Saturday, March 5, 2011

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Splitting the Seam" [RBF-47]

Game: ASL
Scenario: Splitting the Seam [RBF-47]
Participants: Jeff "Jeffe" I, Myself
Time: Thursday, Mar 3rd ~ 5.15PM - 10.00PM

Round two in the annual Jeffe ASL frenzy phase had Jeffe selecting a scenario from Recon by Fire called "Splitting the Seam" (4/4 on ROAR). This scenario is designed by Chas Smith, one of the best scenario designers working in the game today. He has put together his own company and is publishing some fine products for ASL. Here is the link to his company, where you can look over his product line. The scenario takes place entirely on an overlay map from Beyond the Beachhead, by another publisher.

As Jeffe defended last time and because he's defended several times in his recent other games, I set up as the defender. This scenario takes place in July 44 in France. The British are attacking a village trying to clear it of German Infantry in the opening phases of Operation Bluecoat. There are a few SSR's but they are of little consequence, however Bocage dominates the approaches to the town. The scenario is 6.5 turns long and requires the British to clear out the Germans from the town, if the Germans control 6 or more buildings at scenario end they win, otherwise its a UK win. As you can see from the map, this is gonna be a bug hunt as the Brits are going to have to clear most of the map of German controlled stone buildings.

The Germans start the game with 3 4-6-7s, 4 4-4-7s and 2 2-3-7 half squads. Leading this force are a 9-1, 8-1 and 7-0 leaders. The force has 2 MMGs, 3 LMGs and a PSK. The German player also has 24 mine factors and 5 foxholes to bolster his defense. The British player has an impressive force for this scenario. They have a company of 1st line Infantry (10 squads), rather mediocre leadership (8-1, 2x 8-0s) and some light support weapons (2x LMGs, 2x PIAT and a 2in MTR). However this force is backed up by an impressive force of British armor. On turn 1 the British get a Churchill VII, followed on turn 2 by two more Churchill's and two Crusader AA tanks.

Jeffe has graciously accepted my offer to co-write today's AAR. I'll include his comments in Italics throughout the post.

Set Up

The first thing that caught my eye was that this was going to be a bug hunt scenario. Even thought the Infantry forces are roughly the same size, Jeffe's AFV's are going to play a big roll in the scenario. The second thing I thought was what the heck am I gonna do with those foxholes? I was also very concerned about the road spliting the town in two, Jeffe can easily cut off my forces on his side of the road on turn one by getting a force to hex P2. Thus I set up some mines and a foxhole with a 4-4-7 right next to the hex (I can only set up in hexes >= 3. I put the rest of the foxholes out of the way in what I thought might be a useful final stand position in the lower right hand side of the map. I also placed a HIP unit in the first level of the Z6 building to cover this line of approach as I thought that looked too temping an approach and this might lead to a nice surprise if I can catch him moving in the open at long range. There is a red die in the picture next to these units. The rest of my force if spread out covering the approaches to the town.

Initial German set up, Red Dice = HIP unit
Jeffe's Comments:
Looking at the mapboard on this, it appeared moving up my right had little advantage, as it was too open, and too far from the victory buildings. My left looked better, but again there was quite a good deal of open terrain. In the end, I decided going up the gut would be most prudent, since it afforded the most cover, and was the shortest path to the VC buildings.

Turn 1: That wasn't so bad

After SetUp
Turn one went well for me. Jeffe didn't go for hex P2 like I was worried he would and fell victim to my HIP squad in the 1st level of the Z6 building. Also he found one of my minefields on my right. The MMG in my center broke up his platoon in the R1 building, I think breaking two of the three squads and the leader in the hex. On the right, my HIP squad and LMG broke two squads as he entered the board just as I hoped he would. So things were going very well for me so far with five British MMCs broken.

Start of German Turn 1
Jeffe's Comments:

*Most* of the turn went without much consequence. I moved my guys up behind the first bocage line. In spite of my knowing better, I sent a large stack into the R1 stone building, most of which was promptly broken by final defensive fire. Over on my left side, I tried a small hook with 2 squads & a leader, but his hipster in lvl 1 of the z6 building zapped them when they came on.

Turn 2: Things keep getting better

Jeffe makes some progress in the center, clearing out a couple of buildings around U4. My MMG squad and leader on the left (near this progress) breaks and my other covering fire fails to stop him getting close to me in the center. I had moved my PSK over next to the wall in W4 and this get a Churchill during the turn as well. Additionally Jeffe found another minefield and this cost him another broken squad in W3.

Start of German Turn 2

Jeffe's Comments:
A good portion of my forces were broken trying to crack the MMG position in the V3 stone building, or remain so on this turn, along with one of my Churchills getting brewed up. I've not been able to rally many guys back. I'm starting to get despondent at this point, very nearly throwing in the towel, as I feel as though I gakked my setup, and my play has been very sloppy so far.

Turn 3: Oh Dear!
As I finished my second turn I was pretty happy with how the game was going thus far. Jeffe had made a little progress in the center, but had lost a tank and had perhaps half his Infantry broken. I was not taking losses to this point and continued to strengthen the center, where he was pressing. I felt like he was close to conceding, but didn't mention it. I knew he was unhappy with his entry choices and lack of progress. My expectations continued to rise, I was very confident at this point. Then something happened.

Jeffe started playing much more aggressively, throwing caution to the wind. I have been in his shoes many times with this game, you are close to loosing, but the night is young and you have little else to do, why not go a little crazy and perhaps create some luck or change the dynamics of the scenario? Thus without a word I was facing a new player, one that had discarded his caution and was now going all out.

The German Right, prior to CC

On the right Jeffe charged ahead with his armor. One of the Crusader AA tanks goes wild on Bounding Fire ROF and breaks my MMG squad and leader before I stun it with supporting forces. Jeffe then rushes in infantry (quite skillfully I might add) to ensure that this force will be eliminated due to failure to route. I also manage to Immobilize a Churchill as well but he is able to get into CC with me.

Meanwhile on my left I see Jeffe drive a Churchill into a key building (R4) and I am unable to do anything but watch (PF = miss), I do manage to break a leader and pin a squad rushing to help the now Bogged Churchill, but Jeffe gets a HS into the hex to help out in CC.

The German left, turn 3...Churchill bogged in building...
Jeffe had managed to turn things around, impressively. He was definitely back in it. Even though I had some spectacular failures, I still felt confident as he had shot his armored wad and while he made progress I still had most of my force left and he still had a long way to go to get into position for a win.

Start of German Turn 3
Jeffe's Comments:
Still despondent, and thinking that if something didn't break open, I would resign, I got daring (others would possibly call it silly). I drove one of my Crusaders straight at the (now malfed) MMG position in Y5, which has stifled any hopes I had of advancing on my left. I drive up, poop out some smoke, then go around the building. Thinking I could get back on the road around AA8, I realize at this point that I don't have enough MPs to do so, so I just stop and bounding fire, with great effect, keeping rate twice and breaking everyone in the AA8 building. after I kept rate the 2nd time, however, the big stack o' doom in X5 shoots a (16+2?) and stuns him. I'm pleased with the results however, as I know that if I can get a guy in to X4, everyone in Y5 will surrender.

On my right, I drive one of my Churchills straight at the squad that's holed up in the P4 building. Steve deliberates about whether to fire when I'm adjacent, or when I enter into bypass. He decided to hold off, and instead of going in to bypass, I ESB to enter the building, successfully. He misses the PF shot. This allows me to run a couple of guys up adjacent to him, and into CC. To avoid any suspense: The tank lives, but is immobilized.

I'm still not all *that* optimistic at this point. I've done some pretty (what some might describe as) foolish things, and I suspect I'll pay dearly for it in subsequent turns, but I have a glimmer of hope now, as I broke a couple of things open. Further, some of my previously broken squads have started to rally back.

Turn 4: Clouds gather

This turn was about the 2nd Crusader AA tank. I had lost in the prior turns melee contest and thus was starting to get a bit concerned. Jeffe continues to rally nearly all his broken guys while my Germans are not remotely interested in getting back in the fight (I have two broken squads in X7 that I need desperately). The now immobile Churchill is nicely placed to make my leaderless force on the left fear for its good order. Jeffe further exploits this with his 2nd Crusaders ride into glory. I manage to take out the first Crusader on the right in CC getting a hero at some point. I am starting to lose the battle with my own expectations though, I am getting more and more angry at myself for how things are going.

Start of German turn 4
Jeffe's Comments:
Things continue to go well for me, and go downhill for Steve. I get my 2nd crusader fired up, and drive straight down the road, pooping out a smoke along the way,  DMing his big stack o' brokies in X7, and keeping anyone from crossing the road to reinforce the conflicted part of town. He had previously broken up his big stack o' doom (which was a HUGE relief, as I didn't think I'd be able to get enough firepower on it to break it, and I wasn't gonna drive my Crusader adjacent to a 30+1 attack), with several of them in melee with a HS of mine. 

In the Rally phase, I manage to generate a hero and BH one of my squads, which is right next to said melee (which didn't turn out well for the Germans). I've had another Churchill die, but more of my guys rally up, and I'm really beginning to feel buoyed, but I can tell Steve is getting gloomy, except when I moved a leader intoT6, where his 'dummies' were, and he discovered that he had a full squad (that I assume he thought was a dummy, as well). We had a good laugh over that, and it made things interesting, as I thought I had that part of the fight almost sealed up.

Turn 5: Really?

Down, but not out I make a stand on the right, breaking a squad or two and advance into CC against a HS to DM his rally hospital in W5. Meanwhile my guys in X7 do not rally. I fall back in the middle, wanting to get away from that avenging Crusader and the fire from the immobile Churchill. This also allows me to take out a crew near the cemetery. As I should have expected, the CC against the HS in X5 goes badly, costing me another leader. Jeffe's Crusader again does amazing things allowing him to get a couple of squads next to me in the center. Finally Jeffe gets into melee with my hero and squad in Y5 and I can only guess how that one will turn out as well.

I am getting more and more despondent. The friction here is me and my expectations. Those terrible expectations grew and grew in the first couple of turns and now given these lofty expectations, surely I should be doing better then this, no? No. This is what kills me with ASL.

Start of German turn 5

Jeffe's Comments:
This turn was the back-breaker for Steve's defense. The two squads that were holding the center of town (including the newly 'discovered' squad) both broke and surrendered (I questioned whether I should have taken the prisoners after the fact, but realized they provided the free deployment to my squad, which was another body to gain building control). He didn't manage to do much on the other side of the road with his squad and hero, either. His big stack o' brokies was back in the V9 woods, and I managed to get my leader into the U9 woods to DM them, essentially taking them out of the game. I'm feeling pretty good about winning at this point. Steve has gotten grumpier, even arguing whether a -1 FFMO applies when I move into an orchard hex.... rattled me a bit that this would be questioned. He's just trying to lawyer up anything he can.

Turn 6: The End...

Start of British turn 6
I still have hope, I have 4 good order squads holding the line and the clock is ticking for Jeffe. Most of the town is still German controlled and while I am behaving more and more like a petulant child (internally I hope) I cant dream of giving up at this point, not after what the scenario and Jeffe's fine play has put me through. It is getting harder and harder at this point to call this fun, but I don't want to give in, yet.

My two squads in the middle (U7, V6) are the key, they are protecting the broken stack in V9 and holding off Jeffe from running around and flipping buildings. Amazingly I come out of the CC in Y5 alive, but these guys are not well positioned to inhibit his movement. Jeffe skillfully gets behind me, forcing me to break my squad in U7 on a FPF shooting his 8-0 as he makes a run for my broken guys in V9. I break and the game is lost, both of the middle squads are captured and I throw in the towel.

Start of German Turn 6
I'm very sullen and pissed off at this point (I know, its a game!). Jeffe is aware of my internal strife and is trying to lighten the mood. Its no good, I brood long after Jeffe is gone. ASL is easily my favorite game, hands down. It creates an amazing narrative, unlike any other game. The price for me at least is every so often I lose the battle against my expectations and end up angry at myself for it. Yet, in a few days, this game takes on a new light in my memory. I will remember Jeffe's excellent play in the second half of the game, him passing his internal personal morale check and turning things around to get the victory.

Jeffe's Comments:

Steve resigns during his part of the turn; he only had 2 GO MMCs left, and I still had 5 and a mobile AFV (the crusader) While I thought he could have still won (if only barely, and with a lot of things swinging his way), I certainly played the meta-game and decried his chances.  I've talked people into continuing and got burned by it too many times to do that anymore.

In the end, I had a great time. I really struggled with my PM for the first couple of turns, but felt like my play tightened after turn 3, especially being able to exploit opportunities (FTR opportunities, etc).

I wanted to thank Jeffe for sharing his thoughts and comments on this one. I can't wait for the next game with him.


  1. As always a good AAR and a great idea to get both sides of the fight. I admire your honesty about the PM problems. When I start to get whinny I find my play goes down hill quickly as I get angry with myself for being a pain. What gets mt goat the most? A string of fantastic rolls by my opponent whilst I can't seem to roll under 10. I don't mind the game swinging the other way so much as it doing it on a series of horric dice LOL.

  2. ERRATA: Replace 'AA8' in the turn 3 comments with 'Y5'.

    Great AAR Steve. I think this format was pretty cool, almost like a scenario replay from a Journal or something.

  3. Thanks Jeffe, I made the change in the your turn 3 text.

  4. I just realized that my turn 5 comments were actually for turn 6, as well, if it matters.

  5. This was a very good AAR. I fully understand the emotional highs and lows described. That's the best part of the game, and what keeps me coming back.
    Dice are dice. I've played this game for three decades (+), so dice have lost much of their original sting.
    The tough games for me are the ones where my plan is a turn behind what I need to do.