OA21 - Gunter Strikes Back



At this point in my ASL career I found myself opponent less, partially through standard gaming reasons ( I have some theories I shall probably post at some point in the future) and partially through my own intransigence. Rather that stop playing I attempted to learn PBEM through VASL. This did not initially go well. I had two opponents. The first, who shall remain nameless completely thrashed me in Frontiers and Pioneers (joining a not very select crowd) but did some actions that made me suspect cheating was going on. I may not be the best with tanks but I do know that if you have a KV stopped in front of you then little scout Panzers need to attack in numbers to have a chance. What you don’t do is in the first move move the other  Panzers away from the KV to a different section of the battlefield leaving a single Panzer who bounding fire stops shoots snake eyes the to hit then low rolls the to kill. Unless you knew you would do that in which case why not? Since those rolls were the first rolls in that log you can see my suspicions…Anyway I did not continue with that opponent but did have several other games with a New Yorker called Douglas. He again diced and thrashed me in our first game (3rd RTR in the rain which I love as a scenario) but that was not a problem as he was a better player. Our second game was ‘Gunter Strikes Back’. First posted 21st April 2015

Next up an unusual scenario from Out of the Attic originally designed for an Australian tournament. A small force of British is defending the wreck strewn airport of Montecorvino just after the Salerno landings. The Germans have dragged together every possible unit and are throwing a hotch potch formation to try and seize it back. Unusual elements are the random generation of burning wrecks, standard wrecks, or nothing around the airfield and as always the formations involved. Infantry wise the forces are approximately equal with both sides fielding 1st line to elite forces the Germans though have several armoured vehicles versus one British Sherman. The Sherman is the beast of the scenario resistant to most of the German vehicles frontally bar only the Marder and dependent on hit location more at risk from the side/rear. All the German vehicles are open topped which means they are more at risk from reaction fire/combat and such delights as the piat and mortar.
The Plan
Since the Sherman is my trump card I intend to switch out some of my concealment counters for larger ones to not give an indicator exactly where the Sherman is. The remaining concealment will be on the left flank where I would expect the infantry to appear. The remainder will protect the left flank. Rather than use the mortar for infantry suppression (over the woods) it shall hopefully function as a vehicle killer due to the amount of open topped German vehicles floating around and my expectation that the lighter vehicles will pile forward to try and expose/draw out the Sherman.
The start locations showing my cunning attempt to hide the location of the Sherman
The Sun blazed down and Lieutenant Sam Trellick could not but think that God was making his displeasure known. Rain – lots of it until this airfield was taken at which point not a hint of rain to put out the billowing clouds of smoke given off by the wrecked aircraft. At least he and his crew were nicely settled in the woods along with his Sherman.
He lovingly swung himself up noting dispassionately the name scrawled in white paint on the barrel.
“Where did that spring from?”
His drivers head appeared from under the chassis ,” sorry Sir didn’t realise you were back. We noticed some of the American boys were naming their tanks and thought we would do likewise”
Sam read the name out, “we’d rather not today..thanks” – the writing took up most of the barrel.
“Not very heroic is it”
“You know what I say Sir – once a hero soon a corpse and I have always had a fear of crispy chicken”
Sam was slightly lost for words,” Well, erm, let it stay for the moment. Jerry is apparently approaching so we need her up and running sooner than later”
The First turns
ASL is a finely tuned game where you can chose to gamble or you can chose to play a more cautious game. Many of the experts play a cautious game only gambling when it is necessary and giving their opponent the minimum amount of opportunities to hurt them. Now in my last PBEM game against this very opponent I had been destroyed by the dice to such an extent that I did not write up the AAR as an endless succession of – “opponent needed 4 or less rolled 3″ then for my morale I rolled 12 and when I attacked “I need an 8 or less – roll 11″ is less of an AAR than a disaster zone. For our next game it looked (in the first turn at least) as if the dice gods changed allegience and coupled with a very, very aggressive plan by my opponent caused some considerable damage.
Around half the German infantry moved slowly in behind the woodline with little damage then the vehicles moved in and boy were they keen to get up close and personal. First up the PSW bombed up the map and moved down the runway. I took a high odds shot with my Bren gun and rolled low and hit. Needing a 4 or less I then rolled a three with no survivors the vehicle was destroyed. This was very bad luck for my opponent.
My elite Bren gun team took a shot at the PSW here and blew it up with a lucky shot
For his next move he then shifted an SPW with an 8-1 officer, half squad and light machine gun forward equally aggressively and next to one of my concealed stacks. Unfortunately for the Germans this stack also contained the PIAT. The to hit roll was about average with motion and size penalties (the vehicle had been in line of sight a while) and I made it easily enough. Being a piat the kill roll was guaranteed bar a dud and though the dice gods warned with an 11 it was still enough. The next vehicle exploded with the crew and squad dying and the officer scuttling out only to be broken and wounded in the defensive fire phase.
The unlucky Germans scouting found they were holding a tiger by the nose. Well not literally as that would be weird.
The SPW was blown up with only the officer surviving.
Apparently unwilling to forgo the aggressive approach the next SPW with passengers managed to drive through the entire airfield getting close to my rear with the Marder finally attempting a difficult HE shot at my PIAT squad which promptly resulted in ‘no ammo’with the crew having forgot all the relevant shells.
Now as a plus the Germans have been badly hurt but as a negative they had managed to infiltrate my position which would give lots of rout kills if I do not manage to pull my formations back in time so on my turn I had to try and pull my defensive net backwards at some risk. My big decisions this turn was what to do with the Sherman. I had two choices. The first was to try and take out the Marder – it was in motion so I could get close and stop and sit behind it stopped then if it stopped I could shoot with a good chance of damaging with the piat following up OR I could send the Sherman to take out the SPW in my rear. In this situation I decided to take out the more dangerous infantry. I preferred the second option because the Marder could not win the scenario for the Germans whereas their infantry could. Ok – killing it gives my Sherman a free hand but why not take advantage of the drastically split German advance to hurt them some more and by hurt them to hopefully hurt their infantry further??.
The Germans were flinging themselves forward in an almost reckless manner and more smoke was being added to the burning aircraft surrounding the airfield. Sam grunted and spoke into the mic,” ok lads, lets get into this war. Move out” he pretended to ignore the less than enthusiastic response as the Sherman gunned its engine and moved out of its hiding place in the wood.
Storming forward at full speed always gave Sam an adrenalin rush that was promptly exceeded when a German half track came into view. ” Full stop! Get a bead on that vehicle ..armour piercing!” the vehicle lurched to a stop and with a crack the gun fired. To Sam’s amazement the shot could be seen bouncing off as the halftrack revved its engine and shot forwards. In some of the airfield buildings just behind it a Bren gun opened up hitting it efficiently as it slewed to a stop in full view of the tank. Sam grinned as he heard his loader slam another round in – this time it would not be quite so lucky.
Unfortunately it was not quite close enough to get next door but I managed to move it to a stop two hexes away when it hit with a bounding fire shot! And the round was a dud bouncing off the feeble armour of the German half track and rating though the follow up shot later in the turn was a more expected miss. Things then swung back to the Germans to see how they would react and react they did. The infantry in the North flung themselves forward apparently thinking my ‘quiet’ concealed stack was a dummy, which it was not though the resultant 8 down 2 only managed a pin roll which the Germans passed. The key move was with the half track and rather than doing the expected and reversing rapidly to get away from the Sherman and infantry if moved forward. I decided my opponent must be trying to draw fire from the Sherman allowing the Marder an unopposed approach so instead shot with my bren gun again. The odds here were not bad. The ‘to hit’ was a reasonable seven (meaning 58.3% chance) and having gained that with a five the to kill was an unexpected six (point blank range and rear facing) (meaning 58.3% chance of something and 41.7% chance of definitely something) which I rolled exactly so stunning the vehicle and freezing it on the spot.
The first fire counter hides my wonderful Bren gun squad who have just brewed up the last halftrack
and perhaps more importantly all its jackboot wearing occupants.
Apparently I was wrong in its intentions and there was some rules funkiness planned. The intention was to move the halftrack in bypass of the next building along (L9) rolling around the vertex so its CFP was out of site of my infantry and my tank then unloading. The rules would then dump the contents in the building next door to my tank without giving me any opportunity to fire at all as the only movement spent was at the CFP. At this point presumably an attempt to Street Fight would occur with a neg one officer and street fighting bonus versus a stopped tank which would give a pretty good kill number (eight I think). Clever – though personally I think the rule is badly written and squads unloading in bypass should be in bypass and then have to spend extra to move into the thing they are bypassing. ASL is full of these though in this case it was perhaps done to simplify the potential correction of ‘they are IN the hex so they must have spent one point so would only cost one extra to enter a building/wood’ which would be the fairest on both sides). It also serves as an example of how dangerous machine guns can be in close quarters against these low armour (or early war tank) vehicles.
Elsewhere the German infantry moved steadily forward and the Marder disentangled itself from the building easily avoiding a PIAT shot and lumbered over to the woods in the South West where it spun around and took an unexpected tight LOS shot at the Sherman which missed (it was Bounding fire after all). The Sherman now blasted the poor half track at point blank range causing it to explode into a burning wreck and killing all instantly. It then spun around for an ineffective acquiring Intensive fire shot back at the Marder.
The halftrack burnt sending up clouds of black smoke and Sam’s bow gunner dispassionately gunned down the few flaming survivors running round screaming. Then they all rather incongruously ducked as a high velocity round shrieked past them close by to hit one of the airfield buildings. “Turn!”, he yelled though his driver had already started the move. Visibility was poor and they had allowed something with a big gun to sneak up on them whilst they had fixated on the armoured car. The Sherman turned ponderously while the loader slammed another round in and all who could peered myopically out to try and see where this new threat was – there! “two o’clock, keep turning – by the woods, fire!” the turret rocked as the round blasted out as both machine guns set up a deafening roar to distract the enemy. It missed. In the distance the German tank could be seen re-aligning and Sam mentally willed his lads to get the next round out faster.
My turn two thus had an interesting conundrum. Should I smoke the Marder and move the Sherman to either threaten the infantry or perhaps the Marder itself or attempt to take the Marder out with Sherman/Mortar. The Sherman has an excellent chance. The first shot would be an eight or less to hit (buttoned, wreck, one acquire, red to hits) so a 72.7% chance and the resultant to kill would be basically a ten or eleven (91.7%, 97.2%). If the main armament did not break then an intensive shot would need a nine or less to hit (83.3%) with the same to kill chance. Like before it keeps the Sherman away from the German infantry for extra turn. If the Sherman fails the mortar can try with a seven to hit (58.3%) and a damage chance of three (8.3% bluergh) though it would get the ift chance against the crew which could hurt on a seven or less (what does a pin result do to a crew in a tank – presumably make their kill shot attempts worse) of 58.3%. Considering I still have a good infantry force defending the Hangar even with losses elsewhere it is probably worth trying for the Marder and sweeping up the Germans in the later turns..
The Germans still gallantly trying to fulfill their orders moved into combat with my northern squad (two to one odds) and one to one with my piat squad. My northern squad died but the piat remained in combat.
Back to my turn two I decided to try and take out the Marder as the odds were good and walloped it with a double with the first shot – since this Sherman had a white Rate of fire it also had two kill rolls so I promptly picked the one which brewed up the Marder. Forgetting I was defending I then failed to skulk and did little except irritate the German forces. Their return fire broke and wounded my best officer but I still moved the elite squad in as a reinforcement. In the combat my lads won (woot) and the Germans missed by 1 a chance of casaulty reducing one or both my squads.
The long range shootup between the sherman and the Marder. Up North the combat can be seen
which would be won by reinforcements from H7

The Germans were now stuck between a rock and a hard place but showing ‘pluck’ (or an SS detachment not far behind perhaps) they swarmed forward. The dice bots in VASL obviously had a large tub of salt set aside for this very moment as firstly the super Bren gun broke the mortar squad and rated allowing it to shoot again at the MG42 squad (it missed!) but the follow up inherent squad broke and ELR’d the other squad. In the defensive phase the same squad final fired at the broken squad causing them to fail a morale check and casualty reduce. With only one wounded officer and one unbroken squad left it was time for the Germans to leave…
Conclusion
This scenario was certainly action packed but due the dice being so out of whack it was almost impossible for my opponent to get anything going. On my part I kept waiting for the dice to ‘turn’ but they never did. I possibly hit a new personal record for the amount of threes rolled and though I had my share of higher rolls they tended to occur on unimportant shots or one where the damage for failing was low.

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