Friday, May 21, 2010

AAR: PA1 Battering Ram

Ed Beekman

Germans: Ed Beekman
Russians: John Farris

I paid a visit to the Oklahoma City Club this past weekend with the idea of getting some face time to talk about the November Thunderbird ASL Tournament (hint, hint, put it on you calendar for Nov 12-14) and play some ASL. When I arrived Mike Cadieux and Greg Parker were setting up AP42 Frontiers and Pioneers while John Farris and I selected Lone Canuck's Panzer Aces #1 Battering Rams. I got the Germans with a handful of brittle 5-4-8 squads and two HIP JagdPanthers with a third reinforcing later. John got the Russians with mix of elite squads with the emphasis on the SMG type and five JS-2m's. The Russians have to exit 55 VP but this is reduced by 8 for every JagdPanther destroyed. The Russians enter from a woods into a cratered and rubbled no mans land then have to get through a low hilly area to exit. I set my HIPs on the left and center thinking it may lure John to cross my frontage to get to that "weak" flank. John attacked heavy on the left while I skulked. Acquisition by the Stalin's 122Ls had me backing away to a reverse slope defense on the first hill. I traded a squad for a squad in a melee with two 6-2-8s during the withdrawal. Meanwhile my HMG got only 1 shot on its boresighted hex, which broke a squad before malfunctioning and being X'd out within a turn.

I didn't reveal either JagdPanther until about halfway throught the game. The first I revealed when threatened to be overrun by the advancing Russian forces. I got a couple ineffective shots off then John got to retaliate. His to hit roll was snakes but that was what he needed to hit. The following roll wasn't a 1 and, being hull down behind a wall, I dodge a real big bullet. John charged in for the kill but I went into motion and was again saved by my hull down position. Since the Stalin tanks weren't getting the job done, the infantry took their shot. The first squad missed its attack and then broke when the know, the Snoogie Woogie, attacked. The second squad survived the Snoogie Woogie but also failed its CC attack. When I moved away the next turn, a turret hit was finally achieved against my TD (+5 TH mod, had to hit turret) just proving luck does not play favorites.

During this time one Stalin was lost to a gun malfunction, another was burning from a Panzerfaust shot and two of the remaining three were under low ammo status. My reinforcing hunting Panther took up an overwatch postion and started pounding away on the Stalins. Six consecutive hits on a Stalin with my 88LL just bounced, even a turret hit. My last vehicle broke cover to sortie into the Russian rear area but ended up stunned from an artillery shot but survived the coup de grace attempt by a Russian tank. At this point it was getting late and we looked over what it would take for John to exit what he needed. Most of his units had to move to their fullest the remaining turns with a few unable to make it. His tanks could exit but would have trouble knocking out my vehicles leaving them as threats for rear attacks. Although my infantry had been whittled down to some half squads and a couple of squads, they were well situated to place fire lines, faust vehicles and just plain get in the way. John conceded although if we had time he might have still been able to pull it off. All in all a fun late war heavy metal slugfest. C'mon, my 88LLs only bounced off the Russian armor! Good Times.

On a humorous note, during our breaks we stopped by to watch the Cadieux-Parker early war slugfest. We got the impression they were playing a WWI air battle. The tanks were circling each other for the rear shots. At lunch time Mike had his Czech tanks on the T35 and KV tanks' 6's. The T35 took a rear hit only to see the shot bounce when Mike rolled way too high. It was the KV's turn. Mike decided APCR (A4 in 41) was needed to have a chance against that monster. The result was a critical hit, turning a roll that would have only immobilized into a burning kill shot. Good times.

A final note, we discussed future cross Red River cultural exchanges. If anyone is interested in going up to OKC later this year, let me know. The guys offered to put us up for the night to reduce the wear and tear of driving up and back in the same day (-2 DRM on the PMC). I offered the same hospitality option to my hosts if they would ever like to visit us here in north Texas. It was an enjoyable excursion. Got to see players I normally only see at tournaments (e.g. Mike Laney stopped by for a while to chat) and play ASL with them. Good Times!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AAR: AP62 Shouting Into The Storm

Zeb Doyle

Russians: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Sam Tyson

So, I had a pretty fun weekend of ASL--Friday night, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Sam Tyson, eating some tasty pizza at Conan's (and getting to check out all the Frank Frazetta artwork there the same week he died), and playing Shouting Into The Storm from the latest Action Pack.

Shouting Into The Storm is a late-war 1945 East Front scenario that covers the same action as SP11 Pomeranian Tigers, but plays out very differently and has some added fun with the variable OB. I'm not going to do a detailed AAR here, but for those who don't have the card handy, it's roughly 15 German squads with King Tiger and StuG support trying to take a village away from some Soviet Guards, who get some 57LLs and tank support of their own.

After dicing for sides, I got the Soviets and put together a defense I was pretty happy least at the start. I'd describe the terrain as 'dense village,' and so went with the assault engineer group, giving me both more bodies and extra FP. The 100L AT gun in the other group would have been fun, but with plentiful stone buildings and limited LOS, I just didn't see the King Tigers being a major threat. The choice of AFV groups was a bit tougher, but here as well I decided not to worry too much about the German big cats and so went with the T-34 and SU-100 group, passing on the IS-2ms. Meanwhile Sam decided to blatantly copy me and went for the German assault engineer group, giving him a platoon of 8-3-8s with a FT and some DCs instead of a bunch of 5-4-8s with a PSK and a hero.

The scenario started and I soon realized I'd already made my first mistake. Since the Germans have to come across a bridge, I placed one 4-5-8/LMG on board 2a to try for a FL. He ended up cowering and not doing anything, but even great dice for me wouldn't have made the move a good one. The Germans have tons of smoke and tools to get across the bridge, and that forward position is a total death trap. I think the vast majority of the time, the single Soviet squad set up forward will just uselessly die in place, and that's exactly what happened here. After turn one, I was down 10% of my force with nothing to show for it. So much for being happy about my set up!

After that, things started to look up for me and went about as well as I could hope. I ended up being fairly lucky against Sam's armor and ended up knocking out seven of his eight AFVs without losing a single AFV myself. Highlights included a StuG exploding on a 1 factor known AT mine that Sam gambled with, the SU-100 smacking down two King Tigers with frontal turret hits, and taking out a StuH with some streetfighting. Good times!

Unfortunately, that was about it for the highlights. Sam didn't just throw all that armor away, he used it to lever his infantry into the town. I managed to pick off two squads on their way in, but that still left ten 5-4-8s and three 8-3-8s with good leadership against four 6-2-8s and five 4-5-8s with adequate leadership with both sides in +2 and +3 TEM. Sam did a great job using his numbers to seize the initiative, keep the pressure on, and just grind me down. Even with my good luck against his armor, I knew I was in real trouble by turn four because of the pounding my infantry was taking.

Sadly for me, no deus ex machina appeared, and by the time turn six rolled around, my only remaining 'plan' was to drive my armor into the non-building victory hexes and survive two fire phases and one CC phase with a bunch of point-blank Wehrmacht infantry. Germans don't get many PFs in 1945, right? I can't recall the last time my entire force was wiped out with a turn still to go, but it happened to me here. Well played, Sam!

I enjoyed the game and matching wits with Sam, even if I did end up getting crushed. That aspect of it was a bit frustrating; aside from throwing away that 4-5-8 playing Horatio at the bridge, I thought my set-up was pretty solid. I was happy with the variable OB groups I'd picked, my guns were in good spots, and I couldn't have hoped to have the armor battle go any better. So, I'm left scratching my head, wondering just where I went wrong. In that sense, the scenario reminds me a bit of Nishne, Nyet, the only other one I've played from the new Action pack. Both seem to have a German attacker with a powerful force and straightforward goals, while the defense is in a position where they have to really really think about what they are doing. Obviously, I didn't put enough thought into it.

Anyway, thanks again to Sam for a fun time. The one good thing about getting smashed so quickly was that we didn't end up playing late into the night. I was pretty tired and had to be at Eric's the next day for a game there. And we all know how peeved Eric gets if you are even five minutes late........Hopefully I can find the time to write up that scenario too.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, May 08, 2010

AAR: AP62 Shouting Into The Storm

Ed Beekman

Russians: Glenn Schools
Germans: Cory Sosebee

Glenn and Cory played AP62 Shouting into the Storm from the new Action Pack. It is the 1945 scenario featuring a local German counterattack using StuGs and King Tigers. Aside from the late war heavy metal, the scenario features a variable OB. The Germans are allowed to supplement their force with either a platoon of Assault Engineers with DCs and a FT or extra Fallschirmjagers with a hero and PSK. The Russians can reinforce their on board defenders with a platoon of Guards riflemen, 9-2 leader and 100L AT or a strong platoon of Assault Engineers with DCs and a FT. The Russians also get to select between three IS-2m tanks or 3 T34/85 and an SU100 with an 8-1 AL.

Cory chose the Engineers for his attacking Germans while Glenn opted for numbers both times, taking the Engineers and the T34/85 armor group. Initially a squad held up the German advance at the bridge choke point. Cory seemingly couldn't pass a MC and there developed a huge overstack of broken units at the bridge exit. Finally a StuG and a squad cleared the defender and the attack resumed. The attack split in two directions, the Germans have to control a building and a cross road on each flank to win.

As the game progressed, Cory's luck changed from rarely passing a MC to rarely NOT passing a MC. On an early turn the German sniper broke two key Russian squads opening the middle of the battlefield to the Germans. Although a AT gun destroyed a StuG as the opening was exploited, Glenn's luck saw a swing soon thereafter when that AT gun malf'ed on its next shot and the crew was broken by a self rallying DM squad. Another AT gun immobilized a King Tiger when it got caught in bypass in the Gun's hex. Again Cory surprised Glenn by breaking the gun crew thereby freeing the King Tiger to kill one of his T34's skulking in the distance. The final rush was on and now Glenn couldn't buy a break. His numerous -1 and -2 shots were either ineffective (and malfing a couple LMGs) or Cory passed the 1 or 2 MCs. The SU 100 helped by burning a King Tiger and destroying a StuG but was looking at probable destruction in CC when Cory's infantry took all but one hex in the last VC building in multiple CC wins. Glenn gracefully conceded his Chairmanship to Cory for the next meeting at my place in July.

Monday, May 03, 2010

AAR: AP60 Nishne, Nyet!

Jeff Toreki, Zeb Doyle

I managed to squeak out a win on the German CVP cap VC, but I felt like I was pretty much getting my ass kicked the whole time. Zeb was crushing me from two sides in a vice grip, and then I got a bit lucky when he parked a few vehicles in LOS of a 57LL, and killed 23 CVP in one turn. There are also instant VC of the Germans winning at the end of turn 4 if no GO Russian vehicles or infantry are within a village area – to keep the game from ending there, I had to sprint a Stuart back into the village through a hail of German fire and survive. I also had to survive my own major ‘duh’ moment of the game (one of several) when I moved a T-34 into the LOS of a halftrack that was a sitting duck for the 57LL (and represented the last 5 CVP I needed), allowing him an automatic motion attempt to escape. Luckily for me, the t-34 managed to kill a PzIIIN with a malfed MA for the win. By the way, the PzIII needed a 5 or less to go into motion, and rolled a 6.

The best analogy I can think of is fighting Mike Tyson and taking a beating, then taking one lucky swing and cutting his eye, so the ref calls it on a TKO. It doesn’t really feel like a ‘win’, so much as being saved by the ref stopping the fight. Thanks again for the game Zeb.



Yep, Jeff did a great job to get the win in a scenario that seems tough on the Russians. The scenario has a very powerful German force smashing into a decent Russian force, and the Russian defense is further complicated by the instant win provisions. Jeff really had to try and master a steep learning curve of deciding how to design a very precise fall-back defense, while I just had to drive on and try to avoid a CVP cap...easy, right?

Things went well for me for most of the game with pretty average luck on both sides IMO, with Jeff only avoiding the instant win VC on turn four by having a Stuart survive three TH attempts needing a 5, a 6, and another 6.

On turn five, things swung back the other way: I lost a Tiger/9-2 AL to a HIP MOL-P unit that needed a 6TK and got it. Jeff then malfed a 57LL which really opened things up, giving me the opportunity to take out a motion T-34 from the rear with a PzIII, and eliminate three broken squads and the malfed 57LL with just two half-tracks and two squads. Unfortunately, I got stupid and greedy and parked all those units, along with a Tiger, where another 57LL could see it all. I just didn't think Jeff would put both 57LLs in such close proximity...very well played.

Anyway, the 57LL killed everything but one HT, put me 5 CVP away from the cap, and left me in a position where I couldn't do much to stop the final HT from getting nuked for the win. Then...Jeff got a little greedy himself and drove a T-34 past the HT and into position to challenge another PzIII. That let me get the HT into motion and gave it a path to safety and gave me a 5/6 chance to motion the PzIII. I failed the roll. Next turn I did everything I could go save the PzIII, but Jeff ended up with a 7TH, 7TK, and got them both. I failed the 5CS number and that was the game. Really stupid play on my part to try and bring the hammer down in the way I did. Obviously, the risk I ran if the second 57LL WAS in the area was just too high.

Final thoughts: The Russian set-up could have been better, which you would expect given the Russians have the steeper learning curve and I have the benefit of a full game under my belt unlike Jeff. I think the Russians can make the turn 4 instant win VC a very remote possibility without compromising the overall defense, and so any turn 4 frantic deathride like we had should be uncommon. Having said all that, I still like the Germans in this one even against a Russian defense that has the benefit of a prior playing. Even after all my stupid play, as we were picking up the pieces at the end, both Jeff and I thought the German force was still strong enough to win the game if the CVP cap were disregarded. Overall, it just felt like the Russians need a really good set-up and either a really dumb move like mine or some luck to be in it at the end...or perhaps a bit of both. If Jeff rolls a 7+ on his MOL TK, I'd be writing right now about what a tactical genius I am instead of whining. Anyway, I don't recall the ABS balance provisions off the top of my head, but I would certainly use them if I played it again.

Enough about the balance. Wrapping up, I'll just quickly mention the fun factor: it was neat to use the new boards, and I thought the railroad and AT ditch SSRs were fun and changed the feel of the game in a good way. The multiple VC were interesting and add to the complexity of the defense, but didn't work as well as I was hoping. If the Russians put a few more troops around the first VC area, the Germans won't be able to completely drive them out in the three turns they have to do it. After that, both the other VC require capturing a big Factory in the heart of the Russian defense, something that realistically will never happen by turn six. So, if the Russians can survive the turn four hurdle, the feel of the game really switches to that of a standard 8 turn game. Finally, the scenario was fun to play, but has a little too much of the 'big force smashing little force. Little force can't do anything but hang on and hope that time and terrain save the day' feel for a repeat playing. So, fun, good scenario aside from potential balance issues, but not a classic IMO.

Hope there aren't too many sour grapes in there, and congrats to Jeff again on the win!