AP45 - Reaping Rewards

What the hell are you wearing on your head? I said prepare for victory or death, not ‘prepare to dress like a psycho gnome!”
Unfortunately the archive which saved the other re-posts allowing me to rebuild the majority of the pages had not swept the site since this last post. No matter. This was posted August 2015 and was the second game against my new skypeWithBoards US opponent. Just to bring the gaming narrative full stream I had another six or so games (I think) and eventually took a sabbatical from the game partially caused by this original site getting hacked (they were quite clever really the hacks only appeared when an admin was not looking so I did not notice for ages.) and partially gamer fatigue (again I have some thoughts on this I will probably write up at some point in the future). After that I had no games for around six months until out of the blue I was contacted with a Leicester beginner (I was still popping into GameSquad intermittently mainly to see if I could wind Robin up) to play some starter kit games ftf. Those were the starter kit games that were published with the reboot of the site. Whilst playing those I retried PBEM so I could get some full ASL practice against another starter kit player and Miguel (I may post those at some point) which was useful and finally my old skypeWithBoards opponent noticed I was playing again and got back in touch and we have continued since.
Staying in the general Stalingrad area my next scenario is ‘Reaping Rewards’ from AP45. In deep winter elements of the 7th Romanian Infantry are holed up in a small town called Kruzhilin. The Russians, having launched ‘Little Saturn’ then come sweeping in a vast pincer attack aiming to crush my valiant troopers in one fell sweep. This is quite a large scenario for me and it does contain some interesting combinations (it is ASL ‘interesting combinations’ is what the game does..). I have Axis minor so will have crap firepower and crap morale and equally crap ELR. I will also have difficulty persuading the lads that any mighty steel behemoths would succumb to a ‘spirited frontal assault’ or as the game would have it  ‘pass a TC’. On the other hand my lads all have Molotov’s so can be just as effective without needing the task check. We also have plenty – and I do mean plenty of both officers (three! including a negative one!) and a surfeit of support weapons and artillery pieces. Most of these are ex-French or ex-Russian but nothing to complain about. I have two artillery pieces one 76LL, one 45L and an 81* mortar. Of these the 76LL and perhaps the mortar are the only weapons that could hurt the enemy tanks. I also have a Heavy machine gun (at a guess an MG34 on the tripod), two ZB-53 medium machine guns, four! ZB vz. 26 light machine guns and finally two mortars.  Plenty to play with. The Russians, on the other hand, pack two T34s and a flame thrower equipped KV 8 (and other stuff, lots of troops yada, yada,yada). Anyway my first choice is whether to defend far forward or sit closer back. I would usually go for the bubble defence but in this case my opponent is very aggressive and much better with armour than I am so I suspect a forward defence will be easily swarmed. Therefore I decided to set up far more centrally and hope that fear of non-existent HIP guns will slow him down. I do expect the tanks to carry riders in this case though.
Here is my setup. You’ll note I am using one of the ‘strengths’ of Skype in that I am using British large concealment counters to indicate the locations of my HIP guns and Japanese small concealment counters for my bore sight locations. That way I find it easier to remember…
My oppo advanced in, what ended up as, four separate strike forces. I will label these (from the North) Alpha Force (red) – mainly infantry with decent officers, Beta Force (light blue) – worse infantry but lots of mortars (three). In the South Charlie Force (orange) (the majority of the southern infantry and the KV Flame thrower and finally, the smallest, Delta Force (purple)  – the two T34s with mounted riders of two 6-2-8 squads.
Our first session covered the first two and a half turns so it will be easier covering each strike force in turn. Alpha Force faced only a single squad plus light machine squad at the outset and soon moved into combat with that. They did manage to trip the bore sight location of the big mortar but were ‘resilient’ to all my fire. As with most things in ASL you win some and lose others and my valiant defending squad held the first melee whilst pinned and then lasted another two+ turns holding one squad in combat. This gave me time to shift another squad from the center to try and protect the gaping hole in my back yard and eventually to take the chance on revealing one of my 75* and swinging it around twice to take a shot (and provide some ‘threat’ to slow the Russian scum down. This proved unusually successful and I not only made the shot (just) the resultant kill roll was my first double one of the game literally obliterating the probably briefly surprised target.
The initial Russian attack develops nicely until its
tanks meet up with heroic Romanian warriors..
Beta Force made the least ground of all the Russian forces and this was due to the open ground (not quite open but the ‘orchard of death’ did prove an appropriate name). This was combined with a decent enough forward force on my part that was definitely strengthened by my psycho light mortar squad who acted much like a Duracell bunny. Knock it down and it keeps getting up and running. Or perhaps more appropriately get multiple morale checks and it keeps on pinning. When it did get shots of itself it was effective and two to three of the attackers were broken leaving a small line of Russian support weapons lying on the floor. Things were not all great for my lads as by the end of Russian turn three forward Russian elements were close to breaking over the road but as I have reserves in the area (including the large mortar which I successfully managed to manhandle to a better location) I am not concerned as yet as to this flank. If nothing else the big mortar will almost force the Russians to move sideways to avoid it slowing them down and that’s allowing they get past my super light mortar squad from hell.
Beta Force proved unsuccessful in threatening the North East though
they did ‘hold’ four Romanian squads in position. Damsky – to use a Russian expression
Charlie Force made a steady advance and due to the added distance did not impact much until later on breaking one of the defenders. The flame thrower KV8 though was much more aggressive pushing forward to a flanking position where I ‘lightly peppered’ it with one of my light mortars to no noticeable effect. With its second shot though it did run out of fuel for the flamethrower (that will teach the Soviets to siphon the fuel out to use for Sergei’s birthday party) As we end at almost the half way point I still have a couple of forward defenders but these are likely to collapse very soon leaving the southern part of the town open to the Soviet menace.
Charlie force approaching the town from the South.
Delta force was both the smallest and most aggressive. It piled forward and made appropriate mincemeat of my rather ineffective single defender with light machine gun. They then moved a tank through an orchard to force dismount (and amusingly they were so pissed of at this they failed the morale check and sulked for a turn). In the meantime one of my large guns had revealed (shooting at Alpha one above) and the T34’s could not resist this juicy target and piled forward for an overrun. I tried two rather stupid shots that did nothing but fortunately did not break the gun and survived the overrun pinned! Then things kicked up a gear. I revealed a conscript squad next door to the overrunning tank and tried and succeeded in having Molotov’s. Now it was a difficult shot as the tank was in motion but with a second snake eyes it exploded into flames right on top of the big gun. This will make it a bit of a bugger to shoot out as those flames and smoke pile up but I would gladly swap an artillery gun with a ROF of 1 for a T34.
Now this left the remaining T34 out of platoon movement but with points left. After easily passing the no-radio check it swung to the North East behind my, now, lonely defender against Alpha force. If successful that squad would be encircled and probably easily disposed of. It was a problem but there was a potential solution in my 76LL sitting HIP next door to the now revealed 75*. It would have to swing make three covered arc changes to get a shot which would therefore be unlikely to hit. I went for it and took the shot. Which failed. It had taken two movement to get over the wall so I decided to Intensive. Without the CA penalty and an acquire it would need a seven (If I remember correctly) – then my opponent handily mentioned to not forget that due to the wall it would have to hit the turret as it was hull down. Great. If I had known that I would not have bothered but as I was now committed I made the roll, It was a five – white three coloured two. I had made the shot and hit the turret (which was beautifully positioned exactly in its rear) so I needed elevens. I made it with something around seven and the second T34 exploded. No crew piled out and there we stopped for the week.
The Center and the demise of Delta forces tanks. Huzzah!
Though some of the big beasts are down plenty of Russians remain and they are close to those victory buildings.
The next session continued the roller coaster ride. Starting again with ‘Alpha force’ my defenders valiant melee finally ended at the end of turn four with the Russian casualty reducing and the brave Romanians dying (shame). The rest of that force stormed across the open ground with one squad moving into combat with the artillery gun crew. That combat was inconclusive until the vehicle flame spread to the orchard which burst into glorious flame (even with the snow) and destroyed the gun and vehicle and both squads as they could not leave the hex being in melee. On this flank my lone defender in the north was broken and rallied on a snake eyes generating a 7-0 hero who tried to tempt the Russians to shoot at them but failed. Here also my 76LL was unfortunately broken but had done its duty by this point.
Prior to Romanian turn 4. The Mg34 in Q5 is about to
‘rip a new one’ out of the Russian troops in P6 and P7
Happy Days…
‘Beta Forces’ Russian attack petered out when they failed to do anything but pin the ‘pin meitsters’ four times and then were hit twice by a kill sniper (due to Russian morale checks elsewhere) and then a low point blank firepower from the light machine gun squad , who foreseeing the need for Russian friends in a potential prison camp future took the officer and squad prisoner as ‘insurance’.
Russian Skumsky troops approaching the town
keen for some Romanian action!
In the South I had hardly any defences and the Russians moved ahead accordingly. Against Charlie Force my medium in R6 made a nice reveal which broke and ELRd the squad who entered its bore sighted  location and then the routing squad were destroyed for failure to rout as they could not get past the squad in P9 who were pinned by the KV. The Ruskies gained a strong presence in the P6 building until the Mg34 rated around six times and broke and generally cut to pieces its defenders. This only temporarily helped the defence as the next turn, ignoring all the juicy targets I kept dangling in front of them , the Russian maxim squad in o2 prepped and managed to pin the officer and Mg34 squad whilst the Russian sniper broke the medium machine gun squad in R6. Suddenly the Russians had an opening and earlier than I had expected. Rather than rush the movement phase which was getting complicated we decided to stop there for two weeks.
The situation at the start of Russian turn 5. The MMG in O2 is
about to pin the officer and hmg in Q5 and the enemy sniper will
break the squad in R6

Now one of the advantages of Skype play is that any delays in play allow you to sit back and take a closer look at what may happen and at this point I regard the game as 40% in my favour and 60% towards my opponent. With two turns left he is time delayed but can move forward some large concentrations of troops to seize both lower victory buildings and pressurize my last. Then the KV can bypass freeze the strongest defenders allowing close approach then a hopeful massive advanced fire attack followed by an equally unbalanced combat. The only thing I am unsure about is whether he will try and take one hex of the last remaining victory building this turn (as the mg34 and officer are pinned so less effective in combat). On my side my hidden artillery gun can hit one of the side buildings and potentially smoke one of the victory hex buildings (to make it more difficult to shoot into whilst allowing me to defend it) my 45L can also hit the forward building opposite the victory hex which will probably be a ‘must’ take shot if my oppo actually enters the location. In my turn I will probably have to try and get as much forward as possible to lay down fire and pump up the size of the defending forces…
Anyway the Russian movement was interesting as they were obviously not going to rush the first hex. The KV rolled forward to bypass freeze my pinned heavy machine gun and the surrounding forces either moved to melee outlying units with good shots or into good jump off positions. My only shooting this turn was routinely awful with a succession of decent 5’s being easily countered by some excellent morale checks rolls by the Soviets. Their offensive fire was much more effective breaking the heavy machine gun squad and the lads in the orchard. By my turn 5 I attempted to skulk (annoyingly another good Russian shot pinned my medium machine gun squad preventing them from getting in the victory building) everywhere else I rushed my boys to the centre – here my inexperience perhaps showed as the crush in the middle was so large and I was so focused on moving that I forgot to prep my two guns though i dont think it would have made much difference.
The movement phase of Romanian turn 5 ends with much pressure visible against the victory building.
The tank is actually in bypass of Q5 though due to the amount of counter in the area It does not appear that way
The final Russian turn started with the my oppo fixing a medium machine gun and rallying another squad. Oh good; odds of 4 to 1 are just so passe when you can take on 5 to 1. Only the super medium squad on O3 prepped managing to pin one of my reinforcements then movement. The tank as expected rolled around to bypass the last victory hex with me shooting a conscript at it to lay down some slight (two) residual then the soviets swarmed forward. My last MG34 provided sterling service by breaking two squads and an officer in O5 before failing rate and further awards should be provided to a rallied conscript in S5 and the large mortar crew in S6 who between them and the residual and an almost endless stream of successful final protective fire shots broke two squads an officer and pinned a further two in R5. You may be wondering why my big artillery gun was not doing the same and you would be correct as they were in its bore sighted location but I had a different plan for the gun. This I initiated in my defensive fire phase by dropping smoke next door in R4.
This hex now had two concealed squads (one conscript one normal) and my 8-1 officer. With smoke on the hex they would get +4 to most shots and halved for advance fire and halved again for concealment (against the squads) which should hopefully get me through the advance fire. This, when it came, was enormous with a 20 +5 versus the officer (the extra +1 was due to over stacking in O5) and an 8+5 versus the concealed squads. The roll was enough to make the officer morale check and missed the squads. All I needed was for the officer to pass the morale check and I would be in good shape for the combat as the Soviet menace would perhaps have to leave a squad behind to protect against an ambush withdrawal into the other victory hex (I would have had -2 motion tank, -1 officer, -2 concealed, +1 lax so -4 on the ambush roll!) Naturally he failed the check at the site of the demon Russians and the sight of the whimpering officer proved less than salubrious on the other two squads who both….failed their pin check so lost concealment…We did not bother with the other melees as this was the only one that mattered and thus three Russian squads, all that was left of the mighty Russian war machine moved into combat. Things were looking less good as even with an ambush on my part I could not withdraw as I was pinned. Fortunately the dice gods made both of us roll a 6 and combat would ensue. Due to the tank I got to go first and tried to take out a 4-5-8 squad to reduce the odds. This failed meaning the Russians would have one roll needing 6 or less to win the game (7 would casualty reduce and so do nothing). The big roll came and was a five the Russians had won and taken the victory hexes. There will probably be much mourning in the Romanian hill town of Ezxytysttluyuyrswzxsn this year. Though that is probably due to where they live rather than the deaths and captivity of this particular force.
The end position. The R4 Russians just won the game with a last huzzah! Again the tank
may not look in bypass but was actually in bypass of R4 at this point. Smoke has been removed
from that hex post combat as well…
This has been a fabulous game with it going to the wire on both sides. My first try of an entire Axis Minor force was fun and though it was brittle it was a laugh to play. Luck was also fairly even on both sides. All in all I would recommend it. Finally this is the largest game I have played on Skype so far and the play method coped easily with the counter structure which is a big positive to this method of playing. I don’t enjoy VASL that much so it is good to have something that allows people separated by vast distances to play and push counters with minimal hassle. Sweet..Objectively  I was outplayed this scenario but the lucky shot that took out the second T34 early on probably enabled me to be more competitive that I should have been at the end. Amusingly I had not even noticed the wall and probably would not have tried the shot at all if I had. Still that is one of those moments that will stick in my ASL memory for a very long time.
Ha! whose laughing about our hats now.

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