Sunday, March 28, 2010

Half a Havoc report

Too much to do in not enough time, so I had to skip the bookends of Havoc on Friday evening and Sunday anyway, and as it turns out I couldn't even make the morning session on Saturday!

The good news is that the two session I did get to play were great fun, a pair of the most enjoyable games I've played in years. Both GMs did a fine job, there were minimal rules problems, the games flowed at an enjoyable pace, all the players were gentlemen, the overall quality of play was good even though each table had newbies and both games were fought to a clear conclusion in the allotted time.

The first game I took part in was a game of Axis & Allies War at Sea naval miniatures using the new long-distance battle rules. The scenario was billed as a refight of the 1942 Battle of Coral Sea, but the GM made a few adjustments to the order of battle such as including a fair number of Commonwealth and Fletcher-class destroyers and the USS Baltimore! Both sides had 400-point navies, so the OB fiddling didn't matter much. The GM also incorporated some house rules to aid the submarines a little, although as it turns out they didn't have a big impact on the game. The only other notable house rule was that Subs and DDs were NOT crippled by taking a hit. Again, s this affected sides equally I don't think it had a big impact -- especially because most of the time the DDs were sunk in the same combat phase as their first hit and therefore would not have been crippled under the regular rules anyway.

Being one of the more experienced players, I took the lead for the Japanese fleet and primarily concentrated on managing the air battles. As is often the case between evenly matched air forces it took a while to finally eke out an advantage in the air battles, but by game's end the Japanese still have two carriers afloat with usable air groups while the US was down to one with just fighters.

Still, the battle game down to a huge brawl over the objectives between the rival cruiser and destroyer fleets. In ship losses the two sides were nearly even, with 207 VPs for the US compared to 214 VPs for the Japanese, but the Japanese were the only ones to capture an objective so the final score was 414 to 207. (The game was called for time, but it appeared the Japanese would have a good chance to claim one of the other objectives on the next move with a destroyer and no Allied ships in range to contest it and just one US air unit that could attack while the Japanese would be able to place two fighters with Expert Dogfight overhead as CAP.

The second game was an interesting fight using the Check Your 6! rules for World War II air combat. The scenario was March Mayhem from the Aces Over Hungary expansion. This was a battle on March 20, 1945, which the GM admitted was part of his reason for selecting this scenario was it's near anniversary.

The battle involved a dozen Soviet fighters (6 ea Yak-9 and La-7) escorting a dozen Soviet bombers (6 ea Il-2 Shturmoviks and Lend-Lease A-20G Boston). Intercepting them were just seven Hungarian-flown Bf-109G Messerschmidts.

The design philosophy in Check Your 6! is that it's the "man" and not the "crate" that really counts so the battle was less one-sided than it might appear. First of all, the 12 bombers were on a bomb run and would do no more than fly straight ahead (under GM control). The dozen Soviet fighter planes boasted a grand total of one "veteran" (+2) pilot, three "skilled"(+1) pilots and no fewer than eight "green" (0) fliers. The seven Hungarians includes two "aces" (+3), two veterans, two skilled and just one green pilot. In other words, the seven Hungarians had a dozen points of skill between them while the dozen Russians had just 5.

The two players playing the Hungarians split the force 3/4 between them, with each player taking one each of the ace, veteran and skilled pilots and the more experienced player taking the green guy as well. The GM controlled the 12 bombers so the four Soviet players each got three fighters. The most experienced player took the Veteran pilot in an La-7 along with a pair of green. Each of the rest of us had an element that comprised a skilled pilot and 2 greens. My section was the other three La-7.

The battle, as so many wargame battles do, broke out into a couple of separate battles based primarily on where the players sat. Against the IL-2s the 3 Hungarians of the smaller flight did poorly, misjudging the approach angle and only getting one plane (the ace) into a decent firing position before game end. While he was able to hit one IL-2 a couple of times, he wasn't able inflict any damage on them and this was significant because the Soviets received 10 points for each undamaged element of bombers that exited the map, so this gave the Soviets a boost of 20 VPs. Five of the La-7s tangled with the Bf-109s and while the Ace was able to evade them and get into a firing position, the skilled Hungarian was ganged up on and shot down (for 4 more VPs) and the Veteran Bf-109 was deterred from closing and eventually flew off. This Soviet group took no losses.

Things went much more poorly on the other flank as the four Bf-109s controlled by the more experienced player timed their attack on the A-20s perfectly and looped in behind them. One A-20 was aborted by a lucky hit and three more were shot down for a total of 25 VPs for the Hungarians. The Yak-9s misjudged their intercept of the Hungarians and most of them didn't get into the fight and those that did suffered badly, with one shot down and one badly damaged, for a total of 5 more VPs for the Axis players.

Things would have been grim for our heroes if it hadn't been for the unlikely succor provided by one green La-7 pilot (played by yours truly). That pilot may have been green, but he sensed that if he pulled a Split-S reversal and left his element there was a good chance he could slip in behind the Hungarian flight that was going after the Bostons and he might distract them from their prey. The Hungarians, for their part, decided to ignore the green La-7 pilot and go after the bombers. After all, how dangerous could he be?

As it turned out, dangerous enough. The green La-7 was able to line up a long range shot from the rear and roll good dice, getting a hit on one of the veteran Hungarian pilots. One nice feature of the La-7 is that it's armed with a pair of cannon, so if it hits a fighter there's a very good chance it will down that fighter and that's exactly what happened to the Bf-109. This gave the Soviets 6 Vps (4 for the fighter and 2 for the veteran pilot).

The remaining five Hungarians were all being pursued by Soviet fighters (10 functional) without sufficient time left in the 12-turn scenario to turn around and fight so they opted to continue off board and back to base.

The final tally in aircraft was losses was 2 Bf-109s downed for the loss of three A-20 ad a Yak-9 while another Yak and an A-20 were damaged.

Interestingly enough the VPs were exactly even at 30 apiece, so the battle ended up a draw!

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