Thursday, August 25, 2016

Silly After Action Report - Ceramic City

And after a brief but not unsuccessful foray into the desert I'm back in Poland with regular opponent Ivan Kent.  In 1939 when the German army roared into Poland a gang of Nazi thugs collectively known as the SS came along for the ride.  First among deeply unpleasant equals was the Adolf Hitler Leibstandarte regiment.  Possibly out of a desire to be helpful and possibly because they doubted the combat ability of these strutting psychopaths the army gave them some super heavy artillery and asked them to capture a crockery factory.  The SS politely asked if the army was serious.  Keeping an absolutely straight face the army said, "Yes, we are."  The SS men struck heroic poses, "Fear not," they announced, "not a teacup will survive."
"Well actually," said the army, "if you could lay your hands on a thirty four place table setting, von Brauchitsch's birthday is coming up..."
"Consider it done," replied the SS.  "What about utensils?"
"3rd Panzer is hitting a cutlery factory on your flank."

Without further ado this is Poland in Flames scenario BFP 109 - Ceramic City.  Here Ivan's evil SS will attempt to seize the militarily vital ceramics producing area of Boleslawez thus breaking all chance of a successful Polish resistance.  The Polish resistance is already severely handicapped by being commanded by me.  There are six victory buildings, the Germans have to control five, they're all mine at the start of the game.

To defend the town I have four elite Polish squads, five first line squads, a pair of moderately competent officers and four heavy machine guns.  On turn two this barely adequate force in augmented by twelve squads of reinforcements, three elite and nine first line carrying a pair of light machine guns, a pair of demo charges (for some reason) and led by three more officers.  Furthermore I have a battery of 70mm artillery guided by an offboard observer who seems to be positioned at the top of a telegraph pole.  This is an impressive force but dear god look at what's coming at it.  Ivan has twenty four elite squads, two heavy machine guns, two medium machine guns, six light machine guns, eight officers and a radio connecting him to 150mm artillery.

It seemed to me I would be lucky to survive until my reinforcements arrived but I set up and hoped for the best.  The photo below (although a little cockeyed) shows my initial set up and Ivan's first moves.

I placed a squad forward in a building to the northwest to act as a speed bump, I had no hopes he would survive.  A squad and a dummy stack set up in the forest to the north to cover the northern road.  Behind them in buildings covering the road were another dummy stack and a halfsquad with an hmg and a 10-0 leader.

In the centre a squad, a halfsquad and another hmg plus a couple of stacks of dummies held the outer ring of buildings.  To the south I didn't deploy as far forward as I should have.  A couple of squads in the second batch of buildings were all I allocated.  The remainder of my force was back in the victory buildings, one hmg with a halfsquad and leader was up in the church steeple, a mistake as there wasn't a lot they could see, the other hmg covered the road running south west.

Ivan came on with powerful forces to the north and south with a scattering of halfsquads acting as bullet magnets in the centre.  Things started well for me, a sacrificial halfsquad charged my speedbump and was sent reeling back in bloody rout.  In the far north another probing halfsquad was vapourised by my defending troops in the northern woods.  His centre halfsquads trotted happily forward as I disdained to fire on them for the moment.  In the south Ivan's forces pushed forward against no opposition and I realised how poorly I had set up in the south.  I winced and called in my artillery which would prove to be my insurance against sloppy set ups.

Battery access was automatic for the first fire mission, my spotting round was inaccurate but close enough to make Ivan sweat.  In the next turn I would correct it and break a squad that had got overbold.  Nevertheless Ivan's forces moved forward.and made largely unchallenged gains despite the fact that my artillery reduced his broken squad to a broken halfsquad in the next fire phase.

Despite the large numbers of German troops piling up in the north it seemed to me that the south was in imminent danger and I brought my reinforcements on the southern board edge to bolster my position there.  Almost immediately after I did so my northern defence fell apart.  Ivan pushed slowly forward and my 10-0 led hmg fired its first shot and rolled boxcars.  Great.  His return fire resulted in a morale check, more boxcars and the halfsquad crewing the gun died.  My northern defence consisted of a 10-0 leader with a broken hmg and a single squad in the woods.

Reinforcements in the south but nothing except artillery in the north.

Meanwhile in the centre Ivan's halfsquads trailed their coats and I revealed the hmg and killed one of them.  After this modest success that hmg broke too and when a sniper took out my other squad in the centre the defence was reduced to a single half squad.  I had rough squad parity in the south now but in the north and centre the way was open.  Once again I turned to my artillery to provide the defence that my hmgs obviously could not.  I broke a couple of units but the real advantage was the time delay.  This gave my 10-0 leader time to retrieve the broken hmg and completely break it while attempting to repair it.  In the centre with that hmg down Ivan got very brave and moved his halfsquads forward.  To add insult to injury he charged an 8-0 leader into close combat with my halfsquad.  Naturally I failed to ambush him and equally naturally I failed to kill him.  Ivan would eventually reinforce and win the melee.

What about Ivan's awesome 150mm artillery you ask.  Well it was a bit of a disappointment.  He kept dropping artillery requests on the steeple and they kept wandering off into places he couldn't see.  An end was finally brought when my sniper put a bullet through the head of his radio operator.  Ivan would eventually rally a half squad, reclaim the radio and race it forward to another officer but for a couple of precious turns he was without artillery support.

I had built a strong position in the south and (through force of circumstances) was relying on artillery in the north.  My artillery wasn't always accurate but it was accurate enough to keep the fire mission going and Ivan lost a few squads but more importantly it forced him to move circumspectly and circle wide distances to get around it.  Despite this he infiltrated powerful forces through the woods and used another charging halfsquad to reveal the dummies that made up the bulk of my defence.

Ivan is working his way through in the north

I had built up a powerful stack of reinforcements (two squads, lmgs and a leader) in the south covering the road in front of the victory buildings and Ivan detailed some units to outmanouvre them but some lucky shots resulted in the virtual obliteration of that force.  The remainder of his southern units headed for the centre buildings poised to make their dash across the road.  Having convinced himself that my hmg unit covering the southwest road was a dummy Ivan moved a powerful stack out into the road and amused himself shooting at my unit.  He managed to strip concealment and was a little shocked to discover a genuine unit.  He needn't have worried, my hmgs sucked.  This one didn't break but shooting straight a road in the open it proved itself incapable of either hurting him or maintaining rate.  Meanwhile I had moved the last hmg unit out of the steeple and brought it forward to reinforce the battleline.  That one wouldn't do anything either.

With two turns to go Ivan made his move.  The bulk of his forces in the north infiltrated south and joined his forces in the centre for a final push.  A small northern force set out on a flanking mission that took him into the rear of my position and challenged for the victory buildings there.  Now the essential hollowness of my northern defences were revealed and Ivan fought his way into two victory building and was positioned to take another three.

In the centre a prisoner escorting halfsquad stepped forward to draw some of my fire, took a morale check, went berserk, massacred the prisoners and came to a halt in the middle of the street.  Ivan wasn't impressed.  He had finally got his radio into the hands of another officer but our forces were so close that he couldn't bring it down anywhere that wouldn't affect him as much as it did me.  He brought it down anyway and broke a squad on each side, not much of a result for 30FP fire although one of my squads did go berserk.

Ivan's final turn came and he made a full blooded push for the remaining buildings.  To my rear in the east he sent a squad and leader (plus a demo charge he'd picked up from one of my squads) to seize the south eastern building I'd thought was safe.  He pushed a squad under the very nose of my surviving hmg (which of course did nothing) and grabbed a second.  Finally a squad advanced into CC with my berserk unit to challenge for the final building.  Things looked bad,  Ivan had his five buildings with the sixth in dispute but I wasn't giving up yet.  I had one turn to reverse the position and fortunately I had the troops in the south to do it.

Firstly I advanced a pair of squads out into the open to challenge for a victory building, if Ivan left them alone I would go into CC with his units at 2-1.  In fact he chopped them to bits but that was ok.  I advanced a squad into the victory building currently occupied by my berserk unit in CC with him, not reinforcing the melee but into the other hex guaranteeing he couldn't fully claim it no matter what.  Prep fire from an adjacent squad had broken his unit in the south eastern building and with his troops fully occupied elsewhere I race another squad up so I could go into CC against two leaders (one CXed) which were the only force remaining in that building.  Whereupon Ivan tossed the captured DC at me.  It broke one squad leaving me with a squad and an officer to advance into CC.  This gave me odds of 5-2 which you would think should be good enough but given my record in CC it was with fear and trembling that I rolled the dice, and gained snakeyes.  The building and the game were mine.  Ivan had four buildings, I had one and one was in dispute.

Endgame, I scrape a win by the skin of my teeth
This was a great game we both had a lot of fun playing.  There were swings and roundabouts on both sides.  Ivan's fire shots were generally good leading to a lot of angst on my part on the other hand his morale checks were poor, his supposedly elite SS folding like wet cardboard to NMCs and 1MCs all over the place.  For my part I might as well have left the hmgs off the board for all the good they were but my artillery was awesome.  Next up apparently is Polish Panzerjaegers.  Since I'll be commanding the Germans the title alone is giving me concern.

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