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.


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