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Subject: Pockets (March '45, Campaign Game #10) rss

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Dave Terhune
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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This is a blatant example of frivolous geek gold spending.
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I spent 100 geek gold and all I got was this lousy overtext.
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This is the latest game in a campaign. The previous session is here.

I decided to try something different, and switched from physical counters to VASL so I could post screenshots, and because I was already doing a write-up of the game as it progressed. I rolled on the Offense table and got Pockets (2) again. It was a good thing I liked this mission, because I was getting it a lot.

Setup

Boards 2 and 6 were set up with board numbers to the north. (Since I don't actually own board 6, I would have had to reroll this board if I hadn't been using VASL to play this mission.) Weather was Overcast, EC were Snow, and there was no wind. I wasn't going to have to worry much about fires.

After several aborted attempts to get 15 S? on the board, I finally ended up with 9 on board 2, and 19 on board 6, for a total of 28. That gave me a minimum game length of 10 turns.

I stared at the board for a while, trying to figure out where to bring on my troops. I finally decided to bring Chappell on the far left, Leeman up the K and L hexrows between the cliffs, and Parker through the wooden buildings by the shellholes. The mortar crews were set up to climb hill 538 out of enemy LOS and set up a firing position. I started their mortars dm to allow them to get there quickly. The bazookas were in two groups of two, so they could provide supporting fire against either of the S? concentrations on board 2.



Turn 1

Rain started up immediately, making it impossible for me to use smoke until it stopped, which I was hoping it would do by the time I was ready to hit board 6. The mortar crews and their spotters panicked, as did one of the bazooka pairs. Everyone else moved on where they were supposed to. Since no one moved in LOS of an enemy S?, everyone kept concealment. In the Advance Phase, Chappell flushed out a 4-6-7 squad with an HMG.

The German turn was about to start out really bad, when I rolled the enemy air support random event, but fortunately, the cloud cover prevented it. Unfortunately, one of Parker's men knocked over a kerosene lamp instead, starting a flame in their location. Since it wasn't eligible to become a blaze until my turn, I decided to try and kill the only S? with LOS during defensive fire, and either move or clear the flame in my turn depending on the results.

The German squad with the MG stripped Chappell's concealment, but otherwise had no effect. Chappell returned fire and broke the Germans, who suffered ELR failure. Parker's fire revealed a conscript squad, which broke and became disrupted. Since they couldn't self-rally, I thought Parker was free to try to clear the flame, until I noticed that the S? in T5 had LOS across the cliff hexside. I was going to have to do something else.

Turn 2

Again, the mortars and bazookas off board panicked. Parker's squad with the MG tried to expose whatever was in T5, but failed. I was figuring that Parker and the other two squads could probably clear the fire, or at least prevent it from spreading this turn, but I kind of wanted to know whether they were going to get shot at for doing so. One of Chappell's squads assault-moved next to the S? adjacent to the German squad with HMG, but it failed to activate. Chappell and the rest of his men followed. Leeman continued his run up the center, making it to the woods on the other side. Parker and the two squads extinguished the flame. A half-squad popped out from behind the trees to fire on them, but didn't even come close to hitting anyone. The German squad left its HMG behind and fled for the safety of building D4. Chappell advanced into the building with the HMG.

One of Chappell's squads picked up the German HMG. The half-squad fired at Parker, but cowered. Parker's return fire broke it, and Chappell reduced the broken squad across the road.

Turn 3

Chappell and his men surrounded the now half-squad in D4, and eliminated it. Parker panicked, but everyone else—including the mortar and bazooka teams—advanced their full movement, staying out of enemy LOS to keep concealment. Leeman's advance took him all the way to 6L8. He had a lot of hedges he could use to make it all the way to the M6 building without losing concealment.

The rain became heavy, further obscuring vision. The non-disrupted half-squad rallied and fired at Parker for no effect. Parker fired back, breaking it and reducing its quality.

Turn 4

Parker moved forward into some woods, the mortars moved up onto hill 538, Chappell headed south to assist Parker, and Leeman entered the chateau.

The Infiltrators random event put S? in 2Z7 and AA9, right next to two bazooka teams, who were fortunately still concealed. The S? in 2Z7 successfully activated, but the DR of 7 made it turn out to be nothing. The bazooka teams breathed a huge sigh of relief, and started looking around for another place to be. Parker made the disrupted conscript squad evaporate into a fine red mist. Leeman exposed a half-squad on the road to the chateau.



Turn 5

I was almost halfway through the game now, and only up to 5 CVP with a lot of S? still on the board. I was going to have to step up the pace if I intended to win.

Unfortunately, the mortar crews panicked instead of assembling their weapons. Leeman, who was in the best position to start clearing S?, panicked as well. The mortar spotters moved into position, at least, even keeping concealment due to the height advantage TEM. A bazooka team risked a short-range shot to expose the infiltrator, but the S? failed activation. The other bazooka team next to it continued past. One of Parker's squads tried the same trick, but found a squad in a foxhole and were pinned. Parker then joined with the rest of his platoon. His leadership modifier was enough to completely cancel the Germans' TEM—including the rain's LV hindrance—and I figured he could win any gun duel. My suspicions were proved correct when Parker's advancing fire ELRed both the leader and the squad. Parker then advanced adjacent to the other S?, which fortunately failed activation.

The German half-squad on the chateau road advanced toward Leeman, but didn't make it very far. (The first shot broke it; the MG kept rate and broke it again.) Parker panicked instead of shooting at the adjacent broken Germans, who routed away.

Turn 6

The mortar crews finally assembled their mortars. Realizing that Leeman couldn't activate any S? because of the mist, I moved him into a firing position without using assault movement. Parker advanced up the hill, but not into the foxhole because he couldn't use assault movement and I didn't want to suffer FFNAM penalties. If he had LOS, he was going to spray fire into both of the S? locations before advancing into the foxhole. (Due to having assault fire capability, even being halved three times left his squads with 2 FP each, which would give him a shot on the 4 column at -1, on the 6 column against the unconcealed broken Germans. Those were decent odds as far as I was concerned.) The one squad which had gotten separated from Parker last turn made a run for some trees, activating another S?. The squad and half-squad thus revealed didn't do anything other than let me know I had LOS to them. Parker indeed had LOS to both hexes, but boxcars on the attack roll meant no effect other than to put the broken units back under DM. Leeman did a bit of recon by fire, and wasted a KIA result on a S? that failed activation. Chappell advanced onto the level 3 hill, activating the second to last S? on board 2, but the roll of 7 resulted in no units.

The German prep fire was ineffective. American firepower did more damage, as did the sniper—they eliminated a half-squad and a S?, CRed a squad, and wounded a leader.

Turn 7

Now it was time to start hauling ass if I wanted to eliminate enough S? for my CVP total to be enough for a win. A quick bit of math told me that at 7 hexes or longer range, even FFMO and FFNAM modifiers wouldn't bring a net IFT DRM low enough to activate a S? because of the rain. I decided to use the mortar spotters as bait to expose enemy positions.

The mortars started throwing rounds at suspected enemy positions, bringing out the German sniper, who broke one of Chappell's squads but was then eliminated. One of the spotters moved out, exposing two enemy positions for the small price of being pinned. The other two kept concealment, ready to expose more positions next turn. Parker put a three-pronged attack on the unbroken squad, causing it to break by forcing FPF. Leeman ran around to the back of the German positions, ready to force them back toward the rest of the company. Leeman's advancing fire killed two squads outright, and Parker reduced the now-broken squad, who surrendered.

Parker rallied his men, but Chappell didn't. German prep fire was ineffective. Chappell killed the wounded leader adjacent to Parker. Now I wouldn't have to worry about carting around a wounded prisoner who couldn't walk on his own.

Turn 8

Chappell's men rallied, so he'd be able to move out this turn. (He had a lot of ground to cover, so I probably would have sent the unbroken men on ahead, and let him catch up when he could.) Parker and one of the spotter half-squads converged, and Parker transferred the prisoners to it. Chappell ran across the hilltops toward the enemy. Leeman advanced one squad forward to get several S? to attempt activation, revealing a 75L AT gun in the treeline, and a squad in the open. A rough visual check of LOS told me that the mortars could easily draw a bead on the gun if they shifted a hex or two, so I planned to move them that direction in the advance phase. Leeman cut down the squad with advancing fire, then popped over a wall to force the gun to lose acquisition, although it did convert to area acquisition in the other hex.

The AT gun swiveled around to try to hit the mortars, but it was the mortars who got the first effective shot, that being a critical hit that destroyed everything in the hex. Parker broke his target, but Chappell only managed to break his captured German HMG. It was only just now that I realized the HMG-toting squad was going to advance into the wooden building only 2 hexes from my mortars. I had to do something about it, but I wasn't sure what. If Parker left the remaining S? to Leeman and Chappell, he could at least draw fire away from the mortars, and probably take out the MG as well. Much would depend on Parker's CMD DR and the self-rally attempt of the broken half-squad near the mortars.

Turn 9

The half-squad rallied. Now all I needed was for it to pass its CMD DR so it could move. Mortar fire caused the German sniper to kill the American sniper, reducing my SAN to 2. The all-important CMD DRs were both passed, giving me the opportunity I needed to save the mortars. One at a time, half-squads were advanced into positions where the HMG would fire at them. The first was broken and then eliminated, but did its job in fixing the HMG's CA to not include where Parker himself would be moving. Unfortunately, the HMG kept ROF, and the second half-squad was also broken and eliminated. The HMG still kept ROF. It would be able to fire on either the mortars or Parker in the defensive fire phase. Leaving the broken captured German HMG in the mud, Chappell high-tailed it over to the chateau road, and was fired on a by a light mortar and its squad. Leeman advanced into some woods, prepared to fire on the mortar to cover Chappell if necessary. The target die roll for the HMG made the mortars the target, but fortunately it missed without keeping ROF this time. Parker broke and disrupted the leader, but only pinned the squad. Next turn was going to hurt. Chappell pinned the mortar squad, forcing it to lose acquisition. Leeman more or less finished them off, disrupting the leader and ELRing the squad. They routed away, leaving the mortar behind.

The broken squad I had to ignore on my turn rallied. I sort of lucked out in that the mortars were ignored by the HMG squad, but they fired at Parker instead; fortunately, the rain must have gotten in their eyes, and their fire completely missed. Parker didn't miss, and the leader was wounded and the squad broken bad enough to suffer ELR failure. Chappell and Leeman took out another squad, leaving only 6 S? on the board, but me not quite far enough ahead on VP to guarantee a win. I had at least one more full turn to go, though, so I was thinking I could pull it off.

Turn 10

I was granted artillery support in the form of 155 mm howitzers with SMOKE capability and plentiful ammunition. I took the free observer with the motorcycle, as I didn't want to waste any of my own leaders on OBA spotting that probably wouldn't even get to the FFE stage. Many things went right this turn. I captured the squad manning the HMG and their leader, and exposed another S? without losing anyone. Doubled VP for prisoners meant that I was probably going to win if it ended this turn, although it would be close as there were still quite a few active Germans on the board.



German prep fire was ineffective, but American return fire eliminated 2 leaders and a half-squad, and broke the other two squads. Active Germans were now only two broken squads, and a few abandoned support weapons here and there. With only 5 S? remaining, I was reasonably certain that victory was inevitable.

Turn 11

I had no prep fire this turn. Not even the mortars shot, as I wanted to move them back up to a level 2 hill location, so they'd have LOS to the remaining S? if the game continued. It was a minimum move, however, so they went CX. The FO stopped his motorcycle in 2CC2 and got off it so he could advance into the CC1 woods, from where he'd also have LOS to the remaining S?. Parker stepped out onto the road where he had a clear LOS along the entire Y hexrow, preventing any of the broken Germans from routing away from Leeman and Chappell, who moved adjacent and captured them.

With no active Germans on the board, I skipped straight to defensive fire, which revealed all but one of the S?, although no one broke. The game ended.

Conclusion

There was only one S? left on the board, and 2 1/2 squads which, added to the 2 CVP scored against me totaled only 9. I had 32, plus the 3 1/2 squads and a leader I'd captured, for a total of 40. The victory turned out to be a lot more overwhelming than I'd originally been figuring.

Again, the weather really did a number on the Germans. With the heavy rain, I could actually run around in open ground without risking S? activation as close as 7 hexes. Its effect on fire attacks was even more pronounced. My leadership modifiers nearly always countered both the rain and the TEM, where the Germans had no such luck. (It being 1945, they frequently wound up without a leader even when one showed up on table A1, and got more than one 6+1 leader.)

The way the S? were set up at the beginning of the game gave me an easy run up the middle of board 2 completely out of enemy LOS, allowing me to run Leeman around the back of the chateau, so he could approach the German positions from where they didn't get wall or hedge cover. The second half of the game was a turkey shoot, with the only scare being when a German HMG managed to get within 2 hexes of my mortars.

VASL made some things easier to keep track of, but one or two things harder. There were plenty of reminders available, so I never forgot to apply a weather condition modifier. The only thing that's less convenient is table space. I don't have as much room next to my computer to leave rulebooks and charts lying open. I think I'm going to keep using it, though, at least for solitaire games.

Aftermath

I had no permanent casualties, so the company was still at full strength. Chappell didn't get promoted, either, so company composition would be identical for the next game.
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