Sunday 30 November 2014

Firestorm: Lorraine - Thinking Like Hitler..., not like that!

We finally returned to our long postponed Firestorm: Lorraine campaign for Flames of War, and as I was taking over direct control of the Germans, I thought that I could surprise Matt's Americans as they attempted to surround Metz by bringing a surprising amount of Reluctant Trained troops.

Yes, that's exactly what Hitler thought in the real campaign in 1944. It didn't work for him either.

My forces were roughly as follows:

Panzergrenadierkompanie (Blood, Guts & Glory)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Infantry Platoon (Panzerfausts)
RT Armoured Pioneer Platoon
RT Panthers x4
RT Marder IIIM x2
CC Infantry Platoon (Firestorm Troops)

Yes, I had no artillery or AA guns (largely because I don't own any), but I figured I'd be fine if Matt brought his tanks I'd stand a fighting chance as I was packing a comfortable amount of anti-tank fire. I was aware that if he decided to bring his Parachute Company with Air Support, I'd be struggling to kill enough of them fast enough.

His forces were (as I remember):

Parachute Company
FV Parachute Platoon
FV Parachute Platoon
CV Artillery (of some sort)
CV M5A1 Stuart Light Tanks x5
CT M4A1 Sherman Tank x3, M4A1 Sherman 76mm Tank (Firestorm Troops)
Priority Air Support


The scenario that we were playing was Breakthrough, with me defending. Here's how we deployed:

I deployed two of my infantry platoons, and the pioneers in the woods to the north, with another platoon in the fields near the closest objective. The conscript unit were stationed in the village as a speed-bump. My Panthers (kampfgrupped into two units) and Marders were held in reserve.

Matt massed his troops as if he was completely unafraid of the template weapons I didn't have. His artillery were obviously at the back, with their spotter in the central woods, ready to rain down destruction on my emplacements. The Stuarts were neatly parked ready to rush towards the road and one of his parachute units was deployed dangerously close to my infantry; clearly gearing up for an assault.

I immediately noticed that I'd buggered up deployment. Not only were my Reluctant Trained infantry about to get eaten by some of the best infantry in the game, but I'd put the one unit without Panzerfausts in the village as the 'speed bump'. I was even more pessimistic about the outcome of this game than usual.

However, on the up side, it was cloudy so the USAF would be arriving immediately...well, at least until turn two.

Here's what happened:

A:The Stuarts sweep down to the road and push, largely unopposed, towards the nearest objective, pausing only long enough to spray the Conscript Infantry with enough lead to pin them into oblivion. 
B: The Paratroopers launch the expected assault sweeping through the opposing infantry.
B: The even survive a vicious counter-attack, but are so reduced in numbers that they're rendered largely ineffective for the remainder of the battle.
C: The swift US advance calls for rapid redeployment as the Pioneers and the remaining infantry unit move quickly to the objectives.
C: However, clearer skies mean that both units are bombarded by both Artillery and Air Strikes for the remainder of the battle.
D: German reserves finally arrive but are too little, too late and too inaccurate to relieve the pressure on the Infantry. Not a single Stuart falls to the Panthers.

E: US reserves arrive right on cue, with Shermans attacking the Pioneers, whilst the Paratroopers advance threateningly towards the remnants of the German infantry. The German commander realises the game is up and surrenders. At least he won't have to face the Fuhrer's wrath.

I'm not sure I've been battered like that in a long time. It was a perfect storm of a one-trick-pony army + bad deployment + awkward scenario + late reserves + poor shooting + capable opponent = butt-whipping.

I have always struggled against Matt's Americans; mainly because he has a lot of options that he knows how to use well, so I can never really get the drop on him. I still need to round out my German army as I'm forced down and all attack or all defence route by my only armour being so expensive. Curiously, I don't have the same problem playing against his Germans, but he'd freely admit that his Armoured Pioneer Company with Tigers and Flak 88's isn't exactly an optimal force.

Anyway, back to the campagin. Not only did the Americans win, but they destroy my Firestorm troops and have encircled Metz. I suspect that the hammer will fall there the next time Matt attacks. For me, I need to win initiative and attack somewhere that I'm sure I can win, in order to put the Americans on the back foot for a bit.

Oh, and I need to avoid playing like a numpty too!

Monday 3 November 2014

Zomtober Epilogue: The Game

As last Friday was Halloween, we gathered on Saturday to have our soon to be traditional Halloween Weekend Zombie Game. We would be using Akula's Rules Skirmish Edition for the game as they were simple and straightforward for a multi-player game. 

Matt and I combined our city terrain to create a larger than usual board. The goal would be to get from the car park at one end of the board to the refinery at the other end, pick up some fuel and then get back to the car.

Attempting this feat would be Stephanie from Lazytown (me), a Policeman (Pete), a Redneck (Wes) and Shaun of the Dead (Matt).

Exiting the car, we quickly became trigger happy, taking down a few zombies but alerting every other shambler in the vicinity. Shaun of the Dead, gripped by bloodlust, charged, cricket band in hand, into the the throng. He was dragged down in short order, shortly followed by Policeman Pete, who'd got to close.

Stephanie and the Redneck decided to be a little more circumspect in their use of firearms from that point on.

We decided that it would be 'hilarious' to not only have Matt and Pete take one new character, but to isolate them on the board and have Wes and I pick their character. Eschewing the chance to give them useful characters we saddled Pete with an Old Man with a stick wandering aimlessly in the park...

...and we gave Matt and Red Haired Woman, who was unaware of the apocalypse and was clearly heading out on a date.

Meanwhile, back at the car park, the Redneck fought his way clear, largely by reverting to type and targeting minorities and women. Stephanie, however, found herself trapped and backed off towards the car, hoping to drive through the zombie horde.

Also seeing the value in getting motorised, the Old Man climbed into his car, put his driving gloves on, popped a Werther's Original into his mouth, checked his mirror and then sedately pulled out into the road. Motoring along in second, he was caught up by the Redneck who 'walked shotgun alongside' clearing zombies from the car's path.

Being a young driver, Stephanie was more erratic and rammed straight into the zombies, lost control and careered into the fence. She managed to avoid being dragged out of the car and escaped back towards a second car, hoping to have another go.

The Old Man discovered that 15mph wasn't fast enough to escape the horde and was similarly blocked. He also escaped the clutches of the zombies and backed off with the Redneck into the park.

Isolated and terrified, the Red Haired Woman fled through a warehouse to escape her pursuers. She briefly commandeered a lorry and succeeded in turning the tables on the zombies until her vehicle was stopped by a Tank Zombie and she was pulled screaming to her death.

The Redneck took up a firing position behind the park wall, but although accurate, his fire served only to lure more zombie towards him and the Old Man.

Back in the car park, Stephanie pulled off what I call the 'Zombieland Maneuver,' in which she ran round the car park, luring the zombies after her until she had a chance to slide over a bonnet and escape. Sportacus would be proud.

Unfortunately, after her acrobatics she was grabbed and killed by a lone zombie in an alleyway.

With half of the zombies on the table chasing Stephanie, the Redneck and the Old Man managed to sneak around the shamblers threatening them and scurry into refinery. Unfortunately for them, they were being followed by fast zombies.

Matt's third character, the Survivalist Woman emerged from the wreckage of the bus in a, currently, quiet part of town.

As the Old Man was caught and killed by the fast zombies, the Redneck was within reach of his goal when he was grabbed from below by legless zombie hauling itself along the ground.

Pete's third character, Bill (from my recent Zomtober painting), emerged from the alleyways and began shooting as if he intended to end the zombie apocalypse by himself.

Meanwhile, my second character, a Sikh Businessman, emerged from his offices and calmly strolled around the corner into the refinery, without the slightest concern about zombies.

A couple of close shaves with the zeds that had killed the Old Man and the Redneck notwithstanding, the Businessman was able to get hold of the fuel quite easily. Unfortunately, the only working vehicle that hadn't already be crashed was at the other end of the table.

Wes' second character, Woman with Handbag, emerged from her shopping spree to discover that the world had gone to hell and a Tank Zombie was bearing down on her. She ran.

Bill carried on shooting.

Which helped to draw zombies away from the Businessman, who began his long roll with the fuel.

He was also aided in this by the Survivalist Woman who had found a firing position behind a wall and began to shoot wildly at passing zombies...

Which was not, with the benefit of hindsight, the best idea in terms of surviving.

Matt's fourth character, 'the Guvner', emerged from his premises, wondering what all the noise was about. Being a canny geezer, he spotted the man with the barrel and decided to help him with his load.

The Woman with the Handbag ran to the sound of Bill's firing, but it was a mistake as zombies were also homing in on his position. It turned out that a shotgun was better for self defence than a handbag.

Wes' third character, Cop Lady, walked out onto the street to protect and serve. We'd been quite kind to Wes as we'd given him a character who was not only armed, but was wearing body armour too. There is a school of thought that this would make Wes overconfident...

Back on the barrel roll, I was slowly making progress.

Here's the state of play at this point in the game. Cop Lady is at the bottom of the picture shooting zombies like it was going out of fashion. Bill is up in the top left; having killed all the zombies near him, he was about to go hunting. The Guvner is up in the top right about to follow the Businessman into the warehouse. As the evening was getting on, we decided not to have any more replacement characters from this point onwards.

In the warehouse, the Guvner managed to protect the Businessman from fast zombies.

However, in trying to complete his journey, he was subsequently dragged through a window and killed.

Cop Lady and Bill managed to make enough noise to draw out the zombies that had been milling around the car park. However Cop Lady got bogged down and dragged down.

Now on his own the Guvner hauled the barrel out of the warehouse window and snuck past some fast zeds that were battering at the door.

Similarly isolated, Bill took drastic action, and in a scene reminiscent of 'La Horde', hauled himself up onto the overturned bus and was soon joined by the Guvner.

Carefully the managed to get the barrel from the bus to the lorry that Red Haired Lady crashed earlier and dropped down into the now vacated car park.

Bill refuelled the car whilst the Guvner got it started and the two of them reversed to victory.

Yes, I know the story makes no sense, but that wasn't the point. A good time was had by all and it was a different gaming experience to our usual fare. Akula's Rules are simple and effective for a multiplayer game and anytime a situation came up which wasn't covered, we just made it up.

I was in initially worried that Matt and I wouldn't have enough zombies between us for the bigger table, but it turned out that with the respawning mechanic, we had plenty. In fact it's made me think about not worrying about painting loads more individual models, but perhaps looking at doing a couple of zombie horde bases and a few spawn points.

We've tentatively decided that the Halloween Weekend Zombie Game is officially 'a thing'.