Monday, July 18, 2011

Losing faith

Yep, I'm beginning to lose faith that the official published "historical" scenarios got play tested at all.

Our latest challenge to the faith involved one of the two scenarios that came with the North Africa 1940-1943 Map Guide: Operation Battleaxe.

Now, it looked to be a promising scenario as far as entertainment went, with a grand total of 17 AFV between the two sides and three maps to fight over, but even as I collected the tanks needed for the scenario I had my doubts about the German chances.

While, from a point value perspective, the Germans had an edge, 125 points to 100, but the British had Matildas! I strongly suspected that this would be the key fact about the order of battle. As has been my practice, I adjusted the order of battle to reflect that more historically accurate pieces have become available since the scenario was published -- in this case I substituted two DAK infantry men for the listed Wehrmacht Veteran Infantryman units listed. I didn't adjust the British OBeven though the Germans were down 2 points because I didn't think the difference was enough to warrant it. As events played out the differences between the units would not have mattered.

The first game of the match I took the British. The German objective was to either capture the town or have three units on the road at the end of any turn. I judged that the town victory condition was likely to be moot, because if the Germans were strong enough to take the town against resistance then they'd undoubtedly be strong enough to have three units on the road.

So I placed two riflemen in the town to prevent the Germans from simply waltzing in, while the 2-pounder anti-tank gun and the third rifleman prepared to occupy the small knoll southwest of the town. The Matilda troop set up near the town while the Crusader troop was to the East. My basic battle plan was to rush the Crusaders forward to give the Germans pause, but avoid a decisive engagement with them until the Matildas came up. The ATG was going to backstop the defense against any leakers. The Germans set up in line abreast across the bottom south end of of the map, with the tanks on the right.

The ensuing battle went more or less according to plan. The Crusaders did rush forth. The Germans advanced cautiously in the face of a couple of Overwatch markers and soon enough the Matilda troop was up. For the next several turns there was parry and thrust, probe and dance -- with most of the shooting on both sides at long range. The Germans were getting the worse of it, however, generally losing a vehicle a turn. Finally, with the clock running out the fastest German survivors, a halftrack bearing an infantry unit and the armored car, made a dash for the road along the east edge of the map. The British were so lightly prssed that I had been able to reinforce the backstop ATG with wo Crusaders and between them they were able to shoot up the attack. Total British losses were a Crusader destroyed and one Matilda damaged. The Gemrans lost everything except for one Panzer III and a couple of Panzer IVs.

The flip side match went much the same. The British setup was similar, except that the Matlidas and Crsuades were interspersed. I palced the light Germans units on the left, intending on them skulking about in the Wadi while the tanks won their fight. The Panzer IVs and IIIs set up in a group on the right. I planned to advance using the cover of the hill complex on the right side of the map and some strategic placement of smoke from the Panzer IIIs.

Things went more or less by plan, although without success. The smoke helped a nit, but the Overwatch rule still cost the Germans a bit and in the end they still came out the worst in the tank dogfight that developed around the small brush area on the east side of the center map. British losses were somewhat heavier than the first game, with three of the four Crusaders destroyed and the fourth one damaged. With similar losses on the German side, but everything still came down to a last turn rush by German survivors (A Panzer IV, the armored car and a halftrack carrying an infantryman). The British only needed to get one of them to prevent the win and the 2-pounder was up to the task, blowing up the halftrack -- And the three Matildas still hadn't taken their shots.

The Matildas are simply too tough to handle, while the 2 pounder gun on all the British armor and the ATG is adequate against the German armor at battle ranges. The Panzer IIIs and the Crusaders are an even match. While the smoke is useful, it's no more so than the Vanguard special ability which lets the British advance far enough to put pressure on the Germans from the first game turn.

So far I haven't been very impressed with the historical scenarios offered, which is too bad, because they provide a chance to play a different style of game than the straightforward duel of a competitive point-based scenario. Given the obvious mismatches so far, I suspect that there was little play testing done.

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