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.