"All I'm saying is that I don't want to be here. When the sergeant called for volunteers I thought he said "a career move". The soldier stopped fiddling with the recoilless rifle for a moment and peered down the barrel as if hoping to find a transfer order inside.
"Technically he wasn't lying," replied another scraping rust off a bazooka, "Where the hell did they get this stuff? Army surplus? Hey what did you do with all of the white phosphorous rounds? The captain wanted those up with the tanks and the mortars by dawn."
"Do you know how heavy those things are? I dumped them in a creek, who's gonna miss them?"
I don't play Korean War scenarios very often. I haven't bought the module and don't know the rules. The reason for that is simple. Having spent thirty years learning (or, more accurately, not learning) the rules of ASL I find myself disinclined to attempt to learn any more. Possibly as a reaction to this aggressive laziness my regular opponent Dave has produced one Korean War scenario after another.
"This one doesn't have too many extra rules," he'll whisper seductively while flaunting a brand new sheet of cardstock designed to entice. Finally he sent me a batch of about a dozen scenarios so with a deep sigh I surrendered to the inevitable. We played RPT 143 - Rebel's Roost which sees a force of rather brittle Americans backed up by some wholly inadequate tanks attempting to push tough North Koreans off a hilltop. For my sins I would command the Americans.
To win the Americans have to clear levels 2&3 of good order North Korean MMCs. It must be admitted that I have a decently sized force. I have thirteen first line squads, a pair of elite 667s and two 546 second liners making up the numbers. These are equipped with two medium machine guns, three light machine guns, a pair of 60mm mortars, three 1945 vintage bazookas and a 57mm recoilless rifle. Four officers spearheaded by a doughty 9-2 are in command and four M-24 Chaffee tanks are present in support. The devil is in the details, these six (with two exceptions) morale troops have an ELR of only two. I wondered how many first line squads I would have left at the end of the game.
Dave commanding the North Koreans had twelve squads, three elite and the remainder first line. They are commanded by a trio of leaders one of which Dave swapped out for a 10-0 commissar. They have two light machine guns and a back breakingly heavy medium which they must have got at a Soviet garage sale. Supporting this none too shabby force are a pair of T34-85 tanks and a 82mm mortar which threatened to make my approach to the hill a death zone. He is also allocated six foxholes to hide in as the Americans spray their firepower around.
|Here is the set up. Dave's two tanks are on the level 3 hills. Foolishly I thought the mortar would be there too
I made a bad mistake with my initial set up. I set up my 9-2 officer with the two mmgs to act as a firebase, fair enough but I allocated both my elite squads to machine gun duties. I should have deployed a first liner or even a second liner and and had each gun manned by a halfsquad. This didn't look like an issue at the start but would come back to bite me later as I tried to make my final push and found myself short of bodies.
Dave's tanks are formidable, their guns can rip through anything I possess and their armour is pretty resilient against the sort of firepower I can bring against it. Being unable to effectively destroy them on the first turn my aim was to shroud them in as much smoke (WP actually) as I could. WP turned out to be a little less available than I had hoped nevertheless by firing off both mortars and the MA of all four tanks I managed to drop two WP rounds (my last) onto his tanks. The attack could begin.
Begin the attack did with my infantry sweeping across the valley towards his position. I then discovered his mortar was absolutely not where I expected it to be. My infantry charged enthusiastically into its line of sight. With a cackle of malice Dave opened fire and broke the mortar. The very next turn he destroyed it attempting a repair. Luck it would appear was showering down on me.
|At the end of American turn one things look good. The hill awaits and his fearsome mortar is gone
In Dave's turn something showered down on me but it wasn't luck. Some people might attempt to move their T-34s out of the billowing clouds of chemical laced smoke that enveloped them. Dave sneered at such pessimists. One of his T-34s fired out of WP at a range of 17 hexes, buttoned up with red to hit numbers. He hit and burned one of my Chaffees before it could move. Then he did it again, at least this one didn't burn. My armour force had been halved in the first turn. I raved and wept for forms sake but frankly I had been somewhat unsure of what to do with these vehicles now that they had fired off their WP and at least the decisions I had to make had been somewhat reduced.
In my turn the remaining two tanks attempted to flee the hill, Dave caught and burnt a third and the sole survivor fled for the safety of a patch of woods where it remained trembling and trying to recover its equilibrium. Meanwhile Dave proved that his tanks were perfectly capable of firing out of WP and hitting infantry as well which messed up my left flank a bit.
|The armour battle such as it was is over but my troops have reached the hill
Despite the burning metal my infantry (with a few exceptions) had made it on to the hill and now had nothing but brush to protect them from blood crazed T-34s. Dave's infantry for the most part huddled in their foxholes or attempted to dig more. My mmg firegroup was doing sterling work shooting his troops out of the nearest foxhole unfortunately they simply fled back to the 10-0 commisar hiding behind the ridge who automatically rallied them. I think I broke the same squad about four times.
With the American armour dealt with Dave moved his tanks forward slightly to menace what was obviously my main attack on the right. Some defensive fire produced an American hero who would turn out to be Rambo on steroids (OK, Rambo on more steroids). One T-34 still lurked in the remaining WP but the other rolled out onto the hill to menace the infantry.
|Tanks are coming out to play
I needed to get rid of the tanks and strangely I had a plan (for a given definition of "plan") and even more strangely it sort of worked (for a given definition of "worked"). I boldly moved a squad with a bazooka towards his tank still shrouded in WP, of course its defensive fire sent my boys back in bloody ruin but that was just a ruse as another squad guided by my hero moved next to them. In the advance phase they would move in and rip the thing apart in CC. Meanwhile I moved other troops forward to "menace" the tank in the open. With Dave's attention nicely engaged I sent my remaining Chaffee on a death ride which resulted in it screeching to a halt a few hexes away from the rear of his T34 whereupon Dave slewed the entire tank around, rolled the necessary three to hit and killed the Chaffee before it could fire a shot. At that point my conversation was reduced to incoherent gibbering. Dave didn't seem to notice.
|Tank killing plan partially successful
Over on the left a maniacal rate tear on the part of one of my mortars had broken the squad he had in a foxhole on level 2 and I slipped forward to occupy that to discourage a return. I had now reached Dave's main position, hidden behind the level three hill hexes. Here his best officer (except that damn commissar) commanded a mmg and elite squad in a foxhole with another squad nearby to act as protection. My close combat victory had resulted in a squad and a hero standing on top of the hill staring directly down at his main defensive position. The WP had now drifted away and a whole bunch of North Koreans took the opportunity to pour fire at them. The squad broke of course but the hero shrugged off all fire and was still doing so when the game came to an end causing Dave no end of frustration.
But what about my tank killing plan which seemed to have faltered halfway through? Well one of my soldiers blew the cobwebs off an old bazooka and nailed the remaining T34 through the frontal armour with a kill roll that was almost Dave-esque in its improbability. Suddenly Dave's armour was gone. It remained to be seen if I could capitalise.
|The North Korean armour is gone but there are a disturbing number of broken US squads
Yes, Dave's armour was gone and the remainder of his position was at my mercy, so to speak. Another way of putting it was Dave's troops were in a perfect position to spray the poor morale Americans with fire if they dared advance. For fire support I had two 60mm mortars and it has to be admitted that they did their best. Spectacular rate tears were the order of the day as they impotently but frequently pounded his position. Results were a little thinner on the ground but they certainly kept Dave on the edge of his seat.
I took advantage of the newly provided cover (a wrecked T34) to insert a squad and leader into his forward foxhole on the right. My hero still ruled the hill. I had hoped that the foxhole might protect my guys against the inevitable fire to come. I was wrong and the next couple of turns would involve various American squads advancing into that foxhole and being shot out of it in the next firephase. I was breaking his squads in the rear but they just stepped back one hex, got rallied by the commissar and rejoined the fray.
Up until this point our snipers hadn't taken any part in proceedings but Dave's now stepped up and put a bullet through the shoulder of my 9-2. This was disheartening but not terribly serious, he was still effectively an 8-1 and three movement points don't matter when you're not going anywhere.
|Tank wrecks litter the battlefield but Dave clings on to the remaining level 2 hill hexes
I tried to spread out my forces on the right so that a lucky shot wouldn't obliterate a large chunk of my force. On the left where my "force" had been reduced to a squad and a half they simply prayed and hoped that the mortar would remove the opposition in front of them. At this point I remembered the recoilless rifle that had been dutifully hauled around by a squad for much of the game. Through sheer good luck this piece managed to drop a WP round on his mmg position thus at least hampering his efforts to shoot out of it. My own sniper then targeted his 9-1 leader and wounded him in a tit for tat exchange to avenge my own wounded officer.
|Things don't seem to have changed materially since the last picture
At this point I realised another mistake I had made early on. Having held back my best leader to command the firegroup I had naturally sent all of my other officers forward to lead the attack. What this meant was that there was nobody to rally the now quite numerous broken units piling up in between. Of course when you have a broken morale of eight you can expect to self rally quite a few. Or at least a few. Or at least one or two. One or two did indeed self rally but I felt the absence of a leader to rally the rest. Particularly since Dave's commissar "encouraged" any broken troops back into the battle within a turn (and only killed one halfsquad along the way). I made a comment about how I intended my mortars to shoot my troops forward and promptly broke one of them. Karma is not just a bitch, she's a bitch with a sick sense of humour.
|Things still don't seem to have changed much with the exception of a broken mortar and more American squads down
Time was starting to run out and I hadn't made any appreciable progress towards driving the rest of Dave's force off the hill. I managed to break his elite squad manning the mmg and thought my time had come. I then inflicted a morale check on a first line unit which promptly battle hardened into an elite squad and remanned the machine gun. Each time I attempted to push forward those squads would break leaving me in much the same position as before but with fewer squads. Thanks to the attentions of his commissar Dave actually wound up with more unbroken squads than I had.
With my troops unable to cross the last hundred metres or so I gave the concession with one turn to go. I had come close but not quite close enough. Congratulations to Dave who stuck to a well thought out defensive plan even when it looked like things weren't going his way. Korean War or not both Dave and I thought this was an excellent scenario with lots of fun for both players.
Two American soldiers hiding behind a tree peered out as the sounds of battle faded.
"Do you think its over?" asked one.
"One way or another," replied the other, "are you regretting dumping those WP rounds?"
"I've thought long and hard about it and the answer is no."
"What are you going to say if the captain asks?"
"The last time I saw the captain he was hiding under a bush trying to dig his way back to the States."
"That'll save Graves Registration some time."