Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Houston February Gameday

Zeb Doyle

Here's another report after my successful exfiltration from Houston:

I'd been inserted into the Bayou City ostensibly to reclaim a 'lost' rulebook, but my real mission was to monitor Houston ASL activity and see if they pose any threat in the Texas Team Tourney this year. Gentlemen, the reconnaissance was successful, but I bear grim tidings. Walter's Starter Kit work at Owlcon is really paying off with two new faces at his game day. Randy is an old-time SL player who really seems to know his stuff, and Mark Carter is enthusiastic and learning fast. Even worse, Mark deployed some amazing and delicious cutting edge caffeine technology. The two half-gallon cardboard containers (one loaded with Sumatra blend, the other Pike's Market) were shocking enough, but they also came with little paper cups all marked up with trippy quotes like "A movie is not what it is about. It is about how it is about it." It's like they're all trying to keep Houston weird or something. At any rate, I'm not sure how the Houstonites have mastered the secrets of caffeine so quickly and completely (I suggest intensive interrogations of Roy Casagranda), but we must face the truth: there is a coffee gap in Texas and we are on the wrong side of it. This massive stockpile of caffeine, actually based in Cypress and thus in easy reach of our shores, is something we cannot stand for. I suggest we force the Houstonites to verify there are no offensive supplies of coffee there, blockade Walt's house, and initiate a series of U2 reconnaissance flights over the area.

Aside from the coffee issue, things are going well in the world of Houston ASL. Steve Miller and Walter faced off against John Hyler in G44 Abandon Ship and I'm pretty sure John won. It WAS his birthday, so maybe Steve and Walter were just going easy on him. Mark and Randy had a good game of some SK scenario, the name of which currently escapes me. The final game featured Tom Gillisov and myself in a entertaining match of ESG7 Backstab. This is an early war pillow fight with a lot of Italians attacking some unmotivated pre-capitulation French. Tom tells me that the scenario takes place near the Riviera, and we had a lot of fun picturing a bunch of Left Bank bohemians being rousted out of various cafes and drinking establishments and press-ganged into the army, being thrilled to be assigned to the fleshpots of southern France, and then getting steamrolled by a bunch of Italians.

That mental image was the highlight of the scenario, sad to say. The more I think about it, the more I think it may favor the Italians. They get 24 squads, of which 16 are first line, while the French have to make do with twelve, including nine green squads. Both sides have the 2 ELR, which hurts the French more as most of their units disrupt immediately rather than ELRing like the Italians. The French do get a 155mm ART piece which is pretty nasty, but it's also B11, while the Italians have a FT tank, a FT, an HMG, an 81mm MTR, and dominate the armor battle with seven tanks vs. two. Sure, almost all the Italian equipment is B11 as well, but there's a lot more of it and nothing is quite as vital as that 155mm is to the French. I may have had an inkling of this in my subconscious, because when Tom picked the scenario, I went right for the attacking Italians. I obviously wasn't thinking too clearly though, and not even the copious amounts of coffee helped, because I got confused and pulled myself three CMG-armed tanks, rather than the two CMG and two 37mm tanks I should have received. That was another thing I didn't notice until after the game and it really made the lone 37* armed FT-17 a lot tougher...

However, even with that minor mess-up, my Italians were able to pretty much accomplish everything they wanted to do. The VC involve capturing a hill or exiting 35VP (including 25 infantry VP), but since it's a Deluxe scenario, I only had to go 15 hexes in eight turns to achieve either objective. Thus, my men were able to move at a very leisurely pace...more a stroll in the country than an offensive.My worst unit, surprisingly, was the 81mm MTR, which got into position on turn two, dropped its only smoke round of the game on Tom's ART piece, and then spent the next seven fire phases shooting at that same 155mm gun. The MTR never got rate, often rolled an 11, which is what it takes to miss a double-acq'd, large target, and ended up never doing a single thing. I tried not to whine about that too much, but when Tom finally told me to shut up and stop being such a Nick about it, I knew I'd failed.

All the rest of my units performed well though, with the FT tank KIAing everything it shot, my many machine guns getting ROF and disrupting lots of units, and my infantry generally running around and taking prisoners. Tom had rather poor luck, with a 60mm MTR and an LMG X-ing out very early on; obviously something that will happen when green units use B11 weapons, but not something you'd expect on the first shot either. Many of his troops disrupted on their first chance too, and were rapidly taken prisoner. To Monsieur Gillisov's credit, he never complained once, not even when my dice really went into hyper-drive and battle-hardened a 3-4-6 into a 4-4-7 who then captured his 4-3-7 in CC, opening up a flanking maneuver on his 155mm which eventually resulted in its death. That was pretty much the game, and by turn five with more prisoners than good order French squads we called it. Decent but not great fun, and although I'm bad at judging balance and had good luck vs. Tom's bad, I'd not hesitate before taking the Italians again.

That's all for now; thanks for reading and stay tuned to see if there's any resolution to the Cypress coffee crisis,


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