Friday, 2 June 2017

The Hedghog of Piepsk

I did actually manage to get a game in during May although only just.  My mother-in-law has been very poorly and has been in hospital for the past 3 or 4 weeks, necessitating daily visits to keep up her spirits and also those of my father-in-law too.  Fingers crossed she is on the mend now although I suspect there will be more twists and turns before she gets home.

The game I did manage on the penultimate day of May was my third game of Squad Leader.  This time I chose Scenario 4, entitled "The Hedgehog of Piepsk", which was all about a weak company of German infantry holding onto an isolated village strongpoint in 1941 Central Russia against a Russian force four times their size.  I could have chosen Scenario 3 which was a combination of the first two scenarios but I could not face it. There was going to be rather too many counters on the table for it to be solo-playable and I had found the original scenarios to be rather claustrophobic.  I am sure the original combatants in Stalingrad might have agreed although for rather more personal reasons!

Scenario 4 used boards 2 to 4, which I had never used before.  And in the way in which Squad Leader builds up the rules used a scenario at a time, this one brought in the use of off table artillery for the first time.

Squad Leader with wide open spaces - I quite like the mapboards
It also brought in the rules for hidden placement which could have been rather challenging for solo play.  Instead of following the rules of noting down the grid references of the hidden German forces, I simply allowed the Russians to move first and then place the Germans on the table, reasoning that my lack of experience of the rules would be unlikely to unbalance the scenario too much.  I also decided that once I had placed a unit I would not move it again, thereby limiting my ability to continually fiddle with the deployment.

The game seemed to progress pretty well.  It demonstrated (again!) that moving infantry in the open would quickly lead to heavy losses.  It also showed for the first time how potent machine guns could be in their ability to engage several hexes at once in their line of sight - the crowded streets of Stalingrad had result in engagements at close range and there had been little opportunity to see the "penetration" of machine gun fire.  This scenario also showed how important leadership is in Squad Leader, in particular to get broken infantry back up and moving or at least under cover.  In the game, the Russians quickly lost two of their three leaders which meant their assault on the village in the middle of the right hand board (see the photo) quickly ground to a halt as units were broken and could not be rallied.

The game ended in a clear German victory, although if some of the Russian dice rolls had been a little kinder things would have been a bit closer.  I quite enjoyed the game and I am looking forward to getting to the rules for armour in the near future.  Using more of the mapboards was a welcome change of Squad Leader scenery.

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