Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last Chance for Victory (MMP) - "7.9 The Best Three Hours..."

Game: Last Chance for Victory (LCV)
Publisher: Multiman Publishing (MMP)
Series: Line of Battle (LoB) 2.0
Scenario: 7.9 The Best three hours of Fighting Anywhere
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: 2/20 ~ 7.00PM - 9.30PM
           2/23 ~ 1.00PM - 4.00PM

The second edition in the Line of Battle series is out and has been getting a lot of attention in St Louis since its release. Last Chance for Victory is Series designer Dean Essig's addition to the Gettysburg collection of simulations. This release also introduces the version 2.0 LOB rules. The package is impressive. The game comes with six maps, four of them when placed together represent the entire area around Gettysburg. The other two maps represent the major area's of the first and second day of the battle. These maps are for use with many of the small and medium sized scenario's included with the game. There are a total of 22 scenario. This is a blessing to those of us who are likely never to have the opportunity to play then entire campaign, but are more then willing to play (and replay) the many interesting smaller scenarios over and over again. The map itself is an impressive recreation of the terrain in and around Gettysburg in 1863. The counters are in the same format as the previous edition in the LoB series (None But Heroes).

While all of the physical components are first rate, its the words in the rules, scenarios and designer/historical notes that I am most impressed with. The v2.0 rules make several improvements to the already impressive v1.0 edition. These include a streamlined Orders process, Hexside terrain, new Artillery staking rules (Artillery cannot stack with other types of combat units), LOS Chart and many others. The areas in the rules that have changed are clearly identified and in many cases there is a text box with notes concerning the logic behind the changes. For me though the Historical and Design notes are worth the price of the game alone. They contain fascinating insight into the designers thought process, reasoning and historical research. There are nearly 20 pages of this and its easily some of the most interesting reading I have done by a game designer sharing his thoughts on a wide range of topics and how he translated his passion for this period into a clean and effective yet highly playable simulation.

I could go on for hours...but lets get to the game. First a little about what we have been doing with the game here in STL since its release. My two primary face to face partners are both passionate ACW regimental scale fans. They have played most of all of these systems over the years, while this is my first and only time playing an ACW regimental scale game. It was their passion for the initial LOB game that got me interested and I am very grateful to them for introducing me to this series. So when the game was released we immediately started playing. There is a very nice little training scenario with its own 8x11 map (the map is only about 50% of the page, the rest covers the units and details for the scenario. After playing that one a couple times we moved on to play some of the smaller scenario's (2nd battle of McPherson's Ridge, Flying Dutchmen). These are great scenario's as they are light on the orders and command areas in the rules and allow the player to focus on playing the scenario using the pre defined orders that the actual sides had in the real thing.

The Best Three Hours of Fighting Anywhere (7.9) covers Longstreet's Assault on the exposed III Corps of the Army of the Potomac (2nd day of the battle). The scenario starts at 3.45PM and goes until 8.00PM (turns are 15 minutes each). The scenario uses the 2nd day map (again I can't express how nice it is to have these two maps included in the game). While the scenario starts out with about three divisions of CSA units (Longstreet's two divisions and most of Anderson's) and all the III and II Corps of the AoP, not all of those units are active at the start of the scenario, the 'In Echelon' orders that the CSA player is under means that you start out with only one of the divisions active (Hood's), with the others coming online throughout the scenario. Bob will be playing the CSA side while I will play the US forces.

Initial set Up, Orders and Objectives

Initial Set Up
Bob's Orders start with Hood's Division opening the assault on the Union left. His units are to attack into the Rose's Woods, The Wheat Field the then up the Emmitsburg Road towards Cemetery Ridge. Hood is to lead off the attack at once (start of scenario) and then wheel left to maintain contact with McLaw's Division. McLaw's is to attack with Kershaw and Semmes at 4.45PM (4 turns into the scenario), Barksdale and Wofford's brigades are to join the assault at 6.00PM. McLaw's Division is to wheel left so as to attack up the Emmitsburg Road towards Cemetery Ridge. Anderson is to directly assault Cemetery Ridge beginning at 6.30PM.

The victory conditions consist of the CSA player accomplishing three goals. First the Alexander Artillery Battalion is to move its HQ to S9.28 (the Peach Orchard) and unlimber its guns so that they can apply direct fire to Cemetery Ridge. Second, the CSA player needs to clear out the Wheat Field of Union combat units. Finally at least 10SP of CSA Infantry must be within 3 hexes of N58.40 (Cemetery Ridge).

The Union player starts with Sickles' III Corps deployed awkwardly along the Emmitsburg Road, then curving back to the Wheat Field with the left flank resting on Devil's Den (in front of Little Round Top). Hancock's II Corps has two Divisions posted on Cemetery Ridge, these units are not able to be given orders until 5.00PM. The Union player also has units of V Corps arriving as the scenario starts behind the Union lines. These arriving brigades have movement orders (two brigades actually have attack orders) that have them moving in behind the lines of III Corps. The exception is Vincent's brigade, which moves to a spot and then allows Vincent to write his own orders assuming he can make a Command role (easy as Vincent is a 4 Leader). This allows the historical performance to develop in the defense of Little Round Top. The Union player also has the AoP Artillery Reserve deployed behind the lines that is free to (via Posting and Initiative Orders) move itself forward into the fray (which happened historically).

As you can see, this is not a simple attacker/defender scenario. The CSA player is attacking yes, but the Union player is actively trying to plug holes and deploy his forces once they arrive. Bob and I are excited as this scenario will be our first real work out with writing orders and using the new command rules in v2.0. We've already reset the scenario once as we (that is "I' totally blew that) totally blew the use of the AoP Artillery Reserve (which is important).

Hood Moves out (3.45PM to 4.15PM)
Start of the 4.00PM Turn

As we are now actually doing these opening turns for the second time in a few days, we quickly move through them. Confederate Artillery starts things off by opening up all along the line at exposed Union units (range 5-10). These are mostly noise making shots, however when its my turn I pull back several of the exposed units to be out of LOS so as to not expose them to prolonged shelling. I lose a gun or two and a couple regiments involuntarily reposition themselves to the rear...and then it quiets down as Hood's leading brigades enter Rose's Woods and approach Devil's Den.

Law's Alabama Brigade at Devil's Den 4.15PM

Ward's Brigade standing firm on Houck's Ridge and Devil's Den (4.30PM)

Bob decides to have Law's Brigade attack the Southern portion of Devil's Den with Robertson's Texas Brigade supporting them. G. T. Anderson's Brigade is on the left of Robertson moving towards the Wheat field. Law's initial attacks against the 4th Maine and Smith's Battery go very poorly. Several failed moral checks or failed closing rolls shockingly stop these attacks cold. I move the 99th PA over to cover the left of the 4th MA while the rest of Ward's (2/1/3) brigade start the engage Benning's GA Brigade. Bob is electing to shot instead of charging in several cases and I think he's being to protective of his units as he's not making much progress at all. My dice are of course also the reason Ward's Brigade is making such a fine stand.

Start of 4.30PM Turn

Meanwhile I am using Initiative Orders to deploy two Artillery Brigades (Ransom's 1 Reg Arty and Robertson's 1 Horse Arty) forward to set up behind Devil's Den and the Wheat field. Vincent arrives and I write movement orders for him to move to Little Round Top and defend it (I couldn't help myself here...even though at the time of the decision Ward is still holding onto Devil's Den and Bob is not faring much better in the Wheat Field. Our interpretation of Vincent's special rules means that I can again use an Initiative attempt of his to write new orders, which I can either make an Attack or a Movement order.

G.T. Anderson's Brigade bumps into de Trobriand's (3/1/3) Brigade on the Western side of the Wheat Field. Again here Bob has limited success as the Union regiments here make some impressive morale checks to stand against those big Georgia Regiments of Anderson's.

G.T. Anderson's Brigade has some success West of the Wheat Field (4.30PM)

McLaw's Joins (4.45PM to 5.00PM)

Start of 4.45PM Turn

The fighting on Devil's Den and on the outskirts of the Wheat Field rage on with the Union trading SP for time. Bob's losses are mounting but nearly all of the combats for these couple turns are in the Unions favor and as 4.30 approaches I am amazed the most of my initial III Corps line is still holding. Meanwhile I have roughly three Brigades now in the area, two of which actually have attack orders (Sweitzer [2/1/5] and Tilton [1/1/5]) pointing them at the Wheat Field. Vincent is deployed on Little Round Top along with two batteries.

Ward starts to give way (4.45PM)

The Wheat Field (4.45PM)

4.45PM is the turn that the tide starts to turn at the Triangle and Houck's Ridge (Devil's Den). The 4th MA (B, R6) is pushed out of the Devil's Den hex after holding it much longer then I though they would. Smiths Battery is down to three guns (A, R6) and amazingly still sitting atop Houck's Ridge. Ward and the 124th NY are still holding the Triangle while the 86th NY falls back. The last Regiment in Ward's line, the 20th IN (B, R8) is trading SP's with the 1st TX (A, R9).

V Corps Arrives in the Wheat Field (Union turn 4.45PM)

In the Wheat Field, Anderson is finally pushing the Michigan Regiments back with the 59th GA (B, R11) having the most success driving straight into the edge of the Peach Orchard. On my turn Sweitzer and Tilton both roll into the Wheat Field and bump into the 1st and 5th TX Regiments from Robertson. V Corps is on the scene! McLaw's leads off with Kershaw approaching the Peach Orchard with Semmes right behind him.

Start of 5.00PM turn (CSA side of the map)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "The Devil's free to have a try" [FB2]

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: FB2 - "The Devil's free to have a Try"
Publication: Festung Budapest, Historical Module 8
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time:  Fri, 12/21 ~ 7.00PM - 10.00PM
          Sat, 12/22 ~ 2PM - 7.00PM

The second scenario in Festung Budapest is much like the first. The Russians are still trying to gain a foothold on the map, they are back making another attempt after the one depicted in the first scenario failed.  Even though the map is the same and we see the same core forces involved in this one its very different in character then the first scenario. This one is longer, the Victory Conditions are multiple choice and there are a few new units on each side. The Germans make an appearance as well. As I attacked in our first foray into FB, this time I will defend. 

As I mentioned, the VC's are very different in this scenario. Gone is the requirement to clear the EmRR line, instead we have six options for the attacking Russian player to make use of. The first two are controlling important buildings (C30 and E29) fairly close to the entry area. The third option is to control three hexes (F32, F35 & I32) which contain burnt out wrecks and 1S Foxholes. These are the wrecks from the first scenario, the first two are either on or near the EmRR with the third back near the tennis courts (I love that after 20+ years of playing ASL, I am finally able to play on a map that has Tennis courts!!!). The fourth condition involves controlling 10 of 16 building hexes in an area of the map, essentially the buildings behind the EmRR bordering the park. The fifth condition requires the Russian player to eliminate the Hungarian 75L AT Gun. Lastly the Russians can amass 22 CVP worth to fulfill the last Victory Condition. We are seeing this sort of VC in more and more scenario's being published these days and I have to say that I am a fan of it. By creating variable VC's the designer creates yet another level to work in both before the game and during it. It allows the attacker the flexibility to change course mid game and creates quite an interesting puzzle for the defending player to manage through set up and then throughout the scenario. 

Axis Set Up
When I finished setting up, I really liked what I had done. A turn into the game I felt like I really could have done better. More on this later. There are some very subtle set up restrictions in play here and both the attacker and defender are well advised to pay very close attention to what can set up and where. In our game this played a key role in how things played out. Let's start with the main Hungarian force, they can set up essentially like they could in the first scenario, that is on or North of hexrow M and on East of the A35-J39 hex grain. In short they can set up anywhere in the defending playing area. This force consist of 6 4-4-7, 4 3-4-7 squads, three 2-2-7 crews led by a 9-1, 8-1 and a 7-0. There are THREE MMG(g)'s in this force as well as an LMG, PSK and six concealment counters. The Hungarians have an 75L ATG (one of the VC objectives), 81 MTR and a 40L AA gun as well as a Roadblock, 4 Trenches 3 Wire and 18AP + 2 AT mine factors. There is a second group of Hungarians (Central Hungarist Combat group) of 2 5-2-6 squads and a 7-0 leader. These units can set up on/South of hex row J (further behind the front if you will). Lastly there is a German force of five squads (2 4-6-7, 3 4-4-7), two leaders (8-1, 8-0) ANOTHER MMG, LMG and PSK as well as four concealment counters. This force has to set up within three hexes of D29 (around the first two VC buildings [C30 & E29]). Importantly they cannot set up ADJACENT to any Hungarian unit/SW/Gun. 

After both players set up
Hindsight tells me that I set up to fight the last War (i.e. the first scenario) and not the one that was actually going to take place. Thus I placed my wire in the Orchard in front of the EmRR and most of my hidden mines in buildings (with dummies) along the West Edge of the map (G37 & I38) along with my 2 AT mines which were in H38. I set up the 5-2-6s behind this area as well as the 40L AA gun (on a hill with a nice view of the park). I placed MMG's in 2nd level building hexes ringing the park along with the 81 MTR (in a rooftop location). I concentrated most of the Hungarian Infantry around the train station in G31. Across the street from them I placed the Germans in and around the two VC locations. I also placed the two fortified building locations here as well. The last thing I did was place the 75L in D28 which is behind the German starting area and has great LOS covering the approaches to those two locations. I put the Trenches in this area as well to enable getting around in the buildings as the Trenches connect to adjacent building via FB SSR. By setting up like this I had placed many of my eggs (VC conditions) in one area of the map. I didn't really consider this while doing it, I just liked the way the set up felt and again was thinking that HeavyD's main effort would be across the EmRR and into the Park which of course makes no sense when you consider the VC's.

The Russians have a very nice force in this scenario. Again it is much like the one from FB1 but with some major enhancements. The force is based on 19 squads (3 6-2-8 Assault Engineers, 7 4-5-8, 8 4-4-7 and 2 2-4-8 HS). This force is led by an amazing 5 leaders (9-2, 2 8-1, 8-0 & 7-0) with 4 LMG, a FT and DC. The SUs are back (SU-76M x4) but there is now a  OT-34 (A T-34 w/ FT) to help out the SUs. The Russians also have a one mission SMOKE OBA mission led by an off board observer, something that was lacking in the first scenario and which proved decisive in this one. This force enters in the same corner as the Russians entered in FB1. 

A Very Conservative Opening

After seeing HeavyD's set up and the seeing the first half of the turn take place, I was amazed at how cautious he was being. It was him after all that was sitting in my seat a couple weeks ago defending this same ground as I made my entry with the Russians. What I learned in that game was that I was WAY TOO CAUTIOUS in the first couple of turns which cost me the game. HeavyD and I talked about this at the end of that game and I wrote about it in detail in my post on that game. At one point I even asked him if he read it as I thought he was going way to slow (he did read it). Now granted I have 4 MMGs and an 81 on a roof that can see nearly every hex he's moving on into but I am also suffering from Ammo Shortage level 3 this time around. This means that most of my SW will break on an 11 and X on a 12. They are also harder to repair. My squads degrade on an 11 or 12 as well. With all of the Russian leadership (how often do you get to say that when talking about Russian leadership in ASL scenarios?) the Russians need to press and offer up some -2 shots to get the Axis to start shooting. You have the leaders to rally your breaks and with every shot there is a chance that its that MMG's last. So, little happened in the first Russian turn, HeavyD kept all of his AFVs off the map and only advanced three hexes total. I took some shots, broke a couple squads and even broke an MMG (which I repaired int he next Rally Phase). My half of turn 1 went by fast with little happening. 

Axis turn 1
Turn 2 see's HeavyD set up his armor to enter. We see another amazingly slow paced advance, very cautious. He parks the SUs in front of the EmRR and they all start banging away at the 81 on the roof. The OT-34 drives in bypass towards the German positions, HeavyD does get a few squads across the street in the direction of the Germans again. Ominously, the SR lands right in front of my German positions and doesn't drift much at all. I think if HeavyD was able to simply place the SR on the map anywhere he wanted he would be within a hex or two of where it landed. Either during my Defensive fire or in my subsequent Prep phase, I break the mini-death star HeavyD has in hex C35 sending the 9-2 routing back along with several squads. In the Rally phase of turn three this 9-2 BH's and is reborn as a 10-2 who I will now call Lord Vader. 

Start of Axis turn 2

Into the Smoke

Turn 3 opens with the OBA coming down right on target, right in front of my German positions. HeavyD takes advantage of this and runs into it, the Surgeon General be damned. He also drives the OT-34 next to one of the VC buildings and leaves it in motion (having used all of its MPs to get there). I retain my concealment with the Germans as there's no sense in shooting into the smoke. I do however start to see the folly of my set up. I now see that with the smoke where it is and the light casualties that HeavyD has thus far taken that I do in fact have something to worry about. He is going to be able to advance into CC with many of my Germans at good odds. The fortified locations should delay this by only for a turn as he's got the majority of his force over here. My defensive fire does yield results though as I eliminate one SU and little stun another. HeavyD does get a hit on the 81 though and the crew breaks. I am down one MMG lost with another broken. The one the Germans had was hauled off by its squad when Lord Vader zapped them the turn before. Still HeavyD is being cautious with the rest of his forces. Additionally, HeavyD adjusts his OBA creating a little more smoke which helps him cover the street allowing him to get next to the Hungarians covering the station.  

Start of Russian turn 3

The Smoke comes in right on target

Turn 4 opens with a lot of Russians standing around in the smoke. HeavyD does move the SUs up onto the EmRR. Also its clear now that most of my fortifications and mines set up on my left are going to be wasted as HeavyD shifts more of his guys over towards the smoke. He only leaves a few squads in this area to go after the one wreck that is sitting on the EmRR hex. I have a couple of concealed squads in this area. I start to move some of my forces over to support his main thrust and they get shot up on some good dice as HeavyD now has LOS into the park. As the turn end's he goes into CC with two hexes and wins both of them (Vader's hex and the German trench line...what a great idea it was to dig these Trenches for the Russians to use in assaulting my damn buildings!). My half of turn 4 is a mess. My AA gun goes to low ammo, during the movement phase I get zapped again by Vader as I try and move some more Hungarians into the German buildings. The SMOKE is still there and I don't have many firing options. 

Russian turn 4

The Smoke Lifts

Start of Russian turn 5
Russian fire clears out the fortified buildings

The OT-34 is lit up via PF

At the top of turn 5 all of HeavyD's SMOKE will depart. I am still in the two front fortified buildings, but when the SMOKE lifts HeavyD will be standing next to me in the street with a mass of squads with nothing better to do the Prep into those two buildings. I am down to three MMGs, with only two of them on Level 2 hexes back from the front line. HeavyD is close to getting four of the VC's, although he is still unaware of how close to the ATG he is and at this point in the game I am starting to think that leaving it HIP will be the play. 

The Russian Prep fire opens with HeavyD eliminating or breaking the units in the two fortified locations, this was expected. What wasn't expected was the spectacular amount of carnage that Lord Vader and his Death Star stack was able to prosecute with only two LMG's. These LMG's maintained rate three times and wrecked three hexes worth of defenders in and around the train station. It was amazing. The dice Gods were in fair mode though that day as I was able to get HeavyD's OT-34 on an adgacent motion shot with my 9-1 leader, thus sealing my 75L ATG to staying hidden for as long at possible so as to deny HeavyD the chance to get it and fulfill a VC. My 81 Mortar X's out in the Defensive final phase as well. However some long range MMG fire does thin the heard standing about in the street as well and this helps because things we starting to slip off the edge on that side of the map. My half of turn 5 if mostly us shooting at each other with me doing a little skulking. On my left things start to look up when I take out a squad in CC but then one of the SUs gets an improbable hit on the hex next to one of the wrecks and this hurts because I am really pinned down on this side. 

Start of Russian turn 6
Turn 6 dawns and I am feeling pretty low. It feels like HeavyD has it down at this point. He has taken the two buildings in the German set up area (2 VC's), he is also close to getting the three hexes with the wrecks in them (for a third VC). He just needs one more. The Gun is still HIP and he hasn't mentioned it or really done an searching, so I feel like he's not really thinking about this. Getting the 10 of 16 building hexes in and around the park seems like a stretch at this late stage in the game so his last option is CVP, which he doesn't have that many of to date (4-5 squads eliminated in CC). Still, some good CC results and some determined searching to find the HIP gun and the gig is up. Not to mention the fact that he's been smashing my guys around for the last couple turns. I am amazed then during his turn when he is again very passive. He seems to be looking for hexes that he can get into CC with and there are not many of those that he can get to easily. I use his passiveness to move some guys up close the the wreck in next to the tennis courts. I am also able to get a HS down from a 2nd level location where its MMG had died and run him over next to one of the fortified locations that HeavyD was using as a rally hospital, then forces him to route out and I get back in the location (albeit temporarily as I am a CX 1-3-7 and there are still many angry Russian squads about). 

Ending Positions
Turn 7 is the last turn, its sinking in now that HeavyD isn't going to be able to get that fourth VC. After the Prep fire phase HeavyD throws in the towel. Although this scenario featured the same terrain and a very similar force pool (but of course larger) its strikingly different than the first scenario. First off as the Russian you have more time and more options. You can even change your plan mid-game if you find you need to. The SMOKE barrage is big and hard to defend against, you just have to sit there and take it. Again I think that the Russian player was way too passive, despite us both learning that in the first scenario. Those five Russian leaders are telling to me, they allow the Russian player to be very aggressive because where ever he breaks he's going to have a leader close by to Rally. Additionally, the Russian player can afford to take losses as long as he's pushing in on the VC's, the ammo shortage make the defender that much more brittle.

So after two scenario's played from Festung Budapest we are both very pleased with what we've seen. We are now refreshing our Night Rules to take on the next scenario.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Uncles and Pups" FB1

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: FB1 - "Uncles and Pups"
Publication: Festung Budapest, Historical Module 8
Participants: Jim "HeavyD" D, Myself
Time:  Fri, 12/7 ~ 6.30PM - 9.30PM
          Sat, 12/8 ~ 2PM - 4.30PM

When Festung Budapest was released, HeavyD and I weren't that interested. I don't remember the reasons for our lack of interest, but it was likely something else that had been released around that time, or perhaps we were coming out of our ASL phase. We are both very interested now and thus decided to dive right in and start with the first scenario in the box, "Uncles and Pups". For those that don't know, FB is the eighth historical module for ASL covering the Russian siege of Budapest in late '44 into early '45. The Hungarians and Germans are surrounded in the city and the Russians are trying to clear them out. FB comes with 4 excellent maps covering the area of the City where most of the fighting took place. There are three campaign games and nearly 20 scenarios in the box along with a whole bunch of new counters. 

Uncles and Pups takes place on January 1st 1945 and covers the Russian initial foray into Buda by the 108th Guards Infantry Division supported be the 1897th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment. The Hungarians in the scenario are represented by the Vannay Battalion consisting of older WWI and WWII veterans pulled from various government organizations (firemen, public transportation, utility men...) along with Officer candidates and younger volunteers who were attached to the older men using a buddy system nicknamed "Uncles and Pups". In order to win the Russians must clear our the Cogwheel Railway hexes as well as getting an SU-76M past the rail line into the part beyond it while also clearing out a station (hex G31) of Hungarian MMCs. 

Axis Set Up
The Hungarians OB consist of 8 squads (4x 4-4-7 & 4x 3-4-7) as well as some crews. These units are led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 7-0. They have a nice assortment of support weapons including 2 MMGs, an LMG as well as a PSK. The have two guns (76L ART and 75L AT) as well as an 81MM MTR. The Hungarians also have some nice fortifications mostly centered around the EmRR hexes (Cogwheel Rail hexes). These include 18 mine factors, 4 Foxholes, three Wire's and a Roadblock. The Wire and Mines must set up on/adjacent to the EmRR. There are also two known AT mine hexes that start on the map as well. Lastly the Hungarians are allowed to HIP one HS and any SW/SMC that stack with them. Axis units suffer from level 1 ammunition shortage (a FB SSR, in effect its the same as normal AS in ASL which scales up as the siege went on). To simulate a pre game bombardment all Hungarian forces that do not set up in buildings or foxholes must take a pre game PTC. Any unit that fails loses concealment and starts pinned.

Russian Set Up

The Russians have a nice force entering on or after turn one. The Infantry component consists of 3x 6-2-8 Assault Engineers, 4x 4-5-8, 5x 4-4-7s and 2x 2-3-7 HS. These forces are led by 4 (9-1, 8-1 2x 8-0) leaders. The Russians will also be supported by 5 SU-76M Assault Guns. At least two of these Assault Guns must enter the game with MMC riders as well via SSR. 

Running in the Streets

When HeavyD said he was done setting up and I sat down to do my set up I was at a loss. The Russians are limited to entering over only a few hexes in the corner of the map. The Hungarians can set up very close to them as well. There isn't a lot of cover and the entry is crossed by a couple of roads before you get to the EmRR. HeavyD placed his 81 MTR up on a factory roof and most of his infantry just behind the EmRR. The EmRR is really like a thick wall, if you are next to it you can see onto it and beyond but if you are not next to it you can see it as well as the hex behind it. There is at least an orchard covering part of it. There are a couple of known AT mine hexes covering the street leading up to the rail station. Also, due to pre scenario reconnaissance, HeavyD had to set up most of his fortifications on the board instead of HIP. So, as I mentioned I didn't have a good feeling setting up. Its one of those times when I sit down to play a scenario and don't have a clear picture of how I am going to achieve the victory conditions. Of course I will feel differently at the end of the game but that is later. 

Start of Axis Turn 1

I come up with a plan to enter all of my infantry and two of the SU's and head for the EmRR. I will not even go after the right hand side of the map as it's well fortified with mines. I feel like this is going to be a shooting gallery as we start the turn. I play it very cautiously thus on the first tun and there is very little shooting because I didn't really give him anything to shoot at. I manage to break an MA of one of my SU's which I am unable to fix in the next Rally phase, thus Recalling the SU. I am down one already. Later in the game I start regretting this overly cautious first turn. Very little happens in HeavyD's portion of the turn and we quickly move into my half of turn 2. 

End of Russian Movement phase, Turn 2

I set up my remaining three SU's for entry on this turn and we begin. I am able to get next to the EmRR line without taking too many hits, I believe I only have one unit break. HeavyD has wisely placed one of his MMG's in great spot allowing him to lay a fire lane down on the hex row next to the EmRR (the one with the normal RR). On a whim, perhaps knowing that I need to deal with this MMG to lift the fire lane and eventually clear him out of the station, I send a platoon to my left. Had I thought of this sooner I would have been able to make a better approach on the first turn, but I hadn't planned on it then. The turn ends with only one Russian MMC broken and that is pretty amazing considering the many shots that HeavyD took. I believe it was around this time that HeavyD decided to replace his dice with another pair. HeavyD's half of turn two was really weird. I expected to have a bunch of my stuff broken and to lose a couple of SUs to the Mortar but none of that happened. It was one of the worst turns of shooting (dice rolling) that either of us could remember. Time after time HeavyD was making good shots (no TEM or only +1) and nothing was happening. He would roll poorly or if he managed to roll decently I would pass the MC. I think I only had one unit pin through out the whole turn. HeavyD shot nearly his whole side for little effect. The bright side of this (for him at least) was that my return fire was equally infective and I didn't do anything to him with my return fire. 

The other side of the Tracks

Start of Russian Turn 3
As the scenario is only 4.5 turns long, I know at the start of turn 3 that I have been way to cautious over the course of the first two turns. I have a lot to do and I have not done much of anything to date. Thus I start to play much more aggressively  as I already feel like I have a very small chance to salvage a win out of this.Things go fairly well. I start off shooting at the Mortar on the roof and finally break it with an Intensive Fire shot. Using Assault movement I get up on the EmRR and that doesn't go too badly. I am reminded that half of his squads are sporting a 3 FP and am again kicking myself for being so timid on the first two turns. It's also becoming clearer to me that I have been under using my SUs in the first couple turns. I assume at this stage that both of his hidden guns are behind the EmRR to protect the need of me getting one vehicle in that area at the end of the game. I send one SU over to help the platoon I have sent over to my left and that goes pretty well. He has his dummy stacks over here I soon figure out and again I am kicking myself for not seeing this obvious rouse prior to starting. HeavyD gets two fire lanes down this turn and I end up having simply to walk or AM into them, there is just no getting around it at this point. Thankfully Heavy's (new) dice are still pretty cool and I only have a couple squads break while getting next to him both on the EmRR and on my left. Ammunition shortage rears its head for the first time as one of HeavyD's squads explodes while defensive firing at an adjacent unit. On a whim I check the rules and we are both shocked that when a unit that suffers Ammo shortage it also BREAKS! Neither one of us had known (or perhaps better put 'remembered') this. The turn ends with some bloody hand to hand (FB SSR) in which I lose a 9-1 & 6-2-8 to a 7-0 and a 3-4-7.

Russian Movement Phase, turn 3
Russian Assault of the Station, turn 3
At the end of my turn I feel that I at least slightly improved my low odds of winning mostly due to HeavyD's continued drought with his dice. At the start of his 3rd turn I am over the EmRR and into the buildings on the other side and I have a few units on my left pressuring his units in this area. During Prep I lose another 6-2-8 to a pair of ones. HeavyD is cautious choosing to fall back where he can. He senses that he's got time on his side. I shoot into the H-to-H melee and get lucky, breaking his unit with no harm to mine. On the left HeavyD pulls the MMG back to the station again playing it safe (as he should).

Start of Axis Turn 3

Russian Friendly Fire

Turn 4 opens with HeavyD rallying his Mortar crew, nice. On the left I advance into the street using the wall to my advantage and mostly survive. On the right I am able to get next to the hex with the MMG in it. I then move a SU over to support this and find the first hidden gun. It shoots and misses. I am able to advance into melee with the MMG & Leader only to get eliminated in CC. He survives. The assault on the station goes a little better and I am able to get next to the hex that I need to clear out. I am effectively across the street at this point. 

Start of Russian Turn 4
Turn 4, on the Russian Right
Turn 4, on the Left near the Station

Fleeting Chance

HeavyD's portion of turn 4 opens with him breaking his ART as he shoots at my SU two hexes away (WooHoo!). The Mortar finally gets into the game and SHOCKs a different SU back behind the EmRR. He looses another squad (4-4-7 this time) to Ammo shortage in the station. 

Russian Turn 4, the Assault on the RR Station

Progress on the Right

As my last turn opens, I still have much to do and only a half turn to do it in. I figure out that I can get an SU parked within three hexes of I33 by parking it in bypass in hex F31. There isn't much that he can counter this with. I should also be able to clear out hex G31 (the station) of MMC as I have my last 6-2-8 + demo charge next to the hex as well as a couple other squads in the area to help out. He only has a 8-1 and a 3-4-7 in the hex to oppose me. That's two out of the three Victory Conditions. The third condition (clearing the EmRR of Axis units on or adjacent will be much tougher though. Its still slightly possible, there's nothing left but to give it a shot. 

Start of Russian Turn 5

The Assault on the station goes pretty much as planned. The Demo charge was a none event but I am able to break his two units there and get the SU over where it needs to be. Its all going to come down to me getting into Melee and surviving with the last two Hungarian squads next to the EmRR. I have two and a half squads here in range as well as two SU's ready to assist. I start by running one of the SU's into the first building in bypass which stops his unit from shooting out of the hex. Then I run the 4-5-8 through a bunch of residual shots and get into the building next to the last squad only to have this unit break when entering the building from a subsequent first fire shot. I am then forced to run the last SU into the hex and hope that it survives the CC to lock him in to melee (long odds to be sure). In CC we do the hex with the MMG + leader first and they kill the SU (very easy roll being open topped and not having an MG and being in bypass...) and with that the game ends. 

The RR Station Falls
The Hungarians hold on the Russian Right

HeavyD played a very nice game and got a deserved win. I felt like I was clueless from the start, then saw the light too late. Should I play this again, I like to think I would do much better with the Russians. The scenario is currently 13-8 in favor of the Axis and that makes sense. I think as time goes by and this gets played more it'll stay pretty balanced. I would certainly play it again as either side. It's a great into to Festung Budapest. HeavyD and I plan on playing several more of these in the near future.

Final Positions