Friday, January 28, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Ace in the Hole

 Hauptmann Hans Niesentös sighed heavily.  It was getting harder and harder to motivate his troops to fight on through to the inevitable victory.  OK it wasn't great that after nearly six years of war their objectives had been reduced to "capture your next door neighbour's backyard" but at least they were fighting on their home ground.  That had to count for something right?  Not according to the deeply uninterested panzer grenadiers of his command.  To make matters worse they hadn't even captured the neighbour's backyard.  Now new orders had arrived to hold this village to the last.  He had tried to bolster morale by informing his troops that the famous 9th Panzer division would be supporting them.  Then his orderly had pointed out that the clutch of sullen troopers and the handful of shopsoiled tanks in front of him was the 9th Panzer.

A sudden shout jerked the Hauptmann out of his gloomy reverie. Racing to the observation post he was in time to see an unbroken wall of olive green moving towards his rather exiguous positions.  Accompanying them was...

"What the hell is that," demanded Niesentös.

"It looks like a tank only bigger," replied a soldier.  "Take a look at that gun, we are so screwed."

Yep it was getting harder and harder to motivate the troops.

Once again I have failed on a promise to produce an AAR.  Keen readers will note that I promised to provide an AAR of At the Point which was the next game we played.  Play it we did, it was all over by turn two.  My defeat so comprehensive that I couldn't bring myself to write about it.  Then, at my insistence, we played Savannah Rain.  We abandoned that game when Dave carved up about half my Italian infantry with NOBA only to discover a turn or so later that the NOBA didn't extend to board 10.  Finally we played Shielding Moscow about which I will only say that it is difficult to command troops with six morale when you can't roll less than eight on a morale check.

So here we are with scenario AP14 - Ace in the Hole which I selected by turning the scenario card for Shielding Moscow over (I wanted to get it out of my sight).  I must confess to a certain amount of trepidation in writing this AAR.  After I had done my set up as the defending Germans I googled the scenario as is my want to see if there were any AARs that would point out how badly I had screwed up.  To my horror I saw that Grumble Jones had recently played this very scenario and posted an AAR on his excellent blog (link attached in case you've been living under a rock and haven't seen it).

I was seized with doubts.  Would my opponent think I had just copied the tactics noted in that fine report (a swift glance at the result would have disabused him)?  Would others (such as yourselves dear readers) think that I was merely clinging to the coattails of this more august publication in the hopes that the unwary would confuse my blog with his?  I reassured myself that while Grumble Jones blog is an excellent, high quality blog with fine pictures, graphics and tactical pointers mine is...not.  So here we go.

I command what little of the German army has managed to survive the last six years somewhat unenthusiastically defending a random German town.  I had ten squads evenly divided between elite and first line, three officers, a medium machine gun, three light machine guns a panzerschreck and a dozen concealment counters.  The remnants of the 9th Panzer managed to scrape up a Tiger, two PzIVJs and a StuG IIIG.  Dave Wilson commanding the Americans had six elite and ten  first line squads led by four reasonably capable officers.  These troops had a hmg, two medium machine guns, a pair of bazooka 45s and two 60mm mortars.  Rolling along in oversized but very impressive support were a trio of bog standard Shermans, two 76mm Shermans and the American tiger killer a M26 Pershing.

In his blog Grumble Jones mounted an upfront defence which led to a free wheeling tank battle which he won.  I on the other hand would mount a down back defence with the tanks buried in buildings to support the less than keen infantry.  I hoped to present a wall of stone protected defenders to my enemy.  Actually I just presented a collection of targets.  I did place the StuG up on the hill.  This is a dangerous spot but the StuG is small and was nicely hulldown and I thought it might survive long enough to give Dave's initial advance some pause.  Dave's second shot of the game was a critical hit which burnt it.  So much for that plan.  Indeed the only thing it achieved was to annoy Dave as he had planned to occupy that very hex with the Pershing.

End of US turn 1

Undaunted by the spectacular explosion on the hill in front of them the Americans pushed forward.  I had a screen of mostly dummies to slow him down plus a small garrison in the only multilevel building on Board 4 so that he couldn't just walk in.  

In my turn my forward troops cringed down hoping their concealment counters would hold.  There was however a bit of movement in the rear area.  With my StuG lighting up the sky for miles around I felt that I should get some armour over to support the lone squad hiding out in the building on the right so I rolled a nearby PzIV over there.  More significantly I lurched my Tiger out of its sheltering building to take up what I felt to be a blocking location against his main thrust.  This provided me with my one unalloyed moment of pleasure in the game as an advancing fire shot from the 88 managed to kill a Sherman with an uncharacteristic low to hit roll.  Unalloyed moments of pleasure would soon be declared extinct.

End of German turn 1. Definitely the high point of the game for me

Although a little taken aback by my Tiger's keen shooting Dave proceeded with his advance.  The smoke mortars on his Shermans went into overdrive to shield his approach.  My upfront delaying force was broken and routed from the forward building but at this stage I wasn't too disappointed.  Two turns had gone by and the bulk of my defence was intact.  Unfortunately so was the bulk of Dave's attack. 

Over on the left Dave had set up a mortar to try and whittle down my forces a little but a housebound PzIV took a particular disliking to that unit and broke it, ELRed it and finally killed it over the course of several turns of firing.  You may say taking out a single halfsquad is a pretty poor result for a PzIV but it was more than the rest of them achieved.  The happy time such as it was was nearly over.

Despite being crowned with smoke Dave obviously wanted the hill on the right and dispatched a powerful force including his Pershing to take it.  I hadn't really given the hill too much thought.  I knew it was a trap for my armour (and if I didn't know the StuG's fate brought it home to me) but, particularly with a burning wreck at the top I didn't consider how useful it would be to a Pershing with armour that could laugh at most of my firepower.

The calm before the storm, Dave works into position

The next turn or so was relatively quiet as Dave brought his forces into position and I encountered an issue I would meet time and again throughout the rest of the game.  Nowhere could I bring sufficient firepower to actually make it worth shooting.  This was probably a result of my somewhat cowardly set up where I hoped stone would do most of the work for me but it meant Dave could manoeuvre pretty much at will.

Then things pretty much happened at once and after that they didn't stop happening.  Dave worked his Pershing on to the hill and destroyed my Tiger with a line of sight I didn't realise was there.  Where Dave's troops encountered mine my guys got crushed and it soon became obvious that my only option was to run away and keep running.

My tiger is gone and believe me the PzIV over by the hill hasn't got long to live

I gave up on all thoughts of fighting it out and settled for pulling back and forcing the Americans to come to me.  The Americans don't have to capture a single location, they merely need to ensure that there are no Germans in any multilevel building.  There are quite a few of these but there is a long time in this scenario and I would run out of buildings before Dave ran out of time.

I struggled on for a couple of turns, fleeing the bulk of my forces rearward ("bulk of my forces" now amounting to about three squads) while leaving a couple of stay behind units to not so much threaten him (I was virtually incapable of harming him) as to simply force him to shoot rather than move.  When Dave's Pershing managed snake eyes on an advancing fire HE shot to destroy my last panzer what little was left of my personal morale dribbled out of my body (at least I think it was personal morale).  I conceded with weary despair.

In retrospect I screwed this up right from the beginning.  I should have set up more forward and challenged the Americans as they started their move.  My tanks (with the exception of a solitary Sherman) were positioned uselessly and the time it took Dave to win was more an indication of the distance he had to travel and a certain understandable caution than any effort on my part.  I'm not going to name the scenario we'll be playing it next in case I screw that one up so badly that it isn't worth doing an AAR.  Note that this scenario apparently was.  This gives an indication of the skill level I possess playing this game but hey, I've only been doing it for about twenty five years.

This was my "sod this for a game of soldiers" moment

Many thanks to Dave for handing me my arse in a sack yet again.  Hopefully I can do a little better next time.

Hauptmann Niesentös pushed a twisted piece of PzIV armour off his body and attempted to rally the remnants of his troops.

"Hold firm boys, there's another village we can defend after this one.  The war isn't over yet."

His few surviving men just looked at him.

"Oh screw it, last one to the prison cages is a rotten egg!"

For the very first time his men cheered him.

Friday, January 21, 2022


 Keen readers of this blog will have noticed a relative dearth of entries in recent times.  Partly that can be explained by simple laziness (ok, mostly it can be explained by simple laziness) but also it has to be admitted that the creative springs have run dry.  There is only so much one can say about Covid without repeating oneself and I haven't been doing much else lately that is even of interest to me.

In such times of desperation I turn to my Tasmanian correspondent for tales of that distant southern land which I can then mutilate and turn into a few half arsed paragraphs making fun of the more chromosomally challenged members of our society.  Seeking inspiration or at least cheap laughs I fired up the communications centre provided by my tech support (it doubles as a missile launching system but so far I haven't hit anything important) and contacted my reporter in the deep south.  The conversation took a familiar turn.

Me:    Hi there!

Tasmanian Correspondent:    Arrgh!

Me:    Calm down!

TC:    In the name of God put some clothes on!

To be fair a video link was probably not the wisest idea my tech support have ever come up with.  Once my correspondent had regained her natural equilibrium (and I had found a dressing gown) we were able to start discussing the issues of the day.  Or rather, since she's in Tasmania, the issues of approximately fifteen years ago.  As she spoke my attention started to be attracted by something in the background.

"I don't want to worry you..."

"Too late."

"But one of your dogs appears to be lopsided."

"That's Stellar, she only has three legs."

This came as a bit of a surprise as I had met Stellar only a few months ago and while I don't claim to be the most observant person around I was pretty certain she had had the standard allocation of legs while I was there.  My correspondent assured me that this was a recent development.

"So is this a fashion statement or are food supplies starting to run low in Tasmania?"

My correspondent then launched on a tale of canine woe involving illness, pain, noble suffering and finally the reluctant but necessary decision to amputate.  I must confess I dozed off part way through.  When I opened my eyes she had finished and was looking at me expectantly.

"Oh that's..." I scrabbled for an adjective at random, "terrible?"

"It is," she agreed.  Phew!

Poor Stellar had suffered from bone cancer in one of her joints leading to such excruciating pain that the vet had said that either the leg had to come off or Stellar would need to be put down to end her suffering.  Having selected option A my correspondent was then left with the relatively minor task of somehow transferring a three legged, drugged up, 30kg dog from the animal hospital to her home for recovery.  

An operation of almost military precision was put into effect requiring the assistance of children, a retired diplomat and an ex-husband but finally all was completed and Stellar is now on the road to a tripodal recovery while being cossetted and made much of by various children.

Normally at this point in our conversations I would ask questions about the well being of my correspondent's collection of fish and lizards generally with the implication that I expected their numbers to have thinned somewhat since our last communication.  In deference to the situation I didn't say anything so heartless and insensitive.  I was quite proud of the empathy I was showing and pointed out to my correspondent that I hadn't asked how many other of her animals had died and invited her to praise me for said empathy.  Oddly this didn't go down as well as I expected still my correspondent has always been a little strange.

I regained some credit by noting that Stellar was definitely the less annoying of her two dogs and I wished her a speedy recovery.  At least I assume I regained a little credit, at this point my correspondent's conversation consisted largely of obscenities and death threats and I'm not entirely sure if she heard me over her own hysterical shrieking.  Given the circumstances I decided not to press my correspondent for any material for my blog and settled myself for wishing Stellar well and saying I would call back later.

"You're going to use this in one of your damned blog entries aren't you?"

Well yes I did but in my defence I waited until I knew that Stellar had pulled through the surgery and that she seems to be making a full, albeit three legged, recovery before I did so.  With any luck Stellar will be around for many years to come.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Surprise! It's a Gender!

 I placed a call to my tech support the other day, something I'm becoming increasingly reluctant to do.  For starters since they have my flat bugged its largely unnecessary but also because I'm not entirely sure they have my best interests at heart.  Nevertheless I recently had my first encounter with what is apparently a "cultural phenomenon" and I wanted to see if it had crept into the more tyrannically ruled parts of the world.

My tech support were pleased to see me or at least they seemed less displeased to see me than most of the people I run into.

"Happy New Year, did you get the mutated, poisonous snakes we sent you for Christmas?"

"I did but you shouldn't have put them all in the same box.  By the time I got around to opening it there was a scene of reptilian carnage not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs."

I could see one of them making a note; "killer reptiles to be sent in separate boxes from now on."

"So what can we do for you?" they asked,  "I hope you're not going to ask for Aryna Sabalenka's phone number again."

"We might get on."

"She's the one who ordered the snakes."

"That's a little harsh, she doesn't even know me."

"We might have dropped a few hints."

"Remind me to take my profile off your dating website."

"For the last time that's not a dating website its a human trafficking board."

With the preliminaries safely out of the way I got down to the real reason for my call.

"I've been invited to a gender reveal party."

"Well if you don't know by now..."

"Not my gender, relatives of friends are having a gender reveal party for their child.  Does that sort of thing happen in Belarus?"

"Oh yes, all the time.  Mind you we just call it child birth.  We bring potatoes for the fortunate mother, a bottle of vodka for the doctor and midwife and play guessing games to see if we can identify the father. Its a happy time."

"This is actually happening before the birth."

"Before the birth?  Well that's Westerners for you.  You're so impatient."

So it would appear that the delights of the gender reveal party have not yet filtered through the protective layer of secret policemen and pollution that shields Belarus from the outside world.  My tech support would be of no use to me.  With nothing more to ask them I signed off, well there was one more thing.

"Guys, about Aryna Sabalenka."

"We'll see what we can do."



It would not be true to say that I have never heard of a gender reveal party.  I just thought it was a peculiarly American peculiarity.  Now it would appear that they are making their way to Australia as well.  I've got to admit I'm not a fan.  For starters why all the excitement?, basically you've only got a choice of two.  I had a fifty percent chance of getting it right without any extra information at all.  Secondly, again why all the excitement?  Once the pregnancy has been established there's a pretty good chance you're having something.

I know (or at least I have been informed) that when a joyful event happens a certain type of person feels an overwhelming urge to share that information with their friends.  Either so those friends can share the joy or possibly to make them feel worse about their own wretched, joyless existence.  But this isn't a joyful event.  That doesn't take place for a few months (either that or it took place a few months ago) all this is really about is cataloging.  You're basically having a party to announce what is going to be on your child's drivers licence in sixteen years time.  Possibly another party will be required when you discover whether they're right or left hand dominant (for the record I'm left hand submissive).

There is also the danger that your children upon looking back on videos of the various festivities which announced their insertion into one of society's currently accepted gender slots will pick up on which gender the parents were actually hoping for which could lead to a certain amount of tension in the teenage years.  It is a little unfair to expect children to start disappointing their parents before they are born.

Finally of course you don't know how your child is going to identify in years to come.  It is possible that footage of your gender reveal festivities will be the principal evidence when your offspring accuse you of a pre-natal hate crime.