Saturday, November 17, 2012

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Brigade Hill" J116

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: J116 - "Brigade Hill"
Publication: ASL Journal #8
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time:  Fri, 11/9 ~ 6.30PM - 9.30PM
          Sat, 11/10 ~ 1PM - 3.30PM

We have not played PTO ASL in a long time. With MMP's impending re-release of the PTO forces HeavyD and I decided it was time to get back in the jungle. I started looking for a PTO scenario to play in the recent Journals and found this one "Brigade Hill". It comes highly recommended by my Dutch/Canadian ASL Godfather and has a sterling record on ROAR as well. It's also pretty basic PTO rules...not a lot of tough stuff, thus a perfect scenario to gently re enter this theater. 

The scenario takes place in Papua (New Guinea) in September of 1942. The Japanese are advancing along the Kokoda Trail and the Australians have sent a Battalion out in front of their Brigade headquarters. The Japanese have inserted a blocking force between the Battalion and the Brigade HQ. The Australian Battalion is ordered to break through to the rear as the scenario opens. The Japanese have seven 1st line squads, two crews with MMGs and a couple of mortars and LMGs to impede the Australian advance. There are three Japanese leaders as well which for a force this small is unusual. The Japanese are a allowed to set up in Foxholes and have a few concealment counters as well. On turn 3 the Japanese will get one squad, LMG and an 8-0 entering the West edge as reinforcements. 
Initial Set Up

The Australian force consists of 6x 4-5-8s, 6x 4-5-7s and three leaders, 9-1, 8-1, and a 8-0. They have a MMG, 3 LMGs and two 51 MTRs as well as one Foxhole (which has to set up in a predesignated hex) as well as a couple of concealment counters. On turn 3 the Australians get three more squads (1 elite, 2 1st line) a leader and LMG as reinforcement entering on the North side (other side of the map from where the main for sets up). Both the Japanese and Australians set up on map so the concealment counters are valuable for the Japanese. The scenario takes place on board 36 which is full of hills and cut with streams (which are dry in the scenario, thus they are just like gulleys). Thankfully all Marsh is treated as Light Jungle. Light Jungle is also in effect.

The Australians win at game end is they control three of the four victory hexes (they start with one). It's important to note that both sides reinforcements threaten victory locations, something that HeavyD and I promptly forgot during the course of the scenario. The Japanese are limited to setting up on the three hills while the Australians set up on North of row P. I took the Australians. 

Welcome Back

As its been five months since HeavyD and I played ASL, we were bound to make some bone-headed mistake and we started off quickly in this direction. HeavyD set up concealed as if I was entering, we caught this and he did a quick adjustment and then we start, thus no harm done. I plan on leaving two half squads back in my Foxhole victory location with a mortar and run most of the rest of my guys towards the three other victory locations. It doesn't dawn on me that on turn three HeavyD will enter his one squad plus leader as reinforcement literally two hexes away from this location, but more on that later. 

End of Australian turn 1

One MMG down...(Australian turn 2)

Turn one is pretty uneventful. HeavyD has set up reverse slop and thus I am able to move full speed towards the bald top of hill 526. HeavyD stays static on his turn and we are quickly into turn 2. I start the turn off breaking one of my mortars and then go straight into the movement phase. As I reach the crest of the hill I get zapped a couple times by HeavyD's MMGs. One of them gets ROF and I lose about two half squads in the course of the movement phase. I am however able to make use of his restricted covered arcs and his cooling dice to make some good progress onto the top of the hill. HeavyD ends up breaking one of his MMGs in defensive fire as well. My advancing fire takes out the crew manning the now broken MMG. During defensive final fire we find out that we have entered a hex (V5) that has a HIP 4-4-7 + LMG. HeavyD's fire breaks the whole lot (I take a HS casualty as well) and I am forced to low crawl out of the location in the Route Phase. I do advance two squads into the hex in advance phase. Melee is inconclusive. The Japanese portion of the turn goes by quickly with HeavyD mostly skulking or exchanging fire with me. I am able to break one of his mortar toting squads on another hill and don't suffer too badly from his fire. In the Melee phase HeavyD's squad is reduced while I don't lose anything (whew). This would have been a tough one to take had he been able to take out both squads when he converted to Hand to Hand. 

Surprise! TPBF Phase
Start of Japanese turn 2

Oops, we're old, we forget things...

Start of Australian turn 3

Australian Movement phase, turn 3

As I set up my reinforcement for turn three, its clear to both of us that HeavyD had not considered the threat that these units (3 squads + leader) pose to the two rear most victory locations. We decide that in spite of this we are having too much fun to let this slight oversight interfere with our game. I have little prep fire to open the turn. My broken guys from turn one are almost back now and I make very good progress against light fire from HeavyD. My reinforcements make it right up nest to the victory location and the broken HS HeavyD has next to it. In the Melee phase the Japanese Half Squad goes down having failed to inflict any casualties. When HeavyD sets up his reinforcements in the bottom of the third we have a good laugh as I had just run off one of my half squads defending this location meaning to bring forward the mortar they posses to help out the rest of the team. This means that I have only a half squad to defend that victory location. So its good to know that both of us are making some bone headed moves here. Not much happens in HeavyD's half of the turn except his reinforcements enter and get next to my concealed HS in the victory location. I am able to ambush them and pull back in the close combat phase though (whew). 

Start of Japanese turn 3

Turn 4 opens with me in possession of three of the victory locations. However, HeavyD has a concealed squad adjacent to one and I have only a HS in the area. In my prep fire phase I take out HeavyD's remaining MMG and leader with him rolling some bad dice. I also divert three squads back towards my rear to help protect the threatened location. I am still able to press in on the remaining victory location in Japanese possession. HeavyD gets busy in his turn. At the end of the turn we have four CC markers on the map! HeavyD is making an all out push to get back into this thing. Three if the CC's go his way with the fourth being the victory location in my rear converting to melee, my remaining HS survives another CC and ties up HeavyD in Melee. 

CC markers bloom as HeavyD strikes back (Japanese turn 4)

Start of Australian turn 5

Turn 5 is full of exciting things as the Sun is slowly setting on HeavyD's remaining troopers. I get some nice dice in the prep phase and end up digging a Foxhole on one of the victory locations. As we are still in Melee way over on my right I am able to run up next to the victory location without interference. Some poor defensive fire enables me to slip a squad through HeavyD's line and move next to the last victory location. I also go into CC with another one of Heavy's squads near there. Its about this time that HeavyD throws in the towel. At the end of this turn I will be in possession of all of the Victory locations (or at least all but the one that the Melee is going on in and I out number him there three to one). This was a great little scenario for us to ease our way back into the PTO Theater. Very easy SSRs and some interesting terrain make this one a winner of a scenario. I can see why its so popular on ROAR and in tournament play. 

Positions at game end (Australian turn 5)

With the new Journal released, HeavyD and I will be back for more ASL soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nothing Gained But Glory ~ "Warksow, 1678"

Game: Nothing Gained But Glory (GMT)
Series: Musket & Pike Battle Series
Scenario: Warksow, January 8th 1678
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sun 10/28 ~ 2.00PM - 3.30PM
         Thu 11/1 ~  7.00PM - 8.30PM

Opening the Nothing Gained But Glory box is rewarding in many ways. Aside from getting to play MPBS, the most rewarding thing about opening the box is learning another little bit of history. The game covers The Scanian War, a little know (to me at least) war fought between The Swedish Empire (with some help from France) against Denmark-Norway, The United Provinces (the Netherlands), Brandenburg and the Holy Roman Empire between 1675-1679.

Bob and I had played MPBS recently twice and decided to come back for another round as we really had a great time the last time we played. As I was the attacker in that scenario, I chose the defending Danes in this one with Bob taking the role of the Swedes. We selected Warksow as it had an interesting map and was a good medium sized scenario. NGBG is the first game of the series (there are now five with another just around the corner) not designed by Ben Hull, the series creator. Brian Berg Asklev Hansen and Knut Grunitz designed NGBG and poured a lot of work into it. The game comes with seven scenarios that cover the major battles of this conflict.

Starting Positions

Each scenario comes with several pages of campaign background as well as a narrative of the Battle itself. I really enjoy having this wealth of information available for each battle, especially as I knew absolutely nothing about this conflict prior to this game. Another feature that I really appreciate in the design are the mini-biographies of the leaders as well as many of the units in each battle. You can tell that the designers devoted a lot of time and effort into the game and it shows. There are also tables that display the historical force strengths in Victory Points and actual losses. Having this information along with the historical narrative adds much to the experience of playing the game.

The Battle of Warksow takes place on the German Island of Rugen (Ruden) which is South of Copenhagen in the Baltic Sea. The Swedes have landed on the Island to take it back. The Danish Army on the Island moved to block the Swedish path to Garz. On the morning of the 8th of January the Swedes moved inland to seek battle with the defending Danish (and allies) force. The battle sees both sides nearly evenly matched in strength. The Swedes are on the attack and have to score at least 26 VPs more then the Danes to get a victory. As I mentioned the sides strengths are roughly even, but the Swedes have some important advantages. Their units are generally rated a moral or 7 or 8 while the Danes are mostly 6's. Also the Swedes are the only side with Artillery having three 4-8lb batteries. This artillery is able to limber up and move (unlike the artillery of the 30 Years War) with 3MF. The Swedes also have an advantage in leadership over the Danes. The one advantage that the Danes have is there terrain. There is a stream between the lines as well as several gentle slop lines. the Stream is a formation hit and the gentle slopes can cause a formation hit if a unit moves across two in one movement activation. The slopes so not have any other movement or line sight effects.

The Battle Opens

Bob sets up and elects to start all three of his wings in Make Ready (MR) orders. I have all of mine in Receive Charge (RC). Bob starts on his right activating his Cavalry wing and advancing on the stream, he gets a continuation and begins his crossing. I start making interception attempts to try and hit his units as they are coming across the stream while I still have momentum. My first two units fail to respond, but my third unit does and strikes out at Bob's wing commander and accompanying unit as they move off the stream.I roll very well and eliminate the unit which forces the WC off the map which prevents further activation attempts by this wing for the remainder of this turn. We wont know what happens to the leader until the start of the next turn when he'll have a 90% chance of coming back onto the map. The action now shifts to my right as Bob activates his left wing and moves out.

Bob's Right Wing Commander is sent off the field after being intercepted

Bobs Left Advances to the Stream

Here there is no action as my two forward Cav units are not interested in intercepting the oncoming Swedes (I failed my interception attempts). Bob is able to continue and reform most of the wing which is now two hexes away from my leading units and in the stream. I am too close now to want to intercept as he has morale superiority and I will not have momentum. Bob fails his continuation roll and we move to his center wing. His Heavy Infantry marches forward into the stream taking a formation his and fails to continue.

A failed interception attempt on the Danish Right

I start with my left wing and choose to stay put, reforming the unit that took out Bobs WC. I am still thinking that staying in line here and waiting for him to cross the stream and then trying to intercept is my best option here. I then activate my right wing and things get interesting quickly. This wing starts off poorly deployed. Two of the regiments are out in front of the main line with the rest of the wing next to a stand of trees and some buildings. There is also some swamp hexes to my short I am really pined in to a tight little area to operate. I decide now that I have lost the ability to intercept favorably with the two lead units, so I try and pull them back to my main line. My first unit to start pulling back is intercepted by Bob. I get a hit with a pistol shot (putting the odds in my favor) and win the ensuing melee sending him back with his morale broken (Bob rolled a '0' on the close combat!). I decide to leave my other unit (4-6 Cav) up guarding the bridge as Bob isn't going to be able to get momentum in charging them on his next activation. I move my AC and WC over to the unit that won the melee to start to try and reform them in my coming activations. I let my center stand in place.
End of Turn 1

Turn 2 opens with Bob's Right Wing commander returning to the field. Bob starts with this wing, converting them to Charge orders and engaging my unit that had intercepted the prior turn. Bob attacks with his WC and one unit and eliminates my unit in melee combat. I then activate my Right and stand fast while reforming the lone unit that had fought on the prior turn. Bob then brings his Left Wing online and converts to Charge. He is able to push back my lead unit in an indecisive close combat. I then finish my Left and Center not seeing any good options to pursue with these two wings given the situation. Bobs AC runs back and rallies the MB unit from Bobs Left Wing. Bob reforms his Center. The turn ends with very little movement and two combats.

Bob eliminates a Danish Unit on his Right Wing
The Swedes push off the stream on their Left

Turn 3 goes by very quickly. Bob is wisely taking it very slowly. He changes both his Right and Left back to Make Ready and reforms them. The MB unit is being put back together by the AC and starts back for the battle. I am too close to want to do anything on my Left. My Center is not going to move unless one of my flanks crumble as I am sitting behind the swamp in good terrain. I do some minor adjusting of my lines and reforms where I can. 

End of Turn 3

High Tide

Turn 4 starts off with Bobs Right wing converting to Charge orders and moving one hex forward engaging my left. We split the combats with each of us wining one. The action shifts to my Left as Bob moves his wing out of the stream and engages my lone forward unit. Bob eliminates this unit and continues the wings advance. I am able to intercept one of his units and break its morale in melee combat. Bob then activates his returning unit and engages this unit and in an amazing feat of arms (Bob rolls another '0') I send this second unit back as well. Bobs other close combat goes poorly as I eliminate his forward most unit. Amazingly my Right is doing very well holding its ground. I reform with this wing and move the WC up to enable the forward unit to reform as well. Bob moves his Center closer to the swamp and my waiting Center as the turn draws to a close. Bob has been fought to a stand still on my Left while my Right has largely defeated his Left wing.

The Swedish Right engages in Melee
Mixed Results

Action on the Danish Right as the Swedes advance
Repulsed, the Swedish attack fails to push the Danes back

Turn 5 starts on my Left with Bob not able to get out of Charge orders, he sends his AC back after the MB unit and prevents them from leaving the field. He then moves to my Left and reforms. I use my activation on my Left to dress my line and Reform. Bob then moves his Center forward into the swamp, continues and reforms some of the units. The turn ends without any combat.

End of turn 5
Turn 6 opens with Bobs Artillery finally contributing; FB'ing my forward unit in my Right wing. Bob is able to convert to Make Ready on his Left (from Charge...he only has one unit remaining here, the other broken unit is still reforming in the rear). Bob is able to break my unit after his gunners have worked it over, I retreat back to my Right's main line. Bob then activates his Right and continues to reform that wing. We are sitting one hex apart and neither one of us is interested in fighting here. I am happy to wait it out at this time. Bob then activates his Center and they continue to advance through the swamp ending two hexes away from my Center. This is the moment I have been waiting for, he has his Center two hexes away from my Center standing in the Swamps with their formation degraded. I am able to convert my Center to Make Ready from RC but am unable to continue and go over to Charge. I want to engage him before he has a chance to reform his lines.
Start of turn 7

Turn 7 opens with all of our leaders in Make Ready orders. Bob and I both know that it all comes down to the Center at this point as the flanks have fought themselves out. It will come down to who will activate first. When all leaders are in the same orders state, the leader with the best leadership modifier will go first. This means that Bobs Right wing will start off, then I will be able to activate a leader of my choice, this of course will be my Center. Bob does his Right wing, reforming again and the action shifts to my Center. I have to convert to Charge here to take advantage of Bob's moving through the swamps. If he's able to reform his superior Infantry will have a slight advantage. I roll '2' and convert to Charge!

"Charge!", the decisive moment as the Danish Center converts to Charge Orders

I lead in with a unit on the left hand side of my wing and walk into a Salvo of fire from Bobs Heavy Infantry. I lose two steps and a level of morale. Ouch, advancing into Heavy Infantry is painful. Thankfully now that he's used his Salvo this unit will be at a disadvantage when firing again later in the turn. I continue to advance my four units next to his three. His shooting isn't as effective as I am able to get the other three units next to his in better shape then my initial unit.

Prior to Melee on Turn 7

End of first activations Melee phase
Pre-Melee phase, 2nd Activation

As I was able to attack him while he was still in the swamp and still in formation shaken status, I am able to take advantage of several modifiers for the upcoming close combats. I also have momentum on my side, which offsets my inferior morale rating. Two of the three combats go my way and as I send two of his units back with broken morale. I am able to continue and focus my efforts on the remaining unit. I fire with two of my units and melee with the unit who was pushed back the prior activation, they have their dander up and get their revenge by eliminating the unit in the ensuing melee phase. I am unable to continue and my Center finishes.
The Danish Center Defeats the Swedish

The Swedish Center is broken and in flight, Bob concedes the field to me. Even though the current VP differential is only +5 in my favor, its clearly a lost cause for the Swedes. Bobs been stopped cold in the Center and my Right and my Left is still standing in front of his depleted Right wing. He needed to score +26 VPs to get a wing and its clearly not going to happen at this point. The last sequence of activation was critical, had Bob been able to activate his Center and reform them before I was able to attack it things would have been very different. This was a great example of high drama MPBS style.

The final positions