Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battles of the American Revolution, Vol. VII (GMT) ~ "Germantown"

Game: Battles of the American Revolution Series
Scenario: Germantown
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Thursday, Feb 24th ~ 7.15PM - 9.00PM, Sunday Feb 27th ~ 2.30PM - 5.00PM

Volume VII of the BAR (or is it ARW?) series finds us in Germantown, near Philadelphia. I have to admit that I know very little of the ARW, most of it that I've picked up in the last ten years has been due to this fine series by GMT. I own every game in the series and have played all but two, Savannah and Pensacola. In fact we've played Saratoga and Guilford/Eutaw Springs many times. Yet for some reason when Germantown was released late last year, I clipped the counters and slipped it on the shelf giving it little thought (aside from noticing that GMT is now using my cards as chit idea for all of the games). It must also be noted the GMT had a heck of a good year last year in terms of new games I was pretty excited to play, and this likely contributed to my neutral response at the time of this games release. 

When I started setting up, I was a little worried that this one was going to be a big as Brandywine, but in truth I would say this is a medium sized game, playable in 4-5 hours or even less by experienced players. As we had not played anything from this series in a year or so I was a bit concerned that we'd be in over our heads. But that concern faded quickly as I re-read the rules and examined the exclusive rules closely. For some reason, we decided Bob would play the Americans. I believe Bob found the rules for General Stephens drunken marauding highly entertaining.

Set Up
Germantown opens with another of General Washington's patented multi pronged attacks on the encamped British Army. The British had just taken Philadelphia and were not thinking that Washington would be looking for a fight (we've heard this before haven't we). The Americans set up in roughly two groups, with another arriving on turn one. This arriving force consists of two of the American columns, one of which is lead by the soon to be cashiered General Stephens. Luckily for the British they seemed to have camped out in one nice long line. There are some British Pickets close to the Americans when the action opens.

After Set Up, Prior to the start of play
There are some special rules for this game. For one we have some serious fog, which aided the Americans in their approach. There is also the famous "Chew House" which the British turned into a mini-fortress (Hougoumont style!). The final set of special rules deals with Stephens units marching around in a random pattern for much of the game (which happened historically) as well as rules handling friendly fire, as some of these units fired or where fired upon by other American units in the area.

There are three levels of Victory, the Americans have to charge in and take some VP hexes (near the British starting area) while the Brits have to keep them out. There is also the standard (and the one that has decided most of our games of this series) Army Morale victory, where one side will force the other to leave the field after taking enough hits against their morale.

Turns 1-3

These turns went quickly, for one the British player (me) is unable to move all but a few of his units on the first turn. Bob rolled in and we had our first combat, he pushed my forward units (1 Inf and 1 Art) back. On my first turn I fell back to the Chew house having a hard time because of the fog, which reduces non-road bound movement.

End of US 2nd turn Movement, prior to Combat Phase

US pressure near the Chew House, Turn 3
We did have a bit of a time with the rules on Stephens units, but the random direction kept them clear of any friendly fire episodes. I made a few mistakes early on that cost me some Army Morale. I was hampered by the Fog (-1MP) as well as my brain, I kept forgetting that movement along a lane or road was .5 a MP and this caused me to place my Hessian Cavalry unit in Harms way, allowing Bob to mob it. The Cavalry held out though, but I lost a unit outright to Wayne's Furious wing and I feel like I blew the defense of the Chew house from the get go (next time I'm piling more SP's of Infantry in there and letting the Cannons get overrun). My early Artillery performance was disappointing to say the least...a trend that lasted the course of the game.

As we drew to a close on Thursday evening, I was down 4 or 5 on the Army Morale table while Bob was maxed out. I had lost a couple of units, but we were both getting the hang of the system again.

Turns 4-5

Despite my poor handling of the Chew house, the stout defenders remain a thorn in the American Side. Bob sidestepped this with most of his troops as he rushed to get to the Market Square before I could. I was able to get a line set up in front of if prior to his arrival though and it was a nice position as most of my line was behind a stream. I gained confidence once I was able to start moving the entire British force.

The British Line, end of turn 5
I had since Sunday gone to the GMT site and downloaded the living rules to the Exclusive rules as HeavyD told me there was a lot of errata. I was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to see so much blue text in the living rules. It made sense though as Bob and I spent a lot of time on Sunday interpreting what we thought the rules were around Stephens random movement. At least now we had a very clear understanding of it. Also, none of the errata's contented had much of an effect up to the point where we paused on Sunday.

I was able to get my line set up nicely to meet Bobs advance. Bob sent Geene up the middle with Wayne on his left. Most of these attacks were over the stream as well. I had a massed most of my Artillery here in anticipation of this attack. Sadly my gunners continued to shoot wide of the mark.

Washington's Army Assaults the Main British Line
While my Gunners had let me down, my Infantry stepped up and beat back this initial Assault. In two back to back attacks, Bob rolled a '0', used a momentum for a re-roll and rolled another '0' (Attacker Captured, +1 British Momentum), this was followed by the exact same sequence and another one of Bob's attacking units was Captured! In this picture you can see the two hexes where I placed the momentum markers marking the scene of Bob's spectacular dice failures.

Captured! Two American Units Surrender in the initial fighting
Turns 6-8

The momentum had definitely swung in my direction, I was now climbing back up the Army Morale table, while Bob was sliding down it. Not only had Bob lost two units (Captured), another couple were running back in disorder and his line was a mess. Howe say his chance on my right and moved in for the kill. Elsewhere I reformed my line with some late arriving Hessian units. I didn't want to advance in the Center until I had turned his left. 

Here though the American Artillery stepped up the hold the line. Bob sent several of my attacking units back in disorder while Wayne (now even more furious at the surrender of the two units) refused of give way. Here you can see my counter attack on the right along with the result of fine American Artillery fire as several British units are sent reeling.

Counterattack! Howe leads the British Right into the fight
After Wayne's defeat of Howe's counterattack, Bob reformed his line and again sent Greene and Wayne in against the British Center. I was now much thinner here due to sharp American Artillery fire. Arnold was also taken out around this time (as was done historically) by Artillery fire.

Washington's 2nd attack on the British Center succeeds
Bobs attacks in the center were successful, sending even more Redcoats back in disorder. After my counterattack had failed I started to slide back down the Army Morale table, this led to even more American success on the line as my troops morale was now at -2. The fog lifted a bit as well and this allowed the American Gunners to shot gaping holes in my line. Finally the Chew house fell and the British had had enough, turning towards Philadelphia in flight.

Flight! The British line Breaks

The above picture is what the field looked like when my Army was Demoralized. You can see Cornwallis near Maglee's Hill desperately try to stem the tide of defeat. It was not to be however.

So, despite a loss, this was a terrific time. We saw the pendulum swing wide in both directions, but in the end it swung back to Bobs Americans and especially his highly skilled Gunners. I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the mechanics of this game, but a word here is in line. Every time I play one of the games in this series I am once again blown away with how much I like nearly everything about it. Here are just a few highlights (for me at least):

  • Combat Chits (cards, now...thank you) this mini guessing game that is built into the overall melee combat process is priceless. I love trying to out guess my opponent and squeal in delight when I do! (howling when I am out guessed as well, so much fun)
  • The Army Morale Table: an excellent mechanic for capturing the overall state of the battle.
  • Initiative: using the AM table and momentum to help create uncertainty in who will go first the next turn creates another layer of tension for the player 
  • Close Combat: the way that some units will run, leaving others there to deal with what may come in the next turn is perfect for this linear type of battle
Bob and I are heading back to the Eastern Front now (U43) but I hope to get another one of these on the table after that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Counterattack at Carentan" [WO3]

Game: ASL
Scenario: Counterattack at Carentan [WO3]
Participants: Jeffery "Jeffe" I, Myself
Time: Thursday, Feb 17th ~ 5.30PM - 9.45PM

Oh how excited I was to start the nearly annual Jeff Ital ASL Marathon. Last year Jeffe and I played 4 scenarios in the waning days of Winter and into Spring. These scenario's were some of the most exciting and satisfying ASL games I played last year. I'm not sure how Jeffe's ASL clock works, in that he'll play a lot in a short period of time and then move on; I can only say that I am happy that he is back on ASL again, and at nearly the same time as last year.

Since it was a school night, we wanted to start with something smaller. We also wanted to use something out of the recent releases, so "Counterattack at Carentan" fit this bill nicely. Its 3/3 on ROAR (before we played at least) and looked like a challenge for both side.

The scenario takes place in June of 1944. The US has liberated Carentan and is pushing out from this strategic town, trying to link up with the Omaha Beachhead. A company from the 506th PIR stumbles into a counterattacking force from the 6th FJ Regiment and elements of the 17th SS PG Division. The scenario takes place on boards 54 (Bocage) and 63 (new in the WO pack, mostly open terrain). The Germans have to exit 15 CVP off the North edge of the boards (two half boards) by then end of turn 6 without losing 19 CVP.

Just prior to starting
The Americans have 5 7-4-7s, 2 3-3-7s, two leaders (9-1 & 8-1) an MMG and two BAZ44s setting up on board 54 in the Bocage. On board 63 they have a lone 57L ATG. The Germans enter on the South edge of the board with a nice force of 6 6-5-8s, 3 5-4-8s, three leaders (9-1,  8-0 & 7-0), three LMGs and a DC. The Germans also have 4 AFVs, two STuG IIIGs, one StuH 42 and a Marder III. The German force is elite (depletion number are increased by one) and inexperienced (like having a 6+1 AL in each vehicle). There are very few SSRs and no Overlays...a perfect school night scenario.

As neither one of us had a side preference, we rolled and I got the Germans. After seeing Jeffe's set up I decided that I would be best suited attacking heavily along my left as he would run out of room after a turn or two. Jeffe set up strong in the middle, but left a field in the middle of board 54 uncovered, which allowed my right hand platoon to move in and be 1-hex away from his main line unobserved. 

Jeffe moves during his 1st turn

End of German turn 2

Turns 1-2

As I mentioned already, I was surprised that Jeffe let me get that platoon on the right so far forward on turn 1. On my left, where I had the bulk of my force, things went well. I believe I had a HS break and the Sniper broke another squad, but I was able to break his squad covering that flank and interdict him getting any other units over there. I had a MA break on one of the IIIGs. I was very happy with the first two turns as I had covered a lot of ground without suffering too many (1-2) broken units.

Jeffe and Frank ponder his turn
  Turns 3-4

At the start of his turn three he was already out of room on his left and I was feeling very good about my progress. Jeffe elected to reveal his ATG at the end of my 3rd turn to deny a squad and leader concealment. He had placed his ATG on my left, where I was breaking through his line. The Gun had a few squads in LOS at 6-8 hexes range as well as seeing the StuH 42 behind a Bocage. I was relieved that I now knew where the gun was and felt like I could deal with it. On my next Prep Fire, I had the StuH 42 place smoke in the guns hex and ran a HS (CX) over next to the gun. At the same time this was going on, I was trying to overrun his center. By now his Hero was alone in a hex seemingly holding off my entire advance. I couldn't advance into the Hero's hex in the advance phase as I was already CX and advancing across the bocage into the woods is not allowed when you are already CX (advance vs difficult terrain), thus the Hero was able to hold out another turn and give Jeffe's 9-1 a chance to rally one of his broken squads.

A good close up at the start of US turn 4 (the hero is alone under the WA marker in the center)

Start of US turn 4

Turn 5-6

These last turns were pretty exciting. I was running out of time and Jeffe was running out of units. This was really more about Jeffe's lone Hero and SAN more then the rest of his force. These two men (hero and Sniper) alone took out a 9-1, my Marder (SAN - Recalled), a StuG (hero BAZ kill). As you can see from the picture above, Jeffe had a couple of borken squads, the one on the right I was determined to kill (failure to rout) as if I DM'd it and wasn't able to interdict it, he would rout along with the GO 8-1 back to the stone buildings 3-4 hexes to his rear. I couldn't allow this to happen as time was running short and with the vehicle losses I was going to have to get most of my Infantry off the board to win. During my movement phase I saw that I could get a squad next to the broken squad and 8-1 and have one of the remaining StuGs drive by him to interdict. However I had forgotten that the Hero still had the BAZ as well as the MMG next to the road. There was a GO squad and 9-1 behind the Hero making it hard for me to rush the hex.

Start of German turn 5
So I moved my guys on the right up and got next to the broken squad and 8-1, but when I moved the remaining StuG next to the Hero Jeffe took it out at two hexes, waiting for the limited aim to burn off. The only bright side if this (my forgetting about the Hero's BAZ) was that my next move (in semi desperation) succeeded in getting a GO non-CX squad into the wrecks hex, thus interdicting the route path of the broken squad.

By now Jeffe was running out of units; I was running out of time and nearing the CVP cap. In the end we had some interesting CC with a lone 9-1 trying to CC one and a half of my squads as well as a squad of prisoners. But it was that close, as I started looking at exiting the required VP to win I realized just how close this had become. Here again the SAN stuck, killing my 9-1 and thus robing me of those exit VPs,  but worse the squads near him were now in danger of not having enough MFs to exit. I don't recall winning a scenario where the defender had no units left on the board by this slim a margin.

The End as the Germans exits 15 VPs for the win
So this was a great scenario. While we both had some good dice, I would say that the dice were roughly the same for each of us. Both of us played an excellent rules game, by that I mean that the Bocage rules were second hand and both of us used them to our advantage. I believe its much harder to defend in Bocage then to attack in it and this scenario highlights this as I was seemingly always within a hex or two of him and he wasn't able to slow me down due to the dense terrain. I think the closeness of the terrain is a real risk for the US player here as if he doesn't get out of the Bocage with a few units, he's going to lose them all and have nothing left. Jeffe felt like he made some poor choices on turn 1 and 2 in not pulling back much faster then he did.

Jeffe is as always an excellent opponent and a highly entertaining ASL partner. I am very much looking forward to the next few months until his ASL attention span peters out. We are scheduled to play again in two weeks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Insult to Injury" [AP47]

Game: ASL
Scenario: Insult to Injury [AP47]
Participants: Joe "YJ" C, Myself
Time: Saturday, Feb 12th ~ 12.00PM - 5.00PM & Sunday, Feb 13th ~ 1.00PM - 6.00PM

This all started with YJ and I wanting to play the Kursk Mini-CG from J3. So we picked a Saturday and planned ahead, choosing our sides and making our OB selections, then I sat down and set the boards up. I failed my Scenario set up TC and called off the first scenario because I was confused about the wording of the German set up...I posted on CSW (no help), I bothered Pete on FB (he said it was fine)...nothing. So I decided to find another scenario that was similar to the Kursk Mini and found this one. It's nearly a perfect match to the first scenario in forces and size. Its also designed by Pete Shelling, the Kursk Mini designer. Then I looked at ROAR, oh dear, 19-9 in favor of the Germans. My Hubris leaned over and said "we can handle that, just give YJ the Germans and we'll take the balance", and that was that.

After Russian set up, HIP guns are visible, prior to German set up
The OB is pretty big and diverse for both sides, so I'll skip it. The scenario takes place in July of 43, in the middle of Operation Zitadel. The Germans have an Elite force of Infantry (SS) as well as about half a dozen tanks and assault guns including two Tiger I's. The Germans are attacking, Victory is determined by multi-hex building control (5VP each) and mobile vehicles (2VP each) with in 5 hexes of the two clusters of multi-hex buildings (on each side of the map).

This is after German Turn 2 I believe
The Russians start with a force of 4-5-8s on the map and get three turns worth of reinforcements, including 12 tanks (T34s, T70s and KVs). There are three maps, with the two VP locations roughly on each side in the middle. There are two stream overlays in the middle restricting the Russian players options around his reinforcements in that he has to choose one side or the other, its hard to traverse the board once you have picked a side to enter on.

Turns 1-3

A good view of the whole map at the end of the 2nd turn
YJ started off driving three of his tanks (two III's and one Tiger) right in the midst of my HIP guns. This made my Hubris very happy as my 57LL took out all three. The Tiger I got it in the prep fire phase on a side shot that I happened to just notice as I was looking around for things to shoot at with the 57LL as I had maintained rate after taking out the 2nd Pz III. I needed like a 5-6 to hit and rolled a 4, side shot, 1 Tiger down for YJ. My Hubris and I were pretty happy in these early turns. I  moved on my first turn reinforcements and took up what I thought were very good positions near the right hand VP locations. YJ was going to have to come at my tanks to drive me out of the VP area. YJ was also mostly ignoring the left hand VP area, where I had set up all my on-board forces (leaving only dummies on the right).

What the right hand VP area looked like at the end of German Turn 2
Turns 4-7

It has been a while since I've played a scenario with this much armor on both sides (yes, I am starting to explain, so you know what that means!).  Thus I approached the defense of my right on some ideas that are not (in hind sight) the best choices for a Russian player with many more vehicles then the German in 1943. In short as you can see by my deployment, I put my AFVs in potions that were near or in the 5-hex radios of the location they needed to be in to get the VPs at the end of the game. I placed them in groups so that YJ would have to face two or three tubes each time he wanted to go after some. At this point I had killed three of his tanks and was content with sitting back and making him come to me and my many more AFVs then his. He of course did this, choosing his fights wisely. In several cases he'd roll up with one STuG against two or three T34s and take them out. He hits better and penetrates MUCH better then I do. I am needing 4-5 to get a kill and he's needing 7 or 8. Even if we trade kills I am still in good shape as I can run him out of AFVs. Well trading wasn't in the cards today.

One Amazing Stug IIIG
The above picture captures my late game attempt at revising my Russian armor plan. YJ had started to get the upper hand on the Right, killing 4-5 of my tanks at no cost to him. He had moved his remaining Tiger into the center of the town and his SS Infantry was pushing my hapless 4-4-7s slowly away from the VP buildings. I had to do something. The left was never going to get taken by him,despite him sending all of his Infantry reinforcements and late arriving armor to that area.

I was still mathematically alive for a victory as long as I could take out several of his AFVs while keeping my remaining ones alive and in the VP areas at the end of the game. So I started playing my armor like I should have from the very beginning. I rushed one of his STuGs with two KV-1S's and a couple of squads. He missed, IF'd and broke his gun (woohoo!). Both of my KVs were still alive and in an excellent position to get an additional HT and STuG the next turn. In the CC phase my 5-2-7 + 8-1 leader gacked their CCV attack against the STuG (yeah, the one with the broken MA and no manned usable MGs). It was at this point that I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no way he was NOT repairing the MA on the STuG and killing my two KVs. Sure enough in the next Rally phase he repairs the gun...and the rest was history. I played on though...still at least mathematically in it, but I knew I was done for, I had not seen my Hubris at all in hours.

YJ was finally able to kill enough of my AFVs to ensure his win. I thought YJ played a very good game. He stuck to it after the devastating opening couple of turns. One thing I love about board 56 (the one on my right) is that even though nearly every hex on it has some sort of terrain in it, it is as open as a desert board when it comes to LOS. The buildings on this map are small and there are LOSs all over the place. Its a real nail biter trying to decide if you can see that guy across the street behind the one shack. In nearly every case where he and I had a close LOS it was open!

Lastly, I'll mention the part where YJ figured out the set up for the first Kursk scenario in like 9 seconds after looking at it! Thus next time (early March) we get together we will start that Mini-CG which I have it on good account that its an excellent time. All in all though, even though I lost this totally unbalanced dog! ;) I couldn't think of a better way to spend the ten hours it took to play it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

PQ-17 (GMT) ~ "I. PQ-6: The Kriegsmarine's First Effort"

Game: PQ-17
Scenario: "I. The Kriegsmarine's First Effort"
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D and Myself
Time: Friday, Feb 11th ~ 6.30PM - 9.30PM

Tonight HeavyD and I had our first game of PQ-17. The game simulates Surface, Submerged and Air combat at Sea in the Arctic. It covers a subject that I had only read about in the context of other works on WWII. I have read Clay Blair's excellent pair of books on the submarine campaign in the North Atlantic as well as some other books on the WWII European Naval conflict, non focusing on this subject though. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the game designers including a selected bibliography of the source materials he used in designing the game. I am now the proud owner of three new books on this topic, one of which I have already started and really enjoy. I love it when a designer includes a bibliography in the designer notes.

This game uses blocks to represent surface and submarine units and task forces. Counters are used to represent air units. There are two turns per day, and if I recall the scale is roughly 100 miles per hex. Your convoys will move one hex usually, while your warships will move two and in some cases three hexes in a turn. Subs can move two also, but then are unable to attack if they moved. The most interesting and promising mechanic of the design has each player use his own deck of cards to handle all of the things needed to maintain fog of war. This is key in Naval games and from what I've seen so far this process is very successful. The idea as I understand it came from Lee Brimmecombe-Woods excellent work in his "The Burning Blue", also by GMT. The way the cards work allows each player to do searches when applicable without divulging if a block is a real unit or dummies. The same process is used to handle Ice Damage, which also played a big role in this campaign.

HeavyD and I selected the small 'trainer' scenario to start off with as that is what is suggested by the designer (Chris Janiec). This scenario covers PQ-6, this convoy managed to reach Murmansk unscathed in December of 1942. It was one of the first ones that the Germans actively tried to engage in the campaign. The weather is very Icy and with each turn a night turn, there is very little chance that the Luftwaffe will get a chance to play a part in the action. The German player has 4 operable DDs and three U-boats at his disposal to interdict the progress of PQ-6. The British Player has the Convoy of 8 merchant ships and nearly a dozen warships at his disposal to protect the convoy en route.

I wont go into too much detail on the actual game as it was our first and we spent a lot of time getting to know the many mechanics of the game. I will say that I am excited to continue with this game as I think its got some good potential. I like the search mechanics a lot. We didn't have a chance to use air or surface combat, but we did get used to the ASW and Torpedo combat process and I like what I've seen so far. I do like the components, they do the job and don't detract from the game. The game creates a good narrative and moves at a good pace, even when each player has a lot of things going on. As I understand from the boards at CSW you are going to be able to play many of the scenario's in one sitting, and this is a plus. Also there is a campaign component that looks very promising once we get the hand of the mechanics down.

The rulebook has seen a lot of errata and I was at a disadvantage having not downloaded the most recent version as well as reading the additional errata since that version. I hope that once the game matures a bit that the rules will become tight. HeavyD and I are set to play the next scenario in line in the near future, with both of us looking forward to it.

Ukraine '43 (GMT) ~ "Crisis on the Dnieper", Part 2

Game: Ukraine '43
Scenario: #4 "Crisis on the Dnieper"
Participants: Bob "The Marshal" H, Myself
Time: Thursday, Feb 10th ~ 7.15PM - 9.00PM

Tonight we only had time for one complete turn of U43. Bob had four attacks, one in the Bukrin Bridge head, two around Dnepropetrovsk and one North of Melitopol. The one near Bukrin went well, I believe he killed two or three steps against loosing one of his own. He took the hex, but I still am strong in that area. Further south he was able to put enough pressure on the city with the Damn in it that I decided to blow the damn, giving him the two VP's. I elected to still defend the city while running another Division in to reinforce it. He's taken some heavy losses here and I hope to delay him a turn or two longer here. 

In the South he had Marshal Zhukov attack again and this time it cost him. I think I took one step while he had to attack twice loosing something like 4-5 steps in the process. I pulled the line back after killing two steps in a local counterattack. Meanwhile he is off to the races further south. I don't know how I'm gonna slow him down there, all I can hope is that his supply line doesn't reach out far enough to continue the pursuit.

 The above three pictures show the line as it stands at the start of his next turn.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ukraine '43 (GMT) ~ "Crisis on the Dnieper", Part 1

Game: Ukraine '43
Scenario: Scenario #4 "Crisis on the Dnieper"
Participants: Bob "The Marshal" H, Myself
Time: Sunday, Feb 6th ~ 2.00PM - 4.30PM

After completing our excellent game of Ardennes '44, we decided to travel to the Eastern Front to finally play a complete game of U43. One of my goals this year is to 'complete' games, that is to play them to the end, not just to the point where I or both of us think one side or the other is going to win. The games I play with Bob are typically these sorts of games, i.e. longer more involved games that can take 10-30 hours to finish as opposed to some of the games I play with HeavyD and YJ. One thing I noticed was that I was starting to get the bad habit of deciding I was done with a game long before we finished. Often this was because I thought one side or the other had an advantage, sometime so much of an advantage that I didn't see the point of finishing. But the main reason for my wanting to finish was that I wanted to get a hold of my 'attention span' issue in games where we will have it set up on the table for a month. Thus our just finished game of A44 went down to the last turn, took about 10+ hours and was very satisfying, so I feel like I am getting some good returns on my goal for this year already.

Bob and I had played U43 two or three times in the past couple of years. We had one or two trainer games, where we would play perhaps 4-5 turns, or even one of the shorter scenarios. Then we took a shot at the Campaign game, which is 21 turns long. I believe that we called that CG around a third of the way into it, again thinking that one side was steamrolling the other. So the plan for our second go round with U43 is to play this scenario (7 turns) as a refresher and then play the CG, keeping the same sides. As I was the Germans attacking in A44 we thought that it was Bobs turn to attack, so he is playing the Russians this time around and I am the hard pressed Germans.

This game was my first Simonich game and one that I happened to get in my early days as a rabid GMT customer/fan. It is long out of print, having been published in 2001 I think. It is certainly one of my prized possessions as I have become a big fan of Mr. Simonitch's designs over the years. The mechanics of the game display some of the same things he's done in his later designs, thus we have things like ZOC bonds. The game though has many unique mechanics that feel very right for this setting. The game is a division level game for the Germans and usually two divisions or a Corps (similar in strength to a German Division) of mechanized units for the Russians. 

One of the rules I really like are the German Armored Corps and their Russian equivalent, Tank/Shock Armies. These units represent a corps sized unit and allow each player to legally overstack. Additionaly they provide a bonus to each side when they are attacking. The Germans get a column shift while the Russians get a raw addition to their combat strength. Having read a lot of Eastern Front History (Col. David Glantz is a favorite) we both really like how these rules capture the nature of combat at this scale and the importance of these units to the success or failure of a campaign.

The scenario we are playing starts in October of 43 when the Germans have been pushed off the Donnets River and have lost Kharkov. Now they are sheltered behind the Dnieper River and hanging on with a much depleted force. The Russians start with three bridgeheads across the Dnieper, one North of Kiev (the Lyutezh bridgehead) and the other two South of that city. The scenario gives us some very nice historical details around the importance of these bridgeheads and the efforts both sides exerted to contain (or eliminate) them. The Russian player has to gain 13 Victory points worth of cities in order to win. Its clear from the map that I need to get used to getting beat up and losing a lot of territory, just not enough to give Bob the win.

Setting up for this one was tough. I have to set up first, then Bob sets up, then I can deploy four motorized units after I see his set up. Nearly all of my units have to start within three hexes of the front line, which is printed on the map. Since nearly 80% of the line is behind a river, sans the bridgeheads, I paid close attention to the rules on river assaults and ZOC Bonds. That being said I'm sure both of us would have set up differently (better) were we to play this one again. As we were going to watch the Super Bowl soon we only got a turn in this afternoon, this didn't prevent the one turn from being exciting however.

Here are some pictures of our starting set up:

My Left and Center

My Southern Flank

A look at most of the map, while Bob does his first turn

Bobs opening attacks went well, especially near Melitopol in the South. He had one attack at each of the middle bridgeheads, pushing me back. In the South though, he killed three steps with of units in Melitopol with the help of Marshal Zhukov and took that city. I had poorly placed my mobile units at set up and I was in trouble with this breakthrough, as he used his Exploitation Movement phase to trap two more of my Divisions in the South. The next three photos show the situation after his turn.

Breakout from the Bukrin Bridgehead

Bob expands the Kremenchug Bridgehead

Here you can see my two units that he has cut off

In the South I was able to use the 2SS to counter attack and relieve my two surrounded units, killing both of Bobs Tank Corps. In the Middle bridgehead I counterattacked but we only traded step losses with Bob hanging on to the hex.

Counter Attack North of Melitopol

GD fails to reduce the Kremenchug Bridgehead
So we stopped after my first turn and will resume again with Bobs second turn. Things will get ugly in the South as I am short of units to form a line there and he is already moving more mechanized units in to the area. Here is a final shot of the entire map at the end of turn 1.

End of the first turn

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Dead of Winter" [T6]

Game: ASL
Scenario: Dead of Winter [T6]
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D and myself
Time: Friday, Feb 4th ~ 6.00PM - 8.30PM

As we are currently in the dead of winter here in St. Louis, I thought about this scenario when it came time to pick something to play on Friday night with HeavyD. I recall playing this one at least once before. I know its been out a long time, so its hard to recall how many times I played in the pre-ROAR era. Speaking of ROAR, this one has been played (and entered into ROAD) 142 times, 83 of those (58%) were German wins. I can see why. However its certainly winnable by the Russians and I would play it as them.

The scenario takes place in December 1941 on half of board 4. The Germans have three 1st line squads, a pair of leaders (9-2 + 8-1), a MMG, LMG and a DC. The Germans also have a 37L ATG and a Pz-IVE (75*) that starts the scenario immobile, using the armored copula rules. The Germans have 6 Trenches. The Russians (Siberians in this case) start with six 6-2-8s, two leaders (8-1, 8-0...which you can trade in for a commissar) and three T-34 M40's (radioless).

The Victory Conditions have the Russians exiting 20 or more VP to get the win. Thus getting off the three T-34s is enough for the win. There is Extreme Winter as well as deep snow, meaning that the MP/MF cost if increased for all units, +.5MF for infantry and +1MP per vehicles. Looking at the map and then doing the math, you quickly see that the Russian player has to move and move pretty fast with both his Infantry and AFV's to even have a chance in this one.

End of Turn 3
Both of the German main AT assets are hardly up to the task, the 37L has a TK# of 9 and the Pz-IVe isn't much better with its AP and HEAT TK numbers. Thus unless you can get a rear shot, you are likely going to be making DI shots to try and immobilize one or more of the T-34s.

I set up as the Defenders as HeavyD was the defender the last time we played. The game went the distance with HeavyD unable to get the needed VPs off the map on the last turn.