Sunday, June 13, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Muddy Mayhem

 Struggling under a heavy load of ammunition didn't stop the marine from complaining.

"A nice sea voyage and then hitting a beach, that's what the marines are supposed to be about.  Does anybody see a beach around here?"

One or two of the younger marines looked about but their view of any potential beaches was blocked by trees.

"At least the Japanese didn't expect us," responded one of his comrades while simultaneously trying to stop the mud flowing into his mouth.

"Of course they didn't expect us," continued the whiner.  "No one in their right mind would try coming through here."  There was a wet squelch as another marine tripped on a hidden tree root and landed in the mud.  By the time rescuers arrived he had disappeared without trace.

"You'd better watch it," said one of the other marines while clinging to a tree with one hand.  "If the CO hears you bitching you'll be in trouble."

"The CO ain't gonna hear anything," replied the first.

"How can you be so sure?"

"I'm standing on his shoulders."

In a futile attempt to get me interested in campaign games Dave Wilson has been selecting various scenarios for us to play.  This time its scenario J136 - Muddy Mayhem from the Suicide Creek mini campaign game that came out in ASL Journal 9.  The map consisted of a virtually unbroken sea of green with (as advertised) a creek running through it.  I would command the heroic US marines attempting to get from the tree covered mud on one side of the creek to the tree covered mud on the other side of the creek.  Dave's Japanese were grimly determined to defend their tree covered mud to the death.

The victory conditions are simple.  I don't have to kill Japanese or exit troops or capture buildings, all I have to do is get my own troops across that creek.  Thirty two VPs worth of troops plus a tank.  When the objective is that simple you just know its going to be virtually impossible.

Still I appear to have the tools to do the job.  I have twenty squad equivalents of 668 marines plus four squads of 768 assault engineers. They are led by nine officers and are equipped with a pair of hernia inducing heavy machine guns, five medium machine guns, five bazookas, two DCs, a flamethrower plus a pair of Sherman tanks, two M3 halftracks with 75mm guns and (for reasons I can't quite explain) a pair of 37mm antitank guns.  In case this doesn't seem quite enough another pair of Shermans roll on in turn three.  I also have a field phone and a radio connecting me to two different sets of artillery about which the less said the better.

Squatting like malevolent toads on the apparently more desirable, higher rent side of the stream are Dave's Japanese.  Six first line squads, three second line squads, two heavy and two medium machine guns, four light machine guns, two 50mm mortars, three DCs, and two 70mm guns.  Fortifications are represented by ten pillboxes with storm cellars and six wire counters.  He gets another six squads (including two elite) as reinforcements.  The lot are led by six officers including a 10-1.  He also has a field phone connecting him to some much better organised artillery.

OK, here's the thing.  If they want to get anywhere at all the tanks can only move along the trails which represent corduroy roads.  Further they can only cross the creek at one of the two fords which I had to place prior to the Japanese set up.  Realistically there are only a couple of places those fords can be put anyway.  This means that the Japanese will know where the tanks are crossing and can set up accordingly which Dave dutifully did. 

After looking at his set up I placed a pair of tanks and a decent force of infantry near the ford on the right.  The two reinforcing tanks and a small amount of infantry would head for the ford at the centre of the map.  Given the exiguous nature of the Japanese antitank defence I figured I would get at least one across.  All the infantry placed with the vehicles was largely diversionary, to throw firepower down on those opposite and stop them from interfering on the left of the map where his forces seemed thin and where I placed a large amount of infantry including three squads all manning mmgs and guided by a 9-2 leader.  In short I would tie him down in the centre and right and hopefully get infantry across on the left with relative impunity.

At start set up.  Both hmgs are lurking under a tank on the right.

It seems that I don't have much luck with artillery and that would continue, I would not get a single fire mission the entire game.  In this case however it wasn't luck that was to blame but sheer mind buggering incompetence on my part.  I set up the field phone in a location where it had a line of sight to literally nothing.  Over the course of the game the officer toting the radio connected to my other artillery would have better things to do (like attempting self rallying) than calling for fire support.  At the very least this reduced my administrative burden somewhat.

Things went more or less ok in the first couple of turns.  On the right the massed firepower of two tanks, a 37mm, two hmgs and weapon happy marines proved incapable of harming the Japanese in their bunkers.  An attempt to get a DC close resulted in marines fleeing (very slowly) for the rear.  On the left though my kill stack swept the area clean and allowed the accompanying troops to slither and splash their way into the creek enroute for the fabled southern bank.  In the centre I sent some troops and an M3 to start softening up the area prior to the arrival of my turn 3 tanks.  Such softening as occured was largely of me as Dave gave a master class in artillery (tip, put your observer somewhere he can observe something) and the crew of my 37mm in the area was broken and the newly arriving M3 rapidly destroyed.

End American turn 1

Dave brought on his reinforcements to reinforce the centre but was forced to redirect them to the threat on the left.  On the far right for reasons he never explained to me he jumped a force across the stream, apparently to bring the war onto American home ground.  I watched this with some bemusement as they struggled through the jungle and then cheerfully slaughtered them when they turned up adjacent to my 37mm gun.

End Japanese turn 1

The situation on the right wouldn't really change for about three turns.  I sat there in the jungle and blasted at pillboxes with immense firepower while on the Japanese side they sat there and took it while simultaneously breaking any marines who tried break the stalemate by getting a little too close.  A halfsquad with my sole flamethrower died a grisly death before he could fire a shot and the combined firepower of multiple squads, heavy machine guns, two tanks and my surviving M3 seemed to do little more than irritate the Japanese.  This was actually a little misleading.  Japanese concealment had been stripped and the sheer volume of fire they were receiving would garner rewards eventually.  The garnering was assisted by my sniper.  Dave and I had looked at the mighty leaders (a 10-2 for me and a 10-1 for him) and agreed that each of them was nothing more than sniper bait.  We were right.  My sniper took out his 10-1 (guiding one of his hmgs in a pillbox).  In turn his sniper (slightly less effectively) wounded my 10-2 and reduced him to a still impressive 9-1 albeit a rather slow moving one.

Over on the left I had discovered his barbed wire.  Fortunately I had time to wriggle free of it before Dave's reinforcements veered left to face my troops now (I though) safely across the river.  Well most of the squads wriggled free.  One particular squad remained stuck on the wire for three turns and it was really a mercy when Dave's artillery laminated it across the landscape.  Still despite my frustration at the stalemate on the right I was feeling pretty good.  My troops were across on the left in force and my reinforcement tanks were rolling towards the centre.  I had completely forgotten about his two 70mm guns but a quick check of the table indicated that they were unlikely to be able to do much about the Shermans anyway.

End of Japanese turn 2.  Those reinforcements are looking disturbing

Things went a little to hell after that.  Some nifty close combat had cleaned out his bunkers on the left but my troops were standing in relatively open ground while a horde of largely concealed Japanese poured towards them.  Dave's artillery didn't help very much with that, mangling a couple of squads and sending them yelping back across the river.  As my force on the right started striping the hmg crews in the bunkers Dave sent some troops forward across the creek to help.  At least I think that's what they were trying to do.  They popped up on my side of the creek, took a look at the force waiting for them and hopped back into the river again.  

Greatly daring I had sent my hmg squads (led by a 9-1) into the ford under the dubious protection of a Sherman tank I had parked there to menace his bunker a little more.  That pretty much worked, only one squad got killed but the survivors were able to add some more firepower against the pillbox dwellers who by this time could probably build armour plate out of all the metal I was throwing at them.

Things no longer looking so good on the left

Dave's artillery had saved his position on the left but then my kill stack destroyed it again, some low rolls slaughtered his reinforcements and gave my battered forces a breathing space.  It didn't hurt that Dave who up until now had been producing black chits all over the place finally turned over a red and briefly lost his artillery (it would come back).  On the right I had finally taken down the machine gun crews in the pillboxes and everything was ready for the final push.  I managed to push troops into both pillbox hexes and challenged him to try and take them back.  For my tank in the creek I had other plans, it turned and rolled up the creek. Admittedly it rolled only one hex before bogging but that didn't matter.  It broadened my beachhead (mudhead?) and provided a little protection for the troops crossing the ford.  This was good as there was a 70mm gun waiting for them to do just that.  Now with a Sherman tank parked directly in front of it it had other things to worry about.

In the centre my reinforcing tanks had arrived and rolled towards the other ford.  I got one tank across the creek in the teeth of his largely impotent defences while my wounded 10-2 and his troops provided support from a distance.  The other tank I left in the ford hex for reasons which will become apparent later.  On the right I sent troops which until now had largely been contributing to a human traffic jam sweeping to the right where they crossed the river unopposed.

Strangely I appear to be succeeding

My final plan depended on the fact that I only needed one tank across the stream (which was useful since two of them were bogged).  Dave had a unit in the stream capable of covering the centre ford.  My tank in the centre ford turned and rolled into the Japanese unit's hex (and fortunately Dave didn't get a TH hero) thus occupying their attention which allowed my infantry (and wounded 10-2) to get into the ford.  They (except the leader) would advance onto the south bank in the advance phase.  This should be enough to get me the win.

This brilliant plan was almost derailed when a Japanese half squad facing my tank on the south side of the stream generated a TH hero and sent it against the solitary Sherman in the victory area.  With all the other tanks wallowing in the stream if this tank went down there would be no recovery.  I consoled myself with the thought that Dave needed to roll a three to get any sort of a result in CC.  Dave rolled a three.  The Sherman was immobilised.  I scanned the victory conditions desperately.  It said nothing about mobility, the tank just needed to have functioning MA and it did.

With most surviving American troops across the creek and the remainder poised to advance on Dave conceded.

Endgame.  Even more strangely I appear to have won

For the bulk of the game I appeared to be getting nowhere and at the last turn I had so many troops across it was almost embarrassing.  Much thanks to Dave for the game.  This was his choice so next time he won't be surprised to see he's attacking Italians in the desert.

A weary, sweat soak marine wiped some mud off his uniform only to find that he had nowhere to put it that wasn't also covered in mud.

"So this is the south bank," he muttered looking around.  "I can see why we wanted it.  The mud is definitely of higher quality over here.  You could eat your dinner off this.  In fact you have to."

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