Patch was over again last Sunday for another FtF from Festung Budapest. He wanted to be the defender this time, so he took the Hungarians in FB2, “The Devil’s Free to Have a Try”. Since he doesn’t have a copy of his own, and the board’s not available on Vassal yet, that meant working out the entire defense after he got here in the morning.

This took a bit longer than he’d hoped (like me, he had a hard time coming up with what he wanted to do with certain elements of his setup, like the trenches), so we got a late start. At least we didn’t have a lot of struggle with the EmRR rules this time to distract us.

While he worked on that, I finished grabbing things like my rules (okay, so I wasn’t entirely ready either when he got here), continued work on Smudge’s new system,  and sorted out approximately what I wanted to do for the Russian entry (organized the stacks and stacks of infantry, mostly).

Patch’s defense had some familiar elements to it (like a pair of ‘?’ stacks in G36 and G37). And some things that were expected:  the MTR on the roof of A26, and the roadblock at H37/G38, and the wire lining the end of the tramway in the orchards.

My entry didn’t go all that well. I wish I could remember how Patch managed his, because it’s the same entry area as in FB1, but my right flank got pretty well shot up. Rolling a ’12’ on a MC to lose my 7-0 leader straight off the bat did not help. I also had a squad go berserk on the fifth roll of the game. At that point, there was only one place to go, L29, thirteen hexes distant. He let the squad go charging up the Varosmajor until they ran out of movement, and then coolly killed them with an adjacent squad in L34. In all, all that made it through on that side was a couple of squads, a pinned HS, and two of the SU-76s, one of which came under MTR fire. (Among the broken units was a second leader who wounded on another ’12’ in the next RPh.) And the SU-76 that was tasked with covering the south side had driven into AT-mines in H38, which, thankfully, failed to go off.

The left side starts out in the shadow of a block of buildings, so it entered in much better order. Following some of Patch’s general plan from the first scenario, the troops entered, and mostly ducked into the block of buildings east of the entry area. It also saw my first, and quite possibly biggest, mistake. The OT-34 threaded it’s way through the buildings and stopped between two of them, across the street from some ‘?’. As Patch helpfully pointed out later, it should have then fired the FT with minimal negative modifiers and tried to root out the defenders before they could fire without Motion penalties. But, I didn’t think of that (I’m pretty sure I knew that the last time I had a FT-equipped tank…), and waited for the AFPh. As it turned out, this was the only PF check of the day.

In DFPh, Patch revealed a German squad there, pulled out a panzerfaust and burned the tank. They broke from the backblast, but they had more than done their duty.

Meanwhile, the two SU-76s assigned to that area took up relatively sheltered positions, and started shelling the Hungarians.

In general, my die luck was poor all day, being plagued with a high number of ’12’s, that mostly CRed squads (though, as mentioned before, it also cost me a leader and wounded another), and malfunctioned the gun on one of the SU-76s.

Patch did not suffer as many high rolls, but thanks to Ammo Shortage, he suffered more for them. The MTR went under a Low Ammo counter early, and eventually malfunctioned, two squads were replaced fairly late in the day, and I think a MG malfunctioned from it eventually.

A lot of the rest of the game (the three further turns we got that day) doesn’t stand out as clearly (really should have written this sooner), but it was a slow grind forward for the Soviet, loosing troops at every opportunity, more due to CR on MCs than to actual KIA/K results.

The push on the right ran into a lot of trouble. The main idea was to grab the block of buildings near the edge of the board, and then proceed east along the cogwheel line towards the F31 area. A squad made it into the little block on the first turn, and I eliminated the Dummy unit there only to find it was sitting on top of mines. The mines broke the squad going in, and reduced them on the way out. I eventually took the other two buildings, but broke the remaining unit there, and Patch counter-attacked with a squad. Thankfully, one shot from the SU-76 still parked there sent them running back, but he had taken a building, and I had nothing left to take it back with.

The push along the cogwheel line took a bit longer to develop, thanks to the wire along the tram line. With a lack of other targets available from C38, where an SU-76 had originally parked, I decided to take a chance to push it forward onto the tram line to start taking more area under fire. A minor mistake was that I did this after successfully advancing infantry under the wire. The SU-76 got very lucky, clearing two hexes of wire as it moved.

A bigger mistake was forgetting that LOS traced down the length of the track doesn’t get any benefits from the orchard. Naturally, the AT Gun was stationed in E30, and it had a clear shot down the track to burn the SU-76, and destroy the one that had malfed its MA, which had taken shelter at the end of the track. That was after taking out one that was still jammed between two buildings on the north side of the map. About the only thing I had going for me was a good amount of high-caliber gunnery, and I lost most of it in two fire phases.

On the north side, things generally went a bit better, though crossing from the initial block to the mixed stone/wooden block took some time with the amount of fire that Patch could put the street under. At the end of the day, I had forced him up onto the level 3 hill where he had a Trench (abandoned) and a squad in A30. The plan was to force him back some more, so I could spend more effort reducing and taking C30.

However, that entire area had been hampered by a lot of troops in a small area, and the attendant problems of shuffling them around. Between that, and the extra -1 vulnerability helping with breaks, the FT-squad never got into action either.

Final situation

By the end of the day, gusts had started some fires in uncomfortable positions from the burning tanks, and I was down to a small number of effectives. Technically, the scenario had another three turns to run, but I was just out of steam nearly everywhere, with none of the six victory conditions achieved (two partially done, but no real hope of finishing them).

Things would have been quite different with the OT-34 still in action, though it wouldn’t have prevented the right flank from getting reduced to nothing. Still better would have been remembering the automatic Smoke OBA mission provided. I pulled out the AR counters at the beginning of turn 2 as a reminder… and then promptly forgot until midway through movement. And I forgot again on turn 3. It wasn’t until turn 4 that I got a SR down, and by that point, there wasn’t much to help with. I needed it to shut down a lot of his central fire position as moved closer to it. And while I won’t say I was actually ‘diced’, I will say that they certainly hurt. Not blithely wandering into every location Patch mined would have helped, though he was very smart on his deployments, and it would be hard to avoid.

Patch and I plan to continue playing our way through the FB scenarios, next time through Vassal, as FB3 is a night scenario, and they work much better on Vassal with the night-time shading to help remind you what’s lit up, and the use of invisible (to the opponent) counters to make Cloaking much easier to track.