Monday, January 04, 2010

AAR: SP154 On The Road To Hell

Scott Bell

Germans: Scott Bell
Americans: Dan Preston

I had an opportunity this past Saturday, to play against the Minister of Defense (Dan Preston), in an interesting scenario by Schwerpunkt (SP154 "On the Road to Hell")

This scenario takes place in Holland (1944), and involves a remnant German force that attacks and gains control of a portion of Hell's Highway, near Koevering, Holland. The Allies needed to keep the road open to support the Allied troops that were participating in Operation Market Garden. Therefore, the Allies need to take the road back.

The five and ½ turn scenario seems to recreate this battle quite well. As the Germans, I had a mixed force consisting of an interesting mix of squads as follows:

3 x 5-4-8

2 x 4-6-8

2 x 4-7-7

1 x Jagdpanther

1 x Marder

The Allies have the following:

8 x 7-4-7 (American)

3 x 4-5-8 (Brits)

3 x British Sherman III(a)

The setup for the Germans is restricted to within 4 hexes of a building that is close to the road on board 17. The victory conditions require that the Germans have at least one MMC within 3 hexes of LOS of the road (that runs east-west) or a mobile Jagdpanther with functioning MA within 3 hexes of LOS of that same road.

The Americans that initially enter the board have a very large area with which to enter. They come down from the North. The Americans can choose woods on the left (west) or woods on the right (east) as they attack the Germans to the South. They can also head South thru open ground, directly towards the Germans, though I suspect that few would go that route.

Dan chose to separate his force into 2 parts. His larger force of Americans and British squads attacked my "left" flank. Dan used a smaller American infantry group along with his Sherman tanks to come down towards my "right" flank. As the Germans, I pivoted my Jagdpanther, towards my right flank, along with my supporting squads (with PF) to protect against my tank being swarmed by the Sherman tanks.

I was in a classic "2 front" situation, and was reminded of why this is so undesirable. Initially my flanks were holding up quite well. My initial decision was to hold firm in my position with the Jagdpanther, in order to maintain the strongest defensive position possible in anticipation of being swarmed by the Sherman tanks. In hindsight, this is where I believe I probably lost the game.

Dan did an "excellent" job of exercising patience. He held firm on my right flank with his smaller force of squads and the tanks (rather than immediately engaging), and waited for his force to my left flank to be completely engaged. This, in my opinion, is where Dan won the game.

This aspect of the game was the most interesting part, for me. Many years ago when I used to spar in Tae Kwon Do, I trained and fought against multiple opponents, which was a very difficult but very necessary part of my training. Trying to fight 2 people at once is a losing proposition, and you have to actually engage in such a fight to truly understand the disadvantage. The strategy to fight multiple opponents is to fight against one person, and to use him as a shield to keep between yourself and the second opponent. It requires a lot of movement during the course of engagement. The only other option is to attempt to "take out" preferably by KO, one of your opponents quickly, to return the odds to 1:1.

This scenario reminded me of my earlier sparring days. What I should have done, in my opinion, was to use my Jagdpanther and a mobile force, to quickly engage the smaller American force along with the Sherman tanks on my right flank, in an attempt to quickly destroy this force; to eliminate the two front situation that I faced. I recognized this too late, however.

My left flank deteriorated more quickly than I anticipated. I went after the Sherman tanks a couple of turns too late. I did manage to destroy 2 Sherman tanks with my Jagdpanther, which might have made more of a difference, had I done it a couple of turns earlier.

My left flank quickly broke down to the assaulting American squads. Those 7-4-7 squads are awesome on the attack. I did not have enough defensive firepower to break them with any regularity, and Dan was able to move adjacent to my squads for multiple and powerful shots during the AFPh. In this manner, Dan was able to whittle my forces down by breaking them and killing them before they could rout. My situation became bleaker as my Marder tank, which entered on turn 2, broke its gun on the first shot. I immediately began a systematic and desperate retreat to the south, moving further away from the road that was a part of my victory conditions. The game was slipping away from me.

At this point, it was apparent that I was not going to be able to retake ground that was close enough to the road. Therefore, I made a decision to fall back with a major hook movement towards my left flank, in an attempt to get at least one squad close to the road (further west) to fulfill my victory conditions. My Jagdpanther moved back and to the left (west) towards that same objective. Basically, I used every available squad to move at full speed in that hook movement to try to get around Dan's attacking front, in order to gain LOS to the road. Initially it looked like I might make it. Dan, however, did an excellent job of shifting with me, and by using the road was able to get back in front of me.

On my final movement phase, I had 1 squad, 1 half-squad, along with 2 leaders and my Jagdpanther, in position to view the road. Now, all I had to do now was to survive. During the AFPh of my final turn, I fired my Jagdpanther at Dan's infantry, to gain target acquisition for his final assault. On that shot, I broke the gun on the Jagdpanther, which eliminated that tank for victory condition purposes. This enabled Dan, on his final turn, to swarm my very small remaining force that had the LOS to the road, for the win. Even with a functioning gun, it is still doubtful that I could have survived Dan's final assault, which easily overwhelmed what I had left.

It was a very interesting game, and Dan and I both enjoyed this one immensely. According to ROAR, this one is about dead even on balance. In the final analysis, I really enjoy watching a good plan of attack unfold as this one did. Dan executed one of the better and more tactically coordinated attacks that I have witnessed. He has always been an excellent defensive player, which he prefers. He had wanted to develop his skills on the offensive side. I would say he has "arrived." Judging from the confident grin on Dan's face at games end; I would say he knew that as well. Nicely done!

For those who have not played this one, I would recommend that you add it to your list. It is a lot of fun.



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