Sunday, February 15, 2009

AAR - VASLeague Game 1 - S4 Welcome Back! Part 1

Gwaedin and I have just finished our first match in the VASLeague. It was intense -- I repeat, edge-o'-the-seat intense. I think it was about 3.5 hours and it ended on the last half-turn in the Axis MPh.

Though it looked a bit tough for me some lucky ROF rolls with my .50 cal HMG stacked with my 10-2 leader managed to mince enough Krauts to prevent gwaedin from being able to exit the 10 VP worth of squads and leaders off the board. The Germans would not be taking Hosingen from the Americans in this match! [I'm reading the Aftermath part of the scenario card now and noticing that matches up pretty well with what happened in the game!]

I know I already chatted about the first two turns but I'm going to rehash it all here for completeness. Once again, the scenario is S4 Welcome Back from ASLSK1. If SK1 follows any sort of hidden programmed instruction then this fourth scenario is all about being ultra careful in set-up. The Americans are pretty well outnumbered 2 to 1 in S4 and need to be very quick to react to what the Germans are doing.

Again, it seemed clear to me that in order for me to have a chance I'd have to take advantage of the set-up areas well forward and funnel the German advance one way or the other. Then I'd have to hoof my out of position troops into a good rear position. In the above map, the centre has the very tough HMG and 10-2 leader, the right has the FT and more MGs and an elite squad but the left had the third leader with a single MMG and squad to keep the Germans honest. My intent was to try to funnel gwaedin's Germans to the woods on the left as this was the most difficult terrain to traverse to get across the width of the map.

As it turns out, of course, I really didn't think about just how much was coming at me. Gwaedin really really went left hard and 15 squads and 5 leaders with 5 SWs (add one of mine he captured too -- doh!) looked early on like a massive blue tide coming at me. You'll notice that all the squads on the right are CXing like mad to get to the buildings in the centre or at the rear asap. Note too the 8-0 with MMG squad in the left building getting pasted in CC.

Here's a shot of the action later in turn one (Allied side I think). Notice that the Germans don't believe in a fair fight and are piling on in the CC. Boooo!!!

Now, this was where we left the action after our first session. The three squads on the top were the FT with a 2nd line squad (bad set-up I think but still has to be respected by the Germans), another 8-0 with Elite squad, and the 10-2 with Elite 6-6-7 and the dreaded HMG (more on the HMG later). At this point there was an Elite 7-4-7 running in on the right and two broken squads in the middle. The rear broken squad routed there with the final MMG and was lucky to self-rally in a later turn, holding that side of the map closed for exiting Germans. The bulk of gwaedin's Germans were still on the left with one big stack in the bottom who had taken some unlucky shots and routed.

The session tonight started inauspiciously for gwaedin. His Rally attempt with his leader resulted in casualty reduction and he wounded. To balance things out, my crappy 2nd line squad with the FT broke it immediately and they faced a mass of fire and died in short order out in the open on the left.

Here is the map a half turn later (I think) and I've had to retreat my squad and leader in yI2 to yJ1. The squads I've thrown into the middle were all routed in short order and would basically be non-factors in the game. They were target dummies I threw out to keep the rear German units occupied.

The key development at this point in the game was the standoff between gwaedin's mega stack in yI4 and the only guys they could see in yJ1 (the aforementioned 8-0 and squad). Gwaedin's stack could muster up a 20-FP attack at will. In what he believes was a critical point in the match, his first prep fire with the stack was a DR of 11 (+3 or 4) and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I think, in hindsight this was super important because, if you know the flow of the game, this put him back one turn in terms of initiative. I would get a subsequent shot in the DFPh and be basically "one-up" on him. The other important thing was that gwaedin, by his own admission, thinks he fell in love with the power of the mega-stack. He made the cardinal error of forgetting the Victory Conditions and, in my opinion, spent too many turns just Prepping with that mega stack to break my guys rather than sally forth and exiting for the win.

This is a subsequent turn. The Germans are bringing in their routed units from earlier and testing the middle of the map. My sacrificial squads in the middle were little more than small speedbumps to these two other stacks. But it was getting late...

We could both see that the left was turning into a big logjam that wasn't going to be pretty. However, in the middle, gwaedin attempted to start exiting squads (he had all the way to the Y column to do it and seemingly only my MMG in yP1 to worry about. He dashed two half squads all the way to yV4 and placed a MMG and squad in yO5 to cover for the main stack's run for the border. This is where the HMG I had made it's long awaited debut.

To be perfectly honest, I knew the .50 cal HMG in yK2 was a beast but man, it was absolutely vicious in this game. First, I DFed with the squad in yP1 to no result. This forced my hand and I used the HMG, leader-led on yO5. I not only KIAed them I retained ROF and then KIAed the guys in yV4 -- no cheap exits for gwaedin unfortunately.

Another half-turn and it was the final Axis turn (Allies do not get a sixth turn). Critical points: The 7-4-7 in yJ0 was holding the door shut on the extreme left exit hex (yI1). The 6-6-7 with 10-2 and HMG in yK2 were itching to turn the streets red with German blood. I did some quick math and it seemed clear that the big German stack in yI4 was going to have to be broken up and CX for it...

The Rally Phase did not help -- the broken units in Q6 did not want to move so gwaedin was left with trying a lone squad leader to attempt exit. The funny thing was I ignored the squad and jumped all over the wounded leader who had to make a beeline to the board edge. Of course my idiot squad in yP1 rolls boxcars, cowers and basically Final Fires and we laughed about how they peed their pants seeing a lone sergeant with a limp and covered in blood approach them.

Regardless, the right side was done and we got to the true business of the left.

The yI4 stack started breaking up and rounding the corner on yK2. I let one pass and then had to lay down some residual in yJ3 to keep him honest. I was able to keep ROF (all fingers crossed here) and really laid into subsequent squads that tried to run. An HMG here is 8FP. For the running squads it was usually a -1 FFNAM and -1FFMO AND a leader-led -2. Not only is this very very scary, I kept rate, I think, 4 times. For those of you without an IFT handy, that's an average roll of 3 on the 8FP column for a K/2 result. Of course I kept rolling less than that and squads were vapourizing all over. The residuals on the screenshot were from the squad (2), and the HMG (4) when it finally lost ROF.

By this time gwaedin was forced to try his squads in the G column and one group made it to yI1 where the 7-4-7 who had rallied a turn earlier laid down a 6 residual and broke them. It was basically over at that point. In order to exit, the Germans had to have units move off in the MPh (impossible now) or get to the last row and Advance off -- but these were either covered in residual or I could Final Protective Fire to make difficult.

Here's the final state of the gameboard when gwaedin conceded with not enough German squads left to make the VP total.

Some quick thoughts at the end of the game?

1. Gwaedin was a gracious opponent in defeat. We both clearly were having fun and for me, personally, I was a bit regretful to win over such a great opponent. I've asked him to write up some thoughts and I will include them in a subsequent post. Gwaedin was clearly more knowledgeable on the rules and better with the VASL interface. I learned a lot. There is no question that playing him in my first exposure to the VASLeague was lucky. I had an awesome time.

2. Did I set-up well? Was my plan a good one? If anyone has played this more than once I'd like to hear what you think. I firmly believe I was more lucky than good, but then that's always a given!

3. I have some BAD counter discipline. I frequently forgot to place Prep Fire or DF counters and the like -- granted that's not such a big issue in this relatively small scenario but if I intend to go on to full ASL I have to do better.

Hope this was an entertaining read and not that dry. Part Two soon with reflections and learning, hopefully with some input by gwaedin!

Go play ASL!

[EDIT: Sorry about the size of the maps being so small, I have no idea when and how decides when to link to an expanded image. I'll try to upload again tomorrow if I have time.]


Anonymous said...

Go Broncos!


P.S. Don't forget who won OUR last two games.

scrub said...

Now you're dead.

mdnowak said...

Sounds like an interesting scenario. Glad you had a great time playing it. I've downloaded VASL and but haven't tried any games yet. Remember that MF bonus when you CX with leader. I haven't played a scenario yet on that board "y" without CXing at some point. I've heard that in ASL smoke is your friend, but on board "y" a good pair of running shoes helps too. I'm currently in a f2f game with S7 but would like to try S4 next. Hope I'm as favored by the dice gods as you were.

scrub said...

I don't think there are many duds in the SKs really, so long as you aren't expecting massive numbers of counters on either side.

And I'm pleasantly surprised at the variability of results from the boards -- just orienting them differently or just using parts of them seems to really change things up.

As for luck, make sure you have an HMG! Hehe.

Luca Andena said...

Very well, I wanted to first make an AAR myself on the Italian ASL forum but it seems that the arms of the mighty gods pounding the RL hammer on me do not get CX. My AAR will have to wait but this wonderful opponent and his blog deserve a comment on my part. I'm just putting things in as they come.
Intensity. Absolutely true. I don't have that much experience with ASL (and wargames in general) and for me playing live and pbem is VERY different. While with pbem you have all the time you need to think every possible move, that's not the case while you play "live" on VASL or FtF... even if your opponent is kind enough to allow you a lot of time to think your moves without complaining. That pushes you towards making errors and some of them I made.
I decided to concentrate my troops on the left side because I knew that a single squad had only a very limited number of fire options. Scrub actually managed DF quite well by retaining it and denying me the possibility of bypassing his defenders very early. That could have made a huge difference and it was worth trying to lure him into such a (very naive) trap. On the other hand his Defensive Fire was quite uneffective and that was good news for the krauts. I think at that point I made my biggest tactical mistake, related to the presence of the FT-toting 546 squad. I should have moved my two killer stacks right: this way scrub would have been faced with the choice of closing the door on my other units OR slowing down the stacks. Instead I went left and had a good chance of putting the squad off his legs. A couple of good reasons for me to do that: using a FT with a non-elite squad gives you a B#8, meaning that a DR of 8 or more will end up fuel; the squad also had only 6 morale, no leaders around, and the FT gives a -1DRM bonus on anybody who attacks them. Nevertheless, I couldn't take them off my way and the costed me a LOT of time. If I had moved both my stacks right at the beginning (instead of moving first left, then right) that would have given me a chance to stop his upcoming units in any case. I still tried to do it but a casual shot from his 10-2/667/HMG, firing and something moving in the snow, behind the trees, in a building, actually completely broke one of the two stacks. Scrub was already finishing his defensive fire phase when he saw that shot and wrote "let's try"... good choice!
Another error has been during a seemingly harmless advancing phase, when I was moving my units by only one hex in the woods. I should have kept a squad controlling the road, denying the 546 a chance to fall back further. I immediately realized that and told scrub "I made a mistake"... too late. That's something I wouldn't have done in a pbem game!
These seem minor mistakes but they are the reason for which I can't complain about the outcome of the scenario. After that I still had a chance to win, especially when I finally broke his 747 squad near the exit (after 2 turns!). I could have allowed for the '11' shot mentioned by scrub before, you can't think every attack goes well even when you got a lot of firepower. However, i wasn't expecting that his troops would immediately rally even if desperate! At that time I didn't have any more time to work on softening the defenders and I had to run. Some big-time luck needed to get away with that and you don't deserve to win games by luck when you make mistakes... that's why the obscene carnage set down by ROF of his HMG seems only fair to me.
A note on that: this is a scenario in which application of full ASL rules would have changed things quite a bit (surely making it unbalanced). Two rules worth being pointed out, one obvious and one less obvious:
1) bypass, which allow infantry to skirt the edges of buildings or woods without "entering" them, thus speeding up movement
2) fixed CA for heavy MGs positioned in buildings. Heavy weapons such as guns have a Covered Arc in which they can fire. MMGs and HMGs do not but if they are in a building (or similar hampering terrain) they receive it for any phase in which they shoot - i.e. and HMG cannot fire at a target north and then at another west or south in the same phase. In our case, the HMGs mowed down the poor Germans in every direction...
These are just thoughts coming to me without going through the details of the scenario... when I complete my turn-by-turn AAR I will let you know if there's anything else!
In the meanwhile, thanks a lot for a very nice and relaxed game. The six-hours time difference doesn't make it easy for scrub and me to get playing together but I hope pbem will help us finding more gaming opportunities!

scrub said...

Luca, I'm moving your post to the main page.