Close Combat

S28 Out of Ideas!

I just finished playing S28 Out of Luck, which you can get for free at MMP’s wobsite. I lost so badly that not even blaming it on the dice makes it any better. Was it the scenario’s fault? Probably not.

As most of the times, I completely screwed up my setup, leaving a large blind spot on the hard-to-defend hills in the northwest corner and concentrating on the open ground in the northeast and the city in the southwest, near the exits. My opponent, of course, used this weak spot to utterly destroy me. I didn’t even need bad luck to lose.

Of course, I still had a metric ton of that. First turn, the crew of my 122mm ART gets a NMC during Advancing Fire and, of course, rolls boxcarts. They were the keystone of the way too weak defense in the hills, too. Then, one of my three IS-2s rolls boxcarts for an attack. A bit later, it gets shocked and UK’d, but recovers, fortunately. While trying to outflank a Hetzer in the city with its MA still malf’d, it gets shocked and UK’d again. This time, it has no luck. Meanwhile, my MG crews try to take out some of the Hetzers in the city – with their 3 points of side armor, that’s actually a viable strategy. Of course, my first two TH MG attacks ever both malf the respective MGs, and one of these gets taken out of the equation by a 6 on the repair roll. The other one recovers and even gets to destroy a Hetzer!

Meanwhile, my second IS gets stuck on the meadow by a SSR requiring a DR < 11 to be taken on every vehicular movement in Open Ground to avoid getting immobilized. My third one was dug in by SSR in the most inconvenient of all places.

My opponent tries to rush his tanks through the city to quickly achieve his victory conditions, but my experienced tank-punchers move into Close Combat against a Hetzer and a Panther. The Panther survives, the Hetzer does not.

At this point, my opponent had two thirds of the necessary victory points after just half the game and I resigned because the result of the game was becoming so obvious it wasn’t worth sacrificing another session of playtime for.

Lessons learned: Vehicular Close Combat is a viable strategy, even more so against tank destroyers. I need to think more about my setups (well, Captain Obvious is obvious). And the IS-2 only gets 2 out of 5 stars in my personal rating, because when it hits it’s devastating, but most of the time it does not.

The game was still fun, because it was the first time I saw the Nahverteidigungswaffe, ATRs and MGs in an AT role in action. I’d say I like the scenario.

Next up is S13 Priority Target.

S48 Confusing Renaults (or something like that)

So my regular Starter Kit opponent and me sat down to play our first match of 2014, “Converging Assaults” (Starter Kit Expansion Pack #1, S48), which was probably the weirdest match I’ve ever played.

What’s it about? US troops advance into a city in Sicily from the West and meet Italian troops advancing from the West. A firefight ensues. For added fun, some Italian tanks are added into the mix and fall into the back of the US infantry.

And I use the words “fun” and “tanks” quite wrongly. We are talking about the Renault 35, this tin can:

(Image courtesy of Bukvoed on Wikipedia, CC-by 2.5)

(Image courtesy of Bukvoed on Wikipedia, CC-by 2.5)

In game terms, they have a 37* main gun in a one-man turret, a 2FP sort-of-coax-but-sort-of-AAMG thing and [4][4] armor. We’re talking late-war here, with the US fielding a 57mm gun (normally useless against anything, able to kill the Renault 35 with anything but boxcarts) and bazookas! But at least there are many of them – eight, to be precise, in a single-board scenario.

So, what happened when we played is this: My opponent (playing the Italian side because tanks) parked four of his tanks and most of his infantry around a stone building in the north, while the other four tanks tried to encircle my units. That plan was quickly prevented by my HIP 57 AT gun, which took out two tanks in short order, moved a bit and took out a third one, and some infantry which decided to go punch some metal in Close Combat. A fifth tank got recalled because the MA broke down, but the commander of that one had already taken a bullet. Tank Number 6 tried to move in a more offensive position, came into the line of sight of the AT gun, which fired with a TH of 4, penetrated the hull, retained RoF and proceeded to harass some Infantry just for shit and giggles. The two remaining tanks remained undamaged, partly because they were parked in a stone building and partly because I had stopped giving a damn about them.

Meanwhile, my Infantry tried their hand at this “fulfilling victory conditions” business. The scenario demands that no Italian Good Order squad (or two Good Order Half-Squads) are in any single building hex. Well, turns out this isn’t half as unfair as it sounded at first. The Italian squads break really fast, and once they’re broken, they stay broken thanks to their reduced broken side morale. In my last turn, there were two unbroken Italian squads left on-board, one of which broke during Prep Fire. I put down as much firepower as I could on the last stack, but only got a 8+2 attack, unfortunately, because of some quite effective Defensive Fire. On the last roll of the match, I rolled… boxkarts, and lost.

All in all, I would say this scenario is pretty balanced despite looking really unfair on first glance, but it is also really really frustrating to play for both sides. The US player is confronted with a victory condition that’ demands of him to be everywhere at once, and that can be prevented by a single bad die roll on the last turn. On the other hand, the Italian player can’t do much except hoping for some good morale rolls buying him time, because of his low firepower and lack of leadership on the infantry side and the completely useless tanks that broke one squad and pinned another one in the course of our game. I’d say the whole thing lacks lot of structure, and, say, N-463 or Cooks Clerks And Bazookas are all more interesting AFV scenarios, with more interesting things happening and more options for both sides. But YMMV, of course.

Next up: Out of Luck (S28, available on the MMP website). IS-2s and 122mm artillery against Panthers and Hetzers – looks like loads and loads of fun.