Saturday, March 26, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Cautious Crusaders

 Captain Dobromil Huselv halted his bike and lifted his binoculars.  The rest of the peloton sailed gaily past him until brought to a halt by Huselv's furious ringing of his bell.

"What's the problem Dobby?" asked a lieutenant.

"I've told you not to call me that," snapped Huselv.  Addressing his men who collectively resembled a heavily armed cycling holiday he jerked a thumb towards a grain field, "Off the road and fall into formation.  I can see foxholes and suspicious looking question marks."

"What about the bikes?"

"Oh bring them with us, maybe we'll be able to sell them at the next village.  Are you in contact with our artillery?"

"Yeees," replied the lieutenant hesitantly.

"Is there a problem?"

"They only have two guns and they're not sure they brought the right ammunition."

"Merciful heavens, at least we have armour."

Right on cue an ancient armoured car sputtered forward, wheezed asthmatically and came to a halt.  Huselv ran across to its commander.

"Are you ready to support our attack?"

"Just as soon as we unflood the carburettor," replied the driver. His crew were already in the process of dismantling the engine.

"Good," lied Huselv, Slovakia's first attack into the Soviet Union was getting off to a good start.

It's my own fault.  I wanted to play this scenario despite the balance record.  So here we are with ASL Scenario 114 - Cautious Crusaders which pits an elite (not really) force of Slovak attackers against the Soviet defenders.  In deference to the win/loss ratio my opponent David insisted I take the balance for my Slovaks which allocated plentiful ammunition and a pre-registered hex to their artillery support, how could I lose?  To find out, read on.

To win my somewhat shabby Slovakian assault force had to control seven multihex buildings of the village standing in their path.  It had to be admitted that Slovakia had given me its best.  It also had to be admitted that best wasn't particularly good.

To kick things off I had six elite squads mounted on bicycles led by a pair of not particularly good officers.  This modest force was supported by three geriatric OAvz30 armoured cars and a pair of LTvz35 tanks.  Not a lot to assault seventeen Soviet squads but help was coming.  On turn 2 another ten elite squads turned up carrying a pair of light machine guns and a pair of officers of equivalent inadequacy.  Rolling on with them were another pair of LTvz35s and a LTvz38.  Finally on turn three another four elite squads arrived led by another officer, these guys were hauling an lmg, a dismantled mmg and a dismantled 50mm mortar.  Supposedly providing support is a 70mm artillery mission with plentiful ammunition and the aforementioned pre-registered hex.

To defend this particular village against the ravening Slovakian hordes Dave has twelve Soviet squads equally divided between first line and conscript defending the buildings and foxholes of board 48 while another five first line squads set up on board 49 accompanied by a 37mm ATG (quite capable of reducing my tanks to scrap) plus a pair of lmgs an anti tank rifle and a 50mm mortar.  He also gets six foxholes and eight concealment counters.  On turn 2 another 37mm gun turns up hauled by a little komsomolet tractor and finally on turn 3 another eight first line squads arrive carrying a medium machine gun and led by an 8-1 leader.  A 9-0 commissar provides political guidance to the defenders and there are a couple of other officers as well.  A field phone provides connection to a battery of 80mm artillery.

All of the Slovakian troops turn up on the top right half of the board edge.  Any thoughts of bicycling down the road were put to rest by the presence of Soviet troops (well concealment counters) guarding it.  Fortunately there was nothing in the rules that said the Slovaks actually had to enter mounted on their bikes.  My plan was thus; there was a hill directly in front of my entry point where no doubt Soviet troops and the mortar awaited (absolutely correct just for once).  My pre-registered hex was on that hill, I would bring down a smoke barrage and hopefully rush my troops forward with relative impunity to capture that hill in the first turn or two.  Then, using the hill as a firebase I would capture the factory and push along the village taking one multihex building at a time.  Easy right? 

At start, I'm avoiding the roads with the exception of one halfsquad with a deathwish

So despite my plentiful ammunition I didn't get my first artillery mission until turn 4 by which time my troops had been crucified attempting to cross what was essentially open ground.  Dave on the other hand with a chit selection of 5B/2R simply never stopped getting artillery.

Despite this I did my best.  My troops, unprotected and under fire had to inch forward taking what protection they could from assault movement and the occasional presence of armour (since Dave's artillery also destroyed two of my tanks that protection wasn't great).  At the end of my first turn five of the six squads I had started with were either dead or broken.  In a desperate attempt to take out his hill position which was slaughtering my guys I raced my tanks up through a mess of whimpering infantry so that some direct fire could be employed.

End of turn 1.  It would get better but not much

Eventually as my reinforcements poured on I did manage to seize the hill and somewhat behind time and with significant casualties I could actually focus on achieving my victory conditions.  My tanks I planned to use to suppress his troops in the factory in the hopes that I could rally some of the mangled remnants and send them forward to capture it.  The survivors of my reinforcing infantry headed towards the centre of the village their approach marked by Soviet artillery concentrations.  Possibly I should have stuck to my original plan and sent everything towards the factory but one avenue of approach meant only one area for Dave's artillery to hit.

Dave chose to hit my infantry concentration in the centre secure in the knowledge that a lone 7-0 probably wouldn't rally broken Slovakians terribly swiftly and the slaughter happened all over again.  My artillery was still drinking their morning coffee and doing the crossword.  To be fair the slaughter could have been worse.  A number of my Slovaks stood up to the steel rain (I even generated a hero) and pushed forward while my tanks despite a certain tendency to catch 80mm shells proved almost disturbingly efficient at winkling Soviet troops out of stone buildings (two critical hits helped).

Grain, as it turns out, does not protect against artillery fire

Sadly it was all in vain.  By the time my artillery realised there was a war on it was all over bar the shouting.  I dropped an artillery concentration on the factory and broke a 37mm gun crew I hadn't known was there until that point but it was a parthian shot.  My infantry losses had been so great that Dave easily outnumbered me in squads by more than two to one and such reserves of strength as my infantry possessed had been used up gaining a toehold in a single multihex building.  I conceded at the back end of turn six and considered myself lucky to have lasted that long.

The end, my artillery turned up and tried to pretend it had been there all along

Well it serves me right.  I wanted to play this scenario and play it I did.  Thanks to Dave for dealing with an increasingly hysterical and unhinged opponent as the night went on.

Just for the record we have also played Too Little Too Late from Hollow Legions II and ASLUG scenario Desert Citadel since the last time I have posted.  There will not be an AAR of either of those since it would simply consist of continual swearing.  Suffice it to say I lost both as the Italians and neither game extended beyond the third turn.

Captain Huselv crept out from behind the ear of grain he had been hiding behind and read the order that had just been passed to him by a runner with a deathwish.  All armoured formations were to be withdrawn immediately for "maintenance".  They even put the inverted commas in the order.  Huselv looked around, there was still just enough armour left to claim that the order applied to them.  He hoisted his bicycle off his back and peddled his way out of the Soviet Union.