Sunday, May 3, 2009

VASLeague Round 2 - AAR Part 1

Welcome to Part One of the VASLeague Round 2 AAR I'm writing. At least I'm pretty sure it's going to be more than one part given that all my other AARs are. Let's get to it!

My second round opponent was LTC Paul who is a reservist in the United States and has a PhD to boot. Given that we were in the same time zone I thought it would be a breeze to hook up and finish the match. Alas, it wasn't until last Wednesday when we were finally able to conclude things due to a protracted game of computer tag. I'm just glad that we had the two months to be able to play. When real life rears its ugly head wargames get shoved in the corner.

We decided on S18 - Baking Bread (available originally in MMP's Operations magazine but now downloadable here). Baking Bread is an allusion to the tense firefight for Bread Factory #2 (those crazy Soviet names!) during the battle of Stalingrad in October of 1942. The scenario was adaptable, presumably, from Red Barricades, the HASL module that many consider the best ASL experience, bar none.

Compared to the other ASLSK scenario set in Stalingrad (S2 War of the Rats), Baking Bread is a claustrophobic, dense, urban nightmare. Scenario rules make all non-building terrain "Rubble" -- that is, chunky +3 TEM, 3 MF piles of broken stuff representing the detritus of intense urban street fighting. No nice trees and orchards here. VASL was able to show this with Rubble counters over the affected hexes (see pic above). Other than an ambush modifier for Russian squads (probably representing their inherent fanaticism in defense of their once-lovely city) the scenario also gives ASLSK players their first glimpse at the Soviet Commissar leader.

The Commissar, for those who don't know their Russian history, was a very nice fellow who followed the rank and file troops around and thanks to Stalin's visionary leadership shared command of the units with the military officer. He really was a useless adjutant except that he had the authority to perform summary executions for the political good. In ASL, this means the 6+1 leader is really a 10-0 fanatic who, thanks to his scary powers, rallies broken squads with ease. The problem being that he ELRs then Casualty Reduces anyone who fails to toe the party line. Like I said, very fun at "parties". Haha.

Here's a shot of the map with some crazy markings on it. At first I was quite surprised at the size. It's a fraction of a full map, condensing a lot of urban terrain in one. If War of the Rats was anything to go by, this map with MORE units and a Gun would be quite unpleasant.

According to the historical notes, Sgt. Esser, observing the carnage around him charged his small band of Wehrmacht soldiers into the Bread Factory (marked by "V" overlays on the map). This is represented by the open blue arrow from the top left. Esser's band sets up in sight of the Bread Factory filled with Russian troops and back up by the "X" where the commissar is polishing his pistol.

Another small group of squads is in the buildings below, making the crossing into the street a (hopefully) fatal activity.

Given that I had only six turns as the Germans to take and hold the two victory hexes I couldn't be dawdling. My plan was to sweep the reinforcements from the left edge through the streets below and threaten the units on top in an aggressive advance. A subsequent reinforcement on turn 2 would support whatever position needed it. For the Russians, they would receive a mediocre stack of conscripts from the right edge on turn 3. I felt confident that they wouldn't be much of a threat if I took the factory asap.

The main problem? The Russians had a 45L anti-tank gun HIPped (hidden-initial-placement). Paul was honourable enough to email me an encrypted Word file with the Gun's HIP and CA -- to be shared when he unleashed hell on my troops. Neat eh? Not to spoil things but I gave him such a juicy target on the first turn he was blasting away with it immediately from the position marked with a "?". The Gun had Q5 and R4 in a covered arc.

Here's the first turn, set-up and ready to go:

[I have no idea what the red ringed halo is...]

The game begins in Part 2 later!


Anonymous said...

After weeks of hearing the details without much visual evidence it is nice to see just how things looked!

The commish is fun times!


scrub said...

But do you like the telestrator arrows?!

Anonymous said...

Yeah yeah, your the man. What, did one of your 1P's teach you that trick :) Whateves!

What game we doing this week? What day?


scrub said...

I've got a hankerin' for a spankerin'... ASLSK? UKC? Who knows?!

Jay Richardson said...

> The scenario was adaptable,
> presumably, from Red Barricades,
> the HASL module that many
> consider the best ASL experience,
> bar none.

It was based on "Bread Factory #2" from Red Barricades, which itself was based on "Berserk!" from Streets of Fire. It appears that the historical introduction on all three scenarios is nearly identical (if not actually identical).

In the original Streets of Fire version, the Russians defend with 17 squads but no Gun; the Germans attack with 19 squads. They don't get a Commissar in their OB, but they can probably trade one of their regular leaders for a Commissar. Via SSR, there's a very high probablility that the 8-0 representing Sgt. Esser will go berserk at some point, which automatically makes all German squads in the same or adjacent location berserk as well... the Russian player could see up to six berserk German squads charging him! The German balance provision increases the chance that Esser will go berserk.


For me, the best ASL experience is Streets of Fire and the Deluxe boards (but, to be fair, I've never played a Red Barricades campaign game).

scrub said...

Thanks Jay! Sgt. Esser was totally psycho in our game... hehe.