AP18 - Village of the Damned

Another game against New Yorker Doug  this was fun but though I enjoyed playing Doug I was to close to skype with boards which is a much superior way of playing and keeps me away from sitting at computers. So I stopped PBEM temporarily.
Roberto Cicero was more than usually glum. The weather stunk – seriously, the strategic situation was appalling let alone the rapidly disintegrating tactical one and what was worse both…his…spare..socks…were wet. Damned Russian weather. Nothing like Milan. Out of the window a couple of semi-drunk Germans staggered past. Correction, he thought Milan is also overrun with drunken Germans though usually ones with more limbs and perhaps life expectancy.
The door opened with a crash and his driver Lucas ran in to plonk a branch decorated with empty food cans on the table. “Look boss a Christmas tree!”
Roberto scowled, yes this certainly was also the suckiest Christmas in the world and he couldn’t conceive how it could be much worse. As he thought this a shell plummeted through the sky with an unearthly shriek and in the distance rifle fire could be heard. Of course it could get worse, he internalised, this campaign was starting to turn into the Mother of all Disappointments.
“Lucas, I am afraid our innovative and exciting Christmas will have to wait, we shall have to deal with the Communist menace first”, he pulled his greatcoat back on and checked the mechanism on his Beretta Model 1934, which, with the grace of God, moved sweetly backwards and forwards. “Perchance we can enjoy a tin of festive potato and a German sausage with a very thin wine that tastes of rats urine later”. He dragged on a boot while Lucas attempted to process the unusual word ‘Perchance’. His other leg was thickly swathed in bandages from a bullet wound received a week earlier. His batman offered him his other boot and he expansively waved it back, “this will save me a fortune in cobblers bills. Allowing we live that is…”
My next game, another PBEM, is ‘Village of the Damned’ a scenario from an early action pack whose number I have forgotten. I am defending again with a hotch potch of wounded Italians and Germans desperately trying to have a single MMC unbroken against a horde of Russians. To add insult to injury my only machine gun is an Italian one. I have a few advantages with the main being that the Russian need to approach over open ground and has some extreme time constraints.  I setup my forces to all four corners of the village in a feeble attempt to force the Russians to either split the forces or cover a large area to fulfil their victory conditions. My strongest forces are protecting the Eastern edge where the Russians have the shortest distance to cover in the least amount of open ground. Most of my forward units here are dummies though my wounded 9-2 and best Italian squad and machine gun are in a forward house to hopefully lay down a firelane should the Red horde decide to come this way. Hopefully the numbers of units might put him off forcing him to cover longer distances to move in.
The Game
As is often the case my interpretation of what my opponent might do was utterly wrong and he heavily setup by the Eastern flank with the tank and a large flanking stack also on the East but obviously aiming to use the gully. The first turn was unexpectedly gentle as bar that flanking force and a couple of counters most of the Russians entered in the Advance Phase. This was helpful as it meant a Russian turn had been soaked up without me needing to do much at all. Next turn the Russians got a tad more frisky and sent a scouting half squad pelting forward which was promptly eviscerated by my valiant Breda 30 light machine gun. Nonplussed by this the Ruskies promptly launched a human wave! And hurled themselves forward at my Eastern defences (‘defences’ hohoho, an amusing conceit). Considering the lack of forces I had available my lads did what they could with the fire lane breaking a full squad and the inherent of the squad (now lead by my heroic wounded lieutenant Roberto) managing to casualty reduce two squads and break their remains. My remaining troops not being led by a firebrand proved less successful with the poor conscripts in the path of the Russian juggernaut only managing an irrelevant pin and a further break.
The human wave is about to lose more to the machine gun along with some breaks with point blank fire..The only
Russian consolation here was its ‘superior’ sniper who did huge damage to the defences.

The Russians sprinted across the snow issuing ‘hurrahs!’ Roberto wished his own troops showed such gusto – still there was a time for such actions and when you neglected to take into account ‘well sighted machine gun posts’ the time was hopefully not ‘now’. He tapped private Alesso on the arm and the Breda spat out rounds into the mass of great cloaked brown. It wasn’t enough to stop the attack but left a satisfying amount of bodies staining the snow slowly red. Didn’t stop the bastards charging in on some of the lads though and from the sounds of it they weren’t enjoying the party. The smoke flooding the village was making it hard to see and what was worse the machine guns loader, Marco, had managed to dress up as Father Christmas presumably in honour of the day,  which was making Roberto think he had taken too many pills.
Fortunately for my hearty Italian lads the Russian commander was unwilling to chance a 1:2 combat even with their negative one leader and another squad advanced in causing an ambush roll which I won. Sneakily my lads withdrew into the building next door. This is not ideal as they cannot get by the building blaze behind them but they may be able to hurt their neighbours with a 12 up 2 prep shot next turn…The other combat was a draw.
Mid Game
Naturally I rolled box cars on the 12 up 2 ensuring I received punishment in return and instantly regretting not splitting my two squads. My shooting then degenerated with a run of eleven and twelves which managed to break my machine gun. The Russians whilst this was occurring, were using their snow suits to advance concealed next to my lonely half squad. I was not particularly worried by this as the half squad was doomed anyway and this was a further three Russian squads plus an officer spending a turn moving forward. Time is my friend in this scenario or perhaps more realistically the wasting of time is my friend. Unfortunately the dice decided that my wounded troops were to tired to do jack for the next turn and I missed an eight down one at the Maxim squad leaving my best Italian squad dangerously exposed to return fire and then box-carred my best attempt to get the german squad broken by the sniper back into play.
P2 is about to be swarmed by the S3,P0 and T2 Russians with U4 sweeping round to deal with R6
Roberto scowled as the sounds of combat ceased in the distance and Russians could be seen leaving the house where his men had been. Shaking his head to refocus he tapped Alesso on the shoulder to shoot down a small group of Russians hefting a large Maxim machine gun right next to his own building. Alesso smoothly pivoted the Breda round and smiled as he squeezed the trigger. Nothing.. with a loud ‘clunk’ the weapon stopped firing. Whilst Alesso desperately attempted to free the jam Roberto pulled out his own pistol and fired at the Russians and one hulking Nco in particular. Unfortunately nothing interfered with accuracy quite as much as stress and he missed. The Nco even laughed as the bullets pattered the snow around them ineffectively and quite deliberately sighted the Maxim straight at Roberto. He gulped, certain his time had come, as the Russian winked and tightened his finger on the trigger..nothing. Roberto almost laughed at the Russians almost comical expressions  until a bloody tank came crashing through the wall and showering them all with dust. As his men picked themselves up the sound of ‘Hurrah!’ came hollering through the village as infantry pelted across the road. Roberto lunged forward shouting “hold! We can do this” as his men panicking starter to run. But his wounded leg was unable to take his weight and he screamed as he collapsed on the floor. Rolling on his back he fired a couple of quick shots at the vague shapes swarming in then a sudden sharp pain in his chest as he fell into darkness.

End Game
At this point in the game the Axis player is basically held up trying to work out whether it is better to drop concealment or go for the ambush. When the Russian tank VBM’d the building with my officer and best Italian squad I had to decide whether to try for Street Fighting or not but the low basic morale and the resultant pjn if I failed would make any ambush roll one in the Russians favour whereas ‘if’ I could survive advancing fire then I would have 3 in my favour (2 for the vehicle and 1 for the officer) unfortunately the Russians shot well in the advance fire phase and the squad broke and surrendered with the officer being easily  killed. Elsewhere a dummy stack was removed, the german squad and officer broken by the sniper were killed in combat along with a conscript squad. Here we missed a rule and forgot that guard squads with prisoners fight at half effect, only a small ‘miss’ as it would have resulted in a Russian squad casualty reducing. For the last turn this left me with three live squads and plenty of live Russians in opposition. The tank pelted to the German squad to vbm him as well and strip concealment and three squads moved towards central Italians. These boys, obviously invigorated by fire or fear, actually did some damage and a Russian squad was broken with a further killed by residual with my first snake eyes of the game. Unfortunately no more damage was done and the the last combats of the game now occurred. Now the odds were quite good for a close win here. All the combats involved ‘wounded’ German/Italian squads as per SSR so the Russians would get -1 automatically and I would gain +1 with a 2 to 1 a 2 to 1 and a 1 to 1. All I had to do was to not die, I could remain in combat or casualty reduce without losing.
The final three combats marked with ‘stars’ – well deserved as it stands..
So up came the first, and my best hope, a single Russian squad versus some wounded German 1st liners…In one fell die roll of death,(along with the helpful!) presence of the tank and the game was won as I won the ambush and just withdrew. Just to see what ‘might’ have happened we continued rolling. In the middle combat with 2 to 1 Russian odds and the wounded disadvantage I once again ambushed and withdrew the squad. The Russians must have been gnashing their teeth at this point so we moved to the final combat where these was 2 to 1 odds and a Russian Officer giving the Russians -1 on the ambush and -2 on the combat itself here I failed to ambush but for my own combat roll managed a snake eyes (I say ‘I’ managed, as this was VASL these were all rolled by my opponent just to add insult to injury) gaining a hero and as it was hand to hand killing all the Russians as well.
Well if the dice had treated me the way my opponent was treated in the combat phase then I would have lost. As it stands my tactic of not engaging, widely separating my troops and keeping concealment as much as possible worked well. My oppo considers that his initial human wave hurt him badly due to running into my fire lane. This could be correct though it did result in him closing very quickly. Personally I feel that the Russian needs to avoid close combat (or at least dominate close combat with 3 to 1 odds minimum) as they cannot really afford the time delays. Once the Russian has worked out who is/is not a dummy then my plan makes the game a waiting game as there is not a lot to do but sit and wait. It is still a very distinctive scenario with a lot of character though..


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