ASL119 - Showdown in Syria

 For the third time in a row I have a strongish infantry force defending against a combined arms attacking force. This time I am representing the Indian army with a mixed force of the 3/1 Punjab and 4/6 Rajpunta Rifles being attacked by the Vichy French 7eme Chasseurs de Africa in Syria.

Setup was challenging mainly because I seem to have lost my Croix de Guerre overlay sheets and this game uses an enormous stream from them and due to me utterly misreading and cocking up the entire thing. The overlay was dealt with thanks to the TexasASL site and printed around 15 times until I managed to get the size correct (it's a bugger with such a big item).

The setup cock ups weren't of course. Anyway

Assuming two crossings over the river I blocked both with wire to make it extra difficult for vehicles to cross (the French vehicles cannot enter any of the other stream hexes) with the final wire blocking the semi-concealed approach to a risky outbuilding against the victory hex. The fortified building was in a rear corner where it might be a last ditch defense location and the foxholes were planted (badly) to allow potential retirement paths from the forward lines. The rest of the formation was setup to cover the upper road and bridge as I wanted the French to enter at the bottom of the map. First turn they get a small force with two armoured cars that can enter on either the left of bottom roads basically mimicking an advance guard cautiously advancing but with less freedom to move than a designated 'attacking' force.

Anyway that all seems very sensible but A) the bridge at the top does not exist by AAR so there is zero need to cover that road and that wire was totally wasted and B) The bottom wire was out of deployment limits so was instantly removed on reveal. I suspect all the wire should surround approaches to the building. Double meh. So don't copy that setup as it sucks. It's not all my mistakes though as my opponents initial setup was spread over five hexes on the left of the map so I wonderingly emailed saying,'not sure why your doing this though if you are CX you might get the lowest unit on board turn 1' as he had not realised it was an 'on' and thought it was a 'between'.  That could have proved embarrassing especially against some of the more competitive ASL players.

Concealment in place with French startup locations. One thing to remember is that that ford is an utter b**tard to get across with a +3 to the bog roll so making it even harder especially if dragging artillery. 

First Turns 

Those armoured cars are thin-skinned and I almost destroyed both turn one. Note the 'almost' as I had a weak defensive turn managing to break one half squad and just immobilising the Southern armoured car. The one coming from the west too interdict the road (apparently trying to prevent me moving back from my forward positions) I hit with the ATR but failed to damage by one point. Same turn the Eastern Dodge had a low odds shot that broke my ATR squad in return. Great.

So my ATR squad is down which I would have been less sad about had I realised the Bridge wasn't there.

Apart from one round of smoke the mortars proved ineffective.

On the second turn the great mass of Vichy reinforcements arrive but they all have to enter on the East edge meaning the artillery can either take low odds pot shots through the Olive groves or endeavour to breach the ford of doom. I can't say I did much to delay the swarm of French as I didn't do bugger all plus I was starting to get nervous about pulling my lads South of the road back safely.

the swarm of Chasseurs piles in. Now that's a lot of blue.

To assist I used the mortar to drop smoke on the road allowing my forward officer with bren gun squad to pull back (which worked). My forward left defence by the stream didn't as I double one'd a morale check and promptly berserked a half squad which charged to it's doom costing me a victory point.

 unfortunately the two maps strangely separated and the two olive grove overlays started moving in mysterious ways.

By turn four and the French were really applying the pressure. They were across the stream in strength to the North and had equally strong forces in the centre and south coming up. Apparently not bothered by my shooting at all. Two events only assisted when the Vichy commander tried to move one of the artillery guns through the ford to have it bog (as I said that ford is evil) and more usefully when the single lead French half squad across the stream at the top left advanced into combat with my lonely unsupported half squad (the problem here was the three full French squads right behind and the potential for 'capture' and double victory points). But after the French failed to kill me in 1 to 1 combat I managed my second double one of the game and battle hardened the half squad and generated an 8-1 leader also killing the French and allowing me to withdraw a hex. So from 'at risk of capture, the North is crumbling', turned into 'the french have to make an approach move again'. 

My lovely new 8-1 can be seen on his own suddenly resealing a decidedly porous flank.

My front line did manage to get back to the victory building mainly by self breaking and running. In the North on the next turn this worked even better as a low odds shot on the broken squad managed my third double one and a hero generation (so that squad battle hardened and generated both an 8-1 and a hero. There must be like two 'hard' people left in it). Saying that the 8-1 ELR-d down to an 8-0. Any smugness was then lost by the officer and bren squad south of the road taking a shot as they escaped and my box carring the squad morale and losing a second half squad (and ELR)

We stopped here for the week as there were a lot of potential moving parts to consider for the French attack on the victory hexes and with four turns plenty of time to do it.

When we re-started on the 12th I must admit to feeling ambivalent about my chances especially as I had spent the entire week being ill and still not being that better. Now considering what happened perhaps the ASL gods were trying to cheer me up.

Hold your fire, they are going to enter the kill zone soon..

The French started with settling into their advance positions., These could broadly be described as a huge potential fire group along the middle road (around 26 factors if all fired together) and both the decent French tanks parked hull down at point blank range south of the building along with a further 18 points of infantry firepower. The obvious following round defensive fire would be potentially disastrous to face. I had one stroke of luck when I hit the Northmost French squad causing a NMC which it passed with a '4' generating a sniper roll. Now anyone who has read these AARs in order will know that I have moaned over the last eight scenarios that I have had around twenty rolls (showing the decent rolling of my oppo in most games) but only one actual sniper that occurred around  four games back. I even considered chucking the sniper dice as  being obviously cursed. 

Well to make up for that it was a 'nasty' sniper and managed to land on the unit that generated it breaking it and reducing the Northern firepower from 26 to 22.

Amazing random officer/hero generation aside the French  have been little hurt by the defenders and are looking dominant for their final push.

On my turn I skulked all on the left of the building and shot at the middle ( two squads) of the forces to the South of the building. This worked well and both broke (thus destroying the potential fire group). That did leave them exposed to defensive fire but I can't quite complain when the defensive fire caused a morale check and another double one which turned the 8-1 into a 9-1 and a heroic 9-1 at that. 

French morale was helped less when another '4' on a tohit against the fortified building generated another sniper that rolled the second 'nasty' sniper roll in a row. The sniper then merrily broke the next squad down in the north  so dropping the northern force from 22 down to 18.

He wasn't finished though as in the  British turn another '4' (this time on a morale check) generated another sniper roll and yes. Another 'nasty' sniper which broke the NEXT unit in the North (who had a light machine gun). Dropping that forces strength down to 12 (one full squad plus medium machine gun and two half squads). To cope with the crumbling flank (ALL caused by the single merry sniper) the French 9-1 left the medium machine gun and moved to help rally (thus taking a negative leader out of the front line).

The heavy negative British leader presence was malso aking itself felt in the South as well with the original 9-1 and the new heroic 9-1 with his -2 on IFT rolls continued to make the Vichy miserable as the southern French leader broke then the only central squad. 

The forces for the final French assault are looking weaker

Suddenly there was a lot of Indian troops that needed dealing with by a drastically reduced Vichy force. It was not all bad news for the French their own broken 8-1 also battle hardened up to a 9-1 and all their broken squads rallied but naturally rallied further back from the front lines not in ideal jumping off positions. This leads to the infamous end of game charge towards the enemy and in this case as all my defensive fire shots were six or below and bar one three (which generated a French pin sniper who pinned my medium machine gun squad when no one could take advantage) all the other rolls were around there including another two double ones and the French attackers were decimated. Vichy threw in the towel in the penultimate turn as they had little left.

Here is the end position with regard to the victory building

that is quite a hefty wall of residual. Removing the fire markers and resid and we have

So the entire French infantry was down to a half squad, a cxd crew and the machine gun squad along with a single 4-5-7 next door. The British had two more casualty reductions from box car rally attempts but no ammo shortage losses.


I should have lost this due to the setup cockups but the sniper luck alone probably won it with the last turn massacre made double vicious by all the negative one leaders hanging round to take advantage of the point blank -3 shots caused by the need for a final charge.

It's not nice being diced and it's not also nice dicing someone as you know whats it feels like. It can be one of the games weaknesses as a game is a huge commitment to time and effort and to get destroyed by luck like this can be soul destroying and I also don't think my dice have ever run this hot before. It can happen of course (and I ran some dice result simulations here). 

I think the French perhaps have to use those tanks to clear wire (they are slow though) or attempt some bypass freeze to allow the following troops in. Crossing open ground to go up against a huge stone building with 1st line Vichy French is no easy task. Perhaps some of those weapons have smoke that might help (or the softskinned vehicles could try bypasss freeze to reduce fire and hopefully 'burn' thus again clearing approach paths. I would also recommend both armoured cars starting to the right of the stream as they could also be helpful in getting into the victory building. Apart from that building there is a huge amount of soft cover so getting there is not a major issue...

Anyway thanks for reading.

Time for a well deserved rest (picture from Burma 44 though not Syria sadly)


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