Once we both had Valor of the Guards, Patch and I decided to try out the set by playing one of the smaller of the fantastic number of stand-alone scenarios it has. We wanted to try a Stalingrad CG, and would soon enough, but it seemed a good way to get a handle on all the special rules. Starting at the end of June 2008…:

I’m back for more punishment with our latest scenario kicking off tonight on VASL.

Only, Patch is the one getting punished. More on that anon.

Patch got his copy of Valor of the Guards about a week or two before I had to concede the last game. We had already figured that once he had it (I had preordered) we would go on to one of the smaller scenarios to get used to the VotG ruleset before going on to a CG. I probably had thoughts on which ones would be good, but I lost track of that by the time that we actually needed to choose one. So, Patch suggested VotG3, we diced for sides, and I ended up with the defending Russians.

Looking at the situation and the VC, the hardest part was keeping track of who could legally set up where. The Germans can win by exiting a fair chunk of their forces (I note that they have exactly enough squads to win it that way; but they also have two StuGs, a 10/5 and 9 points of leaders), or by clearing the road that goes through the center area. This means I need to defend both flanks and the middle.

The TCs to start the game were okay. I kept concealment on most of the front line, but lost it on 3 out of 4 leaders. The rest of the turn was mostly as expected. He broke the conscripts who’d failed their TC in D44 during Prep and swarmed all over D47. The 447 there put down good fire, despite cowering on the first shot, and Patch’s sniper broke G47 on a FPF (gee, I thought it was the squad doing the firing that was supposed to break). Patch rolled a ’12’ on one of the MCs I generated, reducing the 1st line squad to a broken 2nd line HS. Patch’s sniper: 1 for 2; Mine 0 for 2.

Situation, German Turn 1, AFPh. This is the entire active map.

Given the odds, it wasn’t too surprising that no one rallied for me on my RPh. Patch got his reduced HS back, but also got a ’12’ to CR another squad.

I don’t care to think of the day that karma bill comes due.

My Prep pinned a 9-1, but failed to affect the three squads with him. Movement was accompanied by the realization that conscripts in heavy terrain don’t go far if they want to maintain concealment. Specifically, anyone I wanted to shift out of a foxhole had to exit it in MPh and then move in APh.

The trend towards really low dice I showed during Patch’s turn became more pronounced during this one. I got a 2 on a PTC, but soon followed it up with another on a NMC, turning a 527 into a 628. The real irony there is that the 8-1 there had just failed his, and since the 527 was lower morale at the time, the 628 promptly pinned with a 12 on the 1LLTC. SAN: Russian 0-1, German 0-0.

Situation, Russian Turn 1, after DFPh.

As a preview of turn 2 – I took a shot with an ATR and an interesting question came up: The on-line TK table has a red ATR entry in the ‘6’ column marked, “Russian, Finnish, Japanese, Allied & Axis Minor/Italian (20L only)”, implying that only 20L ATRs get the 6 (instead of the normal 5). However, Patch’s printed copy has a semicolon after “Japanese”, implying that the 20L clause only applies to Allied & Axis Minor & Italian ATRs. My 1st Ed chart just says “Russian, Finnish, Japanese, Italian”, effectively agreeing with Patch’s 2nd Ed chart. It turned out to be a moot point anyway, but I’d like to know for certain, for future shots.

Michael R clarified:

“The Russian ATR has a TK of 6.”

The Russian ATR has a TK of 6.

Yeah, I actually pretty well realized that while writing it up, since the two printed sources agree. But it was confusing to figure out at the time. I need to remember to check if Ole’s electronic charts have the semicolon or not (as I think the chart in VASL is a copy of his), and notify the appropriate people.

Just finished off German Turn 2….

Patch said he didn’t really have a plan, but it sure works for me. He’s got a nice solid wall of bodies east of the initial road, and they’re looking very intimidating.

On the other hand, my bribes to the dice-bot seem to be paying off. First, all of my brokies came back during rally. My dice had been doing pretty good all evening, but they went into overdrive at this point. On 5 Russian SAN checks, it went: 6, 1, 1, 1, 1. My sniper took out his on the first two activations (this is the third scenario in a row where that has happened to Patch), and then broke and eliminated a HS on the second two.

He started off with a couple of Smoke shots from the StuGs that were successful, and now the board is cut into three sections, and too much of my forces are still in the North, where he isn’t. However, he attempted to move his AA HT, and I nailed it from two hexes with an ATR. I really need to figure out how to get some side shots at his StuGs.

My defensive fire just isn’t heavy enough, and he managed to get into CC in the gully. After nearly getting ambushed by the Russians (Final was 5 to 3), he took them out with no problems.

Situation, German Turn 2, beginning of AFPh.

The South is looking dangerously thin. I need to remember that I don’t actually have to stop all his troops. Just a decent chunk will do it.

Tork commented:

“Good pix. But was there someone concealed in the southern gully? Without that, there isn’t any ambush terrain in the area, so why roll for ambush?”

“And I thought my opponent’s sniper was bad in my game! Ouch!”

“Saving the German vehicles for EVP is tough. I can’t think of any other use for the German Flak halftrack.”

“Good pix. But was there someone concealed in the southern gully? Without that, there isn’t any ambush terrain in the area, so why roll for ambush?”

“We goofed. Whups.”

“Saving the German vehicles for EVP is tough. I can’t think of any other use for the German Flak halftrack.”

“I had hoped to use him to help interdict the road, preventing Rindis from reinforcing the south. We can all see how well that went.”

“The game… yeah…”

“I stared at this map for a while, and just nothing clicked for me on a strategy. I’m making a run across the south as I can’t see plugging my way across the north at 1:2 odds with no support, but man, it seemed less open than it is.”

“At present I’m trying to make a push with a threat to exit, keeping in mind my ability to swing north to clear the road. However, I”m about 2 hexes back from where I felt I should be by this point, and the newly burning ht is making any plan problematical as there’s now smoke blocking my kill stack whose purpose was to interdict any reinforcements, and Rindis is sending folks south rapidly in Turn 2.”

“I stared at this map for a while, and just nothing clicked for me on a strategy. I’m making a run across the south as I can’t see plugging my way across the north at 1:2 odds with no support, but man, it seemed less open than it is.”

Tell me about it…. Figuring out a defense was pain. The real reason why my defense is north-heavy? I worried about it last. So it stole troops from the rest, and I never rebalanced it.

Right now, I’m wishing I had set up two more squads in the south.

My turn two naturally saw me continuing to try and reorganize the defense.

Sadly, my sniper was exhausted by his earlier efforts, with only a single missed SAN this turn. I had managed to get the forward defense of the south side of the road put back together, rallying everyone in G47, when the die luck turned and Patch broke everyone there, ELRing the brand-new 628 back to a 527 and the 8-1 to a 8-0.

In the mean time, I’ve set up a ‘last stand’ rally point in L47, and am concentrating around the Fire Station.

Situation, DFPh Russian Turn 2.

Patch warned me in email that I could probably just go straight to DFPh in his turn. He was right. It wasn’t because he didn’t move anything. On the contrary, he moved plenty, but after he put down even more smoke, it was almost impossible to get a good shot at anything. In fact, I only managed a single shot at one of his leaders, which turned out to be blocked (barely) and broke the MMG. The main problem is he pushed his 9-1 kill stack into the north area, where it suddenly started crowding me out of a lot of real estate.

Patch’s fire wasn’t much better. In fact, a ranging shot from the second StuG had a Final DR of 22, which is the highest I’ve seen for quite a while, if not ever. In F44, a CC went poorly as I maintained concealment in the face of 2-1 odds and a -1 leader, and still got killed. In F48 my 527 got an ambush and still managed to blow the attack. Thankfully, Patch only sent in a single squad, and he couldn’t get me either.

Situation, German Turn 3, end of DFPh.

Thankfully, I managed to rally my all my brokies (two squads and a leader) at the beginning of my Turn 3. If there’s anything that really nice to see, it’s not having half my force scattered around broken for a change. Sadly, the MMG was eliminated.

Patch had gotten into G47, next to the T-34. But with all the smoke around, I couldn’t do anything about it. Movement was mostly centered around trying to give somewhat even coverage to various areas and keeping from having one Location where a lucky shot could compromise everything. My sniper managed to Pin a squad, but that’s been it recently. Patch managed to get four shots from an LMG, which revealed a ‘?’, broke/Disrupted it and finally managed to CR it on the last shot.

Melee continued.

Situation, Russian Turn 3, end of MPh.

“Bit of a mess on board right now. The smoke is so thick Rindis can’t hit me, but at the same time, I can’t hit him. What I do break, though, is rallying fairly quickly, and I just can’t make a hole to exploit or threaten. I’m just not stripping concealment, which is leaving my advance at a crawl.”

“With everything so crowded to the south, I’ve converted my kill stack to an assault force and am sending him across the northern edge of the board. The smoke allowed an uncontested advance against a concealed squad, and I popped in for a quick CC kill. To the south I tried the same maneuver, but Rindis and I are just swatting at each other uselessly.”

“I’m reluctant to call games early, given how I’ve seen them turn around before, but I need some wonderful luck to swing this one around in my favor. Clearing the Fire Station will be difficult.”

Continuing last night’s drama from where it got too late for me to continue the post….

The Disrupted HS was immediately shot by my Commissar for deserting his post. Not really much for it. With a ‘4’ broken morale (overall 5 +1 with the 8+1 Commissar ‘bonus’), about the only real chance of rallying would be the 9-2, and he’s too busy. There’s always the building bonus, but they couldn’t make a building in one turn, and as they’re Disrupted, they’d never make it there.

Most of the earlier smoke went away this turn, and to my surprise, not only did no more smoke appear, but Patch Preped with a fair chunk of his units. He managed to break the NKVD squad with the ATR, and broke and CRed the conscripts holding down the north end of my line (after a few ROF shots, and a couple threats to HoB).

Instead, the StuGs are moving into new positions, and the one in E46 is going to be especially annoying. With the northern force in the way, it’s unlikely I’ll get a chance to get a side shot on it, which is about my only hope with an ATR. I think he’s given up on winning by EVP for the moment.

It had become obvious that he wasn’t going to fall into the easy trap, so I revealed my remaining HIP as part of a 20 +2 shot that broke/ELRed the target squad and eventually eliminated him out for FtR. Another shot managed to break the squad and a half in F46. My north is being disassembled, but his south has problems.

Thankfully, even with the 10-2 urging them on, only one of the squads in G47 wanted to try to kill the T-34. Again, even with the 10-2 helping out, they weren’t able to do better than Immobilize it (which it already was anyway). The tank didn’t have any better luck, however.

The Melee in F48 continued.

Situation, partway through DFPh in German Turn 4.

At the end of the turn I remembered that the dusk LV should have started this turn. I don’t think it would have affected any of our results though.

My turn 4 wasn’t too exciting. I tried to start sneaking a concealed unit around the north end of his line, and he pinned it. He broke the HIP squad in the gully, and I advanced a different squad up to try and take the south StuG in CC. He failed his PAATC, and the the conscript in I50 failed his purely because of the extra +1 for being Inexperienced.

He failed to take out the T-34 in CC again, but got a ‘2’ in F48, killing the Russians and generating a 8-1 leader.

Situation, Russian Turn 4, DFPh.

On Turn 5, he Prepped with a fair number of units, and broke a squad and leader at the expense of a squad getting Pinned by the Sniper. I got a break when the T-34 managed a K/3 with its MGs and RS wounded the 10-3 and reduced+broke the 467. A later shot from I45 Pinned the leader and eliminated the HS from double-break.

He put another squad and leader into CC with the T-34. A little disconcerting after finally getting rid of the last group. He tried for an ATMM, but rolled a ‘6’ to Pin the 548 instead.

Situation, German Turn 5, DFPh.

My turn was a bit short. I spent some time carefully trying to optimize my fire in the face of a lot of Germans at nearly point-blank range, and… rolled well. MG fire from the T-34 broke all the Germans in the hex, fire into the gully broke the leader and pinned the squad, fire into H44 broke that squad, fire into H43 broke the MG squad and Pinned the other one, and fire into G48 broke that squad.

At that point, Patch conceded. It’s easy to see why, he was down to 4.5 GO squads, and needed to take out multiple units in two stone building locations (neither of which he was adjacent to), the T-34, and the concealed squad in K47 was ready to advance into J46. Really hot dice might have saved him, but… not darn likely. And it’s obvious that he’s been struggling with some nasty PMCs for a while. Still, I’m quite happy to take my first victory from Patch in quite a long time.

Situation, end game.

Largely, this was a failure of dice on Patch’s part. But he admitted to not having a strong plan at the beginning, and I think it showed. Personally, I think he should have committed to the advance across the south more heavily if it was going to go anywhere. Either way though, while this is a very interesting scenario, it’s going to be very punishing on the German no matter what he does. He has very demanding VCs considering the Russians technically outnumber him, and if the Russians can get good service from the T-34 and it’s 9-1 AL, the Germans have a really thorny problem. I’d like to try this as the Germans at some point… when I feel like being put through a wringer.

So, on to our next game – JK1 Tiddlywinks!

…or not.

“When a 10-2 and accompanying infantry can’t kill an immobilized AFV over several turns, you know things aren’t going your way that day.”

“I think the biggest problem I faced this game (ignoring the horrible dice rolls, I can’t control them) was the illusion of cover in this scenario. Those damn railroad tracks look like cover, dammit, and that affected my strategy for the game start. When it became abundantly clear that the southern route is vulnerable, I had no Plan B when I started breaking and couldn’t do damage to Rindis to punch a hole. My advance turned into a slow crawl as I struggled to advance against stone buildings manned by concealed infantry.”

If I had taken out the foxhole in the orchard quickly, I would have been better set to advance against the Fire Station, but clearing that took two turns. If I had taken out the T-34, I would have been set to take out the Fire House and the 9-2 stack in I45. But with none of those done, I was channelized through orchard hexes, which left me exposed. Given the hidden 527 lurking in H48, I’m glad I didn’t try a run up the gully.”

“I think my attempts to use smoke to screen my cover worked against me more than it helped. I could not get FG set up to engage the Russians as I was stuck in smoke myself, and so entering the end game Rindis was still in excellent position, with everyone in Good Order. When I couldn’t break anyone in Turn 5, I knew odds of my winning were poor. Rindis’ highly effective Prep Fire removed any hope of victory soon after so I conceded.”

“I’m thinking an advance across the north, along the road, might be better, with a smaller force moving along the south edge to creep up on the T34 might have been a better choice for an assault, but I just wasn’t sure about engaging all those Russians in Stone Buildings at close range. Still, it may have been the way to go.”

“A tough scenario, but still fun. When I have to clear this edge of the board in CG1, I think I shall try a different strategy.”

It’s a pity it’s been so long since I’ve played this. I remember at the time I had some definite thoughts on German strategy, but I’ve forgotten them now.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s pretty rare to see Patch struggling with what to do in a scenario, but this was definitely a case of that. I could tell that he was off his game, even while I was panicking about certain points of the action. I think the Germans definitely have what it takes to win this one, but it’s going to be very rough on them. The Russian’s main problem is that there are multiple distinct routes to victory to guard against, and some very demanding setup restrictions.