Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AAR: SP83 Boeinked

Nick Drinkwater
German Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: John Hyler

This is a fun mid-sized scenario that demonstrates the full majesty of a British set piece infantry attack with all the toys. The Brits need to take 4 multi-level stone buildings in the centre of the Board 46 village from a tough little German defense of 7 x 4-6-7, two Pak 40s and two Stugs with OK leadership to back them up. The Brits get seven Churchills of different varieties to assist them, all of which are veritable smoke machines. The best one is probably the single Churchill MkV with a 95* gun and S9 plus the usual ton of SD, SM and even WP - nasty for infantry if this one gets going. They also have four of the Churchill MkIV with a 57L gun and only limited HE, but again good SD and SM capability. Finally, they also have two Churchill MkVIIs with a proper 75 gun and again, you get it, more SD and SM capability.

In addition the Brits get a company of 4-5-7s, with a couple of mortars (for more smoke) and a couple of PIATs. Finally, they also receive two Bren As to do annoying scouty, encircly things. A good force and with the huge amount of smoke assets, one more than capable of getting the job done.

One of the cool things about this game is that the To Kill rolls of all the main AT assets will typically be either 9 or 6 for the Germans against the 8/11 AF of the Churchills and about 5 or 6 for the various Churchill guns against the 8AF Stugs - the PIATs with their TK of 16 are very powerful with a kill of 8, but the best thing here is that overall there is no surefire guarantee kill for either side, and hence getting optimum positions for rear and side shots may be important.

Looking at the board configuration, the fast way into the village is directly down the length of Board 46, but the Brits do have the open terrain of Board 44 to consider too - the Germans need to think about this as well. There is a good transverse hedge on Board 46 that can form a temporary halt line to the Brits, but it is important to think about where British armour could get to at the end of Turn 1 when planning the initial setup of the Stugs in particular. I was a little bit lax on this as I had left a Stug up there supported by a couple of squads, but John's opening turn moves were well planned and left my exposed Stug at the mercy of a Churchill IV by the end of Turn 1 - poor planning by me.

The rest of John's opening assault was textbook smoke, armoured assault and move and my only good shot from a level one, long range MMG resulted in a single pin. John sent a couple of Churchills down the Board 44 axis together with the two carriers whilst the infantry all solidly pushed hard into the woods and over the fields on Board 46.

A key moment happened early in German Turn 1 - my threatened Stug had already turned in Brit 1 Defensive Fire and on a laser thin LOS, had acquired the Churchill. In German Turn 1, I decided to gamble and stay where I was and take the shot and luckily found the APCR on a three - even hitting the hull, I was now able to put a shell through it and the first Churchill was dead - I then followed this up with a sniper that recalled the Churchill V - a HUGE move in the context of the game. Despite this John was still warily grinding onwards and all my overwatch squads were now smothered in Smoke - still no sign of either Pak 40s at this point though.

In British Turn 2, John pushed his carriers on into Board 44 where he found the first Pak 40 which was in a lateral orchard where it had a good view of the Board 46 area south of the hedge. Very frustrating for me as one of my traps was now blown with no results. Being wary of the newly revealed Pak, John manoeuvred another Churchill carefully out of sight, but this one also fell foul of crossfire from another thin LOS from my other Stug. My gunnery was outstanding in this game and this scratched another Churchill - three down, which soon became four when another was recalled with main armament failure.

On board 46, John had skillfully executed a smokey advance to the hedge and was now surrounding my forward Stug by a PIAT crew and two Churchills - it looked doomed, but I was able to put it into motion. Amazingly, he was able to find his SD as his first move point of his next movement phase, and I successfully evaded both Churchills - just as it was looking that I was going to be able to get out of jail free, John rolled a 4 and a 6 with the PIAT and that was that. The hedge defenders were now almost done...but not quite.

John had dumped smoke and then a squad and a half into CC with my only squad there, but in one of those cruel twists of fate, he rolled a 12 on his CC attack and I withdrew one hex to the south. Now, that squad was un-obscured by smoke and was in a position to cover a lot of moves by John's infantry over the open fields - it was a really critical move as the threat from this single squad held all John's infantry up for another turn at the hedge line, and the one squad that did try an run the gauntlet ended up broken. Now with four Churchills dead or recalled and the schedule pushed back a little, John was going to need to push hard from now on.

I had re-ordered the village defenders to try and get as much concealment as possible and also withdrew all the outlying defenders for the last couple of turns. In addition, I was able to drill a hole through one of the carriers with a Stug, but amazingly John pulled a two for the crew survival and the half-squad sheltered under their wreck. The other Carrier decided discretion was the better part of valour and hid for a while - more deadeye shooting when I needed it.

On Board 46, my heroic squad went down to a snakes at 1-hex range from the flamethrower - they were more plasma than atoms at the end of that one! With this, John was able to push his infantry over the hedge and two of the surviving Churchills ground forward to help them. At this point I dropped HIP on the other Pak which was in a board edge woods hex south of the hedge and two hexes from a stopped, lovely fat Churchill filling their gunsights. That beast somehow survived my Final Fire but went down to the subsequent Prep Fire as did a sixth motion Churchill adjacent but behind the hedge on a rate shot - as I said my gunnery was outstanding in this game. It was a good spot for the Pak and I think I faked John on it pretty well as he was expecting in the village as part of the last ditch defenses.

It was now desperation time for John with only one Churchill left and the infantry were starting to break a little too. Another snake-eyes survival from one of the Churchills ended in mutual destruction of the Pak crew and the vehicle crew, but by now, their job was done. John's infantry twice tried to push into the outer edge of the village but individual squads broke to some desperate shooting by my defenders and then John's FT failed on a 10 after that only one successful shot. In a final insult, John tried to enter another CC with one of my guys and rolled yet another 12 on his attack so I carried on withdrawing. At this point, John called it as it clearly wasn't going to be his day. Three of his squads were broken, one was dead, a couple were still laboring across the fields, the Flamethrower was malf'ed and he only had the single tank left. It was clear he wasn't going to push the Germans out of stone buildings on this day.

I liked this scenario - it is impressive to actually play a late war British attacking force, and John pressed on resolutely even after a couple of rotten early events went against him. The huge amount of smoke-making potential makes you have to think hard as the German defender on how to impact and delay the British and they will need to re-position their defenses at times and be flexible. As the Germans you definitely need to think hard about the opening turn one moves and where the British could be.

Anyway a fun one and I recommend you give it a go.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AAR: SP10 Bring up the Boys (twice!)

Nick Drinkwater
Game 1:
German Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Mark Carter
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Nick Drinkwater

Mark and myself found ourselves playing this one as our introduction to MAGCON, a new event for ASL in Houston, held at a really nice hotel in Kingwood. We had an evening free to play this so we opted for a shorter scenario that Walter was running as a mini called BritFest (the second time we had run BritFest - last time it was Pyrrhic Victory). In this mini, a winning British and German player will be nominated by the accrual of Fun Points for doing things like killing tanks with Boys ATRs, or keeping calm under fire (not cowering etc) or even doing outrageous things like successfully executing overruns in Bren Carriers. Lots of fun and a good way to warm up for the weekend.

Anyhoo, "Bring up the Boys" was a good scenario for an evening's play, set on Boards 10 and 19. Its pretty straightforward - over six turns, five German tanks and six squads have to control a majority (7) of the eleven Board 10 stone buildings north of the East-West road and the curious walled enclosure in the B10 village. Stopping them from doing this are seven non-cowering British 1st liners, a Boys ATR, a LMG, two Bren Carriers and a 9-2. The challenge and interesting part of this scenario is that the Brits get to move last so the Germans may need to go into that last half game turn with possibly eight or nine buildings under control - as they are likely to be short of infantry by this point and the Brits may still access to the best mobility if one or both of their Bren Carriers are still alive, then any undefended portion of German-taken buildings could easily be re-captured by the Brits for a cheap and easy win.

The big trick in this scenario is just how much damage the Brits can inflict on to the Germans, who have to launch their attack across completely open ground on Board 19. In contrast the test for the Germans is to see just how creative they can get to mitigate against this. Most of the German armour has a 1,1 AF and so they need to sweat even the humble Boys ATR and LMG shots at close range, but the Brits only have two of these weapons at game start. The Brits can and should start at the tree line to try and inflict maximum cheap casualties but they need to balance this against being completely locked in on Turn 1 from aggressive VBM movement allied to large Advancing Fire Phase fire attacks. The Germans do need to keep an eye on casualties as they are outnumbered from the start and they will need those infantry to control village buildings in the end game. As a result, every aggressive move to enforce VBM needs to be examined carefully on a "risk vs reward" - there are no infantry to waste here, even lowly half-squads, so getting advantageous CC odds is important for the Germans.

The other thing the Brit needs to think about is how to use the Carriers - they could be used upfront to additional 2-2 shots against the open ground assaulting Germans, they could instantly de-bus in the village to give two more useful, tank-killing SW or they could just be held as a mobile late game reserve to go and reclaim all-important VC buildings in that last turn - all options are viable but all come at some risk. Interesting problem.

So in Game 1, Mark was faced with the challenge of the Germans. We were both a little rusty and Mark spread his attack out across the board to try and maximise the number of British squads he would see and also to disperse some of my return fire. My guys were largely up-front, with a couple of half-squads forming refused flank guards on the lateral edges of the village proper. The roadblock was in the obvious spot blocking the main round into the village through the woods, and my ATR and 9-2 and 8-0 & LMG were close by and centrally placed. Mark tried to use armoured assault and SDs extensively but generally rolled poorly where ne needed to roll well and vice versa. I was lucky to roll a three on one squad double timing in the open and that was crucially 1/6th of his infantry dead. Importantly he did not VBM freeze me anywhere in this turn, looking instead to reduce my thin khaki line by fire but that was largely unsuccessful, and most importantly my 9-2/ATR team retained concealment looking for something juicy to shoot at from behind in a future turn.

In Turn 2, Mark continued to push on and was able to VBM a squad but lost the follow-up CC, and worse, in an effort to remove a ? threat for good, stacked two squads next to them in woods, hoping to survive their shots and then wither me in return. Sadly this was my 9-2 and Mark's guys yahtzeed themselves to death on the resultant random selection once I had rolled the 3 for the 1KIA. Huge loss to the Germans and 50% of their infantry now dead - the only way Mark was winning this was by voluntary abandonment of the tanks but that was going to reduce their effectiveness massively. In the meantime my two Bren crews had dismounted and were in key buildings at the back looking threatening with their LMGs. To add insult to injury, Mark now moved a tank into a flanking position to try and envelop me, but this went down eventually to a Shock/UK kill from the 9-2 directed ATR shot in the rear - go Boys ATR, go! When another German squad was minced in brutally effective British fire, we called it as he was now down to 4 tanks and 2.5 effective squads vs an untouched British stone-building defense. My dice were hot, Mark's were average and we were done in four turns.

Game 2:

German Player [ELR 3, SAN 3]: Nick Drinkwater
British Player [ELR 3, SAN 4]: Mark Carter

As Game 1 ended quickly, and we only had limited time, we flipped it around and quickly played out a return, both feeling that we had essentially learnt what the scenario was trying to get over in Game one. This time around, I went strongly for the direct limited frontage schwerpunckt with the Germans to try and swamp and overrun just a section of the British line, but Mark also partially planned for this with a better distribution of the Brits than I had carried out in the first game. Mark's only weak point was that he had left a single Bren carrier in a position where I was guaranteed a good first turn Prep Fire shot at him with one of my tanks with an initial 7 To Hit - I'll take those odds any day. I missed him with the first shot, and even though he was able to squirt smoke at the start of his movement phase, I was still able to stick a tank shell through him in Brit Turn 1 movement. Apart from that stroke of good fortune, I can only say that my more direct attack was only partially successful - all my grandiose armoured assault and VBM moves had their accompanying infantry shot to pieces by withering British fire and at the end of Turn 1, I was down a half squad dead, a half squad back on the start line broken, and worst of all, a squad and a half as prisoners!

However, I had managed to get a tank into the 9-2's location (subsequently immobilized by them in Reaction Fire), but I managed to get 2.5 squads adjacent to him for some tasty follow-up fire. Now that he was locked, my guys took their chances in British Turn 1 and under multiple shots, critically broke and wounded the 9-2, generated a British hero but also were able to break the accompanying squad too. In a follow-up, I was able to get a squad onto one of Mark's guards and the tables were swiftly turned as I was able to free my guys to get a useful (yes, its true) conscript half-squad back in return - in hindsight, Mark's cool and collected guys should have massacred or NQ'ed my team to stop this happening.

Despite these initial losses, I knew I was now slightly ahead and I started to break through into the village and really started to use my tanks to aggressively encircle and enforce FTR on two of Mark's MMC. However, he was still definitely in it as I didn't quite have enough infantry to enforce all the gains I had made and I had to leave units in key positions to stand guard over isolated British MMC that I wasn't strong enough to break. By the end of Turn 5, I had seven of the requisite buildings and I knew that this would become eight as I had a broken half-squad trapped on top of a 1-2-7 crew in a one hex rowhouse. In addition, another crucial sniper double broke another British h/s and that was critical as I was then able to snag one more building for my tally. Luckily, I also had a fortuitous three on a advancing Fire shot on Mark's concealed 8-0 (that was denying me building control) and he was now unable to survive or dodge a subsequent advance by a German half-squad. However, Mark had also made a crucial mini-counterattack and reduced me by one less victory building and I was again down to the crucial seven. In his last move, he just had an encircled 2-4-7 (ex-carrier crew) left to try and enforce one more building conquest on me against a 2-4-7 and 8-1 and a 2-3-6 and 8-0. Sadly for Mark the 4-2 shot he needed to take broke him on the subsequent 2MC before he could advance in and victory just stayed mine. Phew.

Mark played really well in this apart from his slight set-up mistake with his other Bren, but in hindsight, the niceness of the British on NQ and this may have been the difference between victory and defeat - if both Carrier's had still been around to enforce late game house tagging, then I would probably have been too stretched to stop it after my turn 1 losses. I was lucky that only one of my five German tanks suffered a Breakdown and that was at the very end - the rest carried on gallantly shooting and encircling and did sterling service once the threat of the 9-2 had been diminished.

Good games from a fun opponent - thanks Mark!