Sunday, July 18, 2010

AAR: AK22 Fruehlingswind

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Matt Schwoebel

Well, yesterday was my opportunity to finally play a game out of CH's latest offering, their Afrika Korps desert series. This is a set of six related scenario packs that (in total) come with 50 or so scenarios covering the fighting in North Africa. The heart of the pack is a huge map with nothing on it but scrub, and a ton of overlays that are then used to customize the terrain for each specific battle. This means you are looking at putting down five to ten overlays for each scenario, which may be a turn off for some people, and probably does necessitate the use of Plexiglas, but allows each battle to have a unique feel and does a good job of simulating those wide-open desert spaces. The pack also includes some new Italian counters (used in a few scenarios), a bunch of other counters most veteran ASLers will probably already have, and some basic SSRs to cover some of the overlays (including a fun-looking Beau Geste style fort). The scenarios are a good mix of nationalities, size, and situations. Overall, I'd say that the physical components (50 scenarios, a big map, a bunch of overlays, a small booklet, and some new counters) seem worth the $100 or so CH is charging. The quality of the scenarios (having just read them over and not played them) looks to be on par with CH's other recent offerings: somewhat more typos and clarifications required than the top-level producers like MMP, Friendly Fire, and Schwerpunkt, but much better than their dark days when many CH scenarios were simply unplayable (I think 12 or so of the scenarios so far have questions/clarifications required). So, if you like desert and don't mind a little more errata/clarifications than normal, I'd definitely pick this up. Anyone who doesn't like desert, obviously, should avoid this at all costs. If you're somewhere in the middle, you could always just dip your toe in with the purchase of the core pack, which gives you the map, counters, overlays, etc, and some scenarios for $40.

At any rate, Matt Schwoebel bravely volunteered to play one of these with me, and we settled on AK22 Fruehlingswind. This is a February 1943 seven turn scenario set in Tunisia, and has a small American force trying to hold a village against some marauding Germans. The Americans are a pretty solid force, with five squads, an 81mm MTR, two Grant tanks, two 37LL AT guns, 75mm OBA, and reinforcements in the form of an armored halftrack platoon and some M10 GMCs. The Germans look a bit sexier on paper though, with a 10-2, a 9-2 armor leader, a Tiger, lots of elite squads and halftracks, three Pz IVF2s, three Pz IIILs, and some OBA of their own. That was enough to seduce Matt, and he opted to take the attacking panzers. I put together a defense, with most everyone hunkered down in the village, and awaited the attack.

At that point, Matt confessed he'd never actually played Desert before, so we paused for a brief rules review. Ten minutes later, Matt might not have been a expert on hillocks, wadis, and vehicle dust, but he was at least ready to go. The German attack entered on a wide front, with panzers, halftracks, and infantry all pushing forward as fast as they could. In the wide-open expanse of the desert, that didn't mean too much. Our forces were still separated by twenty or more hexes, so the infantry couldn't do much, but I was able to open up with artillery, mortars, and fire from the Grants. On my right flank, a German 8-0/radio/halftrack looked like a good target for my 60mm MTR. This was a small moving target at 16 hex range, but when you're good at this game like I am, things like that don't matter. One Critical Hit later, the half-track had been blown to scrap, killing the leader and removing the threat of Matt's OBA.

Over on the left flank, three Pz IVF2s faced off at 24 hexes against my two Grants. Here, Matt had the advantage of numbers, black TH numbers, L length guns, and a 16 TK against my 8 AF. I had red TH numbers, large target size, and a 12 TK vs 6 AF. So, over the course of the next two turns, Matt quickly lost one panzer, malfunctioned the guns on the other two, had one recalled, and then saw his last one destroyed. I took zero losses myself, and was left to I THAT good or do Matt's desert tactics really suck? Pretty much by default, that shifted the Schwerpunkt of Matt's attack to the center, where his 10-2 and accompanying kill stack were moving rapidly forward, assisted by the Pz IIILs. I brought my 75mm OBA in here as harassing fire, hoping to slow the German infantry down just a bit. The artillery didn't scatter perfectly for me, but I did manage to catch the 10-2/kill stack/Pz IIIL with a 4+1 attack. That ended up being an NMC, which sent the 10-2 and all the squads with him Berserk and confirmed that Matt's desert tactics are truly terrible They immediately dropped all their pesky machine guns, and charged off towards the nearest American unit. Patience would be required there, as 22 hexes of open desert separated the Berserkers from their target...

That was pretty much that. All kidding aside, I can't think of a much rougher introduction to the desert than what Matt had to endure, but sometimes the dice do crazy things (his main takeaway from his first desert scenario: "it's still important to roll low"). At least I had fun picturing my Americans scratching their heads wondering why the British think these Germans are so tough. A few questions (quite minor) did come up during play. Related to the scenario itself: The V17 overlay coordinates are wrong: it's impossible to set it up using the listed O11-R11, and it should be Q11-R11. Thankfully, this is easily apparent and easy to figure out. On the VC, "the side with the most Victory Points at game end wins." Is it intended that a tie is a possibility? Finally, the scenario takes place in Feb 1943, but the Germans get a PzVIE(L) with an sN. At that point in the war, the first iteration of the Tiger had only been around for a few months, and so it seems strange to have the (L) version in play. Chapter H notes (and I know those are only a guide) don't have the PzVIE(L) showing up until 1944. Likewise, I thought the sN didn't come into use as early as Feb 1943. Again, this is a minor issue either way, but it does make me curious about whether the PzVIE(L) is actually the correct tank to use, and if so, why?

Finally, one rules question that we couldn't quickly answer: a MTR hits a HT and immobilizes it. The collateral attack on the crew results in an NMC. Does the crew take the NMC or the Immobilization TC first? If you do take the NMC first and break, do you then still take the TC? Thanks to anyone that can help with the rules question, and thanks to everyone for reading.


1 comment:

Nghtflame7 said...

Not sure about the halftrack question, but you are mostly right about the Tiger. The initial Tigers appeared in combat in early December (1st, against 17th/21st Lancers) 1942 in Tunisia. The Tigers you faced should not have been (L)s. OTOH, the early Tigers had mine dispensers that acted like Snoogiewerfers. I think they have 12 FP, ratehr than 16.