I got off the train from Chicago and made my way to the hotel. My intention was to pop upstairs, register and then grab a shower and a little sleep. I bumped into Aaron Cleavin while registering and by the time I'd finished he'd teed up a game for me with Scott Holtz. In this scenario my Soviets had to defend a small village from Scott's Germans. I set up what I thought was a good defence against flank attack. It might have been but Scott simply charged straight up the middle. It took a couple of turns but he drove me out of the victory locations despite breaking the MA on his flamethrower tank. I got some T-34s as reinforcements but by that time things were so bad that I had to do silly things with them. I killed another German tank but by the time Scott's tigers turned up all they had to do was witness the surrender ceremony. 0-1
Going against national proclivities I took the defending Japanese against Stan Jackson's Australians. I had hold two hills of four. I wound up holding one. I defended the forward hill successfully for so long that I got a little obsessed with it. Even after I had been driven off the victory location it seemed like I might be able to get it back with a little effort. I killed plenty of Australians but took heavy losses in return and had very few units to defend the rearmost hills. A little hesitation on my part on the deployment of my reserves didn't help either. 0-2.
Morire in Belleza
I satisfied my Italian cravings with this one against Kevin Killeen as the defending Yugoslavs. Again I think I was a little slow. I had laid enough smoke to help my troops forward but I don't think I put enough urgency into the push with the result that my troops got hung up on the forward hill for most of the game rather than the rearmost hill that was my objective. A small flanking manoeuvre was ill conceived and got nowhere fast. I did eventually clear the first hill but by that time I had run out of time. I was staring at the victory locations but couldn't reach them despite managing to obliterate one of Kevin's 75mm guns with my mortar. 0-3
The Hungarians were the next nationality to be saddled with me as a commander as my force of infantry and Zrinyi assault guns had to capture some wooden buildings from Randy Rossi's Soviets who were supported by T-34s. Each of us also got a honking big mortar that neither of us could figure out what to do with. I put mine on a hill that overwatched virtually nothing while Randy placed his in a forest hex. I found it when my troops literally walked into it. Despite the presence of the Zrinyis it was a largely infantry game as my Hungarian troopers tried to push the Soviets out of the buildings needed for the win. I got a few of them but ultimately came up short at the end. I lost about three Zrinyis on the way. Randy's only tank loss came when he felt that one of the victory buildings could be better defended with a wrecked tank in the cellar. 0-4
Fangs of Transylvania
In a small scenario its easier to look competitive or at least blame your dice for the loss. In a big scenario ones shortcomings tend be exposed. Thus it was when my large gaggle of Romanian troops backed by an impressive if somewhat eclectic collection of armour attempted to seize a village from Ken Mioduski's Hungarians. My assault was poorly managed and my Romanian troops suffered accordingly. I did push into the village but couldn't drive Ken out of it and my badly placed armour was torn apart by his reinforcing tanks. The occasional kill I got in return couldn't compensate and with a ridiculous number of victory points still required and more than half my tank force down I conceded to stop Ken getting bored. 0-5
Tea at Three
Tea at Three was a small scenario pitting a group of demo charge toting British (plus one US half squad for an almost OCD level of historical realism) trying to capture a building from a not particularly impressive or enthusiastic group of Germans (commanded by me which could explain a lot). Dave Reenstra had the bomb happy British. Not really a lot to report here except that history repeated itself. The British blew their way in and blasted my troops out in double quick time. I staggered away from the board in an advanced state of shock. 0-6
Did Lenin have sons? I'm not sure and if he did I'm damned sure he wouldn't have wanted me commanding them. Nevertheless I had the Soviet defenders in my first mini against Andrea Pagani's Germans. Sadly I botched the initial set up, not defending the woods adequately and allowing Andrea to sweep forward through the trees towards the village I was notionally protecting. A grim tussle for this building or that followed but the end wasn't in doubt. I lost the game on turn four but a sudden rate tear with my hmg regained me a victory building in turn five. Unfazed Andrea simply retook it again in turn six by which time I had virtually no troops left. Oh yes and my 10-0 commisar got sniped in the first turn, I suppose I should be grateful my entire force didn't just give up then. 0-7
Having crashed out of my first mini I played Piano Lupo against Paul Washington. I had the German/Italian defenders while Paul had the American paratroops. Paul's first mortar shot was a critical hit which obliterated the entire German contingent thus leaving a purely Italian defence. Despite this with the assistance of some lucky dice my Italians managed to hang tough (or tough enough) to deny absolute victory. There was still a broken Italian squad cowering in the victory building at game end which was enough to (just) give me the win. 1-7
De Veer's Counterattack
Feeling terribly cockahoop after my first win I agreed to play a third game on the same day which was probably one too many. I had the defending Dutch in this scenario against Ray Vincent's Japanese attackers. Suffice it to say my cock got well and truly hooped. Poor set up (particularly of my gun) permitted Ray to secure the heights before my reinforcements arrived allowing him to rain damnation down on them from above. Not even my Dutch 10-2 could really turn the tide. His troops were safely ensconced and I had to run a gauntlet of mortar fire to reach them. This combined with an apparent inability on the part of my troops to actually hurt the Japanese doomed my defence. My brief winning streak was obviously over. 1-8
My next mini was against Ray Woloszyn a well mannered, soft spoken American gentleman who would take the defending French against my marauding early war Germans. I would dearly like to have given Ray a good game but on this occasion I will blame my dice as much as my incompetence. I had five tanks none of which managed to produce any smoke to protect my infantry going forward. Ray helped a little by getting a critical hit with his antitank rifle and burning one of my PzIIs. Of the remaining four tanks three of them broke their main armament in the first two turns while my troops were left to cross open ground without any sort of cover and paid the price. I knew it was a risk but I needed some firepower so I tried repairing the MA on my tanks and promptly sent two of them trundling back to their home base. At that point I conceded. Possibly a better player could have come back from that but it was beyond my abilities. 1-9
Bridge to Nowhere
The mortars, the mortars, oh dear god the mortars!!! Yep, I played this one as the Italians trying to seize a bridge from its Soviet defenders in the person of Chet Cummings. Chet skilfully held the bridge for a couple of turns against me with a conscript unit and a dummy stack but eventually the grey tide poured across. Driving him away from the bridge was a different matter however. The only cover was trees but Chet's mortars continually frustrated my attempts to build up any sort of a firebase. There were no dramatic rate tears just a continual series of MCs and 1MCs that my troops couldn't stand up to. Just to prove the mortar issues weren't one way I managed to shake Chet when one of my dinky little 45mm toys managed a critical hit on his mmg position which cleared part of my way. Ultimately though I simply couldn't generate enough firepower to worry his main defensive position. 1-10
The Five Pound Prize
OK, I'm a moron. That is the explanation for what happened in this scenario against Hennie van der Salm. My British had to defend a collection of buildings within three hexes of a stream which flowed across the board. For some reason (see previous moron comments) I got absolutely fixated on the stream to the exclusion of the buildings. I set up what I thought was a solid defence to protect the stream and when Hennie's troops came on realised that I had effectively conceded half the victory buildings he needed with barely a shot fired. Because I had bulked up in the remaining ones the next couple of buildings he needed came at a higher price but he had the time and the leisure to accomplish it. My six pounder guns managed to kill a couple of his tanks and I even recaptured a building or two at the end but I couldn't compensate for my original idiotic set up. 1-11
I desperately wanted to convince myself that my earlier win wasn't just a fluke and I hit on a cunning plan. First I would return to Sicily, scene of my sole triumph, and second I chose an opponent who seemed a little sleep deprived to put it mildly. I would command the attacking Americans trying to drive Steve Tinsley's defending Germans off some hills overlooking a Sicilian village. Steve actually nodded off while doing his set up. Even so I nearly botched it. I credited the two German 50mm atgs with more killing power than they possessed (a quick glance at the chart would have set me right) and advanced very cautiously. So cautiously in fact that I was quite pressed for time at the end. I did lose one tank to an atg but Steve helped enormously by breaking both while trying to intensive fire them. With the guns out of the equation I was able to pound his infantry more or less with impunity and a combination of heavy fire (including a convenient critical hit on a unit in a trench) and loads of overruns managed to not so much drive the Germans off the hills and crush them into the hills. A measure of my earlier delay is that it took until the very last turn before I had broken the remaining Germans for a win that was a lot closer than it should have been. 2-11
This saw me as the defending Japanese pitted against the Americans recapturing the Philippines. Chip Wertemberger commanded the Americans. The Japanese gain victory points each turn by holding certain positions but also by exiting troops off the board. So the Japanese have the option to decide between fight and flight while the Americans have to plan for both eventualities. I decided on a little of each. I set up what I hoped was an effective defensive position (it wasn't) while other troops were positioned for a dash to the exit. The exiting troops met no resistance as Chip went hard for the victory locations. A combination of luck and the distance he had to travel held Chip off from the victory locations for a couple of turns but then he started to break into my position which wasn't as mutually supportive as it should be. Chip overran the positions in the next couple of turns which left me a couple of victory points short of what I needed but I still had some troops and I raced them for the board edge in the hopes of gaining a couple more exit points. A couple didn't make it (Chip had some troops held back against this possibility) but one squad waltzed through all his defensive fire to make it off at the last and give me a not particularly deserved victory. 3-11
Pressure to Withdraw
So close, so very close. I played the defending Germans in this scenario to Randy Gleeson's attacking Soviets. Very high quality Soviets they were too. To win the Germans had to exit more points off the board than the Soviets. Since the Soviets had more troops this meant the halftracks. Two unarmed halftracks enter on the German side. If the Germans can load them up with their appropriate armament and then get them off each is worth 10VP and, short of an absolute whitewash by the Soviets, should be the difference between success and failure. The halftracks don't turn up until turn four which means the Germans have to keep the Soviets far enough away from their entry points to allow for the loading and retiring. I didn't quite. I set up a reasonably solid defence in the centre and left to protect what I had designated as my entry point with a scattering of speed bumps on the right to slow Randy down. In retrospect I should have committed a little more to the right. My centre and left hung tough but the bulk of Randy's force swept away my right hand troops and came in on my flank. I got one halftrack off but by the time the other was ready to go there was a Soviet squad with an atr breathing down its neck. Some desperate fire of mine managed to pin it but this wasn't enough because as the halftrack started up pin or no pin Randy managed to kill it. I got a couple of other squads off but it wasn't enough. Still I was quite pleased with my defence in this one.
What Doesn't Kill You
I realised I had got through the entire of ASLOK without playing the Nationalist Chinese so for my final game I faced off against David Perham to play what doesn't kill you which pits a group of elite GMD Chinese backed by British tanks and guns trying to clear the Japanese off a road in Burma. I had three Stuart tanks with a mess of machine guns (Japanese, for the killing of) but somewhere David had a 75mm gun which could reduce them to scrap. I won this scenario partially with some lucky rolls but basically by burning the village down. David helped a little when his 75mm burnt a Stuart as well but by the end of the game there was almost nowhere for his surviving defenders to be where they wouldn't get fried. My Chinese (and the one tank that survived) charged through a sea of flames to clear the last Japanese away from the victory road. Ultimately it came down to the last CC roll. If David rolled a four or less he would kill my troops for the win. He didn't roll a four or less and I came away choking on smoke with the win. 4-12.
Well that was it, hardly a glorious showing but it was an amazing experience and good to put some faces to names I've heard of but not seen. Many thanks to Bret and Bill for the organisation and to everyone I met and played against all of whom were patient with someone who should know the rules a lot better than he does.