Monday, November 15, 2010

ASL Red Barricades: Today the Volga, tomorrow the Vistula (Pt. I)

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.

As autumn begins her descent into winter, darkness encroaches on the edges of the day.  I fall into a Hibernian gloom, take to reading Cormac McCarthy novels, and if all is quiet, imagine that I can hear the groaning of the ice on the Volga.  

Yes, that's right, Dave Hauth and I will meet once again in the debris cluttered factories of the Barrikady.  The game is RBCGI:  Into the Factory.  This time around, I am to be the valiant Red Army commander, while Herr Hauth, true to his heritage, will take the part of the Germans.

As before, both players will maintain a blog correspondence as the game progresses with the agreement that neither will read his opponent's blog until given express permission to do so. A Gentleman's Game is both assumed and assured.

Readers are encouraged to comment!  Speak your piece! Just be sure not to inadvertently reveal any information about Dave's plan to me or vice-versa. 

You can read Dave's blog here

Polkovnik Cariaga addresses his men on the eve of battle

"Comrades!  The Fascist wolf is at our door.  And he is strong.  And, comrades, he will kill many of us.

But, comrades, in his bloodthirsty lunge, the beast has exposed his flank.  And now, sons and daughters of the Motherland, we must strike.  For, here, on the banks of the mighty Volga, either we will slay the wolf, or the wolf will slay us.

Take heart, comrades!  For even now, the Fascist is learning to his woe something we have we known all along.  Russians are not like other peoples.  Though our tears are unnumbered and our miseries multiply each day, we know nothing of despair.  We know only this:  our sacred duty.  Let us vow here and now, comrades.  Today, we stand on the Volga.  Tomorrow we drive for the Vistula!"

A litany of Red Barricades truths

A well-traveled road becomes rutted and predictable.  And the road to the Volga is certainly familiar to Oberst Hauth. We've played a lot of Red Barricades.  And, over the many playings we've come to agree on certain aphorisms which we suppose to be keys to success in the game.  To wit:
  • The Russian player must do everything he can to prevent the German from gaining the river bank. 

    This is especially true in CGIII:  The Barrikady.  But, although Dave and I are playing CGI:  Into the Factory, which only requires the Germans to capture the westernmost two-thirds of the map, as I demonstrated in our game last year, Back to the Barricades, if the Germans establish themselves on the riverbank, the Soviet front is precariously stretched.  The German axis of attack changes from west-east to north-south, making it possible for them to avoid attacking into the factories themselves (which they should avoid as much as possible).

  • The German player must strive to maintain momentum, inflicting casualties at a rate approaching 2 to 1.

    Two thoughts must always be prominent in the German commander's mind: 

    1)  Delay is fatal;
    2) You don't have enough men. 

    As the game progresses, the Russians get stronger, while the German, driven by the onus of attack, must jealously shepherd and guard his own strength. 

  • There are three most critical tactical objectives:

    • The Chemist's Shop (X9)
    • The Power Station (J21)
    • The Commissar's House (BB18)

    The map reveals the importance of these objectives.  They all have upper levels with excellent vantages.  They are all easily fortified.  They dominate whole sectors of the battlefield.    If the German player can seize any of them in tact, he has attained a powerful observation base that he may man with stacks of machine-guns, artillery observers, and dead-eye German leaders.
The Big Three
All of this, of course, is well-known to Dave. We've discussed it many times and at length.  So, now, as we face off, each of us knowing the other's critical objectives, the game becomes a matter of how to thwart his opponent in spite of it.  

A devil's gamble

For this game, I've decided to take what I believe to be an enormous Day 1 gamble.  It is this:  In lieu of the standard Russian Day 1 purchase of a company of infantry, I opt to recruit a single shrieking woman into the ranks.  Her name is "Katy." Before I expound on my thinking, let me first lay out my initial forces (including purchases) for the game.

Dave sees this...
  • Rifle Coy
    447 x 12
    9-0, 7-0
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Atr, Lt. Mtr.

  • Rifle Coy
    447 x 12
    9-1, 7-0
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Atr, Lt. Mtr.

  • SMG Coy (depleted)
    527 x 7
    9-1, 7-0

  • 45LL ATG x 2
    228 x 2

  • Fortified building locations x 5

  • 50 Fortification points
A poor roll results in my SMG company being depleted.  A small loss when one considers my plan for the day.  I have 8 CPP to spend. My purchases are these:
  • O5 Katyusha Rocket module with pre-registered hex 4 CPP
    Katyusha rocket module
    Pre-registered hex: G5

  • A5 KV Pltn (dug-in) 2 CPP
    KVII x 2

  • M1 Fortifications 2 CPP
    80 FPP
My total allotment of 130 FPP is used to buy wire, mines, and dummy counters, and to provide HIP status for the two dug-in KV tanks.

Day 1 setup
The placement of the pre-registered hex for my Katy module reveals my hopes for the day.  Specifically, I want to lure the Germans into attacking the area around building F5 in force.  I hope that Dave will see my setup, be tempted by the seemingly large number of units I have positioned in that corner, and attack aggressively from the north and west to isolate and destroy them.  I've set up my depleted SMG company in the area along with some dummy counters to present a juicy target.  Then, about Turn 2, my HIP artillery observer on the rooftop of hex J13 calls in Katy and let the chips fall where they may!

Come this way, Jerry!
My sub-machine-gunners, of course, must pay the ultimate price, but if they can lure the Germans into the trap and my Katy drops on elite or 1st line Germans advancing in soft cover... well, I don't have to tell you...  And, at the very least, the Katy FFE will hinder German movement in the area.  On the other hand, if Dave ignores my bait and attacks somewhere else, or if my stray roll is exceedingly bad, I'll end up with a big bag of sh*t.

The KVs are HIP to avoid being smoked in by German mortar fire.  Further, I'm breaking convention by setting them up on opposite sides of the map rather than in close proximity.  Each KV is paired with a 45LL gun for mutual support.  We'll see if that proves to be a mistake.  But I think it is likely to catch Dave by surprise.  Whichever tank he discovers first will cause him to assume that the other tank is placed somewhere nearby and perhaps become incautious somewhere else.

My biggest fear is that Dave will ignore the bait and drive headlong for the river.  I don't have much over there to stop him.  But, if I can slow him down and keep him north of the Z8-DD7 road I'm confident I can establish a line of defense on Day 2 that will prevent him from advancing southward along the riverbank.

We're set to play on Friday after Thanksgiving.  It should be fun.

To be continued...


Dan Binmore said...

I love these. One of the things I'm particularly fascinated by is how familiar the two of you are with the scenario and each other. I think that must entirely change strategies, as in this case where it seems you are using your knowledge of your opponent as the basis for your trap.

I think these have some of your best writing in them, your technical writing skills come through.

Bruce H Billett said...

Dade Dude:
I would like to take this time to offer you and yours (Dave as well) a very Merry Non-denominatial winter solstic festival and a most productive new year.