It is not often I get to hand out a real hiding while playing ASL. I’ve certainly received more than a few in the past. You know the sorts of games, where one sides troops seem to evaporate in front of the wilting fire of your the without seeming to make the slightest impression of them.
My last most memorable feat was handing the very capable Paul Hassler a big defeat while playing Cattern’s Position at Cancon, probably five years ago now. As the Japanese I had not even caused an Australian unit to break by the end of turn four, but Paul conceded by the end of turn six to avoid having his only remaining troops being eliminated for failure to route.
Tuesday night saw me achieve another such memorable victory. This time I was playing the Red Barricades scenario RB6 – Turned away.
Now like a lot of people I raced out and bought Red Barricades when I was first released, raced home, read the rules, cut out the counters, set up the first scenario for the first campaign, pouring over the possibilities for reinforcement groups and other stuff, only to pack it back up. Over the years I’ve pulled it out to set up scenarios for solitaire play, or to re-tinker to find the “perfect attack” or “perfect defence”. But in all of the time I have had RB, I have never actually played a scenario from it against another player.
This Tuesday night I was penciled in to play Simon, as it was for the second week in a row. Simon had beaten me fairly handily in a playtest scenario featuring Italians and Russians the week before, and is a capable player with an extensive knowledge of the rules. Our win loss record is fairly heavily in his flavour, although I have pulled off the odd win now and again in the ten odd years we have been playing.
I was running late (as usual) when I got home from work, so raced out to the wargame room to pick out a short sharp scenario. As fate would have it, I had left out my map folder containing my historical module maps. I looked at those beautifully drawn RB maps yet again, and thought there must be something to play.
I grabbed my RB scenario folder and looked. Bread Factory #2 looked good, as did The Red House, but time was ticking away and I wanted something fairly short. Turned Away seemed to be the perfect fit.
I folded up the southern map (I know, some will call me a barbarian for such an act, but I bought the game to play, not just sit around looking nice) and headed off.
Simon was already there and had just started setting up a Scwherpunkt scenario, but quickly agreed to change to the RB game. He had never played Turned Away either. We rolled for sides, with the highest picking. Simon won and picked the Russians, which would have also been my choice if I had won.
The victory conditions require the Russians to hold one of three buildings, unknown to the Germans, for the six and a half game turns, the buildings being EE44, DD41 or FF37.
Someone had put a lot of thought into this scenario. FF37 is the furthest away, requiring the Germans to battle over rough terrain to get in a position to attack it. EE44 is the only stone building in the play area, and is also a fair way away. DD41 is the closest location to the German setup area, but has two very good advantages. Firstly it is the only building with two locations, a ground and first floor, requiring both locations to be captured for victory, and it cannot be reached without crossing open (well at most shell holed) ground.
The Russians must set up a 628 squad, a 328 HS and two leaders HIP in the victory building, but cannot set up any other troops, although they may set up a dummy stack in the building.
Simon set up to give me no clues as to where the victory building was. All three buildings were unoccupied. He had concealed stacks in AA41, AA42, AA44 BB44, CC39, DD39, and EE41. He had larger stacks in EE38 and DD42. I figured that one of these stacks contained the 458 squad, a HMG and the 8-1 leader, but had no idea which was real and which was a dummy. Both were good locations. It was clear that the concealed stack in AA41 contained an MMC, probably a 447 squad, and an LMG.
I set up my Germans stacking the north gully with five squads; one deployed, three LMG, the MMG, and the 9-2 and 8-0 leaders.
I put two squads, the 9-1 leader and one LMG in the southern gully, together with all eight dummies, divided into two dummy stacks.
The first two turns reflected the large amount of PTO scenarios we play in Canberra. Germans crept forward keeping concealment, while Russians slinked away to avoid confrontation. My two half squads performed their duty as scouts, moving about hoping to draw fire. One moved into BB39, next to the stack in CC40, and offering a shot to the stack in AA41. Simon held his fire, fearing the fire-group in Z39, AA39 and BB38. In the advance phase, rather than move into CC40, the HS in BB39 moved to BB40. A brave move, but that is what half squads are for.
Next Russian move Simon refused to fire, skulking away yet again. I assembled the MMG in Z39, where it was with a squad and the 9-2 leader. Simon ended his turn with the stacks from AA41 and AA42 moving to BB41, still concealed.
In my third turn I fired the HS in BB40 at BB41, with a 2 +2 shot. As luck would have it I rolled a 3, causing a NMC. Both squads broke. A lucky shot for me, and bad luck for Simon. The MMG, Squad and 9-2 leader in Z39 then fired at the ground floor location in BB41 at 4 flat. Again I was lucky, getting a MC, even though it was a fortified location, so was a 4 +1 shot. Simon again managed to break the squad, the HIP 638 with LMG, but the 9-2 stood firm. I had therefore found the victory building.
In my movement phase I made a minimum move with my other HS from DD37 to EE38. Simon revealed an 8-1 leader to cancel the move, but also tell me where the HMG was. In his defensive fire phase the squad HMG and leader fired at the HS, causing a 2MC, but only causing the HS to pin. Simon risked interdiction for the two squads in CC42 to route to DD42, and both casualty reduced. He didn’t really have much choice. I had concealed stacks in Z42, Z41 AA44. Had he routed to BB42 I would have assault moved to AA42 and advanced into BB42 in my next move, ending with concealed units against broken units for the ambush roll, and good odds in the subsequent CC. By risking interdiction he risked losses, but would be able to rally them with the 9-2 leader later.
In Simons next turn he moved the HMG stack to DDD39, a good location that covered the entire front of BB41. The troops in BB41 traded shots with my troops in Z39, with me getting the better of it. Simon rallied forces in EE42 with the 9-2, which he routed with the 628, and the concealed stack in EE41 advanced into BB41.
The next turn I blasted away at BB41 with my kill stack, now reinforced by another squad and LMG, giving it a firepower of 16 –2, while another squad in BB38 traded shots with the HMG in DD39. This time Simon got the better result, causing my squad to break. Meanwhile my HS in DD37 was sneaking around the back to EE38, and advancing FF38. I advanced a squad, LMG and 9-1 leader to BB41, another squad and LMG to CC44, a squad and demo charge to BB42 (concealed) and the HS in BB40 assault moved into CC40, revealing a dummy stack, and then advanced into CC41. I advanced the Squad and LMG into AA41 to have a shot at EE41, and moved the squad with demo charge into BB41.
Things were getting really tight for the Russians, but Simon is not one to shrink away. He managed to rally enough troops to continue to rotate troops into BB41.
I had the advantage, but knew I had to take risks to pull out a victory. I advanced the HS into EE39, and a squad and LMG into CC40. The squad with the demo charge went into CC41, and the squad and LMG in AA41 advanced into BB41. This gave Simon some hard decisions to make. The HMG in DD39 was at risk of being surrounded, but if he could not get rid of the demo charge packing squad in CC41, there was a big risk of me getting into the victory building. I had blasted troops out of the ground floor of BB41, but he could assault or advance into that location in his turn.
He chose to fire his squad, HMG, leader directed into CC40 at 20 +1. He rolled an 11, breaking the HMG (ammo shortage SSR 4) and causing no damage. He caused no other damage, but advanced the 9-2 leader, 628 and LMG into the ground floor location of BB41. The leader and squad in DD39 died for failure to route (no quarter in effect).
On my next turn I blasted BB41 with my kill stack, causing a 1MC. His 9-2 leader pinned and his squad broke. The squad in CC41 then placed the DC into BB41 (no good order unit to prevent entry to fortified location), causing the leader to also break.
The end of my turn six saw Russian broken units on the second floor of BB41, with me having troops in DD42, EE41 and ground floor of BB41. All was not lost. Simon had a squad and LMG in EE42. He fired in advance phase into DD41, a 12+ 3 shot, and rolled a 12, replacing the squad with a conscript and destroying the LMG due to ammo shortage. Faced with a fire group of 20, and the only possible victory through a conscript advancing into a building and winning a CC against a 548 and 9-1 leader, Simon conceded.
Simon had some bad luck. He did not pass many MCs, although he did rally a lot of broken troops. He did not cause a single German casualty during the entire game, only breaking two units and stripping one dummy stack with all of his fire attacks. His HMG caused one 2MC on a HS, which passed, before it broken and its manning squad was eliminated. Having said that, the game went to the sixth turn, with the Russian in for a chance right up until that turn.
I had fun, and being the compassionate lot we are, only made a small amount of fun at Simon’s bad luck, with others offering to play him next time on the condition he roll dice in the same manner.
The result did not reflect the tightness of the scenario, and I would be happy to play it as the Russians any time. It will go down as one of my few comprehensive wins, and encourages me to look at all of those other small scenarios included in the historical modules. A must play for all.
Canberra Australia 27/8/2005