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Subject: 2018 Winter Offensive AAR rss

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J. R. Tracy
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We enjoyed a great Winter Offensive in Bowie this weekend with over 150 attendees. I played mostly playtest scenarios, the traditional content of the mini events, before emerging to face Bill Cirillo in the semifinals. Unfortunately I don't have the cards for most of what I played, so orders of battle and maps are from memory:

"Big" playtest mini, first round:

Death on the French Coast

Opponent

Dan Stanhagen, my Germans vs his French

Situation

It’s the 1940 campaign, and my recon force engages a French town defense with the object of breaking through or taking most of the town; I’m attacking across board 69 onto board 71. I had motorcycle troops with light armor support, including a PSW 222 and a pair of PzIIAs, plus late game truck reinforcements. Dan had a mix of first line and green defenders with a PanPan, a 12.7 AA gun, a 25LL ATG, and an offboard 37L AA gun with 8 IFE at level 3. He also had a roadblock and some wire to slow me down.

Greeted by the 12.7

Plan

I hoped to stay in blind hexes as much as possible, probe for weakness, and then mass for exit, overwhelming the defense in the vicinity of the exit hexes.

Early Going

I was heavy on left, which looked weak, jumping off my bikes a couple hexes from the two point VP building (several others were worth one apiece, and I scored another point for every six CVP exited, needing a total of seven overall).

Big Moment

I was feeling pretty good about my attack, with only the MMG defending the two point building. However, Dan then placed the 12.7 on the map, which shredded two squads and stuffed my left flank attack for several turns.

Better luck at the other end of town

Uh-Oh!

Dan stitched together a PanPan/MMG/12.7 combo on my left that was too difficult a puzzle to solve in the time allotted, and he used his wire and roadblock to effectively seal the exit from anything on wheels. So, with the two point building out of reach and the exit off the table, I had to take almost everything else.

Endgame

I cleaned up everything I needed except one building on my right that I’d been attacking since turn two. I threw everything at it, gaining a toehold and encircling the remaining defenders, but these hardcases proceeded to shrug off multiple 12, 16, and 20 FP attacks, standing strong and saving the day for the French cause.

Couldn't quite crack it

Lessons Learned

No rules issues came up.

Things I’d Do Differently

If I played this again, I’d apply more mass at a single point, probably focusing on the cover provided by the town, and try to roll through and overwhelm the board edge defense. Allotting a small force to pin the other flank in place would keep the French honest and still leave enough to complete the capture/exit mission.

Scenario Impressions

I like the way the situation develops with the waves of German reinforcements and the linear defense. I had the favored side but Danny found the perfect deployment, denying me the rush for the exit. That option removed, it turned into a city fight which changed the character of the game.

0-1 and out of the mini, but my record resets to 0-0 for the main event!

___________________________________________________________

Another round of minis kicked off Friday morning, so I jumped back into the fray. This was "Big" playtest mini #2, first round (let's try this again):

Expendable Allies

Opponent

Ed Fritz Jr, my Poles vs his Germans

Situation

A very strong German combined arms force counterattacks in 1945 against a Polish element of the Red Army. The Germans win by taking one of three victory buildings by turn two or all three by game end, as long as they score more CVP than the Poles. One building is up front, two are in the back, but one of those two is vulnerable to a large German reinforcing group arriving on turn two. The Poles get a slew of 447s, some leadership and SWs, a Commissar (!), and two each of T-34/85s, ISU-152s, and IS-2s. However, four of the six vehicles must be secretly designated as having inexperienced crews. Ed’s Germans had a mixed bag of first and second liners, three PzVIHs and two Panthers, plus a 75* SPW 251/9 and three SPW 251/1s. The reinforcements included a pair of StuGs and a JgPz IV, along with yet more infantry.

Plan

I decided to nut up in the forward building, leaving just enough on the left flank to greet the T2 German reinforcements. My hope was to win by holding the third building with the reinforcements plus the survivors of the forward defense.

Tough up front

Early Going

Ed came on like gangbusters at the front building, getting the Panthers hulldown behind a wall just in front, supported by copious infantry. He sent two PzIVs down his right to envelop my defense, but my T-34 on that side killed the first and waited for the second. The third PzIV went down his left, along with the 251/9, supporting a coup de main by the fully loaded SPW platoon as it dashed for my backfield. One SPW snuck through but an LMG killed the second and an ISU vaporized the third.

Feeling the heat

Uh-Oh!

Ed’s surviving SPW got to my back building, buttoning up to avoid infantry fire. My local 8-0 jumped into street fighting when the SPW stopped to unload but 12’d himself to the land of wind and ghosts. Ed was in the building and ready to interdict my reinforcements! I still held the building but life just got complicated.

Big Moment

My forward T-34, bearing two -2 Acqs from the Panthers, killed Ed’s second flanking PzIVH with snakes on an Intensive Fire shot. An ISU killed the last PzIV and the SPW 251/9, so with no flankers in place, my forward defenders were able to flee the up front building.

The art of random selection

Endgame

The German attack on the left flank building was an utter disaster for Ed. The defending T-34 killed a StuG before malfunctioning its MA on an IF shot. Ed couldn’t win an adjacent close combat, so the T-34 drove off the board, saving six CVPs I had already written off in my head. Ed then rolled boxcars in another CC, allowing two squads to escape while the bravest 6+1 in the army held the Germans in melee. On the other flank, Ed picked the perfect spot for his SPW to interdict my reinforcements, so I had one IS-2 squat on the halftrack while a truckful of infantry zoomed by. An ATR/447 ran up to stun the SPW and then burned it in CC, just like I drew it up. Ed had to scramble at that point, and with the loss of the JgPzIV and a Panther, he was too far behind the curve to catch up and still take the final building.

Lessons Learned

Inexperienced crews aren’t too bad – they’re just as mobile but fight poorly in CC as well as being lousy shooters.

Viking funeral

Things I’d Do Differently

I liked my defense generally, but I should’ve fled the up front building sooner.

Scenario Impressions

I like the decisions forced by the victory conditions but I am sure I had the favored side as printed. The CVP requirement for the Germans is too onerous as they just get hammered throughout the game, and have a lot of cheap CVPs (SPWs) in play. We suggested they limit the CVP clause to the initial sudden death VC.

1-0 in the mini and moving on.

___________________________________________________________


"Big" playtest mini #2, second round:

One Story Town

Opponent

Ron Duinskie, my Soviets vs his Finns

Situation

This was a city fight in Karelia in the Winter War, using boards 22 and 49. The Soviets occupy the middle of the map with 18 squads plus support weapons, along with two BA-6s, while two groups of a dozen Finnish squads each set up in opposite corners, armed to the teeth with LMGs and Lahti ATRs. The Finns receive armor support in the form of a 76-armed Postijuna with an FT-armed OT-133 sidekick. The Soviets get two mid-game reinforcement groups with a pair of T-26s each and more infantry. Entry order and location (a road hex on three of the four board edges) has to be pre-designated. The Finns have to score four VPs – four buildings are worth one each, while a fifth is worth two.

Plan

My stupid plan was to defend everything. Good job, JR, way to think things through. I blame Six Points Brewery.

Finnish mob #1

Early Going

Not surprisingly, Ron rolled right over my pickets, blew up both ACs, and generally has his way with me, taking one building quickly and rapidly gaining entry into a second. My first batch of reinforcements entered near the two point building which needed no help, since the thrust of Ron’s attack was elsewhere.

Big Moment

Ron stopped his armor platoon at the end of its turn of entry so the 76 could take a shot. On turn two, he boxcarred the Mechanical Reliability roll, randomly selecting the OT-133 – yikes!

Finnish mob #2

Uh-Oh!

Despite the mission kill of the flame tank, Ron was making good progress. I rolled a 2MC against an 838 which merely rendered it fanatic and added a hero to the mix, just as it was approaching the fourth VP building. My 9-2 was nearby but out of position due to a bonehead move on my part earlier.

Endgame

Both of my reinforcing groups were counterattacking a building defended by three Finnish squads, but Ron had plans of his own. His 10-1 advanced with the fanatic 838 into the fourth VP building, defended by a lonely 447. In my ensuing Prep Fire phase, I tried an 8(+2) shot, got a 2MC, and Ron followed with a 9 and 8 in succession. With my 9-2 leading a platoon on the doorstep and the other building at risk, Ron conceded.

Already in trouble

Lessons Learned

Main lesson: stick with your plan! I sacrificed two squads to open up movement for my 9-2 but then got distracted and forgot my original intent. Ron was able to reach a VP building as a result. The dice bailed me out but it was poor ASL on my part.

Things I’d Do Differently

Not defend everything! Instead of putting pickets in front of the VP buildings, I should’ve used three of the VP buildings themselves as pickets, and focused my defense on the two-point building and its closest neighbor.

Precipice of defeat

Scenario Impressions

I really enjoyed this one – it’s very big, with 20+ squads a side plus AFVs, but it plays quickly. I like the initial setup and the pre-designation of reinforcements, plus the force mix on each side. Prior to WO, testing showed the Finns winning, but they were dialed back a bit for our game. I think it’s close to even as it stands, though a healthy dose of well-timed 3s certainly doesn’t hurt the Soviet cause.

2-0, in the mini, 2-0 for the main event.

___________________________________________________________

"Big" playtest mini #2, final (we picked a scenario from the "little" mini, since I'd already played the third scenario from this selection):

Forest Brothers

Opponent

Phil Palmer, my NKVD vs his Lithuanians

Situation

Hardy Partisans defend a hilltop in the pine forest of Lithuania; the NKVD must clear the hilltop while amassing more CVPs than the Partisans. The Lithuanians are represented by Finnish counters, while the NKVD are 628s/328s with three Commissars and a light tank. The Partisans may exit ‘behind’ the NKVD without counting for CVP.

Plan

I planned to attack from three sides, grind my way up the slopes, and maintain a cordon to prevent any defenders from escaping to exit. I was counting on the NKVD/Commissar autorally combination to keep my boys massed at the point of attack.

Winning hearts and minds

Early Going

It was a rough start for the NKVD, as I started killing my guys right away with 12s on morale checks and rally attempts, while Phil ducked behind a tree every time I tried to take a shot. However, I was slowly making my way up the ridge and Phil was quickly running out of places to hide.

Uh-Oh!

In a continuation of a disturbing pattern, I got a good roll against a 648 but Phil answered snake eyes with a pair of his own, battle hardening and adding a hero to his defense.

Welcomed with open arms

Big Moment

A squeaky LOS allowed my mortar to rip into a key hex, killing 1.5 squads and wounding the freshly minted Partisan 149.

Endgame

My AFV crawled up the hill to tie up the hero so my infantry could advance. Phil extracted the hero and teamed him up with the 9-1 leader and a squad on the HMG, and began dealing 12(-1) shots until I broke the stack. That led to the collapse of the defense, and Phil couldn't summon the storm of threes he needed to recover.

Rebuffed on both flanks

Lessons Learned

I learned a lot about double crests!

Things I’d Do Differently

I liked my attack but I didn’t place my Commissars as effectively as I should’ve given the terrain and proximity to the defenders.

Setting up for a last stand

Scenario Impressions

I love the combination of the gnarly board (double crest lines, etc) and the (by SSR) pine forests (1.5 MF so you can advance uphill without going CX). The NKVD were way too tough, however, and by taking prisoners I ran up a huge CVP tally. Therefore, doubling the CVP for prisoners was rendered N/A, and the NKVD were trimmed a bit for later playings. Those are just tweaks, though - it's a fun situation and the option to escape off the map keeps things interesting for the Partisans. I also like the small map format. I'm not sure where these might appear but they're nifty little cards.

3-0 and winner of the mini; 3-0 in the big show!

___________________________________________________________

Semifinals, main event:

Retaking Kharkov

Opponent

Bill Cirillo, my Germans vs his Soviets

Situation

A strong Soviet force of ten elite squads, a 57LL ATG, and four KVs defends the outskirts of Kharkov (half each of boards 49 and 71) against attacking SS with 13 548s, three early Tigers, and three PzIIINs; the Reds win by having unbroken infantry in either a stone building adjacent to the railroad (overlay) or in 49D8 building, a factory by SSR.

Plan

There was better cover on my left, so I went heavy there and in center, with an SPW loaded with a 548 sweeping wide right, supported by a couple halfsquads. I planned to keep armor a little back and hulldown until the ATG was identified. I would sweep toward 49D8 from the left after clearing the Soviets from the 71G3 area, using the SPW crew and squad to cut routs from the backside.

Cautious approach

Early Going

Bill was strong in the center 49K9 building, but I blew straight through it and cleared the approaches on the left as well. One IIIN suffered immobilization from the ATR but it was in a good spot to support the center. My SPW unloaded my passengers without an issue, and I was nicely established at the railroad line.

Uh-Oh!

Two of my Tigers break their MAs on their very first shots. I rolled them up as machinegun platforms to contest the 71G3 area defenses, where both sadly were immobilized by KVs.

I'm not bitter

Big Moment

One Tiger repaired its MA, making the fight for the 71G3 building interesting, but it dudded the only hit it scored against the 71F2 KV. That KV stymied everything I threw at it until my flamethrower team ran upstairs, leaned out a window, and squirted flaming gel into an open hatch from two hexes away.

Endgame

I surrounded the factory after blanketing the front in smoke. Bill dropped back into the interior, down to just a couple squads and two KVs. My mobile Tiger came around and killed one KV with its first shot of the game before breaking its MA on its second. I stormed in with a 3:2(-1) CC versus a fanatic 628 but rolled boxcars! The 628 exfiltrated to join the leader and heavy MG, dealing death to its tormenters with snake eyes in the last Soviet Prep Fire phase. After all that, I still got into close combat with the remaining infantry – I won the first, and had a 2:1(+1) against the second, but alas it was not to be. I rolled an eight, and Bill wins it.

Prepping the position

Lessons Learned

Rolling a six on a repair roll on a immobilized tank forces abandonment, and the crew can’t reenter the vehicle!

Things I’d Do Differently

After deploying a couple extra squads I lost track of them and misused them in a couple spots – also, I blew the placement of my FT in the final factory attack, missing a chance to use it in the last Soviet player turn

Anyone's game

Scenario Impressions

This is a neat scenario, with chunky forces but not a lot of time. It’s a killer SS order of battle but they face very tough VCs. I love the inclusion of the KV-1S – it has weaker armor than a T-34 but with a fast turret and the ability to fire CE, it is much more effective deployed in buildings.

3-1 and out of the running, but I had a blast. The playtests were fun - it was great playing some meaty scenarios in a tournament environment, and my last game against Bill was a barnburner. Congrats to Bill who went on to win it all, and to everyone else who participated. Thanks, MMP, for another excellent weekend.
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Sean
France
Normandie et
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Great report and an excellent read mate! Thanks.
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James Lowry
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Condolences on the loss, but I can't help but root for Bill anyway.
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Kai Axford
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Plano
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Great AAR! Really hope I can get out to Bowie someday.
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GRS
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Very good work, nicely written. Thank you.
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Runs with scissors
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Vancouver
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The die is cast.
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Thanks for taking the time to write up. Sounds like a great time.
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Dave Johannsen

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> " I blame Six Points Brewery."

Well, if you were drinking Six Point Puff, then I'd take that over a win any day. Thank you for the recap - very enjoyable.
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Jim Fardette
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Very educational. As I looked through the pretty pictures, I realized that there was a lot of skillful play on display. Hardly any stacking, well placed armor, use of smoke, etc. no wonder you are always in contention at the end.
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Jeffrey Newell
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Issaquah
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That mini scenario looks cool. Reminds me of the Heat of Battle 'Firefight' packs.

Quick, simple - fun!

Thanks for the AAR.
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