Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Gonna Be Messy

Day Three: 19 October 1942

After considerable thought, I decided to select the "Idle" chit for Day Three. After suffering significant casualties the day before, I thought the odds reasonably in favor of the Sixth Army choosing to go Idle themselves. Were I to catch the Germans napping, and hit them with a surprise Night Assault, I might win back some crucial terrain and make Jerry bleed for it all over again. However, knowing my opponent, my thoughts could easily lead me astray. So I chose the safer option, and strengthened my defenses. This proved prudent, as Dade surrendered to his aggressive instincts and chose "Attack".

Retained Forces:
3 x 4-5-8
22 x 4-4-7

1 x 2-3-7
1 x 5-2-7
1 x 2-2-7
22 x 4-2-6

1 x 10-0

1 x 9-2
3 x 9-1 (one is Wounded)
3 x 9-0
1 x 8-0
1 x 7-0

2 x HMG
4 x MMG
5 x LMG
2 x ATR
4 x Lt MTR
1 x LMG(g)
1 x ATR(g)

KV1 M42: Dug In (Z9)
T34 M42: Dug In (O22, I25, E25)
SAN: 3

Purchased Forces (16 CPP):
Guards SMG Coy in Reserve (Full) 10-0, 9-0 [6 CPP]

T34 M43 Ptn (Full) [6 CPP]

80 FPP [2 CPP]
80mm Battalion Mortar (Normal) [1 CPP]
Pre-Registered Hex (U11) [1 CPP]

I wanted to have a flexible dimension to my defense, so I purchased the T-34 platoon at full price. If the German overloads one flank or another, the tanks can rush to assist. If a weak point presents itself, the tanks may be able to lead a limited counter-attack.

The Battalion Mortar is pre-registered to strike the staging area for a German assault on the Chemist's Shop. The 9-2 is tucked behind the defense in an overwatch position along with two 4-5-8s toting HMG; their job is to prevent a push up Pribatayinskaya Street.

The majority of the Guards SMG Coy is deployed around the Power Station to protect it and the two dug in tanks nearby. I've eschewed a stiff defense of buildings west of the railway. There just weren't enough squads to make for a decent fight and I had other priorities (see below). A 9-0, 4-4-7 + MMG, 4-4-7 + LMG(g) are in level one of G23 to interdict movement down the A-D hexrows toward building C23.

As always, the conscripts are arrayed in a two-deep line within the big factories. The fact that the O10 Assembly Hall is Gutted will help them survive a bit longer. Their job is to keep the Germans out of P18. As added insurance, the cloaking counter in P18 contains a 9-0, 3 x 6-2-8 and a DC. If activated, they can provide a bit of a counterpunch.

What I think will surprise Dade the most is the way I bolstered the line down by the riverbank.

In past games, I've toyed with the idea of building a bunker complex in this corner of the map. I've always ended up moving the fortifications westward, abutting the pillboxes against the wall surrounding the big debris field. This time, given the position of my first two pillboxes, I thought that hardening this piece of real estate has the potential to cause a few headaches for the German.

I first had to consider how I would cope with the Germans occupying building Z1 and setting up a powerful fire base there. The Wind Force/Direction roll (RB 11.6241) gave me my answer. Drifting smoke just covers both hexes of building Z1. Fully expecting the German to take this building, I placed two conscript squads in the cellars of Z1/Z2. Because of the adjacent wall, no LOS exists to the cellars from W1 or XO. Any fire from adjacent hexes is at +6 and is halved. Any Germans advancing into the building must cross a wall and add +1 MF for Smoke, making for an Advance Vs. Difficult Terrain and resulting in CX status. CX Germans are susceptible to ambush by concealed Conscripts. These facts will make the German second-guess moving into the building, and once they clear it any fire out will be at +3 for Smoke.

Two hexes back from building Z1 I have placed two 1S foxholes holding a 4-4-7 each. Their job is to bottle up the Germans in Z1 and lay down fire on Leninskii Prospekt. Just to the south of the gully I have placed three trenches as the backbone of the defense. On the north end is the 1-3-5 pillbox placed on Day One. It's job is to help contain the advancing Germans in Z1. In the middle is a stone building that I have Fortified. A 9-1 and 4-5-8 + MMG are set up here to cover the X6/X7 approach to the Chemist's Shop and to stave off an attack on the trench complex. In the south, I've added a 1+5-7 pillbox containing a 9-1, 2-3-7 + MMG, 2-2-7 + MMG. They have a good LOS to V9-W8-X8-Y8-Y9 and should prove troublesome to any Germans trying to move on the Chemist's Shop through those hexes. The trenches themselves are manned by 4-4-7s with a LMG and a Lt MTR.

The 1+3+5 pillbox in Y7 contains the wounded 9-1 and a 4-4-7 + LMG. The AT ditch holds a 4-4-7 + Lt MTR. Their jobs are to lay as much interdicting fire as possible on Leninskii Prospekt and go down fighting. If possible, they are to make their way into the Chemist's Shop or back to the trench line. Either is unlikely.

The idea of this defense is the maintain a strong base of operations north of the Z8-CC8 defile. As long as the Russian can set up there in force, any Germans in the Chemist's Shop are threatened. If the German decides to spend the points to erase the fortifications with heavy artillery, then so be it - the line can be recast just north of the defile. Make the German fight for what is essentially worthless terrain. Every turn that he doesn't eradicate the bunker complex is a turn that it becomes stronger and deeper.

Here is a picture of the overall defense:

I've given up trying to predict exactly what my opponent might do. To be honest, it doesn't matter - I've got to plan for multiple contingencies in any case.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Rare Victory

Aftermath: Day Two (October 18, 1942)

I was expecting either a barrage of rockets into the factory complex or the 150mm heavy artillery treatment on the riverbank defenses. Neither materialized, and instead the German pushed eastward from the O6 Manufacturing Hall and brought on a Sturm Company along the northeast board edge. He had purchased a platoon of StugIII G, presumably hoping that their 75L main armament could cope with the dug-in KV1 M42s.

Advancing behind a concentration of smoke, the storm troopers crept toward the Russian defenders. The dummy cloaking counters raised enough doubt with my opponent so that he did not charge forward aggressively. A cat-and-mouse game ensued as the German probed the Russian line. The AP mines in W1 and W2 held up the advance along the board edge, and when the Russian battalion mortar was finally brought to bear the Germans were bottled up. Although I only got one fire mission from the artillery, it proved very effective in halting the advance of German infantry and immobilizing two German AFV.

The German assault was dogged, and on two occasions managed a toe-hold in the Chemist's Shop. In both instances the toe hold was eradicated. Stukas appeared in the skies and destroyed the KV1 M42 in U11. Building X1 was held, as were the pillboxes in Y7 and AA4. However, all of the T60 M42s were destroyed.

Over in the factories a stalemate ensued in the L14 Foundry Hall and the German thrust entered the O10 Assembly Hall. The Russian conscripts in these two factories made frequent use of Sewer Movement to harass the German advance and to cross the street between. The Germans were able to clear the northernmost hexes of the Assembly Hall but made no headway into the Foundry Hall.

Along the west edge, a few platoons of German riflemen pushed forward into building B18 and the F16 Warehouse. This advance was disrupted, and the forces in building B23 pushed back and re-captured building B18.

The most dominating factor in this game was the Russian's blisteringly hot dice. I have never, in my 20 years of playing ASL, ever enjoyed such monstrous luck. In one fire phase, I think I never rolled higher than a 5 and had probably four or five snake eyes. It was uncanny. The dice are the reason for the high German CVP total, not any miscues on the part of my opponent. I prevented the German from capturing 24 stone locations, and won that ever-so-rare Russian scenario victory.

At the end of the day, the perimeter looked thusly:

The dilemma with which I am faced is this: to select the "Attack" Initiative chit, or continue with my defensive effort?

The German must be reeling right now from the casualties absorbed on Day Two. My gut instinct tells me that he will choose the "Idle" chit in order to build up an assault force (possibly including Pioniers) and to open up the west edge entry area to A22 (which would provide a flanking avenue for an attack on the Power Station). Were I to select "Attack", then the Russian side could prosecute a Night Attack - something that we have yet to experience in Red Barricades. For my part, such an attack would consist primarily of Conscripts, which would be very limited at night. One small, overlooked rule from Chapter E: at Night, concealment terrain costs +1 MF to enter. This means that 1st line troops advancing into Rubble, or Conscripts advancing into just about anything, would be Advancing Vs. Difficult Terrain and hence would enter Close Combat with CX and Pinned penalties. Yikes! Were I to elect to make a Night attack, I would have to use a lot of Sewer Movement and focus on surrounding rather than destroying German troops. I'm not sure how that would go down.

If I'm wrong, and the German selects the "Attack" chit as well, then a Dual Attack would result. This could possibly give me no benefit and actually hurt me when the ELR Adjustment portion of the Refit Phase rolls around.

On the other hand, if I select "Idle" then I am choosing the safest path. Sure, the German might get a turn to muster his assault force...but I would be able to build my defense in depth. Casualties in the subsequent day's fighting would be astronomical (probably nearing 80-100 CVP), but I would expect to be able to extract my own pound of flesh.

I will have to consider these options for a bit before deciding.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Day in Paradise

Aftermath: Day One (17 October 1942)

The Germans prosecuted what my opponent calls a "vanilla" attack - right up the gut toward the factories. All three German companies pushed through the NW corner of the factory complex and succeeded in gaining a toehold in the L10 Foundry Hall. Both sides scored essentially the same number of CVP: Russians 27, Germans 28. The Russians lost both AT guns and an HMG, which was unfortunate. No Russian squads battle-hardened, but the 7-0 leader improved to 8-0. Russian SAN dropped to 3. I was lucky and rolled 18 CPP for reinforcements.

Day Two: (18 October 1942)

Retained Forces:

16 x 4-4-7
1 x 2-3-7
1 x 5-2-7
1 x 2-2-7
3 x 4-2-6
1 x 2-2-6

3 x 9-1 (one of whom is Wounded)

2 x MMG
2 x LMG
1 x ATR
2 x LtMTR
1 x Field Phone
1 x 80mm Battalion Mortar OBA Module
1 x Pre-Registered Hex
3 x T60 M42 Tanks (Dug In)
2 x KV1 M42 Tanks (Dug In)


Militia Coy (Full) [4 CPP] Leaders: 10-0
Militia Coy (Full) [4 CPP] Leaders: 9-0
Rifle Coy (Full; In Reserve) [4 CPP] Leaders: 9-1, 9-0
T-34 M41 Ptn (Full; Dug In) [3 CPP]
120 FPP [3 CPP] 7 x Wire, 3 x HIP Tanks, 6 x HIP Squads, 2 x HIP SMC

Eastern Sector:

The threat to the Chemist's Shop is nearly identical to that it faced on Day One. Now that the German has seen the locations of the pillboxes and hidden dug-in tanks, my chances for laying a trap are diminished. I placed a number of dummy cloaking counters in a forward position around my artillery's pre-registered hex (V3). If anything, I hope that these might at least give pause to the German attackers and perhaps soak up some artillery fire that might better be directed toward the pillboxes or the Chemist's Shop. Behind the cloaking counters I have the dug-in tanks retained from Day One and a smattering of infantry in and around the pillboxes. I have three 4-4-7s and a 9-0 Commissar HIP in the Chemist's Shop, as insurance against disaster. They might still be buried in rubble if the building is zeroed in by German guns.


The two companies of fresh Militia have been given the ugly task of being destroyed in the factories. Whatever squads survive the potential rocket barrage will have to keep the Germans from pushing out toward the Chemist's Shop and prevent them from taking the O18 building. The street running between the O10 Assembly Hall and L10/L14 Foundry Halls will likely be swept by MG fire, so crossing it is to be avoided if at all possible. The Assembly Hall is usually a charnel house for the German, and I hope the trend continues.

Power Plant:

The Power Plant (J21) is the key to the early defense of the southern portion of the complex. The Rifle Coy in Reserve is set up in and around this building, with a few "live" squads on the flanks to slow down the German advance. I've dug-in three HIP T-34s (O22, I25 and E24) to back them up. Hopefully he will deploy his tanks here aggressively and the T-34s will destroy them. I've also placed a 9-1, 4-4-7 + HMG, 4-4-7 + MMG on the first level of C28 to protect the western approach .

Nothing to do now but wait.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Second Time Around

In the morning you go gunning for the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border

And the mourners are all singing as they drag you by your feet

But the hangman isn't hanging so they put you on the street

You go back, Jack, do it again. Wheels turning 'round and 'round

You go back, Jack, do it again...

Steely Dan "Do It Again" (1972)

So, Dade and I talked ourselves into playing Red Barricades CGIII. After the spirited whupping I took in CGI, as chronicled in earlier posts, I figured the Russians deserve a better showing. As before, we shall be blogging our thoughts before and after each campaign game day. Dade's musings can be found here.

Day One: October 17, 1942

Initial OB:
Rifle Coy (Full): 9-1, 9-0

Rifle Coy (Full): 9-1, 7-0

SMG Coy (Full): 9-1

2 x 45LL ATG

2 x 2-2-8
5 x Fortified Buildings

Purchases (8 CPP):

+80 FPP [2 pts.]

T60 M42 Ptn (Full; Dug In) [2 pts.]

KV1 M42 Ptn (Full; Dug In) [2 pts.]

80mm Btn Mtr OBA (Normal) [1 pt.]
Pre-Registered Hex [1 pt.]

2 x LMG (removed BMG from the Dug In KV1s)

I decided to take an entirely different tack from last game. Since our game concluded, Dade and I have been mulling over the things we learned from it. Our understanding of Red Barricades continues to evolve, even after a dozen or more playings. It had become apparent that a fair portion of the conventional wisdom regarding Red Barricades that we had internalized required a fresh perspective. With that in mind, I'm experimenting with my setup this time around.

As always, I am concerned with my right flank. As the last game amply demonstrated, if the Russian allows the German to push down the riverbank he can force the Russian to cede the northern factories with little or no fight. In the past, my answer was to hem in the German's easternmost entry area with fortifications and make it a bulwark. I erred somewhat in the last game by committing only half-way to the right flank. A few 3+5+7 pillboxes, as I have used in the past, might have helped against the 150mm artillery. I eschewed these in favor of springing a trap on a German thrust into the B12 building that never materialized. As it was, the artillery obliterated my flank.

This time around, I'm going to take a big gamble and lay a trap in front of the Chemist's Shop. Rather than build a bulwark, I'm going to be deceptive and lay successive traps for the assaulting Germans.

In Front of the Chemist's Shop

The basic rule for this section of the front will be: no two visible units will set up so as to be within the same FFE area-of-effect. If Dade plans on reprising his artillery orgy from our last playing, then I'm not going to give him any juicy targets .

I've decided that trying to hold Pribayatinskaya Street along hexes V1 - V5 requires putting too much too far forward. The key is not so much to keep the Germans from reaching the riverbank, but to keep them from pushing along it. I don't have to prevent an overrun of the Z1 building, but I do have to strongly defend the choke-point formed by the Z8-AA8-BB8-CC8 defile.

Much of the defense in this area will be set up HIP. Keeping Dade guessing as to the nature of my forces here will do much in the way of slowing him down.

An AT Ditch in Y8 nicely seals off Leninskii Prospekt and provides a useful place to site a 4-4-7 + Lt. Mtr. Directly in front of the AT Ditch is a HIP 1+3+5 Pillbox containing a 9-1 and 4-4-7 + MMG; flanking the Pillbox is a HIP 4-4-7 in X7 and a HIP T-60 in Z6. A 4-4-7 in Z5 and another HIP 1+3+5 Pillbox holding a 4-4-7 + LMG is in AA2. All of these units are intended to slow down any force moving south along Leninskii Prospect or forming up in the W5/X4 building/rubble hexes.

All ground level hexes of the Chemists Shop are Fortified. There is a lone 5-2-7 in the back of the building as insurance. The remaining dug-in tanks are arrayed around the Chemists Shop. A KV1 is placed in Z9 to cover Leninskii Prospekt. The second KV1 is set up HIP in U11 to cover Pribayatinskaya Street. A T-60 is in V8 to do the same. If any panzers wander down either street, I'm prepared for them.

I've committed very little to holding the Z1 building. 6-factor AP minefields have been placed in W1 and W2 to help protect a HIP T-60 set up in X1. There is a 5-2-7 in X0 and another in Z2. All of these will likely be overrun by a determined German push.

I'm ceding the hexes numbered 5 or less between Pribayatinskaya Street and Leninskii Prospekt, and hoping to prevent the German from breaking out of that cluster of buildings and rubble. To help, there is a HIP 7-0 + Field Phone on the rooftop of U17 calling in Battalion Mortar. The pre-registered hex is V3. The observer will try and keep the FFE in front of the advancing Germans.

The Center

As I wrote in my previous game's setup entry, I find this part of the front to be easy to put together. I cannot hope to hold this area from a determined German assault, so I've sprinkled a number of squads in the buildings and rubble between J4 and R5. The 9-0 Commissar will provide some backbone. These forces will retreat from any meaningful German pressure.

The Left

I dare not try and spring the same kind of trap that I set up last game. My plan here is to prevent a southward board-edge creep and drive the Germans into "the Point", the north-westernmost corner of the factory complex proper. I've put two 5-2-7s right up front, in B11 and C11, just to make the German stop and kill them. Both HMGs are in this area, one upstairs in B17 and the other upstairs in F13. Each is manned by a 4-4-7 and directed by a 9-1. The F13 MG nest has a passle of screening infantry out front. The B17 MG nest has two 5-2-7s immediately in front of it. The two ATGs are sited in A17 and E17 to protect the approaches to each MG nest.

I'm gambling a bit with this setup, especially by not purchasing any infantry on Day One. I hope to avoid heavy casualties and pull the Germans into the factories themselves so that on successive days I can do my fighting with Fanatic Conscripts. We'll see if it pays off.

Now you swear and kick and beg us that you're not a gambling man
Then you find you're back in Vegas with a handle in your hand

Your black cards can bring you money so you hide them when you're able

In the land of milk and honey you must put them on the table

You go back, Jack, do it again, wheels turning 'round and 'round

You go back, Jack, do it again...

Steely Dan "Do It Again" (1972)