Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OwlCon AAR: LSSAH31 Hold At Any Price

Zeb Doyle

Germans: Zeb Doyle
Russians: Robert Delwood

Anyone who has been reading through my serial Owlcon AAR will be relieved to hear that this next game took place on Sunday morning and was my last match of the tournament. I had been slated to play Rob Burton again (aka Sergeant Mayhem, which aptly sums up his fun approach to the game), but family obligations intervened and fate robbed me of yet another hotly anticipated match. That was pretty disappointing; Rob is a great opponent and our last two games had been marred by fatigue and headaches. I had been really looking forward to playing him when we were both at peak form. Now I'd have to scramble around and find another opponent. Lady Luck hadn't completely deserted me however. Walter managed to produce Robert Delwood from somewhere and we sat down for a just-for-fun, non-tourney game. I'd played Robert once before in SP78 The Golovchino Breakout and had a great time. Robert also runs a very thought-provoking ASL website at http://www.isomedia.com/homes/delwood/squadleader.html. That website, along with the CTASL one, was very helpful in reassuring me when I moved down here from CO that I'd still be able to play! So, despite Rob's misfortune, it was with great anticipation that I sat down to play Robert.

We settled on LSSAH31 Hold At Any Price, which was perfect for a just-for-fun game. It's a 1943 east front action, with nine SS squads hunkered down in the board 3 village. They're trying to keep a good order MMC in the village and are facing 17 assorted Russian squads and ten T-34s. This sounds pretty straightforward, but there's a high degree of randomness inserted as well. In the pregame, every building hex gets a DR, with an 8 or higher rubbling that hex with the potential for falling rubble. That can make the German setup pretty random, but the Russians have some issues as well. They are divided into three groups, all of which enter from offboard over the first three turns. Each group is randomly selected and enters on a random board edge. Since 14 of the 17 squads enter in one group, and the unsupported T-34s won't do much against the PF-equipped SS, a wide range of outcomes are possible. The Russians could easily get their infantry entering on turn three of a 5.5 turn game on a board edge far away from their armor. Conversely, they could get a perfectly sequenced attack, with the infantry entering turn one and two follow-on waves of tanks right behind them. Obviously, not a good scenario for a highly competitive playing.

It still looked like fun though, and I got the Germans and started making rubble rolls. Well, between some high dice and lots of falling rubble, every building in my setup area was swiftly converted to rubble! That meant that the 14 building hexes I had been counting on to be rally terrain, block LOS, allow me to skulk, etc, were now just a wide-open sea of +2 and +3 TEM in full view of the level one and two hills that surround the village. Lady luck, where did you go? I could only hope that she'd be equally unkind to Robert's Russians. I threw down my squads in a 360 degree perimeter and crossed my fingers...

Things started off nicely for me as Robert had to bring on a group of five T-34s first thing. They spent their turn driving up and getting some area acqs, but they couldn't really do much. Even better, turn two brought on a group of three T-34s and three 6-2-8s. Fate was frowning on both of us. It was too good to last though, and by the end of turn three, I was facing down the entire Soviet force, which had spread out in fine fashion to completely surround me. At that point, things got ugly fast. Any German squad that dropped concealment was immediately encircled and shot up by multiple T-34s. When the inevitable MC was failed, my leaders had to go to the squad to try and rally it, as rout was absolutely impossible. Going anywhere would automatically be getting closer to a known enemy unit. Robert had done a fantastic job overcoming his bad luck and now I was paying the price.

Over the next two turns, Robert continued to keep the pressure on, pounding me with the hilltop T-34s, and drawing the noose tighter and tighter with his infantry. I had some good luck during that time, with my HMG tearing some Russians up and the manning squad generating a hero and going fanatic, but elsewhere my troops were literally dying where they stood. By the time turn five rolled around, I was very thin on the ground and really just hoping for a lucky ambush in CC followed by a withdrawal for the win. Again though, Robert was alert to the possibility and maneuvered very well to try and take that option away. It rapidly became a moot point when my three remaining squads all pinned or broke in the last AFPh, and I failed to produce any last-ditch snake-eyes, giving Robert a well-deserved win.

Well, it wasn't the ideal way to end my weekend, but it was still a reasonably fun game against a very entertaining opponent. Robert has lots of strong opinions on ASL, including everything from the 12-point target facing to proper ASL etiquette, all available on his website and it was cool to talk some of those things over face to face. As for the scenario itself, I wouldn't play LSSAH31 Hold At Any Price in a competitive match...it's a bit too random. It's still a fun scenario and a neat concept though, so if you're looking for a bit of fun and don't mind a high degree of randomness, I wouldn't remove it from playlists entirely. With an opponent willing to wheel and deal in the pregame a bit, you could probably eliminate some of the more crazy possibilities and end up with a fun time. If doing that, my suggestion would be to bring the big Soviet infantry group in on turn two, and perhaps have each side place a few rubble counters pregame rather than randomly rubbling the entire village. Another option would be to figure 40% or so of the buildings are going to rubble on average, and just randomly place that many rubble counters. Whatever you do, make sure you have an opponent like Robert, with a steady stream of conversation that would make any ASL scenario an enjoyable experience.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Walter for putting the event together. When can we start to prereg for 2010? :)


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