Sunday 26 August 2012

Dropping down to Earth

The view from the venue
Another day to visit Zurich, and more spectacular scenery.  Every time I felt I'd seen something great, there was something even better.  The only disappointment was that the photos just can't do this justice - I would come across another great view, only to see just how little a camera (especially a phone camera) can capture.

It's no exaggeration to say that it felt that my eyes were wider as I struggled to take in the vast valleys and amazing colours that the various lakes presented.

By Friday we were on the way to the Sieblick house, which turns out is part of a perk/bonus of Marc's employment.  The employees share it throughout the year, and there's no surprise that between them there's barely a weekend spare.

A train, and then bus took us up the hills, and beyond the Wallensee lake where the tournament was to begin.

Friday night was spent preparing dinner and chatting ASL - as we met Jan and John. John's an ex-pat, from Scotland, living in Germany and Jan was from Germany living in Switzerland.  Along with Wally, John's girlfriend we were 5, and soon dinner was prepared and we settled in to a German card game that pitched us all together in bar-room-brawling.  The mechanics were simple, you attack someone with an attack card, modified by perhaps a weapon and a fighting style, and the opponent may respond with a defence or counter-attack.  Despite me seeming to be the first choice for everyone to attack, my Knight style combined with a morning star was enough to give me a slender victory.

Then it was time to pick scenarios and opponents for Saturday's game.

I didn't really fancy "Sherman Marches West" - and I'd drawn Marc, the tournament organiser.  He fancied playing "A Desperate Affair", featuring a German paradrop against a dug-in British defence.  Happy to give it a go we chose sides, and both ended up with our preferred sides. I wanted to be a master of my own destiny, preparing a defence rather than submitting to the fickle whims of a paradrop, whilst Marc looked at the chance to seize Crete in what would be a reversal of history with one of the very few airborne assaults the Germans made in WW2.

The scenario is fought over 4 full size boards.  To win the Germans must clear two connected (horizontal or vertical) half boards, and occupy them.  With 3 full wings of paratroops, and a 4th landing on turn 3 of 8 it would prove to be a dispersed yet frantic game.

I was pleased to see that John and Jan had chosen the same scenario, it's nice when there's the same scenario going on next to you because you immediately have context when there's a talk about balance or a rules question comes up.

The British have a choice to either defend in clumps or spread out.  If you opt for a dispersed attack the paratroops have an easier time of the landing, but they must spread out further when crossing the mostly open ground to flush out the defenders.  Defend in strength in small areas, the Germans know where to push, and can focus on securing larger areas of the board, but must risk a much tougher landing that they are almost powerless to prevent.

The paradrop rules are simple and effective. It doesn't stop the first hour of the game being one constant reach for the rulebook, but soon the lightly armed Germans are scampering around re-arming themselves (pre-1942 airdrops have a special rule combining the number of hexes entered with a dice roll that allows the squad to jump from an almost unarmed unit to the 5-4-8s they were trained to be).
Here's me, holding on to Crete's finest grain fields...

I opted for a mix of dispersed and clumped defence.  Marc's drop-points were then determined (they begin a full distance/direction extent before the drift even begins) and it looked like he was going to force a strong attack in the centre of the board, with an adjoining wing coming in on the flank.

My dice were good and Marc's deployment rolls (when the paratroops hit the ground they require a NTC to prevent deploying) were bad.  I'd eliminated 2.5 squads before I'd taken the first casualty but as the game went on the Germans with their rearming and weapon canister recovery become ever stronger.

It looked good for me, then it swung back around again and by the half-way stage it was pretty even.  Even in that we both thought we were going to lose.

A break for a swim in the Wallensee lake (and some interesting photos to probably appear, 3 almost naked ASL players in the back of an Audi!)  - then some light lunch, meant we were ready for the second half of the game.

Marc (right) considers the drop zones
My British troops were crumbling but the Germans were struggling with their own difficulties.  Having finally found the particularly useful 81mm mortar weapon canister the half squad gave it to the crew, who quickly assembled it. The British, being no strangers to the damage the larger mortars can do, quickly ran into hiding, leaving the German crew manhandling the mortar for 3 movement phases up and down hills.  Having been there yesterday - I felt their pain, but none more so than Marc who when they finally had the target in their eyes, they promptly broke the mortar.  A quick repair later, but by then it was too late as the poor half squad they were originally targeting had run off to the safety of a board edge!

The fight continued with Marc taking a half board and giving him options to take one of the three adjacent half boards.  With only between 1 and 2.5 squads defending each I couldn't afford a break or sniper attack to decimate my defence.

On my last turn I generated 2 heroes, and one of these ran around to cause a problem in Marc's rear(!) - but he put a quick end to that as his 9-2 and 8-0 combined with each other to wipe out my hero and full squad in CC.  It was a mutually destructive combat that left us both feeling like we'd got the wrong end of the luck.

Finally the last turn had come and Marc had chosen his target.  I had 3 hexes to defend, each with a half squad, and one with a LMG, hero and 8-1 leader, at the front.   The charge came!

The first half squad KIAd the first on-rusher, but another got close.  A squad ran towards the LMG/hero stack and was taken on on a 3 down 4 shot.  The next shot took out another half squad but there were more coming.  The squad reaching the adjacent hex I had to consider the safety of the stone building or final protective firing another 3 down 4.  I took the shot, rolled an 11 and groaned.  Breaking the MMC in that hex meant there were just two half squads left to defend the board.  They were 2 hexes away from the closest German squad. One in the open, one in woods.

Marc is sure the weapon canisters were somewhere...
Marc's last chance was a spraying fire, 1 flat and 1-up-1.  Needing low low dice, he didn't get the luck and that was the game wrapped up, by the closest of margins.

It had taken us about 7 hours, but a replay of the same scenario would be much quicker knowing the paradrop rules (again) now.  That assumption's only valid for the next few months as they'll be forgotten soon, but we all commented on what a fun scenario it had been.

On the other side of the table, John's British had defended against Jan's Germans, but it had almost been all over from the first turn.  Jan's first wing almost completely landing off board (and suffering a 1 hex move for the first 3 turns) meant that it was almost impossible to recover from.

We packed up, drank more wine and settled down for a BBQ, which somehow tasted better in the fresh clean air of the Swiss hills.


  1. Great game and glad to see the paragraphs ;-)


  2. Okay, it's settled. I'm selling Ian's kidney next year!

    Great to see you playing an old classic. I will have to break out my LFT partially-armed Fallschirmjaeger and give another of these scenarios. A group of us at played another of these early-war scenarios at a club meet last year. U23 A Rehearsal for Crete made for a good team game. We forgot that the Germans cannot adjust one hex for landing. Needless to say those landing on the board with the canal had a really bad day.

    When you have some time Dave, would love to hear (and see) more of your trip.