Saturday, January 28, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Metro Edition

 There has been a new train line running in Sydney for the past few years.  The much vaunted Northwest Metro.  Given my mania for trains/trams/light rail etc it may surprise you that as yet I have not availed myself of its services.  Part of the reason for that is the damned thing stops at Chatswood which means I have to travel quite a distance to somewhere I have very little interest in simply to catch a Metro to somewhere else I have very little interest in.  Besides the state government is currently busy extending said network and replacing my current train line with it so I figured I'd wait until the Metro came to my door or I died, whichever came first.

Now all that has changed.  Some friends of mine live quite close to the Metro line (and therefore nowhere near me.  Actually its amazing how many of my friends contrive to live quite a distance away from me, I'm not reading anything into that no matter how much they want me to).  One Saturday being utterly bereft of something to do I contacted them and suggested we have lunch at Rouse Hill which is one stop from being the last on the Metro.  I thought I would take the Metro to Tallawong the very last Metro stop and walk back to Rouse Hill through some bush that had apparently not been completely demolished.  A combination of weather and some health issues put paid to the bushwalking section and I was left with catching a Metro to Rouse Hill for lunch.  Out of sheer perversity I went to Tallawong anyway and caught another Metro back.

Weekends are when the government does work on its various railway lines which might upset the commuters if it happened during the week.  For this reason by the time I arrived at Epping's combined train/metro station I had already taken three trains and more time than anyone would consider acceptable simply to reconnect with some friends.  Still being physically present I figured I might as well go all the way and hopped on the next available Metro.

Metro trains are essentially designed on the principle that traveling by train is morally wrong and those who do it deserve to be punished.  The seats are few and not particularly comfortable.  They also face into the carriage because Metro travelers don't deserve to look out windows.  Windows are nevertheless unaccountably provided.  Everything is shiny and new including the spectacularly patronising voice over that announces the stops.  At each stop the voice over would announce which side of the train the doors would open on, no doubt to the great relief of the people hurling themselves against the doors on the other side of the carriage weeping with frustration.  Actually the inward facing seats weren't too much of a problem as much of the journey is underground.  Although when it did become above ground it became well above ground.  Risking spinal injury I twisted myself around until I could look out the window.

The Northwest Metro travels through an area that can best be described as "suburbia in progress".  There are still large open patches of ground and occasional patches of trees and everywhere there are developers pouring concrete over the lot.  According to Dan (one of my lunch dates) who remembers when all this was green fields it used to be a farming area.  There are still some farmers who haven't got the message.  What this means is that such suburbs as have been built tend to come to an abrupt end as if development had been cut off with a knife and collections of apartment blocks peer incongruously over fields that still have the occasional animal in them.

I must confess that the Metro deposited me with smooth efficiency at Tallawong which was the end of the line.  The Tallawong metro station was actually originally located within the boundaries of Rouse Hill but it was decided that one metro station was more than the suburb deserved and it certainly wasn't getting two so they separated the station out and then ripped some chunks off the neighbouring suburb of Schofields, stapled it to the metro station.  The resulting frankensuburb was called Tallawong which is an Indigenous word meaning "metro station".

I got off the train at Tallawong and took a brief look around.  Believe me no more than a brief look is required.  Apart from the station itself there's not a lot there.  There will be; development is following the Metro and a good chunk of Tallawong is behind fencing being constructed.  In the meantime there is the occasional completed block of flats sticking out of the ground apparently at random and a lot of construction sites.  I live in a long established suburb in the inner city.  As such what little vegetation remains generally follows creek beds and is prized as somewhere to walk and litter while people tend to be a bit annoyed if you do that in their backyards.  Out here the residences appeared to be completely accessible while it was the bush that was fenced off so no-one could get into it.  The reason of course is that this isn't going to be bush for very much longer.

Tallawong - before

Tallawong - after

The above two photos are taken on opposite sides of the road.

Having exhausted all the interest that Tallawong could provide I hopped back on the Metro for the very brief journey to Rouse Hill.  It has to be said that Rouse Hill is going to have to develop into a heaven on earth if it wants to live up to its metro station.  It is a magnificent structure looming over the main shopping area of Rouse Hill like the modern day equivalent of a crusader castle.  Not that there's much to loom over.  There's a shopping/restaurant mall, a park and then nothing although in deference to the developers intentions I should rather say, "nothing yet".  On the opposite side of the tracks from the shops is a very large cemetery with very few gravestones.  They appear to be preparing for the apocalypse although Dan, who knows about these things, pointed out to me that a cemetery counts as part of the "green space" the developers are obliged to include in their plans for the suburb.  Frankly I'm surprised the place doesn't have a necropolis.

Lunch was had, conversation took place and while it did a cross section of the inhabitants Rouse Hill and surrounding areas paraded themselves for our amusement.  As did a cross section of the cars they drove.  Favoured among cars in this region is those that make deep, guttural rumblings that make conversation impossible.  Once electric cars become common the owners are going to have to put big signs on the roof saying "please look at my car" to have the same effect.

Once lunch was over we wandered down to the park where there was a lake, water birds and rubbish in more or less equal quantities.  There were also people emerging from a path which I had been intending to take when I planned my walk and which I had been assured was closed due to the recent rain.  I tried to be upset about that but my health issues started reminding me they had been in abeyance rather than gone so I bade farewell to my friends (we must do this again next year) and took four separate trains home.

Silly After Action Report - Patton's Prayers

 Hauptmann Friedrich von dem Borne-Identity looked at the report in front of him with growing irritation.

"Feldwebel, what the hell is this rubbish?"

"Today's injury report Herr Hauptmann."

"We haven't done any fighting.  Look at this; two troopers injured when a snowman collapsed on them.  Three men choked on gingerbread cookies and one case of altitude sickness.  Altitude sickness?  We're at ground level."

"That would be Stanger Herr Hauptmann, he gets dizzy going up a flight of stairs."

"This is the fallschirmjager, how did he pass the selection process?"

"Now that the Luftwaffe has run out aircraft being good with heights probably isn't as important as it once was."

A soldier stumbled into the Hauptmann's command post, he was wild eyed and rubber legged and his salute was more a desperate and unsuccessful attempt by his hand to find his head.

"Stanger, what the hell's going on?"

"The American's are attacking," replied Stanger who looked like he was going to be sick.

"Are you injured?"

"No I stood on a firing post and had a panic attack."

Dave Wilson and I are currently going old school and playing some scenarios from ASL Annual 95.  We tried playing The Mailed Fist despite the ridiculously lopsided ROAR results.  We gave the Germans the balance but sadly the scenario turned out to be a hound of the most flea ridden variety and we gave it away after a few turns.  Instead we turned to Scenario A71 - Patton's Prayers.  Here I would command men of the 5th Fallschirmjager division attempting to stop Patton's 3rd Army (plus a little divine intervention) from coming to the relief of Bastogne.  To win the Americans must have a road link, free of any rubble from the south edge of board 6 to hex 3Q1.  As well as rubble the road must be free of any good order German MMCs on or adjacent to said road hexes.  As the German's I'm technically defending a village but in actual fact am defending a road network.  The village is just in the way.

To do said defending I have a charmingly eclectic force of twelve squads, four first line, four second line and four conscript.  They have four lmgs, two mmgs and a panzerschreck.  Leadership is provided by four officers; three 8-0s and a single 8-1.

Representing the US army is the cutting edge of the 4th Armoured Division; eight squads of elite US infantry carted around on seven halftracks of various stripes.  Four officers lead including a pair of 8-1s, they are equipped with four bazookas and a 60mm mortar.  Lest the infantry feel lonely armoured support is present in the shape of four Sherman tanks including two of the sexy upgunned 76mm variety.

Ground snow is in effect, environmental conditions are, unsurprisingly, wet and entrenching is NA.  

The American force has mobility and firepower to burn.  It seemed likely that once I placed my troops I might not get too many chances to move them.  to that end I set most of my troops up adjacent to the road so that they were automatically denying the Americans victory and challenged Dave to drive me out.  The only exceptions were outposts on the left and right to serve as speed bumps should Dave send any troops on a flanking mission.  Below is the scene at the end of US turn 1.

End US turn 1

 So Dave sent virtually his entire force around my flanks leaving the centre to a single Sherman which managed to break its cmg at the beginning of the game and never repair it.  On the right I couldn't resist the target presented by a squad carrying M3 and managed to break the occupants but for the rest I huddled under my concealment counters and tried to look small and unthreatening.  My own moves in turn one consisted of an ultimately doomed attempt to withdraw my picket on the right now that it had had its moment of glory.  On the left I pushed the corresponding picket forward to take a position in a building overlooking his force.  This was foolish and I have no-one to blame but myself.

End German turn 1.  Not much has happened but that's good news for the incumbent

In the next turn Dave tried to get his flanking attack rolling while simultaneously making threat displays with his centre Sherman.  Over the course of the next couple of turns he rolled up and over the hills which overlook the village gradually tightening the grip on my hapless fallshirmjager trapped within.  For my part I did a little shooting and a lot more hiding.  Every concealment counter would be worth its weight in gold as the latter part of the game developed.  Since this was only a five turn game the latter part developed pretty much after turn one.

Gradually Dave ground me out of the forward buildings flanking the road.  The firepower he had amassed on the hills was impressive and my concealment counters weren't enough to avoid casualties.  I had one brief moment of pleasure when my panzerschreck flamed a halftrack providing some smoke to mess with his lines of sight.  A vicious tussle took place for the wooden building on the right where I had a mmg capable of sweeping the hill with fire.  As it turns out Dave was also capable of sweeping the hill with considerably more fire than I could generate but my boys held firm until his centre Sherman finally stopped its flirtation with the single conscript squad I had left to block its path and rolled up in support.

Despite losing both men and positions I was starting to feel hopeful.  Dave's flanking manoeuvre had taken time and driving my troops out of the forward buildings had taken more.  For my part I placed my hopes in two final defensive positions.

On the right a clutch of squads were hiding in the combination of stone buildings and rubble overlooking a vital crossroads and on the left a couple more (although not as many as the concealment counters would have you believe) were hidden behind a stone wall.  Their job was to get at least one MMC back to the trees adjacent to the final exit hexes.

Dave's final push was nothing if not determined.  On the right supported by sleazing halftracks and shooting Shermans his troops drove into (but not quite through) my positions.  On the left he pushed forward driving me back (which had the inadvertent effect of reinforcing my troops on the right).  My troops which had been hiding behind the wall pulled back and wound up hiding in a building instead.  It isn't only bravery that wins battles.  Well managed cowardice is also useful.

One thing in my favour was the fact that not a single German MMC could be adjacent to the road which meant that some US troops had to be diverted to deal with a single halfsquad in the forward location which had defied all reasonable expectations by surviving while its comrades had wilted (wilted means "died").  This pulled some troops away from the final push.


The situation at the end of US turn 4

Despite my troops being of dubious quality sufficient of them had survived on the right to occupy his attention and actually grab back a road adjacent building in the final turn.  With that and my heroic cowards on the left (who didn't fire a shot the entire game) poised to sneak behind a halftrack and recover the road there it was all over.  Virtually my entire force was dead or broken but just sufficient had survived to give me the win.  


The end and apparently I've won

In Dave's opinion he lost this game on the first turn.  He had forgotten that ground snow negated the road bonus so his forces weren't as far forward on their flanking manoeuvre as he had intended and from there he was playing against the clock as much as me.  Whatever the reason I'll take the win.  Many thanks to Dave for the game.

"I think we beat them," von dem Borne-Identity couldn't quite believe he was saying the words.  5th fallshirmjager wasn't exactly the cutting edge of the Luftwaffe.  Silence greeted his words.  He looked around for his command.  Here and there a combat dazed soldier stumbled out from between wrecked buildings and even more wrecked halftracks.  That seemed to be about it.

"Well at least the next casualty report will be a little less embarrassing," muttered von dem Borne to himself.   He took a pace forward and almost stumbled into a twelve foot deep pit.  Peering into it he made out a familiar figure, entrenching tool in hand.

"Stanger what are you doing?"

"Digging a foxhole," Herr Hauptmann," replied Stanger without pausing.

"You can stop now, the Americans have gone," but Stanger wasn't listening.

Von dem Borne reflected briefly on the utility of anything else Stanger might be doing at that moment and left him to it.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Silly After Action Report - Italian Behemoth

 Tenente Silvio Castanetti looked around trying to get his bearings in the predawn gloom.

"Where the hell are we?" he asked.

"El Sod," replied the Maggiore briefly.

"And the same to you," snapped Castanetti.

"We're near El Sod," said the Maggiore with more patience than the Tenente deserved.  He pointed, "the enemy are in that direction."

Castanetti nodded his understanding and began moving imperceptibly in the opposite direction.  Before he got too far the voice of the Maggiore stopped him.

"When our tanks arrive you'll attack the left flank with your troops.  I'll lead the main attack."

"Left flank right," muttered Castanetti measuring the distance between himself and the trucks that had dropped them off.

"Not right, left."

"Right, left."

The Maggiore stared at him with disfavour, "For the avoidance of any doubt, you and your men will attack on the left.  Do you understand?"

Castanetti opened his mouth to speak,

"And if you say right one more time I'll shoot you here and now."

"Understood," muttered Castanetti sullenly.

"One more thing, our colonial troops expect to see their Italian officers leading them into battle, not hiding behind the trucks until the fighting is over."

Castanetti gave a final despairing glance at the trucks and joined his men who seemed almost obscenely enthusiastic for the upcoming battle.

"Our metal beasts will overwhelm the enemy," announced a Muntaz pointing enthusiastically at a pair of L3 tanks that had clattered up to the front.

"I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed myself," replied Castanetti.

Scenario FT230 - Italian Behemoth seems to be getting a bit of love of late.  Richard Weilly responded to my childish pleas and agreed to take command of the British (actually South African) in this clash of the lightweights in southern Ethiopia.  Here my force of Italian colonial infantry (supported by "tanks") are attacking the company headquarters of a South African infantry brigade.  To win I either have to exit 16 VP off the south edge (unlikely) or take and hold hex 61H3 currently located in the middle of aforementioned company headquarters.

To achieve this I have twelve squads of first line troops (eight 346 squad and four marginally better 347s) these are led by three not very good officers (an 8-1 is the best) and are equipped with two light machine guns and one medium.  Adding slap (punch would be an overstatement) to the attack are no fewer than four L3 tankettes in two platoons of two.  On the defence Richard has a forward post of two squads and an 8-0 with an lmg and an atr plus a pair of foxholes.  In the rear with the gear are another four squads with a medium machine gun, a light machine gun and what must count as one of the clumsiest and most useless mortars of all time.  On turn five (of six and a half) a single Marmon Herrington armoured car rolls on in belated support.  There is a +1 LV hindrance for the first two turns to simulate dawn and give the Italians some hope of crossing open ground with automatic weapons and a mortar pointed at them.

Below is our set up.  The first obstacle for the Italians is a valley that must be crossed before they can even start getting shot at.

Set up

I planned to attack in two forces.  The bulk of my troops with the best leaders and all my machine guns would set up opposite his outpost force along with a pair of L3s.  I hoped to charge forward and break through them early using the tanks to lock up his troops if need be.  Over on the other side a handful of troops guided by a lowly 7-0 (Tenente Castanetti) would accompany the other pair of L3s.  Their job was to race straight for the hill and overrun the mortar position and then start working their way towards the victory location.  Part of the thinking around this was the minimum range of the mortar - six hexes.  Hopefully I wouldn't spend very much time in his firing zone.

My plan was successful beyond my worst nightmares.  In front of his forward post my troops and tanks did indeed roll forward and looked set to swamp him in bodies.  I pushed a forward L3 into a foxhole hex thus preventing his troops from firing out.  Still in motion Richard would need to roll a three to get any sort of result in close combat.  Unfortunately he rolled snake eyes.  One tank was already down and Richard had another officer into the bargain.  The mortar had pinned my best officer pretty much at the starting point.  A squad or two of Italians broke under South African fire and began the long journey towards cover.  On the other hand my hill assault force powered forward undisturbed.

End of Italian turn 1, I suppose things could be worse.

The South African's first turn was an absolute disaster for me.  His mmg up on the hill went on a maniacal rate tear and tore the Italian infantry to shreds.  Of my hill force a single squad and 7-0 were left to me.  In front of his outpost the situation was a little better but not much.  I was almost tempted to concede on the spot but I held my nerve.  Wisely as it turned out, I would have much better reasons to concede later.  The one tiny bright spot was that Richard's troops turned out to be absolutely useless at digging foxholes.

End of South African turn 1, things are worse

At the end of the first turn there were precisely four unbroken Italian infantry squads left in the game.  My attempt to rush his outpost had ended in tears and the bulk of my flankers were gone too.  A number of the squads had ELR'ed into the bargain so a good number of them were unlikely to return.

With my attack in ruins I decided to carry on with my original plan, since I had neglected to come up with a plan that involved most of my force being broken.  Tenente Castanetti abandoned his broken troops and let his one remaining squad up the hill.  The accompanying L3s rolled up and onto the mortar position thus guaranteeing that their sole remaining infantry support would get a free run.  At the outpost what little remained of my force hid in recently abandoned foxholes and shot futilely at Richard's troops.  He began to pull these back as he started to realise his hill dwellers might need assistance.

The main force is broken but the remnants surge forward

Not only did Richard pull back his troops on the left but I actually managed to break one of them as he did so.  Meanwhile up on the hill his squads continued to look at their entrenching tools as though they had come from another planet and, glory of glories, by little L3 wiped out his mortar crew (and killed the mortar into the bargain) in CC.  The world's most ridiculous tank attack was still going strong and the glaring absence of foxholes gave me encouragement.

In my third turn the two L3s rattled forward threatening tinny death to all who opposed them.  Challenging his mmg to do its worst they rolled over the top of another squad.  Richard's defence of the hilltop was starting to look a little thin.  Tenente Castanetti and his lone squad wisely kept out of the way until the scary guys with rifles had been dealt with.  Meanwhile far to the rear my 8-1 swore and slapped his troops as he attempted to interest them in continuing the battle.

All this was good news and good news was needed for at the outpost position things had gone from bad to worse.  I bust the machine gun on my remaining L3 and in the next turn a repair attempt would send it scuttling for the rear having contributed quite literally nothing to my cause.  The medium machine I had dragged all this way broke when I tried to fire it.  For some reason I hauled this useless chunk of iron around for the rest of the game.  Richard withdrew (and rallied) his troops in good order with the exception of a 7-0 (created in his CC) who obviously felt he had already done enough.

News is good on the hill.  Not so much elsewhere

For a brief period things only kept getting better up on the hill.  Fire from an L3 broke his mmg squad (and 9-1 leader) and the number of functional units Richard had up there was dwindling rapidly.  On the down side one squad had finally managed to dig itself a foxhole.  Meanwhile my 8-1 had managed to encourage a couple of previously terrified squads back into the fray.  Although it would take them a turn to reach the fray as it had moved backwards in the meantime.  Richard was withdrawing his troops through the light woods and my surviving forces were risking life and limb by pursuing.  It was hardly a vigorous pursuit and I didn't have the forces for any fancy manoeuvring.

Quite possibly the highpoint of my game

With the mmg squad broken Tenente Castanetti and his men suddenly became very brave and raced across the hill (while still keeping out of the way of the other defenders) to position themselves next to the brokies and persuade them on their way.  My L3s still proved themselves to be the worlds most improbable masters of the battlefield overrunning another squad and leaving Richard with only one surviving squad on the hilltop.  My 8-1 urged his recently rallied charges forward and now I actually had a decent force pushing through the light woods in pursuit of Richard's defenders.  Richard for his part rather than reinforce his hill troops now needed to prevent my guys from getting up there themselves.  His troops made their stand in the light woods near the base of the hill and did not disappoint him.

Ignore the broken squads littering the field.  The Italians are pressing

Then disaster struck.  A couple of disasters actually.  One of my hero L3s broke its MA and suddenly my force on the hill was reduced to a single L3 and a 346 squad.  My attempts to push forward against Richard's defenders in the light woods had produced nothing except a litter of broken squads.  Richard had only one unbroken squad there himself but I only had two (one turn ago I had four).  My 8-1 leader had followed his troops in fleeing for the rear, fortunately the rear was now a lot closer.  Then Richard's 9-1 rallied a squad up from DM and I knew my days were numbered.  My gallant 7-0 (ten. Castanetti) was pinned by their fire.  In desperation the squad advanced up to the open hilltop to possess themselves of the British mmg.  This move would be their downfall.

Richard still had one squad up on the hill, not coincidentally the only one that had managed to dig a foxhole.  My squad was blocked from it by an L3 (sitting on the victory location) and I dared hope that I could survive a 4+1 shot should one come my way.  I was very very wrong.  And now Richard's cavalry was coming.  Four L3s can laugh at a single Marmon Herrington AC but I now only had one with functioning MA.  Things started to look very bleak indeed.

Richard's foxhole dwellers broke my 346, his armoured car rolled on parked in front of my L3, rolled snakes in advancing fire and destroyed it.  I was done and tearfully gave my concession. 

In truth I had been operating on a shoestring since that first turn.  The only reason why I got as close as I did is because of a bunch of lucky rolls from my L3s which pretty much cleared his forces from the hilltop with no loss.  But I barely had any force myself.  A single squad and an L3 who's MA is bust do not a force make.  Once Richard rallied some troops and brought on his armoured car the essential weakness of my position became clear.

Defeat at the end.

 Despite the outcome I thoroughly enjoyed this game.  Particularly the part in the middle when it looked like I might pull off the most unlikely of victories.  Many thanks to Richard for the game and for setting an example of good behaviour when the dicebot goes against you.  It is not an example I intend to follow.

Tenente Castanetti crept from one inconveniently spaced tree to another doing his best to avoid the attention of the South Africans on the hill.  Glancing fearfully over his shoulder he almost tripped over a soldier in front of him.  His hands went up automatically but then he heard the Maggiore's voice.

"Keep quiet you fool."

The Maggiore was pale faced and trembling, around him his soldiers cringed and jumped at every sound.

"I got up onto the hill," said Castanetti.

"I know," muttered the Maggiore.

"Could have captured it if I'd had a little more support."

"All right all right.  Point taken, what do you want to shut up about this.  Decoration or a promotion?"

"I'm thinking both."

"Capitano Castanetti MAVM.  Happy now?"

"I look forward to serving under you in future Maggiore."

"And I look forward to writing your parents a letter."

Monday, January 2, 2023

Silly After Action Report - Blockbusters

 Lieutenant Frank Devious peered down the overgrown track.  Somewhere up ahead was a roadblock or more accurately a trackblock manned, no doubt, by battle hungry Japanese.  Nothing could be seen except a bunch of suspicious looking question marks.  Still the attack was to proceed.  He stared at a group of his men struggling to position a large green sheet of cardboard above them.  On it was painted a crude question mark.  Devious wasn't sure whether this was an effort at concealment or a nod to the latest Batman movie.

"This attack is important," he told himself reaching for his own question mark.  "If we manage to break this trackblock..."

"We're still going to be stuck in a nameless village surrounded by Japanese," came a voice from the undergrowth.

Devious jumped and looked around wildly.  All about him a bunch of question marks gazed innocently at the sky.

"Who said that," he demanded.

"He did," replied every question mark in unison.

Devious decided not to bother.

"All right, everyone move out."

There was an outbreak of swearing as question mark collided with question mark.  Up ahead yellow question marks could be heard sniggering quietly.  And so the attack began.

Richard Weilly and I played Scenario A115 - Blockbusters a few weeks ago.  This is one of the scenarios from the Nhpum Ga mini that was included in ASL Annual 97.  Here I shall command a bunch of elite but somewhat desperate men of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) as they attempt to clear a bunch of Japanese from a blocking position that had surrounded them.  To win I had to ensure that all hexes on/adjacent to the trail were free of unbroken Japanese MMC while simultaneously ensuring there was no sneaky infiltration of my set up area.

To achieve the above I had eleven elite squads led by a trio of officers including a 9-2 (who astonished me by surviving until the end of the game), a heavy machine gun and two mediums.  Richard on the defence had eight squads evenly split between elite and first line plus a crew for their very own heavy machine gun.  A pair of officers including a 9-1 commanded the defence and support weapons were rounded out with a trio of light machine guns and two of the ubiquitous 50mm mortars.

Beating the Japanese wasn't my only concern.  First I had to get to them.  Interior jungle hexes were dense which limited my capacity for fancy movement.  I looked at the map and realised I had few options.

Here is our set up before we added the concealment markers

As you can see I have bulked up at the bottom of the board closest to the trail while a scattering of other squads were intended to prevent Richard from any sneaky movements into my set up area.  These guys would ease forward into the gully and struggle out the other side.  Near the trail I sent a sacrificial halfsquad charging forwards hoping to attract some attention but Richard's fire discipline was excellent and his troops glowered out from under their concealment counters daring me to do my worst.

End of American turn one.  I'm treading on Richard's toes and have built a couple of impressive fire bases

In his turn Richard declined to stand and fight like a man.  With the exception of one shot that broke an American unit getting just a little cocky the remainder of his squad skulked and shuffled to the rear proudly maintaining their concealment counters as if they were badges of honour.  I essentially had to start again.  I was somewhat closer but also with a turn less to achieve my goals.

End of Japanese turn 1, they can't run forever

Richard may have successfully skulked for a turn but that also meant that the bulk of my force had closed up and there was very little space left for him to trade for time.  I lost my bold halfsquad to the first close combat of the day.  I was already feeling a little stressed.  Time was passing still the time was coming when he would either have to stand his ground or surrender the path to me.  Either was ok as far as I was concerned.

End of American turn 2

Come my next turn I was ready to go.  Having finally decided that Richard wouldn't be infiltrating anyone into my set up area my gully dwellers pressed forward into the jungle while halfsquads stripped concealment (at a certain cost in lives) and American firepower managed to actually stripe and break a number of Japanese MMCs.  I wasn't crazy about close combat (this demonstrating a rare flash of intelligence) but I was bullying his front line while my hmg team (with 9-2 in tow) engaged in what they fondly imagined was a flanking manoeuvre.  For the moment things looked quite good.

Have you ever seen so many broken Japanese units

The trouble with broken Japanese is that if there is a leader present they don't tend to stay broken for long and in his turn Richard managed to rally and extricate his force once again.  I was now looking nervously at the turn counter as time ticked away.  Richard had taken losses but a decent amount of his force was still intact and once again hidden under concealment counters.  On the other hand his back was literally against the wall, or at least the board edge.  Going forward he would be faced with a stark choice; fight or leave the victory area.

End of Japanese turn 3.  Time to start all over again.

In retrospect turn four was one of wasted opportunities for me as I settled for consolidating (and regaining concealment) rather than going for the throat.  I did take his mortars out of the game although to be fair they hadn't played much of a role anyway.  Richard is entitled to feel a little disappointed with his mortars.  Normally they're quite a force multiplier for the Japanese but in this scenario they did little to nothing.  I killed one manning halfsquad in CC and broke the other one some distance from a Japanese leader.  They would not swiftly return.

End of American turn 4.  That huge Japanese stack has a hmg in it which isn't going to be pleasant

In my next turn I started to get moving (only four turns late).  Richard had positioned his hmg stack outside the victory area and I was very happy to leave it there.  I say "started to get moving" that was more a statement of intent than reality.  In actual fact I incremented forward a little but now Richard had no choice but fight or flight.  He opted for a little of both.  My main concern was now whether I had left myself enough time for victory.

There's nowhere to run Richard.

Having just gloated that there was nowhere to run Richard promptly proved me wrong.  I had indeed cleared him from the side of the path closest to the bottom of the map (or more accurately he had cleared himself) but then he sent troops circling around to attack me in the rear just when I needed everything to clinch the final victory.  I wasn't particularly concerned that they would force their way through to the track but of course he only needed to get one MMC into my setup area and my efforts would be for nought.  The end result was that a portion of my force would spend the rest of the game warding off that possibility rather than contributing to the final assault. 

Oh, okay maybe there is somewhere to run after all.

So I spent a turn messing about behind the scenes.  The close combat ended in the traditional mutual carnage and I was able to inflict a few more casualties at the front line but I had been stalled.  Richard's threat to my start area was more apparent than real particularly after I managed to pin his squad thus ensuring my start up area remained safe.  Reining in my temper and only swearing a quite modest amount really I prepared my final assault.

Well, that was annoying

With the final turn upon me I looked at his forces.  He had precisely three stacks in the set up area.  I couldn't hope that I would be able to shoot them all to pieces so it would have to be close combat.  I had the troops, I had the leadership I had the desire.  Forward my boys charged.  Richard disdained the fire opportunities in return for the ambush option.  I would  need to win all three close combats to win the game.  I won one of them.  Still I didn't feel too badly about myself.  Richard is a good player and I had pushed him all the way.  I fancy I said something to that extent because then he cheerfully pointed out that he had a HIP unit in the victory area that I had never discovered and I would have lost the game even if I had won all three close combats.  At that point I told him that I heard my Mother calling and I needed to go home.

This was actually an extremely enjoyable game and I don't think the AAR really does it justice.  In my defence we played this game several months ago and I have difficulty remembering my own name.  The game was tense with incremental advances and jockeying for position.  Skulking, sneaking and taking advantage of momentary opportunities was the order of the day.  Oh yes and hiding a unit in the victory location.  I had completely forgotten to search the areas I passed through so Richard spent the entire game essentially attracting my attention so I had no time or inclination to search anything.

Lieutenant Devious gave a weary salute as his colonel approached.  The attack hadn't exactly gone well but he felt that his men had given of their best.  He could tell from the look on the colonel's face that this opinion wasn't universally shared.

"Not a good result Devious," said the colonel.

"It could have been worse sir."


"We managed to make it through the entire scenario without anybody making a joke about a video store."

The look on the colonel's face made Devious wish he was still wearing his question mark.