Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thunderbird Tournament AAR - Part II

Matt Shostak

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thunderbird Tourney AAR

Brian Roundhill

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

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

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

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

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

Non ASL - Saturday night Bang. Fun and laughs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thunderbird Tournament AAR - Part I

Matt Shostak

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

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

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

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

End of part 1.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Military Museums in England

Nick Drinkwater

Tom and anyone else going to England....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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