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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ambush in the City Streets - Quinto Game 4 (Lincolns)

It's the early morning of August 25th, 1937.  The day before saw the relentless push of the 15th International Brigade shatter the Nationalist defenses at Quinto de Ebro and take the houses at the edge of town.  With their approach secure, the Lincoln Battalion's 2nd Company begins to slip into the town center.  Led by Chicago-born Lt. Monroe, whose leadership saw the 1st Platoon advance to this point with only a handful of casualties (which were replaced by some fresh men arriving during the night), the 1st Platoon has the difficult task of securing the close-built town itself in house-to-house fighting.

The town center must be secure before the final assault on the hillside church can begin.  So far, things are looking very good for Lt. Monroe and his Lincolns. Given three days to pacify the town, the Lincolns are ahead of schedule, having swept all resistance on the first day (first three games).  In game terms, I have three days, each with three turns, to take five tables. This is game four, table four, so it will be very difficult for Jaime, my opponent, to delay me beyond the third day and win.  Of course, he's not one to give up easily...

Jaime is excited to be fielding a fresh platoon of regulars this game, as his first (green) platoon of Requetes were essentially wiped out last game. The men waiting in the town center are the better-trained backbone of the Quinto defenders, with some seasoned men among them.

Unfortunately, the roll for force morale goes terribly for the Nationalists, beginning at a terrible 8.  Further, with Lt. Monroe's string of victories, he is popular with his C.O. (+1 support) and his men (+1 morale), and with a solid roll, they begin at an 11.

In this scenario, only 2/3 of the table is used, and only 2 JoPs each, excepting the Nationalist get a hidden 3rd JoP which can be anywhere on the table, at least 12" from an enemy JoP.  I used this to nasty effect against Fritz, and am looking forward (and dreading) to seeing what Jaime will do with it.

The Patrol phase doesn't particularly favor either of us. I end up going strong on the right, and my opponent on the left, at the foot of the hill.

I put one JoP behind the large house overlooking the main square.  Strangely, it's in the same exact place it was when I fought the Lincolns on this table, a fact that makes me nervous.

Having one JoP at center-left, I placed the other on the far right.

My opponent took the large complex directly across the square from me.

And placed his other JoP on the far left behind some walls.

I lead with a medium machine gun team. In the early morning darkness they sneak into the buildings at overlooking the square, their leader placing them on overwatch over the rapidly lightening town square

Meanwhile, a two-man scout team deploys in the street nearby. In the middle of the square sits an abandoned Nationalist water truck. If I can nab it and drive it back to my lines, it will both increase my morale and lower the enemy's. Definitely worth risking two men over.

Jaime made an interesting choice for support. Historically, there was only one Nationalist AT-Gun in all of Quinto, positioned near the main gate of the town on the first day (instead of the cemetery where it was sorely needed).  There's no record of where it went after that, but Jaime provided the answer.  His German-made AT Gun was overlooking the town square, engaging a duel with my MMG.

Sadly, it's accuracy was lacking.

On an early double-run of phases, I was able to run my scouts all the way up to the water truck.  Now I just had to drive it away before the AT Gun blew it to pieces. Jaime's first instinct was to do just that, but while the loss of the truck would make him roll as if for the loss of a Junior Leader (-1 or -2 morale), ordering his men to blow up their own water would make him roll as if for the loss of a senior leader (-1 to -3). With his morale already starting low, he decided against it.

In fact, with the duel with the MMG going less than well, he decides to pull his men back from the gun, and away from the windows, depriving me of LoS (and his own ability to shoot).  A solid strategy really, as it leaves me with no targets, which really tempts me to be aggressive and tip my hand.

His gambit works, and I bring on my first section.  I've decided to send them left after the Nationalist JoP, although it will take some time to get over there. Attached to them is Company Commissar Dave Doran, an enthusiastic man from Buffalo, NY, eager to prove himself.

Meanwhile the water truck creeps along carefully. Many phases without a 1 to activate it are followed by many phases of incredibly low movement rolls. Maybe the scouts don't know how to drive standard transmission.  Should have asked them first.

Meanwhile the section appears to be moving far faster than the truck, creeping into the gardens and waste ground at between the square and the hill. I'm hoping that the tall wall providing cover for the enemy JoP will also provide me an easy approach.

Two enemy scouts are seen moving in the low building near the wall. On another double run, the men rush the building, intending to toss some grenades inside before kicking down the door and charging in.  However, on the second movement phase, I roll very poorly, leaving them a couple of inches from the front door.

And this is where everything goes to hell for the Lincolns. Ignoring the small ruined building to their left, they did not realize that it's basement was connected to other nearby basements by ancient tunnels. As the Lincolns raise their war cries and charge the building, an entire Nationalist section pours out of their hiding place in that basement and takes them in the rear. ( Jaime put his hidden JoP there). 

The melee is short and bloody. Losing half my dice for being caught in the rear, I then roll poorly, killing only a few men in exchange for having two full teams wiped out, a Junior leader killed, and Commissar Doran knocked unconscious.

The survivors flee in blind terror, forced to run directly into the town square, dragging Doran with them. This is the first time the Lincoln's "Anti-fascisti" rule has come into play this campaign. Thanks to the Lincolns knowing they will probably be executed if they surrender, they never break, instead "retiring" backwards pinned.  This single LMG team has far more shock than would be needed to break them, and I fear I'll never recover them.

Thus far, Jaime has yet to beat me in a game of Chain of Command. I'm starting to think this may be his day.

Morale has taken a serious hit.

Jaime lost a bit as well, losing a Junior leader in the fighting.

Thankfully, on the very next phase the turn ends and Doran wakes up. He immediately begins to try and rally shock. With my Commissar rules, as long as Lt. Monroe is able to command, removing shock is all he can do. If Lt. Monroe is out of action, he takes over as a full senior leader.

The victors, meanwhile, are not idle.

They move to flank the shattered team.

Meanwhile, in a moment of overconfidence, the Nationalist deploy their second section directly into the square (and in the open), hoping to wipe out that team and its commissar and see some spectacular morale hits for the Lincolns.

Doran and the men are hugging the ground, and another man is lost.

However, despite my losses, the MMG is still overlooking the square. It begins to do the natural thing and tear up the enemy hanging out in the open. One of the teams is almost immediately pinned.

On the same phase, the scouts finally drive the water truck back to the Republican lines. A cheer goes up from the rear, as the rest of the men have no idea what is actually happening in the town center. The Nationalists take a hit to morale while I recover a point.

The Nationalist section in the square, leaving the pinned team behind, fixes bayonets and charges Doran and the survivors.

With more than 4x as many dice, the Nationalists automatically win, sending Doran fleeing even further towards the rear. Honestly, I was glad, as if we'd actually rolled, I would have lost another team and a senior leader.

An opportunity comes to right the situation. On a double phase, Lt. Monroe and the other section deploy and make a run for the same house the Nationalist were trying for. Monroe has his men take up positions at windows on both sides of the house. While this divides their fire, it also covers both enemy sections, and in the open to boot.

The Nationalists, hearing movement within, don't hesitate to charge once again. This time, however, the advantage is with the Lincolns. They're slightly stronger, have an LMG, and are defending hard cover. Yet they also knew that next phase they'd be caught out there in the open, and decide to chance it.

It's a bloodbath for both sides. The Nationalists are utterly shattered, losing numerous teams and a senior leader.  Meanwhile, the defenders take serious losses as well, and worse, the close assault sees Lt. Monroe caught near the front door and killed in the first moments. A tragic end to his short but heroic career in Spain. He will be buried here in Quinto, a world away from Chicago.

Commissar Doran immediately took command of the platoon, desperately trying to rally the men into some kind of fighting shape to repulse any further attacks. However between the failed assault and the other section winnowed by machine gun fire, the Nationalist morale falls to a 1, and Jaime sounds the retreat. At the end, my morale stood at a mighty 4.  Honestly, if our initial force morale rolls had been flipped, he would have had this game.

This, by far, is the closest Jaime has come to knocking me down a peg, and we called it a draw due to the horrendous casualties taken by the Lincolns (17 casualties!).  While not a win for him, he was very satisfied. The Lincolns held the ground at the end, and the Nationalists withdrew to the Church, but I'm forced to retire my first platoon and move on to the second (and last) for the final battle.

The Nationalists also took terrible losses, and as they organize the defense of the church, they are forced to conscript villagers to fill in their ranks. This will bring their platoon back to full strength for what is likely to be the final battle for the church, but at the price of lowering their quality to green.

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