Monday, May 28, 2012

Under the Lily Banners (GMT) ~ "Alerheim"

Game: Under the Lily Banners (GMT)
Series: Musket and Pike Battle Series, Volume III
Scenario: Alerheim
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Thu, 5/10 ~ 7.00PM - 9.00PM
         Sun, 5/13 ~ 2.00PM - 4.00PM
         Thu, 5/17 ~ 7.00PM - 9.00PM
         Sat,  5/19 ~ 2.00PM - 3.30PM

The Battle of Alerheim took place on the 3rd August, 1645. The French were driving the Bavarians back and Mercy decided to dig in and fight. The battle has a lot of interesting lore associated with it as does the Campaign of that year. As Alerheim is the subject of a project Bob and I are working on we decided it would be great to play this scenario from "Under the Lily Banners", the third installment from GMT's popular Musket and Pike Series. Bob and I had played one other MPBS scenario recently, Halmstad. Thus we were both fairly current on the rules and didn't have to do much to prepare for this game.

This is an interesting scenario as its got a fortified town smack dab in the middle of the map. It's also got some pretty interesting special rules. During the Battle, Mercy was killed (the Leader of the Bavarian forces) and the French were able to talk the Bavarians into surrendering in the Center. The town also caught fire during the battle leading to much confusion. The French outnumber the Bavarian/Imperial Force by about 25% in Infantry and 45% in Cavalry. The French are on the Offensive while the Bavarians have the town as well as nearly all of their other forces behind fortifications. The French are also hampered by not being able to use (move through) the gully on their Right until the Bavarians do (they had not thoroughly reconnoitered it prior to the battle). I ended up being the French player.

Alerheim Set Up

After I set this up I had a couple days to think about it before we started playing. Several times I told myself that there was little to be gained by smashing my Center wing into the town to start things off. I have played this series enough to know that I would end up getting the short end of the bargain on that one. Yet in this game (to its credit) its hard to pull off what I wanted to do, which is lead with the Left wing and hold with the Center while the Left was decided. Do to the way that one is bound to move towards the nearest enemy unit when under Charge orders I knew that some of my left wing would drift over to the town. So in the end I elected to lead with the Center first. Of course I had some nice Artillery in my Center and who can pass up a chance to open a Battle with a big salvo from his cannons?

Turn 1

As my Artillery harmlessly lobed shells into the town started my Center wing in towards the town. I used my first activation to fire my Artillery and align my forces to better engage Bob on the 2nd impulse. Since I had my Army Leader (AL) stacked with my Wing Commander (WC) I was easily able to continue the wings activation enabling my to engage Bob on the 2nd activation. Bob tried to preempt me here with his center and failed. As we started the melee's for that activation I realized why I didn't want to do this in the first place. I was getting shredded, but I did manage to push Bob out of one of the towns hexes in this initial assault. I lost two units as well.

The Assault on Alerheim (pre-melee)

After Melee

The action then shifted over to my Left Wing. Here I had a very nice force of mostly elite (8 Morale) Cavalry supported by six Hessian Infantry regiments (6 Morale) and a heard of sub par Hessian Cavalry. I was forced to cross a stream on the opening move so on my continuation (after Bob again failed to preempt me) I switched to Receive Charge and  spent the activation redressing my lines (reform actions). Again I ran Conde (my -2 AL) over to help with the continuation and orders change rolls and this helped out quite a bit.

The French Left Wing Advances on Turn 1

The Bavarian Left
 As I was out of Charge ordered Wings, the action switched over to Bob's Left where he stayed in Make Ready and moved his Wing down off the slope and closer to me. He ran Mercy over to help out with continuation but rolled poorly and Finished early. I followed with my Right wing, leaving them in MR (Make Ready orders) and moved them up a couple of hexes. Bob then did his Left and Center wins, each of whom were not able to make any continuation attempts because they failed preemption try's earlier in the turn.

Turn 2

Start of Turn 2

At the end of the first turn we started rolling to see which hexes in the town caught fire and three of them went up in flames. As my Center was the only wing in Charge we started there for the turn. I made one attack on the town which Morale Broke Bob's unit and made some cautious moves with the rest of my wing, trying to keep them out of the town. I was able to continue with the wing and switched them over to Make Ready (with Conde's help).

Turn 2 Action around Alerheim

The action then went over to Bob's Left Wing. Bob was clearly leading them out to have a go at my Right Wing. I was amazed as I thought this was giving away the advantage of him being mostly behind the Gully which was not really a Gully. He continued and then switched to Charge and it was on.

de Werth leads his wing in an attack on the French Right

Near the End of de Werth's activation

Bob had a pretty good Wing, most of the units morale was 8, but he also had 5-6 "Arq-Busters"(Arquebusiers) which do not line up against normal Cavalry (Curassier) in melee very well (-1). Thus with him charging I was able to make Interception attempts (0-4 [on a d10] as I was in Make Ready) giving me the all important +2 Momentum DR for the melee combats that followed. So it went, he would move a unit forward and I would Intercept it and we'd have the melee, then he'd activate the next unit and before long we'd gone through most of his Wing. It was a viscous fight. Both sides lost several units while having several others pursue off the map (and thus be out for the rest of the game). Near the end of his activation, de Werth charged forward with a unit and ended up in front of his wins and facing my 3rd line of Infantry completely isolated.

End of de Werth's Activation

When the dust settled after Bob's wing was finally finished with its assault, it was my turn to return the favor. I activated my Right Wing and they were able to convert to Charge mode. The first thing I did was go after de Werth and got him with a Cavalry charge. Bob rolled a 9 and de Werth was KIA'd (+10vps). It continued to go well for me after that. I then charged the unit that Mercy was stacked with and blew the melee roll, Bob rolled on the pursuit table and took me out, but it left him again in front of his lines with Mercy stacked with a FB (formation broken) Cavalry unit. I continued and was able to bring my Infantry up and take out the unit, sending Mercy off the map with very low odds of coming back on. This was turning into a disaster for Bob. We both lost a few more units and Bob had a couple fleeing in Morale Broken status as well. If Mercy didn't come back at the start of the next turn, I could start trying to get Bobs units in the town to surrender via the special rule for this scenario.

Mercy's Demise

The rest of the turn was quite. Bob's Right Wing didn't do much. His Center stayed put and fired its Artillery while I finished reforming my Left with the remainder of the turn. 

Turn 3

Start of Turn 3

Bob had a one in ten chance of having Mercy return to the game and he did it. He rolled a zero and Mercy returned to the map. I then made a roll for my Right Wing leader (Gramont) who also amazingly made a return (after exiting at the end of the last turn on a cavalry pursuit). We also had a chance to count up VPs due to losses and it was very close with Bob having lost 55 to my 65. With him still possessing the town and the other victory locations, I was still very much having to attack to earn a victory. We also rolled for fire spread and a few more hexes in the town went up in flames.

Action on the French Right, Turn 3

The French Right continues its counter attack

The action then started again on my Right. I continued in Charge orders and sent several more units running under Morale Broken. I then Continued and switched to Rally orders to start reforming and rallying my remaining units. Bob spent most of his wings (his left) doing the same, ending in Rally mode and quickly trying to restore the confidence of the few units he had remaining.

Bob then did his Right Wing and then I did my Center...both of these activations were quiet with not a lot happening. I then brought my Left on line and converted them to Charge orders. Here I had the advantage in Morale and troops strength where Bob had the slope to his advantage. When my charging Cavalry came into view, he could intercept me and would have the added advantage of me just becoming FS (formation shaken) due to the crest line. Bob's luck didn't hold here though...we knew already that his dice liked to roll 0's (to get his leader back) and it continued to do so here on his interceptions. He went to his back up dice and this helped a little. When my wing finished I had taken the crest line and smashed his first line of cavalry. I wasn't in very good shape either but I had two more lines behind me and Bob only had one.

After the French Assault on the Left

At the end of the turn we spread the fires in the town (it was really going now) and counted loss VPs. I had lost 95 VPs worth of units and Bob had lost 105. It was slowly turning in my favor, especially because I had largely won with my Right wing and still had some mopping up to do there whilst Bob didn't have much on his Left.

Turn 4

I started on my Left and converted the wing to Make Ready, reformed where I could and brought up the next two lines. I then continued and converted to Receive Charge and was able to reform most of the Wing. Here again my -2 leader was a real asset allowing me to have three crucial activations to reform the wind and re position it to continue the fight. Had I rolled poorly on my continuation attempts I would have been very vulnerable to counter attack my Bob. Bob went to Rally with his Right and started to reform/rally with his units, he had not interest in counterattacking me at this point. Here he made a grave error that we shall get to later. It didn't occur to me at the time.

Start of Turn 4
The French Left Wing Reforms on Turn 4

I then went to my Center and continued to move them around the town in Make Ready while Bob was shelling me with his Centers impressive Battery. I hoped that I would not have to charge his center with mine as his was still in good order behind fortifications and supported by artillery. Bob didn't do anything with his Center on his next activation so the action moved over to my Right Wing where I was in Rally. I converted to Receive Charge and moved to get back in command and reform where I could. My thinking at this time was to try and get around Bobs Center with the remains (5-6 units) of my Right and make trouble for him as I also assaulted with my Center. Of course in MPBS this is much easier to say then it is to do.

The French Right, turn 4
Bob and I had a chat about how interesting this was for us. We have played many of the MPBS scenarios over the years and for us at least, many of the games only last 2-3 turns before its very clear who is winning. Here, while things were certainly going a little in my direction, the game was far from decided. Things were by no means clear as we ended the fourth turn. Thus we eagerly decided to continue on and see what happened.

Turn 5
Start of Turn 5

My Center was the first Wing I activated on Turn 5. The front line of this Wing was taking a beating from Bobs artillery only 4 hexes away and so I stayed in Make Ready and reformed my first line as I continued to move the rest of the Wing around the town. Bob then went all 20th Maine on his left and converted to Charge Orders with his two remaining non-MB units. We split the melees and when it was my turn to activate my Right I also converted to Charge and tried to get his last remaining good order unit and was repulsed heavily. Bob then brought his Center on line and again pounded my first line of Infantry, inflicting more damage on their formation. He also started to move his Cavalry (2nd line of his Center) over around to his right to protect his Centers flanks, it was as if he was reading my brain waves!

The Bavarians repel the French Right

My Left Wing was next up and I converted to Charge right away. Here is where we discovered the severity of Bobs error from last turn. As Bob's Right Wing was in Rally orders, he could not make interception attempts. This was huge as I was able to engage him without having to face his counter-charges. His second line of Cavalry was still in good shape and would have been able to disrupt my assault. I moved up and engaged five of his units. I won three of these fights. But again I was vulnerable as with this last activation I had moved the rest of my Wing up on the slope and all of them were in FS status. Then I uncharacteristically failed my continuation roll. Bob had 6 good order Cavalry units ready to charge me. He was heavily outnumbered though and was not going to be able to make use of momentum for most of the attacks. He was in Rally orders and his Army Leader was on the other side of the battlefield trying to keep the MB units on that side from leaving the field. His Right Wing Commander was only a 0 leader thus it would take some amazing dice to get that Wing into Charge orders quickly enough. Bob had had enough though and surrendered the field to me.

The Decisive moment on the French Left

The French break the spirit of the Bavarians

I was not convinced that he was totally out of it at this point though. We had not counted Loss VPs for two turns and while I was in the lead there he still had the VP location (+10 VP) which might have played a part. Non the less, Bob was done and we ended it there. After Bob left I counted up the Loss VPs and I was ahead by 50 (145-95) so adjusting for the VP location I had a 40 VP advantage. This was just enough for a French Decisive Victory. Had we continued I think baring some amazing dice by either one of us we would have been playing to decide what kind of French victory (Marginal or Decisive) it would have been.

Map at game end

So this turned out to be one of the best MPBS experiences either one of us has had in many years. We played the scenario for over seven hours and that is rare for a MPBS scenario. The game was in doubt right up until the end of the 5th turn, which for us doesn't happen that often. Both of us thought that we did an excellent job of playing by the rules, which again was nice as we had only played the series once in the last couple years. Bob had a good time despite some terrible dice on his part. While I rolled well in some important continuation situations and again well in converting orders, the battle dice were mostly even except for when Bobs Right Counter-charged my Left. We both had several leader losses and equally improbable leader returns. Not a bad way to spend several days in May.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Rude Mood" AP79

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: "Rude Mood" AP79
Publication: Action Pack 8: Roads to Rome
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time:  Fri, 4/20 ~ 6PM - 8PM
          Sat, 4/21 ~ 12PM - 2PM

"Rude Mood" continues with the theme of dynamic Victory Conditions found in most of the scenario's in AP8. This one appealed due to its size and it's even ROAR rating. HeavyD and I are both enjoying these scenario's and the interesting VC's they present the players. In this one the Free French player is tasked with clearing a road of German defenders while at the same time taking all of the buildings in the German set up area. There is a sudden death component to the VC's that play out over the first three turns. In order to not loose, the FF player must control a number of buildings equal to the turn number times 3, thus the FF player has to control 3 buildings on the first turn, 6 the second and 9 by the third turn, this then allows them to fulfill the above mentioned VCs by the end of the game. The FF player can also win during the first three turns by controlling five times the turn number, so again if the FF player can control 6 buildings by the end of the first turn he can win (11, the 2nd turn and 16 the third).

HeavyD's Set up

VCs like this create tension early in the game for both players. It's a little like having two separate scenarios going on at the same time, the early game where either player can win; then if there is no winner the late game changes the dynamics of the scenario and forces the players to change gears. I found this one quite enjoyable as during the first three turns I was faced with thinking through two sets of VCs and trying to manage the game towards those two ends.

My Set Up

The German player is defending in this one. Elements of the 90th PG Division are set up in a town facing a big hill on which the Free French player will set up on. The German players force consists of 8 4-6-7s, 2 2-2-8s lead by 2 8-1s and a single 7-0. This force has a 50L ATG as well as a 20L AA gun backing them up. The Infantry also has a MMG, 2 LMGs, 2 50* MTRs and 6 Concealment counters. The German player is able to set up concealed if he sets up in concealment terrain.

The Free French forces come in two groups. The first group sets up on board and consists of 9 4-5-7s, 2 2-2-8s lead by a 9-1, 8-1 and an 8-0. These forces have 2 MMG(a)s, 3 LMGs and 2 60* MTR(a)s. This group sets up on the hill overlooking the town that the Germans are defending. On or after turn 1, a second group enters the map along the South edge, this force contains 3 4-5-7s and a 9-1 along with 2 M4A2(a) tanks and 3 M5(a) half tracks. There is a mild breeze blowing from the SW and the FF forces are both Stealthy and may initiate HtH CC as if they were Gurkhas. As I was the defender in our last scenario, I was the Free French player in this one.

As I sat down to look at the board after HeavyD's set up I knew we were in for a wild ride. HeavyD set up his forces in two main groups, the nearer setting up to hold onto the nearest buildings with the other force across the gully playing for the end game. I set up to target three buildings that looked like I could get some forces into Melee on the first turn. I had my mobile force set up along a road allowing the option of bypassing HeavyD's initial force and making a run at the 2nd set of buildings in front of the gully dividing the town.

Turn 1

Turn 1 Prep Fire

Things started off very well for me as my 60mm Mortars tore into HeavyD's concealed forces with abandon. My initial shots were long range ones at a concealed stack of three counters set up in a walled orchard hex. I opened with a CH and killed the leader there while breaking the squad possessing the MMG. After prep I moved out against the town and made good progress. I was able to use cover to make HeavyD's shot selection very tough. I lead with half squads and largely was able to get next to the three buildings I needed without taking many losses or having too many broken squads. During the course of the movement phase my sniper located and wounded HeavyD's 7-0 who was concealed. I thought this was a concealed squad and when it turned out to be a leader I was able to take advantage of that as well by making more aggressive moves then I would have.

Turn 1 Movement Phase

Turn 1 on my Right
 Based on my early luck in breaking HeavyD's MMG stack I decided to risk a tank and a HT with a squad in it to make a dash at this position, I was forced to move by one of his occupied buildings and take a 8+2 shot which ended up breaking one of the HSs in the half track. This was a set back but I was able to get the squad and MMG the next turn as he had trouble routing. I sent the other tank and two half tracks into the town to support my Infantry's efforts to take the buildings I needed to stay in the game. The rest of the turn continued to go well as I was able to take 5 buildings by the end of my turn. This was one short of the six I needed for an auto win on turn one.The 2nd half of turn 1 went quickly as most of HeavyD's front force was broken. He made some minor adjustments and largely left his 2nd group in place.

End of Free French Turn 1

HeavyD ponders his move during his part of Turn 1
Turn 2

Start of Turn 2
The German 50L ATG is found out

With my successes on turn 1 I knew that I would not have to worry about loosing the game due to not taking enough buildings and was able to think long term. Knowing that I had not yet seen the two hidden guns and the geography of the map also meant that it was highly unlikely that I was going to be able to get a win in turns 2 or 3. This was actually a benefit as I was able to still play aggressively but not recklessly. This turn saw me doing a little mopping up of Heavy's initial force while moving the bulk of my forces towards the gully and the remaining Germans lurking there. The 50L made an appearance, as I was able to scout out its location using half squads prior to even moving a vehicle. I was able to get into CC with the guns crew and take them out at the end of the turn. Once the gun was reveled I was able to move much more aggressively with my two tanks. HeavyD's 2nd turn was again a quick one as he didn't have much to do. My highly skilled mortar crews once again struck, eliminating the crew that was manning one of his mortars in the village.

End of Turn 2

Turn 3

Free French progress in the Center on Turn 3
My Right, Turn 3

During my movement phase on turn 3 I was able to advance at a brisk pace and close the distance on the remaining Germans. Over the course of the turn things started going from bad to worse for HeavyD as I was able to get closer and closer and his efforts to thwart my advance largely went unnoticed. Given that we still had 4 more turns to play HeavyD threw in the towel at the end of the turn. The combination of my Mortars tearing up his concealed forces and my tanks running around without worrying about the ATG I was able to quickly get very close to his remaining forces who where without a leader.

Map at the end of the game (Turn 3)

This was a fun scenario for me. HeavyD, while getting smashed still had a good time as we saw a lot of interesting things happen. One needs to be prepared for this one to end early as the VC's force each player to commit to not loosing on the first three turns.