Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "The Sooner the Better" [J91]

Game: ASL
Scenario: The Sooner the Better [J91]
Participants: Joe "YJ" C, Myself
Time: Saturday, Mar 12th ~ 1.00PM - 6.00PM

YJ's weekends have been hijacked for the next 6 weeks or so. Thus we had this one Saturday to play some ASL before he goes into non-weekend mode for a month and a half. Our plan was to start the Kursk mini-CG, but I decided to put that on hold until he had some space on weekends. With the release of the map pack, I wanted to get back to the desert, so I started looking at some of the recent desert scenario's released in the past few Journals. Some of the first ones I found, while about the right size suffered from imbalanced ROAR scores, then in Journal 6 I found this gem. It is nearly even on ROAR and surprisingly light on desert SSR's and terrain thus making it a bit easier on YJ as this will be his first desert scenario.

I have always liked desert scenarios. I've played nearly all of them (those being released prior to the last ten years or so) at least once, some several times. Thus it only took a bit of a rules refresh to bring me up to speed. Prior to the scenario I took YJ through the main differences in desert scenarios (rout exceptions primarily) as well as the two terrain types (hamada and scrub) and their effects in this scenario. Also, as the scenario takes place in April '41 the Germans are treated as having red MP's.

After set up
Our scenario finds the Germans trying to take Tobruk in the spring of 1941. The scenario opens the morning after the Australians let the 8th MG battalion and roughly a battalion from the 5th armored regiment drive into their lines, only to fine themselves (the Germans) surrounded and out gunned the next morning. Thus the Germans are trying the exit the ring of fortified locations surrounding Tobruk. The Commonwealth forces have to score 40 more DVPs then the Germans to win. German units are able to exit off the South edge of board 28 and not be counted as losses.  The German infantry sets up in the open in some abandoned sangars with the German armor entering the North edge of the board on turn one. The Australians have two strong points in the path of the fleeing Afrika Corps units. The German armor (2 Pz IVE's, 6 Pz IIIG's and 6 Pz IIIH's) is being chased by a glorious force of six Matilda II's and some A13 support tanks. There are also two pursuing groups of Infantry that enter the board, one of these containing two 2pdr Portee's (40L ATG's mounted on the backs of lorries). The Australian strong points are lacking in AT weapons sans a couple of ATRs and one module of 80MM OBA. There is light dust (+1d6 *.5 FRD) which allows vehicle dust. Other then that there are no other special rules of note.

Prior to the start of Turn 1

We rolled for sides and I got the Germans. I had no idea what to expect. I had spent all of my pre-game sauce focusing on re-reading the desert rules, making sure I knew how the Portee's worked again and setting everything up. Thus when I sat down to roll the first WCDR was the first real chance I had to focus on the VC's, this is usually a sure sign that I am in trouble. When I did start thinking about the VC's the first thing that jumped out at me was that I was not going to kill any Matilda's; they have 11 frontal armor and 8 on the side/rear. Most of my tanks are sporting 50's (TK# 11) so my odds in a tank on tank fight are nonexistent. Also his lovely Matilda's are slow, with an MA of 9 while my tanks are going 13. I also knew that if I drove off all of my armor without loosing any, there weren't 40 DVP's worth of German Infantry remaining on the map.

Turn 1: Oh what a sight!

The German Armor Arrives
I entered my armor in a big group, trying to cover every ones rear end in vehicle dust. I elected to keep them together as at this time my thinking was that I would use them to cover my infantry's advance on one of the strong points. I also elected to keep them in motion making it harder for YJ to get hits. I immediatly didn't like how I set up my un-possessed guns. I should have spread them out between my infantry and my armor instead of on the side of my Infantry's starting location (they must set up un-possessed and > 2 hexes from any German MMC). Also it occurred to me that even should I man them I am going to have a hard time hitting anything at the range they were from any enemy units considering the light dust (from +1 to +3 LV on each shot) and that I was unqualified to use them (as I had no crews). In the end I chose to man them as the gun shield would at least give me some shelter and it would make is harder for YJ to take them out should he decide to do that.

YJ entered the Matilda's and stopped; acquiring six of my tanks in his advance fire phase. One of his MMG's went on a tear and broke my HMG and one of the MMG squads. But more importantly, he was not able to make radio contact at all (my turn or his). I was deathly afraid of that OBA and quite relieved when he didn't make contact.

End of Turn 1

Turn 2: The flight continues...

I decide to break off two tanks to interdict his reinforcement group with the Portee's. This I regret as soon as his turn begins as its getting clearer that should I get all my tanks off (unlikely as that is) I can get a win. With the radio not bringing any OBA down on turn one this now seems like my best plan. As it turns out, the two tanks did draw his attention, but I put them too close and he's able to rush them with his infantry, slipping the Portee's by unharmed. We also realized that YJ forgot to enter his turn one infantry, which we bring on this turn.

I decide to park the two Pz IV's and set up the SMOKE shot for turn three, the rest of my armor I keep in motion covered in dust, sans the two unfortunate tanks that I send off to interdict the Portee's. None of my infantry rallies as YJ is keeping them DM with his MMG's in the strong points.

Wild Aussie's

On YJ's turn, he again elects to shoot the Matilda's instead of moving them up. He breaks his second MA and takes out one the my tanks near his infantry. My remaining tank has its hands full as YJ charges it with all of his infantry from that group. The Portee's drive past the tanks and head for one of the strong points. The radio comes to life and an ominous SR lands several hundred yards from my formation. The late arriving Infantry force makes a bee-line straight at a couple of my trailing tanks trying to take them out in CC (and failing).

End of Turn 2

I am upbeat at the end of the turn as my armor is at least now in striking range of the strong points and I have not lost any of my main force of tanks aside from the two I foolishly broke off the slow his infantry down. I am starting to think that YJ has made a grave error in stopping the Matilda's as the farther I get from him the harder its getting to get good TH numbers as he is shooting 40L's at 15-20+ hexes and that range will continue to widen on the next turn.

Turn 3: The pipe breaks...

Finally I am able to shot back! My sole remaining Interdicting tank survives CC immobile, occupying two or three of YJ's squads in Melee. The other falls to Matilda fire. I manage to SMOKE the MMG in the pillbox and rush a couple of tanks near this strong point, I send three tanks at the other SP, where the radio is. The Portee's shot at and miss these moves and so I decide to run a tank over there to chew them up. One of my guns breaks as my Infantry try to use it without success.


YJ's other group of infantry fail to harm me in CC and these tanks turn and gleefully overrun these units. There are not many occasions in my ASL career where I can recall doing three overrun attacks in one turn, much less two of them with one tank. YJ's stout Aussie's hold up well though with only one of the stacks breaking. But the other three squads in this area are in mortal danger as I am now parked close to him and will be able to machine gun him on his upcoming turn.

However, the back breaker for YJ was his radio breaking in his Defensive fire phase. This radio was really his only remaining AT deterrent on this side of the map at this point. We both now see that keeping the Matilda's stationary for the first two turns was a critical mistake. At the ranges my armor is at now I am nearly impossible to hit given the his small gun size, vehicle dust and finally the light dust. When the radio broke, so did YJ's personal morale. Coincidentally, a pipe in the basement also broke around this time so we were distracted for a while dealing with running water!
End of German Movement, turn 3

I am not entirely sure the scenario was lost when the radio broke, but I knew that if I were in his shoes I would have given thought to throwing in the towel as he did. I was in position to start tearing up the near strong point with close range tank fire, allowing my Infantry to emerge from their holes and start making for the strong point. The two Portee's were also in danger. I would likely get one in advancing fire and most likely take the 2nd one out in the following turn (granted he would have likely taken out a tank or two in his prep). The real issue though was that it was starting to look very difficult at this point for YJ to get near the +40 DVP differential that he needed. I was close to him now and was going to start taking out his infantry, he had nothing on this side of the map to threaten my armor. The Matilda's were at least two turns, but more likely three turns away given their slow speed. By then the scenario would be over.

I can see why this one is even on ROAR. I would happily play either side again. The trick is that the British need to keep the Matilda's moving, forcing the German armor to either flee or stop and help the infantry, exposing themselves to the oncoming Matilda's. I certainly made my share of mistakes as well.

This is really an interesting scenario, like most of the desert scenarios I have played. I hope to take YJ back to some of those old desert classics from the original British module in the coming months, but the arrival today of the latest Journal and Action Pack are going to be big distractions.


  1. Gotta keep those Matilidas moving! They have little to fear from the panzers.

    Tough luck with the OBA.

  2. The new CH Africa Corp mods are getting good reviews (more for fun than balance.I really need to get back into the desert sometime soon. Another good report.

  3. I had about 12 shots with the Matildas on his Panzers needing between 5 & 7's in the first two firing phases they were eligible for. Granted, the light dust lowers those odds, but all I had to show for it was a pair of broken MA. The game just wasn't going my way. The radio broke after 2 failed contact attempts and then a red chit draw. So... pretty much everything that could do any damage to the tanks was failing.

    I'm not sure how keeping the matilda's moving actually helps. There's only about 40 DVP of germans on the board, so if the Germans DO just drive off the board, if the Aussies take a tank or two in that process, they still need to eliminate just about every german infantry unit AND the guns to win (before accounting for any aussie losses).

    Perhaps I'm not seeing it (and the OBA in harassing fire may have changed the board enough to change my perspective), but I'd take germans in this, hands down.

  4. As always, I had a fun time playing though. Even if in retrospect I differ from Yockbo on odds.