G38 Castello Fatato – Extreme Winter at Night

G38 - Starting-proc

It was December 20 1942.  The Italian Bersaglieri Regiment approached the Russian town of Meshkov in their retreat.  The Russians got there ahead of them and used its “fairy tale castle” ie. catello fatato cathedral as a strongpoint.  It was dark, it was extremely cold and yet the cathedral was illuminated by a portion of the building that was on fire.

The scenario opened with 20 squads of Italians doing a human wav across the snow towards 2 squads of Russian SMG units plus 6 rifle squads of the Russian 1st Guards Army.  The above is my defensive layout and where my machine guns were positioned.  Typically in a night scenario, support weapons and leaders are HIP’d (“hidden initial placement”) as are 25% of the defenders.  The Italians win when they control the cathedral (the hex with the “Blaze” counter and the hex to the upper right of it. )

G38 - IT01 - Defensive FF Fire Lanes-proc

Italian Turn 1 After the Movement Phase : The NVR (“Night Vision Range”) was 5, so the screaming Italians were spotted.  The Russians tried to break as many Italian squads as they could.  Italian squads have a moral level of 7 and a broken side morale of 6.  At night, units don’t get to remove their “DM” status until they roll less than its current printed morale.  Running with 4 leaders (2 of them 6+1), these Italian should be very hard to rally once they break.  Turns out it was the Russians who couldn’t rally for most of the game.  The Italian 6+1’s were rather successful in convincing their troops to get back into the fight.

G38 - RT01 - After AF - Sniper, Gun hits Church .. choice between hitting and skulking sniper knocks off 8-1-proc

Russian Turn 1 After Advance Fire Phase : The Russian should perhaps have skulked at least part of their forces but I was determined to break a few more Italian squads.  The Italians fired their Austrian made Cannone da 47/32 (ROF3), broke a squad on the ground level of the church and the heavy machine gun (“HMG”) team in the trench next to it.  The HMG was later lost to the Italians and never served under Russian use again.

Katya, our Russian sniper did miracles though!  She identified an 8-1 leader from a stack of brokies and put a hole through his head.  He was the highest ranking leader the Italians had and the only one with a negative modifier!

G38 - IT03 - End - It got in, melee, tieup, one gun down-procItalian Turn 3 : The Russian couldn’t find any star shells!!  Since illuminated units cannot see into the darkness outside the zone of illumination, it was safe for the Italians to move around the rim of blaze illumination and sneak an Italian squad into the cathedral.  The Italians had also jumped both of my flanks and tied them down in mêlée.  Given the huge disparity inmanpower, the Russians should have done a fighting retreat and leverage on their advantage in troop quality.  Once the Italians closed, the difference in morale level was gone and they could keep reinforcing any mêlée.

Case in point : the Russian’s right flank got a little agitated and turned fanatic along with the production of a hero (I promptly named him after my esteemed opponent .. heh heh), the Italians jumped on them immediately in the Close Combat phase, nullifying their qualities.

G38 - RT03 - End - 8-1 dead sniper wnd 7-0 cellar 628 cc kill IT-proc

Russian Turn 3 Close Combat Phase : There wasn’t a lot to do in this Russian turn.  The fellas steadfastly refused to be rallied.  Since one of the Italian guns malfunctioned and the Russian SMG squads hid in fortified cellars, there wasn’t much damage.  One of those Russian SMG squad decided to come out of hiding however, advanced up to see if it can ambush the Italian squad up top.  It didn’t, but it took out the Italian squad anyway in close combat.  In face of all the firepower and the important job it had to do, advancing up was a risk.  However the act might burn more time from the Italians.

The sparky Katya (sniper) continued to work hard, she found a 7-0 in another big stack of brokies and wounded him.  The Italians had 2 healthy 6+1’s left.  Both of the Russian flanks continued to be tied down in mêlée.

G38 - IT04 - After MPh-proc

Italian Turn 4 After the Movement Phase : There were only 3 functional Russian squads left : 1 rifle squad and 2 SMG squads in the cellars.  The rifle squad spit out a fire lane with the Italian Breda M30 LMG, just to deter the Italians from rounding the building on the right.  As luck would have it, the Italian squad on the lower right in the dark would be hit and broken by Katya, who was obviously making it a late night tonight.

G38 - IT04 - After CC . Melee stays, Sniper hits 347 on right, 2IT in Y5-proc

Italian Turn 4 later in Close Combat : Two Italian squads made it into the left side of the cathedral.  There’s still a concealed SMG squad in the left cellar. Since the cellars were fortified, they would need to pin or to break the Russian SMG squads before they could go in for close combat!

G38 - RT04 - Sniper pins Melee continues not much-proc

Russian Turn 4 : The Italians continued to rally quite well, although they had some casualties from the cold (Extreme Winter E.3.742).  The Russians on the hand were still hanging on with a few squads.  To make matters worse, the German sniper showed up an pinned the fanatic Russian squad in the midst of their mêlée on the right.  Fortunately they survived and the fight continued, tying down that flank still for the Russians.

G38 - IT05 - Sniper broke fanatic hero died in CC 2 iT got into cellar pin 628 CC night closing in -proc

Italian Turn 5: Again, the Russians had no luck with star shells, and the Italians moved in.  The Italians managed to pin the Russian SMG squad in the cellar on the right and so two Italian squads advanced downstairs to say hello.  The mêlée on the far right was hit by German snipers again!  The Russian fanatic squad was broken and they were all killed when the hero found himself fighting the Russians alone.  The Russians outside were beginning to rally but listening to the sounds around them, SMG squad in the cellar on the left felt the darkness rolling rapidly in.

G38 - RT05 - Other gun broke 6+1 rallies Russians coming back more people in church-proc

Russian Turn 5 : The Italians got star shells in some choice positions!  Nonetheless the rallied Russian troops started to move back.  Fortunately, the other Italian gun broke as well, adding to the Russians’ fighting chance.

G38 - IT06 - Another Gun gone - Italians piled in-proc

Italian Turn 6 : GUSTS!!  The burning first floor of the cathedral collapsed!  Good thing it didn’t crash into the cellar.

The Italians had to think defence now.  The Russians were getting back into the fight from the lower left of the map.  The Italians had to get into blocking positions while continuing to reinforce the mêlée.  The Russians couldn’t do much about stopping the Italians from reinforcing the cathedral.  You might also notice that the remaining Italian gun was operational now and again tried pounding the cellars.

G38 - RT06 - Russians rushed the building. Ldr OVR look for ambush-proc

Russian Turn 6 : The Russians plodded towards the sounds of gunfire inside the cathedral.  First up was the 7-0 who looked to pop into the church hex on the left.  The choice for the Italians was either to spend firepower on him or to let him get into the ground floor and make the Italians do a +3 task check for “Infantry Overrides” in next turn to get in.  They shot him.  Next up is a Guards rifle squad that broke against the fire lane on the far left.

It looked even tougher on the right.

One squad got pinned and finally the last squad moved in with the 8-1.  Russians elites are stealthy and Italians are lax.  If the Russians could get an ambush they could infiltrate into the cathedral.  Unfortunately, it was the Russians who got ambushed, and the Italian squad withdrew into the cathedral.

At this moment, the cathedral cellar on the left was held by a good order Russian SMG squad and in the right, there was a mêlée raging on between a Russian squad and two Italian squads.  The Russian counterattack could only watch from outside the cathedral.

G38 - IT07 - Italians can't break guy in the cellar-proc

Italian Final Turn : It all went down to one question (read : dice roll) – whether the Italians could break or pin the Russian SMG squad holding out in the left cellar so that the Italians have a chance in close combat.

The Italians moved, trying to focus more fire power into the cellar during advancing fire.  The Russians outside managed to pin one of the 3 squads that got into the cathedral, directly above the stubborn Russian SMG squad.  The Italians mustered up a firepower of 6, so that was a FP6+4 shot.

The Italians rolled an 11.

The Russians won.

DB081 Lack of Discernment AAR – Defending!

DB081 - Start-proc

Here’s the AAR of when I played this scenario as the attacker against Carl Nogueira.

Now that I got a chance to see how the grownups do it, Carl gave me a chance to put my learning to the test.  He let me play this again, with me defending as the Red Chinese this time.

The above is my attempt to draw a pentagram with imaginary fire lanes when setting up the defence.  Carl put his defence all upfront.  I am not so confident.  Just so everyone knows, this scenario has a variable ending depending on when the GMT can capture enough multi-hex buildings to get the points required by the end of Turn 4 to 7 while  suffering no more than 24 CVPs.  The multi-hex buildings on the south of the canal are worth 1 point each, the ones to the north are worth 2.  The two bigger buildings on the south I labelled “Factory” are worth 2.  The first target for the GMT is to get 8 points by the end of Turn 4.  However if the Reds reinforcements come in south of the canal, that requirement for the GMT falls to 7.

Carl put his defence up front.  I wasn’t so confident.  I thought the weight will come from the right and that the GMTs would be crossing the canal up the top right corner to grab at the 2 point buildings.  I couldn’t give up the use of the single hex multi storied building on the left, that was where I placed my HMG, a quick fire 37* gun and ground level fortifications.  I put another fortification in the middle of the factory where my commissar sat.  I got another fortification hex behind him as “the Alamo”.

He would expect the Red Chinese “death star” on the left so I didn’t bother HIPing it.  I did however HIP’d two half squads on the right to help with the defence.  The MMG and the 70* gun were across the canal to the North.  In a way the longer the big gun laid unfound, the better it is.

Notice Carl got a nasty death star : 2 MMGS + HMG + 9-2 on level 1 of a building.

Okay, talk is cheap, let’s see how all these work out.

DB081 - T1 RC 02 Deathstar duel-proc

Red Chinese Turn 1 : The GMT pushed very aggressively into and in some case past the first line of buildings.  The Reds death star exchanged shots with the powerful GMT one and didn’t fare too well.  The GMT staged for the attack on the (middle) factory.   Yes, the Reds “sulked” and skulked as well into the factory and later advanced back out.

DB081 - T2 GMT02 CC'd-proc

GMT Turn 2 : GMT attacked across the street!  They quickly found the 37* gun on the fortified ground floor in the building to the left.  The broken attacker was taken prisoner and was ushered into the building quickly.  The Reds position in the factory and in the building to the right looked shaky.  Broken Reds quickly piled up.  There were two close combats.  The 2 GMT squads to the left was ambushed by the Reds and were both KIA’d.  The GMT squad to the right fared better, it killed the Reds squad and flanked the building.

DB081 - T2 RC01 UnHIP right Leader ran Deathstar dead-proc

Red Chinese Turn 2 : The GMT had pretty much captured the building on the right.  The Reds leader decided to make a run for it with the LMG and head for the canal!  A HIPpie on the right popped out and headed for the factory on the right, going after the broken GMT squad and absolutely intend to be a nuisance.  The factory being 2 points, Carl had to comeback and root the little Reds squad out.

I hope to survive past Turn 4 and receive the GMTs across the canal.

DB081 - T2 RC02 New Prisoner-proc

Red Chinese Turn 2 (contd) : The Reds took another GMT squad prisoner and dragged them into the (middle) factory.  The broken Reds squad ran after their leader to the right.  The GMT now had 5 points against the required 8 needed to win the game in Turn 4.

DB081 - T3 GMT01 Left DD rush Encircled FT blew out RightTop squad ran-proc

GMT Turn 3 : The GMT went back into the factory to the right to reclaim it.  A GMT Dare Death squad led the charge to the left!  May be the GMT was looking to cut off the middle factory from the left as well.

DB081 - T3 GMT02 DD snakeeyes CVP19 GMT7 need factory-procGMT Turn 3 (contd) : Prospects for the Reds weren’t looking up.  Their “death star” on the left was slowly getting cut off and surrounded.  The GMTs were all lined up outside the middle factory.  The canal was ready for a cross over.  The GMT got squads lined up against the left in case the Reds send reinforcements in from south of the canal.

DB081 - T3 RC01 CC Ambush CVP24 then CVP 26 Bldg 7 Req -1-proc

Reds Turn 3 : Turn 4 was coming up and doing the usual was not going to help me survive.  I need some GMT CVPs fast.  The GMT armoured trucks hadn’t been moving from the bottom left at all.  Trap or not, I had to go for it.  Each armoured truck gives me 5 CVPs.  The one with the armoured leader gives me another 3 CVPs for a total of 8.

So the Reds moved in concealed.  One of the Reds squad survived Defensive Fire from the GMT death star (broke one of the guns as well), passed the PAATC check, placed its demolition charge properly and ..

Blew up one of the armoured trucks with no survivors.

Too bad the armour leader was in the other truck!  Another Reds squad moved in, ambushed and killed a GMT squad in close combat.

All these gave the Reds 22 CVPs.  However, since the Reds had 2 GMT prisoners squads and prisoner CVP bonus counts at game end, the Reds stand to get 26 CVP if the game end right there.  (The GMT are only allowed 24 or less.)

This created a funny situation.  Since the Red Chinese reinforcement entered south of the canal, the GMT build points requirement in Turn 4 dropped from 8 to 7 which the GMT now had.  The GMT would need to rescue the prisoners before the end of Turn 4 to win the game.  Otherwise if the game “ends”, the Reds would realise 26 CVPs (+4 CVP bonus from the prisoners) instead of 22 and 2 CVPs more that what the GMT were allowed to lose.

DB081 - T4 GMT01 Sniper 9-2, CVP26 Bldg 7-proc

GMT Turn 4 : GMT squads started off a new turn prep firing away.  One of the shots invited a Reds hot sniper that hit the GMT death star.  A round of random selection nailed the GMT 9-2 leader in a stack of 4.

This gave the Reds the 3 CVPs need to reach the 25 CVPs to win the game (29 CVPs with the prisoners).  Great game! 

 

DB081 Lack of Discernment AAR – Attacking

This scenario took place on Dec 15th 1927, a full 12 years before World War Two.  It’s based on some of the earlier conflicts between the Red Chinese and the Nationalists (Guomintang, GMT or Kuomintang, KMT).  The conflict took place in Canton 廣東, not too far away from Hong Kong.  The Canton Red Chinese overestimated their strategic position, started a general uprising on Dec 12th and the Nationalist Chinese came for a brutal visit.

DB081 Starting position-proc

Carl Nogueira and I played this scenario twice.  I was the attacker – KMT Chinese and Carl the Red Chinese.  We then switched sides and played it again, you will read about the second one from a later AAR.

The victory conditions of this scenario is structured around the multi-hex buildings on the map.  The ones north of the canal are worth 2 points.  The ones south of the canal are worth 1 point except for the two building designated as factories.  The game ends on Turn 4 if the KMT Chinese get 8 points, Turn 5 for 9 points, Turn 6 for 10 points and Turn 7 for 12 points.  The KMT has to accomplish that while losing no more than 24 CVPs.

I planned to focus the main body of my troops to the right.  They are to capture the building on the right.  From there they can attack the factory immediately to the south of the canal, meeting up with a smaller force on the left flank.  Capturing the right building also allows for the possibility of forces wading across the canal for the higher value buildings on the north bank.  The small force on the far left is to protect the buildings from possible Red Chinese reinforcement  on Turn 3.  You see, the Red Chinese can choose to introduce their reinforcements from the north (top) side of the map, or the west (left) side of the map.   However if they come in from the south side of the canal, the VP requirements for the KMT drops by 1.

Anyway, that’s the plan .. until bullets start flying.

DB081 KMT1 DF-proc

KMT Turn 1 : The KMT rushed across the street.  A fearful death star appeared on the left flank in the single hex two storey building I never paid attention to before.  On the 2nd level, there was an MMG, a HMG and an 8-1.  On the ground level, there’s the 37mm gun sporting an ROF of 3.  These guys shot up a few of the squads on the left, rendered my HMG team useless for the duration of the scenario and made the rest of the folks very nervous.  The fortunate bit was that the elite Chinese squads were well placed to offer smoke grenades in support.

I was perhaps too careful with the armoured cars.  They are 5 CVPs and 7 CVPs (with a 9-1 armour leader) each, points that I hope won’t contribute to the Red Chinese 25 CVP goal.  Fearing a gun on the right side of the board, I planned to sneak around the side of the roadblock.  However when we ran into the death star, we froze.  In retrospect, the 37mm infantry gun has little more than 6% chance (HE only) of killing the KMT Type 22 armour truck (Chris Edwards’ Kill Calculator).  Granted, MGs can kill these vehicles but freezing in place is not the proper tactic either.

DB081 RC1 Sniper killed RC 8-0 GMT Ldr wound malf deathstar-proc

Red Chinese Turn 1 : Folks in the Red Chinese death star probably didn’t get their ancestors properly lined up.  First, a sniper killed the 8-1 .. and then both the MMG and the HMG malfunctioned on the same shot!  The concealed squads in the factory advanced out to the walls, which was brilliant.  I am not entirely sure why I never made use of the upper levels of the buildings I had to negate the walls.

DB081 KMT2 Sniper broke crew fire lanes-proc

KMT Chinese Turn 2 : KMT attacks!  The turn opened with squads advancing into the smoke that the élite squads laid down.  A 8-0 leader on the right went across the street and kicked the door in with the squad behind him ready to fire.  Other squads moved up and found the second gun at the rear of the building to the right of the map, as expected.  You can see the  laid and the Red Chinese squads putting down residual fire very efficiently.  The deathstar saw the HMG fixed but the sniper returned and broke the crew!

DB081 KMT2 End CVP 4-proc

End of KMT Chinese Turn 2 : This showed how ineffective the KMT attack was.  Losses was light fortunately, the Red Chinese accrued 4 CVP so far.

Red Chinese Turn 2 : On the right of the map, the KMT squads in front of their target building hope to  survived enemy fire and return a massive Defensive Fire back.  The KMT got a MMG team together with a 9-2 and kept the MGs in the death star suppressed. The KMT Chinese were getting ready to attack again.

DB081 KMT3 MPh-proc

KMT Chinese Turn 3 : KMT troops advanced forward on the right into the building.  LMG fire from across the canal came straight down the street.  On the left flank the KMT Chinese figured they should take advantage of the crippled death star and tried to rush the building, only to find the bottom floor fortified.  Worse – it’s fortified with a building full of self rallying crew!

DB081 KMT3 End-proc

End of KMT Chinese Turn 3 : We got into the building on the right. The rush on the left failed as the squad got shot up and bounced off the side of the fortified building.  The centre was pretty decimated.  The leaders were working hard to convince a few to get back into the fight.

DB081 RC3 End-proc

Red Chinese Turn 3 : The reinforcement came in from the north.  Things were not looking up for the KMT Chinese.   We only had a foothold on the right.  The troops on the left and in the middle were broken in huddled masses.  KMT didn’t seem to have enough people to make a third try.

DB081 KMT4 MPh All Shot up-proc

KMT Chinese Turn 4 : The KMT made an all out attack for the factory and the rightmost buildings.  Whilst they would get the right most building, the KMT Chinese got shot up everywhere else.

DB081 KMT4 End CVP18-proc

End of KMT Chinese Turn 4 : The KMT Chinese captured the gun on the right although they haven’t quite secured that building.  The force in the middle were almost entirely reduced into broken stacks.  Folks on the right who were there to guard against the Red Chinese reinforcement decided to move north to have a go at the death star.  I really like Carl’s demonstration of high level tactics.  Here we have a position where, if I attack, makes no contribution to the CVP.  However if I don’t, it will always interfere with my attack elsewhere.

DB081 RC4 End-proc

Red Chinese Turn 4 : The Red Chinese counter attacked!  Can you see the stack with the “DM” counter on top and a grey dotted line that extended to the left?  There’s an MMG in the stack and I should have laid a fire lane down that path to stop the Red Chinese from counter attacking.  However instead I was distracted by the first squad that rushed up.  Now I got 2 big stacks of broken troops threatened by marauding Red Chinese troops.  Since the Red Chinese already racked up 25 CVP, the scenario ended and Carl Nogueira won as the defender.

Notice the 2 fortified locations Carl revealed after the game.  He had the commissar situated in a fortified location in the middle of the factory.  He also had the other fortified hex immediately behind.  That last hex would be his “Alamo” before the Red Chinese bow out of the building.  Capturing a building like so was going to take a few turns more.

I would have the opportunity to improve my play by being the Red Chinese defenders against Carl’s KMT Chinese.

That will be in the next AAR!

 

 

 

 

Shanghai 1937 in Flames!!!

"Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze" by Peter Harmsen

(This is an interview conducted via email, where I talked to Peter Harmsen, the author of “Shanghai 1937 – Stalingrad on the Yangtze” about Advanced Squad Leader.)

Iacta Alea Est!

Wargaming is a method for historians, professionals and hobbyists alike, to get inside the minds of the actors of past conflicts. The games, or simulations, can take place at the grand strategic level, as described in a previous post about the game Dai Senso. They can also offer a more intimate look at combat, putting the player in charge of just a handful of soldiers and facing him or her with difficult tactical decisions. The Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) system is an example of the latter. It has thousands of fans around the world who use its flexibility to play scenarios from a range of theaters during World War Two and the years just before and after – including the Second Sino-Japanese War. We asked Jackson Kwan, a veteran Hong Kong-based ASL player, to introduce the system and especially describe how its versatility facilitates scenarios from the war in China. (The Q & A was performed by email, with special thanks to Jon Halfin for editing.)

Very briefly, what is the Advanced Squad Leader system?

Advanced Squad Leader is a detailed tactical gaming system that models company to battalion level combat in the Second World War period.  It simulates an amazing range of combat parameters: from weather to terrain, national characteristics, leadership and morale, different weapon systems and artillery support.  This allows the examination of engagements from the Pacific theatre to desert terrain, to European theatre and even tundra conditions.  It’s detailed enough to have rules for night battles and for vision effects under differing moon phases.

A short synopsis can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Squad_Leader

How do you generate new scenarios?

Scenario designers from all over work with Multi-Man Publishing and other third party publishers to produce scenario packs and/or entire new modules (settings) that includes map boards and new counters that represents new nationalities, troop types or weapon systems that did not already exist in the system. Scenario designers combine detailed research of certain engagements and various elements including weather, terrain, troop types, conditions and morale, weapons available and ammunition supply into an abstraction that may or may not completely parallel historical outcomes. The best scenarios often have a creative feeling of the historical events, yet balance out asymmetric conditions, allowing both sides equal chances of winning the engagement.

How good is the system at simulating the Second Sino-Japanese War? Are the results realistic, i.e. are they similar to what really happened during the war?

This is a game system that reflects the feel of the position the opposing commanders faced. It seeks to address asymmetric conditions that battles often are while giving both sides a balanced opportunity to prevail through specific winning conditions and other parameters.

T6 Axis Move-procFor example : if you look at the battle at Shanghai’s Sihang warehouse*) alone, you will find at least four scenarios from different designers that put their own interpretation to the events.  My favorite of the four is a scenario named “Shanghai in Flames” where the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) battles top quality Chinese troops (who were still around at the time) across a generically represented map reflecting the terrain styles, into the warehouse. Some of the buildings start already on fire and may spread according to wind conditions as the battle progress. As the Chinese fight a desperate withdrawal through the streets against the IJA pushing aggressively in, as the spreading fire almost becomes a third player, routing friends and foes alike.

Producing realistic results is not the primary objective of Advanced Squad Leader designs.  Putting players under similar decision making parameters and operating constraints to reflect the feel of combat command is the bigger goal.

But making these battles competitive and fun is the biggest objective!

What are the main differences between scenarios based on the war in China and, say, scenarios from Europe 1939-1945?

Obvious differences are weapon systems that the IJA uses (vs various European combatant). Differences in national characteristics, leadership styles, training and morale level – of the Japanese, Chinese, Gurkhas etc vs the Germans, Soviets, partisans plus the myriad of Allied and Axis minors. Differences in weather and terrain – jungles, kunai, caves, beaches, marshes, palm trees and huts in the Pacific Theatre of Operations vs woods, brush, buildings, rubble etc in the European Theatre of Operations.

If people want to get into the ASL system, what should they do?

The heart of the Advanced Squad Leader system is the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook (version 2).  There are various modules for different nationalities and theatres.  The more modules you have therefore, the more variation you will have in the scenarios you can play.  The best thing to do however for new players is: Get in touch with Advanced Squad Leader players in various cities (and there are tournaments held almost every month around the world  http://aslladder.com/asltournaments.html) and/or on online forums.  Advanced Squad Leader is primarily about the chap across the table and definitely not meant for solo play.  (Although a well-developed Solitaire ASL system does exist, it has been out of print for some time. It does indeed make solitaire play possible.)  Most people in the ASL community are willing to teach new players and proficiency in the basic rules usually requires 3 to 6 games before you are ready to move into the various spectra the system can provide.

The Advanced Squad Leader Starter Pack 1 is designed as an initial step to see if this game’s for them. The Starter Pack is a small, self-contained system that will help any new player make the decision as to whether to dive into the full system headfirst, at a minimal cost – and was designed to replace the long out of print original “introductory” module for Advanced Squad Leader “Paratrooper”.

*) An incident during the 1937 battle of Shanghai when during a general retreat about 400 Chinese soldiers stayed behind, defending the Sihang Warehouse next to Suzhou Creek. The decision to make the stand at the warehouse was mainly motivated by a wish to demonstrate to local and foreign opinion China’s willingness to continue the fight.

(Original of this interview can be found : China in WW2)

Roger B. MacGowan & Wargames

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Growing up with Avalon Hill wargames, I have long noticed the same signature on the boxes of some of the most loved wargames : The Russian Campaign, The Longest Day, Squad Leader, Advanced Squad Leader ..etc.

That signature belongs to a prolific designer and game publisher, Roger B MacGowan.

Please see his design gallery.
Please see the list of his art designs.

“Crossing the Moro” by Lone Canuck, Pictorial

Got up on this fine Saturday morning after two days on the road and decided to give the mailbox a peep … found this delivered by Helen & Chris at BattleSchool today!  George Kelln’s (Lone Canuckdescription of the scenarios therein.

photo 1

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AP90 Smashing The Hook (an AP9 “To The Bridge!” scenario)

I was chatting online about Gary Fortenberry’s new Advanced Squad Leader Action Pack “ASL Action Pack 9: To The Bridge!” when Sam Tyson offered to play.  The next thing I knew, I was experiencing a truly action packed scenario, well designed and well “interpreted” by Sam. This was February 1942 in Burma.  Patrols from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry discovered IJA roadblocks around Danyingon.  So elements from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the 1/7th Gurkha Rifles set out to evict the IJA from the area.

There were 2 roadblocks in predestinated positions on the map.  The British goes from the bottom of the map to the top.  They get an instant win when they clear both roadblocks or if there are no good order IJA troops around either roadblock after five and a half turns.  The British got a mix of armoured cars and (scary) Gurkha ladened carriers.  The IJA got to hide (always good) plus a Mountain Gun. 001 AP90 BT1 Start-proc

British Turn 1 : You can see where the IJA gun was hidden and where it was bore-sighted.  There was an MMG on the hill to the top left bore-sighted to a path through the jungle.  There was an IJA half squad hidden in the brush hoping that the British would pass him by and another IJA half squad near the first roadblock in the middle of the map.  There’s a scenario special rule that requires all hidden IJA to reveal themselves via Banzai attacks in Turn 4.  I figured that might be where the British would be by then.  The British were very aggressive in their first move given the short time frame.  My foxhole on the hill on the bottom of the map was immediately overran.  Nothing but a human speed bump!  The carrier hooked around the foxhole and made sure there was no escape for the IJA half squad therein. 003 AP90 BT2 AFPh Start-proc

British Turn 2 : The British methodically beat down the brush and found our first hidden IJA half squad.  A British armoured car headed straight for the defending IJA at the roadblock.  IJA’s LMG scored a hit and a lucky kill.  The IJA started backing off. 004 AP90 BT2 RtPh Vol Break-proc

British Turn 2 Rout Phase : The IJA started melting away before the British could engage them in close combat.  The IJA looked to delay and to collapse into the last roadblock gradually.  They formed a line right before the tree line where the hidden IJA half squad was. 005 AP90 JT3 DFPh Cleared Roadblock-proc

IJA Turn 3 : The end of the turn saw the IJA melting away again, collapsing towards the last roadblock.  Before the MMG team on the hill on the middle of the map did, they vaporized a British half squad coming down the jungle path.  The Brits then decided to use a carrier to create a trail break in the jungle nearby.

006 AP90 JT3 CCPh Jumped the Brits-proc IJA Turn 3 : The IJA MMG team from the middle of the map repositioned to around the last roadblock, MG trained onto the road.  A big stack of British troops successfully removed the first road block.  A British 9-1 and a Gurkha squad walked into the hidden IJA half squad in the last turn.  The half squad should have popped up in the earlier British Turn when this happened.  Hand to hand fighting nonetheless ensured immediately and they were all killed. 007 AP90 BT4 Gun appears carrier immo-proc

British Turn 4 : The Brits were out to chase down the routing IJA squads.  The first carrier sped down the road and the IJA gun roared from behind the second roadblock.  The carrier was hit and immobilized.  Meanwhile the hidden stack on the bottom of the map tried to get the British armoured car’s attention by slowly creeping towards the British backfield. 008 AP90 BT4 MG hit but bounced Int Gun kill carrier-proc

British Turn 4 still : The action heated up as the second carrier comes running down the path.  The MMG managed to score a hit but the bullets bounced off.  This carrier managed to hook around and cut off the IJA brokies’ rout path.  The third carrier went straight for the roadblock!  The gun crew intensive fired  and killed that one too.  The rest of the British troops moved in quickly.  This was Turn 4, the British had 2 more Movement Phases to go.

009 AP90 JT4 WP and formed a line-proc IJA  Turn 4 : The IJA mortar crew laid a white phosphorous (WP) round on the carrier but the Gurkhas were too tough for it.  The WP round did allow the IJA troops to slip by and escaped back to around the second roadblock.  The IJA gun killed the immobilised carrier, taking more of an interest in its Gurkha crew.   However, I should have left the gun pointing towards the right for the next British round. The British were consistently great at cutting rout paths and taking prisoners.  The IJA realised they need to stop the British from getting behind them if they were to survive – hence the line. 010 AP90 BT5 IJA Vol Break-proc

British Turn 5 : While their comrades held the line, the IJA on the left melted away so they could counter attack against the British troops at the roadblock.  The armoured car on the bottom of the map finally verified that we had a moving stack of dummies.  It was a miracle that the IJA kept this armoured car out of the battle for so long! 011 AP90 BT5 CC 2 Melees Big stack on Roadblock-proc

British Turn 5 still : The British were unlucky in that all four close combats started with IJA ambushes.  However the IJAs were killed around the gun and 2 of the fights resulted in melees.  Only on the right did we see a solitary but concealed leader slaughtered a British half squad and slipped deeper into the jungle. 012 AP90 JT5 Counter Attack!!-proc

IJA Turn 5 : The routed IJA again rallied and attacked towards the roadblock.  The British were assembling around the roadblock at this stage.  If they manage to clear the roadblock, they get an instant win but if not, they would need to makes sure there were no good order IJA troops around the area marked with a big red hexagon. 013 AP90 JT5 -9 Roadblock Clear mod-proc IJA Turn 5 – Game End : The close combat phase was a good one for the IJA, they reclaimed two of the hexes around the last road block.  However, the British were able clear the roadblock by rolling less than 10.  (You need to roll 2 or less on a pair of dice, but the Brits had enough people to get a -7 modifier.)

Mr. Sam Tyson won!!

A44 Blocking Action at Lipki AAR

I love PTO.  However, jungles do not present decent tank country.  Too much time spent in the PTO as a newbie can result in lopsided development that is short on armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) experience.

This scenario took place near Borisov (Russia), mid-1941 – the opening stages of Barbarossa.  Elements of the 1st Moscow Motor Rifle Division was sent to block the spearhead that was Guderian’s 18th Panzer Divison.

001 Turn 2 German Rally-proc

North is on the right of the map.  The Germans deployed on the top map (west) and the Russians came in from the bottom (east).  The Russians win when they exit more than 15 victory points (VPs) off the top edge of the map between the road on the top middle to the road on the top right. The other way to win was to kill enough Germans.  The KV2 was worth 7 VPs, the T-34 was also worth 7 points and each squad was worth 2 points.  As you already know, the Russians had a KV2,  a T34 M40 and a couple of BT7s.  The Germans had a couple of PzIIIGs, a halftrack sporting a 37mm gun with a high rate of fire (I forgot about the ATR that it also carried) and a couple of halftracks with the usual machine guns.  They were backed by a 28mm antitank gun and further reinforced by a pair of PzIVEs in Turn 4.

The above was the German Turn 2.  You can see the two Panzers on the left lying in wait and hoping to get a first shot at the Russians.  The antitank gun was towed to a clump of woods near the exit for a last-ditch defence.  The half track with the 37mm gun was on the right and they could hear the speedy BT7s and a convoy of trucks rumbling towards them.

002 Turn 3 Russian Move HT37L blew up BT-7 rof-proc

 

This was the Russian Turn 3.  The T34 came up the left and the PzIIIG fired, looking to scoot behind the woods quickly afterwards.

I rolled a 1,1 .. and  a 1.  Critical Hit!!

The T34 exploded into a burning wreck, and the German tankers sat stunned as bits of Russian tank rained down.  On the right, the 37mm gun pumped shot after shot into one of the BT7 and killed it.

001 Turn 3 German Idiot Move ATR-proc

This was the German Turn 3.  I am very inexperienced in tank warfare so you won’t see an end to idiotic moves in the near term.  This was one of them. I backed a PzIIIG up over the bridge on the left in the hope of being able to get away faster when the Russian tanks appear.  Not only did I presented my rear facing to the Russians, I forgot to button up.  The tank was immediately stunned by infantry fire and then killed by a Russian antitank rifle (ATR).  Things worked out better on the right as my 37mm gun shocked the other BT7.

005 Turn 4 German DPh Capers abound-proc

This was the German Turn 4.  To the left you can see another one of my moments.  The Germans were hoping to crash a halftrack through the woods on the left, get back on the road and circle around the back of the Russian trucks on the right.  However, they realised that trail breaking took a little time and by the time the half track emerged from the woods, it was looking down the barrel of a KV2!  So instead of breaking to the right of the map, they sped towards the left to escape.  The KV2 fired but the halftrack speed and its size saved it.  The surviving BT7 recovered from its shock and killed the gun-toting halftrack.  Unfortunately the reinforcing PzIVEs arrived and got it bracketed from two directions.

008 Turn 5 Russian DFPh Truck immo-proc

This was Russian turn 5.  Our escaping halftrack on the left had a Russian ATR squad on its tail.  The KV2 on the other hand laughed and used the trail-break created by the charitable halftrack to get to the “inside line” of the Germans.  The BT7 blew out its gun in a shootout with the PzIVe on its left (which also malf’d its gun) and was killed by the PzIVe on its right.  The right PzIVe proceeded to shoot up the Russian trucks one by one.

009 Turn 5 German MPh Berserk Charge Killed by Sniper-proc

During German turn 5, one of the German half squad had a berserk moment.  They got tired of the shooting and concluded that the proper thing to do was to charge the Russian medium machine gun.  So off they went.  They ran through Defensive First Fire, then Subsequent First Fire … jumping into the MMG nest, they survived Final Protective Fire!!  “.. and THIS is how it’s done!!” they yelled.  Meanwhile, Katya, the peasant girl sniper rolled her eyes, spat and muttered “Men” before shooting up the marauding German half squad and ended the lunacy.

011 Turn 6 Russian DF KV2 moved up German shot up trucks-proc

This was Russian Turn 6.  During the last German turn, the only Panzer with a functioning gun sped into its final position while its colleague proceeded to kill all the Russian trucks with its MGs on the right of the map.  However,  the KV2 killed the halftrack that tried to escape from in front of the wooden house.  The escaping halftrack to the left survived another shot from the Russian ATR and ran.  The KV2 crew watch incredulously as the crazy halftrack ran across its covered arc.  Then it realised that KV2 can’t intensive fire.  The halftrack disappeared behind some woods.  In this turn, the KV2 followed.  I can only imagine the commotion on the halftrack as the KV2 reappeared on its “rear view mirrors”.

012 Turn 7 Russian AFPh KV2 Malf-proc

This was Russian Turn 7.  The mighty KV2 lumbered towards the goal line.  The PzIVE and the antitank gun bounced shot after shot off its front armour.  The KV2 went to a “fork” position, threatening the German truck with its rear MGs while shooting back at the antitank gun with high explosives from its terrifying “bunker busting” 152mm gun.   The antitank gun crew worked as fast as they could, dreading the massive fireball that the next moment must bring.

Then for a moment, there was silence – the 152mm gun malfunctioned.

HS8 Bailey’s Demise AAR – fighting the Marines in the jungle

JT1a-proc

Learning jungle terrain in ASL153 Totsugeki is one thing.  Learning about Marine Raiders in the dense jungles of Guadalcanal is another matter entirely.

This is HS8 Bailey’s Demise, from MMP’s Operational Watchtower Historical Study.  The date is September 26 1943.  This scenario as with the whole History Study, is centered around Guadalcanal.  The river depicted on the map represents the Matanikau river.  The Marine Raiders were looking to cross the river to the west bank to complete an encirclement.  Unbeknownst to the Marines, the IJA had crossed the river and was on the east bank when the engagement occurred.

The Marine Raiders came in from the top left into a wholly hidden (HIP) deployment of IJA troops.  The Marine Raiders, like the IJA 1st-liners, were also stealthy.   They were to cross at least 6 CVP (3 squads or other combinations) to the west bank of the river in 7.5 turns.

All interior jungle hexes are dense jungle.  All jungle hexes next to non jungle hexes are light jungles.  The difference being while light jungle are similar to woods, dense jungle has a terrain effect modifier (TEM) of 2, does not permit fire groups and allows a stacking limit of only two.  This map’s marked with “crags” (4 point stone formations) merely to remind ourselves that the marked hexes were dense jungles.

The map above was my IJA setup, units unhidden for your perusal.  The mortar team down on the bottom left was largely ineffectual against American counter-battery fire.  I should have spread them out.

AT2b-proc

 

This was the Marine Turn 2.  The Marine made contact with the defenders and withstood IJA fire rather well.  Taking the risk to move in stacks (given the +2 cover of the dense jungle) their Advance Fire was devastating round after round for the IJA.  The IJA looked to block the Marines as much as possible, rout back (squads breaking “automatically” into half squads in the process) when in doubt and take advantage of their leader’s “Commissar-like” ability to rally them without (DM) penalty.

As I expected, the Marines avoided the bamboo patches on the right and came in from the top down.

Please keep in mind that IJA counters in faded yellow were hidden units that the Marine player couldn’t see.

JT2b - After MPh-proc

This is the IJA Turn 2.  Some of the frontline IJA routed back.  The IJA mortar team on the left was completely shot up.

AT3c After MPh-proc

American Turn 3.  The rallied IJA put up a fight in face of the advancing Raiders.

JT3c After MPh-proc

IJA Turn 3.  The IJA rallied and reconstructed a respectable line of defence.  In retrospect this approach didn’t work well.  The IJA, even concealed, could hardly withstand the withering Marine gunfire.  Perhaps a better strategy is to pair up the half squads.  One half squad would go aggressive, knocking off US concealment counters and drawing fire.  The other concealed half squad will close and either hope for an ambush in close combat.

JT3c HIP CC-proc

Talking about close combat, the Marines with their overwhelming firepower are deadly in normal CC (plus the IJA has no favorable modifiers).  Here you have a HIP squad that sprung out in the hopes of assassinating the Marine 8-0, they were promptly killed in CC.

I should have avoided normal CC with Marines to start with.  Hand to Hand (HtH) combat, when done with sufficiently lopsided odds (IJA half squad vs one or two Marines squads) offer a good trade for the IJA since the results of most are mutual annihilation!  Other than that, I should have ran!

AT4a Ambush by IJA-proc

Marine Turn 4 : here you can see how the Marines were already crowding the last passage way towards the river.  A Raider squad jumped a concealed IJA half squad and was ambushed and killed.  That was unfortunately the only time when close combat went happily for the IJA in this game!

JT4b Am Vol Rout-proc

IJA Turn 4 : The situation doesn’t look good for the IJA but they were still fighting hard.  Here you can see a Marine stack breaking voluntarily and routing away from possible IJA close combat.  Here’s a thought : had I not used the hidden IJA units in close combat, they could have sprung up now and kill the whole stack!

AT5a MG-proc

Marine Turn 5: the Marines started to cross the river!!  A repositioned IJA machine gun put the west end of the bridge squarely in its sights but it couldn’t stop the flow.

JT6a End-proc

IJA Turn 6: This was how it ended for the IJA, decimated and encircled.

The next time I play as the IJA against Marines, I will try :

  • Using my HIP units largely for cutting rout paths.
  • Pair up units (half squads), keep one concealed and use one for knocking off enemy concealment, with the hope of trading half squads for bigger stacks of Marines in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Rush IJA squads through openings created by successful hand-to-hand combat and go for encirclement
  • I thought of stacking IJA units to give them heavier fire power since I can’t create fire groups in dense jungles but I think that will just create bigger targets for blistering Marine firepower.
  • While retreating and blocking as the IJA might be a good idea at times, I should keep at least a 1 hex distance from the Marines.  That way the Marines would need to use advancing fire against my concealed units.
  • What happened to Banzai charges?

What’s your experience with fighting cardboard Marines in the jungles?  What are your thoughts?

 

My First Foray into PTO terrain : ASL153 Totsugeki! AAR

I played ASL153 Totsugeki! a while ago with Brian Y.  I played a few PTO (Pacific Theatre of Operations) scenarios before but this is my first foray into full-blown jungle terrain.

The usual Chinese vs Japanese (IJA) or Canadian vs Japanese scenarios occurred in China or Hong Kong, both of which are not in PTO terrain.  ASL153 Totsugeki! however, took place in northern Burma.  “Totsugeki” is Japanese for “Charge”.  Chinese gunners, working with the Americans, were cut off in the jungle with fields of fire still uncleared.  The IJA 55th Regiment pushed in and everyone in the 6th Field Artillery Battery found themselves fighting for their lives.

 

A60-JT1a-proc

IJA pushed in from the top of the map.  There are three Chinese guns in specified hexes.  The Victory Conditions for the IJA is to eliminate or to capture all three Chinese guns and to occupy their hexes with good order crew/half squads/squads (“MMC” in ASL parlance) in 6.5 turns.  The Chinese has 14 first liners vs the IJA’s 11 but they were understandably shaky (ELR 2).

This is Japanese turn 1.  The IJA wasted no time in rushing both flanks.  They showed that the IJA squad will almost always get to where it wants to go.  The jungle hindrance of course helped a great deal.

A60-CT1 AFPh-proc

End of Chinese Turn 1 : you can see the IJA was successful in turning both flanks.  The Chinese 2 squads stack with the leader posed an issue though since it occupied a key position in the center of the map.   Approaching IJA units invariably got shot up.

A60-JT2 MPh CANDYGRAM!-proc

Japanese Turn 2: The IJA decide to get the party going with a DC Hero (“CANDYGRAM!!!”, a phrase favoured by one of my ASL mentors, Witchbottles).  Unfortunately the Chinese weren’t ready to go wild yet and promptly shot the messenger.

A60-JT2 CC Ambush Kill-proc

Japanese Turn 2 still : IJA forces slid down the left flanks, ambushed and killed the Chinese medium machine gun (MMG) team.  This flank looked shaky but the Chinese held firm in the middle.  That double squad Chinese stack in the middle were still chuckling over their DC hero kill.

A60-JT3 Banzai-proc

 

Japanese Turn 3 : The IJA was getting frustrated about not being to make much inroads in the centre and on the right flanks.  On top of it, trotting through the jungle was a very slow going affair.  So they decided to do a banzai attack!

 

A60-JT3 End-proc

This is my first banzai attack in jungle terrain and I started to appreciate how well banzai attacks go together with jungles.  It is got to be terrifying to have IJA troopers crashing out of the trees and falling into the ranks with bayonets and swords waving!  This charge allowed the IJA forces in the centre to link up with the right flank.

A60-JT5 End DFPh - both Chinese guns malf-proc

Japanese Turn 5 : The IJA spent turn 4 bringing the troops together for the final assault on the guns.  The IJA mass assault moved through the jungle.  The two guns on the flanks fired pointblank at the incoming IJA and they both malfunctioned!

A60-JT6 MPh Banzai Charge-proc

Japanese Turn 6: The IJA came into contact with the Chinese troops around the gun and one last banzai ensured!

A60-JT6 AFPh .. DC Hero shot-proc

Sensing that the game was almost over, a DC hero decided to gave it another go.  He too was shot before he could deliver the payload.  On the other hand the last banzai piled a few IJAs into the last gun hex.

A60-JT6 End-proc

The IJA captured the last Chinese gun and surrounded the defenders.

Totsugeki is a great introduction for me to the PTO terrain.  Going toward I’d very much like to explore the best ways for DC Heros  to play together with Banzai’ers.

I’d also like to commend Brian Y as a terrific ASL player.  Thanks for a great game Brian!

Please see also my friend Joss Attridge’s experience with Totsugeki : “Totsugeki (ASL 153)”

Banzai