Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AAR: SP83 Boeinked

Nick Drinkwater
German Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: John Hyler

This is a fun mid-sized scenario that demonstrates the full majesty of a British set piece infantry attack with all the toys. The Brits need to take 4 multi-level stone buildings in the centre of the Board 46 village from a tough little German defense of 7 x 4-6-7, two Pak 40s and two Stugs with OK leadership to back them up. The Brits get seven Churchills of different varieties to assist them, all of which are veritable smoke machines. The best one is probably the single Churchill MkV with a 95* gun and S9 plus the usual ton of SD, SM and even WP - nasty for infantry if this one gets going. They also have four of the Churchill MkIV with a 57L gun and only limited HE, but again good SD and SM capability. Finally, they also have two Churchill MkVIIs with a proper 75 gun and again, you get it, more SD and SM capability.

In addition the Brits get a company of 4-5-7s, with a couple of mortars (for more smoke) and a couple of PIATs. Finally, they also receive two Bren As to do annoying scouty, encircly things. A good force and with the huge amount of smoke assets, one more than capable of getting the job done.

One of the cool things about this game is that the To Kill rolls of all the main AT assets will typically be either 9 or 6 for the Germans against the 8/11 AF of the Churchills and about 5 or 6 for the various Churchill guns against the 8AF Stugs - the PIATs with their TK of 16 are very powerful with a kill of 8, but the best thing here is that overall there is no surefire guarantee kill for either side, and hence getting optimum positions for rear and side shots may be important.

Looking at the board configuration, the fast way into the village is directly down the length of Board 46, but the Brits do have the open terrain of Board 44 to consider too - the Germans need to think about this as well. There is a good transverse hedge on Board 46 that can form a temporary halt line to the Brits, but it is important to think about where British armour could get to at the end of Turn 1 when planning the initial setup of the Stugs in particular. I was a little bit lax on this as I had left a Stug up there supported by a couple of squads, but John's opening turn moves were well planned and left my exposed Stug at the mercy of a Churchill IV by the end of Turn 1 - poor planning by me.

The rest of John's opening assault was textbook smoke, armoured assault and move and my only good shot from a level one, long range MMG resulted in a single pin. John sent a couple of Churchills down the Board 44 axis together with the two carriers whilst the infantry all solidly pushed hard into the woods and over the fields on Board 46.

A key moment happened early in German Turn 1 - my threatened Stug had already turned in Brit 1 Defensive Fire and on a laser thin LOS, had acquired the Churchill. In German Turn 1, I decided to gamble and stay where I was and take the shot and luckily found the APCR on a three - even hitting the hull, I was now able to put a shell through it and the first Churchill was dead - I then followed this up with a sniper that recalled the Churchill V - a HUGE move in the context of the game. Despite this John was still warily grinding onwards and all my overwatch squads were now smothered in Smoke - still no sign of either Pak 40s at this point though.

In British Turn 2, John pushed his carriers on into Board 44 where he found the first Pak 40 which was in a lateral orchard where it had a good view of the Board 46 area south of the hedge. Very frustrating for me as one of my traps was now blown with no results. Being wary of the newly revealed Pak, John manoeuvred another Churchill carefully out of sight, but this one also fell foul of crossfire from another thin LOS from my other Stug. My gunnery was outstanding in this game and this scratched another Churchill - three down, which soon became four when another was recalled with main armament failure.

On board 46, John had skillfully executed a smokey advance to the hedge and was now surrounding my forward Stug by a PIAT crew and two Churchills - it looked doomed, but I was able to put it into motion. Amazingly, he was able to find his SD as his first move point of his next movement phase, and I successfully evaded both Churchills - just as it was looking that I was going to be able to get out of jail free, John rolled a 4 and a 6 with the PIAT and that was that. The hedge defenders were now almost done...but not quite.

John had dumped smoke and then a squad and a half into CC with my only squad there, but in one of those cruel twists of fate, he rolled a 12 on his CC attack and I withdrew one hex to the south. Now, that squad was un-obscured by smoke and was in a position to cover a lot of moves by John's infantry over the open fields - it was a really critical move as the threat from this single squad held all John's infantry up for another turn at the hedge line, and the one squad that did try an run the gauntlet ended up broken. Now with four Churchills dead or recalled and the schedule pushed back a little, John was going to need to push hard from now on.

I had re-ordered the village defenders to try and get as much concealment as possible and also withdrew all the outlying defenders for the last couple of turns. In addition, I was able to drill a hole through one of the carriers with a Stug, but amazingly John pulled a two for the crew survival and the half-squad sheltered under their wreck. The other Carrier decided discretion was the better part of valour and hid for a while - more deadeye shooting when I needed it.

On Board 46, my heroic squad went down to a snakes at 1-hex range from the flamethrower - they were more plasma than atoms at the end of that one! With this, John was able to push his infantry over the hedge and two of the surviving Churchills ground forward to help them. At this point I dropped HIP on the other Pak which was in a board edge woods hex south of the hedge and two hexes from a stopped, lovely fat Churchill filling their gunsights. That beast somehow survived my Final Fire but went down to the subsequent Prep Fire as did a sixth motion Churchill adjacent but behind the hedge on a rate shot - as I said my gunnery was outstanding in this game. It was a good spot for the Pak and I think I faked John on it pretty well as he was expecting in the village as part of the last ditch defenses.

It was now desperation time for John with only one Churchill left and the infantry were starting to break a little too. Another snake-eyes survival from one of the Churchills ended in mutual destruction of the Pak crew and the vehicle crew, but by now, their job was done. John's infantry twice tried to push into the outer edge of the village but individual squads broke to some desperate shooting by my defenders and then John's FT failed on a 10 after that only one successful shot. In a final insult, John tried to enter another CC with one of my guys and rolled yet another 12 on his attack so I carried on withdrawing. At this point, John called it as it clearly wasn't going to be his day. Three of his squads were broken, one was dead, a couple were still laboring across the fields, the Flamethrower was malf'ed and he only had the single tank left. It was clear he wasn't going to push the Germans out of stone buildings on this day.

I liked this scenario - it is impressive to actually play a late war British attacking force, and John pressed on resolutely even after a couple of rotten early events went against him. The huge amount of smoke-making potential makes you have to think hard as the German defender on how to impact and delay the British and they will need to re-position their defenses at times and be flexible. As the Germans you definitely need to think hard about the opening turn one moves and where the British could be.

Anyway a fun one and I recommend you give it a go.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AAR: SP10 Bring up the Boys (twice!)

Nick Drinkwater
Game 1:
German Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Mark Carter
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater

Mark and myself found ourselves playing this one as our introduction to MAGCON, a new event for ASL in Houston, held at a really nice hotel in Kingwood. We had an evening free to play this so we opted for a shorter scenario that Walter was running as a mini called BritFest (the second time we had run BritFest - last time it was Pyrrhic Victory). In this mini, a winning British and German player will be nominated by the accrual of Fun Points for doing things like killing tanks with Boys ATRs, or keeping calm under fire (not cowering etc) or even doing outrageous things like successfully executing overruns in Bren Carriers. Lots of fun and a good way to warm up for the weekend.

Anyhoo, "Bring up the Boys" was a good scenario for an evening's play, set on Boards 10 and 19. Its pretty straightforward - over six turns, five German tanks and six squads have to control a majority (7) of the eleven Board 10 stone buildings north of the East-West road and the curious walled enclosure in the B10 village. Stopping them from doing this are seven non-cowering British 1st liners, a Boys ATR, a LMG, two Bren Carriers and a 9-2. The challenge and interesting part of this scenario is that the Brits get to move last so the Germans may need to go into that last half game turn with possibly eight or nine buildings under control - as they are likely to be short of infantry by this point and the Brits may still access to the best mobility if one or both of their Bren Carriers are still alive, then any undefended portion of German-taken buildings could easily be re-captured by the Brits for a cheap and easy win.

The big trick in this scenario is just how much damage the Brits can inflict on to the Germans, who have to launch their attack across completely open ground on Board 19. In contrast the test for the Germans is to see just how creative they can get to mitigate against this. Most of the German armour has a 1,1 AF and so they need to sweat even the humble Boys ATR and LMG shots at close range, but the Brits only have two of these weapons at game start. The Brits can and should start at the tree line to try and inflict maximum cheap casualties but they need to balance this against being completely locked in on Turn 1 from aggressive VBM movement allied to large Advancing Fire Phase fire attacks. The Germans do need to keep an eye on casualties as they are outnumbered from the start and they will need those infantry to control village buildings in the end game. As a result, every aggressive move to enforce VBM needs to be examined carefully on a "risk vs reward" - there are no infantry to waste here, even lowly half-squads, so getting advantageous CC odds is important for the Germans.

The other thing the Brit needs to think about is how to use the Carriers - they could be used upfront to additional 2-2 shots against the open ground assaulting Germans, they could instantly de-bus in the village to give two more useful, tank-killing SW or they could just be held as a mobile late game reserve to go and reclaim all-important VC buildings in that last turn - all options are viable but all come at some risk. Interesting problem.

So in Game 1, Mark was faced with the challenge of the Germans. We were both a little rusty and Mark spread his attack out across the board to try and maximise the number of British squads he would see and also to disperse some of my return fire. My guys were largely up-front, with a couple of half-squads forming refused flank guards on the lateral edges of the village proper. The roadblock was in the obvious spot blocking the main round into the village through the woods, and my ATR and 9-2 and 8-0 & LMG were close by and centrally placed. Mark tried to use armoured assault and SDs extensively but generally rolled poorly where ne needed to roll well and vice versa. I was lucky to roll a three on one squad double timing in the open and that was crucially 1/6th of his infantry dead. Importantly he did not VBM freeze me anywhere in this turn, looking instead to reduce my thin khaki line by fire but that was largely unsuccessful, and most importantly my 9-2/ATR team retained concealment looking for something juicy to shoot at from behind in a future turn.

In Turn 2, Mark continued to push on and was able to VBM a squad but lost the follow-up CC, and worse, in an effort to remove a ? threat for good, stacked two squads next to them in woods, hoping to survive their shots and then wither me in return. Sadly this was my 9-2 and Mark's guys yahtzeed themselves to death on the resultant random selection once I had rolled the 3 for the 1KIA. Huge loss to the Germans and 50% of their infantry now dead - the only way Mark was winning this was by voluntary abandonment of the tanks but that was going to reduce their effectiveness massively. In the meantime my two Bren crews had dismounted and were in key buildings at the back looking threatening with their LMGs. To add insult to injury, Mark now moved a tank into a flanking position to try and envelop me, but this went down eventually to a Shock/UK kill from the 9-2 directed ATR shot in the rear - go Boys ATR, go! When another German squad was minced in brutally effective British fire, we called it as he was now down to 4 tanks and 2.5 effective squads vs an untouched British stone-building defense. My dice were hot, Mark's were average and we were done in four turns.

Game 2:

German Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Mark Carter

As Game 1 ended quickly, and we only had limited time, we flipped it around and quickly played out a return, both feeling that we had essentially learnt what the scenario was trying to get over in Game one. This time around, I went strongly for the direct limited frontage schwerpunckt with the Germans to try and swamp and overrun just a section of the British line, but Mark also partially planned for this with a better distribution of the Brits than I had carried out in the first game. Mark's only weak point was that he had left a single Bren carrier in a position where I was guaranteed a good first turn Prep Fire shot at him with one of my tanks with an initial 7 To Hit - I'll take those odds any day. I missed him with the first shot, and even though he was able to squirt smoke at the start of his movement phase, I was still able to stick a tank shell through him in Brit Turn 1 movement. Apart from that stroke of good fortune, I can only say that my more direct attack was only partially successful - all my grandiose armoured assault and VBM moves had their accompanying infantry shot to pieces by withering British fire and at the end of Turn 1, I was down a half squad dead, a half squad back on the start line broken, and worst of all, a squad and a half as prisoners!

However, I had managed to get a tank into the 9-2's location (subsequently immobilized by them in Reaction Fire), but I managed to get 2.5 squads adjacent to him for some tasty follow-up fire. Now that he was locked, my guys took their chances in British Turn 1 and under multiple shots, critically broke and wounded the 9-2, generated a British hero but also were able to break the accompanying squad too. In a follow-up, I was able to get a squad onto one of Mark's guards and the tables were swiftly turned as I was able to free my guys to get a useful (yes, its true) conscript half-squad back in return - in hindsight, Mark's cool and collected guys should have massacred or NQ'ed my team to stop this happening.

Despite these initial losses, I knew I was now slightly ahead and I started to break through into the village and really started to use my tanks to aggressively encircle and enforce FTR on two of Mark's MMC. However, he was still definitely in it as I didn't quite have enough infantry to enforce all the gains I had made and I had to leave units in key positions to stand guard over isolated British MMC that I wasn't strong enough to break. By the end of Turn 5, I had seven of the requisite buildings and I knew that this would become eight as I had a broken half-squad trapped on top of a 1-2-7 crew in a one hex rowhouse. In addition, another crucial sniper double broke another British h/s and that was critical as I was then able to snag one more building for my tally. Luckily, I also had a fortuitous three on a advancing Fire shot on Mark's concealed 8-0 (that was denying me building control) and he was now unable to survive or dodge a subsequent advance by a German half-squad. However, Mark had also made a crucial mini-counterattack and reduced me by one less victory building and I was again down to the crucial seven. In his last move, he just had an encircled 2-4-7 (ex-carrier crew) left to try and enforce one more building conquest on me against a 2-4-7 and 8-1 and a 2-3-6 and 8-0. Sadly for Mark the 4-2 shot he needed to take broke him on the subsequent 2MC before he could advance in and victory just stayed mine. Phew.

Mark played really well in this apart from his slight set-up mistake with his other Bren, but in hindsight, the niceness of the British on NQ and this may have been the difference between victory and defeat - if both Carrier's had still been around to enforce late game house tagging, then I would probably have been too stretched to stop it after my turn 1 losses. I was lucky that only one of my five German tanks suffered a Breakdown and that was at the very end - the rest carried on gallantly shooting and encircling and did sterling service once the threat of the 9-2 had been diminished.

Good games from a fun opponent - thanks Mark!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thunderbird Tournament AAR - Part II

Matt Shostak

Saturday I found that I had qualified for the prestigious main event, and my first opponent was Glen Gray, a very good player that I've tangled with many times before. We chose The Boszoki Relay and diced for sides, which gave me the Hungarians. This scenario is a different challenge than most. To win, the Hungarians must exit a certain number of their onboard forces through Russian lines. They have a relief force entering behind the Russians, trying to blast a hole for them to get through. Glen's setup looked really good. He had his 3 Shermans on opposite flanks at the board edge, pointing back toward my entry direction. They looked to be quite difficult to flank with my six Zryinis. Therefore I resolved to avoid them, and try to blast a hole through the middle. My onboard units I had set up in two groups, one in the center, and one to my right. The MVP for the Russians had to be the 50mm mortar on the hilltop, which could see quite a lot of the battlefield, and really put the hurt on some of my troops. Meanwhile, my 81mm MTR did relatively little, breaking a squad or two in the woods on my right flank. But Glen's Rooskies wisely avoided giving that mortar many opportunities. A highlight for Glen was popping one of my Zrinyis in the rear with an advancing fire shot, needing a 2 to hit and getting the snakes. Yikes. A key moment for the Hungarians was a sniper that picked off the Russian leader in the center. With no leader in that area, troops that broke didn't come back, and eventually that was the difference in the middle. The sniper also sent one of the Shermans home too. It was a hard-fought victory against a good opponent. If you haven't played Glen yet, you should definitely try to get him on your dance card for the Austin tourney.
1-0 in the main event and on to the second round.

Next up was Mike Rose from Kansas, a very knowledgeable and fun opponent. We chose Frontiers and Pioneers and I took the Germans. Mike set up a defense that looked about equally spaced between the two victory areas, but I think he used his dummies more on the rear area to make it look more robust. I decided to make a simplistic frontal attack rather than try to be clever with a flanking move. He had two forward stacks in the woods across the street from the main position, and they were acting a lot like dummies, basically ignoring my first moves right under their noses. Therefore I advanced a stack of 9-1, LMGx2, 4-6-8x3 concealed adjacent to them, in an orchard hex. I also had lots of other troops in the area, as all of my motorcycle riders had dismounted in this area in front of the main Russian position, with all of my tanks nearby in close support. In his turn, Mike decided to drop concealment and prep fire with those two squads at my concealed stack, an 8+0 attack. He whiffed with a 10, and the returning fire was a 36+0 on one stack. That and a snake eyes on the roll allowed us to simplify the board by removing one of the Russian squads. The other squad was hosed down with the ROF attack at 12+0 and wound up broken, and perhaps reduced as well, I can't recall now. Mike knew it was a risk by taking the shot and clearly he regretted it afterward. It essentially put him down 2 squads right from the get-go. Meanwhile one of my PzIIIs was dueling with his T-35 land battleship. The T-35 got off two shots in defensive fire, one each with the 45L and the 76*, but they were very low odds because of hindrances and other modifiers, but in the following prep he had a better chance. Nevertheless both shots missed, and the PzIII's returning shot struck home, only to come up a dud. The PzIII torched the land battleship in the following prep, however. Mike's defense had the land battleship and the KV in the center of the forward position, and his two BT's in the rear village area, although I did not know that to start because they were under concealment. He trundled the KV forward a bit to bolster the area just behind his two forward squads that had melted away like butter in a microwave, and my panzers generally kicked into motion to avoid a duel with the monster. The next turn a couple of them went on a wide flanking maneuver to try to get behind the main position and avoid the KV. The AA gun revealed itself and plinked a shot off the front of a PzIII. The landsers crept forward rather conservatively, and several were shot up by some well-directed MMG fire by the Russian 9-2. His KV backed off toward the center, and his BTs charged forward to engage my two flanking Pz38s. In advancing fire, one of the BTs broke its gun, so in my next turn I thought a bounding fire attack could finish off the BTs. One tank drove around behind both BTs and engaged the one with a functioning gun. That panzer wound up shocked. The other panzer drove in for the kill, only to miss its target. So a PzIII moved in also to help out, and also missed. Wanting to avoid losing tanks in the next prep, the 9-1 and one of his 4-6-8 squads CX'd over there and advanced in for close assault against the BT with functioning gun, but only immobilized it in CC. Things were looking bad for Mike. Somewhere around this time-frame I had inched two flamethrower teams close to his behemoth, the KV. There was some smoke cover for them, so they managed to get off a shot, and cooked the monster (needing a 4 on the dice). Faced with such dire prospects, what did Mike do? Well, he did what any self-respecting Kansan would do. He promptly repaired the gun on his BT and drilled the two panzers in front of it. His moment of glory was short-lived, however, as my infantry finally dispatched the other BT, and my shocked Pz38t, which had gone UK, finally recovered and destroyed the remaining BT. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, one of my tanks overran a Russian squad in the factory, and when the 9-2 and squad reinforced the melee but got stuck there, they were quickly finished off by a flamethrower shot which broke all of the melee occupants, allowing other Germans to advance in and finish off the Rooskies as they tried to withdraw. At that point, it was obvious that the Reds couldn't stop the Germans, so Mike conceded. Good game, good opponent, 2-0 and off to the semis.

I was matched up with Ed Beekman, who had just defeated my fellow road tripper Mike Seningen. Ed has been steadily improving his game, and I'd seen him play before, so it wasn't really a surprise to me that he was doing so well this tourney. I was in the mood for something short and easy because the hour was late and I was getting fatigued. We picked Bidermann's Escape (at least I think that was the title), which is a vanilla short scenario where the Germans have to exit three squads (Sdkfz 10/5s each count as a squad) through some Russians on a city/town half board. I wish I could give this game a long rollicking account, which Ed so richly deserves for his victory, but it was a short affair without many crazy swings. I had no answer for Ed's white-hot dice, which made quick work of my efforts to make any progress. At one point I had a 4 or 6 down 1 on a skulking squad, got some kind of check, which he passed. Meanwhile, his 2+2 shot at my 9-2 stack managed to break the leader and two of the squads. That's the kind of game it was throughout. I finally managed to exit two squads, but it wasn't as close as that sounds, as my last guys had zero chance of getting off. Good game, good opponent, and congratulations to Ed for the win, and for winning the final as well.

That left me 2-1 in the main event and 4-1 overall, a respectable showing. This was a fine tournament and well run. Most of the guys on these lists know many of the attendees, so you know it was a great group of guys. There were a few faces that were unfamiliar to me, and unfortunately I didn't get to play all of the guys, but that's just more incentive to meet up at the next tourney. Great job John Farris and Mike Rose for running this thing, and thanks.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thunderbird Tourney AAR

Brian Roundhill

Qualifying Round 1 - Ed Beekman in 'Tanks But No Tanks'
I don't think I've ever played Mr. Ed before, so I was happy to get this chance. I'd seen 'Tank But No Tanks' played at a gameday, and it looked like lot's of fun, so I suggested it and Ed agreed. Polish infantry with 2 AT guns and an 81* mortar defending half of board 42 and board 49 against the invading Russians with 3 AFVs, and 2 more AFVs as part of their reinforcements. Our game was very different than the one I saw at gameday. For starters, we got the Polish reinforcements correct - they come in behind the Russians instead of behind the board 49 town. They caused Ed to hold a sizeable chunk of his forces back to prevent me from causing too many problems. Of his starting AFVs, 2 malfunctioned their MA in the first turn. Finally, his reinforcing AFVs found an AT Gun by driving into its hex. A lucky 3 and another good shot on an Overrun created 2 dead tanks. All of that together meant that Ed never had enough forces to properly attack my front lines, and the final nail in the coffin was a missed LOS and another 3 on the 2-2 shot.
Impressions - a wilder scenario than I thought because of the Polish reinforcements coming in behind the Russians. I think Ed should have created more havoc with his AFVs, especially the two with malfed MA's, but some great luck on my part eliminated most of the AFV threat.

Qualifying Round 2 - Mike Rose in 'Trigger Happy Joes'
Apparently Rick and I decided to swap opponents for our 2nd game. He played Ed, and I played Mike Rose in 'Trigger Happy Joes'. American firepower defending half of board 42(again) and the city of board 46 against the German onslaught. Americans have an M10, I think, at start, with 2 more reinforcing the action. The Germans have 4 AFVs, 2 Mark IVs and 2 JgPz tank destroyers. Looking at Mike's setup, it looks like the orchard hill is undefended, so his mines must be there. Therefore I decide to attack along my centre and right flanks, planning on coming through the huge woods overlay and into the city. Things were not to be so easy. Mike's mines were not on the orchard hill. Two hexes at the edge of the woods were mined, which caused me mch grief, and one early building hex as well. I made the best time I could, but by turn 4 was only at about the board join with a sea of green concealment between me and the victory building. On the right flank I was further along, but 2 AFVs had things bottled up, and my troops weren't sure where to go. Mike's AT Gun had made its presence known by knocking out a Mark IV, and was ready to blast the woods or anything trying to sneak around the woods. Since Mike had one unit on the edge of the city, and everyone else behind that edge, I decided my only option was to shift the point of attack. A JgPz rumbled up to VBM freeze his unit, but Mike opted to shoot and leave residual, so the JgPz remained parked one hex away to limit fire options instead. Everyone in the middle shifted to my left flank, which meant fewer American units between me and the victory building. The other JgPz drove down the streets, giving a low odds shot to an M10, which Mike declined, and frontal armour to the AT Gun. Driving past the AT Gun, Mike missed his CA change shot and later Intensive Fire shot, and the JgPz took out one of the American AFVs on my right flank, and had the other one in its sights. From here, I pulled out every trick in my bag. A 'faust got one M10, and the JgPz got the other. My troops swarmed at the victory building, and I got enough good dice rolls to break his MMG squad and 9-1, giving me a foothold in the building. But an upstairs HIP unit blocked me from getting to all his troops in CC, and I couldn't break everyone.
Impressions - Tough on the Germans. They have 6.5 turns to travel about 17 hexes and control a 6 Location building. At Turn 4, neither Mike nor I gave me a chance at a win, and it was only some good dice in the last few turns that made this game closer than it deserved to be.

Tournament Round 1 - Mike Laney in 'Encircle This!'
Since I got placed into the 'Main' tournament, Mike Laney got the honour of playing me. Somehow we settled on 'Encircle This!', a beefy conflict between the Russians and the Germans. The Germans must clean out 2 factories on board 51 that they start near, and get 10 VPs off the other side of board 49, including 5 VPs of Personnel. Laney got the Russians, and set up mostly in the back of the factories, with an LMG at 51Z4 and an MMG at 51DD2 looking for -2 and/or encirclement shots. Obviously Laney had a healthy respect for German firepower and my 9-2 leader. I set up my kill stack (two 467s, LMG, MMG, 9-2) to suppress the LMG, and everyone else prepared to storm across the streets. Early on, things went my way. Instead of going directly into the factories, I sent my forces wide and eventually attacked the side of the far factory from the W and X row back towards factory R2, sweeping through both in about five turns. My reinforcing halftracks unloaded and got ready to start forcing their way through the rubble while the Panthers and Stunty tried to find good positions to attack the factories. The Russian AT Gun popped up at 51AA2 and nuked the two halftracks, but my Panthers were thankfully safe. Laney's T-34s came on, took a drive-by potshot at my Panther in some rubble, and took up positions on opposite sides of board 49. After four turns, it appeared the Germans were running rampant. Only three or four squads made it out of the factories and onto board 49. The AT Gun had been bypassed and was out of position, and the only thing slowing the Germans down was the MMG and the T-34s. One Panther snuck across the road and took out a T-34, and the German infantry started working across the road. With Stunty and a Panther in good position, my only concern was exiting 5 VPs of Personnel. I had 5 VP in great position to exit, and another 3 VP that could make it off, so Laney had to do something to stop me.
First he rumbled his T-34 towards a better firing position, but a 'faust eliminated that idea. Next, Laney went into desperation mode. One squad charged across the open ground, and was shot up. Another squad also charged, and was similarly removed from the battle. Finally his last leader imitated the Japanese and scampered towards one of my troops, ignoring all my fire. This heavily panting, CX'ed maggot advanced into CC, avoided the Ambush, then failed to kill my troops. 4:1 at -1 back against him, and an 11 resulted in a much unwanted Melee. Laney then repaired his MMG, which prevented my backup VPs from exiting. 4VP of Personnel was not enough for the win.
Impressions - Sloppy play in the last two turns may have cost me, but time was running out and I rushed a little. I should have used the BMG and CMG to turn my Panther around, giving me more firepower against Laney's desperate charge. Also, I should have used the Panther sN to cover my 'extra' VP units dash for victory. Oh well, that's the way things go. This play felt tough on the Russians, but others feel it is hard on the Germans. I think Laney had some good ideas, but fell short in other areas. Rubble in 51U6 makes it harder for the Germans to get their vehicles into good positions, but probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. The factories appear to be mostly a red herring - the Russians can't hold on to them, and should be prepared to fall out and stop the Germans exit VC. If they get a chance, they can take back a factory and win that way.

Free Play - Mike Denson in 'One More Day of Freedom'
I was interested in some PTO, and Mike was interested in giving the Japanese a try so he could start to learn them. This looked the most straight forward of the PTO scenarios, so we gave it a go. Mike had some good Banzai's that resulted in several dead American squads, but his MTR ran out of SMOKE right before the last charge, and I was able to pack the final building for a win. Both of us learned more about the Human Wave rules, and I hope Mike enjoyed his first taste of the Japanese.

Free Play - Mike Rose in Hell and High Water
The Zombie Pack demanded a playing. I got the humans, who were trying to ferry civilians across the board 7 river to safety while holding off Mike's zombies as the shambled across board 19 towards their tasty food. Basically, a 2 legged puppy. The assault boats ferried everyone over in about 3 turns, and my armed forces sacrificed themselves at the chokepoints one at a time so the zombies had zero chance of reaching the civilians. Favorite part - sacrificing a unit to force 3 squad-equivalents into one hex, then dropping a DC on them. a 1KIA meant lots of scattered zombie pieces-parts. I am now one of 3 known people to play a zombie scenario. Shurtz and Rose played once at the Austin tourney.

Non ASL - Saturday night Bang. Fun and laughs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thunderbird Tournament AAR - Part I

Matt Shostak

The Oklahoma tournament is run a little bit differently than ours (Texas Team Tournament). Friday's games were used to qualify for the main tournament, which would occur on Saturday and Sunday. In conjunction with that, there would be an "other" tournament for the non-qualifiers. Since there were 24 players, that easily split into 16 for the main tournament and 8 for the other (or perhaps the "rest of the best" or something like that). Each of these tourneys was single elimination. Scenarios were to be chosen from a preselected list, which was available on the Oklahoma ASL website ahead of time.

First up for me on Friday was Patrick Ireland, and we chose "Out of the Shadows" from Dispatches for our contest. We diced for sides and he got the Germans, attacking. Highlight of the game for me was my Wolverine getting a lot of rate to erase a German squad that had crept a little too close to my frontline troops. The highlight for Pat was probably when his Panther lobbed a critical hit on the steeple of the village church, whacking my 9-2-led MMG and half squad, which had been harassing his troops quite effectively in the early game. Overall though Pat's approach was probably a little too cautious, and when my reinforcing squads arrived it was obvious that the Germans would not be able to seize their objectives. It was great seeing Pat again and I look forward to more games with this fine gentleman.

Next was the redoubtable Greg Schmittgens from Kansas. Many of you know the Kansas guys from their repeated appearances at our tourney, although I think it's been a while since we've seen Greg. At any rate, he's a great pleasure to play, as are all the Kansans: very knowledgeable about the rules, good with his tactics, and all the while thoroughly enjoying himself. And why not? He acted the part of a crazed pyromaniac (is there any other kind of pyro?) in our game of "Penetrate This!" which I think is from Schwerpunkt. We diced for sides, and he got the defending Russians, armed with plenty of molotov cocktails, holding onto a couple of factories in an urban area strewn with rubble, in the late war.

I think this one may be a bit tough on the Germans, but others who played it at the tournament disagreed, so perhaps it's just a case of Greg making it seem difficult. The Germans have to take two factories, plus exit 10 pts. from the far end, at least 5 of which must be infantry. Fortunately, prisoners count in this one. Greg packed the factories with most of his force, with a couple of outliers guarding the flanks and looking for exit attempts through the constricted terrain. Early on I broke his MMG squad upstairs in one of those buildings, and mopped up at the next opportunity, taking them prisoner. I haven't done mopping up in a while. In general I thought that I didn't have much time to prosecute an assault on the factories, so I had to risk my two Panthers in the front line. The first one quickly succumbed to a molotov attack. The other managed to briefly freeze a squad, which allowed some of my assault engineers to get their foot in the door. Later this same Panther got drilled by a point blank APCR shot from one of the reinforcing T-34/85s as it tried to plow through another factory location. It seemed to me that, sensing victory, Greg pushed his Russians forward a bit in the factories to try to put the game away for good, instead of playing it safe and skulking like crazy and burning the clock. At one point I think we had each reinforced a melee enough so that I had an 8-0 and 3x8-3-8 against 2x6-2-8 and 1x3-2-8. That's working it old-school. This melee eventually went the Germans' way big time, and the factory defenses started collapsing. The endgame arrived with the Germans still needing to get one last factory location, but that was almost certain, and still needing to exit 2 or 3 points on the last turn. It's all a bit of a blur, but the Germans just pulled it out, barely. Great game. 2-0 and ready for the main event.

End of part 1.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Military Museums in England

Nick Drinkwater

Tom and anyone else going to England....

Depending on your schedule and location, if you are confined to London, then first and foremost I would recommend the Imperial War Museum which is on the south bank of the River Thames in central London. It is an outstanding collection with a ton of funky stuff, and best of all its free! Leave a day for this one - its big. Its exhibition on the Victoria Cross winners is very good.

Second on my list in London is the National Army Museum on the north side of the Thames in Chelsea. Smaller than the IWM, but very compact it deals solely with the British Army through the centuries - this is very cool and there are some cool exhibits on Waterloo, the British in SE Asia in WW2 etc. Definitely a long half-day here and a good bookshop too.

Another half-day trip (2-4 hours long) is the Cabinet War Rooms - excellent snapshot of Blitzed London with a new annex that deals solely with the life and times of Winston Churchill. I was there in the summer and I loved it - also got to meet Private Harry Cohen of the 4th Indian Division who survived Cassino...a very lucky chance encounter. This is actually a branch of the IWM.

If you are into aircraft, then the RAF museum in Hendon, North London is a must see. Outstanding collection of WW1, WW2 (lots including lots of captured German aircraft - Stuka, Me 109, Night-fighting Ju-88) plus post-war collection. One of the best there is a Halifax they pulled out of a Norwegian fjord...too damaged to restore, it is left in an 'as is' state - very poignant. Another good VC collection here. This is a 2/3rds day trip plus metro travel to get there but it is really cool. There is an annex to this in the English midlands at Cosford - not been to that yet.

The final London WW2 thing to see is HMS Belfast, another annex to the IWM - this is a floating heavy cruiser docked permanently on the Thames near Tower Bridge, access from the south bank. I've not been to this, but I've heard good things.

Outside of London, there are several excellent collections scattered across the country (Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset, National Army Air Corps Museum in Hampshire etc) and these are a bit more specialized - you can hunt them down online if you are in the area. However, three stand out in particular - the IWM has a newly opened branch in Manchester - not been there yet, but saw a documentary on it once on TV - looks way cool.

The IWM also has another branch, this time in Duxford which is ten miles south of Cambridge (about 50 miles by major highway north of London) - another brilliant museum, largely dedicated to flying. It has an excellent collection of working WW2 aircraft and has its own hall for the American Air Musuem. Has a working B25 in here, a Blackbird and a lot of really cool WW2 aircraft plus a Battle of Britain hall. In addition, they also have a Land Warfare Hall, probably second only to the Tank Museum. There is a strong collection of WW2 German and Russian tanks in here particularly and they have shows commonly for both the airdays and for running tanks. Really very, very cool and a very full day to see it all - also see the American Cemetery just west of Cambrige - approx 2000 (mainly) airmen are buried here: Cambridge is right in the heart of the old US bomber airfield area - a sobering but evocative way to finish the day

Finally, there is the Tank Museum which is about 80 miles SW of London - the best thing for treadheads in the country. You've seen lots of photos but that does not do it justice - outstanding museum. A bit of a pain to get to by public transport as its right in the heart of the army's training grounds, but simply awesome. Well worth the trip!

So there you have it, a week of interesting things for Americans to see that doesn't involve Bath, Oxford, Edinburgh or the Queen and 'those cute little dogs'.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

AAR: ITR6 The Ceramic Factory - Response to the Response

Nick Drinkwater

Chris, Matt, Zeb.

Agreed with everything you've all said. With these equal split victory objective games, as the defender, its perhaps a little easier as you really do get to fight the ultimate battle on a battleground and force balance of your own choosing (try AP20 Victory is Life as another example of this where the Russian attackers have to choose force balance quite accurately from the start). Looking at the two factories, I opted to defend the smaller of the two, primarily as it sits up against a board edge and hence the Russian has only three main approach routes - the big factory can easily be surrounded from all four sides by the Russians.

The key decision that the German has to make is how to split his force and yet make it look to the Russians like he has really divided his units in half. I did this by approximately splitting my force numbers 60:40 but in terms of concealed stacks made it look more 50:50. As well as this numbers balance, I also went for a force quality imbalance as all my crappy 447s, 237s etc went in the big factory with only a couple of 4-6-8s to stiffen the line. The small factory was jammed up with all the 548s and 468s so basically in FP terms and morale quality of troops it was more like 70:30. All the heavy SW (HMGs and MMGs) went in the small factory and six of the seven FBL were all placed in the small - all of course unknown to Chris at the start of the game where everything looked about equal under their concealment counters. Finally, all of the mines, wires and roadblocks, a HIP squad, MMG and leader and one of the two AT-Guns were placed to help make the small factory a really tough festung for Chris to take out, but still with the intent of leaving enough initial doubt in Chris's mind on the way things were resolved. Chris would only get to see the wires, and find the mines, and bounce out from the FBLs when he really got upfront and personal - by then I was hoping he was committed to the big factory attack with enough numbers that they might just be too late to come and hurt me in the endgame in the small factory.

And so it proved. Chris did a good job at bottling up the big factory and by G Turn 6 I was down to a squad, two leaders and a crew. I then had the inspired idea of using the sewer to pop up concealed with two units across the other side, but of course I rolled the six to get lost in the sewers, and ended up placed outside the factory by Chris. Very typical. However, the small factory defence of 4-6-8s and 5-4-8s in multiple FBLS with tons of support weapons and good leadership was just too tough for Chris to overcome, especially after one of his FTs choked on its last shot in the last turn (after at least 14-15 shots with no Xs prior to then). Chris tried to bust a hole into one of the FBLs in the last turn with an IS-2 but I calmly revealed my last hidden AT Gun and DI'ed the crap out of the beast to stop that one in its tracks. I was also successful in finding ATMM and fausts when needed (one particular 237 hs first un-HIPed to pop a faust through a IS-2m, got sniped and broke, rallied, popped out to slap a mine and burn a ISU 152 only to go down in a hail of gunfire as it charged up an open road to try and rejoin the fight for the big factory. Posthumous iron crosses with Oak leaves and diamonds for those boys). Luckily I didn't get to bounce a faust of a IS-2m.

The only real downside I could see to the small factory is that there were no internal walls to shield me from Russian 10-2 killstacks once they had entered the perimeter, and also help provide places to rout to safely. This was an issue in the last couple of turns as Chris was able to 'touch' me with a brutal 10-2 monster a couple of times, but the extra FBLs really helped offset this allied to a couple of lousy high rolled shots. A timely berserker also helped me here as that soaked up some more FP desperately needed elsewhere, after also going on a rate spree with a MMG and breaking Chris' other FT squad who then routed back and got hurt by some mines. But at the end, Chris had unluckily ran out of options to bust units into the forts and he was faced by a wall of pinned defenders to get through before he could even try. We had a couple of fun things - the sewer game winner / game loser moment of course, an Improbable Critical by an SU152 on a JgPzIV, another improbable critical from a manhandled 76L Art gun on my only decent squad in the big factory, stupendous runs with both flamethrowers, and the "little 237 that could".

It was a lot of fun, but with the setup advantages of the Germans allied to the toughness of SS in forts at the death, I'd probably rate this 60:40 German. Or I would, if the low ammo rule wasn't there as Zeb described - Chris didn't do a lot of cheap 2+5 shots to try and trigger this and so LA only applied to me on T5. However, as Zeb pointed out, if he'd gone hell for leather for it as the rule encourages, I'd have been there a lot earlier and that would have made a difference - still a bit pro german but the loss of the HMGs early especially would be huge. Zeb's change with maybe a couple less FBLs would be good things to try.


AAR: ITR6 The Ceramic Factory - Response

Zeb Doyle

Totally agree with Chris: The Ceramic Factory is a big fun scenario that might favor the SS a bit. I played it as the Soviets against Eric's SS. He opted not to defend the smaller factory with anything other than dummies, and that allowed me to really focus my entire force on just one objective. In hindsight, we both agreed that made my job quite a bit easier. It was still tough going for my troops and it came down to the last turn before I could clear the large factory for the win. One major problem for me was the German assault guns: Eric parked them all in the festung factory and as I killed them off with IS-2s and FTs, they caught on fire and really hampered my attack. This led to a bit of a stressful end game for me when my approach to the last SS stack was narrowed down by the burning factory to just two ground locations and the roof.

The only thing I didn't like about the scenario was the SSR about the German ammo shortage: after 12 German sniper activation attempts, the SS suffer from Low Ammo. As the Soviets, I set up to make it impossible for a painful German sniper attack to occur, and started taking every single AFPh 2+3 and 4+4 I could find. With a 5 German SAN, Eric was faced with Low Ammo by turn two, and that really hurt him with a lot of Wehrmacht MGs X'd out by game end. It felt pretty cheesy and seemed weird that the German ammo expenditure was up to the judgement of the Soviets...seems like it would have been better to give the SS Low Ammo after X amount of Soviet sniper activation attempts. That would have felt (at least to me) the Germans would be saving their shots, waiting for the 'whites of the eyes,' etc, and fit the mood a little better.

Still a fun scenario if you are in the mood for a close-in urban slug-fest. Another fun one that has a slightly similar feel, albeit less claustrophobic and with more maneuver, is FT106 Counterattack Along the Danube. This one is 2/0 in favor of the Soviets though, and might be tilted towards them balance-wise just as much as The Ceramic Factory feels tilted towards the SS (either side can win but the favored side does have an edge IMHO). I'm pretty sure I saw FT106 being played at the Austin Team Tournament.. .anyone have any comments on this one?


AAR: ITR6 The Ceramic Factory

Chris Buehler

It took us about 9 to 10 hours to play the Ceramic Factory. We started at Tom’s on September 24 and finished at Nick’s last night.

It’s a great scenario with quality troops, large forces, and very tough decisions for both sides. Particularly, how to split your assets between the two factories for both the Russian attacker and SS defender. Even with Nick’s SS troops walking away from the large victory location factory on the final turn (actually, they got lost in the sewer and wandered away from the factory), I could not dig the SS out of their fortified holes in the smaller factory. In retrospect, Nick played the set-up shell game to perfection and had me believe his force was more concentrated in the larger factory. I fell for it sent more troops that way, falling a bit short on the firepower necessary to take the smaller factory. Well played Nick!

With respect to balance, ROAR currently shows 13 to 6 in favor of the SS. While I feel both sides can win the scenario, it really comes down to whether the Russian player splits his force in an appropriate manner to assault both take both factories. You do not have time to deal with them one at a time.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

AAR: DB76 Out of the Shadows

Scott Bell

Americans: Scott Bell
Germans: Hondo Nelson

Yesterday (Saturday) at San Antonio ASL day, Hondo and I had a chance to square off in a "new" scenario from "Dispatches from the Bunker." It was the first time we have had a chance to play against each other, and it was nice to play something that few if any players have played yet. This scenario just came out.

"Out of the Shadows" is a scenario set in Allan, France (August 27th) 1944. The Americans are composed of the 3rd Infantry Division along with support of Company B (Tank and Tank Destroyer Battalions). The Germans have the 11th "Ghost" Panzer Division along with Grenadier Regiment 757 and Grenadier Division 338.

This battle takes place on board 53, where the Americans are defending large buildings in a congested town. The Americans can also win by exiting > or = to 16 VP's off the north edge of the building. Absent poor planning on the part of the Germans, the American exit strategy is probably unlikely, so the battle comes down to control of victory buildings or the Germans earning > or = to 35 CVP by games end.

In this battle, the Americans, who initially control the town, strategically engage in a fighting withdrawal that is timed in order for them to maintain control of the majority of the buildings within the town at games end. I was the Americans in this scenario. I started out the battle with a 9-2 leader in a 2nd story building, a 6-6-7 squad, along with a MMG. Unfortunately for me, one of Hondo's Marder tanks quickly and improbably locked onto the building I was in (long distance), and broke me after the 1st turn. This prevented me from whittling down Hondo's forces as they approached the town. I was able to strategically organize my forces to where I gradually fell back into what might be described as a "slice of pie" defensive line. The long lines of the pie slice that met at a point, were roads, which I controlled effectively with MG fire. I controlled one major line with a squad and a MMG (fire lane). The other I controlled with MMG fire from my 9-2 leader and a 6-6-7, who had previously broken but were now rallied, along with tank support.

At the mid point of the game, I appeared to be in control. Hondo was unable to breach my defensive line which was quite strong. At turn 5, I had broken much of the German infantry, and had seized the initiative to where I was somewhat on the offensive. One could probably make an argument that I should have stayed put, but my defensive attack against Hondo's infantry had gone well, and I did not want to let him regroup; therefore I went after the wounded prey. THEN IT HAPPENED TO ME.......

This game "in the form of some critical dice rolls" had one of the most spectacular reversals in fortune that I have ever been a part of. The reversal involved the battle of our tanks. In the armor engagement, I had one (1) Sherman tank and three (3) M-10 TD. Hondo had one (1) Panther and two (2) Marders.

During the key tank engagement, I had managed to gang up with my Sherman and two (2) of my M-10's against the Panther tank. That was the good news (for me). The bad news was that due to the congested terrain of buildings and fire that had spread, along with his PF equipped infantry, I was only able to get front shots on his "in motion" Panther. I kept getting hits on the Panther with APCR (which I amazingly kept), but could not knock it out. I then switched my strategy to an effort to immobilize it, but could not get the required rolls to do that either. Hondo was feeling the heat, and realizing that I would eventually be successful, brought a Marder into the battle, in an attempt to draw fire away from the Panther. My Sherman tank pivoted, missing during Defensive Fire, and destroyed the tank on my next PFPh. Now I was really feeling good. I felt like I was in complete control of the infantry battle, and appeared to be improving my situation with my tanks as well.

Quite suddenly, my fortunes changed. It began when Hondo "killed" my 9-2 leader with a sniper shot. He followed this with an unlikely 4 hex away AFPh shot by a German Squad with a Panzerschreck, against my Sherman tank. Hondo needed a "snake eyes" to hit, and that is what he got. One Sherman destroyed. Next, the "in-motion" Panther took a shot at my M-10. Hondo rolled 3 dice, and got "triple snakes." One M-10 destroyed. Hondo smiled at his fortune, and said he was "going for it." He was "feelin" it, and he was on fiyaaa. The Panther took an "Intensive Fire" shot with 3 dice. The dice came up as 1, 1, & 3. A second M-10 destroyed. In the course of one turn, I had lost 3 tanks and my 9-2 leader. My misfortune was not over.

Now we switch to the infantry battle, where I had previously seemed to be in complete control. Earlier, I had advanced several American squads into the hex with the Panther as part of my combined arms attack which was designed to ensure that I would get the Panther. I forgot about the Sn, which I now call the "Fritz." I have only faced this defensive tank weapon probably on 2 other occasions, and I should have remembered it since it was devastatingly effective both times. I got "fritzed." The weapon broke my entire stack, and Hondo effectively closed in with nearby German infantry to finish the job.

I was in trouble now. I had complete control of the victory buildings, but my losses of tanks had now put me in a position to where Hondo could win by CVP's. Hondo had secured 21 CVP's in that one turn with just the 3 tanks kills, alone! I immediately began to retreat towards my defensive lines to try and stem further losses. This scenario would now clearly come down to CVP's. Hondo became the hunter, and I became the hunted. The Panther ruled the battlefield, and I was in full retreat with no answer for that tank. The "only" friend I had at this point was time. I had a remaining strong stack of troops which had stayed with one of my leaders in the course of falling back. I made an unintentional error of leaving them stacked (I forgot to spread out during the Advance Phase) and Hondo moved his Panther into my hex to freeze me, while his weakened but still viable German troops closed in for support. I managed to "immobilize" the Panther and knock it out in close combat (finally), and barely held on in close combat against the German infantry as the game ended. We were still engaged in CC when the game ended.

I had just managed to squeak out a "win" by only 3 CVPs. That was an amazing turnaround for a game that prior to turn 5; I had seemed to be in control.

This scenario was a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to those who are looking for something interesting to play. It is found in the newest "Dispatches from the Bunker" (No. 29, I believe). It is Scenario # DBO76. It was a good match-up for Hondo and I; who have styles of play that are somewhat similar with regards to aggressive play. Hondo played a very good game, especially at the end when it mattered most. He was aggressive when he needed to be, and just "barely" came up short. The Panther tank was amazing in this scenario. I delayed engagement with it as long as possible, and when I did finally engage with it, I did so with numerical superiority that included a 3-1 advantage in tanks, with engineers and a hero with a bazooka in support. The Panther tank fought back with defiance and determination, and it was amazing for both of us to watch. The Panther fought heroically, and its story would seem to be consistent with some of the great individual heroic actions of WWII that we have all read about. It was a pleasure to watch, even though I was on the wrong end of that "beatin' stick."

I would like to thank Hondo for the excellent game, and I look forward to playing him again, soon. I hope you enjoyed reading this, just as I enjoyed reliving it via this review. This game is one that I will not soon forget.

On a final note, I am eligible to "retire" from SAPD in 4 days. I will not be leaving immediately, though I do expect to "wrap up" my career in the next couple of years, which I'll work in order to supplement my annual pension payout during retirement. I mention this, because I look forward to playing a lot more ASL in retirement. I am planning upon doing a lot of traveling in retirement, which will include traveling to play ASL across the country, and across the world. I am very excited about that, and I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in a hobby (ASL) that I enjoy so thoroughly. I thank "all of you" for being a part of that.



Monday, July 27, 2009

AAR: RPT14 Keitel & Cox

Nick Drinkwater

German (SS) Player [ELR 5, SAN 2]: Mark Carter
American Player [ELR 4, SAN 2]: Nick Drinkwater

Mark and myself hooked up with this one as a last minute substitution for our original all-infantry choice as Mark wanted to practice more both as the defender and get some more practice in using AFVs. This 4.5 turn scenario out of the second Rally Point pack appealed as it had a Tiger(!) and a couple of Shermans stiffening an attack by 10 x 6-6-6s to eject a bunch of 7 x 5-4-8s from a stone Italian town in mid 1944. The scenario is set width-wise on one of the new SK boards and for victory, the US have to ensure that they control three multi-hex buildings that span the middle third of the board AND prevent the Tiger (with functioning MA) from being within four hexes of a central crossroads (hex Q5). These are pretty tough VC for the US, as they have a lot to do to dig out tough defenders in ideal terrain and also be successful in a game of cat and mouse with the Tiger - ROAR currently has this as 4:17 US to German, probably reflecting the problems of playing with Shermans against a markedly superior tank AND clearing three stone buildings in 4.5 turns.

To help Mark, we had a thorough discussion on all aspects of the units that has been provided, particularly with respect to the merits of the armour assets and also the importance on understanding the key issue of timing and the pace of the defense vs the required victory conditions. As it stressed in the VC that the US will lose if the Tiger is in the correct area with a functioning MA at game end, Mark quickly grasped the huge potential of the game winning aspect of this one piece and its need to be preserved. This was reinforced when he saw the problems of having M4A1 Shermans with their 75s - base To Kill of 14 will be bouncing off the 14/11 frontal armour on almost every shot and even side shots would need a six. Of course, the reverse was not true as any shot from the 88L was going to blowtorch through my tanks. Hence the Tiger was going to pose a problem for me, compounded by the better Tiger morale and the presence of the sN to throw out smoke when needed to get out of a sticky position. Mark swiftly picked up the nuances of all these aspects in the pre-game chat, but we also took time to make sure that the one saving grace of the Shermans was noted: the white square nature of the ROF of 1 which offered the potential for both improved gun duel chances and the chance for multiple hits, particularly threatening if the Shermans could be manoeuvred successfully to do the "dance of death" on the solo Tiger. More on this anon!

Mark swiftly set up a forward defense with the bulk of his troops stiffened by a line of LMGs and MMGs at the rear, covering the main lateral road I was going to need to cross. Setup meant that I was also setting up onboard and in this case, I had the advantage of setting up second - with Mark's forward defense I was able to deny concealment to 70% of his force at the cost of two revealed half-squads myself, and was able to place a menacing "?" stack within two hexes of the most forward of his troops. I also tasked my Bazooka squad to run forward on my left flank to start to threaten his Tiger and get him moving from its rear area position.

Turn 1 was completely ugly for me as Mark's first shots of the game were 2, 5 and 4, and of course being 6-6-6s I went rolling backwards on both my left flank and centres and I swiftly had 3.5 squads broken on Turn 1, including my only MMG and bazooka squads. Luckily my right flank concealed 'creep' stayed intact and the two Shermans were still healthy as it otherwise it could all have been over very quickly. By the end of Turn 2, I had been able to crush the two squads and leader Mark had on my right flank through concealed ambush and CC so things had started to even up a bit, even though I couldn't rally a unit for squat (including and especially annoying the Bazooka squad). A key move also happened in Turn 2 when a 7-0 went berserk on a rally - this was looking disastrous for me, but actually turned out really well as he charged Mark's MMG team tasked with solely holding out in his left rear defense line. Just before he went on his mad dash, I was able to dump a Sherman WP shell on top of the MG nest and this was meant my 7-0 survived his dash for glory and completely locked up his MG unit. I was thus able to get a 6-6-6 into the berserk CC location unscathed and the first victory house was mine. However, I still had two to go and the problem of the Tiger to solve and time was running out and still all of my first turn morale check failures stubbornly refused to rally.

Mark kept the pressure on by keeping my Baz team DM through movement of the Tiger (but wisely not using his MA on a wasteful shot after a discussion) and then pushed him back to a position where he could support the defense of his rear right house, the most difficult for the US to attack. Turn 3 saw him start to fold the defense backwards to the far side of the lateral road, but I was able to pin then destroy a half-squad while he was doing that - he had now lost 3.5 squads but I only about 5 squads in positions to effect the outcome of the game and the Tiger was still alive. In my Turn 4, I was able to eliminate another SS squad in CC (gotta love that 6 to 5 CC odds) and most importantly I saw an opportunity to threaten the Tiger from opposite sides with some cautious lateral manoeuvring of a Sherman. This was a bit risky as it meant I had to unbutton for some road bonus points and also I needed to risk an ESB for an extra half MP to get me in the perfect position, but this left me with a snakey 9 hex LOS through two orchards to the back hull of the now motion and sN smokey Tiger. At the same time, I pushed the other Sherman against the direct opposite facing of the Tiger to snap shut both sides of the vice.

In German Turn 4, Mark's last outboard infantry units were shot down when trying to retreat and he was left with a solo concealed 548 in the last victory building and the Tiger vs approximately 5 of my squads and the two encircling Shermans. We had a long discussion about the options open to the Tiger from here. If it could survive the two incoming Sherman shots it would probably mean victory for Mark as I would be left doing the chasing and needing bounding fire shots in my last turn for the win. If it stayed, however, I would still need to pull out some good shooting as Mark had smartly rotated the TCA opposite to the Tiger's VCA, meaning that both of my Shermans could still yet hit one part of the superior 11/14 armour rather than the 8 rear armour facing. If he wanted to escape there was also a chance he would fall victim to a 9-1 led streetfighting attempt (5 to Immobolize, 4 To Kill assuming PAATC was passed), but this was unlikely. As he was in Motion, shooting first at a Sherman was a possible but not great option, as I was always able to out gun-duel him first, so another sN attempt and then move was deemed to be the best bet. Mark was able to get the Smoke down so my sneaky Sherman was looking for a 5 To Hit and hopefully a 2,2 would come up as that would be a multiple hit in the Tiger's rear, as opposed to a single shot on its frontal turret. Roll the dice....and yes, you guessed it right, I called it correctly - a 2,2 was smiling back at me! Needing a 7 To Kill from the two attempts, I rolled two 3,3s in succession and Mr Tiger and his crew were very dead.

The concealed 548 was the last hope for victory but these went down to the first shot they took when Mark's dice hurt him some more and they failed a 1MC. Game over and a win for the good guys.

Mark played this scenario well and I hope he picked up some useful ideas and thoughts on how to defend, particularly during short scenarios when the need to really thick tactically about the opponents VC and his timing is critical. This scenario with its low AFV numbers also demonstrated the importance with vehicles to always try and keep in mind that its not necessarily what your opponent is doing with his tank this turn that you need to worry about - its where and how he'll be placed next turn to impact you which is the key thing. This takes some thought and I'm still on the learning curve on that one myself - I think it is this ability that makes the difference in armoured play (for example and this is a long list) that the Matts, Mikes, Jeffs and Zebs of this world possess.

So a fun ans small learning scenario played on the scarily 'open' SK boards with no hedges and walls to duck behind. I think ROAR's number of 4:17 is a poor reflection of this scenario and I do wander if that is more a reflection of the inexperience new players have when trying to use Shermans against a big cat. The Germans can be quite brittle, and Mark agreed that they may be better set up in a rear defense next time, as once one or two units succumb early to the US, there are a lot of opportunities for them infiltrate and surround outlying SS defenders who won't be able to get back and hang tough for the final turn defense. Mark's enthusiasm for the game is infectious and he's a willing learner and I would encourage anyone to play him as they will have fun! Also, thanks Mark for acting as host - wonderful to come and visit you and great burgers and beer man!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

2009 Texas Team Tourney AAR

Zeb Doyle

Every year, the Texas Team Tournament is my favorite ASL event by far, and Rick has never disappointed yet. This year was one of the best in recent memory for me, and I want to say thanks to everyone that managed to come and turn it into such a fantastic event. Congratulations to Mike Seningen and Chris Buehler for taking home the serious trophies, and to Jim Ferrell as well. Making it to the finals four straight years is an amazing feat. Most of all though, thanks so much to Mr. Rick Reinesch, the man who makes it all happen and even manages to make it look easy. I hope everyone knows just how lucky they are to have such a premier tournament right in our own backyard!

One of the best parts this year was just showing up and getting the swag bag. David Longstreet once again delivered some very cool ASL gear, this time in the form of a very cool LOS checker that will be the envy of everyone who missed out. Other highlights for me were seeing (and playing) lots of out-of-staters. Of my six games, four were against fresh faces, something that always adds a bit to the excitement. Another cool occurrence was looking at the leader board late Saturday and seeing a number of new names up there. Congratulations to people like Ed Beekman, Mike Denson, Rob Burton, and especially Hond Nelson! It's a real testament to the strength of our club that we have so many players capable of tearing off multi-win streaks against some tough competition. I could go on all day talking about tournament highlights, but instead let me just say that the unfortunate few who couldn't attend, like Nick Drinkwater and Tom Gillis, were conspicuous by their absence. We really missed you guys. Now, on to a quick account of some of the action:

Going into the tournament, I had harbored some illusions of competing for the Major Johnson, but I got stuck at work Thursday and ended up not making it to Round Rock until Friday morning. There, Rick quickly and efficiently paired me up with Chris Buehler. I felt a shiver run down my spine when I first saw my opponent, but I didn't realize I was actually in the presence of greatness. In fact, we ended up playing the rather smallish scenario A69 Broich Bash. Weighing in at six turns, fourteen total squads and seven vehicles, I can't claim to have been much help to Chris in his quest for the Major Johnson. The dice gave me the defending Germans, and my troops hunkered down to defend the stone buildings as per the VC. Chris brought his Americans in on the west side, which wasn't much of a surprise, and by turn two bullets were flying back and forth. Chris played a good game, but despite numerous attempts, didn't manage to get any smoke down through the first three turns of the game. Given that I had 7ML units in stone buildings and he had 6ML units coming across open ground, that made things very tough. The two big opportunities Chris gave me both involved stacks of Americans moving in the open, and the resulting 6-2 and 8-1 shots were both snake-eyes. That amazing display of skill took a lot of suspense out of the game, and although some late-game smoke finally made an appearance, I managed to comfortably hold enough buildings for the win. Fun tournament scenario, but not a lot of depth to it, so I likely won't play it again.

Next up was Ed Beekman in FrF20 Adolf's Amateurs. This scenario represents an interesting situation, with some early-war SS fighting Russians in far northern Finland. The SS are Green, poorly led, and have only the advantage of numbers, ELR, and increased broken ML over their Soviet counterparts. The Germans are trying to cross a stream and capture buildings and bridges all while killing Russians. Both sides get some tincan tanks, which also feature in the VC and give you a strong incentive to keep them alive. Dicing for sides, I got the Russians and promptly set up a defense along the stream to stuff the Germans. There are some pregame blazes I got to place, and the SSR-induced mild breeze allowed me to drift smoke along the level-zero front lines. This would give me plenty of cover while allowing for point-blank unhindered fire on any SS foolish enough to move into the level -1 stream.

This probably would have worked well, but Ed decided to be aggressive with his tanks. This really caught me off-guard, as the two German vehicles have at best 1AF, and represent two of the eight points they need to win the game. It ended up being a great move though; I had multiple opportunities to take them out with MTR and machine-gun fire, as well as CC, but never managed to make the required TK roll in the 4-6 range, and the panzers ended up completely unhinging my defense. This turned the 'stuff 'em at the riverline' idea into a 'quick, Boris, the commissar's not looking...RUN!' defense. I then compounded my problems by being overly aggressive with two of my squads and trying to make something happen. The odds were probably 60%-75% in my favor, but just falling back would likely have worked just as well, and they ended up dying uselessly. The end result was that on the second to last turn, I had almost nothing left to stop an SS rush.

Ed played it well and only some very good dice (including an IF CH) kept him from winning it instantly. A very timely 1:4 -2 attack killed two of his squads that tried to jump a VBM-frozen Soviet, and in my turn I managed to finally kill off one of his cursed panzers. It burned, and drifted out a wall of smoke, turning the movement cost of a key open ground location from 1MF to 2MF, thereby rendering one of Ed's few remaining squads from reaching a vital VC building! Suddenly things were looking good, and I was in fantastic shape to steal an undeserved win. That lasted until Ed's last turn: he rolled up Gusts to make the smoke vanish, self-rallied another key squad with a 3, and broke an absolutely essential Soviet unit with a 4+2. It was a highly frustrating finish, but Ed did a great job of outplaying me and I had no one to blame but myself. Fun scenario, and one I wouldn't mind taking another crack at. Recommended.

More to come later,


Monday, June 29, 2009

The Best of Tourney 2009

Matt Shostak

The Best of the 2009 Texas Team Tourney
Best Bandana: Pete Shelling's Monopoly railroad themed doo-rag. Awesome.

Best Slam: Eric Gerstenberg, while looking through the scrapbook of old tourney photos, says, "Hey Matt, you really looked different way back then, huh?" as he points at a picture of Russell Mueller from 1992, thus insulting both of us with one beer-fueled quip. (I know, Russell is a handsome devil with a certain je ne sais quoi, but it's the principle of the thing.)

Best Facial Hair: Paul Chamberland, with an impressive and intimidating full beard.
Runner Up: Ed Beekman's mustache.

Best Blast from the Past: (Tie) Gary Fortenberry, back at the tourney for the first time in 16 years, and David Hailey, renowned ASL author, player, and past tourney director for this very tourney, back for the first time in many years.

Best Rules Question: Jeff DeBraal and Pete Shelling, trying to decide if you have two broken opposing leaders (only) in melee, can an MMC from one side perform an SMC overrun?

Best Accent: Tim Kelly from Boston, hands down. Hearing him made me feel back at home. It was wicked awesome.

Mr. Distance: We'll have to check the official scorecards with Rick, so this is unofficial, but I think Tim Kelly also came the farthest to play in the tourney.

Best t-shirt: (Tie) John Farris' classic Peace Through Superior Firepower shirt, Sam Tyson's G.I. Joe shirt, and the Tiger I tourney shirt Rick had for each of us.

Best dice tower: (Tie) Bud Garding and Mike Denson. Each had smooth action, quiet, felt-lined dice towers with low walls so that you could actually read the dice too.

Best Dice Cup: David Longstreet's homemade 10-3 stencil.

Best Boxing Speculation: How would Bill Dorre have fared as a junior welterweight?

Best Cameo: Roy Casagranda, with an impressive now-you-see-him-now-you-don't brief appearance. I hope he at least got a game in somewhere.

Best sugar rush: Rick brought in several dozen Round Rock donuts on Saturday morning. Yum.

Best trophies: Rob Burton's snazzy dioramas. Nicely done, sir.

Good Gaming In Austin

Walter Eardley

Howdy Folks,

I must say the annual Austin Team Tournament sure was a lot of fun. A BIG thank you goes out to Rick and the rest of his team for putting on a great event. A+ top notch all the way!

I played two games because of a late start on Friday and having to head back to HotAndHumidston on Saturday night. I finished 0-2 but both games I played went down to the very last CC DR on the very last turn. You can't really ask for much more then that.

The first game was against Austin's David Longstreet. I offered up 5 scenarios and we agreed on FrF2 Maczek Fire Brigade from the good folks at Friendly Fire. This one came highly recommended by Zeb and did not disappoint. Dice gave me the attacking Germans while David defended with the Poles. When people would come and ask who was winning we would point at each other and really mean it. During the entire game, I had no idea how I was going to win while David had no idea how he was going to keep me from winning. In the end, I could not kill one squad in CC to claim the 12th building hex and victory. If you like early war pillow fights, this one should go to the top of your list.

Saturday, I hit up Roy from Kansas for a game. I again offered up 5 scenarios and we settled on DB067 Lets Dance. This scenario features a strong British foce lead by a 10-2 and 9-2 with a mix of 648s and 458s supported by an Achilles and a Sherman trying to dig a mixed force of SS an 838, two 658s, some 468s and some various HSs lead by a 10-2 and supported by a Tiger I and a nifty Flak Pz with the 20 IFE and a 105 Art piece. There is an immediate victory building plus an end of game victory building. In the end, Roy was able to get a 9-2 with a Hero in the end of game building and I could not kill him with a DC, shots by the Tiger and shots by the Flak Pz. My various CC attacks did not do enough damage giving Roy the win. The real turning point was missing Roy's 9-2 and 248 HS on a 4-1 down one CC roll. I rolled 11 or something. The next turn he piled on and killed my stack. This opened up the way to the end of game victory building. I think this one is probably a lot more fun to play as the Germans then the Brits. Trying to dig SS out of stone buildings is never any fun. They have the tools including a flame thrower and two minus 2 leaders but it really seemed tense for Roy and if bad things happen to the 10-2 or 9-2 things will fall apart quickly.


My 2009 Texas Team Tourney AAR

Mark Carter

Congratulations to all champs!

Well done to Rick for a great event which was a lot of fun. Also thanks to the guys for welcoming a newbie and being so encouraging. Even though I’ve only played since February everyone was friendly and those who played me were very patient and all took the time to give me pointers. A great experience.

After my last game against Mike Seningen, who had taken me apart in Norman "D" a month ago like a thanksgiving turkey, I hoped maybe I’d have a chance against a guy at the tournament. Right. By luck of the draw, my first game was against Gary Fortenberry. Gulp.

Nothing like jumping into the deep end, but let’s add some sharks for interest! Just kidding though, he is a great guy and was helpful showing me some ropes. I had the Americans in First Crack from AP4 and my first shot was for smoke – boxcars. That set the stage as Gary’s defenses took the offensive and chased me around. Later we figured we should have just been driving over bocage for points! Ha!

Then there was Bosq Barbeque against John Farris. A very long game because I was trying to work the crocs as the British, which I finally conceded after all my AFVs got blasted by his 88 and the 20mm guns and my last croc got his trailer stuck in a bunch of high bushes/trees. John was very patient running me through all the to hit tables and later showing me tips on how to improve my play. Being so discouraged from my smoke boxcars against Gary, I guess I just forgot about that tactic against John and so used no smoke trying to cover my advances. Oh well, I promise to remember that lesson.

My third game was with Gregg Parker, another nice guy from OKC. We played Why at Urp (SP111) and Gregg took the attacking Americans while my Germans had to hold a circle of buildings in the center of the map. Unfortunately for Gregg, his FT gacked on its first use and that it made it much easier for me to hold the middle cluster of buildings. It was a mad rush at the end, but I managed to get a few rolls my way and got my one and only win.

Fourth game was with Jeff DeBraal in Village of the Damned from AP3. I was the defending group of walking wounded Italians with a few German helpers against the Russian onslaught complete with tank in a snowy little village kept warm by two burning buildings. It was a close scenario (from my point of view at least), in which my highlight was I managed to kill his tank with streetfighting Italians. However Jeff was unstoppable and wiped me out. He was very helpful in discussing strategy and especially showing me the value of taking prisoners.

Fifth game was against Gregg Parker again and we played A Handful of Howdy, RPT13, to the great amusement of passers by. I took the attacking Americans trying to clear some hills and buildings of Germans. I resolved to use my lessons over the past few days and set up my mortar to place WP to cover my advancing infantry (John Farris would have been pleased to see I had been listening). But I rolled my depletion number! However the first shot taken in the game had WP and it got placed in a good spot. It wasn’t on top of one of his squads, but it hindered line of sight enough for my charge up to the first hill. I brought my guys around and all set to take my first batch of prisoners (on top of that one this time, Jeff!), but not to be - one of the SSRs was No Quarter was in effect. So once again some guys I’d managed to break got away and later rallied and threatened to grab a hill back at the end. I had a guy go Berserk and charge into his DMed guys but they routed away before CC, passed an interdiction roll and then made it into the woods – drat.

The play of the game was really Gregg’s rolling. I had the mortar pounding one of his positions and he kept passing his checks. Then I had my Berserk squad rush him – bloody spot on the road. Then I had a couple of squads maneuver for position drawing fire, and then three of four half squads and squads rush that position – he passed four straight FPF morale checks and killed them all in point blank fire.

We are convinced this string of skill was due to Gregg's little shrine set up to Po3a (Roza Shanina the Russian sniper – a beauty with 54 confirmed kills including 12 enemy snipers at the Battle of Vilnius, killed in 1945 at age 21. ).

During this time I had hoped to circle around behind his guys and force them forward into my set up with two MMGs, but in the end, my efforts to break that one position virtually destroyed my encircling troops. My MMG squads then had to make an attack across the open ground I had hoped to make him take, to no avail. In the end he simply ran back into the VC buildings and there was not enough turns left to chase him down. A very exiting little scenario and a lot of fun. There were three heat of battle results between the two of us, two berserks and one 6+1 leader. Great game, Gregg.

It was also a blast watching Chris and Bill slugging it out in Destroy All Monsters! Incredible, and they were obviously in ASL Nirvana.

I finished 1-2 in the Fri-Sun tourney, and 1-4 overall including the Thursday mini and had a great time meeting some fine folks. Thanks again everyone and once again, great job, Rick!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

AAR: FF10 Blackjack Is Back

Matt Schwoebel

Attacker: Matt Schwoebel (Americans)
Defender: Scott Bell (Germans)

The June Austin game day at Brian Roundhill’s house was at maximum capacity. Almost everyone was warming up for the much anticipated June CTASL tournament. Knowing I could not attend this august event due to family commitments, I wanted to play a fun scenario against a challenging opponent. Scott Bell came all the way from San Antonio to answer the call to arms. As he pulled out pages of notes and an already determined defender’s set-up, I had flashbacks to playing another hyper-organized member of the San Antonio group, one Carl Kusch. We had picked in advance a good game day sized combined arms scenario – the revamped version of FF-10 Blackjack Is Back.

This scenario is played during the winter of 1945 on the Western Front with ground snow and overcast conditions (plus an SSR treating rain as falling snow and Winter Camouflage for all). The German SS defenders have a mixed quality force with 3 x 6-5-8 squads, 8 x 4-4-7 squads, 3 leaders (2 x 8-1 and a 7-0) and 6 concealment counters. Their support weapons include 2 x MMG, 2 x LMG and a PSK. The combined arms factor is dominated by 2 Panthers (PzVG), plus a StuG IIIG (L). The American elite attacking force has 10 x 6-6-7 squads, 3 leaders (9-2, 8-1, 7-0), 2 x MMG, 2 x 60mm mortars, 3 x BAZ45 and a DC. American armor is impressive with a M26 Pershing, 2 x M4A3(76)W Shermans, and 2 x M4A3 Shermans (misprinted on the scenario card with 13 movement factors – not the correct 15). Most importantly, the Americans have a 9-1 armor leader and 2 gyrostabilizers with one in the Pershing! Add in elite status giving one better APCR rating and then the 90L and 2 x 76L guns become quite deadly even to the frontal armor of the Panthers. The
Germans are ELR 2 (underlined by SSR) with SAN 3 and the Americans are ELR 4 with SAN 2.

Scott Bell whipped out his laptop and began setting up. I read the victory conditions three times to make sure I got them straight in my brain – at this point just beginning to be caffeinated. Blackjack Is Back has VP earned by casualties (both sides) and exiting from 4 possible east edge road hexes (Americans only). The American attacker has two options to win – gaining 30 VP at ANY point in the game (automatic condition) or having at least 12 VP more than the SS at the end of the 6 turn game. Exit VP do not include
crew units (i.e. crews not in a vehicle).

Boards 21 and 22 with hexrows A-P are in play. From the attacker perspective, Board 22 is on the left and Board 21 is on the right with row A on the western edge closest for both boards. The German SS player sets up units on or east of hexrow F. The American player sets up on or west of hexrow C, but has the option of bringing AFVs onboard from the West edge on any turn (though all on the same turn). All multi-hex, non-factory buildings have 2 levels and inherent stairwells in every hex.

From my attacker perspective, the terrain is quite mixed with plenty of buildings along the roads for Panzerfaust wielding infantry to create blazing wrecks. On the left flank Board 22 significant terrain includes a 7-hex factory (by SSR) on the left front, a roadless village cluster in the center-right and an area in the left back cut-off by a frozen stream with one bridge & a few buildings behind the stream. Two exit road hexes are behind this stream. Board 21 on the right flank is best known for its large cemetery. Several large buildings dominate the front half of the board with the back half including the cemetery in the center with a road exit hex on either side of it.

The German defender must defend a fairly broad front. Scott positioned most of his infantry just forward of center in a roughly even skirmish line across the two board widths. Few gaps were more than one hex away from Panzerfaust toting infantry and most of the squads were not in line-of-sight of the American set-up area (deftly avoiding potential kill stack shots). A couple of squads were posted in the far back corners near exit hexes. All three tanks (concealed) were positioned near exit hexes at the back of the board (within 2 hexes of the board edge). Wisely done, I believe the easiest way for the German player to lose this scenario would be to set-up the Panthers too far forward allowing stabilized American tanks to flank them. I positioned the Americans more left of center primarily on Board 22 and decided to push straight up the middle of the German defense come what may. All tanks were onboard. My strategy was more-or-less to see how Scott reacted, take advantage if I could and then try to exit my armor for the immediate 30 total VP win (Pershing 10 EVP with leader, 2 x 76L Shermans 7 EVP each, 2 x 75 Shermans 6 EVP each for 36 EVP total).

Because of the nature of the terrain, potential exit victory conditions and resulting spread out defense, 3 German squads took the brunt of the American attack on turns 1 and 2. My squads moved ahead of the armor, pushed into the 22G4 factory and occupied a front only 8 hexes wide from the seam between boards to the factory. I took some breaks from German fire, while Scott slowly fell back in the center. My right flank was threatened as German infantry units were shifting towards my left-of-center attack. The Germans in the left rear stayed in position to keep me away from the two exit hexes behind the stream/bridge. SS armor stayed ominously quiet near the exit hexes and did not get lured towards the American schwerpunkt. Victory points at the start of Turn 3 were few and even. I had lost a half squad attempting to rally and Scott a squad for failure to rout.

Turn 3 turned out to be important for one vital help to the attacker – snow started to fall and continued to fall for the rest of the game. This LV hindrance made moving in the open and dashing across streets much easier on the American. For my half turn, I pushed a couple of squads onto Board 21 and consolidated my hold on the center-right village of Board 22. In Scott’s half turn he ran units from the far back right of the game area into the graveyard to protect his tank just right of center near the road exit hex.

The situation at the start of Turn 4 included was thus. Scott had a strong position guarding the stream bridge with 2 squads backed up by a tank. The center for him had been pushed back with 2 squads hiding out at the edges and another crossing the frozen stream to assist them. Along the road closest to the board seams on Board 21, Scott had strengthened his position with 4 squads adjacent to the road in a large building and the cemetery. Two tanks blocked both road exits on Board 21. One remaining half-squad was annoyingly behind my lines towards the front of Board 21. My American attackers were positioned in force in the center of the play area. All five tanks were as yet unscathed. A few squads were across the board seem road and contending with German defenders.

The start of Turn 4 I decided to make a rapid shift to the right, mainly with AFVs, towards the far right exit hex on Board 21 now guarded by a lone German tank. I calculated in two turns I could exit all five tanks (or any 4 if the probable Panther took out one) for the win. In response Scott would have only one defender turn to reposition. This was the new plan… The shift was fairly successful with squads following the armor into position. Both sides took losses this turn including in infantry melee. I tried to keep a tank and squad on the board seam road to fire down it and prevent German squads from crossing back over. With American armor being aggressively used and pushed to the fore, the Germans failed to successfully gain or accurately shoot Panzerfausts. My armor was now largely just in front of the cemetery and the large building dominating it especially around the traffic circle. Scott moved infantry closer to blocking positions in the cemetery, but could not completely strip defenders from the board seam exit hex for fear of another shift.

And then I decided to be careful.

Scott had moved too much infantry into PF range and I feared losing more tanks than I could afford. If the 30 VP immediate win failed, I still needed to maintain a 12 VP advantage to win at game end. Turn 5 saw me put WP round in front of the German tank blocking my targeted exit hex. I consolidated my armor around the traffic circle with both 75 Shermans in motion, both 76L Shermans guarding against a German armored attack from the front and the Pershing in motion with a 3-4-7 half squad toting a bazooka as riders as the rearward most tank. I ran infantry at Scott’s infantry in the graveyard. A bazooka wielding squad attempted to get in position behind the center German AFV, but was broken by German fire. The battle was now getting bloody. All 8 AFVs remained on the board in mint condition, but the infantry had taken losses on both sides. VP total (all CVP) was something like 7 for the Germans and 9 for the American – a slim margin for me.

It was now the fateful German Turn 5. Americans were in position to run AFVs off the board for the win on Turn 6. A few American squads lingered in the center and within exit striking distance. Scott had some powerful assets to repulse my exit attempt, but lady luck would need to be on his side. A half-squad, the pesky one, had positioned itself two hexes behind my Pershing. Looking hungrily at this prized target, they first got a PF and missed the shot and then failed on their second attempt to find one. The German infantry in the cemetery was chewed up and German infantry in the center could not get into position in one turn. Looking at the odds of a Panther behind smoke attempting to stop 5 American tanks from exiting, Scott decided it was time for both of his Panthers to come out and play.

ASL can be a stressful experience. This was one such occasion. The Panther formerly blocking the far right road exit hex drove straight at the American armor. My first 76L Sherman attempted APCR and failed, then attempted a regular shot at its frontal armor and failed. Scott’s first Panther then curved down the road and stopped in front of my second 76L Sherman. Both shot at each other without success (again no APCR), but a stopped Panther would likely result in a dead Sherman on my Turn 6.

Next the center of the board Panther rumbled towards the rear of my position. Scott’s second Panther drove right up behind my Pershing. It would be a gun duel. Fortunately at this point Mike Seningen was watching the end game with delight and encyclopedic rules knowledge at hand (or perhaps mind). The Pershing turned its turret (the poor BAZ half-squad successfully jumped off the in motion tank) and the Panther stopped adjacent on its last MF. The modifiers for the gun duel were even. Lowest roll shoots first. Finding the first round, the Panther missed its bounding fire shot by one (ominously maintaining rate of fire), but successfully broke the unfortunate BAZ infantry with machineguns. A miss by one, the falling snow had saved me. The in-motion Pershing then missed with its first fire shot. In defensive final fire I decided to intensive fire before Scott could advancing fire. The Pershing with an armored leader, stabilized gun and APCR (base 27 to kill, 30 adjacent) is an awesome, dreadful thing. The second shot with APCR found its mark and obliterated the Panther.

At this point, Scott graciously conceded. I had about 18 VP. Driving two tanks off the board against no opposition would win the game for me immediately. The likelihood his other Panther would survive with two American tanks (both with stabilized guns) capable of maneuvering behind it were remote (meaning one exited tank would win). Of course if the Panther-Pershing duel or the PF shots had gone the other way, I would have been in a hurtful position. Scott would have had two Panthers in position against 4 Shermans (neither of the 76L armed ones having APCR) and the VP lead.

It was a great, close game against a skilled opponent during a crowded Austin game day. What more could one ask for (strippers basking in attendance of our supreme intellects aside)? Thanks for reading.
Matt Schwoebel