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Subject: Cheren Solo Session: Turns 4-10 rss

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Caleb
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This is the second of a 2-part session report from a solo game I played over the past few weeks. Cheren is a reasonably short game but I left it set up for over 2 weeks due to real life intruding upon gaming time, as it is wont to do. This is the end:



Turn 4 (9 February 1941)
The allies turned their attention to the northern prong now that the roadblock chit was removed. The Italian units in the hills east of Agordat were in good defensive terrain, but since combat is not mandatory, the allies could bring in an 8-5 battalion from the crossroads near the Gasc along with the northern units and attack the southern hill hex with 3 stacks of units, resolving to 3-1. On a roll of 3 plus the Surrender chit, the Italians lost 2 steps and had to retreat. Since they were retreating they were able to take the step losses on their artillery to preserve the larger combat factor of the infantry units. The allies took their step loss on the Matilda armored unit and advanced into the hills. South of the Gasc they simply held in place to starve out the two battalions stranded with no supply.



The Italians had one chance to save the OOS battalions south of the Gasc. They had 4 combat factors within striking distance from the south (moved via reaction movement) and the 6 combat factors of the 2 battalions. They attacked the allied forces stationed on the Native 1 village, hoping to force them to retreat and re-establish supply. The allies had 5 strength points: 1 garrison unit and 2 motorized infantry at full strength, making the odds 2-1 with no support units to cause a column shift. The roll of 5 resulted in a 1-1r result. Each side took the step loss on their respective garrison units, eliminating them. The allies declared a stiff resistance and took another step loss to remain in place, keeping the supply line cut. Since a 5 was rolled, the Italians declared a Push, taking a step loss on one of the Low Supply units and forcing another r result on the allies, who took that as a step loss as well. At this point both motorized infantry brigades were down to 1 step but they'd held the village and kept the Italian battalions out of supply, resulting in a step loss to each, eliminating one and reducing the other to 1 combat strength. VC's all around!

In the north the Italian units all retreated to the hills outside of Cheren while their reinforcements headed toward Cheren as well.




Turn 5 (16 February 1941)
The allies continued their relentless attack on Cheren with a 5-1 attack on the defenders southwest of Cheren. With a roll of 5 they caused a step loss and retreat. Given their option to declare a 'push' the Italians decided against a stiff resistance and withdrew into Cheren (they actually lost another step due to overstacking in Cheren; an important lesson about having somewhere valid to retreat to!).



In the south the allies continued their push toward Selaciaco, ignoring the OOS battalion and focusing on the units guarding the pass over the ridge. Here the Italian resistance did stiffen, taking an extra step loss to remain in place. Once pushed out of the hills, the Italians would have little cover and would be swarmed under in short order. Holding here allowed the battalion from Selaciaco to join the defense on the ridge.



Seeking to save the remainder of their OOS battalion, they moved north to the Gasc and spread their forces out to create a valid supply line. This also threatens the supply line of the allied units pushing toward Selaciaco and will require some of them to break off the attack and come north to deal with the potential supply disruption.




Turn 6 (23 February 1941)
The allies continued their frontal attacks on the ridge toward Selaciaco and into Cheren. Both attacks were made at 2-1 and rolled a 1, leading to a total of 4 allied step losses and only 1 loss for the Italians in the south (due to the Surrender chit). The Italians were forced off the ridge and retreated toward Selaciaco. In Cheren they took a step loss to negate the retreat. They also successfully destroyed the 1-step battalion that was menacing their supply line south of the Gasc and are in little danger from the remaining Italian units north of the Gasc.

On the Italian turn, they moved their southern battalions across the track to the hills north of Selaciaco, and around Cheren re-organized their forces to present maximum combat value in Cheren and in the pass south of Af Abed. Their T6 reinforcement headed toward Asmara.

Allied points: 11

At this point, the allies are in trouble. The attack on Cheren has almost hopelessly stalled. It will require the T8 reinforcements to try to force the pass north of Cheren and force the Italians back from the town. Unfortunately, at that point there will likely not be enough turns remaining to force their way into Asmara. It may be up to the southern prong to destroy the 2 battalions facing them and take Selaciaco, Axum, and possibly Adua in order to give the allies enough points to avoid an Italian victory.


Turn 7 (2 Mar 1941)
Allies lack power to push on Cheren without Turn 8 reinforcements. Mountaineers withdraw to avoid 5:1 attack. Southern force pushes defenders into the hills at the cost of 1 step. Way to Adua is now open.



Italians stand fast around Cheren and rush reinforcement to west of Axum, bringing their total combat factors to 9 and forcing any remaining allied attack to be 1:1.


Turn 8 (9 Mar 1941)
Allied attack out of Af Abed at 3:1 causes Italian retreat into the pass. Battalion advances, covering the city and leaving way open for rest of force to swing down the coast. But will there be enough time? Italians fall back to Axum after an exchange.


Turn 9 (16 Mar 1941)
A bloody battle for Axum. Stiff resistance and a push leads to heavy casualties but the Italians still hold the town. 1:1 attack on Cheren ineffectual as Italians take a step loss to avoid retreat. Allies push down the coast to menace Asmara from behind.

Italians shift forces to Asmara and reinforce Cheren. Withdrawing from Axum to Adua for the column shift in hills. Further allied advance unlikely in the south.



Best the allies can hope for now is to conquer Massaua for a total of 17 VP and an Italian Major Victory. I bagged it at this point because further assaults on Cheren are useless. Here are a couple of things I learned from a game where everything started so promising for the allies:

1. You can't support 3 fronts. Seems pretty obvious in hindsight, but at the start of the game the allies have such overwhelming firepower it's really tempting to advance south through the Tigre Garrison, east toward Arresa, and also up toward Cheren. Even if you only pick 2 of those, you'll need a holding force on the other one to keep the Italians from sneaking up to cut off supply.

Tigre is very tempting due to its victory points and weak defenders, but it's also really far from allied reinforcement sources and very close to Italian reinforcements trickling in to Agigrat all game. It didn't take much for the Italians to stall the advance, and they could've even diverted another battalion or two if they'd had to to avoid losing Adua, to say nothing of Adigrat itself.

2. You have to starve out the Cheren defenders. I'm not sure a frontal assault on Cheren can even succeed, even if the allies through the preponderance of their force against it. It's probably better for the 2 Free French units to try to hook up with the commandos and threaten to block the road from Asmara to Cheren, which would be fatal for the defenders there after a turn of No Supply. I wonder how feasible that really is though: without the mountain troops it's really hard for the allies to get any kind of decent odds on Cheren itself due to the 5 stacking limit in the pass southeast of Cheren. The reinforcements from Af Abed also lack the firepower to force their way toward Cheren through the hills as well.

I definitely want to try this game again and see if I can perform better as the allies. But Invasion 1066 is in the mail and on its way, so I'll likely do that one next and revisit Cheren later.

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Kim Kanger
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Great AAR.

I usually rush down to Wolkait with a couple of units to get those points early and then run back to the front afterwards. But there are definitely different options to explore.
 
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Caleb
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Wolkait is a better bet for several reasons: first, if you don't take it, you have to leave a garrison to avoid the Italian battalion down near there from coming up and taking your undefended start city and placing your entire war effort out of supply. Plus, it's fairly weak and should be able to be conquered in 2 or 3 turns, and then the units can be relatively quickly shunted back up to the Cheren front via the road network.

It's a much better bet than getting bogged down in Tigre, I think.
 
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Kim Kanger
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But why stop after 10 turns. Why not attack from Massaua towards Asmara? And is Cheren really impossible to take in two turns?

Oh, by the way, don't forget to rate it
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Caleb
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The units outside of Massaua are barely sufficient to take it - it'll take a couple of turns/rounds of combat I think, so I think they will be too late to turn towards Asmara.

The units outside Cheren were completely chewed up. They couldn't get anything better than 1:1 on the defenders, who would take an add'l step loss to remain in place, and had enough units lurking about to replace any losses.

Were I playing opposed, I'd probably continue, to see what happened.

I rate the game a solid 7 for solitaire, but I think if I got a chance to play opposed I would rate it an 8. It's hard to say for sure until I get to play against a real person.
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