Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lots of ASL goodness...

Got together with Rob W., Rob R., and a new addition to our group, Issac W. (Lots of "W"'s in our club...). Rob R. and Issac squared off against each other in The Meat Grinder from AP5 with Rob pulling off the win. Row W. and I on the other hand playtested a new Chas Argent scenario from AP6. This one's about done, we figure.

I don't recall the name of the scenario but it is a 7.5 turn romp in 1944 France. It uses 1/2 (A-Q) of board 50 and 1/2 (R-GG) of one of the new boards. The Germans (SS Panzergrenadiers supported by two tanks - A StuGIII and another one) have to enter on the narrow end of board 50, attack and take two buildings on board 50 (B6 and C5 to be specific) and then exit > 12 VP off the opposite narrow end on the new one. The Americans win by preventing this OR killing both tanks. The Americans can set up anywhere on the new board or in hexes A-D inclusive on board 50. The Americans also get to HIP 1 squad equivalent and SW.

As the Americans, I decided to deploy a 2nd line squad (simply because the 1st and 2nd line squads have the same unbroken morale - though, if I had it to do over again, I'd probably split one of the devil 6-6-6 squads) and I needed to HIP 2 of my 3 bazookas to keep Rob guessing. I chose to do so in the back field (on the new board) where they could overlap their 3-hex "effective" range on the side of the board where I assumed he would drive the tanks down, but not in the obvious places. I put them further back to try and lure him into complacency figuring if he had to constantly search concealment terrain for BAZ troops, eventually, he'd have to give up and just go for the finish line and I could get him then.

The rest of my strategy was one of retreat. There is NO WAY the Americans are going to hold these buildings against the Germans. Don't even try. The trick is to make them waste time trying to get to them while falling back past them into the trees where the new board begins. I set up forward (mostly on Hexrow 50D). I evened out my two machine gun stacks so that Rob wouldn't know exactly where my 9-1, 6-6-7 and HMG was versus my other 6-6-7 and MMG. The rest of the counters I used as dummy stacks, even placing one set in one of the Victory buildings and then "filling" out the rest of my front line and adding a "mobile reserve" a few hexes back on the new board to start a fallback support group. I put the HMG up on the level 2 hill on the left side of the board and the MMG in the grain on the right.

The plan was to make the Germans take 3 or 4 (preferrably 4) turns to get to and take the buildings (falling back on turns 3 and 4 to the woods area you first get to when you enter the new board. The MG's would fall back first to take up support positions in the woods covering the "exit" approaches and helping to get as many of the remaining squads back as possible. Then for another turn or 2 (preferrably two) the squads would hold up the german advance or die trying. Finally, the Germans have to rush for the finish line where my two BAZ HS waited to "splodey" some tanks.

The plan was actually working reasonably well up until turn 3. I was keeping the Germans cautious and they were slowing a little bit. I decided to shift the HMG down off the hill and get it back to the woods where it could support the retreat. Bob couldn't let that happen, of course and took a shot along a really CLOSE, unblocked line of sight and got a KIA (and my sniper), keeping rate on both his LMG's. "That 9-1 leader's DAID, son!" DOH!!!!! Squad fails LLTC and breaks. Rob rates again with the MG's, I fail again on the MC, now it's a HS. Rob FINALLY looses rate but hits, I fail the final MC and just like that, one of my MG's is gone (destroyed even). Sniper was hot, though and killed his 9-1 leader - something anyway. THAT was a disheartening turn, to say the least, but OK...I'm going to pass my PMC and go on.

I start to fall back with my other MG, trying to keep to cover to get back to the patch of woods on the right side. Same German kill stack. KIA. MMG left in hex. At this point I'm in REAL TROUBLE. Turn 4 sees the Germans advancing on the Victory Buildings. I try to do some damage because I'm going to need to take less fire as I fall back due to no support. I actually get some decent shots in but only one has any effect. It also activates his sniper. Bang. 7-0 leader Dead. No MG's, No Leaders. I retreat in earnest. Guys putting on their blue hats on the way back. No one to tell them they're out of style.

At this point the plan has completely fallen to pieces. Instead of having the exit lanes covered by MG's and BAZ, there is BAZ with no leadership. The right side of the board is completely open except for a lone BAZ HS in the backfield. Instead of the Germans having to rush for 1.5-2 turns to get off the board, they can leisurely take 3.5 while searching out my BAZ HS and killing them making way for the tanks to exit with impunity. We decided to call it.

Aside from my atrocious luck, this scenario is actually pretty well balanced. I think that the strategy I hit upon is a pretty sound one. Instead of putting the MG on the hill I might have considered starting it in the woods on the new board. Other than that and some minor movement mistakes with dummy squads, I think I played pretty soundly (from a tactical perspective). Rob will be sending an AAR to Chas with our balance recommendations, but from a straight OB/VC/SSR perspective, I think this one's pretty well done. So does Rob.

As a side note, I also got my first look at the finished AP5. Man it was neat to see my name listed as a Playtester. Doin' some work for the hobby. Feels good. I already have a scenario I want to try from the pack as well. Good times. I LOVE this game.

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