Maczek Fire Brigade AAR
Chris Buhl (author) as Polish
Glen Taylor (victor) as German
This was my first game of full on ASL using the second edition rules. I'd tried to get into the game in the mid 90's, to now avail. This game cemented my return!
[NOTE: I can't figure out how to get the images to embed in this post, so I can only posts links to them on photobucket. If anyone can tell me how to do that I'll be happy to edit this to include images.]
I decided that my best option as the Poles was to set up a fairly strong defense mid map, and lay a couple of traps along the flanks. I didn't think those units would survive. What I hoped for was simply slowing Glen down, forcing him to spread his forces out a little bit. I also planned to bring in my feeble armor reserves later than I was allowed to, wanting to decide where to best bring them to bear. The bulk of my defense involved forming what I hoped would be a strong fire group-able (if that makes sense) position in the woods ringing the central building areas. If Glen was going to get enough buildings to win, he'd have to head there in force. Again, I didn't think I'd deny those buildings, I hoped to simply grind him down and slow him down. My plan was to hold at least the buildings in Z7, X6, Z6, CC3 and DD6. Keeping all of those buildings would give me the victory. Losing any one of them would likely be a loss, as I was basically conceding any of the buildings farther south.
Glen approached in force up the middle, as expected.
The traps I'd laid on the flanks turned out to be fairly good ideas, but I didn't implement them effectively. I didn't fully grasp how concealment worked and how to use it. I ended up having no real impact with my troops on the Northwest Ridge. In the Northeast, I did draw a fair number of German troops into the building in P9. I didn't last quite as long there as I'd hoped, but that worked out. My measly ATR managed to bag an armored car early, which was nice. I brought my armor in on turn 3, some in the middle to bolster that area and keep the German armor from turning my flank, some on the ridge hoping to bring flanking fire down on the German armor. I didn't do a good job of figuring out sightlines for that, and Glen was pretty masterful in maneuvering his units to keep them screened from my long range fire. At least I figured I'd hold the hill with those tanks, which weren't very effective.
Glen advanced pretty methodically and effectively toward me, keeping his troops in positions to provide mutual fire support. I should learn how to do some of that myself sometime. Still, I believed that my plan was working out pretty well in mid game. It was going to be close, but I was relieved that I wouldn't likely face the “smashing victory” penalty. And I was having a blast.
I should note here that it was a massive stroke of luck to get paired with Glen for this game. He is an experienced ASL player, and also a very, very patient teacher / opponent. In fact, I think if he'd not been focused on trying to help me learn the game as we played, he'd have won by a bigger margin.
German Advance Progresses:
Now the fighting got pretty fierce. I had two Vickers Edw(b) tanks that have twin machine gun turrets. It was a bit of a chore for Glen to patiently explain and re-explain how their covered arcs work, but they were pretty cool tanks (I love the obscure WWII afvs). And they were also quite effective on the defense. Their weakness was malfunctioning a bit more often than I'd hoped, but they did their jobs and did them well.
In the northeast we had a swirling series of fire fights involving my tanks and a bit of infantry along the woods' eastern edges. Glen moved up and I pushed him back, but he moved up again. He was relentless in advancing his armor and infantry in such a way as to always have enough fire elements to fire and movement elements to move. Did I already mention I should learn how to do that sometime?
I was pleased to smoke a couple of his AFVs, and pin a couple of his squads. By turn 4 I thought I was going to hold. By turn 5 I thought I might hold. It was very much in the balance at that point.
In the balance:
(Note that the CX unit in the north is a lone Polish squad that had routed, rallied, then ran like hell to hold that roadway against the Germans).
This game came down to the wire, and I mean to the wire! Glen had eleven buildings on his final turn. He beat me up pretty good in the woods around the central building complex (as I called it). I thought that was OK, though, he still had to get through me to get a couple of other buildings. I thought Z7 was safe. He had no infantry that could reach DD6. He sent infantry after me on the Northwest hill, but some good rolls for my armor there as he climbed the hill held that attack off. This was coming down to building CC3. I got some troops through the woods to fire on the building, and got a squad into it. Glen again showed his ASL chops by getting a lone German 4-6-8 around my Northwest Flank and heading for the building. He broke me with fire and routed me out, and took the building on his last turn! I still had squads ready to lay fire down on him though, with a chance of breaking him as he entered the building. Glen was holding on to one final trick though, and it was a beauty. He got two AFVs into bypass movement in the hexes my last hope squads occupied. Per rule, I was then not allowed to fire at a unit out of those hexes. His lone squad secured the last defensible terrain that could have kept the Germans from pouring up the road to the northeast, and he was victorious.
Glen told me that the bypass rule was referred to by many as a “sleaze rule,” and I've since heard it described as such in other places (The Two Half Squads, for instance). I have to say, it seems right to me. I'm pretty sure that if 12 infantry men with rifles and grenades were looking to fire on an enemy infantry squad 50 meters away, when suddenly a tank showed up inside of 10 meters, that would draw their attention pretty effectively.
I loved this game. I loved the funny Vickers' tanks, I loved the decision making, I loved having a plan and thinking at the end that it was pretty sound, I loved that it was as close a thing as I can imagine, and I really liked playing with Glen. If I had to play this again as the Poles, I think I'd do substantially the same thing. I would deploy my units differently, but with the same goal in mind. Glen really gave a clinic on how to conduct a well ordered advance, how to remain patient, and how to know exactly what your units could and could not do effectively.
Thanks to Ken and MMP for putting this together. Ken has also been patient with me as I didn't understand exactly what I was getting into at the beginning. I'm not in round 2 of the tournament, but I'm anxiously waiting the announcement about Round 3. Now here's hoping the links to the photos work correctly!