Legion defending as the Belgians

 Colonel Custard attacking as the SS.

ROAR (G:B - 64:33) - 25th December, 2009

Played Face-to-Face (3 Hours. 26th Dec, 2009)

            Hmmm 2:1 in favour of the Germans eh? Well, I like tough odds! I shall be playing the Belgians as our last game (ASL17 - Lost Opportunities) placed Col. Custard in the defenders role and he did extremely well, so we opted for a swap. He is learning the MTR rules so this will give us another chance to hone those skills and check to see what rules he has forgotten in the months since we last played.

Initial Thoughts

            This is not a great scenario for a FTF game. All Hills and terrain on Hills are Woods (with the exception of Roads); without VASL this means there is a lot of constant adjustment that must happen in your mind. My opponent assures me that with his years of Battletech experience this is not a concern for him, he is used to that. Personally I am not overly impressed with such complicated SSR; 20+ years of SL/ASL have conditioned me too much to see a hill as a hill!

            It is also a tough scenario for the Defenders. A Company of ELR 3 Belgians have to hold off 1.5 Companies of SS 468! Not only that, but all the Belgians have as SW are a B# 11 MMG (ROF 2) and a 50mm MTR (ROF 2). Against this the Germans have 3x LMG and a dm MMG. While we are talking about the SW I would also point out that while the MTR might be considered an excellent addition to the Belgian arsenal thanks to the heavily Wooded terrain, it has a minimum range of 4; thus it is almost totally useless except as the SS approach. As I look at places to put it for the beginning-middle-end game I quickly discover that none of these are interchangeable - moreover in the middle-end game the SS are only going to be viable targets in a few easily avoided and tactically useless hexes! My enthusiasm for this scenario is petering out rapidly.

            Another disparity is the leadership. The Belgians have 3 leaders with a total mod of -1. The SS have 5 leaders with a total mod of -3, this includes a 9-2!

            There are some slight concessions to the difficult task faced by the Defenders. Since the SS start off-board then the Belgians can have Boresighting. Also SSR 3 & 5 allows the Belgians HIP and Assault Fire. However these are minor bonuses and as I am setting up I get the feeling that this is a tough ask.

            To win the Germans must make sure that, at games end, there are no Belgians within 4 hexes (inclusive) of 2U3. This does give me the option to try and hide a HIP in a non-obvious place and hope the black tide swarms past him. I note that the Victory Conditions does NOT say that the Belgians have to be Good Order... thus Belgians in CC or even Broken will be enough to score a win

Belgian Setup

            All units start Concealed due to German off-board entry

Board 2

P2            2x 458

Q2           50mm MTR 458, 8-0 (Boresighted: 11U6)

S1            458

S3            HIP    458, 7-0

T0            458

Y3            MMG 458, 8-1            (Boresighted: 11I3)

Z1            2x 458

Board 11

J1            HIP    458

K2           HIP    458

L1            458

            The defence is limited to 6 hexes (inclusive) of 2U3 and with the Germans able to enter anywhere along the Eastern edge of Board 11 I will have to tinker with my dispositions once his intentions are clear. My plan is to collapse the defence back into itself and form hedgehogs once I have slowed him up a little.

            I did not HIP the MTR or the MMG for 2 reasons: it is what I would be expected to do, and because the empty holes along the main line of approach (i.e. the 2 roads) would look pretty obvious. Also I need the MMG at least, and certainly both leaders to survive as long as possible so I want them in the back-line strengthening the Defence.

The Game

Because of the nature of this battle I have decided to write about it in a single piece.

Also, due to the nature of the battlefield it quickly because apparent that the battle centred around certain forests.

For that reason I have placed a VASL screen shot here from the end of Turn 1.

This shows not only the initial entry areas of the SS but also the 3 forest areas in which the fight took place. They are A, B and C

Forest A - I have a double Ambush site in here and should be able to slow his advance down with it.

Forest B - From here I hope to hit him early and then pull back to a Hedgehog, or retreat to C

Forest C - This is likely to be the last stand area. A Hedgehog will be formed here, first covering the roads, then deeper in the forest

The Yellow Area shows the Victory Area.

            In the initial stages of the battle the SS attempted to make their way to the front line as quickly as possible. Due to the heavily wooded nature of the terrain this meant keeping to roads or Open Ground as much as possible. The Northernmost road led away from the battle, but in following it the SS actually came into the fray right on the Northern flank of the Belgians. Once this was combined with the few units who struck through the Woods and through the Open Ground of the centre of the map (though well hidden and protected by the Walls) it formed a potent enveloping attack against Forest B and also forced me to hold 2S1 in place to try and anchor Forest A against them. This Northern attack was the main weight of the attack, and it reached the front line almost totally un-molested. My MTR was Boresighted on 11U6 and this attack easily hit the 468 who strayed in here - the Airburst even caused a NMC but as happened so often in this game the 8ML of the SS held.

            Balancing the Northern attack was one through the South-Eastern forest which hit Forest A squarely. I was expecting an attack here and was actually surprised when the Belgians did not send at least a squad or two right around the South of this battle to attack my forces in Forest C from the rear. Since I was expecting this attack I placed my main Ambush (2x 458 in separate hexes) right in the choke-point of Forest A, I then used the 1 visible 458 to draw the SS in. It worked like a dream as the SS firstly moved up to the initial HIP in a stack, and then the second HIP they triggered when they again moved in a stack through the Open Ground of 11J2 - I could only have been happier if the attacks I made hit! Both my Ambushes failed to so much as Pin the enemy, and in return they were hit and broken off of the first shot - this was, unfortunately the harbinger of things to come. My carefully designed and managed Ambush failed and instead of 5 Squads against 5 in Forest A to blunt this attack and save Forest C I was down to 3:5 with 1 of those 458 having to be kept in 2S1 to try and at least slow him down in the North and Centre.

            I was in desperate shape and it was only Turn 3! I had been forced to pull back in Forest B and had re-grouped on the last HIPs location in 2S3. As there was a HIP Leader here I was able to move the 8-0 from the MTR Squad to Forest A where I had 2x Broken 458 in need of some Rallying. I had a minor line-of-defence set in Forest A, but a single bad result would see it crack irreparably. My MMG position in Forest C had been forced to move to 2W4 where it was successful in digging another Foxhole (3 successes from 5 attempts in this game - I would have preferred those dice for attacks or MC!) and was now covering the FL from 2W4 → 11T1.

The SS are pressing heavily on the Belgians and have thus far suffered only a single Broken 468 and Broken, Wounded 8-0

            There is no denying that things are going poorly... literally this game could end in a turn or two if the SS continue to be so aggressive in their attack and successful in their DRs.

            With the start of Turn 4 a glimmer of hope arises as the leader is able to rally a single 458 (the other scores a Fate Rally result to be CR) in Forest A and this places me at only a slight disadvantage. He Advances up all along this line of defenders and, knowing I am on the ropes also rushes all the men in the centre of the map across to here as well... Suddenly my shots are starting to find targets, and even more importantly he is also starting to break! By the end of his turn I have managed to CR an SS unit and break 4 others but in doing so I am surrounded by so much firepower that the few unbroken units in Forest A at the end of the Turn are Voluntarily Broken and Rout to Forest C (2X2) where they wait out their DM and hope to be returned to the battle by the 8-0.

            In Forest B he again falls into a trap where my last HIP is able to reveal himself and score a 16FP +0 shot against his FFNAM 9-2, 2x 468, MMG stack. One of the Squads is Broken, the Leader is Pinned, but he also gains a Hero thanks to Heat of Battle and this guy allows a 20FP +0 shot in my Turn 4 which smashes my 2x Squads and the 7-0 here. Subsequent shots leave me with a Broken 7-0 and a sole HS as my men wither away under the enormous mass of fire. The only high point was the elimination of a 468 when he blundered in front of my MMG but that doesn't even slow the Germans down.

Forest A & B have fallen with negligible losses to the SS.

Of the 4 Squads and 2 HS I have left to face his 18 Squads, only 2 Squads are in Good Order.

            The game is in its death-throes now. Even with a lot of luck (and I get a fair bit of it in Turn 5) the numbers are conclusive. The SS can afford to be suicidal with their attacks, and they are, and still be assured of victory.

            My last men are in Forest C and thanks to the 8-0 leader I am again able to Rally the majority of the Squads, only the 2x HS remain Broken now, and one of them is still trying to escape Forest B. His attackers swarm all over me from Forest A & B, he also send men down to dispatch the  guys still trying to Rout from 2U5. I am initially successful and he suffers a number of breaks and even a KIA, but it is ultimately futile, I cannot hold against the sheer numerical strength and once he shoots back then it ends quickly. As has been the pattern all game my 8ML units rarely pass a single MC and despite his losses I am left with no unBroken units by the end of my Turn 5. Hunting them down is a simple task.

The SS Wipe-out the Belgians



            Well, what a disaster! Even my opponent was gracious enough to admit that the scenario was poorly balanced, and I agree 100%. However, the SS commander played very well (for only his 3rd game!) and took the opportunities which were given him, so dog of a scenario or not credit must be given to Colonel Custard.

            For the Defenders I see that 2 things MUST happen for them to have a chance in this scenario.

    1    -    They must get some early hits to slow the SS down as they make their approach.

    2    -    They must keep as many of their men alive long enough to pull back to either Forest B or C to make their last stand.

            Unfortunately both of these are reliant of luck, and while ASL is a dice-based game and thus luck will always play a part in the result a Defence which is based on being lucky is not a defence at all. This scenario presents the Belgians with only one option... they score great dice (or the SS get bad dice)... or they lose. That is enough to make this a dog in my eyes.

            As I noted above the SS do have a bit of a time issue to deal with, thus they will feel any losses to their advance units. In this game my opponent chose to not use a HS screen for his advance, I certainly would have HS out in front, especially considering the 3 HIP units. The HS can also be used to scour the forest for any HIP units trying to get a skulk win.

            Because of the time issue the Belgians are forced to setup a forward screen with whatever they can afford, they MUST damage the SS early in the game. Any units held back can be used to dig Foxholes.

            For the SS the tactics are simple - Surround and Squeeze. In this game the SS presented a pretty 'frontal' style of approach, I would have favoured getting a few squads in behind the defenders and why not? The SS have leaders to spare, they have Squads to spare and the tighter the Belgians defend the more interlocking is the SS attack.

            Our game was quick, mercifully so as it would not have been much fun if it were not for the chance to teach my FTF opponent some new rules and tactics... though I have the feeling that the days of baby-sitting him are nearly done. He is an excellent learner with an innate grasp of tactics which present me with all sorts of challenges.