Thursday, February 26, 2009

Owlcon AAR Part II: AP41 The Meat Grinder

... or Friday Night Fight

Zeb Doyle

Germans: Zeb Doyle
Russians: Brian Roundhill

After the fun and games at Nick’s house, it was time to head over to Walter’s domain and get in some actual Owlcon action. My first scenario here was against the cagey and crafty Brian Roundhill. We’ve crossed swords a number of times before, and although I’ve generally had the better of it, it’s usually due more to luck than skill. I can readily recall several games in which Brian was fairly comfortably ahead, corrected me on a few rules, and then lost in the last turn on a fluky roll.

We went to the latest Action Pack to select a scenario and picked out AP41 The Meat Grinder. This is a pretty straight-forward fight with little chance for Brian to teach me new rules, but both sides get some interesting units and the five turn length and small size were ideal for our limited Friday night playing time. It’s an early Barbarossa battle, with the defending Russians getting eight squads, two monster KV-2s, and one each of the rarely seen GAZ-4M-AA trucks and the 76LL AA gun. A few reinforcing BT tanks enter on turn one. Against this powerful force, the Wehrmacht comes with ten rifle squads, nice leadership including a 9-2, three tasty Pz IVEs for infantry support, and three Pz IIIHs that enter on either flank on turn two. The board 49 and 56 terrain is excellent for armored maneuver, with a very nice rural village feel to it. Both sides get VP for killing stuff and controlling multi-hex buildings, with the Germans needing the high score for victory.

All of this makes for lots of fun and interesting match-ups. The German infantry is superior to their Russian counterparts, with better range, ELR, and (especially) leadership, but the open nature of the terrain will make it tricky for the landsers to work their way into those multi-hex buildings. The armor battle is a bit more complicated; the KVs clearly dominate but are somewhat hamstrung by their slow speed and red MP. The next best tanks are the PzIIIs, which should easily prevail over the two 45L-armed BT-7s in a straight-up fight but need a lot of luck to handle the KVs. In the infantry support category, the Pz IVs are amazingly good and clearly outclass the lone BT-7A (with the 76* gun) and the unarmored GAZ AA truck. All-in-all, the vehicles have lots of differences in their strengths and weaknesses and there are no easy decisions for any units. The one real wildcard is the Russian 76LL gun. A HIP gun with a two ROF and 16TK is a huge threat at this time of the war, and will really complicate things for the German until it is found.

If memory serves, we diced for sides and Brian got the Russians. His set up was interesting, with several squads pretty far forward, and lots of stuff covering a strip roughly seven hexes wide that contained all the multi-hex buildings on board 56. There were a few units back on board 49, but the clear intent was to make me fight for every VC building and run me out of time. With only five turns, the threat was real enough but I decided to meet the challenge head-on and take my entire force right up that strip and into the heart of Brian’s defense. The open terrain would cut both ways, making it tough to skulk, and with only two Russian leaders I figured I could bag some prisoners for doubled CVP and still get into enough buildings to win.

The game started off with Brian schooling me on the tricky board 56 lines of sight. An HMG way back on board 49 broke a squad, and I endured a scary moment when my 9-2/2x 4-6-7/MMG/LMG stack lost concealment on a razor-thin LOS…but only to an 8-0. If it had been a Russian squad, the ensuing 2-1 shot could have really ruined my day. The rest of game turn one was much less eventful, with the Soviet armor entering and using those amazing 23MP to come up and help box in my infantry.

Turn two started off well for the Germans, with the 9-2 stack getting some nice ROF and trashing two Russian squads. The Pz IVs, with the 8FP machine guns and 75mm gun also got into the action and put some more hurt on Brian. Meanwhile, my Pz IIIs entered on the north flank and managed to pick off the BT-7A and the GAZ-AA truck. Knocking out those Russian infantry support vehicles was great and also scored me some nice CVP. In Brian’s half of the turn, a massive KV dropped concealment and rumbled over to take on a PzIII and with a lucky DI roll I immobilized the monster in a spot where it would be a nuisance but not a major threat. The resulting loss of the Pz III to a return 152mm shell was well worth it. To make things even better, the crew bailed out saving me 2 CVP and opening up the possibility of grabbing a VP building.

Despite my luck, turn three saw things swing back towards the Russians a bit as I tried and failed to crack Brian’s defense. The KVs and remaining BT-7s were in spots that really shut my infantry down, and I was very leery of trying to swarm the Russian tanks with a HIP AA gun still lurking. This forced my assault to slow to a crawl and forced me to give up any hope of grabbing prisoners. That really hurt my VP tally and I was belatedly forced into sending a few half-squads on flanking missions to try and grab some outlying undefended VP buildings. If I’d done that on turn one, I would have been in good shape; as it was, Brian’s skill was more than cancelling out my dice.

The action picked back up again in a hurry in the Soviet DFPh when the 76LL AA gun revealed itself and missed one of my PzIVs. Dropping HIP like that couldn’t have been an easy decision and I’m sure Brian thought long and hard about it. It was a very interesting situation, as the gun was a powerful asset both directly and indirectly. Hidden, the gun was a major indirect factor, forcing my tanks to maneuver very cautiously, stay spread out, and avoid anything too aggressive. In a way, I was happy to lose a tank just to find out where the gun was. However, the 76LL wasn’t doing anything to directly influence the game and was a rapidly depreciating asset as a function of time.

In that sense, when Brian made the call to open up with it, he was making the decision that the direct influence was now worth more over the remainder of the game than the indirect influence. He was probably right. Although my remaining armor could now operate fearlessly, killing the PzIV would give the Russians the VP lead and the German attack at the time was pretty well stalled. If he didn’t take the shot, he’d have to come up with some other way to score VP, and every option for a Russian counterattack looked pretty gloomy. The other factor to consider, though, is that the indirect influence a weapon has is completely uncorrelated to the dice. Regardless of Brian’s luck, as long as the gun was HIP, I would have to be cautious. When the time comes for a weapon to actually do something, chance (aka risk!) becomes heavily involved and the direct influence should be discounted appropriately…

With that kind of build-up, you probably have a pretty good idea of how the Russian turn three PFPh went. The AA gun hit my PzIV but didn’t get rate and the TK roll was a 10, just enough to immobilize my tank. In my turn four, a kamikaze HS ran through an 8+0, a 6+1, and a 4-1 from the 76LL crew to make it into CC with the menace. Two low rolls later, everyone in the gun’s location were dead, saving the PzIV and resulting in a net +1VP for me. That really put Brian into the position of having to quickly do something dramatic. Unfortunately his remaining mobile KV had Stalled on a previous turn and had to risk a street-fighting attempt from my 9-2 and a 4-6-7 to get anywhere useful. Lady luck smiled on me, the KV was knocked out, and the German VP lead became essentially insurmountable ending the game.

It was a fun scenario against a great opponent, although once again I was left with the feeling that Brian had outplayed me. Despite this fact, there was no whining or pouting, which after my previous game was really a welcome relief. Discussing the scenario afterward, we agreed that although neither of us had played brilliantly, my assets (the 9-2, tanks, etc) had really come through for me. Brian’s tricks and traps, had been well-executed but the dice repeatedly refused to show up, with the gun obviously being the major disappointment. Overall, I liked the scenario quite a bit. As mentioned above, the armor match-ups are quite interesting but the buildings are important enough that the infantry battle is really vital. Nicely done by the designer and well-played by Brian….I really thought I was going to bag some prisoners!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

AAR: WCW8 The Last VC in Europe

Nick Drinkwater

British Player: [SAN 0, ELR 5] Stephane Graciet
German Player: [SAN 0, ELR 4] Nick Drinkwater

A very short and sweet scenario that we completed in approximately 2.5 hours. The Germans have 5 turns in which they have to control six of the eleven available buildings within the British setup area. Weather is continual, non-changing (by SSR) light rain and that limits both attack and defense smoking options critically, especially as due to it being April, the numerous grain fields that surround many fo the approaches to the hamlet are now infantry-killing ploughed fields. As a result, the attacking Germans tend to get a little bit funnelled through those few pieces of brush and orchard cover that are present and hence make it easier for the British to defend. (Note that several small one and two hex brush, buildings and orchards have been added to the Board 17 scattered hamlet through use of overlays).

The twist in this scenario comes from the attempt to adhere to the historical narrative. In real life, one of the Guards tanks was mechanically out of action and so a Guardsman jumped out and kept the Germans at bay by prodigious application of Browning MG fire. This is imitated in the game by the ability of one of the tanks to be identified as secretly MA malfunctioned and then through n activation dice roll, the British are able to generate a hero and LMG instead - the only way to stop this is to make that Sherman a burning wreck - guess what I did? :-)

The other historical SSR is that the tank crews were all out of their vehicles drinking tea when the Germans attacked - how very British! In the game, the Brits must remount their tanks in Brit Turn 1. I was hoping to drive on fast in Turn 1 and catch them napping with judicious bounding fire before they had a chance to get going and was eagerly looking forward to a bunch of burning Ronsons. As I was merrily setting up my three Stugs for a turn one entry, Stephane punctured my ego-driven balloon by pointing out in the small print the small but critical detail that German armour does not enter until Turn 2...darn it! Another fine plan foiled by inconvenient rules!!

Anyhoo, with said Stugs, my six German 1st liners with 8-1 and 8-0 and LMGs had to overcome Stephane's four British elites with a solitary 8-1 backed by three normal Shermans and a Firefly - randomly, one of the normal Shermans was MA disabled, and this just happened to be the one that I sent my entire Stug platoon against in Turn 2. Result - advancing fire phase, burn that hero! That was big and was then immediately followed by me burning two more Shermans from 8-1 directed three-hex panzerfaust range from the southern woods fringes - that large target modifier is a beast for Shermans versus fausts, making the To Hits a very tasty 7 at three hex range.

This game was one of those short and sweet affairs where nothing went right for Stephane at all - every To Hit or IFT roll he tried was somewhere north of eight and he couldn't get an even break. Even when he did hit my infantry, I would pull a comfy four out of nowhere and I swept all before me. I managed to destroy the last M4 with a snakey LOS Stug shot through the village modified by rain and two brushes and still knocked it over. I managed to break a half-squad and a vehicle crew with fire and then sent the Stugs in to enforce FTR and that was almost that. In my penultimate shot of the game I managed to CR a pinned squad but they generated a hero in return - taking a risk , I jumped into CC with these guys with a lowly HS - these guys proceeded to roll a 2 and wiped out the newly created hero and his pinned mates to give me my fifth of sixth VC locations. Finally, I managed to roll a four to give another two check on a squad that was about to become encircled - Stephane found a 10 on that roll and then admitted defeat.

Good play allied to Stephane dicing himself horribly meant this was a wash. With only two squads left and the 8-1 facing all six of my squads plus all three Stugs meant Stephane had nowhere left to go as he was about to be completely encircled and surrounded - this was definitely my most complete victory over him, but I am hoping things even out for him shortly as he has had a few real life issues to contend with recently. Give this one a spin if you have a short evening to play and want something simple to get into quickly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Owlcon AAR: SP 76 Flaming of the Guard

Nick Drinkwater

German Player [ELR 4, SAN 3]: Matt Schwoebel
British Player [ELR 4, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater

This is a fun scenario. I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone to play. There are several great little challenges to overcome in this for both players, lots of fun toys for either side and it should come down to a nice close little denouement around the main cross-roads in the village.

My opponent in this was Matt Schwoebel, always fun and always a good test - I've played Matt four times now and I've shaded him in three of these but all of these games have been really close and they've all come down to the last turn, and in each of them, either of us could have won at the death, so I was fully expecting this one to go the distance and be a squeaker. I wasn't to be disappointed.

The appeal of this scenario is that the Germans are for once meeting their match, and then some. Yes, they receive the two flamethrowers and the five (yes, five) Panthers but here they really are going to need them as these Brits are strong-men armed indeed. To keep those five cats at bay, they have been issued with a basic Sherman, two Fireflies and most impressive of all, two 17lb AT guns with the mighty 2ROF - four tubes that have a basic TK of 23 which can whack a Panther with some ease, and also the option to find APDS to raise that kill to a 25. These Panthers had better beware indeed and they will need to be handled carefully as they will swiftly go down to quality British gunnery if given the chance.

The action is set on two half-boards of 42 and 49 set up to create a straggling village that lines the main village street in a north-south direction. There are several large stone buildings on either side of the road but adjacent to it are two east-west lateral roads that form important intersections within the village. The first of these is in the northern part of the village and is surrounded by woods, brush orchards and hedges together with some of the village's more isolated houses. The orchards in particular could form a good if not somewhat obvious place to put a hidden HIP gun but it will dominate the ENE and Northern entry routes of the Germans. The other E-W lateral road forms a significant cross-roads in the core of the village surrounded by prominent stone, often multi-hex houses and this could easily form the fall-back core of any late game British defense. East of the N-S road is a walled, multi-level stone building complex that can dominate German entry routes from the eastern side if the British so-choose, just to the south of the Board 42 hill-orchard-wall complex, another natural entry point for the Germans.

To win, the Germans must have at least one Good Order mobile Panther within four hexes of 49H9 and ensure that there are less than 10 VP worth of unbroken British infantry in building hexes adjacent to the Board 42/49 north-south village road - and note that being in melee (and hence not in good order) is not being penalised for once. To achieve this, as well as the five Panthers and two flamethrowers, the Germans receive a very tasty mixed elite and 1st line infantry company with MG and PSk support together with some hard-hitting leadership (10-2, two 8-1s and an 8-0) but they will need this as their opponents are elite and in stone buildings - always a tough task to dig out. They do also receive some tactical flexibility in their set-up in that they can enter from the entire eastern side of the game area, as well as half of the north and south sides too, so there may be opportunities to indulge in some encirclements with the Panthers, once the location of the two lethal AT Guns is known.

Facing this Germanic juggernaut is a tough group of British hombres - an armour reinforced company of Irish Guards with lethal anti-tank support. As mentioned, the two Fireflies are clearly useful against the Panthers but their HE7 limits their anti-infantry uses; they do receive a basic Sherman to help on that front. They have also been issued a Bren Carrier MMGB and the first task for that will be to strip the MG out of it and drop it into the hands of the awesome 9-2. In addition, they have a couple of Piats for AT defense and a couple of 8-1 leaders to help the slowly retracting fallback defense I am intending to apply.

I debated hard about defending the big eastern stone building hard but I was concerned that I may get isolated from the main part of the village and surrounded by any Germans driving down the road from the north and then picked off at my leisure, so I leave just a couple of squads in there to try and delay the Germans for a couple of turns, but with no expectations they would still be there at scenario end. Instead the bulk of the defenders were placed in the roadside buildings lining the west side of the road in positions to threaten and defend the two crossroad positions. One of the Fireflies was placed in a building in the SE portion of the village to support the two outlying squads in the eastern building complex. The other was held back in reserve with the Sherman to be a reactionary force poised in the west to respond to German armour threats as and where they develop. One AT Gun was placed into the more wooded northern crossroads orchards and the other was tucked into a building where it could totally dominate the open field approaches on the southern half of Board 49.

That second placement became very sweet when I saw Matt line up three Panthers on the southern road entry hex...juicy targets here we come! Unwittingly, Matt duly rolled the three Panthers on first - they didn't know what had hit them (literally as I didn't drop concealment and kept rate) and all three were smoking by the end of German Turn 1 Defensive Fire as I managed to finish off the last one with a turret shot, the other two having gone down in Turn 1 to a kill, immobilization and a shock (then killed). Matt even missed driving through my bore-sighted hex but it didn't matter to these dead-eye shots. Sweet!! This was a massive blow and now Matt had to really take no risks with his surviving Panthers as he had to keep at least one alive in the central area to fulfill the VC.

Matt's eastern attacks came on the SE area (held up hard by my eastern building defenders) and through the wall-hill-orchard area of board 42 (with both the other two Panthers, MMG and his 10-2). He luckily swerved to the left of the other HIP AT Gun and its bore-sighted hex, so these guys kept hidden and bided their time and waited for other targets appear. Finally he brought a couple of concealed stacks from the north to threaten the northern Board 42 crossroads - and what a threat they were as they stripped down to reveal both FTs dealing a case of tough fiery love.

Despite the early losses, Matt kept pushing on hard especially through the hill-orchard complex area. The two Panthers took up safe positions behind walls here to wait and see what else would be revealed by the infantry attack. Unfortunately Matt's south-eastern attacks into the village ground to a halt as my two outlying squads and 8-1 and LMG just refused to budge. Matt pushed both the Flamethrower units forward to the south through the orchards looking for targets but I pulled back any broken units I had to offer no real targets for a turn or two. Ultimately my HIP Gun was walked into and 'found' but Matt's 4-6-8 survived the 4-2 shot from the crew merely broken. Luckily, I had managed to disrupt Matt's 4-6-8 and 10-2 stack with some timely breaks and that relieved the pressure in that area a little for a while.

In the mid game, I moved a Firefly to play a duel of hull-down chicken with one of the Panthers. I apparently won this with an Intensive Fire Turret hit, but I should really have lost this as Matt had hit me with a snakes. We mis-played this one though as we'd originally called it a miss, as we'd forgotten this was actually a critical hit, irrespective of hull-down status - we thought it hit the wall, and so, I offered to scratch my Firefly as well as his Panther. It was a big move and a big mistake on both our parts and I thought this was the least I could do in this situation. This did create a hole for Matt to push a couple of squads into the eastern building complex from his 10-2 orchard-hill area assault as his ESE entry team had been completely stopped at this point. The other key thing was this meant that Matt now had no real margin for error with his other Panther - it had to be kept alive and out of harms way.

Eventually, the continuous German infantry pressure continued to tell and it was the flamethrowers which were making the difference. Matt continued to roll 12 flat or 12+1 sixes and sevens against my outlying defenders and they had to fall back to the main crossroads strongpoint where the 9-2 with his MG was now in charge with a bunch of concealed squads. In the end, it all came down to the last two player turns of the game. In a huge Prep Fire spraying fire shot, I kept rate with the 9-2 and MG at an adjacent 8-0 with a FT and at a squad at one hex range. On the first shot, the 8-0 merely pinned whilst the 468 broke after I rolled a timely 3, but the follow up rate "5' caused a 1-check which saw the breaking of the 8-0 too. Huge, huge. huge as the two units that could really swing the game with single shots were both removed, and failed to subsequently rally in the last German turn.

A huge hot sniper which then came and broke a 4-6-8 at the back of building helped me a lot as well as it meant that Matt would not be able to DM three of my squads in the strongpoint with defensive fire. Finally, I shoved the surviving Firefly into the hex between the 10-2, MMG and 468 and my killstack, but failed to find and SM6 smoke cover - this was backed up by the Sherman which was placed the adjacent road hex to dominate with tank shells and MGs any infantry trying to get into the last building in the last turn. Finally, I moved my now spare AT Gun crew into an adjacent hex and then stacked as much infantry as I could in the neighbouring buildings to make sure I entered the last turn with over 18VP in place.

In my CC phase, Matt was able to survive an ambush by my concealed squad and then killed them in return with another squad to take away some of my precious infantry VPs, but I still had 14VP of infantry units left in the buildings. Matt had to break some of these but his 10-2 /MMG gacked its roll with a ten and all of Matt's other desperate moves to get into the victory buildings ended up in piles of twitching bodies in the streets.

Good game this one and a lot of fun. Despite the early shock of the Panther carnage, Matt kept pressing and pressing and while the two flamethrowers were working, I was never comfortable as it would just take one or two grim rolls to change everything. I was pleased that I played the end-game with the two tanks well to make it really hard for Matt, but ultimately it really came down to the very timely sniper and the brilliant 9-2 MG rate spraying fire shot that was probably the difference. Rolling low helps and Matt was just not helped by some horrible dice luck. Good fun and I look forward to the next time we meet.

Matt sent the following comments through and I agree 100% with them. He really played a solid game after the horror show of the first turn and his tactics were right - just a little unlucky with some of the key rolls at key moments!

"Hey Nick,

I have been pondering our last game, usually waking up from a dead sleep screaming. I think the one biggish mistake I made with the 3 Panthers entering really should have cost me 1 tank. I only had 3 hexes or so until out-of-sight freedom from the 76LL of death. Your low roll streak there really hurt. The surviving 2 Panthers could have then threatened that flank. I call us even for my 50L rate streak last time! Even I say! The critical also cost me, since we traded tanks where if I had remembered the rule I would have had 2 tanks at the end. One would have VBM sleeze freezed your big stack, of course :-). And I needed just one sub-par roll against the FTs... You played a master defense, as usual. I'm proud that I came back enough through infantry play and some good ideas on the initial attack to make a game of it. If you ignore the 3 Panthers, I think my plan was solid. The goal was to pressure your 9-2 held building from front while FTs hit it from the flank. If I had to do it over again...

1) The stack on your far right flank that attacked near the gully had 2 squads and an 8-0. It stalled for quite some time, largely due to the lack of Panther support (may they rest in peace). Instead, I would have one squad add umph to the attack against the frontline multihex building. The other squad and leader would be added to the flank FT attack group.

2) I should have brought all 5 Panthers in together and let the infantry feel forward. Maybe lose one to your left flank 76LL.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Owlcon AAR: SP64 Valour on the Bou

Nick Drinkwater

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

A good, solid tourney scenario set in Tunisia in April 1943. Some desperate Irish Guards are holed up on a bare rocky massif and they have to stop a pretty nifty German elite infantry force from having any kind of toe-hold on level 2 or higher hexes on Board 9. This is a very straightforward infantry attack by the Germans with the attraction of having elite forces from both nations going at each other hammer and tongs. The twist in this scenario (which came from the Victoria Cross pack from Schwerpunkt) is the British Hero, representing Guardsman Keneally. In a nice special AAR, he can receive a special -3 DRM if he fires solely a British LMG. Normally with 1FP, you could probably withstand and ignore the effects, even at -1 , but the Germans have to attack over some very open terrain, and that looks a whole lot nastier all of a sudden.

The other kicker in this one is that Board 37 is used with inherent olive groves in effect and this is where the Germans must start their attack from, concealed, before they scale the rocky heights. They also receive a Level 3 overwatch platoon on the southern side of Board 9 which can shoot across a small valley to the Brits entrenched on the south edge of the opposing hilltop. This is good as they may be able to steer routing Brits away from the main assault's overlooking cliff edge towards the NE far side of the big hill. You may even be able to use one of these squads to sneak down to the far east side of the playing area where there are some nice empty hills and claim a cheap win at the death.

The Brits get their usual but a little depleted company of quality sharpshooters, this time coming in the form of the Irish Guards (4-5-8) and they get a very nasty 9-2 to hurt the Germans in this -1 terrain. Ugly. They have a 76*mm Mtr to add weight to the defense as well as a light mortar and a couple of LMGs. In reply, the Germans get a nice gaggle of nine 4-6-8s to play with, a MMG, LMGs and some attitude - they are going to need it to get up that hill!

I focussed most of my attack through the northern part of the olive grove and also try to send a sneak half-squad around the backside (north) of the big British hill, primarily to be annoying to John but also hopefully siphon off a squad from the defense. John has set up hard at the plateau's edge in trenches and sangars and the mortar makes it's presence felt from the level 4 top of the hill, though John has mistakenly mis-placed it onboard in a non-optimum position, (Board 9's castle and building are SSR'ed to crags in this one). Ominously, the one thing that hasn't revealed itself is a mini "?" stack at Level one on the extreme west edge of the victory hill with good commanding views of the lower slopes of the hill and its approaches - wonder what that is?!!

My overwatch and John's overwatch platoons exchanged insults and hand gestures for 2-3 turns ("I sneer in your general direction" etc) but that is about it - John's sangar and trench positions are enough to deflect most of the shots from me and I have crag protection in return - relatively little really happens here.

However, in the main assault, I receive some nice early dice and am able to send John's 9-2 and three squads rolling back across the hill - the only protector of the trench line is the mystery level one stack. To remove this thorn in my side, first I am able to manoeuvre a squad and a half adjacent to him so I am going to get the bugger in CC, come what may. But I also need to use this chance to get up that hill before and take over the recently abandoned British real estate before the 9-2 rallies everyone. So, my brave Germans step off up the hill and John lays down the inevitable hero-directed fire lane. Of the 8 units that broach the corridor of death, 6 pin or break, including my 9-1, but I am able to get 2 squads past him and up the hill ready to advance into the now abandoned British sangar line. Unsurprisingly the hero went down in a flurry of rifle butts and bayonets, but certainly he'd followed the script and done his job.

As only to be expected, the 9-2 swiftly rallied all three of John's broken squads and this formed a very potent counter-attacking force across the top of the plateau, but John was also forced to siphon off a squad to neutralise the threat from my tricky half-squad on the north side of the big cliff. However, the big 9-2 led counter attack and the newly rallied Mortar Squad started to take their toll on my attackers and my force started to attrite and roll backwards again.

In the last movement for me, I needed to counter this - I had a bridgehead, albeit a small one on the main British hill, but I was looking at a lot of last turn moves and attacks to deny me the win and it was looking a bit rocky.

To try and pin down the British overwatch platoon, I sent an overwatch squad down the hill over to the NE to threaten John's back area - these guys broke to a 2 flat long shot. Next, my infiltrating half-squad made a dash for glory to the Brits far rear hill, but they went down in a 4-2 snake eyes shot which must have hurt. Finally, my last two overwatch squads went on desperate runs across their own little valley of death to try and snag some awkward level 2 hexes on the SW corner of the big Brit hill but both pinned one hex short - so infuriating!

So for Brit turn 5, I was left grimly holding on to my small Level 2 and 3 bridgehead on the big hill and that was it. John had to deny me good order status for all my squads there, including a 9-1 and 468 that were out of sight of all the hilltop British units at the bottom of the Level 4 cliff. These guys were protected by a solid ring of outlying German units, one of which would have to be eliminated to provide a gap into which a dashing British unit could gain access to the back line. His best bet for this was to use the 9-2 to carve a hole with a -1 shot through the defenders and then jump into CC with everyone else, but it was not to be as he rolled a 10 on his prep fire roll. He tried some more pot-shots by other units at +1, and I negated the problem of the 76*Mtr as I was inside its minimum range so I was able to hold on for the win.

Nice tight game against a fun opponent and a a quick and quite replayable scenario. John was a little unlucky as he had the cooler dice and my breaking of the British cliff edge line in Turn 2 was critical as it enabled me to get a small foothold on the top of the hill that John was never able to quite remove. Despite the hero's best efforts, that was probably the ultimate factor in winning. I was now 2-1 for Owlcon overall and had played four essentially straight up infantry scenarios in a row. Time for something meatier next.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Owlcon AAR: FrF2 Maczek Fire Brigade

Nick Drinkwater

Polish Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Tom Gillis
German Player [ELR 4, SAN 2]: Nick Drinkwater

Poland 1939 for the final Owlcon game and my good friend Mr. Gillis as my worthy opponent with the doomed but doughty Poles. Tom and myself have been developing a finely tuned friendly rivalry where we seem to have taken it in turns to beat the other over the last few months. He slaughtered me hard back in November in some RBF4 Axis Minor fun, so obviously it was my turn to return the favour? Right?

This is a fun scenario from the very first Friendly Fire Pack which pitches two good sized OOBs against each other in a classic "take-the-village" scenario. The action is set on Boards 50 (the new hilly wooded one) and 17 (one of the great fields-heavy ones we received in Yanks). The layout is augmented by a couple of building overlays in order to beef up the German victory requirements to taking 12 out of approximately 21 possible victory buildings over 6 turns. The majority of the buildings are centred around the loose village crossroads on Board 17 but there are also two additional buildings perched high on the rearmost hill of Board 50 which could prove vital, assuming the Germans can sneak someone up there. The Germans arrive from offboard and are attacking to the north along the long axis of the boards, whilst the Poles need to defend a two board frontage from hexrow L backwards. The western half of the German entry area is dominated by the monster level four hill of Board 50, whilst the eastern half of the approach to the village has a nice juicy orchard and grainfield to act as great cover to help assist the Germans getting into place for the main village assault.

On the defense, the Poles have a nice company of 457s to play with, assisted by a HMG, MMG, ATR and stacks of dummies. Stiffening this defense is a juicy 9-1 and an 8-0, but they receive Turn 1 armoured support in the form of two Vickers tanks armed with CMG and the Challenger 2 of its day, a Vickers with a 47mm gun on it. For 1939, that is an awesome tank as almost all the German armour has an AF of one or less - used wisely and this monster could break the back of any German armoured probe. The CMG tanks also have those odd offset turret arrangements which sadly preclude combination into a juicy 12 FP MG attack, (thank heavens for me). As well as this, the Poles also receive Turn 2 armour support from three TKS tankettes, one with a fragile BMG and two with quite tasty 20L Guns - again, pretty good for punching holes in to thin-walled German armour.

Tom set up in a relatively even line across the entire front - in the board 17 eastern woods mass were some nice "?" stacks, the axial road near the board seam was stiffened with three more "?" stacks and there were some more on the crest lines of the southernmost board 50 hill. Finally, on Level one of one of the board 17 village buildings were a couple more "?" stacks with a view over the hedge and grain field into the front hex of the big in-season orchard. The unknown question for me was whether Tom was faking me with dummies in the woods and hills and had gone heavy in the centre or had he spread the defenders width-wise across the board? Time would tell.

In response to this clear act of naked aggression by the Poles, my gentle peace-loving German souls were primed and ready to rumble and return more of greater Germany back to the Fatherland. I had been provided with ten 468s, a 9-1, 8-1, 7-0, 5 motorcycles and some trucks with a MMG, a couple of LMGs and an ATR. As this is Poland and its 1939, we of course had to have some armoured element of the mighty Blitzkrieg, and so for this task I had received two MkIs, three MkIIs and a couple of those brilliant "leedel tanks", the PSW222 armoured car. In itself with its armour of 1 and its assortment of 20L guns which breakdown on an 11, this armoured forced is not something that you would ever normally lose sleep over. However, any force containing armoured cars with 33MP is a brilliant thing and even over open ground, the ACs can do 11 hexes a turn. In addition, with the IFE and MG, most of these tanks were packing 4FP every advancing fire phase which is nothing to sneeze at. And best of all, every one of these has a radio and comes with those three amazing symbols, "SD6".

Looking at Tom's valiant green line and with the nagging doubt that I had a lot of ground to cover and buildings to tag in a short space of time, I thought the best thing to do was to overwhelm him with force from the get-go in true blitzkrieg fashion and focus pretty much the entire schwerpunkt in a direct drive straight through the orchards and grain and directly into the guts of the village. I detached a single MkI and a single squad and 8-1 on a motorbike to go up the Board 50 axial road to offer flank protection near the little walled compound on the lower slopes of Board 50, but their main job was to suppress, delay and foil any kind of lateral attack from Tom's hilltop defenders. Turn 1 moves saw a wall of SD smoke get dropped off in the open ground between grainfield and orchards to cover the fleet of blond-haired Hells Angels (Aryan Chapter, 1939 vintage) from the first few defensive shots from the eastern woods and the Board 50 hill. Tom rolled high on most of his attacks and we continued to march onwards, but even from these opening parleys, it was clear that Tom's eastern woods stacks had some real defenders in there.

By the end of Turn 2, it was even more clear what the lay of the land was - Tom had packed the eastern woods with 3.5 squads, 1.5 more in the middle buildings with the 9-1 and HMG to dominate the approach to the village, and the ATR and MMG on the Board 50 hill to fire from the other flank. My little flank detachment was able to quickly suppress all fire from the hilltop defenders and made them run away off the hilltop leaving their MMG behind, but I also started to chalk up some early hits against the woods squads too, and, by the end of Turn 2, much of my infantry component was at the hedge line in force, smothered in yet more of that beautiful SD6 smoke. In contrast to my amazing smoke-rolling prowess (I made about 70% of my SD attempts in this game), Tom was just having one of those days dice-wise where nothing seemed to go right for him and even though he had multiple To Hit attempts on my thin-skinned armour with the HMG, he had no luck at all on the kills.

In an effort to change this, Tom's first armour reserves arrived and settled into a nice hulldown position behind the wall in the middle of the Board 17 village, threatening three of my tanks and directly supporting the 9-1 and HMG in the level one building. His moves were good and they looked like they were going to pay off as I failed all three of my responding consecutive motion attempts with three sixes in a row (and they needed 5 or less!). So, forced by this setback to stay and fight in Defensive Fire, I took my chances and shot back - two hits with rate from my first MkII, but only scratches on the 47*mm Vickers paintwork to show for it. My other MkII however followed this initial failure up and with his second rate shot, punched holes throughout the turret armour of the big Vickers...much Germanic blond-haired frothy beer drinking rejoicing ensued!

This was huge as the biggest threat to my armour was now looking like vesicular basalt (look it up) and I knew that if I played my armour well (always a bit of uncertainty in that statement when it comes to me and tank handling), I could thrash the rest of the Polish Armour with their Platoon Movement restrictions. At the board seam, having forced Tom's hilltop guys backwards, I took a punt and saddled up my 8-1 and a 468 onto their BMW dream machines and then drove hell for leather along the Board 50 hillside road, passing through (but not overrunning) a broken squad of Tom's on the woods road and then enforcing their surrender. Next turn, these biker guys ended up on the crest of the northernmost Board 50 hill, way into Tom's backfield and ready to clean up the two Board 50 buildings. "Brilliant move", thought I, until the next movement turn when Tom lined up his three TKS tankettes about six hexes away on their entry hexes..."Not so brilliant now". Tom proceeded to arrange his three tanks to take point blank shots at them but miraculously my guys on bikes survived through some untimely high-rolling by Tom. Very lucky - I'd just completely forgotten about his reinforcements and where they were allowed to enter, and by all rights, my guys should have been red jam under those baby tankette treads.

Anyway, surviving this and manning up to their pathfinder responsibilities, my doughty isolated biker heroes leapt off their Suzukis and then jumped into CC with the Polish BMG tankette which they quickly knocked off with a nice little three on the CC roll. To compound this, Tom's dice then really took a turn for the worse as the next tankette with a 20L broke its gun and the second one rolled cars on its mechanical reliability roll. A brutal 1-2-3 combination and the second armour platoon was suddenly completely out of the game.

In the meantime, in the middle I continued with the big drive straight into middle of the village. I managed to swarm the remaining two Vickers tanks, the first of which was shot from behind and immobilised and the crew forced to abandon, whilst the second also failed a mechanical reliability roll - more brutal die-rolling for Gillis. At the same time, I had managed to break 2.5 of Tom's woods squads on the extreme east of the play area. Needing to roll these up quickly, I sent one of the brilliant PSW222 armoured cars racing through the village, under the impotent barrels of the 9-1 and the immobilised but still firing Vickers CMG tank, to come in from behind the broken defenders to try and enforce some good DMs and subsequent FTRs. At the same time, more squads mounted up their bikes and zipped on through to the back of the village to start snagging buildings while Tom's diminishing defenders powerlessly waved their fists at them. I love playing motorbikes and sidecars as the mobility and options to exploit a gap that they give you are awesome. Nice.

From here on, the end was very swift - first, the Level 1 HMG broke down and then X'ed out completely and then Tom's encircled 9-1 rolled a cars on a NMC which was the end of him. At that point it was time to concede as I had all my tanks and ACs in place apart from one with a broken MA, and I had not lost any troops of note. Tom was now down to an isolated and encircled squad and a half in the heart of the village and 2.5 more squads about to surrender. At this point, the writing wasn't so much on the wall, as currently being printed in the late edition of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" and being distributed with typical Teutonic efficiency all over Lower Westphalia - it was all over.

A fun game against an always fun opponent. I played this one well for me, and it was probably the most efficient combined arms attack I've played to date so that was really cool, and its always very, very nice when your plans come off flawlessly. Good try by Tom but ultimately he was a little too far out of position and he seriously diced himself at the same time - two failed mechanical reliability tests, a broken MA, the boxcars on the leader and the boxcars and subsequent six on the HMG were way too much for anyone to deal with and ultimately left the Poles fairly well stuffed in this one. At the point of conceding, Tom had a single squad pinned by my sniper deep into my entry area - these crafty buggers were trying to sneak onto one of my abandoned Motorbikes to attempt some heroic Steve MacQueen-esque escape frolics and score mundo style points but it wasn't to be. Maybe next time when its Tom's turn to win!

Good scenario this - some really fun toys and good quality troops. The extra morale pip of my guys saved my ass on several occasions and that was big, but the Germans do need it as they have to hustle very hard in this one. They have a lot to achieve in very short order and they need every trick in their book to achieve it, but it is definitely do-able. Much fun all around and who can resist the lure of multi-turreted crappy tanks?

More AARs to follow as time allows, where I answer Mr. Z.Doyle's scandalous, libellous accusations that I was 'lucky' and whined my way through my awesome crushing victory over his poltroon-like communist hordes in "Into the Vienna Woods". Watch this space.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Zeb's Owlcon AAR - Part 1

... or ANPOG: Panzers on the Drumlins

Zeb Doyle

Another Owlcon has come and gone and many good times were had. A huge thank-you to everyone who was involved in planning, preparing, and hosting this fantastic event. Special thanks to Nick Drinkwater, who for the second year in a row very kindly opened up his house for some pre-convention gaming, and to Walter for making all the magic happen. All of us who were fortunate enough to make it had a great time. Friday action started with the Annual Nick’s Pre-Owlcon Gaming. The featured scenario this year was TAC53 A Pyrrhic Victory, which takes place in Greece 1941. The British have been plucky enough to pull the tail-feathers of the German eagle by landing troops where the vaunted Wehrmacht can bring all its power against them.

It’s an exciting situation both historically and in ASL terms with the British fighting a bit of a rear-guard action against the Germans. The scenario is eight turns and takes place on boards 3 and 18. The Germans win by exiting 25VP or capturing all the multi-hex buildings in play, which causes both sides to have to make some interesting decisions. I’ve already discussed the opposing forces a bit in a previous email, but suffice it to say that I think the British have the edge in the armor battle and the Germans have better infantry and a big wild card in the form of a Stuka.

I was matched up as the Germans against Mr. Walter, head Owlcon Honcho and all-around great guy. We’ve played several matches before, all of which seem to see Walter suffer greatly from a single catastrophic roll. For example, we’ve faced off over the years in various PTO minis and always seem to be required to play CH6 Armored Probe. Both times this has happened, Walter has had his single BAZ squad go Berserk and run into the middle of my force. After that, my many Japanese tanks are always able to roll over his hapless GIs with impunity.

This time though, it wasn’t looking so easy. Walter’s defense was a thing of beauty, with his nasty 40L tanks in HD positions, his sparse infantry in nice spots, and the dreaded 114mm ART piece lurking out there somewhere HIP. My German attack was forced to evolve in a somewhat staggered fashion, as only five Panzers enter the first turn. Four squads and two more Panzers enter turn two, but it’s not until turn three that the bulk of the Teutonic infantry enters, with nine squads, another Panzer, an AA vehicle, and four half-tracks all making an appearance.

This staggered start is rendered even more annoying because the Stuka is (by SSR) only available for the first three turns of the game. I obviously wanted to use such a powerful piece every chance I got, but I didn’t fancy trying to make sighting task checks against concealed units in woods or buildings. At the same time, I didn’t want to throw away one of those turn one Panzers just to make Walter unconceal a unit just to give my Stuka a chance to kill something back.

It’s an interesting problem, but Walter did have one small flaw in his set up that gave me an opening. By SSR, the bulk of the British force must start on board three. Only a pair of two-pounders in portee are allowed to set up on board 11. These trucks can’t fire through their front VCA, and although Walter had placed them in woods, he’d also started them pretty far forwards. So, German turn one saw all of my initial armor pushing hard down my left flank, using the board 11 drumlins as a shield and threatening to get behind the portees. I was still worried about the Stuka trying to spot something, so I even gave Walter several low-odd but un-necessary fire attempts with the portees at my Panzers.

Walter was too cunning to take the bait, but on his turn one he rightly decided the trucks were a little too exposed and decided to pull them further back. That allowed my Stuka an easy sighting TC and I was able to destroy one. The remaining portee was now vulnerable and in my turn two, a brave Panzer drove forward, bounced a portee shell off its front (5 TH, 7 TK), got into the restricted VCA area, and killed it in AFPh with an 8FP CMG shot. Knocking the two trucks out for no losses was pretty huge, as it left board 11 wide open and a bunch of German armor threatening to exit and win the game in a hurry.

The British responded to this threat as well as they could, bringing their own armor over to block me off again, but as we all know, moving to contact with enemy AFVs is far more risky than being on the defensive. Walter did a nice job with the hand he was dealt, but having my Panzers shooting at his maneuvering armor rather than the other way around made a huge difference. We both had some early war wackiness, bouncing numerous shots and malfing some of the many B11 weapons, but in the end the German armor (along with the Stuka cleaning up anything my Panzers couldn’t kill) reigned supreme.

With a path blasted wide open, my half-tracks came roaring onto board 11 as well. I’d originally pictured them entering there regardless and then either exiting or swinging into the British board 3 positions from the flank as the situation dictated, but thanks to my excellent luck there was nothing to stop them from pushing hard for EVP. Again, Walter did everything he could, rushing infantry over, creating a hero, and actually killing a HT with an ATR, but his options were very limited and I managed to get off the required 25 EVP on turn five, even before the reinforcing elements of a New Zealand MG Battalion were to enter.

I like TAC53 A Pyrrhic Victory quite a bit, although I think the German player needs to be very comfortable playing armor and know when to push hard and when to play it safe. The fact our game ended on turn 5 is no knock on the scenario; Walter made one of those ASL mistakes that’s small but has huge ramifications when he parked his portees just a bit too far forward. If they are in positions further back, the turn one German armor has no credible flanking threat for turn two, the portees can sit tight for an extra turn, and the Stuka may very well not attack on turn one. Had Walter done that, it would have slowed me, quite likely cost me at least an extra Panzer, and made the armor battle far more difficult. At that point, I think we would have had a very close match going the entire eight turns. At least this time, Walter can take consolation that when the infantry carrying his only BAZ or ATR gets an HOB result, his chaps went Heroic instead of Berserk! It was a great start to the day for me: a very fun game against a very fun opponent.

After the game with Walter, Nick Drinkwater, our resident Brit, wanted a piece of me in something small and fast, and pulled out AP52 Into Vienna Woods. This is a late-war battle with eleven SS squads, lots of machine-guns, and a 10-2 storming the new board 58 hill. The defending Soviets are totally outmatched initially, with five 5-2-7 squads, two LMGs, and six trenches that have to go in level three hexes, but they get ten 4-5-8s, an SU-85, and an SU-76 on turn three as a bit of a counter-attack force. When the dust settles at the end of game turn six, the SS have to control all six level three hill hexes for the win.

Obviously, the Germans have to rush on-map and establish defensive positions as quickly as possible and then deal with any surviving 5-2-7s while fending off the turn three Soviet assault. It’s an interesting but fairly straightforward situation and Nick (who clearly wasn’t exposed to Margaret Thatcher enough as a child) eagerly chose to play the Communists. His defense consisted of scattering his sparse troops around the periphery of the hill, with most units far enough apart to be non-supporting. Back on the level three heights, a large stack was pretty obviously his only leader stacked with a squad and an LMG.

All-in-all, the Soviets didn’t look too formidable, and my boys in black came pouring aggressively onto the map. Lots of orchards and SSR’d-in Pine Woods and Alpine Hills create a surprising number of blind hexes in this one, and although Nick was able to KIA a HS with a lucky roll, most of my troops were in excellent position at the end of the MPh. In the AFPh, I introduced Nick’s big level three stack to Mr. 10-2 and his Assault Firing friends and knocked the Soviet 8-0/5-2-7/LMG out of the game.

With his only leader gone and most of his remaining units in position to take fire as they fell back, Nick opted to stay and shoot it out in his turn one PFPh. He broke a few squads, but it turns out that a few 8+0s at 8ML troops don’t hurt as much as a LOT of 12+0 shots coming back at his 7ML men. Turn two and three were essentially mop-up time for me, and only a 6-5-8 breaking on a 2+0 from Nick’s last unbroken unit saved his entire remaining force from being captured.

That left the turn three Soviet reinforcements in the position of crossing a lot of open ground under the fire of my 10-2 and machine-guns and after another half-turn of slaughter, Nick tossed in the towel. He quickly proceeded to full-on Moaning Minnie mode, offering up all kinds of blather about how the scenario was a dog and he was diced and his circadian rhythms were at ebb tide and so forth. Since our entire game had lasted about the time it took you to read this, everyone else was busy still playing, and so I told Nick to man up, turn the board around, and give the SS a try. He tried to demur, but eventually gave in.

This time, the Soviets were hunkered up in a nice conservative set-up with almost everyone in those level three trenches. Nick copied my attack pretty shamelessly, but I was able to use some really sophisticated tactics, like skulking and using leaders to rally people and stuff, and by turn three the SS were just barely starting to grab their first trenches and several 5-2-7s were still alive and kicking. That allowed me to get my turn three reinforcements right up onto the hill in great shape, only having to sacrifice the SU-85 to lock down a single 6-5-8 on my flank.

Nick could see the tide starting to turn against him and managed to knock me out of several more trenches in his turn four. At this point, he had five of the six trenches, but only a very limited LOS to the last one. For all practical purposes, he’d have to channel his attack through a key single adjacent trench to take the last VC location. That was looking tough as he only had two MPhs remaining, had just a 9-1 and a 6-5-8 in his key hex, and was facing my 9-1, three 4-5-8s, and two LMGs. Faced with this interesting tactical problem, Nick responded by whinging louder than ever.

In the Soviet turn four PFPh, I unloaded a 30+1 from my last trench into Nick’s adjacent men. He managed to have his 9-1 go Heroic and the 6-5-8 pass a 3MC, and his return 12+1 broke everybody I had. That was disappointing, but I tossed three more squads in during my APh. That brought up Nick’s turn five, and he hit me with another devastating 12+1 that shattered two more squads. In the MPh, he brought in his 10-2/6-5-8/MMG group, everyone survived my 12+2 DFPh, and they cleared out my last squad in AFPh and advanced into the sixth trench.

That made me a little sad, but I still had a decent chance to restore the situation in the next half turn. That last trench was pretty well surrounded by Russians, putting Nick’s SS in ‘they break, they die’ land, and in my PFPh I managed to encircle Nick’s stack and smack it with a 24FP attack, several 8FP attacks, and two hits from the SU-76. The SS never flinched though and completely cleaned my clock in DFPh ending any hopes for a Soviet victory. Overall, I think AP52 Into Vienna Woods is a fun little scenario, although lopsided luck early will quickly turn it into a blowout as the SS may either quickly take the trenches in force or just never get there. It could be a good transition from the Starter Kit into full-bore ASL as well, since there’s lots of interesting LOS issues. The two vehicles, one OT and one with lots of special ammo, might fit that transitional category as well.

Anyway, I thought I’d seen Nick excited before, but after his win, he was giddier than a fat girl catching a wedding bouquet. I interrupted his little dance of joy by telling him to enjoy it while he could; I was going to crush him the following day in our much awaited, much anticipated Duel on the Drumlins. Sporting fans around the world will be saddened to hear that Nick wanted to savor that ‘post-win glow’ for as long as possible. He got super-whiny and pouty, exactly like a stripper having to tell her sugar daddy that another guy got her pregnant, and he said he didn’t want to play me in the morning. I thought about offering the balance or something, but I’d already called him out once that day and the whole pouting thing was really awkward. When Ken from Calgary intervened and offered to take Nick’s place, I decided that would be for the best and so the Drumlin Drinkwater Duel was called off. The fact that I’d now be playing a Canadian makes it a pretty typical case of a former colony bailing out the overly-jingoistic John Bull from another mess of his own making, I think.

After that minor spot of unpleasantness, I thought it best to pack up my stuff and get over to Owlcon ASAP, where I found that I was playing Brian Roundhill in AP41 The Meatgrinder. Great…another bloody Brit.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Owlcon AAR: Tac 43 Massacre in Paradise

Nick Drinkwater

British Player: [ELR 2, SAN 4] Nick Drinkwater
German Player: [ELR 2, SAN 2] Johnny Johnson

Whilst everyone else was taking part in Brit Fest, I was happy to play Johnny Johnson in one of the simpler Tactiques scenarios from days gone by, where a bunch of early war, war crimes specialists get shown a lesson or two in how to play at real soldiers by members of His Majesty's Royal Norfolk regiment in Le Paradis, Northern France 1940. As a footnote to this, this scenario recreates the event where the War Crims lived down to their reputation as they lined up the hundred or so Norfolks who surrendered, out of ammo, and shot them all, bar two lucky survivors who played dead.

Johnny is currently in the transition stage from ASLSK to full on ASL, so this seemed like a good intro-plus scenario for him to play. The aim of the scenario was partly fun, partly teaching, and so Johnny took the SS to practise using Mortars and conducting assaults over largely open ground. SSRs mean that the full company of SS have mended Axis minor SW (LMGs and MMGs) to play with instead of real guns and are so naive at conducting war that they do not receive the extra broken morale in this one. They do receive two 50mm Mortars and, the real threat of the scenario, an 81*mm 3ROF special and very moderate leadership to go with them (8-1, 8-0).

Its a classic ASL MNW day (moderate, no wind) and the action is solely set on Board 10. The Norfolks have to deny the War Crims access to 21 of the stone locations at game end (5.5 turns) from an assault across the open farm land west of the village and receive a classic depleted British 1st line infantry company to do this, together with only two LMG and a couple (8-1, 8-0) leaders to assist. The ELR of two for both sides is the most interesting aspect of this as both the Germans and Brits are quite fragile in this one - who's force will melt away first?

We played this one pretty quickly - its a routine, very straightforward game. I made Johnny pay for every step across the fields and grain on the approach to the village with a couple of ELR failures thrown in there too. However, by the beginning of Turn 4, despite suffering some hits on the way in, he was well-placed to conduct a last ditch assault on the village and he had cracked the northern most corner of the defense and was ready to push on into my back-field - I was beginning to scramble and get organised for the final retreat back to the Board 10 concrete fortress which was worth 9VP of the necessary 21. At that point however, fate intervened and two timely snipers broke the two lead squads of Johnny's northern attack force - this was a killer blow as these two were well placed to start tagging buildings quickly. Johnny continued to push hard but couldn't quite concentrate enough force at the attack apex - it quickly became clear that he wasn't going to make the attack in the face of the obdurate British defense so we called it.

Johnny played this pretty well but in post-game wrap-up we discussed the need to fully utilise the smoke component of the mortar - overall he was unlucky with the big Mortar as he received no rate on his opening two shots and then needed to drag it over the fields to get it into place again, never an easy task. This scenario did show the problems of using mortars to a) hit troops in stone buildings and b) use them in any kind of attack on flat boards as they quickly become left behind and out of sight, but of course are difficult to move. We discussed the need to need to assign the small mortars to half-squads, and then dumping them quickly when they become useless and getting the half-squads to move, move, move. Overall, my Brits were still in pretty good shape with the +3 TEM saving them from the worse of the ELR 2 penalties but Johnny's SS had been knocked about a bit.

The other small flaw that I saw from Johnny was that just as I was feeling some of the punches, he did the classic move of trying to hammer me with Prep Fire in Turn 4 instead of keeping the pressure on and start moving through and past me. This came as a welcome breather just as the pressure was beginning to mount, as I survived the Prep Fire largely unscathed and, of course, I was in no real threat from any infiltrating half-squads. In addition, we wondered if he'd attacked on too broad a front and maybe a little bit more concentration of force would have been a little more effective. All this comes with experience of course and I saw plenty of signs that Johnny can master the game in short order.

Well played sir!

Owlcon '09 Action Shots

Nick Drinkwater

Walter (l) and Matt (r) in the foreground, Ken (l) and Eric (r) in the background.

Rick (l) and Rob (r), foreground and Brian (l) and Ken (r), background, playing dueling Pyrric Victory as a part of ANPOG at Nick's place.

Ken counting up his exit VP

Owlcon championship match between Zeb (l) and Rob (r). Zeb won the game and the championship

Walter (r) showing some new blood the finer points of ASLSK

Mark (r) and Johnny (l) in some SK action

Last game at Owlcon between Randy (r) and Walter (l)

Ken trying to figure out how to root Brian out of the village in Pyrric Victory

Johnny (l) and Walter (r) play some SK

John (f) on the attack in Pyrric Victory, while Zeb (b) sets up his defense against Nick's attack

Finding the hidden Tiger with Zeb (l) and Ken (r)

Rick (r) pondering his next move while John (l) looks on in AP47 Insult to Injury. Good meat n' taters scenario

A successfully executed attack plan in Tac53 Pyrric Victory

Owlcon '09 Summary AAR

Nick Drinkwater

Anyway, to echo Brian, massive thanks to Walter for organising the beast in his usual calm and collected manner - brilliant! This time the mech heads behind us seemed much less annoying and it was a more serene experience being in the main hall again this year. Great stuff!

Yeah, I was flicking pieces of brain-melt off my shoulders last night too - there may be a piece stuck in my ears right now as well! Very fazed last night and put the fan on for the first time this year....kept waking up during the night thinking it was monsoon-ing outside. Woke up in the morning befuddled and then realised it was the fan that was sounding like the rain. Then looked outside and saw that it had rained!

My brain is just not sharp enough after three days of ASL intensity to cope with complicated stuff, like, er...the weather!

I would definitely like to thank everyone for coming to ANPOG on Friday - that was a complete blast. Of the four scenarios played for Brit-Fest, it was a 2-2 draw. It would appear that those Germans who were prepared to risk everything and take their lumps for the fast blast through the British flank amid the drumlins (before the Turn 5 reinforcements arrived) had good success (Rob's Germans vs Rick and Zeb's Germans vs Walter), whilst those Germans who tried to take the town over the 8 turns hit an impassable object and ran out of steam against the stiff lipped heroes (John as German vs Doyle and Ken as German vs Brian). Sounds like there was some great early war mayhem going on as Rick's British 40L Guns had left all their good ammo on the dock at Alex and had to watch frustratingly as Rob's Germans steamed serenely past them, whilst Ken's armoured fist fell foul of the wondrous 114*mm howitzer of all things. Without necessarily going to full AARs, it would be nice if the folks who played "Pyrrhic Victory" could send us some brief summaries / anecdotes on how their games went. I want to hear more aout Doyle shooting down John's DB with the AAMG on his Marmot-Herrington AC!!

Overall, I went 4-2 for the weekend which I am really pleased about. I attacked in 3 scenarios, defended in 3, played two all infantry, 4 combined arms. No PTO played this year, but I did get to play two of the AP5 scenarios, and Of course, you are all very relieved to know that my dice are showing me the love again and I have rediscovered my passion for the game again - no skirt wearing for me this time!! As you have already seen, early Saturday afternoon, I was threatening to make it a headache for Walter by going 4-1 but Brian bitch-slapped back into my hole with a narrowly squeaked win in "Frontiers & Pioneers". I was lucky enough to play Johnny Johnson, Zeb (twice), John, Matt, Brian and Tom over the weekend

Owlcon Highlights:
Keeping rate on an essential HMG spray fire shot in "Flaming of the Guard" to shred both of Matt's Flamethrower units.
Indulging in the pre-Brit fest scenario discussion banter with Zeb and Walter.
Playing fast and loose with Mr. Gillis on the final morning - your turn to win in the next game Tom!
Brit-Fest at ANPOG! You had to be there....having all four games playing the same scenario is great fun.
Kicking back and chilling out over Beer and Dogs with Ken and Zeb at Katz's Deli.
Giving Mr. Doyle an early slap around the chops in "Into the Vienna Woods" - I'd like to think it was my superior play and awesome tactics but we both know it was being really being able to roll low on two crucial morale checks.
Seeing new faces: the new Mark and the other guys who played SK were all welcome additions to the clan and thank you Mr. Eardley for arranging that!
Finally getting to play the honorary Brit, Mr. Roundhill - great game Brian and well played!

Owlcon Lowlights:
Don't think there were any?
The attendance was a bit lower this time around which was a shame and maybe the food in the Student Union and the humping of gear across the campus but that's about it.
Didn't even play any obviously broken scenarios this year either, though watching John's hero in Valor of the Bou do extremely heroic things against my Germans caused me some anxious moments and then there's the infamous Russian reliability start up roll with Brian, but overall, it was brilliant!

Bigger AARs will follow, but in the meantime, I would like to say again huge thanks for Walter for all his sterling efforts and also to Zeb for providing me with Oatmeal Stout, Porter, Pale Ale and regular beer from the Left Hand brewing company, a superb bottle of Shiraz, and best of all, courtesy of Amy, an awesome beer tankard thanking me for hosting ANPOG and celebrating my brilliant armchair leadership capabilities when playing as the British - no jackass in the house this time around as I went 2-0 whilst playing the Brits!

I've attached some photos to this for you to see - they have all been compressed to a manageable size. I'll send out a second set to ease the download burden.

Good stuff all around!

See you all in Austin in June!


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Serious ASL Problem -- Too Much Stuff

- or a review a Turning the Tide and AP#5
Matt Shostak

This is serious. Seningen just arrived at my place yesterday to exchange some ASL goodies we had gotten for each other. He dropped off the East Front Action Pack and the Turning the Tide Scenario Bundle, and in a very nice touch added a bonus of Operations #52, which includes some nice articles on A Victory Lost, a truly tremendous game that I enjoy very much. Now this is on top of recent purchases of Schwerpunkt 14, Rally Point 3, AP #4, AP #3, and the fantastic Into the Rubble. I also have had a peek at some of what may be coming down the pike from our friends Chas and Sam at Bounding Fire, and the plethora of scenarios to choose from is getting, well, ridonkulous. The situation is quite grave. I'm afraid that I'm getting so far behind in playing scenarios, that I might never catch up. And many of them look so fantastic that I'm chuffed, psyched, pumped, wired, and ready to head-butt my dog. And I don't even have a dog.

So yesterday after playing Bill Dorre (and hanging with Bill for any length of time is enough to leave anyone chuffed, psyched, pumped, wired, and ready to head-butt their dog), I opened up the new packs to look through them. And what did I see? First, I examined the Turning the Tide pack. It has 20 freaking scenarios! Are you kidding me? And they're old school, because they are remakes in ASL form of a lot of classic oldies that you might remember. I only went as far as Cross of Iron in the old days, but even for me the nostalgia meter took a big jump. Many of these are bigger scenarios with greater turn lengths. Remember those? There are a couple of German vs. Polish actions that actually have some heft to them. Assault on a Queen has Germans going all Easy Rider with a bunch of motorcycles and sidecars as they try to capture part of the Dutch royal family. There's a German-Polish night scenario, another motorcycle-and-sidecar affair in Belgium, and a French-Norwegian-German action. Hasty Pudding, Road to Kozani Pass, and Rehearsal for Crete are all big, multi-board actions with lots of combined arms between the British and the Germans. Somebody keep a close eye on Nick Drinkwater, as he may get so manic when he sees these that we may not be able to hope to stop him any longer, we'll have to just hope to contain him. And, lo and behold, they have Breakout from Borisov, the big 5-board monster from Cross of Iron, which seemingly used every counter that was in the mix at the time. Wicked. Old school. This one was from back in the day when there were only 5 boards, giving it a weird configuration, and we liked it. "No 6th board? No problem. Just deal with it." Remember when we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways? Yeah, that's right. Now you get it. They even have the fabled Sowchos 79, a whirling, complex combined action taking place on 4 boards over 10 turns. Swatting at Tigers features 5 of the big cats against Americans in Italy. Remember when scenarios actually had 10-3s in them? Yeah, Ringo, you catch my drift. Two in this pack put the vaunted 10-3 into play. Wow.

Then I cracked open the East Front Action Pack. These scenarios have a decidedly more modern style to them, and many of them look very playable in an afternoon or at a tourney. They run the entire length of the campaign in the east from 1941 through 1945. We have Germans trying to deal with impregnable monsters like the KV-2 in 1941 in The Meat Grinder. Does the land battleship T-35 make an appearance? You bet, in Frontiers and Pioneers. If you like the horses, break out Escape from Encirclement. Not ready for tanks yet? Try The Burial Mound. Are you a big fan of alliteration? There are Russians vs. Romanians in Reaping Rewards. In Up Inferno Hill, we get a rough-and-ready Kursk action featuring the seldom-seen Panther D, and a flammpanzer too. Kursk is the battleground again in Insult to Injury, a Pete Shelling creation that features a variety of German armor including two Tigers, against T-34s and KVs, and promises much carnage. If you're a bit more of a late war heavy metal fan, try Panzergeist, which has a couple of Panthers and a few Stugs duking it out with ISU-122s, T-34/85s, and T-34M43s, in a combined arms 1944 battle in the mist. If you feel like your Axis Minors have not been getting enough play lately, you can play the Slovaks against the Germans in Retrained and Rearmed. Oh, and by the way, boards 56, 57, and 58 all look pretty cool too.

Now, how the heck am I going to play all this stuff? I'm going to need your help.