Wednesday, June 12, 2019

And JunoBear Goeth

JunoBear this year consisted of three scenarios provided by tournament organiser Andy Rogers.  I wouldn't say that he agreed to organise the competition so he could get some playtesting done on new scenarios but that's exactly what he did.  The scenarios were new to all of us and involved boards that I didn't possess and in some cases didn't officially exist.  This plus the desire not to let too many cats out of the bag means that the following AARs will likely be a monument to incoherence.  So, basically business as usual.

The first scenario was set on Timor which pitted a force of elite and first line Australian troops against some highly motivated but tactically inept Japanese.  This description of the Japanese seemed a perfect fit for me so I took the Japanese defending a hill and the buildings thereabouts from Jamie Westlake's Australians.  A couple of SSRs wiped out HIP and bore sighting for the Japanese (tactically inept you see) and also allowed the Australians to launch the occasional banzai (to simulate bayonet charges).

A broad swathe of palm trees meant that people on the hill had virtually no chance of seeing the Australian entry area but the Japanese had to set up on the hill or near it (tactically inept etc etc).  The Australians have to capture either two buildings on the hill or a bunch of huts near the hill and one building thereon.  I have ten squads, a pair of officers and a handful of support weapons plus a 70mm gun which by SSR must set up right where it will immediately be overrun by rampaging Australians.  Jamie had fourteen squads, a mix of elite and first line, enough lmgs to open a shop and mortars with enough smoke to give the impression the entire island was on fire.

Jamie hit me from two directions, wreathing the gun in smoke and sending a powerful force to capture the huts while easing forward in the direction of the gun.  My Japanese were supposed to be tactically inept but this apparently extended to not knowing which end of a rifle the bullet came out of.  Completely unharmed by my defensive fire Jamie rolled into my hut defenders while up at the gun he launched a bayonet charge which quite literally swept all before it.  The Japanese are supposed to be good at close combat.  A measure of how good they were in this scenario can be found in the fact that Jamie started with one 8-1 leader and by the third turn he had three courtesy of snake eyes in close combat.  The death of my best leader from a snipers bullet even Jamie had to agree was by this point overkill.

After two turns of unmitigated catastrophe what were left of my troops pulled themselves together somewhat and I even managed to break his 9-2 but it was all too late.  I was back on my absolute last line of resistance and I had four and a half squads left of my original ten.  I conceded and staggered from the table in shock.

The second scenario was set on a chunk of the Hatten in Flames board and involved a group of Americans defending a crossroads from a ravening pack of fallschirmjager backed by a couple of panthers and some assorted halftracks.  They also got a free smoke mission to help them forward.  Since I had defended (to stretch the definition of the term to its limit) in the previous scenario my opponent Simon Spinetti kindly let me take the attacking Germans.  In addition to squads, bazookas and a couple of medium machine guns the Americans also had a pair of M-10 tank destroyers and a couple of 60mm mortars.  In case this wasn't sufficient they received reinforcements in the form of two and a half more squads and another M-10.

To win the Germans had to take a collection of building hexes around the crossroads.  The American set up area wasn't deep but it was broad and as I looked at Simon's set up I spotted what appeared to be an opportunity.  There were defenders clustered around the target buildings of course but apart from that he seemed to have set up heavy on the flanks and light in the centre.  I sent a secondary force against my right flank (which was closer to the victory locations) and set up the bulk of my forces backed by a panther and the halftracks for a full blooded assault on the centre.

It sort of worked, Simon was indeed a little weak in the centre although not as weak as I'd assumed as I discovered when one of his mortars converted a squad equivalent into a single broken half squad.  Despite this and one or two other embarrassing mini disasters I did manage to push into the centre effectively cutting off his right flank and pressing towards his defences guarding the crossroads. One of his M-10s was set back at the crossroads to cover the street the other found itself out of position on his right.  I had a moment of unalloyed joy when I managed to reduce this vehicle to a burning wreck by street fighting as it attempted to reposition to reinforce the centre.

So far so good but things had got delayed on my right.  Here I had three squads, an mmg and a panther and Simon managed to effectively delay them for three turns (out of four and a half) with a group of half squads and dummy stacks.  Suddenly realising I was running out of time and painfully aware that I needed these troops to help capture the buildings I finally pushed through the defenders but time was running out and these guys were too far away to conduct any serious flanking.  In fact they were so out of place that Simon felt comfortable using his reinforcements to strengthen his forward position leaving the rearmost victory location unmanned.

With the final turn upon us I brought my smokescreen down and used it to assault into the forward buildings.  I wound up in CC in two locations both of which I would need to win unless I could capture one of the unoccupied buildings in the rear.  My infantry couldn't do it but my right hand panther covered itself in glory.  Rolling around behind the fighting it charged straight into the building I needed, bogging but fortunately not dropping into the cellar.  There was just one minor problem, one of his M-10s was sitting two hexes away.  To have any chance of killing a panther from the front he needed APCR.  He got APCR.  He also hit the more vulnerable turret.  The modified to kill number was a ten.  He rolled a ten shocking the panther.  There then followed an excruciating search of the rules which finally determined that (absent enemy infantry) to control a building hex a vehicle didn't need to be good order, it only needed to be manned and armed.  Which it was.  Victory in one of the two close combats gave me the bare minimum I needed for a win.  Frankly I think my panther used all of my luck for the tournament in one go.

The final scenario saw me pitted against Zeke Crater who apparently flew all the way from Virginia to break my heart.  An eastern front action set in 1944 it saw a group of high quality Soviet troops backed by SU-76s, T-34/85s and lend lease Shermans trying to push a desperate bunch of Germans off a hill.  The Germans had a Marder (with an apparently limitless supply of 75mm shells) and a 75mm AT gun to help them hold off the Soviet hordes.  In case that wasn't enough they got a pair of PzIVJs on the third turn.  The Soviets had to capture a number of buildings but this would increase if at any point the Soviets had fewer closed top AFVs than the Germans.

The dice gave me the Soviets and I set up my elite force of guardsmen backed by the SU76s to hit the side and centre of the hill.  The T34s and Shermans (two of each) would enter on the first turn ferrying another four squads of infantry to the battlefield.

In the room we were playing in each competitor glanced at the map and the shout rang out "human wave!"  Andy who had designed the scenario pointed out that these were elite '44 guardsmen and surely we didn't need human waves at this stage of the war.  He was roundly ignored.  My own human wave got one of my supposedly elite guard squads broken and another killed but did push the rest of them through outlying buildings and up onto the hill.  One of my SU-76s went with them while the other circled around and climbed the hill behind Zeke's defences in the somewhat optimistic hope that it could menace his troops from the rear.  Actually all it did was persuade Zeke to pull his Marder back to a position where it could take out the SU-76 which it promptly did leaving a nice burning wreck to give me some cover.

Removing the Marder from his front line defences was useful and over the next few turns I ground forward supported (somewhat ineffectually) by my tanks and surviving SU-76.  His tanks came on and Zeke moved them up onto the hill to bolster his now threatened defences.  Nothing loathe I sent a pair of my tanks up to challenge them and promptly got them destroyed.  After that I kept the survivors out of line of sight of his vehicles and used them to beat up convenient infantry.  Despite pushing aggressively forward at the end I came up a couple of buildings short leaving me with a 1-2 record for the weekend.

So with my skills sharpened I'm now ready to head off to Singapore where I expect great things.  Not necessarily for me but hopefully my opponents will be grateful.

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