Thursday, September 27, 2012

AAR: FrF4 Barbarossa D-Day

Nick Drinkwater

German (ELR 4, SAN 2]: Walter Eardley
Russian [ELR 2, SAN 2]: Nick Drinkwater

A very rare Drinkwater-sighting in Houston!

Yes, its true, I'm on a flying visit through H-town to do the annual medicals, dentists and opticians, but as well as all that work-related crap, I'm able to squeeze in a single night of gaming with Mr. Eardley, as well as pick up and pay for this year's games stash that he's been secreting for me. This year coming back with me to Angola, we have GMT's Infidel and Flying Colors 2 - the Serpent of the Seas, as well as MMP's Kingdom of Heaven and a good quality, used version of B-17 which I snagged on ebay. Funnily enough I have to leave behind my new copy of the game 'Angola' by MMP as that wouldn't be well received by the customs agents in Luanda!

As ever with me on these trips, time is of a premium but there is just enough to get in a quick scenario so that I can pretend to keep my hand in / give Walter easy win points (delete as appropriate). The last scenario I played was a year ago when Matt completely outplayed me and handed me my ass in a game of Ivanovsski so it’s been a while...

Rolling for sides gives me the godless proles from Asia who have to try and hold onto the Board 43 Alamo until game end (6.5 turns) vs. a bunch of Hitlerian hells angels. (In English, six 447s, a couple of LMGs and weak leaders at start, vs. a 221B armoured car and seven mixed 467s and 468s on motorbikes and sidecars). Armour support comes in Turn 3 for both teams - two 50mm Mk IIIs and an old style 37L one for the Hermans (all with those stellar bow and co-ax MGs) and six T26s for the Ivans - great gun, but that's about the only high point - saddled with the killer platoon movement to make their life harder, they also have red mechanical reliability issues and paper thin armour. If there's a good order Russian MMC within two hexes of the center of the Alamo, then chalk up another annoying delaying victory for the Glorious Revolutionaries; if not, then its bratwurst eating time in Moscow.

The first three turns were effectively the appetizer to the main event, the appearance of the tanks. Walter comes on with the most direct attack from the southern board edge of Board 44 and despite having a half-squad shot off bikes, is pretty quickly into my speedbump which sadly go down as prisoners. The defenders of the perimeter of the Alamo are made of sterner stuff though, and though I was ambushed even though I was the concealed first line squad jumping onto a 467 (go figure), I was able to eventually dispatch the fritzes to bring it back to a 1 vs. 1.5 squads lost by Turn 2 – and this is a game where the infantry matter. Some inspired shooting and hang-tough defense meant that I was twice able to break and roll back the point of Walter's attack, even with mega tank MG attacks in Turn 3 – I was even able to dash and then battle harden a squad back to the main festung - style point city!

So far, all good. Walter kept breaking MA guns and I was rolling with inspiration instead of desperation for once. All was brewing nicely for the main course of the armour battle...the 37L came on to weigh in against the Alamo defenders, while the two 50mm gun ones moved ready to recieve the rush, sorry, make that grinding crawl of my six armoured heroes of the Soviet Union across the large grain field immediately east of the Alamo main building. The first T26 platoon inched on and ground their way to the back entrance of the Alamo dodging a bunch of first fire from the two 50mm Mk IIIs, leaving themselves able to suppress any Germans trying to cross the innermost Alamo courtyard. My other T26 platoon humped their way into the Grainfield but missed every shot in advancing fire, of course breaking one gun, but at least leaving acqisitions on their opponents for next turn. Finally my Commissar with the newly toughened 458 and another 447 leapt into CC with an adjacent 50mm Mark III. Needing a 7 and a 5, they both missed their cc attacks which was hugely disappointing and a grim addition to the three missed advancing fire shots from the grainfield platoon…in a pattern not unfamiliar to my visits to Walter’s house, my dice go cold just at the wrong time. Plus ca change…

The German Prep Fire phase of Turn 4 was basically the game – after a succession of hideous German rolls for the first three turns, the two 50mm Mark IIIs decided it was now time to became marksmen, first class…hit with a three, keep rate, kill T26, hit with another three, keep rate, kill T26, hit with a 5, lose rate, kill T26, other tank hit in-hex Commissar stack with MGs, miss, hit commissar stack in-hex with MA hit, break, break, break. Done.

We staggered on some more but from a really strong position, I was now in a majorly losing position – the other T26 platoon managed to confront the 37L Mk III that had just broken its gun (for the second time), but both my clutzes missed on their advancing fire phase. Next turn, the 37L repaired its gun (of course) for the second time, found a shell and killed off the fourth T26 before eventually succumbing to return fire. A lone 447 failed to kill a 247 in Melee for three turns before succumbing himself – typical – and Walters HMG squad survived a hit and a critical hit from the last T26 with only a pin. Finally with only the 7-0, a LMG and a 447 concealed and unbroken on the top level of the Alamo left unbroken on the board, I conceded when my last T-26 rolled boxcars on the bottom of Turn 5. Walter still had both 50mm Mk IIIs, the armoured car, the HMG, 2 x LMGs and 5 of his original seven squads plus a 9-1. Time to say goodbye.

A fun game – not bad from me but clearly still pretty rusty as it was my first game in months and only fourth in the last 3 years, but I mis-played the first of the two tank platoons and that was my downfall – the first platoon should have stayed around to help knock out the German tanks and aid the grainfield platoon by keeping them in a cross-fire. However, I became fixated with helping out the desperately stretched infantry in the Alamo by sending them immediate armour support, and at that point the lack of tactical maneuverability due to platoon movement hit home hard. We both thought the CC attempt with the Commissar was the right play, but my dice went cold just at the wrong moment and left them hideously exposed. Walter played his usual methodical, steady game, despite some hideous luck on early dice, and ruthlessly exploited the opportunities when they became available. Well played!

And so back to Angola for some more fun there – hope everyone well and will see you all again in the future!