Friday, May 8, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Play Ball Part 2

And now for the long awaited conclusion to this epic struggle between French colonials and inexperienced Americans.  There will be tears, heroism and heartbreak!

But first a mea culpa.  It was pointed out to me in a comment on the first part of this AAR that I had completely messed up the halftracks that came on as reinforcements.  I had used a couple to transport squads to the front line while the crews rode in the other along with the guns.  Firstly with a PP capacity of five the halftracks can't carry squads.  Secondly the halftracks in question can't tow the gun and its ammunition and transport a crew.  That's why there are four halftracks for two guns.  This was a bad error but fortunately we hadn't gone too far past it.  Mike and I discussed it and he very kindly permitted me to keep the reinforcements.  However the second pair of halftracks were placed next to those with the guns.  The infantry came on in the same place as before but would be forced to use shanks pony to reach the battlefield.  Below is the adjusted picture.

One day I will complete a game without a major screwup.  But not today
With that out of the way we can commence.  Keep an eye on the American halfsquad on the right currently being monstered by a pair of recently arrived French squads.  These Americans would be absolute heroes.

The next turn or two were not particularly dramatic, I oozed forward on the left, gradually wrapping my way around his flank.  To the south an lmg team led by a 7-0 moved forward in the fond hopes of blocking a few rout paths.  Far to the north my guns continued their slow and painful journey to the battlefield, only one would make it.

I unloaded one gun where it could take a shot at the most forward of the stone buildings I actually had to capture while my flankers tried and failed to inflict further damage on his troops in the left hand wheatfield.  Over on the right a squad leapt into CC with his halfsquad but, naturally failed to kill it.  Disaster struck my southern troops.  I had, perhaps (definitely) foolishly moved them up to the hedge where they could block rout paths should I actually succeed in breaking anything.  Mike took a 2 flat shot at them (leader directed) and rolled snakeeyes for a K/1 result.  Random selection was doubles resulting in a K result on both leader and squad.  The leaders wound die roll was a six.  The remaining halfsquad failed its morale check and ELRed.  So a leader squad combo was reduced to a single green halfsquad snivelling pitifully in a convenient stone building.  It wasn't all bad news though.  A 20+4 firegroup that I had managed to assemble completely failed to inflict any harm so there was no routing to cut off in any event.

OK, that could have gone better

 Retribution was coming though.  Mike pulled a squad out of the wheatfield and jumped the hedge apparently unaware that my mmg stack had a line of sight to the hex.  Defensive fire killed the squad outright and a previously unknown bazooka dropped to the ground.  Mike's antitank weapons had been reduced to one.  Now his mmg squad was alone in the wheatfield and was looking nervously as the pride of Moroccan youth came steaming towards him.

So far so mediocre
I finally got one of my guns somewhere remotely useful and detached it from its towing halftrack.  It's first shot wasn't impressive but the acquisition it gained turned out to be important.  

Before we go on I just want to give a brief history of the American halfsquad sitting out on his right flank.  These maniacs broke a squad and a half with firepower and killed a squad and a half in close combat.  Over the course of the game they singlehanded destroyed any hopes I might have had of enveloping that flank.  They finally died in CC but not until the very last turn when the game had been decided elsewhere.

These woes notwithstanding I was finally ready to make my push.  Not before time as it was already turn 6.  Technically my tanks should have come on at this point but I decided to delay them a turn and bring them on the north edge of board 17.  Having completely neglected the smoke option with my artillery I now turned to my onboard 75mm to correct this oversight.  It turned out he had packed precisely one smoke round.  This proved to be enough as I dropped it in his forward stone building occupied by a half squad that was looking less enthusiastic about its position by the second.  In the centre Mike had rallied a squad and sent them upstairs to retrieve his hmg.  This turned out to be unwise as prep fire from my two squad/mmg stack directed by my 9-1 swept him off the roof as a shattered wreck.

It has to be admitted that turn 6 was when it all turned around for me. So far I had bumbled and blundered and taken my time but now, almost too late, I was ready.  In addition to the smoke and the hmg takedown over on the left a pair of green squads finally broke him mmg team and his left flank was almost bare.  Abandoning the other gun its crew rolled forward in their halftrack to reach the fighting while I managed to surround the brokies and force their surrender.  This was important as it was becoming painfully obvious that I wasn't going to get the buildings in the requisite time and would have to go for the CVP.  One squad jumped his smoke shrouded halfsquad but of course couldn't kill it in CC straightaway but would succeed the next turn.  Over on the right a lone American halfsquad continued to inflict demographic damage that Morocco still hasn't recovered from.

Finally moving forward
Things were going my way but it was becoming increasingly obvious that I simply wasn't going to be able to grab five stone buildings by the beginning of turn eight.  I had one turn left to do it and I came up a couple short.  I captured one down at the very bottom of the board but not in circumstances I would have liked.  My hero and a squad with a 7-0 moved towards the halfsquad Mike had in the building.  Defensive fire broke the squad but the leader/hero jumped into close combat anyway. My shout of triumph as I rolled a three turned into a gargle of pain as Mike rolled snake eyes, generated an 8-1 leader and withdrew leaving me the now useless building.

But now Mike had a problem as well.  He had taken heavy casualties and if he wanted to win he would have to flee for the exits but fleeing for the exits meant leaving the safety of the stone buildings that were keeping his force alive.  Another destroyed squad lost him his other bazooka and being disinclined to wander into the open to pick them up meant he had no antitank defence.

And the tanks were coming, rolling down the road CE so that the wretchedly slow vehicles could get up to the fighting.  Mike himself was caught between fight and flight.  Suddenly I had troops to burn and sent forward halfsquads (and the unemployed crew) to surround another unit and start threatening his exits.  In the centre I finally managed to capture his hmg position and an 8-0 leader picked it up as though he knew what he was doing.  My unarmed, unarmoured halftrack trundled forwards to make a nuisance of itself while my tanks, by their very presence encouraged Mike to leave.

The tanks have arrived, meanwhile on the right an American halfsquad is locked in melee with a French halfsquad which is all that's left of my flanking manoeuvre

Mike made for the exits with the remainder of his force and I was seriously concerned that he would escape.  The time I'd taken and the fact that a number of my squads were slow moving greenies meant that I couldn't really chase after him with too much success.  I would have to use my tanks and I would have to take prisoners.  My forward renault decided to strike out on its own.  Passing (just) the independent movement die roll it trundled down the street and parked itself behind some of his forces.  I needed to take risks now but I managed to push a squad through to where I could scoop up some prisoners.  Meanwhile my other tanks, keeping together as a platoon rolled down through the scrub to where they could menace such of his squads as had not yet managed to flee.

I managed to kill a couple of stay behinds in close combat but it was the two squads and a leaders worth of prisoners that finally tilted the balance in my favour.  With twenty seven CVP in hand and a broken squad ready to surrender Mike gave the concession.  Best of all on the very last turn I managed to kill the bastards on the right who had held up an entire flank by themselves.

End game, not quite there but Mike saw the writing on the wall

Mike and I had a ball playing this game (at least I did and Mike says he did) which saw both of us despair of victory at various points.  It is fair to say I lost the first half of the game and managed to do just enough in the second to pull off a not entirely deserved victory.  Thanks to Mike for the game.  Our next scenario will be his selection.

Capitaine le Gastainc stood rigidly at attention, his cheeks white and a single tear forming in his one working eye.  The tongue lashing the colonel had given him was ferocious and was no easier to bear because it was thoroughly deserved.  Who had ever heard of a Gesture of Heroic Futility that was actually a success?  There would be no tragic tales of courage to no good purpose, he hadn't even had the decency to die leading his men in a forlorn hope.  The colonel was absolutely furious and had only interrupted his diatribe because the telephone had rung.

"What is it?" demanded the colonel.  He listened for a second. "I see, we've surrendered.  Good, good.  And now we have joined with the Allies against the Boche, excellent.  What's that?  You need an officer to act as liaison with the British?"  The colonel gave an evil smile, "I have just the man."

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