and get a special -1 modifier when firing IFE). The attacking Russians come on from the south side with approximately nine squads, four of which are useless, range-constrained conscripts, the rest 4-4-7s. They also receive a 9-1 leader, a couple of LMGs, a light mortar and the obligatory swapped in 9-0 commissar (its August 1941).

In itself, that is clearly not nearly enough, so in Turn 2, they also receive another 7 squads of mixed 4-4-7s, 5-2-7s and another 9-1 leader, 7-0 plus LMG help which come on from the north side of Board b, behind the German start line. Ideally these guys will be the hammer to the south side anvil and will help crush the outlying line of German resistance. At least for one turn anyway, before a monstrous eight SS 4-6-8s, a MMG and four LMGs shows up from either the west, east or north side in Turn 3. The end result of all of this will be a swirling melee of punching, stabbing, shooting fights across most of the board and the small hill and ultimately, last men standing win. A bit like a late-night Saturday at the taxi rank in most UK cities I guess....

Stephane had a fairly straightforward setup where he had lined up in stone and wooden buildings a cross the width of the board with a couple of squads on the hill. As the stream was flooded, this meant everything in it would be at level 0 and hence we would be fording this as hazardous movement in plain sight of most of the Germans. Not a good place to be, clearly, so I managed to find a single blind spot on the extreme flank to try the ford, but set everyone else up to form big blob firegroups from the buildings at the water's edge. Stephane fired vainly with his three trucks but these were extremely fragile and I managed to shoot two of them to pieces with pure and simple FP in the first two turns and then shredded the final one in round three. We made a mistake and failed to apply a collateral attack to an escaping crew and they started to become difficult, but not too bad a start.

Eventually, my flanking forders managed to get up and on the hill and through a break from FPF on one German squad and a 16 FP FG shot against another I bagged two of Stephane's original six squads as prisoners. At the same time my Turn 2 crew had pushed on hard into to the village center and were starting to put the squeeze on Stephane's starters. Things are looking up!

Then of course it all went wrong as per usual. The Game's sole German sniper (warm) randomly selected my 8-1 from a stack of three and of course the wound was actually a kill. One of the squads he was with broke (of course), and my Commissar managed to shoot the only decent squad he had to rally, having saved a couple of lousy conscripts prior to this. I had made a mistake by accepting the two squads of prisoners and paid the penalty when one of Stephane's 4-6-8's jumped into melee with my guards and then took them prisoners and to rub salt into the wound, re-armed his own guys - all because I didn't want NQ to cause the Germans to start low crawling away as their self-rally potential was so much better than my own. This particular 4-6-8 had also come through a 8+2 and a 16+1 shot the phase before I had rolled my usual 9s and 11's.

From this point the Game swiftly fell apart. Three more NMCs and 1MC's from the newly arrived eight squad strong SS 4-6-8 Schwerpunckt (from the east board edge) resulted in three more MC failures in a row (rolled 9, 10, 10). I had managed to break Stephane's at start 8-1, two 4-6-8 + MG stack, but the SS quickly rallied and then with spraying MG fire proceeded to break two adjacent 5-2-7 squads when I rolled an additional 9 and 10. Five morale checks in a row from units in woods, and wooden and stone buildings and everyone failed (three had been ELRed to conscripts) and the lowest die was 9.

I conceded at this point. I had only five unbroken squads left (two of which were conscripts) and my strreams of broken troops were going to be chased across the board wit h no hope of quickly rallying (the Commissar was still south of the stream) and hence winning. These pitiful remnants were pitted against nine squads of troops with 8 front and 9 broken side morale, who I now had to kill and lock up in melee. It was a wash at that point. I had passed two morale checks for the entire night, (both squads still pinned), and my own fire had been generally less than effective. Another night, another dice-rolling disaster. Victor - please come back to Houston!

So more atrocious sequential rolling by me had ruined what had looked like being a fun scenario. Up until that sequence, things had been looking about even, though I think I was probably in more trouble than I originally thought as at least three of Stephane's at-start squads were still ultimately going strong. Obviously the Russians have to really hammer those at-start defenders quickly and then try and prepare for the German reinforcements but that also comes with risks and is not easy to do.

Crossing the river under fire is lethal and there is no option to Human Wave it as fording takes all your MF and HW teams have no Advance to get out of the stream. Even at the beginning, the Russians are a little outgunned and then they get set seriously out-gunned and out-moraled from Turn 4 onwards when the rest of the SS show up. ROAR has this as 8-10 to the Germans, so I'd be interested to know how any Russian wins were achieved or is there some kind of trick strategy that I missed as the Reds in this one? (Apart from passing morale checks when asked to of course!).

I am now surrendering to the obvious and we're going to play a game that doesn't involve so much dice for an evening or two, if schedules allow. After the weekend with Zeb, I was close to reaching this point, but these recent games with Stephane have showed its been less than fun for quite some while now, and I think this is true for my opponents when I can't really offer them a challenge anymore. Its just tedious for both parties when you're two or three turns and a lot of time invested into a game when all of a sudden, half of my order of battle just melts away in a horror sequence from hell and the game is then effectively a wash.

It seems that no matter what I do or attempt, I just can't get any relief at all from the continual sequences of nines, tens, elevens and twelves which I have an uncanny ability to pull out in horrendous chains. We may try Twilight Struggle or Flying Colors next. We'll see, but I need to re-charge and take a break from ASL until the new year.

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