Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Uncles and Pups" FB1

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: FB1 - "Uncles and Pups"
Publication: Festung Budapest, Historical Module 8
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time:  Fri, 12/7 ~ 6.30PM - 9.30PM
          Sat, 12/8 ~ 2PM - 4.30PM

When Festung Budapest was released, HeavyD and I weren't that interested. I don't remember the reasons for our lack of interest, but it was likely something else that had been released around that time, or perhaps we were coming out of our ASL phase. We are both very interested now and thus decided to dive right in and start with the first scenario in the box, "Uncles and Pups". For those that don't know, FB is the eighth historical module for ASL covering the Russian siege of Budapest in late '44 into early '45. The Hungarians and Germans are surrounded in the city and the Russians are trying to clear them out. FB comes with 4 excellent maps covering the area of the City where most of the fighting took place. There are three campaign games and nearly 20 scenarios in the box along with a whole bunch of new counters. 

Uncles and Pups takes place on January 1st 1945 and covers the Russian initial foray into Buda by the 108th Guards Infantry Division supported be the 1897th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment. The Hungarians in the scenario are represented by the Vannay Battalion consisting of older WWI and WWII veterans pulled from various government organizations (firemen, public transportation, utility men...) along with Officer candidates and younger volunteers who were attached to the older men using a buddy system nicknamed "Uncles and Pups". In order to win the Russians must clear our the Cogwheel Railway hexes as well as getting an SU-76M past the rail line into the part beyond it while also clearing out a station (hex G31) of Hungarian MMCs. 

Axis Set Up
The Hungarians OB consist of 8 squads (4x 4-4-7 & 4x 3-4-7) as well as some crews. These units are led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 7-0. They have a nice assortment of support weapons including 2 MMGs, an LMG as well as a PSK. The have two guns (76L ART and 75L AT) as well as an 81MM MTR. The Hungarians also have some nice fortifications mostly centered around the EmRR hexes (Cogwheel Rail hexes). These include 18 mine factors, 4 Foxholes, three Wire's and a Roadblock. The Wire and Mines must set up on/adjacent to the EmRR. There are also two known AT mine hexes that start on the map as well. Lastly the Hungarians are allowed to HIP one HS and any SW/SMC that stack with them. Axis units suffer from level 1 ammunition shortage (a FB SSR, in effect its the same as normal AS in ASL which scales up as the siege went on). To simulate a pre game bombardment all Hungarian forces that do not set up in buildings or foxholes must take a pre game PTC. Any unit that fails loses concealment and starts pinned.

Russian Set Up

The Russians have a nice force entering on or after turn one. The Infantry component consists of 3x 6-2-8 Assault Engineers, 4x 4-5-8, 5x 4-4-7s and 2x 2-3-7 HS. These forces are led by 4 (9-1, 8-1 2x 8-0) leaders. The Russians will also be supported by 5 SU-76M Assault Guns. At least two of these Assault Guns must enter the game with MMC riders as well via SSR. 

Running in the Streets

When HeavyD said he was done setting up and I sat down to do my set up I was at a loss. The Russians are limited to entering over only a few hexes in the corner of the map. The Hungarians can set up very close to them as well. There isn't a lot of cover and the entry is crossed by a couple of roads before you get to the EmRR. HeavyD placed his 81 MTR up on a factory roof and most of his infantry just behind the EmRR. The EmRR is really like a thick wall, if you are next to it you can see onto it and beyond but if you are not next to it you can see it as well as the hex behind it. There is at least an orchard covering part of it. There are a couple of known AT mine hexes covering the street leading up to the rail station. Also, due to pre scenario reconnaissance, HeavyD had to set up most of his fortifications on the board instead of HIP. So, as I mentioned I didn't have a good feeling setting up. Its one of those times when I sit down to play a scenario and don't have a clear picture of how I am going to achieve the victory conditions. Of course I will feel differently at the end of the game but that is later. 

Start of Axis Turn 1

I come up with a plan to enter all of my infantry and two of the SU's and head for the EmRR. I will not even go after the right hand side of the map as it's well fortified with mines. I feel like this is going to be a shooting gallery as we start the turn. I play it very cautiously thus on the first tun and there is very little shooting because I didn't really give him anything to shoot at. I manage to break an MA of one of my SU's which I am unable to fix in the next Rally phase, thus Recalling the SU. I am down one already. Later in the game I start regretting this overly cautious first turn. Very little happens in HeavyD's portion of the turn and we quickly move into my half of turn 2. 

End of Russian Movement phase, Turn 2

I set up my remaining three SU's for entry on this turn and we begin. I am able to get next to the EmRR line without taking too many hits, I believe I only have one unit break. HeavyD has wisely placed one of his MMG's in great spot allowing him to lay a fire lane down on the hex row next to the EmRR (the one with the normal RR). On a whim, perhaps knowing that I need to deal with this MMG to lift the fire lane and eventually clear him out of the station, I send a platoon to my left. Had I thought of this sooner I would have been able to make a better approach on the first turn, but I hadn't planned on it then. The turn ends with only one Russian MMC broken and that is pretty amazing considering the many shots that HeavyD took. I believe it was around this time that HeavyD decided to replace his dice with another pair. HeavyD's half of turn two was really weird. I expected to have a bunch of my stuff broken and to lose a couple of SUs to the Mortar but none of that happened. It was one of the worst turns of shooting (dice rolling) that either of us could remember. Time after time HeavyD was making good shots (no TEM or only +1) and nothing was happening. He would roll poorly or if he managed to roll decently I would pass the MC. I think I only had one unit pin through out the whole turn. HeavyD shot nearly his whole side for little effect. The bright side of this (for him at least) was that my return fire was equally infective and I didn't do anything to him with my return fire. 

The other side of the Tracks

Start of Russian Turn 3
As the scenario is only 4.5 turns long, I know at the start of turn 3 that I have been way to cautious over the course of the first two turns. I have a lot to do and I have not done much of anything to date. Thus I start to play much more aggressively  as I already feel like I have a very small chance to salvage a win out of this.Things go fairly well. I start off shooting at the Mortar on the roof and finally break it with an Intensive Fire shot. Using Assault movement I get up on the EmRR and that doesn't go too badly. I am reminded that half of his squads are sporting a 3 FP and am again kicking myself for being so timid on the first two turns. It's also becoming clearer to me that I have been under using my SUs in the first couple turns. I assume at this stage that both of his hidden guns are behind the EmRR to protect the need of me getting one vehicle in that area at the end of the game. I send one SU over to help the platoon I have sent over to my left and that goes pretty well. He has his dummy stacks over here I soon figure out and again I am kicking myself for not seeing this obvious rouse prior to starting. HeavyD gets two fire lanes down this turn and I end up having simply to walk or AM into them, there is just no getting around it at this point. Thankfully Heavy's (new) dice are still pretty cool and I only have a couple squads break while getting next to him both on the EmRR and on my left. Ammunition shortage rears its head for the first time as one of HeavyD's squads explodes while defensive firing at an adjacent unit. On a whim I check the rules and we are both shocked that when a unit that suffers Ammo shortage it also BREAKS! Neither one of us had known (or perhaps better put 'remembered') this. The turn ends with some bloody hand to hand (FB SSR) in which I lose a 9-1 & 6-2-8 to a 7-0 and a 3-4-7.

Russian Movement Phase, turn 3
Russian Assault of the Station, turn 3
At the end of my turn I feel that I at least slightly improved my low odds of winning mostly due to HeavyD's continued drought with his dice. At the start of his 3rd turn I am over the EmRR and into the buildings on the other side and I have a few units on my left pressuring his units in this area. During Prep I lose another 6-2-8 to a pair of ones. HeavyD is cautious choosing to fall back where he can. He senses that he's got time on his side. I shoot into the H-to-H melee and get lucky, breaking his unit with no harm to mine. On the left HeavyD pulls the MMG back to the station again playing it safe (as he should).

Start of Axis Turn 3

Russian Friendly Fire

Turn 4 opens with HeavyD rallying his Mortar crew, nice. On the left I advance into the street using the wall to my advantage and mostly survive. On the right I am able to get next to the hex with the MMG in it. I then move a SU over to support this and find the first hidden gun. It shoots and misses. I am able to advance into melee with the MMG & Leader only to get eliminated in CC. He survives. The assault on the station goes a little better and I am able to get next to the hex that I need to clear out. I am effectively across the street at this point. 

Start of Russian Turn 4
Turn 4, on the Russian Right
Turn 4, on the Left near the Station

Fleeting Chance

HeavyD's portion of turn 4 opens with him breaking his ART as he shoots at my SU two hexes away (WooHoo!). The Mortar finally gets into the game and SHOCKs a different SU back behind the EmRR. He looses another squad (4-4-7 this time) to Ammo shortage in the station. 

Russian Turn 4, the Assault on the RR Station

Progress on the Right

As my last turn opens, I still have much to do and only a half turn to do it in. I figure out that I can get an SU parked within three hexes of I33 by parking it in bypass in hex F31. There isn't much that he can counter this with. I should also be able to clear out hex G31 (the station) of MMC as I have my last 6-2-8 + demo charge next to the hex as well as a couple other squads in the area to help out. He only has a 8-1 and a 3-4-7 in the hex to oppose me. That's two out of the three Victory Conditions. The third condition (clearing the EmRR of Axis units on or adjacent will be much tougher though. Its still slightly possible, there's nothing left but to give it a shot. 

Start of Russian Turn 5

The Assault on the station goes pretty much as planned. The Demo charge was a none event but I am able to break his two units there and get the SU over where it needs to be. Its all going to come down to me getting into Melee and surviving with the last two Hungarian squads next to the EmRR. I have two and a half squads here in range as well as two SU's ready to assist. I start by running one of the SU's into the first building in bypass which stops his unit from shooting out of the hex. Then I run the 4-5-8 through a bunch of residual shots and get into the building next to the last squad only to have this unit break when entering the building from a subsequent first fire shot. I am then forced to run the last SU into the hex and hope that it survives the CC to lock him in to melee (long odds to be sure). In CC we do the hex with the MMG + leader first and they kill the SU (very easy roll being open topped and not having an MG and being in bypass...) and with that the game ends. 

The RR Station Falls
The Hungarians hold on the Russian Right

HeavyD played a very nice game and got a deserved win. I felt like I was clueless from the start, then saw the light too late. Should I play this again, I like to think I would do much better with the Russians. The scenario is currently 13-8 in favor of the Axis and that makes sense. I think as time goes by and this gets played more it'll stay pretty balanced. I would certainly play it again as either side. It's a great into to Festung Budapest. HeavyD and I plan on playing several more of these in the near future.

Final Positions