On the 26th of April, 1941, British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek forces were retreating down the Balkans, slowing down pursuing German forces and attempting to evacuate the bulk of their forces. The German command attempted to capture a bridge which would be used to send more troops in pursuit, but accidentally destroyed the bridge instead. During the fighting, a major goal of the attack was to eliminate the Anti-Aircraft Guns the Allied forces had stationed about the bridge…
Michael chose to play the Germans this game, while I got the British, ANZAC and Greek forces. I had to set up my men first. I note in retrospect that I’ve made an error in placement; one of the Guns is a couple of hexes too far away from the others – each gun should be within 5 hexes away from one other Gun. My defensive troops were poor, and the grain was in season despite it being April. Michael had a lot of Germans to take down my Guns with… would they be enough?
Anti-Aircraft guns are interesting; although they have a relatively small calibre, their high rate of fire allows them to function much as over-large machineguns. In this scenario, the 40L AA Guns may fire as if they had a firepower of 8, far better than their FP if they only fire using the regular Gun rules.
Michael had one great advantage this game: he could enter from any edge of the board. He chose to send a few troops with Demolition Charges into the top-left of the board, but sent the bulk of his forces onto the bottom-right of the board to take out my lone AA gun there, whilst having a few troops enter along the northern woodland to neutralise the defensive troops I’d stationed there. His initial attack was quite successful, and my Greek half-squad ran away broken very quickly.
Interestingly, he held back his DC-equipped troops, not even engaging my small number of squads there.
The dice gods also chose to punish me for placing my right-most AA gun in the wrong spot… it malfunctioned on its second shot!
I began to move troops in response to his attacks, hoping to make things more difficult for Michael to get into range, but I didn’t have many troops to do this with. The dice gods continued to punish me, and the AA gun failed its first repair check and was eliminated. Michael needed to capture or destroy the last two guns to win the scenario, so this was a big plus for him. I was surprised to find he wasn’t moving his DC squads up further, content to stay away, and that he was concentrating on neutralising my Greek squad to the right of the map, despite the fields meaning they were firing with almost no chance of hitting – I had a much better chance as he brought up squads to storm their position!
There seems to be a strange fear factor involved in having Guns on the table – the attacker doesn’t want to engage them! It had been that way for our last scenario, where I was playing the attacker, and it seemed to be that way for this scenario as well. Michael had neutralised most of my troops on the right-hand side of the map, but was he pressing his advantage? He wasn’t! Even now, he allowed the crew from the destroyed Gun to escape, and was most loath to move into the woods. His actual squads were also somewhat out of position, with the half-squads tending to be closer.
This isn’t a very long scenario – only six turns – so Michael needed to get a move on. He finally began to bring his troops into firing positions, but it still seemed somewhat half-hearted. On the left side of the map, his troops finally began to engage mine, only to discover how dangerous it is to move adjacent to another squad, even when you’re only in woods. To be fair, the die-rolling in this game was very swingy; some exceptionally low rolls, and some exceptionally high rolls seemed almost normal!
The trouble with having broken units with no supporting units is that your opponent is free to chase them around the map, making it extremely unlikely that they will rally. Both of Michael’s troops on the left became broken and suffered that fate, being chased around by my squad and my half-squad. Michael finally began to cross the fields towards the Guns, but I was accurate enough with their firing to repulse those who got too close. However, Michael had eliminated most of the nearby defenders – the Guns were mostly on their own.
The trouble was that Michael was making this push, from a long way back, in turns 5 and 6. He just couldn’t over enough ground to take the win. He tried, moving units using double-time as far forward as he dared. However, the fields made such movement extremely hard. Sheer weight of numbers was sufficient to reach and destroy the second gun, but the third gun was never in danger. We reached the end of his sixth turn, with my sixth turn to come, and Michael conceded – there was no way he could win.
ROAR and the ASL Scenario Archive have this scenario as fairly balanced, but an atypical timidity from Michael doomed the Germans to failure on this occasion. Admittedly, facing that firepower is quite intimidating, but the grain fields and weight of numbers give rise to some interesting possibilities. I thought his flood into the right-hand side of the board, was the right idea; he just didn’t get the troops into the area of the other guns fast enough!