Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons Learned: First Tournament since Historicon

My first trip to Historicon (2014) also lead to my first two major tournaments - both 1,000 point Bolt Action tournaments. The list I put together for both tournaments was a project I was working on for a local Stalingrad multiplayer game. It included a heavy hitter (StuG 33b) which was also a heavy point sink. In a 3v3 matchup, that's not such a big deal. In a 1v1 tournament match, sinking over 30% of your list into one element can be hit or miss. Unfortunately there was a lot of misses at HCON... Except when being shot at. The mobile heavy howitzer was an AP shell magnet and was knocked out in the first couple turns in several of the matches. In the matches where she did last, she rarely made up her point value in enemy kills. Of course, it just as easily could have gone the other way as it did in my local matches leading up to HCON where the massive 3d6 HE rounds eliminated several large units in one swing.

Almost immediately after HCON 2014... Scratch that... While sitting around after Saturday's tournament at HCON, I was already listing for next year's tournaments. I was considering an early war Blitzkrieg list with more order dice and lots of bullets (i.e., MMGs). One die to do lots of damage didn't work out so well, so how about many dice to do a little? Perhaps playing the percentages would serve better than playing the 3d6 lottery.

So I'm trading in the StuG 33b for a Rad 6 and two Panzer Is. With the points leftover and some other list modifications, I'm planning on adding two leFH 18 10.5cm medium howitzers. The nice thing here is they can still dish out a respectable 2d6 HE and unlike their sIG 33 heavy howitzer brethren, can be moved around without the need of a prime mover.

Unfortunately, for my tournament Sunday, I did not have either 10.5cm ready and instead shuffled things around to get two Forward Artillery Observers - which given the scale of the game is probably more realistic than indirect fire from a 10.5cm howitzer firing from and landing on the sane table anyway.

Game 1: Hold Until Relieved

My first opponent was fielding a Japanese list. Given the infantry centric nature of the Japanese and the large quantity of rounds I'd be sending down range, this was probably the best matchup I could hope for in my first game.

I was thinking I'd rather attack than defend, but my opponent won the dice off and chose to be the attacker. I stuck my 7 man, all SMG Pionier squad and 9 man Regular Rifle squad in the building/ruins surrounding the objective. My forward observers would have to be in the First Wave to utilize their Forward Deploy rule, so I chose them, my pair of Pz Is, and the 6-Rad to form my First Wave. The truck, loaded with the two 2nd Lts and two 5-man fire teams (one a Pionier squad with 4 SMGs and a flamethrower and the other a Regular LMG squad with 3 rifles, an SMG, and an LMG) and the Motorbike would form my Reserves.

Since most of his infantry started on board right away, I had quite a few targets to sight my off board artillery on. He had his three suicide bombers on my side along with a small squad and an MMG team (which was setup in Ambush). After getting the FAO Fire orders out of the way, I brought the first Pz I on. It Advanced and fired at the MMG team taking out one crew. The Recce capable 6-Rad moved up close to the lone suicide bomber toward the center of my long table edge. Using its light auto cannon, it shredded the AT bomber, leaving the center of the table free to roam. The second Pz I moved up that center path and fired some long range rounds into a large squad advancing on the Objective.

At the start of Turn 2, both of my artillery strikes hit, including one 6 which wiped out the remaining 11 Vets from that large 13 man squad. A great start indeed. The remaining arty rolls dished out several pins, but that wouldn't matter much on the other large squad as it just kept using its Banzai ability and running toward my squads holding the objective. That is a nasty National Rule by the way!

The game continued in a similar fashion - the massive amount of flying lead would eventually dwindle down the Japanese fighters and lead to a German victory.

Game 2: Demolition

Game 2 saw Germans face off against Germans. Both players were 1-0 and with a small pool of players, we mutually decided this game would settle our fate: Win, Lose, or Draw.

This opponent had two large Pionier squads, each loaded up in their own Hanomag; with AT support in the form of a Hetzer. Similar to last game, I knew I would not have a highly effective way to deal with the armor, but the thin sides Hetzer did present a means, albeit never the opportunity to possibly knock him out. 

Since this scenario has a First Wave and units held in Reserve, I chose not to fire my FAOs on the first turn; waiting instead for the Hetzer to appear. My opponent made a bold and daring dash with his Hanomag - running it across the table and within striking distance of my marker. This through me off my game a bit as now I had to deal with an immediate threat that MMGs could not destroy. They did a fine job of applying pins, but if I wanted to remove the threat, I would have to deploy my truck loaded with my flamethrowing Pioniers - something I had hoped to deliver in the vicinity of his marker; not mine. I also placed the nearby Pz I into Ambush hoping to spray the Pioniers with lead as they disembarked... However, my flamethrower destroyed the 251/1, forcing his Pioniers to take some hits, but go down rather than move. A bit of a wasted turn for the Pz I.

The other Pz I was on my right moving up toward my opponent's marker, but was KO'd by the Hetzer. My two FAOs were largely ineffective this game, one coming on board on its first try and the other delaying for a turn and then rolled to come on. In both cases, no more than 1 or 2 pins resulted. I made progress up the right side with my SMG squad, 6-Rad, and motorcycle; but his second Hanomag brought on his other flamethrower squad and wiped out my Pioniers just inches from the marker.

I loaded up the truck in a last ditch effort to get men on the objective quickly, but the order die drawn after the truck moved was his and his Hetzer destroyed the truck and effectively everyone on board. The remaining Pz I darted toward the objective and eliminated his Regular squad guarding it. The motorbike made a running dash but came up short when time was called. A Draw!

The Results

Not a bad outcome for the new list, 1-0-1. The FAOs can bring some Pins and some pain, but it left me wondering if getting a shot each turn (or 4-5 even per game) out of two medium howitzers would be better. That was the original plan after all. So, I know what to do... Get assembling! We'll see how the intended Blitzkrieg list fares next time.