Monday, February 06, 2006

PanzerGrenadier: Those deadly assaults

As I’ve noted before, assault is where a lot of the casualties happen in PanzerGrenadier. Our game of Fontana Alba is no exception. In two playings, the Romanian assault on the town turned out to be the focus of the action (kind of ‘duh’, but there it is).

In the first play-through, the Romanians were somewhat impatient and rushed in for assault without much softening up of the Soviet defense. The result was an outright catastrophe for the attackers. Cavalry gives up a +1 shift to direct fire for starters, which helped get them chopped to ribbons. Charging into a solid defense, they lost four steps to opportunity fire before they were able to engage the first assault.

Since that was such a mess (and kind of stupid, too), that game was written off as an example of how not to execute an assault.

In the second playing, they approached with considerably more patience and beat on the defense with artillery and support weapons (mostly the two machinegun platoons) before closing to assault. As noted in my previous post, this time they were able to get ‘stuck in’ without suffering too much from opportunity fire. For a couple of turns they made a brave run at clearing out the Soviet defenders. But…

Results can snowball pretty quickly in assault. One or two bad morale rolls, or one or two good enemy morale rolls, can cause the situation in an assault hex to get out of control in short order.

The Romanians and Soviets traded assault results for several turns. Superior Romanian morale and more numerous leadership helped them overcome the defensive bonus of the town and they forced a number of morale checks. One unfortunate Soviet rifle platoon consistently flunked its morale checks and ended up eliminated after multiple failures resulted in two step losses. But the Red machinegun platoons in particular proved impossible to shake (both passed a couple of ‘M2’ checks).

In the 0830 and 0845 turns, the Soviets suffered a total of 3 step losses in assault and inflicted two on the Romanians (giving each side 3 step losses total). The Soviets fed some reinforcements into the assault hexes, though, and kept fighting while the Romanians maneuvered to bring support fires to bear on the two hexes of the town that weren’t under assault.

The wheels started to come off the Romanian effort, though, in the 0900 turn. The Romanians in 1004 totally whiffed on their assault result, while the Soviet defenders scored a ‘1’ against them in return. Both sides scored ‘M2’ results in assault in 1003 – and the Romanians consistently flubbed their morale checks while the Soviets passed more than their share of the critical morale rolls.

The additional step loss dropped Romanian initiative to ‘1’ in the 0915 turn and they lost the initiative roll. The Soviet captain defending the town then personally led a counter-attack into 1003, which contained (at the start of the turn) a disrupted Romanian leader, a disrupted Romanian cavalry platoon, and two demoralized full-strength cavalry platoons.

The Soviets scored a ‘1’ result and the Romanians elected to reduce one of the demoralized platoons. The Romanian leader passed his MC, but all three combat units failed. This resulted in two additional step losses from the two demoralized units (who both failed their MC by three or more) and the demoralization of the third platoon as well.

Figuring in the results from the assault in 1004, by the end of the 0915 turn the Romanians had lost 7 steps against the Russians’ 4. They had no good-order units remaining in 1003 – which was held only by a disrupted leader and one disrupted platoon after all of the recovery rolls. The area around the town was littered with reduced and demoralized Romanian cavalry units. The attack on the town, for the most part, appears to have broken.

That’s where we’ll leave the narrative for the day. The next turn, 0930, will mark the half-way point of the game (turn 15 of 30). It looks like from here on out, the Romanians will be playing for a draw – as clearing the town now seems incredibly unlikely.

However, their support weapons are all intact, as is their chain of command. And they’ve still got that off-board artillery to spread around. So there’s a chance that the Romanians may be able to pull back, dig in and hold on to a chunk of the eastern map and salvage a draw from the game.

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