Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AAR: TAP20 The Buda Probe

Zeb Doyle

Russians: Zeb Doyle
Hungarians: Eric Gerstenberg

My next fun August ASL experience was with Eric Gerstenberg in TAP20 The Buda Probe. This is a mini-monster East Front action somewhat reminiscent of G34 The Liberators. A huge Russian force of 32 squads and 15 tanks gets to slap around a dug-in company of Hungarians, who are reinforced on turn three by a bunch of Germans who arrive in style with King Tiger, Jagdpanzers, and all kinds of fun half-tracks in support. All in all, it looked like some fairly standard meat and potatoes east front action, standing out for its size more than any unusual SSRs or VC. Sometimes meat and potatoes makes the best meal, though, and Eric and I ended up having an incredible game with more wild swings and shifts in momentum than you’d get out of a season pass to Six Flags.

For all the excitement that lay ahead, the game started off surprisingly slowly. Even in their improved new era of production, CH scenarios often have some rough edges. In this case, we needed a pre-game email to the designer to clarify the pre-game rocket strikes, there was also a typo (the JgPz IV/70 is listed with a 75L instead of the proper 75LL…no big deal, I thought), and the German Field Phone is directing OBA meaninglessly designated as ‘Battalion MTR.’

Finally underway, things went great for my attacking Russians. Eric broke and X’d out his Hungarian MMG and HMG and drew a red card for his OBA, allowing me to make great progress. The attack slowed a lot when the reinforcing Germans arrived, but I was happy to see that Eric parked one of his JgPz IV/70s in clear LOS of an ISU-122. I opened up, and several fire phases of annoying high dice later, still hadn’t hit. I finally got curious and asked why the JgPz wasn’t returning fire. Eric pointed out my 14 AF and said he didn’t think his 75L 17TK had a good chance. Yup, he was so busy looking at the scenario card, he hadn’t realized he was actually working with a 75LL. Making up for lost time, the tank destroyer swung its VCA and launched a shell at the ISU-122. CH and burning wreck! Well, I guess the typo didn’t make a difference after all…

Fortune swung back towards me after that though. My 120mm OBA strayed perfectly, hitting an entire platoon of 5-4-8s that Eric had carelessly left stacked. The resulting 1MC broke them all and opened a real hole in the middle of the Axis lines. Elsewhere, his 9-2/5-4-8 advanced into CC with a CX, pinned 6-2-8. Ambushed attained, Eric went for the (SSR-allowed) HtH attack, only to roll a 12. In the next CCPh, everyone there died in a maelstrom of bayonets and rifle butts, robbing the Axis of their best leader.

This was no small thing, as one of the more subtle but interesting aspects of this scenario is the miserly leader allotment for both sides. The Axis, after deducting one SMC to man the field phone, have four leaders for 23 squad equivalents. Not terrible, but not great considering the wide front they have to cover. The Soviets are in the same position, with five leaders for 32 squads, and so both sides are often forced to either play very conservatively in a leaderless sector or risk having broken squads out of play for long periods of time. Very neat!

At any rate, I was well positioned to really bring the hammer down on Eric in the middle. I started off placing a DC on an unfortunate Hungarian 4-4-7 and bringing up every single body I could muster to exploit the hole. Sound tactics, except when the building rubbles and falls over, wiping out a platoon of 6-2-8s with DCs. Turns out this particular ASL story is a lot more fun to hear than to experience.

The Soviets have plenty of bodies in this one, and so despite that loss, I kept pushing into the center. Then, Eric rolled a sniper. The Axis SAN of 5 is a real threat, and so I’d protected my kill-stack (10-2, 3x 4-5-8, .50 cal, 2x HMG) with some of those numerous Soviet bodies and surrounded it on two sides with 4-4-7s. That didn’t stop the 1 in 36 sniper hit on my 10-2’s location, and there was no way I could guard against the yahtzee that killed him and broke a squad. The ensuing 2LLMC broke everyone there and snuffed out my kill stack. Another ASL story that’s not too fun to experience, especially when you’ve already had it happen to you.

That left me with very little to throw at Eric’s weak spot, but I still had one trick up my sleeve. The only infantry he had in this sector was a stack of 2x 4-6-7, HMG, MMG…very nasty, but vulnerable to my OT-34. I’d bring that up, burn them out, and still break through with the few good order squads I had left. The Germans were in a key VC building, and it put Eric in a tough spot as the OT-34 rolled up. He decided to risk going for a PF and got one on his first roll. Needing a 4 TH (base 6 at two hex range, +2 for motion), he took the backblast, turned the OT-34 into scrap, and had both squads pass the 1MC. For the next few player turns, I was, as the song has it, “speaking a language the clergy do not know.”

That sequence really turned the game around and put me in a bad position. The rest of the game was a great exercise in improvisation, as I tried to regroup and throw my shattered force again and again against the stout German resistance. Bringing my armor forward, I managed to take out Eric’s weaker AFVs. Knocked out JgPz IV/70s and Hetzers choked the streets, but his PaK 43 88LL AT guns took a heavy toll on my armor as well. Then, both guns broke firing at infantry, leaving the King Tigers as vulnerable as King Tigers ever get. In one of my proudest moments, I successfully managed to Overrun one with a T-34 M43. Finally, a cool ASL story that actually is good for me! Now we were both dealing with the pressure of forces crumbling away. The game started to feel increasingly like a scene out of a Paul Carell book, with flames, smoke, and desperation everywhere. It is terrible history, but it’s fun reading and great ASL.

As time ticked away, freed from the menace of the PaK 43s, I managed to maneuver my two IS-2ms into a great spot. Peering through a miasma of drifting smoke and flame, they spotted one of Eric’s two King Tigers with a very tight LOS. We were within six hexes, there were four hindrances, he was double large, I was CE with armor leaders, it couldn’t get any better. DFPh: hull hit, bounce. Hull hit, bounce. PFPh: Hull hit, bounce. Hull hit, bounce. Eric’s DFPh: His BU King Tiger swings his slow-traversing turret around and fires at my normal sized target. Hull hit, but when it’s a CH, it still penetrates and burns the IS-2m. Arrrgh! At least the newly-placed smoke from the wreck blocks LOS and prevents Eric from using the ROF to kill my last IS-2m…

My infantry has not been idle during all this, swinging around to challenge Eric’s right flank. He has a Hungarian 4-4-7 there with one of those ungainly 20L, 2 ROF ATRs. He’s in a line of anti-tank ditches, and I send a platoon of 6-2-8s down it to take him out. The first 6-2-8 goes down to the 8+2 shot. Annoying, but it happens. The second breaks on the 4+2 residual shot, and so does the third. Getting desperate now, I send a 4-4-7 into an adjacent patch of woods, only to fall victim to the ATR…and it keeps ROF! That stupid ATR (and I admit to laughing at it pre-game when I saw it on the card) goes on to break another 4-4-7 and a 4-5-8. Ugh, and there goes any threat to Eric’s right.

Racking my brains to their utmost, I see one last slim chance on my left where a 5-4-8 in a fortified building location is protecting another VC area. I throw everything I can towards him, but most of my troops have to come from pretty far away and it tips my hand. Eric has a chance to respond, and drives a King Tiger right into the building to guard against the threat. He shifts his OBA over to the area, and it drifts right onto his 5-4-8. A little risky, but the OBA does make a good shield around him. With one turn to go, I still have a chance, but it’s a slim one.

With no margin for error, I bring a T-34 around for a BFF shot on the King Tiger. He has APCR, and the King Tiger (with 10-2 AL) is destroyed. Tasty, and it frees a second T-34 to go and park on the 5-4-8 and lock him down. That 5-4-8 is feeling pretty lonely right now. My few remaining Soviets get sequenced forward to draw off as much fire as they can and get into the VC building. There’s nothing I can do about the OBA though, and it’s cursedly effective as my troops run into the stone VC building and get hit by it. A series of 16+4s break and pin several of my units. Now it’s time to bring up my ace in the hole, a 6-2-8 and FT. I cross my fingers and he plunges into the OBA. Eric gets a good roll, and it’s a 2MC. The 8-1 with the FT squad pins. The squad passes! There’s still hope! It’s AFPh now, and with the game on the line, the FT goes to fire. A 24+1 through the OBA at the 5-4-8. The dice roll and spin and….boxcars. Germans win!

But wait! We’re fourteen hours in right now, and my brain is fried. I’m more confused than a baby at a topless bar. For some reason, I decide that the tank parked on the 5-4-8 makes him non-good order, and so I can advance in across non-breached hexsides. This is, of course, totally wrong, but thankfully Eric wins the ambush roll and withdraws for a slightly delayed victory. Germans win! My apologies to Eric for wrongly delaying his celebration there.

Well, I hope I managed to convey at least a faint impression of all the excitement we enjoyed playing this one. I think this is a very good scenario, and the dice and action gave both Eric and me a truly epic experience. We’ve both been playing ASL for years now, and we still had multiple events occur that we’d never seen before. Great times! I didn’t even get to mention my crazy OBA or the fact that our combined four FT units got off a single successful shot or that…

Thanks for reading!


AAR: BFP32 Slaughter At Nanyaun

Zeb Doyle

Chinese: Matt Schwoebel
Japanese: Zeb Doyle

For most of this summer, I was in an ASL drought, but fortunately things picked up in August and I got in some really fun gaming. One of my more entertaining battles was against Matt Schwoebel in BFP-32 Slaughter At Nanyaun. This is a nifty 1938 Japanese-Chinese battle across the relatively open boards 43 and 17, with the Japanese trying to get 80 points of CVP and EVP.

It’s a bit of an unusual scenario, since the attacking Japanese infantry are numerically outnumbered by a 3:2 ratio, and in FP roughly 1.3:1. That’s not even counting the four heavy-hitting 150mm and 75mm ART guns that the Chinese also get. To make up for this, the Japanese do receive some 70mm OBA (made very powerful by an offboard observer at level three, which can see vast expanses of the map) and three flame-throwing engineer vehicles, which operate much like the German SPW 251/16, in that they have two side-mounted flamethrowers and can thus get two shots per turn if maneuvered correctly.

This all makes for great fun if you like brain-teasers. The Japanese need to very cautiously work their way forward, identify the Chinese positions, and then work over any exposed Chinese strong-points with the flame-throwing vehicles. They have 2 AF, enough to ward off most MG fire, but not enough to stand up to the Chinese guns. This ends up being very tense but lots of fun. Every Japanese piece is precious, so there are no throw-away moves, and deciding how bold to be with the flame-throwers and what targets are worth risking the X11 20FP shots on is especially tricky.

In my playing with Matt, I sent my first wave of Japanese all down the left flank. He’d set up his Chinese scattered about in foxholes, and completely ignored the compound of stone buildings on board 43. Initially, I thought that he’d made a mistake, but it turns out the LOS from there isn’t especially good and any Chinese units placed there are probably thrown away. Instead, by concentrating his infantry further back in the foxholes, he maintained his numerical and FP edge, and had better TEM as well when my force finally contacted him. So, nice job, Matt...this is the second time your 'in-depth foxhole defense' has caused me all kinds of grief!

I sent some Type 94 tankettes rushing forward as scouts, and managed to find a 75mm and a 150mm gun at the cost of a single AFV….a very acceptable loss ratio to me. I then felt bold enough to send forward a single flame-throwing tank, and it managed to burn out several pockets of Chinese, before finding the last 150mm ART piece at the cost of its own destruction. Unfortunately, that left the bulk of Matt’s force positioned on my left flank, well covered by his big guns, and with no easy way of rooting them out. Things only got tougher in that sector when the Chinese reinforcements arrived with most of them also moving under the protective cover of those nasty 150mm monsters.

With my own reinforcements arriving, I decided not to reinforce failure, and would instead send my second wave of infantry up the middle. I would also redeploy my flame-throwing tanks to that area and see if I could force my way through an area that would have, at most, a single 75mm gun covering it. The downside to this was that the tanks would have to spend two turns moving into position, and since it was already turn four of a 7.5 turn game, I didn’t have any time to waste.

The push up the middle turned out to be a good move. As Matt’s Chinese scrambled to reposition, they had to move through a large patch of woods on board 17, and my offboard observer was able to rain airburst OBA pain on a huge number of them. Several missions, shifting between harassing fire and WP did an amazing amount of damage, with almost every 4-1 attack or 1MC breaking everyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast. That really cleared a path for my second wave of infantry to exit, and more importantly, I think it rattled Matt’s morale some. He reacted by bringing the Chinese armor aggressively over to block me. This is one reason I enjoy scenarios that have dual VC, like EVP and CVP-it makes a lot of otherwise easy decisions into painful trade-offs. Here, Matt threatened my infantry EVP with a bunch of 6FP CMGs, but also put a bunch of his 0 AF, 5 CVP vehicles in harm’s way.

As it turned out, my 37mm crewed infantry SW had a field day with the Chinese armor, going on several big ROF tears and killing most of it. That 3 ROF and 7TK has the potential to be deadly to everything in the Chinese armored force. The PSW 222 survived, but I managed to toast that threat with one of my flame-throwing tanks. When a scouting CX’d 9-0 Japanese leader managed to find the last 75mm gun, survive a 24-2 CH and a 24+0 CH, and then advance in and kill the crew in HtH CC, the floodgates really opened up for me, and the game ended on the last turn with the Japanese scoring 100 VP. Had Matt been a bit more judicious with his armor, or had my OBA not been so smashingly effective, it would have been a very tense and close finish.

So, BFP-32 Slaughter At Nanyaun is highly recommended. Since every move feels so vital, we both felt extra-drained and tired at the end, so be ready for that. The balance felt even to me, although I’d say the Japanese might be slightly more fragile. If they lose the OBA and several of the flame-throwers on fluke events, they aren’t going to win this. If the Chinese boxcar out those 150mm guns right off the bat, they are in trouble, but it’s not an auto-loss. I’d still take either side though for some fun Asian early-war action.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Houston August Gameday

Tom Gillis

Thanks for coming by dudes...! It was an awesome game day1

Rupert and I had a hell of a firefight in "Tanks, but no tanks" from schwerpunkt. We both rated it an 8 for ROAR. His early war poles held a tough defensive line with aplomb despite the intense pressure from my Red Army soviets...His two swedish 37L bofers atgs eventually got all 5 of my tanks...I captured his cool ATR but never had a chance to use it. I did a human wave/armoured assault on turn one led by my 9-0 commissar to capture the first VC building. But then I ran into a nest of angry poles who quickly massacred a surrendering 527. I took his men prisoners myself all game long so only he had declared no quarter. I ended up capturing about 5 squads of poles, (out of an OB of about 16 or so, which i mostly used to deploy my red army men.) His SAN of 4 was deadly!! He kia'd my 9-2 and an 8-0 on '1' sniper hits and double broke at least one of my 458 mmcs...! I also lost an 8-1 in CC. All this added up to rally probs for my soviets. His poles could declare H tH CC by SSR and they took out prob 4+ squads doing this. Ugly. I still was able to make quite a game of it despite the unrelenting polish defence, capturing two out of three VC buildings and being in the last one on the last two turns but unable to kick him out of it. well deserved win Rupert! Your men held out to the very end despite being out firepower'd on the last couple of turns...The issue was in doubt nearly the whole gamw which always makes for some extra excitement! A hell of a match! Good game Rupert! I look fwd to our nexrt one!

Jonnie and Matt also seemed to have a heck of a match going. They played some Ger/Rus scenario where Rupert and I could hear from time to time Jonnie's inability to manifest any soviet molotov cocktails apparantly...Matts Germans won it also on the last turn. Good game guys: what was the name of the scenario?

Jay and John had some apocalyptic last days battle also; between the war criminals, (the SS,) vs the avenging Red tide...They still had three turns to go when the meeting began to break up so they called it a draw. Jay and John were at a seperate table so
I wasn't able to catch many highlights of the match. Tell us the juicy bits guys...

Lastly thanks to Mark Carter showing up mid afternoon-ish to hang out AND bringing a case of beer to drink!1 Woo hoo Mark, very timely! Next match is at Colonel Matts place on sept the 25th..(Is that correct Matt?)

see you all soon and keep on rolling those ASL bones!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

AAR: PHD4 Counterattack

Ed Beekman

Germans: Jerry Simmons
Americans: Ed Beekman

We had a small gathering for some cardboard clashes at Jerry's ASL bunker this past weekend. We had one new face, Steve; Patrick Ireland, Jerry and I rounded out the group.

Patrick convinced Steve to try a little bit of Starter Kit, he'd played original Squad Leader years ago but nothing for a long time. They got a couple of turns of SK1 Taking Vierville (?) under their belts before Patrick
had to leave. Steve then watched the clash of titans.

Jerry and I played PHD4 Counterattack from Lone Canuck's Purple Heart Draw. The scenario takes place in the southwest corner of the beautiful Purple Heart Draw historical map with its dense bocage and orchard hexes. We diced for sides and Jerry got the Attacking Germans while I got the Defending Americans. I got a handful of first line squads a couple of second lines squads and elite HS. My leadership was normal along with a couple MMGs, Baz44's and a module of Bn MTRs. The Germans get a bevy of 2nd line troops along with some 8-3-8 engineers with DCs and a FT, a couple of StuGs, lots of leaders including a 9-2 and an AL but only a few of LMGs. The Americans are threatening to cut the St.Lo-Bayeaux road, the Germans are counter attacking to clear an intersecting road the Americans will use to move their main force to that road.

I set up a couple squads and a MMG on a wooded hill covering my right flank and threw a HS, 2nd Line squad, a dummy stack and my artillery observer along the hedgerows of my left flank. A MMG and Baz team covered the turn in the road and my last Baz squad and best leader I put HIP in the rear for my final Alamo.

Jerry pushed in from the middle through a large apple orchard, only drawing a little ineffective fire against his 9-2 leader/LMG kill stack. The German troops, who were still bunched up along a narrow front, breathed a little easier when my first OBA access draw was a red card. My first turn saw me gain battery access and place a spotting round only 1 hex away from the requested location, followed by skulking - but leaving enough dummies to keep Jerry guessing which non-moving stack had the Observer.

The second turn had Jerry's Jerries storming my left flank. One of his StuGs bogged coming over the hedgerow but my 2nd Liner's took cover rather than react to the beast while the observer remained hidden and successfully called in a spotting round on his own location. The turn ended with one of my squads running for their lives, a HS dead and the StuG immobilized by the Observer and his squad.

My second turn had me skulking and realigning my positions. My observer, stuck in melee with the immobilized StuG were nearly encircled and taking fire from all the hedgerows to their south. This included the only burst from the FT as it ran out of juice with a DR of 11. That's when we realized my troops must have been recent Russian emigres to the States. The OBA observer went Berserk from the first shots, and although the squad ELRd from the same shots they also went berserk. While my knot of defenders knocked out the StuG and regained their Good Order status, the Germans all around concealed themselves and took up positions to attack toward the turn in the road.

My MG crew took one shot and then was eliminated by the 9-2's return fire. I was able to frustrate attempts to place a DC at the point of the hill on my right but that American 6 morale isn't enough to stand a determined and numerically superior opponent. On my left, my observer was able to survive the prep fire and call in harassing fire on his own position. It was mainly a nuisance but did break a squad and stop the Germans from amassing along the road for a major push.

On my right flank, I had ANOTHER squad go berserk when he rallied. His charge denied the Germans the opportunity to keep another broken squad DM, but was finally eliminated by my own fire into the melee. After several rounds of melee, my observer, his field promoted successor and guards finally fell.

In the meantime, Jerry had worked some units through the dense hedgerows to my left to start a pincer back down the road while a leader ran about and found my HIP unit. My last dummy stack got blasted to the moon by a near critical hit (Rolled snakes but subsequent dr not low enough for ITT shot) from the other StuG. With a turn to go I had 4 Good Order MMCs in position to deny the German Victory. The last squad on the southern hill broke and I couldn't rally him and so he was out of the fight. A key self rally had a squad who broke early in the game return to action in my Alamo. On the last turn Jerry had three hexes to put out of Good Order. He encircled the bazooka team who missed their shot against the last StuG as it moved against another of my positions. This HS ended the game locked in melee.

The StuG came over the hedgerow where my former HIPsters were but died from an underbelly hit from my bazooka. I missed the burning wreck by one but Jerry made his crew survival and while I was preoccupied with this pesky crew he moved his 9-2 led stack Adjacent to my location. Jerry's job became a little harder when my leader became a 9-2 Hero during DF but the game ended with this stack also locked in Melee.

Finally I had a concealed squad and my 2nd line miracle self rally squad in a stone building. My unconcaled squad was able to pin an attacking squad and wound the leader with them but still had a HS and concealed German unit in position to jump them in melee. There was no ambush so I couldn't sneak away for the victory. Jerry elected to use everything to attack my concealed unit while my concealed unit refused combat and the unconcealed unit attacked. Jerry failed to get a result on my concealed unit and so the game ended on the last roll of the last CC phase of the last turn. Great game Jerry.

Steve, who had been watching since mid game seemed entranced and appreciated our explanations of the terrain and some of our tactics. Welcome to the world of ASL Steve, I know you'll love it as much as the rest of us!