Patch came over yesterday for one of our all too infrequent FtF days with just us. It’s only the fifth time we’ve played ASL FtF, and the first three were long ago, and I can barely recall them (we have played other things, notably a fair amount of Commands & Colors: Ancients). We set this up a couple weeks ago with the idea of trying the 4 1/2 turn first scenario from the new Festung Budapest HASL. In theory, that would give us some time to prepare. In practice, not as much as we would have liked….

At least I had time to punch out all the Hungarian counters….

The biggest sticking point, and what delayed us the most, are the railroad, and especially the railroad embankment rules. It doesn’t help that I only have the 1st Ed rulebook, so I’m largely dependent on Patch for that, and it’s not as if he’s needed to deal with them….

At any rate, I took the defending Hungarians, and tried to work out a defense. Naturally, there was a lot of shuffling, reshuffling, and reshuffling again, and I’m afraid I violated three different setup restrictions. *sigh*

The Soviets need to have a mobile AFV (they get 5xSU-76… light armor, open top, really not suited for the terrain…) with a functioning main armament within three hexes of I33. They also need to clear the Hungarians away from the cogwheel rail line (RR embankment), and out of the ground floor of G31. Worse, they have 4 1/2 turns in which to do all this.

So, my defense was mostly centered around the cogwheel line. I put dummies in G37 to give him some caution in the initial advance, the panzershrek in G35, and I had troops in foxholes in G33 & 34; this did not work as advertised, we were still working out the EmRR LOS rules as I set that up (so, they couldn’t see anything past the embankment, which isn’t all bad, as Patch had to get on top of them to do anything about it).

I had some backup off on the Varosmajor road, running south of the tram line, as it was an obvious alternate axis of advance, but didn’t want to have too much away from the main action. The HIP halfsquad and a MMG went in a set of foxholes in K35 (doubly illegal, the HIP can’t go there, and I keep forgetting that entrenchments, by themselves, are not concealment terrain, so that HIP doesn’t last). The other MMG was on the north flank in E30h2 with the 7-0 (the 9-1 was kept with the center, I figured he’d be busy, while the 8-1 took care of the south flank), the MTR was on the roof of that hex, as there was just no other way to get a good field of fire.

The roadblock was in H36/H37 to block the Varosmajor with two hexes of wire to block the two minor streets that split off before the roadblock (illegal, they need to be on/adjacent to the cogwheel line) and a minefield visible in H37. Another visible minefield was in, on the tram line, with the third hidden in H35 (illegal, needs to be on/adjacent to the cogwheel line—when I realized that one, I just mentally scratched that off my setup). The last foxhole was over in D31 as a residual leftover of an earlier plan. I had some vague idea of possibly shifting someone in there later if need be, but I would have been much better served to put it in G32 to complete my ‘route line’ from the cogwheel defenses to the hub of my defenses in G31.

Note to self: when dealing with hidden setup items, when you note down on the paper what they are, note down any setup limitations so you don’t loose track in the heat of the moment.

I had a hard time deciding what to do with my two 75mm guns. I had thought about trying to use the two long streets as ‘shooting galleries’, but I figured I wasn’t too likely to get to use them as such, and they can’t really see anything else from positions that face down those streets. Putting one close in to the Soviet goal of I33 was a possibility, but I didn’t like the short LOS there either. I eventually put the Hungarian ART in D30 in brush, facing down the main road Patch needs to enter down, and with a view of the tram line and the cogwheel line. At the last second, I spotted L38 and put the German ATG there. It was isolated, in a corner, and looks like it doesn’t have any field of fire to speak of. But it can see just about the entire area the Soviet vehicles need to get to. Potentially very handy.

Patch came on in fairly good order. I quickly revealed the ART and took a shot and IF shot at the first SU-76, not quite connecting. Patch didn’t care much for that, and started working his way through the block of buildings to the east of his entry zone. It was slow going, but… I hadn’t really considered that flank at all. Thankfully, there was no way to get there in one turn, giving me some time.

One force (leader, squad and a half, plus another squad riding on one of two SU-76s on that side) came in and headed for the Varosmajor, as I had expected. One SU-76 stopped on the cogwheel line bridge over the Varosmajor, while the other stopped in I37, presumably preparing to skirt the roadblock and advance towards the cogwheel line on the next turn. The German ATG revealed himself put a round through the 0-armor rear to stop that.

By the end of my first turn, things were looking fairly grim for the Soviets. The ART had connected on it’s third shot during Prep (still no ROF) and killed a second SU-76, and Patch had malfed the gun on a third. My MTR had connected to break/ELR a squad that had been trying to get at the main defense line.

Then things started to go wrong. The west flank didn’t get too far on the southern route, but the remaining SU-76 managed to drive through and clear the wire on the cogwheel line, and hid itself from the ATG behind some buildings. Sadly, he didn’t quite get close enough for a panzershrek shot to be worthwhile. On the other flank, concentrated fire broke the crew of the ART, which routed out. I managed to dash a squad over from G31 and advance it into the ART’s hex, which surprised Patch. (Surprised me too, I hadn’t really thought in terms of a non-crew backup for the Gun, but with a Russian AFV about to appear almost on top of it, I wanted to try a shot at it, even with non-qualified penalties.) My first real bad luck of the day came when the squad failed to Recover the Gun in Patch’s rally. Meanwhile, Patch had also been concentrating on the MTR up on the rooftop and broke that crew, which went downstairs to be rallied by the 7-0 there.

Patch advanced into the street in front of the ATG in C31 and D31, and both sides survived all fire. (…the foxhole I left there was very handy for Patch.) In my turn, the squad finally claimed the Gun and fired it point blank into the adjacent foxhole securing a hit. …The Russian squad promptly HoBed, turning Fanatic and generating a Hero. Small arms fire from the squad into the clear C31 hex failed to get any result. This pretty much put a hole in my defense that turned out to be terminal. The hit should have generated a break, which may or may not have given me enough breathing room to keep him off that flank, but as it was, I was completely unable to handle the appearance of a Fanatic and Hero in that area.

Patch turned up the pressure in his third turn, driving me out of E30, and ending all hopes of ever using the ART or MTR again. The Fanatics got into F31, giving him purchase near the G31 victory building (that might have been slightly later, the last half of the game is pretty blurred for me). The Soviets continued down the cogwheel line, bagging the panzershrek halfsquad after it shot at SU-76 parked across the embankment from it (hull hit, NA with the embankment causing Hull Down).

One bright spot was that I realized that the ATG had clear, long-range shot at his SU-76 that had moved up to C31. The idea of it having LOS to most of the interesting areas of the board was paying off. Sadly, it couldn’t connect on it’s first two shots. And then a Patch rallied a squad not too far away from the Gun… with another Heat of Battle. So, another Fanatic… no, wait, broken is another +1, that’s Berserk. And the closest visible target was the ATG.

During their resulting mad charge I revealed the HIP MMG halfsquad, but neither they nor the crew could get any result on them.

So, beginning of turn four, and the only anti-tank weapons left are the panzerfausts, which are being a bit short ranged to be likely, even with the city fighting. (I actually only made one attempt during the game, and pinned for my trouble.) Patch was able to move in and eliminate the rest of the troops along the cogwheel line. I only had a few troops left, cowering away from the hordes of Russian infantry and Patch already had everything he needed to win.

So my turn four was the mad dash to get someone back next to the cogwheel line. This worked somewhat better than expected. Or at least, I got further than I expected. There was still something of a lightly-protected gap in Patch’s line on the south side, and managed to get units to H36, which could then advance into the stone building in G37. Sadly, no squads managed to keep from breaking there, and that was the end of the game.

My three year losing streak continues. My setup was not great, especially in the center. I’m happy enough with the three Guns, which all did their job. They just needed a little more time to do it. The ART in D30 is the most problematic. It can do some great damage to an incautious Russian and a little luck, but it’s just not well enough protected there. Patch was suggesting the Roadblock would be better at G38/H37, to block off the road before it splits, but I pointed out that that just allows vehicles to go over the embankment in H38 and then into H37, skipping the entire thing without even being diverted onto the wrong road.

The mines in H37 certainly worked well with that roadblock, but Patch had a very good point that they really should be concentrated more. He suggested lining them along the tramway in E37-36-35, which should keep the Russians out of the cover there, which is a very good idea. The ‘spare’ foxhole in D31 should have been in G32 to complete the ‘rout line’ from the rest of the cogwheel line to the ultimate fallback position of G31, I certainly had contemplated it. I’m not sure that’s a real good use of them, but it’s the best for that setup.

We had some practical troubles. The main Hungarian sheet in my copy of FB is die cut off center towards the top, so he could often see bits of green peeking from below my concealment markers, announcing they weren’t dummies. On one occasion that did surprise him, as he could see the second counter wasn’t Hungarian… but it was the German panzershrek.

We’re hoping to get to doing FtF a little more regularly in the future, and hope to play FB2 “The Devil’s Free to Have a Try” in a month.