HF4 - Liehr Launches First
Yea! Back to playing and with the next best thing to ftf, voice with boards. For the moment I am getting some games with an opponent from about 3 years back who is considerably stronger than I am. This tends to result in 'I can win if I am lucky or he is unlucky, lose marginally if luck evens out and lose badly if luck is his way'. He is very knowledgeable with the rules though so there will be very few losses due to misunderstandings.
The scenario we are trying first is 'HF4 Liehr Launches' first from the 'Hatten in Flames' campaign so I also get to play on the lovely winterised map.
I was given the attacking Germans. The setup restrictions mean that it's one of those games where the placement and potential revealing of the U.S Tank Destroyers is absolutely key and though the Germans seem to have plenty of force to overwhelm the defenders this will be much harder than it looks. One thing to note is that this is a 1945 Scenario so my Germans both have loads of Panzerfausts (26 I think) and since the vehicles will hopefully be dealing with the tank destroyers (though the PFs may help there) they can also be used against the many buildings needing a 3 or less on a d6 (+1 for non vehicle target and -1 for 1945 - also meaning its 4 or less to get one versus a building). If the shot then hits that is a 16 HE equivalent attack with probably +3 for cover meaning an average dice roll forces a NMC… If fired by a 5-4-8+lmg next door (that does not pin on a 6 while looking for it) then that squad would then get a full doubled fire power attack of also 16+3. Possibilities.. Equally since it is also 1945 my lads can also try for Anti-Tank Magnetic mines whilst in combat. A 6 on searching pins the unit but otherwise a full squad needs a 1-3 on a single dice to get an extra -3 on the CC roll (which also includes a -2 for OT vehicle at a minimum) So again a full squad with a CCV of 5 would need 7 against a stopped BU unit without the mine, 10 with the mine, 6 if it rolls a 6 while looking for the mine. Against a moving BU Tank Destroyer those numbers drop to a 5 (meh) 8 (still great) and 4 (even more meh). Either way my infantry are deadly to the American vehicles so the Americans will need to screen them with troops and the success or otherwise of this US screening will probably define win chances in the game.
The US setup was well thought out. The key to the visible position are the two medium machine guns. One definitely in I22 where it is obviously prepared to set a fire lane up towards K19. The other is highly likely to be in K21 with a 8-1 officer so is covering the key road intersection of E17/F17. Both mortars appear to be on flank duty. The right flank one covers anything trying to get across the ploughed fields (unlikely as the infantry support could not keep on unless riding and if riding then the mortar has a chance to really upset that tactic. The other mortar in the woods at G24 is covering the C Road. Now all this information should have been secret but my opponent kindly forgot he could conceal and told me most of it in advance.
US Troops moving through the unimpressive and cold fighting zone
As to where the Tank Destroyers are hiding I have not got a clue. K20 is a possibility but being that far forward would be a risk. Due to the obvious advantages in the Germans sliding down the C road on the US left flank I suspect one will be here with the other possibly covering the victory hexes.
For my attack I am using the two Panzer IV's to hopefully generate smoke first turn. One is in J15 where it can shoot straight down the road to J20 with no hindrance to hopefully seriously impact both American machine guns fire lanes (on second thoughts smoke does not hinder fire lanes so forget that sentence). The other is in G17 where IF the J20 panzer fails to lay smoke it can also shoot at the same hex. Once smoke is done both Panzers can then machine gun (CE) the speed bump US half squads.
The key to my strategy (ha ha, its sounds much more impressive than it actual is) is my right flank. I have the best officer (9-1 so Liehr himself probably) the 8-0, three 5-4-8s a 2-4-7 all ready to start charging down the road (basically scouting for the Tank Destroyers. Both Panthers will follow (starting in motion).
My setup in more detail. You can never have enough shots of setups..
The remainder of the force will start putting pressure on the Western end of the village. I will not go all out first turn (unless smoke and shooting is lucky) but will setup for an all out attack turn two. The idea, hopefully, being that the sight of a very large flanking force shuttling to the victory area will cause the Americans to shift their forces from their left flank to adjust to cope with the flankers. This splits and weakens their right flank defence which can then be pushed harder.
Turns 1-German 2
Bar the incredibly active US sniper who managed to break and half squad a 4-6-7 then kill it then repeat it for the half squad all against my heavy flanking force making it weaker (which impacted me quite badly, and in return all the threes were morale/pin checks and in one case 'recon by fire' so not particularly good dice effects for me). - Turn One was decent. My smoke placement worked nicely and I managed to get squads next to the US defenders taking out both speed bump half squads and the foremost 6-6-6 in hand to hand combat (after ambushing).
Turn one, dice rolled well, smoke 'smoked', things went swimmingly!
Turn two sucked. The US forces managed several NMCs on my flanking forces which all those 5-4-8s failed completely destroying the flanking forces main reason to be. Then to make things worse the last break was from one of the immobilized US tank destroyers which appeared in G27. I had one panther I had weirdly decided to make hull down (why? It has 18 strength front hull armour, what was I scared of??) and due to this ran the other Panther down and the TD took a shot against the in motion tank less than 2 Movement Points in los with a tem modifier aiming for (both) special ammo AND turret and got both blowing up one of my lovely Panthers and the 9-1 tank leader. Great. TBH my tank use has always sucked and one of the games weaknesses is that unless you play opponents weaker or the same level as you you never get the chance to improve as better players will make you suffer every time.
Equally after a successful turn one the main attack stalled when most of the brokies from turn 1 refused to come back (9 to rally! No thank you..) and then several excellent German fire group shots causing 1mc and nmc on the Americans were shrugged off with ease by the 6 morale defenders (compared to my 8 morale troops failures above…certainly the Wehrmacht was truly less effective at this point in the war)
No!! my lovely Panther can be seen burning away to the left.
This was a week stop point and as often occurs the next turn will be key. The US get two more (mobile this time) tank destroyers but the key to the game will be if I can rally back my flanking infantry and get any purchase with the central attack. Also it hasn't escaped my notice that I now have a CE tank within the arc of movement of that bloody sniper.
US Turn 2 - German Turn 4
Session two started well. Very well actually as the Americans missed a succession of very high odds shots and after some decent smoke placement on an approaching bazooka I managed to get well positioned next door to the US front line. In the rear my Panther gently rolled up the bottom end of the map to destroy a second Tank Destroyer (and the one with the US armour leader) - and my first Panther kills ever in ASL (unsurprisingly enough). They always seem to blow up before I can use them in the past….
The only fly in my ointment was the continued refusal of almost all my rallies to rally. This led to one of those nasty turn arounds that can often happen in game. Due to the lack of rallies the last moving US TD trundled to try a lucky shot against a stationary Panzer which had two back (one at 6 to hit) and missed both) and then it rolled over to the left flank where it re-Demoralised the brokies saw off a PZ check from the leader there then next turn killed the leader and casualty reduced two of the squads with one lucky low odds shot. Bugger.. there goes the flank. To make matters worse the damned US sniper swooped into the middle of the map and killed the 9-1 and casualty reduced and broke a further squad. The leader loss would be especially bad considering the German turn four.
This looks like a good situation for the Germans to be in. Let's totally ruin it due to bad tactical decisions instead.
I had at this point a lot of troops available and was running out of time so made some bad timing decisions (you know the sort of thing. Move the squad next door to the enemy first before you move the FT to make the enemy choose). As opposed to move the FT allowing a ranged -2 shot then move the squad getting Final Fire and losing both sort of cock up). Anyway instead of pressurising the US front line I started moving on the flanks. One of the half squads ran into the previously HIP other immobile TD and was wiped out for its success. I then tried to get a squad next to the broken stack in K26 and moved the leader and a squad down missing an obvious LOS losing both broken. Bugger. I lost it entirely now and (again) instead of getting troops next door to the Bazooka squad I instead ran a Panzer down the road to lose it to that self same bazooka squad ( it rolled a 6 and 1 to hit with the 6 being the coloured dice, if the other way round then it would have at least broken from back blast) that then final fired and broke another full squad of mine. A last ditch hail mary with a squad trying to get under the destroyed tank to interdict the road had a FPF shot break the US next door and my squad.
Meh and double meh. From being in a good position mainly due to my better dice rolling (being totally honest) my tactical lack of astuteness has thrown it all in the air.
Another session stop here. I still have a much reduced chance to win. For this to occur the broken US leader in K26 must not rally in the start of the US turn. This at least gives me the Panther two half squads and a full squad there to take victory buildings and hopefully keep the single unbroken US squad that side (plus immobilized TD) honest.
oops that did not go well. German Landsers will be cursing my leadership over a dodgy 'horse sausage' and watered down beer. Well, those still alive that is.
That then leaves the remaining US TD which I suspect will go hunting after my last Panzer (and probably re-demoralising the broken squad next door in the wood). The US have decent forces in the main victory building along with the US 9-1 and even if I control the right of the village it is these forces and the tank destroyer that I strongly suspect will do me over.
US Turn 4 - End
I must admit to being less than hopeful about my chances on re-start. The US had a lot of forces between me and victory and a lot would have to go well for me to even have a chance. I resolved to take it bit by bit but my personal morale was low and it would not take a lot for me to concede. Things started ok with the broken officer in K26 not rallying and my officer a bit higher actually coming back (with a squad!) but to counter this all the US brokies bar one under the smoke in I26 also returned (lovely). The Americans promptly sent a squad and officer over to reinforce the bottom right (assault moving the crew /8-0 to the next hex). My point blank shooting did nothing. It did allow me to swing the Panthers VCA around as I was expecting bazookas to start taking pot shots. The right hand side 6-6-6_Bazooka assault moved one down to pressurise my cx squad down there and the medium machine gun on its own fell back one hex. The key for the US here were the two Tank Destroyers. The immobilized one managed to wipe from existence another one of my half squads with its AA Gun and the mobile one rolled up, as expected, to re-demoralise some of my troops before trading half hearted shots with my other panzer then settling behind the hedge on the bottom left with the obvious intention of showering my one remaining 5-2-8 and 8-1 officer with fire. My panther tried to get acquisition on the bottom left village and managed to malfunction its main armament reducing my by a further victory point.
My turn five I tried to draw the mobile Tank Destroyers fire with my remaining panzer IV. This failed as I not only missed it twice it then blew up the Panzer in return and to add insult to injury rated and swung around and destroyed and broke my 5-2-8 suddenly leaving me with no forces to attack the bottom left buildings.
I did not want the US to have a strong presence and also did not my fancy my last panther brewed up so drove it into bypass of the US crew and 8-0 officer in I28 where I used my Sn (cannot say or spell it) for the first time ever and broke the crew. That was a minor help though with one major help occurring when my exhausted squad in I25 took a point blank shot at the 6-6-6 with bazookas next door and broke it with a snake eyes. This helped reinforce my shaky personal morale as 'at least' I had the right upper section of the village almost in my hands.
But bar that excitement I had actually moved from having 2 victory points with a strong possibility of 3 more (I need 6) and two more with luck dropping to 1 victory points with only 1 possible more and two with luck which is much less than I need. Ok - the upper right of the target village seemed semi-secure but the top left side of the village was utterly secure in US hands with a huge force advantage. The bottom left was not US controlled but I had no chance of taking it either and finally the bottom right buildings were 'possible' but would involve moving through open ground covered by US troops to get there..Eeek. and double eek.
Liehr in person.
The American Turn 5 was a fascinating one as it utterly showed the swings and changes that ASL can bring in that you could not expect in advance (what a rule set that allows these unexpected variations..)
Now the American commander to win just had to prevent the Germans from taking 'all' the bottom left and right victory buildings (four of them) and the Germans had just two units capable of doing this in place and both would have to cross open ground in the face of many US troops to get there. Therefore he carried out some safety moves to best cover the approach paths. The 9-1 officer having (much to my disgust) rallied all the broken troops in I26 (this was the group from the right side who had run across the road so the hex was over stacked by one). Then assault moved into the road to try to rally a broken 5-4-6 coming out of the bottom left buildings (which makes sense as they can then enter the bottom left victory building making any German approaching take even more fire.
The forces in I26 remained (at this point a 8-1 with a 6-6-7 with MMG, 6-6-6 and 5-4-6 and a broken 5-4-6) making that difficult to deal with in HtH and since the smoke would be gone turn 6 having a very easy fire lane/protective fire options across the empty ground leading to the bottom of the village. Plus until the German turn they were still screened by smoke so any shot in would be +4.
This left the two tank destroyers. The immobilized one tried to fix its main armament and got recalled!....must have run out of ammo. The mobile one ignored my main armament less Panther and rather rudely parked next to it pointing at my two key squads in the upper right of the village. Moving to defensive fire I had very little to actually shoot but did take a fire grouped attack with a 5-2-8 and the light machine gun of a half squad at point blank at I26.Which was a 12 up 4 (over stacked by one). I rolled a 4 which moved it to a 8 causing a 1MC which caused the 8-1 to go berserk and broke every single one of the squads in the hex!!!. Suddenly from having a force with a negative 1 leader and 18 combat factors with the upper left of the village totally secure it had switched especially as in the rout phase every single squad was promptly wiped for failure to rout as they could still see my single 8-1 leader which blocked their only other rout path. Not only that but now that fire land and massive amount of first fire shots was gone. Not withstanding this sudden tactical change things were still massively in the US armies favour. I (now probably) had 3 victory points in the upper section of the village but needed 3 more to win and thus I not only needed the bottom right two but also one of the bottom left. In the US advance fire phase the mobile Tank destroyer fired everything it had at my infantry to the rightto disrupt this plan by getting an acquire that could follow me but instead also malfunctioned its main armament!! To quote Bill.S.Preston esquire 'Woah'
Explosions in Hatten
The American player still had options. In the advance phase the immobilized tank destroyers recalled crew (who had had to abandon) moved into the road in M28 where they would have a 2 down 2 shot at anyone crossing next to them and the last remaining Tank Destroyer still had its AA gun. Plus the 9-1 might get to rally the broken squad in the road. This was actually a far rosier outlook for the Germans then half an hour earlier so victory had moved from 'almost impossible' to 'hard'.
So we rolled into the final half turn. There was bugger all to rally though the US 9-1 managed to get the 5-4-6 in the road back again. I tried to fix my Panther's main armament and with a 1 succeeded! Suddenly I had an extra victory point and no longer needed to get in the bottom left buildings...
My opponent decided to try to fix his remaining Tank Destroyers main armament (if he succeeded he would force me to have to take heroic measures again) and in the heat of battle rolled a 6 and recalled his last tank destroyer!!! (sounds great but in reality it would not recall until next turn so would still be sitting there with a useable AA machine gun in play).
Wow.. My turn was a bit like a haze. Prep fire from the Upper left squads re-broke the squad in the road removing that four down two or three shot. In movement I then moved the Panther out of the bottom left buildings and had just enough movement to move it round to overrun the crew in the open wiping them from existence. All I needed was to get the two squads across the road. The first dashed across with the Tank Destroyer firing its AA and missing and then the second sauntered (literally) across the road in the teeth of no opposition to capture the other building and the Germans had almost won.
To win properly I needed I 26 and thus I moved a 5-2-8 and 3-3-8 in and failed to ambush the (lax as berserk) single US officer. Needing 12 to kill him killing was almost a foregone conclusion but that single officer needed a snake eyes to wipe out all my troops and he rolled a...3 and just casualty reduced me. The Germans had won. What an end.
End position and victory
I should have lost this game, I started with more information than I should (though I would have guessed the machine gun locations correctly it was nice to have it confirmed). My smoke placement was very helpful and never failed me plus the dice in the first turn were entirely in my favour and half way through the game I had made some weak tactical decisions that totally threw away all my luck in the first half yet due to some utterly unplannable events in the last turn things totally swung around and I squeaked the win.
Fun game plus I had some pleasant firsts with my first Panther kills and use of Sn.
If I was giving out awards to units then the US stalwarts would be the sniper (good grief did he do me damage), the second mobile Tank Destroyer which kept around a fifth of my force broken and brewed up a Panzer and the 9-1 leader who seemed to rally everything.
For the Germans my second Panther gets 'honours' for destroying two Tank Destroyers (and their armour leader) before doing just enough to allow me to win. So as the famous saying goes sometimes it really is worth fighting to the end and waiting for.
Finally she sings