Tuesday, May 17, 2011

AAM Heraklion session report

As official support for the Axis & Allies Miniatures game fades away one thing that's become less common is new official scenarios, although the online fan community has kept up its output. While there were quite a few official scenarios published before the scale change, the only new scenarios have appeared in the Expanded Rule Book and the Eastern Front and Desert Map Packs. There haven't been any published since Early War and Counter Offensive came out.

One consequence of this is that a lot of early scenarios used various proxies for units that later became available in the system, so as I've revisited those old scenarios I've adjusted the orders of battles to reflect the availability of new units.

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Crete, and it just so happens there's an official scenario from the Expanded Rules that covers a portion of the fighting -- Heraklion on page 44. So we played the first game of a match set, with me taking the Allies.

The scenario uses Maps 5 and 7 from the Expanded Rules. The battlefield features a small, 3-hex village near the center of the 2-map arrangement, with a 1-hex pond next to it and surrounded by several patches of woods and some hills.

The Axis forces are from the German 1st Battalion, 1st Fallschirmjaeger (Parachute) Regiment. The published order of battle includes an MG 42 machine gun team, but that weapon wasn't actually fielded until 1942. The new Counteroffensive set, however, now gives the Germans the MG 34 that they started the war with, so I substituted that. Being slightly less powerful than the MG 42 this MG team is only valued at 8 points, so I boosted one of the FJ units in the original OB to a Veteran FJ to keep the Germans even in points. As the Invasion of Crete was probably the high point for the German parachutists this seemed appropriate. That gave the German player three regular Fallschirmjaegers and the one Veteran FJ unit. Rounding out the German force was a light mortar, a Wehrmacht Expert Sniper and a Grizzled Veteran German hero.

The German units were set up at start instead of using the Paratrooper special ability.

The Allies, however, set up first. The Allied force, representing elements of the 14th Infantry Brigade, comprised the following: Four SMLE No. 4 Rifle units, one Vickers Machine-Gun Team, one Veteran (Australian) SMLE Rifleman, one Bren Machine Gunner, one 40mm Bofors L60 and three Greek Soldiers. The Greek soldiers, which became available with the North Africa set, replaced the three Communist Partisans in the original OB, which the scenario notes "represent the Greek soldiers who fought heroically with substandard equipment." In this case the point values were the same, so no further adjustment was required.

The German victory conditions were to either control all three hexes of the village OR have a unit in cover on the east edge of Map 7, which essentially meant in the hill or woods hex on that edge.

My biggest concern during the set up was to keep the Germans from getting an early shot at the Bofors, which was very vulnerable to the sniper and the MG 34. By scenario special rule the Bofors was also "Dug In," so I'd be unable to move it after the initial placement. I decided to place it on the small knoll east of the town where it could fire on all three town hexes and also cover the approaches to the East Edge victory hexes, while being out of sight from any German set-up hex. In the village itself I placed the four SMLE rifles and the Bren gunner while the Vickers went into the patch of woods south of the pond where it could cover the front of the town with grazing fire. The Veteran Aussie garrisoned the East edge victory hexes and formed my reserve while I set up the Greeks divided between the two patches of woods north and south of the Bofors knoll., ready to either reinforce the town or block any German dash for the East edge. The Greek Fury 2 special ability would give then 2 extra attack dice for the rest of the game once a German unit bit the dust, so it seemed best to keep them out of the initial firefight if possible.

Here we made a mistake, although I think it helped my opponent. By scenario rules the German units were to deploy second within five hexes of the West edge of map 5 -- but not adjacent to each other. I overlooked that, however, so the Germans set up in a tight group just West of the patch of woods west of the village -- except for the Sniper, who started in the woods in the southwest corner of the map. This part of the German deployment was a bit flawed because the sniper didn't start with a line of sight to the Vickers team.

My German opponent's apparent plan was to rely on the defensive strength of his FJ and Hero infantry (five units with defense of 5!) to carry though a frontal attack on the village via the West woods.

The first turn was spent moving the strike force into position while the sniper took a shot that managed to disrupt one SMLE rifle in town. The three regular FJ occupied the northernmost woods hex facing the ton while the hero, veteran FJ and MG 34 team took the south hex. The mortar stayed back for now due to stacking limits. The British reaction was to move the Bren gunner to the ridge north of town, joined by one Greek soldier while the SMLE and other Greek units stayed in the village.

The next four turns were basically a slugging match between the two forces across the narrow gap between the woods and the village. The Bren gunner gave the Allies an early break by suppressing the MG34 long enough for Vickers and riflemen to take it out. Frustratingly for the Germans the Vickers team proved to be especially adept at making its cover rolls and despite several potential kill shots, the Germans never could do more than disrupt it.

Meanwhile, it turned out that the knoll where the Bofors set up had a line of fire to the woods hex with the FJ squads and the withering fire (9 dice) from that weapon started to pay off and soon a FJ was down, giving the Greek soldiers their bonus. By turn 5 the Germans had lost two FJ and the MG 34 while the Allies were down two SMLE and the Bren. As it was becoming apparent that the Germans weren't going to try for the East edge victory hexes the Aussie SMLE moved forward.

With time running out the Germans made a dash into the town on Turn 6, losing the hero. The Germans conceded at that point as it was clear there were simply too many surviving Allied soldiers for the Germans to kill in the time remaining -- four perfect kill shots with 100% failed cover rolls would still leave at least one Allied unit alive in town.

Next session we will switch sides. I think the Allied set up was pretty effective and I expect to see my opponent adopt something similar, although perhaps a little more forward deployed because he tends to play aggressively and my set up may have left some units underemployed.

Even though the German force is rated at 65 points to the Allied 48 points, this does look like a challenge for the Germans -- especially because on my turn playing I'll have to follow the actual rules and set up with the Germans spread out!

Based on this session, I think that I'll have to try a more maneuver-oriented strategy when it's my turn as the Germans. Stay tuned.

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