Scandinavian Open AAR

Michael R

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Jonathan Kay posted the following AAR on FaceBook

Recap from my annual week in Copenhagen at the Scandinavian Advanced Squad Leader tournament:

Game 1: J187, “In Deadly Combat,” with me as Russian attacker commanding a large Russian force assaulting the German-held Crimean town of Mekensievy-Gory in late 1941. My opponent, playing German defender, was the Finnish player Timo Kärna. I’ve played this scenario before in Toronto, and felt that it was tough on the Russian attacker, but we both picked this for social play because we knew it would likely be played later on in the tournament. Timo won a close but clear victory, denying me two of the four victory buildings I needed to win. (Both of the buildings were nominally in play at the beginning of the final turn, but after a few dice rolls, it became painfully clear I wasn’t going to take them.)

Game 2: RPT122, “Let ‘Er Buck,” with me as attacker against Ran Shiloah, who played as soon as he got off the plane from Israel. It’s October, 1944, and my Americans, constituting elements of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 91st U.S. Infantry Division, are trying to push back against a German probing force, commanded by Ran, that’s seized a forward observation post near Disotta, Italy. The American force doesn’t really have enough ground forces to do the job, but has access to 100mm artillery. Unfortunately, I kept losing contact with the battery, and the artillery never came—until the very last turn, when everything clicked, and I called in a smoke barrage on Ran’s remaining defenders. Under thick cover, I rushed the victory buildings, routed the defenders and won.

Game 3: My first draw in the main tournament was Arnaud Sanchis, a world-class French player who came in fifth in the 2017 Scandinavian tournament (he ended up coming in 4th in this year’s competition). I do not consider myself in his league on most days, but I beat him last year (delivering him his only loss when he went 4-1), and so maybe that’s why the organizer paired us again. This time, he beat me. But it was extremely close. We played J187—the same one I’d played the previous day against Timo. And I deliberately chose to play the Russian attacker, even bidding down my force to get the attacker’s draw, in stubborn pursuit of a strategy that would allow me crack this but. I chose a radically different attacking approach this time, performing massive human waves of a dozen-plus Russian squads on both the second and third turns, using my tanks to provide smoke cover for the marauding units as they covered open ground. The initial attack was devastating, and threw Arnaud back on his heels. I truly did think I was going to win. But then my attack flagged on the fourth turn, the game went down to the wire, and Arnaud won a squeaker. I took three buildings this time, but not quite the required four. It was only in the postgame analysis that Aranud and I realized why this reversal of fortune had occurred: My smoke-and-wave tactic required that my armour hang back providing fire support, meaning that I had no armour support once I entered the town, with the result that my troops got cut down as they moved from block to block in the final turns. I’m still not sure how to crack this scenario. But Arnaud and I played a great game. And when I performed my second gigantic human wave in a row—something Arnaud said he had never seen in all his ASL days—he paid me the compliment of saying that I “played with style.” Which was nice to hear, but not as nice as a win.

Game 4: Joshua Kalman arrived from Israel, and we played an off-roster scenario, WO20, “Sealing Their Fate.” It’s early 1945, and the USSR is setting the table for the final assault on Berlin. I played the Russian attacker, which has to get its troops past a light shielding force of 2nd-tier Latvian SS units. The scenario comes with two oddball elements: (1) All the German troops start out completely hidden, and (2) The German player secretly records whether he will take an optional Pz IV into this OB as a mid-game reinforcement, the catch being that if he *does* take the tank, the Russian player’s required exit VPs go down from 14 to 8. So the Russian player doesn’t really know what variant of the scenario she is playing till halfway through. As it happens, Josh did take the tank (as I knew he would), but it came on board too late—because I had been able to organize a surprisingly efficient Turn 3 armoured assault that got my infantry across the open terrain safely.

Game 5: This was the third time I played FrF87, “Mormal Forest,” an early-war (May, 1940) scenario that depicts a typical Blitzkrieg encounter (on the edge of the eponymous Mormal forest in this case) between German troops and well-trained but somewhat hapless French defenders. The scenario is interesting for a few reasons: (1) Unlike in most scenarios, the defenders’ force is, in nominal terms, equal in size to the attackers’ force. But the Germans have the advantage of speed—with a good portion of their troops zipping around in halftracks and flanking the French left and right, cutting off their rout lines and pressuring French rear positions, (2) The Germans have to take two of three victory buildings, two of which are strongpoints within the forest—and a third outlier that consists of a church at the centre of a nearby village. The game takes on a radically different texture depending on (a) how hard the French choose to defend the village versus the forest, and (b) how the Germans apportion their attacking force. The game also features an almost comic interlude in the form of the French “reinforcements,” consisting of two bumbling R-35 tanks traveling in platoon. In a typical playing of this scenario, the tanks are disabled quickly, either by 37mm halftrack-mounted AT fire, or a Stuka bomb attack. My opponent was the Finnish-American player Kirby Vincent, (with whom I once played when he came to visit Toronto a few years back) who played the defending French. Unlike me, he had not played the scenario before, so didn’t know the fine points of force apportionment. He seemed to dedicate too much of his force to the village—which I ignored completely, so I could go all in on the forest, seizing both of the required victory hexes on the second to last turn.

Game 6: As the first game of a 3-round Schwerpunkt mini-tournament, I played the German attacker in SP266, “The Hohenstaufen Hootenanny,” which recreates a chaotic late-1944 effort by the Germans to rescue four massive self-propelled 88mm guns from a narrowing pocket of Russian pressure in Chatki, Ukraine. This is one of those modern scenarios, in which there is no set victory condition, but rather players can earn points for achieving various objectives. In the case of the Germans, the main objective is to exit the lumbering 88mm AFVs off the board, but you can also gain points by securing the town and the local commanding heights. My opponent was Pär Worbis (a Swedish player who also was my 2017 opponent in J175, Bedburg Bite, in which I attacked his German-held town of Louisendorf with my Royal Winnipeg Rifles and Scots Guards). He played a good tactical game, and outplayed me at times in the cut-and-thrust of the battle for the town. But I won by optimizing my VP earnings, including the exit of three of the four AFVs off the board. This was one of those very rare times when my experience as a VP-chasing eurogamer actually helped me win an ASL game.

Game 7: SP269, “Retaking Kharkov.” This is a brand new scenario, featuring an elite German force smashing its way into a Ukrainian town in early 1943. The Russian force is not insubstantial. But its T-34s are no match for the German Tigers, which at this stage in the war really did have the run of the battlefield. I played attacker and took an aggressive approach. One unusual feature of the terrain plays massively to the German advantage in this scenario: a railway line cutting the front from the back parts of the map. So once I got my Tigers stationed on this line, they were like rooks on file in a chess match, completely cutting off any possible ordered retreat by the Russian infantry that were putting on their heels by my attacking German infantry. My opponent was the Norwegian-German player Björn Lorenzen, whom I had played in each of the last two Copenhagen tournaments. It was fun, but the Germans very much have the advantage in this scenario, and I didn’t feel like the order of battle was balanced. Björn resigned after three turns.

Game 8: SP 270, “A Small Stack And A Schnapps.” It’s May 6, 1945, literally the last days of the war. And an overpowering Russian force of armoured behemoths and elite Guard units is bearing down on the Czechoslovakian town of Stefanau. The only thing standing in their way is a small scratch force of German 75LL self-propelled guns and rag-tag infantry. The Russians are going to get through. It’s just a question of whether they can do it under the (unusually severe) time limit of 4.5 turns. I played the German defender (the only time during the entire tournament that I ended up with the defending side). The attacker was Hans Bugge, an experienced Norwegian player who has been coming to this tournament for almost two decades. This was the last game of the tournament for both of us, and we both betrayed some signs of mental fatigue. Hans was too aggressive with his attacking infantry, and I ended up routing half of them with my first salvoes. (I was also able to sneak one of my tanks into his backfield, disrupting his rout-and-rally lines, and delaying his attack). But his advantage in armour was overpowering, and I was too slow in retreating my infantry once I had scored those quick initial hits against his soldiers. Once my 75s were neutralized, he cleverly circled round me with his AFVs, cutting me off, and forcing me to scramble through open streets, where my forces were cut down. In this scenario, even the loss of a single key squad or AFV for the German side can be catastrophic. And I lost several of both. I conceded at the end of the fourth turn
 

JoeArthur

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That is the way to play Mormal forest. Ignore the village and go for the other two victory condition buildings. German guns and mortar on the hill pin the French in the village - what else can they usefully do? The French in the village have to sit there and are neutralised at no cost to the German player - who crashes down the forest or the road adjacent to the forest.

If the French do not defend the village - then the German has the run of that side of the board and a free victory condition building.

Tough to play as the French.

Mind you - what do I know :)
 

Jacometti

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Jonathan Kay posted the following AAR on FaceBook

Recap from my annual week in Copenhagen at the Scandinavian Advanced Squad Leader tournament:


Game 3: My first draw in the main tournament was Arnaud Sanchis, a world-class French player who came in fifth in the 2017 Scandinavian tournament (he ended up coming in 4th in this year’s competition). I do not consider myself in his league on most days, but I beat him last year (delivering him his only loss when he went 4-1), and so maybe that’s why the organizer paired us again. This time, he beat me. But it was extremely close. We played J187—the same one I’d played the previous day against Timo.

I’m still not sure how to crack this scenario. But Arnaud and I played a great game.
The TDs informed me that In Deadly Combat went 3-3 overall at the tournament, so I guess some players did "crack it".

Thanks for playing it twice and enjoying it!
 

Mister T

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The overall record should be complemented by a record of balance taken or given. Without that info, it's hard to make conclusions.
 
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tunixx

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The overall record should be complemented by a record of balance taken or given. Without that info, it's hard to make conclusions.
I played it in the tournament. My opponent and me both bid German 2. My impression is that most players thought it is a bit pro-German.
 

ecz

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My impression is that in J 187 against a very good German defense the Russian has very little to do but to cross fingers and hope for luck. Not always there is a very good German defense of course.

the scenario remains interesting as it presents a very peculiar situation you do not find easily elsewhere.
 

Paul S NJ

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I think the scenario is fun and like the vehicle/VC choices for both sides, good replay value. I think it's fairly well balanced, if the russian player is aggressive with the tanks and uses large human waves turns two and/or three (not easy due to only one expendable leader). I won as the russians in a close game. If playing in a competitive tournament, I'd probably bid something like giving up a lmg and squad for the germans.
 

jrv

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I lost In Deadly Combat as the Soviets, but my impression is that it can be won by them. Although organizing a Human Wave out of the 71R4 Peach Orchard might be helpful, I think it is more important to cross the 71L6 road using a Human Wave. The Germans will probably have the 105 in that area. The Soviets will take heavy casualties but they can afford them. I had about 1⁄3 of my force attacking on board u. I was told that was an error, but I took one building there and kept a fair amount of the Germans off board 71. I would probably do something similar if I played it again. It is one of those scenarios where the defender will use a pretty straight-forward defense, but the attack takes something slightly different to work. Perhaps others can see that on inspection; I needed to play it once (wrong) to see how it worked.

JR
 
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