For starters, I wanted to plug the give-away / contest thing that Jonathan is Running over at the Palouse Wargaming Journal. It's a sweet blog (I've particularly enjoyed the Reconquista army he's been working on), and he's handing out cool books like candy. Worth the time to have a look.
In unrelated events, four of us got together at the Dueling Grounds the other night to get in a mega game of Bolt action: 1000 points each, a total of 2000 points of germans, and a 1000 each of Soviets and Damnyankees. It was a bit chaotic from the outset, but I have to say, was a hell of a lot of fun.
|Yuri, the Mortarman of Doom, surveys the troops. These guys kill more than the rest of the army combined.|
When we first set up, we knew Jack was inbound, but not when he'd arrive. The three of us opted for a Maximum Attrition scenario (for simplicity), and set up for a three-way free-for all. I took a corner on one long edge of the table, Gel set up opposite me, and ernieR took the short edge furthest away from the two of us; pretty standard 3-way deployment on a 4-sided table.
|Initial deployment. At this point, I expect attacks from across the table, and my right.|
|ernieR's initial position. Behind the rocks, mostly.|
In the MA scenario, you move your forces onto the table in the first turn; it's basically a meeting engagement. I pushed my Soviets on with the expectation that I'd need to defend both against ernieR and Gel. With an exquisite sense of timing, Jack1080 showed up just as we drew the last die for turn 1. We quickly reshuffled the game so it was allies vs. germans, and Jack1080 deployed on the same corner as Gel.
|All of a sudden, a ton of Germans appear on my flank. Where'd they come from?|
When the next turn began, Jack1080 moved his Germans around the hill on the near side, close to the table edge. All of a sudden, rather than a fairly straightforward "attack to the front", I faced close to 2:1 odds, and was being outflanked in a fairly dodgy defensive position. The game had become a situation of "can the Soviets hold out until the Americans get there", which although stressful, was kind of fun ;)
|These poor guys have no idea what's in store.|
|This, for starters.|
Hostilities commenced with Gel's Pnzer III unloading it's full complement of machineguns at a hapless mortar spotter, who hadn't quite made it to cover on turn 1. First blood to the Germans. This mattered as only that spotter had line of sight to Gel's medium howitzer; with no counter-battery fire to suppress it, it would make its presence known later in the game.
|Never even had a chance to use his shiny new binoculars.|
The first couple rounds of combat involved me shaking my guys into a defensive formation, and the Germans moving around and over the big hill to the attack. I pushed my veterans up in their truck, and deployed them in the woods on my left, moved my other "biggish" squads into more woods in support, and set up my LMG squad, a PTRD team, a mortar spotter, and my T-34 in the ruined church. The tank went hull down behind the ruined wall, and promptly got into a duel with a Pak40 and StuG.
|View from the ruined church. Germans inbound.|
Meanwhile, Gel moved his guys around the far side of the big hill, pushing a few squads out to screen against ernieR, taking possession of the buildings at the centre of the table, and shifting the rest towards my beleaguered Soviets.
|Moving around one side of the hill.|
|Taking hold of the strong points. That's what mortars are for ;)|
ernieR, bless his name, fired up his Sherman, and in a brilliant display, absolutely vapourised the PzIII with a gorgeous long-range shot from his Sherman.
|Sudden death. The early end of the PzIII.|
|The heroes responsible.|
In the meantime, Jack1080 kept up the pressure on my left. I was basically trying to hold off 1000 points plus of Germans with a squad or two. The end results were predictable, but my boys died hard.
|A forlorn hope. My veterans deploy forward to buy time for the rest of the force to shift.|
|The infantry takes up position at the tree line.|
In the meantime, although ernieR had been firing away, he hadn't advanced much. As we had, at most, 4 more turns (we ended up only having time for 2), it was beginning to look as as if Allied communications had broken down . . . .
|My rookies, waaaay out of position.|
Turns 2 and 3 had mostly been about positioning; some casualties, but nothing spectacular other than the PzIII. Turns 4 and 5 are where the killing happened. Jack1080 brought more and more of his firepower to bear, Gel did the same on the other side, and I saw the pin markers and casualties start to mount.
|Starting to get a little thin on the front line.|
On my right, I still had a chunky, if Green, rifle squad, but getting them into the fight was problematic. They were in range and sight of several German squads, and the kind of firepower assault rifle-armed Germans can throw out is good at whittling down troops in the open.
|What to do, what to do?|
Over on the far right, ernieR had an experience reminiscent of the last days of Alderan, when Gel's medium howitzer got LoS to a squad of Rangers, and vapourised 7 in one shot.
|Top of the picture. That mostly empty field used to be full of Rangers.|
In a bid to buy some time, I pushed a squad forward, out of the cover of the woods. In retrospect, this was one of two big mistakes I made in the game. As with the second, it made perfect sense at the time (a sacrifice play that would distract my opponent and buy time), but in retrospect was very much the wrong move.
|Sacrifice plays generally rely on having a back-up unit. Kind of forgot that part. Yes, those two veterans have 7 pins on them.|
I can only assume the stress of command was getting to me. My right was folding, my left was melting away, and the Americans weren't going to make it in time. I had a second line, but it was looking awfully thin. Maybe the political officers were right when they told us not to trust the imperialists . . . .
|Right flank about to fold.|
At the top of turn 5, my forwad line consisted of 6 guys.
|It's getting a little hairy out there.|
It was at this point that I had my second brain fart of the day. My green rifle squad had come under fire late in turn 4, and a happy morale role saw them upgraded to regulars. I had several options with them. I could fire on Gel's squad in the courtyard, I could fire on his squad pushing in my right . . .
|Shoot target A, target B, or . . . .|
. . . or I could throw them away in a pointless assault against a defensive position.
|Such a bad move.|
Again, made sense at the time. Close assaults are decisive, and with a bit of luck, I could have seized control of the building and turned the German flank. Okay, a lot of luck. Well, yes, a ridiculous amount, but hey . . . .
My remaining four guys on the left also went down in a close assault (I left the cover of the woods why, again?), and the Germans were now pushing hard.
|The ruins become a redoubt. That's a lot of Germans moving up.|
The news wasn't all bad. A combination of tank and PTRD fire had driven the StuG back behind the hill, the PaK40 was down to one crew member, and my medium mortars were demonstrating their usual lethality. On the other hand, I was officially out of infantry, which is never good, and I had more zips than wire, if you know what I mean.
|And not a lot of Russians|
We called the game for time at that point, and none too soon, I think. If I'd shut down the PaK, my tank could have been of of use, but the Germans were filthy with panzerfausts. With the Germans close to the minimum range for my mortars, I was running out of options.
This game was a blast. The quirk in set up really messed with the predictability of what I was doing. Generally speaking, when you sit down to play a game, you know what you're dealing with; what you're objective is, how you're going to achieve it, and what degree of opposition you're going to face. Because of Jack1080s arrival, however, I was legitimately outflanked. I had deployed to counter the known threat, and ended up having to deal with something else entirely.
This meant that rather than a coordinated defence, I was left scrambling, having to deploy piecemeal, under fire, to counter a broadening range of threats in multiple directions. I felt like I was on my back foot, reacting, doing my best to hold on in bad circumstances, and hoping like hell the cavalry were going to arrive. That's a very different experience than I usually have, and while the inherent frustration led to some bad decisions (i.e., leaving cover and a stupid assault), it also gave me some terrific insight into how and why such decisions get made.
We also got to see some new stuff on the table. Jack1080, in a bid to fill points, took a major, the highest available command figure. It gives a bonus of +4 to morale rolls, effectively offsetting up to 4 pins. That meant that my usual tactics, of stacking pins on key units to compromise their effectiveness, just didn't work, and he could apply pressure with impunity. No one's really tried a senior officer before now, as they're quite expensive, but they do appear to be worth the points, at least as long as your units are fairly close together.
|If only they made her in 15mm.|
I think the next game of BA I play, I'd like to keep things simple. We've not really explored the reserve and outflank options in scenarios, and once I get some mounted cossacks re-based, it's something I want to try. I'm also at the point where I can start trading out the "fun" points in my list. I like the T-34, and there's plenty to learn still in terms of how to get the most out of it, but I also would like to try some SU-76, ZiS-3s, Katyushas, etc.
Next week I have a Warmahordes game scheduled with DaveB, and I should have some painting shots up on the weekend of the finished T-34 and halftrack. Until then, remember to go check out the Palouse Journal!