Friday, November 25, 2011

ASL scenario replay: Return to Sender

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.

Greetings fellow ASL players!  Thanksgiving weekend would be lacking without a day-long gaming session, would it not?  So I spent a busy day today, raking leaves and running errands for my beloved wife that I might have all day tomorrow to game with ol' Dave Hauth.

Dave and I are set to play the Armies of Oblivion scenario, Return to Sender.  This scenario represents actions that took place in Serbia, in late 1944, when the Bulgarians left the Axis and sided with the Allies, turning on their hitherto comrades.  This action has elite Germans defending a hill from a horde of Bulgarian troops supported by armor they had seized from the Germans.

Dave has the part of the Bulgarians; I'm the Germans.  I'll lay out my plans today, then tell how it all turned out in a future post. 

Here's to the Fatherland!

Dave see this
Return to Sender, designed by Brian Martuzas, features Germans with big Flak guns defending a hill from an onslaught of Bulgarians.  The Bulgarians outnumber the Germans by better than 2 to 1, are supported by two platoons of Pz IV tanks, three armored half-tracks, air support, and a module of 100mm artillery.   The Germans are 548 squads (designated as SS units by SSR), 2 light Flak guns, and 3 big 88L Flak guns.  The Bulgarians enter from the east (board 11).  All German units, apart from the big Flak guns must set up on board 18 and the western half of board 11.  The 88L Flak guns must set up on board 50, the westernmost board.

The Victory conditions are straightforward:  at game end the Bulgarians must control all level 3 and level 4 hill hexes.

Bulgarian advantages are unopposed armor, high mobility (there are 6 trucks to transport infantry) and 30 squads.  The scenario length (10 turns) also works to the Bulgarian advantage, but I suspect the issue will be decided one way or the other long before turn 10.

German advantages are the big Flak guns, which will have no problem cutting through the armor of those requisitioned panzers, and the huge disparity in troop quality between Germans and Bulgarians.

German setup
Note:  Acquisition markers indicate bore-sighted locations.

As the German, I think my biggest advantage is the difference in infantry quality.  My elite Germans will tear up those poor Bulgarians, tanks or no tanks.  The Bulgarians have two platoons of shaky troops for each one of their 5 leaders.

My defense is devised with an eye to exacting a toll on Bulgarian infantry and not worrying over much about the 2 panzer platoons.  The three 88L Flak guns are positioned with good lines of sight across the battlefield, and I'll trust them to make life difficult for marauding armor.

My first order of business, in constructing this setup, was to place my Flak guns, both big and small.  Here's what I did.

Flak gun placement
The big guns are set up with good fields of fire all across the approach to the hill.  By SSR, the Germans must use Red TH Numbers, but even so, this looks like it could be a turkey shoot.  Dave will have to make good use of blind hexes as he moves his tanks forward.

But, of course, given the quality of his infantry, he will need to use his panzers aggressively.  A difficult quandary, methinks.  We'll see how he handles it.

The small Flak guns are set to whack Bulgarian infantry making their way across the low board 11 hills.  Not an inviting prospect for the Bulgarians.  And with such poor troop quality, broken units will be slow to rally.  Dave's leaders will, I predict, have their hands full rallying, probably for the entire game.

Next, I placed Roadblocks.

These placements are pretty straightforward.  The roadblock in E3 and that in Q6 are simply there to channel tank movement toward the center of the board and into the sites of the big Flak guns.  The Roadblock in Y1 is part of a tank trap I hope to create in that area.

At this point in the setup, I organize and place my infantry.  I've got 14 squads and three leaders with good support weapons and foxholes for fortification.  The Bulgarians enter from off-board, so my allotted 16 concealment markers can all be used for dummies.

I divided the infantry between the leaders, 4 squads per leader.  The remaining 2 squads are setup in ambush positions and fulfill my allotted HIP assignments. 

Upper-right sector:  Tank trap
The 8-1 leader directs the MMG and squad and will be looking to punish Bulgarian infantry.  So too with the two 548s with the LMGs.  The tank trap, such as it is involves the 548 with the DC and the hidden squad in Z0.  I put 3 dummy counters in G4 to appear as a squad with machine-gun.

Upper left sector
The remainder of my dummy counters go in this sector to keep Dave guessing. I predict that he will attack down one flank or the other, so I set this area up to appear strong.  Or at least to appear as if it might be strong. Dave is pretty cagey when it comes to these things though, so I don't expect the ruse will last very long.

Middle-right sector

The 9-1 directs the HMG, supported by the light mortars.  Everyone is holed up in Foxholes and ready to beat feet back to the victory hill if the assault comes too strong.  Of course, if things go wrong, these troops will be quickly isolated and destroyed.  C'est la guerre, mon frere.

Lower left sector
If Dave attacks on my left flank, I'm prepared to give ground generously.  The upper left sector is empty deception (apart from a few bore-sighted locations, of course).  But he'll meet resistance when he gets to this point in his advance.

If the attack falls on the right flank, these troops will head for the victory hill to await the final assault.

Victory hill
If the game does last long enough to produce a final Bulgarian assault on the victory hill, I like my chances. The Bulgarian armor will have trouble providing close range support due to the woods and crag hexes that hinder their movement.  The Bulgarian infantry will have to get up close with perhaps as many as two full platoons of elite Germans.

Before ever having rolled the dice, it looks to me like this scenario presents a pretty tough row for the Bulgarians to hoe.  I've told Dave as much.   We'll know soon enough, I suppose.

Update:  What a disappointment!  As I feared, this scenario is utterly lop-sided in favor of the Germans.  The 88L Flak guns commanded the approaches to Board 50 and the Bulgarian infantry "perished like straw in a great fire," as Professor Tolkien put it.  Bummer!

I wonder... is there anyone anywhere who has won this scenario as the Bulgarians?


Rwolkey said...

I pulled out the scenario card to see what's up. My first inclination is to say that the forces you put on board 11 are too far forward and are going to get cut off and eliminated in turn.

I wold rather see them as close to the victory hill as possible, stacked with leaders for extra movement and then make a dash for the hill on turn 1 before the air support comes out, because movement is going to be tough after that.

Tjazbutis said...

Don't have the card in front of me, but I do seem to recall playtesting it....and losing as the Bulgarians.  Don't they get aircraft?  As I recall, the aircraft pretty much picked off  the 88's on the hill.  In our playtest post-mortem, we thought the thing to do for the German was to put the 88's down in the woods in hexes that had fields of fire (retricted by still hitting someplace the tanks would need to go) and where not visible to aircraft (those locations are there, but you need to look pretty well for them).