Monday, July 5, 2010

VOTG2 AAR - Part One - Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...

June 2010 TABSCON saw the Master and the Apprentice square off yet again on the bloody soil of that city on the Volga. Stalingrad, ah Stalingrad... Our scenario of choice was from Valor of the Guards seeing as our last one (from it) was such a frickin' good time. Andy noted that VOTG2 Russe! Drown in the Wolga! was all about machine-gunning hapless Soviet troops trying to reinforce General Chuikov's city defenders. And the map was nice and cramped. (If you missed me waxing eloquent about the history of the scenario click here.)

We diced off for sides and the high roll got the Germans. I lost so I got quickly familiar with the OOB and the map set-up. Funny thing because now that I re-read the scenario card I realize I once again read the set-up instructions wrong*. This is getting to be quite the cock-up for me. As I frequently tell my students, literacy is a valuable skill. Anyways here's the map:

Not quite the tight quarters as VOTG19 nor were we starting off in the same bloody buildings. However, you'll note the nice blue river hexes on the right (east) side of the map. My troops literally had their backs to the wall here. The scenario revolves around the dusk of September 15th 1942 when STAVKA releases the 13th Guards Rifle Division to General Chuikov's control. The Germans are already having a hell of a time prying the 62nd Army out of Stalingrad so it was critical that they interdict the flow of reinforcements.

The white circled buildings and piers indicate the VC. Andy had to control ALL five of them to win (barring an exception that didn't come into play in our game I don't think...). The red line indicates the westernmost set-up the Russians could have. Now here's the stupid part. I only skimmed the set-up notes depicted here:

I mistakenly thought that the road I had to set-up on was the easternmost north-south road closer to the shore. I only realized my mistake while writing up this AAR. If I wasn't so dumb Andy might have had a chance...

Couple of other things in that picture above: (1) note the board configuration -- again, it's a tiny subsection of the whole VOTG map; (2) dusk effects start on turn 3 where hindrance starts affecting shots so that by the last turn there's an automatic +2 on shots. You know where this is heading... close combat!

So, Andy left me for about 10 minutes as I set-up my forces waaay back. Now to be honest I probably would have left a squad or two up front a bit to slow things down but I generally prefer a reverse slope defense anyways and it sort of applied here. Well except that reverse slope is better when the enemy doesn't have three MG nests on the top of the slope looking down on you... [Pro Tip 2 kids! While you're setting up? Look at the opponent's set-up instructions too!]

Whatever, I'm sure Vasily Zaitsev would show up and take them all out anyways (hehehehe...). My set-up included 12 ? markers which I tried to do better with. I'm sure I don't really cause much consternation to Andy when I haphazardly place them in sub-optimal positions. At position (A) I put a stack of 4 of them down. It was a fairly conspicuous house with some very good sightlines on the northern flank. Again, I'd normally put an MG in there but this time I was playing waaaay back. I meant for it to slow Andy down for a turn at least and I think it did its job.

At position (B) was my larger leader-led stack of fun on Level 2 (third floor kids!). I didn't realize it at the time but I was a sitting duck for prep from the MG nests on the top of the hill. Regardless, their main purpose was to make taking their building very difficult and to be the biggest speed bump. At position (C) was my INF Gun led by one of the Commissars. I was not allowed to set it up in HIP but it had good sightlines and would be something to reckon with. Finally at position (D) I put a 6-2-8 squad with MMG HIP'ed in hex LL24 Level 2. I think it was a nasty surprise...!

Here's a pic of Andy's set-up. Note the three MG nests up on the bluffs (when am I going to remember that the pink terrain is a level up?!). These guys made it incredibly painful for my guys. In retrospect it was probably a good idea not to set my guys up the west -- I have a feeling that they would have been shot-up, routed and interdicted by the MGs all day long and as it turned out I would need every able-bodied man on the last turn.

The Germans get the first moves in the scenario and they had to make hay. They only get 2 turns without dusk hindrance on shots, then Russian reinforcements (and ammo!) start rolling in off Assault Boats(!) from the east. The reinforcements increase as the darkness starts to fall.

As expected, Andy had to respect my INF Gun and hit both flanks: the north wing hindered only a half-turn or so by the fake stack (who soaked up a 16FP attack); the south wing running, unknowingly into a HIP'ed MG nest. German progress was generally good.

I can't lie, I thought that I was in an excellent position on Turn 3, midway through the game. Andy had only so far controlled the northernmost pier which I didn't bother to defend and he was having difficulty rolling up the northern flank. The advance in the south was stymied and the Gun was popping anyone trying anything close to the middle. What is more, Zaitsev did show up and took out the southernmost MG nest. Woot!

Of course, as ALWAYS happens in ASL, the swing of fortune cause my INF Gun to malf. Uh-oh. There really wasn't anything stopping them now when you consider the pretty impressive firepower still being projected from the German MGs in the rear.

At least one good thing happened on Turn 3 for the Reds... Chuikov himself showed up! Well, Major Chuikov... I took it as a good omen when he disembarked from his Assault Boat to "shore" up the defense on the south flank. I was able to find a shadow in the MG fire and beach the reinforcements without trouble. (Alas, Chuikov was to spend much of his time blowing his craptacular morale checks late in the game... I'm not sure he survived close combat.)

A little note about Assault Boats. A pretty common comment from ASL players to their ASLSK brethern is that there is no need to memorize the monster-sized ASLRB. For the most part you only read up on the rules particular to a specific scenario just before you play. Assault Boats is one of those rules. I literally read the rules on them (about a quarter of a page) on Turn 1 and didn't really have a problem incorporating them into my play. So again, if you feel the leap from SK to full ASL is going to be a bear, stop being silly.

Andy was starting to feel the time pressure as we eased into the second half of the game. The north flank was stubbornly holding out and applying ridiculous amounts of defensive fire. He even traipsed a unit into 8FP residual (I rolled crap!) to get where he needed to go. But as all things in Stalingrad, hex LL18 eventually was put down to a combination of MGs, CCs and failure to rout. Those fine NKVD boys will be missed *sniff* *sniff*. :P

This is a shot from Andy's perspective up on the bluffs above the Volga. I can imagine that his frustration was quite in keeping with the history. The Germans could see the mighty river from many vantage points across the city but they couldn't ever push enough Russian into it: "Bul-bul!!!"

On Turn 4 fortunes swung haphazardly again. I was sure that I had enough reinforcements now to at least keep ONE VC building from the Wehrmacht... So of course what happens?

Andy shoots up one of the Assault Boats, you know, the one with a 6-2-8, DC and 8-1 leader in it? Yeah, that one. So, it was going to be close...

Here's a nice low angle picture of the odds facing Andy on something like Turn 5.

Of course the game would be decided in deadly close combat. It's Stalingrad!

Here's another view, close up, of the carnage.

In the end, it wasn't quite enough. There were 4 Melees going into the last half-turn and I actually won one of them. The shot above are the stacks on the final few buildings blown up for analysis. I think in the end, Andy ended up taking 2-3 of the 5 buildings he needed and I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It's the first game of full-ASL that I've won and it wasn't decided until the last half-turn. Nothing is quite like ASL to get your blood pressure going.

Here's a shot of the whole board at game's end. I think it took us 4 hours or so? Andy will correct me if I'm wrong. That's a whole lot of cardboard carnage.


1. My ASL notebook had the British wartime slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" on the front cover. Lo and behold, Andy wore a T-shirt with the same slogan. It was a hilarious moment.

2. My overall strategy was to delay bits and pieces of the German forces at a time. I had no illusions that I'd get a huge game changing shot at a killstack but I tried to pick a bit there and a bit here. I held off shots as long as possible on defense til I had at least the x2 PBF mod.

3. A big equalizer to the MG nests? The Russian SAN of 5. That number comes up a LOT.

4. Major Chuikov was a 10-3. Andy remarked that he'd never seen a more useless 10-3 leader ever. Brutal. You are a disgrace to the name sir!

5. The game closely held to history. Like their counterparts in 1942 the Germans got close. But close is not nearly enough in Stalingrad.

Good times. Once again, a hearty thanks to Andy for being a great sport and supplying the kit. Thanks to TABSCON for hosting the space for our game. Thanks to MMP for Valor of the Guards especially designer Tom Morin -- daaaamn this game is fun.

* - New rule:



Andy said...

I don't have the scenario card available, so tell me - were you illegally set up, or did you just fail to use all your options? If the latter, my shame is all the greater - if the former, I will have my revenge.
Oh hell, I'll have my revenge either way.

Joe Steadman said...

Excellent AAR

Jim said...

Great AAR! Fun read that makes me want to play the scenario RIGHT NOW.

scrub said...

I wasn't illegally set up.

It's ok, the hurt and pain will go away. Someday...

scrub said...

Thanks for the comments guys. The scenario is fun. I just keep picturing the Volga crossing and Jude Law's hapless friends.