So, my son William and I settle down for a game of Up Front. The previous time we had played was at WBC, when I just failed to get my vehicle to R4 and consequently he knocked me out of the tournament, where he went on to take second place.
I pick Ambush, he picks the attacker, I go for the Germans and he takes the Russians. So I put my seven men with Cpl Hessel and the Wehrmacht’s worst soldier Private Beck in group A, and the other five as a fire group in group B. He arranged his Bolshevik horde with two M2s accompanying the mortar in group A, six M5/M4 toughies with the FT and two DCs in group C, and the remaining eight (including the LMG and ATR) in group B.
I ensconce myself behind a wall and await his first turn, in which he discards the best Sniper and kills Sgt Diettinger with a 4 (and no wound). (William’s speciality is in taking out SLs with snipers – he does it about every other game on average.) Great. I begin a transfer of Hessel to replace Diettinger as LMG crew and accelerate my plans to evacuate Beck to the rear.
While the LMG is uncrewed he takes the opportunity to move groups A and B forward. I have a couple of low-FP cards which give me an F3, which with the +1 for moving (even though he probably has a Concealed card) I reckon is worth a shot despite the increased risk of the LMG breaking. So I fire and yep, he has a Concealed -2, and yep, on the second shot I draw a red 5 and the LMG breaks. The rest of the burst is ineffective and he goes to ground in Woods.
Before I crew the LMG I try to fix it … and draw a red 4. Right. So now all that stands between the Vaterland and Armageddon is three rifles and an SMG. And Private Beck, who uses a red Movement to scuttle backwards. Next turn Schumacher finds Diettinger’s discarded MP and brushes the dirt off it. Make that two SMGs.
So for the next two decks I rally after mortar strikes, loose off F1 and F2s from my pathetically small fire group, and wriggle backwards as the two massive Russian groups lumber forward under cover (never knew there was so much woodland in the Ukraine). I send Schumacher to join Beck and then move Beck into the firegroup, so I have four rifles together. At some point, however, Beck loses his courage and is last seen cowering under a rock as we retreat. I manage to kill the mortar operator with a sniper, but that’s why he has three guys in that group and it is quickly back in action. I get no reinforcements until the start of deck 4, when I get a four-man group including my support weapon of choice (no MMGs unfortunately). I hesitate over replacing the LMG, but eventually decide on a mortar as it will allow me to use any Fire card.
By this time I am back to R-6 and entrenched on a Hill. His big groups are too close for comfort at R8 and R9. I don’t have a Concealed card (and consequently can’t bring my reinforcements directly into Terrain), but I reckon I need them on the field since otherwise one good burst could break me, and bring them in at R0 as group E. Next turn I lob a mortar round at the FT group in Woods – and the mortar breaks. The turn after I try to fix it and draw a red 6. At this point accusations of Communist sabotage in the German munitions factories are freely bandied about.
So now it’s getting dicey. I don’t have any red Movements, so I use the many black ones I have to edge my group B to the right (to get further from his fire group) and to move group E forwards (away from danger and closer to the mortar, which they might be able to put out of action). He grinds forward, moving a little more freely as he kills another of my group B (now down to M5 Bernhoff, M2 Schultz and Cpl Hessel), and by the end of the deck his FT group (of which I have managed to kill one rifleman) is in open ground at RR4 to my fire group D in Woods. He lays down suppressing fire from his 8 man fire group and the FT group jumps forward on the last turn of the deck, putting me on the spot. Do I unleash my pitifully small FP on him, or use my last chance to draw for reinforcements (which could theoretically include a StuG III)?
Knowing he can use his FT while on the move, I decide to shoot, an 11/5. He has a Concealed -3 (of course), but I pin his FT and one other and drop the Wire card I have been holding for this kind of situation. In his 4-card hand he clearly had the Movement, Concealed, the Fire from the fire group, and a Fire card the FT could use, but is now stuck on this unforeseen obstacle and has to discard – the Wire stops him attempting to infiltrate to use the DC of one of his unpinned men.
I don’t have any more Fire cards, so it’s bayonet time. All three of my guys take morale checks: Schultz takes one look at the unshaven Soviets and hides behind a tree, but Bernhoff and Hessel are up for it. Hessel can’t find a route, but Bernhoff sidles into a good position and survives not only a mortar burst but also a hail of fire from the covering group (the Concealed -2 helped). Next turn he passes another morale check, randomly picks the pinned FT operator, and pits his CC10 against the other guy’s CC -2 (M4, pinned -4, hampered by FT -1, under Wire -1).
Now with my normal CC luck this would be the point at which Bernhoff draws a red 6 and his opponent a black 6 to mutually impale each other, but for once the combat goes according to the odds and Bernhoff wrests the FT from the limp hands of his opponent. I’ve drawn several Fire cards over the last couple of turns and it is with considerable satisfaction that I deploy an F5 at +2 on the four survivors of his movement group. Four cards later (none of them a red 456 for a wonder) there is no Russian movement group and Bernhoff drops the FT to recover his rifle.
Apart from a stifled “Noooooooo!” when I played the Fire card William has taken all this with equanimity, and he still has an eight-man LMG group on a Hill at RR3 (and RR4 to Schumacher who is hiding in a Gully at group A). By this time I’ve lost three out of the original seven, so with the four reinforcements William only needs to kill three more to break me – and by a lucky coincidence Group D has three members. However, it seems he doesn’t have any Fire cards, so I move Schumacher to group B and put him in another Gully. I pick up a Hero and a couple of medium Fire cards (7/4 and 5/3).
At this point William still doesn’t have any Fire cards, and with about two-thirds of the last deck left decides to move forward. I hero Schumacher, who stands up and fires the 7/4 over the lip of his Gully. A Concealed -1 takes the edge off it, but his fire still pins four of the attackers. Then group D uses its FP5 to fire the other card and the F3 is enough to rout a couple of Russians to break their squad.
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The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
A really great write-up! Thanks for sharing. I love games that tell awesome narratives. This makes me want to wipe the dust off my copy of Up Front. Opponents have been scarce.
That was a mighty entertaining read. Thanks for the AAR. Bernhoff deserves a medal.
Excellent! The Ambush-scenario is one of my favorites.