Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WWII Rules, playtest, Scenario 21 Redux, P.1

 The Inglese are advancing upon the town in force Signore - the situation is critical!

Blimey, they've brewed our tea for sure, now!

So, with much in the combat table changed and more addition / subtraction modifiers in place, along with a net "halving" of Hits for units that are Dug-in or in Towns, and many little fine-tunings for measuring Range, etc, I set out with some excitement to see how this played out on table. My goal is still a set of fast-playing rules that deliver enough tactical decisions and historical feel for an enjoyable game, without bogging the players down in decisions that they can't / shouldn't make at the company / battalion command level - which round to shoot at a tank, does Pvt. Snuffy have a hole in his shoe, etc.

I returned to Scenario #21 in Neil Thomas' "One-Hour Wargames" because it is already set up and also because this is meant to be more of a test of the rules rather than a test of how well I play either side, or the forces involved.  That being said, after seven or more plays or partial plays of the scenario, I decided to rate both British Infantry Units Crack and the Italian Mortars as Crack and use an Advanced rule [unpublished] called "Field Gun" that allows light artillery to fire direct or indirect, and at -1 instead of -2 v. Armor [note this is still very different from an ATG which fires at +2 v. Tanks - my justification is both the gun platform itself, rate of fire, and availability of enough AT rounds to make a difference]. 

At the end of the AAR, I'll post the new rules in all their glory!

I found the Italian tanks too weak on the defense here, without a hill behind which they could be hull down.  They died in the first two turns no matter where I put them and even if the ATGs were closer to the British armor. Ergo, I substituted the dual-purpose Italian field gun, the 75/18 which was a very common gun. The ATGs are of course the 47mm elefante portable mountain gun so common in Italian service.

Per last post, the Red defender sets up one Unit on the wooded hill and three within 6" of the North edge of the board.  The Blue attacker sets up in the bottom right two squares, 1' square each, for a 2x1' setup area.  Blue has six Units to four Red Units and must take both the wooded hill at bottom left and town at top center.  Terrain is the road leading to the town, the north edge of which is a marsh [impassible]. 

With much experience for both sides at this point, I set up the Italians with an Infantry on each objective, within it so as not to be in LoS until a Unit was within 4" with two bases to two bases. The ATGs and Mortars are to the West of the town - it has been a tough decision as to put one Unit to the East or not. Putting them both to the West leaves a bit of a dead zone for the ATGs East of the Town altho the Mortars may still fire into that.
The Fire Arc is 180 off the forward, unique base of the three. You can see that the staff base is angled so that the Front arc covers nearly the entire town and all the dead zone past it. By contrast, the ATGs are nestled against the town. An alternative would be to put the one of them in the Northeast corner, but I like the mutual support the gun line presently has.
For the British, I set up two Infantry Units to attack the wooded hill immediately - vehicles are not permitted into it per scenario rules. The CS Crusaders are in the Southeast corner to provide Mortar fire, while the three Crud platoons are in a reverse wedge 2-up/1-back formation at the deployment edge. The plan is to crush the Italians in the woods and send the infantry against the town, while the Tank units damage or destroy the Infantry and ATGs protecting the town. The Mortars will support either as needed. 

Turn 1 below. The British armor advances! Shouting "Tally-ho" and swiwing riding crops and cricket bats, the armored might of the Empire advances against the foe. After some debate, I decided to use the "Ready" status of both gun Units to fire against the Brits in their turn, as well in the Italian turn. Lousy rolling resulted in two Hits on the closest platoon. At two Hits Units are -1 to Hit rolls, at 4 Hits -2, so the Tank platoon is partially suppressed. The Mortars couldn't see the lurking Italians, who responded to the British advance by pushing forward the Infantry in the town. This makes them visible, but also able to support the ATGs.
Turn 1 on the hill. Crack British infantry advance into Close Range. Italians botch fire rolls. The top Unit is out of LoS, while the bottom is both in and at Close Range. The attack ratio isn't that great to take a fixed position: 3-1 with occasional artillery support is barely enough.

Turn 2 below. British dash a crud Unit into a flanking position - note that the Italian Infantry in the town are going to be flanked one way or the other as long as they are up with fire support for the ATGs. Tough decision, but I've found it to be worth it generally. They inflict three Hits upon the Marching Cruds. Other Cruds move into firing positions on the town, but stay out of 12" from the ATGs who still pose a threat with their +2 v. Tanks at every Range. They rolled well and put several Hits on the bottom Cruds forcing them to Rally [the black spoked wheel marker indicates a rally and the roll]. Positioning has gone well so far.
Turn 2 on the Hill. Ineffective fire exchanged, but top Infantry gets two Hits. Should the Brits Dig-in instead of Firing? Probably for the best over the long haul.

Turn 3 below. Cruds pressure the town, getting pressured back and flanking Cruds forced to Rally. Note I forgot to pick up the dust marker from the Italian movement! Unpaved town?
Turn 3 at the Hill. Firepower pressuring everyone, North infantry Dig-in. South Infantry do not and have the Hits to prove it! With 4 Hits they cannot now rally below 2 Hits, so red die.

Turn 4 below. Plenty of shooting, some red dice indicate damage but nothing decisive yet. Italians in town pushed to 4 Hits and rally 2 off.
Turn 4 at hill. Brits dig in but Fire from North Unit forces Italians to 4 Hits and a Rally attempt - bad roll results in only 1 Hit being removed. Could this be the end?

Turn 5 below. Italians pushed hard, ATGs suppressed with town Infantry, but flanking Cruds are destroyed by excellent rolls from Infantry and supporting Mortars [I think they both rolled a '6' or so]. They inflict 5 Hits taking the Cruds to 7 and destroyed. Attack in trouble!
Turn 5 on hill. Fighting lulls as Rallying is done. Italians survive, which is a win for them. British frustrated but the Mortars were used against the ATGs this turn to help the Tanks.

Turn 6 below. Cruds move into Flanking position again, supported by fire from other surviving Cruds. Italian infantry forced to Rally, roll great and go from 5 Hits to 2! ATGs roll a '5' and get rid of all 3 Hits! This is the penalty for failing to bring consistent overwhelming firepower to bear on the defenders, and it cost the Brits a Crud Unit as well as a delay.
 Turn 6 at hill. British Fire forces Italian Rally, but their Mortars inflict a Hit.

Turn 7 below. British Fire and poor Rally leave the town Infantry at 4 Hits. Critical moment! Supporting Cruds unfortunately also at 4 Hits. Quite a pickle since one Crud platoon cannot handle the two gun Units - and they must be destroyed to allow the British Infantry to cross the open space from the Hill to the Town. Poor rolling leaves hill situation identical to above!

Turn 8 below. Tally-ho! Italian Infantry on the go! British switch to captured Panzer Lehr dice and roll well enough to see off the Italians in the town.
Italians respond by dropping Mortar fire on the Cruds, rolling a '6' and inflicting 3 Hits. They also shift the ATGs into the town [I hadn't thought of that before...]. As the Tank Units can't end their move in the town without a road, they will have to use firepower and position to stop this. But the Italians roll a '3' for 4" move -2" b/c of Dug-in, and don't move far.
Turn 8 at the hill. Indecisive. A concentrated effort is required, but the demands of the Cruds attacking the town distract the Mortars and some Rallying weakens the Firepower.

So far, very pleased with how things are playing out. I've surprised myself a couple of times during the game with inspiration for one side or the other, but the quality of leadership is pretty consistent for both and not a factor for the playtest. All the play so far has both good 'feel' and historical precedent, so I've no complaints. A couple of typos and little corrections to the rules, but nothing major.

Had plenty of clear decisions that had to be made, and sometimes I chose well and others not as well, but at all times the choice was clear and the dice have favored both sides at one time or other. My opinion is that a balanced scenario played well by both sides will usually come down to a victory for the player whose good play gives them that little edge with some good luck and a narrow win. Anything else _should_ be a draw, right?

What will happen in the next 7 turns?  Tune in and find out!

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