Sunday, July 25, 2021

Our Saturday Game - ASL Scenario 158 Last of their Strength

After leaving the Normandy hedgerows...Dan and I would circle the globe and find ourselves deep in the jungles of Burma. PTO in the house! I'm generally not a huge fan of PTO. The terrain is a killer and the actions are generally up close and bloody. That would definitely be the case for tonight's game. This game would also once again highlight one of the least liked aspects of ASL...boxcars...that's right...they would be plentiful to the point of really dragging down the game as Dan and I shot ourselves repeatedly as opposed to each other. At some points in the game, we assumed the winner would be the guy who rolled the least number of boxcars. So prepare yourselves for an ugly game filled with crappy rolls, bad results, and an epic finish that would take us both by surprise.

That's a fact...

Tonight's scenario would be from the Rising Sun, one of the very best core modules put out by MMP. Whether you are fan of PTO or not, there's not denying how great this product is for transporting you to the Pacific Theater. Leaning to play the Japanese effectively has been a struggle for me. Tonight's game would really test me as my Japanese both let me down and exceeded all my expectations all in the span of four hours And believe me, my emotions were all over the place as the dice tested my resolve to stay in the fight.

Designed by Theophile Monnier, Last of their Strength depicts the attempt to take the village of Charpate by Merrill's Marauders. Worn down and exhausted from weeks of combat and terrible weather and terrain, Merrill's Marauders were truly at the end of their endurance. They would succeed in taking Charpate only to be forced back from a strong Japanese counter-attack. Our game would exactly match the historical record. So kudos to the designer. Naturally, you don't play the game to recreate the exact history, but I'm big believer that good scenario designs allow the default conditions to replay along the historical facts. It is up the players through good and bad choices to alter the historical outcome. ROAR has this one with 3 Japanese and 7 American Wins. The initial American attack looks very likely to overwhelm the thin Japanese defense before the Japanese reinforcements arrive. But as you will see some truly awful luck would dismantle Dan's attack before half of it even began.

As an homage to returning to Oklahoma and because it fits with tonight's will see a lot of references to the movie Twister. This scenario definitely put Dan and I in an unending twister of agony, joy and frustration!!!

The campaign in Burma would not have been my choice of places to serve (if I had a such a choice to make...and thank goodness I never was faced with such things.) Burma is a master class in irregular operations. Wingate's Chindits and Merrills Marauders proved the Allies excellence in conducting such operations. 

As the attacking Americans, Dan would command the men of the 3rd Battalion, 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)...better known to history as Merrill's Maruaders. This force would consist of 10 x 6-6-7's led by a 10-2, 9-1 and 8-0 with an MMG and 60 MTR. By SSR, this force was exhausted and considered CX for purposes of Ambush and not capable of going CX during movement phase. This would slow down the American advance particularly due to the mud conditions. Additionally, the 10-2 at the start of each friendly turn rally phase would have to take a normal Task Check. Failure would cause the 10-2 to be marked TI for that duration of that turn.

As a kid, Merrill's Marauders was a part of popular culture in books, movies, etc. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, we had a lot of exposure to American history in the media. I'm sure it wasn't all factual, but the exposure to these things tied me and my generation (X'rs) to our history and the people, places and events that shaped our nation. We knew about D-Day, Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Geronimo, Cochise, Grant, Lee, Stuart and on and on. Looking back, we were lucky.

Today's children are awash in a sea of ridiculous super hero movies filled with pointless violence against villains who equally pointless. This is simply an observation and not a political or social statement. It's not a silly thing to know some history and to thrill at the stories of those who came before us and overcame real struggles that gave us the nation we have today. Common Americans from all of the over globe who came here and built this country. Not Spiderman...not Wonder Woman and certainly  not the Hulk. Nope...just thousands of regular folks who stepped up and met the challenges of their time. We are stronger by our connection to their journeys, their exploits and their stories...the American Story.

"Thanks Abe!"

As the defending Japanese, I would command the men of the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment. My initial force would consist of 3 x 4-4-7's, and 2 x 3-4-7's led by a 9-0 with an LMG and 50 MTR. On Turn 3 I would get 8 x 4-4-7's and a 2-2-8 led by a 10-0 and 8-0 with an MMG and 50 MTR.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Americans must control more huts in the village overlay than the Japanese at game end.  The 10-2 and three squads, one with the MMG will attack into the village.  The 9-1 and three squads will attack from the other flank.  While the 8-0 and three squads try to go around the village and establish a blocking position against the reinforcements.  I will deploy one squad, with one HS having the MTR and the other scouting the village.  Hopefully we can clear the village and establish a good blocking position before the reinforcements get into the game."

Wind change would be an important part of the game. We would end up with Heavy Rain for much of the game and that would have serious implications at the end.

I did not have a lot of confidence in my defense. I expected Dan to sweep up on me and take the village pretty quickly.
Dan's 9-1 and 10-2 were ready to take the village.

Dan moved up. The 10-2 brought up the south flank while the 9-1 prepared to advance on the north flank. But the Japanese sniper would head shot the 9-1 and all three squads would break with one of them ELR'ing. They hadn't even had a chance to move before the sniper hit them. Talk about a gut punch.

My sniper would go on to kill another half-squad as the game progressed. How many times on this blog has the sniper played a critical role in the game...too many to count.

The terrain definitely slowed Dan's advance, but he made good progress into the kunai. I would attempt to go into Hand to Hand with his forward units...but Dan would get ambush and infiltrate into a victory location.

And then yet another disaster would befall Dan. His 10-2 would roll boxcars on an NMC and then would severity of  6...KIA'd/ His squads would see one break, but the others stayed in the fight.

Dan was down to a single  officer. His 8-0 was now in charge and would keep the men moving.

I had a single squad hung out with the Americans. Things would not go well for them.

Dan continued to move into the village. Despite some serious setbacks, he was taking control of the eastern half of the village.

Dan's 8-0 would sprint to the north to try and rally the 9-1's broken stack of 3 squads. I sent a 4-4-7 to keep them DM'd'. Bad idea as they then routed towards the 8-0 and would rally a turn sooner thanks to my boneheaded move.

Yes...yes I would.

I was able to use fire lanes to good effect throughout the game. I would successfully stall Dan's attack and my sniper would take out a broken half-squad.

I had a limited amount of firepower...but Dan was missing his morale checks. And so was I...were actually hurting ourselves more than each other with our terrible dice rolls.

It wasn't pretty and a little disheartening. Both Dan and I were alternately not having any fun with this game.

Turn 3 Japanese - my reinforcements hustle to the village. Beyond all expectation, I had managed to hold in the village. Dan had secured 4 victory locations, but needed 3 more for the victory. 

Dan's boys continued to break and with only a single officer, it was a challenge to rally up.

The loss of his officers was taking its toll on Dan's attack. He needed his boys in the fight before my reinforcements got into the village.

Disaster would strike me as well as Dan. I would roll 12's for my 4-4-7's holding the north flank. That would eliminate them both eventually. Boxcars are bad news for Japanese. With that the north flank was open and the 8-0 had managed to rally up the 3 squads that had been broken on Turn 1. It was a great bit of luck for Dan. He had a clear line of approach to the last three victory locations he needed and no Japanese in the neighborhood.

But my 10-0 had managed to get into position with his LMG to lay down a fire lane that would stop Dan's next drive to take the western half of the village. These little setbacks were starting to stack a plate of pancakes at the IHOP...without the syrupy goodness!!

Five turns into the game and Dan was still three victory locations short of the win. But I too was struggling. I went after his MMG team and would lose two squads in the process. My 9-0 had turned into an 8+1 and I moved him to try and get in front of Dan's oncoming attack on the north flank. It's all I had.

I was trying hard to maintain control of the western half of the village. But Dan had taken six victory locations and only needed one more to get the win. My 8+1 was all that stood in the way.

My 8+1 went down fighting...but never had a chance. With that Dan now had control of 7 victory locations. Now he had to hang on to them.

I kept edging my way into the village and maintaining a continuous line. I was preparing for my last ditch Banzai charge. 

Dan moved his boys into position to hang on to his gains.

Turn 7 Japanese - this was it...I would launch a desperate Banzai Charge to try and take back at least one hut and get the victory. I would be charging into a mass of American fire...but the heavy rain would help me.

The storm was coming...

1st Impulse - my charge crosses the road and is met by withering American firepower...but miraculously my force is still intact and moving into the American held huts.

The second impulse carries me onto Merrill's Marauders. And again, my boys weathered the storm...

The final picture...the Japanese Banzai Charge would carry every position as Dan's boys were broken in Advancing Fire or killed in the Hand to Hand Close Combats. My Japanese would take back 5 victory locations for the win. Now...up until the Banzai Charge, the game had been a bloody and frustrating back and forth as Dan and I traded blows and bad rolls. But the Banzai Charge pumped adrenaline an excitement to the conclusion of this game. We were both in awe that the Banzai Charge was so completely unstoppable. You rarely see a perfect charge in ASL...and this was one of those. 

It had been a "Twister" of a game and one that wore both of us out. PTO scenarios are often that way. My thanks to Dan for a what may be remembered as an epic game. And isn't funny how ASL does that.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The 9-1 was popped by a sniper and the 10-2 rolled a 12 on morale check, both died of wounds.  This left the 8-0 scrambling to rally troops.  Eventually we were able to capture 7 huts but Grumble Jones launched a game ending banzai charge and took back 5 huts for the win.  Great move by Grumble Jones!  With the rain and then heavy rain, mud plus the exhaustion of the Americans this scenario is not your normal PTO affair.   My thanks to Grumble Jones for a great game."

That's all for now. 

The Storm has subsided...the game is done 

and we prepare for the next one.

Dan and I will take a break next week as Dan will be attending the HistoriKC Fest 

in Kansas City and hopefully introducing some new players to the world's most epic WW2 Tactical Board Game...

Advanced Squad Leader...

accept no substitutes...because...

well there are no substitutes.

Dan and I will return on August 7th from France 1940.


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